Saturday, January 28, 2006

TROUBLE IN PARADISE by Pip Granger (Poisoned Pen Press)

If you were as enchanted by Granger's Agatha-nominiated NOT ALL TARTS ARE APPLES as I, you'll be delighted to read the prequel. Since APPLE's narrator, young Rosie, hasn't been born yet, Zelda, a young World War II wife delivers the story. It's a charming look at a tiny neighborhood in London at the end of the War. While not a mystery by the purest standards, this engrossing novel has enough elements to fall under the crime fiction umbrella. No matter its classification, however, it's delightful reading.

CARVED IN BONE by Jefferson Bass (Wiliam Morrow)

Forensic fans, walk don't run to your local bookstore! This is the real thing. The writing team of Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson (Jefferson Bass) set their first collaboration in and around the University of Tennessee's Anthropology Research Facility, better known as the Body Farm, that Dr. Bass founded more than 25 years ago. Fictional director of the farm Dr. Bill Brockton is called to rural Cooke County, Tennessee by the sherrif to examine a body found in a cave. The suspense never falters—except to deliver realistic details. If I wished for better dialog, forensic fans will be well satisfied with details! Fortunately, I was enthralled with the story, which made up for the slightly stilted conversations. Cornwell and Reichs have a worthy partner in crime.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

HUNG OUT TO DIE by Sharon Short (Avon)

If you've ever had trouble keeping up with characters in a book, you'll know how Josie Toadfern felt when she met all of her father's family at a Thanksgiving reunion. Josie's dad left home when she was two, so naturally her mom didn't feel obligated to introduce his relatives. Deciding to let bygones be bygones, Josie accepted an invitation to the family dinner, but little did she realize she'd have to solve a murder. Short's fans, however, won't be at all surprised, because Josie has become nearly as adept at finding out who dunnit as she is at getting out stains at her laundry. Complicated family situations, personal problems, and old secrets provide just about all Josie can deal with at this holiday occasion. Enjoy the read.

Monday, January 16, 2006

DARK FIRE by C. J. Sansom (Penguin)

Following his CWA Ellis Peters Histosrical Dagger Award-winning DISSOLUTION, Sansom has another winner. In this outing, hunchback lawyer Matthew Shardlake is commissioned by Oliver Cromwell to find the source of a 16th century weapon of mass destruction. Although commissions from Cromwell are not to be ignored, Matthew has another compelling case on his hands--defending a young girl accused of murder who refuses to speak, even when threatened with torture. C. J. Sansom has, with just two books, established himself in historical mystery's forefront.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

GRAVE UNDERTAKING by Mark de Castrique (Poisoned Pen Press)

Barry Clayton didn't want to go into the family business. He wanted to be a policeman, and he was, for a while. When his father's Alzheimer's became pronounced, Barry came home to the NC mountains to manage Clayton and Clayton Funeral Directors. Except for his father's illness, things are going well for Barry in his hometown, perhaps because of Dr. Susan Miller. Then, a simple job turns up a skeleton where it shouldn't be; the skeleton turns up to be who it shouldn't be, and Barry's world turns upside down. Throw in snowy Appalachian weather, corruption in politics, and long memories, and you've got yourself a mighty fine fireplace read! If you can't visit North Carolina this year, this is the next best trip.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

THE GOURDMOTHER by Maggie Bruce (Berkley)

I had serious doubts about this "first gourd crafat mystery" despite the glowing blurbs from writers I truly admire. (That's possibly because mystery writers are so supportive of newcomers!) I just wasn't in the mood for another light-weight cozy with a hook. Despite my hesitancy to start, I quickly realized that Maggie Bruce knows her way around a puzzle. We're talking serious crimes in a small town, many of them hidden by the victim(s). Lili Marino isn't a hobbyist hoping to sell her cute wares at the church bazaar--she's aiming for juried art show sales. Lili's not living off a trust fund either. She got her cottage in Walden Corners, NY in lieu of payment for six months of technical writing. Unlike "ripped from the headlines stories," this is a story that could happen anywhere, any time. Join me in welcoming Maggie Bruce to the mystery world.

DEATH WAXED OVER by Tim Myers (Berkley)

Tim Myers knows how to tell a story that will keep his fans coming back for more. Harrison Black, owner of candle shop At Wick's End, is facing stiff competition from a new franchise whose owner threatens to bury him. Unfortunately, the shoe is on the other foot according to the wife of a newspaper editor when the newcomer is shot right in front of him. Harrison has his work cut out for him when he tries to prove his innocence. Throw in a tight budget and a stalker, and there's enough tension for a lively, well-plotted cozy. What more could you ask for a Sunday afternoon read--except maybe a nice cup of Earl Grey?

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Edge of Evil by J. A. Jance

It's a sad fact of life: Men in TV become distinguished as they age; women become old. Alison Reynolds didn't think it would apply to her this early, she was in her mid-forties; but she was wrong. When relieved of her anchor spot on the LA evening news, she was momentarily distracted by the disappearance of her best friend from high school. Seeking solice from home and a chance to help her friend, she left immediately for Sedona, Arizona. Unlike Thomas Wolfe, Alison found she could go home again. Soon she was slinging hash in her parents diner, visiting old friends, and asking too many questions. Because she voiced her intentions of bringing legal action against both the station and network for her dismissal to her son, he created a blog for his mother where she could chat with her TV fans. Soon she was involved witn the ALS and domestic violence communities. Jance works her usual wonders in her craft--likeable, well-defined characters; multiple story lines; and a compelling delivery. Don't miss this paperback original!

Five Days in Summer by Kate Pepper

You know it's going to be bad: The teaser on the back tells you right up front that Emily Parker won't come home from the grocery store. You aren't warned, however, how little effort the Cape Cod police will put into looking for her. After all, she's a msising adult. You aren't warned about the havoc visited upon a young family when their mother, and primary caregiver, isn't available. You aren't warned about the evil this particular kidnapper inflicts on his victims. You'll find yourself pulling for Emily, her frantic husband Will, and her three young children. You'll warm to retired FBI profiler John Geary and hope to see him again. This is an edge-of-your-seat suspense thriller that'll have you reading far into the night (after checking and re-checking your doors and windows).