RECOMMEDATIONS

HITMAN by Parnell Hall. Forget the psychological studies, the festering family secrets, the old standard PI brought up to date, and pause to savor the word banter of a Stanley Hastings mystery. Stanley, trying to do right, rarely gets it right but is usually set straight by wife Alice. In HITMAN, Stanley is faced with the ethical problem of taking a hitman for a client. When the "hitman" is taken out, Stanley ends up in the middle of the investigation and, of course, he tries to talk his way out of it, while solving the case.

THE KILLER'S WIFE by Bill Floyd. Leigh Wren has found a new life for herself and her son. It wasn't easy after all the publicity of being the wife of a convicted serial killer. Then the father of a victim begins stalking her, making wild accusations, and finally exposing her past to the community. Faced with humiliation, Leigh is presented with a new threat when a copy cat killer appears and it seems that she and her son are his target. Debut novel with a style smooth as silk.

THE EVER-RUNNING MAN by Marcia Muller. Veteran PI Sharon McCone is hired to find the "ever-running man" (so called because he's seen running from the scene of the crime), who has wreaked havoc on husband Hy's security firm. Working for Hy's company, she uncovers corrupt practices that may involve her husband and jeopardize her marriage. Meanwhile, she narrowly escapes an explosion at the SF offices. Always a professional product!

ZOO STATION by David Downing. Journalist John Russell writes for the British and American press from his longtime residence in Berlin. Now it's 1939 Germany and, although he has a German wife and 11-year-old son, Russell must carefully watch his actions as he gets involved with Soviet connections and he assists a Jewish family to leave the country. Things get complicated when both Nazi and British intelligence call on him to do a bit of spying.

DEATH OF A MURDERER by Rupert Thomson. A woman, convicted of unspeakable torture and murders committed with her psychopathic boyfriend over 35 years ago (Moors Murders 1960s), has died of natural causes while serving her prison term. Her body lies in the hospital morgue basement awaiting burial. Constable Billy Tyler has been assigned the duty of guarding the remains of this "monster," "sick killer," "devil." The impact of this unusual assignment on a very ordinary man is most remarkable. Included in everyone's Best Books of '07 list.

LOSING YOU by Nicci French. Nina Landry "knows" her daughter is missing when 15-year-old Charlie does not return from her overnight the next morning. No one-cops, Charlie's friends, Charlie's father-take her disappearance seriously. Thus begins the struggle. Nicci French (Nicci Gerrard and Sean French) once again champion the not always strong woman's efforts to prevail over what seem like insurmountable obstacles without creating the Wonder Woman effect.

THE SILVER SWAN by Benjamin Black. Award winning novelist John Banville, writing as Benjamin Black, presents once again the irascible formerly hard-drinking Dublin pathologist Quirke in another spellbinding case in which a young woman's dubious suicide sets off a string of hazards and deceptions. As in CHRISTINE FALLS, simultaneously released in trade paperback, Quirke seems unable to "let go" of his inquisitive ways when an old classmate, husband of the deceased, asks him for a suicide testimony at the coroner's inquest.

UNSPOKEN by Mari Jungstedt. In Jungstedt's second crime novel set in Gotland, Sweden, Anders Knutas searches for a missing 14-year-old girl. Explicit photographs of the girl and a stranger tie this case to the brutal murder of alcoholic photographer Heny Dahlstrom. News and interest spread throughout the country and TV journalist Johan Berg of UNSEEN fame is sent from Stockholm to cover the story. The Scandinavians are a voice to be recognized!

ZUGZWANG by Ronan Bennett. Zugzwang is a chess term that describes those endgame moves that can only lead to defeat. Chess is at the heart of the 1914 St Petersburg thriller in which respected Jewish psychoanalyst Otto Spethmann struggles to save two of his patients, one of whom aspires to the
World Chess Championship. His "moves" are vital to the survival of one and the successful treatment of the other. At the same time, Police Inspector Lychev includes the good doctor in a murder investigation
.
THE WATER'S LOVELY by Ruth Rendell. WATER'S LOVELY centers on a 12-year-old childhood secret shared by two sisters still living in the family home, but now broken into apartments, upstairs for mostly homebound Mom, downstairs for the daughters, Ismay and Heather. Both sisters are on the verge of marriage. Must the chilling event of stepfather Guy's bathtub drowning be revisited? Delicious characters abound in R Rendell's novel much to the total enjoyment of her fans.

A LONG SHADOW by Charles Todd. This mother and son writing team has created
another intriguing Insp Rutledge mystery in which Rutledge himself is the
one who is hunted. An engraved cartridge casing from a bullet brings back
war memories and becomes the clue to the resolution of the case. A solid
entry to this haunting series.

HOLMES ON THE RANGE by Steve Hockensmith. Cowboy Old Red Amlingmeyer
collects clues Sherlock Holmes style to solve the murder at the Bar VR ranch
in 1890 Montana. And brother Big Red helps, in this novel of the Wild West
kind of story that brings to mind Joe Lansdale and his humorous East Texas
lore.

THE OLD WINE SHADES by Martha Grimes. Richard Jury can use all the help he
can get in his latest case, or is it a case? Trouble is, he met a guy in a
pub and, over drinks and dinner, he wove a tale of a mother/son
disappearance (there’s a dog in it too) that kept Jury coming back night
after night. So what was Jury to do when the woman’s dead body turns up, and
the guy denies he ever told the tale? A very clever read!

DISORDERED MINDS by Minette Walters. Somehow I overlooked this Walters
masterpiece, now in paperback. So to make amends: Anthropologist Jonathan
Hughes pairs up with Bournemouth resident councillor George (female)Gardner
to reexamine the1970 Stamp case. Howard Stamp was a retarded 20-year-old who
was charged with the brutal murder of his grandmother; he later committed
suicide. As they sort out the evidence and confront the local "gentry", it
becomes apparent the murderer is still at large and living in Bournemouth.

CATCH ME WHEN I FALL by Nicci French. This male/female-writing duo always
presents a woman-in-peril. In CATCH ME, Hally Kraus, a talented and
successful businesswoman, is on a fast track to disaster. Manic/depressive,
most likely, but definitely in need of help when her life and male
relationships spin out of control. Will Charlie, her rock, be the one to
catch her? I literally could not put this book down, read it in 2 sittings.

THE DARKEST PLACE by Daniel Judson. College professor Deacon Kane has come
to Shinnecock Bay to recover from his only son’s death and put his life back
together. When a series of mysterious drownings prove not to be of the
accidental nature, Kane finds himself implicated and must struggle for
survival. Shamus winner Judson (POISONED ROSE, BONE ORCHID) combines a
frightening plot with a vast cast of memorable characters in this riveting
crime novel set in the seedy underside of the Hamptons

THE BIG BOOM by Dominic Stansberry. Edgar Award winner D Stansberry (THE
CONFESSION, THE LAST DAYS OF IL DUCE) scribes the 2nd SF" North Beach
mystery featuring Dante Mancuso, ex-cop turned PI, who still faces demon of
the past from his police career. His latest case envolving a missing
daughter becomes a homicide when her body washes up in the bay. Recommended
for fans of noir.

JACQUOT AND THE WATERMAN by Martin O’Brien. Welcome Chief Inspector Daniel
Jacquot from the sunlit city of Marseilles as he deals with this notorious
French port. In this well-drawn, strongly flavored setting, Jacquot
investigates the murders of battered beautiful female victims, whose bodies
have been dumped in the harbor. It is easy to succumb to the charm of this
newfound cop.

BORKMAN’S POINT by Hakan Nesser. A Swedish police procedural appeals to the
reader who respects the investigator who carefully fits the pieces together
to solve the crime. In Nesser’s award winning novel, our inspector must play
chess, drink wine and eat fine food, and finally weigh the evidence to crack
the case of what seems to be a series of random murders. Ah Borkman’s
Point!-that particular stage when enough pieces have been gathered to master
the puzzle. Bravo!

PURSUED by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza. In this 5th entry of the Insp Espinosa
Brazilian series, a troubled psychiatrist seeks help as he believes a
patient is stalking him. The situation worsens when the patient, a young
man, imposes himself on the doctor’s family and befriends a daughter.
Espinosa must separate the real from the imagines if he is to protect the
lives of both the patient and the members of the family. South America has
its own style too.

FULL DARK HORSE by Christopher Fowler. London’s Police Dept’s Peculiar
Crimes’ Unit is manned by Arthur Bryant with the able assistance of John May
during the Blitz of WWI. This "peculiar" twosome, unable, to serve in the
forces because of age or physical ability, face their first challenge-a
grizzly murder in the Palace Theater opening with the production of "Orpheus
in Hell". Fans of the movie "Mrs Henderson Presents" will be on familiar
ground in this sophisticated debut.

DRAMA CITY by George Pelecanos. Lorenzo Brown is a released prisoner, working as an officer for the Humane Society saving and protecting dogs of the District of Columbia. Rachael Lopez is his parole officer, doing her best to help her clients to resist old ways and start life anew. With a precise style, Pelacanos moves these two characters slowly and carefully to action that is inevitable to the climax of the novel. Will it prove fatal for either or both of these two people we have come to care for? It is our fear. Read on and you will be happily rewarded. Best of the year!

THE TORMENTS OF OTHERS by Val McDermid. Dr Tony Hill and Det Chief Insp Carol Jordan of BBC TV fame return in this polished account of their new case involving a vicious murder of a prostitute. Carol has just resumed her position in Bradfield, not fully recovered from the sexual assault sustained in the line of duty (THE LAST TEMPTATION), and facing the test of her ability to face the challenges her career. Her best yet!

HARD TRUTH by Nevada Barr. Anna Pigeon's latest assignment takes her to Rocky Mountain National Park, where three girls have disappeared during a religious retreat. When two of the girls reappear, little light is shone on the situation and Anna must cope with a religious cult that protects its secrets and harbors the girls far from Anna's reach.

HITLER'S PEACE by Philip Kerr. It's 1943,the eve of the Big Three Conference in Teheran. FDR enlists the expertise of professor of philosophy and author Willard A Mayer, an OSS operative who was raised on the continent. His task is to investigate the alleged Russian atrocities against Polish officers at Katyn Forest. Meanwhile, Himmler, also preparing for the Teheran Conference, has Operation Long Jump, a plan to assassinate Stalin on the table, while Hitler himself, proposes a meeting with the Big Three to explain his plan for peace. Kerr, once again, successfully creates the Berlin noir setting.

BROKEN PREY by John Sanford. There's a new killer loose whose MO resembles those of serial killers locked up "safely" in the Minnesota Security Hospital. Lucas Davenport and his team must move quickly to stop the killing and any possible schooling by those already incarcerated. John Sanford continues to surprise and satisfy in this the 16th of the best-selling Prey novels.

THE RIGHT MADNESS by James Crumley. Ex-army officer CW Sughrue, that tough and cynical, but goodhearted soul, can't refuse Will Kinderich, when he is asked to recover the Doctor's stolen psychoanalysis patient files. This eleventh novel takes you tripping through hard-boiled pages scented with alcohol, drugs, and sex, and delivers that poetic touch that has earned Crumley his distinctive reputation.

DEAD OF NIGHT by Randy Wayne White. When Doc Ford checks out a friend's reclusive biologist brother, he interrupts his brutal beating/questioning by a Russian duo, female (brains), male (brawn). This gifted scientist has naively been drawn into a nightmare of biological warfare. His research could provide fuel for terrorist strikes. Randy White takes a giant step in this engrossing techno-style mystery.

OUT OF RANGE by C J Box. We're back in beautiful Joe Pickett Wyoming. Joe is sent to Jackson to temporarily fill fellow game warden Will Jensen's position. Jensen is dead, an apparent suicide. When Joe arrives at this playground of the rich and famous, he faces the problem of why Will took his own life, and his own physical attraction to a married woman. We know he will do the right thing.

 

THE MAN IN THE BASEMENT by Walter Mosley Charles Blakely has a beautiful family home and is a black man free of a background haunted by slavery, but Charles is at a low point in his life-he's lost his job and is behind in the mortgage payments. When Anniston Bennett offers to rent his basement, even though Bennett is white and the conditions strange, Charles accepts, the money is exceptionally good. Mosley skillfully handles the interplay between black and white as Bennett becomes completely under the control of Charles. A literary gem.

HARD REVOLUTION by George Pelecanos George Pelecanos, Greek descent D C resident, continues his labor of love series featuring black ex-cop turned PI Derek Strange. HARD REVOLUTION examines Strange's young life as a rookie cop to expand the dimensions of this already well defined character, as we see the D C streets through the eyes of a young cop juxtaposed with those of the older cop, Frank Vaughn, about to retire. Pelecanos doesn't just know, he cares, a lot.

SHADOW MAN by Jonathon King Ex-Philly cop Max Freeman is still living in his isolated shack on a river in the Glades. What brings him out of his reclusive life, this time? Well, It's an 80-year-old mystery of the disappearance of a father and two sons. When old letters are found, questions begin anew only to be met with opposition and eventually, violence. Richly phrased with a poet's eye for beauty of the magnificent Florida Everglades!

THE HANGED MAN'S SONG by John Sanford When friend superhacker Bobby disappears from cyberspace, Sanford's computer whizz Kidd goes looking for him, only to find him dead at his house and his laptop missing. This missing laptop contains damning information for Kidd and Bobby's circle. Time is of the essence: find Bobby's killer, retrieve the laptop and protect the group! Great characters.

HIGH COUNTRY by Nevada Barr Anna Pigeon's new assignment is in Yosemite National Park, not as a ranger, but as a waitress, working undercover at the historic Ahwahnee Hotel. Her job is to get to the bottom of the disappearance of four seasonal park employees and, as you know, Anna always delivers and then some. She continues to take matters into her own hands as she does a solo hike into the high country, where she faces those seemingly impossible dangers that always challenge her special trademark abilities.

BACKLIST by Sara Paretsky S Paretsky's latest stirs up the old ashes of McCarthyday hearings and the fatal consequences to careers of those gifted in the arts, who foolishly or deliberately associated with reds menacing 1950 America. A noted young African-American reporter, known for working on projects secretly, is found murdered, and as V I develops the details in the very aggressive Warshawski manner, buried documents cast a very different light on the highly respected, one of whom stoops to murder.

SUNSET AND SAWDUST by Joe Lansdale Lansdale challenges Dan Woodrell with his "tomato red", Sunset Jones, who takes it to the likes of the good ole boys of depression-era East Texas. She begins by shooting her constable-husband Pete for his brutal raping ways. Next she takes up his badge and enforces the law to the surprise of everyone. When the oil-drenched bodies of a woman and her unborn baby are discovered, she must combat crime resulting from oil and greed, but luckily only on a local level.

COTTONWOOD by Scott Phillips Scott Phillips, new Webster Groves neighbor of John Lutz, has scribed his third Kansas interwoven tale of rich characters who line the streets of Wichita or nearby early day COTTONWOOD. Like Woodrell and Lansdale, Phillips has that fine regional touch to portray common folk with genuine appeal. COTTONWOOD describes a town with high hopes of the railroad and all the prosperity that comes with it. ICE HARVEST, the first novel of this group, is currently being made into a movie starring John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton.

DRAGON'S EYE by Andy Oakes 8 mutilated bodies shackled together are discovered on the mudflats of the Huangpu River. It's Shanghai Chief Investigator Sun Piao’s case. Barbara Hayes, an American who works for the U S Government with diplomatic connections arrives in Shanghai to find her missing son. When her son is identified as one of the victims, she teams with Piao to find those responsible for such a barbarous act. Their investigation is blocked at every turn and Piao stands accused of misconduct and even murder as they dig deeper into the case. Chinese noir has arrived.

TELLING LIES TO ALICE by Laura Wilson Cocktail waitress Alice Conway discovers the body of her fiancee Lenny Maxted of the comedy team Maxted & Flowers of show biz fame. Death by suicide is the verdict. After an unsuccessful marriage, Alice flees the fast lane to a life of solitude. But there is no escape from the past as anonymous letters stir up lie upon lie and an unsolved murder. Alice, now herself threatened, must distinguish fact from falsehood if she is to survive.

QUESTION OF BLOOD by Ian Rankin & PLAYING WITH FIRE by Peter Robinson. Rankin and Robinson are the top male British police procedural writers whose books get better with each installment. Janet Maslin of the New York Times can't seem to make up her mind as to whom she prefers. Try them and see for yourself. Oh, and by the way, Rankin's RESURRECTION MEN just won the Edgar.

 

MARK'S REVIEWS
Sara Gran, DOPE. Josephine Flannigan is asked to find a Barnard dropout in
1950 Manhattan, because of her own experience as a drug addict, thief, and
prostitute. DOPE is an early candidate for the best mystery of 2006, because
Gran delivers pitch-perfect characters in a world of drifters and losers.
Her 1950 cityscape matches my late 50s memories, while her dialogue brought
Jo’s people just out of the shadows for quick glimpses. Jo herself has the
integrity of one of Lisa McLendon’s best "heroines."

Robert B Parker, SEA CHANGE. Paradise (Marblehead-like) Police Chief Jesse
Stone is the star of the Parker continuing series that’s almost never over
the top. Rather, a full set of suburban North Shore personalities are worth
getting to know, and Stone’s ever present confidence and self-regard can be
appreciated. One "sea change" is the tide that interrupts Paradise’s regatta
week, by bringing in the corpse of a blonde visitor. Stone has a hard time
however interesting the yachting community in this diversion from their
holidaying.

Michael Baron, THE MOURNING SEXTON. Bankruptcy lawyer David Hirsch is an
ex-felon seeking redemption, keeping up his synagogue’s minyan (like Paddy
Chayefsky’s 10th MAN), and launching a wrongful death suit concerning a 3
year-old automobile accident. Michael Kahn (Baron) always had a gift for the
flavor of legal practice; here he addresses some matters of St Louis
interest, such as the reputation of the early St Louis County circuit court,
and the architectural basis for the Civil Courts Building.

Steve Berry, THE TEMPLAR LEGACY. Deep in the Languedoc area of France is an
abbey of Templars, and there is ferment over the transition in its
leadership (with lots of reference to the attack on the Templars by France’s
Philip the Fair and by the Inquisition). Also, holy Templar books seen to be
coming on the auction market, leading to conflicts in Copenhagen.

Rebecca Pawel, THE SUMMER SNOW. Carlos Tejada, in 1945, accompanied by Elena
and Tonio, is sent from his mountain-based Civil Guard assignment to unravel
the homicide of his great aunt in Granada and associated disputes over the
family’s inheritances. The wonderful Elena never has been accepted by the
Tejada family, so internecine conflict hardly was resolved with that death.

David Hewson, THE SACRED CUT. Rome police officers Costa and Peroni discover
the corpse left by a serial killer with a Vitruvian cut (an individual
within a squared circle) on her back on the floor of the Pantheon. With that
incredibly rare Roman snow drifting in. Then, all of a sudden, the FBI is
all over them, right there in their own sovereign nation. Excellent writing,
and the opportunity to tour Rome.

Sue Grafton, S IS FOR SILENCE. Kinsey Milhone’s new case is a small town
trollop, lost now for 34 years. Her abandoned daughter wants resolution to
regain some self-esteem. Grafton then has the opportunity to brilliantly
sketch small town southern California life of the 1950s. The town bad girl,
regularly beat up by her husband, nevertheless has had an amazing impact on
her neighbors, even as Kinsey meets them 34 years later.

David Baldacci, THE CAMEL CLUB. Since ABSOLUTE POWER, in which an outsider
holds the President and the Secret Service accountable, Baddacci has
presented lots of imaginative story telling in his series of best sellers.
THE CAMEL CLUB remixes these same ingredients on an appropriately broad
canvas. It seems that some very alternative Washingtonians meet weekly to
review conspiracy theories. So, one evening their Roosevelt Island campsite
is invaded by two killers and their top intelligence agency victim.

Faye and Jonathan Kellerman, DOUBLE HOMICIDE. This best selling couple
offers two stand-alone novel police procedurals-set respectively in Santa Fe
and Boston. Away from their home California turf, the Kellermans can be a
little out of sorts; a Boston cop laments that "we serve and protect in the
land of pretentious eggheads," in which a college basketball star dies at a
nightclub. It is a gay art gallery magnate who bites the Santa Fe dirt.

Brian Freemantle, THE HOLMES FACTOR. This is the second of this series (by
the author of the brilliant Charlie Muffin espionage entertainments and the
remarkable Danlov procedurals), features Sherlock, Sebastian, and Mycroft
Holmes and Dr Watson, as the try to serve a 1915 England on thee brink of
World War 1.Sebastian travels to Moscow (Sidney Reillyland), where he must
deal with the Okhrana and where he meets my cousin Alexander Kerensky (it’s
always upsetting when family members turn out to be historical figures).

Michael Koryta, SORROW’S ANTHEM. What’s amazing about the talent of this new
young writer of PI stories (this is Lincoln Perry‘s second outing) is not
just how well he contributes to the genre (introspective 1st person
commentary, characters who evolve powerfully as the reader gets to know
them), but how penetratingly he explores the lives of a working class
neighborhood (much as Sue Grafton does). SORROW’S ANTHEM is the sirens
heading into an accident scene; Perry’s boyhood friend is back in deep
trouble and Perry owes him-big time.

Daniel Silva, A DEATH IN VIENNA. The third of the Gabriel Allon trilogy picks up the art restorer and reluctant Mossad agent, as he is asked once again to pursue Israel's and the Jewish people's enemies across the great cities of Europe. This time, he is confronted by the vestiges of Nazi control of Austria during a Haider-like national election, and he movingly draws upon the work of his late surviver artist-mother for help in solving a current problem.

Brian Freemantle, THE TRIPLE CROSS. This Cowley-Danilov American-Russian collaboration story begins with a Moscow mafia brigadier's gruesome method for terrorizing his colleagues to gain control of Russian crime and continues on, as he attempts to become "king of kings" by negotiating pacts with the American and Italian mafias. Our FBI and Moscow's militia oppose his plotting in a story, which like most of Freemantle's, focuses on the intricacies of bureaucratic infighting.

Lisa See, DRAGON BONES. This is the 3rd in this powerful series set in China concerning Liu Hulan, a red princess high in state security, and her American lawyer husband David Stark. For St Louisans who went to see Ji's work at the Contemporary Art Museum, this case farther explores the sites of the Three Gorges Dam, where foreign archeologists have been murdered, antiquities are being shopped and a Fulan Gong-like group is agitating. Lisa See, by the way, is Carolyn See's daughter.

Grace F Edwards, THE VIADUCT. What has been so successful in Edwards’s contemporary Mali Anderson series has been her gift for detailing the rich texture of Harlem life. In this stand-alone, she writes about Harlem's summer of 1972, when very different characters, some just back from Vietnam, struggle to control their rage, especially when a newborn baby is kidnapped from Harlem Hospital.

Robert B Parker, BAD BUSINESS. This is a surprisingly sharp Spenser series story, because Parker focuses on an interesting PI case, not on the interactions of the series characters. Spenser takes on a matrimonial case involving a corporate executive and his wife. Soon, lots of infidelities are emerging at that company. Also, it seems like the company's product is energy futures. So there may be some more crimes to uncover.

Barbara Hambly, DAYS OF THE DEAD. Series readers may have wondered how news of the Alamo would affect 1836 New Orleans. Hambly sends January to Mexico City before the battle to save Hannibal Sefton from a homicide charge, and Santa Anna himself is one of the visitors to a hacienda ruled over by a Prospero/Lear sort of landowner. At question: what cooperation can an African-American actually expect from Mexicans preparing to keep Texas free of slavery?

Barbara Cleverly, RAGTIME IN SIMLA. It is 1922 in India's summer capital, and Joe Sandilands of Scotland Yard is handed his second case, when the Russian opera singer sharing Joe's cab is assassinated. While this excellent story offers Agatha Christie-like period detail, what's most outstanding is the warm camaraderie of the police procedural characters.

Robert Andrews, A MURDER OF JUSTICE. This is the third Kearney-Phelps D C police procedural, and it also is a reconsideration both of the prevalence of homicide and the power of gang drugdealing in the District. These two homicide detectives, working with the FBI, come up with some of those ubiquitous cold cases, especially the murder of a key congressional staffer, and they meet people a lot like Pat Moynihan and former St Louisan Anthony Williams.

Alan Russell, POLITICAL SUICIDE. Former West Pointer Will Travis is working as a detective evaluating restaurants and hotels, when he meets the beautiful daughter of a deceased congressman, who wants to know whether her father's death is tied to one of the candidates for president. Soon, they are on the run in what primarily is a chase conspiracy thriller. Travis, as narrator, is a lot of fun, even when he confronts a large tree as an entrenched opponent.

 

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