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Double Tap by Steve Martini

Publishers: Jove Books   ISBN: 0515139734

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

I am a self proclaimed numero- uno legal thriller lover, and most people often ask me…why I call myself as a numero- uno legal thriller lover. I simply reply- read To Kill a Mockingbird, or The Firm or Presumed Innocent and you will find the answer. And now I have a new book to be added to these all time classics…..Steve Martini’s Double Tap.

Next to Grisham and Turow, Steve Martini is the top ranked legal thriller author in India and I am the proud owner of all Martini works including Undue Influence and Compelling Evidence. To the uninitiated Martini reader- the author is a hot shot attorney and so is his protagonist Paul Madriani. Over the years Madriani has defended whole gamut of cases and more often than not his clients are accused of murder. And this time round in Double Tap (the term ‘double tap’ refers to a military usage where a victim is killed with two tightly grouped bullet wounds) also Madriani has a murder case in his hands…that of a soldier Emiliano Ruiz, accused of murdering a beautiful and enigmatic businesswoman, Madelyn Chapman. Ruiz is not co-operative and Madriani faces a stoic wall of silence, whenever he asks his client to lay the cards on the table- and come clean…at least with his lawyer.  And oh… he also contents that the deceased (in Ruiz’s words, the ‘murderee’ raped…rather had non-consensual sexual relation with him.) And now it is upon Madriani to save his client from the gallows. The lawyer’s search for truth – takes us through a thrilling ride of suspense, double cross and triple cross culminating in a finish that’s truly, truly fantastic. The author also voices his concern about the corruption in the defense forces in Double Tap

A highly, highly unusual thriller from Madriani- and to put it in a cliché Martini is a sure substitute for martini- the drink, the jolt/ the kick the author delivers, beats the drink any day. Highly, highly recommended.

 

Wildcat Wine by  Claire Matturro

Publisher:  HarperTorch ISBN:  0060567082

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

Old friends can literally drive you to drink. Especially old friends like Dave Baggwell who turns up on lawyer Lilly Cleary's doorstep with a truckload of stolen wine. His coming does not bode well for Lilly's peace of mind as things prove out.

Involved in arguing a case for a pseudo Indian from India who treats people who have been kidnapped by aliens and channels missing cats, Lilly does not need the trouble that Dave's presence means. And that is spelled out in large letters when Dave is arrested.

The following involvement of the teenage son of Lilly's secretary in finding a dead man in a swamp, a mysterious woman who leaves Lilly holding the bag--a bag of money, and a partner in Lilly's law firm who dies, plus the interference of the pseudo Indian from India in his own case makes the reader wonder if anything else can go wrong.  Assuredly, if it can, it will.

A fun read from beginning to end. Laughter and exasperation tag after Lilly as she tries to straighten out an ever-deepening mess in the seeming chaos caused by Dave in her life. Worry with Lilly as she tries to unravel the knotty problems that seem a normal part of her day.

A tale with twisting paths that lead to red herrings merrily scattered across the trail of a killer any reader will delight in reading. A new look at the mystery genre itself as you join Lilly and her collection of nutty friends.  Highly recommended as a read well worth the time. You'll keep turning those pages.

 

Already Dead By Charlie Huston

Publisher: Del Rey ISBN: 034547824X

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

There are vampire clans throughout New York City but Joe Pitt refuses to belong to a clan instead doing freelance work so that he can remain in the city and have a fresh supply of blood.  He is now tracking the "carrier" who is creating Zombies, known as shamblers, who eat people's brains.  The Coalition asks him to find the daughter of a very high profile family.  Things start getting very tense, with the girl's parents hounding him, an anarchist clan throwing road blocks in his way, and a very weird clan following his every move.  He has to find the girl, kill the carrier, find out why he is being followed, and stay alive before the sun comes up.

Huston has written a grotesque and fantastic fantasy that keeps your hair standing on end and chills running up your spine from the first page to the last.  The plot is so well done you begin to believe the fantasy and start looking over your shoulder and locking yourself in before the sun goes down.  Only Joe Pitt could survive to give you the surprise ending that is in store for you.

 

The Prey by Allison Brennan

Publisher:  Ballantine Books  ISBN:  0-345-48023-6

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

Rowan Smith quit the FBI four years ago and has parlayed her experiences into a successful career as a suspense novelist.  Staying in Malibu while working on the screenplay for one of her books, Rowan learns that a woman with the same name as one of her characters has been murdered—just as Rowan wrote in her book.

And in case no one got it, the murderer helpfully left a copy of the book, with the pertinent scene highlighted.  The first murder is soon followed by others—all copied from Rowan's books.

Her film's producer hires a private bodyguard, but the FBI steps in as well.  Everyone agrees that Rowan is the ultimate target, especially when the killer begins sending clues that suggest he knows about the tragedy she experienced nearly a quarter of a century ago, but has kept secret.

Predictably, she gets involved with one of the bodyguards, with tragic results.  She also feels betrayed by FBI assistant director (and her former guardian) Roger Collins, whose attempts to protect her have devastating consequences.

Author Allison Brennan's premise is unique, and her ability to build suspense exemplary.  As with many books of this genre, once the reader reaches the heart-stopping conclusion, the holes in the plot become apparent, but that doesn't deter from the enjoyment of the book.  And Rowan will make anyone's in-laws seem angelic!

 

The Devil's Right Hand by J. D. Rhoades

Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks ISBN: 0312938667

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Jack Killer has lived for the adrenaline rush ever since a disastrous tour in Desert Storm.  Nightmares plague him and the only job that will feed his need is that of a bail bond enforcer.  DeWayne Puryear fails to show up for his hearing and Jack is on his trail.  What he doesn't know is that DeWayne and his cousin Leonard have pulled an armed robbery and killed the Indian man who owned the company.  Now Raymond, a drug dealer, who is the son on the murdered man is also on the trail of the Puryears.  Mixed into all this is a stone cold, mean cop who hassles Jack and releases DeWayne.  In turn DeWayne kills the cop. 

This is Rhoades first novel and is filled with so much action and suspense that it keeps the blood boiling and the spine tingling.  The characters are so believable it makes one afraid of walking the streets.  This is a winner and will keep the reader on tinder hooks waiting for the next novel featuring Jack Keller.

 

The Flaming Luau of Death by Jerrilyn Farmer

Publisher:  Avon ISBN:  13:9780060587314

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

If you have even wanted to go to Hawaii or any tropical resort, you'll readily identify with Madeline Bean when she accompanies a group of girls to the Four Heavens Resort in Hawaii. They're there to celebrate the bride to be, Holly, but find other plans have been made for them.

Thinking they were the guests of the hotel manager, Mad and Wes accepted an invitation to take the girls to the resort, only to learn they were someone else's guests.  A strange man is waiting in one of the rooms for the bride to be. She conks him with a lamp and later he turns up drowned near the hotel.  Did the blow she gave him cause his death?  Why was he waiting for her?  Who was their mysterious benefactor?  Or was he not a benefactor?

Several mysterious occurrences and secrets from the past as well as romantic intrigues are blended by talented author Jerrilyn Farmer to make a great read with lots of exotic settings and well drawn characters.  Lots of action.

Join Madeline as she joins a fellow named Cake for a romp in a massage room. Is he going to be the new man in her life? 

A fun read, highly recommended. You may want to read again.  The well drawn characters will feel like old friends and the lush settings will make you feel like you're in Hawaii too. Learn to hula, eat until you think you'll burst, and try to identify a killer.  Enjoy the experience of luxury and mystery touched with laughter. I sure did.

 

Road to Purgatory by Max Allan Collins

Publisher: HarperTorch ISBN: 0060540331

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

This is the sequel to Road to Perdition; yes the one that became the critically acclaimed Steven Spielberg movie starring Tom Hanks and Paul Newman. I must confess, I haven’t seen the movie or even read the earlier work. So Road to Purgatory was actually a little bit confusing. I knew that I got a classic in my hands, a classic that I could not enjoy to the fullest. So after about 20- 25 pages into the work, I closed down the book and went to my local library to check out Road to Perdition. And Perdition proved to be a wonderful, wonderful read. And let me tell you, don’t read Road to Purgatory if you haven’t read the earlier. Sure the author fills in some gaps, but for a prose graphic novel (meaning a long narrative told in comic form) there are limitations and half the pleasure in reading Road to Purgatory is in knowing that it is a natural sequel to Road to Perdition.

The year is 1942 and Michael O’ Sullivan is in the care of his adoptive parents following the traumatic life he led with his gangster father. He had witnessed the death, rather killing of his parents and brother and the need for revenge burns in him. Now a young man, O’Sullivan is in the armed forces fighting the Japanese. After his return home, as a battle scarred veteran of 22, O’Sullivan decides to fight the mob from within. Joining him in his fight is Elliot Ness, the man who actually rescued the young Michael 10 years back. Ness dreams of a last hurrah as a gangbuster and together the duo takes the fight to the Mob. What follows is stupendous action ending in a fantastic finish. The novel ends with an author’s note- promising that there will be more from O’ Sullivan in the second sequel to be published later titled Road to Paradise.

Not since the Godfather series, both book and movie (the books being The Godfather, The Sicilian and Mark Winegardner’s The Godfather Returns) has such a gritty crime trilogy ever planned, and the author deserves praise for this valiant effort. And Michael O’ Sullivan also displays some characteristics of Michael Corelone of the Godfather fame. I am eagerly waiting for the movie version, as well as the third in the trilogy- Road to Paradise.  Highly recommended.

 

Hidden River by Adrian McKinty

Publisher: Pocket ISBN: 0743470575

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Alexander Lawson, at the young age of 24, has already risen high in the ranks of North Ireland's police force before it all comes crashing down when he's appointed to the vastly corrupted drug squad.  Becoming a heroin addict, he's forced out in disgrace, and now spends his days shooting up and waiting for nightfall.  But when the father of his first-time love, Victoria Patawasti, hires him to travel to Denver to seek out her killer, he sees his first chance at redemption, not knowing that it may also be his last.  Because in the city streets of this sometimes unsightly city he will face the ugliest truths of his life, all the while fighting enemies known, and unknown, that will eventually put his very soul at risk.

Filled with an entirely unique and gritty prose, this finely tuned novel races at breakneck speed to its poignant denouement.  Alex, a man of high intelligence, is wonderfully portrayed as a lost soul caught up in the crossfire of ugly events that he can only control by giving up what he sees as his savior; heroin.  His journey from hell and back is one of courage and passion and the characters that fill it are also brilliantly drawn, adding to the suspense and brutal reality of this ultimately redemptive tale.  Highly recommended for those who can handle a story filled with a beautiful sort of viciousness, it provides that and more.

 

War At Home by Kriss Nelscott

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312325282

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

It is the 60's and Daniel Kinkaid who grew up in the black ghettos of Chicago receives a full scholarship to Yale.  When his mother receives notice that he has not been attending classes and his scholarship is going to be revoked, she hires private investigator Smokey Dalton to find Daniel and determine what is going on.  Smokey heads to New Haven to find Daniel.  Little does he know that he will be immersed in revolutionary fanaticism, campus riots, Viet- Nam war protests, and murder.

Readers who lived through the 60's will find this a chilling plot.  Smokey Dalton is not your run of the mill detective.  He has his own problems with the law and cannot afford to get caught.  But he does have a character that is worthy of respect.  This novel lays out in detail all the atrocities which occurred during the 60's and sends shivers up the readers spine.

Once introduced to Smokey Dalton, readers will become enthralled and rush right out and buy the rest of the books in this series.

 

 

Darkness Falls by Margaret Murphy

Publisher: Leisure Books ISBN: 0843956496

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Clara Pascal, a British defense attorney, has the perfect life; a loving husband, a beautiful daughter, and a successful career.  But that all changes one fateful day when she is kidnapped in broad daylight in front of her daughter.  And as she suffers in a dark and dank cellar, her every move choreographed by a madman, the police work frantically to find her.  The villain could be anybody, from a disgruntled client, to a nameless stalker, or perhaps even her loving husband.  And as time slips away, along with her faith that she’ll ever be rescued, she will be forced to confront the truth of her professed values and priorities, what she may be missing and, most importantly, her own possible culpability that has led to this nightmare.     

This must-read from Murphy is nothing short of spectacular, combining suspense and unbearable chills with depth and substance wrapped perfectly within a taut police procedural.  The police force on the case is particularly impressive; no rogue cowboys here, just a realistic portrayal of the men and women who must face and solve such nightmares on a daily basis. This is a brilliant and intelligent read, with the final denouement being more than just a tidy conclusion, but also a defining statement on the perils of unchecked ambition.  Highly recommended, but with a warning, lock your doors and leave the lights on, because the fear it instills is deep.    

 

Suspect by Michael Robotham

Publisher: Vintage ISBN: 0307275477

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Robotham's first fiction novel is nothing short of perfection; it's totally enthralling, unabashedly poignant, and with more suspense and delectable tension then the recommended dosage.  This is easily one of the best books out so far this year, and quite probably will remain on the list at the end of the year. 

London's psychologist Joe O'Loughlin has it all with the perfect family and career, but that's all about to change when a woman he has a not so happy past with is found murdered.  At first Joe is asked by the police to help in the investigation, but all too soon suspicion falls on him as his lies catch up to him when he is unable to provide an alibi for the date in question.  And as it happens, that's the day Joe was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and what he did that day will haunt him for the rest of his life.  And as he tries to find the true suspect, someone much closer than he wants to believe, he will discover that he might just have enough courage and fortitude to make it out alive.  

Joe O'Loughlin makes the perfect imperfect hero as the man who once thought he had it all, with it not being his disease that creates problems in his life, but his perception of it, which is something he knows all too well but would rather not admit.  But what makes him so utterly engaging and likable is his self-deprecating humor, his empathetic outlook, his sense of right and wrong, and his unwavering optimism- even when facing complete ruin.  This is one those books that you never want to put down, that you never want to see end, but yet you still can't help racing to the finish with an undeniable need to see the final resolution.     

 

California Girl by T. Jefferson Parker

Publisher: HarperTorch ISBN: 0060562374

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

The Becker boys, David, Nick, and Andy, have lived in Orange County all their lives, not far from the orange grove that once filled the air with sweetness but is now just another neighborhood of tract homes.  The year is 1968; a year that will change their lives forever when a girl they know is murdered in a horrendous fashion.  David, a minister whose flock is growing daily, wrestles with a secret too big to share.  Andy, a newspaper reporter, writes of the story with insight that can blind, and it's up to Nick, a cop on his first murder case, to solve this killing that has deeply touched their lives.  But what these three men believe to be the truth may instead be something else entirely.

In this highly original novel, Parker grabs the reader in a stranglehold of poignancy and suspense that doesn't let up until the final page.  Those who grew up in the 60's will delight in the cultural references peppered throughout the pages, filling them with a bittersweet nostalgia.  Atmospheric, suspenseful, and unique, this is one trip readers won't want to miss.  Filled with characters that easily come alive under Parker's fluent and assured hand, you'll find yourself missing them once the book has been finished.  Highly recommended, and with a surprise ending that packs a wallop, this is one read that shouldn't be missed.     

 

I’ll Be Watching You by Andrea Kane

Publisher: Avon ISBN: 0060741317

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader

The last words that Taylor Halstead’s attacker says before he leaves her handcuffed to her own bed are “I’ll Be Watching You.”  It’s a threat that Gordon Mallory keeps even from the grave.  Gordon and Taylor’s cousin, Stephanie, are presumed dead after an explosion on Gordon’s yacht, the same night that he attacks Taylor.  Even after his death, Taylor continues to receive threats by email and she has a ongoing sense that someone is watching her.  Taylor’s life begins to unravel as she deals with nightmares, the guilt of her cousin’s death, and the feeling that someone is stalking her.  She tries to seek solace in her training and her work as a school psychologist and a talk show host but it is difficult.  Things get even more complicated when she runs into Gordon’s identical twin Jonathan, who picks up where his brother left off and makes it clear to Taylor that he wants her.  Taylor believes that the person behind the threats and the stalking is Jonathan. 

The last thing that Taylor expects to happen to her during this stressful time is to fall in love.  To make matter worse, that special man happens to be Reed Weston, who is Jonathan’s lawyer.  Things get more complicated when Jonathan is charged with a double murder and Reed represents him.   The tension builds as Taylor continues to receive strange emails and cryptic phone calls and it is clear that the stalker has no plans to stop until he achieves his goal of making Taylor his. 

The tension of the thriller escalates throughout the book with the harassment from the unknown stalker and Jonathan.  Although the reader may think that they know who is really behind the stalking the author has a couple of twists that are quite unexpected.  The romance between Reed and Taylor is well developed and artfully woven into the thriller by the author.  Andrea Kane has written a terrific romantic suspense thriller that I most highly recommend and suggest that readers be on the lookout for other books by this author.

 

 

THE REAL MOTHER by Judith Michael

Publisher: Avon   ISBN  0 06 0599308

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader 

When death and illness strike, Sara gives up her hopes of becoming a doctor and returns to become the mother to a family of half-siblings.  She is a loving and devoted substitute parent, but she has no real life outside this responsibility and her job as City Greeter for Chicago.

Things change when two men appear on the scene: Sara's long-absent brother, Mack, and Reuben, a client who becomes an admirer and eventually a lover.

Mack is so infuriating that you wonder why Sara doesn't hit him on the head with a frying pan and bury him in the back yard as soon as he turns up.  He provides enough plot tension for two books of this length.  Mack's the sort of free-loader who gives bums a bad name.  He's happy to move back he as if he'd never left, and sets about befriending the younger siblings and driving a wedge between them and Sara.   Eventually he finds work, but he doesn’t explain much about it, and Sara begins to suspect it's something shady, to do with a businessman who seems somewhat less than legitimate.

When the businessman's ultra-needy wife Pussy Corcoran dies in suspicious circumstances, Sara's worry about what Mack is really up to increases, but there's no proof , just half-glimpsed clues.

Readers can only sit back in amazed sympathy as Sara tries to juggle her responsibilities to the family, her demanding job and its importunate clients, her duties to her beloved mother, Tess, who is confined, nearly mute, to a nursing home, and her burgeoning romance with Reuben.  You can feel the exhaustion that threatens to overwhelm her, but every day she gets up and soldiers on.

It comes as a relief when Sara and Reuben escape for a romantic weekend, but they don't have long to enjoy it when disaster strikes.

Despite the frustrations of her life and the appalling demands on Sara, this isn't a gloomy book; you'll find yourself muttering "Hang on, Sara, you can get through this!"    A good read which will leave you grateful that you don't have a brother like Mack.