Thursday, December 31, 2009

Murder in the Palais Royal-Cara Black

Murder in the Palais Royal
Cara Black
Soho, Mar 1 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9781569476208

In 1997 Paris, Leduc Detective’s four foot Rene Fiant is shot twice by his colleague Aime Leduc. He is rushed to intensive care at Hotel Dieu. Stunned eyewitnesses tell Inspector Morbier they saw her fleeing the office where the dwarf was shot and an unexplained large amount of money has suddenly appeared in the firm’s bank account, which has the tax authorities looking closely at Leduc Detective’s.

Aimee knows this will be her toughest case ever as even Rene believes she tried to kill him with the Beretta. She wonders whether someone impersonating her shot her best friend, but though she has enemies from previous cases, Aimee cannot fathom whose motive would include attempted murder, which quickly changes into two homicides tied to her. Only Miles Davis believes in her innocence.

This is a super entry that goes full circle back to the first Leduc case Murder in the Marais, but a newcomer does need to read that tale to enjoy Murder in the Palais Royal although they will thoroughly enjoy that mystery and the rest of the series. Fans will appreciate this super thriller as the high heeled computer analyst has her work cut out proving her innocence and insuring her partner stays alive while providing the audience with a tour of the rest of Paris (and its suburbs) where impoverished immigrants from the former French colonies reside.

Harriet Klausner

Vienna Secrets-Frank Tallis

Vienna Secrets
Frank Tallis
Random House, Feb 23 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780812980998

In 1903 Vienna, having collaborated before (see Vienna Blood) Detective Inspector Oskar Reinhardt asks his much older friend psychoanalyst Dr. Max Liebermann to take a look at a gruesome corpse found on the grounds of Maria Treue Kirche. Max informs Oskar the victim a pianist monk Brother Stanislav had his head savagely ripped from his body. Before going on to the General Hospital to make his rounds, Max suggests Oskar interview strong men as well as the monks. Under questioning the monks insist Brother Stanislav was a good holy person until finally one breaks ranks and says the victim wrote anti-Semitic articles published in Vaterland.

Meanwhile two city council rivals Burke Faust and Julius Schmidt compete for favors from the mayor. Schmidt begins an anti-Jewish campaign using the homicide as justification. Rebbe Barash and his Kabala followers insist God’s wrath descended on the monk which just enflames the city and encourages Schmidt. When Faust has his head torn off, the city reacts with anger and fear as anti-Semitism fever rises exponentially. While struggling with the case whose lone link is odd mud at the murder scenes, Max is in trouble at the hospital over Last Rites and Oskar dreams of dating a feminist.

Once again as in the Liebermann-Reinhardt previous collaborations (see A Death in Vienna and Fatal Lies), the time and place make for a great historical police procedural with the emphasis on the anti-Semitic atmosphere of 1903 Vienna. The murder inquiry is a terrific police procedural that will grip the audience wondering who and why. However, once again what makes Frank Tallis’ latest tale and the entire series one of the best on the market is the sense of being in Vienna at the time of Freud.

Harriet Klausner

The Wild Zone-Joy Fielding

The Wild Zone
Joy Fielding
Atria, Feb 23 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9781416585299

Married Tom Whitman is in the Wild Zone in the South Beach section of Miami Beach with his friend Jeff Rydell and Jeff’s visiting half-brother, Princeton grad student Will. A few male bonding drinks later leads to the duo betting on whom has sex with the bartender Suzy Bigelow first. Flash tempered Jeff has his live-in lover Kristen who works at the bar talk with Suzy.

Suzy chooses to go out on a date with the safe one Will. However, though she seems cute and innocent, Suzy hides from her date that she has a nasty abusive husband Dave waiting for her as she sees the innocent one, his older sibling and their wild eyed friend as the answer to end her personal nightmare. Tom also has serious issues having been dishonorably discharged from the military after some incidents in the Afghan theatre; his wife Lainey knows what caused his issues but is so frightened of him she files for divorce and flees with their kids. Soon all will collide in a clash in the Wild Zone where each will soon learn the meaning of “proceed at your risk”.

This is a super Miami Beach thriller starring a strong ensemble cast with a great final twist. Each of the key players is fully developed to include their hidden agendas so that the audience understands their motives while wondering how a drunk-induced joke of a bet could turn so nasty. Joy Fielding is at her best with this impossible to put down tale.

Harriet Klausner

Hard Rain-David Rollins

Hard Rain
David Rollins
Bantam, Feb 23 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780553805369

The U.S. Military Attache to Turkey, Colonel Emmet Portman vanishes for three days. When he is found dead in his home in Istanbul, alarm spreads amidst the American government. Whoever killed Portman tortured him before brutally murdering him.

Air Force Office of Special Investigations Special Agents Vin Cooper and Anna Masters arrive in Istanbul to investigate the gruesome homicide; as Vin puts it they are USAF internal affairs cops. However, before they can begin their inquest, other associates of the late Colonel are also killed in horrific ways. The obvious response is a serial killer is on the loose. However, the victims are diverse and vary in what is left behind; the only commonality is the abduction and execution are done with military precision.. However, with Portman’s email being erased, Vin and Anna wonder why a crazed killer would do something of this sort making them wonder if someone needed to conceal something, but what and who remain elusive. As the two agents investigate on non-verbal terms (one can say a lot with a one finger salute) while the body count rises, they begin to uncover a military conspiracy to encourage coups to topple Middle Eastern governments, but neither is sure how to expose it without harming American interest; that is if they live long enough to do so.

This is an entertaining over the top thriller that has the audience accompanying the bickering lead couple (arguing when they rarely talk to each other) as they hop the globe starting in the Middle East going on to Africa and Tennessee. Fans will enjoy the action and the rapidity of the story line but what makes the tale fun is the lead couple working a deadly international case once again (see The Death Trust) while on non-speaking terms ever since she informed him she is “Dancing on the Ceiling” for JAG lawyer Col. Richard “Dick Wad” Wadding.

Harriet Klausner

Our Lady of Immaculate Deception- Nancy Martin

Our Lady of Immaculate Deception
Nancy Martin
Minotaur, Mar 2 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780312573720

In Pittsburgh, Roxy Abruzzo tries to keep her Bada Bling Architectural Salvage business clean although her Uncle Carmine the Mafia boss tries sending her work. Roxy feels strongly about staying legal in spite of Uncle Carmine’s efforts because she feels she must set an example for her sixteen year old daughter Sage; who is the result of a teen fling she had with Chef Patrick Flynn, just back from a Middle East deployment and wanting to deploy a second time with his former high school girlfriend.

However, Roxy is unable to resist stealing an ancient Greek statue that belongs to wealthy womanizing Julius Hyde. Her assistant “Nooch” Santonucci does whatever she wants and easily hoists the garden statue. Soon after her heist someone murders Jules and burns down the estate of his nonagenarian mom, who is more fretful that her prized possession, an ancient Greek statue is missing, rather than her son’s death or the arson.

With the Blackbird Sisters taking a breather, Nancy Martin introduces her fans to a steel tough single mom trying not to join the family business though thievery runs in her DNA. Roxy holds the story line together especially after she purloins the statue. Filled with dark humor, Ms. Martin’s fans will enjoy the Stealer escapades of a woman who straddles the line between a touch of piracy and a role model citizen as one tiny caper proves to the heroine that crime doesn’t pay (sometimes).

Harriet Klausner

Ordinary Thunderstorms-William Boyd

Ordinary Thunderstorms
William Boyd
Harper, Jan 26 2010, $26.99
ISBN: 9780061876745

Climatologist Adam Kindred and immunologist Dr. Philip Wang met by chance at an Italian restaurant near Royal Hospital not far from where the Thames flows through Chelsea as each dined alone on tables next to each other. The former is in London trying to obtain a research fellowship position at Imperial College while the later works in Oxford at a pharmaceutical firm as a sort of allergist. Wang departs while mumbling something about a good feeling but leaves behind a file with his papers.

Adam picks up the documents so he can return them to Dr. Wang. However at the immunologist’s flat, he finds Wang’s dead body. Not sure what to do as someone is after him besides the cops who have evidence of his visit to the dead man’s apartment, Adam flees for his life. Meanwhile, Wang's boss at Calenture-Deutz, Ingrym Fryzer, realizes someone at the firm wants him out and Wang’s data on an anti-allergy drug that the scientist was working on is missing as the board refuses to wait any longer to market the drug to get the profits though the late researcher was not finished testing it. Fryzer, his shadowy adversary and his paid assassin, and the cops seek a thirty-one years old climatologist who vanished somewhere in Chelsea.

This is an exciting fast-paced thriller in which a young man seeking a job becomes the focus of corporate killers, an ethical CEO, and the Metropolitan Police. The two subplots converge though a series of coincidences starting with the restaurant encounter, but fans of action-packed conspiratorial tales of the avarice affluent vs. a lone reluctant everyman will enjoy Ordinary Thunderstorms turning into a torrent for Adam.

Harriet Klausner

Ghouls Gone Wild-Victoria Laurie

Ghouls Gone Wild
Victoria Laurie
Obsidian, Mar 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451229410

M. J. Holliday is a psychic with her top skill being a medium who can communicate with ghosts. She gives readings and makes her grateful clients feel good by telling them the truth; unlike the numerous charlatans. She and her partner are also ghostbusters who send evil spirits back to where they came from. They are now on Briar Street, the most haunted street in Scotland. Under the street is the close (several caves and catacombs) where victims were sent to die from the plague.

While they are on Briar Road, the interest of the hundreds of spirits make M.J. and her co-worker medium Heath Whitefeather almost insane. Inside the close the same phenomena happens with the ghouls of the plague screaming. They would love to leave immediately, but they are contracted to Bravo TV to film what they find at this location. To make matters worse, the centuries dead witch Rigella who cursed the village of Queen’s Close because they murdered her and her sisters are brought back by a villager to murder seven descendents of the families that killed them. When their tech expert is attacked by ghouls, M.J. and her crew becomes the target of a mortal who is in league with the witch because brake lines were cut, which means the witch has a human helper. When another villager dies, M.J. and company investigate determined to find the witch and her mortal assistant.

Victoria Laurie is the queen of paranormal mysteries as her fourth ghostbusters whodunit brings the reader into her world (see DEMONS ARE A GHOUL'S BEST FRIEND and GHOULS JUST HAUNT TO HAVE FUN). Ghouls Gone Wild. is a hauntingly good whodunit filled with plenty of action above and below the street. The cast is solid even the spirits while the two protagonists are fully developed especially when the supernatural haunt their senses. With plenty of humor including with a Potter meets Bedknobs and Broomsticks battle of flying brooms, fans will enjoy ghosts, ghouls, and witches, oh my.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Parisian Prodigal-Alan Gordon

The Parisian Prodigal
Alan Gordon
Minotaur, Jan 19 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780312384142

In 1205 Toulouse, France, the stranger arrives at the chateau of Count Raimon VI. Baudoin insists he is Raimon’s brother. The Count immediately assumes he is a con artist trying to defraud him so he plans to let his so called sibling sweat in the icy dungeon. However, his court jester Theophilos the fool suggests he reconsider until they find proof exposing the imposter.

Raimon assigns Theo the job to investigate the newcomer using the ruse to tutor Baudoin. Inquiries are sent to Paris where Baudoin claims he comes from. However, the identity inquiry turns ugly when La Rossa of the brothel is found dead after a night with Baudoin who was found asleep next to her corpse; his dagger in her body. Theophilos, his wife, Claudia, mime Perladit, and twelve years old apprentice Helga investigate the homicide.

This medieval mystery saga uses the same basic ploy of the Fool’s Guild as a sort of thirteenth century French Secret Service-FBI-CIA. This saga is consistently is one of the best historical series on the market over the last decade (see A Death in the Venetian Quarter and The Lark's Lament). With two investigations to handle, Theophilos and Claudia are superb as he works the gambling dens of the aristocracy and she the courtesans who tend to these foolish egotistical males. Helga and Perladit enhance the inquiry into who killed the hooker while her lover the Count’s maybe brother slept.

Harriet Klausner

Silencer-James W. Hall

James W. Hall
Minotaur, Jan 19 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312359591

In Key Largo, Florida Rusty Stabler offers a deal to her reclusive boyfriend private investigator Thorn who has come into a nice but unexpected inheritance. He appreciate what she proffers as that will environmentally protect 300 square miles from avaricious developers. Part of the consideration would shut down Earl Hammond's Coquina Ranch game-hunting operation as he plans to donate his property to the State to keep it safe from greedy developers.

However, soon after Rusty pitches her proposal, someone kills Hammond and Thorn is kidnapped. While the sleuth is struggling to come around and escape, his friend Sugarman searches for him unsuccessfully. Meanwhile professional killers Jonah and Moses Faust are working a serial killer memorabilia deal on the side of their paying gig of abducting Thorn; and Hammond's sons (ex-football star Browning and Miami cop Frisco) want justice and plan to obtain it for their late father.

This is an excellent Florida wilderness thriller that grips the audience throughout while also making a strong case for the environment. Thorn is at his best digging his way out of ironically a natural prison of a deep sinkhole while Frisco and Browning’s wife Clare investigate the murder and the abduction that they tie together by the protect the land deal; neither realizes the real connection dates back to Depression Era developers in this great suspense thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Short Squeeze-Chris Knopf

Short Squeeze
Chris Knopf
Minotaur, Jan 19 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312551230

In the Hamptons, widower Sergey Pontecello demands his sister-in-law Eunice Wolsonowicz and her retinue (daughter Wendy and adopted son Fuzzy) leave his home. Eunice refuses. Sergey turns to his lawyer Jackie Swaitkowski to evict the unwanted “guests”.

Soon afterward, Sergey is found battered to death in Sagaponack. Southampton Town cop Joe Sullivan tells Jackie her client had her card and a nipple on him; the nipple belonged to the late scuba shop bookkeeper Edna Jackery whose body parts are everywhere except inside her coffin. Unable to remain patient while the cops investigate and feeling she owes Sergey as she blew away his concerns the night before his death, Jackie investigates only to find a family so blighted she concludes anyone of them could be the culprit.

Using a role reversal with Jackie starring and Sam Acquillo playing the second banana minor role as opposed to the lead (see Hard Stop and head Wounds), Short Squeeze is an entertaining whodunit as the lawyer shows her moxie searching for the killer. Filled with body humor and a horde of miscreants whose family fell out of the tree onto their heads, the story line is fast-paced, but owned by Swaitkowski who proves she can star in a fun investigative mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Baja Florida-Bob Morris

Baja Florida
Bob Morris
Minotaur, Jan 19 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312377267

Mickey Ryser knows he has just a few weeks left to live so he plans to spend his remaining time on Lady Cut Cay in the Bahamas where he was to meet his daughter Jen whom he has not seen since she was a baby. She never made it or contacted him. He pleads with his newly married friend and proud papa of a six month old baby, Zack Chasteen to find Jen, but also warns him his daughter’s companions and Abel Delgado a private eye he hired to find her also vanished. Zack owes so much to his mentor, he agrees.

Accompanied by his buddies Boggy the Taino and pilot Charlie Callahan, Chasteen tries to pick up Delgado’s trail. Their efforts of discretion lead to boat ring thieves and Bahamian Police chasing after them while Jen and company are held prisoner.

The latest Caribbean blue Chasteen investigative mystery (see Jamaica Me Dead and A Deadly Silver Sea) is a fast-paced thriller that takes off the moment Zack and the gang begin their search with the clock ticking. The story line is filled with action as Zack and crew get in trouble with boat hi-jacking thugs, other miscreants, and the police as they follow clues left by Delgado. Although the subplot depicting Jen’s plight adds intensity and feelings, the short asides slow down the overall pace of a terrific suspense filled tale starring a solid trio of good guys.

Harriet Klausner

Hush-Kate White

Kate White
Harper, Mar 2 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780061576614

Forty-four year old marketing consultant Lake Warren has recently divorced her spouse Jack. However, he sues for full custody of their young children. Her divorce lawyer Robert Kotchkiss empathically tells her that to insure Jack has nothing even remotely scandalous that will give him an issue to hammer her within court; he goes so far to state to her don’t date .

Lake is providing her consulting services to the Park Avenue Fertility Center where she meets Los Angeles based medical consultant flirtatious Dr. Keaton. Ignoring her lawyer’s admonition for now as the kids are away and thinking spontaneous sex before becoming a nun, she and Keaton make love in his penthouse where she falls asleep. When she awakens with a nasty headache she finds Keaton dead. Fearing that the cops will consider her as a person interest, which is the perfect issue for Jack to use against her, she investigates who murdered Keaton. However, her fear factor explodes when she realizes someone is stalking her.

With the Blond investigative reporter Bailey Weggins taking a well deserved respite, Kate White provides a refreshing stand alone thriller of a woman trying to cover her indiscretion which leads to deeper and deeper troubles for her. Fast-paced once the heroine turns to amateur sleuthing while Archer the detective knows she is concealing something. Fans will appreciate this fine suspense filled tale of a woman in peril depending on no one but herself to find the killer in order to extract herself from the cops accusing her and ultimately a stalker watching her for who knows what

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pretty in Ink-Karen E. Olson

Pretty in Ink
Karen E. Olson
Obsidian, Mar 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451229625

Brett Kavanaugh owns the Painted Lady tattoo parlor in the ritzy part of Las Vegas while giving her clients custom-made tattoos. Her whole body is filled with tattoos, a walking advertisement for her shop.

One night Brett is at the Chez Terso watching a transvestite on stage when a man pops a champing cork and hits the performer in the chest. Brett gets a look at the man who did it noticing a queen of hearts playing card etched onto his right forearm. Trevor McKay seems all right, but the next day he visits the Painted Lady appearing very ill. He dies at the hospital at the same time Brett’s trainee Charlotte disappears. A waiter saw the man the person who hit Trevor with the cork; he describes him to Brett who makes a sketch. The man is Wesley Lambert, a transvestite who dropped out of sight over a year ago. Brett finds herself through a set of circumstances in a condo with the corpse of Wesley. She is decontaminated from ricin, which is all over the place. The tattoo artist believes there is a link between the two deaths and Charlotte as she hops from one hiding place to another to find Charlotte and the killer. She remains resolute in finding her friend, but ignorant that someone is watching her very closely.

Pretty in Ink is a non-stop action amateur sleuth mystery starring a brave strong heroine who thinks outside the crypt; something needed on this deadly case. The support cast adds humor and suspense (even off stage) to this well constructed complex whodunit. With a touch of romance to augment the deep look at another side of Vegas, fans will enjoy the second Tattoo Shop Mystery (see Missing In Ink).

Harriet Klausner

Monday, December 28, 2009

Drive Time-Hank Phillippi Ryan

Drive Time
Hank Phillippi Ryan
Mira, Feb 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778327974

Boston’s Channel 3 investigative reporter forty-seven years old Charlotte “Charlie” McNally is looking into a nasty car theft-auto forgery ring. The story smells like an "Emmy" if she and the crew live long enough for air time. At the same time she has an offer to go to New York for the big time.

Charlie is concerned for her fifty-two years old fiancé, Josh Gelston, a teacher at the Bexter Academy, and his nine year old daughter, Penny a student there. Unable to resist, the intrepid reporter makes inquiries that lead her to realize murders have occurred and so has blackmailing. She remains ignorant to the fact the killer is watching her progress with plans to get rid of a nosy investigative TV news reporter.

The latest “Time” after time investigative thriller (see Prime Time, Face Time, and Air Time) is another great entry in a strong series. Filled with non-stop action starting when Charlie is eight minutes away from starting the rest of her life except she and photographer J.T. stop on the highway to investigate an incident setting the tone once again for a fabulous tale. This time the prime story line has Charlie’s professional life crash into her personal life as Hank Phillippi Ryan provides a superb thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Town in a Blueberry Jam-B.B. Haywood

Town in a Blueberry Jam
B.B. Haywood
Berkley, Feb 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780425232651

After her husband lost his job, emptied their savings, and dumped her for another woman; Candy Holliday returns to her hometown, the seaside village of Cape Willington, Maine; where she and her dad “Doc” manage Blueberry Acres. Local hero Olympic Gold medal winning swimmer Jock Larson falls off a cliff with his life flashing by including how he died. The townsfolk are unsure of whether it was an accident, suicide, or homicide. Candy is sad over his death, but happy that the Blueberry Festival will still occur with people coming from across the country to attend.

To the locals, the highlight of the gala is the Blueberry Queen Pageant. Five of the contestants are high school students while the other contender is gossip columnist thirty-seven years old Sapphire Vine, a flaky diva (obvious oxymoron). Everyone expects Haley Pruitt to win because of her poise; performance and responses to questions which are by far superior to that of her rivals. Thus when Sapphire wins, everybody is shocked. Soon after her stunning victory, Sapphire is found dead. The town’s handyman Ray is arrested for the murder. Candy knows Ray is innocent and intends to find the real culprit with the help of her BFF Maggie. Their investigation uncovers scandals amongst the pageant judges and other residents, but as they get closer to identifying the perpetrator, the killer watches them in case two more corpses are needed.

This is a charming and amusing Pine Tree State cozy in which Cape Willington is vividly described so that the reader feels they are attending the Blueberry festival. The cast is solid as the residents bring out the ambience of the seaside village. Although the amateur sleuthing is similar in tone to many sub-genre entries, the irony of readers knowing a lot more than the cops or the BFF detectives and the Twitter sight provide a fresh spin to B.B. Haywood’s first Candy Holliday whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Dog At Sea-J.F. Englert

A Dog At Sea
J.F. Englert
Dell, Dec 29 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780440245414

He has an extremely high IQ and loves to read a variety of boojs; unusual traits in a canine. Randolph the Labrador and his less intelligent human companion Harry are on a canine cruise in which both species have the freedom of the Nordic Bliss as poop decks have different meanings. Ostensive the duo are enjoying their time at sea; but actually are following a clue to Imogen, Harry’s beloved human love and Randolph’s mistress. Fearing for Randolph and Harry in that order, she faked her death because a bad person with influential allies wanted control of her uranium fortune.

On board they meet Milton Tabasco, TV’s dog “mutterer”, who hypnotizes canines with his voice. At the Captain’s Table for dinner, Milton and his wife Kitty argue and she storms out of the dining room. Later, Randolph and Harry see her crying on the deck. Soon afterward they learns she jumped overboard and is assumed dead. Randolph sniffs Tabasco and concludes Milton killed his spouse. However the smell changes to regret so Randolph wonders if his original olfactory conclusion stinks. When someone else dies in a box that Milton uses as part of a magic trick, Tabasco was nowhere near the victim at the time of the murder. Randolph investigates and scents another homicide, but has to find a way to tell the tone deaf authorities who the killer is; he comes up with a devious brilliant plan.

Reminding me of my late Max (who understood the spelling of words like pizza and treat) and I am sure other readers of their brilliant dogs, Randolph loves to eat, eat, and eat yet always takes into account the best interest of his BF. In his third canine caper (see A Dog About Town and A Dog Among Diplomats), the sentient dog is at his best as he expects to dine, poop, sleep and dine, but the ship staff wants him to lose weight. His perspective (on the murders, the inquiry, exercise, and dieting, etc.) makes for a wonderful anthropomorphic whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rich Again-Anna Maxted

Rich Again
Anna Maxted
St. Martin’s Griffin, Dec 22, 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312570286

Headquartered in London, multimillionaire power couple, Jack and Innocence Kent, own a boutique in hotel chains. Their spoiled fourteen year old daughter Emily has decided she will have Lord Timothy and she always gets what she wants. Their older child Claudia was adopted by Jack and his late first wife Felicia, but she has issues.

Two years later, Jack is nearly ruined by a financial scandal; only the quick work of not so innocent Innocence saves their fortune when she transferred his fortune to her. Tim gets Emily pregnant so they marry in Vegas, but his outraged father disowns him. To make shoe money, Emily sells gossip, mostly false, about her and her family to the tabloids. However, the past returns to haunt the Kent family when Nathan adopted by Jack and Felicia who returned when she died, has begun a killing campaign using his guise as a movie star to conceal his obsession to murder everyone Kent.

This is over the top of Big Ben; but it is an enjoyable inane and insane family drama. The killer is cartoonish as he is never developed beyond his need for vengeance. The Kent family fare better as they seem three dimensional especially the way Emily makes a living. Rich Again is silly, overly padded, but decadently fun.

Harriet Klausner

Last Nocturne-Marjorie Eccles

Last Nocturne
Marjorie Eccles
Minotaur, Feb 16 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780312577933

In 1909, Grace Thurley ends her engagement; leaving Birmingham for London where she has accepted a position as secretary to recently widowed Edwina Martagon and companion to her daughter Dulcie. As she settles into the Martagon household, Edwina’s son Guy comes home to settle the estate of his late father, an art gallery owner who committed suicide.

When an artist, whose works were on display at Martagon’s gallery, also kills himslef, Scotland Yard revisits the previous case as Chief Inspector Philip Lamb and his assistant Detective Sergeant Cogan find two similar suicides too coincidental and besides no motives existed for either man; one was at the top of his game and the other a rising star. At the same time someone is blackmailing Grace due to love letters her spouse sent to his paramour and that rumors are he sired a child in Vienna two decades earlier. Vienna is where a Mrs. Isobel Amberley seems to be the eye of the hurricane who apparently led to the deaths of the late gallery owner and the deceased artist.

Marjorie Eccles provides her fans with an entertaining Edwardian Era police procedural. The flashbacks of what occurred in Vienna twenty years earlier enable the audience to know why the two men died long before the cops figure out what is going on. The background is terrific as the reader can compare two leading European cities just before and after the turn of the previous century. Although the look back to Vienna is fascinating, but also slows down the present day (1909 that is) mystery. Still this is a fine investigative tale in which Superintendent Gil Mayo would be proud of the efforts of his DS predecessor.

Harriet Klausner

Sizzle-Julie Garwood

Julie Garwood
Ballantine, Jan 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345560779

In Los Angeles film student Lyra Prescott decides as her final project in Professor Mahler’s class to make a documentary on Parisso Park, a dumping ground filled with broken bottles, dirty disposable diapers, old newspapers, and an assortment of other discarded trash. Near the “land filled” playground is a beautiful garden oasis that contrasts to the toxic dump. On her way home, Lyra stops at a yard sale in which Mrs. Rooney is giving away all her husband’s things.

Lyra takes the CDs and tapes; unaware that crime boss Mr. Merriam wants his foot soldier Milo to snuff out the Rooneys as they have something that could put him away for a long time. His goons go to collect the evidence, but it is not where it is supposed to be. They learn Lra might have what they ar seeking. Two men are holding Lyra’s roommate Sidney Buchanan prisoner waiting for her arrival. The two females escape and Sydney uses her contacts to get a bodyguard to protect Lyra. FBI agent Sam Kincaid arrives to do the job, but is stunned by his attraction to Lyra, who knows she can easily fall in love with her protector. They are shot at, her house is trashed, and a bomb is set under her car. Sam vows to risk his life to keep her safe though neither knows what the perpetrators want.

Sizzle is the appropriate name for this action-packed romantic suspense thriller as the relationship between Sam and Lyra never cools down. Fast-paced from the moment the hoodlums arrive and never taking a tension breather on the romance or suspense fronts, fans will be stunned to learn who is calling the shots and what the villains seek. Although the escapes especially the pre Sam getaway seem unlikely, Julie Garwood provides her fans with a great taut thriller with everyone (except the bad guys) rooting for this couple to not just survive but to make it together.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart-Beth Pattillo

Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart
Beth Pattillo
Guideposts, Jan 10 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780824947934

Having just lost her position as a pediatrician office manager in Kansas City, thirtyish Claire Prescott’s nerves are frayed, but has no one to talk to about her fears. Her boyfriend Neil buries himself in a cocoon of and her sister Missy always turns to her for bail out since their parents died. In fact the latter is why she is at Christ Church in Oxford, England attending a seminar on Jane Austen where no college degree Claire will present Missy’s scholarly paper on Pride and Prejudice.

Claire plans to spend the week temporarily fabricating her résumé so she can be like all these successful people who are judges, professors and stockbrokers, etc. When she meets James Beaufort of a Manhattan publishing firm family, she imagines him as a modern day Americanized Mr. Darcy; who is definitely not her type. Thus Claire starts with lies, but meets elderly Harriet, who suffers from early stages of dementia; yet presents a different version of the commonly accepted Pride and Prejudice that seems so much more realistic to Claire. Others want to meet Claire and her room is searched; obviously for the manuscript Harriet gave her. Unsure what to do next, Claire is stunned when Neil arrives.

Every time I think nothing new can happen to Jane Austen, a surprise refreshing spin occurs. The story line is fast-paced with plenty of suspense but is many ways is more of a character study. Claire is ashamed of herself and begins to understand her altruism re Missy has allowed her to hide her fears of life. Fans will appreciate Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart as the heroine must decide what Harriet should do with an earth shattering manuscript and what she should do with her life starting with Neil.

Harriet Klausner

Hold On Tight- Stephanie Tyler

Hold On Tight
Stephanie Tyler
Dell, Jan 26 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780440244363

The Joint Task Force mission rescued the U.S. ambassador and his family from a hostile takeover of an embassy in Djibouti, Africa but left team members Navy SEAL Mark Kendall and FBI agent Josiah Miller dead in an explosion. Navy SEAL Chris Waldron and Delta Force operative Cameron Moore survived.

FBI Special Agent Jamie Michaels questions Chris, who has some memory lapses from the moment of the explosion, and Cam to tell what went wrong. Chris and Cam separately insist leader Josiah ordered them not to enter the embassy, but Mark disobeyed the command. Later that night Chris sneaks out of the hospital to spend time with Chris alone as both remember the heat from their last mission together two months ago. Each wonders where their relationship will go as both have ghosts from their past haunting them. However, her boss informs her that Josiah did not die from the explosion as first thought. Instead he was murdered from a bullet between his eyes; a bullet that super sniper Chris could have fired using a war scenario as fog to cover up the crime. He is the only suspect. When someone breaks into her home, Chris vows to uncover the truth and keep his woman safe.

The third SEAL romantic suspense (see Jake Hansen in Hard to Hold and Nick Devane in Too Hot to Hold) is a terrific investigative tale as the hero is the prime murder suspect and the woman who loves him is the Fed assigned to prove he committed the homicide. With a second romance enhancing the exhilarating story line, fans will want to hold on as Stephanie Tyler completes her best friends’ SEALS trilogy with a rousing roller coaster finish.

Harriet Klausner

Hasta la Vista, Lola!-Misa Ramirez

Hasta la Vista, Lola!
Misa Ramirez
Minotaur, Feb 2 2010, $23.95
ISBN: 9780312384036

In Sacramento, California private investigator Lola Cruz visits her parents’ house to find extended family members and friends mourning her death. Apparently, the news reported that the police found her body near the Florin Mall; she had been hammered in the head. A cop arrives at the house to tell the family that their daughter died; as he has a license taken from the deceased with Lola’s information on it.

The victim is Rosie Gonzales, an identity thief. Lola and her boyfriend, Sacramento Bee reporter Jack Callaghan find out that Rosie had pretended to be Lola for at least six months. Unable to resist, Lola makes further inquiries trying to learn why Rosie took her identity but apparently did not steal anything financial from her. In between restaurant gigs at her parents place, Lola soon finds a link to her odious former boyfriend Sergio Garcia and that the dead woman has a child missing somewhere in the city who the sleuth wants to find.

The second Cruz whodunit (see Living the Vida Lola) is an engaging Mexican-American mystery with an insightful focus on identity theft. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Lola shows up at her grief “party” and never slows down though the murder investigation takes a back seat to the romance between Lola and noncommittal Jack. Still this is a wonderful tale as Lola’s escapades are fun to follow even when the action is low key.

Harriet Klausner

Print the Legend-Craig McDonald

Print the Legend
Craig McDonald
Minotaur, Feb 16 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312554378

On July 2, 1961, writer Ernest Hemingway apparently committed suicide with a shotgun blast to his head. Four years later, a “Papa” academia conference in Sun Valley, Idaho is convened. Expected to make an appearance is the late great writer’s third and last wife Mary.

Three men arriving in Sun Valley hope to meet with the widow demanding she answer questions they have surrounding her husband’s death. The last survivor of the Lost Generation, Hemingway’s friend crime novelist Hector Lassiter has heard rumors that manuscripts never published exist; including a novel by the deluded Papa that casts several of his friends in a bad light. Hemingway scholar Professor Richard Paulson and his pregnant wife Hannah believe Mary killed Hemingway and they plan to prove it. They seek the truth not out of some form of justice as the Paulsons believe she committed a mercy killing, but to make his reputation. The third person on a mission is aging FBI Agent Donovan Creedy who obsessively believes a homicide occurred and just can’t let it go.

The premise that Mary killed her husband Hemingway in a mercy killing is carried out brilliantly in the latest Hector Lassiter mystery (see Toros & Torsos). The cast makes the tale as the three men; Mary and Papa (through the memories of Mary and Hec, and the beliefs of Creedy and Paulson) collide in 1965 Idaho. Fans will be enthralled as Print the Legend is a terrific historical thriller that grips readers with its exciting look at the shocking 1961 death of a literary great.

Harriet Klausner

The Red Door-Charles Todd

The Red Door
Charles Todd
Morrow, Dec 29 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061726163

In 1920, WWI veteran, Scotland Yard inspector Ian Rutledge still struggles with his military time though he successfully is able to investigate crimes (see A Matter of Justice) and conceal his mental issue Hamish even from his astute visiting godfather. Rutledge is assigned the case of the disappearance of missionary Walter Teller, who mentally broke down in London and was taken to a nearby clinic where he apparently left. The inspector questions Walter’s family especially focusing on his two brothers, Peter and Edwin.

Rutledge is next assigned to look into the Lancashire stabbing murder of Florence Teller, wife of an apparent different Peter Teller than Walter’s brother; a Peter who failed to return from the Great War. Still he finds the surnames too coincidental to ignore though he cannot fathom the otherwise link beyond The Red Door that Florence painted for her husband who never came home.

Extremely complicated, the latest Inspector Rutledge historical police procedural is a timely thriller on two fronts. First the hero and Walter suffer from post traumatic stress disorder as do many of our soldiers today; second the Spanish Flu of 1918 still leaves fear in many people as does Swine Flu today. The whodunit is super (though Hamish’s voice feels somewhat irritating) and the depth of the era is as always insightful without superseding the mystery as team Todd provides another strong Inspector Rutledge tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Red Door-Charles Todd

The Red Door
Charles Todd
Morrow, Dec 29 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061726163

In 1920, WWI veteran, Scotland Yard inspector Ian Rutledge still struggles with his military time though he successfully is able to investigate crimes (see A Matter of Justice) and conceal his mental issue Hamish even from his astute visiting godfather. Rutledge is assigned the case of the disappearance of missionary Walter Teller, who mentally broke down in London and was taken to a nearby clinic where he apparently left. The inspector questions Walter’s family especially focusing on his two brothers, Peter and Edwin.

Rutledge is next assigned to look into the Lancashire stabbing murder of Florence Teller, wife of an apparent different Peter Teller than Walter’s brother; a Peter who failed to return from the Great War. Still he finds the surnames too coincidental to ignore though he cannot fathom the otherwise link beyond The Red Door that Florence painted for her husband who never came home.

Extremely complicated, the latest Inspector Rutledge historical police procedural is a timely thriller on two fronts. First the hero and Walter suffer from post traumatic stress disorder as do many of our soldiers today; second the Spanish Flu of 1918 still leaves fear in many people as does Swine Flu today. The whodunit is super (though Hamish’s voice feels somewhat irritating) and the depth of the era is as always insightful without superseding the mystery as team Todd provides another strong Inspector Rutledge tale.

Harriet Klausner

Last Snow-Eric Van Lustbader

Last Snow
Eric van Lustbader
Forge, Feb 16 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765325150

Jack McClure, Strategic Advisor to his best friend President of the United States Edward Carson, is in Russia where he negotiates with President Yukin on a pact to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Carson is informed that Senator Lloyd Bern died in Capri; he was supposed to be on a fact finding trip to the Ukraine. He made an unscheduled stop to Kiev where the last person to see him was K. Rochev.

The President sends Jack to the Ukraine to find out what happened. Before he leaves his hotel Jack rescues Russian FSB Agent Annika Dementieva from an ambush by her lover a minor thug in the local Mafia. When they get on the plane, the First Daughter Alli Carson demands to come with them as he is the only man she trusts (see First Daughter to learn why). As they investigate Bern’s death, Jack concludes there is a traitor inside the American President’s most inner circle of advisors and probably one inside of Yukin’s most trusted advisors. Additionally he wonders whether Bern was murdered rather than dying accidentally as reported. As he continues his inquiry while keeping the two women accompanying him safe, others try to manipulate him, but obviously they don’t know Jack.

This sequel is as entertaining and exciting as its predecessor is. Events are straight from headlines as Jack, Alli and Annika traverse Eastern Europe through a landscape of crime including murder. No one is safe especially the likable trio whose flaws feel genuine. For instance Jack uses his work to bury his mind from obsessing over the recent death of his daughter; this grief propels him to take risks with his life but not if it endangers his two compatriots. Eric Van Lustbader provides his refreshing version of Bourne with the escapdes of Jack.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Too Hot To Hold-Stephanie Tyler

Too Hot To Hold
Stephanie Tyler
Dell, Jan 5 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780440244356

Several years ago the U.S. Navy informed investigative reporter Kaylee Smith that her husband Aaron died while on a mission in Africa. She moved on, but now Aaron calls her from Africa and asks her to bring money with her. She looks at a list of contacts he left her consisting of people he saved. On the bottom is Navy SEAL Nick Devane, whom Aaron saved during the fatal mission that allegedly left him dead.

Nick wants to ignore Kaylee’s call, but knows he cannot. When they meet he admits her spouse saved his life, but that the last time he saw Aaron he was alive and well. Both detest their mutual attraction and he wants her to stoop digging especially into his affluent childhood, but the scar on his throat reveals plenty to her. As a young teen Nick walked out of his dysfunctional family to move in with the family of his friend Chris Walden and another troubled teen Jake Hanson (see Hard to Hold) who also joined them; the friends became SEALs. When the FBI intervenes, Nick with Chris’ help flees with Kaylee for Africa not knowing what to expect in the Congo; the last thing being love.

This is a super middle book that maintains the suspense that makes Hard to Hold a great thriller. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Kaylee receives the stress call from the “dead” and only gets faster and hotter when she hotwires his Porsche until his car becomes ours that is if they survive the African ordeal. Fans need to Hold on Tight as Chris is next.

Harriet Klausner

This Is Not a Game-Walter Jon Williams

This Is Not a Game
Walter Jon Williams
Orbit, Jan 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780316003162

At college, they became four friends because of online gaming. Charlie, BJ, Dagmar and Austin were able to turn their love for Internet gaming into a thriving business with each having a different prime role; although their fortunes and misfortunes vary. However, the financial crash has crippled their firm leaving their affluence and influence in jeopardy.

Even more dangerous is the situation that one of them finds herself in. Alternate reality game designer Dagmar finds herself trapped when rebels and riots threaten everyone in Jakarta. She has no real way out of Indonesia, but has a virtual escape path. Over the net she contacts the online gamer community and manages to escape the country. However, once back in Los Angeles, Dagmar finds herself in the middle of real homicides including one of them and a wizard using online tools to manipulate finances while the world struggles with the greater crisis. She uses what she learns to create a new game with the “Group Mind” competitors solving clues leading her, she hopes, to the culprit, but not the Russian Mafia.

Perhaps the scene in a restaurant in which a hostess stays on her cellphone ignoring Dagmar the customer sets the tone when the gamer draws a flow chart on the placemat. Fans will relish this strong thriller as the blur between reality and virtual is almost zero. Ironically the social networking commentaries make the plot believable but also slow down the faster than wireless networking story line. Still this is a terrific look at aging gamers as reality and virtual converge in their minds, but with a Russian Mafia professional hit man the only reality is a speeding bullet.

Harriet Klausner

The Disappeared-M. R. Hall

The Disappeared
M. R. Hall
Simon and Schuster, Dec 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9781439156988

After six months on the job as the Severn Vale District coroner, Jenny Cooper concludes that very few corpses remain unidentified after forty-eighth hours in the morgue. Although she is working on a Jane Doe that has been their guest for over a week, her prime assignment is to decide whether two alleged radical Muslim college students Nazim Jamal and Rafti Hassam, who vanished seven years ago are dead.

Her pre-inquest begins with Nazim’s grieving hysterical mother Mrs. Jamal begging Jenny to provide closure for her. The authorities involved in the case insist the two young friends traveled to the Middle East to join one of the Islamic extremist groups that operate on both sides of the mountainous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Finding irregularities in the police report, she thinks the duo never left England though the pair obviously had ties with a radical Islam group. Jenny convenes an inquest in which neither the cops nor MI5 and CIA operatives cooperate; in fact they go way beyond just stonewalling her, which leads her to wonder what they are concealing. When Mrs. Hazim dies suddenly and the Jane Doe body vanishes, she wonders what she has wrought even while struggling with a divorce, her cantankerous teenage son, and her relationship with disbarred lawyer Alec MacAvoy.

This exciting story line contains a strong inquest that with each clue expands in scope, but the plot is owned by the coroner who suffers from anxiety disorder and addictions caused by her mental illness. Ironically other characters are friendlier and much more charming, but readers will feel empathy only for the heroine and surviving relatives of the deceased. The Disappeared is a terrific coroner’s inquest that at times reads like an espionage thriller as M. R. Hall provides a strong investigation.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Altar of Eden-James Rollins

Altar of Eden
James Rollins
Morrow, Dec 29 2009, $27.99
ISBN: 9780061231421

With the fall of Baghdad, the American political leadership in the White House and the Pentagon howled in euphoria for the military victory insured the reelection next year. In their adrenalin highs, no one was concerned over looting including the zoo of its exotic animals that would make a fortune in the black markets of the west as some Iraqi adjust to capitalism rather quickly. However, when the zoo was invaded by smugglers, a secret underground lab is found.

Seven years later research environmental biologist Dr. Lorna Park finds a wrecked trawler on Lost Eden Cay, a barrier island off the Louisiana coast. No crewman is found alive, but inside the cargo bay is a shocker; mutations of species that should not exist are locked in cages. Besides physical anomalies, these caged beasts are extremely intelligent. Ironically as her work is to save endangered species, Lorna is unsure what to do with this strange cargo. She and U.S. Border Patrol officer Jack Menard unite in an attempt to uncover who genetically modified the animals and perhaps more important the one beast who escaped captivity.

This is a fast-paced thriller that modernizes Dr. Moreau using recent current events including the Iraq War and genetic breakthroughs; but the key is like HG Wells did, James Rollins makes the bad guys and altered animals especially the one that got away three dimensional and intelligent. The lead couple is a solid pairing, as they follow the clues of diabolically clever villains and an even smarter genetically altered beast. With an underlying message to think what we sow before we Alter Eden, fans will relish this terrific thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Breach-Patrick Lee

The Breach
Patrick Lee
Harper, Dec 29 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061584459

A former Minnesota cop who became a convict due to a crime of passion, Travis Chase served his time and left the Lower Forty-eight to start over in the Yukon though he is unsure what he will do. Hiking along in the remote wilderness, Travis comes across a wrecked jet that for the most part stayed intact. Shockingly, the crew and passengers did not die in the crash, but from assassinations; the dead died from bullet wounds to the head.

He finds a secret compartment containing one passenger who died from the loss of blood, but left a note explaining what happened. Travis cannot fathom why the First Lady was in an unmarked plane flying over the Alaskan wilderness. In her note she gives gruesome instructions to kill all involved even those on our side. However, he disobeys her orders to kill all when he sees the torture of two elderly people even if worldwide destruction may be caused by them. Travis assumes there is another way to save the world from the maniac using a gizmo that grants wishes. If he had the otherworldly artifact he might choose the daughter of a scientist Paige Campbell as his though he admits to himself she can probably take him; but first Tangent top secret department has enlisted Travis to help guard the portal that enables these odd gadgets to come to earth from a technology light-years beyond ours.

Over the top of the North Pole, this is a terrific action-packed thriller with a science fiction time paradox twist. Fans need set aside as the story line is faster than a speeding bullet, light and Indiana Jones. Readers who appreciate action to the nth degree with a body count that is beyond the troposphere will want to go “North to Alaska, north the rush is on”.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 18, 2009

Gutshot Straight-Lou Berney

Gutshot Straight
Lou Berney
Morrow, Jan 5 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061766046

After spending three years behind bars, Charles “Shake” Bouchon is freed by the State of California. He loathed his time in prison and vowed to stay clean by opening up a restaurant.

In Los Angeles powerful Armenian mob kingpin Alexandra Ilandryan offers Shake a chance to make some money. He accepts the work from his former employer to deliver a package to associates in Vegas and return with a briefcase. However the package he is bringing to insane mob mogul Dick “the Whale” Moby turns out to be Gina Clement, who claims to be a housewife, but is a con artist who shammed Moby Dick. Instead of completing the delivery, Shake decides to run away with Gina and some rare valuable religious icons with irate mobsters from two states, their hit men, and others with a grudge against one or both of the couple on the lam. However, Shake soon realizes the most dangerous of the bunch is his running companion.

Any moment readers will expect to find Elmore Leonard driving the vehicle as this great crazy crime caper will remind the audience of the great author’s wild rides. The story line is fast-paced, seemingly out of control at times (though never happens), and filled with zany action. The cast is strong especially the lead couple and the mob leaders as Lou Berney proves “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Harriet Klausner

Howl Deadly-Linda O. Johnston

Howl Deadly
Linda O. Johnston
Berkley, Dec 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425231593

When she was a big shot Los Angeles attorney Kendra Ballantyne hated her on call 24/7 life. She reengineered her lifestyle becoming a pet-sitter who also works animal rights cases. Adding to her belief she lives the near perfect harmonious life is her boyfriend Dante DeFrancisco, owner of HotPets pet supply chain.

Dante sponsors HotWildAnimals sanctuary in the San Bernardino Mountains. Everyone is ecstatic over the birth of three wolf pups. However, the elation is tempered by the fact that the mother is missing, which means feeding the infants from bottles. The biggest concern is that for the wolf to vanish from the compound required a human letting her out or perhaps abducting her for ransom. Kendra meets Dante’s friend, movie star Brody Avilla, who seems to exclude her when the men talk seriously with one another. She conducts an inquiry starting with Dante’s computer that leads her to employee Jon Doe, who’s found dead in the wolf enclosure.

The latest Pet Sitter amateur sleuth whodunit (see Double Dog Dare and Never Say Sty) is an enjoyable tale with two mysteries; first there is the missing she-wolf and second identifying a killer. The shift in locale refreshes the fun series as Kendra’s enthusiasm is catching. Although she has success in catching criminals including murderers, readers, especially newcomers, will have doubts that the pet sitter should investigate the homicide even with the missing mother mystery seemingly tied to the murder. Still fans will enjoy Kendra’s latest whodunit as her energy, élan and love of animals (as well as Dante) make for an appealing investigative story.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Double Black-Wendy Clinch

Double Black
Wendy Clinch
Minotaur, Jan 5 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312593261

Although she fantasized skiing all over New England, Stacey Curtis is an engaged graduate student doing what her family and fiancé consider proper. That changes when she catches her once future husband cheating on her. Without a second thought, Stacey leaves Boston, school, and her fiancé to enjoy the slopes of Vermont.

The new ski bum loves her life ay Spruce Peak until she returns to her chalet to find a corpse with a necktie made from a chain saw’s chain. She calls the police with plans of not getting involved beyond answering questions. However, Stacey finds herself investigating though she keeps ridiculing herself for being an inane inept amateur sleuth. However, her inquiry allows her to spend time with sexy ski patroller Chip Walsh, which makes the danger of being the second victim seem insignificant.

The first Ski Diva amateur sleuth is a lighthearted whodunit that fans will enjoy because of the heroine’s demeanor as she is more than just a fluffy snowflake. Mindful of Redford’s Downhill Racer, readers will appreciate skiing the slopes of the Green Mountains with Wendy Clinch as our instructor; as Stacey joins the Vermont world of Archer Mayor’s Joe Gunther; although her inquiry is lot lighter than that of the super cop.

Harriet Klausner

Requiem in Vienna-J. Sydney Jones

Requiem in Vienna
J. Sydney Jones
Minotaur, Feb 2 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312383909

In 1899 at the Vienna Court Opera, a blazing curtain falls from above barely missing the famous director Gustav Mahler, but hits and kills a performer standing near the renowned composer-conductor. This is not the first incident apparently aimed at Gustav though this is the first deadly assault.

Private inquirer Karl Werthen is hired to keep Mahler safe and uncover who the stalker is before this person succeeds in his or her deadly intent. With his pregnant wife Berthe insisting on helping Karl, he also asks criminologist Hanns Gross to join the investigation into the deadly incident, previous threats and new accidental attacks that seem to target Mahler. Their inquiry leads to music rivalries starting with the composer Richard Wagner and with antisemitism though Mahler is a former Jew.

Requiem in Vienna is a superb historical mystery that uses the terrific private investigation as a springboard to present life in Vienna at the turn of the last century. The story line is fast-paced as Karl worries about his beloved Berthe who insists on being part of the inquiry team while working through the mud of the music world, which proves no waltz. Fans who prefer a strong historical presence in their mysteries will enjoy this delightful whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

City of Dragons-Kelli Stanley

City of Dragons
Kelli Stanley
Minotaur, Feb 2010, $
ISBN: 9780312603601

In 1940 San Francisco, the Chinese are very much aware of what the Japanese are doing to their homeland. In a relief effort, leaders are putting on a Rice Bowl party to send aid to the beleaguered Chinese back home. Thirty-three year old private investigator Miranda Corbie is in Chinatown enjoying the gala when she sees a man lying in the street; she goes to help him, but is too late as he was shot to death.

She learns the name of the victim is Eddie Takahashi and she intends to identify his killer. Although Miranda works hard on the case on spite of the police wanting it closed due to international implications, she makes little progress. Meanwhile the private investigator takes on another case; that of Helen Winters who wants to know whether her recently deceased husband allegedly died from a heart attack as the cops insist or murder as she believes. Corbie soon finds the last thing she expected, a link between her two inquiries through drug trafficking, but though obstinate and intrepid, she knows she will uncover the identity of the killer, but could do so as the third victim.

This is a dark gritty historical female Noir starring a woman who is trying to make a life for herself following the death of her beloved in the Spanish Civil War (described in flashbacks by Corbie who was there too). Whereas the two crimes mirror what is happening in China with the Japanese invasion, readers will thoroughly enjoy this fabulous historical mystery especially those who appreciate a strong sense of the era even if at times Corbie’s Noir voice feels too Chandlerish.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Paganini's Ghost-Paul Adam

Paganini's Ghost
Paul Adam
Minotaur, Jan 5 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312383855

Assistant curator of antiquities for the city of Genoa Enrico Golinelli surrounded by a mob of his sycophants arrives at the workshop of elderly renowned violin maker Giovanni Castiglione. They need the artisan to inspect the legendary treasure, Nicolo Paganini's priceless il Cannone to insure it is in perfect condition for tonight’s gala performance. Russian Yevgeny Ivanov won a contest for the right to play the instrument at a recital in the Cremona Cathedral.

Following Ivanov's incredible performance, news arrives that that Parisian art dealer Francois Villeneuve has been murdered. Detective Antonio Guastafe leads the investigation, but asks Castiglione to assist him especially since the fine arts are involved starting with a locked golden box allegedly belonging to Paganini. Castiglione opens the box by using Paganini's music as the key and inside is a letter from Napoleon's sister Elisa Baciocchi as the case spins out of control with an alleged abduction.

The second Castiglione historical whodunit (see The Rainaldi Quartet) is a great nineteenth century tale that uses music as the core of a murder mystery. The investigation is terrific as Guastafe brings in an expert he trusts to interpret the music clues while the key cast is fully developed. Sub-genre fans will enjoy Paul Adam conducting a musical mystery tour of nineteenth century Europe though the eyes of master violin maker Castiglione with over five decades in the art of construction and restoration.

Harriet Klausner

Through the Heart- Kate Morgenroth

Through the Heart
Kate Morgenroth
Plume, Dec 29 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780452295896

The Hamptons, New York police report describes a homicide that actually began in Kansas. Nora works at a coffee shop in Kansas where she cannot afford to buy a cup. She also cares for her cancer stricken mother who is undergoing expensive chemo treatments for leukemia in Kansas City, a long drive.

Timothy is a spoiled rich kid living in Manhattan off his family millions. He stops in the coffee shop where he and Nora meet. They are instantly attracted to one another as they fit well together since she is a submissive and he is a bully. Besides desire for each other; they each loathe their respective families. The fairy tale ending is found in the police report.

Points of view rotate mostly between Nora and Timothy with the police investigation thrown in periodically as the reader wonders until the final twist as to who the victim is. Although the love at first sight seems over the top of Mount Sunflower with this couple as she is a mouse and he is selfish, the story line hooks the reader anyway with anticipation while following the fascinating bittersweet love story; pondering throughout who will be left standing in police custody.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Little Death-P.J. Parrish

The Little Death
P.J. Parrish
Pocket, Feb 16 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781416525899

In Devil’s Garden on the Archer Ranch, cowboys find the body of a man in approximately the same place that the corpse of the owner’s son was found twenty-eight years ago. The police identify the dead person as Mark Durand, lover of Reggie Kent of Palm Beach. Reggie is a walker who escorts wealthy women to events that their husbands do not want to attend. The work enables him to enter the upper crust of society without spending any of his money and excludes sex.

Police detective Roy Barbary believes Reggie killed Mark during a lover’s quarrel and in a further fit if rage decapitated the victim. Private investigator Louis Kincaid with his friend former cop Mel Landeta, who is going blind, arrive to help the latter’s pal Reggie clear his name. As they investigate, they discover two more similar homicides spread out over the years with the decapitated bodies found at that same spot. The men have in common being studly handsome in physique and looks and financially needy. Louis believes if the killer(s) is not stopped soonest, a fourth murder will occur, but the answers are concealed inside the close knit elite of Palm Beach society; a place where a dick and an ex cop will never gain entrance.

P.J. Parrish always provides a strong tale starring a special hero who is black working in white Palm Beach without regard to the rage of the affluent locals that a working class African-American dare question any of them; three strikes and he still swings the bat. Filled with plenty of action but clearly character driven, The Little Death is a top notch whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Eye of the Raven-Eliot Pattison

Eye of the Raven
Eliot Pattison
Counterpoint, Jan 12 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9781582435664

In 1760 thanks mostly to his new friend Nipmuc tribal Shaman Conawago, Duncan McCallum has begun to move past the British massacre of his clan back in Scotland. Traveling together, they find the corpse of affluent Virginia militia commander Winston Burke nailed to a tree with a gear wheel buried into his chest. Because he is an Indian, local Pennsylvanian Colony authorities suspect Conawago killed Burke; who is not the first victim to die this way, as other surveyors have also been brutally killed.

The colonial authorities and the British military leaders assume someone opposed to a treaty between the Iroquois and the British is the culprit, which enhances the belief Conawago is the killer. Still they write it off as another death due to the war with the French. However Burke’s outraged cronies demand immediate justice, colonial style. They do not require a trial to hang Conawago which leaves it to McCallum to rush his investigation in order to save the life of his friend.

This is a superb Colonial American mystery due to a powerful cast who brings the era alive especially not widely known tidbits all inside a terrific whodunit. The story line grips the audience from the opening act as Duncan and the Jesuit trained Conawago come across the corpse, which by reporting it leads to trouble. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this taut thriller as time is running out before mob justice lynches Conawago .

Harriet Klausner

The Lock Artist-Steve Hamilton

The Lock Artist
Steve Hamilton
Minotaur, Jan 5 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312380427

Although he is silent and has been mute since a traumatic incident back in 1990 when he was eight, Mike Smith has become the “Golden Boy” box man as he can open any safe. He realized his skill as a proficient box man when he was seventeen years old. Since his ability as the Lock Artist of choice he has been in demand by criminals who need his talent.

Mike has spent nine years in prison for his artistic safe breaking skills. However even as his prime client in Detroit must never be angered or else, Mike meets and falls in love with Amelia. A throwback to a gentler romantic time, Mike vows to keep his beloved safe from perils he imagines that lead him into a deadly multimillion-dollar con that requires him to escape a locked box murder.

As Alex McKnight takes a winter’s break, fans will enjoy Mike Smith’s biographical fictional mystery; as he relates his tale to an enthralled audience. The story line is fast-paced especially after Mike moves past lock breaking 101 and 102 as the antihero begins to get into deep trouble with his mob peers after falling in love. Fans will relish his escapades as ironically he must extract himself from a locked “box” mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Foolproof- Barbara D'Amato, Jeanne M. Dams, Mark Richard Zubro

Barbara D'Amato, Jeanne M. Dams, Mark Richard Zubro
Forge, Dec 22 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765322661

During the 9/11 assaults on the Twin Towers, Brenda Grant and Daniel Henderson, who worked in the World Trade Center, were in the Brew-Ha-Ha coffee shop. Their contemporaries at a software firm including Brenda’s fiancé Jeremy die in the terrorist attack.

As the 2008 presidential election winds down, in Manhattan someone pushes thirtyish computer engineer Sarah Swettenham into traffic. Swettenham was to meet with Grant who along with Henderson opened up AllTech, a software security firm. When Grant learns Swettenham’s computers are missing, she concludes an assailant deliberately killed her and stole her computers. National Security Agency’s Allen Cooper already hired them to look into polling machine fraud; now their two inquiries converge in Cairo and DC.

This is an exciting over the top of the Washington Monument, the Pyramids and football nation as the conspiracy tied to elections never quite gets grounded. Still this is a fun tale that uses real American election dirty tactics and fraud (thankfully ignoring the phony issue of an individual at the poll voting as someone else) committed by both parties as the base for an enjoyable steal the presidential election conspiracy thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Man from Beijing-Henning Mankell

The Man from Beijing
Henning Mankell
Knopf, Feb 16 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780307271860

In January 2006 in Sweden, the police arrive at Hesjovallen to find a battered corpse on the outskirts of the jarringly silent village. Eighteen more severely destroyed bodies are found inside homes; not one living person remains inside the hamlet with no clues where they went. Dissonantly from the brutal scene is a red ribbon and a nineteenth century diary written by Andren as a gang master of Chinese slaves working the transcontinental railway found in the snow near the first body the cops saw.

Judge Birgitta Roslin reads about the worst mass murder massacre in Swedish history. She is stunned that her Andren grandparents are among the dead; but even more shocking the branch of the Andren family living in Nevada were also brutally murdered. She feels compelled to learn what happened in Hesjovallen and Nevada. The clues from the diary already take her back to the American Civil War and China then and now; as well Zimbabwe and Mozambique. However, all roads eventually lead to London's Chinatown.

Although Wallander takes a deserved respite, fans of Henning Mankell will fully appreciate this super thriller that focuses on modern day global issues with links back to the middle of the nineteenth century. The story line is fast-paced driven predominately by Birgitta as she disagrees with the police conclusion that a lunatic committed the mass murders. She thinks a deliberate intelligent person on a vendetta killed those whose blood caused generational blood flow of his or her family. The Man from Beijing is a one sitting winner.

Harriet Klausner

Split Image-Robert B. Parker

Split Image
Robert B. Parker
Putnam, Feb 23 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780399156236

Paradise, Massachusetts is not the place where one would expect major crimes, but like any town in America, they do happen here too. Sunny Randall, private investigator and sometimes lover of the Chief of Police Jesse Stone, comes to town at the behest of her clients. They want her to rescue their daughter Cheryl DeMarco from the cult Bond of Renewal who promotes peace and love. Cheryl refuses to leave, but soon afterward vanishes. Sunny needs to find her because she believes her parents kidnapped her and she is legally an adult.

At the same time, Jesse has a double homicide to investigate. Two allegedly retired gangsters (Reggie Galen and Knocko Moynihan) were married to identical twins (Becca and Robbie) and lived next door to one another inside gated communities Petrov Ognowski, a former foot soldier in Galen’s mob, was found dead in the trunk of his car. Galen’s brother-in-law Knocko was gunned down in what looked like a professional hit. Petrov’s irate father, a powerful mob boss, plans to find his son’s killer before the cops do; this adds pressure on Jesse to solve the case with evidence he can bring to the District Attorney.

This short concise mystery conjures up vivid images as Robert B. Parker provides a powerful thriller. Split Image brings together Sunny and Jesse once again (see High Profile, Shrink Rap and Family Honor) as they take their relationship one step further as each deals with the loss of their ex’s by talking to separate shrinks. Their respective subplot inquiries make for a powerful story line as she looks deep inside a dangerous cult and he looks deep inside a dangerous mob. Who needs Spenser when you have Sunny and Jesse?

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Black Rain-Graham Brown

Black Rain
Graham Brown
Dell, Jan 26 2010, $7.99
ISBN 9780553592412

National Research Institute (NRI) undercover operative Danielle Laidlaw leads a specially selected team on a journey into the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest in search of a lost legendary Mayan Underworld Xibalba. Their goal is to learn the source of mysterious radioactive crystals that appears to be a cheap clean energy source brought back in artifacts by Blackjack Martin in 1926, but ignored until now.

In Manaus, Brazil, colleague Arnold Moore shocks her when he tells her she goes in alone as Operations Director Gibbs recalled him to DC. Irate but intrepid Laidlaw trusts no one on this expedition to have her back; as Moore was the one person she would and could depend on with her life. Having her transportation and supplies bought from under her; Laidlaw knows her party is not the only group searching for Xibalba. Ruthless billionaire Richard Kaufman will kill to monopolize the technology. Danger also lurks from tribes like the nomadic Chollokwan that kill trespassers and a strange creature that is even more dangerous. Unbeknownst to Laidlaw and her team is that they are the second unit NRI sent into the Amazon; the first group is presumed dead.

Black Rain is an exciting Mayan mythological thriller with a frantic pace once Laidlaw leaves Manaus for the jungle. Filled with violence and brutality including some unnecessarily overly described passages that feel more like page fillers than graphic escapades, readers will be caught up with one of the fastest action-packed thrillers of the year; seat belts are a requirement.

Harriet Klausner

Winterland-Alan Glynn

Alan Glynn
Minotaur, Feb 2 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312539221

In a pub in Dublin, someone guns down minor league drug dealer Noel Rafferty. Later that same night his uncle with the identical name dies in a strange car accident. The police proclaim the first death as a gangland homicide and the second as a coincidental accident.

Gina Rafferty rejects the police summation while the cops and most of the family reject her belief that someone sinister is getting away with a double murder. She is ignored because she grieves for her nephew and her brother. Mourning but outraged, Gina investigates the connections between her two dead relatives besides DNA and death. She knew her brother worked on the Richmond Plaza project with avaricious developer Paddy Norton, who has connections with avaricious politician Larry Bolger. Gina is convinced these two powerful greedy partners are behind the deaths in her family and sets out to find the proof.

The key to this terrific Irish Noir is the cast including the city is super solid as the key players come across genuine at a time the Irish economy is in the toilet and about to be flushed to sea. Gina is obstinate and courageous yet treated like a grieving dolt so even as the cops, family, the villains and others warn her to stop her inquiry they treat her as a harmless idiot until the realization she is closing in on the truth. Winterland is a super amateur sleuth as the truth may free you but not in this case.

Harriet Klausner

Victim Six-Gregg Olsen

Victim Six
Gregg Olsen
Pinnacle, Feb 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780786020447

In the Puget Sound area, Samuel and Melody Castile abduct Celesta Delgado. They rape and torture her before killing her. Victim number two is Marissa who receives the same treatment from the married couple. The count rises as the married couple stalks, hunts, and kidnaps their targets.

Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office Detective Kendall Stark knows a vicious serial killer-rapist is on the loose. At the same time the cop fears the worst is happening in her county, Melody’s sister Serenity thinks her brother-in-law may be a killer; at a minimum she knows he is a lunatic. She fears for melody’s safety, unaware that Samuel has selected her as Victim Six and that her sibling is not just aware of her spouse’s murders, but a willing participant.

Victim Six hooks the reader due to the up front and in person deep look at the killing couple as the fast-paced story line comes across with an odd duality of feeling on one hand the story seems over the top of Mt. Rainier and on the other the tale seems plausible. This dichotomy demonstrates why Gregg Olsen is so good at suspense thrillers as readers will believe the Castile duo could have been the villains in the Frighteners as much as Disturbia. Well written and exciting from start to finish, fans will be hooked even knowing who the killers are early on and anticipate the sibling showdown. With a slick final twist, Victim Six is a super serial killer thriller.

Harrier Klausner

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Proof Is In The Pudding-Melinda Wells

The Proof Is In The Pudding
Melinda Wells
Berkley, Feb 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425233115

In North Hollywood, public relations specialist Phil Logan informs widow Della Carmichael, the hostess of In the Kitchen With Della, that she is one of the three judges selected to score the Celebrity Cook-off charity event at the Olympia Grand Hotel. The other two judges are Yvette Dupree and Keith Ingram. Phil warns her that her Della’s Sweet Dreams partner Eileen O’Hara is seeing womanizing Keith, who rumors have it will dump her to marry wealthy Tina Long, daughter of the Olympia Grand’s owner. Keith dumps Eileen, but tells her she will be his mistress as he has tapes of their sexual encounters with his face blurred that he will release.

At the gala, Eileen’s father Police Detective John O’Hara punches Keith in the face. While cook Wolf Wheeler performs an incredible juggling act with pots, pans and food, someone releases a smoke bomb. When the air clears and the panic ends, Keith is dead from a knife to his throat. The prime suspect is John, who the lead detective Hatch (known fondly by Della as Hatchet) hates.

Although readers know who will be murdered when Eileen hysterically calls “Aunt” Della, fans will enjoy the latest Della Cooks mystery (see Della Takes the cake). Della is courageous as an amateur sleuth and insane as a break and enter “thief” when she sneaks into the victim’s home to attempt to steal the tapes. With wonderful recipes after case solved and some included in the whodunit, culinary mystery fans will appreciate Della’s risking her life to keep Eileen out of a sex scandal and prove John did not commit the homicide.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Surgeon-Michael Palmer

The Last Surgeon
Michael Palmer
St. Martin's, Feb 16 2010, $26.99
ISBN 9780312587499

Former battlefield trauma surgeon Dr. Nick Garrity suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following a suicide attack on his field hospital in Afghanistan. Back home in Baltimore, Nick runs the Helping Hands RV mobile clinic that provides medical care to the homeless while struggling to contain his PTSD symptoms.

At the same time Nick drives the streets of the city, someone kills Central Charlotte Medical Center Cardiac Surgery ICU nurse Belle Coates in Charlotte, North Carolina. Belle's sister Jillian leaves her home in Virginia to uncover the identity of the person who killed her sibling. She soon finds a tie to Nick and his homeless clients; several of whom have abruptly vanished from the streets as if swept away; neither realizes who is spying on them.

The Last Surgeon is a fast-paced enthralling conspiracy medical thriller that grips the audience with a need to know why the homeless are vanishing and the professional hit man killed Belle. Nick is a fascinating protagonist who suffers from PTSD while Jill is a kick butt heroine. Fans will enjoy Michael palmer’s latest action-packed tale as the CIA secretly operates.

Harriet Klausner

The Boys from Santa Cruz-Jonathan Nasaw

The Boys from Santa Cruz
Jonathan Nasaw
Atria, Feb 16 2010, $25.00
ISBN 9781416591788

In 1985, FBI special agent E.L. Pender was working a serial killer case in Marshall City, California when he and others went after Luke Sweet, maker of snuff films and his Trannie significant other, Teddy Swantzer. Neither Luke nor Teddy survived the police assault.

However, Sweet’s teenage son at the time Little Luke lived knowing he will always be ostracized as the son of a serial killer as he is locked away in an asylum. Now a decade later, twenty-five years old Little Luke has a list of those who he blames for his misfortunate life; they must die. When the asylum explodes, everyone assumes Little Luke is dead except Pender, who fears the son is following the father with the recent murder of his grandparents. Pender returns to Santa Cruz, but a serial killer Asmador is following Little Luke’s list, murdering people on it; Pender knows he is on it.

The newest Pender FBI thriller (see Twenty-seven Bones, The Girl He Adored and When She Was Bad) is a super tale that grips the audience from the opening act when Luke calls Little Luke to tell him sh*t is coming as the FBI was closing in on him. From there the tale never misses a beat as a decade later the apparent retaliatory murders begin. The suspense is incredible making it nearly impossible to put down The Boys from Santa Cruz as Pender stalks his stalker.

Harriet Klausner

The Midnight House-Alex Berenson

The Midnight House
Alex Berenson
Putnam, Feb 9 2010, $25.95
ISBN 9780399156205

Following the New York incident (see The Silent Man), CIA agent John Wells receives some needed R&R. He takes off for rustic New Hampshire with only his dog Tonka as his hiking mate.

However, his respite abruptly ends when his assignments boss Ellis Shafer calls asking him to come back to work as he is needed. An assassin has killed probably five members of the defunct 10 manned Task Force 673, whose mission was to interrogate high-value terrorists; they had no rules except obtain information anyway they can. John searches for the killer with the biggest barriers coming from within as security agency chiefs are willing to allow more Americans to die in order to gain more power.

Shakespeare said “All’s well that ends well”, but even if he ends the serial killing spree, the espionage operative learns otherwise as Pogo trumps the Bard with “we have met the enemy and he is us”. The latest Wells’ spy thriller is more a whodunit except for the penis envy testosterone wars between the American spy agencies. Fans will appreciate Alex Berenson’s super thriller as his hero may be The Faithful Spy, but others place agency desires over national security.

Harriet Klausner

Stolen Seduction-Elisabeth Naughton

Stolen Seduction
Elisabeth Naughton
Love Spell, Jan 2010, $6.99
ISBN 9780505527950

With the murders of her father and her cousin, police officer Hailey Roarke has become the prime suspect as she has the motive of inheritence. Ironically Hailey became a cop because she preferred law enforcement over the profitable family business. However, now Hailey races against the real killer trying to solve the riddle of the six statues in order to control Roarke Resorts. Thus she breaks into the home of her late cousin to steal a bronze statue.

Detective Shane Maxwell is assigned the two homicide cases. He and Hailey met at his sister's wedding and he was instantly attracted to her. Although he knows she might have killed her cousin and even her father, Shane risks his career and perhaps his life to help her solve her father’s puzzler and prove her innocence.

The third Stolen thriller (see Fury and Heat) is once again more an action investigative tale than a romance as the lead couple focuses on the inquiry more than their attraction. This makes the tale work as it did in Stolen Heat although as previous the romance is powerful while enhancing the whodunit. Fans will enjoy the efforts of Hailey and Shane as they fall in love while he decides between arresting her for murder and making love with her.

Harriet Klausner

Death by the Book- Lenny Bartulin

Death by the Book
Lenny Bartulin
Minotaur, Jan 19 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780312559724

With the economy still in recession, in Sydney, Australia, used-book dealer Jack Susko is concerned about surviving. So when affluent businessman, Hammond Kasprowicz asks him to retrieve all the works of a poet he never heard of at $50 for each book retrieved; repeat copies of the same poetry book is acceptable. Strapped for money, Jack jumps at the deal.

Susko searches for copies of the works of Edward Kass; he ignores his own curiosity as to why the client wants them. Although he knows not to get involved personally, he cannot resist the lure of Kasprowicz's daughter, Annabelle. However, the case turns nasty when instead of just the required tomes, corpses begin to surface. With a cop watching his every move as the prime suspect in the homicides especially in light of his background, Susko decides to uncover the real killer before the police arrest him on shaky circumstantial evidence or he becomes the next victim.

This is a terrific Australian hard-boiled amateur sleuth as Susko adapts from searching for books to searching for a killer; his chutzpah assumption is there is no difference between death by the Book or death by a murderer. His asides and commentary are amusing and acerbic as he investigates the killings before the cops throw the book at him.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wild Penance-Sandi Ault

Wild Penance
Sandi Ault
Berkley, Feb 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780425232323

Bureau of Land Management Resource Protection Agent Jamaica Wild works out of the Taos, New Mexico filed office. She runs along fences to make sure there are no holes in them; if they contain rips usually means someone is doing something illegal. One morning while running Jamaica stares up at the Rio Grande Gorge bridge only to see activity where there should be none. Two men drops a cross with a man tied to it into the river below; the current takes the cross with its rider.

Jamaica believes someone wants to disguise a murder by making it look as if the ancient Christian sect Los Penitentes, who reenact Jesus' crucifixion as part of their extreme penance, committed the act. She learns the corpse is Father Ignatius who warned her to stop asking questions about Los Penitentes who react rather swiftly and ugly to inquiries and loathe outsiders asking questions about them. Three men break into her car to steal a book Jamaica is writing about this sect. A car follows her and her house is broken into. However, the trauma she faces is raised when someone tries to kill her at a lingerie show. Not one to idly sit back, Jamaica with an unexpected ally goes after her tormentor with help from the late Father Ignatius.

Fans are going to love the latest Wild thriller as we are thoroughly drawn into the world of a little known sub-culture that receives support from the masses. The sect conducts much of its practices un secret because the Catholic Church would prefer they vanish as their modern day penance is considered extreme by most people. The protagonist is a strong woman who may receive a lot of punishment, but obstinately refuses to back down as she remains dedicated and committed although the danger mounts. Jamaica is terrific, but Wild Penance is owned by Los Penitentes.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Treasure Hunt-John Lescroart

Treasure Hunt
John Lescroart
Dutton, Jan 12 2010, $26.95
ISBN: 9780525951445

In San Francisco private investigator Wyatt Hunt is feeling the economic down turn as clients are almost nonexistent. His receptionist Tamara Dade quit leaving Wyatt with one employee her brother, Mickey, who is bored and wants field work, but no clients hire the firm.

Mickey has his chance when he finds the body of activist Dominic Como, who was on the board of over a dozen charities. He persuades his boss to let him investigate, which should bring in fame and money. Several suspects surface with strong motives from money to jealousy, but the prime person that Hunt and Dade focus on is Alicia Thorpe; and not just because she is beautiful, but due to her acting as if she is concealing something from the cops and the sleuths.

The latest Wyatt Hunt private investigator case (see The Hunt Club) is a fast-paced thriller that seems to go nowhere until a final gala with cops and suspects so that the hero can pull a dead rabbit out of the hat. Still Treasure Hunt is fun to follow as Wyatt and Mickey work the city streets to solve the case of the charity mogul murder.

Harriet Klausner

Thereby Hangs a Tail-Spencer Quinn

Thereby Hangs a Tail
Spencer Quinn
Atria, Jan 5 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9781416585855

Chet’s human pet Bernie Little is a private investigator, whom the canine helps solve cases by using his nose and bark. Their current client is Countess Adelina di Borghese from Passaic, New Jersey, who lives on an expensive ranch with plenty of horses also residing there as she has come a long way from being an urban Jersey girl. Bernie has been hired because of threats to her and her pampered dog show-dog Princess. The case is an utter bore to Chet and tedious to Bernie as nothing happens and barking is disallowed.

However, the situation on the ground changes when the Countess and her royal canine princess are kidnapped and dog-napped respectively. The search and rescue mission goes badly as Chet is separated from Bernie only to be snatched and sold to a punk running away to Alaska. Escaping this miscreant Chet ends up having the military try to kill him when he accidentally wanders on to an exercise site to take a decent leak. However, Bernie becomes truly motivated when reporter Susie Sanchez disappears while covering the abduction of Princess story. Chet’s motive is doggie treat and a hero’s welcome, canine style from one of the snobbish victims.

The key to this canine noir told mostly by Chet in between bodily needs is that first and foremost he comes across as a dog and not a “human” inside a canine’s skin. Chet makes the tale of the tail as he relates stories or follows clues partially only to be sidetracked by a need like a good tree or a cat. The kidnapping story line is well written and entertaining as fans will enjoy Chet’s escapades Dog On It in a world in which humans make stupid rules of where to pee, mount, bark, bite, and eat as if canines are the ones not doing what comes natural.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Deadly Wilderness-Kelly Irvin

A Deadly Wilderness
Kelly Irvin
Five Star, Jan 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148439

In San Antonio, Texas, homicide detective Ray “Bible Boy” Johnson is hiking with two youngsters (Benny and Marco) when his girlfriend Susana Acosta's eight-year-old son Marco falls down a ravine and lands near the body of Joey Doyle. Ray falls also trying to prevent Marco from falling. Ray suffers a concussion, rib and ankle injuries while Marco has a broken wrist.

The killer cut off Joey’s ring finger as apparently some sort of souvenir so Ray knows this was a homicide. He calls his boss Sergeant Samuel Martinez, who is Susana’s brother. Sam assigns Ray’s in your face partner Detective Deborah Smith to be in charge of the investigation and tells Ray to stay out of it and heal. Since Joey is the son of a wealthy car dealership owner, the cops focus on his extended family. Meanwhile Lalo Hernandez knows the corpse he dumped in the ravine was found too soon so he may have to do some additional cleaning starting with two witnesses and perhaps the cop and kids, his style.

This is an entertaining inspirational police procedural with a strong cast (no pun intended). The inquiry is top rate while the characters have real issues. For instance, Susana worries about her son’s safety and the incident affirms her belief while Deborah has her own demons. Hernandez is a sinister villain who is the opposite of caring Bible Boy Ray who is a true believer. Although dubbed Bible Boy and Mr. Grace, Ray does not shove Christianity down the throats of his peers, his beloved and the readers as the super investigation is the story line.

Harriet Klausner

Bits and Pieces-Annette Mahon

Bits and Pieces
Annette Mahon
Five Star, Jan 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148453

In Scottsdale, Arizona, an explosion in their home kills Kate Upland and her five-year-old twin daughters. The police believe Kate’s husband, an Iraq veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, killed his family as Kenny is an explosives expert.

Six months later, Senior Guild elderly quilter Clare Patterson sees Kenny featured on TV’s Wanted Criminals and knows him from St. Rose bazaars when he and his three females would attend; now she recognizes him at a Big-mart. Clare calls her St. Rose quilting friend Maggie Browne while following Kenny as he leaves town. When Clare crashes near his rustic hideaway, Kenny rescues her. He persuades her he may suffer from PTSD, but would never harm his family.

The third St. Rose Quilting Bee cozy (see A Phantom Death and An Ominous Death) is an interesting mystery that starts with a whisper, but never gets much louder as the action is limited for the most part. The cast is solid especially the lead trio of Maggie, Clare and Kenny as he pleads his defense to the two women that he did not kill his family. Although more a character study of a PTSD veteran than a whodunit (if not him), fans will enjoy Kenny making a case that he is innocent.

Harriet Klausner

Dead on Arrival-Jackie Griffey

Dead on Arrival
Jackie Griffey
Five Star, Jan 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148460

In Memphis, Tennessee Horace Murphy dies in a motorcycle accident. He leaves behind his widow Maggie with financial issues as her health care ends in sixty days and counting down. Her Aunt Myrtle calls in a blood kin threat favor with her Cuz Hank Hanover at the Herald. Maggie temporarily replaces columnist Fritz Wartz who has failed to show up for work in a couple days. The job becomes permanent when she finds her predecessor’s corpse neat the paper’s dumpster; the Star of David etched into his forehead.

Police detectives Joe Driver and Alan Hill lead the inquiry. Maggie investigates the hate homicide. She is grateful to Joe who looks into Horace's death although he is convinced before he begins the cute widow’s spouse died in an accident. That changes when someone firebombs her home just after she moved out and she was in an accident that suddenly looks sinisterly deliberate.

This is an entertaining zany paranormal cozy in which “Pollyanna”, the ghost of her late husband, the cop, her aunt, Evil Elvira and others investigate the two deaths that impact the heroine. Although Maggie fails to come across as a grieving desperate widow under siege from unknown adversaries and spirits as she is always rosy optimism, even when she gets irritated at someone she tells them off in a kindhearted manner; still fans will root for her. Readers who delight in something a bit different will enjoy her southern sleuthing with living, dead, and a few difficult to say which side of the spectrum they reside on as her compatriots.

Harriet Klausner

Her Highness' First Murder-Peg Herring

Her Highness' First Murder
Peg Herring
Five Star, Jan 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148422

In 1546, Londoners are frightened as a serial killer beheads young women and dresses them in nun’s garb with rosary. The victims were all loose so no one in power cared. However, the murders come to the castle when a member of twelve years old Princess Elizabeth’s retinue is killed.

She and two friends, physician’s son Simon Maldon and Captain of the king's Welsh Guard Hugh Bellows, begin to investigate while trying to conceal the princess’ role from her father, her ailing brother and her older sister. Their inquiry works as witnesses describe a tall man wearing a decorated cloak at several crime scenes. Still they have too many suspects while struggling with a lack of motive.

The Key to this delightful royal historical amateur sleuth is readers will believe the tweener princess and her allies are credible as detectives as they investigate across sections of all social classes residing in London. Although Elizabeth has been an investigator in other series (Karen Harper comes to mind), fans will enjoy her as a mid sixteenth century Nancy Drew.

Harriet Klausner

A Good Knife's Work-Sheila York

A Good Knife's Work
Sheila York
Five Star, Jan 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148415

In 1946 Hollywood screenwriter Lauren Atwell and her boyfriend private investigator Peter Winslow flee the Los Angeles media for New York where she has obtained work on the popular radio serial Adam Drake, For Hire. However, the show is canceled when someone stabbed to death producer Hazel Keane in her locked door office on the eighth floor of the Emory Building.

Lauren uses a pseudonym to obtain work on the rival show Love Always whose offices is on the same floor in the same building as that of Adam Drake at the same the insurance company hires Peter to investigate. The pair uncovers several suspects with motives, but opportunity remains out of reach.

The latest Lauren Atwill historical mystery (see Starstruck Dead) is an enjoyable locked door whodunit that brings to life radio at a time when series were performed over the airwaves. The story line is fast-paced especially once the homicide occurs. With a terrific cast who brings alive radio just after WWII and mindful of Radioland Murders (even if that occurs prior to America’s entry into the war and is more a screwball comedy), A Good Knife Work is a well written super tale as much for its strong whodunit as its fabulous setting.

Harriet Klausner