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A Treasury of Regrets by Susanne Alleyn

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press  ISBN: 03123437X

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader

Aristide Ravel is a police investigator who works in Paris in 1797.  The French Revolution has come to an end and has left much death, destruction and poverty in its wake.  Ravel has been asked to investigate the murder of Martin Dupont, an elderly but quite wealthy man.  The accused is Jeannette Moineau, the young scullery maid and she is charge with poisoning Dupont.  Laurence Faueconnet, the widow of Dupont’s son Aurele who was hanged as a revolutionary, goes to police for help because she believes that Jeannette has been wrongly accused and that she is innocent.  Meeting Laurence unearths painful memories of Ravel’s good friend who was also hanged as a revolutionary.  After questioning all of Dupont’s family it becomes clear that everyone hated the old man and that there are a number of suspects in addition to the scullery maid.  Like Laurence, Ravel comes to the conclusion that Jeannette is innocent and now he must figure out who really poisoned Martin Dupont.  Ravel digs into the lives of each member of the family to include the much younger second wife, the son who is an actor, his wife and their children, and the sister who was once a nun.  When a second family member is found dead, Ravel knows that the murderer has struck again.  With so many suspects to choose from, Ravel faces the challenge figure out who really murdered Martin Dupont and whether the second murder was tied to the first.

A Treasury of Regrets is Susanne Alleyn’s third novel set in post revolutionary France and another case for police spy Aristide Ravel working for Commissaire Brasseur.  In addition to a really good whodunit, Alleyn leverages her historical knowledge to provide an authentic image of France during the Republican period.  Lovers of historical mysteries will find A Treasury of Regrets to be an accurate period piece as a well crafted whodunit.

 

 

Dread Murder by Gwendoline Butler

Publisher:  Thomas Dunne Books  ISBN:  13:9780312361334

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

In residence as a watcher of Windsor Castle is Major Mearns and his associate Sergeant Denny whose duty it is to keep a higher up informed of the doings in the castle, particularly in relation to the king.  How is it then that they become involved in the investigation of a man named Twaddles who is delivered to the major in pieces by a boy named Charlie?

Major Mearns identifies the owner of the legs by a scar and knows that the man was an old soldier who also served him as an informant. He realizes that it is up to him to seek justice for the man. And so, he and the sergeant set about quietly investigating this death and are led to a local playhouse that is soon the scene of other deaths.

Talented author Gwendoline Butler has crafted an intriguing set of realistic characters in a setting you will enjoy exploring as you join the Major in his search for a killer. 

I'm pleased to recommend this tale as a fun read with a series of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing as each page leads into something new or unexpected.  Any mystery fan is sure to enjoy this book as I did.

 

 

Dead Man's Switch by Barbara Seranella

Publisher:  Thomas Dunne Books   ISBN:  13: 978-0-312-36170-9

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Charlotte Lyon handles media relations for corporations caught in a mess.  Her latest call for help came from a passenger railroad company that had a train derailed and people killed or injured.

Her work in this well crafted tale by talented author Barbara Seranella involves reassuring the public that the railroad company cares about the accident victims and will do all they can to make things right and find the cause of the accident.  She must control the public's perception of the company in hopes of prevent an uproar and huge lawsuits.

The question that must be answered is whether the wreck was an accident or not. Why would it not be? Luckily, there were only two victims, one the engineer and the other a passenger.  And who was the witness to the wreck, the motorcyclist who helped pull people from the derailed cars? 

A story that will really interest train enthusiasts with its well researched background.  This tale is recommended for the mystery buff who likes a different type of story that involves a chance to learn something about the trains of today as well as finding out who the villain is.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised with the twists and turns in this fun read.

 

 

Helpless by Barbara Gowdy

Publisher:  Metropolitan Books  ISBN:  0-8050-8288-3

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

During a summer blackout, Rachel Fox is kidnapped from her home.  Only nine years old, Rachel is accustomed to the attention her beauty attracts but ill-prepared to deal with the consequences.

As the city, and later country, mobilize in the search for Rachel, her single mother, Celia, encounters the moralizers who point out that Celia was working in a bar (true, a piano bar, as a singer/pianist) at the time of Rachel’s kidnapping, and that Celia does not even know the name of Rachel’s father.  Despite the negative publicity, as well as disturbing statistics that suggest Rachel is inevitably dead, as the days draw on, Celia never loses her faith that Rachel is safe, and nearby.

At the same time, physically and emotionally scarred waitress Nancy is pleased that her boyfriend Ron seems ready to commit.  True, his commitment seems to be primarily due to his desire to adopt a child.  Nancy squelches her unease that Ron is not interested in adopting any child, but rather an older child who he seems to be unnaturally obsessed with.

Not many writers could make a pedophile into a sympathetic character, but Barbara Gowdy manages this feat.  Suspenseful and nerve-wracking, Helpless proves that secrets lurk deep beneath the surface, and very few people are precisely what they seem.  Many will be discomfited by the subject matter of this book, but it’s thought-provoking, if sometimes distressing.

 

 

Died in the Wool by Rett MacPherson

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN-10: 0312362218

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Torie O'Shea is a very busy woman.  She is a wife, mother of three, president of the historical society, manager of a museum, and amateur sleuth.  When the mysterious Kendall house goes on the market, Torie desperately wants to buy it and some of its contents.  She believes it will make a great textile museum and some of the contents are beautiful old quilts.  Because three young adults committed suicide in the house in the early 1920s it is also rumored to be haunted.  Torie decides to do some research on the history of the house, and as she uncovers the secrets of the house she begins to suspect the three young adults might have been murdered.

This is a truly awesome cold case that is so old even all the suspects are dead.  The plot revolves around a talented young woman and her two brothers who were plagued with childhood abuse, post traumatic stress syndrome, suicide and murder.  It is also a heartwarming story of undying love.  When you combine all these wonderful facets together, you end up with another magnificent outing from a woman who really knows her small town USA.

 

 

 

The Betrayers by James Patrick Hunt

Publisher:  St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN:  13:  9780312362768

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

This is a tale with lots of action and characters that might be of interest to fans of the police procedural genre. 

Two deputies are machine-gunned and the hunt is on for the hit men.  Detective George Hastings is given the task of solving the case, sympathetic to the feelings of his fellow officers, but determined to do his job.

The variety of men he chooses for the job show the author's awareness of the foibles and traits of humanity, an understanding he puts to use in creating each of his characters.

The story is well written, but it didn't live up to its potential with so many characters in constant motion. That made it just a bit hard to follow.

 

 

Sour Puss by Rita Mae Brown

Publisher:  Bantam Books  ISBN:  9780553586617

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Talented author Rita Mae Brown does it again. She presents the reader with a twisting plot that delves into the problems faced by grape growers in Virginia.  The question of whether man or nature can create the most horrendous problems is one the reader will have to answer for themselves. 

A visiting grape-growing expert vanishes, arguments erupt between growers and the results are murder.  The weather doesn't cooperate and frost threatens the grape crop, adding extra tension to the story.  The research done in the writing of this tale will open your eyes to the possible misuse of nature and how it could backfire.

Harry Haristeen and her three pets become involved in solving the mysteries surrounding them when the pets find a body.  How deeply does Harry become involved? How will an old boyfriend's return affect her remarriage to Fair?

This is a well-paced tale told by old friends of the reader.  It's like a return visit to a favorite small town where you'd really like to live so well done are the settings.  You'll want to keep the people here as friends even after the last page is turned. You may even consider moving to wine country to grow grapes.

I'm pleased to highly recommend this story as a fun read that will keep you happily reading for hours.  Well worth the time.  A story that will please any fiction fan, especially cat and dog lovers and mystery fans.  Enjoy.  I really did.

 

 

 

The Bad Quarto by Jill Paton Walsh

Publisher: St. Martin’s Minotaur  ISBN: 0312354096

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader

Imogen Quy (rhymes with “why”) is college nurse at St. Agatha’s College, Cambridge University.  The school is mourning the death of John Talentire, a brilliant Shakespearean research fellow and the most recent victim of Harding’s Folly, a gap between two buildings on campus that students attempt to leap across.  Imogen cannot imagine why such a brilliant scholar would even want to attempt such a foolish and dangerous tradition.  The death is ruled accidental but clues that there may have been foul play are interlaced into the Kyd Society production of the “bad quarto” which is a shortened, controversial version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. As Imogen searches for the truth about Talentire’s demise she learns a great deal about the brutally competitive nature of Shakespearean scholarship.

The Bad Quarto is the fourth book of the Imogen Quy mystery series.  Jill Paton Walsh is also known for completing two posthumous works of Dorothy Sayers in the Lord Peter Wimsey series.  Walsh has created a delightful character in Imogen Quy who is described by her colleagues to be “sharp as needles and soft as butter.”  Due to her relationship with Professor Dennis Dobbs, Imogen enters the scholarly world and rapidly learns that unethical behavior is not unusual while searching for Talentire’s murderer.  The author also does a masterful job of immersing the reader in all aspects of campus life at St. Agatha’s College.  The Bad Quarto is a delightful classical British academic mystery; Jill Paton Walsh continues to “carry the torch” by writing traditional English mysteries and maintaining the Sayers tradition.