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August/September 2004 Reviews



THROUGH VIOLET EYES by Stephen Woodworth
2004 / ISBN: 0553803379
Dell paperback original

THROUGH VIOLET EYES takes place in a world a little different than our own. It’s a world where there are people who can channel the dead, and they are called the Violets due to their eye color. The government uses these people to help law enforcement. The book opens with an FBI agent showing up at a court room in time to see the testimony of a dead person as told through a Violet, she also happens to be the same Violet that he is there to take into protective custody. Dan Atwater is a bit untrusting of Violets, but since there is a serial killer stalking them it’s his job to protect Natalie Lindstrom. Natalie feels she needs to be more proactive in her protection and what follows is a steeple chase of a hunt for the killer. I found this to be a brilliant read and a real pallet cleanser as well. A great change of pace from the typical whodunit.

Jon

THE FALL by Michael Allen Dymmoch
August 2004 / ISBN: 0312321937
St. Martin’s / Thomas Dunne

Joanne Lessing is a divorced, single mother struggling to keep ahead of the bills working as a photographer. There are some bright spots in her life, the brightest of which is her son. So her life, good or bad, is her own. But when she witnesses an accident through the lens of her camera, suddenly this life is put into jeopardy. The FBI, in particular FBI Special Agent Paul Minorini, wants to hide her away, and others, in particular the Mafia, want her dead. Joanne doesn’t like the options and decides to make her own choices. THE FALL revolves around its characters and the choices they are forced to make. These are choices most people will never face and this fleshes out the story out as the decision to cooperate or not to cooperate plays out in all its pros and cons. Dymmoch's dedication to detail and dialogue is outstanding. This book is absorbing, blocking out every thing while you read.

Twists, turns, and true suspense. Not only did this book surprise me, this book amazed me.

Jon

TEN BIG ONES by Janet Evanovich
June 2004 / ISBN: 0312289723
St. Martin’s Press

“It wasn’t my fault,” I told him.”
“Cupcake, it’s never your fault.”

She’s still sassy, she’s still silly, and she still makes us laugh. She’s Stephanie Plumb, Fugitive Apprehension Agent. After 10 outings, she still doesn’t have a lick of sense, but she outsmarts both good guys and bad by the most outlandish means possible.

By the flames of her exploding Ford Escape, Stephanie becomes the first person to see the face of the "Red Devil Bandit" and this annoys him no end. As the routine target of vandalism and mayhem, she isn't worried for herself; but now her family, friends, Joe Morelli and Bob-the-dog may be at risk. When the Bandit and his gang hire a hit man from the West Coast to deal with some inconveniences (including Stephanie), she goes underground with a little – make that a lot -- of help from Ranger.

The good news is that Stephanie’s sister Valerie is getting married. A fall wedding takes special planning, and Sally Sweet, the ugliest drag queen in the tri-state area, has volunteered to be the wedding coordinator. Even while in hiding (and what a hiding place), Stephanie doesn’t forget her career, so she and Lula carry on, often with Grandma Mazur helping out. Stephanie may never outgrow her exploding vehicle problem, or her weakness for Tasty Cakes. But that’s all part of her charm, and she can just keep being herself. Janet Evanovich has given us another fast-paced, laugh-out-loud tale, with vivid characters that excel at the unexpected.

Kathy Tromp

SUPERIOR POSITION by Evan McNamara
June 2004 / ISBN: 1930486510
Salvo Press

Bill Tatum has settled into life in the idyllic little burg of Dumont, Colorado--an old silver-mining town tucked into the Rio Grande Valley. With a winter population of 600, summer tourism keeps the town going, and the four-person sheriff’s department can usually handle the day-to-day with ease. The lucrative July 4th celebrations are only days away when Deputy Bill finds the body of a visiting reporter near his home. During the body retrieval, a sniper shoots one of the investigating officers, signaling that all is definitely not well in their little town. Soon, the town morgue is hosting a Lying Room Only crowd. Deputy Bill doesn’t have a lot of experience in law enforcement investigation. In spite of this, as an ex-Army sniper, he recognizes talent when he sees it. When the sheriff assigns the case to him, he reaches back into his past for the training that will help him out-think his opponent.

SUPERIOR POSITION is a solid, well-crafted first novel. McNamara has a way with a story and his descriptive voice is vivid, but not too much—it gives the reader a sense of place and people without seeming to go on and on. This is a fast-paced read and a good addition to the list of authors who specialize in backwater police procedurals with bite, such as C. J. Box and Don Harstad.

Kathy Tromp

SQUEEZE PLAY by James McKimmey
2004 / ISBN: 1930997604
PointBlank

SQUEEZE PLAY opens with Jack Wade waking up in a motel room. He has an extremely sore head, and the only thing he can remember is coming back to the room with Elaine--a beautiful woman who isn't his wife. What happened between their arrival at the motel room and Jack waking up alone hours later is a complete blank. Staggering out to the motel car park, he gets into his car. Driving home, he switches the radio on, only to discover that his wife has been murdered some 200 miles away at Lake Tahoe, and that the police are looking for Jack in connection with her death. On top of that, he's suspected in the murder of high-roller Charlie Wing--a man he's never heard of, but who was apparently seen with Jack's wife in a Tahoe casino earlier that evening. Now rewind to 8 days before.

Originally written in 1962 and re-issued by PointBlank, SQUEEZE PLAY is a marvellous noir-ish thriller which has everything--greed, obsession, a con game, a cold-blooded femme fatale, an apparently doomed protagonist stuck in a crumbling marriage to a pathetic drunk, with money worries and a job that's going down the tubes. Right from the start you can see the hand of fate above the protagonist's head gleefully sticking two fingers up at him. What it also has is an exciting plot and some wonderful characterisation. Wade's wife, in particular, is extremely well drawn. On the surface she's a shrewish lush with a gambling addiction, but McKimmey gradually reveals the reason for her current state, and provides flashes of the woman she once was, which are touching and heartrending. Great writing, a swift pace, and little touches of black humour. I'm extremely glad this book has been re-issued, it deserves never to be out of print again. For me, this is one of those books that when you read it, you want to tell the world to read it too. So go ahead--read it, you'll be glad you did.

Donna Moore

FOUR ON THE FLOOR by Deborah Morgan
Oct 2004 / ISBN: 0425198863
Berkley Prime Crime paperback original

Jeff Talbot is back in this fourth book of the ongoing series. Talbot is a retired FBI Agent whose specialty was antiques and collectables. He now uses this knowledge as an antique picker, finding antiques and reselling them. In the last book his 1948 Fleetmaster Woodie was damaged pretty bad and w open with Jeff going to pick it up after repairs have been made. As these things happen, when Jeff gets the body shop to retrieve his car he finds four bodies scattered about the shop. One of the regular employees, the owner’s son, is missing. The owner, Louie Stella, was an informant of Jeff’s back in his days as an agent so he has a reason to look into the killings. Along with his old partner he begins looking into the deaths. As with Morgan’s previous work this book is full of wonderful information about the world of collecting and antiques. It is wonderfully written in such a way that you are drawn into the lives of the characters. Her plotting is relentless and evenhanded as a good mystery should be. Deborah Morgan is a true gift to mystery readers everywhere.

Jon

SCREWBALL by David Ferrell
August 2004 / ISBN: 0060726008
Perennial Dark Alley

Most anyone around, whether your average joe or your die hard baseball fan, has heard of the Curse of the Bambino; the curse that has prevented the Boston Red Sox from winning the world series (and in some cases just winning) since 1920. It’s a curse many fans will do anything to try and not think about, and much more to break. Enter Ron Kane. Discovered by a scout who, by chance that ended up at the wrong high school ball game in the backwoods of the middle of nowhere, Ron has a pitch that can rip the paint off a Buick and he can swing a bat better then the next guy. It only stands to reason that his big league debut with the Red Sox would finally give the fans something to cheer about, right? There just happens to be one tiny snag for this season. Wherever the team seems to go, a body seems to turn up; and it isn’t long until the team members and managers are the prime suspects.

The book itself is assembled in a seemingly awkward fashion, assembling multiple books of varying lengths all bound into a total 300 pages of congruence. It starts out with general background, as any book would, and quickly turns into the personal diary of a baseball manager, following him and introducing most of the major players of the book. But, it isn’t long at all before the police show up about a body; and the plot thickens from there. Unfortunately, this leads to the only catching point; it doesn’t thicken for long as the “who-dun-it” plot is outright exposed a good third of the way in.

Thankfully, due in part to Mr. Ferrells’ rather ingenious and humorous writing, that isn’t that much of problem because what follows is a completely different plot thickening, and one hell of a well-written roller coaster. SCREWBALL is filled to the brim with dramatic ironies, profane (and dare I say realistic) dialog, dark humour, backstabbing, finger pointing, set-ups, practical jokes and red herrings. After all, you may already have been told about the killer, but that doesn’t mean everyone else knows. Besides, what would you do to break a curse? A good book; what it lacks in mystery is more then makes up for as a good look into the human psyche keeps you more then entranced from beginning to end. Thankfully, it doesn’t deluge you with too much about baseball, either.

Sam Lemmer

SCARED MONEY by James Hime
October 2004 / ISBN: 0312331363
St Martins Minotaur

Jeremiah Spur is a retired Texas Ranger. Clyde Thomas is a deputy Sheriff. The two men know each other both by reputation and because of an earlier collaboration via law enforcement in their small town of Brenham, Texas. Spur is contemplating a peaceful retirement on his cattle ranch, but a series of personal tragedies have left him at loose ends. Thomas is striving to reach a comfortable place as a black American in law enforcement while encountering personal and professional bumps in the road.

The book begins with the murder of a small time drug dealer and his girl friend, which Thomas is assigned to investigate. At the same time, Spur is approached by a mysterious envoy. He receives a request to assist in a missing persons search outside the venue of established law enforcement. The book's chapters alternate between the two investigations, including a series of flashbacks to Hungary in the 1950's. The flashbacks feature the story of a young boy from a family that supported the opposition to the Soviet occupation of Hungary. He endures tragedy and flight. Eventually all three story lines converge. Spur and Thomas each encounter multiple frustrations and roadblocks in their respective investigations, and an entertaining mix of supporting characters join the cast. When Thomas serves as a hostage for Spur's meeting with a high placed drug kingpin, the mutual respect and confidence shared by the two men becomes a life saving issue.

With settings in such widely flung places as small town Texas, upscale sections of Dallas, Mexico City, Budapest, Vienna, and Paris, this book is an armchair traveler's delight.

Woodstock


GOOD MORNING, DARKNESS by Ruth Francisco
September 2004 / ISBN 0892968079
Mysterious Press

“I found the first arm. The second washed up on Malibu Beach, seven miles north of here. The rest of the body must’ve got eaten by sharks.” So begins Francisco’s spell. GOOD MORNING MIDNIGHT is a study in blue whose palate changes as we are drawn into a world created by one of mystery’s best new voices.

This is a book about Laura and the men who love her. As the book opens, Laura has disappeared and arms have washed ashore. The voyeur in her life is sure she’s dead. The sculptor who was her landlord fills in the background. The man who was her boss shrugs off her disappearance but has problems of his own. Ex-boyfriend Scott claims she’s left to take care of an ailing mother. The policeman who is obsessed with the idea of taking care of her thinks the ex-boyfriend may have done it and tries to work a case that doesn’t really exist. Since their estrangement, Scott has fallen into a pattern of escalating stalking. Phone calls have become surveillance. Surveillance has become malice.

Francisco speaks through all these points of view to unfold a tale about a woman caught up in a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a man she thought she loved. The tale unfolds in different time frames. Francisco uses the voices of her characters to reveal a young woman living with omnipresent fear. The consequences of that fear are revealed through the men who watch her life unravel. As a reader, I became palpably invested with whether or not the body that washed ashore was indeed Laura’s. And then… after the bones of the story comes the meat. Francisco slaps us in the face with a tale within a tale that will leave you as obsessed as the men in Laura’s life. And you won’t see one of the most unique twists coming. With her sophomore outing, Francisco has moved to the head of the class. Crime Spree says do not miss this book!

Ruth


UNCOMMON GROUNDS by Sandy Balzo
November 2004 / ISBN: 1594141959
Five Star

First time novelist Sandy Balzo has a perk to her prose. UNCOMMON GROUNDS opens as newly single Maggy Thorsen opens the door to a new business. Uncommon Grounds is going to be a place for people in the town of Brookhills to get a break from the McDonald’s coffee down the road. A fresh start for Maggy and her two partners. Unfortunately, partner Patricia has been grounded. That’s right, folks, she’s gotten a jolt from the Espresso machine like none before and lies in a pool of spilt milk.

The laughter will continue as you read this cozy “nouveau." The character of Maggy is a suburban ex with a Mike Hammer attitude. Balzo’s other talents give the book a refreshing substance. The plotting is fast and well done. Small town coincidences don’t seem forced. Motive, means and opportunity will keep you turning the pages. Best of all, when you’re done, you’ll want a second visit with the town and its people. Balzo knows the place she’s writing. And, from the local preacher to the moving guy, she has the skill to give all her characters life.

Are you a fan of Stephanie? Do you enjoy Joan Hess? Balzo adds another voice to the argument that cozies aren’t just for teacups anymore.

Ruth

THE LAST KING by Nichelle D. Tramble
June 2004 / ISBN: 0375758828
One World/Strivers Row

On her website, the author suggests: ‘readers view the Maceo series as a “journal of one man’s life” rather than as a mystery series.’ Tramble’s first in the series, THE DYING GROUND; A HIP-HOP NOIR NOVEL (2001) introduced Maceo Redfield, a man raised on tough love and the loyalty bred of the streets. Returning after a two year absence motivated by the life that he knew caving in around him, Maceo hits town with a scar running the length of his face and a tough dog that, much like him, looks a lot tougher than he is.

Maceo grew up fighting side by side with two men, Cornelius “Cotton” Knox and Jonathan “Holly” Ford. While Maceo wandered the country, Cotton became a basketball star, living on the gifts God gave him and Holly became a hunted man, living on his wits with a late friends drug turf. Both are now suspected in a crime that has hit the tabloids hard; the murder of a local call girl, found in Cotton’s hotel room.

Maceo investigates because Cissy, Holly’s ex, asked and he owes her. But inside he knows it’s because the miles he’s tried to put between himself and Oakland couldn’t keep the nightmares and the guilt at bay. As Maceo scratches the surface, old demons rise up to meet him and he’s not sure whom to trust. Every sign that leads to the truth comes with fist and a half-truth. Only a con woman seeking revenge for the death of her best friend seems to know what’s going on. And she’s not exactly trust worthy herself. Maceo is at risk of falling into his old ways and forgetting why he came back: redemption. Nichelle D. Tramble has created a modern noir tale that tells a tale that can be told in every city. But Tramble tells it with an urban prose and ballsy narrative that makes this book a contemporary tale of romance and tragedy.

Jennifer Jordan


HEAVEN’S WITNESS by Joseph Telushkin & Allen Estrin
September 2004 / ISBN 1592640915
Toby Press

Against his better judgment, psychiatrist Dr. Jordan Geller, a rising star at the prestigious Dittmyer Institute in Los Angeles, is coaxed into performing group hypnosis at a party hosted by an old college roommate. It all seemed like good, harmless fun. But the next day, Robin Norris shows up at the Institute to ask Dr. Geller to help her with a voice problem through hypnosis. He of course recognizes her from the party as one of his “subjects”, and, if he wasn’t so damned attracted to her, would have immediately said “no.”

During the session, Robin becomes Beverly Casper, who, it turns out, was murdered in 1970 - long before Robin was born. The details of the murder eerily parallel those of the “Messenger” killings currently plaguing the area. “The Messenger” is so-called for his particularly creepy and cruel M.O. of calling the parents of a victim to deliver their daughter’s final message.Like an idiot, Geller goes to the police, thinking that he can manipulate them into reopening the “cold” Casper case, thereby exposing the similarities. Instead, he becomes the primary suspect for these murders, and puts Robin, as an “eyewitness”, in danger of being murdered again. Whether you believe in reincarnation and past life experiences, or think it’s all a bunch of New Age hooey, “Heaven’s Witness” is a fast paced, satisfying, believable mystery with engaging characters and neatly done resolutions.

Joseph Telushkin, author of the Daniel Winter mystery trilogy, which includes The Final Analysis of Dr Stark, The Unorthodox Murder of Rabbi Wahl, and An Eye for an Eye, has teamed up with Allen Estrin to write HEAVEN’S WITNESS. They previously have collaborated on multiple TV episodes of “The Practice”, “Boston Public” and “Touched by an Angel.”

Gary Shulze -Co-owner Once Upon a Crime

NORTHCOAST SHAKEDOWN by Jim Winter
November 2004 / Quiet Storm Publishing

Northcoast Shakedown brings to noveldom what short fiction readers have been indulged by for a while: Nick Kepler. A corpse on the bed, a tall, dark and powerful attorney/murder suspect at the door and the cops on the way. Yep, Nick Kepler is tied up in knot of deceit and debauchery so tight the best boy scout would throw up his hands in despair. Kepler has a satisfying set-up. The Cleveland P.I. has a no rent office, a girl Friday as patient as the day is long, and work being farmed to him from his former employer, Terminal Tower Life & Annuity. Insurance work is usually a photo here, a tail there and beer by three o’clock. Then, two simple cases suddenly aren’t that simple. A man dead of a heart attack with a widow eager to collect her settlement owns an apartment complex chock full of shifty tenets too eager to get Kepler off the property. And a political wife that hires Kepler to watch out for her husband’s assets has more to hide than Deep Throat. Kepler is soon neck deep in enemies, lies and women.

No one in this book is what they appear to be except the ill fated Kepler, who takes a licking and keeps on quipping. This is a modern detective tale told in a modern voice but it is ultimately charbroiled noir served steaming. Kepler is a sharp and scrupulous man who isn’t satisfied until wrong is righted. Winter has birthed a private eye more than worth his retainer.

Jennifer Jordan

BURNING PRECINCT PUERTO RICO by Steven Torres
2004 / ISBN: 0312321090
St. Martin's Minotaur

Speak of Steven Torres’ PRECINCT PUERTO RICO series and the word ‘solid’ comes readily to mind. Torres puts the reader in the heart of Angustias, Puerto Rico as events from book one reach into the third installment in a story so real, so human and so brutal that the reader may forget to breathe. As he readies himself for the fête celebrating his 25 years as the sheriff of Angustias, Luis Gonzalo looks at his image in the mirror. Every scar tells a tale of the corruption he has seen, the people he has lost and the paradoxes that landed him at this day, bedecked with medals of valor.

He knows his battle isn’t over. As the town gathers to heap honor upon Luis, the enemy is afoot. Smoke rises in the sky. Luis is already walking to his car. Too late. When he arrives, he sees the house is engulfed. The family is not among the crowd that has gathered to watch. Luis has no choice. Dousing himself with water form the water tower, he enters the flame filled house. Amidst the bodies, bound and burnt, scream a baby. Only the little boy and his unconscious sister survive. Arson is a foregone conclusion. It is obviously a message, but for who and why?

The new mayor, Francisco Primavera, so recently heaping praise on Luis, calls in the Metropolitanos to investigate the murders. The long-standing feud between the blue clad Metropolitanos and the rural, green clad Gandules held sway. The Gandules were not afforded the same respect although they carried a badge and a gun. And in Luis’ experience, it was the Metropolitanos that were the source of all of the events that had earned him his medals. The battle has begun anew.

The PRECINCT PUERTO RICO series is one of the best police procedurals in print. In Luis Gonzalo, Torres has created a real hero. He is a man fortified by his family and driven by integrity in his fight against a powerful political force that most would have walked away from. This series had an experienced feel from book one with a promise of greatness kept in each installment.

Jennifer Jordan

ON THIN ICE by Alina Adams
October 2004 / ISBN: 0-425-19884-7
Berkley Prime Crime (Mass Market Paperback)

Rebecca ‘Bex’ Levy, a researcher for the 24/7 Sports Network television network, currently specializing in ice-skating. Bex gets a call from Antonia Wright about skating phenomenon, Jeremy Hunt. Toni Wright broke the color barrier in professional ice-skating years ago, but these days she is a skating coach. The call concerns a Jeremy’s father, Craig, who refuses to allow the boy to in the Nationals. After seeing videotape of Jeremy skating that leaves Bex speechless. She senses a great story. When confronted by Bex and her camera, the father is furious, and disappears with the boy.

Not one to waste time feeling sorry for herself for having lost a story, Bex begins researching a “Where are they now?” piece about three promising young skaters who dropped out of sight about 15 years ago. This doesn’t go very well for her either. Before long she has to wonder if her story on them has led to murder. Bex is a chatty little thing with a cynical, yet perky worldview. Her youthful exuberance and “full speed ahead” attitude get her in and out of all sorts of pickles. Some of the best and cattiest comments she hears come from behind the scenes of the ice rink uttered by the skating moms and their psychotic prodigies. This actually helps in understanding the psychology of some of the main characters better, since it appears little has changed in the cutthroat world of ice skating over the years.

This is the second Bex Levy Figure Skating Mystery, and a third would be warmly met.

Kathy Tromp

CALIFORNIA GIRL by T. Jefferson Parker
October 1, 2004 / ISBN 0-06-07492-3
William Morrow

CALIFORNIA GIRL follows the life of the three Becker boys into early adulthood. Their lives diverge, as one becomes a homicide detective, one a minister and one a reporter. The novel focuses on the death of a young woman, whom the Becker men have known most of their life. Her death affects each of them in a different way.

As a fan of Parker's writing and having always been impressed by his work, I’m excited about the new direction Parker takes in CALIFORNIA GIRL. Less of a novel about catching a killer and more about the effects murder has on the people left behind. As with Lehane’s Mystic River and Rozan’s Absent Friends, Parker steps to the next level with a novel that is much a piece of literature as it is a crime novel. Work like this defies stigma that comes with the term "genre novel."

Jeremy Lynch

A GENTLEMAN’S GAME by Greg Rucka
September 25, 2004 / ISBN: 0553802763
Bantam

Tara Chase has a job and, like most people, she doesn’t necessarily enjoy doing it. Unlike most people, her job is to find people, find out information about them and, more often then not, kill them. All in the service of Queen and Country. When a terrorist attack in London kills hundreds and shuts down the Underground (the subway, not the artistic movement), Tara is responsible for finding those responsible and making sure they don’t get a chance to strike again. Brilliantly written, A GENTLEMEN’S GAME, based off the graphic novel series Queen and Country, makes it’s graphic novel origins obvious from the get go. Each and every scene is drawn in the readers mind in exacting detail, from the nondescript corridors of “Legoland” to the dry wadi’s of Saudi Arabia. The story flows quickly and efficiently, jumping from locale to locale, progressing time as needed in much the same style as a graphic novel would (though thankfully without nearly as many “meanwhiles”).

The characters are all unique and, thanks to Rucka’s writing, are all brought to life not only through the well-scripted dialogues, but by an ever present, omniscient narration. The narration imparts a wonderful glimpse of each characters thoughts and feelings, maintains the flow of the story and provides a wealth of background information. All around a great read for fans of thrillers and spy games alike.

Sam Lemmer

ABSOLUTE INSTINCT BY Robert W Walker
2004 / ISBN: 0-425-19693-3
Berkley

Jessica Coran, the star of this series is called to Milwaukee to investigate a killing that could be part of a serial killer’s trail of rampage. The FBI agent that calls her in seems pretty eager to tie this case in with two other similar killings, however local police are not as enthusiastic about this theory. After a hard look at the evidence Jessica is on board with the thinking that there is another monster loose and the chase is on. This particular madman is removing the spines from his victims. As the case moves forward and the killer starts to move more quickly the pressure to catch him mounts. It really is a race against time. Be warned, Walker writes serial killer books that may not be for everyone, some of the scenes being especially visual. He has an incredible knack for building tension that grow throughout the book. Like a fish on a hook I just sat there reading being reeled in by the story. I could swear as the book progressed I was reading faster and faster. This is a well researched and extremely entertaining book. And if some nut job ever turns me in to a victim on a list, I want Jessica Coran on the case.

Jon

TONIGHT I SAID GOODBYE by Michael Koryta
September 2004 / ISBN: 0312332459
St. Martin’s Miniature

TONIGHT I SAID GOODBYE is a first book. It is also the winner of the 2003 St. Martin’s Press/ PWA prize for best first P.I. novel. Joining a list of winners that includes Steve Hamilton we expect more and thankfully Koryta delivers. Joe Pritchard and Lincoln Perry are ex police gone private. When fellow Cleveland P.I Wayne Weston is found dead in his living room the authorities declare it to be suicide. Weston’s wife and daughter are missing and the police theory is that Wayne has murdered them and then killed himself. Wayne’s father John wants our duo to find his missing family members and his son’s murderer. It’s high profile. It’s an active case. The result may well be what the police have theorized it is. Yes, our boys bite anyway. Koryta leads us through an Ohio labyrinth of organized crime and power plays. There are car chases, gun-play, and even minature golf. Koryta writes in the first person. He writes with heart and a touch for plot that belies his experience. He is a welcome addition to the crime fiction field.

Ruth Jordan

A TAINT IN THE BLOOD by Dana Stabenow
September 2004 / ISBN: 0312306830
St. Martin’s Miniature

The first Dana Stabenow mystery featuring Alaskan native Kate Shugak came out in 1992. In the twelve years and thirteen novels since A COLD DAY FOR MURDER first hit the bookshelves, Stabenow has managed to capture our imaginations and Shugak her readers’ hearts.

A TAINT IN THE BLOOD opens with an extremely entertaining passage. A grateful Kate may be as dangerous as a grateful bear. Soon though, Stabenow gets down to business and the meat of this book. Anchorage socialite and caterer Charlotte Bannister Muravieff wants Kate to get her dying mother out of prison. Did Victoria Muravieff murder her son William 31 years ago? The plot unfolds like Egyptian cotton. Luxurious and inviting, Stabenow goes back to years when The Alaskan pipeline was being built. Is it possible that the politics and back room deals of this monumental part of our northern most state’s history has anything to do with the Muravieff case? Or is it as simple as it first appears to both Kate and us, a mother who has killed a son for money. Because of the author’s skills with a narrative and our detective’s ability to solve a case this book is a must read. A TAINT IN THE BLOOD is an exceptional outing in a great series. With a new home and a new son, Kate remains the Shugak we first met… only better.

Ruth Jordan