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Issue 4 Reviews

THE JAMES DEANS
by Reed Farrel Coleman
February 2005
ISBN0-452-28650-6
Plume (Penguin Group)

The year is 1983 and Moe Prager is back. Reed Farrel Coleman's third book in his N.Y. cop turned P.I. series has all the sizzle and substance of a Nathan's hot dog. "I've heard you're lucky," says Thomas Geary. "After two years, this case can use a bit of luck." Two years ago political intern Moira Heaton strolled out of her office on Thanksgiving Eve. Never seen again, her disappearance has tainted the political aspirations of Steven Brightman. After two years of whispers, wonderings and a stalled career Geary and Brightman want answers into the young woman's disappearance.

Someone has suggested that the full time wine store owner/part time P.I. may be the primer to get the engine to turn over in this case. Not so subtle threats and a series of escalating promises intrigue Prager. So do the intern he can't seem to get to know and the politicians he knows all too well.
Coleman introduces more strong characters to his series and we visit with friends and foes from the first two books. We cross the river from New York to Jersey and fly to Florida. We smell the manipulation. We rejoice at the small victories in this case and we mourn for the futility of life. Moe is a character to savor and Coleman? He's an author to watch. Make that watch and read. For this is only the beginning folks, and I'm hitching my wagon to this ride.
Ruth Jordan



DESERT PLACES
by Blake Crouch
December 2004
St. Martin's Minotaur
ISBN: 0312934785

Blake Crouch's first book, DESERT PLACES grabbed me from the first page. More thriller than mystery, this book moves like it has a rocket strapped to it.

Andrew Thomas is a writer of crime novels, novels with serial killers. As a result he gets a lot of crank mail sent to him. So when he receives one with the day's mail it doesn't strike him that anything odd is happening. Until he reads the letter and starts to think about what is written in it. Reading this letter unleashes a series of events that soon take over his whole life and his perception of the world he lives in. He does things he never thought he would.

And then things start to get twisted.

This book is dark and a bit deranged, and I loved every minute of it. Reading it is like driving in the rain at 90 MPH with your eyes closed, sheer adrenaline. Write this name down, Blake Crouch is here to stay. With this paperback coming out in January and his new book, LOCKED ROOM coming out in July there is no reason not to try out a great new author.
Jon Jordan


THE WAKE-UP
by Robert Ferrigno
August 2004
Pantheon Books
ISBN: 03754422498

There isn't a finer example of the ripple effect than in Robert Ferrigno's seventh novel, THE WAKE-UP. When a boorish and busy man, 'a real hard charger', smacks a tray of candy out of a young boy's hands, bloodying the boy in the process, a man decides to take action. He will find the 'hard charger' and deliver a wake-up. A `wake-up entails entering someone's life and, not although not physically threatening them, making them aware of how vulnerable they are.

Frank Thorpe, a cynical and disillusioned government ops agent, has just lost his lover and fellow agent, Kimberly, to the Engineer in a set-up that was supposed to bring the man over to Thorpe's 'shop.' He's been retired from his job, a job that has left him isolated and at loose ends after years of living a lie of an existence. He's looked at the world through apathetic eyes until the event in the airport. But trying to do the right thing with the wake-up lands Thorpe in the middle of a situation that will not be so easy to fix .He is soon sharing bad company. A surfer cum entrepreneur cum methamphetamines cooker deluxe named Clark, his wife Missy, a social climbing sociopath with a major chip on her shoulder and their respective goons, the polished thinker, Arturo and Vlad, a genetically engineered child/man Rumanian with a good heart rung bad by the Ceausescu regime. It seems the man he intended to sting may be the lesser of five evils.

All along, the Engineer prays on Thorpe's mind as avenging Kimberly's death keeps Thorpe's heart beating. Little does Thorpe know that the Engineer has his own designs on Thorpe and draws closer to him with each passing day. It's hard to say which situation is most likely to finally suck Thorpe under as he surfs in an ocean filled with man-eating sharks. THE WAKE-UP, with its twisted humor and moral compulsion, is a fantastic tale of a man on the edge of nothing holding on to his sense of justice to keep him afloat. Ferrigno nails modern day Southern California with a nouveau Chandler style sans the detective.
Jennifer Jordan


FLESHMARKET CLOSE
by Ian Rankin
September 2004
ISBN: 0752851136
Orion

FLESHMARKET CLOSE is another in a long list of titles that establishes Ian Rankin as the author anyone else writing series fiction must aspire to. In the sixteenth outing for D.I. John Rebus, Rankin has found yet another tone with which to take the reader upon a journey so far beyond police procedural you almost forget that it is the basic structure of the book.

"I'm not supposed to be here." It is the first sentence of this book and both figuratively and metaphorically, a place for the reader to jump off. Rebus is a man grounded only by the city he lives in and the job he does. St. Leonard's has closed and both Rebus and his sometime partner D.S. Siobhan Clarke are floundering in their new station until two parallel and yet connected cases take up the narrative of FLESHMARKET CLOSE. Rankin follows two plotlines in this book and does so with the deftest of prose.

John Rebus, the reactionary is contained of spirit in this novel. He seeks the answers behind the death of an asylum seeker. Rebus visits parts of Edinburgh he's never been in and revisits some of our favorite characters from books past. His quest, to solve the opening murder and perhaps to make sense of what makes someone Scotch.

Siobhan is tracking a face from her past. Unfinished business takes her on a journey involving runaways, rapists, raves and a murder victim of her own. We see this by the book copper show her stripes and finally, some of her vulnerability.

The two meet and confab and in the end the reader knows they've seen good police work with not necessarily good results. This is what Rankin does like no other. He writes a situation, and book after book, is not afraid to show the reader new aspects to his characters personalities. Nor is the author afraid to keep us guessing as to what will happen next. The talent of Rankin's pen makes every book outstanding and a stand-a-lone. If you've read this series before this is a mandated sit-down and if you've never read the series go ahead and pick it up. This will be a great read. But beware; you'll need to acquire the other fifteen titles. Police Procedural? Yes. A great read? That goes without saying. A look at social situations and the Scottish society? Most definitely. One of the best books you'll read this year? You bet. Vastly different than the books that came previously? Of course.

Time after time the reader opens a John Rebus book and finds within the most gifted scribe we have. Crack the book and enjoy.
Ruth Jordan


BED OF NAILS
by Michael Slade
2004 (limited signed edition)
Cemetery Dance Publications
ISBN: 1587670666
Also available from Onyx Books in paper ISBN: 0451410602

Jay Clarke and his writing partners wrote the successful thriller HEADHUNTER as "Michael Slade," allowing him to give up his law practice. A string of other thrillers followed, all written with a rotating team of partners, until eventually "Slade" encompassed Jay and his daughter Rebecca.

The latest Slade collaboration is a humdinger with some ties close to home for many horror writers -- portions are set at the 2002 World Horror Convention in Seattle.

"Bed of Nails," an Alice Cooper song, is also attorney Brett Lister's novel, premiering at the WHC. His friend-turned-competitor Wes Grimmer, another attorney, has published "Halo of Flies," and both novels are based on a strange Tarot card-inspired case a year and a half earlier, a case unsolved by Zinc Chandler of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's Special-X branch. Did one of the lawyers commit the original Hanged Man murder? Is Clarke impishly mocking attorneys-turned-authors?

There's the Ripper, an institutionalized serial killer, and his literal hunger for revenge against Zinc. The Ripper claims to have broken the time-space continuum. Traveling back and forth in time, he's currently "sharing" that other Ripper's crimes (Jack, late of Whitechapel, London, 1888). Now he's taught a disciple how it's done, setting into motion a series of dire events. The Hanged Man murder is but a baited hook for Zinc, and what happens at World Horror simply sets it. The South Pacific climax will set your teeth on edge.

Rife with fabulously gruesome cannibalism details, more than a hint of Tarot- and Goth-lore, plus WHC in-jokes, this newest Slade RCMP thriller's disparate elements mesh better than one would expect. Slade blurs the lines between the real and the fantastic, the historical and the hysterical, and the serious and the humorous, lightening the joyful grimness. Fabulously entertaining!
William D. Gagliani ( author of WOLF'S TRAP)


CATEGORY FIVE
by Philip S. Donlay
September 2004
ISBN: 0975376535
Nightbird Press

With uncanny timing, having been published during the hurricane season of Charley, Frances, and Ivan, Phil Donlay's debut novel "Category Five" proves to be the mother of them all. In this self-published page-turner of a novel, hurricane "Helen" (which in real life would have occurred between Frances and Ivan) is at a "Category Five" status and growing - threatening to devastate the entire eastern seaboard.

Donavan Nash, pilot and CEO of Eco-Watch is called in to rescue government personnel researching "Helen." What should be a simple in and out mission turns deadly when an attempt is made on the life of the lead scientist -- Dr. Lauren McKenna.

As luck would have it, these two have a history, with both shared and unshared secrets.

Cinematic in scope -- Roger Corman provides a glowing blurb, as does Vince Flynn - "Category Five" is loaded with nail-biting suspense, romance, conspiracies, and intrigue. A great "beach read," depending, perhaps, upon what beach you're on. Phil Donlay lives in Minneapolis, and is a professional jet pilot with over two decades of experience. This Nightbird Press edition is reported to be a 2,500 copy 1st printing. Simon & Schuster will republish "Category Five" under its "ibook" imprint next Spring.
Gary Schulze, owner of Once Upon A Crime


FIRST, DO NO HARM
By Larry Karp
2004
Poisoned Pen Press
ISBN: 159058130X

We all have genres that we tend to steer clear of and medical mysteries are my genre anathema. But I picked up Larry Karp's fourth book and first stand alone, FIRST, DO NO HARM, opened to the first chapter and plunged into a story that was profound and absorbing.

There are doctors in this world that go beyond mere schooled doctoring into art of healing. And as with the shaman of old, these men held sway in their communities, catered to and beloved. This tale is wrapped around such a healer. Dr. Samuel Firestone, a man gifted in the art of diagnosis whose very presence calmed and fortified his patients. But in the fateful summer of 1943, the community of Hobart, NJ a tiny crack that had formed long ago began to grow. And hapless victims would slip into its depths before it would heal.

Sixty years later and Martin Firestone tells his father, renowned and eccentric artist Leo Firestone, that he is going to medical school .His father is apocalyptic and resigns himself to a fate he'd hoped to avoid. He tells Martin about that summer from long ago.

In 1943, at the age of sixteen, Samuel makes Leo his extern, taking the boy with him to every case, hoping to instill a desire to follow in his footsteps. Leo's innocence is quickly extinguished as he witnesses the darker side of Samuel's medical practice. The wartime America denies itself medicines, food and metal in order to support their boys at war. But Samuel taps the black market for drugs unavailable to law abiding docs. On his first night out with his father, Leo sees Samuel pronounce a man dead of a heart attack that Leo, in the infancy of his medical knowledge, knows died of something else.

Everyday revels another layer of Samuel -- abortions, baby selling, supplying drugs to an addict - it's more than Leo can take. He seeks refuge next door with Harmony Belmont and bares his soul. She is quickly caught up in the story and urges Leo to track down evidence of Samuel's misdeeds before he pronounces Samuel guilty. The trail leads to the Fleischmann Scrapyard. Under the premise of repairing a music box, Leo puts his ears to the wall and lands him self in deep with Samuel's sometime nefarious business partner, Murray Fleischmann and his fulltime adversary, Oscar Fleischmann. Harmony and Leo are in deep trouble and only the father he no longer believes in can help them.

When the tale is told, Martin is dumbstruck. But, like his father before him, he senses a tale within the tale and he goes back to Hobart to pick up the trail again. The crack re-opens and ghosts fly out, each with its own tale to tell.

FIRST, DO NO HARM is a story steeped in history, personal ethics and the physicians imperative. It's ending is a powerful example of the difference between a boy's beliefs and a grown man's conscience.
Jennifer Jordan


SECRETS OF THE ROYAL DETECTIVE
by Don Hale
2004
WritersWorld
ISBN: 190418473

Former journalist Don Hale made a name for himself with his book TOWN WITHOUT PITY, a narrative look at his fight to get a wrongly accused man out of prison. In his latest book Don takes us back in time a bit to look at the story of James Wood, a former army sharp shooter who became the youngest police superintendent in Manchester. The story follows Wood from the beginnings of his days joining the police force to the last days of his life.
It's a wonderful look at the early days of the police and also a superb chance to follow Don as he explores his own family history. The photos in the book also enhance the experience by giving the reader a real look at the way things were at the time. This is a very interesting book and one that is set up so you can actually read it in parts or as a whole. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Jon


PUBLIC ENEMIES
by Bryan Burroughs
July 2004
The Penguin Press
ISBN: 1594200211

Another wonderful non-fiction entry, PUBLIC ENEMIES looks at the very early days of the FBI. It shows the beginnings of the organization we know today, Following the cases of such bad men and women as Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger and The Barkers we see how the men of the early days of the bureau learned their trade. Was Ma Barker really a criminal mastermind or just a mother looking out for her sons? Were Bonnie and Clyde really the romantic heroes we see in movies or just murdering robbers? And how were the men chasing them hindered by policies and the law?

Using information made public in recent years and tracking down countless leads Burroughs shows us the reality of the gangsters who became legends and folk heroes. His experience as a reporter really makes this book more than just am outsiders look at those days gone by. I love these type of books and this one gave me a fresh and new viewpoint which changes some of what I thought.
Jon


HOT ON THE TRAIL
by Jane Isenberg
November 2004
ISBN: 0060577517 (PBO)
Avon Mystery

Dealing with an upcoming marriage to her long-time love Sol, keeping an eye on her elderly mother, overloaded with work as a professor at the community college, and the effects of menopause don't slow down Bel Barrett. Bel takes on a continuing ed class on memoir-writing because her mother had been so disappointed at its cancellation. When one of the old gents is found dead after a fall off of his roof, his daughter begs Bel to look into it. After so many years of raising racing pigeons up there, it seems impossible that he could slip and fall off, especially over a four-foot security wall.

With her friends and the far-reaching memories of the elders in the class, Bel traces a hidden part of Hoboken that didn't hit the front pages. Close to NYC, Hoboken NJ is almost a character itself, changing over the years from a bustling suburb to small city. Once, it had that small-town feel where everyone knew their neighbor's business; now property is at a premium and condos fill the landscape. The stories that the elderly classmates write bring some of that old town back, and memories might also be a motivation for murder.

Jane Isenberg took to heart the instruction "write what you know" and it shows-Bel and her friends and family stand out as well-rounded characters in a well-crafted story. While this is nowhere near a dark story, the characters deal daily with the issues of contemporary life near a New York City whose skyline has irretrievably changed, and some of her friends still suffer from the trauma it evoked. HOT ON THE TRAIL is an easygoing mystery, populated by intelligent, energetic adults who don't let a little maturity slow them down.
Kathy Tromp


THE SURROGATE THIEF
by Archer Mayor
2004
ISBN 0-89296-815-X
Mysterious Press

THE SURROGATE THIEF is not only a great book, it is a payoff for all of us who've been reading the Joe Gunther series since OPEN SEASON.

V.B.I. officer Gunther is called into a Brattleboro case when forensics places the gun that just killed a homeowner in a domestic disturbance as a gun that was used in an open murder from thirty years ago. Joe was the primary in that long ago case and his past comes rushing back.

A seasoned veteran now, soon Joe has the scent. The aroma is foul and yet SURROGATE THIEF is captivating. A one sitting book. As this case doubles Vermont's annual homicide rate both Joe and local police departments work in concert to stop what seems so long ago it may well be unsolvable.
Mayor's writing skills have taken his readers to many places in the dark over the years. With THE SURROGATE THIEF he shows us the light that has always been within this series while introducing us to shadows always present we didn't even know were there.
Ruth


FAST LANE
by Dave Zeltserman
2004
ISBN: 1930997639
PointBlank

From short stories featured at The Thrilling Detective, Hardluck Stories, Plots with Guns and New Mystery Magazine to his novel In His Shadow, Dave Zeltserman has shown himself to be as noir and hard-boiled as a hundred-year-old egg.

Private Eye Johnny Lane has a one-man business and the cases are coming in so fast he has to subcontract some of the work, still walking away with sixty percent of the take. His success is largely owed to a newspaper column for the Denver Examiner called 'Fast Lane', in which he discusses some of his more note worthy cases. The 'Fast Lane' makes Lane a B-list celebrity in Denver. Everyone wants to shake his hand and slap his back. But, Lane is restless. Most cases involve lowlifes and sleaze balls, so when a young girl walks into his office and asks for his help to find her birth parents, Lane is intrigued. Mary Williams is fresh and innocent and something about her makes Lane decide to take the case for far less than his going rate. Lane is also investigating the disappearance of Debra Singer, another young girl, whose parents have reported her missing.

Johnny Lane is a nice guy, popular, successful -- at least, that's how he appears on the surface. But, the deeper his involvement in the search for Mary's family gets, the more cracks begin to show in the veneer. Cracks that are so wide and deep you could drive a double decker bus into them and never find it again.

FAST LANE is a fast and furious read. Packed with confrontation and insights into the characters that beautifully illustrate the inherent good and evil in us all. Johnny Lane is an amoral, nasty man and his downward spiral is slick with blood and gore. A perfect example of each deadly sin. FAST LANE peels back the layers on a complicated character, wholesome on the surface, but rotten at the core. And it's cunningly composed.
Donna Moore


RETRO REVIEW
ALL SHOT UP
by Chester Himes
April 1, 1996 (reprint) First published in 1960
ISBN: 1560251034
Thunder's Mouth Press

Chester Himes is, for the most part, an undiscovered treasure in American suspense fiction. His career began in the 1930's, when he was incarcerated for armed robbery -- as he began to test his skills as an author and eventually sold short stories to the many magazines which published short fiction during those years.

After his release, he began to work as a writer in earnest, and with the sponsorship provided by the various government projects of the late Depression era, he eventually published IF HE HOLLORS LET HIM GO in 1945 to widespread critical acclaim.

Thunder's Mouth Press has begun to release new paperback editions of Himes' many short novels set in Harlem. Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson work as beat cops; long before Miranda warnings and emphasis on the constitutional rights of the accused were part of a cop's workaday life.

In ALL SHOT UP, the two cops follow the trail of a ring of thieves who "borrow" cars from showrooms overnight, "sell" them to unsuspecting marks, arrange for both car and cash to disappear into thin air and settle back to await the next bewildered scam victim to appear. But in this novel, quite a few things go wrong for the scam artists and their victims as bodies begin to pile up. An influential Harlem politician is literally caught in the crossfire, and his presence in the chain of events complicates matters for all concerned.

Jones and Johnson perceive the truth of the events from the start, and the reader is in for a delightful tromp through the dark streets of Harlem, slip sliding through a severe winter storm following the bad guys through alleys, avenues, and sidewalks.

Himes is a unique American voice, and deserving of a much wider reputation.
Woodstock


TIL THE END OF TOM
by Gillian Roberts
November 2004
ISBN: 0345454928
Ballantine Books

Gillian Roberts and her protagonist Amanda Pepper are starting another year at Philly Prep. Once again author Roberts seamlessly interweaves Pepper's daytime vocation as an English teacher and her nighttime passion for sleuthing of an almost professional nature. Tomas Severin, of the reclusive Severin family, is found dying in the hallways of Amanda's school with a note in his back pocket. Why is Amanda's name in the note? She's never met him. Soon Pepper, with fiancé C.K. and best friend Sasha are up to their eyeballs in the workings of Philadelphia's most dysfunctional blue-blood family.
Roberts is a very good writer. She manages time after time, to take the restraints within the traditional mystery structure and stroke them. Her narratives are contemporary, highly readable and, hardest of all, unique. TIL THE END OF TOM will amuse and entertain.
Ruth Jordan


DYING IN THE DARK
by Valerie Wilson Wesley
2004
ISBN: 0345468066
One World/Ballantine

"Don't ever talk to haints," Tamara Hayle's grandma used to tell her. And although Tamara agrees with the sentiment she has little choice but to listen when her used to be best friend begins appearing in her dreams. But her ex-friend, Celia Jones, is now little more than a ghost and a headline: "Woman Shot, Killer Unknown."

Dying in the Dark, the seventh in Valerie Wilson Wesley's series featuring Tamara Hayle, explores the bleak world of a woman with an insatiable appetite for men and a past that comes up from behind to rain bullets down on her. Hayle had had the sense to walk away until Jones's son, Cecil, begs her to investigate his mother's death. With no lack of suspects, Hayle faces a shared history with her friend that was divided by men and defined by men. When Cecil takes a knife to the heart, Hayle knows that 'killer unknown' is well aware of the trail that leads to her door.

Wesley, former executive editor for Essence magazine and Shamus award nominee, navigates the world between an uncompromising P.I. and a single mother with humor and depth. When she created Tamara Hayle, she created an every woman with a desire for justice and the guts get it.
Jennifer Jordan


DEAD TO THE WORLD
by Charlaine Harris
May 2004
Ace Books
ISBN: 0441011675

Sookie is nursing a broken heart over the extra relationship hijinx of her vampire lover, Bill Compton. After a few rejected overtures toward reconciliation, Bill leaves for Peru to pursue an ongoing vampiric roll call project, leaving Sookie alone with her thoughts and the thoughts of every human around her. As Sookie heads home after a long night of New Year's Eve waitressing, something catches her eye. Local vampire leader, Eric, is running down a country road. Naked and scared stiff, it takes a bit of gentle persuasion to coax Eric into her truck. When she does, Sookie discovers Eric has been robbed of his memory as well as his wardrobe.

A call to Eric's second-in-command tells Sookie what she doesn't want to know. Evil is afoot in the small town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. Again. A coven of witches, bent on acquiring territory and power are led by a witch also bent on acquiring Eric.

Sookie tries to hide Eric, but her brother sees him -- and immediately disappears. And Sookie finds herself caught in a war among witches, vampires, and werewolves. She gets him to come back to her house, and a call to his second-in-command, Pam, reveals that Hallow, a witch whose advances Eric spurned, robbed him of his memory. Still hoping to get her hands on him, Hallow is posting signs with his picture on them all over town, so Pam is determined that Eric stay put at Sookie's. Sookie is apprehensive about that, especially after her brother disappears, and she comes to suspect that the coven Hallow runs is responsible. But as her attraction to Eric deepens, Sookie finds she is drawn into the vampires' plot to attack Hallow's coven. The first hardcover in Harris' series is gripping and spicy.

For me, Charlaine Harris represents what vampire romance stories could be if they let go of all the solemn gothic trappings that they only too often hide a lack of plot behind. Sookie Stackhouse proves that a down to earth waitress in a small town Louisiana bar can be just as effective a heroine as your basic kinky necromancer type. Sookie's not quite normal -- she can read minds -- but she has a straightforward approach to the weirdness within and without her that is like a breath of fresh air.

Of course, the secret of Harris's success is that Sookie is a lot tougher than you might think. Yes, she is emotional, attracted to the spookiest men, and lacks fashion sense, but underneath it all she has learned to pick up the pieces and carry on. If you don't count her taste in men, what Sookie does always makes sense. And her wry, humble style cannot fail to charm.

Harris manages to tread the line between sexiness and bad taste with surer feet than Laurell Hamilton. As a result the eroticism never distracts from the plot and the solid narrative style that Sookie uses. It you are interested in a new twist on the girl-meets-vampire genre these books are a great place to start.
Jennifer


JASS
by David Fulmer
January 2005
Harcourt Inc
ISBN: 0151010250

The death of a Negro musician is not something that turns many heads in Storyville. But when several die, private detective Valentine St.Cyr is moved to look into the situation. In no time, he finds resistance coming from all directions. No one seems eager to have the truth uncovered.

Jass, the 2nd book in the Valentine series, is set in the red light district of New Orleans in the first part of the 20th century. The story is alive with brothels and music halls, overflowing with the lively, new music called Jass.

David Fulmer has created an interesting character, in Valentine, and placed him in a rich, colorful world that comes alive to us thanks to the author's skillful descriptions. I am not normally a fan of historical novels, as they often spend too much energy on setting and the characters suffer because of it, but Fulmer manages to avoid overloading the pages with the time and place. He gives us just enough to envision this wonderful world yet still keeps the characters front and center. The characters themselves are realistic and engaging.

If you are a fan of music, you should enjoy the portrayal of Jazz at it's birth. If you are a fan of historical novels, turn of the century New Orleans is fascinating. If you enjoy complex characters, then Valentine should draw you in. In short, this is a book that can be enjoyed by just about everyone.
Jeremy


TERROR CELL
by Joseph H. Badal
August 2004
ISBN: 1931643458
Seven Locks Press

Published to coincide with the 2004 Summer Olympics, Joe Badal, author of the stunning "The Pythagorean Solution" (Seven Locks Press, 2003), once again returns to Greece with a harrowing answer to the question "What's the worst that could happen?".

Following the assassination of the CIA station chief in Athens by the "Greek Spring" terrorist group, Special Ops Officer Bob Danforth is sent there to investigate. What he discovers in Athens is a government that, if not actually in bed with, at least seems sympathetic to the terrorists.
As the date for the opening ceremonies nears, Danforth begins to uncover a plot of frightening proportions, and soon becomes a target for assassination himself. Not knowing who he can trust, he enlists his son -- himself an army special ops.

With an all too plausible plot, and written with an insider's knowledge of Greek history and politics, "Terror Cell" represents political intrigue at its terrifying best.

As Badal mentions in the dedication to "Terror Cell", "Greek Spring" is a fictional outgrowth of the actual "17 November" group of terrorists, which operated with impunity from 1975 to 2002. "Terror Cell" is dedicated to 35 named victims of this group, beginning with Richard Welch, CIA Station Chief, murdered 12/23/75.

Joseph Badal's first book, "The Pythagorean Solution" is under option to a Hollywood producer, and will be republished by Simon & Schuster" as an "ibook" paperback in April, 2005.
Gary Schulze, owner of Once Upon A Crime


SPIRAL
by Koji Suzuki
translated by Glynne Walley
2004
Vertical
ISBN: 1932234063

The movie The Ring stayed with me for months. Images from it flashing through my head. The book was amazing, and lingered in my thoughts even longer. Spiral is the second in a trilogy telling this tale.

Spiral can be read alone and is not dependant on the earlier work. However reading both only enhances the experience. The main character in SPIRAL is Ando, a man who has lost his son to an accident and is losing his wife and his direction. Ando spends his days going to work where he does autopsies. As we follow Ando to work we discover with him that the first corpse of the day is an old college friend of his. The circumstances of the death are not apparent and this leads to some strange discoveries by Ando.

As the book progresses Ando is pulled further and further into this medical mystery which goes well beyond just science.

I read this book fast because I simply could not stop. I was creeped out, and fascinated at the same time. An amazing piece of work, and I can't wait to read the third installment of the trilogy.
Jon


SHOULDER IN THE SKY
by Anne Perry
2004
ISBN 0-345-45654-8
Ballantine Books

Perry readers looking for something fresh from their favorite author will enjoy this book. The second novel featuring the Reavley siblings SHOULDER IN THE SKY is a historical with a timely theme. When do we back up our beliefs by going to war rather than maintaining the peace? As Chaplain Joseph and his sister Judith investigate the death of a young journalist their brother Matthew searches for a man known as Peacemaker. Will the trio be able to stop the wastrel from realizing his goals? Read to find out.
Ruth


THE ROMANOV PROPHECY
by Steve Berry
2004
ISBN: 0345460057
Ballantine Books

Forget the hype THE DA VINCI CODE and THE RULE OF FOUR, this book is the real deal. With it's origins in Russian history, THE ROMANOV PROPHECY is an amazing historical thriller. It takes the reader from the early 1900's to present day in an amazing mix of true facts from history and present day. Add to the mix the speculation about what might have been and what might be concerning the ultimate fate of the Romanov family and you have a mystery that fascinates.

The main plot of the book revolves around Czar Nicholas and his descendants. As with THE AMBER ROOM, Berry has done extensive research but manages to not bog the plot down with excessive detail. The protagonist, Miles Lord, is a lawyer fluent in the language and code of behavior of Russia. He is brought in to by Stefan Baklanov to verify his history as the potential next Csar.

THE ROMANOV PROPHECY is a real globe-trotting adventure. Berry is an author to watch and definitely a name to remember.
Jon


KINKI LULLABY
by Isaac Adamson
October 2004
Dark Alley imprint of Harper Collins
ISBN: 0060516240

Billy Chaka, an ace reporter for an Asian teen magazine, returns in Kinki Lullaby, the fourth in the Chaka series. It doesn't take long after he steps into Osaka's PanCosmo Hotel before Chaka is embroiled in what begins as just a favor for a man he'd met over a decade before. Officially there on magazine business that involves receiving and award for an article, "Prince of Puppets!" that he did on puppeteer Tetsuo Oyamada, the boys father pulls him aside to ask the he act as a liaison. He hasn't spoken to his son in the years after the boy left the National Bunraku Theater in disgrace after a mysterious incident with another puppeteer.

Oyamada is upset, and, as Chaka puts it, he 'tried like hell to decline', but there is protocol to follow while in Japan and Chaka begrudgingly accepts. It's certainly more interesting that participating in the Kinki Foundation conference events. Chaka takes the elevator after the discussion, meeting a fellow American on the way down. The young man has 'a smile that wouldn't stay put' and a long story that he doesn't want to tell. Lucky for Chaka, he doesn't want to hear it. Chaka peels off his nametag sticker from his chest and slaps it on the boys, saying 'have a swell time being me'. Returning later that night, Chaka, takes the stairs up to his room, encountering a woman in the stairwell. After coming out of some kind of stupor, she is suddenly wild-eyed. Claiming that she has awoken from sleepwalking the beautiful and befuddled woman hurries down the stairs and out the hotel. The next day, the young man is found murdered in his room. A room right next to Chaka's.

Anyone that has followed Billy Chaka series knows that Adamson's approach to crime fiction is, innovative, dark, idiosyncratic and fast-paced. Adamson has conveys the feel of Japan without relying on plot dragging description. He also manages to keep Chaka likeable while making him just a touch jaded and overconfident. The rapid fire conclusion cements Adamson as a name to watch.
Jennifer


SKELETON MAN
by Tony Hillerman
December 2004
ISBN 0-06-056344-3
Harper Collins

Joe Leaphorn is retired now but there will never be quiet on Tony Hillerman's reservation. SKELETON MAN is a story about diamonds and greed and finding both the future and the past.

Jim Chee and fiancée Bernie climb to the bottom of the Grand Canyon with Cowboy. They are searching for a hobo with diamonds and they are not alone. Also roaming the canyon floor is a woman in search of her past and a man trying to keep her from finding it. Hillerman's narrative creates a visual for his reader that is mesmerizing. You feel the aches and pains of our players and you feel the danger around every corner. SKELETON MAN is the best hike you'll take this year.
Ruth


NOT SAFE AFTER DARK
by Peter Robinson
2004
Macmillan UK

Many people were saying to me that 'The Short Story is Dead' - and we've had Val McDermid's 'Save our Short Story Campaign' in response, but before anyone performed the last rites to this format [a mainstay in our crime / mystery genre], we've had a slew of excellent short story collections showing to all and sundry that there's life in the old dog yet. Peter Robinson's contribution is right up there with the best. This collection is an expanded version of his US/Canadian precursor [same title] which contained 13 stories, but now the UK edition has 20, and what a delight. There are several award winners in the pot, with the Edgar winner 'Missing in Action' to name one of my favourites. The importance of this collection will be the Inspector Alan Banks novella Going Back [one of four Banks tales] - a wonderful tale and glimpse into the personal life of Banks and his family. Going Back is set between his last two books 'Playing with Fire' and 'The Summer that Never Was' [aka 'Close to Home'].

The rest of the tales show the range of Robinson's literary cannon. They feature such diverse locations as France, Los Angeles and Florida, with the latter a great PI tale. The collection is opened with a thought-provoking introduction which tells why he is attracted to the short story format as well as a few little nuggets about Alan Banks, speaking of whom, isn't it time we got the next installment of his life? Highly recommended for short story readers and those interested in the life of Inspector Alan Banks. Publishers take note, the reports of the death of the short story format have been greatly exaggerated!
Ali Karim


A COLD TREACHERY
by Charles Todd
Jan 2005
ISBN:0553803492
Bantam

This is the seventh book in the Rutledge series and it may be the strongest yet. Rutledge is brought in to investigate the murder of a family, well, a family minus one missing boy. As the motivations for the murder come to Rutledge he finds himself getting deeper and deeper in a tangle of secrets that only a small town can have.

Very few authors write characters with such depth, and Charles Todd has outdone himself with this book. An amazing piece of work that creates such a strong sense of being there I had chills. I can't help but wonder if there isn't a time machine in the garage at the Charles house, that's how well the period is written. This is truly one of my favorite authors, and this could be my favorite book by him so far.
Jon


THE CIRRICULUM MURDERS
by Marlis Day
2004
ISBN 1-56315-316-5
SterlingHouse Publisher

The small press is something often lauded within the pages of this magazine and others of a similar leaning. Contrary to reports not all is of a noir mentality. A good case in point would be THE CIRRICULUM MURDERS. Marlis Day and her heroine Margo Brown are making their third appearances in this world we call mystery. They are quite at home.

In THE CIRRICULLUM MURDERS, schoolteacher Margo and her trusty side-kick Roxie are asked to look into the "seemingly" accidental death of a fellow teacher the year before. Soon Margo sees a pattern. Teachers at James Whitcomb Riley Middle School have been dying, one a year on Homecoming Night for the past few years.

Between the holiday planning and festivities that surround Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year, grading papers, dealing with Roxie's new found heritage, and enjoying her own Christmas gift (and no, I'm not giving it away here) Margo looks into the case in fits and starts. Along the way it becomes apparent that Margo's instincts are right and there is something sinister going on amidst this Currier and Ives lifestyle. Mystery; it's everywhere and Day handles her corner of our genre with both grace and a sense of humor.
Ruth


MAD MONEY
by Linda Richards
2004
Mira Books

OK, this is not my normal reading matter, but every so often we need some light in the noir, and Linda Richards certainly provides a welcome break in my normal reading patterns.

Marketed as a romantic mystery, Mad Money is no lightweight airplane read, instead we have the fiendishly complex tale of corporate swindles, surreal glimpses into the world of the stock-trader, but most importantly a look at Madeline Carter as a character struggling to get her life under control.

The book starts in high gear when stockbroker Madeline Carter witnesses the murder of her friend and colleague Jackson Shoenberger by a disgruntled and bankrupt former client of Merriweather Bailey Stockbrokers. Traumatized and haunted by the murder of her friend, Carter flees and relocates to Los Angeles of all places. She ends up on Malibu beach, assisting a film director bond with his troubled daughter. But it isn't long before Madeline's former life in the world of stocks and bonds returns as she becomes a day-trader to support herself. But before you can shout Enron, Madeline finds herself embroiled in corporate shenanigans when her life savings on an 'insider tip' in a company called LRG [run by an ex-boyfriend Ernest Carmichael Billings] goes 'belly-up'. Her stock trade seriously hits the fan when ex-boyfriend Billings appears kidnapped, and the stock in LRG plummets like a ruptured submarine. Madeline then dives to investigate and gets enmeshed in a series of twists and turns that make this a really fast paced and literate read. Written in first person, we soon take to Madeline Carter as a larger than life character, and one that I think will become a series character. For a debut novel -- bravo! If you need a fast-paced and fun read 'Mad Money' is for you as it is a light in the noir and far, far from light-weight.
Ali Karim


COLD FIRE CALM RAGE
by Joe Stein
2004
ISBN: 1904781349
Bluechrome books

COLD FIRE, COLD RAGE is a wonderful book. Bringing forth vivid scenes with his writing Stein has created an extremely moody feeling book. It would be easy to throw around comparisons to some recent movies, especially Guy Ritchie movies, but there really is a lot more depth and substance here. The first person perspective adds to the realism of the tale. As we follow the main character, Garron, we meet thugs and gangsters in an underworld that is not really all that new to noir fans. Yet Stein has an ability to make it feel fresh and keep the reader moving forward. It's one of those books that you are so involved with you don't realize how fast you are reading. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to more from Mr. Stein. So pour a bourbon, light a smoke and sit back and enjoy this new author.
Jon


WHIRLWIND
by Joseph Garber
2004
ISBN 0-06-059650-3
Harper Collins

Within the pages of WHIRLWIND, the cold war is alive and well. Meet Charlie McKenzie, ex C.I.A. and ex-con. A Russian agent has managed to steal the U.S. 's hope for permanent weapon superiority, code name Whirlwind and the President's national security advisor comes a calling. Luckily, McKenzie has a knack for finding people. His country needs him. McKenzie sees a chance to redeem himself and perhaps to extract a little revenge upon the co-workers who put him in jail.

Meet Irina Kolodenkova. Young, and on the fast track to the top of the Russian espionage community, her instincts far outweigh her inexperience. Together, our two main characters take the reader on a ride across the Southwest to California. There are government operatives after them and mercenaries try to derail the duo. The pages of the book are riddled with bullets and littered with bodies. In the end, how McKenzie and Kolodenkova stay alive? Which side possess WHIRLWIND?

Garber has an instinct for the espionage thriller that took me back in time to the days when I still read Clancy and never missed a Ludlum or Forsythe. I quite enjoyed my trip down memory lane and look forward to visiting with Mr. Garber again.
Ruth Jordan


NOCTURNES
by John Connolly
November 2004
ISBN 0340834587
Hodder & Stoughton

John Connolly has come a long way from EVERY DEAD THING.

His novels have evolved, year by year, from being good, stylistic thrillers with depth to being atmospheric morality plays that never fail to frighten. His villains are the most villainous you'll read and his heroes are just barely that. BAD MEN quantified this and set Connolly's name with the greatest storytellers of any genre.

But his short stories are even better.

The nature of the short story beast forces the writer to establish character, place and plot quickly and powerfully. With Connolly, short stories are like a full dose of evil played out in one sitting.

THE CANCER COWBOY RIDES AGAIN, the first and creepiest of the collection (and that is a hell of a statement), tells of the genesis of Buddy Carson, essentially a walking, talking tumor. Riddled with pain, the only relief he gets is by touching, and passing on, his deadly curse.

THE ERLKING is Lovecraftian in feel, but absolute Connolly in it's personal narrative. An old man tells of the small house in the forest that came to the attention of a creature of the deepest dark. It began with a howl in the dark and became a voice calling for the boy it wanted, craved. How he survived his story to tell.

Most will be interested in the Charlie Parker novella, THE REFLECTING EYE. Connolly's confidence in this territory makes for a smooth ride into the abyss that beings with John Grady's little house in Maine. Grady was the bogey man, but a flesh and blood form that preyed on children. After sentencing himself to death, he should have been just an evil memory. But the little house is a home again and once more, the children are prey. Parker, led into the fray by client Frank Matheson, Parker stays on the case to see justice for the children of the present, and a small child from the past.

Yes, Rachel, Angel and Louis are here, as is Clem Ruddock. No, you won't be disappointed. But I'll be damned if I spoil this one for you any further.
Jennifer Jordan


THE COLD DISH
by Craig Johnson
Jan 2005
ISBN: 0670033693
Viking

THE COLD DISH is the first book from Johnson and he lives in a town in Wyoming with a population of 25. With a background in law enforcement he has a perspective which is perfectly suited for a series that takes place in the west (Wyoming in particular) and features Sheriff Walt Longmire as the main character.

In THE COLD DISH, as the title would suggest, revenge seems to be a factor in the events. The event that starts off this book is what appears to be a hunting accident. However, since the victim was guilty of rape committed two years prior, an accident seems unlikely. Longmire needs to find out what is really happening before the other people involved in the case have "accidents" as well.

Johnson writes with a love of the area and a knowledge of people that invokes the names of other authors who write books in similar settings. And while Peter Bowen and James Lee Burke and CJ Box are great people to be compared to, Johnson has a voice that is unique and his own. It is a voice I hope to continue to hear in the future.

Karen Hildebrand


FOR LOVE AND MONEY
by Leslie Glass
December 2004
ISBN 0-345-44801-4
Ballantine Books

I miss April Woo. Still when a favorite author is burned out you follow her. And so I picked up FOR LOVE AND MONEY knowing I was in the hands of an able author. Billed as "A Novel of Stocks and Robbers" LOVE is the story of Annie Custer, an uberwoman about to have a meltdown. She's trying to save her family. She's working too hard. She's about to lose the family maid. And her best friend's father has accused her of stealing a quarter of a million dollars in bearers bonds. Fans of the April Woo series might be a little surprised by this book for it looks as though Glass is trying to merge Mystery and Chick Lit. There's not a cop in sight but Glass still has the stuff.
Ruth


THE WIRE: TRUTH BE TOLD
by Rafael Alverez
2004
ISBN:0743497325
Pocket Books

Fans of the series The Wire will love this book. An inside look at the wonderful HBO crime drama featuring such mystery fan favorites as Laura Lippman and George Pelecanos. Looking at the first three seasons and what went into getting the show made, The book is spilt up by seasons and has cast and crew lists, episode guides and some wonderful essays about the show. This is a wonderful companion to the show, which is has just released season one on DVD.

The show is unlike any other on television in it's realistic approach, and well deserving of all it's critical success. This book enhances the experience.
Jon


HARD, HARD CITY
by Jim Fusilli
2004
Putnam
ISBN 0399152172

"I take it whenever I can find it. Time, I mean."

Terry Orr is a single parent and well aware of everything he has to lose. He's guilt ridden and haunted by the death of his young son and wife years before. And now all he has left of his family is his daughter Bella and it seems he just never has enough time to give her. When she asks him to find Allie Powell, a fellow student at Manhattan's Fashion Institute of Technology, he can't turn her down.

But this isn't just a matter of a temperamental teen cooling off after a clash with her parents. In fact, it seems her parents really couldn't care less. Harlan Powell, the girl's father, is a hard man to track down and when Orr does, the meeting goes badly. Orr barely walks away from it with his skin intact but he has a good idea that there's more to the situation. Before he gleans even the vaguest idea of what that could be, he's framed for a beating and kicked out by the law in a well to do part of New Jersey's Silver Haven suburb. Orr tenaciously holds on to the few threads of the girl he's been able to trace and uncovers a theft that leads to murder. And it's a murder that bears repeating. If Orr doesn't find the girl, she'll become just another statistic in a hard city.

The fourth in the series featuring Terry Orr, finds Orr mellower, contemplative but still rabid for justice. The unfolding story draws you in and holds you tight. The back-story of Orr's A.D.A. girlfriend, Julie Giada, humanizes Orr and showcases the intelligent and dryly-humorous relationship he shares with his Bella. What was good in Tribeca Blues is heightened in Hard, Hard City, making for a novel that goes well beyond the tired P.I. stories proliferating on bookshelves.
Jennifer


ROAD TO PURGATORY
by Max Allan Collins
2004
ISBN 0060540273
William Morrow

In this novel which follows the story from the incredible Trade Paper back graphic novel ROAD TO PERDITION, we find young Michael in the World War II, fighting in Bataan in the pacific. He comes home a hero, but after where he has been and what he has seen he isn't ready for the quiet life in the small town where his adopted parents live. He is soon on a different path altogether after a meeting with Elliot Ness. It seems Michael may get the chance to right some old wrongs.

Collins brings to this novel his knowledge and love of the era he is writing about. It is a completely engaging story and hard to put down. This is Collins at his best doing the kind of writing he is so good at. I think this could be a major break out book, and I can't wait for part three in this trilogy.
Jon


TOOL AND DIE
by Sarah Graves
January 2005
ISBN 0-553-80309-3
Bantam Books

Okay, I admit it -- I'm hooked. I really am enjoying this "cozy" series featuring Jake Tiptree and her side-kick Ellie. Billed as "Home Repair is Homicide" these mysteries are what you'd expect. A small town with tremors right under the surface provides our heroine and her second with plenty of fodder to play amateur sleuth. Graves does it well and in TOOL AND DIE she continues with a winning formula. Jake is looking into the death of her new maid's ex- husband. Will she be able to apprehend the culprit? Will Ellie find a babysitter? Will the shutters be up by the time of the fourth of July when the relatives are due to descend on Jake's Maine home? Mystery on the lighter side for sure. But very well done.
Ruth


MASTER OF THE GAME
by William Tepper
Oct 2004
Synergy Books
ISBN 097476440X

I'll be the first to admit that I really enjoy books with serial killers. I enjoy the cat and mouse game and I enjoy the detectives cleverness and resourcefulness in their hunting of the killer. And I enjoy a really well thought out devious killer. Tepper's MASTER OF THE GAME has all the qualities I look for in these books. And more importantly they are done well. The protagonist, John Hightower, is a wonderful lead in this hunt to catch "Simon", the killer with a perfect record in the game. As media attention wanes Simon craves to bring himself back into the limelight and chooses a reporter named Wychek to be the one to tell the world about his deeds.

This book has the great pacing necessary to this type of thriller and Tepper also managed to thow in some twists I didn't see coming. With MASTER OF THE GAME Tepper has proved himself to be a MVP.
Jon


NIGHT VISIONS
by Thomas Fahy
Nov 2004
ISBN: 0060594624
Dark Alley (a Harper Collins Imprint)

Samantha Ranvali is a lawyer who can't sleep. The reason she can't sleep is memories of a past trauma causing nightmares whenever she closes her eyes. She seeks help in am experimental therapy group and seems to be cured. However, soon after murders start taking place that resemble the dreams she's had. And somehow Bach's Goldberg Variations plays into the whole affair.

In this, his first novel, Fahy shows some real skills with his ability to play with the reader's had and emotions. I started to feel sleep deprived myself and could relate to Samantha's situation all to easily. Suspense like this needs a warning label, "do not open if you plan to sleep." I loved it.
Jon

THE HANNIBAL E-PUZZLE
Don Eckhardt
2004
Tahoe-Hudson Books
ISBN: 0975420771

Strange e-mail puzzles are the clues to stopping an act of terrorism in this high energy thriller. With events that could be easily pulled from newspaper events this is a timely and entertaining book. May "Temper" Link and Rowdy Marshall are working against the clock too stop events that could endager a pwer plant and influence the next presidential election.

Eckhardt has obviously done his homework for this book. The locales are dead on perfect, and his characters are wonderfully human and intriguing. And I have to add that I really enjoyed the puzzles. They add a very traditional mystery feel to a modern thriller, and I liked the challenge. A wonderful book, and I look forward to more in the Temper/Rowdy series. This is Eckhardt's second in the series.
Jon