Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Love You To Death-Shannon K. Butcher

Love You To Death
Shannon K. Butcher
Forever, Oct 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780446510295

Reporter Elise McBride knows her beloved capricious sister Ashley is missing a card or two from the deck of fifty two, but the siblings always stay in touch in spite of the former being in Hong Kong and the latter in Chicago. However, when she fails to hear from her artistic sister for a few days and is unable to reach her, Elise becomes a bit concerned. She panics especially when CPD blows her away even after she learns of a serial killer murdering women in the Windy City. She flies home to insure her sibling is safe.

In Chicago, former police officer Trent Brady catches Elise trying to break into the home of his neighbor. She explains who she is and why she is there. Realizing how obstinate and resolute yet vulnerable Elise is, he offers to assist her while wondering what made him do so as they team up to track down and hopefully rescue Ashley.

The irony behind this tense thriller that never takes a breather is Elise and Trent are obsessive compulsive disorder types who feel a deep need to protect those they see as vulnerable, she to her sister and he to her. The story line is fast-paced as Shannon K. Butcher places her pedal to the metal throughout the tale. With the romance playing an important but secondary theme as saving the sister is paramount; LOVE YOU TO DEATH will grip readers as increasingly the evidence points towards Ashley as a victim of the serial killer and Elise a potential target.

Harriet Klausner

The Gift-Deb Stover

The Gift
Deb Stover
Love Spell, Nov 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780505526069

Although she blames her paranormal gift for the her loss of her job, former Chicago homicide detective Beth Dearborn knows alcohol cost her that needed edge, but she used it to numb the dreaded extrasensory feeling of a violent death. She is a recovering alcoholic, who obtained work as an insurance investigator.

Seven years ago in Brubaker, Tennessee, Lorilee Brubaker-Malone vanished without a trace. Her teenage daughter persuades her father to have Lorilee declared legally dead and file a life insurance claim with Avery Mutual Insurance. Almost from the moment she meets the father and daughter tandem, Beth senses a restless spirit. She wonders if that could be Lorilee. When a bridge collapses stranding Beth, Ty takes her in. Attracted to him and liking his children, Beth continues to dig for the truth encouraged by something or someone from beyond but knows a mortal is the one trying to kill her.

This is an exciting romantic suspense thriller starring a wonderful female protagonist who struggles with dealing with her unique gift that she believes is a curse even turning to alcohol to numb the feelings. The supporting cast in Brubaker are stereotypical small southern townsfolk who use Miss not Ms; surprisingly that enhances the plot of the exciting paranormal investigative romance filled with spins as the northern invader keeps finding clues that make Ty seem guilty of spousal homicide yet not satisfying the spirit that haunts her since she entered the Malone home.

Harriet Klausner

Death Will Help You Leave Him-Elizabeth Zelvin

Death Will Help You Leave Him
Elizabeth Zelvin
Minotaur, Oct 13 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312582661

In New York, drug dealer Frankie Iacone is found dead in the apartment of his girlfriend Luz. The police suspects Luz stabbed her boyfriend who just came out of rehab as they insist her motive is learning he had a wife and children living in Brooklyn.

Luz’s counselor Barbara, her boyfriend Jimmy and his best buddy recovering alcoholic Jimmy investigate the homicide. Bruce also struggles with his dealings with his former wife bipolar addict Laura who he still sleeps with and who tempts his addiction. Their unprofessional investigation leads the trio into trouble with the police and with associates of Frankie as they attend his funeral where they meet his warm Italian family including his pregnant wife.

In his second appearance (see DEATH WILL GET YOU SOBER) Bruce and his amateur sleuth cohorts make for an intriguing urban mystery as they fumble their way through the city’s most downtrodden residents trying to find the killer. The story line is a very dark look at the mean streets of New York from the view of the undesirable forgotten. For instance Bruce’s ex spouse is a fascinating character as she uses the threat of suicide as a defense mechanism to get Bruce to come over and then either kicks him to curb or has sex with him. His confusion as to how to escape the relationship enhances a psychological look at New York’s emotionally desperately needy as the people overwhelms the whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Loot the Moon-Mark Arsenault

Loot the Moon
Mark Arsenault
Minotaur, Oct 13 2009, $24.99
ISBN 9780312555764

In Rhode Island at the dog track, attorney Martin Smothers obsessively pleads with his friend former investigative journalist turned obit writer Billy Povich to look into the murder of Judge Gil Harmony. Two bit thief Adam Rackers assassinated the Judge during a car-jacking. Rackers died in the subsequent car crash, which left one survivor in critical condition Stuart Tracy. Smothers wants Povich to uncover who paid for the hit.

Povich begins his inquiry and quickly learns a local mobster threatened the judge and that his honor had a secret life in Manhattan where he kept a mistress who appears at the reading of the will. Menwhile Harmony’s legal clerk Kit Bass is beaten up at a club owned by mobster Glantz. When someone threatens Billy, his son and his father, he takes on the case with renewed vigor.

In many ways this is a noir, but the hard boiled Billy is somewhat softened with family matters especially discussions with his dad over death that seems so timely. The story line is action-packed as Billy gets into all sorts of predicaments and the final twist is superb. The secondary eccentric cast enhances the engaging plot of the investigative GRAVEWRITER who in many ways brings out the best and worst in his support crowd.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 28, 2009

Detective Stories-Peter Washington (Editor)

Detective Stories
Peter Washington (Editor)
Everyman’s Library (Knopf), Oct 5 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780307272713

These are sixteen great short stories written as early 1844 (Edgar Allan Poe’s The Purloined Letter starring M. Dupin) to an early Sara Paretsky’s Warshawski. In between there is a Holmes’ entry as well as Bret Harte (if you have not read this great short story nineteenth century author you are missing one of the all time best), Chesteron’s Father Brown, Hammett’s prototype tough guy, Chandler’s Mason, and Christie’s Miss Marple. There are no clinkers as not only are the authors a virtual who’s who, their detectives are for the most part household names as the superstars of sleuthing. Although some of the selections will have been read previously such as the WWI era still timely morality classic A Jury of Her Peers by Susan Glaspell, readers will fully relish each choice as we can compare Poe to Borges and Simenon’s Maigret to Rankin’s Rebus in what is a super compilation.

Harriet Klausner

The Violet Hour-Daniel Judson

The Violet Hour
Daniel Judson
Minotaur, Oct 13 2009,
ISBN: 9780312383572

In the Hamptons, twenty-two years old auto mechanic Caleb Rakowski is all alone as his criminal bent parents and brother are dead. He lives in a dumpy apartment above the garage where he works, but is overall contented with his life as he loves working on cars and his appreciative boss Eric Carver knows the young man is a guru when it comes to auto repair.

Cal does have one friend Lebell, who is in hiding from mobsters; professional killers are aware that Cal is their target’s buddy so there is guilt by association. Also unable to mind his own business when an underdog is abused, Cal gives shelter to Heather who treated him nice when he worked as a teen at the restaurant owned by her and her abusive spouse former NFL thug Ronnie Pamona. Soon seemingly everyone on Long Island will converge on Cal to play a special version of survivor; as he wears a bulls-eye being the protector of those victimized by figuratively demons from both sides of the law, but will need to pull a rabbit preferably not a dead one out of the ball cap.

This is a zany entertaining Long Island thriller starring a likable seemingly helpless young man who becomes the defender of the downtrodden against a wave of killers. Blood will flow more often than oil does at the garage over a few days as Cal learns what happens to Good Samaritans. He can be thankful for being a chip off the old block as his DNA oozes suspicion of cops and robbers. He makes for a fun over the top of Suffolk County South Fork lighthouses tale

Harriet Klausner

Mania-Craig Larson

Craig Larson
Pinnacle, Nov 1 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780786021543

Seattle Telegraph newspaper photographer Nick Wilder has always looked up to his brother Sam; who is on his way to becoming a billionaire if the drug trials for the anti-psychotic Matrix Zarcon holds up as expected. Nick currently covers the brutal murders of men so unrecognizable their family members could not identify them. He becomes part of the story when a homeless man without shoes stabs and kills his sibling.

The incident triggers in Nick flashbacks and hallucinations that make him and the police wonder if he is the vicious psychopathic killer who murdered his own brother. In a coffee shop, Nick meets Sara Garland, stepdaughter of the Telegraph’s owner Jason Hamlin. They hit if off and she helps him cope with the nasty hallucinatory incidents and horrific dreams that he fears are repressive memories. The cops question Nick re Sam’s murder and that of another victim, but let him ago as they lack evidence although Police Lieutenant Dombrowski believes he allowed the killer to leave; he plans to find proof to lock away this maniac for life.

Throughout the story line Nick struggles with his sanity as he is unable to delineate reality from dreams of events that happened to him. The audience is as unsure whether Nick is the killer or suffering from some other psychotic derangement. MANIA is a fascinating thriller that delves deep into the mind of a struggling protagonist who ponders what reality really is. Although a final spin seems over the top of the Needle fans will relish this action-packed psychological thriller starring a beleaguered hero who no longer has the mental fight to argue with people telling him what the truth is.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pursuit of Honor-Vince Flynn

Pursuit of Honor
Vince Flynn
Atria, Oct 13 2009, $27.99
ISBN: 9781416595168

Six days ago the country was rocked by the explosions in DC that killed 185 people and injured so many more. CIA Director Irene Kennedy orders counterterrorism operative Mitch Rapp to find the three al Qaeda men responsible for the attack and bring them to justice anyway he can. However, the sophisticated way the trio vanished is a shocker as terrorists have not been very good at hiding their footprints, which to Rapp denotes some insider support to have gotten to and away from the National Counterterrorism Center one of their targets that included several senators as victims.

First Rapp has to take care of “Deep Throat” wannabe CIA IG Inspector Adams. After that he and his teammate Mike Nash struggle with clues as Congress screams for increased oversight and no more illegal activity while his employer unofficially sanctions whatever it takes to keep the nation safe. He is unaware that in Toolesboro, Iowa are Hakim and Karim hiding on a farm that the former purchased through a New York lawyer. They rusticate overlooking the Mississippi before they make their follow-up move to the success of the explosions they set in DC six days ago.

With the arrest of terrorist suspects, the latest Rapp thriller is an exciting tale as the hero struggles with his PURSUIT OF HONOR while trying to take out some nasty folks who hide behind the skirts of young girls as the innocent are expendable in order to achieve their objective Rapp running on that very thin line between morality and security comes across much stronger through Nash’s balancing act between his family and protecting his country. Ironically while the Congress and Executive Branch debate legal issues over domestic spying and torture, Rapp and Nash skirmish between personal ethics and national security as Vince Flynn provides a thought provoking gripping thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Haunting Jordan-P.J. Alderman

Haunting Jordan
P.J. Alderman
Bantam, Sep 29 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780553592108

Jordan Marsh’s husband died in a car cash because someone cut the brake lines of his vehicle. LAPD Detective Drake believes she killed her spouse but has no evidence to prove his theory. Sick of Drake’s harassment, Jordan moves to Port Chatham, Washington; where she purchases a fixer upper Victorian, Longren House. To her surprise her new abode comes with two ghostly residents Hattie her teenage sister Charlotte.

When Hattie’s husband died, she took over his shipping business and inherited his enemies especially amidst his allies when she decides to clean up his dirty dealings. This includes resentful Mike Seavey who is a power on the docks, her late husband’s manager, and Police Chief Greeley who wants to marry Charlotte. As Jordan tries to solve who murdered Hattie back in 1890, she also has to deal with Drake who has new evidence and has come to the Pacific Northwest to see her arrested. Jordan’s lawyer refuses to allow her to be expedited back to California as the new proof would not hold up in court. Still someone wants Jordan in jail, but she has no idea who or why.

Readers will thoroughly enjoy this paranormal amateur sleuth because of the ghost who tells Jordan what happened to her back in 1890 as she tries to persuade the mortal to investigate the homicide in 2009. Looking into a cold case as a total amateur seems easy when compared to being a present day suspect in her husband’s death as Drake is like Inspector Girard of the Fugitive. P.J. Alderman writes a scintillating supernatural whodunit as the spirits connect the past with the present.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Urge to Kill-John Lutz

Urge to Kill
John Lutz
Pinnacle, Sep 29 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780786018451

After being injured in the line of duty, homicide detective Frank Quinn accepted a disability retirement, but he remained a contractor available to the police force as occasionally case surfaces that require his special skills. The Police Commissioner Harley Renz has a particularly gruesome serial killer that he wants Frank to find. Men are being brutally murdered with the perpetrator taking a .25 caliber gun from the victim’s phone which is in his pocket.

Frank obsesses over finding this maniac because the culprit killed one of the detectives Joe Garlin who worked narcotics. While working this personal difficult case, another serial killer surfaces who kkills and guts his victims as if he is carving up a deer with a hunting knife. The police believe the same person has expanded his modus operendi to bring new sadistic satiation. Frank fears he will be the next victim as he offers himself up as bait to catch one perhaps two killers.

Without fanfare, the dedicated protagonist believes it is his duty to end the killing reign as police work gives him satisfaction just like slicing and dicing does to his opponent. With a great twist Joh Lutz is at his best with his latest thrilling Kill police procedural (see NIGHT KILLS and IN FOR THE KILL) as his hero and his villain share more in common than people realize. Fans will relish this fast-paced electrifying thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 25, 2009

Heat Seeker-Lora Leigh

Heat Seeker
Lora Leigh
St. Martin’s, Sep 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312945817

In Brisbane, Bailey Serborne and Trent Daylen shared the greatest night of their respective lives. Soon afterward he died in a car explosion. She grieved her loss while he mourned the only person he left behind in his previous life Bailey.

Unable to neither ignore her feelings nor obtain closure, former CIA operative Bailey searched for the employer of the killer of her beloved. She finally found him only he turned the tables and kidnapped her. Other people rescue her killing everyone but the ring leader so she went back to her quest. Bailey has closed in on the brains behind the criminal group who killed Trent, but once again is captured. Arms dealer John Vincent is unable to not kiss her; his lips confuse her; as she reacts the same way she did for Trent yet he is the enemy who killed her beloved and perhaps her parents.

Although over the top of Brisbane, Aspen and a few other locales, this Elite Ops romantic suspense thriller is an exciting tale starring two fascinating lead characters especially the male who fans will wonder if he is a rogue gone bad or a deep undercover operative. The story line is faster than a speeding HEAT SEEKER missile but similar in plotting to analogous thrillers, as Bailey seeks vengeance on the man she believes killed her loved ones only to find his kisses leave her confused and craving more. Fans of the series will enjoy this action to the nth degree thriller as the twists and spins make for an electrifying read.

Harriet Klausner

Razor Sharp-Fern Michaels

Razor Sharp
Fern Michaels
Kensington, Oct 6 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9781410417602

Lily Flowers (her current name) is the madam of Happy Day Camp for Boys and Girls in Pahrump, Nevada; a brothel sixty miles outside Las Vegas. She is outraged when DC politicos in all three branches threaten to destroy her. She arranges to give copies of her records to Nevada lawyer Cosmos Cricket and threatens to expose to the world these outstanding righteous citizens who have been coming to her “summer camp” as clients for years.

However, someone took Lily’s threat personally and kills her. Her cutthroat lawyer Lizzie Fox calls in a favor from the Sisterhood who owe her big time to take a close look at the homicide. The most likely suspect is someone inside the Beltway who got away with murder; but not if they can help it. However, the magnificent seven understand the cost could be the pardon from President Martine Connor as this inquiry leads to the White House, the Congress and the Supreme Court.

With a nod to the DC Madam, RAZOR SHARP is an entertaining Sisterhood thriller that is stratospherically over the top of the Washington Monument. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Lily leaves Cosmos with the sign of the V as he rightfully assumes means vengeance and never slows down. Although the key support cast is never RAZOR SHARP and the plot seemingly implausible, fans will enjoy the latest escapades of the stalwart sassy sister seven as once again friendship matters.

Harriet Klausner

Winter of SecretsVicki Delany-

Winter of Secrets
Vicki Delany
Poisoned Pen, Nov 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9781441702791

Early on Christmas Day in Trafalgar, British Columbia, the SUV is found buried under ice in a river. Inside the vehicle are the corpses of best friends Jason Wyatt-Yarmouth and Ewan Williams, two wealthy males from Toronto who were on vacation with others.

Constable Molly Smith leads the inquiry of what looks like a tragic accident. However, the autopsy proves a shocker when the medical examiner insists the time of deaths for the lads is radically different and the means of death also different. In other words someone used the SUV as a coffin for two murders. The cops question the rest of the Toronto party as they backtrack what they can about the victims leading to a bed and breakfast and a ski trail, but struggles with motive and consequently a lack of viable suspects.

This is a great Canadian police procedural that will be on most short lists for sub-genre novel of the year. The investigation is top rate including a terrific logical final twist while the cast is strong. Fans will relish Vicki Delany’s delightful whodunit and newcomers will seek Smith’s back cases (see VALLEY OF THE LOST).

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Killer Crab Cakes-Livia J.Washburn

Killer Crab Cakes
Livia J, Washburn
Obsidian, Oct 6 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780451228369

Her cousin Dorothy asks retired teacher Phyllis Newsom to manage her Oak Knoll Bed and breakfast in Fulton, Texas while she and her husband are in Dallas for the birth of their grandchild, the widow considers saying no as she knows nothing about a B&B. However Dorothy mentions the annual Rockport Just Desserts Competition so Phyllis says yes. Three other retired teachers, Sam Fletcher, Carolyn Wilbarger and Eve Turner join Carolyn j in the cooking contest, as she and Phyllis always enjoy competing against one another.

Sam and Phyllis go fishing off the nearby pier. Already there is grouchy B&B guest Ed McKenna. Sam taps Ed on the back and the man tumbles into the water. Ed jumps in immediately and though he struggles gets Ed to the shore. However Ed is dead and later the autopsy affirms he was murdered. Assistant Police of Chief Abby Clifton and Police Chief Dale Clifton suspect Sam and when more murders come to the Oak Knoll B&B now being notoriously dubbed “The Murder House”; Phyliss, who vowed no murder investigations by her on this trip, begins to investigate.

The forth Newsom amateur sleuth (see A PEACH OF A MURDER and THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE KILLER) is a wonder “fresh baked” mystery as Phyliss tries to stay out of the latest SLICE OF MURDER, but cannot as Sam is the prime suspect. KILLER CRAB CAKES is an entertaining whodunit starting with Sam’s gentle pat on the back that has the related cops hone in on him and the other retires. With light bantering and recipes as Phyliss and Carolyn compete in a heated cooking rivalry between BFFs, fans will enjoy Livia J. Washburn’s latest culinary homicide investigation.

Harriet Klausner

Urgent Care-CJ Lyons

Urgent Care
CJ Lyons
Jove, Oct 27 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780515147056

It has been two years since Charge Nurse Nora Halloran of Angels of Mercy Medical Center in Pittsburgh was tortured and raped. She survived her ordeal and never told anyone what happened to her. Concealing her dark secret has impacted her relationship with her lover. Seth as he knows she holds back. Nora glances at the cemetery near the hospital where she sees the corpse of a woman with graffiti etched on her naked body and her eyes glued shut.

The nurse shudders not out of seeing the battered corpse, but because she knows the WARNING SIGNS that her rapist has returned as this is what he did to her. Nora must do what she failed to do two years ago by telling others especially Seth before someone else dies. She turns to her BFFs for help. However, Amanda struggles to save the life of a child; Gina struggles with living her life or that of her parents; and Lydia struggles with friendships as she uses streets smarts to keep people at a distance after an abusive childhood that included the murder of her mother and a hit man coming to kill the witness, her.

CJ Lyons has written an adrenalin pumping medical thriller that fans of Robin Cook will enjoy. URGENT CARE continues to chart the lives of the four friends at Angel of Mercy, but the focus this is mostly on this book is Nora. Each of the women have major issues and traumas they must contend with that they faced alone, but are beginning to understand they can have comrades in arms if they reach out of the darkness that threatens to engulf them. Fans will appreciate this fine tale as the four female friends face fight or flight, but supporting one another makes the choice easier.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Intervention-Terri Blackstock

Terri Blackstock
Zondervan, Sep 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780310250654

Widower Barbara Covington is worried about her addicted teenage daughter Emily and decides to intervene after her lockdown efforts fail and her offspring stole money using illegal credit cards she took out in her dead father’s name. She takes her eighteen year old child to meet with a rehab center interventionist Trish Massey. However, the counselor is found dead and Emily missing. The police for obvious reasons assume Emily killed him.

Upset and despondent, Barbara searches for her missing oldest child with her other teen Lance advising her. She vows to find Emily and the real killer before the police lock her daughter away for a homicide Barbara knows in her troubled soul her teen did not commit.

This is a super inspirational thriller that is at its best when looking into addictive destructive behavior and at the mom-older teen daughter relationship. Barbara and Trish are fully developed characters; both at the end of their respective ropes, which each might use to hang themselves or the other. Fourteen year old Lance is too wise as if he is the interventionist guiding his mom (how old was Yoda?). The whodunit is well written, but more of a supporting device to force Barbara to personally “intervene”. Fans will appreciate this profound tale while pondering whether addiction is a personal, family or even community illness as Emily’s actions impact others.

Harriet Klausner

The Fleet Street Murders-Charles Finch

The Fleet Street Murders
Charles Finch
Minotaur, Nov 10 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312565510

Amateur sleuth (Now called private investigators) Charles Lennox is busy and torn in different directions. Two men in London of 1866 are killed minutes apart. Winston Caruthers, writer and editor of the conservative Daily Telegraph and Simon Pierce who worked for the liberal Daily News are the victims. Besides working for newspapers, the only other thing they had in common is each testified against Jonathan Poole, a traitor to England. Inspector Exeter believes Hiram Smith killed them, but he dies in his jail cell in what looks like a suicide.

Exeter arrests Poole’s son, but there are people close to the case who believe the inspector has the wrong man in custody again. They ask Charles to look into the matter, but he has no time to take on the complex homicides because he is running for Minster of Parliament from Stirrington. His opponent uses dirty tricks to win by a hundred votes so Charles turns back to the case and begins to put the puzzle pieces together until he believes he knows who the culprit is, but lacks proof. Trying to catch evidence against a diabolical killer puts Charles in harms way with the distinct potential of being the next investigation for Exeter to bungle.

Charles Finch writes about the birth of Scotland Yard and how the police there change their methodology to meet their mandate. Amateur sleuths, the forerunners of private investigators, used whatever was available in mid nineteenth century London to solve cases. Charles is one of them, but works closely with Scotland Yard to bring down the shadowy puppeteer pulling everyone’s strings. This is an entertaining Victorian mystery as the audience and Mr. Lennox try to solve who is behind the homicides and why. Fans will want to read Charles’ previous investigations (see A BEAUTIFUL BLUE DEATH and SEPTEMBER SOCIETY).

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Cart Before the Corpse-Carolyn McSparren

The Cart Before the Corpse
Carolyn McSparren
Bell Bridge, Oct 1 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 9780984125838

In the middle of a horse show, a runaway horse frantically races to get a carriage hitched to him off. Soon afterward Merry Abbott receives a call informing her that her famous southern carriage-horse trainer Hiram Lackland is dead. After years of estrangement they were finally finding their way back to one another but his death ends any chance of full reconciliation. She drives to Mossy Creek where he lived in an apartment he rented from Peggy Caldwell, who takes Merry under her wing.

She knows her late dad had started a horse farm giving driving lessons to lonely females. The local sheriff calls Hiram’s death an unfortunate accident, but Peggy insists he was murdered over the use of his land. Peggy persuades Merry and Police Chief Amos Reardon that a homicide occurred. The Chief claims jurisdiction and asks GBI investigator Geoff Madison to lead the inquiry. The case proves complex and convoluted as the victim’s records are missing and evidence that someone is looking for them judging by the vreak0in at Hiram’s house. Whoever this culprit is, he or she is dead serious as potentially harmful incidents occur to Peggy and Merry.

Although the two women knew each other before Hiram’s death, they become friends afterward as Peggy helps Merry with the funeral arrangement, going through the deceased’s apartment, and helping with the horse farm, In other words Peggy is a supporting buddy, a trademark theme of the charming Mossy Creek saga.. Merry does not frighten easily, but instead turns angrily calm towards her unknown adversary. THE CART BEFORE THE CORPSE is a delightful cozy filled with humor, poignancy and danger as Carolyn McSparren spins Mossy Creek into a radically different direction.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 21, 2009

Murder on the Eiffel Tower-Claude Izner

Murder on the Eiffel Tower
Claude Izner
Minotaur, Sep 22 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780312581619

In 1889 while the Buffalo Bill show parades through the streets of Paris as part of World Exposition extravaganza, a rag and bone man dies from a bee sting. Soon afterward at the top of the new Eiffel Tower, Parisian bookstore owner and photographer Victor Legris watches as a woman, Eugenie Patinot, apparently dies from a bee sting.

Victor meets with his business partner Kenji Mori, his friend reporter Marius Bonnet and Russian illustrator Tasha Kherson. With a common interest to spark them, Victor and Tasha become an entry. When a third "bee sting" death occurs near the Colonial Palace, Victor investigates hoping he can write an article for Le Passe-partout.

In some ways more a historical thriller than an amateur sleuth, MURDER ON THE EIFFEL TOWER is in either case a terrific tale. Readers will be caught up with Victor’s energy as he escorts the audience around Paris at an exciting time for the city. The whodunit is cleverly devised to provide fans with a strong mystery, but the entertaining story line belongs to the hero and his supporting cast especially late nineteenth century Paris at a time when technology is booming.

Harriet Klausner

Serpent in the Thorn-Jeri Westerson

Serpent in the Thorn
Jeri Westerson
Minotaur, Sep 29 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312534981

Disgraced former English knight Crispin Guest lost everything he cherished when his support for Prince John left him caught up in a plot against King Richard. He knows he is fortunate to live though in squalid conditions. Instead of wallowing, he reinvents himself from knight errant to mercenary Tracker and finder (see VEIL OF LIES). He conducts investigations for a fee.

In 1384 at the King's Head Inn in Southwark, Grayce asks Guest to help her. She claims the corpse of a man she killed is inside her room. Guest and his apprentice Reader the ragamuffin pickpocket quickly learn the victim was a French courier with a gift of the legendary Crown of Thorns for the Lionhearted. The Tracker and the Reader, assisted by Grayce’s lovely sister Livith, immediately are caught up with murderous royal politics, which the last time this happened he became a disgraced knight.

SERPENT IN THE THORN is an interesting medieval mystery starring a former knight who fell from grace to become the abject object of people asking where he is now. The relationship between the Tracker and the Reader has become more of a caring big and younger brother relationship which enhances the exciting story line. Although the latter part of the tale requires the audience to ignore credibility, fans will enjoy the fallen knight’s late fourteenth century escapades.

Harriet Klausner

Stained Glass-Ralph McInerny

Stained Glass
Ralph McInerny
Minotaur, Oct 13 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312582647

The Archdiocese decides to close down several parishes whose congregation has diminished. Among them is St. Hilary's of Fox River, Illinois. The priest Father Dowling understands the economics behind the decision, but worries for his flock. The St. Hilary's members and Father Dowling hope (and pray) they can save their church and begin an effort to do so, the “Save St. Hilary’s movement.

A nude female body is found hanging from the cross strut of a garage door. The police believe a ritual perhaps satanic homicide occurred. As the cops, reporters Tetzel and Rebecca and Father Dowling investigate they find a link to the divided Devere family. The nonagenarian matriarch Jane has used trust fund money to hire an author to write a book on Menotti’s church art to include a stained glass window provided to St. Hilary’s by her family; other Devere kin are outraged by her generosity, which apparently surfaces with more murders occurring.

This is the best Father Dowling mystery in several years as the amateur sleuth struggles with the impact of the economy most likely closing his church and the homicides that seem tied to the one of the deadly sins, avarice. The story line is intelligent although Father Dowling follows his usual method to solving felonies, but the back stories of the impact of the economy and the changing demographics of Fox River provide a terrific fresh look at St. Hilary’s and the church surviving in a modern world.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Edge of Eden-Helen Benedict

The Edge of Eden
Helen Benedict
Soho, Nov 1 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9781569476024

In 1960, the Colonial Office informs lowest tier British diplomat Rupert that he is being assigned to the French Creole speaking Seychelle Islands in the Indian Ocean. His wife Penelope is outraged with the assignment’s location and Rupert’s blithely ordering her that she and their two daughters accompany him. On the sea voyage to the isolated Crown Colony, Penelope becomes sea sick while Rupert flirts with another female so ignores his two children as the eight year old Zara bullies her three years old sibling.

Upon reaching their destination, Penelope feels like an outsider even with her family, but not with the Colonial Governor. Her children take to the island “paradise” as if they lived there all their lives. Rupert focuses more on his native secretary Joelle instead of the economics report he is to develop or his family. When the marriage collapses, Zara turns to the local witch doctors for a love spell to reunite her family while now pregnant Joelle turns to the same grigri magical practitioners to send Penelope back to England without her Rupert. Desperate to save her marriage and family, Penelope also pleads with the black magical users for help.

This is an intriguing historical thriller that readers will enjoy though wonder what the three females see in Rupert, which is one of their two constants (the other being each turns to grigri), as the women’s inspirational muses seem to change with each calamity. The story line is fast-paced while also hyperbolizing satire to make a point about clashing civilizations. THE EDGE OF EDEN is an engaging psychological suspense tale as the audience wonders who will be the last female standing on the Seychelles and will Rupert be at her side.

Harriet Klausner

The White Garden-Stephanie Barron

The White Garden
Stephanie Barron
Bantam, Sep 29 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780553385779

American Jo Bellamy comes to England to study the famous White Garden at Sissinhurst Castle. The landscape designer has been hired by wealthy Long Island patrons to recreate the work of Vita Sackville West, lover of Virginia Woolf.

Jo conceals that her visit also contains a personal need. Her grandfather who worked at the White Garden committed suicide. The present gardener gives Jo a six decade old journal he found while rummaging in the tool shed; he believes Ms. Woolf was the author. Jo is stunned especially when the last entry occurs after Ms. Woolf died. She begins to follow the footsteps of Ms. Woolf seeking missing pages and answers to what happened in March 1941 when Virginia Woolf drowned in the Ouse with her pockets filled with stones.

Purposely loaded with hyperbolic stereotypes to accentuate the writings of Virginia Woolf, THE WHITE GARDEN is a terrific literary mystery that hooks readers from the onset and never slows down as Jo tracks her heroine’s death. The suspenseful story line is fast-paced throughout, but driven by the insight into the late writer’s life and works; these are seen through Jo’s follow her not afraid of Virginia Woolf thread. Stephanie Barron allows Jane Austen a breather as she successfully switches to another writing legend.

Harriet Klausner

The Cloud Pavilion-Laura Joh Rowland

The Cloud Pavilion
Laura Joh Rowland
Minotaur, Oct 27 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312379490

In Edo in 1701, though some time has passed, Chamberlain Sano Ichiro reels from what happened last year that dishonored his family (see THE FIRE KIMONO). He knows he is fortunate to still have his position still and his beloved wife Reiko always at his side. Still Sano hurts with the betrayal, but vows to do his job with honor in support of his liege Japan’s supreme dictator Tokugawa Tsunayoshi.

During a war scenario tournament to occupy the soldiers who have seen no action lately, Sano defeats his masked opponent, former Chamberlain Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu, who the shogun has welcomed home from exile, an allegedly changed person. Sano does not trust his adversary further than he can throw him as he believes Yanagisawa and his most loyal son Yoritomo plot mischief. However, Sano has no time to consider what his enemy plans when his estranged uncle Major Kumazawa pleads with his nephew and Reiko to find his missing daughter Chiyo last seen at a nearby temple. Sano locates his cousin who was raped but his uncle wants to conceal the dishonor rather than pursue the culprit. Still with Reiko at his side they follow clues to the deadly criminal element inside of Edo while his fears of Yanagisawa’s scheming come to bear against Sano with the shogun angry at him.

The latest Sano Japanese historical mystery is a super entry as the readers feels as if we have been transported back in time and place due to the rich background. As with the previous entry, the story line is driven by the cast especially Sano’s extended family members who have been estrange for decades and of course his nastiest rival. Fans will appreciate THE CLOUD PAVILION as once again it is family matters that drive the hero and his intrepid wife.

Harriet Klausner

The Vows of Silence-Susan Hill

The Vows of Silence
Susan Hill
Overlook, Oct 29 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590202456

In Lafferton, a culprit uses a handgun to kill newlywed Melanie Drew in her apartment. Soon after that a sniper uses a rifle to shoot into a crowd standing outside a nightclub. Next a gun is fired killing a mother standing with her infant. The seemingly random killings have the townsfolk frightened and panicked.

Lafferton Police Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler and his unit see no ties beyond the age and sex of the victims. The three homicides is made even more complicated by the use of two weapons. Simon wonders if two killers are stalking the streets yet keeps going back to the concept of a psychopathic serial killer. As he struggles with preventing the next murder, his sister Cat has health issues and his nephew is known for creative cheating at Scrabble.

The police procedural subplot is well written, filled with suspense and has a red herring suspect, but the emotional intensity happens more to people in Simon’s personal circle as he is the “watcher” even with Jane Fitzroy, a woman he is attracted to. The story line is fast-paced except with the relationship dance between Simon and Jane. Susan Hill effortlessly moves back and forth between the case (to include the killer’s perspective) and Simon’s personal life. British police procedural fans will enjoy Simon’s not simple investigation and look for his previous caseload (THE VARIOUS HAUNTS OF MEN, THE PURE IN HEART and THE RISK OF DARKNESS).

Harriet Klausner

Cat Striking Back-Shirley Rousseau Murphy

Cat Striking Back
Shirley Rousseau Murphy
Morrow, Oct 27 2009, $19.99
ISBN 9780061123993

In California after an evening of mouse hunting with his tabby lady Dulcie and their buddy Kit, Joe Grey says good night to them. However he soon realizes that an abandoned home with an empty but open swimming pool has been the recent location of a human homicide. As he has done in the past when he stumbled upon a corpse, he leaves an anonymous tip at the Molina Point Police Department; though he has no dead body this time.

Police Detective Juana Davis arrives at the alleged murder scene and finds evidence that a homicide occurred in the pool area. Meanwhile Sage the cat catches the killer interring the corpse in a hole dug in the garage floor of a house undergoing renovation. The feline loathing killer tries to hammer Sage who escapes and reports to Joe and others what happened.

Obviously for the cat-loving crowd, the latest Joe Grey feline police procedurals (see CAT PLAYING CUPID) is a lighthearted frolic as the cat-detectives go after a human killer. The Anthropomorphist investigation is fun though the cops seem more Keystone compared with the more knowledgeable in detecting methods cats.

Harriet Klausner

Abandoned-Cody McFadyen

Cody McFadyen
Bantam, Oct 27 2009, $25.00
ISBN 9780553806953

Near the beach in Los Angeles, Callie Thorne is marrying Sam Brady with most of the attendees being from or associated with the local FBI office. Both work for the Feds with the bride employed in the local branch of the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) and the groom on the SWAT. However, a car driving by stops for a nanosecond to throw out a bald headed emaciate female. The incoherent female has been missing for eight years and was a cop.

NCAVC local branch chief Smoky Barret, a matron of honor at the wedding, soon begins to put together the ugly picture of a psychopathic mercenary dubbed “Dali”. Apparently husbands hire this maniac to kidnap no longer wanted wives to rid them from their lives; the abductor stores them in tiny dark cells for years as pieces of meat in case the need arises to demand remittance from a slacker client. The culprit receives half the life insurance or else extorts a lot more from those who renege on their fee. When Dali realizes Smokey is getting close to unraveling the motive for liberating the victim, the meat processor abducts her giving her a choice between her liberty and the death of a teammate.

Putting aside Smokey’s abduction record (her face scarred and her spouse and preadolescent daughter murdered) and the text messaging taunting, Barrett’s fourth FBI serial killer is a super cat and mouse game. The chilling brilliant psychopath, whose “meat packing” business is thriving in spite of the ecomony makes for a fast-paced story line from the moment the maniac text messages Smokey with a gift and never slows down from there. Fans of the series will relish Smokey’s latest violent crime case (see SHADOW MAN).

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Witch Doctor’s Wife-Tamar Myers

The Witch Doctor’s Wife
Tamar Myers
Avon, Oct 20 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061727832

In 1958 Amanda Brown comes to the Belgium Congo to oversee the guest house where the missionaries stay when they come in from the bush to relax, be with their own kind, get entertained, and be able to go shopping. Amanda hopes to bring the natives to the Lord although that is not why she was hired. She employs Cripple as her aide though her limbs are twisted her mind is sharp.

Cripple is married to Their Death, the local witch doctor, who is forced to accept other means of employment when the Flemish refuse to allow him to practice. Their Death is also married to another woman Second Wife who gave him many children. His young son has a rock in his mouth that Their Death recognizes as a quality diamond. He cannot smuggle it out of the country because the Consortium has guards watching everyone leaving the country. When he makes contact with someone who can afford to buy the gem, Their Death sets in motion a series of events that jeopardizes First Wife Cripple and her South Carolina employer.

Tamar Myers provides a vivid look at the late Eisenhower Era in the Belgium Congo as the occupying Europeans suppress the subjugated natives. This lucid perspective is cleverly seen by the caring American who is shocked by the attitudes of the whites including missionaries as the outsiders see the locals as naive children, a mid twentieth century white man’s burden. Though smuggling seems as if it would be relatively easy for someone like Their Death with his connections, the story line focuses on ironically several deadly sins especially avarice and gluttony as Tamar Myers leaves Pennsylvania Dutch country behind with this stirring colonial African historical thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Long Division-Derek Nikitas

The Long Division
Derek Nikitas
Minotaur, Oct 27 2009, $24.99
ISBN 9780312363987

In Atlanta, house cleaner Jodie Larkin cannot resits the lure of $5,000 seemingly lying around in her client’s home nor the car. She takes both and drives to Cape Fear, North Carolina to visit her fifteen year old son Cal Nowak; whom she gave up for adoption and has not seen in over five years.

While mother and son drive north together towards New York; SUNY college student Wynn Johnston assists his long time best friend in an attempt to find and rescue the latter’s missing sister; vanished in a haze of Upstate New York drugs. Also in Weymouth, New York sheriff deputy Sam Hartwick struggles with paying the medical bills and dealing with the emotional angst of watching his wife die from cancer; even a double homicide investigation into drug related business fails to motivate him except for one tiny fact: he is deeply involved on a personal level. The collision of these seemingly diverse scenarios will shake up the good citizens of Weymouth.

This is a terrific extremely complex and somewhat convoluted thriller as the three separate subplots seem to have no connection until the collision. Easily moving back and forth between the trio of subplots, Derek Nikitas provides a fabulous story due to a powerful fully developed ensemble cast. THE LONG DIVISION is a winner.

Harriet Klausner

The Fire Kimono-Laura Joh Rowland

The Fire Kimono
Laura Joh Rowland
Minotaur, Sep 29 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312588861

In 1700 supporters of Lord Matsudaira almost kill Lady Reiko during an attack on her. Chamberlain Sano Ichiro is outraged on the assault of his beloved wife and vows vengeance against his despicable rival Matsudaira although his adversary denies any involvement.

However, the samurai has to put aside his growing suspicion that a third party attacked his wife when the Shogun orders Sano to investigate the finding of a body buried near a Shinto shrine. Items uncovered next to the corpse imply the deceased is the Shogun’s cousin who vanished without a trace four decades ago during an inferno that devastated much of Edo. As the husband and wife investigative team probe the case in which the shogun concedes reluctantly three days to them, they find evidence that implicates Sano’s mother Etsuko with the murder.

THE FIRE KIMONO is one of the best Ichiro Japanese historical thrillers, which says a lot as this long running saga is known for its consistent excellence. The story line contains two strong twists, but it is the second one that shocks the samurai hero as his belief system is torn asunder with what he learns about his mother. Fans will enjoy this super entry as Sano and Reiko have three days to prove his mom was not the bearer of the deadly FIRE KIMONO who killed the shogun’s cousin and destroyed Edo; but every clue seems to lead to the conclusion she is.

Harriet Klausner

The Wrecker-Clive Cussler and Justin Scott

The Wrecker
Clive Cussler and Justin Scott
Putnam, Nov 17 2009, $27.95
ISBN: 9780399155994

In 1907, the Southern Pacific Railroad is constructing the Cascade Canyon Bridge in Oregon, but has deep financial problems. Bankers inform the firm’s president, Osgood Hennessy that if the project is not finished by winter, they will withdraw their funding. Hennessy knows if the backers leave his company goes bankrupt.

The SPR can complete the project easily on time except for the labor unrest that has led to delays due to explosions, fires and track destruction leading to derailing and other dangerous mayhem. Hennessy hires the Van Dorn Detective Agency who sends their best sleuth James Bell. He quickly concludes that the Wrecker is causing the deadly havoc by using hobo recruits to sabotage the SPR; after the mission is done he kills his new allies and sets forth on lining up his next crony. Bell believes he is running out of time to prevent the Wrecker’s next terrorist act, which will be greater than all his previous sabotage combined.

Even with an odd writing style that represents a bygone era when trains ruled distant travel over automobiles and planes, THE WRECKER travels at speeds much faster than Obama’s rail proposal. The story line is filled with action on top of more action. Ironically, the audience knows which direction the plot travels and who the Wrecker is from almost the onset; yet readers will still go along for the ride expecting a High Noon showdown between the saboteur and the detective on THE CHASE to prevent a terrorist act on a scale never seen before.

Harriet Klausner

Merry, Merry Ghost-Carolyn Hart

Merry, Merry Ghost
Carolyn Hart
Morrow, Nov 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780060874377

Being the forgiving type, the Heaven's Department of Good Intentions give the spirit of Bailey Ruth Raeburn a second chance as a GHOST AT WORK helping a mortal. Bailey Ruth is sent to her hometown of Adelaide, Oklahoma to keep an angelic eye on four year old Keith Flynn. The child was dumped on his wealthy but dying paternal grandmother Susan Flynn, whose son (and Keith’s father) died in combat in Iraq.

Susan plans to change her will to leave everything to her grandson. This angers those sycophants who expected to inherit with both of the widow’s children dead. However before Susan signs her revised will she dies. Not one to adhere to the rules of even heaven, Bailey Ruth rearranges a few things to make it clear to the cops that Susan was murdered by digitalis in her cocoa and left a witnessed holograph last will. Leaving other clues for the dimwitted police, Bailey Ruth tries to expose a diabolical avaricious killer who murders a second person to conceal the crimes.

This is a fun lighthearted Christmas criminal caper starring an irresistible rule-breaking heavenly amateur sleuth. The story line is amusing as Bailey Ruth drives her boss at HDGI crazy with her antics especially her interfering when she is not supposed to. Her actions as the holidays approach make for an amusing frolic in which heavenly preparations for the Yuletide season supersede a merry murder mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Rage-Sergio Bizzio

Sergio Bizzio
Bitter Lemon Press, Nov 1 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 9781904738404

In Buenos Aires, laborer Jose Maria and mansion servant Rosa meet and fall in love. However, they conceal their romance from her censorious employers Senor and Senora Blinder. When his foreman Dali calls him names, Jose confronts his boss and is fired he feels unjustly as his superior started the incident. In a rage, Jose kills Dali violently.

The police seek Jose who tells his beloved Rosa he must leave the city. However, instead of going far away from Buenos Aires, Jose hides inside the huge mansion in an empty area. He watches the owners and their son Alvaro to insure they treat his beloved appropriately while clandestinely stealing food. When Alvaro rapes Rosa, Jose in a rage kills him.

This is an odd but exhilarating thriller that sort of feels like taking Hitchcock’s Rear Window and relocating it in Argentina. The violent hero is for the most part like a ghost or the comic book Watcher as he keenly observes the goings on inside his small world (self-prison) mansion. This is Jose’s tale as his raging mind enables readers to ironically “view” the darker side of society.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 18, 2009


Margaret Carroll
Avon, Oct 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061652776

Alcoholic Christina Cardiff enters rehab in an exclusive facility in the Midwest to deal with her drinking problem. Her school age son Tyler is vacationing in France with his paternal grandparents and her spouse Jason fails to accompany her; instead he chose to remain in the Hamptons or Manhattan. She is not sure which. She is there for a few days when she learns her Wall St spouse Jason is dead found in the pool.

Forced out of rehab and back to East Hampton, she returns to alcohol and her lover Daniel Cunningham. As Daniel takes over much of her life, Christina receives a second shocker when the police suspect her of killing her husband. While she tries to remain sober, she also faces a real threat over custody of Tyler.

This is a powerful vivid character study with no engaging protagonists as the cast is hedonistic and selfish. The profound story line looks deep at a self-destructive individual who has plenty going for her yet seems to always be in the wrong place at the wrong time. With a suspenseful final spin into a deadly RIPTIDE, Margaret Carroll provides the audience with a strong thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Owl Killers-Karen Maitland

The Owl Killers
Karen Maitland
Delacorte, Sep 29 2009, $26.00
ISBN: 9780385341707

In 1321, the English villagers of Ulewic are pulled in two directions. The Owl Masters demand a return to paganism while the Beguines Christian women want to be left to worship as they choose in peace. However, the tiny town has had several catastrophes from plague to flooding to famine so many residents blame the Beguines.

The village priest blames the disasters on those females living in the beguinage. The Owl Masters ally with the priest insisting the unnatural women have caused crop failure and sudden animal deaths because they are witches.

This is a fascinating look at a medieval conflict that has relevancy today with it’s for or against dividedness. The story line focuses on religious disputes and indirectly sexism. Insightful although too abrupt with sudden changes of perspective, fans of medieval historical tales will want to read THE OWL KILLERS AS KAREN Maitland scrutinizes intolerance and partnering by people of influence in positions of moral authority for personal agendas.

Harriet Klausner

The End of the Road-Sue Henry

The End of the Road
Sue Henry
Obsidian, Nov 2009, $23.95
ISBN: 9780451226044

She usually takes her RV and her mini dachshund Stretch to the lower Forty-eight during her get away from Alaska’s cold. However, this Maxie McNabb decides to stay home in Homer. All the snowbirds have fled south so when Maxie and Stretch walk on the beach she is surprised to meet someone else there. She invites John Walker to dinner with her and some of her friends and her son. Johne seems evasive about his life before he came to Homer.

The next day Maxie is sunned to learn John killed himself and he had no ID on him. When she goes to Anchorage Maxie sees a woman almost everywhere she goes, but the woman who seems to be following her makes no attempt at direct contact. Back home, Maxie sees her door ajar and smells perfume inside. A woman arrives soon afterward insisting she is John’s sister Amy, but vanishes before Maxie can get her to talk with the police. Anxious with fear, Maxie tries to stay ahead of the woman because she has a bad vibe about her..

Alaska comes alive in this colorful amateur sleuth mystery starring an intrepid female sexagenarian who has the energy to light up the Arctic during the extended night. Saddened by John’s death, Maxie moves on although events (and people) pull her right back into a deadly scenario. The support cast is solid, Stretch a darling and the heroine super, but Alaska is the superstar of Sue Henry’s terrific THE END OF THE ROAD.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Make Her Pay-Roxanne St. Claire

Make Her Pay
Roxanne St. Claire
Pocket, Sep 29 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439102220

Treasure hunter Judd Paxton is at sea unsanctioned by the State of Florida as he salvages booty from the legendary sunken El Falcone. However, someone is plundering his treasure so he hires the Bullet Catcher firm to catch a thief. CEO Lucy Sharpe assigns former Navy SEAL Constantine Xenakis with the mission as a way to test his new resolutions and besides she needs a thief to catch a thief.

Constantine quickly finds dive specialist Lizzie Dare inside the locked room filled with booty. She explains to him she wants to prevent Paxton, whom she describes as a modern day raider, from selling the sunken galleon’s gems, especially the priceless two Bombay Blue Diamonds, on the black market to some client; as she insists the two gems belong to her family. His heart quickly belongs to Lizzie who makes him dizzy with desire, but his job is to take care of the client. Still he believes her story that someone else is the thief and that adversary has allies on board willing to kill a bullet catcher aspirant and the diver he loves.

A bit over the top (or perhaps under the sea is more descriptive), the latest Bullet Catcher’s thriller is a super romantic suspense starring two fascinating lead characters trapped on a ship off the Florida Atlantic coast amidst some nasty villains. Filled with plenty of action and a terrific location that enhances the tension, MAKE HER PAY is a super thriller as the confident Constantine knows what he must do to “steal” Gallagher’s job; but that means the client is almost always right while his gut and heart go with Lizzie.

Harriet Klausner

Feel The Heat-Cindy Gerard

Feel The Heat
Cindy Gerard
Pocket, Sep 29 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439153604

Defense intelligence agent B.J. Chase and Black Ops operative Rafe Mendoza tripped over each other when their assignments crossed in the back allies of Caracas, Venezuela; leading to failure. She blames him for her unsuccessful execution which wrecked her reputation inside the agency as she knows his notorious family was involved and distrusts him to her core. He knows he and his team were not the ones who fumbled the ball and holds the sexy DIA operative responsible.

However, when apparent terrorists steal electromagnetic pulse bomb technology B.J. and NSA operative Stephanie Tomkins try to uncover what insider betrayed their country. Their effort leads to Stephanie at risk and the information that an EMP bomb is to be exploded shortly. To their personal chagrin, but understanding their duty, B.J. and Rafe are teamed up to prevent the pending disaster.

The latest Black Ops team romantic thriller (see WHISPER NO LIES) is action, plenty of testosterone (including the macho lead female), and plenty more action. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and picks up speed even with romantic interludes between the battling lead combatants. A bit over the top even with using Chavez, Columbia, the FALC and other South American headliners, fans will appreciate the gender war between the DIA agent and the Black Ops operative.

Harriet Klausner

The Broken Teaglass-Emily Arsenault

The Broken Teaglass
Emily Arsenault
Delacorte, Sep 29 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9780553807332

Billy Webb who just graduated from college begins working as a lexicographer at Samuelson Company publishers of an annual dictionary. Already employed there in a separate cubicle but in a similar editor assistant position is Mona Minot.

Mona begins to find some strange notes referencing a book THE BROKEN TEAGLASS. She shows her notes to Billy, but neither can find the tome. They conclude someone previously employed at Samuelson left the citations, but not why or what they refer to. As they dig deeper and begin to put meaning to the notes, they begin to believe a murder occurred and some of their cubicle mates may have been involved.

This is a fascinating mystery filled with suspense that hooks the audience who wonder along with the lead couple whether a homicide occurred and if some of the cubicle mates were involved. In some ways the story line is a coming of age transition tale as Billy struggles with the biggest life change hr has ever faced having just graduated from college. Fans will enjoy this cerebral amateur sleuth as two young lexicographers search for the seemingly nonexistent BROKEN TEAGLASS.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 14, 2009

Huckleberry Finished-Livia J. Washburn

Huckleberry Finished
Livia J. Washburn
Kensington, Nov 2009, $22.00
ISBN: 9780758225689

Delilah Dickinson owns a travel agency in Atlanta that specializes in literary themes. She hopes the Samuel Clemens tour on a riverboat down the Mississippi will prove more relaxing than the Scarlett O’Hara plantation trip, which included a real murder (see FRANKLY NY DEAR, I’M DEAD).

The cruise does not get off to a good start when one of the customers Ben Webster throws a punch at a roulette dealer whom he claims was cheating. The captain holds Delilah culpable while the security chief orders Ben from the boat, but he disappears and his cabin is empty. He is found dead. The police refuse to allow anyone to leave the vessel until they find the killer. Delilah teams up on her investigation with an actor on board portraying Samuel Clemens, Mark Lansing. However he is really a private eye undercover trying to learn who killed pregnant Hannah Kramer a year ago on the same boat. The travel agent believes the current homicide and that of Hannah are related, but her inquiry almost makes her victim number three.

The second literary tour mystery is a special amateur sleuth tale as the spunky heroine makes for a fun “locked room” cozy. Hannah behaves in a believable manner while obtaining tidbits of information by asking questions of those trapped on board. HUCKLEBERRY FINISHED is a humorous, fresh (baked) dramatic whodunit that fans will enjoy and Mark Twain would have appreciated.

Harriet Klausner

What Remains of Heaven-C. S. Harris

What Remains of Heaven
C. S. Harris
Obsidian, Nov 2009, $23.95
ISBN: 9780451228024

In 1812 Sebastian St, Cyr, Viscount Devlin is reestablishing a relationship with his father. Their rift was caused by a secret that came to light leading to the son ending his relationship with his beloved actress Kat Boleyn; whom he intended to marry. Now he wonders if his one night with Hero Jarvis, the daughter of his father’s mortal enemy resulted in a child although she refuses to verify it one way or another.

Escaping his female woes, Sebastian is asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury to investigate the deaths of two men decades apart in an ancient crypt in a church. One of the victims is Sir Nigel, who vanished decades ago. The second corpse is the Bishop of London Francis Prescot, Sir Nigel’s younger brother. Sebastian assumes the deaths are connected beyond the sibling link and believes the association harks back to the American Revolution. St. Cyr is taken aback when he finds a tie to his family. His father, Sir Nigel and Lord Jarvis went to the colonies to see if pursing the war would end up in England’s triumph.

Viscount Devlin is a brooding hero in the tradition of Lord Byron as he distrusts everyone starting with his father who has kept a seemingly zillion secrets from him. His investigative methods are similar to that of a twentieth century police detective as he follows clues to wherever they lead. C. S. Harris has written a wonderfully constructed Regency mystery filled with concealment, red herrings, and misunderstanding that keeps the lead protagonist going down wrong lanes, but never giving up.

Harriet Klausner

Earthway-Aimee and David Thurlo

Aimee and David Thurlo
Forge, Nov 2009, $24.99
ISBN 9780765317179

In Shiprock, New Mexico Navajo Tribal Police Special Investigator Ella Clah discovers a pipe bomb in the classroom of her almost-lover, former Fed Christian minister Reverend Bilford “Ford” Tome. The bomb explodes injuring an officer. Meanwhile Ford and Ella work together trying to uncover who the maniacs are who are trying to sabotage a nuclear plant on the Navaho reservation and wonder if the bomb is linked.

The inquiry is complicated by an anti nuclear energy professor sending and receiving encrypted e-mail messages to an environmental group ironically considering domestic terrorism; an abusive spouse who blames the former minister for the destruction of his marriage; and finally survivalists who are camping nearby. A sniper, who could be connected to any of the three groups, or perhaps an unknown fourth unit, targets Ford and Ella as well.

The fifteenth Ella Clah Navaho police procedural is a super entry in a great series. The heroine has personal choices to make that conflict her inner soul. She loves the Reverend but enough to adopt his belief system over her own is a difficult dilemma for her. The story line is fast-paced as several suspects surface who have motives to eliminate Ford. Fans of the saga will appreciate Team Thurlo’s terrific thriller while newcomers will enjoy their stay on the Navaho reservation and look forward to more time there.

Harriet Klausner

The Atlantis Code-Charles Brokaw

The Atlantis Code
Charles Brokaw
Forge, Nov 10 2009, $25.99
ISBN 9780765315311

Cardinal Stefano Murani and his allies believe archeologist Thomas Lourds has found a priceless artifact in Alexandria, Egypt that they want and plan to take from him. Apparently Lourds has found a relic that links the lost continent of Atlantis with the Old Testament.

Meanwhile TV reporter Leslie Crane interviews Lourds for a documentary. However Murani's thugs murder the show's producer and go after the reporter and the archeologist. Lourds and Crane barely escape, but are on the run with Murani’s horde in pursuit. As they flee from Africa to Europe, their adversaries chase after them with orders to retrieve the find and kill the finders; collateral damage is no issue to Cardinal Murani or his followers.

THE ATLANTIS CODE is a hyperspeed thriller that races through two continents at a breakneck pace. Filled with action as the pursuers constantly catch up with the lead couple, but like a Houdini, they manage to escape from one peril after another. This is fun to read sort of like a pulp thriller as the constant bad guys’ assault attacks on the heroes dramatically overwhelm the biblical archeological premise.

Harriet Klausner

Mariposa-Greg Bear

Greg Bear
Vanguard/Perseus, Nov 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9781593154974

The United States stands on the brink of a financial collapse much worse than the Great Depression or the Bush Recession. Axel Price, CEO of Talos Corp, sees an opportunity to take power and plans to seize it.

FBI agents including Rebecca Rose are pulled back from leave, Fouad Al-Husam working undercover at the Talos Campus in Texas may have been exposed, and Will Griffin stand in his way, but to Price they are gnats. Rebecca and others have their own issues having been tested to see what the effects of the ultra powerful drug Mariposa are. At the same they deal with the pending Price financial disaster and personal issues, the Feds struggle with Jones Zero supercomputer that seems to have gone rogue and only one of its creators Nathan Trace can stop Price from taking control, but the megalomaniac in turn knows who is the only real threat.

The amazing thing about this super thriller is the underlying technology explained throughout is effortlessly interwoven into the fast-paced never decelerating story line. Action-packed throughout with a strong cast, MARIPOSA is a terrific tale as the audience anticipates a High Noon showdown between the CEO, three Feds, and the supercomputer creator.

Harriet Klausner

Traffyck-Michael Beres

Michael Beres
Medallion, Nov 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9781605421056

In Chicago, adult video store owner Ukrainian expatriate Viktor Patolichev dies in an arson fire at his shop. His wife of one month, retired stripper Mariya Nemeth cannot truly grieve until she knows whether her spouse set the fire to collect insurance money or if his human trafficking activity back in the Ukraine led to him being murdered.

Mariya hires private investigator Lazlo Horvath to obtain the stateside truths while he also employs Kiev-based PI Janos Nagy to learn more about her spouse’s former Ukrainian partners. Two thugs beat up Mariya, making it clear they want the inquiries ended. However, the Ukrainian-American and her two detectives keep investigating which leads them inside the exclusion dead zone surrounding Chernobyl.

This dark investigative tale is a well written, very heated (literally that is) but depressing thriller that takes readers on a tour inside the dead zone that will shock readers to the core. The lead trio is a fabulous teaming as they investigate the death of a person with one hell of a history. Fans will enjoy Lazlo’s return home to the place where his brother died when the plant exploded (see CHERNOBYL MURDERS).

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 13, 2009

To Try Men's Souls: A Novel of George Washington and the Fight for American Freedom

To Try Men's Souls: A Novel of George Washington and the Fight for American Freedom
Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen
Dunne, Oct 20 2009, $26.99
ISBN: 9780312591069

The war is five months old, and all the rebels have so far is a series of defeats. The morale of the troops is at its lowest and shrinking. The leadership is in disarray as to what to do as their side is rag tagged amateurs while their opponent is the best professional army in the world enhanced by paid mercenaries. Every morning leaves the revolutionaries with less soldiers as desertion has become epidemic.

They are out of time as retreating from Long Island to Manhattan to New Jersey and now in Pennsylvania have left the revolt on the brink of failure. While Thomas Paine works on his latest pamphlet in Philadelphia, General Washington knows he must do something daring, but fears any act of desperation that fails will end the rebellion. At the same time private Jonathan van Dorn does not want to desert Washington's army, but fears for his brother who joined the British; his feelings echo many of those who have stayed the course. Finally, a doubting Washington knows further flight means certain defeat and decides on a daring raid across the icy Delaware where he leads an attack on Hessians stationed in Trenton.

This is an intriguing look at a pivotal moment in the American Revolutionary War through the eyes of three men. The story line captures the doubts and fears of Washington, the encouragement of Paine, and the further doubts and fears of fictional van Dorn. Fans will enjoy this terrific historical thriller especially the lead up to the raid of the Hessian forces so different from the famous painting; mindful of the HBO show Assume the Position, Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen provide a deep look at what truly went on beyond the legend.

Harriet Klausner

Hounded to Death-Rita Mae Brown

Hounded to Death
Rita Mae Brown
Ballantine, Sep 29 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780345512376

Septuagenarian Jane “Sister” Arnold is the highly regarded master of the Jefferson Hunt Club in Virginia. She is currently attending the Mid-America Hound Show, a major event in Kentucky, accompanied by her huntsman Shaker Crown and her apprentice Tootie.

When one of her American foxhounds is stolen, her initial inclination is that odious Mo Schneider abducted her prized animal. However, she soon finds her canine next to Mo’s corpse. Back home, she takes her injured horse to veterinarian Hope Rogers, who soon afterward is found dead; the police rule suicide but Sister believes otherwise as she knew the vet too well. She plans to investigate, but during the Virginia Hound Show, a club member vanishes, leaving Sister stunned with what is going on.

This is a fun tale especially for pet lovers because he latest fox and hound personification mystery (see THE TELL-TALE HORSE) is an engaging amateur sleuth starring of course Sister and her allies (including her hounds). Although there are too many sidebar discussions that leave the story line idling in neutral at times, fans of the Sister foxhunting series will enjoy another visit to the Jefferson Hunt Club.

Harriet Klausner

Chasing The Cyclone-Peter Thomas

Chasing The Cyclone
Peter Thomas
Pacifica TWST, Aug 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780975912348

Paul Francesco has been successful in business, well liked by friends, and adored by his family. However, several years ago when Paul suffered from neurofibromatosis, he met D. Her nurturing led to a short marriage and Alex. After the divorce, D and Alex moved to Vancouver while Paul remained in Los Angeles.

Following a visit with a dying friend in Northern California, Paul tries to reach Alex but fails to make contact. He soon learns of a court date in British Columbia in which he failed to attend because he was unaware of it. D perjured herself to gain full custody. He begins an effort to regain access to his seven years old son only to find the Canadian court and police systems at best are indifferent. Instead of D being the criminal, they prefer to continue to label Paul as a dead beat absentee father. He soon meets other parents suffering from international apathy after the illegal abduction of an offspring left them legally with rights, morally with rights, and parentally with rights; but realistically with no rights. Paul is a hunter hunting the predators who took his child for he will never give up until he catches the cyclone he chases internationally even as he is made further to look like the insane criminal by the abducting party who actually are the one's who committed an assortment of crimes against both Paul and his victimized child.

Inspired by a true story that will shake the audience further, this is an exciting cautionary thriller that grips readers from the onset with the call Paul makes to the Vancouver Registry. From there, Paul falls apart as he has a new issue to contend with, the international abduction of his child by the kid’s mom. Overall fast-paced, there are some related advocating that somewhat slows down the incredible pace yet enhances the moral fiber of Paul’s quest. With tips to avoid such a calamity, readers will be stunned by Peter Thomas’ powerful condemnation of governments who ignore the global child abduction lucrative market.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Tiger-William G. Tapply

Dark Tiger
William G. Tapply
Minotaur, Sep 29 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 978-0312379780

Several years have gone by since Stoney Calhoun awakened in a Virginia VA hospital with total amnesia. He opened up a Portland, Maine bait shop owner with Kate Balaban and is a fishing guide and does occasional work for the cops and for “the Man in the Suit” who shows up periodically with an assignment that Stoney has the skills to accomplice. Although his memory remains erased from before the awakening Stoney still has the skills with weapons for instance before he went comatose.

The Suit offers Stoney a deal he cannot refuse. Instead of the usual tidbits about the past, he says he will insure they keep the bait shop potentially being sold to another buyer and keep Kate’s loved one covered by health insurance being challenged. Not even knowing the case Stoney agrees to the terms because he would do anything for Kate.

The Suit arranges for a Mr. Brecia to meet with Stoney. Mr. Brecia directs Stoney to investigate the deaths of operative McNulty and the underage teen townie Millie Gautier in what looked like a murder-suicide at St. Cecilia on the Canadian border. Mr. Brecia wants Stoney to find out what their agent was doing there with a sixteen year old. He suggests going undercover at the nearby exclusive Loon Lake Lodge as that is the only place in the vicinity of any known significance.

The third Stonewall Jackson Calhoun tale (see BITCH CREEK and GRAY GHOST) is a super whodunit with obvious overtones to Ludlam’s Bourne, but with the late William Tapply’s distinct New England take. The story line is fast-paced starting with the Suit showing what he can do to insure Stoney cooperates and never slows down. Fans will enjoy the hero’s activity in northern Maine as his in dubiously presence increases the homicide count considerably. DARK TIGER pay homage to Mr. Tapply who died in late July.

Harriet Klausner

Mrs. Jeffries and the Yuletide Wedding-Emily Brightwell

Mrs. Jeffries and the Yuletide Wedding
Emily Brightwell
Berkley, Nov 2009, $23.95
ISBN: 9780425230466

The holidays are upon the residents of Victorian London, which means that the wedding date of Coachman Smythe and Betsy the Cook is getting close. The pair live in the home of Inspector Witherspoon of the Metropolitan Police Department where they work and assist along with the rest of the staff their employer solve crime cases. Witherspoon is ignorant that his household employees led by Mrs. Jeffries are the reason his detecting record is at 100% solved as they serendipitously work cases by finding the clues but allow their beloved Inspector to get the credit.

The staff prays no murder cases until after the wedding, but their prayers go unanswered when a woman is knifed to death in front of the Evans’ home where an engagement party is going on. The daughter of the house Rosemary Evans identifies the victim as her old governess, but neither she nor anyone else knows why she was there. Mrs. Jeffries and the crew understand that they need to expedite this case so it does not interfere with the wedding since Witherspoon is giving the bride away.

The police and the staff separately investigate the homicide and believe they know who the killer is but lack proof. When information comes to light in spite of a lack of cooperation, the housekeeper and her amateur sleuths know they must act quickly to prevent a second murder from occurring even as a second wedding will occur.

It is fun watching Betsy and Smythe work on the crime, prepare for their wedding, and host her sister and brother-in-law as they do an incredible balancing act. Readers, Mrs. J, and the Inspector will be blindsided by who the killer is in this delightful cerebral historical cozy. As always with this terrific series, Emily Brightwell provides her fans with a bright well-written Victorian.

Harriet Klausner

Decked with Folly-Kate Kingsbury

Decked with Folly
Kate Kingsbury
Berkley, Nov 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425230015

It is the Christmas season and the Pennyfoot Spa is having its usual holiday celebration. Manager Cecily Sinclair Baxter prays they get through the Yuletide period without a murder as seems to be the tradition (see SHROUDS OF HOLLY, SLAY BELLS and NO CLUE AT THE INN – not a safe place for the holidays). Alas the homicidal jinx remains intact as a drunken man is found dead in the pond; they discover he is Ian Rossiter who used to work there and once was bigamously married to still-employed head maid Gertie. They also had a fight on the hotel’s grounds in which she attacked him with a knife.

The local constable Northcott believes Gertie killed her former spouse, but Cecily thinks differently; the cops do not arrest her head maid, but remand her into her employer’s custody. The Pennyfoot repairman saves Gertie’s life twice, which has Cecily pondering the connection to Ian’s death beyond the obvious. When Ian’s current wife Gloria arrives looking for him only to learn he is dead, she goes hysterical; Cecily puts her in a guest room. Meanwhile someone watches the activity waiting for the opening to make a move while Cecily wonders what had Ian done to bring such misfortune to him and his family.

There are numerous suspects besides the ex wife whose motive is the most obvious as Ian wants to see his twins, but others also have powerful reasons to kill the rogue. Cecily is more of a modern woman than an early twentieth cnturty female as she refuses to let her husband Baxter or any male dictate how she is to behave especially when he pleads with her to stay out of the murder investigation. The story line has the “Upstairs, Downstairs” feel that enhances the whoudnit as there is a wide schism between the classes as World War I had not started leveling the playing field yet. Readers will enjoy the latest Pennyfoot holiday mystery as a terrific historical amateur sleuth.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Grave Secrets-Charlaine Harris

Grave Secrets
Charlaine Harris
Berkley, Nov 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780425230152

Harper Connelly’s childhood was a nightmare living with her mother and stepfather, who were addicts having dopers and paying Johns coming and going at all times for drugs and sex. Her rock was her stepbrother Tolliver who with his sibling Mark tried to earn enough money to keep the family together. Harper and her sister Cameron took care of their half-sisters Gracie and Mariella. A lightning bolt struck Harper enabling her to find the dead which led them to having a job. People go to her to find out where the dead are buried or to find out how they died. Tolliver is her business manager.

The step-siblings are in a small Texas town near their hometown of Texarkana because wealthy Lizzy Joyce wants to know how her father Rich died. She is shocked to learn that her father’s caretaker died from bleeding due to childbirth. Rich died when someone threw a snake at him. Lizzy believes Harper and now knows her dad was murdered. While near their home, they go to see their half-sisters adopted by their aunt and uncle. They learn Tolliver’s father was just released from prison and wants to see them to make amends, but he does not want anything to do with his dad. Harper is still trying to find out what happened to her sister Cameron who vanished without a trace while walking home from school. Someone is upset that Harper is asking questions and tries to kill her
.but Tolliver and a cop save her life taking a bullet each aimed at her.

GRAVE SECRETS looks back into the childhood nightmares of Tolliver and Harper, who have come a long way from their past because of their caring for each other, which turned into romance (see ICE COLD and AN ICE COLD GRAVE). Questions that have haunted Harper since Texarkana might finally be answered if she has the courage and survives long enough to figure them out. Although a major coincidence helps the story line, Charlaine Harris provides an enthralling mystery that mesmerizes the audience with an underlying soulful romance while Sookie appears on TV.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Under the Cajun Moon-Mindy Starns Clark

Under the Cajun Moon
Mindy Starns Clark
Harvest House, Sep 2009, $13.99
ISBN 9780736926249

A daughter of a renowned New Orleans restaurant owner Chloe Ledet is ordered home when her dad Chef Julian is hospitalized following an accident. Julian asks Chloe to keep his business running, which she agrees to do as this is the first time in her life her father asked her to do anything except take out the garbage.

However, she barely looks at a recipe or sets a table, when the police suspect her of murder. Chloe knows she is being set up with Cajun pizzazz by an unknown source. Not one to sit idly by and wait for a break, Chloe investigates the homicide with a former boyfriend at her side. To solve the murder, she must swim in bayous and dig through her spicy dysfunctional relationships with her famous parents.

This is an intelligent amateur sleuth mystery starring a spicy peppery heroine who is only in town to help her ailing dad, but soon finds herself drowning in Ragin’ Cajuns. The story line is fast-paced but totally owned by the spunky lead protagonist who knows what she must do in the restaurant and to clear her name, but not with the man who offers to help her. If you have not read Mindy Starns Clark’s Million Dollar and Smart Chick mysteries, you are missing out on one of the better whodunit authors as she returns to the Bayou State for a great mystery.

Harriet Klausner

The Price of Malice-Archer Mayor

The Price of Malice
Archer Mayor
Minotaur, Oct 6 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312381929

In a wannabe hooker’s Brattleboro, Vermont apartment, the battered and shot several times corpse of thirtyish Wayne Castine is found. VBI police detective Joe Gunther leads the investigation by looking into the victim’s life. They find strong evidence that Castine was a sociopath with the most condemning allegation being he was a dangerous pedophile. The team also learns that Castine had an apparent lover who has a tweener daughter.

At the same he works that case, Joe's girlfriend and teammate Lyn Silva finds out more about her lost at sea father and brother; their boat vanished off the Maine coast. While Joe and the rest of the unit dig into the Castine murder, Lyn digs into her family tragedy as she learns her lobstermen family members might have been murdered by drug traffickers.

The two investigations rotate lead with much of the fun is in observing Joe being pulled by both cases, which makes him less effective than usual and somewhat inefficient to the point that his team’s loose cannon Kunkle is simply loose. The story line is not quite at taut as a typical Gunther Vermont police procedural. However it is as fast-paced and exciting as any series entry because of the hero’s somewhat unproductive balancing act as one inquiry has a host of happy people with Castine’s death and the other is personal with Lyn in the middle.

Harriet Klausner

9800 Savage Road-M. E. Harrigan

9800 Savage Road
M. E. Harrigan
Forge, Sep 15 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765317964

In 2000 National Security Agency assistant director Alexandra O'Malley heads up Project Meridian, which was set to monitor terrorist leader bin Laden known as UBL inside of NSA. He has been sending and receiving numerous calls at his al-Qaeda headquarters in Afghanistan. All the discussions center on a vague major plot against America, but none provide any worthwhile specificity.

Abruptly the message traffic halts, panicking American security agencies that whatever is planned is imminent. Alex's boyfriend, CIA agent Gabriel Ayala, is sent inside Afghanistan to set up a tap into the al-Qaeda phone system. However, back in the States while Gabriel is deep undercover, someone is murdering key NSA personnel; Alex investigates the homicides that she believes is tied to the expected terrorist assault.

Although this reviewer is doubtful Harrigan would investigate rather then delegate, fans will enjoy this deep look inside NSA as the countdown to 9/11 occurs. Unsurprisingly the story line is not loaded with suspense as the audience knows the tragic outcome, but the fun in the tale is what is going on inside NSA and the CIA. 9800 SAVAGE ROAD provides that big time as M.E. Harrigan writes from an obvious insider’s perspective.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Red, Green, or Murder-Steven F. Havill

Red, Green, or Murder
Steven F. Havill
Poisoned Pen, Nov 01 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590586655

Retired Posadas County, New Mexico Under-sheriff Bill Gastner works as a livestock inspector. However, he gets involved in a search for a missing ranch hand as he cannot fully stay out of police work although he keeps pledging to himself that he will next time.

Current Under-sheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman investigates the death of retired gun dealer George Payton. Something does not feel right to her and Gastner offers his advice and opinion though she never asked him for it. Still Estelle seems to understand her predecessor’s inability to let go and knows how skilled he is so she asks him to help on a case she thinks might be a homicide.

The latest Posadas County police procedural is a superb entry in what is one of the best series over the past years. Bill is unable to stop himself from doing police work as it is in his blood while Estelle understands his need. They, along with the rest of the sheriff’s department and the county residents make for an enjoyable tale as Steven F. Havill brings to life the enchantment of New Mexico while the state enhances the homicide and missing person investigations.

Harriet Klausner

The Fury-Jason Pinter

The Fury
Jason Pinter
Mira, Oct 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778326274

New York Gazette reporter Henry Parker feels good as he leaves the office overlooking Rockefeller center because the obnoxious sports reporter got a well deserved “donkey-whupping”. On the street, a homeless man accosts Parker begging to talk with him as he claims the city is burning, but the journalist is in a rush to meet Amanda Davies and besides has images of a donkey whupping on his mind; Henry tells the man to call him tomorrow.

Later the police inform Henry the man who approached him earlier is dead, a murder victim; and evidence exists that this Stephen Gaines was Parker’s half-brother. They shared the same father though Henry had no idea he even had sibling. Unable to resist and feeling remorse for blowing away his apparent brother, Parker investigates the homicide starting with confronting his father, who the cops suspect is the killer.

The latest Henry Parker investigation (see THE STOLEN, THE MARK and GUILTY) is a terrific suspense laden thriller with a personal angst twist to the reporter’s current inquiry. The super story line is fast-paced from the onset and never takes a breather. However, THE FURY is part one of a duology with THE DARKNESS coming out in December so fans might want wait for part two and read both one after another.

Harriet Klausner

Black Friday-Alex Kava

Black Friday
Alex Kava
Mira, Oct 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780778326519

Looking forward to time off during the long Thanksgiving Day weekend, FBI profiler Maggie O'Dell receives an urgent call from the new assistant director Ray Kunze who replaced her mentor Cunningham after he recently died. Set up by The Project Manager, terrorists bombed the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota during the busiest shopping day of the year.

The case proves even more complicated and convoluted, but the Feds learn that college students carrying backpacks were seen just before the bombings. Soon afterward an anonymous tip provides the names of the suspected students including Maggie's half-brother, Patrick Murphy. They thought they were pulling a prank with jamming devices, but instead caused a massacre in which no group claims victory, but the Project Manager using the name Asante knows one of his carriers somehow survived. Still adjusting to a new superior with a different leadership style than she is used to, Maggie believes another strike is imminent as the wizard behind the prank remains an unknown John Doe, but evidence points to another attack imminently.

The latest O’Dell FBI thriller (see A NECESSARY EVIL and EXPOSED) may be the best case yet for the profiler as her stepbrother is involved making it personal and the brilliant mastermind remains out there plotting the next strike. The story line is action-packed, but it is the pace that hooks the audience as Maggie believes the clock is ticking towards the second series of explosions and for the only survivor. With a plausible premise that will have Tom Ridge screaming red, fans will read BLACK FRIDAY in one sitting.

Harriet Klausner

The Perfect Murder-Brenda Novak

The Perfect Murder
Brenda Novak
Mira, Oct 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778327257

One year ago, former cop Malcolm Turner killed his wife and teenage stepson before committing suicide. However, investment banker Sebastian Costas, whose ex-wife and son were the two victims of her second husband, believes Turner faked his death to escape the law. Costas quit his job and has spent the past twelve month futilely trying to prove his theory.

However, Sebastian’s efforts lead him to Last Stand victims’ advocate wannabe investigator Jane Burke. She is searching for two abducted teens (Marcie and Leticia) whose older sister raised them; Jane believes Turner kidnapped them. Jane and Sebastian team up to try to bring down a “dead” killer who connects the pair chasing him and decides to end their pursuit. He failed to do his homework as Jane survived a serial killing husband so has no qualms about destroying Turner.

The latest Last Stand thriller (see THE PERFECT LIAR and THE PERFECT COUPLE) is a super tale that stars a strong cast which includes the villain who committed the PERFECT MURDER, but had not factored in the impact of getting away with the homicides; he has to accept menial jobs with no respect. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Malcolm stalks his high school sweetheart and never slows down. Although the romance between Sebastian and Jane is a requirement of the sub-genre, the subplot enhances the anticipated confrontation.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 7, 2009

To Know Evil-Stephen Gaspar

To Know Evil
Stephen Gaspar
Pemberley, Oct 1 2009, $17.95
ISBN: 9780977191390

In 999 AD at an isolated Benedictine monastery in northern Italy, Brother Ryan lies dead at the steps leading to a tower. Whereas renowned skeptic Brother Thomas of Worms believes Ryan is a murder victim as the Irish monk feared heights, the Abbot Brother Michael rules a tragic accident occurred. Because he broke a Rule by displaying personal ego and no humility, Michael assigns Thomas to do penitence by copying a passage of the New Testament in the scriptorium.

Brother Nicholas tells Thomas he found an arcane psalm book with palimpsest writings. They begin following clues left by the previous residents the Gnostic who imply they hid a Gospel. Soon other Brothers die in mysterious ways, but Michael insists Gedeon and Bartholomew from accidents while Thomas believes one of them is the killer. As he abetted by Nicholas searches for the lost Gospel and a serial killer, the Abbot warns Thomas to cease all intellectual pursuit or face exile and perhaps worse.

Mindful of Peter Tremayne’s Fidelma of Cashel and Brother Eadulf, this is an intriguing look at life in a cloistered monastery at the turn of the millennium. The story line is fast-paced and filled with twists to disguise the brilliant villain from the prideful hero whose ego enables the killer to play him like a child playing the notation by the monk Guido d’Arezzo (circa 1000). Although the motive is weakened because of a seemingly time gap between arrivals and homicides and an unnecessary red herring, fans will enjoy Stephen Gaspar’s fine medieval whodunit that brings to life 999 AD Christianity.

Harriet Klausner

Until It’s Gone-Karen Wiesner

Until It’s Gone
Karen Wiesner
Uncial, Feb 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780578013688

DEA undercover agent Mitch Taylor spent twenty years working his way up the ladder of the Ortega drug cartel until he became the right hand man to Carson Ortega, cousin of the untouchable top gun Mareno Ortega. To destroy the entire leadership, Mitch was arrested and convicted of drug trafficking; he was sentenced to thirty months, but served only nineteen. Los Angeles DEA Filed Office Assistant Special Agent in Charge Eric Bradshaw gets him released early so he can return as Carson’s number one man.

However, he is tired of being a puppet pulled by two puppeteers and wants out as he also believes his only friend Snake should be able to vanish too. Mitch distrusts Bradshaw even more than Ortega. Now Brenda Bennett is at his house; the one person who could actually destroy him although she is out of his league. She shakes him to the core when she informs him he is the daddy of a ten month old daughter, Haylee Julia; a by-product of getting his beloved to hate him. Mitch now has two female reasons for wanting out, but neither the DEA nor the Ortega mob will let him just walks away.

This may be the best of the Wounded Warrior saga so far, which is saying a lot as that is a super series. Mitch is a terrific protagonist who has harmed innocent people as part of his realistic cover, but even before Brenda’s pronouncement he had doubts about right vs. wrong as he reconsiders his side's values as they assume the end justifies any mean. Brenda has issues also, but this is clearly Mitch’s tribulation with no hope for redemption. Fans will relish this powerful gritty entry.

Harriet Klausner

Cape Greed-Sam Cole

Cape Greed
Sam Cole
Minotaur, Nov 10 2009, $23.99
ISBN: 978031237340

In Cape Town, South Africa former police officers Vincent Saldona and Mullet Mendes went private figuring there has to be more money and less danger especially since bad asses have human rights now. Ice cold Brit Judith Oxford hires Mullet to find proof that her husband international money mover Roger is using prostitutes including rent boys. At the same time Vincent is working a case involving abalone rustlers.

Meanwhile lawyer Marina Welsh keeps calling trying to reach Saldona who is buried in abalone muck up the coast, which is why she wants to speak preferably to him rather than his partner as she has an investment involved in the shrinking stock. However, neither sleuth sees the tie between there two disconnected cases until it may prove too late as Saldona has been tagged.

This is a terrific gritty South African noir starring two fully developed private investigators; whose cases enable readers to envision the aptly titled CAPE GREED where international interests use local criminal elements in illegal avaricious activities. The story line is fast-paced but stark even with Mullet’s burnt orange jacket as the lead detectives do not know the new rules the foreign investors bring with them. Fans will enjoy this hardboiled Cape Town crime thriller as even the good guys do felonies to make a living.

Harriet Klausner

Holiday Grind-Cleo Coyle

Holiday Grind
Cleo Coyle
Berkley, Nov 2009, $23.95
ISBN: 9780425230053

It is the holiday season and Clare Cosi, manager of the Village Blend Coffee House in Greenwich Village, is gathering up a group of friends to help her decide what lattes will remind her patrons of Christmas. A red-headed beauty crashes the party, but turns vicious when Clare insists it is a private affair. Clare wonders where Alf, a traveling Santa, is as he promised his good friend he would be there.

Her ex husband and café partner Matteo Allegro tells her he has seen Alf and Clare goes to look for him. She sees his sleigh in an alley so she enters only to find his corpse near the dumpster. The police assume a mugging robbery occurred, but Clare ponders what she saw at the crime scene and thinks otherwise. She returns to the alley in daylight and climbs up a fire escape to the fourth floor where she finds a bullet on the windowsill. She is arrested as an accomplice, but the lead detective has her released based on their discussion the night before. Clare investigates and almost gets killed.

Cleo Coyle writes some of the best amateur sleuth tales with her Greenwich Village coffeehouse mysteries and her Haunted Bookshop mysteries written as Alice Kimberly. Clare is a breath of fresh air with her honesty, caring nature, and her perhaps naive belief in the goodness of people. The whodunit contains red haired herrings and amusing scenes, but her top rate percolating investigation, which causes friction between her and her police detective boyfriend, remains the key to HOLIDAY GRIND.

Harriet Klausner