More August Paperbacks
 

 

Home
Current Issue
Additional New Mysteries
Readers Recommend
Small Press
Featured Authors
Books In Audio
Hard Cover Archives
Submission Guidelines
Short Stories
Mystery links

click on titles for buying info

Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand by Fred Vargas

Publisher:  Penguin Books  ISBN:  978-0-14-311216-7

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader 

Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, chief of police of Paris’s 7th Arrondissement, thinks his biggest problems are getting the heat at the station fixed and coaxing his capitaine, Danglard, onto a plane to Canada for DNA training.  Until something stirs his memories of the Trident, a serial killer he has spent all of his professional career pursuing.

The Trident leaves his mark on all his victims—three perfectly spaced puncture wounds.  And he is always careful to frame someone to take the blame for the crime, usually someone so out of their mind with drink that they can’t provide an alibi.  Adamsberg knows the pattern all too well; the life of his brother Raphael was destroyed after his pregnant girlfriend Lise was murdered by the Trident.  Although Adamsberg betrayed his professional ethics to alibi his brother, Raphael was still considered guilty.

Adamsberg has difficulty convincing fellow police that the Trident is killing again, particularly because Judge Fulgence, the man Adamsberg identified as the Trident, died sixteen years earlier.

Attending DNA training in the vast, frozen fields outside Ottawa, the Trident is never far from Adamsberg’s mind, but Adamsberg still doesn’t realize he’s walking straight into his trap.  Framed for a murder he’s not sure he didn’t commit, Adamsberg is forced into hiding and given six weeks to track the dead serial killer.

Apparently Europeans have longer attention spans than American readers, so Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand may move a bit slowly for some audiences.  Nonetheless, reading the book is well-worth the investment of time.  Some of the happy coincidences Adamsberg encounters are a bit unlikely, and he himself is alternately brilliant and utterly clueless (especially in regards to his personal life).  The relationship of Adamsberg and Danglard is sometimes reminiscent of Pooh and Piglet (with Pooh craving alcohol rather than honey).  It’s easy to understand why Fred Vargas is a best-selling author in France, but less easy to understand why she’s virtually unheard of in the United States.

 

 

Dead Right (Stillwater Trilogy) by Brenda Novak

Publisher: Mira  ISBN 978-0778324393

Reviewed by Victoria Kennedy, New Mystery Reader

Madeline Barker is the owner of the local newspaper in a small Mississippi town.  Her father’s been missing for almost twenty years and she’s obsessed with finding out what happened to him.  Everyone in town points the finger at certain members of her family, but Madeline refuses to believe they’re guilty. 

There’s finally a break in the case when a drowning at a quarry leads to the discovery of her father’s car.  Madeline goes to the site and watches expectantly as the car’s pulled from the water.  Sadly there’s no body and still no clue about what happened to her father.  Madeline is heartbroken and starts to fall apart.  It seems like she’ll do anything now to find what happened to her father. 

The police find something odd hidden in the trunk of the car, but Madeline’s in denial over her father’s connection to it.  She hires a good-looking private investigator named Hunter Solozano.  What will happen when he uncovers secrets kept hidden for so long?  Will the truth set her free and ease her mind or will it drive Madeline over the edge?

Not having read the previous novels in the series left me scratching my head for a while, but I soon caught on.  I also thought the author gave away too many details at the first of the book, but changed my mind as I turned the pages and the story grew more complex.  Parts of it were a little too graphic for me, but I did enjoy reading the book.  It’s a great story with just the right blend of mystery and romance. 

 

 

You Have the Right to Remain Puzzled by Parnell Hall

Publisher:  Bantam Books  ISBN:  05538587641

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

A borrowed puzzle plan shouldn't result in murder. An innocent request for help from the puzzle lady by a woman who has dented a fender on the family car shouldn't cause havoc, but it does.

The fact is that Cora Felton who is known as the puzzle lady can't help wanting to investigate and is sometimes handed a problem by the local police chief that he hasn't the time or manpower to tackle, usually something as mundane as a burglary in a shed behind an antiques store. And, dear reader, you will be wondering how the first ties into the second problem. 

Telling would be like looking at the answers to the puzzles contained in this book--it would ruin the ending.  So I recommend you read the story to find the solutions to both. 

Talented author Parnell Hall offers mystery fans something different with his imaginative characters who drive the plot and keep us reading. 

I'm pleased to recommend this book to any mystery and puzzle fan who enjoys participating in the unraveling of a mystery.  Enjoy.  I did.

 

 

Publisher: Ballantine Books ISBN: 0345475453

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Ricky Smith jumps from the balcony of his room because the hotel is on fire.  He lands is a swimming pool several stories below and climbs out, walks across the street to a casino, borrows $20 from an old lady playing blackjack, bounces around the casino playing every table game there is, and wins a fortune.  He returns to Slippery Rock North Carolina, his home town, and wins a trip to Hawaii, buys a winning ticket in a $50,000 lottery, and wins over $800 in a horse race.

Tony Valentine, an ex-cop who happens to be the foremost authority on cheating, scamming, hustling, and everything crooked that has to do with gambling, is asked by the Nevada Gaming Commission to track Ricky down and prove he's a cheater.  Tony asks his Gerry for assistance.  Little do they know that they will run afoul of drug dealers, the Dixie Mafia and dishonest stock brokers.

This novel has a plot that keeps the reader on his toes to the very last page.  It is an education in the various ways to cheat a casino.  Tony Valentine is an honest, down-home character who won't stop until he has solved the mystery.  Anxiously awaiting the next adventure involving Tony and the interesting criminals he will next be asked to track.

 

 

Prey For a Miracle by Aimee and David Thurlo

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312993706

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Sister Agatha is an extern nun at a cloistered monastery near Bernalillo, New Mexico.  She drives a Harley Davidson with a side car and her most frequent passenger is Pax, a retired police dog.  When Father Mahoney's sister and 8 year old niece, Natalie, are forced off the road in a thunderstorm, leaving Natalie's mother locked in a coma and Natalie herself nowhere to be found, Sister Agatha joins the search team looking for Natalie, the special little girl who claims to have a guardian angel.  Everybody wants a piece of the child; sick people, people who need hope, and tabloid reporters, so when Sister Agatha and Pax find Natalie they put her into hiding at the monastery and join Sheriff Green in tracking down the hit and run culprits.

The Thurlo's write absolutely delightful novels with Sister Agatha and Pax as the star characters, a duo of investigators that are both unique and full of charm.  Once they get on the trail nothing stops them, and the only thing that takes them away from an investigation is religious duty.  The angels are incorporated into the plot in such a way that you really want to believe in them and might just find yourself asking the questions  Do we all have guardian angels?  Can that somehow explain some of the things that happen in our lives?  An engaging tale full of vigor and delight, this one should please fans of this humorous series.

 

 

What Came Before He Shot Her by Elizabeth George

Publisher:  Harper  ISBN 0060545631

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader 

If you're looking for a comforting, relaxing Christmas gift book, keep looking: this isn't it.

Well-written, well-researched, makes-you-feel-like-you're there, yes.  But comforting? No, not by light-years.

Elizabeth George's books have always had a dark streak.  The protagonist, Thomas Lynley, has done his share of soul-searching.  We've experienced the mean streets and emotionally impoverished background of his assistant, Barbara Havers.    Lynley's courtship of Helen, which finally resulted in marriage, was far from a path of lightness.

The new book goes to a different level of reality.  The last book, "With No-one As Witness," hit the reader between the eyes with the apparently senseless murder of the pregnant Helen Lynley; "What Came Before He Shot Her" details in harrowing detail how several tragic, sad, wasted lives came together to result in that murder.

This is an oddly involving and compelling book that has been marketed as fiction--but you know it really isn't.  You know there are families out there just as torn and tortured as Joel's; there are girls as disposable and undervalued as Ness; there are women like Kendra toiling at thankless and underpaid jobs, desperately trying to provide a home and a future for children in the face of insurmountable odds.

This is a book that few will enjoy in the usual sense, but all should read--and then thank whatever superior being they believe in that this isn't their story.  If George doesn't win a few major awards for this one, somebody's asleep at the switch.

 

 

 

Mask Market by Andrew Vachss

Publisher: Vintage ISBN 0-307278301

Reviewed by Don Crouch, New Mystery Reader

Andrew Vachss has carved himself an Ellroy-sized section of the American Noir highway. His Burke novels have laid down the asphalt, and such standalones as Shella, The Getaway Man, and the GREAT Two Trains Running have marked the lanes. He is a major American writer. Just don't tell him, ok? Please, it's for the best. If you've ever attended one of his "readings," you know what we mean.

There are reasons for this. Primarily is that Vachss writes not to tell stories, per se, but to send messages to affect behavior. And it's working. He has mobilized a virtual army in the battle against child pornography, and the visible result is PROTECT, the only child-protection PAC in the nation. They've overturned the heinous incest exception in many states, and have more in their sights (for more info, go to protect.org).

But we're here to talk about Mask Market, which is the latest in the Burke series. The good news, and a point we can't stress too lightly, is that this is a GREAT jumping-on point for those who have never read the series before. Vachss, we can only assume, has taken it upon himself to educate readers who were drawn to this book after reading Two Trains Running by hitting the key events of events past in the universe that is Burke's world. Those first-timers will quickly understand the Manhattan Burke operates in, along with his family, his history and, of course, his demons.

And for those long-timers, think about going to a concert by someone you've loved for years, and how, in the midst of something new, you hear hints of something you recognize, and a few bars later, the song appears in its full glory. Vachss does that here, and it's exciting to read. You know the beats, you know the characters, and yet, he brings them to life as if new. Heck, he even plays those damn trotters!! Now THAT'S kicking it old-school!!

In Mask Market, Burke is recruited by a shadowy middleman to take a meeting with someone that needs someone else found. Burke attends the meeting, and soon after, his "client" is ventilated on the street. That, one might think, would be that. But Burke decides that he needs to find out if the victim was the target, or simply an obstacle between the shooters and himself.

In examining a data disc provided by the client prior to his death, Burke recognizes the person he was supposed to find as the grown-up version of a little girl he was hired to recover many years ago.

Vachss uses this plot point as a device to bring readers up to speed, in highly entertaining fashion, on the history of the characters, and in many respects, the world--according to Vachss.

The other things you love to read Vachss write about--cars, music, and girls--are all well-represented here, to the point that if we didn't know better, we'd think Vachss actually "had fun" writing about this time. There is, dare we say it, near-joy in his writing this time through, and for those of us that have been with the series since the beginning, it's pretty cool to read.

But a Vachss novel is only sizzle/prose without the meat/message. Those "Trojan horses" he loves to write about, designed to galvanize thought into action. Mask Market has "Trojan ponies" scattered throughout, mostly relating to what constitutes a mask these days. The Big Horse will hit you like buckshot. It's an inversion of something that Vachss readers are very familiar with. Of course, it's concealed in a major plot point, so we'll leave it there for you to find.

Just remember this...for years, "critics" have blasted Vachss for writing about things "too gruesome to be true," when in fact, a few years later, they have become major issues on our landscape. From child pornography/trafficking to kids blowing up kids in schools, to twisted reality programming, Vachss has warned us of the evil that's coming, and dared/inspired us to try and stop it. He just happens to do it in highly entertaining fashion, with the Burke series. Which, with Mask Market, reclaims its place among the Great Series in Crime Fiction.

 

 

Winter's Child by Margaret Maron

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing  ISBN  0 89296 810 9

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

After the fairly light-hearted and thoroughly enjoyable romp that was Maron's previous book in the Judge Deborah Knott series, we move to a much darker theme and mood in "Winter's Child."

The child in question is Calvin, son of Deborah's new husband, Deputy Sheriff Dwight Bryant.  Summoned to Virginia by a rather desperate plea by the child, Dwight discovers that his ex-wife Jonna, has disappeared.  He is preparing to take Calvin home to North Carolina when the boy also disappears.

Dropping everything, Judge Deborah drives north and joins Dwight in an attempt to discover where Jonna went, and whether Calvin is now with her.

The search ends tragically when Jonna's frozen body is found in a wrecking yard.  This isn't the only death, and as two different investigations move forward the reader really has to keep her eye on the ball to keep the twists and turns and scene shifts straight.

Deborah and Dwight are joined by an unlikely ally in their desperate search for Calvin: Bandit must surely be one of the more endearing canine confederates of recent fiction.

You will really enjoy this book.

 

 

Killer Deal by Sheryl J. Anderson

Publisher:  St. Martins Paperbacks   ISBN:  0312949367

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

Molly Forrester is learning a lot about the advertising game and its players as she researches for an article she's supposed to write about the heiress to an advertising agency. One of the heiress's problems is to convince the police she didn't kill her estranged husband, the murder victim who owned the agency.

Written in a bright, breezy manner by talented author Sheryl J. Anderson, and set against the backdrop of New York City's bustling streets, this is a delightful read with its fair share of red herrings and false clues.  You'll be thinking you know who the killer is and the motive, and you couldn't be more wrong.

A series of clever twists lead to an unexpected conclusion and will keep the pages turning while three young career women try to work out their love lives and help solve a murder.  The bright lights of the city keep the gloom away from this tale and lighten the atmosphere, making it a pleasant read.

Recommended as a fun read for any mystery or romance fan.  A good way to spend some time.  Enjoy.  I did.

 

 

Killer Dreams by Iris Johansen

Publisher:  Bantam Dell ISBN:  0553803441

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

A fishing trip ends in murder--Sophie's father shoots her mother, her, her son and himself.  She and her son survive and the decision to kill is made.  But who will the victim be?

Sophie Dunston feels responsible for untold deaths and torture because of treatments based on her own research into insomnia.  Her former boss, Sanborne, turned her findings into a tool of mind control for sale to the highest bidder.

Two of his victims enter Sophie's life after being in a mental institution, the result of that fishing trip. Both men have received Sanborne's treatment and escaped most of its results, except that one man, Matt Royd, has decided to eliminate Sanborne at any cost, even Sophie's life. And he says, he always succeeds in his jobs.

The tension and suspense in this tale will keep you reading late into the night.  A chilling look at what could so easily happen if research falls into the wrong hands. Will Sophie and Royd outwit greedy and power mad Sanborne and live to tell the tale?

A highly recommended read for any mystery/thriller/suspense fan.  This is a tale that will satisfy your sense of adventure, search for justice, the right to question how things happen and much more.  You'll wonder just how close to reality is this tale by talented author Iris Johansen. I am pleased to say this is a book you will really enjoy and remember long after the last page is turned.  A powerful tale to make us think.  

 

 

Killer Dreams by Iris Johansen

Publisher:  Bantam Books  ISBN:  0-553-58653X

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader 

Sophie Dunston was stunned when her loving father shot her mother and tried to kill her and her son before turning his gun on himself.  Though she and her son, Michael, survive the shocking tragedy, they both carry psychological scars, particularly Michael, who suffers from life-threateningly serious night terrors.

As a sleep therapist, Sophie is qualified to deal with her son's terrors, but she learns that pharmaceutical research she conducted, resulting in a drug called REM-4, caused her father's killing spree.  Her feelings of guilt, coupled with her realization that ruthless pharmaceutical entrepreneur Sanborne plans to exploit the drug for terrorist purposes, makes her determined to get revenge on him.

To carry out his nefarious plan, Sanborne needs her help, and because she won't willingly assist him, he tries to force her to comply by threatening her son.  A collection of men, also victims of REM-4's nasty side effects, come to her aid as she and Michael try to outrun Sanborne and his evil army.

Iris Johansen, a master at building suspense, is not as skilled in developing a plausible story line.  Filled with the clichés that have become standard in contemporary thrillers—terrorist villains, ex-SEALS, and the beautiful women who fall in love with the SEALs who protect them—the novel will indeed thrill those who enjoy these predictable elements.  The cover of the book screams, "Iris Johansen takes you to the edge of suspense."  I would amend that to "takes you to the edge of disbelief."