Archive for June, 2010

Layover in Dubai-Dan Fesperman

June 28, 2010

Layover in Dubai

Dan Fesperman

Knopf, Jul 16 2010, $25.95

ISBN: 9780307268389

Road weary American auditor Sam Keller is in his twentieth nation as an employee of Pfluger Klaxon.  He and his business companion Charlie Hatcher are in Dubai when the latter is murdered.  Although Sam vomits twice at the sight of the blown away Charlie, the cops believe he is the killer so he flees rather than take his chances on Middle East justice even if Dubai is a very westernized center.

He soon finds the Russian Mafia and his own pharmaceutical company want him dead.  Dubai police officer Anwar Sharaf believes the American is innocent as the alleged motive fails to hold up under minor scrutiny.  However, his investigation leads to him on run from his corrupt peers, the Russians and the hired guns of Sam’s firm.

This is an exciting over the top of the Burj Khalifa as the audience gets a close up look at perhaps the most capitalist center in the world conflicted between money and religious beliefs.  Fast-paced, Sharaf makes the tale work as he rejects the mainstream bias news, jealous peers and deadly others who threaten his loved ones to insure the right people are arrested.  Sam pales in comparison to him during his Layover in Dubai. 

Harriet Klausner

The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World’s Most Perplexing Cold Cases

June 27, 2010

The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World’s Most Perplexing Cold Cases

Michael Capuzzo

Gotham (Dutton), Aug 10 2010, $26.00

ISBN: 9781592401420

This is a terrific look at the mysterious (pun intended) Vidocq Society pledged to solve the tundra of cold cases.  Established by internet expert William Fleisher, profiling guru Richard Walter and forensic sculptor Frank Bender, the group is named after Napoleonic era Parisian detective Eugene Vidocq.  They meet to brainstorm, discuss processes and solve cases as cold as five decades old and more.

The over fifty cases are fascinating in a macabre way as Michael Capuzzo graphically describes the crimes such as Marie Noe convicted as a septuagenarian in 1999 for killing eight of her kids in 1949 or John List who murdered his family to keep them religiously pure but afterward vanished for two decades before being sculptured.  Well written, it is the human element accentuated by the victims such as Widow Marilyn Flax who negotiated with her husband’s kidnapper-killer that grips the audience; her story will leave readers eyes watering.  Throughout the 56 entries is the underlying competitive camaraderie between the trio, bickering to the amusement of observers like us readers over glasses.   Graphic (one killer cut off the visage of those murdered) yet heartfelt (all will cheer when the caught priest mutters “God damn”, The Murder Room is a true crime winner.

Harriet Klausner

Entanglement-Zygmunt Miloszewski

June 27, 2010

Entanglement

Zygmunt Miloszewski

Bitter Lemon, Aug 1 2010, $14.95

ISBN 9781904738442

In 2005 at a Warsaw monastery, a demanding group therapy session occurs hosted by Cezary Rudski.  He tells a tale to the three of his four patents (Euzebiusz Kiam, Hanna Kwiatkowska and Barbara Jarczyk) who remain at the table; Henryk Talek is not there as the therapist assumes he left unable to cope with the intensity. 

The next day Henryk is found dead; a roasting spit jammed into his eye.  Warsaw prosecutor Teodor Szack leads the investigation, but has no energy for the case.  He is bone wearily tired as he interviews the therapist and the three surviving patients.  However, he soon finds his inquiry intriguing as he uncovers a link to a cold case homicide over two decades ago when the Communists ran roughshod.  Adding to his renewed vigor is meeting enthusiastic reporter Monika Grzelka whose beauty and élan revitalizes him.  However, Szack also wonders why the Secret Police are following his every move.

This is a fascinating Polish police procedural in which almost two decades since the fall of the Iron Curtain mysteries remain tied to the Communist era.  The investigation is cleverly devised and the ennui Szarck feels at first is powerful as is his sudden zest for life after meeting the energetic journalist.  However, the key to Zygmunt Miloszewski’s engaging whodunit is Warsaw as the city comes across modern yet retains the scars of communism.

Harriet Klausner

A Spider on the Stairs-Cassandra Chan

June 27, 2010

A Spider on the Stairs

Cassandra Chan

Minotaur, Jul 20 2010, $25.99

ISBN: 9780312369408

Amateur sleuth Phillip Betancourt knows being the family black sheep makes spending Christmas in Yorkshire at his parent’s home as gloomy as the torrent of rain outside.  Adding to his family’s torrential interrogation of him is questions about his personal life as he no longer is seeing Marla Tate.  When cheerful Scotland Yard Detective Sergeant Jack Gibbons calls about a murder in nearby York, Phillip sees an opportunity to escape the torture by joining his friend on the investigation.

The corpse of Deborah Seldon, found in Accessorize in Davygate Shop, might be the work of notorious serial killer Ashdon.  When Jack concludes the victim was killed most likely by Ashdon, he notifies the Yard’s serial killer Detective Superintendent Brumby; though the case has anomalies.  Soon afterward, the proprietor of Mittlesdon’s bookshop finds the body of his former employee Jody Farraday inside on Christmas Day.  Gibbons and Betancourt investigate only to find too many people had access to the store. 

The latest Betancourt-Gibbons collaborative investigation (see Village Affairs, Young Widow and Trick of the Mind) is a superb Yuletide whodunit.  The story line is character driven more so by the seemingly hedonistic Betancourt though his buddy the cop holds his own as each is euphoric with having the case.  Ironically, a contemporary mystery, fans of the classic British “historical” social class mystery like Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey and Carola Dunn’s Lady Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher tales will want to read Cassandra Chan’s fun tale.

Harriet Klausner

I’d Know You Anywhere-Laura Lippman

June 26, 2010

I’d Know You Anywhere

Laura Lippman

Morrow, Aug 17 2010, $25.95

ISBN: 9780061706554

In the summer of 1985 Walter Bowman abducts fifteen years old Eliza Lerner.  For the next six weeks he held her in captivity.  Frightened and expecting to die as she believes he is already a serial killer, the unpredictable Walter frees her.  Later he is caught and convicted of rape, murder and kidnapping after murdering another victim; he is sentenced to be executed by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Years later, thirty eight years old Eliza is married to Peter Benedict and raising her two children, thirteen year old Iso and eight year old Albie when he contacts her.  She assumes he wants her to forgive him for her six weeks in his hell, but prefers to ignore Walter.  However, she also knows how crazy he is and fears even with him on death row and out of appeals he will find a way to harm her offspring.  Eliza also is curious why he freed her when he killed the others. 

Character driven to include the Billboard top 100 during her captivity in 1985, I’d Know You Anywhere looks deep into the souls of a serial killer and the sole survivor as the victim remains haunted two plus decades later.  The support cast is powerful especially her spouse and older child and Barbara (read to learn who she is).  However, this thriller belongs to the lead couple, a killing kidnapper and the only one he let live as readers will wonder whether Eliza will ever leave open a window at night so that would mean she finally closed the book on that chapter of her life.

Harriet Klausner

Shadow Play-Rajorshi Chakraborti

June 26, 2010

Shadow Play

Rajorshi Chakraborti

Minotaur, Jul 20 2010, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312642341

Internationally acclaimed author Raj Chakraborti vanishes at a time when the police want to question him in the murder of a journalist.  His sudden disappearance turns Raj from a person of interest to a prime suspect.

He sends a package to his editor in which he explains his latest fiction starring a serial killer hired by the government as an assassin and his fear that reality is stranger than fiction as Raj believes a serial killer turned assassin stalks him.  He believes this hired murderer waits for the right moment to kill him.  Raj wonders if his past in India in the 1970s has come back to destroy him.

Not for everyone this is a strange Kafka like thriller that grips the reader who will wonder whether the character Raj Chakraborti has gone insane or is being hunted down.  Rotating perspective between an “autobiography” and a suspense mystery, fans who relish a well written, but odd tale that appears to break the barrier between fiction and non fiction (or has it) will appreciate this convoluted twisting yet entertaining conspiracy tale of the author on the run from who he believes is a sanctioned government killer.

Harriet Klausner

First Thrills-Lee Child (editor)

June 26, 2010

First Thrills

Lee Child (editor)

Forge, Jun 22 2010, $25.99

ISBN: 9780765326485

This twenty-five suspense thriller collection is an interesting way for readers to meet new writers while established authors have an opportunity to thank the audience and the publishing companies by providing entries to First Thrills.  “The Dead Club” by Daniel James Palmer and Michael Palmer is the best bet as wagering on death mirrors real life gambling pools.  Other strong entries include “The Thief” by Greg Hurwitz and Ken Bruen’s “Wednesday’s Child”.   None of the entries from the veterans or the rookies are bad, but few are excellent.  Still fans will enjoy dining with Rip Gerber, Sean Michael Bailey and other newcomers and vets like Stephen Coonts, John Lescroart, Karin Slaughter and Heather Graham as each provides readers with plenty of chills and thrills.

Harriet Klausner

Crossfire-Dick Francis and Felix Francis

June 26, 2010

Crossfire

Dick Francis and Felix Francis

Putnam, Aug 2010, $26.95

ISBN: 9780399156816

After losing his foot in an Afghan fire fight, Captain Tom Forsythe has returned to the States to recover and learn to use his prosthesis.  With no place to go, he returns to his mother’s Kauri Horse Stables in Berkshire, England.  At seventeen, tired of the fights with his stepfather, he left to go to war. Now he learns his family is concealing something from him.

He soon learns someone is blackmailing his mother to the tune of 2000 pounds a week and they also lost a fortune in a sham hedge fund recommended by their accountant Roderick Ward who was found drowned; officially ruled an accident.  What hurts Tom’s mom the most is that her extortionist is forcing her to make sure  her horses lose races.  Tom investigates, but is kidnapped and left hanging in an abandoned warehouse.  He escapes, vowing to take down the killers and others involved in harming him and his mom.

This father and son team has proven to be as successful writing entertaining mystery readers as Dick Francis did when he rode solo (with his late wife as his researcher).  The story line is driven by the hero who lost a limb in the Afghan war, but though depressed refuses to allow his trauma from helping his mom out of her predicament.  With homage to Dick Francis who goes out a winner as he passed away a few months ago, Crossfire is a terrific character driven suspense thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Cat in an Ultramarine Scheme-Carole Nelson Douglas

June 25, 2010

Cat in an Ultramarine Scheme

Carole Nelson Douglas

Forge, Aug 3 2010, $24.99

ISBN 9780765318633

Public relations specialist Temple Barr is setting up a campaign for the Fontana family to take advantage of Las Vegas’ mob roots.  The “Chunnel of Crime” is a monorail within a museum connecting two hotels.  During a promotional event, an underground vault is opened for the first time in years.  Temple and her clients hope to find buried gangster loot instead of what was found in Capone’s vault.  Instead, they find something worse to accentuate the gangster past.  Inside is the corpse of former magician Cosimo Sparks.  Someone stabbed him and buried him.  Temple accompanied by her pet owner Midnight Louie investigates; as does the Fontana family and the police. 

At the same time, Temple and Louie make inquiries, her fiancé radio star Matt Devine is in Chicago.  Her “dead” ex, magician/counterterrorist Max Kinsella, is in Ireland suffering from amnesia but cared for by Garry “Gandolph the Great” Randolph as he seeks information on the late orphan Kathleen “Kitty the Cutter” O’Connor.

In his twenty-second starring appearance (see Cat in a Topaz Tango), Midnight Louie remains fresh and amusing as if he was working with his human pet on their first case (see 1993’s Catnap).  The twisting story line is fast-paced as Temple relies on Midnight Louie’s posse the Vegas Strip Irregulars to solve the homicides.  This is a terrific entry as fans of the series will believe rascally lovable Louie has several lives left.

Harriet Klausner

Deceit-Brandilyn Collins

June 25, 2010

Deceit

Brandilyn Collins

Zondervan, Jun 18 2010, $14.99

ISBN: 9780310276449

Six years ago in Vonita, California, Linda Jackson dies.  Her fiftyish best friend skip tracer Joanne Weeks believes the husband affluent church elder Baxter Jackson killed his wife.  She makes efforts to prove her assertion, but fails as everyone who knows Jackson consider him a great man.

When his second wife Cherise dies in what the corner ruled was an unfortunate accident, Joanne’s belief that Jackson is a spousal killer reasserts itself.  This time she plans to find proof by seeking someone who might have information on what happened to Linda six years ago.  However, Joanne feels someone is stalking her.  Feeling her life is in danger already, she is further stunned when a stranger leaps in front of her car on a wet road pleading with her to seek out the teenage foster child Melissa Harkoff who lived with the Jacksons when Linda vanished.  

Few, if any writers combine inspirational messages with suspense as well as Brandilyn Collins consistently does (see Exposure).  She proves this once again with Deceit.  Her current tale is a superb thriller in which the heroine must peel away the deceitful masks everyone wraps themselves inside of to uncover the truth of what happened to Linda.  Readers will consider what is acceptable in terms of societal deceit in terms of the family, the law and religion and what is not.  However, Ms. Collins also takes her theme much deeper asking the audience to consider how will the Lord judge a person’s deceits when he or she stands at the gates.  The message is intertwined inside a powerful suspense thriller as the heroine peels away levels of deceit of others and the mythos she mentally spun as a psychological defense mechanism to get to the truth; if that is even truly attainable.

Harriet Klausner