Archive for April, 2012

Trapeze-Simon Mawer

April 20, 2012


Simon Mawer

Other Press, May 1 2012, $15.95

ISBN: 9781590515273


During WWII the British Special Operations Executive drafts nineteenth years old Marian Sutro to work undercover in occupied France due to her being a native French speaker.  Marian attends spy school and commando training.  When deemed ready by her controllers, she is parachuted into Nazi held territory before making her way to Paris to join the WORDSMITH resistance.


Marian also has a second mission given to her by another top secret agency since she has a connection to a key scientist working for the Germans.  She is to persuade those researchers working on the atomic bomb to defect.  However, her contact with the scientists is noted because the Nazis watch diligently every move they make and by default their visitors make.


This is an engaging WWII drama in which a good part of the first half of the book sets the fascinating genuine historical stage of the thirty nine women sent by SOE into enemy territory.  Though that opening act is slow but interesting, the action picks up once Marian goes to France even as there remains plenty of 1940s tidbits.  The heroine’s risky and naive escapades are exciting as she works behind enemy lines on her two missions.


Harriet Klausner

Tote Bags and Toe Tags-Dorothy Howell

April 19, 2012

Tote Bags and Toe Tags

Dorothy Howell

Kensington, May 29 2012, $23.00

ISBN 9780758253323


In Los Angeles, Haley Randolph excitedly tells her BFF Marcie Hanover that she graduated from UM.  Haley’s boyfriend Ty Cameron of the Holt Corporation arrives.  Marcie informs him that Haley graduated from UM.  Ty’s co-worker (and Haley’s rival) Sarah Covington is stunned to learn she got a degree from Michigan.  Haley fails to correct them that UM stands for the University of Mixology.  Ty arranges a celebration attended by friends and family.  Sarah arranges for her to get a job with benefits at Dempsey Rowland assuming she clears the security background check. 


On her first day on the job, Haley finds security chief Violet Hamilton dead in the office of her supervisor Constance Addison.  While Constance screams at her accusing her of murder and messing up her office, Haley calmly calls 911.  Making matters worse LAPD Detectives Madison and Shuman lead the investigation; Haley has a suspect history with the former.  Knowing she has a motive and distrusting the cops to focus on anyone else, Haley investigates for a designer bag and the real killer who has murdered again.


The latest Haley Randolph amateur sleuth (see Clutches and Curses, Purses and Poison, and Handbags and Homicides) is a zany affair as she learns the Fixx is right that “one thing leads to another.”  The storyline is fast-paced and seems on the edge of out of control, but Dorothy Howell keeps it amusingly going.  Filled with humor, fans will enjoy Haley’s latest corpse finding as she asserts that Sir Walter Scott is right when he wrote in Marmion “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”


Harriet Klausner

The Risk Agent-Ridley Pearson

April 19, 2012

The Risk Agent

Ridley Pearson

Putnam, Jun 19 2012, $25.95

ISBN 9780399158834


The Rutherford Risk firm performs security for the humongous Berthold Group construction conglomerate.  When two employers of Berthold are kidnapped on the streets of Shanghai in daylight, Rutherford Risk hires city based importer John Knox and forensic accountant Grace Chu to rescue them as the company knows the risk of sleuthing, an illegal activity in China.  Knox accepts the job because he needs the money to provide a good life for his learning disabled brother Tommy and besides one of the abductees is a friend Clete Danner; Grace agrees to take on the job because the other victim is her friend Lu Hao.


Each brings uniqueness to the pairing as they follow the money trail.  As time runs out on the kidnappers’ deadline, every step closer to saving the lives of the missing pair proves dangerous to Knox and Chu.  Yet while he worries about what will happen to Tommy if he dies, he trusts no one not even their client or his partner; she shares his distrusting mantra.  However, not relying on one another proves even more perilous.


This is a great suspense thriller as Ridley Pearson provides a dynamic look at Shanghai.  The support cast is sold, but it is the refreshing duet of opposites in personality (he believes charge the hill while she thinks finesse is smarter) who understands that as a team they can succeed, but first comes trust something neither gives away willingly.  This is a great opening act as the activities of Knox and Chu give fans a vivid picture of Shanghai.


Harriet Klausner

The Azalea Assault-Alyse Carlson

April 19, 2012

The Azalea Assault

Alyse Carlson

Berkley, Jun 5 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780425251300


In Roanoke, Virginia, Camellia Harris loves her life.  She and her boyfriend sports reporter Rob adore each other and Cam shares a two floor house with her best friend Annie Schultz.  Finally she loves her work as events coordinator for the Garden Delights magazine.


Garden Delights plans to feature The Patrick House Gardens with renowned photographer Jean-Jacques Georges taking the shots.  When he arrives at his welcoming bash, charismatic egomaniacal Jean-Jacques alienates everyone with his complaints and his female butt groping.  Soon afterward he dies from poison in the catered meal by Spoons restaurant owned by Cam’s sister Petunia.  Not long afterward magazine photographer editor Ian demands the shoot be cancelled, but Cam suggests a nepotistic alternative, her sister Petunia.  Ian becomes the second homicide victim.  The police arrest Petunia’s husband former con Nick the prime chef at Spoons and Annie for the murders.  Rob and Cam investigate, but she learns how many people found the victims despicable and wanted the photographers dead.


With a nod to the Garden Mystery series by Anthony Eglin, the alpha A Garden Society Mystery is a fun amateur sleuth starring a likable caring heroine who relates in the third person her investigation while also providing a delightful tour of the city.  Cam’s rationale for sleuthing is her love for her sister and her best friend.  Although the storyline can slow down at times, cozy fans and garden aficionados will enjoy Alyse Carlson entertaining opening act.


Harriet Klausner

Bloodman-Robert Pobi

April 18, 2012


Robert Pobi

Thomas & Mercer, May 15 2012, $14.95

ISBN: 9781612182131


After being away from home for almost three decades FBI Special Agent Jake Cole returns to Montauk, Long Island though he prefers not to deal with his abusive addicted dad Jacob Coleridge, Sr., a renowned artist now suffering from Alzheimer’s dementia.  Once loathing his control freak widower father, Jake is apathetic towards him, but also feels obligated to at least put in order the SOB’s personal affairs.


His childhood house is a pigsty strewn with thousands of strange nightmarish paintings, numerous empty bottles and tons of garbage everywhere.  Feeling self-pity, he calls his wife Kay Rivers and little Jeremy to ask how they are and to get encouragement from her.  Southampton Sheriff Mike Hauser calls to ask Agent Cole for help on a case five miles from his home as a woman and a child were skinned to death.  The case brings back horrid memories for Jake who recognizes the murder scene as being the signature of “him.”


Cole (the entire Dante’s Inferno is his body tattoo) is a fascinating protagonist who makes for a dark twisting psychological suspense police procedural as a kick butt cop who takes no prisoners while on a case.  His uncanny ability to visualize what happened makes him a valuable investigator but his demons make him a potential liability.  A hurricane hammering Long Island adds to Cole’s sense of dismay as he works to end the serial killing reign of terror by the human skinner Bloodman.


Harriet Klausner

Dead Man Waltzing-Ella Barrick

April 18, 2012

Dead Man Waltzing

Ella Barrick

Obsidian, Jun 5 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780451237347


In Old Town Alexandria, Stacy Graysin, co-owner of Graysin Motion ballroom dance studio, ended her two-year engagement to her cheating partner Rafe Acosta when she saw him doing a horizontal number.  Two months later Rafe was murdered in the studio and she was ASPD Detective Lissy’s only suspect (see Quickstep to Murder).  Stacy’s new partner is Rafe’s half-brother Tau.  Because of his attraction to her, he refuses to sell his business interests in the studio.  She feels an attraction to him also, but Stacey refuses to act on her feelings.


Lissy arrives at the studio demanding to see instructor Maurice Goldberg who failed to show up for a class.  He tells her that the legendary grand dame of ballroom dancing Corinne Blakely, who has pushed hard for this to be an Olympic Dance Sport, was poisoned while dining with Maurice who happened to be her ex-husband.  Stacy realizes she should stay out of this homicide investigation, but distrusts Lissy to look beyond Maurice so feeling a debt of gratitude to her employee; she begins an inquiry to clear her friend’s name.


Dead Man Waltzing is a charming cozy told in the first person perspective by Stacy.  This enables the reader to better understand her motive to investigate especially having learned the risk of doing so from her previous inquiry to clear her name.  The investigation is creative as there are plenty suspects for the heroine to tango with.  Additionally, the audience obtains a deep look at running a dance studio and what a professional instructor must do to teach a myriad of dances.  This is a lively amateur sleuth mystery that will have readers wanting more dance numbers. starring Stacy.


Harriet Klausner

Don’t Cry, Tai Lake-Qiu Xiaolong

April 17, 2012

Don’t Cry, Tai Lake

Qiu Xiaolong

Minotaur, May 8 2012, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312550646


Comrade Secretary Zhao sends Shanghai Police Special Case Chief Inspector Chen Cao for a week of R&R at the exclusive Wuxi Cadre Recreation Center on the shores of Tai Lake.  He meets environmental engineer Shanshan at her Uncle Wang’s Wuxi eatery.  They talk about polluted water from the Wuxi Number One Chemical company and other factories, polluted food and reading English.  Director Xiao who manages the facility thinks Chen is doing surveillance and offer him all types of amenities.


A factory incident has Shanshan hustling while Chen, attracted to her, helps her.  However, when Liu a factory chief is brutally murdered, Shanshan is considered a prime suspect.  However, Internal Security interest quickly turns to Jiang who feuded with Liu.  With help from Sergeant Huang, Chen, walking on egg shells, investigates.


This is a terrific Inspector Chen whodunit (see The Mao Case) as readers obtain a close up look at the cost of the Chinese rapid industrialization.  The investigation is well conceived even though it uses too much happenchance.  However, it is China that stars as Chen comes to this once pristine but now polluted resort because a superheavyweight sent him.


Harriet Klausner

The Emerald Storm-William Dietrich

April 17, 2012

The Emerald Storm

William Dietrich

Harper, May 8 2012, $25.99

ISBN: 9780061989209

By 1803, adventurer Ethan Gage is ready for some domestication with his wife Astiza and their three years old son Harry after their latest escapades when he rescued them in Tripoli and escaped in that lunatic Futon’s sub (see The Barbary Pirates).  He thinks he can pull off retirement due to a valuable stolen emerald he possesses.  However, renegade secret French policeman Leon Martel steals the jewel and kidnaps Harry to keep Gage at a distance.

Gage delays retirement as he mounts a rescue of his child with his beautiful wife ably assisting him through her feminine wiles.  However complications mount as the French, English and Americans jockey to manipulate Franklin’s worst behaved protégé with each seeking the rumored lost stolen treasure of Montezuma and control of a potential slave revolt in Saint-Domingue.

This is an over the top of the Jura Mountains early nineteenth century thriller starring a swashbuckling avaricious protagonist.  Gage is at his best using experimental design equipment as he works double and triple crosses and deftly maneuvers through agents from a host of nations as well as Toussaint L’Overture.  This is a fun early nineteenth century non-stop adventure tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Anatomy of Death-Felicity Young

April 17, 2012

The Anatomy of Death

Felicity Young

Berkley, May 1 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780425247297


Dr. Dody McCleland is the first female autopsy surgeon as few women practice medicine in England let alone have the dead as patients.  Ironically, in spite of her unusual vocation, she and her sister Florence disagree on how to obtain women’s rights.  Florence prefers showy demonstrations by her Bloomsbury Division of the Women’s Suffrage and Political Union while Dody believes methodical proof of competency is the better method. 


New Scotland Yard Superintendent Shepherd and DCI Pike arrive at St. Thomas’ Mortuary after a rally led by Florence and others turn violent; a death occurred.  However, due to a conflict of interest Dody is unable to conduct the autopsy of the victim because Catherine Cartwright is a close friend of her sibling.  Still Dody examines the corpse and concludes someone beat Catherine to death.  She quietly informs Pike, who detests brute force against those that are weaker.  He investigates while Shepherd wants him removed from the department in order to close the case.


This is an entertaining historical mystery that deftly merges the turn of the twentieth century suffragettes’ movement with the early days of forensic detecting.  Dody is a super protagonist as she breaks into an all-male field while fabulous Florence the rebel with a cause plots rallies over tea.  Although the whodunit is cleverly devised, that taut plot feels secondary to the salad days of women’s liberation.


Harriet Klausner

A Deadly Grind-Victoria Hamilton

April 17, 2012

A Deadly Grind

Victoria Hamilton

Berkley, May 1 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780425248010


In Michigan siblings Rebecca and Jaymie Leighton attend an auction in which the latter buys a vintage 1920s Hoosier Kitchen Cabinet over the objection of her older sister who insists their Queensville house is already too cluttered though she resides in nearby Ontario.  Brett Delgado, who is staying at the next door Jones B&B, helps Jaymie get the heavy cabinet onto her porch.


That night, the tired sisters are awakened by a loud noise.  They investigate only to find a corpse of a well-dressed male near the cabinet and some purchased china shattered.  Police Detective Christian leads the homicide investigation in which John Doe victim’s head was bashed in by the cabinet’s meat grinder.  Unable to remain out of the inquiry, Jaymie and Hopalong her three-legged Yorkie Poo investigate the murder.


The first A Vintage Kitchen Mystery is an exciting regional amateur sleuth.  The investigation is clever though Jaymie’s reason for doing it seems weak while her relationship with her sister enhances the whodunit.  With a solid support cast, a murder most likely tied to the Hoosier, and a recipe for Queen Elizabeth Cake, fans will enjoy this fun Michigan cozy.


Harriet Klausner