Friday, October 31, 2008

Scarpetta-Patricia Cornwell

Patricia Cornwell
Putnam, Dec 2008, $27.95
ISBN: 9780399155161

Kay Scarpetta and Benton Wesley are married and for the first time in their long relationship, they are not only in the same state, they share the same house. She is the medical examiner for the Northeastern District of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and both are guest lecturers at NYC’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. They also provide free consulting services for agencies to include NYPD.

Oscar Bane, a little person, checks himself into Bellevue after seeing his lover, also a little person, dead; a homicide victim. Benton does a pre evaluation and Oscar reveals he will not talk to anyone except Scarpetta. When she arrives Oscar tells her that “they” are watching him and know every move he makes. He also tells her to find a disc hidden in his apartment so she will know he is not paranoid. The police believe Bone killed his significant other, but Scarpetta based on forensics does not even believe he warrants a warrant. Further research reveals other people were killed in a similar fashion; each wearing an ankle bracelet. Kay, Lucy, prosecutor Jaime Berger, and investigator Pete Marino begin to seek a serial killer who enjoys torture and murder.

It has been two decades since Scarpetta was introduced and over that time the characters have changed and grown. Bonds have formed and others broken; now Kay and Benton take the next step in their relationship. However as always in this great series, SCARPETTA is first and foremost a superb crime thriller filled with action though character driven. Readers will fully enjoy the heroine and her horde’s latest adventures as Patricia Cornwell affirms why she is this reviewer’s favorite crime thriller author.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Deadly Silver Sea-Bob Morris

A Deadly Silver Sea
Bob Morris
St. Martin's Dec 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780312377250

In Florida, former NFL player and ex con Zack Chasteen is contented to run a palm tree nursery, as long as his beloved travel magazine owner Barbara Pickering is with him. He especially looks forward to the birth of their first child in about a month.

Zack, Barbara and many affluent people are sailing on the luxurious cruise ship Royal Star on its maiden voyage; his invitation comes from being classy Barbara’s escort, which serves a reminder of how far he has come. Soon after the Royal Star embarks from Miami, gunmen kill most of the crew and take control of the vessel. After the passengers are separated by gender, Zack tries to get the men to join him on a blitzkrieg, but he end up in the drink while Barbara goes into premature labor.

The latest Zack Casteen thriller (see BERMUDA SCHWARTZ, BAHAMARAMA and JAMAICA ME DEAD) is as fast-paced as its predecessors, but lacks the originality of the previous tales with Cussler's Pitt novels and movies like Under Siege. Zack’s usual amusing cynical asides also seem out of place in a scenario in which his about to give birth beloved is in deep peril. Still he is an interesting mix as a sarcastic moralistic antihero struggling to rally the civilians at sea against deadly pirates making his current under siege escapade fun for his fans.

Harriet Klausner

A Body to Die For-G.A. McKevett

A Body to Die For
G.A. McKevett
Kensington, Jan 2009, $22.00
ISBN 9780758215543

In San Carmelita, California, plus-sized Moonlight and Magnolia Detective Agency private investigator Savannah Reid and police detective Sergeant. Dirk Coulter team up to catch a peeping Tom at Clarissa's House of Pain and Gain. Soon after that success, insufferable diet queen Clarissa Jardin informs the police that her rascally husband Bill is missing.

Not long after that Bill is found dead with a bullet in his head; Dirk leads the official investigation. Bill’s mother believes her daughter-in-law killed her son. She hires Savannah expecting her to prove Clarissa was involved in Bill’s homicide. Savannah agrees with her client’s theory as the victim was cheating on his spouse and spending her hard earned money gambling. Cooperating, Savannah and Dirk uncover several other people with strong motives especially Clarissa's obese twin sister.

Filled with humor and terrific asides, the latest Reid whodunit is a fabulous investigative tale in what is consistently a strong entertaining series (see POISONED TARTS). The investigation is cleverly designed to keep readers guessing re the twin vs. someone else, but the fun comes from the teaming of Reid and Coulter as the heroine makes it clear you can have your cake and eat it too (in moderation and with not guilt or remorse).

Harriet Klausner

Night of the Loving Dead-Casey Daniels

Night of the Loving Dead
Casey Daniels
Berkley, Jan 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780425225554

Cemetery tour guide Pepper Martin was in the Garden View Cemetery when she knocked her head accidentally on a tombstone. When she regained consciousnesses, she was able to see ghosts; spirits of those who were murdered and unable to move on. They demand Pepper find their killers and bring them to justice so they can pass peacefully to the next level. She reluctantly investigates the claims because when she refuses they haunt her every living moment.

When Pepper goes to Chicago on business, she stops at the Greenland Cemetery where she meets the spirit of lab coated Madeline Tremayne, who pleads with her that their mutual friend Dr. Dan Callahan is in danger from his boss Dr. Hilton Gerard who is using him as the fall guy for the Feds to devour for their inquiry into misappropriation of funds. Knowing Dan once saved her life and how painfully persistent ghosts are, Pepper investigates learning that Dr. Dan is working on a new program in which the disenfranchised enter but never leave. As she obtains proof of the goings-on, a malevolent spirit turns Pepper into one of the disenbidied unable to help anyone even herself.

Anyone who believes communicating with ghosts would be fun, need to ask the heroine whose experience with the “gift” leaves her traumatic and seemingly always in danger; this is not sharing tea or lattes. Still her courage and desire, albeit reluctant, to help others endears Pepper to the reader. Her latest investigation is fast-paced, dangerous and somewhat personal; as NIGHT OF THE LOVING DEAD is a charming amusing paranormal amateur sleuth.

Harriet Klausner

Daemon-Daniel Suarez

Daniel Suarez
Dutton, Jan 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780525951117

At thirty four years of age, Matthew Sobol, the genius behind successful CyberStorm Entertainment dies from brain cancer. However, the brilliant game maestro would not allow something as petty as death preveng him from causing global havoc from the grave. He somehow kicked off a war from cyberpsace against mankind.

Concerned authorities enter Sobol's mansion in Thousand Oaks, California only to find themselves under attack in spite of the fact that no human is inside or on the grounds; the police suffer several deaths as they retreat. Sobol has left behind the greatest weapon of mass destruction ever created; his daemon computer processor has taken control of most of the world’s major computer systems and has signed up brilliant quisling humans as foot soldiers to carry out the plan for world domination.

DAEMON is a fabulous futuristic AI technology thriller as the twisted but brilliant late computer game creator Sobol sets in motion a doomsday machine after he dies. The story line is fast-paced from the onset even with complex vernacular as Daniel Suarez assumes his audience can do more than breath and chew gum refusing to dumb down his tale. Readers will relish this superb science fiction book with a great finish that sets up AI part two.

Harriet Klausner

Daemon-Daniel Suarez

Daniel Suarez
Dutton, Jan 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780525951117

At thirty four years of age, Matthew Sobol, the genius behind successful CyberStorm Entertainment dies from brain cancer. However, the brilliant game maestro would not allow something as petty as death preveng him from causing global havoc from the grave. He somehow kicked off a war from cyberpsace against mankind.

Concerned authorities enter Sobol's mansion in Thousand Oaks, California only to find themselves under attack in spite of the fact that no human is inside or on the grounds; the police suffer several deaths as they retreat. Sobol has left behind the greatest weapon of mass destruction ever created; his daemon computer processor has taken control of most of the world’s major computer systems and has signed up brilliant quisling humans as foot soldiers to carry out the plan for world domination.

DAEMON is a fabulous futuristic AI technology thriller as the twisted but brilliant late computer game creator Sobol sets in motion a doomsday machine after he dies. The story line is fast-paced from the onset even with complex vernacular as Daniel Suarez assumes his audience can do more than breath and chew gum refusing to dumb down his tale. Readers will relish this superb science fiction book with a great finish that sets up AI part two.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Eclipse-Richard North Patterson

Richard North Patterson
Holt, Jan 2009, $26.00
ISBN: 9780805087727

San Francisco law firm partner forty years old Damon Pierce is getting a divorce. The international litigation expert e-mails his college lover Marissa Brand to inform him that his marriage will be over by tomorrow although he knows she is married to oil rich Luandia reformist Bobby Okari whose country is run by a brutal despot.

While the foreign oil companies work closely with the government to rip off the oil deposits, everyone in Okari's village is murdered. However the government ignores the mass murders because they are the culprits; instead they arrest Bobby for the lynching of three foreign oil workers. Damon, out of love for Marissa, defends the accused in a kangaroo court that has already convicted him.

Few authors can hook an audience and maintain that grip throughout like Richard North Patterson does consistently. ECLIPSE affirms that belief especially with the haunting working and environmental conditions in Luandia that is the main star; even Governor Palin will shout the manta wind baby wind if she spent fifteen minutes getting her hair fixed there. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action that fans of legal thrillers in foreign nations in which the dictator makes the law will appreciate Mr. Patterson’s latest exciting tale.

Harriet Klausner

Dead or Alive-Michael McGarrity

Dead or Alive
Michael McGarrity
Dutton, Jan 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780525950813

Escaped psychopathic convict Craig Larson goes on a killing rampage murdering everyone it seems in his path. Among the victims is Riley Burke, business partner to former Santa Fe police chief Kevin Kerney.

Outraged by the Burke death and just back from London where his spouse works in the American embassy, Kerney vows to bring the maniac to justice. However that pledge is easier said than done, as Larson leaves corpses in several southwest states. Working as a temporary New Mexico State Police special investigator, Kerney and his son Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department Lieutenant Clayton Istee lead a state wide manhunt.

The keys to this wild manhunt are the relationship between the father and son law enforcement pair who only recently learned of their DNA connection and the deep look at multi-jurisdiction police investigations. The story line is fast-paced and filled with much more blood than the usual Kerney whodunit (see NOTHING BUT TROUBLE) and a strong sense of locale that would have pleased the late Tony Hillerman. In some macabre ways Larson steals the show as he makes the plot with his murderous spree that turns what looks like a blue state red.

Harriet Klausner

Running Hot-Jayne Ann Krentz

Running Hot
Jayne Ann Krentz
Putnam, Jan 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780399155215

The psychic investigative firm Jones & Jones sends Arcane Society member Grace Renquist, who can envision the evil in a person’s aura to Hawaii to uncover the identity of a serial killer. To protect the librarian who will be out in the cold for the first time, they hire former cop currently tending bar Luther Malone as her bodyguard, who can abort a person’s evil thoughts before they can perform an odious deed.

Luther and Grace are attracted to one another from their first meeting. However, in Hawaii they know to table their passion and focus on the killer. They quickly learn that others seek the psychopath too; from the drug stimulated malevolent Nightshades to psychic hunter opera diva La Sirene, whose voice kills.

Although obviously over the top of Mauna Kea, RUNNING HOT is a fast-paced exhilarating romantic suspense that grips the audience from the moment the lead couple meets and never takes a breather until the concluding implication that sequels will follow. Ms. Krentz’s fans will enjoy this serial murder mystery investigation that turns into much more dangerous and evil than a psychopath on the loose.

Harriet Klausner

The Spoke-Friedrich Glauser

The Spoke
Friedrich Glauser
Bitter Lemon, Jan 2009, $14.95
ISBN 9781904738275

In Bern Swiss police Detective Sergeant Jakob Studer and his wife have traveled to Schwarzenstein to attend the marriage of their daughter. However, in the Hôtel zum Hirschen where they are staying someone stabs to death Jean Stieger using a sharpened bicycle spoke.

The local police arrest the only suspect, bicycle store mechanic and peddler Ernst Graf. However, Studer believes the murder weapon is not enough to prove Graf did the deed. Soon afterward while Graf remains in custody, someone poisons Stieger’s boss and partner , financier Joachim Krock. Studer investigates the two homicides, applying a logic that confuses the local cops, but leads to several suspects with motives for both murders.

The latest reprint of the 1930s Studer Swiss police procedural series is, like the previous four, a fabulous investigative tale. Studer is at his best working what appears to be a closed locked room case in which his progress in finding other suspects besides Graf with means, motive and opportunity alienates him with the locals and frustrates his wife on vacation and daughter preparing to marry. The Jakob Studer collection holds up as strong mysteries with an obvious historical perspectvie seven decades after they were initially released (see IN MATTO'S REALM, FEVER THUMBPRINT and THE CHINAMAN).
Harriet Klausner

Divine Justice-David Baldacci

Divine Justice
David Baldacci
Grand Central, Nov 2008, $27.99
ISBN: 0446195502

Joe Knox scans two homicide scenes in which he concludes a professional sniper took out DC super VIPs, Intel Chief Carter Gray and US Senator from Alabama Roger Simpson. At the same time Joe concludes the same sniper did both murders and that the Intel community was hiding something, former CIA assassin Oliver Stone takes the Amtrak train from Union Station heading to New Orleans after killing the two government superheavyweights who murdered his wife and for all intent and purposes buried his real identity John Carr with her.

Unable to mind his business, Stone intercedes in a fight on the train, but when the Amtrak conductor asks for a picture identification, he knows he must disembark ASAP because he will be exposed as a fake with minimal examination. He ends up in the mining town of Divine, Virginia where once again his tendency to get involved in a David vs. Goliath good cause gets him in trouble with high level corruption and a widow in peril.

The latest Camel Club thriller (see THE COLLECTORS , STONE COLD and THE CAMEL CLUB) is an exciting tale that fans of the series will relish as Stone’s code of justice makes him act when he should remain passively in the background. He cannot help himself when he took out the VIPS, on the train or in Divine. Although somewhat formulaic in the mining town reminiscent of Spencer Tracey in Bad Day At Black Rock and Steven Seagal in Fire Down Below, readers will enjoy Stone’s latest escapades.

Harriet Klausner

Midnight Sins-Cynthia Eden

Midnight Sins
Cynthia Eden
Kensington Brava, Dec 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 0758226047

The homicides are horrifying because they look somewhat innocent as if a tryst of two consenting adults left one behind tied to a bed. However, the victims all men may have appeared ready for a wild night of tough love, but somehow their essence is sucked from them leaving them dead with not a scratch or any evidence of foul play except for the corpse.

Police Detective Todd Brooks leads the investigation into the serial sex murders but has no clues until amidst the clothing of a victim is found the ID of Cara Firon. Todd brings Cara to the station for questioning. To his shock the men trip over each other to accommodate her; more stunning is he is the worst of those ready to her bidding. Cara tries to control her succubus pheromones with little success as the humans covet her, but she finds it more difficult controlling her desire for the human cop suspecting her as a serial killer.

This fast-paced paranormal romantic police procedural works because the two key elements, the murder investigation and the existence of supernatural beings seem real as each side enhances the other leading to an entertaining whodunit. Todd is superb as he is no nonsense professional working a difficult case that bewilders him, but his biggest confusion is how the testosterone back in the station has overflowed once Cara enters; he kicks himself because he is no better than the others though he conceals his tent pole better. Cara is an excellent prime suspect who can’t help but bringing out the male in the men. Cynthia Eden provides a delightful urban romantic investigative fantasy that sub-genre fans will relish and want more in this milieu.

Harriet Klausner

The Scorpion-Warren Stockholm

The Scorpion
Warren Stockholm
Pop Pulp Books (KHP), Oct 2008, $9.99
ISBN: 9780979988158

In an alternate universe Nazi Germany defeated the Allies and occupied the losing nations including America for sixty years until the economy tanked causing a war in which America forced the oppressors to leave. Everything is being built up and growth is everywhere even in Steeltown. New rules allow crime to thrive with one dirty operation running a slave trade child porn ring. Women vanish with their abused bodies found in record numbers.

Watching over the city is The Scorpion who stalks and attacks evil men. He is a German super soldier created by the Third Reich but he escaped to the United States. He thinks of Steeltown as his town and plans to clean it up from criminals and predators. He uses his extraordinary skills to kill those malevolent humans harming others. Yet his past catches up to him when he realizes someone he once called brother is now a vile monster needing to be eradicated.

Readers who enjoy pulp fiction thrillers with an homage to Captain America will enjoy the entertaining THE SCORPION. The fast-paced story line vividly describes through a somewhat horrifying lens a small American town of the future five years after the Nazi occupiers have left. The hero is a tortured soul struggling to control his berserker tendency, a critical element of becoming a super soldier. No Bucky sidekick for him; he is alone even when surrounded by allies because he trusts no one, not even himself. Fans will appreciate the adventures of the Scorpion and look forward to more pulp escapades.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Scent of Danger-Doranna Durgin

Scent of Danger
Doranna Durgin
Five Star, Dec 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146756

Former Buckeye, Dr. Dale Kinsall is still adjusting to life in West Winoza, just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. He finds his staff at the Foothills Veterinary Clinic professional but eccentrically amusing except when they wear animal scrotums as earrings; that sort of feels painful. He also is half in love with another veterinarian Laura Nakai who he hoped would join his practice, but did not.

As the clinic is being renovated and Dale semi exiled due to asthma, he begins receiving weird warning notes written in rhyme, but placed in such away that someone with full clinic access was dropping them off. Laura becomes concerned when her young second cousin becomes deathly ill from hanta fever. As the notes keep coming, Dale and his sidekick Sully the mouse eating Beagle work on the case of the notes even as he saves Laura’s life when she comes down with hanta fever.

Although the mystery is thin and comes late, fans will enjoy this fun Arizona cozy due to the eccentric cast. Fans will be fascinated that Dale is in the local police dog house for solving a recent case (see NOSE FOR TROUBLE) instead of them. The support cast adds to the character driven plot as Dale with Sully follow the SCENT OF DANGER.

Harriet Klausner

The Messenger-Jan Burke

The Messenger
Jan Burke
Simon & Schuster,Jan 2009, $25.00
ISBN 9780743273879

At the Battle of Waterloo, twenty something British officer Tyler Hawthorne is severely wounded. While still on the battlefield, Lord Lucien Adrian deVille gives his probably dying brother in arms a ring with stipulations. The ring brings immortality to the bearer but the individual must spend eternity comforting those near death. He also is given a companion to protect him, Shade the cemetery dog.

Almost two centuries later, a Caribbean salvage diver working a vessel sunk in 1815 finds Adrian's remains. Upon returning to the surface Adrian revives and propels his rescuer to help him find Tyler. He succeeds and Adrian travels to Los Angeles to see how his crony is doing. Tyler still tends to his work this time assisting a leukemia patient. However, the still twentyish looking Tyler is in love for the first time in his over two hundred year existence. His cares for heiress Amanda Clarke, who survived a horrific accident that wiped out her family but enabled her to see ghosts; she struggles with survivor guilt, but is attracted to Tyler. Adrian a “messenger” of evil is coming to cause problems for the couple and his dog Shade.

This is a terrific paranormal thriller that grips the audience from the moment that Adrian arrives at Tyler’s side on the battlefield and never slows down once the time and place switch from the Napoleonic Wars through the deep sea rescue to mdoern day America. The story line is fast-paced with the key trio plus the canine seeming genuine even with their supernatural abilities. Jan Burke provides a strong horror tale that fans will appreciate.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 27, 2008

Dangerous Prey-Lindsay McKenna

Dangerous Prey
Lindsay McKenna
Harlequin HQN, Dec 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780373773213

Flying a helicopter is something that Kelly Trayhern loves. Working for Bates International, a fire suppression company, she is exhausted after nine trips from Cottonwood Airport near Sedona into a blaze; the tenth ended in a crash caused by a sudden burst of smoke blinding her; the two men with her were trapped inside an inferno. Her joy of flying died with her co-pilot and the Forest Service Ranger; as she vows to never pilot a helicopter again.

Her long time friend Sky McCoy has also dealt with tragedies. He has found salvation working as a raptor rehabilitator. After Kelly’s mom visits him to tell him what happened to her daughter, Sky invites Kelly to help him, which she agrees to do. As they work side by side, his past surfaces threatening Kelly even as their love for one another blossoms.

The deep look at saving and protecting endangered birds of prey refreshes an engaging romantic suspense. Kelly and Sky have demons from their past; hers being very recent while his shows up in person. Although the suspense is somewhat typical of a romantic thriller, fans, with the exception of the Governor Palin crowd who would prefer to fly to hunt, will enjoy this tense tale as the most DANGEROUS PREY is human.

Harriet Klausner

Dying for You-Beverly Barton

Dying for You
Beverly Barton
Harlequin HQN, Dec 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780373773176

For almost a decade at Dundee Private Security Lucie Evans and Sawyer McNamara fought like cats and dogs. Anyone who observed the oil water mix would never conclude they were once very close. The gender squabble ends when Lucie leaves the firm to accept the position of a bodyguard to billionaire Cara Bedell.

During an attempt to kidnap Cara, Lucie is abducted instead. A stunned Sawyer bulldozes his way onto the rescue team. They liberate Lucie, but Cara remains a target of a killer. Lucie and Sawyer team up to try to keep Cara safe and bring down her assailant even as the two operatives try to still conceal their feelings for one another.

DYING FOR YOU is a fabulous Dundee Private Security romantic suspense that grips the audience from the moment Lucie quits and never slows down as she and her beloved enemy fights one another while protecting Cara. The lead couple is fully developed especially their flaws as each is willing to risk their life but not their heart. Fans will relish this tense tale while seeking the exciting Protectors' saga (see A TIME TO DIE, MOST LIKELY TO DIE and DANGEROUS DECEPTION).

Harriet Klausner

When Danger Calls-Terry O’Dell

When Danger Calls
Terry O’Dell
Five Star, Dec 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 159414723X

Following his second failed black ops mission in which people died and he is injured, Blackthorne agent Ryan Harper is put on medical leave. He knows that everyone at the private security firm assumes he turned rogue, but he believes someone inside caused the two failures; they were set up and he plans to bring that person down as a little girl who died in the first fiasco haunts him. Thus Ryan retrieved the container he was sent to obtain, but tells his boss otherwise so he can learn why something allegedly minor caused deaths.

Ryan returns to his hometown of Broken Bow, Montana to stay with his Pop on the ranch. He meets Gladys a waitress at the Three Elks and is attracted to her. Ryan later learns she is an elementary school art teacher Frankie Castor, a single mom to precocious six year old Molly. Frankie worries about her mom who has suffered two injuries since starting a relationship with Bob Dwyer. As Ryan and Frankie fall in love, he comes to the rescue of her, Molly, and Molly’s “friend” Mr. Snuggles even as someone wants what he possesses from his last mission; that person is willing to harm his loved ones something that is unacceptable to Ryan.

This is an exciting romantic suspense that grips readers from the onset when Ryan’s cakewalk mission turns ugly and never slows down as his work arrives at Big Sky Country. The cast is very strong especially the lead couple and their immediate family. Although major coincidence twice involving land takes somewhat away from this fine thriller, fans will appreciate Ryan’s reactions WHEN DANGER CALLS.

Harriet Klausner

A Veiled Deception-Annette Blair

A Veiled Deception
Annette Blair
Berkley, Jan 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780425226407

Madeira “Maddie” Cutler, a vintage clothing designer for a famous fashion house, is on her way to her hometown of Mystick Falls, Connecticut where she hopes to create the gown for her baby sister she raised. Maddie arrives in time for pandemonium; an angry Sherry watches her fiancé Justin’s former girlfriend Jasmine hang all over him as if she is the bride. Upset Sherry makes a rash statement that she will kill Jasmine in front of witnesses.

Maddie goes to see the wedding dress Sherry’s mother-in-law expects her to wear only to find Jasmine choked to death by a veil. Sherry is the number one and only suspect; she does not help herself as she refuses to provide an alibi. Maddie has visions of another woman wearing the same dress and concludes her visions are related to the Jasmine homicide, but has no idea how. She investigates Sherry’s in-laws especially their past since the dress belonged to Justin’s mother to understand what she saw and hopes to apply it to identify the killer.

Annette Blair, renowned for her sensational bewitching romantic fantasies provides a new series filled with humor, the paranormal, two related mysteries, and of course romance. The protagonist is a beguiling intelligent free spirit who prefers a laughter and lay back lifestyle, but knows when the situation calls for a serious spin. She is glue that not only holds A VEILED DECEPTION together but turns the tale into an outstanding read.

Harriet Klausner

The Witch’s Grave-Shirley Damsgaard

The Witch’s Grave
Shirley Damsgaard
Avon, Jan 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061493430

Librarian Ophelia Jensen and her beloved grandmother Abby live in a small Iowa town. People who meet the pair assume they are ordinary Midwesterners. A few locals know that they are witches and psychics just like their ancestors. Ophelia has not always felt comfortable with her gifts although they have helped her solve several homicides (see WITCH WAY TO MURDER and THE WITCH IS DEAD). Currently she is in a happy mood because of her dreams of a new man entering her life.

At a library fundraiser, Ophelia meets former horror writer Stephen Larsen and they are attracted to one another. When they go for a walk near the woods, a shot is fired and he begins to bleed from his chest. He is stabilized at the hospital, but later someone shoots at Ophelia, but misses. The psychic begins to dream of a French Resistance fighter Madeleine and her lover Henrick, who loves her back but refuses to marry her. Abby believes Stephen and Ophelia were once Madeleine and Henrick; her inquiries into the past lead to a present illegal immigrant ring who wants the trio silenced.

In their sixth appearance, Ophelia is accepting her powers that are getting stronger as she understands her desire to find out who the sniper is requires full use of her talents. Matters turn even more corrupted when a politician running for office is shot at and his aide killed. Thus THE WITCH’S GRAVE is a multilayered paranormal whodunit in which the WW II European past and the twenty-first century Hawkeye State converge through Ophelia and Stephen inside a fascinating supernatural amateur sleuth mystery.
Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Slippery When Wet-Kimberly Raye

Slippery When Wet
Kimberly Raye
Love Spell, Dec 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780505527738

Race Chicks Inc. driver Jaycee Anderson has stunned the previously all male dominated NASCAR Sprint Cup by finishing fourth in the final standings. Her objective for the new season is to move up at least one notch with her bodacious goal being cup champion. To obtain third place means holding off all that testosterone that placed behind her and move past Rory Canyon, whom she has known much of her twenty six years of life.

Rory has never forgotten when the teen tomboy kissed him as he ran from her and still is running. However, he knows in his soul how much he wants her even when she hides her curves with driving garb. She never forgave him for ending their friendship a decade ago, but also knows her impetuous kiss affirmed how much she needed him. Each use their rivalry on the track to keep them apart off the track as Daytona looms.

Readers will enjoy this “NASCAR Holiday” while rooting for the heroine to beat the pants off her rival on the track and elsewhere as Kimberly Raye leaves the “dead” romantic fantasy crowd for a spin on the NASCAR circuit. The story line is fast-paced especially when the lead couple competes with each other; the support cast seems two dimensional at times causing a detour to the pleasant prime plot of lady start your engine.

Harriet Klausner

A Dead Bore-Sheri Cobb South

A Dead Bore
Sheri Cobb South
Five Star, Dec 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9781594147111

In London with the Ton titillating over the murder of her husband, widow Lady Julia Fieldhurst decides it is time to rusticate so she does not have to see the gleeful looks of her peers and hear their gossipy whispered innuendos. Thus to ignore the scandal of her spouse’s homicide, Lady Julia travels to Yorkshire to stay with Sir Gerald and Lady Anne Hollingshead.

Her hosts at Hollingshead Place celebrate her arrival with a small dinner party in which guest Vicar Danvers provides the other diners with verbal extracts from a local history book he is almost finished writing. Soon after dinner, a fire at the vicarage kills Mr. Danvers. Julia sends a message to her London associate Bow Street runner John Pickett pleading with him to come to Yorkshire investigate what she believes was an arson murder related to the history book. Pickett, who because he is attracted to the out of his reach Lady, quickly arrives and masquerades as Julia's footman so that he can serendipitously investigate.

A DEAD BORE is a superb Regency mystery (see IN MILADY'S CHAMBER) that brings to life the aristocracy as well as the servants who reside under the stairs. The whodunit is cleverly set up so that the motive in general terms is obvious but specifically which passage is not; opportunity abound for many people who could have set the inferno. The subtle attraction between the lady and the runner enhances a strong early nineteenth century investigative tale.

Harriet Klausner

Drifting South-Charles Davis

Drifting South
Charles Davis
Mira, Dec 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780778325420

He spent two decades and one year behind bars for a crime he did not commit. Now finally in 1980 Ben Purdue leaves the Harrisburg Federal Penitentiary where he spent much of his time in protective custody after two inmates tried to kill him. He knows someone wants him dead; most likely tied back to the felony that led to his incarceration. Still in spite of the danger of going home where the source of his assassin probably resides, he needs to learn the fate of his mom and brothers following the shooting that led to his incarceration; which means going to the place he loathes more than prison, his hometown Shady Hollow, Virginia.

In Shady, Ben learns his family is all buried. Used to being alone due to his imprisonment, Ben mourns their death but easily deals with the solitude. He seeks to learn the truth about that fateful September day in 1959 that changed his world from a teen with hope to a bitter felon. Even more so he needs to know why his family resides in graves. The Shady “Keepers”, people who he should have been able to trust from the girl he loved to the preacher to the law were involved, but someone wants him to join his family before the truth surfaces.

This is a terrific character driven suspense thriller that grips the audience from the moment Prison Officer Dollinger explains to Henry (Ben) that he is being released a few days early so whoever wants him dead will not kill him in the penitentiary. The story line never loses that level of intensity as Ben affirms that you can never go home as the memory never existed and besides what is accurate no longer lives at least in his case. The tension mounts with each revelation as an obsessed Ben needs to know as does fans who will relish Charles Davis’s strong thriller in one concentrated sitting.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Paris Enigma-Pablo de Santis

The Paris Enigma
Pablo de Santis
Harper, Nov 11 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780061479670

In 1889 Paris hosts the World's Fair. There twelve of the greatest detectives from around the globe meet for the first time. Make that eleven as the twelfth Sigmundo Salvatrio is representing his employer Renaldo Craig who is ill and unable to attend besides being tied up with two murders back home. Two of the investigators Louis Darbon and Polish immigrant Viktor Arkazy claim to be the Detective of Paris. However, their heated rivalry for the honor of top Paris sleuth ends when Darbon falls from the Eiffel Tower just before the gala begins.

Arkazy agrees to train Argentine Sigmundo Salvatrio on detecting although his student is Craig’s assistant. They work on solving Darbon’s homicide, as the Polish expatriate fears more of the international alliance of Twelve Detectives will be targeted by an unknown adversary especially when a preserved corpse is burned.

Told by the intelligent yet lacking confidence Sigmundo Salvatrio, THE PARIS ENIGMA is a superb historical mystery that uses late nineteenth century Paris (starting with the still not quite finished Eiffel Tower) as the backdrop to an entertaining whodunit. The story line is driven by The Twelve Detectives, whose competition for top gun turns nasty as superegos explode. Fans will enjoy the dysfunctional exploits of the world’s greatest detectives struggling to solve THE PARIS ENIGMA with each wanting to be the one acclaimed as the best.

Harriet Klausner

Royal Escape-Susan Froetschel

Royal Escape
Susan Froetschel
Five Star, Dec 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147173

The Princess of Wales Elena dreams of a different future far from her so-called fairy tale marriage to Edward that has turned into a choking nightmare. She wants to be free to help the less fortunate and she desires fun time for their two children the heir thirteen years old Richard and the spare ten years old Lawrence. Her divorce proceedings has stirred the media and the Royal family as that is unprecedented, but Edward’s blatant cheating with his long time girlfriend finally pushed her to go the final mile with the help of kind solicitor Derrick Wilson.

After a royal gala, an angry upset Elena, who was supposed to have her kids for the weekend, but due to royal chicanery does not, leaves in a Rolls Royce. When she sees Lawrence running she has her driver Henry stop the car. She goes to her son just when the car explodes killing Henry and knocking her out. Lawrence tells the press his mom was a hero. At about the same time two thugs murder Derrick and steal Elena’s journal. Other die as Elena with the help of American journalist Michael McLarrity tries to escape anti royalist terrorists, royal imprisonment under the guise of security and still spend quality time with her two offspring.

This obvious parallel to Princess Diana is an intriguing royal suspense thriller although Elena comes across as too perfect while the royals as so tight ass that a five pence coin could not slide out of their butts. Still the story line is exciting especially once the terrorists begin their campaign and provides insight into what it is like to be a Windsor abiding by choking nightmarish rules under the British media microscope.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Die Before I Wake-Laurie Breton

Die Before I Wake
Laurie Breton
Mira, Dec 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780778325901

Julie Hanrahan goes on a cruise as a means of relaxing. On board she meets and falls in love with widower Dr. Thomas Larkin, father of two young children. He feels the same way and after a five day whirlwind courtship they marry.

Julie leaves California to live with her spouse in Maine where she struggles to adjust to the environs. However, the biggest shock is to learn that Tom’s first wife Beth committed suicide and her two kids still grieve big time as they do not understand why their mommy died. Tom's mother, who lives with the, is outright nasty to Julie, who wonders if she should go home. As she considers fleeing to the West Coast, Beth's sister believes her sister was murdered probably by Tom, who displays a temper that he hid when they were in the Caribbean. Julie ponders whether her husband is a killer as accidents begin to befall on her.

Though the theme has been used before (for instance the classic Grant-Bergman movie Notorious) DIE BEFORE I WAKE is a tense contemporary gothic thriller with excellent spins. Laurie Breton keeps the reader off kilter guessing whether Tom is a dangerous menace ready to kill his second wife or a brooding hero unsure what to do to keep his beloved safe. The story line is fast-paced but it is Julie’s account of the goings-on that makes the tale exciting and frightening as the audience knows the bumps in the night are real; at least in her mind. Ms. Breton provides a one sitting taut tale that keeps fans off balance with doubts between straight deadly suspense and romantic suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Deadly Gift-Heather Graham

Deadly Gift
Heather Graham
Mira, Dec 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778325277

While visiting Ireland with his second wife, millionaire Sean O'Riley becomes ill. He recuperates enough to go home, but hires local Nurse Caer Cavannaugh to help him as he returns to States and heals at home.

Sean's alarmed daughter Kat believes the trophy wife wants her dad dead so she can insure her inheritance before Sean wisely cuts her off, but she lacks hard core proof. When Sean's partner Eddie Ray disappears, Kat asks her friend private investigator Zach Flynn to make inquiries. Zach finds no motives for either killing one partner or for the vanishing of the other. Caer assists him on his investigation, but as they fall in love, she hides from him a secret that impacts the case and will end their relationship.

The concluding Flynn brothers’ “deadly” romantic suspense (see DEADLY NIGHT and DEADLY HARVEST) is a terrific finish to a strong trilogy. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Sean arrives in Ireland and never slows down as Zach with Caer’s aid investigates the business partners’ sudden problems. However, what makes the story line is the secret that puts quite a twist to a tense private investigative romance.

Harriet Klausner

At Close Range-Tara Taylor Quinn

At Close Range
Tara Taylor Quinn
Mira, Dec 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780778925529

Judge Hannah Montgomery presides over the murder trial of white supremacist Kenny Hill, a member of the Ivory Nation. However, she and her friends and family become victims of a rash of incidents including vandalism. She assumes allies of Hill probably belonging to Ivory nation, are trying to frighten her.

At the same Hannah worries about her safety and that of those close to her, the police investigate her friend Dr. Brian Hampton. Several babies under his care have recently died with the assumption being tragically SIDS. Although her adopted infant is one of the deceased, Hannah refuses to believe Brian is a murderer until shockingly a connection to Ivory Nation surfaces that makes her reconsider her opinion perhaps as previously being rose colored.

With strong believable twists enhancing a powerful thriller, romantic suspense fans will relish AT CLOSE RANGE. The story line is fast-paced from the opening courtroom scene and never slows down as increasingly the evidence condemns Brian and even Hannah, who believed in his innocence when everyone else was ready to lynch him, begins to judge him as a dangerous felon allied with the group threatening her life. Tara Taylor Quinn provides an exhilarating tale.

Harriet Klausner

Your Heart Belongs to Me-Dean Koontz

Your Heart Belongs to Me
Dean Koontz
Bantam, Nov 25 2008, $27.00
ISBN: 9780553807134

Thirty-four years old Ryan Perry created Be2Do, a social networking web site that makes him a billionaire. He quits as CEO so he can spend more time on development projects and with his girlfriend Samantha, whom he wants to marry. However the aspiring author rejects his proposal though she loves him.

He soon learns he is under a death sentence diagnosed with cardiomyopathy; only a heart transplant can save his life. A donor is found and the operation proves successful. A year after the transplant, strange things occur inside Ryan’s fortress. Candy hearts appear then vanish; likewise a gold heart pendant. He becomes uneasy with the goings-on, but soon believes he is in danger when a video arrives starring a woman who looks like the heart donor with a message “YOUR HEART BELONGS TO ME”. He believes she is going to kill him and with all his wealth and connections he fears she will succeed.

Dean Koontz has written another great thriller filled with heart and supernatural elements. The protagonist is a nice person comfortable in his limited world especially the cyber realm, but is clueless re life outside his circle. When confronted with the paranormal he does what most people will do seek the rational explanation. There is a lot of action, but the tense story line belongs to Ryan who is unable to mentally accept the truth. Readers will enjoy another one sitting Koontz tale.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Magic Bullet-Andrew Neiderman

The Magic Bullet
Andrew Neiderman
Leisure, Dec 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843961898

In Palm Springs, California eight years old Jodi Walker is dying from leukemia. Dr. Carver knows the child has only a few weeks at best and wants to at least rid her of infections that add pain. Jodie’s first cousin fifteen years old Taylor Peterson donates his O negative platelets and white blood cells. A few hours later, Jodi is cured, hungry and wanting to go home as a miracle has occurred.

An elated stunned Carver calls his friend Dr. Allan Parker with the news. Since his mom died from cancer, Allan has been obsessed with finding THE MAGIC BULLET that cures all cancer. He drives to Palm Springs to obtain the most likely reason for the cure, Taylor’s blood that apparently duplicated experiments he conducted with mice. Taylor refuses to donate blood and his mom widow Demi supports his decision while her live in lover Warren wants the cash. Allan hangs around praying he can persuade mother and son while Warren seeks to make money. Soon fifty years old gangster Frankie Vico, dying from cancer, learns of the teen and offers cash to Warren.

This is an exhilarating thriller that grips the audience with the concept of THE MAGIC BULLET elixir. Even when the story line turns from a medical thriller into a more conventional thriller the pace remains hyper. The key cast members are fully developed except for Warren; whose nasty behavior makes one wonder why an intelligent lovely woman would stay with this Joe twelve pack (by half time) especially since her son disdains him. Starting with Jodi’s parents making their death row walk in the hospital, Andrew Neiderman provides a terrific thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lie to Me-Starr Ambrose

Lie to Me
Starr Ambrose
Pocket, Dec 2008, $6.99
ISBN 9781416586647

Eleanor Coggins strongly believes that Banner Westfield killed his wife, her best friend; she plans to prove her assertion. She breaks into Banner’s mansion seeking proof, but is caught by Banner's half-brother, Jack Payton.

Jack is also seeking evidence; in his case he searches for proof that Banner has gotten the family business involved in some illegal dealings. He gives Ellie a choice of helping him and her by her posing as his fiancee. Together they seek evidence of Banner’s wrongdoing while also trying to help obtain custody of his daughter. Banner trusts neither so sets in motion a plan to destroy the engaged couple.

The triangular dysfunctional relationship seems real and makes for a great romantic suspense thriller though some critical threats are left dangling. The key is the suspicious Westfield does not trust Payton or Coggins so he plans to learn who she is and lure the pair into a trap of their own making. Fans will appreciate this one sitting tale with a fabulous spin while wondering not just whether Eleanor and Jack will make it together, but whether they will make it together alive or dead.

Harriet Klausner

Jury Rigged-Laurie Moore

Jury Rigged
Laurie Moore
Five Star, Dec 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9781594147104

In Fort Worth, Cezanne Martin left the police department to practice law. One morning, she wakes up to find Darlene Driskoll holding a gun to her face. Driskoll forces Martin into her car, but the attorney manages to escape. Knowing this is not over, Martin turns to FWPD star detective, Wolfgang “Slash” Vaughn for help from the crazed killer who escaped from her incarceration.

Soon after her traumatic experience, Martin learns her long missing dad Bob died and that her elderly Aunt Velda lives in poverty inside a mansion. Finally her brother, Henri Matisse Martin, arrives demanding his share of the estate. Between family to include her teenage ward Deuteronomy “Duty” Devilrow and a killer, Martin decides the latter is safer.

The third humorous Martin investigative thriller (see LADY GODIVA MURDER and THE WILD ORCHID SOCIETY) is a hoot from the hood as Duty provides enlightening commentary on the big show. The story line is fast-paced especially with deadly deranged Driskoll stalking. Between Duty’s asides and in your face comments and Cezanne’s struggles to survive her family, Slash, Duty and Driskoll, Fort Worth will never be the same.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Deep Night-Caroline Petit

Deep Night
Caroline Petit
Soho, Dec 2008, $24.00
ISBN 9781569475300

In 1937 in Hong Kong Jonathan Hawatyne and his fiancee antiques dealer Leah Kolbe attend a movie when the second Sino-Japanese War begins. They are separated as the Japanese easily take the city. However, Leah flees the dangerous occupation by boat to Macau where she fortunately finds work and some safety at the British Consulate.

She is worried about Jonathan who seems to have disappeared, but she is happy to be alive. Benjamin Eldersen meets Leah and tries to persuade her to help him in his quest to abduct the son of a key Japanese ammunition and steel manufacturer. She agrees to assist him as a successful snatch could disrupt Japanese war plans.

This enjoyable 1930s romantic espionage thriller provides readers with a fascinating tour of Hong Kong and Macau as the Japanese invade China. The story line focuses on survival in an occupation zone that will hook readers. Although Leah's torment for her lost lover is right, she never pulls off the deep poignancy as she comes across shallow and hollow. Still Caroline Petit provides a deep look at two Chinese cities during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Harriet Klausner

The Fortune Teller's Daughter- Lila Shaara

The Fortune Teller's Daughter
Lila Shaara
Ballantine, Dec 2008, $25.00
ISBN 9780345485670

University teacher and writer Harry Sterling fears he might have writer’s block as he cannot even fathom a topic. Harry uses alcohol to hide from what he assumes will be his next failure. However he becomes animated when he hears a student comment that local psychic Josie Dupree implied that renowned physicist Charles Ziegart did not discover what he is famous for.

A former investigative reporter Harry visits Madame Dupree where he meets her niece, Maggie Roth. He is attracted to her, but she rejects his advances. As he digs deeper into the Ziegart mystery, he continues to try to persuade Maggie to give him a chance. She distrusts him because he is investigating ostensibly Ziegart, but doing so through inquiries into her family.

This is an engaging romantic suspense that is built on the premise of Harry investigating the fortune teller while falling in love with her relative. The characters seem full blooded with flaws such as Harry’s sleuthing incompetence affirms why he is a former investigative reporter. Although a vengeance subplot adds tension, that track fails to connect with the prime story line. Still overall this is a solid romantic mystery.
Harriet Klausner

Snake Dreams-James D. Doss

Snake Dreams
James D. Doss
St. Martin’s, Nov 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312364601

Ute Shaman Daisy Perika is shopping at the supermarket when someone taps her shoulder to get her attention. Unperturbed by the interruption Daisy greets Chiquita Yazzi, who tells her she is very worried about her sixteen years old daughter, Nancy because the teen is left alone with her abusive stepfather, Hermann Wetzel ever since Chiquita was murdered. Daisy tells the spirit she will do something to try to keep the girl safe.

At the same time, Nancy and her boyfriend plan to rob her house and run away. However, instead someone murders Hermann and the missing boyfriend is the suspect. While this is going on Daisy’s nephew Charlie Moon plans to propose to FBI agent Lila Mae McTeague and sets up a sweet sixteen birthday bash for his Aunt's ward Sarah Frank. His musings and the party are disturbed when a distraught Nancy arrives at the ranch where she steals Sarah's gift and goes on a berserker attack while Granite Creek, Colorado police investigate the Hermann homicide one step behind Daisy and her elderly sidekick.

Loaded with humor, satire, and amusing commentary, the thirteenth Moon investigation is one of the best in a consistently strong series. The cast is zany yet realistic even when Daisy and the late Chiquita have a heart to heart while Charlie is ready to open his heart. Fans of the Moon mysteries and anyone who enjoys an entertaining investigative thriller that effortlessly blends paranormal, amateur sleuth and professional elements will want to read James D. Doss’ exciting story.

Harriet Klausner

Born to Run-James Grippando

Born to Run
James Grippando
Harper, Dec 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780061556111

In his fifties, Vice President Phil Grayson loved hunting so he went to a private land to shoot alligators while officially looking into the reported threat of pythons destroying the adjacent Everglades. Instead he dies when a humongous gator tips the boat and he falls into water filled with alligators and pythons.

President Keys informs former Florida Governor Harry Swyteck that he is on the final list to replace Grayson if he is interested. Harry says yes and asks his son Jack to serve as his chief lawyer; Jack reluctantly agrees as he prefers to remain in Florida but will go to DC. However, Jack hears rumors that Grayson’s death was not a freak accident, but a homicide. He investigates finding ties back to an incident in 1960 Cypress and a cover-up in 2008 Florida and Washington.

This is an exciting action-packed legal thriller that grips the audience once the Veep dies and never slows down as Jack begins to unravel a murder conspiracy. The story line is action, action, and more action that has readers caught up with all that is happening. Fans will relish Jack’s latest tale that also strains his improved relationship with his dad and his significant other.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 20, 2008

One of the Wicked-Harry Shannon

One of the Wicked
Harry Shannon
Five Star, Nov 2008, $25.95
ISBN 1594147035

In Los Angeles Bud "Bone" Stone visits his friend psychologist and radio talk-show host Mick Callahan to ask a big favor though they have not seen one another in years. Bone explains he owes money to a Vegas mobster who might harm his former girlfriend due to failed payments. He wants Mick to keep Brandi DeLillo safe while he finds a few hundred thousand to pay off dangerous Big Paul Pesci. Although he knows he needs to avoid trouble and is losing his radio spot to a right wing extremist with an IQ in negative numbers, Mick agrees because he owes Bone for saving his life during their Navy SEAL days.

Mick gets some of his friends to help him watch the woman. However, the case takes two nasty spins. Big Paul summons Mick to a chit chat in his casino in the Valley of Fire where he is told what to do or else he and compatriots will lose joints, limbs, and lives to his henchman Nikolaou Argetoianu. Also apparently Stone also stole money from a neighborhood dealer and Big Paul needs to send a loud message to wannabes even if that means killing Mick if he cannot immediately find Stone.

The third Callahan thriller (see EYE OF THE BURNING MAN and MEMORIAL DAY) ONE OF THE WICKED is an exhilarating tale that grips readers from the moment that Stone visits Mick and never slows down as the hero and his team try to protect Brandi and find Stone. The story line is fast-paced as a sober Mick begins to learn how deep in sh*t his friend really is. Even though the key cast (except somewhat AA alumni Mick) is never fully developed beyond one superficial trait each, the action is everything in this one sitting thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Deadly Bones-Boris Riskin

Deadly Bones
Boris Riskin
Five Star, Nov 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9781594147159

Former Shakespearean teacher Jake Wanderman knows he is lucky to have survived his recent encounter with the Russian Mafia (see SCRAMBLED EGGS). However, when his beloved late wife’s friend TV star Toby Welch, asks Jake to investigate the brutal murder of her father, art dealer Cormac Blather, Jake agrees.

Homicide Detective Sienna Nolan does not want Jake on the case, but knows she cannot prevent him from sleuthing. Thus she teams up with him finding clues that tie Cormac’s homicide and that of an art forger Chase McCleod to billionaire art collector Bryson Mergenthaler. Hints of fraud involving a missing biblical ossuary emulate from Jerusalem. Sienna is unable to go so encouraged by his rabbi Jake travels to Israel not quite prepared that some people want to send him home in a coffin while Israeli police detective Liat strongly suggests he return to the states.

DEADLY BONES is an interesting investigative tale starring a depressed hero still grieving his wife’s death although the two female cops who enter his life give him an emotional lift. The story line is fast-paced with a lot of knife play from an unknown adversary leaving a growing death toll behind. Jake is at his best in Jerusalem where he does what all former Shakespearean teachers do alienate the cops (same as he does in the States). Although overwhelmed at times by the Bard, fans will enjoy this fine mostly amateur sleuth with the additional insight into the Jewish mitzvah of davening with Tefillin.

Harriet Klausner

A Murder Too Close-Penny Mickelbury

A Murder Too Close
Penny Mickelbury
Five Star, Nov 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9781594147128

Once the melting pot that welcomed new immigrants, many residents of New York City East Side neighborhoods near the Ground Zero crater distrust newcomers especially those with Asian garb since the Twin Towers disaster. Hearing rumors of private investigator Phil Rodriquez’s gutting someone’s male anatomy, former school mate chum Sam Epstein, co-owner of a cleaning store, asks him to rough Hindu teenage Frankie who he wants to stay away from his fourteen years old niece Sasha Heller whose mom died in the WTC on 9/11, Phil refuses.

Phil decides to eat at the Indian restaurant owned by Frankie’s parents to insure the teen is not a punk. However, by the time he arrives the restaurant is an inferno; Phil assumes Uncle Sammy committed the hate crime. He later learns a delivery man died in the blaze. Homeland Security agents go after the victims of the fire because of their heritage though they are legal and the insurance company refuses to pay insisting an investigation is underway to insure this was not self inflicted arson. Other “Thems” are hurt too either by assaults or by complaints to HSD about their behavior that sends agents on these Thems. Phil and his business partner Yolanda Aguierre get involved as the feds and the cops seem to target the legal immigrants only, not the arsonist or the xenophobic stalkers.

Phil’s investigation is exciting as he runs through roadblocks from HSD, local hate advocates, and perhaps the Russian Mafia. However, what makes A MURDER TO CLOSE excellent is Penny Mickelbury who provides a strong case that helpless outrage has led to the loss of liberty for some; which extrapolates to all. The story line looks closely at people who lost loved ones on 9/11 and how they have reacted since while also providing a deep glimpse into the lives of Muslims, Hindu and Sikh residents trying to make it in an atmosphere of hate. Phil, Yolanda, Sasha’s grandfather, and others welcome the newcomers while HSD, insurance firms, and some locals harass the Thems.

Harriet Klausner

High Spirits-Alice Duncan

High Spirits
Alice Duncan
Five Star, Nov 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9781594146954

In February 1921 in Pasadena, California Daisy Gumm Majesty makes a living for her and her disabled WWI veteran husband Billy by pretending to be a spiritualist. Her otherworldly control Rolly, who she invented when she was ten years old, enables her to put bread on the table as Billy is unable to work though he despises how she makes money.

Her best client Mrs. Kincaid begs Daisy to do a reading at a speakeasy; she says no hiding behind Rolly not stepping inside a den of iniquity. However, eventually she reluctantly agrees though not for her client’s daughter Stacy who calls herself Flossie Mosser who frequents the joint run by mobster Vicenzo Maggiori. With Mrs. Kincaid’s kind son Harold escorting her Daisy enters the speakeasy while Billy’s best friend homicide detective Sam Rotondo worries about her especially when the cops raid the joint.

More a satirical historical lampooning the Prohibition stereotypes than a mystery, fans of Alice Duncan’s spirited post WWI thriller will relish this fine entry as Daisy gets into one troubling incident after another. Although the plot is thin, the insight into 1920s California is deep and vivid while the cast is strong especially Billy struggling mentally due to his war related physical disabilities. Fans will enjoy Mrs. Majesty’s latest reading.

Harriet Klausner

Dead Ringer-Michael A. Black and Julie Hyzy

Dead Ringer
Michael A. Black and Julie Hyzy
Five Star, Nov 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9781594147135

In Chicago World’s Heavyweight Kickboxing champion and private investigator Ron Shade accepts an assignment from “Big” Dick Mackenzie of Midwestern Olympia Insurance company. Dick claims they paid out $12 million to the widow of deceased Robert Bayless and the dead man’s company when he died in a downstate car accident; however, based on Robert’s distinctive laugh, Dick insists he is alive in Vegas.

At the same time her boss assigns TV investigative reporter Alex St. James to go undercover amidst the homeless. The case is dangerous so she conceals an illegal Taser. However, her inquiry spins into insurance fraud and murder as Alex’s investigation ties in with that of Ron.

These two Chicago based mystery series are strong sagas in their own right, but merging them proves a winner as for the most part the two sleuths rotate leads. The subplots are exciting until they merge proving the whole is greater than the sum of the parts even when the parts work quite well as separate subplots. With a hint of an attraction between the two stars, fans will insist Michael A. Black and Julie Hyzy provide more collaborative novels like this one.

Harriet Klausner

Running from the Puppet Master-D-L Nelson

Running from the Puppet Master
D-L Nelson
Five Star, Nov 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9781594147081

In 1962 in affluent Stonebridge, Massachusetts, her wealthy New England family demands Leah Stockbridge attend one of the prominent liberal art colleges for wealthy females aligned with the Ivy League or Tufts in or order to meet a proper husband. Leah refuses as she finds those courses boring and rejects her mom’s objective . Instead she registers at the Massachusetts College of Art with dreams of painting on the Left Banke in the City of Lights..

A few years later Leah plans to marry Michael, cosidered an unacceptable “foreigner” by her parents. He ends up being killed by a streetcar. Following the horrific tragedy, Leah leaves the States for Paris where she plans to become a painter. She meets Swiss banker Jean-Luc Perroset, who charms her and soon they marry. Leah no longer paints as her time is spent as a wife and mother running Jean-Luc’s vast estate. She thought they were happy together, but suddenly strange dangerous things begin to happen to Leah while Jean-Luc is non-supportive.

This exciting suspense thriller anchors in 1994, but uses numerous flashbacks to mostly the 1960s, but also the other decades all the way back to 1945. The story line starts off more as a character study of a young woman seeking her independence but once the tragedy sends her to Europe followed by her marriage, the plot veers into a woman in trouble tale. Although the moving around through the second half of the twentieth century can become confusing, it also adds depth to what is happening and why to the heroine. Fans will enjoy this tense tale of an American expatriate RUNNING FROM THE PUPPET MASTER.
Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Blood Island-Terrell H. Griffin

Blood Island
Terrell H. Griffin
Oceanview, Dec 2008, $24.95
2817 West End Ave
Suite 126-274
Nashville, TN 327203
ISBN: 193351521X

In Longboat Key, Florida retired lawyer Matt Royal does pro bono only with his prime stipulations being shorts and no tie. Matt is taken aback when his ex-wife, Laura arrives at the Key pleading with him to help her. Her stepdaughter Peggy went to Sarasota on spring break, but she never came back; instead she just vanished last seen in Longboat Key.

Matt agrees to investigate her disappearance. He follows several leads only to have Laura vanish too. Since her trail is fresher, Matt begins to track Laura, which leads him the Heaven Can’t Wait Spa in Key West. From there he begins to find a connection to lunatic Reverend Robert William Simmermon who holds religious court on nearby BLOOD ISLAND. This is a place Matt knows he will not just be unwelcome; he will be shark food.

This fast-paced Florida Keys mystery is filled with suspense and a great hero whose sardonic (including self flagellation) humor, makes for an entertaining suspenseful tale and has him fit in the zany Sunshine State investigators’ pantheon. Matt is terrific as he hops the Keys but with each leap he gets into deeper trouble. Fans will relish his third retirement escapade (see LONGBOAT BLUES and MURDER KEY; neither read by me) as nothing seems to go right.

Harriet Klausner

Year of the Dog-Henry Chang

Year of the Dog
Henry Chang
Soho, Nov 2008, $24.00
ISBN: 1569475156

In Lower Manhattan in a condominium in a luxurious high rise, four Chinese-Americans are dead due to eight times the normal level of CO in the apartment; two of the deceased are young elementary school age children. NYPD Detective Jack Yu is shook though he hides it as a family wiped out. He concludes a triple murder-suicide occurred with the motive being saving face; something he understands as being an extremely powerful driver amidst the Chinese even third generation American.

Jack is concerned with his friends’ connections to Hong King mobsters. He understands no good can come of that in the long run, but he vows to be there for them as best he can. His childhood pal Tat "Lucky" Louie now runs the local mob while a rookie Koo Jai tries to foolishly pull a stunt on the gang leader. Bookie Sai Go knows he is dying, but his only request is to die with self-respect and not with someone else changing his diapers. To Jack this is his Chinatown.

Not really a police procedural although there are some elements of that sub-genre in the plot, YEAR OF THE DOG is more a culture study of the Manhattan Chinese-American lifestyle. The story line goes extremely deep into the “DNA: of the NYC Chinese-American especially the “save face” driver that has led to murder and suicide. Although the ending is a let down, fans will enjoy Jack’s CHINATOWN BEAT as Henry Chang provides an appealing tale.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Teaser-Jan Brogan

Jan Brogan
St. Martin's, Dec 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780312359980

Providence Chronicle reporter Hallie Ahern surfs the chat rooms when she comes across a teaser video clip of two teenage girls sexually posing. Excited by the prospects of a story though she is concerned and disgusted by what she saw, Hallie persuades her editors at the newspaper to support an exposé story on the social chat rooms, “Online Dangers: Your teenager is prey”.

As Hallie begins to investigate finding high school age girls who explain the chat rooms and the web-camcorders, one of her contacts suddenly dies. Her boyfriend Rhode Island Assistant Attorney General Matt Cavanaugh demands she ends her inquiry as that interferes with the official one and her newspaper bosses abruptly tell her to cease. Refusing to do so as she feels some guilt over the girl’s death and knows first hand one moves on if they lose a newspaper job due to your convictions (see A CONFIDENTIAL SOURCE), Allie continues her inqury though it may cost her job, boyfriend and life not in that order.

This terrific Rhode Island journalistic investigation (see YESTERDAY'S FATAL) is a superb cautionary tale; although the warning has been sounded many times, it never hurts to hear it again as Jan Brogan counsels parents about predators on the net inside a strong tale. The story line is fast-paced but driven by the courageous Hallie who rejects the notion of quitting even as she is the recipient of incredible pressure to do so. Instead she turns the novel into a strong whodunit that hooks readers from the moment she receives the TEASER.

Harriet Klausner

Ultimate Weapon-Shannon McKenna

Ultimate Weapon
Shannon McKenna
Kensington Brava, Nov 2008, $14.00
ISBN 9780758211897

Motherhood changes the attitude of even hardened felons as the PTA factor impacts most. Thus former thief Tamara Steele has become an acceptable jewelry designer because her goal is to be the nest mommy to her adopted three-year-old Ukrainian daughter Rachel, whom was rescued from a black-market organ harvesting operation.

However, you can run from your past, but you can’t hide as Tam's history surfaces. Mobster Daddy Novak is angry over the murder of his son Kurt; he thirsts for vengeance with his finger pointing at Tam, who was Kurt’s lover and in Daddy’s mind betrayer.

Nasty gangster Georg Luksch blackmails his subordinate Val Janos, who wants to retire from a life of crime, to abduct Tam. Luksch plans to make her into his sex slave begging him to do anything he wants to her. To rescue his elderly Hungarian “dad” Imre from Luksch Val must hand over the woman he is falling in love with to his odious boss.

Blending heated interludes with caring for a toddler inside a powerful romantic suspense, Shannon McKenna proves she is the sub-genre’s ULTIMATE WEAPON with this superior one sitting thriller. Val and Tam makes the tale work as each is a complete protagonist struggling with the insidious choices. With two nasty villains and one reformed hero seeking the heroine, fans will appreciate this exciting novel.

Harriet Klausner

Defending Angels-Mary Stanton

Defending Angels
Mary Stanton
Berkley, Dec 2008, $7.00
ISBN: 0425224988

In Savannah, Georgia, Bree Winston-Beaufort takes over her late Uncle Franklin’s law practice. While renovating his office, she temporarily rents space walking distance from her town house from weird elderly Mrs. Lavinia Mather who mentions the cemetery turns people off from the historical early eighteenth century edifice.

However, before she can settle into her practice, Bree receives a call from despised billionaire Benjamin Skinner, who pleads with her to defend him. However, as she considers taking on the case, Bree knows there is a minor problem with this client; he is dead. Benjamin desperately needs an attorney to defend him in the Celestial Court for violating the Celestial Law code on avarice. To make a case in his defense, she needs willing witnesses ready to testify that Skinner had altruistic moments. Private investigator Gabriel Striker accompanies Bree as their search for a character witness feels increasingly like finding a needle in a haystack.

The stunned Bree makes this superb paranormal cozy into a great tale as she adapts to the wonder yet perplexing celestial realm, celestial law, and celestial courtroom procedures. Readers will enjoy her journey into the supernatural side of Savannah along side the hunk of a sleuth. Fans who relish something different will want to accompany Bree as she mounts a defense for a client whose middle name is greed in an angelic court not of his peers.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bamboo and Blood-James Church

Bamboo and Blood
James Church
Dunne, Dec 2008, $23.95
ISBN 9780312372910

In North Korea the Ministry of Public Security Inspector O is assigned to follow a foreigner. O quickly realizes the outsider is working for the Israelis. However, O also realizes that at least one or more other government security agencies are watching him and his superior Chief Inspector Pak.

Meanwhile Pak assigns O to investigate the murder of a North Korean diplomat's wife in Pakistan. However, he is warned not to solve the case, but to only gather known facts about the victim. Bristling over the limitation, O tries to solve the homicide, which only leads to more trouble for the dedicated inspector from other security agencies for his clues lead to the top secret special weapons program.

The third Inspector O investigation (see CORPSE IN THE KORYO and HIDDEN MOON) is once again a great tale more so because of a the deep look into North Korea. O is excellent as he knows other agencies are spying on him to insure he learns very little as the need to know is always restricted. The whodunit and the Israeli espionage caper are both well written to showcase Inspector O’s skills and the paranoia of a regime that sees everyone even loyal citizens as the enemy.

Harriet Klausner

Humpty Dumpty in Oakland-Philip K. Dick

Humpty Dumpty in Oakland
Philip K. Dick
Tor, Oct 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 0765316919

In 1950s California bone tired as he still recovers from a heart attack garage owner Jim Fergesson plans to retire. Meanwhile one of his customers used car salesman cynical Al Miller learns that Jim is investing his retirement fund in a shaky real estate deal that in all probability will wipe the elderly man out.

Miller decides to help his friend by getting Jim not to invest in a loser. He obtains a job with the party he believes is conning Jim. However even Miller who believes almost everyone is a low life shark out to get you is stunned with what he finds while working undercover. He has landed in the middle of a colossal fraud that targets the ailing elderly.

As with the recently reprinted IN MILTON LUMKY TERRITORY, HUMPTY DUMPTY IN OAKLAND is a 1950s contemporary, but has the deep feel of a well written character driven historical that feels even more apropos today with the economy. The full vivid picture of those “Happy Days” is showcased as two Americas; a middle class enjoying the fruits of a growing economy while the other is a victim of prejudice unable to reach the lowest hanging fruit. Fans of Philip K. Dick will observe one of the author’s prime themes of an overwhelmed individual battling against the avaricious status quo power brokers.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Veil of Lies-Jeri Westerson

Veil of Lies
Jeri Westerson
St. Martin's, Oct 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0312379773

In 1384 disgraced former knight Crispin Guest lost his rank after evidence arose that he was part of a plot to dethrone King Richard II. Guest makes a living as a tracker of lost items or people.

In London, believing his spouse is cuckolding him, affluent cloth merchant Nicholas Walcote hires Guest to look into the affairs of his much younger beautiful wife, Philippa. Guest begins his inquiries only to learn he no longer has a client; someone stabbed Walcote leaving him dead in a locked room. However to his shock, the widow hires Guest to investigate her husband’s murder. She believes a magical artifact her spouse owned that propelled people to always tell the truth was the reason for the homicide. As Guest gets closer to the truth, someone wants him stopped by any mean necessary.

VEIL OF LIES is an intriguing medieval Noir starring a disgraced former knight who has become a private investigator. The story line is fast-paced but totally owned by Guest who as a warrior is used to hand to hand combat; he takes that in your face methodology to his new occupation. The whodunit is fun to follow, but it is the kick butt Guest who brings late fourteenth century London to life.

Harriet Klausner

Mr. Monk Is Miserable-Lee Goldberg

Mr. Monk Is Miserable
Lee Goldberg
Obsidian, Dec 2008, $21.95
ISBN: 0451225155

Mr. Monk stalks his psychiatrist by following him to Germany so they can continue their sessions; he also solves homicide cases that almost killed him and his assistant Natalie. Both Natalie and his shrink are unhappy with Monk for ruining their vacations. Using the guilt card, Natalie blackmails Monk into spending a few days in France on a real vacation. On the plane from Germany, a passenger dies; Monk determines who the killer is in a few minutes.

In France, Monk feels traumatized as he is out of his environment, but Natalie has no sympathy as she plans to enjoy her vacation. Monk decides to visit the famous Paris sewerage system because he wants to pay homage to the cleanliness of the city. In the catacombs below the streets, he finds a tomb filled with old skulls except one that looks quite recent. DNA testing proves this is San Francisco con artist Nathan Chalmers assumed dead for a decade. In a darkened restaurant a woman tells Monk she knows something about the deceased, but before she can explain further she is killed. The compulsive Monk is cleaning the Paris streets while putting the puzzle pieces in order.

No one does novelizations of TV shows better than Lee Goldberg consistently does. The author is able to catch the essence of Monk’s personality while also providing an entertaining whodunit. Readers see a different side of Paris with its underground catacombs and sewers (unless you happen to be the Honeymooners’ Ed Norton) where people live. Natalie will have to wait for her needed foreign vacation while series fans will relish following the idiosyncrasies of the hero as he cleans the streets of Paris.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 6, 2008

Quick Study-Maggie Barbieri

Quick Study
Maggie Barbieri
St. Martin's, Dec 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0312376758

When St. Thomas University English Lit Professor Alison Bergeron is not teaching, dating her NYPD boyfriend Bobby Crawford, or going to Manhattan to visit Rangerland in MSG wearing a Messier sweatshirt, she performs sixty hours of community service. It is at a soup kitchen that she met illegal Ecuadorian immigrant Hernan Escalante and his extended family. She hires Hernan to paint her dining room. Hernan and his nephew Jose Tomasso arrive while Alison still recuperates from two large beers last night watching hockey at the Garden.

Soon afterward Hose vanishes only to be found floating in the Hudson, near the Bronx’s luxurious Riviera Pointe condominiums. Although she knows better after her last whodunit got her in trouble with State Troopers, Alison, believing the death of an illegal will be swept into the river, investigates the homicide. A second murder occurs at Riviera Pointe while Hernan vanishes. Fearing for her new friend’s life though rationally she assumes he ran because of his status or lack thereof, Alison and her friends with the help of former sweetheart Jack McManus, whose other plus is he works for the New York Rangers, continue their inquiry even as her current boyfriend Bobby insists she cease and desist.

The hat trick Murder 101 cozy (see EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES and MURDER 101) is an enjoyable whodunit starring a wonderful lead activist who knows she shouldn’t but can’t help but getting involved. Maggie makes the tale with her amusing asides for example her observation that she is tall but not big yet Bobby must see her as gigantic because he always buys her extra large clothing like the Messier t-shirt. The mystery is fun to follow as amateur sleuthing spins out of control. Except for Boston Bruins fans, readers will enjoy the antics of the number one New York Ranger fan.

Harriet Klausner

Dead Ringer-Mary Burton

Dead Ringer
Mary Burton
Zebra, Nov 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 1420100270

In Henrico County, Virginia women who look similar to popular Richmond TV news anchor Kendall Shaw are being murdered. Next to each victim the serial killer leaves a charm bearing a single female name that makes no sense to the police.

Homicide detective Jacob Warwick recognized the similarity when he saw the first victim and wonders if the murdered females are practice runs before the psychopath comes after Kendall. Last year he rescued her from the abduction of his adopted father though she took a bullet anyway. He vows to keep her safe even as she insists she is not the target of a maniac while she investigates the serial killer homicides and the police efforts to catch him.

The romance between the cop and the journalist takes a needed back seat (comes on towards the end) to the strong whodunit as both are attracted to one another but argue over her safety. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Jacob makes his connection and never slows down as Mary Burton cleverly keeps the audience wondering who of her two prime suspects is actually the serial killer.

Harriet Klausner

Hot as Hell-HelenKay Dimon

Hot as Hell
HelenKay Dimon
Kensington Brava, Nov 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758222251

Alexa “Lexy” Annabeth Stuart is confused so she decides to break the engagement with her fiancé Noah Paxton. Her bewilderment does not improve with her act of defiance as she remains perplexed about his behavior. She decides time away to meditate is the thing and knows just the place to go; so she leaves California for a Utah health spa to ponder whether Noah stole money from the company as alleged and why she still wants him; the prime reason is to meet someone who claims insider information.

Lexy is shocked to find her contact lying dead in her spa room. Meanwhile Noah knows he loves his Lexy and needs to keep her safe even before he proves he is innocent. He follows her to Utah, but she now wonders if her heart is insane as the evidence points to him being a killer, but she refuses to believe it.

Lexy and Noah are two of the best characters of the year as both are fully developed with multiplicity and emotional complexity. The mystery is superb due to Lexy who initially believes her ex sole money, but changes her mind when she finds her informer dead as she knows he would not commit homicide. The heat is on as HelenKay Dimon makes Utah as HOT AS HELL with a fabulous amateur sleuth romantic suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Hey There (You With the Gun in Your Hand)-Robert J. Randisi

Hey There (You With the Gun in Your Hand)
Robert J. Randisi
Dunne, Dec 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780312376420

In 1961 Vegas, Sammy Davis Jr. knows that Sands Casino pit boss Eddie Gianelli has come to the aid of his Rat Pack pals (see Dean Martin’s tale EVERYBODY KILLS SOMEBODY SOMETIME and Frank Sinatra in LUCK BE A LADY, DON'T DIE). Since he needs help and knows he can trust Eddie, he hires him to make an exchange with a blackmailer. Someone broke into Sammy’s home, stealing an embarrassing career ending photo and now wants 25 grand for its return.

Eddie and his friend Jerry Epstein show up at the exchange point only to find a corpse with no photo. The pit boss and his buddy find themselves in a cat and mouse game across Nevada with blackmailers, cops, FBI and high ranking DC politicians though neither the two friends on the lam can understand why Hoover or the White House seem to be in on the chase.

Once again as with the previous two Rat Pack historical thrillers, Robert J. Randisi paying homage by making his real players come to life especially the entertainers whom the author clearly thinks highly of. The story line is zany and a bit over the top, but no one will care as the Rat Pack steals the show in spite of Eddie and Jerry’s excellent adventure.

Harriet Klausner

A Dead Man in Barcelona-Michael Pearce

A Dead Man in Barcelona
Michael Pearce
Soho, Dec 2008, $25.00
ISBN: 9781569475379

In 1910 riots broke out in Barcelona when reservist units refused to be deployed in Spanish Morocco. During the deadly confrontation that left many dead and more in jail, someone murders English businessman Sam Lockhart while he was locked in a prison.

Two years later Scotland Yard sends Special Branch Detective Sandor Seymour to Spain to investigate the homicide of the English citizen during “Tragic Week”. The background information is sketchy at best starting with why the Gibraltar based business man was in Barcelona and the lack of a motive makes it even more difficult. Still not understanding the terrain especially the local populace who have deep qualms about strangers and police, and needing to move around freely, Seymour hooks up with his girlfriend Chantale de Lissac, who is half-Arab and half-French. As they investigate, the case takes strange twists through a city still living in fear.

The latest “Dead Man in” pre-WWI thriller (see A DEAD MAN IN ISTANBUL, A DEAD MAN IN ATHENS and A DEAD MAN IN TANGIER) once again provides the audience a deep look at a new location, this time Barcelona just after riots devastated the city. The story line is action-packed and never slows down as Sandor conducts his investigation into the cold case homicide of the English citizen. Although the whodunit is clever and well written, as is the case in all of Michael Pearce’s tales (see also the Mamur Zapt Egyptian historical saga), the sense of time and place is outstanding.

Harriet Klausner

Hail to the Chef-Julie Hyzy

Hail to the Chef
Julie Hyzy
Berkley, Dec 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425224991

Olivia “Ollie” Paras believes she has the best job in America as the executive chef at the White House. She is on very good terms with the First lady Mrs. Campbell, who wants to match her up with her nephew Sean; he has expressed an interest in her. When he comes into the kitchen, she allows him to use the computer after he peels some shrimp. He tells her he is busy right now and does not want to give her false hope. She later learns he committed suicide but based on the note he left behind he was anything bur depressed.

An inert incendiary device is found on the premises of the White House; forcing everyone to attend a class on security. After getting something from a storage closet, Ollie returns it only to notice a package that was not there on her first trip. When she opens it she realizes it is a bomb, which leads to the evacuation of the White House. Before the holiday season is over, Ollie will find herself choosing between her instincts and being dubbed a fool as she begins to put together the puzzle of what is going on inside the White House.

HAIL TO THE CHEF is aptly titled as Ollie saves lives with her keen instincts and sharp eyes. However what makes this amateur sleuth a gourmand’s delight is the deep look at those employed at the White House who are not elected officials or political hacks. There are several mysteries in this fine seven course meal including Ollie’s belief that Sean was murdered. Fans will enjoy Ollie in the middle of the investigations yet making delicious repasts for events and daily living of the occupants. Jule Hyzy balances her meal ticket quite nicely between the glimpses at the working class inside the White House with an engaging chef’s cozy.

Harriet Klausner

Take No Prisoners-Cindy Gerard

Take No Prisoners
Cindy Gerard
Pocket, Nov 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 1416566740

Although his preference is to remain on the family Nevada ranch to help his parents raise his orphaned niece, former Delta force sniper Sam Lang has a personal reason to return to Black Ops, Inc (BOI) field work. A BOI peer has given him a tip involving millionaire gangster Frederick Nader who arranged the murders of Tina’s parents. Unable to resist although his thirst for revenge had failed the first time he tried, Sam heads to Vegas to begin his second attempt at killing the criminal mastermind.

Las Vegas blackjack dealer Abbie Hughes is worried that her younger Cory is in trouble as she has not heard from him in days. Sam knows she is the key to his killing Nader as her sibling is the middleman in a gem smuggling operation starting in Honduras. As they become better acquainted and begin to fall in love, Sam reassesses his desires, but knows Cory needs rescuing as the idiot is caught between deadly Nader and his as lethal rival Desmond Fox.

The second BOI romantic suspense (see SHOW NO MERCY; not read by me) is a fabulous romantic suspense tale that focuses on the action and adventure keeping the love subplot in needed check. This makes the tale seem realistic, as Sam changes his motive for wanting to kill Nader. Readers will enjoy this high octane thriller starring operatives who understand their missions are dangerous and dirty as they do what they must to reduce the odds of failure and coming out in a bag.

Harriet Klausner

Bones-Jonathan Kellerman

Jonathan Kellerman
Ballantine, Oct 21 2008, $27.00
ISBN: 9780345495136

High school troublemaker Chance Brandt is doing community service at the Bird Marsh nature conservatory near Marina Del Rey, California when he receives a weird anonymous phone call that he assumes is a silly prank. The caller insists there are corpses buried in the marsh. Soon after the eerie call, the body of a woman is found and Chance mentions the message he received.

LAPD Special case Investigator Police Lieutenant Milo Sturgis leads the investigation. They quickly find four female bodies with the right hand removed in the marsh. Realizing there is a serial killer on the loose murdering prostitutes though the last homicide does not fit the victims’ pattern as the victim is musician Selena Bass. Milo asks police psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware to help. The focus is on the Bass murder as she was teaching piano to the wealthy offspring of the Vander family with the estate manager the prime suspect due to a criminal history.

Although somewhat similar to most of the Delaware police procedurals, BONES is refreshed by the psychologist playing third fiddle on the investigation with Sturgis being the star; he provides limited assistance on the investigation. The serial killer inquiry is clever and fun to follow with a couple of strong twists. In spite of the hero playing a tertiary role in the case (although Delaware has other goings-on), fans will enjoy Jonathan Kellerman entertaining whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Devil May Ride-Wendy Roberts

Devil May Ride
Wendy Roberts
Obsidian, Dec 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 0451225651

Sadie Novak has a very special gift as she sees and is seen by the dead who can’t move on; she helps them make the transition to a higher plane. She owns Scene-2-Clean, a service that cleans locations where death occurred. Her co-worker Zach helps her and is even used to her seeing the dead.

The pair go on a job at a place where a meth lab used to be. Sadie hears a noise like a baby crying. They enter the shed and find a dead eviscerated goat with a baby sticking between it and the wall. An evil female ghost says she was a willing victim who died for her Master who needs her unborn child.

They have another job at the clubhouse where a fierce drug using biker gang used to reside. When they get there, Sadie talks with the dead biker who tells her enough for her to conclude that the woman’ ghost, and her now born child, were his child and significant other. As they clean Sadie finds packed into the wall hundreds of thousands dollars. The bikers assume she took the loot and make plans to regain it after they kill her. Instead of waiting for them to kill her and since she does not have the blood money to return to them, Sadie goes on the offensive while also insuring her pregnant sister remains safe.

This delightful supernatural mystery has an edgy feel to the story line that gives it a sense of being different from the usual whimsical paranormal cozy. Sadie is a strong individual who copes with her paranormal skills while believing her mission is to help the ghosts she meets move on. It is the living evil that she fears more though she will not back down or walk away when they threaten her. Wendy Roberts has a unique writing style as her heroine is hardboiled in her way when it comes to the breathing creeps, but soft boiled when it comes to the ghosts still left behind.

Harriet Klausner

Show No Fear-Perri O'Shaughnessy

Show No Fear
Perri O'Shaughnessy
Pocket, Dec 2008, $25.00
ISBN: 1416544399

In 1990 in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, paralegal Nina Reilly is a single mom who raises her preschool son Bob while attending law school. She is also very concerned with the health of her mom Ginny who is dealing with both a circulatory ailment and a botched acupuncture treatment while at the same time pushing for a malpractice suit.

After a four year absence from her life, criminal defense lawyer Richard Filsen, claiming Bob is his son, wants a paternity test performed; and if the results confirm his belief, he demands shared custody. Nina asks partners from the law firm she works at, Jack McIntyre and his ambitious girlfriend Remy Sorensen, for help. However, someone kills Richard and Ginny. Although she cannot see the connection besides herself, with the assistance of homicide cop Paul van Wagoner, Nina investigates needing closure for her mom.

This is a clever engaging prequel to the wonderful Reilly legal thrillers. Nina is a wonderful protagonist with her plate full only to get even fuller. The story line is fast-paced and filled with superb twists, but most important the book remains true to the lead character’s “future” tales as Perri O'Shaughnessy shows no fear with this deep look back at the paralegal days of single mom Nina Reilly.

Harriet Klausner

Afro Samuri 1-Taashi Okazaki

Afro Samuri 1
Taashi Okazaki
The Seven Seas, Sep 2008, $10.99
ISBN: 9780765321237

The young child was with his father, the world’s top swordsman when No. 2 challenged him for his No. 1 headband. In front of the son, No.2 Justice and his cohorts The Empty Brothers illegally slay No. 1. In spite of his dishonoring the Swordsman tradition with his dastardly deed, Justice becomes No. 1.

Although very young at the time he witnessed the murder of his dad, the son vows vengeance. Over the years he learned the swordsman skill and began his way up the hierarchy until he becomes No. 2. Nicknamed Afro for his hairstyle, he prepares for the final act while eluding assassins sent by the Empty Brothers supporters of No. 1.

Though the plot is a bit thin, this engaging manga graphic book is entertaining especially the art. The story line never fleshes out either Justice or the son beyond their swordplay although the son has the additional motive of revenge making him a bit more complete than his adversary. With plenty of blood flowing in this feudal-modern tech world, fans who relish vivid action over characterization will appreciate AFRO SAMURAI 1.
Harriet Klausner

The Anteater of Death-Betty Webb

The Anteater of Death
Betty Webb
Poisoned Pen, Dec 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9781590585603

In San Sebastian County, California, the Gunn Landing zookeeper Theodora “Teddy” Bentley is stunned to find a mangled human corpse in the anteater enclosure. Pregnant Lucy apparently ripped the skin off the bones of wealthy patron Grayson Harrill.

However the county police determine that Harrill was shot before being dumped in Lucy’s enclosure. Outraged that someone tried to disguise the homicide by using her purple tongued beloved Lucy as a killer, Teddy investigates knowing whoever murdered the victim knew his or her anteater.

This engaging amateur sleuth combines zoo insight with an eccentric support cast to include Lucy and a dedicated heroine. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that Teddy finds the body and never slows down. Although Lucy’s thoughts seem to cutesy even when she considers clawing someone, fans of Betty Webb will enjoy this fine whodunit as the zookeeper tries to uncover who framed her anteater.

Harriet Klausner

Greasing The Pinata-Tim Maleeny

Greasing The Pinata
Tim Maleeny
Poisoned Pen, Dec 2008,$24.95
ISBN: 9781590585672

On a father and son trip to Mexico, retired California state senator Jim Dobbins and drug-addict Danny disappear without a trace. Jim’s other adult child, his estranged daughter Rebecca, hires San Francisco private investigator Cape Weathers to bring them home.

Although he does not want the case as he is realistically uncomfortable because he does not know Mexico, Weathers heads south. In Mexico he learns quickly that the mutilated bodies of both were found in an alligator pond of a Puerto Vallarte golf course. With his associate Triad trained assassin Sally Mei helping him, Weathers starts to connect the dots between California and Mexico politicians, rival drug cartels, and a financial system that Wall St. and DC would envy; getting out alive is a different story.

The third Cape Weathers private investigative mystery (see STEALING THE DRAGON and BEATING THE BABUSHKA) is a fast-paced tale starring a terrific lead detective supported by a kick butt Asian partner battling against realistic killers. The political-drug dealing complex is brilliantly designed with violence being their cherry pie. However, the tale belongs to the two sleuths whose amusing war of words equalizes the inordinate death count.
Harriet Klausner

Pawsitively Guilty-Cindy Keen Reynders

Pawsitively Guilty
Cindy Keen Reynders
Medallion, Dec 2008, $7.95
ISBN: 9781933836607

Owners of the Saucy Lucy Café, Lexie Lightfoot and her sister Lucy, who is married to the county sheriff, live in Moose Creek Junction, Wyoming. Crime, especially violent crime, is rare in the small-town. However, when the occasional murder occurs, somehow Lexie is in the middle. Of everything; Lucy goes along with her in order to keep her sibling out of trouble – an impossible task.

At the café, wealthy reclusive Eleni Andros uses the Heimlich Maneuver to save the life of Lexie choking on a carrot. Lexie is grateful to the heroine and Eleni begins to work at the café. However, one day dependable Eleni fails to show up or answer her phone. This is out of character for the reliable woman so the sisters go over to insure she is okay. No one greets them but Lexie’s dog leads them to a body buried in the rose garden. With the best detective on vacation and the cop assigned to investigate vanishing, Lexie takes over inquiring into who would kill a friend of hers.

The second Lexie-Lucy amateur sleuth (see THE SAUCY LUCY MURDERS) is a charming regional whodunit with plenty of humors and winks. Since Eleni was rich, Lexie begins with the greedy inheritance motive, but the horde of family members prove overwhelming to sort through while Lucy tries to persuade her to let the cops do their job. Lurch the dog provides comic relief with his flatulence emissions as Cindy Keen Reynders provides an enjoyable down home mystery inside a warm family drama.

Harriet Klausner