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The Enemy of God by Robert Daley

Publisher: Harvest Books  ISBN: 0156032287

Reviewed by Tim Davis for New Mystery Reader

Quite mysteriously, Father Frank Redmond has died. His mangled body has been found on the sidewalk on West 146th Street in Harlem. Was he murdered? Was it an accident? Was it suicide? Were there any witnesses to whatever happened? Those questions haunt Gabe Driscoll, the fifty-three year old veteran of the New York City Police Department.

And Gabe will not rest until he gets answers. Gabe, after all, owes at least that much to Father Redmond. They go back a long way together. As teenagers, Gabe and Frank were on the same swim team in high school. And as adults, even though their lives had gone in different directions professionally, they had remained good friends. In fact, in a provocative twist to their friendship, throughout the recent years Frank often relied upon Gabe for much needed help in the priest’s Harlem parish: Frank would discretely give Gabe the names of dangerous criminals and drug dealers who were infesting the priest’s parishioners’ neighborhood, and Gabe would use the full force and authority of the NYPD to remove the unsavory offenders.

Now Gabe wonders if Frank’s covert cooperation with law enforcement might somehow be connected to the priest’s mysterious death. Perhaps he was pushed from the roof of the fourth floor building near where his body was found. Or perhaps the answers to the many questions surrounding Frank’s death have something to do with some undisclosed part of Frank’s personal life—some secret about which even his good friend Gabe knows nothing.

As Gabe digs further and further into Frank’s life—and at the same time into the lives of several other lifelong mutual friends and acquaintances—Gabe slowly begins to find the answers to the mystery. More significantly, though, Gabe begins to understand more and more that perhaps one person can never truly know another person.

Robert Daley’s powerful novel is not so much a traditional mystery as it is a thoughtful examination of friendship. Through frequent flashbacks and vivid characterizations, Daley explores the ways in which lives paradoxically become both enriched and complicated by familiarity and loyalty, by personal and professional decisions, and by the constant tensions between life and death. Readers who enjoy a thoughtful meditation upon the evolution of relationships should enjoy The Enemy of God.

 

 

Badger's Moon by Peter Tremayne 

Publisher:  Signet ISBN:  045121904X

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

Step through the curtain of time into Ireland when it was divided into various kingdoms and the Christian faith was becoming the faith of the land, though it was laced with age old superstitions and myths. A time after the fall of Rome but before the conquest by England, the days when the world was young, wild and dangerous.

Fidelma of Cashel and her partner, Eadulf the Saxon, are sent by the King of Cashel to catch what appears to be a serial killer, though there is some doubt.  With suspicion and danger lurking at every turn of the trail, they conduct an investigation of the clues that seem to point to three strangers, one of whom might be the killer.

Is the killer a madman driven by the full moon or could it be a ritual related to the old ways? Why are attempts made to stop the investigation by killing or injuring Fidelma or Eadulf? What are the connections between the victims?  These questions must be answered before the case can be resolved, but then a fourth murder occurs, one that does not fit the pattern of the others.

A tale that rings of authentic historic research, as if these characters really lived, so well written is it. The very talented Peter Tremayne has done an excellent job in bringing the Ireland of Fidelma to life with its scenery and people.  Highly recommended for any mystery reader.  I enjoyed it immensely and so will you.

 

Evan Blessed by Rhys Bowen

Publisher:  Berkley  ISBN:  0425211169

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

Do you like music?  Do you like mysteries with musical clues?  If the answer to either is yes, you'll be certain to enjoy this tale by talented Rhys Bowen.

Constable Evans is planning to be married in a few weeks and is doing a fine balancing act between work and this life-changing event, when the presence of his mother who doesn't like the marriage idea, complicates things.  To add to this, a teenage girl is reported as lost by her boyfriend when they went on a hike. 

Confounded by no trace of the girl and musical clues that suddenly begin to appear, Evans hasn't the faintest idea where to look for the girl.  Is she merely lost or was she taken on the trail?  Why haven't the volunteer searchers found any trace of her?

Evans' fiancée, Bronwen, becomes involved in the mystery when she reads a musical clue he's received and it sets them on a trail that seems to have no connection to the missing girl.  Then Bronwen goes missing. Or is she merely off chasing another antique for their future home?

Lots of mystery and action in this tale. Recommended as a fun read that will keep you hooked, beginning to end.  The characters and settings are so well drawn, you'll feel like you've been there.  Enjoy.  I sure did.

 

Flesh and Blood by John Harvey

Publisher: Harvest  ISBN: 0156031817

DI Frank Elder had jumped at the chance of retirement when it was time, but his quiet isolated life on the Cornish coast has left him dissatisfied and restless.  So when he is notified that a killer he put behind bars over a decade ago is being let out, he allows himself to be drawn back into a related case that was never solved. 

Shane Donald, a young teenager at the time, had spent time behind bars for the brutal slaying of a young girl, and was suspected of the disappearance of another girl, a girl whose body was never found, but who was assumed murdered.  And now that he's out, Elder feels compelled to once and for all solve the case of the missing teenager, but when another teenager goes missing in much the same circumstances, he is drawn into that case as well, and the merging of these two cases will bring crime and fear into his own life, threatening those he loves.

In this stand-alone mystery, Harvey brings the reader a story of murder, dysfunction, and what sometimes happens to the thrown away children of society.  And although highly suspenseful, the sad characters permeating the pages add such a dismal feeling to the read, that a happy resolution seems just about impossible.  But this is probably closer to reality than most fiction, and for that Harvey receives high marks. 

 

 

Split by Tara Moss

Publisher: Leisure Books ISBN: 0843956437

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

It's now been a year since Makedde Vanderwall's near fatal involvement with a serial killer, and while she's doing well in her studies of forensic psychology in Vancouver, Canada, insomnia and nightmares still plague her nights and an unspecified fear her days.  But determined to put the past behind her, including the attractive man who saved her, Mak begins to contemplate dating again, hoping to glimpse the happier side of life.  And so when she meets an attractive campus security guard, she cautiously agrees to a date, unfortunately right about the same time her old rescuer comes to town, bringing with him memories of the deep bond they shared for so short a time. 

But any idea of romance with either one is once again foiled by yet another serial killer, this one targeting female students from campus.  And once again Mak comes face to face with a fear she hoped was in her past, and a danger that is closer than she knows.

Sure, Tara Moss was once a famous model, but don't let yourself be sidetracked by this author's gorgeous face; if anything, the depth and breadth of this electrifying and rousing tale of suspense will easily put an end to the idea that women can't be both beautiful and smart.  Not only is her latest discerningly written, it also sets a fine example of how a good suspense story should be told. Filled with engaging and realistic characters, remarkably fast-paced plotting, and a non-stop feast of delicious anticipation, this is a treat you won't want to miss.

 

Last Witness by Jillian Hoffman

Publisher: Berkley  ISBN: 042521074X

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

In her follow-up to last year's stunning debut novel, Retribution, Hoffman continues the searing tale of cover ups and revenge involving Miami's Assistant State Attorney C.J. Townsend, and her battle against a killer who may or may not be guilty of all charges.  We catch up to C.J. three years after she has put the serial killer "Cupid" on death row, a killer who had years before also raped C.J. and left her for dead.  But as his execution draws ever closer, suddenly cops involved with the investigation begin to die.  And while many assume that they may have the been the targets of high ranking criminals in the drug trade, C.J. knows that the deaths are somehow related to the blurred lines they all crossed during the Cupid investigation, lines that were necessary to prevent Cupid from continuing his bloody rampage. 

But C.J.'s fiancé, Special Agent Dominick Faloconetti, is unaware of the secrets shared and lies told three years previously, and so is caught off guard as the investigation draws closer and closer to his own fiancée.  But it soon becomes all too clear that she knows much more than she is letting on, putting their relationship into a stranglehold of doubt and mistrust.  And as the truth draws even closer, so does a killer, one who wears a familiar face and who has only one goal in mind: to kill the last witness so that he will be free to continue his own bloody rampage.

The first half of this latest was a bit disappointing as the distraction caused by the innumerable delineations of ranks, divisions, acronyms, and the slang used by the justice system interfered all too often with the story itself.  But as soon as all this was ironed out, the rest of the book flew by at rocket speeds fueled by pure adrenaline.  With a cast of characters which included the evil, the good, and everything in-between, the reader was treated to plenty of dilemmas and pathos in which to ponder, creating a fairly interactive and intellectually engaging read as well.  Definitely recommended, don't let the first half scare you off, because the second half makes up for it and then some.

 

STRAIGHT INTO DARKNESS by  Faye Kellerman

Publisher: Warner Books ISBN 0  446 611506

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader 

This is the story of an ordinary man trying to do his job under bizarre circumstances in extraordinary times.

Axel Berg is a policeman  who is trying to solve a series of murders in the boiling political pot that was Munich in  1929.   Bad enough that there's a serial killer on the loose, but Axel's job is made nearly impossible by the presence of thugs and hoodlums who hide under the banner of Hitler's promise to change Germany; change it into something that thoughtful people find frightening.

Axel just wants to do his job and go home to his family, but each new murder pulls him further into the dark world of modern politics as espoused by the Nazis.  They haven't quite got control of everything yet, but Axel sees that it's only a matter of time, and then Germany will inevitably slide into a purposeless war once again.

It's already becoming unsafe to be a Jew or a Communist in Germany: soon it will be unsafe to be anything but a Hitler supporter.    For a policeman on the trail of a serial killer, to have thoughts even in the deepest corner of his mind that the killer he tracks has many of the traits of the man who would be Fuhrer is dangerous indeed.   As the reader expects, Berg finally surmounts all the obstacles and solves the murders, but at a price that can  only be paid once.

This is a meticulously researched book by an excellent writer, already famous for her Peter Decker-Rina Lazarus novels.  Its genesis is in the scraps of stories told by her own father of his experiences in Germany after the War.   In these uncertain times, she strives to understand those uncertain times, and to learn from them something to help make sense of the present world.

A disturbing book which has 'naught for your comfort' but which will make you think. 

 

CAPE PERDIDO by Marcia Muller

Publisher: Warner Books ISBN 0 446614998

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader 

Marcia Muller fans may be initially disappointed to discover that the popular PI Sharon McCone plays no part in this book.   You'll quickly get over that as the story of Jessie Domingo, community liaison specialist, unfolds.

Jessie is sent to Cape Perdido by her employer, Environmental Consultants Clearinghouse, to find out what's the potential damage of the proposal to pump huge amounts of water out of the Perdido River.  The locals aren't happy with the idea that their pristine part of northern California is about to be plundered to provide more water for their southern urban neighbours to squander on lawns and swimming pools.

It isn't hard to guess that when big money, fast profits, scarce resources and local environmental concerns converge, there's going to be disagreement and even violence.  The first shot punctures one of the giant waterbags that Aquaduct Systems plans to use to carry off the water--then the timber mill owned by one of the pro-Aquaduct people is torched--then someone goes missing, followed by an unexpected death.  Events are steamrolling and carrying Jessie along with them. She begins to question why the environmentalists hired her in the first place: because they thought she could salvage the situation, or because they thought she couldn't?  Is there a hidden agenda working here that she as an outsider can't see?

The first disappearance is soon followed by a second one, then an old murder comes to light, as well as the real reason for Timothy McNear's apparent willingness to do business with the hated waterbaggers.  Throughout the fast-moving story, Jessie's prickly relationship with her co-worker Fitch Collier twists and turns and finally comes out in a totally unexpected place.

Readers will enjoy the quick pace of this book: the chapters are short and the viewpoints switch quickly from Jessie's to those of the local people and back again.  Highly recommended.

 

Field of Blood by Denise Mina

Publisher: Little, Brown ISBN: 031615458X

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Mina is one of those authors who just subtlety creeps in and, before you know it, completely hooks you into whatever story she might be telling.  I'm pretty sure she could write about dirt and make it thrilling.  In any case, her latest once again proves her to be the master of provocative and intelligent suspense in a new novel that hold no punches. 

We meet Paddy Meehan, a young woman who has lived her entire 18 short years in the city of Glasgow, a city rife with conflict as it begins the new decade of the 80's.  Paddy, an overweight and exceedingly bright young woman, is just coming into her own working as a copyeditor for the city paper while pushing back against her Catholic upbringing that would prefer her to just settle in with her blue collar fiancé and raise a family.  But Paddy dreams to be a journalist, and working at the paper is only her first step in what's sure to be an uphill battle, fighting against trivializing religious and sexist attitudes held by the men who, ironically, find their pleasure in a day full of drink and  dismissive thoughts towards anything different from themselves.      

But Paddy is no slacker and sees her chance for change when two young boys are charged with the brutal murder of a three year old.  One of the boys is her fiancé's cousin, and Paddy just can't believe that he is capable of such a crime.  So she begins to investigate on her own, but the closer she comes the truth, the more havoc she wreaks.  Shunned by fiancé and her family, she's left to prowl the dangerous streets of Glasgow alone, unintentionally causing more harm along the way. 

Mina also treats us to the story of a man with whom Paddy shares a name, a name that she has proudly worn like a badge of honor, often to the shame of others.  The first Paddy Meehan's story is revealed in bits and pieces, and provides an interesting contrast to the Paddy of now.  Mostly it's a telling of a city, of politics and low-life crime, of another decade or two in the past, and the eventual decline of a man accused of a crime he didn't commit. 

The stories of the two Paddys are filled with such understated pathos and questionable deliverances, that the resulting affect is all that more powerful.  This is one author that should be read by any fan of literature, regardless of where your interests my lie, she provides enough for all.