Sunday, October 31, 2010

The 4th Victim-Tara Taylor Quinn

The 4th Victim
Tara Taylor Quinn
Mira, Dec 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778328353

In Chandler, Ohio psychologist Kelly Chapman keeps her distance from everyone including her patients though she diligently tries to help them and the community, which is why she is called the “Fix-it lady”. Still even she is surprised when she agrees to be a foster parent to fourteen year old troubled Maggie Winston. While musing about being a loner who cares, Kelly exercises by in-line skating when a car thumps her.

Because Dr. Chapman has been an expert witness on numerous trials, the FBI investigates her disappearance. A loner like Kelly, Missing Persons Special Agent Clay Thatcher leads the inquiry. The more he digs into the life of Dr. Chapman the more he sees the female version of himself. Diligently working the case, he fears the woman he never met but who he is attracted to has become the 4th Victim of a serial killer.

The key to the super fourth Chapman Files thriller (see The 1st Wife, the 2nd Lie and The 3rd Secret) is that the potential romance between the lead couple is treated throughout the suspenseful story line like the early part of the movie Laura. Different in tone from the previous files but action-packed from the moment that the in-line skating shrink is snatched. Fans will relish this entertaining entry as Kelly is the victim and the frantic Fed knows this case has turned personal as he likes what he knows of Dr. Chapman, but fears she is dead.

Harriet Klausner

Murder In Plain Sight-Marta Perry

Murder In Plain Sight
Marta Perry
Harlequin HQN, Dec 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373774722

In Springville, Pennsylvania, the police arrest nineteen year old Amish Thomas Esch for the murder of twenty-four year old “Englischer” Cherry Wilson. Philadelphia based law firm Henderson, Dawes and Henderson sends junior associate lawyer Jessica Langdon to plea bargain for a lighter sentence for the Amish teen in Lancaster County.

After getting lost while seeking the woman who hired her firm Mrs. Geneva Morgan, she meets the woman’s son Trey who tells her they changed their mind. Geneva arrives and thanks Jessica as she wants her to defend Thomas over Trey’s objection. Although unfairly in trouble with her legal firm’s partners over the Clements and Altmiller cases and knowing defending the teen will add to her job tsuris, Jessica decides to defend Thomas in court after meeting Mrs. Morgan, the teen and his family. Trey is irate as he wants his mother to stay out of the brutal homicide case and firmly believes Thomas murdered Cherry. Jessica diligently works the defense while studying the Amish culture. However, someone wants the case resolved with Thomas locked away and that adversary begins a dangerous assault on the Philadelphia lawyer with Tey still dealing with his dad’s suicide at her side.

Murder In Plain Sight is an engaging Amish legal romantic suspense tale that readers will enjoy. The Amish background anchors the locale while the romance between the lawyer and her critic is slowly developed. Although the ending feels rushed and incomplete with an odd late motivation for the Wilson murder, Marta Perry provides a delightful thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Thieves Like Us-Starr Ambrose

Thieves Like Us
Starr Ambrose
Pocket, Nov 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439181294

With her divorce from her criminal spouse Westfield final, Janet Aims looks forward to her new life as a single. Part of moving on, though somewhat symbolic, is to pawn the jewelry he gave her. However, her plan goes awry right away as she is accused of being a jewel thief since one of her items she tried to sell is a necklace belonging to the stolen Pellini Collection.

Her hope for proving her innocence resides with former jewel thief convict Rocky Hernandez who she has avoided even though she is attracted to him as she does not need another felon in her life. Rocky agrees to help her because he loves Janet, but has taken it slow waiting for her to move past her divorce. Cops and robbers are after her as her car and condo are ransacked and only Rocky stands in their way especially when he goes back to his thieving roots to find the missing loot.

The sequel to Lie to Me is a fast-paced enjoyable romantic crime caper starring a likable lead couple caught in a frantic scenario as everyone except Rocky assumes Janet has the jewels when her aim is to start over. Although the support cast at times overwhelms the plot with so much going on, readers will enjoy Thieves Like Us as Janet just wants move on while Rocky wants her to move on with him, but the world intrudes.

Harriet Klausner

Blood and Fire-Nick Brownlee

Blood and Fire
Nick Brownlee
Minotaur, Nov 9 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312550240

In Mombassa former British police detective turned Kenyan fishing boat skipper Jake Moore's business partner Martha Brantley has returned to New York where she is murdered. FBI Agent Clarence Bryson, who tried to warn her, believes her assassination has to do with Moore’s assistance to Kenyan Detective Inspector Daniel Jouma, which devastated a human-trafficking ring (see Bait).

Bryson and Agent McCrickerd travel to Mombassa because they believe the deadly gang is cleaning up by killing those who impeded their lucrative business with Moore at the top of the hit list. The American Feds trace the series of murders to a professional team of assassins tied to the traffickers. Jouma struggles with government corruption, cronyism, bribes and incompetence while investigating a missing nun case and a local homicide as the new mayor wants him fired. Finally Jake tries to get back to his fishing boat business, but the suits are planning progress that will destroy his locale Flamingo Bay.

Although too much is going on too quickly, readers will appreciate this powerful Kenyan crime thriller as the bad guys are clearly defined early when a killer takes a knife to Martha’s cat. Ironically the readers know much earlier than the cops and former cop who the psychopaths are, but that will not matter to the audience, as the action never stops. With a strong sense of locale, armchair warriors will enjoy the latest African adventure and want Moore from Nick Brownlee.

Harriet Klausner

Unwelcome Light-David Lehner

Unwelcome Light
David Lehner
Fithian Press, Sep 1 2010, $12.95
ISBN: 9781564744999

Three years ago, his dad gave his fortyish son a letter which the latter misplaced. A year later, his father died and at the funeral his aunt asked if he read the letter he received from his dad at his uncle’s funeral last year. The man admits he never did having misplaced it. His aunt explains his father the man who raised him was not his father.

Stunned, he needs to know who his biological father was and what happened. He obtains a teaching position at the school his “father” was the headmaster at for years. His classes include Intro Greek, Level Two Latin and Advanced Greek with his most challenging student being Natalie. He also finds a classmate from when he went to the school, married teacher Elizabeth. As he makes inquiries, he recalls when his dad thought he may have stolen money only to have it turn out to be the son of his father’s bitter rival. However, as he gets closer to the truth his rival from school arrives and soon whispers begin that he is having affairs with Natalie and Elizabeth.

This is exciting thriller as the lead character, aptly having no name, investigates his roots only to land in all sorts of trouble as the truth does not always set you free. Readers will relish David Lehner’s riveting character driven tale starring the unnamed narrator who learns the hard way some people reject an Unwelcome Light shined on them.

Harriet Klausner

Trajan's Arch-Michael Williams

Trajan's Arch
Michael Williams
ISBN: 9780982714942

In 1992 in Lake Geneva, Gabriel Rackett sends a letter to Jasmine as he has no prospects, a sad commentary for someone nearing forty years old. He once showed promise as a novelist until the alcohol took it toll. However, he thinks back to 1968 when the Cardinals ran all over the National league.

In Louisville, he was thirteen playing baseball with his two best friends being Gino Robinson and Joey Hardy near the home of elderly lunatic Miss Vivian when her adult son Trajan Bell moved in with her. Curious about the newcomer, Gino tosses Joey’s glove into the yard; Gabe sneaks in to retrieve the mitt and meets Trajan. Later that same summer, as Joey befriends Beatles’ fans and Gino shop guys, Gabe feels alone except for Trajan and soon Jasmine.

As he creeps towards middle age while a bored college teacher, Gabe knows he failed at work, family, and life. Everything changes, just as it did when he went into Miss Vivian’s yard to get the glove; he obtains a strange manuscript written by Trajan. Gabe begins a trek home past and present with the dark “stigmata” imprinted on the palm of his hand from when as a teen he touched an incline put in the yard by Trajan.

This convoluted thriller is not an easy read yet grips the audience with a need to know who Trajan Bell is and what if anything did he do to Gabe. The story line includes eerie works besides Giacco Piano by Mr. Bell such as “Second Ephesians” and “The Isle Is Filled with Noyses” that add to the strangeness of the well written story line by adding more questions to the mystery of Trajan. With Gabe’s letters to Jasmine enabling the audience to look deeper at him, fans will wonder if he lost his mind when he was thirteen, as the ghosts that haunt him as he nears forty are either psychological or real. This is a memorable and unforgettable book.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mystery Montage-Patricia L. Morin

Mystery Montage
Patricia L. Morin
Top Publications, Nov 15 2010
ISBN: 9781929976751

The key to this superb twelve short story crime anthology is the diversity of entries that cross many sub-genres and locations. “Under the Boardwalk” occurs in Atlantic City where septuagenarians find a key clue in a police procedural but do not solve the case. The “Maasai Murder Mystery” is a terrific African tribal police procedural while the longest tale “Who Killed Horatio T. Adams takes place in Oahu. In “The Pool Room” sting, a San Francisco writer’s emails and journals, told in “Rap Sheet”. In Los Angeles or on a train heading to Exeter, new Hampshire, these are fabulous stories with different twists. Finally, whether it is private investigator Green “Landing in the Rough on a New Jersey golf course or the “Funeral” where a story is within a story, fans will appreciate this strong Mystery Montage.

Harriet Klausner

Rogue Island-Bruce Desilva

Rogue Island
Bruce Desilva
Forge, Oct 12 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765327260

In Providence, Rhode Island, a serial arsonist is torching the Mount Hope section over the last three months with nine fires and five corpses. Reporter Liam Mulligan wants to catch the murderer who has killed friends and acquaintances from his old neighborhood. The city residents are in a panic as the police and fire department seem helpless.

Mulligan’s inquiry is enabled by a horde of collaborators stonewalled by a stunning coalition of cops, fire inspectors, politicians and landlords who make up the seamier underbelly of the city. Lawyers are thrown at him and the newspaper with threats to bankrupt the paper. The case turns even nastier when the police probe Mulligan insisting they have probable cause to name him a person of interest.

The key element to this strong arson investigative noir is the support cast of hookers, runners, bookies and hoods who make the atmosphere come darkly alive and mouthy Mulligan fit as one of them. The whodunit is cleverly devised to keep readers’ attention with a strong spin that will stun the audience. However, it is the denizen of the streets of the Mount Hope neighborhood especially in contrast to the “Suits” who make this an exhilarating mystery.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Confession-Solomon Jones

The Last Confession
Solomon Jones
Minotaur, Nov 9 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312580209

A mass killer calling himself "the Angel of Death" murders three people in a church. The police arrest Father Thomas O'Reilly, who is convicted and sentenced to death. In spite of the overwhelming evidence against the priest that he committed the Confessional Killings, Philadelphia homicide detective who led the investigation Michael Coletti had doubts.

Now a decade since the killings, Coletti is near retirement after over three decades on the force but as the O'Reilly execution date nears, his sense that the wrong man was convicted remains strong especially when he poorly sleeps. When homicides similar to that of the Angel of Death occur, Coletti believes the culprit has returned. He, police detective Charles Mann, and Pennsylvania state police profiler Mary Smithson try to solve the killings with clues that lead back to Coletti and the long time homicide detective’s old cases.

Super Solomon Jones provides a strong gritty police procedural in which the author merges his Street Lit roots into a grim Philadelphia whodunit. The story line is fast-paced as the audience is hooked wanting to accompany the cops as they investigate the new wave of murders. Although the final confrontation fits the key cast personalities and the inquiry (from a Monday morning quarterback perspective), it feels too simple yet somehow apropos as Mr. Jones with his unique voice is a great welcome to the sub-genre.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

One Grave Less-Beverly Connor

One Grave Less
Beverly Connor
Obsidian, Dec 7 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451231802

At the River Trail Museum of Natural History, curator Diane Fallon is working late when she finds two wounded individuals in separate rooms. She recognizes one of them Simone Brooks as a World Accord International human rights activist who she worked with in South America. The woman holding a child’s femur in a death grip mumbles “It was one of us” before collapsing into a coma. Security calls for an ambulance for the first victim, but when Diane calls for a second ambulance, she learns no previous call was made and soon smells smoke in the room with the victim she does not know.

Not long after the nocturnal incident, Diane becomes the focus of a diabolical assault. Her identity is stolen and soon after she is accused by law enforcement of committing a murder when she worked in Brazil. Diane, her museum team and her fiancé Frank begin the counter attack trying to uncover who is behind the assault and why.

This is a brilliant mystery as not only does Beverly Connor tie Diane’s work in South America to the present case, the author also links back to her Lindsay Chamberlain series without missing a beat. The story line action-packed from the first moan and never slows down until the final confrontation as the past and present subplots excitingly mingle. However, adding to the fun is an overarching theme twist that is unexpected yet seems plausible. Fans of Ms. Connor will relish One Grave Less.

Harriet Klausner

The Lion of Cairo-Scott Oden

The Lion of Cairo
Scott Oden
Dunne, Dec 7 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312372934

In the impregnable Afghan mountaintop, Alamut the Hidden Master of the Assassins sends his top assistant Assad on deadly missions. So when Alamut gives Assad his latest task, he assumes he will assassinate an enemy. Instead his job is to keep the young caliph of Cairo safe from insidious enemies so as to arrange an alliance between Cairo and Alamut.

The task seems easy until Assad realizes how much peril Cairo is in. The Christian king of Jerusalem Amalric wants to use the lad to further his plans of tightening his control and Nur-ad-Din, Sultan of Damascus wants to own the Caliph or kill him. . Amalric leads his army while Nur-ad-Din's loyal Kurdish general leads another. At the same time while ambition explodes, the grand Vizier plots to kill Assad, the Templars and Cairo. As Assad struggles to keep the Caliph safe, a rogue Assassin necromancer has murdered his allies, but he has himself, his magical sword and three kick-butt females; more than enough to defeat armies and traitors.

With a nod to Robert E Howard, The Lion of Cairo is a super sword and sorcery historical fantasy filled with blood and gore from the fresh perspective of an Arab. Assad is terrific as he uses masquerades, a special sword that loves to kill the Crusaders especially the Templars and is co-mingled with an ancient demonic salawar. He works the shadows so well even the infidel Europeans quietly call him "Emir of the Knife". Scott Oden provides a delightful twist on the Crusades and the Templars due to their enemy assassin.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 25, 2010

South Phoenix Rules-Jon Talton

South Phoenix Rules
Jon Talton
Poisoned Pen, Dec 7 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590588147

NYU Professor Jax Delgado came to Phoenix to conduct research for his next book. In town, he meets Robin and they begin dating. However, soon afterward, Delgado is viciously murdered. The acrimonious lead PPD Detective Sergeant Kate Vare believes the homicide is related to drug cartel activity.

While his wife Lindsay is in DC, historian and just resigned deputy police officer David Mapstone feels for his sister-in-law as he liked Delgado too, but this is not his type of case. He worked mostly cold cases providing a fresh perspective. However, those who killed Delgado are after Robin too. This makes the case his as far as David is concerned. As he investigates, he finds himself digging deep into a part of the city mostly concealed from the public; a place where human, weapons and drugs are trafficked without regard to the law.

The latest Mapstone mystery (see Arizona Dreams) has several interesting twists including in his personal life as the former cold case cop works the gutters of Phoenix. The story line is action-packed from the moment Robin opens the box and never slows down until the final confrontation. Readers will root for the professor as he risks his life and freedom trying to keep his sister-in-law safe.

Harriet Klausner

Reapers-Frederick Ramsay

Frederick Ramsay
Poisoned Pen, Dec 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN 9781590588062

The corpse is found in Botswana’s Chobe National Park. The cause of death for the male victim was a gunshot. Chobe National Park game ranger Sanderson and police officer Kgabo Modise team up to investigate the homicide.

Sanderson’s mind is not on the case as her son is dying of pneumonia caused by AIDS. On the other hand, Modise is euphoric about the opportunity to use his FBI trained skills. He knows he is expendable to work this case as his superiors are more focused on the World Cup overflow from host South Africa that could lead to a crime wave especially smuggling.

Closer in tone to Michael Stanley's tales of police detective David “Kubu” Bengu (see A Carrion Death) than Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective (see The Double Comfort safari Club), Reapers is a strong Botswana police procedural (see Predators). The story line is action-packed as Sanderson and Modise investigate the Chobe National park homicide while much of the police and the country are focused on the World Cup hosted by their neighbor. Although the Russian gangsters seem out of place, readers will relish this strong whodunit with insight into the save the continent “Orgonize Africa” movement based on questionable science.

Harriet Klausner

Threats at Three-Ann Purser

Threats at Three
Ann Purser
Berkley, Dec 7 2010, $23.95
ISBN: 9780425237052

The villagers of Long Farnden, England want to raise the money to refurbish the village hall. The community meets to discuss plans including who does what with electrician Derek Meade chosen as the lead of the fundraising subcommittee.

Not everyone is euphoric over the Village Hall Renovation Fund-Raising renovation plan to “save our shed”. Some feel it is a waste of money and prefer nothing occur while one person fears her spouse will cause trouble for the townsfolk. New Broome cleaning business owner Lois Meade becomes embroiled in the middle trying to prevent a calamity from happening. However she fails as the first corpse is found leading to Inspector Cowgill investigating the homicide and Lois “helping” him.

Well written, the latest Lois Meade amateur sleuth (see Warning at One and Tragedy at Two) is an engaging tale that spends most of the story line on a small village politics when an issue divides the community. The support ensemble cast is solid as each picks a side in the community debate. However, the whodunit takes a back seat to the increasingly divisive ugly fight to shed or not to shed.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Critical Condition-CJ Lyons

Critical Condition
CJ Lyons
Jove, Nov 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780515148688

In Pittsburgh several staff and visitors at Angels of Mercy Hospital were shot by a hit man. Detective Jerry Boyle received the worst injury. The killer escaped, but also failed to kill his intended victim. Boyle’s girlfriend Dr. Gina Freeman worries about him because he is not same since he took the shot to the head.

On New Year’s Eve, a blizzard shuts down the streets and strands everyone at the hospital. The trapped includes the killer and his cohorts who plan to finish the job even if it means leaving a blood bath behind. These predators take charge with hostages. ER Charge Nurse Nora Halloran and medical rotational student Amanda Mason worry inside the facility, outside the hospital remains frantic ER Dr. Linda Fiore

The latest Angels of Mercy medical thriller (See Urgent Care, Warning signs and Lifelines) is a fantastic fast-paced finish to a strong hospital saga. Loaded with action but a bit over the top of PNC Park, readers will be hooked from the moment the killers begin taking over the hospital. With a neat late twist, fans will appreciate this terrific tale that inside an exciting plot showcases how far four women have come since CJ Lyons introduced them to fans two years ago. Perhaps a four-novella sequel to see where each is in five to ten years would be wonderful.

Harriet Klausner

The Midnight Show Murders-Al Roker and Dick Lochte

The Midnight Show Murders
Al Roker and Dick Lochte
Delacorte, Nov 23 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780385343695

Although his doubts creep up and down his spine without a respite, Manhattan’s Blessing Bistro’s owner and the Morning Show TV personality Chef Billy Blessing returns to Los Angeles for a job. He joins a new nighttime talk show O’Day at Night. Billy soon knows his gut was right when someone murders Des O’Day host of the show.

Billy believes the homicide is tied to a cold case killing of his friend Tiffany Arden over two decades ago. That homicide is why Billy fled Southern California as the person Roger Charbonnet he suspected committed the crime threatened to kill him if he remained in town. To his shock Charbonnet asks Billy to investigate the murder of O’Day.

The second Chef Blessing culinary amateur sleuth takes the hero across the continent where he becomes embroiled in a murder mystery. The culprit is relatively easy to spot, but no one will care as the fun in the story line is Blessing’s tour of Hollywood. Readers will root for the writing team of Al Roker and Dick Lochte to cook up another entertaining tale of murder and TV meals.

Harriet Klausner

A Killing in Real Estate-Michael Castleman

A Killing in Real Estate
Michael Castleman
MacAdam/Cage, Jul 10 2010, $13.00
ISBN: 9781596923652

A serial arsonist has been lighting up the Mission District. San Francisco Foghorn columnist Ed Rosenberg is concerned as the latest inferno was just a few blocks from the renovated Victorian where he, his wife Julie and their two kids (ten years old Sonya and infant Jake) live. He could smell the flames three blocks away

Although he did not sleep well and Julie pushed him again for them to move, Ed meets his friend from the paper real estate reporter Ryan Duffy for brunch and a discussion on a 1934 diary kept by his grandfather, a longshoreman during the bloody acrimonious strike; the scribble is impossible to read for a layman so Ryan hopes historian Ed can translate it. Ed arrives to find a naked Ryan dead; bound as if an S&M tryst turned ugly. Stunned he takes the diary with him and begins interpreting what looks like an arson’s scribble. Motivated Ed investigates his friend’s death and the fires creeping closer to his abode.

The 1934 diary refreshes the exciting investigative whodunit as the readers learns of a nasty period in San Francisco history. The present day inquiry into the murder and especially the serial arsons is cleverly designed as the audience wonders who is lighting the fires and why. A Killing in Real Estate is a fabulous San Francisco treat.

Harriet Klausner

The Redemption of Holly Dobson-C. Lynn Barton

The Redemption of Holly Dobson
C. Lynn Barton
Dark Willow Books, Sep 30 2010, $16.95
ISBN: 9780615349411

Holly Dobson understands her name quite well. Her simple first name denotes sweet and stable, which she is not and her surname comes from her adopted parents who bestowed her with her basic needs of food and shelter, but nothing else. She is like the Holly trees she planted in front of her Illinois home; or perhaps the red berries of the trees is more descriptive as they look beautiful on the outside but are inedible as twenty of them will kill anyone.

Holly knows one thing: society considers her evil because she will do anything to protect her son and grandson. She knows she takes the family values mantra to an extreme, but so what she rationalizes is that not what the politicians say to do until you do it. As she smokes her Meerschaum pipe, Holly muses about life with George Dobson, who mentors her on all things evil or perhaps it is her who teaches him the evil facts of life. She is the daughter, the mother and the grandmother while he is the son and father.

Told by the title character looking back on her life one puff at a time, The Redemption of Holly Dobson is a deep thought provoking psychological thriller that ponders the essence of what is evil. The story line looks at nurturing vs. naturing while using hyperbole to skewer the family values mojo practitioners who conveniently surface during elections and dark incidents. Holly, her son and her grandson Simon are strong individuals with apparent an evil DNA flowing through their cells. Elderly, the matriarch reflects on her life and its impact on her descendants as it is with them she believes she can claim redemption as a caring mother and grandmother who will do and has done anything for her progeny; as her family right or wrong is her family.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Nostradamus Prophecies-Mario Reading

The Nostradamus Prophecies
Mario Reading
Dunne, Nov 23 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780312643799

In Paris, a Gypsy Babel Samana insists he possesses the reported for centuries missing fifty-eight predictions that Nostradamus supposedly wrote down but concealed. The other 942 quatrains have been printed and analyzed numerous times, but no one has seen in centuries the complete set of ten verses for ten centuries. Achor Bale believed him and demanded the document, but when Samana fled, he killed the Gypsy.

French Surete suspect American writer Adam Sabir as the killer. He flees France and Spain accompanied by Babel’s witch sister Yola. Adam believes Nostradamus left the Lost Predictions with the Gypsies for safe keeping. Pursuing the pair is the assassin with "freakishly clotted eyes" Achor Bale, whose secret group wants ownership of the cache as they believe that Nostradamus mentioned an Antichrist triad of Napoleon, Hitler, and someone to come. Meanwhile though his peers remain confident that Sabir is a killer, French Police Nationale Captain Joris Calque thinks otherwise, leaning towards Bale as the amoral ruthless murderer.

Although this is another Brownian 101 thriller; fans will appreciate this exciting tale due to the insight into The Nostradamus Prophecies especially why some believe there are fifty-eight unpublished. Calque brings freshness as a diligent intelligent police officer whose professional inquiry is welcome because it is rare in a sect conspiracy tale. Fast-paced from the moment Bale stabs Samana, fans will enjoy the opening act as Nostradamus scholar Mario Reading shines a light on the legendary seer inside of an action-packed thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Price of Life-Greg McCarthy

The Price of Life
Greg McCarthy
Otherworld Publications, Sep 2010, $19.95
4949 Old Brownsboro Rd, Suite 113
Louisville, KY 402222
ISBN: 9780982649459

Eight years old Jennifer Haller suffers from a brain tumor that is too late to just remove. The insurance company denies coverage of what they deem is an "experimental" operation to remove the tumor. Her father U.S. Marine Captain Ed Haller comes home from his fourth tour of Iraq to bury his child and his belief in the American way.

He and his wife Julie hire lawyer Grant Mercer to sue a doctor who failed to order an MRI when Jennifer’s ailment was still operational. However, the medical malpractice suit is difficult to prove as the doctors and insurance companies with their lawyers refuse to cooperate; abetted by Texas state politicians who decided a life lost due to medical negligence is worth no more than $250,000. As a senator, lobbyist and insurance executive are murdered; Captain Haller sits stoically less a limb lost to an IED staring at witnesses providing depositions.

Clearly biased on one side of the debate on malpractice lawsuits, Greg McCarthy provides a strong legal thriller that will leave readers questioning the ethics of the health-jurisprudence system that buys politicians. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Jennifer dies and never slows down as no one takes responsibility for her death except perhaps her father who is filled with remorse that he chose his country over his family. Although much of the cast except for grieving guilt laden dad is not fully fleshed out and the homicides seem unnecessary even if exciting, readers will enjoy this deep look at The Price of Life.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Run-Greg Rucka

The Last Run
Greg Rucka
Bantam, Oct 26 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780553804751

Thirtyish, she had been doing field work for years. British agent Tara Chace knows her job has a short time frame as evident by the death of her lover Tom Wallace in Saudi Arabia; yet, she felt she would go on forever as a Minder. Then came the fall from a rung at re-training school; a type of climb she had done twenty-nine times before without incident; she realizes her almost decade was up as her aching bones insist it is time for a desk and teaching role.

Although Tara is ready to come in from the cold, her superiors have one last errand for her. An enigmatic cryptic note has surfaced from Tehran in which the eldest nephew of the Supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini, Hossein, may be defecting. It also may be a brilliant ruse for the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security to lure enemies into Iran to exploit them like they paraded the American Embassy workers. Tara and her extraction team sneak into Tehran knowing a double cross is likely, but though she feels her age, she refuses to be hunted when she remains a deadly predator.

The latest Queen and Country espionage thriller (see Gentlemen’s Game and Private War) is a super entry due to Tara’s waning confidence. She knows her time in the field is over, but dedication, loyalty and honor has her make The Last Run. Ironically, readers sort of know somewhat the danger that awaits Tara and her team in Tehran although keep in mind Greg “the magician” Rucka is the author so even a dead rabbit might be pulled out of the hat. Fast-paced from the opening training mishap until the final confrontation, fans will relish this Tara Chace kick butt spy thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Evangeline-D.W. Buffa

The Evangeline
D.W. Buffa
Blue Zephyr, Jul 28 2010, $12.99
ISBN: 9781452826097

Learning from the mistakes of nautical disasters like the Titanic, the Evangeline was constructed to never sink; yet the designer insured the vessel contained every reliable electronic high tech gizmo on the market and also safety escapes like enough lifeboats just in case.

However, history repeats itself when the unsinkable Evangeline sinks off the African Atlantic coast during a torrential storm and in spite of mundane safety precautions only one lifeboat makes it off the ship. The tiny lifeboat contains fourteen survivors including Captain Vincent Marlowe. Weeks later as the stored food and water supplies that were on board were depleted, only one source remained. Forty days at sea, the survivors of the Evangeline are rescued; six people including the captain who is charged with multiple homicides. His defense of the murders is simple: to save some others died.

Although this exhilarating thriller ostensive occurs in a courtroom with testimony used to tell what happened at sea, readers will be reminded of the Hitchcock classic The Lifeboat with its similar crammed setting. The question of saving a few by killing a few leads to a strong moral debate over how to choose who shall die and why even though the law is allegedly blind to ethical debates. Although some of the key support characters are never fully developed, the defense lawyer, the prosecution and the captain are so that fans will appreciate The Evangeline.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

To Snare a Wolf-Robert Nowak'

To Snare a Wolf
Robert Nowak'
Pinnacle Peak Press, Jun 2010, $14.95
24001 N 112th Way
Scottsdale, AZ 85255
ISBN: 9780984263509

In 1871, fourteen year old Christian Dejoux leaves his hometown of Strasbourg to fight in the Franco-Prussian War for the French who blame Bismarck for the hostilities. However, his side is overwhelmed by the superior Prussian army. Having survived an impoverished childhood, he believes strongly there will be another war between his country and the Germans. Although his countrymen may be lapsed in their vigil, he will not ignore the threat even risking his life spying in Berlin.

At the same time Wolfgang Loewenhardt grows up in affluent aristocratic family in Berlin. He believes Prussia will rule all of Europe one day. He plans to insure that happens.

In Berlin, Christian meets and falls in love with Heidi; she unwittingly abets his stealing secrets from the Ministry of War where she works. Since her father rejects the poor foreign Catholic as a suitor for his daughter, the pair elopes to Switzerland carrying the Prussian secrets. Wolfgang sends his top agent to retrieve the secrets.

This is a superb historical espionage thriller as spy and counterspy battle one another over several decades starting with The Franco-Prussian War that affirmed their respective beliefs and ending at the Frist battle of the Marne in WWI. The keys to this excellent drama are the lead adversaries though different on the surface with one being somewhat shy and humble and the other arrogant yet share in common patriot fervor as each is willing to risk their life for their country. The locations throughout Western Europe bring a sense of being there to the armchair traveler whether it is the Marne, a nightclub in Paris or Berlin or at the front during the Prussian-Franco war. Robert Nowak provides an exhilarating saga that also gives hope that if the French and Germans can live side by side in peace, other combatants can also.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bad Penny Blues-Cathi Unsworth

Bad Penny Blues
Cathi Unsworth
Serpent's Tail, Sep 1 2010, 7.99
ISBN: 9781846686788

In 1959, with one year on the job as a Police Constable in London Pete Bradley and his partner PC Alan Corbishall find a female corpse near the Thames in Richmond while their superior Acting sergeant Alf Brown snores in the back seat of their vehicle. CID DI Bell arrives to question Bradley on what he found. Pete decides to investigate the homicide in which he had observed at the crime scene how the culprit tried to clean up the “mess”. He soon learns the victim was a West London prostitute, but their inquiry hits a wall as has the other inquiries into the brutal serial killing of the area’s hookers.

Fashion student Stella Reade married Toby. Recently, she has been haunted by horrific nightmares of an abducted young woman who she does not recognize. However, when she learns of the Thames body, Stella believes she can help the police, but hesitates as she assumes they will write her off as one of those swinging drug soaked mod with her school work, a happening mate and their hip friends.

The time and place comes across very vividly though the chapter titles using song names seem inane in a grim murder case that in some ways feels more like a London Noir. Pete is a terrific character as shown early with the wry commentary of his and Alan re the snoozing older sergeant that has generational relevance to this day. Stella brings plenty to the case though her paranormal element is more distracting than insightful. Still Pete’s investigation into the genuine unsolved Jack the Stripper case makes for an enjoyable historical British police procedural.

Harriet Klausner

Dead Lift-Rachel Brady

Dead Lift
Rachel Brady
Poisoned Pen, Dec 7 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590588109

Emily Locke, after losing her husband, rescued her infant daughter who had been taken from her and sold to a couple who thought the purchase was legal (see Final Approach). She and her child move to Houston where she works as an assistant to her private investigative friend Richard Cole. Their client, wealthy society lady Claire Gaston, is charged with the death of Dr. Wendell Platt, who was murdered in his home and her fingerprints are everywhere including on the murder weapon. She swears that she never met the victim nor knows where her missing current husband Daniel is after they had quite a public brawl.

Emily believes their client is innocent because her first concern is for her children who she fears her first husband will take them home with him to Argentina. During the conversation, she learns that the lawyer Richard works for defended the group that kidnapped her daughter. Despite everything Emily remains on the investigation, which leads her to Diana King. Claire believes she framed her because she had an affair with her husband. After sleuthing, not always legally, Emily concludes they are looking in the wrong direction; she changes direction and soon thinks another murder is connected to Platt’s. She soon becomes the recipient of threatening emails and an attempt on her life.

The second Emily Locke private investigative thriller hits the heroine in the gut when she learns who their client is and in the heart when she learns who Claire’s concerns are for. It is for latter, as much as for her own needs that Emily goes beyond stretching legality by breaking the law. The rest of the cast is solid especially still sassy smack the butt BFF Jeannie.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 18, 2010

Panopticon-David Bajo

David Bajo
Unbridled, Oct 19 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781609530020

Their newspaper is folding in a few days leaving workers exploring what to do in the future. However, they are assigned their final stories by managing editor Gina before the paper ends its run on the California-Mexico border. None of them know what they are covering except that it is big and will come together eventually though they only have a few days to finish their last hurrah.

Reporter Aaron Klinsman and photographer Rita Valdez travel to an empty room at the Motel San Ysidro in which towels cover the mirrors, black tape strips cover the doorknobs, and the outline of a woman's body is imprinted on the bed sheets. Confused they continue their snooping with reporter Oscar Medem joining them. As the trio struggle to comprehend what they are seeking, they follow clues in Tijuana and Otay though remaining ignorant to what it leads to except they know it ties to the femincide murders that haunted Juarez for over a decade and has apparently come to the California border towns with a lethal vengeance. With the clues beginning to click together, Aaron, Rita and Oscar compare what is going on to the male Luchadors who wear masks all the time to hide their faces as opposed to their female counterparts who takes theirs off outside the ring for as Mil mascaras says “what we observe becomes us”.

Not for everyone, Panopticon is an odd intricate journalist thriller with various seemingly at first disconnected coils. The lead trio supported by a powerful cast on both sides of the border makes the story line feel genuine as each slowly learns the underlying truth. Set on the dangerous border where guns flow illegally from the north, fans who relish something radically different and remain patient to learn how the coils connect will want to read David Bajo’s fascinating look at modern times when nothing remains private even the visages of the male Luchadors.

Harriet Klausner

The Blue Hackle-Lillian Stewart Carl

The Blue Hackle
Lillian Stewart Carl
Five Star, Dec 8 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594149221

Retired Scottish detective inspector Alasdair Cameron and his American fiancée travel reporter Jean Fairburn look forward to their New Years wedding ceremony at Dunasheen Estate owned by his childhood friend Fergus MacDonald. On the Isle of Skye, the Dunasheen castle is run down although Fergie is trying desperately to save his heritage. His hope relies on historic artifacts found on the estate and inside the castle, and opening up the edifice as a sort of B&B for paying guests to attend a Scottish New Year gala.

However, another guest Australian Greg MacLeod is stabbed to death. Jean finds the murder weapon, an antique dirk taken from Fergie's artifact display. Several suspects emerge starting with Colin Urquhart who loves Fergie's daughter Diana and American antique dealer Scott Krum as each has motive and opportunity. However, Jean Krum’s daughter Dakota has other issues besides a homicide as the ghost of Fergie’s ancestor Seonaid “The Green Lady” MacDonald keeps visiting them.

The latest Jean Fairbairn-Alasdair Cameron mystery (see The Charm Stone and The Burning Glass) takes an odd seemingly paranormal spin in wintry Scotland on the eve of their marriage. Between the corpse, the cops and the uncooperative guests, fans will wonder whether the lead couple will exchange wedding vows at this time. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the Australian is murdered, but is a long dead chatelaine haunting the castle or is the howls at night just the wind played up as an attraction by their host. Readers will appreciate the Fairburn-Cameron collaboration as the past and present converge in murder.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Matryoshka-Joyce Yarrow

The Last Matryoshka
Joyce Yarrow
Five Star, Dec 8 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148873

In New York, Russian immigrant Nikolai hires his stepdaughter poet performer and private investigator Jo Epstein to prove he is not a killer; the corpse is in the elevator of the exclusive apartment building he and his wife (Jo’s mom) Ruth live in. He proves to be as inept as a client as he is in social circles; as Nikolai tells Jo nothing except he is being framed. The existing evidence speaks loudly that he committed the homicide.

Abruptly Nikolai leaves New York stunning Jo. She follows him to Moscow where she finds herself trapped in a nineteenth century code of justice in which honor is everything to thrive for. The Matryoshka nesting dolls she sees are beautiful but odd yet also contain dangerous warnings telling Jo to go home or die as she has nothing to do with the code enforcement that is part of the imprint at the Vladimir Central prison and even infiltrates the Moscow police.

With a nod to the Godfather, the latest Jo Epstein investigation (see Ask the Dead) is extremely personal as the Manhattan based sleuth works a convoluted "personal" homicide case with ties to a previous century code of honor still thriving wherever Russian criminals operate. The Russian subculture makes for a fascinating mystery as Jo begins to unravel a complex tale of vengeance and justice inside a system of honor that demands revenge as justice; nothing including an American detective will prevent payment due.

Harriet Klausner

The Shooting in the Shop-Simon Brett

The Shooting in the Shop
Simon Brett
Five Star, Dec 8 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594149245

In Fethering, England Carole Seddon makes pre ghost Scrooge and Grinch look like Santa supporters compared to her feelings about Christmas. She believes the holidays are a ridiculous waste of time, money and energy. Her preference is to pretend the Yuletide season does not exist as it has not since her painful divorce from David and her son Stephen chose work over celebration. Now Stephen married to Gaby with a daughter Lily wants a family Christmas. Thus when her BFF Jude orders her to go Christmas shopping with her at Gallimaufry‚ she objects initially until she remembers it is discounted sales time so she agrees as only a bargain is anything positive about Christmas.

A few days after the two friends went shopping, Gallimaufry burns down. Once the fire is put out and the area cool, a body is found amidst the ashes and rubble. Although the death of pretty Polly Le Bonnier, the stepdaughter of the owner of Gallimaufry, initially looks like a tragic accident, a bullet is determined as the cause of death. Having solved mysteries before, the dynamic amateur duo Carole and Jude investigate with Gulliver assisting them.

The Fethering mystery series is always a wonderful English cozy starring a charming pair of amateur sleuths (in fairness; Jude is charming while Carole remains so wound up a shilling could not fall out of her crack). Their latest escapade is a fun whodunit as the detecting is well conceived containing a fabulous late twist and Carole becomes a reborn-holiday cheerleading aficionado due to her most gorgeous granddaughter. An eggnog toast is given to Simon Brett for another fine Fethering investigative whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

The Extinguished Guest-Jeanne Glidewell

The Extinguished Guest
Jeanne Glidewell
Five Star, Nov 5 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148965

In Shawnee, Kansas, affluent Lexie Star is forty eight years old but has been a widow for almost two decades. She met on line jeweler Stone Van Patten while looking into a situation potentially close to home involving her twenty-five years old daughter Wendy (See Leave No Stone Unturned). Stone and Lexie are attracted to one another so he relocated from the East Coast to be with her. He purchased a historic mansion which he is converting into the Alexandria Inn B&B.

Because the inn is on the National register of Historical Places, the Rockdale Historical Society hosts its annual meeting there. However, newly elected president Horatio Prescott is shot in the head. Police Detective Wyatt Johnson leads the homicide investigation; he demands the eight society member guests and one wife remain at the inn; Stone allows them to stay gratis. However, to save the reputation of the B&B Stone and Lexie make inquiries that prove how odious of a person Horatio was.

The underlying reason Lexie and Stone provide for sleuthing seems far-fetched; but readers will put that aside as the whodunit is entertaining, the lead couple cute as middle age in love adults and the support cast eccentric including the amoral victim seen through his scorning compatriots. Character driven, readers will enjoy an extended stay at the Alexandria Inn as the amateur sleuths Leave No Stone Unturned while investigating who murdered The Extinguished Guest.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Midnight Clear-Kristi Astor

A Midnight Clear
Kristi Astor
Zebra, Nov 2 2010, $5.99
ISBN: 9781420105476

In December 1908, American artist Troy Davenport lives with his Aunt Agnes when he notices a picture in the gossip column she is reading. It is his muse who he met briefly on the passenger ship Mauritania; he desperately wants to paint Miranda Granger who with her family is staying over Christmas at the luxurious Grandview Hotel during its grand opening gala. Two weeks later at the hotel, Troy and Miranda meet. She refuses to give him money or sex, but he surprises her because all he wants to do is paint her.

Miranda thinks back a decade ago when she loved Paul Sutcliffe. They planned to marry, but her dad offered him money and he took it. He ignored Miranda’s plea in which she told him she was carrying his child; now raised by loving distant cousins. She assumes Troy is a fortune hunter unaware he comes from wealth.

Six months later William remains irate with his middle daughter Gertie for her tryst with Edmund that Miranda intercepted. Gertie blames Miranda for her trouble taking no responsibility for her action and for her father taking them back to Surrey. Troy arrives in her village allegedly to paint the abbey ruins. He pursues his muse again. He owes her the truth, but has to leave for New York to see his dying father. She is not home so he gives a note to Gertie to give to her older half-sister. Her father informs Miranda that Troy came but left as he wanted money not her.

The lead couple is a strong pairing of two people with secrets. The support characters are super by enhancing the Edwardian England era deeply. Although her younger sister is a spoiled brat with no redeeming qualities and some coincidence is needed to cause misconception between the lead couple, this is a strong historical.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Prophecy: A Level 26 Thriller Featuring Steve Dark-Anthony E. Zuiker with Duane Swierczynski

Dark Prophecy: A Level 26 Thriller Featuring Steve Dark
Anthony E. Zuiker with Duane Swierczynski
Dutton, Oct 14 2010, $26.95
ISBN: 9780525951858

Following the murder of his wife Sibby five years ago, Steve Dark sent his newborn daughter to live with her grandparents as he went after Level 26 serial killers; specifically Sqweegel. His offspring resides in California while he is east coast, but after hacking away at murderers he believes he needs to begin being a father again. Thus he left Special Circs and his boss Riggins and his partner Brielle to start over.

King A-hole, better known as Secretary of Defense Norman Wycoff, orders Riggins who does not work for him to go to Chapel Hill to see first hand the murder of think tank expert Martin Green. Riggins assumes DOD needs the laundry cleaned with no ties back to them as he used to use Dark to do that for him. Riggins also normally would send Dark and Brielle, but his top operative is in Santa Barbara re-meeting his daughter and has earned his way back to the human race teaching on the west coast. Riggins tells Agent Paulson to meet him in North Carolina, but someone intercepts the message. Paulson is missing and assumed dead; a desperate Riggins pleads with Dark to help as Brielle enters the dangerous zone of someone with the knack of a serial killer.

The second Dark level 26 thriller (see Dark Origin) is an exciting action-packed tale that hooks the reader from start to finish. Although the story line is thin, it is fast-paced even when Dark is with his daughter and in-laws. Fans will appreciate the latest escapades as Dark once again ignores the law, the brass (especially the A-hole) and the danger as he crosses the line to fight Level 26 serial killers on their turf.

Harriet Klausner

Next Time You See Me-Katia Lief

Next Time You See Me
Katia Lief
Avon, Oct 26 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061809040

Former Maplewood, New Jersey Police Detective Karin Schaeffer knows she is fortunate to have survived her second serial killer attack and the emotional trauma of her spouse and child murdered (see You Are Next). Three years later she has married her former partner on the force Mac MacLeary and given birth to Ben. They are a happy family.

Their joy is destroyed when someone brutally murdered Mac’s parents. Things turn even uglier if possible when he vanishes. Karin fears the worst, but as the months go by her hopes for a joyous reunion fade. The police assume he is dead as they found his car in Long Island Sound, but Karin remains guardedly optimistic and as such hires a private detective. When a picture of Mac surfaces that implies he is alive in Florida, Karin heads there to personally investigate and confront her spouse while wondering if her husband is involved with the drug cartels.

Although Karin has come a long way since The Domino Killer murdered her loved ones, she remains strong yet fragile. Once again her second euphoric life is shattered when Mac vanishes just after his parents are killed. Putting aside the thought she is a murder magnet, fans will relish this powerful angst laden police procedural as the twists keep on coming one Lief blowing in the wind at a time keeping the courageous heroine and stunned readers off balance.

Harriet Klausner

Outwitting Trolls-William G. Tapply

Outwitting Trolls
William G. Tapply
Minotaur, Nov 9 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312531270

Ken Nichols and Brady Coyne were once happily married neighbors living in the burbs. That was a seemingly a century ago as both are divorced with Brady the lawyer residing in Boston and Ken the veterinarian in Baltimore. A decade since the two men has seen each other, but Ken calls telling Brady he will be in town for a convention. They meet and have a drink together.

The next day, Ken’s ex wife Sharon finds him brutally stabbed to death in his Natick hotel room. She calls Brady, who is at dinner with he wife, his son, and his son’s friend, but readily rushes to the homicide scene as her lawyer. Brady wonders if Ken’s strange discussion with an intruder when they socialized last night is involved with his murder. As he makes inquiries, he learns a lot about his former neighbor’s apparent involvement with peddling date-rape drugs to pay off massive debts and another family homicide that obviously ties to the first one; he finds what he recalls of his neighbors were a façade to a darker life.

In all probability the last Coyne thriller as William G. Tapply died last year is a terrific walk off home run at Fenway Park. Coyne is his usual solid self uncovering truths about his neighbors that he would prefer not to know while struggling to connect with Billy who still blames his dad for the break up of their family in spite of their male bonding two years in Idaho; as he believes his father placed clients ahead of him and his mom; the Nichols case affirms his contention. Fans of the series will appreciate this great whodunit while wondering what happened to Sparky the Cat.

Harriet Klausner

Ghosting-David Poyer

David Poyer
St. Martin’s, Nov 9 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312613020

Egotistical but brilliant neurosurgeon Dr. Jack Scales purchases a fancy yacht he christens the Slow Dance. Although he has little sailing experience and that in sheltered environs and his vessel is not ocean oriented, he decides to sail from Long island to Bermuda. Accompanying Captain Jack is his reluctant family; his wife Arlen who considers leaving him, his twentyish bipolar son Rick who may be sent to a group home, and his rebellious teenage daughter Haley who loathes any family outing of more than a minute.

From the start, the ocean voyage proves dangerous as Jack’s inexperience surfaces rather quickly and Rick stops taking his meds. They know they fortunately survive a deadly accident and a storm leads the Slow Dance to nearly sinking. When Jack rescues a man at sea, he leads his family into a group of deadly predators who plan to kill the males and rape the females before murdering them. Only Jack stands in their way.

Although the Scales’ family could use the nautical expertise of Dan Lenson, David Poyer has given his star a respite so Jack and his three charges are on their own. The story line is fast-paced and filled with twisting action that grips the audience as one misadventure like waves keeps on coming. Even though the climax seems unlikely, fans will root for the beleaguered family as each must scale their personal fears and needs to risk sacrificing their life so their loved ones might survive.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Severance-Elliot Sawyer

The Severance
Elliot Sawyer
Bridge Works, Nov 16 2010, $23.95
ISBN: 9780981617534

To punish him for his attitude and disobedience, Captain Jake Roberts is placed in charge of the Army’s worst unit the Kodiak Platoon. The soldiers are those dumped as losers by other platoons. Rather than early discharge for incompetency, these addicts, deserters, and dysfunctional humans are assigned the horrific missions in the Afghanistan Mountains because the brass believes each one is expendable.

Surprisingly to the shock of even the troop, the soldiers bond and do well fighting the insurgents (and each other – can’t have everything). .However, everything changes when on a mission they find a million American dollars, a contractor under the table stash. Jake and his subordinates agree to smuggle into the States the “Severance” loot to be equally divided by all of them even as they still fight the Taliban, their superiors, an unknown adversary who may be one of them, and each other.

This is an entertaining military tale that is a sort of mix of Up Periscope with the Dirty Dozen, but never quite chooses between the two films. Thus, the story line is amusing yet loaded with action, but not fully gelled into a cohesive thriller. Still readers will root for the Kodiak Platoon especially Captain Jake to keep the Severance Pay as the rules of engagement include the “cost of doing business” in a highly contracted out war.

Harriet Klausner

Broken English-P.L. Gaus

Broken English
P.L. Gaus
Plume, Oct 26 2010, $13.00
ISBN: 9780452296619

After spending twenty-five ears in the New Jersey State Prison for rape and felonious assault, Jess Sand is freed having served his full sentence. He heads west stopping in Millersburg, Ohio, a peaceful Amish town in which crime especially violent is rare. Jesse invades a house, but the young woman fought back while calling 911. He kills her as the police arrive. The victim’s daughter Amish David Hawkins, encouraged by Pastor Cal Troyer, comes to the jail to forgive Sands, who is scornful until his visitor goes for his throat.

Reporter Eric Bromfield was covering the homicide until he became part of the story when he is murdered. Moody Sheriff Bruce Robertson assumes the father of the first victim has become avenging as well as hostile and killed the journalist especially since Hawkins seems to have vanished. However, Professor Michael Brandon and Pastor Cal also investigate as they believe Hawkins’ past before the Amish welcome him to live with them returned to haunt him.

The stars (Brandon, Robertson, and Troyer) of the powerful Amish mystery Blood of the Prodigal return for a fabulous second engagement in a whodunit that tests the moral fiber of each of them. With a fully developed cast and insight into modern day Amish life, the story line remains fast-paced throughout as Sand resides in jail while the sheriff, the professor and the pastor seek the motive behind the murder of the reporter.

Harriet Klausner

A Killer Crop-Sheila Connolly

A Killer Crop
Sheila Connolly
Berkley, Dec 7 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425238264

In the New England town of Granford near Amherst University is an apple orchard owned by Meg Corey. She became the owner when she went down to sell it on behalf of her mother and felt a kinship to the land. Now out of the blue, her mother visits her, which is out of character so Meg questions Elizabeth.

Before she gets a response, Detective Marcus stops to question Elizabeth who was seen in town longer than she admitted to Meg. She was seeing a man who was murdered and found in the local farmer’s market when it was abandoned. Elizabeth says she was not with him at the time of his death. Marcus suspects her, but Meg believes her mom is innocent and starts sleuthing to prove it.

Readers will thoroughly enjoy the entertaining latest Orchard amateur sleuth (see Red Delicious Death). We admire Meg who uses this difficult time to better understand her parents especially in their relationship with each other and with her; as that ironically for someone who has solved murder cases has always been a mystery to her. She also has uncertainties re her boyfriend Seth Chapin and her, but first she must prove her mom’s innocence and then change weaknesses and threats into strengths and opportunities when it comes to her parents and her boyfriend.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, October 15, 2010

Worth the Trip-Penny McCall

Worth the Trip
Penny McCall
Berkley, Nov 2 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425238479

Behavioral psychologist Norah MacArthur has released a new book on relationships, but she fears any sales will happen because of either the notoriety of her estranged relationship with her dad or the curiosity factor. Over fifteen years ago, her father a con artist was caught and convicted for his role in a robbery. Although the loot was not recovered, Lucius served his sentence and he is being freed from prison.

FBI agent Trip Jones plans to keep Norah safe as he expects her to be a magnet for trouble when her dad’s associates pressure him to provide the goods. He also hopes to recover the stolen property while musing about her relationship babble which is to him voodoo pabulum. However, he never expected to be attracted to the shrink nor for her to want him.

Readers will believe Penny McCall’s latest FBI romantic suspense (see The Bliss Factor and All Jacked Up) is Worth the Trip as the search for the loot makes for an exciting entertaining and electrifying thriller. The action never stops from the moment dad is freed from prison and never slows down as Norah the shrink learns it is truly A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World when stolen money and stolen hearts intersect.

Harriet Klausner

Buttons and Bones-Monica Ferris

Buttons and Bones
Monica Ferris
Berkley, Dec 7 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780425237045

In Excelsior, Minnesota Betsy Devonshire, owner of Crewel World needlework shop, was instrumental in getting Lars and his wife Jill a the fixer upper log cabin with six acres of land attached to it. The property is in a state park and part of the property is on the shore. While ripping up a floor and linoleum, they find a trap door that leads to a concealed basement. There they see the bones of a skeleton in the shape of a human are found. Whoever it was did not die a natural death.

Jill has a need to know who the victim and the killer are. Betsy joins her on the investigation. They soon learn a former WWII German POW camp was nearby and one person successfully escaped never to be seen again. Twentyish Dieter Keitel had a cold crown on his tooth just like the corpse appears to have. To affirm they found Deiter’s bones, the daughter of Betsy’s friend does reconstructive forensic modeling from six pictures of him. The results stun Betsy and the audience

There is no blood, or gore just bones in Buttons and Bones yet Monica Ferris once again (see Blackwork) knits together a hypnotic mystery due to the directions the investigations takes her. The murder happened over a half a century ago, but Betsy treats the killing as if it happened yesterday as she takes it as an affront in a believable manner as some of those involved back in WWII still live. This is a terrific 1940s whodunit investigated in the twenty-first century by an amateur sleuth who would have been a great police detective.

Harriet Klausner

Miss Dimple Disappears-Mignon F. Ballard

Miss Dimple Disappears
Mignon F. Ballard
Minotaur, Nov 23 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780312614744

In 1942 on a cold November in Georgia, elderly Elderberry Grammar School teacher Miss Dimple Kilpatrick takes her usual morning walk in the town park. She is oblivious to a car quietly following her with the beams off though it is still dark outside.

Not longer after the first grade teacher of four decades was strolling in the park, the school janitor is found dead in the storage closet and Miss Dimple missing. One of her students Willie Elrod insists to his mother that he saw spies kidnap "poor Miss Dimple.” Third grade teacher Charlie Carr is worried about the disappearance of her former teacher who would never vanish during the school year. She persuades her best friend fourth grade teacher Annie Gardner to help her investigate what happened to the long time first grade teacher. She also wants to find out if there are ties to the janitor’s death though the latter is most likely due to natural causes. At the same time Charlie feels guilty that her boyfriend is serving as a corpsman while she is attracted to the boyfriend of her BFF.

The author of the charming Augusta Goodnight mysteries, Mignon F. Ballard begins a new series located in the home front of a small-town Georgia during WWII. The background is wonderful with a deep look at Elderberry preparing for war with moms, sisters and daughters knowing some of the men joining the military will not come home. The mystery of Miss Dimple Disappears is a fun cozy as the investigation is well written, but it is the townsfolk doing their part to support the war effort that makes this a winner.

Harriet Klausner

Palace of Justice-Susanne Alleyn

Palace of Justice
Susanne Alleyn
Minotaur, Nov 23 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780312379896

In 1793 in Paris, a copycat killer imitates the guillotine by beheading people. Headless corpses can be found in many neighborhoods. The police seem to make no progress on either finding the culprit of the rash of gruesome homicides or ending the terror.

Former Republic justice minister Georges Danton asks Aristide Ravel to investigate at a critical moment in peace negotiations with the English. He tells his sleuth time is short to apprehending the predator. As he follows clues, a government official becomes a victim, which only places additional pressure on Ravel to find the serial killer.

The latest Aristide Ravel French historical mystery (see The Cavalier of the Apocalypse) is a great entry that besides being an enjoyable whodunit investigation also provides a deep look at the era. Fast-paced from the moment Danton assigns the sleuth with ending the copycat serial killer; Ravel understands the cost of failure is a date with Madame Guillotine and success could also mean a date with the sharp edged executioner’s blade. This is a great entry in one of the best historical mystery series on the market today.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mr. Monster-Dan Wells

Mr. Monster
Dan Wells
Tor, Sep 28 2010, $11.99
ISBN: 9780765327901

John Wayne Cleaver still struggles, as he has all his life to keep, his demonic Mr. Monster side from taking over his mind. However, ironically his heroism involving taking out a serial killer has strengthened Mr. Monster’s hold.

A second Clayton County second serial killer apparently surfaces with several corpses as the calling card. Once again the local police fail to catch the predator. In spite of fearing involvement again after how much stronger Mr. Monster has become, John uses his knowledge he gained from his war with the first demon killer to try to trap the second. However, evidence mounts that John is the serial killer.

This is much darker than the dark I Am Not A Serial Killer as Mr. Monster takes over for a few moments leading to a raging out of control beast ready to torture and kill, which after Cleaver regains the power he is filled with anguish and torment for what happened; mindful of mid stages of Alzheimer’s victims who recall what they did and consider stupidity. Cleaver and Monster make the lead character appears as if he has a multiple personality disorder as they war for the lead. Action-packed with ultra gory scenes (some too vividly ugly for my sensitive stomach), yet Dan Wells enables his audience to see the battle of good and evil inside the heart and mind of one struggling soul teetering on the brink of being lost.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Kidnap & Ransom-Michelle Gagnon

Kidnap & Ransom
Michelle Gagnon
Mira, Nov 1 2020, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778328261

World renowned hostage negotiator Cesar Calderon, CEO of Tyr Group whose mission is to rescue kidnapped victims, ironically is abducted by the adept Los Zetas paramilitary organization in Mexico City. A team is sent to retrieve him led by Jake Riley, but they fail leaving the leader to wonder why they were allowed to live having been trapped by the skillful enemy

A new unit is set up led again by Jake with his fiancée FBI Agent Kelly Jones included though the latter is still healing mentally from losing part of her leg on the Gatekeeper mission and this is her first field work since then. However, she understands why Jake needs to go on this rescue effort and wants the person he trusts most in the world with his back to be with him; his brother is one of the hostage victims. She has another reason for joining this endeavor; the man responsible for her leg loss is hiding amongst the kidnappers.

The latest Jones thriller (see Boneyard and Tunnels) is the usual fast-paced action-packed tale expected from Michelle Gagnon. The story line opens with the abduction as Calderon is drugged while dining out and never slows down in the efforts to rescue him. The ability of Los Zetas and the angst of Kelly make the tale as the former is refreshingly quite good at what they do and the latter feels not able to do field work as she expected to be desk bound for the rest of her career; Jake is not doing this out of pity as he needs her skills. Readers will enjoy this entertaining suspense as Kelly wonders if she can ride the bike again to face her ultimate demon if what the Feds believe is true about this killer.

Harriet Klausner

Rogue Wave-Boyd Morrison

Rogue Wave
Boyd Morrison
Pocket, Nov 30 2010, $5.99
ISBN: 9781439189580

Somewhere over the Pacific, a light flashes past an airplane, which erupts into flames killing all on board. Their bodies were never found. A humongous wave assaults Christmas Island leaving it underwater; no survivors.

On the Hawaiian Island of Oahu, Kai Tanaka is the assistant director at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center when he accesses data that the world will never forget. While he is at work, his wife Rachel is at her job at a state of the art hotel. Their daughter Lani is with their guests Teresa and her daughter Mia at the beach. At the center, a tsunami warning is advised, but neither he nor his assistant is worried but then certain island stations fail to report. They do not understand what is happening because none of the conditions are right for a tsunami. They realize after studying available data that a meteorite hit the earth causing undersea earthquakes greater than any ever recorded before. Their announcement is late but they hope to save some lives including their loved ones. Few survivors in the Pacific Rim are expected to escape unscathed since the waves are more and bigger than they expected. Kai tries to find a way take his daughter Lani, his brother Brad, Mia and Teresa to a safe high point while his wife is at the hotel taking care of the guests.

This is a riveting apocalyptic thriller that is so enthralling readers will be unable to put it down until they finish the last page. Millions of people on the Pacific islands and Hawaii are on the verge of having their lives end due to a wave that is strong huge and higher than the largest skyscraper. Readers are hooked from the opening Mayday and the lack of the routine signal from a buoy as required to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. The audience ironically knows hell is coming while Kai and his cohorts remain blissfully blind until it appears too late. Adding to the pending doom is Kai has family and guests caught in the upcoming catastrophe forcing him and Rachel to make difficult choices. Mindful of the giant tsunami that killed millions a few years ago, Boyd Morrison provides the audience with a spectacular thriller that brings to readers the tragedy on the two levels of a biblical scale and a personal dilemma.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Christmas Odyssey-Anne Perry

A Christmas Odyssey
Anne Perry
Ballantine, Oct 26 2010, $18.00
ISBN: 9780345518583

With less than two weeks before Christmas, not everyone in frozen London is rejoicing. Affluent sexagenarian James Wentworth feels bah humbug ill over the behavior of his son Lucien. All the younger Wentworth dies for are drugs and sex ever since he discovered the dens of iniquity in the West End last year after meeting Sadie.

Desperate to save his offspring from himself, Wentworth turns to his long time friend Henry Rathbone for help. Henry agrees to find the lad who he remembers as being nice and charming. However, though he has hope and promise for a happy intervention, Henry also knows he ventures into a part of London’s depravity he is totally unfamiliar with. On his Christmas Odyssey into the West End, Rathbone meets former brothel owner Squeaky Robinson employed at Hester Monk’s clinic and Dr. Crow physician to the downtrodden and underbelly. The three unite to follow clues to Sadie and her brutal owner Shadwell while also encountering Bessie the courageous teen.

The annual Anne Perry Victorian Christmas saga is a great but very dark thriller in which the beacons of light in the Shadwell shadows of the slums comes from the hopes of the three males and the teen who joined them on their venture. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as the audience anticipates a Christmas showdown between the Odyssey voyagers and the evil that welcomes them to his version of the Eagles’ Hotel California.

Harriet Klausner

Death at an Early Age-Kinley Roby

Death at an Early Age
Kinley Roby
Five Star, Dec 8 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148958

In the swamps off Bartram’s Hammock, Hierba Alto tribesman Toke Wylie escorts Florida Fish and Game Warden Harry Brock to a corpse in which the victim’s red high-heeled shoe sticks up incongruously as the nearest dance floor Stickpen was twenty five miles away. Harry immediately concludes this woman did not just stroll or dance to this spot as he could barely walk with his sneakers and a “guide”. Toke prefers not to wait around for the law so he leaves while Harry waits for the police to arrive.

The victim is wealthy widow Lilly Rhinelander. The cops seek who financially benefits from her death leads to her unrecognized son New York African-American attorney Adrian Cooper who also appears to be the last person to have seen his mother alive. Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Fortunato builds a strong case against Cooper while Brock believes his former lover is going down the wrong swamp. Encouraged by Rector Rowena Farnham, Brock investigates leading back to Toke and the tribe and the late Lilly’s “legitimized” three offspring (John Kringle, Rita Krnosky and Michael Rhinelander).

The super latest Harry Brock mystery (see Death’s Other Kingdom and Two in the Churchyard for when the hero was a private investigator) has him ironically going full circle. The hero is a game warden like he was years ago in Maine, and Sonadora Asturias and Jennifer Fortunate are in his life for now as they once were. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as bullets fly while Harry works the case one swampy clue at a time.

Harriet Klausner

Lie With Me-Stephanie Tyler

Lie With Me
Stephanie Tyler
Dell, Oct 26 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780440245964

Gabriel Creighton rescued Cameron Moore from a life sentence for two homicides when the latter was nineteen. In payment, the CIA agent demanded Cam join Delta Force, which he did and work for him when he was not out on assignment. Cam has been loyal for over a decade doing his savior’s bidding, but now thirty, he wants out as he has started to find out what happened to his father and him eleven years ago with the biker gang. However, no one walks out alive on Gabe.

In the Catskills, Cam survives a helicopter assault, but decides he needs an ace to get his former mentor off his back. Special Ops Dylan Scott owes his life to Cam so he informs his friend that Gabe has a daughter. Cam goes after Skylar Slavin, who has had a recent kidney transplant. He insists her dad sent him to protect her, but she has doubts until he saves her life from intruders. On the run, they are unaware that her father has been abducted by the Dead Man’s Hand terrorist cell. As they fall in love, he knows he must reveal why he detests her father, but hesitates until too late she learns the truth from another source.

The first Shadow Force romantic suspense is an entertaining tale with plenty of complex intrigue and a strong lead couple supported by outstanding secondary characters. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Cam takes out the helicopter crew pursuing him and never slows down as secrets are slowly revealed. Fans will enjoy the ride as Stephanie Tyler provides an enjoyable thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Devoured-D.E. Meredith

D.E. Meredith
Minotaur, Oct 26 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312557683

Perhaps the Victorian Age is misnamed and should be replaced by Darwinian Age as by 1856 scientists, treasure seekers and amateurs seem to be traversing the world in search of new species and odd or exotic ancient artifacts. London is not immune to the chaos as murder for possessions is not unique.

Collector Lady Blessingham is murdered in her bedroom. Yet in spite of the homicide, her vast collection of valuable artifacts, tribal masks, and fossils seem untouched. Working from out of the morgue’s basement with no funding, Forensics Professor Adolphus Hatton and his assistant Albert Roumonde arrive at Blessingham’s home to conduct a scientific autopsy of the corpse. Their insistence on seeing the dead body at the murder sight is considered blasphemous by some Londoners especially religious people. They soon expand their search of the home for clues like motive as something was sought by the murderer and opportunity as the killer gained easy entrance. The pair assists Scotland Yard's Inspector Adams’ search for the culprit.

This fantastic Victorian Age whodunit is as much a historical tale as it is an investigative thriller. The wealth of detail is incredible as readers will believe they are in London in 1856 yet with so much vividness, D.E. Meredith never takes her eye off the mystery. Readers will relish this engaging story as Hatton and Roumonde apply the new “voodoo” science of forensics to the homicide.

Harriet Klausner

Unforgivable-Laura Griffin

Laura Griffin
Pocket, Nov 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 97814339152966

Mia Voss works at a state of the art laboratory whose goal is to use forensic testing to help lock away criminals. On the night of a tragic event, Mia drives to the store to buy ice cream. She returns to her vehicle and reenters it, but a man in the backseat carjacks her auto and her. He makes her drive to an ATM to have her withdraw money. Then he orders her to drive to a secluded spot where she thinks he will rape her and perhaps kill her.

A police officer who saw Mia being held at gunpoint goes after them and is killed. She is able to escape but is traumatized. Detectives Ric Santos and Jonah Macon lead the inquiry. They believe Mia was the intended target of the killer and not a random incident of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The gun that killed the cop was used in a previous homicide years ago. Mia finds a third piece of evidence related to the other two crimes and before she knew it she is danger as is her family. Mia who committed a crime is offered immunity if she helps bring in the killer. Ric who has feelings for Mia, but will not admit it diligently works to find the killer and keep Mia safe.

Cross Cornwall and Reichs with Robb to understand the Tracers of Laura Griffin (see Untraceable). The characters turn up the heat so much so they can burn the sheets. However, Mia is a highly regarded forensic scientist who is used as an expert witness. If there remains a police procedural fan who has not read a Ms. Griffins’ mystery, they are missing out on some of the best.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Killing Storm-Kathryn Casey

The Killing Storm
Kathryn Casey
Minotaur, Oct 26 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312379520

FBI special agent David Garrity asks his girlfriend Texas Ranger profiler Lieutenant Sarah Armstrong to help him on a missing child case in which he leans towards the mom Crystal who was supposedly watching her child when he was kidnapped. At a Houston playground, while his parents argued on a cellphone, someone using the missing dog ploy abducted their four years old son, Joey.

As she agrees to assist David, Sarah and Ranger Sergeant George "Buckshot" Fields investigate the horrific decapitation killings of prize-winning bulls; the butcher carves cryptic African etching on the dead hides. While seeking clues in both cases, Hurricane Juanita appears heading for land in the Houston area frightening Sara, who is worried about the safety of her recently widowed mom as the cases take a frightening intertwining.

The third Armstrong police procedural (see Singularity and Blood Lines) is a great thriller as the heroine’s personal fear for her mom enhances the prime twin investigative plots. Fast-paced, readers will be hooked from start to finish, but especially when Sarah begins to connect the dots between her two inquiries. Fans will appreciate this strong Texas mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Bedeviled Eggs-Laura Childs

Bedeviled Eggs
Laura Childs
Berkley, Dec 7 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425238233

The Midwestern town of Kindred is normally a serene quiet place, but this year the townsfolk seem to face one calamity after another. In the middle of most of the disasters is the Cackleberry Club; a café, bookstore and knitting community center. The Troubles begin when one of the owners Suzanne walks mayororal candidate Chuck Peebler out the door of the café when she hears a noise. Peebler was hit and killed immediately by an arrow.

The sheriff has no clues as to who wanted Peebler dead. Soon after that homicide, Deputy Wilbur Halpern, who uncovered an illegal dog fighting arena, is murdered too on the historical Quilt Trail. Suzanne and the ladies of the Cackleberry Club investigate with the support of the despondent sheriff and the lethal antipathy of the unknown killer who threatens her and firebombs her car.

The Cackleberry soft boiled mysteries (see Eggs in Purgatory and Eggs Benedict Arnold) are special due to friendship of the ladies who have each other’s back. Although the murder mystery prime plot is appropriately somber, the three club owners and their customers bring mouth watering recipes and amusing eccentricity to the entertaining plot. Readers will enjoy these eggs over easy amateur sleuth.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cat Coming Home-Shirley Rousseau Murphy

Cat Coming Home
Shirley Rousseau Murphy
Morrow, Oct 26 2010, $19.99
ISBN: 9780061806933

In Los Angeles, the murders of her son and daughter-in-law shake Maudie Toola’s equilibrium as even her bone marrow feels numb in shock. However, she has no time to grieve her loss as she must make the holidays uplifting for her grandson Benny who witnessed the double homicides. Maudie and Benny move to her childhood home Molena Point, California.

However, the town has its problems as criminals have broken into homes and assaulted women throughout the small village. Police chief Max Harper struggles with the attacks as they are seemingly random and he lacks the manpower to handle them. At the same time the L.A. killer has followed Maudie and Ben to Molena Point. Apparently Christmas may not be coming to town this year; as even Joel Grey, Dulcie and Kit fail to help Max until a hardened elderly stray arrives with a message for the cats and the cop. .

This is an entertaining holiday mystery in which Benny and the visiting tomcat add a special warmth to the tale. Both subplots are fully developed so long time fans feel sympathy for the Toola twosome and shock that Joel and associates fail to connect the dots. Shirley Rousseau Murphy provides her myriad of fans with a very merry Christmas tale.

Harriet Klausner

Djibuti-Elmore Leonard

Elmore Leonard
Morrow, Oct 12 2010, $26.99
ISBN: 9780061735172

Following their award winning Katrina film, documenter Dara Barr and her top assistant septuagenarian Xavier LeBo travel to Djibouti on their next project; filming the pirates looting international vessels in the Indian Ocean off The Horn of Africa. Their greeting upon arrival at the city located on the southern point of the Red Sea is unfriendly as several foreigners claim CEO status over the piracy and want no films.

They meet a horde of outcasts who belong in a movie like Casablanca. There is the diplomat partnering with a charming popular pirate; both demand a kickback or else. Terrorists like al-Qaeda in Miami Jama provide the filmmakers with a choice between cash and bombings. Finally they encounter eccentric Billy the Texan and his maybe fiancée Helene sailing the world, but he wants to see the pirates in action on the High Seas. All this occurs even before the pair sail on the Indian Ocean to film the piracy.

This exciting trademark Elmore Leonard thriller takes time to gel, but once it does, Djibuti is the usual super skewering of everyone; especially know it all Westerners who reject being a major part of the cause while feeling outraged when the cash crop is piracy. Readers except the xenophobic who omit the latter part of Carl Schurz’s famous full quote “my country right …” will appreciate Mr. Leonard’s entertaining take no prisoners take on the Somalia pirates.

Harriet Klausner

Third Degree-Maggie Barbieri

Third Degree
Maggie Barbieri
Minotaur, Dec 7 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312593285

English Lit college professor Alison Bergeron is on her way to meet her boyfriend’s parents for the first time following a marriage proposal from her beau NYPD Detective Bobby Crawford that she has not yet answered. To calm her nerves, she stops for java at her favorite coffee house Beans, Beans. As she opens the door, two men inside the shop tumble out in a brawl that looks as if each wants to kill the other. The professor is knocked down in the melee and left with a black eye.

The brawlers George Miller and amoral blogger Carter Willmott ignore Alison and continue their fight as the former is furious over the latter’s constant nasty negative commentary on him. The fight abruptly ends when George hammers Carter in the head; the nasty blogger falls dead. The police arrest George charging him with manslaughter; Alison witnessed the deadly fight so will testify in court. Although she saw first hand what happened, Alison has doubts the head shot was the killing blow as Willmott has numerous angry enemies over his odious on line commentary and the car of the blogging beast blew up during the fight. George’s wife Ginny voices her doubts to Alison, who begins sleuthing.

Fans of romantic mysteries will enjoy the latest Murder 101 amateur sleuth (see Final Exam) as readers will muse over how tough it is to get a good cup of coffee. The heroine is a brave soul whose detective boyfriend believes she has good instincts in terms of solving homicides, but poor instincts in terms of not being the next victim. Although readers will wonder why the autopsy failed to determine actual cause of death and why the professor decides to investigate, Third degree is an enjoyable caffeine cozy.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, October 8, 2010

Killer on a Hot Tin Roof-Livia J. Washburn

Killer on a Hot Tin Roof
Livia J. Washburn
Kensington, Dec 1 2010, $22.00
ISBN 9780758225702

Atlanta literary tour organizer and guide Delilah Dickinson takes a group of English literature professors to New Orleans to attend the annual Tennessee Williams Literary Festival. Though academics, Delilah cannot believe the wars between the attendees.

Especially igniting the group is Dr. Michael Frasier who challenges whether Williams wrote Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Frasier claims Williams’ lover Howard Burleson authored the drama. He adds fuel to the firestorm he caused with his proclamation when he introduces Burleson to the group. Soon afterward, someone murders the shocking guest. Delilah feels obligated to investigate, but finds several viable suspects including a professor whose standing is based on William’s writing the play and someone who fears the family the drama is based on will surface.

The third Literary Tour amateur sleuth (See Frankly, My Dear I’m Dead and Huckleberry Finished) is an entertaining whodunit filled once again with literary asides. The heroine is fabulous as her assumption about laid back English lit profs proves false when any time two get together a brouhaha occurs. Although readers will question Delilah’s motivation to detect and solve the case fans will enjoy this academic cozy.

Harriet Klausner

The Final Reckoning-Sam Bourne

The Final Reckoning
Sam Bourne
Harper, Dec 1 2010, $26.99
ISBN 9780061875748

Following a terrorist alert, septuagenarian Lithuanian Gerald Merton is visiting the United Nations when a security guard shoots and kills him believing the elderly man was a suicide bomber. Henning Munchau asks former agency lawyer Tom Byrne to help with the expected media brouhaha. Tom agrees.

Tom journeys to London to offer the UN’s condolences and apologies to the victim’s grieving daughter Rebecca. At the same time NYPD Detective Jay Sherrill leads the investigation. The cop soon uncovers some links dating back to the end of WWII that ties the deceased to a Holocaust survivor group that Merton belonged to. This aging unit wants secrets to remain concealed and killing a cop, a daughter and a lawyer is an acceptable practice.

The Final Reckoning is a taut twisting thriller that grips the audience from the opening in New York, but especially hooks readers when the past hauntingly surfaces. The cast is strong as each in their way (either through investigation or firsthand and secondhand nightmarish memories) brings forth the dark vivid picture of Europe when the horrors of the Final Solution became internationally known. Sam Bourne provides a powerful “Never Forget” tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Sherlockian ?-Graham Moore

The Sherlockian ?
Graham Moore
Twelve, Dec 1 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780446572590

In the 2010 annual Baker Street Irregular convention, newby "Irregular" Harold investigates the murder of renowned Sherlock Holmes scholar Alex Cale. The homicide occurred just after Cale boasted he found the lost volume of Conan Doyle's diary. The valuable entry was not found in the hotel room where Cale was killed.

In 1893, Arthur Conan Doyle is bone weary of Holmes as he has no life seemingly without the famous literary sleuth. However, he never anticipated the uproar and anger when he solved his dilemma at Reichenbach Falls. In 1900 he has a bigger concern to deal with since someone sent him a letter bomb perhaps because of what he did to his “alter-ego”. He turns to his friend Bram Stoker, who understands what it means to write a novel with a character that takes on a life of its own, to help him ferret out who wants Doyle as dead as Holmes.

This is a superb Sherlockian thriller with the focuses on why Doyle killed and later resurrected his hero. Readers see the same questions analyzed through the characters in the present day and over a century ago. The parallel subplots are rotated, which can be a bit overwhelming. The murder subplots though well conceived while enhancing the tale take a back seat to the overarching historiographical theme. Graham Moore proves modern day intelligent people unintended and unwittingly bring their imprint to Doyle and Holmes.

Harriet Klausner

If Walls Could Talk-Juliet Blackwell

If Walls Could Talk
Juliet Blackwell
Obsidian, Dec 7 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451231819

Since her mother died, Melanie Turner took over her depressed father’s San Francisco Bay construction business; specializing in restoration of historical homes as her dad could no longer run the firm. Matt Addax hires Mel to restore a run-down mansion so he and his partner can flip it for a nice profit. After an all night party, Mel enters the house to see Matt’s partner Kenneth dripping in blood.

He was shot with a nail gun and someone cut off his hand with a motor saw. There is blood all over him and he dies shortly after arriving at the hospital. He told the nurses before he died that Matt didn’t kill him, but he also said it was Matt’s fault. Matt goes to jail leaving Mel to complete the renovations. She sees the ghost of Kenneth and he informs her he doesn’t remember the time prior to his murder. Someone believes Mel found buried jewels and her house, car and storage room are ransacked. Someone is looking for them. To get rid of the ghost and to keep her family, friends and employees safe, Mel investigates only to be in the same perilous situation that Kenneth faced before he was killed.

This is the start of a new paranormal amateur sleuth series filled with ghosts, unknown villains, a great heroine, and a man who warned her not marry her ex husband. Mel has “insider” information from the other side. Mel does not trusting the cops who have focused on Matt only so she risks her life to investigate. With a nod to the Ghost Whisperer in a murder mystery setting, Juliet Blackwell provides a fun entertaining opening act.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dead Man’s Chest-Kerry Greenwood

Dead Man’s Chest
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen, Dec 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590587973

It is time for a vacation and Queenscliff, a quiet seaside resort is the place where the Honorable Phryne Fisher, her housekeeper and companion Dot, and her adopted daughters (Ruth and Jane) go. It is a quaint coastal village, so no one would expect a murder there. Phryne sees trouble when three bullies assault a younger person.

She breaks up the fight and Tinker joins her household. The Johnsons who were supposed to be the household servants meeting them at the cottage never show up and ergo no cook. Fortunately Ruth wants to be a chef, but Phryne still wants to know where they are. The old biddy who lives across the street saw men get into a dark limo showing signs of duress. Phryne thinks there is mystery involving the vanishing and she intends to learn what it is to insure they are safe. Soon more people join her household as Phryne finds places for all these desperate misfits in order to keep them safe while she learns what happened to the Johnson’s.

If this Australian historical mystery took place in 2010 instead of the late 1920s, readers (religious right would not read her exploits only condemn her as amoral) would s classify Phryne as a caring free spirit not concerned with adhering to social rules and order. The heroine and her entourage search for the missing servants and take in several endangered stragglers. Filled with action and a sense of time and place, Phryne is at her best whether it is fighting punks, arguing with Pussykins the parrot or wondering about the surrealist movement that seems to have taken over the quaint holiday spot. Fans will enjoy the often amusing but sometimes dangerous antics of Fisher and friends (see Murder on a Midsummer Night, Death by Water and Murder in the Dark).

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The 3rd Secret-Tara Taylor Quinn

The 3rd Secret
Tara Taylor Quinn
Mira, Nov 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778328346

Rick Thomas was caught stealing drug evidence from a government facility. He served three years in a federal pen, but is now free and vows to stay straight and free.

County Sheriff Huey Johnson arrests Rick charging him with the murder of Charles Cook. He called the cops informing them of finding the corpse when he reported to work. Rick insists he is innocent. Temple, Michigan defense attorney Erin Morgan is very selective who she defends in court as she refuses to help career criminals like Rick. She breaks her rule after meeting with him as she believes his plea he is innocent. However, the evidence proves Rick is either concealing something or lying. Erin considers dropping her client who she is falling in love with.

The third Chapman Files thriller (see The 1st Wife and the 2nd Lie) is a fabulous tale with two prime subplots besides the above in Chandler, Ohio. Dr. Kelly Chapman is adopting a frightened teen. Action packed, readers will want to know what the three secrets that Rock conceals are. Whereas the Thomas-Morgan arc is a fast-paced romantic suspense, the Chapman-Maggie segue is a poignant human interest drama; they blend smoothly together. With a strong cast, Tara Taylor Quinn writes a terrific Rust Belt thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Cold Dawn-Carla Neggers

Cold Dawn
Carla Neggers
Mira, Oct 26 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778328247

During a training exercise with her dog Ranger, search-and- rescue expert Rose Cameron finds a burnt body in a shed. The victim appears to be Derek Cutshaw though his body is beyond visual recognition. The evidence points to a serial killer as several victims found burned to death have been discovered.

California based smokejumper Nick Martini is the business partner of Rose’s brother Sean (see Cold River). He and Rose shared a one night stand in Beverly Hills eight months ago that still shakes both of them. He follows the trail of a homicide arsonist to Black Falls, Vermont where Rose is. Though attracted to each other and angry over their one evening tryst, the couple puts off their personal war to concentrate on bringing down a psychopath.

The latest Cameron family Green Mountain State thriller is an exciting entry that once again proves murder even by fire is served “cold”. The key to the strong story line is that the lead couple, in spite of their attraction leading to falling in love, knows the Cold Pursuit of the diabolical killer must come before their personal desires. Carla Neggers provides another strong investigative mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Absolute Risk-Steven Gore

Absolute Risk
Steven Gore
Poisoned Pen, Dec 1 2010, $24.95
Avon,Oct.26, 2010. $9.99
ISBN 9781590587713

Fed Reserve Chair Milton Abrams asks San Francisco private investigator Graham Gage to investigate the death of a former FBI agent Michael Hennessy in France just before they were to meet even though it appears to be a suicide. His inquiry leads Gage to deported MIT Economics Professor Hani Ibrahim, who was kicked out of the country after Hennessey proved he was leading a money laundering scheme to fund foreign terrorists.

In rural China, an earthquake causes mass destruction and leads to anger and rioting from fuming workers upset with the government response. Their insurgency places the mission of Gage's wife Faith to rescue two Chinese friends from government forces in peril. Gage finds evidence that Ibrahim, using a too big to fail hedge fund, is plotting a terrorist assault on the fragile world economy. However, his work endangers his spouse from Ibrahim’s subordinates. Meanwhile, evangelical President Cooper Wallace believes the global economic recession is part of God's master plan so he has doubts if he should intervene in alleviating the crisis.

The second gage tale (see Final Target) is a fabulous somewhat over the top financial thriller. Fast-paced, Steven Gore provides the reader with incredible insight into the too big to fail funding yet with plenty of macroeconomics, the action never slows down. Readers will want to join Gage as he hops from California to Marseille to China following the money trail.

Harriet Klausner