Archive for December, 2010

Heartbeat Away-Michael Palmer

December 30, 2010

Heartbeat Away

Michael Palmer

St. Martin’s, Feb 2011, $27.99

ISBN 9780312587529


American President James Allaire begins the annual State of the Union address.  Small containers explode releasing a viral WRX3883.  Over seven hundred people inside the House Chamber are infected by the toxin.  The impact is disastrous as those hurt include the President, leaders of Congress, the Vice President, the Supreme Court judges, and cabinet leaders.  Allaire takes charge of inside the chamber, locking it down.


The Director of the Department of Homeland Security is the selected “survivor” who remained in Minnesota during the calamitous speech.  He is the leading government official outside of the quarantine zone.  As the country seeks a cure for the infections disease, a domestic terrorist group Genesis on the “Fourth Day” demands the repeal of the Patriot Act and the end of surveillance on Americans or further terrorist acts will follow.  Allaire led the WRX3883 virus development team and knows who he must turn to for help.  Virologist Griffin Rhodes who is designated as a terrorist under the Patriot Act was placed in solitary confinement although he has no idea why he was locked away in a maximum federal pen. 


Though over the top of the Capital Building as the Genesis motive along with their insiders seem inane for even an extreme group, Heartbeat Away is an exciting action-packed biological terrorist thriller.  Fast-paced, readers who can ignore the plausibility of key events and linear characterizations will enjoy Michael Palmer’s entertaining State of the Union.


Harriet Klausner


Delirious-Daniel Palmer

December 29, 2010


Daniel Palmer

Kensington, Jan 25 2011, $25.00

ISBN 9780758246646


In Massachusetts, software engineer Charlie Giles, who works at SoluCent, develops InVision, a quantum technical leap ahead in automobile entertainment systems.  Charlie is excited as the firm’s top management arranges to meet with General Motors on a deal to standardize InVision in their cars.

However, he is stunned when a SoluCent employee Anne Pedersen informs Charlie that his boss Jerry Schmidt will nix the GM deal.  Fuming and out of control, Giles crashes into an executive meeting where he confronts Schmidt.  Thinking his employee is insane; Schmidt insists he supports the deal with GM.  Giles apologizes but explains marketing employee Anne Pedersen fed him the crap.  Charlie is shocked when he learns no Pederson works for the firm.  In spite of his creative skills, he is fired.  Meanwhile Giles fears he suffers from mental illness just like his father and brother.  His trepidation being besieged by his failing mind is further exasperated when he finds a note written by him naming those SoluCent executives who must die.  He wonders if he needs to join his sibling in a ward lock up before he hurts someone; that is if has hasn’t already.

This is a super psychological thriller that enables the reader to get inside the apparent sick mind of a brilliant technician who fears he has become as Delirious as his family and ergo a dangerous threat to others.  The story line focuses on Giles’ deteriorating mental state leaving the audience to wonder what is real and what did he imagine as real.  Although the climax is a major let down for such an otherwise strong thriller, mindful of the Hoffman movie Who is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? fans will appreciate Daniel Palmer’s exciting spotlight on mental health.

Harriet Klausner

The Devotion of Suspect X-Keigo Higashino; translated by Alexander O. Smith

December 20, 2010

The Devotion of Suspect X

Keigo Higashino; translated by Alexander O. Smith

Minotaur, Feb 1 2011, $24.99

ISBN 9780312375065

In Tokyo, mathematics teacher Ishigami worships recently divorced beauty Yasuko Hanaoka.  He decides to do something for his perfect fantasy and for himself by changing his perceived triangle (with his idol and her ex as the other cortexes) into a straight line by eliminating one of the angles.  Thus, lonely Ishigami strangles to death Yasuko’s abusive former husband Togashi who threatened his paragon using their daughter Misato as an extortion pawn.  No one will mess with his beloved and live. 

Police detective Kusanagi leads the homicide investigation.  Yasuko finds herself mentally confused by the deranged mathematician’s perfect logic to keep her safe from the arrest for the murder of her ex.  Meanwhile Kusanagi literally plays chess with the mathematician’s schoolmate physicist Yukawa and figuratively with Ishigami, who he suspects may be the killer.  However, Yasuko repairs the triangle by adding the third angle wealthy Kudo; which leads to Ishigami to become obsessed with eliminating one third again.

Once the reader adapts to the Japanese names, this deep dark thriller grips the audience as the logic of adulatory worship is used to justify murder.  This grim tale is character driven by caring people including the deranged lonely mathematician.  The Devotion of Suspect X is a fabulous psychological thriller as everyone plays the game of relationships, but no matter what one does to simplify the equations of life ultimately everyone shares in common being checkmated.

Harriet Klausner

A Special Relationship-Douglas Kennedy

December 19, 2010

A Special Relationship

Douglas Kennedy

Atria, Jan 4 2011, $16.00

ISBN: 9781439199138

American journalist Sally Goodchild and British reporter Tony Hobbs meet on a Red Cross helicopter flying over the flooded Juba River Valley in Somalia.  They are immediately attracted to one another.  When they escape a harrowing near death incident, their desire for each others grows; she especially believes he saved her life.  The two reporters begin a tryst while continuing their coverage.

When Sally becomes pregnant, the duet agrees to move to London to raise their offspring together.  Her pregnancy contains health problems and not long afterward Sally loses her job.  Sally struggles emotionally too, but Tony is not there for her.  After their son Jack is born, Sally suffers from a severe case of postpartum depression that leads to her placement in a psychiatric ward.  Finally released from the hospital, Sally learns of Tony’s duplicity as he concealed key elements of his life from the mother of his son.  With no place else to turn as a stranger in a strange land the alienated American seeks relief in the alien British courts.

Told from Sally’s perspective, A Special relationship is a special contemporary drama as two individuals used to working the foreign beat try to adapt to family-hood in Hobbs’ home front as Douglas Kennedy captures the major differences between British and American societies.  Insight into the British law enhances an engaging character driven medical-legal thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Mortar and Murder-Jennie Bentley

December 18, 2010

Mortar and Murder

Jennie Bentley

Berkley, Jan 4 2011, $7.99

ISBN: 9780425239261

From Waterfield, Maine, Avery Baker and her significant other Derek Ellis sail to the remote Rowanberry Island to renovate their latest fixer-upper, a late eighteenth century Colonial owned by the latter.  However, besides being unwelcome on the other side of the barrier island by the “KGB” like caretaker for the away in Florida thriller writer Gert Heyerdahl, they find the corpse of a woman in the water.  They call the local police who quickly determine a homicide occurred.

After warning Avery to stay out of harm’s way (see Plaster and Poison), Waterfield Police Chief Wayne learns a paper the dead Jane Doe carried contained in Russian. The address of the Realty firm is owned by Avery and Derek.  He wants to interview the previous owner Irina Rozhdestvensky and asks Avery to join him when he does though he cautions her not to investigate.  Avery, having worked on mysteries before, agrees.  Soon a second body is pulled from the water.

Mortar and Murder is an engaging amateur sleuth whodunit as the former Manhattan designer “competes” with the police.  The story line is lighthearted fun though readers will wonder why Avery felt an urge to investigate.  Still readers cannot help but like her and Derek who make for a fun coastal Maine whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

The Collaborator-Gerald Seymour

December 18, 2010

The Collaborator

Gerald Seymour

Overlook, Feb 3 2011, $25.95

ISBN: 9781590204467

In London, Italian Immacolata Borelli attends school for a degree in accounting.  When she learns of the death of her best friend Marianna Rossetti from leukemia, Immacolata flies to Naples to attend the funeral.  However, Marianna’s grieving raging parents treat her with scorn even spitting on her.  They blame their daughter’s death on the Borelli crime family that belongs to the vicious Camorra network of families; her kin controls Naples whose trucks dumped toxic material in the fields and waters.

Immacolata is traumatized by the experience and believes redemption is in order for her implicit failure to acknowledge the harm her family causes.  She returns to London where she calls the Palace of Justice in Naples offering her services as an informant turning in her family.  Speciale Investigator Mario Castrolami works the Camorra case; he understands the danger Immacolata will face as the mob will kill anyone who betrays them; collateral damage being acceptable.  On the other hand Immacolata failed to consider her English boyfriend Eddie Deacon a teacher; as ruthless “Il Pistole” enforces the mob rules, which means killing any informer even the daughter of a cherished leader.

This is a great suspense thriller as the reader anticipates with each spin an OK Corral confrontation on the streets of Naples and perhaps London.  Fast-paced with a strong cast on all sides of the law, Immacolata makes the tale as the title character who expects to die but believes she is finally doing the morally correct thing.

Harriet Klausner

Lucky Stiff-Debbie Coonts

December 17, 2010

Lucky Stiff

Debbie Coonts

Forge, Feb 15 2011, $24.99

ISBN: 9780765325440

On the Vegas Strip, the Babylon Resort and Casino is perhaps the glitziest of the glitzy.  Customer Relations chief Lucky O’Toole understands where she works attracts people who “Wanna Get Lucky?”  However, even Lucky is unprepared for the honeybee horde just in front of the hotel caused by a truck tipping over as a fight weekend begins.  O’Toole cannot remember the last time the Strip shut.

The next morning O’Toole learns the county District Attorney hides in a closet after becoming the third wheel in a tryst.  That same morning, private investigator Jeremy Whitlock argues in public with ruthless bookie Evelyn Wabash “Numbers” Neidermeyer.  Later that day, Numbers’ number is up in Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino’s shark tank; cops suspect Jeremy as the murderer.   On a more normal note, Lucky’s mom the Madame plans a “virginity auction” and Lucky’s songwriting lover Teddie Kowalski is in Los Angeles on a recording deal.  Musing O’Toole knows life in Vegas is never dull.

This is an amusing Vegas thriller in which the heroine feels she crapped out as one hell of a night has become one hell of a day.  The jocular story line is character driven with Lucky the hub of the zaniness and the support cast like her mom, her lover, her P.I. hunk and the unlucky stiff the speaks to.  Although there is a similarity in the glitzy lampoon tone and its Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes Bad Luck lyrics to the first tale and over the top of the tower of the Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower; fans will enjoy this casino caper. 

Harriet Klausner

Heaven is High-Kate Wilhelm

December 17, 2010

Heaven is High

Kate Wilhelm

St. Martin’s, Feb 2011, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312658601

After leaving her father’s high pressured legal firm, Barbara Holloway works out of her home in Eugene, Oregon handling minor legal problems for her neighbors.  Former pro football player Martin Owens and his wife Binnie come to her for help.  He insists Binnie who is mute was with her mother at sea when pirates kidnapped her mom and forced her into prostitution in Haiti.

When Binnie sees Martin, she swims to his boat and he hides her.  The Coast Guard was looking for her because the man who pimped for her mother is saying he is her father and wants her back. Barbara finds a paper in an item that links Binnie to her mother and in it Binnie’s background is explained.  The INS wants proof that Binnie is not a Haitian citizen and the man looking for her is not her father.  They consider deporting her back to Haiti.  Needing documents to prove she is a citizen of Belize, Barbara goes to Haiti and eludes a kidnapper who does not want her to go on to Belize.  DEA and drug cartel agents go after her too.  Barbara realizes even if she obtains proof, which looks nearly impossible, she still has to come home with her evidence while adversaries, including some busted out of jail, want her stopped at any cost.

Heaven is High reads more like a thriller than a whodunit as reader will have trouble trying to figure out the good guys from the bad guys.  The protagonist is similar to Joan Wilder in the movie Romancing the Stone as she goes from one peril to another with no respite in between her harrowing escapades; Barbara never expected an attorney’s quest in the Caribbean would be such a frightening and dangerous time like the one she has had.

Harriet Klausner

The Attenbury Emeralds-Jill Paton Walsh

December 17, 2010

The Attenbury Emeralds

Jill Paton Walsh

Minotaur, Jan 4 2011, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312674540

In 1951, Harriet Vane and her husband Lord Peter Wimsey leisurely eat breakfast while reading the newspaper.  Harriet peruses Lord Attenbury Arthur Abcock’s obituary, which mentions the Attenbury emeralds.

Peter knows first-hand about the infamous emeralds that was the motive of his first detective investigation.  He and his manservant Mervyn Bunter tell Harriet what happened in 1921 when the Attenbury emeralds vanished and Lord Peter solving the case.  As they complete their tale of exotic thievery, Lord Attenbury’s grandson Edward arrives.  He asks Lord Peter to help solve a new problem involving the family emeralds.  Peter accompanied by Harriet and of course Bunter, investigates as thefts and murder abound.

Jill Paton Walsh’s latest Wimsey-Vane (see A Presumption of Death) captures the essences of Dorothy L. Sayer’s great detective while bringing her own spin to the story line; in other words this is not Sayer’s light, but instead a homage to the great writer in Ms. Walsh’s style.  The story line captures two historical post world war eras in Great Britain that enables the audience to compare how society adjusted to peace in their times.  Fast-paced, readers will enjoy the doting father of teens on an investigation accompanied by his wife and his manservant.

Harriet Klausner

Midnight Caller-Leslie Tentler

December 16, 2010

Midnight Caller

Leslie Tentler

Mira, Feb 1 2011, $7.99

ISBN 9780778329343

In 1981 British guitarist Gavin Firth murders Goth singer Desiree Sommers, the mother of his two years old child Rain.  Gavin then kills himself in a shocking murder-suicide.  Decades later in New Orleans, their daughter Dr. Rain Sommers hosts the late night talk radio show Midnight Confessions. 

FBI Violent Crimes Unit Special Agent Trevor Rivette hunts Dante the Vampire serial killer.  The psychopath slashes the throat of his victim before leaving behind a rosary just like that worn by Desiree.  This beast has murdered five women across the country.  After stops in DC, Atlanta, Memphis and Raleigh, he has arrived in New Orleans where he kills three teenage Goths.  His next chosen one is Rain, but not if Trevor has any say.

Although the theme of a “vampiric” serial killer has been used before and not just in urban fantasy (see Violets Are Blue by James Patterson), readers will relish this well written tense thriller.  The key trio seems genuine as Rivette knows the stakes are personal when he falls in love with Dante’s next intended victim.  Romantic suspense fans will enjoy Midnight Caller as the taut tale means leaving the lights on after midnight.

Harriet Klausner