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Turnpike Flameout by Eric Dezenhall

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press ISBN: 0312340613

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader

Jonah Eastman, pollster and grandson of a mobster, is called in to devise a “Plausible Alternative Scenario” (P.A.S.) for Turnpike Bobby Chin, fading rock and roll star who survives a very suspicious airplane crash and is the main suspect in the disappearance of a well known sculptor.  At this point the trouble really begins as Jonah struggles to understand the psyche of Bobby who refers to himself as “The Dude” and is surrounded by an entourage fixated on maintaining Bobby’s perception of his superstardom.  To make matters worse the disappearance of a beautiful au pair diverts the media attention from Turnpike Bobby thereby adding complications to Jonah’s job of developing a P.A.S and keeping the focus on Bobby.  As he works to exonerate Turnpike Bobby Chin, Jonah finds himself deep in trouble and is beaten up, abducted a couple of times and is lied to continuously.  Jonah never thought that he would prefer to be back in the days when he worked in the White House during the Regan administration or for mobster days as a young adult until he was hired to work for Turnpike Bobby Chin.

Turnpike Flameout is one of the funniest mystery novels that I have read in a long time.  The humor is edgy, dark and sarcastic; the supporting characters are hysterical.  My favorites included Stubie Cohn, known as the “Cohn of Silence” whose office is in an ice cream truck and is counsel for Turnpike Bobby Chin; Chief Willie Thundercloud, retired professional wrestler, currently a “boomerang” whose job is to make sure that money that leaves casinos under suspicious circumstances returns to the casinos and Mustang Sally, former showgirl who is a psychiatrist specializing in failed entertainers.  These are just a few of the quirky characters chocked into this entertaining novel.  Turnpike Flameout is the best book I have read this year and I will be searching out more of Dezenhall’s novels.  I highly recommend this book as a good mystery and a truly fun read.


The Moon Tunnel by Jim Kelly

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 031234922X

Reviewed by Dana King, New Mystery Reader

Philip Dryden is a plodder. That wasn’t the plan; he used to be a hot shot journalist on London’s Fleet Street, his wife an actress. That changed when their car was run off the road one night, leaving Laura the next thing to comatose and Dryden confined to the small English town of Ely, so he can stay close to her for his nightly visits, their conversation conducted through a computer she can operate with her breath.

There’s not much feeling sorry for Dryden, protagonist of Jim Kelly’s excellent The Moon Tunnel. No time for it. A body is found in an old tunnel that ran out of Ely’s World War II-vintage POW camp, the body of a man crawling in to the camp. Dryden has to work his visits to Laura around the deadlines of the two local papers, a noxious smog cloud created by spontaneous combustion at the town dump, an archeological dig, nightmares of suffocation, another dead body, druids, and the hidden histories of two families.

It would have been easy to make The Moon Tunnel into a soap opera. Carl Hiaasen or Christopher Moore could have made it a laugh a page. Kelly’s understated, eloquent style makes it anything but. Once the tone is set by describing Dryden’s visits to the hospital and the daily smog cloud, Kelly has a well-defined and diverse cast of characters to keep things moving without having to resort to tricks or bizarre antics. Each is defined as much by his or her weaknesses as by their strengths.

There’s Humph, who ferries Dryden everywhere he goes in a beat-up old Capri. Humph’s idea of exercise is walking two laps around the car; the rest of his time waiting for Dryden is spend dozing while listening to foreign language tapes. Dryden rarely stops for a meal, pulling bits of sandwiches out of his pockets when he feels the need. Dr. Aziglio Valgimigli, in charge of the archeological dig, carrying the airs of a don over a history decidedly undon-like. Cavendish-Smith, the police detective, smugly superior to Dryden, not above trying to milk him for information that will advance the copper’s career out of the smoggy confines of Ely. And Dr. Siegfried Mann, volunteer curator of the local museum, who came to Ely through a roundabout course that seems inevitable as you learn how Mann’s mind works.

Kelly has a deft touch as a storyteller, mixing the present day events with historical scenes to let the reader know enough more than Dryden to create tension. The background story of the Italian and German prisoners kept in camps on the English countryside is fresh and unfamiliar, told with a journalistic detachment that still makes it clear why so many of the Italian prisoners chose to stay in their captor’s country after the war.

Dryden’s is a somber story, Kelly slipping in enough dry humor to keep things from becoming depressing. The town is dark, the economy depressed, and Dryden has little hope for a happy ending. That he cares at all is his victory, and Kelly gives him as much satisfaction as realism allows, more than Dryden expects. The Moon Tunnel will delivers that for its reader. Halfway through you’ll be wondering when this book got so good, trying to identify what it is that has you hooked. You’ll figure out what hooked you after you’ve finished: everything.


Grave Error by Roy Lewis

Publisher: Carroll & Graf ISBN: 0786716959

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Archaeologist Arnold Landon becomes the fool in a court case against a man who is accused of possessing stolen artifacts.  His boss wants him to get some retraining, so he sets off for a conference in Rome.  While he is there he finds the body of a man in one of the tombs and concludes that he is the victim of a Mafia revenge killing.  When Landon returns to England, a man who deals in the business of shipping artifacts is killed.  Carmen, who was his guide in Rome shows up to tell him that the two murders are identical, Landon knows that the link between the two murders is Islwan Evans. the man who won the court case.

DCI Jack O'Conner is working the English murder and when he and Landon appear at the same place at the same time in northern England, the whole case explodes, resulting in a startling resolution.

Drama, action and suspense keep you focused on the book from the first page to the last.  There are flirtations and illicit affairs that keep you glued to the pages.  You learn how the theft of artifacts is accomplished and how deadly this game is. FANTASTIC FICTION!!!


Curiosity Killed The Cat Sitter by Blaize Clement

Publisher:  Thomas Dunne Books ISBN:  0312340567

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

All the ingredients that make a fun read can be found in this tale by talented author Blaize Clement. The first in a new series that combines a reader's love of animals and mystery.

Dixie Hemingway is a deputy on leave due to a tragedy that left her nearly destroyed, but with the passage of time and a caring brother, she has managed to make a new life as a pet sitter. Little does she know, but what should be a peaceful occupation is about to prove otherwise

One of her clients, Marilee Doerring, has done the unthinkable, leaving Dixie to find a dead man on her kitchen floor when she arrives to care for Marilee's cat, Ghost.  Problems arise when no one knows for sure where Marilee has gone.

Everyone, including the police, warns Dixie from getting involved in the investigation, but no matter how she tries, she keeps stumbling into it. Especially when she finds the son of Marilee's neighbor almost beaten to death and another body. 

The mystery deepens when Dixie learns of Marilee's past and meets her grandmother. Just how complicated is the woman's life?

A fun read that will keep you turning pages. Plenty of well-drawn characters live on Siesta Key in Florida, making it a place you'd enjoy visiting while waiting for Dixie's next adventure.

Highly recommended for any mystery lover.  Enjoy. I sure did.



An Unacceptable Death by Barbara Seranella

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312347987

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

In the 8th outing featuring auto mechanic Munch Mancini, Seranella takes the reader on a bittersweet ride through grief, loyalty, and redemption.  Munch, once a drug addict who found trouble easily, has spent the last nine years sober and relatively happy, with the upcoming nuptials to her fiancé LA detective Rico Chacon completing the contented family picture along with her "daughter" Asia.  But it all changes when Rico is killed in an undercover operation, with the grief compounded by allegations of Rico's switch to the other side.  And now it's up to Munch to clear his name as she once again puts her own life in danger for those she loves.

Anyone who has read the previous Munch Mancini novels are surely used to a more upbeat and irreverent story, making this grief filled tale that much more difficult to read.  Not that it's a bad story, far from it, it's just a tough ride watching Munch and her daughter come to terms with such a far-reaching loss.  But Munch, as usual, retains her hard-earned pride and dignity, once again proving Seranella's commitment to this strong and courageous character.  And although the drug tale is one that is overdone these days, Sarenlla still manages to add enough creativity and originality to this one to make it worth the read.  Definitely recommended, this one will easily leave fans clamoring for the next.        



Ticket to Ride by Janet Neel

Publisher:  St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN:  978-0-312-34923-3

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

Jules Carlisle, only recently qualified as an attorney, normally would not take an immigration case, but she's the only lawyer on duty when Mirko Dragunović comes in to Jenkins Associates on Maundy Thursday.  He believes that one of the eight bodies recently found in a shallow grave is that of his brother, Stefan, who was trying to illegally enter England from the former Yugoslavia.  The fact that Mirko is also an illegal immigrant complicates matters.

Paul Jenkins, Jules' boss and a Serbian immigrant also, is displeased that Jules involved herself and the firm in this case.  Mirko, HIV positive, is arrested but soon hospitalized when he develops pneumonia.  Despite her boss's disapproval, Jules finds herself getting more immersed in Mirko's case and the Dragunović family.  Her investigations not only introduce two potential love interests—Andrew Flowerdew, the lettuce farmer who brought Mirko to England in the first place, and Richard Allenton, one of the lead investigators on the case—but force her to revisit her own humble origins.

At the same time, journalists reveal her long-term affair with Gwyn Jones, the social worker who aided her as a child, and Jules begins to question whom she can trust.  But the real villain in the case is a real shocker.

Author Janet Neel parrots commonly-held stereotypes about Serbs, Bosnians, and others from the former Yugoslavia; her novel would have benefited from more research.  (For example, Paul Jenkins' original name was Jankowić, despite the fact that the letter W does not exist in Serbian or Croatian).  Also, although the language of the region was correctly called Serbo-Croatian until the most recent Civil War, both Serbs and Croats would object to the use of the term now.  And her incessant comments on the consonant-heavy language become annoying pretty quickly. 

But Neel is an expert in characterization and building suspense, to say nothing of creating surprise endings.


Above Suspicion by Lynda La Plante

Publisher: Touchstone ISBN: 0743284801
(Also available in Trade Paperback)

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

When young Anna Travis is asked to join the team working on solving the murders of several prostitutes in London, she is thrilled at the prospect of finally joining the murder squad.  Her superior, DCI Langton, was the first to notice that the killings of the prostitutes, going back several years, all displayed the same M.O., and the first to admit that they had a serial killer on their hands.  And when a young woman, sweet and innocent, is next killed in the same manner, the investigation takes on a new intensity to find the depraved madman.  But the real surprise will be the main suspect, a man of wealth and fame, and a man who has his sights set on Anna, but what Anna has to figure out is if his desire comes with his innocence or altogether something far more dangerous.

La Plante, author of the Prime Suspect series, makes an exciting and thrilling return in a case that is as compelling as it is disturbing.  Not only is the plot addictive and chilling, but her characterizations are also stunningly adept, especially young Anna, charmingly inexperienced, but also a young woman of daring and intelligence.  This one has it all, and with such a fine cast of characters, we can only hope La Plante has plans to bring them back for another suspenseful outing in the future.