Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Grey Expectations- Clea Simon

Grey Expectations

Clea Simon

Severn House, Apr 1 2012, $27.95

ISBN: 9780727881342

After the traumatic events of last year (see Grey Zone), Harvard graduate student Dulcie Schwartz feels her life has calmed down as she works on her dissertation on the anonymous British author of an unfinished 1790 gothic novel The Ravages of Umbria. Her tranquility is shattered when her friend Trista calls her; crying while saying she is a person of interest in the death of student Roland Galveston.

Soon after Trista’s hysterically call, she vanishes and her boyfriend is frantic. Dulcie goes to Trista’s place in the Cambridge Campus where her friend liked to go when she wanted to be left alone. Trista is not there, but Dulcie notices a ticket admitting her to the Mildon special documents. Stunned as Dulcie knows she never went there on that day; she thinks she is being framed by someone for stealing the medieval manuscript the Dunster Codex. She finds her life in jeopardy from a person masquerading as a cop; however, she has her beloved late Mr. Grey, Esme and Chris watching her back.

Once again, Clea Simon writes a wonderful Dulcie Schwartz cozy in which the heroine is an intellectual star of the Perils of Pauline. Her heroes are Mr. Grey who she still communicates with her, Esme the playful kitten and Chris; though the protagonist wonders how fickle felines alive and dead are though they have her back and keep her spirits up. The mystery is clever with red herrings and unexpected twists and readers will appreciate this engaging amateur sleuth.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stuck With You-Trish Jensen

Stuck With You

Trish Jensen

Bell Bridge, Jan 2 2012, $13.95

ISBN: 9781611940862

Paige Hart practices law in Macon, Georgia. She is always there for her crazy large family though that leaves her more often than not in some sort of trouble.

Ross Bennett practices law too. He does not have the large family that Paige does, but he devotes plenty of time to charity and avoids slimy clients.

Paige and Ross respectively represent a divorcing couple, Jasmine and Carmon Carbone arguing over ownership of Doodles the poodle. However their snake shrew labels explode when a bomb ignites inside the courthouse. They are rushed to a hospital in an ambulance contaminated by the Tibetan Concupiscence Virus which leads to intense sexual desire. CDC quarantines the pair who turns to one another for relief and perhaps much more.

Mindful of Monkey Business starring Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers, Stuck With You is a zany lighthearted courtroom-hospital romance starring two likable combatants. The support cast from the medical to the court to the You Can’t Take it With You (by Hart and Kauffman) Sycamore family adds humorous lunacy to the mix. Fans will relish a wild gender war between a snake and a shrew in viral lust and maybe love.

Harriet Klausner

The Expats-Chris Pavone

The Expats

Chris Pavone

Crown, Mar 6 2012, $26.00

ISBN: 9780307956354

Washington, D.C. based financial systems security expert Dexter Moore accepts a terrific job in Luxembourg. As he, his wife Kate and their kids prepare to cross the Atlantic, Dexter is unaware that his spouse was a CIA operative for fifteen years, who resigned to accompany her husband and their two children to Europe. Her plan is to be a caring wife and nurturing mother.

In Luxembourg, Kate struggles to adjust to a passive lifestyle. However she awakens from the housewife blues when a stunned Kate learns the FBI and Interpol investigate her nerdy husband for allegedly stealing fifty-million euros in an illegal online banking deal. Needing to know the truth about her spouse, while wondering whether she erred in giving up her espionage career to be a housewife, Kate investigates Dexter’s allegedly felonious activities.

This is a great espionage investigative thriller filled with red herrings, and super twists that keep the audience wondering what next. Fast-paced, fans will appreciate Kate’s inquiry with fervor as she ponders the ennui and lack of satisfaction in being a housewife. Although the relationship between Kate and Dexter never quite gels, The Expats is a terrific thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 27, 2012

Cats Can’t Shoot-Clea Simon

Cats Can’t Shoot

Clea Simon

Poisoned Pen, Apr 3 2012 $24.95

ISBN 9781590583256

In Beauville in the Berkshires, Police Officer Jim Creighton explains to pet behaviorist (and psychic) Pru Marlowe that the Persian is a “killer kitty”. Apparently she accidentally fired the gun that killed Donal Franklin. The feline’s prints are on the weapon as are feline fur. Pru looks the Persian in the eyes and asks if she did it; however, instead of “hearing” what the cat was thinking, the feline’s brain is silent as she hisses at the behaviorist before being removed.

Pru accompanied by Wallis her cat, turns to the other animal residents of Beauville for information as she is increasingly convinced the Persian is traumatized by what she saw and is not guilty of homicide. Creighton and his support team disagree so Pru knows she will need hard evidence, but Wallis becomes frustrated with her failure to truly listen; while her ex NYPD cop Tom Reynolds is in town allegedly working a case.

The second Pru Marlowe Pet Noir is an enjoyable whodunit that is similar in plot to its predecessor (see Dogs Don’t Lie) in that a traumatized pet is accused of a homicide and the heroine investigates by chatting with the animals. However this time the heroine is not the prime human suspect and Wallis refreshes the mystery with his mounting frustrations with Pru. .Fast-paced from the moment Pru drops her ire when she learns a kitty shooting literally meant a kitty shooting an owner rather than visa-versa, readers will relish this fun caper.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Death Comes Silently-Carolyn Hart

Death Comes Silently

Carolyn Hart

Berkley, Apr 3 2012, $24.95

ISBN: 9780425245705

In Broward’s Rock, South Carolina, Death on Demand bookstore owner has a scheduling conflict between an author signing and her volunteer work at Better Tomorrow charity shop. With business slow due to the wintry weather, she needs to be at her store so she enlists Gretchen Burkholt to take her place at Better Tomorrow.

Anxious Gretchen calls Annie several times claiming the charity’s handyman Jeremiah Young is dangerous and that she found an enigmatic note inside the coat of deceased Everett Hathaway. Although concerned over Gretchen’s anxiety, Annie assumes she is safe so she completes the signing before racing over to Better Tomorrow. However she feels guilty when she finds Gretchen dead from Jeremiah’s ax. Police Chief Billy Cameron believes Jeremiah killed the woman as he is an ex con; the murder weapon belonged to him; and he fled the crime scene. Annie and her best customer Henny Brawley thinks otherwise.

The latest Death on Demand cozy (see Laughed 'Til He Died and Dead by Midnight) is a superb entry that keeps the series fresh by introducing new players and new books into the engaging January South Carolina barrier island setting. The whodunit is deftly handled as the amateur sleuth mystery aficionados think Gretchen’s homicide ties back to Hathaway’s drowning; while Cameron has no doubt who the killer is. Carolyn Hart has written another strong whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Imperial Scandal-Teresa Grant

Imperial Scandal

Teresa Grant

Kensington, Mar 27 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780758254245

In 1815, the excitement of Vienna pales when the news that Napoleon escaped sends chills amongst his enemies. Wellington prepares for the battle near Brussels that will shape the future of Europe. British attaché Malcolm Rannoch and his wife Suzanne had enjoyed the galas, but he must return to work as a spy for the crown since the Emperor returns.

Malcolm meets with French agent La Fleur who is selling information when Colonel Harry Davenport, aide de camp to Wellington, arrives to warn them. Shots are fired killing La Fleur. In the garden, Malcolm finds the murdered corpse of Harry’s sister-in-law highly regarded Lady Julia Ashton who should not have been there unless she was spying. As the city is gripped by the nearby hostilities, Malcolm and Suzanne, trusting no one as they fear an insider betrayal, investigate who murdered Julia and why.

The latest Rannoch Napoleonic Era amateur sleuth (see Vienna Waltz) is an entertaining whodunit that uses the real suspense of the pending battle at Waterloo to serve as a powerful backdrop to the investigation. The murder mystery is cleverly devised as super red herrings and terrific twists make for a fabulous early nineteenth century thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary-Susan Elia MacNeal

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary

Susan Elia MacNeal

Bantam, Apr 3 2012, $15.00

ISBN 9780553593617

In 1940 London, someone murders Diana Snyder, a typist in Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s office. American raised British citizen Maggie Hope remains bitter over not being offered a more prestigious position in the Intel community as a code breaker as fitting a mathematician; she knows sexism kept her from obtaining the job. Still she agrees to replace the late Diana.

The Snyder stabbing case is solved rather quickly while Diana adapts to her work and living in Nazi and IRA bombed London as opposed to MIT. However, Maggie begins to uncover a plot to cripple the leadership with assassination at a critical moment when the Battle for Britain is being fought in the skies. The intrepid Maggie seeks the identity of those involved, which places her at risk.

The first Maggie Hope WWII mystery is an engaging tale that vividly brings to life a grim London in May 1940 at a time when everyone anticipates the blitzkrieg to cross the Channel. The amateur sleuthing is fun to follow as the heroine is an intelligent person, but also contains too many happenstances to bail her out of dire straits. Still readers will enjoy Maggie’s marvelous mystery tour as she escorts armchair time travelers around besieged London.

Harriet Klausner

One Hoof In The Grave-Carolyn McSparren

One Hoof In The Grave

Carolyn McSparren

Bell Bridge, Dec 15 2011, $14.95

ISBN: 9781611940176

In Georgia, Merry Abbott and her friend Peggy Caldwell are driving the first cross country carriage during a fog when a bull horn and a banner spook their two horses Golden Boy and Ned. Their carriage ends into nearby water, but they and the horses are rescued. Since nasty bully Giles Raleigh and his victimized daughter Dawn were to be first, the assumption is he was the target. Soon afterward, Merry sees Giles’ four horses pulling his carriage without a driver. She quickly finds his corpse with a cable spike in his neck. Sheriff Stan Nordstrom leads the investigation in which Merry is a prime suspect. Peggy calls GBI agent Geoff Wheeler, who worked the homicide of Merry’s dad (see The Merry Abbot Carriage-Driving Mystery). Attracted to Merry, Geoff rushes to the crime scene where Stan welcomes him.

On the way back to their farm near Missy Creek, someone runs Merry and Peggy off the road. When she checks on her horses, someone tries to kill Merry. She and Geoff realize that Giles’ killer thinks she can identify him or her. As Merry hosts an event, a predator stalks her.

Although the killer should have realized Merry could not identify her as the cops would have arrested the culprit, the latest Merry mayhem is an enjoyable investigative whodunit. The fun storyline is leisurely–paced with insight into the cross country carriage shows nicely enhancing the mystery. Readers will enjoy this warm lighthearted romp (unless you’re the victim) as Carolyn McSparren continues to spin Mossy Creek into a radically different direction yet contains the elements of friendship that make the community a delightful place to visit.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 24, 2012

With Full Malice-Brenda Hill

With Full Malice

Brenda Hill

Five Star, Apr 11 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9781432825720

In Yucaipa, California, food reporter Madison Young knows the tragic event that turned her into a frightened woman afraid of her own shadow. When she was six years old she watched a man murder her parents and warned her he would come back for her one day as San Bernardino County Homicide Detective Dexter Quinn arrived. Thus Maddy limits her time outside her home as her phobia controls her life.

Maddy is covering Jimmy’s Steakhouse when a woman executes paroled murdering pedophile Hawley at the location. Yucaipa Tribune editor Marie Campbell calls Madison to interview the witnesses as the other reporters are tied up and she is caught in traffic. Using the 5 W’s and an H, Maddy questions those at the steakhouse until her fears take control; Dexter pulls her aside to go home. The case takes a spin into an avenging underground club that Maddy finds ties to the incarcerated beast who killed her family. However, when Marie dies, Maddy needs to know the truth before her or her beloved grandma become next.

This is an excellent investigative thriller due to the strong cast especially Maddy whose childhood trauma haunts her years later. Fast-paced and with a nod to James Coburn’s Vengeance Unlimited, the key to this engaging tale is the fascinating heroine who proves she is stronger than anyone including herself realizes; though her proof may prove deadly.

Harriet Klausner

Burnt Offerings- Michael Lister

Burnt Offerings

Michael Lister

Pulpwood Press, Apr 19 2012, $26.99

ISBN 9781888146899

Daniel Davis and Ben Greene are running in the North Forest Wildlife Preserve. Ben takes a breather while Daniel finishes the run until he finds the burned remains of a human. A retired profiler, Daniel struggles with a panic attack while near the old depot for law enforcement.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent Samantha Michaels leads the investigation. She and Daniel have worked together on cases before the academic retired as a hermit hiding in the woods. A second body is found with the same M.O. of being burned alive. Daniel believes the psychopath is performing a fiery sacrificial ritual. As the residents of nearby Bayshore and Pine Key Island panic, the predator continues the fiery deeds with Daniel and Sam trying to end the Burnt Offerings to the God of fire.

While John Jordan takes a respite from bloody inquiries (see The Body and the Blood, Flesh and Blood, Power in the Blood and Blood of the Lamb), Daniel and Sam prove more than competent to run their own superb investigation. Action-packed, the killer’s commentary enhances the gripping storyline with insight into the stunning motive. Fast-paced from the first Burnt Offering, fans will relish this strong serial killer thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Innocent- David Baldacci

The Innocent

David Baldacci

Grand Central, Apr. 17 2012, $27.99

ISBN 9780446572996

Will Robie has a unique position; he is an America “sanctioned” assassin who takes on those who the Feds (civilian and military) for whatever reason cannot eliminate. A sniper of immense talent, Will always accepts the job without question even understanding his agency’s mantra is the opposite of the marines with “left behind”.

His work is normally outside the country in places like Tangier, but his current assignment is in Washington, D.C. The hit feels wrong to Will, but obeying orders is deeply entrenched in his soul. Perhaps it is his attraction to Annie Lambert, but for the first time in his killing career, he refuses to pull the trigger on the target a mom with her little boy. The fail safe sniper kills both of them while Will snaps photos of the victim’s information and moves her baby to another apartment before fleeing. However, by failing to do the job, the forty year old hit man becomes the target of his peers. On the lam by bus to New York, he recognizes a peer and intervenes rescuing fourteen years old Julie who witnessed a man murdering her parents. Though he knows it is inane, Will helps the endangered teen unaware of a conspiracy high up the power chain ready to snuff out anyone in their way.

This is an exciting over the top of the Washington Monument thriller starring a man who lived by the code “My Country, Right or Wrong” until the American mother and her kids incident. Filled with betrayals, David Baldacci hooks readers with this fast-paced tale from the moment the protagonist just said no until the final confrontation.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Taking a Stand- Ken Casper

Taking a Stand

Ken Casper

Bell Bridge, Dec 23 2011, $13.95

ISBN: 9781611940879

In Coyote Springs, Texas, developers Winslow Carr and Burton Hazlitt plan to tear down the slummy barrio and replace it with an affluent resort. The only roadblock is local resident Jesse Amorado, owner of a construction company and six houses in the designated zone. He could use the money offered by Carr and Hazlitt and understands his neighborhood needs desperate renovation, but he rejects their offer on principal that his friends and neighbors will have no place to live once their homes are bull-dozed.

Winslow’s daughter Tori resigns her Air Force officer commission to fly home. She agrees to help her father with his business until she obtains a pilot’s position at an airline. While, Burton wants to renew their relationship, she says no. Meanwhile, Tori learns of Jesse’s plans and seeks a way for her father and the local builder to each have their dream met. However, as they fall in love, someone makes Jesse look dangerous and felonious while his family, having survived the tragic drive-by murder of his brother, but even when they live on a nearby ranch they are threatened.

The latest Coyote Springs romantic suspense (see As The Crow Dies) is an exciting action-packed thriller starring a strong cast who bring to life real urban development issues re the poor. Although the villain is obvious from the start, readers will relish this engaging tale as tenacious caring Tori seeks a viable solution to the problems keeping the two men she loves from reaching an agreement.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hush Now, Don't You Cry-Rhys Bowen

Hush Now, Don't You Cry

Rhys Bowen

Minotaur Books; Mar 13 2012, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312628116

In 1903, newlyweds Molly Murphy and NYPD captain Daniel Sullivan arrive in Newport for their honeymoon during a terrible storm. The couple is staying at the cottage of New York City alderman Brian Hannan, but they find the gates locked. As they are about to leave, Molly notices a hysterically laughing child in a window of the main house; as apparently their host failed to tell his family of the Sullivan couple staying at the estate. Soon afterward, Hannan is found dead at the nearby bottom of a cliff and the Newport police deem the two New Yorkers are the only suspects though they declare an accident occurred.

The victim’s family wants the pair to leave, but Daniel is ill suffering from pneumonia. Though Molly promises not to investigate, she cannot prevent herself from making inquiries when she rejects the coincidence that an accident occurred as she learns Brian’s granddaughter died in the same way at the same spot.

The latest Molly Murphy historical mystery (see Bless the Bride) is a great entry with a strong solution as the location provides a fresh look at early twentieth century America. The unsinkable Molly seeks the motive, which she assumes is money in what she believes are two homicides done by a family member while her frustrated ailing spouse is bedridden. Fans of the Murphy amateur sleuth saga will relish this particularly excellent whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Terrified-Kevin O'Brien


Kevin O'Brien

Pinnacle, Mar 27 2012, $9.99

ISBN: 9780786021383

In 1996 in Glenview, Illinois, a child finds human body parts in a garbage bag. The police arrest prominent surgeon Dr. Glenn Swann for the murder of his wife Lisa. Following the “garbage bag killing” story in the Chicago Tribune from Seattle, Megan Keeler gives birth to a son Josh while her sadistic husband is convicted of her murder back in Illinois. She rationalizes not coming back home to her belief her abusive spouse would one day kill her and their unborn child.

A few years later, while always looking over her shoulder, Megan begins receiving anonymous threatening emails from someone who knows who she is and what she did. At the same Glenn has been released from prison. Living in total fear of what might happen; Megan is stunned when someone wearing a mask kidnaps Josh. Her worst nightmare has occurred and she has no doubt that Glenn abducted Josh as part of his terror campaign aimed at his runaway wife.

Though the theme of a spouse fleeing for her life by pretending to be dead (see Sleeping With the Enemy) is not new, Kevin O’Brien provides a fresh exhilarating spin by making the child the rope in a deadly tug of war. Lisa-Megan seems genuine with her obsessed fears even before the terror begins anew with the taking of Josh as she makes the exciting twisting psychological suspense storyline work with her personal horror.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Border Run-Simon Lewis

Border Run

Simon Lewis

Scribner, Apr 24 2012, $22.00

ISBN 9781416596059

Howard takes affluent British youngsters Will and Jake on a special tour of Yunan Province near the Chinese border with Burma. He promised to show them a special waterfall in the forest and introduce the visitors to tribal girls who enjoy sex with handsome young westerners.

However, their dream fantasy turns ugly nightmare when they reach the waterfall and the women. Howard has used the two morons as a cover to his smuggling operation; and the females are hired help. Increasingly in deepening trouble, a customs official challenges the Brits for being near the border. Jake uses a crossbow to kill him, but efforts to conceal the crime sends the pair into even more tsuris. As the BFFs become best enemies forever, their chances of escape seemingly diminishes to zero.

This tense thriller focuses on how easily civilization (and friendship) is stripped away from the affluent when removed from their familiar taken for granted safety net and left in a ferocious jungle to fend for themselves in a reality survival of the deadliest scenario. Fast-paced from the moment the foolish lads meet Howard, fans will enjoy the Border Run as the adage "if it's too good to be true, it probably is" proves lethally valid.

Harriet Klausner

The Ice Cream Girls-Dorothy Koomson

The Ice Cream Girls

Dorothy Koomson

Grand Central, Apr 24 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9781455507139

The 1989 Daily News Chronicle contains an article about The Ice Cream Girls (teenagers Poppy Carlisle and Serena Gorringe) standing trial for the murder of their popular history teacher Marcus Halnsey. Both deny torturing and stabbing to death Halnsey who abused both of his students, warned them to remain silent or else; while also saying he loved them. Poppy was convicted of the homicide and went to prison while Serena was acquitted and set free.

Over two decades later, Poppy is released from prison. All this time behind bars she had one goal: to prove her innocence. Poppy seeks Serena to force her to tell the truth as to what happened in 1989, but the girl, who was never her friend in spite of the media lies to the contrary, vanished.

Serena is married to Dr. Evan Gillmaire. They have two children and though she is happy, Serena lives in fear that her notoriety will surface and cost her family as she has never been able to tell Evan the truth even while she believes Poppy was the killer.

Rotating perspective between the title characters in different time periods, The Ice Cream Girls is an exciting psychological suspense that grips the reader with a need to know what happened in the 1980s and what will occur as obsessed Poppy stalks family woman Serena. Both remains haunted by Marcus as neither fully moved on. The media hangs the two teens as Lolita while ignoring an adult in a mentoring position having sex with both of them and the court follows the news frenzied lead seems wrong but feels hypocritically honest. Fans will enjoy this taut thriller while wondering who killed the popular teacher.

Harriet Klausner

Midnight Alley-Miles Corwin

Midnight Alley

Miles Corwin

Oceanview, Apr 16 2012, $25.95

ISBN 9781608090389

LAPD Felony Special Squad Detective Ash Levine looks forward to the weekend getaway in Santa Barbara with his estranged wife Robin. He hopes this will be a new beginning for them after a horrific two-year separation.

However, he is in Rincon twelve miles from his destination when his boss Lieutenant Duffy calls pleading with him to come home to work a highly visible double homicide case in Venice as most of the squad are out of state on vacations. One of the victims is Raymond Pinkney, the son of a LAPD bashing city councilman Isaac Pinkney. Robin surprises him when she tells him to take notes in detail to avoid the civil case Pinkney will file and to call her when he is finished. As he investigates leads that take the former Israel Defense Forces paratrooper into the dangerous milieu of the Russian Mafia, someone hires former convict Mullin to assassinate a cop.

The second Ash Levine police procedural (see Kind of Blue) is an action-packed thriller that soars from the moment Duffy calls the noir hero and never eases off the accelerator until the final confrontation. Although convoluted with ties to the Russian Mafia and Baghdad, Robin sums up the exhilarating tale with her dubbing Ash (for his over the top of Mount Lukens escapades) “Rambowitz”.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 20, 2012

Slightly Irregular-Rhonda Pollero

Slightly Irregular

Rhonda Pollero

Gallery, Apr 17 2012, $15.00

ISBN 9781416590736

West Palm Beach, Florida Dane, Lieberman and Zarnowski paralegal Finley Anderson Tanner loves to shop for designer outfits at discount rates. However, though it bothers her inner karma, she breaks her prime rule of life when she horribly pays full price for the gorgeous dress she purchased to wear on a date to attend the performance of The Magic Flute with the firm’s new partner and her current boss Tony Caprelli. She feels fickle as she also likes Mr. Uncouth Testosterone private investigator Liam McGarrity.

Meanwhile her mom demands she bring a date to her sister’s marriage at about the same time as her former boss Ellen Lieberman abruptly quits; leaving Finley with clothing and jewelry as remittance for a favor. Finley sell the stuff on eBay with the help of her BFF Becky Jamison, a lawyer at the firm. When Ellen and then Becky vanish, Finley panics and begins to make inquiries only to learn her former boss is not who she thought she was and the jewelry leaves several people including her in danger.

The fourth fun F.A.T. frolic (see Fat Chance, Knick Off and Knock ‘Em Dead) frolic is a lighthearted, brisk and breezy tales as the heroine lands in mostly amusing but some dangerous scenarios. Fans who prefer their mysteries light (with late suspense) and their couture deep will enjoy the heroine’s escapades; especially her chick lit asides even facing a knife as Finley has a case to solve and two maybe hunks in her personal life, but maybe no one to attend the wedding in order for her to shut up her mom’s mouth. This is a delightfully charming tale.

Harriet Klausner

Come Home-Lisa Scottoline

Come Home

Lisa Scottoline

St. Martin’s, Apr 10 2012, $27.99

ISBN 9780312380823

Philadelphia suburban pediatrician Jill Farrow feels her life and that of her thirteen years old daughter Megan has finally moved on passed the crippling divorce from William Skyler. She and Jill live with her fiancé serene Sam Becker.

Jill’s former stepdaughter nineteen years old Abby arrives to inform her that William died from an apparent overdose. Though she knows her reaction is not comforting, Jill does not care what killed amoral William. However, a despondent Abby claims her dad was murdered and she needs Jill’s help to find his killer; as the police closed the case as a drug death. Unable to say no to a daughter she still loves (as she does her other stepchild Victoria) although they have been estranged since just before the divorce, Jill reluctantly agrees to investigate, but her kindness upsets Megan and Sam and threatens her life while interfering with a related inquiry.

Come Home is an entertaining extended family drama in which the relationship dynamics supersedes the dueling investigative suspense subplots. Filled with too much relational angst, still fans will appreciate Lisa Scottoline’s enjoyable tale.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Play Nice-Gemma Halliday

Play Nice

Gemma Halliday

Minotaur, Mar 13 2012, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312656072

Yugoslavian Kontraobavestajna Sluzba (KOS) counterintelligence service trained young Anya Danielovich to be an assassin. She wanted out, but knew only in death could she be free. In Kosovo, to escape she kills odious General Federov and flees for her life with his bodyguards in pursuit. She reaches her vehicle, which explodes.

In San Francisco, thirtyish single woman Anna Smith lives a quiet life always looking behind her while her memories haunt her. Recently her paranoia intensifies as Anna believes she is under surveillance. Hit man Nick Dade has observed Anya Danielovich with an intense scrutiny as his objective is to kill her. He feels ready to complete the hit after a few weeks of preparation as she walks her dog Lenny in cold wet weather. However, Lenny manages to introduce his owner to her hit man. Still as he finds it hard to reconcile Anna with Anya, he sets up the assassination until a third party begins firing. Nick and Anna flee together as they team up trying to unravel who called for a second hit on his target; as he knows he would have been eliminated too.

The first Anna Smith and Nick Dade Mystery is an exciting San Francisco treat as the pair work together while neither trusts the other. Fast-paced and filled with action except when Lenny provides amusing slapstick moments; fans will enjoy this entertaining thriller even if the motive for one of the hits seems preposterous.

Harriet Klausner

Too Close For Comfort -Eve Gaddy

Too Close For Comfort

Eve Gaddy

Bell Bridge, Oct 14 2011, $11.95

ISBN: 9781611940466

In Texas at the Fort Williams Center Hospital, the gunshot wound victim Frankie Lemont begins babbling about what happened as calm Trauma Center emergency surgeon Dr. Marissa Fairfax tries to save his life. However, Frankie sees JuJu Jerome arrive with a cop. Jerome takes the cop’s gun and fires it at Frankie shutting his mouth forever. He shoots the cop next and grabs Marissa as a hostage to escape from the hospital. FW Detective Lieutenant Jack Corelli intercedes as he rescues “Dr. Ice”, but Juju Jerome escapes.

Stunned as two years of hard police work died with Frankie, Jack and Marissa argue over his actions. He interviews her and realizes that Lemont gave a surgical death bed confession to Dr. Ice who is in peril from Juju Jerome who needs to silence her. His case is alive, but he protects her until she testifies.

This is an entertaining police procedural romance starring two obstinate resolute enemies falling in love. Each believes their feelings for the other is an unwanted disease, but growing respect has both reconsidering their initial reactions. The suspense is somewhat minor, but enhances the tale of Dr. Ice and Detective Ice (except in his case when it comes to Tony) melting in love.

Harriet Klausner

The Witness-Nora Roberts

The Witness

Nora Roberts

Putnam, Apr 17 2012, $27.95

ISBN: 9780399159121

In Bickford, Arkansas, beautiful, brilliant Abigail Lowery keeps to herself in her fortified house on the outskirts of the remote Ozarks town. The hermit intermingles with townsfolk only when she has no choice as she prefers to remain inside her mini fortress. Her abode contains several locks on the door and windows, a self-developed top of the line security system that the White House would envy, and carries a gun especially when leaving her fort. Her sole companion is her sentry dog Bigg who will kill at her signal.

Police Chief Brooks Gleason realizes Abigail is hiding from someone behind her barriers. He cares about her so he refuses to keep his distance. Instead Brooks breaks down her personal fortifications until Abigail confides in him. In 2003 she witnessed a murder by the Volkov branch of the Russian mafia. Brooks assists Abigail in using the information she gathered since the homicide to bring down the Volkov family. She agrees to testify against them, but the mob has contacts inside key federal and state agencies. Brooks risks his life to protect Abigail so she can one day soon live outside of a gilded cage.

Nora Roberts writes an outstanding romantic suspense as the resolute hero peels away the defenses of the beleaguered woman in peril until they risk their lives to fight for their love. The storyline starts with sixteen years old Abigail who tries to break out of the rigid controlling rules of a strict martinet mother who demands total obedience. After becoming the reluctant Witness, she learns you sometimes get what you wish for; as she switches jails while the Russians are coming and only her canine and her beloved have her back.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sacré Bleu-Christopher Moore

Sacré Bleu

Christopher Moore

Morrow, Apr 3 2012, $26.99

ISBN 9780061779749

Lucien Lessard grew up in the home of a master French baker who taught him to appreciate good food and great art as his Père fed the impoverished and displayed their work. He became best friends with Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and associated with the impressionist and post-impressionist greats like Manet, Renoir, Pissarro, and others; though his efforts as a painter were at best frustratingly inept.

In 1890, troubled Vincent Van Gogh sends an enigmatic note to Toulouse-Lautrec. A few days later Van Gogh is dead. Propelled by the letter and death, Lessard and Toulouse-Lautrec investigate the mysterious Colorman, who has sold for three decades the paint especially a special blue to a virtual who’s who of late nineteenth century French artists. The two sleuths notice weird patterns of love affairs, forgettable periods, and immense production, but struggle to understand what this means as clues seem to go back many millennia.

This is a terrific late nineteenth century “comedy of art” mystery that provides interesting insight into Western art and not just the prime period as creative Christopher Moore also looks at the Renaissance Italy and ancient Rome, etc. The mystery of Colorman is cleverly done so that readers will enjoy the amateur sleuthing especially the author’s trademark slapstick humor; but it is the masters who make Mr. Moore’s wonderful work into a masterful journey that began in a remote cornfield.

Harriet Klausner

Cuts Like a Knife- M.K. Gilroy

Cuts Like a Knife

M.K. Gilroy

Worthy, Apr 3 2012, $14.99

ISBN 9781936034697

Chicago Police Department Detective Kristen Conner has anger management issues, which she controls by her love for her family. She enjoys coaching her seven year old niece Kendra’s soccer team, goes regularly to church and still squabbles with her TV news reporter sister Klarissa.

Data leads the FBI to believe an “organized” serial killer has surfaced in Chicago; the perpetrator targets successful young woman. The DC FBI Headquarters sends agent Austin Reynolds to help CPD on the case. He advises Kristen as to where the predator meets his chosen ones while she realizes her sister Klarissa fits the profile of the maniac’s victims but is unaware that she does also. With Reynolds having her back, she goes undercover to catch a psychopath.

This is an exciting police procedural that spends a bit more time following the civilian life of a dedicated detective although the serial killer’s diary provides short bursts of counterpoints. Fast-paced, readers will enjoy kick butt Kristen as she tries to balance her loving family life with her deadly occupation as the first Connor mystery is an engaging tale.

Harriet Klausner

Driven-James Sallis


James Sallis

Poisoned Pen, Apr 3 2012, $19.95

ISBN 9781464200113

After Driver killed Bernie Rose, he felt remorse for the first time (see Drive) since he began his obsessed revenge vendetta. He decided the time was right to move on and end his vengeance killing spree.

Seven years later, thirtyish Paul West enjoys his middle class life in Phoenix. His dream shatters on a Saturday morning while walking with his fiancée Elsa. Two men attack them; killing Elsa before he can kill them. Driver is back as Paul dies when he sees Elsa die. His friend former Ranger Felix helps him temporarily hide, but his enemies keep on coming. This time two vehicles with hit men wait for Driver who is more Driven now then he was seven years ago.

The return of Driver will elate fans especially with the movie of the first thriller coming. The antihero fights back against his adversaries with renewed feral vigor fueled by his watching Elsa take her last breath. He knows one thing: those who arranged the hit will die. Action-packed from the opening assault on a Phoenix street, the accelerator never breaks even at the finish line as Driver is Driven by his new mission.

Harriet Klausner

An American Spy-Olen Steinhauer

An American Spy

Olen Steinhauer

Minotaur, Mar 13 2012, $25.99

ISBN: 9780312622893

After the harrowing nightmare that killed many of his top secret Department of Tourism assassins by Chinese rogue agent Xin Zhu (see The Nearest Exit) and the seditious link between the governments of China and America (see The Tourist), CIA agent Milo Weaver opts out. He never was comfortable with his work and these recent lethal nefarious incidents have Weaver reflecting that he prefers quality and quantity time with his family especially since his cell has been decommissioned.

However, Weaver’s former Company boss Alan Drummond obsesses over what has happened to his unit. He travels to London using a Milo compromised alias. There he vanishes while his wife and daughter are kidnapped. Weaver feels obligated to try to save Drummond and his family as raging Xin Zhu still seeking revenge attacks the families of both spies just before the Beijing Olympics is to begin.

The third Weaver espionage thriller is a great spy vs. spy tale as the attacks turn psychotically personal. Fast-paced with a strong look at surveillance and intelligence gathering in the digital age, readers will relish Weaver’s efforts to keep his loved ones safe and rescue the family of his former boss who had his back many times when they worked the field.

Harriet Klausner

Helsinki White-James Thompson

Helsinki White

James Thompson

Putnam, Mar 15 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9780399158322

In Helsinki, police inspector Kari Vaara is ecstatic with the birth of his daughter Anu and that his beloved American wife Kate is okay. However, a few days later, he informs Kate that he has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. If that is not enough of a shocker, Kari also tells her Finland’s national chief of police Jyr Ivalo assigns him to head up SUPO; a police unit fighting organized crime by committing crimes against these mobs. SUPO, who reports to Jyr only, consists of Kari, his former partner Milo Nieminien and his mentee Sulo “Sweetness” Polvinen.

Kati goes on sick leave to have the tumor removed. After recovering, he his two teammates begin the robbery campaign as they successfully steal cash, drugs, and weapons from the mobs. Although rumors of his being on the take abound, when the Minister of Immigration Lisbet Soderlund is beheaded in a racial assault, Tom is assigned to investigate this and the cold case kidnapping of wealthy superego Veikko Saukko’s children Antti and Kaarina, and Kaarina's murder just after her return home. He obtains needed help from former French legionnaire Adrien Moreau while he fears he has become part of the cesspool destroying the city.

The latest Vaara Finnish police procedural Kari (see Snow Angels and Lucifer's Tears) is an ultra-dark thriller that grips readers with its insightful look at racism and the related anti-immigration fervor. Action-packed yet character driven by the protagonist who fears he has become one of the sordid unworthy of his two females, aptly titled Helsinki White depressingly reminds readers that this may be fiction, but real incidents makes it sadly easier for James Thompson to write his exciting grim tale.

Harriet Klausner

House Of The Hunted-Mark Mills

House Of The Hunted

Mark Mills

Random House, Apr 3 2012, $26.00

ISBN: 9781400068197

In 1919 in Petrograd, young British SIS intelligence agent Tom Nash is frantic when his beloved Irina Bibikov is arrested. He needs to get her and his unborn out of Russia, but his comrade Zaharov betrays him and other operatives. He soon learns his Irina was executed, but before he does his final act of defiance towards the brutal regime he warns other agents that their lives are in jeopardy due to Zaharov.

In 1935, Tom lives a serene life as a popular travel writer in Toulon, France. He knows war is coming to the continent, but he is indifferent as he enjoys the French Riviera amongst expatriates from Britain, the States and Russia, retired and active spies, and artists. Tom is awakened when an assassin tries to murders him. He kills the intruder who murdered his beloved dog Hector. Tom disposes the body of the killer at sea and begins an inquiry as he knows this is only the first attempt from someone in the shadows who knows his past and also knows his villa.

This is an engaging espionage investigative noir as Tom knows when his illusion is shattered that you never fully get in from the cold. Tom is an excellent protagonist who keeps the entertaining storyline focused as he and his friend Leonard move smoothly between the affluent Cote d’Azur social circle and the deadly spy game. The stretches into the lifestyle of the rich slows down the suspense; though that also serves as a profound counterpoint to the beginning of Hitler’s atrocities. Fans will enjoy the hero’s exploits in Russia just after WWI and on the French Riviera just before WWII.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Gods of Gotham-Lyndsay Faye

The Gods of Gotham

Lyndsay Faye

Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, Mar 15 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9780399158377

In 1845 Irish immigrants flee the potato famine back home to inundate New York City. The newcomers struggle to adapt to their new world.

Twenty-something Timothy Wilde tends bar near the downtown Manhattan Exchange until a devastating inferno left him scarred; without dreams, a job and homeless. His older politically connected brother arranges for him to receive a copper star as a policeman on the newly created New York force. Skeptical and bitter, Timothy hates his beat is the horrific slum, the Sixth Ward. As he completes his disheartening night rounds, Timothy sees a young girl running in a nightshift with blood all over her. Feeling for the child, he breaks the rules of don’t get emotionally involved by taking her home with him instead of dumping her at the House of Refuge. She tells him an insane story of bodies buried in the wilderness above 23rd Street. Unable to resist he finds the gruesome truth, as he investigates a case in which he must keep the Irish and the Democratic Party out of the inquiry if he wants his loved ones and himself to survive.

This is an excellent historical mystery that brings to life New York at a time of mass Irish immigration becoming the backbone of a Tammany hall spoils system. The investigation is fast-paced, but driven by a strong cast to include the city (a forest in Manhattan means to this former Bronx resident German Forest Cake in the Germantown bakeries) and the beginning of NYPD. The whodunit has enough suspects to fill The Battery as Lyndsay Faye provides a great nineteenth century whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Games Traitors Play-Jon Stock

Games Traitors Play

Jon Stock

Dunne, Mar 27 2012, $25.99

ISBN: 9780312644772

Last year in Delhi, Salim Dhar almost assassinated the President of the United States. Since then he has been a marked man with the CIA targeting him for death. However, their attempts to kill the terrorists have failed while the drone strikes in Af-Pak run thirty a month only anger the locals.

Rogue MI6 officer Daniel Marchant thinks the espionage agencies are inane as they depend on electronic surveillance to find his half-brother Dhar. He thinks Dhar has gone under the radar using the Berber storytellers as cover in Marrakech to pass information. As the CIA proclaims the hit, Marchant follows Dhar up Atlas Mountains until the terrorist flies away in an unmarked military helicopter. Stunned that Dhar has some powerful allies, Marchant needs to follow in the rumored shoes of his allegedly traitorous father by turning to the Russians. His superior M16 chief Marcus Fielding does not believe Marchant is betraying his country while CIA liaison Lakshmi Meena forces him to work with her over his objection. As he hunts for Dhar, Marchant believes his killing sibling has something horrific planned for London.

Still a Dead Spy Running, who trusts no one and has no one trusting him, Marchant struggles with his side’s duplicity and triple crosses as the Brits, Americans and Russians strongly believe the end justifies the mean. Each uses Marchant as an expendable pawn. Although the insight into the agencies’ rivalry is fascinating, the convoluted plot filled with betrayals can be difficult to follow especially if you have not read the first thriller as the rules of engagement is realistically bizarre. Still readers will hope Marchant can stop running and get in from the cold.

Harriet Klausner

Capitol Murder-Phillip Margolin

Capitol Murder

Phillip Margolin

Harper, Apr 3 2012, $25.99

ISBN 9780062069887

In Portland, Oregon, Senator Jack Carson has a tryst with Jessica Koshanil which she records on a DVD. Koshanil shows Carson her evidence of his sex scandalous action and blackmails him into providing her with information. Carson returns to DC knowing if he is to remain in office, he must give her what she demands. She wants to learn what the Feds know about a planned suicide bombing at a football stadium that will kill many.

As private investigator Dana Cutler is in Oregon looking into the illegal and amoral activity of the Senator, Carson’s aid Brad Miller worries about his life, that of his wife and others when his former client serial killer Clarence Little escapes custody from the Marion County Circuit Courthouse in Salem, Oregon. Soon afterward Koshanil is found murdered in Carson’s Georgetown home by someone using Little’s M.O. of removing a finger from each hand even as the terrorism scheme moves forward.

The third branch of government Cutler-Miller thriller (see Executive Privilege and Supreme Justice) is an exciting twisting tale though the prime subplots never smoothly converge. Fast-paced, fans will enjoy the countdown as a scandalous sleazy senator, an escaped serial killer, and a terrorist attack will have readers wondering what next.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Barnstorming-Laura Crum


Laura Crum

Perseverance, Apr 2 2012, $14.95

ISBN 9781564745088

Fifty is a monumental pivotal age for many mothers as their kids reach an age of self-reliance. In Santa Cruz, California, single mom Gail McCarthy believes so as she faces a major decision as to whether to return to work as a horse veterinarian or retire permanently at a relatively early age since her son Mac is a tweener.

Gail muses over her future while taking a ride on Sunny when she meets Jane Kelly on her Arab mare Dolly. Jane is angry at Tammi Martinez of the Red Barn Stable, Bill Waters and his sic ‘em big dog, Sheryl Silverman who stole her boyfriend, and stupid Julie and Jim of Lazy Valley. After departing, Gail hears a shot, which nearby Lazy Valley horse trainer (credentials come from sleeping with owner Julie Barnes) Jonah Wakefield denies hearing. He leaves her as a dirt biker zooms past Gail. She soon finds Dolly meandering alone and subsequently a dead Jane. Police Detective Jeri Ward investigates the homicide in which Gail assists her when a second rider is murdered.

The twelfth Gail McCarthy equine mystery (see Going, Gone) combines a meandering light cozy with a profound coming of middle age acceptance and realism. Gail has turned fifty with the knowledge that she is skiing down the slope of life (per my nephew re his uncle) as over half of hers is gone. Fans of the series will relish this engaging whodunit as the heroine considers to be or not to be employed while Laura Crum probably has her riding off into the sunset but not off a cliff.

Harriet Klausner

Mix-Up In Miniature-Margaret Grace

Mix-Up In Miniature

Margaret Grace

Perseverance, Apr 2 2012, $15.95

ISBN 9781564745101

In Lincoln Point, California, retired teacher Geraldine “Gerry” Porter and popular romance novelist Varena Young meet and become friends. Varena owns a large miniatures collection; so when the library hosts an auction to raise funds, she donates a valuable museum-quality Georgian mansion dollhouse.

Gerry is at Varena’s mansion when she overhears her host argue with an unknown male. The maid tells Gerry that the man is her employer’s brother. Not long afterward someone murders Varena. The police question Gerry, who tells them she overheard a fight between the victim and her sibling. However, the cops explain there is no brother. With her trusty eleven year old sidekick Maddie and her granddaughter accompanying her, Gerry investigates to prove her innocence starting with the clue in the secret room of an antique dollhouse.

The latest Miniature Mystery (see Mourning In Miniature and Monster In Miniature) is a wonderful cozy starring a dynamic amateur sleuth team trying to prove Gerry’s innocence. The fast-paced storyline is lighthearted fun as the geriatric and the tweener escort readers on a room by room tour of dollhouses in their search for clues.

Harriet Klausner

Fire Engine Dead-Sheila Connolly

Fire Engine Dead

Sheila Connolly

Berkley, Mar 6 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780425246702

In Philadelphia, Nell Pratt is the president of the Pennsylvanian Antiquarian Society, a depository for documents and manuscripts of various people and groups. The fundraising climate sucks so the library like most not for profits lacks money. The city government plans to cut funding for the Fireman's Museum and donations are at their lowest; on the bright side, firefighters voluntarily are renovating the place.

An arsonist torched several warehouses with police and fire investigators clueless as to why and who. One of the fires killed a security guard and destroyed the storage facility where the Fireman’s Museum documents and other items weres located while the renovation was occurring. Among the priceless objects ruined is an old fire truck picture. Nell recognizes something not right with the remains of the picture and shows it to her maybe boyfriend FBI Agent James Morrison explaining she believes a switch occurred and was covered up by the fire. He does not have the cooperation of the museum directors or the fundraising groups so he suggests she chat with them. Nell does that and more, which places her in the crosshairs of a killer.

The third Museum mystery (see Let’s Play Dead and Fundraising The Dead) is an engaging amateur sleuth filled with fascinating characters, interesting museum information, plenty of action including a nice twist and a bit of romance. Readers learn what occurs behind the curtain at a library, but it is Nell’s interrogation of the antiquities circle that makes the storyline fun as she grills people, but none of the responders realize she sliced and diced them with one lethal exception. Though by the sub-genre book with a civilian in a near death experience by risking her life to investigate, Sheila Connolly provides am entertaining whodunit.

Harriet Klaussner

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sketch A Falling Star-Sharon Pape

Sketch A Falling Star

Sharon Pape

Berkley, Mar 6 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780425246696

Former police artist Rory McCain has become a private investigator with a very unusual partner, Zeke the ghost. He wants her to solve his cold case of who murdered him by stabbing him in the back as he was about to kill a deadly psychopathic murderer of five girls. She is in Arizona doing research into Zeke’s case when her Aunt Helene calls and asks her to come to the hotel where she is staying with the Way Off Broadway Players.

A flash flood caught the troupe in its torrential grip; member Preston Wright died. The official ruling is accidental death, but the victim’s mom hires Rory to determine whether her son was murdered. She further explains his real name was Brian Carpenter, a scam artist who destroyed many lives under different alias around the country; his enemy count being stratospheric. Ironically Brian’s mother does not want her son’s killer arrested as she understands what her offspring did, but needs closure. Rory is determined to solve this case without Zeke’s help unlike their previous collaborations (see Sketch Me if You Can and To Sketch a Thief). However, as she learns each of the players and support cell had solid motives to murder Preston, Zeke insists he has her back.

The third A Portrait of Crime Mystery is a delightful paranormal mystery due to the charming abnormal relationship between the ghost and the sleuth. While the focus is on Rory’s investigation, Zeke’s past story is sprinkled deftly throughout the enjoyable storyline; providing a somewhat comparison between past and present. Readers will sketch a portrait of a writer with a hit series on her hands.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Deep Zone-James M. Tabor

The Deep Zone

James M. Tabor

Ballantine, Apr 3 2012, $26.00

ISBN: 9780345530615

Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority microbiologist Dr. Hallie Leland was on the verge of a break though of a super-antibiotic rivaling penicillin when she was accused of selling government secrets. To avoid prison, she resigned.

Currently, Hallie works at the Deep Enough Dive Shop in Northern Florida only because her best friend Mary Stilwell hired her. Thomas Brewster arrives asking for a guide to take him to the Boneyeard. She takes him down and saves his life. HSD Agents Fortier and Whittle arrive to chat with Dr. Leland, who stuns them with her lack of respect. They say Dr. Don Barnard of CDC, who supported her when BARDA sold her out, sent them to her. She travels to DC immediately where she meets with Don, Delta lab supervisor Dr. Lewis Casey and CIA agent David Lathrop. Wounded soldiers were infected with a new form of Acinetobacter contagious bacterial infection that has come from Afghanistan to the States. Time is running out however, as they need to complete her original work but what they need is in a deep Mexican cave where two people died on the last expedition there and lawlessness is the law in the general area.

This is an exciting bioterror medical thriller that grips the reader from the moment the disgraced heroine is brought back at the eleventh hour to save the day until the final bloody twist. Although the supervillain and to a lesser degree his conspirators and the supporting good guys are stereotyped, fans will enjoy the dive into the weird world of subterranean caves escorted by Hallie.

Harriet Klausner

Dorchester Terrace-Anne Perry

Dorchester Terrace

Anne Perry

Ballantine, Apr 3 2012, $26.00

ISBN 9780345510624

In 1896, Thomas Pitt still struggles with replacing Victor Narraway as the chief of Scotland Yard’s Special Branch. Part of his concern is that his former boss was exonerated of all wrong doing in the recent Irish fiasco (see Treason at Lisson Grove), but was not returned to his position.

Pitt’s staff reports that someone has made inquiries into railway signals and points at the Dover-London rail. Pitt fears an assassination is being planned of a European dignity due to the Dover connection, but whom, where and when are unknown. In London, a demented elderly Italian ex agent and a Croatian wife may have the information Pitt needs; he turns to his spouse Charlotte to ferret out the data to prevent a heinous crime. When he learns Austrian Duke Alois Habsburg is coming to London via Dover, Pitt thinks he is the target, but cannot fathom why kill so many innocents to get at a minor noble; so he ponders whether that assassination is a distraction from the prime plan.

The latest Pitt late Victorian police procedural is a great mystery as the hero feels out of his depth running the branch while many others in government agree with his assessment. In fact only his wife and his former boss believe he is capable of doing the full job, which includes decision making in the gray fuzzy areas. Action-packed, fans will relish the insight into the tottering Austro-Hungarian Empire within a fabulous time ticking investigative thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Scorpion Betrayal- Andrew Kaplan

Scorpion Betrayal

Andrew Kaplan

Harper, Mar 27 2012, $9.99

ISBN 9780062064585

In Cairo, General Budawi, head of State Internal Security Intelligence, enters a café to meet with a man protected by Egypt in Secret Service. A bomb explodes killing Budawi. Before leaving the operative murders the café owner. The dangerous man with no face terrorist, the Palestinian, brutally has announced a new front that caught the Western and Middle Eastern Intel groups napping.

The CIA, fearing something catastrophic is coming as evidence points to a plague killing millions, assigns rogue outsider Scorpion to hunt down and if need be kill the Palestinian. Overseeing Scorpion’s efforts and that of others is CIA National Clandestine Service Deputy Director Bob Harris. Scorpion is provided information on a need to know basis; with Harris being the one to define when to give information. This handicaps the mercenary patriot as he plays chess against another grandmaster with checkmate involving millions of lives.

The return of Scorpion after a two decade respite will excite fans of action-packed espionage manhunts. The storyline is faster than the speed of light as the plot opens with an assassination and never stems the flow of blood while the captured audience anticipates the confrontation between two vigilant vigilantes as each believes their side is in the right.

Harriet Klausner

Memory Of Blood-Christopher Fowler

Memory Of Blood

Christopher Fowler

Bantam, Mar 27 2012, $25.00

ISBN: 9780345528636

In London, Peculiar Crimes Unit (PCU) senior (citizen) detective John May tells his geriatric partner Arthur Bryant that his buddy belonged in the nineteenth century rather than the information age. May insists Bryant wants a return to the days when kids climbed into chimneys as sweeps rather than climbed into a virtual chimney as a role player. Meanwhile the brass wishes the octogenarians would retire and PCU would expire. However, these seemingly dementia pair solves cases that require extraordinary measures.

The New Strand Theatre hosts a production of The Two Murderers. Those associated with the play throw a party. Soon afterward, the son of the theater owner falls from a sixth floor window. The case looks like a suicide, but the locals ask PCU to take a look at the locked room scenario. Bryant believes a murder occurred when a grotesque life sized Mr. Punch is on the floor. He explains to May that the opening scene in the Punch and Judy shows has the former throwing the baby out the window. The party attendees are all people of interest while the two ancient sleuths seek a motive along the lines of Punch and Judy. Meanwhile the Home Office tries to push PCU off the case as a government official’s daughter is a suspect.

This is a superb PCU police procedural as readers obtain a fascinating look at the macabre history of the Punch-and-Judy shows that is tied to the present day “Theatre of Blood”. With humor and a touch of satirizing those nostalgically wanting a return to a so called golden age that happened before they were born, this locked room entry is one of the best cases in a terrific long running series.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 13, 2012

Watergate-Thomas Mallon


Thomas Mallon

Pantheon, Feb 21 2012, $26.95

ISBN: 9780307378729

In 1972, President Richard Nixon’s Committee to reelect him (CRP) wants to bury his opponent Senator George McGovern by using his rival’s anti-Viet Nam War position as unpatriotic if they can tie him to Castro. Five men break into the Democratic National Committee's headquarters in the Watergate complex. Security guard Frank Willis catches them. They are arrested but evidence is destroyed. Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein investigate with the help of Deep Throat until the scandal reaches the Oval Office forcing Nixon to resign.

This is a great historical fictionalized account of Watergate that impacted future generation inquiries (Iran-Contra comes to mind). The storyline focuses on fictional accounts of many of the players’ personal lives after the incident occurred so it behooves readers to pursue what happened. None of the cast is prime focus as the crime holds the storyline together. Reactions divide along party lines similar to the OJ murder trial divided amongst race lines; Republicans insist a silly political prank (as the lyrics of Sweet Home Alabama imply) though they cannot alibi evidence destruction and obstruction; Democrats insist burglary and cover-up are crimes regardless who you are or what connections you have (unless it happens to be a democrat lying under oath). Nixon is somewhat in the background as a tragic Shakespearean character fated to fail while three females (his wife Pat, his secretary Rose Mary “18 and a half” Woods, and Teddy Roosevelt’s nonagenarian daughter Alice Longworth) deal with the scandal. Other secondary and tertiary characters step forward from the shadows onto the stage as readers observe different perspectives of the immediate and somewhat longer term aftermath of Watergate by those involved.

Harriet Klausner

Edge Of Dark Water-Joe R. Lansdale

Edge Of Dark Water

Joe R. Lansdale

Little, Brown/Mulholland, Mar 25 2012, $25.99

ISBN 9780316188432

In Depression devastated East Texas, sixteen year old Sue Ellen Wilson finds the body of her friend May Lynn Baxter in the Sabine River. A sewing machine was used to hold the corpse under the water. Sue Ellen is stunned by the reaction of May Lynn’s family; as the victim’s normally ill-tempered father and her less hostile but bellicose uncle prefer to pretend nothing happened than report the homicide to law enforcement.

Sue Ellen enlists the help of her two best friends (sissy Terry Thomas and colored Jinx Smith) and her alcoholic mom Helen on an odyssey to pay homage to May Lynn. She plans to dig up the interred corpse and incinerate the body so she can spread May Lynn’s ashes in Hollywood where the deceased dreamed of becoming a star. The trio finds money hidden by May Lynn’s dead bank robbing brother, which they take with them as they raft down the Sabine for California. However, others want that stolen loot and are willing to kill three bratty teenagers and a drunk to obtain it.

This is a great historical regional suspense that grips the audience from the opening moment when Sue Ellen discovers the murdered corpse of her friend and never slows down until the final altercation. With a nod to Huck Finn, fans will enjoy rafting down the Sabine as feisty Sue Ellen guides us over the edge of Dark Water into deadly currents.

Harriet Klausner

Echoes of Titanic-Mindy Starns Clark and John Campbell Clark

Echoes of Titanic

Mindy Starns Clark and John Campbell Clark

Harvest House, Mar 1 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9780736929462

In 1913, Adele Brennan stands in Lower Manhattan overlooking the Hudson on a cold April day thinking about her family members (Uncle Rowan and Cousin Jocelyn) who died horribly one year ago today in the frozen ocean. Their bodies were never recovered for her to properly bury her loved ones except to honor them by making something of herself in New York.

In 2002, Adele’s great granddaughter Kelsey Tate knows the family tragedy and achievement as she works at the firm Brennan & Tate her late relative established nine decades ago. As Kelsey stands on the memorial in Battery Park honoring those who died on the Titanic, she fears she is failing Adele with a hostile take-over seemingly imminent. A distant relative Rupert claims that Adele died with Rowan, but Jocelyn survived and changed her identity so that Adele’s father who had not seen his daughter since she was a toddler would welcome her into his home. He is suing the estate based on the alleged fraud committed by Jocelyn. Stunned by the assault on her idol, Kelsey finds her boss Gloria dead near the office. A desperate Kelsey turns to her beloved Cole Thornton, who dumped her for her tunnel vision, to learn what happened in 1912 and in 2002.

This is a superb mystery that looks back to what happened to Adele and Jocelyn on the Titanic, which has impacts ninety years later. The storyline is fast-paced and filled with action while the heroine’s world shatters starting with the allegations. Fans will relish this strong entry as Team Clark provides an engaging tale with a strong final twist to what happened to the cousins on that doomed voyage.

Harriet Klausner

The Probability Of Murder-Ada Madison

The Probability Of Murder

Ada Madison

Berkley, Mar 6 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780425246672

In Massachusetts, Henley College Math Department hosts this week’s soiree by celebrating the birthday of August Ferdinand Moebius. Statistics Professor Dr. Sophie Knowles thinks only mathematicians would commemorate a centuries-dead colleague, but that is safer than the olfactory senses abused by the chemistry department.

The event becomes marred when she learns her friend Charlotte Crocker the popular librarian was murdered in the Emily Dickson Library. Sophie’s significant other Shock, Trauma & Air Rescue MEDVAC pilot Bruce Granville provides her with some comfort. Charlotte’s student aid Hannah Stephens found the corpse Homicide Detective Virgil Mitchell leads the investigation which includes questioning the members of the club at A Hill Of Beads; which includes the victim and Sophie. Understanding The Square Root of Murder, Sophie investigates before a second homicide occurs.

This is enjoyable academic amateur sleuth filled with puzzlers, brain teasers and mathematician quotations. The cozy storyline is entertaining as the heroine conducts her inquiry following the Socratic method, which leads to her being a potential subtrahend. Although her motive for her probing is overly used by the sub-genre, fans will appreciate Sophie’s inquiry as she adds the clues and subtracts the red herrings to try to extrapolate the identity of the killer before she becomes a cold statistic.

Harriet Klausner

Unnatural Acts-Stuart Woods

Unnatural Acts

Stuart Woods

Putnam, Apr 17 2012, $26.95

ISBN: 9780399158865

Stone Barrington earned his full partnership at prestigious Woodman & Weld by diligently handling those cases the law firm preferred no association with. He meets Marla the Broadway director at a dinner. They hit it off and she moves into his home when a stalker becomes increasingly dangerous.

Stone hands the case over to NYPD police lieutenant Dino. Former Assistant FBI Director Shelley and Dino make love before she leaves. To stay out of trouble, Dino fails to report their tryst because she became a fugitive after killing five people

Seeing himself when he was younger, Stone advises associate Herbie Fisher, who listens to his suggestions leading to a promotion. He brings in billionaire clients, but one of them hedge fund manager Marshal Brennan wants his new lawyer to deal with his wastrel son Dink; who owes $200,000 to a bookie and is probably dealing in drugs. Herbie gets Dirk committed and deals with the bookie using legal means. Stone warns his mentee to watch his back. Dino searches for Marla’s stalker who is more dangerous than they know and Shelley arranges their encounter in which he fails to recognize her.

The three subplots keep Stone in a peripheral role with Herb and Dino as the protagonists. Herb proves cunning in using quasi legal methods while Dino allows his love for Shelley to handcuff his official need to arrest her (mindful of TV’s Detective Chief Inspector John Luther). Although the premises seem unlikely and the closing of Elaine’s matches the real closing in November, fans will enjoy Stone mellowing while Herb and Dino carry the footballs.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Shore Excursion-Marie Moore

Shore Excursion

Marie Moore

Camel Press, Apr 1 2012, $13.95

ISBN: 9781603818742

Sidney Marsh left small-town Mississippi to become a resident of the Big Apple. She obtains a job as a travel agent at Itchy Feet Travel. Currently she and her best friend Jay Wilson lead a cruise ship tour of Scandinavia and Russia. Her clients on the Rapture are the High Steppers senior citizens. Meanwhile ship Captain Vargas is interested in Sidney.

However, the idyllic cruise turns ugly when High Stepper Ruth is murdered in her cabin. Vargas and crew insist on continuing as if nothing happened because Ruth’s death was declared a suicide. A second suspicious death occurs when another High Stepper is found in the freezer among the desserts. Positive that the murders are covering up on-board criminal activity, Sidney investigates not trusting the captain or the crew to do a diligent inquiry. A third death occurs in Tivoli Gardens, but this person is not High Stepper; but instead a seemingly homeless person who apparently hung around wherever Sidney is.

Marie Moore writes a wonderful amateur sleuth mystery starring an intrepid heroine and a quirky support cast. Armchair travelers will enjoy cruising the fjords of Scandinavia. Sidney makes too many mistakes on her first inquiry, but like the Mississippi bulldog she is, she keeps on trying; her error-filled efforts bring plausibly to a magical mystery tour of Scandinavia.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 10, 2012

Children of Wrath-Paul Grossman

Children of Wrath

Paul Grossman

St. Martin’s, Feb 28 2012, $25.99

ISBN: 9780312601911

In 1929 as the world economies collapse due to the failures of the finance system, Berlin police Detective Willi Kraus struggles with the anti-Semitism of his Aryan peers and superiors. Ebbing of flood water leaves a burlap sack behind. Kraus looks inside and sees boiled human bones macabrely sewed together bound together by thread made from muscle tissue and a bible extract circling the phrase “children of wrath”. However, his being Jewish has his boss assign him an inquiry into tainted sausages that has poisoned hundreds.

Though he knows his heritage and religion has left him in precarious danger of being fired, Kraus works the human bones case without official sanctioning and over the objection of his wife who fears his actions will harm their children as the Nazis meteoric rise to power uses the Jews as their fuel. Kraus soon concludes this Kinderfesser Child Eater cannot do it alone

Fans who read The Sleepwalkers, which occurs in 1932, know the outcome of the horrific Kinderfresser serial killings, but that will not matter as this is a great historical mystery. The storyline brings to life the Weimer Republic at a time when the Great Depression has devastated global economics even more so in Germany and the Nazis are beginning to rise to power. With a Jeffrey Dahmer type killer based on a statue in Bern, readers will relish the actions of the diligent Jewish police detective working a particularly nasty case in a hostile prejudicial environment that threatens his family as much as himself.

Harriet Klausner

Jonathan Kellerman Silent Partner-Art by Michael Gaydos; adapted by Ande Parks

Jonathan Kellerman Silent Partner

Art by Michael Gaydos; adapted by Ande Parks

Villard, Feb 28 2012, $23.00

ISBN: 9780440423638

Just after his girlfriend Robin Castagna ends their relationship, Dr. Alex Delaware’s former lover Sharon Ransom asks to see him. He remembers her strange behavior, which drove him to end their relationship, so he refuses to meet with her as he does not need her tsuris. However, the psychiatrist is shocked and overwhelmed with guilt when he learns the next day that Sharon committed suicide.

Obsessed with a need to know fueled by his remorse for saying no to her and a thirst to regain his shattered self-esteem, Alex investigates what happened to make Sharon kill herself. With the help of his friend LAPD police detective Milo Sturgis, Alex traces Sharon to a twisted horror version of Hollywood in which murder, pornography, blackmail and much more are the norm of those living in the luxurious mansions and on the streets.

This is a great graphic adaptation of a powerful dark Delaware 1989 thriller. Ande Parks does a super job of capturing the essence of Delaware’s battered ego while Michael Gaydos portrays Los Angeles vast wealth gap connected by a stark darkness, made eerier by the black and white drawings. Though one must adapt to seeing a young Delaware’s picture (extremely well done), fans will appreciate the superb comic book version of Silent Partner.

Harriet Klausner

Unwanted-Kristine Ohlsson


Kristine Ohlsson

Atria/Emily Bestler, Feb 28 2012, $25.00

ISBN: 9781439198896

On the express from Gothenburg to Stockholm, a switch problem stropped the train in Flemingsberg for twenty minutes. Conductor Henry Lindgren notices red haired Sara Sebastiansson step out onto the platform without her dark haired six year old Lilian who stayed inside the coach asleep. However, Sara loses track of time as she assists a stranger with a sick dog and fails to get back on the train that continues the journey. Lindgren is concerned so he keeps an eye on the child, but also does his duties when two girls brawl. Three minutes prove a lifetime as Lilian is gone.

Intelligent Police Inspector Frederika Bergman leads the missing child investigation to the chagrin of her male peers who scorn her lack of experience. She quickly learns no witness on the train saw what happened to the little girl while the girl’s father Gabriel, in a custody battle with Sara, is the most likely abductor. The child is found dead with the word “unwanted” written on her head. Bergman knows she pursues a brilliant serial killing psychopath who makes the arctic weather seem balmy as the body count and the ridicule rise.

The first Bergman Swedish police procedural translation is an excellent investigative thriller starring a protagonist ready to quit the force as unchallenging until now and a vile creepy predator. Fast-paced, readers will be hooked from the opening abduction in a taut chess match between two geniuses.

Harriet Klausner

Live Ammo-Linda Fitzgerald

Live Ammo

Linda Fitzgerald

Crystal Dreams, Apr 1 2012, $19.95

ISBN: 9781591462637

In Cocoa, Florida, reporter Allie Grainger works for the Brevard Sun. One of the biggest stories to hit the county is the suicide of the wife of Sheriff Cord Arbutten. Allie works the story interviewing Cord whose adult son Rand, without offering any proof, believes his father murdered his wife and made it look like she killed herself. Although the gun used proves to be Cord’s and they were in the middle of a hostile divorce, Allie knows her friend Sheryl and her late Aunt Lou adore the sheriff. In fact Lou loved Cord, who though he felt the same way refused to act on their feelings as he believed she deserved better.

At the funeral Rand agrees to an interview. Though he tries to hide his disdain for his dad, Rand makes it clear he despises his father. Sheryl encourages Allie to investigate because she is positive her boss is innocent. As the journalist looks into the death, someone shoots at her and tries to run her over. Allie knows she needs to find the killer before she becomes the next victim.

Talented Linda Fitzgerald provides an exciting journalistic investigative mystery that has an Ann Rule true crime feel to the inquiry done by the likable heroine. In her latest appearance (see Live Ringer), intrepid Allie risks her life to get the story. Rand, who does not want to hear what the reporter has to say when she pokes holes in his theory, nevertheless keeps a vigilant eye on her to try to keep her safe. Live Ammo is an exciting thriller that deserves to be on the bestsellers lists.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Rogue By Any Other Name-Sarah Maclean

A Rogue By Any Other Name

Avon, Feb 28 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780062068521

In 1821 Michael Lawler realized the eight of diamonds left him penniless as all he now owns is the title Marquess of Bourne. The Ton rejected him, which forced Michael, fueled by an obsession to regain his ancestral home from the Marquess of Needham and Dolby, into working the underground. He started as a pit boss, but a decade later worthy Michael is co-owner of The Fallen Angels gambling hell.

Penelope Marbury ends another engagement to the chagrin of her family and the ostracism by the Ton. She recklessly decides to find her former friend and pen pal Michael as she thinks she may love him. When she succeeds, she realizes he is not the warm person she remembers, but instead is cold and angry. He sees an opportunity to achieve his goal as she is the daughter of his enemy. They marry and begin to fall in love, but Michael cannot move past is his need for revenge.

The opening The First Rule Of Scoundrels is an engaging historical romance that is fun to read as love battles acrimony. The lead couple is a nice pairing as she is his redemption card but he believes she is his revenge card. Although their personal tsuris eventually slows down the plot, readers will enjoy the 1831 version of Guys and Dolls with humorous eccentric support characters.

Harriet Klausner

Yours, Mine, And Ours-MaryJanice Davidson

Yours, Mine, And Ours

MaryJanice Davidson

St. Martin’s, Feb 28 2012, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312531188

Christmas can be hectic and overwhelming, but Special Agent Cadence Jones feels that way all year round, having to share her body with her two pain in butt sisters (Shiro and Adrienne), who when either takes control can make the enjoyable holiday season miserable; as the host must clean up the aftermath mess. She seems to have a real boyfriend Patrick if her siblings would butt out. On the negative side she must shop for Patrick and her Secret Santa. Her new partner George Pinkman seems okay though he cherishes stirring up Cadence’s eccentricities; while the new office superstar Dr. Emma Jan Thyme makes her nervous.

However, Cadence and her sisters go wacko battling for the lead role when they meet gorgeous Dr. Max Gallo. Desire must wait over the objections of her internal pests as Cadence and George work to prevent another serial killing by a predator who murders a fourteen years old boy every year.

The second Jones’s sisters police procedural (see Me, Myself and Why) is a fabulous thriller that starts off crazy with Shiro shaving poodles and Adrienne handcuffing George while Cadence has to clean up after them. The key element is that the three siblings possess dramatically different personalities that MaryJanice Davidson deftly maintains. The murder investigation is the only serious element as the Jones trio battle for control of Cadence’s body.

Harriet Klausner

Archive 17-Sam Eastland

Archive 17

Sam Eastland

Bantam, Feb 28 2012, $25.00

ISBN: 9780345525734

In 1939, Stalin and Hitler expect war soon in spite of armistice talks. However, the vicious Russian dictator has inside issues as he has led the Communist nation over the edge spiraling into bankruptcy. Needing capital, Stalin assigns his most trusted (at the moment) investigator Inspector Pekkala to look into the homicide of former Tsarist cavalry Captain Ryabov in the Borodok labor camp in Siberia. Pekkala knows the camp first hand having spent time there as a former Trist guard courtesy of Stalin.

Though Stalin worries that his enemies will use the murder to try a coup, the homicide inquiry is partly Pekkala’s cover, as he demands his agent find the missing Tsarist gold. Thus Pekkala must pretend to be a political prisoner while he infiltrates the dwindling remaining loyal Tsarists, those willing to die for the cause of the Comitati gang.

The third Pekkala Stalin era thriller (see Eye of the Red Tsar and Shadow Pass) is a great tale that shows how quickly the brutal dictator can turn from best friend to murderous enemy. In many ways Siberia steals the show as an incredible location for the tundra-isolated stark camp (mindful of the Gulag Archipelago memoir of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn) in a sort of locked room mystery with “barbarians waiting at the gate for escapees. This is a strong historical.

Harriet Klausner

When Maidens Mourn-C.S. Harris

When Maidens Mourn

C.S. Harris

Obsidian, Mar 6 2012, $24.95

ISBN: 9780451235770

In 1812, Sebastian St. Cyr and Hero Jarvis marry. He has concerns as she is the daughter of his bitter enemy Lord Charles, the real power in Britain; and she has doubts as she refuses to give up her independence. While the pair argues over their honeymoon, Hero’s close friend Gabrielle Tennyson studies the Camlet Moat dig in Trent as she theorizes that these ruins may be Camelot; which encourage the fervor of those demanding the return of King Arthur in order to rid the country of the decadent Hanover family.

Someone stabs to death the female antiquities expert; her two younger cousins (nine years old George and three years old Alfred) are missing and presumed dead too. Hero and Sebastian go their separate ways as each investigates the homicide and missing children. However, they unite when danger threatens their lives.

The latest Sebastian St. Cyr (and Hero Jarvis) regency mystery (see Where Shadows Dance) is a superb thriller with a complex missing children’s case and a homicide as well as the even more complicated (and convoluted) relationship between the protagonists. The whodunit is excellent with its tying of King Arthur to King George as C.S. Harris provides a fabulous investigative historical thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Devil's Odds-Milton T. Burns

The Devil's Odds

Milton T. Burns

Minotaur, Feb 28 2012, $25.99

ISBN: 9780312643355

In 1942 Jim Rutherford sends friend Texas Cattle Ranger Association Detective Virgil Tucker to meet a frightened woman at the Longhorn Barroom of the exclusive Weilbach Hotel in San Gabriel. Madeline Kimbell explains she witnessed two hoods working for Marty Salisbury murder Beaumont City Council lawyer Henry DeMour outside the Snake Eyes Nightclub in Port Arthur. Additionally, Madeline is hiding from her former boyfriend Jefferson County Deputy Sheriff Nolan who demands they marry.

Virgil takes Madeline to a safe house, but she abruptly flees and is found dead. Meanwhile Virgil finds himself in the crosshairs of a mob fight as New Orleans mobsters want to take over the Galveston operations from the kinder gentler local gang. Virgil leads with his fists in the middle of a WWII range war.

With a powerful sense of time and place, The Devil’s Odds is a superb historical thriller in which readers will feel they are traversing the Texas Gulf Coast circa 1942 when law enforcement used local methods. Fast-paced and filled with action, Virgil is a delight as a kick butt nourish hero with a soft heart.

Harriet Klausner

Hunting Sweetie Rose-Jack Fredrickson

Hunting Sweetie Rose

Jack Fredrickson

Minotaur, Feb 28 2012, $24.99

ISBN 9780312605261

The Argus-Observer newspaper showed the pictures of the clown falling from a rooftop when the rope he used proved limp not taut. In nearby Riverton, TV reporter Jennifer Gale meets Vlodek “Dek” Elstrom while following a scandal involving salad oil labels. After she leaves, a limo carrying Tim Duggan arrives. Tim hires unlicensed private investigator Dek to look discreetly into the clown’s demise which is ruled a suicide. With a terrific retainer and an open expense account, Dek asks no questions though he assumes the clown committed suicide.

Dek finds a link to ex-wife’s affluent philanthropic circle when clues lead to wealthy Sweetie Fairbairn; who abruptly vanishes from her penthouse; she left behind in her hasty exit a dead security guard and an old postcard with a picture of a covered bridge. Following the clues leads Dek to Hadlow, Minnesota known for its humongous statue of Chief Winnemac and in Dek’s mind convoluted clues.

The third Elstrom private investigator mystery (see A Safe Place For Dying and Honestly Dearest, You’re Dead) is a great whodunit due to the protagonist’s wicked self-deprecating sense of humor. The case is cleverly filled with complications as the hero follows bridges to nowhere. On the personal front, he and Jennifer hit it off though he misses his former wife. Readers will enjoy the quips and capers of Elstrom as he investigates who wiped the smile off the clown’s face.

Harriet Klausner

A Killer Read-Erika Chase

A Killer Read

Erika Chase

Berkley, Apr 3 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780425247037

The Ashton Corners’ school board wants their student dropouts to pass the GED exam. To achieve this goal; the members know they must find a way to motivate the former students to read. They hire reading specialist Lizzie Turner to accomplish their objective. Lizzie loves to read and wants her class to share her fervor.

The Ashton Corners Mystery Readers and Cheese Straws Society host their initial session at Molly Matthews's Southern mansion. A stranger arrives saying his car broke down nearby and asks to make a phone call. She escorts him to her phone; once there he tells the group he needs privacy. Later that evening, a club member finds him dead in his car from a bullet fired from Molly's antique gun. A few days later, someone calls Lizzie and asks if she knows what story her father worked on when he died. Every few days, she receives chapters of a manuscript dealing with a person suffering from depression and suicidal tendencies due to feeling he was cheated on an investment deal. Molly and Lizzie believe there is a connection between the dead man and the manuscript, but cannot fathom what it is. They dig for information in order to find that missing link because they believe someone else will soon die.

This is an enjoyable amateur sleuth tale starring a wonderful overwhelmed protagonist dealing with her widow mom’s advanced Alzheimer, her work for the school board and her need to find the culprit before the police arrest Molly. Strong willed and brave, she also is attracted to her investigative “rival” police chief Mark Dreyfus. Although by the amateur sleuth book, fans will enjoy the opening chapter of the Ashton Corners Book Club.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 6, 2012

Beastly Things-Donna Leon

Beastly Things

Donna Leon

Atlantic Monthly, Apr 3 2012, $25.00

ISBN: 9780802120236

In Venice, the corpse of a drowning victim with one shoe is found in a canal. Venice Questura Commissario Guido Brunetti leads the inquiry as the deceased may have drowned but it was a cut into a major vein that left him helpless when he was dumped into the water. The M.E. Dr. Rizzardi explains the man with no identity and a battered visage was in reasonable health for a fortyish person though he suffered from the rare genetic disorder Madeling’s Disease that left his neck and chest seem abnormally fat.

Brunetti realizes when he saw the victim and soon knows where he can get a photo of the man’s face. He and Inspector Vianello start with a shoe store that leads them to another branch in Mestre until they learn the identity is that of Dr. Andrea Nava, veterinarian. He was estranged from his wife for having an affair and working two jobs, his practice and at a meat factory.

The latest Commissario Guido Brunetti Venetian police procedural is a super whodunit as readers follow the interesting investigation. Brunetti and Vianello are marvelous as they piece together clues mostly using old fashion shoe leather but also ably supported by the IT gurus Signorina Elettra and Pucetti. Beastly Things is a super whodunit, as the lead detectives’ reaction to the meat factory will turn many readers into vegetarians.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Detour-Andromeda Romano-Lax

The Detour

Andromeda Romano-Lax

Soho, Feb 14 2012, $25.00

ISBN: 978-1616950491

In 1948, Ernst Vogler visits Piedmont, Italy as he looks back a decade to what he did. Back in 1938, Ernest works as a trainee for the Sonderprojekt. His job is to collect masterpieces that reflect favorably on the Nazi credo and bring them to the Gestapo in Germany. When the authorities arrest his outspoken mentor with Jewish blood Gerhard and takes him to Dachau Prison as a political criminal, Vogler is assigned a special order of the Fuhrer who has “purchased” the ancient Roman statue, The Discus Thrower. He has three days to validate and deliver the classical work by rail to the Gestapo.

When he is unable to use the rails, he hires twin Italian policemen (Enzo and Cosimo Digiloramo) to escort Herr Vogler. The truck is terrible breaking down frequent and rarely picking up speed; additionally only Enzo can drive it while the roads are worse. Besides Cosimo demands a detour so he can spend the night with his Bella. Three days is no longer an option especially when he sees firsthand the classical masterpieces of the ancients that he fears what the Gestapo will do to the masterpieces and the modern day beauty Rosina.

This is an exciting WWII historical thriller that grips the reader with a sense of pending doom yet a feeling of optimism that all this will pass. The cast is powerful as the audience obtains life mostly in Italy as a lesser country cousin to the Third Reich. Filled with murder, mayhem, masterpieces and bittersweet love, readers will appreciate Vogler’s road tours circa 1938 and 1948.

Harriet Klausner