Monday, November 29, 2010

Undertow- Cherry Adair

Cherry Adair
St. Martin’s, Dec 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312371920

Zane “Casanova of the Caribbean” Cutter believes he knows where a Dutch frigate filled with precious metals and gems sunk in 1622. He needs a master mechanic to accompany him when he begins the latest Cutter Salvage operation. He asks Teal Williams, who recently joined his family firm to be closer to her dying father, to accompany him to sea. She agrees as he offers her a cut of the booty as long as he also understands no sex. He accepts the stipulation though he admits to himself her is turned on by his shipmate who he knew when she was a skinny child.

Their trip turns harrowing when a storm blows them off course. Adding to their plight are deadly sea thieves willing to kill to steal the treasure. However, neither is quite as dangerous as their attraction as he needs to prove his worthiness on treasure hunts and she was burned by a philandering hunk.

This under and on the surface watery romantic suspense thriller grips readers from the moment the storm blows the ship off course and never slows down as the protagonists struggle with perils including to their hearts with every nautical mile they sail. Fast-paced, Cherry Adair opens her Cutter Salvage series with a strong sea saga.

Harriet Klausner

True Colors-Joyce Lamb

True Colors
Joyce Lamb
Berkley, Jan 4 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425240359

In Lake Avalon, Florida, photojournalist Alex Trudeau had thought her life was great due to her beloved dogs and her profession; but now believes her life is perfect since Detective John Logan came to town. However, she takes a bullet while protecting her sister Lake Avalon Gazette reporter Charlie Trudeau (see True Vision for her thriller). The shot somehow enhances her already strong psychic skills as now a touch provides her vivid nasty memories the other person prefers forgotten.

Logan came to town to escape his past and believes he has done so with his relationship with Alex. However, his past returns to haunt him when an avenging serial killer abducts his beloved Alex so she can be used as the bait to murder Logan. Although she uses her skills to leave him clues, Logan knows when the confrontation comes he will risk death to insure she lives.

The second Trudeau sibling romantic suspense is truly a delightful thriller starring two likable but flawed lead characters trying to work together from a distance to thwart a psychopath from murdering either of them. Fast-paced with a clever contrast between the warm romance and the dark suspense, the sub-genre audience will appreciate Joyce Lamb’s second Lake Avalon thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Silent Victim-C.E. Lawrence

Silent Victim
C.E. Lawrence
Pinnacle, Dec 7 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780786021499

NYPD forensic psychiatrist Lee Campbell receives a call at home from former patient Ana Watkins. Reluctantly he lets her in his apartment. She tells him someone is following her; he has doubts that this is true, but tells her to call the police.

Meanwhile NYPD asks Lee to help on a case. Two apparent suicides died within a week of each other; one was electrocuted in the tub while the other was found floating down the East River. Each has GBH in their blood and a suicide note written by the killer surfaces. A third victim with GBH in her system surfaces; a suicide note is found in her home, but written by someone else. That last deceased is Ana found in Spuyten Duyvil. Although the police work the cat and mouse game with the serial killer, Lee is most determined to catch this psychopath as he ignored Ana’s fears.

This vivid chilling serial killer thriller will have readers jumping at every sound because the plot seems plausible. The hero has issues mostly with an inability to move passed the disappearance of his sister though he intellectualizes that he must do so. Instead he buries himself in his police work and somewhat with his girlfriend, but she has issues to from her work as a body parts identifier of those who died at 9/11 Ground Zero. Her decision for a time-out in their relationship sends Lee into an even deeper depression; his answer is a defense mechanism of drilling deeper into his police work. Although serial killer thrillers glut the market including Lee’s previous case Silent Screams, C.E. Lawrence’s flawed champion makes for a strong tale as readers will paraphrase Abraham Lincoln: A shrink who heals himself has a fool for a patient.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sinister Sprinkles-Jessica Beck

Sinister Sprinkles
Jessica Beck
Minotaur, Dec 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312946128

The townsfolk of April Springs, North Carolina are delighted when snow falls as the Winter Festival begins. Donut Harts owner Suzanne Hart enjoys the cold weather especially when snow covers the town.

However, this time the pristine color is red when someone Fatally Frosted Darlene Higgins using a candy cane as the weapon. Suzanne loathed Darlene who was her ex-husband Max’s mistress, but would not have wanted her dead. Meanwhile a shocked Muriel Stevens fears for her life as the victim wore her winter coat and a wig that that matched her hair color. The police suspect somewhat look into the possibility of a wrongful murder, but lean to Max as the killer in a murder of passion. Suzanne reluctantly investigates the homicide in order for Max not to fry by digging into Darlene’s past; which leads to an observant killer preparing to murder again and someone else also watching with appreciation in his eyes.

Sinister Sprinkles is a charming Carolina culinary cozy. Readers will enjoy visiting April Springs and take delight in the recipes included with each chapter. Although the motive for the amateur sleuth baker to investigate seems weak, sub-genre fans will enjoy her following the “recipe” how to investigate step by step.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 27, 2010

She Felt No Pain-Lou Allin

She Felt No Pain
Lou Allin
Rendezvous Crime (Napoleon & Company), Sep 25 2010, $16.95
ISBN: 9781926607078

In the summer near Fossil Bay on Vancouver Island, the corpse of a homeless person is found. Although family lives here as this was once her home, RCMP Corporal Holly Martin is relatively new to the small police detachment. Holly leads the inquiry into the death. She and Constable Chipper Knox Singh find drug paraphernalia near the body; later the autopsy confirms a drug overdose of heroin and a synthetic opiate.

The deceased possesses a warn wallet with an aging photograph and sever hundreds of dollars; strange articles for a seemingly homeless person. The two cops interview other drifters who insist he came to the vacation oasis to see his former girlfriend. They learn he is former convict Joel Clavir, whose sister recently won the lottery. As Holly begins to put together the puzzle of Joel, she believes someone sought something of value from the victim, which the cop finds near where they found the body is. As she struggles to solve what she now thinks is a homicide, her father is hurt while her fiftyish Aunt Madeline encourages her to investigate her mom’s disappearance years ago.

The latest Martin RCMP Canadian police procedural (see And on the Surface Die, for her first case) is an engaging whodunit that contrasts murder with the beauty of Vancouver Island. That comparisons of nature’s stark beauty to humanity’s avaricious homicidal tendencies makes for a strong whodunit as Holly investigates the murder and her own heritage with every step she takes enhanced by the setting she traverses.

Harriet Klausner

Montooth and the Canfield Witch-Robert Jay

Montooth and the Canfield Witch
Robert Jay
Montooth press (Cloverleaf Publishing), Aug 1 2009, $27.95
ISBN: 9780615296456

In 1950 near the Everglades in Winter Free, Florida, tomboy Catherine “Carty” Andersson, Blake Holmes and Hale Wending form the Crew group of friends. Soon afterward, Maximilian “Mack” Stein joins the Crew. All four are fourteen years old with Carty being the only female.

Their parents warn the kids to stay away from Morose Swamp where the infamous witch Sally Canfield resides. She is as the last of her line dating back to the Salem Witch hunts. However, being young teens, cautionary tales from parents are to be ignored. So they enter the swamp to just peek at the witch. The Crew is stunned with what they see as the hag is younger than their parents and harassed by deadly treasure seekers who believe the crone conceals a fortune. Led by brilliant strategist former marine Cruz "Cuban” Cruz, they deploy as a unit on a destroy and search mission. The counter force is the Crew and Montooth the duck protecting alligator.

Montooth and the Canfield Witch is an entertaining historical fable starring a fully developed cast (including the swamp) who brings alive the early days of the Cold War near the Everglades. Carty keeps the tale focused whether she is with her BFFs Crew, beating the snot out of odious schoolmate Haywood Dolder or protecting the crone in the swamp. Young adult readers will relish the battle between good and evil as, oh my, the witch, the thug, and the alligator make for a terrific 1950 teen adventure.

Harriet Klausner

The Grim Reaper: End of Days-Steve Alten

The Grim Reaper: End of Days
Steve Alten
Variance, Oct 10 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781935142164

At the top secret bio warfare lab at Fort Detrick, microbiologist Mary Klipot develops a more powerful derivative of the Black Plague. She hears a voice in her head who she believes is God. Following the commandments of her God, Mary deploys her creation Scythe on the modern day Sodom and Gomorrah, Manhattan to launch the End of Days. At the same time Mary launches her death elixir. World leaders including the American president meet at the United Nations. Her attack is devastating forcing the Federal government to quarantine Manhattan, incarcerating over three million people on the doomed island including those at the U.N. demanding release under diplomatic immunity.

When 9/11 occurred, Patrick "Shep" Shepherd quit Major league baseball to join the military. He deployed four times over the subsequent years, but now just over eleven years since the Towers were destroyed and thousands died, he has no family, no left arm, and allegorically no life as he suffers from PTSD at a Manhattan VA hospital. He not only learns of mad Mary’s mass murderous scheme, he plans to obtain the vaccine to inoculate his estranged wife and daughter. Shep and his therapist Virgil Shechinah march through plague ravaged "Nine Circles of Hell" of what was just yesterday Manhattan.

Combining the Kabbalah and 9/11 conspiratorial beliefs with a strange love of bio chemical weaponry inside a modern day version of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Steve Alten writes an intriguing convoluted twisting thriller. Shep and Virgil are heroic on a mission of goodness to travel through a Manhattan turned into the inferno as they learn that to reach Heaven they must confront sin. Although some of the “cantos” are difficult to comprehend as the Kabbalah and 9/11 paranoia remain mystical, fans will enjoy Mr. Alten’s twenty-first century take on the fourteenth century classic.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Orchid Affair-Lauren Willig

The Orchid Affair
Lauren Willig
Dutton, Jan 20 2011, $25.95
ISBN 9780525951995

In 1804 governess Laura Grey leaves England after ten years employed there to come home to Paris to spy on Napoleon. She enrolled at the Selwick Spy School where Laura was sort of trained in espionage under the code name Silver Orchid. In France, undercover as Laure Griscogne she becomes governess to widower Andre Jaouen's two children (nine years old Gabrielle and five years old Pierre-Andre). However, her mission is to use her new position to learn what her employer, the assistant Prefect to the Minister of Police, knows.

The plot deploys perfectly in spite of Laure’s lack of experience and limited training; in fact her being a tyro spy helps her conceal her probing. Meanwhile Griscognl and his rival Gaston Delaroche investigate the latest alleged Royalist plot to dispose of Napoleon. However, whereas Griscognl cares about the French, Delaroche cares about himself so he uses this inquiry to destroy his enemy. This leads to Laure and the Jaouen family fleeing for their lives across France; the adults pose as mom and dad and the Pink Carnation assists them while Delaroche seizes the opportunity.

The eighth Pink Carnation historical thriller (see The Betrayal of the Blood Lily) is a great tale filled with action from the moment Laure comes home and never slows down until the final altercation. Fast-paced with a strong cast (including the ambitious villain) who bring to life France in 1804 and a sort of historiographical perspective as each of the adults and others look back with different views from fondness to disdain to the 1789 Revolution.

Harriet Klausner

Tranquility Initiative-Joan Meijer

Tranquility Initiative
Joan Meijer
Eloquent, Aug 15 2010, $16.95
ISBN: 9781609114336

In a bid for a second term, President Charles Anderson must end the latest American Middle East war in Astrakhan. Like Iraq and Afghanistan, this endless conflict has cost lives and treasure, but mostly a tired American people. To insure victory at the ballot box, he must win in the Middle East where Muslims loath the invaders. His Medici Group advisors insist we avoid another humiliating retreat by deploying the Tranquility Initiative, which uses internationally banned anthrax as a weapon of mass destruction.

Terrorists steal two containers that they believe hold explosives from Trabzon Base in Turkey. They smuggle the boxes into New York City, but in Times Square they are surprised by what they find when they open the tightly sealed container; strips of aluminum foil with nothing else inside falls to the ground. The terrorists unwittingly introduce Anthrax that quickly spreads around the world from the most internationally tied city. CDC anthrax expert Doctor Cassandra Williams and New York Senator Richland Powell try to prevent the unleashing of the second box as the terrorists now know what the aluminum contains.

One would hope this could not happen, but with Iran-Contra allies like Hussein and the Taliban in the 1980s, the unsolved anthrax mailing, etc. Joan Meijer provides a powerful plausible cautionary thriller. The lead pair represents the turbines driving the tale as the Tranquility Initiative combines elements from the medical thriller with that of a political tale. Fans will be hooked from the moment the box is stolen as Ms. Meijer’s premises are the reelection of the president supersedes national interests at any cost and that the consequences of decisions today will surface in a decade or two in the future.

Harriet Klausner

Gideon's War-Howard Gordon

Gideon's War
Howard Gordon
Touchstone, Jan 11 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9781439175811

U.S. President Diggs sends his best peacemaker special envoy Gideon Davis to the Pacific island the Sultanate of Mohan. An Islamist insurgency led by terrorist Abu Nasir threatens to overthrow the American-friendly government. Diggs also sends advisor Earl Parker, Uncle Earl to Gideon and his older brother Tillman, as he raised them after their parents died two decades ago. Though he has not had a breather after working a cease fire in the jungles of Columbia for the last three months and just came out of a Columbian hut a few hours ago to attend a DC award ceremony, Davis knows he has to leave immediately as his sibling Tillman has twenty-three hours left.

Earl and Gideon travel to Mohan where they are to pick up rogue CIA Agent Tillman to bring him back to the States. Instead nothing goes right and Parker is abducted while Gideon struggles to survive amidst the civil war tearing apart the island country. Besides rescuing Uncle Earl, Gideon must liberate the Obelisk deep sea oil rig that terrorists led by Tillman seized. Oil rig manager Kate Murphy is Gideon’s only ally.

Faster than the speed of light, the executive producer of 24 Howard Gordon brings that concept to the written thriller genre. Ignoring plausibility with the story line over the top of the Himalayas, fans of the TV show will enjoy the Houdini escape artistry of the hero while the clock ticks down with a lot more at stake than his Uncle and a key oil rig as a world conspiracy is about to ignite. Inane, but fun, Gideon’s War is to take back the Obelisk from his brother while readers anticipate a Cain and Abel confrontation; lurking in the background is the global crisis.

Harriet Klausner

The Athena Project-Brad Thor

The Athena Project
Brad Thor
Atria, Nov 23 2010, $27.99
ISBN: 9781439192955

Over twenty Americans along with numerous other nationalities were killed in a terrorist attack in Rome, Italy. Homeland Security makes it a priority to bring the people behind the deadly assault to justice anyway necessary. Delta Force assigns four top female agents (Gretchen Casey, Julie Ericsson, Megan Rhodes, and Alex Cooper) to capture the black market arms dealer Nino Bianchi who supplied the terrorists.

However, the quartet succeeds at their mission only to learn of a deadlier plot. At the same time of the abduction, a soldier in South America finds the horrific sight of human bones embedded in rocks in underground tunnels in the jungle. He is unaware that these are the remains of failed experiments to transport in time and place Nazi concentration camp victims as part of the top secret Nazi technological advancement approved by Hans Kammler during WWII. The Delta Force operatives follow the lead to Castle Zbiroh in the Czech Republic where radio waves are suppressed. However, clues take the operatives back to the United States where they learn of the American post WWII Operation Paperclip and increasingly fear The Kammler Device teleportation technology. They are stonewalled by their own government, which seems to want the Delta Force operatives from uncovering the truth below Denver International Airport and at Camp Hero in Long Island.

Updating the Philadelphia Experiment with real people, places and events, Brad Thor provides a fast-paced exhilarating thriller that never takes a breath once the two subplots converge (a few chapters into the high speed tale). Connecting dots that go back through the Communists to the Nazis, the four women try to prevent a disaster while an adversary follows similar clues but prefers collateral damage. Action-packed, the first full thriller of the Athena Project quartet is an entertaining winner.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Blood of My Brother-James LePore

Blood of My Brother
James LePore
The Story Plant, Dec 25 2010, $16.95
ISBN: 9780981956886

In 1967 at the St. Lucy’s School in Newark, New Jersey, five year old Jay Cassio and Danny Del Collinao met while each were watching the nearby street riots. They became best friends being there for one another although their personalities were opposites with Jay being cautious and Danny a risk taker. Helping each other survive the mean streets, Jay became a lawyer while Danny ended up as a private investigator.

In 2004, Danny tells Jay that Donna Kelly hired him to deliver 500,000 dollars to her in Miami. Apparently the now deceased Bryce Powers, husband to Jay’s late client Kate, gave it to her to hold for one month. With both Powers dead from what the cops insist was a murder-suicide, Donna wants the loot. However, not long afterward, Dan is found tortured and dead in the South Miami Beach Motor Hotel. Out of character for the conservative Jay, he needs to know why. The Florida and New Jersey roads lead to Isabel Perez in Mexico where Bryce lived for five years.

Moving back and forth between 2004 and the past, fans obtain a taste of the two best buddies who have each other’s back. Thus when his friend his murdered, Jay, seemingly out of character, but in search of closure must know who killed Danny and why. Fans will accompany Jay who for the time takes a major dangerous risk without Danny coaxing him. The aptly titled Blood of My Brother is a tense thriller as the hero will learn whether the truth shall set him free or kill him.

Harriet Klausner

Mr. Hooligan-Ian Vasquez

Mr. Hooligan
Ian Vasquez
Minotaur, Dec 7 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312378110

In Belize, Riley James has worked as a smuggler for Carlo and Israel Monsanto for over two decades; ever since they took care of a deadly mess he was involved in as teen numbers runner. Few, if any, know the inland waterways better than Riley. However, Riley also realizes smuggling is a young man’s game; not a middle age pursuit. He is doing his last run for the brothers before retiring as the siblings agree this will wipe out his long standing debt to them.

Riley figures on co-owning Lindy’s Bar in Belize City with his friend Harvey Longsworth and marry his American sweetheart Candice. However, his plan goes astray starting with a car accident that has mobsters from Central America and Mexico in it, corrupt local officials especially cops, and DEA agents wanting his hide and what he delivers. A veteran of illegal trafficking, Riley will not go down without a fight.

Mr. Hooligan is superb crime thriller in which Charles Bronson (from Murphy’s Law and Mr. Majestyk) would play the lead. Fast-paced from the moment the last run goes wrong, readers will be totally hooked wondering if Mr. Hooligan will survive the gauntlet as betrayals engulf his every step.

Harriet Klausner

Disciple of the Dog-R.Scott Baker

Disciple of the Dog
R.Scott Baker
Forge, Nov 23 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765321909

Newark, New Jersey private investigator Disciple Manning has the uncanny ability to remember everything he hears or sees exactly like an instant replay. When he says he seen it all or heard it all, he can play back the tape in his head.

Worried about their twenty-one years old daughter, Jonathan and Amanda Bonjour hire Manning to find the missing Jennifer, who joined the New Age cult Framers founded by former Berkley university Professor Xenophon Baars. Amanda left the nursing school she attended and presumably resides within the Framers’ “Compound”; that is if she still lives, which Manning doubts. Manning drives to the converted Pennsylvania farm Compound to learn the fate of Amanda. Instead he finds out that Baars believes the world is coming to an end shortly. His obsessed followers blindly do what he tells them to do in preparation for the end of days.

Readers will either love or hate Disciple who is a sort of younger and gross version of The Old Man (played by Victor Wong) in the Golden Child. Thus, he is definitely different as a hero and not just because he has the uncanny total recall skill; farting and nose picking in public is part of his repertoire as a cynic who not only sees and hears it all he remembers it all. The fate of Amanda is engaging and twisting, and Baars fascinating in a Reverend Jim Jones of Guyana way. However, this plot is owned by the king of gas who can smell up a paragraph with one release.

Harriet Klausner

Bitter Legacy-H. Terrell Griffin

Bitter Legacy
H. Terrell Griffin
Oceanview, Dec 2010 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781933515960

Retired lawyer Matt Royal has been away from his beloved fishing and beer at Longboat Key, Florida. When he finally comes home he is stunned with what has happened to friends. An assassin shot in the chest Logan Hamilton on a busy Sarasota street, Logan survived, but Longboat Key Police Chief Bill Lester, expecting a second attempt of the sniper knows his target lives, sets up a bit of misdirection by having the “victim” taken to the morgue.

Soon after that attack, that same professional kills attorney Jason Blakemoore. Not long after that Matt finds himself in the crosshairs of a determined diligent killer. Matt has no idea who and why anyone is gunning down him and his friends; however, he plans to find out and end the marauder’s murdering assault even if that alienates police officer Jennifer Duncan.

This is an engaging low key thriller in which the targets are clueless as to why the perpetrator is after them. The story line is fast-paced from the opening murder attempt and never slows down. While the motives is low brow, the plot is entertainingly delightful; when the motive ties to the past and the Black Seminoles, it loses its edge as that feels forced to provide a powerful rationale. Still fans will enjoy Royal’s latest tale (see Blood Island, Murder Key and Longboat Blues); as unlike his last outing (see Wyatt’s Revenge) in which he was shot on two continents, he only becomes target practice on one.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Judas Gate-Jack Higgins

The Judas Gate
Jack Higgins
Putnam, Jan 4 2011,
ISBN: 9780399156547

General Ferguson, Sean Dillon and company hear a tape Major Roper made. It takes place in Afghanistan in which a horde of terrorists led by Shamrock killed several Army Rangers and a British medical team. They hear the euphoric voice of Shamrock whose accent is English. There exists plausible evidence he has ties to Al Qaeda; although unknown to Dillon and company this killer answers to Osama’s main henchman in Britain the Preacher. After listening to the tape taken from the Afghan battlefields by Major Roper, General Ferguson thinks a Taliban attack was led by an educated upper-class Englishman. The General and Dillon want to track down the traitor and put him on trial for treason.

Daniel Holley, as lethal as Dillon is, joins the team but he makes the mistake of telling his business partner and close friend Hamid Malik what he is doing. Malik considers Hill a member of his family; he worries about him and confides his concerns bed friend of thirty years Ali Hakin; unaware that hat his pal is an Al-Qaeda agent. Hakim informs the Preacher that Dillon and company are searching for him. The Preacher welcomes the news by setting up a chain of events leading to a confrontation on is terms in a crowded sector of Algiers populated by the dregs of society.

Highly regarded for his Dillon suspense thrillers, Jack Higgins’ latest is the usual strong tale that feels plausible as the author extrapolates the story line from the headlines. The plot is filled with triple crosses accentuated by the addition of a new player to the team, who readers will wonder if Hill is to be trusted or a pure capitalist crossing back and forth between sides. Once started The Judas Gate is impossible to put down.

Harriet Klausner

Peace-Jeff Nesbit

Jeff Nesbit
Summerside, Nov 1 2010, $12.99
ISBN: 9781609360436

Using stealth bombers purchased from America, the Israeli Air Force attacks Iran. The Islamic populations around the world are outraged while internationally Fundamentalist Christians and Jews rejoice. Western governments’ fear what the crisis will bring, but cannot stop the tsunami.

AS expected by many, the attack places the world on the brink of World War III. Time is running out and a peaceful solution increasingly looks unlikely. A small group of people is the last hope to prevent the pandemic destruction of global conflict. These brave souls think the only way to prevent war is to talk directly with the so called enemy; to achieve this requires a cell phone.

The first "Principalities and Powers" global thriller is a superb tale that takes the audience inside of some nasty places as well as top secret locales. Fast-paced from the onset readers are hooked with the action that seems plausible as Jeff Nesbit uses headlines to guide the tale. Although the ending seems off kilter with the foot suddenly not putting the pedal to the metal after speeding from one international hot spot to another, fans will appreciate this realistic twisting doomsday clock countdown.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Port Mortuary-Patricia Cornwell

Port Mortuary
Patricia Cornwell
Putnam, Nov 30 2010, $27.95
ISBN: 9780399157219

Dr. Kay Scarpetta is the new director of the Cambridge Forensic Center in Massachusetts. Working with her at the Massachusetts facility is her niece Lucy and Pete Marino. Kay attends a training fellowship at Port Mortuary in Dover Air Force Base where she is learning the latest technology that she can apply at the CFC. While she is at the Delaware installation, her second in command Jack Fielding runs CFC until he freaks out when a corpse starts bleeding.

Knowing Jack cannot cope with the situation, Kay returns home having finished the course anyway. When she arrives at CFC, she finds the inmates running the asylum. Scarpetta takes 3-D virtual technology x-rays, which shows internal injuries unlike any she has seen before. She has no idea what weapon could have caused such damage. Benton is working a case in which a suspect swore he killed a child, but he believes the confession is false as he thinks the victim’s death is connected to Scarpetta’s odd case. Soon there are two more deaths seemingly separate cases but Scarpetta makes connections that tie her victim to Benton’s case and feels all the deaths are linked but her husband is not talking about the cases as he usually does.

Ignoring that Scarpetta as the director would not have time for bench work and follow-up especially on a new Fed-State-MIT venture; her latest forensic inquiry is a fantastic thriller with the lab work as gripping if not more so as the foot work. Told in the first person by the heroine, readers obtain Scarpetta’s perspective on the case, her marriage, her new job, Dover (past and present), and her feeling about Lucy and Marino. The story line retains throughout a fast pace and is action-packed even in the lab as Patricia Cornwell interweaves state of the art technology (we’ve come a long ways from the Body farm) into a strong whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Possession-Rene Gutteridge

Rene Gutteridge
Tyndale, Jan 1 2011, $12.99
ISBN: 9781414324340

Montgomery County police detective Vance Graegan worked the infamous DC Sniper case diligently. However, each new murder of an innocent ripped at his gut. Now that the serial killers are caught, Vance knows he suffers from Post traumatic Stress Disorder. With his mental health shaky at best and feeling distant from his family, he decides that they need to start over; his wife Lindy agrees with his assessment to save the marriage.

Vance and his wife Lindy accompanied by their young son Connor move across the country to California where they plan to open up a deli. While Lindy moves ahead to find them a home, Vance stops in Chicago to see his old friend Erin. The move proves complicated by the moving company demanding higher fees before delivering their goods. As they face more violence, what Vance has held inside him that Lindy saw in his eyes begins to eat at his soul again.

Filled with super spins and terrific twists enhanced by an underlying message that you have to have faith to move mountains as Connor insists, readers will relish this strong character driven inspirational thriller. Fast-paced once the Graegan family begins to relocate after using the DC Sniper as a catalyst, this action-packed story line never slows down until the final confrontation is over. Rene Gutteridge provides a taut family drama that grips the souls of readers.

Harriet Klausner

Secrets to the Grave-Tami Hoag

Secrets to the Grave
Tami Hoag
Dutton, Dec 28 2010, $26.95
ISBN: 9780525951926

In 1986 in Oak Knoll, California, Peter Crane, the notorious See-No-Evil killer awaits trial (see Deeper Than the Dead). Meanwhile someone assaults twenty-eight year old single mom Marissa Fordham ruthlessly mutilating the artist before killing her. A little voice calls 911 to say her daddy was hurting her mommy. The cops find Marissa’s four years old daughter Haley strangled but with a faint pulse. She survives the lethal attack though she is traumatized.

Police Detective Tony Mendez leads the investigation. He obtains help from Anne Navarre Leone who will try to obtain the identity of the “Bad Monster” from the frightened child; and from her husband former FBI agent Vince Leone to look into Melissa’s background. The former effort makes little progress while the latter is bewildering as if Marissa lived two lives.

This is a gripping suspense police procedural that brings to life mid 1980s investigative skills with significant elements that enhance the story line. For instance 911 not providing an address (enhanced 911 had cost a lot of money) so that the victim rots for two days and the daughter lying on her dead mom’s shoulder almost joins her in death due to the time lag. Although the killer is obviously crazy with rage, the psychopath still manages to hides in plain sight; which felt wrong especially when the villain is revealed. Fast-paced, filled with action, a troubled witness, and a strong law enforcement team, readers appreciate the return to Oak Knoll with a twisting whodunit filled with misdirection.

Harriet Klausner

The October Killings-Wessel Ebersohn

The October Killings
Wessel Ebersohn
Minotaur, Jan 18 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780312655952

Looking back, two decades, South Africa's justice department chief Justice Abigail Bukula knows she has come a long way. Back in 1985 in Lesotho, teenaged Bukula survived a raid on an African National Congress house due to the kindness of a white soldier, Leon Lourens, who was part of the assault.

In 2005, Lourens proves to Bukula that most of those who were with him on the attack have been murdered over the years on the anniversary of the raid. Bukola knows to end the serial killer’s murdering spree she will need expert help. She turns to brilliant former prison psychologist Dr. Yudel Gordon for help as he has access to the imprisoned commander of the assault Marinus van Jaarsveld. Although he lost his job when Apartheid ended, Dr. Gordon agrees to assist Bukula.

The whodunit is excellent and will please readers but is more a tool to enable the audience to observe the radical changes and problems to overcome in South Africa not long after the Apartheid wall came crumbling down. Profound, fans will relish this terrific timely thriller (recent movie Invictus) as the return of Gordon after a three decade hiatus will send new fans seeking his 1980 cases (see Closed Circle, A Lonely Place to Die and Divide the Night).

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Precious and Fragile things-Megan Hart

Precious and Fragile things
Megan Hart
Mira, Jan 1 2011, $13.95
ISBN: 9780778329244

Todd Blauch carjacks Gilly Soloman’s vehicle with her inside. He takes his kidnapped victim to a remote snow-bound mountain. There they are trapped for months by the wintry weather conditions that make it impossible to leave while her family prays for her safe return.

Over time, Todd and Gilly forge an odd relationship beyond guard and prisoner. He tells her he just wanted her truck not her. However, he also admits he cannot free her because he fears she will turn him over to the cops. He refuses to return to prison. When she has a rare chance to escape, she hesitates not out of safety but out of the bond she formed with Todd.

This is an odd well written thriller that will remind readers of the 2005 Georgia courtroom murders with what went down after the killings between the hostage and the killer. Gilly and Todd are fascinating protagonists who forge a bond during the captivity as they get to know one another’s concerns especially once the snow melts. Although the late introduction of the tragic past feels unnecessary while slowing an intriguing character driven duet, fans who appreciate a strong look at what truly are Precious and Fragile Things like life will want to read Megan Hart’s dark suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Indefensible-Pamela Callow

Pamela Callow
Mira, Dec 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN 9780778329220

In Halifax, Nova Scotia, Elise Vanderzell falls off her balcony to her death. The police suspect foul play because she died just after a heated argument in front of their kids with her former spouse attorney Randall Barrett, who demanded increased time with their children.

The police investigate what they believe is a spousal homicide. Randall's fifteen years old son Nick wants him dead and is willing to kill his father so he provides detailed witness testimony to the cops in order to hang his dad. Randall’s twelve years old daughter Lucy is totally frightened of him having witnessed first hand his raging temper and partially thanks to Elise’s ramblings. A lawyer at McGrath-Barrett, Randall’s legal firm, Kate Lange is the only one who believes her boss is innocent. When the police arrest him for the first degree murder of Elise, Kate becomes his defense lawyer because she believes in him.

More a family drama following a tragedy, as the arrest and defense comes very late, readers who enjoy an insightful look at a dysfunctional family will want to read Indefensible. The key cast members are fully developed as fans will get inside the heads of the two kids, the dad and Kate. Nick comes across as a raging chip off the old block, but Lucy steals hearts with her abject fear of her father and to a degree her older brother. However, this is Kate’s tale as she displays courage with her convictions though one would think Randall would have selected an experienced defense attorney even if that person deemed him guilty. Although the story line is slow until the arrest, fans will enjoy this character driven thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Catch Her if You Can-Merline Lovelace

Catch Her if You Can
Merline Lovelace
Berkley, Jan 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 978042523924

Once she was a cocktail waitress in Vegas, but now she is USAF Second Lieutenant Samantha JoEllen Spade on loan to DARPA as an officer in charge of testing inventions from civilians with potential military applications. Right now they are coming out of the desert after testing Snoopy SNFIR (self nurturing find and identify robot). They reach Pancho’s to get a drink when Snoopy tries to get into a truck.

The overseer comes out of Pancho’s furious that people are at his vehicle. He takes out a gun, but Poncho kills him. In the trunk, they find a cooler with three heads inside it. The story hits the media who focus on Samantha and her previous exploits which they covered. After the hoopla dies, the Air Force brass feel Samantha is in danger from an enemy of her lover as several incidents aimed at her occur. They provide her protection, but a Mexican Warlord kidnaps her anyway in attempt to use her as bait to lure her boyfriend into a lethal trap.

Smart, sassy and insecure summarizes Samantha who though unsure of herself, gets the job done. Filled with action and acerbic often self-deprecating wit, readers will admire Samantha as she overcomes her doubts about her skills to perform what is needed. Fans of military home-front thrillers will enjoy Catch Her If You Can and Spade’s previous DARPA escapades (see Now You See Her and All The Wrong Moves).

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lawn Order-Molly MacRae

Lawn Order
Molly MacRae
Five Star, Jan 5 2010, $25.95
ISBN 9781594149139

In Stonewall, elderly Leona is attracted to newcomer Gene Mashburn. Her younger cousin Blue Plum Books store owner Margaret Welch has to admit her relative has good taste as Mashburn is handsome. However, she is suspicious of why he is here as strangers do not move to this small Blue Ridge Mountains town.

Meanwhile the normally quiet town is hit with a violent crime wave starting with the poisoning of pigeons, arson, and ultimately the homicide of developer Doug Everett. Margaret’s former boyfriend police sergeant George Buckles encouraged by his prim and proper sister Bitsy, thinks the timing of Mashburn coming to town with the crime wave is too coincidental. Additionally Mashburn and Everett were partners along with others in a plan to convert an old school into condos. While George investigates the murder with his mind set on one suspect, Margaret also makes inquiries but looks for others with motives and opportunities.

The return to Stonewall (see Wilder Rumors) is an entertaining Blue Ridge Mountains cozy that introduces readers to new stars, Margaret and Bitsy who will charm the audience with their humor and intelligence. Fast-paced from just after meeting the key cast members, fans will keep changing their guess as to who the killer is as Molly McRae provides a charming regional amateur sleuth enhanced by a police procedural investigation in which George believes the ladies actions are unsafe conflicted with his official inquiry.

Harriet Klausner

Open Season-Maryann Miller

Open Season
Maryann Miller
Five Star, Jan 5 2010, $25.95
ISBN 9781594149153

During an undercover drug sting that went ugly, Dallas police detective Sarah Kingsly’s partner John was killed during a sting operation; at the same his killer fired at him, Sarah shot his murderer a teenage African-American male. Sarah remains on the job, but is fearful of what the Dallas Review Board will determine though she feels she did everything in accordance with procedure. DPD wants her scalp to clam the Black community as everyone except Sarah ignores a cop was killed.

The DPD decides to team her up with African-American partner Angel Johnson as a public relations ploy; Angel’s family pressures her to demand a different partner. Neither female trusts the other, which impedes their investigation into murders at the Galleria Mall. Someone used piano wire to garrote to death three drug using men. Each new killing has an increasingly deeper deranged message by the psychopath as if whatever grip on reality the culprit had is melting away. If Sarah and Angel fail to move past their racial divide soonest, people will be dead by an out of control serial killer.

This is a great taut police procedural starring two fully developed lead characters with personal issues that keep them from forging the type of partnership that Sarah had with John. Although loaded with plenty of typical law enforcement action, the deep look at the psyche of both females make for a fabulous thriller. Fans will want more appearances by the fab females and police shrink Doc Murray, whose professional relationship with especially remroseful Sarah brings freshness to a strong character driven story line.

Harriet Klausner

Killer Instinct-Marilyn Victor and Michael Allan Mallory

Killer Instinct
Marilyn Victor and Michael Allan Mallory
Five Star, Jan 5 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148941

In Wolf Lake, Minnesota the debate rages over the gray wolf protected by the feds, but considered a menace by the locals. Someone stirs the ire on both sides and that that person kills four wolves leaving their carcasses for all to see. The Minnesota Wolf Institute (MWI) investigates the killings.

At the same time, Minnesota Valley Zoologist Lavender “Snake” Jones is staying with her friend MWI wolf biologist Gina Brown while working on a show for Zoofari. They stop for coffee but are accosted by St. Louis County’s most cantankerous old coot Ivar Bjorkland. They join the Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Peter Bunyan in search of the bodies, which they find leading to a tirade by Gina. Soon afterward someone kills Bjorkland and other human homicides follow. Snake fears her friend Gina has lost control while the Stewards of Superior threaten aggressive action against all who defile nature. Her spouse herpetologist Jeff pleads with her to focus on the show, but Snake cannot help but investigate.

The second Jones animal-human murder investigation (see Death Roll) is an entertaining thriller that focuses on the complex issue of endangered species vs. the economy even with the wolves no longer on the environmental protection list. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Snake is accosted while buying coffee and never slows down as Marilyn Victor and Michael Allan Mallory capture the deep rooted passion on both sides of the wolf issue. Although the actual motivation for murder seems to have been dumped from nowhere, readers will enjoy this exciting eco-environmental amateur sleuth.

Harriet Klausner

Strategic Moves-Stuart Woods

Strategic Moves
Stuart Woods
Putnam, Jan 18 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9780399157110

In Manhattan attorney Stone Barrington goes to dine at his usual spot Elaine's with his former NYPD partner Dino Bachetti and his boss Bill Eggers managing partner at Woodman & Weld law firm arrives. His efforts leads to Bill giving Stone a check for one million dollars for bringing in a new client Strategic Services whose founder Hackett was murdered by British Intel agents in Maine with Barrington at his side. Apparently Stone's undercover work with British MI6 has brought in the new customer while Eggers says he may nominate Stone for a full partnership next year.

The CIA asks Stone to help escort from Spain to the States fugitive Erwin Gelbhardt. Stone becomes Gelbhardt’s lawyer. He offers a deal with the Feds; in exchange for a lesser or no sentencing, his client will reveal where Osama bin Laden hides. Then there is Freeman of Strategic Services who may be running a Madoff scheme.

Putting aside background plausibility that is over the top of the Empire State Building starting with ignoring the on-line media presence, fans of the Barrington saga will enjoy his latest entry. Being “of counsel” he works cases for the company in which W&W do not want the DNA trail leading back to them and this time has a couple of deadly doozies. Fans will enjoy Stone’s version of a legal thriller as the action never slows from the start with M16 in the background to the finish with the FBI in the forefront.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Double Prey-Steven F. Havill

Double Prey
Steven F. Havill
Poisoned Pen, Jan 4 2011, $24.95
ISBN 9781590587829

In Posadas County, New Mexico, nine year old Francisco explains to his mother undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman that he and his fourteen years old friend Butch Romero found a snake on the arroyo. They battered the western diamondback but not before the rattler bit Burch in the eye. Besides the venom, a fang was caught in the eye. Butch is airlifted to the hospital.

Not long after that Butch’s eighteen year old brother Freddy drives his ATV off the bank of an arroyo while apparently doing joyriding cartwheels. However, just before he went over the edge, Freddy apparently found a human skull that Esther and her team including her retired predecessor Bill Gastner believe is the remains of an unsolved five years old murder case.

The latest Posadas County police procedural (see Discount for Death and Red, Green, or Murder) is the usual terrific entry in what has been for years one of the best series the sub-genre has to offer. The law enforcement officials are dedicated cops diligently doing their job while dealing with an assortment of people some overtly hostile. With much more going on than just the Romero brothers’ subplot and with the inquiries providing insight into the land and the people, fans will relish the return to New Mexico for this enchanting tale.

Harriet Klausner

Big Wheat-Richard A. Thompson

Big Wheat
Richard A. Thompson
Poisoned Pen, Jan 1 2011, $24.95
ISBN 9781590588208

As summer ends in 1919 on the Great Plains, Charlie Krueger is one of a horde of migrant workers who travel from farm to farm harvesting the Big Wheat grown on the prairie. The invention of the threshing machine has changed harvesting, but not the bands of travelers working the land.

Mechanically inclined Charlie fled his hometown in North Dakota when he was jilted by Mabel Boyson who grew up three farms over from his family’s spread. Charlie saw them as Romeo and Juliet though his father saw him as worthless trash. When Mabel informed him she was pregnant, he was about to propose when she said now Harold Bow will have to marry her. He left for the road of the migrant farm worker unaware that back home The Windmill Man serial killer murdered Mabel to water the earth with blood and that the locals including his father assume Charlie ran because he murdered her. Now the Windmill Man has followed Charlie with a rash of homicides; Charlie is a target for bleeding in Kansas in case he knows who the predatory psychopath is.

The serial killer subplot is deftly handled, but what makes this a superior read is the close look at life on the Great Plains just after WWI at a time when technology changes a way of life. The migrant farm work even with the thresher is tediously back-breaking, dangerous to limbs, and lonely. Charlie is terrific as he holds the insightful story line together in what is a great opening act for 2011 as Richard A. Thompson provides a fabulous historical.

Harriet Klausner

The Border Lords-T. Jefferson Parker

The Border Lords
T. Jefferson Parker
Dutton, Jan 11 2011, $26.95
ISBN 9780525952008

Los Angeles sheriff's deputy thirtyish Charlie Hood continues to work for ATF as a loaner. Currently he and his partners are conducting surveillance of a house in the border town of Buenavista, California. Four North Baja Cartel gunmen are inside along with undercover ATF agent Sean Ozburn. A close friend of Hood, Ozburn poses as a gun dealing meth peddler.

Abruptly Ozburn goes into rage and kills the cartel members before fleeing the massacre. Hood pursues his friend as he must bring Ozburn in. Meanwhile the rogue ATF agent offers the best gun on the market to a drug cartel leader while Hood’s peer L.A. deputy Bradley Jones feels yanked by his ties to all the players.

The key to the latest Hood police procedural (see Iron River) is the profound realistic look at the border problem from both sides; not just the illegal immigrants but a much more complicated issue. Instead, readers observe supply and demand at its purest with the sale of guns south to the Cartels and in the sale to American customers of drugs and girls. Fans will be hooked from the opening sequence when apparently undercover Agent Ozburn went rogue and never slows down until the final confrontation. Still with all this exhilarating testosterone making for a super tale, it is the economics of the Border Lords on both sides of the fence that brews bigger issues than long time staying illegals.

Harriet Klausner

Passions of the Dead-L.J. Sellers

Passions of the Dead
L.J. Sellers
Spellbinder Press. Oct 13 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780979518287

Eugene, Oregon Police Sergeant Lammers informs the sixteen detectives that two of them will be cut. Twenty year homicide detective Wade Jackson fears he is one of those being reduced from the force because he recently was suspended and has injuries. The meeting is interrupted when the desk officer informs Lammers four people were murdered at a house on Randall St. Lammers sends Jackson and four other cops to the murder scene while ordering the mobile crime unit to go there and informs the DA and ME of the mass murder.

One of the reported is dead, a teenage girl Lori Walker, still lives so is rushed to the hospital. The ME reports fifteen years old Nick Walker has been dead for ten hours. The other two victims are their parents Jared and Carla; her sister Rita discovered the bodies. The prime suspect is the victim’s cousin Shane who was laid off his job and has a drug problem. However, the case takes strange spins as the crime scene fails to make sense; Lori survives but remembers nothing before vanishing; a blackmail link is found tied to Jared’s former boss Roy Engall; and a second house invasion occurs. Diligently Jackson and the others keep pushing though he expects to be canned.

The latest Jackson police procedural (see The Sex Club) is a complex mass murder case made more convoluted by fascinating flashbacks to what led to the homicides although the time transfers back to the present is not as lucid as the trips to the past. The investigation is top rate with Jackson and his team persistently following leads that not only fail to make the puzzle fit, but seem to expand the frame. Readers will enjoy accompanying the cops as they work the case.

Harriet Klausner

Buttercream Bump Off-Jenn McKinlay

Buttercream Bump Off
Jenn McKinlay
Berkley, Jan 4 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9780425239247

In Scottsdale, Arizona, Melanie Cooper and Angie DeLaura own successful Fairy Tale Cupcakes along with silent partner rich Tate Harper. Mel’s widow mom Joyce calls her daughter to tell her she has a date with entrepreneur Baxter Malloy, her first in centuries. On the night of the date Joyce goes into the cabana to change so she can enter the hot tub. When she comes out she finds Baxter dead; apparently while she was inside the cabana, someone choked Baxter with Myra’s stocking.

The next day, a man enters the bakery shouting at Mel for killing his father. Mel states her mother was on the date with his dad not her and besides her mom did not kill him either. Angie recognizes Brian Malloy AKA Roach the drummer for the Sewers band. Angie and Roach are attracted to one another while Mel tries to find out who killed Baxter. Widower Tate (see Sprinkle with Murder to learn the fate of his late wife) does not realize he loves Angie, fears for her life as he believes Roach killed the father he has not seen in three years. Mel realizes Baxter ran a Ponzi scheme that sucked in many Seattle residents; thus a horde of suspects had strong motives to kill him.

This is a fun timely amateur sleuth mystery with plenty of suspects whose lives were destroyed by Baxter’s con. The three pastry partners are BFFs, but the sprinkles on the cupcakes are their intimate relationships as this trio and Angie’s brother Joe sing Sister Sledge’s We Are Family (with Pittsburgh’s Pops smiling down on them). Tate’s ignorance of how he feels about Angie though Mel sees it quite lucidly and Angie suspects it; and Mel’s boyfriend Joe who naps when he sees her add humor to this sublime mystery. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this sweet (cupcakes and friends) and sour (con and murder) whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Three Seconds-Anders Rosland and Borge Hellstrom

Three Seconds
Anders Rosland and Borge Hellstrom
Silver Oaks, Jan 4 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9781402785924

In Sweden, Piet Hoffman is so good at what he does only one other knows who he really is. An ex-con with a loving wife and two kids, he has spent much of the decade moving up the hierarchy of the Polish Mafia working in Stockholm. The mob chief chooses Piet to lead their plan to take over the supplying of amphetamines to convicts; but first he must enter Wotjek Security to infiltrate a Polish drug-dealing operation in order to eliminate the current sales boss (for the mob) and gather information (for the cops).

Meanwhile Swedish Police Service Detective Inspector Ewert Grens investigates a drug-related killing in which Hoffman witnessed the execution. All roads lead to Hoffman, who has wiretap information he uses to keep corrupt politicians from eliminating him. Instead the politicos believe in cantankerous obstinate Grens they have the source to destroy Hoffman. However, Grens is frustrated as someone is covering up something; what he does not know in his pursuit of Hoffman is he threatens Piet’s cover.

Three seconds is a great Swedish police procedural that focuses on the Eastern European invasion of Sweden by felons and former agents. The story line is filled with action, but driven by Piet who fears the corrupt cops or politicians will soon sell him out. His anguish over his family augments the tale as he wants to come out of the cold but at the same time leaves readers to wonder why he takes such risks as he goes under for allegedly one final potentially deadly assignment. Mindful of Henning Mankell’s Inspector Kurt Wallander thrillers, fans will relish Piet’s work for the Police Service.

Harriet Klausner

The Knot Artist-India Wilson

The Knot Artist
India Wilson
Lightning Strikes Press, Oct 2010, $19.95
ISBN: 9780982958513

She knows she is numero uno with affluent clients who satiate their bondage fetish by paying big bucks in cash to enter her dungeon in the Hamptons. Besides the money that enables her to reside in a large Manhattan loft, Dominique loves recognition as a Goddess worshiped by men whose adulation makes her the most desired dominatrix on the East Coast.

Her clients include Connecticut CEO Fred “pretty girl” Naughton and US Senator from Maryland Thomas Milliam who increasingly demands more from Dominique. When Milliam stops breathing while knotted to the St. Andrews cross, CPR fails and Dominique panics. She fears for his legacy and the cops accepting his being her willingly sex slave. As his death brings his world of intrigue especially with Cuba into her dungeon, Milliam’s security expert Reynolds Graham helps her navigate the dangerous international tsunami; but he is also a peril to her heart.

This is a fascinating timely erotic political thriller that goes deep into the S&M fetish world in which men of power pay large amounts of money to be a Sub to a discreet Dom. The key to this entertaining tale that twists from the dungeon to political intrigue is that India Wilson avoids moral condemnation of the BDSM crowd. The fast-paced story line is at its best when entering the dungeon and India’s panic over what to do. Her past with her sister enhances the erotic elements as the audience learns how Dominique got to where she is. Although the spin into a taut international political intrigue subplot adds plenty of well-written suspense, this also takes the audience away from the thrilling visits to the dungeon.

Harriet Klausner

Naked Cruelty-Colleen McCullough

Naked Cruelty
Colleen McCullough
Simon and Schuster, Dec 28 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9781439178317

In 1968 in Holloman, Connecticut, a masked man grabs Maggie Desmond in her apartment; he rapes her repeatedly. When he completes his sodomizing of Maggie, the rapist warns her not to go to the police; if she disobeys he will kill her. Frightened yet not intimidated by the beast, she talks to a senior police officer at the hospital. Captain Carmine Delmonico leads the investigation into a vicious serial rapist whose victims have been so afraid they refuse to speak to anyone, but now he has the first courageous victim talking to the cops about the “dodo” who assaulted her.

Someone vandalizes the Glass Teddy Bear Shop in the Busquash Mall, but does not steal anything. At Taft High School, a cache of weapons are found by a splinter group of the Black Brigade who thinks the Black People’s Power is not into violence, which is the only way Blacks can achieve equality. Carmine’s Lieutenant Corey Marshall ignores his subordinates’ verbal and written reports that there are more weapons stashed somewhere in the school while trainee Helen MacIntosh, daughter of the president of Chubb University, believes she runs the unit. With issues at home, Carmine faces tsuris 24/7.

The latest Delmonico historical police procedural (see On, Off and Too Many Murders) provides readers with what went on inside a New England precinct during the tumultuous late 1960s. Carmine is an honest cop who expects the same ethical behavior from those who work for him; when he finds someone who fails to attain and maintain his standard, he scrutinizes their every move to improve their standard of conduct and performance. He has so many issues at the station (and at home), he delays his look at the information provided by Maggie until late in the story line; thus adding realism to a strong 1968 investigative thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 12, 2010

Damage-John Lescroart

John Lescroart
Dutton, Jan 4 2011, $26.95
ISBN: 9780525951766

Ro Curtlee serves ten years of his sentence for the rape and murder of a family housekeeper Dolores Sandoval. However, due to the constant pressure of his affluent family, the Ninth District Appeals Court orders a new trial. His wealthy parents post a million dollar bond that bails him out of jail as he awaits a retrial.

Curtlee quickly goes to work murdering a witness who testified against him. He threatens to harm the family of San Francisco Police Homicide Chief Abe Glitsky. Meanwhile Ro’s parents, who own the city’s member two selling newspaper the Courier, use columnist Sheila Marrenas to pressure the new District Attorney Wes Farrell and others related to the case to back off or else. SFPD led by Glitsky finds new and old evidence swallowed up by the Curtlee brood either through influence peddling, not so subtle threats, or murder.

The latest Glitsky and Dismas Hardy thriller (see A Plague of Secrets) is a great entry as the villain is incredible with all the assets he has and uses including the media. Complicated with several subplots that initially seem more like additional police caseload, but cleverly merge into a super story line, fans will wonder if the Curtlee clan will defeat Glitsky and company.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff-Don Bruns

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Don Bruns
Oceanview, Dec 6 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781933515793

Even roommates Skip Moore and James Lessor are shocked when the Florida Department of Agriculture issues them their private investigator license though each understands the Sunshine State has been out in the sun too long. The pair opens up the Moore or Less Investigations form.

To keep from becoming starving sleuths James obtains a position as marketing director of the Moe Show traveling carnival; owner Moe Bradley must have worked for the state. Moe also orders James to investigate who is causing the accidents on the rides culminating with the death of a thirtyish woman when the safety bar on a ride failed. Skip joins James, but most of the carny employees provide Lessor cooperation as they learn first hand on the Dragon Tail and Moore insult in Freddy’s Fun House. When worker Kevin Cross is murdered in his trailer, the two new official sleuths bring in the big guns, Skip's girlfriend Emily, and P.I. Jody Stacy.

Over the top of Tallahassee, the enjoyable Moore or Lessor tale (see Stuff to Spy For) has the Dumb Dicks (they are humorous unlike the 1930s movie) legal while causing the same jocular havoc with terrific asides that skewer the state. The story line is faster than the Dragon Tail ride as the duo seems to land constantly in excrement that only a fly would appreciate. With a fabulous cliffhanging finish, Don Bruns’ fans will welcome the return of the zany pair and their more effective female buddies while wanting the next Moore and Lessor thriller immediately.

Harriet Klausner

Backstage Stuff-Sharon Fiffer

Backstage Stuff
Sharon Fiffer
Minotaur, Jan 4 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312609795

Jane Wheel is a picker who buys items at estate sales, auctions and flea market to resell at a higher price. She is also a private investigator’s apprentice, which will come in handy when she and her friend picker Tim Lowry are preparing to show the Kendall Estate so it will look good to customers attending the event.

Tim finds an old play written by Frederick Kendall in 1908; believing it will bring in more buyers, he wants to put on a production of the murder mystery play that Jane finds as amusing drivel that helps lift her from the depression of her divorce from Nick. His plan is to use friends and family including Jane’s parents. A ventriloquist’s dummy Mr. Bumby is leaving threatening notes insisting people will if the play is performed. Tragedy strikes when a carpenter is murdered. Jane investigates hoping to find the culprit before someone else is killed.

Jan Wheel has become more confident in her self and likewise with her sleuthing abilities as she follows her instincts while seeking clues. Jane assumes the person sending the threatening messages via the dummy is the killer, but who remains elusive. Using dabs of humor, readers will enjoy the latest Wheel Stuff (see Buried Stuff) as Jane regains her equilibrium.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mercy Kill-Lori Armstrong

Mercy Kill
Lori Armstrong
Touchstone, Jan 28 2011, $15.00
ISBN 9781416590972

Late at night in South Dakota, former army sniper Mercy Gunderson steps outside of Clementine’s bar where she works only to find the corpse of Major Jason "J-Hawk" Hawley. J-Hawk, who saved Mercy’s life in Indonesia, was shot and stabbed.

Mercy’s boyfriend Eagle River County Sheriff Mason Dawson seems to perform a perfunctory investigation. Mercy decides she owes her buddy so she begins making inquiries. She uses J-Hawk’s job as a spokesperson for Titan Oil on their controversial pipeline project as the starting point. However, Mercy begins to uncover some nasty stuff about her late hero that makes her wonder if she even knew J-Hawk. At the same time, FBI Indian County Special Crimes Unit Agent Shay Turnbull also investigates the homicide and the ties to Titan Oil.

The sequel to No Mercy is a super whodunit as the former soldier refuses to believe the evidence that her hero did not live up to the image she has of him. The story line is fast-paced especially when the subplot focuses in the present. The speed decelerates somewhat when the story line concentrates on Mercy’s military past; although that also enhances understanding of the heroine’s motives and feelings with “the statue on the pedestal comes crumbling to the ground” (Blessed is the Rain by Brooklyn Bridge).

Harriet Klausner

Buffalo West Wing-Julie Hyzy

Buffalo West Wing
Julie Hyzy
Berkley, Jan 4 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425239230

The new president of the United States with his wife watching is sworn into office. Back at the White House, executive chef Olivia’ Ollie” Paras and her staff prepare to adapt to the First Family whose tastes differ from the previous occupants.

Ollie notices a box on a counter containing chicken wings meant for President Harden’s children Josh and Abby. Since she has no idea who left it, Ollie refuses to allow the First Kids to eat it though Josh and Abby want them. The First Lady is livid with the chef’s audacity. When the food is given to the laundry workers, they become ill and are rushed to the hospital where they are held hostage by extremists from Armuston who demand the release of their leader from an American prison. While Ollie is worried about the personal chef Virgil Ballantine who the First Family hired to prepare their meals and apparently wants her job, the extremists are about to perform another action to free their leader.

Readers will be fascinated with what goes on in the White House where even the kitchen deals with politics as the devoted staff struggle with the change in administration demands on them especially with young kids (previous administration had adult children). The First Lady is hostile towards Ollie for depriving her First Children from eating the wings that were laced with arsenic but the Secret Service and Ollie are not allowed to inform her of that; this animosity and concealment seem inappropriate with international and domestic terrorism a growth industry. Although the workers rarely make it into the limelight, the White House could not function without their support. The whodunit is cleverly devised as Julie Hyzy writes an engaging amateur sleuth starring a heroine with a unique perspective of Eggecutive Orders

Harriet Klausner

A Stitch before Dying-Anne Canadeo

A Stitch before Dying
Anne Canadeo
Gallery (Pocket), Dec 28 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9781439191392

Maggie Messina owns the Black Sheep Knitting Shop. She and four of her friends formed the Black Sheep Knitters as each loves to knit and think of the shop as their refuge where they can focus peacefully on their past-time.

Maggie is invited to provide a knitting seminar at the exclusive Crystal Lake Inn in the Berkshires. For diverse reasons, her four Black Sheep Knitters accompany her to the inn as they each look forward to knitting at the new age spa run by self help aficionado Dr. Max Flemming. On an overnight camping trip, Dana and Lucy attend the new age evening, when a murder occurs. The police question everyone but discover the victim Curtiss Hill was a reporter. He lied when he said he worked for a travel guide, but instead was an investigative reporter for Expose a muckraking tabloid that reports embarrassing items about celebs. They later learn the hut where the kill happened is normally occupied by Dr. Max. The Black Sheep Knitters assume the flamboyant owner was the intended victim and seek motives from that assumption.

This charming cozy will entertain those readers who relish eccentric character driven mysteries. There are three viable suspects who wanted Max dead as the Knitters stitch the case together one clue at a time. Fast-paced, fans will root for the fearsome fab five as they investigate who murdered Curtis in the third Black Sheep Knitter’s amateur sleuth (see Knit, Purl and Die).

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The KenKen Killings-Parnell Hall

The KenKen Killings
Parnell Hall
Minotaur, Jan 18 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780312612191

Cora Felton explains to her niece Sherry Carter that she is not sure who Chester T. Markowitz is though he may have a husband during her past drinking era in which much of her memory especially of the Reagan years is stewed. However, she has inherited $10,000 from the late Chester T. Markowitz so will toast him without alcohol and cash the check.

Sherry is suspicious of the windfall from an apparent stranger. Meanwhile Cora assists Bakerhaven, Connecticut Police Chief Dale Harper investigate the break-in of banker Roger Randolph’s house. Nothing was stolen; in fact to the contrary the thief left behind a KenKen puzzle. One of Cora's horde of ex-husbands that she recognizes as a former spouse Melvin Crabtree, encouraged by his present wife Evelyn and girlfriend Bambi, sues to end alimony payment.

As always the over the top mystery is super fun as readers will appreciate the KenKen puzzles that make for an enjoyable read. The early description as to how a KenKen puzzle works is terrific as Cora explains to Harper and Sherry (and fans) the mechanics. The cleverly devised whodunit with its Riddler-like clue takes a back seat to the puzzles as Parnell Hall provides an entertaining Puzzle Lady mystery (see The Puzzle Lady vs. the Sudoku Lady).

Harriet Klausner

Prey on Patmos-Jeffrey Siger

Prey on Patmos
Jeffrey Siger
Poisoned Pen, Jan 4 2011, $24.95
ISBN 9781590587669

Twenty First Century Special Crimes Division Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis travels to Patmos to investigate the violent murder of a Father Kalogeros Vassili. Upon arrival at the holy Greek isle, the cop quickly learns that the monk was popular amongst the locals and no one can provide a hint of scandal or motive.

However, Kaldis digs deeper and begins to uncover ties to international intrigue that he would not expect from Father Vassili or his order. Soon in a place where The Book of Revelation was allegedly written, Kaldis finds a document with eerie apocalyptic scribe and even stranger images that has him wonder if a larger conspiracy than a simple homicide is behind the Vassili murder. Though he prefers not to conjecture Kaldis fears an assault on the leaders of the Orthodox Church.

Armchair detectives will enjoy the latest trip to Greece to follow the escapades of Kaldis and his team including the antics of his pregnant lover. The story line contains less present tense action than in the previous cases (see Assassins of Athens and Murder In Mykonos); as most of the events is discussed in the past tense by the investigators. Still readers will find fascinating the descriptive Prey on Patmos, which connects the locale where Saint John wrote the Book of Revelation and in which life has not changed amongst the secluded monks for fifteen centuries with a modern day police procedural.

Harriet Klausner

Senseless-Mary Burton

Mary Burton
Zebra, Jan 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN 9781420110197

After a decade in prison for the murder of Josiah Cross, Eva Rayburn is freed and returns home to Alexandria, Virginia. Eva thinks back to the horrific night when the predatory Cross terrorized her and other members of their sorority sisters after one of the coeds broke off with him. Ironically though she spends time behind bars, she remains unsure whether she actually killed the lunatic.

However, someone begins murdering the sisters; using a heated branding iron to burn a four-pointed star on each of the conscious victims before stabbing their prey in the heart. Alexandria homicide detective Deacon Garrison leads the serial killer investigation with Eva assisting him although neither trusts one another.

Senseless is a strong romantic suspense starring an intriguing heroine who holds the taut thriller together. The relationship between the cop and the con enhances the tenseness of the story line with a late twist that augments the feeling of doom. Readers will want to know who the serial killer is and why this psychopath targets the sorority sisters even with knowing the probable motive most likely ties back to Cross. This is a powerful thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Poison Tree-Erin Kelly

The Poison Tree
Erin Kelly
Viking, Jan 6 2011, $26.95
ISBN 9780670022403

A decade after they first met, Karen, accompanied by her nine year old daughter Alice the chatterbox; pick up Rex after he spent the past ten years in prison convicted of murder. Karen reflects back to 1993 when her life radically changed. It started innocently with her receiving a scholarship to attend Queen Charlotte's College in London. At the school, she meets drama student Biba Capel, whose off beat behavior fascinates the scholarship student. Biba introduces her new friend to her even odder older brother Rex.

The siblings invite Karen to come to their family house, a deteriorating but at one time incredible home in Highgate. There Karen meets an assortment of strange renters. The trio tosses wild party that alienates their neighbors, but none of them care as the feel they reside in paradise. However, the serpent arrives when Biba's lover crashes the idyllic Utopia. Soon murder joins the mix.

The Poison Tree is terrific twisting British psychological thriller as the audience is hooked to learn how Rex is freed after ten years behind bars for murder. Karen is a strong protagonist who though frightened understands the stakes that she has “everything to lose” including the happiness that she thought would be forever with Rex. Filled with spins, Erin Kelly’s suspense laden tale is a fabulous way to open 2011.

Harriet Klausner

Murder Your Darlings-J.J. Murphy

Murder Your Darlings
J.J. Murphy
Obsidian, Jan 4 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451231994

It is the 1920s with Prohibition in full swing. Vanity Fair columnist Dorothy Parker, renowned for her wit, lives in the Algonquin Hotel. She is going to the restaurant where she and her fellow writers have their own table dubbed the Round Table. Dorothy notices a pair of legs sticking out from the table and assumes one of the regulars has arrived.

She finds the corpse of Leland Mayflower, the Knickerbocker News drama critic. At the same time William Faulkner introduces himself to Dorothy; telling her he came from Mississippi to immerse himself in the culture as he hopes to one day write about what he sees and feels. The police look at the young writer as a suspect so Dorothy and her friend Mr. Robert Benchley begin to ask questions. Faulkner saw the person who killed the critic and the cops seek him out as he is a known gun for hire. However someone kills the culprit before the police can interrogate him. Mobster Mick Finn takes the second murder personally as the gun man worked for him; he cannot afford to allow someone to get away with killing one of his men or he will lose face. The killer, the mobster and the police keep their sights on Parker and Benchley with the former wanting to insure they can’t identify him and the latter hoping they can.

This historical mystery is very atmospheric; giving armchair time traveling readers a vivid taste of the Roaring Twenties in New York City. Dorothy is portrayed as a good friend, a tough broad and a highly regarded member of the literary intelligentsia. Celebrities appear in cameo roles, which enhance the realism of Murder Your Darlings so that the grateful audience will appreciate Parker-Benchley, amateur sleuths.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Death and the Running Patterer-Robin Adair

Death and the Running Patterer
Robin Adair
Berkley, Dec 7 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425237038

In 1828 in New South Wales, a soldier relieving himself of the drink he imbibed at the pub is murdered. Soon afterward, Governor Lieutenant-General Ralph Darling receives an ominous short rhyme with the implication more will die. Darling, based on advice from the police chief Captain Francis Rossi, orders former Bow St. Runner Nicodemus Dunne to investigate. Nic points out he is a patterer reading the news to people and no longer a detective ever since he was exiled for protecting a little girl from the excess assault of soldiers

Nic uncovers all sorts of secrets from local residents, but none connect to the killer who has murdered again. However, his efforts to identify the culprit lead to the predator identifying him as a threat. With little help from the military who believe he acted wrongly saving the child, Nic knows he goes it alone. Of course his efforts lead him to meet Reverend Halloran and his delightful protégé seamstress Rachel Dormin who he likes but fears his attraction could harm her.

Death and the Running Patterer is a great historical mystery, in which armchair travelers will feel they reside in 1828 in New South Wales amidst exiled criminals, some free people, the soldiers, and the Aborigine. In many ways, the setting steals the show as Robin Adair provides a vivid look at society in the penal colony. Nic is a terrific lead protagonist who diligently works the investigation though he knows the military officers for the most part scorn his action back in England and that the felons loathe him also. Fans will appreciate this strong whodunit in Australia. The early nineteenth century comes alive with Nic’s probe.

Harriet Klausner

Port Mortuary-Patricia Cornwell

Port Mortuary
Patricia Cornwell
Putnam, Nov 30 2010, $27.95
ISBN: 9780399157219

Dr. Kat Scarpetta is the new director of the Cambridge Forensic Center in Massachusetts. Working with her at the Massachusetts facility is her niece Lucy and Pete Marino. Kay attends a training fellowship at Port Mortuary in Dover Air Force Base where she is learning the latest technology that she can apply at the CFC. While she is at the Delaware installation, her second in command Jack Fielding runs CFC until he freaks out when a corpse starts bleeding.

Knowing Jack cannot cope with the situation, Kay returns home having finished the course anyway. When she arrives at CFC, she finds the inmates running the asylum. Scarpetta takes 3-D virtual technology x-rays, which shows internal injuries unlike any she has seen before. She has no idea what weapon could have caused such damage. Benton is working a case in which a suspect swore he killed a child, but he believes the confession is false as he thinks the victim’s death is connected to Scarpetta’s odd case. Soon there are two more deaths seemingly separate cases but Scarpetta makes connections that tie her victim to Benton’s case and feels all the deaths are linked but her husband is not talking about the cases as he usually does.

Ignoring that Scarpetta as the director would not have time for bench work and follow-up especially on a new Fed-State-MIT venture; her latest forensic inquiry is a fantastic thriller with the lab work as gripping if not more so as the foot work. Told in the first person by the heroine, readers obtain Scarpetta’s perspective on the case, her marriage, her new job, Dover (past and present), and her feeling about Lucy and Marino. The story line retains throughout a fast pace and is action-packed even in the lab as Patricia Cornwell interweaves state of the art technology (we’ve come a long ways from the Body farm) into a strong whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

The Messiah Secret-James Becker

The Messiah Secret
James Becker
Signet, Dec 7 2010, $9.99
ISBN 9780451412980

British Museum supervisor Roger Halliwell sends one of his staff ceramics conservator Angela Lewis, who is not as assessor to evaluate the value of the collection left by recently murdered aristocrat Oliver Wendell-Carfax. She convinces her former husband police detective Chris Bronson, to meet with her at Carfax Hall in Suffolk as she feels unsafe. Angela finds a crate of pottery with one containing the find of the century; a parchment written by noted first century Jewish Scholar Hillel who makes the first known reference by a peer to Jesus outside of the New Testament.

The conservator and the cop find other clues that point to the ancient treasure the pair has previously souht unsuccessfully (see The First Apostle and The Moses Stone). However, once again the road to the artifact is dangerous as a fanatical lunatic priest will kill in the Lord’s name to keep the treasure buried and an avaricious capitalist hires thugs to kill in order to insure he obtains the object.

The key to the third Lewis-Bronson tale is the pair themselves who brings an acceptable level of lightheartedness (sort of like a modern day Nick and Nora the sleuth not the playlist) that makes for a fresh Brownian thriller. The story line is fast-paced from the opening scene when the elderly Carfax thwarts his assailant while going to his death with a smile and never slows down until the final confrontation far from Suffolk. Readers will appreciate the latest escapades of Lewis and Bronson as they follow leads while dodging two groups of assassins.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 5, 2010

Peril at Somner House-Joanna Challis

Peril at Somner House
Joanna Challis
Minotaur, Oct 26 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312367169

The two du Maurier sisters, wannabe novelists Daphne and Angela, are staying at the mansion of Max Trevalayan on St. Mary’s, a barrier island off of Cornwall. Their idyllic time ends when their host is murdered while his wife’s alibi is another man. The siblings decide to investigate the killing starting with interviewing those staying or working at Max’s mansion, Somner House.

The severe wintry weather helps and impedes their inquiry as no one can leave, but everyone uncooperatively grouches over being stuck inside especially with a murderer amongst them. As Daphne and Angela uncover secrets from those they question, almost all unrelated to the homicide, the killer watches the progress the siblings make because if they get to close Max will have company.

The key to the entertaining second du Maurier murder mystery (see Murder on the Cliffs) is the tone of Joanna Challis’ story line as the author emulates the gothic tone of the more famous of the writing siblings inside of an Agatha Christie style plot. In fairness that also takes an adjustment to a writing style that feels somewhat antiquated yet also enhances the plausibility of the two amateur sleuths detecting. Ironically the older sister Angela takes more of a lead on the whodunit as Daphne has a male distraction that fails to gel with the prime historical murder plot. Still readers will enjoy the du Maurier sisters investigate at their own Peril at Somner House.

Harriet Klausner

India Black-Carol K. Carr

India Black
Carol K. Carr
Berkley, Jan 4 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425238660

In the winter 0f 1876, London is freezing; but the arctic like weather does not prevent customers from going to the Lotus House brothel owned by India Black. She is a cheerful woman with wit and a true knowledge of human depravity. This does not disturb her in the slightest as she knows how her world acts. Her life becomes complicated when one of her patrons, Bowser AKA Sir Archibald Latham serving high up in the War Office dies while with the whore Arabella.

When India tries to dispose of the corpse, she is caught by French, an agent who works for Prime Minster Disraeli. Rather than go to gaol, she agrees to give him the case that Bauer brought with him. However that is missing as is Arabella. French needs to retrieve it as it contains British troop strengths that the Russians want because they plan to invade the Ottoman Empire. When they go to the hotel Russians accost them with Arabella as one of them. French is determined to obtain the papers and India is resolute in her assisting him.

This exhilarating espionage epic does for the mid Victorian England what Peter Tremayne has done for ancient Ireland; bring the period alive to the time traveling armchair warrior. The lead pair is dynamic together as their chemistry proves the whole is greater than the sum of the parts in spite of her being lower class and him an aristocrat. The recovery story line readers like a fast-paced mystery with plenty of international intrigue including a horrendous Channel crossing to France Carol K. Carr provides an engaging thriller in whict hopefully is the opening act of a unique nineteenth century collaboration.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Promises in the Dark-Stephanie Tyler

Promises in the Dark
Stephanie Tyler
Dell, Nov 23 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780440245971

The Dead Man’s Hand (DMH) terrorist cell kidnapped Dr. Olivia Strohm to teach a lesson to those who defy them; the doctor blew up one of their illegal organ transplant facilities. They tortured her and pumped drugs into her in order to keep her under their control while warning away other opponents. However, they failed to anticipate her inner strength as she escapes from captivity.

Olivia goes cold turkey by herself to rid the drugs from her system while hiding and surviving in the bush near Kambia, Sierra Leone for three months. Part of a failed SEAL rescue mission and having heard her screams while Olivia was held prisoner by DMH; Zane Scott takes leave from the Navy to search for her in order to bring her home to the States. However when he finds her she shocks him with a frying pan and when she hesitates about going home. Before he can learn why, DMH psychopaths are gunning for them. On the run, Zane knows the only way to keep Olivia safe is to destroy DMH.

The second Shadow Force suspense thriller (see Lie With Me) is an action-packed tale with a strong romantic element as the would-be rescuer is half in love with the good doctor even before they have met in person. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Olivia beams Zane in the head with the frying pan and never slows until a final hypothermic confrontation with DMH. With the wonderful African locale, Stephanie Tyler has served back to back aces while also setting up the next entry.

Harriet Klausner

Ask the Dead-Joyce Yarrow

Ask the Dead
Joyce Yarrow
Martin Brown, Jul 28 2005, $13.95
ISBN: 9780976540915

After nearly getting killed in Los Angeles as a private investigator, Jo Epstein decides to come home to New York where she works at Ted’s West Side News rather than continue in her former dangerous occupation. A fiftyish African-American woman Shondra Johnson says Tony Sanchez sent her. Jo helped Tony’s son with a nasty case two years ago. Although she wants to say no, Jo accepts Sondra retainer as she needs the money.

Shondra says her son Gabe was in the Bronx on a photo shoot when three Scorpion gangbangers assaulted him. He killed the one brandishing a knife, but though he stuck around NYPD Lieutenant Saleh arrested him for manslaughter; bond set at $200,000. Jo learns that her client’s son was charged with possession last year and has been a rehab customer of New Beginnings where he met wealthy social worker Leslie Corning. She talks with Gabe at prison and with a junkie witness in the Bronx Skunk who says he will not testify as he must live amongst the Scorpions. Leslie posts bond for Gabe, but both vanish as all hell has come to Jo with laundering and a corpse in the bathtub; if she is to survive she must Ask the Dead what the hell is going on?

Ask the Dead is an exhilarating New York City private investigative thriller in which the Big Apple is the superstar of the story line as Joyce Yarrow captures the essence of three of the boroughs. Readers will feel they are walking the meanest streets along side of the heroine who fans will like. The mystery is cleverly designed as nothing seems quite like it appears. Fans will enjoy the first Jo Epstein whodunit as somehow those in need seem to always find her.

Harriet Klausner

Drop Dead Divas-Virginia Brown

Drop Dead Divas
Virginia Brown
Bell Bridge Books, Sep 13 2010, $14.95
ISBN: 9781935661962

The dozen Dixie Divas travel from their hometown of Cherryhill, Mississippi to visit historical Holly Springs to help a fellow spirit in trouble with the law. Notorious back home for their misadventures caused they insist by mixing chocolate with alcohol, the stiletto heeled aging southern-belles are musketeers with one for all and all for one. In spite of “Bitty” Truevine shouting in a public café where gossip roams faster than Twitter that the slut needs to be strangled, the sisterhood posses come to the aid of bad girl Naomi Spencer, who’s in trouble with the law.

Led by the Truevine siblings, "Trinket" and Bitty, the crew plans to take the town by storm by trying to prove Naomi is innocent of murdering her fiancé, drag racing superstar Race Champion. Naomi swears she has done a lot of questionable things in her life, but being a slut does not include homicide of especially someone she relishes going around the track with her style. However, even before the dozen can drink a ton of martinis, someone kills Naomi. The Divas investigate the two homicides while turning upside down the town of Holly Springs.

Having solved one mystery (see The Dixie Divas), the amateur sleuth crew feels invincible as each of them believes they are a cross between Steel Magnolias and Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman. Amusing and eccentric, readers who enjoy a lighthearted regional murder mystery will want to accompany the dirty dozen as they investigate two murders upsetting everyone in their path including a killer, sip martinis, and chow on chocolate.

Harriet Klausner

The Lady's Slipper-Deborah Swift

The Lady's Slipper
Deborah Swift
St. Martin’s Griffin, Nov 23 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312638337

After his father’s execution and a decade plus in exile, by 1660 King Charles II has regained the throne after being forced into exile. However, there remains religious divisiveness and ire from those who lost power with the restoration.

In that environs Alice Ibbetson finds the rare Lady’s Slipper orchid in a nearby woods owned by her neighbor Quaker Richard Wheeler. She steals the beauty with the intent of growing it elsewhere to preserve this impressive plant that she believes is near extinction. Wheeler wants to prevent what he believes is an abomination of God as the flower should only grow where the Lord placed it. Alice runs into other problems with a maid who tries to extort money from her and her business partner nasty Geoffrey Fisk who threatens murder if crossed.

The Lady's Slipper is an entertaining seventeenth century historical thriller that uses chaos theory as a simple act leads to repercussions for several people including some several degrees of separation from the catalyst theft. The story line is at its best when it focuses on the theft and aftermath; when the key cast members ponderously ponder over the Civil War, Cromwell and Charles I and II, it slows down the pacing and diverts readers from the prime theme. Still fans of historical thrillers will enjoy Alice’s adventures in wonderland.

Harriet Klausner

Ghouls, Ghouls, Ghouls-Victoria Laurie

Ghouls, Ghouls, Ghouls
Victoria Laurie
Obsidian, Dec 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451231970

She is a psychic with her strongest abilities being mediumistic in nature. She is also an intuitive and M.J. Holliday uses her talent to be a ghostbuster sending bad spirits back to the lower levels and closing their portals. Finally she also sends good spirits trapped here to the light. Her best friend Gilly, her lover Heath and cable TV producer Peter “Gopher” Gophner shoot an episode of a new Ghoul Getters.

They are in Ireland investigating Dunlow Castle said to be haunted by several spirits who obey the first lord of the castle Ranald Dunnyvale. It is rumored there is gold treasure hidden in the vast manor house, but guarded by the phantom, an evil dark blob that can drive people insane or kill them. When they arrive, the Americans realize just how dangerous the phantom is. When they come out of a spell Gopher is missing. Someone kidnapped him and he will not be returned to them until M. J. gets rid of the phantom. This malign demon could easily kill her if she does not listen to Ranald or Sam Whitefeather, Heath’s dead grandfather

Want to read some of the spookiest mysteries written today; choose Victoria Laurie who is a maestro of the paranormal whodunit. Her current supernatural mystery is a combo of the TV shows Ghost Whisperer and Ghost Hunter. The keys are a strong Ghostbuster crew whose interactions with each other and the beyond seem plausible, and the genuine sense that the Phantom is a real danger. The latter will have readers leave the lights on at night and the former will have the readers wanting to text message them for help with every noise. With humor, eccentricity, and a malevolent menace, The Ghost Hunter in Ireland is a ghoulishly delightful mystery (see Ghouls Gone Wild).

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hollywood Hills-Joseph Wambaugh

Hollywood Hills
Joseph Wambaugh
Little, Brown, Nov 16 2010, $26.99
ISBN 9780316129503

In the Hollywood Hills, movie director Rudy Ressler and his fiancée wealthy Widow Leona Brueger meet LAPD cop “Hollywood” Nate Weiss. Rudy thinks Hollywood as the right look for the screen while Leona thinks he has the right “meat” for her boy toy. They ask him to keep an eye on their estate while they are out of town, which he agrees to do.

Former convict turned butler Raleigh Dibble works at the Ressler mansion where he plans to stay legit. Leona’s sleazy snobby art dealer Nigel Wickland also watches the mansion, but has different plans for what is inside and for the butler he placed inside. However, his scheme runs into problems when drug addicted losers Jonas Claymore and Megan Burke intrude on his game. As the rest of the Hollywood Hills cops deal with an assortment of crazies like the notorious Wedgie Bandit, the Bling Ring break and enter teens and the Addams Family clones the Goths, cop Della Ravelle guides rookie officer Britney Small as to how to properly surf (with a nod to Flotsam and Jetsam) LAPD and the dangerous streets worked by the LAPD Hollywood Station.

The fourth Hollywood Station police procedural (see Hollywood Moon and Hollywood Crows) is a wacky jocular thriller due to the clash between the cops and robbers. Fast-paced throughout, the main plot has several folks crashing and clashing at the Ressler mansion, but not all are after a master art theft. Readers will appreciate Joseph Wambaugh’s wonderfully amusing entry; as the great author places all the insanity and lunacy inside serious criminal and police activities. This is another winner.

Harriet Klausner

Home for a Spell-Madelyn Alt

Home for a Spell
Madelyn Alt
Berkley, Jan 2 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 978042523867

Stony Mill, Indiana is a charming small town known as the antiques capital of the Midwest. It used to be a quiet place where nothing major occurred, but in the last year a string of murders unconnected to each other has occurred. Maggie O’Neill, who works at the Enchantments antique shop, is an empath who channels her Spirit Guides and at times casts a magick spell. Her lover Marcus Quinn and her boss Felicity “Liss” Dow are experienced with the paranormal arts.

Maggie lives with Marcus since she broke her ankle and needs his help to get around. When she realizes he is going to delay attending college to take care of her, she decides to move into her own place. Maggie gets a good deal on a rental but when they go to sign the lease, they find the complex manager dead in the pool. Using Marcus’ mundane skills and Maggie’s arcane gifts, they work with the police to find out what was on a flash drive and a hard drive that was smashed to smithereens. What they learn explains why he was murdered, but who the perpetrator is remains blank.

This whimsical amateur sleuth small town urban fantasy mystery is pure magic as is the overall series (see A Witch In Time). Maggie has matured considerably in the past year as she has learned to love her skills rather than rue having them. The murder is believable and the characters ring true. However, Home for a Spell belongs to the lead couple as the author casts a spellbinder of a tale on enchanted readers.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Cruel Ever After-Ellen Hart

The Cruel Ever After
Ellen Hart
Minotaur, Dec 7 2010, $25.99
ISBN 9780312614768

In Minneapolis antiquities dealer, Chester "Chess" Garrity wakes up with a hangover on the lawn in front of the home of Melvin Dial, but totally clueless as to how he ended up there. The night before Chess and Melvin discussed a deal involving the Iraqi artifact, the Winged Bull of Nimrud. Chess enters the unlocked house to find the art collector dead from an apparent knife wound. Panicking, Chess runs from the crime scene.

Chess accompanied by art dealer Irina Nelson returns to the Dial residence. He is stunned to see the corpse missing, the house clean, and a ransom note addressed to him demanding $50,000 in small bills; next to the money are photos of Chess with the body. He pleads with his former wife restaurateur Jane Lawless, who has solved several murder mysteries, to investigate.

The excellent latest Jane Lawless Minnesota mystery starring (see Sweet Poison) is a great entry as Chess is checkmated by an unknown adversary. Jane is terrific as she works the case of her ex husband in which every clue she finds enforces Chess’ guilt. Fast-paced with a fabulous set up, Jane is no longer an amateur sleuth as she has been paid recently as a professional (see The Mirror and the Mask) since the economy has hurt her restaurant profits. Readers will fully appreciate this terrific investigative thriller.

Harriet Klausner