Sunday, February 24, 2008

Review of THE BLACKSMITH'S DAUGHTER by Suzanne Adair

by Suzanne Adair
Whittler’s Bench Press
Wilmington, NC 28406
ISBN: 9780978526535
Paperback, 354 pages, $19.95
Genre: Historical fiction

The second book in Suzanne Adair’s Revolutionary War series features Betsy Sheridan, daughter to Sophie Barton, the main character in her first book, PAPER WOMAN. Seventeen-year-old Betsy is pregnant and married to Clark Sheridan, a successful cobbler and avowed Loyalist. Although Betsy is a neutral, her parents have been branded spies by the British and are in hiding. When Betsy finds a coded message in one of Clark’s boots and witnesses a mysterious meeting between her husband and a Spaniard, she begins to suspect he, too, may be a spy for the rebels. But Betsy is loyal to Clark and holds her tongue. Shortly thereafter, their house is burned to the ground and her husband disappears. Betsy, aware that the British now suspect her of treason, intends to find Clark with the help of his apprentice Tom Alexander before joining her parents. Not far behind is Lieutenant Dunstan Fairfax, who wants nothing more than to find Sophie Barton, and he’ll do anything, including murder, to get to her.

THE BLACKSMITH’S DAUGHTER is a rollicking adventure from beginning to end. Adair holds the reader enthralled with constant action, spine-tingling suspense, and superb characterization, all wrapped within historical fact. She conveys the tense conflict between the Loyalists and Rebels, and the danger of being either one, in an exceptional and thought-provoking manner. This is one book the reader will not want to put down.

Review of THE MARATHON MURDERS by Chester Campbell

By Chester D. Campbell
Night Shadows Press
ISBN: 9780979916717
Tradeback, 215 pages, $14.95
Genre: Mystery

When Colonel Warren Jarvis asks Greg and Jill McKenzie, owners of McKenzie Investigations, to take on the case of his good friend Kelli Kane, they readily agree. Jarvis was instrumental in one of their former cases and the McKenzies feel indebted to him. Kelli needs the McKenzies’ help in clearing the name of her great-great-grandfather Sydney Liggett, accused of embezzling funds from Marathon Motor Works in 1914. Kelli’s grandfather recently received a phone call from Pierce Bradley, a construction supervisor at the former Marathon Motors building, who found papers belonging to Sydney Liggett which would have exonerated Liggett had he not disappeared before he could turn them over to the DA. And now Bradley is nowhere to be found. The McKenzies have barely begun their investigation when Bradley’s body is discovered submerged in a lake, but the papers he claimed to have come across are missing. The McKenzies hope to recover the papers, but nothing seems to jell and, to make matters worse, people connected to the investigation are ending up dead. The only clue: a Russian cigarette stub found at each crime scene.

This fourth installment of the Greg McKenzie Mysteries is proof positive the series remains strong and fresh and is a major contender in the mystery venue. Greg and Jill McKenzie are a nice pairing, an amiable blend against the shady backdrop of murder and deceit. This well-plotted cozy is sure to please its fans and lure even more into its fold, the not-so-easily-guessed mystery one readers will enjoy trying to solve.

Review of THE SCENT OF MONEY by Cherri Galbiati

By Cherri Galbiati
L&L Dreampsell
ISBN: 9781603180368
Tradeback, 219 pages, $16.95
Genre: Mystery

Matt and Becca McAllen live in the small town of Spike Texas, where Matt is Chief of Police. When their town’s bank president and his wife are murdered, the only witness is their red German shepherd,Tasha. Becca rescues the dog from a woman who is abusing her and becomes her caretaker. Tasha reminds Becca of a beloved dog she recently lost and Becca is determined to keep her, despite the fact that the bank president’s wife’s brother may stand to inherit her belongings. Matt senses that Tasha can lead them to the murderer, but the murderer quickly targets Becca and Tasha, and Matt is beside himself trying to keep them safe while tracking the killer.

This is an intriguing mystery, filled with twists and turns that will keep the reader guessing throughout. Galbiati’s small-town descriptive draws the reader into the story with a sense of actually being there. Becca has a feisty nature and is a delightful character, a woman who has no problem standing up for herself and who loves her husband very much. The relationship between Matt and Becca is at the center of the story and offers a sweet touch against the dark premise of murder. Tasha, the German shepherd, is an added bonus among a cast of lovable characters. The Scent of Money easily meets the criteria for a guaranteed good read: engaging characters, realistic dialogue, a galvanizing plot, and action-packed suspense.

Review of DANCE ON HIS GRAVE by Sylvia Dickey Smith

By Sylvia Dickey Smith
L&L Dreamspell
ISBN: 9781603180061
Tradeback, 250 pages, $16.95
Genre: Mystery

Sidra Smart is 51 years old and recently divorced from her preacher husband. When her brother dies in a motor vehicle accident, Sid, inherits his investigative firm, The Third Eye, in Orange, Texas. Sidra has no experience as an investigator and initially intends to sell the business but is intrigued by a young woman named Jewell, who claims her father murdered a woman 30 years before. Although Jewell was three when it happened, her memories are so intense, Sid can’t help but wonder if they’re real. She questions Jewell’s sister, Emma, who corroborates much of what Jewell remembers. Emma and Jewell confide in Sid their father’s cruelty, and both, along with their mother, are suffering mental and emotional sequelae as a result of his abuse. Sid contacts the sheriff of Orange, Texas with the information Jewell has provided, and shortly thereafter, her life is threatened. This makes Sid more determined than ever to bring justice upon the man who has severely damaged so many lives. But someone is intent on stopping her.

Dance on his Grave is a strong start to the Third Eye series and is sure to develop a large reader base. Sid Smart is a compelling character; a woman who lived a sheltered life until she decided she wanted out of a controlling relationship and is now determined to start her life anew, despite antagonistic actions from members of her husband’s parsonage. A female baby-boomer as a private eye is a fresh addition to the mystery genre, even more appealing, one with intelligence and maturity. Sid’s Aunt Annie is a likeable, albeit quirky character, and Sid’s mentor George Leger lends a colorful Cajun ambience to the story. This well-written mystery falls under the category of page-turner and will keep the reader entertained throughout.

Review of FLESH AND BONE by Jefferson Bass

By Jefferson Bass
Harper Collins/William Morrow
ISBN: 9780060759834
Hardback, 361 pages, $24.95
Genre: Mystery

Chattanooga medical examiner Jess Carter has been acting ME for Knoxville since the suspension of Dr. Garland Hamilton based on testimony by Dr. Bill Brockton, forensic anthropologist and founder of the Body Farm. When Brockton is asked by Carter to help investigate the death of a transvestite mutilated and bound to a tree in a state park, he recreates the crime scene at the Body Farm using a cadaver similar in appearance and body. As Carter and Brockton proceed through their investigation, they acknowledge their attraction for one another and tentatively begin a relationship. But very quickly, Brockton discovers Carter’s nude body tied to the surrogate corpse at the Body Farm, and all clues point to Brockton as the murderer. Brockton is banned from his offices at the University of Tennessee and his house has been taken over by the Knoxville Police Department as they build their case against him. With the aid of friend and renowned criminalist Arthur Bohanan, Brockton begins a frenzied investigation into the murder of Dr. Carter, which puts his own life in peril.

Jefferson Bass is the pseudonym for the writing team of journalist Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Bass, the actual founder of the Body Farm. The two have once more created a good whodunit while providing an edifying look into the fascinating world of forensic anthropology. Although the book tackles an issue some may find offensive, this does not detract from an overall good read.

Review of PEGASUS DESCENDING by James Lee Burke

By James Lee Burke
Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9780743277723
Hardback, 356 pages
Genre: Mystery

Years ago, Dave Robicheaux witnessed a good friend’s brutal death during a bank robbery at a time when Robicheaux was too drunk to intervene or help. This memory has followed him through sobriety and into his job as a detective with the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Department. Robicheaux is unsettled when Trish Klein, his dead friend’s daughter, shows up in his hometown, even more so that the men he thinks responsible for his friend’s death are now living there. Robicheaux suspects Trish has vengeance on her mind and grows concerned when he learns Clete Purcel, his former partner and best friend, is involved with Trish. Even more discomfiting to Robicheaux is his investigation into the apparent suicide of a young college student that leads back to the men who killed his friend years earlier.

Dave Robicheaux is a complex character, an alcoholic haunted by demons from his tour of duty in Vietnam. Married to a former nun, Robicheaux desperately tries to lead a good life and seeks redemption through her, but cannot shake the past nor his more primitive nature. James Lee Burke writes with a love and admiration for southern Louisiana, delivered with a Cajunesque lilt. The plot is twisty enough to keep the reader guessing, the characterization intriguing.