Archive for April, 2011

Purgatory Chasm-Steve Ulfelder

April 26, 2011

Purgatory Chasm

Steve Ulfelder

Minotaur, May 10, $23.99

ISBN: 9780312672928

In Framingham, Massachusetts auto mechanic Conway Sax detests insufferable Tander Phigg, but the man belongs to the Alcoholics Anonymous Barnburner group.  The Barnburners saved his life by sobering him up so Conway vowed to repay them whenever he can.

Thus when the pig Phigg asks Conway to retrieve his 1980 Mercedes from New Hampshire Das Motorenwerk garage that has possessed his vintage auto for eighteen months, Sax reluctantly agrees.  However, the seemingly simple request turns convoluted when someone at the garage knocks him out and later he learns someone killed Tander.  The police suspect Sax of the murder as he is an ex con who has been fingered for being the last person seen with the deceased.  Conway has two missions to resolve: first prove his innocence and second get the vehicle.

Loaded with twists and spins, Purgatory Chasm is an exciting action-packed amateur sleuth mystery starring a fascinating flawed individual.  Conway makes the tale work as a person in trouble who investigates the murder while also planning to repo the car.  His past is nicely interwoven into the strong plot so that readers understand why he feels obligated to the Barnburner group. 

Harriet Klausner

Mystery Writers of American presents the Rich and the Dead

April 25, 2011

Mystery Writers of American presents the Rich and the Dead

Edited by Nelson DeMille

Grand Central, May 2 2011, $24.99

ISBN: 9780446555876

The premise of this anthology is that the ultra Rich can obtain anything they want but also can be the target of others who envy their affluence.  The all new twenty contributions are well written and though adhere to the general theme provide a wide diversity.  Harry Bosch stars in Michael Connelly’s terrific “Blood Washes Off while Connecticut widower Detective Meigs visits vacationing in dreaded Key West in Roberta Isleib’s “The Itinerary”.  Cholly the odious poison pen columnist learns what being a victim is in Ted Bell’s “The Pirate of Palm Beach”.  Trip sees Dizz but this is no high school reunion in the “Precipice” by Daniel J. Hale and Frank Cook’s “The Gift” will remind readers of O’Henry.  The strong collection closes with a wonderful tale starring the queen of Greenwich Village, “Daphne, Unrequited” and her former husband (written by Angela Zeman).  With writers like Harley Jane Kozak, Lee Child and S.J. Rozan, readers will enjoy this fine compilation by the MWA

The Bee Balm Murders-Cynthia Riggs

April 24, 2011

The Bee Balm Murders

Cynthia Riggs

Minotaur, Apr 26 2011, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312581794

Martha’s Vineyard beekeeper Sean McBride suggests to entrepreneur Orion Nanopoulos he rent a room from the former’s boss nonagenarian Victoria Trumbull.  Orion, who heads a fiber optic cable project, takes an attic room on Victoria’s West Tisbury home.

A corpse is found where Orion’s crew is laying down the cable.  When a body is found in the trench where they are laying the cable; Orion recognizes the victim as Brooklyn construction mogul and project investor Angelo Vulpone.  The deceased’s family, learning that Victoria has a reputation for solving mysteries, hires the feisty senior citizen to investigate Angelo’s murder.   She begins her inquiry quickly learning a lot of people could make a lot of money with Vulpone dead.

This is a terrific whodunit especially when the action is on Martha’s Vineyard, as the dynamic Victoria does her thing while providing readers with a charming tour of the island.  Part of the fun is watching the money investment crowd go in for the kill when Orion loses his prime backer as this group has no respect for the dead.  With nine previous cases solved by marvelous Martha (see Touch-Me-Not), she has proven to be a super professional sleuth.

Harriet Klausner

The Wreckage-Michael Robotham

April 23, 2011

The Wreckage

Michael Robotham

Little, Brown, Jun 16 2011, $24.99

ISBN: 9780316126403

Foreign correspondent Luca Terracini knows the rules of survivability in a war zone; recently affirmed by the bombing of the chain hotels in Baghdad.  He gets around the country without being imbedded due to his being an Iraqi-American and having a terrific local entourage starting with his driver Jamal.  However, he has broken his prime rule of cowardice ever since his Nicola died in a suicide bombing. 

Currently Luca is investigating the bank bombings with the eighteenth for the year being the Zewiya Branch of Al Rafadain Bank.  His theory is these incidents are thefts on a massive scale rather than terrorism or insurgency.  As Luca follows the money trail, he encounters UN representative Daniela Garner, who apparently is the expert on the bank robberies.  Her appearance affirms his belief about the robberies.  

At the same time in London, international banker Richard North disappears.  Governments, mobsters, and financial institutions employ the best to locate him.  The North incident ties back to an amazed Luca who is thrown out of Iraq by Iraqis who he believes were pressured by American authorities; apparently the west wants the missing money to remain secret.

Based on real bank robberies in Iraq, the IG report of nine billion dollars in Reconstruction money unaccounted for and a UN chief claiming drug money saved the finance industry during the recent meltdown; The Wreckage is an exhilarating financial thriller.  The story line is fast-paced as the hero follows the money in which Baghdad, London and several other finance centers connect.  Readers will relish this solid tale while wondering about the underlying plausibility as this cannot have happened yet facts are stranger than fiction.

Harriet Klausner

Royal Pains, First Do No Harm-D.P. Lyle

April 22, 2011

Royal Pains, First Do No Harm

D.P. Lyle

Obsidian, Jun 7 2011, $7.99

ISBN: 9780451234148

Dr. Hank Lawson worked in a major New York City hospital.  Two severely ill patients arrived at the same time; he immediately treated the sicker person.   That man survived, but he was unable to tend to the other person in time.  Hank was fired and blackballed because the man who died was wealthy and a contributor to the hospital.  Although Hank no longer could obtain a hospital position, he kept his medical license.

Dr. Lawson became a concierge doctor to the rich in the Hamptons.  He makes house calls, holds their hands, and provides service like the old general physician of years ago.  One of his favorite patients is Eleanor Parker Wentworth who is a down to earth person.  She is giving her granddaughter Nicole an extravagant wedding.  Dr. Lawson learns Nicole suffers from fugue incidents when she disappears and does not know where she is at.  Hank locates her, but she has no idea who she is.  Her blood contains a dangerous mix of chemicals, but she swears she only takes vitamins.  Other patients show the same symptoms.  They share one thing in common, but to prove it before someone dies makes Dr. Lawson go out on the limb again; his brother Evan, his girlfriend Jill and his P.A. Dixie has his back.

Hank remains hurt that he cannot practice the medicine he loves though his patients adore and respect him.  Readers will admire and like him as he seems like a Dr. Welby with flaws including irritability.  He is all heart as he cares about his patients, his and their families and his staff.  Like Lee Goldberg, D.P. Lyle writes novels with TV tie-ins that are fun to read.

Harriet Klausner

The Illusion of Murder-Carol McCleary

April 22, 2011

The Illusion of Murder

Carol McCleary

Forge, Apr 12 2011, $24.99

ISBN: 9780765322043

In 1889, Nellie Bly begins her quest circumnavigate the world in under eighty days.  Two weeks into her quest, Bly is in Port Said, Egypt where she witnesses a homicide.  Before the victim dies, he talks briefly to Bly.

She wonders if the deceased was English as she sets out to leave Egypt.  Bly and her mostly British retinue continue the trek into Asia, but more murders follow.  She begins to wonder if her aristocratic companions are the cause for the rash of homicides that plague her expedition and decides to use her journalist investigative skills to solve the murders.

Based on Nellie Bly’s true account of her Around the World in 72 Days, The Illusion of Murder is a terrific thriller as the intrepid journalist uses her investigative skills to try to solve homicides plaguing the adventure.  Nellie makes her second historical whodunit (see The Alchemy of Murder) work.  The sleuth reporter is brave but not a modern day super female warrior as part of her psyche remains anchored in the Victorian age.  Readers will enjoy traveling the globe with Nellie as she ends up in one hot pot of stew after another while trying to break Phineas Fogg’s record as recorded by Jules Verne. 

Harriet Klausner

The Devil’s Light-Richard North Patterson

April 19, 2011

The Devil’s Light

Richard North Patterson

Scribner, May 3 2011, $26.00

ISBN: 9781451616804

Al Qaeda key terrorist leader, Al Zaroor plans destruction for 9/11/11 that will make the original 9/11 appears like a minor event.  He needs a nuclear device, but  Al Zaroor knows nuclear bombs left stationary are protected but those moved for purposes of the regional cold war with India is accessible for stealing.  He arranges for an incident to heat up the always simmering conflict between Pakistan and India, and has a bomb hijacked while in transit.

Bin Laden announces to the world his team has the bomb and will use it on an American city to commemorate the tenth anniversary.  While Pakistan denies the loss of a WMD, the CIA, HSD, and DOD take the terrorist at his word and try to protect America.  However, CIA field operative Brooke Chandler thinks it is a hoax as he believes the target is Tel Aviv with the goal being America (and the Israelis) reacting like it did to 9/11/01 by attacking a nation; this time Iran.  Chandler fails to sell his argument so he lines up his retired former boss Carter Grey to prevent 9/11 all over again.

This tense thriller makes a powerful plausible argument that history repeats the same mistakes, but worsened by stronger weapons.  The gripping story line is at its best with the set up of the brilliant credible terrorist plot that extrapolates from the real world such as America’s ports not very secure.  The tension is somewhat deflated when the plot turns to the two Americans trying to thwart the scheme as that follows a pre-ordained path though exciting.  Still this poignant tale grips the reader from story to finish with a reasonable premise of what Al Qaeda plans to celebrate their greatest triumph.

Harriet Klausner

Jericho Cay-Kathryn R. Wall

April 19, 2011

Jericho Cay

Kathryn R. Wall

Minotaur, Apr 26 2011, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312601850

In South Carolina just after Hurricane Kitty caused plenty of damage to the state, egomaniacal true crime author Winston Wolfe hires private investigator Bay Tanner to look into the two years old cold case involving the disappearance of reclusive millionaire Morgan Tyler Bell.  Wolfe’s theory is that Bell is alive and using the guise of his personal assistant Terry Gerard.  The writer explains that Gerard vanished when Bell allegedly disappeared off Jericho Cay, a private island near Hilton Head.

Bay, her husband former deputy sheriff Red and Winston travel to Bell’s Jericho Cay.  There apparently his Jamaican housekeeper Anjanette Freeman committed suicide just before her employer and his assistant vanished.  Wolfe abandons Bay and Red on Jericho Cay, but he also disappears after making a strange call to her.

The latest Bay Tanner mystery (see Canaan’s Gate) is a terrific twisting thriller that has the audience and the lead couple wondering what is going on and why.  The super story line grips the reader with the need to know as Kathryn R. Wall provides a strong puzzler as nothing is quite like it seems. It feels like a chess game in which the Tanner pair has no idea who the grandmaster playing them is.

Harriet Klausner

Doc-Mary Doria Russell

April 19, 2011


Mary Doria Russell

Random House, May 3 2011, $26.00

ISBN: 9781400068043

In 1878 Dodge City, Kansas is a cow town where alcohol and hookers leave the young rustlers broke.  Twenty something John Henry Holliday arrives from Atlanta to open up a dental practice.  A Southern gentleman, he moved based on medical advice that a dry climate may abate somewhat the debilitating deadly impact of tuberculosis.  Doc as he becomes known finds dental work not much of an income maker, but he proves talented at gambling.  His live-in relationship with his intellectual equal Kate Harony is passionate as each loves music and the classics, but the hot-tempered Hungarian’s attempts to tame the Georgian has them brawling as much as loving. 

When someone burns to death a mixed breed lad Johnny Sanders, lawmen Wyatt and Morgan Earp are outraged with the immoral murder.  They vow to find the perpetrator and bring frontier justice to the culprit.  Shockingly Doc feels morally obligated to assist the Earp brothers.

A few years before the famous gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone made them the models for future western frontier heroic stereotypes; Mary Doria Russell paints a vivid picture of the beginning of the friendship between Morgan the lawman and Doc the gambler.  The characters make the historical biography story line fun to read as myth and fact blend into a deep portrait; though in many ways the key cast supersedes the murder plot.  Readers will relish Doc as he and the Earp brothers become friends while seeking frontier justice for a half-breed.

Harriet Klausner

A Penny for Your Thoughts-Mindy Starns Clark

April 19, 2011

A Penny for Your Thoughts

Mindy Starns Clark

Harvest House, Apr 1 2011, $13.99

ISBN: 9780736929561

Tired J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation attorney Callie Webber, after giving a $300,000 grant to Transition Resources, flies home from Chicago to DC.  On the flight the widow calls her boss Tom the philanthropist whom she never met.  After he lectures her for trading in her first class ticket for coach, Tom assigns her to travel to Philadelphia to give $250,000 to his family friend Wendell Smythe’s Feed the Need cause.

Callie arrives at Smythe’s office to deliver the cheek in person, but finds the recipient dead.  She notifies a stunned Tom who asks her, as a former private detective, to investigate the murder.  Callie moves into Smythe’s home to investigate his homicide; only to find the victim’s family uncooperative and she fears dangerous.

This is a terrific whodunit filled with twists and a hint of romance though Callie and Tom have never met in person.  The story line is fast-paced from the first grant to the final denouement.  Adding depth to the strong mystery is the thirtyish heroine, still grieving the loss of her spouse, her quiet faith in God and the profound look at not for profit groups that will have the audience ponder the ethics of the end justifies the mean.

Harriet Klausner