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Death on the Family Tree by Patricia Sprinkle

Publisher:  Avon Books;  ISBN:  0060819685

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

Katherine Murray began to feel as though she were slowly becoming invisible with her children scattered and her husband never seeming to be home. How had it happened?

Invisible that is, until the discovery of a journal and bronze necklace brings her attention she's not sure she wants.  There follows a break-in to her home as she attempts to determine the origin of the necklace.

Discovering secrets held by deceased family members and the mysterious death of another elderly friend as well as other events frighten her enough to stay with family at night.

Will she ever discover why anyone would want an old diary or a necklace they have no claim to? Who is behind these acts that threaten her safety?

Talented author Patricia Sprinkle leads the reader along twisting, red-herring strewn paths. You'll be looking in one direction when surprises will come from the other.  Beware of jumping to conclusions in this fun read.

Recommended for any mystery fan.  Enjoy.  I did.\


Miss Zukas and the Stroke of Death by Jo Dereske

Publisher:  Avon;  ISBN:  13: 9780380770335

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

Do you frequent a library?  Do you think librarians lead dull lives?  If so, think again. Then pick up Miss Zukas and the Stroke of Death and learn just what can happen to the people working in a library.

The new head librarian has a habit of trying to involve the library employees in extra activities that have nothing to do with the library such as camp outs in the library for kids and competing in local team competitions like skiing or canoeing. It is the canoeing team that fails her and so Helma Zukas is asked to take the place of one of them.

While she's considering this problem, she is drawn into the problem of why a body is found in her best friend's periwinkle.  Then the friend's garage is burned.

How is Helma's friend involved with the dead man she claims not to know?  Why do the police suspect her?  Does what Helma learns about his reputation help her friend?

This is a well told tale with several lifelike characters you will enjoy meeting.  Talented author Jo Dereske has captured the flavor of a small town library and written a story with plenty of cross purposes.  You'll enjoy following along with Helma as she unravels the puzzle. 

Recommended as a fun read.  Enjoy.  I did.




Sun Storm by Asa Larsson (Translated by Marlaine DeLargy)

Publisher: Delta ISBN: 0385340786

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Stockholm tax attorney Rebecka Martinsson is not too eager to return to her small hometown of Kiruna when her old best friend calls in need of her help after the brutal murder of her brother.  Having left the town in disgrace several years before, returning to this place where the revivalist church of born again believers rule over its inhabitants with an intolerant fierceness will not be easy, especially considering the dead man was a leader in the church, the very church that essentially banished her years before.  And it's shortly after her arrival that the threatening events begin; with the church, the town, and even her best friend, holding secrets that are deadly.      

As the winner of Sweden's Best First Crime Novel, Larsson effortlessly provides readers with a unique and creative look at an area of the world many of us might be unfamiliar with.  And with the wintry landscape adding a highly atmospheric backdrop to this already chilling read that explores the tender subjects of religion, faith, and loyalty, you've got a tale that'll make you forget the coming months of heat with pleasure.  Realistically drawn characters also add appeal, as does the plot that flows easily and quickly.  We look forward to the next in this winning series that's scheduled for arrival next year.      


Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris

Publisher: Harper Perennial  ISBN: 0060559152

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

St. Oxford, grammar school for boys, has always upheld the fine traditions and mores of an expensive private school, but now it is under attack, its status at stake, from an unknown enemy whose obsession with the school demands an ugly retribution.  Roy Straitley, the unconventional Latin teacher nearing over 3 decades of service to the school is one of the first to grasp the intentional attack the school is under, but from whom he has no clue, feeling it might be one of the fresh new teachers hired on for the new term.  

And as events grow increasingly ominous, people will begin to die, others will have their reputations shattered, and others still their very future put in question as the threat comes ever closer.  And as the past interconnects with the present, the school will slowly begin to slip into its own thunderous death as the one behind it all will stop at nothing less than total destruction.

This amazingly compelling novel is sure to be one of the best of the new year.  Harris has convincingly re-created the small and all-inclusive world that this type of environment inspires, with its petty disturbances, its forceful hold upon its inhabitants, and the mark it forever leaves on all who enter.  With plenty of mind blowing twists and turns, putting this book down once started is really not an option and, in the end, well worth the disruption it will temporarily no doubt cause in anyone's life who reads it.  The first must read of the new year, don't miss this wildly suspenseful read that ensnares from start to finish.               


The Fallen by J. Jefferson Parker

Publisher: Harper  ISBN: 0060562390

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

When San Diego detectives Robbie Brownlaw and McKenzie Cortez are called upon to investigate the murder of ethics investigator Garrett Aslundh they soon find they have no shortage of suspects.  Garrett, who was working on a reconciliation with his wife after having split up after the drowning of their young daughter, had finally made his way back after a bout with heavy drinking, and at the time of his death had been working full force  on a case that involved several prominent men videotaped having sex with prostitutes. 

Could either of these factors have anything to do with his death?  The further the detectives investigate, the more secrets they will uncover, some political and most of them dangerous, but the final truth may in fact be simpler than they ever imagined in this spectacular case of sex, lies, and good old fashioned obsessions.

Parker entices the reader into this complicated and intelligent plot with ease.  And in the character of Robbie, we're treated to an engaging hero; one whose recent past of surviving a six floor fall from a burning hotel left him with the novel ability of "seeing" people's emotions, enhancing his already likable persona.   Having his own marital difficulties adds yet even more flavor in the form of bittersweet heartache, and when combined with plenty of juicy suspense, you have yourself a dish that's altogether fulfilling.  This is one detective we wouldn't mind meeting up with again, along with his partner McKenzie, a woman who can easily hold her own, in another tale set in the beautiful city of San Diego.            



One Last Breath by Stephen Booth

Publisher: Bantam ISBN: 0440242703 (re-released)

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

It was a little over 13 years ago that Mansell Quinn was convicted and sentenced to brutally murdering his mistress, with the preponderance of circumstantial evidence backed up by his confession leaving no doubt that he was guilty.  But years later he surprisingly retracts his confession, a retraction that of course no one believes.  And so when he's at last released for serving his time and those involved in the case begin to die, the police have no doubt that he's seeking his own brand of justice. 

Detective Ben Cooper is the first to notice the holes in the old case, and the only one to believe that the past holds the answers to the more recent spate of killings.  But it was Ben's very own father who was the arresting officer all those years ago, a man still revered by those who have survived him, thereby casting Ben's theories into doubt by those around him, with even Ben doubting his instincts.  But the truth will come out in one way or another, but not before Ben himself becomes the target of someone who's killed before and who will not hesitate to kill again.

Booth effortlessly provides the reader with an interesting and solidly written mystery in this latest title featuring Ben Cooper and his supervisor Diane Fry.  And although there's a number of clues sprinkled throughout, they're sly enough that only the most astute reader will put them together before the detectives do, which makes for a hearty challenge that mystery buffs will relish.  My only complaint regarding this latest is that I would've liked to have seen more of the stimulating and emotionally charged interplay between the guarded and remote Fry and the compassionate and vulnerable Cooper that so distinguished Booth's previous novel.  That aside, this is an intelligent mystery well worth the read and comes easily recommended.             


Carved In Bone by Jefferson Bass

Publisher: Harper  ISBN: 0060759828

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Widowed forensic anthropologist Bill Brockton has spent many years studying his craft at the body farm in Tennessee, along with teaching his students the mysteries that make up the human body.  And so when a body is discovered in Cooke County in the Appalachian Mountains, he's quickly asked by the sheriff to help figure out who she was and how she died.  His investigation leads him to discover that she was murdered 30 years ago, young and pregnant, and belonged to one of the enigmatic clans that make up this part of the country.  And as his investigation continues, he will be thrust into more and more danger as he begins to uncover secrets held by the very people he's supposed to trust.

The first in the series regarding the body farm from the authoring couple of Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson is sure to be a hit with fans of anything forensic.  With enough detail to inform, yet never stepping over the line into gratuitous gore, this is an interesting and clever foray into the world of scientific evidence.  Dr. Brockton makes for a fine and charming character, at times displaying a sweet naivety, and at others, displaying a fierce intelligence and sharp wit, with the secondary characters also being of note.  This first outing from this talented duo comes highly recommended, with the expectation that there's many great tales in store in the future.