Archive for January, 2011

The Trinity Six-Charles Cumming

January 24, 2011

The Trinity Six

Charles Cumming

St. Martin’s, Mar 15 2011, $24.99

ISBN 978-0-312-67529-5

During WWII and immediately afterward the “Cambridge Five” Trinity spy ring betrayed Britain by providing secrets to the Soviet Union.  Once the ring was broken, rumors abounded for years that a sixth person was involved, but had escaped justice.

In 1992 septuagenarian Edward Crane dies in London.  Fifteen years later, a reporter Charlotte Berg asks her friend Russian scholar Sam Gaddis to help her investigate rumors that the sixth person was Crane who allegedly did not die in the hospital, but instead lives and plans to tell his tale.  Sam needs money to pay alimony and child support so he agrees because he believes he can write a book on what he learns if true.  However, someone wants the news to remain interred as those involved with learning the facts like Charlotte allegedly died from a sudden heart attack; Sam believes she was murdered.

This is a terrific espionage thriller, which makes the case that the Cold War participants spent plenty of efforts on propaganda with disinformation and misinformation a normal spin (inductively supported though not Cold War era material by the recent WikiLeaks’ government entries of recent years).  Fast-paced from start to finish, readers will relish Charles Cumming’s tale of whether the Cambridge Five was actually the Trinity Six.

Harriet Klausner

State of Mind-Sven Michael Davison

January 24, 2011

State of Mind

Sven Michael Davison

Bedouin Press, Mar 1 2011, $25.95

ISBN: 978-0966614923

Jake Travissi lived and was willing to die as a Los Angeles Police department homicide cop especially since Andrea and Jade were gone.  However, he never expected to be kicked off the force and banned from law enforcement as occurred in 2030 following the Governor Pacheo’s son fiasco. Like an addict going cold turkey he feels cut off from what he needs.  Only his two years old Lakshmi and “Auntie” Gene matter.  Thus when given a second chance to return to the force, he readily agrees; ignoring the stipulation that he and two other cops will be implanted with the P-Chip.  The trio will belong to LAPD, but work for the Department of Homeland Security.  

Jake commands the Enhanced Unit field team consisting of himself, Detective Joaquin Parks and Homicide Lieutenant Alexander Koren.  He takes orders from Homeland Security Director Sanchez.  However as Jake begins to see odd visions, he realizes Sanchez and others envision an American caste system of those chipped and the few controllers of the implanted.  Besides fighting his superior and Senator Crennan, Jake battles to control his P-Chip as he no longer can delineate what is his while wondering if Andrea and Jade were real of machine induced.

This is an exciting 1984 futuristic thriller that extrapolates current advances in medical, biological and technological fields to form a vision of a Big Brother society.  Although somewhat simplistic in terms of the good and the conspiratorial; the story line is filled with action mostly driven by the P-Chip that helps people control their cravings and addictions, but few understand at the price of giving up control of Live Free or controlled.  Jake uncovers the high level conspiracy to change America, but struggles to prevent it from happening as his controller uses the P-Chip to make him dance like a puppet on a string. 

Harriet Klausner

Seasons of Death-Marlene Mitchell and Gary Yeagle

January 23, 2011

Seasons of Death

Marlene Mitchell and Gary Yeagle

Black Wyrm, Dec 18 2010, $15.95

ISBN: 9780982006757

In the Smoky Mountains, the stranger accosts a drugged Asa Pittman.  He explains to Asa that he has no friends nearby to help him and the Novocain can do to numb the body.  The stranger methodically and calmly begins slicing off Asa’s fingers and punishing him elsewhere.  Explaining he loathes the way Asa and his drunken buddies treat animals they hunt he leaves the dying man for the coyote and other animals and insects to dine on.

Photojournalist Doug Eland finds the corpse and informs Jack at the National Park Service.  Soon afterward, Townsend Police Chief Axel Brody and Officer Grant Denlinger arrive to look at the body on Thunderbird Trail.  The coroner Jeff Bookman arrives and quickly concludes the fingers were deliberately sliced off.  No one is aware yet that Asa was first with his buddies to follow.  Next is realtor Mildred Henks, puppy mill owner.  The avenging stranger vowed to get even for what Asa and his comrades did over two decades ago back in 1969 when they killed Farmer Pender and his wife and several animals in what is no longer a cold case. The two Pender sons escaped, but would one or both of them be the predator after all these years?

This is a dark vivid police procedural with an avenger whose calm almost detached discussions with the victims adds to the sense of horror as this killer gives animals a chance for an eye for an eye against those who tormented them.  Fast-paced and filled with action, the killer is in plain sight yet not easy to pick out.  Readers will enjoy this fine thriller with an intriguing climax that simplified matters for Denlinger yet also weighs heavily on his conscience.

Harriet Klausner

Agent X-Noah Boyd

January 23, 2011

Agent X

Noah Boyd

Morrow, Feb 8 2011, $24.99

ISBN: 9780061826986

Former FBI agent Steve Vail looks forward to his New Year’s Eve date with FBI assistant director Kate Bannon.  However instead of romance, the FBI has an issue in which Vail is the man.  He finds it ironic that the Feds who fired him for insubordination while solving cases now want to use him on their most convoluted inquires since h is a civilian Chicago Bricklayer.

Russian embassy officer “Calculus” informed the FBI that he will sell them a list containing Americans selling secret information to the Russians; for each traitor arrested, he expects $250,000.  However, the deal ends when his superiors order Calculus back to Moscow.  The FBI believes the Russian know he was about to betray them and will kill those on the hit list. Vail and Bannon will welcome in the New Year together trying to find the list of Calculus.

This is an exciting espionage thriller starring an intriguing renegade and his beautiful sidekick.  The story line is fast-paced with a sense of the unlikely that enhances the fun.  Although a comparison of how Vail investigates with standard operating procedures would have enhanced the thriller especially the seemingly over the top scenes, fans will enjoy the Bricklayer’s return as the numbers fail to add up.

Harriet Klausner

Murder on Mt. McKinley-Charles G. Irion and Ronald J. Watkins

January 23, 2011

Murder on Mt. McKinley

Charles G. Irion and Ronald J. Watkins

Irion Books, Dec 8 2010, $19.95

ISBN: 9780984161836


At the base of Mt. McKinley, the two rival oil company CEOs meet to discuss a merger on the Alaskan pipeline project.  Neither Boggs Integrated Oil & Gas boss Ross Biggs or Consolidated Alaska Energy chief Julius Snowe hide their contempt of the other but as the latter’s Chief Financial officer Michael Piquet musingly tells experienced climber Scott Devlon that billions make for a powerful “bonding experience”.  Although there are disputes between fractious groups besides the oil firms fighting each other, Scott looks forward to the climb until reporter turned author Quenton Stern informs him he is on the team; Quenton implied that Devlon left his best friend to die in Murder on Mt. Everest.

The climb begins led by Rollie Knox and Linda “Pete” Peterson.  However what should be a relatively easy climb up North America’s highest peak turns deadly as accidental deaths occur.  With so much anger over the pipeline project and having homicides accompany him on Everest and Elbrus (see Murder on Elbrus), Devlon believes someone is committing Murder on Mt. McKinley, but has no idea who.

The Summit Murder Mystery series premise of climbing each continent’s highest peak accompanied by murder and modern day issues is an entertaining saga as the authors are three for three.  The story line is fast-paced with plenty of action from nature and humans.  Once again fans will feel they are scaling the mountain with storms, bitter cold and climbing safety rules.  However, the key to this great whodunit (and the previous entries) is the ability of Charles G. Irion and Ronald J. Watkins to incorporate local contemporary arguments into the climb and the subsequent whodunit. 

Harriet Klausner

Never Kiss a Stranger-Heather Grothaus

January 21, 2011

Never Kiss a Stranger

Heather Grothaus

Zebra, Mar 1 2011, $6.99

ISBN 9781420112429

The three Foxe sisters rule Fallstowe Castle.  However, being the oldest and most ruthless, Lady Sibylla rules over her two sisters Lady Cecily and Lady Alys.  Thus she arranges for her flighty out of control youngest sibling Alys to wed uncomplicated Clement Cobb.

On a wintry full moon night, Alys sneaks out to the nearby Foxe Ring stones hoping the legend will send her the right man for her to marry.  On his way to London, Piers Mallory takes a shortcut crossing through the ring of stones.  Alys believes he is her mate and tells the flabbergasted man that they are married IAW the legend.  She insists she accompany him on his trek and be at his side when he pleads with the king to accept the proof of his birthright; though bewildered he agrees to her coming with him thinking a woman would help masquerade him from his murderous enemies.

This charming whimsical historical romance hooks the audience from the moment that the believer in the legendary enchantment and the skeptical pragmatist meet inside the stones.  Alys assumes they are fated while Piers sees an opportunity to disguise himself.  On the trek as they argue, fuss, and kiss, he realizes he had no choice with his spunky companion.  The first tale of the Foxe females is a fabulous fable.

Harriet Klausner

Arcadia Falls-Carol Goodman

January 21, 2011

Arcadia Falls

Carol Goodman

Ballantine, Feb 8 2011, $15.00

ISBN: 9780345497543

When Jude Rosenthal suddenly died from a heart attack, he left behind a widow Meg, a teen daughter Sally and a ton of debt.  With no time to grieve and unable to remain in their exclusive Long Island home, Meg quickly accepts a teaching position at the Acadia private school in the Catskills in Acadia Falls; Sally receives free tuition to attend. 

Soon after mother and daughter arrive, a student Isabel dies after falling off a nearby cliff.  Meg learns the school was founded just before the Depression by a lesbian couple Vera Beecher and author Lily Eberhardt who wrote the classic fable “The Changeling Girl.”  Lily fell from the same cliff that Isabel just did.  Meanwhile Sheriff Callum Reade investigates the recent fall while he and the new teacher are attracted to one another.  Meg find Lily’s lost diary and learns that painter Virgil Nash impregnated her, which is why the painter fled her lover to paint a mural for a convent, St. Lucy’s for unwed mothers and orphans.  Years later Lily’s daughter Ivy St. Clare arrived to attend the school; the same woman who is now dean of the school.

Although over edge of the cliff, the strong characters make for a taut thriller.  The emphasis is on the role of women in society as females make difficult choices often alone that sacrifice their desires and impact their loved ones.  Frequently, the female is unfairly held accountable by others who fail to wear the “Scarlet Letter” wearer’s moccasins; instead ignore the available possibilities that the decision maker weighed costs (including emotional) vs. benefits, which makes it easier to morally condemn the female for her selection.  Character driven with a strong cast including the journals written by the lesbian lovers, readers will enjoy this deep tale of choices.

Harriet Klausner

Red Wolf-Liza Marklund

January 21, 2011

Red Wolf

Liza Marklund

Atria, Feb 15 2011, $25.99

ISBN: 9781451602067

In Stockholm, Evening Post reporter Annika Bengtzon no longer works the crime beat (see The Bomber for why).  Instead her assignments are more independent as she follows stories over the country involving terrorist activity mostly tied to the Communist movement of several decades ago. 

Annika travels to Lulea to meet a journalist who is giving her a lead on a story.  Instead her source is killed in a hit-and-run accident that Annika believes was deliberate.  Refusing to back off even when more related homicides occur, the intrepid reporter follows clues that tie back to a deadly sabotage incident on a military base in 1969 by someone using the code of “Ragnwald”.  She thinks this cold blooded killer has returned as a serial killer.

It has been several years since Bengtzon conducted an investigation (see Studio Sex), but her return to Prime Time has been worth the wait as she is at her best in this terrific police procedural.  The story line focuses on the social impact of the final Soviet decade on Sweden today so that readers obtain a strong whodunit investigation wrapped inside a national psyche struggling with mostly late 1980s Cold War events.  Fans will enjoy this strong Scandinavian thriller as Bengtzon, who has personal issues as well, struggles to tie the dots of then to now.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Town Redemption-Gary Hardwick

January 20, 2011

Dark Town Redemption

Gary Hardwick

HardBooks Publishing, Feb 1 2011, $12.95

ISBN: 9780972480413

Even in South Vietnam in 1967, race relations between blacks and whites in an integrated army are terrible.  Sergeant Robert Jackson is a black person who chose the marines over the streets of surrealistic Detroit.  His younger brother Marcus belongs to the group The Vanguard; a radical group in the forefront of a race riot that rocked the city and shocked the nation.

Soon after that deadly night, Marcus is killed and four police officers are at the scene.  They all tell the same story without one iota of difference.  One of the cops is Thomas Riley, a third generation officer living his father’s dream after his older brother (and dad’s favorite son) died in Korea.  Robert comes home and joins Vanguard to infiltrate them as he believes one of their members killed his sibling, but he also believes they are the only hope to fulfill the dream of equality.  As times change, Robert and Thomas discuss the murder of Marcus and their hopes for a future, if they have one after reopening the cold case.

Gary Hardwick takes readers back to a pivotal moment in the Black community as two visions of change compete between the Panthers and King.  Using true events like the riots, the author provides a profound look at a thunderous period.  Robert and Thomas are similar in personality though their lives differ; their confrontations and discussions make the story line stronger and more believable.  Filled with symbolism, including the pivotal 1968 World Series (only matched in my mind in terms of social importance by the 2001 games) readers will enjoy Dark Town Redemption, a powerful historical thriller that pulls no punches on racial issues.

Harriet Klausner

One Rough Man-Brad Taylor

January 19, 2011

One Rough Man

Brad Taylor

Dutton, Feb 17 2011, $25.95

ISBN: 9780525952138

By Presidential decree, President Warren established Project Prometheus to capture or assassinate terrorists as soon as possible; preferably before an event.  The field unit of this top secret government is Taskforce who understands the mission is to kill the enemy before they harm Americans.

Pike Logan is one of the best taskforce operatives.  However, while performing a mission involving Azzam the Jordanian dirty Hedgehog in Tbilisi, he suffers a personal trauma back home as he fails to be there for his family at a time they needed him.  When he returns to the States, Pike vanishes as he now understands the threat is not fanatics or rogue nations but a few powerful affluent ideologues. 

Nine moths since the assault on his family, Pike’s “retirement” ends when he rescues College of Charleston student Jennifer Cahill from two professional killers.  While she has no idea why they came after her, at the same in Guatemala her uncle Professor John Cahill finds an ancient Mayan weapon of mass destruction that Arab terrorists plan to steal and employ to cause a Holy War in the Mideast.

Although the body count is way too tropospheric and the romantic subplot feels more like a softening requirement of One Rough Man, Brad Taylor provides an exciting thriller that grips the audience from the opening mission in Georgia and never slows down for a nanosecond.  Action-packed with corpses seemingly on every page, fans who enjoy an engaging look at globalization from his perspective of weapons of mass destruction will want top read Pike’s return to the living thanks to Jennifer.


Harriet Klausner