Archive for February, 2013

Murder By Chance-Pat Dennis

February 28, 2013

Murder By Chance
Pat Dennis
Forty Press, Mar 1 2013, $16.95
ISBN: 9781938473043

As the snow piles up, Take A Chance Tours arrives late to the Moose Lake Bay Resort and Casino in northern Minnesota. Most of the surely elderly passengers run off the coach to the slot machines while owner Betty Chance and bus driver Tillie McFinn realize one of their forty-four attendees failed to take a coupon book. They search for a sleeping senior only instead Tillie finds the corpse of 350 pounds Mr. Farsi with a knife protruding from his back inside a locked bathroom.

Sheriff Severson leads the investigation in which he suspects ex-con Tillie killed the victim. With the help of Tillie, security casino Tom Songbird and gambling addict Lori the CPA who rushed from Chicago to be there for her beloved aunt, Betty using skills as the ex-wife of a CPD homicide detective begins her own inquiry.

This is a lighthearted amateur sleuth starring a spunky fiftyish overweight heroine and her fascinating sidekicks. Fast-paced as the lead character deals with the mentalist performer, irate clients ready to sue over a progressive slot $13 million lost opportunity, loss of the coach due to being a crime scene, the Buffet Betty blog or the murder, fans will enjoy taking a chance on Pat Dennis’s fun mystery.

Harriet Klausner


Angel’s Gate-P.G. Sturges

February 28, 2013

Angel’s Gate
P.G. Sturges
Scribner, Feb 26 2013, $27.00
ISBN 9781476712970

In Los Angeles, former cop and now a fixer, Dick “The Shortcut Man” Henry works odd cases using any means including peeing on a barred lawyer’s plant to obtain satisfaction for his clients and a fee for services for him. Producer Melvin Shea supplies cocaine and wannabe actresses like Rhonda Carling to Ivanhoe Studios chief Howard Hogue. Vicious Director Eli Navaria thrives in this den of inequity where he can get away with abusing women. Meanwhile Ex-marine Devi Stanton watches over the young starlets as the housemother. She needs help with a nasty situation so turns to the Shortcut Man to clean the mess.

Ellen Arden has not heard from her sister in years. She hires the Shortcut Man to find her missing sibling. The cases intertwine with a questionable death on a boat several years ago.

The latest Shortcut Man caper (see The Tribulations of the Shortcut Man) is an enjoyable Hollywood studio system satire. The engaging storyline is fast-paced with plenty of humor (including some gross smelly slapstick) yet with a serious undertone involving the abuse of power of the naïve ambitious and those in charge deem that satisfying.

Harriet Klausner

Seal Team Six: Hunt The Scorpion-Don Mann and Ralph Pezzullo

February 25, 2013

Seal Team Six: Hunt The Scorpion
Don Mann and Ralph Pezzullo
Mulholland Books/Little Brown, Feb 19 2013, $25.99
ISBN: 9780316209601

Thirty-five miles off the coast of East Africa in a busy sea lane frequented by foreign vessels, prates hijack the MSC Contessa as the ship headed to the Island of Suqutra. Captain Jake McCullom feels guilt for bringing his wife Tanya on this voyage because he concealed the dangerous risk from her.

SEAL Team Six assault leader Warrant Officer Thomas Crocker and his unit who wait for the CIA sent drone in the middle of al-Qaeda held territory in South Yemen when the mission is abruptly aborted. They were contacted and flown to the USS Carl Vinson where he learns his new mission has higher need to know priority. Pirates captured the MSC Contessa, which contained yellowcake as part of the cargo. Securing this war grade uranium before terrorists obtain it has become their task; rescuing the hostages is acceptable as long as that does not impede their obtaining the radioactive material.

The latest Seal Team Six thriller (see Hunt The Wolf) is an exciting action-packed tale from the opening hijacking to the final confrontation. Though incredibly fast-paced, readers also obtain a deep look at how complex and convoluted (outside of Congressional sound bite hearings) foreign policy is even working with allies. Fans of high octane thrillers will enjoy this Seal team Six adventures as plausibility coming from political considerations interfering with mission accomplished and blood flowing from the heroes make for an enjoyable adrenaline ride.

Harriet Klausner

Death, Taxes and Peach Sangria-Diane Kelly

February 24, 2013

Death, Taxes and Peach Sangria
Diane Kelly
St. Martin’s, Jan 29 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250023063

Treasury Department Criminal Investigation Team field operatives Tara Holloway and Eddie Bardin share a great partnership though they are total opposites. He is a married suburban dad who knows the difference between a metaphor and a simile, and a near extinct African-American Republican; she is a single white inner city woman who is the one person education left behind. However, when it comes to catching tax cheats, they are the best (see Death, Taxes, and a Skinny No-Whip Latte; and Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure).

Tara toasts the destruction of the “Deduction Diva” especially after the cheat kneed Eddie so that his wife will be celibate for a while. The remaining three frauds involve a retired incompetent IRS auditor the “Tax Wizard”, and the owners of Beauregard Financial services and Bulls-eye Taxidermy and Tax Processing. At the office, her associates look for love at the online Big D Dating Service. She can deal with her boss “The Lobo” and the virgin Josh going on line for a date, but not her secret attraction for bad-ass Senior Special Agent Nick Pratt even if she has Brett in her life. Eddie and Tara are assigned to the most dangerous death and taxes case yet; working with CIA agents Zardooz and Wang to take down the financiers of terrorists.

The latest Tara Holloway Death and Taxes thriller is an engaging suspense with the heroine’s asides adding humor. The storyline is fast-paced while the CIT officials bring depth and jocularity to the mix. Fans will enjoy the antics of the fastest gun in the IRS as she deals with terrorists, ball-busters and obtaining a perfect Peach Sangria.

Harriet Klausner

Targets Of Revenge-Jeffrey S. Stephens

February 17, 2013

Targets Of Revenge
Jeffrey S. Stephens
Gallery, Feb 19 2013, $26.00
ISBN: 9781451688726

CIA field operative Jordan Sandor ignores the warning of his superiors to forget Venezuelan terrorist Adina, who escaped his previous attempt to end this psychopath’s reign of indiscriminate mass murdering (see Targets of Opportunity). He deploys a hand-picked team to destroy Adina’s cell and kill this maniac.

Sandor glides into the Venezuelan jungle with plans to assassinate Adina. However, though he thirst for vengeance as one of Adina’s victim was a close friend, Sandor changes his mission once he obtains facts on the ground after breaching the terrorist’s camp. Adina is not just processing cocaine for the world markets, he is manufacturing anthrax. Killing the abomination may not thwart his unknown evil scheme. Contacting his agency’s bureaucratic leaders, Sandor convinces them to set up a counter-operation to prevent Adina from deploying his latest evil. As he globetrots, Sandor finds his adversary has allies inside the American and several foreign governments to probably include the CIA and INTERPOL.

The latest fast-paced Sandor entry (see Targets of Deception) is an exciting action-packed tale as the hero risks his life to save the innocent from an amoral maniac’s plan to cause a pandemic disaster. With a contemporary Rambo-like star moving forward the storyline at an incredible clip, fans of action-packed thrillers that never takes a respite will appreciate the rematch.

Harriet Klausner

The Gin Lovers-Jamie Brenner

February 16, 2013

The Gin Lovers
Jamie Brenner
St. Martin’s Griffin, Feb 12 2013, $14.99
ISBN: 9781250035936

“Gin Lovers 1.” Charlotte’s marriage to affluent William Delacorte provided her with an immediate entrance into New York high society. She wants her spouse to respect her so Charlotte tries to be his perfect (albeit bored) wife. However, when Mae, her sister-in-law, introduces her to the nightlife, she meets Jake Larkin, owner of a speakeasy where liquor, jazz and intimacy flow.

“The Gin Lovers 2: Little White Lies.” As Charlotte begins to uncover the dark side and secrets of her husband, she distrusts him, his family and his friends; leaving her kin and Jake as her only possible allies.

Told in six Gin Lovers’ parts (revealing anything else would be spoilers), readers will enjoy this episodic Prohibition Era drama as the period comes alive through the background of real persona like Duke Ellington. The engaging storyline is somewhat a soap opera as Charlotte grows emotionally due in part to her personal struggles between two men flawed by a dark side.

Harriet Klausner

Three Graves Full-Jamie Mason

February 16, 2013

Three Graves Full
Jamie Mason
Gallery, Feb 12 2013, $24.99
ISBN 9781451685039

In Stillwater, Michigan a year and a half ago in a fit of rage, normally mild widower Jason Getty killed someone. Panicking, the office worker buried the body in the back yard. Since interring the corpse, he lives in fear of being caught as he expects the neighbor’s dog to dig up the bones though after crossing the first anniversary he logically knows the odds are statistically insignificant.

However, Jason also allowed his property to deteriorate during that same time. So to keep the complaints away, he hires Dearborn’s Landscaping to fix the front yard. Calvin the foreman and his two workers find a body buried there. Though not his haunting corpse Jason fears Detectives Tim Bayard and Ford Watts, who believe the previous owner placed the dead person under the ground, and Tessa the K9 will find another body; which they do, but once again not his.

Leah Tamblin never forgave her fiancé Reid Reynolds for running away with less than two weeks before their wedding. She needs to know if one of the dead is her Reid. The police identify Reid buried next to Katielynn Montgomery; her husband Boyd is the prime suspect.

Three Graves Full is a zany comedic twisting murder mystery as facts are not always facts when someone digs deep enough. The fully developed cast (including Tessa) makes for a fun tale as the players except for the brilliant dog seem to step in it.

Harriet Klausner

The Fifth Man-James LePore

February 15, 2013

The Fifth Man
James LePore
Story Plant, Feb 12 2013, $14.95
ISBN: 9781611880656

Almost a decade ago, attorney Chris Massi’s father, Mafia hit man Joe Black Massi, was murdered and soon afterward his mother succumbed to a heart attack. Divorced from his Mafia princess wife, Chris feared his teenage son chose the mob path of his late grandfather that he avoided; entry meant murder. Chris met with his ex-father-in-law the Don Junior Boy DiGiglio, who tells Chris to man up as an eye for an eye is his current legacy into the family business (see Sons and Princes).

Almost a decade later, Matt attends Columbia University. A letter arrives addressed to Mr. Massi, but sent to his mom’s previous New Jersey address stating that a bin at Wall Storage owned by his late Uncle Joseph, dead eight years, will be forfeited if not renewed within an hour; not sure what is inside he directs Anna Cavanagh to renew the storage cell in Jackson, New Jersey for six months. Soon afterward, he meets with Nico Pugach the Russian in Brighton Beach who not so subtly implies he knows the family business. Soon Matt will be embroiled in the theft of valuable diamonds, murders, Secretary of State Clinton in Prague, and threats to his sister Tess and dad; as he ends up on a lethal grand tour of Europe.

The Fifth Man is a fascinating action-packed international thriller as two “Mafias” collide with a diabolical terrorist plot in Europe. Fast-paced, the son is the prime player though the dad plays a key role. Readers will enjoy the somewhat convoluted but entertaining suspense as Tess learns no one even her dad the weapon is what they appear to be.

Harriet Klausner

Phony Tinsel-Robert S. Levinson

February 14, 2013

Phony Tinsel
Robert S. Levinson
Five Star, Feb 6 2013, $25.95
ISBN 9781432826796

Wannabe screenwriter Charlie Dickens writes a script for Showdown at Shadow Creek. His agent Roy Balloon tried selling the script to the studios but all rejected it. After Balloon fires Dickens for his hitless batting average, the desperate author decides after seeing Cecil B. DeMille’s 1920s silent film The Ten Commandments he needs to produce his movie. As he invades the estate of the producer in the Hollywood Hills, he concludes this is like going to Heaven without dying.

However, Charlie enters the wrong mansion as he breaks into the home of producer Maxwell Moonglow. Greeting him in a sexy towel is Moonglow’s wife actress Sarah Darling. Instead of concern about her uninvited guest, Sarah is used to lovers visiting her. Seductive, she persuades Charlie to execute her plan to kill Max in spite of the screenwriter struggling between two women sort of in his life. With nothing going right even Max’s filming his script seems ill-fated for key players, Charlie revises his muse to this is like going to Hell without dying.

This femme fatale 1930s twisting thriller is an enjoyable tale that will remind readers of Double Indemnity but with a comedic twist. The fast-paced lighthearted storyline is fun to read as Charlie navigates the Hollywood scene leaving behind corpses in his wake.

Harriet Klausner

The Devereaux Legacy-Carolyn Hart

February 13, 2013

The Devereaux Legacy
Carolyn Hart
Prometheus/Seventh Street, Feb 12 2013, $13.95
ISBN 9781616147044

In Rockport, Texas, Leah Devereaux Shaw buries her beloved grandma Louisa Abbot Shaw, the woman who raised her. However, Grandmother Shaw’s last letter and a much read magazine article stuns Leah who travels to Mefford, South Carolina where apparently her kin live. Her first stop in Mefford is the cemetery, which contains stones for her grandma, her parents and two years old Leah; all “lost at sea” when the New Star went down.

Leah heads to the family plantation that her grandma accompanied by baby Leah fled almost two decades ago. Her arrival is met by mixed emotions. Cousin Merrick Devereaux welcomes her; an extended family in-law Mrs. Leclerc warns her that the return of the Whispering Lady means death; cousins Cissy and John Edward Devereaux tell her to return to Texas or else; and her maternal grandmother Carrie Devereaux is stunned with a second chance to atone for her pride driving away her daughter in the 1960s. With a need to know why kind-hearted Grandmother Shaw vanished with her, Leah investigates while also attracted to Merrick.

This reprint of a 1986 Carolyn Hart romantic amateur sleuth is an entertaining tale that brings to life the author’s trademark Lowcountry setting (see the Death on Demand series). The cast is solid and the twists inside a taut suspense storyline plausible. Although the romance between the “kissing cousins” feels forced while supporting Ms. Hart’s Introduction’s contention on female mystery writing in the Reagan era, readers will enjoy this engaging “cold case” murder mystery.

Harriet Klausner