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The Midnight Road by Tom Piccirilli

Publisher: Bantam ISBN-10: 0553384082

Reviewed by Glen Clooney, New Mystery Reader

Piccirilli is a master of the hook.  The first line in this book is, "Flynn remembered the night of his death more clearly than any other in his life." 

Suffolk County Child Protective Services has never had an investigator like Flynn.  They don't think much of men who investigate reports of child abuse, suspecting them of being pedophiles, at best.  But Flynn is on a mission to purge his own demons, the oldest being his dead brother, Danny, and the newest being a dead dog wearing little snow booties and a sweater, who talks to Flynn in his own voice.

Called out in a snow storm to a million dollar mansion, Flynn finds more than he bargained for, with a grown man locked in a small cage in the basement, a smart little girl, and a deranged woman who tries to kill Flynn -- and succeeds.  For twenty-eight minutes, Flynn is dead in freezing water, revived by Paramedics and from that point point on he is plagued by the aforementioned dog-in-booties, who died along with him.  Things heat up rapidly when a young woman hands him a note that reads, "It's all your fault," and is then shot dead in front of him.  She's the first in a series of murders committed by someone out to get Flynn -- or to drive him over the edge.

This book doesn't quit.  From go to whoa it hauls the reader along, delivering blow after blow with unrelenting precision, spiced up with a delightful sprinkling of black humor.  I can see this one on the big screen -- I just hope they don't cast Tom Cruise as Flynn!  A gripping read any suspense/thriller/mystery fan will adore.

 

 

Never End by Åke Edwardson

Publisher: Penguin  ISBN-10: 0143112430

Reviewed by Dana King, New Mystery Reader

The reception Swedish author’s Åke Edwardson’s Never End will receive from American readers is debatable. This stark tale of murder and family secrets lacks many of the superficial elements Americans seem to be drawn to, while probing deeper sensitivities. If that keeps it from success here, it’s more our loss than Edwardson’s.

Jeannette Bielke’s rape and Angelika Hansson’s murder place Chief Inspector Erik Winter in mind of the case of Beatrice Wägner, killed under much the same circumstances five years earlier. Beatrice’s murder was never solved, and clues from the current crimes (plus one more) keep bringing thoughts back to Beatrice. The girls were all approximately the same age, from relatively close neighborhoods, yet none of them knew each other, as far as any survivors are aware. The only definite thing in common is a brick wall, in front of which all three were photographed individually. Where the wall is, or what other significance it might have, is unknown to the detectives.

Edwardson’s approach to a police procedural leans toward Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret mysteries in the sparseness of language, yet favors Ed McBain’s Eighty-Seventh Precinct stories in the breadth of ensemble and techniques involved. Though not a proceduralist himself, Ross Macdonald also comes to mind as the darkness and significance of family secrets assume greater significance as the story progresses.

Mentioning Simenon, McBain, and Macdonald in the same paragraph is heady company. Edwardson’s acceptance by American audiences may well hinge on their acceptance of the style of the story-telling. Edwardson’s prose reminds one more of a Spartan warrior barracks than Macdonald’s shadowy southern California, where the proximity of sunshine to his dark events makes them seem even worse than they are. Edwardson’s in Sweden, pushing the darkness of his prose and tale against a brutal heat wave of the Scandinavian summer, with twenty hours of daylight described in a voice that longs for a cave to tell its story.

It’s an interesting style, probably as hard to pull off as it is to read properly. The rapid fire questions and answers are reminiscent of Dragnet; the tendency is to read too quickly in a monotone that inadvertently forms itself in the reader’s head. Resist. Edwardson’s clipped, abrupt style is intended to keep you in the mood, not to gloss over it. The English translation by Laurie Thompson struggles valiantly to preserve a tone that may be uniquely Swedish, a doleful litany that may depend as much on the phonics of the words as on the words themselves. How well it conveys to English is questionable; I have nothing to compare it to. Take your time and let it seep into you.

Edwardson’s style is well suited to tell the story he has chosen. All of the cops have lives, another McBain characteristic; this is a novel about cops as much as a mystery. Watching Winter and his squad handle their personal trials in the midst of such a disturbing investigation adds layers to the complexity of the story Edwardson weaves; that they are not always successful is yet another layer.

Never End is a brooding tale that may not be for everyone. If you like your murders to be gruesome, but have the story fly by in perfect grammar, the characters explaining themselves plainly in every speech, it’s not for you. If you like to read about real people investigating realistic crimes with actual consequences for all involved, then it’s certainly worth checking out.

 

Dead on Arrival by Lori Avocato

Publisher: Avon    ISBN  978-0060837082

Reviewed by Victoria Kennedy, New Mystery Reader

Pauline Sokol is a former nurse who’s discarded her scrubs for the life of an insurance investigator.  She’s not thrilled when she has to put her nurse’s uniform back on to go undercover.   

She working with a mysterious figure named Jagger who’s able to read her like a book.  (His pet name for her is Sherlock.)  The two of them go to work for an ambulance company to look into a case of fraud.  It’s not long before the two owners of the company suffer brutal attacks.  It’s obvious they’ve been up to no good, but who would want to kill them? Could it be the one of the good-looking hunks like Dano or Sky? Will Pauline and Jagger ever figure out what’s going on?

Meanwhile, Pauline is having trouble deciding which guy she wants to be with for Jagger and Dano are both hot.  Pauline hasn’t had a boyfriend in a while and so just about every cute guy turns her on.  The sexual tension is strong and Pauline’s attraction to Jagger and Dano kept my interest more than the question of who stabbed the owners of the ambulance company, or who committed fraud.  Humor and romance carry the mystery and move the story along.  I found it to be an enjoyable read and would like to read more mysteries in the Pauline Sokol Mystery Series.

 

 

Die For Me by Karen Rose

Publisher: Vision Books  ISBN 978 0446 61691 1

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

This is another one of those stories that you should NOT start reading at bedtime.   That's for two reasons: you won't be able to put it down, which means you'll be a basket case at work next day; and it will give you nightmares of the most vivid sort.  It would be hard to imagine a scarier antagonist than the one Karen Rose has dreamed up this time.   Most villains are written with a soft spot somewhere in their makeup, but not this one. 

The story hits the ground running when the Philadelphia police are tipped off to a body in a field, which turns out to be many bodies in a sort of ad hoc cemetery.  One by one the police identify the bodies and desperately try to find what links them in order to get a clue to the killer.

Tall, gorgeous, injured-by-love archaeologist Sophie Johannsen is called in to the case because the Medical Examiner recommends her to Detective Vito Ciccotelli, a cop on a tight budget.   Vito is also in the ranks of love's walking wounded and you just know these two were meant for each other.  Rose manages to put a lot of stumbling blocks between them before she relents and lets the two casualties begin to heal each other.

However, by that time it has become apparent that the serial killer is one nasty dude who has been stalking Sophie for months.  Vito's attempts to keep her safe, close in on the killer, keep his boss happy, and survive the invasion of his house by his temporarily homeless nephews makes for a rather frantic juggling act.

As you knew he would, the sinister killer nabs Sophie, leaving Vito with a frantic race against the death by torture off his beloved.  Can he do it?  How will he do it?  What can he possibly do?  For the answers to these burning questions, buy the book.  

 

 

A Perfect Grave by Rick Mofina

Publisher: Pinnacle  ISBN-10: 0786018488

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Mofina returns with another exciting outing featuring Seattle news reporter Jason Wade and detective Grace Garner in a read that is sure to please followers of the series.  This time out, the two begin separate investigations when a well-loved nun is found brutally killed, her murder seemingly without rhyme or reason.  But when further digging begins to reveal that behind the sympathetic and kindly deeds was a woman haunted by a mysterious past, it becomes clear that this murder was anything but random.  And as her secrets are slowly uncovered, it's not only the truth about her past sins that will shock, but also their connection to Jason's own life.     

Fans of this series will gladly welcome this latest addition that not only offers the return of Mofina's finely-drawn characters and top notch suspense, but also provides some answers to the mystery surrounding Jason's family's past.  And when you add to the mix Mofina's impressive ability to bring Seattle's back streets alive with such convincing and vivid detail that you feel like you know it all intimately, you've got a story that entertains and thrills all the way through.

 

 

The Artic Event by James H Cobb

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing  ISBN 978 0 446 17710 8

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

You wouldn’t think anyone who has made a name for himself writing military action thrillers such as “Choosers of the Slain” would need the added lustre of another author’s name on his covers—but when the other author’s name is Robert Ludlum, perhaps it was an offer James H Cobb couldn’t refuse.

“The Arctic Event” is the seventh in the “Covert One” series allegedly created by the late Robert Ludlum, and the first one penned by Cobb.  It’s hard to tell just how much of the book might have come from Ludlum—perhaps just the basic premise and the lead character, Lt Col Jon Smith—but the twisting plot, dramatic setting, and nasty villains are worthy of Ludlum himself.

Fifty years after it crashed on a remote arctic island, a Russian plane carrying a particularly nasty payload is rediscovered.  The Russians want to salvage it; an American covert organisation wants to get there first; and a cartel of criminals wants it also.  What could be so important in a long-lost plane?

An American team comprised of Lt Col Jon Smith, a Russian liaison officer, Major Gregori Smylsov, and two women, one a helicopter pilot and the other a military historian who is frighteningly handy with throwing knives, sets off from Anchorage Alaska to secure the wreck’s dreadful payload.  But this being a Ludlum-style plot, you just know it isn’t going to be that simple--and it isn’t.  Smith and his group soon discover that March 5th is not just the date of the plane crash all those years ago, but also of another event which could have changed the course of history and which even now has the potential to cause international political upheaval.

There are double and triple crosses, chases across the arctic wastes at midnight, deaths and near deaths, and a final amazing scene when a tiny Bell Ranger helicopter takes on the biggest armoured helicopter ever made.  If there isn’t already a Hollywood screenplay in the works, for sure somebody will be working on it soon. 

 

Kidnapped by Jan Burke

Publisher: Pocket  ISBN: 0743273869

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When Las Piernas, CA reporter writes a human interest piece on missing children, she has no idea the events she's about to set into motion.  Her story garners hundreds of calls from those who have experienced such loss, but there is one case she becomes deeply involved in, that of three children whose lives were irrevocably changed years before when the older son was convicted of killing his father and sister and leaving his sister's body in a place never to be found.  But the remaining brother, now a grad student, has never believed these allegations and holds onto his faith that his little sister is still alive. 

As Irene subtly investigates this and other cases of missing children, she soon finds that many of the cases she's looking into all tie into the same large family- the Fletchers, a family of adoptees and foster kids numbering in the dozens.  And as the bodies begin to pile up the closer she gets to the truth, a stunning and diabolical plan will be revealed that will shock even this intrepid reporter.

As always, Burke provides the reader with a nonstop story of heart pounding suspense.  And even though we know early on who some of the culprits are, we're still never sure if the other possible suspects are victims or villains, making for interesting twists and turns along the way.  An intelligent and cleverly woven tale of family bonds and loyalty, filled with a plethora of appealing characters, this one comes highly recommended.          

 

 

Capital Crimes by Jonathan and Faye Kellerman

Publisher: Ballantine Books  ISBN-10: 034546799X

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

The Kellerman husband and wife duo team up once again to combine their great talents in the writing of two short novellas, each, like last year's effort, taking place in a different city and featuring new characters.

In the first story, local investigators are called to the murder scene of Davida Grayson, a gay San Francisco Bay Area congresswoman whose controversial opinions have garnered her more than one enemy.  But is it an enemy that killed her, or someone much closer, someone who has secrets deadly enough worth killing for? 

In the second case set in Nashville, old folk rock legend Jack Jeffries' slain body brings in investigators to determine who might have wanted the obnoxious fallen music star dead.  With a list of enemies, some from the past, and some newly made, detectives will face an uphill battle pinpointing who killed the man, when an easier question would be: Who didn't want to kill him?

The Kellermans together make a worthy writing team, with the final product being an absorbing and competent balance of the finer skills each are independently known for.  And even though both stories are shorter than novel length, they still manage to create fully fleshed characters, compelling criminal acts, and convincing motives.  This is a team that should consider a full length novel, they merge in ways that make each other's writing all the more fuller and richer than each is alone.    

 

 

True Evil by Greg Iles

Publisher: Pocket   ISBN: 1416524533

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Special Agent Alexandra Morse is still recovering from recent family tragedies and the fall-out of a hostage negotiation that left her physically scarred and mentally shattered, when her sister, Grace, unexpectedly collapses from an aneurysm that will soon prove deadly.  And when Grace conveys to Alex just before her death that her own husband is responsible for her condition, Alex's alarm only deepens. 

Alone in her conviction that her sister's dying words were in fact truth, Alex single-handedly sets out to prove her sister was murdered, a search that leads her to other suspicious deaths of spouses in the throes of divorce, and eventually to Dr. Chris Shepard, a man newly married who believes he has it all.  That is until Alex warns him that his new bride has contracted to have him killed, a murder so deviously planned that nobody will ever suspect a thing, carried out by a man who has gotten away with it several times before.

One thing is certain, Greg Iles knows exactly how to string his words together in order to achieve the maximum amount of suspense and thrills.  But suspense cannot survive without a masterful plot to back it up, and in his latest, Iles puts forth a method of murder that is so diabolically and cleverly executed, that I wouldn't be surprised to see it appear in an upcoming episode of Forensic Files.  And even though he steps over the line for his bang it all up ending, one can forgive him for that, as the journey makes it all worthwhile.  This is one stunning read that proves Iles still has the touch. 

 

 

CROSS by James Patterson

Publishers: Grand Central Publishing  ISBN: 0446619051

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

The only question that remained after I read this book is- what took so long for Mr. James Patterson to write this one? Any James Patterson fan, in particular fans of the Alex Cross series, might have wondered why Alex Cross is the personality he is right now. Why is he still a widower? Why can't he commit to any other relationship? The answer is here- in Patterson's latest where Cross faces the most deadliest psychopath ever- the murderer of his wife Maria.

For the first time we meet a young, vibrant, and romantic Cross and, yes, I used the word "romantic"- romantic with a capital R. The first few chapters of the novel takes us back to Cross and Maria and their intense love affair, with these first pages answering much of why Alex Cross is hesitant to enter into a new relationship and why there is always a streak of somberness in his otherwise vibrant personality. The death of Maria hit Alex quiet hard and even a decade later he misses her like anything.

Side- by- side we are also introduced to the villain of the story, Michael Sullivan. Sullivan is a deadly psychopath- and when we say psychopath the image one should conjure is the one made famous by Anthony Hopkins, only Michael Sullivan is a much more handsome dare-devil with a much more charming personality. He is known as “the butcher”, for he has a way of scalping his victims after raping them- leaving those left alive unable, or unwilling, to help the investigation in any manner. Maria Cross was a counselor to one such victim.

After reliving the past of Cross and Maria, the action is shifted to the present day- Cross has recently left the FBI- but with a chilling revelation made by a gangster that he can throw light on the murder of Maria, reigniting Cross's worst nightmare.  Now Alex has to relive the memories and take on the new psychopath in question, and though Cross might have met more eccentric and more dangerous killers in his life, none has hit him so close to home, which makes Cross’s task doubly dangerous.

What follows is Patterson action at its superb best- need I say more- a must, must, MUST read for the Alex Cross fans. A grand and terrific thriller…down to the last word.