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The Venus Fix by M. J. Rose

Publisher: Mira ISBN: 077832317X

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Dr. Morgan Snow of the Butterfield Institute is currently counseling several people who are addicted to sex.  One of her patients is a prominent, powerful judge, whose addiction to Internet sex is all but ruining his life.  She is also doing group counseling for some teenagers who have been referred to her by a local school, kids who also find sex on the web all too real.  When women start dying while engaged in pornography on the web, her judge confesses to the murders, but not believing for a moment that he is capable of committing murder, and knowing that the police will now look no farther, Morgan feels she must get involved and find the real killer.

Rose has done an eye opening job of delving into the minds of sex addicts, pornographers, and the people who want to have normal loving relationships with them.  For the first time you may get an understanding of the complexity and devastating fall out of sex addiction.  This novel is definitely up to the excellent standards Rose is so well known for, and will leave fans clamoring for more.      


The Astral Alibi by Manjiri Prabhu

Publisher:  Bantam Books  ISBN:  0440241731

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Hey, astrology and mystery fans.  Talented author Manjiri Prabhu weaves both into a fun read in several cases where Sonia Samarth is drawn into using astrology to solve the mystery.

Always ready to take on the tough cases, Sonia and her assistant Jatin are called into an apparent kidnapping, a murder where things aren't what they seem, and others with astrology charts for those involved and explanations of how she realized what the solution should be.

In the background of the mystery lurks a jewel thief called The Owl who seems to hold a fascination for Sonia.  Will she ever help catch him? Why is he still coming back into her life as if deliberately keeping himself in her conscious thoughts?  He is one mystery Sonia hasn't solved yet.

This is a well told tale of a woman P.I. in India who is thoroughly grounded in her profession and the tools she uses.  Recommended for those readers who find astrology blended into mystery with a touch of romance as an enjoyable read.  Enjoy.



Murder in the Rough by Otto Penzler (Editor)

Publisher: Mysterious Press ISBN: 0446697419

Reviewed by Dana King, New Mystery Reader

Otto Penzler probably knows more (and cares more) about the history and current state of mystery writing than any man alive. His most recent labor of love, Murder in the Rough, is an interesting collection of crime stories, all involving something about golf.

There’s not a bad story here; a few stand out. Laura Lippman’s “A Good **** Spoiled” and John Sandford’s “Lucy had a Plan” deserve special notice from this critic, as I have been less than complimentary toward these two authors in the past. Both are entertaining, well-written stories that deftly combine surprise with seeming inevitability.

“Unplayable Lies,” by William G. Tapply, integrates a mob story into a “friendly” match, showing off Tapply’s writing chops, along with his knowledge of crime and golf. Steve Hamilton’s “Room for a Fourth” keeps you guessing about what the assistant pro is getting at until the last sentence.

Some flaws are probably unavoidable in a themed collection. A couple of stories have only the most tenuous connections to golf. They’re not bad stories (none in this collection are bad; I doubt Penzler could publish a bad story), but the golf elements read as though applied after the fact to qualify for what is, by its association with Penzler, a prestigious anthology.

A lack of golf knowledge also holds back a story or two. For example, major championships never play in foursomes on the final round. That’s trivial, but getting something like that wrong, with no appreciable benefit to the story, makes it harder to set aside disbelief.

On the bright side, when a critic has to get to that level of – all right, let’s say it – pettiness to find something to criticize, there’s a lot right. None of these stories will leave you slack jawed with amazement at the end, but they’re all worth your time. It’s a trade paperback, so it will fit easily into your bag. Pull it out during a rain delay, or when the hackers in front of you have the course backed up. Just make sure you can concentrate when you’re up three holes and your opponent is giving you the eye while you’re playing that corner of the course that can’t be seen from clubhouse.


Long Time Gone by J. A. Jance

Publisher: Avon  ISBN: 0-380724359

Reviewed by Tim Davis for New Mystery Reader

Once upon a time, a long time ago, a five year old girl named Bonnie, according to her version of events, saw two grownups do something really bad to a very nice neighbor woman named Mimi. And afraid of what the mysterious grownups might do to her because of what they said to her when they realized she had seen what they had done, Bonnie promised those bad people that she would never ever tell anyone what she had seen.

Now, something like half a century later, Sister Mary Katherine—the Mother Superior of a small convent on Whidbey Island in Washington—is having a very disturbing, recurring nightmare about something that threatens her emotional health (and the peace and quiet of the tiny convent). When she seeks the help of a hypnotherapist named Frederick MacKinzie—a friend whom she remembered from high school—Sister Mary Katherine very soon finds herself relying upon the help of yet another acquaintance from high school, Jonas Piedmont Beaumont.

Now working with the Seattle unit of the Washington State Attorney’s Special Homicide Investigative Team, the former Seattle homicide detective J. P. Beaumont, deferring to pressure—and orders—from his superiors, involves himself most reluctantly in Sister Mary Katherine’s nightmare. Almost immediately, after Beaumont talks with Sister Mary Katherine, the questions begin accumulating: What does Sister Mary Katherine really remember? Did it really happen? When did it happen? Who was involved? What—if anything—can be done about it now? And as for Beaumont and the Special Homicide Investigative Team—known fondly by its few select members by the unfortunate acronym, the SHIT squad—is Sister Mary Katherine’s nightmare eligible for the squad’s specialized investigative skills?

At the same time, J. P. Beaumont’s friend and former colleague from the Seattle police department, Ron Peters, has become the prime suspect in the murder of his ex-wife. Beaumont, unable to believe his friend’s complicity and also unable to turn his back on a friend in need, quickly immerses himself in the investigation much to the consternation of his superiors in the SHIT squad and the local law enforcement officials. Beaumont is willing to put his reputation and his life on the line for his friend, but—when the evidence in the case begins to accumulate—Beaumont wonders if his loyalty is well-placed, and he wonders if his investigative skills and instincts are leading him astray.

Beaumont becomes more deeply involved in what he believes are two “disaster bound” cases: Sister Mary Katherine’s nightmares and Ron Peters’ apparent involvement in murder. Both cases are complicated mysteries filled with intricate twists and turns, and both cases confront the normally brilliant yet occasionally flawed Beaumont with seemingly insurmountable challenges.

In Long Time Gone, J. A. Jance’s 18th novel featuring the resourceful and resilient detective J. P. Beaumont, Jance has demonstrated that she is at the top of her form. Even though Beaumont has matured during his 20 years in Jance’s intricately plotted and imaginative novels—he is now in his late 50s—and in spite of his personal difficulties and his professional challenges, Beaumont has not by any stretch of the imagination slowed down. More importantly, he has become even more fascinating and complex. Beaumont fans will not be disappointed.


Crusader’s Cross by James Lee Burke

Publisher: Pocket ISBN: 0-7432-77201

Reviewed by Tim Davis for New Mystery Reader

When James Lee Burke’s latest novel begins, a young Dave Robicheaux and his half-brother Jimmie are spending the summer of 1958 working on Galveston Island. Jimmie, despite Dave’s warnings, falls under the spell of a beautiful but enigmatic and perhaps disreputable young woman who calls herself Ida Durbin. Suddenly, Jimmie and Ida plan on running away from everything and going away together to Mexico, but—without leaving any clues behind and without speaking to Jimmie—Ida apparently leaves town alone and tells no one where she is going.

Now, nearly half a century later, Dave Robicheaux is summoned to the hospital bedside of Troy Bordelon, an old acquaintance and notorious former policeman. Bordelon—perhaps succumbing uncharacteristically to the pangs of conscience—tells Robicheaux a few small details about an incident Bordelon had witnessed in 1958: A young woman named Ida Durbin was, as Bordelon tells it, abducted by Bordelon’s uncle and several other fellows. Bordelon says he saw the room where they had kept the woman. And he says he saw blood.

With only those small pieces of information, Dave Robicheaux—initially less than interested in digging into the past—soon finds himself immersed in working on a “cold case” that apparently some people want unsolved. When Robicheaux runs into some violent opposition to his inquiries, and when he then discovers that one of the parish’s most powerful families may have somehow been involved in Ida’s apparent abduction and disappearance, nothing will dissuade Robicheaux from solving the mystery of Ida Durbin’s disappearance.

To say more now about Crusader’s Cross, however, would be imprudent. I do not want to interfere with readers’ pleasures. So let me say simply this: Like virtually all of James Lee Burke’s two dozen books, this mystery’s plot is intriguing, the action is exhilarating, the solutions are imaginative, the themes are thought-provoking, and—perhaps most notably—the characterizations are fascinating. Be assured that Crusader’s Cross is another great Dave Robicheaux adventure, and it will certainly validate the unanimous opinion held by the legions of Burke’s fans – An evening or two spent with a James Lee Burke novel are hours quite well-spent.



Blonde Lightning by Terrill Lee Lankford

Publisher:  Ballantine Books  ISBN:  0-345-467809

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader  

Unemployed due to the recent murder of his boss, Mark Hayes resents the preemption of the NBA finals due to O. J. Simpson's bizarre car chase through Los Angeles.  His neighbor, screenwriter Clyde McCoy, provides another interruption, and so begins Mark's close involvement with McCoy's newest project, a film entitled Blonde Lightning

Mark's investment of his life savings earns him a credit as producer, and a small salary; his primary duty seems to be keeping Clyde from going on a bender.  Clyde is obsessed with Mace Thornburg, a Hollywood bottom-feeder determined to ruin the reputation of Clyde's girlfriend.  But when the brakes on Clyde's car are tampered with, landing Mark, Clyde and his girlfriend, Emily, all in the hospital, Clyde vows revenge.  However, the thug he hires to threaten Thornburg takes matters into his own hands, getting Clyde and Mark in over their heads.

Mark is only marginally distracted by the beautiful but damaged Tracy, who can't seem to decide between him and her husband. 

Author Terrill Lee Lankford provides an insider glimpse into Hollywood and the movie business.  Like the fictional film from which it takes its title, Blonde Lightning is a noir work, darkly amusing, and showing the sinister side of human nature.  Mark surprises both himself and the reader with what he finds himself capable of, but as narrator, never abandons his wry humor.  Like Simpson's ride in his white bronco, Blonde Lightning is bizarre but mesmerizing.


Playing by the Rules by Elaine Meryl Brown

Publisher:  One World ISBN:  0812970439

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Another fun visit to Lemon City where anyone not born and raised there is labeled an outsider for life.  A town where people live by the rules as religiously as if they were the original Ten Commandments even when there's a tomato war brewing.

A colorful cast of great characters welcomes Jeremiah Richardson and his sister Ruby Rose into their midst in spite of the trouble they know outsiders always bring. Christmas Day is the time to display their kindness and Nana provides a temporary home for them while her granddaughter, Louise, goes out of her way to be helpful.

Several great subplots are woven together with warmth and laughter, love and hope, to keep the story moving and to hold the reader interest.  The matter of a missing mother, broken love affairs, and competition for the title of Tomato Queen combine to create a story you are sure to enjoy and read more than once.

Talented author Elaine Meryl Brown writes of the human heart with a sure touch and her characters step off the page to shake your hand. This is a story I highly recommend with pleasure.  Enjoy.  I sure did.


Troubleshooter by Gregg Hurwitz

Publisher:  HarperTorch  ISBN  0060731451

Reviewed by Don Crouch, New Mystery Reader 

Gregg Hurwitz is moving quickly on the field. His new Tim Rackley exercise, Troubleshooter, brings new intensity to "researched thrillers". Heck, the back cover features praise blurbs from the likes of Crais, Connelly and Evanovich, so that should tell you something. Jan Burke talks about a blend of Clancy and Koontz. Yikes.

So it should surprise no one that we think it rocks, too.

When Hurwitz pulls back the curtain, we are thrust into a brutal escape from a prison transport, executed by Den Laurey, leader of the Laughing Sinners, an uncomfortably vicious biker gang. Laurey escapes, gleefully piling up the corpses as he goes, en route to another killing spree as he enterprises to set up a network by which to distribute an appropriately grotesque opiate called "Allah's Tears".

Whereas in The Program,  Hurwitz brought us deep into the world of behavior control, cults, and deprogramming, Troubleshooter's mis en scene is the depraved world of the "one-percenters" so named after the assumption that 99% of all motorcycle enthusiasts are law-abiding citizens, and Hurwitz forces us to live with these folks. It's scary and creepifying, and of course, compelling.

Hurwitz' palette is absent of grey. There is good, and there is evil. Tim Rackley is cut from Harry Callahan's cloth. Right is right. Actions enunciate, words mumble. And here, the action is fast and deadly.

Rackley's family is still in turmoil from events of The Program. Tim and his deputy-sheriff-wife, Dray while recovering from the tragic loss of their daughter, await the birth of their next child, a mere month away, and Dray has not yet reached the point of her maternity leave. As Rackley heads up the Task Force to bring in Den Laurey and dismantle his network, Dray finds herself facing Laurey. You know that's not going end well, and you'd be right.

Hurwitz' plot skills are mad, so be ready. This guy knows how to write action too, and his narrative style is white-hot and desert-dry. There's a better-than-even chance that Troubleshooter will become hot-wired to your psyche until you finish it in, most likely, a pool of worthy exhaustion.



First Impressions by Jude Deveraux

Publisher: Pocket  ISBN: 0743437152

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When Eden Palmer became pregnant at 16 after a brutal rape her unforgiving parents threw her out, leaving Eden to make her own way in a frightening and uncaring world.  But once she arrives in Arundel, North Carolina and is taken under the wing of the town's matriarch, life becomes a little smoother, and soon she feels safe in the beautiful home known as Farrington Manor.  But forced to flee once again just a few short years later from the matriarch's violent son, she is once again on her own, and must somehow manage to make a life for herself and her daughter with no family and no help.

Now it's 27 years later, and much to Eden's surprise she finds she has been left the beautifully restored home, and so returns to Arundel, only to find herself caught in the middle of an FBI investigation, the mystery of a missing heirloom necklace, and the attentions of two very good looking men.  But as an unknown danger, one that seems to be connected with some old secrets surrounding the manor, comes ever closer to her new found serenity, she must learn to stand up and assert herself if she's ever going to truly enjoy her new home and her new life.

This sweet and charming story will surely please fans of romantic suspense.  Eden, a woman with more courage and soul than she herself is even aware of, is an engaging heroine, and soon you'll find yourself caring what happens to her, as well as the other appealing characters to be found in this suspenseful and ultimately uplifting tale.  A warm and enchanting read, perfect for the upcoming cold and stormy days, this comes highly recommended.      


Crooked by Brian M. Wiprud

Publisher: Dell  ISBN: 0440243122

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Nicholas Palihnic is a heart breaker who knows where every low down place in New York City is, which is a big help as he works for an insurance company chasing down lost or stolen items.  When he is told to find a stolen painting and instead finds the thief dead, he winds up in jail, only to be bailed out by an old friend who wants him to find out if her boyfriend has really been eaten by a crocodile.  Needing help to do both jobs at the same time, he calls in help and gets involved with a zany bunch of characters.

Widrud's metaphors are like a bang to the funny bone, making this read a complete riot.  Everyone is manipulating everybody else, causing some good time confusion, while the police department runs around like Keystone cops.  It's one big guessing game with the two main questions being "Who's crooked and who's not?"  "And if they are, how crooked are they?"  And it's the search for these answers that provides a whole lot laughs in this mostly charming and completely madcap adventure.