Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Made to be Broken-Kelley Armstrong

Made to be Broken
Kelley Armstrong
Bantam, Mar 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780553588385

To finance her Red Oak Lodge in the Kawathas, two hours from Toronto, she is a part time hit-woman contracted mostly by the Tomassinis mob. Nadia Stafford’s partner on her current job is a Federal Agent, but Quinn sees that justice is done by playing vigilante. Nadia’s mentor in how to be a successful hit-woman is Jack, a mercenary for hire with few scruples.

When Nadia returns to her prime business she has a fight with her employee. Seventeen year old Sammi Ernst lives with her little daughter Destiny who accompanies her on her job. Sammi pays more attention to her child than her work so a frustrated Nadia explains her duties to the teen mother. When the mother and daughter vanish, Nadia searches for a grave. With Jack’s help she finds it, but Destiny remains missing. Since the cops believe Sammi ran away, they refuse to look for her. Nadia, Jack, and Quinn discover there are other crimes when a disenfranchised teenage mom with a baby disappears. Mindful of an incident in her past, Nadia wants to take out those who caused Sammi’s death and find the still missing infant. Jack and Quinn assist her on her avenging quest for justice.

Known for her Otherworld tales, Kelly Armstrong also writes exciting refreshing and enthralling sagas that are every bit as great as her urban fantasy sagas. The protagonist believes everyone she kills deserves their fate so when the Canadian legal system fails she becomes an avenging Lady Justice if the case is personal. However, she is not someone to role model after as she also kills in cold blood as a means of making money. Though not admirable, she is refreshing and fascinating as are her two cronies. MADE TO BE BROKEN is filled with twists and blind cul de sacs, but it is the lead trio especially the lodge owner who turn this into an entertaining thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rapid Descent-Gwen Hunter

Rapid Descent
Gwen Hunter
Mira, Feb 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780778326212

On their second honeymoon, Joe and Nell Stevens went whitewater rafting. A nasty accident left her with a concussion and injuries from head to toe. Joe simply vanished. She got help, but in spite of a major search they never found Joe. The lead police detective Nolan Lennox believes the widow got away with murder.

Seven years later, Nolan persuades his son Orson, also a cop, to investigate. His gut totally differ from his dad’s belief as he feels Nell is innocent watching her raise her son with love and run the rafting business she and Joe opened up together. When Joe’s corpse is found, his family makes noise that his black widow killed their son; her motive being his money. Even Orson begins to have doubts whether Nell is innocent.

RAPID DESCENT is a strong police procedural with a hint of romance between the lead cop and the prime suspect that is kept simmering for the most part, which augments the inquiry into whether she killed her spouse or not. The cast is strong especially the lead pair and their extended families who believe she is a cold blooded killer while the story line is faster than the whitewater rapids as Gwen Hunter provides no respite from her superb thrilling story line.

Harriet Klausner

The Prime Objective-Ginna Gray

The Prime Objective
Ginna Gray
Mira, Feb 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780778326205

Kate Mahaffey asks her ex husband CIA field agent Jackson Prime to come to Tralee as she needs his help. He translates that to mean she fears for her life. Still in love with Kate and knowing how calm she is in a crisis, Jackson takes her plea seriously and obtains time off from the agency during a case; he rushes back to keep Kate safe as he is very concerned about her.

Jackson learns some people are chasing after Kate though neither she nor he knows why. The only person in her circle, who might want to harm her, is her former brother-in-law, a nasty abuser. He also needs to know why she abruptly filed for divorce almost two years ago while he was in the field when he thought they were happily married for eight years. He hopes to have answers soon while keeping his beloved safe.

THE PRIME OBJECTIVE is an action-packed thriller starring two likable lead protagonists who confront external danger while having issues to resolve between them as they remain in love. The storyline is fast-paced from the moment Jack tells his handler Annie he is coming in from the cold to protect his ex and never slows down on either the suspense or romance fronts as Ginna Gray entertains sub-genre fans.

Harriet Klausner

The Long Fall-

The Long Fall
Walter Mosley
Riverhead, Mar 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594488580

Albany, New York private investigator Ambrose Thurman hires Manhattan based sleuth Leonid McGill to find four black men who were close friends to two decades ago. He gives Leonid their nicknames as that is all his client gave him. Leonid has turned over a new leaf about being morally correct when it comes to working cases to include no jobs for the mob and being straight with his wife Katrina to include no more affairs with Aura and raise his three children; two not sired by him.

He learns James “Big Jim” Wright is dead; Frankie “Jumper” Tork is in the Tombs awaiting sentencing for B&E; Theodore “Toolie” Nelson is doing 86 years; and Roger “B-Brain” Brown is a successful financier. He reports the information to Ambrose, but soon afterward Jumper and B-Brain are killed; Toolie is stabbed; followed by Ambrose whose real name is Norman Fell also being murdered. As NYPD Detective Kitteridge tries to nail him, Leonid works on finding who the client was as he feels he owes B-Brain for exposing him; he also works a case involving a mobster seeking an accountant hiding in Coney Island and his teenage son Twill planning to kill an abusive pedophile father.

This is an intriguing private investigative Noir starring a man who in his fifties has found scruples that makes his job that much more difficult. The prime investigation is action-packed as Leonid realizes he indirectly caused the murders and almost dies too; yet feels he must uncover the truth even flying in a prop to Albany to do so. The other two sleuthing subplots, some musings by the hero into his unprincipled past and his family drama are well handled and enable the audience to better understand Leonid’s motives. Although the king of the city seems over the Empire State Building, fans will enjoy this Walter Mosley’s fine opening Manhattan (and Albany) murder mystery.

Harriet Klausner

The Long Fall-

The Long Fall
Walter Mosley
Riverhead, Mar 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594488580

Albany, New York private investigator Ambrose Thurman hires Manhattan based sleuth Leonid McGill to find four black men who were close friends to two decades ago. He gives Leonid their nicknames as that is all his client gave him. Leonid has turned over a new leaf about being morally correct when it comes to working cases to include no jobs for the mob and being straight with his wife Katrina to include no more affairs with Aura and raise his three children; two not sired by him.

He learns James “Big Jim” Wright is dead; Frankie “Jumper” Tork is in the Tombs awaiting sentencing for B&E; Theodore “Toolie” Nelson is doing 86 years; and Roger “B-Brain” Brown is a successful financier. He reports the information to Ambrose, but soon afterward Jumper and B-Brain are killed; Toolie is stabbed; followed by Ambrose whose real name is Norman Fell also being murdered. As NYPD Detective Kitteridge tries to nail him, Leonid works on finding who the client was as he feels he owes B-Brain for exposing him; he also works a case involving a mobster seeking an accountant hiding in Coney Island and his teenage son Twill planning to kill an abusive pedophile father.

This is an intriguing private investigative Noir starring a man who in his fifties has found scruples that makes his job that much more difficult. The prime investigation is action-packed as Leonid realizes he indirectly caused the murders and almost dies too; yet feels he must uncover the truth even flying in a prop to Albany to do so. The other two sleuthing subplots, some musings by the hero into his unprincipled past and his family drama are well handled and enable the audience to better understand Leonid’s motives. Although the king of the city seems over the Empire State Building, fans will enjoy this Walter Mosley’s fine opening Manhattan (and Albany) murder mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Grave Goods-Ariana Franklin

Grave Goods
Ariana Franklin
Putnam, Mar 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780399155444

In 1176 during the reign of King Henry II, a fire causes damage to the holy Glastonbury Abbey. After the flames are put out, an ancient box is found. Inside are skeletal remains of a man and a woman.

King Henry II directs Adelia "Mistress of the Art of Death" Aguilar to investigate starting with identifying whose bones these are. Everyone who knows of the discovery and how old the container has to be, prays the remains prove to be proof of Camelot; King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. Adelia and her “forensic” support team (Mansur, Gyltha, and daughter Allie) begin their inquiry into who were buried in the coffin; each prays that their leader will be able to tell the ruler what he wants to hear, but Ariana’s crew knows she will tell the truth regardless of what they learn.

As with the two previous Aguilar medieval mysteries (see Mistress OF THE ART OF DEATH and THE SERPENT'S TALE) Ariana Franklin provides her audience with a blending of a Judith Tarr historical with a Kay Scarpetta forensics thriller. The story line is fast-paced and clever with its Arthurian connection. Adelia is a terrific lead character who leads the inquiry with a strong support squad in which they bring to life the court of King Henry II. Sub-genre readers and Camelot fans will appreciate this entertaining who are they twelfth century detective story.
Harriet Klausner

Mrs. Jeffries in the Nick of Time-Emily Brightwell

Mrs. Jeffries in the Nick of Time
Emily Brightwell
Berkley, Mar 2009, $
ISBN: 9780425226780

A tea party is commencing at Humphrey House, but the owner of the place, train devotee Francis Humphreys fails to be with his guests. Relatives and friends become concerned because he is a punctual person. A knock on his door goes unanswered. Recently Francis has been forgetful as if he was in an early stage of senility. All talking at the party abruptly ends when a shot is heard. Everyone rushes to Francis’ room where they find him dead, a bullet to his head. They call the cops and Scotland Yard sends their top detective Inspector Witherspoon to investigate what looks like a suicide by a man losing his mind.

The Inspector is disgusted as he is stuck with as his assistant Inspector Niven’s’ nephew Lionel Gates; Witherspoon would rather have Constable Barnes whom he respects. Still they interview the guests and investigate motives; most inherit part of Francis’ estate. However opportunity remains elusive as every attendee had an alibi as all of them were in the drawing room together when the shot was heard. Witherspoon’s housekeeper Mrs. Jeffries and the rest of the downstairs staff secretly investigate in hopes of finding clues to assist their kind employer and prevent a killer from murdering again.

Reading a Mrs. Jeffries Victorian whodunit is paraphrasing the Lays’ potato chip commercial you can’t read just one. The latest case is a fabulous locked room police procedural with all the suspects providing alibis for one another as they were together having tea. Witherspoon is as always solves the case, but is clueless that his housekeeping staff conducts an inquiry with the downstairs employed at Humphrey House. Fans will enjoy this fine historical mystery that showcases how the police conduct an official investigation and how the amateur sleuths perform their version.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Runaway McBride-Elizabeth Thornton

The Runaway McBride
Elizabeth Thornton
Berkley, Feb 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425226346

In 1885 on her deathbed, his grandmother Lady Valeria pleads with James Burnett to find his ex fiancée Faith McBride to protect her as her life is in danger. He would do anything for his grandma the witch but not that; still he swears he will keep his former fiancée safe even as he wonders who will keep him safe from her. He also knows his grandma’s last act of life is passing on her clairvoyance skills to him; either that or he is hallucinating.

Faith believes her beloved James dumped her to marry someone else. When she sees him, she knows she still loves him even if he is somewhat cold towards her. He offers to help her learn how her mother died. As they follow the clues their love remains strong but their trust remains at zero; love is not enough until she realizes James risks his life for his Faith.

This superb late Victorian romance is enhanced by a touch of the paranormal and by the whodunit amateur sleuth investigation. The story line is fast-paced, filled with humor and action, but it is the second chance at love between the wonderful lead pair who makes this a fine historical.

Harriet Klausner

A Darker Domain-Val McDermid

A Darker Domain
Val McDermid
Harper, Feb 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780061688980

Michelle Gibson informs the Fife Police Department that her father Mick Prentice is missing; no one seems interested. That changes when she mentions her dad vanished in 1984 during a miners’ strike. The Cold Case Review Team Detective Inspector Karen Pirie decides it is worth an inquiry and learns everyone assumed Mick went to Nottingham to find work as a scab, but never bothered to come back to the Fife area.

Wealthy Sir Broderick Maclennan Grant informs Karen that in 1985 his daughter Catriona and grandson Adam were kidnapped. He tried to pay the ransom demand, but everything turned ugly; his daughter was murdered and his grandchild vanished. He never gave up hope of finding Adam. Karen has two missing persons’ cold cases to solve so family members can have closure.

This interesting Scottish cold case police procedural is filled with plenty of action as DI Price investigates the two missing persons mid 1980s cases. The story line is fast-paced but lose some momentum and plausibility when the inquiries converge. Though Dr. Tony Hill takes a needed breather, fans of Val McDermid will enjoy her latest mystery though most will have preferred two separate investigations.

Harriet Klausner

Murder in the Latin Quarter-Cara Black

Murder in the Latin Quarter
Cara Black
Soho, Mar 2009, $24.00
ISBN 9781569475416

In 1997 the world remains stunned with the recent death of Princess Di; especially shook is Paris where the car accident occurred. Soon after the tragedy, illegal Haitian Mireille enters the office of private investigator Aimee Leduc proclaiming they are half sisters; having the same biological father Jean-Claude; her mother was tortured and murdered soon after giving birth by Duvalier’s thugs. Aimee still grieving the recent death of her fiance (see Murder in the Rue de Paradis) needs to know if the woman is pulling a sham and why or is she telling her the truth.

Soon after her stunning proclamation, Mirelle vanishes. She leaves behind an odd mysterious note with an address in the Latin Quarter. Aimee goes there to learn what she can about her maybe half sister. She finds the building houses an anatomy research facility that includes a corpse of a black male missing an ear who she learns is Professor Azacca Benot. Others associated with the late professor are also murdered while a Haitian trade delegation argue over a water deal with a French company.

This is an excellent entry in one of the best series around as the tale plays out on multiple fronts to include the Mireille mystery, the impact of economic globalization colliding with post-colonial nationalism politics and their convergence at the homicide of a Haitian expatriate professor in the Left Bank. The story line is vintage Leduc as she desperately seeks her missing maybe sister to learn whether they truly are siblings. Though for the most par her sleuthing partner Rene plays an even lesser role than usual, Cara Black provides a strong look at late 1999s Paris where the past and the then present crash resulting in MURDER IN THE LATIN QUARTER.

Harriet Klausner

Hollywood Buzz-Margit Liesche

Hollywood Buzz
Margit Liesche
Poisoned Pen, Mar 2009
ISBN 1590585798

Having prevented a Nazi plot in Detroit (see LIPSTICK AND LIES) Women Air Force Service Pilot Pucci Lewis is assigned by her superior officer Miss C to go undercover at Fort Roach, a converted movie studio serving as the home base of the First Motion Picture Unit (FMPU). The mission of the unit is to create training and propaganda films in support of the war. Her official assignment is to replace injured pilot Frankie Beall whose job was to insure the movie makers treat the WASP with respect; however her real secret task is to investigate the suspicious plane crash in which veteran pilot Frankie was hurt in her life threatening crash.

Pucci works for producer Roland Novaro and quickly realizes female pilots are treated as a joke worse than her boss expected. However what concerns Pucci more is the squabbling between the producer, the editor Rask and the abusive abrasive director Brody. She also learns from airplane mechanic Mad Maxine Beacock that the plane the WASP pilot flew was deliberately sabotaged, but a cover-up has occurred though neither woman knows why. Soon others are murdered including Brody as the cover-up turns deadly.

Paying homage to the WASP warriors, Margit Liesche writes an engaging WWII military mystery that provides a deep look at the female pilot corps and at Hollywood goes to war. The whodunit hooks the audience as Pucci’s assignment changes from investigating sabotage probably by Nazis to a homicide inquiry. She is a terrific lead as she holds the plot together. However, the deep makes the tale refreshing as they bring to life the roles of women and Hollywood in the 1940s at a military base in the States.

Harriet Klausner

Hollywood Buzz-Margit Liesche

Hollywood Buzz
Margit Liesche
Poisoned Pen, Mar 2009
ISBN 1590585798

Having prevented a Nazi plot in Detroit (see LIPSTICK AND LIES) Women Air Force Service Pilot Pucci Lewis is assigned by her superior officer Miss C to go undercover at Fort Roach, a converted movie studio serving as the home base of the First Motion Picture Unit (FMPU). The mission of the unit is to create training and propaganda films in support of the war. Her official assignment is to replace injured pilot Frankie Beall whose job was to insure the movie makers treat the WASP with respect; however her real secret task is to investigate the suspicious plane crash in which veteran pilot Frankie was hurt in her life threatening crash.

Pucci works for producer Roland Novaro and quickly realizes female pilots are treated as a joke worse than her boss expected. However what concerns Pucci more is the squabbling between the producer, the editor Rask and the abusive abrasive director Brody. She also learns from airplane mechanic Mad Maxine Beacock that the plane the WASP pilot flew was deliberately sabotaged, but a cover-up has occurred though neither woman knows why. Soon others are murdered including Brody as the cover-up turns deadly.

Paying homage to the WASP warriors, Margit Liesche writes an engaging WWII military mystery that provides a deep look at the female pilot corps and at Hollywood goes to war. The whodunit hooks the audience as Pucci’s assignment changes from investigating sabotage probably by Nazis to a homicide inquiry. She is a terrific lead as she holds the plot together. However, the deep makes the tale refreshing as they bring to life the roles of women and Hollywood in the 1940s at a military base in the States.

Harriet Klausner

Murder in the Dark-Kerry Greenwood

Murder in the Dark
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen, Mar 2009
ISBN- 9781590584392

In Australia liberated Phryne Fisher enjoys Christmas 1928 with her significant other Lin Chung and her family. Scandalous acquaintances from Paris, the Golden Twins Isabella and Gerald Templar, have invited her to the Last Best party of 1928, a four-day affair at Werribee Manor house.

Phryne considers declining the invitation until she receives letters and a Christmas present containing a poisonous snake in the post that threaten her if she attends. No one scares Phryne away so she goes to the gala. At the party, hashish and alcohol flow freely and she meets an odd collection of people including a bad-mannered child Tarquin who soon afterward vanishes without a trace. Two more people disappear with puzzle clues left behind. As Phryne and Nicholas Booth, who she has just met and believes is an undercover cop, investigates, she realizes someone has been hired to assassinate the sibling hosts.

No one messes with kick butt Phryne whether it is threatening her by post, behaving boorishly towards her at a party, or committing murder. She is at her best in this pre-Depression Era Australian whodunit as her sleuthing partner Nicholas brings out her strengths. The mystery is cleverly devised with solid twists and the roaring cast fits the decadent 1920s. Fans will enjoy Phryne’s latest caper as once again Kerry Greenwood provides her readers with a deep look at a bygone era Down Under inside of a rousing investigative thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bloodprint-Kitty Sewell

Kitty Sewell
Touchstone Books, Feb 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 1416585141

Although Key West was not considered in a direct path of tropical storm Angelina, the island takes a nasty hit. A resident all her life, Madeleine Frank can never look at the place the same way since her spouse Forrest died in the storm. Needing to escape her loss, Madeleine flees Florida for Bath, England, where she opens up a psychotherapy practice.

Her latest patient Rachel Locklear seems at first like a classic domestic violence victim as her former lover and father of her child has pimped her and wants both back under his brutal thumb. However, as the sessions continue, Madeleine is stunned to find Rachel’s past somewhat mirrors her own dark childhood growing up in a household where her Cuban mother was a powerful Santera priestess; her mom currently lives in a nearby mental institution as she suffers from acute paranoid schizophrenia. Soon the pasts of both women will collide with their present leaving each with no hope for the future.

Although there are some subplots especially the ants that feel pointless as they fail to enhance the psychological suspense or insight into the beleaguered heroine, BLOODPRINT is an engaging thriller. Madeleine is an interesting character as Key West can no longer be home for her and Bath is becoming questionable. Rachel purposely is a bit underdeveloped as the woman in trouble so that the audience will wonder whether she is manipulating her therapist; her actions and Madeleine’s reactions lead to the heroine’s peril just like her demented mom warned her. Even though this story is not on the level of ICE TRAP, Kitty Sewell provides a fine contemporary thriller that combines a violent significant other with Santera beliefs converging on two frightened but brave women.

Harriet Klausner

Buried Strangers-Leighton Gage

Buried Strangers
Leighton Gage
Soho, Jan 2009, $24.00
ISBN: 9781569475140

In the Brazilian Rain Forest near Sao Paulo, Brazil, Herbert the “Mop” sheepdog finds a human bone. His owner Hans escorts local cop Yoshiro Tanaka, pathologist Gilda Caropreso, and others to the location of a grave. They soon realize they have found an unmarked mass grave site.

In Brasilia, Federal Police Chief Inspector Mario Silva persuades his reluctant boss Nelson Sampaio to allow him and his top investigators Hector Costa and Arnaldo Nues to look into the mass graves in spite of the politically connected supervisor wanting the case buried before it harms tourism and his career. Each victim including the two dozen children had a body part removed leading Sampaio to fear a cult involvement will keep the westerners home and he will have to answer why. While Tanaka tries to extort money from his inquiries, Silva and his comrades begin to tie the deaths to the Sao Paulo travel agency whose customers were allegedly heading to North America, but never left the country. The killer remains unknown.

The second Brazilian police procedural (see BLOOD OF THE WICKED) is an exciting whodunit made more fascinating by the corruptness of Tanaka. The story line is fast-paced while providing readers with an intriguing look at the country’s largest city. Fans will be engaged with this tense crime caper as the local cop competes with the Federal Police trying to uncover the identity of the culprit for different reasons; one wants to make a lot of real money while the others want to solve the case.

Harriet Klausner

Torn-Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan
Mira, Feb 2009, $6.99
ISBN 9780778325758

In Humble, New York, Police Chief Leo Gannett gives the elementary school students a DARE talk. Roland Penny enters the school and shoots the cop in the head. He informs the teachers and students he has a bomb. Through cell phones pictures and text messages get to the outside until a smoke bomb is set off. Teacher Irene Delancey tells her favorite student ten year old Noah Corbin to hide in the air duct. Soon afterward all the hostages except Noah are free when the building explodes.

Six weeks later, Noah’s mother widow Haley is the only one who believes her son is alive and was abducted by his powerful paternal grandfather Arthur Conklin and his Rulers. Everyone else assumes he died in the blast as some blood of his was found. She hires retired FBI agent Randall Shane whose life mission is rescuing children, but he refuses to take on the job without checking out a few things as he doubts the lad still lives. Not long afterward though he still has doubts, he agrees to take on the hunt as too many anomalies starting with the DNA lab losing Noah’s tissue remains and Mrs. Delancey missing and being a Wall St. roller just before teaching at Humble Elementary. If the kid lives, he is somewhere inside the compound near Conklin, Colorado; a place with tighter security than the White House has.

The third Randall Shane child rescue thriller (see TAKEN and TRAPPED) is T for terrific as his investigation with some help from his FBI friends begins tearing apart a splintering cult’s abduction of the dying founder's grandson. The story line is action-packed even before the hero appears and never slows down as the final confrontation occurs. Although the climax is over the top of the Rocky Mountains where it occurs, fans will enjoy Shane’s latest caper as he gets his usual no sleep while wondering will he come back this time.

Harriet Klausner

The Adversary-Michael Walters

The Adversary
Michael Walters
Berkley, Mar 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425225967

In Ulan Baatar, Mongolia, Judge Radnaa is disturbed with the State Prosecution lawyer, Tsengal who asks for more time in the case against crime chieftain Muunokhoi as some of the evidence proves to befake. The defense attorney Nyamsuren insists his client be let go or the trial starts now. The Judge rules in favor of the accused as the prosecutor should not have brought the case to trial if they were not ready.

Embarrassed by the proceedings, the Minister assigns Nargui, former chief of Serious Crime Team, to conduct an inquiry as to what happened especially who leaked to the defense that some of the evidence was tainted. His personally selected replacement Dosipalam wonders why Nargui is involved. Police detective Tunjin, a thirty year veteran, is placed on suspension with pay pending the investigation as he is the one who planted the evidence. Muunokhoi wants Tunjin dead so he flees with the help of an elderly neighbor from the Mongolian capital. At the same time the investigation into the murder of Mrs. Toya, whose cousin works for the free media, and whose teenage son is missing ties back to the crime king and the judge.

The sequel to THE SHADOW WALKER is a strong police procedural with an exciting internal affairs like investigation, but as before it is the locations in Mongolia of a somewhat westernized Ulan Baatar and the remote Gobi Desert that make this tale stand out. Nargui may have been promoted from the police department, but he remains a superb cop as does his protégé. Part of the fun is their relationship as the more diplomatic Dosipalam egged on buy his wife who detests her spouse’s former boss, wonders why he is back. The Tunjin and Mrs. Toya subplots add depth though the climax seems over the top of the Steppes. Fans will enjoy the second in-depth tour of Mongolia as several cops guide the audience around a country trying to balance the Russians, the Chinese and the West.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Victoria Vanishes-Christopher Fowler

The Victoria Vanishes
Christopher Fowler
Bantam, Mar 4 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9780553805024

In popular London pubs, middle age women simply collapse and die. Initially there is no evidence of foul play; especially as all the witnesses insist nothing happened except the woman dropping dead and pathologist Oswald Finch recently died so no follow-up occurred.

Everything changes when Peculiar Crimes Unit senior detective Arthur Bryant claims he was with victim Carol Wynley just before she died outside the Victoria Cross; an edifice torn down over eight decades ago in 1925. Since the elderly sleuth misplaced Finch’s urn containing his last remains, everyone even his partner Senior Detective John May worries about his senility. Still they investigate while the brass considers closing down PCU starting with the sale of their building and the addition of by the standard operating procedures Sergeant Jack Renfield.

The latest PCU police procedural (see TEN SECOND STAIRCASE and WHITE CORRIDOR) is a fabulous single sitting thriller that hooks the audience throughout the exhilarating story line as fans like the cops will wonder if this is an urban fantasy or Arthur suffers from senility. The need to know what is going on makes for a delightful tale as the PCU members visit pubs and uncover a religious relic that frightens and elates their blood while beginning to connect the dots of a murderous conspiracy. Christopher Fowler provides a strong entry that lives up to the peculiar label of this sleuthing unit.

Harriet Klausner

Beyond Recall-Robert Goddard

Beyond Recall
Robert Goddard
Delta (Dell), Mar 3 2009, $12.00
ISBN 9780385341141

Estranged from his family, Chris Napier returns home for the first time in years to attend his niece’s wedding at the family estate Tredower House converted into a hotel in Truro, Cornwall. Unwanted at the ceremony, Nicky Lanyon arrives insisting to his childhood friend Chris that his father Michael never killed Chris’ great uncle Joshua Carnoweth over three decades ago; although authorities hung the man for the murder insisting the motive was greed as he was about to be replaced as the heir.

Nicky accentuates his point when he is found the next day hanging from a tree; apparently having committed suicide. As homage to Nicky and to alleviate his guilt having ignored the plea, Chris decides to investigate the 1981 homicide of Joshua though his preference remains leaving the past buried.

This is an exciting tale of murder, blackmail, and avarice within an extended family as secrets from the past are slowly revealed. The story takes a bit of time to introduce the three prime interrelated families, but once it does the plot never decelerates as the tangled history is unraveled one dangerous thread at a time by Chris. Fans will enjoy this fine suspense thriller filled with twists and spins that shake the hero as he uncovers the truth.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Killing Castro-Lawrence Block

Killing Castro
Lawrence Block
Hard Case (Dorchester), Dec 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780843961133

In June 1961, Castro has been in power for two years since his Communist revolution successfully deposed corrupt the dictator Batista. Not everyone is pleased with the change in leadership; especially the Americans who loathe a Soviet beachhead ninety miles from Florida and the many Cuban expatriates who fled to the Miami for safety.

Someone using the name Hiraldo offers a $100,000 bounty for killing Castro. Five men forge an agreement of sharing the loot equally as they plot to sneak onto the island and take Castro’s head with them when they leave. Ray Garrison has never worked with partners when chasing down a bounty; Michael Turner is a cold blooded killer; inexperienced teenager Jim Hines is motivated by his brother's execution; cancer victim Earl Fenton wants to have one good deed in his pocket when he meets his maker shortly; and mercenary Matt Garth sees a solid pay day. In Southern Florida the quintet receives logistical support from the exiled Cuban community who ignore their penchant for violence. Soon they will cross into Cuba heading for Havana and a date with Castro.

Not to long after the Bay of Pigs invasion (April 1961), but prior to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis is the time frame of this exciting thriller, a reprint of a 1961 tale; the story line actually reads more as a historical thriller with insight into the beginning of the Castro reign and the end of Batista then the contemporary story when first released. Although the climax is rushed, this novel is character driven and fast-paced especially once the not so magnificent five meet up. Fans will appreciate this fine Lawrence Block thriller while comparing the plot to Castro’s five decade reign.

Harriet Klausner

Risk Factor-Charles Atkins

Risk Factor
Charles Atkins
Leisure, Dec 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843960853

Almost forty year old Dr. Molly Katz, single mother of teenagers Josh and Megan, is a third-year resident physician on the psychiatric ward of Boston Commonwealth Hospital. She is shocked and distraught when one of her patients, fifteen years old Garret Jacobs confesses to viciously slaughtering a nurse with a knife. Molly had talked with Garret when he was committed last week with a psychotic diagnosis, but he displayed no violent tendencies. She wonders how she failed to notice his aggression.

However, the obvious closed case for the police that is and not the psychiatric student takes a bizarre twist when a second nurse is brutally bludgeoned to death while Garret is comatose. As she meets with her young patients who run the gamut of mental and emotional issues including violence towards those who love them, Molly increasingly is grateful to God that her two teens seem normal.

This exciting medical thriller focuses on the nature vs. nurture psychology debate; .as Dr. Katz and other professionals mesmerize the audience with the discussions re kids and violence, and the probability diagnosis of future behavior. Another sidebar bewailing the failed health of the insurance system seems a bit forced. Fans will relish this tense tale especially with a shocking twist as Dr. Charles Atkins provides a deep PORTRAIT of teen violent crime with this taut psychological drama.

Harriet Klausner

Three Weeks to Say Goodbye-C.J. Box

Three Weeks to Say Goodbye
C.J. Box
St. Martin’s, Jan 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312365721

In Denver Jack and Melissa McGuane were euphoric when the adoption was finally approved and baby Angelina made their family complete. They love their infant daughter, but nine months later the thirty something couple is shocked and dismayed. Julie Perala of the adoption agency informs them that Angelina’s eighteen year old biological father Garrett, a Cherry Creek High School student, wants his daughter; he never signed the documents waiving his rights to her. His father is powerful Federal Judge John Moreland who demands his son raise his granddaughter.

Jack and Melissa love Angelina and want to do what is best for her. Thus they agree to meet father and son, but at the session, the McGuane’s realize neither of their adopted infant’s paternal side is interested in her welfare. They have a personal grudge agenda and little Angelina is the kickball. Worse the Judge uses his vast power, legal and otherwise, to wreck havoc on the McGuane’s trying force them to surrender. However, the scenario is not as straightforward as the Moreland father and son insist; child porn, and murder turn the three weeks from that initial horrifying phone call into hell in Colorado and Montana where Jack’s parents reside.

Leaving Wyoming and Joe Pickett with a breather, C.J. Box provides his fans with a great thriller starting with the premise of losing an adopted child to the biological parent. The story line is fast-paced from that opening phone call and never slows down as events spiral out of control. Fans will root for the “David” like couple to defeat the Goliath judge who has weapons on both sides of the law and uses them. With a strong support cast in both states and fully developed lead characters on both sides of the custody debate, readers will appreciate this terrific tale of suspense at its best.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Safer-Sean Doolittle

Sean Doolittle
Delacorte, Feb 24 2009, $24.00
ISBN: 0385338988

Paul and Sara Callaway leave Boston for Clark Falls, Iowa. They moved due to her obtaining a position in town. When a teacher is injured, he is hired to replace her for the semester as an English professor at the local college. However, their first night proves auspicious when they have to run off an intruder. They meet self proclaimed neighborhood protector former cop Roger Mallory who welcomes them into his inner circle.

However, Paul becomes concerned when he realizes that Roger is conducting undercover surveillance of his neighbors without their permission. They argue over security vs. rights. Soon afterward the cops arrest Paul during a faculty party. The charges are three counts of producing pornographic images of a minor, which if found guilty can result in up to fifteen years and $200,000 fine. The accuser is Brittany Seward, the thirteen years old daughter of his next door neighbor. His lawyer Douglas Bennett paints a bleak picture. Although the evidence is overwhelming as his hard drive will prove impossible to explain, refusing to be locked away without a fight, Paul investigates the person framing him: Roger.

From the opening scene when the cops arrest Paul until the final CLEANUP of all the DIRT, SAFER is a fast-paced thriller of an academic in deep trouble with increasing proof he committed the crimes he is accused of. Paul is terrific as a yuppie desperately trying to prove his innocence. The support cast, mostly with its close knit small town attitude, close in on hanging him. Although Clark Falls is more or “loess” a Peyton Place with the residents having many dark secrets, Sean Doolittle provides ax exciting thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 19, 2008

Al-Qaeda Strikes Again-Bill Binkley

Al-Qaeda Strikes Again
Bill Binkley
Infinity, Jul 2008, $17.95
1094 New DeHaven St, Suite 100
West Conshocken, PA 19428
ISBN: 0741449102

At JFK International Airport, Code Red security alert is decreed when a person leaves her purse at customs before fleeing; she kills herself in a bathroom; the Feds followup the info on her Greek passport that affirms what they suspec:t Safia Makhdoom is a bogus name.

A few months later in Phoenix, Muusa Gandapaur is panic stricken having had his passport lifted at the airport. Still he becomes Arthur Bradley and begins his life in Arizona by sending a letter to Denmark.

In Islamabad, Pakistan CIA Station Chief Jerry Moses has hit a wall in his inquiries into Makhdoom when an informant tells him of a training camp north of Peshawar attended by Safia, Yusaf Hussani and others. He finds a paper with a list of names and places that he believes means something big and nasty is coming to America as twenty cities including Cherry Hill where Hussani bragged he would be appear. Wayne Kirby is put in charge of a counterterrorism task force that includes his kick butt girlfriend Rennie Jordon to prevent al-Qaeda from striking again.

This is only part of the opening chapter of what is an action-packed, fast-paced terrorism thriller that accelerates as readers await a confrontation between the Feds and al-Qaeda if the dots are connected and the government leaders listen to the troops on the ground. As corpses flood Dallas where NSA has forwarded Jerry’s list, multiple subplots across American and in Pakistan keeps readers on edge wondering what next and how they connect. Bill Binkley provides an exhilarating one sitting thriller (not sure how he kept track with so much happening, but he does throughout) that will shake the audience as the terrorist multiple schemes seems plausible.

Harriet Klausner

On the Grind-Stephen J. Cannell

On the Grind
Stephen J. Cannell
St. Martin's, Jan 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780312366285

LAPD Detective Shane Scully strikes a deal with the District Attorney’s Office to avoid probable jail time for blackmailing movie actress Tiffany Roberts instead of reporting her efforts to hire a hit man to kill her sleazy spouse. Part of the settlement is he leaves the police department. Scully’s wife, LAPD Chief of Detectives Alexa is livid with his misbehavior that brought another black eye to the departmentand kicks him to the curb when she learns he probably slept with Roberts.

The former cop obtains a rookie’s position with the Haven Park police department known as the most corrupt in the state. His new blue brothers assign him the task to cripple the efforts of a reformist running for city mayor.

This is an engaging Scully police procedural that gives away the key twist way too early in the otherwise well written albeit over the top plot as that subtracts from the trademark angst of previous tales (see WHITE SISTER and THREE SHIRT DEAL). Still the exciting story line is fun to follow as a disgraced Scully loses his job and his spouse, and ends up working in what law enforcement officials overwhelmingly believe is the most corrupt department in California; anyone not on the take will not live for very long.

Harriet Klausner

What Time Devours-A.J. Hartley

What Time Devours
A.J. Hartley
Berkley, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425226230

In Illinois, Evanston Township High School English teacher Thomas Knight looks out his window to see the woman’s face plastered against the pane; her eyes look vacant. He goes outside and checks on her to find her dead. Police Detective Lieutenant Polinksi leads the investigation into a victim with no ID except a stick-it note with Thomas’ name and address on it. He insists he never met her, but obviously the cop say she came to see him.

Not long after that former student David Escolme calls Thomas. He explains he works at the prestigious Vernon Fredericks Literary Agency and needs to meet Thomas to show him something Thomas agrees to meet him at the prestigious Drake Hotel where David is staying while attending a Shakespeare scholarly conference. At the Drake, a distraught David insists he had and lost a handwritten copy of Love’s Labor Won, an alleged play by the great Bard that has never been proven to exist though there is a footnoted historical reference that it did. He further explains that his client is renowned author Daniella Blackstone who he explains cannot write a sentence; her former partner Church is the obvious author of their collaborations. Thomas believes that the dead Jane Doe is Blackstone. Soon afterward, David vanishes, a web sight that listed him as an agent at Fredericks no longer exists, and he is not on the register of guests at the Drake; soon afterward someone tries to kill Thomas; hospitalizing him with a bullet wound. Although his shoulder hurts, David re-enters the scholarly world of Shakespeare; a place he fled from a decade ago to teach school.

Fans will enjoy the return of Thomas who is estranged from his wife Kumi, but hopes for a reconciliation. This time the conspiracy of sorts changes from the Church and his brother’s death (see ON THE FIFTH DAY) to Shakespeare and his student’s death. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down as Thomas minding his business ends up in a modern day tragedy. Fans of A.J. Hartley will apprecioare a brief visit from Atlanta museum curator Deborah Miller of MASK OF ATREUS who stops by at the hospital to say hello on her way to field work (sequel for her, perhaps). WHAT TIME DEVOURS is an entertaining thriller as the Shakespearean scholars are as cutthroat as Richard III.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wicked Game-Lisa Jackson and Nancy Bush

Wicked Game
Lisa Jackson and Nancy Bush
Zebra, Feb 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9781420103380

In 1989 sixteen year old Jessie Brentwood informs her friends at St. Elizabeth she is leaving town. When she vanishes everyone assumes she left town except twenty-five year old police detective Sam “Mac McNally who thinks one of her “Preppy Pricks” pals killed her. He puts the pressure on them, but the case goes cold with the obsessed cop earning a nasty reputation for crossing the line with the teens. Meanwhile Becca Sutcliff, who suffers visions, and Jessica’s boyfriend Hudson Walker begin seeing one another until he goes off to college and fails to stay in contact.

In the present kids telling ghost stories near the statue of the Madonna in the St. Elizabeth maze find a hand sticking out of the ground. Mac is assigned the lead but warned not to go over the top. When the body is exhumed from its gravesite, they find the skeletal remains of a four-five month old fetus next to the woman.

Hudson’s sister, Valley Star reporter Renee Trudeau brings the old gang together to discuss the case. Hudson is elated to see widow Becca whose husband dumped her for another woman before dying from a heart attack. Becca knows she loves Hudson as much as she did as a teen, but distrusts him. As Becca begins to have her spells that she had not had since Jessica vanished, someone begins to murder the gang in what seems like freak accidents, but Becca knows better. She believes the evil killer is back to finish what he started.

This exciting paranormal romantic suspense thriller is filled with plenty of action once the St. Elizabeth ensemble meets for the first time in two decades. Even with a psychic element and with people nearby including the obsessed cop, the tale is reminiscent of Christie’s And Then There Were None. Though somewhat illogical re current day motive, the story line is tense and gripping as one by one the killer is murdering Jessica’s old gang. Fans of both authors will enjoy the sibling collaboration as Becca and the audience know he is coming for her.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fatal February-Barbara Levenson

Fatal February
Barbara Levenson
Oceanview, Feb 2009, $22.95
ISBN: 9781933515526

Miami criminal defense attorney Mary Magruder Katz agrees to defend Lillian Yarmouth, accused of stabbing to death her womanizing husband Gary in their affluent home in Coconut Grove; she was hired because her brother did the Yarmouth’s will. The mixed breed Southern Baptist Jew finds a unique way to obtain a new client. Her car is hit from behind by obnoxious wealthy developer Carlos Martin at the car wash. When he learns she is a lawyer he hires her to help close a $6 million dollar deal.

Attracted to one another, Carlos and Mary make love in her office. However, her tryst is seen by her boss who is also her fiancé Franklin Fieldstone; he fires her as his future wife and from his firm, and files an ethics charge to the Florida State bar for having sex with a client so he can keep the firm from trouble. Feeling a bit of guilt but more euphoriic, Carlos helps Mary set up her own practice even as she defends herself to the legal review board while also preparing Yarmouth’s defense.

This is a fun legal thriller starring a feisty heroine who is not afraid to speak out when her rights even as simple as being pushed from her spot in the car wash due to extra money passing hands occur. The trial of Lillian is well written though some aspects of the defense are portrayed as discussions between Mary and Carlos, for instance obtaining Lillian’s release. That technique is a bit passive, but also allows a relationship between the lawyer and the builder to develop. Fans will enjoy this engaging tale of a life ruined and rebuilt starting and ending with the car wash blues.

Harriet Klausner

Night and Day-Robert B. Parker

Night and Day
Robert B. Parker
Putnam, Feb 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780399155413

The Chief of Police of Paradise, Massachusetts, Jesse Stone still loves his ex-wife even though she cheated on him when they were married. She goes with anyone who could further her career, but returns to Jesse when her life goes down the tubes. Fortunately Jesse is occupied with police work so he can block out thoughts of his selfish user beloved.

He gets a call to come to the junior high school where parents look like they are going to lynch the principal, Betsy Ingersoll for making students show her their panties. Although she broke no laws and her lawyer-husband makes that clear, she embarrassed the kids. Thirteen years old Merry Clarke tells Jesse her parents are swingers which her and her little brother unhappy and confused because in her mind only Mom can have sex with dad. Jesse also is trying to catch a perp Nighthawk who escalated from peeping through windows to entering houses with a gun forcing women to strip before taking pictures; he writes Jesse telling him he fears he is out of control and will harm someone soon. Jess believes him and sets a trap to catch the culprit.

Robert B. Parker has written a delightfil police procudral containing the author;s trademark witty repartee while showcasing a polcie chief working a small town in which eccentric characters may not break laws but cause harm to others. Jesse is determined to help the Clarke children, find a way to insure Mrs. Ingersoll pays for her affront, and catch the peeping tom before someone is phsycially hurt. NIGHT AND DAY is the police chief at his best.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Revelation-C.J. Sansom

C.J. Sansom
Viking, Feb 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780670020515

In 1543 London, Henry VIII courts recently widowed Lady Catherine Parr. He plans to persuade her into becoming his sixth wife. While much of town follow the escapades of the aging royal, hunchbacked barrister Matthew Shardlake remains in shock following the brutal murder of friend Roger Elliard.

Meanwhile Shardlake works the case of a teenage religious fanatic locked up by the King’s Council in Bedlam while his parents want him released. As he works the case, Shardlake finds a connection between the Bedlam incarceration, Elliard's homicide and another killing that reaches into the household of Lady Parr. Although fearful of investigating the monarch’s latest choice as queen, Archbishop Cranmer persuades Shardlake to do so. He, his assistant Jack Barak and his friend Guy Malton follow clues that lead to other killings and a belief that witchcraft is involved as Bishop Bonner plans a religious cleansing of Protestants.

The latest Shardlake investigative historical thriller (see SOVEREIGN) is a great entry that brings to life the intrigue surrounding the throne as an aging ailing Henry seeks one more spouse. The secondary and tertiary cast is solid, but it is clearly Shardlake’s tale as he and his two companions follow clues that lead them to conclude a bloodbath in the name of God is coming. REVELATION is a strong sixteenth century tale starring a hero trying to prevent ethnic cleansing.

Harriet Klausner

Paper Scissors Death-Joanna Campbell Slan

Paper Scissors death
Joanna Campbell Slan
Midnight Ink, Feb 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 9780738712505

Kiki Lowenstein is in her favorite scrapbooking store Time in a Bottle when St. Louis Police Detective Chad Detweiler informs her that her husband George was found dead completely naked in an upscale hotel room. The medical examiner says he died of a heart attack, but Kiki doubts that as George had a physical six months ago with a clean bill of health. She considers investigating but instead has to deal with George’s angry partner who insists he took $500,000 out of the business.

In order to pay it back and take care of her eleven-year-old daughter Anya and their dog, Kiki sells all their major assets from their upscale home to their car; they move into a rental in a lower class neighborhood. When George’s mistress is murdered, Detweiler suspects Kiki as the killer especially in light of the fact that she threatened to kill Roxanne at a public social event in which the drunken mistress acted as if she was George’s wife. George’s mother wants custody of Anyta and someone breaks into Kiki’s home stealing her computer while trying to get CD pictures of the now infamous social event. A malicious woman arranges it so that Kiki is thrown into jail for murdering Roxanne leaving Anya with her mother-in-law. Kiki loses custody of Anya and the mother-in-law from hell gets temporary custody so Kiki has to prove she was framed with only Detweiler and her close friends believing she is innocent.

This is an electrifying combination of a family drama within a whodunit. Kiki proves she has deep inner strength that even she did not know she possessed as she goes about what she must do to provide food and shelter for her daughter following the riches to rags scenario and subsequently to regain custody. Detweiler turns from enemy to friend with the possibility of a romantic interest though Kiki calls the shots in their relationship. This adds realism to an engaging cozy as the heroine with no time to breathe let alone grieve sets out to prove her innocence and regain custody of her daughter.

Harriet Klausner

Fire and Ice-Julie Garwood

Fire and Ice
Julie Garwood
Ballantine, Dec 30 2008, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345500755

She left one job because the paper wanted Sophie Rose to write about her father Bobby Rose, whom every police agency believes is a master thief. Their hometown of Chicago adores Bobby as he steals from the corrupt power brokers making them pay for betraying those who trusted them. Sophie works at a small local newspaper whose owner promises to never force her to write about her dad.

William Harrington calls the paper to tell them he has won 24 5-K races and wants them to cover his next event. Sophie interviews him and finds him excited about the race. He mentions something about a Project Alpha he is participating during the interview. Something happens and he never arrives at the race. Instead his body is found in isolated part of Alaska, eaten by a polar bear. Someone shoots at Sophie and to escape from everyone’s protection she travels to Alaska to learn what William was doing when he was killed. Accompanied by FBI Agent Jack Prescott, they try to keep their hormones in check while someone again tries to kill her. They conclude an unknown adversary thinks Sophie knows something incriminating. Jack and Sophie plan to know what and who

Julie Garwood is known for her excellent romantic suspense thrillers and her latest FIRE AND ICE will enhance her reputation for quality. The heroine is spunky and independent just like the father she loves and adores in spite of his illegal alternate lifestyle. She is shocked when Jack pursues her even knowing who her dad is; and she enjoys his protectiveness as she ends up in one dangerous situation after another. Ms. Garwood delivers another fine tale that her myriad of fans will relish.
Harriet Klausner

Monday, December 15, 2008

Spade & Archer-Joe Gores

Spade & Archer
Joe Gores
Knopf, Feb 2009, $24.00
ISBN 9780307264640

In 1921 San Fransisco, Sam Spade quits the Continental Detective Agency to open up his own private investigative practice; partnering with Miles Archer who he knew married Sam’s girlfriend Iva Nolan, when Spade volunteered for war service while he was serving overseas during the Great War. They hire Effie Perine as their secretary.

Sam works on a missing person’s case as banking heir Henny Barber vanished, but the sleuth believes he took a ride on the San Anselmo passenger ship to the South Pacific. That case leads Sam into investigating stolen gold coins purloined on the San Anselmo. Though he hands the case to the cops on a gold platter the police blow the case allowing the mastermind to escape.

In 1925, insurance man Ray Kentzler surreptitiously hires Sam to determine the cause of death of banker Collin Eberhard as a homicide, a suicide or unfortunate accident. At the same time a friend of Effie, who still works for Spade & Archer, employs him to find her chest of Bergina.

In 1928 Mai-lin Choi seeks money stolen from her famous father who never recognized his offspring. Her efforts take Spade & Archer back to the 1921 stolen gold coins case and the mastermind of that heist.

This daring prequel to Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon is a great historical private investigative tale that grips the audience from the onset as Spade goes into partnership with Archer. The story line is fast-paced with the sleuthing top rate. The tale would work as a superb one sitting stand alone even without its obvious roots, but the most fun is following the early days of characters who are in the Maltese Falcon as fans will relish Joe Gores’ excellent homage to the classic.

Harriet Klausner

Warning Signs-C.J. Lyons

Warning Signs
C.J. Lyons
Jove, Feb 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780515145830

At Pittsburgh's Angels of Mercy Hospital, fourth year medical student Amanda Mason is on rotation and she is going to Neurology to be overseen by Dr. Lucas Stone. He is the one physician she does not want to work with because she has a crush on him. She is also angry with him. When she was a little off in her performance, he forced her to have a physical; to make ends meet she is part of a research study conducted by Dr. Nelson.

Dr. Stone’s newest patient is paralyzed but mentally aware; two previous patients with identical symptoms died with no one knowing the cause. This frightens Amanda because she has some of the same symptoms including shaking hands and feet, and numbness that has her tripping. With two patients dead and one in a coma Amanda now knows the link between them and her, but will it prove in time to save the newest patient and perhaps the next one: Amanda.

This exhilarating medical thriller gets the blood pumping as readers will admire and root for courageous Amanda. She and Luke find the first connection although what she learns ties her to the victims. The frightened heroine and her posse of friends investigate to learn who is behind the bizarre symptoms she suffers from and others did before they advanced into paralysis and death. This is a terrific thriller and fans of Michael Palmer will enjoy this fine tale of a brave but scared medical student in trouble.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Second Opinion-Michael Palmer

The Second Opinion
Michael Palmer
St. Martin's, Feb 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780312343552

When American Dr. Thea Sperelakis learns her imposing father, renowned Boston physician Petros is dying, a hit and run victim, she rushes home from the Congo where she works for Doctors Without Borders. At home Thea is stunned to find the mighty ”Lion”, as her dad is known, look so feeble and helpless.

Her brother Dimitri creates a computer simulation of the accident that appears to support the unthinkable premise that the driver tried to purposely murder Petros. Thea struggles to learn why as no motive comes to mind until she obtains some information from her dad. Although still containing monster gaps in what she knows, Thea believes her father is a victim of a professional hit that she thinks is tied to medical fraud Petros must have uncovered at the hospital where he was working.

THE SECOND OPINION is a well written solid medical thriller though the story line cooks up nothing new even for Michale Palmer fans. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Thea returns to Massachusetts as she obstinatley seeks the truth although she knows first hand how dangerous that is.

Harriet Klausner

Whisper in the Dark-Robert Gregory Browne

Whisper in the Dark
Robert Gregory Browne
St. Martin’s, Feb 3 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 0312358660

A taxi driver almost runs down a naked woman covered with blood; she attacks him with a pair of scissors. Not far away in a run down apartment, Detective Frank Blackburn finds blood all over the place with a brutalized male corpse in the middle. When he hears of the Jane Doe, he rushes over to see her before the ambulance takes her to the hospital. He finds her incoherent and violent; he assumes she is in shock from having witnessed the murder in the apartment.

When the medical examiner looks at the body he sees :) on the inside of the lip made by a Power Blast cauterizing tool. The serial killer Vincent is back in Ocean City, California after being away for a year following his last debacle: eight dead women. His signature is cutting off the left ear of his victim. When psychiatrist Dr. Michael Tolan examines Jane Doe, he freaks out as she no longer has tracks and her eyes are changed colors from what was on her chart; she is turning into his beloved wife Abby who died one year ago today as Vincent’s eighth victim. The serial killer is playing with Tolan’s mind because he apparently did not kill Abby and wants to punish Michael for giving him credit for something he did not do; Vincent believes it is more likely Michael killed his wife as he suffered a blackout during the time she was murdered. Blackburn needs to get to Tolan before he becomes the next dead model of Vincent Van Gogh.

This is a pulse pounding electrifying thriller in which nothing is at it first seems. Jane Doe is a homeless justice who is being used by a borrower, in this case Abby, to try to communicate with Michael. Even her bone structure changes as she begins to take on the shape of Talon’s late wife. Blackburn diligently works the case with everything he can muster; yet remains unaware that the supernatural is involved as he strictly hunts for a human serial killer. Robert Gregory Browne writes an exciting paranormal police procedural that will have readers wondering if Vincent comes from beyond the grave too.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Silent Man-Alex Berenson

The Silent Man
Alex Berenson
Putnam, Feb 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780399155383

In the DC area CIA Agents John Wells and Jennifer Exley are driving to work when traffic comes to a standstill because of accidents on twoe bridge. John thinks it is too much of a happenstance and quickly is proven right when three assassins on motorcycles start shooting at them. They kill their attackers, but Exley is critically wounded in the crossfire. When he knows she will live, John goes to Russia to obtain proof that arms dealer Pierre Kowalski put out the hit on him for embarrassing him and marking his face in a duel years ago.

The mission fails but Kowalski is deathly afraid that Wells will come after him. In Russia, two nuclear warheads are stolen from the secure Facility in Ozersk and placed on board a freighter heading to Canada where Jihadists wait for the arrival to drive them into the States. They intend to nuke DC on Inauguration Day led by Sayyid Nadiji whose family was killed during the Iraq War and occupation. Kowalski is asked to deliver beryllium to give to a third party who will supply it to those targeting Washington. He tells Wells to maintain the peace between them. John runs with the information, which is the first step in finding and preventing Jihadists from devastating DC.

This is an invigorating thriller that will frighten readers as the scenario is plausible with the terrorists capable of the theft, delivery, and destruction on a scale that could make 9/11, London and Madrid seem minor. John is a dedicated agent risking his life to keep the world safe while his beloved Exley wants him out of the deadly field game that he cannot walk away from even if it means losing her. Fans will enjoy the latest spy thriller, as Alex Berenson continues to deliver top rate realistic tales (see THE GHOST WAR and FAITHFUL SPY) on a par with Le Carre and Silva.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 12, 2008

Dead Right-Cate Noble

Dead Right
Cate Noble
Zebra, Feb 2009, $6.99
ISBN 9780821776339

The mission in Cambodia went south resulting in the deaths of two CIA agents and the brutal incarceration of the third Dante Johnson in a Thai prison. He has little hope to escape, but vows to remain alert so if the opportunity arises, he is gone though he is not sure what reality is any longer. The imprisoned operative holds his former lover, contract agent Catalina Dion culpable though she is dead.

Rescued after eighteen months in hell, Dante returns to the States with plans to regain his equilibrium wasting R&R time on his boat in Key West. However, he is a bit shocked when his olfactory senses detect the odor of Cat’s perfume as he assumed she was killed. Things turn nasty when he picks up a ringing public phone near his vessel; as an explosion follows. Making inquiries he learns Cat is not only alive, but Viktor Zavovsky, a Russian scientist blames her and him for the accidental deaths of his family and her son is an eye for an eye pawn to this obsessed relentless madman.

The key to this CIA romantic suspense is the thrills and chills throughout the fine plot as Cate Noble provides an action-packed tal starting four months earlier with flashbacks that might not be real adding to the excitement. The romantic subplot is deftly handled to heat the sheets but not interfere with the cat and mouse game. Fans will root for the good guys, but also empathize with the villain who has an ax to grind and is grinding it into a fine tale that lives up to its title DEAD RIGHT.

Harriet Klausner

Snakehead-Peter May

Peter May
Poisoned Pen, Feb 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 1590586069

American pathologist Margaret Campbell left behind her beloved Li Yan in Beijing to come home to Texas where she has become Chief Medical Examiner of Harris County; she never expected to see him again. However, the former Beijing police detective has been reassigned to work at the Chinese embassy in Washington though he has no plans to look up the woman who left him.

When he is sent to work with American authorities investigating the deaths of Chinese citizens in Walker County in Southern Texas, Li and Margaret, on loan to the nearby county, are stunned as both are involved in the inquiry into the suffocation deaths inside a truck’s sealed refrigeration unit. As they work together, the attraction remains hotter than the sun, but both knows first they must uncover the Snakehead mastermind behind human smuggling. However, the autopsy reveals they did not die from suffocation, they were injected with a form of the Spanish flu virus which killed millions in 1918 and potentially threatens pandemic billions worldwide now that an offshoot has returned.

The fourth Campbell-Yan police procedural (see THE FOURTH SACRIFICE, FIREMAKER and THE KILLING ROOM) switches the location from China to Texas, but maintains the high quality as Li though several thousand miles from his Communist home still must be cognizant of the rulers. The story line focuses on a real threat based on a plausible biological premise of using the deadly 1918 Spanish flu virus to cause a pandemic. Adding to the feel of this could happen is the dead illegal immigrants, another timely topic in spite of seemingly falling off the map when Tancredo’s; run ended. .Whether it is France (home of the Macleod investigative thrillers (see EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE, THE CRITIC and BLACKLIGHT BLUE), China or the United States, Peter May always provides readers with an excellent mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Lost in the Gila-Lois Gilbert

Lost in the Gila
Lois Gilbert
Five Star, Feb 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147326

The world most acclaimed archeologist Sr. Adam Richter is planning a dig at a site in the Gila wilderness that has everyone in the filed clamoring for an invitation. The location appears to prove for first time that the Pre-Columbian Teotihuacán civilization stretched beyond Mexico into the United States. Forensic anthropologist Kate Donovan would die to receive an invite, but does not expect to receive one as she has bad reputation for causing problems for excavation teams with her strange paranormal skills that most professionals prefer to ignore Thus she is shocked when Dr. Richter invites her to join the team; she vows to stay out of trouble.

When she arrives at the Gila location, Kate is shocked that her host is missing and has been gone for a few days with no one able to explain or willing to tell her where he went. As the team goes about their work, Kate using her abnormal abilities locates an incredible find of gold and other treasures. She reports her discovery, but the accolades last until the first homicide occurs or perhaps the battle over who gets the glory and fame.

LOST IN THE GILA is an enjoyable on location suspense thriller that grips the audience once Kate gets to work at the site and never slows down as jealousy swamps the excavation and murder places everyone in danger. Readers will be fascinated by the rivalry for credit especially when the Dr. Richter remains missing in action. Although the homicides add tension, they feel a bit forced as the fun in this fine plot lies in the archeological war over who claims what; as an intriguing aside, all the prime players instinctively agree Kate the finder gets none.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Booby Trap-Jennifer Crusie, Anne Stuart and Lani Diane Rich

Booby Trap
Sue Ann Jaffarian
Midnight Ink, Feb 2009, $13.95
ISBN 9780738713502

Lillian Ramsey asks her friend plus size paralegal Odelia Grey for her help. Upset, Lillian explains that her son, renowned cosmetic surgeon Dr. Brian Eddy has been accused of being the serial killing Blond Bomber, who has terrorized Southern California for the past year leaving behind etched on the corpse the word “whore”. Odelia, having solved homicides before (see Thugs and Kisses), agrees to investigate.

As always Odelia receives assistance from her wheelchair-bound spouse Greg Stevens and her anal-retentive obsessive attorney boss Mike Steele. However what she learns makes her wonder if perhaps Brian is guilty. He and his wife Jane Sharp apparently knew four of the female victims. Meanwhile Gordon Harper, the former husband of one of the Blond Bomber’s victims, seems to be everywhere that Lillian is as he seeks the killer too.

The second Odelia Grey amateur sleuth (see THUGS AND KISSES) is a fun whodunit that entertains the audience with an exciting investigation and with amusing commentary especially between the para legal and her husband and her boss. The fast-paced story line grips the reader from the moment a desperate Lillian begs Odelia to prove her son’s innocence. Though some purists might insist she should have hired a professional private eye and Odelia should not volunteer to look for a serial killer, fans will enjoy the escapades of the heroine as she takes on the Blond Bomber.

Harriet Klausner

Mark of the Devil-William Kerr

Mark of the Devil
William Kerr
Medallion, Feb 2009, $15.95
ISBN: 9781934755532

In 1945 off the Florida coast, U-Boat Korvettenkapitan Strobel is irate with the defeat and decides to go for one last kill. SS Standartenfuhrer Kreuger wants him to stay with their mission and ignore the nearby tanker. Strobel fires at the tanker leading to two destroyers dropping depth bombs on the sub. Kreuger congratulates him for insuring they are “buried alive” after the war in Europe is already over.

In 2009 in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, the Coast Guard asks Steve Park to mark with buoys where a barge was sunk by a storm to keep ships safe. Steve asks his visiting friend North American Archeological Research and Preservation Association Naval Special Warfare officer Matt Berkeley to help. At sea they find the barge, but also another vessel. They submit the proper paperwork to the State, but wealthy Henry Shoemaker as a favor to his much younger wife, whose grandfather left her information about the sunken ship, arranges with his brother-in-law at the Florida office on oceanic recoveries and his Antiquities Finders Inc to steal the excavation. To make matters worse, two friends of Matt, whom he visited in DC to give copies of his application to search the unknown ship he and Steve found, are murdered by an agent of Shoemaker. As Berkeley refuses to back down from AFI, Shoemaker, the State of Florida and the cops, he wonders what the valuable item is on the sub sunk after the war was over that everyone wants; the finding if revealed would humiliate the Catholic Church.

MARK OF THE DEVIL is an intriguing oceanic archeological thriller that focuses on the abuse of power and those refusing to buckle under the pressure. Matt is a terrific hero who tries to do the right thing, but will learn the cost of his ethical stand. Although Shoemaker, his wife and their lackeys come across as caricatures, fans will appreciate this fast-paced thriller as Shoemaker and AFI bring a killer and the government to keep Matt out of the excavation.

Harriet Klausner

Early’s Fall-Jerry Peterson

Early’s Fall
Jerry Peterson
Five Star, Feb 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146787

In Randolph, Kansas, Riley County Sheriff James Early sits outside the bank when a robber arrives with a gun. The thief gets nothing because the banker Rance Dalby locks himself in a vault. The robber flees on horseback after hitting James in the head with his gun. Jim gives chase, but the crook escapes. They later find the horse with a brand on it so can identify the felon as Sonny Estes, the son of a local rancher.

As Sonny continues to torment and tease James, someone brutally murders Jewish schoolteacher Judith Smitts in her home. Her husband works for the railroad so is away on business. As Jim, his Deputy Hutch Tolliver and State Trooper Daniel Plemmons investigate the violent homicide that begins to take an international spin of never again revenge; the sheriff’s pregnant wife Thelma falls into a deep depression.

This is an engaging late 1940s Jayhawker State police procedural that is at its best when the focus is on the murder of the teacher, Thelma’s depression, and as comic relief catching Sonny. When the tale takes a sidebar into a subplot involving President Truman it loses some momentum. Still Jerry Peterson cleverly uses real people like Truman and the lack of medical knowledge of pregnancy related depression to establish the era of an enjoyable regional historical mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Rules of Contact-Kristen Heitzmann

Rules of Contact
Kristen Heitzmann
WaterBrook, Feb 17 2009, $13.95
ISBN: 9781400073085

Isabelle Claire Boudreaux abruptly walks away from her John Hopkins medical residency when it looked like the infant she tried to save didn’t make it. Her Gram left her the farm so Claire goes there to consider her future. Something strange happens while she drives her car and the next thing she knows she is waking up in a gigantic hole in the ground that swallowed her up and she has nothing on her to climb to freedom. She hears voices soshe heads to them hoping they can help her; only as gets closer to them they sound like patients having seizures.

A man attacks Claire, but Rafe intercedes. He tells her he will protect her if she agrees to be bound to him. Not sure what he means, she has little choice so she accepts his terms. He escorts her to his sleeping quarters in the underground bomb shelter and rapes her. Claire realizes men are predators abusing women unless the female is a bound slave to a particular male. People fight to the death over food and other items as killing is encouraged. Rafe has been in this society since his infancy so cannot grasp what his new slave sees as horror; instead he welcomes the security of the underground...Still they escape together knowing the underground leader will stalk them to protect his realm and fearing the FBI will learn of his murders even as he struggles to comprehend an ethics system radically different than the one he was raised in.

Kristen Heitzmann provides a thought provoking tale that focuses on the nature vs. nurture debate, on community values, and related to the latter on what is a law. Though Rafe grew up under a kill or be killed system, Claire, once she moves a bit past the shock of the rape, notices how he quietly tries to help those less fortunate without being noticed. Once she accepts him for what he is, she begins to care for him even though some might insist she is a victim of the Stockholm syndrome. Readers will fully enjoy this exciting cerebral tale that will have the audience ponder differing societal values and ethics as globalization leads to more complex international relationships.

Harriet Klausner

Murder by Ancient Design-Kat Goldring

Murder by Ancient Design
Kat Goldring
Five Star, Deb 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147487

In Texas the Nickleberry Museum board is selecting a new curator amongst four candidates. Ana Parker-Nolan is the acting curator while Mr. Nolan, Professor Stahl, and Dr. Etzui have applied for the position too. Currently the museum prepares for its Aztec exhibit.

High School English teacher Willi Gallagher is on the selecting committee as well as the individual assigned to welcome the candidates; Ana happens to be a close friend. Lately she has received threatening notes, which she has hidden from her Texas Ranger boyfriend Quannah Lassiter as he is busily tracking down three dangerous convicts who escaped from Huntsville. However, Will’s world tumbles further out of control when the ancient shapeshifting Jaguar Clan seem to be seeking something from her. When Ana is hurt in what looks like an accident and murders associated with the curator position occur, Willi, living up to her rep as the “Miss Marple of the Range”, begins inquiries into the Jaguar Clan not understanding these shapeshifters seek a sacrifice to their ancient god Chacmool.

Much of the first quarter of this enjoyable paranormal mystery starts slowly with a focus on the curator selection. Once the audience meets directly or indirectly the cast, the pace accelerates and never slows down as the intrepid heroine struggles to survive the apparent assault of the Jaguar Clan. Willi and the candidates make for a fun tale as they compete for the position while the menacing shapeshifter adds suspense. Fans will enjoy this fine look at a Texas Museum displaying Aztec culture while murder lurks in the shadows.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Drowning Pool-Jacqueline Seewald

The Drowning Pool
Jacqueline Seewald
Five Star, Feb 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9781594147555

In Webster’s Township, New Jersey police detective Lieutenant Mike Gardner is assigned the investigation of womanizer Rick Bradshaw, who was found dead in his apartment complex swimming pool. Mike is mentoring former NYPD cop with a chip Bert St. Croix on the inquiry, which takes place in la Reine Gardens where his girlfriend psychic librarian Kim Reynolds lives.

They quickly learn the victim was stabbed to death before being dumped into the pool. There are plenty of suspects, women who he loved and left, and their cuckolded men. Rick, a single father raising two children, has Kim help him with the case. With no progress, Rick and Bert arrange an encounter at the DROWNING POOL between all the suspects with Kim in attendance as an observer.

THE DROWNING POOL is an entertaining romantic police procedural with psychic elements that are not used until the final confrontation unlike what happened in THE INFERNO COLLECTION. Although the investigation bogs down with no progress, sub-genre fans will enjoy the relationships between Kim and Mike, him and his kids, and especially him with Bert; whereas he uses brains and psychology, she carries a chip and guilt on her big body while preferring brawn.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Wedding-P.J. Brooke

Blood Wedding
P.J. Brooke
Soho, Dec 2008, $25.00
ISBN: 1569475296

In 1947 in Diva, Spain near Grenada, the villagers are stunned by the murder of beautiful vivacious graduate student Leila Mahfouz, who was writing her thesis on the impact of the Spanish Civil War on this village. Scottish-Spanish Sub-Inspector Max Romero, who serves as the police liaison to the large Muslim community, helps the local cops investigate the homicide since the prime suspect has ties to the Muslims.

However, politicians see an opportunity to seize more power since a Muslim is involved; more so when the prime suspect commits suicide. They launch a controversial inquiry into the "European Training Centre for Young Muslim Entrepreneurs". Romero also must cope with affluent influential antiterrorists who want the Muslim center closed and its leaders locked away using the Mahfouz murder as a conveniet excuse. He also believes the homicide is more likely tied to her research into mid 1930s Diva; perhaps even the death of poet Federico García Lorca over a decade ago.

This is not an easy read as there are so many subplots and threads that go in various directions, which eloquently but sprawling brings to life time and place. The fully developed characters also enhance the feelings that the reader is in 1947 in a small village in Spain comprehending life after WWII under the reign of the only surviving Fascist dictator. Fans who appreciate an interesting historical police procedural will want to read this engaging look at an official investigation during Franco’s reign.

Harriet Klausner

A Dangerous Affair-Caro Peacock

A Dangerous Affair
Caro Peacock
Avon, Feb 2009, $13.95
ISBN 9780061447488

In his thirties recently elected to Parliament,“watch dog” Benjamin Disraeli offers Liberty Lane a fee to spy on dancer Columbine, whose disreputable behavior could lead to a nasty highly publicized scandal. Needing the money, Liberty reluctantly agrees. However, someone poisons Columbine with the London police leaning towards rival dancer Jenny as the prime suspect as she and the deceased had a public dispute.

Liberty thinks otherwise, but there is mounting pressure to execute Jenny, already convicted by the public, the media, and the cops, for the murder. To prevent a double injustice of the wrong person being hung while the real killer is free, Liberty investigates ably assisted by Amos the groom. They begin to unravel a series of murky deceptions in which the influential and the downtrodden are tied together in secrecy.

The sequel to A FOREIGN AFFAIR is a terrific early Victorian whodunit that uses real historical persons to anchor time and place. Liberty is an intelligent sleuth and her sidekick Amos serves as a sort of Watson. The mystery is cleverly devised with fabulous plausible spins and misdirections as Caro peacock furbishes an entertaining early nineteenth century investigative tale.
Harriet Klausner

It Takes a Thief-Liz Wolfe

It Takes a Thief
Liz Wolfe
Medallion, Feb 2009, $7.95
ISBN: 9781934755068

Zeke Alexander is a world renowned thief who took a disability retirement when he became inflicted with Parkinson’s disease. His daughter Zoe is a chip off the old block as a master thief, but has for the most part been out of the family business too except for a few lapses. The Dominican Order wants to hire a master thief to steal documents and objects from museums and private collectors to build a clean energy source that is more effective than fusion, but can also be converted to a weapon of mass destruction.

Their goal is world order of peace and harmony with them in charge. Since the new energy source will provide them with capitol and a weapon, the CIA tried to infiltrate them, but failed. The Order needs a master thief to steal documents and other things so the CIA recruits Zoe for the position.. Drake Leatherman is assigned to be recently recruited Zoe’s handler as she goes undercover. The Order believes she is perfect to steal what they need. However, when they discover she is a CIA mole, they kidnap her mother whom she thought was long dead and the brother she never knew she had to insure she cooperates and finishes the job. Zoe vows to rescue her family while Drake works with her to take down the Order.

Traveling from the United States to Italy and Switzerland and back to America, Zoe helped by Drake tries to prevent the Order from becoming so powerful they cannot be stopped. She is a great heroine who, though a thief,has a strong moral fiber that enables her to easily become a patriot trying to do the right thing against a formidable opponent who believes in their quest making them more dangerous. Although the villains come across cartoonish, Liz Wolfe provides a strong thriller that focuses on IT TAKES A THIEF to stop an organization of deadly single minded thieves.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Probable Claus-Jon L. Breen

Probable Claus
Jon L. Breen
Five Star, Feb 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9781594147340

Philanthropist Charlie Baines enters the Baines Building after everyone but security, the cleaning crew, and his obnoxious brother Andrew is gone for the day. Later that same night he informs the guards that the police will be here soon as someone murdered his sibling and when they need to speak to him he will be at his home. Soon afterward the man called Santa Claus by so many in the city is arrested for the murder of his Grinch-brother, planning to tear down a historical site.

The defense team wants a theater like milieu with a decision at Christmas while the prosecution wants the setting more like a church with a decision a few weeks before the holidays. The defense is headed by famous trial layer Gordon Moon,; the second chair is his brother in law Vern Wagstaff; and third chair is newcomer Eve Nyquist. The prosecution is headed by WNBA star Melba “Jumping Jack” Wooten; second chair is Moon’s wife and Gordon’s sister Agnes; and third chair is Stacy Bamwanger. Complicating matters is Melba’s acrophobic boss trial deputy David Ketchum who is falling in love with Eve and Judge Marisol Estrada who used to be a maid to the Wagstaff brood. This is one trial that is all in the family.

Modernizing Miracle on 34th Street with a ficus on the lawyers, PROBABLE CAUSE is an amusing legal thriller though with all the relational cross breeding, one must wonder why the judge is even her using the Scalia argument of impartiality and much of both teams were not tossed as an appeal would have surely raised those issues. Still the cast is solid and their antics fun to follow espcially references to old movies like Miracle on 34th Street. With two late clever twists tying the players together even tighter, fans will enjoy this satirical spin of Santa and legal thrillers.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, December 8, 2008

Crash Into Me-Jill Sorenson

Crash Into Me
Jill Sorenson
Bantam, Jan 27 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780553592016

FBI Agent in Charge Leland Grant assigns Special Agent Sonora “Sonny” Vasquez to investigate the SoCal Strangler killings in the ritzy Torrey Pines section of San Diego. The prime suspect is world class professional surfer Ben Fortune, whose wife Olivia died three years ago in a similar but sloppier stabbing. A drifter confessed to the killing of Olivia, but recanted just before he committed suicide. The only clue to the rape and strangling is fiber from a wet suit.

Being from San Diego, Sonny uses the name Summer Moore when she notices Ben’s out of wedlock sixteen year old daughter Carly sneak out of their upscale home at night. She follows only to see Carly dive in to the cold Pacific; Summer follows her into the water and rescues Carly. The teen informs her dad Summer rescued her. He invites Summer to a casual dinner to which she says no until he explains Carly will be there too. Ben’s best friend John Thomas “JT” Carver arrives to insure Carly is okay. Carly was not committing suicide as she accidentally slipped from a rock. Instead she is a cutter. Her friend Lisette Bruebaker sneaks into Ben’s bed as she wants sex with him. He is startled and tells her to leave; Lisette runs out of the house. Soon afterward, Lisette is found dead at sea by Carly’s "pretend" boyfriend and his family; the evidence points towards Ben, whom Summer likes.

The lead couple is a strong paring as each brings issues to the relationship as well as the problem of her being an undercover cop investigating him. The support cast is solid as they enhance either the story line or insight into the lead couple. Although the discovery of Sonny’s expanded family is a bit too much coincidence, the investigation into the serial killings is cleverly done as the audience will enjoy this well written surf’s up police procedural romance.

Harriet Klausner

Posed for Murder-Meredith Cole

Posed for Murder
Meredith Cole
Dunne, Feb 2009, $ 24.95
ISBN: 0312378564

Ever since she can remember photographer Lydia McKenzie wanted to have a solo exhibit of her work. Her dream comes true when Jacques Bulan displays her photos at his Bulan Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The pictures are that of models posed as dead people from the Lost Girls book. The author photographed the actual corpses while Lydia duplicated the victims using her friends. Her exhibit is interrupted when two NYPD detectives Romero and Wong arrive. They inform Lydia that one of her models Marie LaFarge was killed and posed just like the photo she was in.

When Jacques calls her to inform her he has a client interested in buying her work, she rushes over to the gallery only to find Bulan murdered and no one else on site. At her apartment, she stops to pick up her mail which includes an unmarked envelope. Inside is a photograph of Jenna looking dead; identical to the one Lydia took. Soon afterward, the killer trashes Lydia’s apartment leaving behind a note stating she is next. Instead Emma, another friend who posed for her is missing; a photo arrives in gory detail. When Lydia is kidnapped, she escapes along with Emme, but knows her life is in danger unless she can take down the culprit.

POSED FOR MURDER won the St. Martin's Minotaur/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition and readers will see why. The plot flows smoothly with a wonderful whodunit and why keeping reader attention. The key characters especially the beleaguered heroine are fully developed and either are involved in the murders or her job as a “Girl Friday” at D'Angelo Investigations, owned by comedic brothers Leo and Frankie D'Angelo and their authoritarian Mama. Readers will admire Lydia for her New York City grit and courage as she takes charge of her life although she fears the killer. This is a fun opening tale, which hopefully is the start of more amateur sleuth adventures.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Vengeance-A.J. Scudiere

A.J. Scudiere
Griffyn Ink, Oct 2008, $9.99
ISBN: 0979951011

The retirement plan of the Kurev mob family is death; either naturally or by hitmen. No one just leaves alive. Cynthia Beller and Lee Maxwell understand that first hand as her father Claymore and Lee, accountants at the same firm working the blood money of the Kurev mob, tried to quit at different times. Nine years ago Claymore and his family except for his daughter Cynthia were murdered; three years ago, Lee survived the hit, but his wife and daughter were killed. Each of the survivors vowed separately vengeance.

They meet for the first time as Cynthia having just finished a kill is about to leave when Lee enters the abode to assassinate the same thug. They encounter one another twice more before agreeing they have the same list and strategic BHAG. They agree to team up to destroy the Kurev family by dividing up the kills. Meanwhile though sympathetic to their cause and respecting them as he loves his wife and daughter that he might seek vengeance too if they were harmed, FBI agent Owen Dunham struggles with capturing the Grudge Ninja vigilante serial killer preying on the mob.

This is an exhilarating serial killer thriller that hooks the audience because the key three players seem vulnerably human with remorse, regret, and resoluteness. The vivid story line is action-packed especially with the scenes of the kills. However, A.J. Scudiere’s tense thriller belongs to the Grudge Killer(s) and the cop reluctantly trying to bring them to the legal justice system even as he believes their vigilante justice is just.

Harriet Klausner

Voodoo Laws-Jim Michael Hanson

Voodoo Laws
Jim Michael Hanson
Dark Sky, Mar 15 2009, $13.95
Golden, CO 80401
ISBN: 0976924374

Denver police homicide detective Bryson Coventry leads the official investigation into the murder of affluent lawyer Ryan Ripley in a sleazy part of town known for cheap street hookers; inside his home is found a voodoo doll with a needle through an eye. Soon afterward, someone fires a shot at either Coventry or his girlfriend Ta’Venza Oceana while they sit in his 1967 Corvette; outraged that the bullet destroyed his window, he curses the miscreant who would harm a car like his, vowing justice.

Meanwhile attorney Mackenzie Lee has a new client, Erin Asher, who claims the prime suspect in another homicide and the abduction of Lindsay Vail could not have committed either of those crimes as she is his alibi. She asserts she has seen the accused stalk her. Coventry assigns detective Coyote to conduct surveillance on Mackenzie while a second murder tied to voodoo occurs at Ripley’s law firm.

Soon the seemingly separate cases tie together with Coventry being cursed by a practitioner who employs VOODOO LAWS. The merged trails lead him to New Orleans and its voodoo shops.

The latest Coventry “Laws” police procedural is a terrific entry that has all the magic of the previous six and more. This time the hero is voodoo death cursed as he struggles to connect the dots that seem unrelated. Fans will enjoy this superb entry especially when the missing links are found in Denver and refreshingly New Orleans; as the hero is forced out of the Mile High City by the direction of the investigation. As always the audience needs to drink coffee with this fun tale in which a cursed Coventry curses those who could harm a classic car.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Book of Lies-Brad Meltzer

The Book of Lies
Brad Meltzer
Grand Central, Sep 2008, $25.99
ISBN: 044657788X

Nineteen years ago in Miami, then nine year old Calvin Harper watched his bipolar mom go berserk as she always did when the demon surfaced. His usually in control dad Lloyd loses it this time and punches her in the chest in a rage. Just before dying, she blames Calvin. Lloyd is convicted of manslaughter. Over the years, Calvin never made contact with his dad even after he was released from prison.

Now in his late twenties Calvin and a former priest named Roosevelt work the mean streets of Fort Lauderdale taking homeless people to a shelter. However, when Calvin helps a vagrant, he is stunned because the homeless man is Lloyd. His father asks his estranged son to assist him as he searches for the ancient artifact that Cain used to kill Abel and may have been the weapon used to kill the father of Superman creator Jerry Siegel in 1932. Coded references hint at a book of immortality as the object, but others willing to kill want it too.

This is an entreating tale that links the first reported homicide to a 1932 murder to the Nazis and to a modern day secret cult. The story line is action-packed and fun to follow especially for Brownian conspiracy fans. However, none of the key cast members seem more developed than a comic book character so the tension never quite reaches gripping levels. Still this is an intriguing tale as the default starting in biblical times reaches the Harper males with interesting stops in between.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Lost Witness-Robert Ellis

The Lost Witness
Robert Ellis
St. Martin's. Feb 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780312366155

LAPD Robbery-Homicide Division rookie detective Lena Gamble did well on her first case that reminded her of her brother’s murder (see CITY OF FIRE), but she is taken aback when her supervisor, Lieutenant Frank Barrera assigns her to a visible nasty case. Someone left a dismembered female corpse inside a Hollywood a dumpster. The police inquiry into the Jane Doe brutal murder went nowhere until an unknown apparent witness leaves the cops with the victim’s driver's license and a thumb drive displaying the kidnapping.

Dedicated Lena follows the clues while her superiors follow her. When she begins to scrutinize icons, her boss warns her to back away quietly. Lena refuses continuing her investigation into two men with ACCESS TO POWER; the son of a pharmaceutical company CEO owner and a doctor who knew the victim while seeking the unknown LOST WITNESS who remains in hiding even as the cop fears the killer will cone after this key person.

THE LOST WITNESS is an excellent police procedural filled with reasonable twists that will have the audience enthralled with what comes next. The investigation is superb as the obstinate dedicated Lena gambles her career and perhaps her life to finding the anonymous witness and subsequently the vicious killer. Fans will appreciate Robert Ellis’ fine look at Hollywood through the lens of murder.

Harriet Klausner

Whisper to the Blood-Dana Stabenow

Whisper to the Blood
Dana Stabenow
St. Martin's, Feb 17 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312369743

Aleut private detective Kate Shugak homesteads in the “Park” and though mentored by her grandmother to become the leader of their tribe and head of the Niniltna Native Association, she is more of a loner than a charismatic leader. Thus her personal issues are even more irritating to her as she struggles with the demands of her teenage foster son Johnny Morgan, and her State Trooper boyfriend Jim. However, their “bullying” her seems mild compared to the pleas of the four widow "Aunties" who are the ethical conscience of the residents of the “Park” and play on her scruples. She ignored their concerns before (see A DEEPER SLEEP) to her regret but still prefers to discount their latest apprehensions.

Canadian mining firm, Global Harvest Resources Inc is planning a large operation in the national park that impacts all the homesteaders. The Park residents are angry and some forms of vigilant justice surface with vicious snow machine robberies harming victims. On top of that, two homicides have further divided the developers from the locals. Kate investigates the murders and the violent robberies.

As always with the rugged regional Shugak mystery the investigation is excellent and the heroine’s personal problems with relationships enhance her as a person with flaws. The eccentric cast augments the prime story line by providing insight into living in the Alaskan wilderness. That barren landscape comes alive as Dana Stabenow escorts her readers to the rugged side of Alaska that the recent election failed to showcase (see A DEEPER SLEEP).

Harriet Klausner