Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Redeemed-M.R. Hall

The Redeemed
M.R. Hall
Simon & Schuster, May 3 2011, $25.00
ISBN 9781439157121

Thirtyish Conway Unit senior psychiatric nurse Alan Jacobs is found dead in a churchyard of Saint Peter’s Church in the Severn Vale district. Coroner Jenny Cooper looks into what appears to be a suicide.

Not long afterward prison priest Father Lucas Starr asks Jenny to investigate the murder of adult film actress Eva Donaldson. The request is odd as Paul Craven, who confessed, was convicted of the homicide. Father Starr believes Craven confessed because he is a bit touched and that the man did not commit the killing. Jenny agrees to do a cursory look. She finds out that that the late actress joined the Mission Church of God after quitting the porn industry. The victim also supported Decency a group demanding internet pornography be outlawed. As she works on both cases while still struggling with her nasty divorce that pile on top of her uglier childhood, Cooper finds connections between Donaldson and Jacobs; even as her fuming superiors (over Jenny solving the Disappearance case) demand she wrap up her two investigations immediately.

Cooper is an incredible character as she is so F up that it is amazing she is not restrained; the subplot when she was five years old enhance how mentally hurt she is. The whodunit focuses on religious and political corruption that the brass prefers disappears as M. R. Hall makes a strong case that justice is a two tiered system: the wealthy can flaunt the law and then there is the masses. Sub-genre fans will appreciate The Redeemed as Cooper battles with her personal problems fearing a breakdown and wars with her superiors over her successful inquiries breaking the Golden Rule of those with the gold make the rule.

Harriet Klausner

The Law of Angels-Cassandra Clark

The Law of Angels
Cassandra Clark
Minotaur, Apr 12 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312674557

In 1385, Abbess Hildegard sets up a tiny religious cell in Deepdale, England. However, her serene rustic retreat is disturbed when armed men attack two of her youthful guests, Maud and Petronilla, who had turned to her for protection. They are fortunate to have survived the crisis, but Hildegard and the two victims fear they will return to finish the job.

Maud is especially worried that she was the intended target as she escaped from killers who murdered her young brother and destroyed their home. Hildegard knows no one is safe in England since the Wat Tyler revolt and the latest Papal excommunication. She escorts the girls to York where she hopes they can obtain protection, but soon the Abbess finds herself in the middle of a murderous plot centering on the Cross of Constantine, which she found.

The third Abbess Hildegard of Meaux medieval mystery (see Hangman Blind and The Red Velvet Turnshoe) is a charming tale in which the late fourteenth century era of abject fear supersedes the slower suspense subplot. Hildegard is a wonderful caring person who risks her life to insure her two wards are safe as she keeps the story line focused. Fans of profound historical tales with a supporting mystery will enjoy the Abbess’ latest adventures.

Harriet Klausner

Spider Web-Earlene Fowler

Spider Web
Earlene Fowler
Berkley May 3 2011, $25.95
ISBN 9780425240984

In San Celina, California, a sniper fires at the driver’s side window of a parked police car near the town courthouse. Nobody was hurt as the vehicle was empty at the time of the shooting. Town police chief Gabe Ortiz leads the inquiry wondering what the motive could be.

Gabe’s wife Benni Harper is busy with her myriad of jobs as a museum curator, rancher and caring for her beloved older relatives while also preparing for the first annual Memory Festival where she and the Coffin Star Quilt Guild will show their Graveyard Quilt for the first time in public. At the same time Benni scrambles with not enough hours in the day, a woman comes to town seeking a retirement home. However, instead she meets with Benni to discuss Gabe.

The latest Harper whodunit (see State Fair) is a fun amusing cozy due to the antics of the lead couple’s eccentric family and friends. The sniper mystery is cleverly set up with readers, Benni and Gabe wondering about the motive; while the female stranger in town adds quite a wallop to the mix. This is a strong entry as even the most powerful people sometimes need help.

Harriet Klausner

Classified as Murder-Miranda James

Classified as Murder
Miranda James
Berkley, May 3 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781101514351

In Athena, Mississippi elderly eccentric James Delacorte hires librarian Charlie Harris to catalogue his prized rare book collection. He explains to Harris that he has supported his extended family even allowing them residence in his vast mansion though they show little respect to him from the heart. However, he is upset as he believes one of his relatives is stealing his valuable books.

Harris begins his inventory while listening to the taunts of boorish family members. When one of them kills Delacorte, Charlie assumes the stolen books are the clue to who the culprit is. With the help of Diesel his Maine Coon Cat in the Stacks partner, Charlie seeks to uncover the identity of the ungrateful murderer.

The second Cat-in-the-Stacks amateur sleuth who-done it (see Murder Past Due) is an engaging whodunit due to the male lead whose detecting is suspect (and fun). However, Charlie’s relationships with his paw partner and with his adult son Sean make him seem real even with a sort of anthropomorphic dialogue between the two sleuths. Readers will enjoy this entertaining regional whodunit as the librarian and the cat work the case.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ding Dong the Diva's Dead-Cat Melodia

Ding Dong the Diva's Dead
Cat Melodia
Camel Press, Jan 30 2011, $15.97
ISBN: 9781603818070

Thirtyish opera singer Deborah de Lille is thinking of ending her career as she sees her future on stage performing as a two bit player on minor league tours. However, her agent gets the mezzo-soprano a part with the new Ville d'Aurore troupe in Idaho. The production is Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann.

In Idaho Debbie quickly joins the production in time for rehearsal. She learns she got the demanding support role of Nicklausse when the performer she replaced died in a car accident. Her role is demanding though always in a secondary role. Debbie plans to be professional on and off stage, but when she gets a second part due to a performer leaving, she becomes the victim of petty jealousies, megalomaniacal performers and sexual thrusts from both genders, while someone wants the new diva dead.

The fun in this entertaining amateur sleuth is observing the humorous goings-on behind the scenes of a local opera company as the cut throat competition is not just about roles on stage. Whereas Debbie is the star holding the tale together, the support cast is solid with a range of egomaniacal personalities at the opera house and zany (insane may be more descriptive) friends and family of the heroine. Fans will appreciate A Night At The Opera.

Harriet Klausner

Nightshade-P.C. Doherty

P.C. Doherty
Minotaur, Apr 12 2011, $25.99
ISBN 9780312678180

In 1304 King Edward I directs his most-trusted aide and the keeper of the secret seal Sir Hugh Corbett to travel to Essex. There Sir Hugh is to retrieve an ornate cross from Lord Oliver Scrope who took it from a sect the latter declared heretical. The monarch also orders Sir Hugh to censure Scrope for going outside his power when he slaughtered the members of the sect.

Corbett arrives in Essex to learn a serial killer Sagittarius stalks the residents. The attacks by this predatory hunter have left everyone fearful as the killer seems to randomly choose who is next to kill before the sound of the hunter’s horn announces an arrow has been sent at a target. When an impossible homicide occurs on a remote nearly unattainable island inside a locked room, Corbett knows he must end the reign of terror.

The latest Corbett medieval mystery (see The Waxman Murders) may be the historical whodunit of the year as P.C. Doherty provides a super investigative tale. Fast-paced yet setting time and place so that fans will feel they accompany the hero in January 1304 England on his regal mission. Set aside plenty of time as Nightshade is nearly impossible to put down.

Harriet Klausner

A Pizza to Die For-Chris Cavender

A Pizza to Die For
Chris Cavender
Kensington, May 1 2011, $22.00
ISBN: 9780758229526

In Timber Ridge, North Carolina, A Slice of Delight pizza shop owners sisters Eleanor and Maddy Swift are despondent to learn Judson Sizemore, paternal nephew of the affluent eccentric Nathan, plans to open Italia's specializing in wood-fired pizzas on the same street as their restaurant. However, someone kills Judson with a piece of firewood in his new store just before the grand opening.

Eleanor learns Judson’s Uncle was the money behind the pizzeria. The deceased’s sister Gina publically accuses Eleanor of her sibling’s homicide while the townsfolk look at who had the motive to kill the competition. At the same time Maddy's boyfriend Bob Lemon harangues the Swift sisters to not investigate the murder while Eleanor’s ex David Quinton offers to help. However, the Swift sisters cannot help but make inquiries.

The latest cozy served with pizza (see Pepperoni Pizza Can Be Murder) is another Swift regional Slice of Murder, but tastes somewhat like its predecessors. The sleuth siblings are an engaging lead while the men in their lives and the townsfolk add depth to the entertaining story line. Culinary mystery fans will enjoy the snoop sisters investigating the murder of their new competitor.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

An Ocean Away-Lisa Harris

An Ocean Away
Lisa Harris
Summerside, Mar 1 2011, $12.99
ISBN: 9781609361075

In 1921 in Northern Rhodesia, Lizzie MacTavis continues to provide the Lord’s word to the locals. She is dedicated to God and to people residing along the Zambezi River.

Anthropologist and explorer Andrew Styles is hired to locate Lizzie and escort her back to New York. When he finds her in Southern Africa, he tries to persuade her to come home. She refuses as she feels her work is here. However, Andrew explains back in America, she has a fortune that can help her adopted impoverished people. Thus, Lizzie reluctantly and tearfully leaves even while vowing to return. In New York, Lizzie is unprepared for falling in love with an unbeliever who may be her enemy and with someone trying to kill her in so called civilized America.

This is an intriguing historical thriller starring a caring missionary who feels safer in Rhodesia than she does in the jungle of New York. Lizzie is terrific as she firmly believes God wants her to remain in Africa, but Andrew makes a convincing case she can do more if she goes home; which she counters is Rhodesia. Though An Ocean Away lacks the intensity of the Mission Hope thriller Blood Ransom (few novels do), readers will enjoy this engaging 1920s tale with its message to embrace God rather than running away from the Lord even when a tragedy strikes a loved one.

Harriet Klausner

Death in the Fifth Position-Gore Vidal writing as Edgar Box

Death in the Fifth Position
Gore Vidal writing as Edgar Box
Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, Mar 22 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9780307741424

In New York City, as the House Un-American Activities Committee conducts hearings, the Grand Saint Petersburg Ballet hires public relations specialist Peter Cutler Sargent to create a positive spin to avert trouble since renowned choreographer Jed Wilbur was once a communist. He expects a relatively easy assignment by controlling the media though the director Ivan Washburn explains the pickets and an accusation letter have unnerved him especially as the fifth ballet to arrive in town.

However, a dark cloud surfaces when the star ballerina Ella Sutton dies during a performance by falling from thirty feet above the stage. Sargent investigates though NYPD Inspector Gleason tells “Harvard” to stick to the PR lies. He finds that behind the scenes of the ballet people are loaded with backstabbing machinations as rivalries and affairs are the norm for this troupe even as he hopes his new lover Jane Garden who replaced the unfortunate Ella is not the culprit.

This is a reprint of a Gore Vidal’s first terrific novella written pseudonymously as Edgar Box due to his being blacklisted by the NY Times for the then controversial The City and the Pillar; the author gives kudos to brave publisher Victor Weybright for his support. The super storyline is obviously a theatre whodunit, but six decades later provides an interesting timely look at 1950s censorship as the present gurus want to rewrite Mark Twain. The novella is clever, but it is the cast starting with the PR amateur sleuth who makes for a wonderful night at the Russian Ballet.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 28, 2011

Gone with a Handsomer Man-Michael Lee West

Gone with a Handsomer Man
Michael Lee West
Minotaur, Apr 12 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780312571221

In Charleston, South Carolina, wannabe pastry chef Teeny Templeton is excited about marrying Bing Jackson and making the perfect red velvet cake. However, her euphoria ends abruptly when she sees an excited Bing playing badminton with two pretty ladies without one stich of clothing on any of them. Irate, Teeny plays dodge ball with the naked threesome by throwing unripe peaches at their butts.

She is charged with assault and receives probation. Additionally a restraining order is processed to keep her away from Bing and his women. A few days after being legally warned to stay away from her ex fiancé, Teeny finds Bing dead. Obviously, the prime (and only) suspect as pointed out by the local news, Teeny distrusts the police (and the media) to search elsewhere for the killer so she applies the Templeton Tradition of creating recipes to solving the murder.

This entertaining regional culinary amateur sleuth mystey with a pinch of romance is a delightful tale due to the strong cast starting with Teeny. The secondary characters are fully developed as Michael Lee West provides a super Southern whodunit enhanced by the refreshing Templeton Tradition.

Harriet Klausner

Among the Departed-Vicki Delaney

Among the Departed
Vicki Delaney
Poisoned Pen, May 3 2011, $24.95
ISBN 9781590989243

In 1996 in Trafalgar, British Columbia, Brian Nowak vanished without a trace. No one knew what happened to Brian who seemed to have no enemies. He left behind an uncaring spouse, an unreliable son, and a precocious daughter who was the apple of his life; anyone who knew him knew he would never leave his darling Nicky behind especially with her mother.

Fifteen years after Brian disappeared, the remains of a human are accidently found. The townsfolk assume the deceased is Brian. Nicky, who was an eighth grader when her dad vanished, was never the same as she has gotten into all sorts of trouble involving drugs and prostitution since. Her childhood best friend Constable Molly Smith leads the investigation into the murder of Brian hoping this brings closure to a disturbed Nicky.

The fifth Constable Molly Smith police investigation is an engaging Canadian village whodunit. The key to this tale and its predecessors (see Valley of the Lost and Negative Image) is the strong support cast as Molly obtains the usual assistance whether she wants it or not from her boyfriend RCMP Sergeant, his dog, and her mom; and the lack of cooperation from the horde of locals including the victim’s daughter who is no longer an innocent. Among the Departed is a terrific mystery with a great realistic finish.

Harriet Klausner

The Burning Lake-Brent Ghelfi

The Burning Lake
Brent Ghelfi
Poisoned Pen, May 3 2011, $24.95
ISBN 9781590589250

On a wintry night in Moscow, espionage agent Alexei "Volk" Volkovoy meets with gulag survivor Ilya Jacobs. The latter informs Volk that someone assassinated reporter Katarina “Kato” Mironova in a remote village in the Urals. Three students were also murdered.

Although a reporter’s life is perilous in Putin’s Russia, Volk is indifferent to that aspect of Kato’s life. Instead he feels her killing is personal as he and Kato were lovers during the second Chechen conflict. He resolves to uncover who killed her and why. The agent quickly learns Kato was digging into a story about a reservoir in the mountains containing holding liquid radioactive waste that exploded in 1958. The area became contaminated with radioactive waste. Before long the trail leads to Las Vegas.

The latest Volk dark Russian thriller (see Volk’s Shadow and The Venona Cable) is a great timely investigative tale. The story line is the usual frantic pace of a Volk tale as he connects the Stalin evil past and the dark Putin present. Fans will anticipate a showdown with the Frenchman, who is setting up the kill of Volk as Brent Ghelfi writes a tense thriller that captures the essence of 1950s and current Russia in this powerful entry.

Harriet Klausner

Devil’s Plaything-Matt Richtel

Devil’s Plaything
Matt Richtel
Poisoned Pen, May 3 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590588871

In San Francisco medical reporter Nate Idle makes some cash posting a medical blog. He also spends his free time with his editor Pauline Sanchez in her office.

At the same time at Magnolia Manor his octogenarian grandma Lane suffers from dementia. She currently responds to online questions from the Human Memory crusade. She shares a lot of personal family information with the computer that calmly says trust me. Nat ignores his grandma’s ramblings until he takes her for a stroll in Golden Gate Park; only someone fires what seems like randon shots, but he begins to think this culprit targeted the Idle pair. Soon he realizes the attempt is tied to an encrypted flash drive he received anonymously by an unknown person demanding a meeting though he wonders why him and his family.

The freshness to this over the top of the Twin Peaks neuroscience technological conspiracy is the beleaguered everyman’s octogenarian grandma who suffers from dementia so cannot be relied on for what she remembers, which is very little beyond WWII. Still fans that ignore plausibility will be Hooked as the grandson and his grandma team up in an entertaining investigative medical thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mobbed-Carol Higgins Clark

Carol Higgins Clark
Scribner, Apr 5 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9781439170281

Private investigator Regan Reilly and her husband Jack who heads the NYPD Major Case Squad plan to go to the Jersey Shore for the weekend to celebrate her mom Nora’s birthday. Regan leaves without Jack because Nora asks her to accompany her to the home of Mrs. Edna Frawley who is selling her beach house and therefore hosting a yard sale including items left behind by her tenant movie star Cleo Paradise. Edna’s daughter Karen is a friend of Nora and wants her to insure her mom in her zeal does not sell any of her items.

When Regan and Nora arrive, they find Edna gleefully waiting for the yard sale to begin. Regan receives calls from Cleo’s best friend and the actress’ mother wanting to know where she is. A stalker has been sending Cleo dead roses with thorns as real life imitates the movie she starred in. Cleo’s mom hires Regan to find her daughter who has many enemies among the envious Hollywood crowd. Cleo relaxes at a dude ranch nearby, but is unaware that someone is closing in on her to hurt her; at the same Regan seeks to protect her.

As always, a Regan Reilly mystery is a fun, delightful and entertaining tale due to quirky endearing characters especially when mom the author and daughter the sleuth team up. Although the story line is somewhat farcical with two degrees of separation; readers will not be able to put down Mobbed as everyone looking for Cleo converges while the actress is having a good time at a dude ranch.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Corruptible-Mark Mynheir

The Corruptible
Mark Mynheir
Multnomah, Apr 5 2011, $14.00
ISBN 9781601420749

Ray Quinn retired from the Orlando Police Department due to a perpetrator shooting his hip; shattering the joint. His replacement hip forces him to use a cane to walk slowly as the ache is unbearable. To numb the mental and physical pain, Ray turned to alcohol.

Quinn has opened up The Night Watchman Detective Agency where he mentors a rookie Crevis Creighton who wants to become a cop and employs Pam Winter, a former client. Armon Mayor of Mayor Holdings, Inc. hires him to recover stolen confidential client information. The prime suspect is Logan Ramsey, who before working at Mayor Holdings, was employed as a Narc for OPD but was forced to leave the force.

The second Quinn fun inspirational Noir (see The Night Watchman) is due to the hero, who sets the tone early when he explains to his employees that he broke the other guy’s fist with his face and uses his cane as a weapon. Other subplots add to the entertainment when for instance he electronically poses as an elderly woman scamming the email scammers offering to share money from overseas banks in crisis countries for a fee. The banter between the Night Watchman trio is amusing but caring, which enhances an exciting private investigative mystery in which Quinn ironically misses clues the audience will not.

Harriet Klausner

The Corruptible-Mark Mynheir

The Corruptible
Mark Mynheir
Multnomah, Apr 5 2011, $14.00
ISBN 9781601420749

Ray Quinn retired from the Orlando Police Department due to a perpetrator shooting his hip; shattering the joint. His replacement hip forces him to use a cane to walk slowly as the ache is unbearable. To numb the mental and physical pain, Ray turned to alcohol.

Quinn has opened up The Night Watchman Detective Agency where he mentors a rookie Crevis Creighton who wants to become a cop and employs Pam Winter, a former client. Armon Mayor of Mayor Holdings, Inc. hires him to recover stolen confidential client information. The prime suspect is Logan Ramsey, who before working at Mayor Holdings, was employed as a Narc for OPD but was forced to leave the force.

The second Quinn fun inspirational Noir (see The Night Watchman) is due to the hero, who sets the tone early when he explains to his employees that he broke the other guy’s fist with his face and uses his cane as a weapon. Other subplots add to the entertainment when for instance he electronically poses as an elderly woman scamming the email scammers offering to share money from overseas banks in crisis countries for a fee. The banter between the Night Watchman trio is amusing but caring, which enhances an exciting private investigative mystery in which Quinn ironically misses clues the audience will not.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, March 25, 2011

Altar of Bones-Philip Carter

Altar of Bones
Philip Carter
Gallery (Pocket), Mar 8 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9781439199084

In Siberia, an assassin murders Katya Orlova. Her San Francisco granddaughter lawyer Zoe Dmitroff receives a letter from her grandmother who she thought died years ago. The late Katya explains in her note that Zoe is now the "Keeper" of an ancient secret of the Altar of Bones.

Before Zoe can digest the strange letter, she is attacked by the Russian mob and her own mom demands she reveal the secret to her. Ry O'Malley, whose father and brother were also murdered, arrives to protect Zoe. They flee to Europe as an unknown adversary wants her dead and by association him too.

Over the top of the Urals, Altar of Bones grips the audience from the opening assassination and never slows down as the rookie Keeper and her protector dash around Europe with a little luck and a lot of moxie as killers chase after them with one intention. Throw in Rasputin, Stalinist Russia, and Siberia and fans will enjoy Philip Carter’s adrenaline tour of Russia past and present in what is a fun thriller. Warning: set aside time because your bones will be tired with this impossible to put aside suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Snowman-Jo Nesbo

The Snowman
Jo Nesbo
Knopf, May 10 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9780307595867

In Oslo, as the first snow of the year falls, Jonas Becker awakens during the night to find his mother Birte not home. Footprints from trekking in the wet snow are inside the house. Eerily outside a snowman stares at the house wearing a pink scarf that a terrorized Jonas knows belongs to his mother.

Police detective Harry Hole leads the inquiry into the missing person case that looks like a house invasion abduction. His first suspect is the husband, arrogant Professor Filip. However, he revises his opinion when the head of a female is found atop the body of a snowman. As he analyzes the data, he received a letter from a killer signed as the Snowman referring to a case Harry worked on years ago in Australia. He soon realizes this psychopath has been murdering women on the first snowfall for years, but only now has decided to become visible by battling Hole in a game of wits.

Although a game between a serial killer and a detective has been done by other novelists (see Beverly Barton’s The Murder Game and The Dying Game), Hole, who has the personality of a hostile newt (the Salamandridae family will complain about the insult). make for a fresh contest. The investigation is fun to follow as the cop’s team, superiors, and family dislike him, but he is the best detective on the Oslo force; beside which the Snowman selected him for the wintry chess match. Readers will enjoy this award winning Norwegian police procedural and seek other translated Harry Hole inquiries (see The Devil’s Star).

Harriet Klausner

Flowerbed of State-Dorothy St. James

Flowerbed of State
Dorothy St. James
Berkley, May 3 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425240571

It is every American gardener’s dream to have the position that Cassandra "Casey" Calhoun occupies. After seeing her work in Charleston, South Carolina, the First Lady hires her as an assistant gardener at President's Park where the White House is located. The First Lady felt she and Casey shared similar views that are radical to the old guard status quo.

Casey finds herself face down in the mud and soon realizes someone tried to strangle her. A man looking like a black commando comes out of nowhere. She assumes he is her attacker coming to finish the job so she pepper sprats him. She is horrified to realize she injured Special Agent Jake Turner, an elite member of a military (CAT) arm of the Secret service. They soon follow a blood trail on damaged greenery, which leads to the corpse of Pauline Bonde, a Treasury Department accountant who was auditing the books of some powerful folks. Casey believes that the bankers who are visiting the President to talk him out of new oversight regulations and protestors who believe the First family is in bed with the bankers are linked to the murder. She investigates but almost gets killed with Turner always seemingly around to rescue her.

Part of the fascination with the first White House Gardener Mystery is the insight into how the support staff operates though that is similar to Julie Hyzy’s White House Chef Mystery. Flowerbed of State focuses on the people who care for the gardens; an eccentric group who take pride in their work. Although a deep childhood psychological trauma propels Casey to search for the killer, it remains over the top of the Washington Monument that she could carry out a professional investigation while Turner seems to be going nowhere with experience and support in his corner. Still fans who ignore the plausibility will enjoy an entertaining whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Buried Prey-John Sandford

Buried Prey
John Sandford
Putnam, May 10 2011, $27.95
ISBN: 9780399157387

In 1985, Lucas Davenport was still in uniform when two young girls, Nancy and Mary Jones disappeared while playing outside. After a search of their usual haunts, the police assumed that a sexual predator kidnapped, raped and killed the girls. A tipster, later known to be John fell, called the cops twice implicating homeless schizophrenic Sharpe in their abduction; evidence pointed in his direction. When the alleged culprit died, the police closed the case while Davenport argued to keep searching for Fell as he had doubts that Sharpe was the culprit.

In the present, a sidewalk is being dug up when the bodies of the Jones sisters are found; their bodies mummified and recognizable. Lucas is now in a law enforcement position to hunt a predator who has killed other children. He and his partner on the original Jones case Del intensely search for a psychopath. When one of his cherished friends goes down in the line of duty by this perpetrator, the case turns personal as Lucas struggles not to do something he will regret when he catches this vicious beast as he knows he will.

John Sandford shows why readers love his Prey police procedurals as he gets deep into the psyche of his hero who is already over the top of Eagle Mountain with anger towards the serial killer preying on the young, but goes stratospheric with rage when a close friend falls victim. Besides his struggle to control his feelings, readers also gets a chance to see Lucas as a young but experienced rookie who retains the same values he displays as a veteran including his efforts to do what he believes is right even if it means bending the law. Series fans will enjoy Davenport’s internal battle to stay in control as this case is an emotional dynamo.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Darkside-Belinda Bauer

Belinda Bauer
Simon and Schuster, May 3 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9781451612752

Wintry Shipcott is cut off somewhat from the outside due to the blizzard conditions. The townsfolk are used to rough winters so think nothing of the snow falling. However, the residents become stunned and alarmed when something brutally murders an elderly woman in her bed.

The village police officer Jonas Holly knows he is over his head but feels a sense of urgency to catch the murderer. At the same time he deals with caring for his ailing wife Lucy. Obnoxious Detective Chief Investigator John Marvel takes over the case bullying anyone who fails to obey his command. When the predator scorns Holly’s skills, he stoically follows orders. However, as the body count mounts as do the letters of mockery, Holly decides to ignore the arrogant DCI to go it alone in order uncover the identity of the serial killer who he believes is a villager holding him responsible for a recent tragedy.

The dark and grim atmospheric English Moors (think of the Hound of the Baskervilles) make for a great psychological police procedural. The cast enhances the feeling of destined doom confronting the village cop while the egomaniacal DCI ignores advice from someone he considers in the ooze beneath the law enforcement food chain. With a great stunning ending, readers will appreciate Belinda Bauer’s whodunit (see Blacklands for her previous thriller).

Harriet Klausner

Death On Tour-Janice Hamrick

Death On Tour
Janice Hamrick
Minotaur, Apr 26 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312679460

The Austin, Texas Shore cousins (high school teacher Jocelyn and stylish Kyla), are best friends. They decide to tour Egypt together so they sign up with WorldPal Tours. However, in spite a terrific job by their guide Anni, the trip is not as much fun due to irritating fifty-something Millie Owens. When odious Millie falls to her death from the great pyramid of Khafre, the group is stunned and a bit remorseful as everyone wanted her to shut up, just not this way.

The Egyptian police find Millie was stabbed in her neck so obviously a murder occurred. Jocelyn comes across a journal the deceased kept that implies someone on the tour is dangerous, but who?. An unknown adversary attacks Jocelyn and a haranguing merchant is killed with the same M.O. as Millie. Jocelyn ponders who the killer is while assuming handsome hunk tourist Alan Stratton could not be the culprit as he is too good looking and interested in the cousins.

This is a wonderful on tour amateur sleuth. The entertaining story line captures the essence of being with a tour group as you don’t select your companions or your schedule. Part of the fun is the generation gap as the younger Shore cousins especially Kyla are somewhat amusingly contemptuous of the boomers (you don’t pick your travel mates on tour) in their group. Readers will enjoy this fine whodunit as Jocelyn wonders how an Austin schoolteacher on her once in a lifetime tour of the Pyramids has become a killer’s target.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 21, 2011

An Evil Eye-Jason Goodwin

An Evil Eye
Jason Goodwin
Sarah Crichton Books (FSG), Mar 29 2011, $26.00
ISBN: 9780374110406

In 1839 the long reign of Sultan Mahmut II ends with his death. Abdulmecid now sits on the Osman Throne of the shrunken Ottoman Empire as his predecessor lost the Crimea, Greece and Egypt. The latter hurts the most as some upstart Mehmet Ali Pasha took the North African country from the Turks due in part to the Admiral of the fleet Fevzi Ahmet defecting.

Yashim the eunuch is assigned to investigate why a hero turned traitor. The case is much harder than his previous inquiries as those were potentially lethal while this case looks into the activity of Yashmin’s mentor and teacher, a vicious man willing to die for the late Sultan. As he begins his search for motives, women under the Sultan’s protection begin to die from a strange illness. The intrepid sleuth wonders whether the deaths of females under the Sultan’s protection are tied to the defection of the most loyal supporter of the Sultan.

The latest Yashim historical mystery (see The Bellini Card, The Janissary tree and The Snake Stone) is a great tale that looks deep into the corrupt rot at the core of the Ottoman Empire. Yashmin is terrific whether he is making inquiries or just making dinner as he holds the strong why he done it story line focused. Fans of the series will relish this terrific entry in which Jason Goodwin shines a deep cause and effect spotlight on what the corruption at the highest levels is doing to a crumbling giant within a powerful mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, March 18, 2011

Deadly Dreams-Kylie Brant

Deadly Dreams
Kylie Brant
Berkley, Apr 5 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425240687

Marisa Chandler is an asset to solving homicides as she dreams about murders when they are happening. The criminologist Mindhunters unit she works with is especially pleased to have her paranormal skill as well as the fact she is a strong diligent investigator.

Lately she hauntingly has dreamed of people being burned alive. Her boss Adam Raiker assigns Risa to work with Philadelphia Police Department Homicide Detective Nate McGuire. He makes it clear that he resents the outsider intruding on his investigation. As she ponders whether to reveal to him the source of her information that brings them closer to the serial killer, she knows they work well as a team professionally and otherwise but only if he takes a chance on her.

The newest Mindhunters police procedural (see Deadly Intent) focuses on the investigation into the fiery serial killings more so than the romance. By doing this, Kylie Brant provides anther powerful “Deadly” thriller that grips the audience from the first meeting between Nate and Risa at a horrific homicide scene and never let’s go until the final fiery confrontation. Fans will enjoy this exhilarating taut romantic suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Shake, Murder and Roll-Gail Oust

Shake, Murder and Roll
Gail Oust
Obsidian, May 3 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451231987

Serenity Cove Estates, South Carolina is a retirement community where Kate McCall chose to live after her husband retired. When he died, she stayed there making friends with several women who formed the Bunco Babe’s squad because they love playing the dice game of the same name. Retirement villages are normally serene, but Kate does not know the meaning of the word as she has been involved in two homicide cases that she solved (see Whack and Roll and “Till Dice Do Us Part).

Another death occurs when Dr. Sheila Rapport, host of a cable gardening show, gives a talk at Serenity Cove. In the middle of her speech, Sheila collapses. Her companion Dr. Vaughn Bascomb has a more serious reaction and dies. When Sheila recovers, she tells Kate they were poisoned. Knowing Kate’s track record, she asks her to find out the killer is though she assumes it is a stalker. Kate uncovers a horde of suspects with means, motive and opportunity for one of the pair, but who wanted both dead remains just out of reach until the culprit tries to kill Kate.

Putting aside the fact that Kate risks her life as a sub-genre hazard, she and the women in the retirement community are energetic and active. Kate is a believable character who refreshingly admits she addicted to homicide investigation. Her love life adds pizzazz to the mix as Kate like the other Buncos babes roll the dice on murder.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Busy Woman’s Guide to Murder-Mary Jane Maffini

The Busy Woman’s Guide to Murder
Mary Jane Maffini
Berkley, Apr 5 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425240601

A 911 emergency telephone operator, Mona Pringle places her own emergency call to professional organizer Charlotte Adams. Apparently Serena Redding has returned to town, which terrorizes Mona, who was a victim of the woman’s bullying back in high school. Mona comments she would love to kill her tormentor, but Charlotte assumes nothing with the passing whimsical comment.

That changes when another victim of Serena and her gang is killed in a deliberate hit and run, and two of the bullies are murdered. Charlotte wonders if Mona became deranged from her fear and embarked on a killing spree, or has been so frightened she vanished.

The latest Charlotte Adams amateur sleuth (see Closet Confidential and Death Loves A Messy Desk) as the events organizer balances her business, her canines and Mona’s lament. Charlotte is terrific as she goes from the irony of an emergency call from a 911 operator to her fears that Mona went over the edge. Filled with red herrings and false clues disguising real leads, fans will enjoy this breezy yet insightful look at the adults several years after a youthful bullying relationship.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Troubled Man-Henning Mankell

The Troubled Man
Henning Mankell
Knopf, Mar 28 2011, $26.95
ISBN: 9780307593498

In 2008 Sweden at Hakan von Enke’s seventy fifth birthday party the disturbed former Swedish naval commander tells Kurt Wallander about a 1980 incident he was involved in. His crew found an unidentified submarine in Swedish territorial waters, but when he reported it to his superiors while preparing to force the sub to surface, he was told to back away.

Soon after the septuagenarian tells his tale, he and his wife vanish. Although suffering from diabetes and memory lapses, and euphoric over the birth of his grandchild, sexagenarian Ystad Police Detective Wallander investigates what happened in the last few days to the parents of his daughter’s mate and back during the height of the Cold War.

Wallander is at his crusty best with a case that goes nowhere and with age aches reminding him of his mortality as he fears death making him The Troubled Man; as ironically also is von Enke over the 1980 incident. The mystery is top rate as always in this super Swedish police procedural as the hero sees his detecting days nearly over with the family torch going to his police officer daughter. However, he refuses to quit on an inquiry involving his future in-laws as the Cold War echoes two decades after it ended in wintry cold Sweden.

Harriet Klausner

The Silenced-Brett Battles

The Silenced
Brett Battles
Dell, May 5 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780440245674

As a Cleaner for hire Jonathan Quinn always feared his past will catch up to his present. So far he has been fortunate, but his luck runs out on his latest job. As Quinn mourns the death of a man he considered his father and worries about his mom, a client David Willis employs Jonathan and his crew to take care of something in the states and remove a long buried body from a London building about to be demolished.

However, the simple extraction proves deadly as more corpses surface. His girlfriend Orlando and his business partner Nate assist Quinn who realizes two groups are competing with dead people being the ante. The Cleaner and his associates know a joker has targeted him and guilt by association his teammates for cleansing too.

The fourth Cleaner thriller (see Shadow of Betrayal and The Deceived) is an exhilarating tale as the crew struggle to avoid being another Cleaner’s cleaning. The international conspiracy is over the top of Big Ben, but fans of the series will not care as Quinn, Orlando and Nate are loose ends needing a deadly cleaning.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Closer Than Blood-Gregg Olsen

Closer Than Blood
Gregg Olsen
Pinnacle, Apr 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780786020454

Beauty can mask evil with neither naturing nor nurturing matter when a person turns to the dark side. The perfect example is mirror twins Lainie and Tori. They were treated the same way by their parents but everyone who knew them realized Tori was a bad seed. Fifteen years ago the twins were driving on a rocky road in Kitsap County, Washington where teens raced for thrills; only one of the teens felt remorse for the death of their friend Jason.

Trni went to a juvenile facility and was released when she turned eighteen. She disappeared only to surface at her high school reunion. Her husband Alex Connelly was murdered and she was shot in the back. Toni made it to her neighbor’s home. She calls her sis Lainie O’Neal asking her to come to Tacoma because the police suspect she killed her husband. The cops arrest Darius, a neighbor and an ex-lover as there is overwhelming evidence he was in her sister’s home. County Sheriff’s Detective Kendal Stark does not believe Darius is the killer just like she never accepted the story of Jason’s demise years ago. She works the cases from fifteen years ago and today hoping to find the truth behind both deaths.

Ironically from the onset, the audience knows who the killer and how that person used sex to control many people. In spite of this advanced knowledge, Closer Than Blood is an exciting tale as Gregg Olsen still provides surprising twists and suspenseful spins. Readers will enjoy this drama as identifying the killer does not mean preventing the killings as Mr. Olsen keeps the reader hooked wondering if the culprit be stopped or at least exposed.

Harriet Klausner

Disturbed-Kevin O’Brien

Kevin O’Brien
Pinnacle, May 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780786021376

In Seattle Molly married Jeff Dennehy and for the next months lived in the home of her husband’s ex wife Angela, who left him, the house and the kids. Angela has visitation rights and comes to the neighborhood quite frequently to see her friends who are frigid to Molly. Their coldness and the Cul-de-Sac Killer, who has murdered residents in similar homes, has Molly concerned about living in the complex.

Molly adores her two step-children Erin and Chris though they keep her at a wary distance. When Ray Corson, Chris’ former counselor, is murdered, life in Willow Tree Court has become dangerous. The Cul-de-Sac Killer is interested in the families living there. However, the psychopath has a rival as someone else is also killing people in this cul-de-sac by imitating the infamous serial killer. Other deaths occur leaving everyone badly shaken, but the culprit has left the Dennehy household for last. However, the killer had not expected resistance from Molly and Chris who refuse to die without a fight.

Kevin O’Brien is a great thriller writer because of his ability to insure the targeted individuals seem real as they face danger. The Willow Tree Court residents are three dimensional with quirks and flaws so that when the predator strikes, the audience feels a neighbor has died. The story line is action-paced as the suspense grows tenser with each kill. Readers will cheer for courageous Chris and conscientious Molly as they begin to understand to kill or be killed.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hiss of Death -Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown

Hiss of Death
Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown
Bantam, Apr 12 2011, $26.00
ISBN 9780553807080

In Crozet, Virginia, as she prepares to sell her first grapes, Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen struggles with stage one breast cancer, but refuses to let the deadly disease prevent her from living. Thus with her husband Fair’s encouragement the fortyish Harry signs up to participate in a 5K Run for Breast Cancer Awareness.

However, before the race, Harry and her pets (felines Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and incorrigible corgi Tee Tucker) find the corpse of popular Central Virginia Medical Complex operating room nurse Paula Benton. Harry met the OR nurse during one of her recent hospital stays and respected the woman who was a key organizer of the race. Paula apparently died of anaphylactic shock caused by a hornet's sting. However, Harry wonders if the woman was murdered as Paula had issues with former addict now drug counselor Thadia Martin. Both were attracted to Dr. Cory Schaeffer, who is almost electrocuted in an electric car, which further affirms the belief by Harry and her sleuthing team that someone murdered Paula and tried to kill the physician.

The nineteenth Mrs. Murphy amateur sleuth (see Cat of the Century and Santa Clawed) is perhaps the most poignant tale of the long running series as the Brown tandem deftly focuses on breast cancer awareness inside of a well written whodunit. The cancer subplot supersedes the murder mystery summed up nicely in the Afterward by Ms. Brown’s late mom: “You’re going to be dead a long time. Do it now.” Readers will enjoy the latest anthropomorphist mystery as the “real important characters” and the human support encourage Harry; who accompanied by her three pets investigate the death with the last word finally belonging to “maligned” Pewter.

Harriet Klausner

Knockdown -Sarah Graves

Sarah Graves
Bantam, Apr 26 2011, $25.00
ISBN 9780440423126

In Eastport, Maine, Jacobia "Jake" Tiptree scrapes paint off the front steps of her 1823 Federal house. However, a young man rides a bike pass her house giving her a look of anger that is so intense, Jake wonders what his problem is. He returns, but this time dismounts from his bicycle. Getting into Jake’s face, the twentyish male accuses her of vague criminal activity. He departs with the words: "Blood shows up again. Murder will out."

Confused and upset, Jake looks forward to spending the Fourth of July with her family and Wade. However, she receives a threatening e-mail to “Beware the Fourth” from an unknown person using the alias "Nemesis." Although troubled by the bicyclist and email encounters, Jake is not one to sit idly by waiting for a stalker to knock her down. She assumes her predator is tied to her unsavory financial management days until the attack on Eastport begins.

The latest Home Repair Is Homicide amateur sleuth (see Crawlspace) is probably the darkest entry in the series. Jake will soon learn that her previous life in finance has come home to roost like a Dead Cat Bounce. Series fans will be hooked from the moment the bicyclist begins his spin. This is a great work in a fabulous series

Harriet Klausner

The Medusa Amulet-Robert Masello

The Medusa Amulet
Robert Masello
Bantam, Apr 26 2011, $26.00
ISBN 9780553807790

In Chicago Dante scholar David Franco knows his beloved sister Sarah is dying from breast cancer. He would do anything even give up his soul like Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus to save her life.

Kathryn Van Owen is a contributor to the Newberry Library where David works. She asks him to search for a reflecting glass created by the renowned Renaissance artist Benvenuto Cellini. The mirror is said to contain an image of Medusa. If he succeeds, he will be promoted; but more important is the million dollar reward that he can use to pay for Sarah’s treatment. He follows clues that lead from Florence and Paris. Tour guide scholar Olivia Levi assists him on his quest while assassins try to prevent him from achieving his mission.

The Medusa Amulet is an exciting fast-paced thriller in which the scholar faces death seemingly on every other page, which appears over the top of the Willis Tower (unless he is the cook in Steven Seagal’s Under Siege). Although the romantic subplot feels more like a forced requirement, a desperate David risks his life to gain the mirror to save Sarah; fans will enjoy joining him on his action-packed misadventures.

Harriet Klausner

The Fallen Angel-David Hewson

The Fallen Angel
David Hewson
Delacorte, Apr 26 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9780385341523

In Rome, British academic Malise Gabriel falls from scaffolding around his apartment. Police Detective Nic Costa watches the horror unfolding. At the same time Nic also observes Malise’s son fire a gun into the air and meets Mina, the other offspring of the victim.

Costa is attracted to the musical Mina though frustrated by her refusal to tell him anything related to her father’s death. He finds the other family members as silent as Mina when it comes to Malise’s demise. Being obsessive compulsive when it comes to an investigation (and food), Costa keeps digging until he finds a link back to the late sixteenth century trial and brutal death of Beatrice Cenci and her infamous abusive father Francesco.

This is a superb Italian police procedural with a strong historical anchor as David Hewson deftly connects the execution of the real Beatrice to the present day Roman holiday. Regardless of whether it is 1599 or the twenty-first century, the subplots are fast-paced yet the key players are fully developed. Costa is at his best as he revises his hypothesis as to what has happened and what might occur if he fails to remain diligent.

Harriet Klausner

City of Lost Girls -Declan Hughes

City of Lost Girls
Declan Hughes
Harper, Mar 29 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061689918

Acclaimed Hollywood film director Jack Donovan is in on location in Dublin. He becomes concerned over anonymous letters he received; thus he contacts Ed Loy, who he met in a bar fifteen years ago and put in one of his films, to look into them. At the same time extras needed as Donovan always focuses on minor characters vanish for no apparent reason. Although they are runaways and could have just moved on, Ed is asked to make inquiries.

Ed and Jack realize what is happening in Ireland occurred in California years ago. Four known people were in both locations two decades apart: Jack; cinematographer Mark Cassidy, assistant director Conor Rowan, and producer Maurice Faye. As Loy assumes the two incidents are linked, he decides one of these males is the culprit.

The latest Loy mystery (see All The Dead Voices) is a terrific serial killer whodunit. For the most part the story line is fast-paced as Loy seeks clues to identify who is the psychopathic Pied Piper offering film opportunities as candy to lure the victim. City of Lost Girls is a tense thriller as Loy struggles to protect a third female extra from becoming the next victim by uncovering the identity of the predator.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Anthem for Doomed Youth-Carola Dunn

Anthem for Doomed Youth
Carola Dunn
Minotaur, Mar 29 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312387761

In 1926, three male corpses are found in a shallow grave in Epping Forest. Local police officer Di Grant leads the inquiry until Scotland Yard’s Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher and his team arrives at the crime scene. Irate with the outside interference, Grant leaves.

Alec knows they must identify the deceased and find what connects them if they are to solve the homicides. To his chagrin as his boss told him to keep his spouse away from the case, his wife, the Honourable Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher, suggest a World War I link. One of the dead was abusive Colonel Pelham, whose wife is euphoric that the bully is dead. The two other victims were much younger than the Colonel so could have served during the war under his command. Meanwhile Daisy and her friends (Melanie and Sakari) attend a sports day at their daughters' school. The three moms meet bully boys game teacher Harriman and other teachers still suffering from their service time. When Melanie's daughter finds Harriman's corpse, Daisy protects the girls from the incompetent investigation conducted by Gant.

This is a fabulous Post WWI murder mystery starring delightful Daisy who goes out of her way to not get involved but that proves Sheer Folly as she ends up the thick of things. The story line is fast-paced yet provides a sense of being in England in 1926 through the Fletcher family and their friends, and especially through the war veterans as many suffered from undiagnosed Battle Fatigue. Fans of the series or anyone who appreciate an entertaining yet insightful early twentieth century British mystery will appreciate Anthem for Doomed Youth.

Harriet Klausner

The Ice Princess-Camilla Lackberg

The Ice Princess
Camilla Lackberg
Free Press (Simon & Schuster), Mar 29 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9781451621747

With the death of her parents, biographer Erica Falck returns home to Fjallbacka, Sweden to close their estate. She quickly realizes you cannot go home as the town has changed from a coastal fishing port to a booming tourist attraction. However, when she goes to see her childhood friend Alexandra Wijkner, she finds the woman’s wrists slashed in a tub of icy water; an apparent suicide victim. The grieving author considers writing a novel based on Alex.

As her abusive brother-in-law Lucas persuaded his wife Anna and the third sister Marianne, he demands Erica sell her parents’ home to take advantage of the thriving market. Erica begins to look into what happened to Alex. Erica meets Patrik Hedstrom, the detective investigating the death. As they team up looking into Alex’s death and begin a personal relationship, the pair finds anomalies even while someone wants the darkest secret kept concealed.

This is an exciting Swedish investigation in which the suspects provides their perspective; a technique that enhances the mystery. The town in many ways steals the story line as Fjallbacka is booming yet ironically decaying. The cast is as solid as the wintry ice, but though I cannot believe a cop on an investigation would allow a writer, especially one that he is seeing, to tag along, fans of Swedish whodunits (see the Wallander police procedural by Henning Mankell) will enjoy this engaging mystery.

Harriet Klausner

A Gentleman of Fortune: Or, The Suspicions of Miss Dido Kent-Anna Dean

A Gentleman of Fortune: Or, The Suspicions of Miss Dido Kent
Anna Dean
Minotaur, Mar 29 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312596965

In 1806 in Richmond, Miss Dido Kent sends a detailed letter to her sister Eliza re the death of Mrs. Lansdale, who passed away suddenly from a seizure. Odious Mrs. Midgely spreads the rumor of a suspicious death using the local apothecary as her evidence of foul play She also her casts doubts about the late woman’s nephew Henry Lansdale. Dido’s cousin Flora is upset with what she deems slander as she and her husband claim Henry as a friend.

Over the objection of her suitor Mr. William Lomax, Miss Dido decides to observe the townsfolk in order to determine if one of them killed the elderly Mrs. Lansdale although she still believes natural causes took the woman’s life. Miss Dido is stunned by what she learns by just watching the residents as she finds everyone especially the aristocracy tries to conceal dark secrets that have nothing to do with the death of a respectable woman.

The second wonderful Anna Dean Regency amateur sleuth (see Bellfield Hall) is much more than just a mystery as the observations and “The Deductions of Miss Dido Kent” makes for a delightful period piece. Character driven, readers will enjoy observing the heroine shining a deep light on the darkest secrets of the Ton and others.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The King of Plagues-Jonathan Maberry

The King of Plagues
Jonathan Maberry
St. Martin’s Griffin, Mar 29 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312382506

The blast at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel left thousands dead and many more injured. One hour after the deadly explosion, retired Department of Military Science agent Joe Ledger arrives to investigate the carnage caused by the terrorist attack and un-retires in a rage at the lunatics who caused this horrific violence. Not long afterward, Joe and his team are attacked by assassins of the Seven Kings who plan to rule the world with iron fists.

In Fair Isle in the Shetlands, a viral research facility is breached releasing Ebola. As other terrorist attacks raise the death toll around the world, Joe knows nothing about the Seven Kings except they seem to have much more resources than the nations of the world as this group uses modern weapons to release the Ten Plagues of the Old Testament to destroy the global economy.

The third Ledger case (see Patient Zero and The Dragon Factory) is a great action thriller that grips the audience from the opening sequence and never loses the reader's attention until the final explosive confrontation. Clearly over the top of the Wall Street-German merged exchange, the London Stock Exchange and the Bombay Stock Exchange combined; fans will relish this fast-paced modernizing of the Passover plagues. Jonathon Maberry satirizes the stock exchange-military-religious complex; as Joe learns politicians and other world rulers are expendable purchases on a ledger sheet.

Harriet Klausner

The Alpine Vengeance-Mary Daheim

The Alpine Vengeance
Mary Daheim
Ballantine, Mar 29 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345502575

Ten years ago, Larry Petersen was convicted for the murder of his sister Laura in a bank dispute (see The Alpine Fury). However, someone insists Larry is innocent and has sent anonymous letters claiming someone else provided a deathbed confession to Alpine, Washington Sheriff Milo Dodge and Alpine Advocate editor Emma Lord. Emma asks her House & Home editor, Vida Runkel if the confessor’s name means anything to her, but the Cascade Mountain town gossip queen says no.

Although Larry dies in prison from congestive heart failure just after insisting to his son he did not kill his sister, the anonymous author continues to send letters demanding justice be served. As Emma and Milo discuss the letters, poachers are raiding maples in the forests and someone kills artist Carl Laurentis just after he delivered a work to an art gallery.

This is an exhilarating mystery that has Milo and Emma hopping between The Alpine Fury (published in 1995) cold case and a new homicide during Thanksgiving in the Cascade foothills. The story line is action-packed, but the personal stuff will slow down new readers unfamiliar with the light switch relationship between the sheriff and the editor. However, long term fans will relish the whodunit ties between entries twenty two and six, and the personal references to the pasts of the lead characters.

Harriet Klausner

Mrs. Jeffries Forges Ahead-Emily Brightwell

Mrs. Jeffries Forges Ahead
Emily Brightwell
Berkley, May 3 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425241608

It is a beautiful night for a gala and the Banfield family is hosting one with two hundred guests attending. The Banfield has a long history of honorable service in support of the Crown in all corners of the Empire. However, the present generation is squabbling since patriarch Lewis married Arlette the model he loves.

Lewis’ Aunt Geraldine, the former mistress of the manor, dislikes Arlette because the woman didn’t belong to their social circle and the woman’s business activities reflect poorly on the family name. Other people also dislike Arlette with some jealous of her new status. Especially loathing the interloper are the Bickleton matriarch who don’t receive a pound to repair their furniture thanks to Arlette; she informed Lewis that Margaret Bickleton’s husband has disgusting sexual proclivities. Her mother was irate with Arlette for deciding to license a semi-nude statue of her to be mass produced. However, others hated her too, only one person put poison in her champagne. Inspector Weatherspoon investigates the case while his housekeeping staff led by Mrs. Jefferies conduct their under the stairs inquiry unbeknownst but in support of their beloved employer.

Once again, Emily Brightwell creates a delightful charming Victorian cozy in which fans will understand first-hand the social class differences in late nineteenth century England. The engaging story line is addictive leaving the audience unable to put the book aside until we learn who killed Arlette. Even with the plot using the same underlying premise as done in the almost thirty previous historical mysteries in the series (see Mrs. Jefferies Speaks her Mind), readers will enjoy watching how Inspector Weatherspoon “solves” the complicated case as seemingly most of London wanted Arlette dead.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Last Exile-E. V. Seymour

The Last Exile
E. V. Seymour
Mira, Sep 1 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9781741166125

In Birmingham, England their Control tells police officers Paul and Stu to shoot a woman fleeing from them as they thought she was a terrorist tied to a failed bomb attempt. Later they learn the person they killed was innocent. Both are forced to leave the department as someone must take the fall for the mistake though authorized by their Control.

Over the next year, remorseful Paul is an alcoholic security officer while his former partner is an emaciated drunk. M15 hires Paul to find four illegal immigrants who served prison sentences, but before they were to be deported they vanished. He is to only find the quartet and not confront any of them as immigration officials will apprehend these illegals. Given one file to work at a time, Paul solves the first case, but the wrap up is not what he expected.

Although there is no explanation as to why the two cops became the fall guys, or why they failed to fight back as others share in the wrongful death, fans will enjoy the first Paul Tallis thriller. He is guilt laden with an empty feeling inside his gut and his family relationships only enhance his hollow sense of worth. The M15 case makes for a fascinating British thriller with Tallis’ mental hell turning bleaker as his seared soul makes Dante’s Inferno seem heavenly.

Harriet Klausner

A Lesson in Secrets-Jacqueline Winspear

A Lesson in Secrets
Jacqueline Winspear
Harper, Mar 22 2011, $25.99
ISBN 9780061727672

In 1932, Maisie Dobbs is feeling the ennui of a long summer with nothing critical to do as she no longer needs to worry about making money since her mentor Dr. Maurice Blanche died and left her with his vast estate. She knows part of her boredom is grief from Maurice’s death. That abruptly ends when the British Secret Service appears for a special investigation into a pacifist who they believe he is betraying the country.

Greville Liddicote wrote a children’s book extolling the virtues of pacifism that the British government censored during WWI. Now he has opened a college in Cambridge whose mission is Pax Europe. Maisie goes undercover obtaining a position as a philosophy instructor so that she can watch the staff, faculty and students for seditious activity. However, the political war within the college already ugly turns deadly when someone kills Liddicote. While Detective Chief Superintendent Robert MacFarlane and Detective Chief Inspector Richard Stratton struggle with their inquiry into the homicide, Maisie looks at extremist groups like the new Nazis party for the killer.

The historical backdrop is super while the competing whodunit makes for an entertaining Depression Era thriller. Maisie’s new wealth reduces her personal problems in terms of earning a living vs. doing a gratis case, but her change in personal circumstances leads to new issues like what to do now with her free time. Readers will enjoy Maisie’s latest investigation as she attends school in Cambridge in which she learns A Lesson in Secrets can be fatal.

Harriet Klausner

Aunt Dimitry & the Family Tree-Nancy Atherton

Aunt Dimitry & the Family Tree
Nancy Atherton
Viking, Feb 17 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9780670022434

Following some time in New Zealand (see Aunt Dimitry Down Under), Lori Shepard returns to her home village Finch in the Cotswolds. Meanwhile her affluent father-in-law William Arthur Willis Sr. has retired from the Boston based family law firm he ran for years and has moved nearby to spend time with his seven years old twin grandchildren, son and daughter-in-law.

Lori helps William hire a live-in couple Deirdre and Declan Donovan as cook and groundskeeper. She also assists her in-law with a meet the neighbors’ party. However, strange things occur after Willis moved into Fairworth; the furniture moves and unexplained noises happen. Lori asks her amateur sleuth partner Aunt Dimity the ghost to help investigate what appears to be the paranormal. At the same time baker Sally Pyne returns from Mexico begging the American for help. In North America, she met Henrique Cocinero, who is coming to see her, but lied by telling him she is Lady Sarah of Fairworth House.

The latest Aunt Dimitry tale is more a comedy of errors looking at a Boston Brahmin invading an English village rather than a murder mystery. The story line is brisk and jocular as William the red Sox fan tries to help Lady Sarah pull off her ruse while his grandchildren know cricket not baseball. Fans will enjoy this lighthearted amusing paranormal cozy, but the bumps in the night (and day) are minor league compared to what Aunt Dimitry has dealt with in previous whodunits.

Harriet Klausner

The Wedding Shawl-Sally Goldenbaum

The Wedding Shawl
Sally Goldenbaum
Obsidian, May 3 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9780451233196

In Sea Harbor, Massachusetts, the Seaside Knitters (Nell, Birdie and Cass) are knitting a wedding shawl for Izzy Chambers who is getting married to her beloved Sam in June. Izzy’s Aunt Nell oversees the wedding preparations since her sister can not do it. They take a break to hear an author talk about a cold case. Harmony Farrow died on her graduation night fifteen years ago off of nearby quarry water. There was a lack of evidence to charge anyone with the crime including her boyfriend Andy who was not there to witness her deadly tumble.

The wedding’s hair stylist is murdered in her basement office in the salon where she worked. The Seaside Knitters learn Tiffany Ciccolo was Harmony’s best friend and was dating Andy before the murder. The police consider Tiffany’s death as a separate matter from the homicide of Harmony. The Knitters believe differently as they investigate the cases as if they are linked. While they make inquiries planning to uncover the culprit’s identity before the nuptials, the killer reacts by slicing their tires and painting a warning message on Izzy’s door. The assault only compels the four females to work harder on catching the killer.

The colorful New England coastal atmosphere enhances the entertaining charming cozy. Like the Knitters readers believe Andy is innocent of both homicides, but is the link between the murders of the two females. However, besides dating both, the Knitters struggle to find why someone besides Andy would kill the two young ladies. The wedding Shawl is a fun regional Seaside Knitters amateur sleuth who done it(see A Holiday Yarn).

Harriet Klausner

Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders-Gyles Brandreth

Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders
Gyles Brandreth
Touchstone, May 3 2011, $14.00
ISBN 9781439153680

In 1890 the elite of English aristocratic society attend a party hosted by Duchess Albemarle. The next day, the news reported the Duchess died over night from a heart attack.

In fact the press was fed false information to avoid a panic. Albemarle was found in the telephone room partially naked with cuts all over her body and two puncture holes in the jugular vein area. The Prince of Wales directs fellow attendees Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle to investigate the murder discreetly to prevent a scandal. While reporter Robert Sherard makes inquires as he believes the media has been duped, the two writers encounter theater manager Bram Stoker and artist Rex LaSalle who insists he is a vampire.

The latest Oscar Wilde late Victorian investigation is an engaging whodunit but the rotating perspective makes the story line more difficult to follow than the previous mysteries (see Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man's Smile, and Oscar Wilde and a Game Called Murder). Wilde and Doyle are a fascinating match-up as two witty writers who have a different vision of Victorian England. They make the tale fun in spite of the seemingly unnecessary complicated changes in viewpoint.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The School of Night-Louis Bayard

The School of Night
Louis Bayard
Henry Holt, Mar 29 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9780805090697

Elizabethan scholar Henry Cavendish declared the poem by Raleigh as genuine only to later be humiliated when it is proven to be a fake. His career dead, he takes whatever work he can scrape up to get by. His only friend is historical document collector Alonzo Wax, but Henry is stunned when his crony commits suicide and he is named as the estate executor. Before he killed himself, Alonzo informed Henry that he possesses a segment of a letter that discusses the secret School of Night, where five Elizabethan intellects heretically debated theology of the Black Arts vs. science.

Henry leans that Wax revealed his secret to Clarissa Dale who claims a psychic connection to one of those late sixteenth century scholars Thomas Harriot the scientist. Antique book collector Bernard Styles insists the letter is his as he accuses Wax of theft. Soon a murder occurs and the Wax collection is stolen. Henry and Clarissa team up to follow clues to the North Carolina Outer Banks where a shocker awaits them as they follow the trail of Harriot and his lover Margaret Crookenshanks.

This is a super amateur sleuth with a refreshing subplot involving the actual School of Night real persona; Harriot for instance was a genuine scientist and readers heard of Marlowe and Rolfe. The story line is fast-paced in both eras with the modern period containing several superb twists. Louis Bayard provides an entertaining intelligent thriller as readers travel with Henry have just begun in North Carolina.

Harriet Klausner

Pumped for Murder--Elaine Viets

Pumped for Murder
Elaine Viets
Obsidian, May 3 2011, $23.95
ISBN: 9780451233202

After settling most of her legal problems in St. Louis, Helen Hawthorne reclaims her identity and marries her lover Phil. They met when both rented apartments in the Coronado Tropic Complex. They also decide to open up their own private investigative firm with an office in one of the apartments they are leasing thanks to a landlady who believes in them so only charges them a fee of $1 per year for the rental.

After recommendations from their neighbors, two clients hire them. Gus the car mechanic thinks someone years ago murdered his brother although the police ruled his death a suicide. Shelby wants them to determine whether her husband is cheating on her at Fantastic Fitness where he spends most of his time. Helen obtains a dead end job as a receptionist at Fantastic Fitness. While she never sees her client’s husband philandering with women, she sees a lot of illegal activity including steroid use by body building competitors. One of the women training for a competition is murdered and a bull-headed cop abuses an elderly and the timid woman and then arrests her.. Helen vows to find the real killer while she and Phil work on satisfying their paying customers.

Phil a licensed P.I trains his wife so she can also be certified as their professional and personal relation adds a new dimension to the long running Dead-End Job mystery (see Killer Cuts and Clubbed to Death). The two paying cases and the third unofficial inquiry are filled with action as the fascinating cases rotate prime focus. Elaine Viets provides another great mystery worth reading as even with her name cleared; the heroine ends up working a dead-end job; albeit undercover.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Before Cain Strikes-Joshua Corin

Before Cain Strikes
Joshua Corin
Mira, Mar 22 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778329336

When Esme Stuart married, she quit her career as an FBI agent. However, recently she has had doubts whether she should have left the Feds. She is brought back as a consultant because a case she worked seems to have ties to a current murderer’s row investigation. Her return to work is marred when her husband Rafe and their child Sophie are kidnapped (see While Galileo Preys).

While her spouse blames Esme for his abduction, she realizes a serial killer is mentoring students to be predators. Professor Cain42 tells his graduating class to go out and have murderous fun. Though her involvement may cost her marriage, Esme vows to flunk the mentor and the class.

The sequel to While Galileo Preys is a fast-paced thriller as the audience anticipates a shoot-out at the OK Corral; in this case a bed and breakfast. The villains are psychopaths being mentored by one of the most disturbing predators in years; Professor Cain 42 teaches a lesson that “family values” can be negative. Family values are also an issue for Esme and Rafe as he makes a powerful argument that she inadvertently takes her work home, endangering her family. Although the ending is over the top of the Keystone Cops, readers will enjoy this insightful look at how much an agent sacrifices to do her job legally with due diligence.

Harriet Klausner

In Desperation-Rick Mofina

In Desperation
Rick Mofina
Mira, Mar 22 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9780778329480

In Mexico reporter Jack Gannon investigates a situation when he receives the call from the last person he expected to phone him as he assumed she was dead. From Mesa Mirage, Arizona his sister Cora Martin, who has not spoken to him in two decades, begs him to help her. Someone kidnapped her tweener daughter Tilly demanding five million in five days that they insist her boss at Quick Draw Courier stole from them or the eleven years old child will be dead. Afraid to turn to the cops, frantic Cora pleads with her sibling to find her.

Fuming at her deception, Gannon works closely with the FBI while wondering why his sibling was apparently in hiding all these years and from who; the likely kidnapper. To his surprise he begins to find a tie to his Mexican investigation as time is running out on a niece he has never met.

This excellent thriller is loaded with suspense that feels real especially the reactions by the two siblings as they deal with her San Francisco “mistake” that led to her vanishing and her boss’ rip off of the laundered money from the Mexican Norte Cartel that led to the abduction. While the days count down in a death watch, readers will appreciate this powerful fast-paced tale in which a family reunion appears deadly; summed up by Jack that nothing truly breaks the basic law of economics in which we demand drugs and the cartels supply them.

Harriet Klausner

Deadly Threads-Jane Cleland

Deadly Threads
Jane Cleland
St. Martin’s, Apr 12 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312586560

In Rocky Point, New Hampshire, antiques store owner and expert hosts a series of classes. Her next class focuses on vintage-clothing collection with guest lecturer Riley Jordan to make the presentation. However, when affluent and amiable Riley fails to arrive on time, Josie begins the talk. She reaches under the display table to show the attendees an exquisite pair of Chanel heels. Instead she finds Riley’s corpse.

Police chief Ellis Hunter investigates the homicide of a woman who apparently was well liked. He has two prime suspects. One works for Josie while the other is the philandering spouse of the victim. Although Hunter recognizes the possibility of a third unknown person as the killer, the only clues at the crime scene are a pearl and platinum button. Additionally Josie's assistant Gretchen saw a silver car leave suddenly. The will leaves Bobby with nothing and assigns Josie to dispose of Riley's fabulous vintage clothing collection, other valuables, and money.

The latest Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery (see Antiques To Die For and Silent Auction) contains a fabulous whodunit as Elias the cop and Josie the consultant investigate the murder of a vintage clothing collection. The lecture series as well as the evidence allows Josie to not only work the case, but to provide antiques information to readers; neatly interwoven inside an entertaining mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Dead Man: Face of Evil-Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin

The Dead Man: Face of Evil
Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin
CreateSpace, Feb 26 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9781460920589

In February 2011 at Mammoth Peaks Resort, Barney and Sophie Slezak and their little daughter Kate build a snowman when the child finds the snow buried body of Widower Matt Cahill. Barney’s video goes pandemic on YouTube while the Forest Rangers bring the corpse to the Clarion County Morgue where Assistant Coroner Lyle Whitaker begins the autopsy on the body buried beneath an avalanche for three months when he sees the impossible: blood.

Matt returns to the living to the shock of every medical person involved in the case. As everyone wants a piece of Matt; Rachel, from the firm B. Barer and Sons Sawmill he quit when they downsized his friend Andy Goodis, shared a room with him when they went skiing just before the deadly accident. She takes him home form the hospital. However, he begins seeing things starting with a hole in Andy’s face that is not there and a man stalking him that no one else notices. As people in his sphere die horrifically, Matt learns what love and friendship means in his second chance at life.

The Face of Evil is a fabulous suspense novella that grips the audience from the moment Lyle takes that first slice and never slows down as Matt’s past, present and future converge. Fast-paced, readers will wonder what is going on and who the serial killer is as the evidence mounts that Matt’s near death experience has left him psychopathic with only Rachel believing he would never hurt anyone. With a nod to Stephen King’s The Dead Zone, readers will enjoy the opening of The Dead Man saga.

Harriet Klausner

Damaged Goods-Heather Sharfeddin

Damaged Goods
Heather Sharfeddin
Bantam, Mar 22 2011, $15.00
ISBN 9780385341882

In Willamette Valley, Oregon three months ago, Swift Consignment Auction owner and auctioneer Hershel Swift was in a car accident. Although healed sort of, his memory is like Swiss cheese filled with holes. However, as he struggles with memory failures and language issues, he sees the looks of his employees filled with loathing and his customers displaying contempt. Hershel vows with his second life to be a considerate of others better person; while he wonders why he was driving at night on a dark isolated road.

When Silvie Thorne’s vehicle brakes down, Herschel rescues her and gives her a place to stay, but illegally sells her junker and what it contains. She knows she must keep moving as the psychopath stalks her to reclaim the lockbox she took from him; this predator will use excessive force including murder and molestation to gain what he wants while hiding his destructive nature behind a badge. Silvie fears staying put will hurt her Good Samaritan while Hershel begins to learn about his unethical business practices and the hurt he made his mom feel. He believes, unlike Sylvie, he caused his own problems, Silvie is an innocent caught in an unattainable situation. He will be there for her if she lets him.

This is an exciting suspense thriller with a romantic subplot that is wisely kept in a secondary support role. Although memory loss is an ancient device, the fresh story line is character driven by the lead pair as each has issues to contend with from their respective pasts, but most pressing is her immediate problem as this potentially is deadly.

Harriet Klausner

Evil Éclairs-Jessica Beck

Evil Éclairs
Jessica Beck
Minotaur, Apr 26 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312541071

April Springs, North Carolina is the location of the well known Donut Hearts; owned and operated by Suzanne Hart. Her store is turning a profit, but not by much. As she prepares to go to sleep, she hears controversial radio talk host Lester Moorefield call her product poison and labels her a killer for selling unhealthy food. He finishes his diatribe with calling for a boycott of the “deadly dough”.

Furious, she goes down to the station only to see him smoking a cigarette. Her shouting at him lets everyone know they are feuding. Later the cops escort Suzanne to acrime scene where Lester created his show. The police chief questions Suzanne as someone murdered the radio jock leaving a Donut Hearts’ éclair stuffed in the victim’s mouth. Business slides as some of her customers believe Suzanne is the killer. To regain her reputation and save her shop, she and her friends Grace and George investigate only to find a horde of suspects with viable motives; many of whom she respects and likes.

Perhaps the only warning needed for the latest Donut Shop mystery (see Sinister Sprinkles and Fatally Frosted) is not to read it on an empty stomach because each chapter contains a recipe for a type of donut. A romantic subplot between Suzanne and her State Police boyfriend Jake enhances the tale (just think what he must be putting up with dating a donut baker). Readers will admire the spunky heroine and her loyal sidekicks as they investigate death by pastry in a cute Carolina cozy.

Harriet Klausner

The Sixth Man-David Baldacci

The Sixth Man
David Baldacci
Grand Central, Apr 19 2011, $27.99
ISBN: 9780446573108

Former Secret service Agent Sean King believes he owes his former mentor lawyer Ted Bergin big time. So Sean feels good when his friend hires him and his partner Michele Maxwell to help in the defense of alleged serial killer Edgar Roy.

Edgar is being held in an isolated supermax psychiatric facility where the most dangerous criminal psychopaths are incarcerated. He was caught in his barn and soon after authorities found the remains of six bodies he was digging a grave for. A genius who worked for the IRS, Edgar left his job to work somewhere else. Sean and Michele drive to meet Ted when they see flashing hazard lights on an isolated road. They stop to see if the driver needs help only to find inside Ted who is dead. Determined to avenge his friend’s murder, Sean and Michele dig deep into the Edgar case, but the more they uncover, the more they learn that the inmate has incredibly powerful enemies at the top levels of government who want him dead without a trial. As people associated with Edgar are murdered and attempts on the two sleuths increase, several groups have plans for Edgar.

The latest King-Maxwell investigative thriller (see Split Second and First Family) is a terrific action-packed tale that explodes on the first page and intensifies to such a degree that the armchair reader will believes our lives are in peril too. While the relationship between the lead sleuths is tested, fans will wonder if this could be figuratively be the end as partners. In spite of a conspiracy seemingly over the top of the Washington Monument, David Baldacci shows his talent by convincing the audience that this thriller is true crime.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party-Alexander McCall Smith

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party
Alexander McCall Smith
Pantheon, Mar 22 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9780307378392

In Botswana, Mma Precious Ramotswe grieves having to sell her van to a scrap dealer in an act of euthanasia as the vehicle has been her traveling companion for years. However, life still goes on at the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Nervous Mr. Moeti refuses to enter the office so Mma Ramotswe agrees to meet him at a nearby café. Though obviously frightened and ready to flee, he hires her to look into the death of two cattle in the small village of Gaborone.

Meanwhile Mma Ramotswe keeps seeing her van on the road as does her assistant Mma Grace Makutsi, who also is getting married soon to Mr. Phuti Radiphuti. Violet Sephotho announces she is running for Parliament while Mma Ramotswe tells her husband Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni learns an apprentice mechanic at his Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors Charlie apparently sired baby twins.

As always with this wonderful series (see The Double Comfort Safari Club), Alexander McCall Smith provides a terrific entry in which the kindhearted Prudence works on resolving personal issues as well as her client’s case. The story line gives readers a profound look at the Botswana culture through the heroine and the supporting ensemble cast. Consistently the best anti-hardboiled detective stories, fans will enjoy the wisdom of Mma Ramotswe as the owner of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.

Harriet Klausner

Healer's Heresy-Alex Matthews

Healer's Heresy
Alex Matthews
Veiled Intent Press, Apr 1 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780979475610

In Chicago, Jordan Wenzlaff was a patient of therapist Cassidy McCabe because he was stalking Dr. Claudia Leavitt until she took out a restraining order against him. Cassidy believes that Jordan finally got over his obsession.

That is until he comes to her home late at night to tell her he entered Claudia’s home since the door was open. Cassidy’s reporter husband Zach notices his wife’s patient smells of alcohol and has blood on his clothing. Jordan informs the therapist that he saw Claudia on her floor with a bullet hole in her chest. He carried her to her bedroom and tucked her in bed like she was sleeping. Since he knows the cops will question him, Jordan demands Cassidy destroy his files; she agrees only if he signs a waiver that allows her to keep her spouse informed. The married couple investigates Claudia’s background. They learn she picked up men especially celebrities; stayed with them for a few months; and dumped them. Clues lead them to a killer ready to pounce.

It has been almost three years since the last McCabe mystery (see Murder’s Madness), but readers will agree that Alex Matthews has made the wait worth the time as she still has her mojo. The story line is action-packed as the inquiry leads the lead couple into a scenario that has them struggling to stay alive. They are a dynamic still in love adorable duet. Yet ironically in many ways the character driven tale is owned by the disturbed Jordan and the late Claudia; both possess psychological excesses only the doctor concealed hers while the patient overtly displayed his. This is a terrific psychotherapy murder mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Devil Red-Joe R. Lansdale

Devil Red
Joe R. Lansdale
Knopf, Mar 15 2011, $24.00
ISBN: 9780307270986

In East Texas crime solving partners Hap Collins and Leonard Pine agree to look into a two year old cold case. The white Collins and the Black Leonard look at the file, which contains photos of the murder scene. In the pictures they notice a devil's head scribbled in blood. The killer is a murderer who has quite a number of kills across the country as they recognize the trademark.

Hap and Leonard soon find numerous suspects who could be the infamous Devil Red. As they dig deeper, the odd sleuthing couple suddenly believes Devil Red is coming for them. They debate waiting for the psychopath or continuing their search for him; either way Hap and Leonard expect high noon in East Texas.

The latest Collins and Pine Florida jocular hard-boiled bloody noir (see Vanilla Ride) is a great tale due to a strong investigation that leads the duet and readers to reconsider moral values especially relationships. As always there is plenty of sex and gore, but also as usual in between the bodily fluids is a tense plot. Joe R. Lansdale pulls no punches in this terrific taut thriller

Harriet Klausner

The Bone House-Brian Freeman

The Bone House
Brian Freeman
Minotaur, Mar 29 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312562830

In Door County, Wisconsin, teacher Mark Bradley is accused of an affair with a teenage student Tresa Fischer. Both deny the accusations though the pupil admits she has a crush on Mark. He is fired as the townsfolk figuratively inscribe a P on his forehead for “predator”. His wife Hilary believes him.

Tresa’s sister Glory is drunk when she sees Mark on a Florida beach alone at three in the morning. She offers her body to him, but instead he tells her he is taking her home. Later that same morning, Glory’s corpse is found near the hotel where the Bradleys are staying. The police suspect he killed his lover’s sibling in a passion rage. Already irate over the injustice he suffered; Mark is stunned when he realizes he is the only person of interest. While Hilary investigates to prove her spouse’s innocence, Florida Detective Cab Bolton tries to break the suspect, but begins to believe the wife’s dangerous theory even as her faith in Mark is beginning to shatter.

This is a super police procedural-amateur sleuth thriller starring a powerful cast and loaded with twisting action from start to finish. Readers will believe Mark is innocent but like his wife soon will wonder if he is guilty of homicide and sex with a minor. Coincidence like being alone on a Naples beach at three in the morning propels the tension and sense of guilt so that readers will appreciate this taut thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, March 4, 2011

Phantom Evil-Heather Graham

Phantom Evil
Heather Graham
Mira, Mar 29 2011, $24.95
ISBN 9780778329534

The wife of Louisiana State Senator David Holloway, Regina falls from the balcony of their mansion to her death. The New Orleans Police Department investigates and concludes Regina committed suicide as she still grieved the loss of her son Jacob due to a DUI several months ago.

Adam Harrison sends his special investigative team to New Orleans to look into the Holloway death. The unit is led by Jackson Crow, who used to work for the Fed’s Behavioral Sciences Unit. He, his team of five, and paranormal pragmatic Virginia police officer Angela Hawkins who can detect the supernatural arrive at the Holloway mansion in the French Quarters. Their mission is to determine whether the supernatural was involved in the woman’s fall. Soon they revise the objective to staying alive.

No one writes romantic urban fantasy better than Heather Graham does as she consistently blends suspense with the paranormal. Her latest thriller Phantom Evil uses the disturbing past of people who resided in what appears to be a haunted house with modern day supernatural happenings. Readers will hear the bumps in the night as Ms. Graham provides another powerful New Orleans paranormal romantic suspense thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Body in the Gazebo-Katherine Hall Page

The Body in the Gazebo
Katherine Hall Page
Morrow, Apr 19 2011, $23.99
ISBN 9780061474262

In Aleford, Massachusetts, an audit of the Aleford's First Parish Church reports $10,000 missing from the minister's discretionary fund. The only person with access to his money is Reverend Thomas Fairchild, so obviously he is the prime suspect. Having solved mysteries before, Thomas’ devoted wife caterer Faith Fairchild resolves to learn the truth as she knows her spouse would never steal funds.

At the same time she begins her inquiry into the missing money and calming her shocked spouse, her friend Pix Miller's mother Ursula Rowe asks Faith to help her deal with accusatory letters she recently received that disturbs the ailing woman. Someone threatens to reveal secrets that date back decades that has Ursula suffering from anxiety.

Faith is at her hectic best as she investigates who took the missing funds that directly impact her family, tries to help her stunned spouse and Pox’s mom, and work her catering business; of course there are also the kids. Readers will feel exhausted wondering when Faith goes to sleep. Fast paced as always in this regional amateur sleuth (see The Body in the Sleigh), fans will appreciate feisty Faith Fairchild’s fabulous inquiries.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Lightkeeper's Ball-Colleen Coble

The Lightkeeper's Ball
Colleen Coble
Thomas Nelson, Apr 19 2011, $14.99
ISBN 9781595542687

In 1910, the Stewart family is one of the upper crust Four Hundred who own New York City High Society. Olivia Stewart rejects the notion of a marriage of social convenience, but knows she needs an excuse to escape the pressure from her family. Her alibi is not what she would have wanted, as her sister Eleanor died in Mercy Falls, California.

Olivia heads to Northern California to investigate the death of her sibling; her only suspect is Eleanor’s fiancé Harrison Bennett. Accidents begin to hamper her progress starting with nearly drowning in San Francisco Bay; her rescuer is Harrison. As she begins to believe someone is trying to kill her, she changes her mind that Harrison is a killer. He, in turn, has good cause not to trust a Stewart though he is attracted to the sister of his late fiancée at a time when Olivia turns to Harrison to keep her safe.

The third Mercy Falls romantic suspense (see Lightkeeper's Bride and The Lightkeeper's Daughter) is an engaging historical mystery as Olivia wonders whether the man she has fallen in love with killed her sister and wants to murder her too though he did save her life several times. The story line is fast-paced while enabling armchair readers to feel they are in northern California a century ago. Although the killer’s motive seems extremely weak, readers will enjoy Colleen Coble’s entertaining early twentieth century tale.

Harriet Klausner

Vienna Waltz-Teresa Grant

Vienna Waltz
Teresa Grant
Kensington, Apr 1 2011, $15.00
ISBN 9780758254238

Following the defeat of Napoleon, the European leadership gathers in Vienna to discuss how to draw the new boundaries. Though security is at intense levels with the foreign ministers of the superpowers in attendance, someone kills Russian Princess Tatiana Kirsanova.

British diplomat Malcolm Rannoch is looking at Tatiana’s corpse in her quarters when his wife Suzanne arrives. He swears he just got there only a few minutes before her. Each insists they were summoned there. Although she has major doubts about her spouse’s voracity, Suzanne teams up with Malcolm to investigate who murdered the Russian beauty before a diplomatic nightmare devastates the Congress of Vienna before it can begin in earnest.

Using real persona (Tallyrand, Metternich, Castlereagh and Wellington, etc.) and events like the festivities that occurred due to the end of the latest war to end all wars and the subsequent Congress of Vienna peace conference of 1814-1815 to anchor time and place, Teresa Grant provides an excellent historical amateur sleuth historical mystery. Suzanne believes her spouse is hiding the real reason he was in Tatiana’s room though to her that is obvious. Still she joins him as the couple investigates who murdered the Russian royal before the homicide kills the Congress of Vienna efforts to redraw the map in order to prevent another Napoleonic Era of war.

Harriet Klausner

I Can't Make You Love Me, but I Can Make You Leave-Dixie Cash

I Can't Make You Love Me, but I Can Make You Leave
Dixie Cash
Morrow, Apr 5 2011, $13.99
ISBN 9780061910142

The former "Queen of Country Music" Darla Denman is on tour with an entourage riding the bus with her. Her former spouse and still dedicated manager Big Bob and his second wife Roxie Jo are part of the retinue. In fact Roxie Joe is the opening act to Darla.

When they reach Salt Lick, Texas, Roxi Jo falls apart. Big Bob hires the Domestic Equalizers as backup singers though Debbie Sue Overstreet and Edwina Perkins-Martin are beauticians and sleuths. When the tour reaches Midland, Roxie Jo is found stabbed to death by a nail file in her dressing room; Darla confesses. The Domestic Equalizers believe Darla did not kill the trophy wife though they cannot fathom why their favorite singer confessed.

The latest Domestic Equalizers investigation (see Our Red Hot Romance Is Leaving Me Blue) is perhaps the best of the jocular series as the zany duet work a murder mystery in which a confession has already occurred. Fans will enjoy the humorous homespun wisdom of the BFFs as they cause their usual havoc while seeking evidence to prove their theory that their American idol is no stinking killer. Sisters Cash provide a delightful tale that will have amused fans humming I Can't Make You Love Me, but I Can Make You Leave.

Harriet Klausner

Typhoon-Charles Cumming

Charles Cumming
St. Martin’s Griffin, Mar 1 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312654207

The year is 1997 and British M16 Agent Joe Lennox and CIA Operative Miles Coolidge are polar opposites in their personal lives and how they perform their job. Whereas Joe is a reflective introvert who sees the full cost of a scenario from all sides; Mile is a take the hill extrovert who does not give damn about costs even collateral damage to innocent people. This pair clash personally and professionally just a few months before the British leave Hong Kong to the Chinese.

Miles steals Joe’s girlfriend as the hand off of the city ends the latter’s mission. Han Chinese scholar Professor Wang Kaixuan, climbing out of the South China Sea, claims he has proof on China’s human-rights violations against the Uighur population in Xinjiang. The scholar was to work with Joe, but he vanishes. Miles takes the professor and makes him a critical element in Project Typhoon, a scheme to subvert the Chinese government. Over a decade later, M16 learns of the revival of failed Typhoon under Miles’ tutelage; Joe volunteers to learn the truth though he loathes the man who married the woman he still loves.

Typhoon is an intriguing espionage thriller in which the enemies are albeit on the same side. However, what makes this super is the chaos and personal baggage that fog professional decisions. Readers will enjoy touring China with guides Joe and Miles as Charles Cumming provides a cerebral spy thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Par for the Corpse-T. Dawn Richard

Par for the Corpse
T. Dawn Richard
Five Star, Apr 6 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594149559

Late sixties May Bell List travels to Moody Lake; the site is where Pendersnack the fisherman caught the hair of a human corpse. Harvest Police Officer Mike Murphy is unhappy to see May arrive at the murder scene; while she is elated to see her favorite law enforcement official already there. May identifies the body as golfer widower Moira Finch who apparently was killed by an altered gardening tool.

After a stomach wrenching stop at Spokane General for the autopsy, May Bell goes undercover at the Northside Country Club where the victim played. She pretends to need a job due to monetary troubles and is hired by grounds supervisor Jeff Gullikson. Meanwhile at the site where Finch was found, campers are raging over a thief stealing from them while May finds the body of Buddy Shields apparently killed by a modified gardening tool. May and the grounds-crew investigate with her prime suspect being the nice man who just hired her.

Although Par for the Course has the amateur sleuth flaw of a civilian risking their life doing a dangerous investigation for no apparent motive; fans will enjoy May Bell’s latest inquiry (see (Death for Dessert and A Wrinkle in Crime) into homicides linked by the club. The case is lighthearted fun as sub-genre readers will enjoy a couple rounds with the intrepid zany May Bell on case.

Harriet Klausner