Thursday, October 30, 2014

Treacherous Tart-Ellie Grant

Treacherous Tart
Ellie Grant
Pocket Books, Oct 28 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9781451689563

Maggie Grady and her widowed Aunt Clara own Pie in the Sky in Durham, North Carolina.  The business is booming and both females have boyfriends.  Maggie met hers, reporter Ryan Summerour, when he worked on the homicide of her former New York boss (see Plum Deadly); while Aunt Clara’s Donald Wickerson is a steady customer.

Ryan writes an exposé on Donald suspected of killing several wealthy wives in what seemed like coincidental accidents that enabled him to inherit their money.  Clara reads Ryan’s article and rejects it as her Donald is sweet and kind and ergo no way a murdering widower.  When someone kills Donald in the Pie in the Sky, Maggie knows that DPD will look closely at her beloved aunt as the prime suspect just as they named her when her boss’ body was left by the pie shop’s back door (see Plum Deadly).  With Ryan at her side she investigates the homicide only to seemingly find enough people with revenge motives to fill Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The second Pie Shop mystery is an entertaining culinary cozy with a dynamic witty lead sleuths, denier Aunt Clara and several viable suspects filled with rage at the apparent uxoricide serial killer.  Team Grant provides the audience with a winning regional investigative whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dead Don't Lie-L. R. Nicolello

Dead Don't Lie
L. R. Nicolello
Harlequin HQN, Oct 28 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373785001

In Europe, eighteen year old model Evelyn Maslin returns home to find a DVD apparently sent to her by her family in Seattle.  When she plays it, she observes the vicious slaughtering of her parents and her fourteen years old sister.  Numb but she prays this is a cruel prank until Police Detective Nikols calls to inform her that her family is dead.

Fifteen years later, having changed her surname and motivated by the slaughter of her family, Seattle Detective Evelyn Davis now is considered the top profiler in the department, reinforced by the horrible Langdon homicides.  She keeps her distance from everyone, but her partner Ryan O’Neil, his wife Kate and their children welcome her as a favorite “relative”.  Dinner with the O’Neil brood ends when their supervisor Captain Kessler tells them Chief Diaz wants them working a family annihilator case on Mercer Island, the second in two weeks there.  Due to the mayor’s request, FBI Special Agent Marcus Moretti joins the investigative team.  He provides information on the deaths of the Garland and Middleton family who both had two young daughters.  Marcus conceals one thing from Evelyn; that he wants her on his special task force.  As they work the case that turns Deja vu personal, the Fed and the local officer fall in love.

Dead Don't Lie is a taut police procedural that grips the audience from the first family invasion until the final confrontation.  Readers will respect Evelyn and admire caring Marcus even while the serial killer pushes the heroine’s buttons into mental freefall.  Although the love subplot is unnecessary, this is a tremendous romantic suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Girl In The Woods-Gregg Olsen

The Girl In The Woods
Gregg Olsen
Pinnacle, Oct 28 2014, $9.99
ISBN: 9780786029945

In Port Orchard, Washington, on a nature hike in Banner Forest, an Olally Elementary school sixth grader finds a human foot.  Sheriff’s Detective Kendall Stark and Kitsap County Forensic Pathologist Birdy Waterman look into what happened that led to a severed body part.  The rest of the person is not found nearby and remains missing.  Birdy believes an animal ripped the foot off of a probably dead teenage girl.

Meanwhile Birdy’s sixteen year old nephew Elan asks to stay with his aunt for a while as he left his home after seeing his mom in his bed with her lover.  At about the same time Elan came to Port Orchard, Ted Roberts dies suspiciously with the pathologist thinking his wife Jennifer poisoned him.  Thus Birdy heads to Arizona to exhume and test the body of Jennifer’s first husband for poison.  Extreme Hoarder Tess “The Mess” Montgomery reports her high school daughter Darby missing to the Sheriff’s Department; and soon afterward dirt biker and Afghanistan war veteran Marvin Best finds a corpse with one foot missing in a garbage bag.  Investigating Darby’s homicide, Stark and Waterman follow clues leading to a fired prison guard and an extreme narcissist serial killer convict with raging grudges towards Tess.

The first Waterman and Stark police procedural is a fabulous investigative mystery with a three-dimensional cast involved in several dysfunctional relationships (by far the most positive is the friendship and mutual respect between the two investigators).  Filled with twists, especially an astonishing unexpected but plausible climatic spin, readers will appreciate the detective and the pathologist working together on two homicides.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Desert God-Wilbur Smith

Desert God
Wilbur Smith
Morrow, Oct 21 2014, $28.99
ISBN: 9780062276452

After a century of civil war, the adversarial Egyptian kingdoms face a deadly invasion from the Steppes.  The Hyksos horde defeated the Northern Kingdom and begun the assault on the Southern nation driving the people away from the Nile into the wilderness.  At Thebes, the Egyptian army defeated the Hyksos stopping further incursion, but the invaders occupy all of the North and parts of the Southern Kingdom preparing for King Salitis to renew the conquest.

Desperate Pharaoh Tamose turns to his top advisor, former slave Taita the eunuch, for guidance.  The geographical edge resides with the enemy as Taita realizes his kingdom controls no Great Sea ports.  Thus he informs the Pharaoh that the only way to beat the enemy is an alliance with the Sumerians and Cretans; though the latter already is allied with the Hyksos.  To anchor the pact, Taita persuades Tamos to offer in marriage his royal daughters, sixteen years old Tehuti and her fourteen years old younger sister Bekatha, to Crete’s Supreme Minos.  Accepting the plan, Tamos assigns Taita to safely escort the princesses to Crete.  As they travel the dangerous bloody trek with external and internal threats assaulting them, Tehuti informs Taita that there is a slight problem.

Desert God continues the engaging adventures of Taita (see River God and Warlock, etc.) in a fast-paced storyline that combines a strong sense of time and place with plenty of gory action.  The lead eunuch and princesses are fully developed with Taita somewhat a father figure to the royals; while he ironically misses the obvious that the audience will anticipate.  The well-written ending is a fine mystical finish to another pleasurable Novel of Ancient Egypt.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Frenzy-John Lutz

John Lutz
Pinnacle, Sep 30 2014, $9.99
ISBN: 9780786028306

In Creighton, Maine, former cop turned Q&A Investigative Agency chief Frank Quinn and law enforcement with their dogs in pursuit feel they have the D.O.A. serial killer trapped.  As he flees, D.O.A. shoots Quinn in the back near Creighton Lake before taking off in his nearby plane.  However, his escape ends abruptly when the plane explodes killing the psychopath.

Two years later in a New York hotel, the NYPD Commissioner Renz hires Q&A to investigate the mass murders of five teenage students and their twenty something art teacher in the Fairchild Hotel.  Each of the six victims had the initials D.O.A. carved into their head.  Quinn realizes that the victims, on a field trip from Ohio, had the misfortunate to meet still alive D.O.A.  With the gauntlet tossed, Quinn and D.O.A. make the rematch personal.

The latest Frank Quinn and Associates (though the A plays a smaller role than usual) investigative tale (see Twist) is an action-packed over the top of the Empire State Building big cat and big cat thriller.  Although the switching between the present in NYC, two years ago in Maine, 1992 Sarasota and 1940 Dunkirk initially is confusing, readers will anticipate the stratospheric testosterone confrontation.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Agatha Christie The Monogram Murders-Sophie Hannah

Agatha Christie The Monogram Murders
Sophie Hannah
Morrow, Sep 9 2014, $25.99
ISBN: 9780062297211

In 1929 London, Belgium refugee Hercule Poirot enjoys a late supper as the only patron at the Pleasant’s Coffee House.  A distraught woman enters the restaurant allowing wintry air inside.  Employee “Flyaway Hair” knows this troubled female Jennie who orders tea.  Introducing himself as a detective, Poirot offers to help her; but Jennie insists it is too late as she is dead and no one should look for the culprit before she makes a rushed exit.

Scotland Yard Inspector Edward Catchpool investigates the murders of three people at the Bloxham Hotel.  Two women and a man died from poisoning and inside their respective mouths is a monogrammed gold cuff link.  Due to Jennie’s lament not to open their mouths, Poirot believes the mass murders and the disturbed female who ruined his mellow dinner are part of the same case.

The enjoyable Monogram Murders is a pleasant Poirot mystery in which for the most part Sophie Hannah captures the essence of Agatha Christie’s classic sleuth and the era he did his mojo.  Readers will like the Depression Era English whodunit though purists will miss Hastings since Catchpool replaces him as the narrator; personally I do not like either of these Dr. Watson wannabees.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Going Gone-Sharon Sala

Going Gone
Sharon Sala
Harlequin MIRA, Sep 30 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778316596

In Mexico though still hurting from his confrontations, the retired Stormchaser feels euphoric after he slaughtered the FBI agents pursuing him.  However, his elation turns to rage when he learns his enemies not only survived but are with women he unsuccessfully tried to kill.  This time he targets someone he worked with at disaster relief, Red Cross volunteer Laura Doyle, who survived a plane crash in the Rockies when her fiancé FBI Agent Cameron Winger led a rescue.

The Stormchaser begins a killing spree to get him closer to his intended victim, but uses a different M.O. to conceal he’s back.  However, his setbacks, desperation and injuries lead to mistakes he never made before as the Stormchaser increasingly loses control.

The final Forces Of Nature romantic suspense (see Going Twice) is an exciting thriller as the audience anticipates the confrontation, but not a surprising third party hero.  What makes Going Gone a winner is the mental deterioration of the villain from his Going Once diabolical brilliance.  Sharon Sala provides a taut finish to this engaging trilogy.

Harriet Klausner

Strong Darkness: A Caitlin Strong Novel-Jon Land

Strong Darkness: A Caitlin Strong Novel
Jon Land
Forge, Sep 30 2014, $26.95
ISBN 9780765335111

After confronting religious fanatics with a bulldozer at a funeral for a fallen warrior, Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong and her boyfriend Cort Wesley Masters are in Providence where his son Dylan Torres lies in a hospital in an induced coma due after suffering a blunt force trauma.  PPD Detective Finneran leads the inquiry, but objects to Caitlin’s involvement having dealt with her previous visit to Brown University (see Strong Rain Falling).  At about the same time, San Antonio College Professor Guillermo Paz envisions Strong needs him.  As Masters and Strong investigate the assault, they find a link to Chinese businessman Li Zhen managing the construction of a new 5G network in Texas and missing hooker Kai whose clues to her whereabouts are corpses.  Strong heads home where Paz joins her to look into Li’s empire and Masters goes to New York following a lead re his son’s attack.

In 1883, Caitlin’s great-grandfather Texas Ranger William Ray Strong and Judge Roy Bean find evidence of a different type of killer than any either has seen before.  They follow the murdered bodies alongside of the railroad tracks in an effort to end a serial killer’s relentless slaughter.  Ironically William’s case and that of his great-granddaughter mirror each other; as the twenty-first century psychopath’s M.O. apparently copies that of the nineteenth century maniac.

The sixth Caitlin Strong Texas Ranger thriller (see Strong Vengeance and Strong at the Break) is a fantastic police procedural that grips the reader whether it is 1883 or the present.  The key to this exhilarating entry is Jon Land’s ability to effortlessly switch between the three subplots; which makes for a fabulous fast-paced mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

French Pastry Murder-Leslie Meier

French Pastry Murder
Leslie Meier
Kensington, Sep 30 2014, $25.00
ISBN 9780758277046

TV hostess of Women Who Make a Difference, Norah Hemming provides a trip to Paris to four deserving Tinker’s Cove, Maine women (and their husbands) due to their raising money and awareness for two decades for the Hat and Mitten Fund charity.  One of the quartet Pennysaver columnist Lucy Stone also looks forward to seeing her daughter Elizabeth who works at the Cavendish Hotel in Paris. 

The eight visiting Americans enjoy the City of Lights as they tour the attractions, and Lucy and her husband are thrilled in seeing their oldest though the two females argue somewhat.  Lucy and her three friends (Sue, Rachel, and Pam) obtain lessons at Le Cooking School from renowned pastry chef Larry Bruneau.  However, at the school, Lucy finds Chef Larry dying from a knife stabbing in his chest.  Police Commissaire LaPointe leads the official inquiry starting with taking the passports from Lucy and her companions as they are suspects. 

The latest Lucy Stone mystery (see Christmas Carol Murder and Easter Bunny Murder) is an enjoyable Parisian whodunit as the Americans in Paris theme is fun to follow.  Although the mystery is over the top of the Eifel Tower, series fans will relish this bon appétit entry.

Harriet Klausner

Murder at Marble House: A Gilded Newport Mystery-Alyssa Maxwell

Murder at Marble House: A Gilded Newport Mystery
Alyssa Maxwell
Kensington, Sep 30 2014, $15.00
ISBN 9780758290847

In 1895 Newport, Rhode Island, eighteen year old Consuelo Vanderbilt refuses to marry the Duke of Marlborough, the chosen one selected by her mother, Alva.  When Consuelo’s poor cousin Emma Cross arrives, Alva warns her to persuade the recalcitrant teen or else. 

Not long afterward, Madam Devereaux the psychic is found murdered in the Marble House gardens and Consuelo is missing.  Knowing her niece recently solved the Murder At The Breakers, Alva orders Emma to discreetly find Consuelo before the Duke, coming from England to New York before he arrives in Newport.  Limited by what she can do without bringing attention to the Vanderbilt family, Emma worries about her cousin’s safety as more homicides occur and clues take her to the underbelly of the affluent city.

The second Gilded Newport Mystery is an entertaining historical amateur sleuth that deftly combines a deep look at the rich and famous with a whodunit.  Emma is terrific as she deals with her demanding aunt while her inquiry focuses on finding her cousin, but doing so without anyone learning Consuelo vanished.  At the same time a killer is on the loose but seemingly not part of Emma’s increasingly desperate search. 

Harriet Klausner

The Perfect Witness-Iris Johansen

The Perfect Witness
Iris Johansen
St. Martin's Press, Sep 30 2014, $27.99
ISBN: 9781250020055

Her father recognized the advantage of his daughter having the ability to know people’s deepest secrets and used his offspring to help him become the head of the New Jersey Mafia.  At her murdered father’s funeral, Teresa Casali saw in the eyes of the new Don Rico Camano that he wants her dead.  Henchmen who attended her Sweet Sixteen last month pursue her and shoot her in the arm as she flees into a forest expecting to die before the night ends.  A stranger appears out of nowhere and persuades the frightened teen to trust him.  Aware of Teresa’s paranormal talent, Andre Mandak takes a hesitant Teresa to safety and provides her with a new identity as Allie Girard and the normalcy of a caring family.

Seven years later, Allie still wonders when her savior collects whatever he wants from her; as everyone one has a scheme.  When her past exposes her, Allie is on the run to protect her loved ones from killers.  However, she also plans to use her skill to take the fight to her enemies with Mandak’s help; even as he informs her just what he needs from her.

The Perfect Witness is Iris Johansen at her action-packed best as this dark thriller grips readers from the start to the finish.  The key players all have hidden agendas, but the heroine keeps the taut storyline focused as she matures from a stunned frightened teen on the run into a still frightened on the run fighting machine with a plan to fight back. 

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 26, 2014

To Dwell In Darkness-Deborah Crombie

To Dwell In Darkness
Deborah Crombie
Morrow, Sep 23 2014, $25.99
ISBN: 9780062271600

Save London’s History operatives toss a smoke bomb in the historical St. Pancras Station to disrupt a musical gala.  Instead of a harmless but frightening prank, the bomb injures a band manager Tam Moran and burns an unknown to an unidentifiable crisp.  Exiled to Camden, Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid leads the investigation.  Evidence points to former cop Ryan Marsh who initially was thought to be the victim.

At the same time, Duncan’s wife Detective Investigator Gemma James believes electronics shop clerk Dillon Underwood raped and killed tweener Mercy Johnson.  However, she struggles to find concrete evidence to put this deadly pedophile away before he harms or murders some other child.

Meanwhile their children find a momma with a litter of four newborns freezing in a locked shed.  They struggle with what to do with the five cats they rescued.

The sixteenth Kincaid- James British police procedural (see The Sound Of Broken Glass, No Mark Upon Her and Necessary As Blood) is an engaging mystery in which the married cops work separate cases while the kids add a personal touch to the mix.  Kincaid’s bombing inquiry is the stronger case as Deborah Crombie weaves history and architect into the investigation carried out by the DS and familiar officers.  James’ probe is well written but not as thrilling.

Harriet Klausner

The Deep End (A Casey Holland Mystery)-Debra Purdy Kong

The Deep End (A Casey Holland Mystery)
Debra Purdy Kong
TouchWood Editions, Sep 23 2014, $14.95
ISBN: 9781771510936

In Vancouver, British Columbia, Mainland Security Specialist Casey Holland conducts surveillance of teen shoplifters who cleverly steal from the Gen Mart Department Store.  Her task is to follow them, but not to confront them.  Instead, the thieves mark her and attack her though she has no idea how they knew she was undercover.

Even with help from her boyfriend-roommate Lou, Casey also struggles with the behavior of her thirteen going on thirty years old ward Summer, whose mother is in prison.  Her biggest concern for the young teen is Summer’s older slimy boyfriend.

Casey also volunteers at Fraserview Youth Custody Center.  However, she is astonished when she knows one of the kids there; in trouble potentially for murder teenager Justin Sparrow, whose grandmother Amy is her friend.  The facility’s manager Mac Jorgeson suffers a fatal heart attack and too coincidental to ignore soon after another person employed there also dies.  Fearing for Justin’s safety, Casey investigates the deaths even while a third near fatality occurs.

The fourth Casey Holland Mystery (see The Opposite of Dark, Deadly Accusations and Beneath the Bleak New Moon) is an enjoyable tale starring a caring, nice (perhaps too nice) heroine who suffers bumps and bruises while working two violent cases.  Harder for Casey than the assault on her body is the “attack” on her mind by her ward.  Readers will dive into The Deep End even with no water in the pool.

Harriet Klausner

Martini Regrets-Phyllis Smallman

Martini Regrets
Phyllis Smallman
TouchWood Editions, Sep 23 2014, $14.95
ISBN: 9781771510905

After having one last drink with a friend in Miami, Sherri Travis breaks her dad’s admonition to never drive across the Everglades at night.  However, she needs gas to complete her trek through the swamp to Jacaranda, Florida where she lives with her fiancé Clay Adams and owns the Sunset Bar and Grill.  At a station, she hears a boy pleading with the female attendant to save his life.  When she refuses, he hits Sherri and takes her car.  The girl is also gone as two “swamp rats” arrive.  Sherri takes cover in a pipe and then the swamp before finding a nursery with a murder victim inside.  She recovers her car and gets home, but vows to say nothing.

Sherri learns that the nursery was burned down with a couple inside dead.  She soon has a visit from the late nursery owner’s affluent brother Ethan seeking information on a special orchard his sibling allegedly possessed.  Helping Clay with his business and coming to the bar, enables Ethan to become part of their lives though Sherri wishes he would leave.  Ethan won’t because he knows the bartender is the last living person to have been in the nursery.

The latest Sherri Travis Mystery (see Highball Exit, A Brewski For The Old Man and Margarita Nights) is a twisting thriller filled with people ready to kill to possess a rare orchard.  The heroine’s time in the Glades is incredible as we will feel lost too; while her efforts to stay out of the mess fails because obsessive collectors know where she has been.  With an unexpected shocker and a reluctant amateur sleuth, Martini Regrets is a fantastic crime drama.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hidden In The Stars-Robin Caroll

Hidden In The Stars
Robin Caroll
Abingdon, Sep 16 2014, $13.99
ISBN 9781426773600

The vicious assault against her and her mom in their home in Plano, Texas leaves Olympic-level gymnast Sophia Montgomery in an Arkansas hospital unable to speak due to larynx damage and aware her crushed hands will never allow her to compete ever again.  Police Detectives Julian Frazier and Brody Alexander lead the investigation that frustrates the victim and the cops.  Her grandmother Alena Borin visits Sophia who does not recognize the woman.  Lip reader Charlie Wallace arrives to interpret Sophia’s responses to Julian’s questions starting with the attack on her and Mamochka, and their demands that her mom give them something.  Julian tells her that her Mamochka is dead.

Worrying about Sophia’s safety as those who invaded her home thought she was dead, Julian wonders what the Russians wanted and how come the deceased was estranged from her own mother who refuses to talk about why.  Julian admires Sophia’s tenacity but denies he is falling in love.  As he and his partners work the case, Julian feels knowing what caused the estrangement is critical and clues may be found in a memorial quilt made by Mamochka.

The latest Quilts of Love inspirational (see A Grand Design by Amber Stockton and A Promise In Pieces by Emily T. Wierenga) is a terrific police procedural in which the past haunts the present and thereby impacts the future.  The cast is strong and the Russian intrigue adrenaline pumping.  The romance takes a backseat to the suspense as the hero insists the victim is a trauma patient needing protection not love; while he also struggles with his lost faith having blamed God for his late partner Eli’s death and fearing the same abandonment re Sophia. 

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Cat In A Yellow Spotlight-Carole Nelson Douglas

Cat In A Yellow Spotlight
Carole Nelson Douglas
Wishlist Publishing, Aug 22 2014, $15.99
ISBN:  9781500926205

Two and a half decades ago, the great rock band Black & White was the hottest group around as everything they did went platinum.  However, superegos fueled by excess sex and overdosing on drugs led to the band’s bitter dissolving; though the two superstars (Chocolatte and French Vanilla) had great solo careers.

Now twenty-five years since the ugly public break-up, Black & White is in Vegas to perform a reunion event at the Crystal Phoenix.  The hotel’s boss lady Van Von Rhine tells her public relations consultant Temple Barr to babysit the group; especially the critical feuding two divas, ready to rage Chocolatte and paranoid frail French Vanilla.  When a corpse related to the band is found, LVPD Lieutenant Molina investigates; while Temple’s feline protector Midnight Louie, Miss Midnight Louise and the cat crew also make inquiries, in the feline’s case to insure their favorite PR guru remains safe.

The latest Midnight Louie anthropomorphic mystery (see Cat In A Vegas Gold Vendetta, Cat In A White Tie And Tails and Cat In An Alien X-ray) is a deadly rock and roll reunion tale filled with taut twists (including Kitty the Cutter) and pop culture trivia.  Temple keeps the prime storyline focused, although the divas headline this show with their behavior; while series fans will enjoy the antics of the father and daughter feline duet working their tails off investigating the murder.

Harriet Klausner

To Hell And Gone In Texas-Russ Hall

To Hell And Gone In Texas
Russ Hall
Red Adept Publishing, Sep 4 2014, $13.99
ISBN: 9781940215334

Travis County Sheriff Clayton and his deputies barely are at the gruesome crime scene in which a father and his two adult sons were decapitated when ICE agent Jaime Avila takes over the investigation.  Soon afterward, Clayton calls his retired former sheriff's detective Al Quinn to inform him that his estranged brother Maury has been hospitalized, and the Austin City Homicide cops are treating it as an attempted murder.  Reluctantly he arrives at the hospital where his former prom date so many years ago towering Detective Ferguson Jergens guards Maury.  Having not spoken in two decades to Maury, he is stunned to see how frail his sibling is and shocked that he took three Viagra pills in spite of a heart problem preventing his obtaining a prescription.

When a second attempt at murdering Maury occurs; Al puts aside his animosity and fishing to take his brother to his secluded lakeside house.  However, Al’s home no longer is secluded as Avila arrives and insists Maury turn informant.  Fergie investigates several murders tied to sex addicted Maury and arson burns down Al's house; while the Los Zetas Mexican mob adds to the sibling tsuris.

To Hell And Gone In Texas is an exciting action-packed crime thriller with a fabulous late twist.  Quinn is the taciturn reluctant hero who knows his insides are emotionally scarred while Maury shares his DNA but passionately leaps into the inferno as he believes The Gods Must Be Crazy 2.  The support cast and locale add depth to a suspenseful Lone Star State mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fiction River: Past Crimes-Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Editors)

Fiction River: Past Crimes
Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Editors)
WMG Publications, Oct 1 2014, $15.99
ISBN: 9781561466061

“Stolen In Passing” by Dory Crowe.  In 1857, the slave catchers arrive at Cape Cod in pursuit of a runaway; unaware why here.

“New World Gambles” by Leah Cutter.  As the Canadian-Pacific is built, with a Tong connection Mei works tables in Victoria.

“The Bank Teller” by Jamie McNabb.  He left Puget Sound for five years, but in 1901 returns seeking revenge against those who shanghaied him.

“An Education For Thursday” by Dean Wesley Smith.  Arriving in Delamar, Idaho Angela seeks revenge against two rapists.

“The Curious Case Of The Ha’Penny Detective” by Lee Allred.  In 1923 on the Canadian Pacific, Drennen and Nevins discuss Professor Chase. 

“The Horns Of Hather” by Richard Quarry.  Decreeing all will worship Aten, the Pharaoh sends Chenzira to stop the Festival of Opet.

“Impressions” by Lisa Silverthorne.  In 1780s London, as a child he saw his first death mask; as an adult he hunts this serial killer.

“The Raiders” by Cat Rambo.  In 1858, he met the pickpocket in New York; they meet again as POWs in Andersonville.

“The Monster In Our Midst” by Kris Nelscott.  In 1918 Arkansas, Lureen sends a postcard depicting a lynching to Emerson in Atlanta.

“Blood And Lightning On The Newport Highway” by M. Elizabeth Castle.  The Revenuer returns to Knoxville with plans for the nearby moonshiners.

“Deathmobile” by Michelle Lang.  In 1977 Long Island, Mr. Deathmobile threatens Little Rocky and Tony. 

“The Stonewall Rat” by JC Andrijesdi.  Working for the mob, he and his partner seek the informer at the gay establishment when a kid arrives; soon afterward the police raid the place.

Meeting the exceptional quality of previous anthologies, this collection contains excellent Past Crimes short stories.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Death On Sunday-Tish Owen

A Death On Sunday
Tish Owen
Willow Tree Press/E.M.A. Mysteries, Jul 29 2014, $16.95
ISBN: 9781937778194

Maher Investigates sleuth Tessely Anne Marie Maher cherishes brunch with her extended family at her mommy’s home.  However, this time a long-distance shot is fired towards the house; Tess’ best friend Chick Donnelly falls out of a tree dead.  Near his body are drawings he made of his beloved Tess.

Although Chick’s death may have been a freakish hunting accident; Tess, her brother County Sheriff Connell Maher and their father the former sheriff believe a professional hit occurred though none of them can fathom why.  The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation sends Agents Lyle and Boyd to take charge of the homicide inquiry based on Chick’s alleged drug dealings.  They warn the Maher family to stay out of their case or face charges of interference in an official state investigation.  Firmly believing that grieving Tess murdered her lover over drug money, the TBI cops look nowhere else for the killer.  Knowing she will be railroaded, Tess, with help from her family and friends, stealthily conducts her own inquiry seeking a motive including Chick’s business, Donnelly Repair and Restoration.

Putting aside that a family of cops and a private eye fail to obtain a lawyer with TBI focused solely on Tess, A Death On Sunday is a terrific whodunit as the homicide is personal.  Mourning her loss, Tess’ chats with the late Chick feel genuine and add depth to an engaging investigation in which the heroine works around the Knoxville stereotyped obnoxious outsiders.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Eyes Of Aurora- Albert A. Bell, Jr.

The Eyes Of Aurora
Albert A. Bell, Jr.
Perseverance: Sep 9 2014 $15.95
ISBN: 9781564745491

At the Centumviral Court, Gaius Pliny successfully prosecutes the case for his future mother-in-law Pompeia Celerina against rival defense Marcus Regulus who represented Quintus Vibius.  Pliny’s martinet mother and Pompeia host a victory celebration that includes toasting the upcoming wedding between their children though Pliny loves his slave Aurora instead of his wealthy beautiful fiancée Livilla.

Aurora recently met impoverished Crispina and her ailing son.  She persuades Pliny and his friend Tacitus to accompany her in order to help Crispina.  When they arrive at Crispina’s home, they find neither her nor her son in residence; left behind is an enigmatic word square.  The trio soon finds out that raging Regulus arrived before them and a further search of the grounds reveals a decapitated female body.  Horrified by the gruesome sight of a headless corpse, Aurora and Pliny find comfort with each.

The fifth Notebooks of Pliny the Younger (see The Corpus Conundrum and Death in the Ashes) is a twisting complicated Ancient Rome revenge thriller with additional stunning spins in the protagonist’s personal relationships.  Although the case turns overly byzantine, readers will relish traveling the Ostian Way; escorted by Pliny and Aurora.

Harriet Klausner

Shadows on a Maine Christmas: An Antique Print Mystery-Lea Wait

Shadows on a Maine Christmas: An Antique Print Mystery
Lea Wait
Perseverance, Sep 9 2014, $15.95
ISBN 9781564745477

Lovers Will Brower resides in Maine while antique dealer Maggie Summer lives in New Jersey.  Besides the issues of a long distance relationship, the couple disagrees over adopting a child.  Will insists never; while Maggie may soon raise a little girl or two young sisters.  However, the couple agrees to share a Maine Christmas.

Maggie the obsessive anxiety queen fears when she tells her beloved about the potential adoption, he will kick her butt back to the Garden State.  She adores the way he cares for his ailing Aunt Nettie, but panics his caretaking blinds him to nurturing others.  She also frets over his desire to remain in the Pine Tree State as affirmed by Will his seeking to buy a home.  However, Maggie biggest consternation is that she lost her Will to realtor Jo Heartwood.  Needing to forget her trepidations, Maggie wonders what Aunt Nettie and her longtime friends imply criminally happened when they were much younger.  When someone murders geriatric nurse Carrie Folk; Maggie, Maine State Trooper Nick Strait and Aunt Nettie investigate especially after learning that the victim was a blackmailer.

Returning to Maine (see Shadows on the Coast of Maine and Shadows of a Down East Summer), the seventh Antique Print cozy (see Shadows on a Cape Cod Wedding) is an enjoyable entry in which the secondary elderly characters especially one with dementia own the storyline.  The homicide investigation begins late though the informal inquiry into what happened decades ago starts very early; as Lea Wait provides a deep look at senior citizen mental health, abortion and adoption. 

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Wet Work-Les Roberts

Wet Work
Les Roberts
Gray & Company, Publishers; Sep 1 2014, $14.95
ISBN: 9781938441547

After leaving Youngstown, Ohio for the military, Dominick Candiotti learned to kill in Viet Nam as a Phoenix Force Wet Work assassin.  Decades later with no family living and calling himself Douglas, he works for the Brownstone Agency on a fee for kill of internal enemies of the country.  His handler Og has one rule: complete the kill but never repeat the same M.O.

His current hit is Father Joseph Benveniste of St. Catherine’s Catholic Church in Philadelphia.  Though he completes the assignment following his confessional, this assassination affects Douglas differently than his previous hits since going on commission five years ago.  He wonders if killing a priest reminds him too much of the murder of his brother Father Richard (see The Strange Death of Father Candy) and besides there is no justification for murdering people like Father Joseph who were no threat to America.  When Douglas informs Og he is retiring, his handler believes the one way a hired gun quits is in a coffin.  Thus several of his peers come after Douglas.

Giving Cleveland detective Milan Jacovich a breather, Les Roberts writes an action-packed thriller in Dominick Candiotti’s second appearance.  The hero reminds me of a composite of Charles Bronson’s The Mechanic and Sylvester Stallone’s Assassins.  Although not for anyone with a squeamish stomach as the amount of blood flow would turn Lake Erie into the Red Sea, readers will enjoy this tense suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Ensconced- M. E. May

M. E. May
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Feb 16, 2014, $14.95
ISBN: 9781494461911

Teenage brothers Tommy and Bobby Sturgen went fishing on Eagle Creek Reservoir when the latter’s special fly became entangled.  Ignoring his older sibling’s admonitions, Bobby jumped into the water to free it because this was the last one his late grandfather gave him.  When Bobby failed to surface, Tommy jumped in and rescued him.  Both saw the fly entangled with a car.  They call the Sheriff’s Department who send Fire Department divers to the reservoir.  The submerged vehicle contains the remains of Wendy Matherson who vanished without a trace a decade ago.

Missing Persons’ Sergeant Benjamin Jacobs and Detective Tyrone Mayhew, whose wife just gave birth to their fourth child (and their first daughter), work the cold case.  This was Tyrone’s first investigation in which he and his partner looked at the husband Reid but found no evidence of foul play.  The three sons reacted differently to their mom’s disappearance.  The oldest mid-twenties Tanner attends Ohio State’s pharmacy graduate program; the middle child twentyish Ryan has an aerospace degree and is an Air Force officer; the youngest teenage Jared has emotional issues while failing at everything.  After talking with the four males and others, the detectives believe Jared may have suppressed memories of what happened.  However, someone wants the case to remain frozen so threaten to harm Ben and Tyrone’s loved ones.

The third Circle City police procedural (see Perfidy and Inconspicuous) is a terse suspense as the villain targets civilian family members to force the cops and others off the investigation.  Fast-paced from start to finish, the subgenre audience will enjoy Ensconced (superb ironic title) even though we identify the villain before the detectives do.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mad Dog Justice-Mark Rubinstein

Mad Dog Justice
Mark Rubinstein
Thunder Lake Press, Sep 1 2014, $12.99
ISBN: 9780985626808

Surgeon Roddy “Mad Dog” Dolan and Accountant Danny Burns were best friends for over three decades ago going back to when they were in high school.  They partnered with an acquaintance from their salad days Kenny Egan investing in McLaughlin’s restaurant.  However, Kenny’s investment funds were borrowed from the mob; who had other plans for McLaughlin’s.  Ten months ago, Roddy and Danny killed Kenny and a demanding “investor” John Grange as well as their friendship before leaving the restaurant business (see Mad Dog House).

Ten months later, Danny’s wife Angie worries about her husband whose tension is stratospheric.  While she pleads with him to come home from work, someone shoots him.  At the hospital Yonkers PD Detective Harvey Morgan leads the investigation as fortunate Danny recovers at the hospital.  Not long afterward in the parking garage at Lawrence Hospital, Roddy heads to his car only to see someone shoot and kill anesthesiologist Walt McKay parked near him.  Morgan questions him; while Roddy, hiding the truth from everyone, concludes he must bring Mad Dog Justice to those stalking him, his friend and potentially their families 

The second action-packed Mad Dog urban thriller is a tense gritty entry with the consequences of what the two BFFs did continuing to haunt them; as Shakespeare said in Julius Caesar: "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones."  Mark Rubenstein provides an insightful morality play with trust and betrayal as key recurring themes.  With a strong support cast and powerful opposites in personality leads, fans will enjoy Mad Dog Justice but should read the opening act first.

Harriet Klausner

Phantom Limb: A Daniel Rinaldi Mystery-Dennis Palumbo

Phantom Limb: A Daniel Rinaldi Mystery
Dennis Palumbo
Poisoned Pen, Sep 1 2014, $24.95
ISBN 9781464202568

In Pittsburgh, Lisa Harland, a former Playboy centerfold three decades ago and a failed starlet when she was still a Campbell, visits the office of Dr. Daniel Rinaldi.  Married to much older wheelchair-bound and affluent Charles, Lisa tells the psychologist she shortly plans to commit suicide.  Daniel desperately tries to persuade her not to kill herself.

Not long afterward Pittsburgh PD informs Daniel that someone kidnapped Lisa outside his office.  A consultant to PPD, Daniel may have important information on the victim’s state of mind just prior to her abduction, but is hesitant to say anything due to patient confidentiality.  Selected by the kidnapper to do the ransom drop, Daniel arrives at the Harland estate where he finds a dysfunctional untrustworthy extended family.  As he works with the gloomy Harland brood and PPD, Daniel also fears for another patient, a potentially suicidal veteran.

The fourth Daniel Rinaldi mystery (see Fever Dream and Mirror Image), is an enjoyable police procedural as once again the protagonist, as happened in Night Terrors, struggles between patient confidentiality and law enforcement needs with a life at stake.  Fast-paced throughout, readers will appreciate this terrific twisting thriller as seen through the observant eyes of Dr. Rinaldi.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Auditory Viewpoint- Lillian R. Melendez

Auditory Viewpoint
Lillian R. Melendez
Black Rose Writing, Jul 25 2013, $14.95
ISBN: 9781612962115

New Jersey radio talk show host Gloria Rank uses her four working senses at a very high degree of capacity to ignore her being blind since birth.  When someone steals her sister Anna’s identity, she turns to Gloria for help.  They report the theft to the cops and Gloria asks a former guest on her show, computer security analyst Benjamin Taylor, for assistance in what they should do, identifying who the thief is and how they obtained access into Anna’s bank account. 

When someone leaves a corpse at Anna’s door, FBI Agent Sanchez investigates with the younger Rank sister as a suspect.  Gloria mentors her sibling to rely on her other senses more than just sight to uncover the identity of the thieves even as their inquiry leads them to cross the Hudson at the same time more bodies engulf the sisters. 

This frightening thriller will stun readers with its caveat emptor insight into the electronic scams used to steal information and what the victim of such a crime must do to halt this intrusion and prevent future thefts.  Gloria is a wonderful protagonist who teaches Anna and readers how to not just rely mostly on sight, but to maximize all of your senses independently and in collaboration.  The sleuthing (by the sisters and Benjamin) and the serial killer segue add suspense; while how to maximize your environmental perceptions provides depth to the key cast.  Still it is the astonishing acumen into what to do when your identity is stolen that grips the audience and makes a person consider turning into an electronic hermit.

Harriet Klausner

The Edison Effect: A Professor Bradshaw Mystery-Bernadette Pajer

The Edison Effect: A Professor Bradshaw Mystery
Bernadette Pajer
Poisoned Pen, Sep 1 2014, $24.95
ISBN 9781464202520

In 1903 Seattle, renowned inventor Thomas Edison arrives at the University of Washington office of electrical engineering Professor Benjamin Bradshaw.  The Wizard of Menlo Park demands Bradshaw assist him in retrieving a dangerous gizmo from Elliot Bay.  Bradshaw respects Edison’s brilliance but distrusts him as avarice and ruthless; so he refuses to help him obtain the gadget invented by a former student of the professor, Oscar Daulton.

Meanwhile at the Bon Marché Department Store, an electrician dies while holding onto Edison’s Christmas lights.  Bradshaw, Henry Pratt and SPD Detective O’Brien investigate the death.  At the same time, a widower with a single child, Bradshaw struggles between his religion and his love for Missouri.

The fine fourth Professor Bradshaw early twentieth century historical (see A Spark Of Death, Fatal Induction and Capacity for Murder) is made fresh by the unflinching look at the complex Edison.  The wizard lives up to his mantra of “Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration”; but a major part of the 90% includes mercilessness in his dealings with others.  Readers who accept that portrayal will enjoy the Edison Effect on Bradshaw and others.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 8, 2014

Death in the Dolomites: A Rick Montoya Italian Mystery-David P. Wagner

Death in the Dolomites: A Rick Montoya Italian Mystery
David P. Wagner
Poisoned Pen, Sep 1 2014, $24.95
ISBN 9781464202728

Translator Rick Montoya leaves Rome for a skiing vacation in Campiglio.  However, when American banker Cameron Taylor vanishes while also at the ski resort, Inspector Luca Albani, aware of Rick’s assistance to the Tuscany police (see Cold Tuscan Stone), asks for his help.  Rick agrees to join the inquiry as long as it does not interfere with his R&R.

Several witnesses insist they saw Cameron head to the slopes, but none including his sister recall seeing him return to the lodge.  Meanwhile, someone wanting Rick to stay out of the investigation, attacks him while he skis and a lookalike is stabbed.  This plus the discovery of a corpse leads to Rick taking the case more seriously as he wonders who gains from murder.

The second Rick Montoya Italian investigation is an engaging whodunit though the Alpine cuisine supersedes the case and even the skiing.  Even though the mystery is shortchanged for much of the storyline by Rick’s vacation, Death in the Dolomites remains a well-written tale.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Drop-Dennis LeHane

The Drop
Dennis LeHane
Morrow, Sep 2 2014, $14.99
ISBN 9780062365446

Just two days after Christmas and with Little Christmas still to come in the Flats, lonely Cousin Marv’s bartender Bob Saginowski heads home after his shift ends.  He stops when he hears a whimpering noise.  Bob rescues a battered abandoned puppy from a trash can belonging to Nadia Dunn who takes a picture of the bartender and his new companion he names Rocco.

Nadia helps Bob with Rocco but insane Eric Deeds demands they give him the canine as he insists the dog is his.  At the same, Marv, who lost ownership of his former dive to Chechen financiers, struggles with a lack of funds and much more.  When masked men rob the bar of 5K, the angry owners target the financially strapped cousins as the most likely thieves.

Tied to a not yet released movie, which in turn is based on the short story “Animal Rescue” (see Boston Noir), The Drop is a stark gritty look at the Boston underbelly.  Most of the cast is nasty and greedy as if human DNA is imprinted to take advantage and harm others; in contrast to caring Bob.  Faster than a Celtic fast-break during the Rondo and the Big Three era, readers will enjoy this dark look at Boston’s meanest vilest streets.

Harriet Klausner

The Manhattan Puzzle-Laurence O’Bryan

The Manhattan Puzzle
Laurence O’Bryan
Avon, Oct 10, 2013, $12.99
ISBN 9781847562906

In Manhattan, Lord Bidener observes his euphoric sadistic assistant Xena salivating while torturing BXH security chief Hare.  Using a torch on him, Hare begs for mercy before he gives up the international firm’s codes.  Once they have what they wanted, vicious Xena slowly guts him. 

In London Isabel Ryan worries that her husband Sean failed to come home.  When the police demand she tell them where her spouse is as he is linked to a homicide in New York, her concern for his safety goes viral.  Isabel fears their work for BXH re the symbol may have left her spouse in peril.  Following her instincts to rescue her mate and also break the ancient code, Isabel leaves their four years old son Alek safe with a close friend before flying to New York in search of Sean.  Meanwhile Sean, held captive by those who also frame him with murder of Hare, realizes his hosts enjoy inflicting pain on others and will have no compunctions abducting and torturing him or his wife. 

The 3rd Ryan Puzzle suspense (see Istanbul Puzzle and The Jerusalem Puzzle) is an exciting over the top of the Empire State Building Brownian thriller.  Isobel is a solid lead though her Energizer Bunny stamina seems doubtful even fueled by adrenaline and coffee; while the villains are caricatures of psychopaths. 

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Stalkers-Paul Finch

Paul Finch
Avon, Feb 14 2013, $14.99
ISBN 9780007492299

Britain's National Crime Group Detective Sergeant Mark Heckenberg works alone as he has for several years on the disappearances of over three dozen successful and seemingly contented women throughout England and Wales.  Although diligent on following up on any potential lead, Heck has made no progress with his investigation while wondering why his superiors have not launched a major inquiry involving massive manpower.  Instead of helping Heck, to his outraged consternation the brass closes the case.

Placed on leave, a fuming Heck continues his probe into finding the missing women, but without official authorization and its accompanying restraints.  Searching for her vanished sibling, military veteran Lauren Wraxford teams up with Heck.  They soon learn of the Nice Guys Club with apparent ties to the National Crime Group.  This enterprise sells female captives to affluent clients to do what they want with them before killing their used commodity. 

This British investigative tale starts off as a police procedural, but quickly turns into a lone wolf and sidekick thriller.  Heck is conscientious, but should have been more frustrated even before his case was officially ended; while rightfully aggressive Lauren proves his better as she brings out the best (and worst) in him.  The over the top of the Tower of London sinisterly conspiracy drama is entertaining while condemning leaders preferring to ignore the violence against women and hate crimes against other groups (think of the 2012 reauthorization debate re VAWA renewal).

Harriet Klausner

Friday, August 29, 2014

Harbor Island-Carla Neggers

Harbor Island
Carla Neggers
Mira, Aug 26 2014, $24.95
ISBN 9780778316534

In Dublin FBI Agent Colin Donovan proposes to his partner Emma Sharpe, who agrees to marry him (see Declan's Cross).  Now home, following a jog Emma returns to their apartment while her fiancé is out when she receives a mysterious call from Rachel Bristol.  The filmmaker asks the Fed to meet her on Bristol Island in Boston Harbor.  Rachel promises to provide Emma with info related to a cold case art theft tied to the investigation her small FBI unit and her family-owned Maine-based Sharpe Fine Art Recovery are conducting in New England and Ireland. 

Ignoring her boss Yankowski’s warning for her to be extremely cautious since she is a Sharpe, Emma arrives at the rendezvous location only to find Rachel dead.  In the victim’s hands is a cross that Emma knows is a replica of the first theft by a clever thief who leaves these mementos behind to remind the agent of the unsuccessful pursuit by her and her grandfather for years.

The fifth fabulous Donovan and Sharpe FBI art restoration romantic thriller (see Heron's Cove and Saint's Gates) is a suspense-filled terse entry.  The action starts immediately and never slows down while the expanding cast continues to enhance the drama though one needs a scorecard.  Included with Harbor Island is the first printing of previously released as an e-novella Rock Point starring Father Finian who arrives in Maine where he and FBI agent Colin Donovan meet as the priest learns of violent smugglers using his family's distillery.

Harriet Klausner