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Happy Hour at Casa Dracula by Marta Acosta

Publisher:   Pocket Books ISBN:  10: 1416520384

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader  

Champagne glass of the red stuff, anyone?  How about red orange juice?  Such becomes Milagro de Los Santos preferred drink color when she tangles with a mysterious man.

Has a virus made her ill or is she going through some sort of change that will make her like a member of his family? When she arrives at his family ranch, she finds to go outside, she must wear sunscreen and dark glasses.

And suddenly she finds herself pursued by an old boyfriend who seems obsessed with her and her host's family.  The obsession is not a friendly one either.  She's left wondering just what is going on.  What has her ex-friend got to do with the family she's forced to visit until they're sure she's okay.

Imaginative author Marta Acosta has used her talent to create a fun look into the world of might-be or might-not-be vampires. To learn the answer, you'll have to read the story. 

Join Milagro and a cast of characters you'll enjoy meeting in a tale that will keep you reading. Lots of action, lots of fun. 

I'm pleased to recommend this to any reader who likes stories that are a bit different.  Enjoy I did.

 

Breaking Point by Suzanne Brockman

Publisher: Ballantine  ISBN: 0345480139

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader

FBI negotiator, Max Bhagat never expected to find love, especially not as a result of a hostage situation during which he made a mistake (he believes); a rarity in his illustrious career.  The love interest is Gina Vitagliano who was one of the passengers on the hijacked plane who was beaten, tortured and raped while Max negotiated the release.  Gina believes that Max saved her life and once she gets to know him, falls in love with him despite the 20 year age difference.  Max is intensely attracted to Gina but struggles with the age difference and the demons inside him; so he pushes her away and he believes it is for her own good.

Max runs head-on into his emotions when he is notified that Gina has been killed in a terrorist bombing.  He is haunted when the realization that Gina may have died never knowing how much he loves her.  Max flies to Germany to claim Gina’s body and that is when the pace of the story picks up as he gets drawn into the mystery of Gina’s “death.”  The plot bounces back in forth in time intertwining historical information with current events that include an ex-Special Forces operative turned smuggler and Jules Cassidy, a gay FBI agent and Max’s sidekick in the hunt for Gina.

Readers of Suzanne Brockman’s books (Over the Edge, Gone Too Far) will recognize many of the characters in this novel. In Breaking Point, Gina and Max come to terms with their feelings as the setting in the novel bounces back and forth in time and location across the globe.  An openly gay FBI agent is a bit hard to believe but Jules is an endearing character who adds a bit of humor to this intense, action-packed thriller.  The storyline is complex and may be a bit hard to follow at times because of the frequent change in timeframe and setting but it is worth the effort because this is a good thriller that increases in intensity and action as the final showdown approaches.  Readers will also want to know what is really going to happen to Gina and Max; the romantic thread is as suspenseful as the thriller.

 

 

Faithless by Karin Slaughter

Publisher: Dell  ISBN: 0440242916

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

While walking through the woods, Grant County, Georgia  Medical Examiner Sara Lipton and Chief of Police Jeffery Tolliver are at first curious when they stumble upon a pipe sticking out of the ground, but their curiosity soon turns to shock when they uncover a wooden box with a dead young girl in it.  They soon discover that her name is Abby and she comes from a local farm whose members are also extremely religious, almost cult-like, with the women of the farm being oddly subservient to the men who hold no punches in their zealous righteousness. 

Fearing that there may be other young girls who met the same fate, they scour the woods, soon finding another box, empty this time, but confirming their worst fears in thinking Abby wasn't the first.  And when Abby's young sister disappears, their concern is yet again compounded into a deeper and darker dread, with those on the farm being their main suspects in these frightening events.   

Meanwhile, Detective Lena Adams continues to fight her own demons, the main one being her physically abusive boyfriend, who seems to be growing more violent with each passing day, putting Lena's own life in jeopardy.   And as the investigation proceeds in an increasingly violent manner, it's all too plain that the culmination of all will lead to yet even more brutality in a case that pits religion against murder.

Slaughter's fifth outing in this heretofore tremendously exciting series is a bit of a let down when compared with her previous.  One of the main problems is the on-again off- again love affair between Jeffery and Sara, with Sara's reluctance to once and for all either forgive Jeffrey's indiscretions or just let him go becoming old and tired.  Also frustrating is Lena's continued passive acceptance of her abusive situation, with Slaughter's simplistic explanation being a bit too pat for realism.  But on the promising side, she does provide the reader with a fairly suspenseful and interesting plot, if not occasionally disjointed, which culminates in a highly satisfying manner.  All in all, still not sure what point, if any, Slaughter was attempting to make with her inclusion of abuse, abortion, and religious zealots, but all put together is an entertaining enough read for fans who can forgive the lack of cohesiveness in exchange for some hearty suspense.             

 

 

Bangkok Tattoo by John Burdett

Publisher: Vintage,  ISBN: 1400032911

Reviewed by Dana King, New Mystery Reader

Describing John Burdett’s Bangkok Tattoo is like trying to describe a quantity of angels on the head of a pin while they each clap one hand and search for the headwaters of the Nile. It’s an utterly believable surreal look at criminality, cultural differences, and body art, with a couple of mysteries thrown in case you have ADD.

You doubt that description, farang? Read the book. (There’s a lot of talking directly to the reader, often referred to as farang. It’s the Thai word for “Caucasian.” The manner of its usage in the book leads one to suspect “round-eyed moron” may lurk as subtext.) You should read the book, anyway. It’s not like reading. It’s more like a travelogue from a Thai cop/brothel owner as he observes the craziness around him with his unique Buddhist cynicism. Sonchai Jitpleecheep’s Herculean task is to describe the disjointed, yet related actions of his cast: whores; CIA operatives; alleged terrorists; Japanese yakuza; a tattoo artist extraordinaire; a police official and army general who are also leading criminals; a new cop trying to overcome the psychological challenges of becoming a transsexual; and Bangkok (Krung Thep), important in its way as any other character.

Is there a story here? It’s all over the place, literally, starting with the unlikely murder and dismembering of a lonely farang. The confessing prostitute is a favorite of Sonchai and his boss (and crime lord) Colonel Vikorn, so a mildly feasible story is concocted as if it’s standard police procedure. The story won’t hold up under close inspection; in Colonel Vikorn’s ever-changing rationale it might be more effective if it falls apart. By the time the characters finish pulling the story in their own selfish directions, it’s hard to remember how things got started in the first place.

Burdett adeptly hides the author’s hand in plain sight, having Sonchai speak directly to the reader in present tense. His clever dialog, fast pacing, and inspired weirdness make it easy to suspend disbelief in some highly unlikely situations by creating characters you are willing to believe would do these things. Sonchai’s dry delivery helps the reader to believe he’s telling you the straight scoop. No farang could make this all up.

The book wavers in spots. No crashes, just an occasional blip while the competing stories work out their differences. Such is the price of insane brilliance. Just try to keep up and it will all come out fine in the end.

Burdett’s closing note says the sex industry in Thailand is no greater per capita than in many countries, and he has never come across any police corruption. Both of those are probably good for anyone living or visiting, even if it is disappointing in its way. Burdett’s Krung Thep world is an escapist nirvana, made fun because you can let your hair down in this world where the only standard is what you can get away with, knowing no one really gets hurt.

John Burdett claims to be a non-practicing lawyer. Maybe in a previous life. Now, it’s too easy to imagine him as a Royal Thai detective working part-time in his mother’s brothel, telling his stories with a detachment that defies his feelings, caring deeply about what happens without taking any of it too seriously. He sucks you into his outlandish story before you realize it and holds you there like a vacation. You wouldn’t want to spend all your reading time in Bangkok’s District 8 with Detective Jitpleecheep, but you’ll look forward to going back.

 

 

Chill Factor by Sandra Brown

Publisher: Pocket, ISBN: 0743466772

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader  

It's shortly after Lilly Martin and her husband Chief of Police Dutch Burton sever their last ties to their marriage that the trouble begins.  After signing the papers closing on their cabin in the mountains of Cleary, North Carolina, Dutch begins the trek home in the beginning of one of the fiercest snowstorms in Cleary's history, thinking Lilly is right behind him.  But shortly after leaving the cabin, Lilly strikes a man who has tumbled into the road, and her shock is compounded when she discovers that it's none other than Ben Tierney, a man who she had a mild flirtation with the summer before. 

And as the two make their way back to the cabin on foot through the increasingly dangerous snowstorm, the folks back in Cleary fear that the man she is stranded with is the evil culprit who has been abducting the women of the town for the past two years.  But with the roads cut off, and the snowstorm hitting its peak, there is no possibility for rescue.  And with all signs pointing to Tierney, Lilly herself begins to suspect that her life is in danger, but is it?  Is he really the evil that everyone believes, or is he her savior, the only man who can keep the true danger at bay? 

It's been awhile since I've read a suspense novel from Brown that I enjoyed as much as this.  Full of shocks and twists that will have the reader reeling, this tale of danger and madness is simply stunning.  Not only does Tierney have his secrets, but so does just about everyone else in this small mountain community, and the reader will be hard-pressed to guess from whom the danger truly comes.  A perfect read for a hot summer's day, the chills from Brown's latest are a welcomed relief. 

 

36 Yalta Boulevard by Olen Steinhauer

Publisher:  St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN:  0312332033

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

Step back into the 1960's before the fall of the iron curtain into a time when the entire world was focusing on mistrusting its neighbor. Meet Brano Sev, a spy who isn't sure of anything any more. Someone has ruined his career and he has wound up working in a tractor assembly factory.

How can his government turn its back on him so completely when he has devoted his entire career to doing as they wanted? Why was he blamed for a murder he didn't commit? Why wouldn't anyone believe him? And how is he to prove his innocence?

The chance comes to step back into the world and work he knew when he is sent back to the village he'd grown up in to find out why a certain engineer had gone there with his family to live with his elderly parents.  And then things fall apart for Brano Sev when a second murder occurs. Even though he proves his innocence, he is sent on the run with the very man he was investigating.

Once in Austria, he is held for questioning. After a period of time and torture, he is released to a limited freedom. Lonely, he picks up an old friendship with a much younger woman and tries to figure out what is happening in his life. Do the old rules still apply? Is he still in his country's employ? What do these people want of him?

A mysterious old man keeps turning up in his new life, a group of revolutionaries invite him to join them, and he might be falling in love with the woman--all part of the new life. Will it replace the old? Will he become one of the expatriots who wait for the fall of the government in their tight little community in Vienna?

A realistic look into a world of breadlines and constant shortages, a time when there were two classes in Brano's homeland--the wealthy leaders and the workers who had very little. Talented Olen Stenihauer gives us a look into what spying must really be like, without the glamour found in films and the shoot 'em ups that run through most thrillers. Low keyed action, but a tale that will keep you riveted as you turn pages.  Highly recommended.

 

Fire Sale by Sara Paretsy

Publisher: Signet  ISBN: 045121899X

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader

Fire Sale is the 13th installment in the V.I. Warshawski series and it is a terrific read!  Private eye V.I. Warshawski is drawn back to her South Chicago roots by her former high school basketball coach who asks her to fill in while she is battling cancer.  Unfortunately, the old neighborhood has continued to decline and the girls squad is comprised of teenaged mothers, gang members and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.  When Rose Dorrado, mother of one of the players, finds out that V.I. is a private eye; she asks to meet her in order to discuss some concerns she has about the unusual incidents occurring at the flag manufacturing plant, where she works.  Rose is worried about how she will support her four children if the plant closes.  The only other major employer on the South Side is the discount-store chain, By-Smart, who pays even less than Rose’s current employer. 

Rose’s fears become reality when the plant blows up, the owner is killed, and V. I. gets injured by flying debris for the first of many times in this novel.  V.I. continues investigating on behalf of Rose Dorrado and she gets entangled with the Bysen family who own By-Smart due to the disappearance of Rose’s daughter Josie and Billy, grandson of the Bysen founder.

V.I. continues the investigation in hopes of figuring out who set the explosion at the flag plant and finding the teens.  The actual murder occurs much later in the book and ties a minister and the issues surrounding exporting of jobs overseas, or using illegal aliens.  The investigation gets V.I. into a lot of danger and neither Morrell (her current lover) nor Con Rawlings (who is now watch commander in South Side and a former lover) can convince her to give up while she is behind.

Fire Sale is another gripping case in the V.I. Warshawski series.  The story unfolds slowly but the reader is provided with a vivid image of life in South Side and the issues faced.  Throughout a good portion of the book, V.I. struggles to understand the clues that she has and if they tie to either Billy’s disappearance or the plant explosion.  Once the murder occurs, the pace of the book quickens and V.I. finds herself in a race to solve the whodunit and to find the missing teens.  V.I. Warshawski is a strong character but a very believable one who struggles with dealing with her past and current relationships.  She also has a heart of gold which frequently lands her in trouble while investigating pro bono cases.  Fans and newcomers to the V.I. Warshawski series will find this installment to be a hauntingly poignant story laced in heady social and moral issues.

 

He Who Fears the Wolf by Karin Fossum

Publisher: Harvest ISBN: 0-15-6030497

Reviewed by Tim Davis for New Mystery Reader

Chief Inspector Konrad Sejer has a nasty mystery on his hands. Someone has brutally killed 76-year-old Halldis Horn by striking her in the face with a garden hoe. With very few clues to be found at the old woman’s isolated house, Sejer worries that he may never find the murderer. He does, however, have one very interesting clue. A twelve year old boy who discovered the old woman’s body claims to have seen the infamous Errki Johrma near the old woman house. But Johrma should not have been anywhere near there. He should have instead been safely restricted to The Beacon (the local asylum)!

On another morning, Sejer, through an unfortunate series of events, comes within seconds of single-handedly preventing an audacious early morning bank robbery by a gun-wielding man who reportedly takes a female hostage from the bank and makes an unimpeded getaway. Sejer, professionally embarrassed and personally annoyed by his failure to prevent the crimes at the bank, now swings into action as he attempts to track down and capture the bank robber and liberate the frightened hostage.

Sejer learns rather quickly, though, that the apparently quite different cases—the vicious murder of a lonely old woman, the brazen bank robbery, and a young woman’s apparent abduction—may, in fact, be related. And if Sejer is to prevent further murder and mayhem, he must quickly solve the cases.

He Who Fears the Wolf is a dark and fascinating tale that all readers of mysteries should thoroughly enjoy.  Karin Fossum’s Chief Inspector Konrad Sejer may at times remind readers of Dexter’s Morse or James’ Dalgleish, but Sejer is so complex and so interesting that he will easily attract his own corps of dedicated and numerous fans. Originally published in Norway, Fossum’s literate and compelling mystery has finally been translated into English by Felicity David. Now readers on this side of the Atlantic can savor Fossum’s commendable excursion into the morally skewed world of crimes and criminals, the agony and mystery of mental illness, and the successes and failures of law enforcement. Along the way, readers will thoroughly enjoy their introduction to Chief Inspector Konrad Sejer (a fascinating character whom readers will hope to see again in future offerings from the very talented writer from Norway).

 

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

Publishers: Warner  ISBN: 0446616451

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

You know that legal thrillers are the in thing in popular fiction writing today, when authors like James Patterson (The Beach House), Michael Crichton (Disclosure) etc. turn to that genre.  And when action adventure superstar author Michael Connelly also joins the ranks, your belief is fortified.

So it is with immense pleasure and an “I knew I was right” spirit that I began reading The Lincoln Lawyer, Connelly’s offering to his ardent fans for 2005. After a long, long time, Connelly strays away from the Harry Bosch series and presents a new protagonist, Mickey Haller. Whether he becomes a series protagonist or not- only time will tell.

“Lincoln Lawyer” is a phrase used to refer those lawyers who live and work for those in the society who cannot afford the big shots. They do not earn much money, but they believe in the majesty of the law and the true concept and spirit of justice. Might be this term owes its origin to Abraham Lincoln who was the epitome of the majesty of law and the spirit of justice. Popular Lincoln lawyers in fiction include Mr. Tutt (Arthur Train) and Horace Rumpole (John Mortimer). More recently John Grisham in The Street Lawyer presented a Lincoln lawyer who opts out of corporate law in favor of street law.

And Mickey Haller is one such Lincoln lawyer. He is despised by the police and corporate lawyers, but enjoys the spirit and goodwill of the poor, needy and the homeless. Cynical of all the greed and corruption that goes around him- Haller has just one motto- innocent until proven guilty and he has just one prayer- that any truly innocent person who seeks his help, should never ever be convicted. And thus he is surprised when a playboy billionaire seeks his help in a wife assaulting case- when he could have hired any other hotshot attorney. But Haller soon realizes that there is something more to the case in hand when the investigator he had hired dies under mysterious circumstances. What follows is action, including courtroom action at its trial best culminating in an exciting finish, one that all Connelly fans have been associated with and expect in each new novel.

 

Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

Publisher: Miramax Books ISBN-10: 1401359795

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

There is another world here on earth filled with "others" who have powers far beyond the normal human.  This world is divided into dark and light or evil and good.  The night watch is "others" who patrol the night looking for witches, vampires, magicians and shape changers who have broken the laws of the other world.  Anton is a night watcher who is on his first assignment and has been ordered to track down a vampire who has killed several people.  When Anton stumbles across a woman who has been cursed and a young boy with the powers of the "others," the day watch and the night watch prepare for a war that could be devastating.

Anton's adventures are spellbinding.  He tracks vampires, dark sorcerers light maverick who has not been indoctrinated and is killing vampires.  Lukyanenko has developed a plot that leads you to believe he has carefully studied good and evil and the consequences of both.  He also plays with the idea that sometimes good is actually evil while evil is sometimes good.  This novel is a good read that deserves a lot of thought.