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Fatal Burn by Lisa Jackson

Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation ISBN: 0821775774

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Thirteen year old Dani Settler disappears during a school day and her adopted father Travis sets out to find her.  Since Dani has been asking about her birth parents, Travis decides to check to see if Dani has found her mother Shannon Flannery and taken off.  Shannon has been tried and exonerated for killing her husband.  Deciding to check her out before confronting her, he is slinking around her property when the stable and shed blow up.  While they are rescuing the horses and dogs, Shannon is severely beaten.  When Travis and Shannon finally meet face they discover that the person who apparently has Dani is also tormenting Shannon and they join forces to find Dani.

Jackson masterfully constructs a plot that is so full of twists and turns it keeps you continually guessing.  With such a read that is so full of dramatic tension you might be tempted to skip ahead, but don't, the end is worth waiting for.  This is truly dynamic story telling; with frighteningly chilling characters and plot alike, this is one heartily recommended read.  

 

The Closers by Michael Connelly

Publisher: Warner Books ISBN: 0446616443

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

I thought with The Narrows, we had seen the last of Harry Bosch. The Narrows was a stylish read where all regular Connelly protagonists (including Harry Bosch and Terry McCaleb) had come together. Bosch had retired from LAPD and lets face it- he was getting pretty old- time for retirement. Was this the end of the road for Harry Bosch- I had thought?

And well, the answer is here for you- firstly its NOT the end of the series. In The Closers, we find an invigorated Bosch, a new look Bosch with the same vigor, dynamism and energy we had seen in the early Connelly works. And Bosch is back home at the good old LAPD. He is now in charge of the Unsolved Cases Department. And the first case that comes his way…. Rather recrosses his path is a 1988 death case of a teenage girl, supposedly a suicide case. Investigations had revealed that it was a murder but the identity of the murderer was not found out. With advances in forensic science and DNA testing Bosch decides to reinvestigate the case.

Though the plan is good, Bosch faces stiff resistance from the police force, the family of the deceased and many others- for the investigations rekindle old memories which were better left….well, as memories itself. But the tenacity of Bosch pays off and what follows is tense, suspense read, culminating in a finish only Connelly could have thought of.

Highly, highly recommended.

 

The Deep Blue Alibi by Paul Levine

Publisher: Bantam ISBN: 0440242746

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

In Levine's second outing featuring the tempestuous duo of Miami lawyers Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord, we see the fissures in their unstable relationship widen.  This time out, a yacht barrels into the beach on the beautiful Florida Keys where the couple are enjoying a brief getaway, coincidently on the yacht is Victoria's "Uncle" Grif, a long time friend of the family who was on the way to hire Victoria to help set up his creation of a floating hotel and casino. 

Unfortunately, also on the yacht is a dead man, a man that it appears Uncle Grif was attempting to bribe to help give his project the green light.  So instead of being hired to work out some boring business deals, Victoria is now hired to help him beat a murder rap.  But this time she wants to go it alone, as her doubts about the feasibility of her partnership with Steve, in both the law and romance, continue to grow, especially with the arrival of Uncle Grif's son on the scene, a rich and good looking hunk, who just happens to be Victoria's first love.

Meanwhile, Steve is attempting to help his father reclaim his law license after his scandalous release from the bench years ago.  But his father has some reasons he'd rather not fight the good fight, secrets he'd rather his son never discover.  And secrets that just might get Steve killed. 

Levine's exploration into some nasty family secrets makes this outing much more than your standard legal thriller.  And with the always passionate struggles that continuously mark the couple's relationship also providing its own dose of humor and excitement, you have an additional reason to read this wildly spun tale.  We also get to meet up with Steve's surrogate son Bobby, a precocious and inventive young boy who deserves a book of his own.  Throw in the heady ambiance of the Florida Keys, and you just might find yourself whipping up a batch of margaritas and pulling out your old Jimmy Buffet tapes when it's all over just to prolong the delight for just awhile longer.     

 

Hard Truth by Nevada Barr

Publisher: Berkley ISBN: 0425208419

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

One of the best parts of reading a Nevada Barr novel featuring Forest Ranger Anna Pigeon is vicariously exploring the national parks that Anna gets assigned to.  This time around it’s the Rocky  Mountain National Park in Colorado that readers have the joy of tromping through alongside Anna in Barr's latest gripping mystery. 

Just a few days in on her new assignment, Anna is just barely getting her feet wet when she's notified that two of three missing girls have been found.  Battered and scarred, but very much alive, the girls refuse to speak of their ordeal or of what might have become of the third girl.  The woman who discovered them, a recent paraplegic who was injured in a fall while mountain climbing, is able to put her bitterness aside to bond with the youngest girl, Beth, and so is called upon by her conscience to also aid in the investigation.

Upon discovering that the girls had been on a religious retreat with a young leader of their cult-like "family", the answers become even murkier for all involved, especially when the family refuses to become engaged with the investigation.  And after looking further into this fanatical religious circle, the list of suspects only grows larger, included foremost the one young leader who seems to have a way with young girls.  But, of course, nothing is ever as it seems, because the madman they are seeking has killed before and is anxious to kill again, and may just be more familiar than they could have ever guessed.

As usual, Barr infuses her gripping tale with just the right amount of scenic detail to alleviate some of the terror she's also a master at creating, so what the reader ends up with is just the right balance between electric fear and breathtaking adventure.  Anna, too, is once again a delight to consider; independent, fiercely protective of the land she serves, and altogether human, she's one of the more worthwhile heroines around, as is Heath, the paraplegic woman drawn into the action.  Definitely a keeper, don't miss this latest, and if you're new to the Barr scene, no worries, this will get you hooked for all that came before, and all that's yet to come.

 

 

Into the Volcano by Forrest DeVoe Jr.

Publisher: Dark Alley ISBN: 0060723777

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

If you are in the mood to read a racy spy thriller…

If you are in the mood to relax with a glass of wine and a book to match….  If you are in the mood to enjoy a little bit of fun, mindless, wham- bham fun… INTO THE VOLCANO is the book for you.

Evoking nostalgic thoughts of the James Bond/ Our Man Flint style of movies and TV Serials like Remington Steele and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Into the Volcano- the first in a series of planned novels- featuring ace spies’- Jack Mallory and Laura Morse by Forrest DeVoe Jr. makes fun reading.

In the style of the works of that of Nick Carter, Alistair MacLean et al.- DeVoe Jr. introduces two protagonists, with different tastes and interests, but joined together by a sense of duty to their nation. Both these undercover agents are called into duty to bring to book an arms dealer and ace ally of the Soviets, Anton Rauth. The duo poses as husband and wife and (sort of the Mr. And Mrs. Smith style), and go to Istanbul- to investigate into ‘matters.’ An initial “bringing to justice the criminal job” turns nasty when Mallory and Morse discovers that Rauth has a more deadlier plan of crippling the gold resources of Turkey. What follows is Bond-ish style action with action, sex, drama, chases- and you-know-what, culminating in an exciting and absolutely stunning finish.

Enjoyed the book- a perfect gift for the Christmas Holidays- looking for more from DeVoe, and Jack Mallory and Laura Morse

Recommended, highly recommended.

 

 

Fleshmarket Alley by Ian Rankin

Publisher: Little, Brown ISBN: 0316010405

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Scotland's DI John Rebus and his colleague Detective Siobhan Clarke return in yet another outing, and this time out they're involved in several separate cases; that of a butchered immigrant, a missing young woman, a pair of skeletons discovered buried in a basement, and the murder of a rapist.  And while at first it may seem that all of these have nothing in common, things slowly begin to add up for the pair as their cases converge and connect in the most unpleasant ways possible.    

There are several different threads in this loosely woven tale from Rankin and with the plethora of side-characters, it can be somewhat daunting at times to keep up.  But the character of Rebus, as usual, more than makes up for this, as does the compassionate and provocative look at the unfortunate world of immigrants, asylum seekers, and racism. 

Rebus, a man perhaps a day or two past his prime, is still as cantankerous as usual, partaking in his vices of smoking and drinking at every opportunity.  And it is these very human foibles, along with his reticently empathetic viewpoints to those less fortunate, that make him one of the more compelling detectives around.  This is a forceful and dynamic read that confronts some issues of great significance, treating them with respect and humanity, and so a hearty kudos to Rankin for providing readers with something to think about long after the read itself is over.       

 

 

The Headmaster's Wife by Jane Haddam

Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks ISBN: 0312989113

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Philadelphia's reluctant PI Gregor Demarkian returns in yet another thrilling and intelligent outing, this time in a journey through the halls of academia and wealth in a read that is both highly entertaining and provocative.   It all begins when Gregor receives a call from a young teen he knew years before when involved in a case with the teen's parents, and having had a great deal of fondness for the boy, he is both startled and concerned with what he hears.  It appears that Mark Tolliver's boarding school roommate has committed suicide, and Mark himself seems addled with drugs and is acting oddly out of character, mumbling something about a body left in the snow that later disappeared.  

Mark, a student at the prestigious Windsor Academy for less than a year, has suddenly changed from the precocious and brilliant scholar he once was, into a confused and often incoherent shell of his former self, causing Gregor, who since his last case has been feeling restless, unsatisfied, and very reluctant to get back on the horse, with no choice but to head out to Massachusetts to help in any way he can.  And it doesn't take long for  Gregor to once again find himself caught up in a web of deceit and brutality that only gets more dangerous for him and Mark when yet another unexplained death occurs.   

This wonderful read, filled with just the right amount of cynicism towards the wealthy enclaves of private education and the new politically correct ideologies, scores on just about every level.  Packed with plenty of interesting and devious characters, all of whom have their secrets to hide; it's a heart-pounding race to discovering which of these conniving souls is responsible for the multitude of crimes at the Academy.  Could it be the headmaster's wife who was having an affair with the dead student, or her cuckolded husband, or maybe the bitter and closeted gay teacher, or the teacher whose secrets go beyond what any of them can imagine?   You'll have to read it to find out, and believe me; you will enjoy every page turned.  A cunning and crafty mystery, this one is a true winner. 

 

Now You See Her by Cecilia Tishy

Publisher Mysterious Press ISBN 0 89296 796 x

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

This book starts with the unusual premise that there's such a thing as a police detective who believes that some people have paranormal abilities.

The problem is that the person herself, Regina Cutter, isn't half as certain of her abilities as Detective Frank Devaney is.  Devaney is haunted by the thought that he's helped convict an innocent man, and he wants Reggie to help him discover if  he's right.

Reggie is trying to build a life for herself after her unceremonious dumping by her businessman husband.  She's got  part-ownership of a beagle, a townhouse in Boston, and a growing reputation as a psychic. 

Reggie has a lot on her plate at one time: Devaney's case; a possible haunted house that a realtor friend needs advice about; her work as a landlady for her upstairs tenant, a dentist who won't do a thing for himself; and the discovery of a toxic waste scandal that ties in to Devaney's case.  Investigating the latter brings Reggie into contact with a varied cast of characters, from a bag lady to a demagogue to a would-be politician and an assortment of thugs and villains for good measure. 

The denouement stretches credulity just a tad, but is no less exciting for that.  If you've ever lived in an old Boston brownstone, perhaps you won't find the final scene that far-fetched.

Cecilia Tishy does an excellent job of conveying the ambience of Boston.  From the possibly haunted house in the Back Bay to the Combat Zone to the Greek grocery store, she gives you little slices of the Boston beyond the Ritz and the Swan Boats.  The reader will look forward to Reggie's next adventure after this commendable maiden outing.

 

 

Skeleton Man by Tony Hillerman

Publisher:  HarperTorch ISBN:  006056346X

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

Diamonds and death--leftovers from a plane collision over the Grand Canyon five decades before--lead a merry chase for Sergeant Jim Chee and a friend Cowboy Dashee as they seek to prove the truth of the statement of a retarded cousin of Cowboy's that a diamond had been given to him by an old man in exchange for a sharpened shovel when he's accused of robbery.

Add to the mix two thugs hired by a third man as well as the daughter of one of the victims of the plane collision, all of whom are seeking the bones of the victim with the diamonds as an added attraction and you have a complicated plot that will hold your attention from beginning to end.

It was into this situation that retired Lt. Joe Leaphorn was drawn by a phone call from the present day chief of Navajo Tribal Police seeking information on an ancient burglary where a similar diamond was supposedly stolen.

An excellent read that will keep you reading, trying to guess what will happen next. A skillful mix of old legends and new, description so well done you will actually feel the heat and dust of the long climb into the depths of the canyon in search of an old man whose existence is doubtful. Was he a legend come to life?

Plenty of action, mystery, and a series of cross purposes of the characters make for a satisfying way to spend some pleasant hours.  A book you will keep to read again and enjoy as much as the first time.  Highly recommended by a new fan of Tony Hillerman's writing. I'll be looking for his other books now.