Book Reviews: Every Bitter Thing by Leighton Gage and Critical Condition by CJ Lyons

Every Bitter Thing
Leighton Gage
Soho Crime, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-56947-845-5
Hardcover

On the opening page of Leighton Gage’s newest book, the fourth in his series featuring the Brazilian Chief Inspector Mario Silva, the reader is introduced to Jonas Palhares, a petroleum engineer who is very soon after brutally murdered in his Ipanema apartment.  This is but one of several murders committed in the same manner, and with the same weapons.  A famous social psychologist is soon found dead in Sao Paulo State.  But when the next victim is the son of the Venezuelan foreign minister and former ambassador to Brazil, the political implications become quickly obvious, and the investigation goes into high gear.

Silva, chief inspector for criminal matters with the Federal Police, is described as “a repository of totally useless information,” but self-described as possessing “occasionally amazing” instances of insight.  He teams up with the head of the Brasilia civil police, as well as his usual team members, including Arnaldo Nunes and Haraldo Goncalves, nicknamed “Babyface” and known as the Federal Police’s Lothario.  The body count rises, and the cops are frustrated by the fact that there seems to be no common denominator among the victims.

The author provides another glimpse into a world and a country with which this reader and I suspect many others are unfamiliar [despite my having traveled there twice, but I’m pretty sure tourism doesn’t count].  We are given examples of  “. . . how things work in this country . . . how the rich and powerful get justice and the rest of us can go to hell.”  The investigation proceeds rapidly to try to find the killer before more bodies appear, and the ending is as logical as it is unpredictable.  A thoroughly satisfying novel, and recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, February 2011.

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Critical Condition
CJ Lyons
Jove, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-515-14868-8
Mass Market Paperback

The fourth and apparently last novel in this well-written series finds a changed dynamic in the relationships among the various protagonists, all health care workers at the fictional Angels of Mercy Medical Center in Pittsburgh.  Those changes are brought about by the events that took place in the closing pages of the prior book, Urgent Care, culminating in the shooting of one of them, nineteen days before the start of the present book. That one was Detective Jerry Boyle, whose fiancée, Dr. Gina Freeman, now finds herself taking care of him instead of the other way around.

After having been in a coma for three days after having been shot in the head and abdomen, he is now recovering at Angels after having a blood clot and a bullet removed from his brain, and is being tended to by Gina and the other friends/colleagues at the hospital:  Amanda Mason, Gina’s roommate and a fourth-year medical student; Lucas Stone, Amanda’s fiancé and Jerry’s neurologist; Nora Halloran, the by-the-book ER charge nurse; her fiancé, Seth, a surgical resident; Trey, district chief of Pittsburgh’s EMS; and Lydia Fiore, the ER charge nurse who was the real target that night.  All the action – and there is plenty of it! – takes place within the hours surrounding New Year’s Eve, making their only New Year’s resolution as basic as a determination to simply live through the night.

Lydia has a secret, arising from her mother’s murder eighteen years ago when she was only twelve, which led to her now being targeted by a hit man, and though they all escaped that event with no loss of life other than that of the hired killer, the danger still exists, and there are still killers out there determined not to let her get away again.  Compounding this is that as they descend on Pittsburgh, so does a blizzard, which effectively shuts down the city when all power goes out and the roads are closed.  With virtually all hospital staff and patients held hostage until Lydia is found and turned over to the killers, the ingenuity of all are tested.  The author has again created a tension-filled narrative, and the life-and-death scenario kept me completely engaged right up until the exciting conclusion.  It has been a treat to meet this ultra-competent group, and the series will be missed.  Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, March 2011.