Archive for August, 2008

I Am Not a Cop!-Richard Belzer with Michael Black

August 19, 2008

I Am Not a Cop!

Richard Belzer with Michael Black

Simon & Schuster, Oct 2008, $24.00

ISBN 9781416570660

 

When comic Richard Belzer’s friend, New York City assistant medical examiner Rudy Markovich disappears without a trace, the comic actor becomes concerned especially when his pal fails to meet him at MSG for the heavyweight title fight as they planned.  The more he learns of the vanishing, the more worried he becomes.  Unable to remain idle, Richard decides to investigate even as he keeps reminding himself that “I AM NOT A COP”; only an actor who has seen many TV corpses in NYC and Baltimore..

 

He understands his experience as a sleuth is based on his role as role as Detective John Munch in Law & Order, but he believes how hard is it for real life to imitate Hollywood.  He affirms his belief when Belzer finds a clue that ties four deaths to his case.  Meanwhile Belzer’s producer worries about his actor getting hurt while on the mean streets of New York so Kalisha Carter is assigned to accompany him as he makes inquiries into the four deaths and their ties to Rudy.

 

The fun story line rotates action with detective musing as Beltzer investigates the disappearance starting at MSG and continuing on the mean streets of New York.  Although Beltzer the literary amateur sleuth is no Munch, fans will appreciate his efforts especially his stand up comic Noir-Lit aside commentary.

 

Harriet Klausner

Beside a Burning Sea-John Shors

August 19, 2008

Beside a Burning Sea

John Shors

NAL, Sep 2008, $14.00

ISBN: 9780451224927

 

In 1942, the hospital ship Benevolence with five hundred filled patients’ beds is sailing the South Pacific near the Solomon Islands bringing medical assistance to sailors from both sides of the conflict as required by international law.  Suddenly a Japanese torpedo hits the vessel ripping the boat in half.  In the next instant, as the Benevolence is engulfed in chaos, most of the crew and patients die, but a few manage to make it to a nearby island.

 

The survivors include the captain, his spouse a nurse, another officer, an engineer, a Japanese prisoner of war, a second nurse, and a Fijian stowaway.  Each has felt the horrors of war, but now must find a way to cooperate if they are to survive.  However one of them is a traitor who has their own agenda defining survival quite differently than the others.

 

The key to this powerful WW II survivor drama is each cast member is fully developed with differing personalities and backgrounds; this leads to unexpected relationships as race, culture, social class, and war are explored through the interactions of the characters.  Perhaps the only minor quibble is a traitor seems unnecessary suspense padding, as John Shors provides a deep historical character study.

 

Harriet Klausner

Something Wicked-Alan Gratz

August 19, 2008

Something Wicked

Alan Gratz

Dial, Oct 2008, $16.99

ISBN: 9780803736665

 

High school junior Horatio Wilkes attends the annual Highland Fair near Pigeon Forge, Tennessee at the invitation of his friend Joe Mackenzie; his family is major participants every year.  Fortune teller Madame Hecate informs Mac that he will be king of the mountain and his cousin Wallace Banks will own Mount Birnam.  Joe’s college girlfriend Beth Weigle is excited while Horatio is cynical.

 

Horatio sees booth employee Megan Sternwood and is attracted to her.  When her uncle asks him to watch over her, he is excited because he has a reason to meet her.  However, Horatio has a different issue when he enters a tent to find the Highland Fair owner Duncan MacRae murdered.  Unable to resist Horatio investigates not realizing the passion some have for this mountain and the danger the clues will lead to.

 

Although the amateur sleuth whodunit starts a bit late (almost halfway into the book), young adult readers will enjoy the plot due to the cynical mouthy hero who is caustic towards almost everyone at the Fair; surprisingly he didn’t get his face rearranged.  The story line is fun to follow even more so when the murder occurs as fans will feel they attend the Tennessee Highland Fair.  Some profanity seems inappropriate even if much of the targeted audience uses the words and it fit the moment but that may be this reviewer’s ancient outlook.  SOMETHING WICKED is an apt title just don’t wear kilts near the wickedly sarcastic Horatio unless your thick skinned or a bruiser.

 

Harriet Klausner

Something Wicked-Alan Gratz

August 19, 2008

Something Wicked

Alan Gratz

Dial, Oct 2008, $16.99

ISBN: 9780803736665

 

High school junior Horatio Wilkes attends the annual Highland Fair near Pigeon Forge, Tennessee at the invitation of his friend Joe Mackenzie; his family is major participants every year.  Fortune teller Madame Hecate informs Mac that he will be king of the mountain and his cousin Wallace Banks will own Mount Birnam.  Joe’s college girlfriend Beth Weigle is excited while Horatio is cynical.

 

Horatio sees booth employee Megan Sternwood and is attracted to her.  When her uncle asks him to watch over her, he is excited because he has a reason to meet her.  However, Horatio has a different issue when he enters a tent to find the Highland Fair owner Duncan MacRae murdered.  Unable to resist Horatio investigates not realizing the passion some have for this mountain and the danger the clues will lead to.

 

Although the amateur sleuth whodunit starts a bit late (almost halfway into the book), young adult readers will enjoy the plot due to the cynical mouthy hero who is caustic towards almost everyone at the Fair; surprisingly he didn’t get his face rearranged.  The story line is fun to follow even more so when the murder occurs as fans will feel they attend the Tennessee Highland Fair.  Some profanity seems inappropriate even if much of the targeted audience uses the words and it fit the moment but that may be this reviewer’s ancient outlook.  SOMETHING WICKED is an apt title just don’t wear kilts near the wickedly sarcastic Horatio unless your thick skinned or a bruiser.

 

Harriet Klausner

Small Crimes-Dave Zeltserman

August 19, 2008

Small Crimes

Dave Zeltserman

Serpent Tail, Oct 2008, $14.95

ISBN: 9781852429713

 

Bradley County police officer Joe Denton moonlighted for local mafia chief Manny Vassey doing all sorts of mostly SMALL CRIMES to pay off his gambling debts and to insure no harm came to his wife Elaine or their two preadolescent daughters.  District Attorney Phil Coakley caught Joe breaking into his office; panicked into a berserker rage the crooked cop stabs the DA thirteen times in the face with a screwdriver.  He scarred the DA for life.  Joe confessed, is convicted and goes to the county prison.

 

Seven years later Joe is paroled and moves in with his parents who do not want him there.  His wife left town with the kids with a new name and no forwarding address.  Vengeful Phil wants to hang Joe and feels he has a reliable source if he can crack the dying Manny who fears he is going to hell if he fails to confess his sins.  Crooked county Sheriff Dan Pleasant, who took care of Joe while he was in prison, reminds him of the Ferguson homicide and warns him he either kills Vassey or Coakley if he does not want Plan B implemented because the lawman knows he faces twenty years hard time otherwise.

 

This crime Noir stars a former crooked cop unable to overcome his past as the key players from back then seem to converge on him now that he is “free” though he would argue otherwise.  Readers will appreciate Dave Zeltserman’s character driven tale as Joe’s options are limited obviously by the triangulation that he feels is strangling him and by his own amoral outlook; not having his three beloved females nearby increases his anti-societal tendencies.  Fans will appreciate this deep Noir-lit as Phil and Dan put the pressure on Joe while Manny is the one who can send him up for life.

 

Harriet Klausner

Too Close to Home-Linwood Barclay

August 18, 2008

Too Close to Home

Linwood Barclay

Bantam, Oct 2008, $22.00

ISBN: 9780553805567

 

Promise Falls, New York is a small town where big crimes are never supposed to happen.  Teenager Derek Cutler hides in his neighbor’s basement crawlspace waiting for them to leave so he have some cuddly time with his girlfriend Penny.  When they finally go, he takes a tour of their house, but hears a noise and scurries back to his basement hiding place.  The Langleys have returned home because the wife felt ill.  Derek waits for them to go to sleep so he can sneak out.  Someone enters the house and shoots the entire family; Derek flees without talking to anyone including the police about what he witnessed.

 

The police find a suspect who lied to them.  They realize Derek was in the house when the homicides occurred based on phone calls he made.  His earring is found in the bed of the late mother and the blood on his sneaker belonged to his friend Adam.  The cops arrest Derek; however other evidence surfaces exonerating Derek who is freed from imprisonment as the charges are dropped.  His parents fear the nightmare has just begun as a cold blooded killer is still on the loose and their family may be the target.

 

Linwood Barclay creates a great complicated crime caper that seems so genuine especially for anyone who has a teen in the household.  The murders strip away the veneer of safety in the small town ands secrets become known that were never meant to see the light of day.  The only moralistic person in Promise Falls is Derek’s dad Jim who always wants to do the right thing, but also realizes how difficult that can be with so many choices to make that harm perhaps kill someone; often an innocent.  Although he knows there is NO TIME FOR GOODBYE with his expecting a stalking killer coming their way, his cerebral ethical pondering adds depth to a strong whodunit that will have sub-genre fans seeking Mr. Barclay’s backlist.

 

Harriet Klausner.

Thread of Fear-Laura Griffin

August 18, 2008

Thread of Fear

Laura Griffin

Pocket, Oct 2008, $6.99

ISBN: 9781416570639

 

She is one of the best forensic artists in the country and police from all parts of the nation ask her to talk with witnesses and victims so she can draw a picture of their assailant.  Her success rate is phenomenal, but it also takes a toll on her emotionally.  Fiona Glass keeps telling herself no more as she cannot cope with how she personalizes each case.

 

When the FBI talks to her about the abduction of ten year old Shelby with the witness being her six years old brother Colton who refuses to talk to any one, Fiona knows she has no choice but to help.  She gets a tremendous sketch of the perpetrator from the frightened child.

 

She still reels from internalizing the trauma of that case when Police Chief Jack Bowman asks her to interview a rape torture victim.  Reluctantly she agrees.  Fiona learns that the trauma happened eleven years ago and the victim was Bowman’s girlfriend at the time.  He explains to the forensic artist that he believes that cold case is related to a recent murder of a girl dumped in a place where her corpse would be found fast.  He admits no one else buys his theory.  Fiona obtains decent sketches from Jack’s former girlfriend.  When the culprit kidnaps a state senator’s daughter; suddenly everyone from the Feds to the State to the locals dive head first into the investigation.  Fiona finds the clues that allows Jack to close in on the killer, but neither realize the perp is targeting her.

 

Laura Griffin provides a strong suspense thriller with a supporting romantic subplot that enhances the growing tension as Jack worries about the mental state of the woman he loves who risks her sanity and her life to help others.  While investigating, the sparks between them is unwanted as one is commitment phobic and the other does not want to get involved.  Although forensic experts with emotional issues is not new, THREAD OF FEAR is a crisp police procedural.

 

Harriet Klausner

Rough Weather-Robert B. Parker

August 17, 2008

Rough Weather

Robert B. Parker

Putnam, Oct 2008, $26.95

ISBN: 9780399155192

 

Wealthy, almost famous for her marriages, Heidi Bradshaw hires Boston based private investigator Spenser to be her escort on her privately owned island, Tashtego.  The occasion is her daughter Adelaide’s wedding.  Spenser gets the impression his client wants a bodyguard; he takes the job and brings his lover Susan Silverman with him.  The bride and groom exchange vows only to have gunmen arrive led by Rugar the Gray Man; and they abduct Adelaide.

 

Spenser does not try to protect Heidi as his first concern is Susan’s safety.  The kidnappers and the bride reach a helicopter but not before Rugar kills the groom and the minister.  Spenser is shocked as the scenario is not Rugar’s precise efficient MO and no ransom note is sent.  As the Boston sleuth begins closing in on the truth, Rugar sends assassins to kill him, but they fail.  He vows to rescue Adelaide and learn why Rugar is behaving out of character.

 

ROUGH WEATHER is Robert B. Parker at his very best with a great suspenseful mystery enhanced by the hero’s even greater love for Susan; her safety comes first before his client or himself.  Susan accepts Spenser for who he is and tries not to change her beloved into a more “acceptable” boyfriend fitting in her circle.  The story line is fast-paced from the moment the Gray Man arrives in a shockingly fumbled caper, but it is the dry witted Spenser who turns the tale into a thriller’s thriller.

 

Harriet Klausner

 

The Devil’s Closet-Stacy Dittrich

August 17, 2008

The Devil’s Closet

Stacy Dittrich

Leisure, Oct 2008, $7.99

ISBN: 9780843961591

 

Richland Metropolitan Police Department Detective CeeCee Gallagher specializes in juvenile sex crimes and homicides.  Her clearance record is near perfect because she never gives up and constantly pushes herself beyond the limit; she does not want to hold herself responsible for the death of a child due to her being too slow to catch the predator. 

 

An Amber Alert goes out when Hannah Peltrew disappears from her yard; another child witnessed a man grabbing her and putting her in a car.  Hannah is found dead in the filed of an Amish farmer; she was dressed up like a doll and obviously tortured before being killed.  The FBI investigates with Agent in Charge Michael Haerman leading the case.  CeeCee has not seen him in a year, but still loves him although she chose to stay with her husband who might be having an affair with his trainee.  Another child is reported missing and soon afterward found dead; as with Hannah she was made up and posed like a doll.  Michael and CeeCee work as a team to end the horrific killing spree, but also know they remain attracted to one another.  Meanwhile the serial killer taunts CeeCee sending her clues in a cat and mouse game with another youngster’s life on the line.

 

This first CeeCee Gallagher police procedural is a terrific thriller mostly due to the dedicated lead character, who is tough yet vulnerable because she cares.  Although the serial killer taunting the cops with clues is old, fans will feel this predator is as amorally evil as Lector is.  The romance between the two cops adds depth to a strong tale that will frighten readers with what happens to the innocent young.

 

Harriet Klausner

Payback-Clare Curzon

August 16, 2008

Payback

Clare Curzon

Dunne, Oct 2008 $24.95

ISBN 9780312375317

 

The biker deliberately hits Warren Laing in front of the auction house run by Charles Hennigan.  The chief auctioneer visits the severely injured and fully bandaged comatose victim at the hospital and informs the police that he is his employee porter Sandy Craddock.  Meanwhile the real Sandy learning of the identity mistake believes he was the intended victim so he pretends to be his half-brother Warren.

 

Craddock moves into Laing’s luxurious flat figuring he is safe for now and can live off of his half brother’s affluence.  However, things spin further out of control when Fiona Morgan enters Laing’s bed where Craddock sleeps.  Fiona invites him to join her at an art course where she is the nude model even as she wonders why he seems to not care that his sibling lies in a coma; she still mourns her sister who died last year in an accident.  Things turn even nastier when his art class partner Rosa Burford is murdered.  When Rosa fails to show up for class, Thames Valley police led by Superintendent Mike Yeadings investigate.

 

This may be the best police procedural in this excellent long running series as the story line starts off seemingly to scatter in a zillion directions, but Mike Yeadings and his Thames Valley squad manage to methodically bring it into focus.  Readers will appreciate this strong entry as the Superintendent is more laid back than usual while his staff works the missing person’s case that keeps spinning into something new with each revelation.

 

Harriet Klausner