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Newsletter #91 September November, 2010

Mystery Reviews
by Gerri Balter

        After reading False Witness by Aimee & David Thurlo ($6.99), I began to think about how one person’s good luck could be disastrous to someone else. Our Lady of Hope Monastery survives by donations and jobs that the nuns can do in their cloistered life. They need more money than they have on hand. With the economy not doing well, fewer people can afford to help them. Then a SUV crashes through their fence. There is not enough money to fix it. So when an ailing millionaire asks Sister Agatha to find his only relative before he dies, it seems as though it is an answer to their prayers. The problem is the relative does not want to be found. Several people in the nearby town are angry with the nuns because they took jobs away from them. They feel that the nuns don’t need the jobs the way they do. They aren’t very willing to talk to her. Sister Agatha realizes she has more than one task on her hands. Unfortunately, things became even more complicated when no one is who or what they seem to be and the answer might lead to even a worse outcome for everyone involved.

        White Corridor by Christopher Fowler ($13.00) depicts one of the most interesting locked room mysteries I have ever read. When Arthur Bryant and John May leave to take a vacation together, they don’t expect to be stuck in their vehicle during a snow storm. What’s worse, they realize that a murderer is stuck in a vehicle in the same snowstorm. In the meantime, the Peculiar Unit’s pathologist, Oswald Finch is found dead in his lab, the door locked from the inside. While Bryant and May are trying to find their murderer, Janice Longstreet and the rest of the Peculiar Unit’s staff are trying to find out who killed Finch because they are all suspects. The answers to both crimes are difficult to find and it takes witches, Goths, and a small boy to help them find out the truth.

        Have you ever tried speed dating? In Evil in Carnations by Kate Collins ($6.99), Abby Knight tries it with disastrous results. She’s interested in finding a date for her best friend and roommate, Nikki, who is depressed after breaking up with her boyfriend. Nikki agrees to try speed dating if Abby goes with. Nikki meets one man she likes, Jonas Treat, and makes a date with him in spite of Abby’s objections. When Jonas is murdered, all the physical evidence points t Nikki. Abby refuses to believe Nikki would do such a thing. Marco, Abby’s boyfriend, has been hired to help prove her innocence. Abby insists on helping. For once Marco agrees. They think they have the answer. Instead the killer traps them and wounds Marco, leaving Abby to get help while he lies bleeding. She hopes she can do it before his life bleeds out.

        Things are not going well with either Reverend Clare Fergusson or Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne in I Shall Not Want by Julia Spencer-Fleming ($7.99). Clare is not doing well after killing someone while trying to save Russ’s life. Russ is feeling guilty about not being able to save his wife from dying because of his feelings for Clare. They try to stay away from each other. It’s difficult in a small town like Millers Kill especially when events conspire to bring them together. It begins when a friend of Clare is involved in a car accident while bringing a group of Mexicans to work for Russ’s sister. The Mexicans have forged papers. Still Russ’s sister and her husband smuggle them in to work on their farm and don’t tell Russ. However Clare knows because one of the Mexicans is injured, the only one who has papers, and can’t work on the farm. Clare hires him to work in her church. When legal Mexicans start being killed, Russ and his team begin to investigate the crime. Then someone goes after Clare which forces Russ to confront his feelings for her. Both work on solving the killings from different angles. Russ confronts the killers and is badly wounded. While Clare prays for his life, she also examines her feelings for him, hoping she will be able to tell him how she feels.

        Do you believe in reincarnation? That’s what Ophelia Jensen has to grapple with in The Witch’s Grave by Shirley Damsgaard ($7.99). It begins when she has erotic dreams about a man she’s never seen before. She dismisses them until she sees the man and meets him. His name is Stephen Larsen and he writes crime exposes. When he is shot, everyone assumes, at first, that Ophelia is the target, especially when someone shoots at her. Because of her strong attraction to Stephen, she resolves to find out who shot him. Her grandmother believes she knew Stephen in a former life and has some unfinished business with him. While she and Abby try to find out the truth, the dreams continue. However, this time they take place during World War II. What does the past have to do with the present? That’s what Ophelia has to find out before it’s too late for her and for Stephen.

        The bloody tower in the The Bloody Tower by Carola Dunn ($6.99) refers to the Tower of London. Daisy has gotten special permission to go there to write a magazine article about it for American readers. She has learned a great deal about its grisly history, but she’s sure those days are over. That’s before she finds the dead body of one of her guides. He has been brutally murdered, not something she would want to put in her article. She tries to forget all about it, but can’t when two young women who live at the Tower ask for her help. She finds herself learning about the lives of the people who live at the Tower and what would cause one to choose murder as the only way to solve a problem.

        The Mortal Groove by Ellen Hart ($15.95) looks at the race for governor in Minnesota. Jan Lawless’s father has been asked to run for the office. He accepts the offer. All goes well until a reporter begins an investigation of a cold case that involves some of the people who are running her father’s campaign. When Jane and Cordelia find out about it, they do their own investigation until someone tries to kill them. They think they know who is after them. The problem is that the person who is after them then turns his attention to Jane’s brother, Peter. Peter is abducted and his life is changed by the experience in ways that will scar him for life, if he’s rescued before it’s too late.

        The Girl with Braided Hair by Margaret Coel ($7.99) begins in1973 when Liz Plenty Horses tries to get away from the American Indian Movement members who blame her for the death of one of their members. Her body has been found in 2010. She was beaten before she was murdered. No one knows who she is or why she was killed. Vicky feels that she must find out about Liz and who killed her because she feels a kinship to the dead girl. The problem is that those who know the answers aren’t willing to talk because they know if they do, they may be killed. That won’t stop Vicky even though the killer is after her. She turns to Father John for help. The killer has no respect for a man of the cloth. The killer knows who they are. They have no idea who the killer is. They have to find out the answers before it’s too late.

        I admire Susan Wittig Albert because she lets the reader know right away that Nightshade ($7.99) is part of a trilogy that explains what happened to China Bayles father. The other two books are Bleeding Hearts ($23.95 signed hc or $7.99 pb) and Spanish Dagger ($23.95 signed hc or $7.99 pb). She does explain enough so that you don’t have to have read the other two novels before reading this one. Nightshade begins with the murder of China’s half-brother, Miles. China, who wasn’t sure she wanted to become involved in finding out the truth about her father’s death, now has decided she has to know the truth. China and McQuaid find out that Miles had been keeping information from them, information that leads to more people being hurt. Yet they know that they have to find out the truth, not only for their peace of mind, but for that of Miles’s daughter. The people responsible will not give up and don’t care how many lives they have to kill to keep their secret.

        At the end of Mummy Dearest by Joan Hess ($6.99), she adds a author’s note where she tells the reader about going to Egypt with Elizabeth Peters. Joan also puts in a character called Amanda Peabody Emerson. Those of you who are Elizabeth Peters fans will know who she is.
        Claire, Peter, Caron, and Inez are in Egypt. Claire and Peter are on their honeymoon. Unfortunately, Peter is also there on business so they don’t spend much time together. They are staying in a hotel where everyone seems to know all about them. They know that Claire solves mysteries. So when strange things start happening, they assume Claire will investigate. She doesn’t plan on doing that. After all she is on her honeymoon. Then someone goes after Caron and Inez. One of the group is kidnapped. Claire can’t help becoming involved even though Peter and the Egyptian police warn her not to get involved. She has to find out the truth, no matter what the cost.

        Lots of people are deceived in And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander ($13.95). First of all, there’s Emily. She marries Philip, the Viscount Ashton, to get away from her overbearing mother. When he dies a short time after their marriage during a safari in Africa, Emily feels happiness and freedom. Then she finds out more about him and feels sorrow at his death. Then she finds that her husband may have been dealing in stolen art. Had he deceived her and everyone around him? There’s his best friend Colin Heargraves who seems to want to care for Emily, but he keeps on doing things that make her think that he lied to her about what actually happened to Philip. There’s Andrew Palmer who claims to love Emily and want to marry her. Yet she wonders about his intentions because he, too, seems to know more about what happened to Philip, or does he? Emily has to find out the truth with the help of her female friends, even though the truth can cause her more pain than she can take.

        Faux Finished by Peg Marberg ($6.99) begins with a happy event. Jean Hastings and her daughter, JR, co-founders of Designer Jeans, have finished decorating the Sleepy Hollow Country Club’s dining room. Jean and her husband, his twin sister and her husband, JR and her husband are sitting in the new dining room enjoying the grand reopening when the manager, who has been fighting Jean from the beginning, dies. At first, the police think it’s from natural causes. Then they find out he’s been murdered. It’s the second death in a short time. The other person who died was a local bookseller who was on the board of the country club. Jean and her sister-in-law are curious as to why these two men who are involved in the country club have died. JR’s husband, the police officer in charge of investigating the case and Jean’s husband don’t want her to investigate. That doesn’t stop her until someone tries to kill her when she’s with her grandchildren. She decides it would be best to stop investigating. However, it’s too late because the killer thinks she knows too much and is determined to make her the next victim.

        Madeira, Maddie for short, goes home for her sister’s wedding in A Veiled Deception by Annette Blair ($6.99). She thinks that she has a great career as a dress designer in New York. Once she comes home to Mystick Falls, Connecticut, strange things begin to happen. When a woman who threatens her sister’s happiness is murdered, her sister is the prime suspect. Maddie is determined to find out the truth while working on an antique wedding dress for her sister to wear. Every time she touches the dress, she sees one of women who had worn the dress. One of the women was never a bride. What has that got to do with the murder? Maddie doesn’t know. She does know that she has to find out because she’s sure the killer will strike again.

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