Thursday, March 20, 2008

THE KILLING ROOM by Peter May (Thomas Dunne)

Autopsies are considered gruesome for most of us, but 18 bodies in a mass grave in Shanghai chill even the professionals—these bodies appear to have been autopsied while alive. The grisly murders appear tied to an unsolved case in Beijing, so the whole mess becomes the responsibility of Beijing Detective Li Yan. He calls for the help of his estranged lover, American pathologist Margaret Campbell and the hunt is on. If the case were not difficult enough, the young deputy head of Shanghai's serious crime squad sets her eyes on Li, Margaret is just back from burying her father, and Li's young niece is kidnapped.

This was my first Peter May read, but it certainly won't be my last! I enjoyed the portrayal of China and its customs and being with characters who, while flawed, are good people performing badly under pressure.

GUN SHY by Donna Ball (Signet)

If you like dogs, mysteries, and stories set in the North Carolina mountains, you'll like this one. Raine Stockton has many parts: kennel owner, consultant for the Forest Service, dog trainer for search and rescue operations, wife, and full-time dog lover. Her two-time marriage with Deputy Sheriff Buck is loose, but ardent during on-again times, and that relationship is one reason she is called into emergencies for search and rescue operations. She is now called to resuce a trapped and wild-with-terror dog who's ferociously barking in a remote and unused cabin. If she can't help this Labrador Retriever, he will need to be shot. He's frantic because the body of his murdered mistress is in the bedroom of the cabin and the dog has been in there for several days. Dog lovers will understand the depth of this dog's pain and suffering.

The plot in this mystery is good with a surprise ending that couldn't be imagined. The labyrinthine trail to owner's identity is interesting. While superbly trained, the dog is understandably gun shy. The cast of characters in this small town is interesting, the plot is good, and the descriptions of the mountains during peak leaf season is great. This is a quick, satisfying read-especially on a cold North Carolina day.

--Diane Esterly