Friday, May 29, 2009

Fan Mail-P.D. Martin

Fan Mail
P.D. Martin
Mira, Jul 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778326137

Her last act at Quantico before reassigning to the West Coast, Australian expatriate FBI profiler Sophie Anderson escorts renowned crime writer Loretta Black and her assistant on a tour of the Behavioral Analysis Unit. Soon afterward, Sophie starts her new field assignment in L.A. She also finds out that someone sexually mutilated and murdered Loretta in her Beverly Hills home; eerily similar to a victim in one the author’s novels.

Beverly Hills homicide detective Dave Sorrell leads the inquiry. However, soon afterward more authors are brutally murdered. The evidence includes a frightening fan mail to the novelists just before they are killed. Sophie assists David on the investigation, as she searches for clues trying to “profile” the novels while also horrifically yet heroically uses her premonition skill to mentally see future murders, but unaware a cold case of hers is the missing link.

This super police procedural is loaded with plausible twists that will keep the audience guessing who the killer is throughout although serial killer themes have flooded the market including Sophie (see THE MURDERER’S CLUB and BODY COUNT). Sophie is terrific as she investigates with David. Though similar in tone to her previous killer caseload, fans will enjoy P.D. Martin’s exhilarating efforts of the Aussie profiler trying to prevent the next writer’s death.

Harriet Klausner

Red Blooded Murder-Laura Caldwell

Red Blooded Murder
Laura Caldwell
Mira, Jul 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778326588

Six months ago the embezzlement scandal left thirtyish entertainment attorney Isabel McNeil unemployed and no longer engaged to Sam Hollings. That is until Trial TV hires her and she is seeing younger hunk Theo Jameson. In other words, Izzy is moving on past that dizzy spell.

That is until her friend Jane Augustine, who got her the Trial TV job, is murdered. Izzy finds her corpse and as happened with the missing $30 million, Chicago police considers her the prime suspect especially since she replaced Jane on a TV show. Izzy has learned the hard way not to trust anyone particularly pigheaded police so she investigates who would want Jane dead; unprepared to learn what she does about her late friend.

The return of Izzy (See RED HOT LIES) as a prime suspect again will elate Laura Caldwell fans as the lawyer who learned the hard way not to trust cops sets out to prove her innocence by uncovering the identity of the killer. The amateur sleuth investigation into the whodunit is well written. However, what makes the tale enjoyable is Izzy’s first person dialogue that turns RED BLOOD MURDER into an amusing anti-noir.

Harriet Klausner

Bad Things Happen-Harry Dolan

Bad Things Happen
Harry Dolan
Amy Einhorn Books (Putnam), Jul 23 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780399155635

David Loogan lives and hides in Ann Arbor in hope of moving past a violent history that he knows he will never forget. He begins to write a short story for Gray Streets literary crime-fiction journal. Though he never finishes the project, the magazine publisher Tom Kristoll likes what he has seen. He offers David a position as an editor, which he accepts. David, Tom, and his wife Laura become friends.

Tom obtains David’s help in dumping a corpse though the former does not believe the latter’s explanation. Soon afterward Tom falls to his death from his office window. AAPD Homicide Detective Elizabeth Waishkey suspects David killed Tom especially when evidence surfaces that he slept with Laura. As other people associated with Gray Streets die, single mom Elizabeth focuses even more intensely on David, who conducts his own inquiry to uncover the killer before he is on trial.

The fun in this terrific twisting serial killer investigative tale is the writers who are intelligent and witty until they become the star of someone else’s plot. The story line is fast-paced and the amateur sleuth prime suspect and the obstinate cop chasing him makes for an intriguing duel. Mindful of the movies' Theater of Blood and Murder by Death, but less hammy, fans will enjoy Harry Dolan’s fine thriller that as Vincent Price said (in Theatre of Blood) is “much ado about murder”.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Extra-Elizabeth Sims

The Extra
Elizabeth Sims
Minotaur, Jun 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312377298

To pay for law school, single mom of five-year-old Petey, Rita Farmer has been accepting minor acting roles. Currently she is on location as an extra wearing a police uniform. During a break in filming, while still in costume, Rita accidentally frightens off two muggers attacking a black boy as they assume she is the law.

The intended victim turns out to be Kip Cubitt, the grandson of well-respected Amaryllis “Iron Angel” Cubitt, who founded the homeless ABC Mission in South Central Los Angeles. Not long after the incident, someone in a drive-by shoots a cop who looked extremely similar to Rita. When she goes to the Cubitt mission to see if she can find out what is going on before she becomes the next corpse, Rita concludes Dale the Whale, a drug-pin, has something on the the usually energetic Amaryllis that has her tied in knots. With the lmited help of her lover, private investigator George Rowe, whose case is in Canada, and eluding her born to emote sister, Rita goes undercover in the role of her life as a street person in order to learn what sinister happenings is occurring at the mission.

Though no Lillian Byrd, Rita Farmer's second amateur sleuth case (see THE ACTRESS) is an entertaining investigative tale due to the strong support cast as much as the heroine. The story line is fast-paced though a bit thin except when Rita goes easy street as a homeless person in smelly discards. Overall THE EXTRA is an engaging thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Alone in the Crowd-Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza

Alone in the Crowd
Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza
Holt, Jul 2009, $23.00
ISBN: 9780805079593

At a bank in Rio de Janeiro, pensioner Dona Laureta withdraws her money from the same teller Hugo Breno every month like clockwork. She leaves the bank, goes to the grocery and pharmacy, and then she travels to the police of the Twelfth Precinct in Copacabana. She asks to speak with the chief, but Espinoza is tied up in a meeting. She decides to leave and come back later, but instead is run over by a bus; bystanders believe she was deliberately pushed.

The police interrogate Breno who remains a person of interest. Espinoza has him under surveillance. They learn he has no friends, conducts a fanatical physical exercise program, and walks in dense crowds without speaking to anyone. Espinoza is unaware that Breno has been watching him for decades and even came to the same park when they were children. A memory of a child’s death makes the cop wonder if the teller was involved. They meet at a restaurant and Hugo tells his story to Espinoza. A day later Laureta’s friend is killed. Espinoza is sure that Breno killed both women, but has no evidence. Both adversaries risk their lives with similar yet differing purposes.

The translation of this novel is executed perfectly (by Benjamin Moser) so that the Brazilian customs come across full of life but different from America and especially how that impacts the way the police do their job in Rio. Ergo readers will feel they are in Brazil and not in their armchair. Inspector Espinoza is a good person doing a good job as he struggles with an investigation that contains a personal twist, but seems to be going nowhere though he is 100 percent positive Breno is the killer. The audience will admire the lead character and want to read his past cases (see BLACKOUT and PURSUIT) as the aptly titled ALONE IN THE CROWD is a super Brazilian police procedural.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Defector-Daniel Silva

The Defector
Daniel Silva
Putnam, Jul 21 2009, $26.95
ISBN: 9780399155680

It has been six months since Israeli Agent Gabriel Allon got Colonel Grigori Bulganov, Elena Kharkov and her children out of Russia, but not without a blood bath (see MOSCOW RULES). Allon as the Art restorer Alessio Vianelli is with his new wife Chiara on their honeymoon in Umbria while works on a piece for the Vatican. They are shocked to learn that Grigori, who was given asylum in Britain and saved Allon’s life in Moscow, has vanished. British intelligence believes he was a double agent who returned to Moscow; they hold Allon culpable for any leaks since he brought him to London vouching for the Russian. Gabriel discounts the theory of that the colonel redefected because if so Grigori should never had saved his life; instead he fears something more sinister occurred.

Gabriel assumes that Elena’s irate husband Ivan Kharkov, a billionaire arms dealer and close friend of the Russian President, is behind the kidnapping because he believes Grigori betrayed him professionally and personally. Kharkov is also after Allon, who exposed one of his sales which made him persona non-grata in what the rich Russian considers the civilized nations. The personal stakes are raised dramatically when Kharkov’s assassins abduct Chiara knowing Allon will come for her on their turf. Allon with the backing of Israel, American and Britain plans to rescue his spouse and kill her kidnapper.

Gabriel Allon has been and continues to be one of the most fascinating espionage agents for years in perhaps the best thriller series on the market in the past decade. Besides his being a powerhouse, the women in his circle like his wife also an agent are also competent and strong. The follow up to the super MOSCOW RULES is excellent as the saga of Bulganov takes a radical spin turning personal for Allon. Readers will not have seen that coming once they had escaped from Russia, but as always Daniel Silva provides another great entry that will elate fans who will also wonder how the author can top THE DEFECTOR.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Night at the Operation-Jeffrey Cohen

A Night at the Operation
Jeffrey Cohen
Berkley, Apr 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425228159

New Jersey Comedy Tonight theatre owner Elliot Freed considers his former wife Dr. Sharon Simon, a friend though they are divorced and she is remarried to Dr. Gregory Sandoval; his dream rests on their annual celebration of their wedding anniversary together. With a week plus before this year’s dinner and gift exchange, Gregory informs Elliot Sharon will probably not make their dinner as she has vanished without a trace; he further explains she has been irritable, nervous, and so anxious, he feared she was breaking down and her disappearance proves she finally did. Elliot cannot believe how calm his replacement is and hopes that Sharon will dump this idiot to come back to him.

The police visit Elliot questioning him where Sharon is as they investigate the suicide of her wealthy patient Russell Chapman; whose daughter insists Sharon’s misdiagnoses led to her father’s depression and ultimately suicide when she claimed he had a fatal brain cancer that was proven false. Elliot’s parents arrive to help him. Black belt mom joins him on his search for Sharon while passive dad takes over the theater operation vowing to fix the plumbing problem himself. However as Elliot digs deeper into Sharon’s lifestyle, he begins to uncover clues that takes his ex-wife off the pedestal he mentally built. He assumes he is on track to find her when his home is broken into and the Russell’s corpse is abducted.

The latest Double Feature amateur sleuth is an amusing homage to great comedic movies such as the title nod to A Night at the era. The investigative story line is zany and often over the top of Giant Stadium; while the movie trivia is interwoven into the wild plot. Way out fun, fans who relish a New Jersey screwball romantic mystery will enjoy the Freed tales (see SOME LIKE IT HOT-BUTTERED and It Happened One Knife)

Harriet Klausner

Undone-Karin Slaughter

Karin Slaughter
Delacorte, Jul 2009, $26.00
ISBN: 9780385341967

Henry and Judith Codfield are driving home one night when they run into what he assumes was a deer; it turns out to be person hurt badly enough that they take the injured party to Atlanta’s Grady Hospital. Trauma center physician Dr. Sara Linton treats the patient; stabilizing her for surgery. She is shocked at the tortured body of Anna Lindsey whom she tries to save.

Meanwhile as the local police work the burbs for clues, Georgia Bureau of Investigation Detectives Will Trent looks for the site where the torture takes place. When he finds it he realizes another woman was there with the tortured woman. He finds the body of the second woman who was tortured before she committed suicide. Faith Mitchell and Will think the kidnapping of a woman outsider the supermarket is related to their own inquiry. A fourth female fitting the profile of the other three is also missing. Evidence points to the killer abducting the women in pairs and if they don’t find the missing two females within days they will be dead

Once again as in FRACTURED, Will and Faith prove they are a dedicated team who know together they perform much better than separately though they are total opposites; a sort of GBI yin and yang who complement one another by overcoming the other’s weaknesses. The current case of a deranged serial killer is not new, but refreshed by the increasingly frantic hunt by the GBI pair. Reader will enjoy UNDONE, as Karin Slaughter provides a tense police procedural in which the clock is ticking while the killer remains on a twisted schedule.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Under the Radar-Fern Michaels

Under the Radar
Fern Michaels
Zebra, Jun 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420106831

After the success of their FINAL JUSTICE mission, the seven Sisterhood members return to their mountaintop retreat looking forward to some R&R. One hour later before anyone can fully settle back, the alarm rings. The women react instantly only to their shock mentor Charles and Myra leave together by copter. He leaves behind an enigmatic note for the team.

Almost immediately after the helicopter lifts off, retired judge Pearl Barnes needs their help. She has rescued fourteen pregnant teens from a polygamous sect and needs the Sisterhood to finish their trip to safety. The teammates set forth as they fully support Pearl’s Underground Railroad that rescues abused females, but also fear their first project sans Charles.

By removing the mentor for most of the story line, Fern Michaels refreshes her Sisterhood saga as they are on their own for the first time after a dozen previous adventures with Charles available. The Story line is fast-paced from the moment that Pearl calls for their help and never slows down as they try to keep the teens safe. With echoes of the Texas raid last year, fans of the saga will appreciate Fern Michaels’ latest twist.

Harriet Klausner

Lonesome Point-Ian Vasquez

Lonesome Point
Ian Vasquez
Minotaur, Jun 9 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312378103

In Miami medical technician Leo Varela works at the psych ward of Jefferson Memorial Hospital Mental Health Annex. The pay stinks and actually is an abomination when you consider what Leo and his peers do. He relaxes when he can even on the job smoking weed and writing poetry.

Leo’s older brother Patrick is the influential Miami-Dade County Counselor running for mayor in a particularly nasty campaign even by Miami’s dirty standards. Both brothers have come a long way from their homeland Belize and even further from their father’s illegal business ventures. Everything changes as the past arrives at the hospital. Freddy Robinson, just released from prison, asks Lee to abduct a patient elderly Mr. Massini as his former associates want a chat with him. Lee wants to say no as even his dead end job is better than working with friends of his father, but Freddy knows the dark deadly secret the siblings left in Belize.

This exciting thriller starts off at an incredible pace with Freddy visiting Leo at the hospital, but loses some momentum about halfway in as the plot is never embellished upon from that terrific opening sequence. Still the seemingly opposite brothers tied together by more than DNA are solid characters who seem on the surface total opposites, but in a crisis react somewhat similar. Although the story line is thin, fans will enjoy Ian Vasquez’s overall entertaining tale

Harriet Klausner

HotHouse Flower and the 9 Plants of Desire-Margot Berwin

HotHouse Flower and the 9 Plants of Desire
Margot Berwin
Knopf, Jun 16 2009, $24.00
ISBN: 9780307377845

Thirty two years old New York career woman Lila Nova used to enjoy her advertising job, but lately the divorcee is finding it tedious. However, she perks up when she meets David Exley selling tropical plants at the local farmer’s market. She already enjoyed plants, but until now never bought any; she purchases one of his offerings.

She notices at a Laundromat a rare fern in the window. The owner Armand makes friends with Lila and gives her a trimming from the fern. He promises her if the fern grows, he will show her his special nine plants. David sees the fern in her apartment and Lila tells him about Armand. Soon afterward, Armand’s plants are stolen and David has vanished. Using guilt and remorse as motivators Armand persuades Lila to accompany him to the Yucatan to obtain new magical plants. There she meets Diego.

This is an intriguing thriller that takes an unexpected magical spin from a New York adventure into a Mexican semi-fantasy tale. The story line is fun in spite of Lila being too loose as she leaps on one man after another and the plot never deciding which genre is on top. Still HOTHOUSE FLOWER AND THE 9 PLANTS OF DESIRE is an engaging odd thriller with one wild twist that takes a bit of adjusting, but worth the effort for those who relish something radically different with their New Yorkers.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Last Trials of Clarence Darrow-Donald McRae

The Last Trials of Clarence Darrow
Donald McRae
Morrow, Jun 9 2009, $26.99
ISBN: 9780061161490

This is a “novelization” using facts to retell the three LAST TRIALS OF CLARENCE DARROW. In 1911 Mr. Darrow defended the McNamara brothers for firebombing the Los Angeles Times building; the trial ended in a plea bargain for the union activists with their famous lawyer barred from practicing in California due to accusations he rigged the jury. His reputation was shot as he fell off the pedestal of greatness and he barley could practice law. He considered suicide.

Over ten years later, the sexagenarian Darrow decides to go back into the courtroom handling three “trials of the century cases” that rehabilitated his reputation; besides the media frenzy Hollywood helped as all three trials were made into movies. He defended the affluent brilliant Chicago teens Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb for the cold blooded murder of John Scopes to prove they could get away with a killing. Mr. Darrow took on the Scopes Monkey Trial defending a teacher in Tennessee. Finally he also defended black Dr. Ossian Sweet accused of murder when he fired on an all white mob attacking his home in Detroit. Whether Darrow was an angel or the demon, Donald McRae paints a terrific portrait of the great trail lawyer obtaining redemption long after his career was supposedly dead.
Harriet Klausner

The Tehran Conviction-Tom Gabbay

The Tehran Conviction
Tom Gabbay
Morrow, Jun 9 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780061188459

In 1953 rookie CIA espionage agent Jack Teller is in Iran posing as an American oil executive. There he makes friends with Iranian government official Yari Fatemi, who is optimistic about the future of his country under the recent free election of Mohammad Mossadegh as Prime Minister. Mossadegh nationalizes the oil industry in an attempt to improve the overall economy, alienating the free marketers of the west. However, not too long afterward he betrays his buddy and his Iranian family as part of the British-American covert Operation Ajax that overthrows the nation’s democratically elected Prime Minister and reinstates the figurehead Shah as the prime power.

Over the years Jack has felt remorse and guilt for what he did to his Iranian friend. So in 1979 when the Islamic revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini overthrows the Shah, he is shocked when Yari's sister Zahra, whose eyes accuse him of murder, visits him in New York. She tells him Yari is in prison awaiting state execution. Needing a chance for redemption or die trying, Jack obsesses over returning to Iran to somewhat rectify the betrayal that haunts him twenty-six years after the fact.

The third Teller espionage thriller (see THE BERLIN CONSPIRACY and THE LISBON CROSSING) is a great spy tale that also provides a deep look at two of the three key latter half of the twentieth century events that has shaped current Iranian-American relations. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action in both periods, but its Jack and Yari who bring human faces to both coup d’etat incidents. This may be the best spy novel of the year as Tom Gabbay provides an exciting thriller that also provides the Iranian perspective of the axis of evil is “The Great Satan” (USA) and Britain.

Harriet Klausner

Valley of the Shadow-Tom Pawlik

Valley of the Shadow
Tom Pawlik
Tyndale, May 2009, $12.99
ISBN: 9781414326795

Connor Hayden died from a heart attack (see VANISH) and his spirit was sent to Interworld, a place that connects the mortal realm with the spiritual one. Having been resuscitated, Connor checks on those people who died and were resurrected that same night. He finds out about Devon, Mitch and a few others. Some went to the other side. Mitch is in a coma while Devon is in juvenile prison when a stranger, someone he brought back from the other side, helps him escapes and tries to “save him

Mitch is in Interworld with farmer Howard Bristol who is keeping him alive preventing him from moving on thanks to a deal he made with Death. If he keeps him there too long, Mitch’s body will die in the mortal world and his spirit go to hell. God has allowed Nathan, a spirit like him, to help him return to his body on the mortal plane. Devon’s “helper” orders him to kill but his family and the Good Samaritan makes him hesitate. Connor is led to the Bristol farm to learn the truth of farmer Howard Bristol.

The lesson in VALLEY OF THE SHADOW is that people take actions and must be held responsible and accountable for them even when influenced by malevolence like Howard, the personification of evil who intends to abuse God’s will to turn the flock from the lord. This inspirational supernatural thriller never deeply preaches (though more so than its predecessor); as Tom Pawlik subtly uses his cast and story line to bring his message of spiritual choices and healing to the reader. Filled with twists including a great finishing one, this is an emotional uplifting thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 21, 2009

If He's Wicked-Hannah Howell

If He's Wicked
Hannah Howell
Zebra, Jun 2009, $6.99
ISBN 9781420104608

Like generations of her ancestors Chloe Wherlocke has special skills; in her case she has visions. In 1785 she sees her sister dying while giving birth to a stillborn followed by men bringing a living newborn to exchange for the dead baby. In hiding Chloe sees what she envisioned occur. Chloe and her cousin Leo Wherlocke raise baby Anthony.

Three years later they rescue a drunken Julian Kenwood from an assassin. Julian informs the Wherlocke cousins that his man-eating adulteress wife Lady Beatrice and his Uncle Arthur want him dead. He also mentions his wife gave birth a few years ago to a stillborn. He is shocked when he meets his son Anthony and how duplicitous his spouse is having exchanged their live child for a dead infant. Leo offers to protect father and son starting with spreading a rumor that the Earl died and sometime afterward taking the fight to the evil duet. Meanwhile as the two Kenwood males become acquainted, the older falls in love with Chloe, who reciprocates.

This Georgian romantic urban fantasy is an exciting suspenseful tale of love, murder and adultery. The lead pairing of Chloe and Julian is handled smartly to overcome the obvious anticipation that they will fall in love. In spite of the villains being so outrageously vile they are over the top of Big Ben, fans will appreciate Hannah Howell's enjoyable historical as the beleaguered in love heroes try to keep Anthony safe while struggling with staying alive against incredible odds and insane evil.

Harriet Klausner

Guilty or Else-Jeff Sherratt

Guilty or Else
Jeff Sherratt
Echelon, Mar 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9781590806142

In 1972 Downy, California, Judge Johnson gives the case to his former junior LAPD partner, thirty-four years old new lawyer Jimmy with the admonition "Get your client to plead guilty, or else!". His client Mexican gardener Ernesto Rodriguez refuses to plea bargain as he insists he is innocent in the violent murder of twenty-seven year old Gloria Graham, assistant to charismatic State Senator Berry Welch. The case is a sure shot for the prosecution as the evidence starting with the bloody knife and blood in his truck overwhelms anything the defense has. Jimmy pleads with Ernesto that he could get twenty five if he accepts a guilty plea or life if not. Ernesto says his kids will know he is innocent and that will be his plea.

The case makes no sense to Jimmy as the cops caught Ernesto instantly, why would the judge and DA push a plea bargain conviction with the evidence they have and why are two goons following him. Only Deputy DA Roberta Allen, who is running the prosecution case, seems honest as she wants justice to prevail, but she believes Ernesto killed the victim. Jimmy’s defense gets off the ground because his friend investigator Sol Silverman helps him for a $1 fee starting with learning that Welch and Graham had a hot affair. Jimmy wonders if Welch who refuses to speak to him is the reason for the lighting quick reaction by the State as he is a rising superstar. Jimmy will learn the answers lies in the garbage of politicians owned by the Mob.

GUILTY OR ELSE is a terrific historical legal Noir starring a strong cast who bring to life how powerful the Mob is controlling much of Southern California. Jimmy is a fabulous lead character who knows he is in over his head but remains a dedicated idealist (he personally thinks idiot) as does his courtroom opponent Roberta. Even with the mob owning politicians and civil unrest still common though not like the sixties, Jeff Sheratt makes the case that there was still room for a Jimmy Stewart to fight windmills in a court of law although the impact is abated somewhat as his adversary is even more an ethical idealist than he is; a win at all costs prosecutor would have locked up Ernesto for life plus.

Harriet Klausner

No Mercy-John Gilstrap

No Mercy
John Gilstrap
Pinnacle, Jul 2009, $6.99
ISBN 9780786020874

Wealthy private investigator Jonathan Grave takes on cases he finds interesting and using the state of the art equipment that no one else knows exists. He can afford to strive to meet his long term strategic vision of killing terrorists who he admires for their desire to die for their Cause. He hides his identity as he does not want kudos when he rescues innocent victims of predators.

His current case is a bit more personal than usual. He searches for missing investigative reporter Tibor Rothman, married to Grave’s ex-wife, Ellen. At the same time Samson, Indiana Sheriff Gail Bonneville wants to bring in Grave for his role in a shootout during a hostage rescue mission of an Indiana college student that turned ugly.

Over the top of Hoosier Hill, NO MERCY is an enjoyable action-packed thriller starring stereotypical characters, villains and heroes, who turn the exciting tale into a fun Indy run. The story line is ultra fast-paced yet also loaded with non stop violence as vengeance is the name of the game. John Gilstrap provides an exhilarating accelerated thriller that lives up to its title as there is NO MERCY when it comes to revenging an alleged wrong.

Harriet Klausner

Drawing In The Dust-Zoe Klein

Drawing In The Dust
Zoe Klein
Pocket, Jul 7 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9781416599128

For Twelve years American archeologist Page Brookstone has dug at the biblical site Megiddo, Israel, but is bone weary. She knows she needs a change to rejuvenate her creative juices as the dig has become tedious to her in spite of Norris Anderson, who worked with her late legendary father.

The car of an Arab couple Naima and Ibrahim breaks down near the dig. Page offers them tea inside her tent. They soon invite Page to investigate the two spirits who haunt the ruins under their home in Anatot near Jerusalem. Page’s peers suggest it is unsafe, but she assumes they mean an American in an Arab neighborhood. She travels to the site where she and her team unearth an incredible biblical find. She soon realizes incredible is an under exaggeration as Page believes they have found the burial site of the prophet Jeremiah and his beloved Anatiya. Fascinatingly Anatiya has left her version of the times that matches up with the Book of Jeremiah. Soon the find leads to a major brouhaha while Page is attracted to Orthodox Jew Mortichai Master, who opposes the dig.

Rabbi Klein's terrific thriller works for three prime reasons. First it is not another Brownian clone. Second the insightful look at how tedious and methodical a biblical dig is brings authenticity to the plot. Finally, Arabs like Naima and Ibrahim are intelligent highly educated people. Rabbi Klein shows respect and admiration of Israeli and Arab cultures. Fast-paced with a strong support cast, readers will dig the superb DRAWING IN THE DUST as the Prophet Jeremiah comes alive through his writings and that of the woman he loved Anatiya.

Harriet Klausner

Fire and Ice-J.A. Jance

Fire and Ice
J.A. Jance
Morrow, Jul 21 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780061239229

Tamos Rivera was ordered by Miguel to kill the woman; pull out her teeth, pour gasoline on her, and light her up. Afraid of what Miguel would do to his family if he failed to carry out this command, Tamos obeys except for failing to remove the teeth. In the Spring as the snow melts in Washington state, her body is found. She is the sixth victim killed in the same way.

State Attorney general’s Special Homicide Investigation Team, including J.B. Beaumont and his wife Melissa Majors Soames, investigate the case. Using every method at their disposal, they find the latest victims was living in a trailer using the name Marina Aguirre, but realizes that was not her legal name. The team visits the trailer park owner and learns the deceased left behind $50,000 in her refrigerator before vanishing. The dental records affirm she was Marcella Andramade whose brother and son live in Cochise County, Arizona where Sheriff Joanna Brady works. Her sibling is determined to uncover his sister’s killer, but Brody tries to stop him knowing his life would be forfeited too as well as devastating a federal operation in the works for months.

While the main plot centers on the six dead women, Brody has her hands full with her own caseload including the murder of a man ran over by several ATV’s and a nursing home scandal that increasingly looks criminal; she also deals with personal problems. Brody has no time to spare for Beaumont’s case, but she does though that means even less sleep for the sleep deprived even when the feds tell her to back off. Combining her superstars through an exciting story line, J.A. Jance proves she is one of the best police procedural authors writing today as she balances two states two cops, and the nasty serial killer who connects them.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Morgue and Me-John C. Ford

The Morgue and Me
John C. Ford
Viking, Jun 25 2009, $17.99
ISBN: 9780670010967

In Petoskey, Michigan eighteen year old Christopher Newell may be his high school Valedictorian and won a regents Scholarship to Northwestern Michigan University, but he plans to become a spy though he has no idea how one applies for the job; only that it is cool and a woman magnet vocation. Meanwhile he obtains a job for the summer at the morgue so he can receive on the job training in forensic pathology.

While most of his job is filing and clean up, he comes across some odd information involving the cover up by crooked politicians hiding a toxic disaster. As he digs deeper, Christopher begins connecting further dots including a tie to a local felon. However, now that he has enough information to bring down a conspiracy fostered by a criminal industrial political complex, he has no idea who to turn to with his information as he distrusts everyone except a classmate he wants to date. Soon Christopher believes that someone is watching his every move; either that he figures or he has become paranoid.

THE MORGUE AND ME opens with the teen explaining how he just shot someone and now is seeing a shrink who accuses him of disassociation; not a good thing for a cop or an espionage agent. The story line just takes off from there as Christopher explains what happened during the craziest but most wonderful summer of his life as the young hero begins to tie together the conspiracy that engulfs Petoskey. Young adult fans will relish the class valedictorian turn hard boiled teen detective Mindful of the teen noir movie Brick, fans will enjoy the most insane summer of Christopher’s young life.

Harriet Klausner

Storm Cycle-Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen

Storm Cycle
Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen
St. Martin’s, Jul 2009, $26.99
ISBN 9780312368036

In Houston computer guru Rachel Kirby is obsessed with her research into finding a cure for the nervous system disorder Krabbe’s disease. Her efforts are personal as the horrifying degenerating and often fatal but rare disorder is devastating her sister, Allie.

To her shock, someone tries to assassinate Rachel; she was fortunate the sniper missed. Soon afterward she receives an odd email from a total stranger. John Tavak insists he is trapped inside an ancient Egyptian tomb with physician Peseshet, who was a physician to the great pharaohs. He signs off saying he believes Peseshet has a cure for Krabbe’s disease. Though Rachel assumes this is a cruel hoax, she is desperate so she and her sibling travel to where Tavak claims to be entombed while obtaining unexpected assistance from arrogant billionaire Hal Demanski.

When the story line focuses on the two siblings racing to and in Egypt while assassins give chase, STORM CYCLE is an exhilarating thriller. When the plot takes a double romantic spin, it feels contrived and forced as if this is expected of at least the mother part of the Johansen writing team (sort of like Hitchcock cameo appearances). Still the tale is action-packed from the moment someone tries to shoot Rachel and never slows down as she and Allie courageously seek the cure that Tavak swears is available. The second Johansen mom-son collaboration (see SILENT THUNDER) is a fun adventure tale.

Harriet Klausner

Death Wore White-Jim Kelly

The Morgue and Me
John C. Ford
Viking, Jun 25 2009, $17.99
ISBN: 9780670010967

In Petoskey, Michigan eighteen year old Christopher Newell may be his high school Valedictorian and won a regents Scholarship to Northwestern Michigan University, but he plans to become a spy though he has no idea how one applies for the job; only that it is cool and a woman magnet vocation. Meanwhile he obtains a job for the summer at the morgue so he can receive on the job training in forensic pathology.

While most of his job is filing and clean up, he comes across some odd information involving the cover up by crooked politicians hiding a toxic disaster. As he digs deeper, Christopher begins connecting further dots including a tie to a local felon. However, now that he has enough information to bring down a conspiracy fostered by a criminal industrial political complex, he has no idea who to turn to with his information as he distrusts everyone except a classmate he wants to date. Soon Christopher believes that someone is watching his every move; either that he figures or he has become paranoid.

THE MORGUE AND ME opens with the teen explaining how he just shot someone and now is seeing a shrink who accuses him of disassociation; not a good thing for a cop or an espionage agent. The story line just takes off from there as Christopher explains what happened during the craziest but most wonderful summer of his life as the young hero begins to tie together the conspiracy that engulfs Petoskey. Yong adult fans will relish the class valedictorian turn hard boiled teen detective Mindful of the teen noir movie Brick, fans will enjoy the most insane summer of Christopher’s young life.

Harriet Klausner

Crossing the Centerline-Allan E. Ansorge

Crossing the Centerline
Allan E. Ansorge
Echelon, Jan 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9781590806357

Lake County, Wisconsin’s Sheriff’s Department Detective Michael McCaffery is boat sitting for his former partner Carl Fletcher who is in Floridia taking a one month course and test to become a licensed charter boat captain. Michael notices a leg jutting out of the water by the boat; he calls his office to investigate who the victim is. However this John Doe has five IDs on him with the only evidence of who he is a partial fingerprint that matches one that was found in a deadly hit and run last year in which Carl’s fiancée Lauren died, he lost the full use of a leg, and his career in law enforcement ended; the driver the semi was never found until now.

When Carl comes home, Michael briefs him starting with having the One Fine Day moved to a safe place by ship repairer Meyer. The pair begins making inquiries over who wants Carl dead as they suspect that is why the “multiple” John Doe came to the vessel before accidently drowning. Soon the former partners and best friends are joined by Meyer, Sarah the waitress, Bernie the sheriff’s department archivist and Carl’s mom the Internet General all intent on uncovering whom the culprit is.

CROSSING THE CENTERLINE is an enjoyable investigative tale starring an ensemble cast of professional and amateur sleuths in which each of the teammates are unique and fully developed. The story line is fast-paced from the opening sequence of Michael finding the dangling leg sticking out of the water by the boat and never slows down even when romantic coupling begins to occur. Although I had some issues over why the culprit waited to strike again if it was that urgent to eliminate Carl, fans will appreciate Allan E. Ansorge’s exciting Wisconsin mystery and want more stories starring this loyal badger pack.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Die for You-Lisa Unger

Die for You
Lisa Unger
Shaye Areheart (Crown), Jun 2 2009, $24.00
ISBN: 9780307393975

Novelist Isabel Connelly and high tech game designer Marcus Raines have been happily married for five years and seem deeply in love. Marcus leaves their Manhattan apartment for work after telling Isabel he loves her. He never made it to work nor comes home. Panic stricken, when she finally receives a call that she assumes was from him, she hears a terrified man screaming. She rushes to the police, but they offer nothing as they insist it is probably a nasty prank by her spouse.

Isabel rejects the official position as she believes her Marcus loves her and would not desert her. She goes to his office only to find the FBI raiding the place; in the melee she is knocked out. She regains consciousness in a hospital where she learns all of Marcus’s associates are dead and he remains unaccounted for. She checks their finances only to find zero in their accounts. Police Detective Grady Crowe digs deeper into the background of Isabel’s husband only to be shocked that Marcus Unger died years ago.

Mindful of the Goldie Hawn movie Deceived, DIE FOR YOU is an exhilarating thriller starring a fascinating heroine who after the initial shock needs to know who her husband really is and why the deception. When the story line stays focus on disappearances and reactions to it, this is a super tale. However, when the plot contains unnecessary cul de sacs especially about the personal lives of support players, it loses momentum. Still overall Lisa Unger provides an engaging tale of spousal deceit.

Harriet Klausner

The Odds-Kathleen George

The Odds
Kathleen George
Minotaur, Jun 09 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312549992

At a time when Pittsburgh PD Homicide Chief Richard Christie is in the hospital, two of his homicide detectives Colleen Greer and John Potocki assist the Narcotics Division on an investigation into the death of a young user from an overdose. At the same time the four Philips siblings are abandoned, but reject the idea of being split into foster homes.

Just released from prison Nick Banks gives food to the four kids; a young teen, two tweeners, and a seven years old. Later he pays a street debt that takes him into drug trafficking that leads to his being shot. The four children pay back his kindness keeping Nick safe as he heals while Greer and Potocki follow clues to what went down.

Although there is a well run investigation by the homicide unit while he is on the sidelines, the latest Christie police procedural is totally owned by the four Philips youngsters. They turn Pittsburgh upside down more than a Steeler Superbowl with their fierce loyalty to one another in a sea of mostly adult betrayal and treachery. Fans will root for them while seeking the more standard but super Christie Pittsburgh police procedural (see AFTERIMAGE and TAKEN).

Harriet Klausner

The Lovers-John Connolly

The Lovers
John Connolly
Atria, Jun 2 2009, $26.00
ISBN: 9781416569541

With his private investigator's license revoked (see THE REAPERS), Charlie Parker leaves New York City to tend bar in Portland, Maine. The job gives him time think about the other tragedy in his life besides the murders of his wife and daughter that haunts him. When Charlie was fifteen, his father Will an NYPD cop shot dead two teens, who after he kills them learns they were unarmed. Unable cope, Will committed suicide.

As Charlie digs into the background of that traumatic incident, he finds some shocking evidence that makes him wonder if his beloved parents were his biological ones. He decides to return to Manhattan to investigate and avoid the police. At the same time a frightened disturbed woman is on the run from whatever killed her boyfriend. Writer Mickey Wallace investigates the stranger that haunt the Big Apple; as this pair converge on Charlie, two of the undying also come together wanting Parker dead.

Charlie’s focus remains on his personal life, but spins to what happened to his father rather than himself. He is at his best as he begins to uncover shocker after shocker as if someone has connected his body to live electrical wires (see the Cheney torture handbook for more details). He makes the LOVERS a great urban Noir fantasy although the paranormal is kept to the minimal. Readers will relish his escapades as Charlie investigates his father’s suicide while the undying want to give him an opportunity to question dad in whatever hell the dead old man resides in.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 18, 2009

Guardian of Lies-Steve Martini

Guardian of Lies
Steve Martini
Morrow, Jul 2009, $26.99
ISBN 9780061230905

Twenty-six years old Costa Rican expatriate Katia Solaz lives with elderly disturbing Emerson Pike on an estate that is horrifically run down except for a high priced security fence. However, she has had enough of the States and decides to go home.

She leaves Pike’s estate heading for the airport. Unbeknownst to her, just after she left, infamous assassin the Mexecutioner breaches Pike’s security entering the house to kill any occupants. At about the same time Katia meets Southern California defense attorney Paul Madriani at a grocer. Soon all hell breaks loose as several outlawed groups plans to bring nukes into the United States.

The latest Madriani thriller (see DOUBLE TAP and SHADOW OF POWER) is an over the top of Costa Rica’s Mount Chirripo thriller that will still grip the reader even before the heroic attorney meets the Central American expatriate. The contrast between the couple is enlightening as he is a cynic seeing the evil people do while she is an innocent trusting those same people. Insight into the electronic age of wiretapping and surveillance enhances the action-packed story line as several groups and the Mexecutioner converge on Katia with Paul as her only protection.

Harriet Klausner

President Lincoln's Secret-Steven Wilson

President Lincoln's Secret
Steven Wilson
Kensington, July 2009, $14.00
ISBN 9780758232144

In 1863, the explosion at a DuPont Works gunpowder factory in Wilmington worries the President that southern sympathizers sabotaged the plant. To insure it does not happen again, he sends Colonel Thomas Fitzgerald Dunaway to investigate the incident. Thomas’ new wife Asia accompanies him on his mission.

In Wilmington, sibling actors Royal and Victoria January support the Confederacy. They have put together a brilliant plan to disrupt the Union. Meanwhile Asia's half-brother Robert Owen loves Victoria and to win her hand he joins their cause; promising to spy on his brother-in-law. As the Dunaways follow clues, they fear time is running out on them as they anticipate a more terrible sabotage on the Delaware city; especially when ironclads expert rebel supporter Professor Phillip Abbott vanishes.

The fun sequel to PRESIDENT LINCOLN'S SPY is an enjoyable Civil War thriller that has the spy couple in Delaware and Canada trying to prevent a bigger terrorist attack. The story line is fast-paced from the explosive opening and never slows down though the plausibility of some of the exciting action is questionable. Although the president makes less appearances than in the first book, fans will enjoy Steven Wilson’s enjoyable espionage thriller as I Spy has become We Spy.

Harriet Klausner

The Magician's Death-Paul Doherty

The Magician's Death
Paul Doherty
Minotaur, Jul 7 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312565626

In 1303 French scholars arrives at Corfe Castle in Dorset to decipher the coded writings of Roger Bacon; his tome allegedly contains designs for weapons that would make France or whoever possesses the book the continent’s superpower. The Keeper of the Secret Seal of King Edward I, Hugh Corbett has agents who successfully steal a copy of Bacon’s book.

They struggle to bring their treasure to Corbett, but someone stalks them trying to kill all the thieves. At the same time, a crossbow killer has murdered women at the castle. Finally several of the scholars have met with lethal suspicions accidents. Corbett begins to see the interconnecting pattern, but ending the murder spree seems impossible as he is targeted for death too.

The latest Hugh Corbett Medieval Mystery (see CORPSE CANDLE and THE TREASON OF THE GHOSTS) is an excellent early fourteenth century whodunit as Corbett’s investigations provide an engaging tale while also spotlighting life in the era. The cases are difficult to solve until the hero begins to see the merging of what he originally thought was separate serial killers at work; he remains resolute to solving both though he knows he is on the death list. As always Paul Doherty provides another winner in a strong saga.

Harriet Klausner

The Doomsday Key-James Rollins

The Doomsday Key
James Rollins
Morrow, Jun 23 2009, $27.99
ISBN: 9780061231407

The deadly attack of an agriculture site in Africa makes no sense to Sigma Force director Painter Crowe. He and others high up want to know why even more than who. Part of the reason most of the political establishment is involved is because one of the dead at the experiential station was a son of a senator.

He sends his top unit to Africa. Commander Grayson Pierce along with Monk Kokkalis and Joe Kowalsk are expected to uncover the truth as the attack was way beyond even that of a terrorist cell as the whole area was flattened even after everyone inside was dead. The team quickly learns about something called the Doomsday Key removed from Egypt ages ago and brought to England. This substance allegedly contains a potent unheard of medicine, but in the wrong hands for instance their rivals the Guild could mean the beginning of the end for mankind.

The latest Sigma Force thriller (see THE JUDAS STRAIN, MAP OF BONES and THE LAST ORACLE) is action-packed as Pierce and his teammates run all over Europe trying to prevent further catastrophes while their potent rivals want to use THE DOOMSDAY KEY for their gain. The story line starts off at the speed of light and never decelerates as James Rollins hooks his audience with a wonderful thriller that is based on the concept of how the past impacts the present including the science of today that in turn becomes part of the past impacting the today’s of the future. Complex yet filled with fun, the Sigma Force saga is at its best with this winner.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Boston Scream Pie-Rosemary & Larry Mild

Boston Scream Pie
Rosemary & Larry Mild
Hilliard & Harris, Aug 2008, $16.95
ISBN: 9781591332640

In 1986 in Black Rain on the Chesapeake Bay area of Maryland, teenager Caitlin Neuman suffers from a horrific repetitive nightmare that feels as if it happened to her; two teens are in a car crash during a blizzard. Her beloved grandma Olivia Raphael insists it is just a weird spin from the accident that Caitlin survived when she was seven and her parents and twin sister died.

Caitlin asks retired Baltimore Detective Paco LeSoto to leave his watching of Redskin reruns to investigate her frightening nightmare to ascertain if there is any truth to them. Accompanied by his wife Molly, they follow clues that lead them to the recently extended Boston family where another set of twins live. The merging of two families after Newton Boston married four times wedded Delylah has not gone smooth and soon will turn deadly, but all the answers to the nightmare is inside that home.

BOSTON SCREAM PIE is an enjoyable Chesapeake Bay mystery starring several likable individuals and a few dislikable persons. The characters drive the story line from the onset as each key player is fully developed so that the audience will feel they know the extended families and the LeSoto couple. Although Edwin Newman (perfect homonym) will insist Molly with her “Mollyprops” is a classic example of his contention STRICTLY SPEAKING: WILL AMERICA BE THE DEATH OF ENGLISH, fans will enjoy this lighthearted detective romp.

Harriet Klausner

Black Hills-Nora Roberts

Black Hills
Nora Roberts
Putnam, Jul 7 2009, $26.95
ISBN: 9780399155819

At eleven years old Coop Sullivan was sent for the summer to his grandparents’ South Dakota ranch. Although he objected as he never wanted to go, he meets Lil Chance there and he learns to love his relatives who shower him with love back. This was the most wonderful summer of his life and he repeated it for years until he and Lil fell in love. However, they went their separate ways to attend colleges many miles apart until he deserted his Lil and their love.

Now almost a decade later, Coop is at the ranch caring for his grandmother and Lil is back too. The wildlife biologist wants no part of her former lover, the ex police officer turned private investigator. However she needs him when uncontroversial proof surfaces that the man who killed some animals and a man waits for her on her animal refuge. Coop risks his life to keep his beloved Lil safe and hopes the time will give him a chance to make amends for his failure as he now knows with maturity she is the one.

BLACK HILLS is Nora Roberts at her magical best as she constructs what seems on the surface as a formulaic romantic suspense, but in her words turns into a thrilling love story. Lil is terrific as she understands her peril and turns to the only person she trusts to keep her alive when the High Noon confrontation she (and readers) anticipates occurs. Coop would be resolute anyway, but has the additional motive of regaining and retaining Lil in his life. In some ways the killing predator steals the show as he hunts two and four legged beasts. Ms. Roberts shows why she is consistently a best seller author with this super thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Assailant-James Patrick Hunt

The Assailant
James Patrick Hunt
Minotaur, Jun 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312545789

St. Louis Police Homicide Lieutenant George Hastings leads the investigation into the strangulation murder of Reesa Woods, a high price call girl paying her way through college as an escort, whose body was found in the muddy banks of the Mississippi. The evidence is near zero and her associates refuse to speak. Soon afterward a second strangulation death, escort Adele Sayers, is found outside the city.

A regional task force is formed with George as number two as he and the team leader SLPD Chief of Detectives Ronnie Wulf bang heads. A third body with a different MO that of realtor Marla Hilsheimer is found clubbed to death. The killer gloats and taunts the cops with tips and clues to the St. Louis Herald reporter Cliff Llewellyn. Teaming up with Woods’ associate Rita Liu, George struggles to prevent any more deaths from “Springheel Jim” as the killer calls himself to the media.

The latest Hastings police procedural (see GOODBYE SISTER DISCO and BETRAYERS) is a well written serial killer thriller, but uses the taunting PR fame grabbing by the psychopath that is typical of the sub-genre. The story line is fast-paced as the homicides and the taunting increase. Fans will enjoy the taunting in your face of THE ASSAILANT as even the members of the task force know that without the killer’s help the case would remain hot.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 15, 2009

DeKok and the Mask of Death-A.C. Baantjer

DeKok and the Mask of Death
A.C. Baantjer
Speck, Jul 1 2009, $24.00
ISBN 9781933108308

In Amsterdam, hysterical Richard Netherwood explains to Warmoes Street station Inspectors DeKok and his overly aggressive (in DeKok’s mind that is) protégé Vledder that his girlfriend Rosalind Evertsoord vanished. Somewhat calming down the incoherent young man, DeKok learns that Richard took Rosalind to Slotervaart Hospital for a neurology appointment, but she simply disappeared while he waited for her to finish her visit.

The two detectives soon learn of other women vanishing at the highly regarded Slotervaart. When they confront the hospital administrators, they are told nobody has vanished at the hospital; and in fact none of these women including Rosalind were ever there as no records exist of any of them. A horde of irate boyfriends say otherwise.

The latest translation of the deKok Dutch police procedural (see DEKOK AND THE MURDER IN BRONZE and DEKOK AND THE DEAD LOVER) is once again an excellent mystery. The investigation is super as the inquiry is loaded with unexpected twists and red herrings. However what makes this tale and the more recent entries even more delightful is the team up of opposites as the seasoned deliberate cop mentors his less experienced somewhat hotheaded junior partner.

Harriet Klausner

Blind Sight- Terri Persons

Blind Sight
Terri Persons
Doubleday, May 26 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780385526531

In Paul Bunyan State Forest, Minnesota a hunter finds the butchered corpse of a teenage girl. FBI Agents Bernadette Saint Clare and Tony Garcia lead the investigation into the horrific homicide made worse by the culprit slicing open the victim’s body to remove her nine month old fetus.

The fatality is Lydia Dunton, the found daughter of U.S. senator Magnus Dunton, who has made it publicly clear his scorn for the bureau even before his daughter’s death and is even more outraged with the feds. On Lydia’s head is an inverted red pentagram, but that somehow vanishes at the morgue. Conducting research into similar recent cases, Saint Clare discovers an identical murder in Wisconsin and proof that Lydia had been at that location recently.

The third Saint Clare Minnesota FBI paranormal police procedural (see BLIND RAGE and BLIND SPOT) is an exciting whodunit enhanced by the abuse of power of the grieving father. The investigation is fun to follow though it predominately goes by the sub-genre’s standard operating procedures. Ehat is interesting is Saint Clare’s ability to “see” through the eyes of a killer; yet as with BLIND RAGE, this skill is for the most part irrelevant to solving the case. Still Fans will enjoy this entertaining Minnesota murder mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Pretend Wife-Bridget Asher

The Pretend Wife
Bridget Asher
Bantam, Jun 1 2009, $24.00
ISBN: 9780385341912

Although she is married to kindhearted Peter, Gwen Merchant agrees to help out her former college boyfriend Elliott Hull; his mother Vivian is dying and wants to meet his fiancée before she passes away. Gwen hides from Elliot that she looks forward to escaping the loving smothering of her spouse of three years who brings his profession into their marital relationship: anesthesiologist.

However, Gwen never expected her weekend masquerade would lead her to falling in love with Elliott and liking his family; especially his sister and her children. She also notices how Vivian scrutinizes and probably knows her relationship with Elliot is a sham even as she wonders if her late mom who drowned when Gwen was five would do likewise.

Until the unacceptable climax (at least to me), THE PRETEND WIFE is a superb profound look at relationships; not just that of Gwen with her spouse, her sham spouse, her widower dad and others, but also Elliot with his mom and sister.. The story line is character driven filled with pathos and humor while exploring human needs for companionship. Gwen makes the tale work with her energy and enthusiasm as the weekend provides her insightful revelations about life’s shortness making every relationship matter.

Harriet Klausner

Floodgates-Mary Anna Evans

Mary Anna Evans
Poisoned Pen, Jul 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9781590585917

Archeologist Faye Longchamp leads a dig of a plantation adjoined to the Battle of New Orleans locale. During clean-up by the students of the damage Katrina caused to the famous battlefield and the adjacent plantation, a corpse is found. The person would have been considered an unfortunate victim of the Hurricane except for a dumbbell on top of the pelvis.

The police ask Faye and her fiancé Joe Wolf Mantooth to help them with the homicide investigation. The victim is identified as archeologist Shelly Broussard who worked with rescue teams following Katrina. Faye and Joe find clues in a local nonfiction account of the hurricane’s devastation and in a nineteenth century military engineer’s journal as the pair begins to unravel a clever homicide almost buried by the storm of the century.

The latest Faye Longchamp archeological mystery (see FINDINGS, ARTIFACTS, and RELICS) is an engaging whodunit that ties a historical journal to a modern day murder. The story line is character driven by the lead couple and a super support cast. However, the investigation feels somewhat emaciated though in fairness it is fun to read. Fans of the series will enjoy Faye’s newest escapades.

Harriet Klausner

Murder on a Midsummer Night-Kerry Greenwood

Murder on a Midsummer Night
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen, Jul 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9781590586327

In Melbourne in 1929 the drowning death of twenty-nine years old antiques dealer Augustine Manifold is considered a suicide by most of the city including the police. Perhaps the only holdouts are as expected his distraught mom who refuses to believe her son killed himself and wealthy private investigator Phyrne Fisher.

Though her plate seems overflowing with her meeting her socialite demands, raising two adopted daughters, and working several concurrent cases like searching for a missing heir, she agrees to look into Augustine’s death and still have time for her Chinese lover. As she digs deeper into the alleged suicide Phyrne begins finding evidence that her gut is right that someone murdered Manifold, but who and proving it seems impossible to uncover.

This terrific Australian Depression Era mystery is perhaps the most complicated entry in the super Fisher saga. The story line is fast-paced but seems initially all over the place until master magician Kerry Greenwood brings the threads together in a brilliant manner. Phyrne is her usual kick butt independent dynamo as she manages a zillion things only to keep adding one more time consumer onto her overflowing plate. The Manifold investigation is top rate as she sets out to prove the suicide was actually MURDER ON A MIDSUMMER NIGHT.

Harriet Klausner

Leaden Skies-Ann Parker

Leaden Skies
Ann Parker
Poisoned Pen, Jul 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 1590585771

In July 1880 as former President Ulysses S. Grant arrives at the mining town Leadville on a five day visit, Colorado, Silver Queen Saloon co-owner Inez Stannert is divorcing her missing husband while having an affair with Reverend Sands. Being an astute businesswoman, Inez conceals her partnership with Madam Frisco Flo in a brothel.

When Lizzie the prostitute is murdered, Inez becomes worried over her investment. Used to fixing problems before they become catastrophic like she is doing with her marital status, Inez investigates the homicide. She quickly learns of another silent partner but not who. She draws the ire of the town’s power brokers from mine owners, to politicians to the reporters. However, that anti-Inez fervor expands when prostitutes and moms become irate with her inquiry. However, the only one she fears alienating is Hatchet the tax collector so as long as she avoids him, she will keep digging.

LEADEN SKIES is a fabulous post Reconstruction Era frontier thriller that brings to life a Colorado mining town at a time when change is occurring with the Union troops having just left the south and women’s suffrage losing momentum yet still being pushed in the Rockies. Inez is terrific as she holds the story line together with her inquiry that alienates the entire town of Leadville who want no skeletons rattled while Grant is there. Although the whodunit takes a back seat to one woman’s struggle to remain economically independent in the late nineteenth century, Ann Parker writes a wonderful Americana tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Memory Collectors-Meg Gardiner

The Memory Collectors
Meg Gardiner
Dutton, Jun 11 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780525950752

At a San Francisco Airport, forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett examines an upset airline passenger Ian Kanan who has just returned from Africa. She concludes he apparently suffers from a form of short term amnesia that does not allow him to make new memories more than five minutes old though his pre-flight remain okay. Despondent and hyper with anxiety Ian is rushed to the hospital. Unable to calm down, he insists his family was abducted and in trouble, and someone poisoned him. He soon vanishes from the hospital to go after those he feels harmed him and his family.

Beckett investigates Kanan’s background and learns he was a security consultant for Chira-Sayf, a nanotechnology company. She finds out he also may be the accidental victim of an experimental biological weapon Slick. She fears those who Kanan referred to plan to gracefully emit Slick on the city. With her boyfriend Gabe Quintana and SFPD Police Lieutenant Amy Tang accompanying her, Beckett hopes to prevent a terrorist tragedy as the disease is spreading.

The second Beckett thriller (see THE DIRTY SECRETS CLUB) is an action-packed, fast-paced tale in which the audience will not have time to breath. The story line starts at hyperspeed and never slows down so that readers will want to join the ride (wear seat belts). However, the frantic speed keeps character development to a thin level, but no one will care as the enjoyable adventures are faster than the speed of light.

Harriet Klausner

Whiskey Gulf-Clyde Ford

Whiskey Gulf
Clyde Ford
Vanguard, Jul 2009, $24,95
ISBN: 9781593155223

In the waters of Whiskey Gulf in British Columbia, joint naval maneuversby Canada and the United States are going on when the damaged and filling with water sailboat Rebecca Anne enters the exercise zone. The Kinsleys reach the Comax Coast Guard who transfers them to Winchelsea Control before they are cut off and never heard from again. The Kulsham Yacht Club hires former Coast Guard investigator turned maritime private sleuth Charlie Noble to learn what happened to the couple.

He goes to the area in Whisky Gulf where the sailboat allegedly landed and finds fiberglass pieces and other evidence that supports the theory the Rebecca Anne blew up. Charlie sees two torpedoes going through the water near him. Charlie later learns they were used as a decoy to show the buying country Baharin that the guidance system still needs work. Intelligence confirms that the Kinsley’s (not their real names) are needed to testify against a terrorist in the States while the Canadians hide them to keep them safe until they do. An assassin is coming to kill them; a person Charlie once called friend until he shot his brother and that former pal plans to take out Charlie too for killing his sibling.

Action, action, and action to the nth degree makes WHISKEY GULF an absorbing thriller filled with characters who for the most part are hyperbole to insure the action never decelerates. Charlie is retired, but feels duty bound to help destroy a terrorist cell. His partner Raven brings depth to Charlie as he is like a father figure to him. Clyde Ford provides a thriller faster than a speeding Mustang filled with surprising twists and revelations.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Finger Lickin’ Fifteen-Janet Evanovich

Finger Lickin’ Fifteen
Janet Evanovich
St. Martin’s, Jun 23 2009, $27.95
ISBN: 9780312383282

Bond enforcement officer Stephanie Plum is inside Uncle Vinnie’s bail bonds office when her co-worker Lula arrives screaming hysterically that she saw two thugs decapitate chef Stanley Chipotle; a former hooker she is used to giving head not have a head bounce next to her. They know she can identify them so they try to kill her by leaving a bomb in Stephanie’s car, which blows up. Next they firebomb Stephanie’s house because Lula is living there. A bail jumper ruins her car twice. Both vehicles actually belong to Ranger who accepts the loss of his cars with a scary calm detachment since he knows her car was blown to smithereens.

Stephanie helps Ranger in a professional capacity as he hires her to be an extra set of eyes to help him figure out who is robbing his clients. His security business has been taking an exorbitant amount of hits by an insider who knows the protection codes. While trying to bring in people who missed their court dates, Stephanie helps Lula and Grandma Mazur who entered a barbeque contest sponsored by the company who the man who lost his dead worked for. The thugs try to kill them again; Stephanie is tired of being shot at, cars blown up, and her house firebombed. She intends to kick butt and solve who is wrecking Ranger’s business..

FINGER LICKIN’ FIFTEEN is a funny laugh out loud crime thriller filled with plenty of out of control action. The heroine is put through the wringer and rinsed several times she should be suffering from PTSD, but instead she suffers from PISSED OFF. There are several other zany subplots besides those above as Janet Evanovich provides her usual over the edge of the Hudson plum of a tale.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Benefactor-John Moran

The Benefactor
John Moran
Five Star, Jun 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147715

In Connecticut forty-one year old widow Kay Daniels does not grieve the death of her spouse Bernard in a car accident. He had become an ugly alcoholic abusing her to the point she had to take out a restraining order. Kay feared mostly for her daughter Kelley. Bernard’s death left her free of his violence and wealthy as she inherits all.

A few months later, a stranger Nikolas Seifer demands she give him half of the estate. He explains that he is a businessman who arranges accidental deaths to eliminate abusive partners so that the survivor, his unwitting client, inherits. Nikolas shows her proof that if she failed to cooperate he will give to the cops, especially New Croyden Homicide Detective Frank Sinclair who suspects her of killing her husband. The Nebraska phone number of the driver Marilyn Jarvis who killed Bernard in a vehicular accident is listed on Kay’s AT&T bill just before the death and they were in the same hotel the night before. Kay is stunned as she wants to tell Nikolas to go to hell, but fears he has her trapped. Just before leaving her, Nikolas says he will not be back after she remits her one payment because he does not want her bankrupt so that she talks to the law; but also warns her if she fails to remit his fee, there will be repercussions.

THE BENEFACTOR will hook readers with the fresh extortion scheme from the onset as Nikolas visits Kay and never slows down even with a romantic subplot that actually enhances the tense thriller. Nikolas the assassin arranger owns the novel though his appearances are somewhat limited compared to the beleaguered heroine; he is a terrific psychopath whose brilliant calm coldness sets the tone of this fast-paced story line. Readers will enjoy John Moran’s exhilarating tale and in a macabre fascination with the villain will relish more Seifer kills; perhaps some of those he presented to sell his case to Kay.

Harriet Klausner

House Secrets-Mike Lawson

House Secrets
Mike Lawson
Atlantic Monthly, Jul 8 2009, $22.00
ISBN 9780802118851

The drowning at Lake Anna of the Washington Post investigative reporter Terry Finley has shaken up his father, a former Congressman who suspects foul play. Former Congressman Finley asks Speaker of the House John Mahoney for a favor to investigate his last surviving son’s death; his other boy died years ago due to JFK’s fiasco in Nam. Mahoney orders his investigator Joe DeMarco to look into the drowning death.

DeMarco intevriews the retired Congressman who explains why he has doubts that an accident occurred as his son, a workaholic, was on a major story and would not have left town for a swim. The journalist was looking into the US Senator from NY Paul Morelli, the liberal front-runner for the Democratic Party nomination for president. Accepting the premise of a homicide though he doubts that happened, DeMarco assumes an embarrassing story needed to be silent, which means politicians and none better than a presidential front-runner. The sleuth soon learns that Morelli is a nasty drunk who turns into a rapist after downing a few. Worse he finds out that the senator offers to pay off his victims to silence them or if they refuse hush money silence them by having his goons kill them. Reporting his finding to Mahoney, the speaker tells him to trap the bastard only DeMarco’s allies on a perfect sting are being murdered one at a time with two Feds following the Speaker’s sleuth..

The latest Joe DeMarco DC investigative thriller (see HOUSE RULES) is a fantastic tale filled with twists and spins that seem plausible. The underlying concept to the exhilarating story line is Lord Acton’s commentary that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Fans will enjoy DeMarco’s efforts to bring down a DC giant only to soon wonder if he will survive long enough to see Morelli in spite of the evidence living in the White House. Mike Lawson’s DeMarco Speaker investigations are a consistently great series.

Harriet Klausner

War Games: Kill Zone-Vicki Hinze

War Games: Kill Zone
Vicki Hinze
Medallion, Jul 2009, $7.95
ISBN 9781934755617

The Secret Assignment Security Specialists’ Special Abilities Team (SAT) consists of three members, Dr. Morgan Cabot, Jazie Craig and Taylor Lee with intuitive psychologist Morgan as the head. Their current assignment is to bring down the deadly Group Resources for Individual Development (GRID) led by brilliant lethal operative Thomas Kunz.

GRID barely conceals its terrorist activities as they work from inside the American government by doppelganger agents in positions of power in order to obtain top secret information. The SAT unit believes the next target is one or both of the Stern brothers; USAF Captain Jackson Stern or his recently arrested on spousal murder charges sibling Bruce Stern; either that or they are traitors. Morgan, Jazie and Taylor understand the mission is to bring down deadly Kunz ASAP.

With a nod to Charlie's Angels, but with an ESP spin, fans will enjoy the fast-paced and well-written KILL ZONE though the track of the story line is very obvious. The villain's traits are purposely hyperbole, but that makes for the fun in the tale as Kunz is a solid foil to the heroic trio as super agents need super opponents. Filled with misinformation and disinformation by those allegedly on the side of SAT, readers will enjoy the first War Games with its paranormal battle front. Vicki Hinze is a brilliant suspense writer.

Harriet Klausner

Plague of Secrets-John Lescroart

Plague of Secrets
John Lescroart
Dutton, Jun 30 2009, $26.95
ISBN 9780525950929

In San Francisco, an unknown sniper shoots and kills Bay Beans West coffee shop manager Dylan Volger. The police find Dylan carrying marijuana and growing weed in his home; they also find his clientele includes highly placed local politicians.

The cops suspect the Haight-Ashbury coffee shop owner, Maya Townshend as the culprit. Besides being the niece of the city’s mayor and her sister being a city supervisor, Maya was paying her ex-convict manager an exorbitant salary to run a coffee shop. The investigators Bracco and Schiff think she tired to kill her former college lover to end his blackmailing of her related to his marijuana sales that U.S. District attorney Jerry Glass insists paid for her expensive home as she was the senior weed mover. Glass sees a boost to his career especially if he adds asset forfeiture to convicting her. Defense attorney Dismas Hardy defends his client whom the media has hung as a drug dealing adulteress killer on two murder counts, drug dealing and more based on motive and no physical evidence.

This is a terrific Hardy-Glitsky tale with several exciting subplots including Abe’s son in a coma and the cop being at the courtroom for a final sort of like Perry Mason twist (without the confession) from out of the headlines in Georgia. The story line is fast-paced, but it is the characters especially the plausible support cast to include the two murder victims who turn PLAGUE OF SECRETS into a super legal thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Last Resort- April Star

The Last Resort
April Star
Five Star, Jun 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 159414768X

David and Laura Jennings are on their “rv’ing” honeymoon which seems appropriate as they met, fell in love, and solved a murder case at the Big Pine Key RV Resort run by her (see TROPICAL WARNINGS). They stop at Harbor Lights RV Park on Anastasia Island in St. Augustine. There they romantically walk the beach only to find a bottle washed ashore; instead of a message inside they find odd colored sand.

They soon learn the former manager Patricia Marsh recently was murdered by someone who set her body aflame on the beach. Her daughter Gracie found the corpse. Being a private investigator David cannot stop himself from making inquiries while Laura, having obtained a taste for investigation, joins him. They meet and team up with another couple staying at the park; Katie and Jeremy as he is a retired NYC forensic anthropologist who finds out the bottle content is Patricia's burned bone pieces. The prime suspects are Patricia’s husbands, abusive Ken Schaffer and her younger second spouse Cory Marsh but finding out which one proves impossible for reasons the sleuths have not yet uncovered.

The whodunit is terrific as is the insider’s look at an RV park, which brings out a horde of differing characters who enhance the investigation. The story line is fast-paced and fun to follow, but fans will want the lead couple to move past the overly honeyed honeymoon stage. THE LAST RESORT is an enjoyable mystery with a wonderful late twist.

Harriet Klausner

The Art of Evil-Daryn Parke

The Art of Evil
Daryn Parke
Five Star, Jun 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 1594147868

After falling from the third floor and having her FBI partner-lover Eric die in the same incident, Special Agent Aurora "Rory" Travis is on sick leave healing in Sarasota, Florida at the Ritz-Carlton suite rented by her wealthy great-Aunt Hyacinth. Rory is a volunteer tram driver two days a week at the nearby Bellman Museum.

However, the place proves far from calm starting with the apparent suicide of Honors College student Tim Mundell. Soon after during a thunder storm, mysterious Josh Thomas leaps into her tram. Additionally someone is pulling pranks that Rory believes is being done by security and art student Billie Bellman. Police Detective Ken Parrish investigates the pranks that soon turn to homicide.

This is an engaging Florida investigative thriller starring a likable cast to include eccentric seniors especially Aunt Hy, polar opposite sleuths with an in common interest in Rory, and a terrific heroine struggling to regain her sea legs who needs to dump her psychic power that seems more of a handicap than help. The story line is fast-paced, but shifts scenes unexpectedly without smooth transitions. Still this is fun mystery due to the strong characterizations as readers will wonder who is behind the murders and the pranks; and who will Rory choose, if anyone?

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Robert Ludlam’s The Bourne Deception-Eric Van Lustbader

Robert Ludlam’s The Bourne Deception
Eric Van Lustbader
Grand Central, Jun 09 2009, $27.99
ISBN-13: 9780446539821

Former CIA assassin Jason Bourne believes he killed his Russian equivalent Leonid Arkadin (see THE BOURNE SANCTION) when he pushed his greatest enemy into the ocean. Soon after that incident, a highly placed Fed makes a deal with a Russian to kill Bourne in exchange for killing a terrorist. The Russian is Arkadin who survived his watery grave and in Bali he fires at Bourne, hitting him with the accuracy of the best snipers, but somehow though severely hurt Bourne escapes and lives.

While Arkadin tries to assassinate Bourne, a US commercial airline is shot down over Egypt. The American Secretary of Defense blames that deadly assault on Iranian terrorists sanctioned by that country. War seems imminent, but Bourne is caught in the middle learning the truth about double dealing on personal and state levels.

Fast-paced and very exciting though over the top of the pyramids, the latest Bourne thriller is a fun tale in which action, believable or incredulous, and more action overwhelms the plot as the sum of the subplots is greater than the story line. Additionally, none of the characters including Bourne and Arkadin seem even partially developed; compounded by the hero’s limited role; as the feats of daring do supersede all else. This is only for die hard fans of the saga.

Harriet Klausner

Exposure-Brandilyn Collins

Brandilyn Collins
Zondervan, Jun 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780310276432

Rationally Kaycee Raye knows her fears are irrational; she has told herself that logically nothing is out there at least a zillion times, but thinking everything is okay never works at least for her. The fear factor of breathing is greater than any rational thought in her mind and gut. All her life she has been psychotically paranoid; she even plausibly believes it is in her DNA as her mom was insane. Kaycee knows how screwed up she is as does everyone in her hometown of Wilmore, Kentucky and elsewhere since she writes a popular self-deprecating newspaper column lampooning her fears as her form of confronting the foolishness of them.

Kaycee arrives home to find a camera in her kitchen; she wonders how it got there. However, the camera contains a photograph of a dead man. She calls the police hysterically, but when they arrive the camera is gone. The cops write it off to her well known mental illness though they confuse schizoid with paranoia. Soon other disturbing events happen to her and she begins having dreams that feel more like memory recall because they are so vivid.

This is an exciting character driven psychological thriller that grips readers from the onset with a need to know if it is the heroine’s paranoia or is there someone sinister proving sometimes they are out to get you. Kaycee is terrific as the heroine in peril, but readers are not sure whether she going insane or if an unknown adversary is after her. With a fabulous final spin set up throughout the plot yet just not obvious and a brilliant use of faith, Brandilyn Collins provides a great tale of how fear can take control of a person. Capturing how crippling an anxiety disorder can be, those still skeptical also should read THE EARL CAMPBELL STORY: A FOOTBALL GREAT'S BATTLE WITH PANIC DISORDER.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Desolate Angel-Chaz McGee

Desolate Angel
Chaz McGee
Berkley, Jul 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780425228739

Heaven does not want him and Hell is not calling either. In life Kevin Fahey was a lousy cheating husband and an absentee father; these were his better traits. As a cop he failed to solve most of his cases. As a spirit wandering his town, he believes he is still on earth to earn redemption though he has no earthly idea how.

One day the ghost of Alissa Hayes appears and leads him to the corpse of a woman who was positioned in the exact manner of her murder that he solved. Kevin now knows he was so drunk and incompetent he let an innocent young man get sent to prison .Kevin is drawn to the lead detective on the case who shine with a pure light; Maggie Gunn quickly connects the homicide of Alissa to that of Victoria Meeks. Fahey is Maggie’s persistent yet invisible companion; he smells evil while she senses it. Maggie figures out who the killer is, but lacks evidence for a conviction. She, as does Fahey, knows he must be taken down because he will torture and slowly kill others. Although Maggie can not sense Fahey’s presence, somehow she feels connected to him. He intends to keep her on the right road so a tragedy can be averted.

As a roaming ghost, Fahey is a much better person than he was as a living being. He sees the beauty of nature, the joy in loving relationships of all kinds, and bitterly regrets how he lived his life. He needs to make reparations and is elated to finally have found a way to do so. Fahey feels he is doing a higher calling and embraces this with a fervor he lacked when he breathed. His feelings for Maggie are not quite defined at this time but emit an interesting aura as he obviously cares what happens to her; a first for him. The investigation is top rate as Chaz McGee has written a mesmerizing paranormal police procedural.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 8, 2009

Cold Choices-Larry Bond

Cold Choices
Larry Bond
Forge, May 12 2009, $26.95
ISBN: 9780765318756

Nuclear Sub Captain First Rank Aleksey Petrov is ordered to drive out of the Barents Sea any American naval vessel; even those observing the Russian military exercise from international waters. However, due to a human error, the ambitious and overly zealous Petrov watches in horror as his state of the art vessel the Severodvinsk collides with the USS Seawolf, whose mission was to map the seabed below the Russian naval training maneuvers.

While the American vessel can somewhat move on, the Russian sub sinks to the bottom of the sea. Seawolf Commander Jerry Mitchell, (see DANGEROUS GROUND) assumes the Russians gleefully left to gloat at a nearby submarine port. However, he quickly realizes the Severodvinsk has sunk. The brass from both countries want the incident to stay sunk, but Mitchell feels strongly a rescue of his naval comrades is a must regardless of the Pentagon or the Russian equivalent proclaiming otherwise, however he also worries his damaged ship might not be up to the task and could result in the deaths of his crew.

Readers will feel a bit claustrophobic as Larry Bond provides an insightful look at life on a submarine especially during a crisis. The story line is loaded with action and overloaded with gizmos. Although the brass in both capitals act in their usual political expedient manners that have become too common in literature, fans will enjoy the dilemmas of the two captains. Mitchell could not care less what the fat cats several thousand miles away demand, as he must decide between the risks to his crew vs. a rescue. On the other hand Petrov does care what Moscow thinks so he must decide whether to accept help that will end his career but save some of his crew or die with them; the choice is not as easy as it sounds because he does not trust the Americans to rescue them if they collect what they came for.
Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Alpha Female-April Christofferson

Alpha Female
April Christofferson
Tor, Jun 30 2009, $7.99
ISBN 9780765344205

In Yellowstone National Park, Annie Peacock is chief justice of the judicial system. She is considered a rule book judge as she opposes judicial activism. Currently Annie has moved on with a divorce but struggles with anti-depressant usage.

Park ranger Will McCarroll feels strongly that the natural habitat and its residents deserve full protection and goes out of way to do so even when judges like Annie try to restrain him. They are squabbling over his protection of bison that she feels is way beyond the requirement. However, the judge and the ranger team up stop sportsmen and poachers from breaking federal law protecting wolves. Instead the outlaws target the ALPHA FEMALE wolf leading her pack and to insure Annie cooperates, they kidnap her mother.

The insight into Yellowstone, especially the superb refreshing look at park politics that emphasizes Tip O’Neill’s theory that “all politics is local” and the super romantic subplot, is terrific. However, the thriller elements never gel as they seem to remain in the background even when Will and Annie team up to prevent illegal hunting and to rescue her mom. Still this is an engaging contemporary Yellowstone tale starring two strong, obstinate heroes going from enemies to beloved enemies while uniting in a common cause.

Harriet Klausner

Secondhand Spirits-Juliet Blackwell

Secondhand Spirits
Juliet Blackwell
Obsidian, Jul 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 045122745X

Lily Ivory is a bona fide witch; a powerful mage who can feel the vibrations emitted from old clothing, can smell and sense auras, and can cast spells through brewing. She has been on the run for most of her life; hiding her “witchiness” skills by never allowing anyone to get to close to her so that one would think she is a freak. However, now thirty-one Lily feels a need to settle down so she moves to San Francisco assuming she can fit in best in the City on the Bay. There she opens up a vintage women’s clothing shop Aunt Cora’s Closet.

Her friend Maya takes Lily to the home of Frances Potts who has a ton of beautiful vintage clothing. Lily senses evil directed at Frances by the demon La Llorona. Late that same night Lily returns to Frances’ home to cast a protection spell against La Llorana. The next day the woman is dead and a child is missing presumably by La Llorona who feeds on the souls of children. The magical community rallies around Lily who uses her skills to hopefully bring the child back and send the demon back to the Texas/Mexico border where she came from.

Readers who anxiously await the next works of Victoria Laurie or Madelyn Alt will appreciate SECOND HAND SPIRITS, an enchanting mystery that enables the audience to believe in the supernatural. A mysterious male witch Aiden welcomes her to the neighborhood by giving her a familiar, a goblin disguised as a pot bellied pig. Lily is a great character; a strong woman who believes in doing what she feels is ethically right though it might cost her. Juliet Blackwell provides a terrific urban fantasy with the opening of the Witchcraft Mystery series.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Little Lamb Lost-Margaret Fenton

Little Lamb Lost
Margaret Fenton
Oceanview, Jun 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9781933515519

In Birmingham, Alabama, the police arrest Ashley Hennessy in the death of her infant son Michael, who died from a drug overdose. Although the evidence seems overwhelming especially with Ashley’s track record with drugs and alcohol, social worker Claire Conover does not believe her client would even accidentally kill her son. Claire also admits feeling some guilt since she persuaded the court to return Michael to his mother.

Convinced the woman is innocent as she worked extraordinarily hard to become clean, to be a good mother and hold two jobs, Claire investigates the crime believing someone murdered the child. The social worker knows the personal cost could be her job as she crosses the line, but does not care as guilt and justice motivate her to find the killer although she never anticipated the number of viable suspects she would uncover.

LITTLE LAMB LOST is a fabulous regional amateur sleuth starring a caring protagonist who goes way beyond the extra kilometers to prove her instincts re her client is right. The story line is fast-paced while also bringing out a taste of Birmingham. However, the tale is totally owned by the dedicated heroine who risks her career and her life because she believed her client had changed while the cops assumed the culprit remained a trashy drug using loser. Readers will enjoy this intriguing Alabama whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Royal Flush-Rhys Bowen

Royal Flush
Rhys Bowen
Berkley, Jul 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780425227886

In 1932, impoverished Lady Georgiana decides to start an escort business. However, her definition of escort and that of her first client do not match. Being thirty-fourth in line to the throne, the family hierarchy decides to exile Georgie for a while so she does not bring scandal and embarrassment to the royals.

Georgie is sent to Castle Ronnoch in Scotland where she is told to rusticate; stay out of trouble; keep a divorcee away from the Prince of Wales who is staying at the castle while on a hunting trip; and by Scotland Yard to perform unpaid volunteered surveillance to insure no on stalks the royals. However, several accidents followed by a homicide in residence makes it clear someone wants the royal family dead.

The third royal historical amateur sleuth throne (see HER ROYAL SPYNESS and A ROYAL PAIN) is a terrific Depression Era mystery starring a likable heroine and a strong supporting cast; many of whom are real personas. Georgie’s obnoxious sister-in-law and wuss brother provide comic relief by driving her to the point of considering killing both of them and knowing she would beat the rap (think of Lemmon’s How to Murder Your Wife). The assaults set up a fine inquiry by Georgie as Rhys Bowen provides a super 1930s whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Lines-Kathryn Casey

Blood Lines
Kathryn Casey
Minotaur, Jul 21 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312379513

Sixteen year old music superstar Cassidy Collins fears for her life from a frightening cyberstalker. Argus knows too much about her and seems be getting to close to the teen leaving her uneasy that he will do something to her. Cassidy believes the creep will make a move at one of concert tours. Texas Ranger Lieutenant Sarah Armstrong and FBI profiler David Garrity investigate the threat.

At the same thirtyish oil heiress Elizabeth Cox apparently committed suicide. Her sister Faith disagrees after receiving an alleged message from her dead sibling; instead she believes someone murdered Elizabeth and made it look like she took her own life. Sarah looks at photos of the death scene and nothing specific sticks out, she agrees with Elizabeth that the entire picture is to perfect as if someone set the stage. Meanwhile Elizabeth’s niece Maggie acts peculiar as if she somehow she moved past her mother’s death by worrying about her pregnant ailing horse; her reaction also has Sarah wondering.

The latest Sarah Armstrong Texas Rangers police procedural (see SINGULARITY) is an enjoyable two-case mystery in which the reader obtains an in depth look at the downside of celebrity status. The Collins stalking is a fast-paced strong subplot while the Cox death never fully holds up its end as that probe never fully gels. Still BLOOD LINES is overall a fine combination of who done it and who is doing it.

Harriet Klausner.

The Shimmer-David Morrell

The Shimmer
David Morrell
Vanguard, Jul 7 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9781593155377

Santa Fe police officer Dan Page is on a high speed car chase when the other vehicle an SUV crashes into a tanker; the ensuing explosion emits a fiery blast into the sky. Stunned, he returns home only to find his wife Tori gone. Already filled with remorse and questioning what he could have done different, Dan also fears for his spouse, but pulls himself together and follows her trail.

He tracks her to Rostov, Texas home of an observatory, a highly patrolled top secret science facility. There is unexplained night sky phenomena that make no sense as some people can see lights in the air while others see nothing. He finds Tori standing amidst other people staring into the sky as if she was beckoned there like in that old movie. Before he can figure out what is going on, a massacre follows when someone begins to shoot at the lights.

This is an exciting thriller with several major happenings going on that converge in Rostov, but fail to completely do so in the story line. Filled with action, conspiracy buffs will relish this engaging tale as the audience and the new Mexico sheriff want to know what is going behind the fence, under the ground and in the sky. Sort of combining Roswell with Marfa, David Morrell provides his fans with an entertaining but somewhat disjointed tale.

Harriet Klausner

Where There’s a Witch-Madelyn Alt

Where There’s a Witch
Madelyn Alt
Berkley, Jul 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425228715

Nobody visiting Stony Mill, Indiana would believe there is a witch living there. Veteran Felicity Dow is mentoring rookie witch Maggie O’Neal, who is an intuitive, sensitive and a strong empath. Felicity gives her thegift of Maggie finally understanding there is nothing mentally wrong with her because her hunches that seem to always come true and her ability to separate emotions and thoughts of others always frightened her; now she knows she is not alone and what her skill means.

A carnival is operating as a fundraiser to enlarge the Baptist Church. The highlight comes when the machines start digging the first hole but almost immediately they must stop. A hole is found in the ground that leads to a room. The outside is decorated with all kinds of crosses. The next day they find the body of Ronnie Maddox who Maggie overhead in a violent argument with Tyler Barnett. An Ouija reading conjures up the spirit of Elias, a child who died in the underground room; he attaches himself to Maggie who has no earthly idea the danger she is about to face.

There is a certain magic brought to this fine book by caring Maggie, but she is not the only psychic in this eerie part of Indiana. Her interactions with the spirit are fascinating as the reader tries to comprehend what he wants of her. There is a strange case of conservatism and fundamentalism in the Baptist Church as they mount a hate campaign to ostracize and demonize Felicity and her friends. This breeds an atmosphere of hate and distrust of which the new witch on the block could a victim. Madelyn Alt places a social spin with hate crime in the middle of her terrific Hoosier fantasy that will have readers not just believing in the spirit world, but walking along aside the heroine in the spirit world.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Purses and Poison-Dorothy Howell

Purses and Poison
Dorothy Howell
Kensington, Jul 2009, $22.00
ISBN: 0758223765

She comes from a life of wealth and privilege and would do just about anything to buy a $2,000 Judith Leiber handbag. She is on very good terms with her parents and is a fashionista who would love to have stylish designer brands in clothing and jewelry. Instead twentyish Haley Randolph works for minimum wage at Holt's Department Store while attending classes at the local college. Her goal is to own a wardrobe she could be proud of.

Her sort of boyfriend is store owner Ty Cameron who stands her up at times as he seems always to be busy working. At the employee’s luncheon and fashion show advertising the store’s new attire, Haley notices one of the models is sick. Haley volunteers to replace her and shortly after a fashion model who was Ty’s ex girlfriend Claudia Gray is found dead. The police determine the victim was poisoned. Haley vows to find the killer as her mom’s catering is the source and since she went missing for a time, she knows she is a suspect.

This book is a hoot with the heroine’s amusing asides re fashion and her efforts to obtain a hand bag that is the real thing that leads her into all sorts of trouble including with the police. Ironically in spite of her quest, Haley is not a vacuous beauty as she is clearly is intelligent though fixated somewhat. She uses her brains to investigate the homicide as she knows she is at the top of the suspect list. Fans will enjoy her escapdes as she is as obstinate to obtain the designer handbag as she is to obtain the killer’s identity.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The King James Conspiracy-Phillip DePoy

The King James Conspiracy
Phillip DePoy
St. Martin’s, May 26 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780312377137

In 1605, King James I assembles a team of experts to translate the Bible into English under the leadership of Deacon Francis Marbury. However, at the onset, someone brutally murders one of the participating scholars. Marbury asks for an investigator to uncover the identity of the killer before others are murdered.

Pope Clement opposes the project fearing secrets of the Church will be exposed. His agents intercept Marbury’s plea for help; the Pope sends Brother Timon to sabotage the translation. Soon others are killed by a vicious predator. Timon begins to wonder if he is on the wrong side as he assumes some agent of the Pope is the serial killer ferociously murdering scholars who are doing their job.

This is an interesting historical thriller in which most of the cast starting with the monarch and the pope on down to the scholars, etc are a Freudian wet dream as everyone seems to have major psychoses. No one is likable as it appears the fringe lunatics are in power. Still in spite of advanced abnormal psychology, readers who enjoy dramatic renditions of key religious events will relish this entertaining look through the bloody lens of homicide and fanatic fundamentalist insanity at King James I bringing the bible to the masses.

Harriet Klausner