The O'Shaughnessy sisters, Mary and Pam, collectively known as Perri O'Shaughnessy, have been delighting fans for a baker's dozen years and as many novels with their tales of Carmel, California, attorney Nina Reilly. Their latest, Show No Fear, takes the reader back to 1990 for a look at Nina Reilly as a struggling young paralegal new to her firm. Between long work hours and caring for her preschool - age son, Bob, Nina's free time is severely curtailed. She is surprised and dismayed when the boy's father shows up out of the blue, demanding visitation rights and a hand in raising the boy. Richard Filsen was little more than a one - night stand; Nina broke off the relationship early on, after a confrontational and controlling streak surfaced amidst the initial charm. When she discovered she was pregnant, she decided to raise the child on her own - the last thing in the world she wants is to see her son influenced by this man. It is something she will not have to worry about for long. Filsen is found dead, murdered by person or persons unknown. Plenty of people had it in for him, to be sure: the unlicensed acupuncturist who had inadvertently committed a heinous incident of malpractice; the underpaid sidekick who did most of Filsen's work for a small percentage of the profits; even Nina's ailing mother, who bore a special loathing for the man. Still, could anyone have a better motive than Nina Reilly? One cute note: fans of the romance aspect of the Reilly books will have a good belly laugh at the less - than - auspicious initial meeting of Nina and her future love interest, Paul Van Wagoner.

While we are on the subject of prequels, Nick Stone's latest thriller, The King of Swords, offers readers a good deal of back story on the freelance PI protagonist from his debut novel, the Macavity Award - winning Mr. Clarinet. Set in 1981 - 15 years before the events of Mr. Clarinet - the new book visits Max Mingus in his earlier incarnation as a Miami cop. The King of Swords opens in an improbable, Carl Hiaasen - esque way: a man is found murdered in the monkey house of a private Miami zoo. The madcap opening finds the first cop on the scene relieved of his gun by a predatory primate, who then terrorizes the forces of justice by shooting at anything that moves with remarkable accuracy for one so untrained. Things quickly take a darker turn, however, as details emerge regarding the manner of death. The corpse had been treated to a voodoo "zombification": drugged, tortured and mutilated. Eerily, a partially digested tarot card is found in his stomach - the deadly King of Swords. Mingus and partner Joe Liston head up the investigation, which quickly points to the involvement of voodoo practitioner Solomon Boukman, long a dominant figure in the Miami crime scene, but seemingly untouchable by the law. As the body count spirals upward, Mingus and Liston find themselves under the gun: figuratively from their higher - ups, and literally from the bad guys. Author Stone is one - half Haitian. He grew up in Haiti, and his insider's knowledge of the culture is evident on every page of this riveting page - turner.

Providence, Rhode Island, is the somewhat unlikely nothing-ever-happens-here setting for Jan Brogan's latest mystery, Teaser. Reporter and not-entirely-reformed gambler Hallie Ahearn inadvertently downloads an erotic video clip of apparently underage girls, known in the film industry as a teaser. She decides to do some investigating, and haunts the chat sites and video stores in hopes of turning up a clue. When she is finally able to identify one of the girls in the teaser, Hallie finds out a good deal more than she had bargained for: it turns out that local men are buying webcams for high school girls and paying them to make pornographic movies. It promises to be a tasty expos

Veteran British author P.D. James has been crafting mysteries seemingly forever. She has been called a modern - day Agatha Christie; the fact is, she has handily surpassed her mentor, as she has proven again and again, most recently in The Private Patient. Cheverell Manor in Dorset is an Olde English country estate recently purchased by George Chandler - Powell, a plastic surgeon, for his use as a second operating theater, well away from the throngs of paparazzi and other interested onlookers who might disturb his well - heeled patients. When investigative journalist Rhoda Gradwyn decides to have a disfiguring scar removed from her otherwise attractive face, Chandler - Powell is the surgeon of choice, and she checks into Cheverell Manor for what she has been assured is a routine procedure. It will be anything but: the following morning, Gradwyn will be quite dead, and of decidedly unnatural causes. Longtime James protagonist Adam Dalgliesh is summoned to the scene directly; strictly speaking, it is not his stomping ground, but turf wars will be put on the back burner when the rich and famous are involved. One body is scarcely enough for a James mystery, though, and a second is soon found fast - frozen in an outbuilding icebox. Of course everybody has an alibi and nobody has a motive ... or do they? Perhaps Gradwyn's abrasive style of investigative journalism pushed an investigatee over the edge. Or, there is the small matter of the possibly bogus dating of a will, which might drastically alter the status of the beneficiaries. And let's not forget the potential modern - day ramifications of a three - century - old witch burning that took place on the Cheverell estate. The Private Patientis a prime example of British crime writing at its best, with twists and turns galore, and a satisfyingly bizarre resolution. One caveat, though: the text is peppered with words outside the lexicon of most readers, I should think. If you can't quickly come up with meanings for words such as minatory or uxorial, it might be an idea to have a Webster's handy. The unabridged edition.

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