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Forged by Laura Crum

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312323271

Reviewed by C.J. Curry 

Gail McCarthy is a Veterinarian in horse country around Monterrey Bay in California.  She has had a busy day and is anxious to get home to check on her favorite horse, Gunner.  The horseshoer was supposed to come today and put four new shoes on Gunner.  Knowing the shoer was not always reliable about showing up on time Gail was ready to get home to check up on him.  She was muttering under her breath about what she would do to him when she pulled into her driveway.  Well good, his pickup was there but Gunner was still tied up under the tree.  Checking Gunner first of all, Gail discovers that only three shoes have been put on.  What in the world is Dominic doing!  Gail furiously goes in search of the errant horse shoer.  She knows he is the best around but this may be the last straw!  Imagine her horror when upon going into the barn she discovers Dominic lying on the barn floor in a pool of blood.   She rushed to him in time for him to open his eyes and mutter, “ I was cleaning the gun.  An accident.”

Gail sat in the dust holding the man’s hand until the ambulance picked him up.  She had plenty of time to think while waiting for the police to complete checking the scene for clues and to ask her questions.  What on earth did Dominic mean by cleaning his gun before he was finished with the shoeing job?  Or would the police think she had shot the man.  Perhaps in self defense?  Dominic had a bad reputation for being a woman chaser.  He seemed to think that all women were crazy about him.  Or had some jealous husband or boyfriend hunted him down?  But no, he said it was an accident.

When the police finally finished with her and she was allowed to go up to the house, the first thing she did was fix herself a large Margarita.  And then she sat down in the rocking chair to wait for her boyfriend/roommate to come home.  Blue was a comforting person and she need his strong arms right now. 

Ms Crum has written a small but very well thought out book.  Gail is not a detective but she has lots of time going from one horse ranch to another to think about what has happened.  After putting herself in danger she finally has all the answers.  If she can only survive to tell the police.

The author pulls the reader along through the magnificent beauty of the Bay area  and never lets the storyline drag.  I enjoy an intelligent and well thought out plot such as this.

 

 

Under the Manhattan Bridge by Irene Marcuse

Publisher: Forge Books ISBN: 0765308045

Reviewed by Laura Helfrich

Anita Servi has given up social work. There was too much stress, and
there were too many people dying. She is now working part-time with
her carpenter husband, doing simple tasks. The work is fun and
enjoyable, up until the day that she finds a body in the vacuum press.
The body is that of a young man - a boy, really - and Anita feels
responsible for him. She vows to at least find out who he is.

The boy turns out to have ties to the Jewish community in
Williamsburg, which allows Anita to explore a part of her own
ethnicity she has little experience with. She also finds links to the
boy in the Russian baths on the Lower East Side and the trendy
artists' galleries in the East Village.

Marcuse's New York pulses with life, but underneath that pulse is the
grief that surrounded the city following the terrorist attacks on
9/11. The action in the story takes place a scant two weeks following
the attacks, when the city's wounds were still raw, when the faces of
the missing stared out from every telephone and light pole. Marcuse
handles the subject with tact and sensitivity, making it a part of the
story, but not overwhelming the other, smaller tragedy of the murder
of the boy.

Too often, mysteries are set in a world somehow apart from our own.
There is only that story and the resolution of it. This story goes
well beyond that, and does it in an affecting and effective manner
.
 

 

PALE AS THE DEAD By Fiona Mountain

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312323239

Reviewed by C.J. Curry

Our story begins with our young genealogist, Natasha Blake. Natasha has a strong passion for history and loves to unravel puzzles involving clients ancestors. Her passion probably is the result of her being ‘an abandoned baby’.  Left at the hospital where she was born, Natasha is a very conflicted person when it comes to personal relationships. Her mother walked out of the hospital six hours after the birth leaving only a note behind stating, “Her name is Natasha“. She is now suffering pangs from breaking up with her boyfriend, Marcus. And Marcus probably doesn’t even know why she packed his belongings and put them in the boot of his car. Natasha isn’t even sure if she can explain it.

When she is approached by Adam Mason to find his missing girlfriend, Bethany, Natasha doesn’t really know what to think. How different could it be from finding dead people? Natasha had met Adam, a photographer, and Bethany ,his model, on a location shoot. They were trying to reproduce the famous paintings of Lizzie Siddal by her husband the famous Pre-Raphaelite artist , Dante Gabriel Rossetti. There was a great deal of mystery surrounding the Lizzie Siddal story. According to history, Rossetti had Lizzie des-interred six years after her death to be able to recover his complete book of poetry which he had had buried with her. She supposedly looked as beautiful then as she did on her deathbed.

So when Bethany disappears, Natasha feels compelled to try and find her. Alive or dead. Did Bethany commit suicide the same as Lizzie Siddal? Or has she found someone new and doesn’t want Adam to find her? Or did Adam, who has a shadowy past, do away with her and is trying to cover his tracks? But Natasha soon finds herself being followed on her missions chasing down leads and her home is broken into. Rather frightening. After following many false trails Natasha soon stumbles onto a stunning piece of evidence. Can she find Bethany before it is too late?

Natasha Blake is my kind of detective. She doesn’t claim to know everything nor is she totally fearless. She is a very refreshing character. I really liked this book and do hope this is the beginning of a series. The use of historical figures and events to mesh with a modern day tale has been used many times by authors but in this case it is very plausible. I found Natasha very real and look forward to seeing her evolve as a person and maturing with each episode. The Pre-Raphaelite Period is not something I am very familiar with but hopefully I learned something from this book.

 

Requiem for a Realtor by Ralph McInerny

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312324170

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards

He's at it again! The priest with an inquiring mind turns his thoughts to solving the murder of a man who had just come to see him about a cheating wife.  The fun part of this story is that the wife came to see Father Dowling about a cheating husband. And you'll have to smile at the idea of a third member of what turns out to be a triangle also turning up to confide in Father Dowling.
 
A real whodunnit with a nosy housekeeper to lighten what is otherwise a tragic tale of a mismatched pair who are married and a dentist who can't keep his advice to himself. 
 
Realtor Stanley Collins doesn't seem to have been too seriously oriented toward selling real estate as his partner complains, the thought was that Stanley was merely biding his time until he turned fifty and could collect a large inheritance. His wife was worried about her share should they divorce.
 
Talented author Ralph McInerny has given Father Dowling's fans a good look at the dynamics of relationships of people who are all trying to one-up each other and the complications that arise when they do. 
 
A mixed-up affair with many facets and plenty of false trails for you to follow.  An excellent read and recommended by this satisfied reader as a way to pass some pleasant hours.  Enjoy!

 

THE STERLING INHERITANCE By Michael Siverling

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312319274

Reviewed by C.J. Curry

Wow!  A new detective series by a new author. I would like to thank Mr. Siverling for a delightfully entertaining read!

Jason Wilder works for his Mother. That isn’t quite as bad as it sounds. Victoria owns and operates the Midnight Investigation Agency, or MIA for short, and Jason is one of her best operatives. Victoria is often called Lady Victoria or Her Highness by her staff as she rules with an iron but kind hand.

Jason is on surveillance in a dreary ‘rent by the hour’ motel. The agency has been hired by Anthony Sterling’s wife Katrina to locate her missing husband. Just as the subject comes into the room and a gun goes off by mistake they are surrounded by police. After extricating himself from being taken to headquarters, Jason hears one of the officers say that the subject in question is wanted on a one-eight-seven. The California Penal Code calls it murder.

What follows is an amusing and confusing cast of characters and mixed-up clues for our hero to sort out.

The old Castle Theater has been taken over by Anthony Sterling’s sister, Jenny, who is slowing renovating the old building and trying to get it back on its feet financially. The murder victim was found right outside the back door of the old theater.

Jenny is befriended by a volunteer worker by the name of Bruce Roberts. Bruce looks somewhat like an “unbridged” troll but he is very protective of Jenny and her four year old daughter, Angelique. But is Bruce really part of the problems that are assailing Jenny and the theater or her protector as he seems? Tony and Jenny’s mother and her lover had disappeared shortly after Jenny’s birth and Jenny had always felt alone and unloved except for her brother Tony. Imagine her horror when Tony ‘confesses’ to the police that it was, in fact, Jenny who committed the murder!

With the help of The Iron Maiden, herself, and Jimmy Bui and Tim O’Toole, ex-cops all, the case begins to come together. With several twists and turns and many false clues it takes all of them working to bring it to it’s final conclusion.

Michael Siverling is a member of the Sacramento District Attorney’s Office Abduction Team. His characters make many snide remarks about the legal profession, which is fun.  I do appreciate the self-deprecating humor, but he may not have endeared himself to lawyers or cops!  I really liked this story and hope to read many, many more. The author left several openings for returning characters, etc. I feel this series will get better and better as it goes along. I would like to caution, however, about the propensity of some authors to carry the ‘cutsey’ too far. Please don’t set my teeth on edge by being ‘too much’ with the banter between Mother and Son.

Loved it! And will look forward to the next in the series.