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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

From Blood by Edward Wright

From Blood by Edward Wright
Publisher: Vantage Point
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

After giving up on her Ph.D., Shannon Fairchild, a brilliant but alienated young woman, has settled into an unambitious life cleaning the homes of the wealthy. The sudden and horrific murder of her parents, both respected academics, leads her to discover that they were part of the radical anti-war movement of the 1960s and to suspect that their killer’s motive may lie in their past. She soon finds that they were friends of Diana Burke and John Paul West, two of America’s most wanted fugitives, anti-war militants who went underground after a fatal bombing in 1968 and never resurfaced.

Propelled by her mother’s dying words – "Find them and warn them" – Shannon sets out on a mission to track down the couple and tell them that someone is after them – someone much more dangerous than the FBI. Her search, which begins in California and ranges through much of western America, takes her into unexplored territory as she discovers an unexpected personal connection to Burke and West. As she unearths long-buried secrets while trying to stay one step ahead of a shadowy killer, she feels the passions of the tumultuous Sixties being reborn, and she now knows that nothing is more dangerous than someone willing to die for a cause.

Just when Shannon thinks that she’s about to get it all together, tragedy strikes and sends her running up along the west coast in search of answers to questions she didn’t even know she should be asking. With nothing more to go on than her mother’s dying words, she drops everything to go in search of a couple she’s never met. What she’s about to find along the way will change her forever.

Shannon Fairchild is an extremely complex character and one I wasn’t sure I was going to like at all in the very beginning. She has more issues than any one woman needs, to be honest. As the story progresses, however, she lets go of her biggest vice, and really grows as a character. Seeing this made me very happy because it would have been entirely too easy to let her wallow in the depths of budding alcoholism and anger management issues. Shannon turned out to be not just a likable character, but a very relatable one as well.

An interesting twist to this novel, I found, was the links to the protests over the Vietnam War. Being a huge lover of history and historical novels in general, knowing that some of the major players in this story were involved in such a major historical event engaged my curiosity even more. Little things like that really bring a story to life for me, making it more real and relatable.

From Blood is an intense story laced with mystery, rebellion, and hard truth. With a plot that keeps you guessing, you can’t help but be carried along with Shannon and her crew as she flies from city to city, state to state, in an attempt to find them and warn them, whomever they might be. What – and who – she finds takes her quite by surprise. And could quite possibly destroy everything she’s ever known or loved.

Monday, September 24, 2012

No Remorse by Ian Walkley

No Remorse by Ian Walkley
Publisher: Marq Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (344 pgs)
Contains: Graphic, violent sex, contains multiple child rape scenes, and child exploitation
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Water Lily

Lee McCloud (Mac) has a reputation as a loose cannon. So when a secret agency operating outside the law recruits him for his special operations skills his team leader Tally, a tough, attractive computer genius, is ordered to keep him on a tight leash. But a tight leash is the last thing Mac wants. His intent is to use the agency’s massive resources to track down Sophia, a close friend’s daughter, who has been kidnapped in Mexico.

From the beginning, sparks fly between Mac and Tally. Mac sees Tally as an office worker, not qualified for field operations. For her part, Tally views Mac as little more than a cold-blooded killer. The conflict escalates as the two are forced to play at husband and wife in order to get close to their next target.

Ignoring orders to stay out of trouble, Mac enlists the help of Scotty, a British soldier, and Jog, a Lebanese fixer. They follow the kidnappers’ trail to Paris, where events lead them to suspect Sophia is a captive of Sheik Khalid, a billionaire Saudi exile who is suspected of supporting terrorist groups by shipping weapons, drugs and slaves on his luxury vessel, Princess Aliya.

Mac and Tally discover they have feelings for each other, but events lead Mac to question whether Tally is working to another agenda. With time running out, the group dodges assassins, corrupt generals, evil medicos, Mossad agents, corrupt bureaucrats and sharks. But they cannot anticipate what is waiting for them on Khalid’s fortress island of Andaran, or that there’s much more at stake than Sophia…

This graphic thriller is not for the faint of heart. The characters are well-rounded, believable and many, downright terrifying. The topic, human trafficking, is all too real. From the first line, the reader is drawn into a sordid world where the ends justify the means. This book is a roller coaster ride through a sick “fun” house where the scary clowns are armed and dangerous and the air is tainted with evil.

I certainly felt the horror, agony and desperation of the victims and their families. There is no psychic distance. I bled for the victims. The sexual exploitation of children and the live organ harvesting were particularly hard for me to stomach, as the scenes nearly jumped off the page thanks to the author's skill with words. Mac’s frustration and pain are palatable as he battles his personal demons and the near-misses in his quest to save his goddaughter. The casual cruelty of Khalid Yubani and his shard of society where life is cheap and “pleasure” is both violent and fleeting is all too believable.

This book is well written and the author is amazingly capable, which in this case makes for a difficult, emotionally exhausting read. No Remorse is compelling and riveting, but definitely not for everyone. The characters and their situations were so real, I found myself praying for them. This book is hard to put down, but I don’t know that I “liked” it as "like" isn't a word I'd use for how I felt. I believe I may be too soft or the book to explicit for me.

If you enjoy highly suspenseful books that expose the seedy underbelly of a violent and amoral segment of the world where, whether the good guy wins or not, there’s a lot of collateral damage, and if you don't mind graphic detail, I'm certain you’ll find Ian Walkley’s No Remorse gripping.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Hudson Diaries: The Life and Times of a Baker Street Resident by Kara Barney

The Hudson Diaries: The Life and Times of a Baker Street Resident by Kara Barney
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: mystery/suspense, historical
Length: Short Story (47 pgs)
Rating 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Victorian England, 1880—Sherlock Holmes is at it again! But this time, instead of his faithful chronicler Watson at the helm, his tales come from another source…Mrs. Hudson, the housekeeper. A new set of tales for a new generation, Sherlock Holmes is given to us in a whole new light: “The Great Detective” before he became great. From their first meeting to her place as a permanent resident of Baker Street, Mrs. Hudson helps us rediscover the ever-logical detective who has become a literary icon.

As a fan of Sherlock Holmes mysteries, I was eager to read this short novel. What I liked most about it, besides it containing the usual suspense surrounding Holmes and Watson, was it focused more heavily on another character, that of Holmes’ housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson…well, actually before she was Mrs. Hudson.

The story allows us to get to know her well, and I enjoyed the way Ms. Barney expanded this sometimes lesser known character in the original books. The novel contains a series of short stories, all of which are intriguing and clever whodunnits which got me thinking about the clues. The dialogue, like any Holmes’ story, is witty, and the pacing fast.

The author also did a wonderful job of recreating the London in which Sherlock Holmes existed. The scenes are all very descriptive which I think added to my enjoyment.

It’s the ideal read for any mystery reader, but a must read for die-hard Sherlock fans.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Bones Are Forever by Kathy Reichs

Bones Are Forever by Kathy Reichs
A Temperance Brennan Book
Publisher: Scribner Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (304 Pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Foxglove

A newborn baby is found wedged in a vanity cabinet in a rundown apartment near Montreal.

Dr Temperance Brennan, forensic anthropologist to the province of Quebec, is brought in to investigate. While there, she discovers the mummified remains of two more babies within the same room.

Shocked and distressed, Tempe must use all her skills and inner strength to focus on the facts. But when the autopsies reveal that the children died of unnatural causes, the hunt for the mother – a young woman with a seedy past and at least three aliases – is on.

The trail leads Tempe to Yellowknife, a cold, desolate diamond-mining town on the edge of the Arctic Circle, where her quest for the truth only throws up more questions, more secrets, and more dead bodies.

Taking risks and working alone, Tempe refuses to give up until she has discovered why the babies died. But in such a hostile environment, can she avoid being the next victim?

When the body of a newborn is found stuffed under a bathroom vanity in a dingy Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec apartment, the call goes out to forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. As the Quebec police search the apartment, two more tiny bodies, mummified, are found hidden. With no sign of the mother, Brennan and detective Andrew Ryan are determined to track down the elusive mother and find justice for the little ones. When they travel to the town where she lived before Saint-Hyacinthe, yet another tiny body is found, and everyone is frantic to find the woman. When the trail leads to the Northlands of Canada, things start to get tangled with other crimes, all connected to the family of the mother. As people keep dying, Brennan becomes enmeshed in a fight for her life, as well ass stopping the murderers from stealing an innocent woman’s only faamily legacy. Add in an obnoxious ex lover or two, and things become sticky. Can Brennan find the mother before things get out of control? Can she stop the crooks from bilking everyone involved? Can she stay alive long enough to solve this latest case to the satisfaction of all concerned?

I want to say, I have been a big fan of Kathy Reichs and her Temperance Brennan books from the very first one. I have enjoyed watching as Temperance has grown, using her brains to get ahead, not caring for all the red tape and maneuvering so prevalent in police procedure. The glimpses into lab procedure and the historic desciptions of the Northern Diamond Rush are wonderful, and I was surprised to know that Canada is a large producer of diamonds. The research here is flawless and fascinating, and I was inspired to read more about it.

Temperance Brennan is her usual efficient and capable scientist here, but she is also a mother, and feels a bit of sympathy for these poor abandoned babies. And she is determined to track down the mother and bring her to justice for these four innocents lost too soon. One other thing about Brennan, is her ability to see past the surface, and as she learns more about the missing Annaliese (or Amy/Alma/Alice), she discovers a simple girl, unable to understand life, and scared for her life.

There are the usual cast of supporting characters here, if not present, then at least mentioned throughout: Brennan’s ex-husband Pete, her daughter Katy, who throws Brennan a real curve ball of a surprise, and the staff at Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de medecine legale in Montreal, Brennan’s Canadian base. Add in two former lovers, Andrew Ryan and Oliver ‘Ollie’ Hasty of the Edmonton police, a man from Brennan’s days at Quantico, and the atmoshere gets tense at times. But in spite of her past with these two, Brennan is all buiness here, as she gets caught up in the chase to catch the killer or killers before they catch up to her.

All in all, this book kept me up reading long after I should have been sleeping, with edge of my seat danger and tangled webs of deceit around every corner. Kathy Reichs once again proves why I have followed Temperance Brennan on her adventures, and satisfies one more time.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Double Take by Keiko Alvarez

Double Take by Keiko Alvarez
Publisher: eXstasy Books
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (49 pages)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Aster

Looks can be deceiving—devilishly deceiving.

Want to get rid of your wife? Easy. Find a lookalike, send her out of town and then take care of business. But what happens when the lookalike decides to take over for the wife? Then what?

A man wants a divorce but it will cost him too much financially. What's he to do? Why, have his wife killed, of course. He conspires in a seemingly perfect plan - or so he thought.

Hal Abbott has found a woman he desperately wants to be with but he has a problem - the woman is not his wife. He naturally thinks of divorce, but a prenuptial agreement he was convinced to sign will award her half of his wealth if he files. Instead of convincing her to initiate proceedings, which would award her nothing, he teams up with a man he knows only as "Mr. Smith" to have her disposed of.

This was an interesting short story. The writing was easy to follow, and the points of view, though they shifted very often, were clearly defined. In the end, all questions were answered, and the action was easy to follow.

This book is marketed as erotic romance, but didn't seem to fit in the erotic category, which is what I would normally expect with an eXstasy published book. There was no love story, besides those that were inferred, and no love scenes at all. The only adult aspects seemed to be a handful of curse words and some description of gore, but nothing over the top. I would have enjoyed the suspense of the story a bit more, but unfortunately the tease printed just before the title page gave away the twist at the end. Because of the frequent point of view shifts, there was little mystery in any character's actions, since we were able to get into each person's head as the story unfolded.

Despite its negatives, it's a quick, clever read. With a change in the opening teaser, and maybe being told from one main point of view rather than many, perhaps the mystery could be played up more. If you have only a few minutes and want a interesting little time killer, this one is an intriguing escape.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dead End Deal by Allen Wyler

Dead End Deal by Allen Wyler
Publisher: Astor + Blue Editions, LLC
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (384 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

World-renowned neurosurgeon Jon Ritter is on the verge of a medical breakthrough that will change the world. His groundbreaking surgical treatment, using transplanted nonhuman stem cells, is set to eradicate the scourge of Alzheimer's disease. But when the procedure is slated for testing, it all comes to an abrupt and terrifying halt. Ritter's colleague is gunned down and Ritter himself is threatened by a radical anti-abortion group that not only claims responsibility, but promises more of the same. Faced with a dangerous reality but determined to succeed, Ritter turns to his long-time colleague, corporate biotech CEO Richard Stillman, for help. After successful surgical trials, Ritter and his allies are thrown into a horrifying nightmare scenario: The trial patients have been murdered and Ritter is the number one suspect.

He might not have done it, but the price for clearing his name is his life.

I love a good thriller book. One that takes me on a ride and won't let go until the last page. Allen Wyler has created one of those stories. The writing is tight and I couldn't put the book down. I had to know what would happen next. How was Jon going to clear his name and come out alive? Yeah, it had me in the clinch.

Wyler knows his stuff. I read in the bio on the back that he's a neurosurgeon, so the medical terminology and usage is credible. I didn't get lost in the jargon. There's the trials--get rid of Alzheimer's with non-stem cells. Talk about heady--pardon the pun--stuff. I liked that the story moved quickly. Yes, there were moments early on where it dragged, but once the danger ramped up, the story did too. I could relate to Jon in that he's trying to do good in the world but because of back biting and warfare within the pharmaceutical world, any progress is stunted. The storyline made me see the medical world in a new light.

The antagonist is deliciously devious. Protect the company at all costs. It plays out like a movie and I rather enjoyed that.

If you want a thriller that's in the league of Turow and Grisham, this might be the book for you.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Lucky Bastard by S.G. Browne

Lucky Bastard by S.G. Browne
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (358 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Stephantois

Meet Nick Monday: a private detective who’s more Columbo than Sam Spade, more Magnum P.I. than Philip Marlowe. As San Francisco’s infamous luck poacher, Nick doesn’t know whether his ability to swipe other people’s fortunes with a simple handshake is a blessing or a curse. Ever since his youth, Nick has swallowed more than a few bitter truths when it comes to wheeling and dealing in destinies. Because whether the highest bidders of Nick’s serendipitous booty are celebrities, yuppies, or douche bag vegans, the unsavory fact remains: luck is the most powerful, addictive, and dangerous drug of them all. And no amount of cappuccinos, Lucky Charms, or apple fritters can sweeten the notion that Nick might be exactly what his father once claimed—as ambitious as a fart.

That is, until Tuesday Knight, the curvy brunette who also happens to be the mayor’s daughter, approaches Nick with an irresistible offer: $100,000 to retrieve her father’s stolen luck. Could this high-stakes deal let Nick do right? Or will kowtowing to another greedmonger’s demands simply fund Nick’s addiction to corporate coffee bars while his morality drains down the toilet? Before he downs his next mocha, Nick finds himself at the mercy of a Chinese mafia kingpin and with no choice but to scour the city for the purest kind of luck, a hunt more titillating than softcore porn. All he has to do to stay ahead of the game is remember that you can’t take something from someone without eventually paying like hell for it. . .

As a huge fan of mysteries featuring private investigators, I was eager to read this story. I dived into it thinking that it would be a traditional read but was pleasantly surprised when it took a different turn.

Yes, it is about a private eye going about his work, but it’s got a quirky paranormal element thrown in and I think that’s what makes it an appealing read. Mr. Browne did a wonderful job taking the everyday and giving it a unique twist. Not just a different feel, but he threw in something strange like stealing someone else’s luck. It has some very funny scenes and I loved the narrator’s voice which is the main character telling the story in the first person, present tense. The background information on his life, his family, and how he came to steal luck from others was cleverly weaved into the tale.

It’s peppered with some interesting characters, while a few of them were slightly clich├ęd, others were pure delight. The dialogue is snappy, even zingy with one-liners and come-backs that had me laughing out loud at times. At 358 pages I expected this to feel like a longer read but was surprised when I’d reached the end and hadn’t noticed how fast I’d gotten through it.

Lucky Bastard won’t be for every die hard PI mystery fan, but if you’re looking for something a little different, this is one to put on your to read list.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

July and August Mystery Book of the Month Poll Winner: Chosen by Denise Grover Swank

Chosen by Denise Grover Swank
Publisher:  Self
Genre: Paranormal, Contemporary, Action/Adventure
Length: Full (366 pgs)
Rating: 5 Stars
Review by Poppy

Everything Emma Thompson owns fits in a suitcase she moves from one roach infested motel to another. She and Jake, her five year old son who can see the future, are running from the men intent on taking him. Emma will do anything to protect him even when it means accepting the help of a stranger named Will. Jake insists she needs Will, but Emma's never needed help before. And even though she's learned to trust her son, it doesn't mean she trusts Will.

Mercenary Will Davenport lives in the moment. Hauling Emma to South Dakota should have been an easy job, but his employer neglected to tell him about Emma's freaky son and the gunmen hot on her trail. Instinct tells him this job is trouble, but nothing can prepare him for Jake's proclamation that Will is The Chosen One, who must protect Emma from the men hunting her power. A power she doesn't know she has.

Will protects Emma and Jake on a cross-country chase from the men pursuing them, while struggling with memories from his past, his apprehension of Jake, and his growing attraction to Emma. Will's overwhelming urge to protect Emma surprises him, especially since it has nothing to do with his paycheck and possibly everything to do with the tattoo Jake branded on his arm. Rich and powerful men are desperate to capture Emma, and Will must discover why before it's too late.

Read the full review here!