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Dead Head by Allen Wyler

Publisher:  Forge Books  ISBN:  13:  9780765355966

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

It seems every other body part is being salvaged, so why not a head? That's why some Middle East extremists kidnap Dr. Russell Lawton.  They want him to remove the head of a dying man and keep it alive.

Anyone who gets in their way, dies. Their violence convinces Russell that he will not get out of this alive, even should he succeed.  Imagine his surprise when he learns the operation will be performed at the National Institute of Health where he has an office and lab. How is it possible that they think they will get away with their daring plan?

Right from the start there are many difficulties to be overcome to ensure success.  They must accumulate the necessary medical equipment, convince inquisitive visitors that all is well and so on. And they must retrieve and deliver the man whose head is to be salvaged before his body dies.

This is a book that will satisfy any fan of medical thrillers.  Talented author Allen Wyler has thoroughly researched the subject and writes a convincing tale. You may come away convinced that the premise of the story could be possible. 

A cast of strongly written characters give the events of the book a sense of urgency that will keep you reading late into the night. I'm pleased to recommend this book to any thriller or mystery fan who likes a well-developed plot woven from possibilities and realities.  Enjoy.  I did.

 

No Good Deeds by Laura Lippman

Publisher: Harper; Reprint edition  ISBN-10: 0060570733

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

When Baltimore's PI Tess Monaghan's boyfriend Crow brings home a young black teen after the teen fails to con him out of some money, hoping only to give the young boy, Lloyd,  a warm bed and a hot meal, the two have no idea the danger that Crow's good deed is about to place them in.  But when they discover that Lloyd has a tentative connection to a murdered federal prosecutor, they can't help but get involved, which will place them directly in the hot seat when the authorities become aware of his involvement.  Knowing Lloyd's innocent of all but the simplest of crimes, they attempt to hide him until Tess can come up with some answers.  But that's not good enough for the powerful men who want him in custody, and who will stop at nothing to discover the boy's identity and bring him in, no matter what the cost.

It seems much too long since Lippman has treated her readers to a new Tess Monaghan mystery, so this latest is enthusiastically received.  Once again, Lippman scores on all fronts with an intelligent and heartfelt tale that dares to delve into some of the nastier sides of Baltimore's politics and mostly ignored downtrodden minorities.  Not afraid to look deeply and honestly into the vicious cycle of poverty and lack of resources experienced by far too many of Baltimore's large African American population, Lippman reveals some of the injustice found with flair and dignity.  And when you throw in some great suspense, along with beloved and well-written characters, than you have another excellent outing from an author who knows how to write one hell of a meaningful and exciting story, and one that you won't want to miss.

 

 

Shiver by Lisa Jackson

Publisher: Zebra,  ISBN: 0821775782

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, Editor-New Mystery Reader 

New Orleans photographer Abby Chastain has just celebrated a lonely 35th birthday when she gets the bad news that her ex-husband has been gruesomely murdered along with a young woman, both their bodies found posed in a shocking tableau.  And when she's declared the prime suspect by the sexy detective Rueben Montoya, her shock turns to anger- then fear- when further clues reveal that the murdering rampage has just begun. 

As more bodies are discovered, all couples arranged in a similar tableau and all somehow related to the mental institution where her mother lived her final days, Abby's confused memories of her mother's tragic fall to death at the institution begin to resurface as well, and it's then that she begins to suspect that there might be a connection.  And as she grows increasingly frightened by the knowledge that she might be next, she will have to trust the sexy detective, and he will have to trust her, if together they are to reveal the face of a madman who has only just begun to satisfy his long held rage.

Jackson's hardcover debut should please her many fans as she brings back a few characters from previous books, as well as returns to New Orleans (pre-Katrina), another familiar character of Jackson's.  And while it is a bit difficult to feel a whole lot of empathy for Abby, she comes off as a bit brusque and unfeeling, there is still a lot to be said for this exciting outing, with there being plenty of suspense, just enough romance, and a couple of cool surprises thrown in to keep the reader guessing.  This originally in hardcover debut for Jackson is one that's long overdue and well deserved, and when considering the ending that leaves one very intriguing notion dangling, we eagerly anticipate the next.

 

 

Death Without Company by Craig Johnson

Publisher: Penguin  ISBN: 0143038389

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Durant, Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire is still recovering from his last case when his next drops into town with all the force of the blizzard that accompanies it. An elderly woman with a long and complicated past, part of which was tied very closely to Walt's mentor, ornery ex-sheriff Lucian Connelly, has died a death that by all accounts seems natural.  But Lucian knows much more of her past then he's willing to reveal, a past that includes murder, scandalous secrets, hidden crimes, and justice at its most primitive.  And when you add the fact that she died one of the wealthiest women in the state, leaving behind unscrupulous relatives and a dangerous legacy, then you have the makings for a case that once again pits evil against good.     

There seems to be a plethora of the humorous small town mystery out there these days and, for the most part, they succeed on that level quite well.  But if you're looking for something more; more heart, more smarts, more insight, more characterization, more anything and everything, then this is one author you've got to try.  Not only is this latest, and the one before it, very very funny (warning: the tangle with the Christmas tree can induce laughter related hiccups) but the thoughtfulness, warmth, and soulfulness infused throughout make it one read that's simply joyful and an exceptional reading experience. 

This is one self-deprecating sheriff I wouldn't mind running my town, with his buddies of course being more than welcomed as well, all of them being the kind of folks you'd love to meet when in a bind or just for a beer. 

Read this guy, he rises above the pack with sincerity and grace, with a humbleness that refreshes and effortlessly disarms, all to the point where it's way too easy to forget this is only fiction….and that, folks, is the highest compliment I can give.           

 

Dark Assassin by Anne Perry

Publisher: Ballantine Books ISBN 0 345 69305

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Anyone who saw and enjoyed the BBC documentary "The Seven Wonders of the Industrial World " will remember the chapter on Bazelgette's amazing construction of the great sewer system of London.
 
Anne Perry's latest book takes us inside that project and introduces us to the people who made it the greatest civil engineering accomplishment of the 19th century.
 
 Superintendent William Monk of the Thames River police is out in a boat with his men when they see a tragedy: a young couple falling from Waterloo Bridge into the stinking cold water of the great river.  Did he push her?  Did she jump and pull him in?  Was it an accident?  It's hard to tell, and talking with the relatives about the incident doesn't make anything clearer.  The girl has been depressed since her father's apparent suicide, and the young man has been depressed because she broke off their engagement.
 
Further investigation reveals that the girl, Mary, believed her father was murdered because of something he knew or suspected about the great tunneling project that underlies the sewer construction.
 
 Monk begins to dig into the murky world of tunnel construction, meeting a lot of strange and tough characters as he tries to find the truth about what caused Mary and her young man to die so dreadfully.  Monk uncovers a trail of murder, treachery, and mortal danger, and along the way collects an injured street urchin whom the reader suspects will become a permanent character in future books.
 
The final scene is quite horrifying, and if you don't find yourself gasping for air before the end of the chapter, you must be a very cool customer indeed.
 
Anne Perry's William Monk series tends to be darker and heavier than her Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series, but don't let that put you off; this is a fascinating read about a little-known part of the complex history of London.

 

 

Final Truth by Mariah Stewart

Publisher: Ballantine Books,  ISBN: 0345483847

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader

Eugene Potts was overextended and decided to take some shortcuts in order to reduce his backlog of DNA testing cases.  This decision led him down the slippery slope to committing perjury under oath in order to cover his tracks.  When the truth comes out, Eugene’s career is over but that is not the worst thing that happens.  Criminals in prison start checking with their lawyers to see if their DNA was tested by Potts and can therefore have their cases reopened.  Eugene Capshaw and Lester Ray Barnes are the first to be freed due to Potts.  Capshaw was serving a life sentence but Barnes was on Death Row.  Roland Booth, Lester Ray’s lawyer not only gets him out of prison but ensures that his client receives celebrity attention to include interest from Regan Landry, an author of true crime novels.  Shortly after Regan decides to accept Barnes as a client and to write his story a rash of murders occur; the clues left on the dead women are the same as those left on Lester Ray’s victim.  Regan worries that due to DNA testing inaccuracies a guilty man may have been freed to start a killing spree again. 

Final Truth is Mariah Stewart’s last novel in the ‘Truth’ series.  The good news is that you do not have to have read the other books to enjoy this one; the author provides sufficient details to explain any ties to prior events.  For fans of the ‘Truth’ series this novel will answer all remaining questions in particularly those surrounding the mysterious Eddie Kroll.  Final Truth is a superbly written suspenseful novel which closes the series on a high note.

 

 

 

Speak of the Devil by Richard Hawke

Publishers: Ballantine Books,  ISBN: 0345482182

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader 

Its not quite often you see a major publishing house (herein Random House) publishing a hardbound edition of a debutant novelist. And if the debutant novelist’s work features blurbs by Harlan Coben and Michael Connelly- the acknowledged grandmasters of thriller and intrigue, then you gotta know- there is something special in Richard Hawke’s first novel SPEAK OF THE DEVIL.

Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time- rather the worst possible place at the worst possible time. Fritz Malone is trying to take it easy on Thanksgiving Day and enjoying the parade at Central Park, New York. Suddenly he seas a would-be assassin take mark against a potential target. Fritz Malone sounds of a warning and sprints after the assassin. He also succeeds in wounding the assassin. But in the chaos that followed has left seven dead, and suddenly Fritz finds himself in the spotlight as the assassin. Fritz is frisked off, handcuffed to the office of the Police commissioner of Police. Fritz Malone has an old score to settle with the police (what it is, is for you to find out), but accepts the task given to him- to find out what’s “really happening” and who had triggered of the mess- is it some local hoodlum or some international terrorist; and they just have his signature name “Nightmare”. To add more misery, Malone is to keep his mouth shut as far as his role in the investigation is concerned. What follows is roller-coaster of a ride, as Malone finds out that there is more evil on the side of the “good guys” than at the hands of the “baddies”.

A top-notch thriller, reminiscent of the noir thrillers of the Forties and Fifties, SPEAK OF THE DEVIL is a very interesting read. And mark my words and watch this space, we haven’t seen the last of Fritz Malone.

 

 

Shadows in the Starlight by Elaine Cunningham

Publisher:  TOR,  ISBN: 0765-34852

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

Private investigator Gwen Gelman doesn't believe that her former vice squad partner killed himself; she thinks he was murdered.  She also doesn't believe that is an elf, although she doesn't have a better explanation for her pointed ears and petite stature.  Or her contacts with the elven world who keep claiming she's one of them.

Needing work, she agrees to look for the missing wife and son of her lesbian friend's abusive ex-husband.  The missing woman turns out to have multiple identities and elven characteristics similar to Gwen's own.  Gwen's search helps her understand her own heritage, while she learns of her deceased uncle's involvement in elven organized crime, making her heir to a fortune, as well as strip clubs and a farm where an herbal alternative to Ecstasy is cultivated. 

Her former partner's death ends up being linked to the missing woman as well as a drug bust at one of Gwen's clubs.  As Gwen begins to accept her heritage and exploit the powers it gives, she relies more heavily on her elven contacts, whom she probably shouldn't trust.  However, one of her elven traits is incredible resiliency. 

Readers who like science fiction and fantasy will love this book, and readers who hate both may still be able to derive some enjoyment from it.  Gwen is an unflappable, indestructible heroine who does what she believes is right, regardless of the outcome.

 

 

Kingdom Come by Tim Green

Publishers: Warner Books, ISBN: 0446615714

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

Remember the movie Catch me If You Can- the Leonardo Di Caprio- Tom Hanks movie- minus the light humour, add more terror and you got Kingdom Come.

The suspense, the thrill, the action, the violence (and gore) is aplenty in Kingdom Come, and it’s the best read an action-thriller lover can get his hands on.

A lawyer by profession and a footballer by passion, the author Tim Green has put in real nice use of his experiences in his books in particular The Letter of the Law (legal thriller) and The Dark Side of the Game (on football). So I was rather expecting a thriller from the author in somewhat these lines- either one on football, or the regular legal thriller. But the action thriller, that Kingdom Come is, is something out of the league, and by far the most nail-biting suspense thriller I have read of the author in the recent years.

The novel is once centered around a chase- where the bad guys follow the good guys who in turn follow the bad guys. The novel has its protagonists a perfect American couple caught on the dark side of the law- and soon finds themselves the target of the Mafia and that of FBI.

A traditional Green finish, (but with more violence) culminates the work. Kingdom Come proved to be a chilling read- a tsunami of a chilling read. Kingdom Come is highly, highly recommended.

 

Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith

Publisher:  St Martin's Minotaur ISBN:  0312358040

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

A keeper.  Saddle up and be prepared to ride at a break-neck gallop with Old Red and Big Red, a pair of twenty-something brothers living in the old west.

Old Red fancies using his mind in the manner of Sherlock Holmes in solving a mysterious death on their new home range.  Desperate for a job, the brothers have taken a job with the VR ranch, run by a manager named Perkins and a rather ratty-looking, nasty foreman and his brother where they run headlong into danger and a rather unappetizing pair of corpses.

Using a wonderful mix of English nobility as investors in the ranchlands of Montana and a scrubby lot of cowboys, talented author Steve Hockensmith has created a tale that will satisfy any western or mystery fan. You'll wonder when the shooting will start, hear the flies buzzing, and feel the dust sift into your clothes as you join Old Red in his "deducifyin'" and understand Big Red's confusion as he tags after his brother. 

Highly recommended as pure entertainment and fun. You'll like some, you hate some, but the characters step off the page and make you take notice of them.  A book you will want to read more than once.  Enjoy.  I sure did.

 

 

To Love and to Perish by Laura Durham

Publisher: Avon  ISBN-10: 0060739088

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Annabelle Archer is only one of several wedding planners who has bookings in the same hotel on the same day, a fact that proves the competition between wedding planners remains fierce. So when she finds Carolyn Crabbe, the senior wedding planner in DC, hanging from the balcony in the ballroom with a bridal veil around her neck, she realizes she and all the other wedding planners are sure to be the main suspects.  Unfortunately, Annabelle was seen arguing with Carolyn shortly before finding her body, putting her at the top of the list.  But when yet another wedding planner is murdered, and then yet another, Annabelle knows it's up to her to find the culprit before it is her turn to die. 

This is an absolutely hilarious plot that keeps you in stitches throughout the entire book.  Annabelle is a character with the ability to skip blithely between police and fellow planners asking questions and getting answers.  Don't skip ahead in this one, even though it's tempting, as the suspenseful anticipation in guessing who the killer is, and their motive, is more than half the fun.