Sunday, November 30, 2008

Here Today, Gone to Maui-Carol Snow

Here Today, Gone to Maui
Carol Snow
Berkley, Jan 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425225639

In Southern California, thirtyish Jane Shea looks forward to her week long vacation with her boyfriend, Michael "Jimmy" James although the weeks just before she considers what could go wriong like the flu, food poisoning or shingles. However her fears seem for naught as Jimmy arrives at Jane’s home an hour early to take them to the Orange County Airport to fly to Atlanta to catch their connecting first class flight to Maui.

In Maui, Jimmy takes forever to get the car rental and then the Hyatt insists they never made reservations; Jimmy tells her no other hotel on Kannapolis has a room so he arranged for them to stay at a studio condo. Soon after that Jimmy goes diving, but never returns. A distraught Jane fears her boyfriend drowned, but soon finds herself in trouble she does not understand as the real Michael James stands up as someone she never knew.

Jane is an intriguing lead character as she learns that all her obsessive anxiety disorder musings pale next to the reality of the problems she suddenly faces due to the activities of her missing boyfriend. Jimmy is an enigmatic person who the heroine (and readers) begins unpeels the mystery one petal at a time. Fans will enjoy this lighthearted romantic suspense romp everything that she anticipated happening on her vacation did not occur, instead much worse did as Jane learns the hard way between worrying over possible trouble and real trouble.

Harriet Klausner

Death of a Witch-M.C. Beaton

Death of a Witch
M.C. Beaton
Grand Central, Feb 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 0446196134

After heeding the advice of his friend to go abroad on his vacation, police constable Hamish Macbeth returns from a cheap off season holiday in Spain to his home village Lochdubhof in the Scottish Highlands. All he can think of is breathing Scotland’s air after a boring disappointing trip to the southern part of the Iberian Peninsular.

However, in his short time as a stranger in a strange land, Macbeth finds the village males acting even stupider than normal, which in the cop’s mind would have been impossible as stupid male is an oxymoron. Newcomer Catriona Beldame seems to own the men as if she cast a bewitching spell on them. She sells them elixirs that she claims cure all sorts of sexual malfunctions. Macbeth learns of her dishonest past and warns her if she is peddling illegal concoctions he will get her. Just after Macbeth foolishly in public proclaims he wants to kill the flimflam con artist someone takes his threat to heart killing Beldame and burning down her residence. Knowing Inspector Blair will gleefully make him a prime suspect, Macbeth investigates, but is taken aback by the murders of three more women and a female not under investigation who has him distracted with thoughts of a kiss.

The latest Macbeth police procedural (see DEATH OF A GENTLE LADY) is a terrific whodunit as the hero will shock his fans with the key relationship question to ask or not to ask as Hamish meets women who are not suspects. Filled with the usual humor, DEATH OF A WITCH is a delightful Scottish charmer that works on the investigative level as much as on the personal level. M.C. Beaton provides her usual superior tale with the king of obstinacy Macbeth diligently working a homicide while pondering the foreign concept of romantic thoughts.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Lethal Legacy-Linda A. Fairstein

Lethal Legacy
Linda A. Fairstein
Doubleday, Jan 2009, $26.00
ISBN: 0385523998

Manhattan’s Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cooper convinces librarian Tina Barr to go to the hospital after a thief masquerading as a firefighter assaults the woman in her East Side apartment. Soon after Tina disappears without medical treatment; a female corpse appears in her abruptly abandoned apartment.

The dead body resembles Tina’s affluent landlady Minerva Hunt, but she discovered the corpse of her Romanian housekeeper Karla Vastasi. Alex and her NYPD Police Detective partner Mike Chapman investigate the Hunt family and Barr learning that the latter used to work for Minerva’s father Jasper, a rare book bibliophile and ardent collector of priceless maps. The inquiry leads to the rare book and map collection of the New York Public Library, who has had valuable items stolen and vanishing into private collections, but Mike and Coop know to stay focused though the thefts are more fascinating.

The New York Public Library depth brings freshness to the latest Coop legal investigative thriller. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down as the heroine who some insist “walk on bottled water” and her cohort follow the clues into the library. Readers will appreciate this strong entry which also sets up a cold case as number twelve for the intrepid Alex to investigate.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 28, 2008

Whisper No Lies-Cindy Gerard

Whisper No Lies
Cindy Gerard
Pocket, Jan 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9781416566755

On the Vegas Strip, Crystal Debrowski works security at Bali Hai Casino. Her job is made harder because as her friend Abbie Hughes Lang puts it she is a “man magnet” due to her looks although she rejects all offers. Her latest admirer Yao Long refuses to accept her declination of a sexual encounter. The Asian crime lord pulls strings, which leads to Crystal’s arrest based on her employer accusing her of stealing by substituting counterfeit chips and other security glitches; all occurring during her shifts as security game manager; Yao pays her bail.

Abbie knows Crystal is innocent and asks her spouse Sam and his cronies at Black Ops Inc (see TAKE NO PRISONERS) to help her friend. Before he can react, Yao’s goons abduct Crystal taking her to his base in Jakarta. BOI agents led by before Texan Johnny Duane Reed mount a rescue. As they learn of Yao’s human trafficking to include the apparent sale of an American general's daughter, Yao as belied by his Komodo dragon heart belief vows a fiery vengeance on those who affronted his honor.

This action-packed BOI romantic suspense thriller focuses on the entire amoral supply and demand of human trafficking as sexual slaves are a high selling commodity more than even the romance subplot. The story line is fast-paced from the onset while the key cast is fully developed. Especially interesting is Yao who believes strongly in his dragon heart that regular humans are inferior cattle to him. WHISPER NO LIES is a strong entry with a powerful deep focus on a currently thriving even with bad global economy abomination.

Harriet Klausner

Death at a Discount-Sharon Dunn

Death at a Discount
Sharon Dunn
Multnomah, Jan 20 2009, $12.99
ISBN: 9781590526910

Accompanied by her husband Earl, Bargain Hunters Network guru Ginger Solinaski and her friend BHN member Suzanne Thames travel from their hometown Three Horses, Montana to Denver because the two females will appear as guests on the Discount and Value Network. The hostess Stephanie expected to work their show fails to arrive while another Candace demands her coveted spot. A snowstorm strands everyone at the studio and its adjacent warehouse while the two BHN members become separated after Suzanne compulsively slips into a buying binge.

While Ginger worries about Suzanne praying to God to protect her, the latter is caught outside in the cold where she finds a corpse. With the power gone, Ginger finds Earl’s pepper spray flashlight handy especially after she notices blood on a cart. When Candace is found murdered too Ginger fears for the safety of her still missing friend and begins to wonder who the killer is.

This engaging entry combines a couple of apropos timely messages that in bad economic times and when one errs God is still there. The cozy story line moves a bit slow as much of the action occurs off page. However fans will appreciate the latest BHN inspirational amateur sleuth (see DEATH OF A GARAGE SALE NEWBIE and DEATH OF A SIX-FOOT TEDDY BEAR) even if only two of the four protagonists made it to Denver and they are in separate subplots for much of the tale as their friendship shines throughout.

Harriet Klausner

Fed Up-Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant

Fed Up
Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant
Berkley, Feb 2009, $$23.95
ISBN: 9780425225981

Chloe Carter’s boyfriend Josh is competing with two other chefs to win a slot on a new eight part TV cooking show. To win the contest he has to star in three episodes of Chefly Yours (as does his rivals) cooking meals for supermarket customers selected randomly by the show’s producer. When the nine shows air, the audience will vote on who will star as the chef of the new series.

Josh has to cook meals for Leo the vegetarian and his wife Francie who is a meat eater. Challenged, by the herbivore-carnivore couple, Josh makes his selection and goes to their home to prepare their repast. While dining, Francie dies on camera; others who took bites of her meal get ill. Someone sprinkled the food with digitalis from the foxglove plant. In between coordinating her best friend’s wedding and working for her parents while grad school is out for the summer, Chloe investigates the murder.

The latest “Gourmet Girl Mystery” (see TURN UP THE HEAT, SIMMER DOWN and STEAMED) is a delicious entry filled with action and plenty of humor. The whodunit is clever as there are many suspects who had opportunity and Chloe realizes what their motives are. When the killer is revealed this will make total sense to the reader as being obvious yet it is almost impossible to pick out the perp during the course of the story.. The spunky heroine is the obvious master chef keeping the story line focused while the strong support cast adds depth to a tasty amateur sleuth.

Harriet Klausner

Murder Game-Christine Feehan

Murder Game
Christine Feehan
Jove, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780515145809

Tansy Meadows knows her psychic gift is a two edged sword as has used it to help the police track down murderers especially serial killers, but also has left her alone as even a simple handshake causes problems. Recently injured on a climb, she told authorities she lost her skill. FBI GhostWalker Kadan Montague had heard of her when he was training at Quantico and she was a teen. Now he needs her ability to locate serial killers playing a coastal deadly competitive game in which he believes a ghost walker is involved; perhaps two of them one on each side.

He finds her sleeping naked in an isolated field. When he grabs her, she is shocked her mental skills to cause pain fail her. Reluctantly Tansy agrees to assist him in ending the lethal competition although she hides her bet with herself that she will not come out of this one sane.

This is a refreshing Ghost Walker entry due to the lead couple and their telepathic romance and the killing teams with their apparently paranormal specialists in spite of The MURDER GAME concept not being new (see Barton’s DYING GAME). The story line cleverly compares the growing love between Kadan and Tansy and the horrific violent homicidal hunts. With the return of couples from previous tales in the saga, fans will enjoy this strong thriller while wondering whether ghost hunters lead the predators and will Kadan say those three words to Tansy; assuming they survive the game they entered not meaning to be the prey.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Drood-Dan Simmons

Drood
Dan Simmons
Little Brown, Feb 2009, $26.99
ISBN: 0316007021

As novelist Wilkie Collins narrates on 9 June 1865, fifty three years old Charles Dickens accompanied by his secret mistress takes the train from Folkestone to London. In their car were three people, Charles, Ellen Tiernan and her mother. However, near the Stapelhurst railroad viaduct, a human error leads to the destruction where a bridge was under repair. Dickens and the Tiernan female pair survive.

Dickens tries to help others though it looks hopeless. Amidst the carnage, he meets another apparent survivor, morbid Edwin Drood, who survived the ordeal due to his traveling inside a coffin. Drood vanishes while Dickens follows his trail to the nastiest decadent side of London. As Collins continues his account, he wonder if Drood ever existed and whether Dickens made him to cover nefarious dealings.

This is an excellent historical thriller that looks closely at the last few years of Dickens’ life using the unfinished final novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood and other historical facts as a basis for this wonderful account. The story line grips the audience from Collins’ opening monologue and never slows down with readers scrutinizing clues throughout as to whether Dickens’ lost his mind, concealed his activities with the invention of Drood as the narrator believes, or if Drood lived. Dan Simmons is at his best with this insightful psychological Victorian thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine-Lauren Willig

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine
Lauren Willig
Dutton, Feb 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780525950967

After spending over a decade in India, Robert Lansdowne returns home to Sussex in 1803 to invesitgate the murder of his mentor at the Battle of Assaye. The duke’s plan is simple; he will go undercover by joining the notorious Hellfire Club where he thinks he can begin to track down the killer, espionage agent Arthur Wrothan.

However, Robert failed to consider one problem with his perfect plot. His cousin a zillion times removed Lady Charlotte Lansdowne has made him the hero of her romantic dreams that she reads in the novels. He was there when she became an orphaned child and she wants him there as her beloved husband. In spite of kisses that inflame his desire, Robert begins his quest only to have Charlotte join him over his objection and together they get embroiled in a seditious anti royal scheme.

As with the previous Pink Carnation tales Harvard graduate student Eloise Kelly doing her research uncovers the latest account of a Napoleonic Era female spy while having a romantic interlude with host executor Colin Selwick. Though this reviewer has found Eloise’s modern day piece unnecessary but well written, fans will see how far she has come from Massachusetts (see THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE PINK CARNATION). However, the tale belongs to Charlotte as her adventures in espionage and in love are not anywhere near the romantic images she has of both. Fans will enjoy this fine historical undercover romance even without a flowery title (see THE MASQUE OF THE BLACK TULIP, THE SEDUCTION OF THE CRIMSON ROSE and THE DECEPTION OF THE EMERALD RING) as the real human Robert falls off the pedestal in the eyes of his spying associate even as their love blossoms.

Harriet Klausner

A Darker Place-Jack Higgins

A Darker Place
Jack Higgins
Putnam, Feb 2009, $26.95
ISBN 9780399155505

A former paratrooper who fought in Afghanistan and Chechnia, internationally renowned Russian novelist Alexander Kurbsky decides to leave his homeland for the West, but believes his fame might prevent him from staying abroad. Thus, Kurbsky asks Sean Dillon and his associates who make up the British prime minister’s “private army” to abet his escape to freedom.

Prime Minister Putin warns Kurbsky about betraying his country and blackmails the author into spying on Dillon and his comrades by showing him pictures of his sister Tania, who he thought was murdered during a student protest that turned ugly; the photos prove Tania lives for now and will be paroled from her life sentence if he cooperates. Dillon and his girlfriend Lady Monica Sterling, a big fan of Kurbsky especially On the Death of Men and Moscow Nights, welcome the noted author to London. There he infiltrates the “private army” that welcomed him to England in an attempt to rescue his sibling from incarceration.

The latest former IRA operative turn British agent Sean Dillon thriller (see THE KILLING GROUND and ROUGH JUSTICE) is a superb entry as he, Monica and the others are totally fooled by Kurbsky. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action even when the plot uses enlightening flashbacks. Fans will relish A DARKER PLACE although the climax feels sudden and faster than the speed of light.

Harriet Klausner

Among the Mad-Jacqueline Winspear

Among the Mad
Jacqueline Winspear
Holt, Feb 2009, $25.00
ISBN 9780805082166

On Christmas Eve 1931, Psychologist and Investigator Maisie Dobbs and her assistant Billy Beale, having finished a report for a client, are strolling on a London street to deliver their findings when another pedestrian detonates a bomb. He dies while Maisie is slightly injured, Billy is okay physically because Maisie seeing something off kilter with the culprit told him to head back to the office, which he started to do until the explosion.

The next day the Office of the Prime Minister receives the first of several threatening letters warning of terrorist activity; this note also contains the name of Maisie Dobbs. She joins a government investigation team trying to find the anonymous writer and prevent the threatened attacks.

This is a terrific Dobbs entry that as usual brings alive London at a time when the Great Depression is causing global havoc. Maisie is terrific as an early psychological profiler though some of her descritpors are based on hunches as no validated database yet exists. More a thriller than an investigative tale, series fan will enjoy the latest Maisie Dobbs psychological sleuthing case (see PARDONABLE LIES and AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE).

Harriet Klausner

Mixed Blood-Roger Smith

Mixed Blood
Roger Smith
Holt, Feb 2009, $25.00
ISBN 9780805088755

In the United States, American security specialist Jack Burn worries about the impact his recent financial failures will have on his family. When he is offered a chance to stay solvent, he reluctantly accepts the terms offered him. He agrees to join a gang planning to rob a bank.

The plan was perfect; the execution a disaster. Most of the gang and a cop die. Burn escapes with millions, but is wanted by the law and the few robbers who survived the debacle. He, his pregnant wife Susan, and their four years old son Matt relocate to Cape Town, South Africa. Life seems peaceful and good until two meth users invade their home; Jack kills both, but now corrupt Police Inspector Rudi Barnard is scrutinizing the professional use of counter force inside his realm, Cape Flats.

This exciting South African crime caper will grip the audience from the moment Barnard checks on the Americans, which begins the spin out of control somewhat fueled by career felon Benny Mongrel observing his fellow American. Susan will learn she don’t know Jack as he piles lies on top of lies with her and with Barnard. With the cast divided between the innocent and the felonious, fans will enjoy Roger Smith’s tense thriller while humming Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out for a Hero as increasingly none seem to surface.

Harriet Klausner

Critical Mass-Whitley Strieber

Critical Mass
Whitley Strieber
Forge, Feb 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780765322531

Contractor Jim Deutsch works for the CIA as a NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) expert whose prime specialty is nukes though he has been involved in preventing the sale or development of the other weapons of mass destruction. He learns that Islamic terrorist Madhi has obtained weapons graded plutonium that he has smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico and concludes homeland security has failed to protect the border. Mahdi announces he has nukes planted throughout the western United States.

To prove his assertion, he nukes Las Vegas. A stunned President William Fitzgerald considers nuking the Muslim world back into the stone age, globalized tension rises as the crisis seems out of control with Middle East governments considering their options and Mahdi ready to destroy another city if his demands for a Muslim fundamentalist world, Mahdi style is not met.

CRITICAL MASS is a fascinating look at efforts to counter the flow of nuclear weapons around the globe. The story line is action-packed with dedicated Jim and his Muslim wife struggling to prevent further tragedy from happening. Although the language turns oddly poetic at crisis moments which jars the reader, Whitley Strieber provides an exciting thriller based on the very plausible concept of nukes ending up in the hands of a fanatic.

Harriet Klausner

Homicide in Hardcover-Kate Carlisle

Homicide in Hardcover
Kate Carlisle
Obsidian, Feb 3 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 0451226151

Brooklyn Wainwright is a bookbinder and restorer who has recently gone into business by herself after years as an apprentice by one of the best in the field, Abraham Karastovsky. Her mentor handles what he calls her defection very poorly and they have not spoken to one another in six months. Ergo Brooklyn is nervous about attending a private showing at San Francisco’s Covington Library because she knows Abraham will also be there. When they meet at the gala, they become friends again and he invites her to look at the copy of Goethe's Faust in his workroom.

When she arrives at his workroom, Brooklyn finds Abraham lying on the floor. She goes to him and he whispers his dying words “Remember the devil.” She has no idea what his departing cryptic message means, but freaks out when Derek Stone of Stone Security declares she killed him. Stunned she faints. When she regains consciousness, the police question her, but let her go while Stone states he will be watching her. As the Covington Library chief hires Brooklyn to finish Abraham’s restoration of Faust, someone kills another book restorer. Attempts are made on her life and her house is broken into and searched. Past the breaking point, Brooklyn investigates starting with the space Abrahame made in the cover s to the tome and whether it is why someone is willing to kill to obtain the Faust.

The first bibliophile amateur sleuth showcases how dangerous the life of a book restorer is when a critic wants something. In less than a week, numerous attempts are made on Brooklyn’s life and her home and her and Abraham’s studio as well her mentor’s murder make for a fun time for readers, but a rough go for the heroine. This is an entertaining somewhat amusing whodunit as the nervous eccentric Brooklyn travels the mean streets of San Fransisco trying to restore order to her life starting with having a life.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cat Playing Cupid-Shirley Rousseau Murphy

Cat Playing Cupid
Shirley Rousseau Murphy
Morrow, Feb 2009, $16.95
ISBN: 9780061123979

In Molina Point, California live three special cats: Joe Grey, Dulcie and Kit. Each can talk to humans and understand human speech. The trio seems to get involved in every murder that ahs happened recently in the village. So it is no shocker when they learn from a feral feline that a human body is buried in the ruins of the Pamilion Estate. They delay their usual investigation until Joe’s friend Clyde marries Ryan and is out of the way on his honeymoon.

Another corpse is found in a treehouse in Oregon lying there for years. Lindsey Wolfe returns to Molina Point goes to the cops claiming the victim is her fiancĂ© Carson Chappell. When the cats investigate the grave, they find a book that discuses their unique skills; they want the book destroyed before anyone who finds it reveals their secret. Lindsey’s sister brings anonymously to the police incriminating evidence that point towards her being the killer. Her lover Ray Gibbs, who was Carson’s partner, drops off something incriminating to the steps of the police station. Joe Grey begins an inquiry into them with Dulcie helping him while Kit considers whether she loves injured Sagel enough to go feral with him and leave her two pals behind.

Though on opposite coats, the Molina Point felines will remind readers of The Cat Who tales by the Brown duet. The body found at the estate is linked to the other corpse, but how and why remain a mystery that Joe Grey is determined to solve. The three talking cats are adorable even grumpy acerbic Joe Grey while fans of the series learn more about their backgrounds. Shirley Rousseau Murphy has written a purrfectly delightful anthropomorphism feline whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Renegades-T. Jefferson Parker

The Renegades
T. Jefferson Parker
Dutton, Feb 2009, $26.95
ISBN: 9780525950950

Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs Charlie Hood and Terry Laws are driving together when the former is executed. The brass insists gang initiation or perhaps getting even with Laws who has been a veteran of the streets. Hood is a bit shook up with his new partner’s death especially since he prefers patrolling by himself with his demon (the spirit of Allison Murrieta – see L.A. OUTLAWS) to accompany him, but understands why he should not investigate it.

However, Hood is a bit surprised when he is assigned to Internal Affairs, but this also gives him an opportunity to look into who murdered his partner starting with inquiries into the life of Terry, dubbed “Mr. Wonderful”. He soon begins to find evidence that alleges Terry that was a crooked cop delivering a personal code of justice. This is something that Hood can understand as a good cop crosses the line to convey justice like in the old west as the system often protects nasty felons not because of fundamental rights that these same hoods tale away from others, but because of those working inside of it are disguised as upright citizens.

Hood is a beacon of morality in a desert of corruption in which drugs seem to own almost everyone's soul from Los Angeles to Mexico. The story line is fast-paced but driven by the throwback hero who obsesses with a need to know whether Mr. Wonderful was a bad or good cop; as defined by Hood and not some artificial law or a pompous judge with Allison inside his head as a reminder of what justice is. Fans will enjoy Hood’s Old West mentality in modern day Southern California.

Harriet Klausner

The Renegades-T. Jefferson Parker

The Renegades
T. Jefferson Parker
Dutton, Feb 2009, $26.95
ISBN: 9780525950950

Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs Charlie Hood and Terry Laws are driving together when the former is executed. The brass insists gang initiation or perhaps getting even with Laws who has been a veteran of the streets. Hood is a bit shook up with his new partner’s death especially since he prefers patrolling by himself with his demon (the spirit of Allison Murrieta – see L.A. OUTLAWS) to accompany him, but understands why he should not investigate it.

However, Hood is a bit surprised when he is assigned to Internal Affairs, but this also gives him an opportunity to look into who murdered his partner starting with inquiries into the life of Terry, dubbed “Mr. Wonderful”. He soon begins to find evidence that alleges Terry that was a crooked cop delivering a personal code of justice. This is something that Hood can understand as a good cop crosses the line to convey justice like in the old west as the system often protects nasty felons not because of fundamental rights that these same hoods tale away from others, but because of those working inside of it are disguised as upright citizens.

Hood is a beacon of morality in a desert of corruption in which drugs seem to own almost everyone's soul from Los Angeles to Mexico. The story line is fast-paced but driven by the throwback hero who obsesses with a need to know whether Mr. Wonderful was a bad or good cop; as defined by Hood and not some artificial law or a pompous judge with Allison inside his head as a reminder of what justice is. Fans will enjoy Hood’s Old West mentality in modern day Southern California.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Final Justice-Fern Michaels

Final Justice
Fern Michaels
Zebra, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9781420101881

The Sisterhood seven looks forward to their presidential pardon and the end of their self-imposed exile in Europe as they did their part of the bargain (see COLLATERAL DAMAGE). However, the pardon is delayed for political reasons when the president selects Bert Navarro as the new FBI director. No one wants his alleged abetting the Sisterhood to become the focus of the Senate advice and consent hearings.

Instead Myra, Annie, Kathryn, Alexis, Yoko, Nikki, and Isabelle are working a scenario in Las Vegas as a favor to a friend Beatrice. Her estranged daughter Marble Rose is on a roll at the casinos, which means those in charge want it ended anyway possible including murder. The Sisters and their lawyer Lizzie investigate what looks preposterous at first, but soon that turns into a network of corruption in which the betting line in Vegas is all seven and their attorney will be shortly dead.

This is an exciting entry although the overarching story line of receiving the pardon and life afterward never moves forward; many fans of the saga will be disappointed in that. Still this is a solid tale as the magnificent seven struggles through layers of obfuscation that politicians would cherish. As they dig baby dig deeper, their adversary counterattacks. In spite of some disappointment in the overall saga moving forward at a glacier pace, readers will enjoy FINAL JUSTICE wondering whether our side will lose this time as the opposition seems so much more powerful.

Harriet Klausner

The Deepest Cut-Dianne Emley

The Deepest Cut
Dianne Emley
Ballantine, Feb 2009, $24.00
ISBN: 9780345499523

In Pasadena, California, Police Detective Jim Kissick heads the investigation into the murder of former gangbanger Abel “Scrappy” Espinoza inside a facility owned by first generation Chinese-American Mrs. Zhang. Assisting him on the inquiry is his lover, Nan Vining, a single mom of fourteen year old Emily. On a valuable mural, the culprit paints China Dog 187. Whereas Nan believes the killer is T.B, Mann as she calls the Bad Man who almost killed her (see THE FIRST CUT), Jim assumes it is gang warfare.

Their boss Sergeant Early reassigns Jim to follow up on the near deadly assault of Nan as new clues have surfaced; Nan will work the Sparky homicide as the lead. Nan informs Jim how she broke the law to learn more about her attacker and her theory he is a female police serial killer; he scoffs at her belief. As T.B. Mann continues to operate under the radar screen, the sole connection remains a deranged artist Nitro who vanished. Soon Mann will attempt to complete the killing of the only one to survive with her daughter as the lure.

Although it seems obvious that Nan is obsessed with capturing TBM and would fail a psychological screening unless she was Oscar level performer, readers will enjoy this entertaining California police procedural that goes down two paths before converging. The story line is filled with action even when the lead couple stops for lunch to talk about the cases or when the ghostly elements limited to not much more than a butterfly alit on Nan’s shoulder. Fans will enjoy this fine sequel that stands alone as an exhilarating investigative thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Boca Knights-Steven M. Forman

Boca Knights
Steven M. Forman
Forge, Feb. 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780765319876

Eddie Perlmutter grew up in Boston's North Side as a Jew in a sea of Italian Catholics. He became a cop who cared. He used his experience in the Golden Gloves to teach youngsters to box. His confident since early puberty is his stand erect penis who always talks back. After years of honorable services late fifties Eddie retired due to arthritis. He leaves the cold New England climate for the heart of Boca Ration assuming that the warmth will be good for his sore bones.

However, Boca may be an elixir physically, but mentally he feels out of place. As his retirement ennui grows, he gets involved in local criminal matters so to avoid legal trouble he gets a private investigator license. Excited by the sudden change in venue, Eddie gets involved with the Russian Mafia, the homicide of a golf pro, neo-Nazis and a lovely nurse earning him the title "Boca Knight" at least for his encounters with the first three contacts.

Over the top with a zany offbeat humor, BOCA KNIGHTS is a delightful satirical crime caper that enhances the already capital of quirkiness, the South Florida private investigative world. The story line contains several suspenseful subplots that are fun to follow although at times can be humorously campy. With a strong cast of eccentric and dangerous individuals causing havoc, readers will enjoy this fast-paced tale; superbly held together by Eddie, who finds his niche stirring up seemingly anyone who resides along the I-95 corridor south of the Palms and north of Lauderdale after he failed miserably at retirement 101.

Harriet Klausner

Kill for Me-Karen Rose

Kill for Me
Karen Rose
Grand Central, Feb 2009, $16.99
ISBN: 0446510300

In Dutton, Georgia., Georgia Bureau of Investigation's special agent Daniel Vartanian and his partner Luke Papadopoulis have solved two interrelated cases that started thirteen years ago (see SCREAM FOR ME). However, their work is not done, as remnants of an affluent rape gang whom for the most part never faced justice as money rules, survives in a different form. This gang that seems to be centered in the Dutton area is abducting female teens and selling them as sexual merchandise to perverted predators. An attempted raid to catch the leader of the trafficking network ends tragically with five girls murdered and the unknown chief still free.

Daniel’s sister, NYC ADA Susannah is also involved hoping to rescue other victims before Charles and his horde sell them in a damaged goods reduction sale; she is intimately knowledgeable about the sex slave commodity market. However, two teens rescued during the raid provide useful information, but the GBI agents and the ADA remain ignorant that one of their peers is making a lot more money peddling insider information to Charles.

This is a stupendous police procedural suspense thriller containing a complex story line and a large cast although many are corpses. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action from the onset and never slows down as the “Me-Me” trilogy (see SCREAM FOR ME and DIE FOR ME) ends with a vivid violent finish. The romantic subplot between Susannah and Luke is handled deftly as each has a history that has them fleeing commitment and both knows bringing down the ruthless human traffickers who diabolically use chat lines to find their prey comes before their attraction. KILL FOR ME is an exhilarating thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pleasing the Dead-Deborah Turrell Atkinson

Pleasing the Dead
Deborah Turrell Atkinson
Poisoned Pen, Feb 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9781590585979

Attorney Storm Kayama travels to Kahului, Maui to discuss with her client Lara Farrell the legal aspects of opening up a dive shop. Soon after she arrives in Kahului, she hears a loud explosion that occurred in a nearby restaurant.

Visiting the under construction dive shop, Storm observes a foreman council a drunken Japanese laborer for breaking the rule of not working under the influence as one can be a danger to one’s self and others. Soon after receiving the verbal reprimand, the worker Hiroki commits an apparent murder-suicide killing one of his two daughters. Unable to resist Storm investigates what drove the man to kill himself and his child starting with the still powerful ancient “coconut wireless” communication system, in which the gossip ties Hiroki to the Yakuza Japanese mob.

The keys to the exciting Kayama tales (see THE GREEN ROOM, PRIMITIVE SECRETS, and FIRE PRAYER) are the deep look into Native Hawaiian mythology and the hidden from tourists underside of paradise. The story line is fast-paced, starting off as a legal thriller, but as with the previous Stormy stories quickly turns into a dangerous investigative tale. Fans will enjoy tour guide Deborah Turrell Atkinson’s exciting Hawaii Paradise adventures.

Harriet Klausner

Death Was in the Picture-Linda L. Richards

Death Was in the Picture
Linda L. Richards
Dunne, Jan 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312383398

In 1931 Hollywood secretary Kitty Pangborn continues to work for dissolute private investigator Dex Theroux even though she stepped into all sorts of trouble (see DEATH WAS THE OTHER WOMAN) while her employer spent time toasting the J brothers (Johnnie Walker, Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, Jose Cuervo). She is grateful that Dex is clean and sober when a paying client arrives. He says he represents interested nameless concerned citizens who want to hire him to conduct surveillance of movie star Laird Wyndham, as they think his morality is dubious at best.

Although he has doubts about the surveillance, he needs the money so accepts the case. However, his gut instincts prove right when the police arrest Laird charging him with murder. Desperate to clear his reputation, Wyndham hires Dex to find the real killer.

The latest Dex-Kitty Depression Era Hollywood investigative thriller is a superb period piece. Once again Kitty does yeoman work to keep Dex away from the J crowd. Dex is at his best in a one thing leads to another scenario with his gut constantly telling him to drop the case and turn to alcohol to numb the feelings of being a loser. Historical mystery fans will enjoy this fine 1930s whodunit as well as the previous Panghorn-Theroux case (see DEATH WAS THE OTHER WOMAN).

Harriet Klausner

The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death- Charlie Huston

The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death
Charlie Huston
Ballantine, Jan 2009, $25.00
ISBN 9780345501110

Web Goodhue burned out as an inner city elementary school teacher until he finally quit. Although still suffering from what the shrinks call post-traumatic stress disorder, the former Los Angeles teacher obtains work as a member of a crime scene cleanup team. He finds cleaning away the remains of dead people easier on his brain than teaching.

He and his crew clean up a particular nasty job in Malibu where the suicide splattered blood and guts are everywhere. Soon afterward, the dead man’s daughter Soledad calls him to ask if he would like to make some under the table loot cleaning up a mess she and her hooligan half-brother need serendipitously performed by a professional. Web agrees although he knows better than to do an unauthorized side job, but Soledad’s voice and later her beautiful body has the mentally fatigued man hypnotized with a need to live for the first time since teaching fatigued him to the breaking point. He will soon find himself wishing he stayed in the classroom as a burned out husk.

With a nod to crime scene cleaner writers like Wendy Roberts (see A Ghost Dusters), but more a darker Noir than most, Charlie Huston provides a twisting terrific tale of betrayal. Fascinatingly, the action is muted as the players discuss what they desire and what happened. This passive approach works as the reader increasingly anticipates doom; enhancing the Noir feel to the plot. THE MYSTIC ARTS OF ERASING ALL SIGNS OF DEATH is a unique refreshing look at crime especially those who clean up the mess afterward while asking who cleans up the cleaner’s mess.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Nemesis-Jo Nesbo

Nemesis
Jo Nesbo
Harper, Jan 2009, $$25.95
ISBN: 9789961655500

In Oslo, the robber and his colleagues enter the bank and calmly inform the teller she has twenty-five seconds to hand over her money or die. He watches the clock as she completes his demand in less than twenty seconds. He executes her anyway. He and the others calmly leave with the loot.

While Harry Hole’s girlfriend is in a custody battle in Moscow, he feels lonely so the alcoholic he hooks up with is his former girlfriend, Anna for a night of fun. Soon afterward, Anna is found dead, officially ruled a suicide by Hole’s peer Tom Waaler, but Harry believes a homicide occurred. He quietly investigates Anna’s death while he and his partner Halvorsen work the bank robbery murder in which he notices something odd about the surveillance tape. However, an email warns Harry that someone has him under surveillance because they know he was with Anna just before she died and worse knows more about that night than the hanged over cop remembers.

The latest translation of a Harry Hole Norwegian police procedural (see THE REDBREAST) is a terrific thriller in which the alcoholic lead character prefers investigating the death of his ex more than the bank robberies, but needs to hide his inquiry from his girlfriend, partner and the brass. He and the bank robbers make the tale as Hole needs to learn what happened to Anna and who knows more about that night than he does; while the robbers open the tale with one of the most exciting ruthless scenes of the year and only increase the exhilaration level as well as the cold blooded killings. Readers will enjoy seeing Oslo through the eyes of Jo Nesbo.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Blood Lines-Mel Odom

Blood Lines
Mel Odom
Tyndale, Jan 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 1414316356

During a fugitive recovery op in Charlotte, Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Agent Marine Gunnery Sargent Shelton “Shel” McHenry is shot trying to make the arrest while the alleged criminal Bobby Lee Gant is killed. However, there are consequences to his use of deadly force. The father of the deceased, three tours of Viet Nam ground pounder veteran Victor Gant, leader of the violent weapons and meth peddling Purple Dragons bike gang, vows the grunt who murdered his son will pay in blood. Ironically Victor served with Shel’s dad decades ago in Vietnam. The FBI who is investigating Victor sees an opportunity by using Shel and his family as bait.

NCIS Commander Will Coburn believes strongly in taking care of your team. He and the unit have Shel’s back when attacks occur. They also want to protect Shel’s family, an easier target to bring down his morale. As death stalks Shel, he goes back to the day he lost faith in God; the day he buried his beloved mother. He prays for the first time since that day, but not for him; he asks God to protect his family back in Texas while also wondering if he believes in the Lord or is this foxhole mentality.

This is an action-packed NCIS thriller that goes a bit over the top of Camp Lejeune, but no one will care as the fast-paced story line grips readers from the opening basketball game through the revealing of Texas secrets to the final confrontation. The key cast is fully developed especially Shel who turns to God and even pleads with his daddy to try it. Fans will appreciate Mel Odom’s exhilarating inspirational tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Puppet Master- Jan Coffey

The Puppet Master
Jan Coffey
Mira, Jan 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780778326106

NASA scientist Alanna Mendes remains distraught by the death of her fiancé; in fact she feels getting up everyday overwhelming as she wants him back in her life. Computer guru Jay Alexei is a pariah who no one will touch because he hacked into a top secret data system. Financier David Collier would give up both his kidneys if one was a match for his daughter dying from a rare renal illness.

An unknown person contacts the trio. That individual offers each a deal they cannot refuse. They will receive their fondest wish in exchange for their services to right a wrong. Their benefactor claims nothing illegal is expected of them; just help on a top-secret project. However, the trio begins to question the intended consequences of their actions on innocent people.

This is a fast-paced action-packed morality play that grips the audience from the moment the offer is first made and never slows down. The reader and the lead trio contemplate ethics as no one except their employer and they will know what they did; no one will know who or what principles are violated except perhaps each one’s personal values. Jan Coffey is at her suspenseful best with this intriguing deep allegorical thriller that asks whose ethics applies when the masses are kept in the dark as the threesome ponders to do or not to do knowing they will most likely not be caught.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Nemesis-William Bernhardt

Nemesis
William Bernhardt
Ballantine, Jan 2009, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345487582

The pinnacle of Eliot Ness’ career is when he took down Al Capone on charges of failing to pay income taxes. He became a hero as a legendary symbol of the dedicated good guys defeating the evil mobsters. Now he is in Detroit working for the Alcohol Tax Unit within the Bureau of Internal Revenue. The newly elected mayor hires him as the Safety Director. He has the power to weed out police corruption, illegal gambling, and do something to reduce the high level of juvenile crime; he also hopes to reduce vehicular deaths, the biggest killer in the Motor City.

Ness is working hard at reform and meeting with a lot of success especially with the support of the media and the public. However, a killer is operating in the shantytown side of Detroit, murdering transients, hookers and petty felons; the predator decapitates the victim while also removing other body parts. The police are baffled as they have never heard of such a killer; one who picks victims at random with no common denominator. The press demands Ness take the lead and bring this psychopath to justice. The only suspect he uncovers, Ness is unable to investigate as he has powerful political connections. Frustrated his final case begins his spiral into oblivion.

After the Torso Murder case, Ness became disillusioned with the reporters and the media who turned on him; his wife left him; and he became an alcoholic. For the rest of his life he was never at peace because of what he was persuaded to do. This biographical fiction of an American icon (thanks to the Untouchables) is well written as Ness is made into a caring human who bleeds. William Bernhardt enables the reader to get past the TV series and movie to the real Ness, who turns acrimonious once the political system chews him up.

Harriet Klausner

Cambridge Blue-Alison Bruce

Cambridge Blue
Alison Bruce
Soho, Jan 2009, $25.00
ISBN 9781569475201

In Cambridge, England, although only twenty-five year old, Gary Goodhew is proud of his promotion to detective constable; however some of the veterans at Parkside Station think the still untainted kid is too young. Gary may be an optimist but he also is a realist; he knows he will need to prove himself to his peers, who expect him to fall on his youthful face.

His chance arrives when a female corpse is found on top of garbage bags in Midsummer Common. He is assigned the lead. After sifting through garbage, he begins to follow clues into the victim’s life and family seeking to learn why she was murdered and especially the reason of dumping her as if the killer threw out the garbage.

Although very typical of the British police procedural, CAMBRIDGE BLUE is an entertaining whodunit starring a likable dedicated cop with a need to prove he belongs. Goodhew keeps the tale brisk especially in the latter half as he methodically follows every lead. Fans will enjoy his efforts to solve the complex case even as readers will try to beat him to the punch as Alison Bruce provides all the clues in plain sight.

Harriet Klausner

Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts-Laura Benedict

Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts
Laura Benedict
Ballantine, Jan 6 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 0345497694

In Cincinnati, thirteen year old Roxanne, Delilah and Alice perform a love ritual that is a combination of witchcraft and Santeria. Shortly after completing their spell, a new teacher arrives at their school, Our Lady of the Hills. The three assume he is heavenly sent to take their virginity.

The girls compete to seduce the Cuban-born teacher Father Romero. Roxanne succeeds, but Alice and Del fail because Father Romero is wracked with guilt after his fall from grace. Still the two he rejected accuse him of unsavory behavior; costing him his teaching position as well as defrocking him. He leaves Ohio humiliated.

Seventeen years later, Romero, accompanied by Varick, returns to Cincinnati seeking vengeance on the unholy trio who destroyed him as a Father and as a man. At the encouragement of his companion, who is the devil garbed as a man, Romero begins his quest against the thirty years old former Lolita like trio who seduced him and lied to the church about his transgressions. As the quintet get entangled with one another, the innocent are in trouble as Varick wants to burn more than just four sinners.

This is not an easy book to read as no one is an empathetic character and having young teens as sexy seductresses is difficult to accept. Still the action is fast-paced and the four humans real as their flaws overflow, which enables the devil to expedite his punishment. Targeting a limited audience, fans who enjoy an extremely dark Faustian thriller will want to read CALLING MR. LONELY HEARTS.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 17, 2008

Travelogue-Thomas A. Ryerson

Travelogue
Thomas A. Ryerson
Isis, 2007, $24.97
Woodstock, ON, Canada
ISBN: 0969742916

Eighteen years ago, Tasha Tait’s father Ian disappeared leaving behind a stunned wife Xavier and daughter. Neither woman is able to cope with the unexplained vanishing. Xavier called Birdie by everyone dives even deeper into being a misunderstood free spirit while Tasha brings her own form of closure by using psychological defense mechanisms to forget much of what happened.

However, seeing her childhood neighborhood bully Jorge “Val” Joyce on TV as a big shot triggers the memories she buried. She quickly goes from deep melancholy to anger as she wonders if Jorge had something to do with her father’s disappearance. As she begins to dig into the past with the help and encouragement of a new friend caring Dylan Douglas, Val will do anything necessary to keep history interred especially the connections between their two families that first converged over two decades before Ian vanished.

This deep character study is not an easy thriller to read as the well written story line gets deep inside the head of Tasha, who is finally “trying to find out who she really is” and to a lesser degree Val. Her need to know the truth causes a reaction by her nemesis who is perhaps even more desperate to keep the facts concealed. Taking place over three decades and not in a linear manner, readers will relish this deep complicated thriller as the need to know battles with the need to conceal with the latter being much more powerful and influential; a sort of female David with Jonathan (Dylan) at her side going up against Goliath.

Harriet Klausner

Magic Lance-Hal Simmons

Magic Lance
Hal Simmons
Clear Light Publishing, Aug 2008, $14.95
823 Don Diego, Santa Fe NM 87505
ISBN: 9781574160949

The tribe has made a fortune with its Magic Lance casino. Now the tribal war concerned with having all their eggs in one basket directs Lucky Joe to purchase ranch land with the goal to establish a Native American state.

As the pattern begins to surface, those in Washington and in the surrounding western states become concerned with the Indian power grab. Especially upset are local politicians who fear losing power and white ranchers who are disturbed by being archipelagoes in a red sea. Other strange bedfellows from environmentalists to hunters to organized crime mobsters to even some tribal members join the anti tribal land grab. In the midst of all this posturing while Lucky Joe legally continues his purchases and the casino brings in money by the truckload, small rancher Lance Burnett tries to run his spread even as his inner city teacher wife Jan leaves him to escape the lonely existence and he is attracted to the ranch manager next door Lighting McClain, whose owner wants his land at discount sales rate in order to compete with the Indian purchases.

This excellent regional thriller rotates perspective predominantly between what is happening to Lance and Lucky Joe until their subplots deftly converge; plausible but unexpected twists keep readers wondering where the two scenarios are going. Fans will enjoy this modern take of Old West “economic politics” in the twenty-first century especially the unintended consequences of the casinos as devastating a way of life while also becoming an equalizer. Insightful throughout with consistent characters behaving according to their moral code, MAGIC LANCE is a complex character driven tale that readers will appreciate as Hal Simmons shines a clear light on the New West.

Harriet Klausner

Six Seconds-Rick Mofina

Six Seconds
Rick Mofina
Mira, Jan 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 0778326128

In Blue Rose Creek, California Maggie Conlin arrives at her son Logan’s school to pick him up only to learn her husband Jake already did; when she cannot find either of them, she learns he took their child and went into hiding. She is extremely anxious because Jake since his return home from Iraq where he was a contract employee has not bee the same as he was before he left. He has become paranoid with loud public outbursts including accusing Maggie of having an affair with Logan’s soccer coach.

Jake is in Cold Butte, Montana with Samara, a nurse who saved his life in Iraq. She contacted him when she came to the States and is using father and son as a cover while completing her mission. She seeks vengeance ever since the despicable West murdered her husband and son.

Near Banff, Alberta, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Corporal Daniel Graham fishes out of the river Emily Tarver; before she dies she whispers: “don’t hurt his daddy”. He finds the bodies of her brother and mother. The father Ray is a free lance journalist working on a story of international scope. Due to bizarre circumstances Graham meets Maggie and they fly to Montana to retrieve her son and prevent a terrorist attack on the Canadian-American heartland.

Rick Mofina is a great thriller writer. His latest work is full of action and yet the main characters are fully developed even as the third person point of view changes from the distraught mom to the despondent RCMP officer to the PTDS suffering Jake to the embittered Samara. Thus the fast-paced story line enables the audience to understand what motivates the adults. Ironically though Maggie and Samara are antagonists, they share much in common especially as moms; many readers will conclude that if the American’s child was brutally murdered she would be the victim turned terrorist. Thus the key to this strong work is making Samara an empathetic character doing wrongs because she has been wronged. Mr. Mofina is at his best with the superb character driven SIX SECONDS; as that is all it takes to destroy a person’s world.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Private Patient-P.D. James

The Private Patient
P.D. James
Knopf, Nov 19 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 0307270777

In Dorset, forty-seven years old investigative reporter Rhoda Gradwyn arrives at Cheverell Manor, a facility converted into a plastic surgery clinic by renowned surgeon Dr. George Chandler Powell. Rhoda is there for personal reasons to have an ugly facial scar removed. Two days later, Rhoda is dead.

Police Commander Adam Dalgliesh heads the investigation into the homicide of the journalist. He and his unit quickly find suspects at clinic, whose motives seem weird especially if any of them killed a virtual stranger. Confused by what they are learning, Adam also reaches out to the wider more likely fruitful focus of looking at those involved with Gradwyn’s work as she was notorious for figuratively torturing the truth from reluctant individuals and then selling it to the highest bidder. One of the seemingly zillion including the staff at the clinic is a killer, but who took advantage of the opportunity remains far from being resolved even as the inquiry spins further out of control towards a three century plus old execution and a second apparently unrelated murder occurs at the clinic.

As always in the excellent Dalgliesh police procedurals, this great entry (perhaps the best of the long running saga) P.D. James interweaves her take on social issues into a terrific whodunit; nobody does it better than she does. The case is complex as suspects surface more than rabbits multiply while Dalgliesh learns either the clinic staff or the late reporter were interested in the graying of Great Britain, the failing restricted higher education system that exclude late blooming geniuses and immigrants, and the inconvenient truth of humans goring the planet; all cleverly interwoven into the plot. However, make no mistake the superb police investigation is the focus of the storyline as THE PRIVATE PATIENT is a fabulous “locked room” mystery with an endless sea of suspects.

Harriet Klausner

Without Conscience-David Stuart Davies

Without Conscience
David Stuart Davies
St. Martin's, Nov 25 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 0312382103

In 1942 London, Sandra Riley, believing that her husband Walter is cheating on her, hires private investigator Johnny Hawke to scrutinize his activities. Hawke tails his target and quickly learns that Riley is a closet cross-dresser. Hawke continues his surveillance, but before he can ascertain whether the man is also cheating on his spouse or other deviant behavior, Hawke observes Riley’s murder.

Stunned, the grieving Sandra engages Hawke again this time to find the widow-maker who murdered her husband. As Hawke investigates the homicide he witnessed, the cops including the military police conduct a wide spread manhunt for AWOL Harryboy Jenkins, who has killed a vicar and a police officer among his crimes. As the two seemingly divergent cases connect, orphan student Peter Blake flees school and bullies to stay with his hero Hawke, who once saved his life only to be caught at the point of the pending encounter between Hawke and Jenkins.

Although the use of coincidence too easily expedites the convergence of the three males, WITHOUT CONSCIENCE is an enjoyable WWII home front crime thriller. Hawke is terrific as he adapts from surveillance to a whodunit at the same time that maniacal Jenkins is an out of control military deserter. Fans will anticipate their inevitable collision accelerated by Blake’s arrival. David Stuart Davies provides an exiting 1942 mystery (see FORESTS OF THE NIGHT for Hawke’s previous case load).

Harriet Klausner

The Private Patient
P.D. James
Knopf, Nov 19 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 0307270777

In Dorset, forty-seven years old investigative reporter Rhoda Gradwyn arrives at Cheverell Manor, a facility converted into a plastic surgery clinic by renowned surgeon Dr. George Chandler Powell. Rhoda is there for personal reasons to have an ugly facial scar removed. Two days later, Rhoda is dead.

Police Commander Adam Dalgliesh heads the investigation into the homicide of the journalist. He and his unit quickly find suspects at clinic, whose motives seem weird especially if any of them killed a virtual stranger. Confused by what they are learning, Adam also reaches out to the wider more likely fruitful focus of looking at those involved with Gradwyn’s work as she was notorious for figuratively torturing the truth from reluctant individuals and then selling it to the highest bidder. One of the seemingly zillion including the staff at the clinic is a killer, but who took advantage of the opportunity remains far from being resolved even as the inquiry spins further out of control towards a three century plus old execution and a second apparently unrelated murder occurs at the clinic.

As always in the excellent Dalgliesh police procedurals, this great entry (perhaps the best of the long running saga) P.D. James interweaves her take on social issues into a terrific whodunit; nobody does it better than she does. The case is complex as suspects surface more than rabbits multiply while Dalgliesh learns either the clinic staff or the late reporter were interested in the graying of Great Britain, the failing restricted higher education system that exclude late blooming geniuses and immigrants, and the inconvenient truth of humans goring the planet; all cleverly interwoven into the plot. However, make no mistake the superb police investigation is the focus of the storyline as THE PRIVATE PATIENT is a fabulous “locked room” mystery with an endless sea of suspects.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Living the Vida Lola-Misa Ramirez

Living the Vida Lola
Misa Ramirez
St. Martin's, Jan 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312384029

In Sacramento Dolores “Lola” Falcon Cruz earns a living as a private investigator. Her current case involves a missing person, responsible forty-two years old Emily Diggs, who failed to pick up her six-year-old son Sean at his school. Everyone Lola spoke with who knew Emily insists she was a good mother who would never commit a negligent act involving her child especially with what happened to her older son.

However, the inquiry turns ugly when Emily's body is found near the Riverbank Marina. Lola continues her investigation, but changes her focus to uncovering the identity of the killer. Sacramento Bee reporter Jack Callaghan informs Lola that a distraught Emily told him that her older son, Garrett died from wht the woman called a “heart infection” that she believed came from an unsanitary tattoo. Lola remains dedicated to catching the culprit using Jack’s tip as a lead by looking perhaps first hand into tattoos and belly-button and other unmentionable body parts piercing.

Never taking itself graveyard serious, this is an entertaining investigative half boiled noir with a touch of romance to spice up the proceedings. Ethical Lola is terrific as a literally and figuratively kick butt heroine who believes she owes her late client so continues her inquiry. You don’t know Jack if you fail to understand that what Lola wants Lola gets, which is a killer, even if that mean a belly button or a nipple ring. Misa Ramirez provides a wonderful first case in what looks like the start of a delightful series.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Pursuit-Brandilyn Collins

Dark Pursuit
Brandilyn Collins
Zondervan, Dec 2008, $14.99
ISBN: 9780310276425

Suspense novelist Darell Brooke and his granddaughter Kaitlan Sering have been estranged for several years ever since demon drugs took over her life. He refused to pay for her addiction and displaying tough love kicked her out of his life though that broke his heart.

Two years ago Darell was severely injured in a car accident that has impacted his mental acumen as he struggles with memory and focus. He has not written anything since and has become an acrimonious grumpy hermit. On the other hand, the twentyish Kaitlan has rebounded starting with kicking the habit, obtaining a decent job and has a nice boyfriend Craig Barlow, the son of the police chief Russ Barlow, whom she has been seeing for three months and is carrying his child.

Excited and praying Craig will be too when she tells him she is pregnant, she finds a dead fortyish female in her bed. She wonders if Craig killed the woman, but soon has worse issues as the police deem her the only viable suspect. No longer trusting Craig or his dad, she flees to her grandfather for help, not knowing who else she can turn to if he rejects her. However, the king of suspense no longer has the sharp mind his granddaughter remembers; she fears she is endangering him too, but Darell needs to be there for his Kaitlan.

This is an exciting criminal thriller starring a strong ensemble cast anchored by the heroine in trouble. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Kaitlan sees the corpse in her bed and never slows down as the police and her fiance go after her while she and her befuddled grandfather push back hoping to break Craig. Although one critical spin seems unlikely, fans will relish the aptly named DARK PURSUIT, as family right or wrong is always family.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Pursuit-Brandilyn Collins

Dark Pursuit
Brandilyn Collins
Zondervan, Dec 2008, $14.99
ISBN: 9780310276425

Suspense novelist Darell Brooke and his granddaughter Kaitlan Sering have been estranged for several years ever since demon drugs took over her life. He refused to pay for her addiction and displaying tough love kicked her out of his life though that broke his heart.

Two years ago Darell was severely injured in a car accident that has impacted his mental acumen as he struggles with memory and focus. He has not written anything since and has become an acrimonious grumpy hermit. On the other hand, the twentyish Kaitlan has rebounded starting with kicking the habit, obtaining a decent job and has a nice boyfriend Craig Barlow, the son of the police chief Russ Barlow, whom she has been seeing for three months and is carrying his child.

Excited and praying Craig will be too when she tells him she is pregnant, she finds a dead fortyish female in her bed. She wonders if Craig killed the woman, but soon has worse issues as the police deem her the only viable suspect. No longer trusting Craig or his dad, she flees to her grandfather for help, not knowing who else she can turn to if he rejects her. However, the king of suspense no longer has the sharp mind his granddaughter remembers; she fears she is endangering him too, but Darell needs to be there for his Kaitlan.

This is an exciting criminal thriller starring a strong ensemble cast anchored by the heroine in trouble. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Kaitlan sees the corpse in her bed and never slows down as the police and her fiance go after her while she and her befuddled grandfather push back hoping to break Craig. Although one critical spin seems unlikely, fans will relish the aptly named DARK PURSUIT, as family right or wrong is always family.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 14, 2008

Spider Season-John Morgan Wilson

Spider Season
John Morgan Wilson
St. Martin's, Dec 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780312341480

Benjamin Justice was revered as a fine journalist who deservedly won a Pulitzer for his articles on nursing his lover who was dying from AIDS. When it was substantiated that Ben fabricated his story, he became despised, black balled and the only person forced to return a Pulitzer. He changed careers solving mysteries instead of writing articles, but the disgraced former West Hollywood reporter publishes a memoir.

Ben is shocked that two people, former marine Lance and middle age arachnid aficionado Jason, neither whom he knows, seem to want to beat the crap out of him since his memoir went public. Not one to sit idly by, Ben decides to make inquiries into the two radically different males who want a piece of him so that he can find what in his book stirred their testosterone. However, they are not his biggest problem; unprincipled reporter Cathryn knows Ben did not uncover all his scandalous muck; she investigates him so she can pile more dirt on him and more fame on her.

The latest Benjamin Justice thriller (see RHAPSODY IN BLOOD and THE LIMITS OF JUSTICE) is a solid entry as the hero continues his self flogging behavior that only leads to more trouble. He still has not been able to move on beyond his fifteen minutes of shame as if he wears the Scarlet Letter L on his face though almost two decades have past. His inquiries into Lance and Jason is fascinating and well done, but also somewhat slow paced especially while rotating between investigating his two antagonists and his real enemy Cathryn. Still this is a fine tale as the disgraced lead character struggles with learning why the two men are after him and keeping further dirt interred.

Harriet Klausner

Find Me-Debra Webb

Find Me
Debra Webb
St. Martin’s, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 0312532954

NYC based investigative reporter Sarah Newton works for Truth magazine, traveling to locations in which the locals claim the supernatural committed murder; she debunks their mystical fears. However, Sarah is a loner who is used to people loathing her.

Sarah travels to freezing Youngstown, Maine where one teenage girl Valerie Gerard was found viciously sliced to death in a chapel and another Alicia Appleton is missing. Many townsfolk claim the curse has returned as similar murders occurred two decades ago. The City Council assigns lobsterman and newest member Kale Conner to escort the outsider around town; Sarah knows that means to help the town hide its secrets from her. As the police work the case, so does Sarah who soon begins to win over Kale to her side. Attracted to one another from the onset, they begin to fall in love, but neither has any hope for a future as he scorns her as a Manhattan pushy woman while she assumes he is her natural enemy although a dark secret from her own childhood closet is her real reason to keep him away.

FIND ME is a well written investigative romance starring a fascinating journalistic sleuth and a former dreamer. The story line is exciting from the onset as Sarah arrives alienating everyone. Kale is a strong character who gave up his dreams when his father became disabled; he goes from doubting antagonist to believer in his beloved. Sarah makes the tale work with her take no prisoners’ attitude and her Pygmalion Effect of expecting no cooperation so acts offensively which leads to no cooperation, her family history, and her loner status that the lobsterman finds heartbreaking. Although the townsfolk do not seem very frightened or frantic over a vicious murder and a probable second killing fans will appreciate this fine Manhattan-Maine romantic suspense thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Empty Mirror-J. Sydney Jones

The Empty Mirror
J. Sydney Jones
Dunne, Jan 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312383893

In the 1890s several inexplicable violent murders rock Vienna. As Austrians watch in fascinating fear, the police suspect artist Gustav Klimt as the culprit predominantly based on the fifth victim Liesel Landtauer who was his model, but lack solid evidence to convict him although they raided his studio. Concerned that he could become the fall guy if police Inspektor Meindl fails to nail the brutal serial killer soon, he asks his friend lawyer Karl Werthen for help. Karl wants to assist Gustav, but also accepts he is out of his element at this point with the need of an investigative expert to take charge.

As Klimt is proven right when the police arrest him on inadequate evidence, Werthen asks criminologist Dr. Hanns Gross to help him uncover the identity of "Vienna's Jack the Ripper." He agrees and with Werthen at his side, Gross begins to follow clues that lead to all segments of Venetian society even as a sixth homicide frees Klimt who has the perfect alibi. However as the killer watches their progress and even sends taunting mail to authorities, influential members of high society want their inquiry stopped while the police continue to focus on Klimt as their end game.

Using real persona in key roles (including Klimt the artist who had the Malkovich movie made of him two years ago and the founder of criminology Gross), J Sydney Jones anchors time and place giving this terrific investigative tale a major historical feel to the story line. Plausible cameos enhance the feel of being in Vienna in the 1890s. The serial killer investigation filled with twists hooks the audience. Historical and late Victorian mystery fans will both relish this excellent whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Outlaw Marshal-Al & JoAnna Lacy

Outlaw Marshal
Al & JoAnna Lacy
Multnomah Jan 13 2009, $12.99
ISBN 9781601420541

In 1887 convicted outlaw Whipley Langford is freed from jail planning to go straight after avoiding a noose thanks to his friend Marshal John Brockman, who understands first hand how one can stray from the lord as he was once “Mr. Stranger”. A pious law enforcement official noe John also encourages Whip to embrace God, but though he vows to never break the law, he cannot seek the lord’s salvation.

Whip prevents a train robbery by four of his associates catching two of the outlaws and bringing them to justice. However, the two who escape vow vengeance on their former partner. They arrange for the evidence to overwhelmingly prove John committed a homicide. With a perfect frame, everyone assumes the outlaw returned to his roots except for John who believes in Whip's conversion to law abiding citizen. As the hanging rope comes closer, John sets out to prove his friend’s innocence even as Widow Annabeth Cooper prays to God that the Marshal is able to free the former outlaw who owns her heart.

Fans of the Laceys will appreciate the “Return of the Stranger” and his wife Breanna who starred in the mid nineties Western Christian fiction saga The Journeys of the Stranger. The current tale is a fascinating redemption novel as John tries to persuade Whip that he needs to find the Lord if he is to truly make it. Although at times John can turn too preachy for less dedicated CF fans, OUTLAW MARSHAL is an exciting Colorado-Kansas thriller starring a fascinating lead character, the woman he loves, and the man who tries to help him find his way to the lord.
Harriet Klausner

A Rule Against Murder-Louise Penny

A Rule Against Murder
Louise Penny
St. Martin’s, Jan 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312377021

Every summer the Gamache’s go on vacation together. This year they stay at the luxurious Manoir Bellechasse in Quebec. Chief Inspector Armand especially loves the getaway with his beloved spouse that gives him time away from criminal activities.

The only other visitors are the Finney brood celebrating a reunion of sorts at the manor. The family matriarch Irene hosts a gala in tribute to her late husband. The highlight of the festivities is the unveiling of a statue in her spouse’s honor in the Manoir’s garden. However, when the statue crumbles off its base it kills one of the middle age adult daughters. Although on vacation, Gamache cannot let it go as an accident; instead he investigates expecting to discover an accident, but instead finds a dysfunctional family who loathe one another. Murder is not out of the question even as the snooty Finney brood insult and scorn the chief inspector for his respectful methodology and worse for his ancestry.

Part of the fun in this Quebec police procedural is the disdainful treatment by the haughty Finney family who assume Gamache is an idiot beneath them socially and intellectually; a sort of loose nod to Colombo. The investigation is top rate enhanced by the obvious flaws of the lead character, his wife (who brings some humor with her not again reaction) and the prime suspects. Fans will enjoy the intelligent and dedicated (this time instead of the Surete insisting obstinate, the Finney brood does) Gamache’s vacation at an isolated resort as he relishes the investigation (see STILL LIFE and THE CRUELEST MONTH).

Harriet Klausner

The Spanish Game-Charles Cumming

The Spanish Game
Charles Cumming
St. Martin's, Nov 25 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780312366391

Following the disastrous events that went totally wrong (see A SPY BY NATURE), M-16 blames espionage agent Alec Milius for the fiasco although he was a rookie and his side failed to communicate with their American counterparts; he also blames himself. Fired by his agency and no longer seeking adventure, Alex relocates to Madrid where he works for a British owned bank. Filled with guilt and doubts, Alex hopes staying low key will keep him safe as he would not be shocked to find his former employers, the CIA sending assassins or a rogue colleague holding him responsible by taking him out.

In Spain, Alec is having an affair with the wife of his boss Julian Church while using alcohol to numb his crippling remorse. Julian assigns Alec with a special project that has him traveling into the Basque sector of Spain. There he meets Mikel Arenaza, a former Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) Basque separatist party member. Soon after their encounter someone kills Mikel. Alec is caught in the middle between ETA hardliners, Spanish cops, and apparently his former British associates and their cross Atlantic partners.

This is a superb espionage thriller as Alec, filled with remorse and uncertainty about his skills, expects his former colleagues or their peers to take him out. He lives looking over his shoulder with a hesitant step. The story line is fabulous with timely solid twists, but Alec makes the tale; as a disgraced spy in exile waiting for the cold to come to him. THE SPANISH GAME will be on most short lists as one of top three espionage thrillers of the year.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Killer Cousins-June Shaw

Killer Cousins
June Shaw
Five Star, Jan 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 1594147302

Cealie Gunther was preparing to go to Mexico when she receives an urgent call from her cousin Stevie Midnight to come over as son as possible as she is in danger. Cealie rushes to Stevie’s house in Gatlinburg, Tennessee only to trip over a corpse. Police Detective Renwick questions the feuding cousins with Stevie insisting she did not know the victim and an upset Cealie told not to leave town. Cealie is stunned to learn Stevie’s plea for help was based on her so called psychic skills.

Cealie accompanies Stevie to her Quitters Group; a support team helping each other quit smoking. There she learns the victim Pierce Trottier was a member of the group although Stevie still insists she never saw him. At the newly opened Cajun Delights owned by Cealie’s sometime lover restaurateur Gil Thurman, another Quitters Group attendee Fawn McKenzie dies with her face landing in the source. As Cealie and Stevie argue, they investigate the group members to determine who is applying the Christie story And Then There Were None.

The second Cealie amateur sleuth mystery (see RELATIVE DANGER) is an interesting whodunit that takes a somewhat backseat to the feuding KILLER COUSINS”. Stevie and Cealie spend much of the first half of the book irritating one another as if they were still little girls competing for their grandma’s affection. The efforts to stop smoking is deftly handled and can be summed up by quoting Mark Twain: "Quitting smoking is easy; I've done it a thousand times", as the addiction is craving for relief all the time. The story line is at its best in the second half when the cousins stop fighting and team up as relentless amateur sleuths solving a murder mystery, middle age dieting, and controlling the cigarette addiction. Overall June Shaw provides a fine Tennessee cozy.

Harriet Klausner

The Wisdom of Father Dowling-Ralph McInerny

The Wisdom of Father Dowling
Ralph McInerny
Five Star, Jan 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9781594146794

This anthology contains fourteen stories published between 1995 and 1998, and one entry in 2000. The usual players besides the title lead character show up as does his housekeeper Marie, and police captain Phil Keegan. All take place in Fox River, Illinois in or near St. Hilary's church. Each tale is well written and fun to read with Father Dowling’s usual amusing asides and witty intelligent commentaries on life enhance the collection. The short story format is a terrific method for the Father Dowling mysteries as he provides his compassionate solace to the flock and others while also solving cases that prove to the reader to kill or steal is human, but to catch the felon is divine. Fans of the series will fully appreciate this fine compilation of the short cases of Father Dowling as the format is heavenly.

Harriet Klausner

Donna Rose and the Roots of Evil-Norma Tadlock Johnson

Donna Rose and the Roots of Evil
Norma Tadlock Johnson
Five Star, Jan 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9781594147272

In Cedar Harbor, Washington retired schoolteacher Donna Galbreath looks for some quiet after she and her neighbor Cyrus Bates captured a killer (see DONNA ROSE AND THE SLUG WAR). She does expect incompetent police chief William Doniker to be replaced by superstar cop Jake Santorini so when the City Council announces an award ceremony for the former, Donna and Cyrus are stunned. An upset somewhat intoxicated by alcohol and prescription drugs Jake comments he wants to kill William and sneezes into the man’s food.

At the gala, William abruptly dies. The autopsy reveals he was poisoned by Monkshood previously used by the killer behind bars in the Slug War case, and stolen from the police evidence room. Jake is arrested as he had motive, means, and opportunity. Donna and Cyrus begin to investigate leading to a strange Cincinnati connection between the deceased, Tim the new owner of the Cedar Harbor Post, and Alvin a vagrant gardener, but how the latter two and Mayor Oliver with his “buddy” system tie to the chief’s homicide remains unknown and consequently so does the killer while the cop in charge of the investigation continues to focus solely on Jake,.

Although the story line is a bit thin, fans will enjoy Donna Rose’s second amateur sleuth due to a strong cast who bring alive the Puget Sound area. The pairing of Donna and Cyrus is terrific as they believe Jake is innocent and should be chief so they seek the “roots of evil” in their community who murdered the chief. This is a fun Washington State cozy.

Harriet Klausner

Shooters and Chasers-Lenny Kleinfeld

Shooters and Chasers
Lenny Kleinfeld
Five Star, Jan 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147395

In Chicago, taxi driver Naguib Darwahab takes his fare renowned architect Wilson Willets home. Because they hit it off so well, he gives Wilson his copy of a tape. However, out of an alley rushes a mugger who shoots and kills the architect, but leaves the driver alive.

Homicide detectives Mark Bergman and John Dunegan lead to what appears to be a solved case as Naguib can identify the killer. The cops arrest Emeelio “Meelo” Garcia whose car contains the murder weapon and the victim’s wallet. However, anomalies surface to include Naguib saying Meelo is not the killer in spite of his telltale tattoo. Other seemingly minor oddities also surface so that in spite of the brass wanting to take Meelo to trial during an AG election year, the dedicated cops look elsewhere for suspects including a pristine architectural competition.

This excellent police procedural stars two cops who perfectly represent Chicago as one is a Cub fan and the other a Sox fan. The set up is terrific as the case appears to be a random mugging killing with the solid evidence overwhelmingly convicting Meelo at a surface glance. However, the cops find tiny holes that grow increasingly bigger and the key witness places heavy doubts on Meelo. With several twists and a strong cast on both sides of the law, readers will appreciate this fabulous whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Blown Coverage-Jason Elam & Steve Yohn

Blown Coverage
Jason Elam & Steve Yohn
Tyndale, Jan. 2009, $13.95
ISBN 9781414317328

Professional Football League (PTL) Colorado Mustangs linebacker player Riley Covington looks forward to the NFL mini-camp season though he knows that the drills are much worse than boot camp. However, he also recognizes football is a game albeit even with billions of dollars involved after spending a military tour in Afghanistan and confronting terrorists in the United States (see MONDAY NIGHT JIHAD).

However, Riley has to put aside his football helmet and pads for the dangerous mission of the Counterterrorism Division when al-‘Aqran the lethal brilliant leader of the Cause escapes incarceration and activates sleeper cells in America and Europe. As the threat goes red, Riley realizes he and his CD unit are part of the enemy’s coordinated concerted effort to stop any defensive counter attack by targeting personnel and their family members with a keen fatwa as well as hitting key locations. The free world is under a severe blitz in which the deadly Jihadists look to exploit any BLOWN COVERAGE to sack the infidels; Riley prays for the safety of his loved ones, his teammates, and others while placing himself in God’s care to counter the terrorists’ assaults at a time he has doubts since a personal tragedy struck his soul.

As with the exciting first tale, readers see deep into the soul of the Cause leader who believes he and his team have God on their side just like the Americans; in fact the Muslims are even more certain as Riley in spite of his prayers has some major doubts. The story line is fast-paced never slowing down yet enables fans to better understand what motivates a Jihadist as the terrorists are humanized by Jason Elam & Steve Yohn, who score their second game winning touchdown with BLOWN COVERAGE.

Harriet Klausner

The Sky Took Him-Donis Casey

The Sky Took Him
Donis Casey
Poisoned Pen, Jan 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 1590585712

In 1915 her sister Ruth Ann Yeager informs Alafair Tucker that her husband Lester is dying. To pay her respects to Lester and be there for her sibling, Alafair accompanied by her two daughters Martha and three years old Grace takes the train from Muskogee to Enid, Oklahoma.

Upon arrival in Enid, instead of being there for her already grieving sister while Martha watches Grace, Alafair who learned from the letter she received re Lester’s pending death that her niece Olivia’s foolish husband, Kenneth vanished even as local ruthless businessman Buck Collins is looking for him. Apparently foolish Kenneth had a deal with Buck that failed to pan out; most locals assume Buck took care of business his way, but Alafair thinks otherwise and with her oldest daughter assisting her begins to investigate the disappearance of her niece’s moronic husband

The latest Oklahoma historical amateur sleuth story (see THE DROP EDGE OF YONDER, HORNSWOGGLED and THE OLD BUZZARD HAD IT COMING) is a fabulous entry in one of the best continuing WWI era sagas. The story line as always gives the audience a sense of place and time as for instance the events in Serbia last year seem so removed from the current events in Oklahoma. The mystery of the vanishing in-law is filled with twists that stun the mother and daughter detectives as the links go back to the last decade of the previous century. Fans will fully appreciate this strong story while thinking the sooner Donis Casey writes her next Tucker tale the better.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Spy Who Wants Me-Lucy Monroe

The Spy Who Wants Me
Lucy Monroe
Kensington Brava Jan 2009, $14,00
ISBN 9780758229151

The Goddard Project “Old Man” decides his best field operative Elle Gray should handle the California situation, but not because she is his top gun; instead he is worried about her as her entire life is TGP having no vacations from the job except field training. The Old Man believes California mellow will be good for Elle and with her chemical engineering degree might fit in with scientists on the right side of the law and perhaps he prays go out out on a date or two.

Research chemist Beau Ruston’s top secret laboratory was compromised. Elle is sent in under the cover of being a security consultant insuring it does not happen again. In fact she is there to keep Beau safe and catch those who breached security. It is attraction at first sight as Beau and Elle want one another. However, she hides her true vocation from him while he conceals he knows her true vocation. However, Elle’s hidden identity is in trouble when she learns her brother Matej works at the lab. When her sibling’s girlfriend becomes the pawn of espionage thieves trying to steal Beau’s antigravity prototype, a fired up Elle goes after them.

THE SPY WHO WANTS ME is a solid yet inane TGP espionage romance that in many ways lampoons Lucy Monroe’s romantic suspense thrillers (see READY, WILLING, ABLE, and SATISFACTION GUARANTEED). The key players are cartoon caricatures in nature especially the superheroine and the villains. However, the story line is lighthearted fun to follow as the spy who came in from the cold finds heat with her scientist, who discovers the ecstasy of first hand (tongue, etc) vaginal research.

Harriet Klausner

Mayhem in High Heels-Gemma Halliday

Mayhem in High Heels
Gemma Halliday
Dorchester Making It, Dec 30 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843961096

Los Angeles Homicide Detective Jack Ramirez and shoe designer Maddie Springer were in Paris causing the usual MAYHEM IN HIGH HEELS (see ALIBI IN HIGH HEELS) when he proposed and she accepted. Maddie expected nuptial problems from her mom, but did not anticipate wanting to name a hemorrhoid after her. Mom wants to invite half the planet including people neither Maddie nor mom have spoken with in the last decade or so.

To keep the ceremony under control and not need the Coliseum, Maddie hires wedding planner Gigi Van Doren to take care of the gala, but especially to run interference with her mom. Maddie and Jack arrive to test taste their wedding cake in Gigi’s Beverly Hills studio; only instead of a sweet and a planner they find a corpse. Someone stabbed Gigi in the back leaving her face buried in the butter cream frosting. Maddie's friends Dana and Marco replace Gigi as the planners while Jack leads the official investigation into the murder. Maddie knows when he works a case he has tunnel vision so to insure he makes it to the ceremony, if for no other reason than not having to explain otherwise to the mother of the bride from hell, she decides to solve the case assisted by her new wedding planners.

The fifth "High Heels' amateur sleuth tale ( see ALIBI IN HIGH HEELS , KILLER IN HIGH HEELS, SPYING IN HIGH HEELS and UNDERCOVER IN HIGH HEELS) is the usual madcap amusing investigation.. As always Maddie's chick lit big mouth manages to get her into trouble with the cops. However, much of the amusing asides come from mom who wants her daughter’s nuptial to be the wedding of the century rivaling last century’s biggest one, Luke and Laura. Although the usual dueling homicide investigations (amateur and professional) are a bit thin, fans of the series will enjoy the latest hilarious “High Heels” hi-jinx.

Harriet Klausner

Breakneck-Erica Spindler

Breakneck
Erica Spindler
St. Martin’s, Jan 2009, $23.95
ISBN: 0312363907

Rockford, Illinois Police Detective Mary Catherine “M.C.” Riggio is ecstatic when Dr. Dan Gallo proposes; she accepts, which is a big step for her as she has humongous trust issues that has led to commitment phobia. Meanwhile her Violent Crimes Bureau partner Kitt Lundgren looks forward to traveling to Mexico with her ex-husband, hoping they can reach a reconciliation and a future together.

The partners are sent to investigate the death of Matt Martin whose neck was broken. When they arrive they find he was living in luxury well beyond his means and his computer is missing. Matt is a cracker hacker who belongs to a ring of twenty something years old that commit internet crimes. After their engagement party, Dan drives her cousin Tommy home. However when she drives up besides Dan she finds him murdered. MC is determined to work the case and Kitt wants to be there so she delays her Mexican vacation causing a schism with her former spouse. Tommy becomes the next victim, which leads everyone to belie Dan was shot was because of a mistaken identify as Tommy was always the intended victim. Everyone in the Cracker group who brag about their exploits is being eliminated one at a time; leaving anyone close to Tommy like his girlfriend and his brother in danger from a deadly executioner.

As the death toll mounts while also remaining personal, MC feels pressured to solve the case that she should have been excluded from since her fiance and her cousin are victims. Most of the Cracker group see what they do as victimless activities and therefor should not be labeled crime; they choose to ignore the consequences of their actions and how it may impact others. Readers obtain a deep look at some tunnel vision IT geniuses envision the physical and cyber worlds as Erica Spindler provides her usual exhilarating thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Hood Life-Meesha Mink and De’nesha Diamond

The Hood Life
Meesha Mink and De’nesha Diamond
Tochstone, Jan 2009
ISBN: 1416577092

Cleo and Ophelia have lived in the hood, the Bentley Manor Housing Project in Georgia for over four decades. They know there are many good residents trying to make an honest dollar and there are criminals who seek easy cash. The pair watches the neighborhood activities and at times intervenes.

Tavon "Sweet" Johnson is an amoral upscale pimp who has escaped the hood by selling sex at his clubs and at hi crib. However his idyll affluent life is shook to the core when a former girlfriend dumps at his mother’s house a fifteen year old girl that she insists is his daughter. Sweet takes his offspring to his mansion where his wife Renee makes it clear the teen is unwanted.

Demarcus has just gotten out of prison and is haunted by his crime and needing to adhere to the Koran wants to go straight, but no one wants anything to do with an ex-con. With his girlfriend Zoey pregnant, he is offered a job that will take them out of the hood if he is not caught.

Kaseem runs drugs in the hood, but when his crackhead former girlfriend gives him his infant son to raise, he wants out of trafficking and Bentley Manor. A betrayal by his best friend forces him to react in a way that if caught he will spend his life behind bars.

Rhakmon is the smoothest playa in the hood. He can sell anything especially himself to any woman. When he kills someone he promises his girlfriend, Shaterica they will marry if she confesses to having committed the homicide. She does time while he does other women. Cleo and Ophelia deploy to clean up this scenario.

Living in the hood is not easy, but people have choices although sometimes the options are painful. The men select crime to include murder, pimping, drug peddling and more until revelations (mostly the next generation) makes each of them reconsider what they have done as others pay the price for their folly. As with DESPERATE HOODWIVES and SHAMELESS HOODWIVES, the return to THE HOOD brings out the worst and best of Atlanta with an overarching message of hope.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Judas Kiss-J.T. Ellison

Judas Kiss
J.T. Ellison
Mira, Jan 2009, $6.99
ISBN 9780778326298

Nashville police homicide investigator Lieutenant Taylor Jackson leads the investigation into the brutal murder of pregnant Corrine Wolff. There is a first hand witness to the homicide, Corrine’s young daughter Hayden whose stunned aunt finds her blond hair strawberry colored by blood.

The violence of the crime normally means a family member in a fit of rage committed the murder. Thus the prime suspect is Corrine’s husband, Todd. Taylor has some reservations especially when she learns the Wolff pair were filming pornography. To her chagrin, an X-rated film of Taylor surfaces that could destroy her police career and end her engagement to FBI agent John Baldwin; who has his own woes as an enemy plots to enact revenge on him and his loved ones.

The third Nashville police procedural (see ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS and 14) is a fast-paced action-packed thriller in which the three prime subplots work to make a terrific novel. Taylor is concerned over what her youthful indiscretion will do to her personal and professional lives while trying to remain focused on the horrific murder case. Readers will enjoy JUDAS KISS, a strong investigative tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Day-John Ramsey Miller

The Last Day
John Ramsey Miller
Bantam, Jan 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780440243113

Near Concord, North Carolina, businessman Ward McCarty and his wife pediatric surgeon Natasha are mired in grief with each mourning the tragic death of their young son Barry by electrocution last year separately. They live in an isolated part of the state, but recently Natasha has had the disturbing feeling that someone is watching them. She is unaware how right she is as a man in the woods observes them closely; he plans to kill both of them on the one year anniversary of their son’s death.

Strange things are happening to the couple. Their son Barny’s’s things are being moved around the house with each McCarty blaming the other. Ward is having memory lapses and blackouts while Natasha’s hands are shaking, which removes her from surgery. They remain unaware that the Watcher has easy access to their home and is causing things to happen to them. Ward’s company server is sending out kiddie porn to anyone in their email leading to a public outcry. The Watcher anticipates THE LAST DAY when he kills the pair.

John Ramsey Miller has written a refreshing nightmarish crime caper centering around the Watcher who targets for death innocent people. Readers have no idea what motivates him to go after the McCarty couple or why he killed three teens.. Though shadowy he is ferocious but clever as no one notices him until it is too late. Natasha and Ward already on their heels from Barry’s death are constantly on the defensive as the diabolical Watcher works his deadly art. A bit over the Blue Ridge Mountains, but no one will care as fans will fascinatingly in a macabre need to watch the Watcher.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Mounting Fears-Stuart Woods

Mounting Fears
Stuart Woods
Putnam, Jan 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780399155475

It is perhaps the most difficult job in the world on any given day, but this particular week has strained American President William Jefferson Lee IV more so than any before as he runs for a second term. His vice president ailing George Kiel died during prostrate surgery. His advisors have vetted California Governor Martin Stanton as being perfect as the new VEEP, but they remain unaware he has a few skeletons in his closet. After Will publicly nominates him, Martin confesses he and his wife are divorcing. They don’t know he is still sleeping with other women and his divorce is not yet finalized.

In Pakistan near the Afghanistan border, Taliban rebels have seized a nuclear missile site that contains two armed warheads; most of the technicians were captured alive. Pakistani President Mohammed Khan plans a swift attack to retake the silo, but a nuclear warhead explodes in the air while the second one is missing. The assumption is the Taliban with El Qaeda abetting them has taken it with plans to turn 9/11 into a minor tragedy in comparison.

Finally making matters worse, former CIA assassin Teddy Fay, who killed right wing politicians after he retired and thought dead (see SHOOT HIM IF HE RUNS), has resurfaced. Teddy’s target is a right wing independent candidate eho might cause the president to lose the election.

Stuart Woods writes an exciting political thriller that showcases how the highest levels of government makes difficult policy decisions politically and managerially in an international world in which the media is everywhere. Especially intriguing is how the aides like Holly Barker try to somewhat insulate their boss; for instance from the Teddy Fay issue by insuring it does cause him to lose his job for keeping quiet that he is alive. Thus the audience obtains an interesting look at the tightrope balancing of political concerns with real world problems as defined by the stolen nuclear weapons. In his fourth POTUS thriller, Mr. Woods captivates his audience from start to finish.

Harriet Klausner