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Point Fury by John Maxwell

Publisher: Scribner; ISBN: 0743222075 (April)

When ex-rock guitarist Chris Nielson gets thrown out of his band and loses his girlfriend, he realizes his life is in shambles and he needs some down time to try and pick up the pieces.  A friend of his father's offers him the opportunity to house-sit his secluded beach home for the winter and Chris eagerly accepts the job.  Shortly after his arrival he meets the mysterious neighbor, a young and beautiful woman with problems of her own.  But soon after a visit from her threatening boyfriend, she abruptly departs, leading Chris to question her presence in the first place.  Other events lead Chris to finally suspect the whole set-up, and when the owner arrives and complicates Chris's life even further, Chris knows he's in real trouble. 

With increasingly menacing events, the suspense in this book slowly builds to an almost unbearable pitch.  Chris's character is finely drawn as another member of the x-generation who has spent his time frivolously pursuing his half-concocted dreams in a meaningless fashion.  But facing his most threatening nightmares may possibly bring him redemption and understanding, if he can survive the challenge.   

 

Daddy's Little Girl by Mary Higgins Clark

Publisher: Simon & Schuster; ISBN: 0743206045 April

The Queen of Suspense is back!  In this outing we find Ellie Cavanaugh, an investigative reporter, fighting against all odds to keep her sister's murderer behind bars.  Twenty three years previously, when Ellie was only seven, Rob Westerfield, a good looking, rich, and troubled boy was convicted for the brutal slaying of Ellie's beloved sister Andrea.  Now paroled, Rob, and his growing audience of believers in his innocence, are stopping at nothing to keep Ellie silenced.  But the further she digs, the more disturbing the information is that she gathers.  What exactly did happen on that night 23 years ago?

This is Clark's first attempt at first person narrative, and she definitely succeeds.  After some disappointing releases, this fresh approach brings a new vitality to Clark's writing that has been missing for too long.  Her writing is back to the suspenseful and nail-biting form that marked Clark's first novels, and we're very glad to note this return.  This departure in writing for Clark will no doubt by viewed by some as unwelcome, but we feel that it has breathed new life into Clark's increasingly stale attempts that have plagued her most recent outings.  For this we cheer Clark and welcome her back to the circle of outstanding authors of suspense.

 

Winter and Night  by S.J. Rozan

Publisher: Minotaur Books; ISBN: 0312245556 (Feb)

This is the 8th novel featuring NY PI's Lydia Chin and Bill Smith, with this one being narrated by Bill.  When Bill's 15 year old nephew Gary is picked up by NY police, he calls Bill to bail him out.  Long estranged from his sister Helen, Bill answers the call with much trepidation.  Soon after bailing him, Gary disappears and the hunt begins.  All clues point to Warrenstown, NJ and the reigning high school football team that the town will do anything to protect.  An 18 year mystery surrounding the rape and murder of a young teenager also play an important role in this fine tuned roller coaster ride.  Along the way we get to learn the details that have shaped Bill and have made him the man he is today.  A fine mystery that explores the themes of family duty and loyalty, it comes highly recommended.

Rating:  4 bolts 

 

Ghost Towns by Betsy Thornton 

Publisher: Minotaur Books; ISBN: 0312280416 (Feb)

Chloe Newcombe, a victim’s advocate in Cochise county, is back in her third outing in this excellent series from Thornton.  When a prominent judge dies, Chloe is called upon to notify the family, and soon becomes wrapped up in murder with connections to the past.  When her good friend Nate, a reporter with the local paper, goes missing, along with her boyfriend Craig, her sense of urgency rises with each passing day to uncover everyone’s secrets.  And everyone does have secrets, some very deadly secrets.  Chloe soon realizes she doesn’t know the people in her life as well as she thought.   

This is a remarkable series, with the only complaint in this latest outing being the book simply wasn’t long enough.  Thornton’s writing is so easy and graceful, her beautifully rendered scenes of the desert remarkably readable, that one wants the book to last much longer.  Her characters, especially Chloe, are sincere and real.  Her mysteries are always emotionally touching, leaving the reader wanting more. There is great depth in her all too often short books, and we only wish the ride could last a little longer.   

4 1/2 Bolts

She Loves Me Not  by Wendy Corsi Staub

 Publisher: Pinnacle Books; ; (February 2003) ISBN: 0786014245

Rose Larrabee has seen too much tragedy in her life, widowed and the recipient of a heart transplant, she’s barely making end meet raising her two young children when strange events start happening.  Odd gifts and late night phone calls begin to occur with increasing frequency, frightening Rose, as they all seem to center around the theme of a heart.  Not knowing who she can trust, Rose is thrown into a spiraling nightmare that threatens all she holds dear.

 Wendy Corsi Staub does it again!  Her multi-plotted and highly suspenseful novels never fail to get the heart going, this one being even better than the last.  Her main, and even secondary, characters are so richly drawn, her plotting so swift, and her ability to keep the reader guessing so perfectly maneuvered, that the reader will find it virtually impossible to put this book down.  If you haven’t read this extremely talented author, go out and get all her books, because I guarantee, one won’t be enough.

 

Somebody Else’s Music by Jane Haddam

Publisher: Minotaur Books; ISBN: 0312271867 June

Thirty two years ago now successful writer Liz Toliver was locked into an outhouse surrounded by snakes because she was an outcast and hated by a female clique of her popular high school classmates. That same evening, a young man was murdered not too far from where she beat herself into a catatonic state attempting to free herself. Gregor Demarkian is called in by Liz’s boyfriend, the famous rock star Jimmy Card, to clear her name in the gossip surrounding the murder. Going back to Hollman, the small and ugly town filled with the horrific characters from Liz’s past, Gregor must delve into the lives of these petty people while the violence awakens yet again.

Haddam deserves a standing ovation for this most excellent read. With a compassionate and realistic touch she brings back the horrors and pettiness of high school, and the lasting impressions it can leave on us all. She’s written a beautiful and lyrical novel that highlights the brutality that all too often surrounds those that are different from the rest. Her characters come alive through her adroit and knowledgeable stroke, some of whom many readers may easily identify to those from their own pasts. Far and above her best in her series, this novel deserves much more acclaim than it has gotten. This is a must read for those who appreciate both mystery and a moral to the story. Easily a 5 bolt book that will leave the reader questioning the importance, or hopefully, recognizing the insignificance, of their own high school years.