Saturday, January 31, 2009

Murder In Four Parts- Bill Crider

Murder In Four Parts
Bill Crider
Minotaur, Feb 17 209, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312386740

In Texas the Clearview Community Barbershop Chorus musical director florist Lloyd Berry invites Sheriff Dan Rhodes to join as a baritone. Dan is shocked by the invitation as he knows he cannot sing worth saving his soul and so does everyone else including Lloyd knows that as a fact. However, he rejects the offer stating he is too busy with law enforcement.

Soon afterward while Dan searches for an apparent chicken eating gator, someone bashes in Lloyd’s head. He questions the chorus members and is taken aback by the amount of discord; the feuds are palatable leading Dan to wonder if one of the members killed Lloyd. Other incidents divide Dan’s time, but as he digs into Berry’s past, the sheriff finds several irate enemies with motives.

MURDER IN FOUR PARTS is overall a fun often amusing thriller although the prime investigation never accelerates though the trademark sidebar inquiries with the eccentric cast are humorous. Dan is his usual self as he takes his time to insure he is doing things right. Although not quite as exciting as past Rhodes tales (see OF ALL SAD WORDS and MURDER AMONG THE OWLS), the latest Sheriff Rhodes police procedural is an engaging amusing small town mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Hard to Handle-Karen Wiesner

Hard to Handle
Karen Wiesner
Whiskey Creek, Jan 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 1603134697

As part of the Network, Dez Luttino and Nova Granger have worked as part of a team that he led on several missions. However, his superior assigns Dez with a strange task as he has mentored her skills in the past. The Network leadership believes strongly that Nova can be one of their best operatives if she can gain one more skil; she must learn to trust her teammates. His seemingly impossible assignment is to get her to have faith in his being there for her.

This will prove his toughest assignment ever as Nova when she was five years old was raped by her father and his friends. Her childhood ordeal has proven doubled edged as she feels for the victims, but rejects closeness with any man even teammates on a mission. Dez begins his quest to earn the trust of a suspicious Nova. As he succeeds in reaching her heart, she reaches his too; they begin to fall in love. Sent on a mission to keep a father and daughter safe, Nova has doubts as the man they protect is pushing a law that allows marriage at any age. However she feels a strange affinity to the mute child until she learns the total truth about her mission and her beloved.

The eighth Incognito thriller is an exciting romantic suspense tale that digs deep inside the soul of an adult who suffered a childhood trauma that never left her and impacts her adult relationships. Filled with plenty of action, the story line is somewhat different than the previous magnificent seven due to Nova who brings plenty of psychological baggage with her on the mission. Karen Wiesner writes an excellent entry filled with angst and action.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 30, 2009

Can't Never Tell-Cathy Pickens

Can't Never Tell
Cathy Pickens
Minotaur (St. Martin’s), Feb 17 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312354442

In Dacus, South Carolina, seven year old Emma is somewhat bored while wandering around the fair fright house with her Aunt Avery while two teenage couples are also touring the place. However, the child’s ennui ends when the leg of a mannequin with a chainsaw separates; she realizes immediately as does her aunt that the limb is that of a human remain. The fright house is closed as the cops investigate the mannequin that turns out to be a mummified human.

The next day, Emma’s parents and Aunt Avery are attending a faculty picnic near Bow Falls when the wife of Professor Reimann falls into the waterfall. While the Fair’s owners have retained attorney Avery to help them reopen for the July Fourth holiday weekend, a friend of the professor asks her to file a life insurance claim since the grieving widower is too upset to do so. However, Avery also wants to know who the corpse in the fright house is though she leaves that to her assistant Shamanique to explore and who pushed Rinda into the falls.

The latest Avery Andrews legal cozy is a fun regional tale filled with some of the down home humor expected of a Cathy Pickens novel; starting with the two teen couples Amazonian girlfriends knocking the leg off the mannequin. The story line is not quite as fast and breezy as previous entries like HUSH MY MOUTH or HOG WILD but in some ways is much deeper as the audience obtains a profound look at financial fraud that is critical to the plot leading to a cautionary afterward.

Harriet Klausner

Double Minds-Terri Blackstock

Double Minds
Terri Blackstock
Zondervan, Feb 1 2009, $16.99
ISBN: 9780310250630

In Nashville, Christian songwriter Parker James is highly regarded for her inspiring lyrics, but wants the chance to sing her songs. She knows pride is one of the seven deadly sins, but still hopes to have a chance. Still she does her best writing and working as a receptionist at Colgate Studios.

Parker is stunned when her brother Homicide Detective Gibson James text messages her to come to the studio. She learns that Belmont University student and an intern Brenna Evans was shot to death. Assisting her brother with his investigation, Parker wonders if she was the intended target as her work area as the studio receptionist is where the victim was killed; though she cannot fathom why someone would want her dead.

The superb whodunit adds deep excitement to a strong thought provoking Christian thriller with an apt title. Terri Blackstock provides an intriguing look at modern American Christian thought with dedicated believers struggling to adhere to scripture while also trying to make it in the wider world. Parker’s BFF Serene has a chance to break out beyond the relatively small pond of Christian music to that of the oceanic sized pop scene, but would need Parker to modify lyrics that would still remain inspiring yet take them outside scripture. This is Christian suspense at its best as Ms. Blackstock takes her readers outside their pious comfort zone.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bahama Burnout-Don Bruns

Bahama Burnout
Don Bruns
Oceanview, Mar 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9781933515205

Internationally famous and highly regarded rock critic and music journalist Mick Sever travels to the Bahamas where he will cover the story of the return of renowned Highland Studio in Nassau. The studio, known for mega-hits, burned down last year with an unknown corpse found amid the ashes. Although the arson and potential homicide remain unsolved, owners Jonah and Rita Britt have rebuilt it and are ready to launch their label again.

However, the renaissance is not going smooth as someone is sabotaging the effort. Rita believes the ghost of the victim who died in the fire is the current troublemaking culprit as a Sheryl Crow guitar has been smashed for who knows why and tracks are being erased. Following a murder of a band manager, Mick believes the saboteur-killer is human and begins to investigate before Highland Studio is sent to rock and roll heaven forever.

The fifth Bruns' Caribbean music mystery (see JAMAICA BLUE, BARBADOS HEAT and ST. BART'S BREAKDOWN ) is an entertaining whodunit filled with more spins than a 45 contains (no comment on age please). The story line is fast-paced from the moment Mick arrives on the Bahamas and never slows down as he seeks a motive for last year’s incident and the current events in the past of the studio and its owners. Fans will enjoy sleuthing with Sever as he tours the Bahamas.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Kept-Jami Alden

Jami Alden
Kensington Brava, Mar 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758225474

Gemini Security is run by the Taggert brothers with the oldest Danny in charge and his younger twins Ethan and Derek top security operatives. The firm is hired by Emma Bancroft to provide security at a major gala. At the event Derek meets “Miss Thing” Alyssa Miles and afterward takes her home with him.

Still attracted to her, he later learns affluent Alyssa the party animal is the type of worthless female he loathes and the tabloids love. He is chagrined when her family hires his agency to protect them after Alyssa’s father and stepmother recently died in what the police believe is a murder-suicide. Danny assigns Derek with the 24/7 protection detail of Alyssa. However, as he begins to fall in love with his subject and her with her bodyguard, they begin to realize something is not right about the two deaths. Instead evidence surfaces that implicate the Van Weldt Jeweler business in illegal trafficking of “blood diamonds”.

The twin sequel to CAUGHT is a fabulous romantic suspense thriller starring a caring hero hiding his heart and a seemingly flit female who proves she is his equal once he gives her the chance. The cast is fully developed especially her family like her grandmother Grace Van Weldt who’s as cold as diamonds. Fans will enjoy the changing relationship between the lead couple as they fall in love while needing to know whether her family firm starting with her icy grandma is dealing in blood diamonds.

Harriet Klausner

Danger in a Red Dress-Christina Dodd

Danger in a Red Dress
Christina Dodd
Signet, Mar 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9789451226266

Personal nurse Hannah Grey’s last client died and his family accused her of unethical practices when they did not like the will though her share of $50,000 matched each of theirs. Her agency obtains work as a personal nurse to ailing Melinda Manly in remote coastal Maine.

Meanwhile Melinda’s playboy son Carrick hires surveillance expert Gabriel Prescott to video his dying mom and her new companion as he insists he fears for his mom’s life from associates of her late criminal spouse who stole and hid a fortune of money that everyone from dangerous felons to the law enforcement assumes she knows where the loot is. Gabriel hides from Carrick that they are half-brothers but accepts the job not realizing what the real danger is to him comes from what Hannah does to his heart.

This is a clever blending of the Prescott saga (see Lost Texas Hearts) and the Manly saga (see The Fortune Hunters) as Christina Dodd provides the audience with a strong romantic suspense that closes out two wonderful series for the price of one novel. The story line is fast-paced from even before Gabriel meets Hannah and takes off when they do meet. Fans will relish the Prescott-Manly merger.

Harriet Klausner

The Pain Nurse-Jon Talton

The Pain Nurse
Jon Talton
Poisoned Pen, Apr 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590586242

At Cincinnati Memorial Hospital, Pain Nurse Specialist Cheryl Beth Wilson finds the corpse of Dr. Christine Lustig in an isolated office. The CPD homicide detectives quickly suspect Cheryl Beth killed the victim because of her affair with the deceased’s spouse.

One of Cheryl Beth patients, just out of surgery removing a tumor on his spinal cord, former homicide cop Will Borders feels like he suffers from déjà vu when on his gurney heading back to his room he glimpses the crime scene. It eerily reminds him of the Mount Adams Slasher, who was caught, convicted and executed. Bed-ridden and in severe pain, he is unable to make the cops including his former partner listen to him. Instead Will directs Beth on investigating the crime while someone nearby watches her every move.

THE PAIN NURSE is an excellent refreshing investigative thriller starring a detective stuck in bed and his “legs”; mindful of Jeffrey Deaver’s Lincoln Rhymes. The location plays a key part in this thriller as Jon Talton moves from Arizona (the Mapstone mysteries) to an Ohio hospital. Readers will feel empathy pain as Borders’ aches are that descriptive; on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being hurting at Mt. Everest levels, he is a 12. However, it is the recuperating patient and his pain nurse who team up as an unlikely investigative duet searching for a killer.

Harriet Klausner

Probable Claws-Clea Simon

Probable Claws
Clea Simon
Poisoned Pen, Apr 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590585641

Helmhold House for Wayward Cats owners Violet and Caro are stunned when a donated batch of kibble is laced with poison. Neither can believe someone could be that cruel yet they assume it was deliberate. When their pal freelance writer Theda Krakow begs to differ as she assumes it was an accident, they become upset with her for trivializing their concerns; she takes a quick look at the shelter’s processes to see what safeguards exists.

When her beloved cat Musetta needs a tooth brushing, she drops her off with the shelter’s vet. When she returns she find Musetta soaked in blood and the vet Rachel dead with a scalpel wound. The police suspect Theda who investigates the murder to clear her name and regain her hope of a permanent position at the Morning Mail. She assumes the motive involves an irate sociopath opposed to the shelter combining the poisoned food with the vet’s murder

Fans will definitely enjoy this fun cat caper. Musetta is not only the traumatized eye witness to the homicide, the feline wipes clean much of the crime scene as sticky red does not blend well with her tuxedo look. Cat fans will enjoy Theda’s inquiry into the PROBABLE CLAWS behind the homicide.

Harriet Klausner

Lone Star-Edward Ifkovic

Lone Star
Edward Ifkovic
Poisoned Pen, Apr 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590585870

In 1955 septuagenarian novelist Edna Ferber riding the success of her books is in Hollywood to work on the movie adaptation of her latest bestseller Giant. As the George Stevens’ directed movie is almost finished, rumors spread that one of the stars “Rebel Without a Cause” James Dean sired a child with unbalanced extra Carisa Krausse.

However, as the Warner Brothers studio worries about the negative publicity a child out of wedlock would bring, someone murders Carisa. The evidence points towards the volatile womanizing Dean as her killer. Though his ego is “So Big”, Edna likes the unique Dean who probably does not know that water exists outside of alcohol. With the help of actress Mercedes McCambridge, Edna investigates the homicide.

This engaging Hollywood historical mystery stars renowned novelist Edna Ferber who at first look is probably the last person to investigate a homicide. Starting with Edna and James Dean, the cast of Hollywood real people like McCambridge and Rock Hudson come to life. In fact the strong cast casts a giant shadow over the amateur sleuth prime theme. Still fans will enjoy Edna Gerber meets James Dean.

Harriet Klausner

Murder Takes a Cake-Gayle Trent

Murder Takes a Cake
Gayle Trent
Bell Bridge Books, Oct 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 0980245362

In Brea Ridge, Virginia is the owner of Daphne's Delectable Cakes that she makes out of her home. Daphne Martin delivers her pastry to her grouchy demanding customer Yodel Watson but she finds the woman lying dead on her sofa.

Soon afterward, Yodel’s daughter Annabelle calls Daphne asking for a favor. She wants the cake baker to find her mother’s diary and hold it for her until she arrives. She finds the diary that contains plenty of gossip about everyone in the small town including Daphne’s mother and sister. Daphne realizes that almost every resident had a reason to want Yodel dead and the diary burned if they knew it existed. Unable to resist investigating the claims re her family, Daphne finds herself in trouble with her kin and in danger from a killer who thinks her inquiry is focused on the homicide.

This is an entertaining amateur sleuth culinary cozy starring an obstinate baker who needs to know the truth about her mom, her sister, others and the murder. The breezy story line is fun to follow although fans will pick out the killer early on. Even with several cooking sleuths like Diane Mott Davidson “Goldy”, Daphne is a solid lead character as she follows the murder recipe one step at a time to the delight of sub-genre readers.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Feelers-Brian M. Wiprud

Brian M. Wiprud
Minotaur (St. Martin’s), Mar 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312388614

Morty Martinez is a specialized house cleaner; after someone dies, he cleans their house. However, he makes more money as a “feeler” searching for the hidden cache of loot senior citizens leave behind.

In Brooklyn, Morty is euphoric to find $800,000 lying around while he cleaned the house. However, his find comes to the attention of his peers who want more than just a cut; the information also reaches an angry former cop who believes the loot in Brooklyn belongs to him as he believes it is part of an armored car robbery. Finally, one of the thieves who has just left prison having gained the useful skill of an ice pick killer and he wants his money; Morty better give it to him or risk a flash temper stabbing. Everyone targets Morty who thinks he can become the gringo lover of Mexican senoritas if he can escape from New York in one piece.

This is an enjoyable suspense thriller mindful of It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World as everyone seemingly in the Big Apple wants a bite out of the anti-hero’s butt. The story line is fast-paced once Morty finds the loot and even faster is the underground gossip network. Brian M. Wiprud provides the audience with a terrific tale in which Morty may be dreaming of senoritas, but he can’t safely get to New Jersey.

Harriet Klausner

Corked by Cabernet-Michele Scott

Corked by Cabernet
Michele Scott
Berkley, Feb 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425226445

In Napa Valley, Malveaux Estates manager Nikki Sands and owner Derek Malveaux are in love and plan to live together on the property. However, she is bit upset at a time she is overly busy to learn Derek’s gay brother Simon and his partner Mario have arranged for Guru Alan Sansi and his Source of Enlightened Elite (SEE) to conduct a seminar on the estate. Derek explains he needs the money while he also informs his beloved he is going to New York on business.

The SEE attendees arrive and Nikki realizes they have family conflict starting with the guru’s daughter Sierra and Japanese publisher Iwao Yamimoto who wants to become the SEE publisher and demands Alan look at a video he brought with him; Alan refuses. On the Napa Valley Wine Train, a drunken Sierra heads to the storage car to find more wine only to see the body of Iwao. Nikki contains the crime scene until Detective Jonah Robinson arrives. He warns her to not sleuth, but asks her to listen to the SEE members when they talk. She enlists Simon and Mario, but though Nikki tries to do no more than listen, she begins to sleuth.

Although the motive comes late and seems a bit weak, the latest Vintage Murder amateur sleuth (see MURDER UNCORKED and MURDER BY THE GLASS) is a lighthearted fun Napa Valley whodunit that goes well with red wine. The recurring cast is solid though Derek is conveniently across the country during the “not” investigation as he would have taken his beloved to task for her involvement. The SEE members especially the guru and his family are a fascinating crew as each has issues, especially the three adult children. Fans of the series will enjoy Nikki’s inquiry as she swears she is not investigating just assisting Robinson.

Harriet Klausner

Detachment Delta-Don Bendell

Detachment Delta
Don Bendell
Berkley, Mar 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780425224489

Lakota warrior Master Sergeant Charlie Strongheart is a member of the elite Delta Force Combat Applications Group (CAG). His current assignment is to assassinate a New York City cop on the streets of Manhattan. He succeeds in taking out James Rashad, but NYPD had a sting operation so the local police angrily capture Charlie as a cop killer. The cops are taken aback as they thought they were conducting surveillance of a drug deal, but are shocked to find a stinger missile inside Rashad’s vehicle. The next day Charlie is freed by the court.

The brass assigns Poke as Charlie is called by his unit with a dangerous mission. He and CAG “Funny Platoon” Sergeant First Class Fila Jannart, an Iranian-American, are to infiltrate Iran and terminate jihadist Davood Faraz Dabdeh, whose growing popularity alarms the Western intelligence agency as he claims Bin Laden is a coward and has no compunctions raping and killing female Muslims as well as any American. The difficulty of the mission is killing him without martyring him.

Don Bendell moves from his enjoyable Criminal Investigations Detachment series to the Delta Force CAG thriller, but retains the action-packed excitement while providing the audience intriguing background into his lead couple especially Charlie and what is even more fascinating is what occurs before a deployment. The story line is fast-paced from the New York scenario to the Fort Bragg gangbanging to Iran and never slows down while insuring Charlie and Fila are fully developed. Although a strong bias with an obvious good and bad characterization mindset leading to opposition characters like General Rozanski and the villains seem to be somewhat like caricatures with perversions, fans will relish DETACHMENT DELTA starring two real American heroes with intriguing deep rooted backgrounds especially the heroine.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, January 26, 2009

Of Words and Music-Lynda Fitzgerald

Of Words and Music
Lynda Fitzgerald
Five Star, Mar 2009, $$25.95
ISBN: 9781594147760

Wealthy widow, sexagenarian Lilah Kimball has never recovered from when her late martinet spouse told their daughter Elizabeth to never come back if she marries beneath her. So when social worker Felicity Greenlea informs her that Elizabeth is dead three months ago from a car accident, she hides her grief; as she always prayed for a reconciliation. She also learns she has a twelve year old granddaughter Bethany Freemont whose father died two years ago after suffering with leukemia. Although she prefers to say no, encouraged by her best friend (and housekeeper) Marabet, Lilah agrees to temporary house the child until a paternal relative is located.

Lilah hides from Bethany who hates her grandmother for not being there for her mother. Marabet sees a chance for Lilah to regain her life lost fourteen years ago. However, her forty year old son Charles, a chip off the dictatorial block of his late dad, wants the brat gone. As Lilah and Bethany begin to bond playing the piano together, secrets from Athens and Atlanta haunt everyone.

This is an engaging redemption family drama as Lilah has a chance to indirectly fix the mistake of her life if she can take a chance on loving someone again. The cast is strong . Marabet is a terrific BFF who is there for her buddy, but refuses to pull punches. Bethany is a delightful charmer who goes from loathing to loving her grandma. Charles’ wife Lese goes from mouse to frightened lioness while Charles shows few if any redeeming qualities and fans will hiss him with what he did years ago to his mom and late sister. Although overwrought at times especially a late unnecessary runaway scene, fans will enjoy this fine character driven drama with a fabulous final twist that defines what a family truly is.

Harriet Klausner

Death and the Crossed Wires-Linda Berry

Death and the Crossed Wires
Linda Berry
Five Star, Mar 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147470

The Ogeechee Baptist Church in Ogeechee, Georgia (population 3,000), has the flock excited that sixteen year old Crys Cleary is being baptized by the youth pastor Josh Easterling; even her grandfather Howard, who raised her, but is not noted for going to church, attends the ceremony. However, something happens and Josh falls into Baptistry. Bobby Turner takes charge of the scene until the EMT and cops respond. Josh is dead having been electrocuted by the microphone.

Police Chief Henry “Hen” Huckabee leads an investigation into what initially looks like a tragic accident. However, Officer Jerome Sharpe learns from his relative, an electrician that someone tampered with the device. The murder investigation makes no progress until Hen’s cousin Officer Trudy Roundtree suggests looking at the deaths of the teen’s parents and boyfriend.

This is an engaging small town Georgia police procedural in which the case goes nowhere beyond proving a homicide and not an accident occurred until Trudy persuades Hen to change the focus. The story line is action-packed but it is the cast starting with the police officer cousins, their family especially his mom-her aunt (no comment on nepotism), and the rest of the unit and the Ogeechee Baptist Church members that make the tale fun to read. They bring alive the eccentricity of a small town in which everyone seems to know everyone except someone has the dark secret of being a killer. The latest Hen-Trudy investigation (see DEATH AND THE FAMILY TREE and DEATH AND THE WALKING STICK) is an enjoyable Southern fried (literally) whodunit.
Harriet Klausner

The Hunted-Wayne Barcomb

The HuntedWayne BarcombDunne, Apr 2009, $24.95ISBN: 9780312370756The child witnessed the murder. She testified in court explaining what she saw that she knows will haunt her forever. The killer is convicted and sent to prison.Eighteen years later, New York homicide detective Frank Russo is the lead investigator into the homicides of several people. His inquiry seems to go nowhere though he believes a serial killer is the culprit. Frank soon learns that a convicted murderer sentenced eighteen years ago was recently paroled. He begins to change his theory re the current killings and wonders if that freed convict is on a rampage leading him to the person who sent the killer to prison.Frank is a fabulous cop struggling in his failed personal life as much as he struggles with a case that is going nowhere. In many ways the deranged killer steals the show from Frank as the audience sees first hand how the killer was an abuse victim and that person’s efforts to not give in to the obsession to kill again. As Frank follows the few clues, he remains clueless to the identity of the culprit who lives a normal middle class life even as the killer's urging is to hunt down the cop chasing the killer. Though serial killer investigative thrillers have saturated the market, Wayne Barcomb's fine tale is a refreshing police procedural mostly because of the hunter and the HUNTED.Harriet Klausner

A False Dawn-Tom Lowe

A False Dawn
Tom Lowe
Minotaur (St. Martin's), Apr. 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312379179

Widower homicide detective Sean O’Brien left the Miami police department after promising his beloved late wife Sherri in a death bed promise he would give up criminal investigations. Sean packed his bags and accompanied by his dachshund Maxine leaves Southern Florida for rural Volusia County near the St. John's River.

He enjoys his quiet life with Max. One day while they hike through the nearby near
Ocala National Forest, he finds a badly battered Hispanic girl who he suspects was raped, dies in his arms. Volusia County PD detective Slater follows the book and considers the ex-cop as his prime suspect. Although he knows he is breaking his pledge to Sherri, Sean believes she would want him to investigate the homicide. His effort soon leads him to a Miami serial killer The Bagman, and with Police Detective Leslie Moor to human trafficking of migrant workers sold to the farms as slaves; to the pimps as hookers; or as cash crops harvesting organs to sell to transplant medical facilities.

This is an exciting investigative thriller starring a likable reluctant hero who enjoys his time away from the cement jungle, but feels a need to bring justice to the dead girl and to prove his innocence. The story line is action-packed though overwhelmed by the combo Bagman and slave trade; either would have sufficed. Still fans will enjoy Tom Lowe's exhilarating human trafficking tale.
Harriet Klausner

Haunt of Murder-P.C. Doherty

Haunt of Murder
P.C. Doherty
Minotaur (St. Martin’s), Feb 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312359614

The travelers on their way to Canterbury stop at Maldon, Essex where rumors abound that ghosts and killers live. A debate breaks out whether there are spirits haunting the woods as some reject the concept of ghosts.

The Clerk of Oxford makes an anecdotal case in support of the paranormal. He tells the tale of his peer Ralph Mortimer the clerk of Ravenscroft who in 1381 was researching documents at Ravenscroft Castle in hopes of finding a clue that will lead him to Brythnoth's legendary treasured jeweled cross. So far he has been unsuccessful. Meanwhile he, his fiancée Beatrice Arrowner and some friends were on the greens by the castle celebrating May Day. However, Beatrice apparently fell from a parapet to her death. Shattered, the despondent Ralph believes she was murdered though his friends insist a tragic accident occurred. He vows to find Beatrice’s killer, but he will soon learn there is more to life than death as his beloved is fighting evil demanding her soul while she waits for her beloved to uncover her killer.

Perhaps the lead author of the medieval mystery (besides the Canterbury Tales, there are also the tales starring the Royal Clerk Hugh Corbett and Brother Athelstan), P.C. Doherty provides another terrific entry in his homage to Chaucer. The story line provides a deep window into the late fourteenth century through the eyes of the travelers while the investigation looks into whether Beatrice died from an accident or a homicide is cleverly devised. Fans will enjoy the latest entry in this fine medieval mystery series with an apparent touch of the paranormal (see The Carpenter’s Tale: THE HANGMAN'S HYMN).

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Kaitlyn Wolfe Crown Attorney-Jacqui Morrison

Kaitlyn Wolfe Crown Attorney
Jacqui Morrison
Lachesis Publishing, Jul 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 1897370148

Kaitlyn Wolfe’s police officer father was murdered in the line of duty when she was a child; the case was never solved. Growing up as a First Nations child, Kaitlyn was the victim of racial bullies who assaulted her physically and verbally for having a different skin color. One incident as a teen taught her much about societal abuse; she nearly died from a racial drugging, but the culprit only received a slap on the wrist probation. Lesson learned is skin color is a major determination when it comes to not so color blind justice.

She vows these and other perpetrators of de facto racism should pay for the cost they cause to their victims. Thus she becomes a crown attorney prosecutor in Vaughan, Ontario. Kaitlyn is working two cases in which the defense attorney is Maxine “Barracuda” Swayman, who kept the person who almost killed her as a teen out of jail. They argue in court over a murder case and a armed robbery case when a link to her father’s homicide surfaces.

KAITLYN WOLFE CROWN ATTORNEY is an intriguing well written Canadian legal thriller that in many ways is a character study of a young woman overcoming much to be a success. The story line purposely uses coincidence to test the heroine’s conflicting resolve as she must decide between a not color blind justice system and her personal values; additionally Jacqui Morrison takes a strong stance, at times overwhelmingly in the reader’s face, re the harm racism does to everyone. Fans will appreciate the heroic Kaitlyn Wolfe who constantly strives to overcome inequality and de facto racism to be the fairest Canadian crown attorney.
Harriet Klausner

Deadly Secrets-Leeann Burke

Deadly Secrets
Leeann Burke
Lachesis Publishing, Dec 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 1897370695

On the same day of the funeral of George Lafrance, the police inform his ward Roxanne St-Claire that someone murdered him. As Father Joe conducts the ceremony, Roxanne notices a young man at the funeral whose looks makes him most likely her beloved late foster father’s grandson whom she never met.

Renowned reclusive author Philippe Lafrance is in shock not so much from the death of his grandfather, but from never knowing he had been alive. He understands why his matriarchal family hid his grandfather and other secrets he has recently learned from him in order to keep him safe. Philippe knows someone murdered his father and his grandfather; he is probably next on the list having shown up at the funeral announcing his heritage to this unknown predator. When he and Roxanne meet at the funeral, each is stunned by their attraction for the other. However, both recognize the need to ignore their desire as catching a killer comes first; for him it is a matter of preservation while for her it is in honor of her cherished mentoring foster parent.

The key to this excellent romantic amateur sleuth novel is that the fully developed lead characters never lose sight of what is critical: finding the culprit before he or she makes their attempt to kill Philippe; the romance takes a necessary back seat to the suspense. The support cast is solid as Philippe and Roxanne investigate each suspect to fathom who the killer is. Fans will appreciate Leann Burke strong thriller as the identity of the killer is in plain sight yet almost impossible to pick out of the usual suspects.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Heart of Ice-Gregg Olsen

Heart of Ice
Gregg Olsen
Pinnacle Books, Mar 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 0786018313

Cherrystone, Washington sheriff Emily Kenyon investigates the murder of nine month pregnant Mandy Crawford whose husband Mitch, owner of a large car dealership, is her prime suspect. However, though she believes he killed his wife starting with her visit to the Crawford home just after he used bleach to clean their house, she lacks concrete evidence.

At the same time Mandy investigates the homicide; two men cause her extreme stress. First her former partner in the Seattle Police Department Chris Collier wants to marry her, but she has fears of commitment having failed at marriage once before; besides she worries about the impact a husband would have on her daughter Jenna. Serial killer Michael Barton is murdering sorority girls as he makes a cross country trip; his current target is Jenna.

HEART OF ICE is an intriguing police procedural mainly due to Michael whose history will fascinate the audience and bring him some empathy. He refreshes the typical serial killer theme, but also knowing him so well he makes him see less of a devil and more of a pathetic out of control human. Mandy is a terrific lead character worried about her daughter’s safety as Chris’ pressure becomes insignificant. Fans will enjoy the return to A COLD DARK PLACE.

Harriet Klausner

A Knife Edge-David Rollins

A Knife Edge
David Rollins
Bantam, Mar 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 0553805355

As the recovery ship Natusima waited, the Shinkai underwater research vessel is as deep any human had ever gone while exploring a Pacific trench off Japan. Dr. Hideo Tanaka and Professor Sean Boyle discover a frightening bacterium that each fear could devastate the planet. Soon afterward Tanaka is dead a victim of a shark attack.

Air Force Special Investigations Vincent Cooper is now assigned to the Department of Defense on DC. His on and off relationship with Anna Masters is off again as she feels he takes nothing serious; even when they worked together on THE DEATH TRUST case. However, he quickly found solace with a terific heated tryst with his superior officer, Lieutenant Colonel Clare Selwyn. The brass sends Vin to Japan to investigate the “accidental” death of the scientist. Before he finishes his Tanaka inquiry, as only the military could do he is assigned to investigate the parachute jump death of Master Sergeant Ruben "Wrong Way" Wright who became road kill in Florida; they served together in Afghanistan.

The frustrated Masters explains why the Vin Cooper CID procedurals are so much fun; he takes nothing serious as he quips and jokes even when facing deadly adversaries. In reality, Vin does believe his inquiries are usually important and tries to resolve them, but also feels strongly one can work diligently and hard, but have fun doing so. Fans will enjoy his antics in Japan, Florida and especially DC.

Harriet Klausner

Ulterior Motives-Mark Andrew Olson

Ulterior Motives
Mark Andrew Olson
Bethany House, Mar 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780764202759

He is an American blond haired blue eyes scientist working at Cal Tech; but at his heart he is a fervent Muslim fundamentalist who believes violence is the only answer the United States understands. He invented a potent toxic nerve gas that could wipe out husbands perhaps millions with a small dose. He calls himself Azzam the Younger named for Al-Qaeda’s patron saint. The successor to Bin Laden is Omar Niburi, who is in Pakistan when he is captured and taken by Americans.

They hope to torture the truth out of him as to where and when the gas will be released, but Niburi resists the efforts relying on his religious beliefs to comfort him. When the agents realize he is not going to break, they bring in civilian Greg Cahill, forced out of the FBI for killing a child. He became an evangelist minister preaching at prisons. The Feds hope he can reach Niraub’s soul and convert him to Christianity. If they succeed they believe he will tell them all. Greg detests the politics but wants to save this man’s soul; miraculously they connect. However a betrayal leads to the pair fleeing while trying to prevent the nerve gas tragedy from occurring.

Greg Cahill has done many ugly things in his life, but his conversion seems real and people like Niburi sense that he is a true believer now. He feels blessed to hear the voice of God and to witness angels taking a killer to heaven while protecting him and Niburi. This is also a psychological thriller where the protagonist, unaware who to trus,t turns to the one he can always trust Jesus, enabling him to forgive his transgressions. Mark Andrew Olson provides a deep inspirational supernatural thriller filled with messages without preaching.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 23, 2009

Stranger in Paradise-Jackie Griffey

Stranger in Paradise
Jackie Griffey
Five Star, Mar 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147531

In Greenfield, Laura Carroll mourns the death of her beloved Aunt Sophie, who raised her like she was her daughter. Attorney M.C. “Mac” McKinley informs Laura, who he is attracted to, that her aunt placed in her will a condition that Laura was to go on a vacation for no less than two weeks. Reluctantly Laura agrees as she made a death bed promise to her aunt to carry out all the conditions of the will.

Laura travels to Isla Verde near Puerto Rico. There she meets Esteban Aguilar who speaks Spanish only. As they fall in love she extends her stay to thirty days. When he talks of sharing a casa, she accepts what she assumes is a proposal. However, after he tells her “Yo te amo”, he vanishes. When he fails to reappear, she goes home heartbroken unaware he hid the truth from her to keep her safe. He and his family are hacking a path through a Columbian jungle.

STRANGER IN PARADISE starts off as an intriguing contemporary romance that half way into the tale switches into a suspense thriller. The story line is at its best when the theme is pure romance on Isla Verde between two people finding love enables them to communicate even though they speak two different languages. When Esteban vanishes, the suspense feels a bit jarring and a second twist on Hawaii even more strident. Still fans will enjoy two STRANGERS IN PARADISE using love as their common language to discuss the present and future together.

Harriet Klausner

Broken Wing-Thomas Lakeman

Broken Wing
Thomas Lakeman
Minotaur, Mar 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780312380229

In New Orleans the FBI assigns forty-something Special Agent Mike Yeager to go undercover as a rogue operative in order to gain insider access to the growing Barca mob. Mike thinks it is a small world as he once dated the chieftain’s daughter Sofia, who he deserted two decades ago to turn in her dad. Mike’s current task is to help the mobster expedite the sale of kidnapped Amrita Burke, whose husband was murdered during the abduction.

His actual task is to stealthily investigate who brutalized and killed British citizen Simon Burke and has offered up his wife Amrita up for bid. Mike meets with chieftain Emelio Barca and his half-son Grady, who agree to his working with them on the Amrita sale. However, his efforts to find her spouse’s killer and ultimately rescue Amrita take a personal spin when he realizes Sofia needs his help too.

The still devastated parts of the post Katrina city steals the show in this superb police procedural as neighborhoods have become urban wastelands. The hero quickly learns to trust no one, especially those who are supposedly his FBI support group, if he is to accomplish his mission and leave New Orleans alive. There is plenty of explosive action and double and triple crosses on all sides including the law as avarice and corruption greet Yeager everywhere he goes. He already has enough of a burden with remorse, guilt and psychological defense mechanisms loading him down before he arrives (see The Shadow Catchers), but the BROKEN WING undercover operative will quickly understand he is in the eye of the hurricane.

Harriet Klausner

Pain Killers-Jerry Stahl

Pain Killers
Jerry Stahl
Morrow, Mar 2009, $24.99
ISBN 9780060506650

Septuagenarian Harry Zell breaks into the home of former cop turned private investigator Manny Rupert. After knocking out the sleuth and reviving him, Harry hires Manny to investigate the claim of a nonagenarian San Quentin inmate who insists he is Nazi war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele. Though he would prefer to decline the case, Manny needs the $10,000 fee to meet his debts including two ex wives demanding their checks.

To get inside the prison, Manny pretends to be a drug counselor; a job he figures he knows personally having been a user. He meets Mengele who provides seemingly personal accounts of scientific experiments on humans at Auschwitz and San Quentin while also hinting at advising pharmaceutical companies on his scientific method applied at Abu Ghraib and other American prisons around the world. As Manny struggles with determining whether the old man is senile with one hell of a dark imagination or the “Angel of Death”, he observes one of his former wives Tina frolicking with a prisoner. Thinking how charming his luck seems to run, she claims she is at the prison working for Manny. Harry wonders what is his client’s true agenda.

This intriguing premise takes a deep shot at the market corrects itself philosophy as Jerry Stahl ties big government especially the prison industry to big business as warehousing and experimenting on people in which the bottom line is everything. Social, political and economic issues are raised throughout that will have the audience ponder the reason behind the Bush administration belief that everything is top secret . The plot cleverly skews ethical restraints starting with the Mengele “scientific method” applied in modern times apparently by a consortium of CIA, DOD and big pharmaceutical firms. However, at times the psychology sessions with the ex-addict prisoners drag the tale from its basic theme of hyperbole satirizing the “Big Bush” vision of the world, fans who enjoy something different will appreciate Mr. Stah’s skewing.

Harriet Klausner

Nutcase-Charlotte Hughes

Charlotte Hughes
Jove, Feb 24 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780515145939

Psychologist Kate Holly is having a miserable week starting with the fact that her firefighting ex-husband Jay walked out on their first marriage counseling session. Although they still love one another deeply, she fears his occupation because her father was a firefighter who died in the line of duty; he is afraid of her job as some of her patients tend towards violence as proven by her need to find a new office after a nitro incident in her former shrink pad.

Her landlord is evicting her and she struggles to find a new location. Her ex-boyfriend, Dr. Thad Glazer asks her to join his practice, which a desperate Kate reluctantly accepts. Meanwhile she is worried sick about Jay who is dealing with a serial arsonist that can only mean more injuries from entering burning buildings. She councils a con man dating her secretary; works with a disassociative identity disorder person, and a teen accused of beating a collaborate press. Kate hopes Jay won’t get hurt chasing down the arsonist while fearing he is involved with Mandy; he hopes she won’t get hurt by one of her patients while fearing she is back with Thad.

Charlotte Hughes writes a very jocular and charming romantic suspense thriller filled with eccentric characters starting with the lead duo; supported by series regulars like her mom and secretary, Thad and Mandy and unconventional newcomers especially her patients. However with all these odd players, the zany story line is owned by Kate. She is tough as a shrew but vulnerable like a child; yet she is also strong but somewhat unconfident especially when it comes to dealing with the regulars in her life. Though the plot is thin, fans will enjoy this amusing zany tale starring an interesting individual.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cast the First Stone-Rebbie Macintyre

Cast the First Stone
Rebbie Macintyre
Five Star, Mar 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147463

In 1932 in Ludlodi, Colorado, fifteen years old Katherine Woodson explains to Coyote County Sheriff George Mallis that her bootlegging father Merle vanished after arguing with his business partner Parn Shannon. They have not found the corpse but the sheriff locks him up after accusing him of killing the missing father. It is obvious to the deputies and Parn’s sister that the sheriff has a deep grudge against Parn; George blames him and Merle for the deaths of his wife and child.

Deputy Roy Eastman persuades Parn’s widowed sister Trini Bates to use her dowsing skill to locate Merle. She succeeds finding his body at the bottom of a canyon. However, George not only remains steadfast in his belief Parn killed his partner; he finds a bloody knife in a woodpile by his prisoner’s cabin. As an angry but despondent Trini ignores her need to grieve her husband’s death eight months ago. She investigates Merle’s background convinced George killed him to gain control over east Colorado bootlegging, but evidence mounts against Parn, which impacts negatively on Trini’s dowsing skills. Still she fosters Katherine and her twelve year old brother Jake who has the mind of a five year old, and is taken aback to find Roy desires her even while someone else wants her dead.

Timely with the impact of the Depression on a person’s values vs. employment as Roy learns, CAST THE FIRST STONE is an engaging historical amateur sleuth tale. The cast is powerful running very deep as each provides a taste of life in the Rockies in 1932. The whodunit and related suspense are well written, but also enhance the sense of time and place for instance waiting for the traveling circuit judge to come to town as speedy trial is theory only; thus in many ways Rebbie Macintyre’s entertaining tale is more a historical than a mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Dakota-Martha Grimes

Martha Grimes
NAL, Feb 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451225894

Andi Oliver still suffers from amnesia (see BITING THE MOON) as she aimlessly wanders North Dakota. Following her rescuing of a donkey, Andi decides she needs a respite from her quest to find out her real name. So she settles in Kingdom.

However, she is hardly in her temporary digs when she runs into a dispute with local bullies. She obtains a job at Klavan’s pig farm where the owner and workers mistreat the animals; Andi plans to change that practice starting with the nearby slaughterhouse for the inhumane cruel treatment of animals. However, as she stirs up the townsfolk dividing them between for or against her, a psychopath wants to kill her and someone else plans to torture her into revealing secrets she no longer knows.

Although the amnesia theme does not move at all and a late spin seems implausible, DAKOTA is an exciting suspense thriller especially when the focus is on the mistreatment of animals under the guise of feeding humans. The story line is fast-paced as Andi takes a respite from her quest only to find a social issue of cruelty that drives her to take action. Fans will enjoy her DAKOTA caper.

Harriet Klausner

Out at Night-Susan Arnout Smith

Out at Night
Susan Arnout Smith
Minotaur, Mar 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780312368340

In Palm Springs, California, at an international agricultural symposium, protesters peacefully march against genetically modified crops. That is no violence until someone shoots an arrow into the chest of Professor Thaddeus Bartholomew. The assailant quickly follows up, while people watch in horror, by pouring gasoline on the professor and igniting it with a match; but before his death Thaddeus sends a text message: "FIND GRACE DESCANSO."

The FBI suspects the violent group Radical Damage killed the professor to cast a dark shadow on the conference and most likely to plan an even more ferocious assault during the closing ceremony. Grace a San Diego police crime lab technician is yanked back from her vacation with her daughter by her FBI Agent Uncle Pete. As the niece works with her uncle investigating the homicide and potential follow-up terrorism, another murder occurs and while the moment of truth draws closer, there remains too many suspects including Grace’s pregnant cousin to prevent an expected tragedy.

OUT AT NIGHT, the second Descanso police procedural (see THE TIMER GAME) is an exciting thriller from the moment an expecting to die Bartholomew sends his text message and never slows down until the final confrontation with agricultural terrorists. The gripping story line hooks the audience, but never quite explains why the professor picked Descanso and waits until the latter half of the tale to provide the actual terrorist threat and the rationale. Still fans will enjoy this enjoyable family affair.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Coldest Mile-Tom Piccirilli

The Coldest Mile
Tom Piccirilli
Bantam, Feb 24 2009, $
ISBN: 9780553590852

Chase’s mom was murdered in a cold case unsolved and soon afterward his father committed suicide. His grandfather Jonah, a murderous con artist raised young Chase, mentoring the lad in a life of crime. Chase became a getaway driver until he met, fell in love with, and married cop Lila. After her death, he learned his grandfather sired a daughter currently two years old Kylie.

With Lila competing with Jonah for “talking” time inside his head, Chase believes he must rescue his two years old half-aunt from her father; who is his grandfather. He believes grandpa killed his mom years ago. Knowing he will need money to accomplish his goal, with the help of a friend, he obtains work as a chauffeur to the dysfunctional Langan crime family whose patriarch is dying. He plans to steal from a mob that has seen its better days. After he takes their money, the next stop is a confrontation with Jonah.

THE COLDEST MILE feels more like two novellas with part one involving Chase’s time up the Hudson with the Langan mob and part two involving his search for his grandfather and his infant half-aunt. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action whether it is with the hero shaking down the pathetic mob in New York or his inquiries in Florida. Though the exciting plot especially with the Langan family takes longer than necessary before reaching the anticipated reunion, fans will enjoy Chase’s latest escapades (see THE COLD SPOT) knowing an even arctic colder tale should follow.

Harriet Klausner

Death’s Door-Gail Lukasik

Death’s Door
Gail Lukasik
Five Star, Mar 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147142

In Egg Harbor, Wisconsin, fifteen year old Janell Margaris is missing. Door County Gazette reporter Leigh Girard covers the search and rescue by going out into the filed on the quest for the missing daughter of a wealthy “summer people” Chicago couple.

After an accidental dunking in the Mink River in which Joe Stillwater pulls her out of the icy water, Leigh finds a female corpse in the nearby woods. Janell’s bossy affluent father Russell arrives at the death scene and takes something from the body; the corpse turns out to be Janell’s estranged friend, all year teenage resident, Stephanie Evanson, whom Leigh interviewed that morning. While the Margaris trio flees for Chicago, Leigh wonders why anyone would be DESTROYING ANGELS like Stephanie. She quickly follows the runaway Margaris brood to confront the daughter about seeing an older man. As she digs deeper into the case, the cops arrest a local fisherman, but Leigh, believing they jailed the wrong person, still investigates and soon she and the killer begin to exchange letters.

This is an entertaining regional investigative whodunit with a few interesting twists starting with the first body found not being Janell. The fast-paced story line provides a sense of location especially the beauty of the Door Peninsular with the cold Mink River and nearby woods. Although serial killers providing clues to reporters is an overused technique, Gail Lukasik keeps her version brisk and exciting as Leigh places herself in peril in her second case.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Don’t Look Twice-Andrew Gross

Don’t Look Twice
Andrew Gross
Morrow, Mar 3 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780061143441

It has been a year since the Grand Central Terminal bombing (see THE DARK TIDE) and Police Lieutenant Ty Hauck, head of the Violent Crimes Unit of Greenwich, Connecticut, is finally piecing together his life. He and his daughter Jess stop at a local convenience store when a drive-by shooting occurs. The man behind Hauck on the line is killed; the cops are unsure whether Hauck or federal prosecutor David Sanger was the target as they believe David was an innocent bystander.

Another possibility is the store owner was the intended target because his sone was one of the teens in a swimming pool when a girl drowned there. The killers screamed out her name as they fled. They find the car, which was stolen. Meanwhile at Pequot Woods Resort and Casino, pit boss Keith Kramer is killed; it turns out he and the victim at the store knew each other. The Federal Prosecutor had separate bank and credit accounts that he concealed from his wife. Every time Hauck feels he makes progress to uncover the powerful people behind the killings, another homicide occurs. The mysterious “they” blow up his house killing a police officer who was inside at the time. Despite warnings from his boss, the FBI, and the enemy, Hauck keeps investigating.

Andrew Gross provides a strong police procedural thriller starring a hero, who understands the advice of his peers is DON’T LOOK TWICE; but he ignores them and looks for the killers more than twice. The protagonist is a moral person who believes strongly not to back down and let others risk their lives making the inquiries that he feels he should do as part of his job. There is plenty of action as Hauck leaps into one incident after another. Though he may seem too much of a superhero as a single father action figure cop, the support cast brings realism to the mix of a terrific thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Deep Waters-Kate Charles

Deep Waters
Kate Charles
Poisoned Pen, Mar 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 1590586026

The London media led by Daily Globe reporter Lilith Noone feeds the public’s fascination with celebrities when Muffin, the baby daughter of reality TV show hosts Jodee and Chazz, dies in her cot. Lilith has the inside track to England’s most famous grieving couple. Since the infant passed away in her district, All Saints Church curate Callie Anson assists with the funeral arrangement.

Meanwhile the autopsy of the crib death victim raises some anomies that have the police wondering if this was a tragic sudden infant death case or something more sinister. There are enough questions to have the brass bring back Detective Inspector Neville Stewart on his honeymoon with his pregnant bride Triona. At the same time that a frustrated Neville and an angry Triona return to London, Callie’s boyfriend family liaison officer Mark Lombardi is helping his extended family cope with the heart attack death of his brother-in-law so he is unable to provide much help to Jodee and Chazz or be there for Callie.

The key to this terrific combination police procedural and faith-based amateur sleuth inquiry is the strong cast; few novels will match how deep the secondary and tertiary characters are developed within an exciting story line. Fans will appreciate the depth to the Lombardi brood, Lilith, Jodee, Chazz and Triona while Mark and Callie have issues as does Neville. All this with a strong whodunit and an insightful look at behind the scenes of reality TV make the third Anson mystery (see SECRET SINS and EVIL INTENT) a winner.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Still Life-Joy Fielding

Still Life
Joy Fielding
Atria, Mar 24 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 1416585273

Casey Marshall is wealthy, successful as an interior designer, and loves the ethical man she married who insisted on a prenuptial agreement to protect her assets; he receives nothing from her estate if they divorce. She loves her spouse so much that she tells her two best friends at lunch she is thinking of having a child with her beloved.

Afterward she goes to the garage to get her car when another vehicle going at least forty miles above the posted speed limit runs her over; almost every bone in her body is broken and she quickly lapses into a coma. At the hospital she somewhat returns to consciousness though cannot see or move a muscle. However unable to see and paralyzed while seemingly still comatose, Casey can hear. Her visitors are unaware that she listens in to their discussions. She learns things about her husband, her friend and her sister that she wishes were untrue. The detective working the case informs everyone in front of Casey that the hit and run was deliberate by someone targeting her. When she is released from the hospital she returns home where her staking killer can finish the job much easier.

Fans of the Higgins-Clark mom and daughter duo will enjoy this taut thriller that builds up the tension gradually from the moment Casey’s perfect world is shattered forever. Casey remains resolute even in her comatose state and with her injuries as she is determined to defeat her deadly adversary even if it means her death; she will not go idly into the night. Joy Fielding provides a strong suspense starring a courageous woman in trouble.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 16, 2009

Breach Of Trust-DiAnn Mills

Breach Of Trust
DiAnn Mills
Tyndale, Mar 2009, $12.99
ISBN: 9781414320472

Running as an independent conservative, former CIA operative Daniel Keary appears heading to victory as the Governor of Oklahoma. In Split Creek, Oklahoma lives former agent Mikaela Olsson under the guise of librarian Paige Rogers; Daniel’s henchmen placed her there with the warning to remain silent or her Wisconsin parents will die.

Split Creek High School football coach Miles Laird has fallen in love with Paige who rejects his requests for a date. She is attracted to the caring but tough coach, but she is a realist as she knows she has no future as long as Keary is lurking. As the coach has a quarterback controversy caused by a player’s rabid father who is on the school board, CIA agent Palmer pleads with Mikaela to help him bring down Keary before he is elected as doing it after would cause international damage to the country. He believes Keary killed his CIA teammates on the Angola mission in 2002 that Mikaela was fortunate to have survived with major leg damage and that he now is dealing illegally and deadly African oil. When Keary tries to bully Mikaela to join his election team, she prays to God for guidance before informing Palmer she will bring the deadly traitor down.

This fast-paced character driven thriller answers the question whether a CIA field operative expected to do all sorts of Ten Commandment sins can believe in God outside of a foxhole or being a fundamentalist claiming divine right. The story line focuses on Mikaela as Paige struggling with her failure to bring down the traitorous snake who has White House ambitions. She turns to God for solace and guidance even understanding that her Father works in mysterious ways as one woman’s treasure is another’s sacrifice. Although a mole in Split Creek fails to come across as a Keary undercover agent, fans will fully enjoy this strong tale as DiAnn Mills answers her fascinating question re God and the CIA. Readers who enjoy the works of Dee Henderson, especially her O’Malley series will love BREACH of TRUST

Harriet Klausner

Taos Chill-Linda Lea Castle

Taos Chill
Linda Lea Castle
Five Star, Mar 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9781594147548

In 2007 in Taos, New Mexico romance author Carmen Pollini is knows for her flash temper. This morning she got into a dispute with Rapid Express Delivery person Jake the Snake over a fender bender; she and Jake have been going at it for longer than that as she accuses him of tossing her packages haphazardly. After stopping to see her insurance agent Mr. Hardass; whoops make that Hardwick, she goes home only to find the corpse of Jake in her driveway. County Sheriff Jim Dunn arrives immediately and arrests Carmen while his replacement as sheriff Hugh Blaines watches in shock because any arrest seems premature at this time.

Meanwhile Carmen is stalked by emails that contains threats of exposing plagiarism and by gifts left anonymous by her biggest fan. Soon after being released from jail, she learns Dunn was fired due to accusations by women of sexual harassment and replaced by Blaines. At a nearby convention Carmen accuses her literary agent of stealing her royalties; Ethyl Gatz admits it, but also says she is filing for bankruptcy so Carmen will collect nothing. When Carmen slips and accidentally takes down Ethyl to the floor everyone assumes she lost her temper and attacked the woman. Soon afterward, Ethyl is found dead. Blaines initially believes Carmen is a killer, but reconsiders his premise when he learns of the sexy gifts and the nasty emails. He vows to find the killer and learn who is causing so much trouble for Carmen.

This is a lighthearted police procedural starring a trouble magnet and the sheriff attracted to her though he believes she is epitome of what he detests in a woman. The story line is fast-paced as Carmen has quite a temper, which she gets from both of her compassionate divorced parents (what can one expect from a transplanted New Yorker – I know personally). Readers will enjoy this fun tale though the solution to the murders seems abrupt and the motive required a crazy person to forge it.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Nuclear Jellyfish-Tim Dorsey

Nuclear Jellyfish
Tim Dorsey
Morrow, Jan 27 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780061432668

In Jacksonville Serge A. Storms becomes unglued, which seems strange as he is always unglued, when he sees a couple of skinheads dispatching a pair of skinheads beating up a homeless person. Feeling a need to right this wrong, he takes care of both punks, Serge style.

However, Serge needs some spending money so he and Coleman head to an Internet job fair as he has become quite good on-line especially with his rants. He obtains two jobs: check streets for a GPS system and evaluate motels for a travel club. His new work introduces him and his traveling buddy to a con dealing gang who make more money illegally bringing in diamonds, but as always he rights the wrongs of cheating discount motel owners, thugs preying on the hopeless and having sex with a Viewmaster-loving stripper. In other words Serge takes out miscreants who scorn society.

This is the usual insanity as Serge takes readers on a bloody unique tour of Florida. Fans of the series will enjoy his latest escapades as he doles out punishment with gizmos like a hose to reprobates used to bullying their way without regard. Though more of a road trip series of escapades without an overarching plot, readers will enjoy riding the highways and byways as Serge provides his usual enthusiastic bloody tour.

Harriet Klausner

Cream Puff Murder-Joanne Fluke

Cream Puff Murder
Joanne Fluke
Kensington, Feb 24 2009, $24.00
ISBN: 9780758210227

In Lake Eden, Minnesota, Hannah Swensen and Lisa Herman Beeseman co-own the Cookie Jar bakery. Business is booming as the winter cold sends people in for hot coffee and a tasty dessert. However the store is not Hannah’s top priority at the moment because she has to lose weight in two weeks to fit in her Regency costume she will wear at her mom’s book launch party. A desperate Hannah she enrolls in Heavenly Bodies fitness center.

When she goes to use the center’s Jacuzzi she finds the corpse of instructor Ronnie Ward floating inside. Ronnie also served as the fitness instructor to the sheriff’s department. Most men adored her but women despised her because her morals were less than that of an ally cat as she went after any male, married or not.. Hannah’s sometimes boyfriend Police Detective Mike Kingston, her sister’s husband Sheriff Bill, and her other sister’s police officer spouse ask her to investigate since she has solved several homicides and each excuse themselves having a history of sorts with the deceased. The three cops offer advice to Hannah, but she makes her inquiries her way; as she gets closer to the truth the killer gets closer to killing her.

Putting aside the plausibility of Hannah finding the corpse and of the professionals asking a civilian even with the heroine’s résumé to sleuth, rather than a nearby law enforcement friend, CREAM PUFF MURDERS is a delicious amateur sleuth mystery. Besides the mouth watering dozen dessert recipes, the whodunit is cleverly constructed around severable viable suspects including Mike yet none fully stand out in a crowd of haters. Clues abound that eliminate some of the potential culprits as Joanne Fluke provides a marvelous wintry Minnesota mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Quiet Flame-Philip Kerr

A Quiet Flame
Philip Kerr
Putnam, Mar 19 2009, $26.95
ISBN: 9780399155307

In 1950 former Berlin police detective Bernie Gunther is stunned when he is accused of war crimes as he loathed the Nazis. Knowing the atmosphere is one of shoot first, he obtains haven in Argentina alongside many other Germans, almost all Nazis.

In Buenos Aires he begins to start his new life when local cop Colonel Montalban asks him to investigate the brutal murder of teenage Grete Wohlauf. The police officer points out to the German expatriate that the current homicide shares much in common with a cold case Gunther failed to solve in 1932 Germany. Gunther takes the cross Atlantic connection seriously even though the two homicides he investigated occurred almost two decades apart as much of the scum of German have come to reside in Peron’s paradise. When another teen goes missing, Gunther agrees to slyly question his fellow expatriates in exchange for medical treatment for thyroid cancer. Meanwhile Anna Yagubsky begs Gunther to find out what happened to her missing Jewish aunt and uncle.

This is a superb post WWII investigative thriller that contains an ethical lead character who is assumed to be an amoral racist due to guilt by association; as everyone believes war criminal fled to Argentina. Thus fans receive a unique intriguing look at the Nazi haven under Peron’s rule. The whodunit is well written while the missing persons' case adds to the sense of being in Buenos Aires in 1950 as Phillip Kerr continues to explore the Nazis this time after their defeat (see The Berlin Noir trilogy).

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Run- Stuart Woods

The Run
Stuart Woods
Harper, Dec 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061711572

Everyone in the Democratic Party assumes Vice President Joseph Adams will be the nominee to replace the current incumbent. However, Joe does not plan to run as he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He asks highly regarded Georgia Democratic Senator William Henry Lee IV to make a run for the presidency and he will publicly support him. Though he has some doubts as he fears to be elected he will have to give up much of his ethics, William decides to run. However, the current PROTUS suffers a stroke and Adams as acting president delays his support.

Will’s primary run is filled with nastiness even as he and his campaign team take the moral high road. A South Carolina Republican arranges a dirty campaign to insure unelectable Senator Kiel becomes the Democratic nominee. Will’s past ignites headlines when his lover from ten years ago movie star Charlene Joiner demands he file a Death Row appeal on behalf of a murderous rapist he once defended; both try to pressure him to acquiesce to their wishes. Even his wife, the Deputy CIA Director’s past, intrudes on the run. Finally an assassin who failed to kill him years ago is back for a second attempt.

Though the timing is a bit late as the campaign is over, the reprint of this exciting political thriller remains a fun read even if Will’s run for PROTUS goes off the plausibility scale; than again when Obama started he was even further off the scale. Will is an intriguing lead character as he insists on an ethical run though his staff places their values on what that means; while his stereotypical opponents prefer disinformation taking events out of context. Although health enables Will to run was also used in GRASS ROOTS to make him a senator, fans of Stuart Wood’s Lee saga will enjoy his presidential campaign.

Harriet Klausner

A Not So Perfect Crime-Teresa Solana

A Not So Perfect Crime
Teresa Solana
Bitter Lemon, Mar 01 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9781904738343

On first look, one would not consider them brothers; on meeting them one would notice how their personalities are total opposites; their differing surname support the assertion that the pair does not share the same DNA. However, Eduard Martinez and Borja “Pep” Masdeu are not just siblings, they are twins.

In Barcelona, the pair open up Frau (as in Tau as you get what you pay for especially the poor) Consultants providing special (some might insists illegal or least Borja has a tendency to cross the line) circumspect services to the rich and richer though they hide their common heritage even from Eduard’s wife. MP Luis Font plans to run for president, but cannot afford personal scandal. He hires Frau Consultants to discreetly investigate his wife Lidia to insure she is not cheating on him with the portrait artist painting her. However, someone sends Lidia a gift of marrons glaces flavored with poison. When she dies the brothers investigate her murder fearing their client did it and might be setting them up for the fall.

The fun in this satirical whodunit is the fumbling twins who thrive on making mistakes while putting up a false bravado façade even when it comes to their office. The story line converges on the political-affluence connection, but is owned by the soft-boiled siblings as they hide their DNA link (never quite explained why) and their clueless skills while working on A NOT SO PERFECT CRIME.

Harriet Klausner

Bones of Betrayal-Jefferson Bass

Bones of Betrayal
Jefferson Bass
Morrow, Feb 2009, $24.9
ISBN: 9780061284748

A corpse of an elderly man is found in a lake near the Oak Ridge, Tennessee nuclear research facility. The victim is identified as Dr. Leonard Novak, a leader on the government top secret Manhattan Project during WWII. The autopsy reveals that Dr. Novak died from ingesting poisons that concerns local medical examiner Dr. Bill Brockton who fears others might suffer the same fate. Additionally since he is unsure how the researcher ingested the poisons, he is not ruling out murder.

At Novak's funeral, Brockton talks to the scientist’s ex wife. Following that discussion the ME begins to hypothesize that the homicide is tied to the victim’s past; perhaps as far back as WWII and the nuclear bomb project. With the assistance of a local librarian, Brockton investigates the second half twentieth century history of Oak Ridge.

The latest Brockton reading the bones forensic investigative thriller (see CARVED IN BONES, FLESH AND BONE and THE DEVIL'S BONES) is an exciting tale starring an engaging hero. Although readers will solve the whodunit rather easily, the fun in the fast-paced story line is the contemporary link to the 1940s Manhattan Project.

Harriet Klausner

Dark of Night-Suzanne Brockmann

Dark of Night
Suzanne Brockmann
Ballantine, Jan 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 0345501551

In San Diego, except for a few in the know, most of the Troubleshooters remain in shock and denial after the shooting death of one of them Jimmy Nash (see INTO THE FIRE). Receptionist Tracy Shapiro and Jimmy’s former partner Lawrence "Deck" Decker have always been attracted to one another, but though he knows Nash survived the hit and is in hiding at the home of his girlfriend Troubleshooter Tess Bailey, he remains concerned and more open than usual; so does Tess. Grieving their loss are operatives and lovers Dave Malkoff and pregnant Sophia Ghaffari.

To out Jimmy’s “killer”, the team begins a dangerous ploy against a culprit who knows the Troubleshooters so intimately he or she is always ahead of them. When Dave becomes the next target and is framed for murder, the cat and mouse game starts anew.

DARK OF NIGHT is an engaging Troubleshooters romantic suspense as three couples heat up the sheets (talk of corporate incest) and the streets. The action is fast-paced from the onset as the team struggles with someone who knows their turf and has a vendetta against them. As the romance supersedes the suspense, Suzanne Brockmann’s myriad fans will relish this superb thriller as the Troubleshooters affirm the song Friends and Lovers (by Gloria Loring and Carl Anderson): “So I'll be your friend, And I'll be your lover Cause, I know in our hearts we agree, We don't have to be one or the other, Oh no, we could be both to each other” as long as have each other’s back.

Harriet Klausner

Wild Sorrow-Sandi Ault

Wild Sorrow
Sandi Ault
Berkley, Mar 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780425225837

Bureau of Land Management resource protection agent Jamaica Wild is the liaison with the Tanoah Pueblo. A rancher complains that a wolf has attacked his sheep, but Jamaica believes the predator is probably a mountain lion. With her friend the semi-civilized wolf Mountain, she follows the wounded animal’s bloody trail while expecting a blizzard to hit the area shortly. When she reaches some ruins, she takes shelter from the weather inside the ruins of the San Pedro De Arbues Indian School.

Inside Jamaica finds the body of a woman whose hair was scalped. Later she learns the corpse is Cassie Morgan, an elderly Anglo woman who was a matron of the Indian School that abducted children from their “savage” parents to Americanize them through corporal punishment and substandard food, health care, and shelter. After she reports the homicide, Jamaica sees an ATV and gives chase. From that moment on attempts are made to frighten Jamaica off the investigation, but when that fails, murder attempts follow.

The protagonist is brave refusing to allow thugs to run her off the case though she is a bit fearful even with her faithful companion Mountain having her back. The whodunit is exciting because no one, not even the heroine, knows why she has become under siege. Sandi Ault provides readers with a deep vivid look at the life of a Pueblo inside an entreating outdoors’ mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, January 12, 2009

Maverick-Lora Leigh

Lora Leigh
St. Martin’s, Mar 2009, %
ISBN: 9780312945800

CIA and secret for hire assassin Orion captures Ariela Abijah and tries to break her as he has others. She calmly tells him that her CIA husband and Mossad son will come for him. Orion slices her wrists and masturbates as she dies without crying for mercy.

Six years later in Atlanta, Risa Clay reflects back to eight years ago when her father kidnapped her, allowed someone to rape her and directed a doctor to give her Whore’s Dust. Her friends introduce Risa to Micah Sloane (of the Elite Ops). She is unaware that he has had the hots for her admiring her courage from a distance for several years. However though he wants her she is his mark to get at Orion so he can kill him. Risa believes she is ugly having heard from her dad he could not even sell her as a pity f**k. Micah seems to understand her fear and her need. Meanwhile Orion has been assigned to kill her before her full memory returns as it recently begun before she can identify her rapist.

The next day Federal Attorney Carl Stephens explains to Risa she still has whore dust in her body and a $2 million dollar hit contract for Orion to kill her. When she agrees to be a target, Micah realizes he needs to keep his beloved Risa safe more than he needs vengeance against Orion. He tells her he will sleep with her because Orion will be watching. Micah hides the fact that he loves her and she has returned his soul to him. As they stay together she falls in love.

The relationship between the lead couple will fascinate the audience as this highlights the return of the Elite Ops crew (see WILD CARD). The villain is an interesting killer although he seems like a magician with how easily he slips past the Elite Ops security. Fans will enjoy this character driven thriller as the link between the ugly duckling and the emotionally damaged hero is an assassin.

Harriet Klausner

The Contractor-Colin MacKinnon

The Contractor
Colin MacKinnon
St. Martin’s, Mar 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312355784

Rick Behringer may manage Global Reach Technologies, but he uses the communications designs firm as a front to hide his covert operations as CIA contractor. The agency uses Rick when it needs sensitive retrieval. As a “foreign materiel acquisition” expert, Rick purchases weapons from black markets and rogue nations that he delivers to the CIA.

In Pakistan, Rick learns that Ahmed “the Engineer” Sajid is offering plenty of money for nuclear material. The Engineer hopes to entice a Russian Mafiosi to steal the nuclear material and sell it to him. His plan is to create a nuclear weapon. Rick reports the market place rumors to his handlers who outsource to him the investigation.

The key to this superb spy thriller is the extrapolation of the Bush outsourcing of the Iraq War by contracting out to the private sector espionage covert activities; those who prefer ultra small government will especially appreciate the concept of a CIA with a few Contracting Officer Representatives. Rick is not a CIA civil servant, but instead a contractor hired intermittently as needed as an expert in his case retriever. Fast-paced and exciting, sub-genre fans will relish this terrific stolen nuke thriller.

Harriet Klausner

White Cargo-Stuart Woods

White Cargo
Stuart Woods
Harper, Dec 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061711640

Off the Caribbean coast of South America, they assaulted his yacht, taking him prisoner. They raped his wife Katie and daughter Pixie before sinking the vessel killing the mother and abducting the teen although he believes both is dead. Yet they gleefully allowed millionaire Wendell Catledge to live knowing he cannot get to them, but will always remember how helpless he was and is.

The thugs joyfully returned to Columbia while Cat works every angle to avenge what they ruthlessly did to his loved ones. .He lives for that only one thing: revenge until a call informs him his Pixie lives. He plans to rescue his daughter. The vicious Anaconda will find this American electronic expert, accompanied by Feds and a TV reporter, who is coming for him. He wants his daughter back and nothing will stop him from succeeding on his mission especially a snake.

This is an exciting thriller which seems timely with modern day pirates though on a different continent. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the assault begins and never takes a breather with an explosive climax. Although the South Americans from Anaconda to the pirates to the Columbian law enforcement are one dimensional cookie cutter stereotypes, fans will root for Cat to rescue Pixie.

Harriet Klausner

The Third Revelation-Ralph McInerny

The Third Revelation
Ralph McInerny
Jove, Feb 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780515145922

At St. Peter’s Basilica, Anatoly kills a guard with a knife and uses his uniform to gain entrance to the Apostlytic Palace. There he kills Secretary of State Rampolla by tossing him out the window and does likewise with the Cardinal’s assistant. Finally he goes on a rooftop where he stabs to death Cardinal Maguire, head of the archives. As he leaves, Anatoly is noticed by both Russian Ambossid Chekvosky and archivist Father Brendan Crowe. The Russian asks for the files related to the Ali Agia assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II, but is stonewalled again.

The Vatican does a great job hiding the four murders. However, they make little progress on solving the mass killings and what the motive was. Retired CIA operative Vincent Traeger, who worked mostly in Rome, is sent to investigate. Along with his Vatican contact Rodriguez, they decide the most likely motive is the Russian interest in the Agia assassination attempt or the so-called third secret of Fatima already revealed by the Vatican, but many believe is a cover-up; however the document is missing.

The first Rosary Chronicles is an exciting investigative thriller that focuses on Christian extremism. The story line is entertaining from the moment Anatoly commits his mass killing and filled with some nice twists such as Traeger and Anatoly meeting up early into the plot, the deep belief that there is more to the third secret than officially revealed and to the Agia assassination attempt. Though it take perhaps too long for the myriad of subplots to begin to cohesively merge as there are more than just the above, fans will relish THE THIRD REVELATION.

Harriet Klausner

Deadly Charm-Claudia Mair Burney

Deadly Charm
Claudia Mair Burney
Howard (Simon & Schuster), Mar 24 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 1416551956

Psychologist Amanda Bell Brown has lost the two men she loved most in her life. Her husband Jazz walked out on her after seeing her kiss her Pastor Rocky shorty after making love on their wedding night. Rocky who loves Bell told her not to come to his church any longer because he is heartsick and feeling betrayed as she failed to mention she was married. Six weeks later Rocky arrives at Bell’s home to ask her to accompany him to the revivals meeting of Ezekiel Thunder who fell off his pedestal when the media revealed his affairs with several women.

At the meeting in a run down building, Bell meets Ezekiel’s little son Zeekie, who has an effect on her as she falls in love with him. When he dies while taking a bath, Bell immediately believes he was murdered. Jazz, who wants to reconnect with his wife, pleads with her not to investigate as she is carrying a miracle that her doctor said was medically impossible; he fears she will ignore him and her pregnancy as he knows her history (see MURDER, MAYHEM AND A FINE MAN and DEATH, DECEIT AND SOME SMOOTH JAZZ). Bell seeks evidence to nail a killer whom she believes is not finished murdering.

An Amanda bell Brown amateur sleuth is always a special treat as she is a fascinating character. She has a strong belief in God, but with free will deems some will choose the darkest path including the predator who killed Zeekie; thus she seeks proof though that places her in danger. Bell is an interesting person filled with inner strength yet is also very vulnerable to those she loves. Jazz is her perfect match as he fearlessly displays his love for her. Inside a terific whodunit is a fabulous family drama.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Oolong Dead-Laura Childs

Oolong Dead
Laura Childs
Berkley, Mar 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780425225998

The proprietor of the Charleston Tea Shop Theodosia Browning is having a great time competing in the Charleston Point-to-Point Race. All of a sudden her horse becomes riled and out of control. Theodosia Browning leaps off and does a controlled roll limiting her injuries. However, her sudden landing leads to the discovery of the body of TV reporter Abby Davis with a bullet wound in the victim’s forehead.

The last time they met, Abby tried to bait Theo into a cat fight, but the storeowner refused to be play Abby’s game. Detective Burt Tidewell shocks Theo, who has solved several homicides, when he tells her to investigate. Her former boyfriend, Abby’s brother Jory, is back from New York and also asks Theo to make inquiries. When she goes to the old plantation what Abby and her husband Drew donated to a historical trust corporation, she finds the remains of a bride who vanished a hundred years ago. In the present she learns that several people benefited from Abby’s death as the reporter made many enemies on her climb to the top.

Putting aside the coincidence of another corpse in Theo’ path and the cop encouraging her to investigate, this is another delightful amateur sleuth in which readers obtain a taste of the South. The heroine is an easy going person but her demeanor hides her steel spine and independent heart. Theo does what she belies is right even when it may harm a relationship she cherishes. Besides a wonderful look at Charleston and surrounding Low Country, fans will relish drinking tea with Theo as she tries to solve the homicide of someone she disliked.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Armor of God-Paul Block and Robert Vaughan

Armor of God
Paul Block and Robert Vaughan
Forge, Feb 7 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765313393

Though at times he feels the weight of the world upon him, forty-seven years old Father Michael Flannery knows faith and his mission for God keeps him going. He is the Keeper of the Sign that somehow combines the Star of David, the Cross of Christianity and the Crescent and Star of Islam before any of these symbols have been known to have existed.

He knows the consolidated symbol represents the Trevia Dei paths to God. He continues his work to bring peace and harmony through the recently stolen Gospel of Dismayas that predates the four accepted Gospels. Many fanatics from each major religion want him dead as he preaches any path to God not one intrusive way. On his way to give a talk in New York, a Via Dei assassin tries to kill him to keep him from preaching the earliest known gospel; one that has been contradicted ever since.

This fast-paced religious thriller also contains a subplot involving the Crusades starring a scholar Tobias Garlande, who sees the future which adds depth and excitement, but this is Father Flannery’s tale. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as assassins try to kill the hero to prevent him getting the world out. Although at times the language feels stilted, fans will relish the sequel to THE MASADA SCROLL as Paul Block and Robert Vaughan provide an intriguing look at the three major monotheistic religions in which a gospel of peace and harmony is unacceptable to the powerful who need the masses conflicted to maintain their affluent position on earth.

Harriet Klausner

Rupture-Scott Pearson

Scott Pearson
Oceanview, Feb 1 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9781933515236

In Memphis, surgeon Dr. Eli Branch is excited to join the staff of Gates Memorial Hospital where he has been promised he can continue his research. However, when surgery is bungled, the chief of vascular surgery leads the finger pointing at Eli.

Stunned he begins his own inquiry, which leads him to one revelation after another with no end in sight. Instead Eli uncovers an incredible deception by his late father, who was a highly regard anatomy professor at nearby Mid-South Medical College. As others die when he contacts them, the cops believe Eli is a deranged serial killer while several medical professionals need him silenced before he destroy their world with revealing facts. His only ally is forensic pathologist Meg Daily who doubts his innocence but wants to find the link to the killings; her only tie is Eli.

This is an exciting medical thriller due to the harassed hero and an incredible easy understanding of current health issues without dumbing them down. Although the medical conspiracy plot has been done before and is a bit slim fans will enjoy A. Scott Pearson’s profound look of medicine in America through the eyes of a likable careworn champion whose world has collapsed.

Harriet Klausner

Thy Kingdom Come-Don Helin

Thy Kingdom Come
Don Helin
Medallion, Mar 2009, $7.95
ISBN: 9781933836973

Although he retired from the army four months ago, his former superior officer General Paul Gerber persuaded Colonel (R) Sam Thorpe to accept a position with a conglomerate that supplied weapons and training to militias. The US government is targeting the Patriots who have ties to a Canadian terrorist organization. The leader of the Patriots has a mission to accomplish so Sam’s “boss” Aly Kassim sends him to train the troops of self anointed General Quentin Oliver.

Sam’s real job is to find out what that mission is and prevent it from happening. The foreign link involves the Quebec Separatist Movement, who want weapons of mass destruction that chemist Sidney Kramor will create; Sam smuggles him over the border. Coming to collect the weapons is the head of the Separatist Movement Marc Dubois. Sam knows he is playing a game in which a tiny error could result in many deaths including his own as construction of cesium-137 dirty bombs is underway.

Readers obtains a good look at how a militia acts and its leaders think as they are true believers in their quest; in this case they accept as divine truth that they are Jesus’ crusading soldiers who must right the wrong that minorities have caused to white people. Sam is a double agent who gets deep inside the concentric circles that make up the militia, but is not privy to the innermost leadership so is unaware of the actual mission, but knows whatever it is will cause widespread death and destruction. Don Helin has written a stirring thriller that hooks the audience who wonder if Sam can save the day.

One Second After-William R. Forstchen

One Second After
William R. Forstchen
Forge, Mar 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765317582

Retired Colonel John Matherson lives in Black Mountain, North Carolina with his two daughters; one of them suffers from Type A Diabetes and needs insulin to stay alive. They think the serenity of their location high in the mountains can never be destroyed until the day the lights go out. Everything electric based no longer works to include cars. John immediately understands what happened; that the United States was nuked in the atmosphere by a few bombs containing an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP).

John becomes one of the town’s leaders trying to keep things calm and peaceful as no station on the transistor radio in his car broadcasts. Food rationing is instituted and former high school students are trained as a militia. They turn away desperate refugees and as the food supply dwindles they must hunt and forage, and chop wood for heat. The Posse, a cruel group of cannibalistic gangbangers, murders, and rapists, are taking over the mountain. John and his allies must stop them before they overrun Black Mountain.
Meanwhile, his daughter’s supply of insulin is getting dangerously low.

Already frightening the Pentagon and the Congress is the plausibly including the ease in which the United States can be sent reeling back to a modified medieval era. John and his fellow survivors are figuratively and literally in the dark as to who did this, but the first directive is survival which includes not giving up o hope that the USA still functions and will bring relief especially medical. Fans will appreciate this powerful apocalyptic cautionary thriller but also fear how simply this can actually happen.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 9, 2009

Grass Roots-Stuart Woods

Grass Roots
Stuart Woods
Harper, Dec 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061711565

When highly regarded Senator Ben Carr of Georgia suffers a debilitating stroke, his loyal chief of staff, Will Lee runs for the office. His opponent in the Democratic primary is the state’s governor Mack Dean; if he wins that his most likely Republican foe is an extreme TV star fundamentalist.

However, Will places his personal campaigning on hold when Judge Boggs asks him to serve as a public defender on a hate crimes homicide case in Meriwether County where he grew up and his ma still lives in Delano. The case is a racially charged murder that could impact his election chances as his client is a white male accused of killing a black female.

Meanwhile a former cop hunts a vigilante group assassinating people involved in what they interpret as porn peddling gangland-style. This too impacts Will’s chances of winning the election as the issues of soft on crime and pornography surface.

Each of the three prime threads is gripping and easily could have served as fully developed novellas in differing sub-genres: political, legal and investigative. However, the fun in this tale is how Stuart Woods cleverly interweaves the three seemingly diverse subplots into a cohesive exciting thriller. This reprint of a 1989 tale holds up nicely two decades later.

Harriet Klausner

The Samaritan's Secret-Matt Beynon Rees

The Samaritan's Secret
Matt Beynon Rees
Soho, Feb 2009, $24.00
ISBN 9781569475454

In Nablus, Palestine, someone murders Palestinian Authority employee Ishaq and apparently stole the millions he controlled as part of his government job. The World Bank is furious with the shoddy funds control and the strong possibility of government corruption involved in the theft; they threaten to cut off future financing unless the money is found and used appropriately.

Fifty-seven year old Palestinian history teacher Omar Yussef knows investigating on the West Bank is dangerous, but gets involved anyway. He quickly realizes no one in Nablus thought highly of the deceased; in fact most people scorned Ishaq as a bad Samaritan, who even in death gets no respect. He soon finds the murder and theft tied to religion and politics and if he is not careful he could become victim number two.

The third Yussef amateur sleuth mystery is a timely exciting tale that provides an in depth look at the Palestine situation from the Moslem perspective. Yussef is a terrific hero who just wants to be an educator, but feels obligated to investigate. Although his inquiries in this case and his previous two seem implausible, no one will care as THE SAMARITAN’S SECRET like A GRAVE IN GAZA and A COLLABORATOR IN BETHLEHEM are superb thrillers because of the profound glimpse into Palestine.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Rules of the Game-Leonard Downie, Jr.

The Rules of the Game
Leonard Downie, Jr.
Knopf, Jan 2009, $26.95
ISBN: 0307269612

After receiving a reprimand for a tryst with a colleague, Washington Capital investigative reporter Sarah Page is assigned to the national politics desk. She currently covers the presidential contest between elderly Democrat senator from Pennsylvania Monroe Capehart, and Republican Vice President Warner Wylie.

Capehart surprisingly chooses California Senator Susan Cameron as his running mate, which excites some with the selection of a woman and disappoints others who claim she is too inexperienced to be one elderly heartbeat from the White House. However, it is after the election is decided and Cameron is the new PROTUS with the death of Capehart Sarah learns that under the guise of national security even murder at Pennsylvania Ave or that of a nosy journalist getting too close to the truth is acceptable.

THE RULES OF THE GAME has some obvious ties to the Palin connection, but Cameron is a different personality and more significant is her side wins and her running mate and boss dies. The story line is fast-paced and filled with twists as Page seeks to uncover a conspiracy that uses national security to rationalize any action even when the tie to the country’s safety does not exist except as a political cover. Fans will enjoy this engaging investigative thriller with its cautionary warning that the Bush Legacy is to hide everything inside the wrapper of 9/11-like national security concerns when there is not the remotest connection.

Harriet Klausner

Devil’s Gold-Julie Korzenko

Devil’s Gold
Julie Korzenko
Medallion, Mar 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781934755556

At the request of OPEC, Dr. Cassidy Lowell examines the effect of oil drilling on the land, the people, and the animals of the Niger Delta. Robert Cole of oil mega-company New World Petroleum (NWP) expects a favorable report so he can send the crews in to start digging, but the consulting zoologist finds the explorations have caused appalling conditions. She gives her report to Cole and her boss Dr. Drew Sharpe, but is yanked immediately from Africa to Yellowstone National Park where her superiors figure she cannot cause too much trouble to big business. Her assignment is to determine why the gray wolf population is vanishing.

Just before leaving Africa, someone attacks her in her hut with his intent obviously to kill her. Jake Anderson saves her life. He is a member of Special Forces Black Strike black ops unit that works behind the scenes of her organization, Zoological Environmental Bio Research Agency (ZEBRA). He becomes the biologist on her Yellowstone team with his hidden agenda to learn what she knows that have people wanting her dead. The wolves are dying from a new genetic strand of the parvovirus that now harms canines and now is made into killing humans. NWP funded the research but Jake and crew have no idea why or what the firm intends to do with it. Jake and Cassidy accompanied by a concerned CDC and the Black Stripes plan to learn their intention and stop them

DEVIL’S GOLD is an exciting thriller as both the good guys and the villains have plans for the beleaguered heroine who is uncertain she can trust anyone though she is attracted to Jake. He shares her confusions as he wants her and more so wants her to be innocent, but fears she is a deep operator in the NWP scenario. Neither trust the other (or their respective heart). The fully developed lead characters make for a special tale as they struggle to uncover the truth against a foe willing to execute a diabolical plan.

Harriet Klausner