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Deadly Advice by Roberta Isleib

Publisher: Berkley  ISBN-10: 0425214745

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

When Rebecca Butterman's next door neighbor, a young woman named Madeline, is found dead from a suicide, Rebecca couldn't feel guiltier.  Working as an advice columnist and psychologist, Rebecca can't help but feel she should've seen the signs even though the two weren't exactly bosom buddies.  And so against her better judgment, and at the urging of the young woman's mother, Rebecca begins her own investigation into the untimely death.  All too soon she discovers that the woman had been living a secret life of scandalous thrills, and the closer Rebecca comes to unraveling her deadly secrets, the closer she comes to a killer who is more familiar than she knows, and one who will stop at nothing to keep those secrets undercover.

The first in this new series is quite a departure from Isleib's previous amateur sleuth series featuring pro-golfer Cassie Burdette, and a satisfying one at that.  Isleib's new heroine is both engagingly unassuming and daringly determined, a combination that adds vitality and spirit to her suspenseful and well written plot.  And for those who love advice columns, Isleib throws in a few of those for free, with her advice actually making sense.  Fans of Isleib's previous titles will love this new series, and will no doubt find themselves eagerly looking forward to the next.

 

 

The Dollmaker by Amanda Stevens

Publisher: Mira  ISBN-10: 0778324281

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Claire Doucett has yet to get over her young daughter's abduction seven years ago, a tragedy that destroyed her already failing her marriage and left her own life haunted by the unanswered questions regarding her daughter's fate.  So when she sees a doll in a New Orleans's window that looks exactly like her daughter, she believes the doll might just hold the answers that she's looking for.  But when the doll disappears before anyone else sees it, and the store owner dies, she alone is left with her convictions that the doll could be connected to her daughter's disappearance.

Meanwhile, Dave Creasy, Claire's ex-husband, has been fighting his own battles since the tragedy, his suspension from the police force and his bout with the bottle being the foremost.  But when he's asked to help solve the case of a missing young woman, a case that seems very familiar to a case he was involved in when his daughter went missing, he sees his chance at redemption. 

And when at last Clair turns to Dave for help in finding the doll, the two working together finally have a shot at getting the answers they've long searched for, answers that are shocking and maybe even deadly. 

This tale of keen suspense set in post-Katrina New Orleans has much to offer fans that enjoy a thrilling and eventful read.  Readers will find themselves entranced with not only the new version of the old city, but with the unique details of the plot itself, its creative spin on murder and madness altogether enticing.  A great first effort from an author who has the right touch, we look forward to the next.               

 

Hello, Stranger by Virginia Swift

Publisher: Harper   ISBN: 0060543345

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Laramie's college professor Sallie Alder is shocked and dismayed when she finds one of her students beaten and battered outside her office door.  The girl, Charlie Preston, has had her issues with drugs, missing class, and a variety of other juvenile type behaviors, but Sallie is shocked when Charlie points to her own father as having justified this appalling beating for those very reasons.  Giving the girl some money and the coat off her back, that's the last she'll of Charlie for awhile, but when Charlie's father is murdered, suddenly everyone, not only Sallie, is looking for her as she's the prime suspect in the gruesome murder. 

The further Sallie digs into Charlie's background, the more horrified she becomes.  It appears her murdered father and her stepmother belong to a strict born-again church that has its own dirty secrets, and under the guise of "spare the rod…" poor Charlie's life has been nothing but a series of brutal beatings and extended stints at "psychiatric treatment centers", which have proven to be nothing more than another form of horrendous abuse.  So Sallie sets out to clear Charlie's name, heartily believing the girl's innocence against all odds, along the way putting her relationship and her very life into danger.    

What a true delight to see the return of this liberal, rebel rousing, down to earth, feminist professor!  Never one to shy away from expressing her freethinking opinions, it's always refreshing to read her somewhat gentle rants revealing the hypocrisy inherent in the more conservative and sanctimonious sects.  Add to that other various characters worthy of great empathy, a provocative plot, and a narrative so natural sounding you'd swear she was telling the tale first hand sitting next to you, and you've got one highly recommended read.  If you haven't given this wonderful series a shot yet, you're really missing out.      

 

 

The Big Bamboo by Tim Dorsey

Publisher: Harper   ISBN: 0060585633

Reviewed by John Phillip Montano, New Mystery Reader

The back of the cover photo of author Tim Dorsey says it all: Location, the Florida Keys. He is looking off in the distance leaning on a Cadillac, a pelican sits on top of the car, cargo shorts, tropical shirt, sunglasses, and a pair of binoculars in his hand, behind him the shuttle is roars into space. Only such an odd and peculiar fellow could write such a fun and clever book.

One might think that street justice carried out by a serial killer with mental problems would be a serious work – not this book. To Tim Dorsey and the colorful characters he creates, nothing is sacred. This novel, its characters and the plot is downright clever, witty, fun and interesting. The characters in this book are so odd, peculiar and strange that they are anyone you might meet on the street. This is the perfect book to read on a Sunday afternoon, in the back yard, sipping on your favorite libation.

There are many elements about the story I cannot mention or it would ruin it all, so this is it a nutshell: Serge A. Story has the felon touch; anything he touches, says or does is a felony. Oh, but he is an interesting character and you cannot help but like him. His sidekick Coleman, constantly pickled on booze and drugs is the perfect Tonto for our insane Lone Ranger. Serge does not kill just for the sake of killing; all his victims deserve what they get. Serge is obsessed by movies especially Florida filmed movies, and it is this obsession that takes us from the Florida Keys into Hell-ywood.

Ford and his buddy Mark, a couple of young Midwestern boys head to Hollywood, chasing a dream and find themselves in the middle of a murder investigation, with Ford the prime suspect in the kidnapping and murder of a Hollywood starlet. Meanwhile, movie obsessed Serge must go to Holly wood to uncover a family mystery, discovered in a letter from his late grandfather. Add in some crude, unscrupulous movie studio owners, the Japanese mafia, an inept lawyer and an angry Alabama gang out for revenge and you have a roller coaster ride of laughs that will keep you guessing, laughing and reading.

Dorsey is a clever writer and has a sharp wit. His characters are so bizarre that they are real. For any reader, this book is a recommended read.     

 

 

 

Dead Days of Summer by Carolyn Hart

Publisher: Avon   ISBN: 0060724047

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Hart's 16th Death on Demand mystery featuring the cast and crew of the small South Carolina island of Broward's Rock is my first and, hopefully, not my last.  This time out, murder hits much closer to home when mystery bookstore owner Annie Darling's husband Max is accused of murdering a young and beautiful woman, a woman who worked for one of the wealthy and prominent families of the small island.  But those who know and love Max also know he's innocent, and that this is all a set-up masterminded by a diabolical killer, one who is more than likely related to the wealthy family of the victim's employ.  So with the help of some zany friends and family, Annie puts aside her birthday party plans for Max to get to the bottom of this beguiling mystery in order clear Max's good name once and for all.

One of the most wholesome mysteries I've read in awhile, there's little to complain about in this new addition to the series.  However, as this is a first for me, it would've been nice to have a little more background on Annie and Max Darling, as more scenes might have initially made a bit more sense.  That aside, this was a breezy and charming read with engaging characters whose peaceful lives are shattered by murder, only to come together again in a not-too-surprising ending that should satisfy all.  Recommended for those who enjoy snuggling up with a good cozy for a quiet afternoon's pleasure.

 

 

 

 

The Alpine Recluse by Mary Daheim

Publisher: Ballantine Books ISBN: 0345468155

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Once again author Mary Daheim takes the reader on a charming and cozy spin through the fictional logging town of Alpine located near the beautiful Cascade Mountains in Washington.  This time out Emma Lord, owner and editor of the The Alpine Advocate the town's weekly newspaper, is drawn to a nearby house fire one dark night, a fitting end to yet another hot day in a town seized by a summer's end heat wave.  But when the body of Tim Rafferty is found the event grows into the story of the summer, especially when it's later discovered that he was in fact murdered before the fire was set. 

Right away there are a couple of suspects for this gossip filled town to focus on, one being Tim's self-absorbed pregnant wife Tiffany, and the other being one of the town's legendary hermits known only as Old Nick, whose ratty and suspicious shadow was spotted near the fire.  But things aren't always what they seem, with the horrifying truth sometimes hiding behind the last face you'd ever suspect.

Fans will surely be pleased with Daheim's latest charming glimpse of small town America, one in which everyone knows everyone's business and the gossip can create more mischief, and laughs, than one could ever think possible.  So if you're looking for a clean read with light and breezy scenes that totally lack in violence or darkness, this tale filled with appealing characters and the refreshing innocence of small town America should easily delight.     


 

Escape Clause by James O. Born

Publisher:  Berkley  ISBN:  0-425214540

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader 

Florida Department of Law Enforcement special agent Bill Tasker is enjoying a rare day off with his daughters when he happens upon a bank robbery.  He fatally wounds one of the robbers and in order to avoid a hearing before the Civilian Review Board, he accepts the deal his boss offers.  He goes to Manatee Correctional to investigate the death of a young inmate.  The young man's parents are well-connected in the state and have some questions about their son's death.

His cakewalk assignment proves to be anything but.  Manatee is rife with prison gangs, corrupt staff, and plotting inmates.  He tries to keep his mind only on the task he's been given, but the murder of his next door neighbor makes him unable to avoid involvement.  A series of incidents make him aware that someone is trying to scare him.

The attention of two beautiful women provides some distraction not only from the unpleasant investigation, but also his lingering affection for his ex-wife. 

Author James O. Born, also an FDLE agent, uses brief action sequences to keep the pages turning.  Tasker, a devoted father, clever investigator, and all-around good guy, is a sympathetic hero.  Not only that, but he has no fears about taking on four or five guys in a fight.  You gotta love that.

 

 

The Lost Gardens by Anthony Eglin

Publisher:  St. Martins Paperbacks   ISBN:  0312949324

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

If you've known anyone who inherited a fortune from someone they'd never met, you'll know exactly how Jamie Gibson of California felt when she learned she'd inherited a huge estate in England.  The man who left her the fortune wasn't a long lost relative, nor did they know anything about each other. 

Jamie accepted her new estate and began casting about for someone to rebuild the gardens that had become a jungle of brambles.  Her quest brings her to retired botany professor, Lawrence Kingston and together they begin the reestablishment of what had been a beautiful garden.

But death lurked behind the brambles.  And this sets Lawrence off on a search for the truth that brings to light secrets of a hidden treasure and other deaths. Danger stalks him and Jamie and strikes more than once.

Talented author Anthony Eglin writes a delightful mystery that will keep those pages turning as you try to unravel the mystery that keeps the characters chasing the elusive identity of the villain, trying to figure out why Jamie received the inheritance and if there's a connection between it and the murders. 

Guaranteed to please the most demanding mystery buff.  You'll be looking for other books by this fine author.  Enjoy.  I sure did.

 

 

Oh Danny Boy by Rhys Bowen

Publisher:  St. Martin's Paperbacks   ISBN:  0-312-997019

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

New York's summer heat and a general malaise are getting to Molly Murphy, and the daily missives from Daniel Sullivan, which she discards unopened, are only a further irritation.  She's even considering taking a teaching job in Nebraska.  Doing her shopping one day, she is arrested, without cause, and taken to see her sometime lover Sullivan in the infamous Tombs.  He is accused of accepting gang bribes and arranging an illegal boxing match.  The latter crime he admits to freely, but insists he was set up for the other one.

Sullivan's problem is that his colleagues are too eager to cover their own backs to help prove his innocence, so in desperation, he's forced to request Molly's assistance.  Although she'd been determined to keep Daniel out of her life, she realizes that factors other than building her private investigation business compel her to help him.

She even consults his former fiancée, Arabella, for assistance.  As the other woman, Molly doesn't expect a warm welcome from Arabella, but the woman surprises her with her fairness, and with her request for Molly's assistance in locating a missing friend.  To Molly's amazement, she learns that the friend's disappearance may be related to Daniel's alleged crimes.

In Molly Murphy, Rhys Bowen has created a delightful, plucky, and irresistible—if completely unrealistic—heroine.  Molly's world, however, is a sort of early twentieth century episode of Will and Grace with the addition of serial murders and a social conscience.  Bowen views the New York City of a hundred years ago through an idealized twenty-first century lens.  Fans of historicals may love this book; those who know something about American history will find themselves cataloging the improbabilities.

 

 

Mourning Dove by Aimee & David Thurlo

Publisher: Forge Books ISBN: 0765350351

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Navajo Special Investigator Ella Clah is sitting in her new office enjoying the view of Shiprock when her assistant Justine comes in to tell her that Jimmy Blacksheep, a member of the New Mexico National Guard who is returning home from Iraq, has been murdered.  During the investigation she begins to suspect other members of the Guard and members of the Farmington Police Department, including Jimmy;s brother.  Learning that the Guard unit is moving out again, she has to speed things up without alerting any suspects.

Once again the Thurlos have written a fast paced plot that keeps you totally engrossed.  They have woven in bits of Navajo culture and dealt with the delicate balance of law enforcement jurisdictions in the Four Corners area.  Not only does Ella have to solve the case, but she cannot involve any of the Farmington Police Department because they are suspects.  She has to work closely with the FBI so that the case will not be thrown out of court because a Navajo officer acted out of his jurisdiction without proper back up.  You combine all of these, and you end up with an intelligent and worthy read that easily entertains.

 

 

The Bookwoman's Last Fling by John Dunning

Publisher: Pocket   ISBN 1416523391

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Cliff Janeway is back, and once again proving that the antiquarian book business is far from the dry and tame pursuit that outsiders might think.

Hired to appraise a private collection of children's books, Janeway hasn't been on the job a week when he's bashed, locked in a car, and set on fire.

Anyone who knows ex-cop Cliff would know this sort of thing just makes him mad: far from crawling home in fear, Cliff is determined to find out who tried to
kill him, and what the connection is between a racing stable, two murders and
the missing books.

He goes undercover as a horse-walker to get information about the long-dead
owner of the books.  While he's doing this , he has a couple of impressive wins
at the track, proving  the saying "Bet the trainer, not the horse".  Not
surprisingly, the wins don't do anything to convince Cliff's partner Erin that
his present case is anything other than one more example of Cliff's reckless
disregard of danger.   She claims he's never really let go of his former career
 and utters the words no man wants to hear "We have to talk".

The big puzzle is why someone would steal the priceless children's books, but not sell them.  They're worth real money, but they aren't in circulation.  This
leads Cliff to consider that he may be dealing with a madman, a true
bibliomaniac, somebody who hoards books like a squirrel hoards nuts.  Once
Cliff starts working on the theory that the books and the original murder are
only coincidentally related, the whole picture shifts and the murderer's
identity becomes clear.

You'll learn a lot about both the racing industry and the book business in this
fast-moving story.  Highly recommended.