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Dead Simple by Peter James

Publisher: Carroll & Graf ISBN: 078671641X

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader  

Michael Harrison, a young and increasingly wealthy young man, is about to be married and so when his best friends suggest a night out on the town a few days before the wedding, Michael is quick to agree.  But things go horribly wrong when after burying Michael in a coffin as a stag night prank, the group of friends get in a fatal drunk driving accident, leaving Michael alone in his grave with no one being aware of his whereabouts. 

At first the police think he's merely taken off and so give the case little in the way of attention, but when it becomes clear that all is not as it appears they soon launch a full investigation.  And it's DS Roy Grace who eventually takes over the case, a man whose own wife completely disappeared years before and so one who understands how devastating such an event can be to the loved ones left behind.  But with Michael's business partner and best friend Mark, who fortuitously missed the night's shenanigans, acting more than odd, along with Michael's lovely fiancée' seemingly hiding a few of her own secrets, it becomes clear to the detective that there's a lot more going on than meets the eye, and more than one secret that will need to be uncovered if they are to find Michael alive.

What a rip roaring hell of a roller coaster ride this exhilarating book turned out to be.  Just when you think everything is headed decisively in one direction, James turns the tables and throws it all in another, with each being more electrifying than the last.  And with characters that are so fully evolved, the absorption level could not be more complete for those who are lucky enough to pick this excellent and thrilling read.  Coming with the highest recommendation possible, this is one you won't want to miss.     



A Meal to Die For:  A Culinary Mystery by J. Gannascoli with A. Kupfer

Publisher:  A Forge Book   ISBN:  0-765-31444-4

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader 

For Sopranos fans who cannot wait until the new season starts next month, Joseph Gannascoli, the actor who plays Vito on the show, has provided an organized crime fix in the form of A Meal to Die For.

Brooklyn chef Benny Lacoco got involved with organized crime when he accumulated some gambling debts.  He dug himself out with the help of the "family," which financed his first restaurants and provided him a lucrative side line as a food fence.

Now a successful restaurateur and a family man, Benny still prepares the occasional memorable last supper on those occasions when someone has betrayed the family and needs to be eliminated. 

This novel, broken into courses, takes place during the serving of one of these suppers.  As Benny and the guests wonder which one of them is enjoying his last meal, Benny flashes back to his early life, recalling significant episodes in his involvement with organized crime.  Fast-moving and enjoyable, this novel will be enjoyed even by non-Sopranos fans.  However, the language and violence may offend some. 

Bada bing!