October Paperbacks 2006


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Sleep with the Fishes by Brian M. Wiprud

Publisher: Dell ISBN: 0440243130

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When hit man Sid "Sleepy" Bilfuco ratted out his mob family, he ended up doing a few years in prison where he spent his time idly reading fishing magazines.  And so when at last granted parole, he decides he wants no part of the feds witness protection program, instead choosing to buy a cabin near a small town on the river, his goal being nothing but catching some nice fish.  But when a mafia killer escapes from prison and goes after Sid, placing his idyllic life in jeopardy, Sid will have to put the fishing rod aside and revisit a life he thought he had left behind.

It's easy to imagine Wiprud sitting at his computer, one eyebrow arched, tongue in cheek, contemplating his next scene.  He has written a hilarious novel with each character screwier than the next, and just who is messing up whom adds to the delightful comedic mix.  With just about every page of this witty novel, readers will find enough laughs to keep them entertained and eagerly turning the pages for more.



Shark Island by Joan Druett

Publisher: St. Martin’s Minotaur. ISBN: 0-312-361475

Reviewed by Tim Davis, New Mystery Reader

Travel back in time to 1838. The United States has sent a small flotilla of seven ships on an exploratory adventure to Antarctica on a scientific mission. As an important member of the expeditionary force, twenty-four year old Wiki Coffin has been assigned to one of the ships, the Swallow, as translator and scientific officer. The resourceful and charismatic Coffin, the son of a prominent New England ship’s captain and a New Zealand Maori woman, has also been assigned additional duties—should the need arise—as criminal investigator and law enforcement officer.

During the ships’ transit through the South Atlantic, however, the American fleet makes a puzzling discovery: Two derelict ships, the Annawan and the Hero, in varying degrees of disrepair, are stranded at Shark Island, an isolated, mysterious—and apparently otherwise uninhabited—island off the coast of Brazil. Perhaps pirates were involved in the ships’ fates. Or perhaps the ominous fortifications perched atop the island’s cliffs hold the keys to understanding what has happened to these two ships. Or perhaps there are other reasons.

Upon preliminary investigation, the American explorers find that the Hero has apparently been intentionally run aground and abandoned, but the Annawan’s marooned crew has remained with their damaged ship. In fact, Captain Ezekiel Reed, the Annawan’s eccentric commanding officer who has been accompanied on his voyage with his exotic Creole wife, quickly enlists the Americans’ assistance in hopes of repairing the Annawan and returning it to sea.

Before the repairs can begin, however, inexplicable murders threaten to further bedevil and perhaps destroy the Annawan and at the same time disrupt the Americans’ mission.

Coffin must act quickly to investigate the crimes and identify the person (or persons) responsible. Coffin immediately worries, though, that his prior acquaintance eight years earlier with Captain Reed’s beautiful young wife may complicate his investigation. And—of course—someone is clearly very eager to thwart Coffin’s investigation.

Joan Druett’s well-crafted and thoroughly surprising mystery is filled with fascinating snippets of 19th century historical and anthropological facts, and Wiki Coffin is a fascinating protagonist certain to beguile and entertain readers. Strong plotting and lots of cross-cultural and nautical details make Shark Island an impressive, fun-to-read sequel to Wiki Coffin’s debut in A Watery Grave. Let us hope that Druett will continue this exciting mystery series and offer us more Coffin adventures in the future.


And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander

Publisher:  Harper  ISBN:  006114844X

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

If you are a fan of Victorian mysteries, this is a tale you will certainly enjoy. 

A marriage of convenience ends when the groom dies in Africa, and the widow, Emily, soon discovers the joys of new found freedom.  Then she falls in love with her husband. 

The question arises if he might still be alive.  Or will she marry the man who courts her so assiduously?  Was her dead husband involved in an artifact theft ring? How did he come to have such a collection of originals? What role in this does his oldest friend play in the mess Emily uncovers?

These and other intriguing questions will keep you reading.  A great cast of well done characters propel the story forward.  This tale is a great blending of romance and mystery by talented Tasha Alexander.  You'll be looking for other books by her.

The well-done plotting gives us a renewed interest in a time when great discoveries in the field of archaeology were being made in the ancient lands.  Enjoy.  I certainly did.



THE HISTORIAN by Elizabeth Kostova

Publisher: Back Bay Books  ISBN 0 316 154547

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader 

At over six hundred pages, this isn't a light weight book.  Nor is it in content: it is multi-layered and slides back and forth through time and space with sometimes bewildering abruptness.

"The Historian " might have been subtitled "New and complex variations on the Dracula theme". 

The historian of the title is, perhaps, the unnamed girl narrator.  Or is it her father, whose dark, secret research she stumbles on and unravels bit by bit?  Or is it professor Rossi, her father's mentor, whom she discovers to have an unexpected connection to her very existence?  Or is the title meant to stand for all researchers into mankind's past?  We are never quite sure, but it is the role of the historian as detective, as a shedder of light into dark, long-forgotten corners, that is the main theme of the book.

The motherless girl discovers that her father is obsessed by the Dracula story, not the story of the cinema and Bram Stoker, but the real Dracula, Vlad Tepes, the Impaler, the scourge of the Muslims as well as his own people in central Europe long ago.  Bit by bit, as they visit one city after another, the girl draws out the story from her father: how he was first drawn into this dangerous research, and why he continues to pursue it.  His work is closely tied up with the fate of the girl's missing mother, who walked--or was pulled--out of their lives many years ago.

She acquires an unwanted but eventually appreciated ally , Barley, an Oxford student, as she sets out in search of her father who is himself missing.  The girl's search and the father's obsession come together in a tomb in a sudden, shocking climax.

This is a book to read when your brain is in top working order: let your attention slide for a moment and you'll lose track of who is the first-person speaker in a given chapter, or what decade or place you are in.  You have to concentrate every step of the way or you'll be as lost in the dark as the antagonist himself. 

Highly recommended.                                                                                                   



Blood Hunt by Ian Rankin

Publishers: Little, Brown & Co  ISBN:  0316013374

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader 

Ian Rankin is back with a top-notch thriller with a difference. Inspector Rebus is conspicuously absent and by no way is this a police procedural. So ardent fans on the look out for a police procedural and Inspector Rebus might feel disappointed. But friends, let me tell you this disappointment is just momentary and once you begin reading Blood Hunt you will know that there is nothing in it to be ‘disappointed’ about. 

Action, adventure and suspense in true gritty style are more than abundant in Blood Hunt. Former Assassin and soldier Gordon Reeve is a man who has known the hard way of life. And the only person he cares in this world is his brother Jim. And when news of Jim’s suicide… ok, apparent suicide reaches Gordon- he just cannot believe his ears. Gordon soon realizes that someone had killed Jim, and he soon launches into his own investigation.     But Gordon soon realizes that the more deep he investigates, he is digging his own grave. And it's up to Gordon to avenge the death of his brother- at the same time keeping himself alive.

I enjoyed the book very much- and although written in the 90's under the pen name Jack Harvey, it still has that Rankin touch that fans love.   



Tin City by David Housewright

Publisher: Leisure Books   ISBN: 084395762X

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Wise ass ex cop Mac McKenzie is out to get a murdering wiseguy.  McKenzie fell into a bucket of money, quit the force, and is now doing favors for friends.  When Mr. Mosley, an old Marine buddy of his dad's, wants him to find out what's killing his honey bees, Mac hires a science student to collect evidence in the surrounding area, but everyone who wonders onto the nearest neighbor's property get shot at and so Mac and Mr. Mosley contact a lawyer.

When Mr. Mosley is found murdered and the lawyer's wife raped, Mac discovers that the neighbor has disappeared.  Then he gets word that the FBI is looking for him. Mac loads up on cash, buys some untraceable firearms, acquires fake ID and credit cards, abandons his jeep and disappears, going undercover to track the neighbor down.

Housewright has given us a very amusing, entertaining thriller with a plot that is so believable it makes you cringe about what might be going on in government agencies.  Mac is a lovable character with lots of friends, both in law enforcement and on the streets.  Anyone who crosses him or one of his friends better keep looking over their shoulder.  Very enjoyable reading.  



Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press  ISBN: 0-312-426380

Reviewed by Tim Davis for New Mystery Reader

Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson, a fifty year old veteran police officer in Reykjavik, Iceland, knows that murders are actually quite rare in his country. Moreover, he knows that they are normally solved easily and quickly. However, when Erlendur arrives on the scene of Reykjavik’s most recent murder, he realizes that there is nothing normal about this case.

A sixty-nine year old man has been discovered dead in his basement apartment, and pinned to his chest is a piece of paper upon which someone has scrawled a cryptic three-word message: “I AM HIM.” With only few clues to work with—including a photograph of a graveyard headstone—Erlendur quickly knows that he is facing what is perhaps his most challenging case. And, as he pursues various obscure leads in the case, Erlendur follows a complicated trail of sexual violence, perverse relationships, and family secrets.

Arnaldur Indridason’s highly recommended novel is one of the most pleasant surprises of the 2005 publishing season. Winner of the 2002 Glass Key Award for the Best Nordic Crime Novel, Jar City is now finally available in this recent English translation.

Indridason’s fascinating mystery is an intricately plotted, ingeniously crafted thriller. Filled with vivid characterizations, provocative themes, and nicely detailed settings [about which I am particularly partial since I lived in Iceland for a year and a half], this first-rate police-procedural is an absolutely stunning success to which I am giving my highest praise. And I hope we can soon look forward to more Erlendur Sveinsson cases from Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason!


Mary, Mary by James Patterson

Publishers: Warner Vision ISBN: ISBN: 0446619035

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

Having read all the ten previous Alex Cross thrillers, having enjoyed and enthralled by all James Patterson thrillers, and having reviewed at least a dozen Patterson works for New Mystery Reader- I am now having a horrendous time to come up with words to review this work. I have already used the words “enchanting, spellbinding, engrossing, nail-biting, suspense chilling,” etc. etc. to describe Patterson thrillers and now I guess I have just simply ran out of words in English to describe Mary, Mary- so with apologies may I use a word in Hindi (national language of India) to describe Mary, Mary…. well, Mary, Mary is simply “a Chamatkar” (roughly translated it means, something fantastic, wonderful and magical)

Alex cross is taking it easy and having fun with his family at Disneyland when he gets a call informing him that a famed actress has been murdered. And amidst the investigation Cross gets information that a journalist has been sent an email purporting to be that of the murderer, where the murderer describes in lucid details the gore of the killing. The perpetrator is known as Mary Smith and she warns that she will kill again. And it is up to to Cross to stop her. What follows is traditional Cross action of the top order culminating in a finish that is simply…..“Chamatkar”.

Highly, highly, HIGHLY Recommended.



School Days: A Spenser Novel  by Robert B. Parker

Publisher: Berkley  ISBN 0425211347

Reviewed by Don Crouch, New Mystery Reader

We know what you're thinking....'wasn't it just last spring that these jokers reviewed a new Spenser book?' And if you thought that, you'd be right. See, Putnam wants to re-arrange Parker's release schedule, so Spenser books will now come out in the fall, with either a Jesse Stone (next March) or a Sunny Randall in the spring, and a "stand alone" in between.

Three books a year. That, folks, is serious output. Robert B. Parker, Brand Name.

So, anyway, back to the matters at hand. School Days is somewhat unique in the canon, in that neither Hawk nor Susan Silverman play a role of any significance in the story. It begins with promise, as an stately older lady of obvious means marches into Spenser's office and hires him to prove that her grandson, a confessed participant in a school shooting, is, in fact, innocent of those charges. Spenser loves to puncture people's affectations, the more wealth-steeped the better, and we are off to an entertaining start.

Without his normal support mechanisms, he starts to dig around the tragedy at the exclusive Dowling School. And, as you might expect, he does so with varying degrees of success. He encounters an enticing school psychologist, a stuffy principal, and some cops that prefer to not have their air-tight case against the shooters punctured by the possible existence of mere exculpatory evidence.

It's refreshing to see Parker have Spenser stumble around a bit, almost nostalgic. It's also, um....refreshing, yeah, that's it.....to see the fabulous Rita Fiore play a central role in things. She is Parker's most interesting supporting character lately, active in two of his three series. In this one, she is wearing her Full Hottie Jacket, with her relentless teasing/tempting of Spenser. She nearly revels in her pursuit's futility, and her addition provides a needed erotic tension/comedy to the mix.

So, Spenser digs into the school culture, meeting some of the local girls, working his famous charm, and finds himself up against a young fellow called Animal. Nastiness ensues, in brisk Parker fashion, and it's big fun, as always.

As his detection progresses, Spenser finds that the boy he was hired to exonerate has a very complex psychology. Ironic, eh, that Susan isn't available to her usual extent? That said, the boy's motives are sad and twisted, and it creates a poignant underpinning to the fairly basic mystery plot.

Things wrap up a bit tidily, but remember, Parker's nearing completion of his third dozen Spenser novels, so there is truly nothing new under the sun in this world. His dialogue skills are still unmatched in the genre; he handles plot and action with an athlete's grace, and time with his books is always time well spent. School Days is no exception.




Guilt Trip by Ben Rehder

Publisher: St. Martin's Press ISBN: 0312940947

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Things have been pretty quiet lately for Blanco County, Texas Game Warden John Marlin, and he has no complaints about it whatsoever.  But when Casanova wannabe Vance Scofield goes missing, only to later turn up dead, things once again get a little crazy in a big Texas way.  Next thing you know, a house rented by a petty criminal blows up, the Rotary Club's sleek red corvette being held for a raffle is stolen, and one of the state's senator's finds himself in a pickle over some very nasty pictures.   Now one wouldn't think that all these events could even be mildly connected, but then again, this is Texas, and so once again it's up to Marlin, the pretty new deputy in town, and other various law enforcers to piece this crazy puzzle together.

Rehder once again takes the reader on a hilarious spin through the rough and redneck terrain of Texas in this laugh out loud read.  The plot is almost secondary when compared to the crazy characters that Rehder fills the pages with, each one being so perfectly and humorously wrought that it's instant love for the reader.  You will not easily meet a more appealing and dim-witted group of criminals, and for that alone this book is worth the cover price.  Not a single wasted page exists in this wonderfully engaging read, and so if you find yourself feeling blue and in need of a good laugh wrapped up in a great mystery, and peppered with some immensely amusing dialogue and inner musings, pick this one up, you'll be feeling better in no time at all.



Shooting Gallery by Hailey Lind

Publisher:  A Signet Book  ISBN:  0-451-21973-2

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

Art forger turned faux painter Annie Kincaid can always spot a fake, so she can differentiate between a corpse and installation art.  Once she convinces the gallery owner that the "sculpture" hanging in his garden is actually a sculptor (Seamus McGraw, whose exhibition is opening inside), Annie attempts to beat a quick retreat.  Just as she slips out the back door, the alarm at the Brock Museum next door begins sounding.

Annie is above suspicion in the theft of the Brock's minor Chagall, but her friend Bryan is not.  Bryan's description of the guide leading his tour at the time of the theft starts the bells inside Annie's head clanging—he sounds exactly like Michael X. Collins, a.k.a. numerous aliases, but an art thief extraordinaire by any name.  And also the subject of Annie's lust.

Annie's life is further complicated by restoration work for her landlord Frank and her attempt to convince another sculptor to return his masterpiece to its purchasers.  And why has her mother suddenly shown up in Oakland?  Amazingly, all these stories end up being intertwined.

Once again, Annie and Michael spend a night together without consummating their mutual attraction.  As Annie continues to be disturbed by Michael's profession, her straight-laced landlord looks more appealing, and she makes a date with the attractive Josh (whose main attraction may be his absence of ties to the art world).

Annie displays her characteristic wit and good humor—the "stakeout flakeouts" would be a personal favorite—through the entertaining and engrossing second book in the Art Lover's series.  Her irritating expert forger grandfather is a constant presence, though he never appears.  Hailey Lind has definitely lived up to her first book.