Archive for August, 2013

Tragic-Robert K. Tanenbaum

August 17, 2013

Robert K. Tanenbaum
Gallery, Aug 13 2013, $2600
ISBN 9781451635553

With the death of North American Brotherhood of Stevedores union leader Leo Corcione, a power struggle between brutally corrupt heir apparent Charlie Vitteli and ethical challenger Vince Carlotta explodes; as the latter accuses the former of being a violent crook. Vitteli’s henchmen end the debate when they assassinate Carlotta though the waterfront crime scene looks more like a robbery gone badly.

New York County DA Roger “Butch” Karp seeks evidence to take down Vitteli. Meanwhile his wife private investigator Marlene Campi meets a frightened potential witness at the East Village Women’s Shelter. That lead has her seeking several hit men with one of them probably the “masked robber” who pulled the trigger. Finding the killer and getting him to testify should prove Vitteli cannot wash the blood from his hands.

The latest entertaining Karp-Campi legal thriller (see Bad Faith) is an exciting tale when the focus is on union waterfront activity as those segments bring to life hard working workers and violent thugs. The fascinating courtroom segue is also well written; while the metaphorical references to Macbeth turn from intriguing to overused distractor. Readers will enjoy this tragedy wondering who will be the highest rank living official providing the final soliloquy.

Harriet Klausner

Strong Rain Falling: A Caitlin Strong Novel-Jon Land

August 17, 2013

Strong Rain Falling: A Caitlin Strong Novel
Jon Land
Forge, Aug 13 2013, $25.99
ISBN 9780765331502

Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong travels to Brown University with Dylan Torres, the son of her lover Cort Wesley Masters. In Providence, gunmen try to kill Dylan.

At the same time in San Antonio, gunmen also try to kill Dylan’s brother, Luke. Trying to understand the motive to kill the two teens, Strong and Masters uncover a scheme that goes back to the origin of Mexican drug cartels in 1919, which led to an opium war between the traffickers and Texas Rangers including Caitlin’s great-grandfather, William Ray Strong. With help from German philosophy student Guillermo Paz, Strong realizes the last descendent of the drug cartel founding family Ana Callas Guajardo has a sinister scheme to destroy the United States.

The latest Caitlin Strong thriller (see Strong Vengeance and Strong at the Break) is a terrific action-packed tale starring a courageous fifth generation Texas Ranger and her fascinating adversary a descendent of the first generation drug cartel chieftain. Though the transitions between chapters feel misplaced, readers will enjoy this strong fast-paced entry includes fascinating Ranger and drug cartel intertwined history supporting the contemporary intertwined real and cyber war.

Harriet Klausner

Murder On The Rocks-Allyson K. Abbott

August 11, 2013

Murder On The Rocks
Allyson K. Abbott
Kensington, Aug 6 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9780758280152

In Milwaukee, following the murder of her widower father ten months ago, Mackenzie Dalton inherited his Mack’s Bar. Thirtyish, “Little Mack” lives above her bar. Thus before her coffee, Mack goes out to toss the trash but finds a corpse next to the dumpster in the alley behind the bar. The cops answer her 911 call. MPD detective Duncan Albright questions Mack who explains her senses are wired differently due to her being a synesthesia. Taking her neurological explanation seriously, Duncan shows her a photo of the victim; stunning Mack as that is her late father’s girlfriend Ginny Rifkin

Although Mack is the obvious suspect, Duncan believes the two homicides in the alley are related and knows the bar owner loved her dad. They team up trying to solve the case while her regulars also make inquiries as they rally around their Little Mack.

The first Mack’s Bar Mystery is a super whodunit due to the unique heroine whose descriptions of synesthesia is concise yet vivid and helps with the case. Her relationship with Duncan is friendly though there are hints at more to come while the support Capone Club Bucks bring brew eccentricities to the fabulous investigation(s).

Harriet Klausner

A Cold White Sun: A Constable Molly Smith Mystery-Vicki Delany

August 10, 2013

A Cold White Sun: A Constable Molly Smith Mystery
Vicki Delany
Poisoned Pen, Aug 6 2013, $24.95
ISBN 9781464201608

In Trafalgar, British Columbia, someone murders high school teacher Cathy Lindsay while she walked her dog Spot. Assisted by Constable Molly Smith, Detective Sergeant John Winters leads the homicide investigation into finding out why a sniper shot and killed a seemingly boring mother of two and married to one who taught English to bored students.

Thus the cops look closer into the personal life of the victim and find a mess as Ms. Lindsay was a serial cheater going from one lover to another and suffered from unrequited love for a math teacher with Special Forces experience. Winters tracks down the husband Ralph away in Victoria on a business trip but finds him with a lover. Meanwhile Molly meets and is attracted to Adam Tocek. Smith and Winters soon fear that the assassin had no personal interest whatsoever in the victim except for the kill and randomly will murder again if not stopped.

The latest Constable Molly Smith police procedural (see Among the Departed, Valley of the Lost and Negative Image) is an exhilarating investigative whodunit that grips the audience as several suspects surface. Fast-paced, readers will enjoy this entry though the resolution proves reality is not necessarily interesting.

Harriet Klausner

Jump the Gun: An Annabelle Starkey Mystery-Zoe Burke

August 10, 2013

Jump the Gun: An Annabelle Starkey Mystery
Zoe Burke
Poisoned Pen, Aug 6 2013, $24.95
ISBN 9781464201639

Annabelle Starkey loves shoes, hats and old movies as she is Joan Cusack sidekick loser in Working Girl. At a book convention in Chicago, she meets film aficionado Mickey Paxton, who makes Annabelle feels she landed the lead female role in the Sea of Love. Mickey persuades Annabelle to stay with him at the Royal Opal Resort in Vegas.

In Vegas, his Richard Gere (Pretty Woman) acts more like Johnny Depp in Public Enemies. When he rushes down to the lobby, Goober the goon with a gun invades their room and grabs Annabelle. She escapes and is on the run with Paxton. When she learns someone murdered her friend Cassie while she was house and cat-sitting with Bonkers in Annabelle’s San Francisco home, she feels guilt.

Annabelle with her movie references makes for an appealing zany protagonist who changes from the sidekick to the lover to the damsel in distress in this enjoyable screwball comedy. Although the mystery never gels beyond madcap, readers will enjoy Annabelle’s “awful” awesome adventure.

Harriet Klausner

Downtown Strut: An Edna Ferber Novel-Ed Ifkovic

August 10, 2013

Downtown Strut: An Edna Ferber Novel
Ed Ifkovic
Poisoned Pen, Aug 6 2013, $24.95
ISBN 9781464201554

In 1927 Manhattan, playwright Edna Ferber knows this is her season as she has two productions opening on wintry Broadway. Just after Christmas, Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern have provided a musical version of Show Boat; the following night Jed Harris’ production of her collaboration with George Kauffman, The Royal Family opens in spite of the potential law suit by raging Ethel Barrymore.

Through Waters Turpin, the teenage son of her black housekeeper, Ferber has met several talented black writers and performers who are keys to the Harlem Renaissance; she helps them break the previously white only ceiling. When she finds the corpse of Roddy Parsons, who she got a part in the Show Boat chorus, in his Harlem apartment, Ferber connects the deceased young man with Harris, who denies knowing him or any other of the black artists. Ferber soon uncovers proof that many of the Negros involved in the Harlem Renaissance detested Harris and Parsons, but not which one’s venom led to murder.

The latest Edna Ferber historical amateur sleuth (see Escape Artist and Make Believe) is an enjoyable period piece that brings to life New York City in late December 1927. The whodunit is fun and the look into the Harlem Renaissance and the Ferber Broadway season engaging with tidbits like Show Boat’s Negro Chorus breaking a glass ceiling of whites only. Although the relationship between Ferber and Harris becomes confusing as she bounces back and forth between attraction and loathing (which seems real but difficult to follow), readers will appreciate this 1920s mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Multiple Exposure-Ellen Crosby

August 9, 2013

Multiple Exposure
Ellen Crosby
Scribner, Aug 6 2013, $25.00
ISBN: 9781451659283

Her husband Nick Canning, an undercover operative with connections to the government alphabet soup agencies, vanishes as reported by the major London newspapers. His worried wife globetrotting photojournalist Sophie Medina waited in England for his return for a few months before she finally goes back to D.C. where she finds their home a bloody mess. Once the CIA is finished interviewing her, she plans to bury herself within her vocation. However, the Agency says Nick killed his boss Colin Crowne of Crowne Energy and stole some valuable logs; he was last seen in Moscow.

Currently, Sophie works a shoot of Faberge eggs at the National Gallery of Art loaned by Russian owner of Arkneft, Arkday Vasiliev, who confronts Sophie as to the whereabouts of her missing spouse. Soon afterward a murder has Sophie reassessing her situation as she realizes domestic and foreign espionage agencies has her under total surveillance while the cloak and dagger world seek Nick.

While Virginia Wine Country vineyard owner and amateur sleuth Lucie Montgomery enjoys her vintage, Ellen Crosby begins the Sophie Medina mystery series. Sophie is a terrific protagonist who holds the entertaining storyline together as the focus of several dangerous federal and foreign governmental agencies, and corrupt individuals hunt her missing husband. Although the villains are over the top of the Washington Monument, readers will relish this engaging thriller as Sophie learns that blood and oil mix.

Harriet Klausner

Shoot The Dog-Brad Smith

August 9, 2013

Shoot The Dog
Brad Smith
Scribner, Aug 6, 2013, $22.00
ISBN: 9781439197561

In the Woodstock area of Upstate New York, farmer Virgil Cain breaks in his two new Percheron plow horses Bob and Nelly. At the same time at the bistro in Woodstock, actress Olivia Burns meets with producer Sam Sawchuck to discuss the filming of Frontier Woman in which the former will play the lead. Sam explains her second choice as director Robb Fetterman will make the movie for her and her husband Levi Brown.

The producers hire Ben and Nelly at $500 a day; but though he needs the cash Virgil soon regrets his decision as the crew makes the money not worth his time while local casino owner Ronnie Red Hawk invests in the movie. When someone murders Olivia, Virgil’s lover police officer Claire Marchand investigates; but the killer has a second act starring the farmer and tweener child star Georgia.

The latest Virgil Cain mystery (see Red Means Run and Crow’s Landing) is an exciting whodunit in which overall the locals and Georgia are good people; while Hollywood (too sleazy) and Ronnie are amoral slugs. The leisurely-paced storyline is fun to read as the Gary Cooper hero learns that WC Fields was right to “never work with animals or children” since Georgia and Bob steal the show.

Harriet Klausner

Cat in an Alien X-Ray-Carole Nelson Douglas

August 8, 2013

Cat in an Alien X-Ray
Carole Nelson Douglas
Forge, Aug 6 2013, $24.99
ISBN 9780765327482

Huckster Silas T. Farnum persuades reluctant public relations expert Temple Barr to take him and his soon to be completed (on the Strip) Area 54 as a client. She has doubts as the man seems more a Wizard of Oz con artist than a showman. However, Farnum insists he has legitimate proof that ET arrived. Instead two human corpses are found at the Area 54 construction site.

While Temple deals with her flamboyant new client, her fiancé Matt Devine conceals that he counsels serial killer Kitty the Cutter. Temple’s ex-lover Max Kinsella comes back to Vegas though his memory remains spotty at best as he seeks Kitty. However, as his burden in life is to keep his beloved pet Temple safe, Midnight Louie and his purr-ball mates work the case of an alien species invading his tail-space.

The latest Midnight Louie Mystery (see Cat in a White Tie and Tails) is fabulous feline frolic with intriguing science fiction elements enhancing the engaging investigative storyline. The major human triangular subplots move forward, while Louie meets ET.

Harriet Klausner

Beyond the Bridge-Tom MacDonald

August 7, 2013

Beyond the Bridge
Tom MacDonald
Oceanview, Aug 6 2013, $26.95
ISBN 9781608090907

In Dorchester, someone crucified accused pedophile Father Axholm. A week later, another accused pedophile Father Barboza was nailed to a pier on the Boston side of the Charles. The Archdiocese struggles with the media frenzy; while the press relishes covering the avenging killer.

Barboza’s brother, mute and deaf Blackie arrives at Saint Jude Thaddeus Parish in Charlestown to ask alcoholic Dermot Sparhawk, who runs a food pantry there, to find his brother’s killer and prove his sibling was not a child molester. Sparhawk says the police investigate the homicides and he has no experience whatsoever; but Blackie insists money talks to cops. He prefers the ex-Boston College football player make inquiries. When two more priests die, a reluctant Sparhawk starts his probe.

The prequel to The Charlestown Connection is an engaging amateur sleuth as the protagonist stumbles and fumbles his first case but keeps on charging ahead. Fast-paced, readers will appreciate Sparhawk putting together his offensive line consisting of his Micmac cousin Harraseeket Kid and his paraplegic former BC mate Buck Louis, but not accept insiders joining the rookie’s squad. Still fans will appreciate Sparhawk’s tour of Boston as he searches for a serial executioner killing priests named as pedophiles.

Harriet Klausner