Archive for December, 2011

Restless in the Grave-Dana Stabenow

December 18, 2011

Restless in the Grave

Dana Stabenow

Minotaur, Feb 14 2012, $25.99

ISBN 9780312559137

 

Alaskan billionaire Finn Grant dies when his Piper crashes.  Someone sabotaged the plane’s engine, but the question is not who had the motive, but who did not have the motive as just about everyone in the western part of the state loathed Finn.

 

In Niniltna, Alaskan State Trooper Sergeant Liam Campbell asks his former teacher Sergeant Jim Chopin for help in the investigation of the murder of Grant since he cannot because he believes the prime suspect is his wife bush pilot Wyanet Chouinard.  Jim introduces Liam to his beloved private investigator Kate Shugak.  After Jim explains the situation, Kate agrees to go undercover at Bill’s Bar and Grill to learn more about the victim’s business practices.  She soon learns Grant, hated by his own family, blackmailed anyone and embezzled from everyone as he committed fraud and other felonious activity.  As Kate and her sidekick Mutt work the case she wonders what freight the deceased shipped since he bought the abandoned air force base as the headquarters of his myriad of businesses.

 

The first meeting between Shugak (see Though Not Dead) and Alaska state trooper Liam Campbell (see Better to Rest) is an entertaining Alaskan investigative thriller.  The story line is fast-paced from the moment the two Dana Stabenow’s prime series stars meet and never slows down as Kate, the lead protagonist in Restless In The grave, goes from one ice box to another.

 

Harriet Klausner

The Rope-Nevada Barr

December 18, 2011

The Rope

Nevada Barr

Minotaur, Jan 17 2012, $25.99

ISBN: 9780312614577

 

With the death of her spouse, a grieving Anna Pigeon leaves New York as everywhere she goes she remembers her beloved.  The thirtyish widow accepts a seasonal ranger position at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area overlooking Lake Powell.  She quickly realizes she is not accepted by the other rangers as the mourning outsider.  The only exception is her roommate Jenny.

 

When Anna vanishes, none of her teammates blink as they assume she quit and went back east instead of hiking as she did.  She awakens naked at the bottom of a deep dry canyon with no memory of how she ended up trapped inside this “jar”; only her head aches as if she has a concussion and an arm is dislocated from the apparent fall.  Disoriented Anna realizes the only way out is through a ladder.  Drinking water from a canteen, she falls asleep; when she awakens she knows she was drugged and that her adversary carved “whore” into her leg.  A desperate Anna must find a way to escape her hellish natural prison and then search for her adversary.

 

The Rope is a prequel to the Anna Pigeon’s caseload that long time readers will enjoy but need to adapt to the heroine being a tyro ranger and an amateur sleuth battling her first national park psychopath (see Burn).  The extremely dark storyline is fast-paced as Anna struggles with escaping her entombment before turning the situation into a cat and mouse war.  The support cast especially her fellow rangers are a nasty lot with only Jenny possessing any redeeming qualities.  Still series fans will relish this thriller, as out of her element Anna being Anna depends on one person in a survival of the fittest.

 

Harriet Klausner

The Walled Flower-Lorraine Bartlett

December 17, 2011

The Walled Flower

Lorraine Bartlett

Berkley, Feb 7 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780425246160

 

Near Rochester, New York in McKinlay Mill, without discussing it with his wife Katie, Chad Bonner bought ownership of the Artisans Alley craft fare.  Soon afterward he died in a car crash leaving her stuck with a money guzzler and the death of her dream to renovate the Webster mansion into a B&B (see A Crafty Killing).

 

Katie visits Toby and Janice Ryan, who now own “her” mansion, which they are converting into a B&B.  She asks if she can use their sledgehammer to smash a wall, which the couple agree to let her do.  When Katie opens up a wall, they find female remains.  Detective Ray Davenport leads the investigation into who buried Heather Winston inside that wall twenty-two years ago.  However, Heather’s only living relative, septuagenarian Rose Nash pleads with Katie to help her solve the truth as both ladies know cantankerous Davenport will do nothing.  Moving in ten days with no place to go to yet, seeing her boyfriend Andy Rust the pizza king sporadically and trying to be supportive matron of honor to bridezilla, Katie agrees to investigate.

 

This is an entertaining regional cozy as Katie and Rose work a cold case (Davenport led the missing person’s inquiry over two decades ago) that turns contemporary deadly with the murder of Heather’s childhood BFF Barbie.  Although there is too much going on from the Artisans Alley disputes and friendships to the bride’s demands to the interesting romance and finally to the homicide with links to Hollywood, fans will still take pleasure with the second Victoria Square mystery as agreeable Katie who never says no never sleeps.

 

Harriet Klausner

Tribulations of the Short Cut Man-P.G. Sturges

December 17, 2011

Tribulations of the Short Cut Man

P.G. Sturges

Scribner, Feb 7 2012, $24.00

ISBN: 9781439194218

 

Thirtyish pole dancer Pussy Grace wonders why her boyfriend, wealthy septuagenarian Art Lewis cut her off without telling her; he refuses to accept her attempts to communicate with him.  Pussy asks her former boyfriend Dick Henry to help her.  Although he prefers to stay out of a domestic dispute as he works a similar case for a paying client, former Judge Harry Glidden turned TV celebrity commissioned a forged painting to give to his Honor’s acrimonious ex-wife.

 

Dick agrees to help her with her quest.  He believes in taking the shortest route to a goal even though his paths often are illegal.  This time The Shortcut Man and Puss dress up as gas company employees allegedly investigating a leak.  This gains them entry to Lewis’ mansion, but they flee the scene when they find the murdered corpse of Art.  Dick expects the LAPD cops to arrest him and Puss, but instead the news broadcasts that Art Lewis married and is on his honeymoon.  Realizing Glidden and his girlfriend are pulling a scam to steal Lewis’ millions, Dick decides to intervene.

 

The super second Shortcut Man noir is a wild jocular ride into the sleaziest sections of Los Angeles; not all of the neighborhoods are in the Hood.  Putting aside plausibility, P.G. Sturges provides a wonderful madcap thriller starring a hard boiled individual who plays all the angles including breaking the law (what’s a misdemeanor amongst friends) as he understands the shortest distance between two points is not necessarily a straight line as linearity can be deadly.  Dick makes the tale work with his un-Sullivan like travels through the meanest streets of L.A.

 

Harriet Klausner

Catch Me-Lisa Gardner

December 17, 2011

Catch Me

Lisa Gardner

Dutton, Feb 7 2012, $26.95

ISBN: 9780525952763

 

Two years ago on January 21 at 8:00 PM with no forced entry, someone strangles Randi in Providence.  Her two BFFs from their New Hampshire childhoods Jackie and Charlene mourn their loss.  One year ago on January 21 at 8:00 PM with no forced entry, someone murders Jackie in Atlanta.  Both cases remain cold as of January 17 this year.

 

Boston Sergeant Detective D. D. Warren has just returned to work after ten weeks on maternity leave with the birth of Jack, who she believes inherited her insomnia.  She is cranky not due to Jack but because her Florida parents are coming to see their grandson; Warren prefers they stay home.  Charlie is at Warren’s latest crime scene when the detective notices and confronts her. The woman explains that in four days she will be dead, but she refuses to die without a fight; if the predator succeeds she wants a top Boston homicide cop like Warren to investigate her homicide.  While inquiring into the Charlie case, Warren also searches for an avenger killing pedophiles.

 

The latest Warren police procedural (see Love You More, Who Do You Love? and The Neighbor) is a great twisting psychological thriller.  The protagonist has her hands filled with her newborn and two difficult convoluted cases while she is mentally struggling to regain her workaholic pit bull tendencies.  Fans will immensely enjoy this taut strong suspense tale.

 

Harriet Klausner

Dark Side of Valor-Alicia Singleton

December 17, 2011

Dark Side of Valor

Alicia Singleton

Atria/Strebor, Feb 7 2012, $15.00

ISBN 9781593093853

 

Lelia Freeman was raised in neglect by an alcoholic single mom, who had a parade of men enter their dumpy apartment.  When she turned sixteen, Lelia had enough and ran away from home to live on the mean streets of Los Angeles.  Although not easy she kept herself clean of drugs and prostitution.  Centenarian Ma Ella and her friends at her church take Lelia off the street providing the teen with sustenance for her body, mind and soul.

 

Lelia feels strongly the best way to pay homage to those who saved her life was to become a rescuer of runaways.  Thus Lelia becomes the director of ChildSafe Shelters.  Successful and prominent, Lelia joins a Washington task force looking into the orphans of war in the African nation of Sudania.  However, this assignment proves dangerous when Sudania president Mawein Boll Deng makes her his prisoner.  Mercenary Elijah Dune is the best bet to rescue the rescuer, but he carries the baggage of her one failed mission, his daughter.

 

This is an exciting romantic suspense starring two people connected by their love for his daughter and their guilt over their failure to protect his child.  The story line is fast-paced with the East African war torn background vividly horrifying.  Although there is too much stereotyping especially of the people of Sudania, fans will enjoy the Dark Side of Valor; wondering whether the angry lead male will risk his life to save the woman he holds culpable for what happened to his daughter.

 

Harriet Klausner

Buried In A Book-Lucy Arlington

December 17, 2011

Buried In A Book

Lucy Arlington

Berkley, Feb 7 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780425246191

 

After twenty years as a Features reporter at the Dunstan Herald, forty-five year old Lila Wilkins is pink slipped due to budget cuts.  In a near panic state, the single mom worries about paying for her son Trey entering UNC Wilmington as a freshman.  Desperate she answers an ad for an intern at A Novel Idea Literary Agency.  Following a five minute telephone interview, Ms. Bentley Burlington-Duke hires Lila who thinks her new job will prove perfect as being paid to read sounds like nirvana.

 

Reality of an office setting is not quite like Lila expected as her peers are an eccentric zany group and the tons of query letters requiring responses appears to be more than Santa receives for Christmas.  She classifies her first two queries, but is taken aback by a threatening letter demanding the return of a manuscript.  However, all that proves to be minor distractions compared to the visit of homeless wannabe writer Marlette who gives her wild flowers; because a few minutes after he introduces himself to her she meets him again in the coffee area dead.  With Trey and her mom having her back, Lila and Sean the sexy cop investigate Marlette’s murder and the threatening letters.

 

This is a terrific Novel Idea Mystery with its contemporary literary crowd mingling with residents of a small North Carolina town.  The charming protagonist keeps the madcap plot focused while the quirky support cast enhances the regional cozy.  Readers will enjoy being Buried In A Book in which Lila stars as Lucy Arlington provides an entertaining thriller.

 

Harriet Klausner

A Catered St. Patrick’s Day-Isis Crawford

December 16, 2011

A Catered St. Patrick’s Day

Isis Crawford

Kensington, Jan 31 2012, $24.00

ISBN 9780758247407

 

In Longely, New York, sisters Bernie and Libby Simmons, owners of A Little Taste of Heaven catering business, prepare for the festive. Patrick’s Day holiday.  Their baking is interrupted when a frantic Brandon, Bernie’s boyfriend, calls to beg them immediately come to RJ’s bar, which he runs.  The siblings drop what they are doing to race over to calm down a distraught Brandon.

 

At the bar, Brandon shows the sisters the corpse of Mike Sweeney floating dead in a keg of green beer.  Mike and his Corned Beef and Cabbage Club comrades had met earlier at RJ’s.  Bar owner Mulroney insists an accident should not deter business on a busy holiday.  Although it appears to be a tragic accident caused by intoxication, the police chief Lucas “Lucy” (detractors’ nickname) Broadbent arrests Corned Beef and Cabbage Club member Duncan, nephew of realtor Bree Nottingham two weeks later.  Bree knows that Bernie and Libby have solved murder cases (see A Catered Thanksgiving) so she asks the bakers to investigate.

 

The latest Mystery with recipes is a wonderful holiday culinary amateur sleuth (see A Catered Birthday Party and A Catered Halloween).  The lead sisters and their dad Sean focus on the club membership but soon expand their inquiry.  Fans will enjoy this family affair cozy that once again angers Lucy who is tired of the sleuth sisters solving homicides that leave him embarrassed.

 

Harriet Klausner

The Confession- Charles Todd

December 16, 2011

The Confession

Charles Todd

Morrow Jan 23 2012, $25.99

ISBN: 9780062015662

 

In 1920 at Scotland Yard, Wyatt Russell confesses to killing his cousin Justin Fowler.  Inspector Ian Rutledge has some concerns with the confession as the alleged culprit refuses to provide him with a motive as to why he murdered his relative five years ago.  To learn more Ian meets Wyatt, dying of cancer, for lunch, but the latter adds nothing of value to his insistence he committed a homicide in the remote Essex marches.

 

Following up on the limited leads Russell provided him, Rutledge travels from London to the alleged locale of the murder, but the insular locals refuse to speak with the outsider.  Meanwhile Russell’s body is found floating on the Thames; someone shot him in the back of the head, but the now hot case spins further into the illogical zone when Rutledge learns the dead confessor was not Wyatt Russell.

 

The latest Rutledge post WWI police procedural (see The Red Door and A Lonely Death) is a great investigation as the case keeps twisting out of control with every major find the inspector obtains.  Rutledge remains shell shocked by his execution of Hamish MacLeod for refusing a direct order on the French battlefield; the latter “speaks” to the former accentuating Rutledge’s fears especially of being caught by his superiors as mentally damaged.  This is a great entry in a strong historical series.

 

Harriet Klausner

 

 

The Compassion of Father Dowling-Ralph McInerny

December 15, 2011

The Compassion of Father Dowling

Ralph McInerny

Five Star, Dec 16 2011, $25.95

ISBN 9781432825102

 

The latest Father Roger Dowling short story collection (see The Wisdom of Father Dowling) contains sixteen entertaining mysteries in Fox River, Illinois.  Most of the contributions were previously printed in the Catholic Dossier; twelve of the entries were printed in the 1990s while the other four between 2000 and 2002.  The anthology begins with “Occult Compensation” as someone leaves a suitcase filled with cash at Father Dowling’s St. Hilary.  Harriet and Leo are to marry at St. Hillary but is ready to convert to Catholicism or pay any cost as Earl wants her as his wife in “The Base of the Triangle”.  Harry the derelict works hard at the parish, but soon becomes embroiled in what happened to “The Missing Leonardo.”  This is a fine compilation as no one will think of Bingo in the same way while paying homage to the late Ralph McInerny who dies last January.

 

Harriet Klausner