Archive for April, 2009

The Secret Speech-Tom Rob Smith

April 30, 2009

The Secret Speech

Tom Rob Smith

Grand Central, May 2009, $24.99

ISBN: 9780446402408

In 1956 at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev claims Stalin was too paranoid leading to unnecessary fears throughout the country. He wants to loosen the controls so people can breathe without fear of being sent to a Gulag. However, THE SECRET SPEECH gets out and soon angry people retaliate against those who harmed family; mostly security officers.

One of those who know he deserves assaults from those harmed is former MGB security officer Leo Demidov. He hopes his work as a homicide detective will give him some redemption, but he also believes he cannot ever make up for the atrocities he committed or allowed. Still using the success of catching a serial killer (see CHILD 44), he obtains official blessing to form a homicide police unit. As his peers from the Stalin days of torture commit suicide rather than face vigilante justice, Fraera the wife of a priest Leo sent to Siberia, abducts his daughter Zoya as a hostage and informs the cop release her spouse from the gulag or have his child returned dead.

Based on a real event that Gorbachev acknowledged in 2007 was the first courageous step away from Stalin’s brutal totalitarian reign, THE SECRET SPEECH is a great Soviet historical police procedural. The cast is strong especially the remorseful hero whose beloved daughter has become a pawn in a dangerous game and his and outraged enemy. As with the CHILD 44 case, Tom Rob Smith provides a deep Cold War era mystery in which 1950s Soviet Russia is the star; as readers will travel on frozen solid prison ships and underground Moscow to see a side of the nation the Communists hid.

Harriet Klausner


The Bone Factory-Nate Kenyon

April 30, 2009

The Bone Factory

Nate Kenyon

Leisure, Jul 2009, $7.99

ISBN: 0843962879

Worried for the future especially their daughter Jessie, David and Helen Pierce are reaching the bottom of their savings. He is currently tring to get work having quit his last job when his superior stole his ideas without giving him any credit; his supervisor’s boss sided against David so he left. In retaliation they blacklisted him as a malcontent in the industry; no one will hire him due to the lies.

Hydro Development is building a hydroplant in an isolated area of Quebec. Michael Olmsted interviews and hires David for the position of completing the plan and overseeing the development of the reservoir in tiny Jackson. David and his family relocate to Jackson in the winter so can do little on the project. Jessie is clairvoyant, but her parents are in denial unable to accept the paranormal especially with their child. They soon learn the house they currently reside in, once had a little girl who just vanished without a trace; as did one of the searchers. Jessie and David see a shadow being, but both assume it is their active imagination while Helen fears she is being watched by a stalker though she sees no one. None of them understands the danger they face while a local deputy sheriff has stumbled onto a horrific site in the nearby woods that unless a miracle occurs could be the next stop for the Pierce trio.

There is a growing sense of foreboding as animals and fish look strange and a psychotic person disappears. Jessie’s visions increase that feeling as the reader senses like she does something is coming for her. As the Pierces put together the puzzle pieces, their chances of survival decreases; their only hope to get out alive is if David can find the missing links that relate the incidents to the project. Fans will enjoy Nate Kenyon’s creepy horror thriller as the next stop for the Pierce family appears to be a one way ticket to hell.

Harriet Klausner

Murder Takes the Cake-Evelyn David

April 29, 2009

Murder Takes the Cake

Evelyn David

Echelon, May 1 2009, $13.99

ISBN: 1590806182

One week before Thanksgiving DC private investigator Mac Sullivan, a loner except for Whiskey the dog, finds his world upside down since Sullivan and Company has “grown”. First, his business is in trouble needing paying customers not just bartering clients. Second, his assistant twenty-two years old Juliana “JJ” Jarrett and his elderly ailing researcher Edger are driving him crazy. Finally there is divorcee single mom Rachel Brenner who works at a funeral home and whom he is attracted to and believes she reciprocates his feelings, but he has no idea how to act on a date.

Now his about to marry goddaughter, Boston reporter Bridget O’Herlihy, visits him asking for his help as she swears someone is trying to kill her. Although he doubts this is the case, he takes the threat seriously and sends his team out on assignments. Soon the corpses pile up while the groom and his family insist she is being a drama queen; at a time her dad Jeff wonders who stole caskets from his funeral home. Mac, JJ, Edger, Rachel and Whiskey keep digging looking for the ties that bound everyone involved.

The second Murder Takes (see MURDER OFF THE BOOKS) is an amusing cozy starring an ensemble cast of eccentrics. The story line is fast-paced while containing two mysteries tied to death (corpses and coffins are like peanut butter and jelly), a maybe romance, enemy canine-feline, an out of control wedding plan, and junk cars. The characters make for a fun lighthearted frolic as Evelyn David proves in deed MURDER TAKES THE CAKE.

Harriet Klausner

No Warriors, No Glory-Harold Coyle

April 29, 2009

No Warriors, No Glory

Harold Coyle

Forge, May 12 2009, $25.95

ISBN: 0765318970

US Army Captain Nathan Dixon is still limping from his war injuries and suffering nightmares as he does a tour at the pentagon. Colonel Kaplan reminds him that the army runs on Vince Lombardi Standard time, which means “if you’re on time, you’re late” before Dixon meets with the Chief of Staff General Stevens, who adds him on to his staff at a time when the army struggles with two brutal wars and radical transformation.

Nathan is assigned to review a friendly fire incident. Having been in combat, he understands the harrowing chaotic fog of war leads to mistakes in spite of the military emphasis to eliminate these deadly errors; he also knows his probe is not to pin accountability in order to punish someone, but to determine the cause, ascertain if it is systemic, and come up with CALL lessons learned to remove any future errors. The incident was caused by an unmanned ground combat vehicle (UGV) during a test; a type of war machine he does not know anything about. He obtains an education on vested interests as the C.O. knows his career is teetering; the manufacturer contractor does not want production on hold as he will be unemployed; and the victim’s peers prefer to conceal the truth mostly Dixon assumes out of fear of retaliatory ends to their careers. Dixon understands his mission is to uncover the truth, but no one cooperates.

This is a terrific timely look at the modern army through the eyes of a career officer still suffering from PTSD whose current assignment is more difficult in many ways than combat because his brothers and sisters in arms do not want to talk. Fans will make comparisons to the Pat Tillman tragedy that raised awareness of friendly fire incidents, but Dixon’s case is different as this inquiry is into a training event involving drones. This super military investigative thriller provides a powerful glimpse at the modern military in which increasingly means NO WARRIORS, NO GLORY or salutes to Congressional Medal of Honor recipients.

Harriet Klausner

6 Killer Bodies-Stephanie Bond

April 29, 2009

6 Killer Bodies

Stephanie Bond

Mira, Jun 2009, $7.99

ISBN: 9780778327073

In Atlanta the police arrest body mover Cooper Craft accusing him of being The Charmed Killer. As women feel safer going outside, his friend Carlotta Wren thinks the cops made a big error as she feels her former working peer Michael Lane is the serial killer.

Police detective Jack Terry agrees with Carlotta’s assessment that the wrong man is in custody, but has doubts about Lane being the killer. Carlotta investigates, which enables her to ignore the other two men in her life, her brother Wesley who seems to land in one dire strait after another and her former fiancé, Peter Ashford, who wants a second chance though he dumped her when she was down and seemingly out for the count. Cooper is out on bail but required to wear a GPS ankle bracelet. He removes the tracking device and vanishes, which enforces the opinion he is the Charmed Killer.

The full focus on the sixth Body Movers’ thriller is The Charmed Killer, which will keep readers focused on the story line; as the sidebar distractions of 4 and 5 are avoided. Instead, Stephanie Bond provides her fans with a terrific entry as increasingly with every discovery Carlotta makes, Cooper is guilty; his fleeing the coop just adds to the overwhelming proof. 6 KILLER BODIES is a strong entry in the Body Movers’ saga.

Harriet Klausner

Thriller 2: Stories You Just Can’t Put Down-Clive Cussler (editor)

April 29, 2009

Thriller 2: Stories You Just Can’t Put Down

Clive Cussler (editor)

Mira, Jun 2009, $24.95

ISBN: 9780778327233

The twenty three tales included in this collection are for the most part excellent and timely. The anthology opens with Jeffery Deaver’s “The Weapon” focusing on torture while Lisa Jackson’s “Vintage Death” contains several terrific thriller twists. “The Circle” by David Hewson will indirectly remind readers of the London bombings as a pregnant woman riding the tube hears a passenger mumbling “They will remember my name.” Marcus Sakey’s “The Desert Here and the Desert Far Away” examines how strong the bond the band of brothers forged in the battlefields of the Iraq War survives once everyone is stateside. Gary Braver’s “Ghost Writer” was once a famous novelist, but now writes stories for other people to “author” as that pays better though leaves him depressed. Finally with Carla Neggers, Joan Johnston, Robert Ferrigno, Jon Land, R.L. Stine, and Lisa Jackson amongst others contributing, THRILLER 2 lives up to its subtitle of “stories you can’t put down”.

Harriet Klausner

The Drowning River-Kim Byrne

April 28, 2009

The Drowning River

Kim Byrne

Five Star, Jun 2009, $25.95

ISBN: 9781594147692

Elise Moloney attends graduate school as an English major at Whitman on the Cape on a full scholarship. A student in her first class stares at her and afterward introduces himself as Parker Reilly before blurting out he thought she was dead. Later he shows her a picture from last year’s undergraduate yearbook of a deceased student Hannah McPhee who looks like Elise’s twin. She learns Hannah died when she fell off a bridge while drunk into the Drowning River

Accompanied by her sex is everything roommate Kat Herrerra, Elise returns home to nearby Hingham to ask her parents if she had a sister that they failed to adopt like they did her. They are stunned saying no, but her mom says if they knew they would have wanted both siblings. Elise investigates what happened to her sibling as Parker’s roomie Robbie DeLuca insists Heather was pushed. Meanwhile her attraction to Parker grows even as she knows she owes her former fiancé Nick Carrano more than just the letter she sent him ending their relationship. As she digs deeper, someone warns Elise that if she does not back off her parents will die. Being a coward, she wants to quit but even the cowardly lion finds courage to continue the trek.

Although a bit slow at first, this is a fun amateur sleuth cozy starring a likeable heroine who is in shell shock for most of the tale as she leaves her comfort zone to investigate her dead twin, her biological background, and love. While the cast is solid, Elise is fabulous as she accepts she is a coward yet does what she feels she must do. She reacts perfectly to revelations about a previously unknown twin and her avaricious biological mom. Although the killer will be quite a shocker, the culprit makes sense providing complete closure to the story line. Fans will enjoy this entertaining Massachusetts cozy.

Harriet Klausner

Lust, Loathing and a Little Lip Gloss-Kyra Davis

April 28, 2009

Lust, Loathing and a Little Lip Gloss

Kyra Davis

Mira, Jun 2009, $13.95

ISBN: 9780778327363

A decade has passed since mystery writer Sophie Katz saw her slimy former spouse Scott Colvin. However to her shock, she runs into him at an open house in the Marina District where a $1.4-million fixer-upper is up for sale. Her initial reaction is someone spiked her frap. Her second thought comes when Scott offers his ex a sweetheart deal; which she knows means he is hiding something from her because Scott Colvin means trouble for anyone who ventures within a kilometer of his sphere.

The Victorian house is owned by Oscar Crammer, who insists his place is haunted and is willing to let it go for practically nothing. Scott takes Sophie to the mansion where they find the house haunted by the corpse of Oscar. The late owner’s son Kane also believes the house is haunted and agrees to honor his father’s price quote on the stipulation that Sophie join the San Francisco Specter Society to help him contact his father’s ghost. Amateur sleuth Sophie and her private investigator boyfriend Anatoly Darinsky, hired by the victim’s estranged wife to prove she did not kill him, think the house is haunted by humans and set out to prove the bumps in the night are mortal as is the killler

This is an amusing lighthearted investigative murder mystery that will hook the audience on two levels. First spunky Sophie is super as she takes San Francisco while providing her first person perspective which includes plenty of in your face comments. Second is the cleverly designed séance-homicide that turns out to be a locked room murder. Kyra Davis writes a terrific whodunit starring an amateur sleuth filled with lust for her boyfriend, loathing for her ex, and needing a little lip gloss for her boyfriend.

Harriet Klausner

Red Hot Lies-Laura Caldwell

April 28, 2009

Red Hot Lies

Laura Caldwell

Mira, Jun 2009, $7.99

ISBN: 9780778326502

In Chicago, Pickett Enterprises top entertainment lawyer twenty-nine year old Isabel “Izzy” McNeil is doing great at the job due to her spunky optimistic approach and more so because client Forester Pickett likes her so he gives her his thriving business. However, unlike her professional life, normally energetic Izzy is losing it as her marriage to Sam Hollings is coming soon.

The same day that Pickett dies from a heart attack, Sam vanishes with thirty million dollars in stock in a Panamanian real estate venture. The police want to question Sam, as the last person to be known to have been with Pickett before he died. Her relationships with both men make Izzy a prime suspect in the missing bonds and in Pickett’s death. As the FBI searches for Sam and they and the CPD stake out Izzy, she begins an investigation into her fiancé’s wherebouts scooting on her Vespa on the mean streets of Chicago.

Izzy tells much of the exciting story line as she bikes along the Windy City seeking clues to the whereabouts of her missing fiancé and to solve who committed the murder. However as she “joy” rides through the city, enough law enforcement types to fill Wrigley and thugs to fill U.S. Cellular Field (or is that the New Comiskey Park) follow her. Fans will enjoy this entertaining amateur sleuth as somehow everything converges on Iz who could use a day off; just not in jail.

Harriet Klausner

The Lord of Death-Eliot Pattison

April 26, 2009

The Lord of Death

Eliot Pattison

Soho, Jun 2009, $24.00

ISBN 9781569475799

In China former Beijing investigator Shan Tao Yun learned the hard way about being too diligent pursuing corruption in the highest levels of the government as he was not only fired he was exiled to a Tibetan gulag. An elderly wise-woman orders him to take a corpse across the state’s highest peak Chomolungma because the Gods selected him. As he treks with a mule carrying the body, Shan comes across an overturned bus filled with outlawed Buddhist monks that was knocked over by an avalanche. Within moments, he hears gunfire. Two people in a car are killed; one is China‘s minister of tourism and the other blond American Megan Ross.

Shan is arrested, but convinces the investigator of his innocence. Soon afterward Colonel Tan is arrested. Shan was hoping Tan would intervene to rescue his enslaved son, Shan Ko from a “yeti factory” where workers die rather quickly that is if they remain sane long enough to die. Shan must find the killer to free his offspring, but the officials insist Ross is alive though she died in Shan’s arms.

The latest Shan Chinese mystery (see PRAYER OF THE DRAGON and BONE MOUNTAIN) is a superb investigative thriller because the strong insistence by officials and witnesses hamper the lead protagonist’s inquiry. Ironically he is the last witness to see the woman alive, but his testimony is ignored because he is in official exile and to insure that Beijing is pleased with the results. Fans will enjoy Shan’s desperate probe as he knows his son’s mind at a minimum and more likely his life is at stake as no one leaves the factory the same way they entered; this indirect condemnation of Chinese manufacturing using enslaved labor to punish as well as undercut global competition enhances a great investigative tale.

Harriet Klausner