Archive for October, 2011

In The Bleak Midwinter-M.R. Sellars

October 16, 2011

In The Bleak Midwinter

M.R. Sellars

E.M.A. Mysteries/Oak Tree, Nov 1 2011, $16.95

ISBN: 9780979453380


On December 22, 1975, Santa sexually assaulted her at school.  He threatened to kill her parents if she told them what he did.  That night while her mom purchased groceries, her little sister wanted to visit Santa.  Merrie Callahan never wanted see Santa ever again, but was forced to escort Elizabeth to visit him.  He turned out to be her predator and Merrie vanished for thee days.


Decades later, the residents of Hulis, Missouri are living out a nightmare just as they did when Merrie was abducted.  FBI Special Agent Constance Mandalay investigates.  She learns that though thirty-five years passed since the rapes, Merrie believes it is December, 22, 1975 before Santa brutalized her.  Sheriff Skip Carmichael explains to the Fed that every anniversary of Merrie’s trauma leads to her falling into a catatonic state for three days.  On Christmas Day in the shack where Merrie was sodomized, someone chops up a man using an axe exactly like Merrie did  and the body parts are in the same place when she counterattacked her abductor years ago.  Constance senses the townsfolk conceals something critical from her; when the FBI Agent learns what it is, her belief system is shaken to the core in spite of her case work with Wiccan practitioner Rowan Gant.


M.R. Sellars has written an exhilarating supernatural mystery that will have readers wondering what is going on in Hulis, and when we figure that out, the author twists the entertaining police procedural into a new direction.  Constance has been a recurring support character in the RGI whodunits (see Blood Moon), but proves she can run the show as a pragmatic independent investigator who prefers denial of the supernatural though the supporting evidence in this case and her work with Gant forces her to accept an inconvenient truth.


Harriet Klausner

Triple Shot

October 15, 2011

Triple Shot

Sandro Balzo

Severn House, Dec 1 2011, $27.99

ISBN: 9780727880796


At the Brookhills Junction Depot in Wisconsin, the owners of Uncommon Grounds Maggy Thorsen and Sarah Kingston are ecstatic as their gourmet coffeehouse appears on the brink of success especially their popular autumn espresso while a chill is in the air. 


At the same Sarah the Kingston Realtor is being investigated for a complaint filed by her apprentice Brigid Ferndale.  Not long afterward, the smell of a rotting corpse overwhelms the usual pleasant odor of A Cup of Jo.  They follow the nasty scent into a room neither knew existed.  Inside a closet is the dead body of Brigid.  Brookhills County Sheriff Jake Pavlilk investigates the homicide while thinking he is Lassie to Sarah’s Timmy as he likes her but she seems to become brewed in too many homicides.  As he works the case in which Sarah is the obvious prime suspect, Maggy also investigates From the Grounds Up.


The latest Thorsen caffeine crime cozy affirms that this series remains one of the best gourmet amateur sleuths on the market.  The whodunit is cleverly constructed as sassy Sarah seems to be the solo suspect.  Courageous Maggy knows her partner is a hemorrhoid bringer, but would never murder anyone so she sets out to find the real killer.  Although their location seems to be a “morgue”, armchair readers will enjoy sipping coffee as Maggy does the leg work.


Harriet Klausner

The Secret in Their Eyes-Eduardo Sacheri

October 15, 2011

The Secret in Their Eyes

Eduardo Sacheri

Other Press, Oct 18 2011, $15.95

ISBN: 9781590514504


In Argentina, sixty years old Benjamin Chaparro has retired after three plus decades investigating crime.  He knows he is an ancient dinosaur who has seen so much change in his country from the nasty Dirty War period to the cleansing afterward.  However, one case remains imprinted in his gut; the one he begins to write a book about.


When Benjamin was in his late twenties back in 1968 as a Palace of Justice deputy clerk, he investigated the brutal rape and murder of teacher Liliana Colotto.  His inquiry had three results.  First he identifies the killer Gomez through revealing photos; he kept the case from going cold until four years later he caught the culprit, but corruption superseded justice.  Second that fed the raging frenzy of the victim’s husband Morales who lived with one value: avenging his late wife.  Finally, though he did everything right except for falling in love with intern Irene Hornos who did not reciprocate his feelings, Benjamin had to flee Buenos Aires for over a decade as connections and corruption made him a target of the execution goons deploying the Dirty war.


This is a translation of a terrific historical Argentinian police procedural that will grip readers with the outcome on the three men linked forever with the death of the young woman.  The story line is fast-paced whether the setting is the sexagenarian pondering about his book or the investigation the years in self exile.  With a deep dark look at The War Years, readers will understand why the movie version of the novel won Best Foreign Film Oscar.


Harriet Klausner


Getting Lucky-DC Brod

October 15, 2011

Getting Lucky

DC Brod

Tyrus, Dec 18 2011, $24.95

ISBN: 9781440531989


Freelance writer Robyn Guthrie enjoys her assignments for the Weekly News and Record.  However, she is heartbroken when staff reporter Clair dies in a hit and run accident in a side of the road that makes no sense for her to be walking there.  Clair’s editor hires Robyn to finish the late reporter’s piece on the Cedar Ridge subdivision; she accepts the assignment with the caveat she will investigate her peer’s death also.


Robyn diligently works both stories while dealing with personal traumas.  Her senile mom is losing her memory and driving her crazy while residing in an assisted living facility; and the reporter is not seeing her long boyfriend Mick over the issue of children.  Her two stories converge when she follows Clair’s notes and photos as something is insidiously wrong at Cedar Grove.  This evil kills parents and children.  Robyn develops a plan, but to succeed she needs cooperation from a lot of people wary to get involved.


Dealing with people who break the law on land deals is hard enough, but when these same felons place children in danger to make more money is evil.  Robyn’s high school adversary is involved though initially ignorant and tries to make things as right as can be though the horse has left the barn.  The storyline focuses on the key characters including a “blackmailing” rogue former EPA field agent and what motivates each to act and react in the way they do. 


Harriet Klausner

Hickory Smoked Homicide-Riley Adams

October 13, 2011

Hickory Smoked Homicide

Riley Adams

Berkley, Nov 1 2011, $7.99

ISBN: 9780425244609


In Memphis, Widow Lulu Taylor owns popular Aunt Pat’s BBQ.  Lulu hires teenager Steffi Pembroke as a waitress and gives her a room to stay in after her mother the odious pageant coach Tristan tossed her out of their home.  Not long after that Lulu, her friend saucy Cherry Hayes, her daughter-in-law Sara and Steffi attend an auction at Tristan’s home.  Sara and Tristan get into a heated argument over a portrait the former painted of the latter.  Soon after the argument Lulu searches for Sara, but cannot find her; instead she finds the murdered body of Tristan; something the MPD notes is a regular part of her lifestyle (see Finger Lickin’ Dead and Delicious and Suspicious).


The prime suspect is Sara due to the public conflict and a series of bad luck at the wrong time.  Sara’s husband Ben worries about his wife even as he arranges a blind date for his mom with popular food blogger Gordon.  Lulu refuses to allow the mother of her grandchild to go to jail so with Cherry they begin to investigate who committed Hickory Smoked Homicide.


The third Memphis BBQ Mystery is an entertaining regional amateur sleuth starring a quirky neighborhood cast.  Although the mischance that has Sara in peril is way too much of a coincidence, so much so fans will change Murphy’s Law to Sara’s Syndrome, fans will enjoy this fine cozy as Lulu and Cherry find more suspects than ingredients in Brunswick Stew but a final terrific twist adds just the right amount of source to Riley Adams’ fun whodunit.


Harriet Klausner

Silent Kills-C.E. Lawrence

October 13, 2011

Silent Kills

C.E. Lawrence

Pinnacle, Dec 6 2001, $7.99

ISBN: 9780786025626


NYPD criminal profiler Lee Campbell has returned to work after a leave of absence, but the depression caused by his sister’s disappearance led to a nervous breakdown that crippled and hospitalized him The depression remains strong just at a lesser degree of intensity.  His current case is profiling the killer of Candy Nugent who was seen at a steampunk club before dying from exsanguination.  While Bronx Major Crimes Unit Chief Morton comments about The Bride of Dracula, Lee fears this draining of the blood indicates that the cops are dealing with a tyro serial killer just starting a reign of terror.


Lee’s prediction proves true when three more victims are found from a predator who injects his victims with a sedative to make it easier for him to remove his target from a club crowd before draining the blood.  What the police do not know is that this psychopath drinks the blood.  The young dead females remind Lee of his sibling, which increases the level of his depression.


Although insane serial killers running rampart (see Silent Victims and Silent Screams) are as frequent as mindless zombies and angst vampires, C.E. Lawrence refreshes the theme with a mentally wounded protagonist struggling with a nasty case that reminds him of the cause of his depression.  The story line occurs when 9/11 remains fresh in the minds of New Yorkers, which adds tension to the tale.  Rotating point of view enables the audience to understand the beast’s motivation while the protagonist displays his raw sensitivities on his sleeve.  Scream III is a terrific police procedural.


Harriet Klausner

Physical Education-Maggie Barbieri

October 13, 2011

Physical Education

Maggie Barbieri

Minotaur, Nov 22 2011, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312593292


At the northern most tip of New York City is St. Thomas Catholic College.  When the girl’s basketball coach dies, English Lit professor Alison Bergeron is drafted to take over at a time when the daughter of her husband Homicide Detective Bobby Crawford is a star player.  She is leaving for the day when security guard John Dugan notices her trunk is not locked, which surprises the instructor.  When they cannot shut it, they open it to find the bloody corpse of the new mail room employee Paul, who just delivered a package to Alison.  Two colleagues of Crawford, Montoya and Moran lead the inquiry.


Crawford goes undercover, which bothers his wife who still has scars from her first cheating husband.  He informs her that Paul was Vito Passella, a foot soldier in the Lucarelli mob.  Alison begins a bit of uncovers sleuthing finding evidence which point to the former late coach of the Blue Jays being murdered instead of dying from a heart attack.  Soon afterward an accusation of sexual misconduct shakes the school.  Unable to remain on the bench, Alison’s moral code has her making inquires into what is going on at St. Thomas.


Physical Education, the latest Murder 101 amateur sleuth (see Third Degree, Final Exam and Quick Study), is an entertaining academic cozy.  Crawford sums up the tale and series as he believes his wife has good instincts in terms of solving homicides, but poor instincts in terms of not being the next victim.  With amusing asides from the protagonist, fans will enjoy stopping at St. Thomas Catholic College for its breathtaking view of the Hudson and academic homicides.


Harriet Klausner

El Gavilan-Craig McDonald

October 12, 2011

El Gavilan

Craig McDonald

Tyrus, Dec 18 2011, $24.95

ISBN: 9781440531941


Tell Lyons left the Border Patrol following the deaths of his wife and child in a firebombing incident.  He accepts a position as Chief of Police of New Austin, Ohio.  Although he is no where near the border, the town and Horton County have illegal immigration issues.


However, as Horton County Sheriff Able Hawk enforces the federal immigration law, someone rapes and murders single mom Thalia Ruiz, a legal Mexican-American.  Tell investigates with pressure to not dig too deep.  His only ally is Able who believes in enforcing the law regardless of what race broke it.  As other deadly assaults on legal or not Latina occurs, Tell begins to come back to life when he meets and is attracted to natural citizen Patricia Maldonado, whose parents are documented; not that it matters to some. 


This is an exciting pull no punches look at the full immigration issue.  The story line is action-packed as the two law enforcement officials investigate the horrific felon in which they believe blood is red while other “profilers” believe their opponents need to bleed.  Gruesome, Craig McDonald extrapolates the immigration issue insanity into a powerful condemnation of all sides.


Harriet Klausner

The Prince of Ravenscar-Catherine Coulter

October 11, 2011

The Prince of Ravenscar

Catherine Coulter

Putnam. Nov 1 2011, $19.95

ISBN: 9780399158070


In 1831 Lord Julian Monroe returns to Ravenscar, England after three years away.  He left the country after he found his wife Lily dead from a bullet wound.  His former brother-in-law Richard Langworth holds him culpable for his sister’s death and plans to enact revenge on Julian. 


His mother Lady Corrine, ecstatic that her son has finally come home, wants her son to remarry, but he has no interest in a second wife.  Her choice is Miss Sophie Wilkie, niece of her friend Miss Roxanne Radcliffe.  Reluctantly he agrees to escort Miss Sophie while his nephew Lord Devlin the self-anointed vampire finds himself attracted to Miss Roxanne.  As the pair of couples falls in love on the road from London to Ravenscar; Richard dangerously raises the past leading to Julian learning why he is called the Prince of Ravenscar.


This is an amusing historical romantic suspense starring four strong independent characters.  The course to true love is straighter than the Bonneville Salt Flats as there are no twists of consequence, yet the protagonists and the antagonist make for a fun journey.  Filled with tension and jocularity especially the witty exchanges between the aunt and the nephew, readers will enjoy the couples on the road and at Ravenscar in Catherine Coulter’s family affair.


Harriet Klausner

If I Should Die-Allison Brennan

October 11, 2011

If I Should Die

Allison Brennan

Ballantine, Nov 22 2011, $7.99

ISBN 9780345520418


FBI agent Lucy Kincaid and her boyfriend private investigator Seth Rogan go on a romantic Adirondacks vacation.  They enjoy wake up sex when they smell smoke.  The nearby Spruce Lake Inn is on fire with an apparent arsonist fleeing the scene.  Sean borrows an ATV from the resort owner and pursues the firebug.  He falls inside an abandoned mine shaft.


Kincaid extracts Rogan from the mine, but she also finds the corpse of a young woman inside the shaft.  Sheriff’s deputy Weddle ridicules Kincaid as the body vanished.  As Rogan heals from his dislocated shoulder and minor scrapes and bruises, he and Kincaid investigate a murder that the townsfolk ignore.  Someone tries to kill the intruders while FBI agent Noah Armstrong arrives to assist his friends.


The third Lucy Kincaid FBI suspense (see Love Me To Death and Kiss Me, Kill Me) is an exhilarating tale from the moment the idyllic week ends with the arson.  The story line is fast-paced throughout as reader will enjoy this taut tale while also wondering whether Kincaid can tell Rogan she loves him.


Bonus novella: Love Is Murder.  Lucy Kincaid visits her brother Patrick, a former cop, in the Sierra Nevada’s.  Also at the Delarosa Mountain Retreat are three newlywed couples.  A snowstorm isolates the lodge from the outside as one of the brides Vanessa took too many pills and is found dead.  Patrick suspects murder, but he becomes ill, so Lucy investigates the homicide.  This is an entertaining locked lodge mystery occurring before the heroine became a Fed but Kincaid professionally works the case like a seasoned veteran.


Harriet Klausner