Archive for January, 2010

The Heavenstone Secrets-V.C. Andrews

January 31, 2010

The Heavenstone Secrets

V.C. Andrews

Pocket, Dec 2009, $7.99

ISBN: 9781439154953

The two Heavenstone sisters live with their parents in an old Kentucky mansion.  The older sibling Cassie is the perfect Heavenstone as she behaves properly everywhere.  The younger sister Semantha is prettier, but somehow pales next to her accomplished older sibling.

It is hard to live up to the perfect definition of her parents when everything frightens you which is what Semantha feels.  Her biggest fear is that of Cassie who always orders her around when their parents are not there to see the other side.  When mother becomes ill and hospitalized, Cassie takes over her role in the household.  She scares Semantha even more as the younger Heavenstone feels like a criminal under interrogation by her sibling and fears what her sister is doing to her and her father even as she conceals something that will be obvious in a few months.

The concept of good seed bad seed has been a round a long time (Bette Davis in Dead Ringer, Whatever happened to Baby Jane? and Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte).  However, V.C. Andrews keeps it fresh due to Cassie as the perfect teen Machiavellian manipulator though it helps that her pathetic parents prefer not to dig below the surface.  Semantha overkills the victim defense as much of the story line she whimpers about her fear of her sister and just about everything else.  Although entertaining as readers will wonder if hormones running wild will bring a backbone to Semantha The Heavenstone Secrets contains no Flowers in the Attic.

Harriet Klausner


Term Limits-Vince Flynn

January 31, 2010

Term Limits

Vince Flynn

Pocket, Dec 2009, $9.99

ISBN: 9781439148105

In Washington DC everyone demands favors or else will take their money and influence to someone who will grant that favor.  The American system is built on trading favors, not stock.  Senator Fitzgerald was in DC for over four decades; his job as he knows it is to get reelected.  However that will never happen as an assassin breaks the senator’s neck in his home.  Next stop for the Johnson’s Brothers Plumbing van is putting a bullet through the head of Congressman Koslowski.  The final victim of the night is Senator Robert “Prince of Pork” Downs.

Everyone in DC is frightened from the military like precision of the assault.  The FBI finds no clues to the murdered Congressman though the Fitzgerald’s homicide differs in means from the other two.  Quoting Jefferson, the killers announce a plan to form a new perfect union since the leaders of the present United States chose corruption and reelection over ethics and what is good for the people.  Everyone points at everyone else in the usual blame the donkey game.  Only fed up first term Congressman Michael O’Rourke, a former marine planning on not rerunning, begins to put together who is behind the assaults.

This is an exciting thriller from the onset and never slows down as Vince Flynn makes the case that party affiliation or political philosophy of those in power is irrelevant as only reelection matters.  Although originally published during the Clinton era, the underlying premise holds up through the Bush administration and looks likewise for Obama.  Congress is worse as it is has career participants who even when they leave still hold power as lobbyists, etc.  The recent Supreme Court decision on election funding will exponentially increase peddling, which adds to the timely reprinting of Mr. Flynn’s cautionary political thriller.  Perhaps the only Rapp on Term Limits is Rapp never shows up.

Harriet Klausner

Frame-Up-John F. Dobbyn

January 31, 2010


John F. Dobbyn

Oceanview, Mar 1 2010, $25.95

ISBN: 9781933515632

Best friends John McKedrick and Michael Knight graduate from Harvard Law with each accepting a professional position with a legal Bostonian legend.  Michael works for his mentor trial attorney Lex Devlin; John becomes an associate of notorious mob lawyer Benny Ignola.

Michael is worried about John as the longer one is associated with the lawyer to mid mob management, the more difficult it would be to practice law in cleaner circumstances.  Michael’s fears for his buddy prove underestimated when he awakens in the hospital having survived the car bomb blast that killed John, mob style.  The police arrest Peter Santangelo, son of the Mafia chief Dominic.  Lex asks his junior partner to defend Peter as the former muses how three friends four decades ago, (Lex, Dominic and Father Matt Ryan) chose diverse paths, but are brought back together due to two friends choosing different paths.

Mindful of Cagney-O’Brien in Angels with Dirty Faces, Frame-Up is a terrific character driven legal thriller that is at its best when the focus is on two generations of best friends going down diverse paths.  The story line remains exhilarating, but loses some of the profundity of comparing decisions of seemingly similar people when Michael follows clues re illegal art sales to Amsterdam.  Still fans will relish John F. Dobbyn’s superb tale with plenty of dirty rats, beautiful women, but no grapefruit.

Harriet Klausner

Occupied City-David Peace

January 31, 2010

Occupied City

David Peace

Knopf, Feb 2 2010, $25.95

ISBN: 9780307263759

On January 26, 1948, in the Occupied City of Toyo, a man claiming to be Dr. Yamaguchi Jiro of the Ministry of Health and Welfare arrives at the Taikoku Bank at closing to explaing to management that dysentery has broken out in the neighborhood.  He claims the Occupation sent him to provide medication to those most likely exposed to the disease.  They take the medicine, but rather quickly after taking it, twelve die and four fall into a coma.

Dr. Jiro, if that is his name, leaves with all the money.  He is a mass murder because he has poisoned his victims.  The lead detective is frustrated with the descriptions of witnesses that vary while the media and others claim the incident was a biological weapon experiment by the occupiers but an American Occupation doctor scoffs as that thinking the idea is inane.

This is a super historical whodunit as twelve different people including one of the dead with various perspectives explain how they see what happened while providing a profound look at Tokyo just after World War II as that is how they filter the homicides.  Each “lights” a candle for a city weeping, but brings their baggage and psychological defense mechanisms to cope with the horrific mass murder at a time when the country struggles with esteem having lost the war.

Harriet Klausner

A Stain on the Silence-Andrew Taylor

January 30, 2010

A Stain on the Silence

Andrew Taylor

Hyperion, Feb 16 2010, $15.99

ISBN: 9781401302849

Lily Murtheston calls twice asking to speak to Jamie.  Since he turned sixteen, everyone calls him James except for one woman back two decades ago when he was in his twenties; so he is taken aback but decides to learn what Lily wants.  He muses about being thirteen when he met Lily through her marrying Hugh, the father of his best friend in school Carlo.  Dying Lily is in a hospice in Wembley.  He goes to see her; Lily informs Jamie that he fathered a child with her years ago; a daughter in trouble needing her father.  He insists Katie’s father is Lily’s husband Hugh, but Lily says Jamie owes her.

James meets his daughter Katie just before he leaves the hospice for his home where his wife Nicky is leaving for her book club meeting.  Pregnant Katie expects to be arrested for the murder of her former fiancé Sean.  She demands her biological father help her; James is confused what to do as his perfect life has been nuked but also fears telling his wife.

This is a fascinating character study of a man who seems to have his life together only to find it collapse with the first troubling intrusion, the knowledge of a daughter he sired during an affair over twenty years ago surfaces.  Readers will be stunned by how far James will go to avoid confrontation even not telling his wife; though he fails each time he chooses dodging an altercation behind a denial of responsibilities as a defense mechanism to reduce his anxiety, which never works.  Although suspense comes extremely late with a clever Hitchcockian psychological twist, fans will enjoy the aptly titled A Stain on the Silence

Harriet Klausner

Sherlock Holmes: The American Years-Michael Kurland (Editor)

January 30, 2010

Sherlock Holmes: The American Years

Michael Kurland (Editor)

Minotaur, Feb 2 2010, $25.99

ISBN: 9780312378462

This is a super ten story collection that cleverly chronicles young Holmes in America and Mexico where he meets famous luminaries and solves cases before he becomes the great Baker St. sleuth.

“Inga Sigerson Weds” by Richard A. Lupoff.  In 1875 Holmes and his sister arrive in New York for a family wedding.

“My Silk Umbrella” by Darryl Brock.  Holmes and Mark Twain meet in Hartford at a baseball match.

“The Old Senator by Steve Hockensmith.  Young actor William Gillette and Holmes meet years before the former plays the latter on stage.

“The American Adventure” by Gary Lovisi.  In 1876 Holmes meets Dr. Joseph Bell before falling in love with vivacious married Diana Strickland.

“The Sacred White Elephant of Mandalay” by Michael Mallory.  In Connecticut, Holmes and P.T. Barnum discuss fooling the public.

“The Curse of Edwin Booth by Carole Bugge.  Booth the stage actor hires Holmes to help him with a “curse”.

“The Case of the Reluctant Assassin” by Peter Tremayne.  Holmes travels to an Irish town in Nebraska to solve a mystery.

“Cutting for Signs” by Rhys Bowen.  On a stagecoach in the New Mexico Territory, robbers make the mistake of holding up Holmes.

“The English Senor” by Marta Randall.  Working a case in Mexico, Holmes learns a key lesson that the cold detailed facts are critical, but as significant is the heart behind the details.

“The Stagecoach Detective” by Linda Robertson.  In Lakesport, Holmes works the case involving “The Royal family of Silverado”.

Harriet Klausner

Let It Ride-John McFetridge

January 30, 2010

Let It Ride

John McFetridge

Minotaur, Feb 16 2010, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312599485


Sunitha Suraiya dreams of leaving depressed Detroit, but to achieve her goal she needs money.  Working at massage parlors is petty cash; robbing them is just a little more petty cash as is holding up better spas with its white wealthy women.  So Sunitha is planning a major heist.


After spending time playing soldier in Afghanistan, Vernard “Get” McGetty is back in the Motor City selling drugs.  His contact is JT, chief of the Ontario Saints of Hell biker gang, who dreams of being the druglord of the province and eventually the Dominion.  They met in Afghanistan where a drug partnership was formed.  Sunitha realizes Get is her mechanism to leave town as he has access to JT who owns a ton of gold bullion he plans to use to buy drugs and she plans to steal from him while cops on both sides of the border salivate over dreaming of a drug war.


This is a wild crime caper starring people with a different moral take than most American-Canadian residents.  The exciting Noir story line is character driven especially by Sunitha, Get and JT.  Although there is too much going on at times, fans will appreciate this zany tour of Detroit and Toronto with everyone answering whom do you trust with the answer no one not even the person staring back at you in a mirror or worse a person you may love.


Harriet Klausner

Revenge for Old Times’ Sake-Kris Neri

January 29, 2010

Revenge for Old Times’ Sake

Kris Neri

Cherokee McGhee, Mar 10 2010, $16.95

ISBN: 9780979969454

Opposites attract is proven with free-spirited Tracy Eaton and her straight-laced husband Drew.  They are yin and yang balancing each other while fulfilling the needs of one another.  That is why  Tracy is shocked when she literally sees her husband fighting with his fellow attorney Ian Dragger in the garage of their office building.  Drew insists to Tracy they attend the party celebrating their getting Skippy Sullivan off of a variety of charges that the two lawyers worked on together.  At the gala, Skippy introduces Tracy and Drew to juror Riley who persuaded the other jurors that he was innocent.

The next day, they find Ian dead floating in the Eaton swimming pool.  The picture of the fight is in the tabloids.  Obviously Drew is the prime suspect.  Drew’s mother Charlotte calls his former fiancée attorney CeeCee Payne to defend her son.  Through her connections, Tracy learns that a hit is put on Drew.  With her mother, mother-in-law Charlotte and others allied with helping her, Tracy busts her Drew out of jail. She begins her own investigation so that the worst case scenario that her spouse is murdered doesn’t happen. This leads Tracy and Drew in danger from a killer who is watching their every move.

The third Tracy Eaton revenge mystery (see Dem Bones revenge and Revenge of the Gypsy Queen) is as always a tremendous amateur sleuth mystery as the heroine is a courageous free spirit acting like a bloodhound on the scent of suspects.  The scene in which a second corpse is found in the pool is humorous as the Tracy and Her mother and Charlotte struggle with what to do with the body.  It is scenes like this that make Kris Neri one of the best whodunit writers as she takes her story line serious, but includes plenty of humor that fits in nicely to the main storyline while entertaining the reader.  Fans will enjoy Revenge for Old Times Sakes as we, along with the heroine, wonder if that is CeeCee’s agenda with her erratic defense.

Harriet Klausner

The Devil’s Star-Jo Nesbo

January 29, 2010

The Devil’s Star

Jo Nesbo

Harper, Mar 10 2010, $25.99

ISBN: 9780061133978

Oslo police detective Harry Hole drowns his greatest professional and personal failures with alcohol.  He tried to persuade his superiors that Detective Tom Waaler killed Harry’s police partner Ellen Gjelten (see The Redbreast), but no one believed him; Harry also believes the dirty cop sells weapons on the streets.  On the personal front, he has been inept in connecting with his girlfriend and her son.

Ironically, Chief Inspector Bjarne Moller teams up Hole and Waaler on the murder investigation of Camilla Loen whose finger was removed and a devil’s star shaped diamond jammed under her eyelid.  Harry is assigned a missing person’s case that soon ties back to the Loen murder.  Those corpses are followed by similar bodies as Hole realizes a serial killer is on theloose.

The third Hole Norwegian police procedural is a great whodunit as the hero struggles to sober up in order to work the case ALONG side his Nemesis.  The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down as Harry struggles in all aspects of his life except investigating a homicide.  Sub-genre fans will relish his latest caseload on and off the job.

Harriet Klausner

The Cold Room-J.T. Ellison

January 26, 2010

The Cold Room

J.T. Ellison

Mira, Mar 1 2010, $7.99

ISBN: 9780778327141

Nashville homicide detective Taylor Jackson arrives at a murder scene in which her fiancé FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin is stunned by how similar the corpse is to that of an Italian serial killer, Il Macellaio, a case he has consulted on with New Scotland Yard Inspector James Highsmythe.  In the Tennessee case and those throughout Europe, the Butcher starves his victims inside a glass coffin before strangling and finally having sex with them.  He completes his horrific act by duplicating masterpieces of art with his dead.

When a second corpse is found similar to the first yet somewhat different than that of the Italian Butcher, the Americans wonder if there are two psychopaths loose.  To verify their revised assumption, Taylor and Baldwin travel to Europe to join Highsmythe to uncover the truth they fear of a cross Atlantic contest of sorts.

The Cold Room is an exciting frightening serial killer thriller that grips the audience with the glass coffin scenario; a sort of Sleeping Beauty, but the Prince is Darkness not Charming; the artistic posing of the corpse adds to the eerie aura of the plot.  The story line is fast-paced as cops on two continents struggle to prevent the next rape-murder, but are unsure if they are dealing with one or two psychopaths.  Readers will be spellbound throughout, but don’t snack as Jackson and Baldwin return for another gripping police procedural (see Judas, Kiss, All The Pretty Girls and 14).

Harriet Klausner