Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Cast-off Coven-Juliet Blackwell

A Cast-off Coven
Juliet Blackwell
Obsidian, Jun 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451230492

Lily Ivory is a bona fide powerful witch who has made a home for herself in San Francisco as the owner of Aunt Cora's Closet where she sells vintage clothing. She is promised a trunk full of clothing if she exorcises what is scaring the students. They hear ghostly noises and movements at the San Francisco School of Fine Arts. The students and faculty also hear moans and footsteps that a ghost can’t make, but nobody sees anyone walking.

She enters the building believing she is dealing with a ghost and in a sense she is right because someone committed murder at the school decades ago. When she goes to the bell tower she finds the dead body of billionaire businessman Jerry Becker. After the police rope off the murder scene and finish questioning everyone who was in the area, Lily enters the closet where the trunk is. She sees and hears something that makes her realize someone called up a demon but didn't bind it. With each new day, the demon grows stronger. While the police investigate the homicide, the demon targets humans with no defense against its assaults; only Lily stands in the way.

This awesome paranormal mystery stars a terrific heroine who for the first time in her solitary life has friends, a home, a job she loves, and a responsible boyfriend who does not belittle or assault her. The supernatural subplot does not overwhelm the whodunit because there are several human suspects who could be the killer and have summoned the demon. Lily has to figure out if she is dealing with one or two antagonists as either scenario is plausible.

Harriet Klausner

The Tulip Virus-Danielle Hermans

The Tulip Virus
Danielle Hermans
Minotaur, Apr 27 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312577865

In 2007 in London Frank Schoeller calls his nephew British painter Alec with a plea for help. Dropping everything, Alec rushes over to his beloved uncle's house. There he finds Uncle Frank brutally battered and near death. Frank tells Alec not to call the police, get out of the house and take a four century old book on tulips with him.

Alec calls the cops, but insists he found his Uncle Frank dead. He needs to know why his relative was tortured and murdered. To do that he needs to know what is the value of a book focused on the 1636 Tulip War in Holland that his uncle gave him on his deathbed.. Obtaining the help of his Dutch friend Amsterdam antiques dealer Damien Vanlint, he investigates learning more than he wants about 1636 Holland and about the danger they now face due to their inquiry.

Although somewhat a standard exciting thriller, the tulip connection to seventeenth century Holland adds a fresh spin. Fast-paced throughout, fans will root for the amateur sleuths to survive the ordeal as several adversaries, unconcerned with collateral damage or using hostages, will kill again to keep a secret concealed.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Our Burden's Light-Patrick Thomas Casey

Our Burden's Light
Patrick Thomas Casey
Dunne, Apr 13 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312533908

In the Shenandoah Valley, the murder of teenager Grant Shelley shakes his family. Only the actions of his father, Robert keep the grieving Shelley brood together as none of them understand why it happened and moving on and getting closure feels impossible to do.

Grant's teenage killer, Hayden Clyde struggles with what he did in the woods. Also not coping very well is Grant's former girlfriend and Hayden's current one Evelyn Warren. Meanwhile even as he remains the core holding the family together, Robert wonders what he could have done differently; especially as he begins to realize his late son is not quite the innocent victim paragon the Shelley brood prefers to believe; nor in many ways he knows is he not a shining example.

This is an interesting look at the grieving process when an unexpected tragic death occurs. Patrick Thomas Casey makes a strong case that everyone grieves in their own way and in their own time even with an anchor keeping all moored. Although more a series of vignettes tied together by Grant’s death than a novel, readers will appreciate this deep look at the living after a young person unexpectedly dies violently.

Harriet Klausner

A Curtain Falls-Stefanie Pintoff

A Curtain Falls
Stefanie Pintoff
Minotaur, May 11 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312583965

In 1904, New York City residents are stunned by the tragic sinking of General Slocum. Like so many locals, NYPD partners detectives Simon Ziele and Declan Mulvaney are impacted by the calamity. Simon's fiancée died with the sinking; he quit the force and left the city moving to Dobson up the Hudson. Declan stayed with NYPD until now in 1906 he is a captain.

Needing someone he trusts, Mulvaney asks Ziele, who just watched in disgust a jury set free a spouse killer, to investigate the murder of a Broadway chorus girl; the second such homicide made to look like a suicide near the Garrick Theater on West Thirty-Fifth in the last few weeks. Ziele believes a serial killer is loose. The cops arrest a suspect, but Ziele thinks the wrong man has been brought in. He and criminologist Alistair Sinclair investigate the murders.

The latest Ziele historical police procedural (see In the Shadow of Gotham) is an excellent period piece with a strong whodunit. Readers will enjoy the cankerous camaraderie between Ziele and Sinclair who respect each other professionally but also distrust one another personally especially with the former guilt-laden attracted to the latter’s widow daughter-in-law. With insight into the beginnings of the Great White Way becoming the American Theater District inside a strong cop case, Stefanie Pintoff provides sub-genre fans with another superb early twentieth century mystery.

Harriet Klausner

The Time Pirate-Ted Bell

The Time Pirate
Ted Bell
St. Martin’s, Apr 13 2010, $17.99
ISBN: 9780312578107

In 1940 the Nazis invade the British Channel Islands. To repel the enemy, teenager Nick McIver teaches himself to fly an obsolete WWI fighter plane that he had found in an abandoned barn. From the air, barnstorming Nick photographs minelayers and patrol boats during the day and conducts bombing raids over Nazi airfields at night.

Meanwhile his enemy pirate Captain Billy Blood wants possession of Nick's time machine. Using his own, he travels to Greybeard Island where he kidnaps Nick's sister Kate, and takes her back to 1781 Port Royal, Jamaica; but he leaves Nick a message that in exchange for his sibling he wants the time machine. Traveling to the late eighteenth century, Nick of Time learns of a plot that could result in Washington's defeat as Blood has amassed an invincible armada.

Fighting in two wars over a century and half apart, heroic Nick hopes to be on time to save his sister and for his side to win twice. Incredibly fast-paced with over the top happenstances, this lighthearted fun teenage pulp fiction is very entertaining though not deep in either era except when blood and tomatoes mix as Nick battles The Time Pirate.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 29, 2010

Edge of Apocalypse-Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall

Edge of Apocalypse
Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall
Zondervan, Apr 20 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780310326281

Joshua Jordan was a hero taking unbelievable chances with his life for the country he loved. When he retired from field work he became a weapon designer trying to still protect the United States from threats outside and inside the nation. In the Atlantic, a North Korean boat has nuclear missiles aboard. Due to failed communication with his superiors at home, the admiral launches the weapons a

Two of the missiles head towards New York City; Jordan has minutes to activate the Return to Sender laser guidance system that sends a missile back to its launch site. The counter operation proves successful, but the media questions the consequences while the White House and Senate demand he turn over the Return to Sender system to Senator Stratworth and his committee. When he refuses to give it to anyone outside of the Pentagon as he fears anyone else will sell it for oil and credit. The President and Congress use the media to go after Joshua. Joshua soon learns he might be a target as Iran, North Korea and Russia as well as allies want the system and will go to any length to get it.

Taking place in the near future in which America is short on cash as a new growing dust bowl threatens Midwest agriculture, corruption permeates the government, Joshua and two secret cabals try to bring back the country to what is once was. Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall provides readers with an exciting thriller as the United Sates is on the Edge of Apocalypse while the hero must deal with the possibility of biblical Armageddon and saving his nation.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mr. Arkadin AKA Confidential Report-Orson Welles

Mr. Arkadin AKA Confidential Report
Orson Welles
IT (HarperCollins), Apr 6 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061689031

Just after the war, Chesterfield smuggler Guy van Stratten and his girlfriend Mily find the dying man with a knife in his back near their boat the Queenie. Marcel Bracco tells them to find Gregory Arkadin if they want to make a fortune. The cops arrive as Bracco dies, but also look on board the Queenie where they find the illegal contraband. Guy spends the next three months behind bars.

After his release, Guy searches for and finds Mily who works on board Arkadin’s ship. However, Guy also learns the great international financier has a daughter Raina and knows she is the best ticket to get to her father and subsequently a lot of money though he remains unsure how. Guy maneuvers a dance with Raina and a ride to Marseille. Guy meets Arkadin who hires him to find out who he was before arriving in Zurich in 1927 with 200,000 Swiss francs.

Although the novelization of the Welles’ unfinished movie (as described by John Parker in the forward: apparently there were several versions but none finished by Welles) is an intriguing character study starring individuals who are shady and most often on the wrong side of the law. Although the tale is slow at first, once Guy and Raina meet, the action picks up until a final confrontation. Fans of Orson Wells will enjoy this entertaining reprint of a 1950s thriller as his antiheroes work post Europe with a capitalist need at the bottom line at all costs.

Harriet Klausner

Sham Rock-Ralph McInerny

Sham Rock
Ralph McInerny
Minotaur, Apr 13 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312582654

Because of the recession, financial adviser David Williams returns to his ala mater Notre Dame to visits his son attending classes there and to inform the university’s administration he cannot afford to finance a new building as he promised. As David visits, another alumnus sends to the school’s associate archivist a box filled with newspaper clippings and various other sundry including the confession of a murder and burial of the victim, another student from the class of 89 Timothy Quinn, who had vanished two decades ago.

The school leadership, having used retired private investigator Philip Knight to work sensitive cases before, asks him to look into the Quinn situation. With the help of his brother Catholic Studies Professor Roger Knight Philip begins his inquiry starting with a look back to 1989 when the “Trinity” of David, Timothy and Patrick were rivals and buddies. Upon digging up the corpse, the siblings realize the case is much more convoluted than they expected.

The latest Knight brothers Notre Dame investigative tale (see The Green Revolution) is one of the better entries in what is a fun lighthearted private detective series. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the archivist opens the box and never slows down as Philip with Roger assisting him begins the inquiry into what happened in 1989 only to find a much bigger case on their hands. Ralph McInerny, who died in January, provides a strong Fighting Irish academic mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Dead Head-Rosemary Harris

Dead Head
Rosemary Harris
Minotaur, Apr 13 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312569945

In Springfield, Connecticut, gardener Paula Holliday is shocked when the news explodes that one of her clients whom she was considering a partnership with, Caroline Sturgis, is actually Monica Jane Weithorn, who escaped from prison over a quarter of a century ago. Monica Jane had been convicted of drug dealing, but has since straightened out her life becoming a wife and mom as a pillar of society.

Now the “Fugitive Mom” is going back to prison to complete her sentence and probably more for her escape. Caroline’s stunned husband Grant tells Paula his wife is a stranger, but needs to know who turned her in to the authorities. Knowing that Paula has solved cases (see The Big Dirt Nap and Pushing Up Daisies), he hires her to investigate; she accepts as she can use the money with the economy still tanked and besides she is curious too. Her friends Police Sergeant Mike O’Malley and reporter Lucy Cavanaugh also wonder who.

Based on headlines from a few years ago, Dead Head is a terrific amateur sleuth though it is the parallel look at the life (past and Present) of the Fugitive Mom who makes this an exhilarating character driven tale. Fast-paced in both eras, readers will be as spellbound as Paula and the rest of Springfield are comparing Dead Head Monica Jane with family matriarch Caroline.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Indivisible-Kristen Heitzmann

Kristen Heitzmann
WaterBrook, May 4 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9781400073092

In Redford, Colorado, the first animal mutilations were a couple of raccoons; other ghastly remains soon follow. Disturbed by the grisly sights, police chief Jonah Westfall investigates because he knows how quickly these gruesome horrors can worsen to include human mutilation. At the same time he is concerned over the rising drug trafficking that seems to have swamped the area.

Jonah has his own personal issues starting with his father’s legacy and his own history that requires abstemiousness. He also hopes to feel worthy enough to one day ask Tia Manning to share a future with him; if he has one. However, first he must end the animal mutilations that are becoming more frequent and frenzied.

This is an entertaining romantic police procedural due to the efforts of Jonah to solve the case and deserve in his mind the love of Tia, who already has given her heart to him. The culprit is not concealed so the suspense is somewhat muted and the perpetrator’s motive seems over the top of the Rocky Mountains. Still the coupling of Jonah and Tia make for a wonderful Colorado romantic suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Death Of A Trophy Wife-Laura Levine

Death Of A Trophy Wife
Laura Levine
Kensington, May 2010, $22.00
ISBN: 9780758238450

Los Angeles freelance writer Jaine Austen accompanies her friend Neiman Marcus shoe guru Lance to the Beverly Hills estate of “Marvelous Marv, the Mattress King” as the man's wife is his best customer. However, Bunny is nasty to everyone including Jaine, but soon after sipping her martini she falls to the ground dead.

Someone put cyanide in Bunny’s martini. Since the queen of mean was universally loathed, there are plenty of suspects. However, the Beverly Hills police hone in on Lance who has an additional motive. He inherits the victim's $175,000 Maserati. Jaine knows Lance would not kill a major customer so having success in solving homicides before (see Killer Cruise); she investigates and finds several viable suspects amidst the extended family members.

This is a wild over the top of the Sierras amateur sleuth who-dome-it as the eccentric cast brings to life Los Angeles with an amusing spin. Jaine dodges the marital demands of Uzbekistani Vladimir Ivan Trotsky, which is amusing but takes the reader away from her investigation. Still fans will enjoy Jaine’s latest whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

The Biggest Liar in Los Angeles-Ken Kuhlken

The Biggest Liar in Los Angeles
Ken Kuhlken
Poisoned Pen, May 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590586976

In 1926 in Echo Park in Los Angeles, Negro Frank Gaines is lynched near the temple of evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, but the two major newspapers remain silent re the murder. Dance orchestra lead Tom Hickey learns about the death of a friend from an underground paper. He asks his neighbor LAPD Defective Leo Weiss if in deed the lynching occurred and if yes what Police Chief Davis is doing about it. Leo says yes and no to the first question as Gaines was murdered, but the cops are insisting nothing happened.

Tom investigates the murder starting with a visit to Aimee Semple McPherson’s Angelus Temple. However, he soon is followed and beaten up with warnings from speakeasy owner and Klansman Leo that if he fails to drop his inquiry, his new enemies will insure he does so permanently even as he concludes local political corruption led to the lynching.

Although there is too much going on between 1926 cop-business-politician-newspaper-evangelist connections, the orchestra, the hero’s family life (especially his sister) and the investigation; readers will enjoy this fast-paced historical amateur sleuth mystery. The story line focuses on Los Angeles during the Roaring Twenties that comes to light through Tom’s eyes. Fast-paced, fans will enjoy The Biggest Liar in Los Angeles about to be exposed by a sermon of Aimee Semple McPherson.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, March 26, 2010

Stettin Station-David Downing

Stettin Station
David Downing
Soho, May 1 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9781569476345

In November 1941 in Berlin, Anglo-American journalist John Russell knows Roosevelt needs an excuse to enter the war as the German armies blitzkrieg towards Moscow. To avoid censorship or worse, Russell is very careful with what he files as he knows it will take little for the Nazis to detain, kill or export him. This would leave his famous girlfriend actress Effi Koenen behind still filming propaganda movies for the Nazis’ whom she and John loath and he also would be unable to help his teenage son Paul, who lives with his former wife while belonging to the Hitler Youth group.

Meanwhile as most Berliners blindly remain loyal to the Nazis, John's Communist friends report the transporting by trains of Jews to the east. Admiral Canaris, head of Abwehr, assigns John on a mission in Prague with a promise of a passage to Switzerland. However, the mission fails, but John tries to send to his contacts that American companies in Europe are profiteering from the war by selling Zyklon B gas to the Nazis.

The third Russell WWII espionage thriller (see Zoo Station and Silesian Station) is a great entry that in many ways is more a superb historical as David Downing captures the essence of Berlin just prior to the American entry into the war. The atmosphere is terrific as the Nazis deploy the Final Solution and attack the Russians while Russell struggles with getting himself and his renowned girlfriend to safety yet not wanting to abandon his son to the Hitler Group nor ignore the sales of poison gas. Readers will feel they are in Berlin in late 1941 as Stettin Station is a timely tale.

Harriet Klausner

A Twist of Orchids-Michelle Wan

A Twist of Orchids
Michelle Wan
Minotaur, Apr 13 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312549947

In Dordgone, France, English orchid expert Julian Wood and French-Canadian interior designer Mara Dunn love one another but struggle with relational accommodations as both are set in their ways. Especially troublesome to Mara is Julian's obsessive annual hunt for the rare Lady's Slipper orchid.

As the couple struggles with compromise, Kazim, son of Turkish sweet shop bakery owners, sees a woman fall to her death from the balcony of the Two Sisters restaurant. Mara is shocked with her neighbor octogenarian Amelie Gaillard’s dying from what everyone assumes was an accident, but even more shocking is that the victim’s daughter Christine failed to come to the funeral or assist her Parkinson’s ailing dad Joseph with his grief. Soon afterward, Kazim is missing and his parents plead with Julian to search for him. As Mara looks into Galliard family secrets, she finds herself involved with the rhyming thefts while Julian's investigation has him allied with a drug dealer.

The third Death in Dordgone amateur sleuth mystery (see Deadly Slipper and The Orchid Shroud) is an enjoyable dueling investigative tale. The lead couple’s personal issues as a new middle aged couple trying to adapt to living with a lover are amusing though extremely minor especially compared with the deep look at Muslims living in France. Fans of French modern day mysteries will enjoy A Twist of Orchids as neither of the lead couple finds their inquiry as simple as expected; almost as hard as they discover living with another adult.

Harriet Klausner

212-Alafair Burke

Alafair Burke
Harper, Mar 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061561221

NYPD is at the penthouse at 212 Lafayette owned by real-estate tycoon the Sam Sparks. Inside is the corpse Robert Mancini, an employee of the Sam Sparks. Leading the investigation is Detective Ellie Hatcher, who upsets the owner with her shoes on his carpet; the tycoon seems oblivious that his employee has been shot with a zillion or so bullets. Although evidence points towards an escort being with the victim just before he was killed, Hatcher finds that too convenient and looks closer at the Sam without ruling out the missing companion. That upsets her politically devoted bosses.

At the same time Hatcher is warned to stop looking at the Sam, NYU student Megan Gunther receives threatening messages on Campus Juice anonymous website. Her parents ask the police for help, but are told nothing can be done about untraceable creeps who have not broken the law. They are irate that unless something happens to their daughter, the cops will do nothing. They prove prophetic when someone kills Meghan less than twenty-four hours after their police visit although her escort roommate might have been the target. As more corpses are found, Hatcher and her partner J.J. Rogan struggle to end a serial killing spree.

The latest Hatcher police procedural (see (after Dead Connection and Angel’s Tip) is a tense modern day timely thriller that grips the audience from the opening murder scene and never slows down although there is an abundance of bodies. The convoluted story line is loaded with action as the two cops struggle with clues that end or take them in a different direction. Fans will enjoy this deep cautionary tale as Internet stalking is a phenomenon that is difficult to deal with beyond unplugging.

Harriet Klausner

The Bone Thief-Jefferson Bass

The Bone Thief
Jefferson Bass
Morrow, Mar 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061284762

University of Tennessee’s anthropology department chairman and the head of the school’s human decomposition research facility the Body Farm, Dr. Bill Brockton and his grad assistant Miranda Lovelady open a coffin to obtain a sample for a DNA paternity test. However, the remains inside have been desecrated.

The FBI asks Brockton to assist them on ending a lucrative body parts black market operation. He agrees to play the role of a supplier though he remains preoccupied by his last case Bones of Betrayal. At the same time he struggles with an undercover role to end a chop shop, his medical examiner friend Eddie Garcia has been exposed to a dose of radioactivity that has cost him both hands amputated and likely his job unless he takes an illegal underhanded spin with his hope being Brockton.

This is an entertaining Body Farm mystery as the hero is caught in a personal value’s dilemma between helping his friend and ending the black market sales of body parts. This issue comes on top of his inability to move past the betrayal that “murdered” his heart. Although two late shaky spins detract from an otherwise solid undercover tale, forensic fans will enjoy Dr. Brockton’s moral crisis.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Burying Place-Brian Freeman

The Burying Place
Brian Freeman
Minotaur, Apr 13 2020, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312562748

Although injured from a nasty fall, Duluth, Minnesota Police detective Jonathan Stride continues his investigation into the kidnapping of eleven month old Callie Glenn. Her father is a renowned Grand Rapids, Minnesota orthopedic surgeon Marcus and her mother Valerie were having marital problems that she at least hope the baby would resolve.

Because of the way the abduction occurred, Jonathan strongly believes someone with access to the exclusive waterfront house abducted the infant starting with the father who kicked his long time mistress to the curb and the babysitter whom he might have begun a fling with. Jonathan’s partner, Detective Maggie Bei assists him on his inquiry while leading an investigation on a serial killer. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time leads to rookie cop Kasey Kennedy becoming the psychopath’s latest obsession.

This is an exciting Minnesota police procedural starring several cops with personal issues, but the key is that the two cases remain front and center. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action throughout and a great final spin. Although the convergence of the investigations feels strained, readers still will enjoy this entertaining tale as the hero and company remain In the Dark while they stride down the mean streets of Duluth.

Harriet Klausner

The Hypnotist-M.J. Rose

The Hypnotist
M.J. Rose
Mira, May 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN 9780778326755

FBI's Art Crime Team special agent Lucian Glass continues his pursuit of the Phoenix Foundation's Malachi Samuels. Both adversaries also seek the “Memory Tools” that enable people to look into their past-lives' memories.

A Matisse painting stolen two decades ago from the gallery of Andre Jacobs is sent to the Metropolitan Museum of Art ripped to shreds. The slasher warns the museum that four more stolen masterpieces will be destroyed unless MOMA gives to the thief the fifteen century old Hypnos, a sculpture that allegedly can bestow supernatural power to a person. Lucian has never forgotten the theft because his beloved Solange, Andre's daughter, was killed during the heist. As he travels though past lives in ancient Greece and ninetieth century Persia, Lucian is attracted to Andre's niece Emeline, whom the gallery owner raised as his adopted daughter as she reminds him so much of his Solange; too much so.

The latest Reincarnationist tale novel (see The Memorist), The Hypnotist is another great entry in one of the most exhilarating fresh sagas on the market today. The past lives and the present case subplots merge effortlessly into a superb thriller held together by a stunned Lucian.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Other Side of the Door-Nicci French

The Other Side of the Door
Nicci French
Minotaur, May 11 2010, $25.99
ISBN 9780312375409

In London band singer Bonnie is stunned to find her secret boyfriend, another band member Hayden lying dead inside of his apartment. Panicking, Bonnie hides the corpse, cleans up the crime scene and erases any traces of her ever being there. She conceals she was ever intimate with Hayden because the police will know she had opportunity and her probable motive being Hayden's other women.

Afterward, as she reflects back as to what she did, Bonnie realizes the police will still look her way. However, she also begins to think lucidly about the crime scene and concludes someone else cleansed their traces from the pad.

This is an excellent crime caper as Bonnie looks back from the moment she found the body in a way that makes the audience assume she actually might have killed the victim. The story line grips the reader who will not want to put it down in order to find out did she kille him or not. Although amnesia is not part of the plot, The Other Side of the Door will remind readers of Memento with its look back. The strong support cast enhances an intriguing thriller starring a beleaguered abused heroine as the Nicci French writing duet provides a terrific winner.

Harriet Klausner

The End Game-Gerrie Ferris Finger

The End Game
Gerrie Ferris Finger
Minotaur, Apr 27 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312611552

It was supposed to be a weekend of loving and relaxing for Lieutenant Richard Lake of the Atlanta Police department and his beloved former partner Mariah Dru, owner of Child Trace, Inc., an organization dedicated to finding and rescuing missing children. However, Lieutenant Portia Devon interrupts their time alone because a fire in Cabbagetown killed Mr. and Mrs. Barnes and their foster children Jessie and Dottie are missing.

When Lake and Dru reach the neighborhood they discover a child went missing three and a half years ago and another vanished eight years ago. While they talk to the neighbors the Barnes’ house blows p because someone planted two bombs in it.. An internet tip leads the lovers to believe that the girls were snatched to be sold to a buyer with special tastes. Time is running out on the pair of girls who are cargo being shipped overseas.

Cabbagetown is an interesting neighborhood filled with fascinating characters; of whom two know a lot more than they are willing to say to authorities. If either spoke up, the attempts to kill Dru and Lake would not have happened and the girls could have been rescued within twenty-four hours of the fire. With a timely topic of the sale of sexual slaves including children in a lucrative illegal business, the lead couple is an admirable pair as they risk all to save the kids.

Harriet Klausner

2 in the Hat-Raffi Yessayan

2 in the Hat
Raffi Yessayan
Ballantine, Apr 13 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345502636

In Franklin Park, Boston police detective Angel Alves is coaching a youth football team when one his players finds a dead woman dressed in an expensive dress. After calming down the kids Angel looks around and finds a dead male wearing a tuxedo. Each is posed to match the M.O. of the Prom Night Killer, who had been quiet for so long, the police assumed he died or was inactivated in some way such as being locked up at a prison for some other crime. This serial killer case was ice cold until now.

Angel’s retired former boss Police Sergeant Wayne Mooney led the original inquiry into the Prom Night Killer murders. He provides information to Angel that eliminates the possibilty of a copycat. Mooney wants back in as he never felt good about the case remaining unsolved and is brought on as a “consultant”. Soon the pair follows leads in hope to end a psychopath's apparent second reign of terror.

This is an exciting over the top of the Green Monster serial killer police procedural. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the corpses are found and never slows down until the final spin. Fans who can ignore plausibility will want to read Alves’ second serial killer case (see 8 in the Box.).

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dead in the Water-Meredith Cole

Dead in the Water
Meredith Cole
Minotaur, May 11 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312625047

She is an artist to the depth of her soul, taking first class photographs that she hopes will give her the name recognition she needs to make a living doing what she loves and enabling her to quit her day job. Lydia Mackenzie works in the office of private investigators Leo and Frankie D’Angelo. In her free time she takes photos of prostitutes working the waterfront capturing their emotions on film.

Her favorite model is Gloria; the hooker calls Lydia for help, but her answering machine picks up the plea. At the park in Williamsburg Lydia finds Gloria’s body, an obvious homicide victim. Feeling guilty that she failed to take the call, Lydia investigates. Over the next few days more prostitutes are murdered and a husband to a D’Angelos cousin. It is as if a Jack the Ripper was working Brooklyn. Lydia continues to dig but soon finds herself in danger from the last person she would suspect as she thought that gentle individual would not hurt a fly.

Dead in the Water looks deeply into the free trade life of prostitution especially their private side and how they cope with their pimps who demand they make money for or else. It is heartwarming though doubtful to watch the hookers gather together as a group The Golden Horseshoe to watch each other’s back. The heroine has some investigative skills and a desire for justice, which in combo leaves her vulnerable from a serial killer who will not mind at all adding an obit on a wannabe photographer.

Harriet Klausner

The Singer's Gun-Emily St. John Mandel

The Singer's Gun
Emily St. John Mandel
Unbridled, May 4 2010, $24.95
ISBN 9781936071647

In Manhattan Anton Waker knows he has come a long way from his days as a forger of documents although to do so he must distance himself from his family who deal in illegal activities. He is a water systems consultant in demand, has a pretty wife and an office romance on the side.

However, his past that he prefers to pretend never happened resurfaces when a routine background check proves his Harvard diploma hanging on his office wall is forged. Adding to his trepidation that life as he knows it and enjoys is over is his cousin, Aria Waker, who sells forged passports and social security cards to illegals. She demands Anton use his excellent forgery skill in what should prove a quite lucrative venture. However, a fourth woman enters his life and frightens him more than his relatives. State Department Agent Alexandra Broden is investigating a forgery ring in which she is almost ready to make arrests starting with the extended Waker brood but has not figured out Anton’s role nor that of his secretary Elena with her Arctic secrets.

This is an interesting crime caper that takes the audience to Brooklyn, Arctic Canada and Italy as an obsessed Fed goes after a family criminal ring. Overall the story line is fast-paced and contains an intriguing cast. However, too many flashbacks that explain what makes the key players (especially Anton, Broden and Elena) tick detracts from the pacing as it feels disruptive. Still this is an entertaining cross Atlantic thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Perfect Woman-James Andrew

The Perfect Woman
James Andrew
Pinnacle, Apr 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780786022151

John Stallings is a police detective in the Jacksonville, Florida Sheriff’s Office Missing Person's Unit. Most of those assigned to this division use it as a step up the ladder. Stallings asked for the transfer after his oldest daughter Jeanie vanished three years ago. Now he spends his free time looking for runaways so he can help them while he and his family struggle with a return to normalcy. However, a case hits home, which leads to Stallings distancing himself from his loved ones as he diligently seeks the Bagman.

A serial killer the Bagman is William Dremmel, a pharmacy store clerk and part-time community college science teacher. He abducts young runaways in order to perform drug experiments on his victims until they die. While following a tip on a runaway, he finds a corpse. The lieutenant adds Stallings to the investigation, which angers lead detective Mazzetti as each despises the other. When the Bagman kidnaps a female close to both cops, they team up to try and save her.

The Perfect Woman is a taut action-packed police procedural that keeps the reader on the edge of the seat throughout. Stallings is wonderful as his family life is fragile because no one has moved on from the vanishing of Jeanie and he hides from his loved ones with his obsessive dedication to the job . Various characters tell the tale in a third person voice to include the Bagman, which adds to the gritty realism of capturing the serial killer before the next female is dead.

Harriet Klausner

Dragon Games-Stephen Mertz

Dragon Games
Stephen Mertz
Five Star, May 7 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148729

Amberon Inc security chief Dan Price heads the private firm’s security at the Beijing Olympics. Heeding the guidance of the Mistress, he kills a local security officer, a suspect and one of his team as he sets in motion a terrorist bloodbath scheme by a paramilitary group ready to devastate the country with violence to make 9/11 seem minor.

Tag McCall also works for Amberon as a security guard. He has fallen very far since his stint as Secret Service protection chief to the Vice President due to someone, namely him, needing to take the fall for a failed assassination attempt. He has a heart problem, became a drunk and drove his wife and teen daughter away. Now he is in China working grunt level security. When he finds something off kilter with what Price has done, he quietly investigates but is distracted when a teen gymnast vanishes. With help from Amberon dispatcher Rose being watched by Ministry of Internal Security investigator Mei, he soon fears something nightmarish is planned for the Games by his boss.

Over the top of The Great Wall, Dragon Games is a fast-paced thriller starring a wonderful hero who keeps on ticking in spite of setbacks in his professional and personal life and suffering from angina. Filled with action from the onset when Price brazenly assassinates three people and never slows down for a breather, readers will enjoy Stephen Mertz’s exhilarating tale that is enhanced by his enchanting capture of the city’s Olympic ambience.

Harriet Klausner

Mississippi Vivian-Bill Crider and Clyde Wilson

Mississippi Vivian
Bill Crider and Clyde Wilson
Five Star, May 7 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148743

In 1970 the Houston based National Insurance Company Claims manager Don Cogsdill is appalled with a dozen worker's compensation cases involving longshoremen on a ship channel in Losgrove, Mississippi. He becomes suspicious when he realizes the same doctor Gillespie signed the claims and the same lawyer Campbell filed them.

Don hires former cop Ted Stevens to investigate whether fraud has occurred. Ted arrives in town and quickly learns the communication center is at the Magnolia Cafe where Mississippi Vivian works. He soon finds out one of the claimants is dead and not long afterward a second filer also is dead. As he investigates the potential insurance fraud, Ted also looks into what he believes are homicides within a town without pity that prefers to keep secrets buried.

This is a terrific investigate historical tale that is filled with action and amusing southern hush puppies wit for instance the three state Vivian’s. Ted makes the story line fun as he is the straight man to a town of eccentrics and a killer. Sub-genre fans will appreciate laconic Ted as he inquires into increasingly what seems like fraud, which leads him to a killer in a superb period piece.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dark Deceptions-Dee Davis

Dark Deceptions
Dee Davis
Forever, Apr 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780446542012

Eight years ago Annie Gallagher and Nash Brennon were partners at the CIA and lovers outside of work. Their professional and personal relationships ended during the Benoit incident in Paris when she realized they could never be a normal couple. Although he seemed to move on without a look back; she sees his face everyday when she stares at their son Adam.

When someone kidnaps Adam, the culprit informs Annie to kill U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Blake Dominco if she wants her child back alive. At the same time, the CIA assigns Nash to bring in Annie who they believe has betrayed her country. When they meet, she pleads with the father of her child to give her time to save her kid although she hides who the father is and claims Adam is six. Upset, he must choose between his feelings for her and the cold facts of treason especially when the assassins move forward with their scheme.

Dark Deceptions is an action-packed international romantic suspense thriller that never stops for a beat (except for a kiss here and there). The story line grips the audience as each step of the way affirms Annie as a traitor; which confirms Nash’s belief she deserted him when he needed back-up, leaving him to die. Readers will relish this powerful terrorist thriller as betrayal and distrust seem to supersede love.

Harriet Klausner

Lois Lane Tells All-Karen Hawkins

Lois Lane Tells All
Karen Hawkins
Pocket, Mar 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781416560272

In Glory, North Carolina, Susan Collins is a reporter and editor of the Glory Examiner. Her current boss is a no nonsense bottom line accountant. Temporarily in charge Mark Tremayne (brother of Roxie from Talk of the Town) is a hunk who ignores the news.

Mark cannot wait to leave the small town, but knows his job is to save the newspaper drowning in red. His biggest problem is ace reporter Susan who refuses to accept a big city accountant running the show over a news person. The only hope to turn around the paper lies with Susan's inquiry into the Baptist Bake-off as her editorial about something odd going on leads to danger from someone who wants her dead. Her brake lines are sliced and that adversary cut a hole into her boat. With the help of the not over the hill assisted-living gang, Susan investigates who wants to kill her.

This is an amusing journalistic investigative romance starring a likable cast. The lead couple fights and fusses over the Examiner from the onset with the dear Bob column and never slows down as they fall in love. Fast-paced, Karen Hawkins’ fans will appreciate the return of the assisted-living mob to assist the intrepid reporter uncover who wants her dead and with her heart. Readers will enjoy the antics of the reporter and her super Clark Kent as she works finding the news worth printing while he works saving the newspaper.

Harriet Klausner

The Clouds Roll Away-Sibella Giorello

The Clouds Roll Away
Sibella Giorello
Thomas Nelson, Mar 16 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781595545343

With her mother Nadine’s mental state tottering, FBI agent Raleigh Harmon is working out of her hometown Richmond, Virginia office. However, her latest boss makes it clear that she is not wanted at this field office.

Her supervisor assigns Raleigh two impossible cases to solve within a month. Each is convoluted but Raleigh gives her best starting with the burning of the Cross civil rights Federal hate crime at Rapland and her other inquiry into a drug case. As time begins to run out, Raleigh expects another transfer, but being tough she refuses to quit. Instead her forensic geologist skills soon have her investigating an even bigger crime when her two cases converge.

The two Rs (Raleigh and Richmond) combine into a strong police procedural as the former depending on her faith to keep her going. She refuses to quit while working the historical mansions (owned by celebs) and the mean streets. The investigations are terrific as Raleigh is left out there by herself to fail while the evolution vs. creation argument is deftly handled. Her personal life is so smoggy from her former boyfriend, those she trusts and more so those she distrusts inside the agency, and her mom. Readers who enjoy a mentally tough female cop will want to read Raleigh’s Richmond cases.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wanna Get Lucky?-Deborah Coonts

Wanna Get Lucky?
Deborah Coonts
Forge, May 11 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765325433

In Las Vegas, Lyda Sue Stalnaker left this world with a big final act when she fell from a helicopter into the pirate’s lagoon in front of the Treasure Island Hotel; her plunge superseded the in progress 8:30 show. The police investigate and assume another dead sore loser.

However on her way to a troublemaking incident, Babylon Head of Customer Relations Lucky O’Toole is stunned when she sees Lyda Sue making the news. They briefly talked last night so she has a difficult time accepting the woman committed suicide. Lucky decides to make some inquires starting with Willie the Weasel who flew the aircraft and goes even deeper when her former flame Irv Gittings the rat was involved. Although The Big Boss reminds her she needs to focus on the conventions hosted at the Babylon with sexual predators assaulting the adult film annual awards gala, the spouse-swapping swingers, and the computer crowd, Lucky believes Lyda Sue was pushed.

This terrific tongue in cheek investigative tale lampoons the Vegas glitch. Fast-paced Lucky works her inquiry while trying to keep the lewd, the naked, and the nude from attacking the conventioneers with “sales”. Wanna get Lucky? is a delightful amateur sleuth starring a troubleshooting woman who lands in the middle of trouble as her top advisor is her mom the brothel owner.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Oath-Christopher Farnsworth

Blood Oath
Christopher Farnsworth
Putnam, May 18 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780399156359

Twenty-five years old Zach Barrows is already a veteran of senate and presidential campaigns; having delivered three states in the last race. The Washingtonian calls him the next Rove as he is now the youngest ever deputy director for White House affairs.

Caught with the POTUS’ nineteen years old daughter, Zach is being escorted by Secret Service Agent Griffin who takes him to the oldest part of the Smithsonian; a hidden room buried inside the Castle that the Griff calls the Reliquary trophy room where some of the oddities of history are “buried”. Zach has joined a very exclusive club as the White House liaison to Nathaniel Cade vampire; pardoned and pledged by President Andrew Johnson in 1867; he leads the global war on horror. Their first assignment as a team is to uncover a conspiracy from within to use biological weapons against the United States.

The two key elements that make Blood Oath an entertaining espionage paranormal thriller are the clever intermingling of history with the supernatural mostly through Zach but also with artifacts and the plot never takes itself seriously. The wild story line lampoons American mythos like president-journalist relationships via Nixon and the Washington Post, Frankenstein, Roswell, and the GWOH. Fans who relish an over the top of the Washington Monument and under the Smithsonian will relish Christopher Farnsworth’s satirical tale of vampires dining in the White House.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Christian-David Gregory

The Last Christian
David Gregory
WaterBrook, May 4 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781400074976

In 2088, the unknown disease has devastated the small Inisi village. Desperate, Christian missionary Abigail Caldwell leaves the jungle for the first time in eight years seeking help for those surviving. She is found dehydrated and taken to Meriden Hospital in Lae where she is treated by American Dr. Kate Sampson. The two women fly by helicopter to the village only to find everyone dead.

Grieving as she loved the villagers, Abby goes to America after receiving an odd missive from her neuroscientist grandfather, an inventor of brain transplants. She is stunned to find Christianity is dead in America, but she vows to lead the crusade to bring it back from the grave. However, her grandfather is also dead. His death leads her to History Professor Creighton Daniels, whose father like Abby’s grandfather and villagers suddenly died. The duo join forces to investigate what is going on. They soon discover a plot to evolve mankind into eternal non-believers transhumans with silicon based brains and no one will stop them; not even two people grounded in faith that God created Adam and Eve.

The Last Christian is a terrific futuristic thriller in which the religious elements come across (no pun intended) as powerful and refreshing while the political spin felt mechanical, a rehashing of early twenty-first century DC paralysis. Fast-paced with two strong believers as champions, sub-genre fans will want to join these David’s as they battle Goliaths with plans to make mankind in their image.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Soap Bubbles-Denise Dietz

Soap Bubbles
Denise Dietz
Five Star, Apr 16 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148750

In their early thirties, wannabe actresses and BFFs Delly Diamond, Anissa Cartier, and Maryl Bradley have roles on the Morning Star soap opera. However, even though they have come a long way from Blood, Sweat and Tears of the 1960s and 1970s, each knows they have a long way to go if they are to make it and if their respective traumatic childhoods in Queens don’t hold them back.

Things turn ugly between the friends when Delly is fired. Soon after being canned, a fire causes production of the soap to shut down. The police suspect Delly as the arsonist as she had the motive and opportunity. She and her two buddies investigate hoping to prove otherwise.

This is an enjoyable tale that brings to life three decades, but the book never decides whether it is an amateur sleuth or a character study. When the subplot focuses on the mid 1980s, the three BFFs try to prove Delly is innocent in an entertaining investigation; when the subplot goes back to their childhood, the tale spins into a character study as each struggle with a nasty situation. Still the child is the adult and as such fans will enjoy Soap Bubbles, a homage to when the soaps were kings of daytime TV.

Harriet Klausner

31 Bond Street-Ellen Horan

31 Bond Street
Ellen Horan
Harper, Mar 30 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780061773969

In 1857 New York City residents are fascinated with the brutal murder of dentist Harvey Burdell. The victim had his throat slashed to the point that he was nearly beheaded. Numerous stab wounds were inflicted all over his body.

Seeing an opportunity to further his political ambitions Manhattan District Attorney Oakey decides Burdell’s upstairs neighbor at 31 Bond Street townhouse, the widow Emma Cunningham killed the dentist. The mother of two daughters insists she was Burdell’s lawful wife, but the prosecution insists she was a rejected lover who passionately killed her paramour. Her only hope to avoid conviction resides with defense attorney Henry Clinton.

This is a terrific pre Civil War legal thriller that reads more like a superb historical than a whodunit. Readers obtain a deep look at Manhattan at a time when a slave scandal has rocked the city. Rotating between the days following the murder and flashbacks into the lives of the key cast members, fans will feel they have gone back in time as Ellen Horan captures the essence of the era.

Harriet Klausner

Path of the Wicked-Jennifer Stanley

Path of the Wicked
Jennifer Stanley
Minotaur, May 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312376833

The Sunrise Bible Study of Hope Street Church gathers every Sunday to discuss a portion of scriptures. The group's members are not students, but bonded in friendship which has grown stronger recently when they solved a murder case (see Stirring Up Strife). They back up what they say with their latest endeavor as volunteers delivering Door-2-Door Dinners.

Cooper and Nathan work hard with enthusiasm and determination. However, trouble comes for the pair. Three clients had valuable items stolen after the Door-2-Door visits. Worse, three elderly people died sitting in a chair in their homes. The police do not think there is a connection to the church, but Cooper disagrees; she investigates. Her friend helps Cooper in order to keep her safe as her activities can prove dangerous. One of her clients died sitting in a chair; but Cooper thinks back to when she first saw him and thought he was dead at that time as he did not move but was revived from a deep unnatural sleep before the perp really killed him. The cops make an arrest, but Cooper believes they failed to find the culprit.

This inspirational cozy is filled with likable characters who readers would like to meet in real life as they are good caring folks who walk the walk they preach (except of course the perp in sheep’s clothing). Although the heroine is too impulsive (the devil did not make her do it), she does what she believes is right even if the means breaking and entering. She, her sidekick and the rest of the posse make for a delightful whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

The Fallen-Mark Terry

The Fallen
Mark Terry
Oceanview, Apr 1 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781933515755

The economic summit of the expanded G20 is being held at Cheyenne Resort in Colorado Springs. As expected security is extremely tight as the American agencies along with their counterparts from the other participating nations are everywhere insuring no terrorist incident occurs.

However, in spite of the safeguards seemingly within seconds of the opening gavel, a group breaches security and takes hostage all twenty leaders and others. Led by Richard Coffee, the first demand is the freeing of twenty detainees from Guantomino Bay prison; for every hourly delay one of the leaders will be executed. There is little choice except to give into Coffee's demands. However, posing as a maintenance worker, undercover black ops agent Derek Stillwater is the last hope. His plan is to eliminate the enemy efficiently one at a time and effectively neutralize the adversaries until he meets his former compatriot Richard "The Fallen Angel" Coffee.

The Fallen is an exhilarating thriller that grips the audience with the initial grab and though somewhat changes pace never let’s go of the reader’s attention. The story line is a fast-paced adrenalin rush, but ironically it is the debates between various leaders as to how to react to the terrorist abductions that makes the tale super. Thriller fans will want to read the Fallen who have legitimate complaints against their respective governments betraying them and ponder whether kick butt Cheney would say no negotiations with terrorists if he or one his family were the expendable hostages.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Body Mafia-Stacy Dittrich

The Body Mafia
Stacy Dittrich
Leisure, Mar 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843962895

In Mansfield, Ohio Richland Metropolitan Police Department Major Crimes Division Detective CeeCee Gallagher is engulfed by police obviously at work but also at home. Her family, friends, and former family are all cops. Her first husband was a cop and his wife is a cop while CeeCee's second spouse Michael Hagerman is an FBI agent.

CeeCee is assigned to investigate who dropped a hand onto a woman's car. As she digs deeper, her case turns into a homicide inquiry. At the same Michael's top secret investigation has the Fed tied up in knots too. Soon the couple finds their respective cases disrupting their lives and soon that of other family members as well. This is the norm for law enforcement officials, but takes a grieving ugly twist for CeeCee.

This is an emotional police procedural in which the readers get deep into the fragility of the mind when grief enters an investigation. The audience will feel for the heroine as her anguish seems to fog up her judgment, but she refuses to give up on a case that everyone else says needs to go cold. The Body Mafia is a terrific tale reminding readers that cops are human too. See The Devil's Closet and Mary Jane's Grave for other CeeCee cases.

Harriet Klausner

A Timely Vision-Joyce and Jim Lavene

A Timely Vision
Joyce and Jim Lavene
Berkley, May 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780425234754

On the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the village of Duck lives Dae O'Donnell, owner of the Store Missing Pieces. The store contains useful, valuable or kitschy items. She is also the mayor and everyone who knows her knows about her psychosomatic skills that she has used to help her neighbors on Duck.

At the Fourth of July party, Miss Mildred wants Dae to find her missing watch that she gave temporarily to her estranged sister Lizzie. The siblings never got along ever since Wild Johnny Simpson chose Miss Elizabeth over Miss Mildred. Dae sees the witch on Lizzie’s hand but no one has seen the woman for days until her body is found buried in sand on the beach. Circumstantial evidence points at Miss Mildred leading to the police arresting her. Dae refuses to accept the official reasoning so, with the help of newcomer former FBI Agent Kevin Brickman, they investigate the homicide.

This opening act of a new amateur sleuth is a wonderful mystery due to memorable eccentric characters including Duck. The whodunit is complicate enough to keep readers entertained and stymied as to who killed the sister. The heroine is sassy and spunky as she expects justice to occur. Joyce and Jim Lavene have shagged another hit series.

Harriet Klausner

The Scent of Rain and Lightning-Nancy Pickard

The Scent of Rain and Lightning
Nancy Pickard
Ballantine, May 4 2010, $25.00
ISBN 9780345471017

In Rose, Kansas, the Linder family owns the town. The powerful ranching clan runs a tight ship especially in terms of protecting twentyish schoolteacher Jody Linder. In 1986, Billy Crosby was arrested for killing her father Hugh-Jay Linder dead; the victim's wife and Jody's mom Laurie vanished. Billy was convicted of the murder as he had motive after being fired from the High Rock Ranch and Laurie's bloodied sundress was found inside his truck.

Billy's son, attorney Colin believes his dad is innocent and has spent years working appeals. He obtains a new trial and secures the release of his father while the retrial takes place. Colin's deep conviction shakes up the town and its leading family as each goes back two decades to relook what happened.

This is a great legal thriller enhanced by a strong family drama. The story line grips the reader as two families were impacted in 1986 and must go through the horror once again with one hoping for the same results and the other for a different conclusion. Although the denouement re what happened twenty plus years ago is too neat, fans will set aside time once started on one of the year’s best dramas as this is a character driven crime tale that is impossible to put down.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dimiter-William Peter Blatty

William Peter Blatty
Forge, Mar 16 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765325129

In 1973 in Albania, security chief Colonel Vlora the "Interrogator" works to break a prisoner suspected of being an American agent. He and his experts torture the Prisoner in ways the Spanish Inquisition would never of imagined, but the source of their assault never even screams once; instead he takes everything slammed at him in total silence. Even more shocking to his hosts, "the Prisoner” does the impossible; he escapes and completes his mission.

At Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, a series of unexplained deaths shake up the staff. Christian Arab police detective Peter Meral leads the investigation that seems to be going nowhere. Whereas Americans and Israelis struggle with the happenings, none yet know that the Albanian Prisoner, Paul Dimiter is in the Holy City doing what he does best causing hell.

This is not an easy read as the exciting story line seems incoherent when suddenly like a magician William Peter Blatty brilliantly brings it together in a thrilling psychological suspense thriller. Dimiter is an eerie individual who has figuratively lost his soul (not in a horror novel – Exorcist sense) but seeks some form of redemption. Readers will relish the shocking truths as to who he is and why Albania (ask Ho Chi Minh about him) and then Jerusalem.

Harriet Klausner

Snakes Can't Run-Ed Lin

Snakes Can't Run
Ed Lin
Minotaur, Mar 30 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312569884

In 1976 in New York City, NYPD Chinese-American detective Robert Chow remains deeply troubled by his time in Vietnam. However, he tries to insure his nightmares do not impact his performance as a cop. His current assignment along with his partner Vandyne is going undercover as a Con Ed worker following up a report by tourists of hearing gunshots in Chinatown as the department is on a terrorist alert.

At the same time much of the rest of the precinct is preoccupied with the FALN terrorists who brazenly ignite a bomb near police headquarters. When two Asian males are murdered with the bodies dumped under the Manhattan Bridge, Chow investigates as no one else is available. He soon follows clues of a human smuggling ring the Snakeheads.

The latest Chow historical police procedural is a timely reminder with the roadblocks on the bridges that terrorism is not a 9/11 phenomena. The city comes across dirty and gritty, but even with the FALN attacks it still beating strong. With insight into the assimilation of Asians into America and a deep look at Manhattan’s Chinatown, Ed Lin once again provides a strong investigative thriller (see This Is a Bust) as Snakes Can’t Run but they can hide.

Harriet Klausner

Sick Like That-Norman Green

Sick Like That
Norman Green
Minotaur, Mar 30 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312385439

While her employer private investigator Marty Stiles is in rehab following a gunshot wound that has left him wheelchair bound and without a will to live; Alessandra "Al" Martillo takes charge of the office. She assigns the tedious tasks to office receptionist Sarah Waters, but also takes the newcomer out into the field. Sarah searches for a dying wealthy client Mrs. West’s estranged stepson Jake. Al seeks Sarah's ex-husband, Frank, who vanished after informing his former wife he scored a terrific job that sounded suspiciously too good.

Sarah’s simple job takes a nasty turn while Al finds herself surrounded by law enforcement when Frank becomes a person of interest by NYPD and the Feds. Each Brooklynite struggles with their respective case but reacts differently.

Although both females are from Brooklyn and kick butt, they are different and thus their particular subplot handled radically dissimilar. Al and Sarah make the tale work as their nominal boss Marty may have seen his Last Gig. Readers will appreciate this exciting double dose female noir as the dual searches don’t quite go by the book as written by Norman Green.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Wave-Tom Miller

The Wave
Tom Miller
Sherman Asher Publishing, Apr 27 2010, $18.95
ISBN: 9781890932381

The earthquake was 6.8, but though it seemed impossible, a massive 20-foot tsunami wave followed devastating the Big Island of Hawaii killing many in Honolulu and elsewhere. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center failed to send out the alarm on time partly due to human error and mostly the inability to predict this could have happened with a relatively low level earthquake.

Soon after that disaster, marine biologist Dr. Scott Richardson is studying undersea activity to try to learn what caused the landslide that led to the tsunami. He asks his former Navy SEAL buddy Chuck Palmer to help as he needs an experienced diver covering his back. Angry at his wife for concealing a critical truth in their relationship, he leaves Malibu for Hawaii. As the pair of former SEALs, with the help of others, explores the ocean floor around Hawaii, what they find frightens them and their cohorts. However, thugs perhaps working for the Governor want them stopped as tourism is how the islands survive.

This is an exhilarating thriller that extrapolates scientific data on undersea earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, and tsunamis to paint an incredible action-packed tale. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the first wave struck and never slows down as the mega tsunami is coming. Although the hitmen subplot adds suspense, it feels inanely out of place in comparison to the strong scientific fact-finding as increasingly a monster tsunami caused by earthquakes and volcanoes frighten the scientists on the project as that would devastate the Pacific Rim including the American West Coast.

Harriet Klausner

Expiration Date-Duane Swierczynski

Expiration Date
Duane Swierczynski
Minotaur, Apr 6 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780312363406

Thirty-seven year old reporter Mickey Wade recently lost his position at the Philadelphia City News. Broke and heeding his mom’s advice, he moves into the apartment of his ailing grandfather to reduce his costs and to help care for his elderly relative. The Frankford neighborhood is nasty; worse than when he was a child living there and looking forward to escaping from the place. This is where his dad the musician “the Human Jukebox” was murdered.

As Mickey goes to bed with a hangover, he uses expired Tylenol to ease the headache. When he wakes up he finds himself in the neighborhood he knew over two decades ago and is especially shaken when he hears the El passing overhead. Even more shocking is to learn he is breathing on his birth date February 22 1972. He soon learns he can change things when he loses two fingers and, however upon returning to 2009, the fingers are back but useless. He begins to go back to learn more about the man who killed his father; who as a boy lived below his family.

This is an entertaining complicated time travel tale although the premise of going back to change the past even to prevent a murder has been done with plenty of frequency. Still the story line is fun to follow with a few delightful twists including a stunner and the hero is terrific as he meets the “rest of the family” and his dad’s killer when the murderer was a tweener. Expiration Date is a fine sub-genre entry, but remembers to throw away those expired pills.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Mapping of Love and Death-Jacqueline Winspear

The Mapping of Love and Death
Jacqueline Winspear
Harper, Mar 23 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780061727665

In 1932, Maisie Dobbs receives a note from Dr. Hayden of Massachusetts General Hospital who volunteered as a combat physician during the Great War; and of whom Maisie worked with. He asks her to meet with an elderly American couple whose son went missing during the 1916 Battle of the Somme. The Clintons inform her that farmers in France have uncovered a series of rooms that were part of the trenches. Inside are bodies of the British Cartography Section including their son who joined as a teen in 1914. They want to know who killed him as the autopsy revealed he died from a blow to his face.

Maisie, with Billy supporting her agrees, to investigate. She looks at the other information like letters and a dairy to help her. As she digs deep into what happened in this trench room in 1916, Maisie also copes with personal issues starting with Billy's wife leaving the psychiatric ward, Dr. Maurice's illness, Stratton's replacement at the Yard and her feelings for Canadian expatriate James Compton.

This is a terrific Depression Era whodunit as Maisie knows she has achieved her prime goal and is now entering her middle years so feels a bit adrift as she is undecided what next. The case is superb as the inquiry provides the reader a deep look at trench warfare during WWI. As entertaining as the military mystery are the goings-on in the heroine’s personal life. The mapping of Love and death is a great historical investigation thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Right Call-Kathy Herman

The Right Call
Kathy Herman
David C. Cook, Mar 28 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781434767844

In Sophie Trace, Tennessee, Ethan Langley is home for the summer from the University of Memphis and looks forward to seeing the woman he loves his friend Vanessa Jessup and her infant son, Carter. However, before Ethan can say hello, a murder shooting at Stanton College leaves his cousin Drew’s roommate, Tal Davison dead. Drew tried to save his roommate with mouth to mouth and is traumatized by the incident. Vanessa's mom Police Chief Brill Jessup investigates, but no suspect surfaces. Not long after that the killer murders Drew leaving Ethan traumatized.

Meanwhile to move on past his grief, Ethan focuses on Vanessa until a co-worker from last summer Stedman Reeves seems sympathetic to his loss. However, a panicked Stedman tells Ethan he believes the Police Chief will arrest him for the homicides as he made several bad decisions in life and is being set up to take the fall. He wants to believe the man but the evidence is overwhelming until someone targets him, Vanessa and Carter to ensure he never provides information to the Police Chief.

The third Sophie Trace inspirational tale is a fast-paced police procedural starring Ethan who struggles with making The Right Call, which is not easy to decide what it is though he turns to the wisdom of the Lord to guide him through his perilous trek and his grief. Fast-paced, readers will relish this strong Christian murder mystery while also seeking Brill’s two previous cases (see The Real Enemy and The Last Word)

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 15, 2010

Deadline Man-Jon Talton

Deadline Man
Jon Talton
Poisoned Pen, May 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN 9781590587140

The Seattle Free Press newspaper Columnist meets with an occasional source hedge fund manager Troy Hardesty. After completing the discussion that mentioned something called “Eleven-Eleven, the Columnist leaves. Outside the downtown office building, an explosion occurs as Troy falls 20 stories from the balcony of his office.

At the Free Press, the Columnist learns the paper is near bankruptcy and will either be sold or closed within two months. He is unconcerned though newspaper is his blood. Instead he thinks of his love life until a streetwalker screams at him: “Eleven-eleven.” Another death occurs with the victim having Eleven-eleven etched on his ankle. Soon afterward men claiming to be Feds demand the Columnist tell them what Troy told him. The Columnist and cub reporter Amber Burke investigate Eleven-eleven as a deadline approaches.

The Deadline Man is an exhilarating thriller that grips the audience from the moment Hardesty dives twenty stories and never slows down throughout until the climax. The subplot of a dying newspaper augments the tale with a sense of reality. Well-written, this tense tale will hook fans who, like the reporters, will need to know what is Eleven-eleven.

Harriet Klausner

Storm Prey-John Sandford

Storm Prey
John Sandford
Putnam, May 18 2010, $27.95
ISBN: 9780399156496

Dr. Weather Karkinnen, wife of Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Chief Lucas Davenport, is one of the surgical team diligently working to separate twins co-joined at the head. As they begin the complex series of operations, four men rush into the hospital’s pharmacy, taking millions in drugs. The surgery is postponed for one day.

Weather saw the face of one of the men in the garage and in the elevator. She also sees their vehicle. The robbers understand that Weather is a witness who can identify them; so she must die. They shot at her when she was in her car, but she gets away unscathed. Lucas provides his spouse with police protection while he and his unit investigate the theft. He learns that one of the thieves was a doctor. Once he finishes his inquiry and she the surgery, he and Weather become predators and no longer the prey.

Storm Prey is the twentieth Prey police procedural, but retains the freshness of the series opening act (see First Prey) as this case is personal. There is plenty of action in the plot as explosions and violence frequently occur; nut not enough to turn off the audience. The hero has grown over the course of the series, but though experienced he remains true to his values as he still does not play by someone else’s rules though he adheres to the law.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Final Target-Steven Gore

Final Target
Steven Gore
Poosoned Pen, May 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590587492

Katie sends the letter to the FBI in San Francisco that President Matson of Surveillance and Targeting Technologies (SatTek) of San Jose was conducting illegal offshore money dumping. The whistleblower remembers her Russian name is Ekaterina just before she is killed.

International lawyer, Jack Burch is shot while jogging. He remains in a coma in a San Francisco Medical hospital. At about the same time Matson plea bargains with Assistant U.S. Attorney William Peterson over his jail time for embezzling three hundred million dollars in an offshore dumping. He blames the affair on comatose Burch, his attorney in setting up the offshore firms.

While the Feds led by Peterson salivate over hanging Burch for the white collar crimes and subsequent corporate collapse, his best friend private investigator Graham Gage rejects the theory of criminal activity by his buddy. He searches for the shooter and soon also who killed the whistleblower. He and his team begin to find ties between Matson and the Ukrainian mafia with links to that country’s presidency; treason apparently in two nations but the Feds prefers to not go that route.

This is a great financial investigative thriller that grips readers with Katie’s dying opening act and never slows down as Gage leads an inquiry that spans several nations in two continents while the Feds choose the easier low road. Fast-paced and gripping, sub-genre fans will relish Steven Gore’s strong tale that the author states in the afterward is based on real events of which he probed. Note to Poisoned Pen readers: this book was released as a mass market by HarperCollins in February.

Harriet Klausner

Eye of the Red Tsar-Sam Eastland

Eye of the Red Tsar
Sam Eastland
Bantam, Apr 27 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780553807813

Before the Revolution in two steps, Tsar Nicholas Romanov trusted his brilliant Finnish born investigator Pekkala to solve impossible cases. However, in the Summer of 1917, the great detective became Prisoner 4745-P exiled to spend the rest of his life for crimes against the state in the harshest Siberian gulag.

Surviving in his icy forest more as a wily beast over the next decade, he remains with no hope of either going home to Finland or St. Petersburg. However in 1929, Stalin orders the Tsar’s “Emerald Eye” brought to Moscow to investigate the murders of the Romanovs in Ekaterinburg. The Communist leaders wants to know who killed the Tsar and his family; who survived if any; and what happened to the Tsarist treasure?

Although a super investigative frozen case, the story line is in many ways a wonderful historical thriller as the audience learns plenty of what happened to the Tsarist family, the hero’s back-story in Finland and on the train to Russia, and the salad days of Stalin’s rule. Fast-paced throughout, readers will appreciate this fine tale as every Russian who knows anything understands the need to remain mute as death by assassination is better than the one way ticket to the gulag.

Harriet Klausner

The Hangman’s Row Enquiry-Ann Purser

The Hangman’s Row Enquiry
Ann Purser
Berkley, May 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425234730

For years cantankerous spinster Ivy Beasley ruled the English village of Round Ringford with a nurturing iron first. The townsfolk respected her, but did not care about her. When her cousin Deirdre asks her to move near her, Ivy agrees and relocates in the assisted living community Springfields in Barrington.

Still filed with vinegar and energy, Ivy needs something to occupy her time. She thinks she may have found just the thing when she meets Augustus “Gus” Halfhide at church. He has recently moved here and seeks something to excite his time too. They along with Deirdre open up an investigative agency. Their first case they choose as it interests them involves the death of a woman in one of the cotages on Hangman’s Row. The cottage belongs to Theodore Russell whose ancestors once owned most of the village, but hhe became a recluse who used an agent Miss Bailey to conduct his affairs. .

Ann Purser provides a delightful spin-off from her Lois Meade mysteries starring former series support player the silver haired crabby Ivy, her cousin, and their new friend. Fans will enjoy the dynamic trio as they investigate the murder of Gus’ neighbor with zest and vim as they display energy that a person half their age will admire. With Gus adding enigmatic denouements, Deirdre a bit of fear, and Ivy vinegar of course, fans of the Meade English cozies will want to read this senior citizen murderer investigation.

Harriet Klausner

Nashville Noir-Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

Nashville Noir
Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain
Obsidian, Apr 2010, $22.95
ISBN: 9780451229274

In Cabot Cove, Maine the Cabot Cove Cares supports each year a young artist. This year’s winner is eighteen years old singer-songwriter Cyndi Blaskowitz who is going to Nashville on a scholarship. If she is fortunate her songs will be recorded. Cyndi has an appointment to meet music executive Roderick Marker, who she hopes will help her after hearing one of her tunes.

A few weeks later, Cyndi fails to call her mom as she has done everyday since arriving in Music Town. Instead she was arrested for the murder of Roderick. Cyndi's mother begs Jessica to clear her daughter so the writer travels to Nashville. Her reputation gets Cyndi out of jail as long as Jessica is responsible for the teen who wears an electronic monitor. The author’s inquiry soon finds a score of people wanting Marke dead, but who actually killed him remains difficult to determine.

The Jessica Fletcher mysteries are always a nice treat for cozy fans as the American Miss Marple simply asks questions while strumming up an ensemble of suspects in her latest whodunit. Nashville Noir shows the other side of the Music Town far from the glitter as Jessica plays a delightful New Englander country virtuoso with the Tennessee Waltz.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Edge of Ruin-Irene Fleming

The Edge of Ruin
Irene Fleming
Minotaur, Apr 27 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 978-0312575205

In 1909 Philadelphia, Adam Weiss informs his new wife Emily that he has quit his job and sold every asset that have to open up Melpomene Moving Picture Studios in New York. She is stunned as Adam had never done such a bold risky undertaking since he courted her. He further explains to his shocked spouse that he signed a contact with lawyer Howie Kazanow to deliver four one-reel films in a few weeks; if he fails to deliver, he loses the movie firm to Kazanow.

Thomas Edison's Motion Picture Patents Company legally owns movie production especially in New York. His monopoly shuts down potential competitors so Weiss takes his crew back across the Hudson to Fort Lee in order to elude Edison’s espionage detectives who are all over Manhattan and allegedly the boroughs too. However, while filming in Edison’ backyard of New Jersey, a nasty detective arrives on the lot only to be stabbed to death. The police arrest Adam leaving it to Emily and the eccentric crew to finish the films and find proof that her husband is innocent.

This is a fabulous historical amateur sleuth in which the early era of filmmaking steals the show from the mystery. Over a century ago, fans of the silent era will relish the insight to movie-making even before Griffith started filming in the streets of Los Angeles. The whodunit is cleverly devised to enhance the beginning of the motion picture industry as the early twentieth century comes vividly alive in this salute to the first decade of the silent movie era.

Harriet Klausner

The Ark-Boyd Morrison

The Ark
Boyd Morrison
Touchstone, May 11 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9781439181799

Archeologist Dr. Dilara Kenner flies from Peru to Los Angeles because family friend Sam Watson asked her. They meet at LAX where he informs her; the Ark has been found while cultists plot to eradicate humanity with the release of a disease found on the Ark. Someone accidentally bumps into Sam. As he falls to the floor, Sam realizes that was no accidental bump; he has been poisoned with contact venom and is dying just like Dilara’s dad Hasad Arvadi was murdered. Sam’s last breath to Dilara, of whom he considers a beloved niece, is to flee to Gordian Engineering’s Tyler Locke and with him find Noah’s Ark.

Dilara locates Locke on a floating oil rig about two hundred miles off the Newfoundland coast. , When her helicopter crashes near his locale, the combat engineer rescues the archeologist. Her father’s assassin cult leader Sebastian Ulric plans to release the deadly prion protein in eight days. Tyler and his friend Grant Westfield believe Dilara’s tale, but know that no one else will; so they must prevent Ulric’s extinction scheme.

This is an exhilarating quest thriller that grips the audience throughout. The story line is action-packed from the opening contact poisoning scene to several encounters and finally a final battle on Noah’s Ark. Fans will appreciate the heroism of the dynamic trio while tensely waiting for their anticipated arrival on the Ark. One caution is not to skip to the last section though the temptation is almost as great as Eve offering Adam the apple as the reader will miss out on some exciting action that leads to the climax.

Harriet Klausner

The God of the Hive-Laurie R. King

The God of the Hive
Laurie R. King
Bantam, Apr 27 2010, $25.00
ISBN 9780553805543

In 1924, married couple Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes survived the murderous cult that they got involved with as they resolved the mysterious Language of Bees. Both hope the terror is over, but they will soon learn it has just begun.

Reverend Thomas Brothers believes he can harness psychic energies through human sacrifice. As such he shoots Holmes's son, Damian Adler. With his offspring dying, Holmes' rushes off to Holland for specialized medical care to save the life of his son. At the same time Mary tries to protect her husband’s granddaughter Estelle from Brothers and his fanatical cohorts. Nothing seems to go right for either one of the couple as danger is everywhere in England and on the continent.

This direct sequel to the Language of the Bees is a tense historical suspense thriller in which the couple separated and learns that the sum is greater than the two parts. The story line is fast-paced from start to finish with plenty of danger assaulting the lead couple in their separate subplots. Although each obtains too much help expediting them from on peril after another, The God of the Hive is an entertaining Russell-Holmes 1920s thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, March 12, 2010

White Rainbow-Karen Wiesner

White Rainbow
Karen Wiesner
Uncial Press, summer 2010

On a gloomy wet day in January 2009 Flint the “Black Knight” Jackson rejoices at the funeral of his father; a man he broke when he stole the business that his dearest dad built from the feeble old man. The Black Knight never forgave his father for relocating the family from Milwaukee to Chicago to start that business when Flint was a tweener while his preadolescent girlfriend Jessie Nelson moved to California ignoring his pleading she come with him. Next on his list is Jessie’s business Nelson Cosmetics.

However, Flint’s plan that was almost completed was derailed by a car accident fifteen months after watching gleefully his dad being buried. Two months later extremely an selfish Jessie is found not breathing in a back alley, but the EMTs save her life. She vows to turn her life around making up for all those people she has hurt over the years and volunteering at the Milwaukee Wayward Angels shelter. Now three decades since they went their separate ways, Flint has returned to her and Milwaukee seeking atonement like Jessie with his second chance at life. Both are stunned that their youthful attraction remains strong.

The sixth Wounded Warrior tale stars two interesting lead characters who share in common a life of destroying others until both face death and know miraculously they survived. The story line is fast-paced from the moment a bitter cynical Flint watches with joy from a distance his father buried mad never slows down until the pirate and his lady find one another. Christian romance readers will enjoy the redemption second chance at love tale.

Harriet Klausner

8 in the Box-Raffi Yessayan

8 in the Box
Raffi Yessayan
Ballantine, Mar 23 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345502629

In Boston, an unknown psychopath is breaking into the homes of professional females and abducts them leaving a bathtub filled with blood, but no corpse. The Boston police homicide detectives Mooney and Alves work diligently to end the serial bloody spree but have no other clues.

Richter remains unknown by the police and the media calls him The Blood Bath Killer. He is using chemicals on his growing number of victims. Whereas the District Attorney’s Office ADAs see this maniac as a résumé entry, the two beleaguered cops struggle with ending the monster’s murderous mayhem. They soon get a break, but neither cop is sure whether the first lead beyond the bloody signature will prove enough to end the Blood Bath Killer’s terrorizing Bostonians.

This is a fascinating serial killer thriller in which the ambitious attorneys come across as one dimensional people interested in their next promotion with teamwork cooperation being for fools while the two cops are fully developed especially as they make the rounds in impoverished neighborhoods. Although sidebars re a lawyer’s responsibility to help the poor takes attention away from the prime story line as Raffi Yessayan preaches, readers will enjoy this entertaining police procedural legal thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lies of the Heart-Michelle Boyajian

Lies of the Heart
Michelle Boyajian
Viking, Apr 19 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780670021314

Mentally handicapped student Jerry LaPlante walks calmly into the Warwick Center gym and shoots and kills his speech therapist Nick Burelli who was playing handball with two of his other patients. Jerry stands trial for murder while Nick's grieving widow Katie watches the proceedings and sadly muses over what led to the homicide of her spouse.

A documentary filmmaker Katie thinks back to her marriage and begins to wonder if the fractured relationship between her and her late husband led to Jerry pulling the trigger. They both befriended Jerry, but though the man is emotionally damaged Katie begins to believe Jerry could sense the resentment angrily flowing back and forth between the couple especially her fears that she will never measure up to her sister and ergo unworthy of Nick. She even considers Jerry killed Nick as a token of his love for Katie.

This is an intriguing character study of surviving tragedy and trauma as Katie struggles with why, but her answers to herself is not the paragon of her husband painted by the prosecutor, but of a raging Nick using Katie’s lack of confidence as a weapon in their relationship. Rotating between their past and the present, Katie does not hold the two men responsible only as she knows she hid behind the camera to avoid both especially her spouse. More a powerful psychological drama rather than a legal thriller, readers will enjoy Katie’s introspective reflections of her life leads her to draw conclusions wildly diverse from that of the prosecutor.

Harriet Klausner

When Death Intervenes-L.C. Hayden

When Death Intervenes
L.C. Hayden
Five Star, May 7 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148507

In Two Forks, Wyoming, Linda Randig mourns the deaths of her parents in a car crash. Soon afterward, she receives a call from an anonymous person who tells her to open an envelope that he left her and that he can see what she is doing even inside her house. Inside the large parcel is three other envelops. One is labeled open me first which contains pictures of her parents' car. Another says open me next; inside is a picture of her estranged son Eric with her grandson. The third shows her spouse Mitch lying dead in the garden. She races outside to see her husband is dead. The caller tells her to use her SUV and head to Minnesota to await further instructions.

At the South Dakota Custer State Park, Linda is parked next to retired Dallas police detective Harry Bronson and his wife Carol. He recognizes a troubled soul and gets her to talk about her woes. Unable to resist although Carol warns him not to play cop anymore, Harry with the help of his former police partner Mike Hoover, who remains on the force, begins to piece together the motive behind a serial killer whose lethal signature is that of a dead man.

When Death Intervenes is a great thriller as Bronson cannot stop himself from intervening to save the life of a beleaguered widow who has not had time to grieve. Bronson is terrific with his bowling theory of life as much as his clever investigation. Although the Randig family extended dynamics is dysfunctional to the point of being over the top of the Black Hills, fans will relish this strong tale as Bronson works the case from two angles: keeping his “client” and her son and grandchild alive and identifying the killer.

Harriet Klausner

Half-Price Homicide-Elaine Viets

Half-Price Homicide
Elaine Viets
Obsidian, May 2010, $22.95
ISBN: 9780451229892

When the judge awarded Rob half his wife’s earnings for life, Helen Hawthorne refuses to pay this outrageous alimony. She leaves her affluent home in St. Louis and goes on the run until she reaches Fort Lauderdale where she works at a series of dead end jobs. Helen also meets her fiancé private investigator Phil at the apartment complex they both live in. Phil wants to marry her, but before they can Helen must return to St. Louis to fix her legal and financial liabilities.

Meanwhile she works at Snapdragon, a high class consignment shop. One of the repeat customers Chrissy comes in with a purse to sell, but her husband follows her to the shop. They end up in a shouting match; broken up by the store owner. Chrissy enters a dressing room to try on a dress. When the proprietor enters to see how it looks on her, Chrissy is dead. Helen knows the woman was murdered as there is blood on a décor pineapple. When she returns from St. Louis, she is shocked that her employer has lost so many customers and considers closing the shop. With Phil’s help, Helen investigates the homicide hoping to find the killer and keep the store open.

The Dead-End Job mysteries (see Killer Cuts) are always fun to read due to the heroine but Half-Price Homicide is especially a delight as long story arcs are completed and new ones begin; making this a must for series fans. Meanwhile Rob tries to blackmail his ex wife, but she refuses knowing she will return to St. Louis to end the legal travesty. Her time in Missouri is interesting while her sleuthing in Florida is clever as both subplots blend together smoothly in a fascinating major move forward for Helen.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Secret of Excalibur-Andy McDermott

The Secret of Excalibur
Andy McDermott
Bantam, Mar 23 2010, $7.99
ISBN 9780553592955

Eddie Chase and Nina Wilde have been successful with finding ancient myths (see The Hunt for Atlantis and The Tomb of Hercules). Not the type to sit on their laurels, neither knows what next until family friend historian Bernd Rust sends Nina a cryptic message about the sword of Excalibur. He explains to her his belief shared by a Russian that Arthur's legendary sword exists and is a source of earth energy no longer used in modern times.

Before they can further talk, Rust is murdered. Nina sells Eddie on the worthiness of a search while fearing a Russian Kruglov perhaps backed by his government and the American governments are also seeking the sword that allegedly makes a bearer invincible in battle. Lost for over a millennium, the daring duet begins their search in the deserts of the Middle East, but as they elude deadly encounters, they follow clues to Siberia.

The third Wilde and Chase adventure thriller is a fast-paced, action-packed and over the top of Camelot saga that is fun to read. From the opening scene with Kruglov, the giant Russian and the blue-haired lady visiting a church but not for confession until the final anticipated confrontation, fans will enjoy the escapades of the lead heroes as they distrust the Americans as much as the Russians. This work is very entertaining, a superb thriller that hooks the audience from the very first page.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 8, 2010

Dark Alley-Evan Marshall

Dark Alley
Evan Marshall
Severn House, Mar 2010, $27.95
ISBN: 9780727868350

NYC Department of Sanitation Manhattan Central District 13 Section Chief Anna Winthrop breaks up a fight between two crew members, Ernesto Balcazer and Garry Thompson over a third crew person Kelly Moore. Soon afterward, Garry’s partner Terrence King calls Anna to say his teammate vanished after going behind the New Amsterdam Mews to collect garage. The next day Anna’s boyfriend police officer Santos Reyes learns of Garry’s body found in the Mews. NYPD Detectives Rinaldi and Roche lead the investigation.

Anna thinks the link is to a rape incident in Iraq where Garry served two tours and a brother in arms was accused, jailed and killed in prison waiting a local trial. However, the pattern does not hold up when a second corpse of a murdered woman is found inside the Amster Mews. Dubbed by the media as the Mews Killer Anna continues her inquiries trying to find the elusive link that ties the corpses together when a cold blooded killer kills two more times and targets her too.

This is a superb Hidden Manhattan amateur sleuth (See Death Is Disposable and Evil Justice) as Anna with the cooperation of her boyfriend conducts her own investigation as she believes that NYPD will not probe deep enough to seek the patterns to the murders. Readers will find it difficult to accept that Santos escorts his civilian girlfriend to crime scenes and keeps her informed on the official investigation that he has no need to know; and likewise the two detectives allow him and Anna to stay at the crime scenes. Still this is an entreating whodunit as Evan Marshall provides tremendous red herrings and several wonderful twists as he introduces readers to fake Manhattan Mews as ideal murder locales.

Harriet Klausner

The Lie-Petra Hammesfahr

The Lie
Petra Hammesfahr
Bitter Lemon, May 2010, $14.95
ISBN: 9781904738428

Suzanne Lasko struggles to survive living in a dump in which she cannot pay the rent on time ever since her marriage ended and her teller job terminated for her inability to perform simple tasks. Apparently her mind never fully healed from a car accident several years ago. Her ailing mom lives in a home, so Suzanne who loves her makes up a life with a good paying job and a kind boyfriend. Desperately she does the unthinkable and uses her mom’s money to pay her bills.

Suzanne arrives at Behringer and partners for an interview. There she runs into her almost identical twin Nadia Trenkler though they are not related as far as either woman knows. Wealthy Nadia hires Suzanne to pose as her with her husband Michael for the weekend while she runs off for a tryst. Their first switch is successful so they do it again and again although Michael suspects something is not quite right with his wife.

The concept of twins switching identities is common in movies and books and this latest tale is an adult modernization of the Prince and The Pauper. Suzanne makes the tale with her bewildered mind and abject poverty impeding her fitting in the luxurious lifestyle of Nadia. Although plausibility is somewhat lost due to Michael’s actions and reactions and the too frequent switches, readers will enjoy this intriguing psychological suspense thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Moon Spinners-Sally Goldenbaum

Moon Spinners
Sally Goldenbaum
Obsidian, Apr 27 2010,
ISBN: 9780451229885

The Seaside Knitters (Nell, Izzy, Cass and Birdie) are taking time off from helping Gracie Santos open her new restaurant the Lazy Lobster and Soup Café on Pelican Pier in Sea Harbor, Massachusetts. They are attending a charity event at the Country Club where Gracie’s Uncle Alphonso and his wife Sophia are joining with the Delaney’s Construction Company to donate at cost materials to build an addition to the community center at Pelican Bay.

Gracie’s mother Julianne shows up at the gala and makes a scene because her brother, in charge of her trust, refuses to give her any more spending money at the urgency of Sophia.. When Sophia leaves her party she loses control of her car and dies in the crash. The police find evidence that the brake line was cut so they arrest Julianne when they find material in her vehicle on how to fix a car’s brake line. The Seaside Knitters refuse to accept Julianne murdered her sister-in-law so they start their own investigation.

Readers will thoroughly enjoy the third Seaside Knitters amateur sleuth (see Death by Cashmere and Patterns in the Sand) because of the diverse yet likable lead protagonists whose interests vary, but remain close friends. They come across as detectives as they make inquiries the same way they knit, one stitch at a time. The key that brings plausibility to the fine story line is they do their investigation without facing life threatening danger. This is a delightful entry in a fun regional mystery series.

Harriet Klausner

Tressed to Kill-Lila Dare

Tressed to Kill
Lila Dare
Berkley, May 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780425234747

Quaint St. Elizabeth, Georgia is a typical southern small-town in which the locals know one another and the crime rate is extremely low. Grace Terhune and her mother Violetta own a beauty shop that they operate out of the latter’s home. They are swamped with customers who are going to attend the town meeting to discuss funds for the “Preserve the Rothmere Museum” and computers into the schools. The other item on the agenda is whether to allow Morestuf Mart to build a store in town.

Society doyenne Constance DuBois demands Violetta put highlights in her hair just prior to the big meeting. The hairdresser warns the haughty client that she already has too many chemicals and fears adding additional ones to Constance’s hair. Violetta proves right when Constance’s hair turns orange. Blaming Violetta, Constance vows to shut down the beauty salon. Following the meeting, they find Constance’s corpse in the parking lot. All evidence points strongly towards her mother, so Grace, knowing the cops will need all the help they can get, begins her own inquiry.

The first Southern Beauty Shop amateur sleuth nicely captures the ambience of life in a small Georgia town; for instance sayings like the War of Northern Aggression are accepted as much as the alphabet is. Grace is a classic steel magnolia who refuses to accept her mom’s guilt and the consequently closing of their beauty parlor. She determinedly investigates because she knows the townsfolk, especially the ladies, quite well and cannot afford to hire a professional detective. Rather quickly she finds others with motives to kill Constance though she struggles with who did the act. Lila Dare provides a fun regional amateur sleuth starring likable mother-daughter beauticians.

Harriet Klausner