Archive for November, 2008

Death of a Witch-M.C. Beaton

November 30, 2008

Death of a Witch

M.C. Beaton

Grand Central, Feb 2009, $24.99

ISBN: 0446196134

 

After heeding the advice of his friend to go abroad on his vacation, police constable Hamish Macbeth returns from a cheap off season holiday in Spain to his home village Lochdubhof in the Scottish Highlands. All he can think of is breathing Scotland’s air after a boring disappointing trip to the southern part of the Iberian Peninsular.

 

However, in his short time as a stranger in a strange land, Macbeth finds the village males acting even stupider than normal, which in the cop’s mind would have been impossible as stupid male is an oxymoron.  Newcomer Catriona Beldame seems to own the men as if she cast a bewitching spell on them.  She sells them elixirs that she claims cure all sorts of sexual malfunctions.  Macbeth learns of her dishonest past and warns her if she is peddling illegal concoctions he will get her.  Just after Macbeth foolishly in public proclaims he wants to kill the flimflam con artist someone takes his threat to heart killing Beldame and burning down her residence.  Knowing Inspector Blair will gleefully make him a prime suspect, Macbeth investigates, but is taken aback by the murders of three more women and a female not under investigation who has him distracted with thoughts of a kiss.

 

The latest Macbeth police procedural (see DEATH OF A GENTLE LADY) is a terrific whodunit as the hero will shock his fans with the key relationship question to ask or not to ask as Hamish meets women who are not suspects.  Filled with the usual humor, DEATH OF A WITCH is a delightful Scottish charmer that works on the investigative level as much as on the personal level.  M.C. Beaton provides her usual superior tale with the king of obstinacy Macbeth diligently working a homicide while pondering the foreign concept of romantic thoughts.

 

Harriet Klausner

Lethal Legacy-Linda A. Fairstein

November 29, 2008

Lethal Legacy

Linda A. Fairstein

Doubleday, Jan 2009, $26.00

ISBN: 0385523998

 

Manhattan’s Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cooper convinces librarian Tina Barr to go to the hospital after a thief masquerading as a firefighter assaults the woman in her East Side apartment.  Soon after Tina disappears without medical treatment; a female corpse appears in her abruptly abandoned apartment.

 

The dead body resembles Tina’s affluent landlady Minerva Hunt, but she discovered the corpse of her Romanian housekeeper Karla Vastasi.  Alex and her NYPD Police Detective partner Mike Chapman investigate the Hunt family and Barr learning that the latter used to work for Minerva’s father Jasper, a rare book bibliophile and ardent collector of priceless maps.  The inquiry leads to the rare book and map collection of the New York Public Library, who has had valuable items stolen and vanishing into private collections, but Mike and Coop know to stay focused though the thefts are more fascinating.

 

The New York Public Library depth brings freshness to the latest Coop legal investigative thriller.  The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down as the heroine who some insist “walk on bottled water” and her cohort follow the clues into the library.  Readers will appreciate this strong entry which also sets up a cold case as number twelve for the intrepid Alex to investigate.

 

Harriet Klausner

Whisper No Lies-Cindy Gerard

November 28, 2008

Whisper No Lies

Cindy Gerard

Pocket, Jan 2009, $6.99

ISBN: 9781416566755

 

On the Vegas Strip, Crystal Debrowski works security at Bali Hai Casino.  Her job is made harder because as her friend Abbie Hughes Lang puts it she is a “man magnet” due to her looks although she rejects all offers.  Her latest admirer Yao Long refuses to accept her declination of a sexual encounter.  The Asian crime lord pulls strings, which leads to Crystal’s arrest based on her employer accusing her of stealing by substituting counterfeit chips and other security glitches; all occurring during her shifts as security game manager; Yao pays her bail.

 

Abbie knows Crystal is innocent and asks her spouse Sam and his cronies at Black Ops Inc (see TAKE NO PRISONERS) to help her friend.  Before he can react, Yao’s goons abduct Crystal taking her to his base in Jakarta.  BOI agents led by before Texan Johnny Duane Reed mount a rescue.  As they learn of Yao’s human trafficking to include the apparent sale of an American general’s daughter, Yao as belied by his Komodo dragon heart belief vows a fiery vengeance on those who affronted his honor.

 

This action-packed BOI romantic suspense thriller focuses on the entire amoral supply and demand of human trafficking as sexual slaves are a high selling commodity more than even the romance subplot.  The story line is fast-paced from the onset while the key cast is fully developed.  Especially interesting is Yao who believes strongly in his dragon heart that regular humans are inferior cattle to him.  WHISPER NO LIES is a strong entry with a powerful deep focus on a currently thriving even with bad global economy abomination.

 

Harriet Klausner

 

Death at a Discount-Sharon Dunn

November 28, 2008

Death at a Discount

Sharon Dunn

Multnomah, Jan 20 2009, $12.99

ISBN: 9781590526910

 

Accompanied by her husband Earl, Bargain Hunters Network guru Ginger Solinaski and her friend BHN member Suzanne Thames travel from their hometown Three Horses, Montana to Denver because the two females will appear as guests on the Discount and Value Network. The hostess Stephanie expected to work their show fails to arrive while another Candace demands her coveted spot.  A snowstorm strands everyone at the studio and its adjacent warehouse while the two BHN members become separated after Suzanne compulsively slips into a buying binge.

 

While Ginger worries about Suzanne praying to God to protect her, the latter is caught outside in the cold where she finds a corpse.  With the power gone, Ginger finds Earl’s pepper spray flashlight handy especially after she notices blood on a cart.  When Candace is found murdered too Ginger fears for the safety of her still missing friend and begins to wonder who the killer is.

 

This engaging entry combines a couple of apropos timely messages that in bad economic times and when one errs God is still there.  The cozy story line moves a bit slow as much of the action occurs off page.  However fans will appreciate the latest BHN inspirational amateur sleuth (see DEATH OF A GARAGE SALE NEWBIE and DEATH OF A SIX-FOOT TEDDY BEAR) even if only two of the four protagonists made it to Denver and they are in separate subplots for much of the tale as their friendship shines throughout. 

 

Harriet Klausner

 

Fed Up-Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant

November 28, 2008

Fed Up

Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant

Berkley, Feb 2009, $$23.95

ISBN: 9780425225981

 

Chloe Carter’s boyfriend Josh is competing with two other chefs to win a slot on a new eight part TV cooking show.  To win the contest he has to star in three episodes of Chefly Yours (as does his rivals) cooking meals for supermarket customers selected randomly by the show’s producer.  When the nine shows air, the audience will vote on who will star as the chef of the new series.

 

Josh has to cook meals for Leo the vegetarian and his wife Francie who is a meat eater.  Challenged, by the herbivore-carnivore couple, Josh makes his selection and goes to their home to prepare their repast.  While dining, Francie dies on camera; others who took bites of her meal get ill.  Someone sprinkled the food with digitalis from the foxglove plant.  In between coordinating her best friend’s wedding and working for her parents while grad school is out for the summer, Chloe investigates the murder.

 

The latest “Gourmet Girl Mystery” (see TURN UP THE HEAT, SIMMER DOWN and STEAMED) is a delicious entry filled with action and plenty of humor.  The whodunit is clever as there are many suspects who had opportunity and Chloe realizes what their motives are.  When the killer is revealed this will make total sense to the reader as being obvious yet it is almost impossible to pick out the perp during the course of the story..  The spunky heroine is the obvious master chef keeping the story line focused while the strong support cast adds depth to a tasty amateur sleuth.

 

Harriet Klausner

Murder Game-Christine Feehan

November 28, 2008

Murder Game

Christine Feehan

Jove, Jan 2009, $7.99

ISBN: 9780515145809

 

Tansy Meadows knows her psychic gift is a two edged sword as has used it to help the police track down murderers especially serial killers, but also has left her alone as even a simple handshake causes problems.  Recently injured on a climb, she told authorities she lost her skill.  FBI GhostWalker Kadan Montague had heard of her when he was training at Quantico and she was a teen.  Now he needs her ability to locate serial killers playing a coastal deadly competitive game in which he believes a ghost walker is involved; perhaps two of them one on each side.

 

He finds her sleeping naked in an isolated field.  When he grabs her, she is shocked her mental skills to cause pain fail her.  Reluctantly Tansy agrees to assist him in ending the lethal competition although she hides her bet with herself that she will not come out of this one sane.

 

This is a refreshing Ghost Walker entry due to the lead couple and their telepathic romance and the killing teams with their apparently paranormal specialists in spite of The MURDER GAME concept not being new (see Barton’s DYING GAME).  The story line cleverly compares the growing love between Kadan and Tansy and the horrific violent homicidal hunts.  With the return of couples from previous tales in the saga, fans will enjoy this strong thriller while wondering whether ghost hunters lead the predators and will Kadan say those three words to Tansy; assuming they survive the game they entered not meaning to be the prey.

 

Harriet Klausner

Drood-Dan Simmons

November 27, 2008

Drood

Dan Simmons

Little Brown, Feb 2009, $26.99

ISBN: 0316007021

 

As novelist Wilkie Collins narrates on 9 June 1865, fifty three years old Charles Dickens accompanied by his secret mistress takes the train from Folkestone to London.  In their car were three people, Charles, Ellen Tiernan and her mother.  However, near the Stapelhurst railroad viaduct, a human error leads to the destruction where a bridge was under repair.  Dickens and the Tiernan female pair survive.

 

Dickens tries to help others though it looks hopeless.  Amidst the carnage, he meets another apparent survivor, morbid Edwin Drood, who survived the ordeal due to his traveling inside a coffin.  Drood vanishes while Dickens follows his trail to the nastiest decadent side of London.  As Collins continues his account, he wonder if Drood ever existed and whether Dickens made him to cover nefarious dealings.

 

This is an excellent historical thriller that looks closely at the last few years of Dickens’ life using the unfinished final novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood and other historical facts as a basis for this wonderful account.  The story line grips the audience from Collins’ opening monologue and never slows down with readers scrutinizing clues throughout as to whether Dickens’ lost his mind, concealed his activities with the invention of Drood as the narrator believes, or if Drood lived.  Dan Simmons is at his best with this insightful psychological Victorian thriller.

 

Harriet Klausner

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine-Lauren Willig

November 27, 2008

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine

Lauren Willig

Dutton, Feb 2009, $25.95

ISBN 9780525950967

 

After spending over a decade in India, Robert Lansdowne returns home to Sussex in 1803 to invesitgate the murder of his mentor at the Battle of Assaye.  The duke’s plan is simple; he will go undercover by joining the notorious Hellfire Club where he thinks he can begin to track down the killer, espionage agent Arthur Wrothan.

 

However, Robert failed to consider one problem with his perfect plot.  His cousin a zillion times removed Lady Charlotte Lansdowne has made him the hero of her romantic dreams that she reads in the novels.  He was there when she became an orphaned child and she wants him there as her beloved husband.  In spite of kisses that inflame his desire, Robert begins his quest only to have Charlotte join him over his objection and together they get embroiled in a seditious anti royal scheme.

 

As with the previous Pink Carnation tales Harvard graduate student Eloise Kelly doing her research uncovers the latest account of a Napoleonic Era female spy while having a romantic interlude with host executor Colin Selwick.  Though this reviewer has found Eloise’s modern day piece unnecessary but well written, fans will see how far she has come from Massachusetts (see THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE PINK CARNATION).  However, the tale belongs to Charlotte as her adventures in espionage and in love are not anywhere near the romantic images she has of both.  Fans will enjoy  this fine historical undercover romance even without a flowery title (see THE MASQUE OF THE BLACK TULIP, THE SEDUCTION OF THE CRIMSON ROSE and THE DECEPTION OF THE EMERALD RING) as the real human Robert falls off the pedestal in the eyes of his spying associate even as their love blossoms.

 

Harriet Klausner

 

A Darker Place-Jack Higgins

November 27, 2008

A Darker Place

Jack Higgins

Putnam, Feb 2009, $26.95

ISBN 9780399155505

 

A former paratrooper who fought in Afghanistan and Chechnia, internationally renowned Russian novelist Alexander Kurbsky decides to leave his homeland for the West, but believes his fame might prevent him from staying abroad.  Thus, Kurbsky asks Sean Dillon and his associates who make up the British prime minister’s “private army”  to abet his escape to freedom.

 

Prime Minister Putin warns Kurbsky about betraying his country and blackmails the author into spying on Dillon and his comrades by showing him pictures of his sister Tania, who he thought was murdered during a student protest that turned ugly; the photos prove Tania lives for now and will be paroled from her life sentence if he cooperates.  Dillon and his girlfriend Lady Monica Sterling, a big fan of Kurbsky especially On the Death of Men and Moscow Nights, welcome the noted author to London.  There he infiltrates the “private army” that welcomed him to England in an attempt to rescue his sibling from incarceration.

 

The latest former IRA operative turn British agent Sean Dillon thriller (see THE KILLING GROUND and  ROUGH JUSTICE) is a superb entry as he, Monica and the others are totally fooled by Kurbsky.  The story line is fast-paced and filled with action even when the plot uses enlightening flashbacks.  Fans will relish A DARKER PLACE although the climax feels sudden and faster than the speed of light.

 

Harriet Klausner

Among the Mad-Jacqueline Winspear

November 27, 2008

Among the Mad

Jacqueline Winspear

Holt, Feb 2009, $25.00

ISBN 9780805082166

 

On Christmas Eve 1931, Psychologist and Investigator Maisie Dobbs and her assistant Billy Beale, having finished a report for a client, are strolling on a London street to deliver their findings when another pedestrian detonates a bomb.  He dies while Maisie is slightly injured, Billy is okay physically because Maisie seeing something off kilter with the culprit told him to head back to the office, which he started to do until the explosion.

 

The next day the Office of the  Prime Minister receives the first of several threatening letters warning of terrorist activity; this note also contains the name of Maisie Dobbs.  She joins a government investigation team trying to find the anonymous writer and prevent the threatened attacks.

 

This is a terrific Dobbs entry that as usual brings alive London at a time when the Great Depression is causing global havoc.  Maisie is terrific as an early psychological profiler though some of her descritpors are based on hunches as no validated database yet exists.  More a thriller than an investigative tale, series fan will enjoy the latest Maisie Dobbs psychological sleuthing case (see PARDONABLE LIES and AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE).

 

Harriet Klausner