Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Blue Lightning-Ann Cleeves

Blue Lightning
Ann Cleeves
Minotaur, Sep 28 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312384357

Police Detective Jimmy Perez brings his English fiancée Fran Hunter to his home on Fair Isle to meet his parents and the other residents. A welcoming fete is thrown, but at a bird observatory, someone stabs a woman with a knife to her back and leaving feathers in her hair.

The deceased is a famous BBC ornithologist Angela, alleged guardian of the island’s bird sanctuary. Perez realizes the victim was universally disliked by those who knew her; even perhaps her husband Maurice. Suspects are numerous ranging from a myriad of lovers, her stepdaughter, her employee and the bird lovers’ crowd. Perez struggles on his own due to a hurricane cutting off the island from the mainland. At the same time just before the storm hit, there is an influx of bird watchers due to a rare avian finding. As Perez digs deeper and Fran tries to help her beloved though he pleads with her not to get involved, he fears a tie to his family.

The final Shetland Island police procedural (see Red Bones, Raven Black and White Nights) is a super whodunit. The story line focuses beyond just Jimmy’s investigation and relationship with his fiancée, as the murder haunts the small community although the victim is loathed by anyone who met her. Jimmy is great as he is cut off from professional help, but though he detests what he is finding, he resolutely stays the course. With a final twist that will stun fans, The Shetland Island saga is a terrific series and hopefully will have more colorful Fair Isle mysteries.

Harriet Klausner

Par for the Course-Jennifer Vido

Par for the Course
Jennifer Vido
Top Publications, Jun 2010, $14.00
12221 Merit Dr, Suite 950
Dallas, Texas 75251
ISBN: 9781929976720

In Woodlawn Ohio, when her older womanizing wealthy husband Charles is murdered, Piper O’Donnell is the prime suspect as Par for the Course the cops always look at the family. The townsfolk especially those snooty society ladies at the Woodlawn Golf & Country Club assume she killed her spouse for his money or perhaps another one of his affairs; or more likely both. For her part, she wished they remained in Manhattan.

Piper and Rusty O’Brien meet and are attracted to one another. They, accompanied by her sister and her friend, investigate the homicide before the cops replace Piper’s clubs with a murder rap. However, none of the quartet are prepared for a killer who plans to make a hole in one with their respective heads if they come close to his or her identity.

Lighthearted, this is an enjoyable nineteen holes of golf amateur sleuth. The story line is breezy as the quartet of tyro detectives follow the sexual escapes of the late Charles as they believe one of his women finally gave him the permanent hook. Fans who enjoy a facetious sports mystery will want to play the Woodlawn course alongside of Piper and friends.

Harriet Klausner

Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End: The Story of a Crime-Leif GW Persson

Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End: The Story of a Crime
Leif GW Persson
Pantheon, Sep 14 2010, $27.95
ISBN: 9780307377456

American John Krassner is in Stockholm writing a biography on his uncle, OSS agent Colonel John Buchanan just after WW II. Krassner has found evidence that ties Buchanan to a Swedish politician known as "Pilgrim", but he is unsure who that is though he has an idea.

Meanwhile the Swedish secret police have become concerned with threats to their Prime Minister Olaf Palme. They link the noise to the American Krassner, who almost immediately is under suspicion. He apparently commits suicide by jumping from a student dorm window. He almost kills an elderly pedestrian walking his Pomeranian, but Charlie the dog saves his owner’s life only to have the leaper’s shoe kill the dog. Soon afterward someone assassinates Palme, but the Swedish manhunt fails to find a killer or a valid group claiming the hit. However, police superintendent Lars Johansson finds a tie between the dead American, his uncle and the murdered PM.

Constructed around the unsolved cold case murder of PM Palme, Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End: The Story of a Crime is an interesting first act of a fictionalized account of the assassination. The story line has too much going on especially in the first sections of the novel making it difficult to follow. However, once Johansson takes control of the plot, the whodunit becomes more focused and enjoyable. Though Lars (so far at least) is no Falck or Wallender, fans of Camilla Lackberg and Henning Mankell will enjoy this opening police procedural that delves deep into the Swedish identity haunted by the homicide a quarter of a century ago.

Harriet Klausner

Me, Myself, and Why?-MaryJanice Davidson

Me, Myself, and Why?
MaryJanice Davidson
St. Martin’s, Sep 28 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312531171

In Minneapolis, the FBI Bureau of False Flags Ops (BOFFO) Agent Cadence Jones suffers from multiple personality disorder, which is an asset for the mission of this unit filled with psychotics and an occasional functional neurotic. She and her partner sociopath George Pinkham are assigned to ending the reign of terror of Threefer Killer, who murders people in groups of three leaving behind newspaper articles and nothing else.

The serial killer begins sending messages to Cadence and her two sisters Shiro and Adrienne. Depending on which MPD is working determines whether Cadence is concerned or not. However, anyone who is from the Twin Cities knows better than to mess with the Jones. More concerned to Cadence as she switches from one personality to another is she falls in love with her best friend’s visiting brother.

Clearly over the top of the Prospect Park Water Tower and Deming Heights Park combined, Me, Myself and Why? Is a zany dark humorous police procedural. Not for all of MaryJanice Davidson’s fans especially the paranormal shoe lovers, this tale lampoons how easily society conveniently catalogues people to make them fit inside a file drawer. The strong radically offbeat edgy cast make for a madcap Minnesota mystery, in which ironically MPD sufferer holds the plot together as readers will wonder whether to label her as the main character or characters.

Harriet Klausner

Me, Myself, and Why?-MaryJanice Davidson

Me, Myself, and Why?
MaryJanice Davidson
St. Martin’s, Sep 28 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312531171

In Minneapolis, the FBI Bureau of False Flags Ops (BOFFO) Agent Cadence Jones suffers from multiple personality disorder, which is an asset for the mission of this unit filled with psychotics and an occasional functional neurotic. She and her partner sociopath George Pinkham are assigned to ending the reign of terror of Threefer Killer, who murders people in groups of three leaving behind newspaper articles and nothing else.

The serial killer begins sending messages to Cadence and her two sisters Shiro and Adrienne. Depending on which MPD is working determines whether Cadence is concerned or not. However, anyone who is from the Twin Cities knows better than to mess with the Jones. More concerned to Cadence as she switches from one personality to another is she falls in love with her best friend’s visiting brother.

Clearly over the top of the Prospect Park Water Tower and Deming Heights Park combined, Me, Myself and Why? Is a zany dark humorous police procedural. Not for all of MaryJanice Davidson’s fans especially the paranormal shoe lovers, this tale lampoons how easily society conveniently catalogues people to make them fit inside a file drawer. The strong radically offbeat edgy cast make for a madcap Minnesota mystery, in which ironically MPD sufferer holds the plot together as readers will wonder whether to label her as the main character or characters.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop-Edited by Otto Penzler

Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop
Edited by Otto Penzler
Vanguard, Oct 12 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9781593156176

This compilation of seventeen short stories that were given out as pamphlets to the customers of the legendary store date back to 1993 with one a year since. The only two stipulations are it takes place at Christmas and the bookstore must be involved at least in one scene. The contributors are a who’s who of the mystery-suspense genre with most lampooning the classics including those written by the author as Donald E. Westlake did in 1993 with Dortmunder learning to “Give Till It Hurts” and Mary Higgins Clark in 2009 with Alvirah in” What’s In A Name?”. Lawrence Block satirizes Nero Wolfe in the amusing 1997 “As Dark as Christmas Gets" or the 1995 jocular self-deprecating "I Saw Mommy Killing Santa Claus" by Ed McBain (is that his ninth plum of an pseudonym?). With No clinkers, fans who appreciate a strong mostly tongue in cheek anthology in which part of the fun is discovering the insider jokes will want to stop in Manhattan’s Tribecca neighborhood (in person or from the armchair) to visit Otto Penzler’s Mystery Bookshop as this is an entertaining collection.

Harriet Klausner

The Pericles Commission-Gary Corby

The Pericles Commission
Gary Corby
Minotaur, Oct 12 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312599027

In 461 BC in Athens, the man fell from the sky. At least that is how it initially looked to those near the Areopagus. In fact democratic reformist leader Ephialtes was shot with a myriad of arrows before his dive off the Rock of Areopagus. He landed dead at the feet of a sculptor’s son Nicolaos.

Ephialtes's political ally Pericles arrives just after the death. He is pleasantly surprised by the logical analysis Nicolaos applies to the assassination; as such Pericles hires the lad to investigate the murder. Knowing the ruling council meets at the Areopagus and the obvious motive is these members refuse to lose power as they would under Ephialtes’ reform, he looks for the killer(s) amidst the leading citizens of the city including his client.

This is an excellent Ancient Athenian mystery in which Gary Corby constructs his deep story line around real persona (including the victim) and events (including the victim’s murder). The early chapters set the tale of fifth century BC in Athens and once Ephialtes falls, the story line takes off at a resounding speed. Mindful of Jose Carlos Somoza’s The Athenian Murders, The Pericles Commission is a superb BCE historical.

Harriet Klausner

A Marked Man-Barbara Hamilton

A Marked Man
Barbara Hamilton
Berkley, Oct 5 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425237083

In 1774, two and half months have passed since the infamous (depending on your loyalties) Boston Tea Party. Teenager Lucy Fluckner asks Abigail Adams to help her friend twentyish bookseller Harry Knox, who is in trouble with the Commonwealth law. The Sons of Liberty printer was arrested for murdering the King’s Special Commissioner Sir Joseph Cottrell.

Abigail supports freedom from the crown and is proud of her husband John who is a major participant in the Sons of Liberty’s endeavors. As such she agrees to look into the homicide. Stunningly, Lucy’s chaperone Mrs. Sandhayes insists the victim was her charge’s fiancé; Lucy denies it as she loathed the philandering Tory and though she fails to say so Abigail knows she loves the accused. Abigail and John, who is a lawyer, investigate and quickly learns that a Negro female servant vanished from the home of their client’s parents and that the victim had many enemies on all three sides of the brewing revolt.

The key to the strong second Abigail Adams historical mystery (see The Ninth Daughter) is the sense that the reader is in Boston divided between Loyalists, Neutralists, and Rebels just prior to the Revolutionary War. The story line is fast-paced and the investigation super, but it is meeting the prime real persona and fictional characters representing the divided times in Boston in 1774 that makes A Marked Man a strong late eighteenth century thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Law of Attraction-Allison Leotta

Law of Attraction
Allison Leotta
Touchstone (Simon and Schuster), Oct 12 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9781439193846

In Washington D.C. idealistic rookie Anna Curtis has become an Assistant U.S. Attorney. She works domestic violence cases that have required her to remain distant and aloof from the brutality she sees on the faces of the victims. However, on Valentine’s day, Anna loses her detached objectivity when battered Laprea Johnson files a complaint against her boyfriend former con D’Marco Davis, who is defended by Curtis’ Harvard Law School classmate Nick Wagner.

In the courtroom, to Anna’s shock, Laprea, under oath, recants her previous testimony allowing her boyfriend who is also the father of her twin preschoolers to avoid jail. Not long after the case is dismissed, Laprea’s pregnant corpse is found amidst trash as if someone threw out the garbage. Assigned to work with chief homicide detective Jack Bailey, in a case against Davis; Anna is shocked that her boyfriend Wagner since the abuse trial, is representing the accused again. She must choose between her career and her personal life as both teeter; but remains unaware that her life is in peril if she gets to close to the truth.

This is a super legal thriller, which reads very fresh due to the star being a rookie playing in the big leagues. The story line is fast-paced from the first complaint until the final resolution with a nice late twist that diligent readers will see the clues. However, even though the men in her life (her lover the opposing lawyer, the homicide chief, and the accused) are fully developed, this is the tyro’s tale as she works the perilous halls of justice.

Harriet Klausner

Roman Games-Bruce Macbain

Roman Games
Bruce Macbain
Poisoned Pen, Oct 2010, $$24.95
ISBN: 9781590587751

In 96 AD in Rome, Senatorial Informer Sextus Verpa is found viciously stabbed to death in his home. The household slaves of the deceased are the only suspects; with no rights they will be executed for his murder once the Ludi Romani Games are over; as no one is killed by the state during the fifteen days of contests.

Meanwhile Emperor Domitian could not care less about slaughtering some slaves in an inferno, but wants to insure his enemies are not behind the stabbing murder. He orders Senator Gaius Plinius Caecillius Secundus, better known as Pliny the Younger, to investigate. Pliny enlists the help of starving author Martial in order to enter places he would have no cooperation. Soon the pair begins to unravel a convoluted conspiracy starting with a horoscope reading that predicts the death of the Emperor is near with tentacles reaching from Jewish and Christian sects, supporters of the Roman pantheon, and Egyptian cultists; but the most dangerous locale for the detecting duet is the palace where the brutal emperor wears no clothes.

Ancient Rome has been used as the backdrop for several mystery series by Steven Saylor, Robert Harris and John Robert Maddox for instance and more so Albert Bell whose lead is Pliny the Younger. However, Bruce Macbain keeps his saga fresh with a strong look at the decadence at the end of the first century in which an ethical hero struggles to keep his morality and his head. The story line is fast-paced as the two opposite ins status and outlook sleuths unite following clues that are religious and political dangerous as separation of state denotes separation of one’s head. This is an enjoyable whodunit due to the Roman background interwoven throughout the historical mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Stranglehold-Ed Gorman

Ed Gorman
Minotaur, Oct 12 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312532987

In Aldyne, Illinois Ben Weinberg, the campaign team chief to reelect incumbent Congresswoman Susan Cooper, knows his candidate’s bid for another term is in deep trouble. He turns to his colleague who got him the job in the first place, former army intel officer turned political consultant Dev Conrad to straighten out the sinking ship. Dev is concerned because they have worked together for eight years and Ben never asked for his assistance.

Besides the ineffective husband David with his alibis for his wife and rumors of sniffing cocaine, the biggest issue is the money bags, Susan’s stepmother Natalie Cooper, better known as the “Dragon Lady”. Adding to the problems is the philosophy of the opponent Steve Duffy’s consultants, Monica Davies and Greg Larson who believe the end justifies the mean regardless of who they harm in the process. Meanwhile in spite of low percentile of public interest concerned with Susan’s mysterious past, she tries to conceal her secrets which hurt her election chances. However, all hell breaks loose when someone murders Davies.

The whodunit is fun to follow, but what makes the second Dev Conrad political consulting thriller (see Sleeping Dogs) super is the dirty tricks played by so called ethical people. Ed Gorman nails the concept that adheres diligently to Leo Durocher’s philosophy of “win at all costs” as the innocent are disregarded as expendable pawns as much as the politicians. For instance Dev points out that the unemployed receiving assistance has paid into the system when they were employed, which is irrelevant when you’re making political points of lazy on the dole people. Stranglehold is a strong political thriller as Mr. Gorman makes a case that elections are contact sports with no rules except “win at all costs”.

Harriet Klausner

Velocity-Alan Jacobson

Alan Jacobson
Vanguard, Oct 5 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781593156213

In Napa Valley, undercover Police Detective Robby Hernandez vanishes as he was closing in on John Wayne “Crush Killer” Mayfield. Robby’s lover FBI profiler Karen Vail fears she may have unwittingly caused the disappearance.

Robby was part of a DEA team investigating drug kingpin Carlos Cortez and his cartel. Part of the operation involved close scrutiny of Cesar Guevara, the CFO of a wine bottling company. Evidence pointed to Guevara drug trafficking with the Crush Killer as his hit man. Knowing at a minimum she owes Robby and praying her beloved is alive, kick butt Karen targets Cortez, Cesar and Crush.

Alan Jacobson does a remarkable job to tell the direct prequel (see Crush) without slowing down this exhilarating Karen Vail police procedural (see 7th Victim). The story line is action-packed from the moment a guilt laden Vail believes what she wrought to her lover and never slows down yet the story line shows another side of the heroine; she has a heart. The intense profound look at drug trafficking enhances a powerful California thriller as Mr. Jacobson scores big time with this super detective tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Disappearance-Bentley Little

The Disappearance
Bentley Little
Signet, Sep 7 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451231031

Five UCLA students drive from California to Nevada to attend the tribal gathering Burning Man in the Black Forest Desert. After a couple of fun filled days, on the second night Gary feels drugged and is knocked out along with his four friends. When he looks for his companions he finds Reyn, Stacy and Brian, but his girlfriend Joan is missing. The police don’t take the disappearance seriously; the four students return to the college to work on a plan to find Joan.

They learn someone tampered with Joan’s files so it looks as if she never attended the school; her Facebook and My Space pages are gone. Teri Lin, the student who gave Joan’s family number, is killed by a man wearing hAmish like homespun clothing that. Gary is kidnapped by three men who wear the identical clothing as Teri’s killer wore. When he escapes he finds himself in New Mexico. He learns Joan is being held in the religious cult’s compound in Bitterwood, Texas where she grew up. Gary and his friends arrive to spring her but hundreds of worshipers of Father surround her. Joan knows she F Father will hunt her and her friends until they are dead.

This will leave chills inside the readers’ hearts as the audience will be spellbound with fear yet horrified with this powerful human horror thriller. Gary is a mature person who knows his love for Joan is not a youthful game but much more. Resolute though some would insist foolish, he risks his life for his beloved knowing the cult will try to kill him to prevent one of theirs leaving. Bentley Little will appear on bestseller lists as he mesmerizes his fans with the Disappearance.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, August 27, 2010

In Search of Mercy-Michael Ayoob

In Search of Mercy
Michael Ayoob
Minotaur, Oct 12 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780312644925

In high school in 1993 in Pittsburgh, Dexter Bolzjak was a legend on ice until he suffered a meltdown in the Pennsylvania state championship. Soon afterward, irate hockey goon fans abducted him and beat the crap out of him. Eight years since his rise, fall and assault has left Dexter a shell of what he was as he sorts produce at a warehouse while trying to keep his sanity, which he recognizes as a full time job.

Aging alcoholic Lou Kashon offers Dexter a deal to make some real money if he locates his lost love, former movie star, Mercy Carnahan, who has not been seen in public since 1958. The cash is too good to pass up so without asking too many questions Dexter begins a search for the recluse.

The key to this strong amateur sleuth is the past of Dexter and Mercy, as the audience sees how they got to where they are today. Fast-paced and vividly descriptive especially the violence (you will feel the hip checks), In Search of mercy is an aptly titled thriller that readers who appreciate something radically different will fully enjoy.

Harriet Klausner

Death Notice-Todd Ritter

Death Notice
Todd Ritter
Minotaur, Oct 12 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780312622800

Perry Hollow, Pennsylvania Police Chief Kat Campbell is stunned to find the corpse of George Winnick, a farmer, inside a coffin of sorts at the side of the road. She is further aghast to see the victim’s lips sewn together and his blood vessels containing formaldehyde.

Meanwhile, Perry Hollow Gazette obituary writer Henry Goll learns the time of death occurred after he received the faxed death notice. Henry realizes that one of his neighbors is a diabolical homicidal psychopath. When other murders occur, Pennsylvania State Police Officer Nick Donnelly, an expert on serial killers, arrives to assist the overwhelmed locals. However, even with his knowledge and skills, the killer seems always ahead of the cops.

Although at times a bit overdramatic with a stratospheric kill rate, Death Notice is an enjoyable police procedural. The story line is fast-paced and loaded with a horde of eccentric characters as the corpses keep coming. Kat is a fabulous lead who holds the serial killer thriller together with help from Nick and Henry. Readers will enjoy this entertaining regional mystery as a town that never faced a homicide suddenly is inundated.

Harriet Klausner

What Doesn't Kill You-Jan Grape

What Doesn't Kill You
Jan Grape
Five Star, Sep 15 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148880

In Bent Bell, Texas sixteen year old Cory Purvis tells her half-Native American boyfriend TyTy that their town is boring, they are stunned to find the corpse of nursing student Vickee Allen. Whoever killed her viciously used a knife on the victim.

Cory is stunned to find out TyTy and Vickie were dating. Even more distressing to Cory is that she realizes Sheriff Michael Sparrow believes TyTy is the prime suspect. Soon afterward, the coroner decides Vickee was raped and had many lovers including TyTy. Cory knows in her gut TyTy would not kill; so she investigates the homicide with the help of her Uncle Giff.

Sometimes you get what you wish for as soon as the teen heroine opens her mouth that nothing happens in Bent Bell they find the corpse. Cory is a courageous caring person who, though upset with TyTy and saddened with Vickee’s vicious death, investigates with youthful innocence. Although there are too many explanations in lieu of action, Vickee’s behavior in life exposed with her violent death leaves readers to ponder small town ethics inside an engaging amateur sleuth.

Harriet Klausner

Murder in Caleb's Landing-D-L Nelson

Murder in Caleb's Landing
D-L Nelson
Five Star, Sep 15 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148972

Thirtyish Annie Young may have been born in the States, but the contract technical writer has lived mostly in Europe with her Swiss based parents. She is a “Third-Culture Kid” not quite comfortable in Europe but totally uncomfortable in America. When her father inherits a home in Caleb's Landing, Massachusetts, the Young family leaves Geneva for New England.

In Massachusetts, Annie dad and his friends persuade her create a CD on the real founding of America. Her program is previewed at the local elementary school. Many townsfolk are irate due to her realistic portrayal of the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. In the basement of their new house, father and daughter find skeleton dressed in pre-Civil War rags and a diary written by a runaway slave; her mother’s business partner and Annie intervene to save a woman from her abusive spouse. Then there is Des.

This is a fascinating fast-paced mystery the takes off once the Yong family arrives in Massachusetts and never slow down until the finish. Annie’s problems with poorly adapting to a different society enhances the tale as her actions make her an eccentric and to some a pariah. Her diligent research provides a rounded realistic portrayal of the founding of America, but alienates many who prefer deity filters on the heritage of the country especially the state.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Insider-Reece Hirsch

The Insider
Reece Hirsch
Berkley, May 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425234624

In San Francisco, attorney Will Connelly arrives at work expecting to have made partnership at the firm Reynolds, Fincher & McComb LLP. However, instead of feeling euphoric, he watches in stunned shock and awe as tax attorney Ben Fisher falls from Will’s thirty-eighth floor office window. SFPD Detective Kovach questions Will as he was the only other person present in the office and lying on the ground outside next to Ben’s body is Will’s access card.

After the cops leave, the law firm’s managing partner “Teflon Don” Rubinoswki informs Will he has been voted partner. He also will take charge of the late Ben’s major project; a merger involving Jupiter Software company firm. That night Will stops at a neighborhood bar to quietly celebrate his promotion. There he meets Katya and leaves with her to go to her place. To impress her with his importance, he mentions the Jupiter Software merger. The next morning two Russians bust into her apartment; they beat up Will forcing him to give them information on the merger. He cannot turn to the police because he violated a legal ethics code involving attorney-client privilege and the insider trading rules of the SEC. Complicating his mess is when he learns his new client has a secret contract with the government involving encryption coding. The thugs sold the information to the Russian mob who demand Will obtains the Jupiter encryption code key so it can be sold on the black market.

This is a complicated action-packed thriller as Will finds out one thing leads to another as Federal, State, and local law enforcement want a piece of his butt, and the Russian Mafiya want his entire butt. From the moment Ben dives until the final fabsulous twist, fans will enjoy this fast-paced terrorism thriller as the beleaguered hero struggles with what next; feeling like Murphy as nothing goes right. This is a fabulous must read chilling thriller

Harriet Klausner

The Reversal-Michael Connelly

The Reversal
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown, Oct 5 2010, $27.99
ISBN 9780316069489

In 1986, Jason Jessup was convicted of killing twelve year old Melissa Landry. Recent testing of DNA evidence exonerates Jason who will receive a new trial.

Los Angeles Office of the District Attorney prosecutors are embarrassed as they head to the retrial. They ask defense attorney Mickey Haller for help; he agrees with the stipulation that he employs former LAPD cop Harry Bosch as his private investigator and his ex-wife prosecutor Maggie “McFierce” McPherson as the second chair. Bosch works the cold case trying to find witnesses from the 1986 homicide of the tweener. He especially wants to find the victim’s older sister whose testimony hung Jessup. At the same time, Haller finds working for the D.A. quite eye-opening as his every move is under scrutiny while he also distrusts Jessup’s sleazy defense attorney. However, perhaps the person all should watch is the one who hated the jurisprudence system before he spent a quarter of a century behind bars; now he obsessively loathes it and those who work it.

The second pairing of this obstinate duet (see The Brass Verdict) makes for a fabulous investigative legal thriller with Haller’s former wife on the team; he is thankful that having been married to her they can never meet in court as she is that tough and good. Part of the fun is watching Haller switching sides for this case as fans of the Lincoln Lawyer will see how different what a defense attorney can do vs. a prosecutor. With a strong investigation by Bosch and a powerful courtroom drama by Haller and McPherson, the audience will relish The reversal.

Harriet Klausner

Trail of Blood-Lisa Black

Trail of Blood
Lisa Black
Morrow, Sep 7 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061989339

In an abandoned warehouse in Cleveland, a mummified corpse is found. CPD assumes the victim was murdered by the city’s first known serial killer, the taunting Torso Killer during the Great depression. Although over seven decades have passed since this brutal psychopath dismembered people the case still haunts the department as it was never solved.

Soon after finding the remains from the 1930s, another recently murdered person is found using the same M.O. as the infamous Torso killer. CPD believes an apparent copycat killer paying homage committed the gruesome homicide. Forensic pathologist Theresa MacLean and cousin Frank Patrick look at both cases and assume lunatics committed the atrocities then and now.

The latest MacLean Cleveland police procedural (see Takeover and Evidence of Murder) is a terrific double murder mystery that effortlessly moves back and forth between the present day inquiry and Miller’s investigation of the Torso Killer. Both cases are fascinating although readers will know the respective killers before the cops do. With MacLean’s personal life still in the tank but perhaps looking up, Trail of Blood is an entertaining well rounded mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Detroit Electric Scheme-D. E. Johnson

The Detroit Electric Scheme
D. E. Johnson
Minotaur, Sep 14 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312644567

In 1910 Detroit, Will Anderson works for his father's electric car company. In the machining room, Will finds the corpse of John Cooper, who was crushed by a hydraulic press. Recognizing the deceased as the man engaged to his former lover Elizabeth, and panicking, a frightened Will flees the factory as the circumstantial evidence will hang him even without Detroit cops beating a confession from him.

Will informs Elizabeth that someone murdered John and he fears she could be next. He offers to keep her safe, but she refuses. As Will conducts an inquiry far from the spotlights, he finds cruel corruption as the cornerstone of the city; that is when he does not stop for a drink to dull the haze.

The Detroit Electric Scheme is a fabulous historical amateur sleuth that showcases the underbelly of the Motor City at a time of optimism when American companies made Michigan the capital of the fledgling auto industry. Real persona including some of the founding fathers add a sense of realism as does Will’s alcoholism which makes his investigation off kilter due the application of fuzzy logic. Although readers will feel some compassion for the lead with his plight that also is tempered by his self inflicting wounds as he is not a likable character. Still the audience will enjoy this fine early twentieth century mystery as where there’s a Will there’s a way.

Harriet Klausner

The Holy Thief-William Ryan

The Holy Thief
William Ryan
Minotaur, Aug 31 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312586454

In 1936, Moscow Militia's Criminal Investigation Division Captain Alexei Korolev leads the investigation into the brutal murder of a battered woman in a church. The body’s myriad of bruises indicates the victim was tortured as if the culprit sought information from the deceased.

NKVD Colonel Gregorin is fascinated with the homicide that he thinks has political ties. With Gregorin assisting him, Korolev identifies the dead female woman as an American nun, who allegedly helped smuggle valuables out of the Soviet Union. When a second murder similar to that of the Sister occurs, Korolev obtains aid from a diverse cautious crew of friends and associates, wannabe Russian Baker Street Irregulars and author Isaac Babel.

The key to this excellent 1930s Soviet police procedural is the Stalin internal terrorism cuts through all aspects of Moscow society; no one is immune, not even a homicide cop. That oppressive aura engulfs Korolev who wants to solve the murder case, but must not cross clearly drawn lines or someone else could be investigating his homicide. In some ways the deep look at people during the heart of Stalinism is graphic and the use of the strong investigation as a support tool to enhance how fearing Russians were makes this great thriller somewhat more a historical with a powerful whodunit investigation enabling readers to feel the stressful stench of the Stalin smog.

Harriet Klausner.

Touch-Me-Not-Cynthia Riggs

Cynthia Riggs
Minotaur, Aug 17 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312648718

In his office at Watts Electrical Supply in Oak Bluffs, electrician LeRoy Watts uses a taser on his former assistant Jerry Sparks when the latter had the gall to threaten to blackmail him. Jerry crumbled to the office floor dead. LeRoy knows his nine year old twin sons Zeke and Jared will be coming by once baseball practice ends, so he places the corpse in a closet with plans to dispose of the body later.

After the kids leave, LeRoy removes the stiff from his office closet and places the corpse in a book storage shed at the West Tisbury library. Also at the library are the "mathematical" knitters doing Moebius strips and more. Their current project is a coral reef quilt to raise awareness of global warming. Knitter Maron asks nonagenarian Deputy Sheriff Victoria Trumbull for help with an obscene serial phone caller; and boat splicer Emily Cameron wants to know what happened to her boyfriend Jerry. Victoria is back in the middle of a murder mystery.

The latest ninety-two years young Victoria Trumbull police procedural (see Death and Honesty) is a wonderful cozy that uses Martha’s Vineyard as an idyllic backdrop for mayhem and for family issues caused when the middle generation arrives to help her daughter cope with her elderly mother. At times the story line turns amusing for instance with LeRoy’s efforts to dispose of the body only to have his family and later three law enforcement officials (including the heroine) visit him with none aware of Jerry’s fate; mindful of Hitchcock’s comedic The Trouble With Harry. Cynthia Riggs is at the top of her game with this strong Trumbull entry.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pursuit of Justice-DiAnn Mills

Pursuit of Justice
DiAnn Mills
Tyndale, Oct 1 2010, $12.99
ISBN: 9781414320526

In the Ballinger area of Runnels County in West Texas, three bodies were found on a High Butte Ranch owned by Carr Sullivan. Houston FBI Bureau Chief Swartzer explains to Special Agent Bella Jordan the case is hers as she comes from the area and there is a link to Brandt Richardson on the fugitive list. The corpses (Professor Forrest Miller, geologist Daniel Kegley and retired oilman Walt Higgins) were seeking the Spider Rock treasure; Jordan remarks that the location was not even remotely considered an option.

The two suspects are obviously the rancher with a criminal past who refused access to the treasure seekers and Richardson. Ambitious for a promotion, Bella conceals her connection to the latter from her boss as she heads to West Texas. However, as Bella digs for clues, she soon receives threats to back off or else. The warnings seem too personal so she concludes whoever this individual is he or she knows her.

The third Call of Duty police procedural (see Breach of Trust and Sworn To Protect) is a wonderful whodunit. The heroine trusts no one before she arrives and affirms her feelings of depending on herself only after she begins her inquiry though she is attracted to Carr and has family nearby as the culprit obviously knows her. The story line is fast-paced from start to finish as an unknown adversary plays a game of cat and mouse with the returning home FBI agent.

Harriet Klausner

Three Bedrooms, Two Baths, One Very Dead Corpse-David James

Three Bedrooms, Two Baths, One Very Dead Corpse
David James
Kensington, Oct 1 2010, $22.00
ISBN 9780758206312

In Palms Springs, California, realtor Amanda Thorne struggles with adjusting to being single following her divorce from her gay husband Alex. Amanda buries herself in her work with her goal being recognized as Apex Realty’s top agent.

Her showing of a major listing becomes ugly when she finds the corpse of environmentalist Doc Winters, who was poisoned. Amanda assumes she is a person of interest to the local police so with Alex at her side she investigates to clear her name; at the same time police detective Ken Becker keeps coming around because he just wants to take her out. The realtor’s theory is that pro Chino Clone landmark developer Mary Dodge eliminated Doc for his opposition to her project. When another realtor and Doc’s girlfriend are murdered, Amanda changes her assumption. Something greater than a land dispute must be the motive, but nobody knows what that could be.

Amanda makes for a fun amateur sleuth tale as she is an intelligent klutz who totally misunderstands the signals of the cop. Readers will laugh at Amanda’s amusing escapades as she lands in one accident or incident after another.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Worth Dying For-Lee Child

Worth Dying For
Lee Child
Delacorte, Oct 13 2010, $28.00
ISBN: 9780385344319

Since the mess in South Dakota (see 61 Hours), former Army MP Jack Reacher has hitched south to nowhere Nebraska. Stopping for coffee, he gets involved with a drunken doctor and a nose bleed patient. His desire to help thirtyish Mrs. Duncan who Reacher believes may be an abused spouse lands him in trouble with the woman’s husband and his clan who own the county like terrorist despots.

The Duncan family distrusts Reacher as they await a special secret shipment that should have arrived by now. Even as lethal as this clan is, they know their impatient customers are much more deadly than they are. They call sniper Eldridge Tyler while the killer drives his granddaughter home. Eldridge will be there to kill Reacher if he lingers in town as the only reason for him to do is to intrude on Duncan family business.

Worth Dying For is a direct follow up to the cliffhanging climax of 61 Hours so in spite of Lee Child providing a good backdrop, it behooves the audience to read the previous thriller first. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Reacher forces the intoxicated doctor to look at the Duncan woman and never slows down. Although this is a stop off on his way to Virginia, fans will enjoy the non-stop action as the hero appears to have out reached his survival skills.

Harriet Klausner

Room-Emma Donahue

Emma Donahue
Little, Brown, Sep 13 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780316098335

Seven years ago when Ma was a nineteen years old college student and Jack was minus years old, she was kidnapped by Old Nick. Jack went to bed in the wardrobe as a four years old child but has awakened magically as a five years old boy. The wardrobe is his safe zone inside the Room that has been his entire world since he came into being. It is the wardrobe of their soundproof cell that his ingenious mom places him in when Old Nick comes to see her.

Whereas Room is Jack’s home and world; Room is his Ma’s jail cell. Ma has invented a place for her beloved son to flourish, but she realizes he (and she needs) more. The time has come for her and her brave child to escape, but Ma is not ready for what awaits them on the outside if they succeed; her goal as it has been for seven years remains liberty from Old Nick.

This incredible thriller will hook the audience from the beginning as young innocent Jack tells the tale of his and his Ma’s life. Character driven with a strong sense of pending doom whether they escape or not, few novels told by children since perhaps The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold will match the intensity readers will feel as naïve even for a five years old child Jack tells his saga.

Harriet Klausner

Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln’s Corpse-James L. Swanson

Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln’s Corpse
James L. Swanson
Morrow, Sep 28 2010, $27.99
ISBN: 9780061233784

On April 2, 1865, Confederate General Lee sends a telegram to President Jefferson Davis warning him the Yankee armies were heading to Richmond. Davis immediately stopped what he was doing and fled the capital by train. The next day the North took Richmond. Over the next twelve days the Northern military intensely searched for Davis proclaimed a traitor as the Confederacy imploded under the assault.

On the evening of April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth assassinates President Lincoln who was attending a play at the Ford Theater in Washington DC; other by co-conspirators assaults failed to kill the intended victims. Lincoln was pronounced dead the next morning while Wilkes fled the city. As the hunt for Wilkes intensified, the funeral process of President Lincoln began on April 19 in DC and from there by train until arriving in Springfield on May 3; millions watched the procession. Davis is called a co-conspirator murderer. Ironically while Lincoln became martyred for the ages; Davis once captured became martyred for the South's Lost Cause.

This is a fascinating comparison of the fates of two presidents in April 1865 as James L. Swanson intertwines their stories. The Lincoln segue is very passionate as the grief of mourners watching the train roll by will impact readers. The Davis segue is more exciting, but lacks the emotional intensity of the juxtaposed Lincoln piece. Enhanced by black and white photos, Bloody Crimes is a terrific historical account of two presidents although not as exhilarating as the superb Manhunt for Wilkes.

Harriet Klausner

Chasing the Night-Iris Johansen

Chasing the Night
Iris Johansen
St. Martin’s, Oct 19 2010, $27.99
ISBN: 9780312651190

CIA Agent Catherine Ling rescues Kelly Winter from Bega, Columbia terrorist Munoz, who offers to exchange her life for that of his brother held in prison. Catherine is not in time to save Munoz’s sibling, but she frees the woman Munoz held as a hostage. Catherine demands Agent Venable uphold his part of the deal by having forensic sculptor Eve Duncan do an age progression on her now eleven year old son, abducted eight years ago by a gun for hire Russian.

Eve ponders whether to do the request. A few days later, Catherine comes to Eve’s home and begs the woman to do what she can to find her son. Both women understand personal tragedies and those traumas lacking closure forge a bond between them. Eve creates the age progression model, which Catherine plans to take to Russia. At the same time, Eve’s empathy reminds her that her daughter Bonnie’s killer is out there and someone is taunting the two women. However, the rescue mission takes an eerie spin as Catherine must decide between preventing another 9/11 catastrophe and rescuing her son.

Chasing the Night is a complex action-packed thriller, but ironically it is the bonding of the two women who share in common the loss of an offspring that makes this tale a fabulous tale. Their sisterly connection brings the soul to the story line as Eve and Catherine reach out to one another while their respective families have advised each to let it go, which neither can. Except for the taunting subplot that feels formulaic, this is a super Eve Duncan tale (see Eight Nights to Live) as she shares top billing (and loss) with another despondent woman.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter-Tom Franklin

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
Tom Franklin
Morrow, Oct 5 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780060594664

In Chabot, Mississippi, Larry the bookworm loner and Silas “32” Jones the super baseball star became friends in high school in spite of their personality differences and the fact that the former is white and the latter black. When Cindy asks Larry to take her to the movies, he is excited with his first date. However, instead of a movie, Cindy used Larry to escape from her abusive step-father. When she vanishes, everyone accuses Larry of murder and probably rape though no proof exists.

Two decades later, Silas is a local constable and Larry the mechanic remains the pariah. When Larry is shot, the Rutherford girl’s body is found on his property. With memories of missing Cindy still lingering and the circumstantial evidence of the current homicide in spite of his bullet wound, Larry is more than just the prime suspect. Silas, who has avoided his former friend since coming home, knows he owes Larry his best effort on proving the outsider is innocent.

This is an intriguing late twentieth century regional police procedural with a couple of strong late realistic twists. The story line is a character driven thriller; mostly by Larry who fails to confront the whisper campaign that has condemned him in Chabot. With a strong look at race relations in small town Mississippi in the 1970s and 1980s, readers will enjoy the strong saga of Larry and Silas.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, August 20, 2010

For Time & Eternity-Allison Pittman

For Time & Eternity
Allison Pittman
Tyndale, Sep 1 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9781414335964

In 1850, just north of Kanesville, Iowa, Camilla Deardon hears the singing of those camped nearby her family’s dairy farm. She knows nothing of these Mormons, but recognizes their songs as those she sings at church. However, her parents forbid her making any contact with the outsiders; her mom going so far as to tell her to stay away from the kitchen window.

When she meets handsome Nathan Fox of the Mormon encampment, Camilla believes she is in love. He loves her too and vividly describes Zion in Utah. Though it hurts to break the Commandment of Honor Thy Father and Mother by disobeying them, she marries Nathan. They move to Utah and seem blessed with children, but Camilla cannot adapt to the Mormon way of life especially after her first male is born and sharing her spouse with her sister-wife. While she considers leaving her beloved husband and children, Nathan fears he lost salvation when he failed to get his Hawkeye wife to convert.

This is a profound Americana historical in which the fully developed characters over time challenge their belief systems and that of others. Readers will obtain a better understanding of the roots of Mormonism and why other Christian groups feared them and treated the members as pariahs. Allison Pittman provides a deep look at religion in mid nineteenth century America in Iowa and especially Utah.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Moon of Avalon-Anna Elliot

Dark Moon of Avalon
Anna Elliot
Touchstone (Simon and Schuster), Sep 14 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9781416589907

With the support of brutal Saxon warriors, perfidious Lord Marche sits on the throne of Britain. The usurped highly intelligent High Queen Isolde fears her kingdom is doomed unless she acts immediately, but needs strong allies as any other action would prove lethally rash.

High Queen Isolde still depends on her intrepid friend Trystan for protection from Marche’s myriad of assassins. A healer she turns to the smaller kingdoms and the Saxon King Cerdic as an ally though Isolde has doubts he will unite with her as he may have already accepted the usurper as a done deal. With Trystan at her side, Isolde searches for the elusive monarch. On the treacherous trek, she learns of the ordeal her companion faced when they were separated. Isolde hopes they can one day pledge their lives without worrying who is creeping up behind them with a knife.

The second Trystan and Isolde Arthurian saga (see Twilight of Avalon) is an entertaining tale starring two fascinating lead characters whose love for one another is put on hold as they focus on lining up allies to save their people from an abusive false ruler. Enchanting as Anna Elliot builds from the original legend, fans will enjoy the medieval political intrigue although romance readers might want the heroic duet to end their personal sacrifices and instead expedite their love for one another. This is a wonderful compassionate thriller in which the protagonists dodge an abomination and his odious horde.

Harriet Klausner

The Garden of Betrayal-Lee Vance

The Garden of Betrayal
Lee Vance
Knopf, Aug 3 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780307269775

In 2003, three men kidnap twelve year old Kyle Wallace off the streets of Manhattan. Seven years later his parents and sister remain grief-stricken due to their loss lacking any closure as nothing has come of what happened to the boy.

Kyle’s father oil analyst Mark Wallace is considered an energy guru on Wall St. However, he finds the recent international scene disturbing. In the Baltic terrorists blow up the pipeline that delivered oil from Russia to Germany. He meets Theresa Roxas who gives Mark information on the Saudis oil reserve that she apparently received form a US senator. Mark’s friend hedge-fund player Alex Coleman obtained the same data, but he is found dead in his bathtub. Meanwhile NYPD detective Reggie Kinnard continues when he can to work the now cold case of Kyle’s abduction; recently he has begin to link the snatch to Mark’s work.

The Garden of Betrayal is an exhilarating financial international thriller that never decides between a family drama and a conspiracy novel. The insight into the finance world is clever especially the brilliant setup that looks like a class in Advanced International Finance 401; while the grieving Wallace trio comes across as genuine. Although the convergence of the two subplots occurs too early, which leaves a long denouement that feels padded; sub-genre fans will appreciate Lee Vance’s thriller (see Restitution).

Harriet Klausner

Loco Motive-Mary Daheim

Loco Motive
Mary Daheim
Harper, Sep 14 2010, $23.99
ISBN: 9780061774768

In Seattle, Washington at the Hillside Manor Bed & Breakfast, daredevil Wee Willie Weevil performs a stunt from the roof that fails. His assistant Pepper Gundy blames the fiasco on the B&B and informs owner Judith McMonigle Flynn to expect a lawsuit.

Needing to escape from the guests including her daughter and grandchildren, Judith, her and her cousin Serena Jones and take the cross country Amtrak Empire Builder to Boston on vacation. Their husbands will meet them there. They use the rails out of deference to Renie who fears flying. Also on the train are injured Willie, Pepper, and another of his assistants. Soon after the unhappy reunion, a train attendant disappears, an accident forces the train to stop in Big Sky Country, and Willie is dead in a sleeper.

The latest Bed-and-Breakfast amateur sleuth (see Vi Agra Falls) is a wonderful whodunit although at times there is too much side baggage even on a cross country train. The cast is sold as the sleuthing cousins work the homicide though their motive for doing so is weak. Still fans of the long running B&B mysteries will enjoy riding the rails with the lead females as they leave Hillside manor for a respite only to investigate a homicide.

Harriet Klausner

Crystal Death-Charles Kipps

Crystal Death
Charles Kipps
Scribner, Sep 14 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9781439139950

Forty-three years old NYPD Homicide Detective Conor Bard, is playing guitar with his band at the Rhythm Bar, pondering whether to be or not to be a musician by quitting the force when his Sergeant Amanda Pitts enters the West Side dive. He knows his boss is not there for the drinks, decorum or the music so he mouths sorry to the group and goes off stage to learn what his superior wants. He and his young inexperienced partner Rosito Rubio lead the high internationality visible murder of an Israeli diamond merchant.

In her Manhattan apartment someone sliced the throat of beautiful diamond dealer Zivah Gavish; adding insult by throwing diamonds all over her corpse. The inquiry has links to Israel and South Africa with suspects from both nations as well as a few locals. At the same time NYPD Lieutenant Rooney wants to remove Rubio from the case and replace her with a veteran; Bard objects as he argues she needs to learn the ropes sometimes and is an asset; besides she looks great.

The second musical detective police procedural (see Hell's Kitchen Homicide).is an enjoyable whodunit though the hero does not always hit the right notes. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Bard leaves one stage for another and never slows down even when he muses that he is a musician playing cop to feed himself. Although stereotypes abound including the hero, fans will enjoy his latest gig.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Queen of Patpong-Timothy Hallinan

The Queen of Patpong
Timothy Hallinan
Morrow, Aug 17 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061672262

In Bangkok, American travel writer Poke Rafferty and his lover Rose marry and forge a family with their adopted daughter Miaow. The adults are euphoric that their child is playing Ariel in a school production of the Tempest. However, their idyllic life is battered at a restaurant when Rose’s past on Patpong Road raises its ugly head with the return of Howard Homer from the dead while Rose thought she dispatched him years ago.

Now Homer has plans for his woman while Rose thinks back to 1996 when as a country bumpkin teen Kwan was forced to leave her life on a farm to accept employment in the Red Light District as a bar dancer. There is where she encountered Homer who almost killed her before she was able to she thought kill him. Homer stalks Rose, Poke their adopted daughter Miaow and friend Arthit.

The latest Poke Rafferty Thailand thriller (see Breathing Water) is a brilliant entry due to the intelligent way Timothy Hallinan deftly handles Rose’s back story as a dancer in the red light district. By not condemning or condoning her actions, Mr. Hallinan makes the tale seem real as he makes it clear this is simply a way of life. Homer brings the suspense to the streets of Bangkok as fans anticipate a High Noon confrontation perhaps on Patpong Road.

Harriet Klausner

Bad Boy-Peter Robinson

Bad Boy
Peter Robinson
Morrow, Aug 24 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780061362958

Tracy Banks believes her friend Erin Doyle is dating a nasty person Jaff McCready. Erin’s mom would agree with that assessment as she finds an illegal gun amongst Erin’s possession. She reports this to the Eastvale police.

A charmer, Jaff persuades Tracy to flee the country with him and though she should know better she agrees to go with him. Jaff and Tracy hide in the Yorkshire house of her father Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks while is in the States. Meanwhile Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot leads the investigation into Jaff’s whereabouts. Tracy opens up Jaff’s suitcase to find it filled drugs, money and a gun. His allure ends for her so he turns ugly holding her hostage even as her dad returns from overseas to find his daughter in danger.

This is an excellent entry in the long running Banks police procedural series even with the lead playing at best a tertiary role (being overseas) in the first half of the novel. Even with the hero away, the story line is fast-paced throughout and when he returns the DCI conflicts between being the father of a hostage and the cop working a hostage situation arises. With an underlying theme of how the British feel about guns (and the gun laws) accentuated by the actions of Erin’s mom, Peter Robinson affirms what his fans already know that you can bank on him for a powerful tale.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Echo Of Violence-Jordan Dane

The Echo Of Violence
Jordan Dane
Avon, Aug 31 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061474149

Mercenary Jackson Kinkaid is a kindhearted person who does his best to help the beleaguered orphans of Haiti. Sister Kate and others recognizes his bigheartedness and throw a reception honoring him though he feels this is unnecessary, he shows up because of his love for the kids.

Terrorists attack the gala killing innocent people, kidnapping Sister Kate and the children, and making one mistake. They only wound Kinkaid failing to kill him. They post videos of the lethal assault on the web. Kinkaid asks Garrett Wheeler and the Sentinels to help him save the lives of those that were kidnapped. Garrett dispatches Kinkaid’s former lover Alexa Marlowe and her Sentinel unit to work with him on the rescue and to capture the terrorist leader alive something she doubts the mercenary will allow.

This is an enjoyable thriller that grips readers from the opening sequence and never slows down. Angst-laden Kinkaid owns the tale as he deals with overwhelming issues with all the sh*t he has seen and done. Readers will root for him while pondering if he suffers from PTSD and hope he and the Sentinels rescue Sister Kate and the children while also wondering whether Kinkaid will allow the terrorist leader to be captured as Marlowe’s boss wants.

Harriet Klausner

First of State-Robert Greer

First of State
Robert Greer
North Atlantic, Oct 19 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9781556439155

In 1971 twenty-something C.J. Floyd returns home after serving two tours in Vietnam as a Navy gunner. He suffers from undiagnosed battle fatigue and has trouble readjusting to civilian life in Denver. His Uncle Ike owns a bail bondsman business, takes his nephew into his home and thinks the best thing for CJ is to go to work.

Bounty hunter CJ goes to GI Joe’s pawn shop where he had secreted antique license plates that are no longer there. He meets World War II veteran and amputee Wiley Ames who has turned his life around after bouts of alcoholism and depression. The two vets feel connected with their love of memorabilia and become friends. When Ames and his Chinese partner are gunned down in what looks like a professional hit, CJ vows to bring the culprits to justice. It takes him five years working on and off the Ames murder before he finds his first clue at the Mile High Flea market where a vendor is selling antique license plates including some from the Ames collection. Even with this lead, CJ has years of inquiries to go before he begins to focus on a culprit ready to kill him.

First of State is a prequel to the CJ Floyd mysteries (see Blackwell Farewell) as fans see what happened to the hero that has led to what he is in the present. He works some cases as a bail bondsman bounty hunter, but also is insecure especially about relationships as he struggles to cope as a young man with what he saw and did in Nam and watching a friend murdered doing surveillance in Denver. Robert Greer has written a great Floyd mystery that fans will thoroughly enjoy.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Cup of Jo-Sandra Balzo

A Cup of Jo
Sandra Balzo
Severn House, Oct 1 2010, $27.95
ISBN: 9780727869128

Thanks to the new train stop connecting Milwaukee to the Brookhills Junction Depot, Uncommon Grounds gourmet coffeehouse is ready to open for business on the first day of the new route. To celebrate their grand opening, owners Maggy Thorsen and Sarah Kingston commission a giant balloon in the shape of a coffee cup and saucer by professional artist Kevin Williams.

Imagine their shock when the two proprietors find the body of Kevin’s wife JoLynne Penn-Williams in the bottom of the cup; the cause of death asphyxiation by someone who cut off her breathing. Brookhills County Sheriff Jake Pavlilk eventually arrests Kevin for murdering his wife. Rumors explode that the sheriff and the deceased were lovers and other evidence leads to Pavlik’s’s arrest. Maggie rejects the notion her lover is a killer, but her insecurities make her wonder if he might be a cheater. She investigates and almost loses her life in the process.

Anyone who enjoys a fun caffeine crime cozy will want to read the Maggy Thorsen mysteries (see From the Grounds Up) as the series contains some of the best amateur sleuths on the market. The obstinate lead protagonist is an interesting person with doubts about her abilities yet also strong convictions that make her need to prove her lover innocent even while she debates his fidelity. With a well constructed whodunit, fans will enjoy A Cup of Jo (or two) as Sandra Balzo provides her readers with a gourmet mystery topped off with a wonderful shocker as to who is behind the victim’s death.

Harriet Klausner

Vermilion Drift-William Kent Kruger

Vermilion Drift
William Kent Kruger
Atria, Sep 7 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9781439153840

Mining heir Max Cavanagh hires Tamarack County, Minnesota private investigator Cork O'Connor to find his missing sister, Lauren. She established an artists' retreat so Cork starts there. He also looks into who is threatening people involved in the Cavanagh Vermilion One mine that U.S. Department of Energy evaluates as a potential nuclear waste storage site.

Cork and a mine official descend into the Vermilion One mine where they find five skeletons and a fresh corpse. The quintet is probably the remains of the 1964 "the Vanishings" that Cork's father Liam as county sheriff unsuccessfully investigated. The sixth body buried in the mine for about a week is that of a well-dressed woman, who Cork assumes is Lauren.

The tenth Cork Minnesota investigative thriller (see Red Knife and Heaven's Keep) is a terrific whodunit as a homicidal cold case of the hero’s father merges with a present day murder. The whodunit is well written hooking the readers early on with trying to find the connection between the deaths over four decades apart. With a bit of Native American mysticism enhancing the plot, fans will appreciate this strong regional mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, August 16, 2010

Judgment Day-Wanda L. Dyson

Judgment Day
Wanda L. Dyson
WaterBrook, Sep 21 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9781400074754

Ultra ethical Suzanne Kidwell hosts the weekly cable news show Judgment Day. The premise of the show is to expose the lies of society leaders from all walks of life. Suzanne believes she is the ideal modern day Diogenes because she has the proper morals and the fortitude to expose the cheaters.

However, she becomes the subject of exposure when her shortcuts leave her open to ridicule and her credibility is nuked. Angry, Suzanne goes home in disgrace. However, she finds a potential subject of her Judgment Day show, businessman John Edward Sterling lying unconscious on her floor. When he dies, the police arrest her for his murder. Her only hope to avoid a conviction resides with her former fiancé, private investigator Marcus Crisp, who she stabbed in the back when they were in college together. He wants to refuse the case, but Marcus and his partner Alexandria Fisher-Hawthorne take Suzanne on as a client with the understanding anything goes. The more they look into their client’s life as a vicious amoral sewer, the more they believe she is guilty, but they also uncover a powerful enemy coalition willing to kill to remain under the radar.

Judgment Day is a strong crime suspenseful novel that showcases how far the media will bend a story by cherry picking omissions to turn it more sensational than it deserves. The story line is action-packed especially once Marcus and Alex begin their investigation into a cesspool of self interests. Fans will appreciate Wanda L. Dyson’s terrific taut thriller (see Shepherd’s Fall)

Harriet Klausner

Disappeared-Gary Alexander

Gary Alexander
Five Star, Oct 6 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148927

In Kent, Washington, hit man Ted Snowe allows his targets to either die or accept a new ID for a fee. He has been very successful until the idiot mob enforcer Jimmy “Knuckles” Brutto is caught as Charles Abbott for being with an underage pair of boobs.

Ted’s neighbors Buster Hightower and Carla Chance help him hide while he plans his escape. The mob sends the Asp to kill Ted if he can identify him. The Asp starts with Knuckles’ grieving widow who mentions Ted by name because her ‘late” spouse said he recognized the hit man who once cost him a fortune betting on minor league basketball. Knuckle’s widow rushes to Kent to warn Ted and soon the two couples fly to Italy hoping to find Ted’s first hit who might be able to expedite him from this mess; Asp follows.

This is a zany over the top of the Cascades and the Dome of St. Peters, but is engaging fun with a refreshing premise of an extortionist hit man. The quartet is a solid group of eccentrics and Asp is certifiable with a traveling companion who was gunned down mob style in the 1950s; but he is not as stupid as some of Ted’s other dead men who foolishly surface alive. Readers will enjoy Gary Alexander’s wild caper as Ted shows he is the ultimate capitalist offering his targets a deal they can not afford to refuse.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fatal Undertaking-Mark de Castrique

Fatal Undertaking
Mark de Castrique
Poisoned Pen, Oct 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590588017

In Gainesboro, North Carolina, the Jaycees member Archie Donovan asks funeral director Barry Clayton to donate a coffin for their Halloween fund-raiser for the children wing of the hospital. Barry explains he cannot sell a used coffin, but apparently his girlfriend Dr. Susan Mill supports the idea. He reluctantly agrees if his Uncle Wayne and Fletcher do too.

A month later, Carl Atkinson lies dead in the coffin Barry donated. No motive surfaces as to why someone stabbed Carl to death. Barry, as a deputy sheriff, is assigned the lead. Soon after that, someone tries to kill Archie, which makes Barry wonder who the intended victim was as he has many times since fourth grade wanted to kill Donovan. As he struggles with the homicide case, his former wife Rachel returns to town to cover the story that she believes will launch her TV newscaster career, but alienates her former neighbors.

The latest Buryin' Barry Dangerous Undertaking is a fabulous police procedural starring a lead protagonist struggling between past and present loves as he also makes little progress on the murder mystery. Mark de Mark de Castrique makes a strong case that avarice comes in many ways and not just money as Barry will learn. Fatal Undertaking is a fabulous regional whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

The Knight-Steven James

The Knight
Steven James
Signet, Sep 7 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451231024

MSU Law Professor Lebreau and her students found discrepancies in the DNA evidence that has allowed Devin Basque to have a second trial after thirteen years in prison having been convicted as a serial killer. FBI Agent Patrick Bowers must leave his Colorado home to testify at the retrial in Chicago. At the same time that he is to give a sworn statement in an Illinois courtroom, Denver Police Lieutenant Kurt Mason asks for his help on a murder tied back to a double homicide. The victim in the first homicide has a tape recorder in her mouth that shocks Bower as the culprit says he will see Bower in Chicago; few people knows he is going to the Basque retrial. He needs to get ahead of the culprit who is playing him like a puppet on a string when an incident in the courtroom leaves a father of a victim dead.

Adding complications to his already overly wrought schedule is his teen step-daughter Tessa who has found her late mom’s diary in which she says she considered aborting her child. Tessa wants to meet and confront her biological father, Paul Lansing. Bowers wants to help his beloved stepchild and be there if she needs his shoulder.

The latest Bowers geospatial profiling police procedural is a terrific entry as so much is going on with the Basque case, the stalking serial killer who has targeted Bower as a victim (readers know before the Fed who he is) and the Tessa scenario. Fans of the series will enjoy this strong thriller and seek the back list (see The Pawn and The Rook) as the action never stops with clever criminals watching CSI for tops and on the personal front as Tessa seeks her biological father.

Harriet Klausner

Elvis and the Memphis Mambo Murders-Peggy Webb

Elvis and the Memphis Mambo Murders
Peggy Webb
Kensington, Oct 1 2010, $22.00
ISBN: 9780758225931

None of the six hundred residents of Mooresville, Mississippi know that Elvis lives amongst them even though many see him almost every day. They are unaware of the presence of the King because Elvis has been reincarnated as a basset hound. Although a canine, he retains his human intelligence but is unable to communicate directly with the human species.

His earth mom, beautician Callie Valentine Jones, is going to Memphis to watch her mom Ruby Nell and her geriatric partner Thomas Whitenton participate in a dance contest as she does not trust the man as far as she throw him. Callie’s chaperone plan collapses when contestant Babs Mabry Mims dies from a fall off the roof of the Peabody Hotel. Ruby Jean tells her daughter she was pushed too. Callie’s frazzled nerves go into overdrive when she finds the body of contestant Gloria Divine in the hotel’s fountain. To protect her mom and the Mooresville contingent, Callie and her flamboyant cousin Lovie investigate with Elvis advising them hound dog style; while her estranged husband international consultant Jack arrives with a Burning Love to keep his wife safe.

Much of the story comes from the amusing perspective of Elvis, who sees the foibles of the human condition filtered by his previous life gig through canine eyes. He brings freshness to a fun cozy that at times seems too cutesy clichéd. Still with Elvis and Jack ready to kill anyone who harms their woman, fans will enjoy this entertaining amateur sleuth whodunit as three female corpses and several near misses make Memphis a dangerous place too stay. Peggy Webb provides her audience with a humorous whimsical Southern Cousins whodunit (see Elvis and the Dearly Departed and Elvis and the Grateful Dead).

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Emerald Cat Killer-Richard A. Lupoff

The Emerald Cat Killer
Richard A. Lupoff
Minotaur, Aug 31 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312648138

International Surety Special Projects Unit Detached Service director Desmond Richelieu asks retired insurance investigator Hobart Lindsey to work one last complicated case. Hobart agrees not out of some loyalty to his unlikable former boss, but because the inquiry is the type he relishes.

One year ago someone murdered mystery writer Gordon Simmons who wrote his colorful noirs under the alias Wallace Thompson. The case remains cold but the insurance firm paid off the death claim. Now the Widow Angela Simmons and publisher Marston and Morse are suing Berkley based Gordian House, a client of IS, over the latter publishing a hard-boiled detective tale The Emerald Cat by Steve Damon that Angela claims was written by her late spouse. The chief of the Walnut Creek branch of IS makes it clear that Hobart is unwelcome and the Berkley police tell him to stick to the insurance side of the case. At Gordian House, Hobart learns the firm owns the book having bought the rights from Damon’s agent Rachael Gottlieb. As he investigates the widow’s claim that the book is on her spouse’s PC and Damon killed him, his former lover Berkley Police Sergeant Marvia Plum joins him (see Cover Girl Killer and The Radio Red Killer).

Although readers know the killer before Hobart takes on the case, The Emerald Cat Killer is an exhilarating insurance investigation. The cast is strong as Hobart makes the rounds of eccentric characters. His relationship with Marvia is terrific to follow as long time fans will testify and the look at the publishing industry cutthroat charming. Although the killer’s poor mental health feels unnecessarily forced and intruding, readers will enjoy Lindsey’s inquiry into a plagiarism claim.

Harriet Klausner

Murder on the Bride's Side-Tracy Kiely

Murder on the Bride's Side
Tracy Kiely
Minotaur, Aug 31 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312537579

In Richmond, Virginia, the day after the wedding between Bridget and Colin, someone kills the bride’s Aunt Roni. Bridge’s BFF maid of honor Elizabeth Parker notices that no one seems concerned about Roni’s homicide; in fact the wedding party seems as celebratory as they did for the marriage.

Although the cops insist everyone is a suspect, they narrow the field to Bridge’s dashing bad boy cousin Harry and Elizabeth; the latter who found the body had a diamond necklace that belonged to Roni in her hotel room. Not one to panic even when her boyfriend Peter seems engrossed in the wedding planner, Jane Austen aficionado Elizabeth, heeds the serene composure of Sense and Sensibility’s Elinor Dashwood in a crisis and then investigates.

The second Parker amateur sleuth (see Murder at Longbourn tied to Pride and Prejudice) is an engaging southern cozy due to the fine cast especially the Austen quoting heroine. The lighthearted story line is entertaining as energizing Elizabeth emulates Elinor’s unruffled behavior while on the case of the killer and of Peter’s affection. In spite of a thin plot, this is a fun regional whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Fly By Wire-Ward Larsen

Fly By Wire
Ward Larsen
Oceanview, Sep 6 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781933515861

The crash in France of the fly by wire technological Cargo Air C-500 stuns everyone. The most advanced freight carrier apparently plunged straight down from six miles up in the sky; the pilots died. With a fleet of over a hundred planes of this type, the French government wants the best investigation possible so they bring in the top gun, American National Transportation Safety Board accident investigator Frank “Jammer” Davis whose reputation is strict adherence to standard operating procedures especially when conducting an inquiry.

As he digs into the disaster, suicide bombers attack oil facilities around the globe; dramatically disrupting the flow and devastating the already shaken markets. In spite of corruption and bureaucratic blindness, Jammer begins to find the cause of the crash, but soon also links the failure to the terrorist incidents. He and girlfriend CIA agent Anna Sorensen try to uncover who is behind the effort to cause a Depression.

Tying the questionable recent moral behavior of the finance industry to the odious behavior of suicide bombers, Ward Larsen provides an exhilarating conspiracy thriller. The crash investigation is superb as Jammer provides the reader insight into how a plane disaster is analyzed while the action really heats up when the case spins into pure avaricious capitalism with the market correcting opponents and competitors. Although Jammer’s issues back home with his teen daughter feels supercilious to make the hero seem human, that detracts from an entertaining thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, August 13, 2010

Judgment and Wrath-Matt Hilton

Judgment and Wrath
Matt Hilton
Morrow, Aug 17 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061718137

Concerned and fuming Richard Dean hires Florida private investigators, former Special Forces operative Joe Hunter and Jared "Rink" Rington, to extract his seventeen year old daughter Marianne from Miami playboy millionaire Bradley Jorgenson. Richard shows the two sleuths a police photo taken of Marianne after allegedly Bradley beat the crap out of her.

Hunter and Rink figure the case will be a cinch as they assume the wealthy Jorgenson will be a typical bully and run from them. However, the simple snatch and rescue proves convoluted when someone hires experienced hit man Jean-Paul “Dantalion” St. Pierre to kill Marianne and Bradley and the detectives find the teen happy with no signs of abuse.

The second Hunter-Rink investigation (see Dead Men's Dust) is a terrific but overly knotty mystery as too much goes on especially with the additional denouements. Still, Judgment and Wrath is filled with plenty of action as the lead duo finds nothing is what they expected as Bradley and Marianne seem like a nice loving couple and the professional killer quite adept. Readers will enjoy this exciting South Floridian thriller as Matt Hilton keeps the heat on his heroes.

Harriet Klausner

An Impartial Witness-Charles Todd

An Impartial Witness
Charles Todd
Morrow, Aug 31 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061791789

In 1917, British nurse Bess Crawford escorts several severely injured soldiers from the trenches of France back to England. One of her patients, severely burned pilot Lieutenant Meriwether Evanson is unrecognizable as he barely clings to his life; his seemingly only reason to live is the photo of his beloved wife pinned to his garb. Thus she is taken aback at the London train station to see that woman from the picture crying on the shoulder of a man who is not Meriwether.

After another deployment in France, Bess is shocked to read in the paper that someone murdered Meriwether’s wife by brutally stabbing Marjorie. Already despondent and in excruciating pain, Evanson learns of his beloved spouse’s murder and commits suicide. Bess feels a tie to the late pilot so she makes inquiries into whom that officer Marjorie was with when she was weeping at the station and whether that person is her killer.

Readers will be fascinated with the second Bess Crawford WWI amateur sleuth tale (see A Duty to the Dead) that deals with the impact of the war in the trenches of France and on the home front. The mystery is fun to follow but Bess’ motives for her investigation seems weak at best and what she does as a nurse makes it seem impossible to add a murder inquiry onto her already traumatic job. 1917 life in France and England makes for a vivid and engaging historical mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Gingerbread Cookie Murder-Joanne Fluke, Laura Levine & Leslie Meier

Gingerbread Cookie Murder
Joanne Fluke, Laura Levine & Leslie Meier
Kensington, Oct 1 2010, $23.00
ISBN: 9780758234957

"Gingerbread Cookie Murder" by Joanne Fluke. Hannah Swensen and other condo owners are furious with neighbor Ernie Kusak for playing the music so loud he cannot hear the knocking on his door. When the police arrive and enter the apartment, Hannah joins them and sees Ernie’s corpse. Another neighbor who had incidents with Ernie is the prime suspect but Hannah thinks otherwise; so she runs a parallel investigation to that of the cops. Joanne Fluke provides a delectable whodunit.

"The Dangers Of Gingerbread Cookies" by Laura Levine. Jaine Austen visits her parents at their Florida retirement village. The community play is The Gingerbread Cookie That Saved Christmas starring Dr. Preston McCay as the heroic gingerbread cookie. When he dies from a fall while performing, the police suspect Edna, a friend of Jaine’s mother, as the killer. The cops believe her motive was she believed they were engaged as did two other women in the complex. Jaine investigates in order to prove Edna never killed the lothario. With plenty of humor and wit, McCay’s final act makes for a fun novella.

"Gingerbread Cookies and Gunshots" by Leslie Meier. Lucy Stone is buying groceries when she spots four years old Nemo at the store. The child wants a gingerbread man, but his mother insists they cannot afford it. Lucy buys a cookie for the child, but is perplexed to notice his mom and stepfather own a Porsche. On the TV news,Lucy learns there is an Amber Alert out on Nemo who was kidnapped. Soon afterward, Rick, Nemo’s step-father is found dead with his head bashed in. Worried about the boy, Lucy investigates the homicide and the alleged kidnapping. Lucy Meier writes a charming Christmas cozy.

These three wonderful amateur sleuths star popular protagonists who sweeten the Christmas season with fun homicide investigations.

Harriet Klausner

Shroud of Dishonor-Maureen Ash

Shroud of Dishonor
Maureen Ash
Berkley, Oct 5 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425237908

Two years ago in the year 1200, Templar Sir Bascot de Marins returned to England after escaping the Saracens who held him prisoner in the Holy Land for eight years. Unable to return to active duties as a Templar due to a crisis of faith and battle fatigue, he entered into the service of Nicolaa de la Haye. Now he looks forward to his deployment to Portugal to fight the Moors.

In the Lincoln Preceptory, the Templars house where Bascot is assigned, the entire group is shocked when the body of a dead prostitute is found in a larger wooden chest. Next to the corpse is thirty pieces of silver. The preceptor Everard D’Arderon refuses to let the men leave for Portugal until it can be proven no Templar is a murderer. Everard assigns Bascot to investigate the Templars as a starting point. His inquiries lead to two separate families and if he can figure out what links them he will learn out who the murderer is and what he has against prostitutes and Templars.

Readers obtain a rare and fascinating look into the workings of the Templar Knights Chapter House; this provides insight into their community and how they live. Bascot is bone marrow weary and a doubter, but adheres strictly to his oaths. Readers who enjoy the medieval works of Sharon Kay Penman and Roberta Gillis will appreciate Maureen Ash’s skilful rendition of life in the year 1202.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Lily of the Field-John Lawton

A Lily of the Field
John Lawton
Atlantic Monthly, Oct 5 2010, $24.00
ISBN 9780802119568

"Audacity". In 1934 as Germany turns increasingly violent against minorities, Vienna continues to be a sea of music as ten years old music prodigy Meret Voytek and her teacher Viktor Rosen can testify. However, over the next decade, the Nazi assault across the continent destroys the fine arts. Although she is not Jewish, cellist Meret Voytek ends up in Auschwitz where she survives until the concentration camp is liberated.

"Austerity". In 1948 someone murders Russian artist Andre Skolnik in the London Underground. Police Inspector Frederick Troy leads the investigation and quickly finds circumstantial evidence that leads to the probability that the victim was a Soviet sleeper agent awaiting his assignment. Troy also uncovers a tie between the concentration camp survivor Voytek, and the alleged Soviet spy Skolnik, but the motive remains out of reach.

The latest Inspector Troy historical mystery (see Second Violin) is a great tale that ironically leaves the series star as a second chair support role to the star cellist. The story line is actually two interrelated novellas with the tie being Voytek. Readers will enjoy this profound tale that takes the audience from the beginning of the Nazi aggression into the beginning of the Cold War with the police procedural only occurring in the second half.

Harriet Klausner

Bryant & May Off the Rails-Christopher Fowler

Bryant & May Off the Rails
Christopher Fowler
Bantam, Sep 28 2010, $25.00
ISBN 9780553807202

The London based Peculiar Crimes Unit elderly lead detectives Arthur Bryant and John May, capture the King's Cross Executioner, who sliced off the heads of his victims. However, before they could bring this Mr. Fox to justice, he escapes (see Bryant & May on the Loose).

The brass is horrified by their failure especially since Fox murdered a constable as he fled custody. There is a new move to retire the senior PCU leaders and end funding for the unit. As time is running out, the team seeks to recapture the elusive sly Mr. Fox who they believe is the culprit behind lethal incidents in the London Underground in which a single mother fell down a stairwell to her death and an intoxicated student disappeared and is assumed dead.

This excellent Peculiar Crimes Unit police procedural will grip readers from the start to finish as the history of the unit’s members, specially their geriatric leaders, enhance a strong contemporary mystery. Amusing yet also perplexing as the baffled senior pair and their subordinates wok the Fox fiasco while the brass want the senior pair retired and the unit shut down permanently. Christopher Fowler’s talent is affirmed by the audience not having to read the previous Fox fable, though it is worth doing, as Bryant & May are on the case.

Harriet Klausner

Bury Your Dead-Louise Penny

Bury Your Dead
Louise Penny
Minotaur, Oct 22 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780312377045

Quebec City Chief Inspector Armand Gamache recovers from a physical injury and the related emotional distress. At the same time he recuperates, the corpse of Augustin Renaud is found at the Literary and Historical Society. Augustin was a noted oddball who searched for the grave of Quebec’s founder Samuel de Champlain.

Gamache pleads off the case using his injury as an excuse, but his superior tells him he has the lead. Grumbling Gamache works the Renaud homicide and he sends Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir to Three Pines to follow up on a case he thought was closed (see The Brutal Telling).

The latest Gamache Canadian police procedural is a strong entry in what is a great series. The murder mystery is well written and the return to the previous case is a stunning clever surprise. However, this is Gamache’s tale as he struggles to get back in the saddle after the injuries he suffered; mentally he appears to be suffering from posy traumatic stress disorder, but his boss puts him back to work because murder cannot wait for a cop to emotionally heal. Louise Penny provides a terrific thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Thousand-Kevin Guilfoile

The Thousand
Kevin Guilfoile
Knopf, Aug 24 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9781400043095

As a child growing up in Chicago, Canada “Nada” Gold had a gift with numbers. As an adult her numeral skill enables her to seemingly instantaneously collect and analyze data, which works quite nicely in Vegas casinos. She uses her skill to earn a living, but also suffers emotionally from the traumas she has faced.

Her father Solomon, Chicago Symphony music director, declares he has recreated Mozart's intended climax to the unfinished symphony. However, soon after his declaration, he is charged with murdering his mistress, Erica Liu, a cellist in his orchestra. Nada returns home from Vegas to be with her dad. His lawyer Reggie Valentine and his performance earned Solomon an acquittal though he killed the victim. Soon after his court victory, he is murdered. Meanwhile the secret Thousand, worshippers of Pythagoras, learn of Canada's skills and have plans to use her to further future schemes on a par with calamities like 9/11 and Katrina that they caused in the name of their ancient Greek “god”.

The premise is excellent built from what is known about Pythagoras leading to the modern day cabal Thousand who causes calamities for profit (capitalism at its purist). The story line is fast-paced and loaded with fun but somewhat inane chase scenes. Except somewhat for Nada who feels like a freak, the key cast especially any of the members of the avaricious lethal Thousand are never developed. Still readers will enjoy the Thousand’s interpretation of the Pythagorean theory.

Harriet Klausner

Murder at the PTA-Laura Alden

Murder at the PTA
Laura Alden
Obsidian, Oct 5 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451231093

After getting an amiable divorce from her husband, Beth Kennedy wants a quiet peaceful life with her two elementary school age children Jenna and Oliver. Her best friend Marina believes Beth needs to get out once in a while. Beth, after listening t her froend’s nagging, agrees to be secretary of the Rynwood, Wisconsin Tarver Elementary School PTA. The downside is that everyone in the PTA and at the school dislikes Principal Agnes Mephisto.

She is a prude who implants ideas without consulting with the staff or the PTA. Her latest idea is to use an anonymous donation to build a new building, which leads to chaos as she chooses the shape and idea of what the edifice will be. A few days later Agnes is murdered and Marina, the creator of the blog WisconSINS, encourages readers to help find the killer. She receives a death threat so she and Beth conclude they have to find the clues that will identify the killer if they are to feel safe. Beth investigates eliminating suspects until the last one standing has to be the culprit, but she refuses to believe that person is a murderer; instead she tries again from a different perspective. This time she draws a different conclusion that feels right but the killer plans to stop her before she can talk to the police.

Readers are going to appreciate this complex amateur sleuth due in large part to the main character Wisconsin bookstore owner Beth, who is a quiet pensive person preferring to remain in a rut but pushes herself for the sake of her kids. Looking for a murderer is not in her game plan, but single moms do need hobbies even those like Beth who are in hiding from life. Beth makes the tale work as Laura Alden provides an entertaining mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Dirty Rotten Tendrils-Kate Collins

Dirty Rotten Tendrils
Kate Collins
Obsidian, Oct 5 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451231529

Not everyone is happy that Cody Verse is coming back to his hometown in New Chapel, Indiana. It is not to see friends or family, but to defend himself in court against Andrew Chapper who claims he co-wrote the song that Cody used on the national TV show America’s Next Hit Single. The appearance catapulted him to fame. Abby, the owner of the flower shop Bloomers wishes he would leave so the town can return to normal.

Cody hired dirty tricks high profile lawyer Ken “Lip” Lipinski to represent him. Andrew’s grandparents hired David Hammond who would have refused the case if he knew his opponent is the great attorney. David is diligent and good, but not flamboyant like his adversary who breaks the rules like stealing evidence. Furious David publicly accuses the Lip of duplicity and illegalities. Soon after their spat, Lip is dead with the circumstantial evidence pointing at David. Abby, who worked for David and her fiancé Marco, a private detective investigate because they believe he is innocent.

The combination private investigator (Marco) and amateur sleuth (Abby) fuse together to create an appealing Flower Shop mystery (see Sleeping with Anemone) that a wide ranger of readers will enjoy. The heroine’s sparkle and spirit sweetly lights up her fiancé’s heart while adding a warm dimension to the fine whodunit. However the key is Abby’s believability as she attended law school, clerked for Dave, and strictly adheres to Marco’s instructions. This is a well written investigative tale.

Harriet Klausner

Fiber & Brimstone-Laura Childs

Fiber & Brimstone
Laura Childs
Berkley, Oct 5 2010, $24.95
ISBN 9780425236741

In New Orleans, Brett Fowler has worked a successful Ponzi scheme on a city recovering from Katrina. However, someone must have become outraged by his con because during the French Quarter's Monsters and Mayhem Torchlight Parade, he is killed by a minotaur horn stabbing him.

Art appraiser Jekyl Hardy designed the float that included the mythical creature. As such he is a person of interest to the New Orleans Police Department investigating the suspicious death. Jekyl's float designers’ friends, Carmela Bertrand the owner of Memory Mine scrapbook shop and Ava Gruiex the owner of Juju Voodoo, believe he is innocent and set out to prove their assertion. NOPD Police Lieutenant Edgar Babcock begs with his girlfriend Carmela to stay out of the case that he leads in what is now believed to be a homicide investigation. However, as he expected to his chagrin, Carmela and Ava ignore his plea and continue their investigation.

The latest Scrapbooking amateur sleuth (see Tragic Magic and Death Swatch) is an enjoyable New Orleans cozy. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the two BFFs start their investigation. With Scrapbooking tips and mouth watering recipes on top of a fun investigation, fans will appreciate zesty Fiber & Brimstone.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Mayan Apocalypse-Mark Hitchcock and Alton Gansky

The Mayan Apocalypse
Mark Hitchcock and Alton Gansky
Harvest House, Sep 1 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780736930550

Geologist Andrew Morgan seeks to understand life. He is an affluent man who has traveled the globe trying to find meaning beyond is that all there is having lost his loved ones; he holds God culpable for their deaths. So far, his quest has failed. Andrew is fascinated with the ancient Mayan prediction that the world ends in December 2012. He digs deeper into the prophecy and is stunned by the mathematical and astronomical affirmation of what he assumed was a superstitious omen by primitive people. However, in spite of his reluctant conversion that a pandemic tragedy from the skies is coming, he knows his quest for the meaning of life remains unanswered unless death is the only response.

Andrew meets Christian journalist Lisa Campbell as she also researches the Mayan calendar. As 2011 increasingly proves a deadly year with both natural and man-made disasters, she shares the Bible’s last days with him. However, he rejects the Bible’s Rapture and the Mayan Apocalypse as being the same empty mythos. Yet he and others consider hiding in a bunker as the Hammer of God threatens the earth with cosmic impact on eerily December 21 2012.

This is a terrific thriller with several major twists that enhance the belief that a potential pandemic disaster threatens the earth. The story line is action-packed and fast-paced with a strong cast including the two protagonists, a disbeliever, and several fascinating others. With the doomsday countdown plot hooking readers, fans will relish this exhilarating apocalypse now tale as the underlying premise is that for someone any day may prove to be his or her end of day.

Harriet Klausner

A Nose for Justice-Rita Mae Brown

A Nose for Justice
Rita Mae Brown
Ballantine, Sep 21 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345511812

When Wall Street tanked, many people lost their jobs including broker Magdalene “Mags” Rogers. Broke and disillusioned she returns home to her great-Aunt Magdalene “Jeep” Reed who owns the 10,000 acre ranch Wings in Nevada. She has bought more land and water rights to other property in order to stop more mansions from being built that would use up the water and destroy the ecosystem.

On the day that Mags comes home, someone ignites a pipe bomb to blow up property belonging to SSRM (Silver State resource management); responsible for seeing that there is enough water to supply the citizens of the state. A man concerned with Nevada’s water supply is found murdered in a hotel room. Not long after that another pump is blown up. An SSRM top official is killed. Some people who bought small plots in the Mini Mansion complex Horseshoe Estates are killed and one person is on the run. Others refuse to talk while the police begin to realize all these events are linked. Jeep and Mags becomes involved when a corpse is found on their property. They help the police with background information while their dogs can’t make their humans understand their concerns.

Baxter who belongs to Mags and King who owns Jeep have interesting amusing conversations with each other as each believes they are the top dog except when it comes to the safety of their two women. As the canines argue over who is the lead, ironically much of book involves human reed on a scale of The Treasure of the Sierra Madres. This is the first book in Rita Mae Brown’s new series and readers who enjoy the author’s Miss Murphy capers will love A Nose for Justice as the human and canine cast is strong and the whodunit exciting.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Darkest Hour-Maya Banks

The Darkest Hour
Maya Banks
Berkley, Sep 7 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425227947

One year has passed since Rachel died when her plane crashed in the Amazon while on a relief mission. Although her body was never recovered, her spouse Ethan Kelly assumes she died. The former Navy SEAL, consumed with guilt for how he mistreated her, has become a recluse in spite of the efforts of his family begging him to move on; he knows that it is not just grief isolating and self-punishing him but remorse.

When Ethan receives a letter with photos as proof that Rachel lives as a prisoner; the widower also finds a reason to live. He enlists his three of his five siblings (Sam, Garrett and Donovan) of the Kelly Group International to mount a rescue of his wife. They succeed in getting her out of South America though he is hurt and she is addicted to the drug they forced her to take which devastated her memories. Ethan works for his spouse to regain her memory while praying she gives him a second chance to show he changed. Meanwhile someone wants to insure she recalls nothing so that persona arranges for the couple to die.

The opening KGI Kelly thriller is an action-packed tale that goes hyper once an intoxicated Ethan opens the package and never slows down as even after the rescue there remains danger. Like his brothers, Ethan is an honorable person who knows he done her wrong, but though he would prefer she not recall what he did to her, he prays she regains her memories as that is the right thing. The metamorphosis of Rachel from helpless captive to kick butt heroine matches her mental and physical recovery as in many ways the aftermath of the trauma makes the aptly titled The Darkest Hour a winner as there is more than just alpha machos.

Harriet Klausner

Chasing Curves-Lloyd Corcicelli

Chasing Curves
Lloyd Corcicelli
Sons of Liberty, Jun 23 2010, $17.99
ISBN: 9780982403570

In Lowell, Massachusetts someone stole Dr. Katrina Sadolovaki’s car and her lover private detective Ronan Marino and associates conduct surveillance. All hell breaks loose and though he conceals his role letting the cops take credit for a car ring bust, she knows in her gut her boyfriend was in the middle. She has doubts about their relationship as she struggles with his occupation and his mob family. They went to the ballet and now attend a U of Mass-Lowell baseball game in which pitching phenom Ty Wallace is expected to star. Instead he looks sickly and worried as the opponents Bentley College batter him.

Soon after the baseball debacle, Ty’s dad Zack asks Ronan to learn what is troubling his son. Soon afterward, the police suspect Ty of killing his potential agent’s assistant. Ronan follows clues seeking the identity of the killer though increasingly he feels the pitcher struck out even as he follows a lead to Fenway Park and Boston’s Back Bay.

The second Marino private investigative thriller (see Two Redheads and a Blonde) is a terrific gritty Lowell Noir starring a hero trapped between his mob roots and his gut obsession with justice. The characters make the regional story line fun to read as Ronan is helped by his friend Eddie the cop and Tony his mob enforcer cousin as well as the females in his life starting with the good doctor and the female P.I. The whodunit is entreatingly well-written, but it is the cast and the city with minor league baseball and hockey thriving along the banks of the Merrimack.

Harriet Klausner