Monday, June 30, 2014

A Catered Fourth Of July-Isis Crawford

A Catered Fourth Of July
Isis Crawford
Kensington, Jun 24 2014, $24.00
ISBN 9780758274915

Residents of Longley, New York look forward to the Fourth of July shindig in spite of the summer Westchester heat; with many looking forward to the Revolutionary War reenactment of the Battle of Meadow Creek.  However, at the gala in Highland Park, performer Jack Devlin fires his musket; only it explodes and kills him.  Rick Evans accuses Marvin, who was responsible for checking all equipment including the weapons as Jack’s flintlock was obviously tampered by someone.

At the lethal enactment, owners of A Little Taste of Heaven Bernie and Libby Simmons fear that Police Chief Lucas will arrest the latter’s boyfriend Marvin for the murder.  When someone shoots at Marvin’s car, the cops ignore the attempted murder as their focus remains on him being the only suspect; leaving it to the Simmons sisters, their dad the retired police chief and Bernie’s boyfriend Brandon to investigate.

The latest Simmons sleuth sisters’ holiday mystery (see A Catered Christmas Cookie Exchange, A Catered Birthday Party and A Catered Halloween) is a wonderful lighthearted culinary cozy with a numerous people having a motive to kill the philandering victim.  Subgenre readers will appreciate this lighthearted July 4th whodunit as the bickering siblings compete with reenactors, cops, Hilda, Wiccan and a horde who know Jack too well.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 29, 2014

No Stone Unturned: An Ellie Stone Mystery-James W. Ziskin

No Stone Unturned: An Ellie Stone Mystery
James W. Ziskin
Prometheus/Seventh Street, Jun 10 2014, $15.95
ISBN 9781616148836

In 1960 popular and beautiful twenty-one years old Jordan Shaw attends Tufts University in Massachusetts.  However, just after Thanksgiving, Fast Jack Donovan tripped while hunting a rabbit in the woods only to find Jordan’s naked corpse half buried next to him.

Her hometown New Holland, New York residents are shocked that the high school homecoming queen and daughter of a judge died so ignominiously while in denial that the paragon proved not to be the perfect daughter.  The New Holland Republic sends twentyish reporter Ellie Stone to take pictures to accompany stories written by reporter George Walsh.  Still grieving her father’s death earlier in the year, Ellie investigates the homicide starting with locating the victim’s car at the Mohawk Motel and learning from the ME that Jordan had an intrauterine device installed in her.  Ellie wonders if one of the fallen from grace female’s classmates or professors especially in the French Department include a killer; but who remains out of reach as the deceased’s horde of admirers take out their rage on the intruding journalist.

The latest Ellie Stone journalist investigation (see Styx & Stone) is a great whodunit as the ambitious reporter leaves No Stone Unturned to learn the truth; while an angry Jordan fan club assaults her for daring to taint the image of their ideal woman.  This is a strong entry with a deep cast as the intrepid reporter deals with those who reject the aftermath of “When the statue on the pedestal comes crumbling to the ground …” (Brooklyn Bridge’s Blessed Is The Rain).

Harriet Klausner

Reckless Disregard-Robert Rotstein

Reckless Disregard
Robert Rotstein
Prometheus/Seventh Street, Jun 3 2014, $15.95
ISBN 9781616148812

Hollywood power broker William “the Conqueror” Bishop sues video game maker Poniard for libel;  He claims the latter’s latest hit “Abduction!” based on the disappearance of actress Felicity McGrath in 1987, accuses the Conqueror’s hired hands of abducting the bipolar performer.

Choosing to remain unrecognizable, Poniard hires Judicial Alternative Dispute Solutions attorney Parker Stern to represent him in the defamation case, but insists the matter go to court not arbitration without his appearance.  To insure a hesitant Stern’s cooperation Poniard blackmails the lawyer with the threat of revealing Parker’s past stint as a child movie star.  However what sells Stern to represent a client he never met in person is Bishop’s attorney turns out to be his former girlfriend ex–porn star Lovely Diamond.  Stern’s defense is simply that it can’t be libel when the Conqueror’s Reckless Disregard of others included abduction and murder that really happened.

The second Stern legal thriller (see Corrupt Practices) is an entertaining Hollywood drama that contains a fascinating enigmatic client and several other eccentric characters.  Although Reckless Disregard contains too many improbable coincidences, this is a fun entry due to a dynamic weird cast.

Harriet Klausner

Vertigo 42: A Richard Jury Mystery Martha Grimes

Vertigo 42: A Richard Jury Mystery
Martha Grimes
Scribner, $26.00, Jun 3 2014
ISBN 9781476724027

In Devon, England seventeen years ago, heiress Tess Williamson fell down her home’s terrace steps to her death.  The inquest ruled this tragedy an accident as the deceased suffered from vertigo and there was no evidence of foul play.

However her still grieving widower Tom remains persistent that his wife was murdered.  At the Vertigo 42 bar, he makes a case for New Scotland Yard Superintendent Richard Jury to reopen his wife’s death claiming the motive tied back to five years before his spouse’s fatal plunge when then nine year old Hilda Palmer died after falling into a dry swimming pool at a gala hosted by Tess at her Devon home.  Jury interviews the surviving guests who as children witnessed Hilda’s death over two decades ago, but soon he also investigates the deaths of a woman who fell from a tower and her estranged husband. 

Paying homage to Hitchcock, the latest Richard Jury British police procedural (see The Black Cat) is a thrilling entry in which the past and present are tied together by deaths due to perfidy.  Although the climax is over the top of Big Ben, series fans will relish Jury’s investigation into four deaths from falls.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Big Hello-Michael Lister

The Big Hello
Michael Lister
Pulpwood Press, Jun 1 2014, $26.99
ISBN: 9781888146417

During WWII in Panama City, Florida, following the taunts from the banker husband of Jimmy “Soldier” Riley’s beloved Lauren Lewis, the private investigator slices the SOB’s throat.  In shock from a revelation he does not believe can be true, Jimmy and police officer Henry Folsom dig up the grave site of Lauren only to find the coffin empty. 

With his friend former combat pilot one-eyed Clipper Jones, who saved his penis from electrocution (see The Big Beyond) at his side, Jimmy seeks clues to the whereabouts of Lauren.  Everything leads to serial sex killer Flaxon De Grasse known for bisecting before draining his victims.  In a seemingly futile attempt to rescue his girlfriend Lauren from this lunatic, Jimmy and Clip visit seemingly all the dives in the Panhandle while the police pursue the duo as the body count turns stratospheric. 

The third 1940s Soldier hard-boiled noir (see The Big Goodbye) is an exciting violent thriller that grips audience from the opening on the road scene until the final anticipated confrontation.  Fast-paced readers will root for the knight and his squire (don’t call Clip that to his face) in a daring rescue the damsel in distress attempt before she becomes body parts.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Cut-Like Wound-Anita Nair

A Cut-Like Wound

Anita Nair

Bitter Lemon Press, Jul 8 2014, $14.95

ISBN: 9781908524362

As the month of Ramzan begins around the world, in Bangalore, India a young male heeds the words of the Goddess to cross-dress as a female. He admires his transformation into beautiful Bhuvana before leaving his home to visit the bazaars where he expects to meet true love. A man flirts with Bhuvana until an interloper warns him that the woman he admires is a male in female clothing. Angry as lust turns to disgust he insults the transgender and the interloper. When he recognizes who the transgender is, he panics just before his throat is sliced. Before leaving the killer arranges for a cleanup.

Inspector Borei Gowda struggles with his relationships with his wife, son and his former college lover; as well as those on the job including his superior, his peers and his informants, but especially his eager assistant Santosh. Meanwhile Gowda investigates a series of homicides that make no sense to him as they seem like angry crimes of passion yet cleansed by an apparent cool head.

This is an intriguing Indian police procedural in which the official serial killing inquiry takes a back seat to the deep look inside the souls of the fully developed lead characters Gowda and Bhuvana; with the latter owning the storyline. Although the tension dramatically lessons as the plot turns inward after a taut suspenseful opening, A Cut-Like Wound is a fresh mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Murder on the Mediterranean-Alexander Campion

Murder on the Mediterranean

Alexander Campion

Kensington, Jun 24 2014, $24.00

ISBN 9780758268839

Police Judicaire Commissaire Capucine Le Tellier, her husband restaurant critic Alexandre, Juge d’Instruction Inès Maistre and six others sail the Mediterranean on the Diomede charter. Inez explains to Capucine that she feels close to finally resolving her obsession to bring down financial miscreant Andre Tottingeur and his well-placed family, owners of a highly regarded Paris bank.

However, the pleasure trip turns ugly when the hired hand pampering to the guests Nathalie Martin falls overboard and is apparently dead in the Mediterranean; her body is not found. The prime suspect in what appears to be a homicide is Capucine. She and Alexandre rusticate at a friend’s estate even as Capucine investigates the murder far from the watery crime scene.

The latest captivating Capucine Culinary Mystery (see Death of a Chef, Grave Gourmet, Killer Critique and Crime Fraiche) is an enjoyable leisurely-paced whodunit with a nod to the classic The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant. While her spouse cooks up incredible meals; the heroine tries to identify the killer though many kilometers from where the victim drowned to indirectly prove her innocence; but as Victor Hugo showed justice is not always served.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Shield-Lynn Sholes & Joe Moore

The Shield

Lynn Sholes & Joe Moore

Stone Creek Books, Jun 9 2014, $15.95

ISBN: 9780692223116

Though retired, former OSI special agent Maxine Decker keeps a vigil in case her past returns. Thus when Beowulf Top Secret security chief Peter Kepner arrives at her remote Colorado cabin, Decker remains suspicious especially when she never head of his agency until President LeClair asks for her help. Acting secretively, Kepner escorts her to his organization’s only location in an isolated part of the Grand Canyon.

There she meets Beowulf Director Chaucer who gives Decker a tour of artifacts and a quantum computer that stuns her as he explains what happened (and did not) at Roswell in 1947 and in Siberia in 1908. He further explains why her government needs her to retrieve three stolen artifacts that contain data to develop The Shield, which would radically change the balance of power. Russians assault the compound; only Decker escapes but not before a dying Chaucer tells her to find The Monk’s Tale. As the enemy pursues her, law enforcement also hunts her. Not one to wait to be killed, Decker uncovers clues that lead her to the Sudan.

The latest Maxine Decker thriller (see The Blade) is an excellent action-packed tale in which Lynn Sholes & Joe Moore make ET deniers like this reviewer into believers as their plausible Roswell explanations seem reasonable. Fast-paced, Decker is at her best as she goes on the run to buy time while following leads to the stolen artifacts before taking the fight to her adversaries.

Harriet Klausner

The Kafka Society-Ron Felber

The Kafka Society

Ron Felber

Barricade Books, May 7 2014, $16.95

ISBN: 9781569805107

Jack Madson’s résumé contains several different professions from professional boxer to Wall Street to many other short time pursuits. Currently the rolling stone works as a private investigator; though he never bothered to obtain a state license. Nor on his employment listings are his drinking and drug abuse.

After a night enjoying his addictions, Jack wakes up in shock to find stripper Amber Starr shared his bed; he fails to recall how they got there together though he knows the sex must have been incredible. When he goes to his car, Madson is greeted by his second shocker when he cannot explain why a head resides in his trunk.

FBI East Coast Operations Chief Tom Dougherty asks his school classmate Madson to help him deal with former lover porn star Havana Spice who is blackmailing the Fed. Though Dougherty was far from a friend when they were teens, Madson agrees. However, what he learns about Dougherty is the third shocker. Instead of a good cop, Dougherty runs the brilliant depraved Kafka Society who internationally trafficks with human commodities from their New York underground base.

The second Madson thriller (see A Man of Indeterminate Values) is an exciting dark tale as the antihero goes from one disaster to another. Although plausibility is over the top of the Empire State Building, The Kafka Society is an action-packed entry with a strong timely existential message proclaiming extremes harm the innocent; Madson would insist that relativity theory means there are no innocent, only victims in the wrong place at the wrong time. Readers will enjoy his latest addicted fueled escapades in the vast New York underground.

Harriet Klausner

Basil Instinct-Shelley Costa

Basil Instinct

Shelley Costa

Pocket, Jun 24 2014, $7.99

ISBN: 9781476709369

In Quaker Hills, Pennsylvania Miracolo Italian Restaurant owner Chef Maria Pia Angelotta turns ecstatic when she reads Belfiere’s invitation for her to become a member. None of her grandchildren heard of this foodie society that apparently is a two-century old female-only Italian culinary group. Ecstatic the septuagenarian plans immediately to obtain the membership tattoo and follow the rules especially the omerta vow of silence.

Eve and her cousins fear for Nonna; as internet research reveals almost nothing about an organization claiming a two hundred-year existence. They do learn of a warning to beware of infamous women poisoners. Soon afterward Eve trips over the corpse of sous chef Georgia Payne inside the restaurant when she opens Miracolo to teach a class. The cousins also find out that their deceased employee had ties to Belfiere, so Eve and the posse investigate before Nonna joins a society in which the only way out is death.

The second Miracolo Mystery (see You Cannoli Die Once) is an enjoyable culinary cozy as the Basil Instincts of Eve and crew are that Belfiere is a dangerous version of the Eagles’ Hotel California. The secret society steals the show from the extended Angelotta family, employees and friends as readers will wonder how dark and deadly this association is.

Harriet Klausner

Eyes On You-Kate White

Eyes On You

Kate White

Harper, Jun 24 2014, $25.99

ISBN: 9780061576638

Recently life has been a major seesaw for Robin Trainer, but currently has been on the upswing as she anchors with Carter Brooks the TV show The Pulse and the book she wrote The 7 Secrets Women Keep is selling quite nicely. However, as she prepares to do a show in an apartment overlooking the Hudson from the Manhattan side, Robin looks at her notecard only to find someone scribbled a threat on it.

That horrid comment is followed up by the deliberate tearing up of book jackets several The 7 Secrets Women Keep copies, and a roach placed in her coffee. Other incidents occur to her leading Robin to believe someone at the station has a grudge towards her. However, an investigation leads to the conclusion that the prime saboteur suspect is Robin.

Eyes On You is a sensational psychological suspense as readers will wonder whether the assault is self-induced (like in the Dustin Hoffman movie Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?) or an insider with a raging rancor. Although the support cast is stereotypes of Manhattan glamour and glitz, Robin is terrific as she struggles to learn who is doing these terrible things to her and why.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Good Suicides-Antonio Hill

The Good Suicides

Antonio Hill

Crown, Jun 17 2014, $26.00

ISBN: 9780770435905


Barcelona PD detective Héctor Salgado remains on suspension for his savage beating of human-trafficking ringleader Dr. Omar (see The Summer of Dead Toys).  He also struggles with dealing with his teenage son Guillermo as a single dad following the disappearance of his separated wife Ruth Valldaura; his superiors admonish him to stay out of their inquiry into his estranged mate’s vanishing.


However being the department’s top investigator, once again Héctor returns to work when Alemany Cosmetics employees begin mass suicides following a team-building event and a subsequent message “Never Forget”.  At the same time his pregnant police partner Leire Castro, on boring maternity leave, unofficially investigates Ruth’s vanishing; she finds shocking connections to Omar and the “stolen babies.”  Héctor and his former lover reporter Lola Martinez Rueda team up on his case.


The second Salgado Spanish police procedural is another strong investigative thriller containing two fascinating inquiries enhanced by insight into the personal lives of the protagonist and his partner.  Each case is well done with a sense of societal failure cutting through both of them.  Readers will appreciate Antonio Hill’s excellent series.


Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tequila Sunset-Sam Hawken

Tequila Sunset

Sam Hawken

Serpent’s Tail, Jun 10 2014, $14.95

ISBN: 9781846688546


Felipe “Flip” Morales returns to El Paso, Texas after spending four years behind bars for armed robbery.  He vows to stay out of trouble because he does not want to return to prison.  However while incarcerated, the Aztecas’ Latino gang kept Flip safe.  He soon has a second and third reason to remain clean; as he wants to marry his beloved pregnant Graciela.  However, Flip also knows he owes the Aztecas big time and if chieftain José Martinez asks for remittance, Flip will pay his debt. 


A cross border police task force aims at destroying the Aztecas.  Single mother of an autistic child, police officer Cristina Salas leads the American unit; while in Ciudad Juarez, Matias Segura is in charge of the Mexican team.  Caught in the middle, Flip becomes an informant against Martinez with little hope of surviving the onslaught.


Tequila Sunset is a strong exciting border crime thriller that catches the pulse of the twin cities separated by a fence.  Fast-paced yet character driven by the lead trio caught up in the operation to take down a violent gang, readers will enjoy Sam Hawken’s second taut Texas-Mexico suspense drama (see The Dead Women of Juarez).


Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 16, 2014

Wolf Hunt-Armand Cabasson

Wolf Hunt

Armand Cabasson; Isabel Reid (translator)

Gallic, Jun 10 2014, $15.95

ISBN 9781906040833


In 1809, the French and Austrian armies battle near the Danube with both sides suffering heavy losses.  Austrian Luise Mitterberg asks French Captain Quentin Margont to search for missing sixteen year old orphan Wilhelm Gurtz.  He searches for the teen until his corpse is found; someone murdered the lad and mutilated his face to make it look like a smile.


Lieutenant Lukas Relmyer already struggles with returning to a place where he and another orphan Franz were kidnapped four years ago; he escaped but his friend was murdered.  Now the Gurtz killing is identical to the Franz homicide.  Though he accepts solving these brutal murders will prove near impossible with so many deaths nearby, Margont teams up with Mitterberg, and Relmyer in a quest to end a serial killer’s reign of terror.


The second Grande Armee Napoleonic Murders (see The Officer’s Prey) is an excellent historical mystery as Armand Cabasson cleverly uses the fog of Napoleonic Era war to conceal a predator’s beastly murders.  The exciting investigation is made stronger by the backdrop as the hero and his two teams hunt a deadly wolf probably in soldier’s clothing.


Harriet Klausner

All Day And A Night-All Day And A Night

All Day And A Night

Alafair Burke

Harper, Jun 10 2014, $26.99

ISBN 9780062208385


In New York, someone murders prominent psychotherapist Helen Brunswick in her own office.  The M.O. matches the serial killings of six women slain over eighteen years ago in Utica.  The obvious suspect in the Brunswick slaying has the perfect alibi as Anthony Amaro was convicted for one of the earlier homicide and still resides in Five Points Correctional Facility.


ADA Max Donovan announces the establishment of a Fresh Look team.  He arranges for NYPD partners J.J. Rogan and Ellie Hatcher to be a part of this unit and assigns them to investigate the Amaro conviction that will anger Utica PD.  Ellie is annoyed at her live-in in lover Max for placing her on this loser team as she heads to Utica where she expects no cooperation.  At the same time a judge releases Amaro partly due to the sister of one of the original victims who believes the wrong person was convicted.


The latest Ellie Hatcher police procedural (see Never Tell) is an entertaining investigation as the protagonist wants nothing to do with an inquiry that can only cause her trouble; Utica is hostile towards her partly because of her behavior leading to her self-fulfilling prophecy.  Readers will enjoy this engaging thriller even with knowing relatively early on the path the tale takes.


Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Dark Angel-Mari Jungstedt; Tiina Nunnally (translator)

Dark Angel

Mari Jungstedt; Tiina Nunnally (translator)

Stockholm Text, Jun 10 2014, $14.95

ISBN: 9789175470221


In Visby on Gotland Island, Sweden, successful fiftyish event planner Viktor Algård files for divorce from his weak wife Elisabeth and abandons their children to spend more time with his lover.  When he hosts the gala opening of a new center in Visby, Viktor knows he is the toast of the entire island except his family.


Detective Superintendent Anders Knutas struggles with his own children, but must put aside his personal concerns to focus on the homicide by poison of renowned Algård at the event in which the deceased received accolades from almost everyone.  He focuses entirely on the dumped spouse with a powerful motive until an arson that destroyed three cottages relates back to his murder investigation causing him to look for other possible causes.   


The sixth Gotland Swedish police procedural (see The Dead of Summer, Killer's Art, Unspoken, Unseen and The Inner Circle) is an enjoyable whodunit in which Knutas sees parallels in his relationships with his family to that of the victim.  The whodunit is strong as twists and red herrings widen the inquiry while family secrets especially one the protagonist prefers not to have learned hammer his gut.


Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 13, 2014

What Lies Beneath-Sarah Rayne

What Lies Beneath

Sarah Rayne

Felony & Mayhem, Jun 7 2014, $14.95

ISBN: 9781937384678


While at the deli in Bramley, Ella Haywood learns that the government considers the “Poisoned Village” safe for humans to enter for the first time in decades.  Fifty years ago during the heat of the Cold War, the government evacuated nearby Priors Bramley; turning the tiny village into a chemical warfare test site. 


Shocked and fearing exposure for the crime they committed in Priors Bramley, Ella reflects back to when she and her childhood friends Clementine Poulter and Veronica Campion snuck into the forbidden zone just before a plane was schedule to dump Geranos compound on the village.  Wandering around the empty streets, the three young girls were frightened to meet a mutilated person.  Panicking the trio kills him unaware that prior to WWI, this village had another haunting experience at Cadence Manor.


What Lies Beneath is an exhilarating thriller in which three decades come together in an eerie drama as what happened in 1912 and the scary real concept of deliberate destruction of a village as part of weapons testing tie together with the reopening.  Readers will hear the music playing in the background as Sarah Rayne provides her audience with a super haunting tale.


Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Target America: A Sniper Elite Novel-Scott McEwen, with Thomas Koloniar

Target America: A Sniper Elite Novel

Scott McEwen, with Thomas Koloniar

S&S/Touchstone, Jun 3 2014, $19.99

ISBN 9781476747194


Chechen prisoner Alik Zakayev is released from in Guantanamo after being falsely accused by the Russians as participating in the Boston marathon bombings.  Sent home, the Salafi Muslim realizes he is a dead man if he stays in Grozny so he joins the Riyad us-Saliheyn Martyrs’ Brigade.  A few weeks later in a tunnel between Chihuahua State and New Mexico, Zakayev smuggles a Russian RA-115 suitcase nuke when American law enforcement intervenes.  He triggers the bomb believing Allah will welcome him and knowing compatriot Kashkin made it to the States with his RA-115.


CIA’s Special Activities Division Bob Pope also is aware of another loose nuke inside America.  He assigns reactivated Navy SEAL Gil Shannon to find and eliminate the threat.  Gil brings back SEAL Team Six Black to prevent a disaster worse than 9/11.  At the same time in Montana, a terrorist targets Gil’s wife and mother-in-law.


The second Sniper Elite military thriller (see: One-Way Trip) is an exciting action-packed tale from the opening suicide scene in Guantanamo and never slowing down until the final confrontation.  The DC crowd comes across as wussy political caricatures ready to send someone else to die while soiling their underwear far from the combat.  Still filled with realistic blood and gore, readers will feel a constant adrenalin rush as Shannon and his unit try to prevent the second nuke from being deployed.


Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Abduction-Jonathan Holt

The Abduction

Jonathan Holt

Harper, Jun 3 2014, $26.99

ISBN 9780062267047



At construction of the Dal Molin Air Force Base near Venice, human remains are found.  At about the same, Major Elston’s sixteen year old daughter Mia vanished two days ago.  Not long afterward, Mia appears on Daniele Barbo’s cyber version of Venice in which her kidnappers deploy Cheney non-torture techniques on the teen.  On social media, the abductors insist they will stop when construction halts.


Carabinieri Colonel Aldo Piola works the base case in which the skeleton has been buried for seventy years old and two more dead from the 1940s are found.  At the same time Carabinieri Captain Kat Tapo and U.S. Army Second Lieutenant Holly Boland obtain Barbo’s help as they attempt to rescue the girl. 


The second Carnivia thriller (see The Abomination) is a fabulous Venetian investigative tale starring four diligent but somewhat laid-back individuals, a teen in trouble, and virtual and real Venice.  However, the key to this insightful saga is the deep look at American foreign policy since 1941 as we historically react to the crisis of the moment while ignoring the long term strategic effect of our actions; especially when we set precedent that enemies deploy as made by America sanctioned. 


Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 9, 2014

Hell with the Lid Blown Off: An Alafair Tucker Mystery-Donis Casey

Hell with the Lid Blown Off: An Alafair Tucker Mystery

Donis Casey

Poisoned Pen, Jun 3 2014, $24.95

ISBN 9781464203008


In 1916 in Boynton, Oklahoma cantankerous bully Jubal Beldon and his abusive brothers harass teenager Ruth Tucker.  When Deputy Sheriff Trenton Calder learns of these miscreants bothering Ruth, he becomes irate as he likes her.  Ruth receives piano lessons from widow music teacher Beckie MacKenzie; who has her Vanderbilt University grandson Wallace Mackenzie III and his school friend Randal Wakefield visiting her.  Jubal accuses the two students of being lovers; neither denies his assertion.


A major tornado hammers town.  Found dead afterward is Jubal, but; no one including his mom, brothers and sister, grieve his death.  However, the undertaker claims he probably did not die from the twister; but instead someone murdered the nasty brute.  His brothers plan to dole out justice Beldon style even as Ruth’s dad Sheriff Scott Tucker and Trenton investigate the homicide in which Beckie is the prime suspect.  Scott’s wife Alafair works on the after twister cleanup while Ruth looks into the murder.


The latest Alafair Tucker historical mystery (see The Wrong Hill to Die On) is a super whodunit with a next generation approach as Ruth and Trenton lead the inquiry while her parents are involved with the storm aftermath.  A strong yet relevant today period piece, readers will relish the return of the Boynton brood.


Harriet Klausner

The Murder Farm-Andrea Maria Schenkel; Anthea Bell (translator)

The Murder Farm

Andrea Maria Schenkel; Anthea Bell (translator)

Quercus, Jun 3 2014, $22.99

ISBN 9781623651671


Several years after WWII ended, a mass murder in a German village left the Danner farm family and others dead.  In a rage this unknown adversary used an axe to slaughter the farmer, his wife, their daughter, their eight years old granddaughter, their two years old grandson, and their servant; an itinerant Michael Baumgartner in the wrong place at the wrong time stumbles over the bodies in an attempt to escape.


Ludwig Eibl the postman and Kurt Huber the mechanic reported no one greeted them when they arrived at Tannöd.  His baby stepbrother has Danner blood so teenager Hansl Hauer visited the spread and found the place eerily empty with no one around except the dog.  He gets his widower dad and farmer Johann Sterzer to look around.  They find corpses in the barn and the house.


The Murder Farm is a fascinating whodunit that combines sanctimonious testimony from the cops, people who knew at least one of the deceased and the student narrator as everyone tries to determine who and why; while readers know the answers.  Not for everyone as the storyline feels more like a police report anecdotes of a horrible massacre than a typical investigation.  Still fans who appreciate something different will want to read Andrea Maria Schenkel’s engaging 1950s German murder mystery.


Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Summer Of Dead Toys-Antonio Hill

The Summer Of Dead Toys

Antonio Hill

Broadway Books/Crown, May 13 2014, $15.00

ISBN: 9780770435899


Argentine émigré Héctor Salgado knows first-hand the prejudice Spaniards have against South Americans and how that bias can destroy his career, but the excellent Barcelona Police Inspector cannot control his quick temper that could give his superiors a reason to fire him.  After battering human-trafficking ringleader Dr. Omar, he receives a severe admonition and suspension. 


Back at work, Salgado, to his chagrin, investigates the seemingly accidental death of teenage college student Marc Castells who fell from a balcony.  Salgado believes the assignment is to warn him to keep his rage in check while mollifying the deceased’s influential wealthy dad who has high level political connections.  Salgado’s partner Leire Castro finds evidence that this was not an accident.  As the pair conducts a homicide inquiry into Castells’ murder in which his friends refuse to cooperate and illegal drugs are involved; a fully healed Omar leaves behind a pig’s head before vanishing.


The first Salgado Spanish police procedural provides readers with a fabulous investigative thriller starring a strong flawed protagonist and a solid support cast in a wonderful setting.  The official inquiry engages the audience while the feud with the vile trafficker enhances the tale with Salgado’s terrific tour of Barcelona adding depth to a super read.


Harriet Klausner

Deadly Décor-Karen Rose Smith

Deadly Décor

Karen Rose Smith

Kensington, Jun 3 2014, $7.99

ISBN: 9780758284860


In Kismet, Pennsylvania, thirtyish home stager Caprice De Luca feels her life is good as her business is thriving and she even is dating.  However, as Caprice works with Eliza Cornwell on her mansion, she is concerned with her sister Bella Santini whose marriage to Joe appears dead due to a nasty squabble over an unwanted pregnancy.  Distraught Bella accepts an invitation for coffee from her former boyfriend Bob Preston, who Caprice employs to paint her staged homes.


Not long after Bella steps out with Bob, someone adds blood red to his light green paint by murdering him.  Police Detective Jones suspects an angry jealous Joe killed his wife’s lover or Bella who was found by the corpse killed her lover.  Disagreeing with the cops, Caprice investigates as she believes Joe would not murder anyone even if he is angry with his spouse and that her sister would not cheat or kill her alleged paramour even if she is angry with her spouse as her hormones run wild.


The second Caprice De Luca Pennsylvania cozy (see Staged to Death) is an enjoyable amateur sleuth as the queen of family dramas, Karen Rose Smith, once again brings her upbeat uniqueness to the mystery genre.  Character-driven with two suspects who are the heroine’s relatives, fans will appreciate Caprice's investigation to prove their innocence and find the killer.


Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 6, 2014

Final Curtain: An Edna Ferber Mystery-Ed Ifkovic

Final Curtain: An Edna Ferber Mystery

Ed Ifkovic

Poisoned Pen, Jun 3 2014, $24.95

ISBN 9781464202926


In 1927, Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman wrote the hit Broadway play The Royal Family which was turned into a movie three years later.  Now in 1940, a nervous Edna will star in her first acting role as the grumpy elegant matriarch of The Royal Family of Broadway Fanny Cavendish in a summer stock production in Maplewood, New Jersey.  Already filled with fear over flopping on stage, Edna turns even more anxious when producer Cheryl Crawford tells her that George agreed to replace ailing Lawrence Burton as director.


Edna meets the cast including handsome Evan Street; who may be an understudy, but acts like an A-list Hollywood superstar even having the nerve to argue with others involved in the production.  When someone murders Evan, Edna investigates.


This Edna Ferber mystery (see Downtown Strut, Escape Artist and Make Believe) is a delightful historical amateur sleuth that takes readers to both sides of the Hudson at a time America still remains out of the war.  The whodunit is fun and well-written, but what makes this entry and series work is the deep look at the theatre in a bygone era.


Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 2, 2014

Cover-Up-R. L. Hayden


R. L. Hayden

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Jan 26 2014, $16.00

ISBN: 9781495326110


While waiting for an alien autopsy film to arrive for them to authenticate or more likely debunk, Real Saucer magazine reporters Rick Prescott and Beth Ringold, accompanied by psychic Sarina Lake, are in Roswell visiting the alleged crash site.  While Beth is bitchy skeptical, Rick encourages Sarina to use her special skills.  The trio meets Roswell Space Museum curator and college professor Layne Gunther who joins their team.  The quartet finds a Prince Albert tobacco tin with a piece of paper dated 1947 inside, and also notice pillars that hint at a crash site.  When armed commo dudes arrive, they flee Roswell for Albuquerque where Rick’s eccentric longtime friend Lawrence Harvey provides them assistance. 


When they prove the autopsy film false; the team splits into pairs (Beth with Layne, and Sarina with Rick) in search of the person responsible for the super movie hoax while Lawrence serves as command central.  Sarina and Rick find the filmmaker in New Mexico, but he refuses to speak to them; instead he needs to flee for his life from government sanctioned hit squads.  In spite of the peril, Rick and Sarina fall in love while struggling to understand Roswell and two other less publicized Land of Enchantment locations.


The first Rick Prescott Paranormal Thriller is an exhilarating investigation that offers a delightful theory as to a Federal Cover-Up still enforced over six decades later with deadly force.  Although the action-packed storyline feels too long with two climaxes, this also enables R. L. Hayden to develop a fascinating brilliant sleight of hand twist to Roswell.  Fans will appreciate this super look at what occurred and as important what did not in 1947 New Mexico.


Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Confessions of a Murder Suspect-James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Confessions of a Murder Suspect James Patterson and Maxine Paetro Grand Central Publishing, May 27 2014, $8.00 ISBN: 9781455547746 On Central Park West, Angel Pharmaceuticals CEO wealthy Malcolm and Maud Angel are found murdered in their bed. Someone notifies the cops leading to NYPD Sergeant Caputo and Detective Hayes arriving at their condo. The police suspect that one or more of the late power couple’s four children (Matthew, Robert, Harry and Tandy) killed their parents. Brilliant teenager, Tandy analyzes the situation and agrees with the official assertion that the killer has to be one of them. She considers the personalities of her brothers: the fiery raging oldest Matthew; her twin Robert the artist and bellicose tweener Harry. At the same time she investigates, the police look at Tandy as the likely killer. The latest Confessions mystery (see The Private School Murders) is an entertaining fast-paced whodunit. Although none of the six Angels come across even slightly affable and the climax is very disappointing, the authors’ younger teenage fans will enjoy Tandy’s amateur sleuthing as she distrusts her entire extended family including her dead parents and even herself. Harriet Klausner

The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair-Joel Dicker

The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair Joel Dicker Penguin, May 27 2014, $18.00 ISBN: 9780143126683 In 1975 in Somerset, New Hampshire, Deborah Cooper calls the police believing she saw a man chase a woman into the nearby woods. Soon after her frantic call, the town learns that the Pastor Kellergan’s fifteen year old daughter Nola vanished. Though no evidence proved novelist Harry Quebert killed her; most locals believe he murdered his underage girlfriend. In 2008, Manhattan-based writer Marcus Goldman struggles with authoring his second book after a successful debut. Needing help to move passed his writer’s block, Marcus travels to Somerset to consult with his former coach Harry Quebert who welcomes his bright student while reminding him of the 31 rules of writing. Soon after Marcus’ arrival in New Hampshire, gardeners find Nola’s murdered body. The police arrest Harry as his manuscript was interred with her. Marcus, believing his friend is innocent, investigates the thawed cold case with plans to write a book on what he learns. The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair is an enjoyable twisting metafiction thriller. Although the support cast is two-dimensional stereotyped (past and present), readers will enjoy Marcus’ quest for what happened in 1975 and why. Harriet Klausner