Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tuesday Book Reviews

I have three new reviews for you today, one written by Carl Brookins and two others by me. Normally Carl would claim top billing when it comes to reviews on Cicero's Children, but I so enjoyed Destiny Kills, a new title by South Carolina mystery/paranormal author S.D. Tooley, that I'm starting off with a review of that book by yours truly. Hope you enjoy reading about these new and not-so-new books.

Destiny Kills (A Sam Casey Mystery)
S.D. Tooley
Full Moon Publishing, April, 2012
275 pages
ISBN 9780984635757

A shocking scene opens this latest entry in Tooley’s highly acclaimed Sam Casey series as a happily married mother suddenly walks out of her home, leaving her infant daughter behind, and jumps off a highway overpass into the path of a speeding semi. Marti Johnson’s death makes no sense, but neither does that of Carly Farnswood, a young woman who walks into Lake Michigan one week before her planned wedding and voluntarily drowns.

Serving as a consultant for the Chasen Heights P.D., Sam becomes involved with both deaths when she meets Marti’s husband Forrest and Carly’s twin sister Carrie. Forrest and Carrie are convinced their loved ones would never willingly commit suicide. Sam’s initial skepticism fades after she learns that both women received four second, untraceable phone calls only minutes before their deaths. Did the same person call both women? Did the caller, by word or action, cause them to take their own lives?

Sam digs into both cases while also coping with problems of her own. Not only has a recurrent nightmare forced her to seek the help of a psychiatrist, but she’s also facing a possible second pregnancy at a time when her son Dillon is still in his infancy. While her policeman husband Jake is busy investigating a murder, Sam gets emotional support from her good friend Jackie.

Then Sam touches a purse belonging to Jake’s murder victim, and a whispered word floats through her consciousness, a word she’s already heard in connection with the two suicides. While her psychic abilities prove helpful to Jake, they put Sam in harm’s way as her husband’s case begins to overlap her own. Can Sam help the police trap a fiendish killer before he strikes again, or will she unwittingly become the next in a long line of helpless victims?

S.D. Tooley is known for careful research when it comes to unusual ways of committing crimes. This time around she presents us with a psychological thriller based on a complex but scientifically believable plot enhanced by a strong female protagonist and just the right amount of Native American mysticism. While the various good guy/bad guy characters will draw you in to this story, the cold-blooded ruthlessness of the killer is sure to send chills down your back. Another winner in a long line of great Sam Casey mysteries.


Ice Cold
Tess Gerritsen
Ballantine Books, June 29, 2010
322 pages
ISBN 9780345515483

Pathologist Maura Isles’s personal problems follow her to Wyoming when she flies there to attend an early winter medical convention. Depressed by the uncertainty of her relationship with Daniel Brophy and needing to reassert her independence, Maura readily agrees when a former colleague invites her to join him in a ski adventure following the convention. Despite warnings of a major snowstorm in the area, Maura throws caution to the wind and accompanies Doug Comley, his teenage daughter Grace, and Doug’s friends Arlo and Elaine in a journey through the Wyoming wilderness.

Bad weather soon overtakes the travelers, and Doug’s foolishness results in an accident. Stranded high in the mountains where cell phones are useless, Maura and the others follow a little used road and stumble upon the remote village of Kingdom Come. The town is totally deserted, and it appears the villagers left en masse and in a hurry: dinners are found still sitting on tables in abandoned homes; pets are discovered dead in tidy front rooms and snow-covered backyards. What could have caused the people to flee so hastily?

Maura pushes that question to the back of her mind when Doug discovers a possible way back to safety. At first all looks good for the five travelers. Then a second accident occurs. Its tragic consequences reach all the way back to Boston and deeply affect Detective Jane Rizzoli.

As a huge fan of the TV show “Rizzoli and Isles”, I can’t help but compare Gerritsen’s rendering of her characters to the TV versions played by Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander.  There are more differences than similarities between the two, and I confess to liking the TV characters just a little bit better. But Gerritsen’s writing is crisp and concise, her plots rollercoaster wild, and her stories overall are spellbinding. She’s also extremely familiar with both medical and police procedures; while her vivid descriptions of autopsies may disturb the squeamish, I find them fascinating due to my own background in the ER. I found this book to be highly enjoyable and immediately went looking for the next in the series. I’ll be reviewing that one—The Silent Girl—next week.


Darker Than Any Shadow     
By Tina Whittle
ISBN: 9781590585467
2011 release from Poisoned
Pen Press. HC, 291 pages

The second entry in the author’s intriguing series featuring a gun shop owner and a corporate security officer is a winner. Heavily populated with interesting characters, the turbulent love affair between the protagonist informs and leavens what could otherwise have been a run-of-the-mill mystery. Indeed, the identity of the killer, while important to the story, was, to this reader, not as compelling as the characters, and the milieu. 

The setting is Atlanta, Georgia, during the run-up to a major poetry slam competition. Some of the characters have known each other from childhood and others seem to have uncertain, even mysteriousbackgrounds. It’s hot in Atlanta, and gun shop owner Tai Randolph is mentoring her long-time friend, rising poet, Rico. There are teams of competing poets as well as individual efforts and a surplus of egos swirling around as participants prepare.  Then murder intrudes. 

The relationship developing between our principal “investigator,” amateur tho she is, Tai Randolph and her lover, Trey Seaver, is much more than casually interesting to observe. Seaver is a former cop with a high level of crisis and SWAT training, excellent skills and more than a little rigidity as regards the rules of life and the law. The almost constant battles between the lovers as they try to accommodate each other is a fascinating piece of this very entertaining novel. I recommend it strongly.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins

Carl Brookins, Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky


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