Mystery/Thriller Book Reviews

Page Four of Four

The Witchfinder by Loren D. Estleman

Mysterious Press, May 1998.
Hardcover, 306 pages.
ISBN: 0892966637.
Ordering information:

The Witchfinder
by Loren D. Estleman Wisecracking, hardboiled private eye Amos Walker is back in this eighth adventure by Loren D. Estleman. In this latest installment, Amos is hired by dying millionaire architect Jay Bell Furling to find the "Witchfinder," a seventeenth-century New England term used to describe a bearer of false witness who was usually paid very well for telling some specific lies. The Witchfinder in this case is the person who engineered Furlong's breakup with his then-fiancée by giving Furlong a fake picture of his fiancée in a compromising position with another man. Although the photograph in question is over 20 years old, as soon as Amos starts investigating it strange things begin to happen, including violence and sudden death. Plunged into Detroit's mean streets to solve an old puzzle with current ramifications, Amos meets characters ranging from the doyennes of Detroit society to the those who inhabit the very bottom of the city's social life.

Loren D. Estleman is a master of the classic hardboiled detective genre. Amos is an intriguing soul who has the cynical outlook on life you might expect from such a loner, but whose perspective is always wry and amusing. His narrative, told in a style reminiscent of Raymond Chandler is sure to keep fans of the classic detective story glued to the pages. An excellent story, well-told.

--Claire E. White

Sweet Poison by William Relling, Jr.

Walker& Co., June 1998.
Hardcover, 230 pages.
ISBN: 0802733166.
Ordering information:

Sweet Poison
by William Relling, Jr. Retired BATF agent and private investigator Jack Donne is enjoying his life as a vineyard owner in central California when a friend's desperate request drags him back into the p.i. business. Vineyard owner Ray Taylor is playing host to the annual meeting of the exclusive and renowned North American Epicurean Society (NAMES) with the hope that he will be asked to join the august society, which numbers only 57. This year's guest speaker is much hated and feared food critic Augustus Poole, whose spitefulness is exceeded only by his avoirdupois. Poole believes his life is in danger and demands a bodyguard and a bottle of the coveted 1947 Chateau D'Yquem in order to attend. Donne is pressed into service and has his hands full when a murder occurs right in the middle of the conference and the obnoxious Poole decides to investigate, attempting to imitate the manner of another hefty detective, Nero Wolfe.

Sweet Poison is an entertaining foray into the world of wine and food with savvy investigator Donne and the obnoxious Poole forming an Odd Couple duo whose interactions are always amusing. The characterizations are witty and ring true, and the insights into running a winery are interesting, making this a welcome addition to the growing culinary mystery subgenre.

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