Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Shadow of Betrayal-Brett Battles

Shadow of Betrayal
Brett Battles
Delacorte, Jul 7 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9780385341585

The Cleaner Jonathan Quinn, his girlfriend-partner Orlando, and his protégé Nick travel to Ireland to monitor an information exchange. However a sniper insures something goes wrong, leaving four dead and Jonathan forced to use his cleaning skills to make sure no clues of the homicides remain behind in the church meeting locale. His agent orders Quinn to forget Ireland and instead fulfill the agreed upon three jobs with no questions. He is to locate a missing U.N. worker Marion Dupuis; she has vanished without a trace. Others search for her too.

Jonathan and company head to Africa, the last known place Marion was seen. At an orphanage where she helped, the owner says she ran away with a Down Syndrome child Iris, who rebels want though he is not sure why. Marion and Iris flee to Montreal, but are captured and taken to California as Jonathan follows the convoluted trail.

This is a terrific complicated Quinn globetrotting tale (see THE DECEIVED and THE CLEANER) as he goes from the Europe to Africa to Canada and finally the States on the chase. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of bloody action on three continents as Quinn knows his deal haunts his soul as he does jobs he loathes performing. Although somewhat similar in theme to THE DECEIVED, Quinn is at his best undergoing tasks that eat at his gut.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 29, 2009

Curing the Blues with a New Pair of Shoes-Dixie Cash

Curing the Blues with a New Pair of Shoes
Dixie Cash
Avon, Jul 21 2009, $13.99
ISBN 9780061434389

Salt Lick, Texas is proud to host an Elvis gala as the singer remains popular though he died four decades ago. This year the townsfolk are especially excited because the legendary blue suede shoes that their hero wore when he sang the tune is going to be on exhibit.

However, the valuable relic vanishes to the shock of the locals. Nobody steps on their Elvis and gets away with it so the Domestic Equalizers (when they are not styling hair), Debbie Sue Overstreet and Edwina Perkins-Martin investigate seeking who is wearing blue suede shoes. Not long afterward, the pair replaces the missing artifact with ancient slippers belonging to Ed’s husband, who they assume will believe he misplaced them. They try to contact Adolf Sielvami, Keeper for the King Museum in Las Vegas, who sent the shoes, but he and his shrine apparently do not exist.

With another gumshoe cozy (see DON'T MAKE ME CHOOSE BETWEEN ME AND MY SHOES) in between matchmaking of reporters and preparing for the Elvis horde invasion, Debbie Sue and Edwinna have plenty to do while Ed searches for his missing slippers. Lighthearted fun, Dixie cash pays homage to Elvis while gently mocking fanatics who sight the “King” in every fast food joint in the country and treat anything he touched as a precious artifact. With a nod to Chaucer’s The Pardoner’s Tale, fans will laugh out loud at the latest escapades of the Texas cowgirls.

Harriet Klausner

Makeovers Can Be Murder-Kathryn Lilley

Makeovers Can Be Murder
Kathryn Lilley
Obsidian, Sep 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451228260

In a profession in which being thin helps a TV reporter move up the promotional ladder, plus-sized reporter Kate Gallagher has stalled at Channel twelve in Durham, North Carolina. Her editor has given her a five part assignment dealing with diets and related scams. In one of those spots, she has to appear on TV in a bikini which leaves her nervous. She goes for emotional support to the Newbodies female buddy group where she meets her friend Jana whom she has not seen in two years.

Jana informs Kate that’s she is divorcing her husband because he is cheating on her. A couple of days later, Jane’s auto is car-jacked and she is shot in the head; she saves her daughter’s life by pushing her out of the car when the gangbanger first entered her vehicle. The police arrest Antoine Hurley nd Jane’s daughter picks him out of a line-up. After some investigating, Kate thinks the wrong person is in prison; when she starts sleuthing the pieces of the puzzle being to merge, but what she is seeing is a massacre is about to occur that she prays she can prevent.

If her profession didn’t emphasize slim, Kate would be more comfortable with her size. She understands the TV camera makes her seem bigger and that society prefers trim people; something she is not and never will be. Ironically readers will admire her for her courage and strength of conviction chasing a news story; while if series fans seen her on TV, we probably wonder how she made it as few plus size women do (Candy Crowley aside). The story line is fast-paced though it turns into a plot that seems over the top of Cameron Arena, but the key to this Fat City Mystery and its fine predecessors (see DYING THIN and A KILLER WORKOUT) is the wonderful heroine who is overall contented in life but has some self-esteem issues.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Southern Peril-T. Lynn Ocean

Southern Peril
T. Lynn Ocean
Minotaur, Jun 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312383473

Wilmington, North Carolina bar owner Jersey Barnes has sworn off for what seems to her the zillionth time no more “SWEET” investigative work; government or private. This time she swears she means it with the only SOUTHERN POISON coming from the drinks she serves.

The best laid plans of mice, men and Jersey Barnes always goes astray. This time her friend the Judge needs a favor. She is worried that her younger brother Morgan is in trouble seemingly connected to inheriting their father’s popular restaurant Argo. Jersey takes a quick peak and sees nothing out of the ordinary for someone who recently lost his parents suddenly and was dumped by his fiancée. She digs deeper since she has time on her hands as the Barnes Agency and her bar work too perfectly without her and her boyfriend Ox Oxendine is spending quality time with his daughter. Jersey revises her opinion when someone assaults her and Morgan. Jersey soon learns what is behind the Argo’s famous Green Table and uncovers undercover DEA agent Brad the hunk Logan who matches her chutzpah for chutzpah even down to matching weapons to wardrobe. They team up and soon find evidence that Argo is part of a drug ring, which impacts the late parents of Morgan unless Jersey with her befuddled father’s help can prove otherwise.

The fun story line is obvious yet no one will care as the cast make for an amusing impish investigative tale. Jersey is terrific as she works the case, tries to contain her libido wile salivating over Brad, and has her dad advising her. Fans of the series will enjoy the latest lighthearted Jersey hospitality overwhelming North Carolina (see SOUTHERN FATALITY).

Harriet Klausner

Breaking Faith-Anna Blundy

Breaking Faith
Anna Blundy
Minotaur, Jul 7 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312368654

London's Chronicle reporter Faith Zanetti is unhappy with her latest assignment that she assumes is gonna go nowhere as the Cairnbridge plane bombing that killed all 245 aboard has been covered to incredible lengths over the twenty-five years with nothing new. She assumes in between her booze that she will bring nothing new too.

Faith goes to Italy to spend time with Eden, her former boyfriend and father of her infant. He likes Italy and seems to want to remain there; she just wants to finish her story and get back to real investigative journalism like she did in Moscow (see VODKA NEAT) although the incidents there still haunt her. Eden introduces Faith to Phoebe and Walter Irving, friends of her late father Karel, who also was a reporter allegedly killed while covering the Troubles in North Ireland. Faith begins receiving warnings from the grave that leads the intrepid reporter to realize Phoebe knew her dad intimately and the couple knows who made that call in Reykjavik to the American Embassy in Iceland just prior to the Cairnbridge bombing. She also learns about one particular female traveler who died on that tragic plane; a person she would have liked to have met.

With an obvious connection to the Lockerbie tragedy, BREAKING FAITH is a super journalistic investigative thriller as the heroine is stunned with revelation after revelation on a story that she expected to go nowhere. Faith makes the tale work as a tough individual who can out drink just about anyone while balancing a baby with her investigations. Faith’s inquiry into the Cairnbridge plane bombing is deftly handled as Anna Blundy provides another winner that readers will toast with Chianti: wine.

Harriet Klausner

Jericho’s Fall-Stephen L. Carter

Jericho’s Fall
Stephen L. Carter
Knopf, Jul 14 2009, $
ISBN: 9780307272621

In the Colorado Rockies, former CIA chief Jericho Ainsley lies dying from cancer. He asks in his royal demanding way for ex CIA operative Beck DeForde to come see him. Fifteen years ago, they began an affair that ended Jericho’s political power although he still had economic influence when the scandal broke. She assumes he wants to say good-bye.

Almost immediately upon entering the foreboding gigantic home, Beck learns that those who operate in the dark fear what Jericho will reveal to his former lover. Jericho explains he distrusts his family who would sell him out in death for a buck and the spy agencies who only care about polishing their tarnished images after selling out to the last president. He trusts only Beck to do the right thing about the information he plans for her to hold. Both understand what that means from the onset as others have come to this remote house high in the Colorado Rockies to take out two former agents and obtain the information Jericho possesses.

Switching from his complex societal legal thrillers (see THE EMPEROR OF OCEAN PARK, NEW ENGLAND WHITE and PALACE COUNCIL) Stephen L. Carter provides a more standard type but exhilarating espionage thriller. The story line is fast-paced from the opening moment when Beck philosophizes that she is traveling to her past in more ways than just visiting her dying former lover whose career died along with hers when their tryst was exposed. She is a terrific heroine holding the exciting plot together while Jericho is the more complicated fascinating character. The author’s fans will appreciate this fine tale, but will also miss a revealing of the “dark secrets” behind the pivotal moments in history that the victors prefer to hide from the masses.

Harriet Klausner

Alibi-Sydney Bauer

Sydney Bauer
Jove, Jul 28 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780515146592

Deane University economics major nineteen years old Jessica Nagoshi is the daughter of a billionaire Japanese businessman. Her boyfriend is final year law student James Matheson who also attends Deane. Their relationship is concealed especially from her family.

That secret is out in the open when she is found brutally murdered on her father’s estate in Boston although James lies to Boston homicide detectives Lieutenant Joe Mannix and Detective Frank McKay by denying they were dating Soon afterward his alibi collapses when his best friends interviewed by the cops connect him to the victim and her murder. With John Nagoshi pressuring the District Attorney’s Office for a resolution and ADA Roger Katz hammers the cops, James is being accused of murdering his girlfriend in a crime of passion. His legal mentor Boston attorney David Cavanaugh would prefer to stay out of the highly charged case especially with Nagoshi using his affluence and influence to hang James, but knows he cannot; he represents his student. His team finds several viable suspects especially the deceased’s brother and James’ friend who set up the alibi to deliberately collapse.

In his third legal thriller (see UNDERTOW and GOSPEL) Cavanaugh is terrific as he works a case he never expected in his wildest dreams. The rest of the cast is solid especially the cops, the accused in jail, the other suspects, the legal team including David’s girlfriend and John; the only character stereotyped is the ADA whose ambition rivals Lady Macbeth as he cares not for the truth if it is in his ruthless path. Starting as a police investigation that effortlessly switches to a legal thriller, ALIBI is a strong whodunit filled with plausible suspects particularly David’s pro bono client.

Harriet Klausner

Doom with a View-Victoria Laurie

Doom with a View
Victoria Laurie
Obsidian, Sep 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451227799

Psychic Abby Cooper and private investigator Candice share an office where they meet their clients. They are a formidable team who has made a positive impression on FBI Special Agent In Charge Bill Gaston. He asks them to come to DC to work on a task force with other agents headed by politically connected Brice Harrington, who opposes Abby on the team because he believes psychics are con artists.

To prove his point to the others, Brice constructs a biased test, but to his shock, Abby passes rather easily; finding a murder-suicide in the house next door to where one of the tests were held. They earn their place on the task force searching for three missing college students whose only connection seems to be each one has a parent in a political office. They later learn that they all attended with their parents the same conference two years ago. Abby leans from looking at pictures of the missing students that two are dead and the other is dying. Abby’s personal crew of spirit guides escort her and Candice in directions that yield clues as to whom is behind the deadly abductions. When a fourth student is kidnapped, Abby, Candice and Brice team up as the latter is now a firm believer.

Victoria Laurie has written a new spellbinding psychic eye whodunit made refreshed by the heroine, used to non-believers in general, on a team made up of non-believing veteran law enforcement skeptics with only her partner knowing what she can do. She changes their mocking opinions when her predictions prove true. The audience will admire the courageous Abby as she diligently works hard at trying to understand what her crew are telling her. At times the story line is amusing especially when Abby constantly trumps Brice who is a believer in the by the SOP investigation until she converts him, but neither lose perspective that the surviving kid(s) comes first.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Faces-Martina Cole

Martina Cole
Grand Central, Jul 21 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780446179973

In London, several mob thugs arrive at the Cadogen home to collect the patriarch’s gambling debt. Dan knew he could not pay so he fled leaving his wife and three children to face the wrath of the mobsters. Almost fourteen year old Danny “Big Dan” Cadogen shows no fear as he faces down the gangsters wanting blood money from his vanished drunken dad. One of the crooks Louie Stein, impressed by the teen’s fortitude and size, mentors him in the life of a criminal.

At fifteen, Big Dan kills a hooker with his fists and not long afterward kills someone who ratted on the mob. Over the years with his best childhood friend brainy Michael Miles at his side, Big Dan becomes the most frightening gangster in the city. He is the Face as even his wife Mary, sister of Michael, fears him. Now a notorious legend, Big Dan knows wannabes will try to knock him off his pedestal, but he welcomes all challengers wanting to die at his hands.

Though extremely well written and engaging, FACES is not an easy to read character study due to the lead protagonist consistent use of his fists and other weapons even on the innocent. The interesting story line focuses on Danny whose life of crime is based on either killing or beating the sh*t out of the other guy or gal to retain their respect; he brings home his terrorist philosophy to his family too. Fans will enjoy this gloomy look at a despicable kingpin who the audience will hope gets his butt handed to him while wondering why he was not assassinated by a sniper with a semi.

Harriet Klausner

Even Money-Dick Francis and Felix Francis

Even Money
Dick Francis and Felix Francis
Putnam, Aug 2009, $26.95
ISBN: 9780399155918

The first day of the Royal Ascot horse races gala was like any other opening at the prestigious event and Ted Talbot, his co-worker Luca, and their assistant Betsy are taking book from the punters. Out of the crowd comes an elderly man demanding to speak with Ted. He insists that he is Peter James Talbot, Ted’s father. This is a shocker as Ted was raised by his paternal grandparents who claimed his parents died in a car crash.

Peter informs his still stunned son that he has two half-sisters living in Australia, but before they can get into a car, two thugs demand the older Talbot hand over the money. During the subsequent brawl, James is injured and rushed to the hospital where he dies. Ted goes to his dad’s hotel room and finds proof that his father was involved in an illegal activity. The thugs still demand their loot and the code used on chips that are imprinted and then inserted into the horses. Ted’s life is in jeopardy but he also wants justice for his father and the insurance these punks will not go after him or his loved ones in the future. He ignores the cops because the lead police officer investigating his father’s death assumes he is guilty of something.

Dick and Felix Francis once again affirm that a father-son writing team can provide quality mysteries. Readers are caught up in British horse racing (a trademark of father) and the shenanigans that occur away from the track including some instigated by Ted. Still he receives plenty of empathy as criminals are coming after him as the likely recipient of his father’s legacy, he has a mentally ill wife institutionalized, and a co-worker wanting to be his partner in the family business. With plenty of thrills, chills, and spills EVEN MONEY is a sure bet.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Siege-Stephen White

The Siege
Stephen White
Dutton, Aug 4 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780525951223

At Yale University, a group serendipitously assaults a building housing a secret society. The assault team easily takes over the edifice holding a number of students who include some offspring of VIPs as prisoners. The invaders turn the complex into an impregnable stronghold.

Slowly Yale officials realize something has happened on the campus. They call in law enforcement who tries to make contact with the hostage holders. However, those in charge inside make no demands what so ever and ignore efforts to negotiate with them. They randomly murder some of the victims and release others for no apparent reason. Suspended Boulder, Colorado police officer Sam Purdy, FBI agent Christopher Poe and CIA terror expert Deirdre Drake unite trying to break the enigmatic code of the terrorists.

This is a brilliant super hostage thriller that makes the case that terrorists learn lessons from each assault making the next one more efficient and perhaps effective; unless the countering law enforcement also learns by extrapolating from the current attack to prevent the next. Fans will be hooked from the moment the assault team takes over the building and wonder what they want and how they choose who dies. THE SIEGE is a terrific timely thriller that reminds the audience diligence is everyone’s job whether it is knowing a lone wolf is going to mete justice to an abortion doctor or a group burning down a religious facility as everyone is under siege when we remain silent until after the incident and claim non mea culpa

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I Can See You-Karen Rose

I Can See You
Karen Rose
Grand Central, Aug 5 2009, $18.99
ISBN: 9780446538343

In Minneapolis Eve Wilson survived the violent assault that left her face paralyzed, external scars removed by plastic surgery, and emotional wounds not healed (see DON’T TELL). She hides in the web world making friends there while working on her graduate school thesis re virtual communities can help people emotionally heal. Eve has constructed a website Shadowland to help people like her. However, some of her friends and customers in the Shadowland community commit suicide to her shock and regret.

Homicide detective Noah Webster believes a serial killer has murdered at least two people making it look like they committed suicides at work. Noah’s investigation leads to Eve and her website. He soon realizes the psychopath knows the victims extremely well, which the cop thinks means Eve is on the hit list of a diabolically clever killer.

Karen Rose is gaining a well deserved reputation for great romantic suspense thrillers; her latest winner I CAN SEE YOU is a super Minneapolis police procedural that also showcases the double edged sword of on line communities. Whereas the web enables the disenfranchised to communicate with others; on the other hand the others can include sociopaths or worse. With a strong cast especially the heroine, Ms. Rose writes a terrific whodunit that provides a double edge spin to the Internet applauding the connection of the lonely one to the many but also warning these ones that predators in sheep clothing could be one of the many. This is a great poignant work.

Harriet Klausner

Mind's Eye-Hakan Nesser

Mind's Eye
Hakan Nesser
Grand Central, Jun 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780307387226

In Sweden the evidence overwhelmingly condemns drunken schoolteacher Janek Mitter in the killing of his wife and a colleague who apparently was with her. Detective Chief Inspector Van Veeteren arrests the distraught husband who has no alibi and was found in a drunken stupor at the crime scene; Janek is easily convicted and sent away to spend the rest of his life either in a mental institution or if his mind heals a prison.

Van Veeteren has some issues with the conviction although it appears reasonable and he is a prime reason Janek was nailed. Although he keeps mentally reviewing the case making him bone weary, he does little to follow up on his hunch until it is too late. Someone murders Janek leaving Van Veeteren feeling guilty that he failed to follow his instincts. He vows to find the link between the homicides of the Mitter couple and subsequently their killer while personally vowing never to ignore his gut instincts ever again.

MIND’S EYE is an excellent Swedish police procedural (see THE RETURN and BORKMANN'S POINT) starring a great investigator who is filled with remorse for not following up on his belief something was off kilter in the case even as he received acclaim for solving an obvious domestic dispute that turned ugly, but proved to be something else. Fans will enjoy this terrific tale as a good likable cop struggles with his mistake by chasing down the real culprit in a great twisting thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Smash Cut-Sandra Brown

Smash Cut
Sandra Brown
Simon & Schuster, Aug 2009, $26.95
ISBN 9781416563082

When wealthy Paul Wheeler is murdered in an Atlanta hotel, the police assume a robbery has gone bad. His close friend, gallery owner Julie Rutledge, believes otherwise as she tries to convince the police that Paul’s nephew Creighton ordered the hit.

Creighton’s father asks criminal lawyer Derek Mitchell to represent his son, but the attorney refuses because he is going with Julie to Paris. Outraged by Derek’s rejection, Creighton goes after his loved ones. He stalks Julie and Derek’s dog Maggie. He plans to kill the girlfriend of his cowardly former partner Billy Duke as a punishment for his backing out of the murder scheme. Creighton plots to stage a triumphant final scene straight out of a classic Hitchcock movie like Frenzy that will leave Billy, Julie and Derek joining his Uncle Paul.

This is a super thriller that is fast-paced with rapid changing scenes that add tension as the audience increasingly and avidly anticipates High Noon. The cast is powerful especially the beleaguered Derek and Julie, but SMASH CUT is owned by Creighton who we meet when a servant Rose interrupts his tennis game. With terrific twists especially a late one and homage to great mystery films, fans will enjoy this cat and mouse tale as Creighton worships death scenes from the classics.

Harriet Klausner

The Ravens-George Dawes Green

George Dawes Green
Grand Central, Jul 15 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780446538961

In Brunswick, Georgia dirt poor whites Mitch and Patsy Boatwright win the $318 million Max-a-Million jackpot. Shaw McBride and Romeo Zderko are passing through town on their way to Ohio when they hear the news that a local yokel couple won the jackpot. The traveling pair decides to stay in town a few days to share in the winnings though they are strangers.

Shaw concocts the scheme of bluffing the duo into believing that he and Romeo are vicious lethal thugs instead of mentally tired programmers. He informs the Boatwright’s that they will hand over half or die along with their loved ones like their twentyish daughter college student Tara. Shocked and frightened Mitch and Patsy agree once they collect their money starting with introducing his lottery partner Shaw at a press conference.

This excellent regional psychological thriller works because of the strong cast who embellishes the story line with local flavoring and brings out the worst in the two wannabe con artists. Intriguingly the Boatwright family may be the victims fearful of the mentally bullying Shaw and the overwhelmingly physical threat from the ironically named Romeo, yet they also fall victims to the Stockholm syndrome as they begin to cherish their avarice banes who hold them hostage for the loot. Fans will enjoy this tense psychological thriller as George Dawes Green shows the human caring side to his major characters as much as their depraved needs. This is a strong exhilarating small town Georgia thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Juror-George Dawes Green

The Juror
George Dawes Green
Grand Central, Jun 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780446550154

Single mom Annie Laird struggles to make ends meet as a part-time data entry clerk and as a starving sculptress. She is selected to the jury of a Westchester County murder trial of mob boss Louie Buffano.

Almost immediately after joining the jury, Annie meets a sophisticated art broker who buys some of her work. He invites her to dinner and she accepts. The man is a Taoist Wall Street financier who quotes Lao Tse with ease of an expert. He is called "The Teacher" and actually runs the Buffano mob from behind the scene. He offers her a choice of the safety of her and her son Oliver, and a rewarding sculpturing career that will make her wealthy or two deaths; hers and her child. He explains further to live affluently she must say not guilty; otherwise she will not live nor will Oliver even though he is falling in love with his pawn.

THE JUROR is a fabulous psychological drama as Annie goes through a myriad of emotions while the Teacher pushes her panic buttons with the scenario of a dead Oliver even after he concludes he loves his target. The story line leaps from one maniacal scene to another as the Teacher is an insane yet brilliant sociopath who forces Annie to fight as flight is not an option though fright is destroying her gut. Fans will appreciate this one sitting thriller reminiscent of the Baldwin-Moore movie of the same title yet much more horrific as the mom concludes the only way her offspring will be safe is with the death of the Teacher.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Trust Me-Jeff Abbott

Trust Me
Jeff Abbott
Dutton, Jul 23 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780525951216

Although he is a low life in his stepfather's think-tank in Austin, Texas, Luke Dantry brags that he is a big shot in the global war against terrorism. His actual task is to monitor by joining the night time chatter of apparently angry web users. He calls his nocturnal Internet friends the Black Road.

Luke quickly recognizes who he is communicating with as these are lonely braggarts like he is. Few if any have the will let alone the way to carry out terrorism acts. However, Luke soon revises his opinion of at least some of the Black Road Internet users when he is kidnapped and left dead at a remote cabin. He now knows his web comrades are much more organized and prepared for what he thought was inane chatter. They rehearse for the big event Code name hellfire by causing plane and train crashes and chemical plant explosions. Dantry escapes with Black Code and those pursuing the terrorists chasing after him; as he begins a desperate quest to prevent a plan to make 9/11 look like a minor incident.

This fast-paced thriller filled with several spins and twist is a fun lighthearted tale that requires a major ignoring of plausibility as no one will accept the nerd turning into a superhero almost overnight. Still the audience will enjoy Dantry’s efforts as we root for him to overcome the odds; reminiscent of Patrick Dempsey’s enjoyable but improbable 1991 movie Run.

Harriet Klausner

Charmed and Dangerous- Toni McGee Causey

Charmed and Dangerous
Toni McGee Causey
St. Martin’s Jun 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312358495

In Lake Charles, Louisiana, twenty-eight years old Bobbie Faye Sumrall expects a relatively calm day while looking forward to wearing her family heirloom a tiara at the Contraband Days festival. However, her hope for being laid back is drenched very early when her defective washing machine sends a tidal wave throughout the trailer she shares with her five-year-old niece Stacey. The youngster sums up the opening disaster by thanking her aunt for placing a swimming pool inside their home

That proves to be the most positive moment of the day as flooding is easy to deal with than her scoundrel brother Roy of catfish and BS slinging fame. He has been abducted and the kidnappers demand as ransom the tiara her late mom left her. Bobby Faye works on rescuing her sibling while not giving away her only valuable asset; her brother is not of equal value. However, at the bank thugs rob the tiara from Bobby Faye, who forces Trevor the trucker to pursue them at the same time her former boyfriend, police officer Cameron has another mental cardiac arrest knowing Bobbie Faye's chasing some armed and dangerous hoods; he fears what she will do to them when she tackles them.

This zany jocular regional thriller is fast-paced from the opening trailer turned swimming pool scene to the confrontation over the tiara and to a lesser degree her scoundrel sibling; the action is top rate even with tons of amusing situations. Fans will laugh loudly at the antics of the heroine as she once again proves she is CHARMED AND DANGEROUS while robbing the bank, hijacking a truck, and chasing thieves. In Sumrall, just another wacko Bobbie Faye day (see GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE GUNS) as .she affirms Murphy is a foolish California optimist

Harriet Klausner

Eye of the Whale-Douglas Carlton Abrams

Eye of the Whale
Douglas Carlton Abrams
Atria, Aug 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 1416532544

Scientist Elizabeth McKay’s basic hypothesis is that if we can understand the complicated songs of the humpback whales, we will geometrically improve our comprehension of the animal kingdom. Her Research turns into an obsession that devastates her marriage and costs her friends who believe she breathes solely to prove her theory.

However, she finds her on site work disturbed by whaling interests. Business and fishing interests push to hunt whales and begin a marketing campaign to turn the watery mammal’s whale meat into an acceptable delicacy. When a humpback becomes endangered by swimming up the Sacramento River, McKay notices the song changed making her wonder what’s going on; dramatically she concludes the whales are mourning the loss of clean oceans as human pollution has led to birth defects.

This action-packed eco-thriller contains an intriguing premise in which the whales warn humans through their songs that the oceans needed for life to thrive are dying. However, the cautionary warning at times is like a tsunami overwhelming its own message. Still overall this is a fun tale that pays homage to the movie Star trek IV although only Elizabeth and the whale in the Sacramento River are fully developed. Fans will enjoy Douglas Carlton Abrams’ entertaining EYE OF THE WHALE as the humpbacks alert the human scientist that the end of days is upon us as they sing their version of Marvin Gaye’s still fresh and even more relevant Mercy, Mercy Me The Ecology Song.

Harriet Klausner

Self's Murder-Bernhard Schlink

Self's Murder
Bernhard Schlink
Vintage, Aug 11 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780375709098

After his last major case (see SELF'S DECEPTION), German private investigator Gerhard Self is thinking he is too old for this type of work. As he drives home to Manheim with his girlfriend Brigette during a nasty snow storm, Self notices a car in the ditch and stops to assist a stranded driver, banker Bertram Welker.

Upon learning that Self is a sleuth, Welker hires the investigator to uncover the identity of a silent bank partner as he is writing the history of the establishment that he co-owns. Self accepts the easy assignment, which pays extraordinarily well. However the detective has self doubts about his client when the bank’s archivist mysteriously dies in a car crash just after giving the sleuth an attaché case loaded with money. He digs a bit into his client’s past to learn he became a widower last year when his wife died a hiking accident. Two deadly accidents are two to many so Self investigates Welker.

This is a super German private investigator mystery with several super twists that will leave readers and the weary hero guessing as nothing is quite like it first seems including a stranger claiming to be the son of Self. The story line is fast-paced but totally owned by the sleuth as his inquiry into the silent partner leads him to inquire about his client. Fans will enjoy the translation of Bernhard Shlink’s entertaining German mystery and seek the previous two thrillers (see SELF’S PUNISHMENT).

Harriet Klausner

TSI: The Eyam Factor-Paul McCusker & Walt Larimore, M.D.

TSI: The Eyam Factor
Paul McCusker & Walt Larimore, M.D.
Howard, Aug 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9781416569718

Under the ice and snow of Greenland lies a top secret research laboratory filled with all the deadly diseases known to man. Something happens in one of the labs allowing the genetically engineered super strain of the Ebola virus escaping into the entire facility forcing the government to blow it up. In the African country Gabon, a cult led by David Mosley is infected with this lethal strain; all of them commit suicide to end the horror except the leader’s son Aaron.

Aaron is a carrier spreading the disease wherever he goes and leaving behind horrific agonizing deaths. A task force mobilizes seeking the carrier while in England they seek a vaccine, but need someone with the disease. Their efforts lead them to the village of Eyam where the Black Death decimated the place in the seventeenth century that isolated itself while the legendary Blue Monk administered to the ill and dying. The scientists feel there are some similarities with today’s outbreak and the cases in 1666 so they seek the grave of the Blue Monk who’s DNA may provide a cure for the modern day epidemic. Time is running out as the pandemic virus threatens to make humanity virtually extinct.

The action never stops in this fast-paced thriller that sends a cautionary message without preaching. Mindful of Hoffman’s Outbreak, the plot cleverly uses the real tragic history of the Ebola virus that killed several people in Gabon in 2001 and the seventeenth century Black Plague assault on the villagers of Eyam. , Although the lead characters are not fully developed, they bring heart and soul to their desperate search to find the Blue Monk’s remains. The TSI team makes the science of disease epidemics especially viruses easy to understand but never dumbed down; that is the core of a super thriller that is timely with the Swine Flu outbreak.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 22, 2009

Vanilla Ride-Joe R. Lansdale

Vanilla Ride
Joe R. Lansdale
Knopf, Jun 30 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780307270979

In East Texas, unlikely sidekicks Hap Collins and Leonard Pine behave like identical twins though the former is white heterosexual and the latter is black homosexual. These two kick butt buddies believe in the code of LDRSHIP (loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage); they are there for each other.

Being Good Samaritans, they rescue the granddaughter of a friend Marvin Hanson from local drug dealers. However, their actions embarrass the Dixie Mafia, who cannot allow this affront to their friends go unnoticed. They send a horde of trained killers to take out the dynamic duo, who enjoy the war. As the body count explodes to the point they may need a stadium to hold the corpses, the humiliated Dixie Mafia send their top gun Vanilla Ride to kill the pair starting with her blue eyes, blond hair, and killer smile.

The return of the kings of deadly chaos Hap and Leonard will delight fans as they once again get involved in an outrageous caper that leaves plenty of corpses in which the title Vanilla Ride probably should have been Cherry Ride. The story line is fast-paced, filled with action as Joe R. Lansdale satirizes the epic crime thriller with a super insane only in Texas thriller.
Harriet Klausner

The Lancelot Murders-J.M.C. Blair

The Lancelot Murders
J.M.C. Blair
Berkley, May 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425228135

Camelot is a leaky aging castle that contains secret passages and crumbling ruins yet remains the seat of power of King Arthur of Britain. His is not an easy rule ever since his Queen Guinevere hatched plots to unseat him and replace him as the ruler of the realm. Guinevere resides at Corfe Castle, better known as Spider House. Her lover Sir Lancelot lives with her. Merlin and Arthur learn they married and she has met with the Byzantine Empire representatives as if she and her new “spouse” are the true monarchs instead of the love-struck fool on the hill.

She is throwing herself a birthday bash in which foreign ambassadors from all over Europe are coming. Merlin, who gets touchy when called sorcerer as he believes he is a scientist, persuades Arthur into allowing the gala to happen; only he will meet with the European VIPs. Things go awry culminating with Lancelot standing over the corpse of Guinevere’s father while assassination attempts are made on Arthur. Merlin concludes the Queen’s sire was murdered and finds the weapon. He believes Lancelot is innocent, but considers allowing the seditious knight to take the fall. Reluctantly at Arthur’s bequest, Merlin head to the castle of Guinevere’s parents to find the clue that will catch the sly killer.

This is not the Camelot of legend, but instead a country filled with intrigue, double crossing, betrayals, and ambitious people especially an unfaithful queen who believes she is better suited to rule. Arthur pines for his treacherous wife and by default allows Merlin to set the standards of rule based on justice for all. This angers the aristocracy of whom many support the bodacious seditious queen as she demands a return to the proper order of noble superiority. Ironically Arthur is an average person except for his steadfast belief in creating a better society while dealing with backstabbers starting with his beloved. As with THE EXCALIBUR MURDERS, J.M.C. Blair provides a majestic andenthralling mystery

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cat in a Topaz Tango-Carole Nelson Douglas

Cat in a Topaz Tango
Carole Nelson Douglas
Forge, Aug 4 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765318626

In Las Vegas, public relations specialist Temple Barr convinces her reluctant fiancé, former priest turned radio show host Matt Devine to enter a charity sponsored Dancing with the Celebs contest at the Oasis Hotel that will raise money for charity. Temple agreed to emcee the Junior Division as her on-line zany teenager Zoe Chloe Ozone; Matt is in as well as tough Homicide Lieutenant Carmen "C.R." Molina is in that division.

Temple told him it would be fun, but soon accidents occur. Carmen bullies Temple to help her when her teenage daughter Mariah vanishes. Also working the disappearance are the teen’s father, Rafi Nadir, chief of security chief at the Oasis Hotel and of course Temple’s significant other hardboiled detective Midnight Louie. Everyone fears the Barbie Doll who has stalked teens.

The twenty first alphabetically correct Midnight Louie caper is a terrific entry in spite of the whodunit being somewhat low-keyed. Temple’s former boyfriend Max Kinsella is a minor player as he remains off stage in Europe struggling with killers and amnesia but not struggling with a blonde. The story line is fast-paced even when Louie takes time outs to seduce a feline femme fatale. Fans of the series will enjoy this entertaining feline urban noir while newcomers will appreciate a short summary of who’s who.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Triple Cross: How bin Laden's Master Spy Penetrated the CIA, the Green Berets, and the FBI

Triple Cross: How bin Laden's Master Spy Penetrated the CIA, the Green Berets, and the FBI
Peter Lance
Harper, Jun 2009, $16.99
ISBN: 9780061189418

This biography is a shocker from the onset as Peter Lance does more than just look into the life of Al Qaeda operative Ali Mohamed; he asserts this man was the driver behind many of the terrorist attacks over two decades culminating with 9/11. Using chutzpah to a degree unheard of, he became an American citizen after marrying an American, but all that time “Ali the American” served as Chief of Security for bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri. He was an FBI informer and worked with the CIA in Europe while still holding his real job, serving as Chief of Security for bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri (can’t say that duality enough). Then there is the Able Danger segue that will have readers floored that this man got away with what he did.

This well written stunner will leave readers wondering about our government claims of protecting us when he was welcomed to top secret information while setting up terrorist missions. Affirming the title of Triple Cross he applies to his subject, Mr. Lance exposes the government agencies whose failures the author asserts fundamentally led to 9/11; a horrific incident that could and should have been prevented. Perhaps the most frightening aspect is the implication of what else is the feds hiding. This is one nonfiction that has to be fiction; as the audience will continually say no way with each new revelation supported by strong evidence of yes way. Why didn’t Cheney waterboard Mohammed who is in the Witness Protection Program having never been convicted of his crimes against humanity.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Venona Cable-Brent Ghelfi

The Venona Cable
Brent Ghelfi
Holt, Aug 2009, $25.00
ISBN 9780805088946

The murdered corpse of elderly American cinematographer Everett Walker is found in a Moscow warehouse. The Russian police charge master criminal and espionage agent Alexei “Volk” Volkovoy with the homicide for several circumstantial reasons one of which is he made pornographic videos at the “studio”.

Additionally Walker was blackballed by Hollywood in the 1990s due to the release of the previously Top Secret Venona Cables that incriminated him with many spies. He had come to Moscow seeking Volk. The American possessed a microdot of a decrypted 1943 cable concerning a meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt and a photo of Walker with Volk's disgraced father, Stepan, who mysteriously vanished in 1974. Volk knows the only way he can prove his innocence is to investigate his father in order to ascertain whether Stepan was a GRU military intelligence operative or a traitor. With only Valya at his side, he quickly realizes both the Russians and the Americans are clueless as to whom the genuine agents were, who were the moles, and who were the triple/double crossers, but each side wants Volk stopped from uncovering the truth.

This action-packed thriller grips readers from the opening moment when Volk realizes how much trouble he is in and how little time he has to extract himself from pending disaster. Readers will enjoy his latest exploits as he struggles to stay one step ahead of the Russian and American police and espionage groups. The ties to 1943 are brilliantly forged as Volk learns that the sins of the father are often carried on the backs of their offspring.

Harriet Klausner

Bait-Nick Brownlee

Nick Brownlee
Minotaur, Jul 7 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780312550219

In Mombassa, Kenya former Scotland Yard Flying Squad police detective Jake Moore co-owns a minor sport fishing outfit, Britannia Fishing Tours Ltd. Jake and his partner British expatriate Harry Philliskirk owe an Arab oil provider $17,000 for diesel fuel at a time that their business is in trouble due to the "Ernies" tourists. They are frightened by unrest and a teetering economy back home andare not coming to catch big fish in Kenya.

Harry gets involved in transporting hash while Jake works with another boat owner Dennis Bentley. Murders occur over seemingly minor inncidents leading to honest Coast Province Detective Inspector Daniel Jouma to investigate at a time others are in country causing further hostilities between the ethnic groups. Over his head, Daniel asks Jake for help.

This is an entertaining Kenyan police procedural private investigative thriller that provides the audience some insight into the country although much of what the reader sees is unpleasant viciousness that enhances the investigation as the clues lead to the nastier underbelly of society. The story line is fast-paced and the two cops top rate. Although Nick Brownlee skates around the major issues confronting the country, fans will enjoy the aptly named BAIT.

Harriet Klausner

New Tricks-David Rosenfelt

New Tricks
David Rosenfelt
Grand Central, Aug 6 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780446505871

In Paterson, New Jersey, someone murders pharmaceutical VIP Walter Timmerman. A custody battle over the late man’s Bernese mountain puppy Waggy pursues between his widow Diana and his son, Steven. A judge directs lawyer Andy Carpenter to represent Waggy’s interest.

Andy, who already has a canine roommate Tara, picks up Waggy from Diana. Just after he leaves with the dog, a bomb explodes in Diana’s house killing her. The police who already suspected Steven in his father’s homicide, arrest him for Diana's murder. He hires Andy to represent him. Soon afterward, Andy's girlfriend, visiting Wisconsin police chief Laurie Collins, is shot while playing with the two dogs; leading to the attorney to conclude someone wants Waggy dead with Laurie accidentally getting in the way.

Having defended canine interests in court before (see PLAY DEAD), defense attorney Andy Carpenter does not blink when he is ordered to serve as Waggy’s lawyer. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Andy brings his client home and never slows down even with super spins and twists. Readers will appreciate David Rosenfelt’s terrific legal thriller as DNA plays a major role in the attempts to kill Waggy and anyone protecting the canine.

Harriet Klausner

Bury Me Deep-Megan Abbott

Bury Me Deep
Megan Abbott
Simon & Schuster, Jul 7 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9781416599098

During the Great Depression, Dr. Everett Seeley obtains a position in Mexico having been barred from practicing in the states due to drug abuse. He leaves his young naive wife Marion behind in their home. She soon obtains a clerical position at the Werden Clinic.

Nurse Louise Mercer warns the young Marion that the doctors take advantage of the nurses and the other female staff, but also invite her to their wild parties. At one gala, Marion meets Joe Lanigan, a friend of the physicians who provides cash and parties for the nurses. Soon Louise and her nursing roommate Everett are shocked with Marion’s behavior with Joe and confront her over it. Marion is livid that it is none of their business. However their argument turns to homicide.

Once the personal history is established and the decadence of the Jazz Era anchored, BURY ME DEEP turns into an exciting crime thriller based on the true crime Brighton Trunk Murders. The story line is driven by Marion who people see differently leaving readers to wonder who the real Marion is. With a great final twist, fans of those 1930s femme fatale capers will recognize the lead character as playing the tough broad and the innocent young lady; depending on whether Louise and Joe make the assessment.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Chosen To Die-Lisa Jackson

Chosen To Die
Lisa Jackson
Zebra, Aug 2009, $7.99
ISBN 9781420102772

In the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana, the “Star-Crossed Killer” abducts women, heals them from their injuries, and photographs them before and after leaving them to die in the maze of the bleak isolated woods from the cold. Police Detective Regan Pescoli has worked the case for months, but has not gotten very far in ending the psychopath’s reign of terror.

Nate Santana, who is attracted to Regan, is worried about her as she is suddenly missing while obsessing over capturing that maniac serial killer who haunts the area. He persuades her partner Detective Selena Alvarez Regan could be in deep trouble. They methodically try to track her down unaware that Regan plans to escape the killer’s maze and come after him next.

Fans of Lisa Jackson’s suspense thrillers will enjoy the return of Detective Regan Pescoli (see LEFT TO DIE) who is caught by the serial killer she hunts. The story line starts extremely slow especially for a Ms Jackson novel as the background is set up instead of the cop in peril. Once Regan is caught in the Star Crossed killer’s maze, the tale accelerates into a fast-paced thriller as the beleaguered heroine battles the elements and a cold predator. Although the reader is never privy to her deepest inner fears, fans will enjoy tough Regan trying to survive.
Harriet Klausner

Six Suspects-Vikas Swarup

Six Suspects
Vikas Swarup
Minotaur, Jul 7 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312605032

In Delhi, India, Vivek (Vicky) Rai is acquitted of a particularly vicious murder that he probably committed. His father Home Minister of Uttar Pradash Jagannath throws his son a victory party, but someone obviously objected to the acquittal by killing Vicky.

The Delhi police find six viable suspects. The Bureaucrat former Chief Secretary Mohan Kumar would do anything to obtain money and women and not necessarily in that order. The Bollywood Actress “celluloid goddess” Shabnam Saxena is hot on the screen, but rejected Vicky’s efforts for heat off the screen. Stone Age Tribal Eketi Onge is one of the last people from a dying tribe being engulfed by civilization even with their home island somewhat isolated. The Thief Munna Mobile makes his living stealing cell-phones and whatever gizmos he can purloin. The Politician leader of Uttar Pradesh is reverently titled Bhaiyyaji but known to the victim as dad. The American preferring the moniker Texan Larry Page has come to marry his Internet order bride Sapna Singh though he learns in new Delhi the pictures he was sent is that of Bollywood’s “Celluloid Goddess”.

This is a fun Indian whodunit that lampoons Agatha Christie through a format that has readers wondering if a New Delhi Hercule Poirot will arrive at the last moment to inform the audience who killed Vicky and why. The story line is fast-paced though events are reiterated since perspectives rotate. Fans will enjoy this terrific look at modern day India through the lens of a satirical murder investigation though no lead investigator actually steps forward with the Q and A.
Harriet Klausner

Vita Nuova-Magdalen Nabb

Vita Nuova
Magdalen Nabb
Soho, Jul 2009, $13.00
ISBN: 9781569475874

In Florence twenty-five year old single mom Daniela Paoletti, is murdered in her family home. The chemistry graduate student’s wealthy father, a nightclub owner, is in the hospital recovering from a stroke when his oldest daughter was shot. Her mom is worthless buried in an alcoholic haze while her sister Silvan is hysterical and incommunicado as she only caresses Daniela’s necklace.

Prosecutor Fulvio De Vita demands a fast response from the police, but also insists he will handle sensitive questions of the family. Marshal Salvatore Guarnaccia leads the investigation, but feels hampered by Fulvio’s orders. However, crime reporter Nesti provides him with insight into the family including the fact that the nightclub ran a horde of Eastern Europe beauties as dancers and hookers and the mom was one of them. The Marshal begins to wonder if the Russian mafia killed the woman to warn her father to keep his mouth shut as they traffic in women from beyond the former Iron Curtain.

The Guarnaccia Italian police procedurals are constantly some of the best whodunits on the market. The latest one, VIA NUOVA is a super tale as the Marshal is hampered by the politician limiting who he can interview and what he can ask while the cop also knows how fast the prosecutor will deny to the media and public his interference if something goes wrong and take credit if something goes right; as Abu Ghraib taught us accountability is a one way street downward. Readers will appreciate this excellent investigative tale that pays personal homage to the author’s greatness; as Magdalen Nabb past away last summer.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

206 Bones-Kathy Reichs

206 Bones
Kathy Reichs
Scribner, Aug 2009, $26.99
ISBN 9780743294393

Forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance Brennan is confused as to how she got where she is. Somehow, Brennan is badly injured and tied securely in what appears to be an underground tomb. As she regains her senses, slowly flashes of what happened to her begin to appear in her mind.

Based on an anonymous tip to authorities, Brennan arrived in Chicago with Andrew Ryan of the Serete du Quebec where she is being accused of erring in her autopsy of Canadian heiress Rose Jurmain. Meanwhile back in her Montreal lab, Brennan links Jurmain's death to the brutal murders of other elderly women by a particularly nasty serial killer. As she explores her premise further, she is just beginning to understand she is a trapped rodent in a deadly cat and mouse game.

This is a super thriller that contains several strong subplots; especially intriguing is the challenge to the heroine’s competency from an unknown source who seems to know forensics. Much more personal than usual, the courageous Dr. Brennan feels like a hunted animal who though wounded goes after her predator. Kathy Reichs provides a strong entry in one of the better mystery series of recent years.

Harriet Klausner

Intervention-Robin Cook

Robin Cook
Putnam, Aug 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780399155703

New York City forensic pathologist Dr. Jack Stapleton lost his first wife and two kids in a plane crash. Though it was not easy he moved on and remarried medical examiner Laurie Montgomery. However, his happiness is dampened when he learns their newborn son is diagnosed with deadly neuroblastoma cancer.

He seeks a cure for his offspring, but also needs something to take his mind off his worries. He finds relief for his mind when he performs an autopsy on a healthy college student who received treatment from a chiropractor leading to her dying from vertebral arteries. Jack begins research into alternative medicine planning to expose charlatans taking advantage of desperate ailing people.

Jack's classmate Metropolitan Museum of Art biblical archeologist Shawn Doherty leads a dig under Saint Peter's, which leads him to Jerusalem and Venice where he makes a shocking discovery. The Bishop of the Archdiocese of New York Kevin Murray learns what Shawn has found and wants his old college classmate stopped from revealing his find. He turns to their friend Jack to prevent the revealing of a skeleton allegedly of the Virgin Mary that could rock the foundation of the religion, but the ME sees instead a potential miracle if Shawn’s find is authentic.

The story line starts off as an exciting medical thriller with a desperate personal spin that makes Jack’s inquiry into alternative medicine a combination of exposing fakes and yet praying to find a miracle that works to save his son. The plot then takes a dramatic spin into Brownian religious thriller turf though a link to the desperate search for a miracle remains. That twist detracts from a strong personalized medical thriller that turns into an over the top (or perhaps under the ground) thriller though fans will still enjoy Robin Cook’s action-packed INTERVENTION.

Harriet Klausner

Hitler’s War-Harry Turtledove

Hitler’s War
Harry Turtledove
Del Rey, Aug 4 2009, $27.00
ISBN: 9780345491824

In 1938 England and France were prepared to tear away the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia and cede it to Germany until the leader of Sudeten Germany Konrad Heinlien takes refuge in Germany. A Czech assassinates him giving Hitler the excuse to invade. Neville Chamberlain and Messer Daladier refuse to sign the treaty that Hitler offers them. Hitler declares war.

The Czechs fight bravely, but are easily overwhelmed by the superior Nazi army abetted by Slovakia independence supporters. The German war machine quickly conquers Holland, Belgium and Lichtenstein. While leaders of both sides map strategic objectives, individuals struggle with the effect of the hostilities. Peggy Druce came to take the waters at Marianske Lazne but ended up a neutral stuck in Berlin unable to go home. The Goldmans always thought they were Germans first and Jews second until the Third Reich destroyed their beliefs. Their son joins the German army under a false name. Besides the prime fronts, there are other local wars like the Spanish Civil War where American Communists fight against Fascist forces. In China, the Japanese have invaded China while American marines have a ringside seat to the pacific Theatre. However, the biggest news is the German blitzkrieg heading towards Paris.

Harry Turtledove once again changes a pivotal point in history and provides his answers to what if Chamberlain said no to Hitler. In HITLER’S WAR, neither side is at full readiness especially the Allies who were stunned when war broke out as they adhered to their belief that they fought two decades earlier “the war to end all wars.” Mr. Turtledove shows the impact of war on individuals who are powerless and quickly lose all hope. Although the alternative history premise is fun to follow due to a strong execution, it is the little people who bring heart and soul to the epic of “war what is good for, absolutely nothing: (Edwin Starr).

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ice-Stephanie Rowe

Stephanie Rowe
Love Spell, Jul 2009, $7.99
ISBN 9780505527752

During a family outing climbing an Alaskan mountain, disaster struck killing everyone except Kaylie Fletcher. She vowed never again. However, in the middle of the night Kaylie receives a call insisting her mother also survived. Although she thinks this is some sicko’s joke, Kaylie needs to know the truth just in case.

She hires bush pilot Cort McClain to fly her in his Cessna to the cabin of her friend Sara. Cort is attracted to his customer, but avoids her like she has a contagious disease as her city ways and wardrobe is out of his ex-wife’s lifestyle of the un-famous wannabes. She also wants Cort, but knows he is an adventurer thriving on adrenaline highs while she is the opposite at least since the tragedy. They soon find their respective best friends savagely murdered and the maniacal killer wants Kaylie next. She believes only Cort can keep her safe, but even he has doubts that thet will survive against a surreal vicious psychopath.

The thrill in this super romantic suspense is the cat and mouse war between a deadly predator and a frightened heroine who wants to hide but has no choice as her adversary is coming for her. The romance between the pilot and the family survivor is more of a detractor from a strong tense tale enhanced by the Alaskan locale that adds a sense of stark lonely beauty just like Kaylie.

Harriet Klausner

One Scream Away-Kate Brady

One Scream Away
Kate Brady
Forever, Jul 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780446541527

After just a few years behind bars, Chevy Bankes is paroled from prison to hunt, attack, and kill female prey. During his time in jail, he obsessed over the woman who sent him away; blaming her for his incarceration though he assaulted her. Chevy is honing his craft torturing and murdering women with his plan to come for Beth Denison and her daughter Abby.

He calls her from the phone of his first victim just to say hello and warn her Abby is his target before Beth. As more women die, Beth’s only hope to keep her daughter safe seems to be former FBI agent Neil Sheridan, but he is burned out having worked this case very poorly once before. She doubts she can rely on him while he sees her as his redemption for failing to keep a victim safe from Bankes. Together, they might stand a chance; separately they will be lucky to survive the ordeal from this lethal predator who waits inside Beth’s home for the right moment.

This is a terrific serial killer thriller that keeps the expected romance for the most part in the background; in fact the romantic subplot is unneeded distracting baggage. Beth and Neil are strong flawed characters whose past has returned with a vengeance; while Chevy is a more typical literary serial killer. Fans of tense cat and mouse confrontations will want to read this tense tale as Kate Brady is an author the sub-genre can bank on.

Harriet Klausner

A Slice of Murder-Chris Cavender

A Slice of Murder
Chris Cavender
Kensington, Aug 2009, $22.00
ISBN: 9780758229489

It is hard to believe that murder or any major crime could occur in the sleepy hamlet of Timber Ridge, Virginia. However, it is the bad luck of Eleanor Spencer, owner of A Slice of Delight, to find the corpse of Richard Olsen with a knife protruding from his chest when she delivers a pizza to him.

Although they were once an entry, Police Chief Kevin Hurley treats Eleanor as a suspect; her sister and partner Maddie is so outraged, she insists Eleanor retain a lawyer. When business falls off, feisty Eleanor blames Kevin and the killer as her customers refuse to patronize her pizza shop because of the cop’s suspicion. She vows to find out who killed Richard. With Maddy accompanying her for the most part, Eleanor digs into Richard’s life as if she is kneading doe. They are stunned with how many people loathed the deceased as he blackmailed several with his shredding documents business and other people he found dirt on. The killer is aware of the sisterly sleuthing and patiently waits for the right moment to eliminate the meddling duo.

Readers will enjoy the lighthearted calorie filling A Slice of Delight amateur sleuth mystery. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Eleanor delvers the pizza and never slows down as she and her amusing sarcastic sometimes married sibling search for clues. Eleanor still grieves her husband’s death though some time has passed; the pizza parlor is her link to him; which exalts her to save it anyway she can. Chris Cavender has written a tasty cozy starring a likeable lead, her zany eccentric sibling, and a horde of former customers of whom one has chosen A SLICE OF MURDER.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Deadly Intent-Lynda La Plante

Deadly Intent
Lynda La Plante
Simon and Schuster, Jul 7 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9781416588313

Frank Brandon left the murder squad unit to become a chauffeur for a minor drug dealer before marrying wealthy Julia Kendal. He was allegedly happy and had money to waste; so had no reason to be found murdered in a fetid dumpy flat in slummy Warren Estate.

Murder Squad Detective Inspector Anna Travis fears Brandon’s homicide means the return from the dead of her former partner Anthony Collingwood, who left her without warning with two kids and a lot of money almost a decade ago. Anthony is better known as Alexander Fitzpatrick, once the nation’s leading drug kingpin, but out of sight for years. In spite of other associates of Fitzpatrick being assassinated, Anna’s superior DCI Carol Cunningham disagrees as no proof has surfaced that the former criminal mastermind is alive. Unbeknownst to the cops including Anna’s worried about her former lover DCS James Langton, Fitzpatrick had major facial surgery in Mexico and has come home to flood the country with the deadly painkiller Fentanyl.

The latest Travis British police procedural (see ABOVE SUSPICION, CLEAN CUT and THE RED DAHLIA) is an excellent investigative tale that hooks the audience with the inquiry as much as the intriguing look back at the heroine’s past. The story line is fast-paced even with a vividly detailed investigation as the prime cast makes this a top rate thriller. In a way the relationships between Anna and the two main men in her past, Anthony and James, make for a super triangle that enhances a strong mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Siren of the Waters-Michael Genelin

Siren of the Waters
Michael Genelin
Soho, Jul 2009, $13.00
ISBN: 9781569475850

The van skidded on ice near Bratislava, Slovakia before bursting into an inferno roasting to death the occupants, a pimp and his six hookers. Slovak Criminal Police Commander Jana Matinova believes this was no accident that the victims were murdered. Evidence seems to point to human sexual slave trafficking from the east coming through Bratislava to the west.

Meanwhile Police Chief Trokan sends Jana to Strasbourg, France to attend a conference on prostitution. When two of the guest speakers are killed with the murder weapon being an ice pick and with the E.U. approval, Jana teams up with Russian Levitin; both believe the culprit in Strasbourg and Bratislava is master criminal Ivan “Koba” Makine. As they search for evidence, he seeks his missing sister allegedly part of Friends of Russia Ball in Nice and she prays for reconciliation with her married daughter who holds her culpable for the death of her father under the communists.

This is a terrific European police procedural with plenty of misdirection that takes the heroine and readers to the Ukraine and France. The story line is fast-paced and fabulously supported and enhanced with a subplot involving Jana’s relationship with her spouse and surviving under the communist regime. She makes the tale work, past and present, as her attitude is take no prisoners not even her daughter. Fans will relish this strong whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

The Holy Bullet-Luis Miguel Rocha

The Holy Bullet
Luis Miguel Rocha
Putnam, Aug 20 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780399156007

In 1978 compromised candidate Pope John Paul I, in office a little over a month, is dead just after he announced plans to clean up the House of God everywhere. Soon after his death, the College of Cardinals elects Polish exile Cardinal Karol Jozef Wojtyła as Pope John Paul II. In 1981 an assassination attempt critically wounded the Pope, but he survived; another attempt a year later failed totally. In 2005, Pope John Paul II died.

Soon after his death, rumors spread that the two assassination attempts were not done by crazed lone gunmen, but part of a Vatican conspiracy to prevent reform within the Church. However, it is ironically the death a year later of an octogenarian archbishop in Arizona that serves as the catalyst of a search for the truth to learn who ordered the two failed assassinations.

Although too many wry commentaries detract from a fascinating sequel with a similar premise as that of THE LAST POPE, fans will enjoy this Vatican conspiracy thriller. The story line moves back and forth between the early 1980s (and occasionally late 1970s) and this decade. The fun in this tale (and its predecessor) is in the past although overly descriptive and slower than the modern day subplot filled with more action. Readers who enjoy Vatican conspiracies will appreciate the HOLY BULLET, an intriguing but at times slow paced thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Abandon-Blake Crouch

Blake Crouch
Minotaur, Jul 7 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312537401

By December 1893, with the mine for practical purposes useless, the town of Abandon, Colorado is dying. Still there are plenty of residents from unemployed miners to hookers wondering when to move to the next gold mine and gunslingers seeking to kill their way to a fortune. Bart Packer found ninety-one Spanish gold bars by the headless skeletal remains of what he assumed was a conquistador. However, someone kills him and hides his horde in the mine. Soon afterward, everyone vanishes without a trace.

In 2009 historian Lawrence Kendall persuades his daughter whom he deserted as a child years ago reporter Abigail Foster to accompany him and married couple paranormal photographers Emmett and June Tozer to visit the ghost-town of Abandon, Colorado. He has heard of the gold, but thinks the treasure is learning what happened to the residents. A blizzard isolates the investigative party and former marines assault them with demands they find the gold for them. All the answers are in the grisly mines.

Filled with gore and blood, this starts off with a terrific premise that is enhanced with the rotation between eras’ subplots. However, when the marines invade, the modern subplot turns from a psychological suspense to an action thriller that pales in spite of the gore next to the horrors of the Gilded Age scenario. Still Blake Couch provides an interesting tale filled with action of a ghastly and gruesome kind.

Harriet Klausner

Hell’s Gate-Stephen Frey

Hell’s Gate
Stephen Frey
Atria, Aug 18 2009, $$25.00
ISBN: 9781416549659

Powerhouse litigator thirty-five year old Hunter Lee of Manhattan’s based Warfield & Stone is in Bozeman, Montana seeking a settlement for his clients from Bridger Railroad. He claims they did not take care of the tracks and as a result an accident released poisonous gas that blinded in one eye in two children. He wins a large amount of money for his clients, but at the moment of his greatest triumph, he is served with divorce papers. Hunter is stunned to learn his wife cheated on him with the one man in New York he trusted. Disgusted he leaves the Big Apple for Fort Mason, Montana home of his brother Strat.

His sibling informs Hunter that lately there have been too many fires that turned into infernos and he believes they are deliberately set so that someone is making a hell of a profit as putting out blazes costs money. Hunter is concerned for his brother who seems in deep with investigating something that is dangerous especially with no evidence to back his claim. The lawyer meets several interested people including a senator, a businessman, and a woman he likes, but soon realizes everyone has an agenda hidden about the fires.

Stephen Frey, known for his fast-paced financial thrillers, turns 180 degrees into a more typical suspense tale that his fans will still enjoy. The hero’s trust in people is shattered after the betrayal with only his brother as a person he can be rely on to have his back. He comes to town and quickly thinks Paradise but revises that to paradise lost as he now knows he has entered HELL’S GATE; with the infernos getting increasingly dangerous and the residents of this Eden obvious to him are keeping secrets. Hunter becomes a crusader with a belief in doing the right thing though the cost can be lethal. Still he is an everyman getting involved and by trying he becomes a superman even if he fails. Fans will appreciate Mr. Frey’s latest venture as every man can become a super man if they only go for it.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Baker Street Letters-Michael Robertson

Baker Street Letters
Michael Robertson
Minotaur, Jun 23 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312538125

In 1997 Solicitor Reggie Heath signs a lease to rent office space on Baker Street. As part of the rental agreement, the attorney is responsible for responding to requests from people writing to Sherlock Holmes at 221B Baker Street. Reggie figures the letters are a humorous irritant so assigns the answers to his clerk, his younger brother Nigel suspended from legal practice due to misconduct.

Nigel takes the pleas for help seriously and tries to respond with more than a platitude. He is especially fixated on a “pen pal” Mara Ramirez who sent a note to Mr. Holmes two decades ago when she was eight and her mom was missing. Nigel and senior clerk Robert Ocher often argue especially how to respond as the latter wants as little time spent on the Holmes correspondence as possible. Robert is soon killed by a knife in Nigel’s office while Nigel has vanished. Reggie knows his sibling is missing some brain pixels, but believes he is not a killer yet still fears these two events are tied to Mara. He travels to Los Angeles not sure what to expect; what he did not was having LAPD arrest him on charges of homicide.

This is an enjoyable refreshing spin to the Holmes universe though when it comes to sleuthing neither brother is on a par with Watson let alone the great literary detective as a distracted Nigel is always in trouble and Reggie is a somewhat bumbling amateur sleuth. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Nigel reads the first letter from Mara and never slows down until the final Los Angeles confrontation. Readers will enjoy this fine modern day spin to the Baker Street cosmos.

Harriet Klausner

All the Dead Voices-Declan Hughes

All the Dead Voices
Declan Hughes
Morrow, Jun 30 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780061689888

In Dublin, Anne Fogarty hires private investigator Ed Loy to investigate the cold case brutal beating death of her father in 1991 though the Garda has a suspect. Her mother's boyfriend was convicted of the crime, but freed when his lawyer’s appealed the conviction. Though Ed is already busy looking into the murder of rising Sherbourne football star Paul Delaney whose death appears tied to drugs, he accepts Fogarty’s case.

Loy finds out Anne's father was a tax inspector who was investigating three men (Bobby Doyle, Jack Cullen, and Georges Halligan) on potential income tax evasion. Each was IRA; thus they had means and opportunity besides the obvious motive. However, Loy is caught unaware when his two cases seem to converge as Delaney apparently had ties to Cullen.

The latest Ed Loy Ireland investigative thriller (see THE PRICE OF BLOOD, THE COLOR OF BLOOD, and THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD) is a fast-paced violent tale that may have left blood out of the title, but not the narrative. The inquiry is top rate providing an insight into the Troubles and its aftermath. Ed is his usual self – getting beaten, battered and bruised while working both cases. ALL THE DEAD VOICES is a terrific Irish whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

The Advocate-Teresa Burrell

The Advocate
Teresa Burrell
Echelon, Aug 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9781590806319

Juvenile Court attorney Sabre Brown is contented with her life especially her work protecting children from people who might harm them. The only negative in her life is her brother Ron who remains missing having disappeared without a trace. Currently, she is working a case involving ten year old Alexis Murdock and two years old Jamie Smith; both are staying at the Jordon Receiving Home while the police investigate their respective parent Gaylord Murdock and his battered pregnant girlfriend Peggy Smith. Peggy initially blames Gaylord for hitting her, but quickly changes her tune when she realizes she will have to press charges.

Gaylord obeys court orders determined to prove he is a fit father so he can regain custody of Alexis. When Sabre talks with Alexis, the frightened tweener asks if she must go home. That question leaves Sabre wondering if Murdock is the upright citizen he claims to be. Someone is also harassing Sabre. Calls with no voice on the other end at any time night or day; items in her home are misplaced or lost; and a bat was tossed into her office through the mail slot. Finally she finds a lizard in her bed with all her doors and windows shut. Sabra discovers Peggy has a daughter Honey who has goes missing yet no police report is filed. She fears what happened to Honey will happen to Alexis and Jamie once they go home, but the law is on the side of Gaylord…si far

Readers will admire dedicated Sabre, a strong advocate of protecting the young as she deals with adult predators to prevent them from abusing children. Not always easy as the law can be on the side of the beast; still she goes the extra kilometers to try keeping the kids safe. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action though the assault on Sabre adds suspense, but also detracts from a great legal thriller as the lives of children are at stake. .

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 12, 2009

Run To Me-Christy Reece

Run To Me
Christy Reece
Ballantine, Jun 23 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780345505446

Filled with guilt Ethan Bishop quit Last Chance Rescue (LCR) when an operation he led left teammate Cole Mathison dead. However, when Noah McCall, head of the private international LCR, tells Ethan that he needs him on a special mission that he trusts only Bishop to perform, he agrees to return for one last assignment. Evidence supports that Cole's widow, Shea Monroe has joined the enemy.

Infamous felon Donald Rosemount had Shea abducted. He gave her a drug mix that erases a person’s memory and personality traits sort of like an etch-o-sketch. Now the martinet master is ordering her to carry out his projects. Ethan recaptures the woman he cherishes, but fears Shea will never be the same; still his love for her demands he not quit on her.

The exciting third LCR romantic suspense (see RETURN TO ME and RESCUE ME) is even darker and grittier than the previous two entries, which is saying a lot as the lead characters in all three “me” tales have had horrific experiences. The story line is owned by Shea, a victim of total control that goes beyond brainwashing into a frightening zombie like obedience. Whereas she is unique, Ethan is similar in outlook as for instance Noah is; which makes the tale even stronger as he is passionate about his feelings of remorse re Cole, love for Shea, and a craving to destroy Ethan for what he did to his beloved. Another terrific thriller that fans will relish.

Harriet Klausner

Cutting-James Hayman

James Hayman
Minotaur, Jun 23 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312531294

Following his wife leaving him and their child for an investment banker and the death of his brother also a cop, homicide detective Michael McCabe left NYPD and the city for a job with the Portland, Maine force so he can raise his thirteen year old daughter in a safe haven. However, he finds out quickly murder can occur in small cities when someone rapes and kills a high-school soccer star. Soon afterward, another young blonde beauty disappears while jogging.

Chief of the city’s Crimes Against People unit, Michael hides from the media the fact that the killer removed the heart of the first victim as if a surgeon performed the deed. He and Detective Maggie Savage focus on the medical field with an emphasis on heart transplant specialist Dr. Philip Spencer, whose alibi is a night at home with his wife Hattie. However, shockingly she states she was visiting her family in Blue Hill. While his former wife arrives demanding the return of her daughter whom she abandoned years ago, Michael knows the key is to saving the second victim before the killer removes an organ, but time is running out on McCabe and his team.

Although the theme of a serial killer has been used a zillion times recently along with a cop leaving the swamps of the big city for safer environs, fans will enjoy CUTTING. McCabe is a likable hero struggling with a horrific homicide and the potential of another as nasty as well as his piece of work former wife. Ironically, readers will solve the case before the hero does, but they won’t care as watching his frantic efforts to save a victim make for a fine Maine police procedural.
Harriet Klausner

The Alpine Uproar-Mary Daheim

The Alpine Uproar
Mary Daheim
Ballantine, Jun 23 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345502551

The weekly Alpine Advocate newspaper covers the brawl between car mechanic Alvin De Muth and trucker Clive Berentsen at the Icicle Creek Tavern. De Muth was killed and Berentsen arrested by Skykomish County Sheriff Milo Dodge for the homicide. The paper’s editor-publisher Emma Lord has doubts as the witnesses contradict one another as to what they saw and none saw the actual killing blow. House & Home editor Vida adds to her concerns when she insists most locals despised De Muth.

Unlike the law and the townsfolk, Emma and Vida believe there is enough doubt to warrant further inquiries, which they do. Meanwhile Milo who is not just covering his butt decides on a second autopsy of De Muth because he begins to doubt also since no one admits they saw the punch that killed him. A traffic fatality of a young man high on drugs leads Emma to believe a dealer is in town but that and the death remain unsolved even as she ends up in a cat fight with a woman wanting to kick her butt in.

The latest Alpine journalistic mystery is an engaging whodunit with a support cast seemingly that could fill up Qwest Field, but as always belongs to the reporting BFFs especially Emma. The story line is fun to follow as Emma tries to tie together seemingly unrelated events. Although not a new underlying theme of a universally loathsome person getting murdered, fans will enjoy Emma and Vida seeking to find the truth when chaos and satisfaction prevail.

Harriet Klausner

Secret of the Seventh Son-Glenn Cooper

Secret of the Seventh Son
Glenn Cooper
Harper, Aug 2009, $7.99
ISBN 9780061721793

In New York, the victim receives a postcard of a coffin just prior to being murdered. The FBI assigns the case to Agent Will Piper, who has no interest in a serial killer investigation as he nears retirement. Young agent Nancy Lipinski is tasked to work with Will, who has even less interest in mentoring a rookie.

The clues outside of the postcards are nonexistent as the psychopath is careful to leave nothing behind. Meanwhile Will is ugly to Nancy over her being overweight and even nastier to his junior partner when he drinks excessively while investigating or when he is hung over. However, as they begin to find ties to a medieval scenario and he sobers up, Will and Nancy begin a romance.

This is an engaging mystical FBI thriller with a supernatural tie to the SECRET OF THE SEVENTH SON born in 777. The story line is fast-paced when Will stays sober long enough to not have a hangover; but too much of the plot is tied up by his drinking, which after the first time the audience got the message. Still fans will enjoy the legendary profiler ready for the pasture of toasting his past glory and the rookie who brings him back to life.

Harriet Klausner

Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop-Lee Goldberg

Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop
Lee Goldberg
Obsidian, Aug 2009, $22.95
ISBN: 9780451226983

When tragedy struck SFPD Detective Adrian Monk, he had a nervous breakdown; when he recovered he suffered from a severe case of obsessive compulsive disorder. He no longer functions as a cop yet remains brilliant at solving mysteries. His former superior Captain Leland Stottlemeyer uses him as a paid consultant on the most difficult cases, but begins to detest the fact that Mr. Monk gets the praise while he receives scorn and derision.

The Captain swears to Mr. Monk he is not jealous, but the latter’s assistant Natalie believes otherwise. However, the captain soon lets Monk and Natalie go due to budget cuts. Angrily she wants her boss to find a new job within the private sector. Nicholas Slade, CEO of the Internect private security and investigation firm, hires Monk, who accepts the position because of the benefits. While Monk solves cases at an incredible pace, Stottlemeyer is arrested for killing a criminal informant suffering from Alzheimer’s. The captain swears he was framed and asks his friend and colleague whom he fired to find the real culprit. Even Natalie wants Monk to take the case on, which he does.

No one writes books based on popular TV series better than Lee Goldberg consistently does as the author always catches the essence of the key characters and their prevalent traits; in this case obviously the OCD. Mr. Monk in spite of his crippling illness gets around solving crimes at a Guinness Book of records rate. Natalie is protective of Monk so she lashes out at those who harm him like the captain did. Although the prime case takes time to become front and center, fans will enjoy Mr. Monk’s latest adventures as he solves case after case after case.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dark Dreams-Michael Genelin

Dark Dreams
Michael Genelin
Soho, Jul 2009, $2400
ISBN: 9781569475577

In Slovakia although they are total opposites, Jana and Sofia have been best friends since their school days. Both have been successful in their chosen endeavor as Jana is a commander in the Bratislava police force and Sofia is a reformist Transparency in the Government party member of Parliament; but though still BFFs their personalities remain the converse of each other.

One day Jana comes home to find an enormous diamond hanging from her living room ceiling. She has no idea who or why it is there unless someone wants her tainted. They succeed as her department investigates her for possible corruption and bribery. Meanwhile Jana makes her own inquiry tying the diamond to Sofia and another parliamentary official, but soon finds clues that lead to international smuggling around the world and murders in Slovakia and their neighbors.

This is a terrific Slovakia police procedural with the prime location the country’s capital Bratislava coming alive in a gritty atmosphere through the eyes of Jana. She and Sofia are fascinating friends as the former is an avenger and the latter knows first hand the harshness of corrupt power having been raped by a Communist official, years ago. Readers will enjoy their “friendship” put to the test as Michael Genelin provides an interesting joy ride of the Slovakian capital and a few other Eastern Europe locales.

Harriet Klausner

Mind Scrambler-Chris Grabenstein

Mind Scrambler
Chris Grabenstein
Minotaur, Jun 23 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312382315

Although opposites in outlook, Sea Haven, New Jersey police partners John Ceepak and Danny Boyle are on leave in Atlantic City. They are not there to gamble, but instead are taking a disposition in hopes of helping Ceepak's estranged dad who has been charged with murder in Ohio.

Boyle runs into former girlfriend Katie Landry, who is the nanny of Richie and Britney, the children of Xanadu headliner magician Richard Rock and his wife. Katie is dating a Xanadu bouncer but agrees to go for drinks with Danny. Their case abruptly ends when Ceepak’s dad pleads guilty. Rock’s manager hires the two cops as extra security due to a rumor that the Milton Berle of magicians (due to stealing their acts) Lady Jasmine is attending. Katie and Jake vanish while Rock performs his final act geared to get people into the casino; Boyle goes backstage to find Katie murdered. The Atlantic City police deputize the two Sea Haven cops as more homicides occur.

The latest John Ceepak investigation (see HELL HOLE) is a terrific entry as the by the book cop and his breaking the rules partner may be off duty, but quickly become embroiled in a murder mystery. The story line is fast-paced from the onset, but it is the camaraderie between the two polar opposite cops that once again make for an entertaining tale.

Harriet Klausner

Freezer Burn-Gayle Carline

Freezer Burn
Gayle Carline
Echelon, Aug 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9781590806074

Former cleaning lady Peri Minneopa is now a licensed private investigator though she does not carry a gun. She promised her lover Placenta Police Detective Skip Carlton that she would only work safe cases like background checks and taking photos from a distance of cheating spouses. Her latest case involves a client Benny Needles who is a Dean Martin fanatic seeking an ice tray in his freezer used by his hero with an autograph he doesn’t want rubbed off by the ice.

Instead she finds a severed hand with an expensive ring on a finger. Benni swears he has no idea whose hand it is, where the rest of the body is, and how it got into his freezer. Skip questions Benny and believes the frightened Martin aficionado is telling the truth that he is innocent and ignorant re the hand. They trace the ring to a homeless woman who admits she stole from a woman in a nursing home. It was supposed to be a copy of the Forever Roses ring to be auctioned at Christies in order for Kevin Conway to pay off his gambling debts. He had no idea that his ring was a copy and he wants to get the real ring back. So do other people; as someone steals it from the police evidence room. Peri goes after the killer, ignoring Skip’s warning about murderers’ murder, but soon understands what her boyfriend meant.

Peri is a strong willed person who once she makes up her mind nothing stops her; Skip can nudge, but not budge his obstinate girlfriend. She wants to prove to herself she is a P.I. by solving the case though she understands her first mission is to keep the eccentric Benny out of jail as she believes he is innocent. Her lover reluctantly supports her because he fears she will risk her life with or without him. The investigative story line is fun to follow with it ties to Dino and the romance between the cop and the rookie, who behaves somewhat like an amateur sleuth as she learns the ropes the hard way which enhances an enjoyable whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Last Ember-Daniel Levin

The Last Ember
Daniel Levin
Riverhead, Aug 6 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9781594488726

Until the accident that killed his best friend and kicked him out of Rome’s American Academy, Jonathan Marcus wanted to become a field archeologist. Filled with guilt and remorse, he studied law and became an attorney with a suit representing some of the most scurrilous rogues in the fine arts.

He is sent to Rome to destroy the reputation of a U.N. antiquities expert. There he meets his girlfriend from the Academy Dr. Emili Travia, whom he never forgot. She is searching for the legendary two millennia old Tabernacle Menorah stolen from King Herod’s great Jerusalem Temple and brought to but lost in Rome. The sacred Menorah is allegedly to be eight feet of pure gold. Muslim Sheik Salah ad-Din searches for the precious menorah too, but if he obtains it, he will melt it down for the gold and even more so for religious reasons.

This is a terrific Brownian like religious thriller that never slows down once defrocked archeologist Jonathan returns to Rome and never looks back until the thrilling finish. The cast is solid and believable while the action is unabated but interweaved with historical information. Daniel Levin provides an exciting tale that will have readers breathless throughout.

Harriet Klausner

Vanished-Joseph Finder

Joseph Finder
St. Martin's, Aug 18 2009, $25.99
ISBN 9780312379087

International corporate security expert Nick Heller is the best at his job. He currently is in California searching for containers filled with billions of dollars taken in Iraq, but stops in his tracks when his fourteen year old nephew Gabe calls hysterically from DC. The kid’s stepfather, Nick’s brother Roger has vanished and his mother Lauren is in a coma.

Nick rushes home though he and Roger are not on talking terms since their father was convicted of securities fraud. Nick knows his first priority is to the teen and his mom, but also begins inquiries into his missing brother. He begins to fear his brother was involved in some nasty stuff that threatens his family and apparently ties back to their incarcerated father as well as a dangerous mercenary-for-hire company.

VANISHED is a fast-paced, action filled thriller that never takes a breather once Gabe contacts his uncle. Nick drops everything to keep his nephew and his comatose sister-in-law safe while searching for his vanished estranged brother, whom he assumes initially, was abducted, but begins to reconsider his premise as he uncovers clues. Filled with plausible exhilarating twists, readers will find themselves dropping everything to finish this book in one sitting.

Harriet Klausner

The Devil's Punchbowl-Greg Iles

The Devil's Punchbowl
Greg Iles
Scribner, Jul 7 2009, $26.99
ISBN: 9780743292511

Former Houston prosecutor Penn Cage is elected mayor of his hometown Natchez, Mississippi on an economic platform to save the dying city. Currently five steamboats off the old slave market square offers casino gambling. With the looser atmosphere comes the high rollers and along with that Penn knows come vice and crime.

His childhood friend card dealer Tim Jessup tells Penn that the casinos offer dog fighting and dangerous sexual activity. Tim promises to bring proof to Penn, but before he can, he is found viciously murdered as a warning to other do-gooders. However, those running the illegal show while city officialdom wink threaten Penn and his family as they believe Tim gave him evidence as they tortured that confession out of him before they killed him. Another friend sneaks Penn’s family out of town; knowing his tweener daughter is safe the mayor is ready to clean up the floating casinos though their enemy seems to anticipate every move made against him.

The return of Penn (see TURNING ANGEL and THE QUIET GAME) is an exhilarating thriller that never slows down once Tim warns him about what is happening on the casino boats. Penn remains an ethical individual who refuses to turn away from the crime especially the violence as several other leading citizens prefer to do. Fans will relish Greg Iles strong tale of gambling on the Mississippi to bring jobs, but part of the employment opportunities are illegal and dangerous.

Harriet Klausner

Fear the Worst-Linwood Barclay

Fear the Worst
Linwood Barclay
Bantam, Aug 11 2009, $24.00
ISBN: 9780553807165

Car salesman Tim Blake has his teenage daughter Syd staying with him for the summer. She works the desk at the Just In Time Inn but one day fails to come home from her job. The days pass without a word from her and the cops have no clues though they assume she is just another runaway. Tim searches for his daughter. He asks people if they have recently seen her, but no one has. One of Syd’s friends sets up a website so if someone does they can contact Tim ASAP.

While he investigates someone breake into his house; everything is wrecked but nothing seems taken as if they searched for something. He calls the police who find cocaine in his home, but the cops believe it is a plant. Tim keeps searching and the results are car chases, getting shot, finding the enemy, killing the enemy and setting up an investigation that surpasses what the police are doing.

Readers who enjoy the thrillers of T. Jefferson Parker and Joseph Finder will relish Linwood Barclay’s latest tale. The story line is enthralling to watch an everyman hunting for his beloved daughter as he fears the worst has happened to her; however he will soon learn that there are even more terrible things than he nightmares imagined; his blunders bring plausibility to the plot. Filled with twists and suspense, the audience will be spellbound to learn what happens next.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Second Savior-Mark Bouton

The Second Savior
Mark Bouton
Five Star, Jul 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147661

LAPD Homicide Detectives Crash Unit Rick Dover and Falcon are working a bust at an Inglewood liquor store when the Bloods drive by trying to kill Kinks, a Crip. A passerby jumps in between the shooters and Dover taking two bullets in the back and one in the shoulder; he saves the cop’s life. Later the Bloods boldly walk into Centinela Hospital and kill Kinks; while the Good Samaritan Jake shockingly walks out of the ICU after only a one night stay.

Soon others involved in the shooting begin dying as Stagger becomes a one man crime spree including a shooting attempt in a nearby church in which Dover took a bullet. As the police continue to search for evidence, they fear their two main witnesses, Father O’Garity will not testify due to the confession Stagger made to him and Jake Carroll will run away due to his past.

This fast-paced police procedural hooks the audience with the opening sequence and never slows down as the cops battle the gangs on the streets of L.A with a touch of religious mysticism brought to the plot by Jake. The story line is filled with action while feeling like a chess game is occurring. Although a key scene when Stagger shoots at the priest and Dover should be enough to arrest him especially with other witnesses, but does not detracts from an otherwise exciting thriller of the police working a gang war slaying.

Harriet Klausner