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The Man Burns Tonight by Donn Cortez

Publisher: Pocket ISBN: 0743476999

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When website designer and all time computer nerd Dex Edden is asked by his latest client to join him on a trip to the Nevada Desert for the Burning Man festival, Dex has more than a few doubts.  Nonetheless, he agrees, but all too soon his doubts turn to down and out fear when his client is brutally murdered right in front of him by a man wearing a pink Darth Vader costume.  And as Dex barely escapes with his life, fleeing into the dark night, he starts off on a journey that will take him down paths that he never imagined he could take as he meets a whole new group of friends he'd never imagined he could make. And as he searches for the killer he must also keep hidden, because not only is the killer searching for him, but so are the police.    

This wild and completely uninhibited read is for those who like plenty of adventure in their tales and who can keep an open mind to experiences that don't exactly follow the norm.  So if this describes you, then buckle up and prepare yourself for one hell of a crazy and madcap ride.  Cortez takes the reader through the inside out world that is Burning Man and makes it a delight, a challenge, and just plain good fun.  Feeling an awful lot like an adult version of Alice in Wonderland, this very skewed look at life is humorous and highly intoxicating.  Dex makes the perfect Alice, and watching him grow and expand his thinking is as engaging as the details of the festival itself, all providing for a grandly entertaining read that comes highly rated.


KILLING HER SOFTLY by Beverly Barton

Publisher: Zebra Books ISBN: 0821776878

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Annabelle Vanderley, although bred and born a southern lady, is the power behind the Vanderley empire.  She travels to Memphis to claim the body of her murdered and mutilated cousin, and assist the local police detectives in any way possible.  Growing frustrated, she tries to hire a private investigator, but is told she must go into partnership with Quinn Cortez.

Quinn, who in Elizabethan times would have been labeled a dashing, self-made rake, is a famous criminal lawyer and the prime suspect in her cousin's murder.  As more mutilated bodies begin to turn up, and each is a former lover of Quinn's, The tension mounts.

Barton has written a very gripping spellbinding page turner.  The plot is filled with animosity, duplicity and twists and turns that lead to an unanticipated end, all making for one hair-raising read that readers will inhale all the way through.


The Black Silent by David Dun

Publishers: Pinnacle, 2005 ISBN: 078601637X

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

David Dun is an author pretty unknown in this part of the world- I come from India and this was the first Dun work I was reading. But if this is the stuff the author’s works are made of…. Boy, oh boy, it’s just a matter of time that this lawyer becomes a world famous author.

In short, THE BLACK SILENT is very much reminiscent of the famed Michael Crichton novel SPHERE- however it’s more suspense oriented and less techno- jargon oriented when compared to SPHERE.

Ben Anderson knows something chilling, something sinister that might even endanger his life. What the secret is, what the chilling secret is well….my friends, it’s for you to find out. Simply read the book. I shall just give one clue- it’s connected with the sea, the deep blue ocean. And when Ben goes missing, its up to our gutsy heroine Haley Walthers, a friend and protégée of Anderson to find him. Together with action- man Sam Wintripp the duo goes in search of Ben Anderson, and the adventure they embark upon is an adventure of a lifetime (I use this term both literally and figuratively).

A highly enjoyable work reminiscent, as I said earlier, of the Crichton work SPHERE in terms of suspense and the early Irving Wallace work THE PIGEON PROJECT in terms of plot sophistication. Recommended, highly recommended- THE BLACK SILENT is a guaranteed good read. 



FINAL SCREAM by Lisa Jackson

Publisher: Zebra Books ISBN: 0821777122

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

The very prosperous Buchanan family of Prosperity, Oregon seems to be plagued by fires.  Seventeen years ago a mill fire killed the oldest Buchanan daughter, and now fire has raged through another mill, and newspaper reporter Cassidy Buchanan's husband is in critical condition.  Both fires are identical arsons, and the first case was never solved.  Cassidy has to start searching through old records to find clues and a connection.

What a fantastic writer Lisa Jackson is.  She takes two families and weaves them together throughout the book, showing their differences, ambitions and desires.  She also reveals their shortcomings and hates.  She created characters that you can love, hate and pity.  She then weaves this into a story that you will not want to put down until you have reached the last page.



KILLER SMILE  by Lisa Scottoline

HarperTorch   ISBN 0-06-0514965

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

One of the problems with writing books that are tagged 'murder mysteries' is that no matter how well you write them, the murder and the plot always get the lion's share of critical notice.

This is just a heads-up to readers: don't get so involved with Lisa Scottoline's new book's plot  that you miss enjoying some of the truly evocative writing, especially in Chapter Three.  You can see the neighbourhood; you can smell the gnocchi, you can feel the menace of the unnamed disease.

This is a book with a very grim premise which nevertheless offers a lot of humour.  Mary DiNunzio and her gal-pal Judy have a lot of amusing interchanges amidst the serious work of tracking down what happened to the long-dead Amadeo Brandolini.  The deeper Mary digs, the more disturbed she becomes.  Could her country, the land of the free and the home of the litigious, really have done these things? 

The rounding up and detaining of Italians during the Second World War, some of whom had spent all their lives in the USA, is as dark a chapter in the story of civil liberties abuse as was the internment of the Japanese.  Like the Japanese, the Italians who were interned in bleak distant camps often had sons serving in the US armed forces.  Most of them lost everything they had, and when finally released, got no apologies and no compensation.

Brandolini's experiences in the camp led to his suicide, which is why his son's estate has retained Mary's law firm: they want reparation.  While she's wading through stacks of mostly useless documents , trying to build a case, Mary has to fight off the efforts of friends and relatives to fix her up with various desperate-and-dateless bachelors.  She's perfectly comfortable in her widowhood, but others aren't.  The highlight of the matchmaking is when Mary is fixed up with a hired killer, who--but I digress; back to the main story.

It's clear that there are powerful but shadowy people who don't want Mary's case to succeed, but why?  There's something else going on that Mary can't quite get hold of, although she begins to get glimpses of it as the investigation continues.

The climax comes in a courtroom, where it looks as if Mary's case is going to crash in flames until a surprise witness arrives.    To say any more would spoil your fun.   Get this book; it will take your mind off the coming Dog Days of August.


The Dying Hour by Rick Mofina

Publisher: Pinnacle Books ISBN: 0786016973

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Needing some time with her big sister, Seattle college student Karen Harding departs for Vancouver during a furious rainstorm after a fight with her boyfriend.  But trouble finds her along the way when she stalls out, and thinking the nice reverend who stops to help her is nothing but kind, she enters his RV, only to discover that she is now his prisoner. 

Crime beat reporter Jason Wade, an intern with the Seattle Mirror, is the first to pick up the story, and as he's in competition with several other interns for a full-time job, he intends to make the best of it.  But as time goes by with no further clues regarding the missing woman, he's encouraged to move on by the powers that be, that is until a body is discovered that may be related to her disappearance.  Hot on the trail of a man that Jason just knows is involved, however, will place everything he's built in jeopardy, and to connect the vicious trail that leads to the truth may just put him in danger himself.

Mofina's first outing in his new series is both energetic and suspenseful.  Jason, a likable and compassionate young hero, shows plenty of vitality and courage that adds much to this already fascinating plot, and is definitely one character we would enjoy seeing again.  Mofina has created someone easy to empathize with, one who has plenty of demons to fight, and plenty of reasons to win.  A very promising first in what's bound to be a winner of a series, this one doesn't disappoint. 


DARK SKY by Carla Neggers

Publisher: Mira ISBN: 077832205X

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Juliet Longstreet grew up in a law enforcement family and now serves as a U.S. Deputy Marshal.  An ex-con she helped put away is now out on the streets, and when Juliet sent him to prison he swore he would get her.

Special Forces officer Ethan Brooker is assigned to rescue one of his Texas neighbors who has been kidnapped in South America.  When his mission is complete, he learns that the kidnapper is an ex-con who is out to get Juliet.  Together they have to track this guy down.

This is a riveting multifaceted plot that keeps the reader turning pages.  It is filled with action that involves Juliet's entire family.  Greed, lies and murder keep you on the edge.  There is also a spark of romance for those who seek some spark with their thrills.   A page turner that satisfies.


The Mask of Red Death by Harold Schechter

Publisher:  Ballentine Books ISBN:  0449007227

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

If you adore something unusual in a mystery, this is one for you.  The talented author has colored outside the lines of the genre of mystery, using horror and touches of the old west to fill in the picture presented by The Mask of Red Death.

Edgar A. Poe is a man of letters and editing a new literary magazine in Boston, living on the edge of poverty when chance tosses him a plum. But as suddenly as it came, it is gone with the horrible murder of his new benefactor.  The description of the man's death  raises the public ire as it is the third committed in the same manner, the age of the victims being the only variance. 

As Poe had discovered the body, he is involved in the investigation only as a witness. Until Kit Carson's arrival on the scene and the discovery that he is hunting a man who could be the same one who killed Poe's would-be benefactor.

Flavored with the contrast in the characters of Poe and Carson and their methods of inquiry, the reader will enjoy a tale told in a style that will remind you of Poe's own. A chance to be reintroduced to America's earliest mystery writer and poet, The Mask of Red Death will have you looking for Poe's own tales for further reading.  Recommended as a very enjoyable read.


Heart of the Hunter by Deon Meyer

Publisher: Little Brown ISBN: 0316010391

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

Deon Meyer is quite unknown in this part of the world, or for that matter in United States and United Kingdom. The blurb informs that the author has two other works of fiction to his credit- and that they achieved “international acclaim”. So why haven’t we heard of this journalist- cum- crime writer- cum novelist? The reason is simple; this is the author’s first work to be published in English, translated from Afrikaans.

Heart of the Hunter is a novel fit for being made into a film starring someone of the built of Arnold Schwarzenegger- if you understand what I mean, you might now have got a picture of the protagonist. Thobela ‘Tiny’ Mpayipheli is now leading a quite life. But he has a dark past that not even his family knows. And Mpayipheli plans to keep it that way. But all this changes when he receives a frantic call for help from one girl- tiny dismisses it at first, but then he comes to know that the girl is the daughter of Johnny Kleintjes- to whom Tiny ‘owes a debt.’ Torn between his love for the family and of a debt, which he desperately wants to repay, Mpayipheli decides to investigate and find what happened to Kleintjes. But no sooner has Mpayipheli entered the fray, he finds himself in a dark conspiracy and untold danger with the whole Security force of South Africa after him- and to add more misery, his foster son Pakamile is also gone missing, possibly kidnapped. What follows is high action suspense fare where Mpayipheli is the sole vigilante all set out to seek justice and repay a debt of gratitude.

Mpayipheli is a strong character, and I think, the author plans to make him a series protagonist. Enjoyed the book.

Highly recommended.




Falling Down by David Cole

Publisher: Avon ISBN: 0060511974

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Tucson PI Laura Winslow is trying to get her license back when she's approached by the Tucson PD with a deal that could accomplish just that.  They need her help to root out a dirty cop who appears to be working with the fearsome maras, a gang that has their vicious hands in everything illegal connected with the border.   Laura, hesitant of the deal, agrees to meet up with Mary Emich, an employee of Tohono Chul Park, who has found something very disturbing on their park computers; a website leading to some brutal activities that are more than likely associated with this brutal gang.  And as Laura feels a deep and immediate connection with Mary and Ken, she agrees to help them out, especially considering the fact that she has a whole lot of extra time on her hands now that her lover has gone for good.

Cole's unique and intelligently wrought first person narrative is what makes this suspense novel special.  Laura's voice, one of reticent emotions and regrets is both heartfelt and stirring, and when combined with her unflagging courage, adds up to the song from one hell of a heroine.  The story itself gets a bit confusing now and again, with the reader unsure who and what Laura is actually working for and towards.  But the ending wraps things up with a shocking betrayal that if a little abrupt, is at least exciting and shocking.  Easily recommended, this one will pull you in and keep you there for the duration.