Archive for December, 2010

Dead Zero-Stephen Hunter

December 16, 2010

Dead Zero

Stephen Hunter

Simon and Schuster, Dec 28 2010, $26.00

ISBN: 9781439138656

In Afghanistan near the Pakistan border, U.S. marine sniper team Whiskey 2-2 is deployed on a covert operation to kill Taliban commander Ibrahim “the Beheader” Zarzi.  However, someone betrayed the unit leaving them massacred by professionals in the tribal area.

Several months later, Zarzi quits the Taliban.  He travels to America where he meets the president and congressional leaders.  The State Department believes he is the best choice to bring a corrupt free stable government to the war torn nation.  At the same time, apparently Marine Gunnery Sergeant Ray “the Cruise Missile” Cruz, thought dead in the Zarzi massacre especially with the crater remains of the unit as proof, has reported by radio using last years codes.  He resolutely will complete his final mission.  The FBI deploys retired Marine sniper Bob “the Nailer” Lee Swagger to prevent Cruz from beheading the Beheader while someone in the shadows tracks Bob in order to kill Cruz before he can be debriefed.

The latest Swagger thriller (see I, Sniper and Night Thunder) is a fabulous entry with a strong cast especially the lead male trio.  Besides non-stop action, the story line contains an insightful look at political strange bedfellows in which yesterday’s most wanted for assassination becomes today’s most wanted ally or visa versa; think of Reagan-Bush 41 befriend Hussein in the 1980s becoming public enemy number one for Bush 41 and Bush 43.  Swagger understands this as his mission is to do whatever including kill a fellow marine to protect an Afghan who probably led the slaughter of Whiskey 2-2.  Fast-paced, fans anticipate the collision as The Cruise Missile targets the Beheader with The Nailer targeting the Cruise Missile while someone waits in the shadows to clean up the mess.

Harriet Klausner


The Dangerous Edge of Things-Tina Whittle

December 16, 2010

The Dangerous Edge of Things

Tina Whittle

Poisoned Pen, Feb 1 2011, $24.95

ISBN 9781590588178

Tai Randolph recently moved from Savannah to the Atlanta area as she her brother Eric inherited a gun store in the northern suburb of Kennesaw. Her sibling the psychologist goes on a cruise so she house sits his home.  However, she notices a woman in a parked car across the street from the house.  Tai goes to see if the woman is okay only to find her dead as someone shot the victim who also has Eric’s business card.

She calls the police who place the siblings on the top of their list of suspects due to the gun store and Eric’s departure.  Not one to sit idly by, Tai investigates at the same time experienced rivals from APD and private security detective Trey Seaver, hired by Eric to protect his sister,  make inquiries.  Trey has no long term memory since he had an on the job as a cop injury.  Meanwhile Tai concludes she and her brother, when he comes home, are in trouble from an unknown adversary who may be willing to kill the siblings and she figures the cops and the private sleuth could not care whether she and Eric live except if it muddles their respective “lucid” case.

The first Tai Randolph amateur sleuth is a terrific suspense thriller due to the cast especially the two terrific T, Tai and Trey.  Each has personal issues that enhance a strong whodunit.  Eric’s exit adds to the fine Atlanta tale as his sister and his hired gun want to know why he suddenly left town; while the cops believe they know why he fled to the Caribbean.  This is a winning murder mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Curiosity Thrilled the Cat-Sofia Kelly

December 16, 2010

Curiosity Thrilled the Cat

Sofia Kelly

Obsidian, Feb 1 2011, $6.99

ISBN: 9780451232496

Her boyfriend leaves Boston for two weeks without her only to return married.  He informs her she is not spontaneous enough for him.  Angry and hurt, Kathleen Paulson leaves her home and job to move to Mayville Heights, Minnesota where she is hired to oversee the renovation of the library.  The townsfolk welcome her and Kathleen makes plenty of new friends; especially two stray cats, catnip addict Owen and Barry Manilow fan Hercules. Her only problem is that contractor Will Redfern has the knack of vanishing when needed.

Kathleen goes to the Stratton Theatre where she finds the body of guest conductor Gregor Easton on the piano seat.  He died from a blow to the head.  The lead detective makes Kathleen feel she is a suspect in the homicide case.  So she decides not to wait for this idiot to continue to target her; she investigates the murder.  She has unusual helpers including her new feline friends who appear and disappear as if they walk through walls and any solid surface.  Her allies give her clues, but they remain enigmatic as she struggles to figure out who killed Easton before the cop busts her.

Curiosity Thrilled the Cat is a whimsical charming cat caper starring a determined intrepid amateur sleuth and two magical cats who affirm WC Fields’ comment on never performing with animals as they steal the show; except in this case Kathleen needs their help.  Readers will appreciate this fun murder mystery as the librarian and her magical meows seek who killed the quiet artist before that insistent cop arrests Kathleen.

Harriet Klausner

Angel’s Verdict-Mary Stanton

December 16, 2010

Angel’s Verdict

Mary Stanton

Berkley, Feb 1 2011, $6.99

ISBN: 9780425239872

Brianna “Bree” Winston-Beaufort is a lawyer with two practices; one pays the bills enabling her to conduct her other unlisted work at 666 Angelic St; as the celestial advocate pleading for the souls of her clients otherwise condemned to Hell.  She seeks evidence in the celestial records to mitigate or acquit the sentence on appeal.

In Savannah a film based on the life and murder of Haydee Quinn, a stripper who caught a rich man, but his mother disinherited him.  Actress Justine Coville hires Bree to get the Bulloch sisters to grant permission her to wear their mother’s brooch during the filming; one of the siblings agrees.  Mr. Dent is working the client side of the film and he knows the writers believe the movie about the life and murder of Haydee will be a hit.  Dent believes that too as he was there all those decades ago he was the detective on the case, but he a drunk too who ran a poor investigation.  To make it back home, he had to do the 12 step program and find the real killer not the one who died in the electric chair.  When Bree looks at the brooch, she sees the spirit of Consuela Bulloch who begs her to be her advocate at the Celestial Court hearing because she wants to get out of where she is.

The fourth Beaufort and Company legal thriller (see Angel’s Advocate and Defending Angels) is an exciting supernatural mystery.  The woo-woo elements are a Mary Stanton trademark that adds mysticism to the mix and enable readers to believe that Bree defends condemned spirits in the highest court.  Brave Bree tries to do what she believes is the right thing regardless of which court she defends her mortal and otherworldly clients in.  The support cast (still breathing, angelic or otherwise) enhances an entertaining mystery.

Harriet Klausner

The Curse-Maker-Kelli Stanley

December 14, 2010

The Curse-Maker

Kelli Stanley

Minotaur, Feb 1 2011, $24.99

ISBN 9780312654191

In the latter half of the first century, the Roman Governor of Britannia Agricola’s physician Arcturus goes on a needed vacation.  However, the thirtyish Arcturus is called back to work rather quickly when a homicide occurs; as his other job is investigating crimes that might impact his employer.

Someone strangled scribe Rufus Bibax, who mostly wrote down curses.  His corpse was found floating in in a reservoir in Aquae Suli.  Inside the victim’s mouth is a piece of lead etched with the inscription Ultor (the Avenger).  Arcturus quickly learns of other unsolved recent murders and soon more people die by what the physician begins to believe is a second killer.  The cases seem to focus on a nearby mine, but who the Avenger or Avengers are remain unsolved.

The second Ancient Britannia mystery (see Nox Dormeinda) is a superb whodunit that provides readers with insight into the use of curses, apparently a thriving business of the times.  The engaging investigation is fast-paced once Arcturus is on the case or as he fears and curses cases; he understands two killers is not twice the fun. Armchair travelers will enjoy feeling a sense of being in first century Roman Britain with Arcturus as the tour guide.

Harriet Klausner

Mr. Monk on the Road-Lee Goldberg

December 14, 2010

Mr. Monk on the Road

Lee Goldberg

Obsidian, Jan 4 2011, $24.95

ISBN: 9780451232113

Adrian Monk suffers a severe case of obsessive compulsive disorder so intense that he is a walking encyclopedia of phobias that makes it impossible for him to operate in the outside world without assistance.  With Natalie’s help, Monk, a former cop, earns a living as a consultant to the police mostly SFPD.  He actually has recently found relief because t the murder of his wife Trudy back in 1997 has been solved.  To celebrate, Monk decides to visit his agoraphobic brother Ambrose for his sibling’s birthday.

Monk wants to show the world to Ambrose who has not left his home in years.  He puts sleeping pills in the cake and places a knocked out Ambrose in his RV camper.  Shockingly Ambrose awakens and is not raging at his brother.  Along the highway, Monk finds crimes that he cannot ignore though Natalie refuses to allow him to solve them because this is Ambrose’s time.  Instead Monk silently works the puzzles in his head until he finds a frightening pattern of a serial killer in the area.

Lee Goldberg is the grandmaster of capturing the essences of TV mystery shows’ personalities as he has done with Monk through eleven novels and Diagnoses Murder.  He does it again with this brisk Monk road show as the multi-phobic hero hits the highway with his agoraphobic sibling and his assistant Natalie.  On the road, Monk solves crimes as Natalie pleads with him to take a respite and enjoy the scenery, but though she keeps them moving so he cannot narrowly focus on a crime rather than the trip she ends up also assisting him when she can no longer ignore him.  Fans will enjoy the brisk ride as the siblings (and Natalie) get out of the house, sort of.

Harriet Klausner

The Fates Will Find Their Way-Hannah Pittard

December 13, 2010

The Fates Will Find Their Way

Hannah Pittard

Ecco, Jan 25 2011, $22.99

ISBN: 9780061996054

On Halloween night, sixteen years old Nora Lindell fails to come home.  The next morning, her worried father, realizing his daughter did not come home, begins the phone tree with the Boyd family.  As he breaks tree etiquette, Mrs. Boyd begins the orderly tree system.

The boys her age begin telling each other what they know about Nora.  Over the next few months with nothing new on Nora, the teen males focus on her sister Sissy who is still in town.  The years go by and the boys are fathers, but Nora never returned.  Instead her legend in the small town is like Elvis sightings everywhere, but beneath their macabre musings that their wives accept as imprinted on their brains when two of them get together, each wonders what happened to Nora on Halloween years ago that haunts each of them?

This is a terrific low-key suspense thriller that hooks readers as much as the boys with a need to know.  Nora’s legend grows with each passing Halloween as none of the boys even as adult fathers can let the mystery go.  Readers will appreciate this entertaining mystery that uses everyday normal family living over the years to tell the myth of missing Nora.

Harriet Klausner

A Red Herring Without Mustard- Alan Bradley

December 13, 2010

A Red Herring Without Mustard

Alan Bradley

Delacorte, Feb 8 2011, $23.00

ISBN: 9780385342322

In Bishop’s Lacey, England the Gypsy looks into her crystal ball to inform eleven year old chemist and amateur sleuth Flavia de Luce her future.  However, the hag tells her she has never in her life seen a darker future. Flavia is not one to be concerned as the child deals with an odd household on their Buckshaw Estate.  Her widowed father the Colonel lives for his philately collection; her oldest sister Ophelia “Feely” loves her music; and the middle sister thirteen years old “Daffy” Daphne hides in her books.  Flavia, who never met her mother Harriet (outside the womb that is), uses her late great-Uncle Tarquin’s fully loaded chem lab as her escapism into the savory world of poison.

Soon after the dark reading, Flavia finds the corpse of the ancient Gypsy.  Someone stabbed the woman to death in her wagon.  Flavia on her bike Gladys investigates the homicide while she contemplates that the murder appears to be one of passion perhaps vengeance; similar to what she thrives for against her older siblings though not with murderous malice.  Instead of solving this killing, Flavia finds a second body.  Her inquiry leads to an intriguing clue to what she considers the key mystery. 

This is a terrific post WWII whimsical amateur sleuth as Flavia follows the murder clues while eluding the demands of her older sisters and her father is to busy with his stamps.  As with her previous cases (see The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag), the tweener keeps the story line focused as she investigates two homicides in which the clues twist into something personal.

Harriet Klausner

The Omega Theory-Mark Alpert

December 13, 2010

The Omega Theory

Mark Alpert

Touchstone, Feb 15 2011, $24.99

ISBN: 9781416595342

Iran tests a nuclear device; a Columbia University physicist, based on readings from scientific instruments, claims that for a nanosecond the test ripped asunder the universe as if the Big Bang was about to explode.  On the same day, the Upper Manhattan Autism Center informs science historian David Swift and his physicist wife, Monique Reynolds that their nineteen years old autistic adopted son Michael Gupta was snatched.

The True Believers cult kidnapped Michael, whose ancestor is Einstein and who has memorized his late relative’s little known Unified Field’s Final Theory.  Worried for their son, FBI special agent Lucille Parker joins Swift and Reynolds on the rescue quest because the True Believers plan to deploy the Omega Theory as those who know the Big Bang of alpha creation also know the Big Crunch of omega nothingness.

From New York to Jerusalem to Turkmenistan, the chase is on as the good guy scientists (angels) battle the bad guy cultists (devils).  Although none of the cast is developed beyond their role in the potential apocalypse final war, fans will enjoy the non-stop action as Mark Alpert provides an exhilarating Big Crunch thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Solid as Steele-Rebecca York

December 12, 2010

Solid as Steele

Rebecca York

Harlequin Intrigue, Jan 11 2011, $4.99

ISBN: 9780373695232

Baltimore private investigator Mack Steele has loved Jamie Shepherd from the moment he’d met her, but she was married to his partner Craig.  Now a widow, Mack still keeps his distance from Jamie though is there for her if she needs anything.

Jamie suffers a frightening nightmare in which a woman Lynn Vaughn trapped in a deadly funhouse needs help immediately; her gift has returned in the one place she preferred not to be, her home Gaptown.  She calls her late husband’s place of work Light Street Detective Agency wanting to speak with her friend Jo O’Malley.  Mack responds instead.  Jamie and Mack drive to Gaptown where her estranged mom Gloria and her mother’s boyfriend Clark greet her with contempt and deny sending a letter to her.  As Jamie falls in love with the protective Mack, a killer has already set in motion her death plot to add to those already murdered by this diabolical psychopath.

The latest 43 Light Street thriller (see Guarding Grace) is a terrific paranormal investigative mystery starring two likable leads and a powerful support cast.  The story line is fast-paced from the moment Jamie calls the agency and never slows down as a serial killer stalks Gaptown.  The key is the romantic subplot is developed enough, but never intrudes on the prime story line of a predator murdering people with the two Baltimore residents on the top of the killer’s list.  Solid as Steele is a solid psychological drama.

Harriet Klausner