Wednesday, May 27, 2009


The Righteous Cut
by Robert Skinner
Poisoned Pen Press
ISBN-10: 1590580443
ISBN-13: 978-1590580448

I still catching my breath from reading the Righteous Cut by RobertSkinner.

This takes place after prohibition in New Orleans of 1941 involving theissues of bi-racial relationships and the inner sanctum of the legal andslightly, or very, illegal community.

Mr. Skinner introduces numerous characters for the first half of the book.I kept wondering how these were all going to relate to each other andactually was suspicious of the book having extra characters that weren'tinvolved with the plot. Then I read page 171 and the book went into lightspeed. All the characters did develop and were all instrumental to thefocus of the plot which was for a politician to be ruined. Of course, thepolitician wasn't exactly involved in matters legally. The purpose of allthe characters is to somehow, get even with Whitman Richards whose name evensound like a politician's name. (It should be since he chose it.)
I found myself loving one of the hit men who had a moral dilemma and foundthat I was sympathetic to even some of the bad guys. What I foundinteresting is that I, as a reader, kept changing my mind on who was reallywearing the white hats.

This is definitely a book that kept me wondering and thinking up to the lastpage.


The House Next Door
by Anne Rivers Siddon
Simon and Schuster
ISBN 07927-1727-9

If there is such a thing as a sacred, blessed place wouldn’t it make sense that there could also be places that aren’t sacred or blessed? If a house had tragic occurrences between the inhabitants would you tell the new owners of the house if you were the next door neighbor? Would you chance your reputation by telling the new owners and others the their seems to be something evil in the house? Would you destroy the house, and or yourself, in order to save someone else from the possibility of having to have the house take over the people?

If some things bring out the best in people, wouldn’t it make sense then the some things also bring out the worse? What if is the house though that is next-door to you? What if you actually witness your friends and yourself changing and showing your worse attributes? Would you move? Would you burn down the house?

The problems in this book are all about this house and how it destroys the people that have interactions with and around the house. The main characters are the next-door neighbors who witness the incidents in the development of the house. Even their architect says, “It’s a greedy house. I takes. It takes the best.”

Later on the neighbors, Colquette and Walter explain, “We think that it operates by isolating the . . . the most important things in people’s lives, their vulnerabilities, and turning them around and using them to destroy. We think it needs that sort of primal vitality for sustenance.”
I kept wondering why Colquette and Walter just didn’t close their curtains on that side of their house. I know I would have and would have avoided it at all costs.

Even though the book is not new, it is still a good, even though depressing read especially if you happen to have a new house built next-door to you.


Five Mile House
by Karen NovakBomsbury
ISBN 1-58234-096-X

This is an intertwining of two lives in two different time periods. One happened over a hundred years ago in which a mother supposedly killed her children and then herself. The other regards a policewoman that kills a child molester. These two tragic women are drawn together by a historical society that notices that the policewoman could be a twin of the original murderess. The town then entices the policewoman’s husband to restore this house to its original form. A logical person I would think would quit and get far away from this area once the resemblance between the two women was noticed. Obviously, this family sees this as unusual and just chooses to ignore it.

The town itself either is part and supportive or the Wellington family or a member and supporter of Wicca. These two have had a silent war since the original family battles of over one-hundred years ago that certainly created a town full of secrets and gossip.

The book leaves the reader constantly wondering how the two stories are going to meet and what element of supernatural will develop. I found the most supernatural part being in that a building could be evil especially if the cornerstone is made with sacrificial parts in the cement such as blood, fat, and milk. Supposedly in the original house the cornerstone contained a sacrificed mother and child. Well, if a church can be considered sacred and good, why should a house not be considered evil in the same way?

I had difficulty with the main character, Leslie. This is a woman that went through a major emotional crisis in her life because of her being a caring mother. Throughout the story she is neglectful and disinterested as a mother and wife. She leaves her two daughters constantly and never seems to come back to them or to interact with them. The ten-year-old is always baby-sitting the four-year-old. What I find almost supernatural is that these girls never fight, Leslie hardly ever fixes a meal and she never has to pick up or do laundry. Also, what is strange is that the husband is understanding, overworked, and accepting of her lack of interest in him and the girls.

The story is constantly moving as is the main character. I found myself reading this book faster and faster in that I could not predict what would develop next.This is a good page-turner I would recommend it, but not to someone who is in an emotional crisis with young daughters.


Clutch of Phantoms
by Clare LaytonPoisoned Pen Press
ISBN 1-59059-027-3
August 2002

Phantoms. Everyone has a few of them hidden in their past that they want no one to know about. This book involved three women, a boy, and a dog. Most of who are avoiding part of their past. The three women are the main characters who lives are intertwined. The story revolves around Livia, who killed her husband and lover of twenty-five years ago. Cass is Livia’s granddaughter that knew nothing of her grandmother’s life for the past twenty-five years. Julia, who is the daughter of the lover and seeks revenge on Cass for the way she behaved as a three-year-old. The supporting men for the women involve a character who is Livia’s former lawyer that might more of a relationship than just a working one, a stranger that bangs on the door of a remote cottage where Livia and Cass are staying and is adopted by them while he is healing from pneumonia and naturally causes the sexual attraction with Cass. Then there’s Bobby, the abused delinquent that Livia is to reform and teach to read.
The book is what I would call a borderline mystery. The main mystery is how Livia adjusts and what actually happened to cause her to kill her husband. Cass is an enjoyable character, but sometimes a little unrealistic which almost turns this book into a romance rather than a mystery. The characters are likable and the hounding press is very believable.

The book is a fast and enjoyable read. Does it change the way anyone thinks or view life? Probably not, but is a nice relaxing read for the summer months.


The Camel of Destruction: A Mamr Zapt Mystery
by Michael Pearce

Thinking of camels they are known to be rather dumb animals. If a camel is upset and starts on a path of destruction, one person can stop it be sacrificing themselves in front of the camel which will then calm down the camel.

It doesn’t always require a complete sacrifice but if it is you making the choice, you have to be aware of the risks.

This is the underlying thought to this book which takes place in Egypt in the early 1900s when England partially ruled this country. At one time the author explains the government which actually amounted to four different governments not always with the same agendas but at the same time.

The plot involved a suicide which Caption Owen, The Mamur Zapt, investigates as to the reason for this young man’s death. This enlightens the reader to life in Egypt during this time period so well that I felt that I could actually smell the places the author visited, not to mention feel them.

At times the book seems a little too much into the realism of the setting in that the vocabulary of the region is distracting, but probably necessary for the realism. I did learn much about the culture and society in early Egypt while Captain Owen solves the mystery of the suicide. I was pleased with the ending in that I wanted a more dramatic ending. Realism can sometimes be disappointing.


All Roads Lead to Murder
by Albert A. Bell, Jr.
High Country Publishers, Boone, North Carolina
$21.95 hardcover
ISBN 0-9713045-3-X
October 2002

A Roman citizen is found dead missing his heart. Was he dead before his heart was taken or dead because the heart was taken?

Pliny and Tacitus explore the possibilities in attempting to solve this mystery in the year 83 A.D. If no murderer is found then all the slaves that were owned by the dead man are to be tortured until there is a confession. If no confession is obtained, then all the slaves are killed. Simple, since the thought then is that the slaves were responsible for the death.

By visualizing Christianity, from the Roman viewpoint, I was surprised about the perception of the time and how early Christianity was accepted throughout the Roman empire. Also the worship of Hecate appears throughout the book as well as the rights of slaves. This turned out to be a very readable and thought provoking book regarding life in the Roman Empire after Christ. The knowledge of some forensic science, as well as herbal science at the time probably was realistic even though I had not considered it before.

The suspense in this book enthralling. Besides the mystery and the challenges of position or lack there of at the time was the problem of the room in which the dead body was found. Pliny is constantly wondering throughout if the murdered victim was supposed to be him since he had traded rooms with the victim for the night. The development of the story is well-defined but leaves the reader constantly wondering how the resolution will occur.The characters are believable and likable which is difficult considering the time period and the place. The interactions of all the characters regarding relationships as well as status combine to make this an excellent history lesson as well as an enjoyable read.

Watch out Steven Saylor, Lindsey Davis, and John Maddox Roberts! Albert Bell is well worth the read and much better than the legendary threesome.I highly recommend it everyone to read it


The Last Victim in Glen Ross
by M. C. Kincaid
297 pages
ISBN: 0-7434-6756-6
Pocket Books
December 1, 2003
$ 6.99

The peaceful Scottish countryside is the setting for The Last Victim in Glen Ross where Ina Mathews is discovered after the crows had attacked her recently dead body which had suffered from multiple cuts. Ina through the author’s insightfulness develops as a real character with her own gifts and flaws. Investigating this murder is the feuding group of male detectives who each have their own methodology and character flaws. There’s Mornay who enjoys his women, Byrne, McNab, and the female detective Clair Gillespie, the only detective without baggage and hostilities.

While investigating Ina’s murder, a local flower festival in which Ina was a likely winner, was beginning and there seems to be a connection with the suicidal death of the vicar’s wife who died two years previously. With character development, M.G. Kincaid is masterful. Within the beginning pages of this novel, each character had an individual voice, as well as character attributes and flaws. This made the reading delightful as with each turn of the page, each character become more visible and recognizable to the reader.

The mystery of who killed Ina did predictably conclude, but what is fascinating is the mystery of the past and the secrets that each person chooses not to disclose to the investigators. It seems that everyone has some secret that relates to the murder and that no one chose to cooperate fully with the investigation in an effort to not have the police focus on their particular faults.

The involvement of the Scottish village with the alcoholic Lord and his over-protective mother added much to the setting. These two characters help in establishing the hierarchy of the village and the relationships then of the people within.

The pacing is steady throughout this short novel. The pages seem to fly as more of the past is revealed through the investigative process. The reader almost feels “nosey” in looking into the past of each character in discovering their flaws and secrets.

This is one of the few books that I consider to be tidy. The murder neatly wraps up and concludes at the end, however, there is definitely a possibility of a sequel that I would enjoy reading. These characters, except for the dead ones, could easily reappear with more of their pasts revealed in future books. What happens to Pamela, the Sandringtons, Mornay’s love-life, Victoria, and who won first place at the flower show? I hope to read these answers in the next book.

The Last Victim in Glen Ross is M. G. Kincaid’s debut novel. As a former marine she lives with her husband in Michigan.


The Maltese Manuscript
By Joanne Dobson
Poisoned Pen Press
February 2003
ISBN: 1-59058-039-78
Hardcover $24.95
266 Pages

The Maltese Manuscript is a must read for any book lover. With this plot involving the treasured first editions and rare books in many university libraries, Joanne Dobson has successfully written a story that you can’t put down once you start this book.

A concern I had with this book was that this is the fifth-book in a series, and I haven’t read the preceding books. The story fortunately does not rely on events in previous books, or was so masterfully written, that any character development required was not necessary to completely enjoy this book.

Karen Pelletier is the main character who is an English professor that circumstantially is thrown into solving the mystery of the stolen books, including an original manuscript with notes of The Maltese Falcon from the library and a death of the thief within this library. With her boyfriend, the police lieutenant, and her task of escorting a well-known mystery writer throughout her town, Karen is thrown into solving this mystery while still trying to maintain a normal life with her usual daily duties. With all this keeping her extremely busy, Karen makes time for her high-school class reunion where she is reacquainted with an old friend. As luck would have it, this old friend is a hunky private investigator who has been hired to find the missing books and begins to possibly romance Karen or her friends. Of course, during this time Karen has to prepare for her classes, a special women’s mystery conference, and her daughter comes home from college with mononucleosis. Joanne Dobson has realistically developed this character into someone I could easily recognize in a crowd.

Overall, I found this book thoroughly enjoyable. (I also found myself wanting the thief’s house complete with the books.)


The Greenway
by Jane Adams

Where do dreams end and reality begin? What happens when the distinct lines for each overlap? That's what happens in The Greenway by Jane Adams.

The Greenway is a place that is considered to be a fairy-land or haunted. The near-by town residents usually try to avoid it and stay out of this place of overgrown hedges, hills, and paths. Enchanting though it be, three small girls had disappeared in this area over the many years. The last disappearance was coincidentally when Cassie, who was with one of the girls that had previously disappeared, returned to this place in order to reconcile this horrid event in her past.

Also involved was the local police and a retired policeman that had worked on the disappearance of Cassie's cousin. These characters were very real in that the reader could actually feel their frustration with looking for a logical answer while also considering either the supernatural or mental illness of Cassie as being the reason for these disappearances.

The author is marvelous at having the reader wonder whether the events were caused by the supernatural or mental illness. I felt as if the author was actually taking me on a trip through The Greenway, place and book, with her twisting of the plot development and holding me as a captive until the very last page.

WARNING: Don't read this book before going on any nature hikes. It'll make you uneasy with every step you take.

An absolutely wonderful read.


By Mark Arsenault
Publication date July 2003
ISBN 1-59058-059-1
Poisoned Pen Press

Eddie Bourque is destined to become one of the characters that a reader adores and regrets when the book has ended. In the new book, Spiked by Mark Arsenault, is the opportunity to meet one of the most realistic and charismatic characters ever written.

Eddie is a reporter for a second-rate newspaper in Massachusetts who unfortunately finds that his partner has been killed. With Eddie’s integrity, he is driven to discover the real facts into this death without having himself killed in the process.

Throughout the book, are numerous social issues that obviously are part of Mr. Arsenault’s life. The issues of the homeless, drug addicts that are also human, corrupted politicians, the politics within a newspaper, and the value of friendship and trust. A minor issue that keeps reoccurring in the book, is Eddie’s search for the truth and living without being spiked.

Within a murder mystery, humor is usually seldom used. However, Mr. Arsenault expertly weaves humor throughout the story with a politician that frequently confuses words and also with another character having a “mental health dog.” The pets are even characters interwoven within the story.

The pace of this book is extremely fast. I found myself wanting another few hundred pages as I finished the book. The characters were so vivid and lovable that I found myself missing a friend, Eddie.

Please give me more Eddie Bourque. I found myself thinking about this book for days after I read it. Isn’t that always the test of an excellent book? If the book invades your thoughts after you have read it, then it has to be an example of superior writing.

Poisoned Pen Press has again found another delightful first-time author who is guaranteed to be successful in future books.

As the character Eccleston stated in this book, “Danny was a pillow of the community.” Find the safety of a pillow, not a pillar, to settle down while reading this wonderful book, Spiked.


The Weaver and the Factory Maid
by Deborah Grabien
192 pages
St. Martin’s Minotaur
December 11, 2003
ISBN 0-312-31422-1

The Weaver and the Factory Maid is a charming diversion of a legend from an old English ballad. Ringhan Laine, works as an expert in restoration of period architecture and as musician. When one of his clients cannot pay for the work Ringhan has spent months completing, the client, Albert Wychsale, compensates him then by giving him an eighteenth-century cottage with an ancient tithe barn complete with ghosts inhabiting both.

What was very interesting throughout this novel was the mixing of the present events with the historical legend of the two forbidden lovers who were murdered. At the beginning of each chapter was a section of the lyrical song which aligned with the historical research of the legend.

I felt as if I needed to hear ballad sung while I was reading this novel. Shouldn’t an attached musical CD then be with the book?

This is the first of a series of books based upon English ballads planned to be written by Deborah Grabien. It is fast-paced and a delightfully fun book to read. The ghosts are not horrifying, but are realistic for ghosts, that is.

This is the fifth book published by Deborah Grabien. She has lived in Europe, but now spends her time in San Francisco while running a catering service.


The Intelligencer
by Leslie Silbert
Hardback $24.00
Atria Books/ February 2004
336 pages
ISBN 0743432924

What is the difference between history and historical fiction? Both are recording historical fiction but history attempts to be hopefully unbiased whereas historical fiction has liberties to fictionalize those unwritten events surrounding the major facts.

In The Intelligencer by Leslie Silbert many of the unanswered questions regarding Elizabeth I are given possible answers while basing the story in 1593 and present day.

What if a secret document kept by one of Elizabeth’s closest advisors suddenly appeared today?

This involves one story in two different times, the book that is found in the present day and the intrigue and events in the secret document from the year 1593. The author develops the story in both time periods throughout this book, but does it with always a connecting thread that smoothly takes the reader to the time period.

Kate Morgan works for a private investigation firm that is a hidden section to the U.S. Intelligence Agency. The agency has an assignment for Kate involving an attempt to steal a book that no one has been able to translate or decode or figure out what the book is about. The mystery then is what is contained in the book, what information is in the book, why did someone want to steal it, and who would want to possess the book. Being that the book is believed to be the lost account of Christopher Marlowe are the mysteries of Elizabeth I, especially with regards to the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, places the reader back in the year 1593 and then back to the present in order to further understand the purpose of this book.

Leslie Silbert masterfully has researched this time period and makes many logical historical answers to the long-sought after mysteries and questions from that time. She delves into the life of Christopher Marlowe and his death, William Shakespeare, the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, the illegal arms smuggling, and the spy network including the advisors to Elizabeth.

The Intelligencer is energetic, dynamic and demonstrates the passion of this author in writing this debut novel. This is not an easy book to put down and is actually addictive to any reader. The flow from 1593 to the present day is masterfully paced. All of the characters are believable and realistic in that you really don’t know if the characters are who or what they truly seem to be in either time period.

Leslie Silbert is a Harvard graduate and then studied Renaissaince literature at Oxford. She has worked as a private investigator for a former CIA officer.

The writing in The Intelligencer is so enthralling, but at the same time seemingly so logical that the reader wonders if this is history or historical fiction. The background and the expertise of Leslie Silbert beautifully are immersed into this delightful debut novel.


by Barbara Rogan
Simon & Schuster
ISBN 0-684-81415-3, 1999

I fell in love with the setting. How could anyone resist a house that has a spiral staircase leading up to the library in a tower? The sides of the corridor along the ascending staircase have cabinet handles and drawer pulls for storage of books. Who cares if the upper room might be haunted and has blood stains under the carpet when you could have a library like that!

Reluctantly, I need to go back to the reality of the book. (Sigh.)

This book takes place in an old Victorian mansion overlooking the Long Island Sound with an octagonal tower library in the house. (Sigh).

The plot involved the new owners of this wonderful house with the previous dead owners of the house. The main character, Emma Roth, is a novelist that is coincidentally writing a ghost story with the previous owner being an English teacher that enjoys correcting the story with a purple pencil while being a ghost. Emma is carrying quite a bit of emotional baggage with her which provides the reader with questions and suspense throughout the book. Many times Emma wonders if her problem involves her emotional instability, her stress, her readjustment to a new situation, her dreams, or if the house really possesses a ghost.

The characters are believable and Ms. Roth has described each of them so well that I found myself predicting their thoughts and actions. Each character possessed a strong personal voice with the development of the plot. The relationship between the characters I found to be very realistic especially between Emma and her husband who worked as a physicist. I found the sense of humor between the two and the acceptance of each others faults to be refreshing with their sense of commitment to each other. One of my favorite passages regarded their "elastic minute" meaning the flexibility of time perception with each person. The analogies and comparisons throughout the book allowed me to constantly visualize the characters and the incidents.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. My biggest criticism of it would be that the mystery was very apparent to me from the beginning and who the culprit was, but I enjoyed reading about the relationship and the constant questioning of the existence of the ghost. Also, I felt that the editor from Simon & Schuster should have had the editing ghost with purple pencil looking for the typographical errors in the book since the editor did not.


Beware the Solitary Drinker
Cornelius Lehane
ISBN: 1-59058-016-8
Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: October 2002
246 pages

Beware the Solitary Drinker

I admit, the title did not catch my interest, but the old adage of not judging a book by its cover or title, held true here. This involved a bartender named Brian McNulty who has a few personal problems. However, the one bothering him the most is the death of a friend, a beautiful seductive girl. With the help or force of her sister, Brian tries to find out why she was killed and by whom. All the suspects are his friends and all of them seem to have secrets that no one wants revealed. This book is definitely a quick-page turner as well as being very reflective about the parts of us that all of us want to keep hidden.

This first time author, Cornelius Lehane, is one author that I will look forward to reading again and again.


Not All Tarts Are Apple
Pip Granger
ISBN: 1-59058-033-8
Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: October 20, 2002
219 Pages

Not All Tarts Are Apple

What a delightful and enchanting read! Rosie is a seven year old who lives with her adopted grandparents Bert and Maggie. The mystery is simply finding out about Rosie’s real mother and the reasons that Rosie is not with her.

The characters are extremely believable and usually lovable. I found myself easily visualizing all of them due to the author’s obvious love of each of them. Rosie’s mother is a “tart”, but the reader comes to an understanding of her, the Perfumed Lady, as the plot develops around her past and her type of love for her daughter.

With the setting being in England at the time of coronation, all the events surrounding this are logical and realistic. Pip Granger makes the reader feel as if they were also involved in this wondrous event.

Thoroughly delightful!

I am looking forward to more books by this author.


Sever the Darkness
by Vivian Schilling
Paperback $14.00
Penguin Books 2003
ISBN 0 14 20.0305 9
Hannover House 2002
ISBN 0-9637846-1-7

How would you feel if you almost died, but lived? The average person would be very relieved and thankful for this gift. However, what if you had really cheated death and now death was chasing you? The fear in Quietus is based on this idea.

Kylie O’Rourke with her husband Jack and her best friend, Amelia and her husband are being treated to a ski vacation. On returning from this trip, the plane crashes into the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Only five people survive this crash, which includes Kylie and her friends. As Kylie recuperates in the hospital, she finds that her memories of the rescue are completely different from the other survivors. Her doctor explains that the difference is due to the morphine administered to her. Kylie though finds herself in a reality between this world and another, though we don’t know what exactly the other world is or who or what inhabits the other world.

The other survivors attempt to be understanding to Kylie, but also are recuperating physically and mentally from the guilt of being alive. Most dramatically is the distance this places between Kylie and her husband. Both need support and reassurances from each other and both are fearful and guilt ridden about their own individual needs.

What makes things worse for Kylie is that now she is being followed by her past! As a child, Kylie witnessed the murder of her teacher. Now the murderer, who was executed, is now following her in order to take Kylie to her death. To make this worse, no one sees him except for Kylie.

Whether the place in this book is strictly fictional, purgatory, heaven, or hell, the fear embracing the reader is real and I found myself never being concerned with the length of the book. The book actually engulfed my mind.

Quietus in the dictionary means: a silencing of a rumor, anything that kills as in a blow, or a final discharge as a debt. So evidently then, Quietus is the moment of death or the transition from life to another form. The fear comes when the form is known and waiting.

This book is beyond being a page-turner, it actually haunts the reader while you are reading it and afterwards. I found myself staying awake during the night due to the fear from this book. Chilling? Oh yes. Believable? Well, I wouldn’t have thought so, but Quietus made me look over my shoulder and had me thinking about the characters and my own vulnerability in this world long after reading the book.

The scariest type of supernatural is one that could be true and is logically true to the person. Before reading Quietus, I would never have believed that this book could even be written, much less believed. Now, I’m wondering. That is the sign of an exceptional writing experience, one that leaves you thinking.

This is the second published book by Vivian Schilling. Besides being a novelist, she is a screenwriter and a movie actress. After reading Quietus, I would highly suggest that she spend her time completely as a novelist. (I’m actually going to buy her first book also and though I can’t imagine it being near to the quality of Quietus.)


Morgue Mama: The Cross Kisses Back
by C. R. Corwin
327 pages
ISBN:1-59058-974-5 (Large print)
or 1-59058-074-5(Hardback)
or 1-59058-045-1 (Paperback)
Poisoned Pen Press
$24.95 hardback $22.95 paperback

Have you ever enjoyed a character in a book so much that you wished that particular character was real? In Morgue Mama: The Cross Kisses Back the character of Dolly Madison Sprowls, nicknamed Maddy, and behind her back called Morgue Mama, is so believable, so lovable, and so real.

One of those delightful evangelical ministers is poisoned while being televised. There are actually two types of poison given to him to be certain he is dead. First there is a drug laced into the gold paint on the cross of his Bible which he kisses during his services and then his water is poisoned from the lily-of-the-valley flower being in this water. His wife admits that she is the murderer and is imprisoned.

To new ace reporter, Aubrey McGinty, who is dying (sorry for the pun) for a winning story in her new position, something doesn’t seem to quite fit. Could it be that the minister had an assistant minister that he kicked out of his congregation and this man was also having an affair with the victim’s wife? Could it be the wife of the present assistant minister who wanted her husband to be more successful really was a murderer? Could the body guard for the minister carry a secret grudge? Could someone else who happens to drive a red Taurus station wagon and is constantly following the reporter in this investigation really trying to kill the reporter?

Maddy is the experienced voice at the newspaper in that her job is the morgue. The morgue involved the filing of former stories for the newspaper. Although much of this work is now easily kept through computer files, much of the older articles needed by reporters are still kept and still need someone to file, find, keep, and value the information.

In Maddy’s own words, “Let me explain a few things for those of you who don’t know diddly about the newspaper business. Newspapers report what’s new, what’s happening right now, history on the hoof as they say. Buy news is meaningless unless it’s put into some sort of perspective… In the newspaper business we call these libraries the morgue. And it’s a fitting name. Just like they tag and store bodies in the city morgue, stories are tagged and stored in the newspaper’s morgue. But unlike the city morgue, the stuff we tag and store is never buried and never forgotten. It’s always there, waiting to be resurrected by some ambitious reporter. Waiting to give perspective to some current story…So every newspaper has a morgue and every morgue has a crusty old pain-in-the-ass librarian like me, Dolly Madison Sprowls, whom, as you’ve already learned, the reporters call Morgue Mama… But only behind my back.”

The pacing is fast with wit and humor racing the plot along and the ending is tricky in that it almost attacks the reader. I found myself rereading sections once I was at the end to be certain that the author was correct with the ending. I know that I have discovered a new, very gifted author if I reread anything. That’s the sign of someone that forces you to think a little differently and is good brain activity for everyone.

Morgue Mama is a delightful character that I think C.R. Corwin will continue to use in future novels. Of course, usually when there are initials, there are pseudonyms. This particular author has written three non-mystery books Fresh Eggs, Serendipity Green, and Going to Chicago and is the recipient of the Individual Artist Fellowship from the Ohio Arts Council. Supposedly those books are considered to be general fiction and I plan to read them now. I’m definitely looking forward to the next Morgue Mama Mystery book which is to be published by Poisoned Pen Press. C.R. Corwin is a pseudonym for Rob Levandoski who seems to be one of those few elusive and extremely talented authors who are definitely worth searching out.


by Dan Simmons

Who could imagine the Trojan War being repeated in the future with the same Helen, Odysseus, and Zeus? This is the integral theme throughout Ilium which is another name for Troy. The interwoven story lines of this novel are masterfully tailored in this science fiction novel by Dan Simmons.

The three separate story lines are centered on former human Earth creatures now called Post-Humans, Mars’ gods from Greek mythology, and Jupiter’s bio-mechanical organisms. All of these blend into the Trojan War being repeated on Mount Olympus, but this time on Mars and many years in the future.

The Post-Humans do not have the skills or the values we presently possess. They must be regenerated every twenty-years and are limited to a life-span on one-hundred years. At this time, known as the Fifth since this is the final visit to these regeneration chambers, the humans of this time believe that their soul existence will then be placed into a new human form, thus beginning the cycle of life again. These people live for their own pleasures.

One unusual Post-human is Harmon who has not been given the reading function, but has taught himself to read. Another Post-Human is Savi who is over one-hundred years old and is not pleased with the evolution of the human species. (Yes, this does have some Logan’s Run visions in the quest for human physical perfection.)

The gods of Olympus are the commonly known ones of Greek mythology. These gods have technology that greatly assists their godlike attributes, such as holographic horses to pull their chariots. Typical of mythology is the constant rivalry betweens all the gods and goddesses. Aphrodite plots to kill Athena by using another Post-Human, who has been revived as a scholic due to his being a college professor with his specialty being the Iliad.

From Io, one of the moons of Jupiter, a ship is sent to Mars to deliver and activate a device. Unfortunately, this ship is attacked by one of the chariot riding gods and badly damaged, killing two of their crew members. The survivors include a now-blinded Proust lover that is crab-shaped and named Orphu, and Mahnmut who is the skipper of a submersible and a self-taught Shakespearean scholar. Both of these are partially organic organisms and need oxygen for them to survive.

As all three of these groups converge on a slightly altered Mount Olympus complete with breathable air, the fight of fated pasts and the evolution of the human spirit, the future of the advanced human race now depend on the influences of the past.

The writing in Ilium combines the Trojan War with Mars, space futuristic exploration, monstrous creatures, humans with no purpose in life, fate, Greek mythology, Helen’s lovemaking, semi-human creatures that are literate and half organic, and blends these into a logically thrilling saga as an action-adventure thriller.

Ilium is the first of a two-part epic which will be concluded with Olympos, which will be published soon.


The Snowman’s Children
by Glen Hirshberg
Paperback $13.00
Carroll & Graf; (October 2003)
324 pages
ISBN 0786712538

In a Detroit suburb in 1977 someone is killing children. He kidnaps the children and suffocates them by holding their nose and mouth shut, however, the children appear to have not been in pain during their deaths. He places their bodies in the snow, consequently being named the Snowman.

“When the Snowman finished with the kids, he usually dressed them in their original clothes. He tucked in their shirts and wiped their faces like a burglar trying to put everything right… Sometimes, he even treated superficial wounds with Bactine and Band-Aids.”

The Snowman’s Children is written through the eyes of a ten-year-old boy named Mattie Rhodes, who becomes too closely involved with these deaths. Even as an adult, in 1994 his life is difficult due to these unresolved memories that continue to haunt him. He needs closure to this tragedy so he returns to his home town to investigate his past. Unfortunately his visit brings back the unwelcomed, buried fears and thoughts for his old friends and family, as well as himself.

As children, Mattie Rhodes, Theresa Daughrety, and Spencer Franklin are the pivotal characters throughout this novel. The affects of the deaths are too close to these three classmates and each one is forever changed in this all too realistic novel. Mattie attempts to help one of his close friends, Theresa, in dealing with the fear and unfortunately makes such a complete mess of the situation that his family is forced to move away from the area to their family in Kentucky. While this temporarily solves the terror for his family, it also does not allow resolution and closure for Mattie so that he can move forward with his life.

This is a psychological thriller that shows the damage to Mattie, his former friends, family and neighbors goes beyond the physical wounds; the emotional wounds are more altering and more difficult to heal, if they can ever be healed. The relationships are especially noticed in Mattie’s family with Brent, Mattie’s younger brother, who has no understanding and no empathy for his brother. These brothers simply coexist while not relating to each other. Glen Hirshberg has masterfully developed an individual and realistic personality for all of the characters. Every one of them is believable and easily visualized.

In dealing with the negative relationship between Mattie and his brother, Brent, this quote beautifully explains it. “This has been our pattern all our lives. At the rare moments when one of us actually feels a connection, the other either can’t or won’t respond. My relationship with Brent is one of the few I have in which the blame can probably be assigned equally… If I was an awfully strange older brother, he was an awfully cruel younger one.”

The beginning is a little slow as the author shuffles from 1994, 1985, and 1976. There seems to be no connecting thread, except for the character of Mattie. Once the reader starts seeing that all three of these dates seem to merge in Mattie’s mind, the pace of the novel accelerates tremendously. The inner relationships between Mattie’s family, friends, and neighbors are the driving forces in The Snowman’s Children. I would not recommend this book to anyone who has children between the ages of eight and twelve since it could easily be too realistic for these parents. For everyone else though, The Snowman’s Children is a wonderful novel to read to add to the chill of winter.

The Snowman’s Children is Glen Hirshberg’s first novel and his second, The Two Sams was published this year. His experience of living in Detroit as a child definitely was crucial to this novel. He has been nominated for multiple awards from the International Horror Guild and World Fantasy Awards.


The Christmas Train
by David Baldacci
Paperback $19.95
Warner Books
260 pages
ISBN : 0446525731

Tom Langdon, a journalist, managed to cause enough trouble with airport security that he was banned from flying in the airplanes. For a journalist then, that becomes a problem since you need to be able to travel anywhere, and Tom needs to be with his girlfriend for Christmas so he decides to travel by train while writing about the experience. “Over almost three thousand miles of America, he was going to see if he could find himself. He was doing it during the Christmas season because that was supposed to be a time of renewal and, for him perhaps, a last chance to clean up whatever mess he’d made of himself. At least he was going to try.”

In The Christmas Train, Tom is attempting to redefine his role as a journalist since he is now writing for a decorating magazine which is dramatically different for a writer that had won two Pulitzer Prizes for his stories in dangerous places. He plans to relate his journey to that of Mark Twain who is one of his ancestors and who also rode a train across the United States. The journey here is the focus, not getting from one place to another.

To complicate matters also on this train is Ellie, Tom’s first and only real love. These two ended their relationship years earlier with many unanswered questions and unresolved situations between them. Ellie’s employer, Max, has a similar idea for a movie that he is directing.

Tom learns to get along with numerous unusual and realistic people in this journey. The Amtrak personnel each have very different and delightful personalities which add warmth of all the characters.

The experience of the train is the lovable theme throughout this book. When one of the former Amtrak employees is asked about fast air travel, he responds. “Oh sure, if you’re into the destination only as opposed to the trip itself. It’s been my experience that most folks who ride trains could care less where they’re going. For them it’s the journey itself and the people they meet along the way. You see, at every stop this train makes, a little bit of America, a little bit of your country, gets on and says hello. That’s why trains are so popular at Christmas. People get on to meet their country over the holidays. They’re looking for some friendship, a warm body to talk to. People don’t rush on a train, because that’s not what trains are for. How do you put a dollar value on that? What accounting line does that go on?”

With a retired priest on board who believes and looks for miracles, a wedding, a thief, a romance, the delightful Amtrak employees and with a twist that resembles O. Henry, this small book possesses a wonderful gift for everyone, especially during the Christmas season.

A criticism of The Christmas Train is that once reading this book, you’ll want to purchase a train ticket across America immediately.

David Baldacci was a lawyer for years before becoming a well-known author. With television and movie writing now in his background, he continues to write memorable mysteries with delightfully realistic characters.


The First Victim
by Ridley Pearson
446 pages
ISBN: 0-75284-350-8
Orion mass market paperback
December 2002
£ 6.99

When dealing with many similar murders of illegal Chinese immigrant women, the first victim is the most important for a detective to find. “The first victim is generally the one who is handled carelessly. It’s only later the criminal mind thinks to start making better preparations, thinks to plan more carefully. This was sloppy. Hasty. This woman was handled poorly.”

Lieutenant Lou Boldt has recently been promoted, but yearns to be back solving the cases instead of filling out the paper work. When a shipping container is accidentally dumped into the ocean while getting close to the shore, it becomes apparent that this was being used to smuggle Chinese women into the country and for them to be a part of a slave labor organization. Lou realizes that this case is not his, but assists strongly with the younger detective, Sergeant John LaMoia, in investigating this along with INS and the media.

The characters in The First Victim are delightfully vivid. Mama Lu is frequently questioned and acts as a guide for Lou while she efficiently continually engages in her own illegal affairs. The humor in her relationship with Mr. Both, her mispronunciation of his name, and her respect and colorfulness of her language and outfits, add to the warmth of both characters. Stevie McNeal is an ambitious investigative reporter who now has the burden of her sister, Melissa, disappearing while researching this story. Stevie’s frustration and desperation are also integral with the pacing throughout this novel. The mistrust between the media, the police, and the INS is all too realistic, unfortunately.Top of Form
Bottom of Form

The themes of illegal immigration, smuggling, slave labor, conspiracies, and the responsibilities of the media, the police, and the immigration departments makes this interwoven plot very believable. The pacing and sequencing assists the reader with the frustration all of these agencies were feeling.

In this particular Ridley Pearson novel, the attention was not upon Lou’s family or his friends. There was so much interwoven into the conspiracies, that it probably would have been a distraction to the reader.

This again is an action-packed page-turner which is what we expect from any novel written by Ridley Pearson. Although this was different than his other books, due to the lack of the personal involvement of Lou Boldt, the attention to the personal involvement of Stevie McNeal worked with the intensity of the plot.

Definitely this is required reading for any fan of Ridley Pearson. Although slightly different in the temperament of the plot, this is a realistic and thrilling novel.


Relative Danger
by Charles Benoit
268 pages
ISBN: 1-59058-091-5
Poisoned Pen Press
February 2004

Douglas Pearce had a very ordinary and boring life. He had worked at a brewery in Pottsville, Pennsylvania when he was laid off and given one thousand dollars as severance pay. Supposedly foreign investors were eliminating his position. Something though just didn’t make sense and the compensation pay really didn’t make sense since the family never paid anyone more than they deserved.

Then the letter arrives. A woman, Edna Bowers, who knew about his uncle, Russ, had written to Douglas to ask if he would like a box of his uncle’s possessions. Since he had no job and was curious about the “black sheep” uncle, he drove to visit her in Toronto. She told him of many stories of his uncle and showed him pictures. What she really wanted was to have him investigate his uncle’s death in Singapore, fifty years ago. Also, Uncle Russ had in his possession at the time a red diamond that disappeared when he died. Edna would pay for all the expenses. Douglas agreed since he had no job prospects and nothing more exciting in his life than lounging while watching television daily.

Traveling to Morocco, Cairo, and Singapore, Douglas meets a variety of characters who his benefactor, have suggested he meet and question. Finding out the people aren’t always who they seem to be and that someone doesn’t want him to find the diamond or the murderer, Douglas has adventures the parallel an Indiana Jones. With a comic collection of characters and realism, this turns out to be an adventure of self-discovery for Douglas.

Douglas really had no sense of adventure before this escapade. While is Morocco, Douglas is in a café and is questioning an older man when the man starts to question Douglas.

“Have you been to New York City?” the old man said, sipping his boiling tea.

“Ah, no,” and now he was apologizing, “I haven’t.”

“You come all the way to Morocco to sit at my café and yet you don’t go to New York City? I would rather go to New York City than Morocco, and I’m an old man.”

“I’ll get there someday, but right now…”

“Somedays don’t always come.”…

“You seem quite unprepared for life outside of Pottsville,” Mr. Ahmed laughed. “But her you are!”

From being in a prison in Cairo, to brothels, to beautiful companions, to sly old men, this book is an action adventure as well as an adventure in self discovery for Douglas.

This is Charles Benoit’s debut novel. This is fun reading in that the author obviously has a story to tell. I wonder if any of this is unintentional autobiographical.


Murder in Montparnasse
Kerry Greenwood
298 pages
ISBN: 1-59058-042-7
Poisoned Pen Press
June 2004
$ 24.95

Having a “belief in justice rather than the law” is the underlying theme in MURDER IN MONTPARNASSE. Phryne Fisher has a life of wealth, but sincerely wants to help people who need more than the local police can provide.

For an author to transport the reader to a different time and place for experiences from another perspective is the journey that all readers thrive upon. In MURDER IN MONTPARNASSE the reader is transported to the 1920s in Australia and World War I in France as well as into the cubism movement of the art world. The viewpoints are amazingly common to Americans and the affects of the American economy is worldwide.

Phryne Fisher is an adventuresome heroine who is very much out of her time period with her independence and her attitude toward life. She is an Australian private investigator who is asked by an older man to find his missing young fiance. However, the missing woman is from an extremely wealthy family who has agreed to this union. Phryne does wonder what an eighteen year old girl would want with an elderly Frenchman who dyed his hair. When asked about the girl, Phryne is told that the girl has always done what someone told her to do. She did not ever cause any problems. “In the everyday world, gives her the survival quotient of a snowflake in hell.”

The girl’s father is also planning on marrying a friend of his daughter’s who is her age. Could both impinging marriages be the reason for the disappearance?

At this same time, Phryne is approached by five men who had fought in World War I together and two of their previous companions have died in unusual accidents. They believe that they might have seen something during the war and that someone might be trying to kill all of them.

Also, Phryne’s first love, Rene Dupont, has suddenly appeared in Australia with his new wife. Phryne’s hostility toward Rene Dupont is obvious and somehow all of this will beautifully blend into a harmonious plot.

Since this is a reoccurring character in a series of novels by Kerry Greenwood, when the reader first meets Phryne, there seems to be something missing in the relationship. Perhaps this is due to previous character information and developments from other books. I found this book wonderful, but a little hard to digest at first and it is probably because of the continuous character development in a series.

Kerry Greenwood, an Australian author, has written nineteen novels and has worked numerous jobs throughout her life while being an attorney and a writer. An underlying or obvious theme in her books seems to be the search for justice.

After reading MURDER IN MONTPARNASSE, I plan on reading more Phryne Fisher books. I thoroughly delight in this intelligent and unspoken character. Another Phryne Fisher book will be available in September, THE CASTLEMAINE MURDERS. Please give me more characters and authors live Phryne Fisher and Kerry Greenwood.


Hunter’s Dance
by Kathleen Hills
326 pages
ISBN: 1-59058-094-X
Poisoned Pen Press

Does anyone deserved to be murdered? That was the problem for John McIntire, constable for the community of St. Adele in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, bordering Lake Superior. Bambi Morlen has been murdered and his body was mutilated after the annual Hunters’ Dance, but this death isn’t what it seems to be and somehow many people were involved who don’t intend for things to turn out quite the way they do, but seldom does everything turn out with the best intentions for everyone.

The time is 1950. The Korean War is still very much a part of the discussion across the country, the influences of life during that time and the draft is still in existence. In the area of northern Michigan, the use of an outdoor pump for water is in use and many areas still do not completely have electrical power. The cars are huge, gas-guzzlers with not always the most efficient starters and all of them are stick-shifts. Many people don’t drive since the vehicles are not always reliable and driving is much more complicated in operation without power steering, brakes, and all the luxuries that we are so accustomed to utilizing.

In this small community is an exclusive Shawanok Club where Bambi has been living for the summer with his family. This is a gated-community with its own protection and frequently, its own rules.

Bambi is an 18-year-old male who had a tendency to show-off and bully. He isn’t going to be drafted since he comes from money and he doesn’t want to go to college. He does race around the community in his, really his grandfather’s, sports car. During the annual Hunters’ Dance celebration, Bambi maneuvers himself into a heated argument with a Native American over a girl. So who would be the logical murderer when Bambi is found scalped?

The irony of the title, Hunter’s Dance, as opposed to the event after which the murder occurred, Hunters’ Dance is how closely the reader needs to be watching the clever moves of the author, Kathleen Hills. She masterfully pulls at the predictions of the reader by continually giving insights to the inner characters of each person even remotely involved within this community.

The characterization of John McIntire is perfect as the reluctant constable who only wants to maintain the peacefulness of this community. John tends to care more about the people of the community and what their actions cause to happen, as well as the effect of this death upon the individual people and which piece of this puzzling death each of them held. This is the type of person all of us would want investigating if we were ever involved in any crime.

The word of advice while reading Hunter’s Dance is nothing is as it seems. This makes this novel thoroughly delightful to read, the reader is always surprised at the masterful twists in completing this puzzle.

Even though this is the second book in a continuing series by a fairly new author, Hunter’s Dance stands on its own. The novel at first seems fairly predictable, but with the development of the investigation of each chapter, it is amazing how the tempo increases without the reader even being aware of the changes.

Kathleen Hills lives in both Duluth, Minnesota and Northern Scotland. Hunter’s Dance is the second book with John McIntire, with Past Imperfect, being the first. She is currently working on the third book featuring the constable.


Secret Players
by Carl Nelson
328 pages
ISBN: 1-890035-32-7
New Century Press
$ 16.95

What is the effect of behind the scene players with our economy and life style today, as well as our relations with other countries?

Secret Players begins during World War II on a U.S. Naval vessel that has been attacked and is about to sink. The attacking pilot, however, missed his suicidal mark and was rescued on the ship. While the ship is slowly sinking, Buck Steele heroically rescues injured and endangered men on the ship and also prevents the pilot from killing himself.

For the Japanese pilot though, this was a curse. He was then sent to an Australian prison camp, learned English, and returned to Japan to find his land devastated after the effects of war and the bombing. To Sako Amanuma, this humiliation of his honor and his country cannot be forgotten and must be avenged. “Revenge is the only thing that has brought purpose to my life.”

Sako Amanuma’s father contacts a friend who mentors Sako to continue the dream of Japanese revenge upon the United States. Through Sake’s brilliance, he earns a college degree and the position to change his country’s position into one of success and power. The ultimate goal is to cripple the United States and to change their status into one of a Third World Country. To add to this, Japan is no longer allowed by its constitution to have a military force which is also true in reality. This goal must be attained on the economic playing field. “Turn our shame into success and let that be your revenge.”

The two main characters have parallel lives with similar ambitions, while continually holding on to their own personal hatreds of each other. Their families, traditions, relationships, and the changing roles of women in the last half of the twentieth-century, all influence these two dynamic men in their daily lives. What is most difficult for both though, is their personal honor. With Sako, the traditions of the old Japanese culture of samurai, the wandering ronin, and committing seppuku are always at that back of his thoughts. With Buck, the Irish-working class of the steel mills in Pittsburg haunts him as well, as the troubles of the Cass family with their business ventures and their own personal problems.

Secret Players is written in a casual style that allows the characters to be real people with a personal voice and personality. To incorporate the ideas of global economics within a fictional novel and to create suspense within the lives of these fictional characters is masterfully accomplished with this novel.

I definitely am looking forward to more novels by Carl Nelson. Any novelist that has me wondering about the economic behind the scene influences upon the government and the future obviously has found his true calling in life.

Carl Nelson is a masterful story-teller of history and what could have happened, or having the reader wonder if it really did happen. His background of growing up in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, enlisting in the Navy, enrolling at Annapolis, and then retiring at the rank of Captain has given him a wonderfully diverse view of the political world and how it affects our country. He currently teachers at the college level with a doctorate in international business and trade. He has already written eight non-fiction books and Secret Players is his second full-length fictional novel.


Prairie Gothic
By J. M. Hayes
Poisoned Pen Press
February 2003
ISBN: 1-59058-050-8
Hardcover $24.95
276 Pages

There is the old saying about truth being stranger than fiction and this book definitely has a ring of truth in it. With the story taking place in a small town in Kansas during a snowstorm, this delightfully humorous misadventures of the town’s sheriff and his family and co-workers makes this a fun read.

The sheriff’s deputy is known for his lack of intelligence, his teenaged daughters (one is a foster daughter) are both names Heather so they are called the Heathers or One of Two and Two of Two, his brother nicknamed Mad Dog believes that he is a Cheyenne shaman and I won’t even try to explain the family that is involved with this story.

The plot encircles two incidents in which an elderly man, Tommie Irons, dies of cancer and wants to be buried in the natural manner of his ancestors, the Choctaw, but he really isn’t Indian at all. In order to do this, he makes arrangements with Mad Dog, the sheriff’s half-brother, who is a native Cheyenne, and then takes the dead body from the rest home unofficially. While this is happening, a dead baby is also found at the rest home in the arms of one of the more eccentric residents who has been known for carrying around a doll anyway. The doll was just replaced by the dead baby.

While discussing bloodlines, Nazi treasures, a bull named Black Death, a wolf-hybrid, a hidden prison in a house with an old lady caged in it, another old lady wearing red sneakers and pretending to be Dorothy from the land of Oz, skeletons found in a stream, incest within families, abortions, cages in a type of laboratory, not to mention people who definitely aren’t what they seem, and rebellious teenaged daughters, J.M. Hayes has created a delightfully fast-paced story that leaves the reader laughing out-loud with an uneasy feeling of suspicion for those small towns in Kansas.


Nine Days to Evil
by Nancy West
288 pages
ISBN: 0-9747705-0-7
February 16, 2004

Meredith Laughlin is the typical doctor’s wife, except she has a desire to go back to school to further her education. However, things seldom go as planned.

Her husband, Conrad, uses his cell phone to call Meredith during a rain storm while he is to be visiting the rural clinics, and the call is cut off with the sounds of an accident.
Meredith attempts to call him back, but there is no answer. Logically, she contacts the police and eventually they do begin a search, but no one seems to know anything about the accident. There is no evidence of an accident, and the rural clinics were not expecting the doctor. Completely frazzled and confused, Meredith decides to continue with her goal and begins her graduate level classes then, as a distraction from her husband’s disappearance. She does continue to investigate his disappearance herself and to constantly persuade the police to look further and to continue the search.

The use of the Shakespeare play, “Othello” is excellent as well as the abnormal psychology class information of a psychopath vs. a sociopath. These are well-blended into the plot and are used throughout the book as a reference. The comparison to Meredith’s real life drama does resemble “Othello.”

The book is well-paced and a delightful quick suspense novel. It actually flowed and increased in intensity as it neared the ending. The mystery of the disappearance is very believable and could even be based upon a real event.

There was a problem with the introduction of one of the more influential characters, Agatha. I had a problem with meeting a character at a graduate class and instantaneously becoming lifelong friends. That just doesn’t seem natural to me. This was the main error and I felt the relationship was very forced as if the author didn’t know how to continue and the character of Agatha would solve the problem. Also, I had a problem with Agatha’s coincidental relationship with the detective, Sam Vandehoven. It was just too neat and tidy, too much.

The title did not really fit the novel. With Nine Days to Evil, I expected a huge climatic evil event to happen on the ninth day. It didn’t. Many deceptive and nasty things happened on the days preceding the ninth day. The ninth day was the resolution, not the climax.

I am concerned about the availability of this book. Neither Amazon or Barnes and Noble have it listed as of today, nor did Booklocker. Yes, I did receive an Advanced Reader Copy, but these are always at least listed in the retail book market.

According to information provided by the author, Nancy Glass West is a Texas author who was recently a guest poet on “Theme and Variations” which aired on National Public Radio.


May the Best Man Die
by Deborah Donnelly
Paperback $5.99
Bantam Dell
September 30, 2003
320 pages
ISBN : 0-440-24129-4

Carnegie Kincaid is a wedding planner with two demanding weddings looming over the soon to be Christmas and New Year’s holidays. In the newest book in this series by Deborah Donnelly, May the Best Man Die, Carnegie is forced to investigate the deaths of two best men. Unfortunately for the couple, the first best man was murdered at the bachelor party and the replacement then was killed shortly after that. For some bizarre reason, Carnegie was looking at the stag party with binoculars and now feels responsible for investigating the death of the first best man. This tends to cause a problem with her best friend since it is the friend’s brother who appears to be the guilty party at first and involves the police relationship then with the family also.

The characters are delightful in this novel. The wedding families are all too realistic both in their negative personality attributes, as well as their humorous tacky dreams of the perfect wedding.

The mystery of May the Best Man Die completely had me flabbergasted, even though it was logical. Through the thoughts and actions of Carnegie Kincaid, Ms. Donnelly masterfully guides the reader along numerous paths of misinformation and false leads. Her writing makes me wonder if she would make a great criminal.

Deborah Donnelly grew up as a sea captain’s daughter in Panama and Cape Cod. She attended school in St. Paul and in the state of Washington. With a variety of life experiences and occupations throughout the world, she has lived in Seattle and now lives in Idaho. She has previously written two other books with the main character being Carnegie Kincaid.

I do look forward to reading future, as well as past, books in this series.


by Roger Jon Ellory
344 pages
ISBN: 0-75286-059-3
Orion Books
£ 7.99

Annie O’Neill is leading an uneventful, not fulfilling life as a single person who owns a used bookstore in New York City. Her days are repetitious and boring. Nothing changes. Nothing happens. Until… an elderly man, Robert Franklin Forrester appears at the store with a chapter from a manuscript for her along with letters from her father to her mother that her mother had never received.

“So read, read all of this, and make of it what you will. This was my life, and because of who you are it is to some degree your life too. As Whitman once said, ‘My surface is myself, under which to witness youth is buried. Roots? Everybody has roots.’”

In Ghostheart, Annie is launched into her family’s past. Being that her father had died when she was young and her mother, when Annie was seventeen, Annie didn’t have a sense of who she was with her heritage and her beliefs.

Fortunately, Annie has a wonderful and supportive best-friend in her neighbor, John Sullivan, a fifty-five year old, retired investigative photo-journalist. As a single, thirty-two year old woman this relationship with John is loving and understanding, and replaces the family that was taken from her. With John’s care and background, Annie reads the manuscript, delves into the possible meaning of every word, and helps to search for the link that Annie is looking for to connect the past with now.

“She looked down as Sullivan turned to the first page, and they started reading together, page for page, line for line almost, and there was something special about their closeness that made her feel that this - once upon a time – might have been something she’d have shared with her father.”

With comparing the story of the past to John’s past of the Vietnam War horrors, both Annie and John look for answers and healing to the questions of the past.

“War tears the soul apart and reveals pain of such depth it cannot be fathomed.”

“There were three types of people in Vietnam,” Sullivan had said. “Those who thought a lot about why they didn’t wish to kill anyone, those who killed first and thought later, and lastly there were those who just killed as many as possible and never thought about it at all. They were frightened kids, Midwestern schoolteachers or homicidal maniacs.”

While John attempts to balance and bury the horrors of his past life, Annie starts to take chances and begins to have a life, only…

Ghostheart is an introspective novel of the past, the present, the future, revenge, hate, and most of all, unconditional love. The mystery? What is in each chapter of the past and how does this change the present?

Many of the sentences throughout Ghostheart, are so thought provoking that the reader has to actually reread the sentence so as not to miss the mastery of the ideas so perfectly captured. Beautifully written, Roger Jon Ellory is definitely a talented author who has just written a modern day classic. Wow!

This is one book that a reviewer is hesitant to write too much about since that could give too much of the mystery away to a reader. I won’t do that. Definitely, unquestionably, read Ghostheart.


The Saracen’s Golden Armor
by Hawthorne Vance
228 pages
ISBN: 1-931195-32-3
KiwE Publishing
March 2003
$ 17.95

The Saracen’s Golden Armor is exactly what a reviewer loves to find. It’s a wonderfully written tale by an unknown author who has a story to tell that he’s obviously been thinking about for years. Hawthorne Vance hooks the reader in the first paragraph and will not release until the last page.

Akard Phermstoole, who is a detective, is hired by a sweet and wealthy widow to return an object to Italy which her husband had taken during World War II. Now he is being paid to return this object to its rightful owner. Does this sound simple? Any person should be able to return an object to Italy with a minimum of problems.

Oh, there is one catch; this object is believed to be part of the armor that was worn by Prince Saladin, a Muslim leader who had recaptured Jerusalem during one of the crusades. Once the armor was thoroughly examined, it was determined that it could not have belonged to Prince Saladin, but it is still ancient and very valuable.

A particular Muslim terrorist is also hoping to possess this part of the armor at any cost. His hopes are to show this to his followers that the returning the armor of Prince Saladin is a sign for their cause to continue in their fight against Christianity. He doesn’t care whether it really belonged to Prince Saladin; he just wants to use the armor as a symbol to further his terrorist cause.

Akrad is an unusual character. He lives on his trust fund established by his grandfather. This allows him to survive as a private detective. Unfortunately, he can’t change his last name without losing his trust fund. If he decides to go back to law school and become a lawyer, according to his grandfather’s wishes, then he receives all the money in the fund. If for some reason, Akrad does not achieve this, then he will continue to receive only the amount established by his grandfather. If he dies the money goes to the families of victims of pollution-caused deaths.

Phermstoole and Associates is located in an old electric motor rewinding shop with Akrad living upstairs in the loft. His associates are his cat, One-Eyed Cat, and a large English bulldog named Clarence who Akrad calls Fifi when he chews things up. Added to this is his girlfriend named Corrine who Akrad calls Zelda. With a last name like Phermstoole the character is entitled to naming people anything he wants.

The pacing is amazingly fast and when you get to the end, unfortunately, you are disappointed. The disappointment is from not having another of these books to continue the adventure. The Saracen’s Golden Armor is well-written, historically based, and action filled. The humor within the characters also makes this delightful for everyone. This is definitely a “must read” book for anyone who enjoys historical fiction or action-adventures stories.

Hawthorne Vance is a pen name for a successful Dallas attorney. I am definitely looking forward to more books by this gifted writer.


by Brandon Massey
352 pages
ISBN: 0-7582-0247-4 (Paperback)
Dafina Books
1998, 2002
$ 6.99 paperback

Thunderland is a place where the imaginative companion of your youth, Mr. Magic, assists you with your every want and desire. Does this sound like some place you would like to go? Jason Brooks finds that this companion even gives the dream gift for him on his birthday, only Jason didn’t tell anyone human about his wish. It just happened.

Jason is a fourteen-year-old boy who comes from a very dysfunctional family. His parents are still married to each other, however, his mother is a recovering alcoholic and his father is a workaholic. The parents are not involved in any facet of this child’s life which I find to be very disturbing. They seldom know who he is with, where he is, and what he is doing. Jason is a loner except for two new friends, Shorty and Brain, who he basically lives with during the summer events of this book.

When Jason has an unusual accident where he falls from a tree and is in a coma for three days, apparently part of his memory suffered during this time. He then begins to have horrifying nightmares that cause him to hide under his bed in the fetal position.

From the nightmares this dream explodes into a horror that Jason never expected. He is wise enough though, even as a fourteen-year-old boy, to be careful as to what he wishes for, he just might get it, and not necessarily in the way he would have planned. As his wishes turn in nightmares, the horror throughout this novel becomes chilling.

In the words of Mr. Magic, “Consider this, Jason: What have your parents ever done for you? For almost all of your life, they’ve ignored you, neglected you, broken promises they’ve made to you, beat you, cursed you, in nearly every imaginable fashion have clearly shown that they don’t care about you and, least of all, love you. Haven’t they? Yes, they have. By their heartless acts, they forced you to withdraw into your bedroom, into books, into music, into yourself, into me. Yes, me. I exist because of your parents’ abandonment of you. You created me, and I made your private hell bearable, I gave you laughter, joy, excitement, acceptance. Even when you grew older, when you reached the age at which most children cast away imaginary playmates, you stayed with me, didn’t you? You stay with me because I was your true friend. Because I would make you happy when no one else cared to try. Because I was always there for you. Because I loved you. I have said this before, Jason, and I shall say it once more: we are part of each other, inseparable; the link we share is unbreakable. If you turn your back on me, you will, in effect, be turning your back on your own soul.”

So what does Jason do to rid himself of this obsessively clinging creature? Read this horrifying book only if you are not a teen-aged boy or the parent of a teen-aged boy.

The world Mr. Magic creates is surrounded with torrential rain and thunder. That’s the origin of Thunderland. Once you are a part of it, how do you get out of it?

This is definitely a psychotic thriller with the supernatural. With Thunderland being Mr. Massey’s first novel, his next could prove to be interesting. Dark Corner, his second novel, was published last month.

Brandon Massey was born in Chicago and currently lives in Atlanta. He originally self-published Thunderland which was his debut novel. Mr. Massey is a winner of the Golden Pen Award for African-American Authors. With slight revisions to the original novel, Kensington Publishing, printed this book in December 2002.


The Time Traveler’s Wife
by Audrey Niffenegger
Hardback $25.00
MacAdam/Cage 2003
519 pages
ISBN 1931561648

When an author writes in the science fiction genre, their story needs to be believable from the scientific point-of-view. Everyday knowledge does not include time travel as of yet, but we have had some theories of time that have yet to be either proved or disproved.

In The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffennegger the sequencing of the story is through the wife, Clare. Even with this being the stabilizing factor, the plot jumps all over in reference to time, making it sometimes confusing. This was done on purpose so that we would understand the time traveling husband and his thought process. Sometimes though, it just didn’t make sense.

This is a love story of Henry, the time traveler, and his non-time traveling wife, Clare. The author changes the events in the story by alternating sections from each of their own perspectives. Fortunately, at the beginning of each section the ages of the Clare and Henry are stated which assists the reader in visualizing their interactions.

“This is the story of Clare, a beautiful art student, and Henry, an adventuresome librarian, who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and married when Clare was twenty-three and Henry thirty-one. Impossible but true, because Henry is one of the first people diagnosed with Chrono-Displacement Disorder; periodically his genetic clock resects and he finds himself misplaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future.”

The time traveling for Henry is not within his control and is triggered by stress. Henry is able to go back to participate or to observe many of the previous events throughout his life. For instance, he has observed his mother before he was born so that he would know her especially since she died traumatically early in his life. The down side to the time traveling is that Henry can’t control it and when he arrives at the new time and place; his clothes have not traveled with him. Henry consequently has clothes stashed in numerous places from his past and in his present life.

For logical reasons, Henry does not drive and has never ridden in a plane. He is fearful of what would happen if he disappeared while driving a car. The car could be in motion with no driver. If he rode on an airplane, the time traveling from the plane wouldn’t be a problem, but what if he time traveled back to the plane. Would he be on the plane or at the place the plane was or should be?

Also, there is the issue of time traveling into the future, what can or should you tell your wife when you return. Should you change the course of history?

Henry finally finds a doctor that will work with him and attempt to control his time travel through medication. The doctor even discovers how to have mice travel in time through altering the DNA of the mice. Also, he knows that his wife wants to have a baby, and unfortunately the fetuses tend to be easily miscarried due to Henry’s DNA.

I was bothered about an incident in the book with the time traveling. Henry always before has revisited events from his past and the problem at a parking garage and inside the cage which were not events in Henry’s past, but become major events in his life.

Also, time theory always mandated that only one substance could occupy a space at one time. Not being a physicist, this fictionalized time travel frequently has Henry as being involved at the event and other Henry’s of various ages, observing.

Of course, this is fiction. If the author wants multiple Henry’s throughout his life, then the author can write it that way.

The book was enjoyable, at times disturbing, and fast-paced especially the last half. I felt the book to be time displaced in that the ending read as a forced completion to a story that did not really match the rest of the story.


Edited by Anne Perry
288 pages
ISBN: 0-425-19420-5
Berkley Prime Crime
March 2004

If you could select a group of authors and have each of them write a segment of a story as if they were Charles Dickens, what would the result be like? The answer is DEATH BY DICKENS. Anne Perry selected ten authors, besides herself, and each one wrote an original Dickens story to complete this anthology with many of the most famous stories and characters being revisited with a twist or perhaps a different conclusion to the famous original. The reader only needs to be acquainted with the works to enjoy this collection.

The authors included are Lillian Stewart Carl, Bill Crider, P.N. Elrod, Martin Edwards, Carolyn Wheat, Marcia Talley, Carole Nelson Douglas, Peter Tremayne, Brendan DuBois, Gillian Linscott, and of course, Anne Perry.

In A Stake of Holly this revisit to Scrooge brings a more realistic aspect of ghosts in that Scrooge wants to find out their identity and why they are ghosts. Particularly chilling is Mr. Pickwick vs. the Body Snatchers. Bill Crider’s aspect of realism with the problem of body snatching makes for a tale of relief when this short story is ended as the reader then is allowed to rest, as well as the characters. Comically written is Carole Nelson Douglas’ Scrogged: A Cyber Christmas Carol. With a current version of the Scrooge tale with strong ties to the Exon scandal makes this tale delightful with Ben Scroggs, earlier known as Scrooge, being an Exon accountant. The Passing Shadow by Peter Tremayne is haunting as to the personal literary relationships within Dickens’ family.

Whether revisiting the well-known characters of Dickens or the time period, DEATH BY DICKENS is a wonderful anthology compilation. This is the second anthology the Anne Perry has edited and published. This unusual collection should be read by everyone who is even slightly acquainted with Dickens.


The Widow Ginger
by Pip Granger
August 2003
Poisoned Pen Press

The Widow Ginger is not your ordinary mystery in that you know a crime will happen, you know who the criminal is, you know what the crime will most likely be, and you know who the victim will probably be, but you don't know when it will happen. All of this is through the eyes of a precocious eight-year-old named Rosie. The tension that exists between the characters in this delightful visit to 1954 in Soho while waiting for the crime to happen is wrenching with realism through both the dialogue and the masterfully developed characters in The Widow Ginger.

In this sequel to Not All Tarts are Apples I found Rosie, the eight-year-old still true in spirit and character in that her loving relationship with her adopted grandparents and all the regular customers of their cafe demonstrated a virtual time machine back to 1954 with the dialogue putting the reader as an anticipated visitor there. Each character was so well-developed and truly demonstrated Pip Granger's unusual gift for colloquial conversation. A glossary is even included to help the reader, if needed, with many of the common phrases of 1954 England from Soho.

The Widow Ginger was carrying around an old grudge and looking for an opportunity to dish out his revenge. This character was so well described the developed that anyone reading the book would quickly recognize this villain if we saw him. To balance his evilness, Rosie's grandparents embrace their protective arms around the entire neighborhood.

My only criticism of this book was that I found that it would be difficult to understand the characters without having read Not All Tarts are Apples. The character personalities were so well established in the first book that is was only lightly revisited in this sequel. I do question if I would have enjoyed it as much if I had not read the first book. So I don't see this book as a stand alone, but as part of a set with the books being read in order.

This book is a must read for anyone willing to enter a time machine back to 1954 and to live in a loving neighborhood with real people who come together for each other.


The Gowrie Conspiracy
By Alanna Knight
253 pages
ISBN: 0-74900-627-7 (Hardback)
Allison and Busby
£17.99, $25.95

What was King James really like? Was he really of royal blood or was he switched with a common baby at birth? If he wasn’t switched at birth, why did he bear no resemblance to either of his parents, but to the people who raised him?

Tam Elidor, really a time lord, is sent back in time to discover the unsolved mysteries of the past. This time he is sent back to the court of King James VI of Scotland who is also known as James I of England, the son of Mary, Queen of Scots. King James had the unique distinction of ruling both Great Britain and Scotland at the same time. The plot takes place near the end of Elizabeth’s reign, and rumors continue as to the legitimacy of James.

The mystery involves the death of the Queen’s midwife. The significance of this death is Queen Anne, the wife of James, is ready to deliver their fourth child. With the fear of the accusation of witchcraft and possibly being the object of the King’s affection, Tam has a balancing act while solving this mystery. Also, the Queen’s court and the King’s court seldom interact with each other.

The realism of both the place, Falkland Palace, Fife, and the time, July, 1600, is inspirational in this novel. The problems of the time such as with Tansy, who has special gifts but is fearful to use them since they could be seen as witchcraft is integral as well as the Tam being recognized from an earlier time period, but not aging, causes constant wonder and suspense. Alanna Knight has obviously researched this time period well in developing this exquisite historical mystery.

The relationships within the court are what inspire the reader in The Gowrie Conspiracy. The entire court has secrets, jealousies, and rumors. The preferences of King James are definitely questioned and his relationship with his wife is always threatened, as well as his rite of lineage.

For accomplished writer, Alanna Knight, this series with Tam Elidor, continues with this second historical exploration for Tam. The first book of this series was The Dagger in the Crown which explored the court of Mary Queen of Scots. Alanna Knight has written now over fifty novels and spends much of her time at home in Scotland.


Mark Schweizer
224 pages
ISBN: 0-9721211-2-9
St. James Music Press

As a musician, it is wonderful to discover a musical mystery that encompasses both the literary aspect, as well as church music. THE ALTO WORE TWEED is a book within a book. Hayden Konig is a full-time police detective, part-time choirmaster and organist for the Episcopal Church, and detective novelist who writes in the old detective style of Raymond Chandler who used similes and metaphors to the extent of the descriptions being as interesting as the plot.

THE ALTO WORE TWEED is actually the Raymond Chandler novel writing story which is developed as Hayden scripts it out on Raymond Chandler’s old typewriter. This part is tested on the choir members each Sunday during the sermons.

In Hayden’s church is a new female priest who Hayden has difficulty in getting along. The priest wants music such as Kum-Baya and Hayden is masterful at playing and having the choir sing The Eyes of All by Charles Wood. For the non-musical readers the differences involve appropriateness, enrichment, musical class, and not being trendy.

In Hayden’s police work, Willie, the sexton, was found dead in the church during a conference for the Wimmyn’s Empowerment in the Ministry. Willie succeeded in vomiting all over the organ console before his death. His body was discovered due to an anonymous call made from the church. Willie was not the most loved person in the church congregation due to his lack of bathing habits which was covered up by excessively using after-shave. The church usually communicated with him by notes and since he worked at night, this method was preferred by all.

This is a fast-paced gem. THE ALTO WORE TWEED is wonderful in capturing realistic relationships that exist in every church congregation and really emphasizes the power of the organist throughout any church service. By intertwining the numerous facets of Hayden’s jobs, these are paralleled in the novel by the interwoven facets of Hayden’s diverse life. Everyone, especially church goers, will laugh in this delightful gem of a novel.

Mark Schweizer is even more diverse as an author than his character Hayden Konig. He is a trained musician and now, author. He currently is president of St. James Music Press and lives in Kentucky with his wife and two children.


by Douglas Preston
396 pages
ISBN: 0-765-30700-6
December 8, 2003

Eccentric father is what everyone would call Maxwell Broadbent who also wants the best for his sons. However, the wishes of Maxwell’s perception of his sons has the all the sons resentful and in Maxwell’s eye, all of his sons are failures.

In THE CODEX, Maxwell is dying of cancer and wants his sons to earn their inheritance. He has achieved his own goals in life of finding immense wealth while being born with nothing. His sons, to his chagrin, have been pampered and have always taken the easy way out of solving their problems. To challenge them, he has stripped his estate of its wealth and taken it with him. He has had the luscious art works buried and sealed in a hidden tomb with his dead body. The sons’ task is to jointly find the tomb.

The sons independently go off in three different directions at first since they are all grown and don’t communicate well with each other. The eldest son manages to include Maxwell’s old partner who for mysterious reasons has not communicated with him for years. Something happened years ago that caused the two to hate each other.

Another involvement looking for the tomb involved what is in the tomb which is the Mayan codex which has all the natural cures for diseases. Though the book had been found and known about for years, a professor had broken the code of the Mayan language. This codex, then, if found, can now be translated and used today. Unfortunately, a drug company knows of this and plans to have the codex insure their future.

THE CODEX is a race to find the wealth in the hidden tomb. Will the sons work together ever? Who will get there first?

Douglas Preston has written numerous books on his own and with Lincoln Child. He has worked for the American Museum of Natural History and leads the life he desires. He has even retraced Coronado’s exploration path.

This book is fast-paced, adventurous, and thrilling. All the characters are very believable and their personality faults make them almost lovable. Their learning how to work with each other and to discover their personal integrity and their own values is what makes this novel a wonderful experience.


The Cutting Room
by Laurence Klavan
288 pages
ISBN: 0-345-46274-2
Ballantine Books
February 2004

Movie trivia! Yes, there are people who live for movie trivia and one of these is the character of Roy Milano in The Cutting Room. Roy finds himself in the mystery surrounding the original 1942 film of The Magnificent Ambersons. Since the original movie was cut from over two hours to eighty-eight minutes and reshot with a different ending, there has always been the mystery of whether any original versions still existed and who would have them.

Roy publishes his own movie trivia magazine as his career love and also works as a typesetter, in order to earn money to live. Roy receives a call from a fellow trivia enthusiast, who is the star of his own trivia show on cable, and competitor, about a surprise movie that he offers to show him. When Roy gets to Alan’s apartment, Alan is dead and the film is missing. So Roy anonymously calls the police and starts investigating the missing movie which was the original 148 minute version of The Magnificent Ambersons.

While dodging dead bodies and almost what seems to be a curse following this movie, Roy travels to Los Angeles, New York, Boston, and Barcelona in trailing the film. It seems to follow a pattern of stealing the film and killing, or almost killing, the current possessor of the film. Fortunately along the way, much of Orson Welles life is relived and explained in an attempt of understanding this much misunderstood genius.

When a popular action-adventure actor is within this circle of acquiring this film, he plans to remake Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons starring, surprisingly, his wife and himself. Of course the actor manages to entangle himself with a granddaughter of Orson Welles and with every female assistant he has ever worked. Then also are the wonderful movie trivia couple whose son, Orson, (What else could it be?) is kidnapped.

The Cutting Room is a fast-paced mystery, slightly bordering on a little historical fiction, but well worth the price and definitely the time to read. This should be required reading for every film buff and I could easily visualize this as a stepping-stone to future books with Roy Milano or to the big screen.

Laurence Klavan has already won an Edgar Award for the Best Paperback Original in 1984 under the pseudonym Margaret Tracy and an Obie Award for being the librettist for the musical Bed and Sofa.


Poisoned Again
by Fred Woolverton
ISBN: 1-931742-77-4
Treble Heart Books
$ 13.50 paperback

Pic Piccolo, a photojournalist, has an abundance of bad luck. He really wants to do the right thing, tries to do the right thing now, but has a unique talent for getting in situations that are completely out of his control.

In Poisoned Again, Pic discovers that his niece has been arrested for murder. Since her family is extremely dysfunctional, Pic decides to visit his niece who claims to be innocent. Pic wants to help her so he makes the decision to investigate the murder as a photojournalist.

Pic won a Pulitzer Prize for his investigative reporting, however, he had to give it back since it was discovered that he had manipulated some of his work to make a better story.

Since that time, he has usually done freelance work due to the loss of his reputation and reliability.

Anne, Pic’s niece, constantly tells him that she is innocent and is being framed for the murders of an elderly couple who everyone seems to love, a retired teacher and his wife. What is strange to Pic is the expensive, original art work in their house that a retired teacher could not have afforded.

Throughout this investigative process, Pic manages to get himself in more trouble and always seems to be near the newest murdered victims. Without the skills of 007, Pic is constantly bruised and banged up, and wondering if his niece was framed. The problem with his investigating is that the more he investigates, the more people want to kill him.

Fred Woolverton has a varied background while now working as a computer database administrator in Alabama. His variety of careers is obviously a character trait that he injects into his main character, Pic Piccolo.

Poisoned Again is a fun, fast-paced novel that has the reader wondering if the main character will live to the end of the book. I definitely look forward to future Pic Piccolo novels.