Thursday, January 31, 2008

Spies, Lies And Naked Thighs-Jina Bacarr

Spies, Lies And Naked Thighs
Jina Bacarr
Harlequin Spice, Mar 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780373605224

In the Syrian Desert, her local associate framed her for murder and betrayed her to local authorities before running off with the precious artifact she found. Archaeologist Breezy Malone lingered in prison while thinking of a zillion ways to rip off Sharif’s skin one inch at a time. The FBI arranges for her escape from incarceration and recruits her to work for them.

Breezy begins her search for Sharif, but as she gets closer to her target, she meets enigmatic One-Eyed Jack; at least that is what she calls him due to his eye patch. He seems in her way, but though attracted to the man of mystery and has some doubts that they are on the same side, she remains steadfast in her pursuit of Sharif.

Breezy is the right name for this heroine who provides readers with an entertaining look at espionage especially the final crushing confrontation (probably every female has had that desire at least once in their life. Filled with action, SPIES, LIES AND NAKED THIGHS is a fun chick lit thriller with a touch of romance to add spice to a fun tale of intrigue. Hopefully Jina Bacarr will provide her fans with more Breezy thrillers.

Harriet Klausner

When Zeffie Got A Clue-Peggy Darty

When Zeffie Got A Clue
Peggy Darty
Waterbrook, Mar 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9781400073337

In Florida, eight year old Zeffie Adams brings an old worthless jewelry box into the I Saw It First junk shop because the kid needs money to pay some of her grandma’s bills. Co-owner Christy Castleman (along with her Aunt Bobbie Bodine) gives Zeffie a lot more money than the box is worth.

However, to her surprise Christy finds an appraisal slip in the box’s lining that she believes gives her a clue to the cold case murder of Kirby Strickland who was shot to death when jewels belonging to Annabel Strickland that were once in the box were stolen. Knowing she owes Kirby who saved her life, published mystery writer Christy ignores the admonition of her police officer boyfriend and investigates the homicide not realizing the danger she places herself in with her inquiries.

This entertaining regional cozy returns Christy and company for a second mystery (see WHEN BOBBIE SANG THE BLUES). This time the mystery writer works a cold case that is very personal to her and others. The cast is solid as Christy leisurely investigates the link between the jewel robbery and the homicide.

Harriet Klausner

The Sudoku Puzzle Murders-Parnell Hall

The Sudoku Puzzle Murders
Parnell Hall
Dunne, Apr 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780312370909

In Bakerhaven, Connecticut, Cora Felton, the nationally recognized Puzzle lady, is standing in the parking lot when Japanese publisher Hideki Takiyama comes up to her and introduces himself. He says she is famous in Japan and he wants to write a Puzzle Lady Sudoko puzzle book. She refers him to her niece Sherry Carter who negotiates all her contracts. Later Sherry goes to sign a contact only to learn she signed with Hideki’s rival Aoki Yoshiaki who is married to the lovely Reiko.

Cora is at the sheriff’s office when a call comes in that there has been a murder. At the crime scene, Cora sees a man with his face sliced in half and it becomes obvious he was dumped here. They find out he was a private investigator from New York. A few days later, Cora sees Sherry’s ex following Aoki and Reiko who are followed by another investigator form New York. The second New York private investigator is found dead very near where his predecessor was dumped with a samurai sward in him. The sheriff asks Cora to help him figure out what is going on; since she loves a puzzle, she agrees to assist him.

The fun of the Puzzle Lady mysteries starts and finish with the aptly nicknamed heroine who never takes herself seriously. She is a smart-mouthed sassy broad who does her own thing regardless of what others think. Her antics and asides bring humor into a serious complex whodunit that leaves readers spinning in admiration.

Harriet Klausner

No One Heard Her Scream-Jordan Dane

No One Heard Her Scream
Jordan Dane
Avon, Apr 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061252785

Five months ago, San Antonio Police Detective Rebecca "Becca" Montgomery’s younger sister, Dani, vanished without a trace. Distraught, Becca keeps “shadowing” the case led by dedicated professional Detective Paul Murphy who wants her to stay out of his investigation. To somewhat occupy her mind and to get her away from fighting her peer, Becca’s boss Lieutenant Arturo Santiago assigns her to look into the humans ashes found at a burned down theater.

Becca knows why her boss assigned her this case, but plans to conduct a professional inquiry. At the inferno sight, Becca glances at the crowd of curious on-lookers, but only one person seems out of place. The human remains are that of a female skeleton with only an expensive locket nearby; the victim was walled inside a “prison” during the last renovation with evidence she was interred while she still lived. Becca learns the out of place stranger is Diego Galvan, who works for allegedly corrupt businessman Hunter Cavanaugh. Diego informs Becca to be careful with her investigation as her case touches Cavanaugh and his nasty Matt Brogan

This is a superb police procedural with enough of a romance between Becca and Diego to enhance the investigation. Becca is a strong protagonist who knows she is over the edge over her sister, but cannot stop herself from wanting to break Murphy’s nose. Ironically readers know Diego’s intentions while Becca wonders whose side is he on. Fans will enjoy the exciting first “No One” tale as the lead pair each has hidden agendas that come before any feelings they might have for one another.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Catch a Shadow-Patricia Potter

Catch a Shadow
Patricia Potter
Berkley, Mar 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425221198

In Atlanta as the hit and run victim is dying he pleads with emergency medic technician Kirke Palmer to deliver an envelope to someone named Mitch Edwards. Reluctantly she agrees to this death bed wish. However, she may have reconsidered her granting the final favor if she knew the trouble she lands in from a corrupt lethal former CIA operative.

In 2000 when the South American special op mission failed, Jake Kelly thought he was the sole survivor. He took the fall for the incident though he is unsure what he could have done different and spent time in jail. Now he is free only to receive a call from Del Cox, who allegedly died during that last deadly mission. He rushes to Atlanta to find Del dead and he soon meets Kirke whose letter might clarify what really happened on the day his life was ruined. He vows to keep her safe, but soon realizes the advantage of having a paramedic at his side.

Kirke is a terrific damsel in distress as she learns no good deed goes unpunished when she tries to carry out the death bed wish; she also carries the story line with her. Readers will join her and Jake as they tour Atlanta trying to stay one step ahead of their deadly enemies while seeking who inside leaked his fatal mission.

Harriet Klausner

The Third Circle-Amanda Quick

The Third Circle
Amanda Quick
Putnam, April 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780399154843

Dressed in men’s formal attire, Leona Hewitt sneaks into Lord Delbridge’s home while he hosts a party for his male friends and their courtesans. Leona works with the energy of crystal helping heal troubled souls; she currently is seeking the Aurora Stone that belongs by rights to her family although it has been stolen periodically for its alleged power. When she finds the museum room, Leona sees a man looking at the body of a dead woman lying on the floor. Thaddeus Ware also looks for the Aurora Stone, which he intends to return to the Arcane Society as the gem is as much a heaing tool as it is a deadly weapon.

Leona finds the stone but Thaddeus takes it; triggering a poison that will drive him insane and eventually kill him. Leona saves his life by using her Aura Stone to heal the hypnotist. Delbridge plans to retrieve the stone because that is his entrance ticket to the THIRD CIRCLE of the Order of the Emerald Table, a cabal within the Arcane Society, a group dedicated to finding the Founder’s formula that will enhance paranormal powers. His desire places Leona in danger because she is the only person who can safely use the Aurora Stone; Thaddeus understands her value to the Third Circle and vows to keep her safe even if she rejects his protection.

THE THIRD CIRCLE is Amanda Quick at her mesmerizing best with an enchanting historical romantic suspense that contains a rousing romp, an intriguing mystery, and a touch of the fantasy that come together nicely in a cleverly crafted story line. The quirky cast is fully developed with a couple of the support players seemingly capable of carrying out their own adventures. However, Leona owns this tale as she defies the rules of society to do what she believes is right.

Harriet Klausner

Gambit-Karna Small Bodman

Karna Small Bodman
Forge, Feb 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765319289

Computer scientist Dr. Cameron "Cammy" Talbot has little time to sit on her laurels following the CHECKMATE technology she and her team created that prevented war between India and Pakistan. Recently a terrorist has developed a missile system that has shot down commercial aircraft; Mr. President, Vice President Jayson Keller, and their top National Security advisor Austin Gage wants her and her Bandaq Technologies team to create an antimissile gizmo to place on planes so that the cock pit can be aware of a deadly incoming and destroy it.

She visits her associate Dr. Wen Hu at MIT for assistance, but soon afterward someone kills him and destroys his lab. She realizes that she is next and a few somewhat amateurish but potentially lethal assaults occur. Cammy turns to her former lover, Special Assistant to the President for Arms Control and Strategic defense Lieutenant Colonel Hunt Daniels for protection while few fly and more die who do.

More a romantic suspense (even the VEEP wants Cammy) than a thriller, readers will enjoy this race against the clock each day means more deaths and less air traffic. The story line grips the audience as the enemy technology seems plausible. Although the romantic subplot is well written it feels out of place as the excitement is with stopping the adversaries soonest.

Harriet Klausner

Biting the Bullet-Jennifer Rardin

Biting the Bullet
Jennifer Rardin
Orbit, Feb 2008, $12.99
ISBN: 9780316020589

The CIA assigns its top operative Vayl the vampire and his crew including Jaz Parks to team up with a special ops unit headed by Jaz’s twin brother Dave to stop deadly vampiric necromancer the Wizard. The squad will need to stealthy penetrate Iran where the adversary hides while performing seditious terrorist acts against the United States and its allies.

The straightforward but difficult case proves much more complex because the fundamentalist Reavers hunt Jaz, as she was recently demonized. Worse someone on their joint team is giving away battle plans to the enemy; allowing the Wizard to constantly be ahead of them. Jaz's spirit guide Raoul is acting more like a blithering idiotic Oracle while Vayl seems uninterested in their mission as he focuses on what appears to his top aid and bodyguard. Unless something dramatic or miraculous occurs like exposing the enemy from within, Jaz knows their mission will fail and they easily could be permanently dead.

In her third CIA chick lit urban fantasy (see ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST and ONCE BITTEN, TWICE SHY) Jaz Parks is at her cheeky amusing yet exhilarating best. The story line told from her mocking viewpoint is fast-paced as she manages to make the paranormal elements and species seem genuine and the mission essential and dangerous. Fans will appreciate her latest tale as she argues with her spirit guide to get with the program, battles with her superior to stay focused, and debates with her brother who’s in charge. About the only thing she is not arguing is who’s on first because she knows that’s her as she struggles with completing the mission and staying alive.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Cold Dark Place-Gregg Olsen

A Cold Dark Place
Gregg Olsen
Pinnacle, Mar 2008, $6.99
ISBN 9780786018307

In Cherrystone, Washington, the tornado touched down on the Marin home. Former Seattle homicide detective Emily Kenyon goes to see if her neighbors are okay; besides the storm devastation that razed the house, she finds three brutally murdered corpses. It is who she does not see that concerns her; the fourth member of the Martin family, Nick is missing.

As Emily wonders whether he could be a vicious mass killer, she learns her teenage daughter Jenna has run away with Nick; apparently Jenna plans to help him prove his innocence. Worried for her daughter’s safety from either Nick as a stone cold killer or an unknown predator, Emily hopes to find them before someone else is hurt. However, she remains clueless that the homicides tie back to two decades of killings and the tragic case that led to her leaving SPD.

A COLD DARK PLACE is an exciting action-packed investigative thriller that is much more complicated than the simplified description above. Emily keeps the tale focused as she goes from one horror to another starting with the tornado, the three homicides, the missing son, and culminating with her daughter running off with potentially the killer. Fans will enjoy Greg Olsen’s fabulous whodunit as he escorts the audience back and forth between the present and twenty years ago in a strong mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Deadly Deceptions-Linda Lael Miller

Deadly Deceptions
Linda Lael Miller
Harlequin HQN, Mar 2008, $7.99
ISBN 9780373772568

In Cave Creek, Arizona private investigator Mary Josephine “Mojo Sheepshanks” Mayhugh knows she lacks experience, but her ability to communicate with ghosts gives her edge to overcome her sleuthing naïveté. Mojo is adamant that her mission in life is to help those unable to move on find peace by resolving what keeps them hanging around the moral plane. At the same she depends on these otherworldly assistants to help her with her mortal cases.

Following a ballet lesson, seven-year-old deaf-mute Gillian Pellaway is strangled; her stepfather is accused of the crime as he was taking her home; Gillian pleads with Mojo to help prove his innocence. Soon after that someone kills womanizing Alex Pennington; Mojo’s wannabe boyfriend homicide detective Tucker Darroch arrests the victim’s wife Greer, Mojo’s adopted sister.

The second Mojo paranormal private investigative tale (see DEADLY GAMBLE) is a terrific tale filled with dead and live red herrings, plenty of twists, and ghosts who demand the heroine solve their case. Mojo with her mumbo and moxie makes DEADLY DECEPTION fun to follow as she uses spiritual assistance to find hard proof that Greer is innocent in spite of her having the means, motive, and opportunity. With two Mojo mysteries so far, Linda Lael Miller appears to have a hit series for fans to appreciate.

Harriet Klausner

Deadly Deceptions-Linda Lael Miller

Deadly Deceptions
Linda Lael Miller
Harlequin HQN, Mar 2008, $7.99
ISBN 9780373772568

In Cave Creek, Arizona private investigator Mary Josephine “Mojo Sheepshanks” Mayhugh knows she lacks experience, but her ability to communicate with ghosts gives her edge to overcome her sleuthing naïveté. Mojo is adamant that her mission in life is to help those unable to move on find peace by resolving what keeps them hanging around the moral plane. At the same she depends on these otherworldly assistants to help her with her mortal cases.

Following a ballet lesson, seven-year-old deaf-mute Gillian Pellaway is strangled; her stepfather is accused of the crime as he was taking her home; Gillian pleads with Mojo to help prove his innocence. Soon after that someone kills womanizing Alex Pennington; Mojo’s wannabe boyfriend homicide detective Tucker Darroch arrests the victim’s wife Greer, Mojo’s adopted sister.

The second Mojo paranormal private investigative tale (see DEADLY GAMBLE) is a terrific tale filled with dead and live red herrings, plenty of twists, and ghosts who demand the heroine solve their case. Mojo with her mumbo and moxie makes DEADLY DECEPTION fun to follow as she uses spiritual assistance to find hard proof that Greer is innocent in spite of her having the means, motive, and opportunity. With two Mojo mysteries so far, Linda Lael Miller appears to have a hit series for fans to appreciate.

Harriet Klausner

A Stranger's Game- Joan Johnston

A Stranger's Game
Joan Johnston
Pocket, Mar 2008, $25.00
ISBN 9780743454384

Ten years ago Merle Raye Finkel was convicted of killing her abusive father Austin police detective Big Mike; something she dreamed of doing many times when he assaulted her or her stepmother or flushed her live turtle down the toilet to punish her, but she never did. When she was freed from an Austin youth facility, she changed her name to Grace Caldwell and began a quest to uncover the identity of the true killer.

Her clues begin to point towards FBI Assistant Special Agent Vincent Harkness, whose current assignment is security for the president’s visit to the University of Texas at Austin. Grace meets FBI Supervisory Special Agent Breed Grayhawk, who she hopes will provide her insider info about his superior. As they fall in love, he hides her when he realizes the Feds are gunning for her; especially when he knows she is innocent yet accused of planning to assassinate the president.

This is an interesting Bitter Creek FBI romantic suspense starring an intrepid heroine and the gutsy hero who risks his career and his freedom for the woman he loves and believes in even when the evidence condemns her. The storyline is action-packed and filled with entertaining twists. Although a spin involving a Texas Ranger is more a set up for the next tale and feels out of place in A STRANGER’S GAME, series fans will appreciate this dynamic entry.

Harriet Klausner

Chasing Cans-Laura Crum

Chasing Cans
Laura Crum
Perseverance press, Apr 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9781880284940

Nobody is more surprised than Gail McCarthy is that her veterinarian career that meant the world to her now takes second fiddle to raising her one years old son Mac. She was supposed to return to her practice soon after giving birth, but keeps putting it off; preferring to be a stay at home mommy. The only fly in the ointment is her new neighbor Lindee Sloan who owns and operates a barrel racing training establishment. Gail becomes incensed when Lindee blackmails her neighbor Joan into leasing her pasture where the vet keeps her horses.

Gail goes to have a chat with Lindee, but sees her enemy on a horse that balks at the third barrel before tossing her rider and crushing her. To Gail, it seemed as if Lindee pulled the horse on top of her in what looked like a bizarre accident. Not long after that deadly incident, a trainer rides a horse when the woman falls unconscious and the horse kicks her in the head. Gail reconsiders her opinion on Lindee’s death as the two lethal events seem unlikely unless someone caused it. She investigates naively unaware of how dangerous sleuthing can be for her and Mac.

Laura Crum’s love of horses shines through her mysteries. In this case the key to the whodunit is that everyone who met Lindee quickly despised her including the usually tolerant Gail. However, it is the second incident that makes Gail wonders if someone hated the two riders so much he or she killed them; the probability of two accidents or an accident/suicide seemingly insignificant. Lead Police Detective Jeri feels Gail’s insight is helpful and asks her to join the investigation into the deaths of two riders. CHASING CANS is a terrific puzzler starting with murder or not.

Harriet Klausner

Winter Haven-Athol Dickson

Winter Haven
Athol Dickson
Bethany House, Apr 2008, $18,99
ISBN: 9780764201646

Siggy was fifteen years old when he left home; his sister Vera Gamble blames herself for his disappearance. She believes she suffers from hallucinations, but outgrows them as she got older because she no longer thought of her vanished severely autistic brother who only spoke in biblical quotes. One day while she at work she receives a call that Siggy’s body washed up on the Maine barrier island Winter Haven.

As she approaches the island by boat, the fog that engulfs it gives Winter Haven an eerie appearance. When the constable shows her Siggy’s body, Vera is shocked as he has not aged at all; he still looks like the teen who left home years ago. When she mentions this to the constable, the cop refuses to allow Vera to take the body home. Vera rents a room at a B&B and explores the island. She hears strange thumping noises like an axe splitting wood and sees with her peripheral vision a dark figure who disappears before she can fully focus. In town it rains black stones on her only and she hears hissing sounds that no one else seems to hear. Vera wonders if she is going crazy or is there a logical explanation to the happenings.

WINTER HAVEN is a good old fashion gothic mystery complete with a brooding love interest for Vera even though her landlady warns her against getting involved with him. Vera is a fine character who believes she is ungodly and part crazy. Life on a small island is vividly described especially how the residents thrive on their isolation, which adds to the eerie atmosphere. Fans will enjoy stopping at Winter Haven as long as Athol Dickson guides us.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, January 28, 2008

Every Move You Make-Carla Cassidy

Every Move You Make
Carla Cassidy
Signet, Mar 2008, $6.99
ISBN 9780451223432

In Kansas City, Annalise “Dollmaker” Blakely continues to make the two dolls a year that her mother started thirty years ago with the first “Annalise” doll to honor her daughter’s birth. Since her beloved mom recently died, Annalise struggles 24/7 to keep her mom’s business from going bankrupt. Worse her estranged dad wants back in now that her mom is dead; she does not trust the man who sired her to do anything but siphon funds for his personal use.

Meanwhile her best friend, PR guru Danika wants to date homicide detective Tyler King. Instead Tyler prefers courting Annalise. However, their attraction is put on hold when a serial killer begins strangling women to death before turning them into looking like an Annalise doll. She is the prime suspect even as the killer gloats that he/she is the Real Dollmaker.

This is an enjoyable serial killer romance starring two likable protagonists and a stereotypical psychopath. The story line is fast-paced with the relationship between the sleuth and the doll maker cleverly designed so that he has some niggling doubts as to whether she is the killer. Fans will enjoy Carla Cassidy’s latest romantic suspense thriller as Annalise and Tyler make a fine couple

Harriet Klausner

Poison Pen-Sheila Lowe

Poison Pen
Sheila Lowe
Obsidian, Apr 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451223692

She is a graphologist forensic handwriting expert whose clients range from business people who want to check out job applicants to police who use Claudia Rose as an additional tool in their crime investigations. Both divergent groups agree she is always on the money with her assessments.

Claudia and her friend Kelly attend the funeral of their childhood friend Hollywood publicist Lindsey Alexander, who allegedly committed suicide leaving behind an explanatory note written in block letters. Her business manager Ivan does not believe Lindsey killed herself and hires Claudia to prove it. The handwriting is suspicious since Lindsey always wrote in cursive not print although the deceased’s sleazy brother gives Claudia photos to prove otherwise as Lindsey printed on them. The pictures do make it quite clear that Lindsey was a victim of child sexual abuse. Ivan is going to makes an out of town trip and finds some incendiary evidence amidst Lindsey’s belongings. He asks Claudia to come over to his house to look at them; she does, but when she arrives she find him lying dead. She takes the flash drive lying under him home to find it contains a spread sheet of high profiles people into kink. Claudia learns Lindsey was blackmailing them so now has a motive for homicide, but whom. Soon someone shoots at her and her house is broken into and is somewhat trashed. Obviously an unknown adversary wants the case dropped.

Claudia is a strong willed independent person who persists even while skeptics scoff at her profession as being voodoo forensics. The romance between her and the lead detective adds a personalized dimension to the story line without intruding on the inquiry. Among Lindsey’s clients are DC and California politicians and Hollywood superstars with the power and money to hire a pro to make it look like a suicide, but who remains just out of reach.

Harriet Klausner

Murder of a Chocolate Covered Cherry-Denise Swanson

Murder of a Chocolate Covered Cherry
Denise Swanson
Obsidian, Apr 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451223685

In Scumble River, Illinois it is time for Grandma Sal’s Soup-to-Nuts Cooking Challenge. School psychologist and police consultant Skye Dennison reluctantly enters the competition along with her brother and honoree uncle because her mother May wants to win this year and her family is using recipes she created. Mrs. Cherry Alexander is getting on everyone’s nerves with her caustic commentary and her dirty tricks, but no one expected her to be murdered for her nasty personality.

Skye is asked by her boyfriend Police Chief Wally Boyd to help on the case; she hesitantly agrees. She is also concerned that one of her students Ashley is missing. She had an unauthorized article written in the school paper that claimed she had sex with the entire male basketball team. Everyone insists that Xenia who wrote the article kidnapped Ashley. Skye works both cases unaware they are linked to one another.

Denise Swanson has written a wonderful small town cozy. The eccentric locals provide much humor yet that enhances the seriousness of the two investigations by bringing a reality of distance from the homicide and missing teen case. Skye wears two hats that she normally balances, but this time they overpay as trouble has come to idyllic Scumble River.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hidden in Havana-Jose LaTour

Hidden in Havana
Jose LaTour
St. Martin's, Mar 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780312375676

Two Canadian tourists Sean Abercorn and his wife Marina Leucci jog the streets of Havana when they realize they did not bring enough water with them. To avoid dehydration, they ring the bell of an apartment occupied by siblings Pablo and Elena Miranda. Elena, a special education teacher, lets them in so they can cool off and gives them water.

Pablo is upset with his sister for allowing the strangers into their home as he suspects they cannot be trusted; he ponders what their real intent is. Soon after their encounter, someone murders Pablo. The Department of Technical Investigations Captain Felix Trujillo leads the official inquiry. Although connections between the victim and an illegal but money-making pornography scam surfaces, Trujillo thinks the link is to Pablo’s imprisoned father, who was a key figure in the overthrow of Batista back in the late of 1950s. What he remains ignorant of is the New York Viet Nam links.

Although the focus is mostly on the two tourists rather than on the more typical honest cop working a case within the bounds of a corrupt broken system, readers will appreciate HIDDEN IN HAVANA as the Cuban capital comes alive through the eyes of the outsiders. The story line is fast-paced even with ties back to the pre-Castro era. Fans of international crime capers with somewhat of a foreign police procedural to anchor it will relish Trujillo’s case while wanting him to return for more Cuban investigations.

Harriet Klausner

Murder Is Binding-Lorna Barrett

Murder Is Binding
Lorna Barrett
Berkley, Apr 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780425219584

The town of Stoneham, New Hampshire is considered the safest place in the sate because it hasn’t had a murder in sixty years. However, Stoneham is ironically also a dying town until the President of the Chamber of Commerce and owner of Kelly ERealty Bob Kelly lured several used specialty bookstore owners to open shops on Main Street.

One of the newcomers is Tricia Miles who opened her mystery bookstore. When she visits the cookbook store, Tricia finds proprietor Doris Gleason dead with a knife in her chest. The rare cookbook that Doris purchased is missing. The female sheriff has taken an instant dislike of Tricia and is determined to find enough evidence to prove she killed Doris; she looks nowhere else for motives. When the victim’s twin sister arrives to take over the cookbook store, Tricia is shocked that the newcomer has no interest in who killed her sibling. Tricia begins her own inquiries to clear her name and soon finds an elderly woman committed to a nursing home due to dementia but seems quite lucid when they talk. As local businessman Mike shows he is interested in her as does the sheriff for different reasons Tricia keeps digging to uncover who killed Doris.

Stoneham seems so real that readers will regret when they recall it is fictional as it seems like a heavenly place to foliage for books. The townsfolk are friendly and helpful to Tricia and other newcomers, but in the heroine’s case that somewhat changes when many assume she is the killer; their logic is impeccable as why else would the sheriff consider her a person of major (and only) person of interest. Fans of regional amateur sleuth cozies will want to visit the bookstores of Stoneham guided by Tricia as she learns first hand that MURDER IS BINDING.

Harriet Klausner

French Pressed-Cleo Coyle

French Pressed
Cleo Coyle
Berkley, Apr 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780425220498

Clare Cosi, manager of the famous Village Blend Coffeehouse, is having dinner at Manhattan’s Solange French cuisine restaurant with her former mother-in-law. Her daughter Joy works as an intern in the kitchen; Clare is concerned because Joy is violating the cardinal rule of restaurant employment having an affair with the married chief chef Tommy Keitel, who is also three decades older. To keep a closer eye on her offspring, Clare cuts a coffee deal with Tommy that enables her entrance to the vaunted kitchen. Inside she sees Tommy’s second in command looking like she wants to kill Joy.

Later Joy calls her mom and tells her she found her friend Vinny dead in his apartment with a knife in his back. The police interrogate Joy as they consider her a viable suspect. Later, she becomes the prime suspect in Keitel’s death because earlier that night he broke their affair publicly and he was dispatching her to another restaurant to complete her internship. Clare who has solved other homicides begins an inquiry into both homicides with the help of her boyfriend Detective Mike Quinn to prove her daughter is innocent.

French cuisine, specialty caffeine, and cozy lovers will find FRENCH PRESSED a delicious tasty mystery, but do not read on an empty stomach. The whodunit is cleverly constructed so that fans will not only fail to figure out who the culprit is but begin to think Joy did it. Quirky Clare has come a long way since she went THROUGH THE GRINDER and made her first cup of coffee, but remains a strong caring independent woman. She makes this perky series so good that readers can smell the coffee.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Cheating at Solitaire-Jane Haddam

Cheating at Solitaire
Jane Haddam
St. Martin's, Mar 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780312343088

In Philadelphia Gregor Demarkian and Bennis Hannaford are planning to marry after seeing each other exclusively for quite some time. However, the wedding preparation demands are driving the sleuth crazy. He considers eloping, but his beloved Bennis is looking forward to the ceremony celebrated with their family and friends.

Thus when he has an opportunity to escape to New England to work on a high visibility homicide, he does not need a second invitation; Gregor informs Bennis that whatever she does re the nuptials in his absence is acceptable by him as he leaves town immediately for Margaret's Harbor. Famous celebrity Arrow Normand and her boyfriend of the moment Mark Anderman were filming on location when she was murdered during a nasty nor'easter. Normand was arrested for the murder.

CHEATING AT SOLITAIRE is a terrific whodunit as the hero struggles with a case involving pseudo and 15 minute celebrities; a sub-species he does not understand. Gregor’s difficulties with what makes the shallow in-crowd tick turn this into a superior entry in a strong series, as he cannot find a reliable motive for the homicide while also working a couple of other investigations.

Harriet Klausner

Separated at Death-Sheldon Rusch

Separated at Death
Sheldon Rusch
Berkley, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780425219485

On the day she became engaged to Brady, Illinois State special agent Elizabeth Hewitt is assigned to what will prove to be one of the most horrific cases of her career. She and the daughter of her mentoring Captain has is daughter Jen Spangler job shadowing her. They are sent to the house of Rita Vandermause. There they find her body in a pool of blood, but her head is nowhere around. The obvious first suspect is the victim’s estranged husband Joe, but he is found dead with his head missing too.

A second couple is soon discovered dead with their heads missing. Elizabeth and Jen seek the common threads and learn the latest pair was estranged and like the first duet went to Big Shoulders Therapies for marriage counseling; the other commonality is psychiatrist Dr. Gerald Boccachio. Matters turn bizarre when pictures of the dead couples dressed up for a wedding are sent to Mundelein Dispatch owner Byron Biffle, whose father was murdered several years ago in a still unsolved case. Elizabeth has quite a list of suspects so she sends Jen to interview the person she considers least dangerous; her assessment will prove wrong.

SEPARATED AT DEATH is an exciting police procedural showcasing an experienced cop mentoring a criminology student who starts off shadowing her but eventually persuades her teacher to allow her some independent field work. Both women are believable as bright and independent role models. There is plenty of action in this complex mystery, but the heart of the tale is the strong cast because this makes for a credible and terrific investigation by the two dedicated sleuths.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 25, 2008

Nightshade-Susan Wittig Albert

Susan Wittig Albert
Berkley, April 2008, $23.95, 304 pp.
ISBN: 9780425219560

Recently, China Boyles learned she had an illegitimate half-brother Miles sired by her father on his secretary Laura who worked in his law firm. He never knew the man he called uncle was really his dad until his biological father died leading to Miles finding letters written to his mother. They implied he was in danger and so were Laura and Miles. Miles believes that the car accident that killed his father was in reality a murder.

China is not interested in reconnecting with her past to find out if her father was murdered but her husband McQuaid, now a private detective, is very interested for numerous reasons. When Miles thinks he located the car that his father died in, he asks McQuaid to meet him at a designated spot. When he doesn’t show up, China and McQuaid learn he was killed in the garage where he parks his car for work. McQuaid is determined to carry on with the investigation and when he goes to the location of where the car is supposed to be the woman who is holding on to it looks like she is dying from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. McQuaid is sure that it was attempted murder and when he pools his information with the info on the tape Laura made that China found, they go to confront someone who might have the answers not knowing that China is in danger of getting shot.

NIGHTSHADE is one of the best books in the China Bayles series. The story is told in the first person POV from the perspectives of China and McQuaid allowing fans for the first time to understand how he thinks. They will love what they learn especially how he sees his wife and his feelings about her that he is too macho to articulate. The mystery is well thought out and the killings in the present have roots in the past. Susan Wittig Albert always delivers a fantastic mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Chasin’ the Wind-Michael Haskins

Chasin’ the Wind
Michael Haskins
Five Star, Mar 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146381

At the Key West Sail Club, three men batter Tom Hunter. His pal reporter Liam “Mad Mick” Murphy finds him and just before he goes unconscious Tom whispers Gusanos, Cuban exiles. Whereas police Chief Richard Dowlry assumes the upcoming Key West Havana Boat race brought some angry Cuban exiles to the Keys from Little Havana, Mad Mick learns otherwise. A bartender overheard three Cubans bragging about roughing up someone.

Mad Mick learns they are Jose Lopez, Carlos Gonzales and Pepe Fernandez and that the Feds are protecting these hoodlums. When Tom dies, Mick and others want justice, but the American government turns its back on the law so led by Mick, the Conch Republic eccentrics seek help from Cuban police officials.

With an obvious twist on who’s the good guys and who is the bad guys, CHASIN’ THE WIND is an engaging crime thriller that will have readers (with the exception of those who still expect to find the WMDs) rethinking the relationship with Cuba. The story line is fast-paced as the Feds protect the killing Gusanos while the locals demand justice from their government but turn elsewhere to achieve it. Fans will ponder did Mick and crew commit treason by going to Cuba and did the Gusanos commit murder since the government “sanctioned” them and the government makes the law. Michael Haskins provides an offbeat entertaining thriller that will remind ancient boomers of Phil Ochs’ Ballad of William Worthy whose refrain is “You are living in the free world, in the free world you must stay”.

Harriet Klausner

Tell Me, Pretty Maiden-Rhys Bowen

Tell Me, Pretty Maiden
Rhys Bowen
St. Martin’s, Mar 2008, $23.95
ISBN 9780312349431

In 1902 in snowy Central Park Molly Murphy and her sweetheart suspended New York City police Captain Daniel Sullivan (see OH DANNY BOY) are walking together enjoying the moment. However their idyllic stroll abruptly ends when they see a scantily clad woman half buried in a snow drift. They rescue the near dead but obviously traumatized young lady.

Molly is outraged that someone could do this to another human. She vows to learn the identity of the still in shock woman and uncover who coldly left her to die. At about the same time, actress Blanche Lovejoy hires Molly to investigate the spiritual mischief that is devastating her production of a play scheduled to open shortly but is in trouble due to the ghostly vandalism. Although her time is already tight, Molly agrees to make inquiries into the vanished nephew of a wealthy client, who wants to know if her relative disappeared to avoid a homicide prosecution or is the victim of foul play.

Molly’s business is booming so she hires an assistant, an out of work cop who is dating her. Fascinatingly, the cases tie together in the theater leading to Molly going on stage to solve the mysteries. Readers will appreciate the latest entry of the unsinkable Molly Murphy as she continues to prove that she can make it in Manhattan.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Names on a Map-Benjamin Alire Saenz

Names on a Map
Benjamin Alire Saenz
Harper, Feb 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9780061285691

In 1967 El Paso, insurance salesman Octavio Espejo is happily married to Lourdes as they raise three children together. However, the blight in his mind to his American lifestyle is his Mexican roots; Octavio has not been back or seen his family ever since he was ferried across the Rio Grande as a child.

However, his children begin to reconsider their national identity. Teenager Gustavo has received the certified “Greetings” letter directing him to report to basic training; which in the Chicano border communities means tours of Viet Nam. He does not want to go as he is becoming aware of freedom fighting in America not Southeast Asia. His twin sister Xochil still struggles to overcome her anger and acrimony over being raped when she was twelve years old. Both wonder if America is where they belong.

This is a strong timely historical character driven thriller as Benjamin Alire Saenz enables the reader to look deep into the Espejo family whose members each struggle differently with assimilation at a time of women’s liberation, civil rights especially the growing Chicano awareness, and cutting across all is Nam. NAMES ON A MAP is insightful as the children reconsider and resist Americanization understanding the nightmare while their parents have doubts but embrace the dream.

Harriet Klausner

Unknown Means-Elizabeth Becka

Unknown Means
Elizabeth Becka
Hyperion, Feb 2008, $22.95
ISBN: 9781401301750

Cleveland Medical Examiner Evelyn James knows her life is full between work and her personal relationships. A single mom Evelyn struggles not to murder her glowering teenage daughter Angel and tries to separate her romance with homicide detective David Milaski from their work together.

The current case involves the murder of twenty-eight years old affluent Grace Markham in her locked apartment inside a secure building. Not too long after the homicide, Metro General Hospital ER Doctor Bailey calls her at two in the morning because someone assaulted her friend Marissa Gonzalez, who lives in the same building as Grace did. Another similar homicide occurs. Evelyn, David and his partner, Bruce Riley investigate trying to find the link between the victims at a time the case load starting with the Lake Erie underwater explosion affirms to Evelyn that twenty-four hours is not enough time in a day.

The anti Kay Scarpetta (personality that is), Evelyn holds this strong police procedural together. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as Evelyn and the police team look for clues at the Markham crime scene and never slows down even when she investigate the Lake Erie explosion while almost crapping in her underwear out of fear. Readers will like this forensic police tale and seek Evelyn’s previous appearance (see TRACE EVIDENCE).

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Cross- Ken Bruen

Ken Bruen
St. Martin’s, Mar 2008, $23.95
ISBN 9780312341428

In Galway detective Jack Taylor feels his past has caught up with him as the years of boozing has wracked his body. A loner due to his alcoholism, he is emotionally shattered when his apprentice Cody was shot when Jack was the intended victim. Jack decides it is time to cross the pond and start anew in America.

While Cody remains in the hospital, Jack’s solo friend lesbian Gardai Ridge persuades him to help her on a monstrous series of murders. The first victim was crucified alive followed by the burning at the stake of his sister. Jack’s investigation leads him to a grieving twenty year old woman screaming for fire and brimstone against those involved in a hit and run that killed her bible thumping mother.

The Jack Taylor Irish thrillers are some of the most exciting tales on the market, but CROSS may be the best yet as Ken Bruen plays brilliant word games with connotations, denotations, and implications of the title word. The story line is filled with action yet enables the reader to know Jack who personally understands crippling grief as he believes suffering is as Irish as stew.

Harriet Klausner

The Price of Blood-Declan Hughes

The Price of Blood
Declan Hughes
Morrow, Mar 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780060825515

In Dublin, Father Vincent Tyrrell hires private investigator Ed Loy to find missing jockey Patrick Hutton. The case is made complex by the fact that his client offers only a name and that Hutton disappeared about a decade ago. Loy wants to say forget it as he figures he has little chance of finding the man, but the fee is too good to ignore.

Loy knows he must tread the streets very carefully as the Halligan family plan to rough him and more because they hold him culpable for one of them residing behind bars. As he makes inquiries on another case involving a homicide that leads back to Father Vincent’s brother affluent business mogul F.X. Tyrell, Loy soon finds himself investigating two other related homicides connected to the Tyrell family. Beaten severely and told to back off or else, Loy keeps digging until the trail takes him to the four-day Leopardstown Race-course Christmas Festival.

In his third appearance (see THE COLOR OF BLOOD and THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD) Loy does what he does best: gets tattered and threatened but keeps on ticking. The story line is fast-paced from the opening request and though filled with neat twists never slows down until the final altercation. Bruised, battered and beaten, Loy still conducts intelligent inquires whose link is F.X. Private investigative fans will enjoy Declan Hughes’ strong Irish mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Dead Heat-Joel C. Rosenberg

Dead Heat
Joel C. Rosenberg
Tyndale, Mar 2008, $24.99, 384 pp.
ISBN: 9781414311616

President James Macpherson is on his way to Los Angeles to give a speech at the Republican National Convention at the Staples Center. His intelligence team killed a terrorist they has been hunting for years but in his computer they find a map of the Staples Center. They think the terrorists are targeting the president but are confident that they have him protected. The Secret Service is proven wrong when container ships launch scud missiles with nuclear warheads at D.C., Seattle, Manhattan, and Southern California killing the president and many others.

Vice President Oaks is now the president and he and his advisors are in a bunker deep underground. He intends to make the country who launched the bombs pay for killing millions of Americans but he has no idea what country it is. North Korea is prepared to invade the South and could have done it as they had the means. The new president of Iraq who makes Saddam Hussein look like a choir boy hates the Americans and is in league with the U.N. Secretary-General. He is prepared to go to war to prevent the Kurdish providence from succeeding and joining the new Kurdistan. Israel builds the Third Temple to the consternation of other nations. It looks like intelligence is needed to figure out who killed America and since the infrastructure is destroyed, the US must depend on its allies and what little intelligence they have from contact with the field.

Joel C. Rosenberg writes a political thriller think is based on today’s headlines and most of the events in DEAD HEAT could conceivably happen. The action is non stop from the very first page and the politicians and elected officials feel lifelike. It is interesting to see what happens when a first strike hits America and how the country reacts to most of its land made wasted. Mr. Rosenberg is fantastic writer whose chilling and exciting novels make him one of the best thriller authors writing today.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, January 21, 2008

Island Life-Michael W. Sherer

Island Life
Michael W. Sherer
Five Star, Mar 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146336

In a Seattle suburb, Jack Holm lost his position at J Marketing Communications and has not found salaried work since; instead he has opened a marketing consulting business out of his home. His wife Mary is unhappy with this arrangement as it means she will have to accept more flight attendant assignments to supplement their income.

Mary goes shopping but fails to return home. Jack assumes she got a call for a flight and had no time to tell him. Their two children fourteen years old Kelsey and ten years old Tyler are concerned and though he hides it so is he. After a few days pass, he calls the police. Detective Ed Mankiewicz believes Mary ran off with someone else or Jack killed her. As time passes, more people begin to accept that Jack is a spouse killer until even his kids begin to wonder. Only a soccer mom thinks he is innocent. When Mary’s shallow grave is found, Ed arrests him. Desperate to prove his innocence and keep his children with him, Jack investigates Mary’s last days in hopes of finding clues to uncover the identity of his wife’s killer.

Although Jack’s logic to wait a few days before calling the cops seems off kilter and contrived to add to the belief he is guilty, readers will relish this superb crime thriller. The story line is character driven as just about everyone has convicted Jack including the cops who are not looking elsewhere. Jack is an anti hero placed in a desperate situation who responds with courage he never knew he possessed especially as he begins to unravel the motive, which links him to a dangerous person willing to kill his kids to end Jack’s pursuit.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, January 20, 2008

In the Key of Death-Robert S. Levinson

In the Key of Death
Robert S. Levinson
Five Star, Mar 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9781594146473

Although he has tried for several years to find proof to substantiate his belief that Golden Age Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Clyde “Mr. Magic” Davenport killed his beloved wife, noted singer Katie Sunshine, former LAPD Detective Josh Wainwright has failed. Keshawna Keyes, his private investigator partner at International Celebrity Services, has tried to get him to move on, but Josh remains fixated and frustrated.

Josh’s quest gets new life when former star Billy the Kid Palmer commits suicide after a visit from Mr. Magic who magnanimously provides a college trust fund for the son of his deceased former singer. That incident is followed by the murder of Mr. Magic’s girlfriend Ava Gardner at the music mogul’s Magic Land estate. The police believe Mr. Magic killed her, but he insists he did not. He hires Josh to protect him and to prove his innocence as he knows the obsessed widower will do anything to affirm his guilt. Now Josh is inside, but as he begins to unravel the truth behind Katie’s murder, other former performers of Mr. Magic die.

Although the premise that a music mogul seeks revenge against the acts he turned into stars who dumped him seems a stretch; readers will enjoy this private investigative thriller with an excellent late twist. The story line is fast-paced while the adversaries seem real as both are fixated on their respective quest. The scene in which Mr. Magic chats about the future with Billy the Kid is chilling and sets the tone for an entertaining thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Killer Year-Lee Child (editor)

Killer Year
Lee Child (editor)
St. Martin’s, Jan 22 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312374709

This interesting anthology predominantly showcases new authors whose first crime-thriller tale was published in 2007. There are also two well written essays; “The Class of Co-opetition” by MJ Rose explains the state of the publishing industry was in trouble even before the recent economic crunch so much so that grandmasters like Lee Child agreed to mentor talented wannabes; Laura Lippman adds a historical “Coda” to the compilation and what led to it. The entries are for most part strong with no clinkers and prove a delightful way to meet some of the rising stars in the crime-thriller genres. The contributions run the gamut of the two genres with the emphasis on crime. The well written tales include a messenger from Rutgers (see “Righteous Son” by Dave White) to the wheelchair philosopher who understands that one is the difference between a burden of love and a bond of love (see “Gravity of Need” by Matthew Sakey) to Jason Pinter’s on the mark “The Point Guard” to the knife wielding female in “Runaway” by Derek Nikitas. Although M.J. Rose paints a gloomy pessimistic state for the industry, she is on target with her optimism that talent abounds as affirmed by this anthology in which surely someone sliced off the top of the glass so that it is no longer half but filled to the brim.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Dark Lantern-Gerri Brightwell

The Dark Lantern
Gerri Brightwell
Crown, Mar 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780307395344

In 1893 London, housemaid Jane Wilbred obtains a position with the Bentley family by forging a glowing letter of reference and concealing that she is the daughter of an infamous murderer. Jane’s new home at thirty-two Cursitor Road is filled with plenty of shenanigans and intrigue since the matriarch is dying; however the newcomer plans to be a mouse hiding as much as possible underneath the stairs and even from her peers.

There is a harsh rivalry upstairs between the two sisters-in-laws. The older brother Henry’s wife claims her spouse died in a drowning incident while en route to England after years in Bombay; no one knows this widow, a total stranger. The younger brother Robert’s wife Mina Bentley plans to be the matriarch and objects to the outsider or returning to Paris where she and Robert lived for several years. Robert ignores the war between the sisters-in-law as his interest lies with gaining official police recognition of the science of body metrics, anthropometry. He tests his theory when the house is robbed by an intruder claiming to be him, but soon spins into something deadlier.

This is an excellent Victorian mystery as Jane steals the show with her astute observations honed by being a maid although she is very young. The story line is fast-paced once the robbery occurs and Robert begins his inquiry. Fans of historical mysteries will enjoy THE DARK LANTERN as this is a very bright well written thriller starring a strong cast especially Jane.

Harriet Klausner

Seven for a Secret-Mary Reed and Eric Mayer

Seven for a Secret
Mary Reed and Eric Mayer
Poisoned Pen, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590584897

In mid sixth century Constantinople, the lord chamberlain to Emperor Justinian, John the Eunuch, has found a confident whom he shares his concerns and issues though she does not speak back to him. Instead she is a young girl painted on a mosaic on his wall. He calls her Zoe.

One day John is stunned as he sees his Zoe on the street. He introduces himself and she says her name is Zoe and that she was the model for that mural. John is stunned by her revelations and has doubts about her name; he ponders who overheard his discussions with the wall Zoe. However, before he can confront the woman, someone brutally murders her. John assumes to silence her so he investigates not realizing his past and the Empress Theodora are intermingled with the death of Zoe.

John’s investigation is clever and fun to follow, but like the previous six numbered tales, it is the insightful look at ancient history that makes SEVEN FOR A SECRET (and its predecessors) a great reading experience. John is at his best as each step he takes is dangerous and increasingly personal as he begins to unravel ties back to himself. Ancient historical mystery readers know the John the Eunuch tales are one of the best series on the market; and though the verse is finished with SEVEN FOR A SECRET, hopefully Mary Reed and Eric Mayer will write number eight for their fans.

Harriet Klausner

Nameless Night-G. M. Ford

Nameless Night
G. M. Ford
Morrow, Feb 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780060874421

Seven years ago Paul Hardy was fortunate to survive as he was found near dead in a railroad car behind Western Station; his body broken and his mind gone. Some might take exception to the word survive as Paul has not communicated with anyone since the incident while residing at Harmony House for the disabled in Washington State.

Paul works for a local contractor doing menial physical tasks as his communication skills are almost nonexistent. He abruptly rushes towards the street and prevents a wheelchair spinning out of control from tipping saving Shirley from harm. However, in doing his heroic deed, a Lexus hits Paul instead of the woman. He is taken to the hospital where he wakes up, but insists he is not Paul Hardy; worse the face staring at him from a mirror is not the one he recognizes. Desperate, he follows vague clues floating inside his head in search of his true identity and what happened to him.

While Frank Corso and the Leo Waterman take breathers, NAMELESS NIGHT is an exhilarating conspiracy thriller starring a fascinating protagonist who struggles to learn the truth with each frustrating clue leading to deeper complications and danger. However, although exciting, the story line turns into the typical war between the FURY of a loner with no chance and the most affluent powerful American cartel with killer pros on their payroll to eliminate pests like Paul.

Harriet Klausner

The Dark Tide-Andrew Gross

The Dark Tide
Andrew Gross
Morrow, Mar 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780061143427

Charles and Karen Friedman have been married for eighteen years but are still in love. They live in a fine house, have a rustic cabin in Vermont, and take vacations in the Caribbean. One day Charles takes the train to work; Karen hears on TV news that a train was blown up in Grand Central Station; hundreds die including Charlie who was on that train.

While Karen and their kids mourn their loss, two men visit her; telling her that two hundred and fifty million dollars of investment money is missing. To her shock she learns these men are not only on the wrong side of the law, but her Charlie worked with them. Her daughter is given a warning that they better return the money or else. Karen knows she must find out what Charlie was into and neutralize the threat somehow. She receives help from Greenwich Police Detective Ty Hauck; they met when Charlie’s name and phone number appeared on a paper held by a victim of a hit and run. They begin to uncover Charlie’s darks secrets with each one making Karen wonder how little she knew her late mate.

With his second solo effort (see THE BLUE ZONE), Andrew Gross establishes himself as a rising star in the thriller genre. Although there is non-stop action from the moment of the train disaster, the key players are fully developed so that the audience feels they know them; most fascinating is Charlie who readers, empathizing with Karen, think we know him but each time a new revelation surfaces telling the audience we don’t know him at all. Karen is a person determined to learn the truth about Charlie although each new disclosure huts her soul; though a romantic subplot seems a bit off, Hauck feels that with her love he is coming back to life having had a personal tragedy to deal with.

Harriet Klausner

Dunston Falls- Al Lamanda

Dunston Falls
Al Lamanda
Five Star, Mar 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9781594145865

In 1959 the ice storm of the century cripples New England and isolates communities like Dunston Falls, Maine. Electricity is limited, and food supplies and heating are dwindling. Fifty-three years old Sheriff David Peck understands the crisis and with his deputy Jay Bender and the mayor Ed Kranston begins to bring people to the only safe spots left: the church and hospital. Diner owner Deb Robertson provides food.

Peck and Bender search for stranded residents. When they reach Doris White’s home, they find her dead; she was raped, knifed, and strangled. Peck quietly investigates the homicide, but heeding the advice of top officials to avoid a panic tells no one. However, he begins suffering severe headaches for no apparent reason and keeps envisioning a fatal fire that looks so vivid, but has no recall of such. The murder of Deb follows; since he just made love to her and was very attracted to her, a shook up Peck vows to find the killer.

This exhilarating police procedural thriller takes a wild twist into science fiction territory that works very well although surviving the storm and a serial killer is an exciting story line in of itself. Readers will receive two shocks; first the spin from mystery-suspense to sci fi, which explains the headaches; and then the identity of the killer and why. Even as fans will enjoy this entertaining tale, the audience will also wonder if the spin was needed as the survival saga was a powerful hook.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 18, 2008

Unraveling of Violeta Bell-C.R. Corwin

Unraveling of Violeta Bell
C.R. Corwin
Poisoned Pen, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590585023

For over three decades septuagenarian Maddy “Morgue Mama” Sprowls has run the information library at The Hannawa Herald-Union. Her preference is to hide in the morgue where she helps the reporters obtain what they need to do a story; she never offers a story to the editors.

However, Maddy notices four female senior citizens using a taxi to go to garage sale hopping. She thinks their travels would make a wonderful warm human interest story. So after rarely stepping into the newsroom, Maddy enters to offer her idea. To her glee, the story runs highlighting the treasure hunting of former antique dealer Violeta Bell, retired stripper Kay Hausenfelter, realtor Gloria McPhee, and philanthropist Ariel Wilburger-Gowdy. However, not long afterward, someone murders Violeta. Maddy plans to hide in the morgue, but feels guilty wondering if her article led to the homicide. She begins to DIG for clues.

The fun in this fine amateur sleuth is observing the changing reactions of Maddy during the story line especially as she feels come culpability so reluctantly investigates only to learn she is enjoying the sleuthing; she hides that from everyone who sees the irritable and kvetching Morgue Mama. The four garage sale hoppers are unique eccentric protagonists. Violeta insists that she is the rightful queen of Romania; Kay’s willing to perform an exotic dance; Gloria is ready to show off a house at any time except garage sale time; and Ariel wants to save the world one garage at a time. Fans will enjoy Maddy’s inquiry into this elderly quartet (starting with the deceased) and other suspects, as this is an enjoyable Morgue Mama murder mystery (see THE CROSS KISSES BACK and DIG)

Harriet Klausner

Waterloo Sunset- Martin Edwards

Waterloo Sunset
Martin Edwards
Poisoned Pen, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9781590584415

Liverpool attorney Harry Devlin is stunned when he receives a newspaper notice announcing his death; he assumes it is a practical joke albeit a poor one. However, over the next few days, someone sends him menacing messages. He knows his career has left him with many enemies, but he considers who would actually intimidate him and probably act on the desire to see him dead.

He narrows his focus to two unsatisfied former clients; violent prone Tom Gunter and easy to anger Aled Borth. Whereas vicious Tom blames Harry for failing to defend him; Aled holds the lawyer responsible for losing his homicidal negligence suit against the nursing home where his mother died. Regardless of who it is; Harry will do what he always does: confront this stalker face to face once he identifies the culprit.

Although Harry is a lawyer and his previous caper ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE a legal thriller, WATERLOO SUNSET is an excellent investigative thriller. The story line is fast-paced and at times over the top, but grips the reader as Harry puts his face into someone else’s visage, quite often. Fans will enjoy this cat and mouse caper with Harry seemingly one step away from confronting his tormentor.

Harriet Klausner

The Guilty-Jason Pinter

The Guilty
Jason Pinter
Mira, Mar 2008, $7.99
ISBN 9780778324638

Although he only recently graduated from school, reporter Henry Parker has already made THE MARK as the news and as a journalist at the New York Gazette. Henry currently is investigating the serial killing Boy, who employs an antique Winchester 1873 to murder his victims.

Once again Henry is both part of the story and an investigative reporter. When the Boy killed his first quarry, diva Athena Paradis, he left behind a note quoting an article by Henry. The intrepid journalist soon uncovers a link to a nineteenth century Wild West outlaw, but cannot see the connection to the Boy or how he selects his victims. Meanwhile the Boy murders several other people as a desperate Henry turns to rival Dispatch reporter Paulina Cole for help.

The second Parker journalistic investigation is a fabulous thriller as the key players come across as real in this murderous game of cat and mouse. The story line is fast-paced with a bit of romance in the air. The ending is superb and will prove to be one of the best of the year. Fans will believe Jason Pinter hit THE MARK with this excellent serial killer thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Chinaman-Friedrich Glauser

The Chinaman
Friedrich Glauser
Bitter Lemon, Feb 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 1904738214

In Bern, Switzerland James Farny’s corpse is found lying on top of the recently buried wife of the poorhouse warden; the doctor pronounces it is suicide due to a self inflicted shot into the heart. The Bern police brass is content with supporting the “official” ruling.

However, Bern Police Sergeant Jakob Studer notices some odd anomalies starting with no bullet hole torn through the victim’s clothing though he is fully clad and yet shot in the heart. Studer also recognizes Farny as a person he remembers seeing several months ago in the tiny village of Pfrundisberg because the man predicted his demise to his associates. As Studer investigates while his superior fumes but knows better than to interfere with his best and most frustrating cop, clues lead Studer to realize the prime suspects in what he believes is murder reside at the poorhouse, a horticultural college, and the Sun Inn where he first “met” Farny.

The latest translation of a Studer police procedural (see IN MATTO’S REALM, FEVER and THUMBPRINT) is a fabulous tale in which the intelligent dedicated cop works out the homicide by analyzing the interrelationships motives between the victim and those at the three locales and their potential motives for committing a murder. Although Studer’s technique has been used quite often since THE CHINAMAN was first released in the late 1930s, the vivid look into Swiss society with Hitler beginning to spread his Third Reich vision across the continent makes the tale feel like a fresh historical whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

The Sinner-Petra Hammesfahr

The Sinner
Petra Hammesfahr
Bitter Lemon, Jan 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9781904738251

Police commissioner Rudolf Grovian decides to conduct an inquiry into the Cora Bender homicide case. In a park filled with people who witnessed Cora knife to the death n apparent stranger while her stunned husband Gereon tried to stop her after she slit the victim’s throat. Although the local cops arrest Cora as the case is obvious with so many including her child and spouse seeing her do the act, Rudolf is fascinated by the culprit’s behavior.

He interviews Cora trying to understand her motive for killing an apparent stranger. Instead Cora explains her family dynamics; not with Gereon who she loves and owes a debt of gratitude for allowing her to escape; instead with her blood family. Her mother hates her for being born and destroying her lifestyle with her birth; her disabled sister totally depended on Cora for everything. Still the cop struggles to comprehend why even as Cora explains her sexual obsession inside a religious fanaticism which bewilders him further.

This is a deep psychological crime thriller in which the audience learns the demons that haunt and obsess Cora. The story line rotates first and third person perspectives but that works quite nicely as the first person enables the reader to get inside Cora while the third person keeps the investigating exciting. Sub-genre readers will appreciate the character driven THE SINNER from the opening sequence when Cora almost kills Gereon with her powerful legs during a sexual moment until the final revelations that shake up Rudolf (and the audience).

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Guns Will Keep Us Together-Leslie Langtry

Guns Will Keep Us Together
Leslie Langtry
Leisure, Feb., 384 pp., $7.99
ISBN: 9780843960365

Assassin Dakota Bombay enjoys his playboy lifestyle that he can afford due to his high paying occupation. He has no plans to change it. However, he failed to tell others because his womanizing and hit man existence abruptly ends when a six years old boy is unceremoniously dumped on him. Dak never knew he sired a child.

The Family assigns Dak to eliminate a rival firm at a time he tries to be a good father and is romancing someone who he supplies with clients, a funeral director. However, Dak knows he needs to finish the downsizing of the competition before the family gives his lover a client to bury, him.

The return of the Bombay family, who’s DNA contains killer genes, makes for a lighthearted fun tongue in cheek tale. Bringing in a funeral director into the family completes the process value chain as the final output of the Bombay products would go to her or her peers (family discount for bringing in business). Delightful Dak understands the vision of his family of assassins is kill is or be killed so as he courts his burial lover, he knows he must say to her 'SCUSE ME WHILE I KILL THIS GUY. As wacky as the first, Leslie Langtry provides an amusing Pulp Fiction

Harriet Klausner

Delicate Chaos-Jeff Buick

Delicate Chaos
Jeff Buick
Leisure, Feb 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843960389

Washington D.C. bank executive Leona Hewitt studies the proposed corporate conversion plan of Coal-Balt Inc, who’s CEO recently died. However, she is stunned to learn the late CEO opposed the plan; even more shocking a second unexplained death of a person tied to the conversion shakes Leona up as she begins to wonder if she is paranoid or is someone killing the opposition.

While Leona struggles with her fears that someone is eliminating any opposition to the conversion by killing adversaries and that there is something wrong with the plan, the man she needs right now is out of town. In fact former cop Mike Anderson is out of the continent. He is caught up in a dangerous scenario in Nairobi where he was bringing money from his client Leona to her beloved African wildlife organization, Save Them; someone out of control wants him dead.

Suspense thriller fans will appreciate both subplots as each is filled with non-stop action starring likable protagonists and shadowy lethal antagonists. The genre audience will appreciate Jeff Buick’s superb take as Leona in DC and Mike in Nairobi fight for their lives with no one to turn to for help.

Harriet Klausner

The Killer's Wife-Bill Floyd

The Killer's Wife
Bill Floyd
St. Martin's, Mar 2008, $23.95
ISBN 9780312373399

Six years have passed since Nina Mosley found proof that her husband, Randy, was a nationwide serial killer. After he was convicted in California and put on death row, she quietly divorced him and moved to the coast with their preadolescent son, Hayden. She changed her name to Leigh Wren and settled in Cary, North Carolina.

Things seem fine for Nina and Hayden until an angry father of a victim finds her in Cary and informs everyone that she is the wife of a killing demon who sired her son. Friends reject her as if she and Hayden killed all these people; they hold her culpable for not recognizing the monster she was married to. However, everything changes again when mousey cringing Nina becomes the mouse that roared when someone tries to kill Hayden.

THE KILLER’S WIFE provides an interesting spin on the serial killer thriller as the focus is on the wife and son of the sociopath. The story line is at its best when the focus is on Leigh, who was avoiding the limelight trying to make a safe life for her and Hayden only to have that destroyed by another victim. The reaction of her friends is priceless and her look back to her married day (though at times intrusive due to much frequency) adds to understanding her as she wonders how she missed the signs. When the plot switches to Nina amateur sleuth it adds tension, but loses the uniqueness of a deep character study into other victims of a serial killer.

Harriet Klausner

Betrayed-J.M. Windle

J.M. Windle
Tyndale, March 2008, $13.99, 365 pp.
ISBN 9781414314747

Vicki works for the Children at Risk Foundation; she is in Guatemala to see if a faith based organization is legitimate and their programs worthwhile. If they are she will approve a grant for them since they care of many of the capital city orphans with no place to go. Her sister Holly clashes with her as she is about to leave to go to the airport. Holy works at the Wildlife Rescue Center and she demands Vicki investigate why animals at the refuge are disappearing. She also has another problem she needs her sister’s advice on but Vicki has to go to a meeting and tells her she’ll talk to Holly that night.

Holly never gets in touch with her sister and the next time she sees her sibling she is in the capital city’s garbage dump and she is dying. When the investigation into her death is closed after a few unfruitful days, Vicki is livid and is determined to find out who killed her sister and why. Her inquiries lead her to a cartel consisting of men who were military fifty years ago and used by the CIA; they are now in positions of power that are unchecked and enable them to perform illegal activities without getting caught. Vicki needs proof that these men are corrupt but she gets in the middle of a CIA operation where she can end up like her sister.

BETRAYED is an exhilarating thriller that shows how people in power who are corrupt can make an entire nation fear and obey them in order to avoid death and torture. Vicki is stubborn and she won’t let anyone prevent her from finding out the truth. In a sense of irony the events of today are related to a massacre of a Mayan village two decades ago, in which Vicki was a witness to that event. J.M. Windle is a great thriller writer whose belief in God’s plan shines throughout the storyline.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Black Widow-Randy Wayne White

Black Widow
Randy Wayne White
Putnam, March 2008, $24.95, 336 pp.
ISBN: 9780399154560

Four women (a bride to be and her three bridesmaids) take a vacation getaway from wedding madness at Saint Arc Island in the Caribbean. They meet three men and after drinking alcohol and smoking pot, they had an orgy. When they arrive home an email attachment arrives with a clip of what they were doing in the pool. The bride knows her fiancé will never marry her if he finds out what she did. She asks her godfather Dr. Marion Ford to make the exchange of money for the tape, which he does.

He warns her that this might not be over if they made another tape; sure enough another blackmail e-mail arrives. One of the bridesmaid’s husbands sees the clip and the note and goes into a rage. His wife overdoses on pills and alcohol and is rushed to the hospital. Shay follows the ambulance but also ends up staying at the hospital after she crashes into a tree. The women want revenge and Doc is determined they will have it. When he returns to the island he realizes what was done to Shay was done to others; as this is an ugly cottage industry. Tapes used for blackmail purpose with three starring studs and another hiding while filming is big business. Doc seeks the director and the hidden filmmaker so that Shay and others will have peace of mind. He is up against malevolence so evil with so many followers that it will take a miracle for him to survive.

Randy Wayne White is one of the best thriller authors writing today. There is action in every chapter, chase scenes galore and the way Doc wiggles out of imminent dangers makes James Bond seem like a pale imitation of the true secret agent. Doc is bored out of his skull since he was allowed to retire from his agency which is the reason he agreed to take charge of this operation. His adversaries are over the top psychopaths who feel no rules apply to them especially when it comes to their cash crop, but Doc understands their “rules”.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Eye of Jade-Diane Wei Liang

The Eye of Jade
Diane Wei Liang
Simon & Schuster, Feb 2008, $24.00
ISBN: 9781416549550

After quitting her position with the Ministry of Public Security, Mei Wang opens up a private investigative firm in Beijing. Her widowd mom and her sister are upset because they know Mei’s business is illegal and they live with the memory of the family’s patriarch taken away by Mao’s enforcers; her female relatives live within the “rules” of Communist society.

Long time family friend "Uncle" Chen Jitian hires Mei to find a valuable Han Dynasty jade seal once thought to have been destroyed along with other museum artifacts by the excesses of the Red Guard. Mei and her male assistant Gupin follow clues that take them to a dangerous part of the city where black market dealings are the norm. As the fuzzy picture begins to turn increasingly lucid, Mei realizes more than she would like as her family has secrets that tie back to the jade seal.

This is a terrific Chinese private investigator tale starring an independent feisty heroine who bucks the political climate, societal norms, and her family. The story line is fast-paced while providing a fascinating insight into schizoid modern day Beijing. The inquiry into the missing seal is well done and entertaining, but it is the look at China that makes THE EYE OF JADE compelling.

Harriet Klausner

Carrot Cake Murder-Joanne Fluke

Carrot Cake Murder
Joanne Fluke
Kensington, March 2008, $22.00, 336 pp.
ISBN: 9780758210203

The Cookie Jar owner Hannah Swensen is helping her business partner Lisa get ready for the big family reunion in Lake Eden, Minnesota. Relatives from all over the country are arriving and Lisa’s mother-in-law Marge is hoping that her brother Gus Herman will somehow hear of it and come. He left a quarter of a century ago in the middle of the night without telling anyone, leaving his family heartbroken and many residents angry because he vanished with their money.

To the family’s shock he does arrive dressed in an Armani suit, wearing a Rolex and driving a Jaguar. He flaunts his success which doesn’t endear him to many people. When Gus doesn’t show up for the reunion picture Hannah is dispatched to find him. At the Lake Pavilion, she finds his body, a wound on his chest. Marge and Lisa ask her to find the killer and resident Mac tells Hannah he saw Lisa’s father, Jack Herman walking around the time Gus was killed. Jack suffers from Alzheimer’s disease so his memories can’t be relied upon; the whole town knows that Jack and Gus had a fight before Gus left town. Jack also showed his anger towards at the reunion. Refusing to believe Jack could be the killer; Hannah continues to investigate and almost becomes the second victim.

Joanne Fluke writes a delightful and charming regional cerebral cozy. The protagonist uses her mind to discover the clues that lead to the killer’s identity and it is a pleasure to see a heroine who is not afraid to show her intelligence to the town’s residents. Hannah is the ultimate feminist a person who remains true to herself and refuses to conform to society’s female paragon.

Harriet Klausner

Blasphemy-Douglas J. Preston

Douglas J. Preston
Forge, Jan 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765311054

Physicist Gregory North Hazelius sold the concept of creating a humongous forty billion dollar "superconducting supercollider particle accelerator" based on finding a new source of energy. He knows not to tell anyone about his personal secret agenda behind why he pushed the Isabella project as it is called; he plans to duplicate the Big Bang of creation in order to speak to God.

The Navajo Indian Reservation in the southwest is chosen as the locale for Isabella. Work begins inside the five-hundred-square-mile Red Mesa tableland. However, the project falls behind schedule disturbing DC politicos who bet on its quick success. Presidential science adviser Dr. Stanton Lockwood sends former CIA operative Wyman Ford to investigate why the delay and is there any way to propel the project back on schedule. At the same time, others strongly oppose Isabella fearing the wrath of God. Televangelist Reverend Don Spates claims scientific blasphemy challenging heaven; Navaho shamans share Spates’ fears that the world is coming to an end. These two diverse groups plan to destroy the evil scientists and their blasphemous Isabella before the Armageddon Big Crunch occurs.

This is exciting thriller in which science and religion clash; in many ways the tale is a modernizing of Frankenstein as Isabella is considered the monster by the evangelists and the Navaho while Dr. Hazelius (and twelve other scientists) is the zealous creator. The story line starts slow as the cast is set, but once everyone converges on the southwest, the plot is faster than an atom flying around a supercollider. Fans will enjoy Douglas J. Preston’s entertaining action-packed tale.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, January 14, 2008

Curse of the Spellmans-Lisa Lutz

Curse of the Spellmans
Lisa Lutz
Simon & Schuster, Mar 2008, $25.00
ISBN 9781416532415

In San Francisco, no longer in love with a Bush worshipping dentist to the euphoria of her mom (see THE SPELLMAN FILES), Isabel Spellman continues to work at her family’s investigative business, Spellman Investigations, as she has since she was twelve. However, to her mom’s shock, Isabel is now engaged; make that “engaged” to SFPD Inspector Henry Stone, who was run over by her fifteen years old sister Rae. However, putting that aside, Isabel wonders how she, a thirty years old responsible tax-paying member of society, needs her mom to bail her out.

It is the fault of her next door neighbor John Brown; to hereby be called the “Subject” from now on; that she is in trouble with the law. Her eighty something napping attorney Morty accuses her of violating a restraining order placed on her; he tells her four arrests in two months means her PI license is revoked. She insists the Subject is hiding a malevolent act and that she just needs more evidence to affirm her theory and save her license. However her inquiry turns further bizarre when the stars of the “The Stone and Spellman Show”, Rae and Henry, become involved (with the case silly – she is a young teen and he is potentially Isabel’s next ex).

This is a zany madcap private investigative tale starring the wild bunch, better known as the Spellman family. The story line is fast-paced whether it is Isabel explaining to a snoozing Morty that one thing leads to another or Rae’s puppy love adulation of Henry. Starting with mom hanging up on her incarcerated daughter, fans of madcap laugh out loud humorous investigation tales will thoroughly enjoy the CURSE OF THE SPELLMANS.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Missing-Karin Alvtegen

Karin Alvtegen
Felony & Mayhem, Jan 2008, $24.00
ISBN: 9781933397863

In Stockholm, Sweden, thirty-two years old Sybilla Forsenstrom is the daughter of affluent but cold parents; after an undesirable pregnancy, she fled from her life of wealth. Now almost fifteen years later, she is a professional homeless person who knows all the tricks of the trade to get a hot meal, a hot shower, and a warm room when the city is freezing.

She pretends to be a businesswoman in Stockholm staying at the Grand Hotel. There she meets Jorgen Grundberg whom she cons into paying for her meal and a room. However, the next day he is found murdered. Soon after that another male is killed in the same MO including mutilation. The police believe Sybilla with her wig and more is the killer; she has become public enemy number one. Fearing that her homeless state means guilty, she eludes the cops with some help and begins investigating the homicides.

The woman on the run plot is intermingled with flashbacks to Sybilla's childhood especially the late teen years when she is forced to give away her son; her parents are icy pips. Thus readers understand her motives as a street person. Her inquiries are entertaining as she sees the clues differently than the cops. Newspaper clippings on the serial killings insure the heroine is the most sought after person in Sweden. Interestingly if this reviewer read this book before fairy tale stories claimed as true by the media but ultimately deblogged as made up, the clippings would feel wrong lacking official police sources yet now seem very accurate. Fans will enjoy this fine Swedish amateur sleuth tale.

Harriet Klausner

Dead Time-Stephen White

Dead Time
Stephen White
Dutton, Mar 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780525950066

Years ago, a group of college students hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon; one morning at the bottom, they met Nicholas Paulson who was looking for his girlfriend Jaana Peek, who was in the United States on a Visa. She had disappeared so the group searched for her with three of them leaving the Canyon including Eric and Lisa who could not participate in the rescue effort. Years later Lisa agreed to be the surrogate mother for Eric and his fiancée Meredith, former wife of psychologist Dr. Alan Gregory.

Meredith turns to Alan when Lisa disappears with her fetus growing inside her. Alan, who is recovering from his DRY ICE escapade, is in New York with his stepson Jonas, prepared to take him back home if his visit with his dead mother Adrienne’s estranged family proves too traumatic. However, he agrees to help his former wife and starts with a friend’s daughter who was part of the Grand Canyon incident years ago. Every clue from the past that he uncovers proves very relevant to the present, but Alan remains ignorant that someone is watching his progress to insure he never learns the truth; before that occurs this stalker will do to Alan what happened to Jaana.

The latest Alan Gregory thriller is an exhilarating action-packed tale in which a dark past spreads its tentacles into the present. The protagonist is just starting to get his life together as he deals with a new stepson whose uncle protests his having custody of his nephew and a shaky marriage. However, when Meredith asks for his aid, his conscience makes him say yes. Although the plot moves at light speed, it is the strong characterizations that make this a special read.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 12, 2008

This Is How It Happened (Not a Love Story)-Jo Barrett

This Is How It Happened (Not a Love Story)
Jo Barrett
Avon, Jan 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780061241109

Carlton Connors and Madeline Piatro met in a marketing class at the U of Texas. They became lovers as Piatro fell in love at first sight and soon move in together. He gives her an engagement ring, but insists she not wear in front of his father at this time.

Meanwhile Madeline creates a business plan to market Organic for Kids food. She and Carlton brief the idea to his wealthy businessman father; he and his peers love the concept and agree to bankroll it with a stunned Madeline receiving only a promise of future stock options if the company succeeds. When the firm proves successful, Carlton receives all the credit and Madeline receives zilch. He even has the audacity to demand his ring back as he dumps her because she is of no further use for him since he has a new night time partner and is a daytime Einstein. She tells her best friend Heather she wants to kill him and begins crafting various means.

Mindful of the movie I Love You to Death, this is a lighthearted zany romantic suspense comedy that rotates perspective between Madeline’s plot to kill Carlton and the four years that they were a couple. The story line is fast-paced in a breezy way as the cast are an amusing blundering crowd staring with Florence the hitman, Nick the undercover cop with no last name except for the state he provides Maddy, her turn the other cheek brother, her lawyer Michael and of course Carlton and Heather. Readers will enjoy this humorous farce while pondering whether Maddy’s recipe for brownies will rival that of Alice B. Toklas.

Harriet Klausner

A Prisoner of Birth- Jeffrey Archer

A Prisoner of Birth
Jeffrey Archer
St. Martin's, Mar 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780312379292

Danny Cartwright proposes to his beloved Beth Wilson who accepts. The pair and her brother Bernie, who is also his best friend, celebrate. Four drunks (Spencer Craig, Lawrence Davenport, Gerald Payne, and Toby Mortimer), who call themselves the Musketeers insult the trio. A fight occurs and one of the quartet stabs Bernie killing him. The four Musketeers swear they witnessed Danny kill the man though he claims otherwise. Since they are elite Cambridge University graduates and successful professionals who speak and dress like aristocratic gentlemen while he is an illiterate slum scum, he is charged with the homicide as “clothing” makes the man. His attorney the best one he can obtain with little money is slaughtered by the prosecutor. Danny is convicted to serve twenty-two years at maximum-security Belmarsh Prison.

In prison Danny shares a cell with Nicholas Moncrieff, who teaches him to read Dumas. When someone kills Moncrieff, Danny pretends to be Nicholas and escapes his incarceration. His goals are to destroy the Musketeers and prove his innocence.

The fun in this crime thriller is finding the numerous references to The Count of Monte Cristo as Jeffrey Archer pays homage to Alexander Dumas. The story line is fast-paced from the moment of the first confrontation and never slows down as Danny works his revenge. Although the key players including the hero are never fully developed beyond their link to the original novel, readers will enjoy this entertaining modernization of the Dumas classic.

Harriet Klausner

Another Thing to Fall -Laura Lippman

Another Thing to Fall
Laura Lippman
Morrow, Mar 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780061128875

The TV miniseries Mann of Steel is being filmed on location in Baltimore. The Mt. Vernon neighborhood residents have mixed feelings as they are excited with Hollywood on the streets, but there is also traffic snarls, roads blocked, and driving delays too. Private Investigator Tess Monahan is listening to her boyfriend on the radio when she puts her scull in the water to row only to disrupt the filming on the river.

When the crew learns Tess’ job, they hire to serve as the offset bodyguard of star twentyish Selene Waites, who has not found a party she did not crash. The scriptwriter Flip Tumulty informs Tess that the filming has been disrupted by vandals and Selene’s behavior puts her at risk. Tess finds photos of Selene apparently shot by Wilbur Grace, who just killed himself. Soon after Tess comes on board, a member of the film crew is killed. Tess believes that someone obviously wants to shut down the filming, but also believes the agenda is much more than just that.

No one, not even John Waters, provides a stronger taste of Baltimore than Laura Lippman consistently does in her Monahan investigative tales. The latest entry is fast-paced as Tess protects the ultimate party girl (wearing out thirtyish Tess) while also trying to uncover who wants to stop the filming and why. Fans of the series will enjoy Tess goes Hollywood in her Baltimore neighborhood.

Harriet Klausner

Criminal Investigation Detachment: Bamboo Battleground

Criminal Investigation Detachment: Bamboo Battleground
Don Bendell
Berkley, Oct 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780425216316

Al Qaeda apparently has expanded its operational base with new training facilities in the Far East. Their strategic plan is to use these bases as a jumping off point to test the resolve and strengths of America and its Pacific allies. They are getting bolder with each successful terrorist attack on American interests and are considering an assault on a West Coast city that will turn Katrina and 9/11 into minor footnotes.

US Senator James Weatherford is outraged by al Qaeda’s attacks. He demands the military prevent any further ones although he disguises his reason in patriotic generalities; in fact each incident costs Weatherford millions as he has made a fortune working the Pacific Rim. The Pentagon always salutes a member of Congress so the brass assigns US Army CID undercover officers Major Bobby Samuels and Captain Bo Devore to investigate. They begin to uncover two things: the planned al Qaeda terrorist attack on American soil and Weatherford’s questionable and probably illegal partnership with former Communists.

The third CID thriller (see CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION DETACHMENT and CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION DETACHMENT: BROKEN BORDERS) is an action-packed tale that has the heroes dodging assassins on two continents. The story line is action-packed as their case gets increasingly complicated and making less sense with each clue they uncover requiring out of the military crypt thinking; which is why Major Bobby and Captain Bo were assigned lead. Don Bendell has written an exhilarating anti-terrorist thriller that showcases how difficult it is to prevent an attack even with dedicated intelligent people doing their best.

Harriet Klausner

Killer Heat-Linda A. Fairstein

Killer Heat
Linda A. Fairstein
Doubleday, Mar 2008, $26.00
ISBN: 9780385523974

At the sight of a badly decomposed body in which the stench is so overwhelming, it will psychologically linger for weeks, NYPD Detective Mike Chapman lights up a Cohiba; he hands the cigar to Manhattan ADA Alex Cooper to take a “few hits” in order to give the brain a different olfactory memory. The tortured dead woman is the first homicide of a serial killer. Six more females with apparent military connections will soon die while Mike, Alex and others hunt the predator.

At the same time, Cooper argues with defense attorney Gene Grassley in front of Judge Lamont over the retrial of sixty-one years old Floyd Warren; accused of rape three decades ago, but the jury was hung and he skipped town before the second trial. Grassley says his client is too old to commit a violent crime while Cooper points out that does not matter as he should do the time even though he will probably die behind bars. Cooper contends he became a serial rapist while Greeley insists he was never arrested. Adding to the circus of the Judge having to apply the ridiculous 1973 statute is cronies of violent convicted rapist Pablo Pasano sit in the courtroom to harass Cooper, who put him behind bars.

The serial killer investigation is a terrific subplot that would normally carry a novel; however, it is the legal issues involving the Warren trial complicated by the Pasano presence that makes the latest Cooper thriller one of the best sub-genre entries of the year so far. The story line is action-packed from the cigar onset and never slows down as the audience feels they are traipsing around the Big Apple during a sever heat wave.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 11, 2008

Trudy’s Promise-Marcia Preston

Trudy’s Promise
Marcia Preston
Mira, Mar 2008, $13.95
ISBN 9780778325338

In October 1962, Rolf Hulst has mix feelings about swimming to the safety of West Berlin as he leaves behind in the Russian controlled East his beloved wife Trudy, their baby Stefan, and his aging all alone mother. However, if he stayed he also knows he risks their lives even more than if he leaves from stray bullets targeting him. As he is shot while making his escape, he wonders if his best friend Wolgang, an East German policeman, pulled the trigger. Struggling to stay conscious on the western side he writes in blood on a wall “Trudy, endlich frei” (Trudy, finally free).

The Stasi has no qualms about interrogating new mothers using torture to obtain answers as they demand Trudy tell them where Rolf is hiding. Wolfgang helps Trudy escape to the west, but she is forced to leave behind her son and his maternal grandmother. She learns that Rolf died, but has no time to grieve. She obtains a waitressing job and lives in a dump to save money to fulfill her promise to herself that she can one day bring over her family. In Late June 1963, as the American president claims “Ich bin ein Berliner”, a member of his retinue arranges for Trudy to come to the States even while Wolfgang’s career is over because of his childhood ties to Rolf.

This is an engaging historical thriller that brings to life the Cold War period just after the Berlin Wall is erected; interestingly with what has happened since this era feels like ancient history. The tale looks closely at the suffering of the East Berliners under iron strict Communist rule backed by the Soviet military, but it is Trudy’s adjustments to living in the States that make the tale. She is an outsider trying her best to be assimilated while wondering whether she will ever see Stefan again. Readers will appreciate this strong look back to one of the most explosive periods of the Cold War.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Case Against My Brother-Libby Sternberg

The Case Against My Brother
Libby Sternberg
Bancroft, Nov 2007, 224pp.
ISBN: 9781890862510

In 1922 recently orphaned Polish Catholics teen brothers Carl and Adam Matuski move from Baltimore to live with their impoverished uncle in Portland, Oregon. Still grieving the death of their mother, the boys worry about the anti-immigrant campaign to push the Oregon School Law that would outlaw Catholic schools.

The affluent parents of Adam’s girlfriend accuse him of stealing jewelry from them. Carl believes his older brother is innocent and recommends he hides rather than go to jail while Carl, whose plate is full with school and two jobs, investigates. The neighborhood police officer Miller thinks Catholics but especially Polish Catholics are thieves. He tries to trip up Carl as to the whereabouts of Adam, whose behavior worries his younger brother. Carl’s inquiries lead to his witnessing a murder with the killer wanting the teen dead too.

This is a superb young adult historical mystery that brings to life an interesting era in which local prejudice using de jure discrimination attacks a particular religion especially those worshippers from a specific nationality. Miller has ethically profiled Catholic Polish-Americans deep in his brain so he also represents a de facto form of discrimination. However, the insightful exciting story line is owned by the fifteen year old hero who tries to prove his older brother’s innocence, but as Carl crashes up against bias, he also begins to wonder if Adam stole the jewels. Libby Sternberg writes a terrific tale that hopefully will lead to sequels.

Harriet Klausner