October 2006
 

 

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The Sense of Paper by Taylor Holden

Publisher:  Bantam Books  ISBN:  0-553-80394-8

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

Recovering from psychological and physical wounds acquired in Kosovo, war correspondent Charlotte Hudson embarks on a new project—a book about art paper and the famous English painter, J. M. W. Turner.  Assisting with her research is successful painter and Turner expert, Sir Alan Matheson.

Along with his expertise on Turner, Matheson helps heal Charlotte; however, as their relationship deepens, she becomes more curious about his past, particularly the suicide of his artist daughter Angela, with whom she increasingly identifies.  The truths she discovers threaten to tear her world apart again.

Charlie Hudson’s aloofness is understandable, but she remains rather inscrutable even to the reader, while Alan Matheson seems almost too good to be true, even as horrible allegations about him are made.  Quietly engrossing, The Sense of Paper is not nearly as esoteric as the synopsis suggests, although readers may still learn something about paper.  Perhaps author Taylor Holden meant to show how fully Charlie recovers through the course of the book, but the ending seems a bit cold.

 

 

Black Tide by Peter Temple

Publisher: MacAdam/Cage. ISBN: 1-59692-1056

Reviewed by Tim Davis for New Mystery Reader

Jack Irish, the tough and complicated but somewhat flawed Australian lawyer (who seems to have given up practicing law), is now principally employed in Melbourne as a private investigator (of sorts) who specializes in collecting debts (from very reluctant deadbeats) and finding (or even occasionally inventing) witnesses for clients who need a little extra unorthodox help with their cases. And when he’s not employing some rather questionable ethics on difficult cases for his troubled clients—usually with unimpeachable results—Jack splits the remainder of his time at the horseracing track (with a small circle of friends eager to secure the “inside track” through rather creative ways for their wagering advantages) and at Taub’s Cabinetmaking (where he works as a somewhat belated and not completely dedicated apprentice for a cynical master craftsman).

One day, though, Jack—a widower who intentionally overloads his schedule so that he does not have to spend too much time dwelling upon his lonely existence—is retained to find a missing person, Gary Connors. Gary’s father, the elderly Des Connors has retained Jack and is eager to draft a will and put his legal and financial affairs in order, but there is the small matter of a considerable amount of money that Des’s son had fraudulently obtained from him. Now the elder Connors wants his money back, but the younger Connors, a man of questionable character and spotty past, is nowhere to be found. At first it seems to be a routine case, but when Jack begins making inquiries, he quickly runs into problems. Nearly everyone that Jack talks to seems deadly serious about privacy and secrecy, and as Jack soon discovers, Gary Connors was apparently involved in some sort of questionable business enterprise. Jack suspects that it was a complicated, corrupt, and hazardous business, and—as quite a few people are now warning Jack—it involved something about which Jack should simply stop making inquiries. In response to the threatening tone of the warnings, most people would simply walk away, but Jack, of course, just cannot leave it alone. After all, he is working for a client who deserves quality service. And what follows for Jack is a harrowing adventure filled with excitement and danger—with some pleasurable diversions every now and then—and a complicated case dominated by some surprising twists and turns.

Peter Temple, one of Australia’s most successful crime novelists, delivers an exciting tale of corruption, deceit, and violence in Black Tide which was previously published in 1999 in Australia. Other Jack Irish books, published previously in Australia, include Bad Debts (which is also currently available in U.S. markets through MacAdam/Cage), Dead Point (2000), and White Dog (2003); Temple’s other stand-alone thrillers include An Iron Rose (1998), Shooting Star (2002), and In the Evil Day (2002). Readers will enjoy Temple’s crisp prose, complex characterizations, and crafty plotting in Black Tide and will most assuredly, like me, look forward to reading Temple’s other works.

 

Ordinary Heroes by Scott Turow

Publishers: Warner Books  ISBN:  0446617482

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader 

The three year hiatus for Turow, the three year wait for us has now ended and Turow is back- as strong as ever. Ever since I read Presumed Innocent a decade back, I had diligently read and reread each Turow work, and I am the proud owner of all of ‘em- yup, right from One L to Reversible Errors including Ultimate Punishment. As a lawyer myself, and a self proclaimed numero- uno legal thriller lover, I have often found agreeing with the many myriad points Turow offers in his works- and I have found in the works a trait that is seldom seen in the works of other lawyer authors. Scratch any lawyer and you might find in him an author- and most probably he might dream of becoming the next Grisham, but it is not every other day you come across a lawyer who dreams of becoming a Turow. And in this well studied and researched thriller Ordinary Heroes, Turow once again proves why he is in a class of his own.

This time around Turow shifts his attention away from the courtroom battle for a while and focuses on the war battle during the time of the Second World War. Told in flashback from the viewpoint of Stewart Dubinsky, a journalist (whom we first met in Presumed Innocent), the novel follows the life and times of Stewart’s father David Dubin and his exploits during the war. Stewart knew that his father had faced action during the War, but an enigmatic personality his father was, Stewart didn’t know what exactly his father had done in the Great War However, when he comes across a bunch of letters written by his father, Stewart comes to know who the real Dubin was- why he faced a court-martial charge, why he loved and lost a girl, and why the man Stewart knew to be his father, became the MAN he was. Stewart begins to find respect, lose respect, love and loathe David Dubin at the same time. What follows is Turow style action- culminating in a finish that is…. well, only that Turow can provide.

Ordinary Heroes is entertaining- but I have only one regret- we will have to wait another 3 or 4 years before another Turow thriller comes along- what a pity!!!!!!.

 

 

Death Match by Lincoln Child

Publisher: Anchor ISBN: 0307275566

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Eden, a state-of-the-art matchmaking service, has successfully brought love to millions of couples, but now something is seriously wrong.  The six “super couples”, those with a perfect match rate of 100%,  are one by one committing suicide.  Bringing in Christopher Lash to look into these mysterious deaths, they hope to prevent events from escalating any further. Christopher Lash once worked for the FBI as forensic psychologist, but when tragedy struck a little too close to home, he went back into private practice, and so is weary accepting such an assignment.  But with a check of a hundred grand being offered, he decides to look into things, and what he finds is much, much more than what he bargained for. 

In this supersonic, high-tech thriller, Lincoln child takes us on a breathtaking ride that’s filled with everything one might want in such a journey.  Incorporating psychological suspense with super high-tech thrills, there’s something for everyone in this addictive ride.  Wonderfully developed characters, a plot that chills, and an ending that blows the mind, this dazzling and electrifying read comes highly recommended.

 

Murder at the Washington Tribune by Margaret Truman

Publisher: Ballantine Books ISBN: 0345478207

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Washington Tribune reporter Joe Wilcox has been depressed lately, thinking his career has finally hit the down slope and is quickly approaching its end.  One of the last of the older guys in the newsroom, he's also one of the last few holdouts left when it comes to the sensationalistic journalism that seems to have taken the rest of his peers by storm.  But that's about to change. 

When the first woman is found strangled, a woman who worked in his very own newsroom, he writes it up as a simple unsolved murder, keeping to the rules.  But when another woman with ties to the media goes missing, he creates the rumor of a possible serial killer, and then further endangers his career when he fabricates notes from the killer to himself.  However, in a twist of fate, his long estranged brother has just been released from a mental institution for the murder of a young woman 40 years ago, and now Joe has to wonder; could there actually be a serial killer in their midst and, even worse, could it be his very own brother?

Truman writes a clever and provocative novel on the erosion of values in journalism, infusing it throughout with thrilling expectancy and creative twists.  And while there are not many likable characters in this read, there's still somehow enough empathy stirred to make it all that more realistic and understandable.   Definitely recommended, this is one that'll have you reading late into the night just to find out what really is going on.

 

 

The Killing Art by Jonathan Santlofer

Publisher: HarperTorch  ISBN: 0060541083

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Kate McKinnon, once a NYPD detective turned socialite, is entering yet another phase of her ever-changing life, this one still echoing with the grief of her husband's tragic murder only a year ago.  Now writing a book on the 40's and 50's generation of painters known at the New York School, she is once again enmeshed in the art scene, the only constant in her life it seems. 

But when one of the paintings from that time period she donated to a museum in her husband's name is discovered slashed and ruined, followed by the murder of a dear friend and yet another ruined painting, she is once again also drawn into the world of murder.  This time involving someone who leaves their own paintings at the scene embedded with clues of the next crime, and Kate will be forced to sacrifice her tentative grip on peacefulness to enter a world filled with violence and danger.

This latest from Santlofer, by far his best, is an innovative and thrilling foray into the world of art.  Exposing the greed and egos that lie just below the surface of the art scene, then, and now, Santlofer also manages to infuse the read with the pathos, heartbreak, and tragedies that also make up this easily bruised world of creating.  And Kate herself is yet another reason to read this intelligent and provocative work, much more approachable this time around, she's rid of the perfection that made her a little off putting in previous reads.  Add into the mix some of the author's own art, and you have a read that's just about perfect.  Highly recommended, don't miss this latest, it'll leave you reeling.      

 

The Best American Mystery Stories Edited by Scott Turow

Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Company ISBN:  ISBN: 0618517472 

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

A combination of mysteries by a group of talented authors provides the reader with hours of pleasure.  Rich in variety of plot and character, this collection offers something for everyone.

Take a cruise with Ginger Klein, an elderly woman in Theft whose life has been a series of con games. Join two would be bio-pirates in an attempt to make money the hard way in Yellowstone Park in the tale Pirates of Yellowstone.

Meet a boy whose talent with a yoyo brings him to the attention of Bugsy Seigel and learn why he calls the criminal a friend in Why Bugsy Seigel Was a Friend of Mine.  If you like stories with a twist, you'll enjoy Born Bad and Edelweiss.

In Texas Heat find out what happens when a realtor meets a nice shy seeming fellow who's looking for a place to raise horses.  Then meet law woman Helen Farraley in Peace Keeper and see how she keeps the peace in her small town.

Step into the world of drug sellers in A.k.a. Moises Rockafella with Bea and Fat Tommy and murder.  Go birdwatching with Pansy Reynard in Nevada and see more than you wanted when criminals show up in Dust Up.

Her Lord and Master offers something different when coworkers have an affair.  Does Louly really know Pretty Boy Floyd is a question raised in Louly and Pretty Boy.

Read The Crack Cocaine Diet to see if you lose more than weight.  Find out if a man who meets two women can have a good time in Improvisation. Enjoy the twist in McHenry's Gift when an old criminal is executed. Join Leonidd McGill in Karma to find the truth about a client's cheating boyfriend or is there more to the tale than he's been told? 

So Help Me God is the tale of a woman married too young to a policeman who enjoyed too much control.  Learn what can happen when an obsessed elderly woman goes to see the man she's obsessing over in A Temporary Crown. In Ina Groe, find out the long range effects of a rape trial. Was the accused really guilty or was there another motive for accusing him?

Can you make a living by cheating people out of money and not be implicated in a murder?  See what happenst to Poppy Popovitch in Ringing the Changes when a man he meets is killed. And learn about selling gasoline in Vigilance and what happens when the landlord's sister moves in.

The changes of mood and tone provide pleasant breaks from one story to the next.  I'm pleased to recommend this wide ranging selection of tales to any mystery reader.

 

Air Dance Iguana by Tom Corcoran

Publisher: St. Martin's Press  ISBN: 0312941897

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

When Key West photographer Alex Rutledge is called to a crime scene to take photos, he promises himself that these will be the last; he's tired and fed up with all the killing and brutality in this line of work.  But in just a few short hours he's whisked away to yet another crime scene, this one looking very much like the first as both men were found hanging from a davit, but the coincidences don't end there as there's plenty more to come.  And when the third body is found, Alex must begin to look for the connection that will definitively tie these murders together, because if not, they may be attributed to his no-good brother who just happened to arrive in town when the killing started.

This atmospheric and steamy read is just the ticket for a cold winter's afternoon, with the beautiful Florida Keys being the perfect back drop for this mystery that goes back decades revealing secrets long thought forgotten.  But even more gratifying is the sometimes faltering bonds between brothers that Corcoran illuminates with sincerity and poignancy.  And with Alex himself being such a wonderfully drawn character as the reluctant PI whose compassion and smarts seem to land him in the most difficult of places, you can't miss.  Pick this one up, guaranteed you'll enjoy it.        

 

 

Officer Down by Theresa Schwegel

Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks ISBN: 0312942117

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Chicago police officer Samantha Mack is eagerly anticipating her married lover's arrival when she's unexpectedly called into cover another officer's shift.  She's riding with her ex-partner, and it's a slightly tense atmosphere since the two's somewhat estrangement months before.  When they get a call from a snitch that a pedophile they've been seeking has been found, they rush off to nab him.  But things don't go as planned and the next thing Sam knows upon waking from unconsciousness is that her partner's dead and the culprit long gone.    

Sam is further dismayed when nobody believes her, with the general consensus being  she had mistakenly killed her partner in friendly fire, so when everyone just wants to close the case once and for all, she's the only one who continues to look for the shooter.  But nothing is as it seems, and the lies underneath the surface are much larger than she could have ever anticipated.  With no one to trust, including her married love who just happens to be in charge of the case, Sam will have to find the answers on her own, even if it kills her. 

Although Schwegel has never been a cop, she sure writes with the confidence and knowledge of one.  However, although this may appear to be a story about cops and the street, further reading reveals much more; it's about trust, betrayal, and knowledge of oneself.  And while at first Sam comes off as a highly immature and impulsive character, she does evolve satisfactorily through the story, becoming one more likable and worthy, and it is in her that the strengths of this story lie.  But of course there is also plenty of suspense, shocks, and twists that make for one exciting read.  For a first novel, this one can't be beat, and we look forward to the next.  

 

 

It's Raining Men by Naomi Rand

Publisher: Avon  ISBN: 0060723742

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

When Emma Price, investigator for the Special Crimes Unit, wakes up in the hospital beaten and battered she initially has no memory of how she got there.  But as it slowly returns, along with the knowledge that her boss and dear friend Dawn has been slain, she is forced to remember the events leading up to the attack.  Dawn, her temperamental supervisor and a woman with many enemies, had called Emma for a late night meeting intending to pass along some important information, but what that information might have been, Emma doesn't know.

But what Emma does know is that it holds the key to everything behind the recent vicious events plaguing her and her loved ones, and most likely relates to their current case in which a man is facing death for the murder of his young wife and other family members years ago.  And the more Emma looks into the case, the deadlier things get, because the powerful men she's crossing will do just about anything to keep their secrets buried along with the bodies they've left behind.

This is my first Emma Price suspense novel and it assuredly won't be my last.  It's not just Rand's taut and invigorating story-telling that is the draw but, more importantly, the character of Emma herself.  A single mother who faces the challenges of career and family, she adds sincerity and a poignancy that engages on all counts.  This is one story with both heart and brains enough to satisfy even the most discriminating reader, and one that will linger even after the final page has been turned.  Highly recommended.        

 

 

Bone Factory by Steven Sidor

Publisher: St. Martin's Press  ISBN: 0312997957

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Booth city, located somewhere in the Midwest, is your typical medium sized city; one which appears at times to be drawing its last breath.  Cold and dirty, the city is about to be seized by a number of killings that will shake its very foundation to the core.  It all begins when detectives Ike Horner and Eliza Ochoa find the body of a young female prostitute, who is later discovered to in fact be that of a young man.  Further investigation eventually leads them to the family of the city's founders, the home in which another young man with some unsavory tastes bides his time between his nasty habits.  But the trail does not stop there, for it’s a story that began long ago and involves some of the city's finest.  And so while even more people die, the detectives face an uphill battle in unmasking the secrets behind this series of brutal slayings that seems to have only just begun.

At first I had my doubts about this latest from Sidor.  It took a couple of chapters to get into his very unique rhythm, but once I did, it was a mental feast from there on out.  His story, and the manner in which it is told, is filled with such utter desolation that it's next to impossible to walk away unaffected.  Related in sharp and resolute prose, this story's plot is made all that more immediate and dark because of it. Recommended for those who can handle a fresh and innovative voice that inspires quite a few disturbing chills, this one will leave you reeling.          

 

 

The Wall by Jeff Long

Publisher: Pocket Star  ISBN: 0743498704

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

It was over 3 decades ago that Hugh and Lewis made their final mark on Yosemite's El Capitan, the solid rock that every climber dreams of climbing.  Legendary in their time, Yosemite was their place of daring, growing, and loving- as this was also the place the pair met their future wives.  Now a widower, having lost his wife in a tragic event in the desert, Hugh plans to meet up with Lewis, whose own wife is about to dump him, for one final climb, for what they feel may just be their last chance at glory.

But the climb is cursed from the beginning, starting when Hugh finds a dead female climber, one of three women attempting to mark a new trail, broken and dead at the base of the rock.  An incident that is soon followed by more ominous events that only grow increasingly inexplicable and frightening.   And when Lewis backs out, and Hugh joins in the search for the remaining climbers, things only get stranger and more deadly.  For this climb is about much more than a shot at final glory, it's tragedy's way of playing her final card of revenge.

This is a difficult book to describe, but one that is so exhilarating, commanding, and stirring, that it's very easy to recommend.  Nothing but pure adrenaline is found on just about every page, and with the vivid detailing of the climb, the compelling characters, and the eerie and threatening events that culminate in an ending that's sure to leave you blown away (even though you might see it coming), you have enough for one of the most stimulating reads of the year.  This is one author I've personally never read, but one that I'll be on the look out for from now on.

 

 

Dark Harbor by Stuart Woods

Publisher: Signet  ISBN:0-451218701

Reviewed by Don Crouch, New Mystery Reader

With Dark Harbor, Stuart Woods begins his road to redemption from the mess that was Iron Orchid. It's a long road, fraught with peril, but we have faith that ol' Stu can traverse it successfully.

As it opens, Stone Barrington is informed that his cousin, a childhood pal with whom he's more or less lost touch, has died. According to law enforcement accounts, he killed first his wife and daughter, then himself.

Yeah, right.

Stone is also informed that he's been appointed executor of the new will, and, for his efforts, has been deeded a spectacular new home in Dark Harbor, Maine. Cue the swelling violins of hidden meaning, please.

Since cousin Dick Stone was a high-ranking CIA official, we must include Stone's pal and sometimes CIA boss, Lance Cabot, and his friend-with-benefits, CIA agent Holly "Orchid" Barker. Along with Stone's ex-NYPD partner Dino, they all head up to Dark Harbor to see what's what.

Would it be cheating to say our intrepid quartet eventually determine that the Stone Family's death was, in fact, a homicide? Didn't think so.

Woods introduces some interesting new characters in the course of the investigation, none more so than Ed Rawls, another retired CIA-type. For some reason, we can't help but imagine Sam Elliot when we see this guy, if that tells you anything. Hopefully, he will become part of the Woods mix in future adventures of these folks. He's dryly funny, with a sense of hidden menace that always makes things interesting. 

As The Gang digs into things, more girls turn up missing, then dead. Woods does a good job in turning up the suspense dial as the book progresses, it appears that there may be a couple of different agendas being served. On the one hand, there's the age-old saw of Family Resentment. On the other, the possibility of a thrill-killer. Ooooooh......

Woods really steps on the gas in the final third. We won't tell you why, but you'll know it when you read it. And it's here where the book finally sinks in to the reader's system and grabs hard.

So, if you are a fan of Stone, Holly and the gang, you'll probably find Dark Harbor a pleasant recovery from Woods' recent exercises in coincidence. Stuart Woods is no genre-buster by any means, but he writes totally readable potboilers. Dark Harbor is one of them.

 

 

St. Albans Fire by Archer Mayor

Publishers:  Warner ISBN: 0446618101

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

Archer Mayor is an author who proves me wrong every time. Each time I read his latest book, I tell myself- this is bound to be his masterpiece. But I was wrong with The Sniper’s Wife; I was wrong on Gatekeeper and more recently absolutely wrong with The Surrogate Thief. But I think Mayor will face a Herculean task to top this one, the book under review St. Albans Fire. 

This time maverick detective Joe Gunther is back, but in more sedate surroundings. A young farm boy Bobby Cutts’s is feeling sorry for himself. His gal, Marianne has left him and the cold winter seems colder than usual. Late in the night he decides to do a check on the cows in the family stable. But when he decides to do a check on a small “hissing sound and smell of smoke” – little does he know that his decision would be fatal. And before he knows it the whole barn is caught in a big explosion. And Bobby Cutts perishes in the fire. And to investigate this accident comes Joe Gunther, who immediately suspects arson, and soon finds a series of other such fire accidents in and around the town of St. Albans. But the town community is a close knit one, who hates the ‘interference of the police’ and it’s against all these odds Gunther has to go on with his investigation. What follows is a topnotch mystery ending in a finish that just can be described as truly Mayorian.

Like all his other classic mystery works, this time also Mayor delivers a chilling suspense tale, and like all his works, St. Albans Fire also is a guaranteed bestseller.  A highly recommended read.

 

 

Shadow Laws by Jim Michael Hansen

Publishers: Dark Sky Books  ISBN: 9780976924340

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

Wow….

Wow, Wow….

Wow, Wow, Wow……..           

This is, how, in short, I would describe Shadow Laws, the second in the line of hard-hitting “Laws” series by Attorney Jim Michael Hansen.

Last year while reviewing Night Laws for this Journal I had remarked that I would be on the eager look out for the next Hansen work, and the wait has proved worth it as this new novel is something special, a hell raiser- page turner of a read,- that is, mildly put, spectacular. 

Bryson Coventry returns in splendid form, this time around on the hunt for a killer who sends letters to all the TV stations and newspapers announcing the date of his next “visit.” And right on schedule, the killings take place, with the murderer leaving his signature mark at each site.

At the same time, the heroine of the novel, feisty-gutsy attorney Taylor Sutton, is on a hot trail investigating a “client” for fellow criminal lawyer Nick Trotter, a criminal Trotter accepted a retainer from through mail, and one he has never seen face to face.  And when this “client” starts bragging  about the crimes he has committed and will commit, Trotter feels that he is being set up, with the attorney- client confidentiality clause possibly even leading to his own murder.

The suspense in the novel is spine chilling, even much more than what James Patterson offers in his Alex Cross series, being a fine blend of the psychological thriller genre and the legal thriller genre. A fine, fine read and a highly recommended buy-I'm looking forward to the next one.