Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Magician's Daughter-Judith Janeway

The Magician's Daughter
Judith Janeway
Poisoned Pen Press, Feb 3 2015, $14.95
ISBN: 9781464203404

Early in the morning, the Great Valentina performs an act seeking to find a missing rabbit to pull out of a hat.  However, someone steals the donations because her “hat man” Jeff failed to protect the loot and the twenty-something magician overhears a teenage “Anime” girl mention Beth Hull to her father.  Shocked Valentine Hill knows the name Beth Hull intimately though has not seen her Mommy Dearest Elizabeth Hill, who uses that alias in her cons, in almost a decade.  Valentine chats with Ashley but ignores the dad whom she catalogues as a “Creep” rather than an “Uncle”.  Ashley tells her that her father’s public girlfriend Beth lives in San Francisco.  Jeff arrives to say he is playing a gig in Berkley, but Valentine rejects him.  Afterward she arrives home to find Jeff ransacked her room and took her money.

In Pacific Heights, Valentine goes to see her mom only to be stopped by all muscle no brain Dwayne.  When she awakens from a beating lying near a corpse, FBI Agent Eugenia Philips takes her to her next door apartment where they chat re Beth. Trusting no one, she escapes from Phil only to end up in a SFPD car with Homicide Inspector Lopez interrogating her.

The above paragraphs represent parts of the first two chapters in perhaps the most action-packed crime thriller in years.  Over the top of Lafayette Park, but filled with numerous taut twists and red herrings, and starring a great protagonist (mindful of the leads in Now You See Me), the misnamed Magician's Daughter is a spectacular first Valentine Hill Mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Treacherous Tart-Ellie Grant

Treacherous Tart
Ellie Grant
Pocket Books, Oct 28 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9781451689563

Maggie Grady and her widowed Aunt Clara own Pie in the Sky in Durham, North Carolina.  The business is booming and both females have boyfriends.  Maggie met hers, reporter Ryan Summerour, when he worked on the homicide of her former New York boss (see Plum Deadly); while Aunt Clara’s Donald Wickerson is a steady customer.

Ryan writes an exposé on Donald suspected of killing several wealthy wives in what seemed like coincidental accidents that enabled him to inherit their money.  Clara reads Ryan’s article and rejects it as her Donald is sweet and kind and ergo no way a murdering widower.  When someone kills Donald in the Pie in the Sky, Maggie knows that DPD will look closely at her beloved aunt as the prime suspect just as they named her when her boss’ body was left by the pie shop’s back door (see Plum Deadly).  With Ryan at her side she investigates the homicide only to seemingly find enough people with revenge motives to fill Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The second Pie Shop mystery is an entertaining culinary cozy with a dynamic witty lead sleuths, denier Aunt Clara and several viable suspects filled with rage at the apparent uxoricide serial killer.  Team Grant provides the audience with a winning regional investigative whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dead Don't Lie-L. R. Nicolello

Dead Don't Lie
L. R. Nicolello
Harlequin HQN, Oct 28 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373785001

In Europe, eighteen year old model Evelyn Maslin returns home to find a DVD apparently sent to her by her family in Seattle.  When she plays it, she observes the vicious slaughtering of her parents and her fourteen years old sister.  Numb but she prays this is a cruel prank until Police Detective Nikols calls to inform her that her family is dead.

Fifteen years later, having changed her surname and motivated by the slaughter of her family, Seattle Detective Evelyn Davis now is considered the top profiler in the department, reinforced by the horrible Langdon homicides.  She keeps her distance from everyone, but her partner Ryan O’Neil, his wife Kate and their children welcome her as a favorite “relative”.  Dinner with the O’Neil brood ends when their supervisor Captain Kessler tells them Chief Diaz wants them working a family annihilator case on Mercer Island, the second in two weeks there.  Due to the mayor’s request, FBI Special Agent Marcus Moretti joins the investigative team.  He provides information on the deaths of the Garland and Middleton family who both had two young daughters.  Marcus conceals one thing from Evelyn; that he wants her on his special task force.  As they work the case that turns Deja vu personal, the Fed and the local officer fall in love.

Dead Don't Lie is a taut police procedural that grips the audience from the first family invasion until the final confrontation.  Readers will respect Evelyn and admire caring Marcus even while the serial killer pushes the heroine’s buttons into mental freefall.  Although the love subplot is unnecessary, this is a tremendous romantic suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Girl In The Woods-Gregg Olsen

The Girl In The Woods
Gregg Olsen
Pinnacle, Oct 28 2014, $9.99
ISBN: 9780786029945

In Port Orchard, Washington, on a nature hike in Banner Forest, an Olally Elementary school sixth grader finds a human foot.  Sheriff’s Detective Kendall Stark and Kitsap County Forensic Pathologist Birdy Waterman look into what happened that led to a severed body part.  The rest of the person is not found nearby and remains missing.  Birdy believes an animal ripped the foot off of a probably dead teenage girl.

Meanwhile Birdy’s sixteen year old nephew Elan asks to stay with his aunt for a while as he left his home after seeing his mom in his bed with her lover.  At about the same time Elan came to Port Orchard, Ted Roberts dies suspiciously with the pathologist thinking his wife Jennifer poisoned him.  Thus Birdy heads to Arizona to exhume and test the body of Jennifer’s first husband for poison.  Extreme Hoarder Tess “The Mess” Montgomery reports her high school daughter Darby missing to the Sheriff’s Department; and soon afterward dirt biker and Afghanistan war veteran Marvin Best finds a corpse with one foot missing in a garbage bag.  Investigating Darby’s homicide, Stark and Waterman follow clues leading to a fired prison guard and an extreme narcissist serial killer convict with raging grudges towards Tess.

The first Waterman and Stark police procedural is a fabulous investigative mystery with a three-dimensional cast involved in several dysfunctional relationships (by far the most positive is the friendship and mutual respect between the two investigators).  Filled with twists, especially an astonishing unexpected but plausible climatic spin, readers will appreciate the detective and the pathologist working together on two homicides.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Desert God-Wilbur Smith

Desert God
Wilbur Smith
Morrow, Oct 21 2014, $28.99
ISBN: 9780062276452

After a century of civil war, the adversarial Egyptian kingdoms face a deadly invasion from the Steppes.  The Hyksos horde defeated the Northern Kingdom and begun the assault on the Southern nation driving the people away from the Nile into the wilderness.  At Thebes, the Egyptian army defeated the Hyksos stopping further incursion, but the invaders occupy all of the North and parts of the Southern Kingdom preparing for King Salitis to renew the conquest.

Desperate Pharaoh Tamose turns to his top advisor, former slave Taita the eunuch, for guidance.  The geographical edge resides with the enemy as Taita realizes his kingdom controls no Great Sea ports.  Thus he informs the Pharaoh that the only way to beat the enemy is an alliance with the Sumerians and Cretans; though the latter already is allied with the Hyksos.  To anchor the pact, Taita persuades Tamos to offer in marriage his royal daughters, sixteen years old Tehuti and her fourteen years old younger sister Bekatha, to Crete’s Supreme Minos.  Accepting the plan, Tamos assigns Taita to safely escort the princesses to Crete.  As they travel the dangerous bloody trek with external and internal threats assaulting them, Tehuti informs Taita that there is a slight problem.

Desert God continues the engaging adventures of Taita (see River God and Warlock, etc.) in a fast-paced storyline that combines a strong sense of time and place with plenty of gory action.  The lead eunuch and princesses are fully developed with Taita somewhat a father figure to the royals; while he ironically misses the obvious that the audience will anticipate.  The well-written ending is a fine mystical finish to another pleasurable Novel of Ancient Egypt.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Frenzy-John Lutz

John Lutz
Pinnacle, Sep 30 2014, $9.99
ISBN: 9780786028306

In Creighton, Maine, former cop turned Q&A Investigative Agency chief Frank Quinn and law enforcement with their dogs in pursuit feel they have the D.O.A. serial killer trapped.  As he flees, D.O.A. shoots Quinn in the back near Creighton Lake before taking off in his nearby plane.  However, his escape ends abruptly when the plane explodes killing the psychopath.

Two years later in a New York hotel, the NYPD Commissioner Renz hires Q&A to investigate the mass murders of five teenage students and their twenty something art teacher in the Fairchild Hotel.  Each of the six victims had the initials D.O.A. carved into their head.  Quinn realizes that the victims, on a field trip from Ohio, had the misfortunate to meet still alive D.O.A.  With the gauntlet tossed, Quinn and D.O.A. make the rematch personal.

The latest Frank Quinn and Associates (though the A plays a smaller role than usual) investigative tale (see Twist) is an action-packed over the top of the Empire State Building big cat and big cat thriller.  Although the switching between the present in NYC, two years ago in Maine, 1992 Sarasota and 1940 Dunkirk initially is confusing, readers will anticipate the stratospheric testosterone confrontation.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Agatha Christie The Monogram Murders-Sophie Hannah

Agatha Christie The Monogram Murders
Sophie Hannah
Morrow, Sep 9 2014, $25.99
ISBN: 9780062297211

In 1929 London, Belgium refugee Hercule Poirot enjoys a late supper as the only patron at the Pleasant’s Coffee House.  A distraught woman enters the restaurant allowing wintry air inside.  Employee “Flyaway Hair” knows this troubled female Jennie who orders tea.  Introducing himself as a detective, Poirot offers to help her; but Jennie insists it is too late as she is dead and no one should look for the culprit before she makes a rushed exit.

Scotland Yard Inspector Edward Catchpool investigates the murders of three people at the Bloxham Hotel.  Two women and a man died from poisoning and inside their respective mouths is a monogrammed gold cuff link.  Due to Jennie’s lament not to open their mouths, Poirot believes the mass murders and the disturbed female who ruined his mellow dinner are part of the same case.

The enjoyable Monogram Murders is a pleasant Poirot mystery in which for the most part Sophie Hannah captures the essence of Agatha Christie’s classic sleuth and the era he did his mojo.  Readers will like the Depression Era English whodunit though purists will miss Hastings since Catchpool replaces him as the narrator; personally I do not like either of these Dr. Watson wannabees.

Harriet Klausner