Archive for July, 2013

City of Mirrors-Melodie Johnson Howe

July 26, 2013

City of Mirrors
Melodie Johnson Howe
Pegasus, Aug 1 2013, $25.95
ISBN 9781605984681

Last week Widow Diana Poole buried her beloved mom, the famous actress Nora Poole; last year she buried her husband writer Colin Hudson. Facing bankruptcy and fortyish, Diana is fortunate her friend Celia Dario’s lover Robert Zaitlin has given her a small but important role as the mother to star Jenny Parson in a move he currently produces on The Lot that was once Warner Bros and once Samuel Goldwyn. However, Zaitlin warns Diana that her part is in peril because Parson cannot remember her lines; frustrating everyone including co-star Jake Jackson who wants the amateur replaced, which most likely means a different actress as the mom.

Diana agrees to have dinner with Jenny. After picking up her mom’s ashes, Diana goes to dine with Jenny only to find her body in a trash bag about to be taken away by a garbage truck. While Zaitlin insists on saving the movie even more so than Diana, she investigates the homicide seeking to keep the checks coming; only to find nasty truths that nuke the images of family and friends; only adversarial Heath the Fixer has her back even if they differ on the outcomes.

This delightful Diana Poole investigative mystery (see Shooting Hollywood: The Diana Poole Stories) is an exciting whodunit as the heroine (and readers) peel away the glittery façade to reveal some despicable realities. Fast-paced with some over the Hollywood sign action, readers will enjoy this engaging tale as Melodie Johnson Howe provides a vivid look at behind the scenes through the protagonist’s amateur sleuthing.

Harriet Klausner

A Crack in the Wall-Claudia Piñeiro, translated by Miranda France

July 25, 2013

A Crack in the Wall
Claudia Piñeiro, translated by Miranda France
Bitter Lemon, Aug 1 2013, $14.95
ISBN 9781908524089

In 2007 in Buenos Aires, twenty-something Leonor Corell visits the office of Borla and Associates, an architectural firm. She asks Borla, fortyish Pablo Simó and Marta Horvat if any of them know where Nelson Jara is. Though they rehearsed their response if the question came up and Borla says no, Pablo fails immediately to respond as his world shifted with that inquiry. However, he recovers as he and Marta deny knowing a Jara.

Three years earlier, Simó, Borla and Horvat buried Jara under the concrete of the parking lot. At a café, Corell sees Simó and asks him to help her with a photography assignment. Though he should say no, he agrees to assist her while wondering if his motive is guilt or a need for dangerous freshness with his marriage falling apart, his daughter in rebellion, and his work boring while his dream of designing a special tower is dead.

The latest Claudia Piñeiro Argentinian thriller (see Thursday night Widows and All Yours) is a fabulous tale that rotates between the Jara burial and the relationship between Pablo and Leonor. Gripping from the moment the young woman asks her question, readers will relish this taut twisting psychological suspense as Simó faces A Crack in the Wall as big as an iceberg.

Harriet Klausner

Pinot Envy-Edward Finstein

July 25, 2013

Pinot Envy
Edward Finstein
Bancroft, Jul 16 2013, $21.95
ISBN: 9781610880893

San Francisco resident Woody Robins teaches a Wine Appreciation class at Rosewell College where the fortyish professor is on faculty. He also writes a column on wine for Haute Living and has published a book Wine Is A Four Letter Word. Woody even met his girlfriend Julia Harper when he provided consulting work for her firm the Wine Emporium and found his cat Mouton in a back alley next to empty wine bottles.

Having solved a wine fraud case, Woody meets with UC Davis Professor Walter Pendry to discuss a rare double magnum, the last bottle remaining from an exclusive Napoleon-commissioned label. Last year, James McCall purchased the wine valued at 2.5 million, but recently the bottle was stolen from his secure vault in the Los Carneros area that straddles Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Woody goes straight from Davis to the McCall estate where he agrees to investigate the theft because he believes his client is not committing insurance fraud. With Julia, his Aunt Sadie and others, he begins his inquiry.

By focusing on a stolen valuable bottle of wine, this fascinating cozy enables readers to learn about the engaging history and present day vineyards. Though paid and with an SFPD detective amongst his team, Woody acts like an amateur sleuth as he fumbles his way from one scenario to another. The protagonist’s reflections on relationships in his life are overdone and detract from the case. Still readers will toast Edward Finstein with a less costly pinot for an engaging character-driven whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Chimera: A Jim Chapel Mission-David Wellington

July 22, 2013

Chimera: A Jim Chapel Mission
David Wellington
Morrow, Jul 23 2013, $24.99
ISBN 9780062248770

In Upstate New York at the highest secure military facility in the world, Camp Putnam contains genetically modified “chimera”. These killing monsters are 99% human, but the remaining DNA comes from chimps, rattlers and bears. Several have escaped killing elite guards as they hone in on their particular assigned kill target; collateral damage is not even on their mental radar as nothing in the path of any of these physically super beasts lives.

Having lost an arm in Afghanistan, Special Forces Captain Jim Chapel works in an office at Fort Belvoir wishing he was back in the field as he understands the kill or be killed lifestyle better than his butt sitting on a desk. He gets his wish when the Pentagon assigns him to stop the chimera and once that is done find out who performed the modification (including the financial backing) and how these predators escaped. Instead of elite Special Forces, Jim works with the mysterious Angel though he never sees her and Julia the veterinarian while the CIA and the chimera creators have other ideas.

The second Jim Chapel Mission (see Minotaur) is a terrific action-packed thriller as the hero hunts the hunters in an action-packed storyline that will have readers wondering who the monsters really are. Although the Julia romance feels more like a forced necessity, fans will relish this otherwise taut tale and want awesome Angel to join Jim in future operations.

Harriet Klausner

Light Of The World-James Lee Burke

July 22, 2013

Light Of The World
James Lee Burke
Simon & Schuster, Jul 23 2013, $27.99
ISBN 9781476710761

Louisiana Sheriff’s Detective Dave Robicheaux, his wife Molly, their daughter Alafair the reporter, and his former NOPD law enforcement partner Clete Purcel and Clete’s daughter Gretchen Horowitz vacation on Albert Hollister’s ranch in Western Montana. They are having a good time until someone shoots an arrow at a running Alafair. She challenges bull fighting Texan Wyatt Dixon by asking him if he shot the arrow; instead of responding he invites her to shower though his even crazier girlfriend would rip skin off his guest. He also warns her to stay out of the woods. Meanwhile Gretchen has made enemies of the wealthy and local law enforcement for her work on shale oil extraction.

However, unbeknownst to the two Bayou families is that serial killer Asa Surrette escaped a Kansas prison van crash rather than died as reported. He has fixated on making Alafair, who interviewed him in the pen, the center of his next masterpiece. Anyone in his way like her parents, their friends, and the retired professor who owns this spread or locals will die.

Light of the World is a great Dave Robicheaux thriller (see Creole Belle) as the change of venue to include the hero’s lack of legal law enforcement authority brings a freshness to the series; as two dads will fight anyone harming their courageous cubs. Fast-paced from the first arrow (even the Vietnam flashbacks) until the final confrontations, readers will relish this vividly gory (don’t read on a full stomach) tale as human monsters contaminate pristine Bog Sky Country.

Harriet Klausner

Bombshell-Catherine Coulter

July 17, 2013

Bombshell
Catherine Coulter
Putnam, Jul 9 2013, $26.95
ISBN: 9780399157332

After their work together in San Francisco (see Backfire), FBI Special Agent Dillon Savich hires FBI agent Griffin Hammersmith to join the CAU Division. On his way to DC, Griffin plans to see his sister Delsey, a student at Stanislaus School of Music in Maestro, Virginia. Before arriving at his sibling’s place, Griffin receives a call from Agent Ruth Noble (nee Warnecki in Point Blank) informing him his sister was found unconscious but okay with blood on her that was not hers.

At the same time, Dillon and his FBI wife Lacey Sherlock investigate the murder of college student Tommy Cronin. The case has caused a media frenzy since the victim is the grandson of a former Federal Reserve Bank chair. As the homicide count grows rapidly, the married Feds know anyone within one degree of Tommy is a potential victim.

Bombshell is a strong S & S & associates police procedural as the rotating two cases prove exciting and fast-paced. Readers will appreciate the tense police work as the Feds work the assault and perhaps murder at the school while S & S struggles to end a DC killing spree with the press demands intruding their efforts.

Harriet Klausner

Tell Me-Lisa Jackson

July 17, 2013

Tell Me
Lisa Jackson
Kensington, Jun 25 2013, $25.00
ISBN 9780758258588

Two decades ago, Blondell O’Henry and her three children were in a cabin in Savannah when the police arrived to investigate a shooting that left the oldest child pregnant teen Amity dead, and eight year old Niall and five year old Blythe in critical condition. Blondell insisted a stranger broke in firing the shots; but Niall testified his mom was the culprit. With no evidence of an intruder to counter Niall’s statement, Blondell was convicted and sent to the pen for life.

In the present, Niall claims the cops forced him to testify against his mom, which would release Blondell from prison. True crime author Nikki Gillette has more than just a writer’s interest in this case that she plans to investigate; she and Amity were BFFs, and her family was involved in the trial and owned the cabin. Her fiancé SPD Police Detective Pierce Reed and his partner Sylvie Morrisette are assigned to review the evidence.

This is an interesting investigative tale with a cast that would make Cecil B. DeMille proud but also limits the characters to two-dimensional. Still fans who keep a scorecard focused on the two prime families and their one degree connections will appreciate this taut double helix thriller as an infamous case closed reopens.

Harriet Klausner

Gone With The Win-Mary Daheim

July 14, 2013

Gone With The Win
Mary Daheim
Morrow, Jul 9 2013, $23.99
ISBN: 9780062089847

At the Hillside Manor B&B in Seattle after the old bat crashed her wheelchair into a birdbath, Mary Smith checks in. However, Mary is actually Judith McMonigle Flynn’s friend Ruby Tooms, who used an alias to insure she would be welcome after what happened at the Little Bavaria Oktoberfest.

Ruby asks Judith and her husband retired cop Joe Flynn to investigate the murder almost two decades ago of her mother Opal; her father was in jail at the time of the strangulation having stolen Judith’s wallet at her late first husband’s Meat & Mingle cafe. With fans creating a web site proclaiming her detecting skills, Judith has vowed no more inquiries. However, Joe has a personal interest in this case as his former partner and still close friend Precinct Captain Woody Price worked the unsolved homicide. An intruder further motivates Joe, his reluctant wife, and her sleuthing partnering cousin Renie Jones to look into the murder of Ruby’s mom.

The latest Bed-and-Breakfast Mystery (see The Wurst Is Yet to Come and All The Pretty Hearses) is an engaging humorous cozy as this time Joe wants them to take on the case instead of Judith tripping over a corpse. With a strong cast, readers will enjoy this lighthearted amusing whodunit as the amateur sleuthing cousins plus Joe hesitatingly investigate.

Harriet Klausner

Sugar Pop Moon-John Florio

July 13, 2013

Sugar Pop Moon
John Florio
Seventh Street Books/Prometheus, Jul 9 2013, $15.95
ISBN: 9781616147952

In 1930 Manhattan, Jimmy McCullough hires Jersey “Snowball” Leo to work at his mob-owned speakeasy Pour House because no one forgets seeing an albino; except perhaps his mother who deserted him (and his dad) when he was a baby. Snowball buys top quality booze for the bar, but the booze proves to be fake Sugar Pop Moon.

Knowing he will be blamed by his violent employers, Snowball searches for the missing seller to get back the money; but fails to find him while struggling through misadventures in Philadelphia at the same time someone stalks him. Snowball concludes he needs help. He turns to his pop, a former boxing champ who never hides his scorn of his offspring especially for working at a mob establishment. Father and son pursue the moonshine distributer

This is an exciting coming of age Prohibition Era noir. The cast is very strong, but obviously this is Snowball’s tale as he (and his father) tries to save his life while finding out revelations about himself and his family. Readers will enjoy this solid historical crime thriller and want a matured Snowball to return.

Harriet Klausner

Cold Coast-Jenifer LeClair

July 12, 2013

Cold Coast
Jenifer LeClair
Conquill Press, Jul 1 2013, $15.00
ISBN: 9780980001761

Minneapolis Homicide Detective Brie Beaumont remains on leave suffering from PTSD after being shot and her partner Phil killed while on duty five months ago. Currently she is second mate on the Schooner Maine Wind sailing with passengers and crew along the coast. When a Nor’easter strikes, Captain John DuLac pulls up anchor in Tucker Harbor. The next morning the storm has left the harbor but remains dangerously nearby so DuLac allows crew and passengers to explore the village for a few hours. While hiking to Heron Head on Final Reckoning Road, they find a corpse of a man whose neck was sliced. Brie protects the crime scene until Washington County law enforcement arrives.

Shorthanded and having seen the results of her work before (see Rigged for Murder), Maine State Police Detective Fenton asks Brie to help investigate the homicide of local trucker Jake Maloney. Since DuLac has an extra experienced hand onboard, he reluctantly agrees as he will miss his second mate for professional and personal reasons; but he knows Brie needs this test to determine whether she should return to law enforcement or continue sailing. MPD also supports Brie working the case. Brie questions the victim’s widow and his former employee until she finds a link to a cold case murder of a researcher.

Though waiting out a storm was used at Granite Harbor in Rigged for Murder, readers will enjoy this engaging police procedural as Jenifer LeClair once again vividly captures the Maine background in her latest Windjammer mystery (see Danger Sector). The eccentric Mainers add depth to a fabulous step by step investigation; fans will enjoy Brie trying to uncover secrets that should tie together two seemingly unrelated murders four years apart.

Harriet Klausner