Archive for August, 2008

Once Were Cops-Ken Bruen

August 21, 2008

Once Were Cops

Ken Bruen

St. Martin‘s, Oct 2008, $22.95

ISBN 9780312384401


Clever sociopathic Galway, Ireland cop Matthew Patrick “Shea” O’Shea arranges through extortion and blakcmail for a one-year assignment with NYPD as part of a police exchange program.  The Irish cop is teamed with abusive New York cop Kurt “Kebar” Browski.


Matthew knows he must hide his vice as his host city will not tolerate him choking to death beautiful women with lovely long swan necks.  Shea realizes quickly his partner is as crazy as he is; perhaps even sicker as Matthew gains more pleasure than he does with roughing up someone.  The two nasty police officers seem to work well together as poster-boys of police brutality until Kebar introduces Shea to his retarded sister, who has a beautiful long swan neck.


These two brutal cops who believe in taking no prisoners star in Ken Bruen’s deep character study of two sadistic police officers abusing their authorities not so much to catch felons even but more for personal pleasure of sorts.  The plot is somewhat limited though readers anticipate a violent showdown between the lead police officers once the long swan neck sibling is involved.  Fans of Mr. Bruen will appreciate his New York Noir style Irish stew.


Harriet Klausner


In the Dark-Mark Billingham

August 21, 2008

In the Dark

Mark Billingham

Harper, Sep 30 2008, $25.95

ISBN: 9780061432736


In London, Ezra “Easy” Dennison informs Theo Shirley his illegal drug sales revenues have reached the level where the gang is ready to promote him.  Theo is elated as he has two dependents to take care of.  However, he has one more step left to prove he is ready for increased responsibility.  Theo is in a car in which the headlights are off; he is to shoot in the backseat of a selected vehicle. A BMW flashes the lights at the darkened auto and Theo thanks the driver by firing as directed into the car.


The driver Sarah Ruston loses control and veers into a bus stop where Detective Superintendent Paul Hopwood and his eight plus months pregnant girlfriend Helen Weeks are waiting.  One of the two at the bus stop dies.  The police investigation soon takes a wicked turn beyond gang initiation rituals into an internal affairs investigation as someone believes the freak ricochet accident was not a random incident; that individual is easily killing the gang and others involved in the deadly incident.


IN THE DARK lives up to its title as it paints a bleak grim London landscape in which life is worthless regardless of which side of the crime line a person belongs too.  The story line is action-packed as the police assume initially a sad weird but deadly accident killed one of them until the gang murders begin.  As such the plot switches from the deep gritty look at the social and economic behavior of gangs to a more suspenseful but less insightful homicide investigation.  This is a strong crime caper even with Mark Billingham’s prime protagonist Detective Inspector Tom Thorne playing a limited cameo role.


Harriet Klausner

The Lost Tomb-David Gibbins

August 21, 2008

The Lost Tomb

David Gibbins

Dell, Sep 30 2008, $6.99

ISBN: 9780553591194


Many thought that Claudius died from poisoning in 54 AD, but the diabolical Roman Emperor faked his death and that of his freedman Narcissus because he knew his health did not allow him to rule any longer.  He rushes to Herculaneum in the shadows of the Vesuvius where he takes up his writing .He once met with Herod Agrippa who he knew in Rome and later met with him and  Jesus in Galilee where he hoped the Christ would cure him of his affliction.  He didn’t but Claudius writes down their encounter but to guard Jesus he hid the scroll in a safe place.


In the present marine archaeologist Jack Howard confirms that he has found the shipwreck that St. Paul was on when he was being deliveried to Rome.  Before Jack and his crew can complete their quest, he is called to Herculaneum by his colleague Costas, who found the secret villa of Claudius that was devastated by an earthquake, but the quake opened up a concealed secret room that contains information about a scroll written by Jesus.  They head to Rome seeking the lost gospel; there a message sends them to London devotion that leads them to Santa Paulo, California and finally to Jerusalem.  The last decipher proves difficult but ultimately they find a secret chamber in a a church; those who were following them want them killed..  Jack understands immediately why as what he and Costas has found will send tsunami like waves throughout organized religion.


Obvious Brownian connections aside, this tale is filled with adventure and action as readers will enjoy the escapades of the two brave heroes.  Jack is an Indiana Jones style archaeologist who understands the danger he and his friends will face as he accepts the mission.  He is on a scavenger hunt that  if successful will change the world as he simply seeks the truth, which in some ways may not set people free.  David Gibbons provides a fun tale that feels like a cross (no pun intended) between Dan Brown, Clive Cusssler and George Lucas.


Harriet Klausner

Bones in the Belfry-Robert Greer

August 20, 2008

Bones in the Belfry

Suzette A. Hill

Soho, Aug 2008, $24.95

ISBN: 9781569475102


In Molehill, Surrey, Vicar Reverend Francis Oughterard feels remorse and guilt for choking to death a parishioner (see A LOAD OF OLD BONES).  He beat the rap thanks to his brilliant pets Maurice the cat and Bouncer the dog who removed revealing evidence from the crime scene.


When his former theology classmate, Nicholas Ingaza Oughterard asks him to hide stolen art in the vicarage, Francis reluctantly agrees; not out of some college loyalty but because Nicholas gave him his phony alibi.  However, a true crime writer obtains permission to look around the church and belfry forcing the beleaguered clergy to relocate the paintings in his sister’s home.  Things turn worse when one of the masterpieces is put up for fundraising. 


BONES IN THE BELFRY is an amusing British crime caper that older readers will think of Terry Thomas starring as the helpless beleaguered Vicar who seems to somehow find himself trapped in criminal activities.  This time his saviors Maurice and Bouncer realize there is very little they can do to keep the hands that feed them out of jail.  The two pets makes the tale fun to read with their resigned feline and canine sense of inevitability in which their human pet will be locked up; if not this time, perhaps the next time.  Purist mystery fans need to pass as there is no detecting, but those readers who appreciate the antics of a humorous bungler supported by an eccentric cast of human fumblers and two loyal brilliant animals will want to read the lighthearted BONES IN THE BELFRY.


Harriet Klausner


The Brass Verdict

August 20, 2008

The Brass Verdict

Michael Connelly

Little, Brown, Oct 2008, $26.99

ISBN 9780316166294


In Los Angeles ironically, they were rivals on a double homicide case that the rising star of the prosecutor’s office Jerry Vincent lost to the “LINCOLN LAWYER” Mickey Haller; the former’s career as an ADA died that day so he went private as a defense attorney.  Thus when Jerry is killed, Judge Holder asks Mickey to take over his late peer’s workload, but to especially focus on a particular high visibility case.  Jerry was defending Hollywood producer Walter Elliot against the charges of killing his wife and her alleged lover.


Haller struggles with mounting a defense in a short time.  Meanwhile LAPD Detective Harry Bosch investigates the Vincent homicide.  Each feels the other is in the way of performing their job.  Haller concludes that the Elliot double murder is much more than a jealous spouse murdering his cheating wife and her lover in a crime of passion.  He offers a truce to Bosch so they can work together; Bosch reluctantly agrees.


THE BRASS VERDICT is a great combo legal thriller and police procedural starring two terrific adversaries reluctantly teaming up.  The story line is exciting and fast-paced from the onset, but turns stupendous when the cop and lawyer collide.  Michael Connelly provides a great crime thriller starring his superstar and one of his best other lead characters.


Harriet Klausner

Speak of the Devil-Shari Shattuck

August 20, 2008

Speak of the Devil

Shari Shattuck

Signet, Sep 2008, $7.99

ISBN: 0451224809


In the national forest town of Shadow Hills just above Los Angeles, Greer Sands has always hid her psychic skills until her friend Whitney’s stepdaughter Joy was endangered and local bank manager Leah Falconer too.  She came out into open to save the girl and Leah; shockingly her seventeen year old son Joshua displayed the same abilities for the first time, but he remains uncomfortable so they hide his skill to see the future through visions from everyone else (see EYE OF THE BEHOLDER).


At a baby shower for her pregnant friend Jenny, Greer sees a devastating fire threaten her friends and their family.  Meanwhile when Joshua meets Simon, he envisions danger and feels a deep need to keep the teen safe.  As the community is divided between development and status quo, Greer fears for her friends especially Jnny.


The background serves as a contrast to the feeling that doom is coming to Shadow Hills and the mother and son psychic team who know it is coming feel helpless to prevent it although they hope to keep everyone safe.  The relationship between Greer and Joshua augments the strong story line as his newly discovered psychic abilities add tension between them since he still has not come to grips with the gift he does not want; the responsibility is overwhelming.  Although the heroine’s female friends overwhelm at times the plot, each is fully developed and unique while adding to the sense that a wildfire will destroy the town and much more.  Readers will taste the fear of wildfires (see HELL ON EARTH by David L. Porter to understand how gripping in reality this is and how much Shari Shattuck captures this fear factor) in a deep paranormal thriller.


Harriet Klausner

A Song for You-Betsy Thornton

August 20, 2008

A Song for You

Betsy Thornton

St. Martin’s, Sep 2008, $24.95

ISBN: 0312380623


Seventeen years ago in Dudley, Arizona, Rachel Macabee comes home to find her mother Annie lying in bed with her face blown away.  The police arrested her mom’s boyfriend Kurt because he lent Annie Glenn his gun, which turned out to be the murder weapon.  Rachel never believed he shot her mom and was pleased when he was acquitted.  Except for testifying at his trial, she never returned to Dudley.


A nice couple buys a home in Dudley when the monsoon rains ruin a retaining wall.  They hire people to dig out the dirt only to find a human skeleton buried there.  The remains are identified as Wynn Wyckoff, who performed in the same band as Annie did.  Rachel sees the obvious connection and hires private investigator Bryan Flynn to look into her mother’s cold case murder.  Since he is busy at the moment, his new employee and ex girlfriend, former victim’s advocate Chloe Newcombe leads the inquiry; Chloe is leaving the job she loved due to an incompetent interfering political hack new supervisor.  They work separately on the case seeking clues to the homicides and hoping they can bring closure to Rachel, who just came home, but remains traumatized after all these years and in spite of the love of her father and her husband.


This is an exciting private investigative whodunit enhanced by colorful secondary characters who the readers meet mostly through the inquiries of Chloe and to a degree Bryan especially in Dudley.  Although there are too many points of view and the ending seems inadequate, Chloe makes the tale work as she learns on the job how to interview, find clues, and survive; all part of remedial private investigation 099.  Fans will enjoy her efforts as her work coupled with Rachel’s return to Dudley place both in peril from a clever just out of sight ever watching killer.


Harriet Klausner

Ex-KOP-Warren Hammond

August 20, 2008


Warren Hammond

Tor, Oct 2008, $24.95

ISBN 9780765312747


In 2788 in the gritty town of Koba on planet Lagarto homicidal dirty detective Diego Banks forces Koba Office of Police cop Juno Mozambe into premature retirement.  Juno knows he has no moral stand as he sold out to the powerful crime lords.  Before losing his job he was despondent, but now feels like a failure as his efforts as a private investigator proves futile; he feels old, worn-out, and finished with only boozing giving him relief.


His former police partner detective Maggie Orzo quietly hires a reluctant Mozambe to investigate the homicides of the parents of Adela Juarez; the daughter was convicted of the murders and sentenced to be executed.  Maggie believes Adela is not only innocent, but her current partner Ian Davies framed the girl.  Mozambe works the case muddied by police corruption and attempts to drive him off the inquiry by threatening his family.


The sequel to KOP retains the gritty helplessness of the first futuristic police procedural science fiction (see KOP).  Readers will feel they walk the mean streets of a town with no pity alongside of Juno who works a case he does not want to investigate.  Fans will appreciate Warren Hammond’s excellent but extremely bleak future Noir as abject poverty leaves everyone harder than the carbonite that froze Hans Solo.


Harriet Klausner

The Keepsake-Tess Gerritsen

August 19, 2008

The Keepsake

Tess Gerritsen

Ballantine, Sep 2008, $26.00

ISBN: 9780345497628


Boston-based medical examiner Maura Isles has examined a lot of corpses while on the job, but this one is special.  The Crispin Museum invited the ME to attend a CAT scan of Madame X; the perfectly preserved mummy found in their basement who the curator believes will save their financially troubled facility.


However, instead of an ancient Egyptian royal, the modern medical test proves the mummy is a recent homicide victim.  They also find a cryptic note inside.  Boston Police Department Detectives Jane Rizzoli and Barry Frost lead the investigation.  The message leads the cops to archeologist Josephine Pulcillo, who along with her mom has been on the run from an obsessed serial killer.  Soon more modern day mummies are found, but the culprit remains elusively hidden in spite of Egyptian embalming knowledge.


The latest Rizzoli-Isles police procedural is a superb thriller that needs a graphic warning label not to read on a full stomach.  The story line is fast-paced from the moment the mummy goes from ancient historical to contemporary and never slows down as obsession keeps a mother and daughter in fear of revealing secrets to the cops.  Tess Gerritsen is at her best with this gruesome horrific murder mystery.


Harriet Klausner

The Dracula Dossier-James Reese

August 19, 2008

The Dracula Dossier

James Reese

Morrow, Oct 2008, $24.95

ISBN 9780061233548


In 1888 Oscar Wilde’s mother and William Butler Yeats invites Bram Stoker to attend the Order of the Golden Dawn indoctrination ritual.  Initially fascinated by the ceremony, Bram and other attendees are stunned when something goes wrong.


Visiting American patent medicine salesman Francis Tumblety, who also attended, has become possessed by the evil Egyptian god Set.  Tumblety-Set is methodically killing Whitechapel prostitutes using his surgeon’s skills on these misfortunate women.  Scotland Yard is stymied as there appears no motive for the homicdes, but Stoker is seen in the area and his knife used as the murder weopon. He becomes the prime suspect.  However, Stoker believes he knows the reasons behind the slaughters; he plans to confront Francis-Set whom he believes he has seen stalk the shadows of Whitechapel before someone else dies.


The story line starts off purposely boring to bring a journal methodolgy as the underpinning to the tale; once established, the plot accelerates and never look back.  Tumblety as an evilly possessed Ripper makes for a perfect opponent to the Dracula author with both characters fully developed.  References to the period, the Ripper serial killings and the literary works of Stoker round out an excellent late nineteenth century thriller.


Harriet Klausner