Archive for March, 2010

A Cast-off Coven-Juliet Blackwell

March 31, 2010

A Cast-off Coven

Juliet Blackwell

Obsidian, Jun 2010, $6.99

ISBN: 9780451230492

Lily Ivory is a bona fide powerful witch who has made a home for herself in San Francisco as the owner of Aunt Cora’s Closet where she sells vintage clothing.  She is promised a trunk full of clothing if she exorcises what is scaring the students. They hear ghostly noises and movements at the San Francisco School of Fine Arts.  The students and faculty also hear moans and footsteps that a ghost can’t make, but nobody sees anyone walking.

She enters the building believing she is dealing with a ghost and in a sense she is right because someone committed murder at the school decades ago.  When she goes to the bell tower she finds the dead body of billionaire businessman Jerry Becker.  After the police rope off the murder scene and finish questioning everyone who was in the area, Lily enters the closet where the trunk is.  She sees and hears something that makes her realize someone called up a demon but didn’t bind it.  With each new day, the demon grows stronger.  While the police investigate the homicide, the demon targets humans with no defense against its assaults; only Lily stands in the way.

This awesome paranormal mystery stars a terrific heroine who for the first time in her solitary life has friends, a home, a job she loves, and a responsible boyfriend who does not belittle or assault her.  The supernatural subplot does not overwhelm the whodunit because there are several human suspects who could be the killer and have summoned the demon.  Lily has to figure out if she is dealing with one or two antagonists as either scenario is plausible.

Harriet Klausner


The Tulip Virus-Danielle Hermans

March 31, 2010

The Tulip Virus

Danielle Hermans

Minotaur, Apr 27 2010, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312577865

In 2007 in London Frank Schoeller calls his nephew British painter Alec with a plea for help.  Dropping everything, Alec rushes over to his beloved uncle’s house.  There he finds Uncle Frank brutally battered and near death.  Frank tells Alec not to call the police, get out of the house and take a four century old book on tulips with him.

Alec calls the cops, but insists he found his Uncle Frank dead.  He needs to know why his relative was tortured and murdered. To do that he needs to know what is the value of a book focused on the 1636 Tulip War in Holland that his uncle gave him on his deathbed..   Obtaining the help of his Dutch friend Amsterdam antiques dealer Damien Vanlint, he investigates learning more than he wants about 1636 Holland and about the danger they now face due to their inquiry.

Although somewhat a standard exciting thriller, the tulip connection to seventeenth century Holland adds a fresh spin.  Fast-paced throughout, fans will root for the amateur sleuths to survive the ordeal as several adversaries, unconcerned with collateral damage or using hostages, will kill again to keep a secret concealed.

Harriet Klausner

Our Burden’s Light-Patrick Thomas Casey

March 30, 2010

Our Burden’s Light

Patrick Thomas Casey

Dunne, Apr 13 2010, $25.99

ISBN: 9780312533908

In the Shenandoah Valley, the murder of teenager Grant Shelley shakes his family.  Only the actions of his father, Robert keep the grieving Shelley brood together as none of them understand why it happened and moving on and getting closure feels impossible to do.

Grant’s teenage killer, Hayden Clyde struggles with what he did in the woods.  Also not coping very well is Grant’s former girlfriend and Hayden’s current one Evelyn Warren.  Meanwhile even as he remains the core holding the family together, Robert wonders what he could have done differently; especially as he begins to realize his late son is not quite the innocent victim paragon the Shelley brood prefers to believe; nor in many ways he knows is he not a shining example.

This is an interesting look at the grieving process when an unexpected tragic death occurs. Patrick Thomas Casey makes a strong case that everyone grieves in their own way and in their own time even with an anchor keeping all moored.  Although more a series of vignettes tied together by Grant’s death than a novel, readers will appreciate this deep look at the living after a young person unexpectedly dies violently.

Harriet Klausner

A Curtain Falls-Stefanie Pintoff

March 30, 2010

A Curtain Falls

Stefanie Pintoff

Minotaur, May 11 2010, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312583965

In 1904, New York City residents are stunned by the tragic sinking of General Slocum.  Like so many locals, NYPD partners detectives Simon Ziele and Declan Mulvaney are impacted by the calamity.  Simon’s fiancée died with the sinking; he quit the force and left the city moving to Dobson up the Hudson.  Declan stayed with NYPD until now in 1906 he is a captain.

Needing someone he trusts, Mulvaney asks Ziele, who just watched in disgust a jury set free a spouse killer, to investigate the murder of a Broadway chorus girl; the second such homicide made to look like a suicide near the Garrick Theater on West Thirty-Fifth in the last few weeks.  Ziele believes a serial killer is loose.  The cops arrest a suspect, but Ziele thinks the wrong man has been brought in.  He and criminologist Alistair Sinclair investigate the murders.

The latest Ziele historical police procedural (see In the Shadow of Gotham) is an excellent period piece with a strong whodunit.  Readers will enjoy the cankerous camaraderie between Ziele and Sinclair who respect each other professionally but also distrust one another personally especially with the former guilt-laden attracted to the latter’s widow daughter-in-law.  With insight into the beginnings of the Great White Way becoming the American Theater District inside a strong cop case, Stefanie Pintoff provides sub-genre fans with another superb early twentieth century mystery.

Harriet Klausner

The Time Pirate-Ted Bell

March 30, 2010

The Time Pirate

Ted Bell

St. Martin’s, Apr 13 2010, $17.99

ISBN: 9780312578107

In 1940 the Nazis invade the British Channel Islands.  To repel the enemy, teenager Nick McIver teaches himself to fly an obsolete WWI fighter plane that he had found in an abandoned barn. From the air, barnstorming Nick photographs minelayers and patrol boats during the day and conducts bombing raids over Nazi airfields at night.

Meanwhile his enemy pirate Captain Billy Blood wants possession of Nick’s time machine.  Using his own, he travels to Greybeard Island where he kidnaps Nick’s sister Kate, and takes her back  to 1781 Port Royal, Jamaica; but he leaves Nick a message that in exchange for his sibling he wants the time machine.  Traveling to the late eighteenth century, Nick of Time learns of a plot that could result in Washington’s defeat as Blood has amassed an invincible armada.

Fighting in two wars over a century and half apart, heroic Nick hopes to be on time to save his sister and for his side to win twice.  Incredibly fast-paced with over the top happenstances, this lighthearted fun teenage pulp fiction is very entertaining though not deep in either era except when blood and tomatoes mix as Nick battles The Time Pirate.

Harriet Klausner

Edge of Apocalypse-Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall

March 29, 2010

Edge of Apocalypse

Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall

Zondervan, Apr 20 2010, $24.99

ISBN: 9780310326281

Joshua Jordan was a hero taking unbelievable chances with his life for the country he loved.  When he retired from field work he became a weapon designer trying to still protect the United States from threats outside and inside the nation.  In the Atlantic, a North Korean boat has nuclear missiles aboard.  Due to failed communication with his superiors at home, the admiral launches the weapons a

Two of the missiles head towards New York City; Jordan has minutes to activate the Return to Sender laser guidance system that sends a missile back to its launch site.  The counter operation proves successful, but the media questions the consequences while the White House and Senate demand he turn over the Return to Sender system to Senator Stratworth and his committee.  When he refuses to give it to anyone outside of the Pentagon as he fears anyone else will sell it for oil and credit. The President and Congress use the media to go after Joshua.  Joshua soon learns he might be a target as Iran, North Korea and Russia as well as allies want the system and will go to any length to get it.

Taking place in the near future in which America is short on cash as a new growing dust bowl threatens Midwest agriculture, corruption permeates the government, Joshua and two secret cabals try to bring back the country to what is once was.   Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall provides readers with an exciting thriller as the United Sates is on the Edge of Apocalypse while the hero must deal with the possibility of biblical Armageddon and saving his nation.

Harriet Klausner

Mr. Arkadin AKA Confidential Report-Orson Welles

March 28, 2010

Mr. Arkadin AKA Confidential Report

Orson Welles

IT (HarperCollins), Apr 6 2010, $13.99

ISBN: 9780061689031

Just after the war, Chesterfield smuggler Guy van Stratten and his girlfriend Mily find the dying man with a knife in his back near their boat the Queenie.  Marcel Bracco tells them to find Gregory Arkadin if they want to make a fortune.  The cops arrive as Bracco dies, but also look on board the Queenie where they find the illegal contraband.  Guy spends the next three months behind bars.

After his release, Guy searches for and finds Mily who works on board Arkadin’s ship.  However, Guy also learns the great international financier has a daughter Raina and knows she is the best ticket to get to her father and subsequently a lot of money though he remains unsure how.  Guy maneuvers a dance with Raina and a ride to Marseille.  Guy meets Arkadin who hires him to find out who he was before arriving in Zurich in 1927 with 200,000 Swiss francs.

Although the novelization of the Welles’ unfinished movie (as described by John Parker in the forward: apparently there were several versions but none finished by Welles) is an intriguing character study starring individuals who are shady and most often on the wrong side of the law.  Although the tale is slow at first, once Guy and Raina meet, the action picks up until a final confrontation.  Fans of Orson Wells will enjoy this entertaining reprint of a 1950s thriller as his antiheroes work post Europe with a capitalist need at the bottom line at all costs.

Harriet Klausner

Sham Rock-Ralph McInerny

March 28, 2010

Sham Rock

Ralph McInerny

Minotaur, Apr 13 2010, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312582654

Because of the recession, financial adviser David Williams returns to his ala mater Notre Dame to visits his son attending classes there and to inform the university’s administration he cannot afford to finance a new building as he promised.  As David visits, another alumnus sends to the school’s associate archivist a box filled with newspaper clippings and various other sundry including the confession of a murder and burial of the victim, another student from the class of 89 Timothy Quinn, who had vanished two decades ago.

The school leadership, having used retired private investigator Philip Knight to work sensitive cases before, asks him to look into the Quinn situation.  With the help of his brother Catholic Studies Professor Roger Knight Philip begins his inquiry starting with a look back to 1989 when the “Trinity” of David, Timothy and Patrick were rivals and buddies.  Upon digging up the corpse, the siblings realize the case is much more convoluted than they expected.

The latest Knight brothers Notre Dame investigative tale (see The Green Revolution) is one of the better entries in what is a fun lighthearted private detective series.  The story line is fast-paced from the moment the archivist opens the box and never slows down as Philip with Roger assisting him begins the inquiry into what happened in 1989 only to find a much bigger case on their hands.  Ralph McInerny, who died in January, provides a strong Fighting Irish academic mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Dead Head-Rosemary Harris

March 28, 2010

Dead Head

Rosemary Harris

Minotaur, Apr 13 2010, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312569945

In Springfield, Connecticut, gardener Paula Holliday is shocked when the news explodes that one of her clients whom she was considering a partnership with, Caroline Sturgis, is actually Monica Jane Weithorn, who escaped from prison over a quarter of a century ago.  Monica Jane had been convicted of drug dealing, but has since straightened out her life becoming a wife and mom as a pillar of society.

Now the “Fugitive Mom” is going back to prison to complete her sentence and probably more for her escape.  Caroline’s stunned husband Grant tells Paula his wife is a stranger, but needs to know who turned her in to the authorities.  Knowing that Paula has solved cases (see The Big Dirt Nap and Pushing Up Daisies), he hires her to investigate; she accepts as she can use the money with the economy still tanked and besides she is curious too.  Her friends Police Sergeant Mike O’Malley and reporter Lucy Cavanaugh also wonder who.

Based on headlines from a few years ago, Dead Head is a terrific amateur sleuth though it is the parallel look at the life (past and Present) of the Fugitive Mom who makes this an exhilarating character driven tale.  Fast-paced in both eras, readers will be as spellbound as Paula and the rest of Springfield are comparing Dead Head Monica Jane with family matriarch Caroline.

Harriet Klausner

Death Of A Trophy Wife-Laura Levine

March 27, 2010

Death Of A Trophy Wife

Laura Levine

Kensington, May 2010, $22.00

ISBN: 9780758238450

Los Angeles freelance writer Jaine Austen accompanies her friend Neiman Marcus shoe guru Lance to the Beverly Hills estate of “Marvelous Marv, the Mattress King” as the man’s wife is his best customer.  However, Bunny is nasty to everyone including Jaine, but soon after sipping her martini she falls to the ground dead.

Someone put cyanide in Bunny’s martini.  Since the queen of mean was universally loathed, there are plenty of suspects.  However, the Beverly Hills police hone in on Lance who has an additional motive.  He inherits the victim’s $175,000 Maserati.  Jaine knows Lance would not kill a major customer so having success in solving homicides before (see Killer Cruise); she investigates and finds several viable suspects amidst the extended family members.

This is a wild over the top of the Sierras amateur sleuth who-dome-it as the eccentric cast brings to life Los Angeles with an amusing spin.  Jaine dodges the marital demands of Uzbekistani Vladimir Ivan Trotsky, which is amusing but takes the reader away from her investigation.  Still fans will enjoy Jaine’s latest whodunit.

Harriet Klausner