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Issue 5 Reviews

George Pelecanos
March 2005
Little, Brown & Co.

There is a small group of writers that I savor like a favorite edible. I try to stop from devouring the whole book in one sitting to no avail and find myself going back one more time to experience the individual flavors more slowly. Only then does my palate appreciate the many subtleties and nuances that the creator has presented for a full-bodied Consumer experience. George Pelecanos is one of these writers. DRAMA CITY is one of those books.
Coming off of the success of both the WASHINGTON TRILOGY and its prequel HARD REVOLUTION I've anticipated DRAMA CITY for over a year. It's been well worth waiting for. This book too, belongs in the annals of a D.C. no other author could write. And yet it's different. Pared down, the story of three.
Lorenzo Brown is out of prison and trying to stay on the straight and narrow. Gone are the days when he worked the corner. Now he works for the Humane Society and polices negligent pet owners.
Rachel Lopez is Brown's parole officer. She doesn't kid herself about his chances but she sees in his eyes the desire. She sees in his behavior the attempt. Rachel has problems of her own. Sure and steadfast by day, the night haunts her soul. She reaches for control with bad behavior and is rapidly spinning towards an unfortunate reality.
Nigel is Brown's old running buddy and now owns several of D.C.'s drug corners. He is also a man who when he sees his old friend going off to work in a uniform feels a satisfaction that perhaps Lorenzo can escape a fate he knows is his own.
Pelecanos presents a series of events in the pages of DRAMA CITY that come to a climax that will take away your breath and then grab your heart. There is sorrow and there is joy. The reality of the characters environment is not spared. The theme of life wasted and life abused runs throughout. And still you are left with hope. Individuals make both heroic and foolish decisions. Pelecanos continues to present a very real world where some futures may be predetermined but there is always the possibility of tomorrow.
Ruth Jordan

Dave Zeltserman
August 2004
ISBN: 1-930997-63-9

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.

Robert Eversz
Simon and Schuster

Eversz's Nina Zero series, while having its roots in Chandler and MacDonald, are completely unique. Nina is a paparazzi photographer whose job involves being part of the celebrity food chain that is Hollywood. She isn't caught up in it like a fan, but sees it for what it is for her, a way to make a buck.
In DIGGING JAMES DEAN Nina stumbles across a cult in the LA area that is seeking bones of celebrities. She comes into the case because some one actually dug up James Dean. While digging in to the story and trying to stay one step ahead of the cultists she is also forced to deal with some family issues she would rather ignore, and also look for a new place to live.
Eversz does an outstanding job of building the suspense as the story progresses to a climax that would leave any Hollywood director or screenwriter jealous, not to mention some action scenes that would make a stuntman grin. Eversz is an outstanding writer and his abilty to write incredible characters will guarantee him a place in my bookshelves for as long as he writes novels.

David Ellis
April 2005
G.P. Putnam's Sons

How refreshing to read something so exciting and challenging!! In an era when books are mass produced with little imagination and creativity, David Ellis' next book, IN THE COMPANY OF LIARS is markedly unique. You cannot just pick it up and read it while multi-tasking other parts of your life. It requires your attention and memory because the story is told from the end to the beginning.
You follow an international plot, Sam Dillon's murder and investigation through the investigating officer, FBI Agent Jane McCoy and Allison Pagone, who is accused of the murder. Sam Dillon is a former partner of Allison Pagone's ex-husband, and was having a personal relationship with her. Allison is a best-selling novelist with a daughter in college. She finds herself in the middle of a nightmare with little support except for that of an unknown journalist, who is gathering her side of the story during the trial.
Fascinating, yet crucial and relevant characters are woven through these two lives, showing you behaviors and actions, and glimpses of emotions and motives throughout the investigation and trial.
Although it is written backward forward, it never loses any pace or excitement, rather the thrill quickens as you race to finish piecing the mystery together. IN THE COMPANY OF LIARS is incredibly well-written, thought-provoking and an absolute joy to read. I would recommend it to anyone.

Robert Crais
February 2005
ISBN: 0385504284

Elvis Cole is back. Finally.
It's been two years since the publication of Crais's last Elvis Cole novel, The Last Detective, and it's good to see Elvis and his partner, Joe Pike, again. Crais once again employs the style he began with L.A. Requiem and, in the process, gives us further insight into Elvis's past. Crais's use of multiple viewpoints allows us to see into the mind of the novel's villain, as well as into the heart and mind of recurring character Carol Starkey.
The story begins when Elvis Cole is awakened at just before 4:00am and informed that a man claiming to be his father has been murdered. Elvis feels compelled to find out who, exactly, the dead man was and whether or not he could, indeed, have been his father. The investigation leads Elvis to secrets about the dead man's life that were probably better left buried because unearthing them puts Elvis's life in danger.
For the most part, I really enjoyed this book. I love how, with each book, Crais gives us a little bit more of his characters' pasts, making them more fully-realized. But this isn't a book where we get lots of insight into the characters but very little else; there's plenty of action, and Crais writes these scenes with consummate skill.
The only thing I didn't like about the book was how it was all tied up. Without giving anything away, I'll just say that the motivation behind the actions of one of the key characters was a bit unclear. It wasn't enough to ruin the book for me, but it was enough to make me ask "Why?" long after the last page had been turned.
For those of you who have been waiting patiently (or impatiently) for more Elvis and Joe, your wait is over. And the new insights into old characters were worth the wait.
Billie J Bloebaum

Michael Uslan, Peter Snejbjerg (Illustrator)
November 2004
DC Comics
ISBN: 1401201075 (softcover trade)

DC comics has a series of books classified as "Elseworlds". These books take characters that we know and place them in different times and places. A terrific concept and very entertaining.
In this book, Batman doesn't wear a cape, he has no costume. He is just a detective. He is detective #27 to be precise. Allan Pinkerton is Detective #1 and founder of the secret society of detectives, formed to handle threats on a national level. The book opens with Pinkerton warning Lincoln not to go to the playhouse and of course we know what happened there. It follows Pinkerton as he uncovers a group with a long reaching plot to destroy Northern cities in the US. As we jump forward in time Bruce Wayne is recruited into the secret society to help stop the threat.
This book is wonderful because we see fictional characters interacting with real people, such as Pinkerton, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Lincoln and even Babe Ruth. It also uses some real events as a basis for the story lines .I think it will be enjoyed by mystery lovers for it's great plotting, comic lovers for the alternate look at Batman/Bruce Wayne, and history lovers for it's look at some pretty famous people. A great read.
And for the collectors, there is also a hardcover edition!

Gregory Galloway
March 2005
G.P Putnam and Sons
ISBN: 0399152318

Gregory Galloway has never met anyone like Anna Cayne before. She's a mystery wrapped in an enigma, and just when he starts to figure her out she vanishes. Or does she? That is what our young hero has to figure out. The only clue she left for him (and the police) is a dress neatly, purposefully, placed near a hole in the frozen lake. Almost like someone was on their stomach looking down into the dark waters below. In life Anna sent him puzzles, and played mind games with him. She doesn't stop after her vanishing act either. Is she trying to contact him from beyond the grave like her favorite magician Houdini? She may be just another Goth on the outside, but inside Anastasia Cayne is something as simple as snow.
Katie Higgins (15)

Stephen White

Alan Gregory makes his thirteenth appearance in this thriller that starts off with a bang and continues speeding bullet fast to the end.
Diane Estevez and Gregory are set for a psychologists workshop in Las Vegas when Estevez suggests they check in on his social worker colleague Hannah Green at their shared offices in Boulder, Colo. They discover the body of the obsessively neat Green in another colleague's office.
Coinciding with this discovery is the case of a missing teenager, Mallory Miller. Mallory was friends with JonBenet Ramsey and eight years to the day after she was murdered, Mallory is gone. She has many reasons to run away, not the least of which is her schizophrenic mother who's moved to Las Vegas because of her obsession for attending other people's weddings. But Mallory has been scared. Very scared.
Other people begin to disappear as well.
When Estevez goes to Las Vegas to search for Mallory's mother, she stops answering her cellphone. Bob, a patient of Gregory's who's obsessed with Mallory's disappearance and who knows more than he should, misses an appointment for the first time in years of therapy. Gregory tracks down the clues while wrestling his work ethics conscience.
With the humanizing family life of Gregory, what could be a know-it-all, busybody of a character becomes a man in search of answers when none float to the surface of their own accord. The characters are what propel this thriller beyond formula to refined fiction.

Michael Pearce
April 2005
Poisoned Pen Press
ISBN 1-59058-137-7

Pearce presents an atmospheric visit to a vanished world - Cairo Eqypt in the WWI years when Egypt was ruled by Britain. Gareth Owen is stationed in Cairo as head of the British secret police. Owen is far from the stereotypical model of the Englishman who cannot be persuaded that King and Emperor don't know best. He enjoys productive, reciprocal working relationships with many levels of Egyptian society and authority, while at the same time offering a badly needed word of common sense to various meetings of the British governmental levels in Cairo.
A local villager who sometimes works for Owen as a courier is found stabbed in the camel market. It is the custom of the Eqyptian villages of the time for a murdered man's family to seek revenge against his killers. Since the dead man was in his employ on occasion, Owen asks and receives permission to perform this task for them.
Meanwhile, the British forces in Egypt are preparing for a Turkish invasion expected at the Suez canal, valuable cotton shipments are being mysteriously diverted, a young girl passionately devoted to Eqyptian independence runs afoul of local authorities, Australian soldiers roam the streets letting off steam and creating havoc, a string of mysterious fires puzzles all involved, and the young son of the murdered man arrives to join the search for revenge.
Eventually the reader is satisfied as all story threads tie together, the arsonist unmasked, the cotton smuggler identified, and the murderer arrested.

Brad Geagley
February 2005
Simon & Schuster,
ISBN: 074325080X

I picked up Brad Geagley's first mystery simply because it was set in ancient Egypt and I have an Egypt thing. But, it wasn't the Egypt thing that kept me riveted-it was Geagley's main character, Semerket. More like the protagonist in a modern P.I. novel than like the morally upstanding central characters in many historical mysteries, Semerket is a down-on-his-luck "Clerk of Investigations and Secrets."
When we first meet Semerket, he's drunk and screaming at the gates of his ex-wife's house. He's soon appointed to investigate the murder of a Theban priestess, but only because those in power don't want the case solved. Putting Semerket on the case gives the appearance of action being taken, without any fear that he'll actually find the murderer.
This novel is rich in historical detail, especially about the religious-political structure of Pharonic Egypt. Unlike many novels written by historians, though, it doesn't get bogged down in the history. The story moves along quickly and smoothly, with some great action and suspense sequences. The central character of Semerket is so richly and sympathetically drawn that you can't help but feel sorry for him when the investigation takes a personal turn.
Part historical mystery and part P.I. novel, Year of the Hyenas should appeal to a broad spectrum of readers. I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to more stories about Semerket.
Billie J Bloebaum

Jill McGown
Ballantine Books

Every time I open a Lloyd and Hill book I find that my memory has played a trick on me. I'm expecting a traditional British Police Procedural (it certainly is), full of updated personal information that moves the plot forward (yup), and is on the cozier side (oops).
Case in point: UNLUCKY IN LOVE. The book begins with a golf match, a bath for Hill & Lloyds infant daughter, a night of bingo and then…. Murder. From the beginning suspects abound and motives are murky. As Hill and Lloyd work the case they find unsavory personalities, a series of dark secrets and a mad man guaranteed to make you think twice before turning off the light.
The cuppa' served up by this author is not an American tea but a Turkish espresso. Dark and thick with a strong flavor, these books are addictive. Which is why as series come and go in this genre, number 13 in the Lloyd and Hill series has me waiting for number 14 with anticipation.
Ruth Jordan

Jonathon King
April 2005

Jonathan King's Max Freeman series started with a bang. Nice sales, great reviews and a shelf full of awards. This says a lot for the author's writing skills. A KILLING NIGHT is the fourth in the series and he continues his evolution as a must read mystery maverick.
The opening of A KILLING NIGHT finds Max removed from the Everglades and enjoying the hospitality of his friend and lawyer Billy Manchester. A breakfast meeting with Detective Sherry Richards throws Max on the trail of missing girls and an out of control cop. This book also gives King's readers a chance to delve into Freeman's Philidelphia past. Sometimes you can't escape what's come before. Less frequently readers find themselves engrossed in the reveal.
King's ability to present a linear and fascinating story and make us care about all aspects of his narrative is spot on. His imagery improves with every outing. The juggling of sub-plots is seamless. A KILLING NIGHT is as fresh and as good as any book you're likely to read this year.
Ruth Jordan

Ken Bruen
March 2005
St. Martin's Minotaur
ISBN: 0312316453

I find the Jack Taylor novels to be extremely compelling. The plotting is top notch and the characters breath with every turn of a page. A strange thing happens when I read Bruen's work, it reminds me how lucky I am. Taylor's addictions, even though fictional make me think "there but for the grace of God, go I"
In this book Jack has to pay a debt, a favor owed to a crime boss. His mission is to find a woman who was in a home for wayward women years ago. He is also pursuing a murder case, the police are satisfied, but the man's son still thinks his step mother was behind the death. The two cases keep Jack moving and sometimes not moving quick enough. The ending delivered putting a smile on my face and left me thinking I'd like to buy Jack a drink, strangely, the last thing he needs…
I love the mix of action and introspective thinking. It's a look into the lives of some very human people and the way we live as much as it is a crime novel. Bruen writes books that stay with you long after the reading is done.

Lori Avocato
Avon Books, Paperback

Pauline Sokol, 34-year old burned-out pediatric nurse, has hung up her uniform and is ready for a new career. So, her best friend and roommate, Miles, finds her a new job. Suddenly, she is working for an insurance fraud agency in a sort-of private eye position, which means, well, she has no idea what that means. Well, snooping, that's what it means.
With her new investigation job comes a colorful collection of characters, two handsome gents vying for her attention (or should that be, she's vying for theirs) and a return to the nursing profession-this time fighting fraud and the odd murder. Add a quirky family that can knock the grown-up out of her every time and you may think you've met the rather klutzy Pauline before. Sound familiar? Yes, it's very, very Evanovich.
Avocato's secondary characters are her forte. While Pauline bumbles about, trying to figure out how to do her job, the reader looks forward to the next time she drops in for coffee with Goldy, or chats with Adele or Miles. Those were characters that made the story more dimensional and engaging.
A Dose of Murder is an amusing bit of fluff; it's chick-lit lite, perfect for a day poolside. Ms. Avocato has made a good start, and I hope that Pauline has a few more adventures.
Kathleen Tromp

Mark t. Conard
ISBN: 0972441239

The lovely people at Uglytown Press have a new chef in the kitchen. Mark T. Conard, an Asst. Professor of Philosophy at Marymount Manhattan College in NYC, is cooking up a noir feast with Dark as Night. The wine is a sullen blood red and the main course, served up by Philadelphia's mob, was kicking and screaming just minutes ago. And the waiter, a
crooked coked up cop, expects a big tip.Morris White is a nice guy trying to make an honest living. From a kid raised on trouble, he's become the sous-chef at a first-rate Philadelphia restaurant, Le Tour de Cochon. He's also got a new woman, Vicky Ward, in his life. She's got his heart working at double speed and his mind wrapped around future possibilities. The way he figures it, his life is on track to becoming everything he's ever wanted it to be. But, the past has a way of coming up from behind to put a snub nose to your temple when you least expect it.
White's troubled past is embodied in the form of his half brother, Vince Kammer. As White grew out of his delinquent ways, Kammer grew into them. Showing up at Grateford Prison to pick Vince up after his three-year stint for breaking and entering, White finds his half- brother even meaner than before. Instead of a young man with a bad attitude, he's an angry man with a chip on his shoulder. And a plan that he refuses to say anything about. Although White knows hell regret it, he invites Vince to stay with him. Just until he's back on his feet. But White is worried.
"You're not gonna go back to work for those hoods?"
Vince laughed. "The Italians?"
"Not if I can help it."
Vince can't help it. He's got a bad case of revenge and nothing is going to get in his way. Except, perhaps, Johnny Stacks, a local bookmaker that wants his cut of the hundred grand worth of diamonds Vince went to prison trying to steal. He sends his goons, Erasmo Mo Pacitti, his right hand man, and Lenny Zielinsky, an imprudent and impulsive gopher, to bring Vince and his partner in crimes, Billy Hope, Jr., in for a little persuasion.
Also on Vince's trail is a dirty cop named Dick Franks. He's looking for something to snort and needs bucks to buy it with. Hearing that Vince has been sprung, and that he should have a pocketful of diamonds, beating their location out of the ex-con becomes a priority.Word on the street is that Vince is staying at his brothers house, which soon brings a conga line of bad guys Morris White's way. They are desperate, well armed, bad-tempered and they're looking for something White doesn't have a clue about.Mr. Conard goes right for the jugular with Dark as Night. The tornado-like plot sucks you in on page one and it doesn't stop spinning until the last page. This fiction debut is a twisted tale of the finest caliber. Conard has hit the noir nail on the head. Hard.

Jean-Christophe Grange'
translated by Ian Monk
ISBN: 0060573651

This book was so much more than what I originally thought it would be. It starts out like a serial killer book, a detective on the hunt. However there is much more going on here. Twists and turns and surprises make this book exceptional right to the last page.
It starts with a couple of murders, murders that followed torture and it appears to be a sick killer on the loose in Paris in the Turkish community. While this progresses we switch to a woman who is undergoing tests to determine what is causing her memory lapses. Both story lines progress and eventually interconnect and then go their own ways again. Tension builds as we find out more and more of what is going on, just as the detective does. Add to the mix a retired detective with his own agenda and ways of doing things and the pace really starts to quicken. Grange isn't afraid to take chances and no one is safe. The writing felt fresh and new and truly can be called a page turner. And it delivered with an ending I did not see coming. I was blown away by this book.

Susan McBride
February 2005
Avon Books, Paperback

Andy Kendricks is an artist and web page designer and lives in a modest Dallas condo. While she isn't making a fortune (not necessary, she's got that covered), she loves her life and can pick and choose who she wants to work for. Unless, of course, her mother gets involved. Cissy Blevins Kendricks, of the Blevins dynasty, will not be denied, and Andy knows it!
Cissy has decreed that Andy will complete the design of a web page for Marilee Mabry, the next domestic maven and control freak extraordinaire, a job that sent 6 previous designers running. Marilee's local television show is scheduled to go national, and among other things, she wants the web page to stream the celebration party for her adoring fans that can't attend. If only it were that simple! Odd things have been slowing down the production schedule - accidents? Hmm, maybe…or maybe not.
I have no idea exactly why I liked this book so much, but Andy Kendrick's Drop Deb character just hit the right buttons. Andy's relationship with her mother is a combination of love and exasperation, Levi's vs. Chanel, and is mirrored darkly by Marilee's relationship with her own daughter. But where Marilee overpowered her daughter, Cissy and Andy can still communicate, even when they don't agree. Susan McBride has a talent for expressing the intricacies of a relationship, as well as a flair for dialogue.
Kathleen Tromp

Charlie Williams
Serpent's Tail Press
ISBN: 1852428511

If you value a strong voice, keen sense of place, and fully fleshed-out characters, then DEADFOLK by Charlie Williams is for you. Go buy it right now. A strong debut sure to attract devoted fans.
Royston Blake is a door man (i.e. bouncer) at a club in the working-class UK town of Mangel. In Mangel, wit and brawn will get you further than any kind of deep faith in law and order. Royston has a problem. He's "lost his bottle." Don't know what that means? Neither did I. The first person narrative is in a thick, British blue collar accent. The book makes you work at first, but it's authentic, and soon readers fall into the cadence of the narration.
Where was I?
Oh, yeah. Royston the bottler. In other words, Royston seems to have lost his ability to be a tough guy, and this means he's lost the respect of folks around town. The local bullies are a trio of Munston brothers who especially delite in using and abusing poor Royston who sets out on a quest to regain his standing in the town. What follows is a darkly comic and gritty tale of head-butts, fisticuffs (sp?) and a gruesome dance with a chainsaw.But the real triumph of DEADFOLK is Royston Blake himself, a thug not quite aware of his own limitations. We feel for him, flinch on his behalf as he continues to endure bad luck and make poor decisions.
I was impressed by this novel, and look forward to Williams' next book FAGS & LAGER.
Victor Gischler

Ray Banks
$15.95 Trade PB
ISBN 193099737X

Alan Slater hits a dog, dumps it in the river, and skids downhill from there. He's got bleeding ulcers, a crappy job as a double-glazing salesman, a punk girlfriend whose too young for him, and a parasitic pal named Les who drags him constantly to casinos to watch him lose. When Les kills a man coming to collect a gambling debt, he pulls Alan into his spiral of self-destruction, unraveling his life in the process. Ray Banks infuses THE BIG BLIND with a combination of despair and dark humor, putting his unlikable protagonist through several kinds of hell before revealing his fate. Does Alan survive? If he does, what makes you think Banks would make that a good thing? This is UK noir at it's darkest, a diatribe on the New Millennium by the post-Thatcher generation. Ah, hell, it's about a guy pissed off at the world, with the world pissing back no less. A cold slap in the face.
James R Winter

Angel Town #1-4
Gary Phillips writer
Shawn Martinbrough artist
Vertigo/DC Comics

Any one who had read his Monk series knows Gary Phillips can write great PI stories. Well as turns out he is also quite adept ant using the comics/ graphic novel medium as well. With Angel Town Phillips has introduced us to a new PI character, Nate Hollis, set in LA and ready to kick ass and take names.
This story arc starts out with the death of a basketball player's ex-wife. It looks like he did it, so the ball player's lawyer wants a chance to talk to him before the cops do. And this is where Nate comes into this modern drama.
This is not a comic for kids, adult language and situations make it for grown ups. But that's fine, because what it is really, is perfect for mystery fans. Phillips writing is tight and entertaining and takes an interesting look at the celebrities on trial that is such a big thing these days. Great stuff.

William Morrow
ISBN: 006077603X

This a hardcover reissue of the first three JP Beaumont books, which were originally released in paperback. JP Beaumont is one of my favorite series and it was a real joy to revisit these first three books, UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY, INJUSTICE FOR ALL and TRIAL BY FURY. The Collector in me is glad to have a hardcover to put on the shelf, the reader in me was thrilled to reread these great stories that defined who Beaumont is and would become. Jance is a wonderful story teller and this is abundantly evident as Beaumont investigates the murder of a young girl, parole board members and a lynched coach in what has become one of the best selling procedural series published today.

Stella Rimington

AT RISK is the first thriller from Stella Rimington (former head of MI5). It is also a good post 9-11 thriller. There are terrorists in every corner and government is paying attention. Rimington with her protagonist Liz Carlyle is investigating a new threat. In the murky underworld of spydom there is a report of an "invisible". Someone you wouldn't suspect of even conceiving destruction but who in fact is even now planning the get away.
Rimington leads us through the nuances of modern day counter intelligence with authority and has brought a well thought out plot to the page. While Liz Carlyle is far removed from Smiley and Ryan, Rimington is definitely at work trying to create a female lead in this male dominated sub-genre. She may well get there. I suggest not only AT RISK but also Rimington's second book when it comes out for this is a series that could, in time, find a spot on "the evolution of the thriller" timeline.
Ruth Jordan

James Swain
March 2005
Ballantine Books

I love this series. That's my disclaimer. James Swain's Tony Valentine forever grabs me from page one and takes me for a ride that continues long after the book is over. Complicated stories revolving around the baseness of greed.
MR. LUCKY is the story of sad sack Ricky Smith and his sudden roll of unbelievable luck. Is it possible that he his million dollar Vegas winning streak is legitimate? The Casino is betting no and hires Tony to find the flaw in Mr. Smith's fraud.
From Texas rednecks to Florida carnies, from world famous poker players to small town librarians and Wall Street wunderkinds the characters are the story. Swain has written a volume both complex and straight-forward sure to amuse and amaze any mystery reader.
Ruth Jordan

Michelle Martinez
March 2005
William Morrow

With her first book, MOST WANTED author Michelle Martinez hits the ground running and flies above the pack. Melanie Vargas is a new mother and a federal prosecutor. Daughter Maya doesn't want to sleep and the baby carriage comes out. Mother and daughter then quite literally stroll into the break of Vargas's career.

Former prosecutor Jed Benson lies dead at home and Vargas is first on the scene of this red-ball. As corruption and hidden deals are revealed the threat to Benson's missing daughter escalates and bodies start to drop. Drugs, money, adultery. All are relevant. MOST WANTED has a tightly wound narrative that unfurls with a clarity not often hit with first books.

Martinez knows New York City and the politics of N.Y.C. law enforcement. She knows the affluence and the squalor and the many characters that make up the Big Apple. She has an understanding of her protagonist that allows her to present Vargas to her audience as a whole but flawed individual without the cliché found in many of today's top mystery series.

There is more and more a difference between an author's first book and an author's debut novel. First books come from those who write a good story, show a lot of promise and are given a contract that holds just enough incentive for them to keep going. Debut novels happen less and less. A writer comes to the table with an excellent story and at the same time has the real life back-story to leave the marketing department of a large publishing house drooling. Former prosecutor Michelle Martinez comes with the back-story. And thankfully for both herself and all of her about to be readers she definitely comes with the talent.
Ruth Jordan

Mark Haskell Smith
April 2005
Atlantic Monthly Press
ISBN: 0871138840

Delicious is, well, delicious. An engaging piece of comic crime fiction, populated with an oddball cast of characters and set in Hawai'i, this is the perfect novel when summer just can't come fast enough.
At the center of Delicious is Joseph, a young chef. He works with his uncle, Sid, and cousin, Wilson, running a company that caters to movie crews when they're filming in Hawai'i. Enter Jack Lucey, a stroke victim with a penchant for lap dances, who runs a similar company in Las Vegas and tries to muscle in on the action in the islands and hires a gay, ex-Marine hitman to help him out. Throw in another hitman, this one a strip club bouncer who decided to change careers after seeing one too many movies; a recently-dumped gay TV producer; the producer's androgynous Japanese-American assistant; and an Hawaiian pimp, and things are bound to get out of control.
It didn't take me long to tear through this book. The plot was well-paced and Joseph was a calm, rational center around whom mayhem unfolded. In fact, this novel would probably have been over-the-top if it hadn't been for Joseph's calm, rational presence. Like a good meal, Delicious had the perfect balance of flavors to satisfy my cravings. I left the book feeling satisfied and satiated and looking forward to future fare.
Billie J Bloebaum

Ken Bruen
Sitric Books

It's a BRUEN world we live in! Believe me !
A new discovery calls for a new name: a BRUEN! Read Ken Bruen and you will make the same discovery that I have made: the discovery of a brand new genre, not crime, not noir, but BRUEN!
If you haven't read Ken Bruen before, a word of advice: don't expect to find the conventional crime novel with the predictable plot and the good guy vs. the bad guys. Dispatching Baudelaire cannot be categorized into any genre. It belongs in many and ultimately can only be thought of as a superb work of literature.
In Dispatching Baudelaire we follow London accountant Mike Shaw on his journey from his dead-end numbers crunching job to a world of greed and avarice, fuelled by drugs, sex and violence. His journey is so understated, yet so horrific…from 'crunching numbers' to 'crunching people' without batting an eyelid.
Suddenly you realize that Mike Shaw could be everyman. Mike Shaw could be you! In his Author's Note, Ken Bruen says that "he wanted to explore what might happen to the 'safe' professions if they were seduced by money, sex, and power … take one accountant and lure him down the meaner streets, see how he'd fare. I wanted to question how solid, how safe was the blandest of our citizens."
Dispatching Baudelaire is a sociological journey. It shows us how normal it is to be evil, shows us how people can kill with enjoyment, with satisfaction, with humour, with impunity, and without remorse.
Above all, it is excellent entertainment. Bruen's writing is filled with humour, the kind that hits you unexpectedly and leaves you laughing out loud in bed at night; the same kind of spontaneous laughter you experience when reading a Carl Hiaasen novel.
It's a BRUEN world we live in! Believe me !
Pat Mullan

Christine Gentry
April 2005
Poisoned Pen Press
ISBN 1-59058-150-4

Ansel Phoenix is a skilled artist, sculptor and illustrator. One of her pieces, a life sized replica of a carnivorous dinosaur has been placed near a small museum, which also includes fossilized dinosaur tracks in its exhibits. After vandalism and a gruesome death on the museum grounds, Ansel is drawn into the investigation.
Several local and federal law enforcement agencies with conflicting aims and agendas are working on the case, and it becomes clear that the poaching of federally protected fossils is an important issue in the investigation.
This book might be termed an "action cozy," admittedly a newly coined term for a unique type of sub-genre. Many of the classic characteristics of the "cozy" mystery are present here: a female protagonist not employed in law enforcement; sexual tension between her and one of the cops on the case - at times overt and at times understated; pleas from the cop for her to refrain from involvement in the dangerous investigation; and persistence on her part to remain involved and to "solve" the crime.
CARNOSAUR CRIMES is filled with action, including a harrowing helicopter flight and a great deal of peril dished out by Mother Nature. Ansel keeps her head when in a great deal of danger and proves a genuine asset to the investigating team.
In support of the action sequences, Gentry provides a wide range of history and background into the locations of US fossil beds, and much informative discussion of the threats posed by black marketers who seek windfall financial gain from the illegal retrieval and sale of federally protected fossil remains. Montana's Big Sky country is all the background this intriguing story needs.

M.G. Kincaid
November 2004
Pocket Books
ISBN: 0743467574

In this second installment of the compelling new series that introduced the complex Scottish detective, CID Sergeant Seth Mornay of the Grampian Police Force, the decorated ex-Royal Marine is now faced with not only having to solve the mystery surrounding the case of a local missing boy who seemingly vanished into thin air from the streets of Aberdeen, Scotland, but also he's simultaneously grappling with serious personal issues.
When what appears to be a routine traffic accident results in the grisly discovery of the lifeless body of young Matthew Adair in a horse trailer along with those of sheep belonging to a local castle estate, Mornay and his partner, Constable Claire Gillespie, refocus their investigation on Finovar Castle where evasive suspects abound… and few have a convincing alibi.
Meanwhile, Pamela, the younger sister of Mornay's closest friend, lays deathly ill in a coma and is possibly pregnant with the detective's child. And the Sergeant's long estranged father, Clyde, has come back into his life and is being investigated for his possible involvement in a drug smuggling scheme. Topping all this off is the presence of a new female superior officer whose father, the Deputy Justice Minister Lord Murdo Gordon, knows a photo-op when he sees one, and takes advantage of every opportunity to criticize the police force - local hero Mornay, in particular -- and all as a means to advance his own political career.
In the hands of a less skilled storyteller, the complexities and inter-relationships of these events and personalities might not have been as satisfactorily resolved. Author Kincaid, however, deftly maintains control of these seemingly unrelated threads and weaves an atmospheric, compelling tale wherein secrets and lies are gradually revealed, leading to stunning revelations.
The character of Sgt. Mornay has become one of my favorite recent discoveries because with each addition to this series, slowly but surely, a little more of his backstory is brought to light. The Sergeant, who initially came on the scene in 'The Last Victim Of Glen Ross', is certainly a man with plenty of scars, both physical and emotional, and while he does daily battle with the demons from his past, he's also an admirable, dedicated policeman who doggedly searches for the truth, no matter the personal price.
It doesn't hurt that the series is set is the scenic northern coastal area of Scotland.. where the damp and chill, as described by M.G. Kincaid, is so real that I can still, weeks later, feel it in my bones… Highly recommended.
Annie Chernow

Walter Satterthwait
Thomas Dunne books
ISBN: 0312339747

Satterthwait has brought back Pinkerton agents Turner and Beaumont in CAVALCADE. I have reread ESCAPADE and MASQUERADE and didn't think I would see more. I am overjoyed to say the least. This is such a wonderful series written with a true love of the characters and the places they are set. And reading these characters again was like seeing old friends.
This time out Hitler has survived an assassination attempt and Turner and Beaumont are dispatched to Germany to find the would be killer. It's 1924 and the threat the Nazis will pose hasn't yet become apparent to the world at large, but it is quickly becoming apparent to the Pinkertons in Munich and Berlin. What seemed like a standard job soon becomes increasingly more and more dangerous. Great fun for the reader, not so fun for Jane Turner and Philip Beaumont.
Walter Satterthwait is an incredible writer and this book is just more proof of that. It is written with such skill that it feels more like a memoir of actual events than fiction. It was a real joy to lose myself in the pages of this book with only Satterthwait's voice for me to follow.

William L. DeAndrea
M. Evans & Co.

Dennis Muldoon is your typical Irish cop in New York City in 1896 -big, brawny and not afraid of the occasional scrap in the interest of keeping the peace. While on his beat, he finds Evan Crandall, a political cartoonist, dead in his rented rooms, and a mysterious young naked women tied helplessly to her bed in the next room. This woman has a birthmark on her inside thigh (which Muldoon embarrassingly notices as he helps her fromher captivity) in the shape of a pink angel - hence the sub-title of the book.
While Muldoon deals with the investigation of the death in the next room, she disappears, leaving him to convince his superiors of her very existence. Enter Theodore Roosevelt, the Police Commissioner of the city, who is smart enough to see that Muldoon did not fabricate the story about the Pink Angel, and that it is important to find out who she is and what she knows..
From this point on, the murder investigation, led by the energetic Commissioner, who enlists Muldoon as his personal detective, twists and turns, while involving a number of historical characters in the process. We meet Randolph Hearst, Joseph Pulitzer, William Jennings Bryan and a few others mixed up in a nefarious plot involving anarchists (or, as we now call them, terrorists), dynamite, and greed, all of which exceeds the mundane character of a simple murder.
If you liked Caleb Carr''s "The Alienist", or E.L. Doctorow's "Ragtime", or Scorsese's "Gangs of New York" on the silver screen, or simply enjoy historical mysteries from this era, then bully for you, because you'll love this book. You have to get past the conceit of the Police Commissioner of New York, Teddy Roosevelt, no less, conducting a simple murder investigation, but that's easy to do in this fast paced mystery, and once you get to the end, you'll ask "When's the movie going to come out?" As Teddy Roosevelt would say, "Deeee-lightful!" William DeAndrea wrote a number of series and a few stand-alones in the crime fiction field. This is one of the latter. In his short career (he died in 1996 at the age of 44), he won three Edgars, quite an accomplishment for any writer of any duration.
John Purcell

Ellen Hart
June 2005

Ellen Hart's character Sophie Greenway is the kind of mystery lead I'm predisposed to pass by while filling my arms with the latest in crime fiction. Thankfully NO RESERVATIONS REQUIRED landed on my lap with a "no excuse for not reading" clause.
Sophie Greenway, hotelier and food critic for the Minneapolis Times Register leads her reader through a multi-layered plot with a three egg lightness and no fluffiness in the frosting. Two men murdered within an hour of one another. They share a year old tragedy and now, bullets from the same gun. One victim is the owner of Sophie's paper, where scandal is about to erupt. The other is forever tied to the first due to an accident haunting both their lives..
Possibilities run rampant throughout this book. Hart uses suspects and timelines as her main ingredients. She adds several subplots for body. Flavor is provided by a superb cast of characters and to top it all off we have a scribe who uses the culinary mystery sub-genre not as a means to an end but as the end to a means.
For both fans of the sub-genre and those of us prone to prejudice NO RESERVATIONS REQUIRED is a great example of reading entertainment.
Ruth Jordan

Rob Roberge
Dark Alley (An Imprint of Harper Collins)
ISBN: 0060642801

Nick Ray lives a life that no one envies. He is basically broke all the time, live in a hell hole hotel that is slated to be torn down, and drifts in and out of sobriety on the slightest whim. The woman he loves only wants him for occasional sex, and his friends, if you can call them that, can't really be trusted. However, some days it's good to be Nick. Like the day he bought a used computer at a government surplus store and discovered something that would change his life. Still on the hard drive of this old 386 pc was a list of people hiding in the witness protection program. Being a man of vision, even limited vision, Nick sees a way out of his present situation. So with the help of a discredited lawyer and an Russian immigrant who has criminal tendencies, Nick sets out to turn the hard drive into cash. How ever it may truly turn out to be MORE THAN THEY COULD CHEW.
Extremely fast moving and often funny and sad at the same time, this book is so plausible that it feels like something I saw on the news not read in a book. Roberge not only shows societies underbelly, he opens it up and tosses it right in the readers lap. It's a bit like Ross McDonald on meth amphetamines. I loved every page of this book.

Michelle Martinez
March 2005
William Morrow

With her first book, MOST WANTED author Michelle Martinez hits the ground running and flies above the pack. Melanie Vargas is a new mother and a federal prosecutor. Daughter Maya doesn't want to sleep and the baby carriage comes out. Mother and daughter then quite literally stroll into the break of Vargas's career.
Former prosecutor Jed Benson lies dead at home and Vargas is first on the scene of this red-ball. As corruption and hidden deals are revealed the threat to Benson's missing daughter escalates and bodies start to drop. Drugs, money, adultery. All are relevant. MOST WANTED has a tightly wound narrative that unfurls with a clarity not often hit with first books.
Martinez knows New York City and the politics of N.Y.C. law enforcement. She knows the affluence and the squalor and the many characters that make up the Big Apple. She has an understanding of her protagonist that allows her to present Vargas to her audience as a whole but flawed individual without the cliché found in many of today's top mystery series.
There is more and more a difference between an author's first book and an author's debut novel. First books come from those who write a good story, show a lot of promise and are given a contract that holds just enough incentive for them to keep going. Debut novels happen less and less. A writer comes to the table with an excellent story and at the same time has the real life back-story to leave the marketing department of a large publishing house drooling. Former prosecutor Michelle Martinez comes with the back-story. And thankfully for both herself and all of her about to be readers she definitely comes with the talent.
Ruth Jordan

Cara Black
SOHO Press

Cara Black's series is amazing. It gets better with each book, each outing fleshing out her characters more and more. With her unique voice she also brings the streets of Paris to life right in your hands while you read. Round this out with tight plotting and a story that seems to have it's own power source and you've got a great reading experience. MURDER IN CLICHY may be the best one yet.
After the events in the last book people are a bit worried about the danger that Aimee seems to attract. To help ease her mind and the minds of her friends she looks to meditation. Of course nothing is easy for Aimee,. Because of this pursuit of a inner peace she ends up doing a favor for a nun, pretty harmless right? Except for the part where she gets shot in the course of doing this favor. And that is just the beginning of what's in store in this great book. Cara Black writes Paris like a native, and rights characters like they are beloved family. A winning combination in a winning book.

James O'Born
ISBN: 0399152636

O'Born's debut novel, Walking Money introduced agent Bill Tasker of the FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement). Tasker is back in SHOCK WAVE, a book that establishes his place among some of the best series being written today. The realism is to be expected in no small part due to O'Born's work in law enforcement, however, his skill at writing is what makes this latest book a sheer pleasure to read. His attention to detail puts you right there in the character's head. And the dialogue doesn't sound forced or pretend like .. maybe NYPD Blue's does. Add to this a skill at setting a pace that just flows so naturally and easily that it makes reading a joy. O'Born has got the stuff.
In Shockwave Tasker is again involved with other agencies, this time setting up some arms sellers. When this all eventually leads to buying a Stinger Missle everyone is pretty happy. However things don't feel right to Tasker. So in addition to trying to find the perfect balance between work and time with his daughters he is also looking deeper into a case that that everyone else considers closed., and of course this doesn't make him too popular, especially with the person blowing things up…..
James O'Born has put together all the elements of a great read, and a memorable book with SHOCKWAVE, and from the look of things, the beginnings of an enduring series. It's a rocket ready to take off.

Jsck O'Connell

Jack O'Connell writes a brand of noir thriller injected with all the nightmare possibilities of what is behind the carnival drapes. WORD MADE FLESH would have the reader enter the brackish world of Gilrein, a cop turned cabbie. He's a shell of a man after the death of his wife Ceil, a protégé of the Inspector. His is a genius that crossed the line over to insanity long ago. Ceil dies when his Methodology fails.
Having left being a cop behind, Gilrein is not left behind by the factions that grapple for the New England city of Quinsigamond and a rare artifact that many have already died for. All believe Gilrein is the last person to see it. Because of this, he's assailed by a bibliomaniac armed with a sewing needle who's looking for a package Gilrein's never seen.
He has only the barest of clues extracted from three people. Wylie Brown, an ex-lover obsessed with a long dead zealot, Bobby Oster, the survivor of a vicious pogrom now who purges his agony through a dummy named Zwack and the Inspector, who's passion for Gilrein's dead wife may exceed his own.
Through underground passageways lined with books, diner's filled with apocalyptic prognostications and karaoke bars patronized by financial thugs singing torch songs, Gilrein stays steps behind a package whose meaning he cannot comprehend.
This is a tale told with visceral brilliance. It ensnares the reader with allegorical mystery and holds fast as the hapless reader becomes Alice and follows Gilrein the rabbit down to oblivion.
Jennifer Jordan

John Dunning
March 2005

To the serious mystery reader John Dunning's Cliff Janeway is amongst our most accessible of protagonists. Who better to lead us through a mystery than former police now collecting books for a living? THE SIGN OF THE BOOK is the fourth in this wonderful series and has the strong narrative and plot-line we've come to expect from Mr. Dunning's work.
Janeway's gal Erin asks him to scout the case police have against a former friend. He accepts his assignment and heads off to Paradise, Colorado that is. Laura Marshall is in jail awaiting arraignment. The charge is murder of the spousal variety. In the Marshall's modest home there resides an eclectic and valuable book collection….
Dunning weaves an excellent whodunit. At the same time he deftly uses the plot as a platform to articulate the frustration of the contemporary book collector. Fraudulent signatures, internet frustrations, the dying art of the hunt; all are found within the pages of THE SIGN OF THE BOOK. In short, this is another novel for your collection.
Ruth Jordan

Marshall Cook
ISBN: 1932557067
Bleak House Books

Monona (Mo) Quinn is a transplanted Chicagoan living in a small town outside of Madison. When she first moved to this quiet little town she took a job as editor of a weekly paper called Mitchell Doings, and it lead her into a murder investigation which was chronicled in MURDER OVER EASY. Now for the second time in only three months there is another murder in Mitchell, this time it's Father O'Bannon who is dead.
Cook does a wonderful job with this book. He has captured the feel of the small town brilliantly and manages to show all the charm of Mitchell by introducing an outsider, a detective named Lashandra Cooper. We learn more about the town as she does, from Mo explaining things to her during the investigation. And Mo is indeed involved in this case. As a parishioner and editor for the paper she has obvious reasons for being involved. Cook manages to avoid the clichés of most amateur detectives by having Mo working as a sort of liaison with Detective Cooper.
Mitchell feels real enough that I was tempted to look at a map to see where it was so that I might visit. This book is satisfying in the same way a home cooked meal is, created with care and completely filling.
Jon Jordan

Richard Rayner
Harper Collins
ISBN: 0066212928

If the amount of times you pick up a book while reading it is any indication as to how good it is, then this was truly a great book. I read it in one sitting. I couldn't stop reading. Part of the reason for this might be the magnetic draw of a 1950's era Los Angels and Las Vegas. It could also be the allure of Mobster involvement in the story. The extraordinary characterization doesn't hurt. But the real reason is that Rayner has great instincts as a writer. Subtle and clever plotting carried me from cover to cover, and left me closing the book with images that stayed with me for days.
Maurice Valantine is an up and comer, an architect with a bright future. Everything is going his way, at least he thought so. Enter Mallory Walker, a true femme fatale, her sights on Valantine and something else…
As things become more tangled Valantine must discover the truth behind this woman and try to keep from losing everything he has worked so hard to achieve.
Rayner has written a truly noir book and made it seem like he was one of the first to do it.. Fresh, unique and amazing.

Tim Dorsey
William Morrow
ISBN: 0060585609

Tim Dorsey has a growing legion of fans for his books and for his character Serge Storms. And it's no wonder with the way he writes. A lovable anti-hero who has wild adventures in Florida, what's not to love?
Written intelligently with lots of attitude and the pacing of a nascar sprint trial, Dorsey deserves every bit of praise he gets. He is one of the most entertaining writers in print.
This time out Serge is off to the Keys to hideout for a while. Unfortunately he's not the only fugitive with this idea. Throw in a drug dealer named Fernandez who acts like a violent Howard Hughes, a stocks pushing nutjob and you've got a great story. But just to make sure the entertainment value is extra high, Serge may be in love with a gal named Molly. And what is Serge doing in front of a blackboard with a room full of chanting lunatics? This is kind of like a trip to Disney world on acid with Raymond Burr narrating.
But don't read it in bed if your partner is sleeping, the laughter will wake them up....