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Pleasing the Dead by Deborah Turrell Atkinson

Publisher:  Poisoned Pen Press  ISBN:  978-1-59058-598-6

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

For the mystery fan, here’s a new novel from Atkinson filled with some unique characters in a tale set in beautiful Hawaii.  And every one of us who dreams of owning our own business will identify with Lara, a hopeful entrepreneur, who hires attorney Storm Kayama to help her through the process.

All Storm wants to do is get the information required for the paperwork, but she finds herself drawn into a world of shadowy and shady business deals and Japanese criminals based in Hawaii who will stop at nothing, including murder, to fill their wants.

Lara is engaged to the son of a man who was associated with criminals, but who has escaped the life.  He is still associated with some of them, however, yet feels he is safe to go his own way as long as he occasionally helps them out.

From the outside looking in, Storm sees the complications that Lara is entangled in. When Storm tries to help a former child prostitute and others caught in part of the web being spun around Lara, she risks her life.

This is a well told tale with plenty of action and tension that will easily hold your attention and will leave you eagerly anticipating what will happen next.  And with its fill of interesting and well-written characters, with their private motives for what they do, don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting to direct the characters in the right direction.  If you like scuba diving and jaunts on a boat to see the floor of the ocean, or visit with sharks in a cage, this is one tale you will not want to miss. Bring your seasick pills, snorkel, and fins and be ready for some mystery deep within the sea, as this is a read I’m pleased to recommend by talented author Deborah Turrell Atkinson that will leave you wanting to read more from this talented author.

 

 

 

Dog On It by Spencer Quinn

Publisher:  Atria Books  ISBN:  978-1-4165-8583-1

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

For the dog fancier and mystery buff, Dog On It by talented author Spencer Quinn is a tale you will enjoy. Told by the dog, it gives us a unique point of view on the world around us and what is really important for true contentment.

Chet, the dog and storyteller, lives with P.I. Bernie Little with whom he has strong and affectionate ties.  Bernie takes a case for Cynthia Chambliss whose daughter Madison is missing.  Bernie has problems right from the start of the case. The girl turns up in Las Vegas and calls home, but when Bernie checks things out he finds too many troubling coincidences for comfort. To add to his concerns, the girl’s parents decide they don’t need Bernie any longer.

But Bernie isn’t satisfied and conducts the investigation on his own.  Chet has a separate adventure that almost ends his life at the pound and Bernie is captured by the very men he seeks. This almost costs him his life.

This is a tale with lots of action and plenty of interesting characters that plays out in the desert areas near Las Vegas with the Russians replacing the old Mafia in criminal activities.

I’m pleased to recommend this tale to any reader who likes animals and who enjoys a good mystery with a different view of the world. You’ll be shaking the sand out of your shoes as you read, and like me, most likely be looking forward to other books from this talented author.

 

 

 

Run For Your Life by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge

Publishers: Little, Brown   ISBN:  978-0-316-01874-6

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

I am not going to rave about the institution by the name James Patterson, Enough and then some more have been said and written about his school of writing.

Last year I had the privilege of reading STEP ON A CRACK, the first book in  a planned new detective series, featuring ace cop Michael Bennett.  This is the second book in the series. For those who come in late, Bennett is a NYPD Detective, a recent widower and the father of ten children. In his first outing he was instrumental in saving the skin of 34 of America’s elite superstars who had gathered for the funeral of the First Lady. But if you thought that that was the biggest career crisis that Bennett took, you just might be wrong.

This time around Bennett faces the biggest uphill task of his professional and personal life - that of looking after a house with 10 sick children who are puking by the minute, with Bennett’s house soon looking  like a tsunami ravaged hell’s kitchen, and of course there is another minor crisis - a killer is on the loose. He calls himself “the Teacher” and considers himself pretty clever. His victims include any person who strikes him the wrong way, by brashness, cockiness or even simply by loudly talking on a cell phone. He is out there to teach manners, and no one is safe from The Teacher. 

With no time to lose, in both his personal life and in the professional front, Bennett launches into an investigation. With thrills and chills galore, Run For Your Life is a guaranteed quick read- and it’s got all the stuff to keep the regular Patterson reader glued to the pages.

Regular Paterson fare…. Recommended.

 

 

 

Kingdom of Silence by Lee Wood

Publisher:  Minotaur Books  ISBN:  978-0-312-34031-5

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

An outbreak of hoof and mouth disease in Britain in 2001 had far reaching consequences for the entire country, leading to the slaughter of millions of infected and noninfected animals, both food animals and pets.  Large and small farms and families were affected and traumatized by the events. This event serves as a backdrop for the intriguing tale Kingdom of Silence by talented author Lee Wood.

But homicide is about to leave its mark as well with the murders of a US Marshal and a prisoner at a British airport in a drive-by shooting, an event that would seem to have little in common with the disease ravaging the countryside except that the prisoner is the girlfriend of a man involved in an animals-rights group known for its violence.

And sent in to help uncover the bad guys is DS Keen Dunliffe who is assigned as a handler to a young policewoman who is set to infiltrate the group.  It is hoped that enough inside information will be gathered to arrest the members of the animal rights group and put an end to their raids on breeding operations and laboratories, as the animals the group releases are often infected with deadly contagious diseases other than hoof and mouth, resulting in even more deaths.

Though a tale that includes several different characters in different settings, the author has done a great job of keeping them connected, blending fact with fiction to give the reader a sense of action rooted in reality.  The police and veterinarians and others battle a relentless virus that threatens the entire economy of Britain. 

A cleverly woven blending of mystery, murder, and mayhem, Kingdom of Silence is a tale guaranteed to keep you reading. A story well worth the time with just enough emotional drama to tug more than once at your heartstrings.  Enjoy. I did.

 

 

 

 

Fatal February by Barbara Levenson

Publisher: Oceanview Publishing  ISBN 978 1 933515 52 6

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

If you have to get in an accident in a car wash, it’s nice if the other party is handsome, charming, and in need of a lawyer.  Mary Magruder Katz, girl lawyer, gets rear-ended by Carlos Martin’s sports car and Cupid almost simultaneously.  Before you can say ‘ethics committee’ she has signed on as Carlos’s lawyer and lover, broken her engagement to the dull but vengeful Frank, and started a one-woman law firm.

Mary gets her first client thanks to her brother, who may not have done her any favours. Lillian Yarmouth has already been found guilty in the court of public opinion, and Mary is going to have to work darned hard to get her client off when the trial starts.  A hard job is made harder by Frank, the embittered ex, who charges Mary with purloining his clients and committing the unforgiveable sin of being intimate with a client.  That last charge is rather hard to defend, since Frank caught Mary and Carlos more or less in flagrante.

Fortunately Carlos knows some people who are not only very strong, but very persuasive and they solve one of Mary’s most annoying problems; and her old mentor at law school manages to clears up the ethics charges, which just leaves the little matter of getting Lillian out from under the shadow of the death penalty.  As the trial begins, Mary turns up some very interesting information that the DA should have found but couldn’t be bothered. 

The obligatory trial scene is every bit as surprising as an episode of Perry Mason, and the DA is left doing a Hamilton Burger imitation thanks to Mary’s hard work.  The trial isn’t the end of the story, however, and there’s a double whammy in the last chapter that you may not see coming.

This is an enjoyable and quick read, just right for an evening when there’s nothing worth turning on the TV for.  I look forward to the next outing of Mary Magruder Katz.

 

 

 

Death Was in the Picture by Linda L. Richards

Publisher: Minotaur Books  ISBN:  978-0-312-38339-8

Reviewer: Bonnye Busbice Good, New Mystery Reader

Miss Katherine Pangborn’s normal day consists of typing pretend letters and filing invisible documents for the barely busy private investigator Dexter Theroux during the Great Depression.  All of this changes when Chicago tough guy Xander Dean hires Dex for a seemingly innocuous job in LA.   After revered movie idol Laird Wyndham is arrested for killing a girl at the same party that Dean paid Dex to attend, Dex and Katherine, plagued by their doubts, join Wyndham’s team to find out the truth.  Like millions of moviegoers, Katherine is momentarily enchanted by Wyndham’s star power but digs to find his dirty secrets, revealing a history that could lead to murder.  Meanwhile, threats abound and trying to uncover their guilty party in 1930s Hollywood is like trying to find the longest grain in a rice paddy—everyone’s got secrets.

Written in the hard-boiled detective style filled with strong Prohibition bourbon and cast-off girls, Richards updates the genre by using Katherine’s perspective to effectively humanize Dex and add extra depth to the case.  Even though she would normally be a minor supporting player, Katherine’s role is indispensable both in the office as part of the window dressing needed to impress clients and as Dex’s confidante who keeps in him in line.  Through the twists and turns of the case, Katherine is able to momentarily shed her impoverished reality to transform into a mysterious starlet who dances with movie stars and eat caviar while dressed in glamorous clothes that cost enough to feed a family for a year. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Shanghai Moon by S.J. Rozan

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN-10: 0312245564

Reviewed by New Mystery Reader's new addition: Scott D. Parker

For my first review here at NewMysteryReader, the editors sent me S. J. Rozan’s The Shanghai Moon. When I directed them to my blog to see the kinds of reviews I write, they decided I’d be a good fit for the hard-boiled material. That’s what I was expecting when I started reading Rozan’s book.

I didn’t get it. What I got was a richly satisfying murder/mystery filled with real people.

New York PI, Joe Pilarski, asks our heroine, Chinese-American Lydia Chin, for some assistance. He has a new case that has a Chinese connection. Officials in Shanghai have unearthed some European jewelry dating back to World War II. Once the former owner has been identified as Rosalie Gilder, these no longer become just any jewels. These jewels become the jewels. You see, Rosalie was the original owner of the Shanghai Moon, a necklace made of jade and diamonds. It is the stuff of legend. Men have devoted their entire lives to the fruitless search for this mythical gem.

Pilarski and Chin meet Alice Fairchild, a lawyer specializing in recovering stolen Jewish property. Alice shows Chin and Pilarski an old photograph of Rosalie and a letter the young refugee wrote in 1938. Alice also produces a photograph of Wong Pan, a Chinese official who has disappeared from Shanghai. Since the jewelry has also disappeared, they believe that Wong is in New York, with the jewelry looking for a buyer. The Shanghai Moon might or might not be with the same cache. Chin and Pilarski are hired to ask around the Chinatown jewelry shop owners and let any potential buyer know that Alice is willing to pay for the stolen jewels on behalf of her clients, relatives of Rosalie Gilder.

All in all, pretty standard PI stuff, both as a job and as a novel. But that’s before Rozan throws a human story on the plight of the Jewish refugees in China. This wasn’t some dry, wall-to-wall text boring history. We learn about it as Chin learns about it: through some dialogue, the internet, and, most importantly, letters written by Rosalie. You can see Chin’s gradual movement from disinterested detective taking a case to a very interested detective/person wanting to know the entire story. If you weren’t already hooked by the present-day mystery, the engrossing historical subplot will nab you but good.

We, like Chin, become personally involved with the story of Rosalie, eighteen, and her brother, Paul, fourteen, as they journey from Austria to Shanghai in 1938. It is this involvement that drives Chen for the rest of the story, even as people start turning up dead.

Rosalie’s back story through her letters makes Rozan’s novel sing. It’s a love story of a young woman throw into the world by war and assuming the responsibility of a younger sibling’s safety. Reading these stories in present day with Chin, we know certain things will likely happen to Rosalie. We celebrate the happy moments and are devastated by the tragic ones. As I read The Shanghai Moon, I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite books, Carlos Ruis Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind. Both books have a back story that speaks to the present-day story in profound ways. And all is not what it seems.

Like an archeologist sifting away at rock and sand, Chin and Smith gradually reveal the true story of the Shanghai Moon, what became of Rosalie, Paul, and their descendants, and the true motives of the present-day characters. These truths, in turn, lead them to a fuller understanding of what happened in China sixty years ago. In ironic twists, Chin and Smith discover certain aspects of the story before other characters do, characters that have been haunted by and have hunted for the Shanghai Moon for decades. I’ll admit that a couple of things were pretty darn convenient but that didn’t lessen the impact of the story.

On my blog, I compared Chin to Sam Spade. In a unique bit of timing, I had just finished re-reading The Maltese Falcon before I read The Shanghai Moon. I’ll admit that I expected Chin to be a hard-boiled woman and Bill her equally hard-as-nails partner. Not the case. Frankly, it’s refreshing. Chin and Smith are real people for whom detective work is their day job. I expected witty banter, laced with sexual innuendos, to be the norm. Not the case. I expected there to be an adversarial relationship between Chin/Smith and the NYPD. Not the case. Chin’s best friend is a NYPD cop and they talk regularly. Sure, some exasperation arises between the two but that’s natural. Chin is a private detective, Mary is a public official. But there is a mutual respect that deepens the impact of the book.

Another nice change from the stereotype is that Chin and Smith use their brains more than their brawn. They carry guns at certain parts of the book but they rely on their wits and their deductive abilities rather than bullets. Along the way, you see two people—partners, yes, but there is something more here; Smith and Chin are estranged when the book opens—who care for each other and have some subtle yet laugh-out-loud tet a tets.

If Sam Spade and the rest of the fictional detectives are bulldogs—they grab a hold of something and by sheer force, make it bend to their will—then Chin and Smith are like bloodhounds—they track the scent wherever it may lead and adjust to changing circumstances. There’s always a place for the bulldog but bloodhounds seem like what most of the rest of us would do.

I don’t usually like to start a series with any book other than the first one. There’s too much back story. The Shanghai Moon is book nine in the series. I can think of no other better praise than to say I’m looking forward to reading the other eight.

 

 

 

 

Cat Playing Cupid  by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

Publisher:  Wm Morrow Books  ISBN:  978-0-06-112397-9

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Joe Grey’s housemate Clyde marries his new love, Ryan, and life will never the same for the tomcat.  Ryan is in on the secret of the talking cats now.  So Joe must wait and hope she can be trusted.

At the same time of the nuptials, news of a body found in the woods comes to light and it might be a missing man from Molea Point who disappeared a few days before his wedding to Lindsey Wolf who has returned to Molena Point some time before.  Lindsey goes to the police  and tells them the body in the woods in Oregon is her missing boyfriend.

And another body surfaces in the ruins of an old estate when the cats living there are digging near the house.  They get word to Joe Grey and his lady friends who tell Charlie, wife to the local police chief who knows about     the mysterious snitches but hasn’t a clue to their identity.

Other events and a mysterious book create a fine tangle for the talking cats and their human friends to unravel. Joe Grey is involved in a car chase after a killer and winds up abandoned at an airport and must be rescued. The cats go snooping after a suspect and Joe Grey must play a starving stray, something the well fed cat has trouble doing. 

This is a fun tale with lots of action, and fun characters who will keep you happily reading. A story to satisfy every cat lover and mystery buff.  Cat Playing Cupid by talented author Shirley Rousseau Murphy is well worth the time, guaranteed to be a pleasant way to pass the time.  The cats and people of Molena Point will fast become old friends you’ll want to know more about.

Enjoy. I sure did.

 

 

Rupture by A. Scott Pearson

Publisher: Oceanview Publishing ISBN 978 1 933515 23 6

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

“Rupture” is another of the recent offerings of Oceanview Press, and so far they haven’t had a clanger in a carload. 

Dr Eli Branch is called in to assist at an operation to repair a damaged aorta.  Imagine his horror to discover that not only does he know the patient, the man is about to die due to a combination of the senior surgeon’s ineptitude and a previous problem apparently caused by the prosthetic device that was supposed to prolong his life.  Dr Korinsky manages to slide away and leave Eli to declare Gaston Mortimer dead, thus having the death on his record, even though he was called in at the last minute to what was clearly already a disaster.

Eli attends the autopsy on Gaston and meets Dr Meg Daily, who calls to his attention the curious ‘motheaten’ area of the dead man’s aorta.  The arterial prosthesis didn’t fail, but the blood vessel on either side of it did.  What caused it?  Before he gets very far in his investigation, Eli finds himself under suspicion when his eccentric lab assistant is found murdered.  Her death has something to do with his work, but what?

Eli discovers his mentally disabled brother also had the aortic device implanted when he was just an infant. Is Henry now in danger also?  The answer to that is yes, but it’s Eli who’s in the most danger.  Following a recently dead body to the lower levels of the hospital, Eli finds out that there’s a great deal more going on than he had suspected, and that there are a number of hard men who won’t think twice about disposing of him like a pesky fly in order to protect their secrets.

I can’t recommend this as a book to take to the hospital with you when you get that hernia repaired, but for any other reading occasion, this is an absolute ripper of a story.  It has blood and gore, science, romance, a young female medical examiner, a cute kid with a serious medical condition, a handsome doctor, evil medical technology tycoons, and some nail-biting moments of danger that will have you reminding yourself to breathe. 

 

 

 

Posed for Murder by Meredith Cole

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN-10: 0312378564

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

New York photographer Lydia McKenzie couldn’t be more pleased when she’s offered her first showing of the photographs she’s been working on for what seems like years.  Her inspiration, a true crime book written years before that was filled with the unsolved murders of several unidentified female victims, is what led her to recreate murder scenes in a grizzly montage of black and white photographs posed for by her closest friends.  But when those very friends end up being killed and left posed in the same way, in order to clear her name and her conscience, she decides to hunt for the killer herself, leading Lydia straight into the path of a killer who is closer than she could imagine.

While this debut outing by Cole might appeal to the younger as well as the less discriminating arm-chair sleuths, those who have been reading the genre for years might find her story and voice to be not quite yet fully formed and her lack of knowledge of the more obvious details of investigations a bit testing. But everyone has to start somewhere, so perhaps for those who are new to the scene as both readers and writers, and who want a sanitized and fairy-tale version of how a murder investigation goes down, this might do the trick.  If not, take heart, as it seems this is only Cole’s first, so here’s hoping that maybe as her series progresses so will her knowledge and acuity with her subject.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Darker Domain by Val McDermid

Publisher: Harper  ISBN-10: 0061688983

Reviewed by Dana King, New Mystery Reader 

Detective Inspector Karen Pirie enjoys working in the Cold Case Response Team of the Fife, Scotland police. Regular hours, generally likes her co-workers, one more than the others; that’s a personal issue. She doesn’t like staying chained to her desk, so she perks right up when Misha Prentice Gibson comes in to report her father missing. CCRT doesn’t normally handle missing persons, but Misha’s dad has been gone over twenty-two years, and they’re just now getting around to reporting him. Cases don’t get much colder than that.

Mick Prentice was assumed to have gone scabbing during the coal strike of 1984. He left the same night as five known scabs set off for Nottingham, never to be heard of again, with the exception of occasional envelopes of cash with Nottingham postmarks. No notes. No calls. Harder on his family than the usual loss of a husband, father, and provider; to be a scab in 1984 Fife was worse than mere desertion, it was treason. Families were dissolving and starving as the British Conservative government on the one hand and corrupt union officials on the other squeezed the miners dry.

Mick could be dead for all anyone would care except that his grandson has leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant. No good donors have been found. The doctors think Mick is the last chance, so Misha swallows her pride and asks for help. Karen can’t resist a cold case with some urgency.

She barely gets started before she’s summoned by Sir Broderick Maclennan Grant, one of the richest men in Scotland. His only daughter was killed, and his infant grandson disappeared, during a kidnapping exchange gone wrong in 1985. A journalist has uncovered what might be a clue to the identity of the kidnappers in a dilapidated Tuscan villa, and Sir Broderick wants results now.

Such is the scope Val McDermid’s newest, A Darker Domain. Plenty of complications and hurdles to hold a reader’s interest without defying credibility. A story that flows, moving back and forth through time to keep the reader better informed than any of the characters, but never so well informed that you get too far ahead of anyone.

McDermid’s style is easy to miss. It flows easily from one event to the next, guiding the reader without pulling him, never drawing attention to itself. If, as it’s said, easy reading is hard writing, she’s busting her ass. There’s always tension, but not the ever-widening peaks and valleys that strain the fabric of so many of today’s thrillers. These are, after all, cold cases. For McDermid to maintain suspense while acknowledging this is no mean feat.

There are few weaknesses in A Darker Domain. One too many coincidences, maybe. Maybe. A bit of a reach for one outcome. Maybe. The characters are solid and real. Even bit players have their own idiosyncrasies, described in just enough detail to distinguish them without slowing things down. Everything in the story—settings, characters, dialog, motivations—is organic. Maybe the people don’t always react as you would, but their reactions are always comprehensible.

McDermid’s intimate knowledge of the struggles of Scottish miners in the 80s allows her to trust the reader to catch cues between the lines; the empathy felt for the characters is never lessened by preaching. A Darker Domain is a grand story artfully told, suspenseful and moving, a worthy addition to the oeuvre  of a master storyteller.