Archive for March, 2011

Gone with a Handsomer Man-Michael Lee West

March 28, 2011

Gone with a Handsomer Man

Michael Lee West

Minotaur, Apr 12 2011, $24.99

ISBN 9780312571221

In Charleston, South Carolina, wannabe pastry chef Teeny Templeton is excited about marrying Bing Jackson and making the perfect red velvet cake.  However, her euphoria ends abruptly when she sees an excited Bing playing badminton with two pretty ladies without one stich of clothing on any of them.  Irate, Teeny plays dodge ball with the naked threesome by throwing unripe peaches at their butts.

She is charged with assault and receives probation.  Additionally a restraining order is processed to keep her away from Bing and his women.  A few days after being legally warned to stay away from her ex fiancé, Teeny finds Bing dead.  Obviously, the prime (and only) suspect as pointed out by the local news, Teeny distrusts the police (and the media) to search elsewhere for the killer so she applies the Templeton Tradition of creating recipes to solving the murder.

This entertaining regional culinary amateur sleuth mystery with a pinch of romance is a delightful tale due to the strong cast starting with Teeny.  The secondary characters are fully developed as Michael Lee West provides a super Southern whodunit enhanced by the refreshing Templeton Tradition.

Harriet Klausner

Among the Departed-Vicki Delaney

March 28, 2011

Among the Departed

Vicki Delaney

Poisoned Pen, May 3 2011, $24.95

ISBN 9781590989243

 

In 1996 in Trafalgar, British Columbia, Brian Nowak vanished without a trace.  No one knew what happened to Brian who seemed to have no enemies.  He left behind an uncaring spouse, an unreliable son, and a precocious daughter who was the apple of his life; anyone who knew him knew he would never leave his darling Nicky behind especially with her mother.

Fifteen years after Brian disappeared, the remains of a human are accidently found.  The townsfolk assume the deceased is Brian.  Nicky, who was an eighth grader when her dad vanished, was never the same as she has gotten into all sorts of trouble involving drugs and prostitution since.  Her childhood best friend Constable Molly Smith leads the investigation into the murder of Brian hoping this brings closure to a disturbed Nicky.

The fifth Constable Molly Smith police investigation is an engaging Canadian village whodunit.  The key to this tale and its predecessors (see Valley of the Lost and Negative Image) is the strong support cast as Molly obtains the usual assistance whether she wants it or not from her boyfriend RCMP Sergeant, his dog, and her mom; and the lack of cooperation from the horde of locals including the victim’s daughter who is no longer an innocent.  Among the Departed is a terrific mystery with a great realistic finish.

Harriet Klausner

The Burning Lake-Brent Ghelfi

March 28, 2011

The Burning Lake

Brent Ghelfi

Poisoned Pen, May 3 2011, $24.95

ISBN 9781590589250

 

On a wintry night in Moscow, espionage agent Alexei “Volk” Volkovoy meets with gulag survivor Ilya Jacobs.  The latter informs Volk that someone assassinated reporter Katarina “Kato” Mironova in a remote village in the Urals.  Three students were also murdered.

Although a reporter’s life is perilous in Putin’s Russia, Volk is indifferent to that aspect of Kato’s life.  Instead he feels her killing is personal as he and Kato were lovers during the second Chechen conflict.  He resolves to uncover who killed her and why.  The agent quickly learns Kato was digging into a story about a reservoir in the mountains containing holding liquid radioactive waste that exploded in 1958.  The area became contaminated with radioactive waste.  Before long the trail leads to Las Vegas.

The latest Volk dark Russian thriller (see Volk’s Shadow and The Venona Cable) is a great timely investigative tale.  The story line is the usual frantic pace of a Volk tale as he connects the Stalin evil past and the dark Putin present.  Fans will anticipate a showdown with the Frenchman, who is setting up the kill of Volk as Brent Ghelfi writes a tense thriller that captures the essence of 1950s and current Russia in this powerful entry.

Harriet Klausner

Devil’s Plaything-Matt Richtel

March 28, 2011

Devil’s Plaything

Matt Richtel

Poisoned Pen, May 3 2011, $24.95

ISBN: 9781590588871

In San Francisco medical reporter Nate Idle makes some cash posting a medical blog.  He also spends his free time with his editor Pauline Sanchez in her office. 

At the same time at Magnolia Manor his octogenarian grandma Lane suffers from dementia.  She currently responds to online questions from the Human Memory crusade.  She shares a lot of personal family information with the computer that calmly says trust me.  Nat ignores his grandma’s ramblings until he takes her for a stroll in Golden Gate Park; only someone fires what seems like random shots, but he begins to think this culprit targeted the Idle pair.  Soon he realizes the attempt is tied to an encrypted flash drive he received anonymously by an unknown person demanding a meeting though he wonders why him and his family.

The freshness to this over the top of the Twin Peaks neuroscience technological conspiracy is the beleaguered everyman’s octogenarian grandma who suffers from dementia so cannot be relied on for what she remembers, which is very little beyond WWII.  Still fans that ignore plausibility will be Hooked as the grandson and his grandma team up in an entertaining investigative medical thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Mobbed-Carol Higgins Clark

March 27, 2011

Mobbed

Carol Higgins Clark

Scribner, Apr 5 2011, $25.00

ISBN: 9781439170281

Private investigator Regan Reilly and her husband Jack who heads the NYPD Major Case Squad plan to go to the Jersey Shore for the weekend to celebrate her mom Nora’s birthday.  Regan leaves without Jack because Nora asks her to accompany her to the home of Mrs. Edna Frawley who is selling her beach house and therefore hosting a yard sale including items left behind by her tenant movie star Cleo Paradise.  Edna’s daughter Karen is a friend of Nora and wants her to insure her mom in her zeal does not sell any of her items.

When Regan and Nora arrive, they find Edna gleefully waiting for the yard sale to begin.  Regan receives calls from Cleo’s best friend and the actress’ mother wanting to know where she is.  A stalker has been sending Cleo dead roses with thorns as real life imitates the movie she starred in.  Cleo’s mom hires Regan to find her daughter who has many enemies among the envious Hollywood crowd.  Cleo relaxes at a dude ranch nearby, but is unaware that someone is closing in on her to hurt her; at the same Regan seeks to protect her.

As always, a Regan Reilly mystery is a fun, delightful and entertaining tale due to quirky endearing characters especially when mom the author and daughter the sleuth team up.  Although the story line is somewhat farcical with two degrees of separation; readers will not be able to put down Mobbed as everyone looking for Cleo converges while the actress is having a good time at a dude ranch.

Harriet Klausner

The Corruptible-Mark Mynheir

March 26, 2011

The Corruptible

Mark Mynheir

Multnomah, Apr 5 2011, $14.00

ISBN 9781601420749

Ray Quinn retired from the Orlando Police Department due to a perpetrator shooting his hip; shattering the joint.  His replacement hip forces him to use a cane to walk slowly as the ache is unbearable.  To numb the mental and physical pain, Ray turned to alcohol.

Quinn has opened up The Night Watchman Detective Agency where he mentors a rookie Crevis Creighton who wants to become a cop and employs Pam Winter, a former client.  Armon Mayor of Mayor Holdings, Inc. hires him to recover stolen confidential client information.  The prime suspect is Logan Ramsey, who before working at Mayor Holdings, was employed as a Narc for OPD but was forced to leave the force. 

The second Quinn fun inspirational Noir (see The Night Watchman) is due to the hero, who sets the tone early when he explains to his employees that he broke the other guy’s fist with his face and uses his cane as a weapon.  Other subplots add to the entertainment when for instance he electronically poses as an elderly woman scamming the email scammers offering to share money from overseas banks in crisis countries for a fee.  The banter between the Night Watchman trio is amusing but caring, which enhances an exciting private investigative mystery in which Quinn ironically misses clues the audience will not. 

Harriet Klausner

Altar of Bones-Philip Carter

March 25, 2011

Altar of Bones

Philip Carter

Gallery (Pocket), Mar 8 2011, $25.00

ISBN: 9781439199084

In Siberia, an assassin murders Katya Orlova.  Her San Francisco granddaughter lawyer Zoe Dmitroff receives a letter from her grandmother who she thought died years ago.  The late Katya explains in her note that Zoe is now the “Keeper” of an ancient secret of the Altar of Bones.

Before Zoe can digest the strange letter, she is attacked by the Russian mob and her own mom demands she reveal the secret to her.  Ry O’Malley, whose father and brother were also murdered, arrives to protect Zoe.  They flee to Europe as an unknown adversary wants her dead and by association him too.

Over the top of the Urals, Altar of Bones grips the audience from the opening assassination and never slows down as the rookie Keeper and her protector dash around Europe with a little luck and a lot of moxie as killers chase after them with one intention.  Throw in Rasputin, Stalinist Russia, and Siberia and fans will enjoy Philip Carter’s adrenaline tour of Russia past and present in what is a fun thriller. Warning: set aside time because your bones will be tired with this impossible to put aside suspense.

Harriet Klausner

The Snowman-Jo Nesbo

March 24, 2011

The Snowman

Jo Nesbo

Knopf, May 10 2011, $25.95

ISBN: 9780307595867

In Oslo, as the first snow of the year falls, Jonas Becker awakens during the night to find his mother Birte not home.  Footprints from trekking in the wet snow are inside the house.  Eerily outside a snowman stares at the house wearing a pink scarf that a terrorized Jonas knows belongs to his mother.

Police detective Harry Hole leads the inquiry into the missing person case that looks like a house invasion abduction.  His first suspect is the husband, arrogant Professor Filip.  However, he revises his opinion when the head of a female is found atop the body of a snowman.  As he analyzes the data, he received a letter from a killer signed as the Snowman referring to a case Harry worked on years ago in Australia.  He soon realizes this psychopath has been murdering women on the first snowfall for years, but only now has decided to become visible by battling Hole in a game of wits.

Although a game between a serial killer and a detective has been done by other novelists (see Beverly Barton’s The Murder Game and The Dying Game), Hole, who has the personality of a hostile newt (the Salamandridae family will complain about the insult). make for a fresh contest.  The investigation is fun to follow as the cop’s team, superiors, and family dislike him, but he is the best detective on the Oslo force; beside which the Snowman selected him for the wintry chess match.  Readers will enjoy this award winning Norwegian police procedural and seek other translated Harry Hole inquiries (see The Devil’s Star).

Harriet Klausner

Flowerbed of State-Dorothy St. James

March 24, 2011

Flowerbed of State

Dorothy St. James

Berkley, May 3 2011, $7.99

ISBN: 9780425240571

It is every American gardener’s dream to have the position that Cassandra “Casey” Calhoun occupies.  After seeing her work in Charleston, South Carolina, the First Lady hires her as an assistant gardener at President’s Park where the White House is located.  The First Lady felt she and Casey shared similar views that are radical to the old guard status quo. 

Casey finds herself face down in the mud and soon realizes someone tried to strangle her.  A man looking like a black commando comes out of nowhere.  She assumes he is her attacker coming to finish the job so she pepper sprats him.  She is horrified to realize she injured Special Agent Jake Turner, an elite member of a military (CAT) arm of the Secret service.  They soon follow a blood trail on damaged greenery, which leads to the corpse of Pauline Bonde, a Treasury Department accountant who was auditing the books of some powerful folks.  Casey believes that the bankers who are visiting the President to talk him out of new oversight regulations and protestors who believe the First family is in bed with the bankers are linked to the murder.  She investigates but almost gets killed with Turner always seemingly around to rescue her.

Part of the fascination with the first White House Gardener Mystery is the insight into how the support staff operates though that is similar to Julie Hyzy’s White House Chef Mystery.  Flowerbed of State focuses on the people who care for the gardens; an eccentric group who take pride in their work.  Although a deep childhood psychological trauma propels Casey to search for the killer, it remains over the top of the Washington Monument that she could carry out a professional investigation while Turner seems to be going nowhere with experience and support in his corner.  Still fans who ignore the plausibility will enjoy an entertaining whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Buried Prey-John Sandford

March 23, 2011

Buried Prey

John Sandford

Putnam, May 10 2011, $27.95

ISBN: 9780399157387

In 1985, Lucas Davenport was still in uniform when two young girls, Nancy and Mary Jones disappeared while playing outside.  After a search of their usual haunts, the police assumed that a sexual predator kidnapped, raped and killed the girls.  A tipster, later known to be John fell, called the cops twice implicating homeless schizophrenic Sharpe in their abduction; evidence pointed in his direction.  When the alleged culprit died, the police closed the case while Davenport argued to keep searching for Fell as he had doubts that Sharpe was the culprit.

In the present, a sidewalk is being dug up when the bodies of the Jones sisters are found; their bodies mummified and recognizable.  Lucas is now in a law enforcement position to hunt a predator who has killed other children.  He and his partner on the original Jones case Del intensely search for a psychopath.  When one of his cherished friends goes down in the line of duty by this perpetrator, the case turns personal as Lucas struggles not to do something he will regret when he catches this vicious beast as he knows he will.

John Sandford shows why readers love his Prey police procedurals as he gets deep into the psyche of his hero who is already over the top of Eagle Mountain with anger towards the serial killer preying on the young, but goes stratospheric with rage when a close friend falls victim.  Besides his struggle to control his feelings, readers also gets a chance to see Lucas as a young but experienced rookie who retains the same values he displays as a veteran including his efforts to do what he believes is right even if it means bending the law.  Series fans will enjoy Davenport’s internal battle to stay in control as this case is an emotional dynamo.

Harriet Klausner