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Fever Moon by Carolyn Haines

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Minotaur  ISBN:  978-0-312-35161-8

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

Henri Bastion, the wealthiest man in Louisiana’s New Iberia parish, is found murdered.  Adele Hebert, blood-soaked and looming over his corpse, confesses to the crime, but Deputy Sheriff Raymond Thibodeaux doesn’t believe her.  She is half-mad with fever and Henri’s evisceration suggests the participation of a wild animal in his demise.

The superstitious New Iberians believe Adele, though.  Even if she was incapable of inflicting Henri’s wounds as a woman, could she not have transformed herself into the legendary loup-garou, a swamp-residing shape shifter? 

Raymond, still suffering physically and psychologically from the injuries he suffered on a World War II battlefield, is determined to protect Adele, while proving her innocence.  When first a young child and then Henri’s widow disappear, Raymond must prevent the townspeople from turning into an obsessed, witch-hunting mob.  The murder of another man, equally loathsome as Henri, propels the New Iberia residents into the type of action Raymond and other sane people fear most.

Author Carolyn Haines’s New Iberia parish and the surrounding swamp are mesmerizing.  The memorable Raymond and Adele are joined by an equally engaging cast of characters.  The kindly, wise town whore may seem a bit of a cliché, but Florence is so sympathetic that the reader quickly forgets her similarities to Belle Watley.   Fever Moon offers a winning combination of setting, characters, and plot.

 

 

The Blood Spilt By Asa Larrson

Publisher: Delacorte Press; Tra edition  ISBN-10: 0385339828

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

A few seasons have passed and summertime has arrived, but time has yet to heal the emotional fallout of Swedish attorney Rebecka Martinsson's last case that ended in the death of three men by her own hands.  Hardly able to work, she still manages to assist on a case or two, with her latest landing her again in her hometown village.  Coincidently, her arrival coincides with the recent murder of a local female priest, a woman who had more than her fair share of enemies, her liberal and feminist views not widely accepted by all.  And deciding to stay on in the small village, Rebecka is soon drawn into the lives of the people who either loved or hated the murdered woman, as well as the mystery of what really happened that fateful night.

In this follow-up to the first in the series, Blood Storm, Larrson takes it up several notches, her characterization of Martinsson budding from ordinary to poignantly and dramatically stirring in her depiction of Martinsson's grief and remorse of past events. And it's not just Martinsson who comes alive under this talented author's hand, but the entire village, with almost every character being so vividly drawn that each alone just about makes the read worthwhile.   And so who cares if the mystery itself sometimes fades into the background, and sometimes even Rebecka herself; the sheer satisfaction of getting to know these people is time well spent.  Larrson shows amazing growth and maturity in her creative talents in this latest, and it's with great anticipation that we look forward to the next.

 

 

Shadow of the Raven by David Sundstrand

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books,  ISBN: 9780312361358

Reviewed by Jake Chism, New Mystery Reader

David Sundstrand’s debut novel is a highly entertaining read not to be
missed. Frank Flynn, officer with the Bureau of Land Management in the
Mojave, is enjoying a peaceful day off when he stumbles across another
dead body. It’s not unusual for Frank to find human remains out in the
desert; people die from exposure frequently in the Mojave. However,
Frank soon discovers that this man may have been murdered. As he digs
deeper into the mystery surrounding the murder, he finds himself mixed
up with a small group of psychotic bikers and a rich poacher who is
threatening the land and wildlife that Frank loves so much. Now it’s up
to Frank to bring both parties to justice all the while trying
desperately to stay alive.

Sundstrand brings the land of the Mojave alive so effectively that the
desert seems like one of the main characters. Frank Flynn’s love for his
job and the land he protects is infectious and admirable, and it adds to
the complexity of his character. The plot is perfectly laid out, and
Sundstrand invites readers to discover the story rather than
force-feeding it to them. This is quality storytelling that mystery fans
and nature lovers are sure to enjoy.

 

Looks to Die For by Janice Kaplan

Publisher: Touchstone  ISBN-10: 1416532110

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Lacy Fields, interior designer, mother of three, and wife of one of Hollywood's top plastic surgeons, lives the life of luxury and ease, her biggest problems usually involving her teenage daughter's adolescent piques or a wealthy client's indecisiveness.  But that all changes when her husband is accused of the brutal murder of a young starlet wannabe, a woman her husband claims to have never met.  And when it appears the police have no interest in alternative suspects and her husband is formally charged, Lacy takes it upon herself to find the real culprit, a decision that just may get her killed, or at least leave her with a broken nail or two.

Kaplan's tongue-in-cheek portrayal of the wealthy and ostentatious side of Hollywood featuring the engagingly self-deprecating amateur sleuth Lacy Fields is one that readers will find both charming and humorous.  And although one has to wonder why it's all up to Lacy to unravel the mystery, one also has to admit it's much more fun reading of her misadventures than some staid investigator's paint by number's investigation.  So if you're wondering what designer labels are in these days, and what not to wear when bailing your husband out of jail or when in hot pursuit of various murders suspects, this provides that and more.  Lighthearted and breezy, this fun filled read easily satisfies.

 

 

Ace of Spades by David Matthews

Publisher:  Henry Holt and Company  ISBN:  0-8050-8149-6

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

Born during the very brief marriage of his black father and white Jewish mother, David Matthews grew up in Washington, D. C. and Baltimore, very conscious of race.  Living on the edge of a ghetto, he tried to pass himself off as a resident of the far wealthier neighborhood his bordered.  Often times his residency was not the only thing he tried to obfuscate about.  Confused about his own identity, and with an appearance that didn’t easily give away his race, Matthews also was inclined to try to pass as Jewish.

Matthews had a racial consciousness highly defined even for the period in which he grew up.  He rejected his African-American heritage for years, much as his own African-American grandmother rejected her fellow African-Americans who she believed brought shame to her race.  The saddest part of Matthew’s story is his frequent rejection not just of his father’s blackness, but of his father himself, a struggling single parent.

This personal memoir is sometimes amusing, sometimes heartbreaking, but always thought-provoking.  It will make most readers reexamine their attitudes about race and realize how close to the surface some racist beliefs linger.  Matthews’ memoir is certainly not a novel, and a mystery either, unless his search for his mother’s identity qualifies.  If it has any flaws, it is that Matthews’ sudden embracing of his African-American heritage is not well-explained, and it is sometimes almost too painful to read.  But it is a well-written must read.