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THE TROJAN DOG by Dorothy Johnston

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books ISBN  0 312 33247 5

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Returning to the workforce after several years away is hard enough; finding your new boss is someone from a half-forgotten past tends to complicate matters.

Sandra Mahoney finds it difficult to settle in to her contact job writing a report on outworkers for a ministerial department in Canberra, Australia.  The two women with whom she shares an office are less than friendly; her boss Rae Evans is abruptly removed from the scene under a cloud when it appears grant money has been fiddled, and the only friendly face is a bearded Russian eccentric with an almost magical competency with computers.

Author Johnston deftly slips into the mind of her protagonist: her feelings of insecurity, her determination to do a good job with a report that nobody seems to want to see finished, and her ambivalence about her distant husband, who has gone overseas on a job posting after Sandra refused to accompany him.  The main focus in her life has been her young son, Pete, and it is with gratitude that she accepts her colleague Ivan's  friendship and help in getting the boy through a rough patch.  This friendship shortly turns into an affair, which forces Sandra to look hard at her future.

Running parallel with the upheavals in her private life is the mystery of whether or not the disgraced Rae really did siphon off taxpayer's money by means of a bogus organization.  Sandra becomes sure that this can't be true, but the only way to clear Rae is to prove someone else did it.  And the only way to prove that is to get to the bottom of a highly sophisticated snarl of computer manipulation.

Sandra knows she's on the right track when her car is tampered with, resulting in a serious accident, followed by the burglary of Ivan's house and the theft of all his records and computers, which contained the clues to the identity of the real villains.

As she works her way through the complex unraveling of the case, Sandra
finds out a lot about her own past, her relationship  with  her mother, and her mother's relationship with Rae.  This knowledge makes it possible for her to begin to complete the process of maturing that was stunted years ago.

Getting to the bottom of the mystery comes too late for the simple happy ending Sandra had originally aimed for, but in several unexpected ways her life is changed and improved and a future of challenge and promise opens  up.   Much of the book is introspective and low-key and couldn't be put in the 'cozy' genre, but will definitely intrigue lovers of computer crime.

 

 

Cheapskates by Charlie Stella

Publisher:  Carroll & Graf ISBN:  0786724794

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

A nitty gritty tale that will please Charlie Stella fans. True to his writing style, he once again opens the door to a world that only he can describe so well and people with characters who will bring Damon Runyon and the B&W movies of the 1930s and 40s to mind.

Two men, Reese Waters and Peter Rizzo, innocent of any real crime except stupidity, are about to be released from prison, one planning to get his life back on track and the other planning to force his ex-wife to keep a promise.

But their plans go awry. Peter is murdered and Reese comes under police scrutiny as their investigation places him as an acquaintance of Peter's. And, in the background of Reese's troubles, lurk several members of the mobster world and their associates, some of whom have taken a dim view of Reese's activities after Peter's murder. Especially, Peter's ex-wife.

Highly recommended. A different look at the world of criminals and their intentions toward each other and the world in general.  Plenty of action. Once you start reading, you'll want to keep turning pages to see what will happen next.  Enjoy.

 

 

Mountain Peril by Tom Eslick

Publisher: Viking Adult ISBN: 0670033863

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader  

School teacher and search and volunteer rescuer Will Buchanan and his girlfriend Sheriff Laurie Eberly return, with the two once again facing trouble in the beautiful but deadly White Mountains of New Hampshire.  This time out it begins when Will discovers the body of a young woman while on a search and rescue mission, and coming on the heels of another young woman's body being discovered in the same area, it doesn't take much for Laurie and Will to suspect the murders are connected.  But who is the murderer?  As the answer to this question bring them too close to home for comfort, they will once again put in their lives in jeopardy- this time against a killer whose face is all too familiar.

Eslick does a wonderful job of creating a tense and vibrant atmosphere with plenty of ambience in this latest adventure involving the loving but querulous duo of Will and Laurie.  Will, an everyday guy, is so genuinely portrayed that he's easy to like, and even easier to get frustrated with when it comes to his faltering relationship with the ever-changing Laurie, whose ambiguity toward their relationship should have long ago left him fishing in other waters.  Ah, but then there is love and loyalty, both of which Will has plenty of.  Top notch suspense, a couple of surprises, and an exciting climatic ending all combine to make this a great afternoon's read.   

 

Dying For Love by Gwen Moffat

Publisher:  Carroll & Graf Publishers  ISBN:  0-7867-1503-0

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader 

The tiny Cumbrian village of Culchet is anything but bucolic during an early summer heat wave.  While its residents focus on the crimes carried out by members of the Butler family, particularly the youthful delinquents Jason (10) and Kim (5), separate accidents claim the lives of two residents.  Both victims are linked to charismatic Bart Milburn, who gets by on his charm and his wifeís money.  His realization that he can no longer count on his wifeís support precipitates a series of desperate acts.

The disappearance of Kim Butler, with the insinuation of pedophilia, sets the village on edge, as does the suggestion that the other two deaths may not have been purely accidental.  A team of investigators, seemingly equal in number to the villageís population, look into the crimes, discovering that Jasonís and Kimís offenses are more involved than petty theft, and a number of villagers are paying for the childrenís silence.  Blackmail, kidnapping, burglary, and murder:  itís no wonder that one investigator comments that ďa village is like a volcanic field:  a thin crust above a bed of molten lava.Ē

Other than telling us that Bart Milburn is charismatic, author Gwen Moffat fails to show the reader that he is anything more than a self-centered alcoholic.  Told from the point of view of several different characters, the lack of one, or even a few, protagonists detracts from the story.  But it nonetheless manages to be a riveting tale, and readers will want to join Win and Alice in their garden for a sherry or two.