Archive for June, 2010

Baked-Mark Haskell Smith

June 30, 2010

Baked

Mark Haskell Smith

Black Cat (Grove/Atlantic), Aug 6 2010, $14.00

ISBN: 9780802170767

In Los Angeles botanist Miro Basinas is shot.  One month earlier, Miro competed in the international Cannabis Cup tournament in Amsterdam.  Stunningly his Elephant Crush won the gold medal at the competition because of its wonderful flavoring that tastes like mango.

Miro thought by entering his prize specialty grown weed he would hit the big time especially after he won.  Now in a hospital as he recovers from being shot he learns his seed has been stolen by predatory capitalists who plan to sell his cannabis.  He vows revenge, but has no idea how one goes about becoming an avenger as this is comic books or a movie and he is a weed botanist; besides he has no idea who shot him and stole his seed as several predators, besides the usual suspects, surface.

This is a dark amusing crime caper starring a half baked capitalist botanist and a horde of eccentric characters who run the gamut of stereotypical free market idealists.  Although the support cast can strain the story line with too much quirkiness, readers who enjoy something different will appreciate the battle of the capitalists who want to sell legally at medical marihuana “Starbucks” and illegally on the streets, Miro blend with or without his cooperation; as competition is cutthroat.

Harriet Klausner

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Did Not Survive-Ann Littlewood

June 30, 2010

Did Not Survive

Ann Littlewood

Poisoned Pen, Jul 1 2010, $24.95

ISBN: 9781590587454

At the Finley Memorial Zoo in Vancouver, Washington pregnant Iris Oakley is reassigned from her Big Cat keeper job to the birds. Iris finds administrator Kevin Wallace lying in blood and unconscious in the elephant barn.  Hovering near him is Damrey the elephant.  Iris manages to rescue Wallace, but is bewildered that gentle elderly Damrey would attack him.

Everyone assumes Damrey assaulted Kevin except Sam the elephant head keeper although no one can explain why the victim would be inside that barn or what he did to ignite Damrey’s fury.  At the same time while the humans ponder the elephant walk, Clouded Leopard gives birth.  However, the zoo turns macabre when an animal corpse is stolen and other animals kidnapped while the elephant herd seems to have drawn angry animal activists and the keepers are fighting with each other.

The second Finley memorial Zoo amateur sleuth (see Night Kill) is an enjoyable mystery with a nice twist of Iris’ “innocent” inquiries confusing the official investigation.  The sleuthing is fun to follow, but the prime pleasure with Did Not Survive is the leisurely vivid descriptions of what goes on behind the scenes at a zoo.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Men-Paul Cleave

June 30, 2010

Blood Men

Paul Cleave

Atria, Jul 20 2010, $16.00

ISBN: 9781439189610

When Edward Hunter was nine years old his life radically changed.  First a voice in his head directed him to put nails inside a steak that he fed to a dog, who died a painful death.  In that same year his father dubbed Jack the Hunter was arrested and convicted of killing at least eleven prostitutes; his older sister died from an overdose; and finally Edward’s mom committed suicide unable to cope with what Jack did.

Shocked into behaving, Edward becomes an accountant and affectionately loving towards his wife Jodie and their six-year-old daughter Sam.  During Christmas week Jodie and Edward are at a bank in Christchurch, New Zealand when six armed robbers assault the place.  Edward goes into face them, but his confrontation leads to Jodie’s death. The dormant voice is back ordering him to kill.  Shook by his wife’s death and the voice, Edward visits his father for the first since Jack was locked away.  Jack says he heard the voice too and suggests to his son to follow its call and avenge the murder of his beloved wife.

This is a fascinating character study that looks deeply at what motivates anti society activities.  The story line is at its best when the focus is inside the head of Edward who thinks he may just be a chip off the old block.  However, the story line also contains too many subplots in which none fully take charge though ultimately the myriad converge in a final clash.  Still fans of twisting psychological thrillers with a red sea of blood will want to read Edward’s lament (perhaps too much lamenting by him) as he fears his DNA imprint is serial killer not family patriarch.

Harriet Klausner

Cure-Robin Cook

June 30, 2010

Cure

Robin Cook

Putnam, Aug 10 2010, $26.95

ISBN 9780399156625

Medical examiners Laurie Montgomery and Jack Stapleton are euphoric with the birth of their first offspring.  Following medical leave, Laurie returns to work and her boss assigns to her a routine inquiry in which the preliminary indication is death by natural causes.

However, something feels off kilter to Laurie and she is positive it is not caused by postpartum blues.  She digs a bit deeper and soon realizes the victim has been poisoned.  Her investigation leads to the Mafia and Japanese gangsters competing with money laundering investments in a crooked stem-cell research firm.  When the felons kidnap her son Laurie goes lioness berserker in pursuit.

Cure in an exciting medical thriller due to the diligence of the lead protagonist whose investigation leads to a convergence of the biotechnical and mob industries aimed at her and her loved ones.  The story line is fast-paced from the moment Laurie begins her autopsy and never slows down.  Although resolutions are incredibly too obvious, easy and abrupt, fans will enjoy the latest Montgomery-Stapleton tale (see Foreign Body) as the enemy goes after them by targeting their Achilles’ Heel.

Harriet Klausner

Fatal Convictions-Randy Singer

June 29, 2010

Fatal Convictions

Randy Singer

Tyndale, Aug 1 2010, $13.99

ISBN: 9781414333205

The case is controversial as affirmed by no lawyer in Virginia Beach wanting to defend Khalid Mobasser, the Muslim Imam for the Norfolk Islamic Learning Center.  He is accused of encouraging and causing honor killings especially when a Muslim male killed his wife for converting to Christianity.  Personal injury attorney Pastor Alexander Madison is wary to take on such a charged defense in which the media prefers to hang anyone who wants to insure the Imam receives a fair trial.  Making his decision more difficult is criminal law is not his expertise.

However, upon meeting the accused and reviewing the evidence, Alexander believes the Imam is innocent.  He begins his unpopular defense believing he knows the full cost to himself; but is unaware until it may be too late to know the personal price of doing so.

This is an excellent legal thriller that grips the audience from the onset when the seemingly sleazy ambulance chaser Reverend Madison offers his legal skill to Imam Mobasser at the hospital where the latter’s wife is recovering from a severe car accident.  The story line is fast-paced with a strong legal base that will have readers questioning the law; for instance if an Imam declares honor killing is acceptable does that makes him an accessory and does a person encouraging abortion killing make that individual an accessory.  Readers will relish this thought provoking look at the legal system asking whether there are no limits to religious freedom considering recent SCOTUS Second Amendment activist decisions overcoming decades of local law.

Harriet Klausner

The Good Thief’s Guide To Vegas-Chris Ewan

June 29, 2010

The Good Thief’s Guide To Vegas

Chris Ewan

Minotaur, Aug 17 2010, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312580827

British author Charlie Howard makes more money as a sophisticated thief.  He and his writing agent Victoria visit Las Vegas.  There they meet magician Josh Masters, who is performing as the star attraction at the Fifty-Fifty casino on the Strip and apparently attracted to Victoria.

Charlie decides the obnoxious magician needs a lesson for his designs on Victoria so he plans to rob $60,000 in chips from his intended victim’s hotel safe.  Everything goes according to the good thief’s plan until he sees a corpse in Masters’ bathtub. During a performance, Masters performs a perfect disappearing act while the casino owners demand Charlie fork over the chips.

The latest Good Thief Guide thriller (see Paris and Amsterdam) is a delightful crime caper in which everything goes Murphy (wrong) for the urbane title character.  Charlie is a combo antiheroic hero whose latest escapades have as always led to him into trouble from all sides of the trapezoidal law.  Fans will enjoy Charlie’s humorous lighthearted misadventures on the Strip as he muses that last week (previous tale) he saw the Eiffel Tower in Paris and this week he sees the Eiffel Tower in Vegas; both visits having in common someone wanting to roll a snake eyes of him from the top.

Harriet Klausner

Murder at Mansfield Park-Lynn Shepherd

June 29, 2010

Murder at Mansfield Park

Lynn Shepherd

St. Martin’s Griffin, Jul 20 2010, $14.99

ISBN: 9780312638344

At Mansfield Park, usually upbeat Mary Crawford hates, like everyone else, seemingly once meek and insipid Fanny Price the former charity case who has turned nasty ever since she became an heiress; Fanny tossed away her humble pie façade of modesty since gaining wealth.  Still, though Mary loathes Fanny, she would not want anything horrific to happen to her tormentor, for the most part.  Thus when Fanny’s body is found in a nearby fairgrounds Mary wonders who else the supposed inconspicuous Fanny tortured enough to have the motive to kill her.

Mary decides to investigate who killed the mean queen of complacency.  Ever the optimist, she begins to follow the clues while joined by a thief not realizing how dangerous sleuthing at Mansfield Park can be.

Murder at Mansfield Park is an entertaining spin on the original Jane Austen classic as Lynn Shepherd modifies traits (in some cases dramatically) key Crawford-Price extended family players in her fun historical whodunit.  The story line is a fast-paced amateur sleuth that Austen aficionados will appreciate, but so will mystery fans of nineteenth century English investigations.  This is a fun refreshing Miss Austen spin.

Harriet Klausner

A Brush with Death-Elizabeth J. Duncan

June 29, 2010

A Brush with Death

Elizabeth J. Duncan

Minotaur, Aug 3 2010, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312622824

Canadian Expatriate Penny Brannigan inherited her Welsh cottage in Llanelen, Wales from schoolteacher Emma Teasdale.  A reasonably successful manicure shop owner, Penny cleans up her cottage when she finds letters describing Emma’s affair with Liverpool artist Alys Jones.  The painter, preparing for a gallery showing in Liverpool, died in a hit-and-run driver shortly after leaving in 1970.

Penny’s plate is overflowing, but she is obsessed with Alys’s death. She persuades her boyfriend DI Gareth Davies and police Sergeant Bethan Morgan to assist her as she investigates the cold case hit and run.  Villagers are also interested in the Jones’ case as most of her paintings vanished with only two canvasses recovered.

The second Brannigan investigative case (see The Cold Light of Mourning) is a wonderful Welsh whodunit as the amateur sleuth assisted by professional cops and the long time residents of Llanelen look into a cold case accident that soon looks like vehicular homicide.  Fast-paced, readers will want to joy the intrepid Penny who is in for more than just a pound as she follows the clues, one cup of tea at a time.

Harriet Klausner

Murder at Mansfield Park-Lynn Shepherd

June 29, 2010

Murder at Mansfield Park

Lynn Shepherd

St. Martin’s Griffin, Jul 20 2010, $14.99

ISBN: 9780312638344

At Mansfield Park, usually upbeat Mary Crawford hates, like everyone else, seemingly once meek and insipid Fanny Price the former charity case who has turned nasty ever since she became an heiress; Fanny tossed away her humble pie façade of modesty since gaining wealth.  Still, though Mary loathes Fanny, she would not want anything horrific to happen to her tormentor, for the most part.  Thus when Fanny’s body is found in a nearby fairgrounds Mary wonders who else the supposed inconspicuous Fanny tortured enough to have the motive to kill her.

Mary decides to investigate who killed the mean queen of complacency.  Ever the optimist, she begins to follow the clues while joined by a thief not realizing how dangerous sleuthing at Mansfield Park can be.

Murder at Mansfield Park is an entertaining spin on the original Jane Austen classic as Lynn Shepherd modifies traits (in some cases dramatically) key Crawford-Price extended family players in her fun historical whodunit.  The story line is a fast-paced amateur sleuth that Austen aficionados will appreciate, but so will mystery fans of nineteenth century English investigations.  This is a fun refreshing Miss Austen spin.

Harriet Klausner

A Hidden Affair-Pam Jenoff

June 28, 2010

A Hidden Affair

Pam Jenoff

Atria, Jul 6 2010, $22.99

ISBN: 9781416590712

At Cambridge University Jared Short and Jordan Weiss were lovers until he accidentally drowned.  At least that is what Jordan thought.  When the U.S. Foreign Service diplomat learns the truth that her grief for years was for a sham, she needs to know why he faked his death.  She leaves the State department to pursue the truth while someone wants her to be silenced on this matter.

Jordon follows leads that take her to Nicole Short who apparently knows Jared and where to find him, but conceals everything.  She follows Nicole, which takes her to widower Ari Bruck, whom Jordon believes is an undercover Mossad field operative also interested in Jared though not revealing why.  Distrusting each other in spite of their attraction, they agree to team up in search of the elusive Jared as clues taken them all over France from the Riviera to the wine country and onto the rest of the continent.

A Hidden Affair is an intriguing romantic espionage starring a brave female who seeks the truth about the only man she thought she loved until her attraction with Ari.  The pair shares in common grief; hers is for her college lover who allegedly drowned in the Cam and his for his late wife and daughter.  Filled with twists, fans will want to know what happened to Jared.  With a tie to vanished rare wine lost in WWII that enhances the exciting story line, A Hidden Affair is a super thriller.

Harriet Klausner