Fall Issue #126 Contents
Mystery Scene

126cover_250

Features


Broadcast Clues Hank Phillippi Ryan

An awarding-winning investigative journalist brings her expertise to bear on her fiction.
by Oline H. Cogdill

Books to Die For: Ross Macdonald’s The Chill

A thoughtful look at a celebrated author by one of contemporary crime fiction’s leading lights.
by John Connolly

Attica Locke

Past injustices and present inequities intersect at a Louisiana plantation in this talented newcomer’s latest.
by Oline H. Cogdill

Robert Barnard: A Talent to Entertain

An appreciation of this English author’s sharp wit and stellar plots.
by Martin Edwards

Action Figures We’d Like to See

Forgot all those plastic Luke Skywalkers and Batmen, these PIs should be action figures.
by Kevin Burton Smith

The Murders in Memory Lane: Now We Call It Mid-Century Erotica

It might not have been literature, but it was the beginning of a literary career.
by Lawrence Block

“If Books Could Kill” Mystery Crossword

by Verna Suit

Departments


At the Scene

by Kate Stine

Mystery Miscellany

by Louis Phillips

Hints & Allegations

Thriller, Dagger, Ngaio Marsh, and Ned Kelly Awards. Harper Lee Prize. Kate Carlisle on reading Prince of Tides; Bibliophile "Find the Difference Game."

The Hook

First Lines That Caught Our Attention

Gormania

Cunning and underrated: Derailed with Jennifer Aniston
by Ed Gorman

New Books

Remnants of the Civil War
by Don Helin


Reviews


Small Press Reviews: Covering the Independents

by Betty Webb

Very Original: Paperback Originals Reviewed

by Lynne Maxwell & Hank Wagner

What About Murder? Reference Books Reviewed

by Jon L. Breen

Sounds of Suspense: Audiobooks Reviewed

by Dick Lochte

Short & Sweet: Short Stories Considered

by Bill Crider

Mystery Scene Reviews

Miscellaneous


The Docket

Letters

Our Readers Recommend

MS Online

Advertising Info

Advertiser Index

Admin
Monday, 05 April 2010 10:04

126cover_250

Features


Broadcast Clues Hank Phillippi Ryan

An awarding-winning investigative journalist brings her expertise to bear on her fiction.
by Oline H. Cogdill

Books to Die For: Ross Macdonald’s The Chill

A thoughtful look at a celebrated author by one of contemporary crime fiction’s leading lights.
by John Connolly

Attica Locke

Past injustices and present inequities intersect at a Louisiana plantation in this talented newcomer’s latest.
by Oline H. Cogdill

Robert Barnard: A Talent to Entertain

An appreciation of this English author’s sharp wit and stellar plots.
by Martin Edwards

Action Figures We’d Like to See

Forgot all those plastic Luke Skywalkers and Batmen, these PIs should be action figures.
by Kevin Burton Smith

The Murders in Memory Lane: Now We Call It Mid-Century Erotica

It might not have been literature, but it was the beginning of a literary career.
by Lawrence Block

“If Books Could Kill” Mystery Crossword

by Verna Suit

Departments


At the Scene

by Kate Stine

Mystery Miscellany

by Louis Phillips

Hints & Allegations

Thriller, Dagger, Ngaio Marsh, and Ned Kelly Awards. Harper Lee Prize. Kate Carlisle on reading Prince of Tides; Bibliophile "Find the Difference Game."

The Hook

First Lines That Caught Our Attention

Gormania

Cunning and underrated: Derailed with Jennifer Aniston
by Ed Gorman

New Books

Remnants of the Civil War
by Don Helin


Reviews


Small Press Reviews: Covering the Independents

by Betty Webb

Very Original: Paperback Originals Reviewed

by Lynne Maxwell & Hank Wagner

What About Murder? Reference Books Reviewed

by Jon L. Breen

Sounds of Suspense: Audiobooks Reviewed

by Dick Lochte

Short & Sweet: Short Stories Considered

by Bill Crider

Mystery Scene Reviews

Miscellaneous


The Docket

Letters

Our Readers Recommend

MS Online

Advertising Info

Advertiser Index

At the Scene, Fall Issue #126
Kate Stine

126cover_250Hi Everyone,

Millions of people know Hank Phillippi Ryan as the hard-charging investigative journalist on Boston’s NBC affiliate, but an increasing number of readers know her as the author of even harder-charging thrillers laced with breakneck media competition, high-stakes political intrigue, and murder.

Read our profile of Hank in this issue and you’ll see, as they say, where she “gets her ideas.” What a career! Hank notes that she’s been writing stories every day for 37 years, so her novels are just a new venue for something she’s long loved to do.

Similarly, Attica Locke had years of storytelling experience as a Hollywood screenwriter before she turned to novels with the acclaimed Black Water Rising. Her work draws on her family history and on a thoughtful consideration of the mechanisms of social change. “For black people, people of color, and women, our economic ascent is complicated because it comes with a lot of other baggage,” she says. It does, however, makes for nuanced, compelling crime fiction.

Ross Macdonald was famously obsessed with the long shadows cast by past mistakes and in this issue John Connolly, himself a fine crime writer, offers an insightful look at what he considers to be Macdonald’s crowning achievement, The Chill.

In the aptly-titled “A Talent to Entertain,” Martin Edwards considers the stellar career of Robert Barnard. Barnard, Martin remarks “has a flair for skewering vanities, especially among the English middle-classes.” True enough, and the amused reader will also be treated to fair-play plots of Golden Age complexity.

Every writer has to start somewhere and Larry Block started out in the sex business. He bares all in “Now We Call It Mid-Century Erotica,” the latest installment of his literary memoirs.

Even fictional detection shouldn’t be all work and no play. To that end, Kevin Burton Smith offers “Mystery Fiction Action Figures We’d Like to See.” A fine selection, but where is the Amelia Peabody Action Figure? This indomitable little figure would come with a fully functioning umbrella, a handy tool belt, and a mummy that really walks....

A “MYSTERY WEEK CELEBRATION”
Mark your calendars now for the launch of a “Mystery Week Celebration” from October 13-21, 2012. The Independent Mystery Booksellers Association (IMBA) is launching the new initiative to help its members thank loyal customers and increase awareness of these locally-owned community businesses. Bookstores will have a variety of events, giveaways, and contests to celebrate. We’ll have more details at the Mystery Scene Blog closer to the date, but in the meantime you can check out IMBA, including a handy bookstore list, at <mysterybooksellers.com>.

lugar_organizingcrimeclassicsTIME TO GET ORGANIZED
If you’re having trouble keeping track of all the books you own, may we suggest Organizing Crime Classics: The Mystery Company’s Guide to Timeless Series? This spiralbound guide offers complete booklists, in series order, of over 200 classic mystery series, including Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe, Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct, Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, and Ellis Peter’s Brother Cadfael. I keep this handy little guide with me while visiting bookstores or browsing online. It’s saved me from purchasing duplicates and helped me easily identify the next book I want to read in a series.

Right now, Mystery Scene is offering this book free if you subscribe for three years at $90. You may purchase subscriptions at our website or via mail. We’ll send the book out to all full-price 3-year subscription purchasers. (Renewals will be added to the end of your current subscription.)

There’s lots more in this issue, we hope you enjoy it!

Kate Stine
Editor-in-chief

Teri Duerr
Friday, 04 March 2011 11:03

A talk with Thomas Perry, remembering Reginald Hill, authors John Buchan and Jane Langton, and more.

Outerborough Blues
Betty Webb

Another mystery set in a ruined world is Andrew Cotto’s Outerborough Blues, and that world is the Brooklyn of the 1990s, where black tenants are fighting back against the gentrification about to push them out of their homes. Central to this struggle is Caesar Stiles, a white man who has slowly, lovingly restored a once-ruined brownstone but who now finds himself threatened not only by gangs of vicious adolescents, but by unscrupulous developers. Caesar’s life hasn’t been easy. Descended from an Italian grandmother who came to America to murder the man who jilted her, he has been dogged by a family curse that includes violence and death. All he wants is to be left alone, but when a French girl named Colette asks him to find her disappeared artist brother, his search sets off a series of events that will change his life forever.

The book reads like a legend told over a campfire, filled with stories of Sicilian revenge, epic journeys, and Irish curses. The writing is superb, the story anguished. In his own way, Caesar is another Arthurian knight, a semi-broken man, who against all odds, continues his quest for the Holy Grail even though it may be the death of him. Outerborough Blues is as close to perfect as it gets. If you don’t read this, you’ll be missing one of the finest books to come around in a long, long time.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 01 October 2012 09:10

cotto_outerboroughbluesLike a legend told over a campfire, this mystery set in 1990s Brooklyn is filled with stories of Sicilian revenge, epic journeys, and Irish curses.

Oregon Hill
Betty Webb

Humor, tragedy, and compassion make for an intriguing mix in Howard Owen’s Oregon Hill. Owen, author of moving literary novels (Littlejohn, etc.), here focuses his talent on Willie Black, a crime reporter whose coverage of a Richmond, Virginia murder almost gets him killed. When the decapitated body of a teenage girl is found in a river and her head is mailed to her grieving father, Black suspects there’s something more involved than a one-off sex killing. His editor doesn’t buy it, and neither do the police. When a local loser is arrested sand promptly confesses, everyone is satisfied except Black. Ignoring his editor’s orders, he delves into the girl’s history and her family’s to come up with a reveal that is as shocking as it is perfect.

Owen’s voice here is perfect—casual but pointed. A reporter himself, he delivers up newsroom slang by the bucketful. He’s also deft at revealing the jaundiced eye reporters develop after a few years on the job: “The statehouse beat made me cynical about politicians; night cops just make me cynical about Homo sapiens.” It’s always been Owen’s insightful handling of characters that separates him from the pack. In Littlejohn, the main character was a memory-haunted farmer. In Oregon Hill, we meet Peggy, Black’s stoner mother who’s living with an aging, demented lover; Abe Custalow, a stoic Indian he rescued off the streets and who is now his roommate; and Kate, one of Black’s feisty ex-wives (the wolfish, hard-drinking reporter has several). But the main character of Oregon Hill is the newsroom itself. Like so many newsrooms across the country, it’s dying a slow death, losing reporter after reporter. Willie Black knows the ax will fall on him someday, and like the rest of them, he plans to go out with a drink (or 12) and a skin-flaying wisecrack.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 01 October 2012 09:10

Portrait of a Dead Guy
Betty Webb
Belly laughs are all over the place in Larissa Reinhart’s riotous Portrait of a Dead Guy. Set in a small Georgia town, local artist Cherry Tucker finds herself easel-deep in a murder case when she is commissioned to paint a “coffin portrait” of Dustin Branson, a young man who’s been murdered in the full bloom of his criminal career. Like many artists, Cherry lives in near-penury, so when she finds out another artist is trying to hijack her commission, she breaks into the funeral home to finish the dead man’s portrait first—thus getting the jump on the competition. Instead, she’s caught breaking and entering, and the county sheriff—her uncle—is faced with the prospect of arresting his favorite niece.

The tone of this marvelously cracked book is not unlike Sophie Littlefield’s brilliant A Bad Day for Sorry, as author Reinhart dishes out shovelfuls of ribald humor and mayhem. It takes a rare talent to successfully portray a beer-and-hormone-addled artist as a sympathetic and worthy heroine, but Reinhart pulls it off with tongue-in-cheek panache. Cherry is a loveable riot, whether drooling over the town’s hunky males, defending her dysfunctional family’s honor, or snooping around murder scenes. Southerners (and I am one) know that funerals are often attended by feuding clans and that emotions can run riot. Reinhart upholds that fine old Southern tradition in the funniest scene in a very funny book when a brawl breaks out at Dustin’s memorial service, and the dearly departed is knocked out of his casket to land.... Oh, well, better not give away too much.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 01 October 2012 09:10
reinhart_portraitofadeadguyBelly laughs are all over the place in a riotous murder mystery featuring Georgia artist Cherry Tucker.

Subduction
Betty Webb

Todd Shimoda’s Subduction, illustrated by L.J.C. Shimoda, is not without humor itself, although any novel set on a Japanese island beset by earthquakes is bound to awaken memories of the 2011 tsunami and the nuclear accident at Fukushima. Taking the fall for a more powerful doctor’s screwup, young physician Endo is banished to Maruijima, an isolated island, to treat the elderly inhabitants who refuse to leave even though the island is being torn apart by one earthquake after another. In working with these stubborn holdouts, Endo uncovers an ancient myth and a much more contemporary murder.

The title of the book refers to moving tectonic plates, where one slides under the other, creating earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. But this also describes the human action on the island, where old, deeply held grudges emerge when Mari, a beautiful documentarian, turns her camera on the inhabitants, coaxing them into opening up about their lives. As secrets spill out, tensions rise. At first, Endo doesn’t mind being sniped at as a “foreigner,” but when his friend Aki, a seismologist, is found murdered on a seldomused pathway, he realizes something more serious than displaced hostility is afoot. Subduction is beautifully written. Its complex characters are delicately drawn, and Shimoda’s style is eloquence personified. But Subduction is not only a deeply satisfying read for mystery lovers; with its beautiful design, quality binding and semi-gloss paper, it’s a prize for collectors, too.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 01 October 2012 10:10

Todd Shimoda’s Subduction, illustrated by L.J.C. Shimoda, is not without humor itself, although any novel set on a Japanese island beset by earthquakes is bound to awaken memories of the 2011 tsunami and the nuclear accident at Fukushima. Taking the fall for a more powerful doctor’s screwup, young physician Endo is banished to Maruijima, an isolated island, to treat the elderly inhabitants who refuse to leave even though the island is being torn apart by one earthquake after another. In working with these stubborn holdouts, Endo uncovers an ancient myth and a much more contemporary murder.

The title of the book refers to moving tectonic plates, where one slides under the other, creating earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. But this also describes the human action on the island, where old, deeply held grudges emerge when Mari, a beautiful documentarian, turns her camera on the inhabitants, coaxing them into opening up about their lives. As secrets spill out, tensions rise. At first, Endo doesn’t mind being sniped at as a “foreigner,” but when his friend Aki, a seismologist, is found murdered on a seldomused pathway, he realizes something more serious than displaced hostility is afoot. Subduction is beautifully written. Its complex characters are delicately drawn, and Shimoda’s style is eloquence personified. But Subduction is not only a deeply satisfying read for mystery lovers; with its beautiful design, quality binding and semi-gloss paper, it’s a prize for collectors, too.

The Hanging
Betty Webb

Wendy Hornsby’s The Hanging skips humor for a straight-ahead mystery incorporating academia and the art world when Park Holloway, the much-disliked president of a community college, is found hanging from an art installation. At first, art student Ronald “Sly” Miller, the sculptor of the piece, falls under suspicion because of his disagreement with Holloway. However, once investigative filmmaker Maggie MacGowen enters the action, she discovers that Holloway, a former US congressman, had numerous enemies, as well as a shady past.

The Hanging is at its best when plumbing the depths of academic squabbling, but the plot progresses so slowly that readers desiring more action might lose patience. Still, The Hanging is an enjoyable read, and Maggie MacGowen is a sympathetic, engaging character.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 01 October 2012 10:10

Wendy Hornsby’s The Hanging skips humor for a straight-ahead mystery incorporating academia and the art world when Park Holloway, the much-disliked president of a community college, is found hanging from an art installation. At first, art student Ronald “Sly” Miller, the sculptor of the piece, falls under suspicion because of his disagreement with Holloway. However, once investigative filmmaker Maggie MacGowen enters the action, she discovers that Holloway, a former US congressman, had numerous enemies, as well as a shady past.

The Hanging is at its best when plumbing the depths of academic squabbling, but the plot progresses so slowly that readers desiring more action might lose patience. Still, The Hanging is an enjoyable read, and Maggie MacGowen is a sympathetic, engaging character.

In a Deadly Grind
Lynne Maxwell

In A Deadly Grind, Victoria Hamilton introduces Jaymie Leighton, collector of vintage cookware and cookbooks. When Jaymie and her sister attend a local auction, they outbid their competitors and take home their hard-earned prizes. Jaymie is particularly thrilled to have landed a Hoosier (am I the only one who didn’t know what this is?)—an antique kitchen cabinet accompanied by a grinder, hence the book’s title.

Alas, Jaymie isn’t the only one who covets the Hoosier, as she discovers when a crash awakens her and she stumbles upon a dead body on her porch—and that’s just the beginning. A Deadly Grind is well written and cannily plotted. Most significantly, though, it introduces an intelligent and likable new protagonist who has much to teach us about vintage kitchens and modern life.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 01 October 2012 10:10

In A Deadly Grind, Victoria Hamilton introduces Jaymie Leighton, collector of vintage cookware and cookbooks. When Jaymie and her sister attend a local auction, they outbid their competitors and take home their hard-earned prizes. Jaymie is particularly thrilled to have landed a Hoosier (am I the only one who didn’t know what this is?)—an antique kitchen cabinet accompanied by a grinder, hence the book’s title.

Alas, Jaymie isn’t the only one who covets the Hoosier, as she discovers when a crash awakens her and she stumbles upon a dead body on her porch—and that’s just the beginning. A Deadly Grind is well written and cannily plotted. Most significantly, though, it introduces an intelligent and likable new protagonist who has much to teach us about vintage kitchens and modern life.

The Vegas Knockout
Dick Lochte

This is, as best I can count, the fourth novel to feature Duffy Dombrowski, a likable, big-hearted lug from upstate New York who spends his days as a drug counseling social worker while moonlighting as a heavyweight sparring partner. This unusual occupational combo leads Duffy into situations that are even more unusual, not to mention hilarious and perilous. In The Vegas Knockout, his boss, who despises him, has demanded that he attend a social worker boot camp in the Catskills. But then he is offered a boxer’s dream job—sparring with a world champion heavyweight contender in Las Vegas.

Sending a stand-in to the Borscht Belt, he heads out to Sin City in typical high spirits, accompanied by his faithful sidekick, an empathic basset hound named Al, and four incessantly arguing bar buddies. Naturally, the trip falls a bit shy of his expectations. The contender turns out to be a brutal sadist who likes to damage his opponents; Duffy’s employers are members of the Russian Mafia; his “luxurious suite” is in a second-rate bordello; and there’s a serial killer in town who’s bumping off Mexican boxers and friends of Mexican boxers, like Duffy.

Schreck’s prose places him squarely in the center of the hardboiled-comedy school, sitting to the left of Richard S. Prather and his woozy and boozy adventures of PI Shell Scott and to the right of Tim Dorsey and Laurence Shames with their screwball Florida capers. The Duffy narrated yarn spins out with humor, warmth, and charm to spare, and the author’s reallife experience as both social worker and pugilist add an authenticity to the passages involving his hero’s on-the-job activities, helping to anchor the book’s wilder elements. Reader Jeff Cummings provides a voice in keeping with Duffy’s persona: a bit breezy, with wiseguy elements, but also exhibiting a sentimentality and odd gentility that, in this particular case, work with surprising effectiveness. On top of that, it isn’t every day you find a book that uses a critical basset hound as its moral compass.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 01 October 2012 10:10

schreck_vegasknockoutThe fourth novel to feature Duffy Dombrowski, a likable, big-hearted lug from upstate New York who spends his days as a drug counseling social worker while moonlighting as a heavyweight sparring partner.

Simple
Hilary Daninhirsch

Edgar-nominated writer Kathleen George has crafted another compelling police procedural set in her hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This latest installment features several of George’s well-known recurring characters, including Pittsburgh homicide division police chief Richard Christie, and detectives Colleen Greer and John Potocki, in a story about a wrongly accused man.

Cal Hathaway is a simple man—he lives on his own in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh and supports himself as a handyman. His mother, Elinor, is a longtime housekeeper for Michael Connolly, a prominent Pittsburgh lawyer running for governor. So when Cassie Price, a beautiful young law student who works as a legal assistant for Michael (and who is having an affair with him), needs some help around her place, she hires Cal. Cassie is found murdered in her apartment, though, and a confused and exhausted Cal falsely confesses and is arrested—though the reader already knows what has really happened.

The novel gives the reader glimpses into Michael Connolly’s home and work life, into the details of the investigation, and most interestingly, into Cal’s experiences in prison. Even though the reader knows the truth from the beginning, watching the Pittsburgh homicide division gradually piece together the puzzle is an enjoyable part of the journey. George is skilled at creating authentic characters, and has a knack for writing true-to-silife conversational dialogue.

The undercurrents of the story delve into the realm of politics, loyalties, and the intricacies of personal and professional relationships. While Pittsburghers will love the descriptions of familiar neighborhoods and locales, you don’t need to be a Steel City native to appreciate this book.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 03 October 2012 08:10

Edgar-nominated writer Kathleen George has crafted another compelling police procedural set in her hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This latest installment features several of George’s well-known recurring characters, including Pittsburgh homicide division police chief Richard Christie, and detectives Colleen Greer and John Potocki, in a story about a wrongly accused man.

Cal Hathaway is a simple man—he lives on his own in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh and supports himself as a handyman. His mother, Elinor, is a longtime housekeeper for Michael Connolly, a prominent Pittsburgh lawyer running for governor. So when Cassie Price, a beautiful young law student who works as a legal assistant for Michael (and who is having an affair with him), needs some help around her place, she hires Cal. Cassie is found murdered in her apartment, though, and a confused and exhausted Cal falsely confesses and is arrested—though the reader already knows what has really happened.

The novel gives the reader glimpses into Michael Connolly’s home and work life, into the details of the investigation, and most interestingly, into Cal’s experiences in prison. Even though the reader knows the truth from the beginning, watching the Pittsburgh homicide division gradually piece together the puzzle is an enjoyable part of the journey. George is skilled at creating authentic characters, and has a knack for writing true-to-silife conversational dialogue.

The undercurrents of the story delve into the realm of politics, loyalties, and the intricacies of personal and professional relationships. While Pittsburghers will love the descriptions of familiar neighborhoods and locales, you don’t need to be a Steel City native to appreciate this book.

The Hot Country
Joseph Scarpato, Jr.

When I first started reading this novel, I must admit, I was a little disappointed. It isn’t a true murder mystery, which is my usual fare. Instead, it is a thriller involving an intrepid newspaperman/war correspondent, set in the strife-torn Mexico of 1914. In it, the United States has just sent troops to invade Vera Cruz, while rebel bands around the country, including Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, wage a civil war against the dictatorship of President Huerta (the Jackal).

However, early on, as newspaperman Christopher Cobb begins following a shadowy figure who surreptitiously left a German supply ship in Vera Cruz harbor and snuck into the German Embassy, I became intrigued. And I must admit, as the story progressed, I found myself enjoying The Hot Country greatly. As Cobb tracks the mystery man to Pancho Villa territory, events reveal ever-greater historical import and connections, which raises the ante before the story explodes into a fast-moving, slambang ending.

Robert Olen Butler is a Pulitzer Prize winner and a hell of a writer. His style is a cross between Ernest Hemingway and Mickey Spillane. In addition to the hard-hitting, mile-a-minute prose, Butler takes the reader into the mind of Cobb who, for the first time in his life, finds himself a participant in a war and not just an observer. Along the way, he meets a number of unforgettable characters who stay with you long after the story is done. Viva Robert Olen Butler!

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 03 October 2012 09:10

butler_hotcountryHard-hitting, mile-a-minute prose makes this historical thriller set in 1914 Mexico an excellent read.

Big Maria
Hank Wagner

If you thought Big Maria was the moniker of a character in Johnny Shaw’s second novel, well, you’d be wrong. It’s actually the name of an abandoned gold mine, one with its own bona fide legend attached. The mine, it seems, is the repository of 80 pounds of ill-gotten gold, the sad legacy of thief Abraham Constance. In his second novel, Shaw tells the arresting story of three misfits who band together to seek that gold, despite formidable odds. There’s drunken loser Harry, who is both the mascot and brains of the outfit. Then there’s Native American Frank, a senior citizen in precarious health. Finally, there’s Ricky, who, if it weren’t for bad luck, would have none at all. After fate and circumstance throw them together, they pool their limited resources and embark on a grand adventure, one full of hilarity, but also deadly danger.

This is one you’ll soon be recommending to your friends. It’s lighthearted but not lightweight, funny as hell but never frivolous. Shaw writes like the bastard son of Donald Westlake and Richard Stark: There’s crime, and criminals, but there’s also a deep vein of good humor that makes Shaw’s writing sparkle. Combine that with his talent for creating memorable characters (the supporting cast, including a mute, severed head, often threatens to steal the show), and you get one of the best reads in recent memory, an adventure story that might just make you mist up every once and awhile, especially during the book’s moving finale.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 03 October 2012 09:10

shaw_bigmariaShaw writes like the bastard son of Donald Westlake and Richard Stark.

Hide & Snoop
Sue Emmons

Feisty and funny, wisecracking Odelia Grey returns for a seventh outing in Hide & Snoop. The robust paralegal fears her job is in jeopardy after her law firm merges with another, introducing her to a new boss, Erica Mayfield, who seemingly is bent on putting Odelia on the downsize list. Determined to hang on to her job, Odelia angrily submits when Mayfield orders her to babysit her three-year-old adopted niece, Lily, whose mother has disappeared.

Then, so does Erica.

With no other choice, Odelia and her husband, wheelchair-bound entrepreneur Greg Stevens, take the child into their home and soon find themselves delighted by her antics. But the outraged Odelia still seeks to find Erica and goes to her home hoping to find her, only to discover the bloody body of the child’s mother.

The ensuing investigation places Odelia deeper and deeper in danger as she tangles with wily colleagues, uncovers an illegal adoption ring, and begins to suspect that someone is trying to kill her to protect the scam. Sue Ann Jaffarian’s humor, sometimes subtle and sometimes side-splitting, is the major plus in this mystery. Odelia’s insights into the complexities of office infighting are keen, no surprise since the author works as a paralegal in Los Angeles when not busy writing about Odelia Grey, or writing her other two mystery series, Ghost of Granny Apples and the Madison Rose Vampire series. Followers of Odelia will be pleased to hear that her series has been optioned for television.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 03 October 2012 09:10

Feisty and funny, wisecracking Odelia Grey returns for a seventh outing in Hide & Snoop. The robust paralegal fears her job is in jeopardy after her law firm merges with another, introducing her to a new boss, Erica Mayfield, who seemingly is bent on putting Odelia on the downsize list. Determined to hang on to her job, Odelia angrily submits when Mayfield orders her to babysit her three-year-old adopted niece, Lily, whose mother has disappeared.

Then, so does Erica.

With no other choice, Odelia and her husband, wheelchair-bound entrepreneur Greg Stevens, take the child into their home and soon find themselves delighted by her antics. But the outraged Odelia still seeks to find Erica and goes to her home hoping to find her, only to discover the bloody body of the child’s mother.

The ensuing investigation places Odelia deeper and deeper in danger as she tangles with wily colleagues, uncovers an illegal adoption ring, and begins to suspect that someone is trying to kill her to protect the scam. Sue Ann Jaffarian’s humor, sometimes subtle and sometimes side-splitting, is the major plus in this mystery. Odelia’s insights into the complexities of office infighting are keen, no surprise since the author works as a paralegal in Los Angeles when not busy writing about Odelia Grey, or writing her other two mystery series, Ghost of Granny Apples and the Madison Rose Vampire series. Followers of Odelia will be pleased to hear that her series has been optioned for television.

Sacrifice Fly
M. Schlecht

Tim O’Mara’s debut introduces former NYPD officer Raymond Donne, now a public school teacher with a pair of bad knees and one missing student, Frankie Rivas. Donne left the force due to his injuries but it’s clear he’s got a little sleuth juice left in his system. When he checks on Rivas’ apartment at Roberto Clemente Plaza in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, he finds the kid’s father dead and no sign of Frankie or his sister.

Much of Sacrifice Fly illustrates Donne’s struggle to leave his past behind, especially as he impersonates an officer while investigating Frankie’s disappearance and sticks his unwanted nose back into police headquarters. Donne has his students reading Whitman in class, but he’s still the kind of meathead who can be provoked to fight outside the local dive bar with a drunk former colleague on the force. Or let a chat with Frankie’s baseball coach turn into a nearassault. He’s a believable Brooklyn-via-Long Island guy with his deli coffee, crossword puzzles, and thoughts of “beer, baseball and bed,” but he’s also a bit of a boor.

Still, some will find Donne’s stubborn dedication to one of his students likeable enough, and O’Mara’s few-and-far-between action scenes, from the Williamsburg Bridge to the shadows of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, are as satisfying as a slice of pizza on an exhaust-choked sidewalk. Sacrifice Fly is a serviceable first novel that doesn’t exactly hit it out of the park, but it’s close enough to score.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 03 October 2012 09:10

Tim O’Mara’s debut introduces former NYPD officer Raymond Donne, now a public school teacher with a pair of bad knees and one missing student, Frankie Rivas. Donne left the force due to his injuries but it’s clear he’s got a little sleuth juice left in his system. When he checks on Rivas’ apartment at Roberto Clemente Plaza in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, he finds the kid’s father dead and no sign of Frankie or his sister.

Much of Sacrifice Fly illustrates Donne’s struggle to leave his past behind, especially as he impersonates an officer while investigating Frankie’s disappearance and sticks his unwanted nose back into police headquarters. Donne has his students reading Whitman in class, but he’s still the kind of meathead who can be provoked to fight outside the local dive bar with a drunk former colleague on the force. Or let a chat with Frankie’s baseball coach turn into a nearassault. He’s a believable Brooklyn-via-Long Island guy with his deli coffee, crossword puzzles, and thoughts of “beer, baseball and bed,” but he’s also a bit of a boor.

Still, some will find Donne’s stubborn dedication to one of his students likeable enough, and O’Mara’s few-and-far-between action scenes, from the Williamsburg Bridge to the shadows of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, are as satisfying as a slice of pizza on an exhaust-choked sidewalk. Sacrifice Fly is a serviceable first novel that doesn’t exactly hit it out of the park, but it’s close enough to score.

Kept in the Dark
Hilary Daninhirsch

Kept in the Dark is an anxiety-provoking glimpse into the mind of a madwoman. Originally published in the UK as Tideline, it is the story of Sonia, a middle-aged married woman who lives in a home overlooking the Thames River in England. On the surface, Sonia is a typical housewife, mother, and career woman (she has an at-home business as a voice trainer). One day, her friend’s visiting teenage nephew comes to her house to borrow some music. Jez reminds Sonia so strongly of a lost someone from her past that something compels her to keep Jez with her—forcibly. As she gets deeper and deeper into her situation, Sonia’s actions and rationale for the kidnapping become convoluted, perhaps even to herself, while she struggles to continue painting a normal picture for the rest of the world.

The story weaves back in time as the author gradually lets Sonia’s childhood tragedy unfold for the reader, shedding light on the darker aspects of Sonia’s psyche and foreshadowing how it will all end.

The most chilling facet of this well-paced novel is the author’s use of the first-person narrative. The criminal as a narrator is a literary device not often used in crime fiction, and it is employed quite effectively in this case. Reminiscent of Stephen King’s Misery, Kept in the Dark is as fascinating as it is thrilling.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 03 October 2012 09:10

Kept in the Dark is an anxiety-provoking glimpse into the mind of a madwoman. Originally published in the UK as Tideline, it is the story of Sonia, a middle-aged married woman who lives in a home overlooking the Thames River in England. On the surface, Sonia is a typical housewife, mother, and career woman (she has an at-home business as a voice trainer). One day, her friend’s visiting teenage nephew comes to her house to borrow some music. Jez reminds Sonia so strongly of a lost someone from her past that something compels her to keep Jez with her—forcibly. As she gets deeper and deeper into her situation, Sonia’s actions and rationale for the kidnapping become convoluted, perhaps even to herself, while she struggles to continue painting a normal picture for the rest of the world.

The story weaves back in time as the author gradually lets Sonia’s childhood tragedy unfold for the reader, shedding light on the darker aspects of Sonia’s psyche and foreshadowing how it will all end.

The most chilling facet of this well-paced novel is the author’s use of the first-person narrative. The criminal as a narrator is a literary device not often used in crime fiction, and it is employed quite effectively in this case. Reminiscent of Stephen King’s Misery, Kept in the Dark is as fascinating as it is thrilling.

You Don’t Want to Know
Sue Emmons

Bestselling author Lisa Jackson again proves herself a master of gothic suspense in this newest thriller. Surrounded by suspects on an island off the coast of Washington state, Ava Garrison blames herself for the death of her two-year-old son, Noah, although she has no memory of the event and the child’s body was never found. Shortly after his disappearance, the nightmares begin, flashing visions of her child and the sound of his cries. Her night terrors have driven away her handsome but conniving lawyer husband. Meanwhile, friends, relatives, and family retainers rally in concert to calm her fears, but Ava soon wonders if they are telling all they know. Even her new lover, a studly stable hand who saves her from drowning, may have his own hidden agenda.

In an act of desperation, Ava stops taking the medications prescribed by her therapist. Just as her awareness slowly begins to return, she finds herself a suspect in a series of gruesome murders—killings of which she again has absolutely no recollection. Ava comes to suspect all of those closest to her as she begins her quest to uncover a murderous adversary.

Lisa Jackson lives up to her reputation as a virtuoso of mystery, providing readers with suspects galore, motives real and unreal, psychological complexity, jolting revelations, and a blockbuster windup. Her legions of fans will welcome this tale centering on the travails of a young mother longing for her lost son and trapped in a murky world where someone may be bent on forcing her to take her own life.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 03 October 2012 09:10

Bestselling author Lisa Jackson again proves herself a master of gothic suspense in this newest thriller. Surrounded by suspects on an island off the coast of Washington state, Ava Garrison blames herself for the death of her two-year-old son, Noah, although she has no memory of the event and the child’s body was never found. Shortly after his disappearance, the nightmares begin, flashing visions of her child and the sound of his cries. Her night terrors have driven away her handsome but conniving lawyer husband. Meanwhile, friends, relatives, and family retainers rally in concert to calm her fears, but Ava soon wonders if they are telling all they know. Even her new lover, a studly stable hand who saves her from drowning, may have his own hidden agenda.

In an act of desperation, Ava stops taking the medications prescribed by her therapist. Just as her awareness slowly begins to return, she finds herself a suspect in a series of gruesome murders—killings of which she again has absolutely no recollection. Ava comes to suspect all of those closest to her as she begins her quest to uncover a murderous adversary.

Lisa Jackson lives up to her reputation as a virtuoso of mystery, providing readers with suspects galore, motives real and unreal, psychological complexity, jolting revelations, and a blockbuster windup. Her legions of fans will welcome this tale centering on the travails of a young mother longing for her lost son and trapped in a murky world where someone may be bent on forcing her to take her own life.

Paradise City
Sue Emmons

The newest procedural featuring Joe Gunther and his crew from the Vermont Bureau of Investigation (VBI) exceeds already high expectations for Archer Mayor, the series creator. From murder on Beacon Hill in Boston to the more mundane backstreets of “Paradise City” (Northampton, Massachusetts), this tale of treachery and murder gives readers great characters and cheeky dialog, while keeping us guessing.

he VBI are investigating a web of criminal conspiracy that stretches across state lines when a series of Massachusets burglaries involving antiques and expensive jewelry stolen alongside items of scant apparent value link to a series of break-ins and an arson in Vermont. Joining Gunther’s trusty team of veteran detectives to crack the case are the determined niece of the 90-year-old murder victim, and a dogged Boston detective. Following the trail of stolen items, this diverse group soon assembles in Paradise City for an explosive finale.

Mayor spins his story from the varied viewpoints of his colorful characters, ranging from the police to the criminals, and nicely switches between male and female voices. This well-executed mystery gives readers vivid, true-to-life descriptions of law enforcement, without sugarcoating its failures or over-simplifying the humanity of those on the job.

The author has a wealth of experience on which to base his characters: Mayor has been on the front lines of criminal investigations as a deputy sheriff, a death investigator for the Vermont Chief Medical Examiner, and an investigator for the Windham County attorney’s office. He has also served as a volunteer firefighter/EMT. This is the 23rd book featuring Joe Gunther in a series that is overdue for a TV version à la Robert B. Parker’s detective Jesse Stone.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 03 October 2012 09:10

The newest procedural featuring Joe Gunther and his crew from the Vermont Bureau of Investigation (VBI) exceeds already high expectations for Archer Mayor, the series creator. From murder on Beacon Hill in Boston to the more mundane backstreets of “Paradise City” (Northampton, Massachusetts), this tale of treachery and murder gives readers great characters and cheeky dialog, while keeping us guessing.

he VBI are investigating a web of criminal conspiracy that stretches across state lines when a series of Massachusets burglaries involving antiques and expensive jewelry stolen alongside items of scant apparent value link to a series of break-ins and an arson in Vermont. Joining Gunther’s trusty team of veteran detectives to crack the case are the determined niece of the 90-year-old murder victim, and a dogged Boston detective. Following the trail of stolen items, this diverse group soon assembles in Paradise City for an explosive finale.

Mayor spins his story from the varied viewpoints of his colorful characters, ranging from the police to the criminals, and nicely switches between male and female voices. This well-executed mystery gives readers vivid, true-to-life descriptions of law enforcement, without sugarcoating its failures or over-simplifying the humanity of those on the job.

The author has a wealth of experience on which to base his characters: Mayor has been on the front lines of criminal investigations as a deputy sheriff, a death investigator for the Vermont Chief Medical Examiner, and an investigator for the Windham County attorney’s office. He has also served as a volunteer firefighter/EMT. This is the 23rd book featuring Joe Gunther in a series that is overdue for a TV version à la Robert B. Parker’s detective Jesse Stone.

Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen
Bob Smith

Was hair stylist Lynn Ashton murdered because someone was having a bad hair day? Or was it because she was dating just about every male in town and maybe dabbling in a little blackmail on the side? It is up to Sheriff Dan Rhodes to sift through the clues, both the real and the red-herring kind, to track down the murderer.

Rhodes believes he is making progress when he has some run-ins with a couple of illegal itinerants who are responsible for a number of copper wire burglaries in the county; but when another murder occurs, he is back to square one and looking for a villain much closer to home.

There are many factors that contribute to the pleasure and popularity of Crider’s Dan Rhodes series—writing that flows easily, a sense of fun, puzzling mysteries, interesting characters, and, at the head of the list, Dan Rhodes himself. Although no Sherlock, Rhodes is a shrewd observer of human nature with a quick wit and a keen intelligence. Here he deals with not only the locals of Blacklin County, Texas, but also Mafia henchmen, illegals, and even pesky feral hogs (see Rhodes’ preceding outing The Wild Hog Murders). Does this latest book hold up to its predecessors? Not only yes, but hell yes! Start it and you won’t rest until you close it.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 03 October 2012 09:10

Was hair stylist Lynn Ashton murdered because someone was having a bad hair day? Or was it because she was dating just about every male in town and maybe dabbling in a little blackmail on the side? It is up to Sheriff Dan Rhodes to sift through the clues, both the real and the red-herring kind, to track down the murderer.

Rhodes believes he is making progress when he has some run-ins with a couple of illegal itinerants who are responsible for a number of copper wire burglaries in the county; but when another murder occurs, he is back to square one and looking for a villain much closer to home.

There are many factors that contribute to the pleasure and popularity of Crider’s Dan Rhodes series—writing that flows easily, a sense of fun, puzzling mysteries, interesting characters, and, at the head of the list, Dan Rhodes himself. Although no Sherlock, Rhodes is a shrewd observer of human nature with a quick wit and a keen intelligence. Here he deals with not only the locals of Blacklin County, Texas, but also Mafia henchmen, illegals, and even pesky feral hogs (see Rhodes’ preceding outing The Wild Hog Murders). Does this latest book hold up to its predecessors? Not only yes, but hell yes! Start it and you won’t rest until you close it.

Angel With a Bullet
Oline H. Cogdill

Dixie Flynn’s wisecracking attitude and unshakable tenacity are traits she puts to use daily as a reporter for NOW, San Francisco’s top alternative weekly. She’s knowledgeable about the city’s various neighborhoods, as well as many of the city’s eligible men—seeing as she’s dated quite a few.

So when former lover and rising artist Diego Chino commits suicide in his apartment, Dixie doesn’t believe the tableau that’s set up a little too perfectly. Dixie remembers Diego as being too arrogant and self-centered to take his own life. She’s even more suspicious when an art expert, who represents several high-profile collectors, arrives to cart away Diego’s latest work—while the police are still at the crime scene. Although the San Francisco cops mark the death as a suicide and her editor tells her to back off the story (because the newspaper doesn’t cover suicides), Dixie plunges into her own investigation, maneuvering through a chaotic art world where she finds double-crossing gallery owners and rampant counterfeiting.

Dixie’s sass and humor provide a lively beginning to Angel With a Bullet by M.C. Grant, the pseudonym of Scottish writer Grant McKenzie, but the author doesn’t know when to rein in his heroine. She foolishly shows up at remote buildings without telling anyone where she’s going, including her good friend, Detective Sergeant Frank Fury. And the backdrop of San Francisco devolves into cliché. Still, Dixie amuses readers with her self-deprecating wit and her spot-on thoughts about journalism and the changes in newspapers.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 03 October 2012 09:10

grant_angelwithabulletReporter Dixie Flynn's’s sass and humor provide a lively beginning to this San Francisco-based series.

The Crime of Julian Wells
Betty Webb

Since Julian Wells committed suicide—we see him do it in the introductory chapter—The Crime of Julian Wells is more of a whydunit than a whodunit. Yes, there are murders and intrigues galore here, but most are the serial killings and war crimes that Julian, a true crime writer, covered during his long, painful, and ultimately not all that lucrative career. Tortures by the Argentinean junta, cannibalism in Russia, entire villages wiped out by Nazis in Occupied France—Julian wrote about them all in his books without batting an eye. At least that’s what his associates thought.

Bewildered and grieving, Philip Anders, Julian’s closest friend, sets off on a global journey through these unhappy scenes of past crimes in order to find out which encounter may have sparked his friend’s sudden suicide. The technique of using a naive narrator is particularly engaging here as Philip tracks his friend’s footsteps into what Joseph Conrad called “the heart of darkness.” Cook’s writing is quiet and controlled; it also serves as a fine contrast against the horrors he eventually uncovers. We see Philip wondering, after all the grisly scenes he discovers, why his deceased friend considered deceit by a woman to be a bigger sin against humanity than all the acts of a depraved war criminal. The bewildered Philip can’t make sense of this conundrum, and until the end, neither can we. Deeply psychological, The Crime of Julian Wells reminds us that we can never truly know anyone, no matter how close to us they are. The horrors described in this book become even more horrific when the author appears to hint that anyone—especially a starry-eyed idealist—can wind up committing atrocities.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 03 October 2012 09:10

Since Julian Wells committed suicide—we see him do it in the introductory chapter—The Crime of Julian Wells is more of a whydunit than a whodunit. Yes, there are murders and intrigues galore here, but most are the serial killings and war crimes that Julian, a true crime writer, covered during his long, painful, and ultimately not all that lucrative career. Tortures by the Argentinean junta, cannibalism in Russia, entire villages wiped out by Nazis in Occupied France—Julian wrote about them all in his books without batting an eye. At least that’s what his associates thought.

Bewildered and grieving, Philip Anders, Julian’s closest friend, sets off on a global journey through these unhappy scenes of past crimes in order to find out which encounter may have sparked his friend’s sudden suicide. The technique of using a naive narrator is particularly engaging here as Philip tracks his friend’s footsteps into what Joseph Conrad called “the heart of darkness.” Cook’s writing is quiet and controlled; it also serves as a fine contrast against the horrors he eventually uncovers. We see Philip wondering, after all the grisly scenes he discovers, why his deceased friend considered deceit by a woman to be a bigger sin against humanity than all the acts of a depraved war criminal. The bewildered Philip can’t make sense of this conundrum, and until the end, neither can we. Deeply psychological, The Crime of Julian Wells reminds us that we can never truly know anyone, no matter how close to us they are. The horrors described in this book become even more horrific when the author appears to hint that anyone—especially a starry-eyed idealist—can wind up committing atrocities.

The Cocktail Waitress
Kevin Burton Smith

If James M. Cain was standing here right now in front of me, I’d smack him right in the mouth. The ending to this, his long-lost (and last) noirish melodrama has an ending so mean-spirited and casually cruel that I felt like hitting something. Or someone. The saddest irony, though, may be that younger noir fans may not even “get” it, and that older fans, hardened by years of everincreasing violence and shock tactics of so much contemporary “noir” may be too calloused to care. Or notice. But trust me: The trick “gotcha” at the end hit me at a level usually reserved for invasive surgery.

Alas, it’s also one of the few truly effective moments in this uneven, troubled book, diligently and respectfully patched together from numerous, often undated drafts by Hard Case Crime editor Charles Ardai. The book was still being worked on when Cain died in 1977, but it seems caught in a strange temporal limbo, juggling me-decade frankness—where female sexual response is clearly, if clinically, evoked—with fifties-era sexual reticence, where men are men, women worry about which little hat to wear to which function, and bedroom doors stay shut, barricaded by euphemisms.

It all starts out like a Springsteen song: a young girl, an unwanted pregnancy, a shotgun wedding, an abusive husband, and, finally, a wreck on the highway. But for sudden widow, single mom, and narrator Joan, it’s only the beginning. Penniless, she reluctantly agrees to let her not-quite-right sisterin-law, Ethel, take care of her young son, Tad, while she looks for work. A friendly cop’s lead points to The Garden of Roses, a local joint where scantily clad waitresses offer food, drink, and cleavage. Joan fits the costume and fits right in, and with regular pay coming in (plus tips) she starts to dream of getting Tad back. She also finds herself caught between the attentions of two of her new “regulars”: young handsome Tom, a slick go-getter with big plans of his own, and Earl K. White, III, a lonely, elderly businessman who becomes obsessed with Joan.

Fans of Cain’s classic novels will recognize many of his familiar tropes: lust, class tensions, sham marriages, tawdry moral leaps, desperate ambition, and, of course, murder. But this latter work seems less like a greatest hits album and more like a collection of vivid outtakes; important historically but not quite up to Cain’s best work.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 03 October 2012 09:10

If James M. Cain was standing here right now in front of me, I’d smack him right in the mouth. The ending to this, his long-lost (and last) noirish melodrama has an ending so mean-spirited and casually cruel that I felt like hitting something. Or someone. The saddest irony, though, may be that younger noir fans may not even “get” it, and that older fans, hardened by years of everincreasing violence and shock tactics of so much contemporary “noir” may be too calloused to care. Or notice. But trust me: The trick “gotcha” at the end hit me at a level usually reserved for invasive surgery.

Alas, it’s also one of the few truly effective moments in this uneven, troubled book, diligently and respectfully patched together from numerous, often undated drafts by Hard Case Crime editor Charles Ardai. The book was still being worked on when Cain died in 1977, but it seems caught in a strange temporal limbo, juggling me-decade frankness—where female sexual response is clearly, if clinically, evoked—with fifties-era sexual reticence, where men are men, women worry about which little hat to wear to which function, and bedroom doors stay shut, barricaded by euphemisms.

It all starts out like a Springsteen song: a young girl, an unwanted pregnancy, a shotgun wedding, an abusive husband, and, finally, a wreck on the highway. But for sudden widow, single mom, and narrator Joan, it’s only the beginning. Penniless, she reluctantly agrees to let her not-quite-right sisterin-law, Ethel, take care of her young son, Tad, while she looks for work. A friendly cop’s lead points to The Garden of Roses, a local joint where scantily clad waitresses offer food, drink, and cleavage. Joan fits the costume and fits right in, and with regular pay coming in (plus tips) she starts to dream of getting Tad back. She also finds herself caught between the attentions of two of her new “regulars”: young handsome Tom, a slick go-getter with big plans of his own, and Earl K. White, III, a lonely, elderly businessman who becomes obsessed with Joan.

Fans of Cain’s classic novels will recognize many of his familiar tropes: lust, class tensions, sham marriages, tawdry moral leaps, desperate ambition, and, of course, murder. But this latter work seems less like a greatest hits album and more like a collection of vivid outtakes; important historically but not quite up to Cain’s best work.

Blood Line
Hilary Daninhirsch

How do you investigate a murder when you’re not even sure that a murder was committed? Or even know the true identity of the possible murder victim? That’s the dilemma faced by Anna Travis in British TV writer and novelist Lynda La Plante’s newest police procedural, the seventh in the series. This time, Travis is in charge of the investigation, having been promoted to detective chief inspector (DCI).

Alan Rawlins has disappeared from the London flat he shares with his girlfriend, Tina Brooks. After several weeks, Rawlins’ father reports him as missing, and the case initially goes to the Missing Persons division. But a hidden trail of blood prompts Travis to open a murder investigation, despite the misgivings of her boss and former lover, Detective Chief Superintendent James Langton. Complicating an already difficult job is the pressure to wrap things up because of the lack of a body and evidence, and her residual grief over the recent death of her fiancé.

The book, while absorbing, takes a while to get going, as the investigation seems to dead-end frequently. However, it’s certainly worth sticking with as Travis and her team gradually chisel out the truth. First-time readers may find it helpful to pick up a few earlier books in the series, as this book makes frequent references to previous cases and relationships between characters.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 03 October 2012 09:10

laplante_bloodlineDCI Anna Travis is back in the seventh police procedural in the series.

The Three-Day Affair
Oline H. Cogdill

Some friendships are unshakable. Often forged during formative times, these bonds survive the years and often flourish without daily contact. Haven’t seen your college roommate in ages? All you need is a few minutes and it’s like old times, as Michael Kardos shows in his inventive and entertaining debut.

Will Walker has that kind of friendship with college buddies Nolan Albright, Jeffrey Hocks, and Evan Wolff. The four are meeting for their nine-year reunion at Will’s house in New Jersey. The years have been good for Nolan, who is running for the US House of Representatives in Missouri; Jeff, a California Internet millionaire; and Evan, who’s about to make partner at his New York law firm. Though happily married and getting ready for parenthood, Will, however, is still struggling financially, working at a small recording studio.

Although Evan can’t make it, the other three have a great day playing golf and, over dinner, Nolan and Jeffrey agree to invest in Will’s plan to start a small record label. Their “shared past was the anchor” that holds them together, says Will. But he also believes that their friendship needs “periodic injections of the now.”

But “the now” that happens isn’t what Will planned. The three stop at a convenience store so Jeffrey can pick up cigarettes. Suddenly, Jeffrey is dragging out a young woman, pushing her into the car, and yelling at Will to drive. Within minutes these ordinary, upstanding Princeton graduates have turned into kidnappers and, unknown to them, assisted Jeffrey in robbing the store. Now what do they do? Do they let her go, knowing she will call the police? Or do they make a more grisly decision? The choices each make over the next three days will determine their futures.

Kardos, author of the short story collection One Last Good Time, explores the friends’ moral dilemma with the precision of a surgeon as each man learns what kind of person he is.

The Three-Day Affair is the first time the newly relaunched Mysterious Press has published a debut novel and it promises to be an auspicious beginning; The Three-Day Affair will make many best-of-the-year lists.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 03 October 2012 09:10

kardos_three-dayaffairA debut novel sure to make the best-of-the-year lists.