Thursday, July 31, 2008

Deadly Beautiful-Sam Baker

Deadly Beautiful
Sam Baker
Ballantine, Aug 2008, $25.00
ISBN: 0345475909

When her career collapsed after leaving behind her teen years, former supermodel Scarlett Ulrich landed in Tokyo working at a bar. However, when Scarlett, the face that launched a million album covers, vanishes; her half-sister, Luella "Lou" McCartney becomes concerned. Knowing she needs help, Lou asks her reporter friend Annie Anderson to investigate.

Anne explains she is now a fashion features editor for Handbag magazine and is no longer doing investigative journalism as she used to (see FASHION VICTIM); besides she is in New York City while Scarlett was in Tokyo. However, Anne makes a few long distance inquiries and learns of Japan’s Roppongi Ripper, who has murdered several Western young blonde females; she fears Scarlett is on the dead list. She heads to Tokyo to learn what happened to Scarlett.

The investigation is superb as Anne tries to find Scarlett, but it is the look at the fashion industry’s obsession with the young that makes the tale worth reading. The father of the half-sisters symbolizes the youth fixation as Rufus is a "modelizer" who only wants to screw the latest superstar who is younger than his daughters. Readers will enjoy Sam Baker’s fine exposé in which twenty is old, twenty five is the walking dead, and thirty is an ancient history corpse.

Harriet Klausner

Paint the Town Dead-Nancy Bell

Paint the Town Dead
Nancy Bell
St. Martin's, Aug 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 0312362811

In Post Oak, Texas, someone executes realtor Tom Delgado, whose corpse is found by his office desk with a bullet to his head. The police believe Tom’s wife Dovie killed him when they learn his will leaves his vast estate to Dallas evangelist Sister Mary Dobbs McDermott; Dovie received almost nothing.

However, Judge Jackson Crain has some doubts that the motive was the will and wonders if business dealings could have been the motive for the homicide; Delgado as the king of local real estate had many enemies amongst the pretenders to his throne, especially those who felt he cheated them. The Judge begins his own brand of southern fried chicken investigation along side the police while also dealing with the strange behavior of his teenaged daughter Patty and starting a tryst with artist Roxanne Kruger; in town to spend time with her dying mother.

The third Judge Jackson Texas cozy (see RESTORED TO DEATH and DEATH SPLITS A HAIR) is an entertaining small town regional mystery that brings to life the townsfolk mostly through their relationship with the lead character. Jackson is a delightful main character as his personal life seems ready to engulf him with tsuris, but his calm sense of humor helps him cope and provides the audience with amusing asides. The whodunit pales next to the Judge and the colorful support cast, but sub-genre fans will not care as they will enjoy this funny Texas tale.

Harriet Klausner

Exit Music-Ian Rankin

Exit Music
Ian Rankin
Little, Brown, Sep 2008, $24.99
ISBN 9780316057585

For the first time he can remember Edinburgh Police Inspector John Rebus is worried about the future. In ten days, the long time cop is turning sixty, which means mandatory retirement although he does not feel ready to leave the force.

Still, Rebus plans to finish his last cases although he only has ten working days left. His prime investigation is the murder of Russian poet Alexander Todorov; in which he and his associate Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke find no motive, but a horde of odd conspiracies bantered about that include Russian businessmen, Scottish bankers and local politicians rallying behind an independent Scotland. The case turns even more bizarre when a second homicide occurs; the victim taped a recital of Todorov reading his work. Increasingly the inquiry points towards Edinburgh crime boss “Big Ger” Cafferty, but finding proof to pin two murders on the mobster in under ten days seem impossible.

The investigation takes a back seat to Rebus’ final police case before going into forced retirement. Thus, as good as the previous entries are, this may be the most personal as the emotions are high as fans wonder what will their hero do. EXIT MUSIC is an excellent complicated police procedural as the great John Rebus works what is his apparent last police case.

Harriet Klausner

The Swap-Antony Moore

The Swap
Antony Moore
Delta, Sep 2008, $11.00
ISBN: 9780385342346

In London Harvey Briscow knows the event that destroyed his life that turned him into a comic book shopkeeper. Two decades as a child attending school in Cornwall, he traded his Superman One comic book to an idiot Charles “Bleeder” Odd in exchange for a plastic pipe. That comic book is worth a fortune and he wants it back. Worse, where he is a failure, Bleeds is a bloody success

He goes to the twentieth class reunion praying Odd will show up, but has doubts his nemesis will and besides the comic book is probably long gone. Still this time he vows to take it back if Bleeder still has it. Thus Harvey breaks into Bleeder's house to steal the comic book; instead the corpse of Bleeder’s mother greets him in the cellar; her throat slashed. Soon after he flees the crime scene to return to London, Superman 1 shows up in the mail at his store. The police are interested in Harvey as a murder suspect as he had the means, the motive and the opportunity.

This is a fun dark thriller in which Harvey, Bleeder and Superman One are fully developed characters. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Harvey decides to steal back his swapped prize possession and never slows down although the climax does not soar as high as the rest of the fascinating plot. Harvey is a terrific individual who blames his chain smoking and alcoholic binges on THE SWAP and the diabolically brilliant Bleeder. Superman one is almost like a lover Harvey once had carelessly discarded and now regrets his error. Fans who appreciate a dark humorous thriller will enjoy the battle of wits between Harvey and Bleeder as Superman One completes their odd dysfunctional triangle.

Harriet Klausner

Silks-Dick Francis and Felix Francis

Dick Francis and Felix Francis
Putnam, Sep 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 0399155333

Julian Trent blames his former London barrister Geoffrey Mason for his initial assault conviction that was overturned on appeal. Mason thought his client got off soft on an overwhelming lost case. However, Trent believes his lawyer did not provide a proper defense and begins sending intimidating messages to Mason.

Although he has doubts bigger than Big Ben, Mason agrees to defend jockey Steve Mitchell against a murder charge. Evidence is strong that a crime of passion occurred as witnesses saw Mason’s client and another jockey Scot Barlow arguing over the latter’s late sister who was the former’s girlfriend Millie when he was married with kids. Barlow blamed Mitchell for his sister’s suicide while Mitchell blamed Barlow for informing his wife of the affair as his spouse divorced him, remarried an Aussie, and moved with their kids to Australia. Not long after that Barlow was found murdered with the means being a pitchfork. However, to his shock, unknown adversaries order Mason to lose the case or else they imply his septuagenarian father would be battered like his computer just was.

SILKS is a terrific legal thriller starring a barrister with a difficult case exponentially compounded by threats to lose and by Mason’s problems to focus as he also believes Trent is involved. The story line is a fast ride around the track although racing is more background than usual in a Dick Francis thriller. Although the courtroom revelation seems out of Perry Mason rather than Geoffrey Mason, fans enjoy the latest collaboration from the father and son Francis horse racing mystery team (see DEAD HEAT).

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Leather Maiden-Joe R. Lansdale

Leather Maiden
Joe R. Lansdale
Knopf, Aug 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 0375414525

Reporter Cason Statler has been nominated for a Pulitzer; so when he comes home to Camp Rapture, Texas to work for the local newspaper the Camp Rapture Report even he knows how far back he has fallen. The scandal he caused in Houston over boning his boss’ late forties wife and thirty something daughter ended the Gulf War journalist’s career. Mrs. Margot Timpson editor of the Report gives him a chance to redeem himself though she is unhappy that his best friend seems to be Jim Beam.

He decides to investigate the disappearance of twenty-three years old history major Caroline Allison who vanished six months ago while on a late night food run; her car was found near the creepy Siegel place. As he makes inquiries Cason sees a connection with some more recent odd unsolved felonies that even bring his successful older brother the history professor who knew Caroline as a possible suspect in the student’s disappearance.

Few if any writers bring alive the essence of East Texas as well as Joe R, Lansdale consistently does through his usual endearing eccentric cast. His latest investigative tale stars a reporter who has fallen into disgrace rather quickly and remains in the doo-doo pond even as he struggles to right himself. With a strong support cast especially at the Report, plenty of weirdo humor and pulling no punches from the moment Cason explains his disgrace to Mrs. Timpson until the climax with Belinda the reporter at his side, fans will enjoy Mr. Lansdale’s latest East Texas mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Folly Du Jour-Barbara Cleverly

Folly Du Jour
Barbara Cleverly
Soho, Aug 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 156947513X

In 1927 Scotland Yard Detective Joe Sandilands attends the Interpol conference in Paris, but when he lands at the airport the local police meet him. They take Joe to a prison where they hold a countryman of his charged with murder. Joe is stunned to find the French police accuse his long time friend Sir George Jardine of stabbing Sir Stanley Somerton, another person Joe knew but in this case would prefer not to have ever met the horrid victim.

Joe rejects the official position as he knows George would never do such an act except in self defense. He and French detective Inspector Jean-Philippe Bonnefoye investigate together based on the assumption someone else murdered the sleazy Somerton. They start at the morgue where pathologist Dr. Moulin explains the odd M.O. matches several recent homicides in the last three to four years. The two sleuths wonder whether a serial killer is stalking Paris.

FOLLY DU JOUR is a terrific 1920s police procedural starring two superb detectives. Joe may be shocked in his latest case (see THE BEE’S KISS, THE PALACE TIGER and THE LAST KASHMIRI ROSE), but gets to work right away while his French partner holds up his end of their joint investigation. Although the resolution can be seen from the French capital to London, historical mystery readers enjoy the two detectives’ guided tour of Roaring Twenties euphoric post WWI Paris as this is a superb historical whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Death's Half Acre-Margaret Maron

Death's Half Acre
Margaret Maron
Grand Central Publishing, Aug 2008, $24.99
ISBN: 044619610X

In North Carolina, rural Colleton County commissioner Candace “don’t call me Candy” Bradshaw commits suicide stunning everyone. Sheriff’s Deputy Dwight Bryant investigates to insure that Candace did kill herself even with the note she left behind claiming bad deeds, the woman seemed to have everything going. He soon begins to uncover why as greed, official corruption, and homicide seem to have tentacles throughout the county; kickbacks to award construction of housing and malls is prevalent.

Bryant’s wife Judge Deborah Knott is working mostly on small-claims suits that include many small farmers being squeezed off the land in a big government eminent domain grab. She worries these cases are going to cost her future in local politics even more than her reprobate father Kezzie, a infamous bootlegging con man who swears he is retired, but she assumes he is cooling his heels setting up his next sting.

The key to this cozy and the entire Knott series is how realistic the Carolina blue cast feels. Readers will enjoy this fine entry as Dwight struggles with a case that looks like suicide yet has some doubts while his wife worries about the impact of whatever her father’s next travesty will be while also getting involved in the Bradshaw death. Readers will enjoy the deep look at development on the rural locals of Colleton County as fraud and bribery are the American way.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Blood At The Bookies-Simon Brett

Blood At The Bookies
Simon Brett
Five Star, Aug 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 1594147582

In Fethering, England, Jude takes the bets of flu ailing nonagenarian Harold Peskett to the local betting shop. While there she notices a young man stumbling before he leaves the parlor. Soon afterward, she finds him lying dead in an alley. She later learns the victim was Polish immigrant Tadeusz Jankowski who was in town studying music at nearby Clincham University.

Jude tells her stuffy but sick neighbor Carole Seddon, who is recovering from the flu. Unable to resist they begin to investigate as “amateur sleuth old biddies”. When his sister Zofia arrives from Poland, she encourages Jude to keep looking into who killed her brother and why; she does think Tadeusz was in love, but she does not know with whom. With no clues, the pair keeps on digging while the killer watches their every move.

The Fethering amateur sleuths are consistently some of the most entertaining (see latest Fethering caper (see DEATH UNDER THE DRYER, THE BODY ON THE BEACH and THE STABBING IN THE STABLES). The latest one holds up that tradition as an enjoyable whodunit that showcases the social world of the betting club and somewhat the non acceptance of foreign students in England. Carole is at her best as she struggles with just entering the bet shop and with seeking her new granddaughter if that means seeing her ex. Jude escorts Carole to places she would never dared go before. Cozy fans will appreciate the newest tour of Fethering.

Harriet Klausner

The Case of the Deceiving Don-Carl Brookins

The Case of the Deceiving Don
Carl Brookins
Five Star, Aug 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 1594146772

Twin Cities private investigator Sean Sean is going home in suburban Roseville, but cops are everywhere on his street. He learns that an elderly resident of the nearby Lakeland Homes retirement facility died when his wheelchair exploded. Over a foot taller than the short Sean, lead police investigator Helen Lasker informs Sean the victim was Augustus Molinaro, a resident of the home for fifteen years; his companion Martin Levy is missing.

Two big guys from a set of the Godfather hire Sean to investigate the murder of Augustus, who turns out to be a former mobster, Greasy Gus from Pennsylvania. Sean makes inquiries that break the law with the help of an elderly resident of Lakeland Homes and someone tries to kill him while the Feds warn him to back off from inquiring about Levy.

This Twin Cities cozy is a pleasant private investigative tale starring an amiable ethical lead protagonist who does not let his short stature prevent him doing tough detective work or dating much taller Catherine Mckerney who he knows can bench press him. Although the subplot involving attempts on his life intrudes on the prime CASE OF THE DECEIVING DON, fans will enjoy this whodunit with a terrific unique motive starring a soft boiled sleuth (see THE CASE OF THE GREEDY LAWYERS).

Harriet Klausner

The Mystery of Hamlin Square-Chet Cunningham

The Mystery of Hamlin Square
Chet Cunningham
Five Star, Aug 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 1594146691

Cal Winters arrives in Hamlin Springs, Tennessee with no money. He obtains work at Hamlin’s General Store owned by ninety-three year old former U of T professor Madelyn Housefelter; she also provides him with a place to sleep. He hides from her and the other townsfolk his real reason for coming to this remote mountain village. His recently deceased grandma pleaded with him to learn what happened to his relatives who owned property here only to vanish without a trace in 1919.

Although the vanishing occurred eight decades, his name upsets several local people who know what happened back then and how they gained from it. Three men harass him and he is accused of setting two fires. However, he soon realizes one of the men giving him trouble is running a child porn operation. However Cal makes some progress on his quest, but will need cooperation from the leading families to solve what happened.

THE MYSTERY OF HAMLIN SQUARE is superb when the mystery focuses on Cal’s inquiries into what happened to his ancestors; when the plot tries to make Cal look guilty as an arsonist and his involvement in uncovering a child porn ring, it subtracts from the strong core tale of what occurred eighty years ago. Still this is an entertaining look at how the residents of a small town react to the stranger with the surname that haunts the founding families.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, July 28, 2008

Out of Time-Samantha Graves

Out of Time
Samantha Graves
Forever, Aug 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 0446618373

Harlem’s Linden Museum curator Jillian Talbot inherited her psychic gift, but always believed no one outside her family knew of their skills. Her ability to see an object or person’s past benefits her work at the museum.

Once an artifact stealer, Simon Bonner never planned to return to field work. However, his tomb raiding rival, a severely wounded Jackson informs him that his ex wife Celina is being used as a hostage to force him back into robbing tombs. His assignment to obtain an ancient crystal lens and abduct Jillian, who the blackmailer believes is the seer that a prophecy claims she can find buried archeological booty. Apparently the extortionist has ruthless Kesel working the abduction too as Simon barely keeps Jillian from being snatched. He persuades her to join with him as they play a ten days maximum game of cat and mice in Mexico with one known deadly opponent and several unknown adversaries who change the rules to fit their requirement of win at all costs to others.

OUT OF TIME is a fabulous romantic suspense with a touch of the paranormal. The lead couple is a terrific pairing of opposites as she sees the goodness in everyone and everything while he finds everyone evil and everything ugly. Their differences make for a strong thriller as they perceive their opponents differently as Simon thinks she is naive and Jillian believes he is cynical. Fans will appreciate this fine psychic tomb raiding thriller and seek out SIGHT UNSEEN starring Jillian’s thief of a sister.

Harriet Klausner

Seduced by the Storm-Sydney Croft

Seduced by the Storm
Sydney Croft
Delta, Aug 2008, $13.00
ISBN: 9780385340823

Estimates are the weather machine can easily destroy half the earth. Thus his superiors at the Agency for Covert Rare Operatives (ACRO) order American operative Wyatt Kennedy to destroy the machine before pandemic destruction is unleashed. At the same, The Aquarius Group (TAG) sends biokinetic agent Englishwoman Faith Black to obtain the weather machine for they have plans for this device.

In a bar, Wyatt and Faith meet and are immensely attracted to one another; they enjoy the tryst and though each wants more, both assume th9s is a one night stand. However, they are each concerned when they realize they are after the same target for different handlers with differing objectives. Still they team up with neither fully trusting the other once they gain the machine. In between dodging assassins, they share heated lovemaking with both wondering how their heart will survive the betrayal each expects from the other or themselves.

The third stormy romantic suspense erotic fantasy (see UNLEASHING THE STORM and RIDING THE STORM) is a superb espionage thriller in which two special agents falling in love while seeking the same gizmo but work for opposite camps. The story line is fast-paced, but it is the relationship between the ACRO and TAG agents that make for an entertaining tale work as each battle the hurricane of the century on the United States east coast with an eye on their hearts.

Harriet Klausner

Dial Me for Murder-Amanda Matetsky

Dial Me for Murder
Amanda Matetsky
Berkley, Sep 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780425220504

At a time when most women stayed home to take care of their husband and kids, Paige Turner broke the gender barrier by becoming the first female True Crime writer at Daring Detective magazine. The men in the office make her life there miserable, but her stories have increased circulation so her editor gives her freedom to cover what she wants. She becomes interested in the case of Virginia Pruitt whose nude body was found in Central Park alongside expensive jewelry and a fur coat. Sabrina Stanhope asks Paige to solve Virginia’s murder.

Curious, Paige visits Sabrina who informs her that Virginia worked as a secretary during the day and a call girl at night. She also admits she was Virginia’s Madame arranging “dates” for Melody, as the victim was known professionally. Three customers used Melody’s services with Paige stunned that the Manhattan D.A. is one of them; mob connected singer and movie star Tony Morona is the second; the third man is the real stunner as Oliver Rice Harrington is her boss’ boss. Paige investigates all three men until a leak leads to her being fired even as she finds a second murdered call girl. As she gets closer to uncovering the identity of the culprit, she almost gets killed doing so.

Occurring in the 1950s, readers obtain an interesting look at an era when women are moving away from the assembly lines of WWII and back into running households; in some ways this feels like ancient history as Amanda Matetsky brings the Ike age alive. DIAL ME FOR MURDER is actually an exciting historical journalistic investigative tale starring a brave reporter used to being treated like a pariah for doing her job; so jumping into trouble is the heroine’s norm as that is life in the office. Filled with humor and insight from a zany cast that affirms we’ve come a long way since the days when the only acceptable professions for women were female unique jobs like wife, nurse, secretary and hooker inside a fun whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Breaking Cover-J.D. Rhoades

Breaking Cover
J.D. Rhoades
St. Martin's, Jul 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 0312371551

In Pine Bluff, North Carolina, undercover FBI agent Tony Wolf using the name Sanders faces a morality issue. He has infiltrated the meth dealing vicious Brotherhood, but just saw one of two young brothers Evan and Earl Powell, whose posters with their faces on it begs "Have you seen us?" If he follows the van to rescue the child four years of hard dangerous work vanish and he becomes an open target and perhaps his wife too of the brutal Trent trio who lead the Brotherhood who are after him already; if he does not the kids are probably dead after suffering from abuse.

However the decision is easy; Wolf follows the vehicle and rescues the kids from their abductor. Now he has surfaced due to a TV reporter; the Trent brothers who loath him for what he did to their empire already send their minions, which includes Feds, after him. Trusting no one except himself, this lone wolf prepares for war.

While Jack Keller takes a SAFE AND SOUND breather, J.D. Rhodes provides a an action-packed Carolina thriller that grips the audience from the opening scene and never lets go as readers will find their adrenalin levels off the charts. Wolf is terrific as he does the right thing with an understanding that the road to hell is paved with good intentions; in his case a good deed means he will spend more than just A GOOD DAY IN HELL as the devils will come after him. Although the story line requires disregarding the logic gaps, the enthralled audience will relish this action-packed thriller (Governor Arnold has his next role).

Harriet Klausner

It's a Crime-Jacqueline Carey

It's a Crime
Jacqueline Carey
Ballantine, Aug 2008, $24.00
ISBN: 034545992X

LinkAge Telecom accountant Frank Foy is convicted of fraud and sent to prison. His wife Pat, a landscape designer, rejects his guilt; insisting a simple mistake occurred. Obsessed while living with their teenage daughter Ruby, Pat decides to prove her spouse’s innocence based on his explanation that fixing the numbers is standard acceptable accounting practice in the United States. She plans to make remittance to the victims.

Her efforts prove overwhelmingly futile but lead her former best friend Ginny Howley and her first lover Lemuel Samuel to offer to help her; although both mystery writers are victims of the firm’s collapse. Along with his teenage son and Ruby, they try to persuade Pat that Frank is guilty and deserves jail time for all the people he hurt.

Echoes of Enron and Arthur Anderson run throughout this unusual character driven tale of five people impacted by the fraud. The cast is solid although the changing perspectives can prove overwhelming and subtract from the morality tale of minimally correcting wrongs. Still this is an interesting look at the business of business in the Bush Era in which the White House and Congress are located on Wall St.

Harriet Klausner

The Lace Reader-Brunonia Barry

The Lace Reader
Brunonia Barry
Morrow, Jul 29 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780061624766

She left her hometown of Salem, Massachusetts when she was eighteen years old due to a tragedy she believes she caused. Like all her female relatives Towner Whitney can read the future using lace. However, she vowed never again when her lace reading led to her twin sister Lyndley’s death and put her mental well being on the brink of collapse with selective amnesia perhaps keeping her somewhat sane.

Now years away from Salem and the memory of that trauma, Towner returns home because her beloved Great Aunt Eva vanished. Soon afterward the drowned body of the first Lace Reader is found. Towner has no doubts some anti-paranormal fanatic like born again former alcoholic Preacher Cal killed Eva; everyone else assumes she is off her rocker again. Still she plans to learn who murdered her aunt even though it means reading the Lace for the first time since Lyndley died. Ex NYPD Detective turned Salem cop John Rafferty officially investigates the case though he is increasingly convinced an accident happened even as he is attracted to the enigmatic Towner.

THE LACE READER is a fabulous whodunit that cleverly uses differing perspectives of the same events to keep the audience somewhat off-balance, but totally engrossed. The story line is character driven especially by Towner and John, but also by secondary players like Cal and Towner’s reclusive mom. Each sees the death through the relative personal bias. Brunonia Barry provides a deep Salem thriller in which readers will keep pondering that truth is in the eyes of the beholder.

Harriet Klausner

Merciless-Robin Parrish

Robin Parrish
Bethany House, Jul 2008, $19.99
ISBN: 9780764201790

From beneath the Taurus Mountains in Turkey, he climbs upward taking the DarkWorld with him. He is aware of his bloody future and the human sacrifices by the Secretum of Six, but is indifferent. His container awaits him on the surface; Grant Borrows will serve fittingly as his vehicle just like the naive Dominion Ring wearer’s late sister was once used. Oblivion will soon surface and the end of days, not that fake propaganda found in Christian literature misinterpreting Armageddon, will begin when time stops.

Oblivion reaches the acme of the Hollow to the euphoric rejoicing of his Bringer, the Secretum of Six, who insured the Millenia aged prophesy of the end occurs. His body denotes instant death when excited Angela upon seeing her God reaches out to touch him. Oblivion begins his MERCILESS final trek to fulfill his destiny. However for the first time Secretum leader Devlin has doubts as Oblivion did not even notice his touch killed Angela and his comment of unworthy frightens the human. Still they follow their prophet, who says the DarkWorld has surfaced with him. Only the Ring of Dominion Bearers might be able to prevent the end of the world, but they feel like doubting David without a slingshot as each realizes the earth has changed for the worse as he is coming causing chaos and death in his wake.

Though there is a one page recap and this final tale can stand alone, to fully appreciate this excellent different Christian end of the world thriller, it behooves the reader to first peruse RELENTLESS and FEARLESS. The story is action-packed from the opening climb until the final confrontation between good and evil; but this is no Jesus arriving to save the day from Lucifer climax. Few if any villains are as amoral as Oblivion the MERCILESS is as humans are not even roach level to him. Robin Parrish, with this superb exciting trilogy, has brought freshness to a genre which suffered from a smug sameness to the biblical end of days' saga.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Six-Gun Two-Step-William C. Duncan

Six-Gun Two-Step
William C. Duncan
PublishAmerica, Sep 2007
ISBN: 1424186099

In Cleveland, Timmy Thomas supports his slight drug habit as a two bit neighborhood dealer. He has no ambition to go up the illegal drug selling pyramid. His girlfriend Sandy went to the apartment of their dealers Bam and Susie both of whom are dead; she from an overdose and he from blowing out his brains. She grabs two bags filled with the white powder she cam to purchase and flees the death scene.

Sandy tells Timmy, who suddenly gains ambition as he sees a chance for a big score. Not sure how to sell so much, he enlists exotic dancer Glendy to assist him. However, their efforts upset the major gang dealers especially the Guatemalans, whose supply they stole. The pair flee to New York planning to hook up with the mob there, but things just get worse as he gets hooked on his product and back in Ohio an even deadlier gang than the Guatemalans demand he hand them his goods or else; two other gangs show interest too.

This is a fascinating look at the supply and demand of illegal drug economics although the realistic cast of a zillion participants can be difficult to keep score. When the tale switches into a terrorist plot to destroy the Cleveland area, it loses steam as that seems surreal. Still this is an interesting glimpse at a two step player foolishly dealing with six-gun gangs even if the gangbangers’ cumulative IQs sum in double digits.

Harriet Klausner

Robert Ludlam’s the Bourne Sanction-Eric Van Lustbader

Robert Ludlam’s the Bourne Sanction
Eric Van Lustbader
Grand Central, Jul 29 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 0446539864

Still reeling from the death of Martin, Moira Trevor asks her friend Jason Bourne who is David Webb in his office at Georgetown University. Jason explains David is a widower and a father of two children who live in Canada with their maternal grandparents as he wants them as far away from the BOURNE LEGACY as possible. He tells Moira that he returned to the teaching position as head of Comparative Linguistics Department, a role his late wife Marie loved for him, Moira’s anodyne is go back to field work, which is why she has come to visit him. Her employer NextGen Energy Solutions fears a terrorist attack at the Long Beach port.

However, not too long after returning to his Professor Webb persona, Bourne is bored with normalcy. He informs his academic mentor Professor Dominic Specter only to see two thugs grab the man; Bourne rescues him. Specter explains his father died fighting the Eastern Brotherhood, Muslims who claim since WWII to want to fit in peacefully with the West, but who are terrorist known as the Black Legion. He asks Bourne to kill leader Semion Icoupov who has started a terrorist plot to devastate America that has begun the countdown with the murder of an associate Pyotr by Leonid Arkadin.

This is an exciting entry in the Bourne saga as the action starts from the moment Webb meets Specter for coffee and never slows down until the final Treadstone-Conklin coda. The story line is fast-paced though the European connection with WW II roots seems a bit over the Alps. Still no one will care as the Bourne adrenalin flows with he doing what he does best battling bad guys to prevent a terrorist attack; unable to wait for High Noon with an assassin sent to murder him.

Harriet Klausner

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo-Stieg Larsson

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Stieg Larsson
Knopf, Sep 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780307269751

In Sweden financier industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerstrom successfully sues Millennium magazine financial journalist Carl Mikael Blomkvist for libel and defamation of character. Mikael cannot believe he lost as he thought his proof was solid that Wennerstrom had used state funds intended for investments in Poland in an arms deal. The reporter refuses to appeal; he will serve his ninety days in gaol and pay the damages and court fees. He has no idea how the Minos Affair scandal as the media dubbed it turned so wrong.

Milton Security’s top researcher tattooed Lisbeth Salander looks into the trust factor of Blomkvist for a client. She speculates that he was set up by someone in the Wennerstrom fiasco, but is honest to a fault. In Hedestad eighty something industrialist Henrik Vanger hires Blomkvist to learn what happened to his beloved great-niece Harriet who vanished decades ago. Henrik explains that when Harriet was twelve she baby-sat three year old Mikael, who did not remember that. The elderly man wants Mikael to uncover the truth of who killed the then sixteen year old Harriet in 1966; as she instead of her brother would have run Vanger Enterprises as she was the talented intelligent one of her generation. He agrees but the family does not truly cooperate so he gets nowhere until Lisbeth joins his investigation, which increasingly finds powerful men hating women of substance.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is a superb Swedish thriller that grips the audience on two fronts. First is the libel case in which author Stieg Larsson vividly describes the government-industrial complex ripping off taxpayers to set up fake business ventures; the second is the investigation into the Vanger family. Readers will be fascinated with the business scandal, but enjoy the whodunit even more as that is fast-paced and exciting. The first Millennium Trilogy tale is a strong investigative thriller, a great homage to the talented author who past away a few years ago.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, July 25, 2008

Death Books a Return-Marion Moore Hill

Death Books a Return
Marion Moore Hill
Pemberley, Sep 2008, $17.95
ISBN: 9780977191369

Wyndham, Oklahoma librarian Juanita Wills is writing a history of the town when her research comes across the cold case murder of back teenager Luther Dunlap in 1959. She is elated to have found a witness to the homicide as the victim’s best friend almost fifty years ago Samuel Davis agrees to talk to her. However, when she goes to his home in nearby Bryson Corner, no one answers her.

Later she learns Samuel died from corn cockle poison in bread left by eccentric reticent Grace Hendershot. As she keeps digging, her boyfriend police lieutenant Wayne Cleary warns her to not get involved as some people want the segregated abusive past left buried. He proves right when someone tries to shoot her or her walking companion and tinkered with a tilt ride that hospitalizes Juanita. However, the intrepid “scrappy librarian” refuses to close the book on her amateur sleuthing until she solves the 1950s killing, the modern day murder, and a few relationship enigmas.

This engaging cozy explores race relations then and now as Marion Moore Hill makes the case that though we have come a long way yet in some ways Otis Redding remains right that “Everything still remains the same”; so we must work even harder at achieving equality. At times the mystery takes a back seat into the interrelationships between characters; not just interracial although that is the prime theme. Though the action overall is light in spite of two attempts on the heroine, fans will appreciate the second well written Scrappy Librarian tale (see Bookmarked for Murder).

Harriet Klausner

Another Man's Moccasins-Craig Johnson

Another Man's Moccasins
Craig Johnson
Viking, Jun 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0670018619

The caller informs 911 that a female body lies alongside the highway in Absaroka County, Wyoming. Sheriff Walt Longmire goes to investigate. There he finds the corpse of Vietnamese woman Ho Thi Paquet; nearby sitting on the ground holding the victim’s purse as if it is sacred is Native American Virgil White Buffalo. However Walt is stunned when he goes through Ho’s personal possessions to find a photograph of him when he served as a military inspector in Nam with a Vietnamese barmaid circa 1968.

Walt concludes that the obvious in which Virgil killed Ho is not what happened. He and his friend Native American Henry Standing Bear investigate by trying to follow Ho's recent journey, They are shocked when the paths the young woman took lead back to a West Coast slave trafficking ring and the sheriff’s Vietnam duty.

This is the fourth Longmire police procedural (see DEATH WITHOUT COMPANY, COLD DISH and KINDNESS GOES UNPUNISHED), but this reviewer’s first; based on this superb tale this reviewer will have to go back to read them. The whodunit is fun to follow, but the look back to Walt’s war time makes for a superior read as the present connects to four decades ago. Sub-genre fans will appreciate this engaging, engrossing thriller that ties late 1960s Viet Nam and 2008 Wyoming effortlessly together.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The September Society-Charles Finch

The September Society
Charles Finch
St. Martin's, Aug 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0312359780

In 1866 having solved A BEAUTIFUL BLUE DEATH, Charles Lenox considers himself a competent sleuth; though an amateur since he does not accept a fee. Because he is well to do and highly connected, Charles can select when he chooses to go detecting. When widow Lady Annabelle Payson, whose husband mysteriously died in India in the 1840s, pleads with him to find her son George, a student at Oxford's Lincoln College who vanished, he agrees.

At the student’s room, Charles finds some odd clues starting with a dead cat, garage spewed everywhere, enigmatic notes that make no sense, and a card from some group called the SEPTEMBER SOCIETY. However, the biggest clue is George’s friend Dabney is also missing. Fearing foul play, Charles calls in favors to assist him as his concerns over George’s safety multiplies when a corpse is found and signs point back two decades to India.

Charles’ second investigation is a fun Victorian mystery that has the hero running back and forth between London and Oxford trying not to just solve the case, but to do with his client’s son alive. The inquiry is rather straightforward in spite of Charles treks either to obtain assistance or follow a clue, but historical mystery fans will enjoy his efforts and his realization he needs help to crack the case. Fans will enjoy this fine pre Holmesian nineteenth century English tale mostly because of the lead character.

Harriet Klausner

Fresh Kills-Bill Loehfelm

Fresh Kills
Bill Loehfelm
Putnam,August 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0399155317

When Staten Island bartender John Sanders, Jr. learned that his father senior was executed mob style by an unknown culprit, he reacts with mixed feelings; on the one hand he is indifferent to the death of his cruel father while on the other he figures he got what he deserved. Senior physically and mentally abused him as a child.

However his sister Julia reacts differently to the death of their odious dad. She comes from Boston to arrange the funeral, but also wants to connect on a sibling level for the first time outside of avoiding their father with her brother. Perhaps it is Julia’s presence, but Junior feels a need to know the truth about his father’s death so he makes some tentative inquiries angrily hoping senior suffered.

The relationships between the dysfunctional Sanders family even after the abusive patriarch is dead is the prime story line superseding the whodunit. The fully developed cast is powerful even the deceased and the location Staten Island’s Fresh Kills symbolizes human decay and misery as the world’s largest garbage dump (higher than the Statue of Liberty). Bill Loehfelm provides a vivid look at the aftermath of parental abuse that clings like fungus to the victims; even years later as adults who cannot relate very well.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dark Waters-Sibylle Barrasso

Dark Waters
Sibylle Barrasso
Five Star, Aug 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 159414639X

They find the corpse of AIDS researcher and Wadsworth professor Mitchell Browne in the Charles River. The Boston police look at his petite widow Evelyn as the prime suspect. She hires attorney David Silverman; he in turns employs private investigator Macy Adams, juts fired by Investigative Enterprise as part of a management take over, to investigate.

Macy learns that Evelyn and Mitchell had dinner at the Hyatt before going home; his corpse was found later that night near the Hyatt although his car was in his driveway. When the autopsy shows he has valium in his blood, the police arrest Evelyn; two years ago when he was cheating on her she drugged him with valium. His mother insists her son was going to divorce Evelyn leaving her with nothing; so she killed him for the $2 million insurance police she paid premiums on. Evelyn’s son Tommy and Mitchell’s estranged brother insist Evelyn is innocent. Macy’s inquiries take an odd spin into BioCorp Genetechnology firm, but though she believes her client is innocent the evidence continues to mount that Evelyn killed her husband who had plenty of enemies in the science business, and family.

This is an entertaining Massachusetts whodunit with plenty of people having motives to kill the victim, but the solid evidence keeps pointing at the indicted Evelyn, who is actually very popular with her in-laws except for Mitchell’s mother. The investigation is superb, but Macy’s asides fail to come across as either hardboiled or amusing; instead they seem off kilter for a professional working the Dirty Water of the Charles.

Harriet Klausner

Hell Hole-Chris Grabenstein

Hell Hole
Chris Grabenstein
St. Martin's, Jul 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0312382308

He place is Sea Haven, New Jersey where young police officers Danny Boyle and Sam Starkey respond to a complaint. They arrive at the scene to find several Iraq War veterans noisily celebrating. The cops ask Sergeant Dale Dixon to keep it down. However, before they can leave, Dale receives a call that one of his men Corporal Shareef Smith is in trouble. Shareef’s corpse is found in a rest room on the Garden State Parkway; his brains blown out and evidence of drug use everywhere.

Iraq War veteran Detective John Ceepak leads the official investigation with Danny as his junior partner. Almost immediately Ceepak tears apart the suicide theory, which leads to a squad of suspects amongst the deceased’s brothers in arms and a couple of local chop-shop punks. As they work the case, Dixon warns Ceepak to solve it now or he will lead his unit on a rampage against any one he suspects is the killer.

This engaging police procedural contains an ensemble support cast besides the cops and the vets to include the standard bombastic senator running for president, thieves, drug dealers, and half of New Jersey making for a slack but entertaining story line. As with WHACK A MOLE and TILT A WHIRL, the comparisons between Ceepak and Boyle make the tale fun though at times that is overdone; so different in attitude yet have forged a special camaraderie. Readers will appreciate their latest effort as Ceepak struggles with the case and the abrupt arrival of his dad while Boyle whines to solve it so he can chase a skirt instead of a killer.

Harriet Klausner

Takeover-Lisa Black

Lisa Black
Morrow, Aug 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780061544453

In Cleveland, the police investigate the brutal murder of Federal Reserve Bank executive Mark Ludlow is in front of his home. The official inquiry is led by homicide detective Paul Cleary with support from his fiancée forensic pathologist Theresa MacLean.

Whereas Paul heads to the Bank to conduct 360 degree interviews, Theresa works the crime scene. However, at the bank Lucas Parrish and Bobby Moyers hold hostages while demanding four million dollars and a getaway vehicle, but hostage negotiator Chris Cavanaugh delays acquiescing and insists he needs some acts of good faith. Angry the two felons shoot Paul in the leg to accentuate their demand. Theresa arrives at the scene and over the objection of Chris who is in charge of the situation persuades Lucas to allow Paul to leave so he can obtain medical attention in exchange for her. Now a hostage Theresa tries to uncover the motive to the robbery and its link to the Ludlow homicide as she rejects coincidence.

This is an exciting police procedural however Theresa acts more like Clint Eastwood than Kay Scarpetta. She does little forensic science and breaks every protocol rule while turning into a superhero. Still the story line is filled with stratospheric suspense and refreshed by having the female be the testosterone bravado who risks her life to rescue her man. TAKEOVER is fun just over the top of Jacobs Field.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Ruby in the Smoke-Philip Pullman

The Ruby in the Smoke
Philip Pullman
Kopf, Sep 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780375845161

In 1872 London, sixteen years old Sally Lockhart lives with her scornful Aunt Caroline Rees following the death of her father at sea. However when she receives a note that appears to have been sent by her dad, she visits her late father’s former business partner Selby to learn who Mr. Marchands is and what is the Seven Blessings included in the enigmatic message. Office assistant Jim Taylor escorts her to secretary Mr. Higgs. Her mentioning of the Seven Blessings leads to Higgs suddenly dying from a heart attack.

When she receives a note from Mr. Marchands warning her to beware of the old witch, she goes to visit him. He tells her he cannot help her, but provides her with a journal from when her mother was murdered sixteen years ago in India. She avoids the witch who happens to be visiting Marchands and meets young artist Frederick Garland. She returns by train to London, but falling asleep the journal is stolen except for the last few pages that fell out. Her adventures are just beginning but she has allies in Jim, Frederick and his actress sister Rosa even as the witch Mrs. Holland arranges to have her murdered as she did Mr. Marchands.

This is a reprint of an entertaining Victorian young adult thriller starring a wonderful teenage heroine in peril and a strong support cast either willing to help her or hurt her. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as Sally just wants to know what her father’s cryptic note means and never slows down as each innocent step she takes leads to trouble. In some ways in just a few scenes the vile villainess Mrs. Holland steals the show as her plotting is diabolically brilliant; just ask the journal thief. With a strong stance towards equality and bringing Madison Avenue marketing to Victorian London, fans will enjoy THE RUBY IN THE SMOKE, the first of the Sally Lockhart mysteries.

Harriet Klausner

Anarchy and Old Dogs-Colin Cotterill

Anarchy and Old Dogs
Colin Cotterill
Soho, Aug 2008, $12.00
ISBN: 9781569475010

In 1977 Vientiane a truck ran over blind dentist Dr. Buagaew, killing him instantly. Everyone who witnessed the tragedy assumes the late pedestrian obviously owed karmic debt so no tears were shed. As is the case in these types of vehicular deaths, the Laotian National Coroner septuagenarian Dr. Siri Paiboun is directed to perform a cursory review. He and his capable assistant Nurse Dtui assume nothing of their inquiry even when they find an odd anomaly of blank papers on the victim.

Paiboun soon realizes the papers actually contain encoded notes written in invisible ink. He and Dtui with the assistance of his closest comrades Police Officer Phosy and Politburo member Civilai begin to find clues related to the secret writings that to their shock is simply moves in a game of chess that sends the coroner to the city of Pakse where he begins to piece the puzzle together of a plot to overthrow the Communist regime.

Combining humorous eccentric characters like a fortune telling transvestite Auntie Bpoo and the corpse as a practicing blind dentist inside a strong serious investigation, Colin Cotterill continues his great late 1970s Laos mystery series with another excellent entry. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the truck hits the dentist and never slows down until the final confrontation between anarchists and the old dogs like the coroner. Readers will appreciate Colin Cotterill’s fine tale with newcomers seeking the backlist (see DISCO FOR THE DEPARTED, THE CORONER'S LUNCH and THIRTY-THREE TEETH).

Harriet Klausner

Curse of the Pogo Stick-Colin Cotterill

Curse of the Pogo Stick
Colin Cotterill
Soho, Aug 2008, $24.00
ISBN: 1569474850

In the late 1970s the Laotian National Coroner seventy-three years old Dr. Siri Paiboun is attending some governmental Communist Party function (waste of time if you ask him) in the north. Meanwhile back in the capital Vientiane a corpse of a soldier booby trapped with grenades is anonymously dropped off at the morgue. Only the fast and capable work of Paibourn’s assistant Nurse Dtui avoids a tragedy from happening.

Meanwhile Paibourn looks forward to getting home to spend time with his fiancée Madame Daeng and even time in the morgue, which is better than attending these inane officious official officialdoms. Instead the female members of the Hmong tribe abduct Dr. Siri as they need his help; or at least of the millennium old shaman Yeh Ming is to perform an exorcism on the tribal chief’s daughter demonically possessed due to an evil pogo stick placed on an alter.

CURSE OF THE POGO STICK is a solid historical mystery that contains two subplots, in which both contain humor inside serious situations that brings to life 1977-78 Laos. The Vientiane investigation is superbly written as Nurse Dtui cleverly leads the inquiry into who would use a dead soldier to kills others. However, Colin Cotterill’s insight into the suppressed Hmong people, caught between the violent Communist regime and Nixon’s just completed a few years ago secret war, is what makes this a great entry as neither side cares what happened to these expendable mountain pawns. The insight into the Hmong culture and their “collateral damage” plight supersede the whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, July 20, 2008

L'Assassin-Peter Steiner

Peter Steiner
St. Martin's, Jul 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0312373422

After leaving the CIA former field agent Louis Morgon lives with his beloved Solesme Lefourier in rustic Saint-Léon sur Dême, France. However his contentment is shattered when the love of his life informs him the cancer is back, terminally this time. A break-in to their house is easily resolved by Louis’ friend police officer Jean Renard who arrests petty incompetent criminal Pierre Lefort for the burglary.

Pierre is easily convicted as he left enough evidence for an amateur sleuth to find, Louis ponders whether the thief purposely did so and if yes, why. Although he suspects a greater game afoot, Louis remains ignorant of what is going on partially because he is emotionally distracted by Solesme’s cancer. However former U.S. Secretary of State Hugh Bowes is aware of everything. The break-in is the beginning of a diabolically clever scheme to get at Louis initially through people he cares about, his best friend the cop and the love of his life to help set up the bigger scene. Revenge is such sweet sorrow for the victim as Bowes arranges for Louis’ former associates to find solid proof that Morgon now works for bin Laden.

This direct sequel to A FRENCH COUNTRY MURDER is a top rate thriller as the brilliant wicked Bowes works his revenge for Morgon’s destruction of his seditious successful life at a time when his enemy is emotionally distraught. Fans will relish this exhilarating clever cat and mouse game as Bowes manipulates the anti terrorist crowd even better than Karl Rove could ever accomplish; insuring that the CIA and their espionage cohorts to go after his chosen target. This is a one sitter thriller as the hero is the mouse that roared, but the odds remain he will be rendition.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Pope-Luis Miguel Rocha

The Last Pope
Luis Miguel Rocha
Putnam, Aug 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0399154892

In 1978 with the death of the Pope, the College of Cardinals meets in the Vatican to elect his successor. The Cardinals are divided into two extreme camps between traditionalist Cardinal Agosto Mancini and change agent Cardinal Ignatius Heriot. Thus an unacceptable comprise Cardinal Don Albino Luciani is chosen to sit as John Paul I on the papal throne. He makes clear his intention is to clean up and out the House of God everywhere; a little over a month later, he dies with rumors he was murdered for his ethical cleansing campaign especially to end church-mob ties. A second College of Cardinals session elects Karol Józef Wojtyła of Poland as Pope John Paul II.

Three decades later London journalist Sarah Monteiro receives a letter that insists Pope John Paul I was murdered and the attempts to kill his successor were from the same conspiratorial group who also killed Sweden’s Prime Minister Olof Palme. However, Sarah assumes this is a hoax worth checking into, but soon believes the accusations are true when several attempts to assassinate her occur. Due to the grace of God she lives, but fears her days are numbered in single digits.

Conspiracy fans will relish the constant power struggle within the highest levels of the Catholic Church. Luis Miguel Rocha builds his exciting story line upon the underlying premise that Pope John Paul I was murdered. The look back to behind the scenes shenanigans by the competing Cardinals in 1978 is fascinating whether one accepts Mr. Rocha’s assertion or not. The present scenario with Sarah on the run is more action-packed, but not quite as interesting as three decades ago is. Still thriller fans will enjoy THE LAST POPE wondering how acrimonious poisoning politics even enter the selection of who will wear The Shoes of the Fisherman (by Morris West).

Harriet Klausner

Lie Down with the Devil-Linda Barnes

Lie Down with the Devil
Linda Barnes
St. Martin's, Aug 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0312332890

Boston Private Investigator Carlotta Carlyle remains engaged to her mob-tied fiancé Sam Gianelli, although she has humongous doubts about his recent activity; Sam vanished rather than confront rumors tying him to a dead female (see HEART OF THE WORLD). While Carlotta considers ending their relationship, Jessica Franklin shows her a picture of Sam in a compromising position. Carlotta knows how easy it is to fix a photo, her doubt meter rises stratospherically.

Soon after their encounter, Franklin is killed in a hit-and-run incident. The police investigate with Carlyle as the obvious prime and only suspect; especially when they learn Jessica Franklin is a fake ID and the victim is connected to the Cape Cod homicide that raised the sleuth’s marital hesitation antennas. Like a smart lawyer in trouble, Carlyle knows a sleuth likewise needs to get outside representation; she asks her former boss and mentor at BPD, retired Joseph Mooney to help her. Like old times they head to Cape Cod to unravel the simple yet increasingly convoluted truth.

The direct sequel to the superb HEART OF THE WORLD is an excellent tale as the beleaguered heroine initially struggles with answering to marry or not to marry, but soon finds herself in deep trouble. The story line is fast-paced and impossible to put down, but especially entertaining is the teaming up of Carlyle and Mooney. LIE DOWN WITH THE DEVIL will be on the short list for best mystery of 2008 by most detective novel fans as Linda Barnes provides a powerhouse.

Harriet Klausner

The Green Revolution-Ralph McInerny

The Green Revolution
Ralph McInerny
St. Martin's, Sep 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 031236458X

Fans of the Notre Dame University Fighting Irish football team expect nothing less than competing for a national title; playing in a BCS bowl that is not the championship game is barely tolerable. After a strong 2005 campaign and an okay 2006 season, in 2007 in his third year as head coach, Charlie Weis is in trouble with the alumni as the team suffers through an ignominious season of defeats; unheralded in the history of the school.. Many want him fired as defeat after shocking defeat occur;s even Navy ended the ended the longest losing streak in college football after forty three straight losses.

However, some angry fans go further with their desire to see the multimillion dollar Coach Weis follow Whittington his predecessor while academic purists want the sport dropped referring to the once great football power the U of Chicago as a precedent. However, the battle between the fire the coach and end the sport turns lethal with non football fan Professor of Catholic Studies Roger Knight caught in the middle of the battle. Meanwhile his brother major football fan private investigator Philip investigates a “love” triangle that may be using The Green Revolution to hide a much more convoluted conspiracy than the Notre Dame football civil war.

The mystery comes very late in this fascinating look behind the scenes of the impact of the worse football season at Notre Dame; thus the latest Knight brothers investigation is more a sports thriller than a whodunit. THE GREEN REVOLUTION is at its best when the focus is on the reactions to the losing season; when the tale switches to the investigation it remains fun, but loses much of the uniqueness of Ralph McInerny’s interesting look at what matters to various interested parties at a university.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Memory-Margaret Coel

Blood Memory
Margaret Coel
Berkley, Sep 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0425223450

Denver Journal investigative reporter Catherine McLeod assumes the sniper’s failed assassination attempt of her in her home is tied to one of her stories, past or present. She eliminated a random drive by, and a visit by Arapaho elder Norman Whitehorse affirms her theory. He informs her she is Arapaho; having been adopted his revelation about her roots is awesome and frightening.

Her former husband demands Catherine flee the big city for the relative safety of his mountain ranch, but she refuses. Instead the intrepid journalist continues her investigation into what she believes is the story that has made her a target; Catherine reports the efforts of her “people” and that of the Cheyenne to regain over twenty million acres of land deeded by treaties but stolen during the 1864 Indian massacre at Sand Creek. However, Catherine is stunned by the violence of her unknown murderous stalker on the innocent and that her inquiry leads to DC.

With Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden taking a breather though she makes an appearance in BLOOD MEMORY, Margaret Coel introduces her fans to a new heroine Catherine. She is terrific as she begins to learn about her heritage while also working an investigation into the land debate. The story line is action-packed with a fresh outlook and an incredible plausible but unexpected climax. Hopefully Ms. Coel’s two brave women find a common cause in a future tale (sort of like Philip R. Craig and William G. Tapply did with Brady Coyne and J. W. Jackson); if not readers will still have two strong Arapaho heroines to count on for excellent thrillers.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, July 19, 2008

At First Sight-Stephen J. Cannell

At First Sight
Stephen J. Cannell
Vanguard, Jul 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 1593154828

Fifty-five years old Chick Best has run an Internet business for the past dozen years; however recently competition from the global chains threatens to bury him. The affluent Los Angelino is married to philandering Evelyn; though she cheats on him he thanks God for that. He is concerned with his sixteen year old daughter Melissa who knows more drugs personally than any pharmaceutical company.

Chick and his two indifferent towards him women go to Hawaii on vacation. When he sees newlywed Paige Ellis emerge from the Maui hotel swimming pool, Chick finds himself in love at first sight. He insures he meets the object of his adult rated fantasy and to his chagrin, her spouse Chandler though he is cleverly nice to the man in his way. Back in the Forty-eight states, Chick is on a business trip to New York, but instead of going home he heads to Charlotte where the Ellis couple lives. There he accidentally runs over Chandler several times to eliminate the only person in the way of happily ever after with his obsession.

This is an exciting thriller with morbid dry humor as Chick allows his fixation for his love interest to get control of head as if his brain had one icon: Paige. The story line is told by the prime players, for the most part Chick. Although somewhat satirical, the reaction of Chandler’s family including to a lesser degree his new wife seems too indifferent (especially when they learn how they died) even though that purposely contrasts their apathy to his killer’s passion. Still Stephen J. Cannell provides readers with a fascinating “novel of obsession”.

Harriet Klausner

The Borrowed and Blue Murders-Merry Jones

The Borrowed and Blue Murders
Merry Jones
Dunne, Sep 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312356231

After postponing the wedding due to a high risk pregnancy, art therapist Zoe Hayes is in the final countdown to saying I do. Although she is run off her feet, she remains relatively calm as she deals with an upset hyperactive wedding planner and dodging her boss at the Psychiatric Institute. Her home is taken over by her fiancé’s two brothers Tony and Sam, who look almost exactly like her beloved. She does not mind them monopolizing her home and her fiancé Detective Nick Silver, but she wishes they would include her in their discussions.

Zoe’s tranquility is shattered when she discovers a gutted woman on her patio. The police think it was a drug deal that turned hideous as the suppliers worked her over to get to illegal contraband inside her stomach. That theory goes down in flames when the victim is identified as a Homeland Security Agent who Tony recognizes as the woman who bumped into him.

The forth Zoe Hayes mystery is hilarious as it is fun to watch the heroine jump from one crisis to another while also dealing with post partum depression, bridal anxiety disorder, caring for a disorderly baby, and trying to fit in with Nick’s eccentric family. Readers are interested in the goings on of the cast as it seems everyone seeks something from everyone else even the dead agent. Chaos is the norm for Zoe and the guys while humor and excitement is the norm for readers.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, July 18, 2008

Green Monster-Rick Shefchik

Green Monster
Rick Shefchik
Poisoned Pen, Sep 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590585245

The curse of the Bambino was partially buried when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 with a sweep of the Cardinals. Any lingering doubt concerning the Ruth mojo was put to rest in 2007 with a second championship.

However someone signing off as Babe Ruth insists that proof exists that the Cardinals were paid to throw the World Series; that individual demands $50 million or will go public with the evidence that the fix was in. Although he does not believe the extortionist, owner Lucky Louie Kenwood fears the implications of even a rumor as basketball and football are dealing with similar issues. He hires private investigator Sam Skarda to look into the claim and assigns his personal assistant Heather Canby to assist the sleuth. Sam and Heather start with those Cardinals who had a extremely sub-par series; then All-Star right fielder Ivan Hurtado and the league MVP pitcher and third baseman Alberto Miranda. The detective wonders if one of the two stars who played poorly is the source of the allegation and through that player wonders if they can uncover the identity of the blackmailer. They soon find a double helix trail of drug enhancers and gambling that tie to the mob, the owner’s son and Fenway Park; as increasingly Sam and Heather believed the 2004 World Series was fixed.

The premise seems over the top of the GREEN MONSTER although with the NBA referee scandal maybe not. Regardless this is a fun sports whodunit unless you’re a Red Sox fan as the book will be filed in Boston alongside the Buckner error and the Dent homer. Heather’s all star propensity for hitting homeruns in everyone’s bed is a called strike three as it distracts from Sam’s fine sleuthing into what he believes is the second coming of the black sox scandal.

Harriet Klausner

Buffalo Bill’s Defunct-Sheila Simonson

Buffalo Bill’s Defunct
Sheila Simonson
Perseverance Press, Sep 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9781880284964

After her daughter leaves the nest to attend Stanford, Meg McLean decides to make a few life changes starting with moving to the Pacific Northwest town of Klalo to become the head librarian. Her next door neighbor is Rob Neill, the sheriff’s investigator still seeking to solve his first case that occurred a decade ago. Artifacts sacred to the local Native American tribe were stolen and the cop and the tribe believes it is in the hands of a private collector.

Meg finds a piece of a petroglyph that was part of the lost collection that somehow ended up in her empty garage. When she shows it to Rob, he goes into the garage and smells death. He looks closely at that artifact’s location and the body of a dead person is found; the corpse is identified as a Kleo who searched for the purloined treasure at the behest of his Chief. Meg and Rich team up seeking to catch the killer and the booty, but more deaths make the cop wonder how many people are involved and how to keep his new neighbor safe.

This combo police procedural amateur sleuth mystery is entertaining even though readers will doubt the hero would welcome a civilian into the investigation. Ironically it is the pairing that makes the story line fun as each is attracted to one another and have a deep need to solve the cold case. For that matter so will fans who will try to solve the identity of the killer(s) as Sheila Simonson provides a difficult but interesting whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Vi Agra Falls-Mary Daheim

Vi Agra Falls
Mary Daheim
Morrow, Aug 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780061562716

In Seattle, Judith McMonigle Flynn owns and manages the Hillside Manor bed-and-breakfast. However, domestic tranquility and bliss vanish rather quickly when Joe’s former wife “Her” with the ample cleavage as always openly on display, nouveau riche Vivian, arrives.; Accompanying her is her much younger boy toy spouse, former minor league baseball player Billy “Blunder” Buss.

However the Heraldsgate Hill cul de sac residents including Judith, her cousin Remy, and Joe are horrifically stunned when Vivian announces plans to build an ostentatious condo complex amidst their homes. Adding to the growing fiasco is the arrival of Billy’s brother Frankie and his wife Marva Lou who stay at the B&B. Frankie is irate that his late father left a fortune to his trophy wife Vivian. When a corpse is found behind Vivian’s new home, Judith can’t help herself. She starts investigating though she denies to Remy every sleuthing step of involvement she takes.

This long running cozy keeps its freshness with the interrelationships, many dysfunctional between the cast including the cousins. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as an eccentric horde invades the Heraldsgate Hill neighborhood causing havoc to the residents and amusement for the reader. The investigation is cleverly handled to add to the overall fun of exacerbation as Judith reconsiders her second time with Joe due to his eccentric people invading their of people.
Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Map Thief-Heather Terrell

The Map Thief
Heather Terrell
Ballantine, Jul 2008, $25.00
ISBN: 0345494687

Famous conservative kingmaker" Richard Tobias hires art recovery investigator Mara Coyne to find a valuable Chinese map stolen from an archeological dig. This is the type of artifact that Coyne searches for as it is the oldest known map to clearly show the entire globe; dating to the early fifteenth century and the expedition of Admiral Zheng to sail around the world. The priceless artifact was smuggled out of China when an Emperor purged any reference to the expedition. It reappeared when Vasco Da Gama used it as a guide in his search for the western sea passage to India.

In the present many groups willing to use force want the map mostly to suppress the evidence that the Chinese came to the Americas decades before Columbus. Mara and archeologist Ben Coleman struggle to find the map and stay alive; neither task easy to accomplish.

Fictionalizing the historical theories of Gavin Menzies (see 1421 THE YEAR CHINA DISCOVERED THE WORLD and 1434: THE YEAR A MAGNIFICENT CHINESE FLEET SAILED TO ITALY AND IGNITED THE RENAISSANCE), Heather Terrell provides a fascinating thriller. The story line is at its best when the focus is on the fifteenth century among Zheng and Da Gama journeys. The modern day cast fails to hold up next to the real historical cast, making most of the contemporaries feel as unnecessary intruders except for Coyne who is the readers guide to the expeditions of Zheng and Da Gama.

Harriet Klausner

Escape-Robert K. Tanenbaum

Robert K. Tanenbaum
Vanguard, Apr 2008, $25.97
ISBN: 9781593154745

New York District Attorney Butch knows the world is watching because whenever a mother kills their young, the homicide becomes headline news. The mother in this case, NYU Political Science Professor Jessica Campbell has some notoriety for her protests starting in 2001 with chaining herself and her three year old daughter Hillary to the gates of Trinity Church. Her defense for killing her three preadolescent kids (Hillary, Chelsea and Benjamin) is the God order insanity plea that he directed her to "send her three children to Him". Karp has to prove she knew what she was doing in spite of her claim and the public’s general belief that the murdering of an offspring denotes insanity.

At the same Butch mounts the prosecution’s case, Islamic terrorist The Sheik has trained an American jihadist unit all willing to die for Allah to deliver a major terrorist attack on Manhattan that would cripple the global economy. Butch his still somewhat shook wife Marlene Ciampi, their daughter Lucy and a few other dedicated people try to prevent the planned tragedy.

ESCAPE is a fast-paced thriller that obviously moves on two subplots with the connection tenuous through the Professor’s admiration of Islamic extremists willing to suicide for their belief in Allah. The legal case re the prosecution challenging the defense’s insanity plea is well done, fun to follow and fits the role of Butch. On the other hand a band of superheroes led by Butch and Marlene against dedicated terrorists seems off kilter as one wonders where NYPD, Homeland Security, and the Defense Department are with so much at stake. Still this is an exciting tale if you let your imagination accept a DA and his team as professional field counterterrorists.

Harriet Klausner

The Night Villa-Carole Goodman

The Night Villa
Carole Goodman
Ballantine, Aug 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780345479600

University of Texas Classics Professor Dr. Sophie Chase knows she is fortunate to be alive when cultist Dale Henry, ex boyfriend of promising classics student Agnes Hancock, starts firing a gun at those attending an interview. Although shook up, Sophie joins a special reenactment in Capri. John Lyros is sponsoring the rebuilding of an exact replica of a Herculaneum villa and will use an information technology program to interpret the burnt scrolls that somewhat have been salvaged from the volcanic ruins.

However, Sophie’s Italian dig turns sinister when her former boyfriend Ely, who vanished five years ago apparently into the same cult as Dale joined, sends her a message by returning a book he borrowed from her. Meanwhile a scroll found amidst the ruins written by a visiting Roman insists the NIGHT VILLA was a place for blood, sex and duplicity. In the labyrinth below the city, Sophie will find much of the same as what happened to a free woman in 79 AD.

This is an engaging academic thriller with a delightful link between modern day archaeology and the Ancient World; mostly through the scrolls. Sophie is a terrific lead player holding together the two prime parts of the novel while she and her cohorts dig into the past at the same time struggling to survive the present. Fans will enjoy Carole Goodman’s fine tale and seek her previous literary mystery, (THE SONNET LOVER.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Left to Die-Lisa Jackson

Left to Die
Lisa Jackson
Zebra, Aug 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9781420102765

In Grizzly Falls, Montana, police detectives Selena Alvarez and Regan Pescoli struggle with a particularly vicious serial killer who deep freezes his living female victims until they die. At the same time that the cops try to prevent another homicide, Jillian Rivers receives pictures that allege her late husband Aaron remains alive and well in Montana. Needing to know the truth she drives to Montana.

However, someone fires a shot hitting her tire causing Jillian to crash into a frozen ravine. When she regains consciousness she awakens inside the cabin of Zane MacGregor, who swears he found her nearby and hurt. She has no choice but to trust the hermit as a blizzard makes it impossible to leave even if he would let her and she was physically able to. Meanwhile Alvarez and Pescoli find her car in the ravine and fear she is the next victim of the killer.

Leaving bayou Country for the Big Sky, Lisa Jackson introduces her fans to two terrific police detectives working a difficult homicide case. The story line moves forward on two subplots; the two cops seeking to rescue Jillian, and the Rivers-MacGregor spin of is he the killer or her savior. Readers will relish this strong chilling police procedural while Lisa Jackson brilliantly sets up the sequel CHOSEN TO DIE.

Harriet Klausner

Forced Out-Stephen Frey

Forced Out
Stephen Frey
Atria, Aug 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9781416549635

In Sarasota, Florida sexagenarian Jack Barrett suffers from arthritis and anger as he was the fall guy for the Yankees’ collapse in the playoff against the enemy Red Sox. He brings in chump change bagging at a nearby store and to reduce costs he lives with his adult daughter. Jack was once a highly regarded scout for the Tanks, but was fired though he is not sure why and the dismissal cost him his pension; unlike most of baseball’s sub-groups scouts are on their own with no union to coddle them.

It has been four years since he was FORCED OUT and four years since he has gone to a baseball game; now his daughter Cheryl and some insolent date of hers force him to attend the local Tarpens minor league game. He realizes the centerfielder has major league talent, but apparently no one, fans or teammates likes Mikey Clemants. Jack realizes Mikey is his ticket back to Yankee Stadium (the reincarnation that is), but his meal ticket seems to not care about the majors. However, Luchesi hitman hit man Johnny "Deuce" Bondano from the Shea Stadium area has been hired by Angelo Marconi to murder the allegedly dead Kyle Mclean, the person who killed a chieftain’s beloved grandson. Soon these three men will collide at home plate.

Although the number of support players could fill the entire Tarpon team roster and their family members, fans will enjoy this fun baseball thriller. Especially entertaining is the tales of Jack and Mikey as sports fans will want to know how the former became a bag packer and the latter gained his uncaring attitude. In spite of the Mafiosi subplot adding unnecessary extra inning suspense to a well played nine inning game, fans will enjoy Stephen Frey’s fine sports tale.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ritual-Mo Hayder

Mo Hayder
Atlantic Monthly, Sep 2008, $24.00
ISBN 9780871139924

Still grieving the loss of her parents in an accidental drowning two years ago in Boesmansgat (Bushman’s Hole) in Africa, police diver Sergeant Phoebe “Flea” Marley recovers from Bristol Harbor, a detached hand; no other body part is found. The hand’s fingerprints identify the limb belonged to heroin addict Ian “Mossy” Mallows.

The obvious drug connection is explored by Detective Inspector Jack Caffery; Flea investigates a seemingly loose thread tied to the African witchcraft of muti that she knows from her parents deaths in the Kalahari Desert. It uses body parts as part of the rituals. The two cops soon change their minds about finding a corpse as evidnce begins to point towards the victim being alive. They also conclude that the muti ritual is a sleight of the hand (no pun intended) ploy to cover up even more nefarious plans.

This gritty urban English police procedural hooks the audience from the opening dive until the final confrontation as the two cops uncover a case tied to illegal drug usage and the torture side of muti before realizing there is much more to the investigation. The story line is fast-paced as the readers wonders along side of Caffery and Marley what is going on especially when they feel strongly the victim is breathing. Fans will appreciate this strong investigative thriller (see THE TREATMENT and BIRDMAN; neither read by me) as Mo Hayder provides an enjoyable whodunit that focuses on learning what was done.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Working Stiff-Tori Carrington

Working Stiff
Tori Carrington
Forge, Sep 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765351005

In Queens, New York, her Aunt Sotiria is panic stricken; someone abducted a corpse ready for display. She begs and demands and invokes their Greek blood ties to persuade her niece Sofie Metropolis, who runs a successful private investigative firm, to find the purloined body; before the mourners start arriving to view an empty casket. Sotiria worries that losing a stiff she was working on might prove bad for her business.

Sofie is also working on finding proof that proves low life Johnny Laughton is innocent of the murder charge of killing his affluent former girlfriend, whose body has never been found. She also prepares for the trick or treat crowd, her Greek-American mother wanting legal grandchildren, her broken hearted secretary and a necrophilia living like the dead next door. Life is good and normal for the sleuth as she enjoys quality time with Greek pastry baker Dino Antonopoulos and enigmatic Jake Porter.

The fourth Sofie Metropolis private investigative tale (see DIRTY LAUNDRY and FOUL PLAY) is as always an entertaining chick noir as the heroine works her Queens’ caseload including the personal hunks in her life. The story line hops around a lot as Sofie works the Sotiria plea bargain, the Laughton case, and her loved life while eluding her Greek-American momma’s demands. This is a fun urban mystery series.

Harriet Klausner

The Shadow Walker-Michael Walters

The Shadow Walker
Michael Walters
Berkley, Aug 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425222331

In Ulan Bataar, Mongolia, the police are stymied as a silent serial killer stalks the streets. The unknown culprit has left behind his fourth mutilated corpse with a severed head and limbs this time in a luxurious hotel. Former Serious Crimes Chief Nergui is ordered back to lead the official investigation, but is frustrated having made no progress at all in catching the predator.

He needs specialized help as serial killers are outside his experience or any member of the department especially his younger replacement as section chief Doripalam. British CID Chief Inspector Drew McLeish is sent to assist Nergui on his quest to catch the killer before more people die, but he realizes that he knows nothing about the land or the people that he is to profile as he is five thousand miles from home. They work as a team with Nergui providing the insight to the city, the suburbs and the Gobi while Drew brings the profiling even as the body count mounts.

THE SHADOW WALKER is a strong police procedural with an exciting serial killer investigation, but it is the location that makes this tale standout. Nergui is a superb cop, but readers will appreciate even more his in-depth tour guide role as he escorts the audience and Drew around the city, the suburbs and beyond.

Harriet Klausner

Running Scared-Cheryl Norman

Running Scared
Cheryl Norman
Medallion, Sep 2008, $7.95
ISBN: 9781933836416

After living for two years with a violent spouse who put her in the hospital, Ashley Adams is a free woman. Determined to become all she can be including recovering what she was before her marriage in hell, Ashley goes to therapy, learns self defense, and carries a gun; her vow is never again. Peter calls her all time alternating with pleading and cajoling for her to come home and cursing her out. She ignores both sides of the SOB.

Instead Ashley is preparing to run a marathon with her good friend and coach in DC, which will add to her self esteem. Early one morning, she and the coach are running when a car suddenly bears down on them; a gun shot is fired from the vehicle killing Paul Stratford, who was picking up a newspaper in front of his door. Homicide Detective Rick Edwards is uncertain who the intended victim was, but believe this was not random. Ashley ahs no doubt that her ex spouse Peter hired someone to kill her. The next day, Ashley runs again, but her coach suddenly collapses after drinking some water and is rushed to the hospital where he is diagnosed with turpentine poisoning that she knows Peter put in their water. Her house is broken into twice and someone shoots at her. Peter swears he is innocent; that someone else who drives a gold HHR is making him look like the suspect. Rick vows to protect the woman he loves though she doubts he will ever commit to a permanent relationship.

This is an exciting explosive suspense thriller that works on several levels. Ashley and Rick are a couple the audience hopes will make it as she helps him through his personal problems while also working on her own self worth. Readers will wonder if Peter hired a killer as the obvious scenario is that the abuser refuses to accept Ashley wants nothing to do with him. Cheryl Norman keeps fans off balance as other possibilities crop up. Mindful of Linda Howard’s novels, RUNNING SCARED is a terrific thriller.

Harriet Klausner

King of the Holly Hop-Les Roberts

King of the Holly Hop
Les Roberts
Gray & Company, Jun 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 159851038X

Cleveland based private investigator Milan Jacovich wonders where the time went since he graduated from St. Clair High School; as he attends the fortieth reunion gala. As he muses over who attended that he never would have bet on coming and who did not that he would have considered a sure shot to attend, a heated loud argument breaks out between cardiologist Dr. Phil Kohn and playwright Tommy Wiggins ending with the latter tossing his drink into the former’s face.

Not long after that Kohn is found murdered; shot in the parking lot. For obvious reasons, police Sergeant Matusen assumes Wiggins to be a person of interest. Wiggins hires attorney Ben Magruder, wife of classmate Danielle, to defend him; both attended the reunion, but left before the brawl. Magruder hires Jacovich to investigate though he understands the sleuth like anyone at the gala including the lawyer is also a suspect. Milan begins interviewing his classmates with many attendees having strong motives to kill Kohn, still universally considered a “snotnose” four decades since they graduated.

Though lacking the twists and spins that the Jacovich’s mysteries contain, KING OF THE HOLLY HOP is an enjoyable whodunit with a deep realistic look at Cleveland now and a nostalgic surreal look at the city in the 1960s though the distorted lens of memories. There are obviously a lot of suspects as Magruder points out when he hires Jacovich that anyone at the gala could be the killer. Although the investigation is not the strongest, fans of the series will enjoy this entry as the audience meets people from the sleuth’s teen years and through their recollections see another side of the hero.

Harriet Klausner

Hot Mahogany-Stuart Woods

Hot Mahogany
Stuart Woods
Putnam, Sep 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780399155154

In Manhattan former police officer and now highly regarded lawyer Stone Barrington is in Elaine’s restaurant with Dina Bochetti; they both are shocked to see Lance Cabot, CIA Deputy Director for Operations looking disheveled and foreworn. A few minutes later the real Lance arrives at the nightclub to the amazement of Stone and Dina; he explains his doppelganger is his older brother former army intelligence specialist Barton, who still suffers from an amnesia causing blow to the head.

Barton is also an artisan who makes antique reproductions, but when he gets to his workshop, he seems one of mahogany desks has been stolen; the original is a Goldbard-Townsend worth millions, but he is unsure whether the original or his replication was taken. He hires Stone to help him find it; Barton’s theory is one of the men who served under him in Nam stole the desk because he was dissatisfied with his share of the contraband smuggled out of Viet Nam by the unit. While avoiding jealous and cuckold lovers and still making love to a variety of women, Stone accompanied by Dina investigate Barton’s allegations, but only the amnesic can take them to the perpetrator.

As always a Stuart Woods novel is a special treat and HOT MAHOGANY is no exception. There are many amusing scenes especially since Stone consistently thinks with his wrong head and ends up taking it up the shorts. From the opening page, the action begins and never stops keeping the audicne on the edge of their seats whether Stone dodges a lover or someone trying to end his investigation. Though Stone in this thriller is much more a sleuth than a lawyer fans will enjoy Stone’s look at the dangerous world of antique sales.

Harriet Klausner

The Covenant-John Everson

The Covenant
John Everson
Leisure, Sep 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843960181

Feeling like a post traumatic syndrome disorder victim, bone weary from reporting all the scandalous news fit to print, reporter Joe Kieran leaves the Chicago Tribune. He accepted a journalist position as the night reporter at the Terrel Daily Times. Two months on the job Joe is bored. His daily monitoring the police radio has led to his driving to a reported scene once and that proved a false alarm.

Remaining diligent, the persistent Joe is stunned when Dispatch directs a mobile unit to investigate an apparent leaper off the Terrel Peak. It was not the leap that surprises Joe, but the Dispatcher’s use of the words “another one“. Joe begins investigating the history of Peak leapers. He discovers a harrowing seemingly valid long term trend. On the same date in May someone young jumps. Warned to back off his inquiries, Joe continues to dig obsessed with the need to know why seemingly rationale contented children with no prior suicidal signs abruptly leap the Peak to their deaths. Interviewing five seemingly connected women, four of them still grieving mothers, reticent townsfolk especially the cops and his peers on the paper, and a self proclaimed Gypsy fortune teller, Joe will relearn the lesson he was taught in Chicago, but deadlier this time, that the truth does not set you free.

This exciting suspense thriller has the audience hooked with a need to know why once Joe begins questioning what the dispatcher meant by “another one“. The story line is driven by the small-town reluctance to share anything with the outsider, a big city reporter who is rusticating in their minds. Joe is terrific as he struggles to find out what makes a mentally healthy child decide suddenly to leap. John Everson has written a powerful tale as readers wonder whether it is a coincidence, the supernatural or a serial killer behind the suicides.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Fifth Floor-Michael Harvey

The Fifth Floor
Michael Harvey
Knopf, Sep 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780307266873

In Chicago, private investigator Michael Kelly is working a simple domestic violence case although he knows this one is personal. His former girlfriend Janet hires him to follow her abusive husband Johnny Woods, who works for the city’s mayor as a fixer of potentially embarrassing problems. Michael wants to get Janet and her daughter Taylor to a safe house as he fears what Woods is capable of doing, but the woman warns him not to make it personal.

However, his surveillance quickly proves the case is much more complex when he finds a body inside an old house. As he digs into the murder he stumbled upon, Kelly begins to see connections back to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 including a cover-up back then, but still in effect, involving two prominent wealthy families with the final solution of eradicating the undesirable Irish. Afterward he is forced to visit the infamous City Hall’s Fifth Floor for a lecture by the mayor to back off or else. However, Kelly begins to feel like Mrs. O’Leary’s cow when the modern day killer sets him up to take the fall for the corpse he found.

Still a frustrated Cubs fan and attracted to a judge he wants to call but never seems to, Michael is a terrific hardboiled private investigator who makes it to THE FIFTH FLOOR where he assumes is the wood shed for those embarrassing the powers. His second urban noir thriller (see THE CHICAGO WAY) is a superb whodunit that ties current Windy City activity to the 1871 inferno. The star investigates both even as he struggles to stay out of jail as a clever killer perfectly frames him reminding him about that cow held culpable by the myth (mindful of “Professor” Robert Wuhl’s underlying assumption in "Assume the Position".
Harriet Klausner

Red Sky in Morning- Patrick Culhane

Red Sky in Morning
Patrick Culhane
Morrow, Sep 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780060892555

When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, Miller's Grove, Iowa resident Peter Maxwell tells his beloved wife Kay he enlisting. She encourages him to join and he signs up with the US Navy. He is sent on to the USS Liberty Hill, along with his friends Rosetti, Driscoll, and Connor; the vessel carries armaments throughout the Pacific, and is crewed mostly by blacks with the few whites being officers for the most part.

The ship has all sorts of issues with horrific weather and kamikaze attacks, but the worst is the tension between the two races; and is made worst by a the captain. Maxwell becomes a close friend with black former Chicago cop Ulysses “Sarge” Grant Washington. When someone kills a white Ivy League grad and a gay black seaman, Maxwell and Washington agree to investigate hoping to uncover the murderer before someone else dies.

This is an engaging historical tale which cannot decide between being a WWII thriller or mystery. The story line uses hyperbolic stereotypes (at times overkill as we got the point) to lay out the 1940s military structure and relationships, but turns into a investigation led by the experienced police detective and supported by the former high school Iowan quarterback. The story line is at its best when the focus is on the on board interactions in limited space between individuals and groups at sea; many of which are dysfunctional fueled by bias and misunderstanding. The murder mystery feels unnecessary and too standardized subtracting from the overall theme of racism due to skin color or religion on board a US Navy WW II vessel.

Harriet Klausner

The Turnaround-George P. Pelecanos

The Turnaround
George P. Pelecanos
Little Brown, Aug 2008, $24.99
ISBN: 0316156477

In 1972, three suburban teenage white friends (Alex Pappas, Billy Cachoris and Pete Whitten) are stoned having smoked marihuana and drank alcohol. As high as they ever been, the trio cruises D.C in a Torino stopping in a poor black neighborhood where they challenge three local males (brothers James and Raymond Monroe and Charles Baker). The ensuing brawl leaves Billy dead and Alex severely battered.

In 2007, Alex grieves the loss of his son, a combat casualty in Iraq. He owns and runs the Pappas and Sons Coffee Shop that his father established in 1964. At Walter Reed Raymond Monroe, one of the three blacks involved in the deadly fight, recognizes Alex’s name. Raymond thinks maybe he can put somewhat behind him the mess that has haunted him for thirty-five years by talking with Alex so he contacts the coffee shop owner; Alex too needs clsoure. At about the same time, Baker who destroyed Alex’s face has just left prison with a plan to blackmail the participants in the ’72 race war.

This stand alone urban thriller hooks the audience from the opening joyride and never let’s goes as the audience wonders whether Alex and Raymond will find liberation from their overwhelming guilt for their respective roles in the fight or a second war. The key cast members are fully developed so that the reader understands what they need and what they could lose if they risk THE TURNAROUND of redemption and ignore the extortion. George P. Pelecanos writes a great tale that will be on everyone’s short list for thriller of the year as the DC area has rarely seen as imposing as it does in 1972 and 2007.

Harriet Klausner

Death by Latte-Linda Gerber

Death by Latte
Linda Gerber
Sleuth/Speak (Penguin), Sep 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780142411186

Four years have past since her dad Frank Connolly took his daughter Aphra to Open and Run an exclusive Pacific island resort; her mom Natalie remained in the States allegedly seeking to find herself as an artisan. Aphra has not seen her mom in four years and after the recent harrowing experiences with the “Smith” family nee Mulo (see DEATH BY BIKINI) decides to confront her in Seattle. She tells her dad, still recovering from poisoning, that she is going to see a friend in South Carolina.

Her mom is stunned when Aphra shows up at Pike’s Pottery. She tells her daughter she is leaving for the island immediately. Aphra realizes her mom still works for the CIA and her partners Joe and Stuart are undercover with her trying to know who has betrayed the agency by going after family members. Matters turn frightening when teenage Seth Mulo arrives asking Aphra for a ring he gave her that some thugs now are demanding or they will slice off his father’s body parts one at a time; a finger has already arrived special delivery. About the same time Joe dies from a poisoned latte; it is too late for Aphra to leave town as she has been spotted.

The second Death by young adult mystery suspense thriller is an exciting sequel with the action switching from the Pacific island to the American Northwest Pacific coast. The story line is fast-paced from the moment a stunned Natalie sees her daughter innocently step into the danger that mom sent her and her beloved spouse away from. Although this is a stand alone, reading DEATH BY BIKINI helps set the table for DEATH BY LATTE as the audience better understands motives especially Seth. Linda Gerber provides an entertaining Seattle joy ride that middle school teens will appreciate.

Harriet Klausner

Irrational Numbers-Robert Spiller

Irrational Numbers
Robert Spiller
Medallion, Sep 2008, $$7.95
ISBN: 9781933836881

Five years ago at his high school graduation, the most popular male Leo Quinn the Salutorian announced he was gay. The residents of East Plains, Colorado turn against the teen, feeling he was not the person they thought he was nor should be, One night on Squirrel Creek Road, his former classmates and friends, all homophobes, decide to play prank on him.. The next day his naked corpse is found with three bullets in the heart.

Math teacher Bonnie Pinkwater had Leo as a student and liked the teenager. The police question her as they found her phone number in his neatly folded pants lying next to his murdered body. Later at the rodeo Bonnie finds the dead body of a clown with bullet holes in the chest region just like Leo. Soon other young men are killed with ballistics proving the same gun being used. At Leo’s funeral, youth pastor Jason is shot; the critically wounded man was once Leo’s lover. Bonnie and her boss Principal Lloyd Whittaker investigate before the serial killer adds more young men to the deadly spree.

IRRATIONAL NUMBERS is a fascinating mystery due to the intense need for the protagonists to end the homicidal assault on the young. The sexual preference choices especially homosexuality is handled deftly so that the audience obtains a wide spectrum of reactions such as Leo’s father kicking him out of the house, but later demands justice for his son. Although educators turning into sleuths on a serial killing case seem as if 1 and 1 makes 3l fans will appreciate this riveting whodunit that takes a deep look at the impact of coming out of the closet.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Black Ship-Carola Dunn

Black Ship
Carola Dunn
St. Martin's, Aug 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780312363079

In 1925 with the death of his great uncle, Scotland Yard detective Alec Fletcher inherits a fixer upper home on the outer rim of London. He and his wife Daisy Dalrymple are excited by the size of the large house as they feared space for their growing family; although neither is pleased with their neighbors. Still with their babies, who Daisy enjoys spending time with, the house came to them at the right time; not that either wanted up in the relative to die.

Soon after moving into the Hampstead Heath house, their maid finds a corpse in the garden. Alec begins officially investigating while Daisy sleuths too starting with who he is. Soon the married couple find the case focuses on bootlegging of rum on black ships in which American mobsters are muscling their way into a piece of the action.

Fans of this strong historical mystery series will appreciate the latest entry as the English gentry and servant class perspective to the American inanity called Prohibition makes for a roaring twenties tale. The whodunit is fun, but as with the entire Honorable Daisy Dalrymple saga it is the sense of time and place that brings enthralled readers to a bygone era.

Harriet Klausner