Archive for December, 2013

Plain Murder-Emma Miller

December 29, 2013

Plain Murder
Emma Miller
Kensington, Dec 31 2013 $15.00
ISBN 9780758291721

Fifteen years ago Rachel Mast left her Old Order “Ah-mish” community in Stone Mill, Pennsylvania to go corporate. She proved very successful but never found happiness so she recently quit. Though Rachel understands she can never go back to the Old Order, she returns home with a plan to turn her quaint village into a popular tourist stop by opening the Stone Mill House Bed & Breakfast with an Amish gift shop.

Eight months ago, prominent English businessman Willy O’Day vanished without a trace. Though there is plenty of conjecture, no one except for his twin George seemed to care what happened to him. Rachel’s upset cousin Mary rushes into the gift shop needing her help as the body of Willy has been found in her dat Aaron Hostetler’s cow pasture, which makes him the prime suspect. Adhering to his faith, Aaron rejects council or defending himself in spite of his concerned niece begging him to do so. Knowing someone must defend Uncle Aaron, Rachel doning traditional garb, investigates the murder.

Plain Murder is an entertaining Amish amateur sleuth in which the focus on the heroine’s internal lifestyle schism enhances her inquiry as her relatives will only speak to her about the homicide if she adheres to specific conditions they demand of her. Though there is some sub-genre stereotyping like Rachel’s relationship with police officer Evan Parks, fans will enjoy the protagonist’s effort to keep her uncle out of prison by uncovering the identity of the killer who buried O’Day in a shallow grave on Aaron’s property.

Harriet Klausner


Hunted-Elizabeth Heiter

December 28, 2013

Elizabeth Heiter
Mira, Dec 31 2013, $14.95
ISBN 9780778315841

Working at the Virginia FBI Behavior Analysis Unit, profiler Evelyn Baine became a Fed after what happened to her BFF as a child. Her cold demeanor turns off her peers, local law enforcement and victim’s family members, but she is one of the best at solving cases so is in demand.

Evelyn currently leads the investigation into the Bakersville Burier serial killer who buries his female victims in the nearby woods leaving only their heads exposed. However, this brilliant murderer knows Evelyn pursues him and has plans to greet her with a special gravesite.

The first Evelyn Baine police procedural is an entertaining serial killer tale due in part to the unlikable unique heroine who’s colder than the tundra (think of a more clinical matter of fact than the early TV version of Kathy Reich’s Bones). There is too much explicatory telling instead of active showing and the culprit needed either more time or no time as his brief interludes feel intrusive rather than macabre fascinating. Still, fans will enjoy this cat and mouse thriller as the antagonist plans to show the protagonist who the cat and trapped mouse are.

Harriet Klausner

Zane Presents: Little White Lies-Cole Riley

December 28, 2013

Zane Presents: Little White Lies
Cole Riley
Strebor Books/Simon and Schuster, Nov 26 2013, $15.00
ISBN: 9781593095185

In Brooklyn, seventeen year old African-American Melvin is the star of his high school basketball team. He knows his future is in hoops so he avoids the neighborhood illicit action though the pressure on his succeeding is immense. However, after a particular bad stretch with a terrible court performance, his father’s condemnation and his girlfriend using him, depressed Melvin, ignoring his gut telling him not to go, attends a party.

At the party Melvin awakens from being drugged only to find blood all over him and the police accusing him of leading a gang raping of two white girls. Though he knows he did not commit the heinous assault, the police him keep hungry, frightened and depressed while his public defender fails him until Melvin cracks and confesses to the delight of the media and politician Representative Crudele whose daughter was one of the victims. In prison with no hope of getting out, Melvin tries suicide, but survives. As years pass with Melvin still behind bars, Rose the reporter looks into the case and finds major holes.

With a nod to Morris’ The Thin Blue Line, Cole Riley condemns American justice being color blind especially towards urban poor African-Americans. The tense storyline is at its best when Melvin as a victim loses when he goes up against the media-government complex and when the plot focuses on his hopeless feelings while incarcerated. Though the ending seems unlikely, readers will appreciate this profound look at being an impoverish Black facing a system that assumes his race and social class classify him with a presumption of guilt who (without assets) must prove his innocence beyond a reasonable doubt.

Harriet Klausner

Killing Cupid-Laura Levine

December 27, 2013

Killing Cupid
Laura Levine
Kensington, Dec 31 2013, $25.00
ISBN 9780758285034

When freelance author Jaine Austen received the job offer from Joy Amoroso to create a brochure and more for the latter’s Beverly Hills-based Dates of Joy matchmaking service, the writer was ecstatic with the upbeat work and the hope of finding happiness by Valentine’s Day. However, Jaine quickly becomes disillusioned with her termagant tyrant of a boss as Joy viciously rips her employees, misleads with net photos of “hired guns” (models), and makes empty promises of finding love to clients paying thousands for romance.

When Joy hosts a Valentine’s Day singles mixer, someone murders her. Jaine knows she is one of many suspects among clients, workers, family and others. Since she has had success in solving homicides (see Death by Pantyhose and Death of a Neighborhood Witch), she investigates who killed the false Cupid.

The latest Austen whodunit is an entertaining clever whodunit with an intriguing mystery somewhat distracted by too much sidebar humor including Jaine’s overindulgences. Still series fans will enjoy the heroine’s hunt for the truth (and Valentine sweets).

Harriet Klausner

Mandarin Gate-Eliot Pattison

December 24, 2013

Mandarin Gate
Eliot Pattison
Minotaur, Dec 24 2013, $25.99
ISBN 9780312656041

Former Beijing investigator Shan Tao Yun learned the hard way about being too diligent when pursuing corruption at the highest levels of the government; his reward was exile to a Tibetan gulag. Still in Tibet, which he love due to the people, Shan works alongside unregistered Buddhist monks as a government irrigation and sewer inspector.

Unofficially he thrives on protecting the Tibetans from their Chinese overlords like keeping unregistered Monk Jamyang safe from an egregious bounty hunter. To his horror Shan watches his close friend Lokesh shoots and kills Jamyang. They go to honor Jamyang by adhering to his wishes to treat every shrine as the last shrine. However Shan observes Public Security Bureau and People’s Armed Police at the site of a ruined convent. Unable to resist though he knows the consequences of his folly, Shan makes commentary on the homicide “scenes” of two mutilated males that he believes are Chinese and a shot in the chest Buddhist nun were posed together with her at their feet far from the site of their deaths. Shan knows he must solve the case before the PAP’s “green apes” viciously punish everyone in the nearby village turned into a prison camp.

The seventh Shan mystery (see Lord of Death and Prayer of the Dragon) continues to show the oppression of the Tibetan people especially when it comes to justice. Encouraged by PSB Lieutenant Meng, Shan returns to his previous occupation as he investigates the homicides but aware he must be careful with how he does so or face the reeducation wrath of Governor Colonel Tan. Readers will appreciate the protagonist’s latest albeit unofficial case.

Harriet Klausner

Zoo-James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

December 22, 2013

James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
Vision/Grand Central, Dec 17 2013, $10.00
ISBN: 9781455525157

Biologist Jackson Oz observes a growing trend in which male animals from a wide variety of species become aggressive attackers of humans. He develops the Human-Animal Conflict (HAC) hypothesis in which he ponders whether the underlying cause that has changed the behavior of even docile pets into violent aggressors could be some form of modern day technology sending out “signals”.

He heads to Africa to test his HAC theory, but upon arrival male lions charge at his vehicle with him inside. Barely escaping, Oz rescues ecologist Chloe Tousignant from dozens of attacking alligators. The two scientists try to warn the world, but leaders choose self-preservation proclaiming Oz to be a nutcase with a wacko concept. As Oz and Chloe continue their research, he modifies his theory to include animals working as a cohesive assault unit propelled by industrialization; concluding with mankind will become the hunted if radical changes don’t occur now.

After a slow unnecessary early interlude in the sack and throughout too much explanation rather than action, the environmental premise with its deniers makes for an engaging save mankind in spite of itself thriller. Oz comes across as brilliant but fickle while Chloe is never developed beyond being an adulating sexual sidekick for the hero to love and rescue. Overall Zoo is an entertaining tale that could have been a great cautionary parable.

Harriet Klausner

The Tenth Circle-Jon Land

December 22, 2013

The Tenth Circle
Jon Land
Open Road, Dec 24 2013, $16.99
ISBN 9781480414792

Black ops Blaine McCracken and Johnny Wareagle return home after successfully destroying an underground nuclear facility in Iran. However, in the States, Reverend Jeremiah Rule sprouts hatred attacks on Islam that he calls evil and blames it for everything wrong in the world. Raging with fire and brimstone, Rule encourages his supporters to take action against these wicked Muslim monsters protected by the duplicitous sinful American government.

An affluent secret cabal supports the Reverend in his fiery loathing; but is ignorant as to his plans to deploy a special weapon of mass destruction used in the late sixteenth century on Roanoke Island and in 1872 on the Mary Celeste. Blaine, Johnny and others have no time to rest on their Iranian laurels as they must prevent the Rev. from devastating the globe with his WMD.

The latest exhilarating faster than light Blaine McCracken black ops thriller (see Pandora’s Temple) uses the premise of a WMD as the cause behind the two famous historical mass disappearances. Over the top of Fenway’s Green Monster (to the delight of us fans including we Yankee rooters), readers will appreciate the efforts of Blaine and company to keep Rule from changing America and the world into a hellish Tenth Circle.

Harriet Klausner

Gone-Mallory Kane

December 20, 2013

Mallory Kane
Harlequin Intrigue, Dec 17 2013, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373697373

Two years ago in New Orleans, someone abducted infant Joshua Powers. Ever since his distraught mom Marcie sees her missing baby everywhere while the child’s depressed dad Joe, who like his mate blames himself for their baby Gone in an instant, believes his estranged wife has become unhinged. He has not seen his spouse in a year since the last time she claimed she found Joshua.

When Marcie knows again she has seen her Joshua this time in a car, she turns to skeptical Joe with the auto tag rather than the cops because he has access as he works at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Deciding to appease her while proving her wrong again, Joe is shocked when they find Joshua taken by deranged childless Rhoda Sumner who was tender and caring with the child. However, before the bereaving family can become a happy unit again, they learn that Joe is the illegitimate son of affluent Con Delancey; making Joshua the monetary target of Rhoda’s odious boyfriend Howard Lelievre.

The latest Delancey Dynasty (see Dirty Little Secrets, Special Forces Father and Star Witness) is an exciting action-packed Bayou suspense due to the powerful key cast. Readers will sympathize with the adult Powers as each separately struggles emotionally with what destroyed their family and surprisingly empathize with mentally ill Rhoda in spite of her snatching “her Joshy” while hoping she gets the help she desperately needs.

Harriet Klausner

Dead by Wednesday-Beverly Long

December 20, 2013

Dead by Wednesday
Beverly Long
Harlequin Intrigue, Dec 17 2013, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373697397

Following the death of her older brother due to gang violence, Carmen Jimenez dedicated her life to helping troubled pregnant teens. Police officer Robert Hanson investigates a serial killer targeting male teens every Wednesday for the past four weeks. He and Carmen met three months ago when she was the maid of honor and he the best man at their respective BFFs’ wedding. Their solo dance was heavenly but he wanted more and she was afraid.

A victim of bullies at high school, Carmen’s brother Raoul makes a new friend Apollo who helps him deal with his tormenters. Realizing her sibling has changed and concerned that Raoul was turning to the gangs; Carman asks Robert to be a big brother to his sibling. Though his time is limited and he rationalizes that Raoul gives him an inside to teen boys, Hanson knows he agrees because this is his chance for some time with Carmen. When she learns the dark secret her hero fails to tell her, their relationship collapses at a time the killer targets the Jimenez siblings.

This is a strong romantic police procedural that provides a deep look into the subculture of gangs especially the motives including being a bullying victim why so many join the violent lifestyle, and the impact on families by teen pregnancy. Readers will know the identity of the serial killer early on, but not care as Dead by Wednesday needs a warning label to wear seatbelts due to a faster than the speed of light storyline.

Harriet Klausner

The Fifth Assassin-Brad Meltzer

December 13, 2013

The Fifth Assassin
Brad Meltzer
Grand Central, Dec 10 2013, $10.00
ISBN: 9780446553988

National Archives archivist Beecher White became part of the Culper Ring, established by George Washington to protect the presidency, after he and his high school crush Clementine Hadrian got involved with a GW artifact (see The Inner Circle). Recently the unknown Knight has assassinated church dignitaries by copying presidential murders.

Beecher investigates the serial killings. His findings leads him to an improbable hypothesis that he and historians would have believed impossible not too long ago; the archivist concludes the four successful POTUS assassins amongst the over twenty attempts seem to have “worked” together. Additionally, Beecher assumes the current religious murders are practice for the mysterious masked wearing Knight to target the current office holder; though the archivist believes the death of the malevolent president is not necessarily a bad thing.

The second Beecher White tale (see The Inner Circle) is an exhilarating conspiratorial thriller that uses real presidential history as a critical backdrop. Although there are too many jumping in and out of subplots (especially distracting is the hero’s childhood flashbacks), readers will appreciate the adventures of the activist archivist attempting to prevent the fascinating (in a macabre way) deranged Fifth Assassin from succeeding.

Harriet Klausner