Mystery/Thriller Book Reviews

Page Five of Five

Murder Crops Up by Lora Roberts

Fawcett Gold Medal, Sept., 1998.
Paperback, 230 pages.
ISBN: 0449150488.
Ordering information:

Murder Crops Up
by Lora Roberts Freelance writer Liz Sullivan is finally getting her act together. A former abused spouse and sometime homeless person, she now has a career, a home, a potential boyfriend and a piece of the local community garden. When a dead body is found in the local busybody's beautifully manicured plot, some people point to Liz with her somewhat notorious past as a prime suspect. When her troubled niece drops in for a visit, things get even more complicated. Liz must dig up the local scandals in order to discover a murderer -- who may have Liz marked down as his next victim.

Liz Drake is not your run of the mill heroine. Her past shadows her and she lives virtually on the brink of poverty, having at one time lived in her VW bus. She is never whiny about her troubles, however, and the glimpse into her life is detailed and realistic, making her a sympathetic character. An interesting tale with a unique heroine.

N is for Noose by Sue Grafton

Henry Holt, May 1998.
Hardcover, 289 pages.
ISBN: 0805036504.
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N is for Noose
by Sue Grafton "Suppose we could peer through a tiny peephole in Time, picking up a flash of what was coming up in the years ahead? If we knew what was looming, we'd avoid certain choices, select option B instead of A at the fork in the road: the job, the marriage, the move to a new state, childbirth, the first drink, the elective medical procedure, that long-anticipated ski trip that seemed like such fun until the dark rumble of the avalanche." Thus muses tough gal and private detective Kinsey Milhone at the beginning of her tale of her latest adventure. At the request of her sometime love, Tom Dietz, Kinsey agrees to look into the death of Tom Newquist for his widow Selma, who wants to know why her husband, who worked for the Sheriff's office in Nota Lake, was so worried and distant for the last few weeks of his life. Kinsey takes the case and immediately becomes ensnared in small town politics and long-hidden secrets. Her investigation is severely hampered when someone spreads rumors about Kinsey's past, and the town's inhabitants become actively hostile towards her. The more she probes into Dectective Newquist's last case, the more she finds an apparent motive for murder. Apparently, the killer has come to the same conclusion and decides to take Kinsey out. Kinsey must solve the case and get out of the backwater town before she too ends up dead on a deserted road.

The latest entry into the popular alphabet-named series is well-worth buying. Grafton manages to keep the storyline fresh and inventive, and her prose seems even more vibrant than usual. Kinsey is growing up somewhat emotionally, although her tendency to eat peanut butter and pickle sandwiches, speak her mind regardless of the consequences and get into trouble wherever she goes is unabated. Another entertaining outing for Milhone fans by one of the genre's best authors.

--Claire E. White

No Escape by James Brewer

Walker & Co., June 1998.
Hardcover, 253 pages.
ISBN: 0802733182.
Ordering information:

No Escape
by James Brewer In 1873, Memphis, Tennessee is immobilized by a terrible outbreak of Yellow Fever. Riverboat captain Luke Williamson is forced to stay on his ship because of the quarantine, but his partners in the detective agency they co-own, Masey Baldridge and Sally Tyner, are caught inside the town when the quarantine was imposed. Somewhat reluctantly, they agree to the Mayor's impassioned pleas that they take the case of finding out who is embezzling from the city's most influential charity group, The Howard Association, which sends doctors and nurses to treat the terrible plague that is killing so many people. Sally goes undercover as a nurse, while Masey pursues his investigations in the city. The plague is not the only problem bothering the city, however. Someone is killing people at random, leaving the imprint of a cross of the victims' foreheads and a bible verse nearby. Luke and Sally must fight to find a serial killer and avoid being claimed by a sickness, which has no cure in a town full of terrified and panicky people who are desperate to escape the disease.

This is the 5th entry in the Luke Williamson/Masey Baldridge historical mystery series. In a sort of historical Hot Zone, the members of the Big River Detective Agency reflect the poignant human emotions stirred by the ancient fear of disease, while they struggle to keep their composure in order to do their jobs. Altogether, a unique and compelling story, especially for those who love medical thrillers with a historical twist.

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