Archive for June, 2011

Death and the Maiden-Gerald Elias

June 27, 2011

Death and the Maiden

Gerald Elias

Minotaur, Aug 16 2011, $25.99

ISBN 9780312678340

 

Due to inner bickering and a potentially devastating law suit filed by fired second violinist Crispin Short, the internationally acclaimed New Magini String Quartet seems on the brink of disbanding.  Although the group has become dysfunctional outside the stage, they still perform well together while new second violinist Yumi Shinagawa has blended in nicely in performances.

 

The Quartet is booked to perform Schubert’s Death and the Maiden at Carnegie Hall once they return from vacation.  However, first violinist Aaron Kortovsky fails to return from vacation and the others learn that if Short wins they are liable to him for millions with their reputations shattered; Short demands reinstatement in three days so he can perform the Shubert concert.  Blind teacher Daniel Jacobus investigates but becomes concerned when he realizes his former student Yumi is the slated maiden Death targets.

 

The third Jacobus amateur sleuth (see The Devil’s Trill and Danse Macabre) is an entertaining whodunit with a surprising final coda.  The inquiry is intriguing, but the story line is at its best when the focus is on the classical music scene.  Although at times the plot slows down even with time running out in terms of the lawsuit, fans will enjoy wondering who plays first and second violin in the Death and the Maiden.

 

Harriet Klausner

A Murder in Tuscany-Christobel Kent

June 27, 2011

 A Murder in Tuscany

Christobel Kent

Minotaur, Aug 2 2011, $24.99

ISBN 9780312621025

 

The body of the Director of the Orfeo Trust’s Creative Arts Program retreat Leona Meadows-Mascarello is found near her wrecked car in a ravine.  Apparently her car went off an icy road near Florence in what is obviously a horrible accident.

 

Private investigator Sandro Cellini recalls doing a background check on the ruthless Leona.  Although struggling to make a living and having marital problems since his wife’s slow recovery from breast cancer, Sandro sees discrepancies in what he knows.  Over the objections of the program’s board, the Orfeo family, employees, and current residents at the castle where the retreat is hosted, he investigates.  His wife asks why he is looking into this.

 

The second Sandro Cellini Italian mystery (see The Drowning River) is a fabulous whodunit in which the sleuth finds a zillion suspects residing in or near the Creative Arts Program castle as just about everyone had the means, the motive and the opportunity.  At the same time his personal life appears broken as his marriage nears collapse with neither Cellini knowing how to prevent what looks inevitable.  Both subplots converge on the beleaguered Colombo like sleuth in this engaging investigative thriller.

 

Harriet Klausner

The Brink of Fame-Irene Fleming

June 27, 2011

The Brink of Fame

Irene Fleming

Minotaur, Aug 16 2011, $25.99

ISBN 9780312575441

 

In 1914, Adam and Emily Daggett Weiss own Melpomene Moving Picture Studios in the film capital of the world Fort Lee, New Jersey.  Adam is on location in Flagstaff, Arizona filming a desert extravaganza while his wife rides the rails a week after he left to join him.

 

However instead of a hug and kiss to greet her, Emily arrives in Flagstaff to learn Adam lost Melpomene to their bitter nasty rival Howie Kazanow.  Additionally rather than face the beating Emily would have given to her husband, he vanished with actress Agnes Gelert.  Emily meets private detective Howie Kazanow, who obtains a job for her with movie businessman Carl Laemmle in Hollywood.   He offers Emily a director’s gig if she find missing star Ross McHenry.  When she does, she is thankful Mr. Laemmle never mentioned alive.

 

The second pioneering film-making Emily Daggett Weiss amateur sleuth mystery (see The Edge of Ruin) is an engaging historical mystery.  The story line is at its best when the focus is on pre- WWI Hollywood and its Eastern bigger counterpart Fort Lee.   The whodunit is entertaining though the massive cast of suspects never allow any of the cast to move beyond the stereotypical Peter Lorre’s spinster characterizations.  Still fans of early Hollywood will enjoy Emily finds her groove on the other coast.

 

Harriet Klausner

Dead Dolls Don’t Talk/Hunt the Killer/Too Hot to Hold-Day Keene

June 27, 2011

Dead Dolls Don’t Talk/Hunt the Killer/Too Hot to Hold

Day Keene

Stark House, Aug 31 2011, $23.95

ISBN: 9781933586335

 

Dead Dolls Don t Talk.  In 1958 Harry and Bonnie meet in a bar on Sunset Strip for a New Year weekend of sex.  She asks him if he thinks he can handle her wealthy husband John.  As the months go by one murder leads to another; Police Inspector Kelly investigates while Hart is the fall guy.

 

Hunt the Killer.  Fishing boat captain Charlie White is released from a Florida prison after serving four years.  The Warden and lifer plus Swede warn him to make an adjustment from self pity by returning to the water.  Zo welcomes Charlie back to civilian life while the latter’s wife Beth does not.  Zo and Charlie make love when someone attacks them; killing Zo and leaving White to die.  However, White survives only to learn the cops hunt him for killing Zo.

 

Too Hot to Hold.  Although taxi driver Mike Scaffidi was unaware of his pending death in two days, his demise begins with picking up Linda Lou Larson at Grand Central Station in 1958.  The model from Chicago abruptly jumps from Mike’s cab only to be hit by a truck.  The accident report filed by the traffic cop leads to one less cabbie.

 

The three reprints of 1950s crime thrillers are entertaining tales that focus on an innocent person trapped in deadly webs not of their making; as one thing leads to another.  Although contemporary when written, the five plus decades turn the entries into enjoyable character driven historical noir pulp fiction.  In the introduction, David Laurence Wilson called the author one of the “Great Trio” (along with Whittington and Brewer) in 1950s crime fiction; this entry affirms Mr. Wilson assertion.

 

Harriet Klausner

Vintage Connor: The Blonde in the Lotus Elite-Robert Baty

June 26, 2011

Vintage Connor: The Blonde in the Lotus Elite

Robert Baty

 R. J. Buckley, May 7 2011, $19.00

ISBN: 9780981965475

 

Connor was an Oakland cop for twenty years.  Retired from the force, he enjoys locating rare classic cars and attending shows especially the big one in Monterey.  

 

Evie, a former girl friend from his early days at Oakland PD, arrives at his hose one night.  She left him when she could not cope with the concept of marriage to a cop.  Pleading with Connor, Evie begs him to look into the officially determined suicide of her daughter Janey in a motel during the annual Monterey classic car weekend.  Grieving Evie rejects the coroner’s finding; instead she insists Janey was murdered.  Connor and his former partner Vince Hendrix investigate what he assumes is denial.  However, he begins to change his mind when evidence surfaces that makes Janey’s death more likely a homicide, but also that the mourning mom hides something critical from him.

 

This first super Vintage Connor investigative thriller is a throwback classic Noir containing a touch sleuth, a dame, classic cars and a corpse.  The story line is fast-paced from the moment Little Evie arrives to rev up Connor’s “locomotion”; as once a cop always a cop.  Action-packed, sub-genre fans will enjoy touring the vintage car world with Connor as our guide.

 

Harriet Klausner

Under Fire-Margaret McLean

June 26, 2011

Under Fire

Margaret McLean

Forge, Jun 21 2011, $24.99

ISBN: 9780765328144

 

Boston firefighters Jack and Andy charge through the black smoke as flames engulf the Senegalese market.  They manage to get the owner, Amina and her fifteen years old son Diallo out of the inferno.  However, someone shoots Jack.

 

The Boston Police Department arrest Amina as an arson-murderer.  The detectives claim her motive was to collect insurance money since she was unable to make her mortgages.  She shot and killed the first responder Jack to cover her torching of her store.  Defense attorney Buddy Clancy convinces his niece, Sarah Lynch, who quit as a prosecutor after the fatal shooting of her lover, to defend Amina.  Sarah has not been inside a courtroom in the four years since she left the prosecutor’s office.  The media and the politicians including the governor hang Amina, which leads to mobs wanting to lynch her.  However, as the uncle and niece team begin to find counter evidence, someone needs to insure a conviction even if that means assaulting witnesses for the defense.

 

This is an exiting legal thriller in which racism plays a significant role in the story line; in fact the jury is purposely hyperbole so that from the left and right are accentuated; perhaps too much.  Although implausible incidents occur too frequently detracting from the tale, readers will enjoy Under Fire as justice is not blind or black and white, it is gray as agendas, prejudices and baggage play key roles.

 

Harriet Klausner

As The Crow Dies-Jason Starr

June 26, 2011

As The Crow Dies

Jason Starr

Bell Bridge, May 10 2011, $14.95

ISBN: 9781611940084

 

He lost both legs in Vietnam and realized during his first visit home to Coyote Springs, Texas over the 1968 Memorial Day weekend, he would never be treated the same.  His neighbors greet him with pity, guilt and avoidance except for his dad and his friend Zach Merchant.  The doctors at the Air Force Medical Center in San Antonio decide Jason’s stumps are too short to use prosthesis.  His dad Theodore insists he can walk though starting as quarterback for the Cowboys is no longer a reality.

 

After completing therapy at “Willy”, he clumsily walks on his newly fitted prostheses.  Theodore’s partner George Elspeth tells Jason his dad is dead.  Police Detective Clyde Burker, who Jason played football with in high school, states his father committed suicide.  Though kick butting is no longer an activity Jason can do, he knows his dad did not kill himself as Theodore was his biggest cheerleader and would not desert him at this time.  Jason’s religious mom and his sister Debbie struggle with the police ruling.  Jason tells his twin Leon who ran from the draft; his brother rejects suicide based on a chat with their dad last week.  As Jason looks into why his dad killed himself, a second death occurs.

 

Jason is a great character as his struggles to make it as a double amputee in a world built for the norm so it is filled with obstacles for him.  The amateur sleuthing is clever as Jason does not suddenly become a superhero but instead a walking with a hitch hero adjusting while investigating.  He and the support cast who pity and avoid him or truly marvel at his walking make for a powerful timely historical thriller.

 

Harriet Klausner

Sizzle and Burn-Alexis Grant

June 25, 2011

Sizzle and Burn

Alexis Grant

St. Martin’s, Jun 28 2011, $7.99

ISBN: 9780312943035

 

A decade ago, Ryan Mason attended West Point while Mia Santiago went to Vassar.  They met and fell in love, but each remained focus on their respective careers as they felt they were too young for anything serious.

 

Rising in esteem from her colleagues, seismologist Dr. Mia Santiago encounters Special Forces Captain Grant Mason at a scientific symposium.  Terrorists want her to use her work in their deadly schemes.  His job is to go undercover as an academic in order to protect scientists studying plate tectonics.  He wants to tell her the truth that he is a soldier not a researcher because he loathes lying to his beloved, but her safety supersedes his needs. 

 

This Men of Delta romantic suspense is an exciting thriller though the prime subplots don’t converge together until very late in the action.  When the story line focuses on tectonic disasters or the second chance at love, Sizzle and Burn is great; when the terrorists take the stage the plot feels off kilter.  Still with a deep look at a minority female from Spanish Harlem making it in the science world and the hero who wants to be at her side celebrating her triumphs with her, fans will enjoy Alexis Grant’s engaging tale.

 

Harriet Klausner

Betrayal of Trust-J. A. Jance

June 25, 2011

Betrayal of Trust

J. A. Jance

Morrow, Jul 5 2011, $25.99

ISBN: 9780061731150

 

Married couple J.P. “Beau” Beaumont and Mel Soames work for the for the Washington State Attorney General’s Special Homicide Investigation Team in the burbs of Seattle.  A video stars a smiling teen girl with a scarf around her neck; however, her smile is gone when the clip shows two males pulling the scarf strangulating her.  S.H.I.T gets the investigation because the snuff film was found on a cell phone belonging to the fifteen years old Josh Deeson, grandson of Governor Marsha Longmire’s husband Gerald Willis who has custody of the lad.  Beau gets the lead because he went to high school with Governor “Old Mother Hubbard”.

 

The two cops know Deeson has a troubled past with his mom dead from an OD and his father an addict.  The teen denies knowledge of the snuff film, but the murder weapon is found under his mattress in his “Prisoner of Zenda” room in the Governor’s mansions.  Like his comments re the film, he denies knowing how the scarf ended in his school locker where he insists he found it.  Beau and Mel as good cop bad cop put the pressure on him to tell them who the three other people besides the victim are.  Deeson remains the prime suspect.

 

This is a terrific Beaumont whodunit (see Fire and Ice) that contains a strong police procedural while also focusing on troubled teen bullying, and related adult excuses and platitudes.  Long time fans will relish the subplot involving Hank and Hannah (no giveaways as to who they are).  However, it is the trademark homage to cops who try their best risking their lives to protect us that makes this a fabulous entry in a great series.

 

Harriet Klausner

The Ideal Man-Julie Garwood

June 25, 2011

The Ideal Man

Julie Garwood

Dutton, Aug 9 2011, $26.95

ISBN 9780525952251

 

In St. Louis, trauma surgeon Dr. Ellie Sullivan works at St. Vincent’s ER while also training residents; however, she leaves the hospital in a few days though the administration would agree to anything for her to stay.  She begins her run in Cambridge Park thinking about her facing the ordeal of going home to Winston Falls, South Carolina to attend her sister’s wedding to Ellie’s former fiancé and the possibility that Evan the maniac will be in town. Shots are fired and FBI Agent Sean Goodman is hit.  Ellie stops the bleeding so the victim can be rushed to St. Vincent ER to finish saving his life.  Agents Tom Bradley and Max Daniels thank her and question her,

 

Ellie and Max are attracted to one another from the moment he learned she was the trauma expert and not a high school soccer player and she when she realized he had a self-deprecating sense of humor.  Cal and Erika Landry are the gun dealers who escaped the Feds; they try to kill Ellie as she saw their faces while Evan the psycho stalker is free from prison planning a return engagement with Ellie.  Max arrives at the Magnolia State wedding to protect witness Ellie so she can testify against the recently captured Landry duet, known for killing or frightening away anyone who fingers them.

 

Although the suspense is over the top of Sassafras Mountain with two stalkings, readers will enjoy this entertaining contemporary romance due to the sassy observant Ellie.  The fast-paced story line grips the audience with Ellie’s trauma life saving work while also appreciating Max’s dedication to duty and his smile.  This is a wonderful tale of two delightful heroes in love.

 

Harriet Klausner