Archive for March, 2013

The Bull Slayer-Bruce Macbain

March 14, 2013

The Bull Slayer
Bruce Macbain
Poisoned Pen, Mar 5 2013, $24.95
ISBN: 9781464201080

In the tenth regnal year of his reign, Emperor Trajanus Augustus assigns fiftyish Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus to the post of governor of Bithynia-Pontus province. The ruler orders Pliny the Younger (as Secundus is called by many) to eradicate the corruption using any means necessary in a place where Romans were slaughtered a century ago.

Pliny and his retinue are greeted by the province’s fiscal procurator, Marcus Vibius Balbus, who has ruled Bithynia-Pontus with absolute authority by controlling the purse strings and terrorizing governors. Ignoring the not veiled threat Pliny interrogates an angry Balbus. As they settle into a siege mentality Pliny, his staff and family find the Greeklings hostile especially since his mission angers the affluent like Diocles the Golden Mouth who he needs to succeed. When Balbus vanishes, Pliny leads the inquiry while the irate citizens seem verging on overt assaults on the outsiders.

The second Plinius Secundus Ancient Rome historical (see Roman Games) is an engaging thriller in which the protagonist’s personal life and relationships with his loving eccentric wife Calpurnia and his staff (especially Zosimus and Suetonious) supersedes (and overwhelms) the whodunit. Loaded with tidbits about life at the beginning of the second century AD in Bithynia-Pontus, fans who appreciate a sense of being there to see family dynamics will enjoy The Bull Slayer even though the whodunit rarely takes top billing.

Harriet Klausner

Lucky Stiff-Annelise Ryan

March 13, 2013

Lucky Stiff
Annelise Ryan
Kensington, Mar 5 2013. $7.99
ISBN: 9780758272751

On Christmas Day in Sorenson, Wisconsin, medical examiner Mattie Winston and her boyfriend Police Detective Steve Hurley look at the remains of a burned house and the body inside. Mattie concludes the arson was used to conceal a homicide; as the victim died before the inferno began. The victim, paraplegic Jack Allen recently won a large casino jackpot. The pair agree that the obvious motive is greed especially since Jack’s safe was open and empty.

Mattie and Steve visit the North Woods Casino where Jack won big but ended up an unlucky stiff. They ask questions and realize many people knew of the winnings, which leads the deputy coroner and the cop to conclude several suspects besides the victim’s girlfriend and housekeeper had opportunity. However Mattie and Steve begin a second inquiry by heading into the cold water to examine the dead body of floater Donald Strommen who vanished a few weeks ago.

The latest Mattie Winston police procedural (see Working Stiff, Scared Stiff and Frozen Stiff) is an enjoyable mystery with two murders to solve. The madcap mayhem has been reduced in this exciting entry as the heroine seems to have moved on passed her nasty ex-husband although this time Steve’s past arises. Fans will appreciate this well-written Wisconsin whodunit as both cases prove difficult even with Mattie finding forensic evidence that leads to more questions than answers.

Harriet Klausner

The Book Of Killowen-Erin Hart

March 13, 2013

The Book Of Killowen
Erin Hart
Scribner, Mar 5 2013, $26.00
ISBN: 9781451634846

Detectives Stella Cusack and Fergal Malloy lead the investigation into how a Gold Mercedes containing in its trunk the remains of a centuries-old corpse ended up in County Tipperary’s Killowen Bog. Keeper of Conservation, National Museum of Ireland brings in two experts, Irish archeologist Cormac Maguire and American pathologist Nora Gavin to extract the victim. As the pair works on the removal of the well preserved but murdered Killowen Man, they find another corpse wearing modern garb.

Cormac and Nora are interested in the top deceased who turns out to be a ninth century monk murdered allegedly for heretic scripting. Stella and Fergal are interested in the bottom deceased who turns out to be TV host Benedict Kavanagh, known for destroying his guests with his sharp wit. Both investigations intertwine; forcing the four investigators to cooperate; especially since the nearby landowners and an artist colony prefer to hide the motives of the two homicides more than millennia apart.

The latest Maguire-Gavin archeological mystery (see False Mermaid) is a great whodunit that hooks the audience from the moment the car is found in the bog. Fast-paced from the onset with its dual homicides, The Book Of Killowen will be shortlisted as one of the best mysteries of the year as Erin Hart provides a deep look at various motives to maintain secrets.

Harriet Klausner

Revenge On Route 66-Kris Neri

March 12, 2013

Revenge On Route 66
Kris Neri
Cherokee McGhee, Mar 15 2013, $17.95
ISBN: 9781937556020

Hollywood hunk Alec Grainger enjoys traveling Route 66. He currently is on the Mother Road with his son-in-law’s Uncle Philly and soon joined by his daughter Tracy Eaton and her husband Drew. One of their favorite haunts has been the Lunch Pail Café in Tecos, New Mexico, but the diner is locked up since the proprietor, Lucy Crier is locked away after murdering her former boyfriend. However, somehow witnesses claim to see Lucy on Route 66. Alec persuades his companions for them to look into the sighting of a jailed Lucy.

Soon after the inexplicable sighting as Lucy has an iron clad alibi, someone kills her ingratiating son Woody. As the traveling team investigate the Crier mysteries, the FBI inexplicably declare Tracy Eaton as a deadly Most Wanted fugitive; she can run on Route 66 but can’t hide from the Feds and other pursuers.

The latest Eaton family travelogue (see Revenge of the Gypsy Queen, Revenge For Old Time’s Sake and Dem Bones’ Revenge) is another is humorous yet graveyard serious amateur sleuth as this time the flaky free spirited heroine is on the lam from the Feds (and others). The storyline is fast-paced with Tracy, the original campy Revenge star, dodging capture while seeking to solve three mysteries as she would prefer not to become Lucy’s bunkmate. Fans will appreciate this tremendous trip down America’s Mother Road.

Harriet Klausner

The Day Is Dark-Yrsa Sigurdardottir; Philip Roughton (translator)

March 8, 2013

The Day Is Dark
Yrsa Sigurdardottir; Philip Roughton (translator)
Minotaur, Feb 26 2013, $15.99
ISBN: 9781250029409

Kaupthing Bank head of security Matthew Reich hires his lover Reykjavik lawyer Thora Gudmunstdottir to assist him in investigating occurrences at a mining camp in the Greenland tundra though to escape her adult children and grandchild she planned on the Caribbean. Accompanying Matthew and Thora on her trek to the frozen island is her dreadful office secretary Bella and scientists.

The geologists and support personnel disappeared and are presumed dead; no one else wants to work at a place considered haunted by the malevolent Tupilak; as besides the current vanishing, Danish colonists also disappeared without a trace in 1918. Thora is to learn what happened to the present day missing crew. The local Inuit population resent the latest visitors as outsiders have polluted their formerly pristine land. Thora looks closely at the Inuit struggling between a heritage that is teetering on the brink of generational extinction and the intrusion of modernization; symbolized by Igmaq the hunter, whose son prefers modern day beer and his favorite husky like him becoming too old to remain the leader of the pack.

The latest Thora Gudmundsdottir tale (see Ashes to Dust, Last Rituals and My Soul To Take) is a fabulous chilling (literally and figuratively) thunder on the tundra thriller. The leisurely–paced storyline looks close at the war between cultural tradition and unique modernizing assimilation. Although having an Icelandic grandmotherly lawyer on the investigative team and an incompetent legal secretary (brought along for comic relief) seem unlikely, fans will enjoy this engaging thought-provoking mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Lady of Ashes-Christine Trent

March 6, 2013

Lady of Ashes
Christine Trent
Kensington, Feb 26 2013, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758265913

In 1861 London, Violet Morgan is super at dressing a corpse but terrible at keeping a house. Violet is fabulous sympathizing and assisting those grieving a loss, but unable to understand why her husband is so angry with her lately and for practical purposes no longer gets involved with his family’s Morgan Undertaking funeral services.

Violet is unaware that Graham loathes the Americans and joins a conspiracy to help the South gain their independence by selling weapons to the Confederacy. At the same time Violet is hired to provide funeral services for a close friend of the royals. At the same time Graham vanishes, Violet investigates deaths among the impoverished; not appreciating the risk she places herself in with her inquiry.

The mystery takes a back seat to the historical aspects of the engaging story line; as readers obtain insight into the strict rules of Victorian funerals and grieving. Violet is a wonderful protagonist whose husband condemns her for not keeping the house proper while she also undertakes all the tasks at their funeral business since he stopped working there in order to spend time defeating America. Ironically she finds giving respect to the dead a haven from her marital troubles. Her investigation is slow and begins somewhat late, but still fans will enjoy this entertaining Victorian tale.

Harriet Klausner

Heart of Ice-P.J. Parrish

March 4, 2013

Heart of Ice
P.J. Parrish
Pocket, Feb 26 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439189375

In 1990 Florida based private investigator Louis Kincaid is in Michigan spending time with his ten year old daughter Lily. Seven months ago, Kincaid had been working a case in Ann Arbor when he learns his college girlfriend Kyla had not aborted their unborn as she threatened and he dared her. Now he is grateful she did not as father and daughter visit Mackinac Island though he detests the comparisons his tweener makes of him to her stepdad police officer Eric Channing who persuaded Kyla to tell Lily.

Kincaid plans to return to law enforcement if he can obtain an offer in Florida as he knows he is marked as a troublemaker in Michigan. Meanwhile he and Lily bike Mackinac Island when she notices Twin Pines, a house she thinks is haunted so they make an abrupt detour. When she trespasses Lily falls through the floor onto bones. The victim is probably teenage summer resident Julie Chapman who vanished in 1969. Chief of Police Jack Flowers hands over the investigation to State Detective Norm Rafsky, a working acquaintance of Kincaid’s girlfriend Joe Frye who he is to meet in two days. Meanwhile Lily asks her dad to help Flowers with the case as the local cop has no experience with homicides.

The latest Louis Kincaid investigation (see Thicker Than Water, Paint It Black and Dark of the Moon) is an enjoyable twisting whodunit that in spite of the 1990 date has a historical feel to the storyline due to the salad days of the IT gizmo revolution. Although the cop-P.I. rivalry feels somewhat stereotypical, sub-genre readers will relish this thrilling cold case Michigan mystery from the moment Lily rushes into Twin Pines until the final stunning revelation.

Harriet Klausner

Slice-William Patterson

March 4, 2013

William Patterson
Pinnacle, Feb 26 2013, $9.99
ISBN: 9780786027644

Pregnant Jessie Clarkson fled her home Sayer’s Brook, Connecticut upon witnessing that her husband Emil Deetz was a homicidal psychopath. Her sister Monica and her brother-in-law Todd Bennett got her an apartment in the East Village where she raised her daughter Abby; When Jessie learns that Emil died in a Mexico drug-related shootout, she, her child and their nanny Inga move back to Sayer’s Brook.

Her sibling and her former BFF Heather are unhappy with her return because each stole their husband from Jessie. Horror writer John Manning, who allegedly killed his wife, also lives in the cul de sac. Following a block welcome home party in which the female guests except her aunt wish Jessie stayed in New York, Inga visits John at his home. On her way back to her house, someone slices Inga’s throat reminiscent of what Jessie saw Emil do at the Black Wolf Tavern in Port Chester. As the cops suspect Manning and Clarkson, Abby finds a playmate her age while the adults wonder whose family he belongs to. More murders occur with the same M.O.; the link to the homicides is Jessie.

Slice is an exciting thriller with a supernatural element and a fully developed cast. Although there is too much soap opera-style melodrama, fans will enjoy this fast-paced tale from the first Slice to the last leap of faith.

Harriet Klausner