Friday, December 29, 2006

SUN STORM by Asa Larsson (Delta)

I read this winner of Sweden's Best First crime Novel Award when it came out in English in hardcover. The book's beginning reminded me somewhat of THE DIVINCI CODE's: a man watches himself die in a place where murder has no place—this time in a church. Attorney Rebecka Martinsson doesn't want to return to her hometown, but it's her best friend's brother, the charismatic leader of the church, who was murdered. The story is one of contrasts in red and white, not only of blood and snow. Rebecka soon learns that little in her hometown is what it seems, and she must fight—not only for her friend, but for her life. A thoroughly compelling read from the land of snow and ice.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

DEAD DAYS OF SUMMER by Carolyn Hart (Wm. Morrow)

It's always amazing to me that an author with a long-running series can keep making them fresh and better. This is the 17th in the Death on Demand series--and it's one of the best! While Annie and Laurel are planning a surprise blowout birthday party for Max, he takes on a new case. Even though he doesn't like the secrecy his new client imposes, he goes along with her. Bad move. When he disappears and a body turns up near his car, even friendship with the chief of police can't control the fallout: Max is suspected of murder. Annie has to uses all her resources, including faithful customers at her bookstore, to get Max back and clear his name. It's going to be a cold winter--warm up with DEAD DAYS OF SUMMER.

Monday, November 20, 2006

MRS. HUDSON AND THE MALABAR ROSE by Martin Davies (Berkley)

When someone messes around with Sherlock Holmes, they'd better do a good job for me to finish the book. Although Mrs. Hudson is the detective in this pastiche, the narrator is her young protege Flotsam, an effective "Watson." All of London is talking about two events: the unveiling of a gift to the nation, a rare jewel known as the Malabar Rose, and the debut performance of the Great Salmanazar, a reknown magician. When the Home Secretary requests Holmes to ensure the safety of the stone, the great detective naturally doesn't have time to investigate the disappearance of a young husband, so Mrs. Hudson takes on the case. Although I didn't like the portrayal of Holmes, and Mrs. Hudson seems a bit condescending, the puzzles are first-rate and worthy of Doyle himself.

DOLLED UP FOR MURDER by Deb Baker (Berkley)

Gretchen Birch's life is in a downward spin: she'll soon turn 30, her seven-year relationship with Steve is cooling rapidly, and she's just lost her job to downsizing. Now, her mother is missing in Arizona and Aunt Nina has been calling every hour on the hour urging her to come to Phoenix--in July. Seems a member of the local doll club has fallen to her death from a mountin behind Caroline Birch's home. Caroline is not only a doll collector, she runs a highly successful doll repair business. By the time Gretchen arrives in Phoenix, Caroline is not only missing but suspected of murder. Like any other hobby, doll collecting has its dark side. Nina's business of training purse dogs injects an element of humor to the stories and the facts about dolls elevate the book to educational. What more can one ask? Good humorous, educational mystery is enough for me!

THE DOCTOR ROCKS THE BOAT by Robin Hathaway (Thomas Dunne Books)

Hathaway won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Contest and the Agatha for the first book in this series and she hasn't slowed down yet. In this outing Dr. Fennimore succombs to spring fever and renews his membership in a rowing club on Philadelphia's Schuylkill River. The first person he sees at his old club is a medical school classmate who had to quit rowing because of a heart defect. Fennimore is dismayed to learn that his old friend is living his own thwarted ambitions in his son's success. A death on the river and a nearly successful attempt on Fennimore's life combined with an effort to pull down the historic boat houses for a new marina make for a very successful who-done-it. Enjoy your cruise!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

WREATH OF DECEPTION by Mary Ellen Hughes (Berkley)

Jo McAllister hopes a new craft store will help change her life after the sudden death of her husband. A jewelry designer with a degree in art, she feels qualified to teach all manner of craft workshops, especially with the help of long-time friend Carrie who's a needlework whiz. After the highly successful grand opening, complete with clown and circus music, Jo's celebration pales when she discovers a body in the store room. The police, quite naturally, look at Jo as the most obvious suspect. Over the next several days, Jo, aided and abetted by her workshop students, realizes she'll have to find an alternate suspect on her own. Another death only ups the ante. I suspect this light cozy will make its way into many craft bags.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

MURDER 101 by Maggie Barbieri (St. Martin's Minotaur)

After Professor Alison Bergeron's old Volvo is stolen, she's shocked to find two detectives in her English Department office days later. Her surprise is appropriate—the're from homicide; her car has been found, with a student's body in the trunk. Alison loses her suspect status when she becomes the target of kidnappers—twice. In a non-traditional-cozy way, Alison doesn't succumb to terror, she fights back. Barbieri inserts several twists that prevent die-hard mystery readers from knowing who-done-it until the very end. This excellent debut mystery should be in the running for several major awards.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


This great chocoholic series is always on my "must read" list. I've followed former Texas beauty queen Lee McKinney since her debut in THE CHOCOLATE CAT CAPER, and I've always found the books well written and well plotted. The only drawback to the series is the mouth-watering descriptions of chocolate delights made in the TenHuis Chocolade which often require copious intake of lesser treats! In this outing Lee is getting ready for her wedding—and trying her best to keep it small. While dealing with Aunt Nettie's plan for redecorating the house (it's to be a home wedding) and Joe's mom's determination for a blow-out reception, Lee is completely blindsided when she learns of an earlier family wedding. Her mother ran away on the night before she was to be married—and the groom was found dead—an apparent suicide. Once again, the crimes of the past lead to the present, and Lee is right in the middle of murder.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Cascade Mountain Railroad Mysteries by Anne Capeci (Peachtree)

When I was reviewing children's books I always looked for the most bang for the buck. This series for young readers fills the bill. The spot-on adventure series offers good mystery and excellent history without being "teachy." The first in the series, DANGER DYNAMITE, introduces a diverse group of children in a Cascade Mountain railroad village. Missing dynamite, school pranks, and an old wanted poster combine to set the stage for a well-crafted adventure. "Dynamite" was nominated for an Agatha award.

This excellent series also includes DAREDEVILS, GHOST TRAIN, and MISSING!

THE FIRST CUT by Dianne Emley (Ballentine)

In her first day back on the job after a brutal attack, Nan Vining learns that she'll be relegated to the burgulary division. Despite lingering post traumatic stress symptoms, Vining wants back in homicide. In an obvious example of be careful what you wish for, Nan is pressed into duty when the nude body of an LA police officer is found in Pasadena. Emley takes the reader on both sides of the crime—inside the horrific as well as through the police investigation. The characters are well drawn and the violence, though gruesome, is not gratuitous. Dianne Emley is a writer to watch!

ALL MORTAL FLESH by Julia Spencer-Fleming (Thomas Dunne Books)

Every good mystery has tension. When Spencer-Fleming introduced Clare Fergusson, priest, and Russ van Alstyne, sherrif, four books ago, the immediate attraction they had for each other was enormous. Both, however, were bound to a code that prohibited their acting on the attraction because Russ was married. Now, Russ's wife has kicked him out of the house—he's moved back in with his mother; Clare has determined not to see him again. Circumstances change. Linda van Alstyne is found brutally murdered by a neighbor; the spouse is the obvious suspect; and the state police officer in charge of the investigation is determined that Russ is indeed the killer. Loyalties are important in this riveting story which I couldn't stop until I finished. Spencer-Fleming has garnered a shelf full of awards in her short career. I'd suggest making room for more—ALL MORTAL FLESH is her best yet.

STRIPPED by Brian Freeman (St. Martin's Minotaur)

As detectives Jonathan Stride and Serena Dial investigate a rash of seemingly unrelated murders they realize that all the crimes have ties to the brutal murder of a Las Vegas headliner back in the days when the Ratpack ruled. The current murders are unique, clever, and professional, and they lead directly to the city's power brokers. This is definitely not a shining moment for tourism. STRIPPED is gritty, harsh, and spell-binding.

Friday, October 20, 2006

MURDER UNLEASED by Elaine Viets (New American Library)

I've been reading Elaine Viets since her first book came out, and the "dead end job" series is my favorite. Helen Hawthorne has settled into a series of truly awful jobs but she's tempered her life with truly caring friends and a new love interest. In this outing, the job isn't really so bad—she's working in the Pampered Pet Boutique—but the animal parents are frequently over the top. When she delivers one pampered pet to his owner, Helen finds the woman not dead drunk, but dead. In case murder isn't enough, the boutique's groomers are at war, Ft. Lauderdale's most valuable dog is pupnapped, and a hurricane is targeting the city. I always feel better after an afternoon with Helen—my problems pale!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

SHOOTING GALLERY by Hailey Lind (Signet)

Annie Kincaid has set her path on the straight and narrow, but it's hard to make a living as a faux finisher in San Francisco—especially when she could be making big bucks forging Old Masters. She also finds it's hard to stay alive when you've got a trouble magnet in your pocket. Annie's visit to a gallery exhibition not only nets her a new client, but she discovers a body. Her landlord offers her an opportunity to restore a damaged Picasso, and a charming international art thief offers her an opportunity to clear a friend of a crime. Clearly, Annie is a gal to watch as she stumbles through live, one obstacle at a time. I'm not only ordering the debut in this series, but I'm putting Hailey Lind on my not-to-be-missed reading list.

Friday, October 13, 2006

SILENCE OF THE GRAVE by Arnaldur Indridason (Thomas Dunne Books)

Competition among Icelandic crime writers might be low, but when one wins the the coveted Golden Dagger award, that's a different story! SILENCE is just the second of the author's books translated into English. Detective Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson and his team have a relatively benign case: old bones have turned up during construction of a new Reykjavik housing development. Then Erlendur gets a frightening call from his pregnant daughter, begging for help before she is cut off. In his efforts to help her, his mind is split—wondering about the case, worrying about his daughter, and remembering things from his own past.

The beauty of this book is not so much the story, but the way it unfolds. Flashbacks are woven in so skillfully, the reader often is tricked into making false assumptions about which storyline is being told. Then, an "aha" moment occurs, and the path becomes clearer, only to have a new fog drop and confuse one again. Then, as the final pages are read, one can look back and see—everything was there all along! This book is worthy of its honor.

ESCAPE CLAUSE by James O. Born (Putnam)

Some people are always in the right place at the right time; others aren't. Florida lawman Bill Trasker is the latter. Just off a stressful case, he was standing in line at the bank with his 8-year-old daughter when a bank robbery ensued. To help him unwind, his boss sent him to do a review on an inmate homicide at a secluded prison. Bill's trouble magnet, however, continued working at high capacity. Murder, attempted murder (of Bill), kidnapping, and a prison break move Bill's temporary duty from simple to complex and dangerous. Those same complications make for a compelling, fast-paced thriller! James O. Born is now on my must-be-read list.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

AS DEAD AS IT GETS by Cady Kalian (Forge)

I don't know much about Hollywood, but when I finished this book, I felt as if I did. Maggie Mars is a successful screenwriter, but it seems that in Hollywood, you're only as good as your next hit. She's working hard to write, serving on the board of her screenwriters' guild, and managing her life. When her mentor, Roger Urban, is found dead in women's sexy clothes, Maggie feels compelled to add another dimension to her life—amateur sleuth. This debut mystery is fast-paced and often funny; it also offers a look into the backstory of the entertainment industry. Cady Kalian is the pseudonym for Irma Kalish (award-winning TV writer) and Naomi Gurian (attorney and former executive director of the Writers Guild of America, west). Enjoy your brush with LaLa Land.

THE VIRGIN OF SMALL PLAINS by Nancy Pickard (Ballantine Books)

"The past is never dead. It's not even past." William Faulkner said that in REQUIEM FOR A NUN. A young woman whose body was found brutalized during a blizzard in Small Plains KS left an imprint on the town that is still alive 17 years later. Her gravestone has become a mecca for folks seeking healing and more recently, another body is discovered during another blizzard. Can this new body offer clues to the death of the first? Of course it can! This is a first-class mystery by award-winning Nancy Pickard! Nancy just picked up a Macavity and a Barry at Bouchercon—and she's nominated for an Anthony, but I haven't heard the results of that one yet. This suspense novel is great—with wonderful characters, flashbacks at just the right places, and a rewarding ending. I carried it around the house with me until I finished it.

Cool Mystery Website

Prolific Texas mystery writer Bill Crider has expanded his areas of expertise! He's got a great blogsite that's fun to read. Now, he's added interviews with other mystery authors at the Bouchercon mystery conference, this year in Madison WI. Check it out at you'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

FOOLISH UNDERTAKING by Mark de Castrique

Barry Clayton has come home to the NC mountains to help with his family's funeral business. An ex-cop, he doesn't expect to be knocked out there the night before a funeral. And he most definitely doesn't expect to have the body stolen. Maybe the fact that the deceased was a Montagnard hero who helped saved the lives of not only Sheriff Tommy Lee Wadkins, but also a U.S. senator, a three-star general, and a Hollywood star would offer some clues to the who and why of the theft. Or maybe the current international picture could shed some light on the situation. Nevertheless, time is a big factor in the puzzle—and the players are all people with clout. Mark de Castrique is an author to watch.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

CONSIGNED TO DEATH by Jane K. Cleland (St. Martin's Minotaur)

Whistle blowers might come off on the high moral ground, but they frequently lose trust among their peers. That's what happened to Josie Prescott, who left her NYC job at a well-known auction house to establish her own company in New Hampshire. Things have gone well for her, but they've been slow—she's had to train a staff from scratch, acquire items, and build a warehouse and showroom. She's excited about her opportunity to land an entire estate of fabulous proportions when she suddenly becomes the prime suspect in a murder investigation. After all, the antiques trade can be cut throat in more ways than one. "Antiques Roadshow" junkies will revel in Josie's world; cozy readers will delight in the beginnings of a new, articulate series. Like Oliver, I ask for "more, please."

DYING LIGHT by Stuart MacBride (St. Martin's Minotaur)

Finally Scotland has another dynamite police procedural series. MacBride makes both his fictional and physical homes in Aberdeen. Detective Sergeant Logan MacRae was once a shining star on the force, but a bad tip which resulted in critically injuring a fellow policeman (with no arrests) delegates him to the "Screw-Up Squad." MacRae must use all his skills to find a serial murderer of prostitutes, which no one else believes is such, while most of the manpower of the force is focused on a series of murder by arson. Complicating MacRae's efforts are the two women in his life—his live-in lover, WPC Jackie Watson, and his new detective inspector Roberta Steel. MacRae's personal relationships add a lightness to the reality of the dark crimes, reminding the reader that there is, indeed, a silver lining out there—somewhere.

THE MORTICIAN'S DAUGHTER by Elizabeth Bloom (Mysterious Press)

Just when you think things can't get any worse, they do. Ginny Lavoie's personal life and career are in shambles when she hears from her best childhood friend, "Danny's dead." Knowing the death of a child will trump most any other problem, Ginny leaves New York for the run-down mill town in the Berkshires where she spent her childhood. On her return, she realizes even a disgraced NYPD detective can do more to find Danny's murderer than the incompetent local police chief. Like Thomas Wolfe, she also realizes it's hard to go back home again. Finding the answers to Danny's death means asking questions about the past—and few of the folks involved want to bring old stories to light. Bloom writes cliff-hanging chapter endings that made it very difficult for me to put this book down. I'll look forward to continuing my new relationship with Ginny Lavoie.

Friday, August 04, 2006

STILL LIFE by Louise Penny (St. Martin's Minotaur)

Miss Jane Neal never got to see her first art exhibition. She died, apparently shot by a hunter, on Thanksgiving Sunday, just after her work was accepted for an upcoming show. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec brings his investigative team to the rural village south of Montreal, all of them expecting a short stay. No matter how the facts are assembled, the obvious conclusion of accident doesn't fit, no matter how the locals present the facts. Gamache is sure there's more to this small village than meets the eye. Indeed, the reader learns many village secrets never revealed to Gamache, much like reality. As the investigative team sorts through clues, the story builds to a (dare I say it?) novel ending. Louise Penny will very likely garner a long list of award nominations for this debut.

THE BLOOD-DIMMED TIDE by Rennie Airth (Penguin)

Seeeing some names on book covers causes me to plan a reading break. Rennie Airth is one of them. Inspector John Madden is now retired from Scotland Yard and living with his physician wife and children and running their farm. Coming home from Sunday luncheon, a detour brings them face to face with an un-Sunday-like gathering of men in a neighboring hamlet. Recognizing a village bobby in the crowd, Madden feels a "chill of premonition" and joins the group. A missing child and an impending storm prompt a search; a grisly discovery and subsequent manhunt call forth an absorbing mystery. Without today's advanced technologies, Madden is forced to solve a crime using manpower and brain power. Airth shows no hesitancy in employing the reader's emotions to hold his interest. A compelling read!

SUFFERING FOOLS by Ed Gaffney (Dell)

I rarely reach for legal thrillers when I first visit my bookshelves, but I'm nearly always glad when I do. This one is no exception. What we have here is enough conflict for several novels, but Gaffney boils everything down into a manageable load. Zack Wilson and Terry Tallach, successful attorneys, accept a pro bono case—very commendable. Several problems arise: their befuddled client doesn't answer to his own name, the state has a compelling case, and the investigator has gathered top notch evidence. Like a knitter adding bits of colorful yarn to a complicated pattern, Gaffney pulls all the strings to just the length for a tight knot at exactly the right time. This the type legal thriller that keeps drawing me to that section of the bookcase!

A KILLER CONNECTION by J. B. Stanley (Berkley)

I picked up this first "collectible mystery" with the thought that it would be a light cozy. To my delight, however, it's a cozy with depth. Molly Appleby is a writer for "Collector's Weekly" magazine, and she comes to the job with a background rooted in the antiques business—her mother once owned a profitable antiques business and is now a premier pottery collector. Invited to a Seagrove (NC) kiln opening, the two are appalled to witness the death of the state's most obnoxious collector. Something Molly sees causes her to doubt the accidental death ruling. As she learns more about North Carolina pottery making, she is more and more convinced that George-Bradley Staunton was murdered. Mystery lovers and pottery collectors alike will enjoy Stanley's fine first outing.

THE YELLOW DOG by Georges Simenon (Penguin)

Everybody who claims to be a mystery reader should have several authors' works snuggly in their "already read" list. One of the more prominent is Simenon, whose Inspector Maigret has entertained readers for 75 years. Three of Maigret's most compelling cases are now reprinted in small paperback format designed for summer reading. When a series of crimes befall the leading citizens of Concarneau, only one is fatal, but the targets are quickly brought to quivering mass while waiting for the next attack. Adding to their fear, a mysterious yellow dog is found near the scene of each assault. Maigret's thinking-and-watching detecting methods are ridiculed by the town's pompous mayor, but the observations prevail when the pipe-smoking Maigret reveals not only who dunit, but why.

Friday, May 12, 2006

COLD RELATIONS by Gerald Hammond (Allison and Busby)

When you're head of Edinburgh's canine unit, everything seems to go to the dogs. Det. Sergeant Honey Laird's caseload seems to thin out a little, so she takes on a chore for an old friend--babysitting the friend's ex-husband, an ex SAS officer recuperating from a head wound in Iraq. Honey's obvious solution to most problems is fixing them up with a dog or two. This time the fix becomes a problem when Andrew's spaniels are kidnapped after a grouse shoot, a shooter goes missing, and a womanizing QC demands a female investigator for his case. The seriousness of the crimes lose nothing by the light touch of Hammond's writing. This book has something for everyone, but it's a wonderful find for lovers of cozy English police procedurals!

THE TORSO by Helene Tursten (Soho Press)

You know it's gonna be a bad day when a torso, so mutilated that it's gender is unknown, turns up on a beach. Det. Insp. Irene Huss gets the call on a case that moves her from her home office in Goteborg, Sweden to Copenhagen, where she encounters a similar mutilation. The further she probes into the case, the more murders appear. Irene is plummeted into Copenhagen's "Sin Central" where she meets a 400-pound plus Sumo wrestler who becomes an unlikely supporter. A call from an old neighbor adds the chore of looking for a runaway teenager. Meanwhile on the home front, one of Irene's twin daughters is involved in an automobile accident, and the family dog is sued for a paternity suit. Tursten provides the perfect police procedural--gruesome crime juxtaposed against a detective's ordinary familly life. I'm glad this one was in my TBR pile!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

SAVANNAH BREEZE by Mark Kay Andrews (Harper Collins)

When Mary Kay Andrews writes a sequel—she writes a SEQUEL! Following the Edgar-nominated SAVANNAH BLUES, Andrews now tells the story of trendy restaurant owner Bebe Lowdermilk (BLUES' Weezie's best friend). No longer successful, Bebe has been DONE WRONG by Reddy a gorgeous con man, er investment counselor, who has sold everything she owned except a run down 1950s motor court on Georgia's Tybee Island. Fortunately all Southern Belles have family and friends (both lifetime and new) to call on when the going gets tough. Bebe's assembled posse comes together witih a vengence to restore her fortune and to teach Reddy why it's not good to mess with GRITS (girls raised in the South). This might well be the best summer read of 2006!

OH DANNY BOY by Rhys Bowen (St. Martin's Minotaur)

The Molly Murphy mystery series keeps getting better and better! In her fifth outing, Molly's determination to find a new career becomes tangled with her resolution to put dashing police Captain Daniel Sullivan out of her life. Her plans are put aside when Daniel is arrested for corruption and jailed and she is the only one who will help him. Additional complications from her personal life and with an outbreak of murdered prostitutes require all of Molly's skills as an investigator and as a strong-willed woman. In keeping with all of Bowen's works, the supporting characters are well-drawn and realistic, and the story moves at breakneck pace until its harrowing conclusion. This is a marvelous entry in a top-notch series!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

THE COLD DISH by Craig Johnson (Penguin)

Like a magnet grabs iron filings, this book pulled me in from the first sentence and held me through the last words of the epilogue. Characters were well defined and likeable; the pacing was perfect; the story compelling. I had an idea of the perpetrator, but that didn't detract one iota from my enjoyment of my reading. After all, I could have been wrong.

Sheriff Walt Longmire has many bad memories of his 24 years of duty in Absaroka County, Wyoming, but only one haunts him—the brutal rape of a fetal-alchohol teenaged Native American. Even though Walt caught the perps, who were brought to trial, nobody thinks they got what they deserved. With a new death (is it a hunting accident?) on his plate, Walt introduces the reader to other inhabitants of his county, each of whom has a backstory of his/her own. Absaroka County is no Mayberry, but the sheriffs have a wonderful similarity. I cannot say enough good things about this book!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

DID YOU DECLARE THE CORPSE? by Patricia Sprinkle (Signet)

Georgia magistrate MacLaren Yarborough joins a bus tour of the Scottish Highlands as part of a search for her roots. She's been warned by her husband and her travel companion that she's not to look for murder. What can she do, though, when murder comes looking for her companions? Sprinkle does what so few authors do--she throws a busload of new characters at the reader and then sketches them so fully that each is identifiable without recourse to a cast of characters—or my personal worst, page flipping. The murder happens in the first chapter, but we don't know who's the victim until much, much later. The is not only a good mystery, it's a primer in how to write a compelling story. Additionally, Jan Karon fans who like mysteries will love Mac!

DEATH OF A BORE and DEATH OF A DREAMER by M.C. Beaton (Mysterious Press)

Highlands Constable Hamish Macbeth is one of my favorite fictional police officers. Hamish grows as a character throughout the series, and Beaton continues bringing in new characters who keep things fresh. In BORE, a "famous" writer moves into the area and offers to teach his craft to villagers. Hamish doesn't think his canny villagers will be duped by the promise, but he's surprised to see a crowd at the first class. You know who is killed, but iyou may be surprised at the killer.

In DREAMER, it's an artist who's the victim, a woman who moved into the Highlands over the cold winter. There are plenty of suspects--villagers and newcomers alike. Beaton does a particularly good job in recycling characters in this one, giving Hamish and the reader plenty of suspects.

Enjoy your visit to the Scottish Highlands!

THE CIRCLE by Peter Lovesey (SOHO Crime)

A guest speaker at a writer's circle is killed when his house is set on fire. Police immediately arrest the chair of the writer's circle. There was reason to suspect the chair--after being told his book was nearing publication, he was told he'd need to pay to have it published. Another death within the circle itself cast doubts on the police theory, even while members of the group are working to clear their leader. Parallel investigations, one professional, one amateur, keep the reader turning pages while wondering who, how, and most of all why. This is another keeper in the long string of great crime fiction by the charming and clever Peter Lovesey.

THE SUMMER SNOW by Rebecca Pawel (Soho Crime)

The death of a rich old woman who called in the police on a regular basis shouldn't have prompted a full-scale investigation. The old woman, however was special. She changed her will almost as much as she called the police and her will is missing. Not only that, the administrator of her will is the father of Lt. Carlos Tejada of the Guardia. The investigation not only plunges Tejada into family intrigue, but it forces him to reconcile his young wife and son with the haughty aristocratic family he left behind when he joined the force. The story is further complicated by its setting: Post World War II Spain, still recovering from the Red Menace. Pawel won the Edgar for the first in this series, DEATH OF A NATIONALIST.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

THE FALLEN by T. Jefferson Parker (William Morrow)

Parker creates such wonderfully flawed protagonists I would probably read his books as novels, even if there weren't a marvelous mystery involved! Robbie Brownlaw survived a fall from a sixth floor window in an attempt to rescue survivors from a hotel fire. He's left with synesthesia (a neurological condition that mixes up ones senses) which dramatically improves his skills as a detective because he can, quite literally, see lies. His latest case is the murder of a San Diego policeman-turned ethics investigator. Parker's skill as a storyteller and his compelling characters made it impossible for me to lay the book aside for more than a few minutes at a time. Another winner from this two-time Edgar award winner!

Friday, February 24, 2006

THE DEEP BLUE ALIBI by Paul Levine (Bantam)

It's funny, fast-paced, and irrevrent. It's also a great legal thriller that pits builders against environmentalists and lawyer against lawyer. On another note, it's a poignant look at a young boy with special needs. Then, like any good Florida Keys book, you can test your Parrothead quotient. Whatever causes you to pick up this fun paperback original--you'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A DEATH IN VIENNA by Frank Tallis (Grove Press)

Freud's Vienna comes to life in this locked room mystery when a successful medium is killed in her apartment. An apparent ruling suicide is thwarted when no weapon is found and Dr. Maxim Liebermann finds an inconsistancy with the suicide note. As much a tale of Vienna's cafe society and the early days of psychoanalysis as a murder mystery, this book will find fans among history lovers and philosophers. A DEATH IN VIENNA has already been short listed for the C.W.A. Arthur Ellis Award.

Friday, February 17, 2006

HELLO, STRANGER by Virginia Swift (Harper Collins)

When women's history professor "Mustang" Sally Adler literallly gives a student the coat off her back, she thinks she's helping a victim of domestic abuse. That's true, but the situation proves far bigger when Sally stumbles over the body of the student's father. Smarmy lawyers, religious rights, and California realtors muddy the waters as Sally works to save her student. Although this is the fourth "Mustang Sally" novel, Swift makes it easy for newcomers to the series to fit into the Laramie, Wyoming series. With truly fast pacing, Swift keeps the story moving while tieing up all loose ends. My kind of a read!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

RIVER OF DARKNESS by Rennie Airth (Penguin)

I don't know how I missed this when it was first published (and nominated for the Edgar and Macavity awards), but at least I got a copy of the 2005 trade paperback verstion. In post-WW-I England, Scotland Yard is called to investigate a small village slaughter of a young family. Because a few items were taken from the house, one particularly inept inspector is intent on ruling it a robbery gone bad. Fortunately for justice, Inspector Madden and Chief Inspector Sinclair are on the case. Madden, like Charles Todd's Inspector Rutlege, is haunted by the recent war, and he is determined to get to the bottom of the gruesome killings. After hearing a Viennese doctor speak about the influences of the mind on one's behavior, Madden is convinced that the killer has a past that is worthy of exploration. RIVER OF DARKNESS caused me to neglect my daily activities and burn the midnight oil much too late!

THE BEST BRITISHI MYSTERIES 2006 ed. by Maxim Jakubowski (Allison and Busby)

If you need just a taste of crime before bedtime, keep this jewell on your night stand. You'll find historicals, cozies, and contemporary short stories in this compendium. Want to try out a new British author? Here's the answer. I was glad to renew my literary friendship with Anne Perry, Peter Robinson, and Keith Miles, among others. Kim Newman took me back to Belgravia, not via Watson's eyes, but through Col. Moran's. I won't mention the authors new to me--I'll loose credibility for not knowing them already! Whether you read straight through or in nightly tastes, you'll be glad to have this collection on your shelf.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

MURDER IN MONTMARTRE by Cara Black (Soho Crime)

When Cara Black takes you to Paris, you can be sure it won't be to the Champs-Elysées! Rather, Black's Paris, seen through the eyes of computer dectective Aimée Leduc, is the gritty underworld of kickbacks, prostitutes, and street people. In this outing, a childhood friend has achieved her dream of becoming a policewoman, only to be accused of killing her partner. As Aimée struggles to clear her friend, she seeks answers, as always, to the reasons for her father's death which left his name clouded. Even as Aimée risks her own life to find answers, her partner, René proves himself quite capable as a field detective.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

PERFECTION by Walter Satterthwait (Thomas Dunne Books)

Walter Satterthwait's name on a book is like "sterling" on silver. This Florida thriller pokes fun at America's obsession with weight while giving the sub-genre a new Hannibal Lecter. Police detectives Sophia Tregaskis and Jim Fallon have all they can handle with the latest crime (does it really target morbidly obsese women?) without a power hungry police chief and a powerful hurricane. Satterthwait plays fair with his readers, but I guarantee you'll have no time to figure out who dunnit—you'll be too busy turning pages!

Friday, February 03, 2006

THE CHOCOLATE MOUSE TRAP by Joanna Carl (Signet)

What do a wedding planner, a chocolate store manager, a caterer, a florist, a restaurant owner, a baker, and a pair of B&B owner have in common? They're part of "The Seventh Food Group" email group--and somebody is bumping them off, one by one! Lee McKinney manages her aunt's chocolate company, and she's no stranger to murder (after all, this is the fifth in the series). Clues were obviously in the emails sent among the group, but hackers have infected computers with a virus and destroyed hard drives.

This is one of my favorite light series--and Carl does just what I like when several new characters are introduced: She gently reminds the reader who is who every time she mentions a member of the supporting cast. Do yourself a favor and indulge in this no-calorie confection.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

TROUBLE IN PARADISE by Pip Granger (Poisoned Pen Press)

If you were as enchanted by Granger's Agatha-nominiated NOT ALL TARTS ARE APPLES as I, you'll be delighted to read the prequel. Since APPLE's narrator, young Rosie, hasn't been born yet, Zelda, a young World War II wife delivers the story. It's a charming look at a tiny neighborhood in London at the end of the War. While not a mystery by the purest standards, this engrossing novel has enough elements to fall under the crime fiction umbrella. No matter its classification, however, it's delightful reading.

CARVED IN BONE by Jefferson Bass (Wiliam Morrow)

Forensic fans, walk don't run to your local bookstore! This is the real thing. The writing team of Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson (Jefferson Bass) set their first collaboration in and around the University of Tennessee's Anthropology Research Facility, better known as the Body Farm, that Dr. Bass founded more than 25 years ago. Fictional director of the farm Dr. Bill Brockton is called to rural Cooke County, Tennessee by the sherrif to examine a body found in a cave. The suspense never falters—except to deliver realistic details. If I wished for better dialog, forensic fans will be well satisfied with details! Fortunately, I was enthralled with the story, which made up for the slightly stilted conversations. Cornwell and Reichs have a worthy partner in crime.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

HUNG OUT TO DIE by Sharon Short (Avon)

If you've ever had trouble keeping up with characters in a book, you'll know how Josie Toadfern felt when she met all of her father's family at a Thanksgiving reunion. Josie's dad left home when she was two, so naturally her mom didn't feel obligated to introduce his relatives. Deciding to let bygones be bygones, Josie accepted an invitation to the family dinner, but little did she realize she'd have to solve a murder. Short's fans, however, won't be at all surprised, because Josie has become nearly as adept at finding out who dunnit as she is at getting out stains at her laundry. Complicated family situations, personal problems, and old secrets provide just about all Josie can deal with at this holiday occasion. Enjoy the read.

Monday, January 16, 2006

DARK FIRE by C. J. Sansom (Penguin)

Following his CWA Ellis Peters Histosrical Dagger Award-winning DISSOLUTION, Sansom has another winner. In this outing, hunchback lawyer Matthew Shardlake is commissioned by Oliver Cromwell to find the source of a 16th century weapon of mass destruction. Although commissions from Cromwell are not to be ignored, Matthew has another compelling case on his hands--defending a young girl accused of murder who refuses to speak, even when threatened with torture. C. J. Sansom has, with just two books, established himself in historical mystery's forefront.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

GRAVE UNDERTAKING by Mark de Castrique (Poisoned Pen Press)

Barry Clayton didn't want to go into the family business. He wanted to be a policeman, and he was, for a while. When his father's Alzheimer's became pronounced, Barry came home to the NC mountains to manage Clayton and Clayton Funeral Directors. Except for his father's illness, things are going well for Barry in his hometown, perhaps because of Dr. Susan Miller. Then, a simple job turns up a skeleton where it shouldn't be; the skeleton turns up to be who it shouldn't be, and Barry's world turns upside down. Throw in snowy Appalachian weather, corruption in politics, and long memories, and you've got yourself a mighty fine fireplace read! If you can't visit North Carolina this year, this is the next best trip.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

THE GOURDMOTHER by Maggie Bruce (Berkley)

I had serious doubts about this "first gourd crafat mystery" despite the glowing blurbs from writers I truly admire. (That's possibly because mystery writers are so supportive of newcomers!) I just wasn't in the mood for another light-weight cozy with a hook. Despite my hesitancy to start, I quickly realized that Maggie Bruce knows her way around a puzzle. We're talking serious crimes in a small town, many of them hidden by the victim(s). Lili Marino isn't a hobbyist hoping to sell her cute wares at the church bazaar--she's aiming for juried art show sales. Lili's not living off a trust fund either. She got her cottage in Walden Corners, NY in lieu of payment for six months of technical writing. Unlike "ripped from the headlines stories," this is a story that could happen anywhere, any time. Join me in welcoming Maggie Bruce to the mystery world.

DEATH WAXED OVER by Tim Myers (Berkley)

Tim Myers knows how to tell a story that will keep his fans coming back for more. Harrison Black, owner of candle shop At Wick's End, is facing stiff competition from a new franchise whose owner threatens to bury him. Unfortunately, the shoe is on the other foot according to the wife of a newspaper editor when the newcomer is shot right in front of him. Harrison has his work cut out for him when he tries to prove his innocence. Throw in a tight budget and a stalker, and there's enough tension for a lively, well-plotted cozy. What more could you ask for a Sunday afternoon read--except maybe a nice cup of Earl Grey?

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Edge of Evil by J. A. Jance

It's a sad fact of life: Men in TV become distinguished as they age; women become old. Alison Reynolds didn't think it would apply to her this early, she was in her mid-forties; but she was wrong. When relieved of her anchor spot on the LA evening news, she was momentarily distracted by the disappearance of her best friend from high school. Seeking solice from home and a chance to help her friend, she left immediately for Sedona, Arizona. Unlike Thomas Wolfe, Alison found she could go home again. Soon she was slinging hash in her parents diner, visiting old friends, and asking too many questions. Because she voiced her intentions of bringing legal action against both the station and network for her dismissal to her son, he created a blog for his mother where she could chat with her TV fans. Soon she was involved witn the ALS and domestic violence communities. Jance works her usual wonders in her craft--likeable, well-defined characters; multiple story lines; and a compelling delivery. Don't miss this paperback original!

Five Days in Summer by Kate Pepper

You know it's going to be bad: The teaser on the back tells you right up front that Emily Parker won't come home from the grocery store. You aren't warned, however, how little effort the Cape Cod police will put into looking for her. After all, she's a msising adult. You aren't warned about the havoc visited upon a young family when their mother, and primary caregiver, isn't available. You aren't warned about the evil this particular kidnapper inflicts on his victims. You'll find yourself pulling for Emily, her frantic husband Will, and her three young children. You'll warm to retired FBI profiler John Geary and hope to see him again. This is an edge-of-your-seat suspense thriller that'll have you reading far into the night (after checking and re-checking your doors and windows).