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74 Miles Away by J. D. Carpenter

Publisher:  Dundurn Group  ISBN:  13: 9781550026498

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Do you enjoy a different kind of hero--a different kind of story where things aren't as they seem?  If so, and I'm sure you agree, this is a book you should read.

Written in a gritty style without indulging in gory excess of description, this story is definitely a read worth the time.  The hero isn't the type you'd expect him to be, yet he is an interesting personality and definitely will hold your attention as he investigates the murder of a musician found in a hotel room.  The body is laid out as if a voodoo ritual was meant. 

Did somebody intend to turn the dead man into a zombie or just what do the candles and bottles surrounding the body mean?  This is the question that starts retired detective Campbell Young on the trail of a killer.

The combination of voodoo and jazz in the background will lure you into a world you might not have previously explored as it does Campbell Young.  Join him on the hunt. You will enjoy every minute of the trip.  I sure did.

I'm pleased to recommend this book to any mystery fan and you'll be looking for other books by talented author J. D. Carpenter. 

 

 

Dying to be Famous by David Hiltbrand

Publisher:  Harper  ISBN:  978-0-06-055415-6

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

Rock’n’roll detective Jim McNamara doesn’t hesitate when Mitch Reynolds, studio hotshot for the reality show Star Maker, demands that McNamara fly to LA to undertake an investigation.  He turns him down flat.  A basket of muffins, private massage, and expensive chess set don’t tempt him.  But the $50,000 retainer changes his mind.

Matthew Hanes was almost certain to be this season’s winner…until he was found dead in his hotel room.  The production company wants McNamara’s help in keeping his murder secret, while at the same time solving it.  With the help of friend and fellow recovering addict Whitey and Roxie, the comely assistant Star Maker has provided, McNamara begins questioning the pool of untalented and troubled contestants.  Most of them have secrets to hide, but which one might be the murderer?

McNamara’s acerbic wit and biting comments on reality TV and the state of the music industry make this already entertaining book laugh-aloud funny.  Any author whose opening profound quote is from Stevie Miller’s Space Cowboy is obviously a winner.  But what the heck is a pompatus?

 

 

Death of a Dreamer by M. C. Beaton

Publisher: Warner  ISBN  0 446618136

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Reviewers rarely get to choose their volumes, so  it is a special treat when a favorite author turns up in the book satchel on the doorstep.  The latest Hamish McBeth just arrived, and was devoured in an evening's gluttony.

As we've come to expect, murder again lurks in the heather around Lochdubh, surely the sudden death capital of  Scotland.  And once again local policemen Hamish is helped (but mostly impeded) by a procession of  females, including not one, but two, of his former lovers, reporter Elspeth Grant and the patrician Priscilla Halburton-Smythe.

For once in his life Hamish is spared the odious presence of Chief Inspector Blair, who breaks a leg early in the story, leaving Hamish to deal with mainly with the easy-going, hard-drinking Jimmy Anderson.  Hamish convinces him that the first death was murder, not suicide, and that the second death was brought on by the victim's bad habit of snooping and writing down everything he saw or heard in a little notebook.

Theories are fine, but the practical matter of identifying the killer requires some hard-slogging police work on Hamish's part.  Along the way he gets a whack on the head, almost falls in love again, collects a substantial amount of money in two unrelated and unexpected events, and by the end of the book has answered all but one of the questions relating to the murders.

The usual cast of eccentric and appealing characters appears again in this 21st  McBeth adventure: the old charlatan Angus; Mrs Brodie and the Currie sisters, as well as Lugs the dog and Sonsie the wild cat.  There are also five newcomers, each more unpleasant than the last; one is not sorry to see them depart the scene one by one.  Beaton has a deft hand with her characters, and readers often feel that  her murder victims almost deserve what they get.

A thoroughly enjoyable read, as comfy as an old shoe and as sharp as a new razor.

 

 

Smoke by Lisa Miscione

Publisher: Dorchester  ISBN: 0843958014

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Private Investigators Lydia Strong and Jeffry Mark are finally settling into marital bliss having just about healed from their last case where they finally eradicated a threat that had stalking Lydia for years, it looks like quiet times and peace have finally found them.  But when Lydia is contacted by the police concerning a fledgling journalist she had been mentoring, Lily Samuels, who has now gone missing, they find themselves once again caught up in mayhem and danger.

Tracing Lily's last steps, they discover that she had been trying to prove that her brother's recent suicide was in fact murder, and soon their investigation leads them to an insidious cult like organization called The New Day.  And with the help of New York Detectives Jesamyn Breslow and Matt Stenopolis they begin to attempt to uncover the secrets behind this frightening institution of shadows and lies. 

Miscione once again proves she's a master of suspense and thrills in this outrageously exciting outing.  And with the equal division of time given to the NY detectives and Lydia and Jeffry, there's the added bonus of new characters that are just as engaging as what's come before.  In addition, we see a softening of the ever- invincible Lydia as she begins to explore family ties with the death of her estranged father.  And while some of plot itself might seem to go over the top a bit, it does nothing to detract from what, after all, is fiction, and damn good fiction at that. 

Don't worry if you've never read a title in this series, they're all strong enough to stand alone with their great characterization, excellent plotting, and simply solid writing.  Another winner from an author who has her craft down solid, this one comes highly recommended.       

 

 

Killing Spree by Kevin O'Brien

Publisher: Pinnacle  ISBN-10: 0786017759

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

It was over two years ago that Seattle writer Gillian McBride's husband disappeared, leaving Gillian alone to raise their young son and deal with the nasty fall-out of her husband's debts.  Avoiding the men hunting her husband while trying to make a living writing her semi-successful books and teaching creative writing at the community college, Gillian's life was far from safe and easy.  And when it was discovered that a serial killer was hunting down women in her city, leaving their bodies dressed in school girl uniforms, Gillian's fears of being alone were only intensified until at last the killer was caught.  

Now, years later, the killing has begun again; across the country acts of murder that mimic those in her mystery books begin to appear, but only Gillian sees the connections to both the past killings and those detailed in her books.  And as the danger comes ever closer, leaving Gillian with no one to trust, she must not only face the continuing dangers from her husband's past, but also those from an unknown stalker who kills only for her.

In this latest stand-alone tale of electrifying suspense, O'Brien once again delivers the goods.  Masterfully building up the tension by withholding the truth until the final explosive ending, O'Brien provides the reader with a delicious guess-fest all the way through.  And when combined with his refreshingly realistic portrayals of single-mom Gillian and her coming-of-age son, he also provides emotion and depth.  For readers looking for an outstanding tale of unrelenting thrills, this one has it all and comes highly recommended.      

 

The Two Minute Rule by Robert Crais

Publisher: Pocket Star  ISBN 1416514961

Reviewed by Don Crouch, New Mystery Reader   

On the day Max Holman was released from prison, he found out his son had been murdered.

Yeah, kinda hits hard, doesn't it? That punch is the engine that drives Robert Crais' new thriller, The Two Minute Rule. The title refers two the amount of time, it's said, a bank robber has from the time he makes his intention known, to safely operate inside the bank. Hmm, allegories, anyone?

Crais prologues the book with an incredibly tense re-creation of a hostile bank robbery by a couple of monsters figuring prominently in the core mystery. It perfectly sets the stage for the contained drama he unwinds over the course of the book. It also reminds us what a fine writer of suspense Crais is.

Then, we meet Max. He's done his time for a bank robbery, and all he wants to do now is live in the world. At which point a sympathetic warden brings him in to notify him of his son's passing, an apparent victim, along with 4 other cops, of a shotgun revenge execution.

As the cops explain the case to him, his radar goes up, and off we go. Holman decides to bring in some help, and that help comes in the form of retired FBI Agent Katherine Pollard. (Apparently The Two Minute Rule started out as an Elvis Cole novel, but then Crais felt that this was really Max's story, not Elvis'. Exit The World's Greatest Detective, enter Katherine Pollard.) She uses her contacts and experience in the Bank Robbery Unit of the Bureau to help Max navigate the waters of his case. The chemistry between the two is touching, and helps propel the story seamlessly.

The story the cops originally tell Holman is simple. Richard Holman and 4 other officers were having some "downtime" when they were surprised and executed by an individual seeking revenge for the killing of his brother. As Holman and Pollard dig deeper, of course, they find that to be anything but the case.

Crais does a great job of presenting the various strands of the law-enforcement web in shades of gray. It's pretty hard to say more without spoiling things, so we'll leave that there.

Gripping suspense aside, the reason you will read and be absorbed by this book is Max Holman. Crais shows his pain and rage as a surviving father with a journalistic detachment that actually serves to make his grief more palpable to the reader. That's an interesting trick, and in the hands of a less-skilled writer would be exposed as just that, a trick. But here it brings the universal strength of a father's love into clear focus.

We will always welcome Elvis Cole's adventures, don't get us wrong. But if Crais keeps spinning standalones with the tension and emotion of The Two Minute Rule, the wait for Elvis will be much less annoying. It's one of Crais' most well-rounded novels.

 

 

Sorrow's Anthem by Michael Kortya

Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks ISBN: 031236605

Reviewed by Dana King, New Mystery Reader

Pleasant surprises are always, well, pleasant. Michael Koryta’s Sorrow’s Anthem had three dubious pedigrees: Koryta is only twenty-two (probably needs some seasoning), his first book was nominated for an Edgar (a dubious distinction, considering the talents the MWA manages to overlook every year), and the book takes place in Cleveland (that’s a cheap shot, but the reviewer’s from Pittsburgh). With those three (admittedly tongue-in-cheek) strikes against it, how good could Sorrow’s Anthem be?

Very.

Lincoln Perry once helped send his best friend to prison. Perry was a cop and the friend was descending the ladder to a ruined life two rungs at a time. The friend, Ed Gradduck, was arrested by Perry as a way to give him options before it was too late, maybe even save Gradduck’s relationship with his girlfriend, whom Perry describes as “the most beautiful woman I never wanted to sleep with.”

Gradduck chose unwisely and the relationship, as well as the friendship, fell by the way. Now it’s years later, and Gradduck is the suspect in an arson in which a young attorney is killed. Gradduck has been seen around town having harsh words with the dead woman, and had the bad luck to be captured on video leaving the scene of the fire. Perry feels somewhat responsible for Gradduck’s continued decline and reaches out to clear his one-time friend of the charges.

Perry is relatively standard PI stuff, a cop who left the force under a cloud, loose cannon, unable to sustain a relationship with a woman. His partner, Joe Pritchard, is legend after thirty years as a Cleveland cop. Together they make the good cop/bad cop routine play as though it’s something new, a neat trick even if it had been the book’s sole virtue.

It isn’t. Koryta has the gift of fleshing out his characters without bogging down the plot. The pacing is excellent, leaving room to breathe without ever tempting the reader to flip ahead, looking for something to happen. The characters talk the way real people talk, sliding up along some important answers instead of addressing the questions head on. The descriptions of conversations and events are complete enough to be satisfying while still leaving avenues of suspense, saying a lot without necessarily telling what will be important later.

Koryta also lays out the essential element for a successful series: evolution of the protagonist’s character. Perry is still young and somewhat adrift. His roots are buried deep in his old neighborhood, and his name has been mud there since the Gradduck arrest. No one, least of all himself, seems to know if his acquaintance with reporter Amy is friendship or blossoming love. And, of course, there’s Gradduck’s ex. Based on the tone of the description given, just because Perry didn’t want to sleep with her before doesn’t mean he won’t ever want to.

Sorrow’s Anthem isn’t a perfect book, but its relative weaknesses fall into the category of “between the lines.” Each individual component merits highest marks, yet the book somehow misses putting them all together as well as might be expected. No surprise there, Koryta’s only twenty-two. I recently read Cop Hater, Ed McBain’s original 87th Precinct novel. It’s good, but something organic grew into McBain’s work as he matured. That’s the only thing missing here, the indefinable something that separates a good writer at the height of his powers from a great writer still discovering his. As good as this book is, it’s hard to imagine Koryta not getting better as he flexes his, and Perry’s, muscles. That’s definitely worth looking forward to.

 

 

Gone by Lisa Gardner

Publisher: Bantam ISBN: 0553588079

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Former FBI profiler Pierce Quincy and his wife Rainie are now living in the beautiful coastal town of Bakersfield, Oregon, the place where they first met, and working as consultants with the area's police force, when their contented lives take on a shattering twist.  They take on the case of a young mother and child brutally murdered, with this being the one case that may just put Rainie over the edge for good, and when her broken faith leads her back to the bottle, Quincy leaves her in an attempt to snap her back to where she was.  But when Rainie is kidnapped, her car found abandoned on the side of the road, Quincy is sent into a panic and begins working with local law enforcement to find his beloved wife.  Not sure if this is related to the present case, or to some event from Rainie's dreadful past, or perhaps something different altogether, the team works nonstop to find her before she is gone for good. 

Gardner once again puts out a tale of nonstop suspense and breathless thrills as she details the rush to find Rainie before all is lost.  And as always, it's a toss-up between which is more striking, her plotting or her intense characterizations, with Rainie's failings being especially poignant and heart rendering.   This is one story you'll want to read if you're a fan, as it brings back some familiar faces and places that have marked this arresting series in the past.  Highly recommended, this is one of the most consistently imaginative authors out there who never fails to entice and excite with her well-written tales of evil.    

 

 

How To Seduce A Ghost by Hope McIntyre

Publisher: Warner Books  ISBN 0 44661601X

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Ghostwriter Lee Bartholomew is a contradiction in the flesh: an agoraphobe who has difficulty being home alone.  Her long-term love-affair with Tommy has stalled just shy of the living together stage, and it will take something major to move her life forward.

Several major somethings happen in rapid succession: arson, murder, more arson, more murder, the seduction of the title, and a shocking revelation by Leigh's newest co-author.

Punctuating these major events are the everyday problems of maintaining a ramshackle old house in the Notting Hill section of London.   Lee finds it all but impossible to cope with the rising damp, rotting sills, peeling paint and dripping taps.  Her inability to do such simple tasks as hiring as plumber puts a severe strain on Lee's relationship with her parents, whose house this is.

By the time the murders are solved, Lee's once quiet house is full of refugees: her mother, her friend, her employer, and the employer's maid, all needing shelter, comfort and understanding.  How Lee copes with this sudden change in circumstances and the shock identification of the arsonist-murderer makes for an involving story that will have you guessing to the last.

 

7 Deadly Wonders by Matthew Reilly

Publisher:  Pocket  ISBN:  1416505067

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

A tale for any reader who loves action and high tension as the characters try to outrun danger.  Talented author Matthew Reilly takes us on a tour of the ancient wonders of the world or what is left of them as a group of 8 intrepid adventurers seek the seven pieces of the capstone that once sat atop the great pyramid.

Others are seeking them also for there is a tale that whatever country holds all the pieces will rule the world for a thousand years or save the world from a coming catastrophe.

Join Jack West as he and his little band try to outwit all the deadly snares set by the old pharaoh when he had the capstone broken up and the pieces secreted in the old wonders of the world.  They must follow clues to the whereabouts of the pieces since they have been moved. 

Loads of action and excitement, suspense and danger abound.  A read to please the action lover or thriller fan. 

 

Point Blank by Catherine Coulter

Publisher: Jove  ISBN: 0515141682

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Fans of Coulter will be very pleased with her latest outing featuring FBI agents Ruth Warnecki and married couple Savich and Sherlock, as together and separately they once again pit themselves against unrelenting danger in a thriller that's sure to be another hit.

Dual stories mark this latest reading; with the first beginning with Ruth's hunt for Confederate gold in a cave in Maestro, Virginia where after searching the cave and becoming disoriented, she finds herself in Sheriff Dix Noble's home after he discovers her laying injured in the snow near his home.  And when someone next attempts a hit on her life, the crew sets out to the cave to discover what clues may have been left behind that might help them find the culprits.  But what they find instead is the body of a young woman, posed and partly embalmed, eventually pointing them to the distinguished musical school of Stanislaus, where lays a bevy of secrets just waiting to be uncovered.

The second story begins when Savich and Sherlock attempt to rescue a kidnap victim, only to almost end up as victims themselves when an explosion sends them flying for cover.  They soon discover that a madman is on their trail, and is out for revenge for a case long gone in their past.  Accompanying him is a wild teenage girl whose insanity knows no bounds, and the two will stop at nothing to see the couple dead and buried.

Almost non-stop excitement marks this latest suspenseful outing from Coulter.  Racing between the two stories, she manages to keep the tension of both alive and well as she mixes these two thrilling tales into one.  And with just a tad of romance, and some great snowy ambience, the setting is delightfully chilling with some sweetness thrown in for good measure.  Fans will gobble this latest up all the while looking forward to the next.