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Season of the Snake by Claire Davis

Publisher: St. Martin's Press ISBN: 0312332823

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

In this disturbing and ultimately satisfying thriller, Davis takes the reader down a road that grows increasingly menacing with each page, culminating in a gut wrenching ending that leaves one pondering the illusive and sometimes frightening nature of love. 

Nance, growing up in a small town in Wisconsin with her emotionally fragile sister Meredith, first saw tragedy when her mother died.  But when her young husband, the love of her life, is the next to go, she flees to the plains of Western Idaho in the hopes of shaping a new life for herself.  Eventually marrying again, she finds some sort of contentment with her new husband and her career in researching snakes.  But when her sister to comes to visit, suddenly her comfortable life begins to seem as though cloaked in shadow, and her husband's mysterious and bewildering behavior seems to foretell tragedy up ahead yet again. 

Alternating between Nance's and her husband's story, this tale will easily creep out even the most stalwart reader.  Davis has a gift for detail, and it's in her rich and vibrant descriptions of both seemingly innocent scenes and the truly macabre that make this story stand out.  Each and every scene is so alive that the reader feels almost like a voyeur caught watching these fully fleshed character's live out their passions, their weaknesses, and their ultimate betrayals.  Not an easy tale to read, as it leaves you wondering how well you truly know the lover next to you, and the creepiness instilled is of the sort that goes deep, it's still one heck of a good read and comes highly recommended. 

 

Light Before Day by Christopher Rice 

Publisher: Miramax Books ISBN: 1401300391

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Adam Murphy hasn't spent a single day sober for more years than he can count.  And after the death of his mother, the desertion of his boyfriend, and loss of his nowhere job at a magazine, things go from bad to worse until it all finally comes crashing down.  Unemployed and newly sober, he winds up taking a job with a famous novelist who is in search of a subject for a new book and is hoping that Adam might hold the ticket to that story.  But when Adam's ex lover goes missing they begin to look into his disappearance, all too soon discovering that three other young gay men had disappeared in very much the same manner, adding an even darker and more sinister tone to their search. 

All roads seem to lead to two different men, one a near legend whose quest for revenge against the world of drugs has left a swath of violence in his wake, and the other, a wealthy man hidden from authorities as he pursues a different sort of violence, one whose perversities he's quite willing to share with those who can pay.  And as the circle becomes ever tighter and closer to the center in which the ugly truth lays, Adam just might find a hint of redemption, that is if he can make it out alive.

Rice, a relatively young author, puts forth a genuinely startling thriller with a plethora of cunningly serpentine twists in his latest novel.  Coming on the heels of his two previous well-written novels, it's no surprise that he continues the good work and with an even greater degree of sophistication to his credit. It's not a Disneyland read, however, with its many graphic depictions of violence, drugs and other evils.  But it is exactly that sort of realistic and intense vividness that so finely captures some of the difficulties of the alternative lifestyles portrayed, making this an intelligent and worthwhile read.

 

Guilt by G.  H. Ephron

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312335954

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

When the first bomb strikes outside a Harvard law classroom, the citizens of Boston are of course frightened, including forensic neuropsychologist Peter Zak, and his significant other, investigator Annie Squires.  Especially upsetting to Annie is the fact that she personally knew one of the victims who died in the tragedy, a young intern who was helping an abused wife, Jackie Kelvinski, file a restraining order against her husband.  And when the second bomb hits the Cambridge courthouse, a place where had fate not intervened, both Peter and Annie would have met their deaths; they increase their efforts to help the police and FBI discover who might be behind the bombings. 

When fliers filled with anti-government sentiments are found in the areas surrounding the bomb sites, the concern grows that it may happen again, and soon.  But as this type of sentiment seems to be the rule rather than the exception in the Harvard area, police are unsure if this is the trail to follow.  Could it be foreign terrorists?  Or could it be Jackie's abusive husband?  Or perhaps even someone closer to Peter and Annie, someone with a more personal vendetta?  As the search continues, Peter and Annie will find their very lives at stake as they slowly approach the frightening truth.

Not as penetrating and psychologically suspenseful as the Ephron's previous titles, this latest seemed to lack the devious thrills that came before from this remarkable writing duo.  Perhaps I was just wasn't ready for this particular type of storyline; bombings and their aftermath.  But nonetheless it still is a gripping and fascinating read filled with interesting and likable characters, and we look forward to Annie and Peter's return, and perhaps even more progress in their slowly blossoming relationship.   

 

 

Too Late for Angels by Mignon F. Ballarad

Publisher:  St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN:  031233186X

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Lucy Nan Pilgrim had one of those days after a strange old lady showed up on her porch and demanded to see "mama".  Things got stranger after the lady disappeared from Lucy's house and turned up dead in the parking lot of a nearby church.

Then Lucy's best friend, Ellis, was suspected of murder and Lucy's house was burgled. What was the killer looking for? Who was the dead lady?  Why was Ellis suspected of killing her? And who was the strange woman who decided she was going to rent a room from Lucy Nan?

All these questions had the town of Stone's Throw buzzing when other suspicious deaths occurred and the finger pointing continued. Lucy Nan, Ellis, and Lucy Nan's new boarder, Augusta Goodnight, conduct their own investigation into a complex case to clear Ellis.

Romance, mystery, intrigue, and family complications abound in a great story that you will long remember, a story lived by characters you will come to consider old friends. A warm-hearted story crafted by a very talented author, Mignon F. Ballard to satisfy any mystery or paranormal fan.  Highly recommended.

 

Thicker Than Water by Rett MacPherson

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312334087

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

This is MacPherson's eighth outing featuring genealogist Torie O'Shea and it's nothing short of whimsical, sweet, and greatly appealing. 

Torie lives in her hometown of New Kassell Missouri with her husband and three very delightful children.  She loves her life in the small historic town and previously had spent her time as the secretary of the Historical Society, and tour guide of the Gahiemer House, owned by Sylvia Pershing, the town's cantankerous matriarch.  But when Sylvia dies at the ripe old age of 102, leaving all her assets to Torie including the grand mansion, Torie's life soon begins to resemble a disastrous soap opera, with the added catastrophe of a dreadful visit from the mother-in-law from hell. 

Finding a post card from decades past with an enigmatic message to Sylvia indicated a past wrong, is only the beginning in a series of events that will plunge Torie's life into mayhem and mystery.  Someone is not happy with Torie's new wealth and as the town takes sides against their new landlord; her mysterious new enemy goes even further by stalking Torie and threatening her well-being.  Finding out who is behind all this, and if there is a connection to the mysterious postcard, will once again place Torie in the line of fire, and surviving these events, including her witchy mother-in-law is not going to be easy.

With a gentle humor MacPherson creates an enchanting setting filled with charming characters all wrapped up in a fun and refreshingly clean mystery.   And while the mystery itself almost seems secondary to the traumas induced by Torie's new found wealth and her bad-tempered mother-in-law, this is not a concern as this only adds to a story that races ahead and keeps the reader chuckling and delighting the entire way through.   Highly recommended, this is one you won't want to miss. 

 

ADIOS HEMINGWAY by Leonardo  Padura Fuentes

Publisher: Canongate Books ISBN: 1841956422

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

During a violent storm an old mango tree is uprooted on Ernest Hemingway's old Havana plantation.  Among the tree roots there is an old body that has probably been buried for 60 years when Hemingway was still in residence.  Going over the scene the police also find an old FBI badge.

Mario Conde is a heavy drinking writer who used to be a cop.  When he is asked to take on the case he has mixed feelings because of his love/hate attitude about the famous author.  He finally realizes that because of his knowledge of Hemingway's life he is the best one to handle the investigation, and so he grudgingly accepts the challenge.

This is a novel for Hemingway fans.  It is very nostalgic and based on Conde's ambivalent attitudes that alone are worthy of dissection.  Fuentes goes into great detail about the mastership and perfection of the author while laying bare the soul of a man he felt to be a true bastard.  A novel mystery that authentically portrays a legend as a man, while at the same time providing the reader with a suspenseful procedural.