Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Heavenstone Secrets-V.C. Andrews

The Heavenstone Secrets
V.C. Andrews
Pocket, Dec 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439154953

The two Heavenstone sisters live with their parents in an old Kentucky mansion. The older sibling Cassie is the perfect Heavenstone as she behaves properly everywhere. The younger sister Semantha is prettier, but somehow pales next to her accomplished older sibling.

It is hard to live up to the perfect definition of her parents when everything frightens you which is what Semantha feels. Her biggest fear is that of Cassie who always orders her around when their parents are not there to see the other side. When mother becomes ill and hospitalized, Cassie takes over her role in the household. She scares Semantha even more as the younger Heavenstone feels like a criminal under interrogation by her sibling and fears what her sister is doing to her and her father even as she conceals something that will be obvious in a few months.

The concept of good seed bad seed has been a round a long time (Bette Davis in Dead Ringer, Whatever happened to Baby Jane? and Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte). However, V.C. Andrews keeps it fresh due to Cassie as the perfect teen Machiavellian manipulator though it helps that her pathetic parents prefer not to dig below the surface. Semantha overkills the victim defense as much of the story line she whimpers about her fear of her sister and just about everything else. Although entertaining as readers will wonder if hormones running wild will bring a backbone to Semantha The Heavenstone Secrets contains no Flowers in the Attic.

Harriet Klausner

Term Limits-Vince Flynn

Term Limits
Vince Flynn
Pocket, Dec 2009, $9.99
ISBN: 9781439148105

In Washington DC everyone demands favors or else will take their money and influence to someone who will grant that favor. The American system is built on trading favors, not stock. Senator Fitzgerald was in DC for over four decades; his job as he knows it is to get reelected. However that will never happen as an assassin breaks the senator’s neck in his home. Next stop for the Johnson’s Brothers Plumbing van is putting a bullet through the head of Congressman Koslowski. The final victim of the night is Senator Robert “Prince of Pork” Downs.

Everyone in DC is frightened from the military like precision of the assault. The FBI finds no clues to the murdered Congressman though the Fitzgerald’s homicide differs in means from the other two. Quoting Jefferson, the killers announce a plan to form a new perfect union since the leaders of the present United States chose corruption and reelection over ethics and what is good for the people. Everyone points at everyone else in the usual blame the donkey game. Only fed up first term Congressman Michael O’Rourke, a former marine planning on not rerunning, begins to put together who is behind the assaults.

This is an exciting thriller from the onset and never slows down as Vince Flynn makes the case that party affiliation or political philosophy of those in power is irrelevant as only reelection matters. Although originally published during the Clinton era, the underlying premise holds up through the Bush administration and looks likewise for Obama. Congress is worse as it is has career participants who even when they leave still hold power as lobbyists, etc. The recent Supreme Court decision on election funding will exponentially increase peddling, which adds to the timely reprinting of Mr. Flynn’s cautionary political thriller. Perhaps the only Rapp on Term Limits is Rapp never shows up.

Harriet Klausner

Frame-Up-John F. Dobbyn

John F. Dobbyn
Oceanview, Mar 1 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781933515632

Best friends John McKedrick and Michael Knight graduate from Harvard Law with each accepting a professional position with a legal Bostonian legend. Michael works for his mentor trial attorney Lex Devlin; John becomes an associate of notorious mob lawyer Benny Ignola.

Michael is worried about John as the longer one is associated with the lawyer to mid mob management, the more difficult it would be to practice law in cleaner circumstances. Michael’s fears for his buddy prove underestimated when he awakens in the hospital having survived the car bomb blast that killed John, mob style. The police arrest Peter Santangelo, son of the Mafia chief Dominic. Lex asks his junior partner to defend Peter as the former muses how three friends four decades ago, (Lex, Dominic and Father Matt Ryan) chose diverse paths, but are brought back together due to two friends choosing different paths.

Mindful of Cagney-O’Brien in Angels with Dirty Faces, Frame-Up is a terrific character driven legal thriller that is at its best when the focus is on two generations of best friends going down diverse paths. The story line remains exhilarating, but loses some of the profundity of comparing decisions of seemingly similar people when Michael follows clues re illegal art sales to Amsterdam. Still fans will relish John F. Dobbyn’s superb tale with plenty of dirty rats, beautiful women, but no grapefruit.

Harriet Klausner

Occupied City-David Peace

Occupied City
David Peace
Knopf, Feb 2 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780307263759

On January 26, 1948, in the Occupied City of Toyo, a man claiming to be Dr. Yamaguchi Jiro of the Ministry of Health and Welfare arrives at the Taikoku Bank at closing to explaing to management that dysentery has broken out in the neighborhood. He claims the Occupation sent him to provide medication to those most likely exposed to the disease. They take the medicine, but rather quickly after taking it, twelve die and four fall into a coma.

Dr. Jiro, if that is his name, leaves with all the money. He is a mass murder because he has poisoned his victims. The lead detective is frustrated with the descriptions of witnesses that vary while the media and others claim the incident was a biological weapon experiment by the occupiers but an American Occupation doctor scoffs as that thinking the idea is inane.

This is a super historical whodunit as twelve different people including one of the dead with various perspectives explain how they see what happened while providing a profound look at Tokyo just after World War II as that is how they filter the homicides. Each “lights” a candle for a city weeping, but brings their baggage and psychological defense mechanisms to cope with the horrific mass murder at a time when the country struggles with esteem having lost the war.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Stain on the Silence-Andrew Taylor

A Stain on the Silence
Andrew Taylor
Hyperion, Feb 16 2010, $15.99
ISBN: 9781401302849

Lily Murtheston calls twice asking to speak to Jamie. Since he turned sixteen, everyone calls him James except for one woman back two decades ago when he was in his twenties; so he is taken aback but decides to learn what Lily wants. He muses about being thirteen when he met Lily through her marrying Hugh, the father of his best friend in school Carlo. Dying Lily is in a hospice in Wembley. He goes to see her; Lily informs Jamie that he fathered a child with her years ago; a daughter in trouble needing her father. He insists Katie’s father is Lily’s husband Hugh, but Lily says Jamie owes her.

James meets his daughter Katie just before he leaves the hospice for his home where his wife Nicky is leaving for her book club meeting. Pregnant Katie expects to be arrested for the murder of her former fiancé Sean. She demands her biological father help her; James is confused what to do as his perfect life has been nuked but also fears telling his wife.

This is a fascinating character study of a man who seems to have his life together only to find it collapse with the first troubling intrusion, the knowledge of a daughter he sired during an affair over twenty years ago surfaces. Readers will be stunned by how far James will go to avoid confrontation even not telling his wife; though he fails each time he chooses dodging an altercation behind a denial of responsibilities as a defense mechanism to reduce his anxiety, which never works. Although suspense comes extremely late with a clever Hitchcockian psychological twist, fans will enjoy the aptly titled A Stain on the Silence

Harriet Klausner

Sherlock Holmes: The American Years-Michael Kurland (Editor)

Sherlock Holmes: The American Years
Michael Kurland (Editor)
Minotaur, Feb 2 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312378462

This is a super ten story collection that cleverly chronicles young Holmes in America and Mexico where he meets famous luminaries and solves cases before he becomes the great Baker St. sleuth.

“Inga Sigerson Weds” by Richard A. Lupoff. In 1875 Holmes and his sister arrive in New York for a family wedding.

“My Silk Umbrella” by Darryl Brock. Holmes and Mark Twain meet in Hartford at a baseball match.

“The Old Senator by Steve Hockensmith. Young actor William Gillette and Holmes meet years before the former plays the latter on stage.

“The American Adventure” by Gary Lovisi. In 1876 Holmes meets Dr. Joseph Bell before falling in love with vivacious married Diana Strickland.

“The Sacred White Elephant of Mandalay” by Michael Mallory. In Connecticut, Holmes and P.T. Barnum discuss fooling the public.

“The Curse of Edwin Booth by Carole Bugge. Booth the stage actor hires Holmes to help him with a “curse”.

“The Case of the Reluctant Assassin” by Peter Tremayne. Holmes travels to an Irish town in Nebraska to solve a mystery.

“Cutting for Signs” by Rhys Bowen. On a stagecoach in the New Mexico Territory, robbers make the mistake of holding up Holmes.

“The English Senor” by Marta Randall. Working a case in Mexico, Holmes learns a key lesson that the cold detailed facts are critical, but as significant is the heart behind the details.

“The Stagecoach Detective” by Linda Robertson. In Lakesport, Holmes works the case involving “The Royal family of Silverado”.

Harriet Klausner

Slow Fire-Ken Mercer

Slow Fire
Ken Mercer
Minotaur, Feb 16 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312558352

Knowing he needed a change in location to kick his heroin addiction, narcotics detective Will Magowan leaves LAPD to take the position of police chief in Haydenville, California. His wife chose divorce rather than accompany him to the northern rural part of the state to reside in a trailer.

Will almost immediately needs to apply his homicide detecting skills when the corpse of Caitlyn Johnson is found near a kayak. Soon afterward, Will gets involved in a bar shooting, other violence, and an incident with former Hell’s Angel convicted killer Frank Carver who has become a writer and philanthropist. He also struggles with the town’s greatest growth industry, meth production; the reason Mayor Bonnie Newman hired him but threatens to fire him as instead of abating the flow, it has increased. Will finds a meth stash at the cabin of Henry Bell, but the mark suicides rather than provide Will with information. The police chief believes good citizen Carver is the drug king, but proving it is difficult as nothing works to catch him.

Slow Fire is a fast-paced rural police procedural that shines a spotlight on the small town meth problem that has not felt the impact of the recession; in fact is a growth industry. Will is a fascinating hero who struggles with addiction, his wife leaving him, and the threat of losing his last chance job. Fans will enjoy his stressed out life although some spins seem a bit over Mount Shasta.

Harriet Klausner

Let It Ride-John McFetridge

Let It Ride
John McFetridge
Minotaur, Feb 16 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312599485

Sunitha Suraiya dreams of leaving depressed Detroit, but to achieve her goal she needs money. Working at massage parlors is petty cash; robbing them is just a little more petty cash as is holding up better spas with its white wealthy women. So Sunitha is planning a major heist.

After spending time playing soldier in Afghanistan, Vernard "Get" McGetty is back in the Motor City selling drugs. His contact is JT, chief of the Ontario Saints of Hell biker gang, who dreams of being the druglord of the province and eventually the Dominion. They met in Afghanistan where a drug partnership was formed. Sunitha realizes Get is her mechanism to leave town as he has access to JT who owns a ton of gold bullion he plans to use to buy drugs and she plans to steal from him while cops on both sides of the border salivate over dreaming of a drug war.

This is a wild crime caper starring people with a different moral take than most American-Canadian residents. The exciting Noir story line is character driven especially by Sunitha, Get and JT. Although there is too much going on at times, fans will appreciate this zany tour of Detroit and Toronto with everyone answering whom do you trust with the answer no one not even the person staring back at you in a mirror or worse a person you may love.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 29, 2010

Revenge for Old Times’ Sake-Kris Neri

Revenge for Old Times’ Sake
Kris Neri
Cherokee McGhee, Mar 10 2010, $16.95
ISBN: 9780979969454

Opposites attract is proven with free-spirited Tracy Eaton and her straight-laced husband Drew. They are yin and yang balancing each other while fulfilling the needs of one another. That is why Tracy is shocked when she literally sees her husband fighting with his fellow attorney Ian Dragger in the garage of their office building. Drew insists to Tracy they attend the party celebrating their getting Skippy Sullivan off of a variety of charges that the two lawyers worked on together. At the gala, Skippy introduces Tracy and Drew to juror Riley who persuaded the other jurors that he was innocent.

The next day, they find Ian dead floating in the Eaton swimming pool. The picture of the fight is in the tabloids. Obviously Drew is the prime suspect. Drew’s mother Charlotte calls his former fiancée attorney CeeCee Payne to defend her son. Through her connections, Tracy learns that a hit is put on Drew. With her mother, mother-in-law Charlotte and others allied with helping her, Tracy busts her Drew out of jail. She begins her own investigation so that the worst case scenario that her spouse is murdered doesn’t happen. This leads Tracy and Drew in danger from a killer who is watching their every move.

The third Tracy Eaton revenge mystery (see Dem Bones revenge and Revenge of the Gypsy Queen) is as always a tremendous amateur sleuth mystery as the heroine is a courageous free spirit acting like a bloodhound on the scent of suspects. The scene in which a second corpse is found in the pool is humorous as the Tracy and Her mother and Charlotte struggle with what to do with the body. It is scenes like this that make Kris Neri one of the best whodunit writers as she takes her story line serious, but includes plenty of humor that fits in nicely to the main storyline while entertaining the reader. Fans will enjoy Revenge for Old Times Sakes as we, along with the heroine, wonder if that is CeeCee’s agenda with her erratic defense.

Harriet Klausner

The Devil's Star-Jo Nesbo

The Devil's Star
Jo Nesbo
Harper, Mar 10 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780061133978

Oslo police detective Harry Hole drowns his greatest professional and personal failures with alcohol. He tried to persuade his superiors that Detective Tom Waaler killed Harry’s police partner Ellen Gjelten (see The Redbreast), but no one believed him; Harry also believes the dirty cop sells weapons on the streets. On the personal front, he has been inept in connecting with his girlfriend and her son.

Ironically, Chief Inspector Bjarne Moller teams up Hole and Waaler on the murder investigation of Camilla Loen whose finger was removed and a devil’s star shaped diamond jammed under her eyelid. Harry is assigned a missing person’s case that soon ties back to the Loen murder. Those corpses are followed by similar bodies as Hole realizes a serial killer is on theloose.

The third Hole Norwegian police procedural is a great whodunit as the hero struggles to sober up in order to work the case ALONG side his Nemesis. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down as Harry struggles in all aspects of his life except investigating a homicide. Sub-genre fans will relish his latest caseload on and off the job.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Cold Room-J.T. Ellison

The Cold Room
J.T. Ellison
Mira, Mar 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778327141

Nashville homicide detective Taylor Jackson arrives at a murder scene in which her fiancé FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin is stunned by how similar the corpse is to that of an Italian serial killer, Il Macellaio, a case he has consulted on with New Scotland Yard Inspector James Highsmythe. In the Tennessee case and those throughout Europe, the Butcher starves his victims inside a glass coffin before strangling and finally having sex with them. He completes his horrific act by duplicating masterpieces of art with his dead.

When a second corpse is found similar to the first yet somewhat different than that of the Italian Butcher, the Americans wonder if there are two psychopaths loose. To verify their revised assumption, Taylor and Baldwin travel to Europe to join Highsmythe to uncover the truth they fear of a cross Atlantic contest of sorts.

The Cold Room is an exciting frightening serial killer thriller that grips the audience with the glass coffin scenario; a sort of Sleeping Beauty, but the Prince is Darkness not Charming; the artistic posing of the corpse adds to the eerie aura of the plot. The story line is fast-paced as cops on two continents struggle to prevent the next rape-murder, but are unsure if they are dealing with one or two psychopaths. Readers will be spellbound throughout, but don’t snack as Jackson and Baldwin return for another gripping police procedural (see Judas, Kiss, All The Pretty Girls and 14).

Harriet Klausner

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hazard-Gardiner Harris

Gardiner Harris
Minotaur, Mar 16 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780312570163

In Hazard, Kentucky, the Blue Gem Mine is flooded trapping several coal miners. Amos Blevins tries to rescue his peers in a frantic effort. However, in spite of his attempts, nine men die before the surface help can reach them.

Although his older brother Paul owns the Blue Gem Mine, Mine Safety and Health Administration inspector Will Murphy investigates the tragedy. Everyone assumes a whitewash, but Will detests his sibling so he digs much deeper than anyone expects. He finds problems that are beyond typical management neglect, which could close the mine; leaving his brother bankrupt and the town unemployed; but to do nothing condones unsafe conditions.

This thriller grips the audience from the opening sequence inside the mine and never slows down as the tragedy occurs, the media goes ballistic, and the inspector investigates. Readers will meet a vast cast but besides the brothers it is the surviving miners, their families and those who lost loved ones inside the Blue Gem who make the tale poignant. Will has a difficult choice to make as closing the mine destroys Hazard, but leaving it open destroys families when the next disaster occurs. Gardiner Harris hooks readers with a strong character driven relevant tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Life of O’Reilly-Brian Cohen

The Life of O’Reilly
Brian Cohen
Rising Star (iUniverse), Aug 2009, $17.95
ISBN: 9781440150258

Because of the media brouhaha over bringing in millions and doing nothing for the community, Wall St law firm, Williams, Gardner & Schmidt decide to do some Pro Bono cases. They choose NYS Bar Associate Trial Lawyers Section Chairman and company junior partner Nicholas O’Reilly to handle their first case.

His client is twenty-six year old Dawn Nelson, a mother of not quite three year old Jordan. She wants a divorce and a restraining order to keep her abusive spouse Jimmy, a stockbroker, away from them. Nicholas meets mother and son at the offices of the NYC Legal Services. Though his expertise is corporate law and not family law, Nicholas pledges to do what is best for his client. At their first meeting, he gives Jordan a Thomas truck to play with, which Dawn appreciates. As they work close together, Dawn reminds Nick what matters in life as he finds no satisfaction helping odious fat cats get off from situations they earned. Instead he finds himself working so much harder with so much satisfaction for the indigent mother and child.

The Life of O’Reilly is a deep character driven legal thriller starring a man who learns what life is all about when he takes on his first pro bono case as he has a client with a human face as opposed to a corporate mask (recent Supreme Court decision aside). The story line focuses on the changing attitude of Nick who begins to question is that all there is once he realizes how beautiful a person Dawn is and how precious Jordan is. Readers will appreciate the gift the Nelsons give Nick when they replace his cynicism with hopeful idealism.

Harriet Klausner

Gardiner Harris
Minotaur, Mar 16 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780312570163

In Hazard, Kentucky, the Blue Gem Mine is flooded trapping several coal miners. Amos Blevins tries to rescue his peers in a frantic effort. However, in spite of his attempts, nine men die before the surface help can reach them.

Although his older brother Paul owns the Blue Gem Mine, Mine Safety and Health Administration inspector Will Murphy investigates the tragedy. Everyone assumes a whitewash, but Will detests his sibling so he digs much deeper than anyone expects. He finds problems that are beyond typical management neglect, which could close the mine; leaving his brother bankrupt and the town unemployed; but to do nothing condones unsafe conditions.

This thriller grips the audience from the opening sequence inside the mine and never slows down as the tragedy occurs, the media goes ballistic, and the inspector investigates. Readers will meet a vast cast but besides the brothers it is the surviving miners, their families and those who lost loved ones inside the Blue Gem who make the tale poignant. Will has a difficult choice to make as closing the mine destroys Hazard, but leaving it open destroys families when the next disaster occurs. Gardiner Harris hooks readers with a strong character driven relevant tale.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Conspirata-Robert Harris

Robert Harris
Simon & Schuster, Feb 2 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780743266109

The stage is filled with competitors who know no ethics; the likes of Pompey and that upstart Caesar to name a few. However, as slick as his opponents are, in 63 B.C., Marcus Cicero is chosen as the Consul of Rome though not a good time to take over as ruler with all the unrest further enflamed by his opponents and even his allies.

Two days before the oath of office, a young male slave is brutally murdered with his organs removed in what appears to have been a human sacrificial ritual. Fear spreads through the city and Cicero knows even before he takes over he has issues. As the Empire grows, Cicero concludes the biggest threat to the fall of the Roman Empire is from within by the avaricious seeking personal power. He proves to be right when he is fortunate to prevent an assassination that would turn the Republic into a dictatorship, but his strongest rival Caesar survives the defeated conspiracy proving to Cicero this is his biggest threat.

As told once again by slave secretary Tiro (see Imperum), Conspirata is a superb complex Ancient Rome political thriller with ramifications to modern day America. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action that brings to life Ancient Rome in the first century BC, a place filled with riots, civil unrest, and corruption (could easily be DC). Fans will enjoy this strong saga especially Tiro’s side commentary and observations as to why would anyone with a sane mind want this ruler job when you can read a book or in modern Twitter text watch Rangers’ baseball or Bull’s basketball.

Harriet Klausner

Rogue Threat- A. J. Tata

Rogue Threat
A. J. Tata
Variance, Oct 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781935142096

Having survived the Battle of the Philippines against the Japanese, former CIA field agent Matt Garret heals from his physical wounds, but not mentally. He grieves the loss of brother Zachary who died in the Sudden Threat combat, but also remains outraged by the duplicity in DC that led to his sibling’s death and an unnecessary war.

His new mantra of trust no one is put to the test by Peyton; who comes to his assistance. Meanwhile, effective and efficient terrorist attacks on American soil leave thousands dead. Those directing the assault begin an invasion deployment. Matt leads a counterinsurgency against the terrorists as both sides understand they will die for their cause.

From start to finish, General (Retired) Tata provides an action-packed twisting thriller that grips the audience throughout though the argument of deliberate action on the part of terrorists to suck the Americans into Iraq seems a conspiratorial stretch; a more logical premise is the stupidity of the superiority of the neo Ugly American. The part that feels plausible is the cautionary mantra to trust no one as mass murder on a scale that makes the Twin Towers look like a drive-by will frighten the reader because it seems so possible. Fans will relish this exhilarating military-political thriller as General Tata makes the Pogo case that the enemy is us.

Harriet Klausner

Sudden Threat-A. J. Tata

Sudden Threat
A. J. Tata
Variant, Oct 2010, $9.99
ISBN: 9781935142089

9/11 will go down in infamy, but behind the scenes before, during and after, powerful forces have taken advantage to further secret agendas. Japanese Prime Minister Mizuzawa sees an opportunity in Pacific Asia with the Americans totally occupied with Afghanistan and seemingly Iraq. His New Japan has allies in DC especially with the "The Rolling Stones" who see the terrorist attack on American soil as a chance to redo the world in their image.

In Pakistan CIA Agent Matt Garrett hunts down Al Qaeda top level authorities closing in on bringing home the head of Bin Laden on a platter. As he gets closer to his target working his way through a series on concentric circles protecting Bin Laden; he is abruptly pulled from the region and sent on what seems to him as a minor mission in the jungles of the Philippines. However, once there he finds who should not be there: a dead American soldier. As Matt digs deeper into this anomaly, he begins to realize that Muslim extremism is being used by Japan as a ploy to conceal their ambition to refight WW II with a different outcome.

This is a fast-paced alternate historical thriller that hooks the audience throughout as General (retired) Tata provides an intriguing conspiracy premise. The action never stops coming whether it is in the Middle East, the eastern seaboard or the Asian Pacific. Although readers will feel the New Japan scheme and several inside the White House power moves are over the top of Mount Apo, conspiracy fans and military buffs will enjoy this post 9/11 one-sided tale that clearly shows the American military living up to its values.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Shattered-Karen Robards

Karen Robards
Putnam, Mar 2010, $25.95
ISBN 9780399156274

Having lost her position at a law firm that went bankrupt, Lisa Grant) leaves Lexington, Kentucky to go home to the family horse ranch Grayson Springs. Lisa does not feel bad about losing her job as she needs to care for her mom who is dying from ALS.

Lisa obtains work at the Fayette County District Attorney’s office working as a research assistant to DA Scott Buchanan, whom she once loved. His attitude makes her realize he hired her under pressure due to her connections to her mom. Lisa looks into the files of a cold case in which Michael and Angela Garcia and their two children (Tony and Marisa) vanished without a trace in 1981. However, the case shakes her to her bone marrow when she sees the picture of Marisa and a doll the child clings to; she is looking at herself as a little girl and the doll is identical to one she had. Her inquiry with Scott’s help turns ugly when an arsonist tries to kill her and her mom

This is a fast-paced legal thriller that after a prologue has Scott cursing out Lisa for failing to do her job; setting the tone of their relationship. The action never slows down as someone is out to harm Lisa and her mom although the younger has no idea why. Although the climax is over the top of Black Mountain with an incredulous denouement, fans will enjoy Karen Robards taut romantic suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Lay Down My Sword and Shield-James Lee Burke

Lay Down My Sword and Shield
James Lee Burke
Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster), Feb 16 210, $15.00
ISBN: 9781439165454

Hackberry Holland was once a POW for thirty-two months as a guest of the Chinese-North Koreans, but now practices law in DeWitt County, Texas at a time when the Civil Rights movement has the south in an uproar few have seen in decades. His family and friends want Hack to run for Congress, which he agrees to do but he has doubts although his Republican opponent is a drunken racist bully and the Democrats always win in Texas. Besides he has the backing of R.C. Richardson, an oil zillionaire, who he kept out of prison.

However, any political ambition may be in trouble when he visits his war buddy Arturo Gomez, who has been convicted of assault of a Texas Ranger and heading to the state farm. Art tells Hack he was picketing with union organizers when the Rangers jumped them. His attorney is a local state selected lawyer who provided no defense for a Chicano. Now Art needs the relief pitcher to overcome his conviction. Hack comes out of the bullpen to try.

This is a reprint of an enjoyable Civil Rights era thriller that focuses on justice, Texas style. The story line is character driven, but not just by Hack as the ensemble support cast enhances the conflict between Chicanos wanting to organize into a union and the wealthy powerful ready to prevent it using legal chicanery. Fans will enjoy Hack’s moral dilemma as he is caught between two worlds during a period of flux.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hypnotized-Karen Wiesner

Karen Wiesner
Whiskey Creek, Mar 2010, $17.95
ISBN: 9781803137522

Dr. Sherry Mansfield has incredible hypnotic skills that border on the paranormal, but as she has learned everyone takes advantage of her ability to further a personal agenda; her husband head of a terrorist cell being the worst abuser. Desperate to escape from her nasty spouse, she uses a suicide bomber to ask the Network to rescue her. The Network contacts her with an offer to liberate her if she agrees to work with them.

Network agents Noah Harlow and Rhiannon Murray are sent undercover as a married couple who counsel troubled teens to rescue Sherry. Noah and Rhiannon were once lovers, but she ended their tryst after escaping captivity as she believes her beloved cannot give his heart to anyone.

The latest Incognito romantic suspense is a terrific action-packed thriller starring two super protagonists. The irony of the assignment enhances the fast-paced plot as Rhiannon does the undercover masquerade job because she is a strong dedicated individual; her preference would be anyone but the man she loves. Ironically, Noah the brute wants her but his values make it impossible for him to go after her as he feels that it is inappropriate for a superior officer to make love with a subordinate even if he cherishes her above his own life. All this passion is inside a strong rescue mission as Karen Wiesner provides her tenth Incognito winner.

Harriet Klausner

Gorgeous East-Robert Girardi

Gorgeous East
Robert Girardi
St. Martin’s, Oct 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312565862

American actor John Smith is in Istanbul to persuade his former girlfriend to drop the rich Turk and return to him. His endeavor has nothing to do with love and romance, as he has other motives, but his efforts lead to her murder and he joins the French Foreign legion. French-Canadian Evariste Pinard is given the choice between a long jail sentence for drug dealing and mob enforcement or joining the French Foreign Legion; he voluntarily enlists. French aristocrat Colonel Philippe de Noyer looks forward to turning the dregs of society like Smith and Pinard into a powerful fighting force.

In Western Sahara, the self-proclaimed prophet Al-Bab leads a rebellion with his bee stinging Marabouts attacking a legion outpost. He captures the American comedic-musical performer and the Quebec Russian Mafiosi among others. Whereas Morocco and Saharoui Arab Democratic Republic leaders yawn with the latest Imam allegedly rising in the desert, the Legionnaire officers take the Marabouts’ attack personally and send madman Pinard to lead the counter insurgency with instructions to rescue the legionnaire prisoners at any cost.

This is an extremely dark comedic thriller that takes the “values” of the nineteenth century French Foreign Legion and brings them forward to the twenty-first century while ignoring much of what occurred since WW II. The story line is bloody, gory, and bloody with many heads rolling, literally. This is not for the squeamish. Readers who relish an exceedingly over the top of an unnamed Moroccan plateau, bleak with no beau gesture of redemption, will want to read this satire of the West still intruding in Islamic African politics.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, January 21, 2010

False Convictions-Tim Green

False Convictions
Tim Green
Grand Central, Feb 10 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780446401524

Dallas attorney Casey Jordan works with the not for profit Freedom Project, who handle wrongful conviction cases. Billionaire Robert Graham, founder of the Freedom Project, offers Casey one million dollars annually for use by her legal clinic if she works a couple of well known cases a year. Casey agrees.

In 1989 in Auburn, New York black man Dwayne Hubbard was convicted of the murder of a white female college student; DNA analysis proves his innocence and implies a massive conspiracy by all those involved in the original prosecution. At the same time that Casey proves Dwayne did not commit the murder that he went to jail for, TV reporter Jake Carlson investigates Graham. He brings some concerns to Casey, who partners with him into looking at the philanthropist’s business transactions and other past dealings.

The third Jordan legal thriller (see Above the Law and The Letter of the Law) is a terrific tale because the audience sees deep inside the heroine’s soul as her passion for the law and helping the impoverished ring genuine. Thus Casey is lucid in her belief that Graham is wasting his money on the Hubbard case, but it is his cash though she still questions him why. Fans will enjoy the exciting False Convictions though some might question the fascinating climatic twists.

Harriet Klausner

Safe from the Neighbors-Steve Yarbrough

Safe from the Neighbors
Steve Yarbrough
Knopf, Jan 26 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780307271709

In Loring, Mississippi Luke May teaches history at the local high school. His marriage is on the rocks as he and his wife college Freshman English Professor and poet Jennifer share no interests especially since their daughters now attends the U of Mississippi.

Maggie Sorrentino comes home to Loring to teach French. She left town after her father killed her mother in what was officially ruled self defense. The killing occurred the night before James Meredith entered the University of Mississippi; that same evening Maggie’s father and Luke’s dad were part of the White Citizens Council that drove to Oxford to prevent Meredith from attending class. Luke and Maggie begin an affair and he tries to uncover what happened on that fatal night over four decades ago.

The key to this strong look at the impact of historical racism and the Civil Rights movement on subsequent generations is that Steve Yarbrough does not condemn anyone; even those who spurred by hatred tried to prevent Meredith from attending the U of Mississippi. Instead he presents his cast in 1962 and forty years later as people with faults and flaws. Readers will enjoy the amateur historian’s efforts to learn the truth from a silent generation in which even his father who was there refuses to say anything while those he teaches looks at the Meredith event as ancient history.

Harriet Klausner

False Mermaid- Erin Hart

False Mermaid
Erin Hart
Scribner, Mar 2010, $26.00
ISBN 9781416563761

Three years ago Triona Hallet was murdered in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The police never solved the homicide. Now Triona’s sister, forensic archaeologist Dr. Nora Galvin comes home after spending two years in Ireland working cases (see Haunted Ground and Lake of Sorrows) and loving Cormac Maguire, who is in Donegal spending time with his father who deserted the family when he was a child.

Nora is positive that her brother-in-law Peter killed his wife by smashing her face in before stuffing her in her car trunk. Neither her parents nor the local cops believe sly slick Peter would kill his wife as everyone insists he loved her. Nora’s former lover and police detective is the only who believes her, but has no evidence linking Peter to Triona’s murder. While Cormac investigates a reported half Selkie human, Nora finds the corpse of who appears to be a missing female member of the Twin Cities Rowing Club in a shallow grave. The case is eerily similar to that of Triona as both had the seeds of the false mermaid plant. Nora thinks if her former lover connects the second woman to Peter she has the chance to reopen the closed case; but she fears time is running out as Peter is remarrying.

Although mostly in Minnesota, this terrific cross Atlantic investigative tale is a fast-paced must read for fans due to predominantly Nora, but also Cormac. Redemption and vengeance are the twin engines that propel the action in the States as Nora is on a vendetta that turns to desperation to protect a mother and daughter from the man she believes is a killer. Readers will enjoy False Mermaid as Erin Hart is at the top of her game with this homecoming.

Harriet Klausner

Whisper of the Seventh Thunder-Larry Brooks

Whisper of the Seventh Thunder
Larry Brooks
Sons of Liberty, Mar 1 2010, $17.00
Nashua, NH 03062
ISBN: 9780982403532

Over two thousand years ago on the Island of Patmos where John the Divine was exiled, the Angel of the Seven Thunders showed him visions that he was unable to write down. In the present, Gabriel Stone stood in the cave where John saw the angelic vision and he knows what the Jesus disciple saw. In that cave, he meets his wife and upon her death, Gabriel writes down the vision.

Writing the book in nine weeks, Gabriel feels as if someone putting the words in his brain. He takes his book to an agent who sells it to a publisher, but before it can be published, the agent and the publisher are dead. Two groups who do not want his book released because they believe the theme is not for public consumption; they go after Gabriel. In Israel, a supercomputer with cryptology software breaks down the vision, which involves people and events leading to the rise of the Antichrist. Gabriel’s name is on the list of key players, but regardless of God’s master plan and his role or any sect’s religious dogma, his goal is to prevent the slaughter of the innocent.

This is a fascinating enthralling apocalyptic thriller that deftly blends Brown, Clancy and LaHaye-Jenkins. The hero is a courageous person mindful of Moses in his belief that a nonentity like him who rested from his first day on earth until he entered the cave could not be a key player in the Lord’s plan, but like the Exodus leader does his best to do the mission and overcome his doubts. However, it is the fundamentalist Brethren group who grip the reader as these devout believers need the Antichrist to take his throne as they insist that is God’s plan and if millions die in support of their belief; so be it as long as the end of days begins.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Capitol Betrayal-William Bernhardt

Capitol Betrayal
William Bernhardt
Ballantine, Mar 16 2010, $26.00
ISBN 9780345503015

After filling the vacant US Senate seat from Oklahoma, Ben Kincaid fails to win the election. His wife attorney Christina McCall establishes a practice in DC while Ben works on complicated legal issues such as energy for the new Democratic President Roland Kyler at a time when Republicans control the House and the Supreme Court.

Ben is at a White House meeting that includes Kyler, Vice President Swiburne, military advisor Admiral Cartwright and much of the cabinet when the Secret Service informs them of a nuclear incident involving stolen material from a secret Arlington armory. They are directed to take shelter in an underground bunker “PEOC” when word reaches that missiles are in coming. Kyler acts odd so the VEEP and Cartwright declare he should be replaced as the President as stated in the Constitution. Inside the shelter, Ben defends the president against the charges of mental instability in front of the cabinet who must decide who is in charge; at the same CIA Agent Seamus McKay tries to thwart a Capitol Offense assault.

The latest Kincaid thriller is an entertaining tale that fans of the series will enjoy especially the inner workings of the White House during a crisis when agents and physicians take charge. Fast-paced from the onset, readers will enjoy Betrayal even if it miles over the top of the Washington Monument as the plot fun to read anyway.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bad Moon Rising-L.F. Crawford

Bad Moon Rising
L.F. Crawford
Five Star, Feb 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148583

After working a gruesome serial killer case with a paranormal spin that left her nearly killed (see Beverly Hills Voodoo), Beverly Hills medical examiner Dr. Mary Eclaire leaves town and her boyfriend Police detective Art Murry for her hometown to try to emotionally heal. Murry is heartbroken so his brother the opera star Lance and his police partner Billy Kidman persuade him to go with them on a cruise.

When a young passenger Nina Porter who went off with Billy is found dead in New Orleans, local detective Jean Gallant arrests Billy though she feels he did not commit the crime. While Murry investigates to prove his partner out on bail innocent, Billy disappears. Murry knows that ship employee Thomas Samson and his lover affluent Sylvania Benoit killed the woman, but struggles to prove it even with help from Marie LeVeau on some sort of mystical plane.

The second Murry paranormal whodunit is an entertaining mystery containing several supernatural twists. The story line is fast-paced once the NOPD hone in on Billy as the killer as Murry has no more time to lament and drink away his feelings of failing his beloved Mary as he over does at the beginning. Fans will know who the killer is early on, but the fun is watching what Murry deals with in proving his partner’s innocence. Well written, Bad Moon Rising gives credence to the fact that justice comes in many ways.

Harriet Klausner

Two Redheads & a Dead Blonde-Lloyd L. Corricelli

Two Redheads & a Dead Blonde
Lloyd L. Corricelli
Sons of Liberty Publishing, Jul 2009, $15.99
ISBN: 9780982403518

Thirty-six years old Ronan Marino prevents three dumb arsonists from burning down a synagogue in Lowell, Massachusetts. While doing his good deed, he reflects on what made him become a private sleuth. He had been in the military for fourteen years when he won the biggest payout ever in the California lottery. He quit the military and stayed in California, but never fit in the dishonest lifestyle so he came home.

He met Karen Pommer who worked at a bar where he sang with a band. They became lovers. One night he took her home after he beat up some guy who played football without a helmet for harassing her. They made love in the car. The next day Lowell Police Detectives Markey and Garcia take him in for questioning. Karen was found floating down the Merrimack; her car contained a needle making it look like drugs were involved. Encouraged by his police chief brother Mark and his mentor police lieutenant Gary Shea, Ronan investigates what he believed was murder but the cops think was a horrible accident caused by drugs.

Two Redheads & a Dead Blonde is a terrific private investigative noir with Spiderman overtones though Ronan is about two decades older and his only bite was his beloved’s death. His humorous discussions with Mark, other cops, arsons, mobsters and barmaids make for a fun time as the hero investigates his girlfriend’s murder his style. If only he had a Bat-cave to hang out in early retirement; a cape and tights might be too much. Fans of kick butt private investigators will want to read this exciting Massachusetts whodunit sprinkled with the history of America’s first industrial town Lowell.

Harriet Klausner

You Can’t Stop Me-Max Allan Collins and Matthew Clemens

You Can’t Stop Me
Max Allan Collins and Matthew Clemens
Pinnacle, Mar 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780786021345

Field agent and criminologist for the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation, John Christian Harrow is at the Iowa State Fair helping protect the president of the United States. He sees a suspicious looking male with a hand in his pocket and reacts instantly. He becomes a hero for preventing an assassination of the President. However, he comes home to find his wife and son murdered; blood everywhere.

Six years later Harrow works for UBC’s reality show Crime Seen! that has led to the capture of more than a dozen dangerous felons. An ambitious P.A. sees on the internet a crime where the victim’s finger was cut off (Harrow’s wife had her ring removed) a grain of corn grass found in the Heartland, but the crime took place in Florida.

Harrow gathers a team to track down a killer who is waiting to tell his story and killing will get the attention he wants from the cops and the media. He is killing certain targets and the TV coverage is being used by The Messenger who wants Harrow and the public to find him. Harrow wants this violent guy who has killed wives and children all over the country because his M.O. is identical to what happened to his loved ones and other families..

This is a terrific cat and mouse thriller in which readers anticipate the High Noon showdown even if the plot has been used numerous times before though reality TV refreshes it as ratings supersede justice. Whereas UBC counts viewers, Harrow and his team want to prevent more homicides by bringing the message of justice to the killer. Filled with shockers and twists throughout, fans will enjoy this fast-paced tale with the biggest stunner being pity for the psychopath.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Spellmans Strike Again-Lisa Lutz

The Spellmans Strike Again
Lisa Lutz
Simon and Schuster, Mar 16 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9781416593409

In San Francisco, thirtyish Isabel Spellman knows the family rules rule having broken all of them at one time or another, but now she grooms herself to take over Spellman Investigations from her retiring parents Albert and Olivia. Her older brother David is downsized corporate America lawyer and her other sibling is simply Rae, no description necessary beyond she is seventeen.

Currently, in spite of the DNA, Isabel learns one rule of private sleuthing is tediousness. Accompanied by her friend Len Williams, she investigates the disappearance of Mason Graves (who she hopes does not live up to his surname), valet to wealthy Franklin Winslow and studying (alone) the garbage of Jeremy Pratt's former wife for proof she stole his screenplays. Izzy and her boyfriend bartender Conner O'Sullivan find time when they can. At the latest Eleventh Commandment thou shall attend the Sunday Family Dinner; Rae gives her the stare of Medusa for failing to investigate the case of Levi Schmidt defended by David's defense-attorney girlfriend Maggie Mason at a time when doorknobs and fixtures vanish from the house.

The final Spellman dysfunctional family tale (see Revenge of the Spellmans) is an entertaining entry as the “Recovering delinquent” understands family values (not just insane rules) with the help of friend Inspector Stone and of course octogenarian Morty. The story line is thin, but like the Spellmans zany and all over the place barely held together by the rules that govern plots. However the yes we can (except to felonies; that is most of the time) theme makes for an enjoyable insane finish as dizzy Izzy knows dad at sixty five may retire, but mom will always cross the line when it comes to sleuthing into the lives of her kids.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Vines-Erica Spindler

Blood Vines
Erica Spindler
St. Martin’s, Mar 2 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312363925

She earns a living as a San Francisco bartender while working on her thesis and insuring her bi-polar mom Patsy stays on her meds. However, one day Alexandra Clarkson finds Patsy dead from an overdose. She notices that her mother was reading about the mummified remains of a baby found in Sonoma Valley and calls Violent Drime Investigator Daniel Reed to learn more as he was the last known person to speak to Patsy before she committed suicide.

Daniel tells Alex that they used to play around together when her mother was married to Valley winemaker Harlan Sommer. When Harlan and Patsy’s his infant son Dylan disappeared, his brother took over the winery. Alex is stunned as she does not recall ever living in Sonoma; for that matter she does not know who her father is either. Needing to obtain closure Alex moves to Sonoma after the cops identify the corpse as Dylan. However she begins to suffer nightmares that might be repressed memories of cowled figures, a baby screaming, the scent of saddlewood and a sende of being trapped in the caves where the wine is stored. Dan and his stepsister Rachel watch over Alex who obsessively tries to get answers. Witnesses are killed, but when someone close to her is murdered, the cops suspect Alex as does her lover Dan.

Readers who like the romantic suspense of Nora Roberts and Karen Robards will thoroughly enjoy Erica Spindler’s fabulous thriller. The stars of this solid romantic mystery both seek the truth as to what happened years ago. Additionally, the beleaguered heroine fears she a chip off the maternal block as she feels she must be as crazy as her late mom was; yet she refuses to quit as she displays strength and fortitude with an obsessive need to see the inquiry through to the end. Alex refuses to allow people to run her off so skeletons remain buried as one of them was her baby brother.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Gator A-Go-Go-Tim Dorsey

Gator A-Go-Go
Tim Dorsey
Morrow, Jan 26 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061432712

Spring Break has been a long American tradition going back to FDR as students from the north invade Florida for fun, sun, sex, and drugs. Joining the world’s biggest annual party (and definitely not that cocktail football game restricted to Jacksonville) are Serge A. Storms and Coleman.

However, someone is killing students this year, which is a downer not found in a pill. In Panama City, Feds and mobsters seek out college student Andy McKenna. Serge, disgusted with a trail of corpses left by a rival head case at a time when he, Coleman, and the snow bird students just want to have fun, decides to go after the killer, the Feds and the mobsters his style. With stoned Coleman collecting kid trophies as a guru, Serge kills those he deems guilty of rude behavior, poor TV shows, and homicide while he personally becomes a one person protector of Andy after the FBI fails the kid.

This is a wild even for Serge over the top of the entire Sunshine State thriller as Gator A Go-Go is a fitting title as everything goes in this zany tale. Fans will enjoy the serial killer competing with an even crazier serial killer while also becoming a Serge protector of Andy. Insanity rules as Tim Dorsey provides his usual humorous human biting alligator tale.

Harriet Klausner

Do They Know I’m Running?-David Corbett

Do They Know I’m Running?
David Corbett
Ballantine, Mar 2 2010, $15.00
ISBN 9780812977554

During one of those INS sweeps in the Oakland port area, Faustino is picked up as an illegal alien. The Feds deport him back to El Salvadore leaving behind in their usual family values way his dependents to include his wife Lucha, his criminal son Pablo (AKA Happy) and his orphaned nephews eighteen year old Roque and disturbed war veteran Godo.

Using his contacts Happy works a deal with human smugglers to bring his father home to California. However, to pay the exorbitant price, he works another deal with the FBI. He sends Roque to El Salvadore to escort his Da back to the family; but the gang involved demand he also escort teenage Lupe to a Mexican drug lord and a Palestinian allegedly seeking political asylum as arranged by Happy to further muck up the trek from Central American to the States. Roque knows whenever dealing with Happy one learns the rest of the story trying to survive.

This is a strong thriller that tells the other side of the illegal immigrant story from that of a family mostly through Roque who struggles to keep alive his charges as they trek through a violent Central America and Mexico on the mule trail. The story line is action-packed but character driven as the hero finds himself caught in several nasty scenarios in which he must constantly choose between love (for Lupe and for his family) and survival as bartering humans is a way of life on this wagon trail.

Harriet Klausner

Secrets of Eden-Chris Bohjalian

Secrets of Eden
Chris Bohjalian
Shaye Areheart (Crown), Feb 2 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780307394972

In Haverill at the Vermont Baptist Church, Reverend Stephen Drew baptizes Alice Hayward. Afterward, Alice goes home only her spouse George in one of his rages strangles her to death before shooting himself. The murder-suicide stuns the townsfolk, but not as much as the Reverend who was having an affair with the late wife and the deceased couple’s fifteen year old daughter Katie. Stephen leaves town, but Vermont Deputy State Attorney Catherine Benincasa has doubts about what occurred and suspects the Reverend got away with murder.

Distraught Stephen meets author Heather Laurent whose parents died tragically like that of Katie when she was fourteen. She wants to help him and Katie adjust as she knows at least the teen will never obtain a closure. However, she, like Catherine, begins to wonder if her new lover Stephen killed the couple or just the husband. She leaves him to help the surviving Hayward.

Told in the first person in four parts, fans will be hooked throughout. Stephen importunes incredible levels of sympathy from readers who feel his pain in Part I, but that is peeled away in Part II by Catherine (the weakest section) and Part III by Heather until everyone converges with a great finish in Part IV when Katie tells her side of the story. Secrets of Eden is a tremendous character driven conundrum that looks deep at the battered spouse syndrome and its impact on an offspring and to a lesser degree the community that prefers silence from the lambs.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag-Alan Bradley

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag
Alan Bradley
Delacorte, Mar 9 2010, $24.00
ISBN: 9780385342315

In 1950 in Bishop’s Lacy, England, eleven year old (well almost eleven but at her age who quibbles except her siblings) Flavia de Luce assumes her sleuthing career after solving the Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is over. Still she figures there is no harm in expanding her knowledge of poisoning through her experiments; she understands she just has to hide her endeavor from her nosy big sisters Ophelia and Daphne.

However, while musing in dream land over her death funeral, she hears weeping. Awakened by the sounds of crying, Flavia meets Mother Goose who is actually Nialla the actress playing the part n Rupert Porson's puppet show, but their vehicle has broken down while on tour. Vicar Canon Richardson offers them lodging at Inglebys’s Culverhouse Farm while their van is repaired. Thankful for the kindness Rupert offers to repay them by putting on a puppet production of "Jack and the Beanstalk" at St. Tancred's parish. Jack the puppet looks eerily like Robin Inglebys who died five years ago in what the police called a misadventure. Now it is Rupert who dies in another misadventure. Inspector Hewitt lets his tweener amateur sleuth make her inquiries as Flavia solved his previous homicide for him.

The eccentric cast especially her obsessed philatelist father, her two sisters, the inspector, and Rupert’s assistant enhance a great whodunit in which Flavia is the weirdest of them all especially in her lab as she holds the story line together. For instance her doctoring her sister’s chocolate is a timeless prank that will have readers laughing and wondering if Ophelia and Daphne are correct about her heritage. The investigation is clever and fun to follow, but it is the escapdes of refreshing fabulous Flavia who makes The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag into an enjoyable historical whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

The Godfather of Kathmandu-John Burdett

The Godfather of Kathmandu
John Burdett
Knopf, Jan 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780307263193

In Bangkok Colonel Vikorn assigns his willing subordinate Royal Thai Police Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep to protect his illegal kickbacks and recent major drug purchase from Nepal from his allegedly as avaricious boss General Zinna. However, as they work the counter attacks to bring down the vicious General, a nasty homicide occurs that forces the Buddhist sleuth to investigate.

Someone killed Hollywood director Frank Charles who regularly visited Thailand to enjoy sexual pleasures. The victim was sliced and diced and apparently his brains dined a la The Silence of the Lambs. At the same time he struggles with making progress in the investigation that has global interest, Sonchai has issues with wife who has left him to become a nun since their offspring died, the actress Tara of Tantric fame, and the amazing criminal Dr. Moi. All that aside, it is being Vikorn’s consigliore to the man’s Godfather that has him mentally counting cash. His enlightened Tibetan guru Doctor Norbu Tietsin insists the Godfather loot is irrelevant when the Tibetan invasion of China one thought at a time is almost as crucial as selling his stash of heroin.

This is an insane Thailand police procedural that feels like Elmore Leonard gave guidance to John Burdett. Unlike the previous Bangkok cases starring the felonious cop Sonchai (see Bangkok Haunts, Bangkok 8 and Bangkok Tattoo); the star’s personal life overwhelms the investigation. Still this is a very enjoyable tale as Sonchai knows he made on major error in judgment when he gave his superior the Godfather DVDs.

Harriet Klausner

Rescuing Olivia-Julie Compton

Rescuing Olivia
Julie Compton
Minotaur, Feb 2 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312378769

In a remote forest in Florida, a hit-and-run motorcycle accident leaves victim Olivia Mayfield in a coma. Stunned upon learning his girlfriend lies in an intensive care unit, almost thirty Anders Erickson feels guilt and regret for not proposing.

Just prior to the accident, someone stole the helmets of Anders and Olivia. Anders also considers that Olivia thought they were being followed. Meanwhile her father pharmaceutical mogul Lawrence blames Anders for his daughter’s coma and wants him to stay away from her; he refuses to allow “Andy” access. Later he informs him that Olivia died. Stunned, Anders has a hard time accepting the death of his beloved and begins an inquiry that leads to her hometown of Clifton, Connecticut where he finds clues that sends him to Kenya.

Clearly over the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Rescuing Olivia is a terrific amateur sleuth thriller starring a young man with issues from his childhood that match in some ways those of his beloved as both prefer to live in the present and future. Anders is a refreshing hero who rejects the premise that his beloved died as he feels he would know in his heart if she did. His efforts to find and rescue Olivia make for a wonderful drama.

Harriet Klausner

The Spies of Sobeck-P. C. Doherty

The Spies of Sobeck
P. C. Doherty
Minotaur, Feb 2 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312533977

In the fifteenth century BC, fundamentalist Nubian followers of Nema the hyena goddess led by High Priest Khufu want their freedom from the Great House of Egypt. They feel the opportunity is perfect as the country is run by a female pharaoh so make plans to liberate their province. The Nema worshippers believe they must cause fear and panic by assassinating prominent people in their homes or key locations.

In Thebes and in the nearby Oasis of Asiwah, elite people including imperial messengers are murdered behind locked doors; the city loses faith in Pharaoh Hatusu who has recently replaced her late father. She understands who is behind the murders and why, but not how. The Pharaoh also knows she cannot cede Nubia if she wants to keep the Great House united and soonest expanded. After consulting with her lover the Grand Vizier Senenmut, she turns to the Chief Judge in the Hall of Two Truths Amerotke to find the killers and their leader. However, both objectives prove difficult as the murderous criminal Arite sect are involved and seditious avaricious activity by several prominent citizens makes his investigation more convoluted than he expected.

As always this is a great Ancient Egypt police procedural (see The Poisoner of Ptah and Mask of Ra) that contains a powerful vivid look at life in the capital city Thebes and to a lesser degree in Nubia. The story line is fast-paced even with an incredible amount of background that has the audience feel they are working the case along side of Amerotke while visiting the reign of Hatusu. P. C. Doherty provides another Great House of Egypt tale.

Harriet Klausner

Storm Peak-John A. Flanagan

Storm Peak
John A. Flanagan
Berkley, Feb 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425235256

In July 2003, Denver police detectives Jesse Parker and Tony Vetano were on a drug bust assignment when a DPD black and white patrol car stopped. All hell broke out, but by the time the bullets stopped flying Tony was dead from one of Jesse’s bullets. Exonerated, he quit the force anyway and came home to Steamboat Springs, Colorado where he obtains a ski patrol position.

In Steamboat Springs Routt County Sheriff Lee Torrens needs help with a particularly brutal homicide as she knows she is out of her league. Although well aware of why Jesse quit the police force and personally knowing why he left town several years ago , Lee asks her friend to help with the investigation into the stabbing murder of thirty-four year old Alexander Howell. The former cop and the sheriff work together as more homicides occur and their feelings for one another as teens remain as strong as it did then.

This is an enjoyable police procedural with a simmering romantic subplot that enhances the inquiry, but never intrudes on the serial murder case. Lee is a wonderful dedicated Sheriff while Jesse has battle fatigue stress disorder coping with issues that he knows will never close. Although maniacal serial killers have flooded the market, sub-genre fans will appreciate this strong Rocky Mountains whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Flirt-Laurell K. Hamilton

Laurell K. Hamilton
Berkley, Feb 2010, $23.95
ISBN: 9780425235676

Wealthy business man Mr. Tony Bennington enters the office of Anita Blake, vampire executioner and zombie reanimator. Grieving for the loss of his beloved wife, he asks her to reanimate her so they can be together again. She explains to her potential client that the individual who crossed over will not be the same person who returns. He begs her, but though sympathizing with him and wanting to say yes, she knows the consequences as the love of Tony’s life will not come back the way he thinks. She continues to say no.

A few days later, Anita is at a restaurant when were-lions Nicky and Jacob join her. They are hired thugs who are to kidnap Anita in order to force her to bring back Mr. Bennington’s wife. They explain why she should cooperate as her shapeshifting boyfriends are hostages. Anita gives them her weapons as she accompanies them to their lair. Although telepathically asking for help and being blocked by a witch from communicating, she now knows she will work this one alone as her loved ones are at stake.

Although a short novel, Flirt is Laurell K. Hamilton at her very best as it packs quite an emotional wallop from the moment a grieving Bennington begs her for help and that keeps the angst level high. Also keeping the tension level high is the heroine’s love for her mates as she fights with all her strength and powers to end this High Moon confrontation. Throughout this tale the passions run stratospheric yet the plot is loaded with action as Anita must contend with powerful hooligan shapeshifters and their boss if she is to keep her boyfriends safe and not cause collateral damage; all she needs is a plan to deploy as she is buying time, but nothing else.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Bad Book Affair-Ian Sansom

The Bad Book Affair
Ian Sansom
Harper, Jan 19 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061452017

Mobile librarian Israel Armstrong reaches Tumdrum, in Northern Ireland to allow locals to borrow books. The next day, Israel is open for business thanks to his coop mate Ted’s nagging. Fourteen year old Lyndsay Morris borrows an adult only Roth’s American Pastoral that she knows her parents especially her politically ambitious father Maurice would ban from their home.

When Lyndsay disappears, the local cops and the media believe Israel abducted her. Library director Linda Wei holds Israel culpable for lending a bad book to a child. Tabloid journalist Veronica threatens to turn him into red meat for a pack of rapid reporters and Maurice goes after him as a tool to regain his lost political seat. His traveling partner in the chicken coop Ted throws him out into the cold suggesting he get to work.

If you seek a strong amateur sleuth, don’t bother with the Bad Book Affair as the whodunit investigation is at best a modest proposal. However, if you seek a terrific satire that skewers the lofty affectations and posturing of political, media, and religious leaders by lampooning their holier than thou prejudices and sham social issues (for instance ban the book), than The Book Stops Here. Fans who enjoy a wild witty swift impaling of the self-aggrandizing will want to read the latest adventures of the innocent Israel.

Harriet Klausner

The Fourth Assassin-Matt Beynon Rees

The Fourth Assassin
Matt Beynon Rees
Soho, Feb 2010, $24.00
ISBN: 9781569476192

Palestinian detective Omar Yussef arrives in New York City to give a speech at the U.N. on Palestinian refugee camp schools. Omar also looks forward to seeing his youngest son Ala who lives in Brooklyn.

However, instead of a family reunion, the police arrest Ala for murder. Inside his apartment is a decapitated corpse. Omar knows his son would not commit this atrocity and investigates, which leads him to Coney Island and the U.N. building

This is a great series (see The Samaritan's Secret and A Gave in Gaza), but this entry is the best to date as besides a strong whodunit, life for immigrants in a frozen aging Brooklyn neighborhood is made so real that Tancredo will empathize with the newcomers. The story line is fast-paced, but it is the picture of the Palestinian community in the northeast United States who make the tale work as Little Palestine competes with the old country (in spite of the corrupt politicians) and the glitter across the Bay that has captured their young as much as Manhattan has always captured generational Americans. This is a great Yussef mystery due to the personalization of his cast that Matt Beynon Rees brings to his strong plot.

Harriet Klausner

The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers-Thomas Mullen

The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers
Thomas Mullen
Random House, Jan 26 2010, $26/00
ISBN: 9781400067534

In 1933 and the first half of 1934, a Great Depression frightened public adore the Firefly brothers though Jason and Whit Fireson are violent bank robbers. The siblings do what many dream of doing but are too afraid when they boldly commit robberies.

However, in August 1934, proud law enforcement authorities announce the end of these vicious felons as the bullet ridden corpses of the Firefly brothers lay in an Indiana morgue. Their girlfriend Darcy Veronica are heartbroken with grief as is their mom and though a straight shooter their brother Weston. However, the cops prove premature with their bloody announcement as Jason and Whit wake up and calmly leave the morgue to begin the further escapes in legends of The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers.

Although how the siblings stay alive through their dangerous capers is never explained, fans will not care as the Firefly Brothers adventures are a timely allegorical historical; desperate people have given up on a pathetic government and turned to antiheroes as champions. Action-packed, this is a terrific parable that uses the war on crime during the Great Depression in comparison with the war on terrorism during the Great Recession. The stark reality of the Great Depression on the lives of ordinary people is enhanced by the fantastic Firefly brothers who symbolize the frustration with government that fails to act (Henry Higgins Effect of Democrats in charge) or unwilling to act (Pygmalion Effect of Republicans in charge) when the need is obvious, which implies in charge or not Republicans win and people lose so they turn to antiheroes.

Harriet Klausner

The Serialist-David Gordon

The Serialist
David Gordon
Simon & Schuster, Mar 9 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9781439158487

Harry Bloch is an author who works in many genres, but each book he writes have in common one thing: none were published under his real name. His first gig was writing porn for Raunchy magazine. While at a back cover photo shoot, he receives a letter from death row inmate Darien Clay, who offers to tell Harry a true story of his life if he visits him in Sing Sing.

Darien explains further that he will talk to Harry if the writer will interview his groupies and writes a story about them with the convict as the star and each woman having a chapter. Harry interviews three women, but after leaving the third female, he goes back to her place only to find her cut to pieces with her hand missing; just the way Darien described how he tortured and killed his victims. Harry calls the police who inform him the first women were killed in the same gruesome way. The cops believe Harry killed the three victims until he is shot at and almost killed. As the police look for new suspects, Harry also seeks the culprit before more of Darien’s darlings turn up dead.

Told by Harry in the first person, The Serialist is an exciting but grim dark thriller that reads somewhat like an action-packed pulp tale. The protagonist is an average person except for his writing skill who finds himself in an extraordinary situation that requires him to rise to the occasion to extract himself from a deadly horrific mess. Even he is unsure he can do it, but like many a hero before him, Harry knows he must overcome his fears and shortcomings to face the enemy who is taking a page out of Darien’s book.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Night Tides-Alex Prentiss

Night Tides
Alex Prentiss
Bantam, Jan 26 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780553592979

Two decades ago as a child in Madison, Wisconsin, Rachel Matre drowned. She somehow survived and as a result has a special relationship with the nearby lakes that caress her senses. The diner owner also uses her skill to provide the police undercover help in solving crimes as the author of the blog "The Lady of the Lake".

However, recently her unique connections with the spirits of the lake are confusing as women vanish and she is unable to provide answers to what is going on since her visions are foggy with the spirits pleading with her to save them. She fears her attraction to Ethan Walker may be interfering with her communication with the lakes. He feels that same regard as she does and wonders if she is the one to help him overcome his issues. Soon after she reveals her secret that she has concealed from everyone for twenty years, Rachel vanishes. Ethan must trust in his loving link to her to find and rescue her and hopefully the other missing women.

This is a fascinating paranormal suspense thriller starring an interesting lead protagonist whose special skill brings a special freshness to the mission of saving the abducted college age females. The story line is fast-paced form the onset while the romantic subplot enhances the amateur sleuth inquiry. Fans will appreciate Night Tides due to the heroine whose connection to the spirits of the lake makes for a unique enjoyable read.

Harriet Klausner

Freeze Frame-Peter May

Freeze Frame
Peter May
Poisoned Pen, Mar 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN 9781590586945

Expatriate Scotsman forensic scientist Enzo McLeod continues his pursuit to solving the seven-case bet he made with his daughter Kirsty’s boyfriend Roger Raffin though he has some personal issues that could curtail his efforts. He heads to the Ile de Groix off of Brittany where septuagenarian widower Adam Killian was murdered in 1990 in his study.

Killian was a noted tropical disease expert and entomologist who allegedly used his skills to leave clues to identify his killer to his son Peter who was returning from Africa and had directed his wife Jane to touch nothing until he “reads” what his father left behind in death. However, he but died before he could do what his dad wanted of him. As such Jane has insured the den has not been touched since her husband and father-in-law died. However, the island locals want Enzo to leave as the cold case has brought a negative light on the island while someone takes a more drastic approach to make the forensic expert leave.

The latest McLeod cold case mystery (see EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE, THE CRITIC and BLACKLIGHT BLUE) is a superb whodunit as a distracted Enzo seeks the clues left behind by the victim. The story line is fast-paced with Enzo’s personal problems re his former lover Charlotte that distracts the hero but enhances the plot for the reader. The Enzo Files are a great series that is four for four.

Harriet Klausner

Long Time Coming= Robert Goddard

Long Time Coming
Robert Goddard
Bantam, Mar 2010, $15.00
ISBN 9780385343619

In 1976, sixty-eight year old Eldritch Swan arrives at his widow sister-in-law’s home in Paignton after over three decades in an Irish prison. His nephew Stephen Swan is also heading to his mom’s home having ended an engagement. Stephen is shocked to learn his paternal uncle is alive as he thought Eldritch died in the Nazi Blitz in 1940. He asks his Uncle Eldritch why he was incarnated all these years without anyone aware he still lived; the older man says he cannot tell anyone or he will die in that Irish prison.

In 1940 Eldritch worked as secretary to Antwerp diamond merchant, Isaac Meridor. He insists he is innocent of the traitorous charges that locked him away, but admits he helped Miles Linley steal his employer’s Picasso collection and has a chance to make some money from a lawyer whose client insists tycoon Jay Brownlow owns a stolen Picasso collection that Meridor’s granddaughter Rachel claims is rightfully hers.

This is a terrific thriller that effortlessly switches back and forth between 1940 and 1976 as what happened to obviously still roguish Uncle Eldritch is slowly answered with more questions arising. The two subplots are well written as Stephen and Rachel try to solve the modern day question of art ownership by deciphering the 1940 mystery with ties to Ireland’s position on which side to support during WWII.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Last Illusion-Rhys Bowen

The Last Illusion
Rhys Bowen
Minotaur, Mar 2 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780312385408

In 1903 in New York City Molly Murphy and her fiancé police captain Daniel Sullivan attend a magic show at the Miner’s Theatre on the Bowery headlined by the great Harry Houdini. However, their night out on the town turns ugly when the stunt of sawing-a-lady-in-half by magician Signor Scarpelli goes awry even before Houdini was to perform.

Someone obviously tampered with Scarpelli’s equipment before the performance. Even further shocking is the corpse of the magician’s assistant disappears. Worried that the intended target was her spouse, Houdini’s wife Bess hires Molly to investigate while Daniel directs his fiancée to stay out of the way of the official inquiry. When Houdini’s act almost also ends fatalyl, Molly agrees with Bess that her husband is the prey for a maniacal predator.

Proving once again she is not a coddled women In a Gilded Cage, Molly investigates while Daniel, who also is on the case, pleading with her to stay out of it as it is dangerous. Their inquiries make for a superb historical whodunit that brings to life Manhattan at the turn of the previous century while also cleverly refreshed by having Houdini appear to be the victim.

Harriet Klausner

Forget Me Not-Vicki Hinze

Forget Me Not
Vicki Hinze
Multnomah, Mar 16 2010, 13.99
ISBN: 9781601422057

A woman is painting a picture on her patio when Gregory appears and states he knows what she wants but will not give it to her. He kills her; walking away knowing he accomplished his mission and that Nina will be pleased.

In New Orleans, another female is working on a plan to help disenfranchised teens, but before she can complete her concept, she falls into the trap of the man she has run away from. She overheard him and others discuss bioterrorism and she realizes who two of them are. The woman knows that Nina a terrorist group is after her. They car jack her vehicle and take her unconscious to the Crossroads Crisis Center in Seagrove Village, Florida; there she sees a picture of one of the founders; a picture that looks exactly like her.

Three years ago Crossroads Crisis Center owner Benjamin Brandt lost his wife and son to a murderer; his faith was a victim too. He lives to die after he finds his family’s killer. He had no clues until this woman arrived, who looks like his Susan, but suffers from amnesia. Finally he has interest in someone who breaths, they talk as she try to explain her predicament, but a bomb explodes inside the Crossroads facility. Benjamin obsesses over keeping Karen, as they call her safe from whoever wants her dead.

Vickie Hinze has written a superb thriller about a woman whose faith sustains her and a man whose faith died along with his wife and son. There is plenty of action throughout this fast-paced tale but Forget Me Not is a character driven by Benjamin and Karen ( and her real name) . Even with knowing who the villains are, fans will feel the stratospheric tension as double crosses and identity issues make for a powerful novel.

Harriet Klausner

Able OneBen Bova-

Able One
Ben Bova
Tor, Feb 2 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765323866

The North Korean army launches a nuclear missile into space. When they ignite the missile the subsequent explosion causes electromagnetic shockwaves. Several key communication satellites are destroyed and global communication is devastated around the world.

Intelligence is lacking and fearing an even further crippling of command and control communication, the American military prepare to launch ABL-1that can take out a missile though this laser system is untested. At the same time, POTUS tries to react to the crisis without starting World War III.

This is an interesting tale based on scientific electromagnetic pulse bomb theory as deployed by a military unit that goes ironically rogue inside of the most probably rogue country in the world. The story line is loaded with action; too much as seemingly important threads are left dangling. Still in spite of the over abundance of subplots, Ben Bova provides his audience with a fascinating geo-political technological thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Live to Tell-Wendy Corsi Staub

Live to Tell
Wendy Corsi Staub
Avon, Feb 23 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061895067

A man is being chased and he needs a place to hide a memory stick. He steals a young girl Sadie’s rabbit and leaves it at the lost and found at the Grand Central subway station

In Glenhaven Park, New York Lauren Walsh struggles to cope with losing her husband to another woman. However, Lauren notices someone watching her house especially her daughter Sadie. Her child tells her mom someone entered her room because the invisible wire she put on the door is on the floor.

Republican gubernatorial candidate right wing Garvey Quinn has a secret if revealed would destroy his political career. He has someone seeking the individual with the information that would ruin him. One of his trusted aides says it is inside a pink rabbit dropped off at a lost and found. Sadie’s father picks up a pink dog as that is what he though his angry ex ordered him to find. Quinn’s aide targets the Walsh family as he will do whatever it takes to obtain the memory stick. Meanwhile Elsa Covington mourns her son abducted a decade ago; Quinn is the tie between these two moms.

This highly entertaining suspense thriller grips the audience who knows what is happening but not why as whatever Garvey conceals at any cost to others remains unknown but tantalizes readers into trying to guess the answer. Garvey makes the tale work as a fully developed villain who uses loyal people to commit crimes that cannot easily be tied to him so he can claim plausible deniability. Lauren is reeling with the ugly divorce, but remains strong especially a lioness protecting her cubs. Fans will root for her and Elsa knowing anyone who accidentally ends up inside of Garvey’s circle either as a friend or not is an expendable pawn.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Dark Secrets of the Old Oak Tree-Dolores J. Wilson

Dark Secrets of the Old Oak Tree
Dolores J. Wilson
Medallion, Mar 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9781605421063

After catching her husband David, a prominent Chicago attorney in bed with his paralegal, Evie Carson divorces him ending their fifteen years of marriage. She leaves Illinois to return home to Hyattsville, Georgia where she has a home and starts a business the Victorian Sampler Shop clothing emporium.

Evie is stunned when she sees mentally challenged Jake burying her naked best friend from high school Denise. When Jake leaves the gruesome scene, feeling slightly safer, Evie calls the cops. After giving her statement to the police, she learns Jake is dead too with his corpse found in her car. Circumstantial evidence leads the investigators to believe that Sheriff John Broday is the perpetrator, but lack the proof to arrest him. David arrives in town seeking a key to their safety deposit box. However before he can talk to his ex wife, he is killed. Attempts are made on Evie’s life and a psychic who works with the police warns her and the cops that the culprit wants her dead; Georgia State Trooper Lyle Dickerson vows to keep safe the woman he is falling in love with even of she is cantankerous towards him.

No one will need a psychic to tell them Evie’s life in danger or an oracle to learn this is an exciting thriller for fans who relish the works of Mary Higgins Clark. A romantic subplot between Evie and Lyle enhance the plot as she decries his relationship with Denise and he walks out on her when she needs his protection. Filled with action and a great twist, fans will enjoy learning the Dark Secrets of the Old Oak Tree.

Harriet Klausner

From the Grounds Up-Sandra Balzo

From the Grounds Up
Sandra Balzo
Severn House, Mar 1 2010, $27.95
ISBN: 9780727868305

With the economy already hurting her Uncommon Grounds coffee shop, Maggy Thorsen is in disbelief when the freak May blizzard hammers Brookhills, Wisconsin destroying her store. Her caustic friend realtor Sarah Kingston takes her to the train station where a bistro was just closed and a commuter line to and from Milwaukee is to open. Sarah owns the depot inheriting half when her dad died years ago and the rest last week when Aunt Vi passed away. She offers a business partnership, which Maggy accepts.

Aunt Vi’s husband Kornell Eisvogel arrives at the depot to hassle with Sarah. He sees the time on the depot clock so leaves as he must drive in daylight. However, the two women hear the train and crunch. They rush out to see that Kornell is dead. Maggy’s boyfriend Sheriff Jack Pavlik leads the inquiry and learns the clock was switched and the victim’s car tampered to stall on the tracks. When the two partners go to Brookhills Manor to pick up Vi’s stuff, they are almost run over by Klepto Clara and her hot rod wheelchair. As they leave the women find Clara dead and Pavlik questioning them again. Someone is killing people associated with the depot, but whom and why remains darker than Maggy’s strongest brew.

The latest Uncommon Grounds amateur sleuth (see Bean There, Done That and Grounds for Murder) is the usual terrific tale as the sheriff, his subordinates and readers know that wherever Maggy goes a corpse is bound to precede her. The lighthearted story line is fast-paced and breezy as Sarah provides humor with her in your face veracity and a killer wants to grind Maggy’s coffee shop to the ground. Fans will enjoy this fine flavored brew, as Maggy, murder, and mayhem meet in the Brookhills Train Station.

Harriet Klausner

The Brain Thief-Alexander Jablokov

The Brain Thief
Alexander Jablokov
Tor, Jan 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765322005

Wealthy Muriel Inglis sends an odd message to her only employee executive assistant Bernal Haydon-Rumi. Unable to comprehend what his employer wants and why she failed to go to the art gallery as planned; although he just came home from a South Dakota business trip, Bernal rushes over to her home, but she is not there and the house looks like a cyclone came through it.

However, as he ponders what next he notices a woman he realizes is her fleeing the house in a nightgown. He chases after her, but she escapes by stealing her neighbor’s Mercedes. The vehicle’s owner prevents Bernal from following by knocking him out. When Bernal regains consciousness he notices that his car is gone, but after cleaning up in his employer’s home, he sees his car is back. Frantic for Muriel’s safety and receiving messages from her he does not understand, Bernal visits Madeline Ungaro, who is working on a space exploratory AI project Hesketh funded by Muriel and loathed by private investigator Charis Fen who warns the desperate amateur sleuth to watch his back.

Although over the top of the Black Hills, The Brain Thief is a fast-aced thriller that grips the audience from the moment Bernal receives the first odd message and never slows down as he follows clues and receives happenstance assistance to learn what is going on. Fans will enjoy accompanying Bernal and fully appreciate the irony of his sleuthing throughout the hero’s cat and mouse chase.

Harriet Klausner

Feathered Serpent 2012-Junius Podrug

Feathered Serpent 2012
Junius Podrug
Tor, Mar 16 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780765308351

The Mayan prophecy that on December 21, 2012, Quetzalcoatl will return to begin the End Time countdown. Most scientists scorn the feathered Serpent coming out of the bowels of the earth to the surface, but a few are willing to risk professional suicide to explore the legend. Astrobiology archeologist Caden Montez firmly believes the Mayan “myth” is real and the count down to the end of days has begun.

She is currently exploring the ruins of Teotihuacan where she believes the end of the fifth age of history will begin the end; just like the Flood, Fire, Air, and Earth did previously. Caden finds the blasphemy at the site to entertain tourists appalling, but continues her work when a methane explosion in the Gulf causes havoc throughout the Western Hemisphere, but this proves the beginning of the end of days. Liquid logistics especially gas and water become desperately needed and friends turn to war as civilization collapses. Caden, former CIA chief Allen Holt, and first century Olli superstar Tah Heen unite in a last hope to save the fifth age of history from the End Time as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are riding and Quetzalcoatl has escaped his imprisonment thanks to the methane break.

Although over the top of Mexico, Vegas, and a few other locations as well time, fans will enjoy the latest Mayan Doomsday thriller. Caden is moral courage personified as she has been scorned and ridiculed by colleagues and the media, but adheres to her beliefs although she prays she is not proven right; she will have a chance to prove combat courage as well. Fast-paced throughout though overly complicated, fans of the Mayan End Times omen will relish Junius Podrag’s interpretation of the countdown to the end time of the fifth age of history.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 8, 2010

Caught-Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben
Dutton, Mar 23 2010, $27.95
ISBN: 9780525951582

National TV investigative reporter Wendy Tynes exposes sexual predators on her show Caught in the Act. When a seventeen years old lacrosse playing high school student Haley McWaid vanishes without a trace, her hometown is stunned. Three months later, they remain shocked as the good girl never came home and there is no word about her.

Wendy investigates the case and finds evidence that links the missing teen to social worker Dan Mercer. She exposes him on national TV as a sexual predator of children, but soon begins to find discrepancies in the slam dunk evidence. When a father of another teen victim claims to have killed Dan in what is vigilante justice, Wendy wonders what she has wrought as she now reconsiders her instincts though too late as he is caught dead.

This will hook readers from start to finish with terrific twists throughout as Harlan Coben provides a great thriller. The story line is fast-paced and never stops for a moment; yet is also filled with deep characterizations especially the accused and his accuser. Fans will relish this powerful tale of justice is not blind when the media gets involved.

Harriet Klausner

Butter Safe Than Sorry-Tamar Myers

Butter Safe Than Sorry
Tamar Myers
Obsidian, Feb 2010, $1400
ISBN: 9780451229106

Magdalena Yoder Rosen is an original in her Amish town where most of the people try to blend in. She is married to a Jewish doctor, is a conservative Mennonite, and owns the Penn-Dutch Inn where the rich and famous stay. Besides being loudmouthed, her sister Susannah is doing twenty years as an accessory to murder and her brother-in-law Melvin the former police chief is a killer on the run.

Magdalena Yoder is in the bank with her four year old son Jacob when three Amish men burst inside to rob the place. One of the thieves uses employee Amy Neubruder as a hostage as they flee the crime scene. Magdalena Yoder wonders why the security guards did nothing while also hearing the bank president telling Amy to keep silent about the robbery and he will give her a raise and a new position. Not long afterward, Amy is killed and Magdalena Yoder’s sister asks her to come see her. Susannah warns Magdalena Yoder to watch herself as Melvin is in the area and loathes her and anyone she cares about. Magdalena Yoder believes Melvin, murder and robbery go together and fearing for her observant son, she investigates.

Tamar Myers weaves her usual magic with her latest Pennsylvania Dutch amateur sleuth (see Batter Off Dead) as local trouble is escalating. There are many suspects in this enjoyable cozy leading to the heroine struggling with figuring out who is protecting Melvin as she is positive he is behind everything. Butter Safe Than Sorry relies on its strong Amish cast who makes the whodunit work.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Clean Kill-Jack Coughlin with Donald A. Davis

Clean Kill
Jack Coughlin with Donald A. Davis
St. Martin’s, Mar 2010, $25.99
ISBN 9780312551025

In Scotland, representatives from Saudi Arabia and Israel are finishing up negotiations on a peace treaty when two TOW missiles hit the castle. As soon as the missiles hit their target, Wahabi fundamentalists attack the progressive House of Saud.

As civil war breaks out, U.S. Army Gunnery Sergeant. Kyle Swanson and his squad work closely with the Saudi military to keep them from buckling or changing sides. The unit also is assigned to track down the perpetrators behind the Scottish attack and bring justice Saudi style to them. However, his assignment leaves him in conflict with the dreaded Muttaween Saudi religious police and terrorist Juba a former British sniper.

With a great opening premise of what happens to those seeking peace with Israel, the third Sniper thriller (see Kill Zone and Dead Shot) is an exhilarating action-packed over the top of Jabal Sawda, but will keep readers in anticipated suspense awaiting a confrontation between Swanson and Juba. The story line is faster than a speeding missile as fans will root for Kyle and company in what is a fun thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Deep Shadow- Randy Wayne White

Deep Shadow
Randy Wayne White
Putnam, Mar 2010, $25.95
ISBN 9780399156267

During a robbery, ex-cons, King and Perry kill a family of five. They flee from a massive manhunt hiding in the swamps of Central Florida. Their plan is to wait till the heat cools down a little though both know that will be some time as the media has stirred the public and the police.

Doc Ford and his three friends (Tomlinson, Will, and Arlis) go to a small lake in search of the late Cuban dictator Batista’s treasure plane, which vanished in 1958. However King and Perry capture Doc and company; and force them to keep diving in search of the plane. None are aware of what lurks in the nearby swamps.

Readers will knows the swamp is far from Dead Silent between Doc and his buddies, the two deadly thugs, and a Swamp Thing that wants to dine on divers. Fast-paced throughout the exciting story line, fans will be hooked from the moment everyone converges and readers will never stop reading as the tension mounts with anticipation of one hell of a climax. Who, if any of the four buddies, will leave Central Florida alive?

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cape Disappointment-Earl Emerson

Cape Disappointment
Earl Emerson
Ballantine, Jan 26 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345493026

Seattle private investigator Thomas Black knows he is fortunate to have survived the bomb blast in the school gym that left him hospitalized. However, he is also struggling with his memory as he unsure whether he is a widower or if his wife Kathy Birchfield is alive.

A lawyer, Kathy was a passenger on a chartered plane that crashed into the sea with no survivors; also killing Senator Jane Sheffield. Although he knows she is dead, he keeps seeing her and her cell phone is being used to call him late at nights. Twin brothers Bert and Elmer "Snake" Slezak try to keep Black safe. The former CIA sniper Bert believes the crash that allegedly killed Black’s wife was deliberate.

Fans will appreciate the return of Black (see Fat Tuesday and Catfish Café) in a super over the Space Needle conspiracy thriller that hooks the audience from the onset when the confused detective cannot understand why he sees his wife whom he thinks died. The story line is fast-paced, has ties to 9/11 and makes the strong case that the government’s prime role is to cover-up the mistakes of leaders. No one but politicians and their retinue will be disappointed with Earl Emerson’s excellent return to Black.

Harriet Klausner

The Traitor in Us All-Robert S. Levinson

The Traitor in Us All
Robert S. Levinson
Five Star, Feb 2010, $25.95
ISBN 9781594148521

In Eden Highlands, California, killer Emil Grass murders one teen in a pizza shop and abducts the victim’s friend Tracy Collins. The assumption is she is a hostage. However, reporter Jack Sothern disagrees.

Instead he seeks a link between Grass and the extended Collins’ family. He soon finds what he sought with Tracy’s mother, Maggie. Sothern believes Maggie has seen, and perhaps possesses, the lost missing diary of the late Erich Mielke, the notorious deadly East German Ministry of State Security chief. Maggie had been married to Dan “The Turncoat rebel” Boone, who defected to the USSR but tried to return to the West before the Wall came down; only to be assassinated. Now the past transgressions of the adults have converged on the rightfully frightened teenage child.

The Traitor in Us All is an exhilarating action-packed thriller that has deep ugly ties back to the Cold War. The story line is fast-paced from the opening kidnapping to the final confrontation, but ignore your plausibility meter as the plot is over the top of the Kremlin (perhaps the Burj Dubai would be more accurate).

Harriet Klausner

Walking Homeless-Al Lamanda

Walking Homeless
Al Lamanda
Five Star, Feb 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148514

In New York, homeless John Tibbets rescues NYPD cop Gary Nevin near the Manhattan entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge from a deadly assault; making him a city hero for also taking a bullet to the abdomen. Tibbets prefers to return to the shadows of the street. However, three decade police veteran Captain Walter Taft is shocked with a homeless person easily killing three thugs though he is extremely grateful the enigmatic man saved the life of his wife’s nephew by do so.

Adding to the mystery of Tibbets is he has amnesia and is unable to explain his skills of a SEAL or Delta forces commando. Tibbets insists he cannot recall anything before arriving at a Bowery St. shelter. The media goes crazy over the reluctant hero who upon leaving the hospital realizes he is being followed for what he assumes is an assassination. He also fears for the life of shelter head Julie Warner. As they flee into the night, corpses are left behind like bread crumbs for the cops to follow their trail.

This is a super fast-paced action thriller that hooks the audience with wanting to know (just like Taft) who is Tibbets as he killed three muggers a couple of nights before the rescue incident made him famous and a target. Fans will appreciate this powerful action-packed tale with several great twists that lead to a one sitting need to know thriller.

Harriet Klausner