Archive for February, 2011

As the Crow Flies-Maris Soule

February 28, 2011

As the Crow Flies

Maris Soule

Five Star, Apr 6 2011, $25.95

ISBN: 9781594149528

Zenith, Michigan CPA P.J. Benson gives a talk at the town library warning people not to get sucked into scams; the mantra is that if it seems too good to be true it is because it is too good to be true.  After completing her presentation, elderly Ida Delaney hands a battered briefcase owned by her nephew Donald to P.J.  She reluctantly accepts it.

Ida fears her nephew is blackmailing people over what is inside the briefcase: lab reports, maps, and soil samples that make several people look guilty of criminal activity.  Not long afterward, Donald arrives at P.J.’s home, demands the briefcase and attacks her before leaving with it.  Her boyfriend Kalamazoo Sheriff’s Department Detective Sergeant Wade Kingsley warns her to back off, but P.J. obstinately refuses as she investigates a case that turns to homicide.

The second Benson Michigan cozy (see The Crows) is an interesting whodunit as the heroine and Baraka the Rhodesian Ridgeback investigate the case.  The story line is fast-paced, but I had an issue with how the heroine’s boyfriend the cop (and others) handle the violence against her as if she is at fault for the assaults by her neighbor Nora and Donald.  Still, fans will enjoy the intrepid amateur sleuth as she ignores Wade (except to wonder why he seems to have dumped her without telling her) and the threats to her life to continue her inquiries.

Harriet Klausner

Gardens of Grief-Boston Teran

February 28, 2011

Gardens of Grief

Boston Teran

High Top Publications, Apr 2011, $22.00

ISBN: 9781567030563

In 1915, the American State Department sends Bureau of Investigation agent John Lourdes to Constantinople where the fighting has been fierce.  Lourdes knows his assignment borders on suicide as the Ottoman Empire with their Central partners having defeated the British in the Dardanelles has begun an ethnic cleansing campaign to eradicate the Christian Armenians though the government insists they are at war with rebels rather than a planned genocide.  

Lourdes mission is to bring out of the war zone, Father Malek who has become a symbol of the Armenian resistance as he gave up the plow to pick up the sword.  At the same time the Ottoman Empire makes a concerted effort to catch the martyr and consequently the American whose Mexican roots enables him to somewhat blend in with the populace.

This is an incredible look at one of the first mass government sponsored genocides that rivals that of those that followed like the Nazis, the killing fields of Cambodia and the bloody red rivers of Rwanda, etc.  With a nod to Solzhenitsyn’s exposing of Stalin, the exhilarating story line is action-packed with some scenes of horrific inhumanity; but throughout the cautionary message is to never forget hoping the world shines a spotlight on the next ethnic cleaning to prevent another round of The Creed of Violence.

Harriet Klausner

Bel-Air Dead-Stuart Woods

February 28, 2011

Bel-Air Dead

Stuart Woods

Putnam, Apr 26 2011, $25.95

ISBN 9780399157363

In Southern California, elderly actor Vance Calder dies.  He leaves his much younger widow Arrington his stock in Centurion Studios in Bel-Air.  Arrington asks her former lover Manhattan based attorney Stone Barrington to travel to Los Angeles to represent her legally, as she battles over who controls the studio.  Dropping everything to assist the mother of his son, Barrington makes Strategic Moves starting with reorganizing Arrington’s shares; buying more stock for her; and finally forging partnerships with other holders in order for his client to have the controlling interest.

Known for playing hardball Terry Prince, CEO of Prince Investments, wants the choice property where Centurion Studios resides as he knows there is much more to be made from development.  When someone murders stockholder Jennifer Harris, Barrington assumes his opponent raised the stakes.  With his sidekick Dino Bacchetti having his back, Stone obtains local help as he plays chess with an amoral opponent.

With a twist that includes Ed Eagle territory (see Santa Fe Edge and Santa Fe Dead.); fans will enjoy the Stone invasion of Hollywood as the East Coast hipster matches up against a West Coast shark.  The story line is fast-paced from the moment Stone arrives in California until the climax as regardless of which coast the hero is in, he retains his usual unconcerned demeanor in the face of danger while also being a chick magnet.

Harriet Klausner

Fade to Blue-Bill Moody

February 27, 2011

Fade to Blue

Bill Moody

Poisoned Pen, Apr 5 2011, $24.95

ISBN 9781590588949

Though he is part of the San Francisco jazz scene, Evan Horne accepts a paying gig in Los Angeles.  Actually in Malibu where he has been retained to train actor Ryan Stiles to appear on the silver screen as if he playing jazz piano. 

However, the spoiled film star rages during a paparazzi attack and a photographer dies.  Evan wants to go home as the money is not worth the effort of dealing with the pampered Ryan even in the plush beach home.  However, Stiles’ manager offers him the chance to score the film if he continues to teach the actor to look as if he plays the piano.  The police determine Stiles is innocent of the death, but while filming a second person dies and a blackmailer extorts money from the beleaguered star.  Evan. assisted by his FBI girlfriend Andie Lawrence and LAPD Police Lieutenant Danny Cooper, investigates while serial killer Gillian Sims escapes from prison.

The latest Evan Horne mystery is an engaging tale that is fun to read, but lacks the intriguing jazz pedigree of Shades of Blue, Looking for Chet Baker and Bird Lives!  The story line is fast-paced as Evan decides to do what he believes is the right thing though he detests his mercurial student.  Although the serial killer subplot feels forced and unnecessary, fans will enjoy Bill Moody’s entertaining musical mystery.

Harriet Klausner

One Was a Soldier-Julia Spencer-Fleming

February 27, 2011

One Was a Soldier

Julia Spencer-Fleming

Minotaur, Apr 12 2011, $24.95

ISBN: 9780312334895

In Miller’s Kill, New York clinical therapist Sarah Dowling runs a group session for returning veterans.  Her current patients consists of orthopedist Dr. George “Trip” Stillman, Marine Lance Corporal Willem Ellis who lost his legs in theater, Guard helicopter pilot Major Clare Fergusson, Military Police Guard Sergeant Eric McCrea of infamous Camp Bucca, and Army Specialist Mary” Tally” McNabb.  Being a small town, the quintet knows each other.

Over the next few months the group meets several times with each trying to conceal their fears of what has changed in family dynamics while they were deployed.  However besides each one struggling to catch up with the different civilian scenarios from when they mobilized, corruption and suicide to cover what Clare believes is a murder add to the sense of feelings disengaged and non-anchored.

This direct sequel to In the Bleak Midwinter is a great military thriller that focuses on returning veterans with diverse issues struggling to return to civilian life after time in theater.  The murder mystery seems standardized when compared to the plight of each vet and their family; that is until one understands the best that money can buy.  Readers, except the military-industrial-Congressional complex thirsting for the next war, will appreciate this deep look at vets returning with different degrees of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a realization that life in the home-front kept breathing without them.

Harriet Klausner

What Are Friends For?-Caroline Taylor

February 26, 2011

What Are Friends For?

Caroline Taylor

Five Star, Apr 6 2011, $25.95

ISBN 978159414956-

In Annapolis, Maryland, Persephone Justinalia “P.J.” Smythe works for her Uncle Alexander as a skip tracer at his loan business.  When her best friend Alicia Todd Ritchie asks P.J. to participle in a documentary she is filming on the private investigative business, she agrees though she is not a hard boiled sleuth.

Wetlands Protectors Alliance Vivian Remington the amazon hires petit P.J. as a sleuth to uncover evidence that Florida state senator Marguerite Sutherland stole an ocelot fur coat.  Vivian needs the endangered species coat to return it to the Fish and Wildlife Service who lent it to her.  However, when Vivian dies from a heroin overdose that the cops believe was a murder, they suspect P.J.  Struggling to prove her innocence by finding the killer and that the politician lifted the coat, P.J. also skirmishes with her ex-husband Bobby Crane; former college classmate Gareth Swenson, and lawyer Neal Patterson.

These entertaining hard-boiled-lit lampoons the detective genre as P.J. seems to step into more manure than a stable produces.  Over the top of the head of her first client, fans will enjoy the somewhat formulaic whodunit while laughing throughout starting from the moment P.J. pretends to be a sleuth sizing down to her eye level Vivian. 

Harriet Klausner

Grey Zone-Clea Simon

February 26, 2011

Grey Zone

Clea Simon

Severn House, Apr 1 2011, $24.95

ISBN: 9780727869920

At Harvard, graduate student Dulcie Schwartz has completed all her classes except for her dissertation on the anonymous British author of a two-century old gothic novel.  Besides wondering who the author was, Dulcie would like to know why the unknown author stopped writing.

However, she will soon be engulfed in a real world mystery.  Signs seem everywhere asking whether anyone has seen a missing former student Carrie.  Dulcie saw Carrie with a man before she knew people were looking for her.  After sending an email to Carrie’s contact address, the woman seeking Carrie, Corkie asks Dulcie to contact her.  Dulcie searches for Corkie, finds her but she runs into a building and to the stairs. Seconds later Dulcie learns Professor Fritz Herscloft just jumped out of a window to his death.  Later she finds out he was murdered.  Dulcie worries someone she knows might be the killer and that she may be in danger as she has a lot od so-cslled accidents. Making matters more complicated is that her beloved late feline Mr. Grey, whose spirit guided her, is contacting Dulcie less and less; while her impish kitten Esme is not assisting her at all.  As she digs deeper, falling concrete injures Dulcie who now knows she is in danger.

The latest Dulcie Schwartz paranormal amateur sleuth (see Grey Matters and Shades of Grey) is a delightful cozy starring a young female who fears her late significant other Mr. Grey is moving on at a time she needs him though even she knows he is a crutch.  Both cats are involved in trying to keep their human pet safe though it is not easy to do as the heroine has a tendency to stick her nose into dire situations.  Readers will enjoy wintry Cambridge as Dulcie struggles with closure from the loss of her loved one, her dissertation, and her investigation.

Harriet Klausner

Cookie Dough or Die-Virginia Lowell

February 26, 2011

Cookie Dough or Die

Virginia Lowell

Berkley, Apr 5 2011, $7.99

ISBN: 9780425240670

In the Baltimore suburb Chatterley Heights, Sheriff Delroy Jenkins visits The Gingerbread House co-owners and BFFs Olivia Greyson and Madeline Briggs in the middle of the night to inform the former that her friend Clarisse Chamberlain died from an apparent accidental overdose.  Stunned by the pronouncement of Clarisse’s death as the woman was the influence who persuaded Olivia to open the cookie shop following her divorce from controlling Ryan the surgeon.  However, the autopsy reveals alcohol in the victim’s stomach that seemed like it was guzzled in record time; out of the ordinary behavior by Clarisse, which leads Del to reconsider suicide or homicide rather than accident.

At the reading of the will, Clarisse leaves a stunned Olivia with money and her valuable antique cookie cutters.  This grand gesture to her friend makes Olivia a person with a motive.  At the same tome that Del reluctantly looks at Olivia as a person of interest, Clarisse’s sons Edward and Hugh suspect her.  When Sam the letter carrier becomes deathly ill from The Gingerbread House cookies, Olivia becomes motivated to prove her innocence on all fronts.

Olivia and Maddie make an amusing amateur sleuth tandem as they bake a new recipe to uncover the identity of a killer who at a minimum tainted their reputation and at a maximum may send the two female cookie makers to join Clarisse at rest.  The whodunit is well done as the killer is in plain sight yet just outside the reader’s peripheral vision.  Fans of cozies will enjoy this Maryland small-town family affair.

Harriet Klausner

The Cat, The Lady and The Liar-Leann Sweeney

February 26, 2011

The Cat, The Lady and The Liar

Leann Sweeney

Obsidian, Apr 5 2011, $6.99

ISBN: 9780451233028

In South Carolina, Mercy Animal Sanctuary shelter owner Shawn Cuddahee rescues a “wealthy” kitty wearing diamond studded collar wandering near the highway.  He takes the cat Isis to his shelter after being unable to return her to her owner elderly affluent Ritaestelle Longworth.  Shawn asks his friend Jillian Hart and her three cats (Chablis, Syrah and Merlot) to escort Isis home.  Jillian agrees and she drives the fifteen miles from her home in Mercy to Longworth estate in Woodcrest; only to be met by the same greeting that Shawn received.  She is run off the property without seeing the allegedly ailing Ritaestelle and taking Isis with her

Not long afterward, Ritaestelle arrives at Jillian’s house late at night insisting she is being drugged and needs help before someone kills her.  That is followed by a corpse nearby with Chablis standing next to Ritaestelle, both bloodied.  Jillian and her feline buddies investigate the “purr-fect crime.

This is a lighthearted fun cozy starring an engaging cast of characters (feline and human).  Jillian and her three wise cats understand the missions of solving the case, helping an elderly woman and teaching the spoiled pompous aristocrat proper behavior.  Feline frolic fans will enjoy the latest Cats In Trouble Mystery (see The Cat, The Professor and The Poison).

Harriet Klausner

The Priest’s Graveyard-Ted Dekker

February 25, 2011

The Priest’s Graveyard

Ted Dekker

Center Street, Apr 19 2011, $24.99

ISBN: 9781599953342

When Danny Hansen was fifteen years old, Serbians broke into his family home in Croatia; they killed his mother, and raped before killing his younger sisters.  He knew this was a religious war between the Bosnian Orthodox Christians and the Catholic Croats with Muslims in the mix.  After killing the murderers of his family, Danny joined a militia seeking justice, but found no solace from the nightmare of what happened to his loved ones.

When he immigrated to America, he became a priest, but though he abides by the law of love and compassion for fellow mankind, he loathes the influential hypocrites who use the laws of man and God to fuel their avarice and perversions.  Danny is an avenging killer targeting pedophiles, murderers and cold blooded sinners.  His latest target is vicious Jonathan Bourque; also wanting this vile man dead is Renee Gilmore, a former hooker and drug addict.  Danny meets Renee and takes her into his confidence while plotting how to kill the beast; unaware that what they wish whether it comes true or not will come back to haunt them.

The Priest’s Graveyard is a character driven tense thriller starring two people who have given up on societal justice as each has been victims with no recourse in society except kill the enemy; yet in spite of their homicidal tendencies Ted Dekker enables readers to feel compassion for the pair.  This non-stop action tale never slows down even with twists and turns that have the audience wondering what next will happen as Mr. Dekker pulls the rug out from his fans by switching direction several times in this exciting thriller.

Harriet Klausner