Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Black Cloister-Melanie Dobson

The Black Cloister
Melanie Dobson
Kregel, Jun 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9780825424434

In 1991 when Elise Friedman turned eight her mom Catrina suddenly died. Raised by an adoptive father Steve, she grew up wondering about her biological dad and her mom’s life in Germany before coming to the States. She especially thought about reasons her mom left her homeland.

Now seventeen years later, Elise obsesses over knowing the truth. In Berlin Elise meets her mom’s best friend Ambassador Addison Wade, showing the stunned older woman a photo of Addison with Catrina. Addison wants to ignore Elise as she has buried the past especially since her next post will be American Ambassador to the UN. Elise explains discrepancies in her mom’s past and Steve’s story. Reluctantly Addison, understanding the resolute visitor and fearing for her going solo, takes her to Heidelberg where the quest of the Chosen began.

THE BLACK CLOISTER is a fascinating look at a cult from several perspectives. The story line is fast-paced from the moment a determined Elise arrives in Berlin and never slows with one twist after another as the danger mounts. Steve’s refusal to explain anything leaves Elise taking risks that turn her into a target; yet remaining true to his vows just seems wrong. Still this exhilarating thriller will hook the audience as the present inquiry into the past turns dangerous.

Harriet Klausner

The Memorist-M.J. Rose

The Memorist
M.J. Rose
Mira, Nov 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0778325849

As a youngster, Meer Logan only drew pictures of what looked like a treasure chest. Her family obviously noticing the pattern asked her why she insisted on drawing only this object. Meer explained that she had seen it before although no one including her could figure out when; her parents assumed it was youthful imagination though they were somewhat concerned with her seemingly compulsive behavior disorder.

Now an adult, Meer’s sixty-five year old dad Jeremy, known as the “Jewish Indiana Jones” and who works in a Vienna auction house found the box listed in an auction catalogue. Inside the box is a letter that leads Jeremy to conclude that the artifact once was owned by Beethoven's beloved. Meer heads to Austria where memories flood her mind starting with the same flute tune that makes her wonder if she was Beethoven’s lover in a previous life. As father and daughter seek a mystical flute, a murder and the stealing of the box and its letter makers both of them fear someone has a different fate in store for them.

THE MEMORIST is much more complex than the exhilarating THE REINCARNATIONIST, as M.J. Rose provides a superb thriller. There are several subplots that converge on Meer who like her dad begins to believe in her previous life. Meer, her dad and several other support players are fully developed so that the audience believes in all the seemingly paranormal nuances. Set aside plenty of time as this is not a fast read, but worth the time as THE MEMORIST is memorable.

Harriet Klausner

Night of the Furies-David Angsten

Night of the Furies
David Angsten
Dunne, Oct 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312373702

Recent college grad Jack Duran feels fortunate to have survived his week long Mexican vacation in which he searched for his missing sibling Dan. During his week stay south of the border, he eluded the lethal man-eating manta ray "El Diablo Blanco", avoided becoming the sacrifice of the devil-worshipping Punta Perdida villagers, and evaded Argonaut gold seeking killers (see DARK GOLD).

In Greece, Jack finally catches up with his brother, and Dan’s Dutch girlfriend archeologist Phoebe Auerbach. The trio visits the Oracle at Delphi where they hope to learn the facts the truth behind the legendary Eleusinian Mysteries that celebrated Demeter and Persephone. Instead the threesome learn little new about their quest, but instead meet violent sexually abusive women whose Dionysian orgies are deadly. When a homicide occurs, the local Greek police suspect Jack and Dan as the killers.

As with BLACK GOLD, David Angsten provides an action-packed over the top campy thriller that never takes itself seriously as the brothers Duran leap from one harrowing incident to another. However, Dan and especially Phoebe are underdeveloped so the winks behind the fast-paced plot never feel complete. Still, this is an exhilarating series of cliffhangers mindful of Indiana Jones.

Harriet Klausner

Undercover Angel-Karen Wiesner

Undercover Angel
Karen Wiesner
Whiskey Creek, Oct 2008
ISBN: 1603132740

Network short term operations chief Shannon McKee supervises the daily actions of the organization whose mission is to eliminate evil villains. However, she also has a personal agenda though she refuses to let her obsession interfere with the work of the Network. Instead she has patiently waited for the right time to annihilate drug kingpin Mareno Ortega, whom she holds culpable for the overdose death of her brother.

The opportunity arises so Shannon jumps at it; going undercover to bring down Ortega. Her former lover ex SEAL Captain and now Network lead strategist Ron Blair worries about the woman he loves when he learns of her mission. Meanwhile Shannon is stunned that the monster she thought Ortega to be is also kind and caring to his children. If she is not careful she will see the other side of Ortega while Ron plans on rescuing his woman and saving his heart with the latter mission much more complicated.

The seventh Incognito thriller is a superb tale due to the characterizations that make the fast paced story line so much more exciting. Shannon and Ron are a fully developed couple with issues while Ortega is a complete adversary who shows a soft side as much as his tough exterior. UNDERCOVER ANGEL is a great entry in a consistently excellent series.

Harriet Klausner

The Other Side of Silence-Bill Pronzini

The Other Side of Silence
Bill Pronzini
Walker, Oct 5 2008, $24.00
ISBN: 9780802717139

Since his son’s death and the consequential breakup of his marriage, corporate security specialist Rick Fallon is a loner. Thus when he goes camping in the Mohave Desert, he goes by himself. In fact he selects an isolated section of Death Valley so climatically anti-human no one will disturb him.

However to his chagrin he is not alone as he finds an abandoned car with a suicide note on it. Frantic Casey Dunbar has given up on life after spending the past few months futilely searching for her eight year old son, abducted by his father, her former husband Court Spicer. Rick finds her and saves her life to her bitterness and outrage. She explains that adding to her frustration and hopelessness is the knowledge her ex spouse couldn’t give a sh*t about his offspring; instead his objective is to destroy her, which he has succeeded in doing. Rick offers to investigate; Casey accepts as their encounter in Death Valley brings both back to life.

Starring a named detective, THE OTHER SIDE OF SILENCE is a terific investigative thriller with a great low-keyed final spin. The cast is fully developed especially Rick and Casey. Although mostly straightforward investigating, fans will fully appreciate the great Bill Pronzini’s strong tale.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bad Penny-Sharon Sala

Bad Penny
Sharon Sala
Mira, Nov 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778325963

Wilson McKay saved the life of Cat Dupree when he killed Solomon Tutuola, who already killed her father and was slashing her throat (see CUT THROAT). The two bounty hunters are in love, hope to move on past the traumas, and would like to settle down; but their history still interferes with their present and makes their future uncertain.

Sociopath Jimmy Franks is on a personal vendetta against Wilson whom he blames for his troubles. He stalks Wilson and plans to kill his enemy’s woman before murdering his target. Additionally Mexican Homicide Detective Luis Montoya investigates the suspicious death of Tutuola. Cat fears what the cop will do once he learns the truth.

The latest Cat Dupree tale is a well written suspense thriller, but loses much of the tension in spite of the latest assaults on the lead couple because much of the prime issues have been resolved in the previous tales. The story line is fast-paced and fun to read but BAD PENNY is no CUT THROAT. Still fans of the Dupree saga will wonder how many lives does Cat have left, as Sharon Sala provides an exciting entry.

Harriet Klausner

The Organ Grinder-Maan Meyers

The Organ Grinder
Maan Meyers
Five Star, Oct 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9781594147210

In 1899 in New York City, John “Dutch” Tonneman, one of the two-man NYPD Commissioner's Squad, investigates a serial killer who stabs his victims to death. The case is somewhat personal for the detective because his lover photographer Esther Breslau met one of the deceased prostitutes Delia Swann as part of her project to take pictures of street walkers.

Dutch wonders if Esther photographing the hooker is a coincidence or not. He ponders whether the killer is following Esther’s work with an especially keen lethal eye. As he follows clues, Dutch worries that Esther could be on the list of this sociopath slasher.

The latest Dutchman turn of the century police procedural is more historical than an investigative whodunit as the audience knows who the killer is early on. The tidbits into 1899 New York City is wonderful as readers obtain glimpses into the subway system construction, the problems with the consolidation with Brooklyn and Queens, and much more as life in Manhattan shines throughout the novel. Although that is a double edged sword as the police investigation into the serial killer slasher homicides takes a back seat to the city.

Harriet Klausner

Eden Palms Murder-Dorothy Francis

Eden Palms Murder
Dorothy Francis
Five Stars, Oct 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 1594147027

Her late mom’s friend Francine Shipton invites Des Moines based blues singer Bailey Green to spend time living in her guest cottage on her Eden Palms estate. However, Bailey is shocked when her hostess fails to pick her up at the Key West Airport as arranged. She soon finds out why when she arrives at Eden Palms to see police Detectives Cassidy and Burgundy investigating the death of Francis.

Francine’s son Zack tells Bailey to use the guest cottage. He also asks her to help him look into his mother’s death as he explains she made enemies when she decided to convert the estate into a homeless shelter. The cops look into the alibis of neighbors, realtor Courtney Lusk, Dr. Winton Gravely who found the body and funeral director Tucker Tisdale as well as yardman Mitch Mitchell who is Bailey’s brother under the witness protection program. While working with Zack on the homicide, she learns of a second murder that leads to her life being threatened.

This is an enjoyable amateur sleuth tale in which the heroine is attracted to Zack, but does not trust him as she fears he may be the killer. The story line is fast-paced although Mitch’s woes distract from the plot. Still readers will relish Dorothy Francis’ latest Key West whodunit (see CONCH SHELL MURDER and COLD-CASE KILLER).

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Cold Pursuit-Carla Neggers

Cold Pursuit
Carla Neggers
Mira, Nov 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 0778325539

Secret service Agent Jo Harper is put on administrative leave because while doing her duty an incident turns into an unfair YouTube scandal of her with the Vice President’s merry prankster sixteen years old son Charles Preston Neal. She returns to her hometown Black Falls, Vermont hoping her fifteen minutes of sensationalism ends quickly so she can go back to work; her fear is her career is over.

Also back in town recovering from a war wound in Afghanistan is Special Forces Sergeant Elijah Cameron. Besides recuperating, Elijah investigates the death of his father Drew seven months ago.

At the same time, Jo's friend Thomas Asher witnessed the murder of former Ambassador to Great Britain Alex Bruni in a hit and run in which Thomas’ daughter college age Nora fled into the mountains; Thomas’s former wife and Nora’s mom is Bruni’s widow. Former lovers when they were teens until Drew ended their relationship, Jo and Elijah find their inquiries link; as they fall in love while investigating two murders and search for the missing girl, the killers seek Nora too.

This is an exciting romantic suspense thriller filled with humor and action as Carla Neggers brings the Green Mountain State to life. Jo and Elijah are tough and courageous, but inside both are vulnerable especially when it comes to the other. Readers will relish this exhilarating complex cat and mouse tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Hiding Place-Karen Harper

The Hiding Place
Karen Harper
Mira, Nov 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 0778325881

Finders Keepers private investigator Tara Kinsale awakens after months in a coma to a series of deep stress shockers. First she learns that her best friend Alexis was murdered. Second, that she had been named guardian of Alexis’ daughter Claire as the father is a rat who deserted his then wife and child for another woman. Third Claire's uncle, Nick McMahon has arrived from military duty in Afghanistan to raise his niece. Fourth her own spouse divorced her and remarried. Finally, she learns from her doctor that she gave birth while in the coma.

As Tara struggles to bring the parts together into a cohesive package, she agrees to help Nick and Claire become a family. She makes inquires into her lost nine months especially the infant she birthed, but some unknown person wants her to remain either ignorant or dead.

This action-packed romantic suspense hooks the audience from the moment Tara opens her eyes to learn one stunner after another starting with the memory of how she became comatose until the final confrontation. The story line is fast-paced though at times overly angst laden with so much pressure on Tara. Still this is an exciting thriller as the past still haunts the heroine’s present.

Harriet Klausner

Donovan & Son-Michael Jahn

Donovan & Son
Michael Jahn
Five Star, Oct 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 1594142661

With plenty of money from his wife, former NYPD legendary Special Investigations Chief Detective Bill Donovan left the force to spend time with their wheelchair bound son Danny and seeking a cure that would enable his offspring to walk away from the “Beast”. Ironically, Danny thinks of his wheelchair as a commanding chariot not a confinement.

Bill learns of genetic research conducted by Riverside University geneticist Dr. Patrick McGowan, who vanished without a trace over two decades ago; he feels the scientist might be able to help Danny walk. At Riverside, DONOVAN & SON make inquiries, but no one knows what happened to McGowan, why he vanished or where he is now. They explore the boxes in the tunnels beneath the school’s library only to hear a scream. The father and son find janitor Gregorio Paz dying. Donovan’s friend and replacement as Special Investigations chief Brian Moskowitz investigates the murder of Paz even as the retiree finds odd clues that lead back to the Manhattan Project, the Cuban missile crisis, his other son police officer Lewis Rodriguez and Lewis’s mother bartender Rosalie Rodriguez.

The mystery takes a back seat to the extended complicated relationships and the tour of mostly uptown. The story line is driven by Donovan whose past alongside that of Riverside resurfaces; whatever he does he knows nothing will remain the same. Fans of the series will appreciate the twentieth-fifth anniversary thriller with the tunnels serving as metaphors of life as well as existing under the city colleges such as Lehman College when it was called Hunter-Bronx.

Harriet Klausner

The Messenger of Death-Pierre Magnan

The Messenger of Death
Pierre Magnan
Dunne, Sep 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0312387563

Former postman Emile Pencnat notices the unstamped addressed letter in the disused box at the gate of the Cemetery at Barles, France. Unable to resist perhaps because of his previous occupation, he puts on the postage and sends it to Veronique Champourcieux. However the mademoiselle is not quite in a receiving mood as someone jammed the bayonet blade of a nineteenth century rife through her stomach into a piano.

After the greedy woman is found dead Judge Chabrand asks his friend former Superintendent Laviolette to investigate the homicide. As the pair follows leads across Provencal, more horrific gruesome murders occur. Someone appears to be on a mission of revenge, which Laviolette assumes means greed is the original cause and serial murders are the effect.

The second Provence whodunit (see DEATH IN THE TRUFFLE WOOD) is an excellent French murder mystery due to the sleuthing pair who struggles with a strange case. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the judge asks the retiree to help him end the serial killings. Pierre Magnan provides a strong investigative thriller as the murder count rises while Laviolette and Chabrand try to prevent the next one by capturing the culprit.

Harriet Klausner

Caravaggio's Angel-Ruth Brandon

Caravaggio's Angel
Ruth Brandon
Soho, Oct 2008, $25.00
ISBN: 1569475199

The Director of the London National Gallery approves art historian Reggie Lee’s concept to display three “original” works of artist Caravaggio, who created in 1605 the altarpiece St. Cecilia and the Angel and subsequently made two copies. She knows that the Getty and the Louvre each have one and assumes it should prove no problem to find the third.

Shockingly, Louvre Italian masterpiece administrator Antoine Rigaut refuses to loan the museum’s copy. Since lending is a normal practice, Reggie goes to Paris to plead her case in person with Rigaut. However, he avoids her like she has the plague until he is found dead, an apparent suicide. Reggie is further stunned when a seemingly fourth copy surfaces. This makes her believe one of the originals is a fake; perhaps created in 1937 when the Louvre copy was recovered after being stolen. When the English expert meets Rigaut’s mother, she begins to learn the true early twentieth century history of St. Cecilia and the Angel.

CARAVAGGIO'S ANGEL is an excellent art mystery starring a likable protagonist who goes from art historian to amateur sleuth in her efforts to learn the truth. The story line is fast-paced with the historical aspects adding a terific taste of the early seventeenth century art world and the not so rare museum thefts of the early twentieth century from a modern perspective. Ruth Brandon provides a wonderful thriller that hopefully will lead to more blending of masterpieces with mysteries.

Harriet Klausner

The Sweet Scent of Blood-Suzanne McLeod

The Sweet Scent of Blood
Suzanne McLeod
Gollancz, 2008
ISBN 978057584285

The Spellcrackers consists of good witches whose mission is to defuse evil magic in a world in which vampires have come out of the coffin and are accepted by society although some people believe they are the malevolent predators as legend describes them.

Spellcrackers.com operative Genny Taylor is a Sidhe who distrusts the vamps as she understands the food chain too well. Still in spite of her bias, she investigates the homicide of Melissa the girlfriend of Mr. October, Roberto the celebrity vampire accused of killing her with one bite. As Genny follows the bloody London trail she soon realizes the case is not quite as closed as she and the cops thought. However, she is unprepared for her and Mr. October being expendable tools discarded by two dangerous powerful adversaries who have fought for control of the paranormal communities for centuries.

This is a fast-paced humorous urban fantasy that in some ways will remind the audience of Charlaine Harris’ Stackhouse tales; location aside. The story line is fast-paced and the inquiry solid. However, the thriller is owned by the paranormal species that frequent famous London haunts as if they own the city. Readers will enjoy the first Spellcrackers.com thriller as Suzanne McLeod brings life to her supernatural cast as much as her superb plot.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Exploits of the Second Mrs. Watson-Michael Mallory

The Exploits of the Second Mrs. Watson
Michael Mallory
Top Publications, Jul 2008, $14.95
3100 Independence Parkway
Suite 311-349
Plano, Texas 75075
ISBN: 1929976461

This excellent thirteen story collection provides a fascinating spin on the Holmes mythos. In the Introduction John Shirley explains that Holmes mentions that his chronicler Watson had a second wife (see The Adventures of the Blanched Soldier) whom he was married to in January 1903. Using that footnote Mr. Shirley provides the Baker Street crowd with a wonderful collection in which Amelia Watson solves the cases. Of the thirteen tales, twelve have been in other publications. All the entries are fun and use a real historical item, person or place, event to anchor the tales. Sherlock makes a few appearances with one amusing moment when he steals the dress of the very tall Amelia so he can go undercover; while Mycroft appears more frequently. Also showing up is Lestrade who appreciates Mrs. Watson’s skills. Fans of the great detective will relish this strong compilation as Amelia recognizes her competitor for John's affections is Sherlock and John is envious that not only his friend is a superior sleuth so is his wife whom he adores.

Harriet Klausner

Serena-Ron Nash

Ron Nash
Ecco, Oct 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780061470851

During the Depression in Appalachia, wealthy lumber baron George Pemberton returns from Boston to Waynesville, North Carolina accompanied by his new wife, the orphan Serena. Waiting for him to disembark from the train is his sycophant partners, pregnant teenage kitchen hand Rachel Harmon and her outraged father. A drunken Harmon demands Pemberton take care of the child he sired. Instead encouraged by Serena, George kills him as he knows he is above the law.

Pemberton destroys the land and its people and his wife Serena is as evil and avaricious as he is. She insures Rachel is scorned by everyone and that the brat once born remains the bastard he or she is. Meanwhile Serena also obtains the undying loyalty of foreman Galloway whose life she saved; he becomes her slave willing to kill anyone if she asks; however George actually likes having a son adoring Jacob and angering his wife.

This is an intriguing look at the Depression from various perspectives. Especially fascinating is the poignant glimpse at horrific working conditions that make a case for a strong OSHA and yet in spite of the danger of death and maim the workers have forged a club like solidarity (mindful of soldiers in war conditions). Although the key cast is stereotyped; the Pembertons especially Serena are evil caricatures of the abuse of wealth while in contrast poor single mom Rachel is kind and noble, fans will appreciate this powerful 1930s drama.

Harriet Klausner

Fear Death by Water-Kinley Roby

Fear Death by Water
Kinley Roby
Five Star, Oct 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 1594146446

As the president of the Stoneman Douglas Alliance whose goal is to save the Okalatchee River from becoming a dead zone, Colleen McGraw expected some threats; however the emails and letters are increasing and turning nastier and now rattlesnakes have been dumped in her mailbox. She asks private investigator Harry Brock to find out who is trying to stop her campaign.

When the murdered body of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission senior ichthyologist Joyce Fields is found in the river, the Tequita County Sheriff’s Department, which has done nothing re Colleen’s complaints, must investigate the homicide. Joyce was making a case that the river is nearly dead having been polluted by chemical and fertilizer runoff. Harry finds several groups including locals doing everything to bury the toxic information. He also has personal issues as his estranged pregnant daughter Sarah comes to see him for the first time in years and he is attracted to a member of the Alliance; both of his women in danger.

The story line is excellent with the prime focus being development and property rights vs. environment and conservation. Adding to the overall fun are Harry’s neighbors Tucker, Oh Brother and Sanchez as they enchant Sarah and the readers. Fans will enjoy his Southwest Florida thriller and seek Brock’s previous cases (see NOW COMES DEATH and TWO IN THE CHURCHYARD LIE).

Harriet Klausner

Trigger City-Sean Chercover

Trigger City
Sean Chercover
Morrow, Nov 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780061128691

In Chicago unable to let go the unsolved murder of his daughter Joan, Colonel (R) Isaac Richmond hires injured (see BIG CITY, BAD BLOOD) private investigator Ray Dudgeon to investigate in what appears to be a solved case. Dudgeon knows he still should refuse as he is still healing, but accepts the $50,000.

To everyone including the sleuth with the lone exception of her father believe Joan’s insane co-worker Steven Zhang killed her and then himself in a murder-suicide. However, being a professional Dudgeon looks beyond the obvious to see if any other potential suspect exists. He learns Joan worked for the Hawk River Company that thrives on Defense Department and Homeland Security contracts and Zhang’s widow admits her late spouse had contacts in China. As the case spins even crazier, Dudgeon begins to believe there were two homicides committed instead of a murder-suicide.

TRIGGER CITY is an excellent Chicago Noir as Dudgeon keeps digging in spite of threats to his still bruised and battered well being. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never looks back once the sleuth accepts the case. Readers will enjoy Drudgeon’s tour of Chicago as he turns from skeptic to believer while the inquiry turns strange and potentially deadly.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Plague-Glen M. Page, MD

The Last Plague
Glen M. Page, MD
Synergy, Jun 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9781933538969
Synergy Books, P.O. Box 80107,Austin, Tx.78758

In 1986 on Yankee Ford in Stanley, Idaho, a ten years old Black girl is found bleeding from her abdomen; she is rushed to the emergency room for surgery. Dr. Doug Hunter opens up the area that is bleeding only to find it is one of her ovarian arteries; the other is black. He successfully stops the bleeding, but her mom and friend remove the child from the hospital so that the Sprudiths, Children of Lucifer, cannot find her. Soon afterward two corpses of children with black ovaries are found in an abandoned shack.

The Spendrift leader has Army General McFarland confiscate the bodies because they do not want the public to know about the black ovaries of preadolescents. Doug finds a paper on black ovaries in the CDC library, but is later told the slides he took of his black ovary patient have been taken and the scientist who was examining them is dead. He also realizes they are after him and his friends and associates who apparently know too much. Doug’s son Jason is constantly called a Levite and the Sprudiths refer to him as the “heir” or the chosen one. He apparently has a major role re the future of mankind; if the dark ones don’t kill him first. Neither father nor son seems to have much time elft as the enemy is coming for them.

This is the opening novel of a series that deals with the forces of Darkness personified by Lucifer and his commanders on earth. They fight the forces of good symbolized by Doug’s wife who he believed dies but is actually fighting for their souls. Doug is a non-believer in the heaven-hell war on earth, but ironically plays a pivotal role. Both sides have equal soldiers who will not hesitate to use force on the other side. THE LAST PLAGUE is an exhilarating medical-apocalyptic thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 26, 2008

Blacklight Blue-Peter May

Blacklight Blue
Peter May
Poisoned Pen, Nov 2008
ISBN 9781590585528

Scottish expatriate forensic scientist Enzo Macleod has earned a well deserved reputation for solving a decades old cold case homicide (see EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE and THE CRITIC) as written in a true crime book by his daughter’s boyfriend journalist Roger Raffin. Enzo has five unsolved cases left in order to complete his “read” of Raffin’s book.

Roger describes the 1992 Paris murder of Yves, but Enzo finds focusing difficult on the homicide as he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer with only a few months to live. However, the culprit knows only of Enzo’s success and fears the forensic expert will expose him. The killer works behind the scenes to destroy Enzo including setting him up as a murder suspect and threatens his daughter and other loved ones. Thus Enzo is forced to investigate the rent boy murder.

As with the two previous Macleod investigative thriller (see EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE and THE CRITIC), BLACKLIGHT BLUE is a superb cold case whodunit enhanced by the shocking personal health issue confronting the hero. The story line effortlessly moves back forth through four decades with the past adding to the overall drama. Fans of this extraordinary series will appreciate the irony that the killer forces Enzo to investigate.

Harriet Klausner

Collateral Damage-Fern Michaels

Collateral Damage
Fern Michaels
Zebra, Sep 30 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420101874

Both political parties are stunned when their top secret fundraising lists of donors are stolen. The Democrats and the Republicans ask the Sisterhood to investigate the hacker who stile their lists. However, the Sisterhood is divided as to who to assist. The Dems offer a lot of cash while the GOP offer presidential pardon.

One thing the team shares in common is not to trust either party. They have their extended operatives conduct some serendipitous investigations to see if this is a stunt to catch them. As they learn more of what is going on from their allies, the Sisterhood with its one for all and all for one attitude comes together as they always do.

The latest Sisterhood saga is in some ways typical of the series as the magnificent seven deals with a new challenge. However, it is refreshed as they disagree on involvement and more so by previous tales secondary players playing much greater roles than ever before. Fans of the series will enjoy their latest thriller as they fear the risk of getting involved could cause them to become COLLATERAL DAMAGE, but the opportunity may be too great to ignore.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Replacement Child-Christine Barber

The Replacement Child
Christine Barber
Dunne, Oct 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 0312385544

On her scanner, elderly Patsy “Scanner Lady” Burke overhears two state cops discuss the death of twenty-three years old Burroway Academy seventh grade teacher Melissa Baca who was thrown from the Taos Gorge Bridge. As she has done a zillion times before, Patsy calls the Santa Fe Capital Tribune but this time is stuck with a female, editor Lucy Newroe with the news.

A volunteer EMT, Lucy and her medico partner Gil answer an emergency call by going to the home of an elderly woman where she finds Patsy strangled to death. She checks the police scanner log but finds no entry re the Baca death. Santa Fe police Detective Sergeant Gil Montoya investigates the Baca death finding discrepancies over alleged drug use. With Lucy badgering Gil, they team up seeking more than just the scanner link between the two homicides.

Readers will understand why THE REPLACEMENT CHILD won the annual Tony Hillerman Prize for best previously unpublished mystery set in the Southwest as the scanner murders are fun to follow and the Santa Fe setting makes an ideal backdrop. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the Scanner Lady calls Lucy and never slows down. Although the coincidence of Lucy answering the medical call is a minor quibble, fans will enjoy Christine Barber’s first Santa Fe whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

The Matters at Mansfield (Or, The Crawford Affair)-Carrie Bebris

The Matters at Mansfield (Or, The Crawford Affair)
Carrie Bebris
Forge, Sep 2008, $22.95
ISBN: 0765318474

Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy are euphoric over the birth of their first child. However, both are bit stunned when they attend a party, as their mousy cousin Anne de Bourgh shows shocking courage and even stunningly a backbone by standing up to her martinet mother Lady Catherine for the first time at least in public. Catherine plans for her daughter to wed odious Neville Sennex, heir to senile Lord Sennex; instead Anne elopes with Mr. Crawford.

Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam give chase, but arrive at Gretna Green too late to stop the marriage. Instead they escort the couple home only Annie hurts her foot so they stop at Mansfield. However, soon afterward, a horde descends on the village. Annie’s mom with her lawyer wants the marriage annulled. Crawford’s mistress and his second wife claim he cannot marry someone else. As everyone argues over whom is married to who, Crawford’s battered corpse is found; the magistrate proclaims suicide but Elizabeth and Fitz think otherwise and begin investigating.

Although some Jane Austen die-hards might take exception to liberties with characters like Anne (critically needed to put the plot in gear), Carrie Bebris provides a fun lighthearted Regency amateur sleuth tale. The story line is a fast-paced Regency and of course includes Austen tidbits. For the most part fans of Ms. Austen will appreciate Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam starring in their fourth entertaining whodunit (see PRIDE AND PRESCIENCE, NORTH BY NORTHANGER and SUSPENSE AND SENSIBILITY).

Harriet Klausner

Kllrs-Phil Bowie

Phil Bowie
Medallion, Nov 2008, $7.95
ISBN: 9781605420608

In the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, pilot John Hardin hides from his past; twice the Federal Witness Protection Program has given him new identities including his current one. However, he knows his dark history including a murder could surface at any time.

Former Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent Nolan Rader informs John he has video proof that he committed a homicide. He demands John save his brother Clint or he will expose him. The plan is for John to join the dangerous powerful drug running Satan’s Ghosts as a pilot smuggling drugs from Canada; Nolan believes a special cell of the biker gang, Satan’s Wraith kidnapped his sibling.

Reluctantly John agrees, but to keep his beloved girl friend Kitty Birdsong and others safe, he tells no one. At the same time he makes contact at a dive, the Satan’s Wraith leader Kurt “the Brain” Ganz conducts a psychological research study using Clint as a subject on stress.

The third Phil Bowie North Carolina thriller (see GUNS and DIAMONDBACK) is an engaging action-packed tale from the moment Nolan blackmails John into rescuing his sibling. The story line is fast-paced but also contains deep characterizations at least of Harden’s friends; how profound they prove to be comes across with their concern for him as he is forced to end his relationships with his beloved Kitty and others to keep them safe and to hide the undercover truth. Although the Brain is too psychopathic especially with his experiments, thriller fans will appreciate this entertaining tale.

Harriet Klausner

Ghost At Work-Carolyn Hart

Ghost At Work
Carolyn Hart
Morrow, Oct 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780060874360

While sailing off the Gulf of Mexico, Bailey Ruth Raeburn and her husband Bobby Mac die during a storm. However, instead of enjoying Heaven for eternity, Bailey, understanding the Precepts for Earthly Visitation rules as part of the Department for Good Intentions, is sent back to her hometown of Adelaide, Oklahoma to help her niece Kathleen Abbott, the wife of a local rector.

Kathleen found a corpse on her back porch. Instead of reporting it to the cops, Kathleen with Bailey Ruth’s assistance moves the body to a nearby cemetery. Bailey Ruth investigates the homicide, but finds many in the town loathed the victim. Still she keeps digging although she knows when she returns to heaven she will be disciplined for violating the prime directive on visits to earth.

This is an entertaining paranormal amateur sleuth starring a heavenly agent who breaks the rules in order, to the “cardiac arrest” of her superior, to help those in need. The story line is lighthearted yet charming as Bailey Ruth works the case by eavesdropping though many of those conversations are unrelated to her mission; she is nosy. With enough suspects to fill the choir and a bureaucracy running Heaven, fans will enjoy Carolyn Hart leaving her “Death on Demand” and Henrie O sagas to introduce her audience to a fresh fun heaven on earth detective.

Harriet Klausner

The Replacement Child-Christine Barber

The Replacement Child
Christine Barber
Dunne, Oct 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 0312385544

On her scanner, elderly Patsy “Scanner Lady” Burke overhears two state cops discuss the death of twenty-three years old Burroway Academy seventh grade teacher Melissa Baca who was thrown from the Taos Gorge Bridge. As she has done a zillion times before, Patsy calls the Santa Fe Capital Tribune but this time is stuck with a female, editor Lucy Newroe with the news.

A volunteer EMT, Lucy and her medico partner Gil answer an emergency call by going to the home of an elderly woman where she finds Patsy strangled to death. She checks the police scanner log but finds no entry re the Baca death. Santa Fe police Detective Sergeant Gil Montoya investigates the Baca death finding discrepancies over alleged drug use. With Lucy badgering Gil, they team up seeking more than just the scanner link between the two homicides.

Readers will understand why THE REPLACEMENT CHILD won the annual Tony Hillerman Prize for best previously unpublished mystery set in the Southwest as the scanner murders are fun to follow and the Santa Fe setting makes an ideal backdrop. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the Scanner Lady calls Lucy and never slows down. Although the coincidence of Lucy answering the medical call is a minor quibble, fans will enjoy Christine Barber’s first Santa Fe whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

The Matters at Mansfield (Or, The Crawford Affair)-Carrie Bebris

The Matters at Mansfield (Or, The Crawford Affair)
Carrie Bebris
Forge, Sep 2008, $22.95
ISBN: 0765318474

Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy are euphoric over the birth of their first child. However, both are bit stunned when they attend a party, as their mousy cousin Anne de Bourgh shows shocking courage and even stunningly a backbone by standing up to her martinet mother Lady Catherine for the first time at least in public. Catherine plans for her daughter to wed odious Neville Sennex, heir to senile Lord Sennex; instead Anne elopes with Mr. Crawford.

Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam give chase, but arrive at Gretna Green too late to stop the marriage. Instead they escort the couple home only Annie hurts her foot so they stop at Mansfield. However, soon afterward, a horde descends on the village. Annie’s mom with her lawyer wants the marriage annulled. Crawford’s mistress and his second wife claim he cannot marry someone else. As everyone argues over whom is married to who, Crawford’s battered corpse is found; the magistrate proclaims suicide but Elizabeth and Fitz think otherwise and begin investigating.

Although some Jane Austen die-hards might take exception to liberties with characters like Anne (critically needed to put the plot in gear), Carrie Bebris provides a fun lighthearted Regency amateur sleuth tale. The story line is a fast-paced Regency and of course includes Austen tidbits. For the most part fans of Ms. Austen will appreciate Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam starring in their fourth entertaining whodunit (see PRIDE AND PRESCIENCE, NORTH BY NORTHANGER and SUSPENSE AND SENSIBILITY).

Harriet Klausner

Kllrs-Phil Bowie

Phil Bowie
Medallion, Nov 2008, $7.95
ISBN: 9781605420608

In the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, pilot John Hardin hides from his past; twice the Federal Witness Protection Program has given him new identities including his current one. However, he knows his dark history including a murder could surface at any time.

Former Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent Nolan Rader informs John he has video proof that he committed a homicide. He demands John save his brother Clint or he will expose him. The plan is for John to join the dangerous powerful drug running Satan’s Ghosts as a pilot smuggling drugs from Canada; Nolan believes a special cell of the biker gang, Satan’s Wraith kidnapped his sibling.

Reluctantly John agrees, but to keep his beloved girl friend Kitty Birdsong and others safe, he tells no one. At the same time he makes contact at a dive, the Satan’s Wraith leader Kurt “the Brain” Ganz conducts a psychological research study using Clint as a subject on stress.

The third Phil Bowie North Carolina thriller (see GUNS and DIAMONDBACK) is an engaging action-packed tale from the moment Nolan blackmails John into rescuing his sibling. The story line is fast-paced but also contains deep characterizations at least of Harden’s friends; how profound they prove to be comes across with their concern for him as he is forced to end his relationships with his beloved Kitty and others to keep them safe and to hide the undercover truth. Although the Brain is too psychopathic especially with his experiments, thriller fans will appreciate this entertaining tale.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Job to Kill For-Janice Kaplan

A Job to Kill For
Janice Kaplan
Touchstone, Aug 2008, $24.00
ISBN: 9781416532132

In Los Angeles beautiful wealthy Cassie Crawford hires interior designer Lacy Fields to decorate her new three million dollar penthouse apartment. Lacy jokes that Cassie is a bigger pain than her three kids or her surgeon spouse and says to her best friend Molly Archer she wants to kill her bothersome client. Molly understands as she knows Cassie’s spouse. When Lacy completes the job, she shows off her work to her young client; only Cassie drops dead, a murder victim.

Instead of the billionaire spouse, the cops suspect Lacy and her best friend Molly as the most likely killer(s). Refusing to sit idly by while the cops try to railroad her or Molly, Lacy investigates the homicide. However as she uncovers clues, the culprit watches to insure the amateur sleuth does not learn the truth.

The latest Lacy Fields amateur sleuth (see LOOKS TO DIE FOR) is an entertaining whodunit in which the humorous asides make for a fun read. From the onset when the heroine muses she would not have made a joke about killing Cassie if she knew someone was going to kill Cassie until the final confrontation, readers will enjoy Lacy’s antics. A JOB TO KILL FOR is a jocular lighthearted cozy.

Harriet Klausner

Running Time-T.J. MacGregor

Running Time
T.J. MacGregor
Pinnacle, Nov 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780786018338

Time travel exists as a fledgling science. People experiment with the boundaries testing how far they can push the past. A government agency SPOT (Special Operational Temporal) filled with black ops were using the new technique to go back in history to dump dissidents, subversives and anyone undesirable in our time. In the 1970s Catherine Walgreen disappeared into Blue River, Massachusetts of 1695.

Her daughter Nora, her significant other Alex Kincaid, and four others who were part of the program before turning rogue are in hiding; each has a biochip implanted in them so they can move through time. Powerful individuals wanting to start up SPOT again are searching for the sextet because they possess a vast supply of the chips that the SPOT enthusiasts do not have and desperately need. The six are determined to keep the cache away from their enemies.

Alex and Nora travel back in time hoping to rescue her mother and end up in the middle of the witch hysteria flamed by the local preacher. For some unknown reason they cannot revert back to their twenty-first century normal time. When Nora is kidnapped and tortured by the insane preacher, another person form the future on the wrong side of the fight, goes back in time seeking redemption by stopping the pending slaughter.

The men, women, and one dog know their lives will never be normal because of what they know, have done, and possess; each understands they will spend their lifetimes looking back over their shoulders. The book is filled with action, extremely complex at times (no pun intended) to track as the plot is far from linear, and loaded with courageous heroes and cruel villains. As always T.J. MacGregor provides an exciting thriller with a cast who are literally RUNNING TIME (also see KILL TIME).
Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Conspiracy of Silence-Martha Powers

Conspiracy of Silence
Martha Powers
Oceanview, Nov 2008, $9.99
ISBN: 9781933515427

Chicago reporter Clare Prentice is stunned to learn she is adopted when Dr. Craig calmly suggested after a physical she obtain medical information on her biological parents. Clare had thought Rose, who raised her was her biological mom. Now she knows her late adopted mom Rose hid the truth from her; her biological dad died before Clare was three. Her reaction to the disturbing news is to end her engagement to kind hearted Doug Kitridge.

She finds a high school ring amongst her late adoptive mother’s stuff. With a need to know more, Claire heads to where the ring is from, Grand Rapids, Minnesota. While there she is assigned to interview reclusive novelist, Nate Hanssen, a resident who shuns publicity. Clare learns her birth mother was Lily Gundersen, who was murdered in Grand Rapids. Soon after her arrival someone stalks Clare who assumes her mom’s killer wants his or her murderous secret kept quiet. Clare and Nate begin to act on their attraction to one another.

Outside of the interview occurring in Grand Rapids where the mysterious graduation ring comes from, CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE is a great suspense thriller. Clare uses her reporter skills to learn more about her mom’s murder, but quickly learns nothing is quite like it seems and every one even the author she is falling in love with appears to have an agenda. With some nice twists along the way, readers will enjoy this exciting cozy with just the right amount of a romantic subplot to enhance the investigation.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Ruffian on the Stair-Gary Newman

The Ruffian on the Stair
Gary Newman
Soho, Oct 2008, $25.00
ISBN 9781569475430

Sebastian “Seb” Rolveden lives in a lighthouse on the Essex coast where he hopes the isolation will enable him to write about his recent adventures. He muses about his legendary grandfather who he is named after and who just died.

Seb inherited a notebook from the late elder Seb that chronicles an apparent murder in 1899 London. Seb the senior an artist turned preacher explained he woke up one morning with a hangover, naked and with no memory of the night before. Lying dead next to him was Anglo-Swedish impressionist painter Julian Rawbeck. Seb the junior feels obsessed to know more about the event and his grandfather. With his girlfriend Leah, they begin to track down the mysterious past of Seb senior starting with searching for Rawbeck’s renowned missing dark masterpiece "THE RUFFIAN ON THE STAIR". The more he digs into Rawbeck the more he learns about his grandfather who seemingly was a devoted member of the artist’s retinue. As Seb the younger and Leah hop to Jersey and Normandy, they find evidence that allegedly points towards his grandfather as the killer of the artist.

This is a cerebral mystery starring a young man who needs to learn more about his roots. The story line is at its best when Seb the junior struggles with his inquiry while expanding his focus onto Rawbeck. The two Seb’s are fascinating characters as each is obsessed with the truth. Although the retinue of support players from the art world adds too much complexity to an already erudite amateur sleuth, readers will enjoy this fine thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Absolute Honor-C.C. Humphreys

Absolute Honor
C.C. Humphreys
Dunne, Nov 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780312358242

After barely surviving THE BLOODING OF JACK ABSOLUTE at the Battle of Quebec and nearly freezing to death in the wintry north of the New World, Jack wants to go home. England seems so warm and friendly suddenly even rejoining his unit the 16th Light Dragoons.

On board the slave ship Sweet Eliza crossing the Atlantic, Jack meets and becomes friends with Irish grenadier soldier Red Hugh McClune. Upon reaching England, the two buddies journey to Bath, where Red introduces Jack to his beautiful cousin, Laetitia Fitzpatrick. Jack courts Laetitia, but her siren’s lure leads him into the middle of traitorous activity, which becomes even more lucid to the stunned soldier when his superior officer sends him undercover to Rome to learn more about a seditious plot against his England.

Jack’s heart leads him astray as he must choose between ABSOLUTE HONOR and ABSOLUTE LOVE. As in the previous tales Jack makes the era seem real as this time he brings to life the 1760s when nefarious plots seem everywhere. Fans of the saga know absolutely that C. C. Humphrey’s hero is the best; however this time love and friendship may prove his undoing.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Red-Jordan Summers

Jordan Summers
Tor, Nov 2008
ISBN: 0765359146

In 2160, the world has become a global environmental disaster. In that pandemic landscape the United States of America has broken into independent republics with only one inter-regional governmental entity linking these new nations, the International Police Tactical Team (IPTT) serve as cops and peacekeepers between the regions.

IPTT peacekeeper Gina "Red" Santiago investigates a particularly ferociously violent homicide until her superiors close the case based on murder by an animal. Red disagrees as she has clues to show some sort of super human did the brutal deed. Her clues lead her to Nuria, Republic of Arizona where she finds the residents behaving guardedly friendly towards her. Especially amiable yet wary is Sheriff Morgan Hunter who acts attracted to her while also wanting her to stop her inquiry. Red is stunned because she wants the sheriff too. As uncovers the truth about the residents of Nuria and her desire for the alpha Morgan she knows the serial killer she tracks is closing in on her.

This opening of what appears will be a powerful paranormal romantic police procedural series sets a forlorn futuristic world as Jordan Summers paints a dying planet. That is needed to establish reality especially with paranormal elements combined with a post apocalyptic America. However this also slows down the investigation and romance, the twin plot engines that run the tale. The lead couple is a delightful pairing of two kick butt heroes while the first hand account of the psychopath killer requires a warning label of not to read this tale on a full stomach. Fans will enjoy RED as the cop and the sheriff battle each other for supremacy in their relationship and team up to end a serial killer’s reign of terror.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Playing Dead-Allison Brennan

Playing Dead
Allison Brennan
Ballantine, Sep 30 2008
ISBN: 9780345502735

Fifteen years ago the assignment was to murder District Attorney Taverton. When he committed to the kill he found the mark in bed with Lydia, the wife of police officer Tom O’Brien, as planned. He killed both and set up the cuckolded husband to take the fall. Tom was framed perfectly for the double homicide, with his then teenage daughter Claire having seen him staring at the two corpses testifying against her father. Tom proclaimed his innocence, but was convicted and sentenced to be executed.

On death row at San Quentin with the countdown in months, Tom is freed by an earthquake. In hiding four months later he informs his daughter that Oliver Maddox possesses proof of his innocence. Wondering if she misconstrued that ghastly scene, insurance investigator Claire and boyfriend Mitch Bianchi plan to visit Oliver; only they are too late as his dead body was just fished out of the Sacramento River. Stunned Claire is convinced her dad had nothing to gain with another homicide. However Mitch hides from Claire why he first introduced himself to her; he is FBI and believes Tom is innocent and both O’Brien’s are in danger from the real killer.

The latest Allison Brennan romantic suspense (see TEMPTING EVIL and KILLING FEAR) is a superb thriller starring an estranged daughter who needs to believe in her dad’s innocence, but also knows what she saw, which confirms his guilt. Mitch is terific as a Fed who believes increasingly her dad was framed and is falling in love with her; knowing he has no chance once she realizes who he is. The story line is fast-paced from the onset when a desperate dad knowing the risk pleads with his daughter to help prove his innocence and never looks back. Thriller readers who have not discovered Ms. Brennan are missing out on a top gun.

Harriet Klausner

Where Serpents Sleep-C.S. Harris

Where Serpents Sleep
C.S. Harris
Obsidian, Nov 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 0451225120

In 1812 the Magdalene House near Covent Gardens is run by the friends as a refuge for prostitutes who want to get out of that life. Hero Jarvis, daughter of an aristocrat who is the power behind the throne, interviews the residents so she can create a realistic reform bill to help these unfortunates. While there she meets Rose Jones, a highborn frightened teen who fears certain men are coming to kill her. They do and she dies in Hero’s arms; the other women are also killed leaving Hero the survivor. She vows to learn why.

Hero seeks the help of Viscount Devlin, Sebastian St. Cyr, who still grieves the loss of his beloved Kat Boleyn and troubles with his father. Although hesitant, he is interested so he pushes aside the alcohol to forget what can never be. He intends to investigate by looking into Rose’s background. Before Magdalene House she worked at a high price brothel; when she ran away she took Hannah Green with her. As the sleuths come closer to the truth, the death count amongst prostitutes and others involved in the case mounts; someone is killing to hide his identity.

C.S. Harris is a brilliant historical storyteller who brings to life the darker side of Regency London inside an intriguing mystery. Sebastian in his fourth appearance (see WHY MERMAIDS SING, WHERE GODS DIE and WHAT ANGELS FEAR) is even more troubled than usual even as his sense of justice propels him to investigate regardless of the class of victims. With a great plausible late twist to top off this strong early nineteenth century whodunit, Ms. Harris is at her bleakest best as St. Cyr seems one step behind a killer apparently cleansing his prostate trail.

Harriet Klausner

The Draining Lake-Arnaldur Indridason

The Draining Lake
Arnaldur Indridason
Dunne Sep 2008
ISBN: 9780312358730

Just outside Reykjavik, Iceland, the draining of Lake Kleifarvatn uncovers a skeleton tied to a Cold War Russian radio device. Police inspector Erlendur and his subordinates Elinborg and Oli investigate what is obviously a homicide. With a hole in the skull and the technology employed is found that the murdered corpse was dumped in the early 1970s so they seek missing persons’ cases from that era never solved.

The case haunts Erlendur as does any missing person inquiry because it reminds him of his younger brother who vanished when they were children. As they dig to identify the victim and from there hope to determine who the murderer is , the cops have hope for the former but none for the latter. The culprit could be dead, in Russia, or elsewhere.

The case provides readers with a deep look at the lonely Erlendur, who has spent a lifetime haunted by his sibling’s vanishing; accentuated by the metaphoric “disappearance” of his two estranged children from his present life. The look back to the Cold War at the University of Leipzig adds depth to the current investigation as well as a fascinating glimpse of academic politics. Although the personal woes of Elinborg and Oli feel intrusive, police procedural fans will enjoy the latest Iceland investigation (see VOICES, JAR CITY and SILENCE OF THE GRAVE).

Harriet Klausner

The Catch-Archer Mayor

The Catch
Archer Mayor
St, Martins, Sep 30 2008
ISBN: 9780312381912

Vermont Bureau of Investigation (VBI) Joe Gunther receives the call that he loathes hearing; a cop was killed in the line of duty. Apparently on a dark rustic road, deputy sheriff Brian Sleuter was making a routine traffic stop when he was killed. The tape of the incident captured by his cruiser shows two Boston drug runners on their way south from Canada.

Gunther and his VBI team in conjunction with US Immigration authorities take charge of the cop murder because of the major drug running connection. His target is the son of a lobsterman, Alan Budney. With the lobster industry in disarray, he has been able to use their anger to run drugs. Now a cop murder is added to his gang’s accomplishments.

Filled with excellent twists and red herrings (make that red lobsters), the latest Gunther regional police procedural is a superb entry in a strong New England series. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Joe receives the call all cops fear and never slows down even as the plot meanders more than the Winooski River. THE CATCH is another winning Joe Gunther VBI investigation.

Harriet Klausner

Warning at One-Ann Purser

Warning at One
Ann Purser
Berkley, Nov 2008, $22.95
ISBN: 9780425223741

Lois Meade owns New Brooms cleaners, a store that cleans people’s homes in the villages of Tresham and Long Farnden, England. Her husband is a local electrician and they have raised three adult children. They also own rental property in Tresham, but are having problems with elderly tenant Clement Fitch; in actuality with his noisy cockatiel Satan who wakes everyone up before daylight. In fact the bird has forced tenants to move out so the Meades have vacancies.

Their oldest son Douglas rents one of the rooms from his parents. Soon after he moves in, someone kills Clem and Satan. The police led by Detective Chief Inspector Cowsill consider Douglas a prime suspect so Lois decides to investigate to prove her son did not kill her dead tenant.

This is an engaging amateur sleuth starring a somewhat eccentric heroine (she is an unpaid police informant) and an interesting support cast to include Satan, the Meade family, and a new neighbor who is allegedly almost blind. Although the plot is thin, fans of English village cozies will enjoy Ann Purser’s well written tale as Lois works her second case (see SORROW ON SUNDAY).
Harriet Klausner

The Christmas Cookie Killer-Livia J. Washburn

The Christmas Cookie Killer
Livia J. Washburn
Obsidian, Nov 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780451225344

In Weatherford, Texas, Phyllis Newsome is hosting the annual Christmas Cookie Exchange party, which is a chance for people to relax with others who they rarely if ever socialize with during the year. Mrs. Simmons is unable to attend due to injuries so Phyllis brings a batch of cookies to her. When Mrs. Simmons asks Phyllis to lend her cookie cutters so she can bake some cookie, the host runs home to get them. She returns to find Mrs. Simmons dead; the rope from her robe tied around her neck.

As Phyllis struggles to remove the rope, someone comes up behind her and knocks her unconscious. After a short stint at the hospital, Phyllis returns to the Simmons’ house to bring the mourning relatives some cookies, but nobody answers her knock. She notices someone peaking from one of the windows so she enters. She meets Mrs. Simmons’ grandson Randal who was in the attic. The police arrest him for skipping bail on a charge of possession with intent to sell. The homicide evidence points to him also, but Phyllis has doubts he killed his grandma and begins to question the neighbors while the culprit watches her every move.

If anyone assumes life slows down at sixty, they need to look at Phyllis to change their mind. She has more energy than the Energizer Bunny has. Livia J. Washburn always provides a delicious whodunit with her latest Fresh Baked Mystery a delicious holiday treat as the audience knows what the heroine feels.

Harriet Klausner

Murder With All the Trimmings-Elaine Viets

Murder With All the Trimmings
Elaine Viets
Obsidian, Nov 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 0451225481

Mystery shopper Josie Marcus is having problems getting into the holiday spirits. Her boyfriend Mike invested $20,000 in the mother of his daughter Heather’s- year round Christmas store. Josie does not like Heather because she is nasty towards Josie’s younger daughter Amelia. Naughty or Nice is not doing well because a rival shop Elsie’s Elf House opened nearby and a third Christmas store is in the same tiny vicinity.

Josie has no time to worry about Mike, his investment or his cruel daughter. The father of her child Nate has just been released from a Canadian prison after a decade of incarceration for selling drugs. He threatens Josie with a custody suit and implies he could abduct their daughter. They have a shouting match that Josie’s neighbor hears. When a drunken Nate comes to Josie’s house with a chocolate Santa, Josie refuses to let him enter. He eats the pastry; later Josie finds him unconscious. At the hospital, a toxicologist report says he imbibed anti-freeze just like a woman who ate a the same pstry from the same place. Josie and Mike are under suspicion so she seeks proof to back up her theory as to who the killer is.

Elaine Viets writes exciting amateur sleuth mysteries filled with believable characters; the recurring cast starting with Josie adds a sense of friendship that in turn embellishes the feeling of realism. A single mom, Josie knows she must care for Amanda first even before her desires. It is interesting how “blind” Mike is to his daughter’s antipathy towards his girlfriend and her offspring. Nate is slime and in death he still causes the heroine problems. Althought the whodunit is a bit light, the relationships crises add delightful trimmings to the murder investigation.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ringing in Murder-Kate Kingsbury

Ringing in Murder
Kate Kingsbury
Berkley, Nov 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425223994

It is the holiday season and Cecily and Baxter are involved in getting the Pennyfoot Club decorated before Christmas arrives. There are two VIP guests staying at the Pennyfoot the Speaker of the House of Lords Sir Walter Hetherton and MP Roland Crossley of the House of Commons. In addition to decorating for the holidays, Cecily is also involved in the wedding of her best friend Madeline. a psychic feared by villagers. to pragmatic Dr. Kevin Dr. Prestwick,who does not believe in her skills but loves her.

An explosion occurs in Sir Walter’s room killing him and his wife. At first everyone assumed a gaslight caused a tragic accident, but they soon revise that opinion. A party favor (cracker) was found in the room and anyone with scientific knowledge could turn it into a lethal weapon; someone obviously did. Two servants observe a snowman moving and talking to Gertie McBride’s twins. They are puzzled and spooked until they see the snowman inside the Pennyfoot; they become petrified. Cecily refuses to end the holiday season with an unsolved murder and a walking snowman at the Pennyfoot so she investigates.

This enticing cozy will get the audience into the holiday spirit with the decorations and the snowman tension relieving subplot. Even married Cecily remains an independent suffragette frustrating her spouse when she obstinately places herself in danger. RINGING IN MURDER is an enjoyable cerebral amateur sleuth that rings in the Yuletide season on an entertaining note.

Harriet Klausner

Watermind- M.M. Buckner

M.M. Buckner
Tor, Nov 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780765320247

Although her future seemed bright, CJ Reilly dropped out of MIT graduate school. She heads south with hopes of cleansing her disturbed mind. In sweltering but polluted Devil’s Pond, Louisiana she finds a strange phenomena that should not be there: ice. After testing a sample, CJ believes she has found a magical elixir to save the water supply; the ice purifies water.

However, the ice turns even more mysterious when she observes it react to music and display locomotion skills. When the ice kills scientist Roman Saxony, CJ reconsiders her belief she will be a world hero. Instead she needs to destroy the metamorphosing ice that has “waded” into the Mississippi before it destroys the world.

An engaging cautionary science fiction warning people to watch how they dispose of their discards (in this case electronic, but easily extrapolates to drugs in the water systems and nuclear energy byproduct waste, etc). In some ways the ice seems like the Blob; however unlike both of the films that stars heroes, none of the humans especially CJ is heroic as everyone seems to have their own agenda. Fans will enjoy touring Louisiana with the WATERMIND host.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Tenth Case-Joseph Teller

The Tenth Case
Joseph Teller
Mira, Oct 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778326052

The Judicial Panel informs Harrison J. “Jaywalker” Walker that he will be suspended from practicing law for three years. He pleads with the members to give him time to finish his cases. They tell him to pick 5; a do-gooder he offers 17; that is trimmed back to 10.

Over the next nine months he completes nine of his cases. His last client is twenty something Samara Morsi; she who allegedly killed her sexagenarian multi-billionaire spouse with a knife through his heart. The evidence overwhelming points to her having murdered her husband of eight years to inherit his money and collect on insurance. As he begins to believe she did the crime, he feels certain he will go out a loser; his ninety plus acquittal rate meaningless. Still Jaywalker struggles to give his best even as his client refuses to say anything except she is innocent.

THE TENTH CASE is a fabulous legal thriller starring an interesting attorney whose outlook on defending his clients is much different than the typical literature lawyer. Besides a fascinating lead, the courtroom sequences and other legal wrangling that make up much of the novel will grip the audience as both Jaywalker and ADA Burke are consummate professionals. This is must reading for sub-genre fans.

Harriet Klausner

Manitou Murder-C.C. Canby

Manitou Murder
C.C. Canby
j-Press Publishing, Oct 15 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 97819309220705

In the Twin Cities’ suburb of Manitou island in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, Silas and Curtis Nelson are talking about a crime they are about to commit. They are going to the house of George and Sophie Lunzer to rob and kill them. They possess a diagram of the home’s interior where money and jewels are located. A black homeless person picks up the paper they carelessly drop and he ends up being killed by the first set of intruders.

Derek Lunzer walks into his family’s home at five in the morning to find the dead bodies of his parents; his sister Jacqueline is missing but her daughter is safe in her crib. He immediately calls the police. Detective Sergeant Richard Lanslow leads the homicide investigation. There are plenty of suspects including Derek who inherits millions with his parents dead. A business partner of George stands to gain the deceased’s part of the firm and needs to do it before an audit affirms he embezzled funds. Lanslow is a bit frustrated as leads seen to go nowhere and besides he is confident he know who the culprit is, but to prove it seems just out of reach.

As he did with the first White Bear Lake Police Department case (see MASKS OF MURDER), C.C. Canby has written a fascinating regional police procedural filled with various suspects besides the obvious two described above; each has differing motives. The characters are realistic and remain consistent throughout as they behave according to their core motives. Lanslow works overtime to solve the case especially motivated to find the missing sister, who he already had feelings before the deadly home invasion occurred. MANITOU MURDER is a multifaceted complex whodunit filled with red herrings and false leads; in spite of a dedicated desperate good cop looks headed to the cold case file.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Caught-Jami Alden

Jami Alden
Kensington Brava, Oct 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758225467

High profile wealthy CEO Jerry Kramer hires Gemini Security and Investigations to keep his firm GeneCor safe from extremists opposed to the stem cell research conducted by the company. He calls Gemini co-owner (along with his brothers) Ethan Taggart when his seventeen year old daughter Kara vanishes. Ethan comes immediately to the affluent Atherton estate to see the security gate wide open and his client nasty and abrupt with the local police.

Ethan, who usually gets the pretty boy assignments, and private investigator Toni Crawford search for the teen together. They quickly widen their inquiry when it seems unlikely an anti stem cell fanatic took the girl. Instead the clues lead to a nasty underground world of sex, drugs, and abuse; ruled by a brutal master.

CAUGHT is a strong romantic private investigative thriller starring two likable lead characters who fall in love, but keep their priorities straight as saving the client’s daughter comes first. The search mystery is complex as each step closer to achieving the mission is exponentially increasingly dangerous from a deadly malevolence. Fans will enjoy this fine Gemini Men tale (twin Derek to come).

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Frailty of Flesh-Sandra Ruttan

The Frailty of Flesh
Sandra Ruttan
Leisure, Nov 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843960754

RMCP Constables Tain and Hart are partners who worked a different case in which one shot the perp while the other was the perp’s victim. This created a strong bond between them, which is miraculous because Tain is a loner. They are called on a murder case in which the victim is a four year old child Jeffrey Reiman; his brother insists he witnessed their sister Shannon kill their sibling.

When the cops go to notify the parents, they are stunned by the lack of reactions; in fact the father calmly calls his lawyer a high powered defense attorney who usually defends drug traffickers. Shannon is missing while the two police detectives continue to investigate the murder and her whereabouts; as the evidence mounts they begin to believe she is not the killer and is in danger; instead they find plenty of proof of abuse but not certain who the abuser is as the Reiman patriarch provides persistent legal roadblocks to the official inquiry.

This Canadian police procedural is so action-packed, readers never have a moment to catch their breath and are engrossed in this one sitting read. Like the lead cops, fans will wonder who the perp is; as paradoxically everyone and no one stands out. The police partners are unique three dimensional people who have struggles in their personal lives while working a complex case made more difficult by the victim being a little kid and his father circling the wagons. Sub-genre fans will appreciate Sandra Ruttan’s obvious skills as this is a strong whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Murder In Los Lobos-Sue McGinty

Murder In Los Lobos
Sue McGinty
Fithian Press, Oct 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9781564744777

In Los Lobos, California, the murder of affluent Connie Mercado has shook up the already divided community. Before someone pushed her car with her inside off a cliff overlooking the Pacific, residents were heatedly arguing whether to convert the Mercado estate into a conservatory or a regional wastewater treatment plant.

Former nun turned obit writer for the Central Coast Chronicle, Bella Kowalski has no doubt her friend was murdered over the land usage; Bella, having strongly protested against the sewage plant, was forced off the road just before the homicide occurred. Over the objection of her spouse Mike, a former big city cop with a heart proble. Bella considers investigating the homicide. She makes up her mind when the police deem Mike a viable suspect.

This is an engaging relevant regional amateur sleuth that focuses on the debate between nature and development that is in the news today with the oily dig mantra. The dispute drives the story line, but Connie keeps it focused (with help from Mike and their dog Sam). Sub-genre fans will appreciate Sue McGinty’s fine whodunit although readers will know which side of the argument she supports.

Harriet Klausner

The Cruelest Month-Louise Penny

The Cruelest Month
Louise Penny
St. Martin’s, Mar 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 0312352573

In Three Pines, Quebec, villagers gather at the allegedly haunted vacated (except perhaps for ghosts) Hadley House to attend a séance. Popular psychic Madeleine Favreau hosts the gala. However, to the shock of everyone in attendance, Madeleine seems to have fainted out of fear or possession. The participants quickly realize she has died.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache leads the investigation into what he assumes is a murder perpetrated by a mortal not a poltergeist as some claim. He is a bit shocked when he finds not only no motives, but no one will say the slightest negative commentary about the deceased. However Gamache’s biggest problem is not with this case, but with his last inquiry (see A FATAL GRACE) in which he accused his popular boss of monstrous crimes; The Surete du Quebec do not appreciate a whistleblower regardless of just the facts.

The third Gamache Quebec police procedural (see STILL LIFE) is an excellent cozy. The lead protagonist is an intelligent and dedicated (the Surete insist obstinate) police investigator who learns the hard way that evidence and the facts do not matter to the brass who control the media and the oversight boards, as reputation is everything; non-non to whistle-blowing. Sub-genre fans will appreciate this French Canadian whodunit as the methodical Gamache works the case with hopes of redemption from his last case.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Deadly Night-Heather Graham

Deadly Night
Heather Graham
Mira, Oct 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778325857

The Flynn brothers inherit a plantation near New Orleans from their late elderly Aunt Amelia. They know nothing about the estate and very little about their deceased aunt. One of the siblings, private investigator Aidan Flynn, travels to see the new property. He meets Amelia’s caregiver Kendall Montgomery, who tells him about his aunt and about the estate, including that many locals believe the house is haunted.

Though attracted to Kendall, Aidan distrusts her as he does all women. However, when skeletal remains are found on the estate, Aidan investigates to the chagrin of local law enforcement. He soon uncovers a series of vanishings over the past decade that has been unresolved; in his mind a serial killer is on the loose, a predator who has no compunctions of killing Aidan and Kendall.

Even with some rotation to what happened on the Flynn Plantation in 1863, the haunting investigative story line remains fast-paced and filled with action especially after the bones are found. Aidan is so hard and distrusting, he is unlikable; but he makes the tale with its ghosts seem plausible as he does not change personality abruptly not even for that “second hand emotion” love and in turn Kendall seems somewhat pale next to him. Fans of Heather Graham will enjoy her latest ghostly Bayou romance due to this somewhat obstinate refreshing lead male.

Harriet Klausner

Clean Cut-Lynda La Plante

Clean Cut
Lynda La Plante
ISBN: 1416586660

In London Detective Chief Inspector Jimmy Langton interrogates prime murder suspect Somali expatriate Idris Krasiniqe. The illegal immigrant claims two gang members were involved in the killing of teenaged prostitute Carly Ann North. Jimmy questions the two when one of them stabs him with a machete. The cop is lucky to be alive.

Jimmy’s lover and subordinate Detective Inspector Anna Travis helps him physically recover, but mentally he wants revenge by bringing his attacker, alleged to be drug dealer Clinton Camorra, to jail. Meanwhile Anna investigates the slashing murder of librarian Irene Phelps; sex offender Arthur George Murphy confesses. When his sister Gail Sickert and his infant niece are murdered and two other relatives vanish, Anna thinks voodoo practitioner Camorra is the culprit in all the crimes.

With Jane Tennison taking a needed breather, Lynda La Plante turns to her other tough yet vulnerable heroine (see THE RED DAHLIA and ABOVE SUSPICION). Anna Travis is a terific lead character who holds the extremely complex police procedural story line together. She accomplishes this remarkable feat in spite of several major fascinating subplots and the strong stance on illegal immigration that runs throughout. Fans will appreciate Ms. La Plante’s superb English police procedural.

Harriet Klausner

The 7th Victim-Alan Jacobson

The 7th Victim
Alan Jacobson
Vanguard, Nov 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781593154943

She is an FBI profiler assigned to the Behavioral Analysis Unit and after dealing with a bank robbery, Karen Vail goes straight to the house of the victim of the Dead Eyes Killer. This brutal psychopath earned the moniker by putting steak knives into the eyes of the women he mutilated. This maniac eviscerates his female prey and uses their left hands as paint brushes to paint murals with their blood.

The latest victim is his fourth; Vail is part of a task force trying to end his spree before another deceased disfigured corpse surfaces. She is also having problems with her soon to be ex husband and their son Jonathan, who refuses to live with him; insisting he is an abusive drunk. When she tries to talk to her ex, he knocks her unconscious. The next time they meet, she uses him as a punching bag, ending up in jail. After being released, her boss puts her on paid suspension pending the outcome of her assault trial. Jonathan ends up in a coma and Vail believes her spouse pushed him leading to his hitting his head. Still dealing with that trauma, she soon learns her mother is her aunt; they get into a fight. A disgruntled former FBI agent insists Vail should be considered a suspect in the Dead Eyes serial killer case as she has a record of violence and the murderer seems to have insider information. Vail knows she must is riding on her finding the killer.

Although some serial killer fanatics will insist Vail’s personal problems are overwhelming especially the mama segue, fans will enjoy this enthralling entertaining thriller because her issues realistically intrude on her investigation. The author makes this work into a one sitting read mainly due to the complex stubborn yet vulnerable (though her son) heroine. Alan Jacobson provides a chilling police procedural as the heroine’s personal life infringes on her professional life.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Bodies Left Behind-Jeffrey Deaver

The Bodies Left Behind
Jeffrey Deaver
Simon & Schuster, Nov 2008, $26.00
ISBN: 1416595619

April seventeenth is a day that will affect many lives in Kennnesha County, Wisconsin. It begins with Emma and Steven Feldman enjoying a drink in their mini-mansion vacation home on Lake Mondac. They hear noises outside followed by two gunmen barging into their home. Before they shoot Steven, he connects to the Sheriff’s Office for a brief moment.

Sheriff Tom Dahl traces the 911 call and sends Deputy Brynn McKenzie to check it out. She finds the Feldman couple dead on their floor and the two killers Terry Hart and Compton Lewis eerily sitting casually nearby. She gets away running into the nearby woods where she meets Michelle, a friend of the Feldmans, who was visiting them. The two hit men chase after the women because they must have no witnesses to the murders. Brynn leads Michelle into a nearby state park while Hart and Lewis follow them. As they flee the thugs, they soon run into meth manufacturers in a place they thought they can call for help. Even if they somehow survive, Brynn’s nightmare will not be over as the worst is yet to come.

This is a superb cat and mouse thriller made even more exciting once the reader concludes that Hart and McKenzie are similar personalities in spite of being on opposite sides of the law. With actions scenes that will translate easily into a movie thriller starring females who prefer to live but will do what it takes to Die Hard if at all as they refuse to break. Fans will enjoy this exciting outdoor wintry thriller with two born killers chasing two strong women.

Harriet Klausner

The Price of Butchers Meat-Reginald Hill

The Price of Butchers Meat
Reginald Hill
Harper, Nov 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780061451935

Needing to recover from "the big bang in Mill Street" that nearly killed him (see DEATH COMES FOR THE FAT MAN) and no one able or willing to take him in, Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel heeds the advice of Ellie Pascoe, wife of the Chief Inspector. He obtains a room at the Avalon in Sandytown by the sea, “the Home of the Healthy Holiday”.

As he records his feelings per his therapist, Dalziel quickly realizes three families own the small resort town under the auspices of the Sandytown Development Consortium. The Parkers, Denhams and Hollises have ambitious plans for Sandytown until Lady Denham dies mysteriously. Chief Inspector Peter Pascoe leads the investigation in which Dalziel wants in if nothing else at least as a consultant; on the other hand Pascoe desperately wants to keep his sick leave pal “Fat Andy” out so he can lead the show.

This is a refreshing excellent follow-up to DEATH COMES FOR THE FAT MAN. The structure is a radical departure from the long running Dalziel-Pascoe police procedurals as it is told in six interrelated but unique volumes that make the tale more than a whodunit; the story line is a deep character study allowing insight into Dalziel via his taped observations and email sent by local Charlie Whiffle. With a nod to “Janeites” and homage to Jane Austen and her unfinished novel, Reginald Hill provides a great tale.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Hotel Dick-Axel Brand

The Hotel Dick
Axel Brand
Five Stars Sep 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146763

In 1948 at the barber shop in the Lakeshore Towers Hotel in Milwaukee, someone entered and killed customer J. Adam bark, THE HOUSE DICK. Homicide detective Lieutenant Joe Burgess leads the investigation, but has a difficult time with who the barber Damon Barbara insists killed Bark; Spencer Tracy does not seem like a cold blooded killer nor why would he murder Bark.

Still he has the department check where Tracy is even as he begins searching Bark’s office for clues. He soon realizes Bark had a lucrative business with a few cops as they would bust in on unmarried couples illegally using a room. Heeding his wife Lizbeth’s suggestion that one of those victims sought revenge, Joe begins to make inquiries in that direction, but soon Greer Garson and Veronica Lake are shot.

This is a great regional historical police procedural starting with the insistence of the eye witness that Hollywood Spencer Tracey killed THE HOTEL DICK and never slowing down until the final spin. The story line is character driven mostly by Joe and the late Bark. This is one brand of a detective that the audience will want more of as 1948 Milwaukee comes to life in a superb whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

The Angel of Knowlton Park-Kate Flora

The Angel of Knowlton Park
Kate Flora
Five Stars Sep 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147203

Portland, Maine Police Detective Sergeant Joe Burgess is about to leave on his summer vacation when the murdered corpse of preadolescent neglected child Timothy Watts is found. The case should belong to Joe’s peer Terry Kyle, but the usually dedicated cop fails to show up for work so he delays his scheduled time off to take charge of the investigation.

Whoever killed the child battered and sodomized him before cleaning him up. The child’s six-foot plus three hundred pound Mother Watts arrives hysterically and inadvertently hurts Joe’s bad knee. Though limping, he, Officers Stan Perry and Chris Perlin continue to investigate asking neighbors and family who killed THE ANGEL OF KNOWLTON PARK that many adopted as everybody’s child.

There is an incredible amount of crime for Joe to work besides the murder. Arson, meth sales, alcohol abuse, child neglect, pedophile and assaults would keep a much bigger department overwhelmed. Joe keeps on ticking so much so the Energizer Bunny would envy his energy. Although there is an overwhelming load of righteous indignant pontification re the felons, fans will enjoy this solid regional police procedural due to the hero cop.

Harriet Klausner

Swann's Last Song-Charles Saltzberg

Swann's Last Song
Charles Saltzberg
Five Star, Sep 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146565

Manhattan based private investigator Henry Swann earns a living as a repo man. So he is more than shocked when femme fatale Sally Janus wants to hire him to find her missing husband, Harry. Besides the wealth that denotes she can afford a downtown pro, he is puzzled that she cane run down neighborhood. Still the upfront money is too good to pass even if he has never done a missing person case.

However, almost immediately after she hires him, Harry's murdered body is found in a hotel dive sleazier than the repo man’s office. Sally rehires Swann to find her husband's killer; once again he accepts though he never did a homicide investigation before as the money is too good to pass. He begins to follow clues that take him to rock and roll in Vegas, Mexico and Germany in search of the Peking Man fossils.

SWANN’S LAST SONG is an exciting but odd hard boiled noir. The story line starts out fast-paced as Henry feels he is in a movie when the femme fatale hires him to first find her husband and when the corpse is located find who killed him. Although the plot spins totally out of control especially after trips to Vegas, Mexico and Europe, fans who like the action piled on without regard to accepting food stamps or passport stamps will relish Swann’s search for the Peking Man.

Harriet Klausner

A Matter of Revenge-Michael I. Koontz

A Matter of Revenge
Michael I. Koontz
Five Star, Sep 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 1594147078

In 1956 “Superagent” John Apparite is on R&R recovering slowly from the trauma of his last espionage case; his best friend Agent J died and the Russian operative who killed him Soviet SMERSH assassin Victor escaped. After beating the crap out of a boxing champion, his handler the Director decides John needs to go to work, but first attends a baseball game at Yankee Stadium where the visiting senators recognize him as their almost only repeat paying fan.

John goes to Berlin where his assignment is to help defectors escape to the West. When he meets Christiane on a train, John falls in love. However, she is from East Berlin so he must find a way to get her to the west while his local handler worries about his heart overruling his brain.

Readers with an appetite for the 1950s will enjoy the second Apparite Cold War thriller (see UNDER CLOAK OF DARKNESS). The story line starts slow for action fans as he remains in New York for much of the first half of the novel; John super Senator fan attends a game at Yankee Stadium and beats up a boxing champ before going overseas to the delight of the Happy Days crowd. The tale turns to Cold War thriller once he meets his Berlin contact and romance. Although the one degree of WWII contact seems over the Wall, fans will appreciate the latest adventures of the Superagent who is humanized by carrying an autographed Walter Johnson card on him at all times.

Harriet Klausner

Running From Strangers-C.C. Harrison

Running From Strangers
C.C. Harrison
Five Star, Sep 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147098

In Texas when Judge Berriman decides to return seven years old Davy Lopez to the child’s abusive family, his Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Allie Hudson is stunned. Fearing for the kid’s life and distrusting the child welfare system which sent no on to appear in court, Allie considers running away with the child. When she sees his home she makes a decision to go to her hometown in Colorado.

Wildlife biologist Beck Williams agrees to hide Allie and Davy for now on his family ranch. He knows he still loves Allie but has never forgiven her for abruptly running away without a word twelve years ago. Allie also loves Beck though she knows he will never forgive her for her sudden vanishing from his life; if she tells him the truth he would still reject her.

This engaging romantic suspense condemns the child protective services system as filled at the top jobs with appointees, incompetents, under trained and uncaring. The romance takes a back seat to protecting Davy and others. Readers will relish this strong cautionary thriller that insists it takes a village to raise a child while a terrific spin re why she left years ago augments RUNNING FROM STRANGERS (and loved ones).

Harriet Klausner

Sweet Poison-Ellen Hart

Sweet Poison
Ellen Hart
St. Martin’s, Nov 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 03123755255

Besides running her restaurants, Jane Lawless is also working on her father Ray’s campaign for governor and helping her friends; she and her lover Kenzine wish she had more time for them. As a defense attorney Ray defended Corey Hodge against a rape charge; he arranged a plea bargain that got the man out of prison. Ray’s opponent is using that case and others defended by Jane’s dad as making the streets unsafe.

Cory volunteers to work at the campaign’s headquarters; there he meets another volunteer Charity Miller, who fears her former fiancé Gabriel Kean. The law firm of Lawless, Kaplan and Piper got Kean off on a technicality in the beating of Minister Christopher Cornish. When Charity is murdered by someone using the same M.O. that led to Corey’s conviction, the police focus on him though other suspects including Kean exist. Cory’s aunt asks Jane to prove his innocence. She reluctantly agrees though an inquiry takes more time away from Kenzine who finally leaves while her former lover Julia tries to win back her heart.

The Jane Lawless mysteries are some of the consistently best amateur sleuth tales and SWEET POISON confirms that belief. The whodunit is fabulous as there are many suspects besides Corey for Jane to look at. Her attitude remains top notch demanding people to accept her as is while actively campaigning for her dad; Ray shows his strength of character too as he wants her election help and not a bush league sham limited to gays and lesbians. With the Willie Horton election effect adding to a strong election year intrigue, fans will enjoy Ellen Hart’s latest timely winner.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Fourth Time Is Murder-Steven F. Havill

The Fourth Time Is Murder
Steven F. Havill
Dunne, Nov 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0312380631

New Mexico state worker Connie Ulibarri stopped her vehicle on the Regas Pass in the san Cristobel Mountains between old Mexico and Posadas County when she saw the dead deer had a Fish and Game tag. As she went to retrieve the tag, she noticed the truck in the ditch below. With the help of a trucker who stopped to assist her, she climbs down to find the driver dead.

Posadas County Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman leads the investigation that is confusing as the victim died from drowning with a footprint on his hand; apparently someone was at the accident scene and tossed alcohol into the late driver when he was barely alive; ergo cause of death drowning though the John Doe would have died from his injuries soon. As Estelle and her team make inquiries, the clues lead to a Canadian sweepstake that involves long time friends. Other incidents like the accidental death of an illegal and the accidental discharge of a rookie’s gun keep Estelle, the squad and their boss County Sheriff Robert Torrez overworked.

The latest Posadas County police procedural is a fabulous tale that contains one major investigation, a minor case, the discharge incident and a dedicated Women’s World magazine reporter interviewing the staff and accompanying Estelle on the job. The prime case is clever and eye opening on scams while Gastner makes several mentoring appearances to add to the overall fun of a well written cop investigative thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Face of a Killer-Robin Burcell

The Face of a Killer
Robin Burcell
Poisoned Pen, Nov 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9781590583746

Two decades ago the police arrested Johnnie Wheeler in the killing of the father of Sydney Fitzpatrick; he was convicted and now after twenty years on death row he is to be executed. Sydney, over the objections of her concerned family members, joined the FBI as a forensic artist.

Her boss Supervisory Special Agent Dixon asks her to come in on a day off that’s he planned to drink away because of the state execution. He needs her to coax a description of a perp out of reticent battered victim Tara Brown, who was raped and left to die. Sydney succeeds, but the vivid drawing of the rapist looks like a twin of Wheeler. Sydney decides to visit Wheeler to ask him why; she informs her outraged mom and stepfather, who want Wheeler dead so they can obtain some closure. After meeting Wheeler at San Quentin, Sydney begins to doubt he is her father’s killer and starts to consider the Brown rapist as the predator who murdered her dad. She begins to make inquiries and with the help of her doubting partner Carillo finds clues that lead to a political-CIA connection that places her family in danger.

This is an exhilarating police procedural with the focus on forensic drawing. The story line is action packed but driven by Sydney’s need to know the truth about her dad’s murder. Although the conspiracy seems a bit over the Sierras, fans will appreciate Robin Burcell’s strong suspense tale as the heroines draws THE FACE OF A KILLER.

Harriet Klausner

The Spy Who Came for Christmas-David Morrell

The Spy Who Came for Christmas
David Morrell
Vanguard, Nov 2008, $15.95
ISBN: 9781593154875

The snow coming down on Christmas Eve in Santa Fe makes for a picturesque site, but two men, once friends, know otherwise that one or both of them will turn the pure white snow red with blood. Raging Russian Mafiosi Andrei feels betrayed by Pyotyr, whom he mentored; he personally will kill him, but must act fast because if he fails to retrieve and deliver the package Pyotyr stole, his superior will assassinate him.

Pyotyr gave away his cover inside the Russian mafia to save the so-called peace baby whose popular religious father proclaimed him to be the bringer of world peace. Pyotyr is Paul Kagan who kidnapped the baby because he could not watch idly an infant being sold. He is hurt, tired and alone when he meets Meredith Brody and her twelve year old son Cole. They are planning to flee into the night to escape from abusive violent family patriarch Ted before he kills one of them in an alcoholic rage. Mother and son help the spy who has not quite come in from the cold carrying a baby.

This is an exciting Santa Fe Christmas thriller with an interesting cast developed just enough to make the events plausible. The plot is on the slender side, but fans of David Morrell and anyone who appreciates a fast-paced Yuletide action tale will enjoy this fun entry even if the baby seems too peaceful.

Harriet Klausner

Hark! The Herald Angel Screamed-Mignon F. Ballard

Hark! The Herald Angel Screamed
Mignon F. Ballard
St. Martin’s, Nov 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312376673

Everyone’s favorite Guardian Angel Augusta Goodnight is still staying with Lucy Nan Pilgrim in the small town of Stone’s Throw, South Carolina. It is the Christmas season; Augusta’s favorite time of the year. She, Lucy and their friend Ellis seek the right tree for their church fellowship. They are looking on the grounds of Willowbrook, owned by Lucy’s cousin, when they find a dead man on the porch below the mansion’s balcony; the guard rail is broken.

While everyone tries to identify the John Doe, they are also happy for their friend Idonia who avoided love for years, but is involved with newcomer Melrose DuBois, who gave her a locket as a sign of his affection. When Lucy Nan and Ellis visit the caretakers of Willowbrook, the Tanseys, they see a picture of the couple’s dead daughter wearing the same locket that Melrose gave to Idonia. The dead man is identified as Dexter Clark, the son in law of the Tansy’s’ dead daughter. Dexter’s Aunt Opal Henshawe is also killed; Lucy Nan and Ellis know the events are obviously related even Melrose’s disappearance. However, what that connection is remains mysteriously unknown as they seek to identify a killer without becoming the next victims.

Living up to her surname Augusta is the personification of goodness as she is able to make those in her circle feel better about themselves. While she cannot directly help find the culprit, Augusta assists Lucy, Nan, and Ellis on the quest. They each have an inner strength so when they team up, they can move mountains. Mignon F. Ballard is a wonderful storyteller who enchants her audience with this charming amateur sleuth urban fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Night Fall-Cherry Adair

Night Fall
Cherry Adair
Ballantine, Oct 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780345499905

Atlanta based public relations expert Kess Goodall refused to allow the city’s PR community to destroy her though they shut her out of jobs after her latest insane stunt led to her firing; instead she accepted a PR position in Central West Africa. The President of Mallaruza Abioyne Bongani hired her to help him with his reelection campaign.

Abi also asked his college roommate Terrorist Force Logistic Assault Command (T-FLAC) psi operative Simon Blackthorne to investigate the recent increase in border fights and raids with the Hureni; Abi, a half-wizard, believes a full wizard may be behind the attacks so he wants a friendly full blooded wizard on his side just in case. Simon quietly investigates the incidents seeking magical remnants. He and Kess are attracted to one another, but avoid one another until a bloodbath by machetes followed by scavengers of workers bring them together.

The latest T-FLAC romantic suspense thriller (see WHITE HEAT and HOT ICE) is an exciting African adventure that blends some magic with non stop action. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the lead couple discovers the gruesome massacre and never slows down. Enhancing the tale is the often humorous gender war between these polar opposites as Simon introduces Kess to the notion that there is a lot more under the sun than science.

Harriet Klausner