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The Replacement by Susan Wales and Robin Shope 

Publisher: Revell ISBN: 0800731115

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Washington Gazette investigative reporter Jill Lewis is on the scene when Senator George Brown collapses on the capital steps and is rushed to the hospital where he dies of a massive stroke.  When Thomas Harrison who is rumored to be replacing Brown as minority floor leader calls, she knows she has a story.   Harrison informs her that Brown has been murdered and the authorities need to do a more thorough autopsy but he can only be quoted as an informed government source.  When the backlash begins Jill feels she is in danger and has no one to turn to. Harrison cannot be named, her intern is missing, and her FBI fiancé is undercover in Florida.  This is one storm she must weather on her own and keep digging until the authorities believe her.

The authors have created a delightful heroine who is smart, tenacious and bent on finding the truth.  The plot is a suspenseful mix of politics, conspiracy, action and romance, making for a well rounded read that easily entertains.

 

Malicious Intent by Kathryn Fox

Publisher: Harper Paperbacks ISBN: 0060857951

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When forensic specialist Dr. Anya Crichton discovers that several women who are apparently suicides have several things in common, all which show up in the autopsies, she begins looking for a pattern.  Budget strapped police departments just want the cases closed so they can get on with the next case.  But Anya refuses to give up and keeps digging for information until she winds up in a hole she may not be able to get out of. 

Fox has written a novel that captures the imagination and does not turn loose.  You get totally involved in the forensics information and the manipulative behavior modification techniques she writes about.  This is a very engrossing novel that you will not put down even though your skin is crawling continuously to the very surprising ending. 

 

 

Poison Heart by Mary Logue

Publisher:  Fawcett ISBN:  0345462254

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

A tale that takes us into a different setting with a different type of victim, a story that is also a thriller and has a great blend of just-right romance.  Put on your sturdy outdoors shoes and take a walk into the Wisconsin countryside.

Old farmer, Walter Tilde, is hospitalized after a stroke and his wife, Patty Jo, plans to sell everything he owns.  His daughter, Margaret, objects and asks deputy sheriff Claire Watkins if there isn't something the law can do to stop it. She says she was supposed to inherit the farm.

Thus Claire becomes involved in a series of arsons, a threat to her own home, and finding who shot a pet stud elk named Harvey that turns up on her doorstep. As she makes the rounds to check out the crimes occurring in this rural area, the reader gets to meet a wonderfully done cast of characters set in a way of life that seems to be dying out.  One attends the desanctifying of a church that has lost most of its parish members, a wedding of two people in their sunset years, and learns how good life can be in a small town. 

In chasing an arsonist, Claire is finding herself doubtful of a death attributed to 'failure to thrive'. But there is no way to prove it was anything else.  Her search takes her out of town to look into the past.  What she finds, casts new light on her investigation.

A thoroughly enjoyable read. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys  a well-told tale by a talented author like Mary Logue.  You'll be looking for other books by this imaginative author. Enjoy.

 

The Death Collectors by Jack Kerley

Publisher: Signet ISBN: 0451218299

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader  

If you thought Kerley's first, The Hundredth Man, in this electrifying new series was good, then this one should absolutely blow you away.  And for those of you who haven't read the above, don't worry, you will.

We catch up to our heroes- Mobile, AL Detectives Carson Ryder and his partner Harry Nautilus shortly after the closing of their last big case, for which they have now been chosen Mobile's Officers of the Year.  With the validation of their two man task force that deals with only the "weird" cases at last given, the two are summarily called out to a new case when a woman is found murdered in a motel room, her body surrounded by candles and other strange objects. 

And when yet another body turns up, they soon discover the connection to a case 30 years previously, a case in which a group of Manson like cultists went on a murderous rampage, ending with their leader's capture and subsequent murder in the courthouse following his conviction.  Tied to this are rumors of the madman's art, art which is now being left at the new disturbing murder scenes, eventually leading the detectives on the trail of a group of collectors who search out murder memorabilia.  But they are unprepared for how far they will have to go to find the truth, and just how disturbing it will really be. 

The serpentine plot of this latest is so absolutely stunning and clever that the reader will be hard-pressed to even come close to guessing where the truth really lies.  Madness, art, murder and deception are just some of the delicious ingredients found in this mouth-watering novel that surprises with every bite.  Carson Ryder is also a continuing enticement, his character richly and vividly portrayed with the requisite amount of kinks and rips.  A definite winner, Kerley doesn't just continue his good work; he improves upon it with finesse and aplomb.        

 

All U Can Eat by Emma Holly

Publisher: Berkley Trade ISBN: 0425209776

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Frankie Smith owns a diner in Six Palms which is the hangout for most of the locals.  When Troy, her lover for the past five years, dumps her she doesn't have much time to feel sorry for herself.  If that's not enough, she then finds her rich friend Tish dead on her loading dock, soon discovering that Troy had left her for Tish and her best friend Ellen, making her  Police Chief Jack West's prime suspect.  In order to clear her name she joins Jack and a few other locals to find the truth.

This is s real roller coaster ride with lots of twists and turns.  The steamy sexual encounters are frequently interrupted to make way progress on the murder plot, giving a nice blend of both the steam up your day.  A fun and exciting read, if that's your kind of thing, just be prepared for a whole lot of heat.

 

Forcing Amaryllis by Louise Ure

Publisher: Warner Books ISBN: 0446615021

Louise Ure’s Forcing Amaryllis is an impressive and original debut novel, which sheds light on a hitherto unexamined aspect of the criminal justice system: the profession (for such apparently it is) of trial consultant.  Calla Gentry, Ure’s heroine, is just such a beast and her job involves conducting focus groups and finding various duplicitous (but perfectly legal) ways to select a jury and influence their decision-making.  At one point within the novel a defense attorney says, within Calla’s hearing, “Let’s now put the victim on trial.”  It is a sentiment that carries the ring of authenticity.

Originality is the prime virtue of Forcing Amaryllis, but there are plenty of others.  The story is compelling: Calla is on a hunt to find the man who had raped her sister several years before (this sister, Amaryllis, has remained in a coma after a suicide attempt made shortly after the rape had occurred).  There is a genuine sympathy for the traumatic plight of women who are rape-survivors and for their struggles for justice.  Much good use is made of forensic detail, especially DNA samples (we are all CSI-savvy now!), and of the state of Arizona itself, which is where the story is set.  Arizona is almost a protagonist in the book; you can virtually feel the heat, even from rainy England.

It’s instructive to look at what moves the plot along in mysteries, I think.  Here Calla works with a PI who is sympathetic to her cause and Enrique, her sweetheart from high school, also happens to be a cop.  The information that they provide for her drive the story forward; and it’s a story that is told with a judicious helping of felicitous wit.

I enjoyed Forcing Amaryllis very much.  Louise Ure is a true original who has provided us with an eye-opener on the criminal justice system.  If I am sitting in the judge’s chair (and I’m sitting in a chair at the moment), my verdict has to be that this is a debut novel that has provided convincing evidence of the flowering of a new talent on the mystery scene.  Case proved!

 

Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner

Publisher: Washington Square Press ISBN: 0743470125

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Mother of three Kate Klein isn't having such a great time in the Connecticut suburb of Upchurch with its plethora of super mommies, perfect gardens, and faultless homes.  She simply doesn't fit in with her extra 30 pounds or so of baby weight, her disheveled clothing, and her messy house.  And missing the city like crazy, along with a husband who finds work more interesting than home life, only seems to make her adjustment that much worse, leaving her alone to fight her maddening boredom.  But when she finds the body of one of the super mommies bludgeoned to death in her spotless home, suddenly there is a spark in her life again as she attempts to unravel the mystery in-between play dates and house cleaning.  And just maybe with the help of her crazy best friend from the city, the two can piece this puzzle together and have a little excitement in the meantime.

This humorous and engaging read is sure to garner Wiener new fans as well as delight her old.  She does a wonderful job of unveiling what lies behind that perfect façade that seems to hide the lives of quiet desperation in the seemingly perfect suburbs, and she does it with great deal of wit and charm.  You couldn't find a more empathetic character than Kate, a woman who is attempting to settle into motherhood and marriage, but desperately missing her days of old when life was just a tad glamorous and a lot exciting, a feeling women everywhere might recognize with a secret smile.   This revealing look into the lives of super mommies and suburbs is one of the best out there and so comes highly recommended.    

 

 

Killer Takes All by Erica Spindler

Publisher: Mira ISBN: 0778323056

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Stacy Killian, once a detective with the Dallas police force, now lives in New Orleans and is attempting to change her life by attending grad school and putting a past filled with violence and betrayal behind her.  But when she's awakened one night by a gunshot and next finds her new friend and neighbor dead, she's drawn back into the dark world she thought she left behind.  Unable to stay out of the investigation, she quickly jumps on the only clue available; her friend's interest in a role playing game called The White Rabbit. 

But the real detectives assigned to the case, including the young and sexy Spencer Malone, find her interference less than helpful, and so Stacy begins to follow leads on her own.  Meeting the inventor of the game, a rich and powerful man with his own secrets, he hires Stacy to look into the connection.  And as the body count continues to rise, along with the disturbing clues left behind relating to the game, Stacy is once again thrust into a world that's all too familiar and terrifying.

You can always count on Spindler to put forth a suspenseful and electrifying read and with this latest being just as gripping as any before, she keeps her track record intact.  Stacy, a convincing heroine with faults and fears like any other woman, or man for that matter, helps make the story that much more genuine, giving the reader a worthy protagonist to root for.  And while some of the ending may stretch the credibility factor just a bit, somehow it works as you're just having too much fun and are too invested to let it matter.  Once again, Spindler proves that she has the romantic suspense genre nailed down pat, with not too much of one and too little of the other, meaning this is one great read with enough of both to satisfy.

 

One Cold Night by Kate Pepper

Publisher: Onyx ISBN: 0451412141

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

New York detective Dave Strauss has had a pretty successful career of catching the bad guys, but there's one case that will forever haunt him, the disappearance of a young teen girl taken by a madman known only as The Groom the previous year.  Now happily married, he and his wife Susan have a full and complete life, especially since Susan's younger sister Lisa came to live with the couple.  But one night after Lisa hears a shocking secret from Susan she goes missing, and as the case progresses, Dave's previous case will come back to haunt them all, while deadly secrets are revealed one by one.      

Not only is this read frequently suspenseful and gripping, with parts of the story being especially insightful in regards to certain types of abuse and its effects, but one must also note Pepper's shrewd acknowledgement of the ludicrous ideals presented by tales such as "Lolita" and the dangerous premises glorified.  There are many times that Pepper hits all the right notes with intelligence and compassion in this very taut tale of past mistakes and ruined souls.  She's got a good thing going in those moments with her flair for a good turn of phrase illuminated, and it's in these moments that we can see an author who has much more to offer than the standard suspense being supplied, leaving the reader eagerly looking forward to the next.

 

 

The Julian Secret by Gregg Loomis

Publisher: Leisure Books ISBN: 0843956917

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When attorney and former CIA agent Lang Reilly is asked by his old friend's daughter to investigate her father's murder, he has no idea just how deadly the request will turn out to be.  He soon discovers that the manuscript and computer files Don Huff was working on are missing and he suspects that Huff may have uncovered a secret that someone doesn't want revealed.  And when his car blows up and his airplane is sabotaged, he knows he's on the right track.  Looking for answers he travels to Europe, eventually winding up at the Vatican, a place of even more questions and an even deadlier truth.     

Loomis has produced a novel that is mind blowing.  For people who have questions about the diversity in the gospels and who Jesus really was, this book is food for thought.  Reilly's struggles for the truth, his death defying escapes, and his dogged pursuit of a resolution provide for plenty of suspense.  His CIA girlfriend Gurt, through intuition and logic, covers his back to the very end.  This is a fantastic work for readers who like tenacious investigators along with provocative questions regarding world relations and religions….an intelligent and thoughtful read that should entice.

 

 

The Code of Love Cheryl Sawyer

Publisher: Signet Eclipse ISBN 0 451 21838 8

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

The saying goes "All's Fair in Love and War".   That may be true, but there
seems to be an unfair amount of trickery, misleading information, rumours and
duplicity coming between the beautiful Delphine Dagleish and Sir Gideon Landor, both pawns in the Napoleonic wars.  Gideon was being held prisoner on the beautiful island of Mauritius by the French, but escaped, leaving Delphine to face a similar fate when the English forces took over the island.

Desperate to save the family home on the island, Delphine goes to Paris, where she is talked into becoming a sort of secret agent by Napoleon himself.   She agrees, and is swept up into a whirlwind of intrigue and plots.

Her path crosses Gideon's again several times, but the attraction between them is kept at bay by Delphine's belief that he's a traitor to his own country.
Unlike those in Paris  who would lionize him for being a secret agent, she
thinks it's shameful.  However, when her own role-playing in England puts her
in a position of peril, Sir Gideon rescues her by pretending they are engaged.

This complicates the plot dreadfully, since Delphine was supposed to be getting close to another Englishman, so that she can  find out if he has the secret code that could spell the difference between success and failure for Napoleon's plans.  Is there any hope for this apparently doomed romance?

Laying a solid foundation of historical fact, Cheryl Sawyer constructs a
fictional superstructure that could pass as genuine.  Highly recommended to
fans of historical romance/adventure stories.  If that isn't your usual choice,
give this a try anyway, it's an excellent introduction to the genre.

 

 

Blown Away by Shane Gericke

Publisher: Pinnacle Books ISBN 0 7860 1813 5

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

One of a reviewer's hardest jobs is not to judge a book by its cover.   You have
to overlook appearances, particularly when you get uncorrected proofs, sometimes held together with just a binder clip.  The measure of a really good read is if you get pulled into the story to the point where you don't notice anything BUT the story.

"Blown Away" is one of those books.  The spiral-bound uncorrected proof was slippery and hard to handle, but by Chapter Two I didn't care, I had to read on and find out what happened to the widowed rookie cop Emily Thompson after she realised that the serial murderer was killing people based on something  from her own childhood.

Gericke has invented a police force that deserves to have its own TV show.
There's Emily herself, still hurting from her husband's senseless death, and
doing punishing runs through the cemetery to stay connected to him.  There's
Captain Branch, who suffers under the first name "Hercules", but who sees in
Emily the potential to be a top-class cop.  There's the loathsome Rayford
Leurchen, a sexist, racist, useless sergeant, who gets by because he's the
sheriff's stepson.   There's Emily's friend Annie Bates, who shares her greater
experience of working in a man's world with humour and understanding.  And
there's Marty Benedetti, who might just entice Emily out of her emotional
isolation.

The storyline is punctuated with some really nasty flashbacks into the making of a serial killer: if pathologically dysfunctional families distress you, then
perhaps you should skip those bits.

The writing moves right along, no stagnant pools here, and there are some
felicitous phrases that deserve to be read twice.  I particularly liked "The
kid's eyes gleamed with beer and adoration", and the part where the cops
arrange to meet at a diner to compare notes.  One of them says  "Sounds good.  We can order doughnut omelets, seeing we're cops and all."

A good read; don't pick it up if you're planning to rake the yard or any other
time-consuming domestic activity.