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"Choke: Between the Covers" - published by Fully Booked reviews, July 2017

Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile - review published June 23, 2017

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More reviews forthcoming...

 

The Ghost of Mary Prairie

Review by David Steinberg

The Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque author (and Crosswinds Weekly contributor) Lisa Polisar conjures up the dark world of a depraved but brilliant serial killer who gets his kicks from terrorizing vulnerable young women in this impressive debut novel, which features the equally smart psychologist Gena Hollender as the madman's profiler, pursuer, and wayward victim.  Hollender is a savvy Manhattanite who would rather renovate her old brownstone and cultivate exotic plants than track down suspected murderer Victor Trikonis in Maine.  But when duty calls, via the compelling invitations of two former colleagues, also her lovers, Hollender feels she has no choice ... Polisar is at her best when getting inside the head of her protagonist: "Everything insideher said no.  Every impulse of conscious thought and reasoning, every molecule of her body said the same thing.  No.  But a part of her, when she was working at the FBI's National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, had felt more alive than ever ... Some part of her was still hanging on."

The reader is finally drawn into Hollender's deepening obsession with her nemesis when the frequency of murders increases, and the threat to her own life becomes more real.  In the end, the pursuit becomes as much a matter of personal vengeance and pride as the desire to stop a psychopath from slitting more throats.  Blackwater Tango takes its time to deliver the dramatic tension demanded of a crime-genre thriller, and the payoff is worth the wait.  Gena Hollender - and Lisa Polisar - are two names worth watching for in years ahead.

March 25, 2007 

 This entertaining mystery aimed at young adults takes readers back to the summer of 1961 in the American heartland. 

    The setting is small town Grady, Okla. Fifteen-year-old Jake Leeds accepts his coming-of-age initiation from his friend Mikey Savage: Sleep on the ground at the unused baseball diamond without a sleeping shoes bag, blanket . or even N.M. 

    All well and good, but Jake must confront an unexpected paranormal occurrence that will change his life. He hears the shrieks of the ghost of a young woman. And he thinks he actually sees a vision of her gagged and tied up. 

    The next morning Jake learns from Mikey that her name was Mary. Nickname Mary Prairie. Real name, Jake finds out, was Mary McCann. She used to live in Grady. She’s dead. But was she killed? 

    Those bits of information are enough to whet Jake’s curiosity to find out more about her. After all, he and Mikey are big-time fans of Sherlock Holmes. 

    Albuquerque author Lisa Polisar has woven into the fabric of this novel plenty of hair-raising turns and emotional dips of the developing plot that readers, young adult or older, will find themselves bouncing alongside Jake and Mikey in an old Chevy pickup. 

    Polisar has enough weaves to make this fabric into an intriguing plaid. And she marvelously succeeds as the weaver. At the center of the intrigue is the teenagers’ relentless, summerlong search for Mary’s past and their willingness to risk getting into trouble to get what they want. Jake drives a pickup for which he doesn’t have a license. He gets thrown into jail, bounced out by Mikey’s mean cop-brother Blackie. Jake’s family is a mess. His father has hardly worked in 10 years; he prefers to drink. His sister has a baby with the village idiot, but the doc who visits her (yes, this was still a time when physicians still made house calls) fancies her. Jake’s mom is the glue for OKLA. this unstable family. Grady But own mom secret has that her becomes a critical TEXAS revelation in the story’s dénouement. Jake’s pretty girlfriend, Janet Lange, makes several warmly romantic appearances and reminds him that she won’t hang around forever. Jake is upset that he’s not giving Janet enough attention, but he has other fish to fry right now. The writing has an endearing cadence and flavor to it though sometimes the language is awkward. Here one example: “And in that instant, with Mikey standing on the front lawn and me still on the porch, we became transformed into Maxima and Brainiac, instinctively knowing what to do and unafraid of the action necessary to affect change.” My italics. Through the teenagers’ dialogue and behavior Jake is shown as smart and tough but not a smart mouth. 

    Polisar has a nice touch in melding scene description with plot. Here’s one example with Jake speaking: “I had now committed petty larceny, as the bait shop would have already closed. The hot calm of afternoon had lifted into cool, angry gusts dragged across the flat prairie.” 

    Her storytelling style makes one think of the Hardy Boys. The novel would translate well to an audio book and to a madefor-TV film. I hope Polisar writes a sequel. I want to read more about Jake’s youthful adventures. I think anyone who reads “The Ghost of Mary Prairie” will be hooked. 

David Steinberg is a Journal arts writer and the book editor. 

Blackwater Tango

Midwest Book Review

Lisa Polisar's BLACKWATER TANGO is a chilling and suspenseful novel about the hunt for a brilliant yet twisted psychologist turned serial killer. Horrific and frightening in its portrayal of cruelty and the erosion of sanity, BLACKWATER TANGO is a riveting read of one woman's determination to find her personal nemesis and nightmare before it claims her life as its next victim.

 

Richard Mahler, Crosswinds Weekly

Albuquerque author (and Crosswinds Weekly contributor) Lisa Polisar conjures up the dark world of a depraved but brilliant serial killer who gets his kicks from terrorizing vulnerable young women in this impressive debut novel, which features the equally smart psychologist Gena Hollender as the madman's profiler, pursuer, and wayward victim.  Hollender is a savvy Manhattanite who would rather renovate her old brownstone and cultivate exotic plants than track down suspected murderer Victor Trikonis in Maine.  But when duty calls, via the compelling invitations of two former colleagues, also her lovers, Hollender feels she has no choice ... Polisar is at her best when getting inside the head of her protagonist: "Everything insideher said no.  Every impulse of conscious thought and reasoning, every molecule of her body said the same thing.  No.  But a part of her, when she was working at the FBI's National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, had felt more alive than ever ... Some part of her was still hanging on."

The reader is finally drawn into Hollender's deepening obsession with her nemesis when the frequency of murders increases, and the threat to her own life becomes more real.  In the end, the pursuit becomes as much a matter of personal vengeance and pride as the desire to stop a psychopath from slitting more throats.  Blackwater Tango takes its time to deliver the dramatic tension demanded of a crime-genre thriller, and the payoff is worth the wait.  Gena Hollender - and Lisa Polisar - are two names worth watching for in years ahead.

 

Susan Streib, Sisters in Crime

Gena Hollender is a psychologist with a private practice in New York.  She is currently deep into renovations of her inherited brownstone which includes a green house for her exotic plants.  In her recent past she was a criminal profiler for the FBI.

Victor Trikonis is the suspected serial killer.  He, too, is a brilliant psychologist, and a master manipulator.  He is the one that got away from Gena years ago, named but never captured.  Or, perhaps, it was Gena that got away from him.  Victor's primary interest is discovering the process the mind goes through when a free person is incarcerated.  To this end, he formed a control group of 6 young women:  one dies naturally, 1 escapes his clutches, and 4, he decided, would live, at least temporarily.  Then he fixates on the one who got away.  His plan is to punish her for escaping, then execute her.

Marcus Valenzuela is Gena's former colleague, now functioning as a detective, who calls urgently for Gena, to meet in Portland, Maine.

At Monhegan Island, ME, a fisherman hauls in his lobster traps and discovers a young woman, grotesquely bent to fit inside one of those traps.  The victim carried the signature method of a Victor Trikonis kill.

Gena arrives in Portland to find most of the original serial killer task force reunited, and no one officially acknowledges summoning them collectively.

This is just the beginning of a well constructed plot built twist upon twist of seemingly unrelated episodes.  The fisherman who found the first body disappears.  Gena is attacked in the park after she hears gun shots.  A U.S. Senator's son is killed.  A photojournalist does a study of homeless people.  An old flame is rekindled between Gena and her former boss, Terrence Zemecke, now an attorney for the Office of the General Counsel, FBI.  The county sheriff is an ex-Texas Ranger.  Intriguing, yes, and the body count continues to climb.

This is a page turner thriller, but do not turn those pages too fast.  BLACKWATER TANGO is a full flavored book, that needs slow-going to savor the delicious locations in Maine, the misty February weather, and the fine detail of the relationships.  I could feel the damp fog in my face.  The characters are as well drawn and as interesting as their names suggest, with flaws and passions and features that make them fully three dimensional as well as individual.

Iearned a little bit more about psychology by reading this book, and a little bit more about English poetry, and a smidgen about scuba diving off the coast of Maine in mid-winter.

This book was immensely enjoyable, and I look forward to a second of what I hope will be a series.  Not only do I suspect Lisa Polisar will come up with another superb plot, but I want to know what happens, or does not happen, between Gena and the cute contractor completing the brownstone's renovations, or between Gena and the clearly smitten detective Marcus Valenzuela.  This may be Lisa Polisar's first full length novel, but she is no novice story teller!  Good job, Lisa!