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The Mangler of Malibu Canyon by Jennifer Colt

Publisher:  Broadway Books ISBN:  10 0767920120

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

The red-headed twin PIs are at again.  In a fast-paced, action-packed story, they manage to save a plane from terrorists and come off wearing bags over their heads to trying to keep their rich aunt and idler cousin from being charged with murder by an eager-beaver prosecutor.

They look guilty to any and all when a headless corpse is found in one of aunt's rugs and the cousin turns up carrying the head but he can't remember how he got it.  Involved in this messy situation are the denizens of the posh Malibu Canyon area.  Will the girls be able to ferret out the killer or could they become his or her next victims.

Add a cult of the rich and famous who believe in alien abduction to the tale and you have a tongue-in-cheek tale that will have you wanting to ride with the girls on your own pink Harley. The cast of fun characters includes producers who take advantage of starlets and those who want to join the movie star fraternity, trophy wives, cast off wives, and other members of filmdom's population, a cross section of that world that will have you laughing even as you consider the seriousness of the murder.

A fun read that I'm pleased to recommend to any mystery fan who enjoys a lighthearted look at life in the fast lane.  Beware the coke snorters and settle back for some enjoyable hours.

Enjoy.  I sure did.

 

Drive by James Sallis

Publisher:  A Harvest Book (Harcourt, Inc.)  ISBN:  0-15-603032-2

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

A stunt driver by day, a getaway driver by night, Driverís name says it all.  One night, heís set up, shot, and witnesses a murder.  The unwilling caretaker of $200,000, Driver attempts to extricate himself from a bad situation, revealing himself as a truly honest criminal.

As he tries to stay a step ahead of those who want to harm him, Driver tells his story, with action alternating between Los Angeles and Phoenix, the past and the present,  Driver, a laconic, unlikely hero, will win the reader over with his unusual sense of justice.

Dark, strange, and sometimes mystifying, Drive is a surprisingly fulfilling and unforgettable book.  If this fan of fluff can enjoy, then any mystery fan will.

 

A Victim of Convenience by John Ballem

Publisher:  The Dundurn Group. ISBN:  10: 1550026178

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Detective Chris Crane is under pressure to catch a serial killer in Calgary, Canada, as the body count grows. The killer displays his mutilated victims in the public parks, the latest of which is a beautiful young lawyer who works for a prominent law firm that handles oil company accounts and oil in that area is very important.

Each body has similar clues, including the latest, but Chris has his doubts.  Something just isn't right about this latest killing.  But he's stumped by the question of who would have any reason to kill the lady.  His investigation hangs on the answer to that question.

The finger of guilt points to several people who knew the victim.  Coworkers, an old boyfriend, a stockbroker, a boss, someone from the oil company, all come under suspicion.  But why would any one of them suddenly kill her for no apparent reason.

Chris makes a deal with a journalist who is willing to write articles about the killer hoping to bring him to making contact.  It works--the killer communicates with them. But to what end.  Will this cause him to kill again and again. 

Talented author John Ballem uses red herrings and lays false trails to keep the reader guessing as you pit your mystery solving ability against Chris.  Lots of action played out by well drawn characters will keep the pages turning.

I'm pleased to recommend this book to any mystery or thriller fan.  Something different in the genre that you'll enjoy.  I sure did.

 

The Hunt for Sonya Dufrette by Raiko Raichev

Publisher:  Carroll and Graf Publishers; ISBN:  10: 0786717343

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Do you believe librarians lead dull, quiet lives?  If so, you are about to change your mind as you open this well-told tale by talented author Raiko Raichev. 

Spotting an old acquaintance in London, a man not seen since the tragic loss of his child sets Antonia Darcy to remembering the day of the occurrence. She had been present at the manor house and spent time with the child who was considered autistic just before her disappearance.

Antonia remembered the mother hadn't seemed very motherly and told the child to run along. That was the last time anyone saw her.  Her curiosity sets into motion an investigation into the event and brings new facts to light and old secrets.

Join Antonia as she unravels the mystery attached to the old loss. What did happen to the child?  Was it an accident?  Or could one of the secrets have been cause for her vanishing?

A story that proves the past can come back to haunt us in many forms, that old crimes and sins will be resurrected and must be faced. Recommended for any mystery fan who likes surprises.  Enjoy.

 

Gagged and Bound by Natasha Cooper

Publisher:  Pocket  ISBN:  0-743495330

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

When London barrister Trish Maguire is summoned to her colleague's office, she thinks she is only comforting an overwrought woman, but instead she is drawn into Beatrice Bowman's libel case.  The biographer's latest work, about a thirty-year old terrorism case, contains references to Baiborn, which happens also to be the nickname of Simon Tick, Lord of Southsea.  Lord Tick is displeased with any innuendo that he may have been involved.

At the same time, Trish's friend Caro Lyalt is competing for a new job when accusations concerning the honesty of her main rival, John Crayley, come to light.  Curious, Trish begins looking into Crayley's background.  Her involvement in both the libel case and Crayley's possible involvement with organized crime come at the expense of her paying work.  To further complicate matters, what she initially believes to be ordinary bullying of her young half-brother takes on a more sinister aspect.

Gagged & Bound, like Natasha Cooper's other work, starts out slow, but sticking with it pays off as the story becomes more riveting with each page.  Trish's vulnerability, particularly her sometimes helpless love for her engaging brother, is shown in this installment.  Some of the plot is predictable, though there are some surprises; however, will any reader really believe that a character named Lord Tick could be a good guy?

 

 

China Doll by Talia Carner

Publishers: Windsprint Press with Mecox Hudson   ISBN: 9780977382125

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

I read Talia Carnerís first book Puppet Child about four years back. And I was impressed that legal novel (not a legal thriller) which explored the thin line between law and justice in the family court. It was a novel that dealt with the intricate issues involved in a sexually abuse case, where a father is accused of sexually molesting her daughter. Highly impressed with the authorís versatility, I was waiting for another book for a long time. 2003 and 2004 came and went, and I thought that Carner was a one book wonder.

And when out of the blue when I got hold of the copy of China Doll, my joy knew no bounds- and China Doll is as impressive and as thought provoking as Puppet Child. This time the author focuses her attention to the bureaucracy and the legal wranglesÖas well as the humanitarian wrangles surrounding an adoption case.

Nola Sands is a music icon- a perfect prototype of a celebrity we know be it Nicole Kidman or Britney Spears. And when on a world tour to China, a goodwill concert, life suddenly takes a change for Sands when she is a baby is thrust into her arms. Though initially she decides to hand it off to authorities, information regarding the pathetic conditions in orphanages in China forces her to rethink. And much against the wishes of her husband, her office staff and others, Sands decided to adopt. What she thought was a mere formality suddenly seems to be a huge mountain of a task. More than the personal relations involved there is also the political question of relation between United States and China. Soon the case becomes one of prestige and huge political overtones between the two countries. And what is lost in the midst is the human element- the desire of a parent to be with a child whom she loves as her own. What follows is a stylish read of a woman enmeshed in a parentís fight for getting possession of a child who has won her heart.

The author gives a strong argument for diluting adoption laws and to keep in mind a humanitarian approach. I agree with the author. But the same time I would also like to highlight an incident which happened in India recently. A European couple (I believe from Germany) had made a request for adoption. The adoption agency after the requisite legal formalities were ready to hand over the three year old child- but some doubts arose regarding the demeanor of the adoptive parents- and for some reason or other the police were called. Then the truth came out. The couple were kidney racketeers and wanted the child for his kidneys!!!! By godís grace a major tragedy was averted. Thus though I agree that human elements should be given paramount importance- the law also should keep strict vigil over the same.

China Doll is a five star readÖ.highly, highly recommended. And one request Ms. Carner- let there not be this much gap with your next book. In other words I am looking forward to a new Carner novel in 2007.

 

Calibre by Ken Bruen

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 031234144X

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

To even attempt to offer a comprehensive synopsis on this latest from Bruen would be foolhardy, as once again Bruen tosses out all rules of form in what can best be described as a number of surreal snapshots of crime, criminals, and coppers.  And often times the line drawn between copper and criminal is, well, suffice it to say, only further proof that Bruen is not a fan of the black and white viewpoint of crime. 

Loosely speaking, the main plot involves a serial killer who has had it with bad manners, one who finds murder the best way of dealing with such rubbish.  We also are treated to a glimpse of good cops and bad, some on their way up, most on their way down.

So if you're looking for a tale that goes from A to Z in a straight line and follows the standard script, avoid this one.  You might also want to stay away if you're easily offended, as Bruen's concept of political correctness seems to have bypassed the "correctness" part altogether.  But if you want an irreverent and original read that'll have you rolling on the floor in guilty laughter, this one easily fits the bill.  The diary writings of the bad manners serial killer might very well be some of the most humorous thoughts to come out of a killer's mind in recent fiction; the guy does have some good points to make.  

Either you'll love Bruen, or you'll be seriously affronted, but rest assured, this is not a book your mother would recommend, and so all the more delicious as a result.         

 

Under Pressure by Kathy Brandt

Publisher:  Signet Books  ISBN 0 451 21878 7

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader 

When you're an underwater specialist cop in a small place like the British Virgin Islands, you're never that far from what's going on.  But a plane crash 100metres from the boat where she's enjoying her day off is a bit too close for Hannah Sampson's liking.

Hannah and her dive partner Jimmy are able to rescue some of the passengers of the inter-island flight.  At the risk of her life, Hannah enters the sinking plane and drags a young boy to safety.  This is like rescuing a drowning puppy: Simon latches on to Hannah and doesn't want to let her out of his sight.  Now an orphan, Simon fixes on Hannah as the one dependable thing in his greatly-changed life.

Moving from the rescue stage to the recovery stage, Hannah finds a gun and a bag of cocaine in the small plane, which makes her wonder if  the  crash really was accidental.

The assault on a harmless street bum in the warehouse where the salvaged material is being stored convinces even the skeptics: there's something going on here, and it's big, much bigger than just smuggling.  The investigation runs into a few brick walls, but eventually, thanks to a very distinctive pair of shoes, things get back on track.  Murder and conspiracy aren't the only problems the police have to deal with--a hurricane is rapidly moving up the Caribbean.

The story line is peppered with a nice selection of red herrings: the unhappy rich wife; the philandering husband; the possible ecoterrorist, the missing civil servant--but eventually Hannah sees through the muddied water to the real villains.  Unfortunately this doesn't happen until her life, and Simon's, are hanging by the proverbial thread.  At which point, .the lurking hurricane strikes.

Get the book and find out what happens to Hannah, Simon, the bad guys, and the nastiest villainess since Cruella.

 

Art's Blood by Vicki Lane

Publisher:  Dell Books  ISBN:  0440242096

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

The real deal!  A mystery like a delicious piece of candy--one page or one chapter is never enough.  You will want to devour the whole story in one sitting.

Elizabeth Goodweather must connect clues contained in an old woman's journal and artwork done by a strange young woman to solve a series of murders. Stepping from the peaceful confines of her farm into the hectic and sometimes bizarre world of art, she tries to understand the mental and emotional process of a young artist who seems to be at the center of the mysterious deaths.

Did the story begin at an art exhibit where a pile of burnt matches was represented as art, where three young artists put on a planned performance supposed to garner publicity for their art and culminated in a death? Or does the story begin much farther back with clues hidden among the pages of an old woman's journal?

Elizabeth is drawn into the chaotic world of art and artists in the aftermath of the exhibit she attended when she and her daughter discover the remains of one of the exhibition artists in a crushed car still in the crusher at the junk yard.

She must connect the threads that seem to lead in opposite directions in this fun tale set in the North Carolina Hills by talented author Vicki Lane.  The cast of realistic characters will lead you a merry chase down false trails after red herrings as you attempt to solve the murders.

Did the volatile young artist set fire to her own house?  Is she really being followed? How is she connected to the old lady whose journal seems to gradually fill in blank spots of the past?

Was the stray bullet that whizzed past Elizabeth Goodweather's head only that, or did it signify something more?  Was it a warning?

Highly recommended as well worth your time.  This is a book any mystery fan will enjoy. A chance to step into another world and look around, a chance to understand the inner workings that make an artist who they are.

Enjoy.  I certainly did.

 

 

The Side Effect by Bob Reiss

Publisher: Dell ISBN: 0440243084

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Former FBI agent Mike Acela is now head of security at Lenox Pharmaceuticals. When the CEO of Lenox is found dead the first person called to the scene is Mike.  When he reaches the apartment he calls Danny Whiteagle, the number two man at Lenox security.  Very methodically they search the apartment but find little except a vial with instructions to take three hours before, and a note entitled "Battle Plan". Mike decides to retrace the steps of his boss and goes to Washington to talk to a senator and do a security check at a Lenox lab.  He learns that a drug developed there has side effects that could be used by the Department of Defense.  Mike and Danny are fired from Lenox by the new CEO but cannot give up until they have solved the puzzle.

Reiss has the ability to build a plot with the skill and finesse of a natural born story teller.  He grabs your attention on the first page and keeps you completely tantalized to the very end.  He weaves suspense and action together to keep tension at its peak, while also creating likable characters who are dedicated and cannot be deterred from their goals.  With the ability to paint word pictures that allow you to see every scene and feel every emotion in the book, Mr. Reiss proves himself to be a true word master.