by Bruce TierneyDecember 2000
Curl up with a mystery
If the upcoming holidays offer a little extra time for your favorite hobby (reading mysteries, of course), you'll welcome the opportunity to check out three new novels from established series: a clever tale of Midwestern corruption; a story of one man's efforts to bring down a band of ruthless killers; and a rain-soaked English novel of brutal murder, red herrings and atmosphere to the max.
David J. Walker's Wild Onion mystery series, starring the irrepressible husband-and-wife team of Dugan (no first name) and Kirsten (no last name), pays homage to the original wisecracking detective duo, Nick and Nora Charles of The Thin Man fame. Dugan is a Chicago attorney with a smart mouth and a sucker's heart; Kirsten, a private investigator, is a femme fatale of the old school, voluptuously sensual in dress and demeanor. The End of Emerald Woods, the third installment of the series, finds the pair in fine form as they attempt to recover a packet of stolen money earmarked for combating rampant development in a pretty midwestern town. As they peel back the layers (note the Wild Onion metaphor) of mystery and ambiguity that surround the case, they quickly discover that the $2,000 in stolen funds is only the tip of the iceberg, and they will have to be very resourceful indeed to arrive at the denouement intact. Sharp dialogue and quirky supporting characters will attract Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen fans to this entertaining series.
Leo Atkins' newest Connor Gibbs novel, Dead Run, finds the intrepid private eye at the scene of a multiple murder. A North Carolina diner would seem to be an unlikely place for a shootout, yet six people lie dead on the linoleum floor. The two killers almost made good their escape, but they didn't count on the marksmanship of Connor Gibbs' girlfriend Benella Sweet. Now one of the killers lies in the parking lot, pieces of his gray matter adorning the nearby cars. The other one got away, but he will be back for Benella. Connor Gibbs knows this, for he is a Renaissance gunman, trained in the arts of war (picture Steven Seagal without the ponytail). It quickly becomes clear that Connor Gibbs is a marked man, unloved by the criminals and the authorities alike. Leo Atkins is a pseudonym for best-selling novelist Clay Harvey, author of the popular Tyler Vance mysteries; like Vance, Gibbs is a peaceful man occasionally driven to violence by the vagaries of the world around him, and when that happens, watch out! Dead Run is fast-paced and well crafted, a gritty straight-ahead suspense novel.
Meanwhile, across the pond, Detective Superintendent Gil Mayo grumbles about the inclement English weather as he reaches for the phone to take a call that will change his life. A young woman has been murdered in a nearby bed and breakfast, and the name on the registration is Julie Mayo. Mayo hasn't heard from his daughter Julie in a few weeks, but was not particularly worried. Until now. Author Marjorie Eccles latest novel, The Superintendent's Daughter, is perhaps the most compelling yet in the popular series: He stood now by the bed, grey-faced, and looked at the fair hair spread over the pillow and words could not describe the torrent of emotion he felt. Fingers were squeezing his heart. He breathed with difficulty. . . . A slight cough behind him announced Carmody, looking as though he wished he were anywhere else. Sir, I sir, I just wanted to say how sorry we all are. Mayo, not a demonstrative man, uncharacteristically laid his hand on the sergeant's arm. It's all right, lad. That girl in there isn't Julie. Not Julie, true enough, but a girl Mayo has known since she was a child, Julie's best friend. Now Mayo is faced with the most difficult case of his career. Is his daughter implicated in some way? Is Julie even still alive? First-rate suspense, stylish prose and complex characterizations abound in the Gil Mayo series; The Superintendent's Daughter is a great fireside read.