Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Naperville White House: How One Man's Fantasy Changed Government s Reality-Jerome Bartels

The Naperville White House: How One Man's Fantasy Changed Government s Reality
Jerome Bartels
Bancroft, Dec 31 2010, $14.95
ISBN: 9781890862916

In 2019 former White House press secretary Jerome Bartels seeks the truth as to what happened last year as too many anomalies have surfaced. The part time Radio Shack employee looks back to what occurred last year to set the record straight though he fears his manuscript will be censored.

In Naperville, Illinois insurance adjustor Jay Weise works during the day for NetHealth. At night and weekends Jay is POTUS. He and people around the world belong to The International Organization of Fantasy Governments with Jay being the President of the United States. Chief of counterintelligence John Sykes informs his boss that someone in his cabinet is a terrorist with plans for abducting other members. Weise worries that Sykes is mixing reality with gaming so he fires him, but everything his counter intelligence chief said turns out to be real as Al Qaeda terrorists hold hostage several Americans. They demand information on an alleged anti-terrorist biological weapon. Weise may have been roll playing but the enemy is not. While the other White House and Congress act impotently, Weise takes charge he and his cabinet try to stop the terrorists.

This whimsical political parody is an engaging thriller that will grip the audience once we readers adjust to the format and the concept. The role playing cast to include Weise and his middle class working cabinet seem like real gamers who adjust their role playing from virtual Nationizing to real recue the hostages. Mr. Bartels’ journalist account is a complicated tale that condemns DC power brokers as the role players pretending or divergent action (think of Contract with American – one passed and that was unconstitutional) rather than real solutions.

Harriet Klausner

The Samaritan-Stephen Besecker

The Samaritan
Stephen Besecker
Bancroft, Jul 14 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9781610880091

When half Seneca Kevin "Hatch" Easter was nine years old, his parents died. He moved into the home of his shaman grandfather on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation. Hatch never felt at home until as an adult he met and married Karen. Hatch took a position with the Central Intelligence Agency and became a highly regarded Tracker

He died figuratively when his wife and her sister Patricia Durante were murdered in a mob collection hit at Rudy’s Tavern in the Bronx. Boss Tony D knows the stupidity of murdering two innocent sisters and a paying customer over 15 K, but worse his nephew collector Cercone left fingerprints on the throat of Easter. To satisfy the media and NYPD, he assigns Cercone to kill his triggerman Taliaferro to close the case. However, someone refuses to accept case closed. That individual like a ghost hunts down anyone remotely associated with the murders in the Bronx as this stalker feels an infinite degree of connection for those who must die. The police detectives Montroy and Philips worry about being killed; New York Post reporter Butera gleefully sees homicide as his path to superstardom; while the CIA fears one of their own has gone vigilante.

This is a terrific New York thriller that grips the audience from the moment the mob enters the tavern and never slows down as the corpses including collateral damage pile around the city. Although at times the action seems implausible, the suspenseful story line is fast-paced with a nod to the movie Die Hard, but also contains strong twists. Readers will appreciate this entertaining murderers’ row.

Harriet Klausner

Long Gone-Alafair Burke

Long Gone
Alafair Burke
Harper, Jun 21 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061999185

In Manhattan, Drew Campbell hires thirty something Alice Humphrey to manage his new Highline Gallery. Unemployed for months Alice loves her job. However, a few weeks after starting Alice arrives at the gallery to find it empty except for Campbell's corpse. NYPD suspects she murdered her lover and has proof of a picture of them together in a very friendly pose. Furthermore they think she used the gallery that is in her name to her shock to distribute child porn.

A stunned Alice seeks information on Drew and the gallery, neither seems to have existed. At the same time a PTSD FBI agent unofficially investigates the death of his sister while a teenager in Upstate New York vanished without a trace. Alice, the fed and a small town cop will cross paths as each investigate seemingly unrelated crimes.

The three prime subplots are at times overwhelming; the Alice in the rabbit hole can definitely stand alone while the other two cannot. However each is an intense psychological suspense as someone struggles with what is going on whether it is Alice, the Fed or the teen’s mom. Alice owns the tale as she learns identity is not as simple as it may seem.

Harriet Klausner

Hotel Bosphorus-Esmahan Aykol

Hotel Bosphorus
Esmahan Aykol
Bitter Lemon, Jun 3 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9781904738688

Forty three year old German expatriate Kati Hirschel was actually born in Istanbul, but moved away with her parents when she was seven years old. However, Turkey felt like home for the single woman so she returned thirteen years ago and remained there since as the owner of a crime bookshop.

Kati’s friend from university Petra Vogel the movie star is in town as the star of a film. They have not seen each other in about fifteen years but look forward to the reunion. When they meet once the Ministry approves the project, both are excited. However, someone murders the film director Kurt Muller. The police suspect Petra killed him as this homicide was allegedly the end of a romantic tango. Petra denies being the victim’s lover or killer. Kati has doubts about her friend’s innocence but investigates the murder at the hotel

This is an engaging Turkish amateur sleuth in which the local culture and the city on two continents own the story line. Readers will need a leap of acceptance wider than the Bosphorus Strait that Kati makes inquiries and more so that the local cop shares his information with her. With the clues to the murder back in Germany, fans will appreciate Kati’s witty tour of Istanbul to include her mental male stripping as she works the case.

Harriet Klausner

The Vault-Boyd Morrison

The Vault
Boyd Morrison
Touchstone, Jul 5 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9781439181829

Gordian Engineering Special Operations Chief Dr. Tyler Locke was ten minutes into his commute on a ferry from Seattle to Bremerton when his cell phone receives a text message from an unknown caller whose words are answer his phone or die in twenty eight minutes. Locke responds to the person’s next call when he says he planted binary explosives on the ferry and wants Locke to defuse it as a test to prove whether he can handle a special job; failure means death for him and the rest on board. He heads to a truck where he finds waiting for him is Chasing the Past TV host and classical languages expert Stacy Benedict who interprets the Greek instructions so he can defuse the bomb that he created from Archimedes’ geolabe for Jordan Orr and save her kidnapped sister Carol and those on the ferry.

Solving the puzzle with seconds to spare, they learn this pretest is to prove they have a reasonable chance to find King Midas’s lost treasure. To do so the pair will need to interpret the arcane Antikythera Mechanism’s cryptic clues; another puzzling deadly device created by Archimedes over two millennia ago. Failure to find the loot in five days will result in loved ones like Carol being brutally murdered; success will save Carol, but cause mass destruction to others.

The above is just the opening act of an exhilarating action-packed thriller that hooks the audience from the first text message to the confrontations in New York and elsewhere. Readers will never look at the Hudson sediment in the same way as Boyd Morrison provides a taut thriller that never allows the heroes or fans to take a respite.

Harriet Klausner

The Knowledge of Good and Evil-Glenn Kleier

The Knowledge of Good and Evil
Glenn Kleier
Tor, Jul 19 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780765323774

Survivor guilt though he was only a child when his parents’ died in a tragic plane crash years ago, Ian Baringer has spent the next couple of decades trying to contact them. Currently the former priest skeptically believes in the afterlife though his hope is weakening with years of failure to achieve his obsession. He works on the talk show Probing the Paranormal as an investigator while his lover agnostic psychiatrist Dr. Angela Weber is the show’s host.

Finally reaching a breaking point where he needs to know either way, the OCD Ian decides to prove the soul survives the body dying by experiencing a near death incident. A shocked Angela who loves the troubled Ian pleads with him to no avail. Determined, he will prove the theory either way, but soon finds the secretive Ordo Arma Christi brothers want him dead before he conducts the experiment as this Order believe they must prevent Ian from biting the apple.

This thought provoking exhilarating thriller asks many questions about religious dogma, but is not limited to the afterlife as Glenn Kleier questions contradictions for instance between free will and forbidden fruits of knowledge. Ian is the key to the plot, as he suffers from survivor induced obsessive compulsive behavior that has worsened in reaction to his beliefs shrinking. Angelia is a loyal wonderful person who refuses to give up on the man she loves although she fears he is losing his mind to his obsession. The story line is fast-paced as the lead pair abruptly finds themselves being hunted by a cell who rejects the concept that man has the right to know anything about the afterlife.

Harriet Klausner

The Paradise Prophecy-Robert Browne

The Paradise Prophecy
Robert Browne
Dutton, Jul 21 2011, $25.95
ISBN 9780525952237

At Trinity Baptist College in Harrison, Louisiana, Professor Sebastian “Batty” LaLaurie teaches Religious Studies and Rhetoric, but is on administrative leave due to a lecture that condemns God. A widower, he suffers from nightmares and has turned to alcohol to abate the pain of his wife Rebecca’s death while acknowledging his beliefs were shattered when she died.

The State Department Section unit sends agent Bernadette Callahan to Sao Paulo, Brazil to investigate the burning death of Christian singer Gabriela Zuada. The locals swear the devil murdered Gabriela, but the American thinks a serial killer added her to the list of the dead. Needing expertise into the occult and Milton, Bernadette contacts Batty whose nightmares come from surviving a trek beyond. She shows him Gabriela’s picture and he reacts stunned as she stars in his dark dreams with her death mirroring that of his late wife. The professor and the agent follow the homicides to Istanbul, but the potential Armageddon is in Los Angeles where Michael the Archangel walks the earth hunting down rogue angels harming the offspring of Adam and Eve, and Beliel and her three Fallen teammates meet.

With nods to Milton’s Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, and to the Walken Prophecy movies, The Paradise Prophecy is a superb rendition of good and evil as the agents of God and Satan battle for the souls of mankind. Action-packed from the onset, Batty the “fallen” Milton scholar and Bernadette the pragmatic doubter make a delightful pairing as they argue over the clues starting with the toasted corpses that he insists come from agents of Hell and she insists the one doing the killing is a psychopath. Fans will appreciate Robert Browne’s excellent thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 30, 2011

Revenger-Rory Clements

Rory Clements
Bantam, Jun 21 2011, $25.00
ISBN 9780385342841

John Shakespeare retired from field work to be with his wife Catherine and their four years old daughter Mary. He teaches at a small school and finds his two females superseding the excitement he had working for Queen Elizabeth.

Since he has been a family man since leaving the intelligencer field, John is surprised when the Earl of Essex asks him to investigate the disappearance of the Roanoke colonists who are rumored to be safe and sound in London. Essex’s rival Queen Elizabeth's Privy Councilor spymaster Sir Robert Cecil does not trust the Earl who he thinks might have seditious schemes. As such, Sir Cecil orders Shakespeare to serve the Queen as he did five years ago (see Martyr).

Revenger is a great Elizabethan mystery as readers will feel they are in London during a tumultuous period in the Queen’s reign with the Spanish war on-going, a plague devastating London, and intrigue inside her royal court. The mystery of Roanoke is handled deftly while Shakespeare proves worthy as he holds the plot together while not shocking to him finds strange even perverted bedfellows on both sides of the argument between Cecil and Essex.

Harriet Klausner

Killing Frost-Patricia Wynn

Killing Frost
Patricia Wynn
Pemberley, Jul 1 2011, $29.95
ISBN 9781935421016

By January 1716, the winter is so cold the Thames has frozen. As is the custom when the river freezes over, a Frost Fair is constructed. However, one early morning, a body garbed in a coronation suit is found against a wood booth. The frozen corpse is Sir Walter Tatham, who officials affirm was brutally murdered.

Lord Harrowby Hawkhurst had recently been visited by the deceased so he asks Hester Kean, who know the dead man and has solved homicides before (see The Spider’s Touch and The Motive from the Deed) to make inquiries into the victim’s recent dealings. Though she asks why he is interested, he offers no explanation even as he looks sickly panicked. Hester, in turn, asks her friend, Viscount St. Mars who also earns a living as the highwayman Blue Satan, to assist her. Although he already has a difficult mission to liberate a Jacobite from Newgate, he agrees to join her on the investigation.

Historical mystery fans will wear mittens and a woolen hat while reading this terrific early Georgian era whodunit as the worst winter in over a century makes it dangerous to be outside. The story line brings to life early eighteenth century London and nearby towns as well as the political enmity that has divided the country during the reign of the first Hanover opposed by supporters of the Stuart “Great Pretender”. Since the Birth of the Blue Satan, this series has been a winner with each entry.

Harriet Klausner

Blood of the Reich-William Dietrich

Blood of the Reich
William Dietrich
Harper, Jun 28 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780061989186

In 1938 Berlin, Reichfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler sends Kurt Raeder to Tibet to investigate rumors of a secret force that allegedly brings eternal life. At the same time Museum of Natural History zoologist Benjamin Hood, and pilot Beth Colloway need to prevent the Nazis from obtaining the substance.

In present day Seattle, a journalist saves software peddler Romminy Pickett from certain death when her car explodes. He explains he is writing an article on Tibet and that her heritage may save the world from evil. Sam Mackenzie and Romminy team up starting with investigating her birth and following up with what happened in Berlin, New York and ultimately the Himalayas just before WWII exploded as neo-Nazis try to capture them for nefarious malevolent reasons.

This is a great gripping thriller that will be on the year’s short lists for action packed adventure tales. The two subplots rotate with each exciting yet nicely paired before converging into a super climax mindful of Indiana Jones that Spielberg should consider filming. Fans will appreciate the globetrotting escapades in 1938 and today as they meet at the top of the world.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Watch Me Die-Erica Spindler

Watch Me Die
Erica Spindler
Minotaur, Jun 21 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312363949

In New Orleans, Mira Gallier loves her caring husband and her vocation as a stained-glass restoration artist. However Katrina changed everything for the woman with a seemingly perfect life when her spouse was washed away and much of her work ruined.

It has been several years of grief since The Hurricane destroyed her life but finally Mira begins to move on emotionally. However, she is shocked when someone breaks the church windows she has restored. That is terrible but the vandalism does not compare with the murder of a priest near one of her restoration projects; the culprit left behind a graffiti message from the bible sprayed on the window. More homicides with biblical references left behind and seemingly tied to Mira and her work occurs. NOPD homicide detective Spencer Malone leads the investigation in which the prime suspect is Mira.

With a nod to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, readers will feel Mira’s angst and fears as she has only recently recovered from Katrina turning her into a widow and now those close to her are being slaughtered by a maniacal believer. She is so distraught she fears for her mind. With post Katrina New Orleans as the backdrop, Erica Spindler provides a taut psychological suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 27, 2011

Telling Lies-Cathi Stoler

Telling Lies
Cathi Stoler
Camel Press, Apr 11 2011, $17.95
ISBN: 9781603818438

Magazine Editor Laurel Imperiole and NYPD Identity Theft chief Aaron Gerrard are on vacation in Florence, Italy. At the Uffizi Museum, Laurel accidently bumps into a man she assumes is an Italian. As she apologizes in Italian and English, she realizes he is Jeff Sargasso who died in the Twin Towers on 9/11.

Although Aaron and the museum Dottore security chief thinks she lost her mind but Laurel knew Jeff for a decade and was with his grieving widow Monica when the authorities presumed her husband was dead. Laurel recalls that Sargasso, an art dealer, was working on a nine-digit dollar sale of a masterpiece lost during World War II between CEO Alfred Hammersmith who also died in the WTC terrorist attack and billionaire MMJapan Corporation CEO Miayamu Moto. Laurel meets and pairs up with private investigator Helen McCorkendale; as they follow leads back to New York while dealing with Mossad operative Lior Stern and unscrupulous collectors. Aaron warns her to back off, but Laurel and Helen continue the hunt for Sargasso and the painting.

This is an exhilarating art investigative thriller with several neat twists. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Jeff and laurel bump into each other and never slows down. Filled with action, but containing a strong cast, readers will want to know why Jeff decided to be dead while Laurel obsesses over the case to the point that trust becomes an issue. Readers will relish Cathi Stoler’s taut tale of deception.

Harriet Klausner

The Reservoir
John Milliken Thompson
Other Press, Jun 21 2011, $15.95
ISBN: 9781590514443

In 1885 Richmond, Virginia, the body of a pregnant white female is found in the city reservoir in what seems to be a suicide. However there is some counter evidence nearby so the police investigate beause there is pressure to solve the homicide of Lillian Madison.

Nearing retirement, Police Justice Daniel Cincinnatus Richardson heads the inquiry at the same time Detective Jack Wren coerces potential witnesses. Looking into Lillie’s relationships leads the cop to the Cluverius brothers, Tommie the ambitious lawyer and Willie the steadfast farmer. Due to temperament Richardson believes Tommie the hothead killed his mistress in a fit of rage over the entangled triangle, but it is Willie who is caught in the trial’s crosshairs.

Based on a true trial, this exciting historical thriller grips the audience once the players, time and place are established. The story line uses flashbacks to tell the tale of the triangle while also providing a strong inquiry and trial. John Milliken Thompson will have readers pondering the issue of love of family as the author deftly examines how far a person will go to protect a loved one.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Mistress's Revenge-Tamar Cohen

The Mistress's Revenge
Tamar Cohen
Free Press (Simon and Schuster), Jun 7 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9781451632828

For five years Sally Islip and Clive Gooding had an affair until he broke it off. Upset, she begins to keep a journal addressed to Clive. To his chagrin she publishes her musings anonymously though all know who the overweight egomaniac male is.

As Clive is frustrated with his ex, he takes another blow to his portly gut when Sally becomes friends to his wife and adult children. Over the top Clive vows revenge. Meanwhile despondent Sally seems even gloomier each day while someone hacks into her email and sends ugly notes to her employers. Though it costs her a living, her dark depression keeps her fueled in her assault on Clive.

This is a very dark relationship drama that makes Fatal Attraction seem tame as obsessive compulsive disorder turns the loving obsession into the loathing obsession. Sally cannot stop herself while Clive has been hooked with a need to avenge what she has done to him. However, the cost to their respective extended families will soon come home to roost. Not for everyone, readers will wonder what the boundaries of revenge are.

Harriet Klausner

East on Sunset-Ken Mercer

East on Sunset
Ken Mercer
Minotaur, Jun 7 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312558376

Fired from LAPD ironically due to drug use as he was a narcotics detective, Will Magowan has turned his life around in the past few months. He has reconciled with his beloved wife Laurie and they are expecting a baby. He has obtained employment as a security guard for the L.A. Dodgers, which is great for a baseball fan like Will.

Erik Crandall was arrested and convicted on a drug charge; he spent five years in prison but is free. He believes Will stole the stash during the bust and plans to collect for the drugs with interest. Crandall demands Magowan give him his fair share, but Will insists he never stole the drugs. However, the raging ruthless ex convict increases the pressure, which Magowan counters in order to keep his pregnant spouse out of harm’s way.

Magowan’s latest thriller (see Slow Fire) is a terrific tense suspense as the audience anticipates a final confrontation. Crandall is obsessed over the stolen drugs but only focuses on the ex cop; Magowan is as obsessed but his focus is on keeping Laurie and their unborn safe. Readers will enjoy High Noon East on Sunset as Will’s unsavory past has returned to haunt him and his beloved.

Harriet Klausner

Highway 61-David Housewright

Highway 61
David Housewright
Minotaur, Jun 7 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312642303

In the Twin Cities, former cop, affluence Rushmore McKenzie has doubts about helping the ex husband Jason Truhler of his current lover Nina. However, he cannot say no to Nina’s eighteen years old daughter Erica so he agrees to see what he can do.

Jason attended the Thunder Bay Blues Festival in Ontario. He met a girl on the way, but woke up the next day in a dumpy motel on Highway 61 with the corpse of his new companion on the floor. He quietly left without notifying the authorities. Truhler insists he has no memory after picking up the female until he awakened to the horror, but someone obviously does as he is being blackmailed with photos. McKenzie begins to unravel a clever scheme, but soon learns his client has not been honest as he finds himself in the crosshairs of nasty individuals like Big and Little Joe, and Backdraft and Bug, as well as the Twin Cities’ most influential.

In his latest favor (see The Taking of Libbie, SD), Rushmore McKenzie is at his best as he muses over the outcome of good intentions in a caper that is too close to home. The story line is fast-paced as the hero figures out the motel game, but unprepared for the truth about Truhler. Instead of case closed, McKenzie finds deadly felons with ugly intent and even more lethal powerhouses with uglier intent targeting him. Readers will think twice before venturing on Highway 61.

Harriet Klausner

Paradise Dogs-Man Martin

Paradise Dogs
Man Martin
Dunne, Jun 7 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312662561

In 1965 Florida, realtor Adam Newman dreams of one thing, a person he once had as his wife Evelyn but no more. He muses about how happier he was when he and Evelyn managed legendary Paradise Dogs roadside hotdog diner. He is successful but knows that is nothing without Evelyn.

Ironically only Adam would want a second chance with one woman while engaged to another. He tries to help his son Addison compete for a coed against his older half brother while also searching for $250,000 in diamonds not belonging to him that he misplaced. However before he assists his offspring, finds the diamonds, delivers a newborn, works a land deal, loses his Evelyn again (though he never actually had her for the second time),and more involving the Russians are coming; he needs a drink.

Paradise Dogs is a fun Florida tale although there is too much frenzied humor that overwhelms at times the thin plot. With a nod to It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, fans who enjoy an out of control nostalgic thriller will enjoy Adam’s strange sense of second chances as he recalls his happiest moment was selling dirty dogs but ignores the grease burns.

Harriet Klausner

The Borgia Betrayal-Sara Poole

The Borgia Betrayal
Sara Poole
St. Martin’s Griffin, Jun 7 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312609849

In 1493 Alexander VI has sat on Saint Peter’s chair for a year though there are plenty of adversaries and rivals who want him removed preferably dispatched to hell. His employee Francesca the Poisoner continues her vigil to keep the formerly named Rodrigo Borgia alive as the Pope. Francesca owes it to her late murdered father.

However, her killing rivals have left her suffering nightmares and visits from ghoulish phantoms of those she has murdered. Her only solace is her affair with her boss’ son Cesare. Alexander’s other son Juan protects the priest who Francesca owes a death debt to.

The sequel to Poison continues the deadly fascinating escapades of Francesca at the beginning of the Renaissance as her life is totally intertwined with the Borgia family. Although attempts to use fifteenth century dialect adds a sense of time and place, the speech patterns feels forced and slows down the pace. Still fascinatingly feisty Francesca is a great character as she poisons the enemies of her employer, her lover and herself though she waits impatiently to provide her form of justice to the priest and perhaps to his host.

Harriet Klausner

The Return of Captain John Emmett-Elizabeth Speller

The Return of Captain John Emmett
Elizabeth Speller
Houghton Mifflin and Harcourt, Jul 5 2011, $26.00
ISBN: 9780547511696

In 1920, Laurence Bartram still struggles though three years have passed since he saw combat on the continent. The war and a family tragedy have left the widower a shell of his former self. He hides in London not wanting to see anyone.

A former girlfriend Mary Emmett sends him a note informing him that her brother John who served as an officer committed suicide at a veteran’s hospital. She wants to know why her sibling killed himself. Thinking of Mary and John, Laurence accompanied by his only friend Charles Carfax investigates the death of John. They quickly learn Emmett was involved in the execution of an officer who was court martialed for desertion. More clues follow as the daunting duet deduce what happened, but more regiment deaths follow.

This is a terrific post WWI thriller starring a hero who suffers from battle fatigue, but regains some equilibrium when he receives Mary’s message. The deadly investigation forces Bartram to look inside at the demons from his combat experiences that haunt him. Although the inquiry depends on luck at key moments, fans will appreciate the two amateur sleuths seeking the truth as to whether Emmett was murdered or committed suicide.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Do You Remember Me Now?-Karen Hanson Stuyk

Do You Remember Me Now?
Karen Hanson Stuyk
Five Star, Jun 8 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594149580

“The Six” were the bullies at high school in Houston fifteen years ago. Nobody crossed them as the retaliation was always extreme.

In the present in Chicago, married Todd, one of the Six, picks up a woman at a bar. The next day he is found dead in his hotel room.

At the same time, divorced Chicago plastic surgeon Dr. Kate Dalton attended the same school where the sextet treated her nastily as “Plain Jane”. In fact Todd date raped her, left her pregnant, but her baby died at birth and she had to have her uterus removed. She moved past them, lost weight, had her face fixed, and kept her married name. Kate is back in Houston to tend to her critically ill mother suffering from Leukemia. At the time her former school is hosting the fifteenth anniversary gala that she does not plan to attend. However, someone else has a different idea for fun; which focuses on killing the Six and since she was a victim who was in Chicago when number one died, police detective Sam Wolfe suspects Kate, but is also attracted to her.

Karen Hanson Stuyk makes a strong case that teen bullying not dealt with at the time lingers with those who were the victims. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Todd meets his fate and never slows down as other members of the Six are killed too. With the exception of the former quarterback, the rest of the Six come across as stereotypes of high school icons who never changed as adults and the killer seems obvious relatively early. Still this is an entertaining romantic police procedural that cautions readers to be aware of and deal with bullying.

Harriet Klausner

Fallen Angels-Alice Duncan

Fallen Angels
Alice Duncan
Five Star, Jun 8 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594149597

In Los Angeles, Boston Brahmin Mercy Allcutt works as a secretary for former police officer turned private investigator Ernest Templeton. Mercy’s duties are supposed to be strictly office, but she sometimes gets involved in field work.

Currently she searches for her boss who has been hired by Persephone Chalmers to recover stolen jewelry. The secretary enters the Chalmers’ residence only to find the client dead. Searching for her employer, Mercy locates him tied up and gagged. She frees him, but the cops believe Mercy is covering for Ernie who is the only murder suspect. Mercy investigates by following the money trail as Ernie always suggests; this includes donations by the victim to the Adelaide Burkhard Emmanuel School of Religion.

Readers will enjoy Mercy’s latest 1920s Los Angeles mystery (see Angel's Flight) as the fascinating heroine is a sheltered courageous young female who works the investigation. Besides the deep time and place that readers will feel they are visiting inside a fun whodunit; it is the comparison between the gentle aristocratic Mercy and the kick butt street wise Ernie that makes the tale. She is cozy and he is nor.

Harriet Klausner

A Stranger Like You-A Stranger Like You

A Stranger Like You
A Stranger Like You
Elizabeth Brundage
Plume, May 17 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780452297098

Gladiator Films producer Hedda Chase rejects the script of The Adjuster that her late predecessor approved. The scriptwriter New Jersey insurance underwriter Hugh Waters rages. His violence against women script contains no hint of a redeeming quality. Leaving his wife behind, a fuming, in spite of being paid for his script, Hugh goes to Hollywood to confront Hedda.

In her driveway, he demands she explain why she said no. He ignoring her response as nothing she says will appease him. Instead Hugh drugs Hedda and dumps her in the trunk of her BMW. He drives her car to A Los Angeles Airport parking lot and leaves. He next meets and becomes friends with Hedda's married boyfriend documentary filmmaker Tom Foster. Hugh begins a reinvented life in California while Hedda struggles to survive as her car is stolen by war veteran Denny and Daisy a runaway heading to Vegas.

This is an exciting psychological thriller that deftly follows the thoughts and escapades of the lead trio (Hugh, Hedda, and Denny) though the viewpoints applied differ as for instance the producer is from a second person POVand almost seems like a camera perspective; the others are more first and third person. Entertaining, fans will enjoy this fine tale in which Hollywood considers going Abu Dhabi.

Harriet Klausner

Plume, May 17 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780452297098

Gladiator Films producer Hedda Chase rejects the script of The Adjuster that her late predecessor approved. The scriptwriter New Jersey insurance underwriter Hugh Waters rages. His violence against women script contains no hint of a redeeming quality. Leaving his wife behind, a fuming, in spite of being paid for his script, Hugh goes to Hollywood to confront Hedda.

In her driveway, he demands she explain why she said no. He ignoring her response as nothing she says will appease him. Instead Hugh drugs Hedda and dumps her in the trunk of her BMW. He drives her car to A Los Angeles Airport parking lot and leaves. He next meets and becomes friends with Hedda's married boyfriend documentary filmmaker Tom Foster. Hugh begins a reinvented life in California while Hedda struggles to survive as her car is stolen by war veteran Denny and Daisy a runaway heading to Vegas.

This is an exciting psychological thriller that deftly follows the thoughts and escapades of the lead trio (Hugh, Hedda, and Denny) though the viewpoints applied differ as for instance the producer is from a second person POVand almost seems like a camera perspective; the others are more first and third person. Entertaining, fans will enjoy this fine tale in which Hollywood considers going Abu Dhabi.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Striking Back-Mark Nykanen

Striking Back
Mark Nykanen
Bell Bridge, May 10 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9781611940169

Over twenty years ago someone killed Gwyn Sander’s abusive stepfather. The policed assumed the teen having had enough killed him, but whether it was a blue decision that justice was served there was no evidence to arrest let alone convict Gwyn or anyone for that matter.

For the last decade therapist Gwyn Sanders has run a spousal abusers group. However, she was unprepared for the savage murder by Alfred Croce of his wife who attended Gwyn’s sessions. Not long afterward an avenger begins killing the male abusers whose wives belong to Gwyn’s group. The culprit knows insider information as each murder is customized to mimic the victim’s brutalization of women. The circumstantial evidence points to Gwyn with one theory being the Croce homicide triggered her dormant anger at violent men as she assumedly did to her stepfather.

This is a terrific amateur sleuth-police procedural as the beleaguered heroine refuses to be a victim again. Although the story line goes down the path anticipated, the key to making this a strong thriller is the diabolical villain who cleverly remains in plain sight and has the ability to change plans when needed. With an underlying plea to victims to get help, readers will relish Striking Back as Mark Nykanen provides a gripping whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

The Lion-Nelson DeMille

The Lion
Nelson DeMille
Grand Central, Jun 7 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780446699600

Years ago Asad the Libyan “Lion” Kahil fooled the Americans into believing he was defecting only to begin a Jihad avenging vendetta for the 1983 deaths of his family by Reagan; he was somewhat stopped by then NYPD Detective John Corey and FBI Agent Kate Mayfield (see The Lion's Game), but escaped. A lot has happened in the ensuing years as 9/11 changed the security landscape, and Kate and John are married though she remains with the FBI and he is retired from NYPD. Both work for the Federal Antiterrorism task Force.

Khalil has returned to America using an Egyptian passport granted to a Hasheem. The outcome of his objective is either home or paradise as he begins round two of killing Americans in the United States for what they did to his family. In the Catskills, he attacks John and Kate while they were skydiving. Kate is severely hurt by a hard landing while John vows the family vendetta between Kahil and him has just been raised with one of them seeing their maker rather soon.

This exciting sequel hooks the audience starting with the skydiving incident and never releases us until the climax. Readers anticipate a final confrontation between two super heavyweights whose first match ended in a draw. Although the Corey wisecracking asides remains humorous, it feels out of place as the body count grows. Still fans will enjoy the rematch as Nelson DeMille writes an entertaining but very linear thriller that asks did the billions spent in security money make us safer.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Beg for Mercy-Jami Alden

Beg for Mercy
Jami Alden
Forever, Jun 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780446572804

Seattle Police Detective Cole Williams investigates the rape and murder of twenty-one year old Evangeline Gordon. There was not much to do as the overwhelming evidence pointed to decorated war veteran Sean Flynn. The King County prosecutor Krista Slater wins a death sentence verdict against the convicted Sean. Only his sister Megan believes he is innocent and does all she can to save her sibling’s life. As for Cole, the case cost him his beloved Megan.

A few years later, Sean has accepted his fate and wants no more appeals. Instead he demands the state set a date. Silently Megan rejects his decision, but knows time is running out for her brother. She finds homicide patterns that match the Gordon murder, but the politicians and the media are satisfied as neither group wants to be proven wrong especially by a mad woman. However, her court appointed case teenager Devany Sinclair changes the dynamics when she hysterically calls her advocate Megan re a bloody corpse. Cole arrives to investigate. He always regretted how he dealt with Megan three years ago and prays he has a second chance knowing his job or his woman were at stake. Cole is unaware that his woman’s life is at also on the line.

This is an exhilarating investigative thriller that grips the audience from the moment Sean drops any future appeals once the state Supreme Court rejects his latest and never slows down as the reader feels the desperation that Megan has to save his life. Filled with action, but character driven by the heroine, sub-genre fans will appreciate this taut suspense that keeps the second chance at love in the background, and look forward to Slater’s follow up case.

Harriet Klausner

The Valley of Shadows-Mark Terry

The Valley of Shadows
Mark Terry
Oceanview, Jun 7 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9781933515946

US forces conduct a raid of an Al-Qaeda compound in Pakistan. The Special Forces unit captures laptops that contain plans for terrorist attacks using all types of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) on any or all of Washington, New York, Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles on Election Day.

Department of Homeland Security Special Terrorism Activity Response Team is assigned to find the terrorists, especially the cell leader art history Professor Miraj “Kalakar” Khan, and their WMDs. The mission is like finding a needle in a haystack, but also must be done in two days or else. The DSH Director adds his top field agent Derek Stillwater to the unit.

Besides the timeliness with the Bin Laden death, the fourth Derek Stillwater thriller (see The Fallen, The Devil’s Pitchfork and The Serpent's Kiss) is an action-packed tale that has readers running alongside of Derek and his mates. The story line is fast-paced as the clock ticks away. Although with the exception of his on and off nuclear expert girlfriend Cassandra, the unit is somewhat shallow (then again this is Derek’s story), fans of a thrill a paragraph will relish The Valley of Shadows.

Harriet Klausner

Remember Ben Clayton-Stephen Harrigan

Remember Ben Clayton
Stephen Harrigan
Knopf, May 24 2011, $26.95
ISBN: 978-0307265814

Ben Clayton died in France during WW I. His grieving father, Texas rancher Lamar wants to honor his beloved late child so he decides to hire a sculptor to create a statue paying homage to Ben. Lamar hires New York renowned artist Gil Gilheaney.

Gil arrives at the Clayton ranch near San Antonio accompanied by his assistant his daughter Maureen. He researches the lives of father and son as he believes his masterpiece will come from understanding the Clayton family. To his surprise and joy, Gil learns the Comanche kidnapped and raised Lamar and his sister while Indians also massacred the housekeeper. At the same time Maureen feels stifled by her father as she wants to do her own projects.

This dark historical thriller focuses on death and violence more so than the making of a bronze statue; though both sides add up to a great tale. The war to end wars may be over, but the mental and physical aftermath haunt the survivors like the father whose son died and the disfigured soldier who would have preferred to have died along side of his late comrade in arms Ben. Gruesome (warning not to eat just prior to the calf scene), Stephen Harrigan argues that by our despairing need to remember our Ben Clayton, we honor our hopelessness that everyone faces a final act.

Harrier Klausner

Fool’s Republic-Gordon W. Dale

Fool’s Republic
Gordon W. Dale
North Atlantic Books, May 10 2011, $19.99
ISBN: 9781556439728

Simon Wyley resides in a clinical white eight by eight cell. Like his customized externally imposed numbers to identify him with, Wylie knows his latest prison symbolizes his entire life with the lack of color. The room also lacks sound except when he talks to a white wall or white sheet as even the faucets lack the constant drumming of drips as no water comes from them.

Wyley is a husband and father who has been gainfully employed for two decades yet now lingers in a pristine cell with the only interaction is with his interrogators who want him to confess to his crimes against the state. Ironically he thinks of the republic demanding rights overseas, but his was stripped away by some vague national security mumbo jumbo. None of the inquisitionist professionals have formally charged him with a crime nor allowed him any contact with his family or a lawyer; as he has vanished into their white box. However, this genus whimsically answers the questioners with satirical vagueness as he increasingly has no hope to ever leaving his cell alive.

The eerie background feels right for this stark timely political thriller (the Patriot Act quietly has been renewed once again). The story line echoes Benjamin Franklin’s wise commentary that “He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither". Fool’s Republic is a terrific look at how easily the government gives and takes away under the guise of national security. Simon and readers will learn that to officials there are worse treasonous acts than betraying the nation, the Constitution or the people.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 20, 2011

Misery Bay-Steve Hamilton

Misery Bay
Steve Hamilton
Minotaur, Jun 7 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312380434

Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan Police Chief Roy Maven visits retired Detroit cop Alex McKnight at the Glasgow Inn. Maven bites his tongue as he asks private investigator McKnight to help a friend, U.S. Marshal Charles "Raz" Razniewski. Raz is the father of a "suicide" victim who took his life two months ago at Misery Bay overlooking Lake Superior. Apparently two other college students killed themselves at that same location too.

McKnight agrees to investigate although he does not hide his feelings that the dad sadly seeking a different closure explanation cannot accept his son hung himself. He changes his mind when Raz is murdered and soon afterward so are the fathers of the other “suicides”. McKnight and Maven team up on the inquiry accompanied by FBI field agent Janet Long.

The latest Alex McKnight Michigan investigative thriller (see A Stolen Season) is a great tale with the twist from previous cases being the professional rivals forge a strong cooperative team. With a ruthless killer on the loose reminding McKnight of the bullet lodged near his heart in a frozen pristine Paradise, fans will relish the M&M (and Long) whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Misery Bay-Steve Hamilton

Misery Bay
Steve Hamilton
Minotaur, Jun 7 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312380434

Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan Police Chief Roy Maven visits retired Detroit cop Alex McKnight at the Glasgow Inn. Maven bites his tongue as he asks private investigator McKnight to help a friend, U.S. Marshal Charles "Raz" Razniewski. Raz is the father of a "suicide" victim who took his life two months ago at Misery Bay overlooking Lake Superior. Apparently two other college students killed themselves at that same location too.

McKnight agrees to investigate although he does not hide his feelings that the dad sadly seeking a different closure explanation cannot accept his son hung himself. He changes his mind when Raz is murdered and soon afterward so are the fathers of the other “suicides”. McKnight and Maven team up on the inquiry accompanied by FBI field agent Janet Long.

The latest Alex McKnight Michigan investigative thriller (see A Stolen Season) is a great tale with the twist from previous cases being the professional rivals forge a strong cooperative team. With a ruthless killer on the loose reminding McKnight of the bullet lodged near his heart in a frozen pristine Paradise, fans will relish the M&M (and Long) whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Deed to Death-D.B. Henson

Deed to Death
D.B. Henson
Touchstone, Jul 5 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 1451649606

When her mother walked out on her husband and their young child, Toni Matthews walled up her emotions. Over the next two decades plus, she had boyfriends and friends, but no one melted the tundra that surrounded her heart. That changes when Toni, a twenty-nine years old successful Nashville realtor meets affluent architect Scott Chadwick. He dissolved her ice berg heart and they become engaged.

Seventy-two hours before their wedding ceremony, Toni needs a file she left in Scott’s car. She goes to Scott’s office only to learn her fiancé is dead. The police decide that his fall at one of his construction sites was a suicide. Toni buries her beloved fiancé on their wedding day. She rejects the official cause of death as she knew him too well to accept he killed himself. Instead Toni believes Scott died in a tragic accident until she finds his pen in the construction elevator, she now thinks someone pushed him to his death. When Scott’s estranged brother Brian contests the will, Toni knows she found the motive; now she needs proof, as someone watches her to insure if she gets too close to the truth she joins her dead fiancé.

This novel is part amateur sleuth mystery and part women’s fiction as the heroine deals with the death of a loved who she believes was murdered; readers will empathize for her and pray she does not relapse behind a glacier. Filled with angst, Deed to Death is a fantastic thriller due entirely to terrific Toni whose dysfunctional detached emotions make for a deep tale.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hawaiian Crosswinds-Linda Lee Chaikin

Hawaiian Crosswinds
Linda Lee Chaikin
Moody, Jun 1 2011, $13.99
ISBN: 9780802437501

In 1892 Hawaii, Rafe Easton has second thoughts about agreeing to postpone his wedding to his beloved Eden Derrington for a year (see The Spoils of Eden). He knows how much Eden wants to work with her father at his clinic at the Molokai leper’s colony while he continues his efforts to abolish the monarchy ruled by Queen Liliuokalani, and have the United States annex the Hawaiian Islands.

Rafe learns Towsend Derrington, who’s responsible for his father’s death, is in San Francisco. He is deeply concerned as in Nob Hill residing at his partner Parker Judson’s abode are his mom Celestine and his baby Kip who he rescued last year and recently received legislative permission to adopt. Fearing for their lives, Rafe revises his plans to take a steamer to California in order to hunt down his father’s killer before the man harms Celestine and Kip. At the same time Eden is in peril too.

The second Dawn of Hawaii historical thriller brings to life the kingdom at a time of “crosswinds” changes sweeping the island though the impacts on two extended families (Easton and Derrington clans) and their friends. The story line is anchored in time and place by real persona and locations like the leper colony, and historical tidbits. Although it behooves fans to first read the Spoils of Eden to understand how the lead pair and others got to where they are at the start of Hawaiian Crosswinds, fans will enjoy Linda Lee Chaikin’s epic drama.

Harriet Klausner

Trader of Secrets-Steve Martini

Trader of Secrets
Steve Martini
Morrow, May 31 2011, $26.99
ISBN: 9780061930232

Assassin Muerte "the Mexicutioner" Liquida seeks vengeance against San Diego, California lawyer Paul Madriani and his friends for interfering with his deadly business (see Guardian of Lies and The Rule of Nine). He has already left Paul's investigative friend Herman Diggs critically wounded and mounts a violent attack against Paul though his daughter Sarah.

Madriani’s partner Harry Hinds and his girlfriend Joselyn Cole persuade him they need to go after the killer before he murders them. They follow his lethal path to Thailand and from there to Paris. However, they soon find themselves in the middle of stolen NASA technology that in the wrong hands uses nature to release destructive energy exponentially stronger than a nuclear bomb.

Not sure how the law firm stays afloat, as the Mexicutioner saga is predominantly an international thriller that fans who have read at least the previous two books will enjoy. Although over the top of Doi Inthanon and the Eifel Tower, readers who ignore plausibility (he previously dealt with a nuke in this arc) will appreciate Madriani and company globetrotting to catch their adversary and prevent the deployment of another weapon of mass destruction.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 16, 2011

You Belong to Me-Karen Rose

You Belong to Me
Karen Rose
Signet, Jun 7 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451233578

Early in the morning while singing along with ZZ Top, Baltimore medical examiner Dr. Lucy Trask jogs. She stops when she notices sexagenarian Mr. Pugh sitting by himself at a chess table. She assumes he wandered out of his apartment so she goes over to help him home only to find the Alzheimer’s ailing man dead with his face gone. She calls 911; Baltimore PD Detectives J.D. Fitzpatrick and Stevie Mazzetti lead the inquiry. The shoes are wrong leading Trask to realize the victim is not Mr. Pugh.

The victim is identified as Christopher Jones due to cheek implants, but the cops find Jones alive. Lucy realizes the deceased is cosmetic surgeon Dr. Russ Bennett, who she has a history with. Soon other tortured dead are found, some of which the M.E. knows. Lucy wonders if the psychopath is tied to the decades old incident that left her distrusting people.

This is a strong police procedural with a deep cast starting with the beleaguered heroine, the cop who she likes but avoids and the amoral killer. Fast-paced with superb twists, readers will relish this terrific tale of an insane predatory killing machine lacking any societal restraints.

Harriet Klausner

Death Before Bedtime-Gore Vidal writing as Edgar Box

Death Before Bedtime
Gore Vidal writing as Edgar Box
Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, Mar 22 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9780307741431

Highly respected United States Senator Leander Rhodes asks Manhattan based public relations expert Peter Sargent to visit him at his home. He wants Peter to help him develop his PR plan for his run for the presidency and to stay on staff to work the media.

However, the night before Rhodes is to announce his candidacy, someone murders the senator in his bed. Out of work at least as a presidential candidate’s publicist, Sargent investigates who killed the respected reactionary politician. He finds a wealth of suspects with motives and opportunity to include the victim’s immediate family (of which he shared a sleeper car with the victim’s daughter Ellen from New York to DC), an aide and an ambitious Governor who craved being a senator.

This reprint of a satirical 1950s amateur sleuth is a fun timely tale that lampoons the cynical pompousness of the DC insiders starting with ”don’t call him Dusty” Rhodes (obviously not a NY Giant fan) chairman of the Spoils and Patronage Committee (both political parties can apply). Peter is terrific as he works the case of the murder of his client, which in his mind means getting into the DC dirt. Death Before Bedtime is a terrific political whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Ranger-Ace Atkins

The Ranger
Ace Atkins
Putnam, Jun 9 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780399157486

On duty in Afghanistan U.S. Army Ranger Quinn Colson returns home to Jericho, Mississippi to attend the funeral of his beloved role model Uncle Hampton Beckett. Quinn is stunned when he arrives home to learn his uncle the town’s former sheriff committed suicide.

Long time friend Deputy Lillie Virgil rejects the notion that Hampton shot himself. She believes he was murdered. Knowing Lillie is not a person to pull punches, Quinn makes inquiries into his uncle’s death only to find official and unofficial opposition. He learns that while he was serving his country, meth deals own Jericho. Though threatened with violence, Quinn with Lillie covering his back fights the drug dealers and corrupt officials closing their eyes on chemical cooking.

This is an exciting violent homecoming filled with non stop action as Quinn finds Mississippi burning as much as Afghanistan. Fast-paced though following the classic theme of a lone cowboy cleaning up a corrupt outlaw town (see Bronson’s Mr. Majestyk and Ladd’s Shane), the freshness comes from a subplot in which Quinn muses about what he would be if he never left Mississippi. Readers will not be able to put down Colson’s return to Jericho.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Pug's Tale-Alison Pace

A Pug's Tale
Alison Pace
Berkley, Jun 7 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425241196

Painting restorer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Hope McNeill loves her work and Max the pug who technically belongs to Ben the Lawyers without Borders boyfriend currently in Africa. She is euphoric when MOMA announces a Pug Night gala in honor of a substantial donation from philanthropist Daphne Markham, a pug lover especially her Madeline. Hope escorts Max to the shindig

The event turns into a canine free for all as the unleashed pugs attack the food; but Max also goes after Madeline and in the process soaks Daphne in the Temple of Dendur Hall. As MOMA’s host Gil Turner rages and Daphne dries off, Hope takes Max to her cubicle in the Conservation Studio. She realizes shock number two when Max “shows” her that a valuable Henri Fantin Latour painting was inappropriately taken to the area. Hope reports to her superior Elliot Death what she found and soon realizes the painting was a fake; he decides not to bring in NYPD at this time. However, she also knows she is the prime suspect so with Max at her side, Hope investigates only to obtain allies as a professional sleuth, a shih tzu owner and Daphne join her inquiry.

This is a fun lighthearted amateur sleuth for canine caper fans as Max’s ability to delineate a fake from a real painting is catchy. The entertaining story line is leisurely paced as pugs need pit stops. Still dog lovers will especially enjoy the return to Pug Hill as Hope and her significant other Max the dog accompanied by other strays investigate the stolen painting.

Harriet Klausner

How to Moon a Cat-Rebecca M. Hale

How to Moon a Cat
Rebecca M. Hale
Berkley, Jul 5 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425242179

Since her Uncle Oscar passed away, his niece Rebecca took over his antique store The Green Vase and his apartment in San Francisco. Very few people shop at the Green Vase so the niece depends on Rupert the cat finding hidden packs of money that Oscar hid all over his abode. Rupert’s latest find is not money but a toy bear holding a sign saying Nevada City. That is where Tour of California starts and hopefully a clue to a hidden Oscar treasure.

Hoping to avoid Frank Lapis who pressured her and almost killed her trying to ger uncle’s secrets; Rebecca, her two cats (Rupert and Isabella) and Monty the nosy neighbor head to Nevada City where she finds another bear with a sign that says Sutter Fort. They head there next while meeting two men in disguise who follow the niece to see what treasure she finds. One of the villains plans to steal the treasure and kill her; the other has a different shocker for Oscar’s niece.

This exciting road trip goes from danger to humor and back as the adorable cats are brilliant tacticians who amusingly but cleverly maneuver the niece somewhat for treats but often to keep her safe. Fast-paced, cozy readers who enjoy something different will relish the charming Cats and Curios Mysteries (see Nine Lives Last Forever and How to Wash a Cat) as Oscar’s niece continues her dangerous adventures into the weird whimsical world of her late Uncle.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Darling Dahlias and the Naked Ladies-Susan Wittig Albert

The Darling Dahlias and the Naked Ladies
Susan Wittig Albert
Berkley, Jul 5 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9780425241288

In 1930, the country remains in a deep depression that hammers even small towns like Darling, Alabama; destitution is around every corner. One of the women who lost everything to the stock market collapse is the mother of Lizzy, the president of the Darling Dahlias club. Lizzy’s biggest problem is to keep mom from moving into her house.

This becomes a secondary concern when Miss Nona Jean Jamison and her friend Miss Lake come to town from Chicago to take care of her invalid aunt Miss Hamer. The Darling Dahlias’ treasurer Verna Tidewell recognizes Miss Jamison as Lorelei La Mate who performed nearly naked in the burlesque show the Ziegfeld Frolic. Her companion Miss Lake stars in her own show and is never seen without a veil covering her face. Mr. Gold arrives in Darling looking for the two women. Miss Jamison learns of the male outsider but denies she is the one he seeks to Lizzy. Mademoiselle President decides to learn who the two Chicago females are really up to and why they came to her sweet home Alabama when each is a city gal. By doing so this Darling Dahlia finds she is also trying to prevent a hired gun from killing the visitors.

This Depression Era regional thriller is a fun amusing satirical tale as the Chicago culture of gangsters and strippers invade a small town. As always in any Susan Wittig Albert’s series including this one (see The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree), the reader feels transplanted in time and place as the meticulous interwoven tidbits bring to life late 1930. Dizzy Lizzy and her eccentric Darlings want to insure that the Day Chicago Dies in not in Sweet Home Alabama

Harriet Klausner

The Stronger Sex-Hans Werner Kettenbach, translated by Anthea Bell-

The Stronger Sex
Hans Werner Kettenbach, translated by Anthea Bell
Bitter Lemon, May 17 2011, $14.95
ISBN 9781904738671

Dying wheelchair bound septuagenarian industrialist Herbert Klofft fired his thirtyish assistant Katharina Fuchs though they had an affair for most of the eleven years she worked for him. Outraged because the engineer felt she was extremely loyal to the ruthless elderly Klofft, Fuchs sues for wrongful dismissal.

Seventy-seven years old Dr. Hockeppel orders employee Dr. Alexander Zabel to defend Klofft. The twenty nine years old attorney quickly realizes the case is a loser as his client is infamous as much for being a philander as he is for his unethical business practices. Worse Zabel is embarrassed that he is attracted to Klofft’s elderly wife Cilly. His sexual desire makes him better understand his client as he sees similarities between them and between him and his boss, but the case remains hopeless.

This is an intriguing psychological thriller that is totally character driven by the three men in Frau Kloftt’s life as she is a seemingly benign femme fatale. The story line is leisurely paced to enable the audience to feel they are in Germany whether riding the car driven by Karl or smelling Cilly’s perfume. Not for everyone as the action is limited, The Stronger Sex is a deep look at relationships that cross the acceptable ethical barriers.

Harriet Klausner

To Sketch a Thief-Sharon Pape

To Sketch a Thief
Sharon Pape
Berkley, Jun 7 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425241929

When she inherited her current house from her late Uncle Mac, Rory McCain found Federal Marshal Ezekiel “Zeke” Drummond living there; which is odd because in 1878 he was murdered in Huntington, New York. A Suffolk County police sketch artist and private investigator, Rory knows first hand that ghosts do not make good roommates or business partners. Still her agreement with the ghostly lawman is she solves his cold case murder and he assists her on her caseload. Rory has doubts, but admits to herself (since his ego is already in the exosphere) that Zeke was instrumental in solving the double murder case (see Sketch Me If You Can).

Rory finds a canine in her yard. She checks his tag and takes Hobo back to his owner only to find the woman dead with a knife in her chest. While waiting for the cops to arrive, Rory learns the victim is Brenda Hartley and her dog’s vet is Stanley Holbrook and she uses Boomer’s Groomers. Brenda’s friend Marti Sugarman arrives and asks Rory where Tootsie the Maltese is. Detective Cirello takes over the crime scene and he is nasty and sarcastic towards the two women. As Cirello works the homicide; Rory, Zeke and Hobo work what appears to be a dognapping caper.

The second Portrait of a Crime investigative tale is an enjoyable thriller as the ghost and the artist argue, fuss and fight in a friendly spirited way while working the case. Their pairing along with Hobo make for a fun whodunit though the dog-napping as the motive for the homicide is initially difficult to accept. Still fans will enjoy the present day case and the subplot into what happened to Zeke in 1878.

Harriet Klausner

The Square Root of Murder-Ada Madison

The Square Root of Murder
Ada Madison
Berkley, Jul 5 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9780425242193

At Henley College in Massachusetts, Professor Sophie Knowles is a student favorite as she makes math easy to understand. She also, under a pseudonym, publishes puzzles and brain teasers in various publications. In her microscopic spare time, she does craftwork in the form of beading at her friend Ariana’s store. The one description she never thought would apply to her is amateur sleuth, but that is what happens when the college’s most unpopular professor, who is disliked by students and teachers alike, is murdered.

The police are looking at Sophie’s assistant Rachel as their prime suspect. Keith Appleton was giving Rachel a hard time with her thesis and she was heard saying terrible things about him. The cops find a report on yellow paper that Rachel wrote all marked in red saying sarcastic things about her research. Sophie believes Rachel is innocent so she sets out to prove her assertion. However, she soon realizes that Rachel and three other students lied about what they knew about the crime scene. Sophie keeps digging, but almost digs her owngrave.

Although an amateur sleuth placing herself in peril being a sub-genre recurring scenario, and a puzzle solver lead has been done by Parnell Hall (see The Puzzle Lady series); Ada Madison provides a fresh entertaining whodunit due to the college setting and the fortyish mathematician. Sophie is an intelligent person who works her investigation using the same skills she applies to math problems and puzzle making. The heroine lives a full life with her significant other, has good friends and a job she loves; and though her days are jammed, she makes time to search for the killer in this enjoyable new academic mystery series.

Harriet Klausner

The Silent Girl-Tess Gerritsen

The Silent Girl
Tess Gerritsen
Ballantine, Jul 5 2011, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345515506

Forensic pathologist Dr. Maura Isles testifies against a police officer who is on trial for killing a suspect who allegedly murdered a cop. She broke the blue line and has made enemies of the Boston Police Department. Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli remains Maura’s friend but even she wishes the pathologist held the line. Jane and her partner Frank cannot help her, but they are determined to solve an unusual case.

A man who shows the tourists a glimpse into all the haunted places in Chinatown is shocked when one of the children on his tour finds a severed hand. They find the rest of the body on top of a roof near the hand. Jane and Frank have no idea who the Jane Doe is, but the evidence points towards the victim being an assassin for hire. Their investigation leads to Iris Fang who owns the Dragon and Stars Academy of Martial Arts who was widowed nineteen years ago during the massacre at the Red Phoenix Restaurant.. A couple of years later, Iris’s daughter disappeared as did the daughter of another victim. There are various people who prefer certain secrets to remain buried about the massacre and disappearances and they are willing to kill to insure this occurs.

Tess Gerritsen is one of the best thriller authors writing today as affirmed by her series going to TV. The action starts immediately on page one and never takes a respite until the finale. Maura plays a minor role as she has enough on her plate with the blue backlash and the emphasis on the police investigation. Readers get glimpses as to what is happening in Jane’s personal life while much of the support cast adds complexity to the prime whodunit. The Silent Girl showcases the author at the top of her game with this certain bestseller.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Ambition-Lee Strobel

The Ambition
Lee Strobel
Zondervan, May 17 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780310292678

In Chicago, the Bugatti brothers need to insure the right judge controls a murder trial that they have a vested interest in the outcome. Thus the siblings send money to Judge Reese McKelvie who is running for a U.S. Senate seat. The current incumbent Senator Barker was forced to resign due to corruption as he had mob connections. Reese’s opponent is Pastor Eric Snow, head of a mega-church.

Gina D'Orazio attends Pastor Snow’s church. She believes living outside of wedlock is a sin so she moves out of the home of her boyfriend investigative reporter Garry Strider. Upset and cynical Strider investigates candidate Snow and his mega-church as he expects to find plenty of corruption to write about; he finds much more than he anticipated as his inquiry expands into the political arena.

The Ambition is an exhilarating political thriller that grips the audience who will wonder if government office denotes corruption as cynical Strider is like a modern day Diogenes only he finds dishonesty. The story line is fast-paced throughout setting up the convergence of the key players. Although the climax feels abrupt, fans of Lee Strobel’s nonfiction bestsellers and legal thriller readers will enjoy The Ambition that supersedes ethics.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Foul Play at the PTA-Laura Alden

Foul Play at the PTA
Laura Alden
Obsidian, Jul 5 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451234087

In Rynwood, Wisconsin, single mother of two Beth Kennedy owns Children’s Bookshelf and is Tarver Elementary PTA secretary, a position she accepted in order to give back to the community. The PTA normally meets on a Wednesday night, but this week they get together on Thursday because Beth has a proposal that she could not present on Wednesday as her employee refused to work late at her bookstore.

Beth and her BFF Marina walk towards their car, but are surprised to see Sam Helmstetter’s vehicle parked nearby as he left before them. They go over Sam’s car to see if he needs help, only they find him apparently strangled to death; his scarf around his neck seemingly the murder weapon. Having solved one murder already (see Murder at the PTA), Beth and Marina agree to let the police solve this one. Bethe hires a woman who spent time in prison on a homicide conviction; DNA proved her innocence, but the townsfolk, thinking he is the killer, protest by picketing and boycotting her store. As she faces bankruptcy and to provide closure for Sam’s widow, Beth accompanied by her sidekick tries to figure out who the killer is without hopefully the culprit becoming aware of their inquiry.

Readers with elementary school children can relate to the heroine for obvious reasons and so will the rest of the amateur sleuth audience because Beth is an every woman trying to keep her business afloat. The single mom and her buddy resonate with fans as they search for clues and interview suspects, but try to do so without drawing suspicion from the culprit as to their investigation. Laura Alden writes a fun filled regional cozy filled with eccentric cheese head Packers.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 9, 2011

Books Can Be Deceiving-Jenn McKinlay

Books Can Be Deceiving
Jenn McKinlay
Berkley, Jul 5 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425242186

After catching her fiancé with his graduate student, Lindsey Norris ends the engagement and moves to Briar Creek to become the director of the town library. The relocation also has the benefit of her being closer to her graduate school roommate Beth Stanley who heads the children’s section of the library. Beth has been dating famous children book writer and illustrator Rick Eckman for five years. When she has a chance to show her book she authored to a visiting editor, Rick says she is not good enough so should avoid embarrassing herself.

His painful comments cause Beth to break up with Rick. She shows her work to the editor who says she has talent but also says her idea has been used before. After Beth leaves, the editor informs Lindsey that her friend plagiarized the book from Rick. Knowing that is not true, Lindsey and Beth travel to Gull Island to confront Rick. Beth enters his home alone to make it clear to Rick he will pay. Instead she screams. Rick is dead from a knife wound to his chest. Chief Daniels believes Beth killed him in a fit of rage. Lindsey knows otherwise and plans to prove her friend’s innocence; starting with learning why Rick pretended to be a recluse with a different name.

This charming cozy shows that a good mystery does not need blood and gore (Rick’s is off page) to keep reader’s attention. In many ways this is a cerebral whodunit as the fabulous lead librarian thinks before she acts. Fans will want to know who the perpetrator is and whether the homicide’s motive involves writing. As Jenn McKinlay has done with her Cupcake Bakery mysteries, her first Library Lover’s Mystery is a tasty read.

Harriet Klausner

A Taste of the Nightlife-Sarah Zettel

A Taste of the Nightlife
Sarah Zettel
Obsidian, Jul 5 2001, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451234070

In a world much different than this one; humans know vampires, weres, witches and warlocks exist. However, the paranormal species do not have the same rights as humans as they must register, but share most all the other liberties. Although vampires can drink human blood, it must be freely given and not sold as a commodity. There exists special clubs and restaurants that cater to the nocturnal creature crowd where vamps can drink and meet friends while mundane food is also served.

One such restaurant is Nightlife, an up and coming in place that serves “Noir Cuisine”. Chef Charlotte Caine and her vampire brother Chet own the place. One evening a drunken warlock Dylan Maddox causes trouble with spells and almost burns down the joint; shortly afterward Dylan is found murdered in Nightlife’s foyer. Charlotte later finds a vial of human blood and fears her brother is involved. She des not turn the vial over to the police. Instead the dead man’s brother Brendan a security expert and Antole the restaurant critic join Chef Charlotte in investigating what happened though that means walking the thin red line of were-vamp politics.

Fantasy author Sarah Zettel provides readers with a delightful riveting urban fantasy amateur sleuth tale. The whodunit is complex while the cast range from quirky to dangerous and to charming (except in Caine's kitchen). The twisting story line is fast-paced while containing plenty of biting action and humorous interludes. Readers will want to stop for a bloody drink and A Taste of the Nightlife if only in their thoughts.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Simple Act of Violence-RJ Ellory

A Simple Act of Violence
RJ Ellory
Overlook, May 26 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590203187

In 2006 DC Police Detectives Robert Miller and Albert Roth arrive at the house of murder victim Catherine Sheridan; she was brutally battered and strangled by the Ribbon Killer who left behind his signature ribbon attached to a luggage tag. As with the previous three such victims of this predator in this affluent neighborhood, the psychopath insured the body would remain warm for the police.

Just back from administrative leave after an investigation into his killing a perpetrator, Miller and the department are confused as each of the deceased also share in common no past as if they showed up in DC as adults. Meanwhile a former CIA agent using the name John Robey reflects back to the Reagan Era as he knows what ties the homicides together while Miller and Roth struggle to find the deadly dot connector before a fifth body appears.

Except for those who insist President Reagan is the greatest ever occupant of the White House (which excludes GW), readers will relish this deep look at murder and a dark moment in American history. The story line is fast-paced with Miller providing a Noir feel to the investigation while his partner somewhat mellows his outlook. Robey provides the 1980s history that tie the dead females with no history together; as appreciative fans will ironically know before the cops the timely mantra “that the bigger the lie the more easily it will be believed.”

Harriet Klausner

Lake Charles-Ed Lynskey

Lake Charles
Ed Lynskey
Wildside, Jun 28 2011, $12.99
ISBN: 9781434430465

In 1979 in Tennessee, Brendan Fishback met Ashleigh Sizemore at a bar; they went off together, but the next morning she is lying dead next to him from angel dust; he is accused of killing her by supplying her with the drug. Brendan knows he has to deal with his upcoming homicide trial, but wants to do something nice by getting his twin sister Edna and his best friend Cobb Kuzawa to reconcile. The married couple has not talked to one another in months.

The three drive to Lake Charles in Brendan’s truck, but outside of her gum, his sister is silent. At Lake Charles, Edna vanishes. Her desperate male companions search for her only to become entangled in an illegal drug feud in which the Feds are involved. Additionally Ashleigh's wealthy father comes to town seeking revenge against the man who murdered his little girl. Cobb's Korean War veteran dad Jerry joins the hunt for Edna and has the need to squash the "big bug" for attacking them.

This is an entering historical rural Tennessee thriller, as the locals do whatever to eke out a living in difficult often deadly environs. Ironically readers will admire and resect the natives, but none are likable except Jerry who’s cynical kick butt nature steals the show as he will remind readers of Harrelson’s Tallahassee in Zombieland. The noir story line is fast-paced once Brendan and Cobb realize Edna is missing and never slows down as the pair feels like they fell down the rabbit hole.

Harriet Klausne

Blood Trust-Eric Van Lustbader

Blood Trust
Eric Van Lustbader
Forge, May 10 2011, $25.99
ISBN 9780765329745

Alli Carson’s father President Edward Carson died when the vehicle he rode in skidded on a Moscow road. His wife First lady Lyn lied in a coma for ten months after the accident but finally passed away. Allie continues her training at the Fearington Institute with her goal to become an FBI Agent.

However, she becomes the prime suspect when someone tortures before murdering her boyfriend Billy Warren because they had a public fight two days ago and he was seeing a mutual acquaintance Arjeta Kraja. At the same time her ruthless billionaire lobbyist Uncle Henry Carson has plans for his niece that takes care of his interests at the cost of hers. As the FBI and the Metro police detectives investigate the homicide, Alli believes her hero Jack McClure, who rescued her a few years ago, is the only person who can help her.

The third McClure-Carson suspense thriller (see First Daughter and Last Snow) is loaded with action starting with the opening sequence when Fearington is in lock down due to the homicide and never slows down even with a zillion twists until the final confrontation. The obvious villain Uncle Henry comes across as a caricature who apparently wants to control his niece as he does everything else including the sex slave trafficking importation and questionable banking. The whodunit is fun to follow as the clues lead to her Uncle, the terrorist Syrian and an Albanian mob leader in this enjoyable over the top of the Washington Monument thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Keys to the Kingdom-Bob Graham

Keys to the Kingdom
Bob Graham
Vanguard, Jun 7 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9781593156602

In 2008 though he knows the danger of releasing his beliefs, U.S. Senator (retired) John Billington publishes an op-ed in the New York Times. In his article the former Congressman insists that Saudi Arabia’s role in 9/11 was covered-up by two American Administrations and ignored by Congress. From that assertion, he further asks whether the Kingdom will support future terrorist acts and implies that Saudi Arabia is probably developing a nuclear weapon. His contention causes consternation in DC, Tel Aviv and Riyadh and he receives death threats.

Not one to hide, Billington asks State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research Tony Ramos to look into his theory. Soon after his request Billington dies in a suspicious hit-and-run near his house in Florida. Feeling compelled to dig while also feeling remorse for ignoring the late senator who said he would be killed for his statements, Ramos, Billington’s daughter Laura and his team investigate her late father’s claims; and soon conclude al-Qaeda has plans for a monstrous terrorist assault with Saudi Arabia supporting the deadly terrorists.

Putting aside the inane romantic requirement that feels forced, Keys to the Kingdom is an exciting thriller as former Senator Bob Graham makes a case that Saudi Arabia whether by intention or omission enabled 9/11 and history has a tendency to repeat itself. The premise overall is carried out cleverly though at times Ramos seems more like Superman as he and the others do the Asian tour to prevent a terror-nuke attack on America. Fans will enjoy Senator Graham’s suspenseful tale as an even deadlier 9/11 seems imminent.

Harriet Klausner

Missing Persons-Clare O'Donohue

Missing Persons
Clare O'Donohue
Plume, May 31 2011, $15.00
ISBN 9780452297067

After almost two decades of marriage having met in high school, Chicago TV producer Kate Conway and her artist husband Frank are obtaining a divorce. His lover Vera Bingham calls Kate to inform her that Frank, after playing basketball, collapsed and was rushed to St. Anthony’s Hospital. The wife and the soon to be wife meet at St. Anthony where Frank died from a heart attack.

An autopsy of Frank shows he had extreme excessive amounts of digitalis in his body. The two women in his life are the prime suspects especially the wife who has a strong motive. As Vera wants to be her friend, Kate learns about their affair. To not focus on Frank’s death and her grief, Kate concentrates on her show Missing Persons as she investigates the disappearance of well liked community volunteer twentyish Theresa Monetti. However, the Monetti vanishing and Frank’s death comingle with Kate fearing she will star on her show as the third victim.

Missing Persons is a superb amateur sleuth mystery starring a wonderful protagonist who keeps the story line focused. Kate’s musing over the years with Frank add to the strong introspection while her Missing Persons gig helps distract her a bit though Vera seems to have the knack of bringing her back to Frank. Readers will enjoy the TV producer’s investigation that to her chagrin and soon fear leads from Monetti to Frank with Kate in the crosshairs as the connector.

Harriet Klausner

Murder One-Robert Dugoni

Murder One
Robert Dugoni
Touchstone, Jun 7 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9781451606690

In Seattle, thirteen months ago attorney David Sloane’s wife was murdered. Now he makes his first speaking engagement since she died at the Rainier Club to promote legal aid services. Afterward as he starts to sneak out he literally runs into lawyer Barclay Reid who he opposed in court last year. She also grieves a close loss, the death of her daughter Carly from a heroin overdose. Reid wants to hire Sloane as her lawyer in a wrongful death suit against Russian expatriate car dealership owner Filyp Vasiliev, who recently beat a drug rap when a judge tossed out as inadmissible key evidence. Barclay insists the monster makes his money selling heroin including the amount that killed her daughter.

Soon after their meeting, someone kills Vasiliev in his luxurious mansion. The police suspect Reid who has the motive. Instead of a wrongful death suit, Sloane defends his client against a murder charge in which the evidence seems heavily to affirm she killed Vasiliev. Private investigator Charles Jenkins seeks contrary information to support Reid’s contention of innocence.

The fourth Sloane legal thriller is a strong entry as he works the jurisprudence system while his partner works the Seattle streets. Fast-paced, this time the hero is not being shot at, as he battles in court. Readers will enjoy Sloane’s return to the living in this fine legal thriller with an anticipated but enjoyable final twist.

Harriet Klausner

Wicked Lies-Lisa Jackson and Nancy Bush

Wicked Lies
Lisa Jackson and Nancy Bush
Zebra, Jun 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9781420103397

At Ocean Park Hospital in Oregon, Laura Adderley works as a floor nurse while her ex husband Dr. Byron Adderley is an orthopedic surgeon at the facility. She had not wanted to move from Portland as Laura knows that brings her too close to Deception Bay, but he insisted. She divorced him when he was caught groping a nurse. Laura also belongs to the Colony of psychic sisters who reside at Siren Song. Pregnant with Byron’s baby, Laura learns to her horror that serial killer Justice Turnbull has escaped from Halo Valley Security Hospital after a two year stint.

As he did before his incarceration Turnbull stalks the Colony as he believes his mission from God is to send these she demons back to the hell that spawned them. Fearing for her unborn, Laura pleads with investigative reporter Harrison Frost, who is covering Turnbull’s escape and his deadly ties to the enigmatic Colony for help. Unaware that the woman he is attracted to belongs to the Colony, Frost feels a need to keep Laura and her baby safe.

This sequel to Wicked Game (and other Colony tales) is an exciting romantic suspense thriller that grips the audience the moment the beleaguered heroine (and readers) learns of Turnbull’s escape. Laura holds the plot together while defrosting Harrison from cynic to defender. However, the tale belongs to the obsessed insane villain whose belief that he has God on his side will remind readers of other fanatic killers who murder in the Lord’s name with some manipulated by others. This is a terrific taut thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Canary List-Sigmund Brouwer

The Canary List
Sigmund Brouwer
WaterBrook, Jun 21 2011, $13.99
ISBN 9780307446466

In Santa Monica, twelve years old Jamie Piper is a serial foster care child who has been in and out of many homes. She senses being stalked by "evil" and not the homeless who seem to follow her; but the frightened child has few people to turn to so goes to the only authority figure currently in her life that she somewhat trusts, her teacher Mr. (Crockett) Grey who is getting drunk on the anniversary of his beloved daughter Ashley’s death. Instead of offering the tweener solace, he is accused of child molestation and arrested.

A psychiatrist Dr. Mackenzie takes her away with him and sends her DNA for testing. Meanwhile Crocket struggles to uncover what has happened to him and where did Jamie go. As the mess gets darker and nastier, Crocket finds the Vatican watching him though he cannot fathom why, but believes he knows the next stop in his odyssey to regain his lost life.

This is an exciting Vatican intrigue with a possession twist (and late nod) to the Brownian thriller. Containing a different tone from Simon Brouwer's morality tales (see Broken Angel); The Canary List is much more action oriented. Although Crockett, already emotionally broken with his daughter’s death from cancer, seems to adjust to the molestation charges too easily, this incredibly fast-paced storyline hooks fans especially when the demon fighters appear.

Harriet Klausner

From Barcelona With Love-Elizabeth Adler

From Barcelona With Love
Elizabeth Adler
St. Martin’s Jun 21 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312668358

Pop singer Bibi Fortunata faces charges of murdering her lover and his mistress. However, a jury in Los Angeles acquits her of both murders. She sends her nine years old daughter Paloma Ravel to live with relatives in Spain before coming over to join them. Bibi never makes it to her family as she vanishes.

At the beach just outside his home in Malibu, TV private eye Mac Reilly and his dog Pirate save Paloma from drowning. The child explains to Mac and his lover Sunny Alvarez the cook that she was looking for him because she wants him to find her missing mother Bibi. Paloma’s step-grandmother Lorenza worries about the child; the kid’s avaricious stepfather wants control of Paloma’s money. She calls her former lover Mac who travels to Barcelona to search for Bibi. Sunny follows him to Europe.

This is an enjoyable Reilly-Alvarez investigation as the California pair takes Barcelona by storm. The breezy story line is fast-paced with terrific settings and a strong support cast although the missing person’s case is thin. Series fans will appreciate the Malibu mates return to Europe (see It All Began in Monte Carlo and There's Something about St. Tropez).

Harriet Klausner

Vision Impossible-Victoria Laurie

Vision Impossible
Victoria Laurie
Obsidian, Jul 5 2011, $23.95
ISBN: 9780451234067

No two people have the same aura as psychic Abby Cooper realizes since she has been reading them for much of her life. As a civilian profiler for the FBI, Abby is asked to go on a dangerous mission with her fiancé Assistant Special Agent in Charge Dutch Rivers as her paranormal skills are needed.

A scientist developed Intuit, a software program that reads the aura of a person or their video so that a weapon consisting of three deadly toxins attached to a drone can kill a targeted individual. Terrorists and rogue governments want the weapon. Someone stole the drone loaded with the software and toxins. The GPS indicates it is in Toronto. The plan is for Dutch to masquerade as weapons leader Richard Des Vries and Abby as his business partner. They are to contact arms dealer Viktor Kozahkov; he will introduce them to Boklovich who is hosting an auction to sell the stolen weapon to the highest bidder. In Tornto, someone attacks and almost kills Abby while arms dealer Maks Grinkovbatters Dutch. Abby and Mako (who supposedly works for the enemy as an arms dealer) are attracted to one another. Mission impossible moves to an island owned by Boklovich in which humanity’s most despicable gather to bid.

Making her hardcover debut, Victoria Laurie provides an enthralling thriller in which readers will understand the meaning of mission impossible when they try to put the novel down as the heroine has made believers of a reluctant government. She makes choices partly based on facts and somewhat on intuition as she sees A Glimpse of Evil aura. Her love for Dutch is strong in spite of her attraction to Grinkov. Fans will relish this mesmerizing paranormal espionage thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Rock Hole-Reavis Z. Wortham

The Rock Hole
Reavis Z. Wortham
Poisoned Pen, Jun 7 2011, $24.95
ISBN 9781590588840

In 1964 ten year old Top moves to Center Springs, Texas to live on the farm of his grandparents Ned and Becky Parker. A part-time Lamar County constable Ned works minor crimes and family disputes. Thus, he is taken aback with the vicious torture and murders of animals starting with the bird dog of Top’s Uncle Cody.

Ned consults with his friend deputy sheriff John Washington, a black cop who works the black community beat. However, Ned is unaware that his grandchildren Top and his tomboy cousin, Pepper overhear the discussion. The already horrific case turns even more gruesome when the killer murders Ned's cousin Joseph as a psychopath is stalking the Parker kin.

This is a great historical mystery that will remind readers of Dylan’s song The Times They Are a-Changin' as the Civil Rights Era has begun with for instance Washington being the first black law enforcenmt officer in the county. The Vietnam War has started to heat up and also impacts residents. The mystery is fun as the professional adults and amateur sleuth tweeners compete. The strong deep cast makes the time and place come alive as Reavis Z. Wortham provides a strong whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Escape Artist-Ed Ifkovic

Escape Artist
Ed Ifkovic
Poisoned Pen, Jun 7 2011, $24.95
ISBN 9781590588475

In 1904 Appleton, Wisconsin, someone murders pregnant teenager Frana Lempke. The townsfolk are stunned by the homicide. Just graduated from high school, reporter Edna Ferber investigates the death of a girl she knew at school, but gets nowhere in how a locked room murder could have occurred.

Edna is especially frustrated and irate with the pompous sexist males who interfere with her serious inquiry that they consider amusing. Meanwhile Harry Houdini is in town visiting friends and agrees to perform. Edna asks Harry to explain the dynamics behind a locked room crime and he taking her seriously and provides a demonstration on how to make an illusion of such an incident.

The second Ferber historical amateur sleuth occurs five decades before Lone Star as the heroine this time is trying to make it as a teen with ambitions and doubts in a man’s world rather than an elderly successful writer. Thus this Ferber has the same fire in the belly as the septuagenarian but is unsure of her abilities and her opportunities. Houdini proves the master magician mentoring her to ignore male illusions of superiority and instead do her thing. The case is a fabulous locked room murder mystery but it is Ferber encouraged by Houdini who makes the tale as she begins to break out of the societal glass cage holding her back.

Harriet Klausner

Bet Your Bones-Jeanne Matthews

Bet Your Bones
Jeanne Matthews
Poisoned Pen, Jun 7 2011, $24.95
ISBN 9781590588994

In Hawaii, Claude Ann Kemper and Alexander “Xander” Garst are marrying after only six weeks together; both have been married before. Aspiring anthropologist Dinah Pelerin arrives to attend her BFF’s wedding as they have been best buddies since growing up in Needmore, Georgia overlooking the Okefenokee Swamp. Dinah loves the beautiful natural setting especially the nearby volcano.

However, paradise is lost as Xander’s two adult children (Jonathan and Lyssa) are angry with their father. The groom is also involved in a development project that has major local opposition including by his sister-in-law because the locals believe this is a violation of sacred ground. Additionally, Claude Ann’s ex is causing trouble and earthquakes have shaken the area. Still Dinah tries to stay out of family dynamics while enjoying the geography until someone falls into molten lava.

The key to this somewhat over the top of Mauna Loa amateur sleuth mystery is due to the enormous suspect horde is the Hawaiian setting and mythos. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Dinah comes to paradise only to find the groom a magnet for trouble including seemingly from nature or perhaps an angry deity. Readers will enjoy Dinah’s latest perils as she and Claude Ann are in trouble from a stalking killer (see Bones of Contention).

Harriet Klausner

Murder on Sisters' Row-Victoria Thompson

Murder on Sisters' Row
Victoria Thompson
Berkley, Jun 7 2011, $24.95
ISBN 9780425241158

In Manhattan Mrs. Walker asks affluent midwife Sarah Brandt to help a pregnant woman about to give birth. Sarah rushes over to assist frightened Amy Cunningham give birth to a boy. Afterward the still scared new mom asks Sarah to help her leave the brothel as she is fearful of her madam, Rowena Walker.

Sarah turns to Mrs. Vivian Van Orner of the charity organization Rahab's Daughters that helps the mother and her newborn; as she and her group assist fallen women. However, soon after Rahab’s Daughters’ involvement in the Cunningham mother and baby assistance, someone murders Van Orner. Sarah's lover NYPD Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy investigates as does Brandt. They soon move from the brothel to the charity as inconvenient truths begin to arise.

This is an engaging Gaslight Mystery (see Murder on Waverly Place and Murder on Lexington Avenue) that transports armchair travelers to late nineteenth century Manhattan. The story line initially focuses on the Cunningham duo, but accelerates into a fast-paced investigation once Van Orner’s body is found. As is the case with this terrific historical, the cast and the New York setting make for a wonderful read.

Harriet Klausner

The Girl Who Disappeared Twice-Andrea Kane

The Girl Who Disappeared Twice
Andrea Kane
Mira, May 31 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9780778329848

In Westchester County, New York over three decades ago, when Hope Willis was a little girl her twin Felicity was kidnapped from their shared bedroom. She overcame her grief to become a family court judge in White Plains and married workaholic Edward the defense lawyer, and together in Armonk they raise their five year old daughter Krissy although he rarely sees his wife or daughter.

However, Hope’s perfect world collapses when someone kidnaps Krissy. Being an insider in the jurisprudence system, Hope knows how critical the early hours in an abduction are as well as the limitations that handicap the law. Although her husband objects, Hope hires Forensic Instincts, a private group consisting of profiler Casey Woods, ex SEAL Marc Deveraux and strategic technologist Ryan McKay.

Although the reader will know who the kidnapper is from the moment that Hope receives the call that her daughter is missing, fans will enjoy the first escapades of Forensic Instincts as the team with a few additions along the way work an exciting rescue mission after beating information out of a psychopath. Fast-paced with sharp tongued skin ripping interplay, fans will enjoy this taut thriller as the team, the FBI and the mom know the clock is ticking.

Harriet Klausner

A Parfait Murder-Wendy Lyn Watson

A Parfait Murder
Wendy Lyn Watson
Obsidian, Jun 7 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451233806

At the Lantana County Fair in Dalliance, Texas, Bree spots her former spouse Sonny Anders, who she has not seen since he abandoned her and their daughter Alice for Pole Cat exotic dancer Spumanti over seventeen years ago. Sonny acts and looks like he is wealthy and discussing a major investment while a beautiful woman stands nearby. His lawyer Kristen Ver Steeg informs Bree that her client is not the father of seventeen year old Alice and she should stop whining over child support that she files for with back payments.

A raging Bree runs into the attorney at a funhouse ride. Soon afterward someone shoots Ver Steeg leaving her dead. The police suspect Bree who had motive and opportunity but she tells Detective Cal McCormack and her cousin Tally Jones that though she wanted her ex and the lawyer dead she did not kill anyone. With help from Dalliance News-Letter reporter Finn Harper, Tally investigates the homicide even after Cal tells her to stay out of it.

This amusing Texas cozy is a fun tale from the opening pepper praline ice cream to the final ice cream recipes. The story line effortlessly blends quirky small town life inside of an enjoyable amateur sleuth as Wendy Lyn Watson serves up A Parfait Murder mystery a la mode (see Scoop to Kill).

Harriet Klausner

Crime Fraiche-Alexander Campion

Crime Fraiche
Alexander Campion
Kensington, Jun 28 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758246714

In Paris, Police Judicaire Commissaire Capucine LeTellier is diligently working with a team trying to catch the criminal La Belle. She allows herself, after feigning illness, to go to her rescuer’s house and steals some valuables while there. No one knows what she looks like or have a clue how to find her, which leads to the media wanting Capucine’s tete. Capucine’s Uncle Aymerie invites her to his Chateau Maulevrier in Normandy ending a two year estrangement. She and her overweight food critic spouse Alexandre accept.

At a dinner party, Monsieur Vienneau talks about the shooting two weeks ago of a cattle ranch manger. When a man is found dead after a steak house is demolished, Capucine’s instincts are engaged. During another hunt a third person is killed. The Commissaire investigates the string of deadly accidents while also working the La Belle case in Paris.

Armchair travelers get a taste of Paris and a small town in Normandy as Alexander Campion paints a picturesque background. The author creates quirky characters with flaws that make them seem real. The two subplots are cleverly devised and the flow back and forth between them is smooth as the cop goes after the killer and the thief in a super French police procedural.

Harriet Klausner