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Irish Coffee by Ralph McInerny

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312309015

Meet the Knight brothers.  Roger Knight is an amateur sleuth and a professor at Notre Dame, while  his brother Phil is a semi-retired Private Investigator.  They share an apartment near the University and entertain a small group of friends regularly.  One of the group, Fred Neville, who works in the athletic department  as an information officer, fails to show up for work  one morning. When there was no response to the telephone messages left on his  machine his friend  Roger went to check on him, where he found Fred dead in his bed.  Natural causes?  Suicide?  No one knows until after an autopsy is performed.
  
Imagine the surprise of Fred's friends to find not one but two supposed fiancées at the wake to mourn the passing of 'their beloved'.  One fiancé, Mary, was also part of the group but stated that she and Fred had decided to keep their engagement secret because of her mother Marjorie, who was always nagging her about being single.  The other, Naomi McTear, was a 'color commentator' for a national cable network.  Throw into the mix the fact that he had taken the star player on the Notre Dame women's basketball team out to dinner recently.   Fred was a 'walking encyclopedia on sports' and had appeared  so unassuming it was difficult for everyone to believe that he had two (or was it three?) women in his life .  And that he had a secret stash of poetry that clearly he had written! 
 
When the results of the autopsy is revealed Roger and Phil are right in the middle of the investigation and  the two supposed fiancees find themselves high on the suspect list. 
 
Ralph McInerny brought us the endearing Father Dowling mysteries which entertained  us for many years.  This is the seventh mystery in a series set at the University of Notre Dame.  Mr McInerny makes us feel that we have an inside seat to all the political goings on at the school. Plus   the book is filled with inside information on Irish Basketball as well as the sports media.
 
It was a fun read and the author's wit and cleverly laid out clues were delightful. 
                                                                      Reviewed by C.J. Curry

 

THE DOCTOR DINES IN PRAGUE by Robin Hathaway

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312290365

 
Doctor Andrew Fenimore, a Philadelphia general practitioner, is a worried man.  His Czech cousin, Anna, has not answered her telephone in over two weeks.  Their habit has been to talk every week as Anna's husband Vlasta is having heart problems and Fenimore has been making arrangements for Anna to bring him to America for tests.  Fenimore and his cousin Anna have never met but he felt he owed it to his mother to give what assistance he could.  His mother had grown up in Prague and Fenimore and his brother had lived with stories of 'the most beautiful city in Euroupe' all of their lives.  He had always wanted to visit Prague to meet his relatives there..   Coupled with the worry over Anna, Vlasta, and their young daughter Marie, he immediately planned a trip to the city of his mother's youth.  His mouth started watering at the thought of a bona fide Czech dinner.  Schnitzel with dumplings and palacinky for dessert,,, yummm his mouth was tasting it already.  His frequent companion, Jennifer, bestowed a parting gift upon him.  Byways of Prague had a short history of Czechoslovakia and many black and white pictures that took him back to his mother's  stories which enthralled him as a boy. 
 
Immediately upon arriving in Praque, Fenimore heads for his cousin's home.  The super has to be bribed but finally allowed Fenimore access to the apartment.  After a quick look through the rooms to make sure no one was there  he heads to the kitchen where he hopes to find something to eat.  A sudden ah-choo alerts him that someone IS in the apartment.  The only hiding place seems to be the large ceramic stove, common in Czech kitchens. Opening the oven door,  he sees a pale face with two large dark eyes filled with fear. staring out at him.  It was his cousins small daughter, Marie!  She did not speak English so with pencil and paper, the two drew pictures to communicate.  Fenimore grew to understand that Marie's parents had been kidnapped at gunpoint and Marie had been hiding.  Fennimore decides to smuggle Marie out of the building and get her to America where his nurse, Mrs. Doyle and his office helper, Horatio (better known as Rat) could look after her while he searched for her parents.  So begins the tour of Prague that Fenimore had never expected to make.
 
Robin Hathaway's characters are believable and engaging.  One has trouble believing, in the beginning, that the villains Ilsa and Redik are bad people.  A nice comfortable book with enough of a spine tingle to keep you reading.  The descriptions of Prague are wonderful.  Makes you want to go there.
 
                                                                        Reviewed by C.J. Curry

 

Barbados Heat by Don Burns

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312304927

Congressman Shapply has been murdered, and Mick Sever, an entertainment journalist, has decided to pursue the story.  Not only do the two share a past, Shapply’s son, Nick,  was once Mick’s best friend until some shady deals depleted Mick’s finances, but also Shapply had mysteriously turned from music promoter to outspoken critic of music lyrics, causing an uprising in the music industry. 

There are plenty of suspects to be had, but it's Nick and a rap singer who are currently being held for the crime.  But suddenly clues are hinting at a connection to the murder of a young girl 20 years previously, which took place in Barbados at a party the Congressman had attended, along with some other shady characters responsible for Mick’s loss of finances.  So dodging bullets and explosions, Mick and his “posse”, ex-wife Ginny, and music promoter, T-Beau, travel from city to city searching for answers and hanging for dear life.

A fast-paced thriller, there are both positive and negative aspects to this story.  Some decent social commentary on the controversy surrounding violent lyrics is addressed, with both sides being fairly presented.  Mick’s relationship with his ex-wife is also tenderly explored, adding a touch of softness to an otherwise hard tale.  On the flip side, some of the story comes off as just a tad too hip, and Mick’s survival after so many attempts on his life is simply too incredible for belief.  And the constant referral to the Congressman’s possible “affair” with the 13 year old murdered girl is a bit disturbing—“affair”???  But all in all, for those who like a fast and slick read with plenty of action, this will surely do the trick.               

                                                            -Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla

 

Fogbound by Joseph T. Klempner

 Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN: 0312310676

Eighty-two year old August Jorgensen, a retired judge living in an isolated light house, is one day visited by three employees of Trial TV.  Knowing the judge had retired primarily because he was weary of the increase in death penalty executions, which seem to him to target minorities and the developmentally disabled, they have a proposition for him.  A case involving Boyd Davies, a man convicted of rape and murder, has made it all the way to the Supreme Court, in which his penalty of death is to be argued.  They want the judge to argue the case, thinking he will bring an added stateliness to the court, as well  as increased ratings for the proposed show.  But unbeknownst to the judge there is much more going on than meets the eye, for the man may be innocent, and those in the know might just kill to keep it quiet.

A cautionary tale that begs the question of when a means to an end has simply gone too far, there is definitely a viable social statement to be had here.   And the treatment of the unfairness of the death penalty is also suitably and appropriately addressed   However, the book could have done with some additional editing for consistency issues, which after awhile became distracting, causing some damage to what could have been a much more powerful story.  But the judge, a wily and compassionate character, added great appeal and almost was enough to rectify the problem.  All in all, the issues addressed are important enough that this is recommended to those who are open to exploration of such controversial questions.

                                                           -Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla