Archive for June, 2009

The Siege-Stephen White

June 25, 2009

The Siege

Stephen White

Dutton, Aug 4 2009, $25.95

ISBN: 9780525951223

At Yale University, a group serendipitously assaults a building housing a secret society.  The assault team easily takes over the edifice holding a number of students who include some offspring of VIPs as prisoners.  The invaders turn the complex into an impregnable stronghold.

Slowly Yale officials realize something has happened on the campus.  They call in law enforcement who tries to make contact with the hostage holders.  However, those in charge inside make no demands what so ever and ignore efforts to negotiate with them.  They randomly murder some of the victims and release others for no apparent reason.  Suspended Boulder, Colorado police officer Sam Purdy, FBI agent Christopher Poe and CIA terror expert Deirdre Drake unite trying to break the enigmatic code of the terrorists.

This is a brilliant super hostage thriller that makes the case that terrorists learn lessons from each assault making the next one more efficient and perhaps effective; unless the countering law enforcement also learns by  extrapolating from the current attack to prevent the next.  Fans will be hooked from the moment the assault team takes over the building and wonder what they want and how they choose who dies.  THE SIEGE is a terrific timely thriller that reminds the audience diligence is everyone’s job whether it is knowing a lone wolf is going to mete justice to an abortion doctor or a group burning down a religious facility as everyone is under siege when we remain silent until after the incident and claim non mea culpa

Harriet Klausner

I Can See You-Karen Rose

June 24, 2009

I Can See You

Karen Rose

Grand Central, Aug 5 2009, $18.99

ISBN: 9780446538343

In Minneapolis Eve Wilson survived the violent assault that left her face paralyzed, external scars removed by plastic surgery, and emotional wounds not healed (see DON’T TELL).  She hides in the web world making friends there while working on her graduate school thesis re virtual communities can help people emotionally heal.  Eve has constructed a website Shadowland to help people like her.  However, some of her friends and customers in the Shadowland community commit suicide to her shock and regret.

Homicide detective Noah Webster believes a serial killer has murdered at least two people making it look like they committed suicides at work.  Noah’s investigation leads to Eve and her website.  He soon realizes the psychopath knows the victims extremely well, which the cop thinks means Eve is on the hit list of a diabolically clever killer.

Karen Rose is gaining a well deserved reputation for great romantic suspense thrillers; her latest winner I CAN SEE YOU is a super Minneapolis police procedural that also showcases the double edged sword of on line communities.  Whereas the web enables the disenfranchised to communicate with others; on the other hand the others can include sociopaths or worse.  With a strong cast especially the heroine, Ms. Rose writes a terrific whodunit that provides a double edge spin to the Internet applauding the connection of the lonely one to the many but also warning these ones that predators in sheep clothing could be one of the many.  This is a great poignant work.

Harriet Klausner

Mind’s Eye-Hakan Nesser

June 24, 2009

Mind’s Eye

Hakan Nesser

Grand Central, Jun 2009, $14.00

ISBN: 9780307387226

In Sweden the evidence overwhelmingly condemns drunken schoolteacher Janek Mitter in the killing of his wife and a colleague who apparently was with her.  Detective Chief Inspector Van Veeteren arrests the distraught husband who has no alibi and was found in a drunken stupor at the crime scene; Janek is easily convicted and sent away to spend the rest of his life either in a mental institution or if his mind heals a prison.

Van Veeteren has some issues with the conviction although it appears reasonable and he is a prime reason Janek was nailed.  Although he keeps mentally reviewing the case making him bone weary, he does little to follow up on his hunch until it is too late.  Someone murders Janek leaving Van Veeteren feeling guilty that he failed to follow his instincts.  He vows to find the link between the homicides of the Mitter couple and subsequently their killer while personally vowing never to ignore his gut instincts ever again.

MIND’S EYE is an excellent Swedish police procedural (see THE RETURN and BORKMANN’S POINT) starring a great investigator who is filled with remorse for not following up on his belief something was off kilter in the case even as he received acclaim for solving an obvious domestic dispute that turned ugly, but proved to be something else.  Fans will enjoy this terrific tale as a good likable cop struggles with his mistake by chasing down the real culprit in a great twisting thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Smash Cut-Sandra Brown

June 24, 2009

Smash Cut

Sandra Brown

Simon & Schuster, Aug 2009, $26.95

ISBN 9781416563082

When wealthy Paul Wheeler is murdered in an Atlanta hotel, the police assume a robbery has gone bad.  His close friend, gallery owner Julie Rutledge, believes otherwise as she tries to convince the police that Paul’s nephew Creighton ordered the hit.

Creighton’s father asks criminal lawyer Derek Mitchell to represent his son, but the attorney refuses because he is going with Julie to Paris.  Outraged by Derek’s rejection, Creighton goes after his loved ones.  He stalks Julie and Derek’s dog Maggie.  He plans to kill the girlfriend of his cowardly former partner Billy Duke as a punishment for his backing out of the murder scheme.  Creighton plots to stage a triumphant final scene straight out of a classic Hitchcock movie like Frenzy that will leave Billy, Julie and Derek joining his Uncle Paul.

This is a super thriller that is fast-paced with rapid changing scenes that add tension as the audience increasingly and avidly anticipates High Noon.  The cast is powerful especially the beleaguered Derek and Julie, but SMASH CUT is owned by Creighton who we meet when a servant Rose interrupts his tennis game.  With terrific twists especially a late one and homage to great mystery films, fans will enjoy this cat and mouse tale as Creighton worships death scenes from the classics.

Harriet Klausner

Ravens-George Dawes Green

June 24, 2009

 Ravens

George Dawes Green

Grand Central, Jul 15 2009, $24.95

ISBN: 9780446538961

In Brunswick, Georgia dirt poor whites Mitch and Patsy Boatwright win the $318 million Max-a-Million jackpot.  Shaw McBride and Romeo Zderko are passing through town on their way to Ohio when they hear the news that a local yokel couple won the jackpot.  The traveling pair decides to stay in town a few days to share in the winnings though they are strangers.

Shaw concocts the scheme of bluffing the duo into believing that he and Romeo are vicious lethal thugs instead of mentally tired programmers.  He informs the Boatwright’s that they will hand over half or die along with their loved ones like their twentyish daughter college student Tara.  Shocked and frightened Mitch and Patsy agree once they collect their money starting with introducing his lottery partner Shaw at a press conference.

This excellent regional psychological thriller works because of the strong cast who embellishes the story line with local flavoring and brings out the worst in the two wannabe con artists.  Intriguingly the Boatwright family may be the victims fearful of the mentally bullying Shaw and the overwhelmingly physical threat from the ironically named Romeo, yet they also fall victims to the Stockholm syndrome as they begin to cherish their avarice banes who hold them hostage for the loot.  Fans will enjoy this tense psychological thriller as George Dawes Green shows the human caring side to his major characters as much as their depraved needs.  This is a strong exhilarating small town Georgia thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Juror-George Dawes Green

June 24, 2009

The Juror

George Dawes Green

Grand Central, Jun 2009, $13.99

ISBN: 9780446550154

Single mom Annie Laird struggles to make ends meet as a part-time data entry clerk and as a starving sculptress.  She is selected to the jury of a Westchester County murder trial of mob boss Louie Buffano.

Almost immediately after joining the jury, Annie meets a sophisticated art broker who buys some of her work.  He invites her to dinner and she accepts.  The man is a Taoist Wall Street financier who quotes Lao Tse with ease of an expert.  He is called “The Teacher” and actually runs the Buffano mob from behind the scene.  He offers her a choice of the safety of her and her son Oliver, and a rewarding sculpturing career that will make her wealthy or two deaths; hers and her child.  He explains further to live affluently she must say not guilty; otherwise she will not live nor will Oliver even though he is falling in love with his pawn.

THE JUROR is a fabulous psychological drama as Annie goes through a myriad of emotions while the Teacher pushes her panic buttons with the scenario of a dead Oliver even after he concludes he loves his target.  The story line leaps from one maniacal scene to another as the Teacher is an insane yet brilliant sociopath who forces Annie to fight as flight is not an option though fright is destroying her gut.  Fans will appreciate this one sitting thriller reminiscent of the Baldwin-Moore movie of the same title yet much more horrific as the mom concludes the only way her offspring will be safe is with the death of the Teacher.

Harriet Klausner

Trust Me-Jeff Abbott

June 23, 2009

Trust Me

Jeff Abbott

Dutton, Jul 23 2009, $25.95

ISBN: 9780525951216

Although he is a low life in his stepfather’s think-tank in Austin, Texas, Luke Dantry brags that he is a big shot in the global war against terrorism.  His actual task is to monitor by joining the night time chatter of apparently angry web users.  He calls his nocturnal Internet friends the Black Road.

Luke quickly recognizes who he is communicating with as these are lonely braggarts like he is.  Few if any have the will let alone the way to carry out terrorism acts.  However, Luke soon revises his opinion of at least some of the Black Road Internet users when he is kidnapped and left dead at a remote cabin.  He now knows his web comrades are much more organized and prepared for what he thought was inane chatter.  They rehearse for the big event Code name hellfire by causing plane and train crashes and chemical plant explosions.  Dantry escapes with Black Code and those pursuing the terrorists chasing after him; as he begins a desperate quest to prevent a plan to make 9/11 look like a minor incident.

This fast-paced thriller filled with several spins and twist is a fun lighthearted tale that requires a major ignoring of plausibility as no one will accept the nerd turning into a superhero almost overnight.  Still the audience will enjoy Dantry’s efforts as we root for him to overcome the odds; reminiscent of Patrick Dempsey’s enjoyable but improbable 1991 movie Run.

Harriet Klausner

Charmed and Dangerous-Toni McGee Causey

June 23, 2009

Charmed and Dangerous

Toni McGee Causey

St. Martin’s Jun 2009, $7.99

ISBN: 9780312358495

In Lake Charles, Louisiana, twenty-eight years old Bobbie Faye Sumrall expects a relatively calm day while looking forward to wearing her family heirloom a tiara at the Contraband Days festival.  However, her hope for being laid back is drenched very early when her defective washing machine sends a tidal wave throughout the trailer she shares with her five-year-old niece Stacey.  The youngster sums up the opening disaster by thanking her aunt for placing a swimming pool inside their home

That proves to be the most positive moment of the day as flooding is easy to deal with than her scoundrel brother Roy of catfish and BS slinging fame.  He has been abducted and the kidnappers demand as ransom the tiara her late mom left her.  Bobby Faye works on rescuing her sibling while not giving away her only valuable asset; her brother is not of equal value.  However, at the bank thugs rob the tiara from Bobby Faye, who forces Trevor the trucker to pursue them at the same time her former boyfriend, police officer Cameron has another mental cardiac arrest knowing Bobbie Faye’s chasing some armed and dangerous hoods; he fears what she will do to them when she tackles them.

This zany jocular regional thriller is fast-paced from the opening trailer turned swimming pool scene to the confrontation over the tiara and to a lesser degree her scoundrel sibling; the action is top rate even with tons of amusing situations.  Fans will laugh loudly at the antics of the heroine as she once again proves she is CHARMED AND DANGEROUS while robbing the bank, hijacking a truck, and chasing thieves.  In Sumrall, just another wacko Bobbie Faye day (see GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE GUNS) as .she affirms Murphy is a foolish California optimist

Harriet Klausner

Eye of the Whale-Douglas Carlton Abrams

June 23, 2009

Eye of the Whale

Douglas Carlton Abrams

Atria, Aug 2009, $25.95

ISBN: 1416532544

Scientist Elizabeth McKay’s basic hypothesis is that if we can understand the complicated songs of the humpback whales, we will geometrically improve our comprehension of the animal kingdom.  Her Research turns into an obsession that devastates her marriage and costs her friends who believe she breathes solely to prove her theory.

However, she finds her on site work disturbed by whaling interests.  Business and fishing interests push to hunt whales and begin a marketing campaign to turn the watery mammal’s whale meat into an acceptable delicacy.  When a humpback becomes endangered by swimming up the Sacramento River, McKay notices the song changed making her wonder what’s going on; dramatically she concludes the whales are mourning the loss of clean oceans as human pollution has led to birth defects.

This action-packed eco-thriller contains an intriguing premise in which the whales warn humans through their songs that the oceans needed for life to thrive are dying.  However, the cautionary warning at times is like a tsunami overwhelming its own message.  Still overall this is a fun tale that pays homage to the movie Star trek IV although only Elizabeth and the whale in the Sacramento River are fully developed.  Fans will enjoy Douglas Carlton Abrams’ entertaining EYE OF THE WHALE as the humpbacks alert the human scientist that the end of days is upon us as they sing their version of Marvin Gaye’s still fresh and even more relevant Mercy, Mercy Me The Ecology Song.

Harriet Klausner

Self’s Murder-Bernhard Schlink

June 23, 2009

Self’s Murder

Bernhard Schlink

Vintage, Aug 11 2009, $15.00

ISBN: 9780375709098

After his last major case (see SELF’S DECEPTION), German private investigator Gerhard Self is thinking he is too old for this type of work.  As he drives home to Manheim with his girlfriend Brigette during a nasty snow storm, Self notices a car in the ditch and stops to assist a stranded driver, banker Bertram Welker.

Upon learning that Self is a sleuth, Welker hires the investigator to uncover the identity of a silent bank partner as he is writing the history of the establishment that he co-owns.  Self accepts the easy assignment, which pays extraordinarily well.  However the detective has self doubts about his client when the bank’s archivist mysteriously dies in a car crash just after giving the sleuth an attaché case loaded with money.  He digs a bit into his client’s past to learn he became a widower last year when his wife died a hiking accident.  Two deadly accidents are two to many so Self investigates Welker.

This is a super German private investigator mystery with several super twists that will leave readers and the weary hero guessing as nothing is quite like it first seems including a stranger claiming to be the son of Self.  The story line is fast-paced but totally owned by the sleuth as his inquiry into the silent partner leads him to inquire about his client.  Fans will enjoy the translation of Bernhard Shlink’s entertaining German mystery and seek the previous two thrillers (see SELF’S PUNISHMENT).

Harriet Klausner