Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dirty Laundry-Liz Osborne

Dirty Laundry
Liz Osborne
Five Star, May 7 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148576

Near Seattle, at Madrona Bay Hospital and Medical Center, Nurse Manager of the 3-West Unit Susan Wong complains about the perverted behavior of patient Jason Hilliard to forty year old Patient Relations manager Robyn Kelly. Apparently the twenty-six years old Hilliard flashes the staff though he insists it was done accidentally. He has been an in and out patient several times who no one wants to help. Robyn says the staff does not have to put up with this lewd behavior and she will warn him to cut it out.

Before she can do that she meets bewildered William Jones who says he lives in Central Park New York. The indigent elderly man has a nasty cut filled with maggots so Robyn intervenes and insures he receives proper treatment, but she goes home before she can visit Hilliard. That weekend her friend Police Detective Matthew Pierce injures his back moving heavy bags for Robyn and is hospitalized. Robyn accompanies him and stops to see William only to find another Hilliard complaint. She visits Hilliard who is dead with an IV cord around his neck. Police Chief Roberts botches the case from the onset, but claims he has a suspect so in spite of the warnings from her son and Matthew, Robyn investigates like she has done before (see Masquerade) as she knows who he will blame.

This is an engaging Washington State cozy with a nice late twist. The story line takes awhile to get into the whodunit as the focus is for a good portion of the tale is on the cast at the hospital. As Robyn proves a likable advocate for patients and staff, readers who enjoy a medical amateur sleuth competing with the cops will want to read the airing of Dirty Laundry at Madrona Bay.

Harriet Klausner

Elegy for April-Benjamin Black

Elegy for April
Benjamin Black
Holt, Apr 13 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780805090918

In 1950s Dublin, Dr. April Latimer apparently vanished; at least that is what her best friend Phoebe Griffin believes. She failed to meet the group at the Dolphin Hotel as she always does though the other members (Patrick Ojukwu, Isabel Galloway and Jimmy Minor) seem less concerned. Phoebe called the Hospital of Holy Family where April is a resident, but was told her pal called in ill.

Desperate April asks her “Uncle” Quirke the pathologist to investigate. She only recently learned he, not his recently widowed brother-in-law Malachy Griffin, was her biological father who gave her up when her mom died in childbirth. Although in detox at the House of St. John’s, Quirke would do anything for his “niece”. As he investigates what happened to the niece of a government minister, Quirke begins to unravel the worst in humanity as he finds the Latimer family conceals abuse and brutality within their circle so as to remain influential, the Catholic Church condoning people like the Latimer brood with their silent acceptance of abuse and brutality, and finally the community de facto collective racism that accepts abuse and brutality towards a white Catholic female and a Nigerian expatriate who must never fall in love. However, even as Quirke works the darkest streets, all roads lead to the convergence of the Dolphin Hotel group with her family.

The latest Quirke historical thriller (see Silver Swan and Christine Falls) condemns Ireland for its enabling the Church and the aristocracy to get away with what should have been criminal activity. Containing a strong cast, the fast-paced well written inquiry with brilliant final twists grips the reader throughout as Ireland is exposed for ignoring the shortcomings of moral institutions.

Harriet Klausner

Black Jack-Lora Leigh

Black Jack
Lora Leigh
St. Martin’s, Mar 2 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312945824

Like all Elite Ops field agents, Travis “Black Jack” Caine and Lillian "Night Hawk" Belle died in their previous civilian lives. Both were British aristocrats with him joining Elite Ops after British M16 felt he was too out of control while she enlisted after her agent father was murdered and almost her too. For six years, her mother, uncle and brother grieved her death in the car crash into the river that killed her dad; while his family rejoiced he was dead. Additionally they are attracted to one another.

Six years since she died, someone somehow recognizes Lilly Belle as Lady Veronica and tries to kill her; the bullet grazes her head leaving her with selected amnesia as she forgets everything that occurred since her first death. Elite Ops knows her father had uncovered a traitor who killed him before he could reveal who the person is. Black Jack’s assignment is to ferret out how dangerous the woman he loves as Night Hawk is in exposing other undercover operatives; and if she is the slightest threat kill her.

The latest Elite Ops (see Heat Seeker, Maverick, and Wild Card) is a character driven thriller that focuses on the mind of the heroine who if she recalls her lost memory becomes expendable by her agent peers and the traitor. Although amnesia has been used in espionage thrillers (Bourne) the story line is fast-paced with an interesting late spin. Fans will try to determine who the enemy is while also wondering why this person and the Elite Ops just don’t take Lily out before she regains her missing six years as she is a dangerous liability to each side.

Harriet Klausner

Deliver Us From Evil-David Baldacci

Deliver Us From Evil
David Baldacci
Grand Central, Apr 20 2010, $27.99
ISBN: 9780446564083

Shaw belongs to an agency that ignores legal limitations when it comes to capturing those who threaten the free world. His latest project is billionaire Evan Waller who makes his money kidnapping third world teens and selling them in the Western markets. However, he is widening his capitalist operations with the sale of nuclear weapons to Islamic Fundamentalists. Shaw and his team are to prevent the sales by eliminating the beast and his customers.

Fahir Kuchen killed and ordered massacred thousands in Kiev to keep the survivors in line and not give Moscow any problems. When the Soviet Union collapsed, he escaped making a new future for himself.

Reggie Campion works for an elite group that hunts down mass murderers. She and her unit are in Provence to make a hit on Waller whom she believes is Kuchen; Shaw is shocked after the two groups cross paths and hunt their respective villain.. Shaw persuades Reggie they need to unite before the hunted become the hunter as Kuchen has someone inside working for him and whether he is Waller or not, Evan is a deadly predator.

Many of the protagonists possess ulterior motives so that double crossing teammates and the other squad seem a way of life. This is the key element in the return of Shaw (see The Whole Truth) that makes Deliver Us From Evil a fascinating thriller. Shaw remains an enigma who is perfect for the jobs he undertakes in contrast with Reggie who has a secret agenda that makes her seem more human yet not detached enough to be his equal in the cold deadly field. David Baldacci is at his best with this exciting suspense thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Devil’s Keep-Phillip Finch

Devil’s Keep
Phillip Finch
Pocket, Mar 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439168561

It has been ten years since Ray Favor and his three teammates (Arielle Bouchard, Mex Mendoza, and Winston Stickney) were part of the Black Ops cell Bravo One Nine. They worked for the government on assignments, which typically ended up violent and homicidal. Now they have gone their separate ways with Favor a multi-millionaire who misses the adrenalin rush of the good old danger days.

Teenager Maeivic Valencia accepts a job in Manila. She texts her brother when she arrives in there, but he never hears another word from her. Her twin Ronnie goes to the office that hired her, but they insist she never reported to work. He believes they are lying, but they knock him out and take him to the same island prison where Maxine is held.

Mendoza receives a call from family in the Philippines wanting his help in finding the missing twins. Thinking this will be easy, he and Bravo One Nine go to Manila only to learn the Russians are running a monstrous operation on an isolated island where the twins are incarcerated. Brave One Nine unite for a dangerous rescue mission.

Phillip Finch is a great thriller writer whose latest novel is filled with action at a faster than light pace as a sort of Mission Impossible episode. The heroes are an entertaining quartet though the audience will suspend some belief that they remain in Bravo One Nine shape a decade after coming in from the heart of the cold. Still the linear story line will have the audience’s attention throughout as this is an enjoyable tale.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 26, 2010

Windward Passage-Jim Nisbet

Windward Passage
Jim Nisbet
Overlook, Apr 1 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781590201947

In the Caribbean, the Vellela Vellela partially sinks to the bottom of the shallow sea with smuggler Charley chained to the mast. Inside the small sailboat besides its chained captain on the dry section of the ship is a log with ten pages torn out and ripped off, the DNA of POTUS concealed inside of cocaine, and a partially written novel. None of this makes sense as whoever chained Charley and stole the log pages left behind a fortune.

In San Francisco Charley's sister Tipsy wants answers while drug lord Red Means wants his cargo. They combine their quests taking the booty, trying to learn who killed Charley and several answers to a myriad of why questions like why leave the loot behind, why tearing pages from the log and why the president’s DNA was even on board Charley’s vessel.

This is a gripping conspiracy thriller that captures the attention of the audience from the moment Charley knows time is running out on him and never let’s goes as the reader wants to know the answers to the ton of whys. Fast-paced throughout, the two amateur sleuths follow broken clues in an effort to learn the truth and possess what was left behind. Timely yet eerie in many ways, fans will enjoy this strange but exhilarating tale as political bias trumps over logic, fairness and common good in Jim Nisbet’s strong suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Deadly Deals-Fern Michaels

Deadly Deals
Fern Michaels
Zebra, Apr 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781420106862

In DC after trying but failing for years to have kids, late thirties couple Rachel and Thomas Dawson are euphoric when he donated sperm to a surrogate mom and eventually brought home their twins. It cost them $100,000 collected by Baron Bell but they felt it was worth every penny as did their parents whom lent them some of the cash. However, not long afterward a lawyer informed the couple that his client the surrogate mom wants her kids. They lost their children, are broken and Bell vanished.

Rachel visits lawyer Lizzie Fox though she cannot afford the fee. The attorney contacts the vigilante Sisterhood who learning of the baby-selling ring scheme and come to Washington to bring rightness to the madness even as a snowstorm hits the city.

Long time die hardest fans will fully relish the latest escapades as the crew still wait several books for their pardons, but keep doing good deeds; newcomers will find it difficult to grasp how the Sisterhood got to this point and less than devout faithful will question why one more. Still the ensemble vigilantes are solid, the angst of the Dawson duet powerful, and the activity of Mr. Wonderful and his baby selling insidious. Overall this is an enjoyable White Christmas in DC with the Sisterhood saga.

Harrier Klausner

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Kiss to Kill By-Nina Bruhns

A Kiss to Kill By
Nina Bruhns
Berkley, Apr 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425233832

In Manhattan, private protection firm Storm agents follow Dr. Gina Coppozi to keep her safe from al Sayika operatives especially her former lover CIA Black Ops ground Zero unit operative Greg Van Halen. She vows to kill him for selling her out to the terrorists. Gina also knows he is nearby watching her to obviously kidnap her for his handlers. Storm agents Alex Kane and Kick Jackson are part of the surveillance team, but are called off it to attend a meeting as NSA insists there is increased al Sayika chatter.

Alex loves CIA Special Agent Rebel Hayward and knows she loves him too, but he refuses to act on their mutual feelings as he feels unworthy of her. She is sent to Chesapeake Bay to investigate a threat posed by a yacht Allah’s Paradise and told by her boss she will work for Storm on this mission. Alex is assigned to join her.

In DC Metro Police detective Sarah McPhee leads the investigation of a dead woman Asha Mamoud. CIA agent Wade Montana calls Sarah to question her about Asha. Soon all will converge in DC as a diabolical traitor has set up everyone to take a deadly fall.

This is a great tale in which several subplots rotate nicely before blending together into a fast-paced romantic suspense thriller. The ensemble cast comes across as different and fully developed characters. Although A Kiss to Kill By can stand alone; it helps to have read the previous tales (see If Looks Could Chill and Shoot to Thrill) to better understand the references to the past. Still this is a terrific Storm entry.

Harriet Klausner

'Til Dice Do Us Part-Gail Oust

'Til Dice Do Us Part
Gail Oust
Obsidian, Apr 2020, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451229427

Claudia Connors returns home after spending time in Vegas. Her retiree buddies the Bunco Babes welcome home one of their charter members. However, she shocks the group when she introduces them to her new husband, actor Lance Ledeaux.

They are further stunned when Lance explains to the babes that he plans to direct and perform in a play in which he wants all of them to have roles in the production. The normally suspicious babes are won over by his offer and his general charm. However Kate McCall overhears a fight between the newlyweds over expense and becomes concerned for her friend. Soon afterward during rehearsal, someone loaded a gun with real bullets, leaving Lance dead and the cops suspecting his wife killed him. Kate leads the Bunco Babes’ investigation into the homicide.

This is an entertaining amateur sleuth as the Bunco Babes reject the notion of tossing dice during visiting hours to the state pen. Fans will enjoy the camaraderie of the BFFs as they Whack ‘n Roll their way through their investigation with humor, concern and catching optimism. Gail Oust rolls an eleven with this enjoyable winner.

Harriet Klausner

The 13th Hour-Richard Doetsch

The 13th Hour
Richard Doetsch
Atria, Dec 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9781439147917

In Byram Hills, New York, the police arrest Nick Quinn for murdering his wife Julia. The case seems air tight against Nick as Julia called 911 implying Nick was hurting her just before she was shot in the head. The murder weapon has his prints and his hand has gunpowder residue. He had the means and opportunity and though not as clear the motive.

While Nick is left alone in the police interrogation room brooding, grieving and frightened, a stranger arrives offering Nick a chance to go back twelve hours in time. However, he can only do so at one hour intervals. Nick welcomes the opportunity to simply prevent his wife’s murder. Yet as he returns to the past, he begins to understand time is not isolated or linear as an event as multiple repercussions; what seemed so simple turns out convoluted as he is soon dealing with a plane crash and other links that he never tied to his wife’s death.

This is a fascinating complicated time travel thriller that grips the audience throughout though only Nick seems multifaceted as everyone else is stereotyped to enhance his degree of difficulty. The story line is fast-paced even as the more the protagonist works his quest the more intricate the plot turns. Readers will want to go back in time with Nick as he learns turning back the hands of time is not easy.

Harriet Klausner

Sworn to Protect-DiAnn Mills

Sworn to Protect
DiAnn Mills
Tyndale, Apr 1 2010, $12.99
ISBN: 9781414320519

Even after two years, Border Patrol Agent Danika Morales has not gotten over the execution murder of her immigration activist husband, Toby. She believes Toby kept secrets from her about his activities because he knew she would not support him breaking immigration laws she enforces. Her brother-in-law Jacob, also a border patrol agent, has become a dictator of sorts; demanding her and his family adheres strictly to the rules.

Illegal immigrants are being brought over the border and work for free as a form of an indentured servant to the person who paid their transportation into America. One of these mules is Danika’s nanny Sandra; Danika believes her employee’s papers are in order making her legal. When her partner is shot, he is rushed to the hospital where Dr. Alex Price cares for him. Alex knew Toby and when he meets the widow, he falls in love with her though like her late husband did he keeps secrets from her. Danika cuts him out of her life when she learns what he had hid from her, but he takes a bullet intended for her. As she begins to believe again, Danika places herself in danger as she feels the attempt to kill her is tied to Toby’s unsolved murder.

Fans of Kathy Herman and Dee Henderson will want to read Sworn to Protect; a thriller filled with action, intrigue and romance. Readers obtain a glimpse into the dangerous lives of border guards confronting deadly coyote transporters and their illegals cargo who are looking for a better life in America. Although the latter seems somewhat abated with the recession, the audience will want more works starring courageous Danika.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Johnny Porno-Charlie Stella

Johnny Porno
Charlie Stella
Stark House, Apr 2010, $15.95
ISBN 9781933586298

In 1973 in New York City John Albano was fired from his carpentry job and his union card revoked for knocking out a foreman. He earns a living driving for a car service and as a courier collecting receipts for the Mafia’s showing of Deep Throat; his job as a mob runner has led to his nickname Johnny Porno. However, Johnny knows his salary is a pittance and he has child payments to make to his ex wife Nancy married to spouse three; Johnny is numero two. Thus he considers asking for better paying work from his employer, but fears doing so.

Meanwhile Nancy’s first husband Louis tells her they can make a bundle by ripping off Porno and leaving him holding the empty bag with his employer. Nancy has doubts not out of caring one iota for the father of her son, but because of the risk as he hubby three is a nice Philharmonic employee. As the police look at the dealings of Johnny’s boss Eddie Vento and investigate a crooked cop, Jonny is caught in the crosshairs.

Although over the top of the Empire State Building, Johnny Porno is a terrific Nixon Era crime caper reminiscent of Elmore Leonard. The story line is fast-paced, filled with action and violence, and stars a seemingly hapless chump struggling to survive in a cesspool. With the fun look at pop culture in circa 1973 enhancing the plot, readers, especially boomers, will enjoy Johnny Porno’s New York joy ride.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Toyman Rides Again-Robert S. Napier

The Toyman Rides Again
Robert S. Napier
Five Star, Apr 7 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148538

In Tacoma, Washington, veteran and former investigative reporter Jack Lorentz enjoys selling collectible toys to baby boomers though he only makes a modest living at the Olden Daze co-op. August Baldwin enters his shop and says he recognizes the smell of death by shooting (see Love, Death, And The Toyman). He explains to Lorentz that he wants to hire him to protect the reenactor Charles Swanson playing the role of General George Armstrong Custer. He feels with Jack’s recent reputation, he might keep away those who want to harm the reenactor playing the role because someone has threatened him.

Jack is to play the part of reporter Mark Kellogg who died at the battle of Little Big Horn. However, after a previous skirmish, on the way to the site where the current battle will rage, Native Americans led by Harold Two Bears and Professor Abigail She Stands In Light attack the company. When the dust settles, Custer-Swanson is dead with Two Bears’ knife in him. Police Sergeant Cooper arrests Two Bears while Abigail asks Jack to snoop as she believes her friend is innocent. Attracted to the professor, Jack knows she had access to Two Bear’s knife. As he makes inquiries, Jack alienates everyone.

This is a fun Reagan era whodunit starring a reluctant former investigative journalist who feels guilty that he failed at his mission though he knows Swanson as Custer was impossible to protect. The story line provides a fascinating deep look at reenactors, but an incident with a new recruit seems over the top of Granite Peak. The whodunit is entertaining as the reader knows whom most likely killed Custer yet not sure how. The Toyman Rides Again is a fun mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Drink the Tea-Thomas Kaufman

Drink the Tea
Thomas Kaufman
Minotaur, Mar 2 2020, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312607302

Years ago, jazz musician Steps Jackson and groupie Colette Andrews had a heated affair. Recently Steps learns he sired a daughter with Colette; an offspring he never knew existed. He pleads with his friend private investigator Willis Gidney to find his child.

Gidney agrees to work the case, but cautions Steps that he only works as a sleuth for hire part-time; his day job remains at a record warehouse. He quickly finds a name, but not much else. Still, after seemingly going all over DC, Gidney catches up to Colette. When he asks her about Bobbie and Steps, Colette angrily tells him to leave or the cops will escort him away. At the Cove jazz joint, Gidney receives a shocking call from Colette, who asks to meet with him. However, thugs assault him. When he awakens from unconsciousness, he learns the cops suspect he killed Colette.

Putting aside a major key coincidence, fans will fully enjoy the first Gidney tale. The story line is fast-paced as he works his case through a DC that is murkier than the Potomac. Readers will especially appreciate his childhood that surfaces at odd times, but does so as an essential part of the personality of the hero. Drink the Tea is a fine DC private investigative mystery.

Harriet Klausner

The Night Killer-Beverly Connor

The Night Killer
Beverly Connor
Obsidian, Apr 6 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451229601

After visiting Roy and Ozella Barre who donating their arrowhead collection to the museum; Forensic investigator and museum curator Diane Fallon is driving down a winding mountain road on a dark and stormy night. Lightning strikes a tree, which falls onto her vehicle; a skull falls from the tree through her windshield. A man asks her if she is okay; when she mentions the skull, he grabs her.

Diane breaks free of him and flees trying to return to the Barre home while the stranger releases his dogs. However Diane reaches their home only to find both dead. She owes her life to a stranger who got the dogs off her scent. Diane informs the local sheriff what happened including facts about her rescuer. She has doubts the sheriff can solve the case and another couple is discovered murdered in the same brutal manner as the Barrres were. Frank, the stranger who saved her life, is a private investigator hired to find a missing girl and her boyfriend. Against all advice to the contrary, Diane investigates, but a killer stalks her.

Fans who enjoy the forensic cases of Kat Scarpetta and Temperance Brennan will want to read the Diane Fallon mysteries. The protagonist holds three jobs, but does each one quite well. Loaded with non-stop action, viable suspects and an incredibly deep atmosphere of danger, The Night Killer is a strong entertaining whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 22, 2010

Without Mercy-Lisa Jackson

Without Mercy
Lisa Jackson
Kensington, Mar 30 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780758225641

The Blue Rock Academy is the last chance for troubled delinquents who have had run-ins with the law. Seventeen year old Shaylee was ordered there by a judge after a string of crimes to include theft and possession, etc. Her sister, unemployed teacher Julie “Jules” Farentino, knows Shaylee needs help, but fears Blue Rock may not be the answer. One of students Lauren Conroy disappeared from their school and she has never been found.

Acting on her feelings especially after consulting with her cousin’s husband, who was a T.A. at Blue Rock, Jules applies for a teaching position at the academy. Posing as a teacher at Blue Rock is Cooper Trent who was hired by Lauren’s parents to find out what happened to their daughter and to Jules’ chagrin the only man she ever loved. When Jules arrives at the exclusive Oregon school, she finds the place in an uproar as two bodies were found. As Trent and Jules team up, their feelings emerge though they try to deny them. If they can survive the dangerous undercover cloak and dagger, each wonders whether their relationship will endure afterward.

Lisa Jackson can always be counted on to deliver a pulse pounding original thriller. Jules is an ordinary woman who loves her disturbed half-sister so much she places herself at risk to learn what is going on at the academy that put her sibling over the edge. Filled with surprising twists, fans will be stunned and entertained throughout as Ms. Jackson provides a tense undercover romantic suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Stress Fracture- D. P. Lyle

Stress Fracture
D. P. Lyle
Medallion, Apr 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9781605421346

After retiring from homicide investigations, Dub Walker became a forensic consultant to the FBI's Behavioral Assessment Unit and a noted author on the topic. However, he returns to field work when his close friend Sheriff Mike Savage is brutally murdered in Alabama. Apparently this psychopath has viciously killed two other people.

The annihilator kills with rage and Dub knows he will not stop. He even knows who the predator is. Iraqi veteran Brian Kurtz came home with a severe case of PTSD; the Neuropsychiatric Research Institute gave him an experimental drug that for no apparent reason failed to calm him down, but instead turned him into a sadistic vicious beast. Dub must hunt down the animal, who has residents of Huntsville in a panic.

The key to this strong police procedural medical thriller is the killer whom ironically the audience meets at the beginning of the tale as Kurtz the monster receives empathy from readers who know he must die to end the blood rage. Dub is terrific as the hunter who feels the prey is stalking him. Expecting a High Noon showdown, fans will enjoy this entertaining cautionary tale as underneath the non-stop action, D.P. Lyle warns readers of the excessive use of drugs.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saintly Remains-Tony Perona

Saintly Remains
Tony Perona
Five Star, Apr 7 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148569

In Jasper, Indiana at West Jasper High School, two students shot five of their peers to death before committing suicide. On the wall of the school library was left a cryptic verse that hinted at a satanic cult ritual. However, the cops found no evidence of such beyond the enigmatic message so they assumed athletes bullied the two as four of the five were on teams. The fifth victim Keri Schoening was ruled to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Keri’s murder hammered at the gut of Joan Bertetto, a close friend of the victim’s mom Susan. With her spouse reporter Nick she attends the funeral of Keri.

Soon afterward, Nick and Joan are visiting her still in shock parents in Jasper. However, strange things occur starting with the skinning of the family cat Mr. Jangles and the snatching of Keri’s corpse from the cemetery. His paper asks Nick to investigate as other animal abuses have been reported. He soon begins to revise the theory that the jocks were the target to the belief that satanic worshippers wanted Keri who was known to believe in Jesus.

The latest Bertetto investigative mystery (seer Second Advent and Angels Whisper) is a timely mesmerizing thriller. At times graphic with the violence to animals, Saintly Remains is fast-paced throughout as the clock ticks down with the next teen victim being prepared for sacrifice. Tony Perona has another strong entry in what is one of the better mystery series.

Harriet Klausner

No Mercy-Lori Armstrong

No Mercy
Lori Armstrong
Touchstone, Jan 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9781416590958

Army sniper Mercy Gunderson has come home from Iraq to South Dakota filled with guilt for failing to return to see her dad one last time as he jus died. On medical leave due to a retinal detachment that makes being a sniper impossible and nightmares, Mercy must decide what she should do with the ranch she inherited form her father. Making the decision difficult is how to care for her reckless sister, single mom Hope and her irresponsible teenage nephew Levi recently collared by Sheriff Dawson for theft.

Someone hits Mercy in the back of her neck in a parking lot and soon afterward an unknown adversary shoots Levi in the head and heart leaving him dead. Mercy knows she has to tell Hope, but plans to also investigate her nephew’s murder. Soon she uncovers the shocking truth behind that homicide and another, but is running out of time as a determined killer targets the Gunderson brood.

This is an action-packed South Dakota amateur sleuth mystery starring a trained killer soldier who has a ton of emotional family baggage; perhaps too much. The story line starts a bit slow as the audience meets the players with their emotional issues especially the kick butt heroine. Once the introductions are finished, the story line is fast-paced driven by Mercy’s frenzied need to know who. Fans will enjoy the aptly titled tale as the heroine shows No Mercy to her enemies.

Harriet Klausner

Midnight Fires: A Mystery with Mary Wollstonecraft

Midnight Fires: A Mystery with Mary Wollstonecraft
Nancy Means Wright
Perseverance, Apr 10 2010, $14.95
ISBN 9781564744883

In 1786 Mary Wollstonecraft assumes life for her could not get any lower as she accepts humiliating work in County Cork, Ireland as a governess to the daughters of Lord and Lady Kingsboroug. Still, one must eat aand single women have few options. Thus Mary plans to make the best of her stay at Mitchelstown Castle.

Mary has given herself two rules to abide by. First she plans to write a novel. Second and foremost she is determined to stay out of the castle political squabbles. However, her resolve vanishes with the deaths of a sailor, the former governess, and an aristocrat. She believes a serial killer is on the loose and investigates seeking the link only to find several people with motives, but none with reasoning to kill the trio.

This is a terrific Georgian mystery with Mary Wollstonecraft starring as an amateur sleuth. Her investigation is clever as it enhances the overall theme of class and gender differences. Mary is the perfect guide for readers to look at the great divides in the late eighteenth century Ireland as she will one day soon write her famous manifesto. Nancy Means Wright provides an excellent historical mystery starring a superb heroine.

Harriet Klausner

Hand of Fate-Lis Wiehl with April Henry

Hand of Fate
Lis Wiehl with April Henry
Thomas Nelson, Apr 6 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9781595547064

As he is about to go on the air, Portland, Oregon radio talk show host Jim Fate opens an envelope he just received while inside the broadcast booth. He releases a toxic gas into the contained area and quickly dies from the poison gas that most likely is Saran.

Also inside the envelope is a copy of the play Talk Radio that later was turned into a movie. The story is based on the life and death of Denver radio host Alan Berg who was murdered. The Triple Threat Club members (pregnant federal prosecutor Allison Pierce, FBI special agent Nic Hedges and TV crime reporter Cassidy Shaw) decide to investigate who killed Fate.

The second Triple Threat thriller (see Face of Betrayal) is an exciting whodunit that readers will enjoy as the women team up seeking a killer. Each of the lead females also struggles with a personal issue that humanizes each of them but also detracts from the murder mystery. Still fans will full relish the latest escapades of the Triple Threat team as they work the Hand of Fate case together.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Killer-Tom Hinshelwood

The Killer
Tom Hinshelwood
Dunne, Apr 13 2010, $25.99
ISBN 9780312558048

In Paris mercenary assassin Victor shoots fifty-eight year old Latvian Andris Ozols and retrieves a flash drive from the corpse. Mission accomplished with ease, he leaves the body in the alley and goes back to his expensive Hotel de Ponto not thinking twice about the case or client as this was another easy one.

However, Victor finds his assertion false when two other hit men supported by others try to kill him at the hotel. He knows he is a target and speculates the motive is on the flash drive, but who remains unanswered. He survives the Paris assault barely and flees deeper into the content, but is being followed as other attacks to eliminate him occur. He knows he is embroiled in some sort of espionage scenario that leads to Africa where all converge on Victor and the flash drive.

Filled with twists mostly caused by double and triple crosses, thriller fans will relish the action-packed The Killer which never stops for a breathing break. Victor holds the storyline together as he goes from smooth remorseless paid killer to target of other professional killers including legalized government assassins. Sub-genre fans will enjoy his escapades to stay alive.

Harriet Klausner

Lucid Intervals-Stuart Woods

Lucid Intervals
Stuart Woods
Putnam, Apr 20 2010, $25.95
ISBN 9780399156441

Lawyer Stone Barrington and his former partner when he worked for NYPD Dino Bachetti are at Elaine’s when Herbie “the loser” Fisher enters carrying an attache case. He rushes over to Stone hiring him on the spot to be available when he needs an attorney. Stone and Dino knows something is bt off in the universe when Herbie pays Stone $1 million as a retainer. Herbie explains he won several with the lucky lotto, but the lawyer and the cop are skeptical.

Soon afterward British intelligence officer Felicity Devonshire retains Stone to find vanished former operative Stanley Whitestone, who disappeared a dozen years ago, but remains a person of interest by his former agency. Apparently, he was seen in New York recently. Jim Hackett, owner of a large private security firm, also employs Stone, who believes there is a reasonable chance he is Whitestone. Like a bad penny, then there is Stone’s crazy ex-wife Dolce Bianci causing havoc. In his life.

This is an entertaining Barirngton thriller that is filled with action and increasingly peril for the hero, but also somewhat tempered smoothly like good bourbon with jocularity. The two cases are fun and Dolcie brings her usual insanity to the mix as she is Loitering with Intent. As expected even the British spy joins the great Kisser for some boudoir activity as Stuart Woods provides an enjoyable blending of babes, bourbon and sleuthing in his latest Barrington tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Inheritance-Simon Tolkien

The Inheritance
Simon Tolkien
Minotaur, Apr 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312539078

In 1959 in London Stephen Cade is on trial for murdering his famous war hero and Oxford historian father. The case is obvious as the evidence condemns Stephen. He and his father were estranged for a long time and he only goes to see him when his dad cuts him out of his will. Soon after they argue, the older Cade is shot to death by a gun with the younger Cade’s fingerprints on it. He is convicted rather quickly and sentenced to die.

Oxford and Midland CID Police Detective Inspector William Trave finds the evidence too overwhelming for someone as intelligent as Stephen is. The prosecutor tells him to let it go as this was a crime of passion not intelligence. Unable to ignore his gut as five other people were in the crime scene mansion on that fatal night with tales that fail to match then and in 1944, Trave finds ties to Normandy where the famous late famous war hero apparently was part of an incident that left French civilians dead.

This is a super historical police procedural that brings to life England during the Cold War as Trave finds one revelation after another tying 1959 to 1944. The story line is fast-paced throughout although the audience figures out who the culprit is well before the cop does. Fans will enjoy Simon Tolkien’s entertaining whodunit as the investigation brings out a sort of historiographic feel to the plot with readers observing how the English in 1959 recall Normandy in 1944.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Silent Auction-Jane K. Cleland

Silent Auction
Jane K. Cleland
Minotaur, Apr 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780312586553

Antiques dealer Josie Prescott arrives at the Rocky Point, New Hampshire lighthouse for an appraisal. However, instead of a friendly greeting from Frankie the caretaker, nephew of her dear friend Zoe, she finds him lying dead on the kitchen floor with a blow to his head that left a major indentation on his skull.

Josie realizes that along with the murder there was also a theft. Specifically, someone stole a valuable scrimshaw tooth from the collection. The police investigate while Josie provides antiquing consulting services to help them with their case.

The latest Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery (see Killer Keepsakes) is a terrific cozy in which the heroine is not a more successful than the police amateur sleuth competing against the cops, but instead provides consulting services especially into scrimshaw. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Josie stumbles over the corpse of Frankie (an occupational hazard of the sub-genre). The audience will enjoy Josie’s escapades as the whodunit seems genuine and clearly fun as are the antiques tips and glimpses behind the scenes of a dealer.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Moonlit Earth-Christopher Rice

The Moonlit Earth
Christopher Rice
Scribner, Apr 2010, $25.00
ISBN 9780743294072

Following her being fired from her position as head of the Siegel Foundation, a Northern California not for profit firm facing bankruptcy, due to her radical methods, thirty year old Megan Reynolds returns to her mother’s home in Cathedral Beach near San Diego. Megan is disappointed as she tried to so hard to reach the homeless kids wandering the mean streets.

In Hong Kong, a terrorist attack leaves sixty dead. The FBI believes Megan’s flight attendant brother Cameron in conjunction with apparently his gay lover from the middle East Majed committed the atrocities. Megan vows to prove her naive but kind-hearted sibling would never harm anyone and starts a dangerous journey to prove she is right beginning with finding Cameron who vanished without a trace.

This is an excellent thriller that plays out on two levels: the international terrorism and the personal terror. The key is Megan who has faith in her sibling that he would not do these atrocities; she holds the fast-paced complicated plot together as she searches for her brother and the truth, praying her assertion is the truth. Readers will enjoy this exhilarating tale of a good caring person traveling a part of Asia that middle class American civilians avoid.

Harriet Klausner

Eye of the Mountain God-Penny Rudolph

Eye of the Mountain God
Penny Rudolph
Dunne, Apr 13 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780312545468

Professional photpgraphter Megan Montoya moves from Pennsylvania to Santa Ynez, New Mexico accomaopnied by her eight years old autistic child Lizzie. Megan hopes the move will help her career and her daughter.

Soon after the two feamles arrive in their new home, Megan finds inside her newspaper left outside five green colored arrowheads. A local jewler informs her they are emeralds and an archoelogst believes they may be the four hudnred plus years old Pima arrowheads of legend. valued at approximatlly a million dollars a piece. She thinks the find will answre her financial crisis although she wodners what happened to ther newspaper delivery boy. Menwhile Save the People orgaiznation hires her to photograph the poor women and children of the nearby mountain villages. Someone searchs her home and she begins to think everyone she meets has a hidden agenda; her paranoa proves real when a terrorist threatens an attack whiile her daughter becomes caught in the middle.

This is an over the top of Wheeler Peak thriller as a seemingly zillion zingers target the Pennsylvania transfers. The audience will root for marvelous Megan and lovely Lizzie. However, the myriad of subplots never converge into a cohesive story line though the heroine has a bulls-eye on her forehead. Still readers will enjoy Megan’s misadventures in the not so Land of Enchantment.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Cost of Love-Drue Allen

The Cost of Love
Drue Allen
Five Star, Apr 7 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148675

US Citizenship and Immigration Services Commander Martin sends his top field operative to White Sands Missile Range to look at a corpse. In the contained facility, septuagenarian Dr. Kowlson warns Dean Dreiser not to puke inside his hazmat suit when he sees the body of a young woman, who died from a biological weapon. Dean holds in his bile until he leaves.

With less than two weeks before the threat goes hot, the few clues focus on Roswell, New Mexico where Dean works undercover as a bartender at E.T. He is joined on the mission who is undercover at E.T. by twenty-something expert Dr. Lucinda Brown; whereas Dean believes her lack of field experience makes her a handicap, Kowlson and Martin chose her as the only person capable of defusing the weapon of mass destruction. They diligently work together to try to prevent the terrorist threat from an unknown group from occurring, but with limited success even as two more bodies are found that prove the enemy knows the American responder system, but with the days ticking away, these killers ask for nothing.

This is an exhilarating bio-terrorism attack that grips the reader when Dean sees the first corpse and holds it together long enough to drive away before vomiting and never slows down from there as the clock is ticking and the terrorists are experimenting. Dean and Lucinda are a wonderful pairing as they are attracted to one another, but understand the mission comes first. Although the final coda seems a minor stretch not quite as long as White Sands is, fans will appreciate this tat romantic suspense thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Deception-Jonathan Kellerman

Jonathan Kellerman
Ballantine, Apr 2010, $28.00
ISBN 9780345505675

Windsor Preparatory Academy teacher Elise Freeman is found dead in her apartment in Studio City. The victim is found lying in a tub of dry ice. Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Weinberg assigns the homicide investigation to Lieutenant Milo Sturgis with a stern warning to keep the exclusive Brentwood school out of the inquiry as much as possible though he offers no explanation; veteran cop Milo is used to personal agenda restrictions from superiors..

Milo is concerned with his boss’ admonition because Elise left behind a DVD accusing three of her peers of sexual harassment. He believes the case must start with them. Psychologist Alex Delaware assists Milo on the case and soon the pair find a teacher with plenty of skeletons that those involved with her want to remain interred. However, one of them has killed before and is willing to kill again to keep the bones buried.

As always in this remarkable police procedural, the lead pair of Milo and Alex make for a fine story line as they debate the merits of the case and much more. The investigation is totally hampered by Chief Weinberg placing a major stipulation on Detective Sturgis; this adds depth and a sense of realism to the whodunit. Fans of the long running series will enjoy Deception as the investigators seek Evidence while walking the tightrope of brass interference.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 15, 2010

Moonglade-Mary Fremont Shoenecker

Mary Fremont Shoenecker
Five Star, Apr 7 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148859

In Saco Bay, Maine, Paul Fontaine provides sailing lessons to Clare “CeCe” Chamberlaine when she shouts to him that there is a corpse on a nearby buoy. The skipper of Julie’s Dream assumes she is wrong, but she states as an emergency room nurse she has seen dead bodies, Clare declares this is a human corpse as it has hair. He radios the Coast Guard.

Maine Marine Patrol Sergeant Remi Windspirit leads the investigation into the death of the Jane Doe. The autopsy confirms that the victim was murdered and that she was a Native American. After questioning Paul and CeCe, Remi seeks clues. With CeCe pleading with her, Tante Margaret, who raised her, uses her psychic gift to assist on the inquiry until she is hurt. As the case takes strange twists, CeCe and Remi are attracted to one another, but he remains focused on his investigation.

The second Maine Shore Chronicles (see Finding Fiona) is a fun Pine Tree State cozy starring two likable lead characters, a strong key support cast who share billing with the stars and a vivid look at coastal Maine. The investigation is action-packed while the romantic subplot serves as a charming lighthearted secondary subplot. Fans will enjoy Mary Fremont Shoenecker’s fine whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Noir-Robert Coover

Robert Coover
Overlook, Mar 4 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590202944

As soon as the femme fatale entered his office private investigator Noir knew she was trouble and wanted to tell her to take a hike. However, she is beautiful and besides his unpaid office assistant who believes she is the boss Blanche would kill him if he rejected a paying customer. She explains she was a nurse to the dying wife of a wealthy man; when the spouse died she became wife number two. Now her husband is a murder victim and she hires Philip M. Noir to find his killer and protect her from his partner Mr. Big.

As Noir investigates without even knowing his client’s name, he fails to keep her safe from a killer. Stunned, he goes to the morgue to look at the corpse, but the body along with her clothing is missing. Noir searches for clues to who killed his paying customer as Blanche labels his work as "The Case of the Vanishing Black Widow". Receiving beatings and dishing out more, Noir works the crappy dives, the middle class dives and the affluent dives with his best progress occurring when he is knock out; when he is conscious Noir goes backwards.

Not for everyone, this is a great insane investigative thriller as if Max Smart turned into a Noir private investigator working the mean streets, tunnels under the streets, and a few less populated by even rats locales. The jocular story line focuses on Noir’s horrific sleuthing skills that lampoon the sub-genre starting with the detective who has no idea who his client is except she is loaded (money and boobs) nor who her late husband was. With perhaps the wildest final twist of the year to aptly climax the insanity, fans who relish a satirical sleuthing spin will appreciate the escapades of Robert Coover’s zany antihero Philip M. Noir with the M being a family thing.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Six Mile Creek-Richard Helms

Six Mile Creek
Richard Helms
Five Star, Apr 7 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148545

Prosperity in Bliss County North Carolina was a rural small town of framers and their families until the developers in nearby urban Parker County saw money to be made. The town was turned into a bedroom community suburb.

After leaving the Atlanta Police Department, Judd Wheeler took the job of police chief in his hometown; his staff consists of two deputies. One of them Marbury calls to tell him Donnie Clift is dead; Judd proves it was a suicide. Not long afterward the body of Hispanic teen is found near Six Mile Creek. Morgan Sheriff’s Department Investigator Neerjah Patel declares a homicide occurred and the body had been moved. The parents of Gitana “Gypsy” Camarena arrive at Judd’s office to ask about the victim as their daughter went missing three days ago. Judd knows they are illegals so they failed to report her vanishing; he also knows the dead girl is Gitana. As he investigates her murder Judd finds many townsfolk want the illegals gone and this case dropped.

This is a taut regional police procedural with three groups distrusting one another and Wheeler caught in the middle trying to do the right thing. The homicide raises the anxiety amongst Hispanics especially illegals, the long time farm families who demand a return to the past, and the affluent suburbanites who prefer CSI on TV. With racism, discrimination, and loathing, Wheeler and other law enforcement officials have their work cut out to solve the case and keep everyone calm. Six Mile Creek is a superb whodunit due to the rising tension.

Harriet Klausner

Foodchain-Jeff Jacobson

Jeff Jacobson
Five Star, Apr 7 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148200

He was distracted by the blood he saw his mom cough up while attending a racing horse at Arlington. Not paying enough attention to his patient, promising veterinarian student Frank Winter takes a kick to the left side of his head leaving him with brain damage and ending his career. Frank still owes his college debts to Castellari who has plans for him to make remittance.

Sergio and Guilio abduct Frank and Red for a horse doping that ended up on the news when the steed died. The boss of the two thugs Castellari does not like public mistakes so they must pay. They are dumped at a zoo for circus animal throwaways. There the felons toss Frank into an alligator tank, but he escapes with the help of a lion. He flees, ending up in Whitewood, California where he meets the town monarch Horace Sturm who is dying, like his fiefdom. Horace persuades Frank they can make money while humanely dispatching the starving zoo animals with safari hunts.

Pulling no punches Jeff Jacobson hammers at the hunting for sport community and at animal abuse, abandonment and neglect with a tale that Sam Peckinpah would have loved to film. The vivid in red story line is fast-paced from the moment that Castellari’s thugs arrange a visit to the zoo for Frank. Aptly named as the animals are in the ooze below the Foodchain, readers who enjoy plenty of guts, blood and gore will join Frank on his joy ride; those who prefer cozies will want to pass.

Harriet Klausner

The Burning Lamp-Amanda Quick

The Burning Lamp
Amanda Quick
Putnam, Apr 20 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780399156465

In the late seventeenth century alchemist Nicholas Winters developed the Burning Lamp to enhance his arcane skills, but the cost was an insanity curse to his descendents. Only a woman of special power, a dreamlight reader, can work the artifact and prevent the descent into insanity. His enemy Sylvester Jones formed the Arcane Society to police practitioners and remain vigilant in watching the Winters’ brood.

In the late Victorian Era, recently orphaned fifteen years old Adelaide Pyne is sold to a brothel. Her first customer Mr. Smith shows her a special lamp with it’s’ power not activated. Smith uses a crystal to kill the brothel owner, but Adelaide shocks him with her dreamlight skill when she puts him to sleep. Although unsure why, she runs away with the lamp and his money.

Thirteen years later, London Director of the Consortium crime lord Griffin Winters seeks a social reformer who has raided brothels though he does not own whorehouses. He needs this woman and the Burning Lamp to prevent his descent into insanity. He arranges through a mutual acquaintance to meet the Widow. She recognizes he uses shadow magic to conceal himself, but he is excited when she easily spots him. Griffin explains he needs her to prevent his fall into insanity. She mentions possessing the Burning Lamp which was stolen from his parents the night they were murdered. They are attracted to each other and she agrees to help him. However Smith abetted by crime lord Luttrell is coming for her and the lamp.

This exhilarating Arcane Society Victorian romantic fantasy moves forward the overarching theme of the Dreamlight trilogy (see Fired Up) but easily stands alone. The lead couple is an interesting pairing of a crime lord and a social reformer although he never displays criminal activity; while Jones and Jones play support roles. Although the two villains never quite live up to reader anticipation, fans will relish this superb thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Sandbox-David Zimmerman

The Sandbox
David Zimmerman
Soho, Apr 1 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9781569476284

In the middle of the Iraqi Desert at Forward Operating Base Cornucopia, known by those misfortunate to be stationed there as Sandbox, U.S. Army Private Toby Durrant was worrying about his pregnant fiancée, but not for long. An ambush kills two soldiers while a shocked Toby pees in his pants.

Still stunned, Lieutenant Blankenship assigns Toby to quietly scrutinize the information provided by their translator and afterward question two prisoners suspected of belonging to the insurgents. Besides a lack of language skill, Toby is further confused why him as he has no interrogation experience or training. Nothing makes sense to him, but fearing something darker engulfing him, he almost pees again in his pants when the two Iraqi prisoners are found dead. Military Intel arrives to interrogate Toby; asking him questions about Blankenship.

There is lot more going on in the desert, but what makes this a great Iraqi war saga is Toby, an ordinary individual who has made several mistakes in his life, but now is caught up with something that could unfairly leave him holding the bag. He has learned the path sh*t travels in the military as corruption at the top means those at the bottom pay the price if exposure occurs. Pulling no punches, David Zimmerman paints a grim military thriller of a grunt just trying to survive the folly of war fought as a suits’ capitalist endeavor.

Harriet Klausner

Grey Matters-Clea Simon

Grey Matters
Clea Simon
Severn, Mar 2010, $28.95
ISBN: 9780727868404

Harvard doctoral candidate Dulcie Schwartz feels a bit overwhelmed as a third year grad student trying to get her adviser Professor Bullock to approve her thesis concept on the gothic novel The Ravages of Umbria and its author. After meeting with distracted Dr. Bullock at his home, Dulcie leaves only to find the corpse of fellow graduate student Cameron Dessay lying on the front step. She especially did not like the pompous comp lit transfer who the females dubbed “de sigh”, but would not wish him dead.

Although she has solved a mystery recently (see Shades of Grey) Dulcie would prefer to stay out of this one so she can focus on her treatise and advise undergrad Raleigh Hall. However, Cambridge PD Detective Carioli invites her to the station in Red Square for questioning and upon meeting the self assured Raleigh while watching her friend Lloyd Pruitt react with fear, Dulcie wonders if she can avoid sleuthing especially when her late cat Mr. Grey appears telling her to have faith in her own abilities while her new kitty purrs.

This is a terrific academic amateur sleuth with a bit of the paranormal enhancing the entertaining story line. Fast-paced, readers obtain a deep look at academia at Harvard, which wraps around the murder mystery. Dulcie is a superb lead protagonist who holds the plot together while encouraged by the ghost of Mr. Grey to rust herself as he does. Grey Matters is a wonderful investigative thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Island Sting-Bonnie J. Doerr

Island Sting
Bonnie J. Doerr
Leap, Dec 2009, $11.99
ISBN: 9781616030025

Following her parents’ divorce, Kenzie Ryan left New York City to live with her mom Maggie on Big Pine Key 30 miles from Key West and 100 from the Mainland. . Hardly settled in the wildlife refuge location, Kenzie rescues a Key deer from drowning with the help of local Angelo who explains the animal is part of an endangered species.

However, Kenzie learns someone is poaching and killing the dwindling Key deer populace. She and Angelo team up to catch the poacher, unaware of the danger as the hunter soon changes game from deer to stalking amateur sleuthing teens.

Island Sting is an engaging young teen environmental investigative mystery starring two solid young caring teenagers. The story line is fast-paced and the whodunit contains several viable suspects. Readers will enjoy the adventures of Kenzie and Angelo as they try to protect the endangered Key deer from a poacher. Note that this is a major rewrite of preadolescent tale Kenzie’s Key targeting a slightly older audience and includes recent events like a reference to White House party crashing for instance.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Whisper to the Living-Stuart M. Kaminsky

A Whisper to the Living
Stuart M. Kaminsky
Forge, Jan 2010, $23.99
ISBN: 9780765318886

Russia's Office of Special Investigations Chief Inspector Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov leads the investigation into who the Bitsevsky Maniac serial killer is. The victims are elderly people murdered by a hammer or similar blunt instrument relentlessly bashing them. Most of the corpses have been found in Bitsevsky Park with a few just outside; hence the media nickname.

Desperate to end the killing spree as over forty people have lost their lives to this psychopath, Rostnikov offers himself up as bait by hanging around the park that has been turned into a graveyard by the predator. At the same time his team struggles to protect a British journalist who wants the cops to stay always while h is investigating Moscow prostitution and the chief’s son Iosef works a double homicide in which a popular boxing champ apparently killed his wife and her alleged lover his sparring partner.

Although the audience knows from the beginning the identity of the Maniac, fans will relish Rostnikov’s latest police procedural as he dangles himself to catch a horrific prolific killer. That subplot, which is the main thread of A Whisper to Living, pays homage to one of the grandmasters of mystery writing Stuart M. Kaminsky who passed away in October. The other subplots pale in comparisons feeling more like filler. Still fans of a terrific modern day Moscow police procedural will enjoy Rostnikov’s apparently final act (see People Who Walk in Darkness and the classic Cold red Sunrise).

Harriet Klausner

Boca Mournings-Steven M. Forman

Boca Mournings
Steven M. Forman
Forge, Feb 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765319883

Eddie Perlmutter retired from the Boston Police Department looking forward to sun and fun in Boca Raton, his new home. However, though he intended to mind his business, the almost sexagenarian cannot sit idly by while crimes and injustice occurs which is why the local paper calls him the Boca Knight. He knows he suffers from something a shrink called “compulsive explosive disorder” although he would have said hyperactivity, but cannot stop from helping those in trouble. Thus he opens up a private investigative agency with a staff of himself.

Business is booming as Eddie resolves situations his style which includes beating up some punk. His preference is first to teach respect of others but does not mind using fistic “poetic justice” to achieve his goal. Eddie understands the difficulty of using fists on an eighty something bagel felon or quacks allegedly practicing medicine when to him they seem more like financiers. However, even Mr. Johnson tells him to take it easy on his lower head as Eddie works cases involving Neo-Nazis and the Russian Mafia that will abet his retirement wish of visiting other countries.

Once again over the top of Britton Hill, the second Boca Raton private investigative tale contains an amusing series of cases deftly handled in unique ways by the hero. The story line is at its best when Mr. Johnson remains covered especially as the Boca Knight heroically deals with a myriad of social issues with depth and passion. Humorous yet profound as Steven M. Forman scrutinizes human rights of gays, when a Neo Nazi’s First Amendment rights clash with that of a Jew, and a scathing look at health care in a state with so many seniors who go without.

Harriet Klausner

The Book of Spies-Gayle Lynds

The Book of Spies
Gayle Lynds
St. Martin’s, Mar 30 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312380892

Rare book expert Eva Blake knows justice is a sham when she is convicted of her husband’s death in a car accident in which she insisted throughout she was the passenger. While she unfairly remains behind bars, The CIA during a forensic financial sweep in the Middle East learns of the rumored Library of Gold where priceless ancient tomes are allegedly stored; they even obtained a copy of the Book of Spies sold on the black market by a “librarian”. The spy agency knows Eva’s husband was a believer that the Library of Gold exists so offer Eva a deal which she accepts.

Freed from prison with the job of locating the library, Eva is stunned when she sees her spouse alive as she went to jail for his death. Even more shocking is that she realizse that her husband was not just a myth believer, but is the director of the Library of Gold. When she meets Judd Ryder he tries to persuade her that his motives involve the murder of his espionage agent father whose death he ties to the keepers of the Library of Gold. However, as she has quickly learned during her inquiry, Eva trusts no one, not even the Feds who released her from prison or a son insisting he seeks a killer because the Library of Gold influential agents are everywhere.

This is an exciting treasure hunt espionage conspiracy thriller that grips the audience the moment the CIA enlist Eva to conduct their research and never releases the reader as the heroine becomes paranoid with justification during her dangerous investigation. The story line is fast-paced throughout even with a seemingly cast of thousands support characters that Cecil B. Demille would appreciate. However, Eva and to a lesser degree Judd make this an enjoyable read as trust no one is the norm.

Harriet Klausner

Scandal on Rincon Hill-Shirley Tallman

Scandal on Rincon Hill
Shirley Tallman
Minotaur, Mar 30 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312386979

In the year of our Lord 1881 in San Francisco someone stabs to death botanist Nigel Logan. The corpse is found on Rincon Hill, a couple blocks from the Woolson family home. Adding to the connection is that the night before the homicide, Nigel and Judge Horace T. Woolson attended the same party.

SFPD Police Sargeant George Lewis accompanied by the Judge’s son crime reporter Samuel investigates. Also looking into the murder is the Judge’s other offspring Sarah the attorney. A few days later, Logan’s friend Deacon Hume is killed; seemingly by the same culprit. The police arrest Chinese immigrants as the case is going nowhere so they need suspects even if there is not one drop of evidence. Sarah defends the Asians although many on Rincon Hill including a predator want her to lose the case.

The latest Woolson historical mystery is a superb San Francisco Victorian tale (see The Cliff House Strangler) that is a great period piece legal thriller. The story line is fast-paced from the moment George wakes up Sarah by tossing pebbles at her window and never slows down. Although the climax can be seen from the top of Nob Hill to the Tenderloin, fans will enjoy this exhilarating Americana novel.

Harriet Klausner

Eight Days to Live-Iris Johansen

Eight Days to Live
Iris Johansen
St. Martin’s, Apr 20 2010, $27.99
ISBN: 9780312368159

Found all around the world, the cult worships Judas Iscariot, who they believe was God’s Chosen One to betray Jesus in order to fulfill a biblical prophecy. The members know for certain that Judas is in Heaven sitting next to God. They meet annually on April 1 to provide a human sacrificial blood offer in Judas’ name.

Jane McGuire is having an art show of her work at the Denarve Gallery in Paris. Someone wants to spend a fortune on “Guilt”, a picture of a man whose face is tortured by internal demons. The Judas followers believe Jane committed blasphemy with her painting; so they decide she shall be this year’s sacrifice. The picture came to her in dreams, but the cult thinks with the vivid details within the portrait she has been to the holy place where an ancient treasure is concealed. They try to grab her, however Jane escapes, but not before learning she is to be their Offering. Jane calls the expert for advice, her adopted mom Eve Duncan and her lover Joe. Two men are after Jane with differing motives, but share in common that her loved ones are expendable.

Eight Days to Live is Iris Johansen at her very best in a fresh switch in which Eve and Joe play secondary roles while Jane stars. She calls on Caleb, a man with psychic powers who applies them in such a way that Eve does not approve. However he remains Jane’s only hope to survive the next eight days. This is a gripping one sitting suspense thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A River in the Sky-Elizabeth Peters

A River in the Sky
Elizabeth Peters
Morrow, Apr 2010, $25.95
ISBN 9780061246265

In 1910 Egyptologists Amelia Peabody and her husband Radcliffe Emerson learn their son Ramses has been kidnapped in Palestine. Though the information is sketchy, apparently German archaeologist, Frau Von Eine and her Muslim partner Mansur abducted Ramses.

Amelia and Radcliffe rush to Palestine focusing on rescuing their son and preventing a looting of biblical treasures in Jerusalem by an amateur Morley interested only in money. At the same time, Ramses focuses on escaping captivity. Although they have no idea what the motive is, his parents deem their best chance of locating their son is avaricious Morley who has links with Von Eine.

This is a terrific look at Palestine in 1910 as archeologists, professional and amateur descend on the biblical treasures of the country. The story line is fast-paced throughout, as the escapades of Amelia and Emerson, and separately those of Ramses are gripping. Although the key element behind the kidnapping never elucidated, fans will enjoy this fine "memoir" in a strong early twentieth century series.

Harriet Klausner

Off Track-Clare Curzon

Off Track
Clare Curzon
Minotaur, Apr 13 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780312375324

Lee Barber drives for the Misbourne Line in Thames valley. He dreams of leaving this junker for the modern European express on the content. However, though conditions are foggy, he slightly overshoots the Denham Golf Club Station. Someone named Ince reports him, darkening his career and ending his dreams.

N LA few days later an intoxicated Lee sees a man with a briefcase containing INCE written on it; so he assaults him in a rage. His victim turns out to be microbiologist Piers Egerton who worked for Immunio-Neutralizing Combat Exercise; Piers was meeting reporter Max Harris to expose the horrid research he and others were doing to animals. Soon afterward, Max’s significant other Thames Valley police detective sergeant Rosemary Zyczynski looks for the missing Piers while someone abducts Lee’s five year old daughter Jenny. Everything converges on the Barber home including a corpse.

This is an interesting Thames Valley police procedural though not the strongest of entries as too much coincidence occurs especially with the Harris-Zyczynski connection to the whistle blower and the seemingly uncommon name of INCE starting a series of events. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Lee chokes Piers and never slows down as the lives of several people have gone Off Track.

Harriet Klausner

Eight for Eternity-Mary Reed and Eric Mayer

Eight for Eternity
Mary Reed and Eric Mayer
Poisoned Pen, Apr 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN 9781590587027

In Constantinople in A.D. 532, two criminals escape custody. Emperor Justinian is informed and is very concerned as each supported rival chariot racing teams at the Hippodrome and he knows how sports fans are insanely fanatics. He orders his loyal Lord Chamberlain, John to investigate.

John quickly finds the corpses of both men in a cistern. Meanwhile, as the city is torn by rioting that impedes his investigation, two influential nephews of a former ruler declare their support of General Belisarius encouraging him to lead a rebellion; they want to rule.

This is a great ancient historical mystery series that ironically uses numerals in the titles (see Seven for a Secret), but never goes by the numbers in telling the story. The current entry is a strong period piece that highlights the riots of 532 AD and the rivalry to snatch the throne from Justinian. John's inquiry provides fans a deep look at Constantinople in the sixth century wrapped inside a strong investigation. Sub-genre fans will believe Mary Reed and Eric Mayer are eight for eight and want nine for reading soonest.

Harriet Klausner

The Significant Seven-John McEvoy

The Significant Seven
John McEvoy
Poisoned Pen, Apr 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN 9781590587058

In Chicago FBI agents Karen Engel and Damon Tirabassi ask Jack Doyle to help them work a cruel case of animal brutality to fix races at nearby Heartland Downs. They explain a new form of “sponging” has occurred in which a sponge placed in a horse’s nasal passage to cut off half of the oxygen flow prevents an odds on favorite from running a solid race. Though they do not have his lower anatomy like they did when they used him before, Jack agrees to go undercover at Heartland.

Back in 2002, The Significant Seven, who met as students at the U of Wisconsin three decades earlier, won the Pick Six and use their winnings to buy racing horses. They have local success thanks to Badger Express. As Jack is undercover at Heartland, professional killers are assassinating the Significant Seven one at a time, but supplement their hit list with Jack whose investigation crosses over.

This is an exhilarating thriller as Jack works a cruelty to animals betting fix case, which leads him to a serial killer investigation. The story line is faster than Secretariat ran the Belmont as Jack finds himself in several Close Call predicaments. Mystery fans especially those who enjoy the Sport of Kings will appreciate this entry and the series as John McEvoy enhances the whodunit with horse racing tales.

Harriet Klausner

The Ragtime Fool-Larry Karp

The Ragtime Fool
Larry Karp
Poisoned Pen, Apr 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN 9781590586990

At one time, Brun Campbell was the sole white student of ragtime master Scott Joplin. However, that was seemingly ages ago for now in 1951, The Ragtime Kid is an old man who cuts hair in Venice, California, but continues to push Joplin’s reputation hoping to get some good publicity for the ragtime great.

In Joplin’s hometown of Sedalia, Missouri, plans to honor him in a special ceremony have divided the area. Many are proud of what the late great ragtime guru did, but the Klan has other thoughts. When word of a Joplin journal surfaces, Brun and a seventeen years old New Jersey ally Alan Chandler are exhilarated and want it published so the profits will allow the leaders of Sedalia to create a Joplin-Ragtime museum. Historian Rudi Blesh also wants to publish the journal as a book. Others including close friends of Joplin do not want it published while the Klan wants to destroy the diary. The Klan believes killing including blowing up a filled auditorium is acceptable.

The third Ragtime historical tale is a superb thriller with a seemingly cast of thousands deftly played like a maestro by Larry Karp. The multiple sub-plotted story line is fast-paced as several diverse interests converge in Sedalia. The deep look at racial relations and divisions during the end of the Truman era as well as how those who knew Joplin prefer to pick and choose their history as nostalgia wants positive memories which makes for a strong character driven mid twentieth century thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Laughed ‘Til He Died-Carolyn Hart

Laughed ‘Til He Died
Carolyn Hart
Morrow, Apr 6 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 978-0061453090

On the small South Carolina barrier island of Broward's Rock lives Max and Annie Darling. Annie owns the mystery bookstore Death on Demand while Max runs an inquiry agency Confidential Commissions.

Jean Hughes, director of Haven, a youth recreation center, is not having her contract renewed due to the lobbying of her former lover affluent and influential businessman Booth Wagner. Jean asks Max to help her keep her job because her sister is dying and they want to stay here. However, Booth succeeds in forcing Jean to give up her position. On the night she is to announce her resignation, someone kills Booth. The evidence mounts that Jean killed her ex lover, but both Darlings think otherwise as they believe Jean would never risk anything at that this time due to her beloved sibling’s failing health as separation is unacceptable. Max and Annie learn that Booth made a myriad of enemies that include his family and ex wife. However, pressure on Max mounts when Annie and Booth’s heir end up in the crosshairs of a killer.

The Darling Death on demand mysteries are always a special treat because the investigation seems genuine with a plenty of suspects and the loving relationship between Max and Annie enriches the whodunit story lines. Carolyn Hart’s latest cozy is filled with strong characterizations including a killer in plain sight, but readers will find it almost impossible to determine who that person is even with clues also in plain sight. Carolyn Hart provides another Darling regional mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tooth And Claw-Nigel McCrery

Tooth And Claw
Nigel McCrery
Pantheon, Feb 23 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780307377029

In England, Detective Chief Inspector Mark Lapslie finds his synesthesia worsening so he has special compensation to work from his house; sound is the sense that gives him his most difficult challenges as often he nauseatingly tastes noise although he is beginning to hear smells making noises. His wife and child left him even before his olfactory sense changed as he is impossible to live with due to his condition. His sometimes partner Sergeant Emma Bradbury arrives at his house to take Lapslie to the Essex home of TV newscaster Catherine Charnaud, a torture murder victim who was horribly skinned alive. Before arriving Emma gives Mark headphones to keep noise away from him.

Meanwhile psychopath Carl Whittley continues to experiment with explosive devices while constantly fighting with his profiler mom and watching his dad remain bedridden. He is riding high since he skinned Catherine. He plans even more gruesome homicides.

Rotating perspective between a psychopath and a cop with synthesia, Nigel McCrery provides an intriguing English police procedural psychological suspense. Lapslie’s sensual issues along with Whitley’s obsessive compulsive behavior deadly impulses overwhelm the investigation. Readers who relish a psychological comparative study of a cop and a killer adjusting to their respective worlds will want to read Tooth and Claw and its predecessor Still Waters; as for those who prefer a more typical British police procedural needs to pass as the lead duo supersede the case.

Harriet Klausner

Hell Gate-Linda Fairstein

Hell Gate
Linda Fairstein
Dutton, Mar 9 2010, $26.95
ISBN: 9780525951612

A Ukrainian ship carrying human cargo to New York sinks near Rockaway Beach in Queens. Many die with the few survivors talking in their native tongue about abuse and brutality. Thirty women were part of the cargo to be employed in the lucrative sex trade; however one of the females died before she fell into the icy water. New York County Sex Crimes Office ADA Alexandra Cooper is at the scene shocked by the inhuman behavior and vows to find out who killed this Jane Doe.

Married Manhattan Congressman Ethan Leighton flees the scene of a car accident that he caused being under the influence at the about the same time his lover Mexican immigrant Salma Zunega calls 911 to report his threatening her. Soon afterward she and their child Ana vanish. Mayor Vin Statler demands resolution, but not expected it to occur at Gracie Mansion nor the snakehead rose tattoo tying the cases together.

The latest Cooper thriller is a terrific entry (see Lethal Legacy) that hooks the audience immediately and never misses a beat though there is even more going on than the two prime subplots. Fast-paced throughout, fans will appreciate Hell’s Gate as Linda Fairstein provides a deep look at human trafficking in which pure capitalism rules over basic commonly accepted rights with the United States as a major economic partner in spite of solid law enforcement efforts to prevent it.

Harriet Klausner

Liars All-Jo Bannister

Liars All
Jo Bannister
Minotaur, Apr 2010, $25.95
ISBN 9780312612399

In South Downs, Bobby Carson purposely runs down Tom Sanger and Jane Moss; Tom dies and Jane is severely injured. Bobby stops not to see if the couple is okay, but instead he steals a black star sapphire necklace that Tom just gave to his fiancée.

Bobby pawns the necklace, but is caught soon afterward by law enforcement. Bobby's mother Margaret feels sad and melancholy as she had high hopes for her son; she hires Brodie Farrell of Looking for Something? to find the necklace and give it back to Jane.

This is a superb Brodie Farrell mystery (see Closer Still) as the two moms share a special camaraderie with Margaret knowing her offspring is a psychopath and Brodie’s child Jonathan is very sick. Besides the moms and their sons, the support cast enhances this extremely emotional investigation especially Jane’s friend and assistant Daniel Hood and Brodie’s ex Detective Superintendent Jack Deacon. Fans of the excellent series will realize this is one of the best as readers will muse over the things we do for love.

Harriet Klausner

Murderous Procession-Ariana Franklin

Murderous Procession
Ariana Franklin
Putnam, Apr 2010, $25.95
ISBN 9780399156281

In 1176, King Henry II of England orders his most trusted friend and adviser, his Mistress of the Art of Death, Dr. Adelia Aguilar to escort his ten year old daughter Joanna to Sicily where she will marry her second cousin King William. Adelia knows the area quite well having studied medicine in Salerno, Italy.

The trek proves dangerous as there are several assassins who want to strike at King Henry by killing his daughter and by one insidious killer Scarry, who wants Adelia dead. Some members of the wedding party are murdered as they journey across the continent. However though seeking the killers, Adelia never loses sight that keeping Princess Joanna safe is all that counts.

The fourth Mistress of the Art of Death historical mystery (see Grave Goods) is an entertaining tale based on the real wedding journey of Princess Joan. The deadly trek hooks the audience although the historical aspects overwhelm the whodunit. Still readers who enjoy a late twelve century tale will want to join Adelia, Joanna and their companions on they travel from England to Sicily.

Harriet Klausner

Never Look Away-Linwood Barclay

Never Look Away
Linwood Barclay
Delacorte, Mar 9 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780553807172

In Promise Falls, New York David Harwood is a reporter for the Standard. He has been married to Jan for five years and they have a four-year-old son, Ethan. They seem like the perfect American family. Recently David has become concerned about Jan. She tells him dark things that frighten him. Depressed all the time, Jan believes the two men in her life would be better off if she was not in their lives. Jan talks of suicide so a desperate David suggests she visit their doctor or perhaps a psychologist. She angrily yells at him no as she refuses medical treatment.

David investigates the opening of a private company run prison owned and operated by Star Spangled Corrections. Inmates will work to pay for their keep and bring the firm profits. David believes something is off kilter with the deal that CEO Elmont Sebastian has made with town leaders; enhanced by a warning not to write anything derogatory or scandalous while his editor at the Standard refuses to print his prison articles. The Harwood trio visits Five Mountains amusement park where first Ethan and then Jan vanish while a frantic David searches for them. Ethan is found, but Jan is not and the police suspect her husband of foul play.

This is an exhilarating psychological investigative thriller starring a near hysterical lead protagonist who becomes the target of an investigation as no one seems willing to help him. The story line is fast-paced while nicely set up so that the reader comprehends David’s need to learn and expose wrong doing while also feeling how deep Jan’s depression goes. From there the tale takes off once the family becomes separated at the amusement park. Fans of taut suspense will relish aptly titled Never Look Away.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Bride Collector-Ted Dekker

The Bride Collector
Ted Dekker
Center Street, Apr 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9781599951966

In Denver, Quinton Guild believes young beautiful women need to be the Brides of Christ. To insure they accept their destiny to be with God, he murders them. However, he glues his chosen ones to a wall and slowly drains them of their blood.

FBI Agent Brad Raines is assigned the investigation into ending the killing spree of this Brides of Christ psychopath. He is getting nowhere in his efforts to find the serial killer until he decides to discuss the case with unique consultants. Brad visits the Center for Wellbeing and Intelligence, an institution filled with gifted but insane people such as schizophrenic Paradise who can see the final moments of life of a dead person. Now The Bride Collector wants to marry forensic psychologist Nikki Holden to Christ.

This is an exciting serial killer thriller that is fast-paced when the psychopath is front and center especially performing the macabre marriage rituals and when Brad meets the institutionalized insane. The story line slows down when Brad introspectively overly philosophizes whether it is better to love or not to love as loved ones die; yet ironically his discourse on who is mentally healthy vs insane is brilliant; albeit also slowing down the pace. Still Ted Dekker provides his audience with a terrific thought provoking whodunit as readers will wonder who is locked away and why.

Harriet Klausner

Nowhere To Run-C.J. Box

Nowhere To Run
C.J. Box
Putnam, Apr. 2010, $25.95
ISBN 9780399156458

Wyoming Game Warden Joe Picket investigates a hunting complaint in a remote section where a female runner vanished years ago. Entering the woods, Joe feels a creeping sensation up and down his spine that someone is stalking him.

However, paranoia can prove genuine when someone ambushes Joe. He barely escapes from the woods. Joe reports that survivalists and a female attacked him. His account leads to a media frenzy as a runner’s parents pray their daughter is alive as this is the first time they can hope and a horde of rent a soldiers arrive to free the woman from the survivalists.

Nowhere to Run is an exhilarating Picket thriller that grips the audience once Joe knows he has a stalker tracking him and never slows down until the final climatic denouement. This thriller is fast-paced throughout with terrific twists that hook fans even deeper into the story line. Like Joe, fans will wonder when is government too intrusive yet when must the government intrude on the lives of competent individuals making rational but outside the box choices that places no one else in harm.

Harriet Klausner

The Barbary Pirates-William Dietrich

The Barbary Pirates
William Dietrich
Harper, Apr 2010, $25.99
ISBN 9780061567964

In 1802 American diplomat Ethan Gage, accompanied by his brilliant insane scientist companions, British rock hound (geologist) William Smith, French zoologist George Cuvier, and American crackpot inventor Robert Fulton, is back in Paris. Napoleon orders the foursome to investigate whether Archimedes’ renowned mirror exists or is a fantasy as rumors of the death ray gizmo abound.

The quartet begin the quest from Toulon crossing the Mediterranean towards Tripoli, but quickly run into adversarial conditions caused by the brutal Egyptian Rite cabal still planning to dominate the globe with plans to use the fabled death ray on the opposition. Gage is across the Mediterranean where he is joined by Lady Aurora Somerset and Astiza the Egyptian while the Barbary Pirates see his expedition as plunder while Gage and company sail in Fulton's impractical sub to Tripoli with plans to continue to Malta and beyond.

The latest Gage swashbuckling pulp fiction is a great over the top of the Tibesti Massif as the hero and three lunatic savants join him on his latest escapades. The story line is fast-paced throughout as Gage never has a chance for a breather. Fans who relish Indiana Jones in Napoleon Era Mediterranean will relish the Barbary pirates adventures as Gage has left America again (see The Dakota Cipher) to cause havoc in Europe and Africa.

Harriet Klausner

The Executor-Jesse Kellerman

The Executor
Jesse Kellerman
Putnam, Apr 2010, $25.95
ISBN 9780399156472

Harvard University kicks out thirty year old graduate student Joseph Geist for slacking; the philosophy major was doing none of his class work. Reeling from that blow though he knows he is at fault, Joseph takes a second shot to the gut when his girlfriend ends their longtime relationship.

Needing gainful employment that does not require work, he answers a personal ad in the Harvard Crimson. Elderly Austrian expatriate Alma Spielmann seeks a meaningful conversationalist to discuss and argue issues. He answers the call and is hired. They become more than just employer-employee as the pair becomes friends. She invites him to move into her Cambridge house for free room and board; he accepts her offer. However, Alma’s nasty nephew Eric resents the non-family freeloader though ironically he depends on his aunt’s generosity for his finance and he occasionalyl visits her to see if the old hag’s health is failing.

This is a superb psychological suspense thriller that grips the audience once the triangle is set as fans of Jesse Kellerman anticipate something bad is going to happen but wonder to whom. The three key players come across as real with Joseph caring for his employer and Alma for her employee with angry Eric stirring the mix. Jesse Kellerman is at the author’s best with this strong character driven thriller that will readers wondering throughout who if any will be left standing.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 8, 2010

Glazed Murder-Jessica Beck

Glazed Murder
Jessica Beck
Minotaur, Mar 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312946104

In April Springs, North Carolina, population 5001, Suzanne Hart is the one who bought a coffee shop with her divorce settlement. She calls her café the Donut Heart, which requires her to prepare pastries at 2:00 AM to open four hours later. To reduce expenses, Suzanne moved back in with her mom while also eluding her former spouse Max who makes it clear he wants her back with him.

One night with all the businesses shut, Suzanne notices a car parked in front of her store dumping the body of Patrick Blaine before speeding away. She is stunned as she and Patrick became friends with him being a steady customer of her shop. Though she knows better, Suzanne feels obligated to investigate partly because she distrusts State Police Inspector Jake Bishop who leads the official inquiry. Sparks fly between the cop and the donut maker, but in the shadows watching both of them is the culprit ready to kill either if they get too close to the truth.

Everyone warns Suzanne not to pursue a killer; but she insists justice must be served. Although why she obsesses as she does will be asked by even the amateur sleuth audience used to feisty females investigations by those with no business doing so made even stronger by Jake being a good honest cop. Readers will admire Suzanne’s fortitude.
And she makes the tale with her small town relationships with her mom, her employee, her cop and her ex “The Great Impersonator”. Glazed Murder is an enjoyable Tarheel whodunit that stars an obstinate innately good person albeit misguided by charming.

Harriet Klausner

Broken-Shiloh Walker

Shiloh Walker
Berkley, Mar 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425232415

In St. Louis Sara Davis is attracted to her new neighbor, Quinn Rafferty. Alas she knows nothing can come of it as she is on the lam from someone who wants her dead. However, Quinn reciprocates and refuses to stay distantly friendly as he has a nasty past too.

As Sara and Quinn become closer, she still conceals her dark secrets from him as he does with her. However, as they fall in love, fate twists them to the wind when his next skip as a bounty hunter is Sara.

This is a terrific romantic suspense thriller that grips the audience from the onset as Sara knows she could easily fall in love with Quinn, but must instead avoid him. The story line is fast-paced yet filled with angst as he has issues having initially been raised by an abusive addict until his father and twin brother (see Fragile for Luke’s tale) rescued him two decades ago. If Sara was to pick the perfect man to love her, he is it because as an adult he never forgot the abuse so he personally prefers beating up abusers. Readers will enjoy this terrific thriller as fans will wonder if Quinn has finally found happiness only will he give away the Elusive Butterfly Of Love (Bob Lind).

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Blood Hima-Naomi Hirahara

Blood Hima
Naomi Hirahara
Minotaur, Mar 2 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312545550

In Los Angeles septuagenarian Japanese-American gardener Mas Arai is unhappy that his friend fellow Hiroshima survivor Haruo Mukai drafts him as his best man in his marriage to Sumako Hayakawa. The wedding rehearsal is obvious a forerunner of things to occur as that proves a disaster. Soon afterward her family accuses Haruo of stealing two ancient Japanese Girls’ Days hina dolls from them. Besides the theft the purification rite the dolls represent is tainted so Sumako ends the engagement.

Although he hopes otherwise Mas fears Haruo stole the family heirlooms to pay off his latest gambling debt as his friend is a betting addict. Mas investigates the theft by tracing the dolls’ trail, which takes him to drug dealers making him fear his friend is guilty and homicides; several of which occurred decades ago, making him believe his friend is not.

The latest Mas mystery (see Snakeskin Shamisen) is once again a wonderful amateur who-done-it that enables the reader to see deeply into the Japanese-American lifestyle. The story line is fast-paced as fans will enjoy accompanying Mas as he follows the clues of the dolls past and present through the Great Los Angeles area.

Harriet Klausner

Mint Juleps, Mayhem and Murder-Sara Rosett

Mint Juleps, Mayhem and Murder
Sara Rosett
Kensington, Apr 2010, $22.00
ISBN: 9780758226839

At Taylor Air Force Base in North Dawkins, Georgia, everyone is stunned by the strangulation murder of popular Squadron Commander Colonel Lewis Pershall who was at an off base golf course at the time he was killed. His stunned wife Denise realizes the Sheriff’s department investigating her spouse’ s homicide believe her to be the prime suspect. She asks Ellie Avery, wife of a member of her late husband’s squadron, to investigate because she knows Ellie has a reputation as a successful amateur sleuth (see Magnolias, Moonlight, and Murder).

Ellie makes inquires that lead her to learn someone is threatening her husband Mitch and their cousin although Mitch hid it from her; that culprit sent them strange squadron coins. Also an air force widow sent hostile menacing letters to the victim. As accidents seem to follow Mitch, Ellie looks closely at other officers who envied and loathed Pershall.

The fifth Ellie Avery military homeland amateur sleuth tale is a great whodunit that deftly balances an intelligent strong investigation, increasingly dangerous incidents targeting Mitch, and life on the CONUS air force base. The cast is superb as the Avery family reunion showcases dependents and other civilians on a base while the inquiry is top rate as Avery uncovers three suspects with two having easy access. Fans will appreciate drinking mint juleps alongside of Ellie while seeking who is causing mayhem and murder.

Harriet Klausner

Cat of the Century-Rita Mae Brown

Cat of the Century
Rita Mae Brown
Bantam, Apr 6 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780553807073

Ever since Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen remarried her ex husband successful veterinarian Fair, she has been happier than she has been a in a long time; dating back to when he cheated on her during their first marriage. They live in Crozet, Virginia; a town where all the animals regardless of species can talk to each other except humans. Harry’s cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and her corgi Tee Tucker wish they could so they can warn her of danger and tell her where bodies are.

Several residents travel to William Woods University in Fuller, Missouri to celebrate Harry’s beloved sassy Aunt Tally on her hundredth birthday. There is a lot of tension between the alumnae attending; especially between Mariah D’Angelo who owns a ritzy jewelry store and stockbroker Flo Langston. Their overt animosity divides the attendees into three groups, supporters of each and those who wish they would leave.

Things turn strange when Mariah abruptly leaves. It is learned that Flo was going to accse Mariah of selling fakes in her store. When they return to Crozet, Mariah sends threatening emails to Liz Fillmore who sided with Flo and Terri Kincaid who sells high end ceramics at her shop. When Flo is killed by a sniper and Mariah is found murdered at the University, Harry and her sleuthing menagerie investigates who the killer is and why that person did it.

Any Mrs. Murphy Anthropomorphic mystery is a special treat as affirmed by Cat of the Century. The love between Harry and Fair shines throughout especalliy as he gives her space she needs to be herself even when she investigates. There are plenty of suspects with motives in a well constructed cozy that readers will enjoy in this one sitting read.

Harriet Klausner

The Bricklayer-Noah Boyd

The Bricklayer
Noah Boyd
Morrow, Feb 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061827013

The Rubaco Pentad gang declares war on the FBI with a plan to disgrace the agency. They start by killing reporter Connie Lysander who did a disparaging story about the FBI. The group next demands the Feds give them one million dollars or another critic will die. FBI agent Dan West heads to Portsmouth, New Hampshire to deliver the pay-off, but is executed for carrying no cash. Number three is defense lawyer Arthur Belington, known for his kicked Fed butt in court. While a Utah State Senator who condemned the FBI as pathetic is assassinated, FBI agent Bertock is carrying two million dollars vanishes.

FBI Deputy Assistant Director Don Kaulcrick shows a tape of a Chicago bank robbery thwarted by a customer. Another Deputy Assistant Director Kate Bannon recognizes the hero as Steve Vail, a fired FBI agent known for his ability to find missing people. The Feds contact him to locate Bertok and he agrees on the grounds he is not reinstated and Kate assists him. The Rubaco Pentad find out that Vail is searching for the missing Fed so they order the FBI to have him deliver $3 million. As Vail works the case and ignores his mutual attraction with Bannon, he realizes once again the Feds are playing him.

This is an action-packed investigative tale starring a man’s man antihero who does what he believes is right especially using his contacts, fists and guns, but infrequently his brains. The story line is fast-paced from start to finish though one wonders when the Bricklayer gets any sleep. Although the finish is abrupt and the Machiavellian villain obvious from someone at the top of the Sears Tower looking down at the street; readers will enjoy this testosterone thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Naked Moon-Dominic Stansberry

Naked Moon
Dominic Stansberry
Minotaur, Mar 2 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312364540

No one walked away from the top secretive Company until Dante Mancuso did. To do so he had to take with him secrets that would expose the Company of illegal activity if something happened to him. Dante settled in his hometown of San Francisco becoming a private investigator who tried to avoid anything remotely tied to his previous employment.

Meanwhile SFPD Special Investigations Officer Leanora Chin investigates Dante’s cousin Gary who operates a crooked warehouse. Gary knows if he cooperates with the cop, the Wu Benevolent Association will sever that tie by killing him. Feeling caught between the Rock and the bay, he contacts his cousin’s former employee who promises to assist him if Dante performs a Company task. Feeling triangulated, Dante seeks a way out without harming his loved ones as he knows the firm will demand more favors of him or else his cousin and others will go down.

With a nod to John Grisham’s The Firm although Dante is much better prepared than Mitch McDeere, Dominic Stansberry provides a great San Francisco treat. The North Beach thriller is fast-paced from the moment the impassive Dante calmly realizes his options and never slows down as he works the mission with subtle plans of what he must do if he is too ever be free of his insidious former employers whose grip is tighter than a stay at the Hotel California.

Harriet Klausner

Kindred Spirits-Marilyn Meredith

Kindred Spirits
Marilyn Meredith
Mundania Press, 2008, $12.95
ISBN: 9781594267352

The wildfire is spreading rapidly down the Sierras threatening communities like Bear Creek. Resident Deputy Tempe Crabtree tries to insure everyone has been evacuated from the nearby foothills to the shelter run by her spouse Pastor Hutch Hutchison. However, firefighters prevent her from continuing near the home of half Tolowa Native American artist Vanessa Ainsworth.

Soon afterward, Tempe learns that a woman and dog died in the inferno near Vanessa’s home. However, bullets killed both of them. Detectives Richards and Morrison lead the investigation that is going nowhere as Vanessa’s former husband has an air tight alibi so the victim's ex boyfriend remains the top suspect. The cops scornfully send Tempe to Vanessa’s hometown of Crescent City where her cousin lives because they assume an Indian to Indian chat will get them information as Tempe is part Yanduchi. Though on a personal level the trip proves fruitful; on an investigative level it goes nowhere though she picks up two stalkers along the way. However, ever since CALLING THE DEAD awakened her skills, Vanessa’s spirit visits her. Tempe accompanied by Hutch continues to help the lead detectives, but her second trip is not well received as this the killer stalks her.

This is an exciting police procedural enhanced by a profound look at the historical atrocities towards Native Americans and the current bias of the lead detectives whose overt attitude makes it lucid that they need consideration of others training. The story line is fast-paced as Tempe works the case encouraged by the spirit of Vanessa, learns more about her heritage, and struggles with her relationship with Hutch.

Harriet Klausner