Monday, March 31, 2008

She's On Top-Susan Lyons

She's On Top
Susan Lyons
Kensington Aphrodisia, Apr 2008, $12.95
ISBN: 9780758217035

Vancouver Clarinetist Rina Goldberg wants to get married to her soulmate, but has not found anyone to replace her first lover classical pianist Giancarlo Mancini, whom she has not seen in a decade; anyone who believes out of sight out of mind is a fool to Rina When she learns that Giancarlo in town, encouraged by her best friends (see CHAMPAGNE RULES and TOUCH ME), she decides to see if he is as interested in her as she is in him and to determine if the memory is as good as the real thing.

Now a music video director, Giancarlo has never forgotten the lovely Rina. When she calls him, he is ecstatic as he wonders if reality will match his fantasies. Both will soon know whether they belong together as each still dreams of what they had but let go due to career choices ten years ago.

The third Canadian Awesome Foursome tale is a fun entry like its predecessors can stand alone; though the first two stories are entertaining. Rina is fabulous as she is encouraged by the magic of love that has touched her pals Suzanne and Anne so she hopes to make music with the one she never forgot. Giancarlo is her equal when it comes to passion, intensity, intelligence, talent, and love. However will they be able make their relationship permanent or wait another decade as each has issues to overcome. Susan Lyons provides an awesome British Columbia second chance at love romance.

Harriet Klausner

Divorcing Dwayne-J.L. Miles

Divorcing Dwayne
J.L. Miles
Cumberland House, Apr 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9781581826500

Francine Harper muses how she met Dwayne at a pig-pull and married him once but divorced him twice as she relaxes in the Hall County, Georgia jail. She was arrested for killing their bed given to them by her daddy. Actually she was jailed for trying to shoot Dwayne and Carla the Peel ‘n Squeal stripper, who were fiddling around in her bed, but her three shots missed them and murdered the bed instead.

Francine thinks nothing of her murdering the bed as little disturbs her since an alligator crashed her wedding except the love of her life cheating on her. However the county’s District Attorney Warren Wilson plans to use criminal prosecutions of dangerous felons like Francine to get elected as the next governor. However, not one to sit idly by and be used by a political a-hole, Francine and her best friend Ray Anne Pickles conducts their own inquiries into the town of Pickville Springs, the Greenwich Village of North Georgia; that is in between her courtroom trial.

This amusing regional tale is a fun “grit-lit” story (per J.L. Miles) that readers will appreciate. Francine and Ray Anne go from the frying pan into the fire with each inquiry they make. The heroine’s asides provide the audience a deep humorous look at Northern Georgia as her insight is fun to follow especially when Hollywood invades Pickville Springs. Zany and over the top of the still recognized southern end of the Appalachia trail that actually extends into Alabama, fans will enjoy the antics of Francine as she is DIVORCING DWAYNE again.

Harriet Klausner

Eyes of the World-Rob Palmer

Eyes of the World
Rob Palmer
Leisure, May 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843956764

The election for the next President of the United States is two weeks away, but appears to be a historical one. Carolyn "Lynnie" Connor is leading comfortably in all the major polls and looks ready to become the first female president. Her spouse former naval chaplain "Saint Devon" is a popular individual as he does missionary work around the world; currently the future First Man is in Africa. The only thing that could derail Lynnie’s trip to the White House is a mega scandal. That possibility exists because of her affair with her childhood friend, who saved her life during a fire that killed his sister; her trysts with Michael "Mike" Stanbridge will not be forgiven by the voters as she is cuckolding her paragon of a husband.

Reverend Eve Tessmer has set up a "This Is Your Life" for Lynnie in her home town. She has arranged guest speakers to represent each phase in Lynnie's life, except for when she was in Arizona. Eve's friend Archibald "Archie" Pascoe takes some of the Arizona documents home to peruse in an effort to determine a suitable speaker. That same night someone kills Eve and takes her Arizona file except what Archie possesses. The police suspect Mike killed Eve. When someone tries to murder Archie, Mike knows he is the only target of the Feds for this attempted murder and an unknown assassin who he fears is working for a famous person he knows intimately.

With the obvious connections to the real election aside, this is an exciting thriller as a lone nobody becomes the focus of an assassin, the media, and law enforcement. Though somewhat over the top readers will enjoy the fast-paced EYES OF THE WORLD as Mike will remind the audience of Cary Grant's character psychiatrist Thorndike in NORTH BY NORTHWEST.

Harriet Klausner

What Burns Within-Sandra Ruttan

What Burns Within
Sandra Ruttan
Leisure, May 2008, $7.99
ISBN 9780843960747

In Vancouver, British Columbia the three constables had worked a difficult case together last year that turned nasty; each tacitly agreed to not see one another as a means of forgetting how dysfunctionally they performed. Now Craig Nolan looks into a serial killer case; Ashlyn Hart seeks a serial arsonist; and Tain works on a serial child abduction investigation.

However, each soon realizes that the seemingly three different investigations connect. If they are to prevent the next rape, inferno and kidnapping from happening, they must work as a team, but emotions run deep as the memories of last years fiasco still burns in the professional souls of Nolan, Hart and Tain.

This is a terrific Canadian police procedural that starts off with three distinct cases and the cops having a shared history that each wants to forget; avoidance of the others is the psychological mechanism used, but out of sight out of mind fails them. When the cases intertwine none want to work with one another, but as professionals they know they must to prevent the horrros that have ouccured. Besides three lead police detectives, Sandra Ruffen merges her investigative subplots into an excellent police procedural.

Harriet Klausner

Dying Breath-Wendy Corsi Staub

Dying Breath
Wendy Corsi Staub
Zebra, May 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420101317

Her mother vanished when Camden Hastings was a child; soon afterward her sister committed suicide. Haunted by the losses, as a teen, Cam began seeing horrific visions of frightened children in danger.

Cam loves her husband Mike, but her demons have led to her having alcohol problem and other issues; they are separated. She hopes to save her relationship with Mike but plans to start over for the sake of their teenage daughter, Tess. However, on Long Beach Island off the Jersey shore, Cam sees the poster of a child who has haunted her recent dreams. She tries to be the Good Samaritan assisting the police only to have Tess abducted; she and Mike desperately try to find their child before it is too late.

This complex paranormal suspense thriller seems initially overwhelming as the myriad of subplots keep changing as does the prime player. Once the table is set by talented Wendy Corsi Staub (about a fourth of the way in) readers will appreciate the increasingly tense tale as the audience can feel the horror eating at Cam’s gut. She is a fabulous protagonist as she learns no good deed goes unpunished yet cannot ignore her visions partially because she was helpless when her sister died and her mother disappeared; fans will root for her as she and Mike struggle to save Tess.

Harriet Klausner

Sins of the Night-Devyn Quinn

Sins of the Night
Devyn Quinn
Kensington Aphrodisia, Apr 2008, $12.95
ISBN: 9780758220189

A century ago Adrien Roth was proud to be a Shadow Stalker who destroyed the Kynn. However, he failed at his task when he was captured by his enemy. They tortured him and he became one of them, a vampire who used sex with mortals as sustenance.

Loathing himself he plans to destroy Kynn chieftain Devon Carnavorn and the vampire’s new wife Rachel in what the former Shadow Stalker knows is probably a suicide mission. However, as he begins his quest, Adrien meets human Cassie Wilson, who somehow reinvigorates the soul he thought the Kynn killed when they brutalized and changed him. As they fall in love, he wants to come out of her shadows into the light of her warmth, but obstinately refuses to give up his quest for vengeance as he targets the Mystique Goth nightclub in Warren, California.

This exciting fantasy thriller returns the lead characters of SINS OF THE DEVIL, but this time they are the objectives of the lead male who sees them as his revenge and redemption. The story line is character driven as Adrien, already feeling somewhat schizoid between his former occupation and his current status, struggles with the thirst for bloody vengeance and love. Although some of the erotic scenes will turn off some readers especially when violent force is applied to a disinclined individual who says no. Devyn Quinn provides an interesting erotic vampire romantic suspense as fans will wonder whether Devon chooses Cassie or suicide.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 30, 2008

1787-Sean Michael Bailey

Sean Michael Bailey
Five Star, Apr 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146367

Computer guru, self made millionaire Matt Newton flies along with other Americans on Anytime Airways flight number 1787 from Kennedy Airport to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for some fun in the sun. However, hijackers take over the passenger section of the jet, killing an air marshal. They gain access to the cockpit when the pregnant member of the terrorists removes explosives from her uterus.

Military historian Anna Horowitz takes charge of the hostages as she warns them they must overcome the enemy or die as sheep. As they begin their counter surge, no one knows who will fly the plane if they succeed in taking it back; or whether Mexico or the United States will shoot down a rogue jet that is rumored to be carrying a nuke inside its cargo. Matt with his contact to his employees and Anna with her tactics knowledge are the only hope as far up in government and religious circles are people who want no survivors to tell anyone that the terrorists are not Middle Easterners as the news claims.

Readers who enjoy an exciting suspense thriller will appreciate 1787 although they will also wonder what could have been if Sean Michael Bailey stayed with his hijack techno premise and no external trimmings. The story line is fast-paced as it plays out in the southwest skies and in Brooklyn-Queens and over the vast communication networks. Fans of wild action thrillers will enjoy terrorists in the plane.

Harriet Klausner

1787-Sean Michael Bailey

Sean Michael Bailey
Five Star, Apr 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146367

Computer guru, self made millionaire Matt Newton flies along with other Americans on Anytime Airways flight number 1787 from Kennedy Airport to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for some fun in the sun. However, hijackers take over the passenger section of the jet, killing an air marshal. They gain access to the cockpit when the pregnant member of the terrorists removes explosives from her uterus.

Military historian Anna Horowitz takes charge of the hostages as she warns them they must overcome the enemy or die as sheep. As they begin their counter surge, no one knows who will fly the plane if they succeed in taking it back; or whether Mexico or the United States will shoot down a rogue jet that is rumored to be carrying a nuke inside its cargo. Matt with his contact to his employees and Anna with her tactics knowledge are the only hope as far up in government and religious circles are people who want no survivors to tell anyone that the terrorists are not Middle Easterners as the news claims.

Readers who enjoy an exciting suspense thriller will appreciate 1787 although they will also wonder what could have been if Sean Michael Bailey stayed with his hijack techno premise and no external trimmings. The story line is fast-paced as it plays out in the southwest skies and in Brooklyn-Queens and over the vast communication networks. Fans of wild action thrillers will enjoy terrorists in the plane.

Harriet Klausner

Severance Package-Duane Swierczynski

Severance Package
Duane Swierczynski
St. Martin’s, May 2008, $13.95
ISBN 9780312343804

In Philadelphia CEO David Murphy gathers his seven underlings to a weekend business meeting at the 36th floor office. Once they gather together, David informs the septet that he has shut down the firm and more important to them he must kill them.

There is no escape as David has locked vacuum sealed tight all exits with some containing saran gas if opened and others just shut. All seven are stunned, but the least of them, Molly “mousy” Lewis pulls out a gun and shoots Murphy in the head.

Across the ocean in Scotland, two operatives keep in touch with their agent inside the finance firm Ania Kuczun. What the other six fail to realize as Ania begins her assignment is that she is Molly and the company they worked for was a top secret covert operations, but lost their usefulness so each employee must be eliminated.

This modern day, action packed espionage thriller salutes Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE as the employees learn that their SEVERANCE PACKAGE is death. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that David informs his subordinate there is no escape as they must die and never slows down until the final death spin.

Harriet Klausner

Holy Moly-Ben Rehder

Holy Moly
Ben Rehder
St. Martin’s, May 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780312357542

In Blanco County, Texas, Peter “Pastor Pete” Boothe hires backhoe operator Hollis Farley to clear the land for the construction of a mega church complex, a controversial project not warmly received by everyone. Hollis uncovers an Alamosaurus skull that if reported would halt construction until it can be determined whether the area is an archeological gold mine. However, someone shoots an arrow into Farley’s back and the fossil vanishes.

Red O’Brien learned from Hollis what he found and wants the valuable fossil. So does paleontologist Dr. Underwood, who based on pictures told Game Warden John Marlin the skull could be worth millions. Meanwhile Red persuades his roommate three-hundred pound Billy Don Craddock to seduce Farley’s sister, Betty Jean, as he assumes she is the most likely person to have the dinosaur skull. He also considers those in Pastor Pete’s inner sanction like the preacher’s cheating wife and his top lieutenant. On the other hand there are those working for dinosaur-lover Darwin Parker. While Red works his amateur sleuthing from all angles, he intrudes on Marlin’s official professional inquiry into what happened to Hollis though O’Brien sees the cops getting in his way.

This is a wild well written salute to avarice as just about everyone has a reason to claim the skull and will do what it takes to gain possession. The story line is fast-paced and filled with greedy twists as rivalries battle for ownership. Interestingly Marlin is the hero as he was in GUN SHY, but he shares top billing with Red, Paster Pete, and an assortment of people who spent too much time sniffing oil fumes or baking in the Texas heat.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Locktender's House-Steven Sherrill

The Locktender's House
Steven Sherrill
Random House, Apr 2008, $25.00
ISBN: 9781400061532

In Greensboro, North Carolina Janice Witherspoon lives in her boyfriend’s apartment while he serves in Iraq. She prays everyday for his safe return, but her prayers are unanswered when her boyfriend, "Private Danks," dies in the war. Janice has no time to mourn her loss; as his family kicks her out of his apartment.

With no place to go, but in need of closure by seeing her beloved’s corpse, something she knows his relatives will never allow her to do, Janice drives to Dover where the dead military are snuck into the country. By the time she reaches Pennsylvania, Janice realizes she has lost her grip on sanity. She decides to take a respite and finds an abandoned Locktender’s House overlooking a canal lock. She soon meets rustic sculptor, Stephen Gainy; these two lonely people forge a relationship, but it is the voice and dulcimer playing of an eccentric evanescent eerie female she hears that has her dreaming again of life not death as Janice begins to explore her family’s tragic past at these locks at the beginning of the previous century.

This psychological suspense horror thriller takes its time to fully introduce the audience to Janice and through her memories Private Danks. Once readers understand how far Janice’s depression is driving her over the edge making the veil between reality and illusion vanish, we will appreciate Steven Sherrill’s superb setup that takes readers on a journey into the mind of a griever who is not allowed to grieve. This is an excellent character study of the cost of death turning survivors into the living dead who seem to make their own reality or then again perhaps the ghostly horrific past consumes energy to arise whenever tragedy leaves the present vulnerable.

Harriet Klausner

Killer Secrets-Lora Leigh

Killer Secrets
Lora Leigh
St. Martin's, Mar 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780312939946

His father, Diego Fuentes, a notorious drug cartel chief, has made everyone suspect whose side is former SEAL Ian Fuentes on? . However, although his handler has doubts about his loyalty, he is currently undercover seeking to prevent known terrorist Sorrel from concocting some evil plot against innocent people. Ironically even his father is unsure whose side Ian is on.

However, every recent indication affirms the belief that Ian has joined his dad. Only Homeland Security operative Kira “Chameleon” Porter believes otherwise as she has known Ian for years and plans to prove her attraction could not be for a drug dealer. In Aruba, the Feds, the Fuentes Cartel and Sorrel and his colleagues want Ian removed. Only Kira has his back.

Ian is a fascinating individual as no one fully trusts him, not his father or his handler; only Kira partially believes that he is on the good guys’ side, but she has doubts that her reasoning is tainted by love. Can a person who grew up with betrayal by loved ones and treacherous murder by family and friends as a norm still be human or has he been so demonized that he is a tundra psychopath? Kira’s upbringing is only slightly better, but still in deep negative numbers. Lora Leigh’s latest SEAL romantic suspense (see HIDDEN AGENDAS) is fast-paced and filled with action, but it is the uncertainty about the lead couple that makes this a strong thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet-Joanne Proulx

Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet
Joanne Proulx
Soho, Apr 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9781569474877

In 2002 in Stokum, Michigan, teenager Luke Hunter smokes pot with his friends in the basement of the house of Todd “Fang” Delaney’s never home parents when he makes a dark prediction. Luke claims one of them will not make it to school tomorrow because he will be hit by an out of state red van license plate BLU 369; Stan will go heads to head at 8:37 and lose.

Word quickly gets around that Luke predicted to the nth degree of accuracy Stan’s death. The media being in its usual uncaring frenzy state assault Stokum for information on the “Prophet of Death”. They stalk Luke and his frightened bewildered parents as the town has become an asylum for the certifiable especially amoral reporters. Luke sees more "death flashes" that soon become real; seven months of death horrifyg him as he wants to go back to his formerly mellow but somewhat cynical life. A prescription helps abate the visions even as religious fanatics try to intervene while a mom begs him to find his daughter when all he wants is his dream girl at school to say yes.

This is a fast-paced young adult contemporary paranormal thriller that focuses deeply on a previously bored teen whose 99.99% of his brain consisted of one icon: girls; suddenly he has the curse of seeing in graphic detail the death of someone soon. Thus Luke must cope with his unwanted psychic skills while avoiding the media, the religious nuts, the needy beggars, and even his family and friends whom he frightens. On top of that he is attracted to a girl who seems to reject him making him wonder if she fears his “gift”. ANTHEM OF A RELUCTANT PROPHET is a well written teen angst thriller that leaves some threads unanswered, which implies sequel to me.

Harriet Klausner

How the Dead Live-Derek Raymond

How the Dead Live
Derek Raymond
Serpent's Tail, May 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9781852427986

He knows the brass hates him as he is a British bulldog with no regard to his superiors, procedure, or the media when it comes to solving a case or for that matter keeping apolitically correct silence when some Home Office idiotic suit lectures. His boss can’t fire him because he is so successful, but tries to exile him whenever a remote area asks for help.

Thus for opening his mouth during a mandatory class, this Scotland Yard detective finds himself leaving London for tiny Thornhill village in Wiltshire to investigate a missing-person. Apparently Marianne Mardy vanished; her husband Dr. William Mardy has not reported her missing; no one has. Since the local police suffer from duck disease up their arse, he is sent to rusticate make that investigate a possible murder so that his boss can have some needed R&R make that the gossipers can rest easy. In Thornhill, the outsider affirms the local police are uninterested in what happened to Marianne. As he keeps digging, he runs into corruption and soon begins to comprehend what happened to Mrs. Mardy when he learns HOW THE DEAD LIVE, but has problems with insuring justice not legal mumbo jumbo truly occurs.

This is a reprint of the third Factory Scotland Yard thriller written by the late Derek Raymond (see HE DIED WITH HIS EYES OPEN and THE DEVIL’S HOME ON LEAVE; neither read by me). Written two decades ago, the tale is a terrific British police procedural Noir narrated by the unnamed detective who is as excellent at solving cases as he is at annoying his boss. Sub-genre fans will appreciate this engaging one sitting detective tale that exposes the underbelly that society pretends does not exist.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Brothers-Rick Acker

Blood Brothers
Rick Acker
Kregel, May 2008, $14.99
ISBN: 9780825420078

They are twenty-first century versions of Cain and Abel as brothers Karl and Gunnar Bjornsen have worked together for years building up Bjornsen Pharmaceutical; the former is the CEO and the latter is president. In a shocking move, Karl manages to have his sibling voted out as a company officer. The only setback with this betrayal is that Gunnar is the only person who knows how to create Neurostim, a miracle drug that makes people smarter, quicker, and stronger.

Karl sues his brother to force him to reveal how to produce the miracle elixir, but Gunnar counters by hiring lawyer Ben Corbin to make the case that criminal acts by his sibling makes him unfit to run the firm. Side effects show up during the test trials, but Karl keeps that concealed while Ben, his wife and his co-worker go to Norway to visit a Bjornsen subsidiary. They interview a scientist who has proof that Karl committed felonies to remove Gunnar from the company. However, an arsonist burns the building that contained the evidence destroying the documents in the inferno. Having also made a deal with the government, Karl seems indestructible as everything goes his way.

Part crime caper and part legal thriller with a supporting medical thriller foundation, BLOOD BROTHERS is an exciting thriller that demonstrates the talent of Rick Acker to keep fan interest throughout the plot. There is a lot of action in the exhilarating story line, but it is the characters that grip the readers especially fascinating is the good vs. evil fratricide war. Ben is determined as he fights for his client who he fully believes in.The war heats up as his wife gets shot while applying forensic skills to financial documents, and likable Gunnar who knows his brother is a ruthless dirty adversary, but tries to remain on the moral high road in spite potholes, detours, and obstructions.

Harriet Klausner

The Adoration of Jenna Fox-Mary Pearson

The Adoration of Jenna Fox
Mary Pearson
Holt, Apr 2008, $16.95
ISBN: 9780805076684

The horrific accident left teenager Jenna Fox in a coma for over a year. When she awakens, she finds much of her memory has been wiped out like an etchosketch. What she recalls seems trivia as she can quote passages from poems but does not recognize her family or friends and has to take their word that she is seventeen years old Jenna Fox.

Her parents show her home videos of her childhood, but none of it looks familiar to her besides which it does not feel right. Slowly bits and pieces of her memory return until she realizes her parents’ biography of her life is false. She begins to piece together the horrific truth not understanding the danger that poses to her.

Although there are some questionable decisions made by Jenna’s parents that seem illogical once the audience realizes (along with the title star) what is going on, readers will be fully hooked into a one sitting thriller. Fans will appreciate Mary Pearson’s powerful drama as shocking disclosures that seem plausible keep spinning the story line in different direction than the reader thought. Using the secondary characters to reveal the truth to the audience and the heroine, Ms. Pearson provides a strong tense cautionary thriller that dually raises morality issues while entertaining readers with Jenna’s plight.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Outlander-Gil Adamson

The Outlander
Gil Adamson
Ecco (Harper), May 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780061491252

In 1903, nineteen years old Mary Boulton calmly grabs her husband’s rifle and fires killing him. The widow knows she cannot hang around not because she fears the law, but her abusive brother in laws would enact vengeance in their vicious style.

Mary flees across wintry isolated Idaho and Montana while knowing in her composed gut they pursue her. On her trek, she reflects on her unhappy but thankfully short marriage exacerbated by the dead child. As her deep depression enables her to remain eerily unruffled, she meets people along the way. First there is the Frontiersman who admits creeping civilization makes him depressingly feel like an anachronism; then there is the Reverend who treats her like an adored daughter. There are others some not as kind towards the itinerant female especially after a mining disaster that the locals feel she caused by being there. However, the worst is coming as the brothers are nearing and the Reverend wants to change their relationship to that of more of equal partners.

An allegory of a way of life that seems all but vanished, THE OUTLANDER is an excellent historical thriller starring a strong support cast, a spirited lead female, and a vivid picturesque setting. Readers anticipate High Noon is coming, but it is the trip to the final showdown that makes for a deep look at early twentieth century America in a remote part of the northwest.

Harriet Klausner

The Outlander-Gil Adamson

The Outlander
Gil Adamson
Ecco (Harper), May 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780061491252

In 1903, nineteen years old Mary Boulton calmly grabs her husband’s rifle and fires killing him. The widow knows she cannot hang around not because she fears the law, but her abusive brother in laws would enact vengeance in their vicious style.

Mary flees across wintry isolated Idaho and Montana while knowing in her composed gut they pursue her. On her trek, she reflects on her unhappy but thankfully short marriage exacerbated by the dead child. As her deep depression enables her to remain eerily unruffled, she meets people along the way. First there is the Frontiersman who admits creeping civilization makes him depressingly feel like an anachronism; then there is the Reverend who treats her like an adored daughter. There are others some not as kind towards the itinerant female especially after a mining disaster that the locals feel she caused by being there. However, the worst is coming as the brothers are nearing and the Reverend wants to change their relationship to that of more of equal partners.

An allegory of a way of life that seems all but vanished, THE OUTLANDER is an excellent historical thriller starring a strong support cast, a spirited lead female, and a vivid picturesque setting. Readers anticipate High Noon is coming, but it is the trip to the final showdown that makes for a deep look at early twentieth century America in a remote part of the northwest.

Harriet Klausner

Janeology-Karen Harrington

Karen Harrington
Kunati, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9781601640208

In Texas Jane Nelson was a loving wife and mother when she suddenly drowned her two and a half years old son Simon and almost killed the lad’s twin sister Sarah. She is charged with the homicide, but found not guilty by reason of insanity. The prosecutor goes after Jane’s husband devastated Tom saying that he should have known what his wife was capable of doing and thereby failed to protect his children. He was not just an accessory; he by inactivity abetted the murder.

The media hangs Tom; his academic peers blame Tom, the public malign Tom. All need a scapegoat and the lunatic mom is considered too deranged whereas Tom is terific for the role. However, his lawyer Dave plans to make a reasonable doubt defense based on JANEOLOGY that insists her DNA has violence imprinted on it. Jane’s psychic relative, Mariah Hernandez assists the defense by looking into Jane’s past and that of her antecedents.

This is a fascinating legal thriller with some paranormal elements that is at its best when the focus is on an anguished Tom outside the courtroom. The story line is fast-paced and gripping as readers will want to know what caused Jane to kill her son and attempt to kill her daughter; Mariah’s visions provide insight into the motives though admittedly some readers will find that gimmicky. However, the big issue is having the DA force Tom to testify seems inappropriate as he has Fifth Amendment rights that allow his side to determine whether they want him on the stand or not. Still this is an interesting look at the causes and effect of a horrific act.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Dragon in the Sea-Frank Herbert

The Dragon in the Sea
Frank Herbert
Tor, Apr 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9780765317742

One of the five members of the Hell Diver subtug crew is a saboteur. Psychologist John Ramsay is assigned to join the team, as they steal oil from Cold War adversaries by tugging their purloined liquid black gold loot under water; his task is to uncover the identity of the traitor. He somewhat fears being well over a mile under the water while on this mission because if exposed he will be dead.

However, although he watches intently, the mission is in peril from the sabotage damage caused by one of them, but John remains unsure who he is. Soon he and three other crewmen are in trouble with no place to hide as the enemy has them in his sights. If they survive against this ruthless relentless stalker, John and the other three remain “Under Pressure” from the strength of the ocean that pounds away at their tin can. To live they must work as a team, but no one trusts anyone else as phobias bubble to surfaces of their minds.

This is a reprint of a 1956 thriller that seems timelier now than it did during the height of the Cold War with the concept of the morally superior West stealing oil from the East. The tale is about a covert operation reminiscent of the Bush invasion in which administration officials helped sell the war besides 9/11 links with the belief cheap easy access oil was around the corner once Iraq became a democracy. Although none of the crew, even the hero, seems much more than action figures, fans will appreciate Frank Herbert’s deep look at societal ethics.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 24, 2008

Flight to Freedom-D.J. Wilson

Flight to Freedom
D.J. Wilson
Medallion, May 2008, $15.95
ISBN: 9781933836379

He is a wealthy attorney and philanthopist who has given millions to charities in his hometown. He lives in a beautiful home with a sweet wife and is looked upon as a hero by the adulating townsfolk. Of course all those who worship this paragon have no idea what really happens inside his home; a torture chamber of abuse Harland Jeffers pours on his spouse Montana. For a decade he beat her to the point she had broken bones yet never went to the hospital as he refused because such treatment might dim his image.

He taunted her with the fact that she killed her newborn baby girl when she took her out of the hospital on a cold night leading to pneumonia. He threatened to kill her if she ever left him and the one time she went to the police they just took her back to him, as she should be grateful to be married to the town’s leading citizen. One day he caught her going through a drawer that he has forbidden her to open; he went berserk. She took a gun out of that drawer and fired point blank range; she killed him. Even though she now resides in jail, Montana feels free for the first time in her life. Montana plans to plead guilty, but a kindhearted lawyer persuades her to stand trial and let the world see the real monster she killed in self-defense.

This is a poignant heart wrenching legal thriller starring a life long victim whose brother, father and husband abused her physically and mentally. Her naivety make her easy prey for these predators. Readers will empathize with Montana while hoping a jury will accept her self defense plea especially if justice is to occur. Although difficult at times to see until it is too late as the sociopath is often devious enough to hide their ugliness with public good deeds, D.J. Wilson makes a plea of her own that everyone must stay alert as abuse is an ugly crippler to family and society.

Harriet Klausner

By Reason Of Insanity-Randy Singer

By Reason Of Insanity
Randy Singer
Tyndale, May 2008, $22.95
ISBN: 9781414316338

In Virginia Beach, The Tidewater Times reporter Catherine O'Rourke covers the homicide trial of Annie Newburg Hofstetter, accused of murdering her husband Richard in premeditated cold blood. Her renowned attorney Quinn Newberg uses the insanity defense of a woman pushed over the edge by physical and mental abuse. Thanks to weeping Juror 5, the case ends for now in a mistrial.

Over the next few months The Avenger of God has been kidnapping and murdering Tidewater residents whom the serial killer believes violated the Lord. Cat has some insider information, but when the court demands shereveal her insider anonymous law enforcement source to Detective Jamarcus Webb, she refuses and goes to jail making her part of the story. While behind bars, Cat begins to have distressing visions of these horrific crimes as if she was an eye-witness to the Avenger’s vigilante justice. She tells Jamarcus what she “sees” and he thinks she knows too much not to be the Avenger. The police arrest Cat who hires Quinn to defend her even though his approach means he assumes his client is guilty.

Filled with twists, this is a terrific legal thriller that grips the reader from the moment that Juror 5 ends the O’Rourke trial and never slows down as Cat prays that the Vegas legal magician can get her off the hook even if BY REASON OF INSANITY. The story line is fast-paced as Cat continues to get visions of the Avenger’s serial killings. Although a romantic subplot between lawyer and client is somewhat muted, it still feels forced yet Randy Singer as he did with THE CROSS EXAMINATION OF OLIVER FINNEY brings up timely jurisprudence issues as he provides a fascinating look at the insanity plea.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Moneylender of Toulouse-Alan Gordon

The Moneylender of Toulouse
Alan Gordon
St. Martin’s, May 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780312371098

In 1204 The Fools’ Guild knows that some of the Church’s more fanatical leaders want the Pope to disband them under the threat of declaring its members heretic. Especially vocal is the Bishop of Toulouse Bishop Raimon de Rabastens. The Guild whose mission is to prevent war send one of their top agents jester Theophilos and his family to blackmail the Bishop into retiring so that they can replace this adversary with a friendlier person.

Upon arrival in Toulouse Theophilos has no plan except to find a transgression he can use to force Raimon de Rabastens to resign. However, a scheme surfaces when the murdered corpse of moneylender Milon Borsella is found in a tanner’s pit; the victim and the Bishop engaged in a loud public argument just yesterday. Theophilos plots how to use the homicide when another murder occurs and Jordan the fool is arrested for the crime. Theophilos and his wife Claudia believe both murders lead back to the Bishop, but to prove it remains difficult.

The latest Fools’ Guild medieval mystery (see THE LARK’S LAMENT) is a terrific whodunit that uses a vivid look at early thirteenth century France to enhance the plot. The story line is fast-paced as the husband and wife team switch gear from their devious plot to force the Biship into resigning to proving their local compatriot is innocent. Filled with humor and a great whodunit, only a fool would pass on Alan Gordon’s excellent historical investigative tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Finder-Colin Harrison

The Finder
Colin Harrison
Farrar Straus Giroux, Apr 2008, $25.00
ISBN: 9780374299491

In New York City, someone is using insider information to make a financial killing buying and selling Good Pharma stock. An outraged billionaire warns CEO Tom Reilly to plug the leak and to take care of the culprit regardless of means or else. His paper notes delivered to Reilly even in Yankee Stadium frightens the CEO who must do something or face dire consequences from an unknown but obviously powerful stockholder.

Tom is unable at first to figure out who or how. Using a legitimate paper shredding outfit CorpServe as a guise, Jin Li has been selling company information that she provides to her brother Chen who trades stocks accordingly. A desperate Tom orders a ruthless wannabe to take care of the leak. In Brooklyn two twentyish female Mexican employees working for the shredding firm are murdered, but Li escapes not before she sees their horrific deaths. Her sibling and Reilly assume her former boyfriend Ray Grant not only helped her, he hid her probably in Brooklyn. Each side demands he reveals where she is. He has no idea but turns to his dying father, a former NYPD cop, to help him find Jin before he becomes an afterlife greeter welcoming his father.

This is an excellent crime thriller that grips readers as every trail converges on Li even an overseas stock market. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the two young Mexicans are killed in Brooklyn and never slows down as Tom, Chen and Ray understand the threats to their lives while each seek Li as the key to their safety. Fans of urban crime capers will appreciate this exhilarating action-packed thriller that never decelerates ending with a typhoon.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Mutiny!: The True Events That Inspired the Hunt for Red October

Mutiny!: The True Events That Inspired the Hunt for Red October
David Hagberg and Boris Gindin
Forge, May 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765313508

In November 1975, Soviet anti-nuclear submarine frigate FFG Storozhevoy is docked in Riga, Latvia for normal maintenance and repair after six months at sea. Third in command Captain Valery Sablin is appalled by the wide corruption of leading Brezhnev officials and much of the bureaucracy overrun by party hacks including Soviet navy brass. He sees fat cats taking shortcuts with the lives of sailors to pocket money and obtains the best items for themselves and their family. Outraged as only a true believer can be, the Marxist/Leninist fundamentalist decides to take control of the vessel and sail to Leningrad where he would broadcast to the people to overthrown the corrupted. All went well with his plan until the Kremlin learned what he was doing and interceded.

This is the real events of the Soviet naval mutiny that led to the novel and movie The Hunt for Red October as related to novelist David Hagberg by then twenty-four years old Senior Lieutenant Gindin, who was part of the crew. The back ground of naval life in the totalitarian superpower is fascinating and well written while setting the stage for the exciting look at the events that happened in late 1975. Although nonfiction and told mostly by the viewpoint of Mr. Gindin though much supported by documentation, Mutiny is a tense thriller that grips readers from start to finish even with knowing the outcome.

Harriet Klausner

Lost Prince-Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Lost Prince
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Borderlands Press, Mar 2008, $16.95
ISBN: 9781880325797

In 1564 Spain is under the terror grip of the Grand Inquisition that sees no distinction between classes when it comes to destroying those marked by the devil. Even King Alonzo understands the reach of the Grand Inquisition as he himself indirectly fed its fervor with his anti-reformation. However, his son Don Alteza Rolon is cursed from birth with the lycanthropy disease. Though he detest his offspring as a monster, to keep his Infante Real heir safe, the monarch “exiles” him to El Morro in the mountains accompanied by court jester Lugantes.

When horrific deaths occur on the full moon over El Morro, a frightened Rolon assumes he is the culprit and begins seeking a cure for his ailment. Before he finds a remedy to his blood lust infliction, Alonzo calls him home as he is to wed the niece of the Doge of Venice in a political marriage to pampered hedonistic Zaretta Patrecipazio. To his shock, Rolon falls in love with his wife and has an even stronger reason to find the cure as he wants to avoid the heretic label and the pyre while also fearing for his playful spouse and their future offspring.

Although there is no St Germain in this thrilling werewolf historical tale, fans of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro will appreciate this timely extremely dark look at The Spanish Inquisition; especially the use of torture to obtain confessions under the guise of religious security. The victims almost always “validate” what the torturer demand they say making the story line feel apropos today (wonder if reincarnation exists?). The novel follows the adventures of Infante Real Don Rolon who might be the heir to the throne, but being a werewolf at this time in Spain marks him as heretic and if found out needing to be cleaned in the pyre; he and his loyal retinue like heroic dwarf Lugantes try to hide his illness. With a terrific final spin to accentuate the period, the audience will feel they are visiting mid sixteenth century Spain where the Grand Inquisition serves as judge, jury and executioner.

Harriet Klausner

From Dead to Worse-Charlaine Harris

From Dead to Worse
Charlaine Harris
Ace, May 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441015894

The bomb explosion at the vampire summit in Rhodes, Louisiana scared, Sookie Stackhouse, telepathic extraordinaire and waitress at a diner owned by a shapeshifter., She prays she will have a respite from problems in the supernatural world. She does not expect any because so many vampires and other species died or are missing including her were-tiger boyfriend Quinn.

Unfortunately the last thing Sookie knows is that a crisis begets a worse crisis. During the were contest for Packmaster, Alcide’s father was killed and Furnan consolidated his reign. Now people loyal to Alcide are dying and he thinks Furnan is responsible. When Furnan’s wife is kidnapped, he blames Alcide. Sookie tries to arbitrate a peace.

The New Orleans vampire queen Sophie is in desperate straits as Katrina destroyed much of her power base in New Orleans, the bomb destroyed the vestige of her support and she is helpless while she is regenerating new legs. The city is ripe for a takeover from the king of Las Vegas but not everyone is happy with the new power structure. It is up to Sookie and her blood bonded vampire Eric Northman the vampire to prevent more deaths including the new ruler.

The heroine prefers to keep to herself but tries to help the supernatural community while the humans reject her due to her telepathy prowess. She will do anything to save those she cares about while her animosity towards Bill the vampire who betrayed her remains strong. Action-packed yet character driven, FROM DEAD TO WORSE is Charlaine Harris at her world-building best with this entertaining original story.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, March 21, 2008

Sleeping with the Devil-Vanessa Marlowe

Sleeping with the Devil
Vanessa Marlowe
St. Martin's Griffin, Apr 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780312364779

Desert chef Meg White enjoys her mundane middle class lifestyle although she almost always is broke as her pay stinks. However, when she meets affluent older Jordan Blair while vacationing with her fiancĂ© Steve the salesman on the rainy Oregon coast, she is immediately attracted to his sophisticated charm. He is just as hooked. She ends her engagement rationalizing Steve is hooked on Kimberly whom he just met, gives up her job, and quickly moves into Jordan’s expensive penthouse.

He expands her sexual encounters into a variety of S&M and other partners, but reduces her world to his apartment. Meg soon becomes concerned as she realizes Jordon is controlling every aspect of her life. She fears if the bird escapes the gilded cage, this control freak will hunt her down.

This chilling character driven psychological thriller focuses on control by an obsessed person using any means from sexual to economic to guilt inducement in order to maintain domination and supremacy. Meg’s first person account showcases her change from euphoria to doubt to abject fear as she reassesses just who Jordan is. With a superb final twist, fans will appreciate this strong look at abuse that comes in many ways not just physical and emotional, but sexual and economic terrorism.

Harriet Klausner

Perfect Family-Pam Lewis

Perfect Family
Pam Lewis
Simon & Schuster, Apr 2008, $25.00
ISBN: 9780743291453

In Vermont twentyish single mom Pony Carteret drowns while skinny-dipping at her affluent family’s vacation home. While the local police investigate the drowning death, the Carteret brood back in Hartford argues over what happened to her and why and who will take in her infant son Andrew since they do not know the name of the father. Pony’s widower father Jasper and her oldest sister Tinker are mostly interested in burying the scandal, but for now the latter takes in the child.

That same day that Pony died, she pleaded with her older brother William to come up to the Vermont house to talk where they argued. William feels guilty that he left her there, wondering if the accident or suicide was caused by her being distraught or homicide by her lover, her family, or someone else related to why Pony met with him. He needs to know so he investigates starting from the picture of their late mom taken with another man who is not their father. Meanwhile middle daughter Mira meets Keith at the funeral and begins seeing him; he persuades Mira and Tinker that their brother and their late sister were more than friendly siblings.

Filled with plenty of twists especially when William turns amateur sleuth, the aptly titled PERFECT FAMILY is a wonderful tale of a wealthy New England dysfunctional clan. The story line is character driven by the siblings, the patriarch and William’s girlfriend; however, the key player their late mom never seems fully developed though all dynamic lines flow through her as even long dead she remains the hub of the Carteret family. Fans will appreciate Pam Lewis’ entertaining thriller as the secrets keep on coming out.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Wolfman-Nicholas Pekearo

The Wolfman
Nicholas Pekearo
Tor, May 2008, $23.95
ISBN 9780765320261

Discharged by the Army after serving as a grunt in Nam, Marlowe Higgins lives in Evelyn near the Ivy River just a spider’s web outside of Tennessee. He earns a poor man’s living making hamburgers at Frank’s greasy spoon make that restaurant as he needs the below poverty level position. Once a month Marloew feels schizoid because he relishes yet fears the full moon when he, like his antecedents before him, turns into a werewolf. He also investigates malicious crimes as a form of sublimation to abate his guilt over killing innocent people during his blood disorder frenzy although Marlowe tries to target killers when he turns wolf albeit not always successfully.

A particularly vicious serial killer has begin horrifically murdering people; the media calls this psychopath the Rose Killer for potting flowers in eye sockets of victims. Higgins begins investigating this predator with plans to rip his throat out when he finally hunts him down.

This engaging paranomral serial killer thriller is an entertaining tale that werewolf fans and investigative vigilante readers will appreciate as the hero seems genuine especially when he agonizes over killing an innocent. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action, but it is Higgins who makes the horror crime thriller work as fans will empathize with his plight while wondering whether we sympathize with the devil. Sadly, Mr. Nicholas Pekearo was killed in 2007 while on duty as a NYPD auxiliary police officer.

Harriet Klausner

Twisted Sisters-Stephanie Hale

Twisted Sisters
Stephanie Hale
Berkley, Apr 2008, $9.99
ISBN: 9780425219508

As a senior in high school Aspen Brooks spent part of the year being stalked and kidnapped (see REVENGE of the HOMECOMING QUEEN). Thus when Detective Harry Malone offers to pay her college tuition, she is elated to get away from home and its reminders of her ordeal. As a freshman attending Comfort Community College (instead of State U thanks to mom being a shopaholic), Aspen is elated that her boyfriend Rand Bachrach is also at the school. Although no longer the pompous coed who thought the Homecoming Queen was preordained as her, Aspen joins the in-crowd sorority, Zeta House.

However Aspen has no time to enjoy the fruits of going Greek as she owes Harry not just for his rescue, but because of their agreement. He pays if she investigates the failed suicide of his niece, Mitzi as he believes there is more to what happened. As she makes inquiries, Rand is upset that his GF seems to spend more time with the sisterhood than she does with him; he turns to another babe who wants him as her BF while his roommate stalks Aspen.

TWISTED SISTERS is a fun undercover teen thriller. Aspen has two problems to deal with: the Greeks and the Geek with neither going right. Rand is terrific as he dumps the woman he loves due to her total neglect of him; forcing Aspen to chase after him. Fans will enjoy her latest teen chick lit sleuthing escapades as smart chicks not only rock they stay in school.

Harriet Klausner

Streets of Fire-Troy Soos

Streets of Fire
Troy Soos
Kensington, May 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780758206251

In 1895 the third biggest city in America, Brooklyn is about to join New York and become one metropolis. Harper Weekly reporter Marshall Webb weakened the Tammany hall organization with his exposé articles, but he feels stale and wants to quit. His boss convinces Marshall to work one freelance while taking time to write novels. He needs Marshall to cover the pending strike between the Brooklyn Railroad and its workers who demand safer working conditions and more money.

A strike is called with most people sympathizing with the employees until someone kills a cop. Most people assume a srriker murdered the polcie officer, but the victim’s superior Buck Morehouse thinks otherwise. The mayor, who owns stock in the railroad, calls in the militia to kill anyoe acting sucpious and does not care about collateral damage like the murder of a cop.

Marcus’ girlfriend Rebecca Davies, who runs a women’s shelter, is helping ex prostitute Vivian O’Connor set up a shelter targeting women wanting to get out of her former line of work. She calls it Sayre House after a girl she considered a friend was beaten to death. Several weeks later, O’Connor is killed; Rebecca, Marshall and Buck believe the homicides are linked, but they need to discover how.

Troy Soos provides a great atmospheric historical novel that gives readers a picture of the corruption in the police department and by local politicans during the Gay Nineties. The common person takes for granted that the powerful will abuse their positions as that is the accepted cost of being “protected” (sounds like politicans have not changed in over a century). The three prime protaognists of STREETS OF FIRE are fully developed and believable as they walk on the wild side of the streets of Manhatten and Brooklyn.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Infected-Scott Sigler

Scott Sigler
Crown, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780307406101

The country is stunned as law abiding ethical citizens suddenly turn into homicidal mass murderers. The first reaction in DC beyond presidential and congressional anger, fear and survival is alien terrorism so the CIA is assigned the lead with an assist from CDC since the symptoms of the killers are scratchy blue triangular irritations on their skin.

CIA agent Dew Phillips leads the inquiry with CDC epidemiologist Margaret Montoya as his scientific advisor. They soon believe that alien terrorism is extremely accurate as Margaret studying the corpses of these deranged killers finds each commonly hosted a parasite never seen before and apparently not of this earth. Then they meet a live subject, former football player Perry Dawsey, who is at war with the aliens inside his body demanding he feed them while he demands they leave him.

Modernizing and combining the INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS with the LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, Scott Sigler provides an exhilarating horror thriller that grips the audience the moment the first maniacal mass murder occurs and never slows down as the Feds struggle to prevent a deadly parasitical alien invasion. Fast-paced, INFECTED never decelerates as time is running out on mankind with Peter the last Hail Mary hope.

Harriet Klausner

Little Brother-Cory Doctorow

Little Brother
Cory Doctorow
Tor, May 2008, $17.95
ISBN: 9780765319852

Every student in Marcus’ high school is under surveillance through cameras both in and out of class, spy ware in the school computers and identification cards with microchips inside that let the powers to be know where they are at all times. Marcus is a computer guru who lives to beat the system; he and some friends cut school to participate in a scavenger hunt sponsored by a large corporation.

While they are trying to decipher a clue, an explosion occurs followed by a mushroom cloud rising in the sky. Terrorists hit the Bay Bridge and a San Francisco BART station. Marcus’ friend Darryl is injured so they stop a Homeland Security vehicle. The teens are treated like terrorists and taken to prison where they are mentally and physically tortured. Three of them are freed but Darryl is nowhere to be found. Homeland Security has turned San Francisco into a police state, but Marcus knows the truth and organizes a resistance.

LITTLE BROTHER is a tense frightening thriller because with little spin it comes from headlines since 9/11. Marcus is a fighter yet a reluctant hero as he just wants freedom without insistent government meddling, peeking, and intruding under the guise of red alerts. Cory Doctorow has modernized 1984 with this exhilarating cautionary thriller; though one must wonder whether he will receive the Rushdie treatment from the Patriot actors.

Harriet Klausner

The Fire Waker-Ben Pastor

The Fire Waker
Ben Pastor
St. Martin's, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312353919

In 304 C.E. Emperor Diocletian sends his official historian Commander Aelius Spartianus on a diplomatic mission. On the dangerous trek to meet one of the other tetrarch rulers Emperor Constantius, the envoy receives a strange missive while in Belgica Prima province. The note claims Christian healer Agnus THE FIRE WAKER allegedly returned from the dead brick-maker Marcus Lupus; however soon after the miracle occurred, Lupus is found murdered in his bed with no third time reanimation.

Aelius curious by the rumors decides to briefly stop and investigate the Lupus homicide. His inquiry quickly leads him to the killing of Judge Marcellus who led court cases against Christians and a procurement corruption case that ties back brick making. The local Commander and other officials resent the outsider intruding in their affairs while Aelius wonders how high up the corruption scandal truly goes.

Mindful of the John Maddox Roberts’ SQXR series though a few centuries into the future, the second Spartianius investigative tale (see THE WATER THIEF) is a superb Ancient Rome whodunit. The story line uses the envoy’s sleuthing as a means of providing the audience a deep look at local and regional politics in a period when the once mighty Rome has divided into four rival yet “united” empires. The whodunit is excellent with wonderful twists while the glimpse into the tetrarch as fascinating if not more so.

Harriet Klausner

Mighty Old Bones-Mary Saums

Mighty Old Bones
Mary Saums
St. Martin’s, Apr 2008, $23.95
ISBN 9780312360641

In normally sleepy Tullulah, Alabama, best friends Jane Thistle and Phoebe Twigg vow to not get involved in any investigation after their recent harrowing experience (see THISTLE AND TWIGG). Instead the duo works together on the upcoming annual Halloween bash hosted at the local library.

While they toil together, a severe thunderstorm causes some damage including uprooting a tree on Jane’s land. After the storm passes, the two women go outside to assess the damage to Jane’s property only to find the remains of a human had been buried there. Based on information in the library, Jane and local law enforcement officials believe that corpse is probably part of an Indian burial site. Still experts are asked to confirm the prevalent theory while Jane joins the dig as she has archeological skills amongst her global travels. Meanwhile she and Phoebe discuss the vanishing of a popular senior.

This enjoyable small town regional cozy is fun to follow due to the strong friendship that contrasts the extroverted and introverted BFs. The story line simmers down two paths that soon link as the amateur sleuths become embroiled with the mysteries of the corpse and the disappearance while also working on the bash. MIGHTY OLD BONES is a fine T&T tale.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Buckingham Palace Gardens-Anne Perry

Buckingham Palace Gardens
Anne Perry
Ballantine, Mar 2008, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345469311

In 1893, the Prince of Wales invites four affluent businessmen and their wives to Buckingham Palace to discuss a proposal to construct a Pan Africa rail line. After the ladies turn in for the night the Prince offers special entertainment to the male quartet. The next morning a servant finds a mutilated corpse in a closet. The deceased was part of the previous night’s entertainment.

Special Services Branch agent Thomas Pitt is assigned to solve the murder without bringing unneeded attention to the Royals. He is accompanied by his wife Charlotte and their maid Gracie Phipps, who goes undercover as part of the staff. With the help of the two females, Thomas eliminates the entire huge staff as suspects. Instead he focuses on the prince himself and his eight guests although the sleuth fears if it turns out to be the heir or if he fails to solve the case, the monarchy could be in trouble.

This is a superb Victorian mystery as Anne Perry brings alive the era through the investigation inside Buckingham and the increasing question of why a monarchy in the modern age. The story line is fast-paced as Thomas understands fully what failure could mean while the two women working for him add depth to the whodunit. Fans of the series will fully appreciate the latest tale even of knowledge of history ironically eliminates one of the nine suspects.

Harriet Klausner

Losing You-

Losing You
Nicci French
St. Martin’s, Apr 2008, $23.95
ISBN 9780312375386

On Sandling Island, England, divorced Nina Landry raises her two children, fifteen years old Charlie and Jackson. Nina is looking forward to a Christmas vacation in Florida with her boyfriend marine biologist Christian and is pleasantly stunned when he and others arrange a surprise fortieth birthday party for her.

However her joy turns to concern when Charlie fails to come home from a teen pajama party. Not only is this out of character for her daughter, but Charlie also promised to help pack for the Florida trip, a vacation the teen was looking forward to. Nina goes to the police, who provide her with platitudes about teens and nothing else just like friends and family did earlier. Each minute that passes with no news is like a nuclear bomb exploding in her stomach, but nothing except helplessness and fear happen.

This tense thriller is told predominantly by Nina so that the audience sees her dread grow rapidly and out of control because she is frustrated and fears the worst. Fans especially parents will empathize with Nina, as she not only prays for the safe return of her daughter, she offers deals to the Lord to make it happen. This is a winner from Nicci French as Nina’s life goes from joy to terror in a short span.

Harriet Klausner

Death on the Holy Mountain-David Dickinson

Death on the Holy Mountain
David Dickinson
Soho, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9781569475034

In 1905, though semi retired, English private investigator Lord Francis Powerscourt accompanied by his wife Lucy travel to Ireland to look into some odd art thefts. Someone is stealing low valued familial portraits from the mansions of Protestant Lords, but ignoring highly valuable masterpieces from some of the Masters.

Francis struggles with the motive as money is obviously not the objective; so he assumes a political statement is being made. However, when the portraits with altered faces begin to reappear on the walls they were stolen from, Francis ponders even more the motive behind the crime. Soon after that the bewildered sleuth rescues kidnapped Protestant noblewomen from Irish nationalists but not before someone is murdered inside the chapel at Croagh Patrick while the pilgrimage has begun.

Moving deeper into the Edwardian Era from the Victorian Age of much of the previous Powerscourt historical mysteries; David Dickinson provides a deep period piece. The story line obviously contains a strong investigative whodunit, but also much more as the audience obtains a feel for Ireland’s struggle to become a modern nation. Powerscourt personally feels the tugs, but it is the larger scale of early twentieth century pragmatism warring with rich ancient tradition that makes this book incredible.

Harriet Klausner

Reconstruction-Mick Herron

Mick Herron
Soho, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9781569475041

A desperate Jaime Segura holds a gun on several hostages at the South Oxford Nursery School. One of them teacher Louise Kenney thinks he looks no more than nineteen even with the weapon as she realizes her earlier Incident seems so minor. A parent Eliot Pedlar tries to calm down his three-year-old twins weeping Timmy and Gordon, but with little success as the “Gun” seems so menacing. Then there is the cleaner to round out the prisoners.

However Jaime may be a foreigner, but he is not a terrorist. In fact he is as frightened if not more so than those he retains. His lover Miro has vanished along with 250 million pounds stolen from the Secret Service; money intended for Iraq. Meanwhile two agents tried to kidnap Jaime; all he could think of was to escape before rendition. The police surround the school asking Jaime for his demands and to free the innocent. Jaime surprises everyone insisting he will talk only with M16 accountant Ben Whistler who worked with Miro in the office. Louise knows this will end badly for everyone inside the nursery school, but she assumes Jaime is the cause instead of those outside waiting to silence all those inside to insure there are no witnesses especially the teen with the gun.

This is a great one sitting suspense tale filled with plausible yet stunning twists as nothing proves to be like it seems. Readers will feel they are claustrophobically locked inside with the hostages and the Gun while wondering who outside wants this to end tragically. Mick Herron provides an exhilarating taut thriller that will land on most short lists for one of the best of the year.

Harriet Klausner

In a Dark Season-Vicki Lane

In a Dark Season
Vicki Lane
Dell, May 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780440243601

Driving past the spooky house Elizabeth Goodweather, owner of the Full Circle Far, sees a woman about to commit suicide. She is horrified when she realizes this is her new friend Nola Barrett, who seemed perfectly stable just a few days ago. She tries to reason with Nola while waiting for authorities to arrive, but the woman leaps anyway. Fortunately Nola is not seriously injured although she is taken to the hospital. Her niece Tracy arrives to sell Nola’s home so the money can be used to place her in a nursing facility.

Elizabeth is a bit suspicious because she never heard Nola saying she had any living relatives. Whenever she visits Nola at the home, her friend does not seem lucid until she starts babbling in rhyme and her words have meaning. While Elizabeth tries to figure out what is going on, Nola’s pastor commits suicide for a long ago sin. These events tie back to a gang rape of an innocent young woman who wrote to the interested sheriff; but her letter was stolen so he has no way to contact her. In a silo, the bones of a man is found. Elizabeth knows these seemingly unlinked events are tied together, but not how while a cold killer prepares to add her to the list.

Vickie Lane writes a fabulous whodunit that contains various crimes in the past like when a young man is hanged for a murder he did not commit. The story line is vivid with the past imparting clues Elizabeth finds in her present activities. This technique cleverly works absorbing the audience into wondering what the heroine will find next. Although the amateur sleuth paradox is evident, fans will appreciate IN A DARK SEASON as this juicy mystery has several subplots that provide the motive to the present crimes.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Cold Spot-Tom Piccirilli

The Cold Spot
Tom Piccirilli
Bantam, May 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780553590845

When he was ten years old someone killed his eight months pregnant mother with a bullet to her head. His father cannot cope with his loss and leaves Chase in the car while vanishing on his boat. Chase is in foster care until he grandfather Jonah comes for him. Jonah is a career criminal who brings Chase into his life of crime; eventually the grandson drove the getaway cars. Chase walks out on his grandfather when he sees Jonah cold bloodedly kill a friend.

Chase drifts around the country stealing cars for robberies and leaving once the loot is distributed. In a small town in Mississippi, he and his cohorts botch a robbery. Lila wants to arrest them, but Chase escapes. He hangs around town and soon the thug and the deputy sheriff marry. They move to Long Island where she obtains a police officer job and he becomes a teacher. They are happy together until Lila dies in the line of duty; Chase seeks revenge but needs the help of the last man he would ever ask for assistance if he is to succeed.

This novel starts at a rapid pace and just keeps getting faster as the action continually comes even after Chase leaves behind his life of crime for marriage in the burbs. When his beloved is killed by a getaway car driver, the homicide hits his soul as that is what he used to do and his heart as the victim is his Lila. He swears to cross a line he never crossed before; even for his grandfather. Readers will admire his courage and need to avenge his beloved although his criminal activity past is another story; it is the audience’s reaction to Chase that affirms Tom Piccirilli’s writing skills.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Avenging Fury-John Farris

Avenging Fury
John Farris
Forge, May 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9780312877323

Although mortals see her as a freak even when she saves their lives and has the FBI psychopath assassins after her, Eden Waring proves time after time she is a caring Avatar; she uses her mental skills to keep people safe. Her recent efforts brought her into war against Mordaunt the evil one from another plane, who thought he could manipulate the twenty-something female as his pawn to bring chaos to this realm. He thought wrong as Eden defeated him and incarcerated his physical form inside molten glass (see THE FURY AND THE POWER).

However, Eden makes one key mistake caused by her inexperience as an avatar fighting non-human malevolencies. Part of Mordaunt's soul escaped the imprisonment just prior to the glass melting. Thus his female persona Delilah is not just out there; she goes to 1926 Georgia waiting to possess Eden's doppelganger Gwen when the latter arrives. Near Vegas just after the Mordant meltdown, in Eden’s present, Delilah inside Gwen confronts the kindhearted Avatar with both using Dark Energy that will change the Universe.

The final “Fury” tale may have taken three decades to arrive, but fans will fully appreciate this strong horror suspense thriller as the climatic good vs. evil showdown occurs. The story line is hyper fast-paced from the onset and never takes a breather even when Gwen goes back in time as John Farris accelerates the velocity of his plot. Fans of the saga will appreciate the invigorating finish to an exhilarating epic quartet.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Past Caring-Robert Goddard

Past Caring
Robert Goddard
Delta, May 2008
ISBN: 9780385341172

In 1977 Madeira, thirty year old wannabe but failed historian Martin Radford has an opportunity to redeem his name instead of wasting his talent and education as he has so far. Leo Sellick selects him to look into the disturbing life of the late Home Secretary Edwin Strafford, whose meteoric rise foretold a great political future that collapsed even faster in 1910 after only two years in the cabinet. Sellick wants to learn why Strafford failed so rapidly that he moved to Madeira to hide and why Prime Minister George named him consul there to live and die in obscurity.

Martin obtains Strafford’s journal that implies there is much more to the abrupt resignation from the cabinet of George’s predecessor Asquith and Parliament of a rising political superstar. Instead Strafford seems to implicate some great figures of the Edwardian Era just prior to WW I with ethical crimes and even murder to conceal their corruption and the young politico embroiled in a love affair only to have the woman he cherished Elizabeth Latimer reject him. Martin’s research brings him looking at his own family while he ponders whether a peer Mr. Coachman wanted to destroy Strafford and if so why. Stranger yet someone wants Radford to drop his study and that unknown person is willing to kill to insure the secrets of six and a half decades ago remain buried because they have major implications on those in power today.

Starting with its aptly named title, PAST CARING is a reprint of a deep English historical thriller that uses a fascinating twist of historiography enabling the audience to compare the modern day (1977) historian with the Edwardian figure he is studying. Fans who appreciate a taut tale will enjoy past and present as betrayal in love and politics is a theme both generations distastefully swallow.

Harriet Klausner

Where Are You Now?-Mary Higgins Clark

Where Are You Now?
Mary Higgins Clark
Simon & Schuster, Apr 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9781416566380

Over a decade ago Charles “Mack” Mackenzie Jr. disappeared while attending Columbia University with plans of going to Duke University law School after he graduated. However, since he vanished Mack has called his mother annually to wish her a Happy Mother’s day and to let her know he is okay. Although he knows she became a widow on 9/11, he has not changed his annual routine as he tells her nothing else about where he is, what he is doing, and why he left.

Mack’s younger sister, Carolyn, a recent graduate of Duke Law School, informs him when he calls that she will find him to bring him home. However Mack leaves a note for his uncle, Father Devon Mackenzie of St. Francis church, to tell Carolyn to leave well enough alone and not seek him out. Carolyn becomes even more resolute to at least confront her older brother face to face to ask why.

The queen of suspense is at her best with this riveting tale that has the audience enthralled with wondering why Mack vanished. Readers are hooked from the onset as we learn of the “vigil” that his mother and sister do starting midnight on Mother’s Day; Like Carolyn, fans want to know. The heroine’s investigation is terrific as she begins to learn the truth why her brother vanished. Mary Higgins Clark provides her fans with an excellent family thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Boxer and the Spy-Robert B. Parker

The Boxer and the Spy
Robert B. Parker
Philomel (Putnam), May 2008, $17.99
ISBN: 9780399247750

When the body of Jason Green is found, his classmates, teachers and administrators at Cabot, north of Boston, accept the cops’ official findings that he killed himself because he was juiced with “roids”. Only student athlete Terry Novak disagrees with the prevalent suicide theory; he knows that Jason may have been a lover, but was not a jock so would not have done steroids to become a landscape designer as the teen planned to be. Terry wonders if his classmate he was murdered.

Terry half persuades his best friend Abby to help him investigate the death. However, he makes little progress until his trainer retired professional boxer George encourages him to hold his head up, jab away, and not quit. Heeding that advice, Terry keeps digging not aware the danger he brings to himself and Abby by someone who wants the ruling to remain suicide.

Obviously targeting the teen crowd, Robert B. Parker provides an engaging high school mystery starring a young sleuth trying to uncover the truth about the recent death of a classmate. With a strong support cast from George to cigarette smoking Beverly, Suzi and Tank to Mr. Principal and more, the story line is fast-paced from the first jab to the last as Terry and Abby follow clues that lead them to danger.

Harriet Klausner

Hold Tight-Harlan Coben

Hold Tight
Harlan Coben
Dutton, Apr 2008, $26.95
ISBN: 9780525950608

In Glen Rock, New Jersey, the recent suicide of teenager Spencer Hill has sent shockwaves throughout the community as parents wonder could their offspring follow suit and teens ponder what they could have done differently to prevent the tragedy. Since Spencer killed himself, his classmate, sixteen years old Adam Bave has been acting strange as he shows no enthusiasm for anything at all. His aloofness would have been ignored as a teen thing by his parents, Tia and Mike, but with the Spencer death they fear their child could be depressed and perhaps be the next suicide. Panic stricken as they debate security vs. privacy, the Bave pair place spy ware on their son’s hard drive.

A few days after their intrusion, Tia and Mike begin feeling a bit better and silly as nothing out of ordinary has happened until a message from an unknown source menacingly states: "Just stay quiet and all safe". At the same time a grieving Betsy Hill, Spencer’s mom keeps asking her self how she failed to see the signs; as she goes through an on-line memorial until one photograph stuns her; on the night her beloved son killed himself, neighbor Adam Bave or someone who looks similar is standing nearby her son.

Harlan Coben is at his best with this intimidating one sitting thriller that has the audience pondering on different levels security vs. privacy. Adding to the overall discomfit levels caused by this deep chiller is the knowledge the setting can be just about anywhere in the States as Glen Rock happens to be a suburb of New York City. However what makes HOLD TIGHT a strong suspense is not the menace though this culprit is frighteningly deadly and dangerous; it is the Bave parents’ dealing with the choice of to intrude or not to intrude that on a family level parallels the 9/11 to eavesdrop or not to eavesdrop. Readers will believe they could be the Bave or Hill family as Mr. Coben writes a thought-provoking timely profound thriller.

Harriet Klausner

President Lincoln's Spy-Steven Wilson

President Lincoln's Spy
Steven Wilson
Kensington, May 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 0758225148

In July 1861, during what later became known by historians as the Battle of Bull Run, Northern Colonel Pettibone calls for a retreat as the rebel forces appear ready to break through his line. Thinking no retreat or surrender, Captain Fitz Dunaway ignores the order and instead leads a counter surge that prevents the Confederate army from breaching the Union lines. Outraged by the defiance of his inferior officer, Pettibone has Dunaway detained in the guardhouse.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of War Thaddeus Prescott offers Dunaway a job that will get him out of the jail and allow him to take the risks he seems to relish. Dunaway accepts being part of President Lincoln's protective force, but understands his mission is to uncover who is plotting to kill the leader of the Free States. To do this he must pose as a Lincoln hater so that the conspirators ask him to join the plot to kill the President.

PRESIDENT LINCOLN'S SPY is an engaging well written historical fiction thriller that paradoxically suffers from Steven Wilson choosing so well known of a figure and adhering to facts that readers know what will ultimately happen at least to the President. Still Dunaway’s escapades make for an interesting tale as the hero begins to understand politics has strange bedfellows so not to trust anyone who just might be undercover working for some other side.

Harriet Klausner

Sister Pellagia and the Black Monk-Boris Akunin

Sister Pellagia and the Black Monk
Boris Akunin
Random House, May 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780812975147

In the late nineteenth century in Zavolzhsk, Russia late at night a terrorized monk arrives at the abode of Bishop Mitrofanii shouting and weeping simultaneously as he struggles to explain that something has gone terribly wrong at the Hermitage. The Bishop seeing his distraught and unkempt monk becomes concerned as New Ararat Monastery is on the isolated Spartan island as well as an asylum built by a wealthy exile.

The Bishop sends aids to Hermitage to investigate, but those who step forth on the island go insane. With several homicides already, Bishop Mitrofanii is unsure what to do beyond praying. Sister Pelagia wants to go investigate, but females are banned from setting foot on the island. However, when others fail, Sister Pellagia decides to break custom to by going undercover to learn the truth especially about the so called Black Monk who apparently is behind the terror at the hermitage.

The second Sister Pelagia historical amateur sleuth (see SISTER PELLAGIA AND THE WHITE BULLDOG) is an engaging mystery once the heroine takes over the investigation, which comes after the essential background is established as to the players and the locale. Sister Pellagia is a wonderful protagonist who risks everything by violating the Hermitage taboo re females to uncover the truth as she quickly learns nothing or no body including people she has known for a long time are quite like she thought. This is radically different than Boris Akunin’s Erast Petrovich Fandorin series but readers will appreciate the Sister’s inquiries into the mundane and spiritual shortcomings of her late nineteenth century church.

Harriet Klausner

Death by Bikini-Linda Gerber

Death by Bikini
Linda Gerber
Penguin, May 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780142411179

With her father, Aphra Behn Connolly lives on a tropical island where they manage a resort. Her mom chose not to go with them because she felt a need to find herself. Aphra helps her dad run the resort and the Connolly duo has become very close. That is until the Smiths arrive. The father says something in private to Aphra’s dad who places them in a villa that needs renovations and fails to register them as guests.

Frank makes it clear to his daughter that he does not want her to have anything to do with the Smiths’ son Seth, but not why. Aphra is curious about the newcomers and finally goes into the office to read the Smith file, if there is one. She finds cards that her mother sent her that her father kept from her. Upset she runs out of the office as two people on the island show interest in the Smiths. Aphra’s father becomes ill and the only person who can help him is Mr. Smith, but for him to save his host, their offspring must keep the killers away from their dads.

Readers know from the onset that the “Smiths” are on the run from someone who wants them dead while Aphra has to work on finding out who they are; her sleuthing is fun to follow. Readers will empathize with the members of the two families, as each has problems to deal with. Linda Gerber provides an entertaining young adult mystery suspense thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Silent Fall-Barbara Freethy

Silent Fall
Barbara Freethy
Onyx, Apr 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451412553

At Woodlake Mountain Lodge in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, investigative reporter Dylan Saunders attends his brother Jake’s “second” wedding with Sarah. Also there is a former lover Erica Layton, who once provided the journalist with volatile information. She asks Dylan to sneak away with her into the nearby woods, which he does.

When he awakens in the morning, he is confused by last night’s events especially when he concludes he was drugged. He also is the prime suspect in the apparent disappearance of Erica. A wedding guest of the bride psychic Catherine Hilliard had a vision involving danger to Dylan and though she would prefer to stay out as she grasps the peril to herself, Catherine investigates trusting on her visions to guide her.

Following up on the suspense thriller SILENT RUN, Jake’s sibling takes center stage as he finds himself in a major mess with the only hope being the stunning psychic as Dylan wants to keep Jake, Sarah, and his eighteen month old niece out of the fiasco if possible. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action with a touch of the paranormal. Dylan is fabulous as a man in peril and his reluctant rescuer Sarah’s best friend is terrific. Although Dylan plays a major support role in SILENT RUN, Barbara Freethy’s excellent sequel can stand alone.

Harriet Klausner

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective
Kate Summerscale
Walker, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780802715357

In the summer of 1860, someone slashed the throat of three-year-old Saville Kent and dumped the child into an outdoor privy on his family's estate. The news traveled throughout England horrifying everyone that a child could be brutally murdered like this. Pressure mounted on the local police to solve the case, but no clues surfaced. Because of the publicity Scotland Yard sends its top sleuth Detective Inspector Jonathan "Jack" Whicher to investigate. He quickly assumes a member of Savile’s family or a part of the Kent housekeeping staff killed the lad. He specifically believed that Saville’s teenage half-sister Constance killed the boy, but failed to find solid proof of his assertion. Despondent Whicher went back to London as a different man than the confident person who left a few months earlier to detect the killer. Five years later, the culprit confessed.

This is a great biographical fiction of an interesting real life mid nineteenth century detective working a shocking homicide case that left him doubting his skills. Fascinatingly Jack’s theory that the victim knew his killer as the culprit was probably related shocked England as unbelievable; today that is a prime source for suspects. Readers will appreciate the true investigation of “A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective” who investigated the heinous crime.

Harriet Klausner

Careless in Red-Elizabeth George

Careless in Red
Elizabeth George
Harper, May 2008, $27.95
ISBN 9780061160875

Following the homicide of his beloved pregnant wife Helen (see WITH NO ONE AS WITNESS and the companion piece without Lynley in it: WHAT CAME BEFORE HE SHOT HER), a grieving Thomas Lynley quit Scotland Yard. Time has not proved a healer as the former detective spends his days aimlessly wandering around his hometown of Cornwall.

While on one of his senseless treks to numb the pain especially when he returns home at night, Lynley finds the battered body of teenager Santo Kerne, who it appears fell of a cliff while mountain climbing. When evidence affirms that someone sabotaged the victim’s equipment, Detective Inspector Bea Hannaford looks in the direction of the person who found the corpse. However, the cantankerous consummate professional also knows Lynley had no motive so looks to see who might. Lynley provides some limited assistance, as he is unable to do much more even understanding that he is the prime suspect.

The key to this police procedural that follows up on the tragic events of WITH NO ONE AS WITNESS is that in spite of the situation he finds himself in, Lynley still mourns deeply and the case does not stop that nor turn him into super-cop. Instead he plays second fiddle (some might say audience) as Hannaford conducts the investigation. The whodunit is cleverly devised and would stand out on its own as a strong English police procedural, but it is the realism of the two cop-characters who make Elizabeth George’s latest thriller a terrific tale.

Harriet Klausner

Last Post-Robert Barnard

Last Post
Robert Barnard
Scribner, May 2008, $24.00
ISBN: 9781416559405

In the town of Crossley in Yorkshire, England Eve McNabb has just come home from viewing her late mother May prior to the funeral. Eve knows her mom was adored by her students and their parents, which makes her grief a bit easier. Eve has a ton of condolence letters to peruse and respond to; but when she opens one from a stranger named Jean, she is stunned as she insists she and her mom had an affair. Her not so subtle implication shakes the mourning woman to her core.

Although she knew her mother was a very private person, Eve wonders why she never questioned her mom about her father John McGrath who disappeared in Australia without an apparent warning as far she knows to her late mom. Needing to know what happened when she was two, Eve interrogates everyone she assumes knew Meg and John back then including former headmistress Evelyn Southwick when her mom was a deputy working under her. Her need to know sends Eve to Australia to meet her father whom she forgives once she hears his side of the breakup. She is called back to England by the police who believe that Eve has information from her inquiries that could help them on an investigation in which Evelyn was murdered.

Renowned for his suspense thrillers filled with surprising but plausible twists, Robert Barnard uses master magician misdirection to lure the readers down the wrong path so that the connections that seem evident turn out to be not so obvious. Eve is a fully developed protagonist who grieves at the same time her image of her beloved mom has been tattered yet she needs to know the truth if she is to gain any closure. Her inquisitiveness makes this family suspense drama entertaining.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Flashpoint-Connie Hall

Connie Hall
Silhouette Athena Force, Apr 2008, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373389803

Athena Academy for the Advancement of Women graduate Lucy Karmon is an explosives expert who takes few risks as she uses the DAME technique to any scenario by dissecting, assessing, moderating, and estimating the situation to always succeed. Thus the Athena Academy leadership believes she and her team are most suited to go to Cape Town, South Africa to capture archenemy Arachne, who has been reported as operating with impunity from there. Her adversary turns out to be former SAS agent Nolan Taylor, an Arcane operative.

When they meet, their attraction is enormous. However, they work for opposing sides in a global war in which Arachne wants the total destruction of the Athena Academy and the extinction of all alumni. Nolan realizes he has made a bad error in judgment when he realizes his side is the terrorists. He joins Lucy’s side but though some of her teammates suspect him of being a mole, she applies DAME to him, which leads to trusting him with her life and heart.

FLASHPOINT is a great romantic suspense story that starts off in a fast-paced fashion in Puerto Isla and never slows down until the final adrenalin pumping climax. The lead couple is a superb pairing of a strong dedicated female and her opponent inadvertently working for the bad guys. Fans of the series will marvel at Connie Hall’s one sitting entry while newcomers will scramble for the back list.

Harriet Klausner

Blackness Tower-Lillian Stewart Carl

Blackness Tower
Lillian Stewart Carl
Juno, May 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780809572021

For years Laura Reay dreamed of a tower with people from the past living in it. Everyone except her grandfather dismissed it as her imagination until the day a calendar arrived from Cathiness, Scotland with the picture from August showing Blackness Tower, the place she has dreamed of for years.

David was looking for realism when he bought and restored Blackwell Tower. When he takes her into his house, she sees portraits of Catherine and Suzanne who could have been her twins, but lived at the tower during different eras. Laura stays with her cousin twice removed Emma who knows that Blackness Tower brought Laura over here for a purpose. Laura and David must make a treacherous journey into another realm so the ghosts of Blackwell Tower can find peace; failure means Laura will join the dead haunting the place.

Lillian Stewart Carl writes a thrilling supernatural modern day gothic thriller that starts off with a woman coming to terms with a different reality that she saw in her dreams. Now she must enter Fairy to break an evil spell that engulfs David’s home. There is plenty of action with people who lived past lives influencing decisions made by the heroine. BLACKNESS TOWER focuses on a brave woman coming to grips with her gift of Sight and a man who needs healing finding love with one another.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Mercy Oak-Kathryn R. Wall

The Mercy Oak
Kathryn R. Wall
St. Martin’s, May 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780312375348

On Sunday Island, South Carolina Bobby Santiago calls his mother Dolores’ employer Simpson & Tanner Inquiry Agent Bay Tanner asking for her help. He fears the Hispanic Jane Doe reported as dead in the Sunday Island Packet is his girlfriend, Serena Montalvo, who he believes was murdered.

Serena has been a vocal advocate of the rights of illegals; Bobby thinks the Coyotes who transport them to the States for exorbitant fees and blackmails them afterward, killed her. However, instead the victim is Serena’s sixteen years old sister, Theresa. Bobby and Serena vanish while his parents out of fear for their other two offspring as well themselves remain mute on what they know. When Dolores vanishes, Bay drops everything to find her housekeeper even as FBI Special Agent Harry Reynolds warns Bay to stay out of his inquiries into some bank robberies he is investigating and Homeland Security agents threaten to lock her up under the Patriot Act if she does not back off. Obstinate as ever; Bay digs deeper as she distrusts the Feds to protect the Santiago’s, Montalvo’s, or any illegals.

This is a fabulous Bay Tanner mystery that showcases the other side of the illegal immigration issue from the perspective of those entering the country illegally. Ironically, the recent clamor led by Congressman Tancredo to kick people out has abetted the Coyote crowd, who has found a lucrative second economic source. The story line is fast-paced as Bay gets involved in a case in which everyone tells her to stay out or else. Kathryn R. Wall is at her best with this exciting thought provoking thriller focusing on the consequences of who keeps winning the illegal immigration debate.

Harriet Klausner

Island of Lost Girls-Jennifer McMahon

Island of Lost Girls
Jennifer McMahon
Harper, May 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780061445880

While on her way to a job interview in Pike Crossing, Vermont, Rhonda Farr stops at a gas station. While waiting for service, she sees a mother enter a convenience store while her daughter Ernestine talks to a white rabbit who came up to the car. Mesmerized Rhonda freezes while the rabbit takes the little girl with him into another vehicle and drives away. Rhonda snaps out of her paralysis and tells the cops what she witnessed.

Pat of Pat’s Mini market where the abduction took place sets up in the store a center to coordinate people who want to find the girl. They get residents to look for her and hang up missing posters; volunteers man tip hotline phones. Rhonda tells her friend Peter what happened; he informs her that he was incommunicado when the rabbit did his deed. The evidence points to Peter as the kidnapper; no matter how hard she tries to reach him, Peter refuses to confide in Rhonda until she gives up on him and goes to the cops. That proves the catalyst for all hell to break loose with Rhonda’s life in jeopardy.

As with PROMISE NOT TO TELL, Jennifer McMahon provides a strong suspense thriller with realistic characters whom readers will feel they know. Running parallel with the present investigation are flashbacks to the disappearance of the father of Rhonda’s best friend Lizzie in 1993 after wearing a rabbit’s costume and three yeas after that Lizzie. The present crime brings back the as filtered through Rhonda’s memories. ISLAND OF LOST GIRL is a tense mystery that grips audience from the initial appearance of the rabbit and never lets go until the readers feels they entered the rabbit’s hole.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 10, 2008

Scared to Live- Stephen Booth

Scared to Live
Stephen Booth
Bantam, May 2008, $25.00
ISBN 9780385339070

In the Peak District, Devonshire Detective Sergeant Diane Fry leads the investigation into a deadly fire. She knows that the majority of these infernos are caused by faulty wiring, but whenever a death like this occurs, CID checks into it. In this case, Lindsay Mullen died in her room apparently confused as to how to escape, and two of her young children Liam and Jack died in their beds while the family patriarch Brian got out with minor burns and smoke inhalation as he was trying to get into the house having not been there when the fire began; he is in Edendale General. A third child, an eighteen months old daughter is missing.

At the same time that Fry wishes Detective Constable Ben Cooper had the case as he understands children better than anyone at the precinct, he investigates the apparent sniper death of cloistered Rose Shepherd in her home during the early hours of the morning. Postman Bernie Wilding had stopped to deliver a package, but she failed to answer. His case is going nowhere as no one saw or heard anything. Unbeknownst to Cooper, a witness fails to come forward as Darren Turnbull was sneaking out of the neighbor’s house and saw a big black car, probably Japanese stop and take off. Fry’s inquiries also seem to go nowhere, but soon her investigation and that of Cooper connect.

Although the link between the Mullen fiery deaths and the Shepherd assassination is a stretch wider than the Atlantic, English police procedural fans will enjoy this fast-paced thriller that rotates investigations until they tie together leading to a fabulous final twist. The cast is strong especially the lead cops and their immediate police support teams. However, it is the cases that grip the audience as suspense mounts while the DS and the DC struggle with difficult investigations in their latest Peak District tale (see THE DEAD PLACE and ONE LAST BREATH).

Harriet Klausner

A River To Die For- Radine Trees Nehring

A River To Die For
Radine Trees Nehring
St. Kitts, Apr 2008, $16.00
ISBN: 9781931206020

Carrie’s son Professor Robert McCrite and retired police officer Henry King’s half sister Catherine plan to go camping near the Buffalo National River in Arkansas. Rob invites his stunned mother to join them even after she sarcastically points out that he quit the Boy Scouts in less than four months because he hated sleeping outdoors even with a tent. She realizes her spouse Henry planned the vacation with Rob as an anniversary surprise, but her son from her first marriage stinks at hiding secrets.

Carrie says no as she cannot understand why anyone would give up a perfectly comfortable soft bed to sleep on the ground. However, Catherine vanishes and soon afterward so did Rob when he searched for her. Henry, Carrie and her friend Shirley go Ozark camping to find their missing loved ones. They soon find guilt wracked Rob, who confesses he biked away from Catherine, who remains missing.

The latest To Die For Arkansas mystery is a terrific tale with a fantasy element that seems to blend into the solid story line. Rob and Catherine play much greater roles than usual in this strong thriller. Radine Trees Nehring provides a deep cautionary tale that warns readers that poachers are stealing archeological treasures from the National Parks at a time that the law enforcement diligence is lacking and more development is the norm.

Harriet Klausner