Mostly Fiction BOOK REVIEWS


Mystery & Suspense

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The Birthday Present

by Barbara Vine

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Bone by Bone

by Carol O'Connell

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A Reliable Wife

by Robert Goolrick

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American Rust

by Philipp Meyer

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by Craig Holden

in Paperback
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by Michael Robotham

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Private Midnight by Kris Saknussemm - A seductive story of grit, gunplay, vampirism, and a bit of bondage. (March 2009) author page

Black Noir edited by Otto Penzler The best mystery and crime fiction ever produced by African-American writers. (March 2009) author page

Long Lost by Harlan Coben - Myron Bolitar hasn’t heard from Terese Collins since their torrid affair ended ten years ago, so her desperate phone call from Paris catches him completely off guard. In a shattering admission, Terese reveals the tragic story behind her disappearance. Now a suspect in the murder of her ex-husband in Paris, Terese has nowhere else to turn for help. Myron heeds the call. But then a startling piece of evidence turns the entire case upside down. (March 2009)

Humpty Dumpty Was Pushed by Marc Blatte - On a manic ride from the mixing boards of hip-hop recording studios to mansions in the Hamptons and the projects of the urban ghetto, Detective Black Sallie Blue Eyes ventures behind-the-scenes of the record business in search of a street-side assassin. Casting a widely satirical net on all spectra and species of the Manhattan social scene—from tweaking downtown hipsters, wrestling fetishists, and rapper wannabes to real estate moguls and hip-hop impresarios—this satirical urban noir novel offers intrigue, insight, and an innovative brand of humor. (March 2009) author page

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick - Rural Wisconsin, 1909. In the bitter cold, Ralph Truitt, a successful businessman, stands alone on a train platform waiting for the woman who answered his newspaper advertisement for "a reliable wife." But when Catherine Land steps off the train from Chicago, she's not the "simple, honest woman" that Ralph is expecting. She is both complex and devious, haunted by a terrible past and motivated by greed. Her plan is simple: she will win this man's devotion, and then, ever so slowly, she will poison him and leave Wisconsin a wealthy widow. What she has not counted on, though, is that Truitt — a passionate man with his own dark secrets —has plans of his own for his new wife. (March 2009)

Shatter by Michael Robotham - Joe O'Loughlin is on familiar territory—standing on a bridge high above a flooded gorge, trying to stop a distraught woman from jumping. She is naked, wearing only high-heel shoes, sobbing into a cell phone. Suddenly, she turns to him and whispers, “You don't understand,” and lets go. Joe is shattered by the suicide and haunted by his failure to save the woman, until her teenage daughter finds him and reveals that her mother would never have committed suicide— not like that. She was terrified of heights. (March 2009) author page

Loser's Town by Daniel Depp - In this darkly comic thriller set in modern-day Hollywood, an aging private eye is hired by a rising young actor at the center of a scheme gone wrong. (March 2009)

Bleeding Heart Square by Andrew Taylor - If Philippa Penhow hadn't gone to Bleeding Heart Square on that January day, you and perhaps everyone else might have lived happily ever after . . .(March 2009)

The Deepest Cut by Dianne Emley - Back from the dead. That’s how it feels for Nan Vining–a Pasadena homicide cop, a struggling single mother, and a woman determined to find the brutal madman who left her for dead a year ago. Now, in Dianne Emley’s brilliant new thriller, Nan Vining must face the truth: her attacker is still out there and he’s killed at least three other women. (February 2009)

Security by Stephen Amidon - There isn’t much crime in Stoneleigh, Massachusetts. It’s a college town, a mountain getaway for the quietly rich, where the average burglar alarm is set off by wildlife. So when Edward Inman, owner of Stoneleigh Sentinel Security, gets a late-night alarm from the home of Doyle Cutler, one of his wealthiest clients, Edward thinks nothing of it—until a local student claims that she was sexually assaulted that same night at Cutler’s house. (February 2009) author page

The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry - In this tightly plotted yet mind- expanding debut novel, an unlikely detective, armed only with an umbrella and a singular handbook, must untangle a string of crimes committed in and through people’s dreams. (February 2009) author page

The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston - When a beautiful woman asks for his help cleaning up after her brother has gotten in trouble, every cell in Webster Goodhues brain is telling him to turn her down. (January 2009)

Our Lady of Pain by Elena Forbes - On a snowy February morning, London art dealer Rachel Tenison goes for a jog through Holland Park. Still giddy from the previous evening, her legs wobbly from too much drink and too little sleep, she trips and falls at the bottom of an icy hill. Lying on her back, enjoying the sensation of snowflakes melting on her skin, she savors the unexpected stillness of the moment. But then there’s a sharp crack of a tree branch close behind her, followed by a voice, softly calling her name.(December 2008)author page

Killing Castro by Lawrence Block - (December 2008) author page

The Appeal by John Grisham - A Mississippi jury returns a $41-million verdict against a chemical company accused of dumping carcinogenic waste into a small town's water supply. The company's ruthless billionaire CEO is thwarted and the good guys (a courageous young woman who lost her husband and child and her two lawyers who've gone half a million dollars in debt preparing her case) receives its just reward. This sounds like the end of a Grisham legal thriller, but instead it's the beginning of a book-length lesson in how greed and big business have corrupted our electoral and judicial systems. (November 2008) author page

Hardly Knew Her: Stories by Laura Lippman - Each of these ingenious tales is a gem—sometimes poignant, sometimes humorous, always filled with delightfully unanticipated twists and reversals. (October 2008)author page

The Brass VerdictThe Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly - Things are finally looking up for defense attorney Mickey Haller. After two years of wrong turns, Haller is back in the courtroom. When Hollywood lawyer Jerry Vincent is murdered, Haller inherits his biggest case yet: the defense of Walter Elliott, a prominent studio executive accused of murdering his wife and her lover. (October 2008) author page

Stray Dog Winter by David L. Francis - Atmospheric and suspenseful novel about love, passion, politics, and identity. Set in Russia. (October 2008) author page

The Fire by Katherine Neville - Long anticipated sequel to THE EIGHT. (October 2008)

The Other Side of Silence by Bill Pronzini - On his third day in Death Valley, Rick Fallon comes upon a deserted Toyota Camry, and soon thereafter, the almost-dead body of Casey Dunbar. Having rescued her, Fallon soon learns what had driven her to give up on life…and, his own life on hold, he resolves to unravel the twisted and dangerous strands of hers, a quest that leads him to the glitter-dome of Las Vegas among other locales.(September 2008) Read Review

The Girl with The DragonThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson - A spellbinding amalgam of murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue. (September 2008) author page

Leather Maiden by Joe R. Lansdale - After a scandalous affair costs him his job in Houston, Cason Statler—Gulf War veteran and Pulitzer Prize–nominated journalist—returns home to the small east Texas town of Camp Rapture. He takes a job at the local paper, and when he stumbles across his predecessor’s notes on a cold case murder file, he thinks he’s found the thing that’ll keep him out of trouble. No such luck. The further he digs into the case, the more certain he is that the unsolved crime is connected to a series of eerie, inexplicable events that have recently occurred in town. (August 2008) author page

The White Mary by Kira Salak - Returning from a harrowing assignment in the Congo where Marika Vecera was kidnapped by rebel soldiers, she learns that a man she has always admired from afar, Pulitzer-winning war correspondent Robert Lewis, has committed suicide. Stunned, she abandons her magazine work to write Lewis’s biography, settling down with Seb as their intimacy grows. But when Marika finds a curious letter from a missionary claiming to have seen Lewis in the remote jungle of Papua New Guinea, she has to wonder, What if Lewis isn’t dead? (August 2008)

Smoke Screen by Sandra Brown - (August 2008) author page

The Fifth Floor by Michael Harvey - Private investigator Michael Kelly, the Windy City’s answer to Philip Marlowe, is back in another page-turner that revives a tantalizing mystery buried in Chicago’s past. (August 2008)

The Legal LimitThe Legal Limit by Matin Clark - Martin Clark’s most remarkable novel yet is the gripping, complex story of a murder cover-up that wreaks widespread havoc even as it redefines the concept of justice—a relentlessly entertaining saga that delves deeply into matters at once ambiguous and essential. (July 2008) author page

Edgar SawtelleThe Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski - Spellbinding, literary thriller debut that's got everyone excited. (June 2008) author page

What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn - A tender and sharply observant debut novel about a missing young girl—winner of the Costa First Novel Award and long-listed for the Booker Prize, the Orange Prize, and The Guardian First Book Award. (June 2008)

Atmospheric Disturbance by Rivka Galchen - When Dr. Leo Liebenstein’s wife disappears, she leaves behind a single, confounding clue: a woman who looks, talks, and behaves exactly like her—or almost exactly like her—and even audaciously claims to be her. While everyone else is fooled by this imposter, Leo knows better than to trust his senses in matters of the heart. Certain that the original Rema is alive and in hiding, Leo embarks on a quixotic journey to reclaim his lost love. (May 2008)

No One Tells Everything by Rae Meadows - From up-and-coming author Rae Meadows, an addictive, absorbing novel with a lovable basket-case heroine who becomes obsessed with a murder case. (July 2008) author page

Madapple by Christina Meldrum - Aslaug is an unusual young woman. Her mother has brought her up in near isolation, teaching her about plants and nature and language—but not about life. Especially not how she came to have her own life, and who her father might be. When Aslaug’s mother dies unexpectedly, everything changes. For Aslaug is a suspect in her mother’s death. And the more her story unravels, the more questions unfold. About the nature of Aslaug’s birth. About what she should do next. (May 2008)

The Spritualist by Megan Chance - 1850s New York City Murder Mystery (May 2008) author page



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About this Bookshelf:

It's the details that keep us rivetedWhen I first started this web site, I had one "bookshelf" for all the novels found in the Detective Series and all those found in this section. I created a separate "bookshelf" for these books because I thought they were  getting lost in the myriad of detective novels.

What most of these books have in common is at least one dead body. Or at least the notion that there could or will be a dead body. Usually the dead body has been murdered.  And this is the point of the novel; these are murder mysteries. Other books may have dead bodies, even murdered dead bodies, but it is not the intent to learn exactly how they died. 

Many of the authors included on this bookshelf are slow to turn out novels. They are well researched, solidly located in time and place and, often, occupation. The benefit for us is that we learn more. For example, Snow Falling on Cedars and Rose are both dependent on their time in history.  In the legal mysteries, we learn more about the justice system (Scott Turow) or what it means to be a criminal defense lawyer (Phillip Margolin or Stephen Horn). In Plain Truth we visit the Amish and learn the difficulties in defending a Plain girl accused of murder. Sometimes it is not the method by which murder occurs, but the psychological landscape (Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell or Ellen Feldman's Rearview Mirror) that keeps us turning the pages. Another good example of this type of mystery is High Gate Health and Beauty with its exploration into a tight knit New Jersey community and the how one youth interprets his options. Then there is the old fashioned, postmodern noir murder mystery complete with femme fatale as done so well in Manhattan Nocturne. This story brings us to the core of New York City.  Or Craig Holden's novel, The Jazz Bird, a murdered femme fatale based on a real trial during the Prohibition period.

While An Uncertain Currency takes another tact on the mystery genre by having a very unusual psychic assist in solving a hanging in a Southern mill town.


Judi Clark, Editor
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