Monday, January 31, 2011

Against the Law-Kat Martin

Against the Law
Kat Martin
Mira, Feb 22 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9780778329404

Handbag designer Lark Delaney desperately wants to find her niece adopted by strangers as her sister Heather was only sixteen when she gave birth. She pleads with thirty something Devlin Raines at his Arizona ranch to help her. Mentioning that his Army Ranger buddy Madman Monroe sent him saying he owed him, reluctantly as he has retired from field work the Raines Investigation analyst agrees to make inquiries.

Devlin assumes this will be a quick search, but is stunned when his assumption proves false as his friend expert Chaz Denton searches the net only to find Loving Home Adoptions not licensed in Arizona, but gives him a printing clue to begin a search for Mrs. Olcott who arranged the adoption. Following the trail, Dev accompanied by Lark go from Southern California to Mexico with each clue making both fear for the child. The case has turned personal for Dev who cares for the child he has not met fearing she has been sold into sexual slavery and especially for the frantic aunt who begged him to find her.

The third Raines of Wind Canyon romantic suspense thriller (see Against the Fire and Against the Wind) is a terrific tense tale filled with twists and spins as nothing goes according to Raines’ plan. He, like his older brothers, is a strong hero, but has met his equal in Lark who fearlessly stomps on snakes. Timely with the plight of young females being sold, readers will root for the pair to rescue her niece as we fear what has happened to that little girl.

Harriet Klausner

Antiques Knock-Off-Barbara Allan

Antiques Knock-Off
Barbara Allan
Kensington, Mar 1 2011, $22.00
ISBN 9780758234230

Overlooking the Mississippi in the quaint town of Serenity antique expert Brandy Borne begins to understand what the sandwich generation means. As a surrogate mother she is seven months pregnant; at the same time she keeps a close watch on her bipolar mother, Vivian. Brandy is also dating the town’s Chief of Police Tony Cassato.

Someone stabs Connie Grimes in the chest. Vivian confesses to having committed the murder; as Connie used to work for Brandy's biological father, a U.S. senator. Vivian goes to jail where another prisoner might have witnessed the homicide. Brandy, accompanied by Sushi the shih tzu, investigates the case involving the Mafia and a horde of cats surrounding a New Age hypnotist.

Putting aside clever advice on collecting, the latest Trash 'n' Treasures antiques amateur sleuth is the usual zany, eccentric and far from serenity tale (see Antiques Flee Market and Antiques Bizarre) as once again mom is in the middle of an uproar. The brisk story line is fine to follow as the heroine has a more reliable partner (Sushi) this time than she did in Antiques Bizarre (mom). Sub-genre fans will enjoy this entertaining amusing whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hidden Away-Maya Banks

Hidden Away
Maya Banks
Berkley, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425240175

Marcus Lattimer made a fortune that has people doing whatever he demands; he pays for loyalty. He lives by one code only: His Honor. No one dare cross Lattimer, but Allen Cross of Cross Enterprise did. Thus, his honor impugned by an A-hole, Lattimer visits this creature of habit Cretan at the man’s office; takes out a gun and fires between the eyes. However, Marcus failed to consider that his Achilles Heel, his beloved half-sister Sarah Daniels will arrive trying to prevent his killing her former employer ; only she witnesses the murder of Allen. She flees when repulsive Stanley Cross snarls at her.

CIA Agent Adam Resnick visits Kelly Group International (KGI) because he believes Lattimer finally screwed up with what appears to be a personal vendetta; he wants injured KGI operative Garrett Kelly, who lost a team due to the man’s betrayal, on the job. He explains the Cross murder gives them the ability to bring down Lattimer through his sibling. They send to Garrett to keep Sarah safe while using her to catch her half-brother. However, he never anticipated that he would fall in love with the woman he earned her trust through lies.

Few romantic suspense thrillers start stronger than Hidden Away does as the players are introduced through the homicide. However, part of the island tryst slows down the otherwise action-packed story line as Garrett tactically seduces Sarah. Still they are a wonderful pairing as each sees Lattimer differently, which makes the cold killer the match-breaker. Readers will appreciate this tense tale as the audience anticipates two High Noon confrontations in paradise.

Harriet Klausner
Berkley, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425240175

Marcus Lattimer made a fortune that has people doing whatever he demands; he pays for loyalty. He lives by one code only: His Honor. No one dare cross Lattimer, but Allen Cross of Cross Enterprise did. Thus, his honor impugned by an A-hole, Lattimer visits this creature of habit Cretan at the man’s office; takes out a gun and fires between the eyes. However, Marcus failed to consider that his Achilles Heel, his beloved half-sister Sarah Daniels will arrive trying to prevent his killing her former employer ; only she witnesses the murder of Allen. She flees when repulsive Stanley Cross snarls at her.

CIA Agent Adam Resnick visits Kelly Group International (KGI) because he believes Lattimer finally screwed up with what appears to be a personal vendetta; he wants injured KGI operative Garrett Kelly, who lost a team due to the man’s betrayal, on the job. He explains the Cross murder gives them the ability to bring down Lattimer through his sibling. They send to Garrett to keep Sarah safe while using her to catch her half-brother. However, he never anticipated that he would fall in love with the woman he earned her trust through lies.

Few romantic suspense thrillers start stronger than Hidden Away does as the players are introduced through the homicide. However, part of the island tryst slows down the otherwise action-packed story line as Garrett tactically seduces Sarah. Still they are a wonderful pairing as each sees Lattimer differently, which makes the cold killer the match-breaker. Readers will appreciate this tense tale as the audience anticipates two High Noon confrontations in paradise.

Harriet Klausner

Rock Bottom-CJ Lyons and Erin Brockovich

Rock Bottom
CJ Lyons and Erin Brockovich
Vanguard, Mar 1 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9781593156251

Angela Joy Palladino left Scotia, West Virginia as a pregnant teen with no future there. She gave birth to physically impaired David who she has raised as a single mom; yet also went to school while holding a job. Finally AJ becomes an on the air radio celebrity as an environmental activist that People magazine dubbed “The People’s Champion”. However, her efforts to end polluting by Capitol Power led to their declaration of bankruptcy; an irate former employer calls her on the air blaming her for losing his job, his home and his dignitary as he and his family reside in a tent; the gunshot ended their one sided discussion; turning her from crusading heroine to widow-making pariah.

Litigator Zach Hardy hires her to help end the coal mining firms’ practice of mountaintop removal in Scotia. However, nothing goes right starting with her boss is dead. Her parents demand she leave while they make her and their nine years old grandson stay at her Gram Flora’s house as they do not want her under their roof. Finally Cole the father of her son is angry with what AJ did to him.

This is a character driven environmental-family drama that grips the audience from the opening gunshot until the final confrontation. The key to this strong story line is that though saving the environment is the theme, the authors insure readers understand opportunity costs like less fuel and potentially less jobs. AJ is a terrific heroine who has taken life’s gut punches but keeps on going with gusto; that enthusiasm for life is what she has given to David. With several tense subplots that tie together into a powerful taut thriller, fans will demand more similar tales from CJ Lyons and Erin Brockovich.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 28, 2011

Deadly Vows-Brenda Joyce

Deadly Vows
Brenda Joyce
Harlequin HQN, Feb 22 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373775514

In 1902 in New York, Francesca Cahill and Calder Hart are getting married in a few hours. However, before the ceremony, Francesca sneaks off to a gallery to see a portrait Hart commissioned. She is locked inside, but by the time she escapes from the gallery, everyone including Hart believes she jilted him. Francesca knows someone set this up, but not who or why.

Hart refuses to listen to her explanation as he is hurt and humiliated; raging he ends their engagement. Stunned and hurt too, Francesca turns to Hart’s half-brother Police Commissioner Rick Bragg for solace at a time when his marriage to Leigh Ann is crumbling. As Francesca ponders who owns her heart, she and Bragg search for who “framed’ her and is trying to blackmail her and soon a killer is after her too.

Though the roller coaster ride for the heroine’s relationships and affection continues to the point it feels sort of inane yet due to Brenda Joyce’s talent very entertaining as Cahill and the crew work two mysteries as well as the enigma of her heart. Filled with action, dysfunctional relationships (a common thread) and a sense of being in Manhattan at the start of the previous century (once again a fabulous recurring theme), fans will enjoy Francesca’s latest escapades in maybe (nor not) making it to the altar.

Harriet Klausner

The Breath of God-Jeffrey Small

The Breath of God
Jeffrey Small
West Hills, Mar 1 2011, $15.95
ISBN 9781933512860

Emory University doctorate student Grant Matthews knows he is running out of time on submitting his thesis. His topic focuses on the impact other cultures had on the early development of Christianity. In particular over the objections of the school’s advisory board, he pursues a legend of an Asian boy traveling fourteen-fifteen centuries before Marco Polo went the other way.

In Asia, he learns from Buddhist monks that what he seeks might exist in one of the monasteries in Bhutan. He journeys to the Himalayan nation where his guide is a former Buddhist monk working to feed his family. He learns more about Issa and the lad’s spiritual journey that affirms his subject loved and wrote down his travels. Grant meets Kristin Misaki and soon finds the treasure he sought. However, what happened to a Russian late in the nineteenth century when he made the same discovery soon proves history repeats itself. Christian fundamentalists are willing to kill, destroy or hide to prevent anything heretical that affirms that the early founders were in touch with other cultures for some of the religion’s critical foundations coming east to west.

This is a super Brownian thriller that is at its best when the beleaguered hero is in Asia pursuing the Issa documents amidst Buddhist monks. The Christian conspiracy to shut down the heresy feels more like a sub-genre requirement and detracts from a powerful insightful novel. Still, based on a real Russian Notovitch was condemned as a heretic for publishing his finding of the Saint Issa scrolls in Himis, India, as those ancient documents explained the “Lost Years of Jesus”, overall The Breath of God is a terrific tale.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bound by Guilt-C.J. Darlington

Bound by Guilt
C.J. Darlington
Tyndale, Mar 1 2011, $12.99
ISBN: 9781414340128

She has spent her young life as a serial foster child moving from one home to another. Roxi Gold dreams of belonging to a loving family permanently, but each new home makes her feel this will never occur though she tries too hard to belong.

Currently, Roxi travels the country with her foster parents stealing rare books in order to remain in her current home; if she refuses she will be kicked to the street though she is disturbed by her criminal activity. Police officer Abby Dawson feels worn out by a job she once cherished as her work was used against her in the custody fight with her ex. She wishes she could turn to her dad for solace, but they are estranged. Roxi and Abby meet when blood flows over a first edition of the Great Gatsby.

Roxi makes for a strong tale as her odyssey will reach inside to the souls of the readers. She makes the tale seem real as her desperate need to belong leads her to criminal activity to keep her guardian pleased with her. Bound by Guilt is a terrific Christian contemporary due to the protagonists and a powerful support cast.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Someone's Watching-Sharon Potts

Someone's Watching
Sharon Potts
Oceanview, Feb 7 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9781608090136

Once a corporate suit, Robbie Ivy works as a bartender in Miami’s South Beach section. Her estranged father arrives at the club where she works to ask Robbie for a favor. His other daughter Kaitlin "Kate" Brooks and her BFF Joanne Sparks are missing somewhere in the concrete South Florida jungle; he wants Robbie to help find her.

Robbie is stunned to learn she has a sibling as she had no idea until her dad’s visit that she had a half-sister. Not knowing how to start, she asks her former boyfriend, Jeremy Stroeb for advice. He suggests she speak to Detective Judy Lieber who cautions Robbie to watch her step as coeds like Kate are targets of nasty predators especially when Joanne is found dead. Her amateurish inquiry turns deadly as Robbie realizes time is running out on her meeting her younger half-sister alive.

Relationship damaged Robbie makes a terrific protagonist as she hopes to make it with Jeremy, reunite with her father and become friends and sister with her sibling. Thus she has a major impetus to find Kate. Mindful of the exhilarating mindless action movie Taken (even though the heroine is an amateur while Neeson’s character Mills is a former CIA field operative). Filled with spins and stunning red herrings, readers will appreciate this engaging, timely but sordid tale of kidnapping teens and forcing them into prostitution (right out of the headlines).

Harriet Klausner

Heresy-S.J. Parris

S.J. Parris
Anchor Books (Random House), Feb 1 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9780767932523

In the late sixteenth century the Roman Catholic Church excommunicated Monk Giordano Bruno for his heretic belief in the Copernicus theory of a heliocentric system. He has no safe haven as the Inquisition hunts him in order to burn him at the stake for daring to espouse that the sun is the center of the universe. Still he flees his Naples monastery just before the Father Inquisitor comes for him heading to Paris and then London where he prays he will find respite in Queen Elizabeth’s anti papal reign.

In 1583 the queen's Secretary of State Sir Francis Walsingham asks Bruno to visit to Oxford to look for treasonous Catholic scholars. He agrees as he wants to go to Oxford but in search of the fifteenth book of Ancient Egyptian High Priest Hermes Trismegistus who wrote in this tome his understanding of the “Divine Mind". However, the defrocked monk never expected to be the hub of gruesome homicides.

The real life intelligent elucidate Bruno tells the tale mostly of his time in Oxford in 1583. He makes the story line fun as a wonderful historical thriller. The serial murder mystery engages the reader also, but takes a back seat to the divided deadly dogma of religious loyalties during the Elizabethan Era as portrayed by the excommunicated enlightened monk.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

On Borrowed Time-David Rosenfelt

On Borrowed Time
David Rosenfelt
Minotaur, Feb 15 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780312598365

Manhattan based reporter Richard Kilmer and his lover Jennifer Ryan drive from their apartment on the Upper West Side to her hometown to meet her family in Kendrick Falls. He plans to ask her to marry him. However, they have an accident, but eerily somehow before they finish the two hour drive, Jen vanished.

Stunned with no clues as to his beloved’s whereabouts, Richard meets the family he thought would be his in-laws. Shocked further after meeting her family when they insist she is not their kin; her friends deny knowing a Jennifer Ryan. Finally even his friends claim they never met her. As a catharsis, Richard writes articles for a magazine about his recent trauma. Allison Tynes comes from Wisconsin to New York to meet Richard as she insists she is Jen's identical twin; leaving the journalist further bewildered.

This suspense thriller grips the reader once the car accident occurs and never let’s the audience go even after the climax as the audience will ponder what happened to the key characters especially the beleaguered protagonist who sadly muses that he entered the Twilight Zone. To David Rosenfelt’s credit and writing skills he never ventures in to the Serling realm. With Andy Carpenter on respite, fans will still relish this taut thriller as like Kilmer will wonder what is going on.

Harriet Klausner

The Night Season-Chelsea Cain

The Night Season
Chelsea Cain
Minotaur, Mar 1 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780312619763

Portland, Oregon police detective Archie Sheridan feels he can finally move on with his life as his nemesis serial killer Gretchen Lowell is incarcerated. However, he also knows she has been locked away before, but escaped like a magician.

As the Willamette overflows its banks, a body is found at an amusement park. Archie assumes it is another misfortune drowning victim until the coroner reports the cause of death being from a puncture wound. Other corpses turn up with the same trauma. At the same time reporter Susan Ward is writing an article on a skeleton found in the ghost-town Vanport, destroyed by the 1948 flood. Archie allows the journalist to join his team as they search for a serial killer using a strange toxin.

The fourth Sheridan police procedural (see Heartsick; Sweetheart; Evil at Heart) is a refreshing tale though the hero deals with another serial killer but this time Gretchen is limited to a few moments when Archie agonizes over his mixed feelings towards the black widow. The key to the superb whodunit is the real Vanport flood of over six decades ago that will remind the audience of Katrina as Chelsea Cain brings this disaster alive to readers. Fans will enjoy Sheridan’s brisk investigation of a present day psychopath and the deep look at the Vanport Flood calamity.

Harriet Klausner

Finding Jack-Gareth Crocker

Finding Jack
Gareth Crocker
St. Martin's, Feb 15 2011, $23.99
ISBN 9780312621728

In 1972, the family of twenty nine year old Fletcher Carson dies in a plane crash. Distraught and filled with survivor grief, Fletcher enlists in the army. After basic, he is sent to Vietnam.

As the war winds down, Fletcher and his platoon complain about the uselessness of the combat, which has left so many of their comrades in arms dead and others mentally and physically destroyed. Yet though Fletcher and the other men know the war is lost they diligently still patrol the perimeter and perform secret missions. When they find a trained wounded scout dog, they bring the K9 back to camp. Calling him Jack, they help him heal. Jack joins them as a key member of the unit by locating deadly traps and ambushes. When Fletcher is assigned to go home, he wants to take his best friend Jack with him. Knowing he cannot do it through official channels, Fletcher deserts taking Jack on a three hundred and fifty mile trek through hostile territory hoping to reach Thailand.

Finding Jack is an interesting Vietnam War thriller starring a mentally wounded warrior who was hurt with grief before he joined the army and the canine who becomes his family while saving his life by giving Fletcher a cause and subsequently a reason to live. Although some of the scenes the soldier and the dog get into seem over the top of Mt. Fansipan, fans who enjoy something different in their brothers of arms tales will want to accompany Fletcher and Jack as they run a deadly gauntlet.

Harriet Klausner

Fade to White-Wendy Clinch

Fade to White
Wendy Clinch
St. Martin's, Jan 4 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312593278

Hollywood Harper Stone arrives at Spruce Peak, Vermont to film a mouthwash commercial. Once a star, this is the only gig he can get though he does not hide his rage over how far his fame has fallen.

Avid skier Stacey Curtis looks forward to a turn on the slopes before going to work at the Broken Binding bar. However, the lift is closed due to the filming directed by Stacey’s former boyfriend Brian Russell. Still the Ski Diva and her friend ski patrol operative Chip Walsh ski together until they run into a corpse. Someone murdered Harper with the last person to see the actor alive being Brian, who is known for his jealousy and anger. Stacey knows to stay out of the homicide on the slopes, but investigates anyway

The second Ski Diva amateur sleuth (see Double Black) is an engaging tale that focuses more on skiing than on the whodunit. Stacey is a wonderful protagonist whose theme is Let it snow; let It snow; and let it snow. Although the mystery takes the backseat on the lift, fans will enjoy going downhill with Stacey who brings enthusiasm and energy to the slopes.

Harriet Klausner

The Road to Rome-Ben Kane

The Road to Rome
Ben Kane
St. Martin's, Mar 29 2011, $26.99
ISBN 9780312536732

Twins Romulus and Fabiola have come a long way from their days as slaves. He has become a legionnaire in Caesar's army and she has become Brutus' lover. Whereas Romulus knows better than to display open hostility towards Caesar even though the man destroyed his family, his sister cannot hide her hatred towards the Emperor.

While Romulus and his friend Tarquinius are involved in a vicious war in North Africa, Fabiola begins a scheme to assassinate Caesar. Having survived the deadly Egyptian campaign, Romulus and Tarquinius return to Rome where the former learns of his twin’s insane plan to kill the Emperor on the upcoming Ides of March.

The third ancient Rome Forgotten Legion thriller (see The Forgotten legion and The Silver Eagle) is a super tale that provides a vivid look at first century BC through a military unit slashing, clashing and smashing their way in the battlefield on the road to Rome. The excellent story line is fast-paced from the first sword blow to the last, but is much more than an ancient military historical thriller as the politics of spear assassination thrives yet shakes Rome with beware the Ides of March.

Harriet Klausner

Devil’s Slew-Darryl Wimberley

Devil’s Slew
Darryl Wimberley
St. Martin's, Mar 1 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9780312649494

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Agent Barrett "Bear" Raines attends a little league game when duty calls. In the Devil’s Slew swamp, Afghan vet Quentin Hart has taken his girlfriend prisoner. Bear and Sheriff Smoot Rawlings arrive at the scene hoping to talk down the angry former combat soldier with no body getting hurt. Instead, Quentin races out of his home holding his automatic rifle pointed at the cops. They kill him as each knows the veteran committed suicide by cop.

Bear feels depressed over the incident though he knows he and Smoot did the right thing. He investigates Quentin’s last days trying to understand why he snapped. Aided by other law enforcement officials he soon uncovers a connection to vets involved in counterfeiting and money laundering. The FBI believes they kidnapped and beheaded one of their agents in New Orleans. As the evidence mounts that this is a dangerous gang based in Florida but working in Mexico and Afghanistan, someone is targeting these vets for death.

Devil’s Slew is a fascinating police procedural in which the chaotic story line showcases how convoluted an investigation can become. Fast-paced from the moment Bear and Smoot arrive in the aptly named swamp and never slowing down, readers will appreciate Darryl Wimberley connecting dots between Florida, Mexico and Afghanistan in Bear’s latest thriller (see Pepperfish Keys).

Harriet Klausner

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bless the Bride-Rhys Bowen

Bless the Bride
Rhys Bowen
Minotaur, Mar 1 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312628109

In 1903, the marriage between private investigator Molly Murphy and NYPD Captain Daniel Sullivan is coming soon. He expects her to behave like a wife and not a detective; his mom also implores her to act accordingly. Shockingly Molly seems to acquiesce.

Wealthy Chinese businessman Lee Sing Tai asks Molly to help him find a missing valuable jade. Although she believes her client is omitting much of the story, she agrees as she rationalizes her promise to no longer sleuth begins after the marriage though she hides her activity from Daniel. Molly thinks Lee is actually seeking his missing bride who ran away. However, she has no idea how a Chinese female who does not speak English hides in plain sight in New York when Asian women are not allowed outside without a chaperone. As Molly searches for the young runaway, she fears she will bring further harm to the bride Lee bought in and brought from China.

This is a strong entry in one of the best historical mystery series on the market. The investigation is top rate as Molly goes from searching for a runaway bride that has her pondering the parallels to her own fate as a wife in which she is expected to give up her freedom to detect. As the heroine conceals her case from her fiancé while wondering whether marriage means being The Last Illusion living In a Gilded Cage, her case turns lethal. Rhys Bowen provides a great early twentieth century Molly Murphy mystery.

Harriet Klausner

The Trinity Six-Charles Cumming

The Trinity Six
Charles Cumming
St. Martin's, Mar 15 2011, $24.99
ISBN 978-0-312-67529-5

During WWII and immediately afterward the "Cambridge Five" Trinity spy ring betrayed Britain by providing secrets to the Soviet Union. Once the ring was broken, rumors abounded for years that a sixth person was involved, but had escaped justice.

In 1992 septuagenarian Edward Crane dies in London. Fifteen years later, a reporter Charlotte Berg asks her friend Russian scholar Sam Gaddis to help her investigate rumors that the sixth person was Crane who allegedly did not die in the hospital, but instead lives and plans to tell his tale. Sam needs money to pay alimony and child support so he agrees because he believes he can write a book on what he learns if true. However, someone wants the news to remain interred as those involved with learning the facts like Charlotte allegedly died from a sudden heart attack; Sam believes she was murdered.

This is a terrific espionage thriller, which makes the case that the Cold War participants spent plenty of efforts on propaganda with disinformation and misinformation a normal spin (inductively supported though not Cold War era material by the recent WikiLeaks’ government entries of recent years). Fast-paced from start to finish, readers will relish Charles Cumming’s tale of whether the Cambridge Five was actually the Trinity Six.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Seasons of Death-Marlene Mitchell and Gary Yeagle

Seasons of Death
Marlene Mitchell and Gary Yeagle
Black Wyrm, Dec 18 2010, $15.95
ISBN: 9780982006757

In the Smoky Mountains, the stranger accosts a drugged Asa Pittman. He explains to Asa that he has no friends nearby to help him and the Novocain can do to numb the body. The stranger methodically and calmly begins slicing off Asa’s fingers and punishing him elsewhere. Explaining he loathes the way Asa and his drunken buddies treat animals they hunt he leaves the dying man for the coyote and other animals and insects to dine on.

Photojournalist Doug Eland finds the corpse and informs Jack at the National Park Service. Soon afterward, Townsend Police Chief Axel Brody and Officer Grant Denlinger arrive to look at the body on Thunderbird Trail. The coroner Jeff Bookman arrives and quickly concludes the fingers were deliberately sliced off. No one is aware yet that Asa was first with his buddies to follow. Next is realtor Mildred Henks, puppy mill owner. The avenging stranger vowed to get even for what Asa and his comrades did over two decades ago back in 1969 when they killed Farmer Pender and his wife and several animals in what is no longer a cold case. The two Pender sons escaped, but would one or both of them be the predator after all these years?

This is a dark vivid police procedural with an avenger whose calm almost detached discussions with the victims adds to the sense of horror as this killer gives animals a chance for an eye for an eye against those who tormented them. Fast-paced and filled with action, the killer is in plain sight yet not easy to pick out. Readers will enjoy this fine thriller with an intriguing climax that simplified matters for Denlinger yet also weighs heavily on his conscience.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Murder on Mt. McKinley-Charles G. Irion and Ronald J. Watkins

Murder on Mt. McKinley
Charles G. Irion and Ronald J. Watkins
Irion Books, Dec 8 2010, $19.95
ISBN: 9780984161836

At the base of Mt. McKinley, the two rival oil company CEOs meet to discuss a merger on the Alaskan pipeline project. Neither Boggs Integrated Oil & Gas boss Ross Biggs or Consolidated Alaska Energy chief Julius Snowe hide their contempt of the other but as the latter’s Chief Financial officer Michael Piquet musingly tells experienced climber Scott Devlon that billions make for a powerful “bonding experience”. Although there are disputes between fractious groups besides the oil firms fighting each other, Scott looks forward to the climb until reporter turned author Quenton Stern informs him he is on the team; Quenton implied that Devlon left his best friend to die in Murder on Mt. Everest.

The climb begins led by Rollie Knox and Linda “Pete” Peterson. However what should be a relatively easy climb up North America’s highest peak turns deadly as accidental deaths occur. With so much anger over the pipeline project and having homicides accompany him on Everest and Elbrus (see Murder on Elbrus), Devlon believes someone is committing Murder on Mt. McKinley, but has no idea who.

The Summit Murder Mystery series premise of climbing each continent’s highest peak accompanied by murder and modern day issues is an entertaining saga as the authors are three for three. The story line is fast-paced with plenty of action from nature and humans. Once again fans will feel they are scaling the mountain with storms, bitter cold and climbing safety rules. However, the key to this great whodunit (and the previous entries) is the ability of Charles G. Irion and Ronald J. Watkins to incorporate local contemporary arguments into the climb and the subsequent whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Agent X-Noah Boyd

Agent X
Noah Boyd
Morrow, Feb 8 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061826986

Former FBI agent Steve Vail looks forward to his New Year’s Eve date with FBI assistant director Kate Bannon. However instead of romance, the FBI has an issue in which Vail is the man. He finds it ironic that the Feds who fired him for insubordination while solving cases now want to use him on their most convoluted inquires since h is a civilian Chicago Bricklayer.

Russian embassy officer “Calculus” informed the FBI that he will sell them a list containing Americans selling secret information to the Russians; for each traitor arrested, he expects $250,000. However, the deal ends when his superiors order Calculus back to Moscow. The FBI believes the Russian know he was about to betray them and will kill those on the hit list. Vail and Bannon will welcome in the New Year together trying to find the list of Calculus.

This is an exciting espionage thriller starring an intriguing renegade and his beautiful sidekick. The story line is fast-paced with a sense of the unlikely that enhances the fun. Although a comparison of how Vail investigates with standard operating procedures would have enhanced the thriller especially the seemingly over the top scenes, fans will enjoy the Bricklayer’s return as the numbers fail to add up.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 21, 2011

Arcadia Falls-Carol Goodman

Arcadia Falls
Carol Goodman
Ballantine, Feb 8 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780345497543

When Jude Rosenthal suddenly died from a heart attack, he left behind a widow Meg, a teen daughter Sally and a ton of debt. With no time to grieve and unable to remain in their exclusive Long Island home, Meg quickly accepts a teaching position at the Acadia private school in the Catskills in Acadia Falls; Sally receives free tuition to attend.

Soon after mother and daughter arrive, a student Isabel dies after falling off a nearby cliff. Meg learns the school was founded just before the Depression by a lesbian couple Vera Beecher and author Lily Eberhardt who wrote the classic fable "The Changeling Girl." Lily fell from the same cliff that Isabel just did. Meanwhile Sheriff Callum Reade investigates the recent fall while he and the new teacher are attracted to one another. Meg find Lily's lost diary and learns that painter Virgil Nash impregnated her, which is why the painter fled her lover to paint a mural for a convent, St. Lucy's for unwed mothers and orphans. Years later Lily’s daughter Ivy St. Clare arrived to attend the school; the same woman who is now dean of the school.

Although over edge of the cliff, the strong characters make for a taut thriller. The emphasis is on the role of women in society as females make difficult choices often alone that sacrifice their desires and impact their loved ones. Frequently, the female is unfairly held accountable by others who fail to wear the “Scarlet Letter” wearer’s moccasins; instead ignore the available possibilities that the decision maker weighed costs (including emotional) vs. benefits, which makes it easier to morally condemn the female for her selection. Character driven with a strong cast including the journals written by the lesbian lovers, readers will enjoy this deep tale of choices.

Harriet Klausner

Red Wolf-Liza Marklund

Red Wolf
Liza Marklund
Atria, Feb 15 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9781451602067

In Stockholm, Evening Post reporter Annika Bengtzon no longer works the crime beat (see The Bomber for why). Instead her assignments are more independent as she follows stories over the country involving terrorist activity mostly tied to the Communist movement of several decades ago.

Annika travels to Lulea to meet a journalist who is giving her a lead on a story. Instead her source is killed in a hit-and-run accident that Annika believes was deliberate. Refusing to back off even when more related homicides occur, the intrepid reporter follows clues that tie back to a deadly sabotage incident on a military base in 1969 by someone using the code of "Ragnwald". She thinks this cold blooded killer has returned as a serial killer.

It has been several years since Bengtzon conducted an investigation (see Studio Sex), but her return to Prime Time has been worth the wait as she is at her best in this terrific police procedural. The story line focuses on the social impact of the final Soviet decade on Sweden today so that readers obtain a strong whodunit investigation wrapped inside a national psyche struggling with mostly late 1980s Cold War events. Fans will enjoy this strong Scandinavian thriller as Bengtzon, who has personal issues as well, struggles to tie the dots of then to now.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dark Town Redemption-Gary Hardwick

Dark Town Redemption
Gary Hardwick
HardBooks Publishing, Feb 1 2011, $12.95
ISBN: 9780972480413

Even in South Vietnam in 1967, race relations between blacks and whites in an integrated army are terrible. Sergeant Robert Jackson is a black person who chose the marines over the streets of surrealistic Detroit. His younger brother Marcus belongs to the group The Vanguard; a radical group in the forefront of a race riot that rocked the city and shocked the nation.

Soon after that deadly night, Marcus is killed and four police officers are at the scene. They all tell the same story without one iota of difference. One of the cops is Thomas Riley, a third generation officer living his father’s dream after his older brother (and dad’s favorite son) died in Korea. Robert comes home and joins Vanguard to infiltrate them as he believes one of their members killed his sibling, but he also believes they are the only hope to fulfill the dream of equality. As times change, Robert and Thomas discuss the murder of Marcus and their hopes for a future, if they have one after reopening the cold case.

Gary Hardwick takes readers back to a pivotal moment in the Black community as two visions of change compete between the Panthers and King. Using true events like the riots, the author provides a profound look at a thunderous period. Robert and Thomas are similar in personality though their lives differ; their confrontations and discussions make the story line stronger and more believable. Filled with symbolism, including the pivotal 1968 World Series (only matched in my mind in terms of social importance by the 2001 games) readers will enjoy Dark Town Redemption, a powerful historical thriller that pulls no punches on racial issues.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

One Rough Man-Brad Taylor

One Rough Man
Brad Taylor
Dutton, Feb 17 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9780525952138

By Presidential decree, President Warren established Project Prometheus to capture or assassinate terrorists as soon as possible; preferably before an event. The field unit of this top secret government is Taskforce who understands the mission is to kill the enemy before they harm Americans.

Pike Logan is one of the best taskforce operatives. However, while performing a mission involving Azzam the Jordanian dirty Hedgehog in Tbilisi, he suffers a personal trauma back home as he fails to be there for his family at a time they needed him. When he returns to the States, Pike vanishes as he now understands the threat is not fanatics or rogue nations but a few powerful affluent ideologues.

Nine moths since the assault on his family, Pike’s “retirement” ends when he rescues College of Charleston student Jennifer Cahill from two professional killers. While she has no idea why they came after her, at the same in Guatemala her uncle Professor John Cahill finds an ancient Mayan weapon of mass destruction that Arab terrorists plan to steal and employ to cause a Holy War in the Mideast.

Although the body count is way too tropospheric and the romantic subplot feels more like a softening requirement of One Rough Man, Brad Taylor provides an exciting thriller that grips the audience from the opening mission in Georgia and never slows down for a nanosecond. Action-packed with corpses seemingly on every page, fans who enjoy an engaging look at globalization from his perspective of weapons of mass destruction will want top read Pike’s return to the living thanks to Jennifer.

Harriet Klausner

False Pretenses-Kathy Herman

False Pretenses
Kathy Herman
David C. Cook, Mar 1 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780781403405

In the town of Les Barbes in Saint Catherine Parrish, Louisiana, a mystery comes to light. Vanessa and Ethan Langtry remodel Langtry Manor converting it into a B&B. Their son Carter says the candyman gave him lemon drops, but his parents assume this is just a child’s imagination until they sees candy on the floor. Neither adult can figure out how a person entered their tightly secured locked faculty.

Zoe and Pierce Broussard own Zoe B’s brasserie, which she opened a decade ago. She has received letters saying: “I know what you did.” Zoe assumes the anonymous writer refers to a ring she stole and is preparing to blackmail her. To eliminate the extortion, Zoe confesses to her former employer and offers to pay back the cost of the ring. Her ex boss is kind and asks Zoe to simply repay her what she got for it. However this proves not to be the source of the threat. Someone wants what the real Zoe Broussard parents owed him. Ironically, she is not that Zoe, but instead Shelby Siegler who fled from her abusive molesting father to reinvent herself as Zoe Benoit who lived in her hometown. Knowing the predator will kill her and Pierre, Zoe needs to tell her beloved husband the truth but fears that will kill her marriage.

In the first Secrets of Roux River Bayou, Kathy Herman provides a strong romantic suspense thriller with two major subplots that intertwine leading to what may be the great author’s best work to date. Besides the Broussard’s confrontations with a psychopath and the Langtry’s trepidations of an intruder, the town is in a frenzy of rage over the lynching of a white man. As the Langtrys befriend the Broussards during their crisis, which cleverly merges the two prime plots, readers will appreciate a trip into the Bayou escorted by Ms. Herman.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Headhunter's Daughter -Tamar Myers

The Headhunter's Daughter
Tamar Myers
Morrow, Jan 25 2011, $13.99
ISBN 9780061997648

In 1945 in the Belgian Congo, a Bashilele warrior on a headhunting quest finds an abandoned baby that he assumes is an ailing human due to her white skin and blue eyes. He takes the infant to his tribe to be raised as a member affectionately called "Ugly Eyes".

In October 1958 in the Belgian Congo, rumors fly in the diamond-mining town of Belle Vue that a white teenage girl lives with the Bashilele tribe. American missionary Amanda Brown; her boyfriend police captain Pierre Jardin; and her scheming maid Cripple are stunned with the news of a Caucasian residing with the headhunters. The teen is brought to the outpost, which leads to everyone discussing whether "Ugly Eyes" is the Belgian infant who vanished thirteen years ago. They also debate what to do with the child as resolution of the problem is complex but surprisingly also dangerous.

The Headhunter’s Daughter is a fantastic Belgian Congo historical thriller that brings to life the then African colony with tender affection just like Tamar Myers did with the terrific The Witch Doctor's Wife. With a nod to the “white man’s burden” rationale for colonization, the story line is character driven by Good Samaritans who learn first hand what paves the road to hell as nothing seems to go right for the pair or the girl they want to help. However though the American and her boyfriend drive the tale, it is the deep look at colonial Belgian Congo during the Eisenhower Administration that makes for a powerful Cold War era thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, January 17, 2011

Where Shadows Dance-C.S. Harris

Where Shadows Dance
C.S. Harris
Obsidian, Mar 1 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9780451232236

In 1812 England, doctors are forbidden to dissect corpses. Conscientious physician Paul Gibson pays resurrection diggers to bring him the bodies of recently interred people. Paul has in his possession the remains of twentyish Alexander Ross, who allegedly died in his sleep from a heart attack. However, when he examines the body, he realizes the man was murdered by a stiletto stabbed through the base of his skull.

Unable to report his findings to the authorities who would arrest him and probably ignore the homicide as too much bother, he asks his friend Sebastian St. Cyr to investigate as he know Lord Devlin has a compulsion to solve mysteries. St. Cyr accepts the case and looks into the deceased’s occupation at the Foreign Affairs office; where he was privy to state secrets that many would kill to know. Assuming that was the motive, St. Cyr feels a second similar homicide affirms his belief when the body of American Ezekiel Kincaid is found in a ditch. Fearing for the life of his feisty pregnant fiancée Hero Jarvis who St. Cyr believes knows the corpses’ connection that he fails to find, he still uncovers viable suspects in the international world of politics where literally backstabbing is the norm.

Entertaining with details of various class lifestyles in Regency London, the latest St. Cyr mystery (see Where Serpents Sleep) is a super whodunit as potential killers seem to be in every ballroom. Enthralling as the hero chases suspects while seeking clues to identify the actual killer and in between arrange his wedding to his beloved frustrating Hero. The murder investigation is excellent as readers obtain insight into early nineteenth century politics that proves uglier than even our current American system enhanced by the romance between two independent personalities.

Harriet Klausner

Swamplandia!-Karen Russell

Karen Russell
Knopf, Feb 1 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9780307263995

Florida is known for some of the oddest tourist attractions (some might say traps) on the planet. The state is home to Swamplandia where Bigtree alligator-wrestling has gone on for ages. However, several recent setbacks place the family business in jeopardy as the once popular stop appears heading to bankrupt extinction.

There are talent issues as the star wrestler Hilia who brought in the masses to watch a female pin alligators recently died. The older daughter Ossie has fallen in love and elopes with a ghost of a man. Adding insult their brother Kiwi accepts a position as janitor at their more powerfully backed rival the World of Darkness. Finally the patriarch Chief Bigtree has vanished. Thus the youngest sibling thirteen years old Ava takes over her late mom’s spot as the show must go on, but lacks her glamour and experience and besides has to herd just under a hundred gators and care for the park while controlling her grief. However, all changes when Ava believes she must rescue her father trapped in hell otherwise known as Gulf of Mexico; her allies are Grandpa Sawtooth, the Bird Man, and her BFF the midget alligator; at stake is her dad, the park and their island.

This is a wonderful odd fantasy with the key players fully substantial that they bring core realism to the capricious tale. Obviously this is Ava’s saga but the support cast enhances her save her world story line. Readers who enjoy something cutting edge different will want Swamplandia! Tour guide Karen Russell escorting them around the island, the park, and the Gulf in this enchanting but strange thriller (see St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves anthology for more entertainingly refreshing).

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Three Ways to Die-Lee Goldberg

Three Ways to Die
Lee Goldberg
CreateSpace, Dec 31 2011, $5.99
ISBN: 9781456481872

"Jack Webb's Star". Writer Kevin Dangler and about two dozen other offenders attend traffic school overlooking Jack Webb’s Star. He meets a bunch of lunatics including armed robbery convict turned construction worker Titus Watkins who seen Kevin’s wife perform an XXX taxi scene with Christopher Walken. They team up on a theft of a star that leads to much more.

“Bumsickle”. After two decades on the police force, Spokane Police Detective Bud Flanek knows he still thinks like a dick as he did when he joined due to the recruiter’s luscious looking breasts. He has managed to achieve a consistent level of mediocrity though at times that bar is too high. His current case involved the homicide of the thirty-something Jane Doe Caucasian with no ID except her visage is his wife who he has not seen in two years.

"Remaindered. Kevin’s first novel Frost Bite was a monster success that had him singing along side of Elmore and alphabet Grafton. His second thriller Do Unto Others tanked. His latest tale Twisted Sheets was bought by a minor publishing firm. Kevin is on a signing tour of his former best-seller, which is why he is at a K-Mart in Spokane where he meets his greatest fan Megan. He thinks she is a sign from God, but will soon revise who sent her into his life.

This short collection contains reprints of three excellent crime capers with loosely interrelated twists. Lee Goldberg is at his best in each of them as appreciative fans of short mysteries will testify.

Harriet Klausner

Dead Space-Lee Goldberg

Dead Space
Lee Goldberg
CreateSpace, Dec 30 2011, $11.99
ISBN: 9781456501686

Pinnacle Pictures decides to create a fourth network. As the anchor program, the brass chooses a revival of their 1960s cult classic TV show Beyond the Beyond. Former cop Charlie Willis (see My Gun Has Bullets) heads security at the studio.

He quickly learns working street patrol at night in downtown Los Angeles is an easier job than keeping the maniacs working on the project safe and the even crazier fanatic fans wanting in out. However, someone takes fanaticism over the top of the Hollywood sign when murder occurs. Charlie believes Clive Odett, head of The Company is behind what appears to be professional hits as the firm will kill to control all the TV hits. However, Charlie’s focus on Odett and his dirty practices has him miss some of the fans who reject ruthlessly any change in casting as a heresy from a show that went off the air over two decades ago. Encouraging the loonies is the original Endeavor starship Captain Pierce actor Guy Goddard who has not had a real gig since the show went off the air as he wants his role back.

With an obvious lampooning of the Star Trek craze and a nod to the movie Galaxy Quest (though the novel came before the movie), this reprint of a 1997 thriller takes no prisoners as Lee Goldberg satirizes Hollywood business practices and fanatical fundamentalist fandom. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Pinnacle announces the revival, greeted by some as the Second Coming. Although Charlie’s inquiry is entertaining that subplot never matches the lunacy of the reactions of bottom line slimy Hollywood insiders and the gross frantic wannabe insider fans as Mr. Goldberg rakes both symbiotic groups as adding noise to Dead Space.

Harriet Klausner

Drip Dead-Christy Evans

Drip Dead
Christy Evans
Berkley, Feb 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425239896

In Pine Ridge, Oregon apprentice plumber Georgiana Neverall of Hickey & Hickey Plumbing is about to buy her mom Sandra’s house as her mother moves in with her fiancé. She knows the pipes in the kitchen are galvanized steel, which rusts from the inside out over thirty years so leaks should be the norm. Thus, reluctantly Georgie crawls under the house to inspect the plumbing though she loathes that part of a plumber’s job. Instead of drips, she finds the corpse of her mom’s fiancé realtor Gregory Whitlock.

Pine Ridge Sheriff Fred Mitchell arrives along with two blue suited paramedics. Soon afterward Fred arrests Sandra. Georgie knows her mom is only guilty of planning to marry “Mr. Too Smooth” and being a lifetime pain in the butt so like a loyal daughter she decides to investigate over the protests of her maybe boyfriend Councilman Wade Montgomery and her BFF Fred’s girlfriend Sue Gibbons. With Wade and Sue having her back, she begins digging into the cesspool business practices of the deceased as only a former computer security guru as she was could do. As she unravels Smooth’s shaky money scheme, a murderer pursues her while in between her investigation she studies for the plumbing license exam.

Drip Dead is an engaging amateur sleuth mystery as Georgie makes inquires into the deceased’s realty business. The spirited wrench turner obviously needs no sleep as balances her mother’s fears, a nasty investigation into financial crap and the test. Readers will enjoy Georgie who pulls out much more than just a plumb and her two hesitant teammates as they work a nasty Lead Pipe Cinch case while trying not to fall into a deadly Sink Trap.

Harriet Klausner

Polished Off-Lila Dare

Polished Off
Lila Dare
Berkley, Feb 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425239865

In St. Elizabeth, Georgia, Audrey Faye arrives at Violetta’s Beauty Salon asking for owner Violetta Terhune. Audrey explains that her friend Simone Dubois, who during the summer accused Violetta of murdering her mom (see Tressed to Kill), suggested the beauty salon help prepare the contestants of the Miss Magnolia Blossom pageant. Violetta’s daughter Grace the hairdresser agrees for $300 a shot while manicurist Stella reluctantly acquiesces to help.

The gig turns nasty even before the hairdresser begins as ant-pageant protesters accost anyone involved. The gig turns even uglier when someone murders Audrey using Stella’s nail file. Besides being the owner of the murder weapon, Stella has a motive for murdering the pageant’s director. Audrey and Stella’s husband were having an affair. As the show goes on and other incidents occur, Grace investigates the homicide and the rash of accidents while a killer watches her.

This is a terrific amateur sleuth Southern Beauty Shop whodunit as the inquiry is stymied by protestors, contestants and incidents. The fast-paced whodunit grips the audience who race to solve the case before the Amazing Grace can. This is a winning Georgia peach mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Blowback-Peter May

Peter May
Poisoned Pen, Mar 1 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590588413

In 2003 in France, top chef Marc Fraysse has called for a press conference. Because Chef Marc is so highly regarded, the world media arrives en masse wondering whether the superstar’s restaurant is about to be downgraded from his three Michelin plateau. Instead someone murders Chef Marc.

In 2010, having resolved four cold cases of the seven included in a bestselling book by journalist Raffin that he bet he could solve, Enzo Macleod works on the murder of the famous chef. He finds the world of superstar haute cuisine cutthroat and competitive with obtaining and maintaining a Michelin Three Star rating absolutely necessary; anything less is professional suicide. Looking at Marc’s personal life he finds the wife, the mistress, the brother and others danced in glee at Marc’s grave. On the professional side, the same rancor exists as everyone loathed the unpredictable and abusive Chef Marc. As he closes in on solving the case by reduction, induction and deduction, the inquiry haunts Enzo by reminding him of his oldest daughter Kirsty’s accusations of desertion. Enzo feels he must go home to Scotland to make amends for deserting his wife Linda, Kirsty and the rest of his family behind two decades ago to start anew in Cahors.

The Fifth of the Enzo Files is a great whodunit that enables the audience to observe the ruthless world of French haute cuisine as anything less than three stars is purgatory. The whodunit is cleverly devised to insure the reader has a horde of viable suspects with means and motives to choose from. Additionally Blowback provides by far the deepest look into Enzo’s past especially his life as a married Scottish professor. Peter May is one of the best mystery writers on the market today (besides the Enzo files, there is the delightful China Thrillers).

Harriet Klausner

Fatal Error-J. A. Jance

Fatal Error
J. A. Jance
Touchstone, Feb 1 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9781416563815

Former California TV anchor Ali Reynolds knows this is the summer that could make or break her. She will work the morning shift at her family’s restaurant while her parents go on vacation. Serving coffee at six AM is brutal enough. However, the fortyish Ali is also making a dramatic career change. She is by far the oldest of the five female students (and 102 males) attending the six-week training class in Peoria for new recruits at the Arizona Police Academy; in other words she is “Oma”, the Afrikaan word for either grandma (which she soon will be) or old woman.

Her former news colleague Brenda Riley asks to see her at the Rimrock Inn. Ali finds a drunken Brenda worried that her fiancé, Richard Lattimer of Grass Valley, California; whom she met online but has not seen in person or even a photo of him, has vanished. Ali agrees to make inquires and learns Lattimer is cyber stalker Richard Lowensdale.

Five months later, someone murders Lowensdale in his home in Grass Valley. The police suspect one of the dead man’s cyber victims; with the most likely being Brenda, who exposed Lowensdale to the women he hurt. Ali knows Brenda would have done a lot to harm her former fiancé, but not kill him so she investigates the cyber stalker’s homicide.

This is a strong investigative thriller with terrific twists that emphasizes some believe the end justifies the mean at any cost including allowing the ten fatal errors of law enforcement placing cops at risk. Ali and her partner Grass Valley Police detective Gil Morris work well together on the complex case. Fast-paced from start to finish, the latest Ali Reynolds’ whodunit it is a great entry (see Cruel Intentions and Trial by Fire).

Harriet Klausner

So Close the Hand of Death-J.T. Ellison

So Close the Hand of Death
J.T. Ellison
Mira, Feb 22 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778329435

Across the United States copy cat serial killers of dead or jailed psychopaths surface. Law enforcement is stretched way too thin as the homicidal frenzy is from sea to shining sea. The media adds to the taut situation demanding underpaid and understaffed cops do their jobs.

Nashville police homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson knows who the mentor of these crazed killers is. The Pretender has returned with a horde of trained deadly predators imitating the worst murderers of society. She also knows his personal target is her as she has been for quite a while (see The Cold Room, for instance). The apprentice killers are just background noise to isolate her from support and to break her mentally with what happens to those who remain close to her. The Pretender is coming for the woman he cherishes and loathes for cherishing her.

So Close the Hand of death is an exciting Taylor Jackson police procedural (see All The Pretty Girls) that grips the audience with suspense as fans anticipate the Pretender coming close enough to Jackson to either kiss or kill her. Fast-paved and tense from the onset, fans of the series will appreciate the latest case though wonder whether Jackson is a modern day Typhoid Mary as anyone who befriends her throughout the six books is in jeopardy from a serial killer.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Dawn Country-W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear

The Dawn Country
W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear
Forge, Mar 15 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765320179

In 1400, the Iroquois tribes are at war with one another due to overpopulation and a lack of fertile soil to grow crops. Clans fight for the same scarce game to feed their people. The Dawnland People destroys Bog Willow Village killing men, stealing their goods and abducting women and children into slavery.

After the carnage ends, the amoral witch Gannajero wants to buy children to make them her slaves including renting them out to sexual deviants. Wrass understands no immediate rescue will occur. He and the other children must save themselves. He creates a diversion that enables some of the kids to escape from the evil crone and her malevolent warriors. Siblings Odion and Tutelo are some of the few who got away. They make it and find their parents of the Yellowtail village of Chief Koracoo and her deputy their father Gonda. The tribal chief and her deputy search for more of the lost children especially heroic Wrass and Zateri. They know even with allies like Cord the Mohawk War Chief and Wakdanek the Dawnland healer they face difficult odds in finding the sold children and when they confront the odious witch, but Koracoo vows to kill the vile one.

The second People of the Dawnland quartet of historical novels is a terrific reading experience that transport fans to a pre-Columbus North America’s Forgotten Past. Team Gear provides their fans with a fascinating look at the Iroquois culture inside of a powerful story line in which children play a strong role. The heroic adults’ knowledge that not all the children will be rescued as some will be sadly sold into sexual slavery enhances the realism as does a coda with Zateri’s tribe. This is a super entry as the wicked witch and her perverted customers leave emotional and physical scars on the children and adults.

Harriet Klausner

Kiss Me, Kill Me -Allison Brennan

Kiss Me, Kill Me
Allison Brennan
Ballantine, Feb 22 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345511690

In New York City, FBI Agent Madeaux and NYPD Detective Panetta work together on the Cinderella Strangler case. The Strangler has murdered for the fourth time with the only connections between the victims being they attended sex parties at abandoned locations. The first was in Harlem, the next in the Bronx; the third in Manhattanville; and now Jessica in Brooklyn. All four were asphyxiated with a plastic bag without a struggle as they were high and no apparent sexual assault occurred though a shoe is missing in each case.

In Woodbridge, Virginia, RCK East private investigators Sean Rogan and Patrick Kincaid search for a missing teenager Kirstin Benton; a serial runaway but always returned home after a weekend away; but not this time. Rogan knows he is missing something inside of Kirsten’s bedroom so he asks his girlfriend Lucy Kincaid, who is also Patrick’s sister, to help. She notices a webcam pointed at the bed. While Patrick objects to his sister seeing his womanizing partner and to her involvement in a case that has to bring back ugly memories (see Love Me To Death), Lucy remains on the search.

As each team works their respective case, they connect when Jessica and Kirsten belong to the Party Girl website. They collide in the warehouse where Jessica died; as Madeaux and Panetta soon learn what Sean already knows. Lucy is a brilliant analyst who finds links no one else notices.

Readers ironically know not only what each team is doing, but the whereabouts of Kirsten in this great fast-paced thriller. Action-packed on both investigative fronts and continues as such even when the three subplots converge, fans will relish Lucy Kincaid’s second thriller as the heroine proves time after time she notices what the other professionals fail to see.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, January 13, 2011

An Act of Treason-Gunnery Sgt, Jack Coughlin, USMC (Ret.) with Donald A. Davis

An Act of Treason
Gunnery Sgt, Jack Coughlin, USMC (Ret.) with Donald A. Davis
St. Martin’s, Mar 1 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312612016

US Marine Corps sniper Kyle Swanson and his girlfriend CIA agent Lauren Carson are on a mission in Pakistan. However, they have been exposed by someone in their chain leading to Kyle’s incarceration and Lauren blamed for the fiasco; she is accused of turning traitor by selling her boyfriend out and giving top secrets to an al Qaeda supporter.

Swanson and Carson need to extradite themselves from the mess they are in as the pair trust no one. Both share in common their high regard for CIA legend Jim Hall, who mentored each of them and was Lauren’s lover at one time. They would have expected him to mount an extraction rescue, but he sent them on the mission that has the pair tied in knots. Neither wants to believe that Hall set them up to conceal his selling top secret information to a Pakistani warlord who supports converting al-Qaeda into a political party and to possess a nuclear arsenal. Hall has one problem; he must kill his former apprentice.

The latest Swanson Sniper tale (see Clean Kill), An Act of Treason is a terrific espionage thriller as an idolized hero turns traitor shaking Swanson’s soul more than al Qaeda can. The story line is fast-paced though linear as the audience anticipates a sniper showdown, which happens in the Alps.

Harriet Klausner

Bank of the Black Sheep-Robert Lewis

Bank of the Black Sheep
Robert Lewis
Serpent's Tail, Mar 1 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9781846687457

Alcoholic private investigator Robin Llywelyn wakes up chained to a hospital bed. He has no idea how he there or why he is chained though he suffers from a massive hangover. When Dfyed-Polis Police Constable Matt Roberts and Avon-CID Detective Inspector David Knight show him his business card, Robin does not recognize his own name. The morphine dripping into his arm has sedated his pain but turns his brain into mashed potatoes. The two cops leave with the salutation of “give my regards to the cancer”. Later the Crown decides to not prosecute Robin who has no more than two months to live.

Taking himself off the morphine so he can think straight, Robin needs a drink so he decides to leave the hospice and go on a date with another patient; as ironically his lungs failed him while his stewed liver did not. Llywelyn receives a package containing a letter, a gun and money, which gives him a second motive to leave the hospice as he realizes there is a fortune buried in Wales that people would die for to possesses; since he is dying he might as well possess it.

The third Llywelyn incompetent investigative thriller (see The Last Llanelli Train and Swansea terminal) is a terrific satirical tale is over the top of Mount Snowdon, but fans who enjoy something different in their crime capers will not care. Fast-paced and filled with zingers, cops and robbers chase after the antihero, Bank of the Black Sheep is an intelligent jocular lampooning of the incompetent sleuth who allegedly makes a living by turning miraculously their chicken sh*t into a chicken dinner; Robin on the other hand succeeds at being a derelict.

Harriet Klausner

The Invasion Year-Dewey Lambdin

The Invasion Year
Dewey Lambdin
Dunne, Jan 18 2011, $25.99
ISBN 9780312551858

In 1803, British Royal Navy Captain Alan Lewrie saves a French fleet from a slave rebellion in Haiti though he wanted to ignore their deserved plight as he felt the Haitians were in the right. Soon afterward, Lewrie and his crew cross the Atlantic protecting merchant ships. In London King George III honors Lewrie for his patriotic endeavors by knighting him.

However, even he is taken back by his next assignment as he thought he had seen everything. Lewrie works on a torpedo experiment as a potential weapon to greet Napoleon when he crosses the Channel. Only debauchery and wenching keeps Lewrie afloat as the new weapon seems more dangerous to the handlers than the French.

The latest Lewrie historical military thriller (see King, Ship and Sword) is filled with trademark humor as the hero is more intoxicated then usual and has more senior officers who only get wet in Bath available to offend. The overall story line is fast-paced but overly cites (in detail) the protagonist’s daring deeds that led to his knighthood. Still fans of the series will enjoy Lewrie’s return home as Napoleon prepares for the French Invasion Year that the brass hopes they can torpedo with the hero as an expendable guinea pig.

Harriet Klausner

Lucifer’s Tears-James Thompson

Lucifer’s Tears
James Thompson
Putnam, Mar 17 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9780399157004

Police Inspector Kari Vaara now works homicide in Helsinki since his wife Kate detested living in his hometown. Kari has a lot on his plate with his pregnant wife only weeks away from giving birth after miscarrying last year. He is hurting mentally over the Sufia Elmi case that left his face scarred and physically from headache from a three-week long migraine with the end nowhere in sight. Worse than the headache is his new partner Milo who is a certified genius with a Dirty Harry gunslinger perspective. New to homicide, his office peers wonder if he will break solving a homicide. There hasn’t been an unsolved homicide in decades

Kari gets a chance to prove them wrong when he is assigned the torture murder of Lisa Filippov whose lover is arrested for killing his married mistress. His superiors order Kari to find evidence to hang the lover and look nowhere else, but Kari instead notices anomalies that lead him to believe the Finnish government is protecting the husband, influential Russian businessman arrogant Ivan Filippov, abetted by his mistress, who he believes likely committed the murder

His other inquiry also has high government visibility as Germany demands the extradition of Finnish World War II hero Arvid Lahinen to stand trial for war crimes allegedly committed in Northern Finland. The Interior Minister demands Kari proves the hero is innocent so he cannot be deported; nothing condemning the hero is acceptable.

.Lucifer’s Angels is a super Finnish police procedural that quickly immerses the reader into the exciting story line. The audience learns much about Finnish society today and explosive events not found in history texts about Finland’s role in WWII. Kari is a fascinating protagonist with personal issues and whose first two Helsinki investigations have big brother government telling him the acceptable outcome.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Love You More-Lisa Gardner

Love You More
Lisa Gardner
Bantam, Mar 8 2011, $26.00
ISBN: 9780553807257

Her former lover Massachusetts State Police Detective Booby Dodge calls Boston Police Sergeant D.D. Warren to tell her to get her butt over here as they have the worst type of case to investigate. The victim is merchant marine Brian Darby who lies on a kitchen floor in his pool of blood. His wife Massachusetts State Trooper Tessa Leoni confesses she killed her husband but that it was self-defense as he battered her. Missing is her six-year old daughter Sophie.

Tessa offers nothing beyond her confession; insisting she has no idea where her daughter is. With a sea of blue sympathy for Tessa, Warren and Dodge work the difficult case in which the death seems obvious but the child’s disappearance does not. Warren believes Leone is lying and that the untruths relate to the child, but her efforts to learn the truth and save the kid are hampered by her peers and the mother who refuses to tell her anything but fabrications.

This is a great police procedural that grips the audience from the moment Dodge calls Warren and never slows down. The key to this exciting thriller is that all the players including Gertrude behave in a genuine way. As Leoni answers the question “Who do you love?” fans will appreciate Warren’s latest investigation (see Live To Tell).

Harriet Klausner

Zero Day-Mark Russinovich

Zero Day
Mark Russinovich
St. Martin’s, Mar 15 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312612467

A British Airways plane flying over the Atlantic finds its controls suddenly failing. In Manhattan Fischerman, Platt & Cohen hires computer security expert Jeff Aiken to determine what caused a total system failure. Department of Homeland Security Division of Counter Cyberterrorism operative Daryl Haugen investigates a computer virus that at Brooklyn’s Mercy Hospital caused several deaths. Other deadly incidents also occur due to computer failure.

A former government official Aiken and Haugen discuss their cases. Each is stunned with the similarity. They soon connect other recent system failures to theirs. The conclusion each reaches is that a Zero Day globalization attack is coming rather soon.

The entertaining story line is linear yet exhilarating and frightening especially since author Mark Russinovich is an expert on the topic as his résumé brings a scary possibility to the cyber attack that the thriller focuses on. Aiken and Haugen seems real because they know they cannot stop all the incidents leading to Zero Day and people will die, but want to prevent the pandemic disaster from happening. Fans will enjoy this powerful cyber-terrorist attack that showcases how vulnerable the West is.

Harriet Klausner

An Empty Death-Laura Wilson

An Empty Death
Laura Wilson
Minotaur, Mar 15 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312538101

In 1944 London, the war that has no end has taken its mental toll on the stiff upper lipped British. In that environment, Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Ted Stratton struggles with his morale as he conducts investigations into hideous crimes.

When the corpse of Dr. Reynolds of Middlesex Hospital is found with head traumas, the initial assumption is falling debris caused a misfortunate accident. However DI Stratton nonetheless digs a bit deeper to rule out a clever homicide. He soon learns Reynolds chased after the nurses at his hospital and allegedly failed to provide proper care to patients who died from his seemingly neglect. Stratton begins to believe a killer works at the hospital, but who he or she is remains just out of reach. Meanwhile Dr. James Dacre continues to pose as a physician though never trained.

The latest Stratton WWII British police procedural is an entreating whodunit as the fog of war even in the home-front makes the case that much more complicated. Stratton is fabulous as he os depressed about the endless fighting but diligent about his job. Although the climax seems improbable, fans will enjoy Laura Wilson’s exciting historical mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Cold Wind-C.J. Box

Cold Wind
C.J. Box
Putnam, Mar 22 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9780399157356

Joe Pickett is happy being home in Saddlestring, Wyoming with his beloved wife Marybeth and their daughter instead of being the Wyoming governor’s point man. The only person who resides in the county that he dislikes is his mother-in-law Missy, who just married her sixth husband multimillionaire Earl Alden. However he is missing and she demands her game warden son-in-law find him.

Joe arrives at the ranch and quickly finds a body in a wind turbine. He climbs the ladder and identifies the corpse as his latest father-in-law. Sheriff McLachlan orders him down as he knew this was a crime scene before her got there due to an informant’s tip. He arrests Missy, but Joe believes she is being framed as the informant is her ex husband Bud Longbrake who lost his ranch to her when she divorced him. Marybeth begs Joe to investigate, which he reluctantly does. He quickly learns everyone within Earl’s scope wanted him dead. That is enough for Missy to be not guilty in court, but Marybeth wants her mom proven innocent.

This complex mystery with its strong casting is what fans expect in the Pickett investigative series as C.J. Box provides another terrific tale. The story line is personal because Joe and Missy detest one another, but both love Marybeth. Readers will enjoy Cold Wind as the hero works a case trying to prove his number one enemy is innocent.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Rizzo's Fire-Lou Manfredo

Rizzo's Fire
Lou Manfredo
Minotaur, Mar 1 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780312538064

As he nears retirement Brooklyn Police Detective Sergeant Joe Rizzo has seen everything in his years on the NYPD force. His new partner Priscilla Jackson is an openly lesbian African-American, which does not faze the veteran cop in the least though he feels for her as her mom cut her off over her sexual preference. Joe’s biggest concern of the moment is his daughter wants to become a chip off the old block and become a cop, which he opposes.

Joe and Priscilla investigate the strangling death of a former shoe salesman Robert Lauria. The homicide seems identical to the recent murder of a Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright. As the two cops seek clues, Joe fears a serial killer is on the loose.

The prime homicide investigation starts several chapters into the enjoyable Brooklyn police procedural as the opening segue focuses on personal issues and routine office work that the two cops face. Once the story line shifts into first gear when the inquiry begins, the action becomes fast-paced. Although the two detectives seem on their own with little support from their precinct to include data warehousing to affirm or disprove Rizzo’s theory, fans will enjoy the view of Brooklyn from a pair who would insist a tree never grows in a cement jungle (see Rizzo's War for his first case).

Harriet Klausner

Lethal Lineage-Charlotte Hinger

Lethal Lineage
Charlotte Hinger
Poisoned Pen, Mar 1 2011, $24.95
ISBN 9781590588376

In Western Kansas, Episcopalians came together to build St. Helena Church at the point where four counties meet. Bishop The Right Reverend Ignatius P. Talesbury arrives to give the guest sermon at the special ceremony for Tammy Clements who will be confirmed today. The congregation is stunned when the Bishop attacks the flock blaming everyone for the diocese’ financial troubles. Tammy’s twin aunts react differently as psychologist Josie Albright studies the faces of the people in attendance while Carleton County Deputy Sheriff Lottie Albright would like to lock up the incarnation of Darth Vader, the odious Bishop.

The church’s temporary rector distressed Mary Farnsworth accidentally drops the chalice filled with communion wine. Stunned she runs into the back room. The Bishop handles the spill employing an odd ritual. After the services are done, Lottie finds Mary dead. Octogenarian Edna Mavery says she heard the man talk to and frighten Mary after the wine spill and the woman's fear led to a fatal heart attack. The autopsy reveals Mary was poisoned. Although she would love to prove the Bishop killed the rector, Lottie investigates the homicide that none of the bigwigs want conducted and another county sheriff with strong support wants to run the inquiry. Supporting her efforts is her husband Keith and Josie.

The latest Lottie Albright police procedural (see Deadly Descent) is a terrific whodunit with several fascinating twists starting with Mary’s past. The cast is strong with Lottie as the focus holding the strong story line together. Readers need to set aside time as this is a hard to put down murder mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Covenant -Lisa Harris

Blood Covenant
Lisa Harris
Zondervan, Feb 24 2011, $14.99
ISBN 9780310331476

In the African Republic of Dhambizao, civil war between the government military and the rebel Ghost Soldiers force thousands to flee. Dr. Paige Ryan of the Volunteers of Hope relief sets up a temporary refugee camp to provide medical care and some sustenance; knowing temporary can be decades.

The Ghost Soldiers attack an American mountain climbing expedition. Dt. Ryan and her team rescue some of trapped climbers. However, one of those rescued brings to camp a highly infectious disease. Ryan, pilot Nick Gilbert and her crew desperately try to obtain vaccines but the Ghost Soldiers refuse to allow anyone to leave the encampment even for humanitarian reasons unless their demands are met. American diplomat Paul Hayes negotiates between the government and the Ghost Soldiers as time is running out for those inside the camp.

The second Mission Hope thriller (see Blood Ransom) is an exciting tale driven by a cast used to tragedy yet remains hopeful. The negotiations are not easy as everyone has a stake they can lose in the outcome. Readers will enjoy the courageous efforts of Ryan and her beset team of volunteers, and the daunting work of Hayes and Gilbert, but the taut story line belongs to the three groups (government, Ghost Soldiers, and the refugees) of people of Dhambizao who put faces and complexities to the deadly crisis.

Harriet Klausner

Shadow Pass-Sam Eastland

Shadow Pass
Sam Eastland
Bantam, Feb 22 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9780553807820

A German agent drives a motorcycle from his homeland into Poland. From there he enters Stalin’s Russia where a man waits for him. He has the schematics for the Konstantin project, which he gives to the other party in exchange for money. The German leaves, but is shot from behind.

Stalin is furious about the leak of T-34 a new weapon to use in the upcoming war with Germany. He orders former Prisoner 4745-P Inspector Pekkala to interrogate the person in charge inventor Colonel Rolan Nagorski. Pekkala concludes that the Colonel is innocent, but someone inside committed treason and must be found before further leaks occur. However, before he can dig deeper, someone murders Nagorski. A raging Stalin wants the killer caught immediately, but Pekkala knows he must not work in haste to insure the seditious murder is caught before Internal Affairs Commissar Major Lysenkova further muddies up the case, probably on purpose.

The second Stalinist era historical police procedural (see Eye of the Red Tsar) enables the reader to look deeply at the paranoid Russian leader who saw assassins everywhere; leading to his killing millions as enemies of the state. Pekkala is an honorable courageous person who knows his Stalin-sanctioned investigation into anyone is paramount to official suicide, but his love for his Mother Russia has him carry out his mission. Shadow Pass is a terrific 1930s whodunit enhanced by flashbacks to when Pekkala was the Tsar’s top investigator.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, January 10, 2011

Spiral-Paul McEuen

Paul McEuen
Dial Press (Random House), Mar 22 2011, $25.00
ISBN 9780385342117

In Ithaca, New York, everyone at Cornell University is stunned when octogenarian emeritus Professor of Biology Liam Connor commits suicide. The Nobel Prize winner in nano-science and nano-robotic technology seemed contented in his role of elder statesmen and mentor. Especially shocked by his death is his family including his granddaughter Maggie and his academic partner Professor Jake Sterling; neither had seen it coming.

The pair has no time to grieve when an autopsy reveals that silicon metallic micro-robots were implanted in the stomach of the victim. Maggie and Jake know their hero did not kill himself, but was apparently murdered to probably cover up his being tortured. Meanwhile as Connor’s granddaughter and the professor struggle with his enigmatic messages from the grave, someone plans to release a biological doomsday bomb with ties to the WWII Japanese Imperial Army bio-weapons development Unit #731.

Spiral contains a strong story line that starts off as an amateur sleuth homicide investigation that evolves into a bio-weapons thriller with a genuine historical link. Fast-paced from start to finish, the keys are the college setting and the relationships between the lead couple and with the deceased that brings the sense of urgency to the action-packed story line with time running out echoing the final scene in Fail Safe when Manhattan is bombed.

Harriet Klausner

The Raising-Laura Kasischke

The Raising
Laura Kasischke
Harper Perennial, Mar 15 2011, $14.99
ISBN 9780062004789

One year has passed since the fatal accident left Nicole Werner dead. Her boyfriend New Hampshire native Craig Clements-Rabbitt was driving and has not moved on as everything at Godwin Honors Hall reminds him of Nicole. Although his parents and his roommate Perry Edwards try to help him with his grief, the latter also has his own issues having known the late Nicole all his life and being the one who introduced her to Craig.

Meanwhile, the witness of the car accident Shelly Lockes is forced to leave the Midwestern town after insisting the victim was not dead contrary to media reports of a bloody corpse; while Sociology Professor Mira Polson receives immense pressure involving her family to resign after finding anomalies with the official report of the deadly incident. Nicole's sorority sisters at Omega Theta Tau remain angry and adamant that her killer and his defenders pay the price. Soon after Craig’s return to campus, apparent suicides and accidental shootings become the curriculum.

The Raising is a super academia suspense saga that grips the audience from the moment Craig’s dad takes him back to school. The story line is character driven by several players including those above, the sisterhood, and obsessed Ted Dientz. Although the actions of the Omega Theta Tau sisters are over the top of the Gateway Arch, readers will enjoy Laura Kasischke’s twisting taut thriller.

Harriet Klausner

A Shortcut to Paradise-Teresa Solana

A Shortcut to Paradise
Teresa Solana
Bitter Lemon, Mar 1 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9781904738558

In Barcelona, fifty something bestselling author Marina Dolc wins the Sixth Edition of the Golden Apples Fiction Award. After gracefully receiving the misshapen fruit with a bite taken out on a Thasos base prize, Marina returns to the Ritz Hotel where she always stays. A late visitor arrives who she welcomes in her room though Marina is tired. The visitor picks up the statue and hammers her in the head with it. Her assassin leaves her dead with her prize next to her; a climax that comes from one of her novels.

The Catalan police realize the victim welcomed her killer into her room. They arrest author Amadeu Cabestany, who knew the deceased and came in second for the prize. Although they insist they are not detectives, but only consultants, the brothers Eduard Martinez and Borja Masdeu are hired to prove the prime suspect is innocent. Using the same tactics they applied to solving A Not So Perfect Crime and to their usual adultery case, the siblings bluff their way from one clue to another as they improvise the script while interviewing the pretentious ostentatious literati world.

The second bumbling Martinez-Masdeu satire lampoons the cast of characters who make up the literary world though ostensibly Barcelona, but could be London, Melbourne, Singapore, New York or Toronto as well. The amusing story line is fast-paced as the siblings trip over clues while exposing the greats and the wannabes as egomaniacs without substance. Although some of the translation loses the Spanish essence of the cast, fans will enjoy this nod to Peter Falk’s Colombo while endearingly mocking the hand that feeds Teresa Solana.

Harriet Klausner

The Lost Sister-Russel D. McLean

The Lost Sister
Russel D. McLean
Minotaur, Mar 15 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780312576820

In Dundee, Scotland, fourteen year old Mary Furst vanishes. The family believes time is short as Mary is a great student and promising artist who would never have just run away. Not expecting the overworked police to rescue the teen alive, former Dundee cop turned private investigator J. McNee is hired to find and save the child. He agrees with the assessment that the child was snatched takes on the case; he barely conceals his ire and if he can get his hands on the culprit with no cops around the predator will regret abducting a kid.

McNee is not hampered by the restrictions placed on the cops as he follows leads. He wonders if Mary’s criminal Godfather is the cause as an enemy could be behind the abduction. He finds that the child’s mom is uncooperative so he bullies her trying to get her to tell him what she fearfully but obviously hides. Ignoring legal boundaries while working closely with Constable Susan Bright, McNee fears time has run out on Mary who he thinks is probably dead.

The second McNee raging out of control investigation is a super thriller as the hero’s anger management issues remain a critical part of him, but provides insight into the causes of his emotional problems; something the exciting The Good Son lacked. Ironically the story line is fast-paced from the moment McNee does the favor, but in the protagonist’s mind his pace is too slow. Readers will appreciate the traumatized hero who is apt to lead with his fists and ask questions later.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Devil's Food Cake Murder-Joanne Fluke

Devil's Food Cake Murder
Joanne Fluke
Kensington, Feb 22 2011, $24.00
ISBN 9780758234919

In Lake Eden, Minnesota, Hannah Swenson, owner of the popular Cookie Jar bakery, feels good for her best friend Claire who recently married Reverend Bob Knudson. On a sabbatical, Bob’s friend Lutheran Minister Matthew Walters arrives in Lake Eden and agrees to preach to the flock at Holy Redeemer so that the newlyweds can go on their honeymoon.

However, the manna from heaven plan turns to devil’s food cake when Hannah finds Matthew dead in the rectory. Although her sometimes boyfriend Winnetka County's chief detective Mike Kingston leads the official investigation, Hannah starts her own inquiry, which he encourages as she has quite a solve rate (see Apple Turnover Murder). She begins to find the saint is a sinner while wondering if the gold coins in the collection plate or the jewel robbery in Minneapolis is the motive for the homicide, and whether the victim’s ex convict cousin is involved with the murder.

The latest "Land of 10000 Lakes" culinary whodunit is a delicious amateur sleuth mystery though Mike might take exception to the word amateur when it comes to his girlfriend solving murder mysteries. The story line is fast-paced with a strong cast including the deceased Lutheran Minster. With additional mouth watering recipes, readers will enjoy stopping at the Cookie Jar for a tasty piece of sleuthing.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Beaglemania-Linda O. Johnston

Linda O. Johnston
Berkley, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425240212

Near Los Angeles, HotRescues is a no-kill shelter for dogs and other animals founded by billoinaire Dante DeFrancisco, owner of a series of pet stores that which carries items manufactured and carried in his HotPets stores. He is the biggest contributor to HotRescues and though he is a billionaire he has a heart of gold. As part of a legal settlement Efram Kiley works at HotRescues, learning how to treat and care for animals for which he was paid a large sum of money in a legal settlement with Dante.

HotRescues director Lauren Vancouver is horrified to see Efron at a dirty and diseased puppy mill where he pushes beagle puppies into a drain pipe. When he turns up at HotRescues, Lauren fires him. Soon afterward, she sees his body in HotRescues with a knife in his chest. She becomes the number one suspect. When she is injured twice in potentially deadly incidents, the cops assume she set them up to make her look a victim, innocent of murder. Knowing the police are going to arrest her, she tries to ferret out the real killer.

Dante’s lover Kendra Ballantine makes a cameo appearance that connects this new series to the Pet Sitter amateur sleuth novels; this adds a sense of continuity though on a different path. Linda O. Johnson fans will compare the two leading ladies; as Laura is more mature and independent than Kendra is but both are feisty, obstinate and passionate about animals. The mystery is cleverly devised even with the cops acting more Keystone than professional as in their mind the case solved. Pet Sitter readers will enjoy this similar yet different canine thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Springtime of the Spirit-Maureen Lang

Springtime of the Spirit
Maureen Lang
Tyndale, Mar 1 2011, $12.99
ISBN: 9781414324371

In the fall of 1918, German Major Christophe Brecht returns from the trenches in France to a defeated nation though neither he nor the other soldiers with him understand how they lost the Great War as little of the combat occurred in his homeland. He and others are angry at the Kaiser as he makes his way to Braedon just west of Munich. When he finally reaches his home, he finds out that his sister Nitsa has left for Milwaukee to be with their uncle.

Annaliese Duray believes the time for political and economic reform in Germany is now. She is not afraid to speak her mind about taking care of the workers, but not the way the violent Communists want to do. Christophe who loves Annaliese finally finds her in Munich where she pushes for the disenfranchised to have a say in the country. However, as an army sent from Berlin arrives allegedly to keep the peace by preventing the rabble-rousers from taking power in Munich, Christophe believes inner and community harmony comes with God while Annaliese assumes equality for all is the only way to achieve national healing and well-being.

This is a strong historical thriller with a romantic subplot anchoring a profound look at a defeated Germany just after WWI. Christophe and Annaliese are fully developed protagonists who know the cost of the war first hand but in different ways. He saw it on the not so quiet Western Front while she saw it on the home front. Readers will fully relish Springtime of the Spirit as the hero finds sustenance in faith after the failure of the state; while the heroine finds her mojo in her belief in an equality state in which gender, race or religion is irrelevant as is a free will God.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 7, 2011

Death Along the Spirit Road -C.M. Wendelboe

Death Along the Spirit Road
C.M. Wendelboe
Berkley, Mar 1 2011, $14.00
ISBN 9780425240021

A killer buries a war club into the head of developer Jason Red Cloud, who had the financial backing to build a resort on the Pine Ridge Reservation near the site of Wounded Knee, South Dakota. FBI Academy instructor Manny Tanno is assigned to investigate though he prefers not to do field work anymore.

A former Oglala Sioux tribal cop, the special agent finds he is unwelcome by the older tribe who never forgot the FBI infiltration in the 1970s American Indian Movement; even some of the younger ones who learned of AIM refuse to cooperate with Tanno. He also has problems with the acting chief Leon "Lumpy" Looks Twice who prefers the “outsider” go back to teaching and from the dead victim whose spirit apparently haunts Tanno’s dreams demanding justice. However, the biggest problem confronting Tanno is a conflict of interest when his brother Reuben becomes a viable suspect.

This Native American police procedural is a strong whodunit because of the powerful backdrop in which Tanno investigates. Readers will observe the poverty on Pine Ridge and the division still haunting the present from the AIM era though over three decades have passed. With the Wounded Knee National Historic Landmark serving as an anchor between the late nineteenth century past and the present, readers will appreciate Tanno’s efforts to solve the homicide with no local cooperation; in fact many prefer he joins Red Cloud in the spirit world.

Harriet Klausner

A Touch of Gold-Joyce and Jim Levane

A Touch of Gold
Joyce and Jim Levane
Berkley, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425240243

On the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the island town of Duck lives Mayor Dae O’Donnell. Besides being the village’s mayor she is also has the gift of finding things for people. Her psychic power works by her picturing in the client’s what is lost leading to her tracking the location.

The island is filled with legends about Theo Burr who was sailing to her father Aaron. The ship either sank during a storm or Theo was killed by a pirate. The Duck Historical Museum curator Max Caudle believes Theo lived her life on the island and has a wooden chest full of gold that he believes proves his theory. Someone shoots a cannon ball at the museum destroying the structure, killing Max and injuring Dae and others who were near the edifice during the assault. Following the homicide, the culprit tries to burn down the late Max’s home. Dae applies her psychic gift to see the history of certain objects so she can follow the leads to the killer, but struggles to control the intensity of the visions. Even with former FBI agent and tentative boyfriend Kevin Brickman at her side, a killer waits for the right moment to cause a special election for the mayor of Duck.

Due to the interwoven details of life on a small Carolina barrier island, A Touch of Gold feels realistic as residents know one another and at rimes squabble with each other. Paranormal amateur sleuth fans will enjoy observing Dae use cognitive and ESP mental processes to uncover a murderer who will kill again to insure achieving the goal. Readers will enjoy Team Levane’s second Dae in a life of a Duck tale (see A Timely Vision).

Harriet Klausner

Shortcut Man-P.G. Sturges

Shortcut Man
P.G. Sturges
Scribner, Feb 1 2011, $24.00
ISBN: 9781439194171

In Los Angeles, Dick “Shortcut Man” Henry is the best at helping clients work through barriers whether it is a cuckolded spouse or a tenant not paying their rent. Not one for the Power and the Glory, Dick always starts off with a polite request to the individual stonewalling his customer. However, if that fails he employs Enrique Montalvo Rojas and the Laurel Canyon Irregulars to persuade the person to do the right thing as defined by the Shortcut Man or else face the consequences.

Porn movie producer Artie Benjamin hires Dick to identify the person who is sleeping with his wife Lynette. The Shortcut Man knows he does not need any time to investigate because he sees the lover in the mirror every time he shaves. Dick knows he cannot fail on a mission or lose the mojo PR image he created, but he also must avoid some nasty killers and finally decide what to do about Lynette and Artie.

This is a delightful urban noir starring a hardboiled sleuth who does not want to be hailed as a conquering hero and his even harder boiled sidekicks; as they sweep the streets of Los Angeles not afraid of either side of the law. Although the villains seem emaciated in comparison to the great Shortcut Man and crew, fans will appreciate Henry’s travels in this is dark humorous thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, January 6, 2011

No Less in Blood -D.M. Pirrone

No Less in Blood
D.M. Pirrone
Five Star, Mar 9 2011, $25.95
ISBN 9781594149276

In Birch Falls, Minnesota twelve year old Linnet Chapman waits with her maternal grandfather Jackson Schlegel for her mother, Grace to come to get her. Grace never arrives at the Schlegel manse, no longer owned by the family, as her abusive husband Luke murdered her in Chicago. Luke next searches for Linnet.

In 1904 mining magnate Andrew Jackson Schlegel writes a will that will make any kin of his wealthy. Meanwhile in the present adoptee Rachel Connolly, searching for her biological parents, finds proof her late birth mother Minna McGrath was related to the Schlegels. She meets Linnet in Birch Falls where the latter shares the diary she found of her great-grandmother Mary Anne Schlegel, who vanished at the 1893 Columbian World's Exposition. This provides a link between the two women even as Jackson and Luke team up to eliminate the females in their way.

No Less In Blood is an excellent thriller in which a historical missing person’s case leads to a second mystery one century later. The story line is fast-paced as the two females struggle to survive their respective male predator. Readers will enjoy this taut tale of the impact of an event in 1893 leading to a will in 1904, which in turn leads to avarice amidst and extended family.

Harriet Klausner

Soul Survivor -Jeanne Glidewell

Soul Survivor
Jeanne Glidewell
Five Star, Mar 9 2011, $25.95
ISBN 9781594149481

In 2001 in rural Kansas, Trey and Zoe Robbins become concerned with their five years old daughter Skye’s out of character behavior. They take their child to a doctor who sends her to a child psychologist Dr. Azzam.

The psychologist is stunned with what he believes is happening to the little girl. He consults with regressionist Jutta Meyer. They agree that Skye has past life memories of a teenager living in Bombay in 1966. While her parents scoff at the theory, Azzam and Meyer try to better understand how Skye knows so much about fifteen years old Radha Joshi, as this is proof of a past-life memory. As their daughter gets worse, the Robbins leave their farm to escort Skye to India to learn what happened to Radha; not realizing Bombay is only the beginning of their search that cuts through Greece before returning to the States as all roads converge in Wyoming.

Soul Survivor is an engaging paranormal mystery that uses flashbacks and current nightmares to build up the suspense. Although none of the characters in the past or present are fully developed beyond the minimum of what their role requires to enhance the tension, the strong mysteries of what happened to teenage Radha decades ago and why Skye possesses her memories will grip readers throughout this this exciting thriller.

Harriet Klausner