Archive for February, 2011

Devious-Lisa Jackson

February 25, 2011

Devious

Lisa Jackson

Kensington, Mar 29 2011, $25.00

ISBN: 9780758225658

On the verge of divorcing her husband Slade, Val Renard returns to New Orleans to open a B&B and to reason with her sister Camille that she does not have to hide as a nun.  Val knows Camille wants Slade, but to join St. Marguerite’s Cathedral as a novice Sister seems overkill.  However, Val is shocked when she finds her sibling brutally strangled.

Police Detectives Rick Bentz and Reuben Montoya lead the investigation though the latter should be recused from the case as he knows the victim and others at the Cathedral.  The prime suspect is Father Frank O’Toole, who was having an affair with Sister Camille; Montoya knows him too.  While the cops struggle with their case, another nun is murdered leading Bentz to fear the return of the allegedly dead Father John.  Meanwhile Val begins her own inquiry while Slade arrives to persuade his wife not to divorce him while he joins her in her inquiry. 

The freshness to the latest Bentz-Montoya New Orleans police procedural is the brisk amateur sleuth investigation by Val and Slade.  Fast-paced from the moment Sister Camille’s opening terror and never slowing down until the final climatic confrontation and coda, fans will appreciate this suspense thriller as Lisa Jackson provides a taut Devious tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Silver Eagle-Ben Kane

February 23, 2011

The Silver Eagle

Ben Kane

St. Martin’s Griffin, Mar 15 2011, $14.99

ISBN: 9780312672843

In 53 BC the Parthian army defeated General Crassus and his invading Roman legion.  Their leader dead, thousands of the invaders are captured and either killed or forced to join their triumphant enemy.  Three friends form the losing side (Tarquinius the Etruscan haruspex, former slave Brennus the gladiator from Gaul and Romulus also a former slave turned warrior) are forced to join the winning enemy.

Parthian Commander Pacorus orders Tarquinius to read the future using animal entrails or whatever as his army prepares for battle.  However, the trio has problems as the Parthian soldiers resent how close their still enemy Tarquinius seems to be with their commander.  They help each other stay focused and alive as they plan their escape, which means trekking from the Asian state across thousands of kilometers through hostile savage territory in order to return to Rome. 

At the same, Romulus’s twin sister Fabiola joins the seemingly serene household of Brutus, but savagery leaves her struggling for her life with no protection.  Her only hope is to travel to Gaul to find Brutus.

The sequel to The Forgotten Legion, The Silver Eagle is a great ancient historical thriller in which the only way the three BFFs make it back to Rome is having each other’s back; in spite of their diverse background the trio are a sort of Three Musketeers but in Roman times.  The Fabiola subplot augments a powerful vivid (some chapters should have a warning label: don’t read on a full stomach) look at friendship as the forgotten legionnaires struggle to survive in a world filled with deadly peril.

Harriet Klausner

The Brothers of Baker Street-Michael Robertson

February 23, 2011

The Brothers of Baker Street

Michael Robertson

Minotaur, Mar 1 2011, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312538132

In 1997 Reggie Heath has leased 221B Baker Street, but the “Balmy Barrister” as the tabloids call him knows the stipulation in the rental agreement includes answering letters to Holmes.  His last activity in that endeavor due to his younger brother Nigel lead to Reggie losing his money, his girl (actress Laura Rankin who is hanging with Lord Buxton) and his self respect (see The Baker Street Letters).  However, as Rafferty of the Committee reminds him he must answer the letters or be evicted.  He calls Nigel in Los Angeles to tell him to respond to the letters which include one from an alleged Moriarty descendent he sends to his sibling.

Meanwhile solicitor Darla Rennie hires Reggie to represent Neil Walters, a London Black Cab driver, accused of murdering two Americans.  Reggie works diligently on his client’s defense, but that places him in peril.  He needs Nigel to come to the rescue, but his brother is across the pond and continent while all roads lead to and from Moriarty.

This is a diabolically brilliant thriller that Holmes and Watson would struggle to solve let alone the Heath brothers.  Fast-paced and loaded with action, the Baker Street Irregulars and anyone who enjoys a terrific nefarious scheme will relish the escapades of The Brothers of Baker Street as once again Nigel seems headed to another spread in tabloid hell if he should live so long to read it.

Harriet Klausner

The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black

February 23, 2011

The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black

Eden Unger Bowditch

Bancroft Press, Mar 15 2011, $19.95

ISBN: 9781610880022

In 1903, the Mysterious Men in Black take five highly intelligent children, offspring of the world’s leading scientists, to Sole Manner Farm in Dayton, Ohio.  Their parents have been taken also to a separate locale.  Twelve year old Jasper and his six year old sister Lucy come from London; nine year old African-American Wallace is taken in New York; twelve year old Noah arrives from Toronto; and thirteen year old Faye is from India.  Their schoolteacher Miss Brett provides her five wards with nurturing, but admits she does not know why they were abducted.

At the farm each is frightened while also feeling abandoned by their parents though logically they tell one another their parents were abducted too, which in turn embellishes their fears.  They share hypothesis as to who the Mysterious Men in Black are and why they guard them in an outdoor prison; as they protect them but from what as their jailers could have killed them if that was their mission.  The five children also wonder and fear what happened to their parents. 

With a nod to Patrick Mcgoohan’s 1960s TV show The Prisoner, readers of all ages, though middle school children are the targeted audience, will appreciate this suspense thriller.  The children make the tale work as each has their own skills and flaws, which in conjunction with the others; make them real and their traumatic predicament seem plausible.  Although the descriptors of the Mysterious Men in Black is the only dumbing down element as the young adult readers will get the first time, fans will feel they are in Ohio wondering what The Atomic Weight of Secrets is.

Harriet Klausner

An Empty Death-Laura Wilson

February 23, 2011

An Empty Death

Laura Wilson

Minotaur, Mar 15 2011, $25.99

ISBN: 9780312538118

The fifth anniversary of the war is coming soon and the British are mentally exhausted by the seemingly endless combat.  This includes bone weary Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Ted Stratton who could use a respite, but knows homicide does not end due to a war although the latter complicates his investigations.  His wife Jenny is also burned out working at the recovery center where a woman claims her husband is not her husband but an imposter; Jenny and staff assumes the poor female’s brain has been shattered.

In the summer of 44, Dr. Reynolds is found dead at Fitzrovia’s Middlesex Hospital from a head injury.  Stratton leads the inquiry though he knows the death could easily have been caused by debris from a bomb.  He learns the deceased seemed to service the nurses better than his patients as several of the latter apparently died from his negligence.  When others also die, Stratton knows a serial killer is on the loose, but has no clue as to who or why.  Meanwhile James Dacre gets away with masquerading as a physician at the hospital

The second Reynolds WWII police procedural (see The Innocent Spy) is an exhilarating thriller that brings to life London during the war.  The story line is fast-paced, but it is the cast who struggle to live with some degree of normality as their endeavors bring armchair readers to 1944 England.  Although the ending is over the top of Big Ben, fans of 1940s whodunits will appreciate the aptly titled An Empty Death.

Harriet Klausner

Come and Find Me-Hallie Ephron

February 23, 2011

Come and Find Me

Hallie Ephron

Morrow, Mar 22 2011, $24.99

ISBN: 9780061857522

Two years ago altruistic idealistic hacker Daniel Banks died in a mountain climbing accident on Eiger.  His widow Diana and their best friend Jake opened up a computer security firm.  However, she has not been able to move on as she suffers panic attacks when attempting to navigate the real world.  Instead Diana prefers limited contact via Otherworld a virtual website where her avatar is Nadia; her only consistent live in person human contact is her hypochondriac sister Ashley.

While visiting Diana, Ashley decides to attend an event in which her older sister was invited, but will not go.  Ashley vanishes.  Diana begins a quest to find her sibling via the virtual world and drugged to the max in the real mean streets as anxiety rips her stomach and panic attacks never cease.

Mindful of Sigourney Weaver’s character Helen Hudson in Copy Cat, Diana is an intriguing lead character as she suffers from agoraphobia but knows she must venture outside if she is to rescue her sister.  Although the key element that she concludes is the cause of her condition is that she allowed her self to become Ms. Daniel so when he died her identity died too; however this fails to gel as this feels more like babble rather than a defense mechanism.  Still readers will enjoy her tenuous efforts as she begins to believe Daniel was right that the government-industrial-financial complex controls cyberspace where the latest official shutdown is in Madison.

Harriet Klausner

Bit Player-Janet Dawson

February 23, 2011

Bit Player

Janet Dawson

Perseverance Press, Apr 4 2011, $14.95

ISBN: 9781564744944

Oakland based private investigator Jeri Howard is in the Classic Hollywood Memorabilia shop Matinee to buy items from films her grandma was in as a bit player.  The cashier overhears Jeri chatting with her friend Cassie about her relative and asks Jeri who her grandma was.  She tells him her late relative was Jerusha Layne; he tells her the police questioned her grandmother about Robert Tarrant’s murder, implying Jerusa was romantically involved with the victim and was considered a serious suspect..

Jeri vows to dig into 1942 Hollywood when her grandma lived in a cottage with three female bit players.  From letters her grandma saved, Jeri affirms Tarrant was killed with a fire set to conceal the murder.  One of Jerusha’s roommates was Tarrant’s lover and was also killed.  Chaz the owner of Matineee and his employee Henry Calhoun go to the home of Mrs Cook to buy the Joan Crawford collection.  She declines their offers so they continue on to the home of Mike Strickland to attempt to purchase his Hitchcock collection.  He also refuses.  Not long afterward, both are dead.  The murders in Hollywood decades ago and the two in the present somehow are linked, but for Jeri to find the connecting points mean traveling a labyrinth in which each corner is deadly.

The first Jeri Howard private investigator tale in years (see A Killing at the Track) is a totally terrific mystery that hooks the present to the “Golden Age of Hollywood.  Jeri begins her inquiry by reading letters from various sources.  She seeks interviews with those still alive as the original homicides are tundra cold after almost seven decades have passed; thus making the case that much more complex as the survivors have faulty memories (not even considering they would be octogenarians and nonagenarians) of what happened in 1942.  Janet Dawson provides a wonderful whodunit as Jeri realistically works the investigation.

Harriet Klausner

Live Wire-Harlan Coben

February 22, 2011

Live Wire

Harlan Coben

Dutton, Mar 22 2011, $27.95

ISBN: 9780525952060

Former tennis star Suzze Tervantino visits MB Reps to ask her agent Myron Bolitar for help.  Eight months pregnant, Suzze is hysterical as her husband rock star husband Lex Ryder, also a client of Myron, has vanished.  She shows Bolitar an entry on Facebook claiming the child she carries is not sired by Ryder.  Although other inline innuendos make the same proclamation, Suzze T swears to Bolitar that Ryder he is the dad (thanks to Maury).

Bolivar has family issues so he feels for his client.  With Windsor “Win” Horne Lockwood III at his side, he begins the search for Ryder at a time his father is dying and wants to see his estranged other son Brad.  The inquiry into finding Brad leads Myron to his abandoned sister-in-law Kitty and his fifteen years old nephew Mickey whom he never met.  Neither wants him in their lives.

.Live Wire is an exciting investigative thriller in which Bolitar works two family oriented cases.  The insight into his past enhances what long time fans know of his first and second quarters of his life while the Suzze T inquiry forces the agent to look into her family’s darkest secrets.  With Win causing havoc, a great late twist, and a powerful look at family, fans will see a different compassionate side to the wise cracking agent.

Harriet Klausner

Satori-Don Winslow

February 22, 2011

Satori

Don Winslow

Grand Central, Mar 7 2011, $25.99

ISBN: 9780446561921

The Americans have incarcerated twenty-something Nicholai Hel for over three years for assassinating his mentor.  He is kept in solitary because his jailers fear his skills as an expert at the “naked kill” and his “proximity sense” of danger. 

In 1951, the CIA offers him a deal.  He kills the Soviet Union’s Commissioner to China Yuri Voroshenin in exchange for his freedom and an opportunity to enact vengeance against those who brutally assaulted him while he was in prison.  Though he realizes this is a suicide mission and does not to trust the Americans to enforce the contract, he accepts the terms.  Able to speak several languages, Hel receives some training on how a French arms dealer would live, and meets and is attracted to Solange.  In his guise as Michel Guibert, he assassinates the Soviet official in Beijing.  Trying to escape Mao’s China leaves Hel betrayed, but he makes it to French occupied Vietnam, where war seems imminent. 

With an obvious nod to Trevanian’s classic Shibumi, Don Winslow tells of the salad days of Hel with some insight into his heritage, almost three decades before he comes out of retirement.  The story line is fast-paced and loaded with action, deaths, action, sex, and Go theory.  A sort of rookie gunslinger James Bond, fans will enjoy this historical thriller, but never quite catches the tongue in cheek underlying humor of the original.

Harriet Klausner

Sweet Revenge-Andrea Penrose

February 22, 2011

Sweet Revenge

Andrea Penrose

Obsidian, Apr 5 2011, $6.99

ISBN: 9780451233035

In 1802 an earl, Richard Hadley, left for Jamaica with his daughter Arianna to avoid being exposed as a cheat.  For years they hopped the islands as the self exiled earl became consumed by drink.  In 1812 when he was murdered, his daughter assumed one of his unsavory business partners killed her dad.  She vows vengeance and poses as a French male and obtains a position as a chef to Lady Spencer.

Her employer is close with men who are part of a Circle that her late father belonged to also.  Arianna keeps an alert eye on these aristocrats as she believes one of them is the killer.  However, before she gets very far with her investigation, the Prince Regent is poisoned after eating Arianna’s dessert.  She knows she is innocent, but most people want her hanged.  Leading the official inquiry is the Earl of Saybrook who sees through her masquerade and considers exposing her as a fraud.  Instead they join forces as he introduces her to the Ton as a distant relation.  As they partner up top solve the assassination attempt, danger mounts as someone wants both dead especially her.

This Regency mystery is an exciting historical as the two investigations converge into one which leads Saybrook and Arianna to work together.  An emotional bond occurs between them, but neither loses sight of the mission.  There are actually more puzzlers to Sweet Revenge as there is a plenty of criminal activity making the inquiry much more complicated.  Andrea Penrose has written a super early nineteenth century whodunit that fans will appreciate and will want a second helping.

Harriet Klausner