Archive for October, 2009

Dying Scream-Mary Burton

October 27, 2009

Dying Scream

Mary Burton

Zebra, Dec 1 2009, $6.99

ISBN: 9781420100280


The DUI shattered Adrianna Barrington’s life as she lost the baby she was carrying and her husband Craig Thornton never came out of the coma.  Although the other driver drunkenly caused the accident, Adrianna went bankrupt to pay the medical bills; finally leading to her selling her family estate.


However, the buyer demands the family graveyard be relocated, but when the extraction begins, more bodies are found than should be there.  Detective Gage Hudson investigates.  Soon afterward three females who knew Craig vanish while Adrianna receives calls and cards from allegedly her dead husband claiming he misses his wife and will soon come for her.


This is a tense romantic suspense that grips the audience from the moment Adrianna receives an anniversary card from the grave.  The story line is fast paced throughout with the “required” romantic subplot taking a needed back seat to the thriller elements especially that of a serial killer who either is her husband whom the beleaguered heroine interred though he is not in his coffin or something or someone else playing Craig’s life, but motive remains elusive.  Dying Scream is a taut serial killer investigative thriller.


Harriet Klausner

Vintage Caper-Peter Mayle

October 27, 2009

Vintage Caper

Peter Mayle

Knopf, Oct 20 2009, $24.99

ISBN: 9780307269010


Hollywood entertainment lawyer Danny Roth cherishes his wine collection, insured for three million dollars.  He is so full of pride over his vintage collection he boasts excessively about his vino darlings during a Los Angeles Times interview.  However, Danny feels violated when someone who obviously read the article absconded with his wine collection.


Insurance agent Elena Morales hires her former boyfriend Sam Levitt, a wine connoisseur, to investigate the theft.  He follows the trail to France where he teams up with insurance agent Sophie Costes, a wine and food gourmand.  They soon track the purloined wine to Marseilles with billionaire wine collector Francis Reboul as the prime suspect behind the theft.


This is an amusing crime caper that will have readers toasting Peter Mayle with A Good Year French champagne.  The story line is fast-paced and straightforward as the shortest distance between California and French Lessons is between Sam and the other players.  With a solid cast, Vintage Caper is lighthearted fun as each key participant makes their play for the valuable vino with not one of them fully trusting any of the others.


Harriet Klausner



Death Message-Mark Billingham

October 26, 2009

Death Message

Mark Billingham

Harper, Oct 2009, $25.99

ISBN: 9780061432750

London Detective Inspector Tom Thorne looks carefully at the blurry photo that has been sent to him over his cellphone.  The person looks dead though he cannot be sure.  He has no idea who sent the picture, who the victim is, and who the killer is assuming it is not the transmitter.

Soon afterward, a second photo of a corpse arrives.  More pictures of apparently dead people keep coming to Thorne on his cell.  Thorne and his unit struggle with the lack of motive but begin to identify the psychopath; yet the deadly predator remains elusive sending more pictures of the recently deceased.

Fans of the Thorne police procedurals will welcome this strong entry as the DI struggles with a case in which the culprit mocks him with the Death Message.  The key to this fast-paced investigative thriller is as always the support cast, mostly the cops working with Thorne, who make what could have been another taunting serial killer story line into a deep look at the personal side of the police working a tough case.  Fans will enjoy Thorne’s latest case as the police try to end the reign of terror from a clever Grim Reaper.

Harriet Klausner

Midnight Fugue-Reginald Hill

October 26, 2009

Midnight Fugue

Reginald Hill

Harper, Oct 2009, $25.99

ISBN: 9780061451966

Yorkshire police Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel has healed from the injuries he received when a perp tried to kill him.  However, even as he is returning to work after a stint at the Avalon Clinic, one thing remains the same: he is still a grump.

However, even he is stunned when Gina Wolfe visits him with a personal request, as people avoid grouches not ask for a favor.  Seven years ago her spouse Alex, a police officer was under an Internal Affairs investigation when he vanished; he was never found.  Now as she is about to have him legally declared dead, she received a photo of Alex from a magazine looking very much alive.  She asks Dalziel to investigate unofficially, which he does.

The latest Dalziel and Pascoe police procedural is an incredible accomplishment by Reginald Hill as there are numerous subplots, strong characterizations and a fast-paced at times humorous story line, which is typical of the series, but all this occurs in 24 hours.  Just another day for Dalziel and Pascoe but great frenzy fun for fans as Midnight Fugue will be on the short lists for sub-genre book of the year.

Harriet Klausner

The Crisis-David Poyer

October 25, 2009

The Crisis

David Poyer

St. Martin’s, Nov 10 2009, $25.99

ISBN: 9780312544393

The western governments are very concerned with the civil war in Ashaara on the strategically important Horn of Africa.  The constant fighting has sent the country into deepening destitution with shortages in sustenance life necessities in a place that was already overrun with abject poverty.  If the spiral turns any worse, Ashaara could become a nation void of central authority and home to outlaws and Jihadists.

To prevent this horror from turning even more calamitous, the US Navy sends Commander Dan Lenson and his Tactical Analysis Group into the area to provide humanitarian aid to the besieged masses and to train a patrol squad in the Red Sea.  With chaos the norm, Lenson and his unit realizes they cannot distribute the assistance without an infrastructure followed if successful by a force to weed out terrorists.  However, what seems obvious to aid the forlorn proves complex and ugly as internal and external forces see the region as a ripe place for their specific agenda with people being damned.

The Crisis is a super thought provoking thriller that will have readers pondering ethical and logistical questions involving aid to nations desperately in need but lack the infrastructure to make proper distribution.  The story line is fast-paced from the moment TAG and its leader receive the assignment, but really takes off in Africa when the team learns the boots on the ground dynamics of the situation is appallingly chaos.  Alliance switch within a murmur and helping the indigent is impossible due to avarice of leaders who seek wealth or ideological and religious advantage over truly caring for the downtrodden.

Harriet Klausner

The Hidden-Tobias Hill

October 25, 2009

The Hidden

Tobias Hill

Harper, Oct 2009, $141.99

ISBN: 9780061768255

In Metamorphosis, Greece in 2004 former Oxford student Ben Mercer feels his life is over as his marriage is dead and he works at a dead end meat grill restaurant with no future beyond serving diners since his Ancient Sparta thesis is dead just not interred yet.  He admires the courage of the visiting five archeologists who fearlessly dig for what they want while he mopes and serves food.  One of his heroes who he knew in England, Oxford Professor Eberhard Saurer tells Ben he is going on an excavation in Laconia where they hope to uncover Spartan ruins; when Ben pleads to join him, Eberhard just leaves.

Unable to resist, Ben follows Eberhard to Laconia called Lacedaemonia by the ancient Spartans who left little behind except mystery as to how so few controlled so many “Helot” slaves.  Eberhard and his colleagues (Jason, Natsuko, Eleshchen and Max) perform one of the ancient Spartan rituals of the death hunt while emitting a superiority cockiness that Ben admires and would like to emulate if he was not so afraid.  He soon learns of the Crypteia Hidden Ones’ fanaticism killing the helots like hunters stalking game and fears he may be the modern day game of the predatory fearsome five.

This is an exciting thriller that looks deeply into the amoral behavior of terrorists using an ethical cloak to defend their murderous beliefs.  By bringing Sparta into focus in terms of terrorizing their neighbors through mechanisms like the Hidden hunt of the Helot and comparing this group to modern times using the five archeologists, Tobias Hill provides a profound look at a predator’s mindset, in the past and present.  Although the flashbacks into Ben’s past enhance understanding of him, that track distracts from the bigger theme of how a stalker rationalizes in secret to him or her self the kill of the innocent.

Harriet Klausner

The Gate House-Nelson DeMille

October 25, 2009

The Gate House

Nelson DeMille

Grand Central, Nov 3 2009, $14.99

ISBN: 9780446564236

Tax attorney John Sutter left Long Island and his then wife Susan after learning of her affair with their mob connected neighbor Frank Bellarosa, whom she killed ending tragically their tryst (see The Gold Coast).  After being away for a decade, John finally returns to Long Island’s Gold Coast to attend a funeral though the deceased has not quite died yet.

John wants to start over with Susan and in practicing law.  He learns that Frank’s brutish son Anthony lives on the property next to that of Susan’s wealthy family.  He also finds out that his former wife recently bought the cottage where they once lived when he thought all was right in his world.  She is euphoric with his return, but he fears Anthony stalks Susan as justice failed the mob.

This sequel is an entertaining tale but requires the reader to accept John’s need to reconcile with Susan after ten years of avoiding her and America.  The story line starts slow as the key players are reset so that the reader knows who they are, what motivates them and where they have been in the last decade.  Although the audience can see the violent finish from as far away as Montauk Point, fans of the author will enjoy the return of Sutter, who has changed dramatically from his first starring appearance on the Gold Coast as he is sarcastic, somewhat acrimonious, and doubting the sincerity of Susan, yet obsesses over a second chance.

Harriet Klausner

The Mirror and the Mask-Ellen Hart

October 25, 2009

The Mirror and the Mask

Ellen Hart

Minotaur, Nov 10 2009, $25.99

ISBN: 9780312375270

In Minneapolis, restaurateur Jane Lawless, owner of the Lyme House restaurant and the Xanadu Club, delays her plans for opening a third establishment due to the economy.  Instead she accepts a job as a professional private investor working for her friend and sleuth A.J. Nolan.  She also hires bartender Annie Archer to work at her Xanadu Club.

Annie explains to her new boss that she left Steamboat Springs, Colorado in search of her stepfather who vanished soon after her mom died in 1990 in Traverse City, Michigan.  She asks Jane to find him, which Jane agrees to do, but becomes a tad upset to realize her client-employee omitted key facts and she wonders why.  Meanwhile, Northland Realty VP Susan Bowman is murdered at the home she shares with her spouse Jack and her two children medical school student Curt and high school senior Sunny.  As Jane digs, she increasingly fears for Annie’s life and anyone in her sphere especially Curt because she connects the two points Annie and Susan.

With Cordelia Thorn on a semi hiatus re her niece Hattie, Jane goes it alone as she investigates the almost two-decade old cold case of the disappearing stepfather.  The story line is fast-paced from the moment Annie meets Jane while the two prime romantic relationships, Annie with Jane and Annie with Curt complicate a relatively simple plot.  Although the prime investigation is somewhat limited, fans will enjoy the interactions between a strong cast who make for a fun Minneapolis mystery.

Harriet Klausner

The Ragged End of Nowhere-Roy Chaney

October 25, 2009

The Ragged End of Nowhere

Roy Chaney

Minotaur, Nov 10 2009, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312582531

Ronnie Hagan has just returned home to Las Vegas after spending time with the French Foreign Legion.  However, his welcome home is a bullet to the head near Hoover Dam.  His brother Bodo, a CIA Agent stationed in Germany, returns home for the first time in a decade to learn the truth about his sibling’s execution.

Bodo soon learns his brother came home with a wooden artifact the “Dead man’s Hand” that looks worthless yet apparently is priceless as several people want it.  The operative wonders who would kill to possesses it and soon concludes a horde of nasty looking punks.  As police detective John McGrath tells him to butt out, Bodo keeps digging, but the evidence makes no sense.

The Hagan brothers are a strong pair as the insight into Ronnie is through a back story that includes his French Foreign Legion service, which makes him the more fascinating but also slows down the pace; ironically the readers get to know his motivations though dead rather than his living sibling.  The rest of cast consists mostly of predators, who the CIA operative has to interrogate using Chaneyian enhanced techniques.  Although the suspense is limited by the look back at Ronnie’s life, fans will enjoy Roy Chaney’s solid thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Deck the Halls and The Christmas Thief-Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark

October 25, 2009

Deck the Halls and The Christmas Thief

Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark

Scribner, Nov 3 2009, $17.99

ISBN: 9781439175675

Deck the Halls.  California private detective Regan Reilley flies home to New Jersey to spend the holidays with her parents. Regan visits her mother, Nora a patient at the Manhattan Hospital for Special Surgery for a leg she broke tripping over a rug. At her mother’s room, Regan also sees her father Luke, a funeral home owner, who quickly races off to attend the Goodloe funeral before going onto a dentist.  However, Luke never makes his appointments as Petey the Painter and C.B. Dingle kidnap him for providing terrible financial advice.  C.B. demands Nora send them one million dollars for the safe return of her spouse and his driver. Regan searches for her abducted father starting at the dentist’s office where she meets local amateur detective Alvirah Meehan, who offers her help.

The Christmas Thief.  Con artist Packy Noonan talked people into investing over 100 million in his phony shipping company, but though his confederates escaped Packy went to jail.  After serving twelve years he heads to Stowe, Vermont to get the diamonds that are hidden in an eighty foot blue spruce tree belonging to his former employees Lenny and Viddy. He doesn’t know the tree is heading to Rockefeller Center.  Others head to Stowe like Alviah Meshim and Megan Reilly with a convergence about to occur.

These are reprints of entertaining lighthearted mystery collaborations of Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark.  Each entry is fun as stars from the mother daughter authors’ solo books team up for the holidays.  Although the underlying premises for the action are stretches, no one will care these are enjoyable Christmas suspense thrillers.

Harriet Klausner