Monday, December 31, 2012

The Dead Shall Not Rest-Tessa Harris

The Dead Shall Not Rest

Tessa Harris

Kensington, Dec 24, 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780758266996

In 1782 at the Oxfordshire annual spring fair, Lady Lydia Farrell asks her betrothed American Dr. Thomas Silkstone to examine attraction eight-foot-tall Charles “Irish Giant” Byrne. The anatomist concludes that Byrne is dying. Not wanting to be a dissected freak in death especially after learning that unscrupulous Dr. John Hunter plans on grave robbers snatching his body, Byrne arranges his burial at sea; Thomas vows to insure the man’s wishes are met.

In London, someone removed the larynx from Signor Cappelli after murdering the castrato. Because of his unsavory grave-robbing reputation and the surgical precision, Hunter becomes the prime suspect though he swears he is innocent. His rival Silkstone believes the anatomist is innocent so in spite of his preference to see the amoral doctor sent to the gallows, he investigates the homicide.

The second Dr. Thomas Silkstone mystery (see The Anatomist’s Apprentice) is an outstanding late nineteenth century whodunit. The investigation is top rate with clever clues and anchored by a strong sense of time and place; for instance Byrne and Hunter were real persona and grave-robbing was a thriving occupation as the opening transaction depicts. The Dead Shall Not Rest is a fabulous historical investigative thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Fear Collector-Gregg Olsen

Fear Collector

Gregg Olsen

Kensington, Dec 24 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780786020461

“Fear Collector.” Ted Bundy rots in hell, but his vile legacy macabrely lives on in the minds of his victims’ loved ones. Grace Alexander grew up in the shrine of her vanished older sister Tricia as her parents never let go of the belief she was a Bundy dead. They assigned her a life mission as a baby to learn what happened to Tricia. She joined the Tacoma police department and married a Fed. Currently Grace and her TPD partner Paul Bateman investigate several missing girls who physically look very similar to each other. They find the corpse one of the vanished females, but also find the older remains of a person nearby who may have been a Bundy murder. Peggy Howell passed her version of the Bundy legacy to her son Jeremy: his life mission is to surpass the body count of her beloved hero.

“The Bone Box.” Tommy Freeland sends a note to his cousin Kitsap County, Washington forensic psychologist Dr. Birdie Waterman. Two decades as a teen, her testimony helped convict him of murder. She visits him at prison where he swears he is innocent. Tommy begs his cousin to investigate. Birdie finds the townsfolk resent her while some fear she will uncover hidden secrets.

Filled with a strong obsessed cast of survivors and an insane groupie, and terrific twists, the Fear Collector is a taut suspenseful thriller that focuses on two interpretations of the Bundy legacy, which makes the rotating storyline feel like a fast-paced true crime tale. Though a late spin seems over the top of Mount Rainier, The Bone Box is an enjoyable cold case short story starring a haunted heroine who learns the truth about telling the truth.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Sound of Broken Glass-Deborah Crombie

The Sound of Broken Glass

Deborah Crombie

Morrow, Feb 19 2013, $25.99

ISBN 9780061990632

Scotland Yard Superintendent Duncan and DCI Gemma James Kincaid plan a weekend of fun with their foster child Kit and their two younger children. They enjoyed Friday night Pizza, but Saturday morning, Gemma’s subordinate DS Melody Talbot informs her they have a homicide in which a naked bound man is found at the Belvedere in Crystal Palace. While Duncan watches the kids, Gemma leads the investigation.

The victim is highly regarded barrister Vincent Arnott, who while tied up was strangled to death in this dive of a hotel. Not long afterward, the corpse of a second barrister, murdered in the same manner is found. Besides the M.O., other evidence points to the same killer. Gemma and Melody soon link these homicides to a lethal encounter between two lonely people, a young male teen and a grieving widow teacher, fifteen year ago in Crystal Palace.

The latest James and Kincaid British police procedural (see No Mark Upon Her, Necessary As Blood and Kiss A Sad Goodbye) is a super entry as flashbacks interweave deftly with the present day investigation. The police inquiry engages the reader as Gemma and Melody take the lead in that subplot; while the marital relationship and the kids show the caring gentler sides of the Kincaid couple. Series fans will enjoy this fine whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, December 24, 2012

Miss Dimple Suspects-Mignon F. Ballard

Miss Dimple Suspects

Mignon F. Ballard

Minotaur, Jan 22 2013, $24.99

ISBN 9781250009678

During WWII in Georgia, first grade student Peggy Ashcroft vanishes in the nearby woods. The townsfolk conduct a search for the missing child. Peggy’s teacher at Elderberry Grammar School Miss Dimple Kilpatrick joins the hunt, but takes a solo path. She finds Peggy but the child is too exhausted to travel far. Max the dog arrives and escorts the teacher and her student to the nearby farmhouse of reclusive Mae Martha Hawthorne and the artist’s companion Suzu “Suzy” Amaya, who provide shelter to both females.

Several days later, someone murders Mae and steals her increasingly valuable paintings; Suzy is missing though she frighteningly contacts Miss Dimple as she fears mob anti-Japanese fever before vanishing in the middle of her call. She proves right when the locals fervently believe Suzy killed Mae Martha due to her Japanese roots. Not one to embrace ignorant racism, Miss Dimple, assisted by teachers Virginia and Charlie, search for Suzy and the art while a killer stalks the trio.

The latest Miss Dimple Mystery (see Miss Dimple Disappears and see Miss Dimple Rallies to the Cause) is a fun twisting WWII cozy that focuses on the home-front Japanophobia as much as the trio’s inept investigation. Although the support cast seems too stereotyped, readers will appreciate Miss Dimple Suspects the paintings are the motive.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 21, 2012

Blood Money-James Grippando

Blood Money

James Grippando

Harper, Jan 8 2013, $26.99

ISBN: 9780062109842

Miami defense attorney Jack Swyteck defends notorious nightclub waitress Sydney Bennett from the charge of murdering her two-year-old daughter Emma whose remains were found near the Everglades. The public overwhelmingly convicted Sydney of the homicide of her child.

When the verdict from the Vero Beach jury is not guilty, disbelief and anger overwhelm a stunned nation. Many hold Jack in contempt for getting the murdering mom off the hook. He receives threats and other forms of harassment while the media go on an ugly feeding frenzy. Near the jail where the acquitted Sydney is about to leave, a mob attacks college student Celeste Laramore, a Bennett look-alike leaving her comatose. The victims’ irate parents blame the media especially BNN, who misidentified Celeste as Sydney on TV. They turn to Swyteck to represent them as they sue BNN who accuse the Bennett defense team of going after Hollywood and publishing Blood Money. As they and their loved ones are threatened, Jack and his crew begin to uncover a shocking truth behind the Blood Money.

Partly based on the Casey Anthony case, Blood Money is an action-packed legal thriller that spins in a shocking direction just after the early verdict. The latest Swyteck case (see Afraid of the Dark) grips the audience throughout as the trial aftermath proves dangerous to the lawyer and anyone close to him. Series fans will enjoy this entry as James Grippando condemns the media for seeking ratings over the truth.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Illegally Iced-Jessica Beck

Illegally Iced

Jessica Beck

Minotaur, Dec 24 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9781250001078

In April Springs, North Carolina, friends Donut Hearts owner Suzanne Hart and town blacksmith James Settle are arguing. However, soon afterward someone stabs and kills James while the sun was up out in the open. Another shop owner Gabby Williams tells the police that she saw Suzanne fighting with James just before he died.

Police Chief Martin leads the investigation though he believes Suzanne is not the killer though many townsfolk do. Knowing her reputation and business are on the line, Suzanne and her BFF Grace Gauge begin their own inquiry especially wondering why no witnesses in a daylight public stabbing had come forth. They soon learn the victim was a wealthy heir and had issues with his ex-girlfriend.

The latest Donut Shop Mystery is an engaging amateur sleuth as the intrepid dynamic duo investigates who murdered their friend. This time suspicion rotates back to Suzanne who shared the prime suspect role in Killer Crullers and had the lead in Fatally Frosted; Grace was the suspect in Powdered Peril; the heroine’s mom Dorothy in Drop Dead Chocolate; and ex-husband Max in Sinister Sprinkles. Readers will enjoy this entertaining regional culinary cozy as Suzanne knows it is her turn for her neighbors to wonder and gossip about whether she killed the blacksmith.

Harriet Klausner

Take The Trophy & Run-Gail Sattler

Take The Trophy & Run

Gail Sattler

B&H, Nov 1 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9781433677298

In Bloomfield, BFFs crafts shop owner Amber Weathersby and mechanic Stan Wilson belong to the Bloomfield Garden Club though the former knows she is pathetic when it comes to growing things and expects to lose her membership even with his help. Her expertise is with creating crafts out of her store and arranging the Spring Fling Early Bloomer display in the winner’s garden. As she does annually, she uses her gnome Gnorman to hold the trophy as the centerpiece in the winning garden. This year Gnorman wears Stan’s sombrero as an added touch in Becky’s garden.

Before Amber can receive the accolades due her for her wonderful arrangement, someone gnome-naps Gnorman and the trophy. Amber and Stan track the elusive Gnorman but the clues they follow seem crazy; almost as insane as the awareness of the deep attraction each of the two amateur sleuths feel for the other. As they continue their odd pursuit, Gnorman the gnome plays matchmaker between two BFFs in love.

Take The Trophy & Run is an enjoyable romantic comedic cozy starring two engaging protagonists supported by his mom Kathy and several other Bloomfield Garden Club members, and of course the elusive Gnorman (picture the gnome in a tux). Fast-paced fun, fans will appreciate this jocular whodunit as the detectives find love in Bloomfield.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, December 17, 2012

Easter Bunny Murder-Leslie Meier

Easter Bunny Murder

Leslie Meier

Kensington, Jan 29 2013, $25.00

ISBN 9780758229359

Residents of Tinker’s Cove, Maine, enjoy the annual Easter egg hunt hosted by elderly Vivian Van Vorst at her Pine Point. Pennysaver reporter Lucy Stones loves to cover the fun event for the paper. However, when Lucy and other townsfolk arrive at Pine Point, they are shocked by the closed gates as no one can remember when the estate was not open for the gala. Before anyone can decide what to do next, as concern for the hostess rises; the Easter Bunny rushes out of the mansion staggering erratically towards the gates. To the horror of the witnesses especially the children he collapses before reaching it.

The Easter Bunny, VV’s grandson and heir Duff, dies before reaching the hospital. Lucy wonders if Duff was a murder victim or just died because his time ran out. She increasingly considers the death a homicide when she learns that VV recently became a recluse; as the vivacious town matriarch has always been outgoing. Though the cause has not been determined, Lucy thinks the only motive seems to be money as Diff was the heir.

The latest Lucy Stone mystery (see Chocolate Covered Murder and The Christmas Thief in A Winter Wonderland anthology) is an entertaining cozy. The heroine investigates though admits to herself Duff may have died of natural causes but the journalist remains vigilant in her inquiry as she knows her friend VV has been acting differently. The enjoyable storyline is fast-paced with a solid twist that turns the Easter Bunny Murder into an engaging family affair.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 14, 2012

Dukkha: The Suffering-Loren Christensen

Dukkha: The Suffering

Loren Christensen

Ymaa Publication Center, Dec 16 2012, $12.99

ISBN: 9781594392269

Portland Police Detective Sam Reed has been a cop for fifteen years but uses lethal force for the first time. A highly regarded martial arts instructor Sam is shook by his having to use his gun though the brass determined he performed an acceptable "good shoot." Still hurting, the department psychiatrist approves Sam to return to his duty. However, his karma proves horrific when within a few days of his return to active duty; he uses his gun again killing a perpetrator and a young innocent bystander. Looking at the blood that splattered all over him Sam mentally is shattered; made worse later is when he learns the dead man whose blood was soaked all over him and his marital arts wounds suffered from AIDS. His kill’s family wants Sam dead.

Samuel visits Sam saying he is his father. Sam insists his dad died in a North Vietnamese prison camp many years ago. A martial arts expert, Samuel explains he has a Vietnamese family with his daughter Mai graduating from Portland State University.

The first Sam Reed martial arts thriller is an exhilarating tale in which violence begat violence as father and son find their reunion intruded by several avenging individuals targeting both men; fighting becomes a family affair. Fast-paced and filled with non-stop action (no respite for the Sam duet or the readers) though over top of Mount Hood, fans will enjoy this exciting Oregonian tale.

Harriet Klausner

Chojun-Goran Powell


Goran Powell

Ymaa Publication Center, Dec 16 2012, $12.99

ISBN: 9781594392535

Now retired from his job at the harbor, Kenichi Ota reflects back on the life of the late great karate Master Chojun Miyagi who died back in 1953 in his sixties. Kenichi recalls meeting the great man in 1933 when as a foolish young boy growing up on Okinawa he was caught in the tidal waves of a typhoon. Over the next few years Kenichi studied karate under the tutelage of his master Chojun as cold war hostilities between America and Japan grew until Pearl Harbor began the combat. The pair traveled together to China to study the essence of karate while WWII slowly turns against the Japanese. As the American military head to Okinawa to begin the invasion, the Japanese army drafts every able person to defend the island. Following the ignoble defeat, Master and Student must help their fellow Okinawans rebuild. Eight years later, the student begins to consider ways to save the reputation of a great man, teacher and friend.

Chojun is a refreshing WWII biographical fiction from the point of view of a karate student providing insight into the martial arts and the devastation of the war on his island through Kenichi’s filter of his beloved Master. The karate fights are top rate and the lead protagonists seem fully developed caring individuals. However, it is Okinawa during and after the war that makes for a powerful historical thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Silence of the Llamas-Anne Canadeo

The Silence of the Llamas
Anne Canadeo
Gallery, Jan 22 2013, $15.00
ISBN: 9781451644791

Married a few years, Bostonians Ellie and Ben Krueger leave successful careers to open up the Laughing Llama Farm just outside a New England coastal village, Plum Harbor. They host a grand opening fiber festival to introduce their llamas to their neighbors. However, someone maliciously attacks the llamas with a paintball gun. Black Sheep Knitting Shop assistant Phoebe Myers sees the effect on the llamas and brings help, but not before Buttercup suffers a head trauma and seizure. The Krueger tenant Dot takes charge with washing the paint off the llamas as they were becoming sick from the toxin on their skin.

Ben blames reclusive nutcase Justin Ridley, who expects the newcomers to flip the property to developers once the legal date to sell occurs. Black Sheep Knitting Shop owner Maggie Messina suspects Angelica Rossi, as the vandal since the owner of the alpaca fiber Sweet Meadow Farm has been spreading negative rumors about llama fiber. The culprit stabs to death sweet llama Daphne followed by the homicide of Ridley. As the Black Sheep knitters investigate the murders, the killer remains hidden in plain sight like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The latest Black Sheep Knitting Mystery (see Till Death Do Us Purl) is an enjoyable amateur sleuth mystery with the members investigating because of the friendship between Dana and Ellie (reunited thanks to Facebook); the other Knitters welcome the newcomer as a kindred spirit. The storyline is fast-paced from the first assault until the final confrontation with two fabulous twists while also providing insight into fiber spinning. Although the knitters’ reason to make inquiries remains soft in spite of the friendship and love of animals, fans will appreciate The Silence of the Llamas.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Lawyer's Lawyer-James Sheehan

The Lawyer's Lawyer

James Sheehan

Center Street, Jan 8 2013, $22.99

ISBN: 9781455508662

In 1993, University of North Central Florida at Oakville student Stacey Kincaid claims a man tried to kill her. She works with local and county detectives especially Danni Jansen of OPD and the FBI to draw a sketch of her attacker. Soon afterward the police arrest Thomas Felton. Not long after that Felton is convicted as a serial killer who eight years later sits on death row awaiting execution once his appeals end for murders he swears he did not commit.

To defend him, Felton supporters turn to retired Miami trial attorney Jack Tobin because the latter is considered the “lawyer’s lawyer” by the best of the profession when they need legal representation. He looks into the case and finds odd anomalies that make him wonder if Felton is a fall guy. Tobin decides to leave Bass Creek to represent Felton in court. However, Robin is unprepared for the brouhaha of rage against him by the jurisprudence system as if justice is an inconvenience. The citizens of Oakville threaten him and even his soul mate condemns him though she has a personal interest in this case; while the lawyer’s lawyer soon finds he needs a lawyer.

The latest Jack Tobin legal thriller (see The Mayor of Lexington Avenue and The Law of Second Chances) is a great tale filled with stunning twists in and out of courtroom. The storyline is fast-paced from start to finish, but it is the cast who make this a winner as many of those in law enforcement and the legal system are angered with Tobin for mounting a competent defense when almost all of them prefer the State execute Felton.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Death Goes Postal-Rosemary and Larry Mild

Death Goes Postal

Rosemary and Larry Mild

Magic Island Literary Works, Aug 13 2012, $14.95

ISBN: 9780983859710

In 2004 in Bath, England, Professor Emil Kravitz believes the “old mule” is in his way. Kravitz wants the Herr Koenig's fifteenth century typesetting molds. He visits Professor Abner Fraume to demand the octogenarian hand them over to him, but the old mule refuses; having hid the valuable relics and sent three letters to his sister Edythe Bender in the States as to there whereabouts. Raging out of control Kravitz kills the man standing in his way.

In Annapolis, Maryland Edythe and her husband are ailing so they need to sell their Olde Victorian Bookstore, but refuse to do it to just anyone. They want someone who appreciates old books and will treat the bookstore’s live-in cat Lord Byron with kindness; so she choose their friends Dan and Rivka Sherman. At a book event, employee Liz Nathan mentions the letters, which apparently lead to a break-in and the kidnapping of Rivka; as one of the attendees must be obsessed Kravitz.

Death Goes Postal is a terrific bookstore mystery that is ironically made fresh by the six centuries old typesetting artifacts. The whodunit is fun to follow as readers, Dan and the Feds believe Kravitz is behind the dangerous crimes, but do not know who in the mystery writer’s club he is (though you would think that would be relatively easy to find out). Fans will appreciate this engaging whodunit as the infant days of printing meets the on demand digital age.

Harriet Klausner

Scrapped-Mollie Cox Bryan


Mollie Cox Bryan

Kensington, Dec 31 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780758266323

Mike and Annie Chemovitz agreed she would quit her investigative reporter job at the Washington Herald to become a stay at home mom to their two sons Ben and Sam. The Chemovitz quartet relocated to Cumberland Creek, Virginia where she becomes a Cropper of the Cumberland Creek Scrapbook Club and she still free-lances occasionally for the paper as she did with the Maggie Rae Dasher death (see Scrapbook of Secrets).

The police drag a corpse out of the Cumberland Creek River. Detective Brant points out to Annie that the deceased had strange markings on her body. Meanwhile Cookie Crandall the witch joins the scrapbookers’ club though she insists she lacks any experiences; she quickly becomes friends with the members. Another homicide with runes on the body occurs. When Brant names Cookie as the only suspect due to the arcane markings and her being a witch, Annie supported by the Croppers investigate. However, every clue they dig up leads to digging a bigger hole for Cookie; especially when they find an advanced-level, elaborately decorative spiritual scrapbook that a rookie could never have done.

The latest Cumberland Creek Mystery is an enjoyable whodunit starring a strong protagonist (Annie’s reaction to the first corpse sets the tone for the storyline). Fast-paced, readers will wonder who Cookie is and why she is in town in Mollie Cox Bryan's entertaining investigative tale.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The K Street Affair-Mari Passananti

The K Street Affair

Mari Passananti

Rutland Square Press, Jan 8 2013, $15.99

58 West Rutland Square; Boston, Massachusetts 02118

ISBN: 9780985894603

Terrorists simultaneously attack several Washington, D. C. Metro stations in the worst assault on American soil since 9/11. While her husband cannot get home, FBI Agents Henry Redwell and Maxwell Van Buren visit Rutledge & Smerth junior associate lawyer Lena Mancuso at her house. The Feds demand Lena assist them prove their case against disgraced lobbyist William Acheson and her employer Q. Randolph Smerth who leads a team she is on defending the former in court. The agents insist the pair knew the terrorist attack was coming and want her to be their informant proving bribery and money laundering involving Smerth and his Clearwater clients Acheson, Russian oil baron Korov and future Saudi ruler Prince Aziz.

Though she insists Smerth is no terrorist abettor, she reluctantly agrees to help the Feds. However, Lena soon realizes the FBI is clueless as to how dangerous and humongous the international octopi of Lotus a “blocker company on steroids” truly are when it comes to profiting from tax free war.

The K Street Affair is a superb financial legal thriller starring a woman whose life is devastated when the Feds knock on her door to recruit her as an undercover operative. Lacking ambition as partnership is not a goal she wants to sacrifice her life for, Lena seems like a poor Hail Mary choice to save the country (and other nations) from a deadly global corporacy. Fans will enjoy this taut tale wondering whether this apparently average person has the guts to risk her life and those of her loved ones to prevent an insider takeover of the country when the impact on her would be insignificant at best.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Cover of Snow-Jenny Milchman

Cover of Snow

Jenny Milchman

Ballantine, Jan 15 2013, $26.00

ISBN 9780345534217

In Wedeskyull, New York, owner of the Phoenix house restoration business Nora and police officer Brendan Hamilton are happily married. Deeply in love, she awakens to find him hanging by an old rope from the ceiling. Officials rule it suicide which his mother Eileen accepts without a second thought.

However, Nora rejects the ruling as she believes her beloved spouse would not have killed himself especially after a night of lovemaking both enjoyed. She investigates but the cops, his family and the remote Adirondack villagers refuse to cooperate. Still even with the silence she receives, Nora finds allies in her sister, autistic Dugger Mackenzie and reporter Ned Kramer as she uncovers strange behavior by her late husband. He obtained sedatives which would explain why she slept very late as he drugged her so she would not interrupt him and she learns of his brother’s death twenty-five years ago though she cannot quite connect the demises of the siblings.

The key to this taut psychological thriller is the cast including the isolated mountain village which seems genuine whether it is the grieving heroine seeking answers, the locals warning her to back off, or her few supporters helping her learn the truth. Atmospheric, fans will enjoy this low key suspense as a bewildered Nora narrates her tale in a town with a whispered dark history.

Harriet Klausner

Private London-James Patterson and Mark Pearson

Private London

James Patterson and Mark Pearson

Grand Central, Dec 4 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9781455515554

In Southern California, Private International’s top gun Jack Morgan saved the life of Hannah Shapiro though she witnessed her mother’s assault. Shook by her near death experience, Hannah attends classes at Chancellors University in London. Her affluent father hires Private International to protect his daughter. Jack assigns Private London’s Dan Carter to keep her safe.

However, someone abducts Hannah to Dan’s chagrin. He desperately searches for her while his former wife Detective Inspector Kirsty Webb works on a case involving the serial kidnaping, rape and organ stealing of young healthy women in which Hannah may be in the queue for harvesting of her body parts.

The latest Private investigative thriller (see Private Berlin) is an engaging tale that is at its best when the focus is on saving Hannah though she seems more jinxed than Joe Btfspik of Li’l Abner fame. When the plot goes internationally big, it loses plausibility especially trying to merge the ex-spouses’ respective inquiries into one. Still fans will enjoy touring England with Private London as our guide.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Saving Grace-Pamela Fagan Hutchins

Saving Grace

Pamela Fagan Hutchins

SkipJack Publishing, Sep 24 2012, $18.95

ISBN: 9780988234802

Thirtyish Dallas attorney Katie Connell has become an alcoholic especially since her parents died last year on the Caribbean island of St. Marcos. After winning a high profile case, she gets drunk and sleeps with her co-worker Nick Kovacs who she thinks she loves. However, this makes her late for court the next morning before she breaks down in front of everyone.

Humiliated and with her career and love life dead, Katie ignores her brother’s plea for her to enter rehab; instead she flees to St. Marcos where her parents died with a plan to investigate their deaths. She hires former NYPD cop Paul Walker to make inquiries. Meanwhile voodoo enthralls Katie, but it is her new friend Ava who inadvertently begins her rehabilitation. When the police arrest Ava for murdering her lover Guy an influential senator, Katie provides the defense though criminal law is not her specialty.

The first Katie Connell thriller is an exciting tale that combines twisting investigative and legal subplots with a character seeking redemption by learning what happened to her parents who allegedly drove off a cliff. The storyline begins slowly while in Texas as we meet the self-destructive unhappy Katie, but accelerates into an exhilarating mystery with a touch of voodoo once the fascinating protagonist stops her free fall upon meeting Ava in the Caribbean.

Harriet Klausner

Fatal Decree-H. Terrell Griffin

Fatal Decree

H. Terrell Griffin

Oceanview, Jan 15 2013, $25.95

ISBN 9781608090709

Longboat Key, Florida’s only cop Jennifer Diane “J.D.” Duncan asks her lover retired lawyer Matt Royal to help her with a case that brings out repressed memories. When Duncan worked at Miami PD a dozen years ago, she failed to find the Whale Tail serial killer who executed his middle aged female victims with a bullet to the head and found bound to a tree. Her current investigation deals with the death of a stranger eerily similar to those earlier victims as she has a whale tail earing on her left ear.

Matt and J.D. investigate the homicide and finds the victim has government ties, but fails to answer why here and whether the killer returned or a copycat emerged. However, the inquiry spins weirdly when Guatemalan gangbangers attempt to kill Matt and J.D. Further complicating the murder mystery is Matt's best friend Jock Algren is directed to eliminate the killer as he works for that same agency the deceased worked at.

The latest Matt Royal whodunit (see Collateral Damage) is an engaging investigative thriller. The whodunit is interesting because each new clue convolutes the case but not as much as Matt’s fears that J.D. soon will leave the Key to return to the big city. Fans will enjoy the competing hunts for a killer.

Harriet Klausner

Dante's Wood-Lynne Raimondo

Dante's Wood

Lynne Raimondo

Prometheus/Seventh Street, Jan 15 2013, $15.95

ISBN 9781616147181

In Chicago, eighteen year old Charlie Dickerson has the mental acumen of an elementary school child. His affluent parents have their teenage son residing at the New Horizons Center. Recently they fear someone abuses Charlie as he has been crying at night. Thus they turn to psychiatrist Mark Angelotti to determine the truth.

Eighteen months ago, Mark learned he suffered from Lever’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy, which is leaving him blind. He interviews Charlie who confesses that he killed the center's art teacher Shannon Sparrow. Knowing incarcerating Charlie would destroy the mentally handicapped teen, Mark investigates the New Horizons Center staff including the late Shannon to see if abuse is prevalent. However, as he faces a malpractice lawsuit Mark is unprepared to learn the deceased was carrying Charlie’s child.

The first Mark Angelotti psychological thriller is a terrific mystery starring a wise-cracking protagonist who uses self-deprecating humor as a defense mechanism enabling him to deal with his degenerative eye condition. The storyline grips the reader from the moment Mark and Charlie meet as the reader learns that the truth will set no one free, but the big lie leaves the needy in a horrible stasis.

Harriet Klausner

Fear of Beauty-Susan Froetschel

Fear of Beauty

Susan Froetschel

Prometheus/Seventh Street, Jan 15 2013, $15.95

ISBN 9781616147020

As the American military arrive in the village of Laashekoh in Helmand Province, the battered body of a child Ali is found at the bottom of a nearby cliff. Anti-American extremists arrive to take advantage of the grief by blaming the foreign invaders for the death of the oldest child of Sofi and Parsaa. Though many villagers feel the child accidently fell, some loathing the Americans hold them culpable. Parsaa wants to move on as he has four other sons; while Sofi cannot as she feels the soldiers are easy scapegoat and she needs to know for certain who the killer is.

Just outside Laashekoh in an encampment, Army Ranger Joey Peterson may have been raised by dogmatic fundamentalists, but like all of his peers, struggles with accomplishing his training assignment due to the lack of local skills and a hatred of the infidels. Daughter of a General, Ag specialist Mita Samuelson teaches Sofi to read so that she learn what really happened to her oldest son while the Afghani extremists push to kick out the enemy and force women back to their more traditional roles. They kill Peterson’s translator and kidnap Samuelson.

This is a great societal thriller that deftly rotates the lead between Peterson and Sofi. Action-packed, readers will feel they are in Helmond Province as Sofi bravely searches for the truth with Mita and Joey enabling her. However, what makes Fear of Beauty one of the top novels of the year is the moral warning that extreme preservation of a culture’s tradition can result in perverting the fundamental belief system; whether it is American, Afghani or otherwise.

Harriet Klausner