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Pursuit by Thomas Perry

Publisher: Ballantine Books ISBN: 0804115435

Reviewed by John Phillip Montano, Newmysteryreader.com

I was never a big fan of monster movies. Dracula, Frankenstein and The Werewolf were more comical than frightening; it’s the real monsters in the world that scare me, monsters like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer and the like. Frankenstein is not real except metaphorically, Dahmer is real and there are others out there like him, sitting next to us at movie theatres and restaurants – those are the real monsters.

Thomas Perry’s new novel “Pursuit” takes us into the mind of not one but two monsters. Perry’s latest work is exciting like tornado weather; clouds, rain, hail, lightening, wind, dark clouds, looming threatening, thunder roaring, all the while you wonder where the tornado going to strike, is there even going to be tornado...

Thirteen people are murdered in what appears to be a shooting rampage at restaurant. Daniel Millikan, retired detective, University Professor and the leading expert in homicide investigation is called in to look at the murder scene and discovers there is more to this than the classic disgruntled employee taking out his frustrations. This was a hit by a ruthless, Antarctic-cold-blooded assassin. Jimmy Varney is the kind of killer who kills everyone in a restaurant, including two children to hit his mark.

Roy Prescott, a ruthless murderer himself – a serial killer hiding behind a private detective license in an effort to satisfy his need for blood and for justice - is called in to hunt the brutal assassin. What ensues is “grit your teeth, I’ll be late for work, got to finish the book tonight, I’ll call in sick if I have to” excitement. This book was more fun than no lines at an amusement park.

Perry is a talented writer who has an amazing ability to creating the right rhythm, and beat. His words flow like a river, moving rapidly and treacherously, then slowing, a brief respite to catch your breath, and then back to the rapids. Perry calls all his characters by their last name, which at times can be confusing, however, in this novel it works – we don’t get to know the characters on a first name basis, it’s all business and only a quick glimpse of their lives revealed in one ugly situation.

As I read this book, I found myself wondering if this world does exist, if there are people out there who can break necks with a twist, can kill without leaving a hair of evidence and make fifty thousands dollars per hit. I am sure that world does exist, for Perry has given us a little peak into a world most of us want only to imagine in the world of good novels. Truth is stranger than fiction.

 

On Edge by Barbara Fister

Publisher: Dell Pub Co; ISBN: 0440237513

Chicago cop Konstantin Slovo is on the road trying to run from the pain after his partner is shot in a questionable manner, as well as the ugly issues that have risen from his past, that now threaten his job.  He ends up in Brimsport, Maine where he quickly becomes a suspect in a ring of child abductions and murder.  The town can’t help but link these new killings to a ring of sexual abuse 20 years earlier.  It seems everyone has a secret, and everyone is a suspect, and finding those that you can trust is the hardest skill of all. 

 Though opening events happen amazingly quickly and friendships are formed so fast as to be almost implausible, this is still a noteworthy first attempt at fiction for Fister.  Those quibbles aside, the main character, as well as the supporting cast, add immensely to a disturbing plot that together makes for a gripping, and sometimes quite unsettling, read.  Slovo is really the key here, portrayed as an authentic figure, faults and all.  He’s not always likable, yet all the more appealing for those very reasons.  This is a hero we hope to run into again, as well as the town and inhabitants of Brimsport, Maine.     

 

Deadly Legacy by Robin Burcell

Publisher: Avon; ISBN: 0061057878

When San Francisco Detective Kate Gillespie is called in to investigate an apparent murder-suicide, she is horrified to discover one of the bodies belongs to a past friend with whom things had ended badly. Kate knows too much about her, and her nasty little secrets that she had kept hidden under her perfect façade.   The deeper Kate digs, the more she discovers that these secrets involve many others, some near and dear to herself, and some to others who will kill to keep their sexual indiscretions hidden.   

Burcell is one of those strong and steady authors of whom deserves to be in hard cover.  Her plotting is swift, her characters interesting, and her pacing incredible.  Rich in police procedural detail, the reader can sense a strong aura of authenticity in each of her books, this latest included.  Some readers might hope for a touch more romance, but still will not be disappointed in the multi-layered plot that is offered.  We look forward to reading even more of the adventures, and misadventures, of Detective Kate Gillespie. 

 

Queen of Ambition by  Fiona Buckley

Publisher: Pocket Books; ISBN: 0743410300

Happiness is finding a new book by a good writer.  Bliss is finding two books.   

Fiona Buckley, whose fertile imagination has given us the original female secret agent, Mistress Ursula Blanchard, has produced two books this year, excellent news for those who are able to curl up somewhere warm and indulge themselves in an orgy of post-Christmas reading. 

Fifth in the Blanchard series is "Queen of Ambition", features, in a walk-on part, one of history's formidably ambitious women, Lady Margaret Lennox.  Mother of the ill-fated Darnley, briefly the toy boy husband of Mary Queen of Scots, Lady Lennox was one of those teflon characters who managed never to get marked by the sludge and slime of intrigue that swirled around her.  But it is to please her that one of the two criminals in this piece of 16th century dectivery weaves a plot that becomes so complex he is eventually caught in a snare of his own making.  His half-brother is dragged into the plot, not out of political conviction, but in hopes he can discover the whereabouts of his runaway wife.

Vague rumours of trouble attending the planned visit by Queen Elizabeth to the university town of Cambridge are enough to cause Sir William Cecil to send his agent Ursula Blanchard on ahead, to try and find out who is planning to do what to whom.  Of course, the simplest thing would be for the Queen to stay at home, but Elizabeth was never noted for taking advice or backing down in the face of danger. 

Ursula would rather not take on the job.  She's counting the days until she can join her beloved second husband Matthew on his estate of Blanchpierre in France.  However, while she's waiting for the plague to pass and Matthew to send the all-clear, Cecil and his sovereign feel she might as well be put to work.  Before you can say "Godamercy", Ursula is slaving away in a pie shop and trying to eavesdrop on the conversations of the students who frequent it.  She finds a small loose end, but tugging it brings about a death, for which she feels responsible.  The only atonement is to discover the murderer and unravel the plot.  It is refreshing that the author, while giving us plenty of local colour and historic verisimilitude, has avoided festooning her story with excessive quaint speech.  Nothing slows a plot more than too much ancient dialect. 

Numerous minor characters complicate the plot, sending Ursula up dead ends and into secret passages before she sorts out what's going on.  At one point she's in danger of imminent death, but thanks to the famous secret pocket-in-the-farthingale, gets out by the skin of her teeth.  She's almost too late to prevent the culmination of the plot in the death of--but why spoil your treat by telling you?

Review by Karen Radford Treanor

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.