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Twilight by Brendan DuBois

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN-10: 0312361378

Reviewed by Harvey Lau and Geraldine Young, New Mystery Reader

Picture yourself in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, around the early 1990s, after the break-up of Yugoslavia into separate entities, when Bosnian Serbs fought with Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats for supremacy and for territory in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Picture the genocide or “ethnic cleansing” that resulted when Serbs tried to rid the land of Bosnian Muslims.

Then transfer this scenario to the United States, with the U.S. government powerless after nuclear attacks on its major cities, citizens at war with each other over scarce resources such as energy and food, and bands of armed and organized militia fighting the government to take control of the chaotic land, all the while getting rid of “undesirable” members of the population, in their own form of  “cleansing.”

Envisioning this scenario will put you right smack in the middle of the thriller, Twilight.  We view the situation in the U.S. through the eyes of Samuel Simpson, a young Canadian  photographer who has joined the UN organization trying to keep the peace in the embattled country. He is with UNFORUS and with a group of people whose goal is to find Site A, proof of genocide committed by the militia which will serve to convict U.S. war criminals being held in The Hague.

There is a time limit, as the criminals will be released if Site A and proof of mass murder is not found in time. Samuel and his group  have to tread carefully through dangerous situations involving the militia, who have murdered civilians as well as UN personnel.

There is definitely a lot of intrigue built into the plot of this novel, as the UN group literally treads on ground they have not seen before, in situations that are unpredictable and frightening. Written with gripping detail and description of countryside, surroundings, and events, the book presents a challenging situation that is gloomy in its forecast.

There is little sense of poignancy in the book, except for an old man who  puts his life at risk to help the UN group. The attempt at a love story between Samuel and team member essentially falls flat, thought it is meant to be a saving grace for Samuel in the middle of the turmoil. We are not caught up in his feelings. Indeed, his love interest is not a well developed character.

A good thriller, but don’t expect to be fully satisfied at the end of the book.

 

 

Third Strike by Phillip R. Craig and William G. Tapply

Publisher: Scribner  ISBN-10: 1416532560

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When Boston attorney Brady Coyne is called to Martha's Vineyard by a client he hasn't heard from in decades, and who is claiming to have seen some nefarious activities going on late at night at the docks, he's quick to offer his help.  But getting to the Vineyard won't be easy considering there's a major strike going on with the boatmen who transfer visitors back and forth to this idyllic island.  And so he calls on his old pal J.W. Jackson, a local of the island who is trying to solve his own mystery- that of the death of one of the strikers whose remains were found in the debris of a blown up boat - to give him a ride.  And before the happy reunion between these two old friends is over, they'll find their cases are connected by painful events from the past that have never been forgotten - nor forgiven. 

It's not the first time these two talented authors have combined their likable and engaging heroes in one solid mystery, but it is most likely the last (unless previously unpublished tomes should appear).  And with Craig having since passed, there's an added bittersweet tone to this story of mystery, loyalty, friendship, and family.  Yes, the action-paced ending and eventual solving of the cases are riddled with unconvincing detail, but who cares?  This remains an opportunity to read one of the last works by a man who loved his spot in this world, and who cherished his family and friends; the fictional portrayal of these elements more than strongly echoing what were once no doubt his own views, and so for that alone, this one comes highly recommended.    

 

 

 

 

Watchman by Ian Rankin

Publishers: Little, Brown,  ISBN-10: 031600913X (Reissue)

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

It is so easy to become type cast. Think James Patterson and immediately detective Alex Cross rushes to mind; think Reginald Hill and hey you get the image of  policemen Andy Dalziel and Peter Pascoe…and when you talk about Ian Rankin, who else but Inspector Rebus comes to mind. And with about twenty or so Rebus works in print, can anyone blame the reader.

It is in this context I read the Introduction to this novel, the “new novel” from Ian Rankin, written in 1986. Rankin had just finished his first Rebus novel, and was itching to write another one. Should he write a second rebus novel, or create an entirely new fictional creation? Rankin opted to create Miles Flint (admittedly inspired by the James Coburn movies In Like Flint and Our Man Flint). Character wise- Flint would be the exact opposite of Rebus. While Rebus was robust and action oriented- Flint was a laidback, passive veteran spy. Possibly the author had plans to make him a series character, but the plans were shelved because the book vanished without causing much of a ripple in 1988.

Soon afterwards the next book in the Rebus series was published and it catapulted Rankin to international fame. 18 Rebus works soon followed thereafter. The Rebus works won for Rankin Edgar Award, Gold Dagger award, Chandler- Fulbright award and is now one of the most respected popular fiction writers from United Kingdom today.

So the reprint of this novel WATCHMAN after 20 years, and for the first time in United States will be eagerly awaited by Rankin fans the world over. This I suppose is a novel which can only be considered as a collector’s item. The plotline is nothing much to speak about- it is the story of a down-out-of- luck spy, Miles Flint whose latest assignment has led to the death of a foreign official in London. But Miles has a feeling that the suspect knew more about Miles’ investigation than he himself had. And Miles also has an uncanny feeling that someone is selling him out at the Intelligence Agency. How Miles tackles the issue, without becoming a victim himself is the theme of the novel.

As said earlier, the plot is not much to say about, but the book will be welcomed by Rankin fan’s as a lost classic. And judging by the Introduction the author gives in this new edition- I have an uncanny feeling that Rankin’s next novel will be another unpublished novel (written in 1988) by name Westwind. Watch this space.

 

 

 

The Mortal Groove by Ellen Hart

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN-10: 0312349459

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When during a New Year's Eve party, the father of Minneapolis restaurant owner Jane Lawless is approached by a group of the city's most wealthy and influential to run for governor, she couldn't be more proud.  But what neither of them is aware of is that some of the men closest to the campaign are hiding a deadly secret, one that involves the death of an innocent young girl years before, her mysterious demise occurring during a night of partying between these just returned soldiers from Vietnam.  But which one of these now upstanding citizens did it and why are the main questions, not to mention who amongst the bunch is now killing those who are still living who know the truth.

Those who enjoy the Jane Lawless series, with its creative and unique narrative approach, its remarkable and engrossing characters, and its dead-on setting, will no doubt love this latest.  And although Jane and her indomitable side-kick Cordrlia play second fiddle to an almost stand alone cast and their tale of mystery, have no fear, Hart comes through with another compelling story that is as good as any before.  An exciting and provocative story of the past, of the bonding between those involved in shared tragedies, and the surviving secrets some might kill for all combine to make this an outstanding read that proves yet again that this talented author has what it takes to satisfy.     

 

 

 

The Deadly Neighbors by Merry Jones

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN-10: 0312356218

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When 40 something Zoe Hayes gets a call from a concerned neighbor of her long estranged father, she warily agrees to check in on him.  So, while in the midst of a high risk pregnancy and with her young daughter in hand, she returns to her childhood home knowing it won't be easy to face the man who always seemed to choose gambling over her.  But nothing could have prepared her to walk into a scene where her father is holding a bloody knife over a dying woman.  And so what follows, as Zoe prepares for the birth of her child, her impending marriage to an NYPD detective, the end of her career, her father's loss of sanity, and a couple of more murders in the old neighborhood, might just all prove to be her downfall.  Especially when she begins to confront the secrets of her past that she's long kept hidden, even from herself. 

Having loved Jones' previous novels featuring Zoe Hayes, this latest was jumped upon with great anticipation.  Unfortunately, it didn't take long for discontent to settle in.  Whereas, previously, Zoe presented as an intelligent and insightful heroine, this time around her lack of judgment (hello, you're pregnant and have a young child), her self-absorption, and her inability to make sense of the simplest clues all combine to create a disagreeable mix of frustration and annoyance.  Here's to hoping that once Zoe has the baby she'll revert back to the sensible and compassionate character previously depicted in the first two excellent stories from this talented author.