Archive for July, 2008

Deadly Beautiful-Sam Baker

July 31, 2008

Deadly Beautiful

Sam Baker

Ballantine, Aug 2008, $25.00

ISBN: 0345475909


When her career collapsed after leaving behind her teen years, former supermodel Scarlett Ulrich landed in Tokyo working at a bar.   However, when Scarlett, the face that launched a million album covers, vanishes; her half-sister, Luella “Lou” McCartney becomes concerned.  Knowing she needs help, Lou asks her reporter friend Annie Anderson to investigate. 


Anne explains she is now a fashion features editor for Handbag magazine and is no longer doing investigative journalism as she used to (see FASHION VICTIM); besides she is in New York City while Scarlett was in Tokyo.  However, Anne makes a few long distance inquiries and learns of Japan’s Roppongi Ripper, who has murdered several Western young blonde females; she fears Scarlett is on the dead list.  She heads to Tokyo to learn what happened to Scarlett.


The investigation is superb as Anne tries to find Scarlett, but it is the look at the fashion industry’s obsession with the young that makes the tale worth reading.  The father of the half-sisters symbolizes the youth fixation as Rufus is a “modelizer” who only wants to screw the latest superstar who is younger than his daughters.  Readers will enjoy Sam Baker’s fine exposé in which twenty is old, twenty five is the walking dead, and thirty is an ancient history corpse.


Harriet Klausner


Paint the Town Dead-Nancy Bell

July 31, 2008

Paint the Town Dead

Nancy Bell

St. Martin’s, Aug 2008, $23.95

ISBN: 0312362811


In Post Oak, Texas, someone executes realtor Tom Delgado, whose corpse is found by his office desk with a bullet to his head.  The police believe Tom’s wife Dovie killed him when they learn his will leaves his vast estate to Dallas evangelist Sister Mary Dobbs McDermott; Dovie received almost nothing.


However, Judge Jackson Crain has some doubts that the motive was the will and wonders if business dealings could have been the motive for the homicide; Delgado as the king of local real estate had many enemies amongst the pretenders to his throne, especially those who felt he cheated them.  The Judge begins his own brand of southern fried chicken investigation along side the police while also dealing with the strange behavior of his teenaged daughter Patty and starting a tryst with artist Roxanne Kruger; in town to spend time with her dying mother.


The third Judge Jackson Texas cozy (see RESTORED TO DEATH and DEATH SPLITS A HAIR) is an entertaining small town regional mystery that brings to life the townsfolk mostly through their relationship with the lead character.  Jackson is a delightful main character as his personal life seems ready to engulf him with tsuris, but his calm sense of humor helps him cope and provides the audience with amusing asides.  The whodunit pales next to the Judge and the colorful support cast, but sub-genre fans will not care as they will enjoy this funny Texas tale.


Harriet Klausner

Exit Music-Ian Rankin

July 31, 2008

Exit Music

Ian Rankin

Little, Brown, Sep 2008, $24.99

ISBN 9780316057585


For the first time he can remember Edinburgh Police Inspector John Rebus is worried about the future.  In ten days, the long time cop is turning sixty, which means mandatory retirement although he does not feel ready to leave the force.


Still, Rebus plans to finish his last cases although he only has ten working days left.  His prime investigation is the murder of Russian poet Alexander Todorov; in which he and his associate Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke find no motive, but a horde of odd conspiracies bantered about that include Russian businessmen, Scottish bankers and local politicians rallying behind an independent Scotland.  The case turns even more bizarre when a second homicide occurs; the victim taped a recital of Todorov reading his work.  Increasingly the inquiry points towards Edinburgh crime boss “Big Ger” Cafferty, but finding proof to pin two murders on the mobster in under ten days seem impossible.


The investigation takes a back seat to Rebus’ final police case before going into forced retirement.  Thus, as good as the previous  entries are, this may be the most personal as the emotions are high as fans wonder what will their hero do.  EXIT MUSIC is an excellent complicated police procedural as the great John Rebus works what is his apparent last police case.


Harriet Klausner


The Swap-Antony Moore

July 31, 2008

The Swap

Antony Moore

Delta, Sep 2008, $11.00

ISBN: 9780385342346


In London Harvey Briscow knows the event that destroyed his life that turned him into a comic book shopkeeper.  Two decades as a child attending school in Cornwall, he traded his Superman One comic book to an idiot Charles “Bleeder” Odd in exchange for a plastic pipe.  That comic book is worth a fortune and he wants it back.  Worse, where he is a failure, Bleeds is a bloody success


He goes to the twentieth class reunion praying Odd will show up, but has doubts his nemesis will and besides the comic book is probably long gone.  Still this time he vows to take it back if Bleeder still has it.  Thus Harvey breaks into Bleeder’s house to steal the comic book; instead the corpse of Bleeder’s mother greets him in the cellar; her throat slashed.  Soon after he flees the crime scene to return to London, Superman 1 shows up in the mail at his store.  The police are interested in Harvey as a murder suspect as he had the means, the motive and the opportunity. 


This is a fun dark thriller in which Harvey, Bleeder and Superman One are fully developed characters.  The story line is fast-paced from the moment Harvey decides to steal back his swapped prize possession and never slows down although the climax does not soar as high as the rest of the fascinating plot.  Harvey is a terrific individual who blames his chain smoking and alcoholic binges on THE SWAP and the diabolically brilliant Bleeder.  Superman one is almost like a lover Harvey once had carelessly discarded and now regrets his error.  Fans who appreciate a dark humorous thriller will enjoy the battle of wits between Harvey and Bleeder as Superman One completes their odd dysfunctional triangle.


Harriet Klausner


Silks-Dick Francis and Felix Francis

July 31, 2008


Dick Francis and Felix Francis

Putnam, Sep 2008, $25.95

ISBN: 0399155333


Julian Trent blames his former London barrister Geoffrey Mason for his initial assault conviction that was overturned on appeal.  Mason thought his client got off soft on an overwhelming lost case.  However, Trent believes his lawyer did not provide a proper defense and begins sending intimidating messages to Mason.


Although he has doubts bigger than Big Ben, Mason agrees to defend jockey Steve Mitchell against a murder charge.  Evidence is strong that a crime of passion occurred as witnesses saw Mason’s client and another jockey Scot Barlow arguing over the latter’s late sister who was the former’s girlfriend Millie when he was married with kids.  Barlow blamed Mitchell for his sister’s suicide while Mitchell blamed Barlow for informing his wife of the affair as his spouse divorced him, remarried an Aussie, and moved with their kids to Australia.  Not long after that Barlow was found murdered with the means being a pitchfork.  However, to his shock, unknown adversaries order Mason to lose the case or else they imply his septuagenarian father would be battered like his computer just was.


SILKS is a terrific legal thriller starring a barrister with a difficult case exponentially compounded by threats to lose and by Mason’s problems to focus as he also believes Trent is involved.  The story line is a fast ride around the track although racing is more background than usual in a Dick Francis thriller.  Although the courtroom revelation seems out of Perry Mason rather than Geoffrey Mason, fans enjoy the latest collaboration from the father and son Francis horse racing mystery team (see DEAD HEAT).


Harriet Klausner

Leather Maiden-Joe R. Lansdale

July 30, 2008

Leather Maiden

Joe R. Lansdale

Knopf, Aug 2008, $23.95

ISBN: 0375414525


Reporter Cason Statler has been nominated for a Pulitzer; so when he comes home to Camp Rapture, Texas to work for the local newspaper the Camp Rapture Report even he knows how far back he has fallen.  The scandal he caused in Houston over boning his boss’ late forties wife and thirty something daughter ended the Gulf War journalist’s career.  Mrs. Margot Timpson editor of the Report gives him a chance to redeem himself though she is unhappy that his best friend seems to be Jim Beam.


He decides to investigate the disappearance of twenty-three years old history major Caroline Allison who vanished six months ago while on a late night food run; her car was found near the creepy Siegel place.  As he makes inquiries Cason sees a connection with some more recent odd unsolved felonies that even bring his successful older brother the history professor who knew Caroline as a possible suspect in the student’s disappearance.


Few if any writers bring alive the essence of East Texas as well as Joe R, Lansdale consistently does through his usual endearing eccentric cast.  His latest investigative tale stars a reporter who has fallen into disgrace rather quickly and remains in the doo-doo pond even as he struggles to right himself.  With a strong support cast especially at the Report, plenty of weirdo humor and pulling no punches from the moment Cason explains his disgrace to Mrs. Timpson until the climax with Belinda the reporter at his side, fans will enjoy Mr. Lansdale’s latest East Texas mystery. 


Harriet Klausner

Folly Du Jour-Barbara Cleverly

July 30, 2008

Folly Du Jour

Barbara Cleverly

Soho, Aug 2008, $24.95

ISBN: 156947513X


In 1927 Scotland Yard Detective Joe Sandilands attends the Interpol conference in Paris, but when he lands at the airport the local police meet him.  They take Joe to a prison where they hold a countryman of his charged with murder.  Joe is stunned to find the French police accuse his long time friend Sir George Jardine of stabbing Sir Stanley Somerton, another person Joe knew but in this case would prefer not to have ever met the horrid victim.


Joe rejects the official position as he knows George would never do such an act except in self defense.  He and French detective Inspector Jean-Philippe Bonnefoye investigate together based on the assumption someone else murdered the sleazy Somerton.  They start at the morgue where pathologist Dr. Moulin explains the odd M.O. matches several recent homicides in the last three to four years.  The two sleuths wonder whether a serial killer is stalking Paris.


FOLLY DU JOUR is a terrific 1920s police procedural starring two superb detectives.  Joe may be shocked in his latest case (see THE BEE’S KISS, THE PALACE TIGER and THE LAST KASHMIRI ROSE), but gets to work right away while his French partner holds up his end of their joint investigation.  Although the resolution can be seen from the French capital to London, historical mystery readers enjoy the two detectives’ guided tour of Roaring Twenties euphoric post WWI Paris as this is a superb historical whodunit.


Harriet Klausner

Death’s Half Acre-Margaret Maron

July 30, 2008

Death’s Half Acre

Margaret Maron

Grand Central Publishing, Aug 2008, $24.99

ISBN: 044619610X


In North Carolina, rural Colleton County commissioner Candace “don’t call me Candy” Bradshaw commits suicide stunning everyone.  Sheriff’s Deputy Dwight Bryant investigates to insure that Candace did kill herself even with the note she left behind claiming bad deeds, the woman seemed to have everything going.  He soon begins to uncover why as greed, official corruption, and homicide seem to have tentacles throughout the county; kickbacks to award construction of housing and malls is prevalent.


Bryant’s wife Judge Deborah Knott is working mostly on small-claims suits that include many small farmers being squeezed off the land in a big government eminent domain grab.  She worries these cases are going to cost her future in local politics even more than her reprobate father Kezzie, a infamous bootlegging con man who swears he is retired, but she assumes he is cooling his heels setting up his next sting.


The key to this cozy and the entire Knott series is how realistic the Carolina blue cast feels.  Readers will enjoy this fine entry as Dwight struggles with a case that looks like suicide yet has some doubts while his wife worries about the impact of whatever her father’s next travesty will be while also getting involved in the Bradshaw death.  Readers will enjoy the deep look at development on the rural locals of Colleton County as fraud and bribery are the American way.


Harriet Klausner

Blood At The Bookies-Simon Brett

July 29, 2008

Blood At The Bookies

Simon Brett

Five Star, Aug 2008, $25.95

ISBN: 1594147582


In Fethering, England, Jude takes the bets of flu ailing nonagenarian Harold Peskett to the local betting shop.  While there she notices a young man stumbling before he leaves the parlor.  Soon afterward, she finds him lying dead in an alley.  She later learns the victim was Polish immigrant Tadeusz Jankowski who was in town studying music at nearby Clincham University.


Jude tells her stuffy but sick neighbor Carole Seddon, who is recovering from the flu.  Unable to resist they begin to investigate as “amateur sleuth old biddies”.  When his sister Zofia arrives from Poland, she encourages Jude to keep looking into who killed her brother and why; she does think Tadeusz was in love, but she does not know with whom.  With no clues, the pair keeps on digging while the killer watches their every move.


The Fethering amateur sleuths are consistently some of the most entertaining (see latest Fethering caper (see DEATH UNDER THE DRYER, THE BODY ON THE BEACH and THE STABBING IN THE STABLES).  The latest one holds up that tradition as an enjoyable whodunit that showcases the social world of the betting club and somewhat the non acceptance of foreign students in England.  Carole is at her best as she struggles with just entering the bet shop and with seeking her new granddaughter if that means seeing her ex.  Jude escorts Carole to places she would never dared go before.  Cozy fans will appreciate the newest tour of Fethering.


Harriet Klausner

The Case of the Deceiving Don-Carl Brookins

July 29, 2008

The Case of the Deceiving Don

Carl Brookins

Five Star, Aug 2008, $25.95

ISBN: 1594146772


Twin Cities private investigator Sean Sean is going home in suburban Roseville, but cops are everywhere on his street.  He learns that an elderly resident of the nearby Lakeland Homes retirement facility died when his wheelchair exploded.  Over a foot taller than the short Sean, lead police investigator Helen Lasker informs Sean the victim was Augustus Molinaro, a resident of the home for fifteen years; his companion Martin Levy is missing.


Two big guys from a set of the Godfather hire Sean to investigate the murder of Augustus, who turns out to be a former mobster, Greasy Gus from Pennsylvania.  Sean makes inquiries that break the law with the help of an elderly resident of Lakeland Homes and someone tries to kill him while the Feds warn him to back off from inquiring about Levy. 


This Twin Cities cozy is a pleasant private investigative tale starring an amiable ethical lead protagonist who does not let his short stature prevent him doing tough detective work or dating much taller Catherine Mckerney who he knows can bench press him.  Although the subplot involving attempts on his life intrudes on the prime CASE OF THE DECEIVING DON, fans will enjoy this whodunit with a terrific unique motive starring a soft boiled sleuth (see THE CASE OF THE GREEDY LAWYERS).


Harriet Klausner