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Thirteen Days The Pythagoras Conspiracy by L. A. Starks

Publisher: Brown Books Publishing ISBN 1 933285 45 1

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader 

For those who like tough can-do heroines, pull up a chair: you'll like Lynn Dayton.

Lynn has put her reputation and career on the line by convincing her company to purchase a refinery on the Houston Ship Channel in Texas.  The Centennial Refinery has been plagued with problems, but Lynn is certain she can turn the operation around and make it successful.  Her employers,  TriCoast Energy, have allotted three months--then they want to see some progress. 

Lynn's down to only four weeks remaining when all hell breaks loose: there's a massive leak of hydrogen sulfide and several deaths, then a murder, and another murder.  Lynn quickly decides that there's a malign intelligence behind all these seemingly separate events, and sets out to uncover it before anything else goes wrong.

On the home front, she's juggling the care of her very ill father, and trying to sort out her sister, who has become distant and  uncooperative.  On a quick trip to Paris to try to repair their relationship, Lynn finds that her sister Ceil is involved with a very questionable Frenchman.  

Aided by a few trusted co-workers, Lynn begins to unravel what turns out to be a monstrous conspiracy, involving far more than the ruination of her pet project.  She figures out there has to be a traitor inside the company, but nearly comes to a very unpleasant death by trying to uncover him.  His ultimate fate is ironically apt.

If you like a fast-paced thriller with lots of technical information and a whole skein of loose threads that have to be knotted up, you'll enjoy this.


Black Fly Season by Giles Blunt

Publisher: Berkely  ISBN: 0425209571

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Its springtime in Algonquin Bay, Canada, which means that it's black fly season, the time of year when the insidious insects arrive in large numbers with nothing but feeding on their minds.  So when a young woman shows up at a tavern covered in bites and obviously disoriented and confused, many of the patrons of the bar look no further to explain her mysterious state.  But fortunately for the young woman, a cop is also in the bar, and sensing something horribly amiss he takes her in the hospital where it's shortly discovered that she has a bullet lodged in her brain.  Called into the case are Detectives John Cardinal and his partner Lisa Delorme who immediately run into a dead end as the young woman remembers nothing of what has happened to her.  But as her memory slowly returns, it becomes all too clear that she is still in great danger, as is anyone who dares to cross the evil man who thought he had secured her death long before.

This is my first time to experience a title from this amazing series, and it won't be my last.  Giles, a master at characterization and suspense, has written a story peopled with characters so vibrantly realistic that each one is as compelling as the next in this perfectly tuned tale of greed, the occult, madness and murder.  There is everything one might desire from a well told story; electric thrills, an interesting plot with plenty of creative and original twists and, above all else, these characters so alive they fairly leap off the page.  Especially noteworthy is the wonderfully portrayed John Cardinal, a man who makes a believable and likable hero whose pressures on and off the job add much to this already engrossing read.   Highly recommended, this is a tale that places Giles on the short list of authors to watch closely, and one whose return we eagerly await.      



Map of Bones by James Rollins

Publisher:  Avon Books  ISBN:  0060765240

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Lots of excitement and tension from page one to the end. Guaranteed to keep any thriller or suspense fan turning pages deep into the night.  A book you'll hate to put down.

Evil comes to church disguised as monks to kill and steal holy relics kept in the church.  A mysterious mass murder takes place in the church with only one survivor who had seen the monks.

Insidious evil is setting itself against the Vatican seeking, perhaps to bring about Armageddon with an eye toward themselves as the winners.  Who are they?  Do they have members inside the Vatican itself?  Who are their associates that attack the people the Vatican has turned to for help? What do they want with the bones of the Magi?

Grayson Pierce of the group called Sigma is chosen to head the team sent to combat the ancient enemy known as the Dragon Court and The Guild.  The problems seem insurmountable as the enemy confronts and defeats Sigma's team at every turn.

While someone on the inside is working for the enemy, Sigma may have a sort of helper working on their own agenda.  Who?  Why?  What do they hope to gain? Can they be trusted?

Talented author James Rollins keeps the tension mounting as the battle between good and evil is waged.  Recommended for any reader who likes action set in exotic and dark places.  A book you will long remember and you'll want to read other tales by this imaginative author.  Enjoy.  I certainly did.



Deep Sea Dead by Lori Avocato

Publisher:  Avon Books ISBN:  0060837004

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

A fun tale for anyone who loves mysteries and cruise ships.  You'll want to laugh at some of the things that happen to PI Pauline Sokol when she's assigned the task of looking for fraud in shipboard medical care, but some aren't funny at all.

It seems everyone she knows except her boss is traveling with her on this ship, only they are passengers and she is working as a nurse, the career choice she left to become a PI. Romance also follows her on board as she meets more than one attractive man among her co-workers.  Who knew working as a PI would be such fun?

There are those moments that aren't so light however, as when she finds her new roommate has been murdered.  Then too, Pauline learns the man she is replacing just disappeared. Is the man she's seen on board this man or is this a coincidence?

Will Pauline survive the cruise?  Will Pauline find true love or will it find her?  Are the murder and medical fraud linked?  How?  These are a few of the questions you find as you read. 

From fashion hi jinks to romantic hi jinks, this is a book I'm happy to recommend to any reader.  Lots of fun with a cast of lively characters who will keep you guessing.  A book you'll read more than once and you'll be looking for other books by talented author Lori Avocato.  Enjoy.


The Cane Mutiny by Tamar Myers

Publisher:  Avon Books ISBN:  0060535199

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Goosebumps and antiques to be found in Charleston, South Carolina, where Abigail Timberlake Washburn has her antiques shop, The Den of Antiquity. On any given day she's likely to see a ghost and deny it while her mother is emphatic about what she's seen. 

A collection of old canes purchased for resale seems to have a mind of its own as the canes keep being tumbled on the floor.  Abby thinks her assistant C.J. is responsible while C.J. thinks the culprit is Abby.  They both disclaim spilling the canes, so who is responsible.  A ghost perhaps? 

Then a skull turns up in a locked container that Abby bought from a storage bin sale.  This leads to Abby being arrested by a couple of cops who on a par with the old Keystone Cops for smarts. 

Things turn serious when the housekeeper of one of Abby's customers is murdered.  The lady had wanted to talk to Abby in private so Abby decides to find out why.

A well written, imaginative tale by talented author Tamar Myers.  I am happy to recommend it to any mystery lover. You'll be looking for other books by her as well.  Happy reading.



Always Time to Die by Elizabeth Lowell

Publisher: Avon  ISBN: 0060504196

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When personal historian Carly May is invited to Taos by Winifred Simmons to research the Castillo female family line of New Mexico, she jumps at the opportunity to learn more of the interesting genealogical and historical family facts of this colorful family.  But the patriarch of the family has just passed, a US Senator and a man with some very ugly family secrets, secrets he has left with his son, Governor of New Mexico, and presidential hopeful, Josh Quintrell. 

It slowly becomes apparent to Carly that these are secrets that somebody means to keep, even if it means murder, and so as the threats increase against Carly and her impromptu partner Dan Duran, along with the body count, it's going to take much more than organizational skills and curiosity to get to the bottom of things, and to stay alive.

As one who holds the beautiful and enchanting town of Taos close to her heart, I was fully prepared to be disappointed in this read that dares to delve deep into the history and people of this distinctive and special place.  But Lowell occasionally surprised me with her often acute grasp of all that is unique here, and all that is not.  Sure, there were a few instances I might have argued, but for the most part Lowell did a fine job of capturing at least some of the uniqueness to be found in Taos.  For those who have never been to Taos, Lowell's tale, though while missing some of the more special aspects of the surrounding beauty and the general goodness of the "regular folk", may just compel you give this place a visit.  

All in all, this tale with plenty of ambiance and romance will easily thrill and delight those unfamiliar with this part of the country that remains unique against many odds.  Definitely recommended.


Dancing in the Dark by Mary Jane Clark

Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks  ISBN: 0312994214

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Diane Mayfield, a television correspondent with a popular New York news-magazine, is more than ready for the upcoming vacation with her two young children to the Grand Canyon.  But plans have a way of changing at the last moment, and so when her boss assigns her to a story about girls who "cry wolf", she finds herself in Ocean Grove, New Jersey.  In this small beach town a young woman tells the story of being abducted and, oddly enough, being made to dance, but it's a story in which  the police and most of the town believe that she has made up.  But when yet another young woman goes missing, it becomes all too apparent that danger does indeed stalk the streets of this quaint coastal town, and that whoever stalks these streets has only just begun their reign of terror.

Clark has put forth a suspenseful tale that resonates with some pretty big issues of the day; mainly those of our culture's obsession with body image, and the affect this has on young women who battle this in dangerous ways.  A compelling and exciting read, Clark offers a multitude of suspects that easily keep the reader guessing and raptly engaged.  And with a sprinkling of clues, some readers may even guess the truth before it's offered up in the explosive ending.  Recommended, and much more interesting than her previous outings, this one's a winner.          



The Burning Girl by Mark Billingham

Publisher: Avon  ISBN: 0-06-0745274

Reviewed by Tim Davis for New Mystery Reader

In 1984, a young girl named Jessica Clarke was viciously attacked when doused with lighter fluid and then set on fire in London. Gordon Rooker, an unpleasant fellow with unsavory connections to some of London’s most disreputable and dangerous people, was quickly arrested, and following his hasty confession and conviction, Rooker was quite properly locked away into prison for a long, long time.

Now, in an incident that appears to be unrelated to Rooker’s despicable felony, a London crime syndicate associate named Mickey Clayton becomes the latest victim in a series of vicious crimes. Murdered (or perhaps “executed” says it more correctly), Clayton’s body is reduced to inert room temperature rather quickly by a 9mm bullet to the head (which seems sufficiently effective in and of itself), but the body is further insulted by an unpleasant mutilation: a large “X” has been cut into his body from shoulders to hips.

The Clayton case becomes Detective Inspector Tom Thorne’s latest challenge. Protagonist Thorne is a forty-three year old law enforcement veteran who has his hands full with Clayton’s murder: This is now the fourth murder in six weeks with the same M.O. and the same signature mutilation, and Thorne is under pressure to understand the connections between the victims and find the person (or persons) responsible.

But Thorne, as if not busy enough, is also being drawn into a separate and troubling mystery brought to him by Carol Chamberlain, a retired detective inspector who has—she believes—new (if somewhat unusual) evidence that would require a reopening of the Jessica Clarke/Gordon Rooker case. Chamberlain was the investigating officer in 1984, but she now—because of unusual events that seem to be happening to her—begins to wonder if the wrong man might have been convicted because of a questionable confession and questionable evidence.

Now—as the action begins to explode into a bizarre series of fast-paced events—Chamberlain and Thorne begin to realize that the Clayton case and the Clarke/Rooker case might, in fact, be connected. Solve one case, they believe, and you easily solve the other. Or so it would seem.

What unfolds in the novel’s 356 pages is author Mark Billingham’s deftly plotted excursion into London’s world of crime syndicates, murderous revenge, and relentless duplicity. As the body-count steadily increases and as the mystery deepens in The Burning Girl, Billingham pulls out all the stops in this rather well-done police-procedural. Readers of The Burning Girl (who would find similar tales of criminals and law enforcement in the novels of Ian Rankin and Val McDermid) should enjoy their vicarious immersion into the grit and grime of Billingham’s crime-polluted London. 



To Darkness and To Death by Julia Spencer-Fleming

Publisher:  St. Martin's Paperbacks  ISBN:  0312988877

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

How can the simple act of trying to preserve a forest from logging cause a girl to disappear, another to be beaten within an inch of her life, a man to lose his business due to his daughter's activities, and a man who has lost his job be driven to desperate measures that could result in murder?  This is the puzzle Reverend Clare Fergusson and the chief of police Russ Van Alstyne try to unravel, only to find it becoming more and more tangled as others become involved.

What happened to Millie van der Hoeven when she went for a late night walk? This is the beginning of the puzzle that reaches out to snag more and more people in its web.  How does Randy Shoof's search for a job or anything that will give him an income become involved? What is the reason for Betsy Castle being found nearly dead by hunters?  How did she get out in the woods?

You'll find these and many more questions waiting for answers as you follow Clare and Russ along wooded trails and listen in on their conversations regarding this complex and tautly woven tale by talented author Julia Spencer-Fleming.

Highly recommended as a read that will keep you turning pages. You'll enjoy meeting the complex inhabitants of the small town where Clare serves as minister to a small church. Not the first time she's been in the thick of happenings that draw the attention of the newspapers and it won't be the last. You'll be looking for other books by this author.  Enjoy.



Strange Affair by Peter Robinson

Publisher: Avon ISBN: 0060544341

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader  

As per usual, Robinson has put out yet another fine mystery featuring the indomitable Inspectors Alan Banks and Annie Cabbott.  This time out, Banks is on holiday and still feeling the emotional affects of his last case when he receives a very disturbing phone call from his estranged brother intimating that he's in danger.  When Alan is unable to reach him, he rushes to London to discover what the trouble is only to find his brother missing and a mere scattering of alarming clues indicating something is very amiss.  

Meanwhile, Annie has her own disturbing case to ponder.  A young woman has been found dead in her car on a deserted stretch of highway, and what's even more disturbing is that Alan's address is found in her back pocket.  And while at first these two cases seem miles apart, upon further inspection it is discovered that they are tied together in ways that may once again threaten the lives of these beloved characters.

This is one of the more consistently well-drawn mystery series out there these days and Robinson, once again, does not miss a single step in this absorbing tale of deviance and greed.  And the insights shown into Alan's character as seen through his relations with his brother are an enlightening and heartrending peek into his enigmatic ways, making for a much more emotional story than usual.  Highly recommended, don't miss this latest menacing and disturbing tale from the British master of mystery.      



The Architect by Keith Ablow

Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks ISBN: 031293971X

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Dr. Frank Clevenger, a consulting forensic psychologist with the FBI, continues to fight his demons, external and internal, in this brilliant addition to the series which is nothing short of spectacular.  This time out, he's asked to help track a killer who appears to be targeting his victims at random, with their only connection being wealth and prestige, and later discovered, a tie to Yale's secret society, The Scull and Bones.  Meanwhile, the reader is aware that the killer is one of the most compelling villains to come along in awhile, an architect named West Crosse who not only deigns to build the perfect home for his clients, but the perfect life, even if that entails a renewal that only murder can accomplish. 

In between his search for the killer, Clevenger must also continue to deal with his progressively virulent and rebellious adopted son, his tempestuous relationship with his lover, and his powerful draw to the bottle, all too often finding little success for hope, and plenty of reasons for failure.

As usual, Ablow doesn't just tell a good story, he creates a world that is impossible not to be drawn into emotionally and intellectually.  Clevenger is so completely realized that we can understand his failures- just as we simultaneously feel disappointment and frustration, but with a tenacious hope that he will once again make it through relatively unscathed. If that's not enough, Ablow also once again creates a villain of epic proportions, one who is also too eerily understood, whose actions while virulent and hideous still make some kind of sense via Ablow's finely tuned words, but one who also serves as an instrument of warning regarding the dangers of striving for perfection at any cost.   It's disconcerting, to say the least, how Ablow so easily makes sense of the nonsensical, and how he makes you believe that it is all too possible.  Easily recommended as one of the most suspenseful and perfectly tuned novels of recent writings, but with a warning, it's hard to walk out of this world once you've entered.