Archive for June, 2009

TSI: The Eyam Factor-Paul McCusker & Walt Larimore, M.D.

June 23, 2009

TSI: The Eyam Factor

Paul McCusker & Walt Larimore, M.D.

Howard, Aug 2009, $13.99

ISBN: 9781416569718

Under the ice and snow of Greenland lies a top secret research laboratory filled with all the deadly diseases known to man.  Something happens in one of the labs allowing the genetically engineered super strain of the Ebola virus escaping into the entire facility forcing the government to blow it up.  In the African country Gabon, a cult led by David Mosley is infected with this lethal strain; all of them commit suicide to end the horror except the leader’s son Aaron.

Aaron is a carrier spreading the disease wherever he goes and leaving behind horrific agonizing deaths.  A task force mobilizes seeking the carrier while in England they seek a vaccine, but need someone with the disease.  Their efforts lead them to the village of Eyam where the Black Death decimated the place in the seventeenth century that isolated itself while the legendary Blue Monk administered to the ill and dying.  The scientists feel there are some similarities with today’s outbreak and the cases in 1666 so they seek the grave of the Blue Monk who’s DNA may provide a cure for the modern day epidemic.   Time is running out as the pandemic virus threatens to make humanity virtually extinct.

The action never stops in this fast-paced thriller that sends a cautionary message without preaching.  Mindful of Hoffman’s Outbreak, the plot cleverly uses the real tragic history of the Ebola virus that killed several people in Gabon in 2001 and the seventeenth century Black Plague assault on the villagers of Eyam.  , Although the lead characters are not fully developed, they bring heart and soul to their desperate search to find the Blue Monk’s remains.  The TSI team makes the science of disease epidemics especially viruses easy to understand but never dumbed down; that is the core of a super thriller that is timely with the Swine Flu outbreak.

Harriet Klausner

Vanilla Ride-Joe R. Lansdale

June 22, 2009

Vanilla Ride

Joe R. Lansdale

Knopf, Jun 30 2009, $24.95

ISBN: 9780307270979

In East Texas, unlikely sidekicks Hap Collins and Leonard Pine behave like identical twins though the former is white heterosexual and the latter is black homosexual.  These two kick butt buddies believe in the code of LDRSHIP (loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage); they are there for each other.

Being Good Samaritans, they rescue the granddaughter of a friend Marvin Hanson from local drug dealers.  However, their actions embarrass the Dixie Mafia, who cannot allow this affront to their friends go unnoticed.  They send a horde of trained killers to take out the dynamic duo, who enjoy the war.  As the body count explodes to the point they may need a stadium to hold the corpses, the humiliated Dixie Mafia send their top gun Vanilla Ride to kill the pair starting with her blue eyes, blond hair, and killer smile.

The return of the kings of deadly chaos Hap and Leonard will delight fans as they once again get involved in an outrageous caper that leaves plenty of corpses in which the title Vanilla Ride probably should have been Cherry Ride.  The story line is fast-paced, filled with action as Joe R. Lansdale satirizes the epic crime thriller with a super insane only in Texas thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Lancelot Murders-J.M.C. Blair

June 22, 2009

The Lancelot Murders

J.M.C. Blair

Berkley, May 2009, $7.99

ISBN: 9780425228135

Camelot is a leaky aging castle that contains secret passages and crumbling ruins yet remains the seat of power of King Arthur of Britain.  His is not an easy rule ever since his Queen Guinevere hatched plots to unseat him and replace him as the ruler of the realm.  Guinevere resides at Corfe Castle, better known as Spider House.  Her lover Sir Lancelot lives with her.  Merlin and Arthur learn they married and she has met with the Byzantine Empire representatives as if she and her new “spouse” are the true monarchs instead of the love-struck fool on the hill.

She is throwing herself a birthday bash in which foreign ambassadors from all over Europe are coming.  Merlin, who gets touchy when called sorcerer as he believes he is a scientist, persuades Arthur into allowing the gala to happen; only he will meet with the European VIPs.  Things go awry culminating with Lancelot standing over the corpse of Guinevere’s father while assassination attempts are made on Arthur.  Merlin concludes the Queen’s sire was murdered and finds the weapon.  He believes Lancelot is innocent, but considers allowing the seditious knight to take the fall.  Reluctantly at Arthur’s bequest, Merlin head to the castle of Guinevere’s parents to find the clue that will catch the  sly killer.

This is not the Camelot of legend, but instead a country filled with intrigue, double crossing, betrayals, and ambitious people especially an unfaithful queen who believes she is better suited to rule.  Arthur pines for his treacherous wife and by default allows Merlin to set the standards of rule based on justice for all.  This angers the aristocracy of whom many support the bodacious seditious queen as she demands a return to the proper order of noble superiority.  Ironically Arthur is an average person except for his steadfast belief in creating a better society while dealing with backstabbers starting with his beloved. As with THE EXCALIBUR MURDERS, J.M.C. Blair provides a majestic and enthralling mystery

Harriet Klausner

Cat in a Topaz Tango-Carole Nelson Douglas

June 21, 2009

Cat in a Topaz Tango

Carole Nelson Douglas

Forge, Aug 4 2009, $24.99

ISBN: 9780765318626

In Las Vegas, public relations specialist Temple Barr convinces her reluctant fiancé, former priest turned radio show host Matt Devine to enter a charity sponsored Dancing with the Celebs contest at the Oasis Hotel that will raise money for charity.  Temple agreed to emcee the Junior Division as her on-line zany teenager Zoe Chloe Ozone; Matt is in as well as tough Homicide Lieutenant Carmen “C.R.” Molina is in that division.

Temple told him it would be fun, but soon accidents occur.  Carmen bullies Temple to help her when her teenage daughter Mariah vanishes.  Also working the disappearance are the teen’s father, Rafi Nadir, chief of security chief at the Oasis Hotel and of course Temple’s significant other hardboiled detective Midnight Louie.  Everyone fears the Barbie Doll who has stalked teens.

The twenty first alphabetically correct Midnight Louie caper is a terrific entry in spite of the whodunit being somewhat low-keyed.  Temple’s former boyfriend Max Kinsella is a minor player as he remains off stage in Europe struggling with killers and amnesia but not struggling with a blonde.  The story line is fast-paced even when Louie takes time outs to seduce a feline femme fatale.  Fans of the series will enjoy this entertaining feline urban noir while newcomers will appreciate a short summary of who’s who.

Harriet Klausner

Triple Cross: How bin Laden’s Master Spy Penetrated the CIA, the Green Berets, and the FBI-Peter Lance

June 20, 2009

Triple Cross: How bin Laden’s Master Spy Penetrated the CIA, the Green Berets, and the FBI

Peter Lance

Harper, Jun 2009, $16.99

ISBN: 9780061189418

This biography is a shocker from the onset as Peter Lance does more than just look into the life of Al Qaeda operative Ali Mohamed; he asserts this man was the driver behind many of the terrorist attacks over two decades culminating with 9/11.  Using chutzpah to a degree unheard of, he became an American citizen after marrying an American, but all that time “Ali the American” served as Chief of Security for bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri.  He was an FBI informer and worked with the CIA in Europe while still holding his real job, serving as Chief of Security for bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri (can’t say that duality enough). Then there is the Able Danger segue that will have readers floored that this man got away with what he did.

This well written stunner will leave readers wondering about our government claims of protecting us when he was welcomed to top secret information while setting up terrorist missions.  Affirming the title of Triple Cross he applies to his subject, Mr. Lance exposes the government agencies whose failures the author asserts fundamentally led to 9/11; a horrific incident that could and should have been prevented.  Perhaps the most frightening aspect is the implication of what else is the feds hiding.  This is one nonfiction that has to be fiction; as the audience will continually say no way with each new revelation supported by strong evidence of yes way.  Why didn’t Cheney waterboard Mohammed who is in the Witness Protection Program having never been convicted of his crimes against humanity.

Harriet Klausner

The Venona Cable-Brent Ghelfi

June 19, 2009

The Venona Cable

Brent Ghelfi

Holt, Aug 2009, $25.00

ISBN 9780805088946

The murdered corpse of elderly American cinematographer Everett Walker is found in a Moscow warehouse.  The Russian police charge master criminal and espionage agent Alexei “Volk” Volkovoy with the homicide for several circumstantial reasons one of which is he made pornographic videos at the “studio”.

Additionally Walker was blackballed by Hollywood in the 1990s due to the release of the previously Top Secret Venona Cables that incriminated him with many spies.  He had come to Moscow seeking Volk.  The American possessed a microdot of a decrypted 1943 cable concerning a meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt and a photo of Walker with Volk’s disgraced father, Stepan, who mysteriously vanished in 1974.  Volk knows the only way he can prove his innocence is to investigate his father in order to ascertain whether Stepan was a GRU military intelligence operative or a traitor.  With only Valya at his side, he quickly realizes both the Russians and the Americans are clueless as to whom the genuine agents were, who were the moles, and who were the triple/double crossers, but each side wants Volk stopped from uncovering the truth.

This action-packed thriller grips readers from the opening moment when Volk realizes how much trouble he is in and how little time he has to extract himself from pending disaster.  Readers will enjoy his latest exploits as he struggles to stay one step ahead of the Russian and American police and espionage groups.  The ties to 1943 are brilliantly forged as Volk learns that the sins of the father are often carried on the backs of their offspring.

Harriet Klausner

Bait-Nick Brownlee

June 19, 2009

Bait

Nick Brownlee

Minotaur, Jul 7 2009, $25.95

ISBN: 9780312550219

In Mombassa, Kenya former Scotland Yard Flying Squad police detective Jake Moore co-owns a minor sport fishing outfit, Britannia Fishing Tours Ltd.  Jake and his partner British expatriate Harry Philliskirk owe an Arab oil provider $17,000 for diesel fuel at a time that their business is in trouble due to the “Ernies” tourists. They are frightened by unrest and a teetering economy back home andare not coming to catch big fish in Kenya.

Harry gets involved in transporting hash while Jake works with another boat owner Dennis Bentley.  Murders occur over seemingly minor inncidents leading to honest Coast Province Detective Inspector Daniel Jouma to investigate at a time others are in country causing further hostilities between the ethnic groups.  Over his head, Daniel asks Jake for help.

This is an entertaining Kenyan police procedural private investigative thriller that provides the audience some insight into the country although much of what the reader sees is unpleasant viciousness that enhances the investigation as the clues lead to the nastier underbelly of society.   The story line is fast-paced and the two cops top rate.  Although Nick Brownlee skates around the major issues confronting the country, fans will enjoy the aptly named BAIT.

Harriet Klausner

New Tricks-David Rosenfelt

June 19, 2009

New Tricks

David Rosenfelt

Grand Central, Aug 6 2009, $24.99

ISBN: 9780446505871

In Paterson, New Jersey, someone murders pharmaceutical VIP Walter Timmerman.  A custody battle over the late man’s Bernese mountain puppy Waggy pursues between his widow Diana and his son, Steven.  A judge directs lawyer Andy Carpenter to represent Waggy’s interest.

Andy, who already has a canine roommate Tara, picks up Waggy from Diana.  Just after he leaves with the dog, a bomb explodes in Diana’s house killing her.  The police who already suspected Steven in his father’s homicide, arrest him for Diana’s murder.  He hires Andy to represent him.  Soon afterward, Andy’s girlfriend, visiting Wisconsin police chief Laurie Collins, is shot while playing with the two dogs; leading to the attorney to conclude someone wants Waggy dead with Laurie accidentally getting in the way.

Having defended canine interests in court before (see PLAY DEAD), defense attorney Andy Carpenter does not blink when he is ordered to serve as Waggy’s lawyer.  The story line is fast-paced from the moment Andy brings his client home and never slows down even with super spins and twists.  Readers will appreciate David Rosenfelt’s terrific legal thriller as DNA plays a major role in the attempts to kill Waggy and anyone protecting the canine.

Harriet Klausner

Bury Me Deep-Megan Abbott

June 19, 2009

Bury Me Deep

Megan Abbott

Simon & Schuster, Jul 7 2009, $15.00

ISBN: 9781416599098

During the Great Depression, Dr. Everett Seeley obtains a position in Mexico having been barred from practicing in the states due to drug abuse.  He leaves his young naive wife Marion behind in their home.  She soon obtains a clerical position at the Werden Clinic.

Nurse Louise Mercer warns the young Marion that the doctors take advantage of the nurses and the other female staff, but also invite her to their wild parties.  At one gala, Marion meets Joe Lanigan, a friend of the physicians who provides cash and parties for the nurses.  Soon Louise and her nursing roommate Everett are shocked with Marion’s behavior with Joe and confront her over it.  Marion is livid that it is none of their business.  However their argument turns to homicide.

Once the personal history is established and the decadence of the Jazz Era anchored, BURY ME DEEP turns into an exciting crime thriller based on the true crime Brighton Trunk Murders.  The story line is driven by Marion who people see differently leaving readers to wonder who the real Marion is.  With a great final twist, fans of those 1930s femme fatale capers will recognize the lead character as playing the tough broad and the innocent young lady; depending on whether Louise and Joe make the assessment.

Harriet Klausner

Order in Chaos-Jack Whyte

June 18, 2009

Order in Chaos

Jack Whyte

Putnam, Aug 2009, $26.95

ISBN 9780399155772

In 1307, King Philip IV of France declares all Knights of the Templar as outlaws.  With the support of Pope Clement V, the monarch orders his armies to arrest all the knights and confiscate their treasure. They are to kill any who resist and torture those caught so reveal the hidden cache.  The Pope directs the Holy Inquisition against the Templars.

The double prong assault leaves the Templars with little protection.  Those still free are rodents hiding in holes.  Warned by the Grand Master, Templar knight Sir William St. Clair leads some of his peers and Widow Lady Jessica Randolph to Scotland where King Robert Bruce offers them sanctuary in return for them joining his side against the English and rebels allied with their enemy.  Knowing their time is over, William releases his men from their sacred vows and after the battle at Bannockburn pledges to find the mythical Merica.

The final tale of the Templar saga (see KNIGHTS OF THE BLACK AND WHITE and STANDARD OF HONOR) comes across more as a historical account rather than an action-packed medieval suspense thriller.  Readers learn in great detail re what and why the Pope and the French king conspired to destroy the religious order.  Still fans who relish deep doses of realism that feel as if you are there will enjoy Jack Whyte’s fascinating final account that is filled with early fourteenth century betrayals, counterplots and little action as William and his followers discuss freedom more than fight for freedom.

Harriet Klausner