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HARD TRUTH by Mariah Stewart

Publisher: Ballantine Books ISBN: 0345476670

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Lorna Temple returns to her home town after the death of her parents to sell their farm.  Developers are clearing a section of the farm that her mother sold and dig up a body.  When the body is identified it brings back childhood memories.  Lorna's best friend Melissa disappeared, and shortly after so did her brother Jason.  Police assumed Jason killed his sister and took off.  Case closed.  The body is identified as Jason's but the police seem reluctant to reopen the case.  Lorna hires PI T. J. Dawson to dig into the past.

Stewart has given us a spine tingling novel filled with child abuse, a serial killer, and police cover ups.  It also has characters that are warm and caring, with a d a definite line being drawn between the good guys and the bad guys.  All in all, a suspenseful and multi-faceted read that fans will enjoy.


Dying In the Dark by Valerie Wilson Wesley

Publisher: One World/Ballantine ISBN: 0345468074

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

This was my first time to read a Wesley mystery featuring PI Tamara Hayle, and it definitely won't be my last.  In Tamara, Wesley has convincingly created a down-to-earth single mother whose pragmatism and sensitivity will easily strike a chord with women everywhere.  Tamara, a woman whose luxuries include a new used car and Red Lobster, is someone that most of us can easily relate to, and her positive outlook one that we can all easily aspire to.

In her latest case, Tamara is approached by the teenage son of her estranged high school best friend, a woman who had always played fast and loose with the rules and with her men, a woman who now has been murdered, and whose son believes that Tamara alone can find her killer.  But it's not too long before the teen himself suffers the same fate as his mother, and so Tamara kicks the investigation into even higher gear.

As Tamara delves into Cecilia's life, she finds connections to some prominent and wealthy families in her beloved city of Newark, and before you can blink, she has managed to anger more than one of them, possibly putting her own life in danger.

This appealing and winning outing from Wesley is sure to please fans of her previous titles, and sure to engage new fans, who like myself, will want to read back from the beginning.  There is a sweetness about it that entertains and charms, as well as suspense that thrills.  Definitely recommended, don't miss this sure-fire winner from one remarkable talent.  


This Enemy Town by Marcia Talley

Publisher:  Avon Books  ISBN:  0-06-058739-3

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader 

Wielding power tools isn't what Hannah Ives had in mind when she offers assistance to Dorothy Hart, who is battling breast cancer.  But as a survivor of the disease, Hannah is willing to build sets for the Naval Academy's production of Sweeney Todd, if that's what her new friend wants.  Working on the play, Hannah renews some old acquaintances, and finally comes face to face with Jennifer Goodall, the woman who accused Hannah's husband of sexual harassment several years ago.

Hannah's confrontation with Jennifer dispels her lingering fears concerning her husband's innocence, but unfortunately their argument is overheard by many members of the cast.  When Jennifer is found dead on the set a few days later, Hannah becomes a suspect in her murder. 

Determined to prove her own innocence, Hannah looks into the crime and learns some surprising facts about Jennifer, as well as Dorothy and her husband.  It soon becomes apparent, however, that the motive behind Jennifer's murder may not be as simple as jealousy.

In this fifth Hannah Ives mystery, Marcia Talley evokes a beautiful wintry Annapolis setting.  Hannah's vulnerability, combined with her inner strength, make her a wonderfully sympathetic character, able to forgive the killer for not only framing her, but trying to kill her as well.  This cozy is perfect for curling up with on an autumnal day.



DOUBLE SHOT  by Diane Mott Davidson

Publisher: HarperTorch ISBN: 0060527307

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

At last, what we've all been waiting for: Goldy Bear Schultz's odious ex finally gets his just desserts.  (No, Goldy doesn't smother John Korman in chocolate mousse, that would have been too good for him) 

Unfortunately, the police think our favorite caterer is the most likely candidate for the role of executioner.  That tends to happen when an ex-husband gets shot with his ex-wife's .38

Goldy's new husband , Tom, is a lawman himself, so his position in the ensuing mess is very difficult.  Goldy tries to save him embarrassment and speed along the discovery of the real killer by taking a hand in the investigations.  Ongoing fans of this delightful master cook-cum-unofficial-private-eye series will know what to expect next: Marla, Korman's other ex-wife, is co-opted to the detective work.  Well, not so much co-opted as bribed with food, really good food.

As long-time readers of this series will know, no adventure of Goldy's would be complete without a lot of good food being made and eaten as the plot moves along. 

Working her way through as odd a cast of characters as you'd never meet in your own small mountain town, Goldy interviews strippers, doctors, thugs, and a soap-opera's worth of others before homing in on the real killer.  Along the way she gets a whole Richter scale of new shocks, culminating in the discovery that John Kormam, a.k.a."The Jerk" was even nastier than she'd ever suspected--but that he's left one good thing behind to mark his spot in history.

This book is worth buying for the recipes alone, but the plot is not half-baked, either.  Get yourself a copy, put on the good coffee (the stuff you keep in the back of the fridge for yourself) and settle down for a delicious read.

Highly recommended.                                                                        



The Business of Dying by Simon Kernick

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN: 0312314027

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

London Detective Dennis Milne is a cop turned bad.  He kills for profit, with his defense being that he only kills the bad guys. However, when he discovers that he has eliminated three seemingly innocent men, his conscience can no longer let him get away with his paltry justifications, and he is forced to look a bit more deeper at what he has become.  So when a young prostitute ends up dead and another missing, he sees his chance for redemption. And in a hurtling race against time, he becomes the hunted as well as the hunter, as he fights to save his life, and if he’s lucky, his soul.    

First time novelist Kernick takes readers on a thrilling and absorbing ride in this highly original and thought provoking read.   This is a world filled with moral ambiguity, and yet it’s difficult not to like Milne, he of the savage soul and the sometimes empathetic heart.  He is both evil and kind, and it takes a talented author to seamlessly blend these two disparate traits into one.  Kernick does this and does it well in an unexpectedly fresh and creative manner. This book comes highly recommended, and we hope there’s another coming soon from this most promising new author.    


Metro Girl by Janet Evanovich

Publisher: HarperTorch ISBN: 0060584025

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

At last, a heroine who doesn't (1) try to run from the bad guy in high heels (2)  forget what her brother told her about where to kick the bad guy for maximum effect.

It's because of that brother that Alexandra-called-Barney is in Florida, putting her job at peril by taking time off without notice, and stumbling into one nest of bad guys after another.

Wild Bill Barnaby  has a rather unusual history, littered with broken promises, women, 'borrowed' items, women, get-rich-quick schemes and women.  This time he's borrowed his friend Sam Hooker's boat without permission, and taken off for parts unknown in the company of a beautiful Latina with a secret.  It's not as secret as Bill thinks, and before long not only his sister and Sam Hooker are on his trail, but also a whole lot of sinister people.

As the search for Bill goes on, Barney gets more and more upset: she has to suffer elevator trips, break-ins, boat trips, bad hair days, leeches, and the suggestive attentions of Hooker, a.k.a. "NASCAR Guy".  It's no wonder that when she finally catches up with Bill she pushes him overboard, and Sam for good measure.

This is only a temporary hiatus in the action, and the bad guys are soon on Bill's trail again, as well as one of those secret alphabet soup organisations which might or might not be the FBI.  You get that sort of thing when you've made off with a fortune in gold bullion and a Doomsday weapon to boot.

There are a lot of funny moments in this jolly variation on the old pirate's treasure theme.  Don't miss the seduction in the Mini and the reason for the bad hair day, it will give your laughing muscles a real workout.  There's a good cast of supporting characters including an attack dog of sorts and the best bunch of tobacco processing girls since Carmen.

This is a very welcome light-hearted romp in a year when a lot of the mystery fiction has been dark and gloomy.  Put it on your Christmas list for sure.


Cat Cross Their Graves by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

Publisher:  Avon ISBN:  0060578114

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

Cat lovers, attention!! Whether or not, you've read any of this talented author's books before, this is one you will want to read. Then you'll be looking for all the others.  You may find yourself reading them more than once.

Joe Gey, Dulcie and Kit are three cats who are extraordinary cats for several reasons, the main being they talk and they enjoy detecting human crime. A select few humans share their secret and are careful not to betray them.

Cat Cross Their Graves is a taut weave of several subplots that include a runaway child who is being stalked by a strange man, the murder of a much loved local retired star, the horrid discovery of bones of two missing children in the back yard of an old house, mixed with humor and sorrow.

Imagine a cat making a telephone call or gathering evidence of a crime. Imagine how a police chief would feel if he ever learns his valued snitches were three snoopy cats who enjoy sticking their paws into his cases. Those are some of the things you'll encounter in this highly recommended read by a very happy reader.

The very talented author, Shirley Rousseau Murphy, uses her creative talents to help us stretch our own imaginations to accept as fact the events, creatures and people of her marvelous tales.  This is a mystery you don't want to miss.  Enjoy.


Seychelle Sullivan owns and operates her own salvage boat.  On her way to tow in a disabled boat in the Gulf Stream, she discovers a disabled dinghy. She rescues Solange, a malnourished and dehydrated 10 year old Haitian girl and tows in the boat which contains the corpse of a woman.  She promises the child to try to keep her in the U. S. and to find her American father.  In her quest to keep her promise she uncovers a child smuggling operation, and soon discovers that both she and Solange are targets.

This is a riveting novel filled with characters the reader will love passionately or hate vehemently.  The suspense is well plotted and keeps a tight grip on the reader at all times.  It gives insight into the problems of illegal immigration and Florida's Haitian community.  


Twisted by Jonathan Kellerman

Publisher: Ballantine Books ISBN: 0345465261

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

At Kellerman's publishing rate of one or two books a year, you'd think he'd of run out of steam by now.  Not so in the least.  Bringing in a relatively new cast, in particular, Petra Connor, whose unveiling occurred in "Billy Straight", these characters bring with them a breath of fresh air, not to mention a story that'll knock your socks off.

L.A. detective Petra Connor has her hands full with a gang style shooting in which four young kids died when she's asked to keep her eye on the young intern recently assigned her department.  But Isaac Gomez, a young genius who is working on a basketful of PhD's., has a new theory he wants Petra to hear, and it's not going to make her happy.  It seems that for the past few years, a killer has striking the streets of LA on the 28th of June, leaving a victim brutally murdered with a bashed in skull.  Previously unconnected, Isaac has managed to relate these killings through some sort of statistical wizardry, and though at first unbelieving, Petra soon too is willing to see the logic.  And with June 28th fast approaching, these two must now find out WHO is doing the killing and stop him before they find yet another victim.

This is a group of characters that we would love to see more of.  Isaac is disarmingly naïve and simply marvelous, and the cultural diversity he brings to the tale is more than welcomed.  Petra too is enchanting, both hard-edged and soft, she brings just the right amount of brains and brawn to this highly addictive tale.  Start it when you have time to finish, because this finely tuned police procedural has all the right ingredients to keep you entranced from start to finish.  Highly recommended.      



Murder at the B-School by Jeffrey L. Cruikshank

Publisher: Mysterious Press ISBN: 0892967935

Murder at the B-School by Jeffrey L. Cruikshank: Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

A kinky-looking death at the prestigious Harvard Business School, known world-wide as "The B-school", is the last thing one would expect.

When it happens, the Dean taps assistant professor of Finance Wim Vermeer to be his fixer, someone to liaise with the Boston police, smooth down the feathers of the upset parents, and make the rough places smooth.  Keen to impress because he's still hoping for tenure, Wim jumps at the chance, only to almost instantly regret it when the death is shown to be murder.

Things go from bad to worse very fast: someone, a very clever someone, is setting Wim up to take a very big fall.  First the word goes around that he's been having an affair with the beautiful dead boy, then the idea grows that he was responsible for the murder, and then the boy's sister is found dead.   The next thing Wim knows, he's on indefinite paid leave, banned from contact with anyone at the B-school.

As it seems no one is going to get him out of this tangled mess, Wim sets out to prove his innocence.  He finds out who started the rumor that he'd been the dead boy's lover, and stakes out the man's palatial holiday home on an island near Puerto Rico. 

Wim discovers the appealing police captain Barbara Brouillard is also on the island.  She claims to be there at her own expense, and Wim isn't sure if she's tailing him, or following a lead of her own.  The two million dollar reward posted by the family of the dead brother and sister would be enough to sidetrack even a dedicated cop.  Or is it possible that she really doesn't think he's guilty, is she really trying to protect him from his own headstrong folly?

By the time he figures it out, he's at the wrong end of a gun.  How he gets out of that, and what happens to the two million dollars makes for a chair-edge final few chapters.

Cruickshank's change from his former writing career as a management specialist and institutional historian offers future promise for fans of modern crime.  Definitely one to put on your Fall reading list.


Hour Game by David Baldacci

Publisher: Warner Vision ISBN: 0446616494

Hour Game by David Baldacci: Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

Baldacci returns in top form in this new work, his offering for 2004, following the success of last year’s Split Second and A Christmas Train.

Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, the duo we first met in Split Second are back and this time round they are on the lookout for a serial killer- a villain more diabolique than the one we saw in Split Second. The villain is a sort of a copycat killer; he mimics the style of John Wayne Gacy, ‘the Zodiac Killer”. More interesting is that, the killer sets the time in the victim’s watch to the hour, minute and second of the time of murder. But when millionaire Robert Lee Battle is murdered, Maxwell and King, who were at the same time investigating some shady deals in the Maxwell family are prompted into action. The local police are flabbergasted and they offer no help. But the more the duo investigates, they realize that they are not dealing with the usual run-of-the-mill serial killer, but a person, or rather persons with some hidden agenda….. What follows is traditional Baldacci action, sort of the same seen in Absolute Power, culminating in an exciting and grand finish.

A great book- and undoubtedly the best by this author since Absolute Power.