Mystery/Thriller Book Reviews

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A Better Class of Murder by Joyce Christmas

Ballantine, Dec., 2000.
Paperback, 288 pages.
ISBN: 0449150135.
Ordering information:

A Better Class of Murder
by Joyce Christmas Mystery author Joyce Christmas is the creator of two popular amateur sleuths: the elegant Lady Margaret Priam, who solves crimes while navigating the upper social circles of Manhattan society, and Betty Trenka, a retired office manager who lives in East Moulton, Connecticut. In A Better Class of Murder, these two very different (and both quite fascinating) amateur sleuths meet up in New York to solve the murder of a mysterious woman found strangled on a foggy beach. Betty's neighbor, Ted Kelso, hires Betty to go to Manhattan to size up computer billionaire Gerald Toth, who wants to hire Ted to vet his latest software invention. Lady Margaret has been asked to help introduce Betty to the social scene while Betty is in town to do business with Toth, and the two become friends. But as Betty enjoys the high life in Manhattan, she also becomes an unwitting target for a killer who isn't interested in having his crimes come to light.

Fans of the both the Betty Trenka and the Lady Margaret Priam mystery series are going to be in heaven with Joyce Christmas' latest mystery offering. The styles of the two sleuths blend perfectly: Betty's no-nonsense approach and Margaret's elegant deductions make for entertaining reading. As always, the dialogue is quick and witty and Christmas' dissection of the Manhattan social scene is dead on. Highly recommended.

--Claire E. White

Born Bad by Barry Hoffman

Leisure Books, Nov., 2000.
Paperback, 392 pages.
ISBN: 0843947934.
Ordering information:

Born Bad
by Barry Hoffman Homicide detective Ariel Dampier is assigned to a puzzling case. Within a short period of time, three co-eds at the University of Pennsylvania are found dead -- apparently suicides. But there is one student who seems to have known all the suicides: Shanica Williams. Shanica, a freshman, was a crack baby whose mother died while giving birth to her. Shanica was literally "born bad".

Born Bad is a taut, complex psychological thriller which explores the mind of a most unusual serial killer. Homicide detective Ariel Damper is a compelling and complex woman who ends up in a cat and mouse game with the killer, while dealing with the baggage of being the daughter of a racially mixed couple, as well as having to work with her ex-husband on the murder investigation. Hoffman does a marvelous job of getting inside the minds of his characters, and his pacing is excellent. This is not your average serial killer book at all; it's fresh, unique and loaded with suspense. Even if you usually prefer cozies, you're sure to find Born Bad quite intriguing. Highly recommended.

Claire E. White

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