Archive for August, 2009

Gallows Lane-Brian McGilloway

August 25, 2009

Gallows Lane

Brian McGilloway

Minotaur, Sep 15 2009, $23.99

ISBN: 9780312384326

Superintendent Costello directs Garda Detective Inspector Benedict Devlin to warn convict James Kerr as he leaves Maghaberry Prison to not settle in Lifford.  Kerr refuses to speak with Devlin insisting he only is coming to town to forgive his former partner Peter Webb, who with others betrayed him during the Castlederg robbery that sent James to prison.

Soon afterward, someone kills Webb whose wife was with her lover Decko O’Kane at the time of the homicide.  Kerr was allegedly seen nearby, but Devlin thinks the case is too obvious.  He is proven right when Kerri is crucified followed by the murder of Decko.  Devlin believes the robbery is the link between the deaths; if he can solve that he can solve the serial killing of those who were involved.  The DI has other cases to work too that prove pressure laden to resolve.

Inspector Devlin in his second whodunit (see BORDERLANDS) makes this Irish police procedural so good even when he struggles with anxiety and panic attacks while his spouse and his long time partner Carline Williams beg him to back away from this case that is mentally crippling him.  However, the DI cannot; instead he feels compelled to work even harder at this and other cases.  Readers will feel root for the hero as he tries to keep his ethical compass steady in spite of the trouble he faces doing it.

Harriet Klausner

The Asylum Prophecies-Daniel Keyes

August 24, 2009

The Asylum Prophecies

Daniel Keyes

Leisure, Oct 2009, $7.99

ISBN 9780843962710

A coalition of terrorists have merged with a plan to deploy Operation Dragon’s Teeth that will make 9/11 look like a quiet day at the park.  The only person outside of gangs who knows of the specifics of the upcoming assault is Raven Slade, the daughter of a CIA field operative; resident of a mental institution in Athens, Greece as she suffers from multiple personality disorder (MPD) and talks with her dead sister.

Her father hypnotized Raven to insure she cannot reveal what she knows about 17N and MeK to anyone even the FBI or CIA until they are defeated.  However, she is kidnapped and tortured by one of the terrorist groups, the 17N.  Rookie FBI agent Frank Dugan is sent to Europe to prevent the plot scheduled for 17 November by the Mujhadeen-e Kalq starting with rescuing Raven so he can learn what she knows.

This is a fast-paced action-packed thriller from the strange opening scene in the Athens hospital and never slows down until the climax.  However, readers need to set aside their plausibility meter as several spins like the hypnosis and sending a novice to prevent a major terrorist attack seem farfetched even with late denouements.  Still fans of Daniel Keyes will enjoy this exciting tale mostly seen through the hypnotized mindset of an alleged MPD sufferer with voices on her head.

Harriet Klausner

Distant Thunder-Jimmy Root, Jr.

August 24, 2009

Distant Thunder

Jimmy Root, Jr.

Bedside Books, Aug 2009, $24.95

ISBN: 9781589825536

In Plattsville, Missouri Pastor Ty Dempsey grieves the death of his brother in Iraq through his sermons.  However, the Deacons are concerned with his recent ramblings; as Ty insists he spoke with God who says Isaiah’s prophecy of the world ending is coming because Israel will react to Syria having nukes by destroying their neighbor.  On top of that with Iran ready to retaliate, the prophecy of Ezekiel will come forth with destruction of much of the Middle East and Russia.

At the same time that Ty is shouting fire and brimstone end of days, Israeli Defense Forces Captain Moshe Eldan has family issues to contend with since his mother-in-law died.  His wife Tasha grieves her loss by converting to Christianity and she insists Jesus has told her he wants Moshe to do likewise.  When Moshe’s plane is shot down over Syria, he becomes a POW only to learn a horrible secret that could bring the end of days to Israel.

Dempsey and Eldan personalize this exciting thriller as the world turns anti-Semitic targeting the destruction of the Jewish state.  They are the opposites as the Pastor needs the destruction of Israel if his belief of the End of Days has begun while the fighter pilot zealously defends Israel’s right to survive.  Although a strong belief in salvation through Jesus is throughout the solid story line; ironically at the root of the first Lightning Chronicles is the fundamental belief that for the Ezekiel’s prophecy of 568 BC to occur, Israel must survive until the slaughter of the Jews led by the Anti Christ bringing together all the other nations against the country.  Although the female characters never gel like the two lead males, fans will relish this profound look at religious zealousness by the prime descendents of Abraham as death to Israel is needed for the start of the End of Days.

Harriet Klausner

The Darkest Room-Johan Theorin

August 24, 2009

The Darkest Room

Johan Theorin

Delta (Random House), Sep 29 2009, $15.00

ISBN: 9780385342223

Stockholm schoolteacher Joakim Westin, wife Katrine and their two young children move to a family run down manor Eel Point on Oland Island in the Baltic.  They repair the old manor until their idyllic life ends when Katrine inexplicably drowns near the twin lighthouses in shallow water that she should have been able to just sit up in.

Joakim has problems adjusting to the loss of his wife following the tragic death of his sister Ethel the year before; he insists to himself Katrine is still with them.  While the police close their investigation officially determining a tragic accident occurred, rookie cop Tilda Davidsson has problems with the drowning death by accident ruling.  She investigates on her own time, but she like Joakim will learn renovation of a musky old house will not remove permanent residents or secrets of those who once resided there.

This dark Swedish thriller grips the audience with its gothic descriptions that have readers anticipating more pending doom even after Katrine drowns as the history of Eel Point is one of tragedy.  The audience will wonder whether something from beyond stalks Oland Island and Westin as there is a history for it. The current death is a sort of locked room scenario since there are no footprints are on the beach while readers also ponderi what lies inside the hidden DARK ROOM.  As he did with ECHOES FROM THE DEAD (also set on Oland Island) John Theorin provides a super psychological suspense as Joakim fears he is losing it with his need for closure and he doesn’t want his children disturbed especially his daughter who insists she hears her mommy calling her.

Harriet Klausner

The Disappearance at Pere-Lachaise-Claude Izner

August 24, 2009

The Disappearance at Pere-Lachaise

Claude Izner

St. Martin’s Press, Sep15 2009, $24.99

ISBN-13: 9780312383756

In 1890 Paris, heeding a spiritualist who advised her to see her late husband Armand at his gravesite in Pere-Lachaise cemetery, Odette de Valois tries to calm down his restless spirit.  However, after following directions, Odette never returns home.  Her concerned maid Denise De Louarn visits bookseller Victor Legris to ask for his help.  He agrees to investigate what happened to the late geologist’s widow as he was once her lover.

Victor, who solved the case of the MURDER ON THE EIFFEL TOWER and his shop assistant Joseph Pignot begin to look at clippings of crime the latter has cut from papers.  Victor learns that an elderly person carried away Odette’s body from the cemetery.  Soon afterward Denise drowns in the Seine.  Victor believes the death of the maid is tied to the vanishing of her employer.  He and Joseph begin to find links between Armand’s work on the failed canal at the Isthmus of Panama, a valuable painting that should be worthless, and murder.

The whodunit is a device to bring late nineteenth century Paris to life in what is a super historical.  Victor is like the period as he makes his inquiries he meets a world of foreign delights since Paris is the cultural capital of the world during that era.  Fans who appreciate a deep look at a period through its fine arts but also wrapped inside a taut mystery will want to join Monsieur Izner on his fabulous guided tour of the Left Banke and other artsy sections of Paris circa 1890.

Harriet Klausner

Cottonwood Whispers-Jennifer Erin Valen

August 22, 2009

Cottonwood Whispers

Jennifer Erin Valen

Tyndale, Sep 1 2009, $12.99

ISBN: 9781414333267

In 1936 in Calloway seventeen years old Jessilyn Lassiter has two goals for this summer.  First she hopes to find work and second prays Luke tally notices her after four years of unrequited love.  Jessilyn also worries about her best friend, black Gemma Teague hanging with Joel Hadley, as he is trouble.

In a hit and run someone runs over little Callie.  The townspeople are shocked and want the culprit lynched.  Gemma reveals some information she has to Jessilyn and Luke that might save the life of an innocent man.  However, her word as a black means nothing against that of white man especially one who is rich and influential.

This is an interesting Depression Era southern thriller focusing on vigilante justice.  The story line is character driven as the white mob wants to lynch elderly black Mr. Poe while Jessilyn tries to avert a second tragedy as she knows an innocent man will die, but finds no easy answers not even when she begs for divine intervention as her faith is waning.  Fans will appreciate this deep historical tale that remains relevant today for instance with the health care debate as Jennifer Erin Valen provides readers with a strong character driven plot as people draw false conclusions in spite of contrary evidence.

Harriet Klausner

As If By Magic-Dolores Gordon-Smith

August 21, 2009

As If By Magic

Dolores Gordon-Smith

Soho, Aug 2009, $25.00

ISBN 9781569475881

In the 1920s in London, South African expatriate George Lassiter breaks into a house he believes is empty.  However, instead he hears voices in what sounds like the murder of a woman.  Not sure what to do, he goes to leave quietly only the police arrest him accusing him of attempted burglary.

He tells the cops what he believes happened inside the house, but they find no evidence of a homicide.  Private investigator Jack Haldean learns of his WWI flying mate’s problems and goes to get him out of jail.  George explains to Jack what he heard, why he was in the house and who owns it.  Jack believes George that a murder probably occurred and that he was cheated by an impostor out of his inheritance.  Jack investigates and learns the owners of the house are relatives of George who probably abetted the con artist who stole his bequest.  Jack begins to piece together something more horrifying as an apparent serial killer is the loose while London remains ignorant.

The third Jack Haldean 1920s whodunit (see A FATE WORST THAN DEATH and MAD ABOUT THE BOY) is a terrific historical mystery that brings to life London through the eyes of an emigre author just after WWI.  The story line is fast-paced from the moment George breaks into a house he believes he owns.  Fans will relish Jack’s inquiry as he finds much more than he expected.

Harriet Klausner

The Brutal Telling-Louise Penny

August 21, 2009

The Brutal Telling

Louise Penny

Minotaur, Sep 22 2009 $24.99

ISBN 9780312377038

In Three Pines, Quebec, the murdered corpse of an unidentified elderly male is found in a bistro.  Chief Inspector Armand Gamache investigates the death in which no one seems to know who the person is.  Armand finds a cabin in the woods that allegedly was used by the old dead man.  However, the shocker is what is inside the remote edifice.  The CI sees a virtual treasure trove of first edition books to items that vanished during WWII.

The prime suspect is the bistro owner, Oliver.  However Armand believes that is too simple a solution as the body conveniently ended up there; whereas Oliver would have killed the victim elsewhere and looted the cabin assuming that is the motive.  The CI begins to dig deeper in an attempt to find the truth as summer turns to fall.

The latest Quebec village police procedural (see A RULE AGAINST MURDER and THE CRUELEST MONTH) is a super whodunit as Armand feels strongly that the prime suspect is innocent but the clues seem to prove his guilt.  The story line is driven by his investigation, but enhanced by a strong support cast of villagers.  Fans will enjoy this terrific entry in what is one of the better mystery series.

Harriet Klausner

Dexter by Design-Jeff Lindsay

August 21, 2009

Dexter by Design

Jeff Lindsay

Doubleday, Sep 8 2009, $29.95

ISBN: 9780385518369

Miami Police department forensic technician Dexter Morgan has just returned from his honeymoon with his wife Rita in Paris.  However, he has no time to ease back into his role of studying blood splatter patterns.  Two corpses brutalized in a way that only Dexter would appreciate (especially the fruit “basket” designer body) have been found on the beach; a sacred part of Miami unlike the streets.

Dexter’s sister Sergeant Deborah is investigating the homicides when a suspect Alex Doncevic stabs her before fleeing the scene.  Dexter assumes Alex is the serial killer and murders him; not out of sibling love or loyalty but because he is an avenging angel murdering murderers.  However, to his shock his homicide of Doncevic appears on You Tube while Dexter also realizes the serial killer remains free to keep playing with him.

This is an amusing satirical Dexter thriller as his latest caper is a bit more personal than usual.  Although the plot is thin and the climax feels forced, Dexter and his straight foil Doakes make for a delightfully droll dark dueling duet as the serial killing technician balances a wife with his homicidal activities.

Harriet Klausner

13 1/2-Nevada Barr

August 20, 2009

13 1/2

Nevada Barr

Vanguard, Sep 29 2009, $25.95

ISBN: 9781593155537

In 1971 eleven year old Dylan Raines killed his entire family except his older brother Richard whose leg was severely sliced up.  Dylan suffered from selective amnesia not recalling how he murdered his father, mother, sister and cat with an ax that put him in the international headlines as Minnesota’s “Butcher Boy”.  Richard takes Dylan from Rochester to New Orleans with him to start over.

Polly Deschamps grew up in Mississippi living in a brutal home.  At fifteen she fled into the night vowing to never return.  Now she is a professor at Tulane raising two kids as a single mom following a divorce.  Polly remarries charming Marshall who is extremely nice to her daughters.  However her new spouse acts odd at times and her brother-in-law Danny is even stranger; which begins to frighten her.

With Anna Pigeon taking a breather, Nevada Barr provides a compelling psychological thriller that grips the audience from the start to the finish in a one sitting family drama.  The story line is character driven as the strong casts including powerful secondary players like the tarot card reader make for a tremendous tense tale.

Harriet Klausner