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Final Sins by Michael Prescott

Publisher: Onyx  ISBN-10: 0451412303

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Prescott returns with the diametrically opposed duo of FBI agent Tess McCallum and private operative Abby Sinclair in what we hope is not to be his last, pitting the dynamic pair one final time against the kind of evil they've both gotten to know a bit too well.   This time out Abby is hired by a convicted sadistic killer who has since served his time and been released for a brutal murder years before, a charming psychopath who wants Abby to track down the person stalking his girlfriend.  Meanwhile, when other bodies are discovered, Tess is one of the few who sees the connection and believes that he might be killing again.  But what these two women don't know is that the killer has one of them in his sights and has targeted her to be the final victim. 

Prescott once again delivers a compelling tale so full of suspense and well drawn characters that some readers may find themselves a bit unsettled long after the last page is turned.  Not only is his portrayal of evil viscously frightening, but often times even more so is the response this evil provokes in others; the result being a disconcerting and provocative dichotomy of right vs. wrong.  But, ultimately, it's not only this that makes the book a winner, it's also Prescott's ability to get inside a woman's head and create realistic and forceful female characters that rise far above the usual offerings for the genre.  So if this is his last featuring these two particular characters, it'll be a shame.  

 

 

 

Deadly Sin by James Hawkins

Publisher: Castle Street Mysteries  ISBN-10: 1550026445 

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

If you enjoy tales with several subplots and intriguing characters who will hold your attention, then Deadly Sin by talented author James Hawkins is the book for you. Based on current events that could come from the newspaper, this is a cleverly told tale with lots of action.

From the day Chief Inspector David Bliss is assigned to coordinate protection for the Queen of England when she plans to meet publicly with local Muslim leaders, things seem to pile complication on top of complication. Bliss is also having girl friend troubles and looking into what he considers a bleak future as he approaches his fiftieth birthday.

Everyone is on high alert as this seems to be the time ripe for a terrorist attack on Her Majesty.  Bliss can't even take a day off without being reprimanded. 

While he is dealing with this stressful situation, his old friend Daphne Lovelace finds herself in an untenable situation with ugly natured neighbors and retreats to a retirement home.  Within days she is no longer the feisty woman Bliss knew.

The combination of tales is like enjoying a two-flavored ice cream cone, each in contrast to the other, yet together they offer a very enjoyable read.  You'll want to know whether or not Inspector Bliss' book will ever be published or whether the Queen will safely make her visit.  Will Daphne ever go home again or has her mind been shattered by her experiences with those neighbors.

I'm pleased to recommend this book as a very enjoyable read well worth the time. You'll want to read other books by this imaginative author.  Enjoy.  I sure did.

 

 

Trouble in Bloom by Heather Webber

Publisher: Avon Books  ISBN: 978-0-06-112971-1

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader

Although Nina Quinn’s business, Taken By Surprise, is doing well; despite the occasional dead body she digs up; she grapples with the feeling that she has let the right guy get away.  Bobby MacKenna accepts a job in another state and the relationship “dies on the vine,” or so it seems.  However, Bobby is back in town and they are undercover pretending to be a couple on the Hitched or Ditched reality TV romance show (which is similar to the Newlywed Game).  They are doing this as a favor to Bobby’s cousin, a lawyer, who needs evidence for a lawsuit against the shows’ producer.  The chemistry between Bobby and Nina is clearly still there although they are both trying to ignore it while pretending to be an engaged couple.  Each member of the staff of Hitched or Ditched seems to have a hidden agenda unfortunately Genevieve Sala, wife of the producer/director and co-host winds up dead.  Even if she is on a TV reality show set rather than in a garden digging Nina is doomed to find the dead body.  Once again she finds herself in a race to find the killer before she is the next victim.

Trouble in Bloom is the fourth installment in the Nina Quinn, garden makeover series.  Ana, Nina’s cousin the probation officer, continues to send ex-convicts to her for hire.  Nina’s mom is helping her to renovate her bathroom with the expected disastrous results.  Kit, Mr. Cabrera, Brickhouse Krauss, Riley and the obnoxious ex-husband are all present.  New additions to this novel are Mario and Perry, the other contestants on Hitched or Ditched; Perry is an extraordinary stylist who works miracles on Nina’s appearance and Mario is a court stenographer.  Layered onto the humorous, high energy plotline of Webber’s novels is the highly charged relationship between Bobby and Nina.  As a result of the romantic tension and the whodunit this book clearly straddles both genres and provides the reader with a good dose of romance and mystery.  Trouble in Bloom is a fun read combining romance with an entertaining whodunit twist.

 

 

The Science of Sherlock Holmes by E. J. Wagner

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons ISBN  0 470128232

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

This is a book for both fans of Sherlock Holmes and those interested in the
development of forensic jurisprudence.

The author looks at some of Holmes' greatest cases and links them to advances and developments in forensics, starting with Vidocq and bringing in the work of such luminaries as Sir Bernard Spilsbury, Dr Joseph Bell, Dr Stryker (inventor of that useful saw) and Arthur Conan Doyle himself.

An impeccable bibliography provides the interested reader with other
sources of information about criminal investigations, trials gone horribly wrong, innocents wrongly accused and executed, guilty parties who escaped
justice, and a wealth of interesting facts up to the present day.

You will learn such fascinating things as how investigating the intestines of
maggots helps identify dead people,  why graves once had fancy kerbing and
pebbles, and read the report of the medical examiner in the infamous Lizzie
Borden case.

This is a really interesting book, and a must-have for Sherlockians and Kay
Scarpetta fans alike.  Possibly not a book to read over your morning corn
flakes, but well worth reading at some other time of day.  It would be an
excellent companion book to any historical mysteries, such as Anne Perry's and Elizabeth Peters' works.
 

 

 

Murder Unfolds by Sharon Short

Publisher: Avon  ISBN-10: 0060793279

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Josie Toadfern is a very busy woman who lives in a small town.  She owns a Laundromat, is guardian to her autistic cousin, writes a regional stain removing column, and is so curious she can't keep her nose out of other people's business.  Josie is in a panic because she knows absolutely nothing about public speaking and has been asked to give a speech at the dedication of the new history section of the public library and in honor of her former junior high school teacher Mrs. Oglevee.  But when a woman claiming to be Oglevee's daughter sends her a note saying her mother was murdered, nosey Josie is off to find out who her mean old former teacher really was and if indeed she was murdered and why.

Josie Toadfern is certainly one of the funniest detectives on the bookshelves.  Short keeps her embroiled in a plot that allows Josie's quirky wit, assumptions and misassumptions lead her eventually to a reasonable conclusion to the problems.  With the help of her two best friends she does manage to dig up Mrs. Oglevee's shady past and the reason for her death.

 

 

Right From the Gecko by Cynthia Baxter

Publisher: Bantam  ISBN-10: 0553588443

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Jessie Popper is flying to Hawaii for a veterinary conference.  Her boyfriend Nick Burby is a law student who is on break so he will accompany her.  They hardly arrive on the island when Jessie makes friends with an aggressive young woman journalist whose body later washes up on the beach.  Being an amateur sleuth she begins locating and questioning everyone who knew the young woman.  She begins to unravel the pieces to the puzzle about a new industry being environmentally harmful to the island and pushes to learn that it is actually an illegal enterprise.  Now she must rush to finish the investigation before she becomes the next victim.

Baxter has created a character that is intelligent, humorous, professionally ethical, and with a sense of curiosity that gets her caught up in everything.  The plot is fast paced and the background material thoroughly researched.  This novel will keep you chuckling and your interest piqued for couple of days.  Truly enjoyable reading.

 

 

The 5th Horseman by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Publishers: Warner  ISBN: 0446699310

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

This is the 30th James Patterson book I am reading- and this time I have decided to be strict, brutally strict in my analysis of James Patterson works. And the result is…. again 5 bolts- by whatever system of calculation you use, be it the ounce of suspense, the degree of thrill or the mileage of page-turning-ness, Patterson scores a perfect ten in each count and The 5th Horseman is an absolute tantalizing and spellbinding read.

The Women’s Murder Club is back, (minus Jill Bernhardt of course, who was murdered in 3rd Chance), and now there is a new addition to the Club, petite and cute, but hard-hitting layer Yuki Castellano. But when Yuki’s mother 55 year old Keiko is suddenly taken sick and dies under mysterious circumstances at the San Francisco Medical Centre- the Women’s Murder Club has a new case in hands. And it is up to police officer Lindsay Boxer, pathologist Claire Francis and journalist Cindy Thomas to find out the truth. Preliminary investigations reveal a plethora of unusual deaths at the SFMC, and evidence points to Dr. Garza, a doctor at the Hospital. And a class action suit has been filed against SFMC, by the relatives of the unfortunate patients. Whatever be the verdict in the suit, the Women’s Murder Club has a job in their hands- prevent more ‘unnatural’ deaths… before all hell breaks loose.

What follows is Patterson action at its zenith best culminating in a finish…. that only Patterson could have thought it off.

A highly recommended read. Be sure to add this one to your collection.

 

 

 

Dead Watch by John Sandford

Publisher: Berkley  ISBN-0425215695

Reviewed by Don Crouch, New Mystery Reader

John Sandford is a publishing powerhouse. His Lucas Davenport books have been around for, like, ever, and show no trace of falter. The Kidd & LuEllen series is hot again, after lying dormant for about 10 years. We have always found it curious, though, as to how many of his readers like only one of those series. Some feel that the Davenport Prey series has run its course and have nothing but love for the computer whiz/cat burglar/friends with benefits Kidd & LuEllen. Let's just ignore the Night Crew stuff, OK?

So perhaps it will be interesting to see how opinion tracks on Sandford's new character, Jacob Winter, the lead in Dead Watch.  He is ex-Special Forces, disabled-veteran, and self-styled bureaucratic forencist. A process nerd, if you will, that can also kick major ass.

Winter is hired by the POTUS Chief Of Staff to help investigate the disappearance of ex-Senator Lincoln Bowe. To do his job, Winter will have to juggle the interests of the FBI, an ambitious Virginia governor and Bowe's hot number of a wife.

There are no simple alliances in this story; party loyalties are clouded by personal agenda here, in many cases with deadly results. Vigilante politics shroud the Governor, whose chilly group of ex-military fellows, known as the Watchmen, find themselves as suspects in nearly each aspect of the crime at hand. Winter finds himself needing information from, and maybe protection against, just about every force at play at various times in this book, and Sandford does a pretty amazing job of keeping everything moving with some clarity. It would be very easy for a book like this to bog down in dogma, but Sandford wisely remembers this is an adventure, not a civics lesson. And besides, the ego beneath most dogma is much more interesting than the dogma itself, isn't it?

The romantic chemistry that Sandford creates between Winter and Madison Bowe is set up nicely. It's born of friction, of course, since they represent opposite political parties. It's fascinating to watch as, the further apart their interests appear, the attraction grows in subtle ways.

Sandford creates a very believable political universe here, and populates it with some colorful supporting characters. This is stuff that's necessary if, as we suspect, the intention is to get another series rolling. Winter would be a great vehicle for Sandford to really exploit the Wacky World of Washington, if that's the chosen path. He's a pragmatic crank, a loner without portfolio. There's enough of him left unknown for future stories, and it's our hope that Sandford gets right to it.

 

 

Piece of My Heart by Peter Robinson

Publisher: Harper  ISBN: 0060544368

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When Linda Lovesworth, young, beautiful, and willfully independent was found murdered in the summer of 1969, her body hidden in the woods far away from the prying eyes of those attending a major rock festival, police were quick to attribute her death to her uninhibited lifestyle.  Drugs, sex, and rock and roll, it's inevitable they figured, especially for this 18 year old who had given a child up for adoption 2 years before.  

And now, decades later, Inspector Alan Banks finds himself investigating the death of a rock music journalist, one who had been writing a feature story on one of the bands, the Mad Hatters, who had finally found their fame at the very same concert, and who now was planning a reunion tour. 

Banks, being a music aficionado, finds the case right up his alley, but when he begins to suspect that his case is related to one from the past he finds he's alone in his opinions.  But Banks sees that there's just a bit too much tragedy in the Mad Hatter's past, a past that includes madness and unexplained death, with a trail leading closer to the present that only he can recognize.

Switching time periods between the investigations with such frequency might've been dangerous in another's hands, and sometimes gets close to the edge even here, but Robinson somehow keeps a tight enough rein on both so that neither becomes less or more than the other.  My main complaint in reading this was leaving one story for the other, usually happening just when things were heating up.  Intentional? Of course.  Successful? Absolutely. 

So even if you dislike the 60's and/or have had enough of the new and revitalized 21st century detectives who have exchanged their vices for self righteous harping, you can't help but be impressed by the technical ability Robinson exhibits.  A suspenseful and invigorating story of then and now, sprinkled liberally with familiar names in music, some who were paramount in creating a culture whose impact has yet to fade, Robinson confirms his amazingly insightful ability to grasp the concepts behind the beat.   So while Inspector Banks is slowly becoming yet another exasperating victim of political correctness, smugly disavowing the vices that once gave him his compelling edge, he still has a bit of road to travel before he reaches the muesli stage.  Hey, at least he still loves rock and roll.         

 

 

Born In Death by J D Robb

Publisher: Berkley   ISBN-0425215687

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

When you're a book reviewer living at the bottom of the world, you don't always get the books you'd most like to review.  So I went out and bought the new J D Robb, and wasn't disappointed.

Yes,  Robb's Eve Dallas series is formulaic, and none the worse for that.  We Dallas fans like the formula; otherwise we wouldn't keep reading the series.

For newcomers, if you haven't read all the way through from Book I, Naked in Death, Book 22 is as good a place to start as any.  Robb always provides enough background to orient the reader, so that one understands that the series is set in New York a few decades hence, and stars Eve Dallas, a tough cop with a soft core, who's married to Roarke, a man richer than Bill Gates and handsomer than any three Hollywood hunks you can name.

"Born in Death" mixes grisly crime with a light-hearted treatment of baby showers and birthing suites.  Faced with a double homicide, as well as the job of hosting  her friend Mavis's baby shower, Eve knows which one she'd rather tackle.  Luckily, her right-hand-woman Delia Peabody is there not only to backstop her at the crime scene, but also to do most of the hard work arranging the shower.

Life gets harder for Eve when there are suggestions that her husband might be making unfair use of inside information, and when Mavis's pregnant friend Tandy goes missing.  It begins to look as if there's something really nasty going on.  Devotees of Dallas know just how grim and dark her creator can go in the hunt for motives, and this book is no exception.  A couple of truly unpleasant villains join the pantheon of crims Dallas has faced.

Perhaps because so much of the book deals with Mavis and the baby shower, this is a somewhat softer Eve Dallas than we are used to.  There's a bit more of Robb's alter ego Norah Roberts in this book than usual, which is not so say Eve wimps out--she's still the toughest cop in Homicide.

All our favourite characters reappear: Roarke, Peabody, Mavis, Summerset, the Chief and all the cops of the NYPSD.  Uncharacteristically, the crimes and criminals are all tied up in the penultimate chapter, so as to leave space for a surprise ending.  A thoroughly enjoyable read.