Monday, February 28, 2011

As the Crow Flies-Maris Soule

As the Crow Flies
Maris Soule
Five Star, Apr 6 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594149528

Zenith, Michigan CPA P.J. Benson gives a talk at the town library warning people not to get sucked into scams; the mantra is that if it seems too good to be true it is because it is too good to be true. After completing her presentation, elderly Ida Delaney hands a battered briefcase owned by her nephew Donald to P.J. She reluctantly accepts it.

Ida fears her nephew is blackmailing people over what is inside the briefcase: lab reports, maps, and soil samples that make several people look guilty of criminal activity. Not long afterward, Donald arrives at P.J.'s home, demands the briefcase and attacks her before leaving with it. Her boyfriend Kalamazoo Sheriff's Department Detective Sergeant Wade Kingsley warns her to back off, but P.J. obstinately refuses as she investigates a case that turns to homicide.

The second Benson Michigan cozy (see The Crows) is an interesting whodunit as the heroine and Baraka the Rhodesian Ridgeback investigate the case. The story line is fast-paced, but I had an issue with how the heroine’s boyfriend the cop (and others) handle the violence against her as if she is at fault for the assaults by her neighbor Nora and Donald. Still, fans will enjoy the intrepid amateur sleuth as she ignores Wade (except to wonder why he seems to have dumped her without telling her) and the threats to her life to continue her inquiries.

Harriet Klausner

Gardens of Grief-Boston Teran

Gardens of Grief
Boston Teran
High Top Publications, Apr 2011, $22.00
ISBN: 9781567030563

In 1915, the American State Department sends Bureau of Investigation agent John Lourdes to Constantinople where the fighting has been fierce. Lourdes knows his assignment borders on suicide as the Ottoman Empire with their Central partners having defeated the British in the Dardanelles has begun an ethnic cleansing campaign to eradicate the Christian Armenians though the government insists they are at war with rebels rather than a planned genocide.

Lourdes mission is to bring out of the war zone, Father Malek who has become a symbol of the Armenian resistance as he gave up the plow to pick up the sword. At the same time the Ottoman Empire makes a concerted effort to catch the martyr and consequently the American whose Mexican roots enables him to somewhat blend in with the populace.

This is an incredible look at one of the first mass government sponsored genocides that rivals that of those that followed like the Nazis, the killing fields of Cambodia and the bloody red rivers of Rwanda, etc. With a nod to Solzhenitsyn’s exposing of Stalin, the exhilarating story line is action-packed with some scenes of horrific inhumanity; but throughout the cautionary message is to never forget hoping the world shines a spotlight on the next ethnic cleaning to prevent another round of The Creed of Violence.

Harriet Klausner

Bel-Air Dead-Stuart Woods

Bel-Air Dead
Stuart Woods
Putnam, Apr 26 2011, $25.95
ISBN 9780399157363

In Southern California, elderly actor Vance Calder dies. He leaves his much younger widow Arrington his stock in Centurion Studios in Bel-Air. Arrington asks her former lover Manhattan based attorney Stone Barrington to travel to Los Angeles to represent her legally, as she battles over who controls the studio. Dropping everything to assist the mother of his son, Barrington makes Strategic Moves starting with reorganizing Arrington's shares; buying more stock for her; and finally forging partnerships with other holders in order for his client to have the controlling interest.

Known for playing hardball Terry Prince, CEO of Prince Investments, wants the choice property where Centurion Studios resides as he knows there is much more to be made from development. When someone murders stockholder Jennifer Harris, Barrington assumes his opponent raised the stakes. With his sidekick Dino Bacchetti having his back, Stone obtains local help as he plays chess with an amoral opponent.

With a twist that includes Ed Eagle territory (see Santa Fe Edge and Santa Fe Dead.); fans will enjoy the Stone invasion of Hollywood as the East Coast hipster matches up against a West Coast shark. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Stone arrives in California until the climax as regardless of which coast the hero is in, he retains his usual unconcerned demeanor in the face of danger while also being a chick magnet.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fade to Blue-Bill Moody

Fade to Blue
Bill Moody
Poisoned Pen, Apr 5 2011, $24.95
ISBN 9781590588949

Though he is part of the San Francisco jazz scene, Evan Horne accepts a paying gig in Los Angeles. Actually in Malibu where he has been retained to train actor Ryan Stiles to appear on the silver screen as if he playing jazz piano.

However, the spoiled film star rages during a paparazzi attack and a photographer dies. Evan wants to go home as the money is not worth the effort of dealing with the pampered Ryan even in the plush beach home. However, Stiles’ manager offers him the chance to score the film if he continues to teach the actor to look as if he plays the piano. The police determine Stiles is innocent of the death, but while filming a second person dies and a blackmailer extorts money from the beleaguered star. Evan. assisted by his FBI girlfriend Andie Lawrence and LAPD Police Lieutenant Danny Cooper, investigates while serial killer Gillian Sims escapes from prison.

The latest Evan Horne mystery is an engaging tale that is fun to read, but lacks the intriguing jazz pedigree of Shades of Blue, Looking for Chet Baker and Bird Lives! The story line is fast-paced as Evan decides to do what he believes is the right thing though he detests his mercurial student. Although the serial killer subplot feels forced and unnecessary, fans will enjoy Bill Moody’s entertaining musical mystery.

Harriet Klausner

One Was a Soldier-Julia Spencer-Fleming

One Was a Soldier
Julia Spencer-Fleming
Minotaur, Apr 12 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312334895

In Miller’s Kill, New York clinical therapist Sarah Dowling runs a group session for returning veterans. Her current patients consists of orthopedist Dr. George “Trip” Stillman, Marine Lance Corporal Willem Ellis who lost his legs in theater, Guard helicopter pilot Major Clare Fergusson, Military Police Guard Sergeant Eric McCrea of infamous Camp Bucca, and Army Specialist Mary” Tally” McNabb. Being a small town, the quintet knows each other.

Over the next few months the group meets several times with each trying to conceal their fears of what has changed in family dynamics while they were deployed. However besides each one struggling to catch up with the different civilian scenarios from when they mobilized, corruption and suicide to cover what Clare believes is a murder add to the sense of feelings disengaged and non-anchored.

This direct sequel to In the Bleak Midwinter is a great military thriller that focuses on returning veterans with diverse issues struggling to return to civilian life after time in theater. The murder mystery seems standardized when compared to the plight of each vet and their family; that is until one understands the best that money can buy. Readers, except the military-industrial-Congressional complex thirsting for the next war, will appreciate this deep look at vets returning with different degrees of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a realization that life in the home-front kept breathing without them.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 26, 2011

What Are Friends For?-Caroline Taylor

What Are Friends For?
Caroline Taylor
Five Star, Apr 6 2011, $25.95
ISBN 978159414956-

In Annapolis, Maryland, Persephone Justinalia "P.J." Smythe works for her Uncle Alexander as a skip tracer at his loan business. When her best friend Alicia Todd Ritchie asks P.J. to participle in a documentary she is filming on the private investigative business, she agrees though she is not a hard boiled sleuth.

Wetlands Protectors Alliance Vivian Remington the amazon hires petit P.J. as a sleuth to uncover evidence that Florida state senator Marguerite Sutherland stole an ocelot fur coat. Vivian needs the endangered species coat to return it to the Fish and Wildlife Service who lent it to her. However, when Vivian dies from a heroin overdose that the cops believe was a murder, they suspect P.J. Struggling to prove her innocence by finding the killer and that the politician lifted the coat, P.J. also skirmishes with her ex-husband Bobby Crane; former college classmate Gareth Swenson, and lawyer Neal Patterson.

These entertaining hard-boiled-lit lampoons the detective genre as P.J. seems to step into more manure than a stable produces. Over the top of the head of her first client, fans will enjoy the somewhat formulaic whodunit while laughing throughout starting from the moment P.J. pretends to be a sleuth sizing down to her eye level Vivian.

Harriet Klausner

Grey Zone-Clea Simon

Grey Zone
Clea Simon
Severn House, Apr 1 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9780727869920

At Harvard, graduate student Dulcie Schwartz has completed all her classes except for her dissertation on the anonymous British author of a two-century old gothic novel. Besides wondering who the author was, Dulcie would like to know why the unknown author stopped writing.

However, she will soon be engulfed in a real world mystery. Signs seem everywhere asking whether anyone has seen a missing former student Carrie. Dulcie saw Carrie with a man before she knew people were looking for her. After sending an email to Carrie’s contact address, the woman seeking Carrie, Corkie asks Dulcie to contact her. Dulcie searches for Corkie, finds her but she runs into a building and to the stairs. Seconds later Dulcie learns Professor Fritz Herscloft just jumped out of a window to his death. Later she finds out he was murdered. Dulcie worries someone she knows might be the killer and that she may be in danger as she has a lot od so-cslled accidents. Making matters more complicated is that her beloved late feline Mr. Grey, whose spirit guided her, is contacting Dulcie less and less; while her impish kitten Esme is not assisting her at all. As she digs deeper, falling concrete injures Dulcie who now knows she is in danger.

The latest Dulcie Schwartz paranormal amateur sleuth (see Grey Matters and Shades of Grey) is a delightful cozy starring a young female who fears her late significant other Mr. Grey is moving on at a time she needs him though even she knows he is a crutch. Both cats are involved in trying to keep their human pet safe though it is not easy to do as the heroine has a tendency to stick her nose into dire situations. Readers will enjoy wintry Cambridge as Dulcie struggles with closure from the loss of her loved one, her dissertation, and her investigation.

Harriet Klausner

Cookie Dough or Die-Virginia Lowell

Cookie Dough or Die
Virginia Lowell
Berkley, Apr 5 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425240670

In the Baltimore suburb Chatterley Heights, Sheriff Delroy Jenkins visits The Gingerbread House co-owners and BFFs Olivia Greyson and Madeline Briggs in the middle of the night to inform the former that her friend Clarisse Chamberlain died from an apparent accidental overdose. Stunned by the pronouncement of Clarisse’s death as the woman was the influence who persuaded Olivia to open the cookie shop following her divorce from controlling Ryan the surgeon. However, the autopsy reveals alcohol in the victim’s stomach that seemed like it was guzzled in record time; out of the ordinary behavior by Clarisse, which leads Del to reconsider suicide or homicide rather than accident.

At the reading of the will, Clarisse leaves a stunned Olivia with money and her valuable antique cookie cutters. This grand gesture to her friend makes Olivia a person with a motive. At the same tome that Del reluctantly looks at Olivia as a person of interest, Clarisse’s sons Edward and Hugh suspect her. When Sam the letter carrier becomes deathly ill from The Gingerbread House cookies, Olivia becomes motivated to prove her innocence on all fronts.

Olivia and Maddie make an amusing amateur sleuth tandem as they bake a new recipe to uncover the identity of a killer who at a minimum tainted their reputation and at a maximum may send the two female cookie makers to join Clarisse at rest. The whodunit is well done as the killer is in plain sight yet just outside the reader’s peripheral vision. Fans of cozies will enjoy this Maryland small-town family affair.

Harriet Klausner

The Cat, The Lady and The Liar-Leann Sweeney

The Cat, The Lady and The Liar
Leann Sweeney
Obsidian, Apr 5 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451233028

In South Carolina, Mercy Animal Sanctuary shelter owner Shawn Cuddahee rescues a “wealthy” kitty wearing diamond studded collar wandering near the highway. He takes the cat Isis to his shelter after being unable to return her to her owner elderly affluent Ritaestelle Longworth. Shawn asks his friend Jillian Hart and her three cats (Chablis, Syrah and Merlot) to escort Isis home. Jillian agrees and she drives the fifteen miles from her home in Mercy to Longworth estate in Woodcrest; only to be met by the same greeting that Shawn received. She is run off the property without seeing the allegedly ailing Ritaestelle and taking Isis with her

Not long afterward, Ritaestelle arrives at Jillian’s house late at night insisting she is being drugged and needs help before someone kills her. That is followed by a corpse nearby with Chablis standing next to Ritaestelle, both bloodied. Jillian and her feline buddies investigate the “purr-fect crime.

This is a lighthearted fun cozy starring an engaging cast of characters (feline and human). Jillian and her three wise cats understand the missions of solving the case, helping an elderly woman and teaching the spoiled pompous aristocrat proper behavior. Feline frolic fans will enjoy the latest Cats In Trouble Mystery (see The Cat, The Professor and The Poison).

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 25, 2011

Breaking the Rules-Suzanne Brockmann

Breaking the Rules
Suzanne Brockmann
Ballantine, Mar 22 2011, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345521224

Navy SEALs Izzy Zanella and Danny Gilman have a long standing grudge. When the former met the latter’s sister Eden, he fell in love. She became pregnant with someone else’s child, but he stepped to the plate and married her. When she miscarried, she also gave up on a heartbroken Izzy. Danny blamed Izzy for his sibling’s unhappiness

Meanwhile Danny and Izzy work a mission in Afghanistan in which the former is wounded and the latter saves his life but almost dies doing so. After a hospital stint in Germany, they come home to learn Eden is trying to rescue her teenage younger brother Ben from their abusive stepfather Greg and his mother Ivette. They head to Vegas along with Danny’s on again and off again girlfriend Jennilyn LeMay to help Eden. When Ben rescues Neesha from a child prostitution ring, Eden and Izzy protect her as the mobsters come for their merchandise, but snatch Ben instead.

The latest Troubleshooters romantic suspense is a double dose of second chance at love inside of a family affair. The story line is action-packed in Nevada and Afghanistan, but it is the cast that makes this so much fun as the Gillman crew play first violin in a wonderful thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Priest's Graveyard-Ted Dekker

The Priest's Graveyard
Ted Dekker
Center Street, Apr 19 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9781599953342

When Danny Hansen was fifteen years old, Serbians broke into his family home in Croatia; they killed his mother, and raped before killing his younger sisters. He knew this was a religious war between the Bosnian Orthodox Christians and the Catholic Croats with Muslims in the mix. After killing the murderers of his family, Danny joined a militia seeking justice, but found no solace from the nightmare of what happened to his loved ones.

When he immigrated to America, he became a priest, but though he abides by the law of love and compassion for fellow mankind, he loathes the influential hypocrites who use the laws of man and God to fuel their avarice and perversions. Danny is an avenging killer targeting pedophiles, murderers and cold blooded sinners. His latest target is vicious Jonathan Bourque; also wanting this vile man dead is Renee Gilmore, a former hooker and drug addict. Danny meets Renee and takes her into his confidence while plotting how to kill the beast; unaware that what they wish whether it comes true or not will come back to haunt them.

The Priest's Graveyard is a character driven tense thriller starring two people who have given up on societal justice as each has been victims with no recourse in society except kill the enemy; yet in spite of their homicidal tendencies Ted Dekker enables readers to feel compassion for the pair. This non-stop action tale never slows down even with twists and turns that have the audience wondering what next will happen as Mr. Dekker pulls the rug out from his fans by switching direction several times in this exciting thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Devious-Lisa Jackson

Lisa Jackson
Kensington, Mar 29 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9780758225658

On the verge of divorcing her husband Slade, Val Renard returns to New Orleans to open a B&B and to reason with her sister Camille that she does not have to hide as a nun. Val knows Camille wants Slade, but to join St. Marguerite’s Cathedral as a novice Sister seems overkill. However, Val is shocked when she finds her sibling brutally strangled.

Police Detectives Rick Bentz and Reuben Montoya lead the investigation though the latter should be recused from the case as he knows the victim and others at the Cathedral. The prime suspect is Father Frank O’Toole, who was having an affair with Sister Camille; Montoya knows him too. While the cops struggle with their case, another nun is murdered leading Bentz to fear the return of the allegedly dead Father John. Meanwhile Val begins her own inquiry while Slade arrives to persuade his wife not to divorce him while he joins her in her inquiry.

The freshness to the latest Bentz-Montoya New Orleans police procedural is the brisk amateur sleuth investigation by Val and Slade. Fast-paced from the moment Sister Camille’s opening terror and never slowing down until the final climatic confrontation and coda, fans will appreciate this suspense thriller as Lisa Jackson provides a taut Devious tale.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Silver Eagle-Ben Kane

The Silver Eagle
Ben Kane
St. Martin’s Griffin, Mar 15 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312672843

In 53 BC the Parthian army defeated General Crassus and his invading Roman legion. Their leader dead, thousands of the invaders are captured and either killed or forced to join their triumphant enemy. Three friends form the losing side (Tarquinius the Etruscan haruspex, former slave Brennus the gladiator from Gaul and Romulus also a former slave turned warrior) are forced to join the winning enemy.

Parthian Commander Pacorus orders Tarquinius to read the future using animal entrails or whatever as his army prepares for battle. However, the trio has problems as the Parthian soldiers resent how close their still enemy Tarquinius seems to be with their commander. They help each other stay focused and alive as they plan their escape, which means trekking from the Asian state across thousands of kilometers through hostile savage territory in order to return to Rome.

At the same, Romulus's twin sister Fabiola joins the seemingly serene household of Brutus, but savagery leaves her struggling for her life with no protection. Her only hope is to travel to Gaul to find Brutus.

The sequel to The Forgotten Legion, The Silver Eagle is a great ancient historical thriller in which the only way the three BFFs make it back to Rome is having each other’s back; in spite of their diverse background the trio are a sort of Three Musketeers but in Roman times. The Fabiola subplot augments a powerful vivid (some chapters should have a warning label: don’t read on a full stomach) look at friendship as the forgotten legionnaires struggle to survive in a world filled with deadly peril.

Harriet Klausner

The Brothers of Baker Street-Michael Robertson

The Brothers of Baker Street
Michael Robertson
Minotaur, Mar 1 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312538132

In 1997 Reggie Heath has leased 221B Baker Street, but the “Balmy Barrister” as the tabloids call him knows the stipulation in the rental agreement includes answering letters to Holmes. His last activity in that endeavor due to his younger brother Nigel lead to Reggie losing his money, his girl (actress Laura Rankin who is hanging with Lord Buxton) and his self respect (see The Baker Street Letters). However, as Rafferty of the Committee reminds him he must answer the letters or be evicted. He calls Nigel in Los Angeles to tell him to respond to the letters which include one from an alleged Moriarty descendent he sends to his sibling.

Meanwhile solicitor Darla Rennie hires Reggie to represent Neil Walters, a London Black Cab driver, accused of murdering two Americans. Reggie works diligently on his client’s defense, but that places him in peril. He needs Nigel to come to the rescue, but his brother is across the pond and continent while all roads lead to and from Moriarty.

This is a diabolically brilliant thriller that Holmes and Watson would struggle to solve let alone the Heath brothers. Fast-paced and loaded with action, the Baker Street Irregulars and anyone who enjoys a terrific nefarious scheme will relish the escapades of The Brothers of Baker Street as once again Nigel seems headed to another spread in tabloid hell if he should live so long to read it.

Harriet Klausner

The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black-Eden Unger Bowditch

The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black
Eden Unger Bowditch
Bancroft Press, Mar 15 2011, $19.95
ISBN: 9781610880022

In 1903, the Mysterious Men in Black take five highly intelligent children, offspring of the world's leading scientists, to Sole Manner Farm in Dayton, Ohio. Their parents have been taken also to a separate locale. Twelve year old Jasper and his six year old sister Lucy come from London; nine year old African-American Wallace is taken in New York; twelve year old Noah arrives from Toronto; and thirteen year old Faye is from India. Their schoolteacher Miss Brett provides her five wards with nurturing, but admits she does not know why they were abducted.

At the farm each is frightened while also feeling abandoned by their parents though logically they tell one another their parents were abducted too, which in turn embellishes their fears. They share hypothesis as to who the Mysterious Men in Black are and why they guard them in an outdoor prison; as they protect them but from what as their jailers could have killed them if that was their mission. The five children also wonder and fear what happened to their parents.

With a nod to Patrick Mcgoohan’s 1960s TV show The Prisoner, readers of all ages, though middle school children are the targeted audience, will appreciate this suspense thriller. The children make the tale work as each has their own skills and flaws, which in conjunction with the others; make them real and their traumatic predicament seem plausible. Although the descriptors of the Mysterious Men in Black is the only dumbing down element as the young adult readers will get the first time, fans will feel they are in Ohio wondering what The Atomic Weight of Secrets is.

Harriet Klausner

An Empty Death-Laura Wilson

An Empty Death
Laura Wilson
Minotaur, Mar 15 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312538118

The fifth anniversary of the war is coming soon and the British are mentally exhausted by the seemingly endless combat. This includes bone weary Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Ted Stratton who could use a respite, but knows homicide does not end due to a war although the latter complicates his investigations. His wife Jenny is also burned out working at the recovery center where a woman claims her husband is not her husband but an imposter; Jenny and staff assumes the poor female’s brain has been shattered.

In the summer of 44, Dr. Reynolds is found dead at Fitzrovia's Middlesex Hospital from a head injury. Stratton leads the inquiry though he knows the death could easily have been caused by debris from a bomb. He learns the deceased seemed to service the nurses better than his patients as several of the latter apparently died from his negligence. When others also die, Stratton knows a serial killer is on the loose, but has no clue as to who or why. Meanwhile James Dacre gets away with masquerading as a physician at the hospital

The second Reynolds WWII police procedural (see The Innocent Spy) is an exhilarating thriller that brings to life London during the war. The story line is fast-paced, but it is the cast who struggle to live with some degree of normality as their endeavors bring armchair readers to 1944 England. Although the ending is over the top of Big Ben, fans of 1940s whodunits will appreciate the aptly titled An Empty Death.

Harriet Klausner

Come and Find Me-Hallie Ephron

Come and Find Me
Hallie Ephron
Morrow, Mar 22 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061857522

Two years ago altruistic idealistic hacker Daniel Banks died in a mountain climbing accident on Eiger. His widow Diana and their best friend Jake opened up a computer security firm. However, she has not been able to move on as she suffers panic attacks when attempting to navigate the real world. Instead Diana prefers limited contact via Otherworld a virtual website where her avatar is Nadia; her only consistent live in person human contact is her hypochondriac sister Ashley.

While visiting Diana, Ashley decides to attend an event in which her older sister was invited, but will not go. Ashley vanishes. Diana begins a quest to find her sibling via the virtual world and drugged to the max in the real mean streets as anxiety rips her stomach and panic attacks never cease.

Mindful of Sigourney Weaver’s character Helen Hudson in Copy Cat, Diana is an intriguing lead character as she suffers from agoraphobia but knows she must venture outside if she is to rescue her sister. Although the key element that she concludes is the cause of her condition is that she allowed her self to become Ms. Daniel so when he died her identity died too; however this fails to gel as this feels more like babble rather than a defense mechanism. Still readers will enjoy her tenuous efforts as she begins to believe Daniel was right that the government-industrial-financial complex controls cyberspace where the latest official shutdown is in Madison.

Harriet Klausner

Bit Player-Janet Dawson

Bit Player
Janet Dawson
Perseverance Press, Apr 4 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9781564744944

Oakland based private investigator Jeri Howard is in the Classic Hollywood Memorabilia shop Matinee to buy items from films her grandma was in as a bit player. The cashier overhears Jeri chatting with her friend Cassie about her relative and asks Jeri who her grandma was. She tells him her late relative was Jerusha Layne; he tells her the police questioned her grandmother about Robert Tarrant’s murder, implying Jerusa was romantically involved with the victim and was considered a serious suspect..

Jeri vows to dig into 1942 Hollywood when her grandma lived in a cottage with three female bit players. From letters her grandma saved, Jeri affirms Tarrant was killed with a fire set to conceal the murder. One of Jerusha’s roommates was Tarrant’s lover and was also killed. Chaz the owner of Matineee and his employee Henry Calhoun go to the home of Mrs Cook to buy the Joan Crawford collection. She declines their offers so they continue on to the home of Mike Strickland to attempt to purchase his Hitchcock collection. He also refuses. Not long afterward, both are dead. The murders in Hollywood decades ago and the two in the present somehow are linked, but for Jeri to find the connecting points mean traveling a labyrinth in which each corner is deadly.

The first Jeri Howard private investigator tale in years (see A Killing at the Track) is a totally terrific mystery that hooks the present to the “Golden Age of Hollywood. Jeri begins her inquiry by reading letters from various sources. She seeks interviews with those still alive as the original homicides are tundra cold after almost seven decades have passed; thus making the case that much more complex as the survivors have faulty memories (not even considering they would be octogenarians and nonagenarians) of what happened in 1942. Janet Dawson provides a wonderful whodunit as Jeri realistically works the investigation.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Live Wire-Harlan Coben

Live Wire
Harlan Coben
Dutton, Mar 22 2011, $27.95
ISBN: 9780525952060

Former tennis star Suzze Tervantino visits MB Reps to ask her agent Myron Bolitar for help. Eight months pregnant, Suzze is hysterical as her husband rock star husband Lex Ryder, also a client of Myron, has vanished. She shows Bolitar an entry on Facebook claiming the child she carries is not sired by Ryder. Although other inline innuendos make the same proclamation, Suzze T swears to Bolitar that Ryder he is the dad (thanks to Maury).

Bolivar has family issues so he feels for his client. With Windsor “Win” Horne Lockwood III at his side, he begins the search for Ryder at a time his father is dying and wants to see his estranged other son Brad. The inquiry into finding Brad leads Myron to his abandoned sister-in-law Kitty and his fifteen years old nephew Mickey whom he never met. Neither wants him in their lives.

.Live Wire is an exciting investigative thriller in which Bolitar works two family oriented cases. The insight into his past enhances what long time fans know of his first and second quarters of his life while the Suzze T inquiry forces the agent to look into her family’s darkest secrets. With Win causing havoc, a great late twist, and a powerful look at family, fans will see a different compassionate side to the wise cracking agent.

Harriet Klausner

Satori-Don Winslow

Don Winslow
Grand Central, Mar 7 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780446561921

The Americans have incarcerated twenty-something Nicholai Hel for over three years for assassinating his mentor. He is kept in solitary because his jailers fear his skills as an expert at the "naked kill" and his "proximity sense" of danger.

In 1951, the CIA offers him a deal. He kills the Soviet Union's Commissioner to China Yuri Voroshenin in exchange for his freedom and an opportunity to enact vengeance against those who brutally assaulted him while he was in prison. Though he realizes this is a suicide mission and does not to trust the Americans to enforce the contract, he accepts the terms. Able to speak several languages, Hel receives some training on how a French arms dealer would live, and meets and is attracted to Solange. In his guise as Michel Guibert, he assassinates the Soviet official in Beijing. Trying to escape Mao’s China leaves Hel betrayed, but he makes it to French occupied Vietnam, where war seems imminent.

With an obvious nod to Trevanian's classic Shibumi, Don Winslow tells of the salad days of Hel with some insight into his heritage, almost three decades before he comes out of retirement. The story line is fast-paced and loaded with action, deaths, action, sex, and Go theory. A sort of rookie gunslinger James Bond, fans will enjoy this historical thriller, but never quite catches the tongue in cheek underlying humor of the original.

Harriet Klausner

Sweet Revenge-Andrea Penrose

Sweet Revenge
Andrea Penrose
Obsidian, Apr 5 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451233035

In 1802 an earl, Richard Hadley, left for Jamaica with his daughter Arianna to avoid being exposed as a cheat. For years they hopped the islands as the self exiled earl became consumed by drink. In 1812 when he was murdered, his daughter assumed one of his unsavory business partners killed her dad. She vows vengeance and poses as a French male and obtains a position as a chef to Lady Spencer.

Her employer is close with men who are part of a Circle that her late father belonged to also. Arianna keeps an alert eye on these aristocrats as she believes one of them is the killer. However, before she gets very far with her investigation, the Prince Regent is poisoned after eating Arianna's dessert. She knows she is innocent, but most people want her hanged. Leading the official inquiry is the Earl of Saybrook who sees through her masquerade and considers exposing her as a fraud. Instead they join forces as he introduces her to the Ton as a distant relation. As they partner up top solve the assassination attempt, danger mounts as someone wants both dead especially her.

This Regency mystery is an exciting historical as the two investigations converge into one which leads Saybrook and Arianna to work together. An emotional bond occurs between them, but neither loses sight of the mission. There are actually more puzzlers to Sweet Revenge as there is a plenty of criminal activity making the inquiry much more complicated. Andrea Penrose has written a super early nineteenth century whodunit that fans will appreciate and will want a second helping.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Nameless Dead-Paul Johnston

The Nameless Dead
Paul Johnston
Mira, Mar 22 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9780778329503

The Feds prevent crime writer Matt Wells and his pregnant girlfriend Detective Chief Superintended Karen Oaten from killing POTUS at the National Cathedral and the Attorney General at FBI Headquarters. The pair is in custody in Illinois where agents interrogate them and try to cleanse them of the Nazi brain washing programming that led to their assassination attempts.

The FBI decides to use Wells against the evil Heinz Rothmann who turned him into a killer with a one word trigger. His assignment is to kill this Neo-Nazi devotee of the Antichurch of Lucifer Triumphant. At the same time Wells begins his stalking of the SOB who took his mind away from him, his former lover Sara Robbins, sister of a serial executioner the White Devi stalks the writer. At the same time in Greenwich Village, someone brutally decapitates civil rights attorney Laurie Antoinette Simpson leaving her disemboweled corpse below a swastika; more homicides as grim follows. FBI Director Peter Sebastian wonders how his career could flush down the toilet a fast as it has with hell coming to America.

The latest Wells thriller (see The Soul Collector and Maps of Hell) is an action-packed tale that never slows down for a respite. Fast-paced, the story line contains too many subplots making it difficult to keep score as the body count grows; though they converge on the beleaguered hero. Matt is a fascinating protagonist who trusts no one; not even his pregnant girlfriend or himself as he cannot tell what thoughts and memories are his and what come from Rothmann. For Wells fans and readers who enjoy adrenaline, adrenaline and more adrenaline, they will want to join the adventures as the hero seems to be on everyone’s Death List.

Harriet Klausner

The Dog Sox-Russell Hill

The Dog Sox
Russell Hill
Pleasure Boat Studio, Mar 15 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9781929355747

California building contractor Ray Adams bought a baseball team, which he named the Knights Landing Dog Sox. He gave the team as a gift to his girlfriend attorney Ava Bell. Most of the players play for free while a few are compensated. The star is hurler Billy Collins who has an arm that most pitchers would kill to possesses.

He is winning games at an incredible rate when abruptly his fortune changes when his abusive drunken father locates Billy. As long as Bucky is kept away from Billy, the star can be a successful closer working the last three innings. Dutch the team manager believes Billy is his ticket to the big leagues as long as dearest dad can be dealt with. He has people he knows that can neutralize Bucky, but nothing seems to prevent the abuser from coming around. When Billy vanishes, Ava searches for him to try to persuade him to let go of his patriarchal hurts.

On the surface The Dog Sox is about a baseball team consisting of diverse people from all types of life. However, Billy the innocent is the prime focus on the entreating sports drama as he has the talent to bet one of the best, but only if he can mentally rid himself of the demons brought forth by his father. Dutch speaks in Yiddish idioms as he makes a team out of individuals. With a nod to the movie Pat and Mike starring Tracy-Hepburn, Russell Hill provides a strong look at what could be That Championship Season.

Harriet Klausner

Shadows of a Down East Summer-Lea Wait

Shadows of a Down East Summer
Lea Wait
Perseverance, Apr 4 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9781564744975

In Weymouth, Maine, Great Aunt Nettie introduces her nephew Will Brewer and his girlfriend antiques expert Maggie Summer to Carolyn Chase, daughter of the artist Helen Chase. Carolyn read a published article that Maggie, a professor of American Studies, wrote on Winslow Homer. They look at the extended family tree as Carolyn explains she would like Maggie’s help with research on a bio she is writing about her late mom.

The next day Caroline tells the Weymouth Historical Society members and guests Will and Maggie that her Aunt Susan, who just died, gave her a trunk of documents from the late nineteenth century that said their ancestor killed his wife for cheating on him before committing suicide. Before she can bury her aunt, someone murders Caroline. Maggie calls the police and Detective Strait answers the call. While he investigates the homicide, Maggie looks back to what happened in 1890 that she believes led to the present murder. She begins to look closely at the relationship between Homer and two women who posed for him; while knowing she could be next.

This entertaining Antique Print regional cozy (see Shadows on the Coast of Maine) looks deeply into the late nineteenth century art world in Maine. The cast is fully developed and the whodunit fun, but it is the glimpse into Winslow Homer and his era’s art that makes for a delightful amateur sleuth.

Harriet Klausner

Treason at Lisson Grove-Anne Perry

Treason at Lisson Grove
Anne Perry
Ballantine, Apr 19 2011, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345510587

In London, Special Branch officers Pitt and Gower chase after West who has information they need to thwart a treasonous plot with international involvement against the government. West dodges the two operatives until Wrexham slices his throat. Pitt and Gower chase after Wrexham while West bleeds to death.

As Pitt pursues Wrexham from Britain to across the Channel to St. Malo, France, his supervisor Victor Narraway is accused of embezzling government funds. A desperate Narraway asks Pitt’s wife, Charlotte, who has helped her husband on cases before (see Buckingham Palace Gardens), to assist him. Since his accuser relaxes in Dublin, Charlotte poses as Narraway’s sister who travels with him to Ireland to investigate the individual who has a highly regarded reputation. Neither Narraway nor either Pitt realizes someone diabolical is the connection in England, Ireland and the continent.

This is a great Victorian espionage thriller that once again effortlessly blends history inside an action-packed suspense. The story line is fast-paced yet contains a strong late nineteenth century feel to the plot. However, the tale belongs to the beleaguered trio who struggle to thwart a clever villain from insuring the sun sets on the British Empire.

Harriet Klausner

Thou Shalt Kill-Daniel Blake

Thou Shalt Kill
Daniel Blake
Gallery (Pocket), Apr 26 2011, $25.00
ISBN 9781439197486

The first homicide leaves noted brain surgeon Dr. Michael Redwine burned to a crisp. Pittsburgh Police Department homicide detectives Franco Patrese and Mark Beradino investigate the inferno murder by someone they assume is filled with rage against the renowned doctor. The next victim is Bishop Kohler in in the confessional at the Cathedral. Once again fire is the choice of the killer as the culprit pours gasoline on their living target and then ignites it.

More killings occur that seem unrelated yet Patrese believes the same psychopath is on an avenging vendetta. The predator appears to Arab-American Mustafa Bayoumi, a Pittsburgh University student majoring in chemistry. The media calls this predator the Human Torch who refers to the Bible especially the Ten Commandments as the higher law of the land. While the two cops look into compulsive religious disorders and medical malpractices, both remain blind to the fact that those who must die include Patrese for interfering with the Lord’s cleansing of the human soul.

This entertaining serial killer police procedural is an enjoyable whodunit due more to jaded Patrese who scorns humanity as worthless and has doubts a God would create such a soulless loser of a species. The villain comes out of serial killer handbook 101 with taunting biblical references even with a neat late twist. Still fans will enjoy this solid murder mystery as Patrese struggles with a case that affirms his belief in mankind not deserving life.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Threshold-Jeremy Robinson

Jeremy Robinson
Dunne, Mar 29 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312540302

Six months ago, Jack “King” Sigler received an urgent message from his late sister’s former fiancé George Pierce to meet him at the Siletz Reservation in Oregon. When he arrives, he finds the place in ruins with thousands dead. The one survivor of the attack thirteen year old Native American Fiona Lane has a note pinned to her shirt by Alexander Diotrephes, who the King believes is Hercules; he says he is going after the mass murderers. Sigler brings together the rest of the Chess Team (Queen, Rook, Bishop and Knight) to help him protect Fiona and to learn why the deadly assault happened and who is behind it.

In the present in family court, Sigler swears he will be a good parent to Fiona as the judge names him her foster father. However, as more people who speak dying ancient languages are systematically massacred, the Chess Team with President Duncan joining them must end the debacle, but struggle to learn who is behind the attacks. Instead, they face giant living granite statues, literally Neanderthals, genetic impossibilities, hydras and megaliths by someone who wants to checkmate the Chess team to prevent their intrusion. As they confront lethal enemies, none are aware of the danger from within as Fiona is kidnapped at Fort Bragg; fearing the Judge most of all, King and crew attempt a rescue.

As always the Chess Team is over the top of the stratosphere, but anyone who relishes an action urban fantasy thriller that combines science and mythology will want to join them for the exhilarating Pulse pumping ride. The story line is as always fast-paced so wear our seatbelts and set aside time as this heart thumper never slows down making it impossible to set aside as the Instinct of the audience is one sitting.

Harriet Klausner

Last to Fold-David Duffy

Last to Fold
David Duffy
Dunne, Mar 29 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312621902

Turbo Vlost grew up rather quickly in the Gulag. He escaped thanks to a surrogate father who brought him into the KGB as a field agent until the Soviet Union collapsed. However his past never left him as his horror memories ended his family life as his wife divorced him and their son remains estranged from him.

Turbo resides in New York City where he earns a modest living locating people and things for clients. His current customer affluent businessman, Rory Mulholland wants Vlost to find his missing adopted teenage daughter Eva. Although he thinks it odd that his client pays him in cash so there is no record in what Rory insists is a kidnapping, Vlost needs the money even if his former wife is married to Mulholland. However, the inquiry turns stranger and potentially deadly when Vlost obtains the business records of the Brooklyn Russian mob run by the biological son of his recently shot Soviet savior.

Vlost makes for a compelling crime caper as his past and present collide when Russia and the Hudson converge. The story line is at its best when the hero faces his adversaries although at times unnecessary explicatory diatribes about social conditions occur. Still Vlost is an intriguing refreshing lead character whose presence means the Russians are not coming as they are already here.

Harriet Klausner

So Much Pretty-Cara Hoffman

So Much Pretty
Cara Hoffman
Simon and Schuster, Mar 15 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9781451616750

In Haeden, New York, Wendy White was a cocktail waitress at a local bar and happy with having her first boyfriend. When she vanished, local law enforcement investigated but never solved her disappearance. The case remains cold while her family grieves their loss. Five months later Wendy’s corpse is found.

Cleveland reporter Stacy Flynn had been in Haeden looking into the impact of the prime employer a dairy on the environment and a high number of deaths. When Wendy’s body is found the journalist believes she has a bigger story. However, no one in the small town will talk to her except to insist an outsider is the killer.

Her parents moved with teenage Alice Piper from New York City to Haeden to provide a healthier lifestyle for their offspring. A genius with an upbeat confidence that the locals consider city swagger, she reads the Ohio reporter’s article in the Haeden Free Press on the stratospheric amounts of deadly violence against women. Unable to keep her head in the sands as the natives have done, Alice considers who the killing wolf amidst the sheep is. Even when another brutal crime occurs, the locals are severely shaken but still prefer to believe a stranger committed it.

This engaging crime thriller looks deeply at cause and effect as the horrific act begets an equally horrific reaction. Once the plot stops switching between 1997-98 and 2007-08-09 (a few chapters in) the story line settles takes off on an exciting dark psychological path. Alice and Stacy separately dig deep into the façade of a safe small-town, whose residents blame a mystical stranger for any acts of violence. Readers will appreciate Cara Hoffman’s profound look at a small western New York town through the eyes of two intrepid outsiders.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I’ll Walk Alone-Mary Higgins Clark

I’ll Walk Alone
Mary Higgins Clark
Simon & Schuster, Apr 5 2011, $25.99
ISBN 9781439180969

When Matthew was three years old, he was abducted while his babysitter who was ill fell into a deep sleep. His mother up and coming interior designer Alexandra “Zan” Moreland was devastated and spent all her energy and her money on private investigators and psychics. She believes her former employer and business rival arranged the kidnapping. Zan threw herself into her work so she wouldn’t think about all the bad things that could have happened to son.

As Matthew’s fifth birthday nears, Zan’s life spins out of control. Someone has hacked into her accounts, used her cards to charge big cost items and seems to be taking over her identity. Pictures surface that show Zan taking Matthew from his carriage; her friends think she killed her son. She knows she is innocent, but people are slow to believe her that someone impersonated her. Apparently the kidnapper wants her dead preferably by her owns hands.

Mary Higgins Clark is the queen of suspense as her thrillers remain fresh. Her latest tale contains realistically portrayed characters especially Zan as a beleaguered heroine who feels unbearable pressure, but refuses to break as she still has fading hopes that Matthew will one day return to her. Fans will feel for her while wondering who the villain is including considering she might be Harry Kellerman.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Serial Killer’s Daughter-Heywood Gould

The Serial Killer’s Daughter
Heywood Gould
Nightbird Publishing, Apr 2011
ISBN: 9780981951258

College senior Peter Vogel is majoring in English. He is an intellectual nerd with no friends; the loner finds women ignore him like he has a disease so he fantasizes about females with his vivid imagination. Thus he is shocked when student Hannah Seeley asks him to write her papers so she can graduate as women never talk to him even for a favor. Since she has no money to pay him, Hannah offers him sex. He accepts her deal and writes a paper in which she receives an “A”. After the promised tryst, she vanishes from his life without even a good-bye

Peter goes to Houston to earn his Masters. Hannah reenters his life insisting people are after her. A policeman investigates her claim and tells Peter Hannah is the daughter of Anoly Sweeney known as the Robbingate Killer who murdered eleven times, but now is in prison in the Pacific Northwest. The townsfolk of Robbingate are angry at Hannah because she the sole person her father loved. Many of the townsfolk have the means to hire a professional killer to murder her. Though she hurt him, Peter decides to protect her from a town without pity and dicover who is really trying to kill her.

Heywood Gould has written an exciting crime thriller that looks deeply into the various masks people wear and change to hide their peculiarities and what they consider a fault. Peter is the only person who is guileless so that what you see is what you get. Peter obviously cares about Hannah as he tries to help her in spite of her hurting him though that means he needs to relook his values. Readers will understand that even serial killers have families who are victims of their insanity too as Mr. Gould allows fans to see up close how the Serial killer’s Daughter survives the whisperers about her heritage.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Edge of Night-Jill Sorenson

The Edge of Night
Jill Sorenson
Dell, Apr 5 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9780553592634

California border town Chula Vista police officer Noah Young works gang-related crime. He aspires to one day switch to the homicide division as an investigator. His first opportunity to investigate a rape and murder occurs when someone assaulted and killed a cocktail waitress.

He goes to the popular club where the victim worked and meets single mom April Ortiz, who is also a cocktail waitress struggling to support her daughter. Noah knows he must keep away from someone associated with the case, but is attracted to April. She feels the same way, but when she breaks the law of the street by giving him the tip of a gangbanger’s name, April places herself and her child in jeopardy.

No one will feel safe walking the mean streets of the town that borders on Tijuana after reading Jill Sorensen’ vividly violent scenes; even the sex is hot but rough. The investigation is cleverly devised with a link to a cold case and Noah’s sister, but the tale belongs to the gangbangers who “patrol” their fiefdom like rulers in which no one breaks their law and lives. The edge of Night is a deep dark drama.

Harriet Klausner

Drawing Conclusions-Donna Leon

Drawing Conclusions
Donna Leon
Atlantic Monthly, Apr 4 2011, $24.00
ISBN 9780802119797

Venetian medical examiner Dr. Rizzardi concludes that sexagenarian Widow Costanza Altavilla died from a heart attack in her apartment in Santa Croce. Although he has no justification to investigate the death as Rizzardi is a diligent professional, Commissario Guido Brunetti feels something is not quite right. Thus he looks around the home and finds unexplained different sizes of female attire.

After consulting with Signorina Elettra, Brunetti knows the late woman ran a safe house for women fleeing from domestic abuse. The cop ponders if perhaps one of these violent men assaulted Altavilla in her home; causing the sixtyish woman to suffer the deadly heart failure. He soon follows a clue that leads to a senior citizen home, where the deceased volunteered her services as Brunetti begins to ponder whether the motive is avarice instead of violence or perhaps both.

The latest Commissario Guido Brunetti Italian police procedural (see A Question of Belief) is a great tale that looks closely at how a civilized society treats abused women and the elderly; the results are not very compassionate. A key element in this terrific investigation is that Rizzardi is respected as a pro, which Brunetti believes too; but his experience and his gut tell him otherwise. Readers will relish sailing the watery streets of Venice with the caring Commissario who understands justice and the law is not always in synch.

Harriet Klausner

Home Free-Fern Michaels

Home Free
Fern Michaels
Zebra, Apr 5 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9781420111941

After righting many wrongs (through nineteen previous books) and not just to themselves, many of the Sisterhood Vigilantes want a life outside of crime fighting and antiterrorism. However, when U.S. President Martine Connor offers them a chance to join a new top secret agency in exchange for all criminal charges erased, everyone accepts. Their first mission is to investigate who is stealing millions in secret U.S. funds and how it is being done.

However, though Myra Rutledge, her husband Martin, Sir Charles and Annie de Silva remain dedicated, the rest of the Vigilantes want out to begin rebuilding their personal lives. At Camp David over Thanksgiving, Maggie Spritzer and Master Sergeant Gus Sullivan meet and are attracted to one another; while Nikki Quinn Emery and Isabelle Flanders just want in from the cold.

For fans of the long running saga, the finish focuses on the vigilantes’ desire to begin their civilian lives. The inquiry is fine, but totally swamped by the personal needs of the crew as T.S. Eliot says in The Hollow Men: “This is the way the world ends: Not with a bang but a whimper.”

Harriet Klausner

The Bone Yard-Jefferson Bass

The Bone Yard
Jefferson Bass
Morrow, Mar 8 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061806780

Dr. Bill Brockton runs the Body Farm in Tennessee. The farm is actually a research facility where human corpses are studied to ascertain decay rates. Bill agrees to assist Floridian forensic specialist Angie St. Claire with a family trauma. In Georgia, Angie’s sister Kate died from a shotgun blast to her head. Local law enforcement decided she committed suicide. Angie cannot accept the official denouement as she believes her brother-in-law Don Nicely murdered his wife.

Nicely nicely buries the evidence when he expedites the burial of his wife’s body without telling Angie he moved the funeral forward. As he works the dead sister case, Brockton also becomes involved with a skull and subsequent graves found in the Panhandle. These remains of adolescent boys lead Bill to a reform school where the student-inmates were abused.

In the latest “Bone” forensic investigation (see The Bone Thief), the two subplots are fast-paced and fun though somewhat muted as the science supersedes the action. Readers will appreciate the insight into forensics but that overwhelms the cases. Still the Body Farm Doctor’s latest soiree into human decay is an enjoyable thriller for those who like to remain current.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Quicksilver-Amanda Quick

Amanda Quick
Putnam, Apr 19 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 97803991537370

In Victorian England, Virginia Dean has the psychical power to see in mirrors the last moments of a person’s life if the reflection was caught by the reflecting glass. She is able to see the energy emanations in the form of pictures; a talent that makes her clients believe she is a medium.

One night while doing a reading for the chatelaine of the Hollister Mansion, Virginia wakes up in a room filled with mirrors and a body next to her. Overwhelmed by the images in the mirrors, Virginia cannot find an exit to escape the nightmare. Psychic detective Owen Sweetwater rescues her. The detective hunts psychical monsters just like his family does. He works for the J&J Detective Agency whose client the Arcane Society wants Owen to find out if the death of two gaslight readers is the work of a paranormal monster. A bond forms between Owen and Virginia; one that the sleuth needs if he is to stay focused while Virginia looks at it as a casual affair. Together with his family as well as her housekeeper, they try to take down a killer before the monster murders again; as the target is the most powerful gaslight reader known: Virginia.

Amana Quick has written another bestseller with her latest Gaslight Victorian romantic suspense with gothic overtones. The story line grips the reader from the moment an increasingly panicked Virginia struggles to escape the room of mirrors and never slows down until the final denouement. There are some quirky secondary characters who add whimsy to the otherwise dark, chilling but engrossing storyline.

Harriet Klausner

Afraid of the Dark-James Grippando

Afraid of the Dark
James Grippando
Harper, Mar 22 2011, $25.99
ISBN 9780061840289

Lawyer Jack Swyteck defends twentyish Somali prisoner 977detained at GITMO, which stands for “Giving Interrogation Teams More Options” for three years. His client distrusts anyone from America after being bushed by enhanced interrogation techniques at Guantanamo. The charge against 977 is he signed a confession that he sheltered al-Qaeda operations chief Fazul Abdullah Mohammed. Jack wins the case for his client, but over lunch with Neil Goderich, instead of the release of 977, he is informed he has been handed over to Florida law enforcement.

977 has been identified as American Jamal Wakefield, wanted by Miami police for the murder of his former girlfriend McKenna Mays three years ago. Jamal is sent to Florida to stand trial with Jack defending him again. Jamal explains an over the top conspiracy of abduction and rendition to a Prague prison, and forceful interrogation. He names people as his alibi, but each person he claims as a witness is killed by an unknown assassin team; Jack believes the Pentagon is outsourcing murder to Black Ice. Jack tries to find ways to end the killing spree that seems sanctioned high up; even as his girlfriend FBI Agent Andie warns him to drop the case. Still he remains resolute unaware how deadly the Dark truly is.

The latest Swyteck legal thriller (see Born to Run) is an excellent tale as the attorney goes from defending his African client against terrorism charges to defending his American client against murder charges. With some nasty foes on all sides of the war against terrorism and an irate avenger demanding justice for McKenna, Jack struggles to do right by his client if he lives so long. Afraid of the Dark is a terrific international thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Eve-Iris Johansen

Iris Johansen
St. Martin's, Apr 19 2011, $27.99
ISBN 9780312651206

Still obsessing over her daughter’s brutal homicide though the years have passed, forensic sculptor Eve Duncan believes she is finally making progress towards capturing the vicious serial killer who years ago kidnapped and murdered her seven-year-old daughter, Bonnie. Eve remains resolute to bringing this beast down though she is well aware she will never obtain closure.

Her friend CIA agent Catherine Ling and her lover police detective Joe Quinn want to help Eve who they know will keep them at a distance. The pair team up following clues and asking for assistance from cronies who cooperate with them. Their endeavor soon provides a list of potential psychopaths. Standing out from the maniacal roster is Bonnie’s sociopathic father John Gallo, who was incarcerated by the North Koreans for six years.

The latest Eve Duncan thriller is the best entry in years as fans will appreciate this tale but anxiously wait in Wisconsin with the heroine for the next two installments (Quinn and Bonnie). Fast-paced throughout, the climax will stun readers as Iris Johansen sets the table for what looks like will prove to be one of the best sagas in years.

Harriet Klausner

Chasing Fire-Nora Roberts

Chasing Fire
Nora Roberts
Putnam, Apr 12 2011, $27.95
ISBN: 9780399157448

A chip off the old block of her legendary dad, since she turned eighteen, Rowan Tripp has been a Missoula, Montana Zulies smoke jumper who parachutes from a plane with her comrades in arms to land in the middle of an out of control blaze. She loves her job, loves being on the edge and the adrenaline rush, but mostly she relishes helping to save lives and property.

This year is different as there are more fires, deaths including her partner, and injuries than since she joined. It is also the year in which she meets rookie Gulliver “Gull” Curry, who falls in love with Rowan. She has feelings for the newcomer with an Ivy League vocabulary, but fears them because love hurts and he may not have the staying power she would need. Yet together they share danger and desire while trying to end the fiery reign of a maniacal arsonist with a vendetta against the Zulies

Once again Nora Roberts affirms she is one of the best romantic suspense authors on the market for the past two decades even with a theme used many times before (see Deadly Heat by Cynthia Eden). A major part of the freshness comes from having the lead female as the experienced mentor and the male as the rookie in training; however the key comes from the author’s ability to tell an exhilarating tale in which readers will be jumping from planes into an inferno. Loaded with action especially the drops into the infernos and filled with a fiery romance, fans will believe they are in Big Sky country as a smoke jumper.

Harriet Klausner

Mystery-Jonathan Kellerman

Jonathan Kellerman
Ballantine, Mar 29 2011, $28.00
ISBN 9780345505699

LAPD Homicide Lieutenant Milo Sturgis asks psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware to look at a shotgun victim whose face was blown away. Alex is shocked not by what he sees as he has been privy to humanity’s cruelty, but who he sees. He recognizes the young female as someone he and his wife Robin saw last night at a restaurant bar with a nasty looking male with her.

The cop receives an anonymous tip about an online service that matches "sugar daddies" with "star-quality sweeties." Apparently, the “daddy” to the victim “Mystery" was affluent Markham McReynolds. Besides him, his family fills up the suspect list as his wife, two adult sons and their spouses have motives and the sextet is known for out of control behavior.

The latest Delaware-Sturgis collaborative police procedural (see Evidence and Deception) is a fun buddy tale as the cop and the doc work the mean streets of Los Angeles. The story line is fast-paced but has a breezy feel due to the teasing barbs between the lead pair. Readers who appreciate a straightforward urban whodunit will want to join Sturgis and Delaware as they tease each other while following clues that lead to where the affluent can buy and do anything with immunity.

Harriet Klausner

The Trial-Larry D. Thompson

The Trial
Larry D. Thompson
Dunne, Mar 29 2011, $25.99
ISBN 9780312607357

Teenager Samantha Vaughn learns that her liver is failing at the same time someone murders an executive with incriminating disks. Samantha’s father, former Houston lawyer Luke Vaughn, is shocked with his nineteen years old daughter’s illness as liver problems do not run in the family and she was okay recently.

The single dad who just returned home to San Marcos due to a perforated ulcer finds out the cause of her failing health is a trial test of a new antibiotic Exxacia that she was given. Learning more and concluding there was fraud by the firm and a cover-up by the FDA occurred. Raging over what he believes is potentially lethal negligence; Luke sues the giant Ceventa Pharmaceutical and its CEO Dr. Alfred Kingsbury, and goes after the FDA especially the Director Dr. Roger Boatwright for failing to protect the public. However, Luke never expected murder and abduction as the reaction by the enemy.

This is an exciting medical-legal thriller that grips the audience from the moment Samantha asks Dr. Hartman whether she will live to see her twentieth birthday and never slows down. The story line is fast-paced and at its best when the focus is on the FDA-pharmaceutical industry symbiotic relationship and in the court room; when the plot turns to homicides and abduction, it loses steam as that feels over the top of Guadalupe Peak. Still in spite of a post game coda that feels out of place and the homicidal subplot, overall fans will enjoy the doubly apt titled The Trial.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dogs Don’t Lie-Clea Simon

Dogs Don’t Lie
Clea Simon
Poisoned Pen, Apr 4 2011, $22.95
ISBN: 9781590588611

Pru Marlowe returned to her Berkshire hometown to escape all the animal voices running through her head. She tells her neighbors that she came back to care for her mother, but Pru knows the real reason is to obtain some quiet time.

An animal psychic, Pru makes money walking dogs and training animals. However, the animal behaviorist becomes concerned when Lily the pit bull rescued from the fighting ring dog is accused of killing her mangled owner Charles. Pru tries to listen to Lily’s chatter, but the canine is confused by the tragedy and other nasty events in her life though she obviously witnessed the murder. Still Pru feels for the dog so she decides to investigate with Wallis her grouchy cat at her side insisting canines are notorious liars. Pulling a Dr. Doolittle, she listens to the animals chat and finds clues to the homicide while also learning more about the town she grew up in while also trying to help the two females in the life of the late Charles, Lily and his fiancée Delia Cochrane. However, Pru also knows if she clears the dog, she becomes the replacement prime suspect.

The first pet noir whodunit is a fun whodunit even with the animal noise level (mostly from that opinionated darn cat) greater than the Dr. Doolittle movies. The investigation is refreshing as Pru seeks clues from animals especially the traumatized eye witness, but is limited with what she can share with the cops as talk to the animals is fiction. Fast-paced with several terrific twists and spins, readers will enjoy Dogs Don’t Lie.

Harriet Klausner

Dead by Midnight-Carolyn Hart

Dead by Midnight
Carolyn Hart
Morrow, Mar 29 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780061914973

In barrier island Broward’s Rock, South Carolina, Annie Darling, owner of the Death on Demand mystery bookstore, scoffs at the government’s official position that her employee Pat Merridew committed suicide. Pat had lost her job as receptionist at Jamison, Jamison, & Brewster law firm and was planning an expensive Alaskan cruise she could not afford. Finally Pat was reportedly doing late night hour sojourns.

Annie and her private investigator husband Max investigate with a close look at law partner Glen Jamison, his family and the firm especially his associates. Someone shoots and kills Glen with the evidence proving his sister Elaine committed the homicide. However, Annie and Max think she is innocent as they believe the prime suspect protects someone who is involved in both deaths.

The latest Death on Demand whodunit (see Laughed 'Til He Died) is a refreshing locked room cozy as the Darlings find this case somewhat personal due to Pat’s death. With the usual interwoven references to other mystery authors and their titles, fans will relish the delightful darling Darlings as they investigate two Dead by Midnight.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Little Death In Dixie-Lisa Turner

A Little Death In Dixie
Lisa Turner
Belle Books, Jun 4 2010, $15.95
ISBN: 9781935661900

Mercy Snow has left Atlanta to return home to family in Memphis. She arrives at the family home, but no one except the collie and a horde of teddy bears greet her; her estranged socialite sister Sophia apparently has vanished. Unsurprisingly her Mother is not there to greet her either.

Homicide Squad Detective Sergeant Detective Billy Able works with his partner legendary Lou Nevers on a routine day of death and near suicide until Criminal Court Judge Buck Overton asks the latter to investigate a missing woman’s case. His stepdaughter Sophia vanished sixteen hours ago. Complicating the case is that Billy and Sophia were an entry until she dumped him. While Lou acts strange, Billy and Mercy make inquiries unaware of the corruption at highest level of local society.

This is an engaging Memphis police procedural starring a fascinating cop who’s emotionally tied to the inquiry and a wonderful sister considered a loser by her family. The story line rotates perspective, which pays dividends once the plot moves into first gear (several chapters into the tale). In some ways more of an extended family drama with a few degrees of separation, fans will enjoy Lisa Turner’s Memphis Blues.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Night of the Living Dandelion-Kate Collins

Night of the Living Dandelion
Kate Collins
Obsidian, Apr 5 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451233011

In New Chapel, Abby Knight, owner of the Bloomers flower shop, is startled when Romanian expatriate Vlad Serban enters. He dresses all in black like a vampire, has an extremely pale complexion and flashes elongated incisors. She is further stunned when he asks for Bloodwort, Dracula’s orchard and other plants connected to the vampire mythos. Abby's fiancé Marco arrives and tells her Vlad is a friend of his. For the most part men detest Vlad becausemany women seem drawn to him though and the males want him kicked out of town.

When nursing director Lori Willis is found dead drained of blood, most people who met the Romanian expatriate assumes he killed the woman as he must be a vampire. More evidence surfaces that make the Eastern European the prime suspect. Abby does not believe he is a vampire, but has suspicions he may be a killer. Her cousin Jillian insists Vlad is an Undead hunting females at night. Trusting her beloved who believes his buddy is innocent and distrusting the law will look beyond the foreigner, Abby and Marco investigate until the latter is sent overseas on a mission; leaving it up to the florist who stakes her life on uncovering the identity of the “vampire” killer.

Vlad is a delightful refreshing character who plays up the vampire connection to his homeland, but seems a decent sort who has Abby’s back (hopefully not her neck). The story line is a heartwarming cozy with a moral message not to judge a book by its cover as people quickly jump to conclusions. Fans of the series will feel mesmerized by the plot (not by the Romanian) as the residents of New Chapel have bodily proof that a vampire lives amongst them.

Harriet Klausner

Silent Mercy-Linda Fairstein

Silent Mercy
Linda Fairstein
Dutton, Mar 8 2011, $26.95
ISBN: 9780525952022

In an obvious ritual slaughter, a decapitated severely burned female body is found outside Harlem's Mount Neboh Baptist Church. She is identified by her rap sheet as activist Naomi Gersh. Her head lies just outside the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. A second mutilated corpse is found just outside Old St. Patrick's Church. The victim, whose tongue was ripped out, is excommunicated Ursula Hewitt after being ordained as a Roman Catholic priest.

Manhattan's Special Victims unit chief Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cooper and NYPD colleagues Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace investigate the ritual killings seeking a link between the two victims beyond silencing two female activists. They soon connect the Manhattan murders to homicides of a female pastor in Kentucky and a gay Pentecostal minister in Georgia. The ADA also works two other high visibility cases of a school student's claim of rape and an accusation of clerical sex abuse.

The latest Cooper investigative legal thriller (see Hell’s Gate) is an exciting action-packed tale with quite a wallop. As required but still fun is a tour of Manhattan “as an island of churches”. The story line focuses brilliantly and sharply at organized religions’ antiquated but methodical allegorical beheading of women with an avenging sword wrapped inside holiness that will lead to Linda Fairstein’s excommunication. Fast-paced within a strong whodunit, fans except religious fundamentalists will relish Silent Mercy.

Harriet Klausner

The Promises She Keeps-Erin Healy

The Promises She Keeps
Erin Healy
Thomas Nelson, Feb 14 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9781595547514

Suffering cystic fibrosis, Promise knows she is dying soon. Her fear is not death, but life as she yearns to be loved and be in the memory of loved ones. Her only chance is music.

At college Zack Eddy asks if he can take photos of her so he can draw pictures of her from them; she agrees. During the shoot, her shawl blows away. Promise dives for it only to tumble down the bluffs overlooking the Oregon coast. Zack takes pictures of her dive to death, but miraculously she lives. Other near death experiences always occur with Zack nearby occurs. He shows his photos to his pagan witch mom Porta Cerreto who believes Promise is the Goddess of Immortality and plans to use her for own purpose. As she stalks Promise, she orders her son to kill Promise to disprove her theory. However, autistic Chase Ellis who draws pictures of trees sees inside Porta’s withered soul and knows she will hurt Promise if he fails to intervene.

This is a strange whimsical character driven tale that hooks the audience from the opening scene with Chase and never slows down as the reader will be stunned with a shocking late twist. The key to the thriller besides the well developed four lead characters is somehow author Erin Healy. Makes the impossible seem possible even when it seems over the top of Mount Hood. The Promises She Keep is an exhilarating tale as eternal life is boringly meaningless without eternal love.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 11, 2011

Past Tense-Catherine Aird

Past Tense
Catherine Aird
Minotaur, Mar 1 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312672911

In England when spinster Josephine Short dies, her next of kin is her estranged great-nephew Bill Wakefield. Since he is in South America on business, his wife Janet arranges the funeral.

At Josephine’s funeral, a stranger arrives late and insists he is Joe Short, the grandson of the deceased. Everyone who knew Josephine had no idea she had an offspring let alone a grandchild; she even listed Bill as her nearest relative. Soon after the burial, someone breaks into the Berebury Nursing Home where the deceased spent her last days before dying there. Nothing seems to have bee stolen, several items are broken. Not long afterward a homicide happens leaving Detective Chief Sloan and Detective Constable Crosby to investigate what secret the late elderly woman had that has led to a murder.

This is superb English police procedural with a powerful cast of characters. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Jan learns of the broken items at the home and never slows as the two cops work the case. Readers will enjoy the latest Sloan and Crosby investigation (see Parting Breath).

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mourning Gloria-Susan Wittig Albert

Mourning Gloria
Susan Wittig Albert
Berkley, Apr 5 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9780425239131

China Bayles lives in Pecan Springs, a small town in the Texas Hill Country. She resides with her “husband”, step-son and her niece as well as a horde of pets; she also owns several local businesses.

One night on her way home, she sees a trailer on fire and hears a woman cry for help. China cannot get passed the flames. An explosion occurs leaving the woman dead and China slightly injured. The corpse is burned beyond recognition while the fire investigator rules it a homicide and arson as the inferno was to cover up the bullets shot into the victim. Intern reporter Jessica Nelson covers the story concealing from her editor that this crime is personal. When Jessica disappears, the police have no reason foul play is involved so fail to investigate. China takes over following the trail the tyro journalist pursued.

Although having an amateur sleuth find a body is not new (see Dorothy Howell’s Shoulder Bags and Shootings), the latest China Bayles’ whodunit is a fresh investigative thriller due to the heroine and a horde of suspects. In her forties, China remains spunky and active providing the same energy to investigating the missing reporter as she did when she was a younger hotshot Houston attorney. With the return of the cast like her extended family enhancing the enjoyable story line, sub-genre fans will feel we are visiting China’s emporium in Pecan Springs.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Pope's Assassin-Luis M. Rocha

The Pope's Assassin
Luis M. Rocha
Putnam, Mar 31 2011, $25.95
ISBN 9780399156885

Like all the Popes before him in the past half a center, Pope Benedict XVI is given a top secret document to read. As the Pope reads, he becomes ill with worry. Five decades ago, Israeli archeologist Ben Isaac and the Status Quo team found the Dead Sea Scrolls, which included the Gospel of Jesus that if revealed would devastate the flock. Twice, twenty-five year agreements have been signed, but this year a third pact has not been renewed as rumors fly that the Scrolls are a hoax to conceal the truth.

Jesuits kidnap the son of Ben to demand he hand over the gospel and the bones of Jesus to them. At the same time, someone is assassinating the survivors of the Status Quo. London-based reporter Sarah Monteiro gets caught in the middle of a Christian power grab. Her beloved Vatican secret agent Father Rafael Santini is unsure where she fits in, but tries to keep her safe.

Loaded with action and an impressive body count (Hell is a growth industry), die hard fans of the Da Vinci Code will enjoy this derivative. The story line is fast-paced, but is too much a copy cat of the Brownian saga though much more graphic as if The Andalusian Dog (of Dali-Brunel) met Dan Brown. Still this is an exhilarating action-packed thriller as Sarah and Father Rafael are caught in the middle of a potential shattering hoax.

Harriet Klausner

The Fifth Witness- Michael Connelly

The Fifth Witness
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown, Apr 5 2011, $27.99
ISBN 9780316069359

Los Angeles lawyer Mickey Haller runs a "foreclosure defense” from his Lincoln town car. Lisa Trammel becomes his first foreclosure client. However, the bank holding her mortgage files a legal restraining order to end her shenanigans. Soon afterward someone kills mortgage banker Mitchell Bondurant with a hammer in a parking lot.

The police suspect Trammel killed the banker in a rage. Haller defends his client against a homicide charge in which the evidence overwhelmingly condemns his client and he believes she is guilty. He begins to change his mind when someone assaults him when he and his team search for evidence that Bondurant was working unethical and probably illegal mortgage schemes

The latest Lincoln Lawyer legal thriller (see Reversal) may prove to be the sub-genre book of the year as Michael Connolly provides a fascinating detailed look at the mortgage crisis; those who still insist the market corrects its mistakes need this primer. Yet with that theme running throughout, the author shows his talent as he makes that theme interesting and intertwines it inside a legal whodunit that will have readers staying up later than the second half of the Superbowl. This is an excellent tale.

Harriet Klausner

Running on Empty-Sandra Balzo

Running on Empty
Sandra Balzo
Severn House, Apr 1 2011, $27.95
ISBN: 9780727869814

Wisconsin crime reporter AnnaLise Griggs is asked by family friend Mama Balisteri to come home because she is concerned there is something wrong with AnnaLise’s mother Daisy Griggs. At the local blood bank the phlebotomist siphoned three pints of blood from donor Mrs. Bradenham. Griggs races back to Sutherton, North Carolina to check up on her mom.

Upon seeing Daisy, Griggs finds her zoned out spouting things she does nor remember saying later. AnnaLise notices in the normally peaceful town, though there have always been foolish isolated incidents like the beer drinking swimmer who lost a bet, but this is different. A series of murders, looking like accidents with none seemingly related to each other, has recently occurred. This predator tries to kill AnnaLise, but fails. Not one to sit idly back and worried about her mom, AnnaLise uses her journalist skills to investigate a serial killer stalking the Main Street.

While Maggy Thorsen takes a well deserved Wisconsin coffee break from amateur sleuthing, Sandra Balzo begins another wonderful regional mystery series. In addition to the super whodunit, readers obtain a look at living in a small southern town during the Labor Day weekend. The cast is colorful especially mama and add believability to a terrific North Carolina murder mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 7, 2011

Vienna Twilight-Frank Tallis

Vienna Twilight
Frank Tallis
Random House, Apr 12 2011, $15.00
ISBN 9780812981001

In 1903 near the Court Theater, Constable Badem finds the corpse of a young woman. He takes control of the crime scene until Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt arrives to investigate. The victim turns out to be nineteen years old model Adele Zeiler. The predator used a hairpin jammed into her brain while they were making love.

Stunned by his conclusion, Oskar asks Freud’s colleague Dr. Max Liebermann, who has collaborated with him before on odd investigations (see Vienna Secrets), to provide psychoanalysis to the case. Other women die in the same way as Max believes the insane murderer comes when he executes his lover at the pint of climax. With Vienna in panic as even the Emperor is upset with little progress at apprehending the fiend, Oskar and Max diligently work on finding a new type of killer; a sexual serial murderer is something the doctor has never heard of before.

The latest gaslight Vienna Liebermann mystery is a wonderful historical whodunit starring two friends who share a passion for justice and music, and a killer like none either the cop or the doc ever encountered before. Mindful of The Empty Mirror by J. Sydney Jones, fans of the series will enjoy Max’s problems with paving the way with what he believes is new ground for psychology and police work.

Harriet Klausner

Heads You Lose-Lisa Lutz and David Heywood

Heads You Lose
Lisa Lutz and David Heywood
Putnam, Apr 5 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9780399157400

In California, Paul and Lacey Hansen are twentyish brother and sister whose parents are dead. The orphaned siblings grow pot to sell in order to earn some money.

However, their smoke hazed world is shook when they find a headless corpse in their land. The headless body places the siblings at odds with each other; a normal occurrence. The only thing they agree to is they cannot call the cops as they will be busted for growing weed. They relocate the corpse, but a few days later the headless body returns albeit a lot smellier. The pair decides after haggling to investigate who killed the person without a head and why their dump of a property is a dumping ground.

With a nod to the Spellman family chronicles and to Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry, Lisa Lutz and David Heywood collaborate (in the blind) on a jocular crime caper starring two siblings who humorously battle one another over who should do what. Simply put when it comes to pot or not, readers know what the Hansen duet choose without a flip of the coin. The Spellman crowd and any one who relishes a zany over the top crime thriller will appreciate the insanity of Paul and Lacey, the poster kids for keeping pot illegal.

Harriet Klausner

The Hanging Wood-Martin Edwards

The Hanging Wood
Martin Edwards
Poisoned Pen, Apr 4 2011, $24.95
ISBN 9781590588529

Two decades ago teenager Callum Hinds vanished without a trace. The police investigation failed to find him. The case closed when the cops concluded the child was killed by his uncle in a murder suicide though they found the lad’s body.

In the present, Callum’s twenty-seven year old sister Orla Payne never believed her uncle killed his nephew and then himself. Needing closure with the truth and encouraged by historian Daniel Kind, Orla takes a position in a residential library to be near the Hanging Wood where the calamity occurred. At Kind’s suggestion, she calls Cumbria Cold Case Detective Chief Inspector Hannah Scarlett to try to get her to reopen her sibling’s investigation, but fails as her mind went fuzzy and the cop lost patience with her. Not long afterward, Orla dies from suffocation in a grain silo; that looks like a suicide. Feeling a bit guilty for ignoring the woman who called frantically twice just before her death, Hannah reopens the “solved” case with Kind assisting her

The latest Lake District police procedural (see The Serpent Pool) is an exciting past and present investigative thriller. The story line is at its best when the focus is on the Hinds family; on the other hand the subplot of Scarlett's personal life detracts from the case as that adds nothing but filler. Still readers will enjoy Martin Edward’s deadly tour of the Hanging Wood.

Harriet Klausner

No One Will Hear You-Max Allan Collins and Matthew Clemens

No One Will Hear You
Max Allan Collins and Matthew Clemens
Pinnacle, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780786021352

John Christian Harrow is the man to go to with anything involving the reality TV show Crime Seen! On the UBC network, the popular show focuses on unsolved cases using a large budget and an in-house team of experts from several fields assisted by consultants in order to solve the mystery and turn the perpetrator over to the law.

Their job turns macabre and much more difficult when the show becomes a key part of a serial murder. Someone calling himself Don Juan kills women leaving their corpses in public places like the big O in the Hollywood sign. When that fails to get the attention he demands, he kills again with the warning that if he does not make it as the feature on Crime Seen, he will deposit another dead woman somewhere visible next week. However, complicating matters exponentially for LAPD and Harrow is another serial killer seems to be competing with Don Juan for the top billing.

Based on Andy Warhol’s theory that “…everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”; Max Allan Collins and Matthew Clemens write an exciting serial killer thriller. The TV show comes across realistically as ratings mean everything until Don Juan courts them for air time. Although the cast is stereotypical of the serial killer sub-genre to include Don Juan and JC superstar and competing predators (see Beverly Barton’s “Game” theory thrillers, fans will enjoy the reality contest in which voting off the island is done by murder.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Haunt Me Still-Jennifer Lee Carrell

Haunt Me Still
Jennifer Lee Carrell
Plume, Feb 22 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780452296763

Although she knows the rumor of a curse associated with this dark play, “Occult Shakespeare” expert Kate Stanley directs a production of Macbeth near Dunsinnan Hill, Scotland. Her partner Ben Pearl is also with her as he was when they found a missing Shakespearean manuscript and something much more lethal (see Interred with Their Bones).

However, unexplained phenomena haunt the rendition as the infamous curse seems real. First there is mumblings about the boy actor who played Lady Macbeth during the Elizabethan Era opening only to die in the role. Then there is the trench filled with blood that the crew and cast wonder if it might be a warning from Lady Macbeth as there would have to have been a major monstrous massacre to produce all that crimson. Finally Kate acts possessed when she sleepwalks. When she awakens at the top of Dunsinnan Hill she is frightened as she has no idea how she got there nor why her hands are drenched in blood. The cops think they can answer that bloody question when they find the corpse of a woman on the hill. With Ben at her side, Kate investigates refusing to believe the Bard had demonic rituals written into the play as the director assumes a more mortal murderer makes mischievous mayhem.

This is an enjoyable amateur sleuth take on Macbeth in which the opening theme of “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble” is the prime premise of Haunt Me Still. Although over the top of Dunsinnan Hill, but rich with the Bard’s lore and history of productions of Macbeth, fans will enjoy Jennifer Lee Carrell’s fine Shakespearean spin.

Harriet Klausner

The Priest-Gerald O'Donovan

The Priest
Gerald O'Donovan
Scribner, Mar 1 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9781451610604

On assignment in Spain working drug trafficking for Europol, Garda Police Inspector Mike Mulcahy returns to Dublin. His boss Superintendent Healy sends him to St. Vincent’s Hospital to assist with translation Sex Crimes Inspector Claire Brogran and Detective Sergeant Andy Cassidy on a sexual assault case of a Spanish speaking teenage girl; whose genitals was severely burned. The sixteen year old victim is Jesica with one j whose father is Spain’s hardline Interior Minister Alfonso Mellado “The Judge” Salazar.

Because of his time in Spain, Mulcahy remains on the case as a contact with the Spanish government though sex crimes are not his expertise. The predator used a gold crucifix to burn the teen. Whereas the Sex Crime cops insist this is a sexually perverted act by a psychopath, Mulcahy believes otherwise as he thinks this was a religious ritual. Dubbed the Priest by the media including Mulcahy’s girlfriend Siobhan Fallon, pressure mounts from politicians to make an arrest immediately.

The second Mulcahy police procedural (see White Lion) is an entertaining Irish whodunit with an intriguing motive for the serial sexual assaults (and one murder). The cast is stereotypical of the sub-genre; as the police superiors, the politicians and the media demand instant gratification mostly to either duck from the noise or to be heard over the clamor; the other cops insist they know best; and the hero becomes the Lone Ranger (without Tonto) to the rescue while expecting to be placed on suspension. Still readers will enjoy Gerald O’Donovan’s exciting mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Shaken-J.A. Konrath

J.A. Konrath
AmazonEncore, Feb 22 2011, $13.95
ISBN: 9781935597216

Mr. K is the most successful serial killer in history. Law enforcement believes this vicious predatory beast has murdered over two hundred victims from all walks of life as race, gender or age is irrelevant.

Retired Police Lieutenant Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels tangled with this psychopath twenty-five years ago when she worked for Chicago Police Department. She was fortunate to come out of the encounter alive. However, now she has a return engagement except Mr. K has the upper hand again as he toys with her having her bound and gagged while his next victim is stuffed in a nearby locker. As she looks back over her quarter of a century in law enforcement, Jack knows she has ended the careers of some evil people, but Mr. K is the most devious and deadliest.

The latest Jack Daniels thriller is a totally different set up then the previous six entries (see Fuzzy Navel and Cherry Bomb) as the heroine is a prisoner reflecting on her current predicament and looking back over her career (with amusing flashbacks from previous dangerous cases). The story line remains tense whether it is in the present or the past, but the bygone years have Jack’s filter abating the danger with humor while the present means hogtied by a maniacal killer. Readers will relish this terrific thriller wondering where the cell phone rescue, if an escape occurs, will come from; as the pages tick away with a woman tortured physically and Jack mentally. All that is without the author’s stunning afterward.

Harriet Klausner

Crunch Time-Diane Mott Davidson

Crunch Time
Diane Mott Davidson
Morrow, Apt 5 2011, $26.99
ISBN: 9780061348150

In Aspen Meadow, Colorado, an arsonist burns down the rental in which chef Yolanda Garcia and her Great Aunt Ferdinanda lived. Shook, the pair moves into the abode of former cop turned private investigator Ernest McLeod. However, soon after the two females move in, he is murdered and his house set on fire.

Goldilocks Catering owner Goldy Schulz invites her friend and the aunt to move in with her as the Fatally Flakey caterer will not allow a homicidal arsonist to scare her from doing the right thing for friends. Her husband Sheriff’s Department investigator Tom and police officer John Bertran as Ernest’s former partner lead the inquiry. When someone tries but fails to break into Goldy’s home, a cop moves in to protect the three women. However Goldy, who not one to stew in silence, investigates who targets Yolanda and Ferdinanda, and why.

The latest Goldy Colorado culinary cozy (see Sweet Revenge) is an entertaining whodunit as once again the amateur sleuth competes with law enforcement to uncover the identity of the culprit. The mystery is personal as the killer murdered a friend and threatened to harm another long time pal of the heroine (the chefs worked together in a defunct restaurant), but it is the home invasion partly thwarted by Jake the bloodhound that sets Goldy in motion. With a strong late spin, fans will relish this taut suspense thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Mimosas, Mischief, and Murder-Sara Rosett

Mimosas, Mischief, and Murder
Sara Rosett
Kensington, Apr 1 2011, $22.00
ISBN 9780758226853

Ellie and Mitch Avery, accompanied by their two children, travel to Smarr, Alabama to visit his elderly grandfather. However, they are greeted with the stunning tragic news that Grandpa Franklin just died.

Someone breaks into Grandpa Franklin’s home; but to the Avery adult’s stunned amazement, the police hesitate to classify the B&E as a robbery attempt. Soon after the break-in, someone abducts Grandpa’s body, but the cops believe there still is nothing to investigate. A stranger attends the funeral but soon is found dead in the guest room. Uncle Bud and Felicity the wife of Mitch's cousin has Ellie considering adding relatives to her list of suspicious characters.

There is a lot more happening in this zany regional cozy as money proves to be the root of all evil. Ellie knows better than to investigate when family is in the middle in spite of having success solving mysteries (see Mint Juleps, Mayhem, and Murder), but amateur sleuthing seems to be in her blood. Series fans will enjoy the Avery visit to the paternal side of the family as Alabama turns crimson red even if this is an Auburn year

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Hard Day’s Fright-Casey Daniels

A Hard Day’s Fright
Casey Daniels
Berkley, Apr 5 2011. $6.99
ISBN: 9780425240564

On August 14, 1966 Lucy Pasternak and some friends went to see the Beatles perform. She is proud of her audacity when she ran on stage, eluded the security guards and kissed Paul. After the show Lucy leaves with her friends by train, but never makes it home.

That night is the last time anyone seen Lucy until cemetery guide Pepper Martin sees her on the same train she rode forty-five years ago. The underground voodoo railroad lets it be known that Pepper is the person to turn to if she needs help for her spirit to finally be at rest. Pepper knows she has to get involved with a ghostly whodunit as Lucy demands she find her body and bury it. At first Pepper doesn’t want to be involved bur she changes her mind when she learns her best friend and mentor Ella was the teen friend who failed to help Lucy get home. Pepper wants to make things right for Lucy, but the inquiry into the missing body proves precarious as an unknown adversary wants the case to remain cold and tries to kill those like Pepper who are intruding.

A Pepper Martin paranormal amateur sleuth is always a fun read as the heroine solves problems for those with a Tomb with a View. Like the Ghost Whisperer she helps earth bound spirits resolve what keeps them from moving on to the next level. However, she is unable to tell anyone ever since her former boyfriend ridiculed her when she confessed that she is the Chick for the Dead. Her current investigation is a shade more personal than usual as the secondary cast especially her “Watson” enhance another delightful urban fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Now You See Her- Joy Fielding

Now You See Her
Joy Fielding
Atria, Feb 22 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9781416585312

Two years ago in a boating accident in Georgian Bay near Toronto, her daughter Devon allegedly drowned, but her body was not recovered. That tiny hope keeps fifty year old recently divorced Canadian Marcy Taggart unable to find closure as she and Devon last saw one another in a regretful scenario; thus the bereft mother clings to and prays for a miracle that her Devon purposely vanished.

Instead of her silver anniversary with Peter, he found solace with another woman, as their marriage ended when Devon disappeared. Thus instead of going with Peter as planned; Marcy travels to Ireland alone to temporarily escape from her mind-numbing grief. In Cork while on a guided tour, she sees a girl she believes is her Devon. She begins a quest to find the girl, but someone ransacks her hotel room followed by warning to leave or else. However, this is her daughter so she refuses to quit her search for the girl who may be Devon.

At times over the top of Knockboy, Marcy’s desperation and intense feelings of guilt and regret make this a powerful thriller as her need for closure leads her into all sorts of sinister trouble. Her new companions add eccentric entertainment but fail to add to a mother grieving the loss of her daughter. Marcy’s quest leads to a taut tale of danger, but it is her personal tension ripping her soul apart that turns Now You See Her into a great read.

Harriet Klausner

Death of a Chimney Sweep-M. C. Beaton

Death of a Chimney Sweep
M. C. Beaton
Grand Central, Feb 25 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780446547390

Cantankerous Captain Henry and Milly Davenport move into a rundown Georgian mansion just outside of Drim, Scotland. Davenport leaves his home for a brisk walk but fails to come home. His corpse is found in the chimney of his new home when his blood dripped down.

The villagers assume mild mannered chimney sweep Pete Ray killed Davenport, but that seems so out of character for a man who has wandered the Highlands cleaning the soot out of so many homes for years. The Drim beat cop is miles across a mountain and moors away, but Lochdubh Police Constable Hamish Macbeth leads the homicide inquiry. He has doubts Pete is the killer. His belief is affirmed when Pete dies during a suspicious motorcycle accident on the nearby moors. Macbeth believes the predator seeks something that he or she is willing to kill for to obtain.

Though there are murders, the latest Macbeth police procedural (see Death of a Valentine) is an entertaining lighthearted Scottish romp. The eccentric cast starting with the beat cop who rarely makes it over to Drim turns the story line into fun time in rural Scotland as the cozy welcoming of the villagers supersedes the suspense of the killer.

Harriet Klausner