November 22


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Newsletter #61 March - May, 2003

Mystery Reviews
by Jeff Hatfield

        Fans had an added six-month wait while Robert Crais made his new Elvis Cole novel "the best book possible." His work on the screen adaptation of Hostage may have contributed to the delay. The script is now at Revolution Pictures, and in the hands of Bruce Willis who's looking for a director. The recommended The Last Detective ($24.95) also comes across as cinematic, and as tense and edgy as any of Crais' ten earlier novels. Though it should not be confused with the recommendable and Anthony Award-winning ('92) novel of the same name by Diamond Dagger recipient Peter Lovesey.
        Elvis Cole's lawyer girlfriend, Lucy Chenier, has moved to LA. Their shaky relationship is tested again by violence when Lucy's ten-year-old, Ben, who is staying with Cole in the Hollywood Hills, vanishes--without sound or trace. Missing boy turns to kidnap case when a call comes through indicating revenge as a motive over a classified firefight during the Vietnam War, and accusing Cole of atrocities. He enlists the help of the imperturbable Joe Pike, his comrade-in-arms. Ben's angry and wealthy father brings in his own security team to complicate their search. Plus the LAPD regards Cole as a material witness and directs him to lay off. Though he does get some help from a sympathetic Carol Starkey, the somewhat foul-mouthed police detective introduced in the stand-alone novel Demolition Angel.
        But Cole and Pike's biggest hazards are the kidnappers themselves, three maniacal war criminals who are extremely capable. At one point Pike quietly voices to Cole that these guys are better than they are. (Joe Pike with self-doubt?) While a frantic Cole is trying to save what family he has and deal with his troubled past, Pike is testing himself as he recovers from bullet wounds. And if Pike survives the lethal endgame and violent climax, he still has some unfinished business. In fact, The Last Detective is very much bracketed by Pike's story.
        Rumor had it that Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch was to have a cameo in this novel, with Crais' Elvis Cole having a corresponding unbilled appearance in Lost Light (April 29, $25.95). If so, I must have blinked twice, or my reading is getting sloppy. I didn't catch them. Please let me know if you notice something that I missed. Also of note is the first issuing of Crais' Indigo Slam ('97, $7.99) in an American mass-market paperback. It has previously been available only in hardcover or a pricey British import--if they could be found.

Mystery Reviews
by Gerri Balter

        Death of an Addict ($6.99) by M.C. Beaton is different from the rest of the books in the Hamish Macbeth series. It's more serious and, in my opinion, one of the best. Hamish does a favor for Parry McSporran and does a background check on one of his tenants, Tommy Jarret. He finds out that Tommy is a recovering drug addict. He confronts Tommy who assures him he is through with drugs. When Tommy is found dead due to a drug overdose, the police close the case. Not Hamish. He believes Tommy. When Tommy's parents ask him to continue his investigation, he agrees. His investigation leads him into undercover work where he is paired with an attractive Glasgow detective inspector named Olivia Chater. They are complete opposites and of course they become attracted to each other. Will their attraction spoil their investigation? Could it put their lives in danger?

        Even if you don't like fishing, you will enjoy Dead Angler ($5.99) by Victoria Houston. Retired dentist Paul Osborne is slowly getting over the death of his wife. An acquaintance suggests he try fly fishing one more time before selling his equipment and suggests he go fishing with Lew Harris. He agrees, assuming Lew is a man. He is surprised to learn that Lew is a woman who is also the chief of police. While fishing, he finds a dead body and Lew asks for his help. The dead woman is Meredith Marshall, a woman who used to live in Loon Lake. Her sister, Alicia and husband, Peter, still live in town. Meredith returned after separating from her husband, Ben, to start a new life. Paul is the one who gives Lew proof that Meredith was murdered. Her ex_husband might have had a motive except for the fact that he isn't in town. No one in Loon Lake seems to have a motive, or do they? That's what Paul, his friend, Ray, and Lew are trying to find out.

        It's always been interesting to me how something that happens during childhood can have serious repercussions when we are adults. That's what happens in Kissed a Sad Goodbye ($6.50 or $23.95 signed hc) by Deborah Crombie. While Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid is trying to get to know the son he didn't know he had and who doesn't know that Duncan is his father, he receives a call to investigate the murder of Annabelle Hammond. Annabelle has beauty, a good job, intelligence. Why would anyone want to kill her? As Duncan and his Sergeant, Gemma James, begin to investigate Annabelle's life, they find out her life wasn't as perfect as it looked. Intertwined with Annebelle's life, we learn about Lewis, a poor young boy who was sent into the country during World War II and his friendship with William, a rich young boy who lived in the house Lewis was sent to. Something happened during that time that turned the friends into enemies. Could it have led to murder as well?

        St. Patrick's Day is one day Callahan Garrity will never forget in Irish Eyes ($5.99) by Kathy Hogan Trocheck. Callahan is celebrating the day at home with her mother when her friend and former partner, Bucky Deavers, convinces her to go to a party where he wants to introduce her to his new love, Captain Lisa Dugan. Unfortunately, Lisa is working late. On the way home, Bucky stops at a convenience store where he is shot by a masked gunman. The only witness is the young clerk at the store. When the young clerk and her baby disappear along with the surveillance video tape and the money in the safe, everyone assumes she has something to do with the crime. Callahan doesn't think so. She becomes involved in the investigation when Internal Affairs insinuates that maybe Bucky has something to do with all the ATM robberies in the city and that is why he was shot. Callahan knows better. With Bucky in a coma, Callahan feels that she is the only one who is willing to find the truth no matter where it leads her, even if it leads her back to the police.

        I did something I rarely do. I stayed up until midnight to finish Peter Robinson's In a Dry Season ($7.50 or $24.00 signed hc). A combination of a writing style that makes every word count, interesting characters and a plot that kept me wondering held my interest to the very end. When I finished, I was sad, not because of the way the book ended but because it ended.
        A boy finds the skeleton of someone who was murdered during World War II in Hobbs End. Detective Chief Inspector Banks is charged with finding the killer if the killer is still alive. While we see him search for clues, we see life in the small town during World War II through the eyes of a woman who has lived there and who has something to do with the dead person. There are several mysteries throughout this novel. Who is the murder victim? Whose diary are we reading? Who is the killer? Why was the victim killed? As the novel unfolds, all these questions are answered. And we learn what life was like during World War II in a small English village. We also see how Inspector Banks copes with the decision his son makes and his own decision to start living again.

        While Hurricane Fran heads towards Colleton County, North Carolina, Judge Deborah Knott investigates the death a local attorney's wife in Storm Track ($6.99) by Margaret Maron. Because the dead woman was promiscuous, there are several suspects, including Deborah's cousin Reid. Reid has been less than honest with Dwight Bryant, head of the county's detective squad. While Hurricane Fran moves closer, the wife of a local preacher is found half_drowned when her car careens into a local pond. Her best friend, who works in the same hotel where the dead woman was found, is also murdered. Worried that Reid may be arrested for the crimes, Deborah is determined to find out the truth even it means risking her life to go out as the hurricane begins to hit.

        Agatha Raisin is giving up on Carsely. She's decided to sell her cottage and move to Fryfam. Little does she know what's in store for her in Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam ($5.99 or $19.95 signed hc) by M.C. Beaton. The cottage she rents is more primitive that she would like. She doesn't easily make friends with the villagers even when she tells them she is writing a novel. When the local squire is murdered and her novel spells out how it is done, she is considered a suspect. She has to clear her name and at the same time figure out what are the strange lights in her backyard.

        I started reading the Faith Fairchild mysteries long after Faith and her husband had their first child. I finally got a chance to read one of the early mysteries, The Body in the Belfry ($6.50) by Katherine Hall Page. In this novel, her son, Benjamin, is a baby and Faith is a bit restless. Not that she doesn't love her baby and her husband; it's just that she wants more out of her life. She gets it when she finds Cindy Shepard's body in the belfry. Cindy was not a nice person. There are few people in town who didn't want her dead. Nobody mourned her passing. Faith decides to investigate her murder when Cindy's fiancé is arrested as a suspect because Faith doesn't believe he's guilty. She starts to learn more about those who live in the small New England town she now calls home. It has enough intrigue to match anything she saw in New York where she was raised. When her life is threatened, she takes the baby and goes to New York temporarily. As more people are murdered, she comes back with the realization that the only way to stop the killer is to unmask the killer. What she doesn't count on is that maybe the killer doesn't want to be unmasked and might decide to kill her instead.

        As someone who has avidly read all the Amelia Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters, I think He Shall Thunder in the Sky ($7.50 or $25.00 signed hc) is the best yet. The year is 1914. Amelia Peabody, her husband Radcliffe Emerson, her biological sun Ramses, and her foster daughter Nefret go to Egypt. World War I has changed things for all of them. David, her nephew by marriage, has been interned in India because he believes that Egypt should be independent. Ramses claims to everyone that he doesn't believe in war and most people believe he is a coward. Amelia knows better. While she tries to find out what her son is up to, she also has to deal with her nephew, Percy, who has done everything in his power to hurt Ramses. Lurking in the background is Sethos, the master criminal who finally reveals the truth about himself and why he hates Emerson and has tried to take Amelia away from her husband. The plot is filled with intrigue. You can't be sure of anyone. That's what makes it so wonderful to read.

        The Marfa Lights is only one of the mysteries confronting Texana Jones in Death of a Myth Maker ($5.99) by Allana Martin. First a Mexican photographer is found dead outside Texana's trading post. The killing looks as if it is drug related. Then someone drugs her husband, Clay. Finally, Julian Row, who has been romancing one of the sisters of the Seven Sisters Ranch is found murdered. A local artist is charged with Julian's murder. Unfortunately, the sheriff thinks Texana is involved in at least one of the deaths, if not both. The border is a dangerous area, filled with people who think nothing of taking a life of anyone who gets in their way. To save her reputation and keep her business going, Texana has to find the truth, no matter what the cost.

        I admit that I am a big fan of the Benni Harper mysteries written by Earlene Fowler. Besides the murder mystery which is always interesting, I find myself worrying that something will happen to the loving relationship between Benni and her husband, Gabe. As Seven Sisters ($6.50) begins, Benni's stepson Sam announces that he has a girlfriend who is pregnant. His girlfriend is one of his father's best police officers, as well as being related to one of the most influential families in the area, the Brown family. Gabe's ex_wife, Lydia, arrives. Benni can't help being jealous. Lydia is beautiful and nice. Gabe seems to be spending an awful lot of time with her. When the three of them go to the Brown ranch for an engagement party, a member of the Brown family is murdered. Gabe warns Benni not to get involved. Unfortunately, the detective in charge of the case convinces Benni to help him. He seems to be attracted to her. She can't make up her mind about him. I spent more time worrying about her marriage to Gabe than worrying about whether or not she would solve the murder. The ending is one I never imagined and one it will take me a long time to forget. If you haven't read a Benni Harper, you can start with this one without having to read the others. However, I believe that you will want to.

        Midnight Come Again ($6.99 or $23.95 signed hc) by Dana Stabenow begins several months after the death of Jack Morgan, Kate Shugak's lover. It starts out with Jim Chopin, Alaska State Trooper, looking for Kate. He needs her help with a case he's working on. Kate has disappeared. No one knows where she is. Unable to keep on searching for her, he goes to Bering, Alaska where he goes to work for Baird Air as ground crew. He's working undercover, trying to find out the whereabouts of some Russians who had robbed a bank and stolen some high_grade plutonium. Imagine his surprise when he finds Kate working for the same airline. Kate has been numb since Jack's death. She doesn't want to feel anything. When Jim is shot, she learns that she can't stop feeling. She tries to find out why he was shot. The FBI agents that Jim is helping think she is involved. Not only does she have to help Jim, she has to clear her own name and come to terms with Jack's death in order to survive.

        Melanie Travis is happy summer is here as Hair of the Dog ($5.99) by Lauren Berenson begins. Her son, Davey goes to a day summer camp and she isn't teaching. It's a perfect time to relax. Then her Aunt Peg invites her to a barbecue on the Fourth of July. There she meets Barry Turk, a dog trainer, who tries to make a pass at her. She doesn't like him. However, when he is murdered, she is shocked and surprised. Alicia, Barry's lover, asks Melanie to investigate because she is pregnant and is the most likely suspect. Melanie learns a great deal about Barry, most of it pretty bad. He sexually harassed women and forced women handlers to stop handling dogs. The problem isn't that there are too few suspects, but that there are too many. It's up to Melanie to find the one who is guilty. As usual in these mysteries Lauren teaches her readers about different breeds of dogs, what goes on in dog shows, and about the people who are part of this dog show world. It's a fun read.

        Darkest Fear ($23.95 signed hc or $6.50 pb) by Harlan Coben deals with fear on several levels. Myron has to cope with his father's deteriorating health. Every child knows intellectually that his parents will age and die. However, emotionally no child realizes what that means until it happens. At the same time, Myron learns he is a father to a son he never knew he had. And that son is dying. He needs a bone marrow transplant. They found a match. The problem is that the person who's the match has disappeared. Myron is determined to find him. The match is just as determined not to be found. Myron finds that the donor is somehow involved in brutal kidnappings. There is also a rich family who will do anything to keep a secret. The FBI is also involved in all of this. Even though Win is there to help him, it's up to Myron to find the donor before it's too late for the donor and Myron's son.

        I enjoy reading Elliott Roosevelt's novels as much for the culture as for the mystery. Women who wore slacks and makeup were thought of as risque during World War II. Eleanor Roosevelt gets mixed up with these girls in Murder in the Lincoln Bedroom ($6.50) by Elliott Roosevelt. It begins when a top secret meeting takes place in the White House. Among the attendees are Winston Churchill and Dwight D. Eisenhower. When a man is found murdered in the Lincoln Bedroom in the White House, Eleanor becomes involved in the investigation. The dead man is Paul Weyrich who worked in the White House. Paul turns out to hate FDR and all that he stands for. He was part of a plot to assassinate the president. Paul's secretary and her roommate are involved too. The problem is that neither of them wants to tell the truth about what's going on. It's up to Eleanor to find out who the guilty person is before more people die.

        The last thing Melanie Travis wants is to have anything to do with is Sheila Vaughn, her fiancee, Sam's ex-wife. Unfortunately, that's what happens in Unleashed ($5.99) by Laurien Berenson. When Sheila is murdered, Sam asks Melanie to look into it and then leaves town. Melanie hopes that the sooner she finds out the truth, the sooner she and Sam can get on with their lives. At the time of her death, Sheila was putting out the first issue of Woof, a magazine for dog breeders. It is compared to the National Inquirer. There are people who threatened Sheila because of what was written about them. The members of her staff weren't fond of her. Of course, Melanie had a motive as well. As Melanie sorts through all the suspects, she finds out things about Sam's past he never told her and begins to question whether they are ever going to have a future together.

        In Occasion of Revenge ($5.99) by Marcia Talley, Hannah Ives has a good reason to celebrate life. She's recovering from cancer. Her daughter and son-in-law are nearby so she gets to spend time with her grandchild. Her friend is marrying a wonderful man. Hannah and her husband are rediscovering each other. Life is great......until she finds out that her father is involved with a younger woman. Hannah's mother died a short time ago and she isn't ready to see her father with another woman, especially one who has already buried three husbands and seems to be ignoring her father's drinking problem. When her father's girlfriend is murdered and her father disappears, Hannah knows she has to find out the truth and find her father before it's too late.

        Grandmother Spider ($6.50) by James D. Doss begins with the fable of the grandmother spider. When someone kills a spider, grandmother spider comes out and takes a life. Sometimes she severs the head of her victim before she stores the victim in a tree. It is supposed to be a fable. However, when people see what looks like a giant spider carrying a man off, two men disappear and a man is found outside his cabin decapitated with two fang-like punctures in his chest, acting chief of police Charlie Moon is forced to investigate. His aunt believes grandmother spider is responsible. Charlie believes there's another explanation. Which one is right? You''ll have to read the book to find out.

        As Sisters of Cain ($6.99) by Miriam Grace Monfredo begins, it's 1862 and the Civil War rages on. Rhys Bevan, chief detective of the new special intelligence force of the treasury, realizes there are spies among his agents. Both his agents and those employed by Pinkerton have been arrested as they are spying on the southern troops before they can report back to the north. He sends Bronwen Llyr and other agents south to find out the information the captured agents failed to bring back. Bronwen finds that the southern spies seem to know her every move and keep trying to capture her. Meanwhile her sister, Kathryn, is working as a nurse in Washington City where her life is in danger too. It takes both sisters to find out who is betraying the northern agents.
        Reading these books by Miriam Grace Monfredo is a fascinating way to learn what life was like in the 1800's. She does a wonderful job writing about factual and fictional characters.

        Claire Watkins is learning to deal with the death of her former partner in Dark Coulee ($23.95 signed hc or $5.99 pb) by Mary Logue. It is a difficult process for her. She believes that every time she falls in love with a man, he will be killed. And she has strong feelings for Rich. She decides it would be best if they didn't see each other for a while. She also has a murder to investigate, the death of Jed Spitzler. He left behind three children. Their mother had died a few years before in an accident. The problem with her investigation is though there were people around Jed when he died, no one admitted they saw what happened. There are plenty of suspects including the mayor and Jed's girlfriend's former boyfriend. Each time she arrests someone, she finds clues that implicate someone else. While she works on the case, she also knows she has to come to terms with her former partner's death before her feelings destroy her.

        William Monk and Hester are recently married and learning to live together as man and wife as Slaves of Obsession ($25.00 signed hc or $7.50 pb) by Anne Perry begins. When they are invited to dinner at the home of London arms dealer, Daniel Alberton and his wife Judith, they assume it's a social invitation. However, it turns out to be more than that when Daniel is murdered, his guns are stolen and his daughter runs off with the man accused of the crime. Monk and Hester travel to the United States and bring back the accused murderer and Alberton's daughter. Judith Alberton asks Monk to prove her daughter had nothing to do with her husband's death. The trail leads to the docks and the seamier side of life. The more Monk finds out, the more he tries to hide it from Hester so as not to cause her pain because she believes the young girl is innocent. Meanwhile Hester is doing some investigating on her own to find out who the real killer is. The truth is stranger than either of them realizes and one of them might have to pay the ultimate price.

        The Devil's Claw in the J.A. Jance novel Devil's Claw ($24.00 signed hc or $7.50 pb) is what Indians use to weave in patterns when they make baskets if they want to make the baskets interesting. Lucinda Rider wears a tiny devil's claw as an amulet around her neck. It was given to her by her great grandmother. When her murdered mother's body is found, a devil's claw amulet is around her neck too. Did Lucinda put it there when she killed her mother? That's what Joanna Brady has to find out. Lucinda is a teenage girl who blames her mother for killing her father because he found out her mother was a spy. While Joanna Brady tries to find out the truth about what happened to Lucinda's parents, she also has to deal with the death of Clayton Rhodes, her friend and the man who helped her take care of the livestock on her ranch. Although his death was due to natural causes, Clayton's daughter believes Joanna is responsible especially after she finds out that Clayton left Joanna his land. While all this is going on, Joanna is trying to prepare for her wedding and getting to know her in-laws. All this makes for a hectic time for Joanna and a great novel.

        Liam Campbell's life has begun to improve as Nothing Gold Can Stay ($6.99) by Dana Stabenow begins. He has settled in at his new job. He has a good assistant. He has found peace with Wyanet Chouinard. And then the killings begin. Liam begins to investigate. Every time he thinks he has found the killer, something happens to change his mind. Meanwhile he and Wy have sent Wy's foster son, Tim, away to keep him from his birth mother who wants to see him. She has beaten him in the past and neither one wants to expose Tim to more abuse. Friends come to visit with information about Wy's past that she would prefer Liam doesn't find out. Little by little the truth comes out but not before Liam, Wy, and Tim's lives are put in danger.
        In each of the Liam Campbell stories, we learn a bit more about Liam and Wy. This one is no different. It's part of the charm of the stories.

        I have read several theories as to the identity of Jack the Ripper. The one set forth in The Whitechapel Conspiracy ($6.99) by Anne Perry is by far the most interesting. It starts with the murder of Martin Fetters by his friend, John Adinett. Although Superintendent Thomas Pitt can't find a motive, he believed Adinett was guilty. So did the jury. Adinett was hanged. Instead of being congratulated for doing a good job, Pitt is sent to the dangerous East End. He's cut off from his family. He's there supposedly to investigate anarchistic plots. The truth is that the Inner Circle is punishing him for helping to convict Adinett. Charlotte is determined not to let her husband stay there, cut off from her and their children. She enlists the help of Fetter's widow and her own family to help her find out the truth. Meanwhile Pitt does his best to survive in horrific conditions. Things heat up when Pitt, who works undercover as a night watchman at a sugar factory, finds the owner dead. It looks like suicide, but Pitt knows better. He destroys the false suicide clues and reports the death. The police start looking for the killer, one of the anarchists, and the East End is ready to explode in violence. Meanwhile Charlotte, her maid, and a police friend of Pitt find a relationship with the Inner Circle and the deaths in Whitechapel. This all comes together in a way that is both shocking and fascinating.

        Who to believe? That's the question Jessie Arnold has to answer in Beneath the Ashes ($6.50) by Sue Henry. It's training time for Jessie and her dogs. Unfortunately, an old friend of Jessie's, Anne Holman, calls and begs Jessie to help her. Anne needed Jessie's help to dig up something she left behind when she left Alaska years earlier. When Anne arrived, Jesse could see that Anne had been abused. Anne blamed her husband Greg. Before they could leave, a man from Anne's past was found dead and his home burned to the ground. Arson investigator Michael Tatum accuses Anne of starting the fire. Anne denies the charge. She tells Jessie she is innocent. Jessie believes her and takes her where she wants to go. Meanwhile Greg arrives. More people die, their homes burned to the ground. A fire almost claims Jessie's life. Who is responsible? Greg says it is Annie. Anne says it is Greg. Michael Tatum thinks both Anne and Jessie are responsible. Or maybe it is someone else. Jessie has to find out who is responsible after she is blamed for one of the fires and subsequent deaths.

        When Purgatory Ridge ($23.95 signed hc or $6.99 pb) by William Kent Kruger begins, Cork O'Connor is putting his marriage back together. Everything is going well until he is asked to run for sheriff once again. All the problems he had when he was sheriff before threaten to resurface. He wonders if his wife, Jo, is being faithful. Jo wonders if she can deal with his being sheriff again. All their problems seem minor when the loggers and the environmentalists begin a war over the North Woods and the white pines called Our Grandfathers, sacred to the Ojibwe of the Iron Lake Reservation. Buildings are burned. Forests are set on fire. People are killed. In the midst of all of this, Jo, their son Stevie, Grace Lindstrom, and her son Scott are kidnapped by a man who wants justice for his dead brother who was killed onboard a boat owned by Grace's father. It's up to Cork O'Connor to find out the truth about who is setting the fires, what this has to do with the kidnapping, and who is responsible for the kidnapping before kidnap victims are killed.

        The Alpine Nemesis ($6.99) by Mary Daheim is darkest book in the Emma Lord mysteries. It starts on a lighthearted note. Emma decides to marry the man she loves and the father of her son, Tom Cavanaugh. He's even decided to move to Alpine. Her biggest problem is that the local radio station is scooping her stories. She needs something to get people to stop listening to the radio station and return to reading her weekly newspaper. She finds it when three brothers are found murdered. A fourth body is found, one of a snowboarder who disappeared several months earlier. Emma is determined to solve the mystery and print the news. What she doesn't realize is that her sleuthing may cost her more than she is willing to pay.

        When you were little and you thought your parents treated you unfairly, did you ever wish you were adopted? I know I did. What would happen if it turned out to be the truth? That's what happens to Sharon McCone in Listen to the Silence ($6.99) by Marcia Muller. Sharon's father dies from a heart attack. In his will, he requests that she go through his belongings. She finds out the reason why when she discovers her adoption papers. Angrily, she goes to her mother for the truth. Her mother refuses to tell her anything. She decides to find out the truth on her own. The title of the novel comes from advice given to her by her lover, Hy Ripinsky. Nobody in her adoptive family wants to tell her the truth. She feels as if she's at a dead end. That's when Hy gives her the advice to listen to the silence. And in the silence, she begins to find out the truth, a truth that leads to murder and attempted murder.

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