Archive for August, 2009

Primitive-Mark Nykanen

August 31, 2009

Primitive

Mark Nykanen

Bell Bridge, Oct 2009, $16.95

ISBN: 9780982175644

Renowned model Sonya Adams has no prior notice of a shoot for the Frontier Ahead in Bozeman, Montana, but tells Chatwin Modeling Agency agent Jackson she will be there.  She is disappointed that her twenty-three years old obstinate, opinioned offspring Darcy failed to return her call, but that will not prevent her from catching the flight tonight from Denver tonight.  Still she feels a little better when she is able to take Darcy out for her birthday before catching the one-hour flight.

Sonya is abducted in the Bozeman airport and taken to an isolated area hours from the city.  The Council of Consensus survival group informs Sonya she has been found guilty by the Earth’s Court of Justice for championing “rampant consumption”.  They explain her choices are to die brutally or speak up against what she stood for as the cult possesses top secret proof that the feds lied about the timeline of global warming; which is yesterday.  The cult blows up a refinery to the shock of most Americans who consider them terrorists and uses Sonya as their spokesperson with authorities assuming she is a victim of the Stockholm syndrome.  Though they picture themselves as Malcolm X to Al Gore’s Martin Luther King, none of the Council factored in Darcy’s obstinacy; she is coming for her mom in spite of eco-terrorists, government, oil or Queen Katie Corwin preferring mother and daughter to come home in body bags.

This is an exciting gripping thriller that hooks the audience from the onset when Sonya is kidnapped and never slows down even when terrorists overdo the explanations.  The story line is fast-paced built off the premise that global warming is not a theory or in the future, but reality already beyond the point of return as the earth.  A profound cautionary tale, Mark Nykanen makes a strong argument that to save economies but not the earth seems like Gregory Bateson’s double bind theory with a touch of weak tea from Lewis Carroll’s Bread and butter fly dilemma.

Harriet Klausner

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The Ghosts Of Belfast-Stuart Neville

August 30, 2009

The Ghosts Of Belfast

Stuart Neville

Soho, Oct 2009, $25.00

ISBN: 9781569476000

Gerry Fegan believed in the cause of freeing Northern Ireland from the British.  He was a soldier who did the assigned tasks willing to die for his belief and committed atrocities against adversaries.  He felt no remorse when he killed a civilian as collateral damage is the norm in warfare especially urban guerilla warfare.

He was able to ignore the greed of his superior officers as long as the cause was just especially with whiskey.  However Gerry is not an ordinary soldier as he has always been able to communicate with the dead.  While believing in the cause, he could keep the spirits of those he killed in the shadows, but no more.  The Good Friday Agreement leaves Gerry free in Belfast living under British Rule and wondering why he believed.  Those he followed in combat and went to prison for now serve in Parliament; while they are fat, dumb and wealthy, Fegan feels the guilt of the twelve innocent people he killed; their ghosts demand he do what those fat cats trained him to do: kill his former allies.

This is a great haunting war story whether one agreed with the IRA or not as THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST could easily have been the ghosts of Saigon or even Baghdad, as the soldier’s psyche depends critically on the cause.  The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as Gerry begins his new mission while his former friends send an agent to stop him.  Readers will appreciate this thought provoking thriller that will have the audience pondering the prime underlying cause and the short and long term effects.

Harriet Klausner

The Scarpetta Factor-Patricia Cornwell

August 30, 2009

The Scarpetta Factor

Patricia Cornwell

Putnam, Oct 20 2009, $27.95

ISBN: 9780399156397

Marriage between Benton Wesley and Kay Scarpetta seems to be working out fine even though he remains angry and jealous of police officer Pete Marino.  His feelings makes it difficult for them to work together, which they must on her latest cases.  Toni Darien was murdered by a blunt force trauma to the head; which is obvious but the time of death is not.  Reliable eye witnesses insist she was still alive hours after the medical examiner declared her dead.

Besides her pro bono ME position in Manhattan, Scarpetta is the forensic expert on the CNN Carley Crispin Show, hosted by Carly Crispin whose superiors want to replace her. They want Kay to star on a new show The Scarpetta Factor because she has the gift of always finding the killer.  When Kay returns to her ME office, she picks up a Fed-Ex package that strikes her as off kilter.  She calls for the bomb squad and is proven right that there was a bomb in the package that could have badley injurered her and Benton.  Kay, Benton, her niece Lucy Farinelli,, Pete Marino, ADA Jaime Berger work together on several cases though there is a strain within the sleuthing group.  They believe there is a connection to Toni’s death and the disappearance of beautiful millionaire Hannah Starr as well as the bomb scare.  None of these so-called experts has found the link between all their cases as a clever diabolical puppeteer works their strings perfectly.

It does not take being a forensic expert to know that Patricia Cornwell’s latest Scarpetta Factor is filled with excitement and plausible twists that also contains revelations about each of the recurring cast; none of this is easy to do when this is number seventeen in this great series.  Switching perspectives without slowing down, the story line is told in the third person with varying leads enabling the readers to get deep inside each of the main players especially to what fears and traumas they must overcome.  Fans will enjoy competing with the Scarpetta zoo crew in trying to discover who killed Toni and why and what happened to Hannah.

Harriet Klausner

Shadow Season-Tom Piccirilli

August 29, 2009

Shadow Season

Tom Piccirilli

Bantam, Oct 27 2009, $7.99

ISBN: 9780553592474

A former NYPD cop Finn teaches literature at the prestigious Upstate New York St. Valarian’s Academy for Girls.  Finn finds it ironic that his students wonder how he keeps his collection of books so brand new conceding how easy it is to maintain a pristine collection when you are blind.  He has a relationship with Roz the nurse and muses over the crushes his students have on him except for Vi who he and the dean Judith worry about; he also wonders about his former wife Danielle.

Christmas empties the school leaving a few loners with no place to go behind.  A blizzard further isolates those still at the academy including Finn.  However, the nurse and a student seem to have vanished.  Almost immediately afterward, two thugs arrive demanding Finn pay his debt or else.  As he fears for those trapped inside the school, he thinks of his detective partner Ray and how many ways he would relish killing him, but for now must somehow deal with the “ill will” of a killer leaving dead students and faculty in his or her wake.

This is an exciting action-packed thriller that hooks the audience from the moment Finn begins his musing and never slows down as the readers wonders why someone is mass murdering those trapped at the school.  The story line is fast-paced once the characters are set and never slows down until the anticipated final confrontation with the ill wind and the academy’s champion, a sort of good vs. evil battle on a small scale.  SHADOW SEASON is an engaging tense tale as Tom Piccirilli provides a superb suspenseful story.

Harriet Klausner

While My Guitar Gently Weeps-Deborah Grabien

August 29, 2009

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Deborah Grabien

Minotaur, Sep 15 2009, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312590963

In San Francisco, someone uses a guitar to hammer the head of Bombardier lead vocalist Vinny Fabiano.  No one seems to mourn the death of Vinny, who alienated everyone including his band mates, but everyone grieves the death of the guitar, custom made by the great artist Bruno Baines.

The late Vinny even managed to insult MRI specialist Bree Godwin, band mate JP Kincaid’s old lady.  JP and Bree remain amazed that the killer would use such a murder weapon.  They are not amazed to learn Vinny’s prized Zemaitis guitar is missing.  Soon afterward, Vinny’s guitar technician Rocco Galliano is also murdered.  Not wanting to become part of a Christie And Then There Were None, JP and his mates investigate.

The second Kincaid mystery (see ROCK AND ROLL NEVER FORGETS) is an enjoyable amateur sleuth mystery enhanced by a fascinating look at guitar making although that detracts from the whodunit.  The lead pair has health issues with JP dealing with multiple sclerosis and Bree struggling with a cancer scare , but unlike guitar manufacturing the illnesses augment the investigation as they make the inquiry that more difficult.  Fans will rock with Kincaid as he and Bree follow the chords.

Harriet Klausner

Arctic Chill-Arnaldur Indridason

August 29, 2009

Arctic Chill

Arnaldur Indridason

Minotaur, Sep 15 2009, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312381035

Outside a slummy Reykjavik apartment, the corpse of an Asian-Icelandic boy is found lying in his frozen blood.  Police detective Erlendur Sveinsson leads the investigation into the homicide.  He finds no motives for killing the half Thai child so he explores racism as the only possibility in spite of a tolerant society in which native males marry Thai women, divorce them, and abandon them and their offspring to live in the slums.  The victim is El’as whose mom Sunee worked in a chocolate factory but has recently vanished; she was estranged from her carpenter husband Idinn for bringing her other son Niran with her.

Erlanger has personal issues starting with the shock of his former boss Marion’s slow death that reminds him of his own mortality and his obsession to reconcile with his estrange adult children.  The detective continues his inquiry into a missing woman who probably committed suicide, but he seeks closure in the case.

The latest Icelandic police procedural is a deep look at society struggling with the problems Thai women face in Iceland.  The story line also deeply digs into a father’s struggles with his two offspring who have issues that make him feel like a failure. As their father he wants to shower them with love; an emotion he cannot show to anyone even the woman he desires as love denotes weakness.  This is another winner as the case is solid but supports the profound glimpse into society and relationships.

Harriet Klausner

Mahu Vice-Neil S. Plakcy

August 28, 2009

Mahu Vice

Neil S. Plakcy

Alyson Books, Aug 2009, $14.95

ISBN: 9781593501112

Honolulu Police Detective Kimo Kanapa’aka ended his six-months relationship with Fire Inspector Mike Riccardi after his significant other cheated on him while attending a conference in San Francisco; Mike, who is still hiding in the closet from his family and peers, came back with gonorrhea.  However, though he kicked the hunk to the curb, Kimo has struggled with his equilibrium; even accepting rough sex with some kick butt guys he meets over the Internet.  His brothers and a friend intervene trying to help Kimo regain his self worth.

An arson fire in a shopping center leads to the death of a young boy.  Kimo and Mike investigate together; as they did when they first met and fell in love with eighteen months ago.  They remain attracted to one another but wary.  Kimo finds clues that the fire was set to hide human smuggling and prostitution.  He soon finds photos used by a blackmailer to extort money from those caught in sexual encounters that they might not want revealed. This includes Kimo who sees himself in a picture with one of his recent illicit sex mates that if revealed could cost him his career.

This is an enjoyable gay investigative tale that mixes a strong whodunit with deep caring characters.  The key to this terrific entry is Kimo who puts a realistic face on a gay cop whose significant other male lover devastated him by cheating on him.  The official inquiry into the arson-homicide is super though perhaps too easily forcing Kimo and Mike to meet.  However that case and the deep look at issues gays face with in or out make surfing Hawaii’s waves with Kimo and company thoughtful fun.

Harriet Klausner

Top Producer-Norb Vonnegut

August 28, 2009

Top Producer

Norb Vonnegut

Minotaur, Sep 15 2009, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312384616

The murder of wealthy hedge fund operator Charlie Kelemen has sent shock waves up and down Wall St.  Especially stunned is his thirty two years old best friend Grove O’Rourke, who manages two billion dollar in accounts at Sachs, Kidder and Carnegie Investment Bank.  Grove saw the homicide along with a few hundred people.

Feeling survivor guilt and wanting to pay homage to his best friend, Grove learns that Charlie’s widow Sam apparently is broke, which makes no sense since Keleman was worth a fortune.  He tries to help her while avoiding the financial death by association that frequently takes down Top Producers like him.  However, his efforts begin to look futile as his peers and superiors at the bank go after him with ferocity as do the outside competitors.  Still Charlie refuses to walk away from the fight for survival at Sachs, Kidder and Carnegie or from learning what happened to O’Rourke’s money.

This is a well written financial thriller that digs deep into some of the voodoo fund flow of Wall St that seems relevant with all that has happened over the past few years.   Overall the story line is fast-paced although the plot can slow down with the profundity of fund management as non practitioners will have to be totally focused.  Still the tale is fun mostly because Grove is a likable hero swimming in toxic waters.  TOP PRODUCER is an enjoyable insider thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Mirror-Barry Maitland

August 28, 2009

Dark Mirror
Barry Maitland
Minotaur, Sep 29 2009, $24.99
ISBN 9780312383992

In the London Library, Ph.D. candidate Marion Summers researches nineteenth century Pre-Raphaelite artists when she suddenly crumples and drops dead.  Since Marion suffered from diabetes, the assumption by all who knew her is the disease caused her death.  Recently promoted Detectives Inspector Kathy Kolla leads the official investigation, her first time in charge of a case, though she also expects the medical examiner will determine the cause of death to be related to diabetes.

However, instead the medical examiner finds arsenic inside Summers’ body.  Kolla is in charge of the homicide investigation.  The cop learns Summers was focusing on the use of arsenic and other poisons by the Pre-Raphaelites.  Her theories were upsetting the academic circles as being too way-out.  However, that should not be a motive for murder.  With Detective Chief Inspector Brock’s mentoring, Kolla looks into the personal non-academia life of the victim finding several people who might want to kill her and who had the opportunity to poison her, using ironically what Summers was studying as the means which remains difficult to ascertain.

This is an exciting fresh British police procedural as DI Kolla heads her first investigation as the lead with DCI Brock supporting her.  The story line is fast-paced and filled with plausible twists that enhance the inquiry.  Fans of the series will enjoy this super Kolla-Brock collaboration.

Harriet Klausner

The Test-Patricia Gussin

August 28, 2009

The Test

Patricia Gussin

Oceanview, Oct 5 2009, $24.95

ISBN 9781933515199

In Philadelphia, the family of the late famous billionaire philanthropist Paul Parnell gathers for the reading of his will. He had outlived the three women in his life before dying at seventy-five.  His first spouse Katherine died in 1963 giving him his two oldest children Daniel and Francis.  His second significant other Monica expired in 1995 but they divorced two decades after one offspring, Monica.  Finally his last marriage was to Vivian who past away three years earlier after leaving him with three kids (Rory, Ashley and Carla).

The estate is enormous, but his adult children and those with spouses are stunned by what the executor explains to them.  Paul felt he neglected his family and decided to “test” them.  His five legitimate heirs are further disturbed to lean of his illegitimate offspring Monica.  The angriest is Frank and his wife Meredith as they planned on his presidential run funded somewhat by the inheritance.  The stipulation is simple: each must give back to society over the next year in order to deserve a share of the billions. Taking advantage of the confusion is avaricious psychiatrist Dr. Conrad Welton who plots to marry Ashley.  Let the fun begin.

THE TEST is Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None in a sort of Dynasty Survival contest in the first two years of this century.  The story line is driven by the ensemble cast who by their varying behavior seem genuine though most of them spoiled as they cause twists to the plot compounded by a serpent in the battle to own Eden.  Readers will enjoy Patricia Gussin’s entertaining tale as Paul wanted to just get his children to give back and not just take, but he could not have known how deadly his test would prove to some of his children and their spouses.

Harriet Klausner