Archive for February, 2012

Grey Expectations-Clea Simon

February 29, 2012

Grey Expectations

Clea Simon

Severn House, Apr 1 2012, $27.95

ISBN: 9780727881342

 

After the traumatic events of last year (see Grey Zone), Harvard graduate student Dulcie Schwartz feels her life has calmed down as she works on her dissertation on the anonymous British author of an unfinished 1790 gothic novel The Ravages of Umbria.  Her tranquility is shattered when her friend Trista calls her; crying while saying she is a person of interest in the death of student Roland Galveston.

 

Soon after Trista’s hysterically call, she vanishes and her boyfriend is frantic.  Dulcie goes to Trista’s place in the Cambridge Campus where her friend liked to go when she wanted to be left alone.  Trista is not there, but Dulcie notices a ticket admitting her to the Mildon special documents.  Stunned as Dulcie knows she never went there on that day; she thinks she is being framed by someone for stealing the medieval manuscript the Dunster Codex.  She finds her life in jeopardy from a person masquerading as a cop; however, she has her beloved late Mr. Grey, Esme and Chris watching her back.

 

Once again, Clea Simon writes a wonderful Dulcie Schwartz cozy in which the heroine is an intellectual star of the Perils of Pauline.  Her heroes are Mr. Grey who she still communicates with her, Esme the playful kitten and Chris; though the protagonist wonders how fickle felines alive and dead are though they have her back and keep her spirits up.  The mystery is clever with red herrings and unexpected twists and readers will appreciate this engaging amateur sleuth.

 

Harriet Klausner

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The Expats-Chris Pavone

February 28, 2012

The Expats

Chris Pavone

Crown, Mar 6 2012, $26.00

ISBN: 9780307956354

 

Washington, D.C. based financial systems security expert Dexter Moore accepts a terrific job in Luxembourg.  As he, his wife Kate and their kids prepare to cross the Atlantic, Dexter is unaware that his spouse was a CIA operative for fifteen years, who resigned to accompany her husband and their two children to Europe.  Her plan is to be a caring wife and nurturing mother.

 

In Luxembourg, Kate struggles to adjust to a passive lifestyle.  However she awakens from the housewife blues when a stunned Kate learns the FBI and Interpol investigate her nerdy husband for allegedly stealing fifty-million euros in an illegal online banking deal.  Needing to know the truth about her spouse, while wondering whether she erred in giving up her espionage career to be a housewife, Kate investigates Dexter’s allegedly felonious activities.

 

This is a great espionage investigative thriller filled with red herrings, and super twists that keep the audience wondering what next.  Fast-paced, fans will appreciate Kate’s inquiry with fervor as she ponders the ennui and lack of satisfaction in being a housewife.  Although the relationship between Kate and Dexter never quite gels, The Expats is a terrific thriller.

 

Harriet Klausner

Cats Can’t Shoot-Clea Simon

February 27, 2012

Cats Can’t Shoot

Clea Simon

Poisoned Pen, Apr 3 2012 $24.95

ISBN 9781590583256

 

In Beauville in the Berkshires, Police Officer Jim Creighton explains to pet behaviorist (and psychic) Pru Marlowe that the Persian is a “killer kitty”.  Apparently she accidentally fired the gun that killed Donal Franklin.  The feline’s prints are on the weapon as are feline fur.  Pru looks the Persian in the eyes and asks if she did it; however, instead of “hearing” what the cat was thinking, the feline’s brain is silent as she hisses at the behaviorist before being removed.

 

Pru accompanied by Wallis her cat, turns to the other animal residents of Beauville for information as she is increasingly convinced the Persian is traumatized by what she saw and is not guilty of homicide.  Creighton and his support team disagree so Pru knows she will need hard evidence, but Wallis becomes frustrated with her failure to truly listen; while her ex NYPD cop Tom Reynolds is in town allegedly working a case.

 

The second Pru Marlowe Pet Noir is an enjoyable whodunit that is similar in plot to its predecessor (see Dogs Don’t Lie) in that a traumatized pet is accused of a homicide and the heroine investigates by chatting with the animals.  However this time the heroine is not the prime human suspect and Wallis refreshes the mystery with his mounting frustrations with Pru.  .Fast-paced from the moment Pru drops her ire when she learns a kitty shooting literally meant a kitty shooting an owner rather than visa-versa, readers will relish this fun caper.

 

Harriet Klausner

Death Comes Silently-Carolyn Hart

February 26, 2012

Death Comes Silently

Carolyn Hart

Berkley, Apr 3 2012, $24.95

ISBN: 9780425245705

 

In Broward’s Rock, South Carolina, Death on Demand bookstore owner has a scheduling conflict between an author signing and her volunteer work at Better Tomorrow charity shop.  With business slow due to the wintry weather, she needs to be at her store so she enlists Gretchen Burkholt to take her place at Better Tomorrow.

 

Anxious Gretchen calls Annie several times claiming the charity’s handyman Jeremiah Young is dangerous and that she found an enigmatic note inside the coat of deceased Everett Hathaway.  Although concerned over Gretchen’s anxiety, Annie assumes she is safe so she completes the signing before racing over to Better Tomorrow.  However she feels guilty when she finds Gretchen dead from Jeremiah’s ax.  Police Chief Billy Cameron believes Jeremiah killed the woman as he is an ex con; the murder weapon belonged to him; and he fled the crime scene.  Annie and her best customer Henny Brawley thinks otherwise.

 

The latest Death on Demand cozy (see Laughed ‘Til He Died and Dead by Midnight) is a superb entry that keeps the series fresh by introducing new players and new books into the engaging January South Carolina barrier island setting.  The whodunit is deftly handled as the amateur sleuth mystery aficionados think Gretchen’s homicide ties back to Hathaway’s drowning; while Cameron has no doubt who the killer is.  Carolyn Hart has written another strong whodunit.

 

Harriet Klausner

One Hoof In The Grave-Carolyn McSparren

February 25, 2012

One Hoof In The Grave

Carolyn McSparren

Bell Bridge, Dec 15 2011, $14.95

ISBN: 9781611940176

 

In Georgia, Merry Abbott and her friend Peggy Caldwell are driving the first cross country carriage during a fog when a bull horn and a banner spook their two horses Golden Boy and Ned.  Their carriage ends into nearby water, but they and the horses are rescued.  Since nasty bully Giles Raleigh and his victimized daughter Dawn were to be first, the assumption is he was the target.  Soon afterward, Merry sees Giles’ four horses pulling his carriage without a driver.  She quickly finds his corpse with a cable spike in his neck.  Sheriff Stan Nordstrom leads the investigation in which Merry is a prime suspect.  Peggy calls GBI agent Geoff Wheeler, who worked the homicide of Merry’s dad (see The Merry Abbot Carriage-Driving Mystery).  Attracted to Merry, Geoff rushes to the crime scene where Stan welcomes him.

 

On the way back to their farm near Missy Creek, someone runs Merry and Peggy off the road.  When she checks on her horses, someone tries to kill Merry.  She and Geoff realize that Giles’ killer thinks she can identify him or her.  As Merry hosts an event, a predator stalks her.

 

Although the killer should have realized Merry could not identify her as the cops would have arrested the culprit, the latest Merry mayhem is an enjoyable investigative whodunit.  The fun storyline is leisurely–paced with insight into the cross country carriage shows nicely enhancing the mystery.  Readers will enjoy this warm lighthearted romp (unless you’re the victim) as Carolyn McSparren continues to spin Mossy Creek into a radically different direction yet contains the elements of friendship that make the community a delightful place to visit.

 

Harriet Klausner

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary-Susan Elia MacNeal

February 25, 2012

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary

Susan Elia MacNeal

Bantam, Apr 3 2012, $15.00

ISBN 9780553593617

 

In 1940 London, someone murders Diana Snyder, a typist in Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s office.  American raised British citizen Maggie Hope remains bitter over not being offered a more prestigious position in the Intel community as a code breaker as fitting a mathematician; she knows sexism kept her from obtaining the job.  Still she agrees to replace the late Diana.

 

The Snyder stabbing case is solved rather quickly while Diana adapts to her work and living in Nazi and IRA bombed London as opposed to MIT.  However, Maggie begins to uncover a plot to cripple the leadership with assassination at a critical moment when the Battle for Britain is being fought in the skies.  The intrepid Maggie seeks the identity of those involved, which places her at risk.

 

The first Maggie Hope WWII mystery is an engaging tale that vividly brings to life a grim London in May 1940 at a time when everyone anticipates the blitzkrieg to cross the Channel.  The amateur sleuthing is fun to follow as the heroine is an intelligent person, but also contains too many happenstances to bail her out of dire straits.  Still readers will enjoy Maggie’s marvelous mystery tour as she escorts armchair time travelers around besieged London.

 

Harriet Klausner

Imperial Scandal-Teresa Grant

February 25, 2012

Imperial Scandal

Teresa Grant

Kensington, Mar 27 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780758254245

 

In 1815, the excitement of Vienna pales when the news that Napoleon escaped sends chills amongst his enemies.  Wellington prepares for the battle near Brussels that will shape the future of Europe.  British attaché Malcolm Rannoch and his wife Suzanne had enjoyed the galas, but he must return to work as a spy for the crown since the Emperor returns. 

 

Malcolm meets with French agent La Fleur who is selling information when Colonel Harry Davenport, aide de camp to Wellington, arrives to warn them.  Shots are fired killing La Fleur.  In the garden, Malcolm finds the murdered corpse of Harry’s sister-in-law highly regarded Lady Julia Ashton who should not have been there unless she was spying.  As the city is gripped by the nearby hostilities, Malcolm and Suzanne, trusting no one as they fear an insider betrayal, investigate who murdered Julia and why.

 

The latest Rannoch Napoleonic Era amateur sleuth (see Vienna Waltz) is an entertaining whodunit that uses the real suspense of the pending battle at Waterloo to serve as a powerful backdrop to the investigation.  The murder mystery is cleverly devised as super red herrings and terrific twists make for a fabulous early nineteenth century thriller.

 

Harriet Klausner

With Full Malice-Brenda Hill

February 24, 2012

With Full Malice

Brenda Hill

Five Star, Apr 11 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9781432825720

 

In Yucaipa, California, food reporter Madison Young knows the tragic event that turned her into a frightened woman afraid of her own shadow.  When she was six years old she watched a man murder her parents and warned her he would come back for her one day as San Bernardino County Homicide Detective Dexter Quinn arrived.  Thus Maddy limits her time outside her home as her phobia controls her life.

 

Maddy is covering Jimmy’s Steakhouse when a woman executes paroled murdering pedophile Hawley at the location.  Yucaipa Tribune editor Marie Campbell calls Madison to interview the witnesses as the other reporters are tied up and she is caught in traffic.  Using the 5 W’s and an H, Maddy questions those at the steakhouse until her fears take control; Dexter pulls her aside to go home.  The case takes a spin into an avenging underground club that Maddy finds ties to the incarcerated beast who killed her family.  However, when Marie dies, Maddy needs to know the truth before her or her beloved grandma become next.

 

This is an excellent investigative thriller due to the strong cast especially Maddy whose childhood trauma haunts her years later.  Fast-paced and with a nod to James Coburn’s Vengeance Unlimited, the key to this engaging tale is the fascinating heroine who proves she is stronger than anyone including herself realizes; though her proof may prove deadly.

 

Harriet Klausner

Burnt Offerings-Michael Lister

February 24, 2012

Burnt Offerings

Michael Lister

Pulpwood Press, Apr 19 2012, $26.99

www.pulpwoodpress.com

ISBN 9781888146899

 

Daniel Davis and Ben Greene are running in the North Forest Wildlife Preserve.  Ben takes a breather while Daniel finishes the run until he finds the burned remains of a human.  A retired profiler, Daniel struggles with a panic attack while near the old depot for law enforcement.

 

Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent Samantha Michaels leads the investigation.  She and Daniel have worked together on cases before the academic retired as a hermit hiding in the woods.  A second body is found with the same M.O. of  being burned alive.  Daniel believes the psychopath is performing a fiery sacrificial ritual.  As the residents of nearby Bayshore and Pine Key Island panic, the predator continues the fiery deeds with Daniel and Sam trying to end the Burnt Offerings to the God of fire.

 

While John Jordan takes a respite from bloody inquiries (see The Body and the Blood, Flesh and Blood, Power in the Blood and Blood of the Lamb), Daniel and Sam prove more than competent to run their own superb investigation.  Action-packed, the killer’s commentary enhances the gripping storyline with insight into the stunning motive.  Fast-paced from the first Burnt Offering, fans will relish this strong serial killer thriller.

 

Harriet Klausner

The Innocent-David Baldacci

February 24, 2012

The Innocent

David Baldacci

Grand Central, Apr. 17 2012, $27.99

ISBN 9780446572996

 

Will Robie has a unique position; he is an America “sanctioned” assassin who takes on those who the Feds (civilian and military) for whatever reason cannot eliminate.  A sniper of immense talent, Will always accepts the job without question even understanding his agency’s mantra is the opposite of the marines with “left behind”. 

 

His work is normally outside the country in places like Tangier, but his current assignment is in Washington, D.C.  The hit feels wrong to Will, but obeying orders is deeply entrenched in his soul.  Perhaps it is his attraction to Annie Lambert, but for the first time in his killing career, he refuses to pull the trigger on the target a mom with her little boy.  The fail safe sniper kills both of them while Will snaps photos of the victim’s information and moves her baby to another apartment before fleeing.  However, by failing to do the job, the forty year old hit man becomes the target of his peers.  On the lam by bus to New York, he recognizes a peer and intervenes rescuing fourteen years old Julie who witnessed a man murdering her parents.  Though he knows it is inane, Will helps the endangered teen unaware of a conspiracy high up the power chain ready to snuff out anyone in their way.

 

This is an exciting over the top of the Washington Monument thriller starring a man who lived by the code “My Country, Right or Wrong” until the American mother and her kids incident.  Filled with betrayals, David Baldacci hooks readers with this fast-paced tale from the moment the protagonist just said no until the final confrontation.

 

Harriet Klausner