Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Murder's Madness-Alex Matthews

Murder's Madness
Alex Matthews
Veiled Intent Press, Apr 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9780979475603

Chicago therapist Cassidy McCabe runs a successful practice out of her Oak Park home. Recently she married her sweetheart crime reporter Zach Moran. Their life is perfect; wrong! Depressed Zach is struggling with a new editor, who has treated him shabbily. Almost as bad as Zach’s lack of tender loving, Starshine her cat has apparently found a better place to hang its’ paws.

Medicated for schizophrenia Delia Schiff recently rented Zach's condo in Marina City; Cass has befriended the lonely woman. However, when Delia calls her hysterically about Dark Angels, a corpse in a closet and magic, Cass assumes her new pal is off her meds. She goes over to reassure the distraught woman, but though Cass fails to find a body, she notices some blood. As Delia vanishes, Cass calls the police even as she intends to conduct her own investigation to insure Delia is okay.

The ninth Cass McCabe mystery, IN MURDER'S MADNESS, is an exciting amateur sleuth talethat stars a caring therapist hoping to save the life of a schizophrenic, who is off her medicine and may or may not have seen a corpse. The story line is driven by the heroine’s need to help a lonely person; a trait fans of the series know is part of Cass’ make-up. However, the plot is owned by Delia even though her appearances are limited; as she enables the audience to go deep inside the tormented soul of a mentally ill individual who needs to stay on her meds to keep some mental equilibrium.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, April 28, 2008

Leave No Stone Unturned-Jeanne Glidewell

Leave No Stone Unturned
Jeanne Glidewell
Five Star, May 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146497

In Shawnee, Kansas, forty-eight year old volunteer librarian assistant widow Lexie Starr is helping a teenage use microfiche to find the winner of the 2001 Boston marathon when she notices an article on the late wife of police academy student Clayton Pitt. She realizes that Clayton is most likely her son-in-law whom she dislikes and whose first spouse Eliza was pregnant when she was murdered in DeKalb, New York.

While seeking replacement charms from a bracelet her daughter Wendy lost, Lexie comes into contact with Carolina jeweler Stone Van Patten. Using him as an alibi to divert Wendy, she heads to Schenectady, where Clayton lived to learn if he could be a spouse killer and whether her pregnant daughter is in jeopardy from him.

Although she knows she is over the top, Lexie LEAVES NO STONE UNTURNED as she goes the extra 1250 plus miles to insure the safety of her beloved daughter to learn whether her son-in-law killed his first wife. The support cast in Upstate New York adds eccentric color especially at the Camelot B&B where foul mouthed Sinbad the parrot and Harriet Sparks rule the roost. Detective Glick finds her amusing and irritation while Stone, whom she never met, joins her in New York. With a fine but improbable whodunit combined with a middle age romance, Jeanne Glidewell writes an engaging amateur sleuth.

Harriet Klausner

The Red Necklace-Sally Gardner

The Red Necklace
Sally Gardner
Dial, May 2008, $16.99
ISBN: 9780739356487

In 1789 Paris, Tetu the dwarf has raised fourteen years old full blooded Roma orphan Yann as they both assist egomaniac magician Topolain. His arrogance leads to his death at the hands of evil Count Kalliovski who wants the automaton the mage used while performing. At about the same time, Yann meets reticent affluent aristocrat Sidonie; a lonely young girl who has no friends and never tasted love even from family members. Her cold distant father loathes her so much he has sold her to the vicious Count as his wife.

The murder of Topolain leads Tetu to smuggle his ward out of France to the safety of London. However, when the Revolution begins to take over the French capital, Yann returns hoping to take the two people he cares about, Tetu and Sidonie, to London; knowing her father and her fiancé will attempt to kill him for trying.

A Tale of Two Cities with an Oliver Twist spin, a serial killer leaving garnet necklaces on the victims, and an intimation of Gypsy magic make for an entertaining young adult suspense historical fantasy. The contrast between Paris and London is startling, but both cities have blood flowing in the streets; only the former is more in the open. Yann and Sidonie is a wonderful courageous couple while Tetu is heroic in his loyalty to his ward. Whereas the villains are a bit exaggerated, fans will appreciate this strong French Revolution thriller.

Harriet Klausner

River Ghosts- B.D. Robb

River Ghosts
B.D. Robb
Five Star, May 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9781594146541

In Red River Falls, terrified racially mixed eight year old Richard Hill hides under his family’s kitchen table as he sees teenage Henry Clayton rape and kill the child’s white mother. The preadolescent knows he will be haunted forever with the swastika tattoo that Richard proudly displayed. Henry is convicted of the rape-murder while Richard’s black father tries to help his son move past the hate crime.

Sixteen years later newly discovered DNA evidence exonerates Henry. The Illinois governor pardons him and he is released from prison. Now a Red River Falls police officer, Richard believes the so-called new proof is a fake as he witnessed Henry rape and kill his mom. When an elderly gay man is murdered, the circumstantial evidence points towards a white supremacist friend of Henry as the killer. Richard and his squad car partner believe Henry is involved, but have to find concrete evidence to validate their theory in court.

The adversarial relationship between Henry and Richard make for an exhilerating character driven thriller. The same event has turned both men into obsessive individuals although Henry already had a cause before the rape murder of Richard’s mom. Readers will appreciate this strong look at two foes; one a homegrown terrorist using race as his cause while the other became a cop in homage to his mom as he needs to insure victims see justice occur starting with himself.

Harriet Klausner

River Ghosts- B.D. Robb

River Ghosts
B.D. Robb
Five Star, May 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9781594146541

In Red River Falls, terrified racially mixed eight year old Richard Hill hides under his family’s kitchen table as he sees teenage Henry Clayton rape and kill the child’s white mother. The preadolescent knows he will be haunted forever with the swastika tattoo that Richard proudly displayed. Henry is convicted of the rape-murder while Richard’s black father tries to help his son move past the hate crime.

Sixteen years later newly discovered DNA evidence exonerates Henry. The Illinois governor pardons him and he is released from prison. Now a Red River Falls police officer, Richard believes the so-called new proof is a fake as he witnessed Henry rape and kill his mom. When an elderly gay man is murdered, the circumstantial evidence points towards a white supremacist friend of Henry as the killer. Richard and his squad car partner believe Henry is involved, but have to find concrete evidence to validate their theory in court.

The adversarial relationship between Henry and Richard make for an exhilerating character driven thriller. The same event has turned both men into obsessive individuals although Henry already had a cause before the rape murder of Richard’s mom. Readers will appreciate this strong look at two foes; one a homegrown terrorist using race as his cause while the other became a cop in homage to his mom as he needs to insure victims see justice occur starting with himself.

Harriet Klausner

Scorch- Marc Paoletti

Scorch
Marc Paoletti
Five Star, May 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9781594146572

Former Navy SEAL David Cole is excited about being the pyrotechniques expert on the filming of Bringing Them Back because his adult son Ronny works with him on the set and he is attracted to the movie’s director Jennifer Shragee. However, when Ned Brandenburg and Levar Watkins almost cause an explosion due to carelessness, he fires them knowing that the former is the nephew of Loki Studio head Gary Stanford. Ned and Levar vow to get even with Cole while Gary is upset because he needs the film finished or face bankrupcy and mob muscle; Cole is holding up the filming due to safety concerns.

Gary hires psychopath Frank Ruger to take out Cole. To the horror of Ned and Levar, Frank kills Ronny before igniting a horrific explosion that should have left David dead. However David survives though badly hurt and begins his quest for revenge against Gary, Frank, Ned, and Levar even as Police Lieutenant Scott Whittaker names him as the suspect in his son’s murder.

Fast-paced, fans who aprpeciate 200 proof action in their thrillers will relish Marc paoletti’s full octane tale. However, those who want a psychological side to the prime players will find that lacking as the action supersedes character devleopment. Still SCORCH is an exciting cat and mouse tale of twisted revenge.

Harriet Klausner

Death of a Lovable Geek-Maria Hudgins

Death of a Lovable Geek
Maria Hudgins
Five Star, May 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146411

In the Scottish Highlands, Virginia medieval history professor Dotsy Lamb, accompanied by her best friend Lettie Osgood, is excited to be at an archeological dig led by renowned Dr. John Sinclair whose brother William owns the site. However, her enjoyment especially when she finds an ancient gold coin that could revise what is known about the eleventh century and earlier ends when the murdered corpse of mushroom expert Dylan “Froggy” Quale is found by Christine, a teen who works in the nearby Castle Dunlaggan kitchen.

Chief Inspector Duncan Coates suspects Froggy’s site roommate American media expert Van Nguyen, but Dotsy believes that is not likely. When John dies soon afterward, Dotsy thinks mushroom poisoning killed him, which she wonders might be tied to Froggy’s homicide as the young man was the expert on fungi. With the help of Lettie and her knowledge of the real King Macbeth (not that Shakespeare imposter), Lettie investigates at the same time that Coates makes his inquiries.

DEATH OF A LOVABLE GEEK is an enjoyable amateur sleuth tale with a police procedural in the background. The story line contains two fascinating twists that will surprise the audience. The cast is strong especially the medieval scholar and her best friend while the look at how castle proprietorship has changed adds depth to a fun cozy.

Harriet Klausner

Murder Aboard the Choctaw Gambler-Sharon Ervin

Murder Aboard the Choctaw Gambler
Sharon Ervin
Five Star, May 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146985

Arizona State Bureau of Investigation Agent Jim Wills investigates the murder of Larry Potter, a croupier on the Choctaw Gambler riverboat casino. He allows Bishop Clarian reporter Jancy Dewhurst to join him as he makes inquiries. He soon concludes that Larry was in the wrong place at wrong time and looked especially in the dark like the owner Jesse Chase. The sniper must have thought he was killing Jesse.

At the same time, the rival Dominion News Editor Tyrone asks Jancy to investigate rumors that volatile G.C. Gideon has bankrupted his elderly father Tyrone’s vast ranching empire to pay his gambling debts. As she looks into that, G.C. remains the prime suspect in the Potter murder as he had a fight with Chase over gambling debts. After Jancy interrogates Tyrone, an outraged G.C. brutally beats up his father and sends his henchman Bubba Valentine to kill the meddling reporter. Jim who is attracted to Jancy tries to keep the curious journalist safe even as he fears he will lose her to her ambition.

Although I have doubts that an agent of the ASBI would allow a reporter easy access to an official inquiry (especially without complaints from rival journalists), readers will enjoy the fast-paced police procedural romance. The whodunit is fun, but it is the relationship between J & J that adds a tasty spice to the story as MURDER ABOARD THE CHOCTAW GAMBLER is an entertaining romantic investigative tale.

Harriet Klausner

Odd Hours-Dean Koontz

Odd Hours
Dean Koontz
Bantam, May 2008, $27.00
ISBN: 9780553807059

Odd sees the dead, has prophetic visions and dreams, and has saved many lives because he chose to do good deeds with his gift. After leaving the monastery, his plan was to go home to Pico Mundo to return to his former job as a short order cook. His plan is put on hold when he has visions of turbulent events and a woman floating over a red ocean. Odd somehow knows something dangerous is happening near the seaside town of Magic Beach where he goes.

He gets a job as a cook for a noted retired actor and children’s book author. He meets Annamarie who was the woman in his vision who talks in cryptic words, but has no information to give to him. When the local sheriff picks him up assuming Odd is an indigent, they shake hands and in both their minds they see the Red Tide. The sheriff thinks Odd knows more than he is telling. If he passes a lie detector test he will free him and pay him to keep quiet about what he supposedly knows. Odd escapes and learns what his visions mean; he will do anything to prevent this calamity from happening; failure or inaction means America will cease to exist.

Dean Koontz has created a character who wins the hearts of mostly everyone including readers who adore his innocence and courage. His innocence combined with his ability to challenge evil make him a special and aptly named person. In this tale he knows he cannot go to the authorities with his knowledge as a small cabal inside the sheriff’s office and the harbor patrol are part of what is coming. ODD HOURS is a special supernatural thriller because besides the save America plot, the hero who travels and lives off the land his way has a ghost dog named Boo for a pet and the shade of Frank Sinatra who appears to Odd. The hero wants to help him move on.

Harriet Klausner

Odd Hours-Dean Koontz

Odd Hours
Dean Koontz
Bantam, May 2008, $27.00
ISBN: 9780553807059

Odd sees the dead, has prophetic visions and dreams, and has saved many lives because he chose to do good deeds with his gift. After leaving the monastery, his plan was to go home to Pico Mundo to return to his former job as a short order cook. His plan is put on hold when he has visions of turbulent events and a woman floating over a red ocean. Odd somehow knows something dangerous is happening near the seaside town of Magic Beach where he goes.

He gets a job as a cook for a noted retired actor and children’s book author. He meets Annamarie who was the woman in his vision who talks in cryptic words, but has no information to give to him. When the local sheriff picks him up assuming Odd is an indigent, they shake hands and in both their minds they see the Red Tide. The sheriff thinks Odd knows more than he is telling. If he passes a lie detector test he will free him and pay him to keep quiet about what he supposedly knows. Odd escapes and learns what his visions mean; he will do anything to prevent this calamity from happening; failure or inaction means America will cease to exist.

Dean Koontz has created a character who wins the hearts of mostly everyone including readers who adore his innocence and courage. His innocence combined with his ability to challenge evil make him a special and aptly named person. In this tale he knows he cannot go to the authorities with his knowledge as a small cabal inside the sheriff’s office and the harbor patrol are part of what is coming. ODD HOURS is a special supernatural thriller because besides the save America plot, the hero who travels and lives off the land his way has a ghost dog named Boo for a pet and the shade of Frank Sinatra who appears to Odd. The hero wants to help him move on.

Harriet Klausner

Shadow of Light-James E. Cherry

Shadow of Light
James E. Cherry
Serpent’s Tail, Jun 2008
ISBN: 9781852424923

Forrest looks like a typical small Southern town; however, below the surface in the Tennessee town, racial tension waits for the incident to explode. One night after planning and casing a house where a respected black woman lives, white males burst in to rob it. They expected the elderly female “Big Mama” to be at church as she always is, but instead she was home. The leader of the invaders Ronny Mcalister" rapes her before shooting her.

Miraculously she lives and her livid grandson police detective Walter Robinson wants to know how close his peers are o catching the culprits. All local blacks decry the crime, but Walter’s nephew neighborhood druglord Cebo wants white blood to flow especially those who committed the obscenity. He informs the police that if the SOBs are not in custody within forty-eight hours a cop will die; another will die every forty-eight hours afterward until there are no police or the perps are caught. The town is a powder keg with only Walter able to keep the fuse from igniting, but he sympathizes with his nephew as this is his beloved grandma.

It does not take a lot of words to describe the town where blacks see no way out of poverty that engulfs communities. In some way James E. Cherry’s vivid description of a town without pity feels somewhat 1960s yet the author makes the case that poverty is the modern day de facto racism. Walter is a good person and cop as he tries to glide above the racial divide even as he understands how many whites look down at blacks; he vents his frustration on his wife. However this time he cannot ignore the incident nor does he truly want too. How he acts will determine whether this town burns down in a Forrest fire or not as James E. Cherry provides a strong thriller that plays out on two levels: town-wide and character poignancy.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Triumph of Caesar-Steven Saylor

The Triumph of Caesar
Steven Saylor
St. Martin’s, May 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312359836

He conquered Gaul, settled the civil war in Egypt by placing Cleopatra on the throne, and won decisive battles in all over Europe, Asia and Africa. For the first time in many years Caesar has come home where he is the Dictator for life.

Gordianus the Finder has recently returned from Egypt and looks forward to settling into retirement. However his rest is brief because Caesar’s wife Calpurnicus has a job for him. An Etruscan soothsayer who she has complete confidence in says her spouse’s life is in danger; she orders Gordianus to find the potential killer. There are four Triumphs (festivals) coming shortly, and those are the most likely moment for someone to strike as Caesar is an easy target during them. The person she had looking for Caesar’s enemy before Gordianus was Hieronymus, a friend of Gordianus, making this assignment personal.

Two of Steven Saylor’s greatest strengths as an author arehis ability to make character seem genuine including real historical persona and to give his audience a sense of time and place; readers will feel they are in first century BC Rome. Gordianus enables readers to see through his eyes the jubilation that exists in Rome now that the civil war is over. With a strong who will do it investigative story line, fans will relish the triumph of Saylor.

Harriet Klausner

The Reapers-John Connolly

The Reapers
John Connolly
Atria, Jun 2008, $26.00
ISBN: 9781416569527

Assassins Louis and Angel kill a Russian trafficker who peddled young children to pedophiles. Bliss kills a predator in a bar’s bathroom. A wealthy dying recluse murders a man who was involved in the death of his son. All these crimes are linked in a surprising way. Gabriel and his lover Angel will learn that crimes from their past have come back to haunt them in the present.

In 1983 Louis was assigned to kill Luther Berger, but what he didn’t know was that his victim was really Jon Leahagen, son of Arthur. Mr. Hoyle, is helping the duo with people coming after them. Arthur is dying, but before he passes on he wants to take with him to the grave everyone who was involved in the homicide of his offspring. Hoyle wants Arthur dead because he killed his daughter. He hires Louis and Angel to kill Arthur and his son; they agree not because of the money, but instead want Leahagen to stop trying to kill them. When they get to Leahagen’s estate, they realize they walked into a trap, but Charlie Parker is on the way to assist them.

The REAPERS is a great thriller as the readers get a deep look at the workings of Louis and Angel. When he was young Louis a black man watched whites lynch his father and set fire to kill him. Angel was sold repeatedly to pedophiles by his father to pay for his booze. Surprisingly they have traces of humanity left inside them although for the most part their human flame is barely flickering. They receive reader empathy in spite of being condemned for their actions, as John Connolly provides a strong crime caper fueled by these two outsiders.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Quiver-Peter Leonard

Quiver
Peter Leonard
St. Martin's, May 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312379025

In Detroit former racing car champion Owen McCall and his teenage son Luke go hunting together. Luke shoots an arrow at a deer that somehow goes through the animal and his father, killing Owen.

The sixteen years old boy is filled with guilt and depression, his mom Kate struggles with her own despondency. However, the Widow is not allowed any time to grief or be there for her devastated offspring. Her former Peace Corps lover Jack Curran arrives allegedly to console the widow who he reminds that he once saved her life. However, Jack has a hidden agenda and fails to inform Kate that he did time and that his current friends have criminal plans for the surviving McCalls.

Although an entertaining crime caper, QUIVER is too much a good guys vs. the bad guys thriller rather than a deep look at a grieving son filled with self loathing guilt over killing his dad even though Luke knows logically it was an accident. Instead the tale focuses on what Jack and associates do to Kate and Luke with a full circle high noon confrontation at Owen’s hunting lodge while the audience expects insight into Luke’s mental state. Still Peter Leonard provides an exciting suspense thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Madman on a Drum-David Housewright

Madman on a Drum
David Housewright
St. Martin's, May 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312370817

In St. Paul, Minnesota sixth grader Victoria and fourth grader Katie Dunston were walking home from St. Mark’s Elementary School when a man in white coveralls and a black ski mask abducts the older sister. Their father Bobby, the city’s homicide chief, asks his long time friend former cop Rushmore McKenzie to help rescue his daughter although the detective knows his buddy lacks a sleuthing license.

The kidnapper demands Mac deliver the ransom, which he is willing to do. Mac begins racing through St. Paul following tips while someone places a $50,000 bounty on him. Soon Mac and Bobby begin to realize who the abductor is and why this snatch is personal. The knowledge brings fear to both men not for themselves, but for what their former childhood buddy might be capable of doing to this preadolescent girl out of an obsession to avenge what he believes was a betrayal of their friendship.

This is an exciting Twin City Noir that never slows down from the opening abduction to the final confrontation. Part of the fascination with this strong series (see DEAD BOYFRIENDS).is Mac makes mistakes that can prove costly as he does in MADMAN ON A DRUM. Although action-packed, the tale also focuses on loyalty between friends as Bobby was doing his job when the betrayal occurred (though not quite as potentially dangerous and it was a law enforcement matter, but think in terms of the heroic parents who turned in their son recently because they feared a Columbine). This is a strong entry in a powerful series.

Harriet Klausner

The Rough Collier-Pat McIntosh

The Rough Collier
Pat McIntosh
Soho, May 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9781569475072

In 1493 in the peat bogs of Belstane Parish in Central Lanarkshire, a corpse has been uncovered. No one knows how long the body laid in the ooze, but many assume murder because of the severe injury to the skull and slash across the throat.

The Beltane Parish chaplain to Sir James, David Fleming accuses the local herbalist and healer "Beattie" Lithgo of committing the crime; his evidence is based on his belief she practices witchcraft and the body is that of a missing person Thomas Murray. The Archbishop of nearby Glasgow sends his Quaestor Gil Cunningham to investigate. Gil is accompanied by his new wife Alys; they quickly conclude the victim was killed quite a long time ago and is not Thomas. As the case spins into a matriarchal family while more corpses are found, the constable and his spouse feel they are stuck in the bog.

Although extremely well written and exciting, this medieval police procedural takes serious time and place so is filled with Scottish colloquiums that can make it a bit difficult to follow dialogue. Once the reader adjusts to the discussions, fans will find a terrific whodunit as the married detectives struggle with prejudice and fear inside of a strong fifteenth century mystery

Harriet Klausner

The Lost-Roberta Kray

The Lost
Roberta Kray
Soho, May 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9781569475065

Reporter Len Curzon interviews a criminal in a local prison in what the journalist realizes is a waste of his time; he thinks of having a few drinks instead until he notices disgraced former politician Paul Deacon, convicted for the murder of Tony Keppel, son of a crime boss, with a beautiful woman who could not be more than thirty years old. Curious and sensing a story, he wonders if the female visitor who uses the name Ellen Shaw might be Grace Harper, who vanished two decades ago when she was eight years old.

At the Whistle, Curzon talks to former cop turned private investigator Harry Lind about his hunch. Harry is on his own paying case; nightclub owner Ray Stagg hired him to find his missing his brother-in-law Al because the man’s wife, his sister Denise, out of worry has nagged him to death. When Curzon is murdered, his journalist peer Jessica Vaughn convinces Lind that the cops got it wrong re Curzon’s death; it was premeditated not random.

This interesting crime caper takes readers on a fascinating look at the London criminal world through a large number of support players that bring depth and chaos to the engaging story line. Lind is a terrific protagonist who has his own issues, but with Jessica making him feel guilty and not just over Curzon’s death, he ignores his personal warning sirens and gets involved. With a strong cast, Roberta Kray sheds a deep spotlight on London’s “lost” population although that can slow down the action.

Harriet Klausner

Tailspin-Catherine Coulter

Tailspin
Catherine Coulter
Putnam, Jun 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9780399155031

She woke up to find her hands tied to her chest and her legs locked in wieights just before theyows her into the lake. An expert swimmer, Rachel Abbott, illegitimate daughter of a powerful senator, gets free and goes on the run. She believes her father’s two siblings want her dead to prevent her from revealing something that could have destroyed her dad’s career; though before he died he was planning to go public. In Ketucky Appalachia on her way to a safe house to rest and think, she sees a plane make an emergency crash landing; the pilot and the passenger manage to escape just before the plane exploded.

The pilot is FBI Agent Jackson Crowne who was flying his friend psychiatrist Dr Timothy MacLean to Washington, D.C. in order for the agency to protect him from an unknown adversary. Dr. Maclean suffers from frontal lobe dementia, which has led him to break confidentiality about three patients. Even at the hospital there are attempts on the psychiatrist’s life just as there are on Rachel’s. Happily married Savich and Sherlock are sent to learn what happened to Maclean and then hearing her story, take Racheal under their wing. Soon they too are in danger from killers wanting Timothy and Rachel silenced.

Catherine Coulter is one of the best authors of exciting thrillers writing today. The several subplots running throughout her novels that eventually tie together is a work of art. In the case of TAILSPIN, Savich and Sherlock heat up the pages while a romance between Rachel and Jack blossoms. Readers already care about SS, but will also like JR. and his evolving romance with Rachael. Fans of the series will relish the protagonists and their cronies as they struggle to stay alive against cunning professional killers.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mind the Gap-Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon

Mind the Gap
Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon
Bantam, Jun 2008, $12.00
ISBN: 9780553384697

Coming home Jazz felt something was wrong in the house where she lived with her mother. Her parent taught her to be alert and always look over her shoulder to see if anyone was coming after her. Heeding her niggling feelings, she sneaks into her home and sees the Uncles there looking like they were waiting for her to arrive. She enters her mom’s room finding her dead with her neck slashed; her mom’s final words to her written in her blood: Jazz hide forever”.

Fleeing her Uncles, Jazz enters an Underground tunnel beneath London where the homeless, the disenfranchised, and the mentally ill reside. She joins forces with the United Kingdom; consisting of young people led by Harold “Harry” Pilkington Fowler. They take her into their home and she becomes a thief in the world above. The Uncles’ have thugs searching for her and he finds her. He kills one of her new friends and injures Harry. The United Kingdom kills one of them because these amoral hooligans do not care one iota about collateral damage in their quest to capture Jazz. Above ground she meets burglar Terrance, who is similar to Harry. Vowing revenge for her mom and the dead boy, Jazz plans to take the battle to the Uncles.

The London Underground is a city underneath the metropolis that topsiders are unaware exists; it has its rules, cultures and beliefs like any society have. It is also a place where Jazz sees scenes of magic of London in bygone eras. Jazz is the glue that holds the story line together; she is strong and obstinate as she refuses to cower any longer determined to take the fight to her enemy. Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon provide an engaging fast-paced yet eerie teen thriller as the revelations keep on coming but the action never decelerates.

Harriet Klausner

The Actress-Elizabeth Sims

The Actress
Elizabeth Sims
St. Martin's, Jun 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780312377274

After meeting his latest semi-notorious client Eileen Tenaway, L.A. celebrity attorney Gary Kwan realizes even he cannot stand the unsympathetic woman; a jury will hang her without needing any evidence to the charge she allegedly killed her baby. Desperate he hires starving wannabe actress Rita Farmer at one thousand dollars a day to train Eileen to appear a lot more sympathetic and likable in court especially when she takes the stand. Needing the money as she fears her rat of an ex will make an attempt to gain custody of their son Petey, Rita accepts the assignment.

Rita finds teaching Eileen nearly impossible as the woman is sociopathically uncaringly numb. However, not long afterward, the case twists when insurance investiagtor Mr.Rowe informs Rita of a pay out to Eileen and her husband’s business partner over the death of her sposue in Brazil. Soon Rita ponders whether the husband is dead and not long aftere that is resolved, his business partner, a lot of money and jewels vanish. When someone murders Gary and kidnaps Rita's son, the actress and her friend Daniel desperately search for her offspring even while knowing an unknown adversary wants Eileen hung.

Readers will root for Rita who turns from gentle kitty to ferocious lioness when her cub is threatened although some of her early investigative actions seem out of character as it places her and ultimately Petey in danger. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Gary hires Rita and never slows down. The key to this exhilarating amateur sleuth legal thriller is Eileen. She is so unsympathetic fans will convict her without any need of evidence. Elizabeth Sims provides a fascinating tale especially when the plot focuses on Eileen.

Harriet Klausner

Zoo Station-David Downing

Zoo Station
David Downing
Soho, May 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9781569474952

In 1939 Berlin, Englishman John Russell earns a meager living as a reporter in Germany where he has lived for a decade and half. Although he fears what is going on inside his adopted country, John does not want to leave because he loves his young son Paul and the lad’s mother his girlfriend Effi Koenen; and wants to remain with them.

A Soviet operative hires Russell to write several articles to be published in Pravda lauding the Nazi accomplishments, but ignoring their atrocities in order to sell the nonaggression pact to the people. Although he detests extolling the virtues of this criminal regime, John accepts the assignment that will pay a lot. He agrees not because of the money, but he thinks he can help his home country with information. However, the British no longer trust John and the Nazis watch his every move threatening his two loves ones.

As in Russell’s previous appearance (see SILESIAN STATION), he is an everyday guy caught up in world events; thus once again even with plenty of suspense and intrigue, ZOO STATION is more a historical tale than a Nazi Era espionage thriller. David Downing writes how everyman finds the inner vigor and intensity to become a superhero when the motive, opportunity and means enable the person to step up to the plate. In harrowing times, John swings the bat.

Harriet Klausner

House Rules- Mike Lawson

House Rules
Mike Lawson
Atlantic Monthly, Jun 2008, $22
ISBN 9780871139832

Muslim terrorists attack the Washington, D.C. area by air, by car and by suicide bomber. Although all three attacks failed, the country panics as everyone assumes a new 9/11 will reoccur soonest as anyone with a competent thought knows you cannot negotiate with people willing to die for their cause especially if they fully believe God awaits to hug them.

Amidst the fervor of patriotism and fear, House Speaker John Mahoney, having learned from Oklahoma City and the extremes exploited by our leaders after 9/11, calmly looks at the known facts. He has some doubts about the majority wisdom of the pundits that Middle Easterners are behind the assault and assigns his operative Joe DeMarco to investigate the incidents. Joe wonders if the attacks are tied to anti-Islamic legislation championed in a patriotic with me or terrorist supporter against me fervor of Virginia Senator William Davis Broderick who constantly reminds everyone of the failed attempt to blow up the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel on Labor Day.

This exciting post 9/11 Continental United States thriller is fast-paced, but what makes it a strong read is Joe who “escorts” readers through DC politcal power in which ambition, manipulation, and conspiracy is the norm. Fans will enjoy the hero’s effort to learn the truth behind the attacks, but each step he takes seems to be murkier and fraught with “J’accuse” danger as the shadowy opponents seem in control of the media; recent NYT revelations on military experts on the TV news affirms Mike Lawson's theory that Pogo is right that we met the enemy and they are us. (see THE SECOND PERIMETER and THE INSDE RING).

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Scream For Me-Karen Rose

Scream For Me
Karen Rose
Grand Central, May 2008, $16.99
ISBN: 9780446509206

Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Daniel Vartanian remains in shock and grief as he still reels from discovering his late brother Simon was a serial killer who before his demise murdered their parents, whom the cop just buried (see DIE FOR ME). Still though some at GBI thinks Daniel should take leave, he feels he would be better off working a case instead of brooding.

His superior assigns him to investigate a recent murder that copy cats the unsolved cold case homicide of Alicia Tremaine thirteen years ago. Daniel meets Alice’s twin sister Alex Fallon, who left their hometown of Dutton just after the murder of her sibling. She is home because her stepsister Bailey Creighton vanished leaving her four year old daughter Hope behind and distressed over mommy. As more people are murdered with the same M.O. of thirteen years ago, Daniel wonders who the serial killer is ultimately targeting as he also fears completion of the circle with Alex as the victim; he vows to keep the woman he is falling in love with safe, but from whom.

This exhilarating serial killer thriller grips readers from the onset and never slows down; whether the events occurred thirteen years ago or in the present. Even the well written supportive romance enhances the tale by personalizing the murders in the mind of the hero who is reminded that he “failed” to protect his parents; guilt even if it is unwarranted can rip out one’s gut. Karen Rose proves her publisher was right going hardcover with what is sure to be another bestseller.

Harriet Klausner

The Dawn Patrol-Don Winslow

The Dawn Patrol
Don Winslow
Knopf, Jun 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780307266200

Once Boone Daniels was a police officer for the SDPD, but when a young girl disappeared he refused to let his partner torture the suspect to learn if she still lived. His fellow officers turned their backs on him eventually forcing him to resign. Now he lives to ride the next wave while working as a private investigator to earn money to surf. He looks forward to the big waves expected to shortly arrive due to a storm, but lawyer Petra Hall needs him to work a paying case.

She hires him to find stripper Tammy Roddick who works for Dan Silver who torched one of his establishments. She gave a deposition before vanishing. Boone discovers she was staying in a hotel with another stripper who was thrown off the terrace to her death. There is no sign of Tammy, but Boone notices a child’s toothbrush in the hotel room. Boone and Petra track her down and bring her to his apartment where she asks permission to make a phone call. Boone has a bad feeling that there is more than just an insurance scam and a dead stripper involved in this case and soon his life is on the line affirming his hypothesis.

This is a great thriller filled with eccentric characters who make up the DAWN PATROL, a group of fanatical surfers riding the waves before work. It is hard to determine who the villains are as they hide their transgressions behind nice personalities. There is also a lot of historical information pertaining to San Diego interwoven into the plot while the surfing scenes are vivid so mush readers will think there are at the Pacific. Still the bottom line is Don Winslow writes an engaging mystery that focuses on depravity.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, April 21, 2008

Frames-Loren D. Estleman

Frames
Loren D. Estleman
Forge, May 2008, $23.95
ISBN 9780765315755

Calling himself the “Film Detective” Valentino earns a living as film archivist at UCLA. He considers buying the Oracle, a dilapidated theatre that back in the 1920s was a showcase. However, as he inspects the crumbling edifice, he finds several reels of Erich von Stroheim’s classic epic, Greed; though long lost to the ravages of time, stupidity, and avarice.

However, his discovery takes a setback when Valentino also uncovers a skeleton. He would prefer to ignore the old bones and run off with the film, but his conscience will not allow Valentino to do so. He calls the cops informing them of the human remains, but remains silent re the reels out of fear the evidence takers will damage the valuable work, which would put his conscience in suicide mode.

This is an entertaining Hollywood mystery as the lead character hides evidence from the police rationalizing why he did it. The cold case investigation is fun to follow as the Film Detective tracks cinematic clues one frame at a time; while also rationalizing again why he is making inquiries. Apparently Valentino has appeared in short stories, but in his novel debut he seems complete and able to hold together an enjoyable somewhat movie fun fluffy whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Paint it Black-Michelle Perry

Paint it Black
Michelle Perry
Medallion, May 2008, $7.95
ISBN: 9781933836003

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Necie Bramhall joined the department as a means to achieving her life goal. She feels the DEA will enable her to destroy her father, a notorious drug lord father, who deserted her and her mother years ago. To her euphoric surprise Necie succeeds in capturing her father; his incarceration makes her wonder now what though she hopes to move on with her life.

However, Necie is unaware that revenge breeds more vengeance as her unknown half sister Maria Barnes hates her. She has spent her lifetime hearing from their father how wonderful his other daughter is. She plans to prove to her dad that she is the chip off the old block who would never betray him by ruthlessly destroying Necie’s family staring with the abduction of her niece. Necie’s only hope to save her daughter from her half sister lies with the man who sired her, the man she placed behind bars; her daughter’s paternal grandfather.

This is an exciting suspense thriller starring a dysfunctional family. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as Necie captures her dad while Maria captures her niece. Although a bit over the top, fans will not care as the action keeps on coming with twists and spins everywhere while readers anticipate one wild family gathering in which ironically it started on Thanksgiving.

Harriet Klausner

The Prodigal Nun-Aimee and David Thurlo

The Prodigal Nun
Aimee and David Thurlo
St. Martin’s, Jun 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312367312

Extern nun Sister Agatha is able to communicate with the outside world unlike her sisters who are cloistered and never become involved in worldly affairs. In another lifetime, Sister Agatha was a good reporter and those investigative skills have led her to solving many homicide cases.

When the local priest is conducting Mass, Sister Agatha hears a pop in the parking lot. She does not think anything of the noise until she learns someone shot parishoner Jane Sanchez who wanted to talk to her to talk to her about something that was troubling her.

With the permission of the local sheriff, Sister Agatha starts sleuthing and learns that Jane was fueuding with her daughter and was trying to get her to leave he husband, a police office who she hated. Someone seems to be targeting Sister Agatha and Sister Jo almost suceeding in killing them. Using her sources Sister Agatha tries to find out who has it in for them and why; yet the clues point to a person who the sleuthing nun believes is innocent.

The latest Sister Agatha mystery is the best to date in this exciting series because this time the nuns and the monastery are under direct attack. The Archbishop, other religious leaders, and the mayor are concerned, but mostly to prevent collateral damage to their political careers. The heroine has no time for the foolishness of politicians whether they wear suits or religious garb as she has a murderer to catch. As she risks her life, fans will appreciate the Thurlos’ absorbing whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Prefect-Alastair Reynolds

The Prefect
Alastair Reynolds
Ace, Jun 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9780441015917

Panoply Prefect Tom Dreyfus is a highly regarded law enforcement official whose beat is the Glitter Band habitats that surround Yellowstone planet. His superior Jane Aumonier assigns him to investigate the shocking destruction of Ruskin-Sartorious Bubble habitat that left over nine hundred dead in a mass murder attack. Tom understands the signifcance of the motive is not just to help identify the culprits, but to understand why so as to prevent more assaults on innocent people.

At the same time that Tom begins his inquiries into the horrific case, Deputy Field Prefect Thalia Ng works on programming to prevent fraudulent voting following an incident at the House Perigal in which six died. As Tom works his case and Thalia tests her patch, Jane is removed from duty at a time she is considered critical by field prefects. Tom believes an unknown person or group has put together a clever diabolical plot to take control of the entire Glitter Band.

The latest Revelation Space thriller is an excellent science fiction police procedural as Dreyfus is at his best uncovering a conspiratorial scheme one clue at a time. The story line is fast-paced as the Prefects investigate several goings-on besides the prime mass murder case; interestingly Alastair Reynolds cleverly uses the cases to provide some history and geography enough for newcomers to understand the Glitter Band and for long term fans not to be irritated. Although the conspirators remain for the most part behind the scenes so never flushed out beyond their objective, fans will appreciate this excellent whodunit in Outer Space.

Harriet Klausner

The Lost Army Of Cambyses-Paul Sussman

The Lost Army Of Cambyses
Paul Sussman
Grove Press, May 2008, .$14.00, 573pp.
ISBN:9780802143785

English zoologist Tara Mullray visits her renowned Egyptologist father Michael at a dig only to find her dad dead. At approximately the same time, a black market antiquities seller is also found dead with his mutilated corpse lying by the Nile covered with cigar burns. Inspector Yusuf Khalifa of the Luxor Police Department is assigned to investigate both homicides.

Because of the nature of their respective professions, two sides of the same coin, Yuseuf seeks a link between the murders. He quickly learns of a third facet when an elderly Cairo antiquities dealer is killed (with cigar burns on the body) in his shop, but nothing is stolen. Yuseuf interviews Tara who informs him that the excavation site where her father died contained the odor of cigar smoke. Soon the Egyptian and British politico take an interest in how much Yuseuf knows because terrorist Sayf al-Tha'r lingers in the background.

THE LOST ARMY OF CAMBYSES is a strong police procedural that interweaves archeological elements into the plot, but though engaging and educational never slows down the pace of the story line. The tale is at its luxurious best when Yuseuf investigates. The novel remains powerful even when the British embassy and the Egyptian Antiquities Bureau interfere with the inquiry due to a fear of Islamic Fundamentalist involvement. When the plot twists more into a thriller, it retains its excitement, but veers away from its prime theme of murder investigations at the Pyramids. Still this is a tremendous first dig into the mystery world by renowned archeologist Paul Sussman and hopefully he will provide more exciting tales for his faithful students.

Harriet Klausner

Fatal Deduction-Gayle Roper

Fatal Deduction
Gayle Roper
Multnomah, May 2008, $12.99
ISBN: 9781601420138

In Philadelphia great aunt Stella left her estate with specific instructions if her nieces, twin sisters, Libby (accompanied by her teenage daughter Chloe) and Tori Burton are to inherit. To obtain her house, the siblings must both reside there for six months. If either leaves early neither inherits.

They move in, but Libby is stunned when she trips over a corpse on the front porch and finds valuables stolen. With the dead body is a crossword puzzle. Libby believes she must solve the puzzle to solve the murder and insure neither she, Tori or Chloe become the next victims. She would like to depend on the neighbor Drew Canfield whom she is attracted to, but he does not trust women his age and besides Jenna comes first.

This is an entertaining inspirational amateur sleuth that uses crossword puzzles to add to the overall fun. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that Libby and Chloe arrive at the Colonial Era house and never slows down until the final confrontation. In between there is plenty of family disputes especially between the twins. Fans will enjoy Gayle Roper’s strong whodunit as real life issues surface that even with the belief that God is in your corner remain difficult to deal with.

Harriet Klausner

The Murder Notebook-Jonathan Santlofer

The Murder Notebook
Jonathan Santlofer
Morrow, Jun 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780060882044

NYPD forensic artist Nate Rodriguez is in demand. Bronx Lieutenant Bill Guthrie wants him to do a facial reconstruction of a skull with bullet holes that was also burned in a fire. Chief of Deportment Perry Denton wants his help on the case of a murdered student who turned hi back on the ghettand won a schiolarship at City University.

Nate interviews the dead student’s girlfriend who describes a man who picked a fight with her boyfriend for no apparent reason. The sketch evidently leads the police to the killer who ends up committing suicide. That should have proven the end of the case, but soon afterward another murder-suicide occurs with echoes of the most important elements of the first incident. Guthrie tells Rodriguez to drop the case of the skull, but the artist works on it anyway because he feels compelled to finish the job. More murder-suicide crimes occurred and Nate convinces his peers they are linked, but no one knows how; besides the FBI takes charge. Nate risks his career with the help of police officer Terri Russo to solve the case, but soon realizes its their lives on the line from a DARPA conspiracy to conceal the truth.

The link the cases have in common is horrific and chilling because it is believable. THE MURDER NOTEBOOK is an extraordinary police procedural as the protagonist on a quest for justice and follows the clues one step at a time with his keen artistic eye which is how they finally saw the links. It is a struggle for the police (not Nate) as clues are not linear and it takes intuition to skip the logical sequence. Jonathan Santlofer provides an enjoyable investigative tale.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, April 19, 2008

No One Left to Tell-Jordon Dane

No One Left to Tell
Jordon Dane
Avon, May 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061253751

Chicago homicide detectives Raven Mackenzie and Tony Rodriguez investigate the brutal murder of Dunhill Corporation security agent Mickey Blair near downtown’s St. Sebastian’s Chapel. The firm’s chief Fiona Dunhill demands the cops work with the head of security, Christian Delacorte, if they want her cooperation. Having no choice although far from pleased with taking on a civilian “rookie” the detectives acquiesce, but Delacorte objects also though he too ultimately agrees.

She does not trust him since there is a link between a message left at the murder scene and the slaughter of his family two decades ago; while he thinks cops are failures after watching them bungle the investigation into his family’s murders. When her partner is nearly killed, Raven and Christian think Fiona, who raised him, knows how the modern day homicides link to his past, but she is not telling even as a killer plans for NO ONE LEFT TO TELL.

This second No One Left To tale is a superb Chicago mean streets investigative thriller with a solid supporting romantic subplot. Filled with twists from the grave as much as from the chapel, the story line is fast-paced as secrets surface. Fans who appreciate a dark crime thriller starring a likable couple falling in love while on the case will appreciate Jordan Dane’s entertaining walk on the side of Chicago Ferris Bueller avoided.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Not in the Flesh-Ruth Rendell

Not in the Flesh
Ruth Rendell
Crown., Jun. 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9780307406811

Digging for truffles Jim Belbury and his late brother’s Jack Russell Honey find something they were unprepared to come across. Instead of truffles they find a corpse buried on a vacant lot. He calls Information who get him connected to the Kingsmarkham police station. Chief Inspector Wexford leads the investigation in which he does not need forensics experts to tell him the body was interred a long time ago. Inside the basement of the abandoned building on this same property the police team finds a second murder victim; also dead for quite a long time.

There is little useful evidcne at either crime scene so the team begins to slowly and methodically interview the neighbors who offer little help, but most act somewhat suspciously as if they are hiding something pertinent or another crime. Resolving the double homicides seems to be going nowhere, but Wexford keeps digging uncovering clues that begin to shape the case.

There is a second investigation involving genital mutilation of Somali immigrants that add to this strong Wexford police procedural. Wexford calmly interrogates eccentrics while opining to the readers that civilization is dying due to modernization; his proof is the people he interviews. NOT IN THE FLESH is an engaging investigative tale as the case unfolds slowly one clue at a time.

Harriet Klausner

Freezer Burn-D.H. Dublin

Freezer Burn
D.H. Dublin
Berkley, Jun 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425221945

It has been a strange week in Philadelphia if you ask the CSU investigative team. While much of the unit works an arson that took six lives, investigator Tommy Parker and rookie technician Madison Cross work a carved up corpse found in several trash bags by the garbage collectors; the detective in charge “Cold Case” Fenton assumes a neighbor with a record of violence killed the victim, but Madison thinks otherwise. From that case they work the mummy whose organs were frozen. Then there is the twenty two year old wannabe gangbanger Luis Castillo tossed from a speeding car.

Evidence point to the Castillo case and another gang member execution are tied to a shootout in rural Lawson; so Detective Ted Johnson and Cross go there to meet with Police Chief Boone. Though a bit irritated with Boone’s initial reaction to a technician not an investigator, Madison and the chief are attracted to one another, but first must come the investigation as well as the garbage case she quietly works as Fenton lives up to his nickname using his connection to his cousin the commissioner to avoid field investigation.

Nepotism seems the norm as Cold Case Fenton has an uncle for the commissioner and CSU Cross works for her uncle who along with her aunt raised her. Putting family trees aside, this is an exhilarating police procedural that focuses on the work of a CSU team having a busy week with several odd corpses requiring investigation. The story line focuses on Madison, but provides enough support from the support players such as Parker mentoring her to make for a fine rounded crime tale. Fans of the CSI shows will appreciate FREEZER BURN as Madison and the CSU professionals along with Philadelphia’s finest investigate several questionable deaths.

Harriet Klausner

The Seven Sins: The Tyrant Ascending-Jon Land

The Seven Sins: The Tyrant Ascending
Jon Land
Forge, Jun 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780765315342

In 1975 in Caltagirone, Sicily his farm family was murdered when Michael “The Tyrant” Tiranno was seven years old, but he survived taking his father’s gold medaillen with him when he saw them assasinated and took a bullet too. He survived and a Sicilian Mafia Don raised the lad and instilled certain values in the child. As an adult Michael becomes a super real estate king, whose showcase is the Las Vegas casino Seven Sins that accommodates the fantasies of their customers.

However, suicide bombers explode their cars at four Vegas casinos including the Seven Sins. The media, Homeland Security, and most Americans assume Islamic radicals brought their form of terrorism to the sin capital for its symbolism. However, Michael postulates that the other casino hits were to conceal their target inside a Jihad terrorist cloak to throw off the scent. He thinks he was the target. With help from his lawyer Naomi Burns, Michael investigates his theory knowing some of his other properties are at risk by a birlliant diabolocal adversary who accepts without any remorse collateral damage of the innocent. However he is unprepared to learn his late father’s antique gold medallion that fascinated him as a young child might be at the epicenter of the attacks.

This 368 page thriller is a one sitting action-packed tale that grips the audience from even before the Vegas attacks and never slows down for an iota until the final confrontation. In between readers are escorted on a whirlwind tour all over the place as they accompany Michael and Naomi on their quest to stop an enemy from more destruction. Over the top story line and characters somewhat comic book, but no one is going to care; readers are not landing until the book is finished as few novels are as exciting as the SEVEN SINS is.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Deadly Paradise-Grace Brophy

A Deadly Paradise
Grace Brophy
Soho, May 2008, $24.00
ISBN: 9781569474914

In Paradiso, Italy, Inspector Alessandro Cenni investigates the murder of Jarvinia Baudler. However, the dedicated detective finds the case irritatingly difficult and complicated by the victim’s lover German Dieter Reimann, a diplomat with all that interfering immunity. Dieter has interests in the victim beyond the murder of a lover or his own role as a prime suspect; the late Jarvinia has papers of his that he must regain or face some dire consequences and no dumb Italian cop is going to get in his way of retrieving them.

Cenni soon realizes that Baudler was bisexual and took advantage of Reimann’s stupidity. She used her connection to him to create fake passports and live wealthy on credit. The inspector also learns someone was sending the deceased threatening letters. However, the inquiry takes a Venice spin when cold case murders from three decades ago tie back to Baudler, the diplomat and his wife.

The latest Cenni Italian police procedural (see THE LAST ENEMY) is an engaging case with an incredible setup. Cenni is at his best as he struggles with diplomatic immunity intruding on the crime scene. Although the ending is reasonable, it feels less than equal to Cenni’s investigation into the fatal triangle. Still sub-genre fans will appreciate Grace Brophy’s entertaining whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Vodka Neat-Anna Blundy

Vodka Neat
Anna Blundy
St. Martin's, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312368630

Sixteen years ago as a nineteen years old newlywed Russian Faith Zanetti emigrated from her home country to England to start over after the horrific scandal that destroyed her marriage though she has come home for short visits since she left town. She obtained work as a war correspondent for the London based Chronicle, but now her life has gone full circle. Her foreign editor Tamsin assigns the vodka guzzling cigarette smoker to be their new Moscow correspondent.

However, she is stunned upon her arrival to learn her former spouse Dimitri Sakhnov who confessed to a murder in 1989 insists he never killed anyone; he said he took the blame for his then wife Faith; she is the killer. Faith visits Dimitri at the psycho ward only he is not there. Instead American Adrian Smith is being held. Adrian tells her Dimitri is dead and soon afterward so is he. Faith believes Dimitri lives and orchestrates events; with help of her boyfriend she plans to find and confront the rogue she was once married to.

Faith is a great protagonist who holds together this strong Russian investigative thriller as her personal issues are as powerful as her need to bring Dimitri to justice, preferably without the Moscow police involved. The story line is fast-paced, but driven by Faith and the support characters especially the Muscovites as readers will be hooked by her seemingly solo (with her American boyfriend) belief that her ex is alive.

Harriet Klausner

The Demon of Dakar-Kjell Eriksson

The Demon of Dakar
Kjell Eriksson
Dunne, May 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312366698

Uppsala, Sweden Police Detective Ann Lindell works a difficult homicide case as she struggles to identify the victim found floating in a river. The corpse is eventually identified as Armas, a co-owner of the upscale restaurant Dakar. Ann visits the other partner, Slobodan Andersson who also owns Alhambra and has questionable financing connections and plenty of enemies.

However the suspect list remains long besides Slobodan and his adversaries. Ann considers recently hired waitress Eva Willman and her two teen boys, chef Johnny Kvarnheden, homeless Konrad Rosenberg and Mexican peasant Manuel Alavez seeking to free his incarcerated brother.

The fascination with this superior third Swedish police procedural (see THE CRUEL STARS OF THE NIGHT and THE PRINCESS OF BURUNDI) is the cast as perspective is told from various participants so that the same incident is seen differently and their political viewpoints especially anti Bush runs strong. The investigation led by Ann is wonderful to follow as she, like the readers, meet the restaurant’s players who all have motive to kill the victim. A slight adjustment is needed to Swedish nomenclature as delineating the names of people and places require full concentration, but THE DEMON OF DAKAR is worth the time.

Harriet Klausner

The Broken Window-Jeffery Deaver

The Broken Window
Jeffery Deaver
Simon & Schuster, Jun 2008, $26.95
ISBN 9781416549970

Wheelchair bound Lincoln Rhyme prefers to have nothing to do with his estranged cousin Arthur Rhyme, due to a long standing feud dating back to their adolescence. However Art has been accused of murder by the State of New York and like most caught criminals swears he is innocent; Lincoln assumes otherwise, but bowing to family pressure starting with a visit from Art’s wife Judy, who he has not seen since two years before the accident, the former NYPD crime expert agrees to investigate.

Lincoln and his legs partner detective Amelia Sachs begin digging into the background to Arthur’s case. They soon find anomalies as they dig below the surface. The pair also notice a seemingly tangential link to a data mining firm that collects and analyzes consumer data with customers unaware of it. That leads the pair to begin to hypothesize that someone is using the information to serially kill people and set up innocent people like Arthur to take the fall; but how to prove their theory and uncover who seems impossible when all the hardcore evidence convicts Arthur beyond a shadow of a doubt.

The case is fascinating with an implied warning that if one IT guru can do what the culprit did with data imagine what a government agency filled with such experts can do with data. Adding to the fun of the read, is the look into his extended family and the incident that caused a schism. Readers will appreciate this strong Rhyme entry as the investigation is top rate and the insight into his broken family ties superb while bundled around a cautionary Big Brother is here caveat

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Something Reckless-Jess Michaels

Something Reckless
Jess Michaels
Avon, Apr 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780061283970

In 1819 the "Upper Ten Thousand” male aristocracy members are irate that the Widow Penelope Norman has challenged them for their sensual excesses; she was sick of her late spouse’s philandering and assumers other women detest their husbands’ unfaithfulness. The Upper Ten Thousand choose a duke wastrel Jeremy Vaughn to end Penelope’s campaign.

Although he prefers to stay out of the mess, the challenge to his pride is too great from friends he has known seemingly forever; so Jeremy agrees to end the reign of terror. He figures the easiest means to achieve success is seduce and blackmail Penelope into silence. In daylight Jeremy becomes a friend of Penelope; at night he sneaks into her bedroom wearing a mask. He accomplishes his mission, but feels like he lost the war as he has fallen in love with passionate prude.

The changing relationship between Jeremy and Penelope make for an entertaining Regency romance in which EVERYTHING FORBIDDEN becomes SOMETHING RECKLESS but worth pursuing. The lead couple makes this a fine read as he starts as a cad and she as a crusading prude; over time respect and ultimately love flourishes. However, she loathes the overindulgences of the Upper Ten Thousand at the cost of women and children while he is a card carrying member. Fans will enjoy this fine tale of just who seduced whom.

Harriet Klausner

Cold Plague-Daniel Kalla

Cold Plague
Daniel Kalla
Forge, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765318336

Dr. Claude Fontaine and his team develop a method to bring to the surface fresh water from a gigantic lake two miles under the Antarctic ice. Claude sees the economic possibilities as his pristine pool will contain no modern day toxins. He plan is to sell bottles containing this natural water at exorbitant prices.

The World Health Organization sends its investigative infectious disease specialist Dr. Noah Haldane (see PANDEMIC) accompanied by Duncan McLeod to France where horrific human deaths from the human equivalent to mad cow disease have been reported. The European Union's Agricultural Commission sends agent Elise Renard to join them the WHO representatives. However, as the evidence mounts, Noah believes these deaths are something similar but not quite the same as mad cow; the speed is much more rapid and the effect much more intense. He soon links the deaths to the Antarctic water that is being pushed by the bottom liners as a health elixir for the wealthy.

This exciting medical thriller pits economic interests against health interests and unlike the American federal government science matters so that Noah and company have a reasonable chance to stop mass production if they can stay alive long enough to make their point heard; the opponents own the media. The story line is fast-paced, but takes a bit too long to get to the bottom line confrontation between money and health. Readers will enjoy this fine tale, but wonder if this occurred in the USA instead of France what the outcome would have been.

Harriet Klausner

The Dark of Day-Barbara Parker

The Dark of Day
Barbara Parker
Vanguard, Jun 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781593154615

Using a fake ID, high school aged teen Kylie Ann Willis attends a party at the affluent South Beach, Florida estate of Billy Medina. Drunk and unable to find her ride, model Alana Martin is accosted by two men. However, a man claiming to be security rescues her and takes her to her Miami apartment.

Architect Milo Cahill asks celebrity attorney CJ Dunn to defend Rick Slater, the chauffer to Congressman Paul Shelby accused of driving off with the since missing Alana from Medina’s party although Billy is her boyfriend CJ accepts the case. As she and her private investigator Judy Mazzio work the defense that is now a capital case since Alana’s corpse came to shore, CJ realizes that her friend’s adopted daughter Kylie Ann is Rick’s alibi. However, the teen is missing and her client refuses to mention his witness while the lawyer wonders why the Congressman has hired her to represent an employee who has worked for him for only a few months.

Filled with twists on both a personal and professional level, THE DARK OF DAY is an exciting suspense thriller more than a legal tale in spite of the lead couple’s initial professional relationship. Although the romance feels more obligatory, the story line is action-packed from the onset as the spins and revelations keep on coming making Barbara Parker’s tale an engaging read.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Stargazer’s Woman-Aimee Thurlo

Stargazer’s Woman
Aimee Thurlo
Harlequin Intrigue, May 2008, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373693313

Former US Marine Intelligence office Kris Reynolds saw violence during her military time overseas, but it was the murder of her sister Police Officer Tina that has shaken her the most. Tina’s partner Max Notoni visits Kris at her place of business the Smiling Cactus Nursery knowing she wanted to see him. Kris explains that she refuses to sit quietly while the Farmington cops, the Navaho Tribal police, and who knows who else investigate with she and her late sibling the prime suspects in a rumored theft of a half million dollars and some valuable Indian jewelry.

Max agrees to work with her as he explains he conducts investigations for the Tribal leadership. He thinks she can help him find stolen platinum and he will help her prove Tina’s innocence as he agrees with Kris’ assertion re her sibling. As they work together, their initial attraction at their first head banging meeting turns hotter than the southwest climate. Still each knows danger mounts with each step they take.

This Brotherhood of Warriors tale is a terrific investigative romantic suspense. The story line is action-packed as Kris and Max make inquiries they fall in love. He is a fascinating protagonist as he is the tribe’s mystical Stargazer with mystical powers, but prefers to use his police training on the investigation. Kris is a nice combination of tough independence yet as Max notices sweet and prickly. Fans will enjoy Aimee Thurlo's strong Navajo thriller.

Harriet Klausner

A Fatal Waltz-Tasha Alexander

A Fatal Waltz
Tasha Alexander
Morrow, Jun 2008, $23.95
ISBN 9780061174223

At the request of her friend Ivy Brandon, Lady Emily Ashton attends a party at the country manor of odious advisor to the Queen Lord Basil Fortescue, a toad Emily loathes. Making what would be an evening of torturous boredom worse is Austrian Countess Kristiana von Lange who is also attending. She allegedly has had her moments with Emily’s fiancé, royal investigator of potential embarrassing situations Colin Hargreaves.

However, ennui is the last thing that occurs that night as someone kills the host. Ivy’s spouse Robert is the prime suspect as he had motive, means and opportunity being the repulsive Basil’s political follower. For Ivy’s sake and believing Robert is innocent though an aristocratic traditionalist throwback, Emily invesigates the homicide. Her only potential clue is a letter describing an assassination in Austria. Emily leaves London for Vienna, where Colin is stationed. In Vienna, Emily and Colin enjoy their reunion, but she places both of them in danger as spies and anarchists without conscience are everywhere and eliminating a nosy English lady is fine as far as all these agents are concerned.

This is an exciting late Victorian amateur sleuth tale that uses famous Austrians like Klim to anchor time and place. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of twists especially since double agents abound; one spin in particular is wonderful as Emily teams up with her rival the Countess. Although thoroughly modern Emily seems more twenty first century than late nienteenth, fans will enjoy her spunk and courage as she investigates in Austria, an English country murder (see AND ONLY TO DECEIVE and THE POISONED SEASON for her previous sleuthing).

Harriet Klausner

Eclipse-Stephenie Meyer

Eclipse
Stephenie Meyer
Little, Brown, Sep 2007, $19.99
ISBN: 9780316160209

Washington State feels like a place under siege as a rash of strange homicides has frightened everyone. Meanwhile Isabella “Bella” Swan, relatively new to the town of Fork where her father is chief of police has two boys interested in her. She likes both of them, but loves Edward the vampire, who fears his family’s blood lust could harm her; she also has befriended Jake the werewolf whose natural enemy is a vampire. Their love for Bella makes them even more bitter rivals than their species already are. She fears picking one over the other might ignite a local species war.

A previous incident involving Bella has come home to roost leaving her in danger. When Jake and Edward realize the threat, they reluctantly team up as Bella’s safety supersedes their animosity though each wants to be the hero left standing with the woman they love.

Though similar in story line to the first two Bella in peril paranormal thrillers (see NEW MOON and TWILIGHT) the paranormal species seem genuine as the three teens struggle with adult issues that none want to deal with; treat us like adults except hold us accountable like a child. Stephenie Meyers continues to pay homage to the energy and vigor of first love as ECLIPSE is a strong young adult romantic suspense fantasy, but the triangle only glacially moves closer to resolution. Still fans will appreciate this fun and entertaining thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Delusion-Peter Abrahams

Delusion
Peter Abrahams
Morrow, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780061137990

Two decades ago in a courtroom, Nell Jarreau dramatically testified that Alvin "Pirate" DuPree murdered her boyfriend, Johnny Blanton wile she watched in horror. Pregnant with Johnny’s offspring Nell married Clay, the chief detective on the homicide case, while Alvin went to prison.

Twenty years later, due to the devastation of Hurricane Bernadine swamping Belle Ville, FEMA accidentally found tape evidence with a time code on it that affirms Alvin’s alibi that he was at Nappy’s Liquor Store. Nell is stunned as she is positive Alvin killed Johnny yet the evidence is otherwise conclusive. Clay, now the Belle Ville chief of police, cautions his wife to move on, but she is disturbed by her identifying an innocent man. The press has a field day as they dig into the Pirate’s wrongful conviction case while Nell's daughter Norah seems even more negatively affected by the case than her. Guilt laden, Nell needs closure again so she decides to investigate.

This is an entertaining crime thriller as readers wonder who killed Blanton if not Alvin. DuPree is a perfect “victim” as he is a nasty odious person who many in the audience will believe should remain incarcerated even if he did not commit the homicide as he probably did others anyway. Nell is the prime player, but she fails to come across as an amateur sleuth on an emotional quest to solve a cold case murder she witnessed. Still this is an enjoyable tale.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, April 11, 2008

Silesian Station-David Downing

Silesian Station
David Downing
Soho, May 2008, $24.00
ISBN: 9781569474945

In 1939, British journalist John Russell hopes to remain in Berlin if war breaks out between his homeland and the Nazis. However, the Gestapo arrests his girlfriend, actress Effi Koenen, accusing her of spying. They use her as a pawn to get Russell to work for them passing misinformation to the Russians. He already has a deal with the Americans to spy for them in exchange for a passport and offers a deal with the Soviet if they help him flee the Nazis if he needs to escape suddenly.

While he is wheeling and dealing, the parents of Jewish Miriam Rosenfeld worry about the safety of their daughter in Silesia. They send her to live with her Uncle Thomas in Berlin where many more Jews reside; safety in numbers being their theory. When she fails to arrive, Thomas visits his former brother-in-law, Russell asking him to find her as the police refuse to look for a Jew. John agrees.

Though well written and exciting, SILESIAN STATION is more a historical tale rather than a suspense thriller. The espionage segues serve more to bring out life in Nazi Germany’s police state whereas the search for Miriam is the exhilarating suspenseful subplot. Fans will enjoy the return of Russell (see ZOO STATION) as he navigates life as a journalist covering the Third Reich.

Harriet Klausner

Child 44-Tom Rob Smith

Child 44
Tom Rob Smith
Grand Central, Apr 2008, $24.99
ISBN: 9780446402385

Following the great victory over the Nazis, war hero Leo Stepanovich Demidov becomes a member of the state security MGB that insures there is no crime for citizens to be frightened of; ironically it is the MGB that frightens citizens. In 1953, his meteoric rise continues though he knows any political enemy could do him in.

In Moscow, he is removed from a high profile case to investigate the death of a child. Outraged by the affront and feeling belittled, Leo assumes this is a waste of time even after the parents the Andreevs insist their son Arkady was murdered; making the case more embarrassing to pursue is the father of the late child works for Leo. Rejecting their claim of homicide as murder does not exist in the Soviet Union, Leo assumes suicide is accurate. He plans to end the investigation, but is side tracked when his wife Raisa is accused of being a western sympathizer, ergo an enemy of the state. Guilt by association and rumor, Leo is demoted and exiled from the city. However, he soon uncovers evidence that shakes his belief system as there is a serial killer loose who is not legally an enemy of the state and therefore not a criminal.

This is an excellent historical police procedural in which the audience will feel they fell through the rabbit hole into Stalin land. Leo is terrific as his belief in the state is right and murder cannot happen in Stalin’s Soviet Russia is frightening. When he finally accepts the facts that he could not believe until they became overwhelming, he concludes murder is not a state crime. Fans will appreciate this strong tense and original thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Dirty Secrets Club-Meg Gardiner

The Dirty Secrets Club
Meg Gardiner
Dutton, Jun 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780525950660

A string of celebrity murders-suicides has shaken San Francisco; none make sense as the victims and culprits are not just rich and famous they seem mentally stable. The final straw for the beleaguered police department is when highly regarded prosecutor Callie Harding drove her BMW off a bridge onto a minivan below. Desperate the SFPD hire forensic psychiatrist Dr. Jo Beckett as a consultant. Considering herself to be an expert "deadshrinker", Jo performs psychological autopsies.

Though still grieving the death of her husband, Jo teams up with SFPD Lieutenant Amy Tang. The pair soon finds a link between the recent deaths and a nebulous group, the Dirty Secrets Club, whose members are some of the city’s most famous and affluent. Jo begins to theorize that a debunked former associate may be causing members like the 49er football star to commit suicide.

This is an exciting police procedural starring a fascinating forensic expert and a tough minded cop. The investigation is superb as the two intrepid females make inquires that take them deeper inside THE DIRTY SECRETS CLUB whose members prefer death to exposure. Readers will enjoy Meg Gardiner’s excellent whodunit as the streets of San Francisco have rarely been more appealing.

Harriet Klausner

Rules, Regs and Rotten Eggs-H.R.F. Keating

Rules, Regs and Rotten Eggs
H.R.F. Keating
Dunne, Jun 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780312375331

Greater Birchester Police Detective Superintendent Harriet Martens has not been the tough iron cop ever since her police constables son Graham died in a terrorist bombing and her other child Malcolm was severely injured (see ONE MAN AND HIS BOMB) However, the new Assistant Chief Constable (Crime) of CID believes Martens is finished as an effective investigator and Harriet knows it; she is considering resigning.

She attends a speech provided by pro-hunting enthusiast Robert Roughouse to a crowd of animal activists. Suddenly a purple egg lands near Robert and explodes knocking him unconscious. Harriet takes charge of the crime scene, but it is octogenarian Percival Pigeon who persuades her that the anti-hunting crowd did not send the grenade by showing her the throwing device left behind in the nearby chapel by the assailant in his haste to leave. The ACC agrees with Harriet to investigate who wanted Roughhouse dead. When three of his Zeal School friends remove him from quality St. Oswald Hospital to the Masterson Clinic, she cannot fathom why. Harriet focuses on the trio although a motive is not imminent and the victim’s girlfriend Keyan expatriate Olympic caliber marathon runner Charity Nyambura has surfaced.

This is an excellent police procedural with a strong case, but totally owned by Harriet, whose confidence in her skills is shaken as she remains reeling from Graham’s death (she still uses his cell phone). The mystery is superbly drawn as Harriet works the clues while also beginning to better understand the resentment of the cop assigned to work with her “Bolshy Bill” who has learned to not go beyond the specificity of the assignment by superiors who prefer no creativity by inferiors. Fans of the Martens series will fully appreciate H.R.F. Keating’s excellent entry while newcomers will marvel at this author’s talent to bring out fully flushed characters in a fabulous whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

In the Heat-Ian Vasquez

In the Heat
Ian Vasquez
St. Martin’s, Jun 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780312378097

In Belize, thirty five years old Miles Young has seen better days as a top middleweight contender, but based on losing to a journey level Mexican recently, he knows his big pay days especially in the States are over. Still he needs to find work to support his preadolescent daughter Lani; her mother deserted them a couple of years ago.

His local promoter Manny Marchand introduces Miles to wealthy Isabel Gilmore. She offers him $3000 to search for her seventeen year old daughter Rian who ran away with Joel Tablada, son of the former corrupt police chief Marlin . If he finds her before she turns eighteen and legally becomes an adult, a few days away, she will give him 3K more. To sweeten the pot, Manny offers 30K, after negotiations, to fight former champ Hakeen Wahen on the comeback trail. Miles accepts, but his trainer’s lawyer warns him to be careful when dealing with Isabel who uses Marlin’s firm for security; she has an agenda of sorts and it does not involve retrieving her runaway daughter.

This is an enjoyable amateur sleuth tale that focuses on a world class athlete after the skills have begun to deteriorate. Miles is terrific whether he is taking care of his child, preparing for a fight, unsure of his feelings towards his girlfriend, and untrusting of his client not just because the lawyer warned him; but her logic for hiring a non-pro seems false. Belize serves as a nice backdrop though more emphasis on the country would make IN THE HEAT a heavyweight champ. Still this is a strong character driven mystery in which the audience will be engaged for fifteen action-packed rounds.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Death Will Get You Sober-Elizabeth Zelvin

Death Will Get You Sober
Elizabeth Zelvin
St. Martin’s, Apr 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780312375898

On Christmas Day, Bruce Kohler awakens in a Bowery detox cell. He is greeted by “God”, fellow alcoholic Godfrey Brandon Kettleworth III. Not long after the pair meets and forms a friendship, God is dead.

Bruce’s best friend and former drinking companion, AA crusader Jimmy and Jimmy's girlfriend crusading detox counselor Barbara suggest he investigate the murder of God. They hope a bit of harmless sleuthing will keep Bruce away from alcohol as all three of them know he is a drunk and needs something to occupy his mind. As other alcoholics are murdered the risk-free inquiry they make proves dangerous to the three amateur sleuths by a serial killer at the top of their murdering game.

This is an enjoyable tale unless you’re a lower Manhattan AA participant or detox temp. However, the underlying rationale to investigate takes a plausibility stretch longer than the ferry ride to Staten Island especially with Barbara being a professional. Bruce almighty saves the tale as he is a likable shlump who knows he has no sleuthing skills, but finds DEATH WILL GET YOU SOBER quite exhilarating as he and his companions remain detached from the victims by seeing their inquires as a sort of video game. Although inane in terms of the reason Bruce turns detective, readers will enjoy this detracted unemotional look into homicide as a means of sobriety.

Harriet Klausner

Varanger-Cecilia Holland

Varanger
Cecilia Holland
Forge, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765305589

Late in the tenth century, cousins Conn and Raef Corbansson know they are fortunate to be alive as their side lost the battle of Hjorunga Bay. They escape by a fur trading ship, but end up frozen in place in Novgorod. The city ruler Lord Dobryana aware of the Corbansson exploits offers the "free warriors" a chance to escape the icy winter by joining the crusade to raid the Byzantine Empire northern port city of Chersonese on the Greek Sea.

Getting there takes forever and arriving there proves difficult as Chersonese is not an easy city to take. Worse Conn and Raef soon realize their new comrades in arms are ruthless backstabbers who live for treachery.

The superb fourth Dark Ages Viking saga (see THE SERPENT DREAMER, THE SOUL THIEF and THE WITCHES' KITCHEN) is an exhilarating historical thriller that continues the adventures of the second generation. The locale, for the most part, is different than the three previous novels; as such it adds freshness with the Vikings raiding the Byzantine Empire. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action, but it is the vivid window into the era that makes Varanger a fabulous insightful tale.

Harriet Klausner

Mrs. Jeffries Holds the Trump-Emily Brightwell

Mrs. Jeffries Holds the Trump
Emily Brightwell
Berkley, Jun 2008
ISBN: 9780425222089

Inspector Weatherspoon is considered the shining superstar of the Metropolitan Police Department of Scotland Yard, but few people know he gets help in solving tough cases. Led by his housekeeper Mrs. Jeffries, his household staff uses their under the stairs contacts to gather information that is serendipitously fed to the Inspector.

When mortician Dr. Bodworth sees the body of Michael Prescott on his table, he is shocked that the police assume an accident occurred. He visits Mrs. Jeffries to ask her to investigate; she and the staff gladly agree; while Prescott’s attorney and housekeeper go to the police to argue he was murdered. They say Michael was investigating the disappearance of a friend who was publican and a bookie when he died. Inspector Weatherspoon gets the case and learns Prescott was writing to the police begging them to look into his friend’s vanishing. No on in the Yard will admit to reading the letters and every clue leads to a wider puzzle, leaving the Inspector and his housekeeper to wonder if this is the one that got away.

Very few writers can consistently provide an entertaining historical cozy as Emily Brightwell does with her Mrs. Jeffries tales. The current Victorian era case is interesting catching the reader’s attention due in part to recurring characters, but also because the police are under suspicion by the physician and team Jeffries. Readers will appreciate this latter half ninetieth century whodunit as Ms. J, her staff and her employer provide the audience with a strong investigation and a deep look at Victorian England.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Glass Devil-Helene Tursten

The Glass Devil
Helene Tursten
Soho, Apr 2008, $13.00
ISBN: 9781569474891

His cousin Georg, the principal of a high school, calls worried about dedicated teacher Jacob Schyttelius not coming to work or calling in. Though vague, Goteborg Criminal Superintendent Sven Andersson drafts Detective Inspector Irene Huss to accompany him when he drives out to the man’s isolated cottage. Huss who has worked with Anderson for fifteen years is shocked that he has a relative. However, she more stunned at the cottage where they find a dead Jacob shot in the head by a rifle. His computer monitor is loaded with upside down pentagrams.

After insuring control of the crime scene, the two cops visit Jacob’s elderly parents, Pastor Sten Schyttelius and his wife Elsa only to find both shot in the eyes; once again their monitor displays upside down pentagrams. Neither computer contains information as a pro deleted everything. Huss turns to Jacob's anguished sister, Rebecka, who lives in London, but she is clueless. With no leads, Huss chooses to follow Sten’s activities first because he was investigating a Satanist cult, which may tie to the upside down pentagrams.

The third translated Huss Swedish police procedural (see DETECTIVE INSPECTOR HUSS and THE TORSO) is an excellent tale from the opening phone call until the final climax. Huss is terrific as she investigates the triple murders, but makes little progress until she makes inquiries into the Pastor’s investigation. Sub-genre fans will appreciate this superb tale hat brings a taste of Sweden to the reader as well as a strong police investigation.

Harriet Klausner

The Glass Devil-Helene Tursten

The Glass Devil
Helene Tursten
Soho, Apr 2008, $13.00
ISBN: 9781569474891

His cousin Georg, the principal of a high school, calls worried about dedicated teacher Jacob Schyttelius not coming to work or calling in. Though vague, Goteborg Criminal Superintendent Sven Andersson drafts Detective Inspector Irene Huss to accompany him when he drives out to the man’s isolated cottage. Huss who has worked with Anderson for fifteen years is shocked that he has a relative. However, she more stunned at the cottage where they find a dead Jacob shot in the head by a rifle. His computer monitor is loaded with upside down pentagrams.

After insuring control of the crime scene, the two cops visit Jacob’s elderly parents, Pastor Sten Schyttelius and his wife Elsa only to find both shot in the eyes; once again their monitor displays upside down pentagrams. Neither computer contains information as a pro deleted everything. Huss turns to Jacob's anguished sister, Rebecka, who lives in London, but she is clueless. With no leads, Huss chooses to follow Sten’s activities first because he was investigating a Satanist cult, which may tie to the upside down pentagrams.

The third translated Huss Swedish police procedural (see DETECTIVE INSPECTOR HUSS and THE TORSO) is an excellent tale from the opening phone call until the final climax. Huss is terrific as she investigates the triple murders, but makes little progress until she makes inquiries into the Pastor’s investigation. Sub-genre fans will appreciate this superb tale hat brings a taste of Sweden to the reader as well as a strong police investigation.

Harriet Klausner

The Secret Hangman-Peter Lovesey

The Secret Hangman
Peter Lovesey
Soho, Apr 2008, $13.00
ISBN: 9781569474884

Bath Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond still grieves the death of his wife even as he feels some guilt over her being murdered. He currently pretends to not be excited over a secret admirer sending him notes, but inside he is thrilled and albeit a shade more guilt.

On the job, Diamond investigates the public park hanging death murder of waitress Delia Williamson, a mother of two young girls. He quickly finds three prime suspects: her former spouse, her current significant other, and a traveling salesman witnessed as having dined with her just before she died. When they find the ex Danny dead hanging in a cave, Diamond believes two murders occurred while his boss Assistant Chief Constable Georgina Dallymore insists it was a murder-suicide. As he digs deeper to prove his theory, Diamond uncovers a shocker of similar double murders by a serial killer on the loose.

THE SECRET HANGMAN is an exciting Diamond English police procedural. The serial killer case is cleverly dawn so that Diamond and Dallymore can argue over the deaths of Delia and Danny; whereas all these Ds mean delightful to fans as the crusty widower soon seeks a diabolical brilliant serial killer who hides his or her work in the guise of murder-suicide. This is a wonderful entry in a strong crime series.
Harriet Klausner

Chernobyl Murders-Michael Beres

Chernobyl Murders
Michael Beres
Medallion, Jun 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781933836294

In 1985 in Western Ukraine, Chernobyl engineer Mihaly Horvath is upset at what is going on at the nuclear plant. He believes safety is being ignored and unnecessary risks taken. His brother Lazlo, a Kiev detective, investigates the unclear facility, which angers his bosses, brings him and his family to the attention of the KGB and the CIA. However, the biggest stunner for Lazlo is to learn his family man sibling is having an affair with Chernobyl technician Juli Popovics.

When the Chernobyl plant explodes, Mihaly is among the dead. Lazlo wonders if his sibling was murdered to conceal incompetence and corruption. Juli informs him that she is pregnant carrying his brother’s child. Meanwhile KGB major Grigor Komarov insures nothing but radiation leaks out of the Ukraine; he executes those who know the truth with an eye on the prize replacing Gorbachev as the Soviet Union teeters. Falling in love Lazlo and Juli flee for their lives from this incessant maniac who needs these witnesses dead before they reach the west.

Although there is an exciting Cold War murder mystery with an exhilarating chase, the star of this explosive thriller is the Chernobyl tragedy whose face will always be Nadia. The story line is fast-paced as the events leading to the nuclear explosion unfolds through the brothers, but it is the aftermath that grips the audience without the plot turning overly melodramatic. The Soviet control of media leakage (think what You Tube could have done in the 1980s with Nadia the Olympics Gold innocent and the Nadia the radioactive victim) and killing anyone who would pose a threat, but unable to control radioactive leakage that makes this a sensational thriller.

Harriet Klausner

America the Beautiful-Laura Hayden

America the Beautiful
Ann Hayden
Tyndale, May 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9781414319391

Kate Rosen and Emily Benton met in high school. They became friends while Kate believed Emily was going to go very far. Years later, now the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Emily runs for president with Kate, her closest friend, as her campaign manager and her ethical conscience magnet.

Kate is a religious person who finds the dirty tricks of running for high office depressing. She fears her morals are being corrupted, but wants to be there for Emily. When Kate has a chance to go negative, she hesitates, but the race is ruthless and she must choose between her friend and country vs. her beliefs in God.

This is a fascinating political thriller that stars two fully developed characters who have come a long way baby. Back in high school, super K and the Big E were idealists out to change the world; but neither realized how much compromise of a person's ideals occurs to be successful. The bottom line in this insightful tale is does Kate have the stomach to destroy the opposition (think Swift Boat) with half truths, innuendoes and one humongous exposé; all this contrary to her deep belief in God and what is right for her country may not be good for her best friend’s run. Is there room for a true believer in the politics of America the Beautiful?

Harriet Klausner

Blue Smoke and Murder-Elizabeth Lowell

Blue Smoke and Murder
Elizabeth Lowell
Morrow, Jun 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780060829858

Jill Breck is a Colorado River guide whose current clients are father and son Joe and Lane Faroe. Jill knows the river like the back of her hand so when Lane goes overboard, she jumps in and saves him from a sure death in the rapids. His grateful father gives a card from St. Kilda’s Consulting to her, a top of the line private security firm, and tells her if she ever needs any help call the number.

When her Great Aunt Modesty dies in what the local sheriff claims was an unfortunate accident, Jill goes to Northern Arizona to settle the estate. Everything burned down except the cabin Jill lived in as a child and a note from Modesty directing her to the hiding place only her late aunt, her mom and Jill knew. Inside are twenty paintings and a letter saying she sent one out to be appraised but the response was it was worthless, misplaced, and how about $2000 to make up for the neglect. Jill sends Jpeg pictures of the paintings to various dealers and galleries only to receive a death threat.

Jill calls St Kilda who sends operative Zach Balfour to find out and eliminate the problem. Someone who sees the Jpegs believes they are pictures of originals though unsigned Dunstans. The buzz in the art world reaches an investor who does not want Dunstans on the market or even authenticated. This adversary hires a goon to kill Jill or burn the paintings whichever proves more expeditious. Zach vows no one will harm the woman he loves.

BLUE SMOKE AND MURDER is Elizabeth Lowell at her best as she guides her readers into the dark side of the art world where some players will to do anything to obtain famous works or even destroy masterpieces to keep values high. The heroine is tough but wise enough to know she needs a pro on her side; she is also brave, willing to be the bait to trap a killer. Ms. Lowell provides fans with a strong romantic suspense thriller starring a wonderful heroine and the operative who loves her.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, April 7, 2008

Broken Angel-Sigmund Brouwer

Broken Angel
Sigmund Brouwer
Waterbrook, May 2008, $19.99
ISBN: 9781400070329

Fundamentalists run Appalachia with a strict interpretation of the Words. Reading is prohibited and anyone caught breaking this deadly sin is sent to hard labor at the factories or if blessed stoned to death. To those in charge, truth does not matter; confession whether by torture or drugs count. Few dare try to flee to "Outside", as being caught is worse than surviving.

Caitlyn has an unacceptable growth on her back that marks her. When she was six, Jordon her Papa had it secretly removed by an Outsider surgeon who happened to be working at the clinic; however, as that doctor warned Papa, it grew back. Now a young adult, Caitlyn is afraid as the Elders are coming for her and her beloved Papa because she is different and somehow they have found out about her. Papa orders Caitlyn to flee for the Outside; she weeps, but obeys knowing she will never see him in this life again. The Elders and others chase after the disfigured female; some want her dead while some see her as something else. With help from two traveling companions she met and an underground railroad, Caitlyn continues to elude her adversaries, but the enemies are growing in number and strength leaving her to wonder if Outside is safe.

The cast makes this a superb Christian suspense thriller as Caitlyn is a terrific lead player and the secondary and tertiary characters are fully drawn with many containing secret agendas. Fans will root for Caitlyn’s run to freedom to be successful as Sigmund Brouwer makes a strong case that extremism especially religious is dangerous and anti-Christian; there is plenty of room for all people inside God’s tent. Genre readers will place BROKEN ANGEL on their short list for best Christian suspense thriller of the year.

Harriet Klausner