Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Baked-Mark Haskell Smith

Mark Haskell Smith
Black Cat (Grove/Atlantic), Aug 6 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780802170767

In Los Angeles botanist Miro Basinas is shot. One month earlier, Miro competed in the international Cannabis Cup tournament in Amsterdam. Stunningly his Elephant Crush won the gold medal at the competition because of its wonderful flavoring that tastes like mango.

Miro thought by entering his prize specialty grown weed he would hit the big time especially after he won. Now in a hospital as he recovers from being shot he learns his seed has been stolen by predatory capitalists who plan to sell his cannabis. He vows revenge, but has no idea how one goes about becoming an avenger as this is comic books or a movie and he is a weed botanist; besides he has no idea who shot him and stole his seed as several predators, besides the usual suspects, surface.

This is a dark amusing crime caper starring a half baked capitalist botanist and a horde of eccentric characters who run the gamut of stereotypical free market idealists. Although the support cast can strain the story line with too much quirkiness, readers who enjoy something different will appreciate the battle of the capitalists who want to sell legally at medical marihuana “Starbucks” and illegally on the streets, Miro blend with or without his cooperation; as competition is cutthroat.

Harriet Klausner

Did Not Survive-Ann Littlewood

Did Not Survive
Ann Littlewood
Poisoned Pen, Jul 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590587454

At the Finley Memorial Zoo in Vancouver, Washington pregnant Iris Oakley is reassigned from her Big Cat keeper job to the birds. Iris finds administrator Kevin Wallace lying in blood and unconscious in the elephant barn. Hovering near him is Damrey the elephant. Iris manages to rescue Wallace, but is bewildered that gentle elderly Damrey would attack him.

Everyone assumes Damrey assaulted Kevin except Sam the elephant head keeper although no one can explain why the victim would be inside that barn or what he did to ignite Damrey’s fury. At the same time while the humans ponder the elephant walk, Clouded Leopard gives birth. However, the zoo turns macabre when an animal corpse is stolen and other animals kidnapped while the elephant herd seems to have drawn angry animal activists and the keepers are fighting with each other.

The second Finley memorial Zoo amateur sleuth (see Night Kill) is an enjoyable mystery with a nice twist of Iris’ “innocent” inquiries confusing the official investigation. The sleuthing is fun to follow, but the prime pleasure with Did Not Survive is the leisurely vivid descriptions of what goes on behind the scenes at a zoo.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Men-Paul Cleave

Blood Men
Paul Cleave
Atria, Jul 20 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9781439189610

When Edward Hunter was nine years old his life radically changed. First a voice in his head directed him to put nails inside a steak that he fed to a dog, who died a painful death. In that same year his father dubbed Jack the Hunter was arrested and convicted of killing at least eleven prostitutes; his older sister died from an overdose; and finally Edward’s mom committed suicide unable to cope with what Jack did.

Shocked into behaving, Edward becomes an accountant and affectionately loving towards his wife Jodie and their six-year-old daughter Sam. During Christmas week Jodie and Edward are at a bank in Christchurch, New Zealand when six armed robbers assault the place. Edward goes into face them, but his confrontation leads to Jodie’s death. The dormant voice is back ordering him to kill. Shook by his wife’s death and the voice, Edward visits his father for the first since Jack was locked away. Jack says he heard the voice too and suggests to his son to follow its call and avenge the murder of his beloved wife.

This is a fascinating character study that looks deeply at what motivates anti society activities. The story line is at its best when the focus is inside the head of Edward who thinks he may just be a chip off the old block. However, the story line also contains too many subplots in which none fully take charge though ultimately the myriad converge in a final clash. Still fans of twisting psychological thrillers with a red sea of blood will want to read Edward’s lament (perhaps too much lamenting by him) as he fears his DNA imprint is serial killer not family patriarch.

Harriet Klausner

Cure-Robin Cook

Robin Cook
Putnam, Aug 10 2010, $26.95
ISBN 9780399156625

Medical examiners Laurie Montgomery and Jack Stapleton are euphoric with the birth of their first offspring. Following medical leave, Laurie returns to work and her boss assigns to her a routine inquiry in which the preliminary indication is death by natural causes.

However, something feels off kilter to Laurie and she is positive it is not caused by postpartum blues. She digs a bit deeper and soon realizes the victim has been poisoned. Her investigation leads to the Mafia and Japanese gangsters competing with money laundering investments in a crooked stem-cell research firm. When the felons kidnap her son Laurie goes lioness berserker in pursuit.

Cure in an exciting medical thriller due to the diligence of the lead protagonist whose investigation leads to a convergence of the biotechnical and mob industries aimed at her and her loved ones. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Laurie begins her autopsy and never slows down. Although resolutions are incredibly too obvious, easy and abrupt, fans will enjoy the latest Montgomery-Stapleton tale (see Foreign Body) as the enemy goes after them by targeting their Achilles’ Heel.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Brush with Death-Elizabeth J. Duncan

A Brush with Death
Elizabeth J. Duncan
Minotaur, Aug 3 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312622824

Canadian Expatriate Penny Brannigan inherited her Welsh cottage in Llanelen, Wales from schoolteacher Emma Teasdale. A reasonably successful manicure shop owner, Penny cleans up her cottage when she finds letters describing Emma's affair with Liverpool artist Alys Jones. The painter, preparing for a gallery showing in Liverpool, died in a hit-and-run driver shortly after leaving in 1970.

Penny’s plate is overflowing, but she is obsessed with Alys's death. She persuades her boyfriend DI Gareth Davies and police Sergeant Bethan Morgan to assist her as she investigates the cold case hit and run. Villagers are also interested in the Jones’ case as most of her paintings vanished with only two canvasses recovered.

The second Brannigan investigative case (see The Cold Light of Mourning) is a wonderful Welsh whodunit as the amateur sleuth assisted by professional cops and the long time residents of Llanelen look into a cold case accident that soon looks like vehicular homicide. Fast-paced, readers will want to joy the intrepid Penny who is in for more than just a pound as she follows the clues, one cup of tea at a time.

Harriet Klausner

Murder at Mansfield Park-Lynn Shepherd

Murder at Mansfield Park
Lynn Shepherd
St. Martin’s Griffin, Jul 20 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312638344

At Mansfield Park, usually upbeat Mary Crawford hates, like everyone else, seemingly once meek and insipid Fanny Price the former charity case who has turned nasty ever since she became an heiress; Fanny tossed away her humble pie façade of modesty since gaining wealth. Still, though Mary loathes Fanny, she would not want anything horrific to happen to her tormentor, for the most part. Thus when Fanny’s body is found in a nearby fairgrounds Mary wonders who else the supposed inconspicuous Fanny tortured enough to have the motive to kill her.

Mary decides to investigate who killed the mean queen of complacency. Ever the optimist, she begins to follow the clues while joined by a thief not realizing how dangerous sleuthing at Mansfield Park can be.

Murder at Mansfield Park is an entertaining spin on the original Jane Austen classic as Lynn Shepherd modifies traits (in some cases dramatically) key Crawford-Price extended family players in her fun historical whodunit. The story line is a fast-paced amateur sleuth that Austen aficionados will appreciate, but so will mystery fans of nineteenth century English investigations. This is a fun refreshing Miss Austen spin.

Harriet Klausner

The Good Thief's Guide To Vegas-Chris Ewan

The Good Thief's Guide To Vegas
Chris Ewan
Minotaur, Aug 17 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312580827

British author Charlie Howard makes more money as a sophisticated thief. He and his writing agent Victoria visit Las Vegas. There they meet magician Josh Masters, who is performing as the star attraction at the Fifty-Fifty casino on the Strip and apparently attracted to Victoria.

Charlie decides the obnoxious magician needs a lesson for his designs on Victoria so he plans to rob $60,000 in chips from his intended victim’s hotel safe. Everything goes according to the good thief’s plan until he sees a corpse in Masters’ bathtub. During a performance, Masters performs a perfect disappearing act while the casino owners demand Charlie fork over the chips.

The latest Good Thief Guide thriller (see Paris and Amsterdam) is a delightful crime caper in which everything goes Murphy (wrong) for the urbane title character. Charlie is a combo antiheroic hero whose latest escapades have as always led to him into trouble from all sides of the trapezoidal law. Fans will enjoy Charlie’s humorous lighthearted misadventures on the Strip as he muses that last week (previous tale) he saw the Eiffel Tower in Paris and this week he sees the Eiffel Tower in Vegas; both visits having in common someone wanting to roll a snake eyes of him from the top.

Harriet Klausner

Fatal Convictions-Randy Singer

Fatal Convictions
Randy Singer
Tyndale, Aug 1 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9781414333205

The case is controversial as affirmed by no lawyer in Virginia Beach wanting to defend Khalid Mobasser, the Muslim Imam for the Norfolk Islamic Learning Center. He is accused of encouraging and causing honor killings especially when a Muslim male killed his wife for converting to Christianity. Personal injury attorney Pastor Alexander Madison is wary to take on such a charged defense in which the media prefers to hang anyone who wants to insure the Imam receives a fair trial. Making his decision more difficult is criminal law is not his expertise.

However, upon meeting the accused and reviewing the evidence, Alexander believes the Imam is innocent. He begins his unpopular defense believing he knows the full cost to himself; but is unaware until it may be too late to know the personal price of doing so.

This is an excellent legal thriller that grips the audience from the onset when the seemingly sleazy ambulance chaser Reverend Madison offers his legal skill to Imam Mobasser at the hospital where the latter’s wife is recovering from a severe car accident. The story line is fast-paced with a strong legal base that will have readers questioning the law; for instance if an Imam declares honor killing is acceptable does that makes him an accessory and does a person encouraging abortion killing make that individual an accessory. Readers will relish this thought provoking look at the legal system asking whether there are no limits to religious freedom considering recent SCOTUS Second Amendment activist decisions overcoming decades of local law.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Hidden Affair-Pam Jenoff

A Hidden Affair
Pam Jenoff
Atria, Jul 6 2010, $22.99
ISBN: 9781416590712

At Cambridge University Jared Short and Jordan Weiss were lovers until he accidentally drowned. At least that is what Jordan thought. When the U.S. Foreign Service diplomat learns the truth that her grief for years was for a sham, she needs to know why he faked his death. She leaves the State department to pursue the truth while someone wants her to be silenced on this matter.

Jordon follows leads that take her to Nicole Short who apparently knows Jared and where to find him, but conceals everything. She follows Nicole, which takes her to widower Ari Bruck, whom Jordon believes is an undercover Mossad field operative also interested in Jared though not revealing why. Distrusting each other in spite of their attraction, they agree to team up in search of the elusive Jared as clues taken them all over France from the Riviera to the wine country and onto the rest of the continent.

A Hidden Affair is an intriguing romantic espionage starring a brave female who seeks the truth about the only man she thought she loved until her attraction with Ari. The pair shares in common grief; hers is for her college lover who allegedly drowned in the Cam and his for his late wife and daughter. Filled with twists, fans will want to know what happened to Jared. With a tie to vanished rare wine lost in WWII that enhances the exciting story line, A Hidden Affair is a super thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Layover in Dubai-Dan Fesperman

Layover in Dubai
Dan Fesperman
Knopf, Jul 16 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780307268389

Road weary American auditor Sam Keller is in his twentieth nation as an employee of Pfluger Klaxon. He and his business companion Charlie Hatcher are in Dubai when the latter is murdered. Although Sam vomits twice at the sight of the blown away Charlie, the cops believe he is the killer so he flees rather than take his chances on Middle East justice even if Dubai is a very westernized center.

He soon finds the Russian Mafia and his own pharmaceutical company want him dead. Dubai police officer Anwar Sharaf believes the American is innocent as the alleged motive fails to hold up under minor scrutiny. However, his investigation leads to him on run from his corrupt peers, the Russians and the hired guns of Sam’s firm.

This is an exciting over the top of the Burj Khalifa as the audience gets a close up look at perhaps the most capitalist center in the world conflicted between money and religious beliefs. Fast-paced, Sharaf makes the tale work as he rejects the mainstream bias news, jealous peers and deadly others who threaten his loved ones to insure the right people are arrested. Sam pales in comparison to him during his Layover in Dubai.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases

The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases
Michael Capuzzo
Gotham (Dutton), Aug 10 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9781592401420

This is a terrific look at the mysterious (pun intended) Vidocq Society pledged to solve the tundra of cold cases. Established by internet expert William Fleisher, profiling guru Richard Walter and forensic sculptor Frank Bender, the group is named after Napoleonic era Parisian detective Eugene Vidocq. They meet to brainstorm, discuss processes and solve cases as cold as five decades old and more.

The over fifty cases are fascinating in a macabre way as Michael Capuzzo graphically describes the crimes such as Marie Noe convicted as a septuagenarian in 1999 for killing eight of her kids in 1949 or John List who murdered his family to keep them religiously pure but afterward vanished for two decades before being sculptured. Well written, it is the human element accentuated by the victims such as Widow Marilyn Flax who negotiated with her husband’s kidnapper-killer that grips the audience; her story will leave readers eyes watering. Throughout the 56 entries is the underlying competitive camaraderie between the trio, bickering to the amusement of observers like us readers over glasses. Graphic (one killer cut off the visage of those murdered) yet heartfelt (all will cheer when the caught priest mutters "God damn", The Murder Room is a true crime winner.

Harriet Klausner

Entanglement-Zygmunt Miloszewski

Zygmunt Miloszewski
Bitter Lemon, Aug 1 2010, $14.95
ISBN 9781904738442

In 2005 at a Warsaw monastery, a demanding group therapy session occurs hosted by Cezary Rudski. He tells a tale to the three of his four patents (Euzebiusz Kiam, Hanna Kwiatkowska and Barbara Jarczyk) who remain at the table; Henryk Talek is not there as the therapist assumes he left unable to cope with the intensity.

The next day Henryk is found dead; a roasting spit jammed into his eye. Warsaw prosecutor Teodor Szack leads the investigation, but has no energy for the case. He is bone wearily tired as he interviews the therapist and the three surviving patients. However, he soon finds his inquiry intriguing as he uncovers a link to a cold case homicide over two decades ago when the Communists ran roughshod. Adding to his renewed vigor is meeting enthusiastic reporter Monika Grzelka whose beauty and élan revitalizes him. However, Szack also wonders why the Secret Police are following his every move.

This is a fascinating Polish police procedural in which almost two decades since the fall of the Iron Curtain mysteries remain tied to the Communist era. The investigation is cleverly devised and the ennui Szarck feels at first is powerful as is his sudden zest for life after meeting the energetic journalist. However, the key to Zygmunt Miloszewski’s engaging whodunit is Warsaw as the city comes across modern yet retains the scars of communism.

Harriet Klausner

A Spider on the Stairs-Cassandra Chan

A Spider on the Stairs
Cassandra Chan
Minotaur, Jul 20 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312369408

Amateur sleuth Phillip Betancourt knows being the family black sheep makes spending Christmas in Yorkshire at his parent’s home as gloomy as the torrent of rain outside. Adding to his family’s torrential interrogation of him is questions about his personal life as he no longer is seeing Marla Tate. When cheerful Scotland Yard Detective Sergeant Jack Gibbons calls about a murder in nearby York, Phillip sees an opportunity to escape the torture by joining his friend on the investigation.

The corpse of Deborah Seldon, found in Accessorize in Davygate Shop, might be the work of notorious serial killer Ashdon. When Jack concludes the victim was killed most likely by Ashdon, he notifies the Yard’s serial killer Detective Superintendent Brumby; though the case has anomalies. Soon afterward, the proprietor of Mittlesdon's bookshop finds the body of his former employee Jody Farraday inside on Christmas Day. Gibbons and Betancourt investigate only to find too many people had access to the store.

The latest Betancourt-Gibbons collaborative investigation (see Village Affairs, Young Widow and Trick of the Mind) is a superb Yuletide whodunit. The story line is character driven more so by the seemingly hedonistic Betancourt though his buddy the cop holds his own as each is euphoric with having the case. Ironically, a contemporary mystery, fans of the classic British “historical” social class mystery like Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey and Carola Dunn’s Lady Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher tales will want to read Cassandra Chan’s fun tale.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I'd Know You Anywhere-Laura Lippman

I'd Know You Anywhere
Laura Lippman
Morrow, Aug 17 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780061706554

In the summer of 1985 Walter Bowman abducts fifteen years old Eliza Lerner. For the next six weeks he held her in captivity. Frightened and expecting to die as she believes he is already a serial killer, the unpredictable Walter frees her. Later he is caught and convicted of rape, murder and kidnapping after murdering another victim; he is sentenced to be executed by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Years later, thirty eight years old Eliza is married to Peter Benedict and raising her two children, thirteen year old Iso and eight year old Albie when he contacts her. She assumes he wants her to forgive him for her six weeks in his hell, but prefers to ignore Walter. However, she also knows how crazy he is and fears even with him on death row and out of appeals he will find a way to harm her offspring. Eliza also is curious why he freed her when he killed the others.

Character driven to include the Billboard top 100 during her captivity in 1985, I'd Know You Anywhere looks deep into the souls of a serial killer and the sole survivor as the victim remains haunted two plus decades later. The support cast is powerful especially her spouse and older child and Barbara (read to learn who she is). However, this thriller belongs to the lead couple, a killing kidnapper and the only one he let live as readers will wonder whether Eliza will ever leave open a window at night so that would mean she finally closed the book on that chapter of her life.

Harriet Klausner

Shadow Play-Rajorshi Chakraborti

Shadow Play
Rajorshi Chakraborti
Minotaur, Jul 20 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312642341

Internationally acclaimed author Raj Chakraborti vanishes at a time when the police want to question him in the murder of a journalist. His sudden disappearance turns Raj from a person of interest to a prime suspect.

He sends a package to his editor in which he explains his latest fiction starring a serial killer hired by the government as an assassin and his fear that reality is stranger than fiction as Raj believes a serial killer turned assassin stalks him. He believes this hired murderer waits for the right moment to kill him. Raj wonders if his past in India in the 1970s has come back to destroy him.

Not for everyone this is a strange Kafka like thriller that grips the reader who will wonder whether the character Raj Chakraborti has gone insane or is being hunted down. Rotating perspective between an “autobiography” and a suspense mystery, fans who relish a well written, but odd tale that appears to break the barrier between fiction and non fiction (or has it) will appreciate this convoluted twisting yet entertaining conspiracy tale of the author on the run from who he believes is a sanctioned government killer.

Harriet Klausner

First Thrills-Lee Child (editor)

First Thrills
Lee Child (editor)
Forge, Jun 22 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765326485

This twenty-five suspense thriller collection is an interesting way for readers to meet new writers while established authors have an opportunity to thank the audience and the publishing companies by providing entries to First Thrills. “The Dead Club” by Daniel James Palmer and Michael Palmer is the best bet as wagering on death mirrors real life gambling pools. Other strong entries include “The Thief” by Greg Hurwitz and Ken Bruen’s “Wednesday’s Child”. None of the entries from the veterans or the rookies are bad, but few are excellent. Still fans will enjoy dining with Rip Gerber, Sean Michael Bailey and other newcomers and vets like Stephen Coonts, John Lescroart, Karin Slaughter and Heather Graham as each provides readers with plenty of chills and thrills.

Harriet Klausner

Crossfire-Dick Francis and Felix Francis

Dick Francis and Felix Francis
Putnam, Aug 2010, $26.95
ISBN: 9780399156816

After losing his foot in an Afghan fire fight, Captain Tom Forsythe has returned to the States to recover and learn to use his prosthesis. With no place to go, he returns to his mother’s Kauri Horse Stables in Berkshire, England. At seventeen, tired of the fights with his stepfather, he left to go to war. Now he learns his family is concealing something from him.

He soon learns someone is blackmailing his mother to the tune of 2000 pounds a week and they also lost a fortune in a sham hedge fund recommended by their accountant Roderick Ward who was found drowned; officially ruled an accident. What hurts Tom’s mom the most is that her extortionist is forcing her to make sure her horses lose races. Tom investigates, but is kidnapped and left hanging in an abandoned warehouse. He escapes, vowing to take down the killers and others involved in harming him and his mom.

This father and son team has proven to be as successful writing entertaining mystery readers as Dick Francis did when he rode solo (with his late wife as his researcher). The story line is driven by the hero who lost a limb in the Afghan war, but though depressed refuses to allow his trauma from helping his mom out of her predicament. With homage to Dick Francis who goes out a winner as he passed away a few months ago, Crossfire is a terrific character driven suspense thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Gathering Storm-Brodie and Brock Thoene

The Gathering Storm
Brodie and Brock Thoene
Summerside Press, Aug 1 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781609360337

In years, Lorelei is a youngster, but with Hitler’s rise to power, she is forced to grow up fast. She is an American citizen living in Berlin; born to a Texas mother and Austrian Protestant missionary. Her mom died a few years ago, but she and her dad reside in Germany when they are forced to see by the mysterious Ebon Golah that a shadow will soon lay across the world. She marries German Jew Varrick Kepler so can he can obtain papers to escape Germany.

Having lived through Kristallnacht, Lora and her family move to Brussels where she is reunited with her husband. Hitler doesn’t give them very much time together as his troops blitzkrieg across Belgium. Varrick dies on the front line forcing Lora, her father and her sister to flee to England. They stop at Tyne Cott where they meet Captain Judah Blood who along with other soldiers tries to get them across the Channel. Judith helps them get to England where she works with Jewish and other refugees from the continent and reunites with Eben who obviously conceals a secret that the war widow plans to uncover.

The first book in the new B&B Thoene Zion Diaries series brings readers deep into the heart of Nazi Germany as Hitler fashions the expanding nation in his image. Readers will admire the courageous heroine who grows up rather fast as she does her best to help others escape the Hitler’s insane wrath. With homage to Anne Frank and a touch of metaphysics and romance enhancing the war epic, The Gathering Storm is a terrific opening act as the Thoene tandem transports fans back to a period of horrific crimes against humanity with brave souls trying to rescue the unfortunate.

Harriet Klausner

Cat in an Ultramarine Scheme-Carole Nelson Douglas

Cat in an Ultramarine Scheme
Carole Nelson Douglas
Forge, Aug 3 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780765318633

Public relations specialist Temple Barr is setting up a campaign for the Fontana family to take advantage of Las Vegas’ mob roots. The "Chunnel of Crime" is a monorail within a museum connecting two hotels. During a promotional event, an underground vault is opened for the first time in years. Temple and her clients hope to find buried gangster loot instead of what was found in Capone’s vault. Instead, they find something worse to accentuate the gangster past. Inside is the corpse of former magician Cosimo Sparks. Someone stabbed him and buried him. Temple accompanied by her pet owner Midnight Louie investigates; as does the Fontana family and the police.

At the same time, Temple and Louie make inquiries, her fiancé radio star Matt Devine is in Chicago. Her “dead” ex, magician/counterterrorist Max Kinsella, is in Ireland suffering from amnesia but cared for by Garry “Gandolph the Great” Randolph as he seeks information on the late orphan Kathleen “Kitty the Cutter” O'Connor.

In his twenty-second starring appearance (see Cat in a Topaz Tango), Midnight Louie remains fresh and amusing as if he was working with his human pet on their first case (see 1993’s Catnap). The twisting story line is fast-paced as Temple relies on Midnight Louie’s posse the Vegas Strip Irregulars to solve the homicides. This is a terrific entry as fans of the series will believe rascally lovable Louie has several lives left.

Harriet Klausner

Deceit-Brandilyn Collins

Brandilyn Collins
Zondervan, Jun 18 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780310276449

Six years ago in Vonita, California, Linda Jackson dies. Her fiftyish best friend skip tracer Joanne Weeks believes the husband affluent church elder Baxter Jackson killed his wife. She makes efforts to prove her assertion, but fails as everyone who knows Jackson consider him a great man.

When his second wife Cherise dies in what the corner ruled was an unfortunate accident, Joanne’s belief that Jackson is a spousal killer reasserts itself. This time she plans to find proof by seeking someone who might have information on what happened to Linda six years ago. However, Joanne feels someone is stalking her. Feeling her life is in danger already, she is further stunned when a stranger leaps in front of her car on a wet road pleading with her to seek out the teenage foster child Melissa Harkoff who lived with the Jacksons when Linda vanished.

Few, if any writers combine inspirational messages with suspense as well as Brandilyn Collins consistently does (see Exposure). She proves this once again with Deceit. Her current tale is a superb thriller in which the heroine must peel away the deceitful masks everyone wraps themselves inside of to uncover the truth of what happened to Linda. Readers will consider what is acceptable in terms of societal deceit in terms of the family, the law and religion and what is not. However, Ms. Collins also takes her theme much deeper asking the audience to consider how will the Lord judge a person’s deceits when he or she stands at the gates. The message is intertwined inside a powerful suspense thriller as the heroine peels away levels of deceit of others and the mythos she mentally spun as a psychological defense mechanism to get to the truth; if that is even truly attainable.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Burn-Neveda Barr

Nevada Barr
Minotaur, Aug 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312614560

Leaving her spouse behind at home working, National Park Ranger Anna Pigeon is visiting a friend Geneva in New Orleans. Anna is taken aback when someone places a hex on her using a dead pigeon with arcane etchings on it. She assumes Geneva’s tenant Jordan is behind the dark magic attempt, but though he is a peculiar unfriendly sort, she has done nothing to him to warrant such a spell.

Not one to lay back having solved many homicides and other crime mysteries at the parks around the country, Anna investigates who tried to hex her and why, and to learn more about Jordon. As she navigates the dark mumbo jumbo urban jungle of the Big Easy, Anna refuses to be anyone’s pigeon though she was not expecting a mundane murder to occur rather than mumbo jumbo mojo magic.

Taking Anna out of the National Park scenes of homicides in every park adds a freshness to her investigations as she is a fish out of water, especially having her hexed in New Orleans. Fast-paced as always, fans will enjoy Anna working the urban jungle rather than the parks as her inqury spins out of control. Neveda Barr is at her sparkling best with this enthralling whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

A Family Affair-Caro Peacock

A Family Affair
Caro Peacock
Avon, Jun 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061447495

In 1839 Conservative MP Benjamin Disraeli asks private sleuth Liberty Lane for some assistance. He wants to hire her to investigate the claims of Lady Sophia Brinkburn. The aristocratic lady’s husband is dying while she insists the heir to the Brinkburn title Stephen is illegitimate so cannot claim the estate; if true the younger brother Miles will inherit all.

Lane goes undercover, renting a cottage near the Brinkburn estate. She meets Lady Brinkburn, but is stunned as the woman is amiable and obviously mentally competent. Thus the motive to destroy her family’s reputation including her own with this scandal remains out of reach. However, the situation takes an odd twist when someone appears to have murdered the family retainer and Lady Brinkburn.

The latest Lane historical mystery (see A Foreign Affair and A Dangerous Affair) is an enjoyable brisk thriller that starts off with a jousting between the Brinkburn siblings and never slows down. Even with the fast pace and a delightful surprising twist, readers also obtain a deep look at the early Victorian era when mass transportation changes society. However, this strong nineteenth century thriller belongs to Ms. Lane who’s in her top sleuthing form as her inquiry turns from legitimacy to homicide.

Harriet Klausner

Swimsuit-James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
Grand Central, Jun 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780446561365

He left LAPD to become a reporter and writer while also still performing limited inquiries. Currently LA Times reporter Ben Hawkins is in Hawaii investigating the disappearance of model Kim McDaniels. He meets with Kim’s hysterical parents who offer very little in the way of leads.

The former police detective fears for Kim’s life as he believes brutal serial killing Henri Benoit has captured her for whatever fiendish ritual he will perform. Returning unsuccessfully to Southern California, Ben is stunned when Henri offers him a deal he cannot refuse. Ben will write Henri’s authorized biography in exchange for allowing the ex cop and his girlfriend to live.

Not their best collaboration (see the Women’s Murder Club series for that), the fascination with this serial killer thriller lies totally with the psychopath as he relates his murderous escapades; in some ways the plot feels like an autobiography of I am killer. Hawkins and company come across feeble and frightened in a game of chess in which the brilliant madman checkmates the hero more often than Fischer did Spassky in Iceland. Although an over the top of the Sierras abrupt too neat climax occurs, readers who enjoy something different will appreciate Swimsuit.

Harriet Klausner

Priceless-Tom Davis

Tom Davis
David C. Cook, Jun 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781589191037

Photojournalist Stuart Daniels found purpose and faith when he helped an African orphan (see Scared). Now he heads to Russia on his latest project. There his friend Katya asks him to say yes when someone calls him at his hotel room offering him a girl; she also says she will explain further.

However, Stuart soon learns that the orphan child he met on his last stay in Russia is in trouble. Human traffickers are selling Marina Smolchenko to the highest bidder in a sex slave auction. His efforts to rescue Marina lead him to freedom fighter Katya who risks her life to liberate the sex slaves. His faith in the Lord is reduced with his observation of humanity’s cruelty and he wonders how God can allow this to happen to the innocent.

Like Stuart on his latest journey, readers will be stunned with what happens to people sold like commodities by human traffickers (Mr. Davis states 27 million with 1 million under eighteen years of age). The lead protagonist and the audience will ask why God allows such atrocities to occur while readers will also wonder if Stuart will rescue Marina and the others, and regain his faith. Thought provoking yet fast-paced and loaded with action, Priceless is not an easy read as this is Marina’s profound shocking tale and the story of her “sisters” sold as sex slaves to wealthy clients around the globe (including Americans).

Harriet Klausner

In Harm’s Way-Ridley Pearson

In Harm’s Way
Ridley Pearson
Putnam, Aug 3 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780399156540

Fiona Kenshaw rescues a small child from drowning in the river. She asks one thing from the man she is interested in; keep her face out of the local paper, the Mountain Express. Sun Valley Sheriff Wall Fleming is also interested in Fiona, but was burned by his wife who was cheating on him with his deputy. The paper’s editor ignores the pleas the sheriff by running the story with her photo. This leads to Fiona to withdraw deep into her shell.

When the corpse of former football player and ex convict Martel Gale is found, Sergeant Lou Boldt of Seattle thinks there is a link between the deceased, his former agent residing in Sun Valley Vince Wynn and a former sport team owner and entrepreneur Marty Boatwright and the dead courtesan Caroline Vetta. Boldt is working the Vetta case and Martel’s death enables Boldt to question Wynn and Boatwright. After Lou and Walt interview the men, both conclude one of them is guilty of homicide, but lack proof. Walt seeks evidence, but discovers a tie to Fiona that leads him to wonder if she is involved with the murders.

The latest “Killer” Walt Fleming police procedural (see Killer Summer and Killer View) is an excellent thriller as he works effectively with Ridley Pearson’s other top cop Lou Boldt (from the Boldt and Matthews series). Fiona’s relationships with Walt (sweet and just beginning), and with her ward Kira (coping with a rape as the youngster knows the truth about the guardian) enhances the entertaining whodunit. There is plenty of action, but it is the interaction between the key cast members that makes this a superb mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Wolves of Fairmount Park-Dennis Tafoya

The Wolves of Fairmount Park
Dennis Tafoya
Minotaur, Jun 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780312531164

In Philadelphia, a drive-by shooting at a dope house leads two teens rushed to an emergency room; one dies while the other is critically injured. The fathers of the victims are psychologically wounded too. Police Officer Brendan Donovan whose son Michael was severely wounded and local entrepreneur George Parkman Sr. whose son Jr. died in the incident wonder why.

Both dads believe that Brendan's half-brother, Michael’s Uncle Orlando a drug addict was the cause of the attack. PPD detectives Danny Martinez and Asa Carmody investigate the shooting that seems increasingly to affirm the theory of the fathers that Orlando was the motive for the deadly drive-by.

This is a gloom and doom deep look at the aftermath of a tragic event as seen mostly through the rotating viewpoints amongst the four males not physically hurt by the incident; though other perspectives by family members, girlfriends and the female detective enhance the dark urban Noir. The fathers are the most fascinating as the cop prays for God to save his beloved son while the tycoon who ignored his offspring when he was alive insists on vengeance. Fans who appreciate a realistic walk on the wild side of the streets will want to read The Wolves of Fairmount Park.

Harriet Klausner

Hemlock Lake-Carolyn J. Rose

Hemlock Lake
Carolyn J. Rose
Five Star, Jul 21 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148842

In the Catskill Mountains is isolated Hemlock Lake. The locals keep developers out, but recently a long time resident took the money. Now a developer and the natives are at war with vandalism occurring.

Sheriff North sends Police Sergeant Dan Stone to Hemlock Lake to investigate the crimes as he is from the area and has a better chance of obtaining information from the closed-mouth natives. He has doubts as he has been away since the tragedy of his wife Susanna drowning, his brother Nat committing suicide and his father mentally collapsing from the tragedies. As the vandal turns to arson and murder, Stone is pulled between the past and the future as he begins to believe someone he has known for years is behind the deadly felonies.

Aptly titled Hemlock Lake is a strong regional police procedural. Because he was away, Stone is considered a traitorous outsider by the locals. He does not disagree as he never wanted to come home but his wife persuaded him that his family needed them; after she died he never wanted to come home, but his boss persuaded him that the department needed him. Duty bound but filled with guilt, Dan increasingly believes he will bring in a friend once he solves the case. Though his flashbacks become intrusive and repetitive with too much detail, Carolyn J. Rose provides an entertaining character driven thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hemlock Lake-Carolyn J. Rose

Hemlock Lake
Carolyn J. Rose
Five Star, Jul 21 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148842

In the Catskill Mountains is isolated Hemlock Lake. The locals keep developers out, but recently a long time resident took the money. Now a developer and the natives are at war with vandalism occurring.

Sheriff North sends Police Sergeant Dan Stone to Hemlock Lake to investigate the crimes as he is from the area and has a better chance of obtaining information from the closed-mouth natives. He has doubts as he has been away since the tragedy of his wife Susanna drowning, his brother Nat committing suicide and his father mentally collapsing from the tragedies. As the vandal turns to arson and murder, Stone is pulled between the past and the future as he begins to believe someone he has known for years is behind the deadly felonies.

Aptly titled Hemlock Lake is a strong regional police procedural. Because he was away, Stone is considered a traitorous outsider by the locals. He does not disagree as he never wanted to come home but his wife persuaded him that his family needed them; after she died he never wanted to come home, but his boss persuaded him that the department needed him. Duty bound but filled with guilt, Dan increasingly believes he will bring in a friend once he solves the case. Though his flashbacks become intrusive and repetitive with too much detail, Carolyn J. Rose provides an entertaining character driven thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Deb on Arrival Live at Five-Laurie Moore

Deb on Arrival Live at Five
Laurie Moore
Five Star, Jul 21 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148774

Debutante and college student Dainty Prescott has circumstantial evidence that her boyfriend Drex Truett is cheating with Paislee Pfeiffer, their boss Gordon’s’ wife. Being a debutante, Dainty knows better than to make a public war, but she knows to discreetly end their relationship. She does have a problem as no Drex means she has no escort at this time to take her to her sister's coming-out ball.

Gordon believes his spouse is cheating on him. He wants Dainty to investigate. Dainty wants to say no as she does not want to get involved knowing what she knows; but her boss makes an offer she cannot refuse. Gordon promises her a full-time externship if she finds him information on Paislee’s philandering. Police Officer Jim Butt Man” Buckman almost arrests her while giving her a hard time as he outrageously flirts with her for her traffic tickets, running a red light, and overall sass.

This is a wild Texas two step as the deb and the detective make for a fun frantic frolic. The fun comes from the jocular relationship between the lead pair as the Dallas Debutante Detective Agency handles its first case while Dainty’s personal life implodes for the better. Although the plot is very thin fans will enjoy the escapades of Dainty debutant and the butt man cop who pursues her.

Harriet Klausner

Venom-Joan Brady

Joan Brady
Touchstone, Aug 3 2010, $26.99
ISBN 9780743270113

Wealthy Springfield, Illinois resident physicist Helen Freyl owns a farm in Caton, Alabama. On her farm is a special honeybee hive that produces a type of honey, which can heal people; she is hiding there grieving the death of her lover.

The pharmaceutical industry upon hearing of the unique qualities of the honey claims the patent for the honeybee venom. Helen and her cantankerous grandmother battle the giants even as she joins a London based research team working on an antitoxin for radiation poisoning. However, Helen is stunned when she learns of scientific death testing research by Follation Medical Foundation in the Mogilev Region of Belarus near where the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl occurred almost twenty-five years ago. Grandma and granddaughter know their lives are unsafe so Helen turns to former con artist David Marion, who killed a hitman and set up his home to insure that everyone will assume he died in a house explosion.

Although lacking the consistent message of the previous Freyl-Marion teaming (see Bleedout) even with the obvious set up to do so, Venom in an exciting international thriller. The story line is fast-paced from the moment David visits the Judge who muses how freedom loving USA has more people in prison than dictatorial Communist China. Although heavy handed, fans will enjoy the connecting of the dots starting in Springfield through Caton to London and Chernobyl as David and Helen know that greed is the capitalist engine of choice with the unprotected as its fuel in a way that would make Mendele proud.

Harriet Klausner

The Capitol Game-Brian Haig

The Capitol Game
Brian Haig
Grand Central, Aug 12 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780446195614

At Caldron Security equity firm, no one has risen to the ranks of partner and senior vice president as fast as Jack Wiley has. The Wall Street guru thinks he has a great deal to set up as Arvan Chemicals is ripe for the taking. Jack approaches the Capitol Group with the opportunity to purchase Arvan to gain hold of their patent that enables the painting of polymer coating to make combat vehicles impenetrable.

The company legally owning the product will make billions as the Pentagon will save so much more by not having as much replacement buys. The Capitol Group takes over Arvan; however harvesting the return on investment in a short turnaround proves unmanageable as the Pentagon investigates in order to find a civilian to take the incoming hit.

The Capital Game will be short-listed as one of the best financial thrillers of the year. The key to this super tale is the deal as Brian Haig escorts the grateful reader through a critical path analysis leading to the project failure and the blame game as the top brass at the defense Department, Caldron Security and the Capitol Group need a fall guy to pin the tail onto the donkey. This is a winning suspense laden tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Dream Queen-Betsy Thornton

The Dream Queen
Betsy Thornton
Minotaur, Aug 3 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312602055

In Topanga Canyon, California, Chloe Newcombe sat with her brother James as he was dying from AIDS. James’ lover Hal also performed the same vigil. Once James passed on, Chloe moves from Topanga Canyon to Manhattan to start over. In New York, she begins seeing a cop while working for a private investigator; but her new boyfriend has a bad alcoholic dependency problem that proved too much for Chloe to cope with so she left the Big Apple for Arizona where her other sibling lives.

Her other brother Danny meets her at the airport. He has a tendency to help troubled people. Thus his current companion is a beautiful lunatic Kristi. The trio travels to his home in Dudley, but make a stop for car repairs. The two females wait nearby, but Danny vanishes. The local cops are indifferent to their plight and that of Danny. The women reach Dudley and move into the home Hal has there that he offered them to use. Soon after they settle down, Kristi disappears. Chloe investigates only to find betrayal seems to be the ticket everyone she knows uses against her.

Chloe in her return to the desert town of Dudley (see A Song for You and Dead for the Winter) is superb as she tries to keep calm while her world seems to be imploding from duplicity. As she tries to learn the truth behind the disappearances, she uncovers homicides and dishonesty from those she trusts. Although the story line is very thin, Chloe’s reactions to her discoveries of male perfidy makes for an enjoyable character driven (by the beleaguered heroine) desert mystery.

Harriet Klausner

The Hanging Tree-Bryan Gruley

The Hanging Tree
Bryan Gruley
Touchstone, Aug 3 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9781416563648

Pine County executive editor Gus Carpenter of the newspaper the Pilot reports to Philo Beach, an editor seven years younger than him. Philo’s uncle, the News North CEO, directed his nephew to get the newspaper’s finances in line. The latest big story is that Grace McBride committed suicide by hanging herself on the Hanging Tree. Grace went down state from her Michigan small town for a number of years before coming home.

The townsfolk are less interested in the hometown girl’s death now that there is a new ice hockey rink coming to Starvation that Laird Haskell, who moved there with his wife and brilliant hockey goalie son, is funding. Gus hears rumors that contractors working on the skating rink are not being paid and Laird needs a $100,000 loan from the town until he can fix his finances. Determined to prove Grace did not kill herself, Gus investigates learning the woman was involved with some nasty folks from Detroit. He follows the trail as if Grace set it up for him to do so. Her clues lead full circle back to their hometown where Gus, his girlfriend Deputy Sheriff Darlene Esper and Philo team up and try to bring justice to a dead woman who never had any when she lived.

The return to Starvation Lake is an exhilarating whodunit as the investigative lead finds himself with a happy and a strange bedfellow. Gus is an unusual individual in that he does not allow whatever life tosses at him to get inside his stomach; readers can visualize him singing Matthew Strider’s tune “Ain’t Nothing Going to Break My Stride.” Readers will join him and his two sleuthing partners in this entertaining Michigan murder mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Pirate-Katherine Garbera

The Pirate
Katherine Garbera
Kensington Brava, Jul 1 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758232120

Former U.S. Navy SEAL J.P. Lazarus is used to a life of danger and not just from his military service days. A member of the Savage Seven he is currently piloting the Maersk Angus oil tanker in the Indian Ocean off Somalia trying to lure pirates into attacking his vessel although he has some concern about the safety of his human cargo.

On board the tanker are Doctors Across Waters civilian medical volunteers on a humanitarian mission. However, Laz’s plans meet some problems as the pirates target Dr. Daphne Barrett, former wife of a U.S. senator and mother of his two sons. Adding to her distress from her ugly divorce is she is attracted to Lazarus who reciprocates her desire; both understand dealing with the deadly pirates come first.

The latest Savage Seven romantic suspense thriller (see The Mercenary) is a fast-paced tale that grips the audience from the opening encounter between the doctor and the operative. Although the underlying economic root causes of why pirates sail the sea off Somalia are not explored beyond the humanitarian mission, readers will enjoy the romance between the Savage and the Divorcee.

Harriet Klausner

Fifty-Seven Traveling-Lonnie Cruse

Fifty-Seven Traveling
Lonnie Cruse
Five Star, Jul 21 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148804

In Tennessee, the Metropolis Cruisers Car Club crew drives their respective vehicles to the Pigeon Forge show. Attending the antiques car event is members Jack and Kitty Bloodworth who drive his 57 Chevy Sadie. However, as they arrive at the small town, they discuss the chances of finding Kitty’s dream car, a thirties Chrysler.

On their first night in town, the Bloodworth pair stops to eat at a diner where Moses and Medina Beadle play the fiddle. The two couples chat about mutual interests when the Beadles proclaim they have a '37 Chrysler on their farm. Their son Charles sets an exorbitant price, but a stunned Jack cannot say no to his Kitty so he agrees. Soon after he gives Charlie his check, their cabin they share with Leo and Deb Evans is vandalized and Charlie is murdered. Police Chief Wilburn brings Jack in for questioning; while Kitty's digital camera vanishes. When Charles’ grandma Sassy Bentley insists they attend his funeral, Kitty wonders if moonshine has fried everyone’s brain.

The sequel to Fifty-Seven Heaven is a fun regional amateur sleuth mystery as finding the car of her dreams seems to mean finding his nightmare. Except for the antique vehicle nothing goes right for the Bloodworth duet. Readers will enjoy this comical car Crusing cozy.

Harriet Klausner

Thicker Than Water-Janet Majerus

Thicker Than Water
Janet Majerus
Five Star, Jul 21 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148699

In Riverport, after what happened to her recently, best-selling children's author Jessie Schroeder knows better than to get involved in another homicide investigation. However, The Best Laid Plans of mice and Jessie often go astray.

When elderly Fred Kroner dies, his house burned to the ground by arson and a charred corpse found amidst the ashes, Jessica is stunned and fears she knows who the corpse is. Her cranky late neighbor’s recently discovered niece Johanna has been missing making Jessie believe she is the woman pulled out of the rubble. Although she tries to talk herself out of making any inquiries and her boyfriend Sheriff Gil Keller insists she stay out of his case, Jessie needs to know. She especially feels motivated when she is bequeathed money to buy lilacs; a reminder of a kindness cantankerous Fred gave to her when she was a child.

The key to this warm Midwest cozy is the cast who bring to life what it is like to live in small village. Readers will enjoy the latest Emily Says entry as Jessie tests her plot with her young niece and nephew. However, it is the investigation as the amateur sleuth uses her plot investigative skills to make inquiries that place her in danger from a cold blooded predator willing to kill again.

Harriet Klausner

Game Over-Fern Michaels

Game Over
Fern Michaels
Zebra, Jul 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781420106879

Knowing they are “duds”, Myra and Charles cut off their honeymoon to return to the Sisterhood when they learn that her friend and advisor Lizzie Fox is being considered for an appointment to the Supreme Court. The Sisterhood fears that the deserving White House Legal Counsel will be put through an unfair meat grinder to gain political points due mostly to Lizzie’s association with them.

Although not quite as worried, as they are about Lizzie, the members are afraid their presidential pardon will vanish as politics as usual will prevail. However, as they monitor events as only the Sisterhood could, they begin to uncover a conspiracy to use Fox and the Sisterhood to destroy the Administration.

Although over the top of the Cayman Islands, Nig Pine Mountain and the Washington Monument, the seventeenth Sisterhood thriller is an exciting entry that sums up the values of the members of “one for all and all for one” (Dumas). The group risks all their hard work to be pardoned to insure their loyal “affiliate” gets a fair shake. Fans of the saga will appreciate their latest intervention as protecting Lizzie soon turns into protecting the Administration.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Queen of the Night-J.A. Jance

Queen of the Night
J.A. Jance
Morrow, Jul 27 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780061239243

In 1959, ASU coed June Lennox travels with Sully from the Tempe, Arizona campus to Southern California for spring break. She never returns to school as she is left dead in the desert.

In 2009 in Tucson, retired Pima County homicide detective Brandon Walker visits his dying pal former Pinal County detective “Geet” Farrell at the hospice; they worked a serial killer case together back in 1975. Geet got Brandon a job with TLC (The Last Chance) entity that works cold cases. Hs current case is the homicide of June Lennox.

At the same time, Brandon’s wife Diana Ladd Walker still struggles with “visits” from the dead in her nightmarish past. They are Andrew Carlisle who tried to rape her, her late odious first husband Garrison Ladd III who set her up to be raped, and serial killer Mitch Johnson who kidnapped her adopted daughter Lani. At the same time, Pima County Homicide Detective Brian Fellows and Border Patrol agent Dan Pardee track a killer on the land of the desert people, the Tohono O'odham.

The latest extended Walker Family mystery (see Hour of the Hunter and Kiss of the Dead) is a great entry as J.A. Jance deftly balances her myriad of leads, their cases, the present day culture of the People and the geography. The multiple plots connect by the Walkers and company who diligently work at what they do best. Ms. Jance is at her best with this terrific mystery that blends past and present Tucson, Southern California and the Tohono O'odham Nation into a powerful thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Beautiful Malice-Rebecca James

Beautiful Malice
Rebecca James
Bantam, Jul 13 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780553808056

During lunch at a Sydney high school, popular Alice Parrie invites a stunned bookworm Katherine to attend her eighteenth birthday bash. Alice explains it was the way Katherine ripped the skin off Dan Johnson for being nasty and little when a nervous woman gave a talk about the future.

Four years plus since the party that changed her life and her surname, Katherine prays no one learns just who single mom Katherine Boydell raising Sarah was once. The tragedy of Alice is too mindful of the tragedies of Katherine’s murdered sister Rachel and Sarah’s father Mick; as the flamboyant teen drew out the dark secrets of her reticent new BFF. Thus then pregnant Katherine Boydell nee Patterson failed to attend Alice’s funeral; she believes Aunt Philippa is at her side encouraging her to move passed the lingering grief she feels.

This is an odd exciting psychological thriller starting with the opening stunning hook “I didn’t go to Alice’s funeral. I was pregnant at the time, crazy and wild with grief”. From that moment readers will want to know who Katherine is and what did happen to all those in her sphere who died. Rotating between the present and four years ago, readers who appreciate a character driven thriller with limited action will want to know what happened to Katherine four years ago.

Harriet Klausner

The Bone Fire-Christine Barber

The Bone Fire
Christine Barber
Minotaur, Jul 6 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312593506

In New Mexico at the Fiesta de Santa Fe gala, the annual Zozobra bonfire is lit in front of happy revelers. The next morning after the four-story high puppet burned to the ground, a human baby's skull is found amidst the Zozobra ashes.

Santa Fe Detective Sergeant Gilbert Montoya leads the inquiry. He fears the victim is Brianna Rodriguez, who vanished a year ago. However the already gruesome murder takes an even more horrific twist when infant body parts including extremities, teeth and bones are creepily left at various area churches. Montoya prays the ghastly remains all belong to Brianna as horrid as that thought is; he knows if not all belonging to Brianna than a deadly serial pedophile is stalking the no longer Land of Enchantment. Also investigating between exercising her elbow (at bars) is reporter Lucy Newroe as the case seems to only lead back to where it began when a toddler disappeared from her family’s barbecue.

This is an exhilarating New Mexico police procedural with some journalistic investigative elements starring two intriguing lead investigators though Montoya is the significant player (see The Replacement Child for his previous case). The plot ironically brings alive the charm, in spite of the horrendous nature of the case, of the Santa Fe area The story line is fast-paced from the moment the skull is found and never slows down as Christine Barber looks deeply at the impact of a lost baby in an incestuous family. Although the reason for scattering the bones seems over the top of the Santa Fe Mountains, The Bone Fire is a gripping whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Bad Day's Work-Nora McFarland

Bad Day's Work
Nora McFarland
Touchstone, Aug 10 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781439155486

Lilly Hawkins is a shooter at KJAY TV in Bakersfield, California. At one she was the elite, but over the last six months her luck has been so bad the Blue Notes must have sang about her as she makes Murphy look fortunate. She is on call at night when all reporters sleep in theirbeds so they can look refreshed on camera. One evening she is called to investigate the corpse of Val Boyle found in the field of Valley Farms.

Her boss asks if she can handle the assignment; if not her rival for the head shooter position will take it. If she cedes the mission, her competitor will be her boss; as it is his go get them personality may win the day anyway. She arrives at the police cordoned scene where the body was found. Lilly sneaks passed the barrier and takes video shots. Back at the office she is stunned when there are no pictures as she failed to check her equipment. The police arrive at her home demanding she hand over the video, but she flees into the night. The East Side Crew led by a dangerous person goes after her too. With her career in the tank and two groups on opposite sides of the law in pursuit, Lilly is in trouble; everyone seems to be converging on her as she wonders how this became A Bad Day At Work and home.

One thing leads to another as Lilly Hawkins tries to avoid jail, death, and unemployment as she lands in once situation after another. Fans of Nancy Martin and Janet Evanovich will enjoy the beleaguered heroine trying to pull out a plum. Feeling like Spade in Dashiell Hammett’s Maltese Falcon, Lilly finds seemingly everyone in Bakersfield wants a piece of her. Humorous yet taut, readers will enjoy Lilly’s escapades as she has less time than Jack Bauer has.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Tough Customer-Sandra Brown

Tough Customer
Sandra Brown
Simon & Schuster, Aug 10 2010, $26.99
ISBN: 9781416563105

Dodge Henley is an investigator for a defense attorney. He and real estate manager Caroline King had a child together, but Dodge betrayed her so she turned her back on him. The last time he saw his daughter was when she was born thirty years ago. Dodge never expected to see either of them again.

One night Caroline calls him to come home because Berry desperately needs him as she is being stalked by Oren Starks. The psychopath entered her house while she was in the shower and aimed a gun at her. Her co-worker ran inside when he heard her scream; but Oren shoots him and yells at Berry he will return to kill her. While in hiding Oren kills an elderly man and a young woman so the pressure is on the sheriff to apprehend him before someone else dies at the hands of this lunatic. Dodge knows he still loves Caroline and adores his daughter. He teams up with Merritt County Sheriff’s Deputy Ski Nylander to go after the maniac as each vows to never quit until they either die, or Oren is stopped and captured alive or dead.

The lead in Smash Cuts, Dodge returns, but remains a loner who is unable to allow any woman get close to her since he never moved passed his love for Caroline who in spite of the decades still rocks his world while the scars of their break-up haunts him today. Even with that emotional hang-up, this is a fantastic non stop action thriller with an underlying second chance romance as Sandra Brown will rock the reader’s world.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden-Helen Grant

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden
Helen Grant
Delacorte, Aug 10 2010, $24.00
ISBN: 9780385344173

In December 1998 at the family Advent Dinner, the extended Kolvenbach clan is a happy group living in Bad Munstereifel, Germany. However, the idyllic life abruptly ends at that Advent when the paternal Oma (grandmother) Kristel Kolvenbach accidentally sets herself ablaze; dying from her burns.

Oma’s granddaughter ten years old Pia becomes a pariah as rumors spread that her grandma exploded; Pia believes it was spontaneous combustion, but either way the impact on her is shunning. The only person at school willing to be seen with Pia the outcast is Stefen “StinkStefan” Brauer, who has no friends and welcomes an exile. They visit elderly Herr Schiller who regales them with ghost stories as the pair of tweeners investigates the disappearance of a number of girls over the years including the recent Vanishing of Katharina Linden.

This is an entertaining odd thriller starring two ostracized tweeners investigating the missing young girls of Bad Munstereifel. However, though the whodunit is clever, it is the small town superstitions that are defense mechanisms of parents protecting their children from the unknown that makes the tale super. This how Pia becomes shunned by people she has known and played with all her life. Helen Grant provides a deep psychological amateur sleuth suspense.

Harriet Klausner

The Past Is A Foreign Country-Gianrico Carofiglio

The Past Is A Foreign Country
Gianrico Carofiglio
Minotaur, Aug 3 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312383961

In the Apulia boot region of Italy, a serial rapist rocks the city of Bari. No woman feels safe as the police led by Lieutenant Chiti struggle to apprehend the culprit. Making no progress disturbs Chiti who cannot eat or sleep properly.

Hard studying diligent law student Giorgio Cipriani meets gust for life philosophy student Francesco Carducci. They become friends; albeit a seemingly odd couple. However, rather quickly Giorgio ignores his studies joining his new buddy in cheating other players out of large sums of money playing poker. They also share drugs and alcohol, and have one night stands that are often violent with a myriad of women. The duo leaves Bari for Spain; while Chiti continues to lose sleep over the serial rapes.

This is a tense psychological suspense that focuses on three people. Chiti feels like a failure unable to prevent the serial rapist from finding victims; Giorgio wonders how he fell so far from grace as he gave up and betrayed all his friends for the hedonistic zest for life that charismatic Francesco displays. However, Francesco is the fascinating one as a sort of Peter Pan with a destructive vent. The Past Is A Foreign Country is a taut tale that grips the audience from the moment the two students meet and go on their frenzy.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Babylon Nights-Daniel Depp

Babylon Nights
Daniel Depp
Simon and Schuster, Aug 3 2010, $24.00
ISBN: 9781439101469

Vincent Perec stalks former A-list actress Anna Mayhew. Although she is nearly forty and out of the limelight for over a decade with no parts in years, Perec is fascinated by her, dedicating a room in her honor. His mother is a critical observer of her son’s obsession; so he kills her. He writes what he did to his mom and what he plans to do to his infatuation

Anna’s sister Pam hires investigator and bodyguard David Spandau to keep her sibling safe especially when they attend Cannes. Anna is a judge at the renowned film festival. David and Anna are attracted to one another, but he fears acting on his desire because he knows what happens to women he loves (see Loser’s Town). Perec arrives with plans that involve several crimes. Soon the parties will collide in a confrontation that makes real life more perilous than the movies.

This is a gritty thriller as much of the cast seems shallow and selfish yet seems more like Mother Theresa compared with Perec. Anna is a has-been in her mind with hopes that Cannes reignites her dead career before she does something harsh to herself to regain the limelight. Spandau is not afraid of a duel with Perec but fears telling Anna how he feels about her. Perec is a stereotypical psychopath, but makes the tale work as he comes to the French Riviera not to attend the film festival but to attend to his woman.

Harriet Klausner

Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder-Shamini Flint

Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder
Shamini Flint
Minotaur, Jul 6 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780312596972

The Singapore Police Brass assigns Inspector Singh to travel to Kuala Lumpur to oversee a homicide inquiry involving a citizen of his country. Former Singaporean model Chelsea Liew has been accused of murdering her affluent abusive Malaysian husband Alan Lee. Singh is not to interfere, but insure his compatriot receives fair treatment.

Singh knows he must work fast before Liew is given local justice, execution style. He investigates the murder of the timber mogul as youthful local Police Sergeant Shukor accompanies him. Corpulent Singh knows his handsome escort is with him to insure he learns nothing to change the obvious outcome. Chelsea sued for divorce from Alan and wanted custody of their children. When her spouse used a religious ploy by proclaiming he was converting to Islam and their sons will also in order to move the marriage dissolution from civil court where she will win to religious court where he will win; she threatened to kill him just before someone did. Thus she had motive and opportunity.

This is a great Malaysian investigative thriller with a terrific legal twist involving religious vs. secular courts as the case takes several other spins. Action-packed, readers will relish Shamini Flint’s insightful whodunit with courageous cops. The visiting Singapore inspector must discretely conduct his inquiry with covert assistance from Shukor; while Malaysian Inspector Mohammad watches both of them but also conducts his discrete inquiry. The discerning look at Malaysian system of justice makes for a great tale.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Heart of Lies-M.L. Malcolm

Heart of Lies
M.L. Malcolm
Harper, Jun 8 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061962189

Hungarian Leo Hoffman has an innate ability to grasp languages rather quickly. He plans to use his skills, but his dreams of a better life ends temporarily he hopes as WWI flames across Europe with his homeland, the Austro-Hungarian Empire lined up on the side of Germany.

By 1925 with the combat over for several years, Leo tries to start anew using his uncanny skills. However, bad luck shadows him when he gets unintentionally entangled in an international counterfeiting scheme. Before he can expedite himself from that mess, he becomes wanted across the continent for a myriad of other felons including murder. He flees with his beloved Martha, whom he fell in love with at first sight in Paris. Leo hopes they can escape Europe for Shanghai where he prays he can sell valuable stolen treasure, but even in the Chinese city, he finds people who want him dead.

This is an exciting historical thriller starring a series of victims of people turning criminal to survive in the post war depression in East Europe. The story line is fast-paced as the linguistics expert lacks common sense. Although the key support cast is one dimensional never moving passed a singularity, readers will enjoy the twisting Heart of Lies as mid 1920s economically depressed Europe and to a lesser degree New York and Shanghai come vividly to life.

Harriet Klausner

Murder At Timber Bridge-KD Easley

Murder At Timber Bridge
KD Easley
NukeWorks Publishing, Jun 1 2010, $9.99
ISBN: 9780982529492

In Alden while playing paint ball war with her brother, her teen lover, and her twin sons, Randi Black trips over the corpse of a female. Her brothers Steve and Chad and her teen lover AJ, cops on the Alden PD take charge of the crime scene.

Randi figures she has enough on her plate as she raises her teenage sons, works at her ex husband’s bar, the neighbor’s cat and AJ who wants a second chance. She still loves AJ but he left her over two decades ago without a look back. She helps the cops with their investigation, but insists they look into the odd bar customer with the cowboy hat and one of their own Jody the cop who is harassing her. Her siblings agree about the cowboy but believe their sister proves “Nothing Much Has Changed” since they were teens protecting her from the boys. Still as they, AJ and other testosterone hunks protect her and Wilson her bedmate canine, another homicide occurs in which she trips over the corpse while at the paint ball war.

Although Randi and the horde of men in her lives seem to all have their act together, readers will enjoy this terrific police procedural due to what happens to the heroine. Her brothers have a difficult time accepting Jody harassing her as he is a charming sociopath (though they could have done what Randi did by contacting a female police officer cousin who worked with this nasty person). The whodunit is great with a terrific twist and several delightful red herrings; as Randi (who is in Nine Kinds of Trouble) and readerss will wonder whether the stranger-cowboy or Jody is the serial killer.

Harriet Klausner

Mourn the Living-Henry Perez

Mourn the Living
Henry Perez
Pinnacle, Aug 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780786020331

Gilley did not like his mother’s new boyfriend and his instincts were affirmed when he found his mom dead from a knife cut so deeply across her throat her head almost fell off. When Gilley becomes an adult he travels from city to city killing people he felt deserved death for harming others; especially children. Next to each body he leaves behind a stick figure drawn somewhere near the body

The serial killing avenger uses different names as the wanderer who somehow blends in whatever surroundings he enters. He arrives in Oakton, Illinois where his target is reporter Jim Chickowski who has connected the dots, but becomes the next victim. Chicago record reporter Alex Chapa follows up on Jim’s story, which he realizes could be the story of the decade as an avenging serial killer has wandered the nation for years. However, the journalist remains unaware that his psychopathic target is targeting him through his loved ones.

Henry Perez writes a fascinating chilling serial killer thriller that is loaded with action, but fully develops the hero who spent more time working than with his daughter he has not seen in years. Chapa is dedicated but gives up much as he cares more for the story more than his loved ones. Ironically, the antagonist he chases teaches him a values lesson as the killer knows first hand what it does to the soul to lose a loved one to a brutal predator. The psychopath makes the story as a raging avenger accepting collateral kills of the innocent as a normal way of life.

Harriet Klausner

Stolen-Jordan Gray

Jordan Gray
Harlequin, Aug 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373837519

The small seaside English village of Blackpool attracts tourists as the prime source of revenue, but the long time residents conceal dark secrets from the visitors by keeping their distance behind a veneer of privacy. Beneath the cozy pristine surface setting lies darkness. Husband and wife team Brit Michael and Yank Molly like real curious puzzles. Molly stumbles on a conspiracy when she announces a project that stirs the passion of the locals as she and her husband are undesirable outsiders.

She informs the townsfolk that she hired director Simon Winegrath to make a documentary Operation Pied Piper. In 1940, a train carrying women, children and gold was coming to Blackpool to escape the London bombings when it wrecked. Valuable paintings and a child vanished. Several local families are concerned with the filming; especially the Sterling brood whose child was the one who vanished. Also interested is the Crowe family as their patriarch was in charge of safekeeping the treasures and so he was accused of theft when much of the valuables vanished. Then are other people who prefer no filming of what happened in 1940. For those involved with the documentary, danger mounts as murder is a tool of someone who wants what happened seven decades ago to remain silent.

Fans of British village cozies will find Stolen stimulating as leads to what happened in 1940 seem to dead end. M and M are a loving pair whose warm relationship adds positive spice to the dark seaside town. However the key to this well constructed historiographic whodunit is the natives of Blackpool as the audience struggles like Molly to get passed the metaphysical trench to figure out who the villains are now and then.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 14, 2010

Stone's Fall-Iain Pears

Stone's Fall
Iain Pears
Spiegel & Grau, Jun 1 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9780385522854

In 1909 London, wealthy businessman Baron John Stone falls from his mansion’s study window to his death. His will names a daughter as receiving part of his legacy. His younger Widow Elizabeth is stunned because John never mentioned having any children. She hires reporter Matthew Braddock to find her stepdaughter.

In 1890 Paris, spy Henry Cort knows Elizabeth. He considers her the greatest performer of all times as she can get into any role and fool even espionage agents used to masquerades. As the reporter who has fallen in love with his client and Stone who loved his wife, wonder as much as Cort who also loved the many faces of this siren, just who the real Elizabeth is.

Stone’s Fall is a clever fascinating historical espionage twisting thriller that grips the audience with a need to know more about the convoluted Elizabeth just like the enthralled males in her complicated life that makes the DNA helix look elementary, my dear reader. Even with changes subtly in narration, the story line is fast-paced although it tends to decelerate during financial discussions. Fans will enjoy this convoluted espionage thriller as mass production of weapons of war are connected through the years by the charming Elizabeth and the men who want her.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Secrets of Newberry-Victor McGlothin

The Secrets of Newberry
Victor McGlothin
Grand Central, Jun 21 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780446178136

In 1955 in Newberry in St. Bernard Parrish, Louisiana, mulatto Ivory “Bones” Arcineaux and black Hampton Bynote meet in the antebellum Twin Cedars Casino, an illegal gambling house. They team up as cat burglars in the nearby French Quarter. Back in St. Bernard their occupation allows them the best of women as they can afford to indulge. That changes at the Funky Butt Dance Halls when Bynote meets and falls in love with Magnolia Holiday. However, their latest robbery goes bad leaving New Orleans Councilman Huey Boytte dead; killed by Bones. NOPD tries to prove the black partner did the homicide, but settle on a lesser felon that leaves Bones free and Hampton doing fourteen months.

In 1971, Hampton and Magnolia raise a family together as he has gone scared straight since being released from prison. He loves Magnolia and their two daughters. However, his quiet family world is threatened when his former cat burger partner arrives with a job for the two of the. With Bones also comes violent criminals and even nastier people who menace his loved ones.

The setting makes for a fabulous historical thriller that uses crime to enable the reader to compare two eras (near the beginning and near the end of the active Civil Rights movement). The audience sees how various subcultures perceive relationships in 1955 and in 1971 as Victor McGlothin purposely uses stereotypical beliefs to enhance the deep story line.

Harriet Klausner
The Secrets of Newberry
Victor McGlothin
Grand Central, Jun 21 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780446178136

In 1955 in Newberry in St. Bernard Parrish, Louisiana, mulatto Ivory “Bones” Arcineaux and black Hampton Bynote meet in the antebellum Twin Cedars Casino, an illegal gambling house. They team up as cat burglars in the nearby French Quarter. Back in St. Bernard their occupation allows them the best of women as they can afford to indulge. That changes at the Funky Butt Dance Halls when Bynote meets and falls in love with Magnolia Holiday. However, their latest robbery goes bad leaving New Orleans Councilman Huey Boytte dead; killed by Bones. NOPD tries to prove the black partner did the homicide, but settle on a lesser felon that leaves Bones free and Hampton doing fourteen months.

In 1971, Hampton and Magnolia raise a family together as he has gone scared straight since being released from prison. He loves Magnolia and their two daughters. However, his quiet family world is threatened when his former cat burger partner arrives with a job for the two of the. With Bones also comes violent criminals and even nastier people who menace his loved ones.

The setting makes for a fabulous historical thriller that uses crime to enable the reader to compare two eras (near the beginning and near the end of the active Civil Rights movement). The audience sees how various subcultures perceive relationships in 1955 and in 1971 as Victor McGlothin purposely uses stereotypical beliefs to enhance the deep story line.

Harriet Klausner

Midnight Angels-Lorenzo Carcaterra

Midnight Angels
Lorenzo Carcaterra
Ballantine, Jul 6 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345483904

Professor Richard Dylan Edwards is a highly regarded Michelangelo expert. He is also the leader of the secretive Vittoria Society that recovers stolen art treasures to return them to their rightful owner. His group seeks three missing Michelangelo statues, the Midnight Angels that most art historians believe never existed beyond legend. Also searching for the statues are the as secretive Immortals whose leader Raven wants them for his latest nefarious clever scheme.

Dr. Edward’s top student, his ward Kate Westcott, heads to Italy to study first hand Michelangelo. In Florence, she and her art student boyfriend Marco Scudarti search the museums and galleries that seem everywhere in the fabled city. When they find the Midnight Angels, they become targets of the deadly ruthless Immortals who have no remorse killing innocent bystanders to obtain the three statues; only Captain Rumore seems on their side when he is not pondering arresting them.

This is an action packed thriller that grips the audience from the moment the American student and her Italian boyfriend begin exploring the streets of Florence and never slows down as readers will join them on their perilous tour. Fast-paced and filled with action, fans relish this exhilarating art world thriller as the two secretive societies and the Rome Art Squad, all with different intentions, converge on Kate and Marco.

Harriet Klausner

Death In Zooville-Carla Damron

Death In Zooville
Carla Damron
BellaRosa Books, May 2010, $14.95
ISBN: 9781933523897

In South Carolina, with the permission of his boss Dr. Matthew Ryker, Caleb Knowles performs volunteer social services at the understaffed Safe Harbor Center for the homeless. Besides the difficult clientele, Caleb fears the city leadership has plans to dislodge the homeless for an urban development project. Finally he misses his wife who is in Maine caring for her injured father and the family farm. He and Recovery Director Henry Rudd deal with a fire starter homeless schizophrenic Wyman Carter in a potentially nasty incident.

When murders occurs including Caleb’s intern, the local officials have their excuse to destroy the homeless tent city Zooville and close Safe Harbor; as they blame the homeless for the killings. Police Detective Claudia Briscoe leads the investigation in which Caleb is a prime suspect. Caleb, his deaf brother Sam the renowned artist and Henry team up as an inferno engulfs them and the homeless.

Death in Zooville is a great whodunit that spotlights the homeless societal problem. The engrossing story line provides a profound look at a complex social issue that has been around for decades in places like the Bowery in NYC but exploded during the Reagan Era as displace the homeless is the typical solution. The murder mystery is super, but it is the insightful glimpse at the homeless that makes for a strong Caleb Knowles thriller (see Spider Blue and Keeping Silent).

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Inside Out-Barry Eisler

Inside Out
Barry Eisler
Ballantine, Jun 29 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345505101

In 2005 at Arlington, CIA Deputy Director Clemens, National Clandestine Service Director Killman, and Counterterrorism Center Director Alkire inform the Vice president’s Chief of Staff Ulrich that approximately ninety-two tapes are missing. Clemens nervously explains the tapes are vivid showings of torture without the in their pocket main stream media sanitizing the picture for the public. Ulrich informs the frightened trio to find the tapes at any cost.

At a bar in Manila, three Australians and Ben Treven get into an altercation. Ben breaks the finger of the middle guy; hammers another in the head with a bar stool and batters the third Aussie. Two are in spasms while the other is dead. The Filipino police arrest Ben.

His enemy and former boss Hort arrives with a deal to free him if he takes on a mission or to let him keep puking up the prison food. Treven has five days to retrieved ninety-two damaging torture tapes from another paid killer he personally knows, Daniel Larson, who demands millions in diamonds or be prepared to watch the show on You Tube. Treven and FBI Agent Paula Lanier seek Larson as does other Feds and their contracted cronies.

This is an action-packed fast-paced espionage thriller with stratospheric levels of testosterone that even the beautiful women seem to have an overly abundance of the hormone. Based on the reported destroyed torture tapes, Inside Out is an exciting tale as blood flows wherever either Treven (see Fault Line) or Larson happens to be; ironically as each kills without blinking both loathes torture. Although pre Abu Ghraib would have put this over the top of Everest, the audience will wonder how much is possible and how much is truly implausible.

Harriet Klausner

The Viognier Vendetta-Ellen Crosby

The Viognier Vendetta
Ellen Crosby
Scribner, Aug 3 2010, $24.00
ISBN: 9781439163863

Twelve years have passed since vintner Lucie Montgomery heard from her former best friend at college Rebecca Natale. So she is understandably shocked when Rachel calls her and asks to meet her in Washington DC. She will put her up at a nice hotel that she can afford since she is the protégé of billionaire investor Sir Thomas Asher.

Lucie arrives at the hotel, but is told to meet Rebecca at the Lincoln memorial. The Virginia vintner knows Rebecca wants something from her, but cannot fathom what that could be. Rebecca stuns Lucie further when all she asks is for her friend to come to the showing of Asher donating his document collection to the Library of Congress. Lucie agrees to attend and Rebecca buys postcards before saying bye. Soon after their meeting, Rebecca vanishes with a valuables antique stolen during the ransacking of the White House in the War of 1812. Meanwhile whistle blower Ian Phillips, who insisted Asher’s investments are a Ponzi scheme fraud, is found dead. Lucie believes Reecca’s disappearance is tied to the murder. Assuming that Rebecca is dead too, Lucie tries to decipher the messages her friend sent to her.

Readers will toast Ellen Crosby with her delightfully tasty wine country mystery (see The Riesling Retribution) that combines headlines with the DC historical. In spite of knowing that Phillips and probably Natale were murdered, intrepid Lucie investigates seeking to uncover clues her best friend at school left buried for her. The Viognier Vendetta is the valiant vintner at her best.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 11, 2010

Murder Past Due-Miranda James

Murder Past Due
Miranda James
Berkley, Aug 3 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425236031

College librarian architect Charlie Harris and his Maine coon cat Diesel live in Athena, Mississippi. Charlie walks the larger than normal sized cat on a leash as the feline is his friend and books are his only companions since his aunt died. However, recently Charlie has found he cares for his boarder Julian Wardlaw, a student at the school.

A former classmate of Charlie arrives at his house. Charlie never liked arrogant Godfrey Priest, Athena’s favorite son as a noted author of gore. Julie Wardlaw informs Godfrey that Julian is his son and the man who raised him is dying. Godfrey gets into a fight with Ezra who thinks of Julian as his son. Soon after their tussle that sent Ezra to the hospital, someone kills Godfrey. Charlie realizes everyone in town seemed to hate haughty Godfrey with several having strong motives, but he ponders who had the opportunity and the ultimate desire as he and Diesel try to help the police who want no help from him or his cat.

Eighteen year old Justin finds the key that opens up Charlie’s heart, which makes him feel again as they empathize with one another encouraged by Diesel. Great characterizations make for a fine regional amateur sleuth whodunit; as Charlie fears the cops are going after the wrong person in this entertaining small southern college town murder mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Quick and the Thread-Amanda Lee

The Quick and the Thread
Amanda Lee
Obsidian, Aug 3 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451230966

After her fiancé dumped her just prior to their wedding and bored with her accounting job in San Francisco, Marcy Singer accompanied by Angus the Irish Wolfhound move to Tallulah, Falls, Oregon. Her college roommate Sadie Mackenzie and her husband Blake own the store Mackenzie Mocha. Marcy plans to open up an embroidery store The Seven-Year Stitch.

At the open house, the person who previously rented the space Tim Enright tries to talk to Marcy, but he creeps her out as she believes he is intoxicated. When Sadie, Blake and Marcy close the store for the evening, they hear a thump in the storage room, but they are so tired they ignore it. The next morning, Marcy finds Tim inside her store dead with writing on the wall for square fifth which she learns refers to a real estate fraud that wrecked the small town. She talks to her landlord Mr. Trelawney about what Tim wrote and he is visibly upset. Soon afterward he is shot. After visiting one of the people in prison over the fraud, Marcy finds out the leader of the scam is still free. She sleuths, which puts Marcy in the crosshairs of a killer with no mercy.

This intriguing amateur sleuth has evil hiding in a small town which seems serene on the surface. The heroine gets drawn into the investigation because the police chief refuses to believe the two murders are linked to each other and the fraud. So the two friends for life determinedly search for the killer to take back their town. The cast is solid especially the dynamic detectives, but what makes The Quick and the Thread riveting is their inquiry comes across as reasonable and plausible.

Harriet Klausner

Unholy Magic-Stacia Kane

Unholy Magic
Stacia Kane
Del Rey, Jul 6 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345515582

A serial killer is targeting prostitutes. Rumors spread that a deadly ghost is behind the homicides. The Church of Real Truth field debunker and ghost dispatcher Chess Putnam is assigned to ferret out the truth. She expects the killer to be human concealing his or her identity with ghostly whispers. That she knows is the norm when she investigates a reported haunting as some mortal hides one or more of the seven deadly sin transgressions however some supernatural essences are killers.

Chess makes inquiries in which everyone she interviews insists a ghost is at large and other evidence supports the claim of something from beyond. As she digs deeper into the case, she realizes a lunatic is combining murder with sex to dabble in the paranormal. To bring this maniac out into the open means risking her soul.

Unholy Magic is a terrific urban fantasy whodunit starring a street tough investigator. Chess is fabulous as her experience as an operative means eliminate the obvious and the rumored leads to almost always find a deranged or scamming human. However, the occasional outlier is what makes Chess’ job dangerous. Readers will appreciate her investigation into what in her mind is a mortal serial killer whose become a paranormal myth; as with her previous case Unholy Ghost the line of demarcation is especially emaciated.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

How To Crash a Killer Bash-Penny Warner

How To Crash a Killer Bash
Penny Warner
Obsidian, Aug 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451230973

Event planner Presley Parker is preparing for next big gig at Murder Myster Party at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park San Francisco. Tempers are running high between de Young’s chief fundraiser Mary Lee Miller who can bring in millions with her reputation and Delicia Jackson, an actress in the murder play. Mary Lee wants the performer to stop dating her son Corbin; calling the woman a gold-digger. Carbin uses the actress to annoy his overbearing mother.

On the night of the event, Delicia goes to find the “murdered body” of Mary Lee; only she reappears drenched in blood. Mary Lee is dead and after the witnesses tells the police the public fight between the women in Corbin’s life and delcia saying she was going t kill Corbin’s mother, the police arrest Delicia. Presley vows to find the real killer so her friend can get out of jail, but the culprit provides terrorist pressure to get her to back off on her investigation.

Penny Warner has created a wonderful heroine in perilous Presley Parker, reminiscent of the Perils of Pauline plus Peter Parker. The protagonist leaps from one calamity onto another disaster and another; defying Einstein’s definition of insanity. Two cars she drove need repair work due to her proclivity for driving head first into trouble. Someone has killed three people at work and her mother tends to get lost suffering from rhe early stages of Alzheimer’s. She remains resolute and determined, but most critical believable as an amateur sleuth. With plenty of action on her investigation and several poignant moments, readers will enjoy the perils of Presley Parker.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 7, 2010

Getting Old Is Tres Dangereux-Rita Lakin

Getting Old Is Tres Dangereux
Rita Lakin
Dell, Jun 22 2010,$7.99
ISBN: 9780440245421

In France, four men worry that bestselling whistle-blowing author Michelle DuBois will write an exposé concerning their winery. One of the concerned males has a nonagenarian uncle who was an assassin before he retired to his yacht on the Riviera. He is willing to come out of retirement to kill Michelle as a favor to his nephew.

Across the ocean in the Lanai Gardens in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, septuagenarians Jack Langford and Gladdy Gold live together with plans to marry. Gladdy, Jack, her Gladiators, and a few yentas attend a local book conference. Jack meets Michelle; they had an affair eight years ago in Paris. To Gladdy’s jaundiced vision, the writer is making a grab for her fiancé, who also believes her Jack is too gentle and kind to Michelle. When they learn a French assassin has arrived to kill Michelle and obtain her latest manuscript, she persuades Jack to protect her. The Snake has no compunctions about killing anyone who interferes with his hit and injures Michelle’s niece. However, whether it is his age and soft lifestyle intruding on his comeback, he has never had a tougher assignment.

With a tongue in cheek (literally spin), anyone who thinks septuagenarians cannot heat up the sheet obviously has not met Gladdy and Jack, or her sister Evie and Joe. Gladdy plays an active role in Jack’s investigation as the “cop’s pop” cannot keep his fiancée out of the case. With advice from a dear departed friend (and some bad tasting jokes from octogenarian Hy), readers will enjoy Gladdy’s latest case filled with jealousy, the paranormal, and angst as the battling geriatrics take on a killing geriatric.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Book of Shadows-Alexandra Sokoloff

Book of Shadows
Alexandra Sokoloff
St. Martin’s, Jun 8 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312384715

Even without the teenage corpse looking out of place like a broken doll, the landfill where eighteen year old Erin Carmody’s mutilated body laid looked like hell. BPD Homicide detectives Adam Garrett and Carl Landauer lead the investigation into the murder of the daughter of a prominent Boston businessman. The etching on the corpse most likely means this was a ritual satanic killing.

The two police partners interview suspect Erin’s college friend Jason Moncrief. His response to any question is chanting Choronzon, an alleged demon when he suddenly attacks Carl. Although the evidence piles up making Moncrief guilty beyond a shadow of doubt, Tanith Cabarrus a self proclaimed witch insists he is innocent, more homicides have and will occur, and the supernatural is the culprit. Although pressure mounts from the brass, the media, and the family to hang Moncrief, Jason follows up on what Tanith says even as he wonders if she cast an attraction spell on him and whether she might be the mortal perpetrator.

The key to this terrific police procedural is readers are kept off balance by Alexandra Sokoloff wondering whether the killer is a paranormal from beyond or a deranged human. Fast-paced with strong characterizations, fans will enjoy this superb thriller, as Adam and the audience wonder whether The Unseen could be the killer.

Harriet Klausner

Dead Line-Stella Rimington

Dead Line
Stella Rimington
Knopf, Jun 29 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780307272546

M16 Agent Templeton in Cyprus reports that a contact Abboud insists Syrian deputy director of dreaded Idarat al-Mukhabarat Tibshirani believes that a London based Lebanese expatriate Sami Veshara and Chris Marcham intend to devastate the upcoming Middle East peace conference being held in Scotland. Disrupting efforts is expected by most counterterrorist groups, but what makes this allegation different is that the credit (and consequently the blame) will be given to Syria. With the leaders from the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iran participating, MI5 officer Liz Carlyle is assigned to investigate the plausibility and if affirmed who they belong to.

As she follows leads, Liz fears time is running out. Clues either go nowhere or lead to more questions. She begins to revise her theory from these two nonentities to hypothesize whether the original source is using a ploy to cause some other unknown havoc although why remains out of reach. Liz knows a major incident could lead to devastating chaos in the Middle East and the end of peace negotiations for years to come.

This is a great espionage thriller that readers will fully appreciate. Thirtyish Liz is at her best in her latest tale (see At Risk, Illegal Action and Secret Asset) trying to connect dots that not only do not link but add more points to the increasingly convoluted equation. Readers will join Liz as she races to prevent a disaster but by whom and why remain just outside her analysis.

Harriet Klausner

Sketch Me If You Can-Sharon Pape

Sketch Me If You Can
Sharon Pape
Berkley, Aug 3 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425236048

Nobody is more distressed and heartbroken than Rory McCain is when her favorite Uncle Mac died from what apparently was a massive coronary. Mac leaves his entire estate that includes a Victorian home, his private eye business and his luxurious car to his beloved niece. As a police sketch artist, Rory is not allowed to moonlight so she begins to close down his business starting with informing Jeremy Logan whom she cannot reach when he walks in asking for Mac.

When he learns Mac is dead, he hires Rory to look into the death of his sister Gail. It was ruled an accident but he believes it was murder. To get around the police ban on moonlighting, Rory refuses to charge him a fee. She moves into her new home where she meets permanent resident the ghost Federal Marshall Ezekiel “Zeke” Drummond, who was killed in the 1870s while hunting a serial killer who murdered little girls. He explains he helped Mac and offers a similar partnership with Rory; her consideration being to investigate his cold case of whom murdered him. Although she explains to the ghost his case is Arctic frozen, he understands and she agrees to their teaming. They soon learn Gail had several enemies with motives and opportunities, but someone stalks Rory in case she gets too close to naming the culprit.

This entertaining paranormal cozy stars a feisty heroine who copes with the death of a loved one, a ghost in residence when she thought spirits were something either in wine or a Ghostbuster movie, and a case with too many suspects. The fun in this lighthearted frolic is figuring out who the killer is before the heroine and her poltergeist partner do. Readers will admire and adore the intrepid heroine as she risks her life to uncover the identity of Gail’s killer.

Harriet Klausner