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Muletrain to Maggody by Joan Hess

Publisher:  Pocket Books ISBN:  0743443896

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Tongue-in-cheek is the only way to describe Muletrain to Maggody. A happy look at weirdness in a bunch of fun characters that will keep you happily reading.

Sheriff Arly Hanks has her hands full when it is decided to film the battle of Maggody based on the newly discovered journal of a dying Civil War soldier.  Trouble starts well before actual filming when everyone goes looking for hidden gold coins mentioned in the journal. 

An old man disappears from an old folks home, a woman loses her granny, a teacher vanishes when she breaks into a museum, the preacher disappears when he visits a local recluse and an honor student starts acting strangely.  Of course, this all fades into the background when a visiting geneological expert and reenactor turns up dead followed by the murder of one of the town's reclusive elderly women in her trailer.

The resolution of each case, down to the last page, will keep you reading.  Everyone you'll meet on these pages is a bit strange and somewhat a law unto themselves. You'll absolutely love meeting every one.  The town may be off the beaten path and off beat, but you'll enjoy the visit and look for other books based in Maggody by talented author Joan Hess.  Be prepared to smile a lot at the foibles and attitudes of the residents of Maggody, a little town that feels like it's situated on the edge of the Twilight Zone.  Enjoy. I sure did.

 

She's Not There by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith

Publisher: Pinnacle Books ISBN: 0786016582

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

FBI Agent Poppy Rice is taking a vacation with her lover Joe on the beautiful and isolated Block Island when she discovers a body of a teenage girl.  The gruesomely contorted body is that of an overweight girl from the nearby camp for overweight teens.  Unable to keep herself away from a baffling new case, she soon becomes involved against her better judgment.  As another overweight teen dies, and the list of suspects grow, she must uncover the secrets of this small island if she wants to avoid even more victims. 

 

Another hit from Smith, this book absolutely soars.  All the elements of a good mystery are here in abundance:  rapid-paced plotting, genuinely interesting characters, unbridled suspense, and of course, the super climatic ending.  Poppy Rice is as engaging as they come with her sharp wit, and even sharper mind.  She’s also compassionate, sincere, and basically an authentic portrait of someone we’d all like to know.  Also of interest is the physical geographical setting, Block Island.  A secondary character in itself, the psychological aspects inherent in this type of setting are fascinating and it was wonderful to consider the impact of this on such deliciously rendered illicit events.  The supporting cast of characters was also flawlessly drawn, with each one being attention-grabbing in their own right.  All in all, this superb mystery from this extraordinarily talented author is one that comes highly recommended, and we eagerly wait for the next.

 

A MOORLAND HANGING by  Michael Jecks

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins  ISBN 0 06 076347 7

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader 

First published in 1996 and now available in paperback, this in-depth visit to the early 14th century will please mystery and history buffs alike. 

Featuring the team of Simon Puttock and his former Knight Templar friend Sir Baldwin Furnshill, this is an even gorier story that others in the series. 

An apparent suicide is soon established as murder, and the King's man on Dartmoor, Simon Puttock, is called in to investigate.  As Bailiff of Lydford Castle, Simon is called upon to sort out all sorts of things that might have a bearing on the peace of the kingdom.  This case is a particularly complex one, involving not just murder, but local power politics in a harsh and unforgiving place. 

The local minor nobility, Sir William Beaucyr and his family, are at loggerheads with Thomas Smyth, a well-to-do miner and acknowledged leader of the tin-mining men on Dartmoor.  They have their own local parliament, and owe allegiance directly to the king.  It's a matter of hurt pride and lost power that when a villein runs off from his master's service and hides out on the moor for a year and a day, he's a free man.   

Sir William has lost one of his men  to the mining fraternity, and he hates Thomas Smyth for being responsible for the man's continued freedom.  Thomas protects the man, until one dark night, something goes wrong and Peter Bruther is ambushed and killed and strung up in a haunted wood.

Before Simon reaches the bottom of this many-layered mystery, many more men lie dead, and much damage is done.  Thanks to the insights of Sir Baldwin, gained during many years fighting overseas, Simon eventually sorts through the tangled alibis and motives and discovers and arrests the murderer.  There are all the red herrings one could want strewn about the moor in Simon's path, and it will be a quick-witted reader indeed who guesses the identity of the killer before he does.

 

The Bookman's Promise by John Dunning

Publisher:  Pocket Star Books ISBN:  0743476298

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

Are you a book fancier?  Or an avid reader?  Then, this is the book for you. 

An adventure into the world of books and book collectors, people whose passion can become an obsession that leads them into the wrong side of society. They are those few fanatics in the world of books who will do anything to gain possession of a book they want.

This is what bookseller Cliff Janeway learns when he discovers the works of explorer and writer Richard Burton. How could his new interest lead him to become involved in the murder of a woman he barely knew? How could it draw him from Denver to Baltimore and then send him on the lam with a retired librarian twice his age?

Peopled by lively and lifelike characters whose motives drive the complex plot, this tale is a must read for anyone who loves a good story. Red herrings across the trail of a killer, trails that dead end where they started, all make for a story that will keep you turning those pages.

Highly recommended as a great read, guaranteed to hold your attention. You'll be looking for other books by this talented author. I know I will.  Enjoy. 

 

Depth Perception by Linda Castillo

Publisher: Berkley Pub Group ISBN: 0425201090  

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Three years ago Nat Jennings lost both her young son and her husband in a brutal tragedy; both murdered by a madman who left Nat for dead and her whole life shattered.  With nowhere to turn, Nat could see no other out but through the release of death itself and so attempted suicide. 

Waking over two years later from a coma, her grief as fresh as the day of the tragedy, Natalie soon discovers that her son is trying to communicate with her, to warn her of other children in danger, and of other murders already committed by the same madman who destroyed her own life.  So going back to her hometown to further investigate, Nat faces a community who never believed in her innocence, and who will never believe her portents of danger.

Nick Bastille, also from Nat's hometown, suffered a similar fate.  Accused of murder, he's spent the last six years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. While in prison, he also lost his beloved son and now with Nat warning him that it was the same madman who took her son, Nick soon has no other choice but to believe her when he witnesses the unearthly communication himself.  As the two attempt to solve the crimes another child disappears, leading the couple closer to danger while someone watche,s patiently waiting for his chance to end it all.

High on suspense, this romantic and gripping tale will leave the reader reeling with its many shocks and surprises.  The steamy swamps of Louisiana add to the evil ambiance and help make this a read that will cause shivers and thrills.  Recommended, don't miss this exciting tale from a writer who knows just how to mix romance with enticing danger for an intensely electrifying read.  

 

Deadly Kin by Tom Eslick

Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics) ISBN: 0142004790

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

My first read from Eslick's engaging series set in New Hampshire's beautiful White Mountains featuring high school teacher Will Buchanan, it didn't take long to be completely drawn in by this entertaining and suspenseful mystery, the third in the series.

When Will's former girlfriend Laurie, sheriff of the small of town of Saxton Mills, NH, asks him to accompany her niece, a sullen teen named Erin, to Zealand Falls to meet up with Erin's brother Josh, Will agrees, hoping that it might lead to further discussions about their break-up, and hopefully, their make-up.  But what he doesn't expect is to find Erin and her step-brother in the most compromising of positions.  And when the young man later takes a deadly fall off the cliffs, things only get more complicated.    

Teaming up with Laurie, the two begin to investigate, and soon find themselves embroiled in a mystery surrounding family ties, betrayal, and secrets of the most deadly kind. 

This lively mystery is energetic and engaging, with the beautiful White Mountains providing the perfect back-drop for murder and mayhem.  Filled with likable and interesting characters, we eagerly look forward to reading the other titles, past and upcoming, in this enchanting series.   

 

The Man In My Basement by Walter Mosley

Publisher: Back Bay Books SBN: 031615931x

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

You don't expect Walter Mosley to write about the Bobbsey Twins, not unless they've been kidnapped and Easy Rawlins is trying to find them.   That said, readers must be prepared for something different in Mosley's new book.

"The Man in my Basement" is the story of one of life's losers, Charles Blakey, and the man who rents his basement for the summer, Anniston Bennet.  Bennet seems at first to be everything Blakey isn't: successful, self-confident, and rich.   Oh, and he's white; something Blakey has had little experience with over the years, and that little has been mostly negative.

After agreeing to rent out his basement for what is almost an obscene amount of money, Blakey begins to have second thoughts.  Perhaps it’s the portable prison cell that arrives in cardboard packages with instructions for its assembly.  Or perhaps it's Bennet himself, whose reasons for wishing to spend the summer in a black man's cellar slowly become clearer, but never entirely explicable.  Bennet makes Blakey feel peculiar: he's not sure if the white man is looking down at him or using him in some uncomfortable way he can sense but not pin down.  Whatever it is, things reach a point where the money no longer matters, but by then the relationship is not easy to break.

Bennet seems to want Blakey to be a jailer, and a confessor, and perhaps a shriver, to use the old word for one who assigns penance to sinners.  Week by week, Bennet reveals his past, and tries to explain to Blakey why he, Bennet, requires punishment.  Blakey wonders why.  If the legal professionals never demanded an accounting,  what is the great sin for which Bennet is atoning?  Or is he atoning; is this all just some evil charade whose purpose he can't even guess?  Blakey himself has a great sin, one he's never told anyone about, and in a perverse way Bennet's story highlights his own and makes him think about a past he'd rather forget.

Blakey  is torn between fascination for his lodger and loathing at the same time.  Several times he leaves Bennett alone in the dark for days with only bread and condensed milk.  But like the moth to the flame, he is drawn down the stairs to the cold gray room and into dialogue again.

Bennet and Blakey dominate the book, but there are a handful of secondary characters as well,  mostly unlikeable.  Bethany Baptiste, the good-time girl, is about the only bright spot in the story.   That's not said to put readers off: a book doesn’t have to be sweetness and light to be readable, and this one is strangely compelling.  But it isn't any "Love Story"; it's more like a medieval morality play in modern dress.

There's murder and there's mystery in this story, but it's far from a traditional murder mystery.   It's worth your time to read, but don't buy it for your sweet old Auntie Fran's birthday.