March Paperbacks 2007
 

 

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Have Your Cake and Kill Him Too by Nancy Martin

Publisher: Signet  ISBN  0 451 218930

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

The Blackbird sisters are back, and right in the middle of more drama and mayhem than seems nice for a trio of supposedly respectable Philadelphia ladies.

Libby is making little headway in her campaign to have her sisters pose for a
nude calendar, Emma has a new job that involves more leather than a couch
factory, and Nora is living on popcorn in the early stages of a pregnancy
caused by one or the other of her two main men.

When the bow-and-arrow murder of Zell Orcutt happens in the grounds of the Fitch family mansion, it's almost a relief for Nora--or it would be if her friend
Delilah wasn't being set up to take the fall for the crime.

Perhaps if Nora concentrates on solving the murder and getting Delilah off the hook, it will take her mind off her other problems.   Sounds like a plan, but
of course things don't go smoothly.   The investigation takes Nora into a lot
of strange places, including "Cupcakes", a sleazy club full of scantily-clad
young women; a bakery run by a reformed heavy metal rock star now turned into an overprotective mother; and a barn about to become a funeral pyre--Nora's.

Along the way, Nora tries to get a few licks of work in at her paying job as a
society columnist; she can't afford to lose the income, not now she's facing
single motherhood.

If you like your crime with a light and humorous touch, and a cast of
eccentrics, this one's for you.

 

 

 

Promise Me by Harlan Coben

Publisher: Orion ISBN: 0752878212

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

New Jersey entertainment representative Myron Bolitar has the tendency to pull out the red cape when confronted with someone in need, so after all the trouble it's caused him in the past he's sworn off off the rescue bit for a while.  But when he's attending a party at a good friend's house and overhears two teenagers talking about friends driving drunk, he makes them promise to call if they ever find themselves in such a situation, with his promise in return that he'll be there-no questions asked. 

Sooner than he ever thought possible he receives the late night phone call, and as agreed he rushes off to give the teen a ride, dropping her off in an unfamiliar cul de sac in an unfamiliar Jersey suburb, thinking he's done his good deed for the day.  But no good deed goes unpunished, for when she turns up missing all eyes turn to Myron, the last man to see her and, so everyone thinks, the man who must have something to do with her disappearance.  But soon the teenager's disappearance is tentatively linked to that of another teen, and as Myron and his eccentric crew dedicate themselves to tying it all together, they find that the innocence of suburbia is just a faÁade, and behind the doors of the stately homes are some very reprehensible secrets.

It's been quite awhile since fans of Coben's highly successful series have been treated to a visit by this most engaging cast of characters, and with this spectacular new outing they will find much to rejoice in as they welcome this crazy crew back.  Not only is the plot a multifaceted page turner, but Coben continues his unique ability of bringing each of his characters to life with stunning realism; even the secondary characters shine, characters who in less capable hands would simply fade into oblivion soon after introduction. 

And for those who've never read a Bolitar novel, you're missing out.  Don't let the roundabout description of ex-jock and notional caped crusader throw you off into thinking he's just another macho lunk with a hero affliction; no, he's much more than that, he's a very funny lunk who also happens to have a heart of gold and, well yes, quite a serious case of the above mentioned hero affliction.  Coming with the highest recommendation possible, this one has it all; thrills and heartbreak and electrifying suspense, and when combined with some of the most engaging characters around, you have all you need for one hell of dazzling read.

 

 

Prisoner of Memory by Denise Hamilton

Publisher: Pocket Star  ISBN: 0743492722

Reviewed by John Montano, New Mystery Reader

I normally will not research about the author of a book I review, after all, I am reviewing their book not their lives. But, I had to with Denis Hamilton. I am so in love with her words. What an amazing writer. Her prose is gourmet and flows poetically without any pretentiousness or flowers. Hamilton is a necessary read, not just for mystery/crime novel fans but also for anyone who appreciates superlative writing. A small example: ĎA lazy smile skulked at the edges of his boyish good looks. A snub nose. Smattering of freckles. The thick hatch of chestnut hair. Round glasses. The way he had of speaking in italics, to underline the irony of his words. ďComrades in arms, is it?Ēí

Denise was a journalist for the Los Angeles times. She has received critical acclaim for all her works. She lives in LA and covered the collapse of Eastern Europe. Her expertise and knowledge cannot be denied and flows well into her fiction.

Trying to summarize this brilliant novel is like trying to stop a Mississippi rainstorm with a flyswatter, but I will try. Eve Diamond, a Journalist for the Los Angeles Time is paying her dues. While tracking a mountain lion is a LA suburb, she and her guide discover the body of a teenage boy. Diamond interviews the family and begins to suspect there is more at play than just a murdered boy in the LA foothills. The father of the murdered boy, Sasha Lukin is a physicist and a Russian immigrant with old ties to the KGB, the Russian Mafia, the cold war, a FBI spy and the fallen Soviet Union Communist Party.

On a dark and rainy LA night, Diamond finds a rain soaked Mischa Tsipin waiting on her doorstep like a lost, homeless puppy. Tsipin claims to be Diamondís long lost cousin from Russia and was smuggled to America by the Russian Mafia. Diamond who has no family, doubts Tsipinís claim despite his knowledge of her personal information and limited family history. Diamond desperately wants to believe his claim Ė as any orphan might. As Diamond investigates the murder, with the help of her colleague Josh and Tsipin, she comes face to face with her family history and discovers many secrets. That is all I can say without ruining this book.

Hamiltonís style is rhythmic, poetic, sometimes sexy, and sometimes sweet. She does not write with a heavy hand but that of a writer who hears the cadence of the rain and translates to the reader's desires. Her dialogue is superb, every character has their own voice, their own individual way of talking Ė a feat that is quite difficult. Ask any writer. This book, the entire Eve Diamond series should not be missed.

 

 

18 Seconds by George Shuman

Publisher: Pocket Star  ISBN: 0743277171

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, Editor-New Mystery Reader 

Almost 30 years ago, serial killer Earl Sykes was locked up for a completely unrelated charge resulting from a tragic bus accident in which several young lives were lost, but now he's out and the killings have begun again.  When the first young woman goes missing in his old stomping grounds of Wildwood, New Jersey, police lieutenant Kelly O'Shaughnessy just knows that this is only the beginning, with clues left behind of something vicious and deadly having happened.  Unaware of even the existence of Sykes, or his previous killings, all the police know is that the handful of suspects they have now will most be cleared in just a matter of time, leaving them with little direction in which to take the investigation.     

Meanwhile, miles away in Philadelphia, Shelly Moore, a blind woman who has the ability to "see" the last seconds of a person's life before their death, is working on solving her own share of mysteries, one of them her own.  Abandoned as a child, she has no memory of what led to her blindness, and her abilities to "see", nor where she came from or who she really is, with only disjointed nightmares to haunt her nights, but are they nightmares or might they be memories?

When at last Shelly is contacted to aid in Kelly's investigation, all of these lives will collide in the most unexpected of ways, solving many more mysteries than just the increasing number of disappearances of young women.  And with the final heartbreaking revelations, much will be gained, but at a cost no one expected to pay.

This stunning and thoroughly electrifying debut of Shuman's has much to offer the reader who seeks something brilliantly fresh and original, with his luminous concept of "seeing" the last moments before a person's death being provocatively confounding.  And around his repulsive villain and extremely appealing heroines whose personal lives are worthy of tales of their own, he creates a plot that simply rips through the pages at an alarming rate, making this one read that's just about impossible to put down.  This is one author we expect to hear from again, and only hope he brings back these wonderful characters that we've grown to really care for, kudos Mr. Shuman for a job well done!

 

 

 

Kill Me by Stephen White

Publisher: Signet  ISBN: 0451220714

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

The character we'll call "John Doe" is a wealthy, adventurous, happy family man, who has it all and, frankly, life really couldn't be better.  Never one to shy away from risk or adversity, he instead meets and even incites such occasions with fortitude and anticipation.  But when a good friend is struck down in a nasty accident, left a veritable "vegetable", John begins to consider the "what ifs" if the same should ever happen to him.  So when another friend tells him about a clandestine company that, for a very steep price, will ensure a quick and painless death should he ever become so incapacitated, by disease or accident, he is quick to enlist their services. 

Be careful what you wish for.  Not so soon afterwards, John gets the news that he has a brain aneurysm, his time left most likely measured in months, and so, as per contract, the deadly agreement is triggered into deed.  But John's not ready, there's still some unfinished business to attend to, mainly that of the son he never knew he had and has just begun to get to know.  But a deal's a deal, and so as John races to find closure, he'll have to fight for one more day, everyday, against a company that will stop at nothing to fulfill their deadly promise.

Fans of White's Dr. Alan Gregory might think to despair when discovering that Gregory takes a back seat in this latest suspense thriller.  Don't.  This intelligent, poignant, and highly compelling, thriller offers up some great insights in its explorations of death, family and, most importantly, living.  And while a rather large suspension of belief must be taken on in order to make the whole thing fly, John himself would be one of the first to agree that this is not a hindrance, but rather one of the main joys in reading a good book.   This is one of those rare novels that'll leave you contemplating your own views; on living, dying, choices made, and what is owed to those you've loved, making for some sleepless nights and, if receptive, a deeper appreciation for having lived and loved at all.

 

 

 

Killed by Clutter by Leslie Caine

Publisher: Dell,   ISBN: 9780440335986

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Interior decorator Erin Gilbert is hired by two relatives of Helen Walker to clear some of the clutter from the old lady's home. Erin is shocked to find Helen living in the garage as she has been pushed there by the accumulation of things that have taken over her home.

Helen tells Erin the problem started when her now deceased sister moved in with her and brought her entire household with her.  Helen also tells Erin that her sister was murdered and now someone is trying to kill her, that they have been entering her home uninvited.  Erin is doubtful anyone could do much snooping in the house since they'd only be able to walk on the narrow paths between the piles of papers and other items.

Then someone is killed and Erin begins to rethink Helen's statements as something other than just ramblings of an old woman whose hold on reality is weakening.  Is someone trying to kill Helen?  Who? And why? Did Helen's nosy neighbor really see someone running from the house?  Are Helen's relatives really as concerned for her as they seem?  And why does Helen's niece seem to dominate her brother? 

A cleverly blended tale of several subplots woven by talented author Leslie Caine into a whole fabric of mystery and suspense. Lifelike characters will keep you guessing and lead you down winding paths between piles of clutter until the killer is exposed.

A well-crafted tale with descriptions that will have you sneezing from paper dust as you read.  I'm happy to recommend this story as a fun read. You'll be looking for other books by this imaginative author.  Enjoy.  I did.

 

 

Prior Bad Acts by Tami Hoag

Publisher: Bantam ISBN: 055358359X

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When a foster mother and her two foster children are found brutally murdered in one of the worst crimes Minneapolis has ever seen, it's up to the beautiful Judge Carey Moore to preside over this case that is fraught with complications.  And when she is forced to rule that prior bad acts committed by the defendant Kevin Dahl, the transient charged with the horrendous crime, she becomes one of Minneapolis's most hated.  But when she's brutally attacked leaving court after her fateful decision, the police are forced to protect the now despised judge, including the hard boiled detective Sam Kovac, whose feelings for the judge are complicated at best. 

But there are many who had reasons to hate the judge, not just the community at large, but also included is one cop bent on revenge, a husband with a secret life, and the teenage son of the woman killed.  With so many enemies to consider, finding the culprit in the attack won't be easy, with the situation terrifyingly compounded when the judge is kidnapped in a madman's moment of glory.

I was a bit wary after finding myself disliking most of the characters involved after the first couple of chapters but, thankfully, after reading additional chapters in which some empathetic traits were added to most, things began to improve.  However, some might find that this element was still insufficient, and a little too late, in bringing the reader into the story on a more intimate and absorbing level.  Nonetheless, the plot itself did offer virtually nonstop excitement and suspense, with some surprising twists thrown in that provided some very welcomed jolts, all resulting in a satisfying ending that should please fans who like plenty of thrills.

 

 

The Wrong Kind of Blood by Declan Hughes

Publisher: Harper  SBN: 0060825472

Reviewed by Dana King, New Mystery Reader

This must be the year for playwrights to make successful forays into mystery writing. Last summer saw Jeff Stetsonís debut novel, Blood on the Leaves; now Irish playwright Declan Hughes has brought out The Wrong Kind of Blood, a riveting, tightly written account of a prodigal sonís return.

Ed Loy left Dublin twenty years ago, abandoning a bright future as a medical student after his father deserted the family and Ed caught his mother with another man. What had been planned as a summer trip to visit a friend in Los Angeles turned into a twenty year sojourn, as Ed found work as a bartender, then a private investigator, married, had and lost a daughter he adored, and divorced. Heís been spending most of his time drinking when he gets word of his motherís death and returns to Dublin.

Things there have changed. His conscience is troubled as he sees first-hand the decline in his motherís financial state, and before he can take stock Ed finds himself working as an investigator to find a missing husband. Before Ed can do much beyond accepting the case, old mate Tommy Owens comes to Ed for some help with the local mob.

Thus begins Ed Loyís return home. Tommy may be involved with murder, as may Lindaís missing husband. The trail eventually takes Ed to the childhood homes of his parents, as all paths in the increasingly complicated case lead back to Faganís Villas.

Hughes has the gift of hooking the reader with the first sentence of Chapter One. (The night of my motherís funeral, Linda Dawson cried on my shoulder, put her tongue in my mouth and asked me to find her husband.) His large and varied cast are all shades of gray, rarely all bad, never all good. Each character is differentiated through word and deed until Hughes has spread a blanket over all of new Dublin, from nouveau rich real estate developers to the lowest and most degrading level of criminal.

The Wrong Kind of Blood showcases Hughesí writing chops without detracting from the readerís escape into his fictional world. His dialog flows, no surprise from a playwright, but he also has an unerring eye for description, selecting small details to make unique each setting and person. Clues are let out in a timely and unpredictable manner. The reader is never aware when someone will say or do something important, or when what seemed insignificant will become important.

The story is messy enough to be real. The characters are smart enough to be interesting without being so slick as to defy belief. No one is aware of what everyone else is up to, so plans are made and actions taken that donít result in anything like the anticipated outcome. Much of the story depends on the interrelatedness of the characters; Hughes never succumbs to the easy way out. Relationships are never created for the authorís convenience, keeping the story fully credible as Ed moves from one old acquaintance to the next, his circle of information growing as the interweaving of all the charactersí relationships becomes more intricate.

Ed Loy is not the stereotypical haunted man who drinks to forget while kicking ass and taking names. He is a haunted man who drinks too much and can handle himself in just about any situation, but first and foremost heís a man, with the strengths and weaknesses we can all identify in ourselves and our peers. The humor is genuine and flows from the characters and their circumstances, not the stenciled-on, cutesy result of a detective who canít touch a dead body, or has a wacky cast of characters who exist only provide cheap laughs in incongruous circumstances.

The Wrong Kind of Blood combines the elements of classic noir into a story that holds the interest and makes sense throughout. The stage has been set for a series; Ed Loy and his acquaintances have all the requisite strengths and foibles. Whether Hughes chooses to go in that direction or not, The Wrong Kind of Blood is a keeper.

 

 

 

Sea Change by Robert B. Parker

Publisher: Berkley,  ISBN-0425214427

Reviewed by Don Crouch, New Mystery Reader

We're not sure, but we'd be willing to bet real money that the Jesse Stone series is what Parker is having the most fun with. Chief Stone has more blurred edges than any other of his protagonists. He is a man conflicted: Currently living with his ex-wife; deciding if he has a drinking problem; keeping the citizens of Paradise MA safe from threats both foreign and domestic. Sea Change brings us, for the fourth time, into Jesse's world.

It's High Season in Paradise, with the annual yachting festival bringing in the requisite piles of cash and nautical superiority from all corners of the east. As the festivities start to build, in bobs the floating body of one Florence Horvath, dead for days.

Enter Chief Stone and his staff of loyal and effective deputies. Once Florence is extracted and autopsied, it becomes evident that natural causes were not at play. Certainly no surprise there, but now we get to hang out with the deputies, and Parker is starting to draw some fine ones here, none more so than Deputy Molly, the tiny dynamo that is the heart of the team. Her amplified presence is a welcome addition to the cast, as Parker brings more shadings to the force of her personality. Of course, there's Suitcase Simpson and the others, but it's Molly that gives the station house its moral center.

As the layers of the rotten little onion that was Florence Horvath's life are peeled back, Stone and his deputies begin to find the rich are, in fact, different. And in ways defying both depravity and preversion. While Stone is having trouble making a case for his murder, he is having no trouble at all finding crime to investigate. Drugs, sex, blackmail, and plenty of it. Those three factors attract the team, and away from what they're really looking for, the killer of Florence Horvath. For awhile, anyway.

Helping Jesse process the personal blowback of such crime is Jenn, the aforementioned ex-wife, who is now basically living with Jesse. They are we guess, the fractured mirror of that "other couple" Parker is known for. Jesse and Jenn are just as valiant as Spenser and Susan, even if their "tool belt" isn't as fancy.

Parker enjoys torturing Jesse, and does so nicely with the occasional appearance of Rita Fiore, famed slattern of the Parker Universe, and Jesse's hook-up in the last book, Stone Cold. Jesse needs her help navigating the detritus of the case, she is only too happy to oblige and torture Jesse with her obvious wiles. God Bless Her. Oh, and that Boston PI makes a couple of  "appearances" as well, keeping the circle tight in Parkerland.

As Stone swims deeper into the miasma of Florence Horvath's murder, certain currents lead him to the uber-harbors of Miami. Enter Miami PD Detective Kelly Cruz. Jesse establishes a quick and easy phone rapport with Kelly, and she becomes the investigation's eyes and ears in Miami, where live many of the bottom-dwellers of the case.

So, pay attention to Kelly Cruz, and you will soon discover the most interesting new character Parker's created in some time. Hers is a unique voice in this world, a self-assured woman, full of charm and light. Do not be surprised if she returns to any of Parker's "Boston books." 

Sea Change features some Parker's best plotting in awhile. Often criticized for falling back on his gifts, characterization and dialogue at the expense of, you know, telling a story, his narrative enthusiasm seems revitalized here.

He succeeds in bringing the distant threads of the story together in a seamless weave, and all with the style, humor and action that makes Parker a genre giant.