April 11, 2014
The Intern’s Handbook
Simon & Schuster, Apr 8 2014, $25.00
Human Resources Inc. recruited seventeen year old John Lago to join their company as he fit the profile of hiring only emotionally damaged teenage orphans. Like other young assassins employed by HR, Lago uses the cover of an insignificant intern floating through various companies requiring a hit by a professional killer working from the inside.
As he nears mandatory retirement age of twenty-five, Bob assigns Lago his last murder to perform inside prestigious Manhattan law firm Bendini, Lambert & Locke. BML caters to a special who’s who clientele known for a propensity for disappearing inside the Federal Witness Protection Program. At the same time Lago writes his Intern’s Handbook rules and values such as never forget you are the bad guy with no moral compunctions for his replacement to use or die young. After joining the law firm, Lago tries to determine who of the three legal partners is selling WPP names at “auctions”; as that individual will meet the same fate of his sales’ “products”. At the same time Lago thinks the Feds are closing in on him and the associate he loves Alice who may be the person fingering him to the FBI.
With a nod to Grosse Pointe Blank especially an affinity with John Cusak’s Martin Q. Blank character, Lago’s actions, wry commentary, and rules and their explanations are poignantly amusing. The amoral protagonist holds the engaging jocular though violent storyline focused while surprisingly looking deep into the child is the adult; but in this case the children are expendable orphans filed away by society similar to expendable interns filed away by companies. Readers will relish this dark humorous twisting caper.
April 7, 2014
Madness In Miniature
Perseverance Press, Apr 7 2014, $7.99
On summer vacation, tweener Maddie enjoys spending time with her grandmother retired English teacher Geraldine “Gerry” Porter in Lincoln Point, California. The pair carries Gerry’s latest dollhouses to the soon to be opened craft chain store SuperKrafts. However, as they walk together, they overhear a heated debate between shopkeepers Maisie Bosley of Maisie’s Card Shop and Bebe Mellon of DIY Ceramics; both sold their stores for different reasons to the giant chain. Gerry and Maddie also meet returning native Catherine Duncan who is selling the concept of the superstore to the locals.
Arriving from New York for the Grand Opening is CEO Craig Palmer III. He is barely in town when a minor earthquake strikes leaving him the only one dead. Gerry’s nephew LPPD Detective Skip looks into the visitor’s death, which turns out not to be from the quake but instead a homicide with apparently Bebe as the prime suspect. Not believing her friend is a killer, Gerry and her eleven year old sidekick investigate.
The latest Miniature Mystery (see Mix-up in Miniature, Mourning In Miniature and Monster In Miniature) is a wonderful cozy starring a dynamic amateur sleuth team. The case is fun, but takes a back seat to the interesting look into town relationships especially with the schism caused by the dispute over the pros and cons of the new superstore.
April 7, 2014
The Color of Light
Perseverance, Apr 7 2014, $15.95
TV host of “Maggie MacGowen Investigates”, film documentarian Maggie MacGowen is back in her childhood home in Berkeley cleaning out her late father’s stuff. Inside his desk, she finds film shot thirty years ago by her dad that provide leads to solving the cold case violent murder of Vietnamese immigrant Trinh “Tina” Bartolini.
Though she believes her father hid the evidence to protect her especially from her biological mother, Maggie investigates the late Mrs. Bartolini’s past. Helping her with her inquiry are high school boyfriend BPD Detective Kevin Halloran, current boyfriend French diplomat Jean-Paul Bernard and her agent Uncle Max. While the lack of cooperation from family and friends who make it clear they want her to stop snooping; another schoolmate sleazy Larry Nordquist lurks nearby while also implying to Maggie that he knows who and why.
The ninth Maggie MacGowen Investigates (see The Hanging, The Paramour’s Daughter and In the Guise of Mercy) is a fabulous whodunit that deftly goes back and forth between the present and what happened in the college town three decades ago. The sleuthing is strong with red herrings, twists and non-cooperation as this homicide shook the community in the early 1980s and Maggie’s search for the truth proves it still remains very sore with residents.
April 6, 2014
A Biscuit, a Casket
Kensington, Apr 1 2014, $7.99
In Frog Ledge, Connecticut, Happy Cow Dairy Farm owners Hal and Emmalee Hoffman host a Halloween gala. Among those participating is Pawsitively Organic Gourmet Pet Food baker Kristan “Stan” Connor who caters the canine costume caper. However, the party ends with the murdered corpse of Hal found stabbed to death with a scythe amidst the field of maze he planned to sell to attendees. State Trooper Jessica Pasquale leads the official inquiry.
Already in financial trouble but unsure how much, a distraught Em asks Stan to look at the farm’s books, which she does. Stunned with what she uncovers as several people had reasons to kill Hal, Stan heads to Izzy’s coffee shop to learn what else she can about people’s motives and opportunities.
Unlike the first A Pawsitively Organic Mystery (see Kneading to Die) in which the heroine has cause to investigate as Pasquale and the locals suspected the newbie poisoned their pets, this enjoyable amateur sleuth lacks a solid rationale for Stan risking her life. Still fans will appreciate this New England cozy as Stan the Gourmet Pet Food queen works the Halloween homicide.
April 5, 2014
Evil in the 1st House: A Starlight Detective Agency Mystery
Mitchell Scott Lewis
Poisoned Pen, Apr 1 2014, $24.95
In Manhattan Dr. Ethan Williamson offers nationally known Starlight Detective Agency chief David Lowell $1 million in cash if he searches for his missing wife Gloria Greenwood; if he finds her the surgeon will give the astrologist-private detective another million. Williamson further explains they have been separated since just after their twin sons were born. After a nasty fight following the births, she vanished with now fifteen year old Kevin while leaving behind Edward with Ethan to raise by himself. Edward will soon die if he fails to receive a compatible kidney as the lad has an extremely rare blood type and his dad has only one good organ; leaving his sibling as the obvious suitable match.
While working this case and another inquiry, Lowell obtains help from his six foot daughter Melinda the lawyer, hacker guru Mort, office assistant Sarah and bodyguard-driver Andy. Others from California also become embroiled into the inquiry; as nothing is quite like the client claimed.
The third Starlight Detective Agency case (see Murder on the 11th House and Death in the 12th House) is an engaging twisting mystery with the paranormal seeming so genuine due to normalcy brought to the storyline by the staff; for instance Lowell needs legal advice on transplants instead of the stars. As fans, Lowell and his staff accept karma, Evil in the 1st House is a fun fascinating astrology private investigative thriller.
April 5, 2014
Oceanview, Apr 1 2014, $26.95
A diabolically brilliant psychopath viciously murders targeted people while placing the homicides on YouTube to insure the world believes that the environmental protection and research activist group Eco-Watch has turned to terrorism. Eco-Watch founder Donovan Nash knows his organization is not behind the lethal brutal assaults and that most likely his militant ecological enemy from three decades ago Garrick Pearce is.
The violent Pearce holds Nash culpable for the death of his beloved Meredith Barnes. With no regard for collateral damage to people or the planet, his plan for avenge attacks Eco-Watch and his despicable foe’s loved ones; but will climax that with the environmental disaster of the century in Nash’s name. Erica offers the beleaguered Donovan with information he needs to prevent Pearce’s scheme while assassins, Feds and Eco-Watch pursue him as he is considered deranged and dangerous. Donovan takes a last stand in Alaska to stop Garrick from an ecological-devastation whose biblical scope has not happened since dinosaur times.
The fourth Donovan Nash saga (see Category Five, Code Black and Zero Separation) is an exciting action-packed thriller that never allows Nash (or readers) a moment of respite. Although the lead antagonists come across as typical genre casting of a beleaguered hero and an insane villain, the secondary characters bring freshness to a fast-paced running out of time to save the world tale.
April 4, 2014
Panthers Play for Keeps: A Pru Marlowe Pet Noir
Poisoned Pen, Apr 1 2014, $24.95
In Beauville, pet guru Pru Marlowe walks Spot the service dog in training. Spot interrupts their sojourn when the canine finds a battered, severely mauled female corpse.
The shape of the body leads to the conclusion that a large most likely feral feline attacked and murdered the young woman. However, no animal that fits the description has been spotted in this section of the Berkshires in many years. Pru’s lover Police Detective Jim Creighton leads the investigation while the animal expert vows to stay out of the inquiry though she uses her uncanny skills to consult with her cat Wallis and Spot. The amateur sleuth turns active when Jim vanishes.
The fourth Pru Marlowe Pet Noir (see Parrots Prove Deadly, Dogs Don’t Lie and Cats Can’t Shoot) is an enjoyable psychic mystery. The engaging investigative storyline is made fresh by the heroine left confused rather than lucid after discussing the case with her detecting partner Wallis and her trainee Spot; forcing her to rely less on her anthropomorphic buddies and use more “normal” human abilities.
April 2, 2014
The Enemy Within
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
WMG, Apr 1 2014, $18.99
Following the JFK assassination and its bungled aftermath, police departments throughout the country are on edge as none want the notoriety of DPD. In Manhattan’s West Side, NYPD Detectives O’Reilly and McKinnon are at a double murder scene with a third corpse of a limousine driver nearby. The two cops identify the victims as FBI Associate Director Clyde A. Tolson and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
New York Regional Office Special Agent In Charge Eugene Hart pulls Agent Francis Bryce off of a suicide investigation tied to another Fed but that Frank knows he inadvertently caused by foolishly following the book. Frank heads to contain the NYPD inquiry into the homicides of the agency’s top two men; as his assignment is to find the killer but also trample on the locals to keep them out of what Hart insists is an internal matter. To his horror, Frank uncovers clues tying the murders to the suicide.
The Enemy Within is a superb what if police procedural as Kristine Kathryn Rusch catches the essence of efforts by law enforcement at all levels to avoid being labeled as another DPD. Filled with remorse for his poor handling that led to the suicide and with a need to know the truth, Bryce is an intriguing protagonist who receives several warnings not to dig to deep. Fast-paced from the moment the NYPD cops identify the victims, fans will appreciate this taut thriller as corruption at all levels of government leads to a need for a cover-up that makes a bad situation much worse.
April 2, 2014
The Cold Nowhere
Quercus, Apr 1 2014, $26.99
A decade ago when Catalina Mateo was six years old, she cowered in hiding while hearing the still haunting sounds of her father carving up her mother before he killed himself. The murder-suicide left Cat in permanent trauma as the now teen turned to drugs and prostitution but never escaped the nightmare of that gruesome day.
When Cat realizes her paranoid belief someone stalks her is not fueled by the horror or drugs, she remembers heroic Jonathan Stride promising to keep her mom safe. Though he failed them, Cat turns to the Duluth Police Lieutenant. He finds her half-frozen in his cabin’s closet. Stride’s partner Maggie Bei warns him not to get involved emotionally as she believes Cat being a chip off the paternal block viciously stabbed her shrink. Whether or not it is guilt driving him, Stride investigates Cat’s claim only to find evidence affirming her assertion.
The latest Jonathan Stride Minnesota police procedural (see The Burying Place, In The Dark and Immoral) is a fantastic inquiry as the case and the frozen background make for a strong mystery. The tension between Stride and Bei especially over Cat enhance the terrific taut storyline.
April 2, 2014
Under Cold Stone: A Constable Molly Stone Mystery
Poisoned Pen, Apr 1 2014, $24.95
Lucky Smith and Trafalgar, British Columbia Chief Constable Paul Keller enjoy a meal together at a restaurant in Banff, Alberta when two bullies accost customers and staff. Lucky rips into the punks while Paul stares in horror as one of them is his estranged son Matt. Soon after the nastiness, near hysterical Matt calls his dad for help as there is a corpse in his apartment. Paul and Lucky arrive to find the body but no Matt. Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sergeant Eddie Blechta believes by fleeing into the wilderness Matt committed murder.
In response to her widow mom Lucky’s plea, Trafalgar Constable Molly Smith drops all she is doing to get ready for Thanksgiving to come to Banff; while Sergeant John Winters stays at home to deal with a potentially violent protest against development Grizzly Resort. Molly meets Matt’s low-esteemed girlfriend Tracey McMillan who asks her to help him as she believes her BF is innocent. Although she knows to stay out of the local investigation, Molly follows Matt into the wilderness.
The fabulous seventh Constable Molly Smith Canadian police procedural (see A Cold White Sun) is a strong entry as family ties complicate the Banff case. As enjoyable is the latest front in the war between environmentalists and developers exploding back home though Winters does a great job trying the impossible to reduce the tension before someone gets hurt. Fast-paced, readers will appreciate this exciting entry.