Archive for July, 2009

Tears of Pearl-Tasha Alexander

July 27, 2009

Tears of Pearl

Tasha Alexander

Minotaur, Sep 2009, $24.99

ISBN 9780312383701

Newlyweds Lady Emily and British intelligence agent Colin Hargreaves honeymoon in Constantinople.  They are looking into the mugging of Sir Richard and papers stolen from him when a half-English harem girl is murdered.  Sir Richard recognizes her as his daughter Thedore stolen from him two decades ago.  He pleads with Colin to lead the investigation.  The crown’s representatives with the cooperation of the Ottoman Empire also reluctantly agree to allow Emily toquestion the women and eunuchs inside the harem.

However, Emily is not known for following orders to do no sleuthing outside the harem.  Instead she follows leads that take her to victim’s family; her father the diplomat and her brother the archeologist.  As Colin struggles to keep her in line, Emily interrogates the previous sultan who ruled when Theodore was abducted and the current sultan.  Nothing including her spouse, the English throne, the Ottoman Empire Sultan and not even a probable pregnancy stops Emily from her inquiry.

The latest Lady Emily Victorian mystery (see AND ONLY TO DECEIVE and A FATAL WALTZ) is a fun whodunit (except if you are Sir Richard) though filled with numerous seemingly improbabilities.  The story line provides the audience insight into the late nineteenth century teetering Ottoman Empire and British diplomacy.  However, the plot belongs to the married couple whose relationship in some ways will remind the audience of Nick and Nora of Thin Man even with a different time and place.

Harriet Klausner

Faces in the Fire-T.L. Hines

July 27, 2009

Faces in the Fire

T.L. Hines

Thomas Nelson, Jul 2009, $14.99

ISBN: 9781595544537

Truck driver Kurt Marlowe goes to estate sales to buy the clothing of dead people.  Kurt has a special paranormal talent as clothing communicates with him, which leads to him creating metal sculptures from the images the clothing transmit to him.

Kurt has no memory of his past so he is pleased to meet lymphoma sufferer Corrine who has a catfish tattoo that was given to her by Grace who has a tie to Stan the assassin.  These four begin to interact with one another while dealing with a set of numbers on a napkin that make no sense to any of them, but keeps reappearing.  Together they may break this code; separately the code will break them.

Character driven by the unlikable quartet, FACES IN THE FIRE is a haunting thriller as readers (and the foursome) wonder what is gong on and what next until the climax brings everything together; sort of.  In many ways the story line feels like a surreal mystery that though in content different kept reminding me of the movie The Cube.  Fans who prefer something radically different but refreshingly unique will relish reading T.L Hines’ novels like THE UNSEEN and his latest psychological perhaps even supernatural thriller.

Harriet Klausner

To Grandmother’s House-Glen Ebisch

July 27, 2009

To Grandmother’s House

Glen Ebisch

Five Star, Aug 2009, $25.95

ISBN: 9781594147647

Laura Magee was the art writer at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts until she lost her position and her boyfriend painter Owen Reynolds.  Leaving Boston, she moves in with her grandma in the nearby college town Ravensford.  When the Ravensford Chronicle’s most popular columnist, Auntie Mabel dies after over three decades of advice, the owner Roger St. Claire hires Laura to continue the column as few people knew that Mabel was Ann Rickdorf.

Ravensford College head of security Keith Campbell charges into the newspaper’s office demanding to see Auntie Mabel for the column she wrote yesterday.  Apparently her advice persuaded his Amazonian girlfriend, college art teacher Heidi Lipton, the renowned “Pottery Princess”, to dump him.  Laura hides her alter ego from him, but offers to go out with him to make Heidi jealous even though she is attracted to the handsome Keith.  At a gala, art department chair Jack Proctor is found dead when Laura accidentally falls on him at the bottom of some stairs.  Heidi’s bracelet is found with him.  As Police detective Michael Farantello tells her to stay out of his inquiry as she has compromised the crime scene already; Laura helps him anyway.

This is a fun lighthearted whodunit as the heroine goes from no men in her life to three men (Keith, Frank and Owen who has come to the college) to maybe one man.  The mystery is cleverly designed so that the beautiful but clearly strong Heidi seems to havs committed the crime as she and the victim had issues, were arguing, and her bracelet was found on him; strength, size, and height being a key reason why she is a prime suspect and Laura is not.  Fans will enjoy this entertaining Massachusetts frolic as the art of the heroine’s late grandfather becomes the center of the conflict.

Harriet Klausner

Kitty Hitter-Andy Straka

July 27, 2009

Kitty Hitter

Andy Straka

Five Star, Aug 2009, $25.95

ISBN: 1594148120

Eagle Eye private investigator Darla Barns asks former NYPD police detective Frank Pavlicek to help her on the case of the stolen kitty.  The Charlottesville, Virginia private eye agrees to come back to Manhattan accompanied by his daughter Nicole.  In exclusive Manhattan co-op Grayland Tower, several people have complained about a bird of prey the Great Horned owl attacking their pets.  The client is animal rights activist Dr. Korva Lonigan who claims her cat Groucho was abducted and probably killed by the predatory bird.

Darla and the father and daughter team are attacked at the airport.  Clues lead to Central Park and Westchester.  Further digging connects Korva to the affluent Egyptian-American developer she accuses of being behind the assaults.  Complicating the inquiry is the shooting deaths of two gangbangers, right where the Virginians are following leads in Central Park that with each clue seems increasingly sordid and focused on a young Falconer and a bird of prey.

This is a terrific whodunit as what seems no more than an amusing minor tenant dispute with a landlord turns into a dangerous inner city mystery.  The story line is fast-paced and filled with action, but it is the twists that keep on coming yet seem plausible that will hold reader’s attention throughout.  Andy Straka as he received with Frank’s tale COLD QUARRY will obtain plenty of accolades for KITTY HITTER (except for the too clever title).

Harriet Klausner

Peace, Love and Murder-Nancy Holzner

July 26, 2009

Peace, Love and Murder

Nancy Holzner

Five Star, Aug 31 2009, $25.95

ISBN: 9781594147753

When Bo Forrester was eighteen, he could no longer reside at the commune his gentle parents raised him in; so he enlisted with the army.  Two decades later, he has come home to Rhodes, New York praying they can reconcile, but the commune has been replaced by a sub-division and no one seems to know where his parents went except somewhere out west.  He drives a cab while seeking information on his parents.

He is driving Carl and Ronnie to work when Deputy Sheriff Trudy Hauser stops the cab for speeding.  Ronnie flees, but Trudy tackles him and finds marijuana on him.  When Bo pops the trunk, Trudy stares at a corpse; later identified as history professor Fred Davies.  Whereas Trudy believes Bo is guilty and follows him legally and not so legally, he begins to investigate and soon finds a horde of people who loathed Davies; others die, but though suspicion remains even stronger that Bo is the killer, Trudy believes he is innocent and teams up with him to uncover the killer.

This is an enjoyable whodunit starring a fascinating hero who grew up as “Rainbow”, a name he detested, but now misses his loving parents.  His relationship with Bo turns from suspicions and distrust to strong attraction and maybe love although the change by Trudy seems too abrupt and ends her Inspector Girard like persistence of chasing the “fugitive” that added freshness to the mystery (even if she should have been suspended).  Still fans will appreciate this fine murder who-done-it enhanced by Bo’s past and look forward to a sequel in which he goes west to track his parents.

Harriet Klausner

The Desert Hedge Murders-Patricia Stoltey

July 26, 2009

The Desert Hedge Murders

Patricia Stoltey

Five Star, Aug 31 2009, $25.95

ISBN: 9781594147852

In her mind her brother reclusive clairvoyant Willie Grisseljon, a sexagenarian like she is, conned into going with their octogenarian mom and the other Florida Flippers traveling Miami  Dolphins’ fan club to Laughlin, Nevada.  The former judge and retired Fed widow Sylvia Thorn wonders what  trouble can the Flippers get into on their trip when they find a corpse in the bathtub of a room shared by Sandra Pringle and non-member Patsy Strump.

Sandra turns up missing while the troupe heads off to the Lone Cactus Gold Mine.  There they find Sandra’s corpse.  Willie has a vision of his sister in trouble so with his dad at his side; they race to Nevada while the FBI Agent Damon Falls investigates the goings on at the Mohave County, Arizona mine though he would not mind investigating the much older Sylvia in a more exclusive luxurious locale.  As Sylvia tries to keep the Flippers out of trouble, trouble seems to find them; so with Patsy, her sibling, her parents, the other Flippers, and a six foot plus female dynamo, she leads the inquiry (more like a chaotic retreat) into the death of Sandra that forces law enforcement at all levels to share notes.

Though over the top of Hoover Dam, THE DESERT HEDGE MURDERS is an amusing amateur sleuth tale (though the lead “detective” has experience as a former FBI agent).  The story line is as fast as Freda the amazon drives her bike and never slows down even when the seniors are a bit tired.  Fans will enjoy this zany Nevada-Arizona whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

War Damage-Elizabeth Wilson

July 25, 2009

War Damage

Elizabeth Wilson

Serpent Tail, Sep 1 2009, $14.95

ISBN: 9781846686504

In 1949, ballet critic Freddie Buckingham leaves a party hosted by socialite Regine Milner and begins walking across Hampstead Heath when he is shot to death.  The police investigate the homicide.

Detective Chief Inspector Plumer and Detective Sergeant Murray quickly find a horde of people with motives to kill overtly homosexual Freddie.  People from his personal life and his professional life with grudges against him seem everywhere.  Even the hostess with the mostest is considered a suspect.  However, none from the performing arts, the homosexuals, the bohemians, politicians or starving socialites stand out from anyone else.  All seem to have in common a refrain of rejoicong that Freddie’s dead.

This is an exhilarating post WWII police procedural that has a Noir feel to it, but no detective is hard boiled; the Noir comes from the atmosphere of the “Heath” and London in 1949 as unexploded bombs remain from the war, buildings are derelict and damaged but people reside in them, and the gritty dark fog enhances every step of the plot.  Aptly titled WAR DAMAGE is everywhere.  Although the introduction to just about all the party goers seems overwhelming at first, fans will enjoy this fine historical whodunit as Freddie’s death enables Elizabeth Wilson to provide a tour of the war torn city.

Harriet Klausner

America Libre-Ramos y Sanchez

July 25, 2009

America Libre

Ramos y Sanchez

Grand Central, Jul 2009, $13.99

ISBN: 9780446507752

 

In El Paso, a cop shoots and kills a Latina youth.  The Hispanic community in the border city is outraged and rioting occurs.  The Texas Governor calls in the National Guard to quell the riots and prevent looting.  Shots are fired and twenty-three Latinas are killed.

 

Across the country there is horror from many quarters and defense of the use of force from others.  However, Latinas explode in outrage.  In Los Angeles tensions between Hispanics and Anglos are boiling over with every incident and rumor escalating the tension.  Wealthy Ramon Garcia creates the La Defensa del Pueblo to protect Hispanics from the Anglo backlash.  Unemployed former Army Ranger Manolo “Mano” Suaraz is one of the veterans who enlist over the objection of his frightened wife as he obtains work as a bodyguard.  Soon La Defensa del Pueblo begins to ally with local Hispanic gangs.  Civil war seems imminent as the government sets up “Quarantine Zones” and internment camps to isolate Hispanics from the general population.

 

This is an exciting timely tale that makes a strong warning to beware of the fast growing populace turning angry.  The case Ramos y Sanchez makes is supported by the potential backlash to the anti-immigration assault and the Judge Sotomeier attacks.  Although no exploration into how other races like Asian-Americans and African-Americans, or foreign countries or terrorist groups react to the American racial civil war, fans enjoy Ramos y Sanchez’s entertaining but admonitory thriller that avers liberty and libre are the same or else.

 

Harriet Klausner

Heaven’s Keep-William Kent Kreuger

July 25, 2009

Heaven’s Keep

William Kent Kreuger

Atria, Sep 2009, $25.00

ISBN: 9781416556763

The day before Jo O’Connor boards the charter flight to Wyoming with seven other people, she and her husband Cork get into a fight.  The small plane flies through a wintry storm and suddenly vies off course; no longer tracked by radar, the assumption by officials is the plane crashed into the Wyoming mountains.  Cork joins the search into the wintry Rockies but after days of fruitless searching hampered by bad weather making a harsh mountainous terrain that much more difficult, the party gives up as there is no sign of the plane; no one could have lived through the cold if they made it past the assumed crash.

Six months later, Rebecca Bodine and her friend Liz Burns show up at Cork’s place in Minnesota.  Rebecca claims the pilot of that charter was not her husband as everyone else assumes especially with a wrongful death suit claiming Sandy was drunk when he flew that fatal flight.  A reporter digs up what Sandy was doing before the flight: getting drunk in a bar.  Cork looks at a video of the pilot and concludes he did not drink but instead poured the liquor into something under his shirt while pretending to imbibe.  Although he still believes his wife died, Cork knows something is off about the official conclusion so goes to Wyoming to investigate.  The closer he comes to the truth, law enforcement officers, other government officials and drug lords are watching him to see if they have to take action against him.

Readers will sympathize with Cork who feels remorse that he and Jo went to bed angry with one another instead of making up while his fuming good bye was his last words to her.  As Cork investigates, he and the audience begin to wonder whether Jo is alive but if so how.  Filled with action and vivid descriptions of the Wyoming Rockies, William Kent Kreuger has somehow made this strong thriller a personal drama as well in what may be the best O’Connor tale to date.

Harriet Klausner

Little Bird of Heaven-Joyce Carol Oates

July 23, 2009

Little Bird of Heaven

Joyce Carol Oates

Ecco, Sep 15 2009, $25.99

ISBN 9780061829833

In 1983 in Sparta, New York Zoe Kruller and Eddy Diehl are having an affair.  She is a gentle beauty while he is kick butt tough guy.  All is great between these opposites until  her young son Aaron finds her murdered body.  The police hone in on the two male adults in Zoe’s life, her spouse and her lover.

Five years after the homicide, the police arrive at Eddy’s home.  He refuses to cooperate and instead challenges the cops even as his horrified daughter Krista watches the macabre event as if it is a movie scene.  He is shot down in what is called a suicide; case closed as far as the cops and the people of Sparta are concerned, but not the survivors.  Instead their respective offspring are traumatized by events, but though they try to move on separately, neither can.  Then they meet.

LITTLE BIRD OF HEAVEN is a fabulous character study that looks deep at the offspring generation surviving a tragedy.  Krista tells the tale, which focuses on psychological defense mechanism employed by her (denial her father might have done the deed) and by him (denial that his mom was having an affair).  Neither is able to move past the respective defining moments in their lives, seeing the corpse of a parent who had a violent death.  Fans will relish prolific author Joyce Carol Oates’s latest psychological suspense as Krista and Aaron meet each other and the ghosts they carry inside their hearts.

Harriet Klausner