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Are You Afraid of the Dark by Sidney Sheldon

Publisher: Warner Books ISBN: 0446613657

Are You Afraid of the Dark by Sidney Sheldon: Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan

Sidney Sheldon is my favorite author. Ever since at the age of 15 when I read Bloodline, I became a fan of Sheldon… for life. I am now the proud owner of all popular Sheldon novels and some rare ones, including Adventures of Drippy: The Runaway Raindrop. Presently I am also on the lookout for another rare title, Sharing Christmas.

So it was with much pleasure and anticipation I picked up my copy of Sidney Sheldon’s first novel, following a three-year hiatus- ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK. I immediately jumped into the pages and boy, oh boy!!! was I ever so impressed. To call it outstanding would be incorrect, what Are You Afraid of the Dark is, is one hell of a suspense chiller- thriller- that gives new meaning to the phrase “page turner”- I read the novel, and turned the pages with the speed of Michael Schumacher and I finished the 340 page novel within 2 ½ hours- and still I cannot get over the hangover.

Like all Sheldon works, this novel also feature strong women protagonists- Kelly Harris and Diane Stevens. Both come from different backgrounds, and in fact hate the sight of each other- but what brings them together is that both their husbands were killed, on the same day, while working on a top secret project for a think tank group called KIG, headed by the handsome, but vicious, clever but cunning Tanner Kingsley. Keeping their differences aside the duo confronts KIG and Tanner Kingsley- and what follows is suspense at its best, culminating in a grand finish- that sure gonna keep the Sidney Sheldon fan happy, really happy.

Only one regret, now I have to wait for a looooooong time for the next Sheldon novel to hit the market….

 

A Carnivore's Inquiry by Sabina Murray

Publisher:  Grover Press  ISBN:  0-8021-4200-1

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader 

At first glance, twenty-two year old Katherine Shea seems only mildly sociopathic, shamelessly seducing men (primarily older) for free meals, places to stay, or just the heck of it.  Returning to New York after several months in Italy, she hooks up with Boris Naryshkin, a middle-aged Russian writer, who she describes as almost handsome, if he has a fifty dollar bill in his hand.

She convinces him to rent a ramshackle house near Portland, Maine, where "Bad Billy" Selwyn has recently escaped from the asylum.  With Boris safely in New York, she takes up with Arthur, a recovering addict turned street performer.  As she travels to the southwest to visit her mother's ranch, then to Mexico to request the assistance of an old professor, she casually accumulates additional lovers, but strangely, brutally murdered men keep turning up in close proximity to her.

A strangely sympathetic character, perhaps due to her biting wit, seeming lack of pretension, and longing for her fragile mother, Katherine stingily reveals surprising details about herself.  Arthur's horror as he begins to suspect the truth about her is matched only by the reader's.

The ick factor of this book is high, but at least it's not graphic.  Katherine's long ruminations about cannibals through history slow down the action, and I confess I began skipping them, so perhaps I missed crucial aspects of the plot.  I'm not sure what's most disturbing:  the book itself, or how much I enjoyed it.

 

 

How To Be Bad by David Bowker

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin. ISBN: 0-312-32826-5

Reviewed by Tim Davis for New Mystery Reader

Mark Madden is an unremarkable twenty-three year old bookstore owner in London. Specializing in rare and collectible books, Mark leads a somewhat monotonous routine existence. Mark’s obsessive compulsion for making innumerable lists about both mundane and esoteric things, and his rather innocent and uneventful love life are the most notable aspects to Mark’s clearly unexceptional life.

Things, however, begin to change one day for Mark when he runs into Caro Sewell, his former girlfriend whom he hadn’t seen in nearly six years. Caro, it seems to Mark, hasn’t changed very much during the intervening the years. Still dominated by an effervescent personality, still sexually enthusiastic, and—unfortunately for Mark—still more than just a little bit promiscuous, Caro—as Mark would like to believe in spite of all evidence to the contrary—may be the perfect remedial additive to his otherwise lackluster existence.

Caro, though, when she reenters Mark’s life will bring more excitement than Mark could have possibly imagined. Beyond being tempestuous, flirtatious, and adventurous—both in and out of the bedroom—Caro, it seems, also has a previously unrevealed but recently emerging murderous side to her personality. Because she lacks the means and initiative to carry out her own homicidal schemes by herself, she desperately needs Mark and insists that Mark can finally and completely prove himself worthy of her madly carnal and generously amorous appetites by simply completing the tasks she has included on her own obsessively composed list: Kill three people—her former lover, her wealthy father, and a man who apparently calls himself Jesus.

What follows in David Bowker’s entertaining and comic novel is a delightfully dark, deliciously raunchy, and wildly murderous variation on the themes of happiness, homicide, and the common fellow’s persistent struggles against cynicism and failure encountered by filmgoers in a wide variety of ways in the following disparate works which are—oddly enough—curiously similar to Bowker’s novel: A Clockwork Orange, Arsenic and Old Lace, and Bonny and Clyde. Warning: Readers of conventional mystery and detective fiction will encounter something quite different from the run-of-the-mill genre fiction when they burrow into Bowker’s How To Be Bad, but even die-hard mystery and detective readers should enjoy young bibliophile Mark Madden’s erratic, erotic, and star-crossed murderous odyssey as he is seduced, beguiled, and bewitched by the exotic Siren-like Caro Sewell.  

 

SKINNY DIP by Carl Hiaasen 

 Publisher: Warner Books ISBN: 0446695564

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Joey and Chaz Perrone take a cruise to celebrate their anniversary.  One dark rainy night Chaz gets Joey drunk then throws her overboard in what he hopes is shark infested waters.  But champion swimmer Joey clings to a bale of Jamaican pot, which has been scuttled, until she is rescued by retired cop Mick Stranahan.  She convinces Mick to let her remain "dead" so that she can find out why her husband tried to kill her and seek her revenge.

This is an absolutely delightful book that will tickle the funny bone of every reader.  It is full of corrupt politicians, corporate CEO's that pollute the environment, two timing husbands, and bimbo home wreckers.  In spite of the fact that this is a hilarious book, the plot is built around the fact that corruption is allowing our planet to be destroyed.  It makes every reader want to jump onto the "save the earth" bandwagon.

 

Men From Boys Edited by John Harvey

Publisher: Dark Alley ISBN: 0060762853

Reviewed by Dana King, New Mystery Reader

Anthologies are uneven by nature. Bring together seventeen crime authors and ask them each to write a short story and some will be better than others, regardless of the group’s talent level. John Harvey took great care picking his group; crime readers should thank him for it.

Harvey tasked seventeen of his favorites (including himself, with good cause) with a simple request: write about what it is to be a man. Each author was free to take that where he pleased. Some stories dealt with being a father, some with being a son. Some did both. Some revolved around courage, or the perception of it, both from the inside and the outside. Doing one’s duty, not knowing what to do, or knowing and not doing it. However each writer interpreted his mandate, the collection is well-rounded and eminently readable. This volume lacks Hemingway men being manly because they’re men, dammit. Neither are there any New Age dissertations on the role of the increasingly genderless “man” in today’s society. These are men with places to go and people to do.

Michael Connelly’s “After Midnight,” Jeffery Deaver’s “The Poker Lesson,” Reginald Hill’s “The Boy and Man Booker,” and Dennis Lehane’s “Until Gwen” all show the hallmarks of classic tales from the Alfred Hitchcock paperback collections of the Sixties, saving one last twist for the end, surprising your right brain while your left brain thinks, “of course.” Bill Moody’s “The Resurrection of Bobo Jones” captures the personalities and psychoses of musicians, no mean feat in the eyes of this recovering instrumentalist. Don Winslow’s “Douggie Doughnuts” and Daniel Woodrell’s “Two Things” show flip sides of father-son relationships. Peter Robinson’s “Shadow on the Water” makes its characters re-examine their ideas of heroism. John Straley’s protagonist in “Life Before the War” re-examines everything.

The characters are slimy, brave, lecherous, deceitful, upstanding, strong, vulgar, murderous, whiny, brilliant, weak, pure, and any other human virtues or vices you can think of, usually several in the same character. This is a strength of such  collections: no single story could cram so many strong characters into one novel. The plot could never hold them, one imagination couldn’t think of them. Here they make their appearance, say their piece, and get off the stage.

Some work better than others. James Sallis’s “Concerto for Violence and Orchestra” roams with the vigor of a hallucinogenic dream; when it’s over, it’s about as memorable. Lawrence Block’s “Points” is, sorry to say (doubly sorry for the bad pun) pointless. Maybe it would have helped to know something about basketball before writing a basketball story. Sliding your hand under the ball while dribbling isn’t double-dribbling; it’s palming, or carrying. College basketball games never had quarters, just halfs.

That’s nit-picking. The stories cover a range of actions and truths broad enough to suit anyone, with perspectives to match. Harvey admits in his entertaining introduction that he didn’t get everyone he’d hoped to; those he got were more than good enough. Bravo to them all, and for his thinking up the idea. Let’s hope he does it again.

 

REGRETS ONLY  by  Nancy Geary

Publisher: Warner Books ISBN: 0446615854

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Nancy Geary's latest book will keep you on your toes trying to keep track of the suspects:  it seems that every person who ever met psychiatrist Morgan Reese has a reason to want her dead--except the obvious suspect, the greatly disturbed young man Calvin. 

Morgan was a complex woman, and one would expect that her murder would have a complex reason behind it.  That assumption leads homicide detective Lucy O'Malley to a number of dry wells before she takes another look and wonders if perhaps the motive isn't one of the simplest and oldest of all.

A murder investigation is challenging and stressful at the best of times: imagine how hard it is for Lucy when it's her new boyfriend's mother that's the victim.   And it doesn't help that the woman has been estranged from the family for decades, which means they are almost useless as a source of information, while still being touchy as a nest of wasps about police prying into their private affairs.

A lot of the private affairs turn out to be not so private after all: Morgan Reese wasn't always the ice-queen her recent colleagues believe she was.  Add a hotly contested prestige job, a teen suicide,  and a high-profile medical institute into the mix and you have the recipe for a compelling drama that will keep you turning pages long after your official bedtime.

Definitely not a book to start reading after supper; save it for a Sunday morning when you can be sure of a few hours of unbroken fascination.

 

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

Publisher: Vintage ISBN: 1400095913

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Just when you think that the serial killer story has just about been all tapped out as far as originality goes, along come Darkly Dreaming Dexter.  In this fresh and novel approach to the genre, we meet Dexter-a serial killer with charm, a code of honor, and a great sense of humor. A guy who just doesn't understand what it takes to be "human", and all the messiness that comes along with it, but he gives it one heck of a shot in ways that are laugh-out-loud funny.

Dexter made a promise to his foster father he would only kill the bad guys when the need became too great and he had to a'hunting.  And so that's what he does, along with his work as a blood-splatter analyst in Miami.  But when another serial killer strikes the city, Dexter can't help but be fascinated at the killer's wry and inventive way of killing.  It almost seems as if the killer is trying to get a message across to Dexter and, by all accounts, Dexter is listening.  Unfortunately, so is his sister, a cop in the county, and other various police personnel.  Things get a little dicey for Dexter, and very interesting for the reader, as he follows the killer's trail right to a shocking ending that leaves much promise for the next stimulating and ingenious novel featuring this notable and likable killer.    

 

See Jane Die by Erica Spindler

Publisher: Mira Books ISBN: 077832169x

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Seventeen years ago young Jane Killian’s life was suddenly changed by a seemingly freak accident when a boat rammed into her during what was supposed to be a fun day playing hooky from school.  After years of facial reconstructive surgery, and the help of her loved ones, she’s finally recovered and now couldn’t be happier; married to the man of her dreams, her art career about to go national, and with a baby on the way, each day is a joy, made all that much easier by her huge inheritance.  But when her husband is accused of murder, it all comes crashing down.  Her half sister, Stacy, a detective with the Dallas PD, is involved in the case, and all too soon half-remembered resentments rise to the surface as the sisters once again face off.  Believing her husband innocent, while Stacy is convinced of his guilt, neither sister is aware that danger is lurking closer than they think, for someone who claims to love Jane is really out to get her.

A definite winner, this latest from Spindler shocks, stuns, and entertains with each and every page.  And with a plethora of suspects, the final turn of events will astonish even the most careful of readers.  Just when you think you’ve figured it all out, Spindler deviously throws in yet another whammy and it’s back to square one in a read that rocks with suspense and excitement.  Highly recommended, Spindler once again shows that she has mastered the craft of creating unabated anticipation, tension, and a well thought out resolution.

 

‘Til Death Do Us Part by Kate White

Publisher: Warner Vision ISBN: 0446614939

New York’s true crime reporter Bailey Weggins seems to be in the rut of “always a bridesmaid, never a bride”, but this time it’s more than just dreary, it’s dangerous, as the bridesmaids from the last wedding she participated in are slowly being murdered.  As she begins to investigate, she finds out much more than she bargained for about these women she only thought she knew, and as danger starts to follow her, she knows she better unravel this tangled web before she becomes the next victim.   

Ms. White does a bang-up job using a fair amount of sardonic wit to unravel the world of the Greenwich, CT. cashmere ridden set.  Peyton Cross as the Martha Stewart wanna-be, is especially cunning and devious, and White’s attempt to reveal this supercilious world is not only amusing, but engaging and suspenseful.  Bailey herself is more than ever appealing this time around as she confronts her fear of commitment and stages her battles against this duplicitous world.  A definite winner that should satisfy old fans and garner new ones, this is a must-read for fans of gentle and amusing suspense. 

 

Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs

Publisher: Pocket Star ISBN: 0743453018

Forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan makes her 7th appearance, this time she’s in Montreal preparing to testify at a trial when some bones are found beneath a pizza parlor and Tempe is called to investigate.  It soon becomes evident to Tempe that the bones are of three young women whose death appears relatively recent (at least within the last two decades), and though a violent death isn’t immediately obvious, she knows that something’s not quite right.  And so she must use science, detective work, and a lot of patience to find out who they were, and why they died, meanwhile dealing with her best friend’s failing marriage, her own troubling relationship with Detective Ryan, and the plummeting temperatures of Montreal in the winter.

My first Temperance Brennan mystery and, assuredly, not my last as this one has everything that one might want in a good mystery; a superior sense of anticipation, appealing characters, a bit of love, and a delightful winter atmosphere.  Previously frightened off by the thought of too much gore, I avoided this particular series, but was pleasantly surprised to pick this one up and instead find a bit of science, a bit of detecting, a feisty and lovable heroine, and a whole lot of suspense.  Reichs also has done a lovely job of bringing Montreal to life for one who has never had the pleasure of visiting this wonderfully described city.  This is one series that I will have to return to the beginning of if this is any indication of what has come before.  

 

 

Ice Run by Steve Hamilton 

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312932960

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Former Detroit cop Alex McKnight returns again and this time out things are going to get very personal for him and his new lover, Canadian cop Natalie Reynaud.  Having planned a romantic rendezvous, the two meet up in Sault St. Marie during a blinding snow storm, but get more than they bargained for when a mysterious old man shows up as well who seems to know Natalie.  And when his corpse is later found near the hotel, Alex can’t help but get involved in unraveling the mystery of this enigmatic man and the hat he left behind on their doorstep. His trail will lead him far into Natalie’s disturbing past, and with Natalie acting more and more strangely as events grow increasingly dangerous, it will take a new found commitment from Alex if he’s to save the woman he is coming to love.

Alex is such a nice guy that you can’t help root for him and his newfound love, with the romantic side of him being just as endearing as all the other upright qualities he hold in abundance. The suspense is also done up right, with the beautifully written details of a snow laden Upper Peninsula adding it’s own share of chills.  This latest is a highly recommended  thrilling adventure that takes winter time in Michigan and turns it into a breathtaking journey, revealing along the way the dangers of a past never let go.

 

Shakedown Beach by Eric Dezenhill

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312307721

Reviewed by Laura Helfrich

Jonah Eastman is a pollster in the employ of “Rebound” Rothman, a
former basketball star who is running for the Senate. Rothman is  enjoying a healthy lead in the polls, but he is constantly putting pressure on Jonah to find enough dirt to bury his opponent. Jonah is not averse to such tactics; he got Rothman elected Governor by finding a way to blame a catastrophic hurricane on his opponent. He does wonder why Rothman is so anxious. It just doesn’t make sense given his lead in the polls. When Rothman comes out in favor of riverboat gambling, Jonah knows that something is not right. Rothman’s backing of the measure simply doesn’t make sense given his previous record. Someone must have something on Rothman. Jonah’s initial attempts to find out what that is put him on the expressway to trouble.

Hidden away in a run down motel in Atlantic City is Simone Lava, former
beauty queen, full-time bimbo, and current girl friend of the married
Rothman. Someone has filmed their assignations. Can Jonah find a way to
spin the film, and if he can, will his efforts land him on the wrong
(and lethal) side of the mob?

Rounding out the primary cast of characters is Chief Willie
Thundercloud, a former professional wrestler who now makes a living as
a “fixer.” His tactics are not entirely legal, but his results are good.

Shakedown Beach is full of political shenanigans and backbiting,
scandal, tension, and suspense. Dezenhill’s strong suit is clearly
characterization. There are a raft of mobsters, politicos, and hangers-
on, each of whom is well drawn and interesting. 

The writing is sharp, clever, and sometimes hilarious. At times,
however, it seems that the author was suffering from a “look at me,
aren’t I funny” complex. The puns are sometimes labored, or there is
just too much of it stuffed on the page.

South Jersey politics is heavily featured, but one doesn’t need even a
passing familiarity with that to enjoy the book. We all know “family-
value” politicians who turned out to have feet of clay.

This is a fun read with interesting characters and a complex and
involving plot.

 

 Publisher: Signet Book  ISBN: 0451215494

Reviewed by Donna Padilla

A serial killer is on the loose and playing games with FBI agent Sam McCabe.  For weeks McCabe has been processing phoned in clues, but always arrives at the scene of the crime just moments after it has been committed.  When Maddie Fitzgerald manages to escape before she is killed, Sam decides to use her as bait, and refuses to let her out of his sight until the killer is caught.

Karen Robards knows how to create a mystery novel, that keeps one on edge until the very end.  The plot flows very smoothly and keeps the reader biting his nails.  The good guys are incorruptible and the bad guys are heartless villains.  Robard also provides the reader with much needed relief by mixing humor into the plot, all making for a highly enjoyable read.

 

The Hundredth Man by Jack Kerley

 Publisher: Signet ISBN: 0451214450

It wasn’t too long ago when young Detective Carson Ryder was walking the beat in Mobile, Alabama, not really sure of his enjoyment of the job, but doing his best nonetheless.  But after breaking a big case involving a serial killer, the forces that be set him and his partner, Harry Nautilus, up as a special team to track killings of a psychopathic nature.  And it isn’t long when yet another serial killer strikes the city, putting Harry and Carson to work on their first official case.  But the same powers that be are making things tough on the two, and solving the case is being hindered by ugly departmental politics.  Meanwhile, Carson is falling in love with the newest pathologist in the city, and dealing with secrets from his past that are about to rear their ugly heads.

This debut novel is fascinating, chilling, and with characters that are altogether human and engaging, it’s a sure-fire winner.  Carson’s past, specifically his psychopathic brother, adds a disturbing and multi-faceted twist to an already intelligent and intense read.  And while there are some scenes that are a tad unrealistic, the drama remains high throughout, keeping the reader turning the pages at an alarming rate.  We look forward to more from this creative and original writer, who has shown much promise in this winning first appearance.