Archive for February, 2012

The Witness-Nora Roberts

February 19, 2012

The Witness

Nora Roberts

Putnam, Apr 17 2012, $27.95

ISBN: 9780399159121

 

In Bickford, Arkansas, beautiful, brilliant Abigail Lowery keeps to herself in her fortified house on the outskirts of the remote Ozarks town.  The hermit intermingles with townsfolk only when she has no choice as she prefers to remain inside her mini fortress.  Her abode contains several locks on the door and windows, a self-developed top of the line security system that the White House would envy, and carries a gun especially when leaving her fort.  Her sole companion is her sentry dog Bigg who will kill at her signal.

 

Police Chief Brooks Gleason realizes Abigail is hiding from someone behind her barriers.  He cares about her so he refuses to keep his distance.  Instead Brooks breaks down her personal fortifications until Abigail confides in him.  In 2003 she witnessed a murder by the Volkov branch of the Russian mafia.  Brooks assists Abigail in using the information she gathered since the homicide to bring down the Volkov family.  She agrees to testify against them, but the mob has contacts inside key federal and state agencies.  Brooks risks his life to protect Abigail so she can one day soon live outside of a gilded cage.

 

Nora Roberts writes an outstanding romantic suspense as the resolute hero peels away the defenses of the beleaguered woman in peril until they risk their lives to fight for their love.  The storyline starts with sixteen years old Abigail who tries to break out of the rigid controlling rules of a strict martinet mother who demands total obedience.  After becoming the reluctant Witness, she learns you sometimes get what you wish for; as she switches jails while the Russians are coming and only her canine and her beloved have her back.

 

Harriet Klausner

Sacré Bleu-Christopher Moore

February 18, 2012

Sacré Bleu

Christopher Moore

Morrow, Apr 3 2012, $26.99

ISBN 9780061779749

 

Lucien Lessard grew up in the home of a master French baker who taught him to appreciate good food and great art as his Père fed the impoverished and displayed their work.  He became best friends with Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and associated with the impressionist and post-impressionist greats like Manet, Renoir, Pissarro, and others; though his efforts as a painter were at best frustratingly inept.

 

In 1890, troubled Vincent Van Gogh sends an enigmatic note to Toulouse-Lautrec.  A few days later Van Gogh is dead.  Propelled by the letter and death, Lessard and Toulouse-Lautrec investigate the mysterious Colorman, who has sold for three decades the paint especially a special blue to a virtual who’s who of late nineteenth century French artists.  The two sleuths notice weird patterns of love affairs, forgettable periods, and immense production, but struggle to understand what this means as clues seem to go back many millennia. 

 

This is a terrific late nineteenth century “comedy of art” mystery that provides interesting insight into Western art and not just the prime period as creative Christopher Moore also looks at the Renaissance Italy and ancient Rome, etc.  The mystery of Colorman is cleverly done so that readers will enjoy the amateur sleuthing especially the author’s trademark slapstick humor; but it is the masters who make Mr. Moore’s wonderful work into a masterful journey that began in a remote cornfield.

 

Harriet Klausner

Cuts Like a Knife- M.K. Gilroy

February 18, 2012

Cuts Like a Knife

M.K. Gilroy

Worthy, Apr 3 2012, $14.99

ISBN 9781936034697

 

Chicago Police Department Detective Kristen Conner has anger management issues, which she controls by her love for her family.  She enjoys coaching her seven year old niece Kendra’s soccer team, goes regularly to church and still squabbles with her TV news reporter sister Klarissa.

 

Data leads the FBI to believe an “organized” serial killer has surfaced in Chicago; the perpetrator targets successful young woman.  The DC FBI Headquarters sends agent Austin Reynolds to help CPD on the case.  He advises Kristen as to where the predator meets his chosen ones while she realizes her sister Klarissa fits the profile of the maniac’s victims but is unaware that she does also.  With Reynolds having her back, she goes undercover to catch a psychopath.

 

This is an exciting police procedural that spends a bit more time following the civilian life of a dedicated detective although the serial killer’s diary provides short bursts of counterpoints.  Fast-paced, readers will enjoy kick butt Kristen as she tries to balance her loving family life with her deadly occupation as the first Connor mystery is an engaging tale.

 

Harriet Klausner

Driven-James Sallis

February 18, 2012

Driven

James Sallis

Poisoned Pen, Apr 3 2012, $19.95

ISBN 9781464200113

 

After Driver killed Bernie Rose, he felt remorse for the first time (see Drive) since he began his obsessed revenge vendetta.  He decided the time was right to move on and end his vengeance killing spree.

 

Seven years later, thirtyish Paul West enjoys his middle class life in Phoenix.  His dream shatters on a Saturday morning while walking with his fiancée Elsa.  Two men attack them; killing Elsa before he can kill them.  Driver is back as Paul dies when he sees Elsa die.  His friend former Ranger Felix helps him temporarily hide, but his enemies keep on coming.  This time two vehicles with hit men wait for Driver who is more Driven now then he was seven years ago.

 

The return of Driver will elate fans especially with the movie of the first thriller coming. The antihero fights back against his adversaries with renewed feral vigor fueled by his watching Elsa take her last breath.  He knows one thing: those who arranged the hit will die.  Action-packed from the opening assault on a Phoenix street, the accelerator never breaks even at the finish line as Driver is Driven by his new mission.

 

Harriet Klausner

 

 

An American Spy-Olen Steinhauer

February 18, 2012

An American Spy

Olen Steinhauer

Minotaur, Mar 13 2012, $25.99

ISBN: 9780312622893

 

After the harrowing nightmare that killed many of his top secret Department of Tourism assassins by Chinese rogue agent Xin Zhu (see The Nearest Exit) and the seditious link between the governments of China and America (see The Tourist), CIA agent Milo Weaver opts out.  He never was comfortable with his work and these recent lethal nefarious incidents have Weaver reflecting that he prefers quality and quantity time with his family especially since his cell has been decommissioned.

 

However, Weaver’s former Company boss Alan Drummond obsesses over what has happened to his unit.  He travels to London using a Milo compromised alias.  There he vanishes while his wife and daughter are kidnapped.  Weaver feels obligated to try to save Drummond and his family as raging Xin Zhu still seeking revenge attacks the families of both spies just before the Beijing Olympics is to begin.

 

The third Weaver espionage thriller is a great spy vs. spy tale as the attacks turn psychotically personal.  Fast-paced with a strong look at surveillance and intelligence gathering in the digital age, readers will relish Weaver’s efforts to keep his loved ones safe and rescue the family of his former boss who had his back many times when they worked the field.

 

Harriet Klausner

Helsinki White-James Thompson

February 18, 2012

Helsinki White

James Thompson

Putnam, Mar 15 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9780399158322

 

In Helsinki, police inspector Kari Vaara is ecstatic with the birth of his daughter Anu and that his beloved American wife Kate is okay.  However, a few days later, he informs Kate that he has been diagnosed with a brain tumor.  If that is not enough of a shocker, Kari also tells her Finland’s national chief of police Jyr Ivalo assigns him to head up SUPO; a police unit fighting organized crime by committing crimes against these mobs.  SUPO, who reports to Jyr only, consists of Kari, his former partner Milo Nieminien and his mentee Sulo “Sweetness” Polvinen.

 

Kati goes on sick leave to have the tumor removed.  After recovering, he his two teammates begin the robbery campaign as they successfully steal cash, drugs, and weapons from the mobs.  Although rumors of his being on the take abound, when the Minister of Immigration Lisbet Soderlund is beheaded in a racial assault, Tom is assigned to investigate this and the cold case kidnapping of wealthy superego Veikko Saukko’s children Antti and Kaarina, and Kaarina’s murder just after her return home.  He obtains needed help from former French legionnaire Adrien Moreau while he fears he has become part of the cesspool destroying the city.

 

The latest Vaara Finnish police procedural Kari (see Snow Angels and Lucifer’s Tears) is an ultra-dark thriller that grips readers with its insightful look at racism and the related anti-immigration fervor.  Action-packed yet character driven by the protagonist who fears he has become one of the sordid unworthy of his two females, aptly titled Helsinki White depressingly reminds readers that this may be fiction, but real incidents makes it sadly easier for James Thompson to write his exciting grim tale.

 

Harriet Klausner

House Of The Hunted-Mark Mills

February 18, 2012

House Of The Hunted

Mark Mills

Random House, Apr 3 2012, $26.00

ISBN: 9781400068197

 

In 1919 in Petrograd, young British SIS intelligence agent Tom Nash is frantic when his beloved Irina Bibikov is arrested.  He needs to get her and his unborn out of Russia, but his comrade Zaharov betrays him and other operatives.  He soon learns his Irina was executed, but before he does his final act of defiance towards the brutal regime he warns other agents that their lives are in jeopardy due to Zaharov.

 

In 1935, Tom lives a serene life as a popular travel writer in Toulon, France.  He knows war is coming to the continent, but he is indifferent as he enjoys the French Riviera amongst expatriates from Britain, the States and Russia, retired and active spies, and artists.  Tom is awakened when an assassin tries to murders him.  He kills the intruder who murdered his beloved dog Hector.  Tom disposes the body of the killer at sea and begins an inquiry as he knows this is only the first attempt from someone in the shadows who knows his past and also knows his villa.

 

This is an engaging espionage investigative noir as Tom knows when his illusion is shattered that you never fully get in from the cold.  Tom is an excellent protagonist who keeps the entertaining storyline focused as he and his friend Leonard move smoothly between the affluent Cote d’Azur social circle and the deadly spy game.  The stretches into the lifestyle of the rich slows down the suspense; though that also serves as a profound counterpoint to the beginning of Hitler’s atrocities.   Fans will enjoy the hero’s exploits in Russia just after WWI and on the French Riviera just before WWII.

 

Harriet Klausner

 

 

The Gods of Gotham-Lyndsay Faye

February 17, 2012

The Gods of Gotham

Lyndsay Faye

Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, Mar 15 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9780399158377

 

In 1845 Irish immigrants flee the potato famine back home to inundate New York City.  The newcomers struggle to adapt to their new world. 

 

Twenty-something Timothy Wilde tends bar near the downtown Manhattan Exchange until a devastating inferno left him scarred; without dreams, a job and homeless.  His older politically connected brother arranges for him to receive a copper star as a policeman on the newly created New York force.  Skeptical and bitter, Timothy hates his beat is the horrific slum, the Sixth Ward.  As he completes his disheartening night rounds, Timothy sees a young girl running in a nightshift with blood all over her.  Feeling for the child, he breaks the rules of don’t get emotionally involved by taking her home with him instead of dumping her at the House of Refuge.  She tells him an insane story of bodies buried in the wilderness above 23rd Street.  Unable to resist he finds the gruesome truth, as he investigates a case in which he must keep the Irish and the Democratic Party out of the inquiry if he wants his loved ones and himself to survive.

 

This is an excellent historical mystery that brings to life New York at a time of mass Irish immigration becoming the backbone of a Tammany hall spoils system.  The investigation is fast-paced, but driven by a strong cast to include the city (a forest in Manhattan means to this former Bronx resident German Forest Cake in the Germantown bakeries) and the beginning of NYPD.  The whodunit has enough suspects to fill The Battery as Lyndsay Faye provides a great nineteenth century whodunit.

 

Harriet Klausner

Games Traitors Play-Jon Stock

February 17, 2012

Games Traitors Play

Jon Stock

Dunne, Mar 27 2012, $25.99

ISBN: 9780312644772

 

Last year in Delhi, Salim Dhar almost assassinated the President of the United States.  Since then he has been a marked man with the CIA targeting him for death.  However, their attempts to kill the terrorists have failed while the drone strikes in Af-Pak run thirty a month only anger the locals. 

 

Rogue MI6 officer Daniel Marchant thinks the espionage agencies are inane as they depend on electronic surveillance to find his half-brother Dhar.  He thinks Dhar has gone under the radar using the Berber storytellers as cover in Marrakech to pass information.  As the CIA proclaims the hit, Marchant follows Dhar up Atlas Mountains until the terrorist flies away in an unmarked military helicopter.  Stunned that Dhar has some powerful allies, Marchant needs to follow in the rumored shoes of his allegedly traitorous father by turning to the Russians.  His superior M16 chief Marcus Fielding does not believe Marchant is betraying his country while CIA liaison Lakshmi Meena forces him to work with her over his objection.  As he hunts for Dhar, Marchant believes his killing sibling has something horrific planned for London.

 

Still a Dead Spy Running, who trusts no one and has no one trusting him, Marchant struggles with his side’s duplicity and triple crosses as the Brits, Americans and Russians strongly believe the end justifies the mean.  Each uses Marchant as an expendable pawn.  Although the insight into the agencies’ rivalry is fascinating, the convoluted plot filled with betrayals can be difficult to follow especially if you have not read the first thriller as the rules of engagement is realistically bizarre.  Still readers will hope Marchant can stop running and get in from the cold.

 

Harriet Klausner

Capitol Murder-Phillip Margolin

February 17, 2012

Capitol Murder

Phillip Margolin

Harper, Apr 3 2012, $25.99

ISBN 9780062069887

 

In Portland, Oregon, Senator Jack Carson has a tryst with Jessica Koshanil which she records on a DVD.  Koshanil shows Carson her evidence of his sex scandalous action and blackmails him into providing her with information.  Carson returns to DC knowing if he is to remain in office, he must give her what she demands.  She wants to learn what the Feds know about a planned suicide bombing at a football stadium that will kill many.

 

As private investigator Dana Cutler is in Oregon looking into the illegal and amoral activity of the Senator, Carson’s aid Brad Miller worries about his life, that of his wife and others when his former client serial killer Clarence Little escapes custody from the Marion County Circuit Courthouse in Salem, Oregon.  Soon afterward Koshanil is found murdered in Carson’s Georgetown home by someone using Little’s M.O. of removing a finger from each hand even as the terrorism scheme moves forward.

 

The third branch of government Cutler-Miller thriller (see Executive Privilege and Supreme Justice) is an exciting twisting tale though the prime subplots never smoothly converge.  Fast-paced, fans will enjoy the countdown as a scandalous sleazy senator, an escaped serial killer, and a terrorist attack will have readers wondering what next.

 

Harriet Klausner