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Under A Raging Moon by Frank Zafiro

Publisher: Wolfmont Publishing,  ISBN 0-9778-4021-2

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

If you like straight forward cop shop stories with an ensemble cast, this book's for you.  Zafiro's background in law enforcement shows through every chapter: his writing is informed, spare and tough without out being over-loaded with testosterone. 

His story of the police force of River City over the course of a few weeks in late summer will draw you in and involve you in the lives and work of a dozen or so dedicated--and a few not so dedicated--lawmen and women.  The reader not only gets a ride in the prowl car, he gets into some of the officers' minds as well, and gains insight into  what make a good cop good and a bad cop bad.

No one character stands out all the time, but if there's a 'hero' it's probably the veteran patrolman  Tom Chisholm, who is held in contempt by  Lieutenant. Hart, a crawler of the worst sort.  Hart wouldn't make a real policeman's bootlace, but he delights in humiliating his betters in skill just because they are his inferior in rank.

Every job has its Lt. Hart, and for the most part the police officers of the River City force try and ignore him.  They've got a lot  more important things to face, particularly the scarfaced bandit who robs a convenience store just about every other day, and manages to vanish before the K-9 team can get a lead on him.   When he kills a store clerk, the tension rises: you just know that one of the cops you've grown to like is going to be the next victim. 

There's a great cast of characters: Katie McLeod, who wishes she were harder and tougher, but with great strength in her compassion; Gio the womanizer who gets mugged by Cupid; Payne the rookie; Stef Kopriva, who doesn't know how to capitalise on an unexpected chance for happiness; Karl Winter, the only happily married person on the shift; and a double handful of others, each one an individual. 

This book is available in paperback or in electronic format.  Highly recommended. 

 

Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

Publisher:  Picador ISBN:  0312426216

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

Maisie Dobbs undertakes three investigations at once, but only one of them willingly. That is to help a girl who is still a child accused of murder.  The second investigation is to look into the deaths of two soldiers in the Great War, so recently ended. And a third, for which the only recompense is her life.

She's not sure she can help the girl but cuts a bargain to get her the best legal counsel available.  In investigating the two soldiers' deaths, she finds surprises awaiting her at every turn and must make some fateful decisions that affect the lives of others.  And lastly, someone has tried more than once to kill her since she undertook these cases. Is there a connection, or does she have an enemy she doesn't know about.

A great blend of mystery and romance with just a touch of the paranormal to flavor it, this is a book you will find well worth the read.  Talented Jacqueline Winspear weaves a complex plot set in a time that is history to most of us living today, a time for which we have no real recollection and did not experience.  You'll enjoy meeting Maisie and the other characters as you step back in time to a slower pace to follow her on her travels to solving her cases.

This book may not be called a cozy, but it is certainly a read meant for a rainy evening by a fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate at your elbow.  This tale will have you looking at other books by this very able author.  I certainly will.

 

 

Case of Lies by Perri O'Shaugnessy

Publisher: Dell  ISBN: 0440241820

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Fans of legal thrillers can always be assured that the O'Shaugnessy sisters will deliver an outstanding read, and they do indeed keep their record intact with this latest outing featuring the resolute Tahoe lawyer Nina Reilly.

Nina, just back from Carmel after trying to make her last relationship work, is back in the saddle in beautiful Lake Tahoe, once again single, and once again fighting for the underdog.  This time out she's convinced to take on the case of a man whose wife was shot down dead during a robbery gone wrong near one of the casinos in the stunning resort town.  The husband, seemingly wrapped in grief and alcohol, doesn't offer much as a client, or as a witness, but the victim's niece convinces Nina to follow up on the case, all too unaware that she too has been marked for death. 

And all too soon Nina finds herself deep within what might just be a conspiracy of epic proportions involving a discovery by a young mathematician whose ideas, if true, might just change the world.  But meanwhile, she must deal with the increasingly dangerous events threatening her and her young son, along with everyone else close to the case.  And as the bodies begin to stack up, Nina begins to realize that the truth may be far more simpler than she ever imagined, as well as much closer than she would hope.

Put on your thinking cap for this one….the sisters delve deep into the world of mathematics and physics, proposing theories that the uninitiated might have a hard time with.  Although, if able to comprehend the many roads they travel in the world of numbers, one's mind can easily be blown away with delight and wonder.  Where and how they came up with this plot is in itself something to speculate upon but, approached with an open mind, definitely worth the time it takes to understand.  A provocative and enticing read, we only wish more authors would dare to explore such subjects, because while it takes some work, the reward of completion is all that more fulfilling.    

 

 

Badwater by Clinton McKinzie

Publisher: Dell ISBN: 0440242193

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

McKinzie returns with his fifth outing featuring the indomitable Burns brothers in another spectacular and electrifying read that is sure to cause breathless tension in his many fans. 

Wyoming special investigator Antonio Burns has been relegated to the back country sniffing out meth labs after his questionable actions in his last case, while his brother Roberto is in Denver learning to live with his serious injuries.  And it is while on the job looking for a new lab that Antonio runs into his latest case when he happens upon a young boy drowning in the Badwater River.  Jumping in to save the boy, it's to no one's surprise when at last he's pulled out and pronounced dead.  A tragic accident caused by a tourist who scuffled with the boy before his fall from the cliff, things only escalate from there when the community outlash threatens to see the young man beaten and hung for his crime.  And when his heavy hitter defense attorney and his beautiful young assistant arrive to the small town, things go from ugly to political, with each side out more to make a name than to find any sort of justice, causing further storms in the bitter aftermath. 

As before, it's in the character of Antonio, a scarred, sensitive, and fiercely loyal man whose commitment to justice, in whatever form that might take, and dedication to conquering his latest rock climb, that provides the most depth and life to McKinzie's thrilling read.  One can't but hope that maybe this time out Antonio will find justice without making a mess of things, but that is something left for the reader to decide.  Either way, reader's will most likely find that it's Antonio's reticent compulsion to play both sides of the law, with his sometimes questionable means but with always the right motives, that make this series so appealing. Don't miss this wonderfully exhilarating addition to the series, if only to see if Antonio can do it right this time.     

 

 

To the Power of Three by Laura Lippman

Publisher: Avon ISBN: 0060506733

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

In this engrossing stand alone suspense story, Lippman takes us on a heartbreaking and emotional journey through the friendship of three young girls who meet a tragic fate.  Josie, Perri, and Kat had been friends for years, but the friendship began to show signs of strain during their senior year in high-school, leaving the school buzzing about what might have gone wrong. 

And when suddenly one day shots ring out in the girl's restroom, leaving Kat dead, Perri severely injured, and Josie with a bullet in her foot, the mystery now becomes a question of murder.  It's suspected that Perri shot Kat, then in a struggle for the gun shot Josie, and finally herself.  But Josie seems to know much more than she's letting on, and the evidence left behind also suggests that the truth may be something quite different than the story she tells.  And so as we look back on the friendship of the girls, along with the ensuing investigation, we learn that sometimes the truth is much more painful and inscrutable than the simple lies told to cover it up.

In this tale of friendship, loyalty, maturing, and life in the suburbs, Lippman has created a mesmerizing novel of suspense that is disconcertingly astute in the many truths it confronts.  And with the final denouement being so worth the journey, making sense of all that seemed senseless, Lippman shrewdly concludes this tragic journey that started way before the major event was even a glimmer in the imagination.  A provocative and intense read, this comes highly recommended.   

 

Don of the Dead by Casey Daniels

Publisher:  Avon Books  ISBN:  0-06-082146-9

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

Pepper Martin's dead-end job as a tour guide at Cleveland's Garden View Cemetery definitely gets more interesting when she meets mob boss Gus Scarpetti.  Problem is, Gus has been dead for thirty years.

Pepper attributes his appearance to the fall she took a few days earlier, hitting her head on Scarpetti's mausoleum.  A return trip to the ER fails to rid Pepper of what she hopes is a hallucination, although she does meet "hot geek" Dan Callahan, an academic who, unlike most men, is more interested in her brain than her bust.

Resigned to her ghostly companion, Pepper promises to help Gus find out who hired the hit man who gunned him down in front of a restaurant all those years ago.  But Pepper soon learns that there's someone who wants to keep the mystery unsolved—and is willing to go to great lengths to stop Pepper.  Not even the studly detective Quinn can keep Pepper safe from the mob.

Pepper Martin is a fantastic new addition to the world of amateur sleuths; fiery, red-haired, and every bit as spicy as her name suggests, Pepper is not above using her feminine wiles to get her way (although, in truth, I tired of reading about her size 38C's by the second chapter).  With equally good doses of paranormal, historical, humor, and chick lit, this series will appeal to a variety of readers.  I know I can't wait for the second Pepper Martin mystery.

 

Season of Iron by Sylvia Maultash Warsh

Publisher:  The Dundurn Group ISBN:  13:9781550026160

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Readers 

A lifetime ago, the Nazis tried to conquer the world and in doing so destroyed millions of lives, among them the family of a young medical student named Freida Eisenbaum. The destruction was supposed to have stopped when the Third Reich fell, but it continued to work insidiously on the lives of surviving victims. 

The story of Freida runs parallel to that of Rebecca Temple, a young doctor, along with a third character in the person of a very old street person whose mind is gone.  While Rebecca knows nothing of Freida, she happens on the old woman who lives in someone's back yard.  

The day Rebecca discovers the old woman's body is also the day the old Reich begins to wrap its poisonous tentacles around her life. More than one attempt is made on her life and she finds herself in the middle of an intelligence investigation as well as more than one murder. 

The complications will keep you reading as the tightly woven tales of two women converge. Surprises are in store for the reader as well as the well drawn characters. Will Rebecca identify the killer and his motive?  How did she get involved? These are two of the many questions you'll want answered.

This is a book I am pleased to highly recommend to any reader, not just mystery fans.  You will have to know how it ends.  Talented author Sylvia Maultash Warsh has written a tale you may want to read more than once.  An old history given new life and meaning serves as the backdrop for Freida's tale and you'll live every frightening moment, making this a history lesson you won't soon forget.  Enjoy.  I sure did.

 

TWO TRAINS RUNNING by Andrew Vachss

Publisher Vintage, ISBN 1-4000-79381

Reviewed by Don Crouch, New Mystery Reader 

You aren't ready for this. No, really. No one is ready for the amazing turn Andrew Vachss has taken his writing life. And that, of course, is the best part. Two Trains Running is a book that astonishes the reader on many levels.

Known, of course, for the durable Burke series, Vachss here takes his loyal readers down a completely different track. For those just getting on board, the welcome is there for the reading, as this is a totally new creation from Vachss. A historical noir--told in a voice steeped in the knowledge of years, and hardened by them.

Two Trains Running is two weeks in the life of Locke City, somewhere in the non-coastal American Heartland, fall of 1959.  A once-prosperous place, brought low by depression, revived in well-protected vice. That vice is ruled by Royal Beaumont, native crime boss. With Italians and Irish trying to muscle their way in to his world, he brings in the enigmatic Walker Dett to sharpen his edge. Mix in various law enforcement agencies with various motives, and a brewing race war. As struggles over, variously, ways of life, love, salvation, and the future of the country erupt, Vachss blends and boils the threads of his story without sentiment, and clear intent. The result is a work both breath-taking in its action and startling in its heart and soul. The stories you are told, in many cases, are the ones you had no idea you were reading until they were over. There are a couple of those here, too.

Vachss tells the story with no chapters, per se, but in a percussive time-stamping style, that does a couple of things; helps give the various plot-lines a propulsion that is cinematic; It also re-enforces the observational nature of the narration. It's written as a sort of omniscient surveillance of events sans comment. That part is our job. Vachss wants us to look at these events filtered only by our own experience and knowledge, and to see how the pieces fit into the country we think we live in. And by doing so, decide their truth.

According to some early press, part of Vachss' intent was to create a tribute to investigative journalism as a last line in a democracy's defense (no currency there, eh?). He does that not so much in the way he presents Jimmy Procter, Locke City's hotshot reporter, but in the way he tells the story itself. It's a style refined in reportage, betraying no point of view. Just the facts. Third person, and then some.

Walker Dett is a ronin of his times, a soldier without an army, on a path that transcends anything in it. One of Two Trains Running's victories is how his journey provides moments of such extreme dark and light. For every demonstration of his violent gift, there is, upon his introduction to one Tussy Chambers, a stage of a soul opening, that provides the essential counter-balance to the entire story. There are numerous love stories amidst the darkness here, and they all serve to feed the passions at work.

So let's talk about Tussy for a minute, ok? Burke readers, let's just say she's right in there with Blue Belle and Ann O.Dyne as classic Vachss Gals. She is love, faith and temptation. She is irresistible. And of course, the force of her personality becomes a major part of the story Vachss is telling. While we're talking about the "fun stuff", let's mention that Vachss' love affair with the American Automobile is in full fettle here, and adds a precise authenticity to the action.

Vachss has fueled Two Trains Running with some first-rate characters; from the afore-mentioned Royal Beaumont Mountain Man Crime Boss (think Burl Ives in Nick Ray's swamp-noir, "Wind Across The Everglades), to Sherman Layne, the only honest cop in the entire story, who is in love with the town madam.

Vachss nods to other themes familiar in his canon....that families are made not born, forged by action and trust, not blood. That crime is often in the intent, not the deed. Part of the joy to regular readers of his work is seeing how those themes get worked in to his story. It's one of the things that make Andrew Vachss a singular writer in this genre. And it's just a small part of what makes Two Trains Running a singular reading experience.

 

WHITE  by Christopher Whitcomb

Publisher: Warner,  ISBN 0 446617547

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

This is a scary book.  The author worked for the FBI for 15 years in several special areas: as a sniper and as an interrogation instructor, and most recently as Director of the Critical Incident Response Group.    You can't believe that all of this story was made up entirely from his imagination, and long after you finish the last page you'll find yourself looking over your shoulder.

The overriding theme of the book is terror, both from without and within.   As each new event takes place, more and more twisted threads are drawn in to the picture.  Just when you think you've got a handle on who is really behind the plots and bombings, the story takes another turn  You, like the protagonist Jeremy Waller, will increasingly feel trapped in an alien world where nobody is what he--or she--seems, and nobody is to be trusted.

As a deep undercover agent, Waller is used to the shadowy world of intrigue, of spy and counterspy, of double and even triple agents, but when his family is kidnapped to force him to commit an atrocity, the only thing he has to rely on is his own native cunning.   How can he save his family from a bunch of fanatics who are dead-set on  bombing those they perceive to be enemies?  How long can any man hold out when the fanatics are systematically torturing his innocent children?

If this book doesn't leave you wondering just what sort of world we have created and whether there's any hope we'll find a way out of the shadows into the sunlight again, you haven't read it carefully enough.  It's a horrifyingly good read, but I wouldn't give it to a nervous friend.   

 

Dialogues by Stephen J. Spignesi 

Publisher: Bantam ISBN: 0553587587

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

In this wildly inventive tale, Spignesi takes us through the calamitous and disconcerting tribulation of a young woman charged with the pre-meditated death of her six co-workers at an animal shelter.  Victoria Troy, known as Tory, has inexplicably killed her six colleagues, some of which she considered friends, leaving their bodies in the chamber in which she carried out the euthanasia of unwanted animals every Friday.  Now awaiting trial, she is interviewed by a psychologist in order to determine her sanity and ability to stand trial.  And in the days that follow, the psychologist, her lawyer, her family, and others that know her, will attempt to explain how this bright young woman could commit such a brutal and baffling crime, with the ultimate question being; should Tory herself die for the crimes she has committed?

Told mostly through the dialogues of those interacting with Tory, and on her behalf, the reader is treated to a highly original and thought provoking tale that is so unusual and disturbing that it may just haunt one's dreams long after the final page.  Tory, who is likable, interesting, smart and seemingly sane, appears to be the last person one would expect to commit such an atrocious crime, making her appeal that much more disquieting and surprising.  So although an uncomfortable and distressing read, it is easily worth every moment spent, and so comes highly recommended.

 

 

This Dame For Hire by Sandra Scoppettone

Publisher:  Ballantine Books  ISBN:  0-345-478118

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader 

When Faye Quick’s boss is drafted, she takes over as private investigator for A Detective Agency, where she previously worked as a secretary.  Walking home to her Greenwich Village apartment one snowy night, she stumbles over the body of beautiful young socialite Claudette West.

Four months later, when police still haven’t solved the crime, Claudette’s parents hire Faye.  Although she finds Porter West insufferable, Faye’s own curiosity gets the better of her, and she accepts her first murder case.

West is determined to believe that Richard Cotten, Claudette’s on-again/off-again fiancée, killed his daughter, but Faye quickly determines the passionless Cotten is but one of many men Claudette strung along.  Her favorite suspect is Brian Wayne, the oversexed literature professor, who bedded as many students as he lectured.

Aided by her own secretary, Birdie, clairvoyant friend Anne, and police contact Marty Mitchum, sassy Faye investigates still more men who developed ties to Claudette in the final months of her life.  Everyone agrees that Claudette was in love with someone—but not him.  It seems clear that Claudette’s real lover was also her murderer, but who was he?  While Faye unravels the tangled web of Claudette’s love life, she meets someone who might help her start one of her own.

Veteran writer Sandra Scoppettone has created a unique, refreshing character in Faye Quick, and evokes a vibrant wartime Manhattan setting.  Told in first person, in Faye’s vernacular, the writing style is different and will annoy some readers.  At times I ignored it; other times, it made me crazy.  Yer gonna hafta make up yer own mind.  Regardless, this was one of the most enjoyable mysteries I’ve read this year.

 

 

Killing Time by Linda Howard

Publisher:  Ballantine Books ISBN:  0-345-453468

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader  

Fifteen year old Knox Davis was just the sort of nerdy kid who would take an interest in the burial of a time capsule in small Pekesville, Kentucky, so it’s not surprising that when the time capsule seems to disappear twenty years later, Knox, now chief county investigator, is one of a few people interested in knowing where it went.  That is, until people who contributed items to the capsule begin to get murdered.  Then FBI agent Nikita Stover shows up in Pekesville.  Knox would have noticed her even if she wasn’t beautiful:  first she interferes with his crime scene, then she gets shot at, and finally, her credentials don’t check out.

Instead of arresting her for impersonating a federal officer, Knox offers her protection, surprising himself by believing the outlandish story of her origins.  Thrown into close physical proximity through their investigation, Knox and Nikita battle their sexual attraction as well as the elusive enemy.  The murderer’s enlistment of an unlikely ally gives him a decided advantage, but Nikita and Knox are ultimately successful against him, although they succumb to their mutual attraction.

With elements of time travel, author Linda Howard has crafted a highly imaginative suspense novel.  Knox and Nikita are both sympathetic, likable characters.  Nikita’s fascination with everyday objects will make the reader view them in a new light, and any novel that shows a respect for historical research and archives is a winner.  If the book has any faults, there is too much build-up to an incredibly speedy resolution.