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Dirty Martini by J.A. Konrath

Publisher: Hyperion  ISBN-10: 1401302793

Reviewed by Dana King, New Mystery Reader

It should be difficult for a conscientious reviewer to pan a book by an established writer with a successful series, especially when the book in question meets with high acclaim elsewhere. So itís entirely possible that Iíve missed the boat completely and fallen off the pier regarding J.A. Konrathís latest Jack Daniels mystery, Dirty Martini.

This installment has Jack tracking a serial killer/mass murderer who is extorting two million dollars from Chicago. Jack is called in by the new female superintendent because her poll numbers are good: public approval of her is 83%. And so begin the problems.

All novels require a suspension of disbelief. We know this didnít happen, but, so long as we get an entertaining read, weíre willing to pretend. Up to a point. Thereís the rub for Dirty Martini. The point past which all disbelief must be suspended was back a ways.

Name a cop in the town or city where you live, excepting the chief, or someone known by you personally. If you can, thereís probably something wrong with him, or he wouldnít be on the news for you to become familiar with him. To believe 83% of Chicagoans approve of a police lieutenant is asking a lot.

Daniels is summoned to see the superintendent just as her boyfriend proposes. She departs without giving an answer, leaving him alone to eat the dinner he prepared with food contaminated by The Chemist, the previously mentioned killer. This puts him in a coma, during which time Jack has repeated lustful feelings for a federal officer. Ick.

Her partnerís request for a transfer out of Homicide is granted overnight, in the middle of what would have been the biggest heater case in Chicago history. Jack comes to work to find some twenty-something Gen X-er with her feet on Jackís desk, back talking and generally disrespecting a senior officer.

When Jack canít sleep because of the investigation and her fiancťís coma, she cleans the house instead of going over the case. She finds a letter that her absent mother didnít expect Jack to open until after Mom was dead, telling Jack the father she thought died when she was little is alive and well. Jack later takes a break from the investigation to seek Dad out.

The book is filled with death-defying escapes, punctuated with humor at times Arnold Schwarzenegger wouldnít even think to crack wise. The timing of the humor diminishes the tension, and the high stakes makes the humor sound forced. Jackís partner shifts from lying in a pool of his own blood to swooping down in a police helicopter to save her in the matter of a few pages. And The Chemist knows how to create every toxin known to man, as well as twenty tons of homemade explosive, booby traps the Viet Cong would never have thought of, and is a master of telephonic subterfuge the NSA would do well to hire.

Thereís more, but thatís already way too much. The shame of it is, Konrath can write. Dirty Martini is filled with the kind of easy reading that comes only from hard work and talent. The book is ultimately brought down because it reads as though it was cobbled together by a room full of marketing types brainstorming what sells. Janet Evanovichís quirky humor is popular. John Sandfordís sold a boatload of high body count books. Marry them up. The love child of Stephanie Plum and Lucas Davenport has to sell, doesnít it?

And it will. In the interest of fairness, Iíll point out that eighteen reviewers gave Dirty Martini an average of five stars. Thatís nothing to sneeze at. They obviously saw something I missed, or missed something I saw. But after a while, well-written or not, Konrath asks the reader to believe too much, too often. Dirty Martini reads like the novelization of an action movie, without taking into account that a movie can move too fast to allow the audience to really think about whatís happening.



The Candidate by Susan Wales and Robin Shope

Publisher:  Fleming H. Revell  ISBN:  978-0-8007-3112-0

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

A fun read for the romantic! Talented authors Susan Wales and Robin Shope combine their creative abilities to bring to life the inhabitants of the small town where Jill Lewis has returned to run the local newspaper.  She is now its proud owner.

Jill needs time to think also about the two men in her life, one a politician and another in law enforcement.  Which one will she choose or will it be neither? 

As Jill settles in as owner of the newspaper, she is drawn to researching certain historical events of the town and becomes involved in a murder.  Will she also be a victim because of what she discovers?

And when will she have time for her newspaper when her life takes a sudden turn. As the two stories unwind, Jill must find a way to balance both halves of her life.

Full of clever twists and turns, lots of red herrings for us to follow in the mystery Jill uncovers, and excitement and intrigue will keep you reading.  This is a very well put together story that any reader will find a pleasant way to spend some time.  I'm pleased to recommend this well told tale as a fun read that will leave you very satisfied with the outcome.  Enjoy.  I did.



A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch

Publisher:  St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN:  13:  978-0-312-35977-5

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Attention fans of historic mysteries.  If you enjoy tales similar to the style of Sherlock Holmes, you will enjoy A Beautiful Blue Death. 

Talented author Charles Finch opens the door and invites us to step into the investigation conducted by amateur detective Charles Lenos, a member of the upper crust of London's Victorian era.

The former servant of a friend of Lenox's is found dead in her room in the home of a member of the aristocracy and a man who holds a high place in the government.  There is doubt as to the cause of her death or the how of it. Is it suicide or not? Why would a girl with high hopes for her future take her own life?

Additional mysteries and reluctant witnesses complicate the investigation and frustrate Lenox no end.  Will he ever resolve the matter without help?

I'm pleased to recommend this book as a fun read that offers something new in way of plot and characters.  The setting is so well drawn, you'll feel as if you've visited the era.  Enjoy.  I sure did.



Death in the Truffle Wood by Pierre Magnan

Publisher:  Thomas Dunne Books  ISBN:  13:  978-0-312-36666-7

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

An easy-paced tale with lots of local color and flavor, a story where you'll meet a variety of interesting and intriguing characters, including a truffle-hunting pig who helps solve a crime. This is a book that will please the reader who likes to venture into mysteries based in other countries.

No matter where we go, people are basically the same the world over--the desire for a safe home, enough to eat and a decent income.  It is this that takes Alyre Morelon and his sow, Roseline, out to hunt truffles--this plus the desire to please his wife.  On the last trips, Roseline has acted strange and run off and made a lot of noise and this worries Alyre.  What is going on with her?

Strange things are happening in the village of Banon.  Hippies are disappearing for no reason, a strange man stops at a small hotel and begins a search for two of the missing.  What will he find?

Talented author Pierre Magnan introduces the reader to a set of lifelike characters you can believe do exist. His descriptive abilities and understanding of human nature bring the tale to life and you'll come to believe this could have happened.  Along with a well-plotted tale, you'll come away with knowledge of truffles, the hunting of them and just what they are.

A fun read well worth the time.  Guaranteed to please the reader who enjoys variety, whether mystery or a wider selection of reading material.  Enjoy.  I certainly did.