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Light On Snow by Anita Shreve

Publisher: Back Bay Books ISBN: 0316010677

Light on Snow by Anita Shreve: Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Anita Shreve's new book is a mystery on several levels.  Questions form in the reader's mind as each chapter flows past, and every time one is answered, another one replaces it, like bubbles materialising in a champagne flute.  That metaphor may be misleading: there's nothing light and golden in this story of a baby abandoned and found: this is a dark story, with occasional flashes of light, like sunbeams poking through snow clouds.

Nicky and her father are out for a winter's walk when they find a naked newborn baby girl in a sleeping bag in the New Hampshire woods.  They rescue the tiny creature, and in so doing are drawn into the very thing Nicky's damaged father has been avoiding: complex interactions with other humans.

Robert Dillon has never recovered from the death of his wife and younger daughter two years ago.  However, unnoticed, his surviving daughter has been growing up and out and now needs something more than the austere subsistence life they've been living.

The finding of the baby sets in motion a number of interactions that Robert would not have chosen.  There's Nicky's attraction to the baby, the need for her to know what's happening to it.  Her mind knows they can't adopt the infant, but her heart yearns to do so.  Then the child's mother turns up on the leading edge of a blizzard, forcing Robert and Nicky into unexpected intimacy. 

At every turn waits the local policeman, who is determined to punish whoever abandoned the baby, and has Robert in mind for that role.  Even when he gives that idea away, he still suspects Robert of concealing something.  Interwoven with the ongoing mystery of who abandoned the baby and why is the painful coming-of-age of Nicky, a 12-year old who's been forced to grow up fast in some ways but has been stunted in childhood in other ways.  She's like a bonsai tree suddenly planted out in a field and given tantalising flashes of sunlight.

This is an involving story: don't, as I did, start reading it at 1:00 a.m. thinking you'll drop off after a chapter or two.  Highly recommended.


Follow by A.J. Matthews

Publisher: Jove ISBN: 0515140155

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Just before she crashes her car into a tree Pamela Gardner is talking to her best friend Lily, who happens to be dead.  Once home from the hospital she has trouble communicating with her husband, has recurring dreams of dead women, misses big chunks of time in her day, and is convinced that a killer is stalking her.  And in looking for what lies behind all these frightening events she will confront a truth darker than she ever imagined.

Once again Matthews has given us a chilling supernatural thriller.  Every page is turned with nail biting anticipation, and it will take every bit of will power you posses not to turn to the last chapter to relieve the stressful suspense.  This nail-biting tale comes recommended as a deliciously chilling read.


The Best American Crime Writing 2005
By James Ellroy, Otto Penzler and Thomas H. Cook

Publisher: Harper Perennial ISBN

Reviewed by Paul Kane, New Mystery Reader

This book has two separable components, and so let me first of all tell you what they are.  First, there are fifteen factual stories involving crime which have been culled from a range of top-notch publications, including The New Yorker, Atlanta magazine and Texas Monthly.  They have then passed what has come to be known as the “Penzler test”, the strictest test known to humankind for submission to an anthology of this kind, and Thomas H. Cook has also played a part in editing and selecting them.  Second, there are two contributions by James Ellroy, perhaps the most interesting and certainly the most idiosyncratic of contemporary crime writers.  Ellroy contributes an introduction to the book as well as an original piece, this latter being a fine appreciation of Joseph Wambaugh, a writer who (like Ellroy himself) has written with distinction in the genres of both true crime and crime fiction.  Previously (in an article entitled - Ladies, cover your eyes! - “Where I Get My Weird Shit”) James Ellroy has said that reading Joseph Wambaugh had made him ashamed of his own life, changing him for the better; here he embellishes on this point.

In his introduction, Ellroy compares the genres of true crime and crime fiction and concludes that the difference between the two is that “true crime writing offers a less kineticized and more sobering set of thrills – chiefly couched in human revelation.  A simple bottom line holds us: This Really Happened.”  The stories here cover a range of evils.  Good old-fashioned staples such as murder and robbery are present; and there is a tale of high malfeasance involving a former Ukrainian Prime Minister and the Red Mafiya.  There are contemporary outrages too: a study of the subculture of internet hackers; Peter Landesman's “The Girls Next Door”, a powerfully written investigative article which showed that sex-trafficking exists even in America; and finally two articles that deal with the evil of terrorism (or mass murder).  Both make disturbing and eerily prescient reading in the light of the 7/7 attack in London.

The first, “Anatomy of a Failed Plot” by Craig Horowitz, describes an intelligence-led police operation that led to the arrest of three terrorists who were planning an attack on a subway station in New York.  The NYPD were able to use an undercover agent to effectively thwart a potentially horrific attack.  The second, Lawrence Wright’s “The Terror Web”, is an extremely well researched article that, by contrast, is concerned with a terrorist plot that succeeded.  In Madrid, on the morning of March 11 2004, bombs went off on the Spanish railway system and left about 200 dead.  Wright’s article concerns itself not only with the police investigation into the bombers, but also with the rationale behind the atrocity.  Al Qaeda targeted Spain, Wright explains, not only because it was America's coalition partner for the war in Iraq, but also because of what it is in itself: a European country and a successful secular democracy that is a friendly neighbour to two Arab countries - Morocco and Algeria.  Wright is also good at showing how the Internet provides a community for extreme Islamic groups.  On a prophetic note, one of his interviewees, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, a French counter-terrorism judge, names London as the terrorist’s next target; this article was originally published in The New Yorker in August 2004.

Let me end with snapshots of two of the other interesting wares on show.  “Fine Disturbances” by Jeff Tietz is a story about seeing.  Tietz worked alongside trackers as part of the Border Patrol, following the trail of smugglers and illegal immigrants.  The primary interest here is in how Tietz learns to see the signs of his prey.  For much of the time, he just can’t get it; he sees nothing at all of the “fine disturbances” that trackers rely on; then there’s a "Eureka!" moment and suddenly the Gestalt is revealed.  In “Stalking Her Killer” Philip Weiss tells the dreadful story of the murder of a young woman whose killer escaped scot-free, "of something terribly wrong that had unfolded in an out-of-the-way place."  As pure narrative this was probably my favourite piece.

These factual stories demonstrate that, when it comes to crime, truth can be as strange and as compelling as any fiction.  They show us also that crime reflects the age that we live in.  This is the world that we have made, for good or ill.


The Mayor of Lexington Avenue by James Sheehan

Publisher: Yorkville Press Group  ISBN: 097674421X

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader

Father Burke dubs Mike “Mikey” Kelly the “Mayor of Lexington Avenue” because “He’s more popular than me and I’ve got God and the pulpit on my side.”  However, Mikey thinks the nickname better suits his best friend Jack “Johnny” Tobin and it sticks.  The two boys are inseparable while growing up until Mikey winds up in jail as a result of a teenaged prank; but he takes the rap alone even though Johnny was involved but ran away before the cops got there.  Time goes on and Mikey and Johnny go their separate ways.  Jack becomes a wealthy partner in a Miami law firm; Mike loses his wife and son to alcohol then dies from cancer.  Jack gets to pay his debt to his friend by taking on the case of Mike’s son who is sitting on death row, soon to be executed for a crime he did not commit.  Rudy Kelly, Mike’s son, is borderline retarded and is wrongly accused of murdering Lucy Ochoa. Although he went to visit her in her trailer the night she was raped and murdered he did not do it.  After ten years on death row and multiple appeals, Rudy’s execution date is approaching, when Jack takes on the case pro bono.  The clock is ticking and Jack is in a race against time as he attempts to find evidence that will prove Rudy’s innocence.  Jack unearths much more than that as he finds out that Rudy was framed; and that corruption and misuse of the justice system envelops this case.  Jack puts it all on the line to save Rudy and to see that justice is done.

The Mayor of Lexington Avenue is James Sheehan’s debut novel and is a terrific legal thriller of the caliber of John Grisham.  Like Grisham, Sheehan leverages his background as a trial lawyer to tell a realistic story that is full of legal twists, courtroom battles and unexpected turns of event in the plotline.  The author also recounts a story of the friendship of two young men that go their separate ways but still have a fierce loyalty to each other.  Rudy Kelly is a wonderful character who is full of life and wise beyond his years despite his handicap.  The flashbacks in time show the roots of the relationship between Mikey and Johnny and provide the rationale for Jack’s commitment to Rudy.  The Mayor of Lexington Avenue is a fantastic legal thriller and one that the reader will not want to put down until the end.


My Very Own Murder by Josephine Carr

Publisher:  New American Library ISBN:  0451216466

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

Have you ever lived in Washington, D.C.?  Have you ever lived in one of those large old apartment buildings that were so well built they were almost soundproof? If so, you will identify with Anne Johnson who moved into one such place after her divorce.

Anne is really enjoying her new freedom and getting to know herself when she a voice in her head tells her to prevent a murder. Now, this is a new experience.  How does one respond to an unknown voice? How does an ex-housewife and mother go about preventing a murder?

Join Anne as she undertakes the assignment with a sort of glee and draws a cleaning lady named Mary into the plot.  Between the two of them, they try to chart a course of action that will prevent a murder. 

Anne encounters a mysterious man lurking in the laundry room, finds a hidden door, has a love affair with a handsom Russian, and gives a party to meet her neighbors and ferret out information and identify a possible killer.

With touches of the dramatic and comedic, this story takes off and keeps moving right to the end.  You'll hate to put the book down for wanting to know what Anne will do next.

Author Josephine Carr uses her vivid imagination and talent to give the reader a good time and make you feel like you've visited Anne in her apartment.  Perhaps you were at her party.  I certainly felt like I was.  Highly recommended as a fun read.



Grave Endings by Rochelle Krich

Publisher: Ballantine Books ISBN: 0345468112

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

L.A.'s true crime writer Molly Blume has her hands full with plans for her wedding that is only days away, but of course that can't keep her away from a very personal investigation that arises when the man suspected of killing her best friend 6 years previously is found dead of an overdose.  The cops want to keep everything nice and clean, call it an accidental death, and wrap it all up.  But Molly, who never takes anything at face value, suspect murder, and so begins an investigation that will lead her to the truth, a truth that will uncover many secrets and put Molly's own life in dire danger. 

Krich's mysteries featuring the incessant Molly Blume seem to be getting better and better with each outing.  This latest is a perfect blend of suspense, dogged detective work, and glimpses of the lifestyle surrounding Orthodox Judaism.  Krich manages to educate and entertain at the same time using both humor and thrills as her tools of trade, creating a story and characters that easily charm and interest.  Recommended, this is one delightful read you won't want to miss.  

Put on your deerstalker cap and pick up your pipe and spyglass and prepare to investigate with Superintendent Mike Yeadings, the murder of Sheila Winter, owner of a garden center and resident of the new apartment house organized by Beattie Weyman.

Join the superintendent in a tightly written story that will have you turning pages to find out what happens next. You will feel the suspense as you follow the investigation into motives for the murder of this seemingly harmless woman.

Red herrings and false trails will lure you into false assumptions and surprises await you at the conclusion.  This is a book you'll read more than once and enjoy it the second time as much as the first.

Highly recommended as a fun read by a very talented mystery author.  Guaranteed to hold your attention and keep you reading.  Enjoy.  I sure did.


The Hunt By Jan Neuharth 

Publisher: Paper Chase Farms Publishing Group ISBN:0-972950311

Reviewed by Christin W.Kaiser, New Mystery Reader

As a life long equestrian, raised in the revered hunt country of New England and a member of the Myopia Driving Club, I was very at home with the atmosphere drawn so skillfully by the author in her debut novel.

The Hunt is centered in and around the Southern Iconic Hunt country of Middleburg, Virginia. Like it’s northern counter part, Middleburg has several layers of citizenry when it comes to the horse people.

As a writer and a reviewer of literature, I was comfortable with her command of the English language and her ability to lead the reader down several paths at one time.

It was as an avid reader of anything to do with the world of horses that I was swept away by the story and carried back into my memories of days in the field myself.  It may be a rarified existence for some, but our reader is allowed a glimpse into the intimate daily doings of a gentleman farmer, and hunting enthusiast. You will meet characters that make an impression on you not because of where they live or what they do within the somewhat exclusive hunting society; it is their own character that will impress you.

From the villainous perpetrator of the  ‘incidents’ that befall the central character, to the local hunt supporters and the non-hunting folk that people the very real events that unfold at a breakneck pace.

Having lent the advance copy to a non horsy friend, my gut feelings were upheld by his rave remarks for a “ Mystery and a damn good read.” That this ad hoc review was followed by a request to go  “Hill Topping in the fall”, made me feel a bit relieved, as the brouhaha raging in the house of Commons ‘across the pond’ just now, has all but killed the ancient sport of hunting on horseback

Book reveals a less rarified side of the sport and defines it’s players upon an interesting stage. Passions misdirected and not, are common among all walks of life. In this book Ms. Neuharth opens the door to a time and place that may be loosing ground to many incursions of our times; housing developments eating into the countryside, the cost of maintaining a stable, the amount of time it takes to maintain an active HUNT and the always present though rarely acknowledged, class warfare that subtly nips at the heels of those who can ‘afford’ to continue the sport.

In The Hunt you are a guest without paying a capping fee to the Master. You are privy to the inner workings of a small but well maintained stable, and it’s owner and his various dilemmas, which arise not from a local out of sorts troublemaker, but from a very innocent error in judgement early in his career as an attorney of law.  And then there is the internal unrest within his ‘own class’...  “Who dun it” remains as hard to follow as a well laid drag.

As a non-equestrian reader you’ll be thrilled to open a door into a privileged world that’s been nicely interpreted for you. As someone with a horsy bent, you at times feel like you’ve been ridden hard and not cooled off sufficiently when the next event takes place. Over all it is a thrilling mystery, and well worth staying up till the wee hours to run to ground.


Spider Dance by Carole Nelson Douglas

Publisher: Forge Books ISBN: 0765345951

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader

Irene Adler is the only woman to ever outwit the legendary Sherlock Holmes.  She is also a beautiful opera singer who has spent several years in Europe attempting to create a new life because she cannot remember her old one.  In this book, Irene is investigating a case that may shed some light on her real past and the mother that she cannot remember.  Reporter Nellie Bly lures Irene, Nell Huxleigh and Holmes to America by offering information about Irene’s parentage.  New York City in 1889 is a flamboyantly elegant backdrop for the case which actually has ties back to the California gold rush. 

Irene and her friends find themselves tracing the complex life of one of the most notorious women of the nineteenth century.  The question is will Irene find out the truth about her birth before the quest is over?  Will that truth be more than she can handle?

This is Douglas’ eighth book in the Irene Adler series.  Carole Nelson Douglas has written another fantastic historical mystery that captures the essence of the rich and famous during the Gilded Age of Manhattan.   The author tells the story from the viewpoint of the major characters in the book which permits the reader to understand their thoughts and to piece together the clues to the case with Holmes and Adler.  Spider Dance is an excellent period piece and another fascinating experience with the great Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler.



Wife of Moon by Margaret Coel

Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group ISBN: 0425201384

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

This is my first Coel novel, and it definitely won't be my last. Infused with authenticity in both atmosphere and characterization, this delicious escapade into the plains of Wyoming is both suspenseful and original.

In 1907, Edward Curtis visited the Arapaho reservation in Wyoming, attempting to document the life of the tribe with his photographs, but with a twist. Staging a battle for his purposes, things went horribly wrong when the Chief's daughter was mysteriously shot and killed. Now, years later, during an exhibit of his photos on the reservation, a descendent of the woman is killed, and the museum's curator goes missing, as the horrible legacy continues.

Called into to defend the mains suspect, T.J. Painted Horse, a man whose political ideals don't mesh well with many, is lawyer Vicky Holden. Delving into the mystery, she finds more than she bargained for when the old story of the murdered daughter keeps rearing it's tragic face. Also helping on the case is Father John O'Malley, the priest on the reservation, and a man whose faith in the people he has been entrusted to lead gets him deeply involved. And as this enthralling story switches between past and present, the reader is taken on an enticing journey filled with rich and invigorating details that shock and dismay.

Highly recommended, don't miss Coel's latest. It's beautifully written, highly atmospheric, and above all, an exciting and enchanting read that elegantly captures the dignity of the Arapahos and the land they grace.


Hard, Hard City by Jim Fusilli

Publisher: Berkley ISBN: 0425204472

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When Manhattan PI Terry Orr is approached by his daughter's best friend to look into the disappearance of another teen, he approaches it with his customary diligence.  But soon he finds himself being shot at, run off the road, and basically beat two ways to Sunday in a matter of days. 

So of course he digs even deeper, inciting further violence as he begins to uncover some ugly family secrets that has forced the boy into hiding, and which will culminate in either his own death, jail, or as he hopes, simple resolution.

Orr has his issues, one being the inability to let go of his dead wife and son, their deaths being indirectly related to her purportedly cheating on him five years previously.  He also has his hands full with a very intelligent 12 year old daughter who seems to have more sense then he does, as does her best friend, the extremely charming boy whose good manners and brains also seem to exceed his own.  And the fact that he has commitment issues with his beautiful girlfriend adds yet another mark against this nevertheless amiable and appealing man.

And so with a cast of characters as engaging as these, this latest from Fusilli automatically scores.  The plot itself is suspenseful enough, but pales when compared with the entertainment value of the book's wonderfully wrought characters.  Definitely recommended and probably even worth going back to his previous novels for further background, readers can't miss with this one.   



Shoulder the Sky by Anne Perry 

Publisher: Ballantine Books ISBN: 0345456556

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Get out your back pack, raincoat and rubber boots and step back in time to the era of World War One when both sides of that war were bogged down in mud and politics. 

As always, Anne Perry has crafted a tale that will you won't be able to put down.  Shoulder The Sky is a different type of mystery for this talented author, but her fans will enjoy it every bit as much as her William Monk and the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series.

The second in this new series, the story concerns the four Reavley siblings whose parents were murdered by someone they call the Peacemaker, author of a treaty that would end the stalemated war, but enslave the world.

Joseph Reavley serves on the front as a chaplain where he is hard pressed to solve the mysterious drowning of a journalist whose writings would have negatively affected the war effort. Matthew Reavley works for intelligence and finds, due to his search for the Peacemaker, he no longer trusts anyone.

So well drawn are the settings in this book, you will experience all the awfulnesses and heroisms of war. Shoulder The Sky is a marvelous mystery and history lesson, a story with something for every reader. 

Highly recommended.  Enjoy.  I certainly did.


Good Morning Darkness by Ruth Francisco

 Publisher: Warner Books ISBN: 0446616486

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Laura Finnegan, young and beautiful, seems to steal the heart of every man she meets; including the Mexican fisherman who watches her morning ritual, and the tough LAPD cop who teaches her martial arts, and most of all her boyfriend, the successful and good-looking real estate dealer.  So when she goes missing, these three men have an empty spot in their lives that will drive them each to their own separate kind of madness.  Reggie, the cop, will begin to investigate, and what he discovers will place him directly on her boyfriend Scott's tail, a man whose seemingly evil decent into obsession might just explain everything, or will it? 

Told from varying viewpoints, this oddly written narrative is both appealing and strangely repugnant.  Laura, who makes a very brief appearance in the beginning, seems hardly remarkable enough to stir these men to such actions, and so this aspect can make what follows seem a bit inconceivable.  But once past that, it becomes a bit more apparent that it's really what lies beneath her affect on these men that perhaps drives them, and that possibly she's only a symbol of their dark desires. 

An intelligent and brooding book full of psychological mind games, this will appeal to those who can take a bit of ugliness in order to arrive at the hugely satisfying pay-off that is guaranteed for those who make it to the end.


The Program by Gregg Hurwitz

 Publisher: HarperTorch ISBN: 0060530413

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Over a year ago Tim Rackley had been a U.S. Marshal- happily married with a young daughter, but in one vicious moment everything changed.  His daughter abducted and then killed led his life into a spiral of despair and grief, culminating in his departure from service, and his marriage barely hanging on. 

Now Tim is working security at a warehouse when he's approached by his old supervisor, the young woman of a wealthy family has disappeared into the mind-controlling morass of a dangerous cult, and the powers that be would like Tim to rescue her.  Going deep undercover, Tim gladly takes on the quest, but soon finds himself in the same danger, as the cult seems to know exactly what buttons to push to make Tim theirs. 

It's obvious that Hurwitz did some deep research on the subject of cults, and as a result his story is that much more frightening with this added meticulous realism.  Hypnotic and mesmerizing, this suspenseful tale hits all the right notes for a jarringly gripping thrill-a-minute ride.   Tim himself is as genuine as they come, as is Leah the woman he is sent in after, adding depth and intensity to this wonderfully breathtaking read.  Highly recommended, don't miss this wildly inventive hit from Hurwitz.