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By Blood Written by Steven Womack

Publisher: Harper  ISBN-10: 0061137707

Reviewed by Glen Clooney, New Mystery Reader

Michael Schiftmann is a critically acclaimed author whose books have never hit the bestseller list.  He decides to add the ultimate realism to his work by committing grisly murders then writing about them.  Hardly a dazzling new concept, I thought, and after reading the first two pages I suspected it wasnít going to be redeemed by being especially well written.  Still, I was drawn into it and ended up enjoying it.  The story weaves back and forth from New York to Nashville, the former following the exploits of the now-successful and popular Schiftmann, while the latter tracks the progress of investigators into recent horrific murders.  Graphic and gory in places, fans of Mr. Womack wonít be disappointed.  A gripping read.



Brother Odd by Dean Koontz

Publisher: Bantam   ISBN: 0553589105

Reviewed by Jake Chism, New Mystery Reader

Once again Koontz delivers an Odd Thomas story that is full of heart, suspense, humor, wit, and mystery. Odd Thomas is a unique young man that has a special gift that allows him to see the lingering dead and connects him to the spiritual world that surrounds us. This time Odd is living in a monastery in the mountains of the High Sierra in California. Odd has left Pico Mundo to get away from his troubled past and try to find some peace, and hopefully some direction for his life.

Odd is a welcome visitor at St. Bartholomew's Abbey, which serves as a place of spiritual refuge for monks, nuns, and special needs children who have been abandoned. Odd finds himself immersed into the lives of those who have found sanctuary in the peaceful life of St. Bartholomew's, and it doesn't take long for Odd to feel like one of the family. Odd finds acceptance and love with these new friends, even when some of them discover his abilities. He is drawn to the children especially, and finds himself relating to their plights and struggles and his heart goes out to them.

As Odd settles into life in the monastery, his unique gift alerts him that trouble is coming. With the help of his new friends, Odd must find a way to protect the children and residents of St. Bartholomew's from the danger that is imminent. The lives of innocent people once again are placed on the shoulders of Odd Thomas and he must find a way to save them, because no one else can.

This is a wonderful addition to the Odd Thomas series. Koontz has created one of the most memorable characters in today's fiction in Odd Thomas. Odd is funny, smart, witty, and mysterious and in each novel I have been touched by his heart and compassion for others. This story is full of suspense and twists, and the dialogue is crisp and refreshing. The new characters only enhance the narrative and Elvis is back with another encore performance.

Koontz fans (especially Odd Thomas fans) will love Brother Odd. Koontz has crafted another wonderful tale full of hope, redemption, and suspense. In Brother Odd we are reminded that true heroes are those who use their gifts and talents to help others, no matter how Odd they are. I can't wait for more.



Probable Cause by Theresa Schwegel

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN-10: 031294764X

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Chicago police beat rookie Ray Weiss may not like his partner or his boss,  but being on the force is something he is proud of, his hope to follow in his father's footsteps with a long and respected career.  So when, like others before him, he's singled out for his "initiation," he knows that he must go through it in order to achieve the loyalty that is a major part of being on the force.  But things go horribly wrong when one man is killed, and another innocent man is accused, leaving Ray to choose between loyalty and justice, with the wrong choice possibly costing him his life.

Schwegel writes with all the rawness and brutality of one who is intimate with the ways of the men and women who protect us.  There is nothing neither sweet nor light about this dark and edgy read, but rather an honesty that is as disconcerting as it is jarring.  Unlike television, the daily dramas that take place on these mean streets do not always resolve themselves nice and tidy at the end, with everyone happy with the justice served.  Instead, Schwegel shows us the ambiguities and unanswered questions that can linger long after everyone goes home.  So if you're looking for cozy and light, you may want to pass on this sometimes difficult read, but if it's something more realistic you're looking for, this one easily provides it.         



Village Affairs by Cassandra Chan

Publisher:  St. Martinís Minotaur  ISBN:  0-312-935072

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

A fashion shoot at the local manor is excitement enough for the Cotswold village of Chipping Chedding, so locals are distressed to hear of the sudden death of new resident Charles Bingham, and their distress grows when they learn that Bingham may have been murdered.

Amateur sleuth Phillip Bethancourt is already on hand, having accompanied his model girlfriend Marla to the shoot, and is delighted to hear his best friend, Scotland Yard detective Jack Gibbons, has been assigned to the case.  Identifying Binghamís mystery girlfriend is Phillip and Jackís first priority; unfortunately, she quickly becomes the second victim.

Who among the residents of charming Chipping Chedding is a murderer?  It seems to take Jack and Phillip a long time to solve the murders, but thatís okay, because spending time with them in the scenic village with its likeable townspeople is a fine way to spend a few hours.  Unlike many mysteries featuring amateur detectives, Village Affairs lacks the constant admonitions from the professionals to mind their own business; Jack and his colleague welcome Phillipís assistance.  Cassandra Chan manages to maintain the quaintness of the Cotswold setting while giving it modern sensibilities.



Last Seen Leaving by Kelly Braffet

Publisher: Mariner Books  ISBN: 0618919767

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Anne Cassidy has been living in Sedona, hoping the 'otherworldliness' of the place will somehow enable her to contact her long dead husband, a mysterious pilot who may or may not have worked for the CIA when his plane went down.  His death not only brought her heartache, but also fractured the relationship with her daughter Miranda, a fracture that 20 years later has yet to be mended, with communication between them remaining sporadic at best.  But when Anne fails after several attempts to contact Miranda in Pittsburgh, her last known address, she begins to panic, thinking her daughter may be in danger, or may even be dead. 

Meanwhile, Miranda has instead actually been living in a beach town after wrecking her car and accepting a ride with a strange man who dropped her off to her new place of residence.  But young women have been dying in this ideal setting, and Miranda can't help but wonder if her odd benefactor might just be connected somehow to the brutal slayings.

This short reads, for the most part, as a tragic story of two very broken lives, with the two women incapable of repairing and filling the loss left behind by the death of their loved one so long ago.  And even though Miranda is a bit difficult to like, one can't help but feel empathy for her, her sometimes callous behavior easily explained by her unexplored grief and resentment.  With more questions than answers filling this small volume, the reader will most likely feel slightly at a loss themselves at times, but the flowing narrative, the brief bouts of suspense, and the finely tuned characterizations easily fill the void, as does the hope that is left lingering after the final page has been turned.