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There’s something about a good mystery, especially one with a large dose of suspense, that’s hard to put down. Three authors that keep readers turning pages and wanting more are Jean Holbrook Mathews, Deaver Acey, and Clair M. Poulson. Their newest releases showcase their ability to draw the reader in and keep the tension high from the first page to the last. All three are prolific, acclaimed authors. All three novels, Desert Rain, Cryptic Cipher, and Silent Sting are filled with unexpected twists and are so now, readers may find themselves nervously watching over their shoulders.
DESERT RAIN by Jean Holbrook Mathews
Lexi Benson is horrified to learn her boss, L.L., has been murdered and that with the man’s wife out of town, the police want Lexi to identify the body. This sickening experience leaves her anxious to learn who could have killed the man she liked and admired so much. As administrative assistant to L.L., Lexi is asked by his widow to take over running the business until the estate is settled, an assignment that leaves her questioning the chances one of the branch managers, other executives, or major customers may have committed the crime. She also becomes suspicious of L.L.’s wife and her many exotic trips. There’s something fishy about her close relationship with the company attorney and with an accountant L.L. had been priming for a major position.
As it becomes apparent Lexi’s life is also in danger, she becomes closer to the detective in charge of the case. He goes to great lengths to keep their relationship professional and she’s a little reserved where romantic relationships are involved, so the romance elements of the story are extremely low key.
Some of the violence in this story is a little on the graphic side, but most readers won’t find it offensive. The characters are believable, though Lexi takes some chances I’m not sure a smart woman would risk. The plot starts out on a high note and builds to a sudden dramatic climax. Written in first person, some readers may feel the usual frustration that goes with a mystery told in this manner since it’s a giveaway that the point-of-view character survives to tell the story.
Jean Holbrook Mathews began life in Ogden, Utah, attended Weber State, then the University of Missouri, spent most of her adult life in Missouri where she and her husband raised their family, then retired to Mesa, Arizona. She served in the Missouri House of Representatives for ten years. Her years of public service often took her to Washington, D.C. where she sometimes testified before Senate committees. She and her husband served a humanitarian mission for the Church in the Phillipines. Desert Rain is her seventh novel.
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DESERT RAIN by Jean Holbrook Mathews, published by Bonneville Books, an imprint of Cedar Fort, Inc., 240 pages, soft cover $15.99. Also available for e-readers.
CRYPTIC CIPHER by Deaver Acey
Tanner Stone is on vacation with his wife, two children, and his wife’s parents when the vacation is cut short by an urgent demand that he return to his job at the high tech NSA installation in Utah. The Vice President of the United States has been murdered and a coded message was found in the pocket of one of the gunmen. This isn’t the first time Tanner has been involved in a complicated conspiracy case requiring his specialized computer skills. When it is discovered that the code isn’t a computer code, but an ancient language, Tanner, his wife, and her parents are sent to Guatemala to locate an extremely old man who is familiar with many of the old languages of that area’s native people. It soon becomes obvious more is going on than the assassination of one prominent figure as one top government figure after another is murdered and there is an attempt to kill Tanner and his party. Tanner and his staff work frantically to convert the ancient language to a searchable code to facilitate unlocking hidden messages to reveal who is responsible for the deaths and the motive behind the killings.
Though this story revolves around computer technology, the reader doesn’t have to be computer savvy or wade through technical jargon to understand what is happening. It is a tightly packed action suspense novel that will appeal to anyone who enjoys this genre. The characters feel genuine, the plot is compelling, and the capabilities and purpose of the computer systems used are fascinating. It’s like getting an insider’s glimpse of the NSA facility in Utah.
Deaver Acey has written two other novels, Quantum Breach and Quantum Deception. Both feature Tanner Stone and are also computer oriented suspenseful mysteries, however, they are each a stand-alone story. Acey is an expert on computer hacking and cybercrime. His entire career has been in the information technology industry where he has witnessed and thwarted such crimes for the US government. He has also secured computer networks at Fortune 500 companies. His novels not only entertain, but are a warning of the vulnerability we all face from cybercriminals.
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THE CRYPTIC CIPHER by Deaver Acey, published by Cedar Fort, Inc., 272 pages, soft cover $17.99. Also available for e-readers.
SILENT STING by Clair M. Poulson
Bees are dying. To some that may not seem like a big deal, but on closer study, it’s easy to see a major catastrophe in the making. Bees not only produce honey, an import industry in itself, but without the pollination carried out by the little insects crops fail, farmers are ruined, honey dependent businesses fail, and people go hungry. Entomology Professor Silverstein of the University of California–Riverside receives a grant to find the cause of the bee deaths. His student assistant, Tiana, who is helping him in his research which includes gathering specimens has a strange experience while visiting her parents’ home. As she swims in the family pool, she discovers a strange bee that seems to be watching her, then zooms in for an attack which she thwarts by catching it in the net she had been using to gather specimens. She is surprised to discover the bee is a mechanical drone. Another surprise awaits when she approaches the professor’s office and finds him dead. A short time later another entomologist is killed in the same manner at the university.
FBI Special Agent Stu Whitefeather is assigned to work with a team of law enforcement officers to uncover who is responsible for the deaths and their connection to the dead bees. Though a student, Tiana becomes responsible to complete the work on the grant and finds herself working closely with Stu. Attempts are made on Tiana’s life and Stu battles to keep her safe and discover who wants her and the bees dead.
This story includes a large cast of characters and it is sometimes a little difficult to keep them all straight. Some of the major characters’ personalities feel a little exaggerated, but overall, the characters are easy to relate to and several of the students, including Tiana, grow and mature through their ordeal. The use of the bees as an important device creates an aura of modern realism to the story as the agricultural world is presently concerned about the disappearance of bees and the use of drones is in current news headlines. The story is well-paced, moving quickly from one action sequence to the next and maintains a high suspense element throughout.
Clair M. Poulson is well-known for his mystery/suspense novels and is highly respected for his keen understanding of law enforcement. Poulson has served for the past forty years in some area of the criminal justice system ranging from military MP, county sheriff, to justice court judge. In this novel he brought in another area of personal expertise. He has farmed and ranched all his life. He and his wife, Ruth, raised their five children in the Duchesne, Utah, area. Silent Sting is his latest in more than two dozen novels.
SILENT STING by Clair M. Poulson, Published by Covenant Communications, Inc., 278 pages, soft cover $16.99. Also available on cd, for MP3 players, and for e-readers.