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Traceless by Debra Webb

Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks  ISBN-10: 0312942222

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Clint Austin is returning home after serving ten years for a crime he didn't commit.  Emily Wallace is returning home because she wants to know every move Clint makes, and will not rest until she witnesses him committing a parole violation that will send him back to prison. Ten years ago he was suspected of killing her best friend and changed her life forever.  When Clint and Emily learn they are both marked for murder they join forces to flush out the killer.

Webb knows how to construct a plot that hooks you on the first page and doesn't turn you loose until the very last surprising chapter.  She creates characters you can identify with and incorporates romance and intrigue in a very entertaining way that makes for a recommended read. 

 

A Fly Has a Hundred Eyes by Aileen G. Baron

Publisher:  Academy Chicago  ISBN:  978-0-89733-564-5

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Put on your light-weight clothing and a hat to shade your eyes, ready for a trip back in time to the days before World War II.  This was the time when archaeologists were digging all over the Middle East to uncover the past, a time of wonderful discoveries not to be duplicated even after the war was over.

Lily Sampson bears witness to the transition from peace to pre-war activities by the natives whose smoldering resentment at British rule and the influx of Jewish settlers making them the perfect foil for Nazi troublemakers who sought control of the area through their puppet, Mufti, leader in the area of the Moslem natives. Lily is nearly a victim of one of their murderous attacks in the city of Jerusalem and witness to the slaughter of unarmed victims.

Lily is an assistant to Eastbourne, a British archaeologist and wants only to continue her work. Yet, she is drawn into weapons smuggling and trying to track a killer and nearly winds up a victim herself of a mob attack. Will she survive the unsettled times? Will they ever know why her boss was murdered? 

The tension one senses on the opening page of this exciting story is present throughout, drawing the reader deeper into the book and the trouble that seethes just below the surface. You may know the historical outcome of the war and why it was fought and its outcome in this area, but this tale takes you right to one hot spot that could ignite an inferno for the non-native population, and sets you down in the middle of it to live through the trouble with the characters. 

This tale is a mystery, an adventure, a political study, with a touch of romance blended in.  I'm pleased to highly recommend it to any reader who enjoys a good read.  You'll want to read other books by this very talented and creative author, Aileen G. Baron.  Enjoy.  I certainly did.

 

 

Death of a Writer by Michael Collins

Publisher: Bloomsbury ISBN 978 1 59691 306 6

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Dried-up writer E. Robert Pendleton snagged a job at a second-rate college with his last burst of creativity, and has remained there for twenty years, like a castaway.   He spends his days "...tearing apart the seams of fiction until sentences unraveled into words and words into squiggly lines."

The imminent arrival of former colleague and very successful writer Allen Horowitz forces Pendleton to look at his life and despair.   Enrolments in his classes are falling; his tenure is up for review; and now Horowitz, author of NYT best-sellers, is coming to be a living reproach to a life badly lived.

Horowitz arrives; Pendleton departs--or nearly.  His suicide attempt in his cold, dark house, observed by his neurotic pet rabbit, fails, as has so much in his life.  A long hospitalization ensues; he catches pneumonia but "he survived, pumped full of antibiotics, and the nightmare of modern medicine prevailed."

While Pendleton lingers on the fringes of life, Adi, the graduate student who has been one of his few admirers, tries to salvage his reputation, maintain his house, and complete her thesis at long last.  She can't manage this alone, and enlists the help of Horowitz.  He is intrigued by Adi, and by her discovery of a completed novel of Pendleton's that is a work of brilliance that his own best-sellers couldn't hope to match. 

The long-hidden book, "Scream" is in the mold of "Crime and Punishment"; it deals with murder, and it seems partly autobiographical.  But how much is reality and how much is fiction?  Why did Pendleton publish it, only to hide it in his cellar? That's what Detective Jon Ryder wants to know when he enters the story and begins his own tearing at the seams.

This is a complex, well-crafted story of damaged people and tormented personalities; not something to choose if you're looking to be cheered up or soothed, but well worth reading.

 

 

Spurred Ambition by Twist Phelan

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press ISBN: 1590583655

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader  

Arizona attorney Hannah Dain has seen nothing but trouble since she's returned to her home town of Pinnacle Peak, Arizona, a desert town bordering the Tohono O'odham Indian reservation.  With her life currently in a bit of shambles since she learned some deep family secrets, she has left her father's law firm with the hope in taking a temporary job with the tribe in pounding out the details of a land deal, one that should help bring the two communities closer together, as well as give herself some time to make some major life decisions.  But one thing she didn't count on was her immediate attraction to the man she'll be working with, half Hispanic and half Indian the charming and beautiful Tony Soto, a man whose loyalty to his tribe appears to know no bounds.  The problem with that is she's already in a relationship, and this seems to be just one more complication in a life that's chockfull of others already.

But when Tony is kidnapped, leaving Hannah even more dazed and confused than before, she'll be forced to question Tony's true motives for wanting this land deal, as well as the many others involved who too seem to be holding some secrets at bay.  And as events grow increasingly dangerous, Hannah will have to uncover what's at the heart of this seemingly innocent deal, just as she must continue to uncover yet even more secrets in her own family's background.

This spirited and engaging heroine adds much to a plot that wonderfully blends dramatic family secrets with murder and mystery in the high desert.  Hannah's complicated life is sure to stir readers into empathy and involve them all the way through into what one can only hope will be a satisfactory resolution to some of the many questions she faces.  Ah, but we'll never tell, this is one you'll have to read yourself, and with the glaring heat of the desert as a convincing backdrop, one that will also hopefully make your day just a little bit warmer.  Suffice it to say, we look forward to Hannah's next mystery, as sometimes when some questions are answered, many more are created.

 

 

The Mortician's Daughter by Elizabeth Bloom

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing  ISBN 0446619108

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

It's a great title, but a bit misleading, as her father's former job has little to do with the story of Ginny Lavoie, a big city cop under a cloud, who returns to her home town in the Berkshire Hills to help an old friend.

Which is not to say that death and dying don’t play a very big role in Ginny's story.  She can barely move without another corpse falling into the plot.  First it’s Danny, adopted son of her best friend Sonya--beaten to a pulp in an old warehouse, victim of a rage so intense it just has to be personal. 

Then it's the sad, lost Jack O'Brien, who hasn't had much of a life since his army days, and who's easily bullied into confessing to murder, which leads to his own death.  Was it suicide?  Ginny is determined to find out, but the crooked local head of police,  the odious Chief Rolly, isn't interested: the case is closed as far as he's concerned.

Ginny painstakingly collects evidence, including some interesting clues from Victim Number Three, who is run down in a dark parking lot.  A little boy almost becomes Victim Number Four, but Ginny's fast action and ad hoc First Aid saves him. 

All the while she's trying to solve the murders and also come to terms with the betrayal that led to her suspension from the NYPD, Ginny's having to deal with a fiery intermittent romance.  She's found her first (and only) love is still in North Adams, running a bakery, and before you can say 'hot cross buns', the passion is reignited.

It looks as if Ginny has solved the murders when Bloom throws the reader a real curve ball: a veritable corkscrew, in fact.  Get the book to find out what happens then.

 

 

 

The Pawn by Steven James

Publisher: Revell  ISBN-10: 0800732405

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Recently widowed and now the caretaker of his teen-aged step daughter, special agent Patrick Bowers' life is only further complicated when he's called to North Carolina to help track a serial killer targeting women.  And while Patrick has done this many times before, this latest investigation might be the most difficult he's ever faced, with this killer seeming to know just how to stay two steps ahead of the law, his ability at misdirection almost uncanny.  And the frustration will only continue to mount for Patrick and his co-workers as the killer skillfully guides them right where he wants them, which is as far away from a truth that will prove far more deadly than they could have ever imagined.

This first outing in James' new series featuring special agent Patrick Bowers is one that should not only attract a decent fan-base from the get-go, but also one that has the potential to get even better further up the road.  Most noteworthy is James' ability to evoke a strong sense of place through vivid detail, his compassionate depiction of a step-father/daughter's stab at creating a family - with the wonderfully created character of the irascible and clever teen daughter being worthy of her own book,  and his firm grasp of investigative procedure.  Admittedly, while he does seem to wildly careen off the road with the storyline, going to places least expected and very far from where he started, this is not altogether a bad thing; the drop in plausibility being a small price to pay for the suspense offered in return.  A good first outing, we look forward to the next.

 

 

Pictures by Robert Daley

Publisher:  Harvest   ISBN:  0-15-6032864

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

When photographs of her husband frolicking with a nearly-nude woman are splashed across the tabloids of Europe, the duchess is devastated.  Her mother, fearing a conspiracy to damage the economy of their tiny, tourism-dependent kingdom, hires Vince Conte, a New York-based private detective, to see if her son-in-law was set up.  The fact that he was is not so shocking as the identity of the conspirators.

Conte, fired from the NYPD after punching out a superior officer who was having an affair with his wife, finds himself falling in love with the beautiful woman in the pictures.  As he enlists her help in tracking down the photographer who took the photos, all their lives are endangered.  Conte’s determination to favor truth and honor over his client’s satisfaction puts his life in further jeopardy.

Pictures takes the reader on a tour of Amsterdam, the south of France, and the fictional kingdom reminiscent of Monaco.  Although completely unrealistic, the novel is still a suspenseful, entertaining read, with some low-tech James Bondish moments—particularly when Conte survives an avalanche, dressed in a business suit, dress shoes, and carrying a briefcase.

 

 

The Collectors by David Baldacci

Publishers: Grand Central Publishing  ISBN: 0446615633

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

The Collectors- the title reminded me of the old literary fiction classic by John Fowles (The Collectors)…and for a moment I thought that Baldacci, who has experimented with all sub-genres of the mystery genre- be it legal, psychological, pure suspense or even feel good reads (The Christmas Train), has now turned his attention to the pure hard-core literary fiction.

But that feeling was only momentary, as any book which starts with such precision planning of a murder/ assassination is usually not going to be a literary fiction work. In this follow up to the earlier Baldacci hit of 2005, The Camel Club, the mysterious and enigmatic character Oliver Stone returns in fine form.  (The choice of name for the protagonist seems to be not so coincidental- The Camel Club is a group of conspiracy enthusiasts.) 

The central protagonist, rather the antagonist, is Roger Seagraves whose hobby is collecting some rather unpleasant tings. Suffice it to say - he is not a nice guy and his evil plans are affecting America’s security as well. Then the action shifts to one Annabelle Conroy, a masterful con-lady who can hoodwink anybody. And when the situation demands the joining of hands of Stone and Conroy, it results in spine-chilling and breathtaking suspense that only Baldacci knows to deliver.

A grand, grand novel- and the most positive aspect of the book is that- though it is somewhat a sequel- not reading The Camel Club- will not affect the suspense herein.

A highly recommended read for fans of thrillers and heart pounding adventure. 

 

 

 

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

Publisher: Little, Back Bay Books  ISBN: 0316012823

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

It's summertime in Scotland and Edinburgh is having it's yearly art's festival when a singular event will occur and connect the lives of a number of disparate characters in the most unlikely ways.  The event, a fender bender that sets off an act of road rage, at first seems, while violent, nothing very earth shattering.  But, in its aftermath, secrets will be revealed, relationships will be destroyed, the innocent will face their guilt, the guilty will face their crimes and, of course, there will be death.  And for the five main characters involved; an ex-cop now a retired millionaire, a meek but successful author, a wild and dangerous Russian woman, a single mother who is a detective, and the wife of a wealthy and dishonest home builder, there will be resolution, heartbreak, hope and, if they're lucky, a chance at something new.      

One of the best books I've ever had the pleasure to read, Atkinson poignantly and humorously nails the pathos that come with middle age.  While at first these wonderfully drawn characters may seem tragic for their shortcomings, their self-awareness and attempts to escape the ties that bind turn them into unlikely heroes that come alive under Atkinson's masterful touch. And while experiencing this, the reader is also treated to the author's amazingly clever weaving of several events leading into one of the most breathtaking and astonishing endings ever devised.  This book is one of those rare reading treasures that only gets better with each page, and one that had me cheering at the end for the mere brilliance of how it was all wrapped up.  This is simply one of the best books of the year, maybe even the decade, and one you won't want to miss.          

 

 

Exile by Richard North Patterson

Publisher:  St. Martin's Paperbacks  ISBN:  0312938543

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

A thoughtful tale by talented author Richard North Patterson that offers a look into both sides of the present day terror issue as seen by the people who live it and those who, like most Americans, are removed from it by distance and politics.

Attorney David Wolfe is confronted with a problem that has the power to destroy the life he has built and the future he hopes for when Hana Arif, a love from the past, steps back into his life. She is Palestinian and he is Jewish, she committed to the cause of a homeland and he only to a personal future and success.

They manage to overcome their differences and fall in love, but it is a relationship they both know is going nowhere. She is engaged to a Palestinian and in the end marries him and disappears from David's life.  Until the day he gets the call because she is in trouble.

An important Israeli leader has been killed by a suicide bomber and she is suspected of being involved.  And David must decide whether to help her or not, a decision that could turn his entire life upside down. 

Should he help her? David is tormented by this question over and over because he was also a witness to the explosion that killed the Israeli leader who had been working to bring peace to the Middle East. If David helps Hana, he risks being isolated from all he knows even though she has the right under the law to his help as a lawyer.

I'm pleased to recommend this well told tale to any reader who is open minded enough to look at both sides of an argument and its adherents whose hate keep it alive.  This is a book whose characters you won't soon forget.  Enjoy.  I sure did.

 

 

The Drowning Man by Margaret Coel

Publisher: Berkley   ISBN-0425217647

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

The drowning man is a petroglyph which is sacred to the Arapaho.  It has been carved out of a bolder on BLM land and spirited away.  The thieves send a messenger to Father John O'Malley, the reservation priest, offering the tribe the opportunity to ransom the petroglyph for a quarter of a million dollars.

Seven years earlier another sacred petroglyph had been stolen and one of the thieves killed by the other.

Travis Birdsong is now serving time for the killing.  Arapaho lawyer, Vicky Holden, is determined to get Birdsong a new trial.  As a result, several attempts are made on Holden's life.  Both she and Father John are convinced the two robberies are connected, but have to prove it.

Coel is a masterful story teller who spins a tight plot that grabs you and holds your attention.  She rings you into the Native American mind set and throughout the novel keeps you rooting for them.  For action, thrills, spills, near misses, and an affinity for Native American beliefs, Coel is a winner.   

 

 

Copy Cat by Erica Spindler

Publisher: Mira ISBN: 0778324451

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

It was five years ago that the Sleeping Angel Killer, aka SAK, first struck the idyllic community of Rockford, Illinois.  Three precious young girls lost their lives to the madman, his slayings abrupt and senseless- seemingly the "perfect crimes," leaving nothing behind but shattered lives.  Bewildered and obsessed, the case nearly destroyed homicide detective Kidd Lundgren, a woman who had just lost her own daughter to a tragic disease, leaving her to find refuge in a bottle with everything she once loved lost.  Pulled from the case and put on leave to get her life back together, Kitt tries to forget, and when the brutal slayings suddenly end just as quickly and as inexplicably as they had begun, somehow Kitt knows its far from over.

And now five years later it appears he's back, little angels are dying once again, but the madman won't play unless Kitt plays too and so she's forced to return for another deadly round of cat and mouse.  This time she's teamed with Mary Catherine Riggio, a hot new detective who has no intention of allowing Kitt to jeopardize the case yet again with her obsessions and faulty judgment.  But the killer has raised the stakes, and this time out only Kitt's personal demise will satisfactorily end the story started years before, and so as more young girls die, these two women will have to learn to trust each other to track a killer who is much closer than they can even imagine.

Spindler is in top form in her latest outing, an outing that might just qualify as one of her all time best.  Not only is the plot addictively suspenseful, but her fully developed characters of Kitt and MC add a supremely balanced and compelling edge that make this read both emotional and heartfelt.  This tale of madness and murder, courage and friendship, and hope and redemption is a must read for any fan who likes their stories dynamic and convincing.  These are characters we'd love to see again, and can only hope that Spindler will grace us with another compelling outing in the future. 

 

 

Innocent in Death by J D Robb

Publisher: Berkley  ISBN-042521754X

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Norah Roberts’ alter ego J D Robb either eats pepperoni pizza before she goes to bed, or reads the outer fringe tabloids—or both.  How else to explain her endless inventiveness with new crimes and criminals?  You’d think after 150 books the author would be running thin on ideas, but she continues to surprise the reader with new and different twists on crime.

“Innocent in Death” is number twenty-something in the Lt. Eve Dallas series, and it starts with a murder, as usual.  Who would want to kill the inoffensive private school teacher?  As far as Eve and her trusty sidekick Sgt Delia Peabody can tell, Craig Foster never harmed a soul in his life.  Everyone agrees he was a nice clean-living young man, a great teacher, and a very unlikely target for a killer.

Despite all the gadgets and know-how of the mid-twenty-first century New York Police Department, Eve just can’t get a handle on who killed the teacher.  She finds a few thin clues and is looking at another teacher as the most likely in an unlikely line-up of suspects when he, too, is found dead.

The killings both exhibit careful planning, and a cold, totally unemotional approach.  Whoever murdered these two men, it wasn’t a crime of passion: rather, a crime of dispassion. However twisted, there’s a reason behind the killings. Eve begins to suspect she might be seeking a sociopath.

In the normal course of events, Eve would have the help of her richer-than-Croesus handsome husband, Roarke, the man who owns half the known universe.  Unfortunately there’s been a rift in the relationship, due to the unexpected arrival in town of Magdalana, an old flame.   At first, neither Eve nor Roarke grasp what Magdalana is doing and why, and it takes a bit of common-sense straight talking by Summerset the butler and Eve’s best friend Mavis to straighten things out.  (Readers should really enjoy the scene where Magdalana turns up at the house and is in her turn ‘straightened out’ by Eve.  If there’s a woman reader out there who doesn’t give at least one cheer, I’ll be amazed.)

Clue by clue, Eve begins to develop a theory about the murders, especially after another death, which was originally set down as accidental, comes to her attention.  She thinks the unthinkable, but how is she going to convince her superior officers and Dr Mira, the departmental psychiatrist?  Without them on side, her case is going nowhere.

To say more would spoil the story, but I guarantee that while you will probably be surprised to learn who the criminal is, you’ll (sadly) be quite able to believe it once Eve lays out the clues.

 

 

The Mephisto Club by Tess Gerritsen

Publisher: Ballantine Books  ISBN: 0345470002

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

In her latest featuring Boston's medical examiner Maura Isles and detective Jane Rizzoli, Gerritsen dares to ponder the constructs of evil.  It's Christmas Eve when the two are called to the scene of a brutal murder, that of a young woman whose gruesome slaying holds no clues other than its eerie suggestion of satanic ritual. But when the next body is discovered outside the meeting place of a group known as the Mephisto Club, a group of wealthy and educated individuals who openly admit to their exploration of evil, Jane and Maura are quick to connect the cases.  But as the killing continues, they will be forced to ask if the evil they're seeking is simply just another human gone mad, or something much more omnipresent that can't be stopped?

Gerritsen's latest offers a frightening, disturbing, and very provocative look at some of the age-old theories surrounding the concept of evil.  Not stopping at the usual explanation that evil just is, she tackles this inexplicable subject by probing the more spiritual reasonings that have survived through the ages, explanations that are hard to discount by their very longevity and prevalence.  By including the views of the cynic and the believer equally, she avoids conclusions, leaving the reader to ponder it on their own, and ponder it you will, most likely with all your lights on until morning.   Another great outing from Gerritsen that comes complete with her usual dose of gripping suspense, daring plotting, and engaging characters, this is one you wont' want to miss.