Immunity
Beverly J. DeWeese

Dr. Alexander Blake, an Armed Forces pathologist, is called in to examine a Las Vegas DEA agent who died from a sudden, violent anaphylactic reaction with no apparent cause. Dr. Alex and his partner Castro soon discover eight children also died that night with similar symptoms. What is causing this sudden, grotesque swelling that breaks bones and chokes victims? Is it a new disease, is it bioterrorism, or is it an insane murderer?

This action packed thriller races from one horrific situation to another. Soon Homeland Security, the DEA, and the military are fighting one another for control and a radical Native American group is using the panic to convince the US to return to Indian ways. While Alex frantically searches for answers, she also has to quell government panic.

The detailed pathology of these attacks is skillfully integrated into the story. Andrews, obviously an expert in the field, knows how to explain the medical aspects briefly and simply. Even with a talking DNA computer, the bulk of the story is extremely believable. Alex and Castro in particular are sympathetic. The talented Alex has to fight sexism and stupid bureaucrats, and Castro keeps his marriage difficulties secret from Alex, though they are obviously attracted to one another. Even the criminal mastermind seems to have complex, almost sympathetic reasons for his behavior. Extremely suspenseful, with taut writing and appealing characters, this book is an exciting read.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:15:22

Dr. Alexander Blake, an Armed Forces pathologist, is called in to examine a Las Vegas DEA agent who died from a sudden, violent anaphylactic reaction with no apparent cause. Dr. Alex and his partner Castro soon discover eight children also died that night with similar symptoms. What is causing this sudden, grotesque swelling that breaks bones and chokes victims? Is it a new disease, is it bioterrorism, or is it an insane murderer?

This action packed thriller races from one horrific situation to another. Soon Homeland Security, the DEA, and the military are fighting one another for control and a radical Native American group is using the panic to convince the US to return to Indian ways. While Alex frantically searches for answers, she also has to quell government panic.

The detailed pathology of these attacks is skillfully integrated into the story. Andrews, obviously an expert in the field, knows how to explain the medical aspects briefly and simply. Even with a talking DNA computer, the bulk of the story is extremely believable. Alex and Castro in particular are sympathetic. The talented Alex has to fight sexism and stupid bureaucrats, and Castro keeps his marriage difficulties secret from Alex, though they are obviously attracted to one another. Even the criminal mastermind seems to have complex, almost sympathetic reasons for his behavior. Extremely suspenseful, with taut writing and appealing characters, this book is an exciting read.

Lie Down With the Devil
Verna Suit

PI and cabbie Carlotta Carlyle is feeling adrift. Her mob-connected fiance Sam Gianelli is out of the country lying low and her adopted little sister Paolina is in a psych ward. Carlotta takes a job tailing a suspicious bride-to-be's fiancee that ensnarls her in two murder cases and an Indian tribe's quest for certification. When Sam is implicated in one of the murders, Carlotta defends his innocence, even while nagging discomfort about his mob-family ties turns into doubt about how well she really knows him. She turns for help to her staunch friend Mooney, an old boss from her days as a cop with the Boston PD, even though her own mob connection through Sam is tainting Mooney's career.

Much of the story in Lie Down With The Devil, a welcome 12th entry in Barnes' enjoyable Carlotta Carlyle series, follows from events in previous books, but the author provides enough information for new readers to piece things together. The heart of the story is Carlotta's uncertainty about Sam. She walks a fine line as she tries to heed her grandmother's warning that she who lives with the devil becomes the devil. This time around Carlotta is slow to recognize set-ups, probably because she's distracted by her emotional turmoil, and each missed clue draws her deeper into a web. Suspense builds steadily to a jaw-dropping climax. Meanwhile, readers tour Boston through the eyes of a cabbie and experience the real Cape Cod in its off-season as Carlotta and Mooney unravel the mystery.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:15:22

PI and cabbie Carlotta Carlyle is feeling adrift. Her mob-connected fiance Sam Gianelli is out of the country lying low and her adopted little sister Paolina is in a psych ward. Carlotta takes a job tailing a suspicious bride-to-be's fiancee that ensnarls her in two murder cases and an Indian tribe's quest for certification. When Sam is implicated in one of the murders, Carlotta defends his innocence, even while nagging discomfort about his mob-family ties turns into doubt about how well she really knows him. She turns for help to her staunch friend Mooney, an old boss from her days as a cop with the Boston PD, even though her own mob connection through Sam is tainting Mooney's career.

Much of the story in Lie Down With The Devil, a welcome 12th entry in Barnes' enjoyable Carlotta Carlyle series, follows from events in previous books, but the author provides enough information for new readers to piece things together. The heart of the story is Carlotta's uncertainty about Sam. She walks a fine line as she tries to heed her grandmother's warning that she who lives with the devil becomes the devil. This time around Carlotta is slow to recognize set-ups, probably because she's distracted by her emotional turmoil, and each missed clue draws her deeper into a web. Suspense builds steadily to a jaw-dropping climax. Meanwhile, readers tour Boston through the eyes of a cabbie and experience the real Cape Cod in its off-season as Carlotta and Mooney unravel the mystery.

Mama Does Time
Lynne Maxwell

USA Today reporter Deborah Sharp knows how to write family dynamics, as displayed in Mama Does Time, the debut of her Mama series. As the title suggests, Mama Bauer is a real pistol, and her adult daughters Mace, Maddie and Marty have a difficult time keeping her in check. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a triad of sisters to minister to Mama, who, true to form, gets arrested because she's carrying a corpse in the trunk of her car. How could this feisty church-going woman possibly be guilty of murder, and how can her daughters prove her innocence despite the rigid certainty of the police? Series heroine Mace, the rugged sister who works in a nature preserve, takes on the burden of proving Mama's innocence, with a little help from mild librarian sister Marty, and Maddie, the harridan sister from hell. As the women play out their drama of stereotypical sibling rivalry, something strange occurs: Each sister takes on positive traits of the others, as they work together, for once. Mild-mannered Marty becomes assertive like Mace and Maddie, while Maddie, like Mace and Marty, becomes softer and less of a narcissistic perfectionist. And Mace is able to give her sister a chance, recognizing that Maddie has the potential to become a more caring person. As the sisters learn about themselves and each other, they remain steadfastly united throughout by their love for Mama. Mama Does Time is a humorous, touching reflection on familial love and politics.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:15:22

USA Today reporter Deborah Sharp knows how to write family dynamics, as displayed in Mama Does Time, the debut of her Mama series. As the title suggests, Mama Bauer is a real pistol, and her adult daughters Mace, Maddie and Marty have a difficult time keeping her in check. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a triad of sisters to minister to Mama, who, true to form, gets arrested because she's carrying a corpse in the trunk of her car. How could this feisty church-going woman possibly be guilty of murder, and how can her daughters prove her innocence despite the rigid certainty of the police? Series heroine Mace, the rugged sister who works in a nature preserve, takes on the burden of proving Mama's innocence, with a little help from mild librarian sister Marty, and Maddie, the harridan sister from hell. As the women play out their drama of stereotypical sibling rivalry, something strange occurs: Each sister takes on positive traits of the others, as they work together, for once. Mild-mannered Marty becomes assertive like Mace and Maddie, while Maddie, like Mace and Marty, becomes softer and less of a narcissistic perfectionist. And Mace is able to give her sister a chance, recognizing that Maddie has the potential to become a more caring person. As the sisters learn about themselves and each other, they remain steadfastly united throughout by their love for Mama. Mama Does Time is a humorous, touching reflection on familial love and politics.

Murder on the Eiffel Tower
Sue Reider

Several mysterious deaths attributed to bee stings plague Paris during the 1889 World Exposition. Local bookseller Victor Legris is asked to write an opinion column about books for an upstart newspaper. There he meets Tasha Kershon, a reporter and illustrator who was present at some of the deaths. Both his passions and his suspicions are aroused by the Russian woman.

Victor is an engaging and intense young man--and also very impulsive. A curious, natural-born sleuth, Victor leaves his shop for one reason and is distracted by something or someone that seems out of place, only later to realize that he has ignored his original plan. He also seems to have no boundaries with regard to other's property, snooping in his partner's apartment at will. He ignores his business affairs, much to the dismay of his partner, to investigate the bee sting deaths. His character--like the others in this book--is developed very slowly. The reader learns bits and pieces about Victor's life, and gradually forms a clearer picture of his personality. Victor appears to be unfocused, as everyone and everything arouses his suspicions; however, he also remembers the tiniest particulars of who and what he sees. His outstanding ability to pull together details leads him to the solution of a truly bizarre scheme.

Murder on the Eiffel Tower is very well-written. The descriptions of Paris made me feel like I was there. The intermingling of real people with fictional characters was intriguing, as were Izner's philosophical comments about the social order of the era. This is one of those rare books that one hates to see end. A very impressive debut.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:15:22

Several mysterious deaths attributed to bee stings plague Paris during the 1889 World Exposition. Local bookseller Victor Legris is asked to write an opinion column about books for an upstart newspaper. There he meets Tasha Kershon, a reporter and illustrator who was present at some of the deaths. Both his passions and his suspicions are aroused by the Russian woman.

Victor is an engaging and intense young man--and also very impulsive. A curious, natural-born sleuth, Victor leaves his shop for one reason and is distracted by something or someone that seems out of place, only later to realize that he has ignored his original plan. He also seems to have no boundaries with regard to other's property, snooping in his partner's apartment at will. He ignores his business affairs, much to the dismay of his partner, to investigate the bee sting deaths. His character--like the others in this book--is developed very slowly. The reader learns bits and pieces about Victor's life, and gradually forms a clearer picture of his personality. Victor appears to be unfocused, as everyone and everything arouses his suspicions; however, he also remembers the tiniest particulars of who and what he sees. His outstanding ability to pull together details leads him to the solution of a truly bizarre scheme.

Murder on the Eiffel Tower is very well-written. The descriptions of Paris made me feel like I was there. The intermingling of real people with fictional characters was intriguing, as were Izner's philosophical comments about the social order of the era. This is one of those rare books that one hates to see end. A very impressive debut.

Salvation Boulevard

Holy sacred cows! The PI genre has been used like a literary shiv more than once to cut deep into the guts of an issue, but rarely has it been used with such cunning, wit and--believe it or not--diplomacy and fair-mindedness. In Salvation Boulevard, Larry Beinhart, the Edgar-winning author, best known for American Hero (filmed as Wag the Dog), sets sight on one of the most divisive issues of our time: faith.

Former boozer and cop turned private eye Carl Van Wagener is a born-again Christian, a member of the Cathedral of the Third Millennium, which is a huge fundamentalist church in an unnamed southwestern state; a clean-living man who's survived a gauntlet of addictions and broken marriages to finally find peace and happiness through Christ. He has a loving wife, a loving daughter and makes a decent living. And he attends church every Sunday. In other words--he's a believer. But what makes him so compelling--and so rare for this genre--is that he's not just a believer, but a believable believer. He's no slack-jawed drooler or squeaky-clean Bible thumper, but a fully-rounded character whose beliefs are as human as he is.

But then Ahmad Nazami, a young Muslim student, is arrested and charged with the murder of Nathaniel MacLeod, a professor at the local university and an avowed atheist. There's a signed confession, and things look decidedly bleak for Ahmad, until Manny Goldfarb, a high-flying Jewish defense lawyer comes riding to the rescue. And when the going gets tough, he hires his old friend Carl to look into things. It's just another case, Carl figures. This is what he does for a living.

But in post-9/11 America, the culture wars, both real and imagined, are raging. The bonds between Church and State have never been more passionately attacked or defended. In this increasingly polarized world, Carl and Manny's attempt to make a stand, to do the honorable and right thing and to see that justice is done, is both brave and heroic--and tragically na?

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:15:22

Holy sacred cows! The PI genre has been used like a literary shiv more than once to cut deep into the guts of an issue, but rarely has it been used with such cunning, wit and--believe it or not--diplomacy and fair-mindedness. In Salvation Boulevard, Larry Beinhart, the Edgar-winning author, best known for American Hero (filmed as Wag the Dog), sets sight on one of the most divisive issues of our time: faith.

Former boozer and cop turned private eye Carl Van Wagener is a born-again Christian, a member of the Cathedral of the Third Millennium, which is a huge fundamentalist church in an unnamed southwestern state; a clean-living man who's survived a gauntlet of addictions and broken marriages to finally find peace and happiness through Christ. He has a loving wife, a loving daughter and makes a decent living. And he attends church every Sunday. In other words--he's a believer. But what makes him so compelling--and so rare for this genre--is that he's not just a believer, but a believable believer. He's no slack-jawed drooler or squeaky-clean Bible thumper, but a fully-rounded character whose beliefs are as human as he is.

But then Ahmad Nazami, a young Muslim student, is arrested and charged with the murder of Nathaniel MacLeod, a professor at the local university and an avowed atheist. There's a signed confession, and things look decidedly bleak for Ahmad, until Manny Goldfarb, a high-flying Jewish defense lawyer comes riding to the rescue. And when the going gets tough, he hires his old friend Carl to look into things. It's just another case, Carl figures. This is what he does for a living.

But in post-9/11 America, the culture wars, both real and imagined, are raging. The bonds between Church and State have never been more passionately attacked or defended. In this increasingly polarized world, Carl and Manny's attempt to make a stand, to do the honorable and right thing and to see that justice is done, is both brave and heroic--and tragically na?

Separate From the World
Helen Francini

Murder, genetics and an ideological battle between ancient and modern ways make a compelling read in P.L. Gaus' new Amish mystery. Professor Michael Branden of Millersburg College in fictional Millersburg, Ohio has his hands unusually full at graduation time with two seemingly unrelated deaths and a kidnapping.

First an Amish shopkeeper appears to have fallen off a ladder--except that he was never flexible or strong enough in life to climb high enough to fall. The victim's brother, Enos Erb, trusts only the professor for help. Then a senior jumps to her death from the top of a campus building, and her boyfriend, who is there with her, becomes crazed with grief. While counseling the boyfriend, Branden also assists the local police investigating the shopkeeper's death, which involves a rift in the local congregation over whether to accept or shun modern medicine. It seems the shopkeeper was less conservative than some in his community. Outgoing and friendly to non-Amish folk, he had wholeheartedly embraced modern ways. The situation gets even more complicated when a pair of Amish children and their puppy go missing and the dead coed's research project on the local Amish (who have intermarried for generations, resulting in genetic problems) links her death to that of the shopkeeper.

The pro-medicine/anti-medicine debate that splits the Amish community literally pits brother against brother and the clash of cultures, and of ideals within a culture, adds complex depth to Gaus' story. Yet although they may argue passionately about the merits of modern vs. ancient lifestyles, the Amish community is united as passionate pacifists, shunning violence even when a sociopathic killer threatens their own children. Their stubborn belief that all violence is wrong may exasperate some readers, but it will make others think, and keep turning the pages. Gaus knows how to set a gripping scene.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:15:22

Murder, genetics and an ideological battle between ancient and modern ways make a compelling read in P.L. Gaus' new Amish mystery. Professor Michael Branden of Millersburg College in fictional Millersburg, Ohio has his hands unusually full at graduation time with two seemingly unrelated deaths and a kidnapping.

First an Amish shopkeeper appears to have fallen off a ladder--except that he was never flexible or strong enough in life to climb high enough to fall. The victim's brother, Enos Erb, trusts only the professor for help. Then a senior jumps to her death from the top of a campus building, and her boyfriend, who is there with her, becomes crazed with grief. While counseling the boyfriend, Branden also assists the local police investigating the shopkeeper's death, which involves a rift in the local congregation over whether to accept or shun modern medicine. It seems the shopkeeper was less conservative than some in his community. Outgoing and friendly to non-Amish folk, he had wholeheartedly embraced modern ways. The situation gets even more complicated when a pair of Amish children and their puppy go missing and the dead coed's research project on the local Amish (who have intermarried for generations, resulting in genetic problems) links her death to that of the shopkeeper.

The pro-medicine/anti-medicine debate that splits the Amish community literally pits brother against brother and the clash of cultures, and of ideals within a culture, adds complex depth to Gaus' story. Yet although they may argue passionately about the merits of modern vs. ancient lifestyles, the Amish community is united as passionate pacifists, shunning violence even when a sociopathic killer threatens their own children. Their stubborn belief that all violence is wrong may exasperate some readers, but it will make others think, and keep turning the pages. Gaus knows how to set a gripping scene.

Stranger Room
Mary Elizabeth Devine

A "stranger room" is a separate chamber in a plantation where a traveler has privacy and amenities unavailable in a public inn. The Lydell plantation in the Shenandoah Valley has such a room. It was once the scene of a never solved murder during the Civil War, or, as the unregenerate plantation owner refers to it, "The War of Northern Aggression." Another murder, 150 years later, occurs in the same room. In both cases, the locked door has to be broken down to gain access to the victim.

Ramsay does a fine job of integrating the Civil War murder and the 21st-century murder, all the while giving the reader a strong sense of Shenandoah in both times. The present-day plantation owner longs to recreate the world of the antebellum South and sees no reason for offense when local folks are asked to portray slaves as part of his restoration of the plantation--complete with slave quarters. More progressive is the larger community, which has elected a Jewish sheriff and (eventually) accepts the interracial romance of the black deputy and his white policewoman girlfriend.

The characters in The Stranger Room are rich and vivid; Ramsay tolerates no simple stereotypes. Neither the author nor the characters ever lose sight of the mystery, which comes to an unexpected but very satisfactory conclusion.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:15:22

A "stranger room" is a separate chamber in a plantation where a traveler has privacy and amenities unavailable in a public inn. The Lydell plantation in the Shenandoah Valley has such a room. It was once the scene of a never solved murder during the Civil War, or, as the unregenerate plantation owner refers to it, "The War of Northern Aggression." Another murder, 150 years later, occurs in the same room. In both cases, the locked door has to be broken down to gain access to the victim.

Ramsay does a fine job of integrating the Civil War murder and the 21st-century murder, all the while giving the reader a strong sense of Shenandoah in both times. The present-day plantation owner longs to recreate the world of the antebellum South and sees no reason for offense when local folks are asked to portray slaves as part of his restoration of the plantation--complete with slave quarters. More progressive is the larger community, which has elected a Jewish sheriff and (eventually) accepts the interracial romance of the black deputy and his white policewoman girlfriend.

The characters in The Stranger Room are rich and vivid; Ramsay tolerates no simple stereotypes. Neither the author nor the characters ever lose sight of the mystery, which comes to an unexpected but very satisfactory conclusion.

Sweeping Up Glass
Charles L.P. Silet

Sweeping Up Glass is a Southern coming-of-age novel set during the early years of the 20th century in a small Kentucky hamlet. Olivia Harker grows up in a small apartment behind a grocery store in hardscrabble Aurora with her father, Tate, who doctors his neighbor's animals and brews moonshine on the side, and her crazy-as-a-loon mother, Ida, who has taken up religion since her return from the asylum she was admitted to after the birth of her daughter.

As with all such tales, there are layers of unexplored history to both Olivia's life and the interrelated lives of the people of Aurora, and the plot becomes darker and Olivia's world more dangerous as the novel unfolds. Questions arise over the accidental death of her father, her mother's strange relationship with others in the town, the odd doings of the mysterious Hunt Club out on Phelps' farm, and the shooting of Alaskan Silver wolves imported by Olivia's grandfather that live on the mountain behind the store. The climax of this mystery involving racism, murder, and poverty finally takes place in 1938 and involves Olivia with the local KKK and ritual killings. In the end it threatens both her life and the lives to those closest to her.

Carolyn D. Wall has created an engaging character in Olivia Harker and a complex and densely interconnected community in Aurora, Kentucky. Her evocative prose recalls the regional style of such authors as Flannery O'Connor, Harper Lee, and Eudora Welty.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:15:22

Sweeping Up Glass is a Southern coming-of-age novel set during the early years of the 20th century in a small Kentucky hamlet. Olivia Harker grows up in a small apartment behind a grocery store in hardscrabble Aurora with her father, Tate, who doctors his neighbor's animals and brews moonshine on the side, and her crazy-as-a-loon mother, Ida, who has taken up religion since her return from the asylum she was admitted to after the birth of her daughter.

As with all such tales, there are layers of unexplored history to both Olivia's life and the interrelated lives of the people of Aurora, and the plot becomes darker and Olivia's world more dangerous as the novel unfolds. Questions arise over the accidental death of her father, her mother's strange relationship with others in the town, the odd doings of the mysterious Hunt Club out on Phelps' farm, and the shooting of Alaskan Silver wolves imported by Olivia's grandfather that live on the mountain behind the store. The climax of this mystery involving racism, murder, and poverty finally takes place in 1938 and involves Olivia with the local KKK and ritual killings. In the end it threatens both her life and the lives to those closest to her.

Carolyn D. Wall has created an engaging character in Olivia Harker and a complex and densely interconnected community in Aurora, Kentucky. Her evocative prose recalls the regional style of such authors as Flannery O'Connor, Harper Lee, and Eudora Welty.

Takeover
Mary Welk

Drawing on her experience as a forensic scientist, Lisa Black has concocted a plot as chilling as some of the evidence she's dealt with. Mirroring the author, Takeover heroine Theresa MacLean works for the Cleveland Medical Examiner. Theresa is hard at work one morning, examining the body of a murder victim, when she's told Paul Cleary, her police detective fiance, has been taken hostage in a bank robbery gone wrong. After he's shot several hours into the standoff, Theresa offers herself to the thieves in trade for the wounded cop.

Hostage negotiator Chris Cavanaugh has never lost a victim, but he's hard pressed to end this case after Theresa pulls her unauthorized stunt. The thieves have read Cavanaugh's life story, and they foresee his every move in this dangerous cat-and-mouse game. Always one step ahead of Chris, they play a trump card that leaves even the wily negotiator in shock.

There are ho-hum thrillers and there are gotcha! thrillers, all of them published with glowing cover blurbs. Blurbs can deceive, but this time the buzz is right on target. Takeover is a thriller of the first order, a pulse racing adventure that grabs you in the first chapter and has you sweating until the very end. Each time you catch your breath, Black adds a plot twist that takes you down another devilishly clever path. Knowledge of her subject, along with credible characters and an unpredictable ending, lend reality to this highly recommended first novel.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:15:22

Drawing on her experience as a forensic scientist, Lisa Black has concocted a plot as chilling as some of the evidence she's dealt with. Mirroring the author, Takeover heroine Theresa MacLean works for the Cleveland Medical Examiner. Theresa is hard at work one morning, examining the body of a murder victim, when she's told Paul Cleary, her police detective fiance, has been taken hostage in a bank robbery gone wrong. After he's shot several hours into the standoff, Theresa offers herself to the thieves in trade for the wounded cop.

Hostage negotiator Chris Cavanaugh has never lost a victim, but he's hard pressed to end this case after Theresa pulls her unauthorized stunt. The thieves have read Cavanaugh's life story, and they foresee his every move in this dangerous cat-and-mouse game. Always one step ahead of Chris, they play a trump card that leaves even the wily negotiator in shock.

There are ho-hum thrillers and there are gotcha! thrillers, all of them published with glowing cover blurbs. Blurbs can deceive, but this time the buzz is right on target. Takeover is a thriller of the first order, a pulse racing adventure that grabs you in the first chapter and has you sweating until the very end. Each time you catch your breath, Black adds a plot twist that takes you down another devilishly clever path. Knowledge of her subject, along with credible characters and an unpredictable ending, lend reality to this highly recommended first novel.

The Blackstone Key
Lynne Maxwell

A trained historian, Rose Melikan is a newcomer to the mystery scene, but one would never suspect it after reading The Blackstone Key, her wonderful, atmospheric, first installment in a proposed trilogy set in the England of Napoleonic times. From the first chapter she evokes the gloom, penury and perilous political straits pervading the country. Warfare threatens and spies run rampant. Amidst this turmoil, protagonist Mary Finch escapes her grim, thankless life teaching in a girls school. Expecting an inheritance from her uncle and striving to escape poverty, Mary embarks upon an ambitious journey that turns out far differently than she anticipated. While she isn't the heiress she hoped to be, Mary learns a great deal about the world around her, probably the best and most useful education possible. She becomes familiar with the upper class and its pretensions, as well as with the criminal element involved in a dangerous smuggling operation.

As an educated woman, Mary is much more learned and intelligent than others initially acknowledge--or wish to acknowledge. Her academic mastery and keen curiosity provide her with the acumen necessary to decipher a crucial coded message that defies the attempts of others, all men, of course. Like Elizabeth Bennet, the quintessential literary character educated beyond the established norms, the prototypical Mary Finch defies the stereotypes of her class and times. Melikan makes certain that readers revel in Mary's well-deserved liberation.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:15:22

A trained historian, Rose Melikan is a newcomer to the mystery scene, but one would never suspect it after reading The Blackstone Key, her wonderful, atmospheric, first installment in a proposed trilogy set in the England of Napoleonic times. From the first chapter she evokes the gloom, penury and perilous political straits pervading the country. Warfare threatens and spies run rampant. Amidst this turmoil, protagonist Mary Finch escapes her grim, thankless life teaching in a girls school. Expecting an inheritance from her uncle and striving to escape poverty, Mary embarks upon an ambitious journey that turns out far differently than she anticipated. While she isn't the heiress she hoped to be, Mary learns a great deal about the world around her, probably the best and most useful education possible. She becomes familiar with the upper class and its pretensions, as well as with the criminal element involved in a dangerous smuggling operation.

As an educated woman, Mary is much more learned and intelligent than others initially acknowledge--or wish to acknowledge. Her academic mastery and keen curiosity provide her with the acumen necessary to decipher a crucial coded message that defies the attempts of others, all men, of course. Like Elizabeth Bennet, the quintessential literary character educated beyond the established norms, the prototypical Mary Finch defies the stereotypes of her class and times. Melikan makes certain that readers revel in Mary's well-deserved liberation.

The Brass Verdict
Jackie Houchin

Multi-award winning author Michael Connelly is best known for his popular Harry Bosch series. Three years ago he penned The Lincoln Lawyer, which introduced Bosch's half-brother, Mickey Haller. Now he brings these two opposite but beloved characters together in The Brass Verdict.

Told from Mickey's point of view, the novel follows two murder cases. In the first, Jerry Vincent is the defense attorney for Walter Elliot, a mega-rich studio owner accused of killing his wife and her lover. Both attorney and client are sure of an acquittal because of a mysterious "magic bullet." When Vincent is murdered and his laptop and important files are stolen, Mickey inherits the high-profile Elliot case. Mickey has been "retired" for two years following an injury and a stint in rehab, and has mixed feeling about going back into the courtroom. As lead detective on Vincent's murder case, Bosch is convinced that one of the lawyer's clients killed him. Bosch hunts for Vincent's killer and Mickey searches for the magic bullet that will clinch Elliot's defense. Neither are above using each other to further their own investigations, but when their discoveries put Mickey in serious danger, they agree to work together.

Connelly's easy, informative style quickly draws readers into the story, and his likable characters and exciting plot twists keep them reading. He's as adept in the courtroom as he is in the precinct, and his lawyer-slang and cop-speak ring true. Mystery fans who've anticipated seeing these two characters together will not be disappointed in this fast-paced legal drama by a storytelling master.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:15:22

Multi-award winning author Michael Connelly is best known for his popular Harry Bosch series. Three years ago he penned The Lincoln Lawyer, which introduced Bosch's half-brother, Mickey Haller. Now he brings these two opposite but beloved characters together in The Brass Verdict.

Told from Mickey's point of view, the novel follows two murder cases. In the first, Jerry Vincent is the defense attorney for Walter Elliot, a mega-rich studio owner accused of killing his wife and her lover. Both attorney and client are sure of an acquittal because of a mysterious "magic bullet." When Vincent is murdered and his laptop and important files are stolen, Mickey inherits the high-profile Elliot case. Mickey has been "retired" for two years following an injury and a stint in rehab, and has mixed feeling about going back into the courtroom. As lead detective on Vincent's murder case, Bosch is convinced that one of the lawyer's clients killed him. Bosch hunts for Vincent's killer and Mickey searches for the magic bullet that will clinch Elliot's defense. Neither are above using each other to further their own investigations, but when their discoveries put Mickey in serious danger, they agree to work together.

Connelly's easy, informative style quickly draws readers into the story, and his likable characters and exciting plot twists keep them reading. He's as adept in the courtroom as he is in the precinct, and his lawyer-slang and cop-speak ring true. Mystery fans who've anticipated seeing these two characters together will not be disappointed in this fast-paced legal drama by a storytelling master.

The Clinch Knot
Verna Suit

Ned Oglivie has dropped out and become a trout bum known as "Dog." While fly-fishing in Montana, Dog befriends another dropout, a black kid named Sneed who soon falls in love with a white local girl named Jesse Ringer. When Dog is run out of town by the local sheriff, he comes across a dead Jesse and an almost dead Sneed in what appears to be a murder-suicide. The scene is clearly a set-up, but for what reason? Racial prejudice or some more obscure conflict? Dog has no choice but to stay around and investigate.

You don't have to fish to enjoy this fly fishing mystery. The Clinch Knot, a follow-up to Galligan's 2005 Blood Knot, is a gripping, metaphor-rich story about the freedom to be oneself. The wild Montana landscape teems with bands of pronghorn antelopes and other wildlife and a beautiful but vicious river offers heart-stopping rafting. Numerous multidimensional characters all hold surprises, beginning with Dog himself, a free-spirited drunk who lives on vodka and Tang in a rusted-out RV and who habitually drives as far as his gas tank will take him before stopping to fly-fish and "do life." When Sneed's long-lost mother surfaces, she and Dog join forces to exonerate Sneed and save him from a criminal death sentence. The three become an odd but tight family unit, three fellow travelers on the bumpy, twisty road to healing.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:15:22

Ned Oglivie has dropped out and become a trout bum known as "Dog." While fly-fishing in Montana, Dog befriends another dropout, a black kid named Sneed who soon falls in love with a white local girl named Jesse Ringer. When Dog is run out of town by the local sheriff, he comes across a dead Jesse and an almost dead Sneed in what appears to be a murder-suicide. The scene is clearly a set-up, but for what reason? Racial prejudice or some more obscure conflict? Dog has no choice but to stay around and investigate.

You don't have to fish to enjoy this fly fishing mystery. The Clinch Knot, a follow-up to Galligan's 2005 Blood Knot, is a gripping, metaphor-rich story about the freedom to be oneself. The wild Montana landscape teems with bands of pronghorn antelopes and other wildlife and a beautiful but vicious river offers heart-stopping rafting. Numerous multidimensional characters all hold surprises, beginning with Dog himself, a free-spirited drunk who lives on vodka and Tang in a rusted-out RV and who habitually drives as far as his gas tank will take him before stopping to fly-fish and "do life." When Sneed's long-lost mother surfaces, she and Dog join forces to exonerate Sneed and save him from a criminal death sentence. The three become an odd but tight family unit, three fellow travelers on the bumpy, twisty road to healing.

The Clockwork Teddy
Lynne Maxwell

Once I willingly suspend my disbelief that a retired San Francisco cop could become a teddy bear aficionado, I really enjoyed this series. Improbable as the protagonist's hobby might seem, the Teddy Bear Collector's Mysteries uniquely meld the cozy with the police procedural, yielding a strangely intriguing amalgam.

In The Clockwork Teddy, Brad Lyon, ex-detective, returns from the Shenandoah Valley to his native city, San Francisco, to attend a teddy bear convention with his wife. Not surprisingly, Brad and his wife, Ash, quickly stumble upon a hotbed of intrigue when someone wearing a giant teddy bear costume (remember, willing suspension of disbelief) robs a renowned teddy bear vendor. To take the teddy bear motif a bit further, the robbery and later, murder, seem to be tied to the theft of an amazing robotic teddy bear that can walk and converse with eerie verisimilitude. The book's most compelling factor, though, is Brad's immediate reversion to cop mode as he brings the criminals to justice at the end of a breakneck chase. Brad's deployment of police procedures rings true, which is no surprise since Lamb, too, is a retired policeman--and a teddy bear collector.

If the hardcore elements of this mystery don't appeal, you might find satisfaction in its cozy components. One thing is certain, however, after you've read The Clockwork Teddy and the other titles in this series, you will have developed a new found respect for teddy bears and their creators.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:15:22

Once I willingly suspend my disbelief that a retired San Francisco cop could become a teddy bear aficionado, I really enjoyed this series. Improbable as the protagonist's hobby might seem, the Teddy Bear Collector's Mysteries uniquely meld the cozy with the police procedural, yielding a strangely intriguing amalgam.

In The Clockwork Teddy, Brad Lyon, ex-detective, returns from the Shenandoah Valley to his native city, San Francisco, to attend a teddy bear convention with his wife. Not surprisingly, Brad and his wife, Ash, quickly stumble upon a hotbed of intrigue when someone wearing a giant teddy bear costume (remember, willing suspension of disbelief) robs a renowned teddy bear vendor. To take the teddy bear motif a bit further, the robbery and later, murder, seem to be tied to the theft of an amazing robotic teddy bear that can walk and converse with eerie verisimilitude. The book's most compelling factor, though, is Brad's immediate reversion to cop mode as he brings the criminals to justice at the end of a breakneck chase. Brad's deployment of police procedures rings true, which is no surprise since Lamb, too, is a retired policeman--and a teddy bear collector.

If the hardcore elements of this mystery don't appeal, you might find satisfaction in its cozy components. One thing is certain, however, after you've read The Clockwork Teddy and the other titles in this series, you will have developed a new found respect for teddy bears and their creators.

The Fourth Victim
Hank Wagner

The Fourth Victim is Tony Spinosa's (aka Edgar finalist Reed Coleman) follow up to Hose Monkey. It chronicles the further adventures of Joe Serpe and Bob Healy, two ex-cops who, through various circumstances, one day find themselves in the home heating oil business. Here, the murders of five independent oil men are certainly cause for concern for the duo, but one in particular resonates with Serpe--the death of a crooked ex-cop who once saved his life. Serpe embarks on a mission to settle a debt to a man he despised, single-mindedly pursuing the perpetrators; such is Healy's loyalty to Serpe that he is dragged along for the ride. Although the men realize the grave danger they face, they find their return to the fray invigorating; the hunt for the killers makes them feel alive again, allowing them to do what they were born to do.

Although somewhat conventional in terms of plot, the novel is nevertheless a worthwhile way to spend a few hours, mostly due to Spinosa's crisp, direct style of writing, his gift for creating genuine suspense, and the presence of Serpe and Healy, fully developed, three-dimensional characters who actually change over the course of the novel, affected by its events in convincing ways. Spinosa also shows a talent for delivering credible action scenes, constantly placing his heroes in peril, making readers fear for their safety and root for their success and survival. The violence, when it comes, is sudden and inevitable and intense, guaranteed to set your nerves jangling.<p

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:15:22

The Fourth Victim is Tony Spinosa's (aka Edgar finalist Reed Coleman) follow up to Hose Monkey. It chronicles the further adventures of Joe Serpe and Bob Healy, two ex-cops who, through various circumstances, one day find themselves in the home heating oil business. Here, the murders of five independent oil men are certainly cause for concern for the duo, but one in particular resonates with Serpe--the death of a crooked ex-cop who once saved his life. Serpe embarks on a mission to settle a debt to a man he despised, single-mindedly pursuing the perpetrators; such is Healy's loyalty to Serpe that he is dragged along for the ride. Although the men realize the grave danger they face, they find their return to the fray invigorating; the hunt for the killers makes them feel alive again, allowing them to do what they were born to do.

Although somewhat conventional in terms of plot, the novel is nevertheless a worthwhile way to spend a few hours, mostly due to Spinosa's crisp, direct style of writing, his gift for creating genuine suspense, and the presence of Serpe and Healy, fully developed, three-dimensional characters who actually change over the course of the novel, affected by its events in convincing ways. Spinosa also shows a talent for delivering credible action scenes, constantly placing his heroes in peril, making readers fear for their safety and root for their success and survival. The violence, when it comes, is sudden and inevitable and intense, guaranteed to set your nerves jangling.<p

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Barbara Fister

A sensation in Europe, this Swedish blockbuster has finally reached our shores. Unlike the typical American bestseller, it is long, complex, and not paced with a stopwatch in hand.

At first it appears to be a variation on the classic locked-room mystery. A disgraced business reporter is hired by a man who wants a family mystery solved. Forty years earlier, his nephew's daughter, Harriet, disappeared from a small island; the only bridge was blocked at the time, no boats were missing, and her body was never found. Yet every year someone sends him a memento of the vanished girl. Beyond finding out what happened to Harriet, the old man wants the reporter to write a family history--one that uncovers the poisonous relationships that played a role in the girl's disappearance.

The reporter finds an unusual ally in Lisbeth Salander, a strange young hacker who has a chilly intelligence and an aversion to opening up to others. At one point, a character annoys her by comparing her to Pippi Longstocking, but it's oddly apt. Like the popular Swedish children's book heroine, she is independent, almost freakishly gifted and touchingly alone in the world. The two of them uncover truths that are brutal and deeply disturbing. The original title of the book--Men Who Hate Women--hints at the passions that drive the story. Sadly, the author died before this book saw publication, but as it is the first in a trilogy, readers have more to look forward to.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:15:22

A sensation in Europe, this Swedish blockbuster has finally reached our shores. Unlike the typical American bestseller, it is long, complex, and not paced with a stopwatch in hand.

At first it appears to be a variation on the classic locked-room mystery. A disgraced business reporter is hired by a man who wants a family mystery solved. Forty years earlier, his nephew's daughter, Harriet, disappeared from a small island; the only bridge was blocked at the time, no boats were missing, and her body was never found. Yet every year someone sends him a memento of the vanished girl. Beyond finding out what happened to Harriet, the old man wants the reporter to write a family history--one that uncovers the poisonous relationships that played a role in the girl's disappearance.

The reporter finds an unusual ally in Lisbeth Salander, a strange young hacker who has a chilly intelligence and an aversion to opening up to others. At one point, a character annoys her by comparing her to Pippi Longstocking, but it's oddly apt. Like the popular Swedish children's book heroine, she is independent, almost freakishly gifted and touchingly alone in the world. The two of them uncover truths that are brutal and deeply disturbing. The original title of the book--Men Who Hate Women--hints at the passions that drive the story. Sadly, the author died before this book saw publication, but as it is the first in a trilogy, readers have more to look forward to.

The Organ Grinder

It's 1899 in New York City: a barrel organ grinder sings "La donna ?

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:15:22

It's 1899 in New York City: a barrel organ grinder sings "La donna ?

The Salisbury Manuscript

Philip Gooden, currently the chair of the Crime Writers Association in the UK, is the author of several Elizabethan mysteries. In The Salisbury Manuscript he turns to the 19th century. The story is set in 1873 on Salisbury Plain, in the cathedral with its canons, vergers, and sextons, and in the town itself. The tale is reminiscent of Dickens with its shades of Nicholas Nickleby.

Lawyer Todd Ansell is sent from London to visit a client in Salisbury who wishes to entrust a memoir written by his father to the safe keeping of the law firm. When the client, a residentiary canon named Felix Slater, is murdered, the plot thickens. The pace is deliberate, but never dull. The settings are described in enough detail to create images of the time and place. The characters are convincing Victorians?

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:15:22

Philip Gooden, currently the chair of the Crime Writers Association in the UK, is the author of several Elizabethan mysteries. In The Salisbury Manuscript he turns to the 19th century. The story is set in 1873 on Salisbury Plain, in the cathedral with its canons, vergers, and sextons, and in the town itself. The tale is reminiscent of Dickens with its shades of Nicholas Nickleby.

Lawyer Todd Ansell is sent from London to visit a client in Salisbury who wishes to entrust a memoir written by his father to the safe keeping of the law firm. When the client, a residentiary canon named Felix Slater, is murdered, the plot thickens. The pace is deliberate, but never dull. The settings are described in enough detail to create images of the time and place. The characters are convincing Victorians?

The September Society
Elizabeth Foxwell

Following his last appearance in A Beautiful Blue Death (2007), Victorian detective Charles Lenox faces conspiracy and murder set against the dreaming spires of Oxford. The son of Lady Annabelle Payson has vanished from his college, leaving in his wake a dead cat, a card bearing the enigmatic phrase "the September Society," and questions about the actions of his wastrel father and his father's associates in India. Complicating Lenox's case are his abortive attempts to propose to his neighbor, Lady Jane Grey; a duke's dilettante son casting himself as Lenox's indispensable Watson; and a series of unexplained deaths. The best scenes of Agatha nominee--and Oxford graduate--Finch are those set in that university town, with lovingly rendered depictions of such landmarks as the Turf Tavern and Christ Church Meadow and even an encounter with a future poet of some renown. All in all, Finch delivers a tale of unexpected twists that resonates in the present day, as it portrays the abuses that can occur in a conflict on foreign soil.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:15:22

Following his last appearance in A Beautiful Blue Death (2007), Victorian detective Charles Lenox faces conspiracy and murder set against the dreaming spires of Oxford. The son of Lady Annabelle Payson has vanished from his college, leaving in his wake a dead cat, a card bearing the enigmatic phrase "the September Society," and questions about the actions of his wastrel father and his father's associates in India. Complicating Lenox's case are his abortive attempts to propose to his neighbor, Lady Jane Grey; a duke's dilettante son casting himself as Lenox's indispensable Watson; and a series of unexplained deaths. The best scenes of Agatha nominee--and Oxford graduate--Finch are those set in that university town, with lovingly rendered depictions of such landmarks as the Turf Tavern and Christ Church Meadow and even an encounter with a future poet of some renown. All in all, Finch delivers a tale of unexpected twists that resonates in the present day, as it portrays the abuses that can occur in a conflict on foreign soil.

The Shadow Walker
R. Smith

Few would imagine that a police procedural set in remote Mongolia could be so gripping, suspenseful and out-and-out readable. Michael Walters' first effort, The Shadow Walker, is all that and more. This can't-put-it-down-once-you've-started-it novel brings Mongolia, its capital Ulan Baatar, and the vast Gobi desert to life. In it, Inspector Nergui of the Serious Crime Unit must stop a serial killer. With few leads other than the dismembered bodies of the victims, he tries to make sense of a phenomenon previously unknown in this Asian nation. When a visiting British mineralogist becomes one of the killer's victims, Inspector Drew McLeish is sent from London to assist Nergui. The two hit it off immediately, but neither is aware of the danger awaiting the British cop.

Mongolia is loaded with valuable minerals, especially gold, and Nergui suspects this untapped wealth is the impetus behind the murders. Having studied in both England and America Nergui is a modern man in a not-so-modern country struggling to join the developed world after years of Soviet domination. Clues are meager at best but the detectives slowly and methodically build a case, battling politicians (Mongolian, Russian, British and American), international corporations, local nomads living in gers (tent cities), and even corrupt police officers, to get at the truth. Suspense builds as Nergui gets closer to his target and the final chapters will have readers eagerly turning pages. Nergui is a wonderful addition to the genre and author Walters promises at least two more adventures. I, for one, can hardly wait.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:15:22

Few would imagine that a police procedural set in remote Mongolia could be so gripping, suspenseful and out-and-out readable. Michael Walters' first effort, The Shadow Walker, is all that and more. This can't-put-it-down-once-you've-started-it novel brings Mongolia, its capital Ulan Baatar, and the vast Gobi desert to life. In it, Inspector Nergui of the Serious Crime Unit must stop a serial killer. With few leads other than the dismembered bodies of the victims, he tries to make sense of a phenomenon previously unknown in this Asian nation. When a visiting British mineralogist becomes one of the killer's victims, Inspector Drew McLeish is sent from London to assist Nergui. The two hit it off immediately, but neither is aware of the danger awaiting the British cop.

Mongolia is loaded with valuable minerals, especially gold, and Nergui suspects this untapped wealth is the impetus behind the murders. Having studied in both England and America Nergui is a modern man in a not-so-modern country struggling to join the developed world after years of Soviet domination. Clues are meager at best but the detectives slowly and methodically build a case, battling politicians (Mongolian, Russian, British and American), international corporations, local nomads living in gers (tent cities), and even corrupt police officers, to get at the truth. Suspense builds as Nergui gets closer to his target and the final chapters will have readers eagerly turning pages. Nergui is a wonderful addition to the genre and author Walters promises at least two more adventures. I, for one, can hardly wait.

The Turnaround
Hank Wagner

The first section of Pelecanos' latest is set in the outskirts of Washington D.C. circa July 1972. It chronicles the activities of two sets of teens, one trio black, the other white; they don't know it, but fate has placed them on a collision course with one another, one that ends in a sad, violent encounter. The second part of the novel, set in 2007, slowly reveals the results of that grim episode. It follows the lives of the survivors, still residents of the same neighborhoods, still struggling with both the past and present, trying to get by. Although those involved have had no contact since that fateful day three-and-a-half decades ago, their lives will once again intersect in ways both poignant and tragic.

The Turnaround is easily one of the best crime novels, if not one of the best novels, you'll ever encounter. A true craftsman, Pelecanos establishes his milieu and his characters with a few deft strokes, then expertly navigates towards a moving climax which will likely take readers by surprise, even though it comes to seem inevitable upon further reflection. A tale of dashed hopes and shattered dreams, it's also a novel of courage and redemption, one that will leave your emotions roiled for days after you finish reading. Always able to find the humanity in even the most despicable of his characters, Pelecanos again demonstrates why many consider him one of the top crime novelists working today.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:15:22

The first section of Pelecanos' latest is set in the outskirts of Washington D.C. circa July 1972. It chronicles the activities of two sets of teens, one trio black, the other white; they don't know it, but fate has placed them on a collision course with one another, one that ends in a sad, violent encounter. The second part of the novel, set in 2007, slowly reveals the results of that grim episode. It follows the lives of the survivors, still residents of the same neighborhoods, still struggling with both the past and present, trying to get by. Although those involved have had no contact since that fateful day three-and-a-half decades ago, their lives will once again intersect in ways both poignant and tragic.

The Turnaround is easily one of the best crime novels, if not one of the best novels, you'll ever encounter. A true craftsman, Pelecanos establishes his milieu and his characters with a few deft strokes, then expertly navigates towards a moving climax which will likely take readers by surprise, even though it comes to seem inevitable upon further reflection. A tale of dashed hopes and shattered dreams, it's also a novel of courage and redemption, one that will leave your emotions roiled for days after you finish reading. Always able to find the humanity in even the most despicable of his characters, Pelecanos again demonstrates why many consider him one of the top crime novelists working today.

Toros and Torsos
Hank Wagner

In his first adventure, set in 1957 (chronicled in Craig McDonald's delightful novel Head Game), noir novelist and Black Mask alumnus Hector Lassiter traveled to Mexico seeking the head of Pancho Villa at the behest of Prescott Bush. Toros and Torsos, in which Lassiter seems to always be one step behind a serial killer inspired by surrealist art, begins in 1935 in the Florida Keys, moves on to Spain in 1937, continues in Hollywood in 1947, and concludes in 1959 in Cuba. As in its predecessor, the womanizing, hard as nails, violence prone Lassiter ("the writer who lives what he writes") moves in elite circles throughout, rubbing elbows with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles, John Huston and Rita Hayworth.

McDonald's sophomore effort is a lot of fun, as the author effortlessly and credibly incorporates his characters and storyline into such real life happenings as the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, the Spanish Civil War, the filming of The Lady from Shanghai, and the Black Dahlia murders. Reminiscent of the fine work that Max Allan Collins has done in his Nate Heller series, Toros and Torsos manages to convey interesting historical tidbits even as it entertains. Although lethal tough guy Lassiter is indeed larger than life, his presence among the likes of Hemingway and Welles feels appropriate, as if he actually were a vital part of that notable crowd. Add McDonald's myriad, but uniformly clever, allusions to all things noir to the mix, and you get one captivating read.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:15:22

In his first adventure, set in 1957 (chronicled in Craig McDonald's delightful novel Head Game), noir novelist and Black Mask alumnus Hector Lassiter traveled to Mexico seeking the head of Pancho Villa at the behest of Prescott Bush. Toros and Torsos, in which Lassiter seems to always be one step behind a serial killer inspired by surrealist art, begins in 1935 in the Florida Keys, moves on to Spain in 1937, continues in Hollywood in 1947, and concludes in 1959 in Cuba. As in its predecessor, the womanizing, hard as nails, violence prone Lassiter ("the writer who lives what he writes") moves in elite circles throughout, rubbing elbows with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles, John Huston and Rita Hayworth.

McDonald's sophomore effort is a lot of fun, as the author effortlessly and credibly incorporates his characters and storyline into such real life happenings as the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, the Spanish Civil War, the filming of The Lady from Shanghai, and the Black Dahlia murders. Reminiscent of the fine work that Max Allan Collins has done in his Nate Heller series, Toros and Torsos manages to convey interesting historical tidbits even as it entertains. Although lethal tough guy Lassiter is indeed larger than life, his presence among the likes of Hemingway and Welles feels appropriate, as if he actually were a vital part of that notable crowd. Add McDonald's myriad, but uniformly clever, allusions to all things noir to the mix, and you get one captivating read.

When Will There Be Good News?
Betty Webb

In her new mystery/suspense novel, Kate Atkinson, author of the acclaimed Case Histories and One Good Turn, continues her habit of breaking every writing rule. She annihilates families, right down to the last baby and puppy. She combines Greek myth with nursery rhymes. She employs truckloads of coincidence. She tells her story from disparate points of view, choosing characters who are seemingly unconnected until...

It's that "until" which makes Atkinson's heresies so successful. When Will There Be Good News? begins with the slaughter of the Mason family by a madman, then jumps forward three decades to a time when the memory of the murders has blurred. Atkinson's usual hero, Jackson Brodie, a former British policeman, has inherited loads of money and set himself up as a PI. When he is badly injured in a horrific train derailment, his life is saved via the first aid skills of Reggie, a 16-year-old girl who eventually draws him into a re-investigation of the Mason family tragedy.

With all the heartbreak and gore Atkinson has funneled into Good News, you'd think the book would be a tough read; It's not. The author's trademark dark humor abounds in these pages, and frequently--even in the grisliest of scenes--you find yourself laughing out loud. This is a master work by an author at the very top of her game. In fact, Good News is so extraordinarily on so many levels (especially in its eye-popping ending), that once you're finished, you might--as did I--go right back to the beginning and start over.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:15:22

In her new mystery/suspense novel, Kate Atkinson, author of the acclaimed Case Histories and One Good Turn, continues her habit of breaking every writing rule. She annihilates families, right down to the last baby and puppy. She combines Greek myth with nursery rhymes. She employs truckloads of coincidence. She tells her story from disparate points of view, choosing characters who are seemingly unconnected until...

It's that "until" which makes Atkinson's heresies so successful. When Will There Be Good News? begins with the slaughter of the Mason family by a madman, then jumps forward three decades to a time when the memory of the murders has blurred. Atkinson's usual hero, Jackson Brodie, a former British policeman, has inherited loads of money and set himself up as a PI. When he is badly injured in a horrific train derailment, his life is saved via the first aid skills of Reggie, a 16-year-old girl who eventually draws him into a re-investigation of the Mason family tragedy.

With all the heartbreak and gore Atkinson has funneled into Good News, you'd think the book would be a tough read; It's not. The author's trademark dark humor abounds in these pages, and frequently--even in the grisliest of scenes--you find yourself laughing out loud. This is a master work by an author at the very top of her game. In fact, Good News is so extraordinarily on so many levels (especially in its eye-popping ending), that once you're finished, you might--as did I--go right back to the beginning and start over.

White Mary
Beverly J. DeWeese

Marika Vecera, a tough, young war correspondent, hears that her idol, journalist Robert Lewis, has been sighted alive in Papua New Guinea. Though everyone else believes he is dead, she vows to travel to the innermost part of this primitive island to find him. Essentially alone, she faces horrific physical conditions on her journey, while struggling with her own fascination with the dark, violent side of humanity.

Salak's descriptions of the unbearably hot, humid jungle, filled with swarms of mosquitoes, are extremely vivid. Dirty water, malaria, and constant cuts from unfriendly flora are daily enemies. The suspicious, almost Stone Age natives, who call all white women "White Mary," are rarely helpful. Since Marika's untrustworthy guide, the stench, the dirt, and the lack of medicine almost destroy her and Salak's strong, colorful writing drags the reader right into the jungle with her.

Marika is an incredible character. Apparently based heavily on Salak's own experiences, Marika's trip is not only believable, but compelling. She spends a lot of time, even when delirious, wondering why reporters, such as Lewis and herself, are drawn to writing about war, torture, and savagery. Though this has only a minor mystery--Is Lewis alive?--it's an exciting page turner with a memorable ending and an admirable, gutsy heroine. A terrific read.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:15:22

Marika Vecera, a tough, young war correspondent, hears that her idol, journalist Robert Lewis, has been sighted alive in Papua New Guinea. Though everyone else believes he is dead, she vows to travel to the innermost part of this primitive island to find him. Essentially alone, she faces horrific physical conditions on her journey, while struggling with her own fascination with the dark, violent side of humanity.

Salak's descriptions of the unbearably hot, humid jungle, filled with swarms of mosquitoes, are extremely vivid. Dirty water, malaria, and constant cuts from unfriendly flora are daily enemies. The suspicious, almost Stone Age natives, who call all white women "White Mary," are rarely helpful. Since Marika's untrustworthy guide, the stench, the dirt, and the lack of medicine almost destroy her and Salak's strong, colorful writing drags the reader right into the jungle with her.

Marika is an incredible character. Apparently based heavily on Salak's own experiences, Marika's trip is not only believable, but compelling. She spends a lot of time, even when delirious, wondering why reporters, such as Lewis and herself, are drawn to writing about war, torture, and savagery. Though this has only a minor mystery--Is Lewis alive?--it's an exciting page turner with a memorable ending and an admirable, gutsy heroine. A terrific read.

Working Stiff
Sue Reider

When a body is stolen from her aunt's funeral home, Sofie Metropolis' Greek family guilt-trips her into investigating. Then a young woman, convinced her brother is innocent of a murder charge against him--especially since the victim has never been found--also hires Sofie. As a PI, Sofie exhibits a keen commitment to seeing justice done. Her preliminary inquiries seem to corroborate that her client's brother is being railroaded. Her strong work ethic and dedication (including a lot of stakeout time) will out the real culprit.

It's approaching Halloween, so her secretary's theory that the body was stolen by marauding vampires makes perfect sense to Sofie, who is a charming character, if something of a ditz at times. She has a lot on her plate besides her work--her extended family provides all the day-to-day drama anyone could ever want. Add in her two boyfriends, her unmanageable dog, and her matchmaking neighbor, and the opportunities for humor are rampant. Carrington takes full advantage of all this to deliver an amusing romp coupled with a strong story line and satisfying resolutions to both cases.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:15:22

When a body is stolen from her aunt's funeral home, Sofie Metropolis' Greek family guilt-trips her into investigating. Then a young woman, convinced her brother is innocent of a murder charge against him--especially since the victim has never been found--also hires Sofie. As a PI, Sofie exhibits a keen commitment to seeing justice done. Her preliminary inquiries seem to corroborate that her client's brother is being railroaded. Her strong work ethic and dedication (including a lot of stakeout time) will out the real culprit.

It's approaching Halloween, so her secretary's theory that the body was stolen by marauding vampires makes perfect sense to Sofie, who is a charming character, if something of a ditz at times. She has a lot on her plate besides her work--her extended family provides all the day-to-day drama anyone could ever want. Add in her two boyfriends, her unmanageable dog, and her matchmaking neighbor, and the opportunities for humor are rampant. Carrington takes full advantage of all this to deliver an amusing romp coupled with a strong story line and satisfying resolutions to both cases.

Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong: Reopening the Case of the Hound of the Baskerville
Charles L.P. Silet

Fans of the Sherlock Holmes stories seem to be insatiable, devouring pastiches, parodies, and spin-offs of the Holmes canon by the score. However, there is a secondary Holmes enterprise and that is in scholarly (and pseudo-scholarly) works on the master. Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong, a mix of crime novel and intellectual exercise, falls into this second category.
In his re-reading of the Hound of the Baskervilles Pierre Bayard attempts to prove Holmes' solution of the case incorrect by challenging no less than Holmes' vaunted deductive method itself. In this counter-investigation of Doyle's most famous Holmes case, Bayard challenges the reader to suspend belief in the detective's conclusions about not only the perpetrator of the crimes, but even the famous sleuth's reading of the clues. Bayard expands the claims of his method by also calling into question mystery authors' conclusions in crime stories in general thereby empowering the reader in his/her ability to deconstruct fictional texts of all sorts. How Bayard works this all out the reader will have to experience, but he does provide a fascinating and rewarding examination of Holmes' method of operations, i.e. observation, comparison, and reasoning backward.
The French have long been fascinated by crime fiction. In Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong, Pierre Bayard combines this with a second fascination of French intellectualism, that is, various theoretical approaches to texts. In the process Bayard's little book opens an engaging and enlightening discussion of one of the central works of classic detective fiction.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:15:22

Fans of the Sherlock Holmes stories seem to be insatiable, devouring pastiches, parodies, and spin-offs of the Holmes canon by the score. However, there is a secondary Holmes enterprise and that is in scholarly (and pseudo-scholarly) works on the master. Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong, a mix of crime novel and intellectual exercise, falls into this second category.
In his re-reading of the Hound of the Baskervilles Pierre Bayard attempts to prove Holmes' solution of the case incorrect by challenging no less than Holmes' vaunted deductive method itself. In this counter-investigation of Doyle's most famous Holmes case, Bayard challenges the reader to suspend belief in the detective's conclusions about not only the perpetrator of the crimes, but even the famous sleuth's reading of the clues. Bayard expands the claims of his method by also calling into question mystery authors' conclusions in crime stories in general thereby empowering the reader in his/her ability to deconstruct fictional texts of all sorts. How Bayard works this all out the reader will have to experience, but he does provide a fascinating and rewarding examination of Holmes' method of operations, i.e. observation, comparison, and reasoning backward.
The French have long been fascinated by crime fiction. In Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong, Pierre Bayard combines this with a second fascination of French intellectualism, that is, various theoretical approaches to texts. In the process Bayard's little book opens an engaging and enlightening discussion of one of the central works of classic detective fiction.