Archive for September, 2013

Death Rides The Zephyr-Janet Dawson

September 19, 2013

Death Rides The Zephyr
Janet Dawson
Perseverance Press, Sep 10 2013, $15.95
ISBN: 9781564745309

On December 22, 1952, the California Zephyr begins its scenic journey from Oakland to Chicago. The crew is top rate as the company knows how important this trip is due to a train filled with people heading east to be with family for the holidays. The trip starts off as uneventful mostly because of the dedicated crew like Zephyrette hostess Jill McLeod who diligently works on insuring the passengers are comfortable, but she begins hearing complaints about missing items and thefts.

In Colorado, a rock slide injures some on board and blocks the tracks of the eastbound transcontinental. When a murder occurs, Jill, forced out of her comfort zone, investigates only to learn of a second killing.

Death Rides the Zephyr is a wonderful historical that turns into a “locked room” amateur sleuth tale late in the entertaining storyline. Readers will feel they are on board the Zephyr as they meet the crew and passengers with their tales told like Jill became a Zephyr to keep busy after her fiancé died in Korea. Although the whodunit is well written, the detour from riding the rails to murder mystery seems unnecessary as fans will relish more the vivid descriptions of the countryside enhancing the sense of a bygone era of traveling through the west.

Harriet Klausner

The Sound and the Furry-Spencer Quinn

September 19, 2013

The Sound and the Furry
Spencer Quinn
Atria, Sep 10 2013, $25.00
ISBN: 9781476703220

The Little Detective Agency investigators Chet and Bernie meet Frenchie Boutette who the sleuths busted for defrauding disabled Vietnam veterans. Though working as a guest of the state, Frenchie hires the two detectives to find his missing brother Ralph, an inventor who apparently vanished from his Bayou home near New Orleans.

Bernie loads their car for the drive to Louisiana, but before he finishes his task, a biker assaults him with a tire iron. However Chet intercedes forcing the gangbanger to flee and crash his motorcycle; leaving the assailant dead. In the Bayou, Bernie meets the rest of the Boutette felonious family, Ralph’s friends and their adversarial criminal Robideau family; while Chet sniffs odd odors coming from the swampy water. The case looks like law-breakers from the two clans fighting over stolen shrimp, but Chet uncovers a corporate oily clue while dealing with Iko the gator wanting a taste of canine sushi

The sixth Chet and Bernie mystery (see A Fistful of Collars) is a wonderful investigative thriller told by the dog who understands English though idioms and metaphors gives him fits and at times nightmarish pictures. The case is top notch partly because Bernie finally acts somewhat competent, but as always in this delightful series Chet owns the story with his wry observations and commentary on the strangest animal on the planet: humans.

Harriet Klausner

Killer Weed-Michael Castleman

September 18, 2013

Killer Weed
Michael Castleman
MP, Sep 10 2013, $14.95
ISBN 9781849822404

Silicon Valley dot-com billionaire Gene Simons hires unemployed reporter Ed Rosenberg to investigate the summer of love Haight-Ashbury scene. Simons has a personal interest because in 1968 someone murdered his pot selling mom in Golden Gate Park.

At the same time, Ed’s wife Julie works on the mayoral campaign of Dave Kirsch, a pot dealer and author of weed growing guides. To her horror, Julie is near Dave when someone assassinates him. While Julie turns to vino to help her cloud the horrible imprint controlling her brain; Ed, in between totes, works the Kirsch murder as well as the Simons’ cold case killing, but soon finds himself the target of a killer.

The latest Ed Rosenberg mystery (see A Killing in Real Estate) is an exciting fun tale that highlights the history of the not so counter culture. Fast-paced, both homicides decades apart are cleverly plotted as Ed works on both inquiries. Like the last line of Jefferson Airplane’s classic White Rabbit, Killer Weed will “Feed your head. Feed your head.”

Harriet Klausner

Plum Deadly-Ellie Grant

September 16, 2013

Plum Deadly
Ellie Grant
Gallery, Sep 3 2013, $15.00
ISBN 9781451689556

Twelve years ago, Maggie Grady left Durham, North Carolina for Manhattan. She became successful and returned home once to attend the funeral of Uncle Fred; who with his wife Aunt Clara raised her when her parents died. Six weeks ago, her world collapsed when her boss Louis Goldberg showed her documents proving she stole three million from a client. Her firm decided not to press charges, but took all her money and values to make remittance. Maggie had enough cash to buy a one-way bus ticket home. Filled with guilt over her treatment of her family and helpless anger over being the fall guy for a crime she did not commit, Maggie works at her Aunt Clara’s Pie In The Sky restaurant while unable to obtain any banking position and also worrying about her relative’s deteriorating mental state.

Apologetic Goldberg arrives at the pie shop insisting he will name the real embezzler at a news conference tomorrow; he refuses to say who the suspect is in spite of Maggie’s pleading though she records the conversation. However, before he speaks publically, someone murders Goldberg, leaving his body blocking the shop’s back door. Durham PD Detective Frank Waters suspects Maggie as the killer especially with Clara’s “helpful” commentary and confiscates her cell as evidence. Reporter Ryan Summerour covers the homicide story, but also is attracted to Maggie.

The first Pie In The Sky culinary cozy is an enjoyable investigative whodunit. The cast is solid while the beleaguered protagonist with help from Ryan and somewhat Frank tries to prove her innocence; their discussions are wry and witty adding depth to the action-packed storyline. Readers will appreciate Team Grant’s engaging mystery and alliterating recipes.

Harriet Klausner

Project Cain-Geoffrey Girard

September 16, 2013

Project Cain
Geoffrey Girard
Simon & Schuster, Sep 3 2013, $17.99
ISBN 9781442476967

When Jeffrey Jacobson was five he was in an accident in which his mom died and his memory was negatively impacted. He has three photos of his mom and has been told for years that she loved him.

When he turned sixteen he learned the truth from his father Dr. Gregory Jacobson the geneticist. Eight years ago, Jeffrey was cloned as part of a project creating super combat soldiers from serial killers’ DNA. His “father” was not the scientist, but Jeffrey Dahmer. Before he can be transferred from his “loving” home to the installation where he was made in Dahmer’s image, Fed Castillo rescues Jeff. The serial killer’s offspring agrees to help Castillo hunt down his peers who are living up to their infamous fathers; unaware that a new deadlier diabolical Dahmer pursues them.

This taut young adult thriller uses the premise that naturing in almost all cases supersedes nurturing as the bad DNA imprint overwhelms positive life lessons; which leaves fans to wonder whether Castillo should trust Jeff to have his back and not shoot his back. My husband, who worked for the Army, says the military would not want serial killers in the service; besides being loners psychologically unfit for a cohesive unit, think of the bad PR from news media telling grieving moms that their child died from a Dahmer clone killing Americans in a friendly fire incident. Mostly told from the shocked Jeff’s perspective, teenage readers and older curious fans who have read the adult version (see Cain’s Blood) will enjoy this cautionary tale.

Harriet Klausner

Lineup-Liad Shoham

September 15, 2013

Liad Shoham
Harper, Sep 3 2013, $25.99
ISBN: 9780062237446

Twenty-four years old Adi Regev loves her life as a single in Tel Aviv. That changes when a man with a knife brutally rapes her while elderly neighbor Sarah Glazer sees the atrocity happening from her window but vows to stay out of it. Adi describes her assailant to the police. Meanwhile her raging father Yaron diligently patrols the area near his daughter’s apartment building every night seeking the animal. When he notices Ziv Nevo fits Adi’s description, he informs police inspector Eli Nachum.

The police arrest Nevo, but mishandle the Lineup. Making matters worse, the distraught Adi cannot affirm that Nevo is the psychopath who attacked her. Pressure mounts from the victim’s family, ambitious politicians, sycophant brass and unscrupulous media who demand this animal locked away regardless of the facts. Only diligent Nachum seeks the truth as he begins to believe the wrong man was arrested.

Rotating perspectives between key characters, Lineup is a fabulous Israeli Law and Order police procedural legal thriller. Character driven, readers will relish this entry as the dedicated cop swims upstream against a wide horde of strange bedfellows who care nothing about the facts only the chosen one’s unsavory past makes him the perfect fit. The irate father demands a conviction; the ambitious prosecutor wants an instant scalp; the reporter seeks a reputation while his editor sells sensationalism; the suspect hides a secret from the law; and even the mob has an interest. Fans will enjoy this taut tale as the veteran cop feels like a fossil in his search for the rapist.

Harriet Klausner

Clammed Up-Barbara Ross

September 14, 2013

Clammed Up
Barbara Ross
Kensington, Sep 3 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9780758286857

The Snowden Family Clambake business faces bankruptcy that could not only shut down the firm the late patriarch established but also force the matriarch out of her home and lose ownership of Morrow Island. Livvie and her mom know they are out of their league when it comes to finance; so they beg successful venture capitalist Julia to come home to save the family company. Only for her sister and mom, and her dad’s memory would Julia leave Manhattan for Busman’s Harbor, Maine.

Julia develops a strategic plan that reworks the loan and expands the company from its limited offering of clambake mostly to tourists to include catering events on Morrow Island over the objection of brother-in-law Sonny Ramsey. She sends notices to her friends and associates in Manhattan. This leads to the Snowden clan hosting the wedding of a Manhattan couple, Michaela Carpenter and Tony Poitras. When the best man Ray Wilson vanishes; no one especially his partner Tony is concerned as the man is a prankster. However, Julia opens Windsholme mansion; only she and the bridal party are greeted by Ray’s hanging corpse.

The first Maine Clambake Mystery is an exciting amateur sleuth tale as Julia changes from trying to save Snowden Family Clambake and their Morrow Island home through business acumen to investigating the homicide that devastated her plan. Though the motive seems difficult to accept yet very plausible, readers will enjoy this Maine Island cozy with several delicious recipes included.

Harriet Klausner

Deadly Diamonds-John F. Dobbyn

September 14, 2013

Deadly Diamonds
John F. Dobbyn
Oceanview, Sep 3 2013, $26.95
ISBN 9781608090921

In the predominantly Italian North End of Boston, on a dare from his friends, eighteen year old Kevin O’Byrne steals a car. When the driver shouts at them, the panicky Northeastern student drives the car to South Boston. Inside the trunk is a corpse with the teen’s fingerprints everywhere. Kevin’s dad Irish mafia boss Frank retains lawyer Michael Knight to free his son from a possible homicide rap. Michael and Frank know the vehicle was taken from a man in front of a Cosa Nostra restaurant; so the attorney insists the gangster drop off the car in Roxbury with the corpse still inside and he will contact the cops where it was left while Kevin goes to a safe house.

With Michael present, his partner Lex Devilin meets with his childhood friends Monsignor Matt Ryan and retired mafia Don Dominic Santangelo. Lex asks Dominic to intercede before a gang war explodes due to an idiotic teen. However, the two lawyers fail to grasp the full scope of the potential mob war as blood diamonds extracted by expendable slaves in Sierra Leone are a valuable commodity both mobs want to traffick. Additionally, Matt is accused of child molestation.

The latest Knight-Devilin legal thriller (see Frame-Up and Black Diamond) is an exciting tale that is weighed down by a Cecil de Mille size cast and the over simplified stereotyping of the criminal elements on three continents (includes a trip to Ireland). Filled with plenty of action the two lawyers and their friends try to prevent the hostilities from turning Boston bloody.

Harriet Klausner

Alex-Pierre LeMaitre; Frank Wynne (translator)

September 13, 2013

Pierre LeMaitre; Frank Wynne (translator)
MacLehose/Quercus, Sep 3 2013, $24.95
ISBN: 9781623650001

In Paris thirty year old Alex Prevost knows she has become a beautiful young woman yet has doubts about her looks as she never forgets her days as a stammering ugly teen. She notices the fiftyish male seemingly following her, as she saw him in the Metro, the street and outside a shop; but assumes she is being inanely paranoid though her nervousness about him makes her stammer.

Alex starts to walk home when a van pulls up next to her. That same man grabs her hair but pulls off her wig so she he punches her in the stomach causing her to puke before flipping her into the van and driving away. A witness walking his dog tells height deprived Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven what happened. Though he prefers the case was not his as he still grieves the abduction-murder of his wife, Camille realizes he must ignore his feelings since his only experienced peer Morel is in Lyons and knows time is running out on the victim especially when no demands from the kidnapper surfaces.

This is a terrific twisting thriller anchored by a dark description of Paris by how Camille sees the City of Lights. With two fully developed supporting cops on the lead team, readers will appreciate this exciting French police procedural as the hero, who faces constant height deficient prejudice, believes the victim is already dead.

Harriet Klausner

Dick Francis’s Refusal-Felix Francis

September 11, 2013

Dick Francis’s Refusal
Felix Francis
Putnam, Sep 3 2013, $26.95
ISBN: 9780399160813

Sid Halley had been a successful steeplechase jockey until he injured a hand when he fell during a race. He became a successful private investigator mostly working the racing circuit. With successful investments insuring he had plenty of money, Sid, fearing threats to his beloved Marina and the battering he received, took an early retirement (see Under Orders by Dick Francis).

It has been six years since he gave up his sleuthing job, Sid enjoys rusticating with Marina and their six years old daughter Saskia. British Horseracing Authority Chair Sir Richard Stewart visits Sid asking him to look into racing doping transgressions in which someone is gaming the system. Sid has mixed feelings about returning to sleuthing, but leans towards refusal until Sir Richard allegedly committed suicide by monoxide poisoning while sitting in his closed car inside his closed garage. However, he is quickly reminded as to why he left the detective game when his actions place his loved ones as well as himself in peril.

Felix Francis proves DNA matters (with hard work) as he successfully brings out of retirement his late father’s most popular character in an exciting horse racing mystery in which Sid is less confident than he once was. Fast-paced and filled with action, readers will appreciate this strong entry as like Griffey Jr. and Sr. hitting back to back homers in 1990, Refusal is a winning ticket that pays tribute to the author’s dad.

Harriet Klausner