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The Glass Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist

Publisher: Bantam ISBN: 0385340354

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Celeste Temple receives a note from her fiancé in which he is dumping her but giving absolutely no reason, so she decides to track him down for answers. 

Assassin Cardinal Chang has been hired to kill an army officer, and when discovering someone has beat him to it, he needs some answers. 

Diplomat Dr. belard Svenson of Macklenburg has been charged with keeping his prince out of trouble and danger, and so when the prince is kidnapped he too needs some answers.

When these three totally different people find themselves on the same trail, they join forces and find themselves plunged into a hot bet of egomaniacal lords and ladies who want to rule the world and will kill anybody who gets in their way. 

This is a gripping fantasy thriller that contains everything to keep your emotions on edge.  As the heroes progress through cloak and dagger investigations, they themselves become killers to save their own lives.  They get caught up in erotic episodes both as participants and voyeurs.  They discover scientific experiments with utter indifference toward the human subjects.  But loyally they bond together to see each mission to its end, making this an engrossing and thrilling ride all the way through.   

 

Smonk by Tom Franklin 

Publisher: William Morrow ISBN: 006084681X 

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

E. O. Smonk is a short bow legged man with a large upper body.  He has syphilis, tuberculosis, gout, and only one eye.  Once a week he rides his mule into Old Texas, Alabama to have his way with the women, destroy property, kill animals and beat up men. When the town turns on him and puts him on trial, he walks out of the courtroom and kills almost every man in town. Evangeline is a 15 year old whore who can out drink and out shoot any man.  She is only one step ahead of the Christian posse which is on her trail.  As if it were fate, she winds up in Old Texas, Alabama and the town gets totally destroyed.

Franklin has produced a novel filled with whores, assassins, crooked judges, witches and enough evil gruesome characters to keep you up for a long time.  A dark and violent plot with so many twists and turns you have to pay constant attention so that you don't get lost, but even if you do, you'll have one heck of the wild ride on the way.    

 

The Princess of Denmark by Edward Marston

Publisher:  St. Martin's Minotaur, ISBN:  0312356188

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mysteyr Reader  

Grab your bucket and help put out the fire at the Queens Head or there'll be no more plays by the famed Westfield's Men. As the ashes cool, the adventure begins and a body is found in the ruins.

Join Nicholas Bracewell and the theater company as they take to the high seas following this new tragedy. Their mentor has decided to take a new wife and one has been found for him in Elsinore, Denmark, a beauty by all reports.

Once they arrive, the question as to whether or not the wedding will take place arises as a murder mars what should be a wonderful occasion. Why is the bride to be so reluctant to meet her eager groom? Why do two hooligans arrive in Elsinore and attack a member of the company with murder their intent?

Suspicion reaches out to touch each man of the company and Nicholas tries to identify a killer. He wonders what the murder has to do with the wedding, if anything at all.

A complicated story with subplots that weave a tale you won't want to put down. Well drawn characters lead the way along twisting paths and false trails, turning attention to and then from red herrings cleverly planted to keep the reader wondering. 

I'm pleased to highly recommend this book as a tale well worth the time. It will provide you with adventure you won't soon forget.

 

Pressing the Bet by W. L. Ripley

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312274610

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Jesse Robinson's body lies in the morgue in Las Vegas, but his father, Nate, lies in a hospital in Aspen and can't travel, so he calls in Cole Springer, his boss and Jesse's best friend from high school, to identify the body.  Springer, who is ex-secret service and currently owns a bar in Aspen, has been told to stay out of Vegas, but his friendship with Nate is stronger than the fear of such a measly threat, so off he goes. Once in Vegas Springer soon discovers not only is his friend not dead, but he also manages to get tangled up with his former high school girlfriend, some nasty killers, dirty cops, a cowboy hit man, and a beautiful police detective, all of whom lead him on a hilarious trail to the truth.

Cole Springer is one of the most enjoyable characters I have run across in a long time.  He is smart, funny, insolent, manipulative and loyal to his friends.  The plot has so many twists and turns, that keeping up is half the fun.  Ripley has written a very entertaining novel and I personally am going to look for his previous novels as well as look forward to his next.          

 

 

 

 

Extracurricular Murder by Kent Conwell

Publisher: Bouregy, Thomas & Company, Incorporated  ISBN: 0803497881

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Austin PI Tony Boudreaux isn't the best detective in the office, but when he lands the Holderman case he's determined to change that. George Holderman, a superintendent of schools,  had been found murdered 18 months ago at a local high school, and now his wife, an ex-stripper with motive of her own, needs to prove her own innocence in order to collect the 8 million life insurance policy.  But with a new suspect turning up around every corner, it's going to take some extra fine sleuthing from Tony to figure this one.   And if that's not enough to keep him busy, investigating his ex-girlfriend's new paramour certainly will keep him going, as well as worrying about the questionable activities of his visiting cousin from back home. 

Conwell brings back this charming and somewhat self-deprecating private investigator in an outing that is pleasantly entertaining.  Almost reminiscent of an old fashioned who done it, Conwell sprinkles subtle clues here and there, inviting the reader to enjoy the challenge along with Tony.  And while some definite liberties are taken with a few of the finer rules of investigation, it's refreshing to read a mystery minus the gore and violence so prevalent in others these days.  Brisk and short enough for an afternoon treat, this one can be read in one enjoyable seating.

 

 

A Killing in the Valley by J. F. Freedman

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

When the murdered body of a young Hispanic teen is found on the grounds of an affluent and widespread ranch outside of Santa Barbara, suspects are few.  But when evidence begins to point to the grandson of the ranch's esteemed owner, the family is quick to hire a lawyer and his defense team, one of which includes PI Kate Blanchard.  Kate, having her own teenaged daughter, initially balks at aiding in the defense of a young and wealthy man accused of rape and murder, but slowly finds herself becoming convinced of his innocence, soon throwing her all into the investigation to prove it.  And in the one of the hottest cases to ever hit these environs, the struggle will not only exist inside the courtroom, but outside as well, with the battle between race and class adding to the fire, making the search for justice and truth only that much murkier. 

Freedman does a great job of keeping the suspense going in this latest, not revealing the final truth until the very end, which makes for an enlivening and interesting read.  But one would initially have to look deep to find the perceptive and revealing insights into the cultural clashes intimated by the prepublication touts, as these might seem ambiguous and for the most part unexamined, until the very end that is.  And maybe that was the intent after all; after Freedman has taken the reader down both sides of doubt and at last reveals the truth, it's only through hindsight that we can see that all along Freedman has merely supplied the facts sans judgment, and how surprised we are by the ending is dependent on how easily we were swayed by what we ourselves picked and chose to believe.  This one will astonish you, not for how it ends, but for how you thought it would end, and for that it's well worth the time.   

J. F. Freedman’s new mystery A Killing in the Valley is an available exclusively through Doubleday Entertainment’s book clubs, available at The Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club, Book-of-the-Month Club and The Mystery Guild. To purchase the book, visit www.booksonline.com and join a club!

 

Evanly Bodies by Rhys Bowen

Publisher:  St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN:  0-312-34942-4

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

Three murdered men:  all married and all shot through an open window, using the same unusual Japanese gun.  But the similarities end there.  Welsh Constable Evan Evans is determined to find the killer, but his efforts are hampered by his new commanding officer, who believes Evan's duties should be limited to fetching coffee and taking notes.

Back home in Llanfair, the villagers are mostly thrilled to have a new grocer in town, although the more xenophobic ones worry about the grocer's ethnicity, convinced the Khans are going to start a terrorist cell.  Evan's new bride, Bronwen, befriends teenaged Jamila and attempts to intervene when her parents arrange an unsuitable marriage for her.  When Jamila disappears, Evan and Bronwen not only feel guilty, but genuinely concerned for her safety.  Her fanatical brother Rashid has commented that he'd rather kill Jamila than see her adopt Western ways.

Surprisingly, it is in his search for Jamila that Evan finds the link that enables him to solve the three murders. 

With its charming Welsh village setting, Evanly Bodies seems like it should be a historical, but thank goodness it isn't, because Rhys Bowen is clearly more skilled at writing a contemporary cozy than historicals.  Rashid's political leanings add nothing to the novel, and in truth, the story would be better without the clichéd stereotype.  Evanly Bodies is a quick, enjoyable read, best enjoyed with a cup of tea (or ale) by a crackling fire. 

 

 

 

The First Cut by Dianne Emley

Publisher: Ballantine Books ISBN: 034548617X

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

It's been a year of recovery for Pasadena detective Nan Vining, a year since the brutal and methodically designed attack by a madman almost ended her life.  Still plagued by nightmares, and now able to experience senses beyond the norm, she returns to work, desperately wanting to get on with life for the sake of her young teenage daughter and for her own sanity.  But when the body of a female officer is found savagely battered, she fears the monster has struck again.  And as the team follows the trail of clues, they will find themselves coming closer and closer to a killer, one of wealth and privilege, and one who knows all to well how to play this deadly game of murder.       

Emley's thrilling debut novel has all the makings of what promises to be a captivating and enduring series.  With just the right touch of the supernatural, she deftly avoids overindulging and possibly alienating certain readers who might shy away from that aspect, infusing just enough to be interesting without crossing the line into the incredulous.  Filled with a hearty dose of the police procedural, a slight teasing of possible romance, and characters that appeal, Emley has created a solid foundation for what's to come, and one that will leave readers eager for its arrival.

 

The Bullet Trick by Louise Welsh

Publisher:  Canongate  ISBN:  1-84195-794-1

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader 

Haunted by a bullet trick gone awry in Berlin, conjurist and illusionist William Wilson returns to his native Glasgow, where he goes into hiding and tries to obliterate his memories with alcohol.

At his last performance before leaving for Berlin, William helped his old friend Sam lift some photos for Sam's lover, Bill.  Shortly after arriving in Berlin, William learns that Bill and Sam were found dead the next day.  William knows that he isn't safe in Glasgow, but he worries more for his mother's safety.

When copious amounts of liquor don't do the trick, William finally goes on the offensive and tries to find what secrets someone valued more than his friends' lives, even as he obsesses over the fate of Sylvie, his fascinating but selfish assistant in Berlin.  In order to find the truth, William will have to pull of the greatest illusion of his life.

Alternating between action in Glasgow and flashbacks to Berlin, William's gritty, bizarre tale unfolds slowly, drawing readers into its spell.  The complex secondary characters will remain as baffling to the reader as they are to William.  A dark and disturbing story, with an inexplicable 1980s feel to it (though it takes place in the present), Bullet Trick is not for everyone.