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Publisher: Ballantine Books ISBN: 034546222X 

Reviewed by Donna Padilla

Deputy Sheriff  Claire Watkins is called to investigate the warehouse theft of lethal doses of pesticides, and tiny human bones which have been left.  Every flower in the Sheriff Department's flower bed dies overnight, chickens at a nearby farm are poisoned, and a deadly concoction is added to the lemonade being sold at the town's 4th of July celebration.    In each instance a tiny human bone is left behind.  The newspaper editor receives a note stating that more will die unless the truth is told about the murder of an entire family fifty years ago.  Claire is now on a manhunt.

Bone Harvest is a chilling tale that sets the spine a tingle.  The setting is a small Wisconsin farming community where everyone knows everybody else's business, but no one knows sho is seeking revenge for an unsolved murder.  The plot is very carefully constructed to point out character flaws and eventually lead to a resolution.

 

Darkness Falls by Margaret Murphy

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312328516

Clara Pascal, a British defense attorney, has the perfect life; a loving husband, a beautiful daughter, and a successful career.  But that all changes one fateful day when she is kidnapped in broad daylight in front of her daughter.  And as she suffers in a dark and dank cellar, her every move choreographed by a madman, the police work frantically to find her.  The villain could be anybody, from a disgruntled client, to a nameless stalker, or perhaps even her loving husband.  And as time slips away, along with her faith that she’ll ever be rescued, she will be forced to confront the truth of her professed values and priorities, what she may be missing and, most importantly, her own possible culpability that has led to this nightmare.     

This must-read from Murphy is nothing short of spectacular, combining suspense and unbearable chills with depth and substance wrapped perfectly within a taut police procedural.  The police force on the case is particularly impressive; no rogue cowboys here, just a realistic portrayal of the men and women who must face and solve such nightmares on a daily basis. This is a brilliant and intelligent read, with the final denouement being more than just a tidy conclusion, but also a defining statement on the perils of unchecked ambition.  Highly recommended, but with a warning, lock your doors and leave the lights on, because the fear it instills is deep.    

  

MURDER ON NOB HILL by Shirley Tallman

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312328559
 

Reviewed by Donna Padilla
 
In the 1880's San Francisco has less than a handful of female lawyers, because of the dictates of society.  Sarah Woolson has passed bar bar exams and worms her way into a prestigious law firm by agreeing to represent a widow whose husband's estate is being handled by the firm.   When the widow is charged with the murder of her husband and jailed, Sara begins to investigate the case.  The evidence she turns up initially only incriminates her client.  Hoping to plead the widow guilty by reason of insanity, the firm is embarrassed by the investigation and assign junior lawyer Robert Campbell to keep her out of trouble.  In spite of being baby sat, Sarah is abducted by a Chinese tong lord and physically threatened by a prominent lawyer.   The closer she gets to the core of the case, the more perils she faces.

Sarah is a tenacious gutsy woman who will do anything to prove her client's innocence and continually bucks society in her quest.  In her work she is surrounded by 19th century males who believe women to be delicate, unintelligent creatures fit only for a life of domesticity.  The plot is tight and moves smoothly.  Female readers will be in Sarah's corner from the first page to the last.  A thoroughly enjoyable read.

 

She Smiled Sweetly by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith

 Publisher: Henry Holt & Company, Inc ISBN: 0805072241

It isn’t until 18 months later that FBI agent Poppy Rice gets involved in the case of a young woman who washed ashore in Boston.  Coincidently, at the same time an old fling of hers asks her to look into the case of a similar event that happened in Ireland 30 years previously.  Poppy is more than shocked when it’s discovered the two woman have something in common; they were both pregnant, and by the same man.  She’s soon hot on a trail that will stretch around the globe, and involve ugly family secrets, politics, money, and of course-murder. 

Poppy Rice is one FBI agent that you might actually like to meet in person; she’s smart, daring, and always willing to look at all sides of a story.  In this outing also of particular interest is her one-time sidekick Boston Detective Rocky Patel, a gentle and unassuming man with a heart gold.  Together these two unravel the secrets put before them in a suspenseful and intelligent way that will strike to the very heart of the reader.  If any complaints exist it might be the sudden tangent the book seemed to veer towards with little warning, but all was neatly wrapped up in the end, making this latest Poppy Rice thriller more than worth its cover price.