Archive for December, 2008

Made to be Broken-Kelley Armstrong

December 31, 2008

Made to be Broken

Kelley Armstrong

Bantam, Mar 2009, $6.99

ISBN: 9780553588385

To finance her Red Oak Lodge in the Kawathas, two hours from Toronto, she is a part time hit-woman contracted mostly by the Tomassinis mob. Nadia Stafford’s partner on her current job is a Federal Agent, but Quinn sees that justice is done by playing vigilante. Nadia’s mentor in how to be a successful hit-woman is Jack, a mercenary for hire with few scruples.

When Nadia returns to her prime business she has a fight with her employee. Seventeen year old Sammi Ernst lives with her little daughter Destiny who accompanies her on her job. Sammi pays more attention to her child than her work so a frustrated Nadia explains her duties to the teen mother. When the mother and daughter vanish, Nadia searches for a grave. With Jack’s help she finds it, but Destiny remains missing. Since the cops believe Sammi ran away, they refuse to look for her. Nadia, Jack, and Quinn discover there are other crimes when a disenfranchised teenage mom with a baby disappears. Mindful of an incident in her past, Nadia wants to take out those who caused Sammi’s death and find the still missing infant. Jack and Quinn assist her on her avenging quest for justice.

Known for her Otherworld tales, Kelly Armstrong also writes exciting refreshing and enthralling sagas that are every bit as great as her urban fantasy sagas. The protagonist believes everyone she kills deserves their fate so when the Canadian legal system fails she becomes an avenging Lady Justice if the case is personal. However, she is not someone to role model after as she also kills in cold blood as a means of making money. Though not admirable, she is refreshing and fascinating as are her two cronies. MADE TO BE BROKEN is filled with twists and blind cul de sacs, but it is the lead trio especially the lodge owner who turn this into an entertaining thriller.

Harriet Klausner

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Rapid Descent-Gwen Hunter

December 30, 2008

Rapid Descent

Gwen Hunter

Mira, Feb 2009, $6.99

ISBN: 9780778326212

On their second honeymoon, Joe and Nell Stevens went whitewater rafting. A nasty accident left her with a concussion and injuries from head to toe. Joe simply vanished. She got help, but in spite of a major search they never found Joe. The lead police detective Nolan Lennox believes the widow got away with murder.

Seven years later, Nolan persuades his son Orson, also a cop, to investigate. His gut totally differ from his dad’s belief as he feels Nell is innocent watching her raise her son with love and run the rafting business she and Joe opened up together. When Joe’s corpse is found, his family makes noise that his black widow killed their son; her motive being his money. Even Orson begins to have doubts whether Nell is innocent.

RAPID DESCENT is a strong police procedural with a hint of romance between the lead cop and the prime suspect that is kept simmering for the most part, which augments the inquiry into whether she killed her spouse or not. The cast is strong especially the lead pair and their extended families who believe she is a cold blooded killer while the story line is faster than the whitewater rapids as Gwen Hunter provides no respite from her superb thrilling story line.

Harriet Klausner

The Prime Objective-Ginna Gray

December 30, 2008

The Prime Objective

Ginna Gray

Mira, Feb 2009, $6.99

ISBN: 9780778326205

Kate Mahaffey asks her ex husband CIA field agent Jackson Prime to come to Tralee as she needs his help. He translates that to mean she fears for her life. Still in love with Kate and knowing how calm she is in a crisis, Jackson takes her plea seriously and obtains time off from the agency during a case; he rushes back to keep Kate safe as he is very concerned about her.

Jackson learns some people are chasing after Kate though neither she nor he knows why. The only person in her circle, who might want to harm her, is her former brother-in-law, a nasty abuser. He also needs to know why she abruptly filed for divorce almost two years ago while he was in the field when he thought they were happily married for eight years. He hopes to have answers soon while keeping his beloved safe.

THE PRIME OBJECTIVE is an action-packed thriller starring two likable lead protagonists who confront external danger while having issues to resolve between them as they remain in love. The storyline is fast-paced from the moment Jack tells his handler Annie he is coming in from the cold to protect his ex and never slows down on either the suspense or romance fronts as Ginna Gray entertains sub-genre fans.

Harriet Klausner


The Little Sleep-Paul Tremblay

December 26, 2008

The Little Sleep

Paul Tremblay

Holt, Mar 3 2009, $14.00

ISBN: 0805088490

Eight years ago around the time he received his private investigators license, Mark Genevich was in a car accident. His friend George died and though he survived, he has suffered from narcolepsy ever since. That sleep disorder could prove too big a handicap for a sleuth, but the Southie has few clients and never does field work; his jobs are internet research.

Legs that stretch from Maine to South Boston arrive at his office. Jennifer Times, a contestant on a TV reality talent show and the daughter of Suffolk County DA Billy Times, wants Mark to uncover who stole her fingers; she leaves him with racy photos taken of her. When he awakens, he finds a note and the portfolio; so he goes to see her. She denies hiring him. Since Billy was a close friend of his late father, Mark visits the DA who insists the pictures are not his daughter. Soon afterward a frightened Brendan Sullivan, who lives in the same Cape Cod town as Mark’s widowed mom and was best buddies with his late dad Tim and Billy, calls to ask if he found what he was hired to find and to make sure he does not mention the pictures to anyone. Mark realizes Brendan not Jennifer is his client. He goes to see him, but fails to reach the man as the cops claim fiftyish Brendan committed suicide. The case is not closed as Mark’s home and office are trashed probably by Thumper and Thunder, goons of the DA.

This is an enjoyable Noir mindful of Insomnia while satirizing Chandler’s the Big Sleep. Mark’s little sleep that leaves him confusing realty with hallucinatory dreams makes the tale starting with his mixing up who the client is and his reality that he might have caused the death of Brendan. Though smoking and narcolepsy seems a dangerous combination, fans will enjoy this offbeat private investigative tale of a detective suffering from his own private South Boston.

Harriet Klausner


Grave Goods-Ariana Franklin

December 25, 2008

Grave Goods

Ariana Franklin

Putnam, Mar 2009, $25.95

ISBN 9780399155444

 

In 1176 during the reign of King Henry II, a fire causes damage to the holy Glastonbury Abbey.  After the flames are put out, an ancient box is found.  Inside are skeletal remains of a man and a woman.

 

King Henry II directs Adelia “Mistress of the Art of Death” Aguilar to investigate starting with identifying whose bones these are.  Everyone who knows of the discovery and how old the container has to be, prays the remains prove to be proof of Camelot; King Arthur and Queen Guinevere.  Adelia and her “forensic” support team (Mansur, Gyltha, and daughter Allie) begin their inquiry into who were buried in the coffin; each prays that their leader will be able to tell the ruler what he wants to hear, but Ariana’s crew knows she will tell the truth regardless of what they learn.

 

As with the two previous Aguilar medieval mysteries (see Mistress OF THE ART OF DEATH and THE SERPENT’S TALE) Ariana Franklin provides her audience with a blending of a Judith Tarr historical with a Kay Scarpetta forensics thriller.  The story line is fast-paced and clever with its Arthurian connection.  Adelia is a terrific lead character who leads the inquiry with a strong support squad in which they bring to life the court of King Henry II.  Sub-genre readers and Camelot fans will appreciate this entertaining who are they twelfth century detective story.

 

Harriet Klausner

Mrs. Jeffries in the Nick of Time-Emily Brightwell

December 25, 2008

Mrs. Jeffries in the Nick of Time

Emily Brightwell

Berkley, Mar 2009, $

ISBN: 9780425226780

 

A tea party is commencing at Humphrey House, but the owner of the place, train devotee Francis Humphreys fails to be with his guests.  Relatives and friends become concerned because he is a punctual person.  A knock on his door goes unanswered.  Recently Francis has been forgetful as if he was in an early stage of senility.  All talking at the party abruptly ends when a shot is heard.  Everyone rushes to Francis’ room where they find him dead, a bullet to his head.  They call the cops and Scotland Yard sends their top detective Inspector Witherspoon to investigate what looks like a suicide by a man losing his mind.

 

The Inspector is disgusted as he is stuck with as his assistant Inspector Niven’s’ nephew Lionel Gates; Witherspoon would rather have Constable Barnes whom he respects.  Still they interview the guests and investigate motives; most inherit part of Francis’ estate.  However opportunity remains elusive as every attendee had an alibi as all of them were in the drawing room together when the shot was heard.  Witherspoon’s housekeeper Mrs. Jeffries and the rest of the downstairs staff secretly investigate in hopes of finding clues to assist their kind employer and prevent a killer from murdering again.

 

Reading a Mrs. Jeffries Victorian whodunit is paraphrasing the Lays’ potato chip commercial you can’t read just one.  The latest case is a fabulous locked room police procedural with all the suspects providing alibis for one another as they were together having tea.  Witherspoon is as always solves the case, but is clueless that his housekeeping staff conducts an inquiry with the downstairs employed at Humphrey House.  Fans will enjoy this fine historical mystery that showcases how the police conduct an official investigation and how the amateur sleuths perform their version.

 

Harriet Klausner

A Darker Domain-Val McDermid

December 24, 2008

A Darker Domain

Val McDermid

Harper, Feb 2009, $24.95

ISBN 9780061688980

 

Michelle Gibson informs the Fife Police Department that her father Mick Prentice is missing; no one seems interested.  That changes when she mentions her dad vanished in 1984 during a miners’ strike. The Cold Case Review Team Detective Inspector Karen Pirie decides it is worth an inquiry and learns everyone assumed Mick went to Nottingham to find work as a scab, but never bothered to come back to the Fife area.

 

Wealthy Sir Broderick Maclennan Grant informs Karen that in 1985 his daughter Catriona and grandson Adam were kidnapped.  He tried to pay the ransom demand, but everything turned ugly; his daughter was murdered and his grandchild vanished.  He never gave up hope of finding Adam.  Karen has two missing persons’ cold cases to solve so family members can have closure.

 

This interesting Scottish cold case police procedural is filled with plenty of action as DI Price investigates the two missing persons mid 1980s cases.  The story line is fast-paced but lose some momentum and plausibility when the inquiries converge.  Though Dr. Tony Hill takes a needed breather, fans of Val McDermid will enjoy her latest mystery though most will have preferred two separate investigations.

 

Harriet Klausner


 

Murder in the Latin Quarter-Cara Black

December 24, 2008

Murder in the Latin Quarter

Cara Black

Soho, Mar 2009, $24.00

ISBN 9781569475416

 

In 1997 the world remains stunned with the recent death of Princess Di; especially shook is Paris where the car accident occurred.  Soon after the tragedy, illegal Haitian Mireille enters the office of private investigator Aimee Leduc proclaiming they are half sisters; having the same biological father Jean-Claude; her mother was tortured and murdered soon after giving birth by Duvalier’s thugs.  Aimee still grieving the recent death of her fiance (see Murder in the Rue de Paradis) needs to know if the woman is pulling a sham and why or is she telling her the truth.

 

Soon after her stunning proclamation, Mirelle vanishes.  She leaves behind an odd mysterious note with an address in the Latin Quarter.  Aimee goes there to learn what she can about her maybe half sister.  She finds the building houses an anatomy research facility that includes a corpse of a black male missing an ear who she learns is Professor Azacca Benot.  Others associated with the late professor are also murdered while a Haitian trade delegation argue over a water deal with a French company.

 

This is an excellent entry in one of the best series around as the tale plays out on multiple fronts to include the Mireille mystery, the impact of economic globalization colliding with post-colonial nationalism politics and their convergence at the homicide of a Haitian expatriate professor in the Left Bank.  The story line is vintage Leduc as she desperately seeks her missing maybe sister to learn whether they truly are siblings.  Though for the most par her sleuthing partner Rene plays an even lesser role than usual, Cara Black provides a strong look at late 1999s Paris where the past and the then present crash resulting in MURDER IN THE LATIN QUARTER.

 

Harriet Klausner

Hollywood Buzz-Margit Liesche

December 24, 2008

Hollywood Buzz

Margit Liesche

Poisoned Pen, Mar 2009

ISBN 1590585798

 

Having prevented a Nazi plot in Detroit (see LIPSTICK AND LIES) Women Air Force Service Pilot Pucci Lewis is assigned by her superior officer Miss C to go undercover at Fort Roach, a converted movie studio serving as the home base of the First Motion Picture Unit (FMPU).  The mission of the unit is to create training and propaganda films in support of the war.  Her official assignment is to replace injured pilot Frankie Beall whose job was to insure the movie makers treat the WASP with respect; however her real secret task is to investigate the suspicious plane crash in which veteran pilot Frankie was hurt in her life threatening crash.

 

Pucci works for producer Roland Novaro and quickly realizes female pilots are treated as a joke worse than her boss expected.  However what concerns Pucci more is the squabbling between the producer, the editor Rask and the abusive abrasive director Brody.  She also learns from airplane mechanic Mad Maxine Beacock that the plane the WASP pilot flew was deliberately sabotaged, but a cover-up has occurred though neither woman knows why.  Soon others are murdered including Brody as the cover-up turns deadly.

 

Paying homage to the WASP warriors, Margit Liesche writes an engaging WWII military mystery that provides a deep look at the female pilot corps and at Hollywood goes to war.  The whodunit hooks the audience as Pucci’s assignment changes from investigating sabotage probably by Nazis to a homicide inquiry.  She is a terrific lead as she holds the plot together.  However, the deep makes the tale refreshing as they bring to life the roles of women and Hollywood in the 1940s at a military base in the States.

 

Harriet Klausner

Murder in the Dark-Kerry Greenwood

December 24, 2008

Murder in the Dark

Kerry Greenwood

Poisoned Pen, Mar 2009

ISBN- 9781590584392

 

In Australia liberated Phryne Fisher enjoys Christmas 1928 with her significant other Lin Chung and her family.  Scandalous acquaintances from Paris, the Golden Twins Isabella and Gerald Templar, have invited her to the Last Best party of 1928, a four-day affair at Werribee Manor house.

 

Phryne considers declining the invitation until she receives letters and a Christmas present containing a poisonous snake in the post that threaten her if she attends.   No one scares Phryne away so she goes to the gala.  At the party, hashish and alcohol flow freely and she meets an odd collection of people including a bad-mannered child Tarquin who soon afterward vanishes without a trace.  Two more people disappear with puzzle clues left behind.  As Phryne and Nicholas Booth, who she has just met and believes is an undercover cop, investigates, she realizes someone has been hired to assassinate the sibling hosts. 

 

No one messes with kick butt Phryne whether it is threatening her by post, behaving boorishly towards her at a party, or committing murder.  She is at her best in this pre-Depression Era Australian whodunit as her sleuthing partner Nicholas brings out her strengths.  The mystery is cleverly devised with solid twists and the roaring cast fits the decadent 1920s.  Fans will enjoy Phryne’s latest caper as once again Kerry Greenwood provides her readers with a deep look at a bygone era Down Under inside of a rousing investigative thriller.

 

Harriet Klausner