Saturday, October 31, 2009

Red to Black-Alex Dryden

Red to Black
Alex Dryden
Ecco, Aug 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780061803864

In 1999 Moscow, Russian FSB intelligence Colonel Anna, daughter of a KGB spymaster meets Finn, a British M16 operative who allegedly is a trade secretary, but everyone in the field knows his real vocation, which he does not bother to conceal. He is aware of who’s who like his peers are. He knows who Anna is and she knows who he is. Each is aware of the Putin “Plan”.

Finn arranges for his return to England where he retires; knowing full well the suspicious Russians will not believe he is out of the cold. Like Pavlov’s dogs, Putin’s KGB followers want to know what they deem a ruse so they send his former Muscovite lover Anna to seduce him in London in order to extract his high level Russian contact. Over the years the two spies make love and elude war as they dream of a life together without lies but eventually unravel a scheme to launder money that supports the Putin Plan.

The espionage scenes are incredibly terrific as the focus on international fiancés by the FSB will stun the audience as Alex Dryden enables the reader to look into Putin’s eyes and see a ruthless soul. The romantic subplot pales in comparison to the big picture schemes although watching two people in love lie to each other with the knowledge the other knows makes for an intriguing courtship. Although the writing at times feels stilted, readers will enjoy the frightening Red to Black as the audience obtains a deep look at a merciless Russia during the beginning of the Bush Administration.

Harriet Klausner

Hot As Sin-Bella Andre

Hot As Sin
Bella Andre
Dell, Oct 27 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780440245018

In a small Vail, Colorado café, television host Dianna Kelley meets her sister April who left home because her sibling was controlling and overprotective. Dianna wanted to make up for the years April was in foster care but she could not connect with her when April informs her she lives in a commune. Dianna explodes and April leaves; Diana drinks before driving and gets into an accident in which she is injured and the other driver dead.

In the Sierra Nevada range, firefighter Sam MacKenzie learns of Dianna’s injuries. Although a decade has passed since she miscarried and left him, he runs to her side. When they meet again, the sparks that remained simmering for years ignites into a passionate firestorm. However both remain wary of being hurt so each hides their deep feelings from the other. Dianna learns April was kidnapped by someone seeking revenge. Sam swears he will rescue her sister, but Dianna insists on accompanying him on the arduous trek into the Sierras. On the dangerous journey, they realize not just how much love they share, but rejoice in revealing how much love they have for one another. However finding and rescuing April and surviving remain the goal.

Bella Andre has written a heated second chance at love romantic suspense starring a hotshot firefighter and a TV talk show host; each brings fear to their fiery relationship. April adds to the mix as a gutsy individual not waiting to be rescued. She makes the tale’s thriller elements work with her courage and fortitude. Readers will relish this fine tale as April has choices to make and one wrong one could lead to her death.

Harriet Klausner

Crawlspace-Sarah Graves

Sarah Graves
Bantam, Jan 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780553806809

Six years ago, everyone believed Randy Dodd died because there was plenty of evidence backing that belief. It also was assumed that Randy killed his wife Cornelia. His brother Roger, who was married to Cornelia’s sister, lost his spouse in an accident so he grieves all the tragedies that has hammered at his soul. Nothing altered these convictions until true crime writer Carolyn Rathbone and her assistant Chip Hahn arrive in Eastport, Maine to research the tragedy of the Lang sisters for a book she is writing.

Carolyn and Chip believe Randy is alive and is responsible for the deaths of both sisters as he wanted their inheritance. Randy is in town to access the money, but first kidnaps Carolyn with the intent to kill her because he simply enjoys murdering women.

Jacobia “Jake” Tiptree awakens to the realism her son Sam failed to come home last night and later discovers he was seen and recognized Randy. Sam is also the killer’s prisoner. Jake is determined to find out where Randy hides and rescue the writer and her offspring. With help from her step-brother, her best friend, her housekeeper and Chip, Jake begins her search. A clue from Roger assists them, but they remain ignorant that they are entering a trap until it is sprung.

Crawlspace is much more violent than the usual Home Repair amateur sleuth tales due to the predator; rather than a cozy this tale is more a suspense thriller. Readers ironically know Randy lives from the onset when the residents of Eastport sleep serenely at night because they believe he is dead. The story line is terrific with a great finish that will stun the audience used to amateur sleuth superheroes as fans will salute Sarah Graves with a strong grim entry.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Disciple-Stephen Coonts

The Disciple
Stephen Coonts
St. Martin’s, Dec 8 2009, $26.99
ISBN 9780312372835

CIA Middle Eastern Operations chief Jake Grafton assigns his top operative Tommy Carmellini to work inside Iran as there is fear that maniacal fundamentalist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is close to having his finger on a nuclear trigger. The Iranian leader wants a holy war to the death with the west and he believes his side will win.

As Tommy watches and gathers information, he has Iranians supporting him; many fear Ahmadinejad’s legacy will be a stone age Iran. While Israel considers bombing Iran’s nuclear sites as it did Syria, Tommy’s efforts and that of his associates and his boss fail to prevent the madman from firing missiles throughout the Middle East under the guise of martyrdom. Tommy and Jake to try to deflect his assault of missiles, including some nuclear, that Iran has fired in order to stop WW III from occurring.

This is a tense thriller that places the stars of in what feels like a potentially realistic extrapolation of headline news with recent revelations re Iranian hidden nuclear developments. The story line is fast-paced starting with the opening sequence of the Israeli destruction of the Syrian nuclear plant as told to readers by a Russian adviser killed at the site and never slows down. Though obviously biased as the American heroes are hawk patriots (not the chicken hawk couch potato variety of send someone else); the action enables the reader to know who are allies and enemies as Stephen Coonts provides a super tale of vaporization while exposing Ahmadinejad’s fanatical background that goes back to even before the fall of the Shah.

Harriet Klausner

The Murdered House-Pierre Magnan

The Murdered House
Pierre Magnan
Minotaur, Nov 10 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312367206

He was raised in an orphanage and fought for the French during WWI. When the armistice ended the fighting, Seraphin Monge returns to his hometown in the Alps where he finds work as a road-digger. Two women Rose Pujol and Marie Dormeur are interested in the muscular Seraphin.

However, he also learns about his biological family. When he was three weeks old in Provence, someone murdered his parents, his grandfather and his two older brothers in their family home back in 1896. Three Herzegovinian losers were arrested, convicted of the brutal homicides and executed. With what he now knows Seraphin believes the visiting trio was convenient scapegoats to close a case and perhaps conceal the real culprit’s identity. At his family home La Burliere, the spirit of Seraphin’s mother demands he learns the truth. He tears apart the insides until he finds evidence that implies three leading citizens: Gaspard Dupin, Rose’s father Didion and Marie’s dad Celestat are the most likely killers. Seraphin plans vengeance, but someone else murders Didion and Celestat; and that person may be stalking Seraphin.

This is a strong post WWI historical mystery that brings to life two periods: the post war and the late Victorian Era in France. The cast serves only to support Seraphin on his quest for the truth that morphs into a thirst for vengeance. Obviously disturbed and haunted by the murders of his family whom he was too young to know and the opulence those who apparently got away with the act, Magnan is the only developed character as each new revelatory discovery shakes his bone marrow and leaves him further desiring blood. Fans will appreciate Pierre Magnan's third taut suspense thriller printed in the United States (see The Messengers of Death and Death in the Truffle Wood), as the audience will wonder what the seemingly maniacal Seraphin will ultimately do.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sins Of The Flesh-Caridad Pineiro

Sins Of The Flesh
Caridad Pineiro
Forever, Nov 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780446543835

Musician Caterina Shaw is dying from brain cancer. She agrees to be a guinea pig in genetic experiments conducted by Dr. Raymond Edwards in a hope this may save her life; she has no other prayer. The experiments work, but also have a side effect. She has super human skills and lost much of her memory. When she is accused o murder, Caterina flees needing to learn the truth and how to control her new abilities.

Raymond hires mercenary Mick Carrera to capture and bring Caterina back to him so he can continue his experiments on her; he prefers her alive, but dead is acceptable. However, when Mick catches up to Caterina he finds he wants to help her; as he rejects the idea she could be a psychopathic killer. Instead he takes her to his sister vowing to keep his Caterina safe; unaware that diabolical Raymond has other less ethical operatives working the extraction.

Sins of the Flesh is an action-packed thriller that never takes a breath once Caterina accepts the radical experimental treatment. The story line is faster than the speed of light, but though Caterina is fully developed, Mick is not so the audience never fully understands his motive to become a mercenary (especially once we meet his family) or to not bring her in even if he likes her. Caridad Pineiro provides another one of her super romantic suspense thrillers as the heat is on.

Harriet Klausner

The Gatekeeper-Michelle Gagnon

The Gatekeeper
Michelle Gagnon
Mira, Nov 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778326724

FBI Special Agent Kelly Jones is part of an investigative team looking into the brutal murder US Senator Duke Morris. The prevalent theory to the motive for such butchery is that his death is tied to Morris’ highly visible role in ending illegal immigrants crossing into the United States; a warning of sorts to back off or else.

Kelly's fiancé former agent Jake Riley agrees to help the boyfriend of a co-worker. Someone abducted Randall Grant’s sixteen year old daughter, Madison.. The kidnappers’ demands are shocking and unacceptable; Jake needs to rescue the teen soonest or all hell will break out, Soon these obviously separate cases collide in a frightening domestic convergence at a mystical being the Gatekeeper who somehow has united the most despicable violent hate groups in America preparing them for the third American Revolution.

The third Jones FBI thriller (see Boneyard and The Tunnel) is a super action-packed tale that occurs in a pulse pumping short time frame of June 25 through July 4. Ironically for most of the time, the lead pair works on separate nasty investigations until they connect when it seems too late. Set aside time as this one grips you from start to finish with two incredible unexpected twists as Michelle Gagnon makes the Pogo case: “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us”.

Harriet Klausner

Ice-Linda Howard

Linda Howard
Ballantine, Nov 10 2009, $24.00
ISBN: 9780345517197

Gabriel McQueen drives up from North Carolina to spend the holidays with his family in Wilson Creek, Maine. The widowed soldier looks forward to time with “Gran”, his dad the sheriff and his son Sam. However, his father asks him to take a quick run up to the Helton family cabin to make sure Lolly Helton, who went up there to pick ups some items, but should have returned by now and is out of phone contact, is all right as a nasty storm is coming.

As Gabe muses back to his icy childhood rivalry with Lolly while driving to her cabin, she is in danger trapped by two irrational meth addicts. Gabe quickly assesses the situation on the ground and uses his military training and experience to extract Lolly from the house and the enemy. However, as covertness as he was, the two maniacal thugs go after them.

This is an exciting fast-paced romantic suspense with the frozen isolated location enhancing the perilous situation. Gabe is a terrific heroic protagonist although it is convenient to have his background in extraction and survivability under harsh conditions. Lolly still rips skins form him as he discovers how to melt the Ice and prevent further epidermis loss by kissing her. Although the addicts are stereotypes fans will enjoy Linda Howard’s quick by exhilarating survival of the fittest thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Under the Dome-Stephen King

Under the Dome
Stephen King
Scribner, Nov 10 2009, $35.00
ISBN: 9781439148501

In Chester's Mill, Maine Big Jim Rennie runs the small town through underhanded extortionist politics and illegal drug dealing. His son is a bully throwing his father’s influential weight at others. Few overtly counter this pair of leading citizens, but army veteran Dale “Barbie” Barbara and newspaper editor Julia Shumway lead the opposition.

Already somewhat isolated due to its location, an invisible dome suddenly falls over the entire remote New England village; dropped by the Overlords who live amongst us and have chosen this place apparently for one of their experiments. Things begin to happen rather quickly starting with the plane crash and the tractor explosion. Nothing can enter or leave. Over a short period of time the infrastructure begins to collapse and survival means enemies teaming up. Some claim this is God’s punishment and wait for the Rapture; others believe that Big Jim made a bad deal with his drug overlords, but some like short order cook Barbie insist it is something else. As conditions deteriorates rapidly, the townsfolk fail to unite; instead remain splintered into two major groups led by Big Jim who invokes marital law and Barbie who searches for who and why, and several smaller factions who mostly choose inaction using diverse rationale to defend their position.

This is a strong King thriller that returns the great horror author to his Stand roots of good vs. evil. Although somewhat stereotyped characters, fans will not care as morality takes center stage with the cast’s differences of opinions negatively impacting survival. Good vs. evil on a bigger stage looks inside as on the smaller platform of Chester’s Mill good vs. evil plays out in a reality version of survival.

Harriet Klausner

Breathless-Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz
Bantam, Nov 24 2009, $28.00
ISBN: 9780553807158

After being a military sniper, Grady Adams lives in an isolated part of the Rockies where he works as a craftssman. One day in the forest he sees a strange light and knows musingly nothing will be the same. Grady observes two white creatures playing and knows they sense his nearness somehow. Frightened by what he has seen, he and his Irish Wolfhound Merlin race home.

At the same time on a horse farm, veterinarian Dr. Camilla Rivers is shook by what she sees. All the horses seem in some sort of trance as if they sense something big is coming.

Grady calls Cammy to come over to his house to look at something strange. The two creatures he saw in the woods make themselves at home in his cabin as Grady is entranced by them as they seem beautiful, pristine and pure. Cammy arrives and knows they are a different species. They name the pair Puzzle and Riddle. However Homeland Security learns of the existence of the due and come to confiscate them in order to test them. Conny and Grady refuse to allow the rendition of the odd pair, but remain unsure how to prevent it.

Animal lovers will especially relish Dean Koontz’s latest thriller that insists evil must be dealt with and can come in various forms; just because something new and different is found does not make them malevolent. Instead something familiar can be the wicked and those with ethics will step up to prevent the heinous from inheriting the earth. The creatures slowly reveal who they are to their adopted human pets, which makes Grady and Cammy even more resolute to keep them safe. With plenty of mysteries at the core of the exciting story line, Dean Koontz is at his best with this thought provoking thriller as the monstrosities are not always obvious.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dying Scream-Mary Burton

Dying Scream
Mary Burton
Zebra, Dec 1 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420100280

The DUI shattered Adrianna Barrington’s life as she lost the baby she was carrying and her husband Craig Thornton never came out of the coma. Although the other driver drunkenly caused the accident, Adrianna went bankrupt to pay the medical bills; finally leading to her selling her family estate.

However, the buyer demands the family graveyard be relocated, but when the extraction begins, more bodies are found than should be there. Detective Gage Hudson investigates. Soon afterward three females who knew Craig vanish while Adrianna receives calls and cards from allegedly her dead husband claiming he misses his wife and will soon come for her.

This is a tense romantic suspense that grips the audience from the moment Adrianna receives an anniversary card from the grave. The story line is fast paced throughout with the “required” romantic subplot taking a needed back seat to the thriller elements especially that of a serial killer who either is her husband whom the beleaguered heroine interred though he is not in his coffin or something or someone else playing Craig’s life, but motive remains elusive. Dying Scream is a taut serial killer investigative thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Vintage Caper-Peter Mayle

Vintage Caper
Peter Mayle
Knopf, Oct 20 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780307269010

Hollywood entertainment lawyer Danny Roth cherishes his wine collection, insured for three million dollars. He is so full of pride over his vintage collection he boasts excessively about his vino darlings during a Los Angeles Times interview. However, Danny feels violated when someone who obviously read the article absconded with his wine collection.

Insurance agent Elena Morales hires her former boyfriend Sam Levitt, a wine connoisseur, to investigate the theft. He follows the trail to France where he teams up with insurance agent Sophie Costes, a wine and food gourmand. They soon track the purloined wine to Marseilles with billionaire wine collector Francis Reboul as the prime suspect behind the theft.

This is an amusing crime caper that will have readers toasting Peter Mayle with A Good Year French champagne. The story line is fast-paced and straightforward as the shortest distance between California and French Lessons is between Sam and the other players. With a solid cast, Vintage Caper is lighthearted fun as each key participant makes their play for the valuable vino with not one of them fully trusting any of the others.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 26, 2009

Death Message-Mark Billingham

Death Message
Mark Billingham
Harper, Oct 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780061432750

London Detective Inspector Tom Thorne looks carefully at the blurry photo that has been sent to him over his cellphone. The person looks dead though he cannot be sure. He has no idea who sent the picture, who the victim is, and who the killer is assuming it is not the transmitter.

Soon afterward, a second photo of a corpse arrives. More pictures of apparently dead people keep coming to Thorne on his cell. Thorne and his unit struggle with the lack of motive but begin to identify the psychopath; yet the deadly predator remains elusive sending more pictures of the recently deceased.

Fans of the Thorne police procedurals will welcome this strong entry as the DI struggles with a case in which the culprit mocks him with the Death Message. The key to this fast-paced investigative thriller is as always the support cast, mostly the cops working with Thorne, who make what could have been another taunting serial killer story line into a deep look at the personal side of the police working a tough case. Fans will enjoy Thorne’s latest case as the police try to end the reign of terror from a clever Grim Reaper.

Harriet Klausner

Midnight Fugue-Reginald Hill

Midnight Fugue
Reginald Hill
Harper, Oct 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780061451966

Yorkshire police Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel has healed from the injuries he received when a perp tried to kill him. However, even as he is returning to work after a stint at the Avalon Clinic, one thing remains the same: he is still a grump.

However, even he is stunned when Gina Wolfe visits him with a personal request, as people avoid grouches not ask for a favor. Seven years ago her spouse Alex, a police officer was under an Internal Affairs investigation when he vanished; he was never found. Now as she is about to have him legally declared dead, she received a photo of Alex from a magazine looking very much alive. She asks Dalziel to investigate unofficially, which he does.

The latest Dalziel and Pascoe police procedural is an incredible accomplishment by Reginald Hill as there are numerous subplots, strong characterizations and a fast-paced at times humorous story line, which is typical of the series, but all this occurs in 24 hours. Just another day for Dalziel and Pascoe but great frenzy fun for fans as Midnight Fugue will be on the short lists for sub-genre book of the year.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Deck the Halls and The Christmas Thief-Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark

Deck the Halls and The Christmas Thief
Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark
Scribner, Nov 3 2009, $17.99
ISBN: 9781439175675

Deck the Halls. California private detective Regan Reilley flies home to New Jersey to spend the holidays with her parents. Regan visits her mother, Nora a patient at the Manhattan Hospital for Special Surgery for a leg she broke tripping over a rug. At her mother's room, Regan also sees her father Luke, a funeral home owner, who quickly races off to attend the Goodloe funeral before going onto a dentist. However, Luke never makes his appointments as Petey the Painter and C.B. Dingle kidnap him for providing terrible financial advice. C.B. demands Nora send them one million dollars for the safe return of her spouse and his driver. Regan searches for her abducted father starting at the dentist's office where she meets local amateur detective Alvirah Meehan, who offers her help.

The Christmas Thief. Con artist Packy Noonan talked people into investing over 100 million in his phony shipping company, but though his confederates escaped Packy went to jail. After serving twelve years he heads to Stowe, Vermont to get the diamonds that are hidden in an eighty foot blue spruce tree belonging to his former employees Lenny and Viddy. He doesn't know the tree is heading to Rockefeller Center. Others head to Stowe like Alviah Meshim and Megan Reilly with a convergence about to occur.

These are reprints of entertaining lighthearted mystery collaborations of Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark. Each entry is fun as stars from the mother daughter authors’ solo books team up for the holidays. Although the underlying premises for the action are stretches, no one will care these are enjoyable Christmas suspense thrillers.

Harriet Klausner

The Ragged End of Nowhere-Roy Chaney

The Ragged End of Nowhere
Roy Chaney
Minotaur, Nov 10 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312582531

Ronnie Hagan has just returned home to Las Vegas after spending time with the French Foreign Legion. However, his welcome home is a bullet to the head near Hoover Dam. His brother Bodo, a CIA Agent stationed in Germany, returns home for the first time in a decade to learn the truth about his sibling’s execution.

Bodo soon learns his brother came home with a wooden artifact the “Dead man’s Hand” that looks worthless yet apparently is priceless as several people want it. The operative wonders who would kill to possesses it and soon concludes a horde of nasty looking punks. As police detective John McGrath tells him to butt out, Bodo keeps digging, but the evidence makes no sense.

The Hagan brothers are a strong pair as the insight into Ronnie is through a back story that includes his French Foreign Legion service, which makes him the more fascinating but also slows down the pace; ironically the readers get to know his motivations though dead rather than his living sibling. The rest of cast consists mostly of predators, who the CIA operative has to interrogate using Chaneyian enhanced techniques. Although the suspense is limited by the look back at Ronnie’s life, fans will enjoy Roy Chaney’s solid thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Mirror and the Mask-Ellen Hart

The Mirror and the Mask
Ellen Hart
Minotaur, Nov 10 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312375270

In Minneapolis, restaurateur Jane Lawless, owner of the Lyme House restaurant and the Xanadu Club, delays her plans for opening a third establishment due to the economy. Instead she accepts a job as a professional private investor working for her friend and sleuth A.J. Nolan. She also hires bartender Annie Archer to work at her Xanadu Club.

Annie explains to her new boss that she left Steamboat Springs, Colorado in search of her stepfather who vanished soon after her mom died in 1990 in Traverse City, Michigan. She asks Jane to find him, which Jane agrees to do, but becomes a tad upset to realize her client-employee omitted key facts and she wonders why. Meanwhile, Northland Realty VP Susan Bowman is murdered at the home she shares with her spouse Jack and her two children medical school student Curt and high school senior Sunny. As Jane digs, she increasingly fears for Annie’s life and anyone in her sphere especially Curt because she connects the two points Annie and Susan.

With Cordelia Thorn on a semi hiatus re her niece Hattie, Jane goes it alone as she investigates the almost two-decade old cold case of the disappearing stepfather. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Annie meets Jane while the two prime romantic relationships, Annie with Jane and Annie with Curt complicate a relatively simple plot. Although the prime investigation is somewhat limited, fans will enjoy the interactions between a strong cast who make for a fun Minneapolis mystery.

Harriet Klausner

The Gate House-Nelson DeMille

The Gate House
Nelson DeMille
Grand Central, Nov 3 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780446564236

Tax attorney John Sutter left Long Island and his then wife Susan after learning of her affair with their mob connected neighbor Frank Bellarosa, whom she killed ending tragically their tryst (see The Gold Coast). After being away for a decade, John finally returns to Long Island's Gold Coast to attend a funeral though the deceased has not quite died yet.

John wants to start over with Susan and in practicing law. He learns that Frank’s brutish son Anthony lives on the property next to that of Susan’s wealthy family. He also finds out that his former wife recently bought the cottage where they once lived when he thought all was right in his world. She is euphoric with his return, but he fears Anthony stalks Susan as justice failed the mob.

This sequel is an entertaining tale but requires the reader to accept John’s need to reconcile with Susan after ten years of avoiding her and America. The story line starts slow as the key players are reset so that the reader knows who they are, what motivates them and where they have been in the last decade. Although the audience can see the violent finish from as far away as Montauk Point, fans of the author will enjoy the return of Sutter, who has changed dramatically from his first starring appearance on the Gold Coast as he is sarcastic, somewhat acrimonious, and doubting the sincerity of Susan, yet obsesses over a second chance.

Harriet Klausner

The Hidden-Tobias Hill

The Hidden
Tobias Hill
Harper, Oct 2009, $141.99
ISBN: 9780061768255

In Metamorphosis, Greece in 2004 former Oxford student Ben Mercer feels his life is over as his marriage is dead and he works at a dead end meat grill restaurant with no future beyond serving diners since his Ancient Sparta thesis is dead just not interred yet. He admires the courage of the visiting five archeologists who fearlessly dig for what they want while he mopes and serves food. One of his heroes who he knew in England, Oxford Professor Eberhard Saurer tells Ben he is going on an excavation in Laconia where they hope to uncover Spartan ruins; when Ben pleads to join him, Eberhard just leaves.

Unable to resist, Ben follows Eberhard to Laconia called Lacedaemonia by the ancient Spartans who left little behind except mystery as to how so few controlled so many “Helot” slaves. Eberhard and his colleagues (Jason, Natsuko, Eleshchen and Max) perform one of the ancient Spartan rituals of the death hunt while emitting a superiority cockiness that Ben admires and would like to emulate if he was not so afraid. He soon learns of the Crypteia Hidden Ones’ fanaticism killing the helots like hunters stalking game and fears he may be the modern day game of the predatory fearsome five.

This is an exciting thriller that looks deeply into the amoral behavior of terrorists using an ethical cloak to defend their murderous beliefs. By bringing Sparta into focus in terms of terrorizing their neighbors through mechanisms like the Hidden hunt of the Helot and comparing this group to modern times using the five archeologists, Tobias Hill provides a profound look at a predator’s mindset, in the past and present. Although the flashbacks into Ben’s past enhance understanding of him, that track distracts from the bigger theme of how a stalker rationalizes in secret to him or her self the kill of the innocent.

Harriet Klausner

The Crisis-David Poyer

The Crisis
David Poyer
St. Martin’s, Nov 10 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312544393

The western governments are very concerned with the civil war in Ashaara on the strategically important Horn of Africa. The constant fighting has sent the country into deepening destitution with shortages in sustenance life necessities in a place that was already overrun with abject poverty. If the spiral turns any worse, Ashaara could become a nation void of central authority and home to outlaws and Jihadists.

To prevent this horror from turning even more calamitous, the US Navy sends Commander Dan Lenson and his Tactical Analysis Group into the area to provide humanitarian aid to the besieged masses and to train a patrol squad in the Red Sea. With chaos the norm, Lenson and his unit realizes they cannot distribute the assistance without an infrastructure followed if successful by a force to weed out terrorists. However, what seems obvious to aid the forlorn proves complex and ugly as internal and external forces see the region as a ripe place for their specific agenda with people being damned.

The Crisis is a super thought provoking thriller that will have readers pondering ethical and logistical questions involving aid to nations desperately in need but lack the infrastructure to make proper distribution. The story line is fast-paced from the moment TAG and its leader receive the assignment, but really takes off in Africa when the team learns the boots on the ground dynamics of the situation is appallingly chaos. Alliance switch within a murmur and helping the indigent is impossible due to avarice of leaders who seek wealth or ideological and religious advantage over truly caring for the downtrodden.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Wyatt's Revenge-H. Terrell Griffin

Wyatt's Revenge
H. Terrell Griffin
Oceanview, Nov 16 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9781933515533

Retired lawyer Matt Royal enjoys mellowing at his home in Longboat Key, Florida. The Vietnam vet prefers doing nothing of consequence and believes he earned it after years of trial by fire.

However, his idyllic life is interrupted when someone assassinates his friend Professor Laurence Wyatt, who like Royal was a trained killer, but became a gentle soul once he left the military. Their mutual friend Debbie the bartender and hacker does some data base mining for Royal who got a tip from the cops, but finds nothing of interest except Michael Ruperts who turns out to be a one trick ghost. Soon after Royal begins his inquiry, someone fire bombs his car and shoots at him. However, the persistent beach bum learns another Floridian professor working with Wyatt on a Vichy France study was also murdered. With his friends Jock Algren and Logan Hamilton as back up, Matt goes after the assailant trying to prevent him from learning the truth now and in WW II France; unaware the answers lie in Frankfort.

Although somewhat linear with no major twists, the foruth Royal thriller (see Blood Island, Murder key and Longboat Blues) is an entertaining tale as the hero gets shot at on two continents. The story line is fast-paced from the opening moment when a stunned Royal cannot believe someone splattered the brains of Wyatt and never slows down as Matt follows clues and dodges murder attempts. Fans will enjoy the lay back retiree proving he remains a trained killer.

Harriet Klausner

Predators-Frederick Ramsay

Frederick Ramsay
Poisoned Pen, Dec 1 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590586846

The American State Department permits Earth Global CEO Leo Painter, his wife, stepson and other executives to travel to Botswana to negotiate with officials to allow his firm to extract minerals. He believes the mineral rich African country will prove profitable for his energy, mining and realty company. However several of his companions believe Leo is too old and ethical sot hey want to push him aside at the firm along with his spouse. He would like to rest but knows a respite means death from the human hyenas stalking him.

At the same time, Sekeo the elderly lion once ruled his pride with a strong alpha paw or two. However, he is not only turning weak with age, but suffers from HIV/AID, which compounds his health issues. The younger males want to replace him and challenges are coming all the time. He would like to rest but knows a respite means death from the lion hyenas (or the game ranger) stalking him.

With a darker look at human nature than Alexander McCall Smith's genteel "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" and Michael Stanley's Detective Kubu police procedural, Frederick Ramsay provides a super parable thriller as the king of the jungle rules fleetingly. The story line is fast-paced but it is the cast especially the parallel Leos who meet their respective Snows of Kilimanjaro Hemingway moments that makes for one of the year’s best glimpses at what drives the living.

Harriet Klausner

Desert Lost-Desert Lost

Desert Lost
Desert Lost
Betty Webb
Poisoned Pen, Dec 1 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590586815

In Scottsdale, Arizona private investigator Lena Jones works a night shift surveillance of a storage yard in order to catch vandals. She hears some odd noises outside of the facility so she goes to investigate. Lena finds the warm corpse of a woman wearing a calico dress that symbolizes she must be a “sister-wife” married to a polygamist.

Lena who dealt with the issue in the past (see Desert Wives) wonders why kill and dump the body here as the nearest known polygamist encampment is several hours to the north on the Utah line. Lena is unable to resist an inquiry as she has her own troubled past to urge her to investigate. She soon meets up with the Desert Los male teens kicked out of the various polygamist cults by the male elders who have no room for the young men. Lena keeps up her search for who and why in complex convoluted cult compounds.

This is a strong profound desert mystery that provides a deep look at the underbelly of polygamist incestuous lifestyles as the forgotten exiled are angry and bewildered lost boys who have not found a place in the greater society yet have not other place to go. The whodunit is well written enhanced by two personal subplots, but mostly serves as a vehicle as the author warns society of the lost boys dumped when they turn fourteen as surplus because “if a man can have ten wives, nine men will have no wives.”

Harriet Klausner

Poisoned Pen, Dec 1 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590586815

In Scottsdale, Arizona private investigator Lena Jones works a night shift surveillance of a storage yard in order to catch vandals. She hears some odd noises outside of the facility so she goes to investigate. Lena finds the warm corpse of a woman wearing a calico dress that symbolizes she must be a “sister-wife” married to a polygamist.

Lena who dealt with the issue in the past (see Desert Wives) wonders why kill and dump the body here as the nearest known polygamist encampment is several hours to the north on the Utah line. Lena is unable to resist an inquiry as she has her own troubled past to urge her to investigate. She soon meets up with the Desert Los male teens kicked out of the various polygamist cults by the male elders who have no room for the young men. Lena keeps up her search for who and why in complex convoluted cult compounds.

This is a strong profound desert mystery that provides a deep look at the underbelly of polygamist incestuous lifestyles as the forgotten exiled are angry and bewildered lost boys who have not found a place in the greater society yet have not other place to go. The whodunit is well written enhanced by two personal subplots, but mostly serves as a vehicle as the author warns society of the lost boys dumped when they turn fourteen as surplus because “if a man can have ten wives, nine men will have no wives.”

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dial H for Hitchcock-Susan Kandel

Dial H for Hitchcock
Susan Kandel
Harper, Nov 2009, $13.99
ISBN 9780061826672

After completing Christie (see Christietown), in Los Angeles biographer CeCe Caruso is way behind her deadline for the definitive bio on Hitchcock having wasted time on a single person’s honeymoon after kicking police Detective Peter Gambino to the curb. A fan of the late filmmaker, she sees Vertigo. However, leaving the theater CeCe somehow has someone else’s cell phone so turns around to return it.

CeCe travels to Beechwood Canyon to return the cell phone to its owner Anita Colby. There she sees someone push the owner off a cliff reminding her of Vertigo. When the police discover a message CeCe left Anita on her answering machine, she becomes their suspect in the murder.

The latest CeCe Caruso biography mystery is a super amateur sleuth mystery that pays homage to the great director and his films throughout a taut investigation. Filled with jocularity, Susan Kandel keeps CeCe climbing into danger as she fears becoming a dead star in her own film without the accolades of one of the Hitchcock beauties. Fans of Hitchcock will relish Ms. Kandel’s terrific tale of an innocent woman in a state of frenzy sought by a killer and the law (sounds so Hitchcockian).

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Scandal Sheet-Gemma Halliday

Scandal Sheet
Gemma Halliday
Love Spell, Nov 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780505528056

L.A. Informer gossip columnist Tina Bender flirts on line with ManInBlack as her only alleged male in her life besides her boss. Tina has no significant other except perhaps Hollywood as she resides with her beloved Great Aunt Sue in a retirement community. She is very worried about Sue, who seems increasingly absentminded.

When Tina receives a death threat phone call accusing her of malicious lies and deserving instant death, her boss Felix Dunn hires bodyguard Calvin Dean to protect her. The reporter resents Cal hanging around until the threats intensify. A murder too close for comfort shakes up Tina but the intrepid Hollywood journalist decides to kick butt; however her super investigative skills place her in danger of becoming the next victim.

The first Hollywood Headlines romantic mystery is a wonderful throwback investigative journalist thriller that will remind readers of play/movie The Front Page and His Girl Friday. The story line never slows down as Bender curses and cajoles her way into getting the dirt and gossip while Dean tries to keep her safe, a mission impossible chore due to her always being on the front lines. This is a terrific suspense tale with more appearances from the woman who writes the Scandal Sheet Hollywood Headlines and the man who tries to keep her safe in his arms.

Harriet Klausner

Plague Zone-

Plague Zone
Jeff Carlson
Ace, Nov 24 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441017997

Three years ago a nanotech plague was released and spread across the world killing anyone who lived below 10,000 feet in altitude. Russians and Indians were welcome her until the Russian ignited a bomb to try and destroy the superpower. Russian military landed on the West Coast with the Chinese following them. In Jefferson, Colorado, Cam Najarro, his wife and nanotech expert Ruth Goldman formed a small community that was barely surviving.

One day a woman breached their perimeter, but they soon realize she carried a new plague that affected the brain. The Chinese launched the new infection as well as deployed their military to round up survivors as they have no room for any of them. Ruth is the only chance the United States has to find a cure for this new plague, but she must meet up with plague free members of the military complex that possess the equipment she needs. Cam is looking at the hot zone of California for a scientist who might help them with the antidote while the government fires nukes at China. Cam and Ruth are in different places far apart, but sharing the same fear that short of a miracle the end of humanity is coming soonest.

The final thriller in the Plague year trilogy raises ethical questions about scientific research seeking a cure for a pandemic disease and issues on government intervention along the lines of Typhoid Mary. Jeff Carlson makes a case that scientists created the plagues that governments deployed and these same researchers seek the cures. Whereas Ruth and cam hope to save Planet Earth in spite of the insanity of leaders, the governments continue on their merry military maelstrom; picture world wide New Orleans circa Katrina as DC (and Texas) fiddle with wars elsewhere. Jeff Carlson provides a super cautionary science fiction techno thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Plague Zone-Jeff Carlson

Plague Zone
Jeff Carlson
Ace, Nov 24 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441017997

Three years ago a nanotech plague was released and spread across the world killing anyone who lived below 10,000 feet in altitude. Russians and Indians were welcome her until the Russian ignited a bomb to try and destroy the superpower. Russian military landed on the West Coast with the Chinese following them. In Jefferson, Colorado, Cam Najarro, his wife and nanotech expert Ruth Goldman formed a small community that was barely surviving.

One day a woman breached their perimeter, but they soon realize she carried a new plague that affected the brain. The Chinese launched the new infection as well as deployed their military to round up survivors as they have no room for any of them. Ruth is the only chance the United States has to find a cure for this new plague, but she must meet up with plague free members of the military complex that possess the equipment she needs. Cam is looking at the hot zone of California for a scientist who might help them with the antidote while the government fires nukes at China. Cam and Ruth are in different places far apart, but sharing the same fear that short of a miracle the end of humanity is coming soonest.

The final thriller in the Plague year trilogy raises ethical questions about scientific research seeking a cure for a pandemic disease and issues on government intervention along the lines of Typhoid Mary. Jeff Carlson makes a case that scientists created the plagues that governments deployed and these same researchers seek the cures. Whereas Ruth and cam hope to save Planet Earth in spite of the insanity of leaders, the governments continue on their merry military maelstrom; picture world wide New Orleans circa Katrina as DC (and Texas) fiddle with wars elsewhere. Jeff Carlson provides a super cautionary science fiction techno thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Wrong Side Of Dead-Jordan Dane

The Wrong Side Of Dead
Jordan Dane
Avon, Nov 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061474132

When bounty hunter Jessie Becket was a small child, she was kidnapped and sexually assaulted for years. Although she has come a long way from her horrible youth, she knows she will never be whole. Jessie survives by vowing to keep the young safe.

Living in Chicago Jessie has two friends she cherishes; police officer Samantha Cooper, who has assisted her in capturing predators and Seth Harper. However, Jessie is hurt when Seth disappears without warning her he was going away. When he returns, he is accused of a vicious homicide. Although the evidence is strong and she remains angry at Seth, Jessie knows in her soul he could not commit murder. She seeks proof of his innocence, but instead finds damaging information about him that leaves her shaken to the core and in danger from someone who does not want the truth to surface; her biggest fear is that someone is her Seth.

This is an exciting suspense thriller that pulls no punches from the start to the finish as Jordan Dane makes it clear there are some nasty people out there. Jess is a strong lead who holds the exhilarating story line and herself together though a dangerous scenario that includes her heart as much as her life. Fans will enjoy this taut Sweet Justice thriller as the investigative suspense grips the reader throughout.

Harriet Klausner

Skin Game-Ava Gray

Skin Game
Ava Gray
Berkley, Nov 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425231531

In Vegas, the big shot casino owner Gerard Serrano beat to death her father; two bit con artist Kyra Marie Beckwith vows to get even. She cleverly wormed her way into his vicious inner circle and pulls off a con that leaves a raging Serrano stripped of his monumental pride and a thirst for enacting vengeance to rival that of Kyra.

Kyra uses her skills to steal someone’s abilities by touching them as she just did in the pool hall. However, the deadliest hit man alive, Reyes is after her and unbeknownst to her he marked her at the pool hall. Hired by Serrano to kill her after he recovers the money he claims she stole from him, Rey knows he must get close to his target to retrieve the loot before killing her. He figures that will prove easy as all he has to do his forge a relationship and seduce her. However, Rey makes love with her in Lake Charles only to find he wants more and she is gone. Taken aback because for the first time in memory he cares about someone else; he is falling in love just as she is with him. However he also knows once she learns who he is, Kyra will end their relationship as she will never forgive betrayal even as his failure to do the job means the end of his vocation. Soon Reyes realizes Serrano hired some of his assassin competitors.

With a literally touch of para-tactile skills to enhance the tale, SKIN GAME is a fast-paced romantic suspense thriller starring two unlikely lead characters. He is a paid killer and she is a con artist while their “matchmaker” is a cruel individual used to ordering executions. Fans will enjoy this fun tale mindful of Grosse Pointe Blank only the female star is a felon too.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hollywood Moon-Joseph Wambaugh

Hollywood Moon
Joseph Wambaugh
Little, Brown, Nov 24 2009, $26.99
ISBN: 9780316045186

Working the night shift, LAPD Hollywood Station midwatch cops Flotsam and Jetsam walk the Grauman's Chinese Theatre and other Boulevard stops discussing the midget love life of "Hollywood" Nate Weiss and surfing under a full moon. At the same the two dudes are chatting and walking, Nate and his senior partner Dana Vaughn investigate a call that some young punk is assaulting women.

Meanwhile low tech artists Dewey Gleason and his wife Eunice are working an identity thief scam that uses runners Creole and Jerzy as well as angry violent teen Malcolm Rojas. However, loyalty amongst felons proves nonexistent when Dewey’s runners plot to con him. None of those involved in the Dewy scheme including him quite understand that the brains of the operation is not him, but his dominating spouse. Soon the four cops will find seemingly separate cases converge on one clever female who makes EEO law appear to protect the wrong gender.

This is an amusing Hollywood Station police procedural that starts off with readers gaining a deep look at the four cops and to a lesser degree the criminals pulling off an identity theft ploy. The story line is fun to follow and often hilarious especially when the surfer dude cops discuss life in the vernacular of riding the waves. Fans of the series will enjoy Joseph Wambauch’s cautionary tale that warns how easy to steal an identity is; while reader, the police and the low life criminal support surf the streets at Eunice’s beck and call.

Harriet Klausner

Out Cold-Tom Schreck

Out Cold
Tom Schreck
Echelon, Dec 2009, $14.99
ISBN 9781590806227

In Crawford, New York, at the not for profit Jewish Unified Services, guidance counselor Duffy Dombrowski was knocked Out Cold last week while sparring with a heavyweight so he remains somewhat disoriented. Back at work after a few sick days, his first client is late twenties schizophrenic Karl Greene, who brings new meaning to paranoia starting with his Michael Jackson surgical mask and even challenging what Duffy means by the ominous threat of “good morning”.

Karl tells Duffy that he is back on the street, off his meds and the NOW is setting terrorist fires as a forerunner of a bigger plot. When Duffy begins to understand Karl’s brand of military-industrial-political-terrorist paranoid complex, he begins to wonder how much brain damage he received from the left hook he failed to see yet he still denies wobbling. However the news report of an ROTC deadly arsonist fire just like Karl claimed spins Duffy’s head further. With his roommate Al the Basset Hound and crazy Karl at his own deranged side as well as the Fearsome Foursome, Duffy tries to prevent terrorist attacks at the Notre Dame football home opener and a massacre at either his or Karl’s respective former high school. That is as important is liberating Al’s relatives from a basset-hound factory.

This over the top of the Adirondack Park peaks is a well written, but strangely mixed amateur sleuth thriller as dark humor blends (not always smoothly for us squeamish reviewers) with some serious scenarios. Duffy struggles with regaining his equilibrium though in total denial, which cleverly mirrors Karl’s outlook. Although the jocularity seems out of place at times especially with deaths from terrorist activity and the threat of much more violence, Columbine-style, Tom Schreck provides a strong thriller as Duffy can only cope through mocking humor with what he faces (see TKO and On The Ropes).

Harriet Klausner

London Boulevard-Ken Bruen

London Boulevard
Ken Bruen
Minotaur, Nov 24 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312561680

Minutes before Mitchell is to be freed after spending three years in prison for an assault he did not remember committing due to a drunken haze, the warden tells the fortyish convict he will be back. Mitchell hides the terminator retort and steps outside knowing he looks like a shifty felon. Working for loan shark Tommy Logan, Billy Norton arrives to pick him up, but Mitchell wonders if this acquaintance can be considered a friend though he is there to take him home.

Logan has plans for Mitchell, but the ex con does not have a compulsive need for quick money and is obsessed with not being a recidivism statistic. Mitchell obtains a handyman position at the Holland Park estate of aging movie actress, Lillian Palmer. As he struggles with adjusting to her odd butler Jordan, those close to him begin to die from an unknown adversary who soon threatens his beloved but insane sister Briony and others like Aisling and even a dog. Mitchell’s obsession about staying out of jail has turned compulsive but no one hurts Briony.

With plenty of dark humor throughout, Ken Bruen pays violent homage to Sunset Boulevard with this fast-paced Noir. Each of the key cast members contains differing personalities, but the story line belongs to the anti-hero who just wants to go straight yet finds himself swimming in a foggy sea of sordid sleaze as those good citizens are as nasty as the those he met behind bars and rival those muscles working for Logan. With more blood spilled than a downtown Emergency Room like Atlanta’s Grady, fans who don’t mind hearing the breaking of bones will want to read Mr. Bruen’s gloomy view of London.

Harriet Klausner

The Hadrian Memorandum-Allan Folsom

The Hadrian Memorandum
Allan Folsom
Forge, Oct 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765321572

He once was an LAPD detective, but that seems like a lifetime ago. Now he goes by the name Nicholas Marten living in England as a landscape architect with his former life of violence supposedly over. However, he made a friend for life when he saved the life of POTUS John Henry Harris (see The Machiavelli Covenant); but as he now learns a friend in need is a pest.

President Harris asks Marten to travel to Equatorial Guinea in West Africa to determine whether native rebels trying to overthrow the harsh Tiombe dictatorship are being armed by security belonging to Texas based oil exploration firm AG Striker. In country on the Island of Bioko in the Gulf of Guinea, Marten meets septuagenarian Father Dorhn who shows him photographic proof of collusion. However, soldiers loyal to Tiombe raid the village killing the German born priest and forcing Marten on the run from the dictator’s forces, the CIA, mercenaries, and the oil company as he struggles to reach Europe and allies in order to transmit information to Harris; oil brings out lethal partners as agreed upon with The Hadrian Memorandum.

Over the top of Pico Basile, fans who appreciate an international accelerated thriller will enjoy the escapdes of Marten in sub-Saharan Africa, Berlin and Lisbon. The story line is fast-paced from the moment POTUS asks the American expat “gardener” to investigate and never slows down. Although plausibility is below the Cameroon Line geologic fault and the plot fails to look at the corrupt political-economic complex that cripples the impoverished area, fans who suspense realism will enjoy this exciting thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sting of Justice-Cora Harrison

Sting of Justice
Cora Harrison
Minotaur, Nov 24 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312372699

In the Kingdom of Burren in western Ireland in the year 1509, the land is rich with minerals especially silver washing out of the mountain and free for anyone who sees it. That is until Sorley Skerrett the avaricious silversmith bought the land and opened a silver mine. Over the decades that mine became a festering sore spot on the once pristine mountainside. Now affluent and influential, he is petty and spiteful with many angry enemies who want to spit on his grave.

While sitting in a room in the church he attended, someone crashes a hive through the window to the floor. Allergic to the venom, Sorley dies immediately. Mara the Brehon of the Burren rules it murder and she starts an investigation. She finds many suspects as the victim was universally detested by those he destroyed with his unethical business ventures. Perhaps those who hate him more are those who had the misfortune of being in his personal life like his ex wife. Everyone had the opportunity as Mara finds she has a lot of work ahead to sift through this case.

Although almost a millennia in the past, fans of Peter Tremayne’s Sister Fidelma Ancient Irish mysteries will want to read this terrific medieval whodunit as the legal system has evolved from the seventh century to the sixteenth. Mara is terrific as the only LADY JUDGE in Ireland looking into A SECRET AND UNLAWFUL KILLING again. The support cast is three dimensional as they bring time and place alive. The official inquiry is well done as Mara slowly works her way to the killer. Cora Harrison provides another strong historical murder investigation as this series is one of the sub-genre’s best.

Harriet Klausner

Forty-Eight X: The Lemuria Project-Barry Pollack

Forty-Eight X: The Lemuria Project
Barry Pollack
Medallion, Dec 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9781934755020

Israeli military intelligence is stunned with what they learn happened in a training camp in Pakistan. Somehow a super soldier using a scythe massacred dozens of terrorists. Totally confused as even the weapon of choice is from the age of Alexander the Great, the Israeli MI asks archeologists Egyptian Fala al-Shohada and her Israeli lover Joshua Krantz to invesitgate who and how.

In the United States, Princeton University Genetics PH.D candidate Maggie Wagner rejects the idea that her father, a Nobel laureate Stanford professor, committed suicide as officially reported. Instead she believes he was assassinated for his inquiry into something top secret: Project Lemuria.

While these people investigate on separate continents, on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, the United States has a team of geneticists working the Lemuria Project to create a Super Soldier. The goal is to reduce dramatically the casualties of war at least on our side. Colonel Link McGraw leads the experimentation with the understanding the brass is always right. Soon the American, the Israeli, and the Egyptian converge on Link’s tropical island where primates in tuxedos serve dinner.

The premise of a super soldier has been done before, although Barry Pollack adds a genetics spin to his placing Captain America on the Island of Dr. Moreau. The story line is fast-paced but overloaded with tons of sidebar sex scenes that detracts from the thriller aspects. Still fans who enjoy an engaging DNA political military science fiction thriller will want to trek to the middle of the Indian Ocean where arrogant efforts to turn the myth of Lemuria into reality have begun with the humanzee.

Harriet Klausner

U Is for Undertow-Sue Grafton

U Is for Undertow
Sue Grafton
Putnam, Dec 1 2009, $27.95
ISBN 9780399155970

In 1988 private investigator Kinsey Millhone reluctantly agrees to look into the claims of Michael Sutton. He insists he has regained a suppressed childhood memory of observing several men bury a package soon after four-year-old Mary Claire Fitzhugh vanished without a trace in 1972. She agrees to work the case one day at a time with her reevaluating at the end of each day whether the request is legitimate for her to continue searching for who killed Mary Claire Fitzhugh.

Millhone learns her her newest client is unreliable as he has told fabrications often times before and was only six years old at the time of the incident he claims to have witnessed. Still she accepts he believes what he said is true so she must connect the dots of his rambling convoluted account and look at the scene where he claims the corpse is buried.

This is a terrific Millhone investigative tale that brings alive the end of the Reagan Era while also providing a historiographical look at the Nixon period. The story line deftly rotates perspectives enhancing what the readers know that the sleuth has yet to learn. With Millhone at her best and the support cast tremendous, fans will relish U is for undeniably super.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sex in a Sidecar-Phyllis Smallman

Sex in a Sidecar
Phyllis Smallman
McArthur & Company, Mar 2010, $19.95
ISBN: 9781552787731

Bartender Sherri Travis mixes the drinks at the Sunset Bar in Jacaranda, Florida when Hurricane Myrna hitting the Gulf veers towards the town. She knows it is time to evacuate, but cannot find the keys to the truck she inherited from her late husband Jimmy. Customer Gina from Pittsburgh admits she is on the trail of a serial killer who murdered her sister; she offers Sherri a ride. With no other option, as everyone is gone she accepts.

However, Gina fails to head in the direction to safety, but instead drives towards the hurricane. In South Beach Gina stops and jumps out of the car. Sherri cannot find Gina at first, but soon sees the woman dead in the car. A palm tree blocks Sherri from fleeing the storm so she rushes to the nearby home of her mother-in-law who loathes Sherri and blames her for Jimmy’s murder (see Margarita Nights). Sherri finds Bernice with a broken leg and perhaps much more. She drives inland with Bernice taking her to the nearest hospital while her passenger harangues her just short of accusing Sherri of causing the hurricane. After the storm leaves the clean up begins as Sherri obtains work at the country club until the Sunset Bar can be fixed. However, a killer may not be sure that Sherri cannot identify him so he is coming after her.

The second Sherri Travis thriller is an exhilarating tale refreshed by the hurricane that assaults Florida. The story line is fast-paced even when Sherri and company prepare for Myrna and never slows down as the plot twists once the clean-up begins. Fans will appreciate Sherri’s amateur sleuthing and especially enjoy Phyllis Smallman’s humor in the midst of danger as the heroine and her former mother-in-law cannot share a continent let alone a state even with their lives on the line. The two Travis’ tales are wonderful mysteries.

Harriet Klausner

G.I. Bones-Martin Limon

G.I. Bones
Martin Limon
Soho, Nov 2009, $24.00
ISBN: 9781569476031

Korean fortuneteller Aunti Mee insists The Wandering Ghost of Tech Sergeant Florencio R. Moretti will not leave her alone. The GI went missing two decades ago back in 1953. U.S. 8th Army Criminal Investigation Detachment investigators Sergeants George Sueno and Ernie Bascom are assigned to investigate what everyone in CID including them assumes is a corpse.

The two military cops enter the Itaewon red light sector of Seoul seeking clues that will lead to Moretti’s remains so he can be properly buried back in the States. The pair also searches for a missing military teenage dependent of whom they assume is a runaway. Neither expected they would face the wrath of the Seven Dragons gang who own the district; both expected the wrath of superiors who want Moretti’s bones to remain interred wherever they are.

This is a super historical military police procedure that brings to life 1970s Seoul and to a degree how Koreans and soldiers of that era looked back to the end of the Korean Conflict. The mysteries of the missing dependent and the murder of Moretti are excellent, but it is the historiographer’s delight of time and place that make G.I. BONES and the series a winner.

Harriet Klausner

Murder Had a Little Lamb-Cynthia Baxter

Murder Had a Little Lamb
Cynthia Baxter
Bantam, Oct 27 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780553592375

Veterinarian Dr. Jessica Popper runs a mobile clinic Reigning Cats and Dogs that does house calls; saving the animals from having to go to an office. Commitment phobic Jessica has been engaged to Nick Burby for ages when she suddenly decides on a big wedding. After months of putting up with her future mother-in-law’s demands, Nick and Jess are about to exchange vows when a scream from one of the catering servers halts the festivities.

Inside the reception hall is the body of cousin Nathanial Stibbins who is the black sheep on the groom’s side. Nick’s mom invited Nathanial as she thought that was the right thing to do. She demands that Jessica find her nephew’s killer starting at the Worth School on Long Island. Jessica obtains a summer job there teaching students how to properly care for their pets while also subtly questioning staff and faculty about Nathanial. She learns he made plenty of enemies in his climb to the top; any of them would want him dead. Ignoring letters warning her to abort her investigation, Jessica finds evidence that points towards one suspect, but she has doubts as what was complex and convoluted abruptly became too simple and linear.

Putting aside the unlikely mother-in-law scenario, readers who adore cute animals in their mysteries will appreciate Murder Had a Little Lamb. This amateur sleuth is well constructed with many suspects possessing strong motives that lead the audience to understand how vicious and backstabbing Nathanial must have been as even his betrayed friend and his lover loathed him. The romantic subplot enhances the whodunit bringing warm depth to the intrepid heroine as part of an overall fun thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dark Passage-Junius Podrug

Dark Passage
Junius Podrug
Forge, Oct 2002, $24.95
ISBN: 0312875142

The agents abduct Marseilles prostitute Marie Gauthier and fly on Air Force One to a top-secret laboratory in New Mexico; there researchers are creating the "synchrotron" time machine. Also kidnapped and taken to the same locale is Israeli engineer David Ben-Dor and former CIA agent John Conway.

The explanation seems over the top to the trio especially when the Feds and scientists insist that the psychopathic Islamic fundamentalist Zayyad brothers broke into the lab and are going back in time to 30 A.D. to assassinate Jesus. Even less believable is the displacement brought forward that confused the shepherd Isaiah. This four is being sent back to 30 A.D. to prevent the insane fanatics from killing the Son of God.

Over the top of Mt. Masada with a zillion subplots from the Land of Enchantment to the biblical land of Salome, Romans, Zealots and a few other rebellious sects, as spins go everywhere in a convoluted way, yet Dark Passage completely grips the audience. The story line is fast-paced even while moving back and forth in time and vivid especially during the biblical era. Fans will want to join the four hunters trying to prevent Islamic fanatics from killing Jesus centuries before the Prophet Mohammed is born.

Harriet Klausner

Tell Me Something True-Leila Cobo

Tell Me Something True
Leila Cobo
Grand Central, Oct 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780446519366

Twenty-one year old Colombian-American Gabriella has been raised in both countries. Her father resides in Southern California as a successful movie producer while her maternal grandmother, who she visits every Christmas, lives in South America. Her late mother was never been part of her life except for a photo of Helena that Gabriella loves.

A piano prodigy, Gabriella finds her mother’s diary that shocks her; not just aboute her mom’s affair though that is a stunner when she always of Helena as an earth angel. At a Hollywood gala, Gabriella and affluent pop music promoter Angel Silva meet and are attracted to one another. However, she has some doubts because his father is a jailed drug trafficker. Still as she falls in love, Gabriella keeps looking into what happened to her mother who died in a plane crash just after she apparently had a torrid affair.

This is a violent bittersweet romance starring an intriguing heroine whose image of her parents and grandma collapses with the reading of her Mami’s diary. The truth is not as kind as the lie her love ones told her to shelter her from the transgressions of her Mami. Although at times too melodramatic especially when Angel enters Gabriella’s life, TELL ME SOMETHING TRUE is a fascinating family drama that asks readers whether lying to protect a child even an adult child from the tarnished truth about a deceased loved one is acceptable. Using true events like the plane crash in 1995 of a flight from Miami to Cali, Columbia as anchors to her tale, fans will enjoy Gabriella’s quest to learn who her Mami’s secret lover was and why her Mami was on the plane.

Harriet Klausner

Holly and Homicide-Leslie Caine

Holly and Homicide
Leslie Caine
Dell, Oct 27 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780440245032

In Colorado, first they were enemies; then they became competitors. Erin and Steve joined forces to become Gilbert and Sullivan Designers, which ultimately led them to become lovers. They win the commission to remodel the Godwin Victorian mansion into the Snowcap Inn Bed and Breakfast. The previous owner Henry Godwin had a case of wanderlust so he sold his house to business mogul Wendell Barton, Domestic Bliss TV star Audrey Munroe and Pop star Chiffon Walters.

Wendell also bought other property awhile ago on the nearby mountain and he created a ski resort, which will change the complexion of Snowcap, Colorado with an influx of outsiders. The locals are outraged encouraging Angie the building inspector to find reasons to prevent the inn from operating with guests on Christmas Eve as envisioned by Wendell and associates. Erin finds Angie’s dead body out doors. She realizes her eggnog is laced with poison. When a second homicide occurs, Erin investigates, which places her in the crosshairs of a killer and of an incompetent sheriff.

The whodunit is fabulous because it is cleverly constructed with red herrings and twists to keep the reader, police and Erin guessing who the killer is. The romantic subplot blends well with the detecting especially as Erin’s former boyfriend arrives to add tension. Leslie Caine has written a charming colorful cozy starring a captivating amateur sleuth and the men in her life.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Overkill-Eugenia Lovett West

Eugenia Lovett West
Minotaur, Dec 1 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312371142

In Boston, Widow Emma Streat tries to start anew as she grieves the death of her husband Lewis, the destruction of their house, and the loss of her singing voice. The former Diva suddenly receives an SOS from Cathy Riordan in Venice, Italy to intervene before her opera singing niece Vanessa Metcalf makes a terrible miscue; Vanessa’s assistant insists Emma’s relative is risking her career to run away with a racing driving wealthy womanizer.

Mark Dykstra, Vanessa’s accompanist, hangs himself to the shock and horror of the three women. Emma’s lover British espionage agent Lord Rodale quietly investigates the death as he also arranges for the aunt and niece to fly to Massachusetts. As a second murder occurs, Vanessa becomes ill from what is apparently the avian flu.

The second Emma Streat amateur sleuth tale (see Without Warning) is an engaging cozy as the fortyish heroine connects the seemingly unlinked dots. The story line is fun to follow though somewhat passive as Mrs. Streat works the case from a distance. Fans of cerebral couch potatoes whodunits will enjoy the efforts of Mrs. Streat to identify who the killer is and why.

Harriet Klausner

Luck of the Draw-Anthony J. Cardieri

Luck of the Draw
Anthony J. Cardieri
Minotaur, Dec 8 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312565022

In 1977 the Son of Sam held New York City in a grip of terror not seen since until now with the Daily Killer. Detective Deke Durgess leads the homicide investigation in which the perp kills an entire household every day; this varies from couples, singles, and families with children. Deke is determined to end this serial killer’s reign of terror, but has no starting point as there appears no link between the seemingly randomly murdered victims and nothing left behind for forensics.

The psychopath is diabolically clever gaining entrance through a variety of means such as delivering flowers and candy to the victims and then killing them.. He leaves behind each time a taunting note to the cops: “Better luck next time”. The Feds try to profile the Daily Killer and FBI Agent Kurt Joseph joins Deke on the investigation. They become a strong team though progress still remains nil. Deke listens to Kurt call his wife and daughter; which makes him realize he wants to get back with his spouse who left him because he always put the job before his family. The two cops finally figure out how the victims are selected, but the culprit remains unknown as a sting fails because the Daily Killer outwits his adversaries.

This is a chilling police procedural starring a cop who failed to appreciate his family even after he lost them, but finally realizes what he has given away when he observes his new partner who balances cases with his loved ones. He is unlike Deke who blocks out everything but the investigation. He actually is a likable person and readers will hope he has learned his lesson of balancing priorities to include family at the top. However, it is the desperate investigation that will have the audience at the edge of their seats even with the psychopath a graduate of the overused taunting school of serial killer 101.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Separate Country-Robert Hicks

A Separate Country
Robert Hicks
Grand Central, Sep 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780446581646

In 1879 in New Orleans former Confederate General John Bell Hood is dying from yellow fever. He has one death bed wish that his memoir of the past decade instead of his Evil War account be published. He asks Tennessee transplant Eli Griffin, who came to New Orleans four years earlier intending to murder the Rebel general for his defeat at Franklin, to promise he would..

After the South lost the war, Hood moved to New Orleans trying to make a go as a businessman who lost the use of an arm and had a leg amputated during the hostilities. He married Creole Anna Marie Hennen and they had eleven children together raised in abject poverty, which deletes the élan of life from her. Their relationship took another negative spin when Anna Marie’s best friend is murdered and Sebastian Lemerle arrives to extort money from his former commander in order not to reveal an ugly secret he knows about Hood from their Texas days together. Others like Rintah, Beauregard and the KKK forerunner want a piece of the war hero too.

This is a deep historical thriller told mostly as an autobiographical account of a major Southern Civil war general. The story line is vivid as the audience sees a teetering New Orleans trying to rebound from the defeat, but reconstruction is hampered by racism, cheating opportunism, and overall amoral behaviour that debilitate the energy from those playing fair. Robert Hicks provides a strong look at life in a battered pandemic depressed Deep South.

Harriet Klausner

Stuff to Spy For-Don Bruns

Stuff to Spy For
Don Bruns
Oceanview, Nov 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781933515229

In Carol City, Florida, Skip Moore begins work as security at Synco Systems, a firm that designs software systems to protect information technology networks. He is greeted on his first day on the job by Sarah Crumbly, who he dated back in high school a few times and she is still the STUFF DREAMS ARE MADE OF. They dine together and she persuades Skip to work for her by pretending to be her boyfriend. Though he fears his Em will find out the money is too good for this underachiever to pass so he agrees.

Sarah, who in high school was the most likely to succeed, has done so as the mistress of Sandy Conroy, Synco's CEO. They plan to leave the country but need a front to hide their affair from his vengeful wife Carol who would go to her father to destroy her husband. However, security takes a nasty spin when the company’s vice president Ralph Walter apparently commits suicide in his office. When Carol offers him money to uncover what is going on at Synco, Skip with the help of Em and his best friend and fellow slacker James Lesser begin an undercover operation that would make James Bond proud (not to be part of it).

STUFF TO SPY FOR is an out of control insane South Florida investigative thriller that will have readers laughing throughout with the antics of the super espionage team and their spy truck. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never takes a breather as the two slackers and Em work the case more like “double-naught spy” Jethro Bodine of The Beverly Hillbillies than James Bond

Harriet Klausner

The Morning Show Murders-Al Roker & Dick Lochte

The Morning Show Murders
Al Roker & Dick Lochte
Delacorte, Nov 24 2009, $26.00
ISBN: 9780385343688

Celebrity Chef Billy Blessing runs the popular Manhattan Lower East Side Blessings Bistro although he would be the first to admit he does not cook that often anymore. He also performs cooking segments with the joke of the day on the TV show Wake Up, America!

Chef Blessing has just begun torturous filming of Blessing’s in the Kitchen with Food School 101 starring apprentices who look more like exiles from a Sci fi fast food show than cooks. Although he would like to quit, his producer Lily Conover counts the ways he cannot as Di Voss Industries is sponsoring him. His former “Knock Boots” partner Gretchen Di Voss and her fiancé Rudy Gallagher watch his every move. His nodding “advice” to morning show co-anchor Gin McCauley leads to fifteen million reasons why Billy should lose his cooking shows. Soon after a public argument with Rudy, NYPD Detectives Solomon and Butker inform Billy he is the prime suspect in the murder of Gallagher who died eating poisoned coq au vin at Blessing's Bistro which is closed as a crime scene. Realizing he is being set up like a cooked goose for the holidays, Billy investigates.

THE MORNING SHOW MURDERS is a delightful amateur sleuth mystery that works due to the strong cast who bring New York City alive with their crisp sassy discourses especially the tale’s lead chef. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Billy realizes he is host of a show that will give him plenty of heartburn and that is before he is the prime stuffed turkey of NYPD. Fans will enjoy the collaboration of Al Roker & Dick Lochte as they serve to fans a gourmet murder mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Double Cross-James David Jordan

Double Cross
James David Jordan
B&H, Oct 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780805447545

Taylor Pasbury gained her experience from her late Special Forces dad who raised her as a single parent starting when she was nine as her mom deserted both of them. She gained bureaucratic experience working for the Secret Service and now as she is closing in on thirty runs her own personal protection service firm in Dallas.

She and her client twenty years old Kacey Mason are meeting the personal assistant of the latter’s recently murdered father to discuss with Elise Howden what happened to a half million dollars missing from the Simon Mason World Ministries. Kacey is more than just a client as her dad the famous late televangelist Simon stopped Taylor’s destructive freefall; she owes him and is paying him by being a big sister to his daughter. The pair find Elise dead inside her running car in what looks like a suicide by a FORSAKEN person caught embezzling. With the Lewisville police, FBI Agent Michael Harrison, and the return of mom, Taylor’s efforts to investigate Elise’s carbon monoxide death is crowded though her taking a thumb drive serendipitously from the vehicle goes a long way to clear the fog even if the laptop is missing. The real crowding comes from someone who wants Taylor and Kacey to end their inquiry.

Double Cross is an exhilarating inspirational investigative thriller starring a kick butt born again heroine who seeks redemption by being there for Kacey; just like their fathers were there for her when she most needed guidance, love and salvation. Ironically, the return of mom is a new test for Taylor as she struggles to forgive. The investigation is super with several terrific twists as James David Jordan cleverly wraps his message of to forgive is the divine path to redemption inside the inquiry.

Harriet Klausner

Margerita Nights-Phylss Smallman

Margerita Nights
Phyliss Smallman
MacArthur & Company, 2008
ISBN: 9781552786994

In Jacaronda, Florida Sherri Travis works as a bartender at the Sunset. She has left her husband, Jimmy, the golf pro at the nearby country club as she is tired of his scams. When his ship the Suncoaster explodes, the lead cop Stiles believes Jimmy died on board and Sherri killed him to collect life insurance.

Sherri believes Jimmy is alive pulling another scam. She tries to find their mutual friend bi-polar Andy who may know what is going on especially after someone stole a video Jimmy left her that apparently includes what he was up to. As her arrest seems imminent and her upper crust in-laws hold her culpable, Sherri with the help of friends (especially Marley) investigates her late spouse’s recent dealings, but soon Andy is killed too, but not before he refers to Casablanca.

This terrific cozy serves Long Island tea as Sherri goes from sarcastic doubter to griever (for both Jimmy and Andy) to lover to killer pursuer. She makes the tale fun with her sass, spunk and spitfire sleuthing. The support cast is super also as the island community in the mind of Jimmy’s mom is divided into three groups: the rich, the servant class from the other side of the causeway and the trailer trash. Phyliss Smallman provides an entertaining Florida west coast amateur sleuth with a touch of romance.

Harriet Klausner

Margerita Nights-Phylss Smallman

Margerita Nights
Phylss Smallman
MacArthur & Company, 2008
ISBN: 9781552786994

In Jacaronda, Florida Sherri Travis works as a bartender at the Sunset. She has left her husband, Jimmy, the golf pro at the nearby country club as she is tired of his scams. When his ship the Suncoaster explodes, the lead cop Stiles believes Jimmy died on board and Sherri killed him to collect life insurance.

Sherri believes Jimmy is alive pulling another scam. She tries to find their mutual friend bi-polar Andy who may know what is going on especially after someone stole a video Jimmy left her that apparently includes what he was up to. As her arrest seems imminent and her upper crust in-laws hold her culpable, Sherri with the help of friends (especially Marley) investigates her late spouse’s recent dealings, but soon Andy is killed too, but not before he refers to Casablanca.

This terrific cozy serves Long Island tea as Sherri goes from sarcastic doubter to griever (for both Jimmy and Andy) to lover to killer pursuer. She makes the tale fun with her sass, spunk and spitfire sleuthing. The support cast is super also as the island community in the mind of Jimmy’s mom is divided into three groups: the rich, the servant class from the other side of the causeway and the trailer trash. Phyliss Smallman provides an entertaining Florida west coast amateur sleuth with a touch of romance.

Harriet Klausner

Tainted-Brooke Morgan

Brooke Morgan
Avon, Dec 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061853371

On Cape Cod, single mom of five year old Katy, Holly Barrett rides the bus when a “faintworthy” hunk sits next to her. He says his name is Jack Dane with an English accent and he has applied for a waiter’s job at the new upscale Figs in Shoreham. She says she lives in Shoreham.

Katy is with her septuagenarian great grandfather Henry while Holly thinks back to high school and the child’s father Billy Madison who just graduated from Stanford and heading to Harvard Law. He never acknowledged the child as his but now wants to meet Katy. He asks Holly who says he is too late.

Jack tells Holly he got the job and wants to celebrate with her. They enjoy a meal, but she fails to mention Katy. They go to her house where he kisses her, but sees the pictures of Katy and tells Holly he cannot deal with a child so he ends their potential relationship. Henry meets Jack who later realizes Holly is his new friend’s granddaughter when she arrives with Katy. He likes Katy’s energy and is attracted to Holly so he asks her out. Three weeks later, Jack moves in with Holly and Katy. Billy arrives to see Katy. Jack says no making it clear he is Katy’s dad. This is the first doubt about how altruistic Jack truly is as Billy tells Henry he thinks Holly’s man is evil and overly controlling.

The cast is strong as the key players seem fully developed. The growing doubts of the support cast re Jack are handled deftly. Although the story line feels padded especially in the latter half and Billy had no reason to believe Jack was evil, fans will relish this strong family thriller with a terrific final spin.

Harriet Klausner

The Widow’s Revenege-James D. Doss

The Widow’s Revenege
James D. Doss
Minotaur, Oct 27 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312364618

In Granite Creek, Colorado, elderly enigmatic Apache widow Loyola Montana calls Ute tribal investigator Charlie Moon to complain about a coven of witches practicing their evil and leaving dead animals on her farm. Charlie goes out to her spread to insure the woman is okay though he is concerned more about her mental state as he is used to her rants. He arrives only to find Loyola dead having died in a kitchen fire caused by a fallen kerosene lamp.

Although the evidence is that the senior citizen perished in a horrific accident, Charlie wonders whether those “witches” camped on the Blue Diamond Natural Gas Company adjacent land were involved in making the accident happen by mundane means. Soon after he ponders the lethal incident, Moon, FBI agent Lila Mae McTeague and police chief Scott Parris look deeper into Loyola’s death as more violence occurs.

The latest Moon Native American investigation (see Snake Dreams) is a bit more serious than usual as Charlie is in a less than festive mood as he feels some remorse for not taking Loyola’s latest complain seriously even though he recognizes she frequently grumped about nothings. The story line is filled with action, Native American mysticism, and a strong whodunit in which perspective frequently switches lead; a trademark of James D. Doss’ Moon mysteries.

Harriet Klausner

Untraceable-Laura Griffin

Laura Griffin
Pocket, Dec 2009, $7.99
ISBN 9781439149195

Using computers like a grandmaster wizard Austin private investigator Alexandra Lovell enables people to flee from their lives to begin anew in a different identity and location, but they must adhere to the rules of never making contact with their past. Alex assisted Melanie Bess escape her abusive police officer husband, Craig Coghan, but foolishly she broke the prime commandment and communicated with her past. Melanie has become Untraceable and Alex believes foul play occurred with she strongly feels Craig as the culprit.

Alex searches for any forensic evidence that will affirm her fears. She persuades skeptical police detective Nathan Devereaux and the Delphi Center “Tracer” Mia Voss to help her. The trio begins to ferret out Craig’s secrets while Alex's attraction for Nathan grows. He feels the same way about her, but each new clue adds a Thread of Fear running up and down his spine for Alex’s safety from what increasingly seems a nasty deadly cop.

This is a terrific mystery with a nice romantic subplot in the background enhancing the strong investigative Tracers thriller. The cast is solid especially the lead couple and the villain; while secondary characters add depth especially with forensics science. Fans will enjoy Laura Griffin’s super romantic mystery with the inquiry superseding the loving.

Harriet Klausner

The Tomb of Hercules-Andy McDermott

The Tomb of Hercules
Andy McDermott
Bantam, Oct 27 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780553592948

After THE HUNT FOR ATLANTIS proved successful, the UN named archeologist Nina Wilde as the Director of Operations of the International Heritage Agency though she is not even thirty years ago. The mission of the IHA is to safeguard artifacts from looters. Former SAS operative Eddie Chase is her live-in boyfriend and personal protector. Terrorists attack the IHA research station above Atlantis killing everyone. Led by Joe Komosa they force Dr. Bill Raynes to download data onto a flash drive; before dying Raynes sees the last two entries are Wilde and Chase. Officialdom called it a horrible accident.

Three months later, Nina and Eddie hobnob with the rich and famous in New York although Eddie feels like a fish out of water even as they are on the harbor. They meet non-executive director of IHA, affluent Shanghai businessman Richard Yuen Xuan and his wife Lady Sophia. Eddie and Nina get into a nasty public argument and go their separate ways. Nina is determined to find THE TOMB OF HERCULES that she has been researching and Eddie as resolute goes to Singapore to rescue his former wife Sophia from her boorish husband. On separate continents someone tries to kill them. Soon the pair unites on the lam with a powerful adversary in pursuit who wants the Plato manuscript that Nina allegedly has found.

This adrenalin pumped story line is on speed as the plot is filled with action from the start and never takes a breather even for a cocktail on a yacht. Although over the top of the stratosphere make that mesosphere and the characters even the villain never developed beyond fighting and the lead couple making up, fans will have a difficult time putting down Andy McDermott’s epic thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Final Exam-Maggie Barbieri

Final Exam
Maggie Barbieri
Minotaur, Dec 8 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312376772

North of New York City lies St. Thomas College where Professor Alison Bergeron teaches. Although she is eligible for tenure, she is denied the opportunity due in part to her penchant for solving mysteries especially murders that reflect badly on the college.

When Resident Director of the Sienna Dorm Wayne Brookwell vanishes, the Dean selects her to replace him over her objections. Being a quick study, she knows she has no choice unless she wants am even more miserable existence. Preparing for Extracurricular Activity of the unwanted student kind, Alison leaves her beloved home to reside in purgatory; understanding the nuking of her privacy especially with her lover Detective Bobby Crawford. Her new abode is more like a monk’s isolation cell as even the toilet does not function nor by the looks of it has in eons. Crawford visits her in her new jail cell, but they soon find a major stash of heroin in the blocked toilet and a huge stash of marihuana. Alison seeks Wayne and there have been a zillion sightings, but not by her. Someone watching for Wayne marks Alison to silence her permanently.

This charming piquant romantic amateur sleuth is fun to read due to the strong cast; ACADEMIC and otherwise. Alison crashes the said image of a professor with her antics while the support cast, especially once the heroine is placed in hell, add eccentricity and hyperbole to the Final Exam whodunit. Maggie Barbieri provides another enjoyable Mystery 101 tale as class is in session with Professor Bergeron proctoring.

Harriet Klausner

Bryant & May On The Loose-Christopher Fowler

Bryant & May On The Loose
Christopher Fowler
Bantam, Nov 24 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9780553807196

With the dissolution of the Peculiar Crimes Unit, the eleven living members (to include the cat) feels good about what they accomplished and assume their one deceased member looks down on them fondly. However each will miss this peculiar team as the camaraderie between the misfits assigned here was stratospheric as was their success rate. Senior Detectives Arthur Bryant and John May react differently to the end of their police careers. Whereas the depressed former hides under the covers with his books as companions the latter considers going private.

However, all changes when a half man-half stag apparently abducts women followed by the finding of a severed head corpse found in King’s Cross. May eloquently points out to the Home Office bureaucrats that if the crimes are left unsolved it could paint a nasty picture of London just before the 2012 Olympics come to the city. Reluctantly the brass authorizes the PCU to work on the severed head case for a week, but with conditions. They have no access to the “real” police, no official authorization, no computers, and no running water toilet in the rental dump provided to the PCU team. May reassembles the team, but a grateful Bryant focuses on the headed stag-man rather than the homicide.

The seventh PCU zany police procedural is the usual insane mix of humor with the criminal absurd in what is always a super read. May is his usual optimistic self while Bryan remains the pessimist. However what makes their case so much fun is Christopher Fowler slices the top off of the glass so it is full. Fans will relish the return in the aptly titled BRYANT & MAY ON THE LOOSE; as the bureaucrats and politicians have as much to fear from this duet as the felons.

Harriet Klausner

True Blue-David Baldacci

True Blue
David Baldacci
Grand Central, Oct 27 2009, $27.99
ISBN: 9780446195515

Sisters Beth and Mace Perry have always had each other’s back as kids and adults with both becoming cops. Temperamentally opposites they love each other, but their police careers go also in different directions. Beth has become police chief of Washington DC while Mace was kicked off the force spending two years in prison after being kidnapped and framed.

Mace wants vindication affirmed only by regaining her badge. Beth at the risk of her career will do what she can to support her younger sister because she is perhaps the only person in blue who believes Mace’s story. Attorney Roy Kingman is in the middle of a gigantic case involving the murder of a US Attorney and the rape-killing of another lawyer. He is attracted to feisty Mace who sees solving the spectacular case as redemption. With her sister’s support and a need to work in the shadows as another US Attorney wants to return her to jail, Mace investigates only to find roadblocks from the affluent who prefer the case go cold.

This is an action-packed fast-paced over the top of the Washington Monument investigative thriller that grips fans throughout as long as the reader ignores credibility. The sisters make the tale with their support of one another as they seek a killer and redemption for Mace. David Baldacci provides his fans with a very entertaining whodunit with hopefully more appearances from the TRUE BLUE blood siblings.

Harriet Klausner

Depraved Indifference-Joseph Teller

Depraved Indifference
Joseph Teller
Mira, Nov 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778326915

Six months remain left on his three year suspension handed down by the Judicial Panel to criminal defense attorney Harrison J. Walker for allegedly accepting a bribe from a client (see The Tenth Case). Jaywalker struggles with the countdown until he can officially practice law his style once again.

Amanda Drake, the estranged wife of the Audi Assassin Carter asks for his help. Carter is doing time for vehicular homicide when is reckless driving caused a van with eight children to crash; killing all the occupants. Jaywalker explains his situation, but when she seems still interested in his help, he accepts the case. As he begins to review the available information, someone else is involved who wants the barred lawyer to take a hike.

The third Jaywalker legal thriller (see Bronx Justice) is once again a great tense tale as the hero walks a thin line with an incredible twist that takes the audience back to The Tenth Case. Throughout the defense attorney does what he does sarcastically and in contempt best, but with some ego reduction in a nod to Agatha Christie. Fans will relish his latest while newcomers should read The Tenth Case first for an enhanced understanding although that is not necessary as DEPRAVED INDIFFERENCE stands alone.

Harriet Klausner

Body in the Sleigh-Katherine Hall Page

Body in the Sleigh
Katherine Hall Page
Morrow, Oct 27 2009, $15.99
ISBN: 9780061474255

Faith Fairchild and her family spend Christmas together at their cottage on Sanpere Island in Penobscot Bay, Maine. At a local store, Faith finds the corpse of a teen named Norah in an antique sleigh. She assumes the young girl died from an overdose as there are no visible marks on the girl, but the police suspect her boyfriend is her killer.

On Christmas Eve goat farmer Mary Bethany calls Faith asking for help. Mary explains she has found a newborn boy with an enigmatic note and $50,000 inside her barn. While her husband the Reverend recovers from gallstone removal surgery, Faith searches for the biological mother. She locates college student Miriam whose boyfriend is a dealer. The amateur sleuth and the mom are in trouble from those who want both dead.

This is an exciting Christmas mystery as Faith and her family celebrates the holiday season together by her investigating the homicide and the baby abandonment while her spouse recovers from surgery with good cheer from the brood especially the children. The story line is fast-paced with two underlying messages of the lucrative drug trafficking is everywhere as the economics supersedes the law and the ethics, and the Fairchild family wishing everyone a happy holiday season with recipes and good cheer to all.

Harriet Klausner

Too Many Murders-Colleen McCullough

Too Many Murders
Colleen McCullough
Simon & Schuster, Dec 1 2009, $26.00
ISBN: 9781439177471

Nineteen years old college student Evan Pugh blackmailed “Motor Mouth” who gave him one hundred thousand dollars. As he reaches for his stash in his college room walk-in closet, he moves into a bear trap, which makes him bleed out. When the police arrive, they are stunned by the scene especially the ingenious trap and shocked as this the twelfth death on April 3, 1967.

Police Captain Carmine Delmonico realizes that the mass murders are related somehow because Holloman, Connecticut doesn’t have that many murders in a year. As he and her cohorts investigate the homicides, they are able to separate some from the sinister genius who bolted down the bear trap. However, the puppet-master used locals to act as his or her perp murdering the victims. To further complicate an already convoluted murder mystery, one of the dead victims Desmond Skeps was a CEO and majority stockholder of Cornucopia where someone was selling secrets to the Russians that had him on FBI surveillance. Delmonico is uninterested in foreign espionage as he has a killer to catch, but each clue returns him and his unit back to Cornucopia.

This police procedural sequel to On, Off affirms how super of a novelist Colleen McCullough is as her mysteries are as good as her historical fictions (see The Thorn Birds). Each murder is solved one at a time in a way that will remind readers of Christie’s And Then There Were None although all occurs in the midst of a crowded college town. Delmonico is a multi-faceted protagonist who is a terrific police detective and a wonderful family man. Readers will enjoy working the cases with him and his sidekicks especially when his wife and daughter are threatened.

Harriet Klausner