Archive for January, 2009

Corked by Cabernet-Michele Scott

January 27, 2009

Corked by Cabernet

Michele Scott

Berkley, Feb 2009, $7.99

ISBN: 9780425226445

In Napa Valley, Malveaux Estates manager Nikki Sands and owner Derek Malveaux are in love and plan to live together on the property. However, she is bit upset at a time she is overly busy to learn Derek’s gay brother Simon and his partner Mario have arranged for Guru Alan Sansi and his Source of Enlightened Elite (SEE) to conduct a seminar on the estate. Derek explains he needs the money while he also informs his beloved he is going to New York on business.

The SEE attendees arrive and Nikki realizes they have family conflict starting with the guru’s daughter Sierra and Japanese publisher Iwao Yamimoto who wants to become the SEE publisher and demands Alan look at a video he brought with him; Alan refuses. On the Napa Valley Wine Train, a drunken Sierra heads to the storage car to find more wine only to see the body of Iwao. Nikki contains the crime scene until Detective Jonah Robinson arrives. He warns her to not sleuth, but asks her to listen to the SEE members when they talk. She enlists Simon and Mario, but though Nikki tries to do no more than listen, she begins to sleuth.

Although the motive comes late and seems a bit weak, the latest Vintage Murder amateur sleuth (see MURDER UNCORKED and MURDER BY THE GLASS) is a lighthearted fun Napa Valley whodunit that goes well with red wine. The recurring cast is solid though Derek is conveniently across the country during the “not” investigation as he would have taken his beloved to task for her involvement. The SEE members especially the guru and his family are a fascinating crew as each has issues, especially the three adult children. Fans of the series will enjoy Nikki’s inquiry as she swears she is not investigating just assisting Robinson.

Harriet Klausner

Detachment Delta-Don Bendell

January 27, 2009

Detachment Delta

Don Bendell

Berkley, Mar 2009, $6.99

ISBN: 9780425224489

Lakota warrior Master Sergeant Charlie Strongheart is a member of the elite Delta Force Combat Applications Group (CAG). His current assignment is to assassinate a New York City cop on the streets of Manhattan. He succeeds in taking out James Rashad, but NYPD had a sting operation so the local police angrily capture Charlie as a cop killer. The cops are taken aback as they thought they were conducting surveillance of a drug deal, but are shocked to find a stinger missile inside Rashad’s vehicle. The next day Charlie is freed by the court.

The brass assigns Poke as Charlie is called by his unit with a dangerous mission. He and CAG “Funny Platoon” Sergeant First Class Fila Jannart, an Iranian-American, are to infiltrate Iran and terminate jihadist Davood Faraz Dabdeh, whose growing popularity alarms the Western intelligence agency as he claims Bin Laden is a coward and has no compunctions raping and killing female Muslims as well as any American. The difficulty of the mission is killing him without martyring him.

Don Bendell moves from his enjoyable Criminal Investigations Detachment series to the Delta Force CAG thriller, but retains the action-packed excitement while providing the audience intriguing background into his lead couple especially Charlie and what is even more fascinating is what occurs before a deployment. The story line is fast-paced from the New York scenario to the Fort Bragg gangbanging to Iran and never slows down while insuring Charlie and Fila are fully developed. Although a strong bias with an obvious good and bad characterization mindset leading to opposition characters like General Rozanski and the villains seem to be somewhat like caricatures with perversions, fans will relish DETACHMENT DELTA starring two real American heroes with intriguing deep rooted backgrounds especially the heroine.

Harriet Klausner

Death and the Crossed Wires-Linda Berry

January 26, 2009

Death and the Crossed Wires

Linda Berry

Five Star, Mar 2009, $25.95

ISBN: 9781594147470

The Ogeechee Baptist Church in Ogeechee, Georgia (population 3,000), has the flock excited that sixteen year old Crys Cleary is being baptized by the youth pastor Josh Easterling; even her grandfather Howard, who raised her, but is not noted for going to church, attends the ceremony. However, something happens and Josh falls into Baptistry. Bobby Turner takes charge of the scene until the EMT and cops respond. Josh is dead having been electrocuted by the microphone.

Police Chief Henry “Hen” Huckabee leads an investigation into what initially looks like a tragic accident. However, Officer Jerome Sharpe learns from his relative, an electrician that someone tampered with the device. The murder investigation makes no progress until Hen’s cousin Officer Trudy Roundtree suggests looking at the deaths of the teen’s parents and boyfriend.

This is an engaging small town Georgia police procedural in which the case goes nowhere beyond proving a homicide and not an accident occurred until Trudy persuades Hen to change the focus. The story line is action-packed but it is the cast starting with the police officer cousins, their family especially his mom-her aunt (no comment on nepotism), and the rest of the unit and the Ogeechee Baptist Church members that make the tale fun to read. They bring alive the eccentricity of a small town in which everyone seems to know everyone except someone has the dark secret of being a killer. The latest Hen-Trudy investigation (see DEATH AND THE FAMILY TREE and DEATH AND THE WALKING STICK) is an enjoyable Southern fried (literally) whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

The Hunted-Wayne Barcomb

January 26, 2009

The Hunted

Wayne Barcomb
Dunne, Apr 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312370756

The child witnessed the murder. She testified in court explaining what she saw that she knows will haunt her forever. The killer is convicted and sent to prison.

Eighteen years later, New York homicide detective Frank Russo is the lead investigator into the homicides of several people. His inquiry seems to go nowhere though he believes a serial killer is the culprit. Frank soon learns that a convicted murderer sentenced eighteen years ago was recently paroled. He begins to change his theory re the current killings and wonders if that freed convict is on a rampage leading him to the person who sent the killer to prison.

Frank is a fabulous cop struggling in his failed personal life as much as he struggles with a case that is going nowhere. In many ways the deranged killer steals the show from Frank as the audience sees first hand how the killer was an abuse victim and that person’s efforts to not give in to the obsession to kill again. As Frank follows the few clues, he remains clueless to the identity of the culprit who lives a normal middle class life even as the killer’s urging is to hunt down the cop chasing the killer. Though serial killer investigative thrillers have saturated the market, Wayne Barcomb’s fine tale is a refreshing police procedural mostly because of the hunter and the HUNTED.

Harriet Klausner

A False Dawn-Tom Lowe

January 26, 2009

A False Dawn

Tom Lowe

Minotaur (St. Martin’s), Apr. 2009, $24.95

ISBN 9780312379179

Widower homicide detective Sean O’Brien left the Miami police department after promising his beloved late wife Sherri in a death bed promise he would give up criminal investigations. Sean packed his bags and accompanied by his dachshund Maxine leaves Southern Florida for rural Volusia County near the St. John’s River.

He enjoys his quiet life with Max. One day while they hike through the nearby near

Ocala National Forest, he finds a badly battered Hispanic girl who he suspects was raped, dies in his arms. Volusia County PD detective Slater follows the book and considers the ex-cop as his prime suspect. Although he knows he is breaking his pledge to Sherri, Sean believes she would want him to investigate the homicide. His effort soon leads him to a Miami serial killer The Bagman, and with Police Detective Leslie Moor to human trafficking of migrant workers sold to the farms as slaves; to the pimps as hookers; or as cash crops harvesting organs to sell to transplant medical facilities.

This is an exciting investigative thriller starring a likable reluctant hero who enjoys his time away from the cement jungle, but feels a need to bring justice to the dead girl and to prove his innocence. The story line is action-packed though overwhelmed by the combo Bagman and slave trade; either would have sufficed. Still fans will enjoy Tom Lowe’s exhilarating human trafficking tale.

Harriet Klausner

Haunt of Murder-P.C. Doherty

January 26, 2009

Haunt of Murder

P.C. Doherty

Minotaur (St. Martin’s), Feb 2009, $24.95

ISBN 9780312359614


The travelers on their way to Canterbury stop at Maldon, Essex where rumors abound that ghosts and killers live. A debate breaks out whether there are spirits haunting the woods as some reject the concept of ghosts.


The Clerk of Oxford makes an anecdotal case in support of the paranormal. He tells the tale of his peer Ralph Mortimer the clerk of Ravenscroft who in 1381 was researching documents at Ravenscroft Castle in hopes of finding a clue that will lead him to Brythnoth’s legendary treasured jeweled cross. So far he has been unsuccessful. Meanwhile he, his fiancée Beatrice Arrowner and some friends were on the greens by the castle celebrating May Day. However, Beatrice apparently fell from a parapet to her death. Shattered, the despondent Ralph believes she was murdered though his friends insist a tragic accident occurred. He vows to find Beatrice’s killer, but he will soon learn there is more to life than death as his beloved is fighting evil demanding her soul while she waits for her beloved to uncover her killer.


Perhaps the lead author of the medieval mystery (besides the Canterbury Tales, there are also the tales starring the Royal Clerk Hugh Corbett and Brother Athelstan), P.C. Doherty provides another terrific entry in his homage to Chaucer. The story line provides a deep window into the late fourteenth century through the eyes of the travelers while the investigation looks into whether Beatrice died from an accident or a homicide is cleverly devised. Fans will enjoy the latest entry in this fine medieval mystery series with an apparent touch of the paranormal (see The Carpenter’s Tale: THE HANGMAN’S HYMN).


Harriet Klausner


Kaitlyn Wolfe Crown Attorney-Jacqui Morrison

January 25, 2009

Kaitlyn Wolfe Crown Attorney

Jacqui Morrison

Lachesis Publishing, Jul 2008, $14.95

ISBN: 1897370148

Kaitlyn Wolfe’s police officer father was murdered in the line of duty when she was a child; the case was never solved. Growing up as a First Nations child, Kaitlyn was the victim of racial bullies who assaulted her physically and verbally for having a different skin color. One incident as a teen taught her much about societal abuse; she nearly died from a racial drugging, but the culprit only received a slap on the wrist probation. Lesson learned is skin color is a major determination when it comes to not so color blind justice.

She vows these and other perpetrators of de facto racism should pay for the cost they cause to their victims. Thus she becomes a crown attorney prosecutor in Vaughan, Ontario. Kaitlyn is working two cases in which the defense attorney is Maxine “Barracuda” Swayman, who kept the person who almost killed her as a teen out of jail. They argue in court over a murder case and a armed robbery case when a link to her father’s homicide surfaces.

KAITLYN WOLFE CROWN ATTORNEY is an intriguing well written Canadian legal thriller that in many ways is a character study of a young woman overcoming much to be a success. The story line purposely uses coincidence to test the heroine’s conflicting resolve as she must decide between a not color blind justice system and her personal values; additionally Jacqui Morrison takes a strong stance, at times overwhelmingly in the reader’s face, re the harm racism does to everyone. Fans will appreciate the heroic Kaitlyn Wolfe who constantly strives to overcome inequality and de facto racism to be the fairest Canadian crown attorney.

Harriet Klausner

Deadly Secrets-Leeann Burke

January 25, 2009

Deadly Secrets

Leeann Burke

Lachesis Publishing, Dec 2008, $14.95

ISBN: 1897370695

On the same day of the funeral of George Lafrance, the police inform his ward Roxanne St-Claire that someone murdered him. As Father Joe conducts the ceremony, Roxanne notices a young man at the funeral whose looks makes him most likely her beloved late foster father’s grandson whom she never met.

Renowned reclusive author Philippe Lafrance is in shock not so much from the death of his grandfather, but from never knowing he had been alive. He understands why his matriarchal family hid his grandfather and other secrets he has recently learned from him in order to keep him safe. Philippe knows someone murdered his father and his grandfather; he is probably next on the list having shown up at the funeral announcing his heritage to this unknown predator. When he and Roxanne meet at the funeral, each is stunned by their attraction for the other. However, both recognize the need to ignore their desire as catching a killer comes first; for him it is a matter of preservation while for her it is in honor of her cherished mentoring foster parent.

The key to this excellent romantic amateur sleuth novel is that the fully developed lead characters never lose sight of what is critical: finding the culprit before he or she makes their attempt to kill Philippe; the romance takes a necessary back seat to the suspense. The support cast is solid as Philippe and Roxanne investigate each suspect to fathom who the killer is. Fans will appreciate Leann Burke strong thriller as the identity of the killer is in plain sight yet almost impossible to pick out of the usual suspects.

Harriet Klausner

Heart of Ice-Gregg Olsen

January 24, 2009

Heart of Ice

Gregg Olsen

Pinnacle Books, Mar 2009, $6.99

ISBN: 0786018313

Cherrystone, Washington sheriff Emily Kenyon investigates the murder of nine month pregnant Mandy Crawford whose husband Mitch, owner of a large car dealership, is her prime suspect. However, though she believes he killed his wife starting with her visit to the Crawford home just after he used bleach to clean their house, she lacks concrete evidence.

At the same time Mandy investigates the homicide; two men cause her extreme stress. First her former partner in the Seattle Police Department Chris Collier wants to marry her, but she has fears of commitment having failed at marriage once before; besides she worries about the impact a husband would have on her daughter Jenna. Serial killer Michael Barton is murdering sorority girls as he makes a cross country trip; his current target is Jenna.

HEART OF ICE is an intriguing police procedural mainly due to Michael whose history will fascinate the audience and bring him some empathy. He refreshes the typical serial killer theme, but also knowing him so well he makes him see less of a devil and more of a pathetic out of control human. Mandy is a terrific lead character worried about her daughter’s safety as Chris’ pressure becomes insignificant. Fans will enjoy the return to A COLD DARK PLACE.

Harriet Klausner

A Knife Edge-David Rollins

January 24, 2009

A Knife Edge

David Rollins

Bantam, Mar 2009, $25.00

ISBN: 0553805355

As the recovery ship Natusima waited, the Shinkai underwater research vessel is as deep any human had ever gone while exploring a Pacific trench off Japan. Dr. Hideo Tanaka and Professor Sean Boyle discover a frightening bacterium that each fear could devastate the planet. Soon afterward Tanaka is dead a victim of a shark attack.

Air Force Special Investigations Vincent Cooper is now assigned to the Department of Defense on DC. His on and off relationship with Anna Masters is off again as she feels he takes nothing serious; even when they worked together on THE DEATH TRUST case. However, he quickly found solace with a terific heated tryst with his superior officer, Lieutenant Colonel Clare Selwyn. The brass sends Vin to Japan to investigate the “accidental” death of the scientist. Before he finishes his Tanaka inquiry, as only the military could do he is assigned to investigate the parachute jump death of Master Sergeant Ruben “Wrong Way” Wright who became road kill in Florida; they served together in Afghanistan.

The frustrated Masters explains why the Vin Cooper CID procedurals are so much fun; he takes nothing serious as he quips and jokes even when facing deadly adversaries. In reality, Vin does believe his inquiries are usually important and tries to resolve them, but also feels strongly one can work diligently and hard, but have fun doing so. Fans will enjoy his antics in Japan, Florida and especially DC.

Harriet Klausner