Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Secret Speech-Tom Rob Smith

The Secret Speech
Tom Rob Smith
Grand Central, May 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780446402408

In 1956 at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev claims Stalin was too paranoid leading to unnecessary fears throughout the country. He wants to loosen the controls so people can breathe without fear of being sent to a Gulag. However, THE SECRET SPEECH gets out and soon angry people retaliate against those who harmed family; mostly security officers.

One of those who knows he deserves assaults from those harmed is former MGB security officer Leo Demidov. He hopes his work as a homicide detective will give him some redemption, but he also believes he cannot ever make up for the atrocities he committed or allowed. Still using the success of catching a serial killer (see CHILD 44), he obtains official blessing to form a homicide police unit. As his peers from the Stalin days of torture commit suicide rather than face vigilante justice, Fraera the wife of a priest Leo sent to Siberia, abducts his daughter Zoya as a hostage and informs the cop release her spouse from the gulag or have his child returned dead.

Based on a real event that Gorbachev acknowledged in 2007 was the first courageous step away from Stalin’s brutal totalitarian reign, THE SECRET SPEECH is a great Soviet historical police procedural. The cast is strong especially the remorseful hero whose beloved daughter has become a pawn in a dangerous game and his and outraged enemy. As with the CHILD 44 case, Tom Rob Smith provides a deep Cold War era mystery in which 1950s Soviet Russia is the star; as readers will travel on frozen solid prison ships and underground Moscow to see a side of the nation the Communists hid.

Harriet Klausner

The Bone Factory-Nate Kenyon

The Bone Factory
Nate Kenyon
Leisure, Jul 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 0843962879

Worried for the future especially their daughter Jessie, David and Helen Pierce are reaching the bottom of their savings. He is currently tring to get work having quit his last job when his superior stole his ideas without giving him any credit; his supervisor’s boss sided against David so he left. In retaliation they blacklisted him as a malcontent in the industry; no one will hire him due to the lies.

Hydro Development is building a hydroplant in an isolated area of Quebec. Michael Olmsted interviews and hires David for the position of completing the plan and overseeing the development of the reservoir in tiny Jackson. David and his family relocate to Jackson in the winter so can do little on the project. Jessie is clairvoyant, but her parents are in denial unable to accept the paranormal especially with their child. They soon learn the house they currently reside in, once had a little girl who just vanished without a trace; as did one of the searchers. Jessie and David see a shadow being, but both assume it is their active imagination while Helen fears she is being watched by a stalker though she sees no one. None of them understands the danger they face while a local deputy sheriff has stumbled onto a horrific site in the nearby woods that unless a miracle occurs could be the next stop for the Pierce trio.

There is a growing sense of foreboding as animals and fish look strange and a psychotic person disappears. Jessie’s visions increase that feeling as the reader senses like she does something is coming for her. As the Pierces put together the puzzle pieces, their chances of survival decreases; their only hope to get out alive is if David can find the missing links that relate the incidents to the project. Fans will enjoy Nate Kenyon’s creepy horror thriller as the next stop for the Pierce family appears to be a one way ticket to hell.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Murder Takes the Cake-Evelyn David

Murder Takes the Cake
Evelyn David
Echelon, May 1 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 1590806182

One week before Thanksgiving DC private investigator Mac Sullivan, a loner except for Whiskey the dog, finds his world upside down since Sullivan and Company has “grown”. First, his business is in trouble needing paying customers not just bartering clients. Second, his assistant twenty-two years old Juliana “JJ” Jarrett and his elderly ailing researcher Edger are driving him crazy. Finally there is divorcee single mom Rachel Brenner who works at a funeral home and whom he is attracted to and believes she reciprocates his feelings, but he has no idea how to act on a date.

Now his about to marry goddaughter, Boston reporter Bridget O'Herlihy, visits him asking for his help as she swears someone is trying to kill her. Although he doubts this is the case, he takes the threat seriously and sends his team out on assignments. Soon the corpses pile up while the groom and his family insist she is being a drama queen; at a time her dad Jeff wonders who stole caskets from his funeral home. Mac, JJ, Edger, Rachel and Whiskey keep digging looking for the ties that bound everyone involved.

The second Murder Takes (see MURDER OFF THE BOOKS) is an amusing cozy starring an ensemble cast of eccentrics. The story line is fast-paced while containing two mysteries tied to death (corpses and coffins are like peanut butter and jelly), a maybe romance, enemy canine-feline, an out of control wedding plan, and junk cars. The characters make for a fun lighthearted frolic as Evelyn David proves in deed MURDER TAKES THE CAKE.

Harriet Klausner

No Warriors, No Glory- Harold Coyle

No Warriors, No Glory
Harold Coyle
Forge, May 12 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 0765318970

US Army Captain Nathan Dixon is still limping from his war injuries and suffering nightmares as he does a tour at the pentagon. Colonel Kaplan reminds him that the army runs on Vince Lombardi Standard time, which means “if you’re on time, you’re late” before Dixon meets with the Chief of Staff General Stevens, who adds him on to his staff at a time when the army struggles with two brutal wars and radical transformation.

Nathan is assigned to review a friendly fire incident. Having been in combat, he understands the harrowing chaotic fog of war leads to mistakes in spite of the military emphasis to eliminate these deadly errors; he also knows his probe is not to pin accountability in order to punish someone, but to determine the cause, ascertain if it is systemic, and come up with CALL lessons learned to remove any future errors. The incident was caused by an unmanned ground combat vehicle (UGV) during a test; a type of war machine he does not know anything about. He obtains an education on vested interests as the C.O. knows his career is teetering; the manufacturer contractor does not want production on hold as he will be unemployed; and the victim’s peers prefer to conceal the truth mostly Dixon assumes out of fear of retaliatory ends to their careers. Dixon understands his mission is to uncover the truth, but no one cooperates.

This is a terrific timely look at the modern army through the eyes of a career officer still suffering from PTSD whose current assignment is more difficult in many ways than combat because his brothers and sisters in arms do not want to talk. Fans will make comparisons to the Pat Tillman tragedy that raised awareness of friendly fire incidents, but Dixon’s case is different as this inquiry is into a training event involving drones. This super military investigative thriller provides a powerful glimpse at the modern military in which increasingly means NO WARRIORS, NO GLORY or salutes to Congressional Medal of Honor recipients.

Harriet Klausner

6 Killer Bodies-Stephanie Bond

6 Killer Bodies
Stephanie Bond
Mira, Jun 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778327073

In Atlanta the police arrest body mover Cooper Craft accusing him of being The Charmed Killer. As women feel safer going outside, his friend Carlotta Wren thinks the cops made a big error as she feels her former working peer Michael Lane is the serial killer.

Police detective Jack Terry agrees with Carlotta's assessment that the wrong man is in custody, but has doubts about Lane being the killer. Carlotta investigates, which enables her to ignore the other two men in her life, her brother Wesley who seems to land in one dire strait after another and her former fiancé, Peter Ashford, who wants a second chance though he dumped her when she was down and seemingly out for the count. Cooper is out on bail but required to wear a GPS ankle bracelet. He removes the tracking device and vanishes, which enforces the opinion he is the Charmed Killer.

The full focus on the sixth Body Movers' thriller is The Charmed Killer, which will keep readers focused on the story line; as the sidebar distractions of 4 and 5 are avoided. Instead, Stephanie Bond provides her fans with a terrific entry as increasingly with every discovery Carlotta makes, Cooper is guilty; his fleeing the coop just adds to the overwhelming proof. 6 KILLER BODIES is a strong entry in the Body Movers’ saga.

Harriet Klausner

Thriller 2: Stories You Just Can't Put Down-Clive Cussler (editor)

Thriller 2: Stories You Just Can't Put Down
Clive Cussler (editor)
Mira, Jun 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780778327233

The twenty three tales included in this collection are for the most part excellent and timely. The anthology opens with Jeffery Deaver's "The Weapon" focusing on torture while Lisa Jackson’s “Vintage Death” contains several terrific thriller twists. “The Circle” by David Hewson will indirectly remind readers of the London bombings as a pregnant woman riding the tube hears a passenger mumbling "They will remember my name." Marcus Sakey's "The Desert Here and the Desert Far Away" examines how strong the bond the band of brothers forged in the battlefields of the Iraq War survives once everyone is stateside. Gary Braver's "Ghost Writer" was once a famous novelist, but now writes stories for other people to “author” as that pays better though leaves him depressed. Finally with Carla Neggers, Joan Johnston, Robert Ferrigno, Jon Land, R.L. Stine, and Lisa Jackson amongst others contributing, THRILLER 2 lives up to its subtitle of “stories you can’t put down”.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Drowning River-Kim Byrne

The Drowning River
Kim Byrne
Five Star, Jun 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147692

Elise Moloney attends graduate school as an English major at Whitman on the Cape on a full scholarship. A student in her first class stares at her and afterward introduces himself as Parker Reilly before blurting out he thought she was dead. Later he shows her a picture from last year’s undergraduate yearbook of a deceased student Hannah McPhee who looks like Elise’s twin. She learns Hannah died when she fell off a bridge while drunk into the Drowning River

Accompanied by her sex is everything roommate Kat Herrerra, Elise returns home to nearby Hingham to ask her parents if she had a sister that they failed to adopt like they did her. They are stunned saying no, but her mom says if they knew they would have wanted both siblings. Elise investigates what happened to her sibling as Parker’s roomie Robbie DeLuca insists Heather was pushed. Meanwhile her attraction to Parker grows even as she knows she owes her former fiancé Nick Carrano more than just the letter she sent him ending their relationship. As she digs deeper, someone warns Elise that if she does not back off her parents will die. Being a coward, she wants to quit but even the cowardly lion finds courage to continue the trek.

Although a bit slow at first, this is a fun amateur sleuth cozy starring a likeable heroine who is in shell shock for most of the tale as she leaves her comfort zone to investigate her dead twin, her biological background, and love. While the cast is solid, Elise is fabulous as she accepts she is a coward yet does what she feels she must do. She reacts perfectly to revelations about a previously unknown twin and her avariceious biological mom. Although the killer will be quite a shocker, the culprit makes sense providing complete closure to the story line. Fans will enjoy this entertaining Massachusetts cozy.

Harriet Klausner

Woman Strangled—News at Ten- Laurie Moore

Woman Strangled—News at Ten
Laurie Moore
Five Star, Jun 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9781594147623

Aspen Wicklow graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in journalism and a belief she would soon own the media world. Alas, she is down to double digits in cash and one in prospects. Shocking herself, Aspen obtains a highly regarded job on the Fort Worth TV show Public Defender.

However her first time on the WBFD-TV show, she meets fellow reporter Tig Welder, who warns “Investigative Reporter Barbie” to never scoop or trump him; if she tries she is toast. Station manager J. Gordon Pfeiffer tells her if she wants to stay employed to avoid being the story. Aspen soon meets Johnson County Sheriff Spike Granger when he complains vociferously about overcrowded prisons. She also investigates missing person Candy Drummond, who pledged at the same University of North Texas sorority as she did. Not long afterward her strangled corpse is found and Aspen finds she has broken TV show rules one and two by trumping Tig and becoming part of the story when her inquiries take a life and death of their own.

Laura Moore proves she is not jinxed as she starts a new series starring a fabulous heroine who struggles to adhere to the “rules” while remaining true to herself. The whodunit is fast-paced yet quite amusing and filled with plausible enjoyable twists (a trademark of this author) as Spike and Aspen invesitgate separately and somewhat togetehr (especially when he is checking her out). Fans will enjoy the opening act of a strong journalist mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Lust, Loathing and a Little Lip Gloss- Kyra Davis

Lust, Loathing and a Little Lip Gloss
Kyra Davis
Mira, Jun 2009, $13.95
ISBN: 9780778327363

A decade has passed since mystery writer Sophie Katz saw her slimy former spouse Scott Colvin. However to her shock, she runs into him at an open house in the Marina District where a $1.4-million fixer-upper is up for sale. Her initial reaction is someone spiked her frap. Her second thought comes when Scott offers his ex a sweetheart deal; which she knows means he is hiding something from her because Scott Colvin means trouble for anyone who ventures within a kilometer of his sphere.

The Victorian house is owned by Oscar Crammer, who insists his place is haunted and is willing to let it go for practically nothing. Scott takes Sophie to the mansion where they find the house haunted by the corpse of Oscar. The late owner’s son Kane also believes the house is haunted and agrees to honor his father’s price quote on the stipulation that Sophie join the San Francisco Specter Society to help him contact his father's ghost. Amateur sleuth Sophie and her private investigator boyfriend Anatoly Darinsky, hired by the victim’s estranged wife to prove she did not kill him, think the house is haunted by humans and set out to prove the bumps in the night are mortal as is the killler

This is an amusing lighthearted investigative murder mystery that will hook the audience on two levels. First spunky Sophie is super as she takes San Francisco while providing her first person perspective which includes plenty of in your face comments. Second is the cleverly designed séance-homicide that turns out to be a locked room murder. Kyra Davis writes a terrific whodunit starring an amateur sleuth filled with lust for her boyfriend, loathing for her ex, and needing a little lip gloss for her boyfriend.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Lord of Death-Eliot Pattison

The Lord of Death
Eliot Pattison
Soho, Jun 2009, $24.00
ISBN 9781569475799

In China former Beijing investigator Shan Tao Yun learned the hard way about being too diligent pursuing corruption in the highest levels of the government as he was not only fired he was exiled to a Tibetan gulag. An elderly wise-woman orders him to take a corpse across the state’s highest peak Chomolungma because the Gods selected him. As he treks with a mule carrying the body, Shan comes across an overturned bus filled with outlawed Buddhist monks that was knocked over by an avalanche. Within moments, he hears gunfire. Two people in a car are killed; one is China's minister of tourism and the other blond American Megan Ross.

Shan is arrested, but convinces the investigator of his innocence. Soon afterward Colonel Tan is arrested. Shan was hoping Tan would intervene to rescue his enslaved son, Shan Ko from a “yeti factory” where workers die rather quickly that is if they remain sane long enough to die. Shan must find the killer to free his offspring, but the officials insist Ross is alive though she died in Shan’s arms.

The latest Shan Chinese mystery (see PRAYER OF THE DRAGON and BONE MOUNTAIN) is a superb investigative thriller because the strong insistence by officials and witnesses hamper the lead protagonist’s inquiry. Ironically he is the last witness to see the woman alive, but his testimony is ignored because he is in official exile and to insure that Beijing is pleased with the results. Fans will enjoy Shan’s desperate probe as he knows his son’s mind at a minimum and more likely his life is at stake as no one leaves the factory the same way they entered; this indirect condemnation of Chinese manufacturing using enslaved labor to punish as well as undercut global competition enhances a great investigative tale.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, April 25, 2009

My Soul to Take-Yrsa Sigurdardottir

My Soul to Take
Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Morrow, Apr 28 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 0061143383

Jonas Juliusson buys a health spa in Snaefellsnes on Iceland's west coast with the help of his attorney single mother of two Thora Gudmundsdottir. However, he fears the property is haunted so he invites Thora to stay and investigate, which she agrees though feeling he is being silly heeding local myths.

Upon arriving at the spa, Thora is greeted with the mutilated corpse of architect Birna Halldorsdottir who designed the new building. Jonas is the prime suspect since he sent the victim a text message to meet him at the place she was found dead. A second body also battered is soon found. Thora quickly changes her inquiry from ghost hunting to homicide hunting.

MY SOUL TO TAKE is an exciting Icelandic amateur sleuth mystery starring a wonderful attorney who begins to slowly find clues that lead to several suspects with motives. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the single mom finds the first corpse and never slows down as the brave lawyer makes her inquiries while another body surfaces. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this fine mystery while seeking Thora's last case (see LAST RITUALS).

Harriet Klausner

Cemetery Dance-Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Cemetery Dance
Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
Grand Central, May 12 2009, $26.99
ISBN: 9780446580298

In Manhattan, New York Times William Smithback and his wife Museum of Natural History anthropologist Nora Kelly arrive home after celebrating their first anniversary with plans to do more rejoicing. Instead they are attacked in their apartment building by a neighbor, out of work British actor Colin Fearing. To the horror of Kelly; her beloved spouse is killed during the assault while his crazed killer leaves.

NYPD obtains testimony from Nora and others who saw Fearing murder Smithback and the building’s surveillance tape captures Fearing leaving dripping blood everywhere. The case is solved except for one problem as FBI Agent Aloysius Pendergast and New York Police Lieutenant Vincent D'Agosta learn; Fearing died two weeks ago having been found in the Hudson River.

Fans will be stunned with the opening sequence when long time secondary character Smithback is killed. That just sets the table for a great tense police thriller as Agent Pendergast investigates how could a dead man commit murder? The above paragraphs are the beginning of a great taut tale that fans will appreciate and newcomers will look for Aloysius’ back cases (see THE WHEEL OF DARKNESS).

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sworn To Silence-Linda Castillo

Sworn To Silence
Linda Castillo
Minotaur, Jun 23 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312374976

Painters Mill, Ohio is a quiet serene small-town until a serial killer begins carving Roman numbers into each victim's abdomen. The case is identical to what drove the current Police Chief Kate Burkholder from her Amish background as a teen; four people died sixteen years ago in an identical ritual.

Kate knows why the homicides abruptly ended back then and that the current copy cat killer cannot be the same psychopath. Meanwhile the politicians are nervous that they will be punished by the public for being soft on crime due to the lack of progress by the cops as more victims die. They set up a multi-jurisdictional task force to allegedly assist Kate, but consisting of mostly sycophant moles who report to the politicos and not the chief; she in turn finds them a nuisance examining her every move rather than that of the killer.

Although there are enough serial killers in literature to wipe out Ohio, readers will enjoy SWORN TO SILENCE; a strong police procedural refreshed by the Amish connection that enables the audience to compare how the two prime groups react to the murders then and now. Kate is a wonderful protagonist struggling emotionally with déjà vu homicides, politicians who ironically some object to Darwinism yet are the classic example of survival, and walking the thin blood line between her Amish childhood and her English job. Fans will enjoy Linda Castillo’s brisk take on how two distinct groups behave with a deadly predator in their midst.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Nothing but Trouble-Susan May Warren

Nothing but Trouble
Susan May Warren
Tyndale, May 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9781414313122

A decade has passed since PJ Sugar crawled like crab legs out of her hometown of Kellogg, Minnesota filled with remorse and guilt. Over the next few years, PJ found no purpose in life drifting from job to job and from trouble to trouble. She is finally coming home for the first time in ten years to attend her sister the attorney Connie’s wedding to tae kwon do coach Sergei as mom broke her ankle playing tennis. She is still wearing the mantle of shame. PJ will watch Connie’s four year old son Davy while she is on her honeymoon.

PJ plans to be on her best behavior while keeping her stay short. However, her intentions implode when her former teacher, Hoffman, is murdered. Police Officer Boone Buckham arrests her best friend Trudi's husband Jack Wilkes because he assaulted the history teacher. PJ investigates though she knows that will put her at odds with the lead cop her former high school boyfriend (and rabble-rouser).

This is an interesting Christian amateur sleuth starring a sort of female Uncle Buck that for the most part avoids over preaching. PJ is a fascinating protagonist who comes home to watch a nephew she never met, care for a mom in a wheelchair due to the busted ankle, work closely with her non English speaking in-laws, and solve a murder mystery while eluding her attraction to Boone with her rep as nickname NBT (NOTHING BUT TROUBLE) to live down. Readers will enjoy the misadventures of PJ Sugar who knows for sure that the person who said you can’t go home came from Kellogg, Minnesota.
Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Killing Red-Henry Perez

Killing Red
Henry Perez
Pinnacle, Jun 1 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780786020324

Kenneth Lee Grubb kidnapped and killed nine children he believed were demons and also sanctioned by God's blessing needed to send back to hell. Only Annie Sykes escaped his execution; she gave the police his description and directions to his home. He was caught, tried and convicted to die.

Reporter Alex Chapa covered the gruesome story for the Tri-Cities Bulletin fifteen years ago. That story gave him recognition that led to his current position with the more prestigious Chicago Record. Six days before the State executes him, Grubb calls Chapa inviting him to interview him. In between his boasts of being a weapon for the good of mankind, he informs him that a copy cat serial killer is repeating his murders; only this predator plans to finish the job he failed to complete, killing “Red” as he calls Sykes. Alex quickly learns there are nine people dead as homage by someone to Grubb. Chapa vows to find and keep Annie safe not fully understanding the devilish scheme of Grubb’s “protégé”.

Readers will enjoy Henry Perez’s strong first tale because the key characters come across as real. Grubb especially is a fascinating antagonist in a macabre sense as he invokes the need to be rid of demons for killing the children. Alex is a solid reporter, but proves he is made of the right stuff as he follows up on Grubb’s rant risking his life to keep a woman he does not know outside of her childhood testimony safe. Fast-paced from the onset, readers will enjoy this action-packed riveting thriller as murder is done in the name of getting rid of demons that look like children.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, April 20, 2009

Capture-Robert K. Tanenbaum

Robert K. Tanenbaum
Pocket, Jun 2009, $26.00
ISBN: 1439148600

Broadway musical producer F. Lloyd Maplethorpe is counting on his reputation to keep him going as his last few shows have been flops. He hopes his latest venture will prove successful as he is arranging Putin: the Musical for the live theatre. One night he calls the concierge to come up to his apartment; Harry arrives only to see the body of a dead woman who had a part in the show. Lloyd tells Harry “I think I killed her”. At his trial, Maplethorpe changes his tune stating she committed suicide; as happens frequently at celebrity trials, the jury is split. New York District Attorney Roger "Butch" Karp intends to prosecute the retrial. His private security specialist wife, Marlene Ciampi finds a frightened witness who she protects.

Meanwhile the Sons of Man, a group with members in all levels of authority, are using the Muslims to create an incident that will surpass 9/11 in horror and death. They plan to make it seem Iran did the dastardly deed so that they can seize total power in a coup. The daughter of Ciampi and Karp, an agent for a top secret government group, Lucy is captured by the group’s leader as she had begun to get to close to uncovering their devious scheme. Karp and Ciampi have to change direction as New York City is under internal Armageddon.

Part legal thriller and part ant-terrorist conspiracy thriller, CAPTIVE is an exhilarating fast-paced, but over the top of the Empire State Building tale. Both subplots are fully developed so fans of the series will find each fun to follow. Butch is his usual confident self as he seeks justice in a courtroom while Maplethorpe lines up some powerful defenders. He is also a worried father as his daughter is snatched by his enemy and his wife in support roles has begun to help uncover a conspiracy that if achieved would sink the boroughs under the sea along with the government. Though way out and wild, fans will relish the latest Robert K. Tanenbaum’s tense thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Salty Like Blood-Harry Kraus

Salty Like Blood
Harry Kraus
Howard, Mar 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 1416577890

David and Joanne Connors accompanied by their seven year old daughter Rachel travel to Tippins, Virginia to visit his ailing father. However, during the visit Rachel vanishes. The local police investigate and with no evidence of foul play conclude the child most likely drowned in the nearby Chesapeake River; When David asked what happened to her corpse, the cops proclaim the river took the body out to sea. Joanne accepts the verdict of a tragic accident as she needs closure anyway she can get it; David rejects the ruling.

As David persists in his belief that his daughter lives, his marriage already weak even before the accident collapses. His medical practice also begins to fall apart as David obsesses on finding his child who he believes was abducted. He soon uncovers an identical case, which fuels his obsessive drive to rescue his child and punish her kidnapper.

This is an exciting thriller based on a parent’s worse nightmare, the disappearance and probable death of their child. The parents are super characters as David changes from fun loving caring dad to an aloof person keeping his distance from everyone (even readers) with only his Somali neighbor Amina able to somewhat reach him; and Joanne hides her feelings of vulnerability with a cold armor of “realism”. Although there are too many spins including a couple of cul de sacs, fans will appreciate this strong family drama especially David’s final paranoid over the top theory (or is it as sometimes the paranoid are right) on what happened to Rachel.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Last Llanelli Train-Robert Lewis

The Last Llanelli Train
Robert Lewis
Serpent’s Tail, Jun 1 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 9781852428907

In Bristol, England as he becomes middle aged, private investigator Robin Llewellyn drinks at the nearby pub whose regulars are losers like him. Alcohol allows him to sit in the present and not muse sadly how far he has fallen not from his dreams but with the firm he inherited and hide from his lack of a future. He once planned to be a cop, but settled on debt collecting and now earns money mostly exposing errant spouses as professional expertise at divorces has become his specialty when he gets work that is.

Currently he owes an arm and a leg and a few thousand pounds to a vicious loan shark, who will soon demand remittance. Robin has a wealthy new client, Mrs. Dixon, who he plans to bilk for more than he is worth. She wants him to prove her businessman husband is cheating on her. Mrs. Dixon demands Robin do what he must to video her spouse with his latest floozy. He knows what he must do as he arranges a tryst between the husband and a hooker that he will film. The problem is to arrange and tape takes planning that denotes future; something Robin cannot do. Even he is aware that he is imploding, but cannot change anything even his clothing.

Llewellyn is an unlikable sordid soul who is so sleazy that he fails to gain any empathy from enthralled readers even with one foot on a banana peel and the other already in the cesspool. The story line is fast-paced but almost irrelevant as in some ways THE LAST LLANELLI TRAIN is a character study of someone on the brink of self destruction. Told by Robin who is fully aware of what he is doing to himself but unable to think ahead of the cosnequences of his behavior. Sobering and gritty yet filled with a dark humor, readers will appreciate Robert Lewis’ discerning look at a man slowly subconiously killing himself.

Harriet Klausner

Frozen Fire-Bill Evans and Marianna Jameson

Frozen Fire
Bill Evans and Marianna Jameson
Forge, Jun 9 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765320087

Just off the Caribbean island of Taino, under the sea bed is a gigantic amount of the only known truly clean fuel methane hydrate. The owner of Taino, affluent businessman Dennis Cavendish has plans to sell the crystalline methane hydrate though the upfront capital investment is tremendous and the danger not just to the workers but to the planet is extremely high.

The endeavor begins with the construction of Atlantis, an undersea complex from where Cavendish will begin tapping into the methane hydrate bed. Early signs look promising but ecoterrorists led by save the earth activist Garner Blaylock kill the scientists and crew, and release into the ocean the poisonous methane killing thousands instantly. Blaylock knows what he and his female team is doing as his goal is to rid the earth of pollutants, which in his brilliant but mad mind means human extinction. If the leak is not capped ASAP, he will get his wish. Scientist Dr. Sam Briscoe, security expert Victoria Clark, and some Feds struggle to close the hole in the floor of the Atlantic Ocean.

The follow up to the exhilarating Category 7 is a fast-paced action thriller that seems timely with energy and environmental issues in the forefront of global lifestyles. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down as the insane genius Blaylock believes strongly that humanity must die to cleanse the planet while Sam, Victoria and others desperately try to save the world. Eco-thriller fans will relish the latest from Bill Evans and Marianna Jameson.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, April 17, 2009

Seattle Noir-Edited by Curt Colbert

Seattle Noir
Edited by Curt Colbert
Akashic, Jun 1 2009, $15.95
ISBN: 9781933354804

These fourteen Noir entries that focus on Seattle are all well written with most being super. The stories can be divided between historical and recent/current as the city has dramatically changed from a kick butt blue collar port city to a white collar ethnic diverse urban center which is home to giant corporations. For instance, before coffee was king, rum was king. The comparison between the fourteen contributions clearly captures that seemingly radical turn around, but in fact the short stories show the slower pace of change starting with Boeing in the 1950s. Mr. Colbert breaks the book into four segments. “Gone South” contains four tales that look deep into ethnicity. “What Comes Around” includes three entries that focus on modern day moral issues? “Love Is a Four Letter Word” has three tales pf how love can go wrong even in a perfect setting. Finally the last chapter includes four shorts that take the audience “To the Limits” that not everything is kosher. My favorites are the historical entries such as "Paper Son" by Brian Thornton who looks deep at late nineteenth century corruption and the retribution tales of the last section as we all at times want to see someone else get what is coming to them. All of the tales are fun as the city proves a perfect location as the “Center of the Universe” (by Robert Lopresti) for a Noir collection as affirmed by these consistently strong but differing contributions.

Harriet Klausner

Paper Butterfly-Diane Wei Liang

Paper Butterfly
Diane Wei Liang
Simon & Schuster, May 2009, $24.00
ISBN: ISBN: 1416549579

No longer working for the Ministry of Public Security, Wang Mei knows from experience how slippery a slope she walks as an "information consultant"; private investigators are prohibited in China. Guanghua Record Company CEO Peng Datong hires Mei as a “consultant” researching the disappearance of his pop superstar Kaili. She vanished following a highly regarded performance at Beijing’s Capital Gymnasium.

Mei finds Kaili's dressing table filled with cigarettes and pills, but it is the letters and a PAPER BUTTERFLY the sleuth finds that interest her. Apparently, Kaili has a long distant sweetheart. As the migrants leave Beijing to work in the provinces, Mei follows Kaili to Dashanzi where the workers live in abandoned factories while in the city. Meanwhile pressure rises on Mei to drop her investigation with only Police Detective Zhao helping her. At the same time, Mei feels guilty when a former student Lin returns to Beijing after her release from remote East Wind Lao Gai Camp where he was educated and purged of his inflammatory role at the Tiananmen Square demonstrations.

Though readers will know instantly which side of the Tiananmen Square human rights debate that Diane Wei Liang is on, fans will enjoy this modern day China private investigative thriller. Fascinatingly Wang being an information consultant is mindful of Mosley’s Easy Rawlins who also could not be a professional sleuth in 1960s Los Angeles; adding depth to her fall from grace is her former peers and her family scorns her for quitting her prestigious job to go capitalist. The story line focuses intensely on China for instance the drop in acceptance of migratory workers to second class with the professionals like Datong taking over the city. The story line is somewhat leisurely flowed as the emphasis is on the culture and human rights.

Harriet Klausner

Whispers of the Dead-Simon Beckett

Whispers of the Dead
Simon Beckett
Delacorte, May 19, 2009, $26.00
ISBN: 9780385340069

Forensic anthropologist Dr. David Hunter still recovering mentally from his near death experience (see WRITTEN IN BONE) decides to leave his London home to spend time at Tennessee's renowned Body Farm where his mentor Tom Lieberman is the director. Tom asks David to assist him on a particularly diabolical murder in a nearby cabin in the Smoky Mountains. David hesitates as he has doubts about his skills in reading the CHEMISTRY OF DEATH following his recent Scottish fiasco, but reluctantly agrees.

The fascination in this gruesome murder is the culprit’s understanding of forensics; the killer made sure the entire crime scene left nothing that the death readers could interpret. The investigation turns personal when team profiler Alex Irving is abducted most likely by the same predator. David concludes a brilliant serial killer is targeting the investigative team with booby trapped corpses, body exchanges, and redoing the homicide scenes to give wrong data. Now this lethal forensic expert chooses to hunt Hunter.

This is a terrific forensic investigative thriller starring a hero who struggles with confidence as his last case still haunts his psyche and a cold blooded killer who seems to know forensic science as well as the police experts do. Throughout the fast-paced story line, the culprit provides small insights to the schemes to kill and fool the investigators. Thus when Hunter becomes the focus, the super plot spins into a cat and mouse game in which Vegas will place the killer as the prohibited favorite. Filled with suspense, WHISPERS OF THE DEAD is a fabulous entry as David gets a rude welcoming to America.
Harriet Klausner

Gold of Kings-Davis Bunn

Gold of Kings
Davis Bunn
Howard (Touchstone), May 12 2009, $24.00
ISBN: 9781416556312

In Palm Beach Sean Syrrell owner of Syrrell’s Galleries knows that killers are after him; this is why he suddenly fires his beloved granddaughter Storm. He proves right the hard way when someone snuck into his basement of Steinway’s and sprayed him with a toxin that killed him. Shortly after his death, events he anticipated and planned for resulted in the release from a Barbados prison of treasure hunter Harry Bennett. His instructions include protecting Storm, who has found some interesting odd items in her grandfather’s safe deposit box. Combined with what Harry knows, they conclude Sean has sent them treasure clues from the grave.

When ancient Jewish historian Josephus’ Copper Scroll of Qumron is found in Israel; it includes a list of Temple treasures not previously seen on Titus’ Roman arch. They are joined by US Treasury agent and INTERPOL agent Emma Webb on a quest to find the GOLD OF KINGS even as governments, religious groups, and others try to prevent their success any way they can including assassination if need be.

GOLD OF KINGS is a seat of your pants thriller mindful of Indiana Jones; filled with false leads and non stop action, readers will enjoy the escapades of the lead trio as survival is not enough any longer with each having a touch of biblical gold fever. Since the threesome quickly learns friends prove false, they trust no one except the “guiding” spirit of Sean who each feels is with them somehow as everyone else has an agenda. That agenda is a key ingredient to the plot with some wanting to claim the treasure and others wanting it destroyed before it becomes publicly known. Fans will enjoy joining the global treasure hunt for the Temple’s gold.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Little Learning-Jane Tesh

A Little Learning
Jane Tesh
Poisoned Pen, Jun 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9781590586501

In Celosia, North Carolina private investigator Madeline Maclin is excited over opening her new private investigative office. However, she is also under immense pressure to accomplice two divergent deeds. First she has one week to resolve a riddle left in a will for a client, Nathan Fenton who, if Madeline succeeds, will receive a major inheritance. Second she needs to paint a picture also within a week so that it can be exhibited at a gallery.

Already overwhelmed with work, Madeline accepts an opportunity to teach art at the local elementary school. However, to her surprise Amelia Lever, an elementary school teacher detested by faculty, administration, parents and students, is murdered. Madeline’s inheritance case and the teacher’s homicide are tied together by of all things collectible cards. When her new spouse con man turned bookstore employee Jerry Fairweather is attacked over those collectible cards, Madeline struggles to learn what is going on and by whom?

The third Madeline Maclin cozy (see A HARD BARGAIN and A CASE OF IMAGINATION) is a fun lighthearted Tarheel romp starring an eccentric cast. The story line is over the top of the Great Smokey Mountains, but no one will care as the inexpedienced Madeline connects the dots while Jerry tries to behave in the small town. Filled with zany characters, fans of the series will enjoy assisting Madeline as she tries to solve Uncle Elijah’s riddle, Amelia’s homicide, and the collectible cards assault that seem tied together yet with no link.

Harriet Klausner

Choker-Frederick Ramsay

Frederick Ramsay
Poisoned Pen, Jun 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9781590586358

Picketsville, Virginia Sheriff Ike Schwartz is relaxing at the Delaware shore on a vacation when a former associate at the CIA Charlie Garland asks for his help. Charlie wants Ike to investigate the disappearance of his niece's fiancé, Nick Reynolds. Charlie agrees to make inquiries though he wonders why Charlie did not go to official channels

A former US Navy pilot, Nick left a strange voice mail message just before he disappeared over Chesapeake Bay. Ike begins to find frightening information that makes the sheriff wonder if the missing aviator observed a threat to national security that required his being eliminated or going underground.

CHOKER is an exciting investigative thriller that freshens up the Schwartz police procedurals (see STRANGER ROOM) with the CIA connection. The story line is superb as Ike delicately balances espionage agents, military brass, and cantankerous civilians. However, when the tale returns to Picketsville where Frank Sutherlin is acting sheriff, the plot loses steam as his inquiry into high school students conducting satanic rites subtracts from the prime investigation. Still with great characterizations and a fascinating main plot, Frederick Ramsay provides readers with an entertaining Ike Schwartz mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Jump-Tim Maleeny

Tim Maleeny
Poisoned Pen, Jun 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590585740

After going out on an early retirement former San Francisco homicide detective widower Sam McGowan looks forward to rest and relaxation. When his odious landlord Ed Lowry takes a swan dive from a twentieth story window at the Golden Towers Apartment, Sam plans to remain out of it. The brass pressure Sam’s former partner Danny Rodriguez to declare it officially a suicide, but he has doubts.

Danny asks Sam on his first day of retirement to conduct some informal inquiries with his twentieth floor neighbors. Reluctantly Sam does and learns everyone seemed to want Lowry dead; no one is mourning his loss. However who amongst the sandwich shop owning Siegel brothers whose store sells drugs; elderly widow Gail; Shayla and Tamara who are paying for grad schools through illicit webcam activities, and a few other players would actually kill the nasty punk.

Readers looking for a wacky San Francisco whodunit will want to JUMP into this amusing mystery. None of the suspects hide their disdain for “dead Ed”, which is a bit of a surprise for Sam as usually people avoid making nasty comments about the departed. The cast is zany bringing alive the eccentric charm of San Francisco as Tim Maleeny provides an amusing whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie-Alan Bradley

The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie
Alan Bradley
Delacorte, Apr 28 2009, $23.00
ISBN: 9780385342308

In 1950 in a remote English village, eleven years old Flavia de Luce the chemist plots revenge against her pain in the butt snobby older sisters, Ophelia and Daphne. However, her considerations of various poisons while she should be sleeping are interrupted when an angry volatile redheaded stranger confronts her widower father Colonel de Luce in the cucumber patch. Wanting to know more, the expert keyhole listener pays careful attention and learns that the newcomer accuses her father of stealing a valuable stamp, which led to a schoolmaster committing suicide. Though she knows her dad is an avid collector, Flavia has a problem with him being a thief; her sisters perhaps but not dad.

Soon after the accusation, the stranger dies in bed. Inspector Hewitt arrests the Colonel for murder. Flavia insists to Hewitt that she witnessed the spat, but he ignores her as a child of the culprit. With the help of battle fatigue victim Dogger the gardener, Flavia investigates that is when she is not lacing poison in Ophelia’s lipstick or hiding Daphne’s book.

THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE is a superb young adult historical investigative tale starring a brilliant sleuth who apparently proves to be a chip off the old block; her late mom that is. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the great chemist concocts plans to poison Ophelia’s lipstick and never slows down as fearless Flavia investigates the stamp theft and its related two homicides. Her asides are worth the admission price as Alan Bradley introduces readers to a wonderful anti-heroine tweener.

Harriet Klausner

Death of A Pilgrim-David Dickinson

Death of A Pilgrim
David Dickinson
Soho, Feb 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9781569475409

In 1905, wealthy American “Robber Baron” Michael Delaney demands his extended family go on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain; no one dares refuse. However, near mountainous Le Puy-en-Velay, France, his English relative John Delaney falls to his death.

Semi-retired private investigator Lord Francis Powerscourt leads the inquiry and rules it a homicide instead of an accident though Michael pressures him otherwise. Soon other family members are murdered leading to Powerscourt knowing someone seeks vengeance against the Delaney brood. However, though many people detest Michael, why kill the others who are just minor pawns remains elusive as does the identity of the culprit.

The latest Powerscourt historical investigative thriller (see DEATH ON THE HOLY MOUNTAIN) transports readers to the early twentieth century on the continent as fans have come to expect from this series. The story line is fast-paced from the moment John takes his dive off the mountainside and never slows down as the Delaney corpses pile up. Although the ending seems too simplistic for a family dramatization of And Then There Were None, historical whodunit readers will enjoy David Dickinson’s latest mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Murder on Waverly Place-Victoria Thompson

Murder on Waverly Place
Victoria Thompson
Berkley, Jun 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780425227756

At the turn of the twentieth century, Mr. and Mrs. Decker are one of the wealthiest couples in high society New York City, but their daughter Sarah Brandt chose to work as a midwife in the rundown tenement neighborhoods. Sarah’s mother asks her to accompany her to a medium’s house on Waverly Place because she is desperate to contact the spirit of her dead older daughter Maggie; she wants to ask forgiveness for what she and her spouse did to Maggie and her husband.

Sarah understands though she believes contacting spirits is a hoax; she goes with her mother to Madame Serafina’s séance. While the room is totally dark, the customers hold hands in a circle around a table; the medium speaks. A baby cries and Mrs. Decker believes it is her dead granddaughter. They leave, but Mrs. Decker returns several times praying Maggie will forgive her. At another séance, someone kills client Mrs. Gittings. Mrs. Decker calls Sarah’s “special friend” Police Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy. He and Sarah catch Serafina’s lover trying to sneak away. Frank assumes he is the killer, but Sarah and the medium think otherwise. The two feisty females need to figure out who amongst the guests is the killer; the problem is everyone universally detested the victim.

Victoria Thompson’s latest “Gaslight mystery” brings back a bygone era so vividly readers will believe they attended séances during the first decade of the twentieth century. Fans of the series will relish knowing why Sarah became a midwife and more about why her parents’ didn’t disown her for her work amidst the city poor. Newcomers as well as readers of the previous murders on Manhattan streets novels will enjoy this well constructed mystery with plenty of viable suspects who have motives and opportunity. Sarah is her usual independent resolute self as she scrutinizes the people in the room where the homicide occurred. MURDER ON WAVERLY PLACE is another fabulous historical whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Burned-David Hagberg

David Hagberg
Forge, Jun 9 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780765317957

When their Russian business deal appears to be falling part, Americans Patti and David Monroe fly to Moscow to resolve the dispute. They are greeted by their Russian partners with a gun fired point blank into David’s head and Patti is abducted; they calmly inform her to cooperate or join her spouse.

The Russians take her outside Moscow demanding $20 million for her release; failure to deliver will result in her execution. As the FBI works closely with the Russian MVD, they begin to uncover an even more insidious scheme as the kidnappers-murderers plan to use the money to buy nukes for their Al Qaeda associates to bring a worse 9/11 to America.

The back cover explains BURNED is “inspired by the true story of Yvonne Bornstein” who along with her husband were kidnapped in Russia in the 1992 for “Eleven Days in Hell”. The story line is fast-paced from the moment their hosts murder David and never slows down. Although the metamorphosis of Patti from middle class businesswoman to super warrior seems unlikely, fans will relish this stirring thriller as the Russians are known for hunting down kidnappers at the cost of the life of the abducted.

Harriet Klausner

Nowhere-Land-A.W. Hill

A.W. Hill
Counterpoint, Jun 1 2009, $25.00
ISBN 9781582434988

Just outside Los Angeles, three suits abduct twenty year old Katy Endicott, a member of a Jehovah Witness’ Church. Her father Church Elder Silas hires private investigator Stephan Raszer to rescue his daughter.

A cult expert and shaman, Raszer finds evidence the seemingly pious and pure young woman has become a sex slave to a group with Middle East connections that recruits over the Internet via a role playing game. Using modern technology and his extrasensory perception skills Raszer tracks Katy from California to New Mexico to a point where Turkey, Iran and Iraq connect. There awaits him on the mortal plane an impregnable ancient fortress run by someone the locals fear as the “Old Man”; who also awaits him on the spirit plane.

Although the religious dogma detracts from the Raszer investigation that turns into a rescue mission built on a prayer, NOWHERE LAND is a tense odd thriller due to the New Age elements. Stephen is a fabulous hero as he follows clues that lead to a tri-focus where occult power is strong; perhaps greater than his shaman knowledge can deal with, but a young woman is in trouble. The blending of role playing over the Internet to an occult sex slave market adds an interesting twist that anchors the tale somewhat in the mortal plane. Fans of role playing games, who burrow so deep they ignore plausibility, will enjoy the aptly titled NOWHERE LAND as Raszer excitingly confronts the Old Man.

Harriet Klausner

The Price of Sanctuary-Gaylon Greer

The Price of Sanctuary
Gaylon Greer
Medallion, Jun 1 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9781605420585

History professor Shelby Le Cervoisier is forced to get involved in a mission for the U.S. Caribbean Basin Task Force in Haiti. However, the task falls apart and she is raped before she manages apparently to kill her assailants, complete her mission, and escape. Shelby accompanied by her younger sister Carmen flees for the states.

Her contact with the U.S. Caribbean Basin Task Force cannot allow a loose end that could point back to a rogue operation so two assassins are sent to kill Shelby and anyone else as collateral damage is authorized. Vlad the Impaler heads to Arizona while Hank Perkins travels to Arkansas, the two likely spots Shelby would run back to. Hank catches up to her and decides she is an innocent who should not die. He takes her to a farm in Colorado knowing Vlad is coming for her and will gladly kill Hank too.

Fast-paced from the moment the plane from Haiti lands in Homeland, Florida and never slowing down, thriller fans will enjoy THE PRICE OF SANCTUARY. The two assassins are yin and yang as the sisters are fortunate who first finds them. Ironically Hank actually describes the major detractor when he (and readers) wonders how an upper class academia could do what she did in Haiti (not explained) especially compounded by what happened to her when she is captured at the onset of the mission. Still fans will enjoy the High Noon battle between two federally paid hitmen.

Harriet Klausner

Fugitive-Phillip Margolin

Phillip Margolin
HarperCollins, Jun 2 2009, $26.99
ISBN: 9780061236235

In 1997, con man Charlie Marsh is a few weeks from being released from prison when his best friend Crazy Eddie holds three visiting female librarians and the penitentiary warden as hostages. He saves a guard’s life getting accidentally stabbed in the process and that of the other hostages. Eddie blows himself up. Charlie is a hero and hooks up with agent Mickey Keys as they claim “The Light Within You” guided him. However, on tour in Oregon, Charlie has a tryst with local host Sally Pope, wife of a Congressman. When the spouse Arnold Pope Jr. attacks Charlie, all hell breaks out and Arnold is killed. Charlie flees for Africa while Sally stands trial for abetting a murder; attorney Frank Jaffe gets her acquitted after some shenanigans from her father-in-law Arnold, Sr.

However after a dozen years in Batanga under the ruthless rule of Jean Claude Baptiste, Charlie needs to escape as the cruel dictator knows he had an affair with his favorite wife the tortured and now dead Bernadette. Charlie arranges for World News to fund his return to the States where death row is safer than Batanga. Frank’s daughter Amanda heads the defense while Baptiste sends killer Nelson Tuazama to kill Charlie but not before he retrieves diamonds the expatriate snuck out of the country.

This thriller is clearly over the top especially the last third current day trial, but no one will care as the reader is hooked from the opening sequence in Batanga, through what happened a dozen years ago, and finally the present day legal thriller. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and the cast solid especially the title character and his lawyer. With a terrific full circle spin, fans will appreciate Phillip Margolin’s exhilarating thriller.
Harriet Klausner

Below Zero-C.J. Box

Below Zero
C.J. Box
Putnam, Jun 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780399155758

April Kelley supposedly died six years ago when the FBI opened fire on the Sovereign Cult (see WINTERKILL); who were fanatical survivalists. It comes as a shock when a resident in their old home tells Sheridan Pickett that April called and he gave the caller her cell number. Her mother Marybeth thinks it is a fake until April shares information with Sheridan about the Picketts that only the family would know.

Game Warden Joe comes home and after hearing the cell phone information contacts the FBI who becomes interested because April is traveling with Chicago mobster Stenko and his born again rabid environmentalist son Robert. The Feds track them through April’s cell phone when she calls Sheridan who is with her dad Joe seeking her. Stenko and son go on a murder spree while Joe tries to extract his April from the killers and before the FBI open fire again.

Although six years have passed, the Pickets are euphoric that April somehow is alive although they wonder why she never contacted them before. The family is what makes C.J. Box’s thrillers as exciting as they always are by bringing believable reactions and plausibility to the always exhilarating plot. This time it is extremely personal as readers are hooked with the non stop action and like the Pickett brood hope April not only comes out of it alive, but is innocent and returns to the family. Joe being the only cynic is still elated to learn she lives and risks his life to see she stays alive.

Harriet Klausner

The Strain-Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

The Strain
Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan
Morrow, Jun 2 2009, $26.99
ISBN 9780061558238

The jumbo jet from Berlin has landed at JFK and is taxiing to the gate when abruptly something weird and horrific happens as it suddenly goes pitch dark with no sounds whatsoever; every electric and electronic device is silent. As emergency crews stand by waiting to enter, a door opens for no apparent reason. CDC NYC epidemiologist Dr. Ephraim Goodweather enters the dark plane only to find a mass graveyard. Every passenger and crew, except for four shocked bewildered survivors, was drained of their blood.

Although Ephraim strongly pushed quarantining the survivors, he is overruled due to their rights. They leave and soon afterward the corpses vanish. Desperate as nothing goes according to standard procedures, Eph begins to heed the advice of an elderly Manhattan Holocaust survivor pawnbroker Abraham Setrakian who insists a master vampire has come to America as a total lunar eclipse is coming.

With homage to Stoker from the modernizing the classic ship scene to Abraham and the Count, Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan provide a super vampire thriller in a current day setting. Ironically this is a throwback to the days when vampires were simply evil predators dining on human blood. THE STRAIN is fast-paced from the moment the plane suddenly stops moving and goes entirely dark as this thriller will be hard to put down apparently a master vampire invades America just before a total lunar eclipse, the first of this kind in four centuries.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Man Corn Murders-Lou Allin

Man Corn Murders
Lou Allin
Five Star, May 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147500

Ohio residents, reporter Terry Hart and her Aunt Judith are exploring the Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument in Utah by RV. They travel a dangerous Mormon road, but driver Terry panics that they were in the middle of nowhere and turns around to the chagrin of her feisty aunt. To mollify her aunt she takes a side road only to find the mummified body of college student Melanie Briggs, who vanished from a nearby university dig led by Professor Nick Bradshaw. The Sheriff determines it is a tragic accident caused by a vehicle break down and the wind, but the two Ohioans have doubts.

Aunt Judith tries to visit her friend Deborah Winters from her college teaching days who moved to a senior citizen home in Utah, but is told she moved to Seattle. This disturbs Judith as Deborah would have said something. As Terry feels attracted to Nick and aviator Chris Robbins, who took them on an aerial tour, she and Judith investigate the death of the student, what happened to the aunt’s colleague, and some suspicious graves.

Leaving Canada (Belle Palmer Northern Ontario mysteries - NORTHERN WINTERS ARE MURDER and British Columbia Royal Canadian Mounted Police Corporal Holly Martin - AND ON THE SURFACE DIE), Lou Allin shows geography is no problem with this fine Utah amateur sleuth. In may ways the vivid description of the Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument steals the show from the solid cast and the investigations. Still the inquiry is fun with a few engaging twists and romance in the air, but it is Utah that owns this enjoyable whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Strangle a Loaf of Italian Bread-Denise Dietz

Strangle a Loaf of Italian Bread
Denise Dietz
Five Star, May 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147609

In Colorado Springs, Weight Winners diet club leader fortyish Ellie Bernstein is dog-sitting while a member Rachel Lester visits her ailing sister in Houston. Ellie is with her boyfriend Homicide Detective Lieutenant Peter Miller when he receives a call that someone has strangled Sara Lee using a Daffy Duck necktie.

Pete warns Ellie to stay out of it, but she vows to learn who killed the Barbra Streisand voice alike and tossed her corpse in the dumpster behind Uncle Vinnie's Gourmet Italian Restaurant. The obvious suspect her volatile husband former NFL player Trent Zachariah has an alibi. Soon afterward someone kills Rachel's martinet husband Matthew. Ellie tries to reach Rachel in Houston, but learns she is not there as the sister is healthy. As she interviews people at the strip mall where the restaurant is located, Ellie finds a link to her brother and the community theatre auditioning for Hello Dolly.

Although the story line never quite gels into a full meal because the subplots never merge until the final denouement, readers will enjoy this amateur sleuth mystery with a smidgen of a police procedural due to the eccentric cast starting with the heroine who has never found a mystery she can ignore. Ellie loves to sleuth almost as much as she used to love to nosh. The secondary characters are an entertaining group with differing personalities who make Ellie’s investigation fun to follow as she analyzes the mean and opportunity considering even a very tall thin female potentially possessing the strength to choke out small Sara and even lift a dead man.
Harriet Klausner

Name to a Face-Robert Goddard

Name to a Face
Robert Goddard
Delta, Jun 23 2009, $15.99
ISBN: 9780385342179

Eight years ago, landscaper Tim Harding moved to Monte Carlo following the death of his wife. His best client is Barney Tozer, who has given him investment advice. When Barney’s Uncle Gabriel dies, he asks Tim to do him a favor that he will be greatly compensated for. He wants Tim to go Cornwall where his uncle died and has placed his estate in auction. There he wants Tim to bid on a ring that he swears Gabriel stole from his father. Tim reluctantly agrees as he feels guilty over having an affair with Carol, the wife of his benefactor.

Tim tries to do his assignment only, but is stunned with the drowning death of journalist Kerry Foxton who looks like Hayley Winter whom he met at the Tozer family home. He also learns the ring is gone; someone stole it before he could bid on it. As he begins to dig deeper, Tim begins to learn the tragic lethal centuries of history of the ring.

Filled with the usual Robert Goddard zillion twists and spins that never let the reader or Harding settle back into a comfort zone, NAME TO A FACE is an exhilarating suspense thriller. The story line in some ways feels like a seven day tour with Sunday being Monte Carlo, Monday in Cornwall, Tuesday in the Scilly Isles, etc. Although Harding is not an engaging “hero”, fans will be hooked just like he is wondering what is going on and whether what has happened remains plausible. This is another terrific tale as Mr. Goddard keeps the tension high throughout.
Harriet Klausner

Back to the Coast-Saskia Noort

Back to the Coast
Saskia Noort
Bitter Lemon, Jun 1 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 9781904738374

Single mom Maria struggles to make enough money to take care of her children while trying to make it as a singer. Her boyfriend is not helping her as his depression only adds to her stress especially since she is pregnant with his kid. Reluctantly Maria chooses abortion as she cannot afford another mouth to feed.

Not long afterward, she is kicked out of her house and begins receiving anonymous ugly letters accusing her of being a whore and a baby killer. The police offer no help. Accompanied by her children she flees back to coast to the family home where her sister and brother-in-law were residing only he left his wife; a place with memories of her mom’s insanity and he dad’s aloofness. To her chagrin, her stalker follows and is not easing up on a campaign of terror.

Mindful of the Fontaine role in Hitchcock’s Suspicion, fans will enjoy this deep family drama that focuses on “loving” ties that smother and destroy. The story line starts off a bit slow as Saskia Noort introduces the reader to Maria and her feelings of being trapped and overwhelmed by her responsibilities. The tone dramatically changes after the abortion as does the beleaguered heroine who has regrets and guilt but soon fights for her sanity as much as her physical safety. Fans will enjoy this suspenseful dark look at choking relationships that never allow one to breathe.

Harriet Klausner

Roadside Crosses-Jeffrey Deaver

Roadside Crosses
Jeffrey Deaver
Simon and Schuster, Jun 9 2009, $26.95
ISBN: 9781416549994

The Chilton Report blog, owned and operated by Jim Chilton, opens up a discussion thread dubbed Roadside Crosses, which questions why an accident occurred on the spot where two roadsides intersect. The teens were going home after a graduation party; but two died, one was hospitalized and driver Travis Brigham hardly had a scratch. On the blog, everyone attacks Travis holding him responsible for vehicular homicide.

He becomes the victim of a cyber war in which each part is uglier than the previously horrific segue as people accuse him of all sorts of crimes. Tammy Parker was kidnapped and thrown into the trunk if her car, which he drove into the ocean at high tide; she was fortunate to be rescued. She said Travis did it Another female almost died from poisonous fumes; she tells the cops Travis did it.

California Bureau of Investigation agent Kathryn Dance investigates Travis, but when she tries to see him a second time, he is gone. As more people on the blog claim Travis attacked them, Kathryn applies her kinesics expertise to separate the lies from the truth in hopes of catching Travis before he kills again; he knows if he is caught he has no prayer as the evidence is extraordinarily overwhelming.

Jeffrey Deaver, author of the great Lincoln Rhymes mysteries, has another hit series with the Kathryn Dance police procedurals (see THE SLEEPING DOLL). The protagonist seems genuine because she makes mistakes even with her being the department’s expert on reading body language. As she follows clues that seem to inch her closer to the perpetrator, she must deal with her mom being arrested for a mercy killing while also coping with the Blog attacks coaxing politicians to pressure her and other cops to catch Travis. There are plenty of red herrings and misdetections as Mr. Deaver provides an intriguing high tech thriller; that besides an exhilarating cat and mouse murder investigation looks deep into the influence of blogs.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, April 13, 2009

Knock Out-Catherine Coulter

Knock Out
Catherine Coulter
Putnam, Jun 2009, $26.95
ISBN: 9780399155840

FBI agent Dillon Savich is on line in a bank when robbers enter with guns blazing. They have done this before killing guards and customers. This time Savich kills three of the robbers. As Lissy escapes, with the help of the getaway drived, she vows to kill Savich for killing her mom. However, she is caught and taken to a hospital for her injuries. Victor, using an FBI badge, frees her.

Savich and his FBI partner wife Lacey Sherlock tries to help Titusville Sheriff Ethan Merriweather protect Joanne Backman and seven-year-old Autumn, who is a strong telepath from her odious Uncle Blessed who can control minds when he looks into a person’s eyes. Autumn contacted Savich telepathically. The Feds capture Blessed, but he escapes. He plans to abduct his niece to take her to a place where her psychic skills can grow to the point where the cult he founded can use her. Meanwhile Savich and Sherlock return to DC where Lissy and Victor have surfaced. As soon as they leave, Blessed grabs Joanne and Autumn. Only a miracle might save the pair from being Blessed.

All of Catherine Coulter’s thrillers are excellent, but this one is special as the heroes are caught with conflicting cases. Both subplots are fully developed so that the audience understands the internal strife Savich especially feels as he and Sherlock want to capture the deadly bank robbers as well as Blessed; the laws of physics make achieving both impossible. Autumn will win the hearts of the audience from the moment she mentally contacts Savich after seeing his heroics on TV. Whereas the Lisa-Victor story line is typical of an FBI thriller, Autumn is refreshing as an ESP element augments the entry. Readers will enjoy S&S and want Autumn to return to assist them on a future case; if she survives her uncle.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Dead Man’s Dust-Matt Hilton

Dead Man’s Dust
Matt Hilton
Morrow, May 19 2009 $24.99
ISBN: 9780061717147

Former Special Forces operative and ex-cop Joe Hunter is an expert on life and death hand-to-hand combat. Since leaving the military and the police, Joe has become a security consultant who resolves the impossible tasks for his wealthy clients.

However, Joe’s sister in-law, Jennifer holds him culpable for her spouse, his younger brother, John vanishing; leaving her and their kids in trouble. She assumes he played tough love and refused to help his sibling who was in trouble with street thugs for not paying off his IOUs on time. Joe insists otherwise as he gave John the money to pay off his markers, but his wastrel brother gambled it away instead of settling his debt. However, blood is blood so hard ass Joe follows John’s trail across the ocean and back until finally to California where the idiot is in deeper trouble as a serial killer dubbed the Harvestman for reaping organs from over twenty victims is coming for him.

Gory, bloody, and exciting, DEAD MAN’S DUST stars an interesting allegedly cold blooded hero who in spite of wanting to let his brother sink into the morass he created, tries to help him. The story line is fun to follow, but offers nothing new as the reader expects Joe and Harvestman to vividly bleed in the climax. Not for the squeamish or anyone who just ate, as some of the scenes are gruesomely descriptive, readers who enjoy literally excess blood and guts will want to read Joe’s rescue attempt.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Shadows Still Remain-Peter de Jonge

Shadows Still Remain
Peter de Jonge
Harper, Apr 21 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780061373541

Thirty-four years old NYPD Detective Darlene O'Hara leads the search for missing NYU student Francesca Pena. However, the day after the Thanksgiving weekend, the hunt ends when the teen’s battered body is found in East River Park.

The police led by veteran Detective Cooney hone in on Pena’s former boyfriend David McLain as the violence implies a crime of passion. O’Hara differs as something is not quite right. She focuses on Pena’s life especially after she came to NYU on a full scholarship. O’Hara soon finds evidence that the perfect student worked at an escort service and strip club. Following up on a tattoo the killer carved on the victim, O’Hara finds another student with the same telltale mark.

Although not unique as the premise of the story line has been used a lot in mysteries, fans will enjoy SHADOWS STILL REMAIN, an entertaining New York City police procedural. O’Hara is an intriguing lead character as she defies her more experienced peers seeking a solution elsewhere even though none at first surface; that is until she begins to uncover the truth behind the façade of the perfect student. Fans will enjoy her investigation even if we know early one what to expect.

Harriet Klausner

Running From The Devil-Jamie Freveletti

Running From The Devil
Jamie Freveletti
Morrow, May 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061684227

British Airways flight from Miami to Bogota crashes in the Colombian jungle. Thirty years old year-old American chemist survives the crash as does several other people. However, Emma observes men in fatigues carrying weapons coming out of the jungle. Instead of offering help, they take the survivors prisoners. Her assumption is bandits demanding ransom as Columbia has a reputation for that type of crime. She flees into the cover of the jungle.

Emma manages to use her cell phone to alert American officials to the plight of her and others. As she eludes the kidnappers with the help of a fellow passenger, federal agent Cameron Sumner, she waits for her government to send military troops or perhaps even mercenary contractors from Darkview Inc who guards the nearby oil pipeline.

Emma is a sort of female MacGyver as she does all sorts of miraculous stunts with limited resources while Cameron is her “required” romantic counterpart. Readers will root for Emma to not just survive, but to defeat the bandits. Though somewhat standard fare as the plot has been seen many times in movies and books, the story line is fast-paced and fun to follow especially Emma’s adventures in the jungle.

Harriet Klausner

The Neighbor-Lisa Gardner

The Neighbor
Lisa Gardner
Bantam, Jun 16 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9780553807233

Boston Dailey reporter Jason Jones comes home one night to find his beautiful wife Sandra is missing and their preschool daughter Ree is alone. He searches the house for her until he realizes she was no where to be found. He waited three hours more before calling the cops. Sergeant Detective D.D. Warren questions Jason, but comes away uneasy as the man holds his daughter while refusing to cooperate with the authorities; Jason denies Warren access to the computer or his car.

D.D. immediately assumes Jason is a person of interest, but there is also another man in the neighborhood who could be connected with Sandra’s disappearance; Aidan Brewster is a registered sex offender. Although there is no physical evidence to tie Aidan or Jason to the missing Sandra, the cop believes the woman is dead and one of these two men killed her. Her father, a judge, who has not spoken to her in years, arrives with the intention of gaining custody of his granddaughter. Sandra once warned Jason to never allow her father alone near Ree. Jason is doing his best to keep the police from arresting him for his daughter’s sake, but fears his secrets will destroy his efforts if discovered.

Lisa Gardner gives her audience a chilling terrifying glimpse of what goes on behind closed doors. The neighbors thought the Jones were the perfect family, but deadly secrets if known would have ended that illusion. This thriller is a one sitting read; filled with characters who have broken laws to prevent an even bigger tragedy from happening. There is plenty of action and misdirection that keeps readers spinning as to what is going on especially with Sandra and Jason. Lisa Gardner is at her best with THE NEIGHBOR.

Harriet Klausner

Bad Things-Michael Marshall

Bad Things
Michael Marshall
Morrow, May 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780061434402

After falling into a lake in Black Ridge, Washington, four years old Scott Henderson dies though he was rescued in time; no cause for the child’s death is found. His despondent parents John and Carol are unable to cope or help one another with their grief. They divorce and both leave the town with neither planning to ever return.

Three years later, John receives a cryptic frightening note from someone claiming they know how Scott died. Though he thinks the woman who sent it is probably a nutcase, John goes back to Black Ridge hoping otherwise as he has not obtained closure. He is unaware that his return to the scene of his greatest personal tragedy will cause inexplicable deadly incidents to occur.

This is a thrilling horror tale that uses the setting of a seemingly placid rustic town to enhance the tension of what is going on. Readers will feel a sense of impending doom throughout the exciting story line. Although some plausibility is lacking, no one will care as Michael Marshall provides a strong scary tale with a psychological edge to make what is happening in Black Ridge even more frightening.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Purple Culture-Stephen Boehrer

The Purple Culture
Stephen Boehrer
Oceanview, May 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9781933515243

The three Bishops Robert Courteer, Vincent Barieno and Wilbur Sandes stand trial in Federal Court for concealing the pedophile activities of the priests by constantly relocating them before the trouble can surface. The eyes of the world are upon this trial especially victims and their families who want justice in what looks like a sure shot for the prosecution.

The lead attorneys from both sides know how the evidence stacks up and who is looking over each of their shoulders. Prosecutor William Goulding has all the proof on his side so will stick to the facts though he plans to make some of the truth melodramatic and emotional. On the other side defense attorney James Kobs knows he must punch holes in the facts that overwhelming goes against his clients as he must find a way to persuade the jury to acquit though everything affirms they are guilty.

Although a profound legal thriller that extrapolates from the headlines, THE PURPLE CULTURE is much more. Stephen Boehrer enables his readers to look deep at the motives that drove the three Bishops to conceal the sexual predatory nature of some of their priests towards their flock. The author also provides a glimpse of how the victims have fared as well as their families. However, it is the intense scrutiny that lays bare the souls of the three Bishops that make this a brilliant tale that answers why the cover-up.

Harriet Klausner

First Family-David Baldacci

First Family
David Baldacci
Grand Central, Apr 21 2009, $27.99
ISBN: 9780446539753

In DC First Lady Jane Cox hires former secret service agents turned private investigators Michelle Maxwell and Sean King to rescue her abducted twelve year old year niece Willa, who daringly was kidnapped following a birthday party at Camp David; her mom, sister-in-law to President Cox was killed in the assault. Jane chose the pair because she knows they get results as King saved her husband’s life when he was a senator.

The evidence makes no sense to the sleuths as it points to a lone cowboy, an Alabama sexagenarian. They cannot see how Sam Quarry swiped a First relative from under the noses of the Secret Service. Everything they learn about him points to his being so obsessed, Sean and Michele believe he is willing to die; but they remain ignorant why he is so fixated on the First extended family. Meanwhile, Michele still shaky from the near death experience in SIMPLE GENIUS, is reeling with the death of her mom and so Sean fears she will be no use when he makes his concerted effort to save the First tweener.

Though the plot seems unlikely, David Baldacci makes it feel plausible as he hooks the audience from the onset and never loosens his grip until the climax. The story line is fast-paced form the moment the attack occurs and never takes a breath even when the focus is on Michele’s personal issues and doubts. Thriller fans will fully relish FIRST FAMILY as the action keeps on coming and the tension growing.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Death and Honesty-Cynthia Riggs

Death and Honesty
Cynthia Riggs
St. Martin’s, Apr 28 2009, $23.95
ISBN: 9780312567057

Nonagenarian Martha Vineyard deputy police officer Victoria Trumbull finds the corpse of widow Lucy Pease in the home of assessor Ellen Meadows, who is away. Victoria also finds property cards containing tax information that should never have been removed from city hall.

She makes a few inquiries and soon begins to find circumstantial evidence that the three town assessors and their clerk are pulling a scam to skim money from property tax payments by placing a “personal surcharge” on many owners. She also learns that the clerk Oliver Ashpine is planning to extort money through a usury property tax from TV star Delilah Sampson, who owns island property and has a scandalous past long buried. Two more corpses are found as Victoria with the help of Emery Meyer continues her investigation.

The latest Martha’s Vineyard police procedural mystery (see SHOOTING STAR) is a strong entry that combines the solid investigative wok of ninety-two year old Victoria with a wonderful look at the islanders. Victoria is at her best as she begins to unravel a tax fraud that has led to murder. Series fans will enjoy DEATH AND HONESTY as the feisty heroine follows the clues while escorting the awed audience around Martha’s Vineyard.

Harriet Klausner

Dope Thief-Dennis Tafoya

Dope Thief
Dennis Tafoya
St. Martin’s, Apr 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312531157

Ray and Manny met as tweeners at a juvenile detention center. They became pals and remain so two decades later in spite of both spending time in prison. Each has a long rap sheet that is loaded with burglaries.

The pair managed to come up with DEA badges and DEA windbreakers. For the past year in Philadelphia they have raided two bit illegal drug operations pretending to be Federal agents; they especially like hitting meth labs. Their scheme is brilliant as those they rob from cannot call the cops or afford to hunt them down. However, they make a big error when they accidentally steal from someone holding a few hundred grand. They know he and his cohorts are coming after them as Ray concludes their crime spree is over and wants out if he survives, but doubts Manny or the mark chasing them will allow him to just leave alive.

In many ways this character study focuses on the nurturing vs. naturing debate as Ray’s father insists he cannot overcome generations of criminal activity that flows in his blood while a woman he likes insists he can if he truly wants to. The story line is packed with plenty of action, but is more a character study than a crime tale as the audience sees deeply what makes Ray tick especially while he looks back at his past and considers his future while in the hospital. Dennis Tafoya provides a fascinating glimpse at a young man whose life has been criminal and whose future looks short.

Harriet Klausner

The Cold Light Of Mourning- Elizabeth J. Duncan

The Cold Light Of Mourning
Elizabeth J. Duncan
St. Martin’s, Apr 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312558536

Two and a half decades ago, manicurist Penny Brannigan left Canada to relocate in Llanelen, Wales where she opened a reasonable successful manicure shop. However, the usually calm Penny is a bit disturbed to learn Meg Wynne Thompson vanished just before she was to say I do to the squire’s son. Her disappearance would mean nothing to Penny except the last known place she was seen was her manicure shop.

Though it may be a case of a runaway bride filled with trepidation, Detective Chief Inspector Gareth Davies does not rule out foul play and considers the wedding guests as potential suspects. Penny informs Gareth about the strange client whom she now believes was not Meg but someone pretending to be the missing woman. As the police arrest the fiancé whose father suddenly dies Meg and her buddy Victoria Hopkird begin asking questions that bring them to the attention of someone who prefers the case to stay the way the police see it; especially since Davies pays heed to Penny’s tips.

THE COLD LIGHT OF MOURNING is an interesting Welsh village police procedural with an amateur sleuth subplot. In some ways the star of the story line is Llanelen as Elizbath J. Duncan provides a vivid look at a seemingly remote sleepy rustic hamlet; this gives the mystery a cozy feel until the dramatic ending. Well written and the winner of the Minotaur/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel award, fans of Welsh village mysteries will enjoy this tale and want more whodunits starring the hamlet, the two amateurs and the DCI.

Harriet Klausner

Death's Door-Meryl Sawyer

Death's Door
Meryl Sawyer
Harlequin HQN, May 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373773749

In Miami her former husband Aiden Larson shook the foundation of Madison Connelly with their divorce, his relationship with Chloe even before the ink was dry on their papers, and what he plans to do. He insists on line gambling will save their business TotalTrivia. However that seems mild to the earthquake of finding the murdered corpse of her best friend Erin. Miami Police Detective Paul Tanner hears her scream and helps her stay somewhat calm.

On medical leave from MPD, Paul has assisted his father Mike owner of Tanner Personnel Security by searching for people connected to billionaire Wyatt Holbrook such as Madison. However she rejects meeting Holbrook and wants nothing further to do with Tanner as he reminds her of Erin’s death. When someone tries to kill her, only Tanner stands in the way of a diabolical killer targeting Madison.

This is a tense investigative romantic suspense that never slows down from the moment Aiden and Paul “meet” at Erin’s house. Aiden is a courageous heroine who tries to maintain a normal life though a killer is stalking her and her attraction to Paul bothers her. Paul is a wounded warrior who vows to keep the brave Aiden safe from whomever; that includes her toad ex as well as a killer. Then there is iron Mike to assist his son in keeping her safe too. Fans will enjoy Meryl Sawyer’s terrific tale of a man trying to keep the woman he loves from falling through DEATH’S DOOR.
Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Mr. and Miss Anonymous- Fern Michaels

Mr. and Miss Anonymous
Fern Michaels
Kensington, Apr 28 2009, $24.00
ISBN: 9780758212726

In 1986 needing money while attending college, Lily Madison and Peter Aaron Kelly donated at a fertility clinic where they met. Both are attracted to one another but neither is comfortable pursuing it since each hides what they are doing at the clinic.

Two decades later at an airport, clothing designer Lily and software CEO of PAK Industries Peter run into each other. They chat but are shocked when a newscast discusses a mass murder at the California Academy of Higher Learning with the lone survivor Josh, who looks like a younger Peter. They agree to team up to learn what happened and just who Josh is.

Although over the top of the Sierras with the human experiments fans will enjoy this exhilarating romantic suspense thriller that never slows down for an instant. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Peter and Lily see each other for the first time in twenty years; both remember each other as they always wondered whether different circumstance might have made it perfect. Readers will cherish the lead couple as they fall in love while trying to survive their amateur sleuth investigation.

Harriet Klausner

Black Water Rising-Attica Locke

Black Water Rising
Attica Locke
Harper, Jun 2009, $25.99
ISBN 9780061735868

In 1981 Houston, black attorney Jay Porter has a lot of information on a recent homicide, but has several reasons not to share his knowledge with the cops. Besides not trusting the police, an offshoot of growing up in the city’s slums, Porter knows if he speaks up he goes under the spotlight, and he has a lot to hide. Back when he was nineteen in 1970 he was on trial for inciting a riot and for conspiracy to commit murder of a federal agent; he knows he was fortunate that there was a juror who lived near his future father-in-law’s church. He didn’t even know Bernie who is now his wife or her dad Reverend Boykins at that time, but they and his flock were there for him. He wants his felonious history to remain concealed and a tryst with Mayor Cynthia Maddox to stay secret as he is beginning to make it in the middle class and wants the best for his wife and their new child.

On the other hand, Porter also realizes by his silence, an innocent man is being condemned. Although his conscience bothers him, he weighs being the Good Samaritan against the impact on his family and his career.

This is a terrific historical legal thriller that brings to life Houston in 1981 as the civil rights movement remains strong but not quite as effective as it had been. Jay is a fabulous lead character as he decides to let the innocent dupe take the fall rather than challenge the city’s powerful, but each time he shaves his conscience bothers him. Although too many subplots that help anchor time and place take away from the main theme, sub-genre fans will enjoy this strong character driven tale as Jay has nothing to lose materially with silence, but everything to lose with speaking out.

Harriet Klausner

Awakening-S.J. Bolton

S.J. Bolton
Minotaur, Jun 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780312381141

In an isolated part of Dorset, England veterinarian Clara Benning treats injured wildlife at the Little Order of St. Francis. The remote locale is a perfect fit for the withdrawn Clara who emotionally never recovered from facial scars she received from a childhood accident.

Her panic stricken mother demands Clara come home immediately to remove a venomous snake from her baby’s crib. Soon after handling that dangerous situation, the house of a neighbor is turned into a deadly snake haven to include the extremely poisonous Australian Taipan. An autopsy of one human death from snake bite proves the victim had way too much venom than a single snake could have secreted; Assistant Chief Constable Matt Hoare assumes a homicide occured. He is in charge of the official inquiry into the snake manifestation that has already claimed a second person, but he knows he is out of his element. With Clara and eccentric TV star herpetologist Sean North, Matt investigates who is behind the snake attack and why; nobody understand the connection to a five decade old tragedy.

The story line is at its exciting best when snakes in the village star; when the subplot involves Clara’s past and somewhat that of her family, AWAKENING loses some of its poisonous bite as that feels unnecessarily intruding. Still this is a terrific tale mindful of Snakes on a Plane and Arachnophobia as the zillion different types even the non-poisonous will have readers checking inside cabinets, mail boxes, dryers and water heater corners before reaching out with a hand in a look before you touch scenario.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Trust No One-Gregg Hurwitz

Trust No One
Gregg Hurwitz
St. Martin’s, Jun 23 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312534899

In 1991 when Nick Horrgian was just two days from his eighteenth birthday, he snuck out of his house to have sex with an older woman. Leaving the house unsecured, he comes home to a horrific sight; someone killed his stepfather Secret Service Agent Frank Durant. The police claim a robbery gone badly, but Nick believes otherwise. When he begins investigating, suits warn him to disappear or his mom will be next and he will be locked away for murdering Frank. Without saying goodbye to his grieving mom, Nick is placed on a plane and flies to Alaska. Nine years pass before he sees his mother again, but she remains in denial as she did when Frank died.

Seventeen years have past since Frank died and Nick keeps a low profile while living in California. That is until two Secret service Agents Joe Wydell and Reid Sever knock down his apartment door. They claim a terrorist with a nuclear bomb is threatening to blow up San Onofre nuclear reactor if they fail to bring Nick to him. Nick talks with Charlie who has no bomb, but gives him a key and tells him they are coming for him. Nick gives Charlie a cell phone the agents gave him, which explodes killing the man and hurting Nick. Soon afterward POTUS and his opponent running for the Oval office talk with Nick, who is in the highest level political crosshairs, but has no idea why. However, he vows no more running as he heeds what Frank told him years ago: “TRUST NO ONE”.

From the opening sequence, this is a gripping thriller that captures the audience when the Secret Service come for Nick and never releases the reader until the final confrontation. The story line is fast-paced while Nick and fans learn how clever the Feds are at spinning a scenario. Nick’s greatest lesson is Frank’s mantra to TRUST NO ONE; as everyone has a personal agenda.

Harriet Klausner

Walking Dead-Greg Rucka

Walking Dead
Greg Rucka
Bantam, Apr 28 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9780553804744

In Kobuleti, Republic of Georgia lives former bodyguard Atticus Kodika and his lover retired assassin Alena Cizkova. The couple use aliases to hide their identity from the outside world. However, even in this remote village violence explodes. Someone assaults and violently kills their neighbor Bakhar Lagidze, his wife and his eight year old son; they kidnap his fourteen years old daughter, Tiasa. The local cops quickly rule murder-suicide; outraged Atticus pledges to rescue the teen though that means breaking his vow to not get involved after the massive manhunt directed by top government officials (see POLITICAL GAMES).

Following her trail, he learns she was abducted to sell as merchandise to pay off her late father's debts. Keeping to his vow though he detests having to even make inquiries inside the sordid human trafficking slave market, he pursues clues that lead to the Middle East, back to Europe, and eventually to Nevada. However those he seeks to pay for their murders and kidnapping know he is on their tail and go after Alena. No “Drama queen”, she flees for her life with the help of Atticus' former lover New York based private investigator Bridgett Logan.

The action is non-stop, brutal, and bloody even before Atticus begins his rescue quest. Obstinate and brave Atticus is like a bull dog refusing to give up the mission though the odds are overwhelmingly against him. However, what makes this electrifying thriller super is the ease in which Greg Rucka interweaves without preaching or slowing down the plot a political commentary on human trafficking in which governments pretend the slave market does not exist.
Harriet Klausner

The Language of Bees-Laurie R. King

The Language of Bees
Laurie R. King
Bantam, Apr 28 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9780553804546

Even her lover Sherlock Holmes is as taken back as Mary Russell is when his estranged son from his first wife, Damien Adler, visits them as he never comes to see them. An illustrator Damien needs his father’s help as his wife Yolanda and their daughter have vanished without a trace. Holmes agrees to investigate the disappearance of his grandchild and daughter-in-law.

Meanwhile Holmes also is disturbed over the disappearance of one of his beehive colonies and plans to learn why so he can avoid a repetition. At the same time he works both cases, Mary investigates Damien, which leads her to his London flat and a druid cult the Children of Light whose troubling tome Testimony was illustrated by Damien.

Since Mary and Sherlock investigate separately, readers do not obtain that much of a look at the married couple. Still the story line is fast-paced from the moment Damien arrives and never slows down enabling fans will enjoy learning just who Holmes’ son is as elementary reader he is not quite a chip off the old logical block. As with the BEEKEEPER’S APPRENTICE, Laurie R. King provides an exciting excellent suspense thriller that the Baker Street irregulars will appreciate even as the plot launches missiles at the mythos.

Harriet Klausner

My Life as a Man-Frederic Lindsay

My Life as a Man
Frederic Lindsay
Minotaur, Apr 14 009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312376390

In Glasgow, working at a factory job for a week, eighteen year old Harry Glass is fired. That occurs after he is tossed out of the house by the hairy ex boyfriend of his runaway mother. Without giving it a second thought, Harry takes the car keys of his ex-boss Bernard Morton and drives away in the man’s car. However, he is not alone as the boss’ wife Eileen is also in the vehicle.

Eileen and Harry begin an affair though she is almost two decades older than him. As they drive to Edinburgh and Aberdeen, violent men chase after them though neither Harry nor Eileen know why. The thugs believe a valise containing a small fortune is hidden in the boot. The pair of runaways makes it to a farm owned by menacing August and Beate. A frightened Harry sneaks away returning to Glasgow to enlist the aid of Morton and his brother.

Though tension is high especially with thugs chasing the lead couple, the entertaining MY LIFE AS A MAN is more a coming of age character study than a straight thriller due to the opening chapter occurring in the future and Harry's first person point of view. The story line grips readers from the moment Harry has had it and takes the keys and the wife on a joy ride. This tale is driven by Harry who learns life is filled with errors and sometimes redemption and second chances, but not always. Fans will enjoy his first escapades as a man.

Harriet Klausner

Dial Emmy for Murder-Eileen Davidson

Dial Emmy for Murder
Eileen Davidson
Obsidian, Jun 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451228253

After most of the cast believed she killed the writer who was trying to drive her off the show The Yearning Tide, soap opera star Alexis Peterson leaves that show and joins the Bare and the Brazen after she was exonerated (see DEATH IN DAYTIME). She loves her new job playing two roles, the good and bad twins. Her personal life is filled with upheaval since her former spouse Randy is back in town; a few years ago he walked out on her and their daughter taking all the money with him. He demands to see his offspring.

While she wonders what to do about Randy the rat, she is one of the presenters at the Daytime Emmy Awards. She and Jackson Masters are hosting the Outstanding Supporting Actor Award. On the day of the show, Jackson fails to show up so Alexis does the presentation alone. However, he eventually shows up by falling off the catamounts dead with blood everywhere. The murder brings Detective Frank Jakes back into her life. He asks Alex to help him since she knows the business and the people. This becomes more important with the discovery of four men murdered in the same way; all trying out for a role in the soaps. When Alex becomes too deeply involved, the killer targets her next.

Talk about art imitating life, Eileen Davidson is an Emmy winner who starred on the Young and the Restless, Days of Our Lives, and Bold and the Beautiful. She brings her soap experiences into this chilling whodunit. Soap fans will know the author uses anecdotes from each show she performed on. Although a cop asking a civilian to work a murder mystery seems something for amateur sleuth novels and soaps, DIAL EMMY FOR MURDER is an entertaining tale.

Harriet Klausner