|Roman Blood by Steven Saylor From the arrival of an articulate slave on the doorstep of sleuth Gordianus to the riveting re-creation of an actual oration by Cicero, Saylor's remarkable first novel takes the reader deep into the political, legal and family arenas of ancient Rome, providing a stirring blend of history and mystery, well seasoned with conspiracy, passion and intrigue. In the steamy spring of 80 B.C. fledgling orator Cicero is preparing the legal defense of Sextus Roscius, a wealthy farmer accused of the murder of his father. Things look grim for Sextus; it is well-known that his father had threatened to disinherit him in favor of his younger half-brother. Cicero engages Gordianus to get at the truth of the matter, and while the orator practices powerful speech-making the investigator proves the aptness of his sobriquet, "the finder." Gordianus soon discovers that truth and mortal danger walk hand-in-hand through the twisting streets and the great forum of Rome. But he is unflinching in his quest for veritas in a story greatly enhanced by its vivid characters, including Cicero's clever slave Tiro; a mute street urchin and his widowed mother; a beautiful, enigmatic whore; Gordianus's spirited slave and lover, Bethesda; the aging dictator Sulla; and a dyspeptic but brilliant Cicero. A classic historical mystery, in every sense. Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Come into My Parlor by Marilyn Campbell is the quest of an obsessor who keeps vacillating from sanity to insanity in a chilling fixation on Teri Gambini. Teri Campbell Gambini and her husband Rico live in White Plains, New York. Rico is a postman with a gambling addiction. The story opens with his "syndicate" creditors demanding payment. His only source of large sums of money is Teri, an artist by profession. Their marriage is withering on the vine, destroyed by his neglect, affairs and addiction. Each request for money is accompanied by a promise to quit gambling. This time Teri finally has had enough and agrees to bail him out one last time in exchange for an uncontested divorce. Rico quickly agrees, certain that he can win her back.
Teri's major source of income is as a book cover illustrator. In this capacity she meets Selena, a model who is so unique that she becomes Teri's exclusive model. As they continue to work together Selena becomes one of Teri's few friends. Selena is aware of Teri's disintegrating marriage and struggles to find a way to help. Often Teri works from photographs, and her editor has recommended the work of her cousin Drew, who is new in town. His work is good, and Teri decides to continue working with him. Quickly romantic sparks are ignited between Teri and Drew.
Before Rico pays off the syndicate, an "enforcer" shows up at the studio during a shoot. Days later Rico is found dead, with his throat slashed and his hands removed. Most of the police department wants to credit the murder to a "mob hit."
However, Detective Kidder, encumbered by an attitude about wives, seeks to prove that Teri and Drew in the course of their affair disposed of Rico. Then Kidder is murdered, and the police find Rico's fingerprints on the window pane used for entry. Revealing any more of the plot would be doing both the reader and the author a tremendous disservice. Part of the fun in reading this book is sifting through the foreshadowing techniques of the author. Using flashbacks, the author describes the events that probably caused the obsessor to start the separation from reality. We watch the obsession become more and more controlling, as eventually total insanity rules. At the same time, Teri becomes slowly aware that something is not quite right. The author is both clever and creative in balancing these tensions as she leads us to the inevitable terrifying climax.
This book is a well constructed, informative, but chilling read. After finishing this one, you may want to try Pretty Maids in a Row, Campbell's master story of revenge. Thea Davis
Missing Witness by Gordon Campbell Sixty-four-year-old lawyer Campbell sent the manuscript of this novel, unsolicited, to Morrow, the publisher bought it within a week. That will come as no surprise to readers of this suspenseful legal thriller, which has drawn comparisons to the early work of Scott Turow. Campbell brings to it a deep love of the law and a great feel for his Phoenix setting. That's where recent law-school grad Douglas McKenzie takes his first job, passing up an offer from a blue-chip firm for a chance to work with legendary defense attorney Dan Morgan. The hard-drinking, chain-smoking ex-marine asks Doug to help him with a huge murder case when he learns Doug has a family connection to the defendants. A rich cattleman's son has been shot, and the murderer is either his glamorous wife or his emotionally disturbed 12-year-old daughter. The many finely detailed courtroom scenes crackle with tension as the driven Morgan, frequently hung over and so nervous that he sweats through his suit, makes his arguments with passionate conviction. A page-turner that is also a fascinating primer on the law. Wilkinson, Joanne
Murders in the Rue Morgue : The Dupin Tales by Edgar Allan Poe. He is best known for his poetry ("Quoth the raven...") and his tales of the macabre. But he has a lesser-known claim to fame -- the prototypical detective stories, predating Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot.
Though only three stories about C. Auguste Dupin were written, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue: The Dupin Tales" compiles all three of them, with their baffling answers and armchair detection. These weren't the first detective tales, but they set the mold for the mysteries that followed.
We're introduced to Dupin through his pal/roommate, in "Murders in the Rue Morgue." He's impoverished but of an old family, and lives in a crumbling, gothic mansion full of his books. But his mind is sharper than anyone around him, based on the logical process of "ratiocination."
In this mystery, Dupin learns of a bizarre mystery, where an apartment was found almost destroyed but nothing was stolen. An old lady is found outside with her head hacked off with a razor, and her daughter is found throttled and stuffed upside-down in a chimney, with locks of her hair pulled out. No motive, and no suspects. The police are baffled -- but Dupin isn't.
Based on a real crime, "The Mystery of Marie Roget" opens with the death of a popular young woman, who is later found floating in the river. By reading different newspaper reports, Dupin chronicles the peculiarities of the crime, and debunks the many assumptions that were made about the crime -- how many assailants, where, when, and so on.
"The Purloined Letter" has a somewhat less gruesome crime. The prefect of police is meeting with Dupin, with a very important matter to discuss -- a compromising letter of the Queen's was stolen in front of her eyes, and now the Minister is blackmailing her with it. The police have searched the Minister's apartment from top to bottom, but there's no sign of the letter. Only Dupin knows where to find it.
These stories are are not only the roots of detective fiction, but staggeringly good reads as well. Poe -- who reportedly made Dupin the sort of logical, cool person he wanted to be -- crammed a whole novel's worth of detecting into each short story, and made even the weirdest answers (a monkey?) seem plausible.
Unlike Poe's other works, these are made up mostly of deduction and dialogue, though Poe does get in some wonderful lines about the shared mansion ("... in a style which suited the rather fantastic gloom of our common temper, a time-eaten and grotesque mansion"). And while the dialogue seems rather dry at first, as it unfolds, the intricacies of each bizarre plot become clear.
The Dupin Tales are a remarkable work of detective fiction, the early whodunnits, and are among Poe's best works of fiction. Definitely a must-read. E.A Solinas:Amazon.com
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