Archive for March, 2010

The Biggest Liar in Los Angeles-Ken Kuhlken

March 27, 2010

The Biggest Liar in Los Angeles

Ken Kuhlken

Poisoned Pen, May 2010, $24.95

ISBN: 9781590586976

In 1926 in Echo Park in Los Angeles, Negro Frank Gaines is lynched near the temple of evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, but the two major newspapers remain silent re the murder.  Dance orchestra lead Tom Hickey learns about the death of a friend from an underground paper. He asks his neighbor LAPD Defective Leo Weiss if in deed the lynching occurred and if yes what Police Chief Davis is doing about it.  Leo says yes and no to the first question as Gaines was murdered, but the cops are insisting nothing happened.

Tom investigates the murder starting with a visit to Aimee Semple McPherson’s Angelus Temple.  However, he soon is followed and beaten up with warnings from speakeasy owner and Klansman Leo that if he fails to drop his inquiry, his new enemies will insure he does so permanently even as he concludes local political corruption led to the lynching.

Although there is too much going on between 1926 cop-business-politician-newspaper-evangelist connections, the orchestra, the hero’s family life (especially his sister) and the investigation; readers will enjoy this fast-paced historical amateur sleuth mystery.  The story line focuses on Los Angeles during the Roaring Twenties that comes to light through Tom’s eyes.  Fast-paced, fans will enjoy The Biggest Liar in Los Angeles about to be exposed by a sermon of Aimee Semple McPherson.

Harriet Klausner

Stettin Station-David Downing

March 26, 2010

Stettin Station

David Downing

Soho, May 1 2010, $25.00

ISBN: 9781569476345

In November 1941 in Berlin, Anglo-American journalist John Russell knows Roosevelt needs an excuse to enter the war as the German armies blitzkrieg towards Moscow.  To avoid censorship or worse, Russell is very careful with what he files as he knows it will take little for the Nazis to detain, kill or export him.  This would leave his famous girlfriend actress Effi Koenen behind still filming propaganda movies for the Nazis’ whom she and John loath and he also would be unable to help his teenage son Paul, who lives with his former wife while belonging to the Hitler Youth group.

Meanwhile as most Berliners blindly remain loyal to the Nazis, John’s Communist friends report the transporting by trains of Jews to the east.  Admiral Canaris, head of Abwehr, assigns John on a mission in Prague with a promise of a passage to Switzerland.  However, the mission fails, but John tries to send to his contacts that American companies in Europe are profiteering from the war by selling Zyklon B gas to the Nazis.

The third Russell WWII espionage thriller (see Zoo Station and Silesian Station) is a great entry that in many ways is more a superb historical as David Downing captures the essence of Berlin just prior to the American entry into the war.  The atmosphere is terrific as the Nazis deploy the Final Solution and attack the Russians while Russell struggles with getting himself and his renowned girlfriend to safety yet not wanting to abandon his son to the Hitler Group nor ignore the sales of poison gas.  Readers will feel they are in Berlin in late 1941 as Stettin Station is a timely tale.

Harriet Klausner

A Twist of Orchids-Michelle Wan

March 26, 2010

A Twist of Orchids

Michelle Wan

Minotaur, Apr 13 2010, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312549947

In Dordgone, France, English orchid expert Julian Wood and French-Canadian interior designer Mara Dunn love one another but struggle with relational accommodations as both are set in their ways.  Especially troublesome to Mara is Julian’s obsessive annual hunt for the rare Lady’s Slipper orchid.

As the couple struggles with compromise, Kazim, son of Turkish sweet shop bakery owners, sees a woman fall to her death from the balcony of the Two Sisters restaurant.  Mara is shocked with her neighbor octogenarian Amelie Gaillard’s dying from what everyone assumes was an accident, but even more shocking is that the victim’s daughter Christine failed to come to the funeral or assist her Parkinson’s ailing dad Joseph with his grief.  Soon afterward, Kazim is missing and his parents plead with Julian to search for him.  As Mara looks into Galliard family secrets, she finds herself involved with the rhyming thefts while Julian’s investigation has him allied with a drug dealer.

The third Death in Dordgone amateur sleuth mystery (see Deadly Slipper and The Orchid Shroud) is an enjoyable dueling investigative tale.  The lead couple’s personal issues as a new middle aged couple trying to adapt to living with a lover are amusing though extremely minor especially compared with the deep look at Muslims living in France.  Fans of French modern day mysteries will enjoy A Twist of Orchids as neither of the lead couple finds their inquiry as simple as expected; almost as hard as they discover living with another adult.

Harriet Klausner

212-Alafair Burke

March 26, 2010

212

Alafair Burke

Harper, Mar 2010, $24.99

ISBN: 9780061561221

NYPD is at the penthouse at 212 Lafayette owned by real-estate tycoon the Sam Sparks.  Inside is the corpse Robert Mancini, an employee of the Sam Sparks.  Leading the investigation is Detective Ellie Hatcher, who upsets the owner with her shoes on his carpet; the tycoon seems oblivious that his employee has been shot with a zillion or so bullets.  Although evidence points towards an escort being with the victim just before he was killed, Hatcher finds that too convenient and looks closer at the Sam without ruling out the missing companion.  That upsets her politically devoted bosses.

At the same time Hatcher is warned to stop looking at the Sam, NYU student Megan Gunther receives threatening messages on Campus Juice anonymous website.  Her parents ask the police for help, but are told nothing can be done about untraceable creeps who have not broken the law.  They are irate that unless something happens to their daughter, the cops will do nothing.  They prove prophetic when someone kills Meghan less than twenty-four hours after their police visit although her escort roommate might have been the target.  As more corpses are found, Hatcher and her partner J.J. Rogan struggle to end a serial killing spree.

The latest Hatcher police procedural (see (after Dead Connection and Angel’s Tip) is a tense modern day timely thriller that grips the audience from the opening murder scene and never slows down although there is an abundance of bodies.  The convoluted story line is loaded with action as the two cops struggle with clues that end or take them in a different direction.  Fans will enjoy this deep cautionary tale as Internet stalking is a phenomenon that is difficult to deal with beyond unplugging.

Harriet Klausner

The Bone Thief-Jefferson Bass

March 26, 2010

The Bone Thief

Jefferson Bass

Morrow, Mar 2010, $24.99

ISBN: 9780061284762

University of Tennessee’s anthropology department chairman and the head of the school’s human decomposition research facility the Body Farm, Dr. Bill Brockton and his grad assistant Miranda Lovelady open a coffin to obtain a sample for a DNA paternity test.  However, the remains inside have been desecrated.

The FBI asks Brockton to assist them on ending a lucrative body parts black market operation.  He agrees to play the role of a supplier though he remains preoccupied by his last case Bones of Betrayal.  At the same time he struggles with an undercover role to end a chop shop, his medical examiner friend Eddie Garcia has been exposed to a dose of radioactivity that has cost him both hands amputated and likely his job unless he takes an illegal underhanded spin with his hope being Brockton.

This is an entertaining Body Farm mystery as the hero is caught in a personal value’s dilemma between helping his friend and ending the black market sales of body parts.  This issue comes on top of his inability to move past the betrayal that “murdered” his heart.  Although two late shaky spins detract from an otherwise solid undercover tale, forensic fans will enjoy Dr. Brockton’s moral crisis.

Harriet Klausner

The Burying Place-Brian Freeman

March 25, 2010

The Burying Place

Brian Freeman

Minotaur, Apr 13 2020, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312562748

Although injured from a nasty fall, Duluth, Minnesota Police detective Jonathan Stride continues his investigation into the kidnapping of eleven month old Callie Glenn.  Her father is a renowned Grand Rapids, Minnesota orthopedic surgeon Marcus and her mother Valerie were having marital problems that she at least hope the baby would resolve.

Because of the way the abduction occurred, Jonathan strongly believes someone with access to the exclusive waterfront house abducted the infant starting with the father who kicked his long time mistress to the curb and the babysitter whom he might have begun a fling with.  Jonathan’s partner, Detective Maggie Bei assists him on his inquiry while leading an investigation on a serial killer.  Being in the wrong place at the wrong time leads to rookie cop Kasey Kennedy becoming the psychopath’s latest obsession.

This is an exciting Minnesota police procedural starring several cops with personal issues, but the key is that the two cases remain front and center.  The story line is fast-paced and filled with action throughout and a great final spin.  Although the convergence of the investigations feels strained, readers still will enjoy this entertaining tale as the hero and company remain In the Dark while they stride down the mean streets of Duluth.

Harriet Klausner

The Hypnotist- M.J. Rose

March 25, 2010

The Hypnotist

M.J. Rose

Mira, May 1 2010, $24.95

ISBN 9780778326755

FBI’s Art Crime Team special agent Lucian Glass continues his pursuit of the Phoenix Foundation’s Malachi Samuels.  Both adversaries also seek the “Memory Tools” that enable people to look into their past-lives’ memories.

A Matisse painting stolen two decades ago from the gallery of Andre Jacobs is sent to the Metropolitan Museum of Art ripped to shreds.  The slasher warns the museum that four more stolen masterpieces will be destroyed unless MOMA gives to the thief the fifteen century old Hypnos, a sculpture that allegedly can bestow supernatural power to a person.  Lucian has never forgotten the theft because his beloved Solange, Andre’s daughter, was killed during the heist.  As he travels though past lives in ancient Greece and ninetieth century Persia, Lucian is attracted to Andre’s niece Emeline, whom the gallery owner raised as his adopted daughter as she reminds him so much of his Solange; too much so.

The latest Reincarnationist tale novel (see The Memorist), The Hypnotist is another great entry in one of the most exhilarating fresh sagas on the market today.  The past lives and the present case subplots merge effortlessly into a superb thriller held together by a stunned Lucian.

Harriet Klausner

The Hypnotist-M.J. Rose

March 25, 2010

The Hypnotist

M.J. Rose

Mira, May 1 2010, $24.95

ISBN 9780778326755

FBI’s Art Crime Team special agent Lucian Glass continues his pursuit of the Phoenix Foundation’s Malachi Samuels.  Both adversaries also seek the “Memory Tools” that enable people to look into their past-lives’ memories.

A Matisse painting stolen two decades ago from the gallery of Andre Jacobs is sent to the Metropolitan Museum of Art ripped to shreds.  The slasher warns the museum that four more stolen masterpieces will be destroyed unless MOMA gives to the thief the fifteen century old Hypnos, a sculpture that allegedly can bestow supernatural power to a person.  Lucian has never forgotten the theft because his beloved Solange, Andre’s daughter, was killed during the heist.  As he travels though past lives in ancient Greece and ninetieth century Persia, Lucian is attracted to Andre’s niece Emeline, whom the gallery owner raised as his adopted daughter as she reminds him so much of his Solange; too much so.

The latest Reincarnationist tale novel (see The Memorist), The Hypnotist is another great entry in one of the most exhilarating fresh sagas on the market today.  The past lives and the present case subplots merge effortlessly into a superb thriller held together by a stunned Lucian.

Harriet Klausner

The Other Side of the Door-Nicci French

March 24, 2010

The Other Side of the Door

Nicci French

Minotaur, May 11 2010, $25.99

ISBN 9780312375409

In London band singer Bonnie is stunned to find her secret boyfriend, another band member Hayden lying dead inside of his apartment.  Panicking, Bonnie hides the corpse, cleans up the crime scene and erases any traces of her ever being there.  She conceals she was ever intimate with Hayden because the police will know she had opportunity and her probable motive being Hayden’s other women.

Afterward, as she reflects back as to what she did, Bonnie realizes the police will still look her way.  However, she also begins to think lucidly about the crime scene and concludes someone else cleansed their traces from the pad.

This is an excellent crime caper as Bonnie looks back from the moment she found the body in a way that makes the audience assume she actually might have killed the victim.  The story line grips the reader who will not want to put it down in order to find out did she kille him or not.  Although amnesia is not part of the plot, The Other Side of the Door will remind readers of Memento with its look back.  The strong support cast enhances an intriguing thriller starring a beleaguered abused heroine as the Nicci French writing duet provides a terrific winner.

Harriet Klausner

2 in the Hat-Raffi Yessayan

March 24, 2010

2 in the Hat

Raffi Yessayan

Ballantine, Apr 13 2010, $25.00

ISBN: 9780345502636

In Franklin Park, Boston police detective Angel Alves is coaching a youth football team when one his players finds a dead woman dressed in an expensive dress.  After calming down the kids Angel looks around and finds a dead male wearing a tuxedo.  Each is posed to match the M.O. of the Prom Night Killer, who had been quiet for so long, the police assumed he died or was inactivated in some way such as being locked up at a prison for some other crime.  This serial killer case was ice cold until now.

Angel’s retired former boss Police Sergeant Wayne Mooney led the original inquiry into the Prom Night Killer murders.  He provides information to Angel that eliminates the possibilty of a copycat.  Mooney wants back in as he never felt good about the case remaining unsolved and is brought on as a “consultant”.  Soon the pair follows leads in hope to end a psychopath’s apparent second reign of terror.

This is an exciting over the top of the Green Monster serial killer police procedural.  The story line is fast-paced from the moment the corpses are found and never slows down until the final spin.  Fans who can ignore plausibility will want to read Alves’ second serial killer case (see 8 in the Box.).

Harriet Klausner