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The Summit by Kat Martin

Publisher: Mira  ISBN-10: 0778324702

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

As a teenage Autumn Sommers had a tragic nightmare that came true, and had she known the dream was prophetic she could have saved two friends lives.  Now as an adult she is dreaming about a young girl being kidnapped from her home.  Is it past, present or future?  Checking old newspaper files she believes the girl to be Molly McKenzie, and approaches Ben Mackenzie whom reluctantly persuades to help her follow her dream clues.  And as her dreams reveal more clues, Autumn and Ben find themselves in the midst of a fanatical religious sect whose leader is believed to have control over Molly.

This is truly a fantastic paranormal thriller that keeps you on your toes at all times.  Martin has written a fast paced plot that keeps your hair standing on end from the very beginning.  It is also a novel filled with the love of a father for his daughter and a budding romance between Autumn and Ben.  This is one you won't want to put down.



The Mark by Jason Pinter

Publisher: Mira  ISBN-10: 0778324893

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, new Mystery Reader

Henry Parker who is a cub reporter for the New York Gazette is sent to interview about his life on parole.  He winds up killing a New York City cop and is accused of stealing something from the scene.  He is now the mark for anyone carrying a gun for the police or the mob.  He hooks up with a young woman named Amanda and goes on the run.

Pinter has written a harrowing novel that keeps the adrenaline level high.  The plot is so fascinating and twisting you can't put the book down to sleep.  He has created young untried heroes that you keep rooting to survive. Keep a close eye out for the next Pinter thriller.  If it is half as good as this one you will be hooked.



A Student of Living Things by Susan Richards Shreve

Publisher:  A Plume Book   ISBN:  978-0-452-28849-2

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

As Claire Frayn reaches into her backpack for an umbrella, her brother, standing next to her on the steps of a university library, is shot.  Even in a quasi-post-Apocalyptic Washington, D.C. where such things seem possible, Steven Fraynís assassination is shocking.  The extraordinarily tense and intense extended Frayn family is quick to attribute his death to his political opinions, and his controversial editorial that appeared in that morningís paper.

Stunned by her beloved brotherís death, grad student Claire is vulnerable to the enigmatic Victor Duarte, a friend of Stevenís who asks her help in finding Stevenís killer.  At Victorís urging, Claire begins a correspondence with Benjamin Reed, Victorís main suspect who has surprising ties to the Frayn family.  But soon Claire doesnít know who she can trust.

With enough family drama in the first few chapters to make All in the Family look like a light romantic comedy, unusual and unsettling A Student of Living Things will surprise readers with its eventual quiet optimism.  And members of the Frayn family who seem on the brink of nervous breakdowns before the tragedy strikes magically pull together. 



Crossfire by Miyuki Miyabe

Publisher: Kodansha International ISBN 4770030689

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader 

Given the horrific headlines these days, haven't we all secretly wished we had the power to deliver punishment to evil people when the legal system seems to fail?  For most of us, it's only a passing thought--but for Junko Aoki, it's reality.  Junko has a paranormal ability: she's a fire-raiser.

Sufficiently provoked by injustice, Junko can snap necks and set fire to anyone or anything. A frightening talent, but one which she's been able to control since she was a little girl.

Suddenly, the power takes on a life of its own, after Junko delivers what she sees as justice to a gang guilty of particularly heinous crimes.  The very dramatic way in which Junko's power has been used attracts the attention of the Arson Squad at Tokyo Central Police station.  The down-to-earth Sergeant Chikako Ishizu is paired with the loner Makihara, who has reason to believe in the paranormal.

Their investigation leads them to another girl who has fire-starting abilities, and from there to a shadowy organization, The Guardians, who have connections in very high places indeed.  While their motives are similar to Junko's, they see her as a loose cannon, someone to be removed if she can't be controlled.  Tracking her down takes considerable effort by both the Guardians and the police, because people such as Junko tend to be solitary souls out of self-defense.

Miyabe can really put a twist in the tale; for a while she suckers you in to thinking that there might at last be some happiness for Junko, and you're coasting along on a warm pink cloud, happy for her, when penultimate chapter that you never expected explodes on the page!

This is a frightening story from the pen of one who has been called Japan's Stephen King.  I'd put her in a category all of her own, and urge you to read "Crossfire" and judge for yourself.



The Ruins by Scott Smith

Publisher: Vintage  ISBN: 030727828X

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When two couples decide to spend their last fling of youth before their next big next step into adulthood vacationing in Cancun, they envision days on the beach and nights drinking and dancing.  But when they meet up with a young German whose brother has gone missing, leaving behind only a rough drawn map to an archeological dig in the jungle, they agree to join him on a search, happily unaware of the danger that awaits them.  But it's all too soon when what seemed a day's adventurous outing into unknown territory turns into a nightmare of epic proportions when they encounter an insidious evil that has no intent of letting them go.    

This book should come with red-lettered warnings and screaming alarms, because once entered, there's no leaving.  Gruesome and downright scary as hell, this is not for the faint of heart.  Smith shows no mercy to either the reader or the characters we're reading about, infusing fear into every step taken with each being more terrifying than the last.  This is definitely not a book for everyone, especially those who prefer a less graphic and head on display of horror, so take that as your warning and enter its horror only with extreme caution.     



TripTych by Karin Slaughter

Publisher: Dell  ISBN: 0440242924

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When the body of a brutally murdered hooker is found in Atlanta missing her tongue, homicide detective Michael Ormewood and his partner are assigned the case, but when it's discovered that there have been other similar slayings, special investigator Will Trent joins the investigation.  But this particular killer seems to know exactly how to kill without leaving behind any evidence, and as his victims seem to have nothing in common as well, finding this madman won't be easy. 

Watching from the sidelines is an ex-con, a man who has served his time for the murder of a young girl, a murder that looks all too familiar.  And when undercover detective Angie Polaski is drawn into the case, all these lives will collide in a way that will forever change each of them, that is if they can survive the final plans of a killer whose rampage of hatred has yet to be played out.

Fans of Slaughter's Grant County series might initially be disappointed that Slaughter has temporarily eschewed her popular series for this stand alone tale of suspense, but this is a disappointment that won't linger for long.  A huge fan myself, I was surprised to find this read to be far and away Slaughter's best in a list that includes some of the finest suspense tales out there. 

Breaking down the story into three main parts, she provides the reader with 3 views of events, views that also serve as poignant, compelling, and completely convincing character studies of those on both sides of the law.  But she doesn't stop there; the reader is then also treated to a number of shocks and surprises in a parade of events past and present that mesmerize exponentially with each page turned.  Easily one of the best books of the genre I've had the delight to read, my only disappointment lies in the probability that I might not see these perfectly drawn characters again. 



Chemistry of Death by Simon Beckett

Publisher: Dell ISBN: 044335957

Reviewed by Dana King, New Mystery Reader

Televisionís CSI franchise has had its effect on all crime stories, whether fictional or real. People now expect Gil Grissom, Mac Taylor, or Horatio Caine to show up with whichever hot crime scene babe works on that show (Marg Helgenberger wins, hands down), swab up some blood, find a hair under a toilet seat, run tests in real time, and browbeat the suspect into a confession with their intense and aggressive interrogation skills. Juries have come to expect this, and cases that shouldnít require forensic evidence become nail-biters because some jurors donít believe a defendant can be guilty if he didnít leave semen at the scene of a bank robbery.

Itís not really like that. (For a good idea of what it is really like, read Connie Fletcherís excellent new book, Every Contact Leaves a Trace.) For a good, fictionalized idea of what itís really like, read Simon Beckettís The Chemistry of Death.

Dr. David Hunter is a burned-out forensic anthropologist, packed away in a rural English town when the loss of his wife and daughter bring the reality of premature death too close to home. Things are going about as heíd hoped: life plods along, one foot in front of the other, while the town goes about its business of viewing him as the extra doctor, helping the ďrealĒ doctor, who is now confined to a wheelchair after an accident that killed his wife.

This uneventful existence suits Hunter fine until a badly decomposed body is found in the marsh outside of town. Hunter is content to let the police handle it, until Detective Mackenzie discovers Hunterís past and eases him into the case, bit by bit, until Hunterís in deeper than either he or Mackenzie expected, or wanted.

Beckett pulls this off the ease. Early on, itís easy to think this will be just another story where a protagonist with some convenient skill involves himself in something way over his head and succeeds through a wicked combination of PowerBall-caliber luck and divine intervention. I was wrong. (Again.) Beckett weaves the investigation around Hunter so insidiously you (and he) donít realize how deep heís in until he canít get out. Mackenzie never asks Hunter to do anything he shouldnít be able to do; nor does Beckett. In one scene, current protocol practically demands Hunter sneak along against police orders, to either muck things up or save the day. He actually does as heís told.

All of this just proves that realism need not diminish suspense. The Chemistry of Death builds its momentum at a sustainable pace, moving down an increasingly steep hill until you canít read it fast enough. The ending consists of cascading, yet satisfying, surprises, their plausibility undiminished by their unexpected nature.

Beckett is no admirer of small town living. Manham is described in quaint, but dreary, terms. Its residents are of the insular local xenophobes of a Twilight Zone episode, rather than Andy Griffithís ďsay hey for meĒ neighbors. The atmosphere is oppressive, creating an essentially closed environment where outside intervention is limited and all the suspects are known to the reader.

The location and cast are built a little at a time, so the overall effect comes about through Beckettís layers of description. A journalist by day, he has a journalistís eye for peopleís foibles and the details of place, without becoming too dry and detached.

The Chemistry of Death absorbs the reader through the back door by pushing interruptions to the side, rather than screaming for your attention. (I learned this the hard way when I read right past my train station one day.) This is Beckettís first novel, already successful in the U.K. Now his name can be added to the growing list of British crime writers who will find a loyal audience in the States.



The Skin Gods by Richard Montanari

Publisher: Ballantine Books ISBN: 0345470982

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Philly homicide detective Kevin Byrne is still recovering from a brutal gun shot injury and contemplating his return to the force when two shocking events occur that entice him back into work, albeit with wariness and self-doubt. The first is the brutal slaying of a young woman, her murder mimicking that of Vivien Leigh's in the movie Psycho, and the other being the release of a vicious killer he once put away, now let out on an accusation that the evidence convicting him had been planted.  And when the murder count starts rising, all mimicking those found in popular films, Kevin and his young partner, Jessie Balzano, must attempt to tie all these events together, because the killer is closing in, and one of them may just be next on his list.

A follow-up to last year's The Rosary Girls, Montanari manages to kick the suspense up another electrifying notch in an outing that easily surpasses his first in intensity and thrills.  This one, made even better by the toning down of the graphic descriptions, now finds a more thoughtful and ingenious focus through its characters and their motives, adding increased depth and force to this already compelling series. At this rate, we can only expect the next to be even better, and eagerly await to see where this inventive author takes us.     




Until the Day You Die by Tina Wainscott

Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks  ISBN-10: 0312941633

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

It's been years since the death of Maggie Fletcher's sister after a brutal attack by a serial stalker, a tragedy that forced Maggie to go into hiding after lying about witnessing the stalker leaving the scene in order to secure a conviction.  But now, living in a new town, with a new life, Maggie begins to feel like she's being watched, the words of her sister's descriptions of being stalked and not believed now a part of her own life.  Not knowing who to trust and where to turn when nobody believes her, Maggie must determine if this threat is someone from the past, or someone she has just begun to know.

Wainscott does an incredible job of wracking up the suspense exponentially as the story progresses; her depiction of the insidious and all-consuming threat posed by being stalked cutting to the bone.  Yes, there are times, much like when watching a horror flick, you want to scream warnings at the heroine who seems to walk straight into danger over and over. But, it doesn't take long to notice that in this situation there aren't a lot of choices;  the threat of stalking all too often so subtle so as not to be believed, most claims all too easily shrugged off, and therein lays its true horror.  If this one doesn't make you look over your shoulder, avoid talking to strangers, lock your doors, get an unlisted phone number, and question the friendly acquaintance, you probably should read it again.