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Deadgame by Kirk Russell

Publisher:  Chronicle Books  ISBN:  0-8118-5078-1

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

The apparent abduction of his informant Anna Burdovsky impedes John Marquez's investigation into sturgeon poaching in northern California.  And his realization that she was double-crossing him worsens the situation.

The California Department of Fish and Game is in the process of phasing out Marquez's undercover unit, but he'd like to see the sturgeon poachers behind bars before the shutdown.  "Flipping" poacher Abe Raburn doesn't prove to be as beneficial as he'd hoped, and before long, he's called into the FBI's regional office:  his case is interfering with their investigation into the Russian mafia.  But Marquez persists, even as he realizes he's stepping on the toes of the FBI—and endangering his own life.

This intelligent eco-thriller presents a realistic picture of people driven to break laws out of desperation; the good guys are good, but most of the bad guys are kind of good, too.  However, author Kirk Russell does provide two completely reprehensible villains in Torp and Perry.  Charming, loyal, and fair, John Marquez is everyone's dream boss and someone readers will enjoy spending 300 pages with.



The Firemaker by Peter May

Publisher:  St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN:  0-312-34294-2

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader 

Dr. Margaret Campbell, a medical examiner form Chicago, arrives in Beijing with "a broken heart and a wasted life."  Hours after her arrival, her car hits a bicyclist, Li Yan, a police officer on his way to an interview.  She inexplicably bawls him out, making quite an impression.

As she continues in her quest to alienate everyone she meets, she encounters Li Yan—now promoted to detective—a few more times, including at an autopsy she's been invited to perform.  The victim, Chao Heng, was found, on fire, in a Beijing park.

Margaret becomes interested in the case and after a while, in Li Yan too.  However, they learn that 's murder has far deeper ramifications than they initially suspected.  Their investigation exacts a heavy price on their personal and professional lives.

It's initially difficult to believe that Margaret Campbell can ever become a sympathetic character, but surprisingly, she does.  The Firemaker's pacing is sometimes slow and although it seems depressing, Peter May does achieve a quietly optimistic ending.



Nervous Water by William G. Tapply

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312337442

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Boston lawyer Brady Coyne has had a quiet life lately, just the usual, a divorce here, a will there, nothing much to write home about.  But that all changes when his Uncle Moze, a man he hasn't seen in about 30 years, contacts him to find his estranged daughter Cassie.  It appears that ever since she found out that she was not Moze's biological daughter, but instead the daughter of a murdered man and a mother who simply left for shores unknown, she has been angry and uncommunicative with her previously beloved guardian.  And as Moze has just found out he may be dying, it becomes an urgent matter to put things to rest with her. 

Brady sets out to find her, soon discovering that she had married a prominent and much older dentist a few years earlier, but his concern grows when he attempts to contact her only to find that she has been missing for a couple of weeks.  Her husband, whose behavior is suspicious and evasive, denies any knowledge of her whereabouts, and Brady fears she may be the victim of murder, as Cassie is not the first wife of his to meet up with foul play.  So as he attempts to unravel the mystery of where she might be, he will also be faced with unanswered questions from his own past, as well as his girlfriend's sudden distant behavior.  And as all is slowly revealed, Brady will discover that beneath tranquil waters often lie deadly and dangerous secrets.

Tapply is one of those authors that consistently puts out a good tale, with this latest being no exception.  Brady Coyne, amiable and likable, is a character who always strikes the right note of wary hero, and it's a delight to see him once again save the day.  The mystery itself, all too quickly played out, is one that entertains and thrills with each page.  Another hit from Tapply, do yourself a favor and pick this one up.