Mind Scrambler
Bob Smith

Magicians and mystery writers have much in common--they present complex puzzles but try to distract us from solving them--magicians with lovely assistants and writers with red herrings. Chris Grabenstein tackles both magic and murder in his latest John Ceepak mystery, Mind Scrambler, and succeeds in baffling and entertaining us while exploring, but never spoiling, a few tricks of both trades.

Ceepak and partner, Danny Boyle, away from police duties at Sea Haven, New Jersey, are in Atlantic City to obtain a deposition. Danny runs into Katie, his high school sweetheart who is working as a nanny to the children of prestidigitator Richard Rock, star attraction at the hotel/casino where they are staying. Katie is obviously frightened and asks for help, but before they can find out what is wrong she is murdered and it is up to Ceepak and Danny to find the killer. Easier said than done since they are dealing with masters of illusion. Was Katie having an affair with one of the dancers in the show? Was Rock's big number more than just a trick with mirrors? Are other magicians trying to steal his secrets and would they murder to get them? Will Ceepak's code of honor guide them through the maze of lies and deceits that seem to stonewall their investigation? More murders follow before Ceepak is able to see past all the trickery and corner a vicious killer. Grabenstein proves that in the hands of a real pro, the combination of mystery and magic can result in a sure winner.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

Magicians and mystery writers have much in common--they present complex puzzles but try to distract us from solving them--magicians with lovely assistants and writers with red herrings. Chris Grabenstein tackles both magic and murder in his latest John Ceepak mystery, Mind Scrambler, and succeeds in baffling and entertaining us while exploring, but never spoiling, a few tricks of both trades.

Ceepak and partner, Danny Boyle, away from police duties at Sea Haven, New Jersey, are in Atlantic City to obtain a deposition. Danny runs into Katie, his high school sweetheart who is working as a nanny to the children of prestidigitator Richard Rock, star attraction at the hotel/casino where they are staying. Katie is obviously frightened and asks for help, but before they can find out what is wrong she is murdered and it is up to Ceepak and Danny to find the killer. Easier said than done since they are dealing with masters of illusion. Was Katie having an affair with one of the dancers in the show? Was Rock's big number more than just a trick with mirrors? Are other magicians trying to steal his secrets and would they murder to get them? Will Ceepak's code of honor guide them through the maze of lies and deceits that seem to stonewall their investigation? More murders follow before Ceepak is able to see past all the trickery and corner a vicious killer. Grabenstein proves that in the hands of a real pro, the combination of mystery and magic can result in a sure winner.

Murder on Waverly Place
Helen Francini

Sarah Brandt, a midwife in late Victorian New York, is a pragmatist and realist. When her mother, a doyenne of New York's high society, goes to a medium to contact a daughter who had died years earlier, Sarah remains skeptical. When one of the attendees gets killed during a seance, Sarah joins forces with her friend, Detective Sergeant Frank Molloy of the New York City police, to solve the murder case and keep her mother's name out of the press.

In addition to the mystery, Murder on Waverly Place, is a commentary on class difference in turn-of-the-century New York. The medium with whom Mrs. Decker is involved comes from a poor Italian immigrant family, and all of her clients belong to the city's upper crust. It also contains plenty of fascinating information on the subtle clues and tricks used to persuade trusting people that they are in contact with their dead loved ones. And although he never makes an appearance himself in the book, the information about the career of a certain US President (before he became president) is also fun.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

Sarah Brandt, a midwife in late Victorian New York, is a pragmatist and realist. When her mother, a doyenne of New York's high society, goes to a medium to contact a daughter who had died years earlier, Sarah remains skeptical. When one of the attendees gets killed during a seance, Sarah joins forces with her friend, Detective Sergeant Frank Molloy of the New York City police, to solve the murder case and keep her mother's name out of the press.

In addition to the mystery, Murder on Waverly Place, is a commentary on class difference in turn-of-the-century New York. The medium with whom Mrs. Decker is involved comes from a poor Italian immigrant family, and all of her clients belong to the city's upper crust. It also contains plenty of fascinating information on the subtle clues and tricks used to persuade trusting people that they are in contact with their dead loved ones. And although he never makes an appearance himself in the book, the information about the career of a certain US President (before he became president) is also fun.

Name to a Face
Oline H. Cogdill

Tim Harding has been asked by Barry Tozer, a wealthy client and friend, to buy an antique ring from an eccentric uncle's estate sale in West Cornwall. The task should be simple, allowing Harding to quickly get back to his landscaping business in picturesque Monaco, and his affair with Barry's wife.

But Harding is distracted from his errand by Hayley Winter, the late uncle's young, and quite mysterious, housekeeper. Harding is positive he's seen Hayley before, but he can't remember when or where, and she gives no indication they've ever met. Hayley bears a striking resemblance to a reporter who died more than a decade ago during a suspicious diving accident with Barry. But Hayley insists it's only a coincidence and denies having known the woman.

Harding's trip to the West Cornwall resort town soon falls apart. The heirloom ring is stolen. Hayley disappears and Harding begins to suspect that Barry may have been responsible for at least one death.

British author Goddard skillfully weaves a complex tale that begins subtly and quietly as it builds to an inspired crescendo, all the while managing to showcase the myriad settings from Monaco to a British resort town to Germany.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

Tim Harding has been asked by Barry Tozer, a wealthy client and friend, to buy an antique ring from an eccentric uncle's estate sale in West Cornwall. The task should be simple, allowing Harding to quickly get back to his landscaping business in picturesque Monaco, and his affair with Barry's wife.

But Harding is distracted from his errand by Hayley Winter, the late uncle's young, and quite mysterious, housekeeper. Harding is positive he's seen Hayley before, but he can't remember when or where, and she gives no indication they've ever met. Hayley bears a striking resemblance to a reporter who died more than a decade ago during a suspicious diving accident with Barry. But Hayley insists it's only a coincidence and denies having known the woman.

Harding's trip to the West Cornwall resort town soon falls apart. The heirloom ring is stolen. Hayley disappears and Harding begins to suspect that Barry may have been responsible for at least one death.

British author Goddard skillfully weaves a complex tale that begins subtly and quietly as it builds to an inspired crescendo, all the while managing to showcase the myriad settings from Monaco to a British resort town to Germany.

Patterns in the Sand
Dori Cocuz

In Sally Goldenbaum's delightful new book, Patterns in the Sand, the Seaside Knitters try to solve the murder of two local gallery owners and clear the name of newcomer Willow, a mysterious young woman who shows up in town just days before the first murder.

Comprised of Nell (a 50-plus retiree), Izzy (owner of the Seaside Knitting Studio), Cass (a young lobster fisherwoman), and Birdie (a local octogenarian), the Seaside Knitters start their investigation with to-do lists and task assignments. The investigation itself is often somberly festive as the women get together around food, wine, and knitting to review facts and explore theories.

Set in a small New England town and written from the point of view of a 50-plus woman, it's inevitable that Patterns in the Sand invites comparisons to Murder She Wrote. Goldenbaum even playfully acknowledges the expected comparison when Izzy tells Birdie she shouldn't follow people around pretending to be Jessica Fletcher.

But the similarities are superficial and should not deter anyone from reading this book. Offering a well-written, likeable cast of characters, Patterns in the Sand is a fun read from the intriguing opening when Willow breaks into the knitting studio, to the page turning conclusion, when the suspects have been culled down to two.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

In Sally Goldenbaum's delightful new book, Patterns in the Sand, the Seaside Knitters try to solve the murder of two local gallery owners and clear the name of newcomer Willow, a mysterious young woman who shows up in town just days before the first murder.

Comprised of Nell (a 50-plus retiree), Izzy (owner of the Seaside Knitting Studio), Cass (a young lobster fisherwoman), and Birdie (a local octogenarian), the Seaside Knitters start their investigation with to-do lists and task assignments. The investigation itself is often somberly festive as the women get together around food, wine, and knitting to review facts and explore theories.

Set in a small New England town and written from the point of view of a 50-plus woman, it's inevitable that Patterns in the Sand invites comparisons to Murder She Wrote. Goldenbaum even playfully acknowledges the expected comparison when Izzy tells Birdie she shouldn't follow people around pretending to be Jessica Fletcher.

But the similarities are superficial and should not deter anyone from reading this book. Offering a well-written, likeable cast of characters, Patterns in the Sand is a fun read from the intriguing opening when Willow breaks into the knitting studio, to the page turning conclusion, when the suspects have been culled down to two.

Personal Effects: Dark Art
Bob Smith

Martin Grace is an accused serial killer undergoing psychiatric evaluation at a New York mental hospital to see if he is fit for trial. He has alibis for each of the murders he's been accused of, but Martin foretold the deaths in complete detail, claiming the actual killer was a shadowy figure called the "Dark Man." Martin is blind, not with a physical blindness, but one caused by psychological factors. Yet he sees into the soul and can cloud minds, creating confusion and dread in others. Art therapist Zach Taylor believes Martin is innocent and is determined to get to the crux of his patient's condition. With help from his computer savvy girlfriend and his younger brother, Zach tries to learn what drove Martin to his current mental state, but soon finds that unlocking Martin's secrets means that he, too, must deal with the Dark Man and confront secrets of his own.

This beautifully written novel is exciting and suspenseful, and even occasionally comic. Above all, Personal Effects: Dark Art is eerie and often downright scary, a la Stephen King. As a marketing ploy or perhaps the start of a new interactive trend, the book contains drawings depicting plot points along with working phone numbers and websites that can actually be traced by the reader for clues. More a supernatural crime fantasy than a traditional mystery, it nevertheless should appeal to fans who love a good puzzle--or just a good fright.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

Martin Grace is an accused serial killer undergoing psychiatric evaluation at a New York mental hospital to see if he is fit for trial. He has alibis for each of the murders he's been accused of, but Martin foretold the deaths in complete detail, claiming the actual killer was a shadowy figure called the "Dark Man." Martin is blind, not with a physical blindness, but one caused by psychological factors. Yet he sees into the soul and can cloud minds, creating confusion and dread in others. Art therapist Zach Taylor believes Martin is innocent and is determined to get to the crux of his patient's condition. With help from his computer savvy girlfriend and his younger brother, Zach tries to learn what drove Martin to his current mental state, but soon finds that unlocking Martin's secrets means that he, too, must deal with the Dark Man and confront secrets of his own.

This beautifully written novel is exciting and suspenseful, and even occasionally comic. Above all, Personal Effects: Dark Art is eerie and often downright scary, a la Stephen King. As a marketing ploy or perhaps the start of a new interactive trend, the book contains drawings depicting plot points along with working phone numbers and websites that can actually be traced by the reader for clues. More a supernatural crime fantasy than a traditional mystery, it nevertheless should appeal to fans who love a good puzzle--or just a good fright.

Pretty Is as Pretty Dies
Lynne Maxwell

What is it about the South that seems to spawn murder, mayhem and amateur sleuths? This geographical crime magnet has led to numerous entertaining cozies like Elizabeth Spann Craig's Pretty Is As Pretty Dies. Set in the small town of Bradley, North Carolina, this charming mystery features retired English teacher Myrtle Clover, a curious (some might say meddlesome) woman who likes to one-up her son Red, the local police chief. To keep Myrtle in check, Red signs her up for activities around town like church committee work, which are loathsome to her. This time, though, Red has done her an inadvertent favor by volunteering her at church when she stumbles upon a body in the sanctuary. Myrtle rushes to conduct her own investigation into the murder of Parke Stockard, the universally detested victim who specialized in ruthless real estate deals. If everyone loathes Parke, how can Myrtle narrow the list of suspects and finger the killer? Craig's skill at evoking a small town and its idiosyncratic inhabitants renders this mystery a pleasure to read. I'm looking forward to the further exploits of Myrtle Clover.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

What is it about the South that seems to spawn murder, mayhem and amateur sleuths? This geographical crime magnet has led to numerous entertaining cozies like Elizabeth Spann Craig's Pretty Is As Pretty Dies. Set in the small town of Bradley, North Carolina, this charming mystery features retired English teacher Myrtle Clover, a curious (some might say meddlesome) woman who likes to one-up her son Red, the local police chief. To keep Myrtle in check, Red signs her up for activities around town like church committee work, which are loathsome to her. This time, though, Red has done her an inadvertent favor by volunteering her at church when she stumbles upon a body in the sanctuary. Myrtle rushes to conduct her own investigation into the murder of Parke Stockard, the universally detested victim who specialized in ruthless real estate deals. If everyone loathes Parke, how can Myrtle narrow the list of suspects and finger the killer? Craig's skill at evoking a small town and its idiosyncratic inhabitants renders this mystery a pleasure to read. I'm looking forward to the further exploits of Myrtle Clover.

Purses and Poison
Helen Francini

Living in the uber-opulence of Southern California, Haley Randolph finds it difficult to support her addiction to designer purses on a $7.00 per hour job as a clerk in down-market Holt's department store--despite sort of dating the boss' son Ty. When Ty's ex-girlfriend ends up poisoned in Holt's ladies' room during an event at the store, Haley must leap into action to clear both herself and her mother's name.

Since Haley has no pretensions to intellectualism, she relies entirely on serendipity and gut instinct to keep her one step ahead of both the police and the killer. Her vivacity and sheer gumption make her highly-likeable, and anyone who has ever worked long hours at a low-paying job will sympathize with her situation. Haley may be a product of the land of Judith Leiber purses, Valley Girls and Mrs. Robinson, but she is also an underdog, and it is a pleasure to see her come out on top.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

Living in the uber-opulence of Southern California, Haley Randolph finds it difficult to support her addiction to designer purses on a $7.00 per hour job as a clerk in down-market Holt's department store--despite sort of dating the boss' son Ty. When Ty's ex-girlfriend ends up poisoned in Holt's ladies' room during an event at the store, Haley must leap into action to clear both herself and her mother's name.

Since Haley has no pretensions to intellectualism, she relies entirely on serendipity and gut instinct to keep her one step ahead of both the police and the killer. Her vivacity and sheer gumption make her highly-likeable, and anyone who has ever worked long hours at a low-paying job will sympathize with her situation. Haley may be a product of the land of Judith Leiber purses, Valley Girls and Mrs. Robinson, but she is also an underdog, and it is a pleasure to see her come out on top.

Ravens
Barbara Fister

Two drifters in a beat-up Tercel hit an animal on a road as they cruise aimlessly toward a future that they hope will be filled with more excitement than their previous dead-end jobs. Romeo feels sorry for the critter he accidentally hit. Shaw interprets it as an offering, a propitious sign that things are going to change. He's frustrated by the sense that there's power in the world, power that passes through him and touches other people, but leaves him with nothing.

Another random occurrence gives him a chance to seize that power and wield it himself. He finds a family who just won a multi-million dollar lottery and tells them he gets half--or their family members and friends will be killed, one by one. He persuades them that Romeo is a maniacal agent of vengeance and concocts a story for the media about how he is owed part of the winnings. Both the lottery-winning family (a collection of fully-realized eccentrics) and Romeo find themselves conflicted in the face of Shaw's charismatic power, a force as reckless and dangerous as a downed electrical cable.

Though it has been many years since the author of The Caveman's Valentine published a book, the wait was worth it. Green's language is lyrical, spare, and quirky, reminiscent of Daniel Woodrell but plugged into a high-tension source of suspense. His characters, bound together by Shaw's crazy scheme, are engrossing and memorable, and their various responses to money, celebrity, loyalty, and their craving for acceptance say a lot about American values.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

Two drifters in a beat-up Tercel hit an animal on a road as they cruise aimlessly toward a future that they hope will be filled with more excitement than their previous dead-end jobs. Romeo feels sorry for the critter he accidentally hit. Shaw interprets it as an offering, a propitious sign that things are going to change. He's frustrated by the sense that there's power in the world, power that passes through him and touches other people, but leaves him with nothing.

Another random occurrence gives him a chance to seize that power and wield it himself. He finds a family who just won a multi-million dollar lottery and tells them he gets half--or their family members and friends will be killed, one by one. He persuades them that Romeo is a maniacal agent of vengeance and concocts a story for the media about how he is owed part of the winnings. Both the lottery-winning family (a collection of fully-realized eccentrics) and Romeo find themselves conflicted in the face of Shaw's charismatic power, a force as reckless and dangerous as a downed electrical cable.

Though it has been many years since the author of The Caveman's Valentine published a book, the wait was worth it. Green's language is lyrical, spare, and quirky, reminiscent of Daniel Woodrell but plugged into a high-tension source of suspense. His characters, bound together by Shaw's crazy scheme, are engrossing and memorable, and their various responses to money, celebrity, loyalty, and their craving for acceptance say a lot about American values.

Running From the Devil
Hank Wagner

Traveling by air from Miami to Bogota, biochemist Emma Caldridge sleeps soundly most of the way, waking only when her plane is captured by kidnappers and downed in the Colombian jungle. Thrown far from the plane when it crash lands, she avoids being rounded up with the other passengers by their captors. Realizing that the kidnap victims are going to be marched to another site where they'll be held until a ransom is collected, she decides to follow them at a distance, blending into the flora. Her efforts to keep pace with the group, to avoid capture, and to stay alive in the hostile environment, provide the backbone for the rest of the novel.

The publicity for Running from the Devil goes on and on about author Jamie Freveletti. A competitive runner and ultra marathoner (a trait she shares with her heroine), she's also a teacher and a black belt in Aikido who has earned degrees in law, political science, and international studies. What it doesn't talk about nearly enough, however, is what a good writer she is, and how expertly she gains and holds your attention. Her fiercely intelligent and determined Emma is a compelling heroine as she squares off against vicious and heavily armed opponents. Seamlessly combining action, adventure, suspense, humor, and romance, Freveletti writes like a seasoned professional, insuring that those who read her sparkling debut will soon be clamoring for her next effort.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

Traveling by air from Miami to Bogota, biochemist Emma Caldridge sleeps soundly most of the way, waking only when her plane is captured by kidnappers and downed in the Colombian jungle. Thrown far from the plane when it crash lands, she avoids being rounded up with the other passengers by their captors. Realizing that the kidnap victims are going to be marched to another site where they'll be held until a ransom is collected, she decides to follow them at a distance, blending into the flora. Her efforts to keep pace with the group, to avoid capture, and to stay alive in the hostile environment, provide the backbone for the rest of the novel.

The publicity for Running from the Devil goes on and on about author Jamie Freveletti. A competitive runner and ultra marathoner (a trait she shares with her heroine), she's also a teacher and a black belt in Aikido who has earned degrees in law, political science, and international studies. What it doesn't talk about nearly enough, however, is what a good writer she is, and how expertly she gains and holds your attention. Her fiercely intelligent and determined Emma is a compelling heroine as she squares off against vicious and heavily armed opponents. Seamlessly combining action, adventure, suspense, humor, and romance, Freveletti writes like a seasoned professional, insuring that those who read her sparkling debut will soon be clamoring for her next effort.

Server Down
Jackie Houchin

J.M. Hayes combines real world crime with cyber-world fantasy to create a complex thriller that teases readers' imaginations while testing their detecting skill. Can monster villains inhabiting the virtual world of an online role-playing game manipulate events and people in the actual world? If so, how does law enforcement find and stop them?

Mad Dog, a half-Cheyenne wannabe shaman, is in Tucson watching a Yaqui tribal ceremony when he's viciously attacked. His half-wolf companion intervenes, but when a policeman arrives, the attacker kills him (with a knife bearing Mad Dog's name) and vanishes. Unsurprisingly, the authorities don't buy Mad Dog's insistence that the killer is a cyber-vampire wizard, and Mad Dog is accused of the murder. Before they can arrest him, he and his wolf escape, but soon have authorities and a bounty hunter on their trail.

Deputy Heather English, the sheriff's daughter and Mad Dog's niece, is in Tucson on personal business when she stumbles onto the crime scene. A quick call to her father in Kansas finds him investigating an explosion that has just demolished Mad Dog's house. As more people are targeted for murder--each incident pointing to the escaped Mad Dog as the culprit and revealing strange connections to the War of Worldcraft computer game--the sheriff and his daughter struggle to solve the mystery before their relative is captured or killed.

Hayes' crisp dialogue and visual narrative capture the reader's attention, while action-filled, cliffhanger scenes that race along in mini-sections instead of chapters, and rapidly alternating viewpoints between the four main characters increase the suspense and tension in this mystery with a virtual world twist.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

J.M. Hayes combines real world crime with cyber-world fantasy to create a complex thriller that teases readers' imaginations while testing their detecting skill. Can monster villains inhabiting the virtual world of an online role-playing game manipulate events and people in the actual world? If so, how does law enforcement find and stop them?

Mad Dog, a half-Cheyenne wannabe shaman, is in Tucson watching a Yaqui tribal ceremony when he's viciously attacked. His half-wolf companion intervenes, but when a policeman arrives, the attacker kills him (with a knife bearing Mad Dog's name) and vanishes. Unsurprisingly, the authorities don't buy Mad Dog's insistence that the killer is a cyber-vampire wizard, and Mad Dog is accused of the murder. Before they can arrest him, he and his wolf escape, but soon have authorities and a bounty hunter on their trail.

Deputy Heather English, the sheriff's daughter and Mad Dog's niece, is in Tucson on personal business when she stumbles onto the crime scene. A quick call to her father in Kansas finds him investigating an explosion that has just demolished Mad Dog's house. As more people are targeted for murder--each incident pointing to the escaped Mad Dog as the culprit and revealing strange connections to the War of Worldcraft computer game--the sheriff and his daughter struggle to solve the mystery before their relative is captured or killed.

Hayes' crisp dialogue and visual narrative capture the reader's attention, while action-filled, cliffhanger scenes that race along in mini-sections instead of chapters, and rapidly alternating viewpoints between the four main characters increase the suspense and tension in this mystery with a virtual world twist.

Six Suspects
Jim Winter

A top Bollywood actress. The powerful Home Minister for India's most populous state. A cell phone thief. A tribesman overwhelmed by modern society. A duped Texan in search of his mail-order bride. A bureaucrat who believes he's possessed by Gandhi. All six have one thing in common: All are accused of killing India's most notorious bad boy, Vicky Rai, who it is clear from page one, no one misses--not even Rai's own father.

Vikas Swarup, author of Q&A, which became the movie Slumdog Millionaire, writes a sprawling, wryly cynical tale about class warfare and murder in modern India. Swarup's India looks very much like Europe or America--even its rigid caste system is uncomfortably similar to the western class structure. Worse (or better, since it makes for a terrific story) is the smugness with which Swarup's Indian characters view their society compared to other places in the world--those decadent Americans, French and, in one scene, Australians. Even in the 21st century and across cultures, people's assumptions about themselves and those of others prove to be universal.

The story is sometimes hard to follow for those not familiar with Indian currency or naming conventions, yet Swarup, an Indian diplomat, skilfully conveys a broad range of Indian culture. His weakest character is the American Larry Page, a slow-witted Texan prone to talking in hillbilly cliches and who is written into an amusing encounter with some inept Al Qaeda terrorists who mistake him for the Larry Page of Google fame.

Equal parts Tom Wolfe, Dennis Lehane, and H.L. Menken with a distinct Indian twist, Six Suspects is a bizarre, vibrant, and lively read.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

A top Bollywood actress. The powerful Home Minister for India's most populous state. A cell phone thief. A tribesman overwhelmed by modern society. A duped Texan in search of his mail-order bride. A bureaucrat who believes he's possessed by Gandhi. All six have one thing in common: All are accused of killing India's most notorious bad boy, Vicky Rai, who it is clear from page one, no one misses--not even Rai's own father.

Vikas Swarup, author of Q&A, which became the movie Slumdog Millionaire, writes a sprawling, wryly cynical tale about class warfare and murder in modern India. Swarup's India looks very much like Europe or America--even its rigid caste system is uncomfortably similar to the western class structure. Worse (or better, since it makes for a terrific story) is the smugness with which Swarup's Indian characters view their society compared to other places in the world--those decadent Americans, French and, in one scene, Australians. Even in the 21st century and across cultures, people's assumptions about themselves and those of others prove to be universal.

The story is sometimes hard to follow for those not familiar with Indian currency or naming conventions, yet Swarup, an Indian diplomat, skilfully conveys a broad range of Indian culture. His weakest character is the American Larry Page, a slow-witted Texan prone to talking in hillbilly cliches and who is written into an amusing encounter with some inept Al Qaeda terrorists who mistake him for the Larry Page of Google fame.

Equal parts Tom Wolfe, Dennis Lehane, and H.L. Menken with a distinct Indian twist, Six Suspects is a bizarre, vibrant, and lively read.

Sworn to Silence
Beverly J. DeWeese

Police Chief Kate Burkholder is extremely disturbed when the mutilated body of a young woman is found on the outskirts of the rural Amish community Painters Mill, because this murder duplicates the local Slaughterhouse Killer murders of 16 years ago--and Kate knows that that killer is dead.

Known already for her steamy suspense novels, Castillo has here successfully tweaked the usual serial killer plot while delivering a compelling new heroine in Kate Burkholder. Kate already knows the killer, but cannot reveal his name without hurting her family and adversely affecting the investigation. Originally Amish herself, this tough, smart woman left the community to become an urban cop, where she learned to shoot, swear, drink, and "sleep around" with the "English" (which is what the Amish call outsiders). Joining Kate in the investigation is Tomasetti, a state crime investigation agent with his own awful secrets. He doesn't like working with anyone, but he and Kate have to cooperate to find the real killer. Both are flawed but sympathetic characters.

Sworn to Silence is a satisfying page-turner, and the backdrop of Amish culture fascinating. The relationships among the insular townspeople are realistic and sympathetically drawn in this well-written mystery about decent people caught up in a frightening world. Highly recommended.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

Police Chief Kate Burkholder is extremely disturbed when the mutilated body of a young woman is found on the outskirts of the rural Amish community Painters Mill, because this murder duplicates the local Slaughterhouse Killer murders of 16 years ago--and Kate knows that that killer is dead.

Known already for her steamy suspense novels, Castillo has here successfully tweaked the usual serial killer plot while delivering a compelling new heroine in Kate Burkholder. Kate already knows the killer, but cannot reveal his name without hurting her family and adversely affecting the investigation. Originally Amish herself, this tough, smart woman left the community to become an urban cop, where she learned to shoot, swear, drink, and "sleep around" with the "English" (which is what the Amish call outsiders). Joining Kate in the investigation is Tomasetti, a state crime investigation agent with his own awful secrets. He doesn't like working with anyone, but he and Kate have to cooperate to find the real killer. Both are flawed but sympathetic characters.

Sworn to Silence is a satisfying page-turner, and the backdrop of Amish culture fascinating. The relationships among the insular townspeople are realistic and sympathetically drawn in this well-written mystery about decent people caught up in a frightening world. Highly recommended.

The Baker Street Letters
Joseph Scarpato Jr.

When attorney Reggie Heath leased office space in the 200 block of Baker Street, London, he was unaware that part of the lease terms required his office to respond to all letters sent to Sherlock Holmes at 221 Baker Street. Making matters worse, his younger brother Nigel, who does clerical work in the office while waiting for his law license to be returned, has become interested in following up on one of the missives. When circumstances surrounding the letter's mystery require Reggie to follow the quixotic Nigel out to Los Angeles with nothing but a 20-year-old address and a map fragment to start with, the game's afoot. Thus begins a complex and satisfying puzzle involving a missing father, a potential civic catastrophe, and murders in London and Los Angeles. Before long, both Nigel and Reggie become suspects in a murder, and solving the case becomes essential.

Although Holmes is the impetus for this story, the detecting itself owes more to Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett than to Arthur Conan Doyle. For good measure, there's even a feel of the movie Chinatown thrown in. And that's a good thing, since the action takes place primarily in L.A.

Although this is his first novel, Robertson's writing is smooth and crisp as the story moves quickly from scene to scene. No leaping back and forth in time, and no changes of point of view. It's an easy read that I thoroughly enjoyed and strongly recommend.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

When attorney Reggie Heath leased office space in the 200 block of Baker Street, London, he was unaware that part of the lease terms required his office to respond to all letters sent to Sherlock Holmes at 221 Baker Street. Making matters worse, his younger brother Nigel, who does clerical work in the office while waiting for his law license to be returned, has become interested in following up on one of the missives. When circumstances surrounding the letter's mystery require Reggie to follow the quixotic Nigel out to Los Angeles with nothing but a 20-year-old address and a map fragment to start with, the game's afoot. Thus begins a complex and satisfying puzzle involving a missing father, a potential civic catastrophe, and murders in London and Los Angeles. Before long, both Nigel and Reggie become suspects in a murder, and solving the case becomes essential.

Although Holmes is the impetus for this story, the detecting itself owes more to Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett than to Arthur Conan Doyle. For good measure, there's even a feel of the movie Chinatown thrown in. And that's a good thing, since the action takes place primarily in L.A.

Although this is his first novel, Robertson's writing is smooth and crisp as the story moves quickly from scene to scene. No leaping back and forth in time, and no changes of point of view. It's an easy read that I thoroughly enjoyed and strongly recommend.

The Benefactor
Jim Winter

Kay Daniels is mourning the loss of her husband from a car accident, but not too much. It was a loveless marriage. She's moved on with her life, getting the business they built back on even keel. Then Nikolaus Seifer appears, claiming to have arranged the accident and demanding half her inheritance. It's the perfect scam. Seifer targets wealthy, troubled couples or families, offs one person without anyone else's knowledge. He then reveals the truth after time has passed, and offers his blackmail victims a choice: Pay up or be implicated. People pay, since they're better off with half an inheritance than a future behind bars.

When Kate balks, she finds herself on a collision course with Seifer and his lover Johanna. She's also in the crosshairs of a local cop named Frank Sinclair, who notices something suspicious about the accident that widowed Kay. While he thinks Kay is a suspect, he, too, is finding there's more here than meets the eye.

The Benefactor reminded me quite a bit of Dial M for Murder as every time Seifer opened his mouth, I kept thinking of Ray Milland with that arrogant, condescending smirk on his face. Seifer is a deliciously smug villain and Moran's thriller is a story Hitchcock would have approved of.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

Kay Daniels is mourning the loss of her husband from a car accident, but not too much. It was a loveless marriage. She's moved on with her life, getting the business they built back on even keel. Then Nikolaus Seifer appears, claiming to have arranged the accident and demanding half her inheritance. It's the perfect scam. Seifer targets wealthy, troubled couples or families, offs one person without anyone else's knowledge. He then reveals the truth after time has passed, and offers his blackmail victims a choice: Pay up or be implicated. People pay, since they're better off with half an inheritance than a future behind bars.

When Kate balks, she finds herself on a collision course with Seifer and his lover Johanna. She's also in the crosshairs of a local cop named Frank Sinclair, who notices something suspicious about the accident that widowed Kay. While he thinks Kay is a suspect, he, too, is finding there's more here than meets the eye.

The Benefactor reminded me quite a bit of Dial M for Murder as every time Seifer opened his mouth, I kept thinking of Ray Milland with that arrogant, condescending smirk on his face. Seifer is a deliciously smug villain and Moran's thriller is a story Hitchcock would have approved of.

The Bourne Deception
Hank Wagner

Still recuperating from physical and emotional damage sustained in The Bourne Sanction, Jason Bourne ends up in Mali with his paramour, Moira. Although he tries to relax, his instincts are on high alert, ready to warn him of approaching danger. That danger takes the form of his nemesis, Leonid Danilovich Arkadin, who Bourne thought he had killed. Surviving a precipitous plunge, the sturdy Arkadin arrives armed with a high powered rifle. What he does with that weapon marks the beginning of another deadly game of cat and mouse with Bourne, a personal battle that's played out against a backdrop of international terrorism and political intrigue at the highest levels of world government.

This being Van Lustbader's fourth Bourne novel (Ludlum only wrote three), you might assume the author would feel at ease writing about this character, icon or not. Yet that's not the case, with Van Lustbader writing as if he was almost afraid to do something new with Bourne for fear of alienating longtime fans. Van Lustbader is too good a writer to let that interfere with telling a good story--and readers should enjoy the book, despite its by-the-numbers plot. But it would be nice to see him take the series in a daring new direction, rather than strictly catering to fans. Here's hoping that the subtle remodeling job he's done on Bourne over the course of four books allows him to accomplish just that with his next try.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

Still recuperating from physical and emotional damage sustained in The Bourne Sanction, Jason Bourne ends up in Mali with his paramour, Moira. Although he tries to relax, his instincts are on high alert, ready to warn him of approaching danger. That danger takes the form of his nemesis, Leonid Danilovich Arkadin, who Bourne thought he had killed. Surviving a precipitous plunge, the sturdy Arkadin arrives armed with a high powered rifle. What he does with that weapon marks the beginning of another deadly game of cat and mouse with Bourne, a personal battle that's played out against a backdrop of international terrorism and political intrigue at the highest levels of world government.

This being Van Lustbader's fourth Bourne novel (Ludlum only wrote three), you might assume the author would feel at ease writing about this character, icon or not. Yet that's not the case, with Van Lustbader writing as if he was almost afraid to do something new with Bourne for fear of alienating longtime fans. Van Lustbader is too good a writer to let that interfere with telling a good story--and readers should enjoy the book, despite its by-the-numbers plot. But it would be nice to see him take the series in a daring new direction, rather than strictly catering to fans. Here's hoping that the subtle remodeling job he's done on Bourne over the course of four books allows him to accomplish just that with his next try.

The Bride Will Keep Her Name
Lynne F. Maxwell

Marriage is always a risky proposition and Madison Mandelbaum, the protagonist of The Bride Will Keep Her Name, learns this the hard way. Urbane and hip, Maddie puts her Seven Sisters education to good use by working in a trendy SoHo art gallery. Not only does she have a cool job, but she also has two of the best friends imaginable. Abby and Kat would do anything to protect Maddie and to make certain that she is happy. When Maddie meets Mr. Perfect, Colin Darcy (shades of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, no doubt), and accepts his proposal of marriage, Abby and Kat are first in line to participate in the wedding. Darcy, after all, is the perfect catch: suave, handsome, prosperous--and British. Furthermore, Darcy's career as a TV news reporter is beginning to take off, making him even more of a catch. Theirs seems like a match made in heaven, a convergence of true love and the promise of perfection.

Too good to be true? The Bride Will Keep Her Name answers this question with a resounding maybe. Maddie's whole sense of reality shifts when strong evidence emerges that Colin has lied about several crucial matters, and, possibly has murdered a prostitute. Who is this man? Liar, monster, or merely flawed mortal, in any case he is certainly not the gallant knight Maddie thought she was marrying. Hold your breath as Maddie and her friends fight for the truth and for true love.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 13:32:33

Marriage is always a risky proposition and Madison Mandelbaum, the protagonist of The Bride Will Keep Her Name, learns this the hard way. Urbane and hip, Maddie puts her Seven Sisters education to good use by working in a trendy SoHo art gallery. Not only does she have a cool job, but she also has two of the best friends imaginable. Abby and Kat would do anything to protect Maddie and to make certain that she is happy. When Maddie meets Mr. Perfect, Colin Darcy (shades of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, no doubt), and accepts his proposal of marriage, Abby and Kat are first in line to participate in the wedding. Darcy, after all, is the perfect catch: suave, handsome, prosperous--and British. Furthermore, Darcy's career as a TV news reporter is beginning to take off, making him even more of a catch. Theirs seems like a match made in heaven, a convergence of true love and the promise of perfection.

Too good to be true? The Bride Will Keep Her Name answers this question with a resounding maybe. Maddie's whole sense of reality shifts when strong evidence emerges that Colin has lied about several crucial matters, and, possibly has murdered a prostitute. Who is this man? Liar, monster, or merely flawed mortal, in any case he is certainly not the gallant knight Maddie thought she was marrying. Hold your breath as Maddie and her friends fight for the truth and for true love.

The Brothers Boswell
Joseph Scarpato Jr.

If you are a student of English literature, you probably know that James Boswell was an essayist and diarist of the 18th century who befriended, and later wrote a remarkable biography of, Dr. Samuel Johnson, a leading literary light in London and the author of the Dictionary of the English Language.

For most of this literary thriller, we see James and Dr. Johnson through the eyes of James' younger brother, John, a mentally unstable 19-year-old who has recently been released from a mental institution and is surreptitiously stalking them through London and its environs. As the story progresses, we learn that John is not only jealous of his brother because he is the eldest son and heir to their father's large estate, but because he feels that James has abandoned him for the opportunity to advance in London's literary society.

How does John plan to wreak his revenge on the two? Does he actually have a clandestine relationship with Dr. Johnson? And how much of what he believes is really true? These are key questions as the book progresses in a leisurely fashion from boating on the Thames, to art galleries, restaurants and even houses of ill repute, and to its final exciting conclusion.

What makes this novel interesting is the verisimilitude of the language of the period, reminiscent of Boswell's famous Life of Johnson, and the realistic portrayal of the streets of London in that era. Not coincidentally, I believe, is the fact that 2009 is the 300th anniversary of Dr. Samuel Johnson's birth. Most of the book is written in the first person present tense which takes a little bit of getting used to, but it pays off in making the story seem more realistic, as if it is happening as we read it.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 13:32:33

If you are a student of English literature, you probably know that James Boswell was an essayist and diarist of the 18th century who befriended, and later wrote a remarkable biography of, Dr. Samuel Johnson, a leading literary light in London and the author of the Dictionary of the English Language.

For most of this literary thriller, we see James and Dr. Johnson through the eyes of James' younger brother, John, a mentally unstable 19-year-old who has recently been released from a mental institution and is surreptitiously stalking them through London and its environs. As the story progresses, we learn that John is not only jealous of his brother because he is the eldest son and heir to their father's large estate, but because he feels that James has abandoned him for the opportunity to advance in London's literary society.

How does John plan to wreak his revenge on the two? Does he actually have a clandestine relationship with Dr. Johnson? And how much of what he believes is really true? These are key questions as the book progresses in a leisurely fashion from boating on the Thames, to art galleries, restaurants and even houses of ill repute, and to its final exciting conclusion.

What makes this novel interesting is the verisimilitude of the language of the period, reminiscent of Boswell's famous Life of Johnson, and the realistic portrayal of the streets of London in that era. Not coincidentally, I believe, is the fact that 2009 is the 300th anniversary of Dr. Samuel Johnson's birth. Most of the book is written in the first person present tense which takes a little bit of getting used to, but it pays off in making the story seem more realistic, as if it is happening as we read it.

The Cutting
Beverly J. DeWeese

Two young women are missing, and, when the bodies are found, the heart of each has been surgically removed. Now a third has disappeared and Detective Michael McCabe is frantic to find her before she too is butchered. Though serial killers are anything but new, Hayman has skillfully constructed a slick, suspenseful story, with an interesting twist, smooth writing, and expert pacing.

Protagonist Detective McCabe has a backstory of tangled personal relationships that make him an appealing, believable character. After a bitter divorce, he has custody of his preteen daughter. He is sporadically living with artist Kyra, though he is also sexually attracted to his partner Maggie. Overall, McCabe is an honest, decent man; however, both his father and his brother were bent NYC cops, so his own messy life has given him a lot of empathy for victims and suspects.

For fans of the serial killer genre, the strong writing, good characterizations, and plot surprises make The Cutting a cut above most.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 13:32:33

Two young women are missing, and, when the bodies are found, the heart of each has been surgically removed. Now a third has disappeared and Detective Michael McCabe is frantic to find her before she too is butchered. Though serial killers are anything but new, Hayman has skillfully constructed a slick, suspenseful story, with an interesting twist, smooth writing, and expert pacing.

Protagonist Detective McCabe has a backstory of tangled personal relationships that make him an appealing, believable character. After a bitter divorce, he has custody of his preteen daughter. He is sporadically living with artist Kyra, though he is also sexually attracted to his partner Maggie. Overall, McCabe is an honest, decent man; however, both his father and his brother were bent NYC cops, so his own messy life has given him a lot of empathy for victims and suspects.

For fans of the serial killer genre, the strong writing, good characterizations, and plot surprises make The Cutting a cut above most.

The Dark Horse
Barbara Fister

Walt Longmire, Sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming, has a soft spot for women who are victims of domestic violence. In the fifth entry in this popular series, his jail is housing a woman accused of violence against her husband. Mary Barstad has confessed to shooting her husband Wade in the head no less than six times. Nobody is too surprised--Wade was not popular with his neighbors, and his last act was to burn down a barn with his wife's beloved horses inside. Walt is puzzled by Mary's dreamy demeanor and her unwillingness to communicate. Though she is insistent on her guilt, something tells him she's innocent. Though the crime happened in a neighboring county, he decides to investigate, even though it means going undercover.

Dark Horse has what readers have come to expect from Craig Johnson--a vivid sense of place, wry humor, and memorable characters, including an undocumented Guatemalan barmaid who wants to be a detective--but the structure of the story is unnecessarily complex. The narrative jumps back and forth in time between Walt's undercover work and the beginning of the investigation do more to confuse than to entertain; but when finally, the story settles into a straightforward chronology, it takes off at full gallop, leading Walt into a tense duel of wits and endurance with a desperate killer. Readers who persist beyond the first half of the book will find themselves rewarded in the end.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 13:32:33

Walt Longmire, Sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming, has a soft spot for women who are victims of domestic violence. In the fifth entry in this popular series, his jail is housing a woman accused of violence against her husband. Mary Barstad has confessed to shooting her husband Wade in the head no less than six times. Nobody is too surprised--Wade was not popular with his neighbors, and his last act was to burn down a barn with his wife's beloved horses inside. Walt is puzzled by Mary's dreamy demeanor and her unwillingness to communicate. Though she is insistent on her guilt, something tells him she's innocent. Though the crime happened in a neighboring county, he decides to investigate, even though it means going undercover.

Dark Horse has what readers have come to expect from Craig Johnson--a vivid sense of place, wry humor, and memorable characters, including an undocumented Guatemalan barmaid who wants to be a detective--but the structure of the story is unnecessarily complex. The narrative jumps back and forth in time between Walt's undercover work and the beginning of the investigation do more to confuse than to entertain; but when finally, the story settles into a straightforward chronology, it takes off at full gallop, leading Walt into a tense duel of wits and endurance with a desperate killer. Readers who persist beyond the first half of the book will find themselves rewarded in the end.

The Dead of Winter
Sue Emmons

It's 1940 and the German army is marching ever closer to the French capital. Maurice Sobel, an affluent Jewish furrier, is slain in his Paris home, just hours after converting his assets into diamonds in preparation for joining his family, who have already fled to America. Sobel planned to drive a young Jewish woman and a fugitive Polish soldier to Lisson where they would together secure passage, instead he opens his front door to a killer and the diamonds disappear.

Four years later, in war-torn London, an air raid warden stumbles over the body of a young woman, herself a refugee Jew from Poland now assigned as a land girl to a farm. The farm is owned by John Madden, a police detective who retired 20 years earlier and is the main character in this marvelous novel. Madden is asked by an old friend at Scotland Yard to assist in the investigation, which soon links the victim to the stolen diamonds, Paris, and a vicious career killer with multiple aliases and a long list of crimes. The war complicates the tracking of the killer's criminal exploits, but Madden deftly uncovers them, piece by intriguing piece. Airth is meticulous in evoking the World War II era with all its hardships and equally adept at plotting multiple surprises and a spectacular wind-up. Madden has been the central character in two equally masterful mysteries by the author, and one can only hope he will reappear soon.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 13:32:33

It's 1940 and the German army is marching ever closer to the French capital. Maurice Sobel, an affluent Jewish furrier, is slain in his Paris home, just hours after converting his assets into diamonds in preparation for joining his family, who have already fled to America. Sobel planned to drive a young Jewish woman and a fugitive Polish soldier to Lisson where they would together secure passage, instead he opens his front door to a killer and the diamonds disappear.

Four years later, in war-torn London, an air raid warden stumbles over the body of a young woman, herself a refugee Jew from Poland now assigned as a land girl to a farm. The farm is owned by John Madden, a police detective who retired 20 years earlier and is the main character in this marvelous novel. Madden is asked by an old friend at Scotland Yard to assist in the investigation, which soon links the victim to the stolen diamonds, Paris, and a vicious career killer with multiple aliases and a long list of crimes. The war complicates the tracking of the killer's criminal exploits, but Madden deftly uncovers them, piece by intriguing piece. Airth is meticulous in evoking the World War II era with all its hardships and equally adept at plotting multiple surprises and a spectacular wind-up. Madden has been the central character in two equally masterful mysteries by the author, and one can only hope he will reappear soon.

The Fate of Katherine Carr
Barbara Fister

Thomas Cook has a distinctive style: rich, dark, and loamy with the decay of long-hidden secrets. The narrator of his stories often gives the impression of being burdened by the knowledge of what is to come, and the suspense is composed less of adrenaline than of foreboding. These are highly structured stories, full of narrative loops and whorls. Nothing is straightforward because we know whatever is coming next has already happened. It's a claustrophobic psychological game that coaxes us to guess at what will ultimately be revealed.

The Fate of Katherine Carr is, in many ways, a template of his style. A retired policeman dwells on a missing persons case he never solved; a writer is haunted by the fact that the vicious killer of his young son was never caught; and a young girl is dying of an incurable disease that has aged her prematurely. To divert the child, the writer takes a story the policeman has given him written by the missing woman. And all of this is being told by the writer to a man on boat going up a tropical river long after the fact.

This novel won't satisfy the reader who wants to get caught up in a quick page-turner. Instead, it's a set of stories within stories about unanswerable questions. They are nested together so that as they turn, like tumblers in a lock, they line up to unlock the mechanism of our desire to see justice done.

The epigraph from Pope's "Essay on Man" contains the motif of the story: "All Nature is but Art, unknown to thee; All Chance, Direction, which thou cans't not see." More a metaphysical meditation on fate, retribution, and narrative than crime fiction, this novel is about the mystery at the heart of things we don't understand: why children die, why justice isn't always served. The answer, when it is finally revealed, addresses the very reason that we read mysteries.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 13:32:33

Thomas Cook has a distinctive style: rich, dark, and loamy with the decay of long-hidden secrets. The narrator of his stories often gives the impression of being burdened by the knowledge of what is to come, and the suspense is composed less of adrenaline than of foreboding. These are highly structured stories, full of narrative loops and whorls. Nothing is straightforward because we know whatever is coming next has already happened. It's a claustrophobic psychological game that coaxes us to guess at what will ultimately be revealed.

The Fate of Katherine Carr is, in many ways, a template of his style. A retired policeman dwells on a missing persons case he never solved; a writer is haunted by the fact that the vicious killer of his young son was never caught; and a young girl is dying of an incurable disease that has aged her prematurely. To divert the child, the writer takes a story the policeman has given him written by the missing woman. And all of this is being told by the writer to a man on boat going up a tropical river long after the fact.

This novel won't satisfy the reader who wants to get caught up in a quick page-turner. Instead, it's a set of stories within stories about unanswerable questions. They are nested together so that as they turn, like tumblers in a lock, they line up to unlock the mechanism of our desire to see justice done.

The epigraph from Pope's "Essay on Man" contains the motif of the story: "All Nature is but Art, unknown to thee; All Chance, Direction, which thou cans't not see." More a metaphysical meditation on fate, retribution, and narrative than crime fiction, this novel is about the mystery at the heart of things we don't understand: why children die, why justice isn't always served. The answer, when it is finally revealed, addresses the very reason that we read mysteries.

The Ignorance of Blood
Betty Webb

In what must be one of the most complicated and yet most satisfying novels of the season, The Ignorance of Blood rolls out a Baroque-and-then-some plot that brings together the European sex trade, terrorist bombings, Islamic extremists, Christian fundamentalists, MI5, the CIA, warring Russian crime bosses, Spanish gypsies, a Cuban artist, a judge imprisoned for beating his wife to death, and the over-taxed Spanish legal system. In this last-of-a-quartet thriller (it's not necessary to read the earlier three books to follow the action), protagonist Inspector Jefe Javier Falcon informs us that Spain is "the biggest user of prostitutes and cocaine of any country in Europe." Spain's problems are further complicated by its geography: The mostly-Catholic country is located less than ten miles across the Straits of Gibraltar from Africa and the world of radical Islam. Ideological clashes are a given, and Inspector Falcon finds himself right in the middle of them. Haunted by the memory of a recent terrorist bombing that killed scores of children, Falcon--an amazingly deeply-drawn character--attempts to find his former lover's kidnapped child, but a sex slave ring run by the Russian Mafia muddies the already-murky waters. Read this novel not only for the brilliance of its prose and plot, but also for its explanation as to why Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations attract so many of Europe's and the Middle East's disaffected youth. Engrossing and very, very scary.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 13:32:33

In what must be one of the most complicated and yet most satisfying novels of the season, The Ignorance of Blood rolls out a Baroque-and-then-some plot that brings together the European sex trade, terrorist bombings, Islamic extremists, Christian fundamentalists, MI5, the CIA, warring Russian crime bosses, Spanish gypsies, a Cuban artist, a judge imprisoned for beating his wife to death, and the over-taxed Spanish legal system. In this last-of-a-quartet thriller (it's not necessary to read the earlier three books to follow the action), protagonist Inspector Jefe Javier Falcon informs us that Spain is "the biggest user of prostitutes and cocaine of any country in Europe." Spain's problems are further complicated by its geography: The mostly-Catholic country is located less than ten miles across the Straits of Gibraltar from Africa and the world of radical Islam. Ideological clashes are a given, and Inspector Falcon finds himself right in the middle of them. Haunted by the memory of a recent terrorist bombing that killed scores of children, Falcon--an amazingly deeply-drawn character--attempts to find his former lover's kidnapped child, but a sex slave ring run by the Russian Mafia muddies the already-murky waters. Read this novel not only for the brilliance of its prose and plot, but also for its explanation as to why Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations attract so many of Europe's and the Middle East's disaffected youth. Engrossing and very, very scary.

The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu
Sue Emmons

Goodluck Tinubu supposedly died 29 years earlier in the Rhodesian Civil War, so why is he lying dead and mutilated in a tent at an outback camp in Botswana's northern countryside in 2009? It's up to robust and rotund Police Detective David Bengu, nicknamed "Kubu"--Setswana for hippopotamus--to find out. Aiding him in the investigation is Detective Sergeant Mooka, nicknamed "Tatwa" (giraffe) because of his height.

Tinubu is slain at the small Jackalberry Camp, where tourists come to watch birds, wildlife and fauna, and a second victim--a South African also staying at the camp--is soon discovered, bludgeoned to death and rolled down a hillside. It is quickly learned that Tinubu has lived as a respected teacher and headmaster at a private school for many years. Moreover, it appears the two victims may have been acquainted. An empty suitcase found in Tinubu's tent also poses a puzzle as the detectives delve deeper into the background of the tourists, employees and camp operators. Despite its picturesque location, the camp is struggling to survive in competition with 5-star hotels whose owners have discovered the exotic lure of the African country. Two more murders increase the pressure to solve the crimes, with suspected motives ranging from drug running, smuggling, revenge and politics. A touch of humor peppers the investigative process, too. The two South African authors, Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip, combining their talents as Michael Stanley, are adept at depicting the beauty of the African countryside and the dark underside that haunts the land. They also thoughtfully provide maps and a glossary of terms and pronunciations to aid the reader.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 13:32:33

Goodluck Tinubu supposedly died 29 years earlier in the Rhodesian Civil War, so why is he lying dead and mutilated in a tent at an outback camp in Botswana's northern countryside in 2009? It's up to robust and rotund Police Detective David Bengu, nicknamed "Kubu"--Setswana for hippopotamus--to find out. Aiding him in the investigation is Detective Sergeant Mooka, nicknamed "Tatwa" (giraffe) because of his height.

Tinubu is slain at the small Jackalberry Camp, where tourists come to watch birds, wildlife and fauna, and a second victim--a South African also staying at the camp--is soon discovered, bludgeoned to death and rolled down a hillside. It is quickly learned that Tinubu has lived as a respected teacher and headmaster at a private school for many years. Moreover, it appears the two victims may have been acquainted. An empty suitcase found in Tinubu's tent also poses a puzzle as the detectives delve deeper into the background of the tourists, employees and camp operators. Despite its picturesque location, the camp is struggling to survive in competition with 5-star hotels whose owners have discovered the exotic lure of the African country. Two more murders increase the pressure to solve the crimes, with suspected motives ranging from drug running, smuggling, revenge and politics. A touch of humor peppers the investigative process, too. The two South African authors, Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip, combining their talents as Michael Stanley, are adept at depicting the beauty of the African countryside and the dark underside that haunts the land. They also thoughtfully provide maps and a glossary of terms and pronunciations to aid the reader.

The Shimmer
Betty Webb

The mysterious doings at Nevada's Area 51 have become legend, but in The Shimmer, David Morrell reveals a more recent and lesser-known puzzle--Texas' Marfa Lights.

Accusations of a government cover-up about ongoing alien encounters have hit the nation's newspapers. When police officer Dan Page's wife, Tori, disappears, he tracks her to the remote Texas town of Rostov (the renamed Marfa), where mysterious glowing lights have attracted an ever-increasing audience. At first the lights appear benign, but after they cause a panicked stampede and people are hurt, the government decides to take action.

Obviously, fans of UFO lore will enjoy this thrill-a-minute book, but hardcore romantics will also appreciate its themes of love, commitment, and self-sacrifice. Film fans will be in their element, too, reveling in the off-set gossip about the Rock Hudson/Elizabeth Taylor/James Dean film, Giant (renamed Birthright in the book), which was shot nearby, and actually does have a connection to the real-life Marfa Lights. But everyone, especially aspiring writers, should read the author's "Afterword," where he details the genesis of his book. As in most of Morrell's novels, the author shares advice on surviving difficult times: "The big picture can be overwhelming, but small portions of it can be handled--they become manageable." The Shimmer doesn't necessarily solve the puzzle that has become Area 51 and its like, but the book does gives us a working hypothesis that may be more accurate than any we've heard so far.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 13:32:33

The mysterious doings at Nevada's Area 51 have become legend, but in The Shimmer, David Morrell reveals a more recent and lesser-known puzzle--Texas' Marfa Lights.

Accusations of a government cover-up about ongoing alien encounters have hit the nation's newspapers. When police officer Dan Page's wife, Tori, disappears, he tracks her to the remote Texas town of Rostov (the renamed Marfa), where mysterious glowing lights have attracted an ever-increasing audience. At first the lights appear benign, but after they cause a panicked stampede and people are hurt, the government decides to take action.

Obviously, fans of UFO lore will enjoy this thrill-a-minute book, but hardcore romantics will also appreciate its themes of love, commitment, and self-sacrifice. Film fans will be in their element, too, reveling in the off-set gossip about the Rock Hudson/Elizabeth Taylor/James Dean film, Giant (renamed Birthright in the book), which was shot nearby, and actually does have a connection to the real-life Marfa Lights. But everyone, especially aspiring writers, should read the author's "Afterword," where he details the genesis of his book. As in most of Morrell's novels, the author shares advice on surviving difficult times: "The big picture can be overwhelming, but small portions of it can be handled--they become manageable." The Shimmer doesn't necessarily solve the puzzle that has become Area 51 and its like, but the book does gives us a working hypothesis that may be more accurate than any we've heard so far.

This Wicked World
Kevin Burton Smith

After serving his time in a California pen for almost beating a man to death, ex-marine, ex-bodyguard, and ex-con bartender Jimmy Boone is content to sling drinks for tourists in a Hollywood bar and stay on the straight and narrow. But when he reluctantly agrees to play "white boy"--pose as a police officer--so his bouncer pal Robo can convince a potential client that the moonlighting "investigative" services he's peddling are legit, things soon get out of hand. Seems the client's grandson, an illegal Guatemalan immigrant, was discovered dead from untreated dog bites on a downtown bus. And what starts as a simple favor, with Jimmy tagging along with Robo to ask a few questions, soon takes a weird turn. With the help of a few eyeball-rolling coincidences straight out of the Elmore Leonard playbook, their harmless deceit sets off a tangled chain of events that ultimately ensnares a spineless would-be dope dealer, his crazy bisexual stripper sister, an unbalanced aging biker looking for one last big score, assorted illegals, a dog-fighting ring, a toothless pit bull, a former French Legionnaire, a treacherous gang of counterfeiters, an animal rights fanatic, a sexy ex-cop and enough other thugs and low lifes to employ a large portion of Hollywood wannabes when this thing is inevitably brought before the cameras. Yeah, it may sound like your typical bang-bang shoot 'em up B-flick, but Lange (the author of the acclaimed Dead Boys collection) tosses in just enough variations and twists (and wit and gunfire) to take everything up a notch--and let's face it: That big, honking climatic nightmare of a desert showdown is just begging to be filmed.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 13:32:33

After serving his time in a California pen for almost beating a man to death, ex-marine, ex-bodyguard, and ex-con bartender Jimmy Boone is content to sling drinks for tourists in a Hollywood bar and stay on the straight and narrow. But when he reluctantly agrees to play "white boy"--pose as a police officer--so his bouncer pal Robo can convince a potential client that the moonlighting "investigative" services he's peddling are legit, things soon get out of hand. Seems the client's grandson, an illegal Guatemalan immigrant, was discovered dead from untreated dog bites on a downtown bus. And what starts as a simple favor, with Jimmy tagging along with Robo to ask a few questions, soon takes a weird turn. With the help of a few eyeball-rolling coincidences straight out of the Elmore Leonard playbook, their harmless deceit sets off a tangled chain of events that ultimately ensnares a spineless would-be dope dealer, his crazy bisexual stripper sister, an unbalanced aging biker looking for one last big score, assorted illegals, a dog-fighting ring, a toothless pit bull, a former French Legionnaire, a treacherous gang of counterfeiters, an animal rights fanatic, a sexy ex-cop and enough other thugs and low lifes to employ a large portion of Hollywood wannabes when this thing is inevitably brought before the cameras. Yeah, it may sound like your typical bang-bang shoot 'em up B-flick, but Lange (the author of the acclaimed Dead Boys collection) tosses in just enough variations and twists (and wit and gunfire) to take everything up a notch--and let's face it: That big, honking climatic nightmare of a desert showdown is just begging to be filmed.