Mystery/Thriller Book Reviews

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The Sibyl in Her Grave by Sarah Caudwell

Delacorte, July, 2000.
Hardcover, 296 pages.
ISBN: 0385299346.
Ordering information:

The Sibyl in Her Grave
by Sarah Caudwell The late Sarah Caudwell is remembered for her wonderfully witty and urbane mysteries which will be sadly missed by mystery lovers. In this last installment of her wonderful series of books about a group of young London lawyers and Oxford professor Hilary Tamar (whose gender never has been revealed), Caudwell is at her very best. This time Hilary is called in to assist barrister Julia Larwood, whose Aunt Regina has a tax problem due to a large capital gain made as a result of some apparently insider stock trading. Aunt Regina's new neighbor, psychic counselor Isabella del Comino turns out to be the source of these insider stock tips, which led to the untimely gain by Aunt Regina and several of her friends. But then Isabella turns up dead in her own home, and it's clear that foul play is involved. Hilary must find the murderer and the connection between the insider trading and the blackmailing of one of the directors of one of Julia's most valued clients.

The androgynous narrator Hilary Tamar is in fine form with The Sybil in Her Grave. Her mock-heroic style perfectly complements this literate comedy of manners, which sends up the classic English village mystery -- complete with the body in the library, the hysterical niece, and the tippling vicar. The plot is tight, the characters are quirky and Hilary's narration is as enjoyable as ever. As an example of the literate mystery, it doesn't get any better than this.

--Claire E. White

Thunderhead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Warner Books, June 2000.
Paperback, 533 pages.
ISBN: 0446608378.
Ordering information:

by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child Nora Kelly finds a letter, written sixteen years ago, from her long lost father who disappeared while leading an archaeology expedition. In the letter Nora's father hints at the discovery of Quivar, a long lost Anasazi Indian city that would be a huge archaeological find, because not much is known about the Anasazi Indians. Nora, an archaeologist herself, persuades Ernest Goddard, chairman of the board of the Santa Fe Archaeological Institute, to fund an expedition to find the city and hopefully her father, but on one condition -- the chairman's daughter, a bratty, attractive Ph. D, must be allowed come along. Nora also manages to charm Peter Holroyd, a NASA employee, into using special radar technology at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Cal Tech to create a better map of the city, which according to her father is located in the red rock canyon country of Southern Utah. He comes along on the expedition as well, as do several other personable characters: a chef, a cowboy, a journalist and a geochronologist. To locals the lost city is awash with evil and Nora has her hands full trying to battle the unknown, as well as unexpected actions from members of her own expedition party.

Thunderhead is another riveting thriller from the duo of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Preston and Child do an excellent job of unveiling archaeological and anthropological facts and mysteries and weaving them into the storyline. As in their other novels (Relic, Reliquary and The Ice Limit), they also excel at telling tales through the eyes of a collection of very different characters. This is another winner from Preston and Child.

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