Archive for November, 2009

Dancing for the Hangman-Martin Edwards

November 24, 2009

Dancing for the Hangman

Martin Edwards

Five Star, Dec 2009, $25.95

ISBN 9781594148484

 

In 1910 in London, stunned American physician Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen awaits execution as he has been convicted of the murder of his second wife Cora.  He swears he is innocent, but no one believes him except the real killer.

 

However, he also believes a jury of his peers found him guilty of her homicide due to his flaunting of acceptable grieving.  He abandoned his son so he could move in with no hindrances with his mistress.  Now he confesses to his side of what has led to his wrongful date with the scaffold.

 

This is a fascinating ethnographical fiction of a real life person as Crippen tells his side of the tale in which he insists he is not a killer, but convicted of an unacceptable lifestyle.  Fans will enjoy his narration though he comes across as an unsympathetic person as he pulls no punches.  Apparently in (see Crippen by John Boyne), Crippen was an intriguing person whose behavior was unsavory but did he commit murder?

 

Harriet Klausner

My Own Worst Enemy-Brandon Hebert

November 24, 2009

My Own Worst Enemy

Brandon Hebert

Five Star, Dec 2009, $25.95

ISBN 9781594148279

 

In Florida, Coral Gables police catch burglar Jack Murray outside of the house he and his partner Rudy Maxa just robbed.  Rudy escapes with the loot while Jack is convicted of the crime and goes to prison for a year and a day.

Incarceration at Okeechobee Correctional Institute shook up Murray so once he is freed, he vows to go straight. Miami mob boss Caesar Pelli rewards Jackie for keeping quiet by hiring him as a manager of a club he has on Collins.  At the club Jack is attracted to twenty six year old psychology major at Florida Atlantic club pole dancer Miranda Mendoza.  She reciprocates but tries to conceal her feelings as she is an undercover FBI agent. When Murray meets Maxa, he finds his former partner has some powerful allies he made in the past year who will kill Murray if he even hints at harming Rudy.

Jack is a terrific protagonist, who wants to go straight, but no one seems to believe him as crime is in his blood; his cronies assume he is going through a short readjustment to civilian life after a year in jail.  On the other hand, Miranda makes no sense as she is undercover but gives that away without a second thought as if she is thinking with her libido rather than her brains.  Still even with a thin plot, fans will relish this fast-paced South Florida crime caper as everyone knows Jack, they think.

Harriet Klausner

A Word to the Wise-David Heinzmann

November 24, 2009

A Word to the Wise

David Heinzmann

Five Star, Dec 2009, $25.95

ISBN 9781594148477

 

Former FBI Agent Augustine Flood has become a practicing attorney in Chicago at the law firm of Cronin, Drew and Guzman. Senior partner Alan Cronin assigns Flood to a certain case due to his eight years as a Fed to help a desperate client, Dan Westlake, find his missing wife, Marcy.  Westlake is not being altruistic as he needs his spouse so he can obtain his money invested in an offshore account in Marcy’s name.

 

Flood learns later that Westlake is connected to a mob-run casino project that is undergoing a federal investigation.  From his former FBI contacts, Flood meets a battered corpse whom he assumes is Marcy.  Now he must decide between his position at the firm and its client or the cops, not realizing he inadvertently places his girlfriend Jenny in jeopardy and not from his baking.

 

This is an engaging Chicago investigative thriller that is fun to read except when the hero bakes apple pie, etc. as his cooking feels forced to soften up his hardboiled personality (should have used quiche).  The action-packed story line takes readers on an intriguing tour of Chicago as Flood leaves the downtown Lake Michigan area to loop his way into a hostage mess.  A Word to the Wise is a bit thin, but enjoyable starring a lead character who is at his best outside the kitchen kicking down barriers especially human.

 

Harriet Klausner


Assassins of Athens-Jeffrey Siger

November 24, 2009

Assassins of Athens

Jeffrey Siger

Poisoned Pen, Jan 2010, $24.95

ISBN 9781590586891

In Athens, Greece, Police Chief Inspector of the Special Crimes Division Andreas Kaldis arrives at a rundown part of the city to look at a corpse found amongst garbage in a dumpster.  At GADA, Andreas’ secretary Maggie Sikestis sees the photos of the victim and recognizes he is Sotiris Kostopoulos who is always in the tabloids as part of a ménage a trois with the granddaughter of the Linardos clan while his family and hers are at war.

Andreas visits Sotiris’ adopted parents Zanni and Ginny, who say nothing to the news or the questions asked by the CI.  An affluent publisher Zanni says the only suspects he can think of are Sarantis Linardos and his family as each covets the highly regarded The Athenian newspaper.  Meanwhile clues lead the detective to hooker Anna Panitz who admits to taking cash from strangers to entice the victim to go with her to an isolated locale.  With pressure mounting from high officials to close the case, Andreas keeps the pressure on the feuding families and their associates.

The latest Kaldis investigation (see Murder in Mykonos) is an enjoyable Greek police procedural Noir as the CI curses out incompetent cops and roughs up crooks while taking fans on a tour of Athens not seen by the Olympics crowd.  The story line is fast-paced from the opening moment when Kaldis hammers a cop for tainting a crime scene and never slows down as he stares down everyone except Maggie.  Although somewhat linear with not twists, fans will enjoy this tough cop’s homicide investigation.

Harriet Klausner

Death Without Tenure-Joanne Dobson

November 24, 2009

Death Without Tenure

Joanne Dobson

Poisoned Pen, Jan 2010, $24.95

ISBN 9781590585856

 

In Massachusetts, Enfield College English Professor Karen Pelletier is up for tenure.  Her rival has much less experience and papers than Karen has.  However, the department chair is pushing Native American Joe Lone Wolf for the spot.

 

Upset by what she knows is unfair treatment, Karen is also anxious about her daughter Amanda who is in Kathmandu, Nepal and her boyfriend U.S. National Guard Bureau Lieutenant and State Police Investigator as a civilian Charles Piotrowski deployed to Iraq.  When Joe dies from apparent peyote poisoning, the police suspect Karen as she had plenty to gain with the competition removed.  Not one to sit by idly, Karen puts aside her personal concerns made worse by a jealous “Person” in the department to investigate and soon locates other suspects from among the faculty, staff and student bodies.

 

Professor Pelletier’s latest amateur sleuth (see The Maltese Manuscript) is a fascinating whodunit that starts off a bit slow as Karen whines about the unfairness of academic life, but accelerates once the heroine gets out of her funk to investigate the homicide.  The story line somewhat lampoons the college world as Karen’s inquiries lead to stereotype characters from all lines of academia and their related issues.  Fans will enjoy the New England English professor who puts aside her companion The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson to investigate who killed her rival.

 

Harriet Klausner

 

Virtually Dead-Peter May

November 24, 2009

Virtually Dead

Peter May

Poisoned Pen, Jan 2009, $24.95

ISBN 9781590586709

 

In California, Orange County Forensic Science Service photographer Michael Kapinsky cannot cope with the crippling depression he feels ever since his wife Mora died from cancer.  Her medical care ran him into steep debt that he despondently feels he can never climb out of.

 

Michael agrees to try an experimental online group therapy session as suggested by his shrink.  As Chas Chesnokov he joins Second Life with its fourteen million members.  Orange County crime scene investigator Janey Amat is a member too; managing the Twist of Fate Detective Agency.  Janey is elated to have Michael sign on to SL and join her as her detective partner. Chas also enjoys the company of escort dancer Doobie Littlething.  However, Chas soon fears that an online stalker is killing people on SL and in real life as Chas recognizes crime scenes online that match some he has been to as Michael.

 

This is a terrific thriller that contains strong SL and RL whodunits that link the virtual with the real.  However, what makes the tale is the deep look at the psychological uplift of becoming part of a social online network as Peter May takes the audience deep inside the new way we relate and will relate virtually.  With a strong investigative mystery and a deep look at a modern day network nation of fourteen million netizens that find the virtual intoxicating, Peter May provides a fascinating exciting thriller; if you have not read this author you are missing one of the best.

 

Harriet Klausner

Faces in the Pool-Jonathan Gash

November 23, 2009

Faces in the Pool

Jonathan Gash

Minotaur, Dec 8 2009, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312384111

 

When his antique scam failed, Lovejoy is sent to prison for his con.  However, Ellen Jaynor, owner of The Anglers Manglers Speed-Datery offers to get him out of jail immediately if he agrees to marry temporarily millionaire Laura Moon.  In fact Laura wants Lovejoy to find her former spouse, but he smells a rat in which he will be left holding the crap when the ex is killed.

 

His apprentice Lydia and his son Mortimer persuade him to at least attend the antiques convention of the sixteen groups representing the world’s Lost Tribes.  They want him to authenticate their antiques.  However, nothing goes right as Mortimer is kidnapped and the edifice storing the artifacts is burned to the ground.  However, the worst is watching his beloved sail off into the sunset with her lover and the booty from the Lost Tribes’ valuables.  Jail seems safer.

 

The story line is all over the place as Jonathan Gash proves chaos theory can be fun to read inside a crime caper.  The cast is strong as Lovejoy is his usual roguish self as nothing is quite what it seems or goes right.  Not for everyone as the dots don’t connect in a simple easy to follow way as B does not follow A, or precede C; fans who enjoy mass pandemonium will want to read convoluted Faces in the Pool.

 

Harriet Klausner

The Good Son-Russel D. McLean

November 21, 2009

The Good Son

Russel D. McLean

Minotaur, Dec 8 2009, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312576684

 

Farmer James Robertson finds his brother Daniel hanging from a tree.  Although the siblings were estranged for decades when Daniel left home at sixteen after an argument with their father, James rejects the official opinion that Daniel committed suicide.  Instead he hires former Dundee police officer J. McNee, who is still recovering from a car accident that severely injured him and killed his fiancée.

 

McNee quickly uncovers that the deceased worked as a thug for former gangster Gordon Egg, who owns a London nightclub.  Meanwhile Kat from London arrives insisting she was close to Daniel while two more bad eggs follow her.  McNee fears he is in over his head as a hardboiled detective battling crime kings because his throbbing leg keeps telling him.

 

Taking the injured hardboiled urban American detective to Dundee makes for an engaging refreshing tale though the lead character never quite feels like he is from Scotland rather than the United States.  Still his inquiry, aching leg and all, makes for a fun tale as the cops tell him to stay out, the thugs warn him to stay out, and his common sense pleads with him to stay out; three strokes and he stays in.  Fans will enjoy McNee as an avenger trying to survive the case of the dead farmer’s brother.

 

Harriet Klausner

Iron River-T. Jefferson Parker

November 21, 2009

Iron River

T. Jefferson Parker

Dutton, Jan 5 2010, $26.95

ISBN 9780525951490

 

Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy Charlie Hood is assigned to the Operation Blowdown taskforce trying to end the tidal wave of guns and money flowing down the “Iron River” from the States to Mexico.  Charlie understands the irony that the Second Amendment crowd who many demand tighter border patrol sells arms to the cartels who sell back drugs and people.

 

During a shootout between Charlie and his Blowdown unit against a cartel buying weapons leaves the son of the cartel leader dead.  Now the border war is personal with Charlie and his team being targeted one at a time through loved ones if necessary.  At the same time bankrupt weapons manufacturer Pace Arms has brokered a deal with a cartel through a middle man Bradley Smith, making life for law enforcement more dangerous.

 

The third Hood police procedural (see L.A. Outlaws and The Renegades) is a terrific tale that spotlights how large, complex and dangerous the gun trafficking sold south is.  Ironically during the recession this segment of free enterprise drugs for guns and cash remains profitable.  The story line is fast-paced but the scope is so massive that gunrunning removes the faces of the victims and the survivors as characters including Charlie become almost irrelevant.  As Stalin said: “The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of a million is statistic”, which in this case overwhelms the cast and plot.

 

Harriet Klausner

 

Village of the Ghost Bears-Stan Jones

November 20, 2009

Village of the Ghost Bears

Stan Jones

Soho, Dec 2009, $24.00

ISBN 9781569476062

Inupiaq Alaskan state trooper Nathan Active is camping with his beloved Grace when they find a corpse in a creek.  The pike had eaten away the face of the deceased.

Soon afterward someone sets a fire to the recreation center in the remote village of Chukchi.  Eight people including the police chief die in the dealdy inferno.

Nathan investigates both cases of homicide.  At the same time, apparent polar bear poaching, an illegal act as the animal is protected by law, makes his inquiry much more dangerous and convoluted especially the body in the brook inquiry.

The latest Nathan Active police procedural (see Frozen Sun) is a terrific Alaskan thriller  that hooks the reader early with its stark beautiful description of remote Alaska mostly from an aerial view.  Nathan is his super self working exciting twisting  investigations into homicides and poaching that look like Bridges to Nowhere except for his diligence, and his romance enhances the plot as he turns to a native healer for advice.  However, Alaska owns this super tale as Stan Jones provides a deep look at a remote part of the state.

Harriet Klausner