Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Replacement Child by Christine Barber

Scanner Lady is a very familiar caller to the newsroom of the Capital Tribune in Santa Fe. One night she calls and gets reporter Lucy Newroe on the phone. Scanner Lady says she's heard two Santa Fe police officers talking about a dead body. The next morning, Lucy goes to the police department to investigate and mentions Scanner Lady's call. When a woman named Patsy Burke is murdered and has a scanner in her home, Lucy feels incredibly guilty and thinks she may have caused Patsy's death. Cop Gil Montoya, on the other hand, is unofficially looking into the death of Melissa Baca. Gil's boss has asked him to look into the case (as a favor to the family), even though the state police are the official investigators. In talking with Gil, Lucy wonders if Patsy overheard talk of Melissa's death. Gil and Lucy share information, both trying to uncover the truth about the death closest to them. In The Replacement Child, Barber fully describes the history and setting of northern New Mexico, most notably Santa Fe. This mystery was the winner of the Tony Hillerman Prize.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Night Stalker by James Swain

Jack Carpenter is a specialist in finding missing children, due to his time as the head of Broward County Missing Persons Unit. Now going solo, he's hired by serial killer Abb Grimes to find his grandson, Sampson, who has been kidnapped from his home. Abb is to be executed in four days and wants Sampson back by then. Sampson's disappearance seems to be related to Abb's talking to the FBI about his crimes, since the ransom note specifically mentioned that Abb's relationship with the FBI will lead to Sampson's death. The police and the FBI are convinced that Sampson's father, Jed (and Abb's son) is the culprit--a case of the son following in his dad's footsteps. Carpenter is sure that someone is trying to frame Jed, but he is not sure why. On his own, Jack is racing against time and the authorities to bring Sampson home safely. Will he be able to find him and clear Jed's name? The Night Stalker is the second book in the Jack Carpenter series and is just as unputdownable as the first (Midnight Rambler). For readers looking for a great new thriller writer. The Jack Carpenter character is very similar to Lee Child's Jack Reacher.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Brutal Heart by Gail Bowen

Political commentator Joanne Kilbourn is enjoying married life with her new husband, lawyer Zack Shreve, when the murder of prostitute Cristal Avilia threatens to cause a rift between them. Zack patronized Cristal well before his relationship with Joanne started, yet saw her the day she died because she tried to blackmail one of his friends. When an explicit dvd is sent to her home, Joanne feels she must find out more about Cristal and her death in order to keep her family safe. Meanwhile, for a program on women and politics, Joanne is shadowing politician Ginny Monaghan as she tries to get re-elected, despite being involved in a custody battle for her twin teenage daughters. Again, Gail Bowen has written a mystery featuring all aspects of a woman's life. I especially like the setting of Regina, Saskatchewan and Bowen's descriptions of Joanne's everyday activities.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Song for You by Betsy Thornton

Rachel Macabee's life has been unsettled since her mother, Annie, was murdered when Rachel was a child. Now grown and married, Rachel suffers from panic attacks and nightmares about her youth. When a body is unearthed in Dudley, Arizona, where she grew up, it may give her the chance to finally put things right. The body turns out to be her mother's best friend, Wynn Wykoff--and it looks as though he was killed at about the same time her mother died--seventeen years ago. Rachel and her husband, Scott, decide to hire detective Brian Flynn to try and find out who killed Wynn and Annie. At the time, Annie's boyfriend Kurt Dickens was tried and acquitted for her murder. Rachel believes Kurt was innocent and would hate for him to be arrested again for Wynn's death. Chloe Newcombe joins Flynn in his investigation, having just left her job as a victim's advocate for the county's Victim Witness Program. Chloe and Flynn have their work cut out for them--finding the files and witnesses from a case almost twenty years old. Hopefully they can find justice and peace for Rachel..... A Song for You is the fifth book in the Chloe Newcombe mystery series. I like this series because of the great sense of place for the artsy town of Dudley and the liberal, free-spiritedness of Chloe's character.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Spoonful of Poison by M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin is asked by the vicar of Comfrey Magna to help organize the village fete, since she has a background in public relations. The event looks to be on track for great success when Agatha books a well-known singer for the fest. The day turns tragic, however, when someone poisons the jams that are part of the jam tasting contest and two residents die. Agatha's detective agency is then hired to find out who was responsible. Agatha, along with her young associate Toni, delves into the lives of the residents of Comfrey Magna--especially handsome widower George Selby (who catches Agatha's eye) and the ladies who made the various jams. Will Agatha and her team again find the murderer before the police do? A Spoonful of Poison is a lighthearted look into English village life through the eyes of the sometimes abrasive yet lovable Agatha Raisin.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dead Man's Footsteps by Peter James

Broke Englishman Ronnie Wilson is in New York City on September 11th to try and work a deal with his old friend who works at the World Trade Center. Six years later, Abby Dawson is living under an assumed name in Brighton and fears someone is out to get her. When Detective Superintendent Roy Grace's team is called to investigate a skeleton in a tunnel, the lives of these characters intersect. Grace and his colleagues have to wade through lies and fake identities and travel to two continents in order to unmask the killer. Dead Man's Footsteps is another worthy addition to the Roy Grace series. It's such a pity that no American publisher has picked up these books after Carroll and Graf (now defunct) published the first two (this is the fourth). A great read-alike for Peter Robinson.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hold My Hand by Serena Mackesy

Bridget knows she must leave London to give both herself and her young daughter, Yasmin, a better life. Her ex-husband, Kieran, is abusive and won't leave them alone. Bridget prays she gets the job as housekeeper at Rospetroc, an old manor house in Cornwall that the owner rents out to vacationers. Bridget gets the job and figures it will be a fresh start for them, being on their own in a great big house. What she doesn't plan on is the presence of Lily, a girl who came to Rospetroc from Portsmouth as a refugee during World War II. Interspersed with Bridget's story is Lily's nightmarish tale of living with one Mrs. Blackmore, who detests her. Bridget's concerns at first are for settling in and the hope that Kieran never finds them. But when Yasmin begins to talk about a friend named Lily that no one is familar with, she becomes worried. Soon, the past and the present collide violently. Serena Mackesy has created a compulsively readable novel about a woman starting over amidst the tumult that surrounds her.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Hurting Distance by Sophie Hannah

When he fails to show up for their weekly hotel tryst, Naomi Jenkins is worried that something has happened to her married lover, Robert. After the police don't make his disappearance a priority, Naomi lies to them and says that Robert raped her three years ago, figuring that they will work harder to find him. Naomi's untruth leads DS Charlie Zailer and her partner DC Simon Waterhouse to try separate fact from fiction as they become involved with a group of liars and reluctant witnesses. Naomi was, in fact, raped a few years ago, but by whom? Is her case connected to incidents with other women that Charlie and Simon have discovered? And what about Robert? Hurting Distance is a read-alike for Nicci French with a little Minette Walters thrown in.