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Newsletter #81 March - May, 2008

Mystery Reviews
by Gerri Balter

        If you like books with complex plots and interesting characters, I recommend Fiddle Game by Richard A. Thompson ($24.95). Herman Jackson is a bail bondsman in St. Paul. When a young woman named Amy Cox leaves a valuable violin for security for her brother's bond, She is murdered after she leaves. Herman is upset. He wonders why anyone would want to kill her. Things become more complex when a police officer thinks he's responsible. Then he finds out that the violin is not as valuable as he think; or is it? If it's what he thinks it is, it's a violin with a curse. Everyone wants it and they think Herman knows where it is. Herman is sure he doesn't have it, but he has no idea who does have it. The body count increases while Herman is trying to figure out what is going on before he is arrested for a crime he didn't commit.

        It seems that knowing Kelly Flynn is dangerous in A Deadly Yarn by Maggie Sefton ($6.99). Allison Dubois, a friend of hers, is found dead from an overdose of sleeping pills. Megan, another friend of both Kelly and Allison, doesn't believe that Allison's death was either an accident or suicide even though the police disagree. Megan does some investigating and finds that Allison has some enemies, including a former boyfriend. Megan and Kelly will do whatever is necessary to find out who killed Allison.

        Before you read my review of The Mournful Teddy by John J. Lamb ($6.99) I think it's only fair to tell you that I do collect stuffed animals. Like so many mysteries that are written about a sleuth that has a hobby, I believe this one is enjoyable whether or not you are a stuffed animal collector or even like stuffed animals.
        Brad Lyon is a former San Francisco police officer who is forced into retirement because of a wound he suffered while on duty. He and his wife have moved to Remmelkemp Mill, Virginia, where he helps her show the teddy bears she makes. When he finds a body in the river by his home, he doesn't plan to get involved in the investigation until the local police chief insists the dead man committed suicide, while Brad can tell he's been murdered. He is even more determined after the police chief's son threatens him. He is helped by his wife and one of the deputies. He finds out that the dead man was supposed to deliver a very expensive bear to a local teddy bear show. The bear has disappeared as well. The police chief and his son are both prime suspects. Yet Brad wonders if someone else could have committed the crime.
        Brad Lyon is a loving husband and father who can be both tough and tender, depending on the situation. He's far from perfect and his wound slows him down. Yet he refuses to give up on what he believes it. I can't wait to read the next book in the series.

        Myron Bolitar has returned in Promise Me by Harlan Coben ($9.99). Myron has changed a great deal in six years. He has mellowed or he thinks he has. All that changes due to a promise he makes to a teenage girl named Aimee Biel, the teenage daughter of his friend, Claire and her husband, Erik. He promises to pick Aimee up if she asks him to, no questions asked, and drops her off wherever she wants. The problem is that after he drops her off, she disappears. Myron promises Claire he will find her daughter. There are other people, including the police, who think he's responsible for Aimee's disappearance as well as the disappearance of one of her classmates. There are also those who don't want him to find her. Then there is the new woman in his life who has a daughter the same age as Aimee, who is friends with Aimee. This new woman wonders if he is as innocent as he claims to be. Myron is determined to find Aimee and straighten the mess out. With Win's help, he begins the investigation and people begin to die. He hopes to find Aimee before she dies, too.

        I picked up a copy of Death Do Us Part edited by Harlan Coben ($13.99) at a mystery convention because I didn't see the "edited by" part and thought it was a novel written by Harlan. Instead I found out it was a group of short stories. Although I'm not much of a short story reader, I thought I'd try one. That's all it took. I found myself so enthralled, I read them all. The theme of this collection is "Love, Lust, and Murder". Each story is so different from the one before that you have no idea what's going to happen next. The characters are richly drawn and I found myself caring about them. None of the endings is obvious and each one is unique. I found it difficult to stop reading this collection. At the end of each story, I had to try at least one more. When I finally read the last story in the collection, I wanted more.

        Manor of Death by Leslie Caine ($6.99) deals with death in Erin Gilbert's neighborhood. It began with a death, fifty years ago, of a teenager named Abby. She committed suicide on the roof of the house Erin has been hired to redecorate. It seems that several people including Erin's landlady, Audrey, claim to have seen Abby's ghost. Erin doesn't believe in ghosts even after she has seen what looks like Abby on the roof. When Erin's life is threatened and two of her neighbors are murdered, Erin begins to wonder if Abby did commit suicide. The dead girl seems to have been involved with most of Erin's neighbors one way or another. Reluctantly, she has to ask for Steve Sullivan's help in solving the mystery when the police order her to stay out of it. She can't do that because if she does, she's very afraid that she or someone she cares about will be the next victim.

        One of the things I enjoyed about Fruit of the Poisoned Tree by Joyce and Jim Lavene ($6.99) is that the protagonist, Peggy Lee, is a woman in her fifties who still is active and has a love life. I also enjoyed the fact that the plot kept me guessing until the end as to who the murderer was.
Peggy Lee is a botanist and the widow of a police officer and the mother of a police officer. So when she witnesses her friend, Park Lamonte, drive off a ramp and is with him when he dies, she knows he didn't commit suicide. The police see it differently. She is determined to prove that his death isn't a suicide. The problem is that she proves he was murdered and the prime suspect is his wife, Beth, also a friend of hers. Even Park's mother thinks Beth is guilty. When his mother is murdered as well, Beth is arrested for both murders. Peggy refuses to believe it. When she can't convince the police, she tries to find evidence that will prove Beth innocent. What she finds only makes Beth look guiltier. Peggy's boyfriend and her friends try to convince her that maybe she is wrong about Beth. Peggy refuses to believe it and continues to investigate the murders while Beth stays at her home and someone targets Peggy as the next victim.

        Are there any lies that are pardonable? That's what Maisie Dobbs wonders about in Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear ($23.00 signed hc or $14.00 trade pb). Maisie is working on three cases. One concerns a 13_year old Avril Jarvis who is charged with murder. Maisie is sure Avril is innocent. But she's poor and can't afford to hire anyone to help her. One concerns Sir. Cecil Lawton. His son was reported killed during World War One. His wife refuses to believe it. Before she died, she made him promise he would find out the truth. The third concerns another missing soldier, Peter, the brother of her best friend, Pricilla. None of these cases seem too dangerous. Yet someone is trying to kill her. She also has some unresolved feelings about the war she needs to work through. She is determined to find the answers to the issues in all three cases even though it may mean giving up a friendship and putting her own life in danger. However, how much does she tell her clients? Does she tell them the whole truth, no matter the consequences or does she deliberately omit facts?



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