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If Looks Could Kill by Kate White

Publisher: Warner Books; ISBN: 0446530239 April

The first in a new series, we are introduced to Bailey Weggens, an independent crime writer who does freelance work for Gloss, a woman's magazine.  When her editor's nanny is found poisoned to death, Bailey is pressured by her boss to find the culprit.  Not knowing who was really the intended victim, Bailey is left to scrutinize everyone's life, and soon finds herself being threatened in subtle ways the closer she comes to revealing the truth. 

I was pleasantly surprised by this delightful debut.  White, the editor in chief of Cosmopolitan, writes with authority on a subject she knows well.  Many of the behind-the-scenes settings of a large woman's magazine ring with authenticity, and are truly amusing.  Bailey herself is also a wonderful creation.  A recent divorcee, and a single woman in New York City, her personal life is also wrought with humorous perils and awkward moments, making her a believable and likable character.  This new series shows much promise, and we eagerly await Bailey's next adventure.

4 bolts      

 

Resolution by Denise Mina

Publisher: Carroll & Graf; ISBN: 0786710101

Maureen O’Donnell returns in Mina’s third outing featuring this most appealing of characters.  Maureen has hit hard times having spent most of an inheritance, and now finds herself selling smuggled cigarettes to pay back-taxes.  When one of her fellow stallholders dies a suspicious death, Maureen can’t help but become involved.  All the while she must also deal with her father’s return, and the birth of a new baby girl into her family.  Fearing her father will repeat his sexually abusive behavior, Maureen teeters on decisions that could forever changer her life.   

With more than enough surprises and twists, this literary achievement will delight the most hardened mystery fan.  But the true value comes from Maureen herself.  She is perhaps one of the most finely rendered and sympathetic characters in mystery fiction.  And although you might not always agree with her methods, you will certainly appreciate her motivations.  Having never been to Glasgow, I feel I know it well as seen through Mina’s eyes.  Her Glasgow is a dark city, along with its inhabitants, yet both exposing brilliant flashes of beauty that touches deeply.  And though some readers who have not read the first two in this trilogy may find themselves a little lost at times, don’t let this stop you.  Quite the opposite, let it motivate you to go out and get the first two and read them as quickly as you can, you won’t be sorry.

5 bolts

Not Guilty by Patricia MacDonald

Publisher: Pocket Books; ISBN: 0743423550

Keely Bennett has just lost her second husband in yet another tragedy that strikes her young life.  To complicate matters even more, the police believe her distant adolescent son was somehow involved in the death of his step-father .  Even Keely has her doubts at first to his true innocence.  But the further she becomes involved, the more secrets she uncovers that lead her to question if she ever really even knew the man she married.  When connections to her first husband's death begin to appear, she realizes that nothing was ever as it seemed.  

It's been too long of a time since MacDonald has written, and we're glad to see her back.  Although some of the connections she tries to tie together seem to strain for credibility, this is still a very exciting and engaging mystery.  We watch as Keely grows from a somewhat hapless and naive woman, to a woman of strength and conviction with increasing enjoyment.  The hesitant, yet growing, relationship with her teenage son is also a joy to read, and very realistically drawn.  There are plenty of surprises that will keep the reader guessing, and this is always appreciated.  Definitely a book worth reading, this will keep you up long into the night.

 

Suicide Casanova by Arthur Nersesian

Publisher: Akashic Books  ISBN: 1888451300

Arthur Nersesian is the author of some highly acclaimed, albeit, quirky literary novels.  His credits include debut novel, The Fuck Up, Dogrun, Manhattan Loverboy and Chinese Take-Out.  Though I have not yet read any of the above-mentioned titles, after reading the impossible-to-put-down Suicide Casanova, I anxiously look forward to owning a complete collection of Nersesian's works.

In Suicide Casanova, Nersesian takes readers down quite a road.  We get more than just a glimpse into the souls of men, we are forced to stare into the eyes of the soul for 377 turbulent pages…which, translated, equates to a long, hard unblinking gawk into an unrecognizable darkness that just might be our very own unrecognizable reflection.  Talk about stirring.

Told in patches of flashbacks, we get to meet our main character, Leslie, a wealthy, high-powered attorney.  His wife, Cece, has just died.  Though it wasn't murder, he is somewhat responsible for the strangulation that killed her.  Cleared of any foul play, Leslie is forced to meet with a psychiatrist.  Thankfully not through patient – doctor sessions, we get to see what led to Cece's demise, as well as Leslie's fall from—well, it was never graceful—his fall from, let's say, Mount High.

How to explain the plot … Sky is a porn star.  Once Leslie sees her films he falls in love with who she is.  It becomes his life long obsession to meet her.  Once he tracks her down, the unthinkable happens.  They meet.  She is a stripper, a whore, a porn star—and he loves her.  He hates her.  They don't so much date, as become involved as she flip flops from one pimp/agent to the next.  

Leslie meets Cece.  She is a dominatrix.  He thinks Sky is out of his life for good.  But she isn't.  Can't be.  She is inside of him.  And when Cece finds that he still has a thing for Sky—she leaves Leslie.  

In desperate need of help, Sky finds herself on Leslie's doorstep.  She has hit rock bottom.  She is pregnant and wants to clean her life up.  Leslie has a lot of decisions to make.  Eventually, Sky moves on, marries and grows a small family into something meaningful.

When Cece dies, Leslie wants Sky back.  His obsession is powerful enough that he develops an alter ego, poses as a photographer and tracks down Sky's teenage daughter.  He'll do anything to have Sky want him … anything.

This is no traditional Romeo & Juliet love story.  It is like no love story I've ever read, which is why it reads fast, deep and intense.   There is even a little legal matter as a side-story line that takes place in the book—not anything like a John Grisham might write, thank goodness.

Suicide Casanova is dark, disturbing.  There is drug usage, drinking, strip clubs, adult bookstores, heavy descriptive sex, masturbation, murder, pimping, X-films … it is filled with everything that I never see or hear of in my everyday life.  Believe it or not, there is a story in the mix of it all.  A sad story.  Nersesian makes the reader care about what happens to these people, sympathize and at times empathize with them.  A great story by a talented writer.

© 2003 Phillip Tomasso III