Archive for December, 2013

The Past And Other Lies-Maggie Joel

December 12, 2013

The Past And Other Lies
Maggie Joel
Felony & Mayhem, Dec 7 2013, $14.99
ISBN: 9781937384753

In 1981, sixteen year old Charlotte Denzel quietly takes a chair from the kitchen into her upstairs bedroom with none of her family noticing. On her tippy toes, Charlotte stands on the chair while knotting a school tie around the ceiling light fitting and another around her neck. While Charlotte’s younger brother Graham and her parents eat, her older sister Jennifer goes to get her to join them. Jennifer cuts them saving her sibling’s life but thinking how to explain the waste of ties to their parents. Later Charlotte denies this happened while Jennifer insists it occurred.

In 1924, the sisters’ grandmother Bertha is planning to meet Mr. Ronnie Booth in Hyde Park, but someone told her angry father. She thinks it must be her friend Elsie as her sister Jemima did not know of her rendezvous and Ronnie would not have told anyone. Jemima calms their dad by agreeing to chaperone Bertha. In 1926, Jemima gives birth to Ronnie’s baby while raging Bertha seethes over her sibling’s betrayal.

In 1945 Caroline goes to visit her boyfriend Clive, but her sister Deirdre tells their mom who follows her. When her mom is trapped in Nazi-bombed rubble, Caroline realizes her dad wants his wife to die.

Focusing primarily on sisterly relationships between three generations from the same family, this brilliant drama comes across as an interrelated thought-provoking tri-story saga. The powerful premise is based on relativity re how each interprets the critical personal events that cleverly keeps the readers shifting who we emphasize with as new interpretation of the facts and lies surface.

Harriet Klausner

The Vintage Club-Darin Gibby

December 12, 2013

The Vintage Club
Darin Gibby
Koehler Books, Dec 1 2013, $18.95
ISBN: 9781938467653

Reggie Alexander knows he comes a long way from his impoverished life as a DC orphan thanks to affluent Walter and Sherri Trudell who gave him shelter and sustenance from the street violence as one of their “projects”. Now married with a wife and son in Rockville, Reggie takes the o-dark commute to his work in Washington as a bureaucrat at the Patent Office.

Reggie’s safe family façade collapses when someone murders Walter; as the philanthropist’s associates at the Vintage Club believe he killed his savior. Not long afterward, Reggie’s wife and son vanish while he goes into hiding to avoid the assaults on him that emotionally take him back to his brutal childhood before the rescue. What Reggie is unaware of is that the Vintage Club members seek the Last Supper wine of immortality and think he killed Walter for it.

This Brownian thriller is an action-packed tale that removes a young man from his heavenly middle class existence and places him in hell with the return of his childhood PTSD; turning Reggie into an unconfident David facing presumptuous billionaire Goliaths. Though transitions are choppy (hazard of first books), fast-paced with fascinating interpretations from the bible, fresh use of customized nanotechnology, insight into patent law, and child trauma haunting the adult; readers will relish this engaging novel.

Harriet Klausner

Electra-Kerry Greenwood

December 11, 2013

Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen, Dec 3 2013, $24.95
ISBN 9781464202131

The long war is finally over with the destruction of Troy although the surviving losers secretly begin construction of a new city. Many like Hector paid the price with their lives; others like Cassandra the seer have become prisoners; and some like weary Odysseus are unable to go home to Ithaca as puppets manipulated by the Gods venture on another quest.

To the victors go the glory thinks elated King of Men Agamemnon as he sails home to Mycenae. However, his years away has led to his wife Queen Clytemnestra seeking comfort with Aegisthus, nephew child murdering Atreus, and not wanting her liege back in her life to take away her power accrued in his absence. One of their daughters Electra sees how much her mother prefers her father go back to war. When Clytemnestra kills Agamemnon, Electra expected the spousal murder and vows to avenge her sire’s death; though has an even more powerful reason to assassinate her mother the Queen.

The final Delphic Women Greek mythology (see Cassandra and Medea) is a superb retelling of Electra that brings freshness by the title character having a viable second motive to commit royal murder and a fascinating where are the winners and losers now that the fighting ended. Readers will appreciate this strong rendition (and trilogy) as Kerry Greenwood provides a fabulous mythos.

Harriet Klausner

Death By Misadventure-E.E. Smith

December 11, 2013

Death By Misadventure
E.E. Smith
Phoenix International, Nov 16 2013, $3.99
ISBN: 9780989935609

In 1947, War Widow Alexis J Smith is late for work as a conductor of “Discreet Inquiries because she learned of the blood splattered on two floors of the building where her office is. When she finally arrives, Lexie’s secretary Sandy tells her boss that she has a client with apparently plenty of money waiting for her. Mrs. Kate Farraday offers the sleuth a lot of cash to find her missing husband Frank who vanished a year ago with their baby Daisy and a lot more if she kills him. Lexie is taken aback as she failed to recognize Mrs. Farraday until the woman said she is her 1941 Sacramento High School friend Katie O’Toole and Frank is the boy Lexie loved six years ago.

Believing Kate’s tale of woe is false and fearing her old buddy will find a gun for hire, Lexie decides to locate Frank in London to warn him of his mad mate’s murderous plot. In England, Lexie obtains help from Harry of “The Yard” as she locates Frank at haunted Old Vicarage Inn with Kate trailing the American gumshoe.

This opening act is a terrific historical mystery in which E.E. Smith captures the dreams of high school seniors a few months before Pearl Harbor and life in California and mostly London after WWII ended. Although minor I could not accept Lexie failing to recognize her BFF Katie even with an affluent make-over. Still readers will enjoy spending the 1940s with the heroine as our guide to post-war England, which enhances an excellent investigation made stronger by vivid flashbacks and a stunning twisted motive.

Harriet Klausner

Covenant with Hell: A Medieval Mystery-Priscilla Royal

December 10, 2013

Covenant with Hell: A Medieval Mystery
Priscilla Royal
Poisoned Pen, Dec 3 2013, $24.95
ISBN 9781464201950

In 1277 Prioress Eleanor and Brother Thomas leave Tyndal on a pilgrimage to the shrines of Walsingham Priory. Just after they arrive in East Anglia, Thomas finds the corpse of the prioress of Ryehill Sister Roysia. She obviously fell from the priory’s bell tower but in her hand is a piece of torn cloth.

As word spreads that a nun committed suicide and with rumors of King Edward I coming to pray for God to declare his pending invasion of Wales as holy, Prioress Ursell wants to avoid scandal so she quickly states Sister Roysia’s death as an accident. However that cloth Roysia grasped leads Thomas and Eleanor to conclude it came from the person who pushed the prioress from the tower as she grabbed on to it to keep from falling. As they investigate, the two pilgrims soon find evidence that an assassin plots to kill the monarch.

The latest Brother Thomas and Prioress Eleanor medieval mystery (see A Killing Season and Sanctity of Hate) is a great historical investigative thriller as late thirteenth century royal (secular) and religious England comes alive. The super inquiry by the protagonists and taut suspense make Covenant with Hell one of the best entries in this strong series.

Harriet Klausner

Leave Tomorrow Behind-Judy Clemens

December 8, 2013

Leave Tomorrow Behind
Judy Clemens
Poisoned Pen, Dec 3 2013, $24.95
ISBN 9781464202049

Bucks County, Pennsylvania veterinarian Carla Beaumont insures the safety of the animals at the annual 4-H county fair. Assisting the vet with her endeavor is her friend dairy farmer Stella Crowne who arrives with her fiancé Nick, an MS sufferer. Stella hopes the fair will allow her a respite from Nick’s pushy sister Miranda demanding to host the wedding of the century for them.

Following a concert starring country-western performer Rikki Raines, Stella watches the female singer and Mr. Gregg argue. Since Stella also exchanged heated words with Gregg over his daughter’s animal entries, she commiserates with Raines. Not much later, Stella uncovers Raines’ corpse in a pile of manure. Not trusting the police to conduct a thorough investigation especially since their not so subtle inclination is to go after the person who found the body and having solved homicide cases before (see Different Paths); Stella makes inquiries into the murder of the singer.

The latest Crowne amateur sleuth (see THE DAY WILL COME) is an engaging whodunit as eccentric Stella remains an extremely opinionated judge and executioner based on her first impressions. Her snap judgments often lead her into mistaken conclusions and fabulous red herrings for readers. Miranda adds comic relief at the same Stella being Stella (with a nod to Manny) works the case her way.

Harriet Klausner

Reel Stuff-Don Bruns

December 7, 2013

Reel Stuff
Don Bruns
Oceanview, Dec 3 2013, $26.95
ISBN 9781608090969

At the filming of a TV episode of Deadline Miami, Moore or Less Investigations Skip Moore and James Lessor work as guards. In the hot Miami sun, over the objections of director Randy Roberts, actor Jason Londell rejects the use a stuntman. He leaps off scaffolding as scripted only to splatter as not scripted to his death.

Jason’s upset costar Ashley Amber claims the late actor loved her and insists his wife Juliana killed him. Ashley hires Moore or Less Investigations to determine whether Juliana murdered her beloved though the sleuths believe the victim died in a horrible accident or a suicide; still she is a paying client, so they take the case. James remains in Miami to monitor the investigation and seek clues amongst the show. Skip and his girlfriend Emily Minard travel to Hollywood with her pretending to be a wannabe hoping that Juliana the agent takes her on as a client. Em proves that besides brains and beauty, she can act as she becomes an overnight star.

The latest Stuff mystery (see Hot Stuff and Too Much Stuff) is an amusing murder mystery as the two stooges cause separate havoc in Miami and Hollywood with the California setting as the prime locale once they split up. The investigation is fun but thin while fans of the Stuff duo will enjoy their cross America antics and the homage to movies and TV shows.

Harriet Klausner

The Missing Dough-Chris Cavender

December 5, 2013

The Missing Dough
Chris Cavender
Kensington, Dec 3 2013, $24.00
ISBN 9780758271549

Like many residents of Timber Ridge, North Carolina, A Slice of Delight Pizza Parlor sibling owners Eleanor Swift and Maddy Spencer prepare for the town’s annual Founders Day Festival. However, Maddy’s ex-husband Grant Whitmore arrives on the day of the popular gala. He claims he came to town to win back his former wife. As if affirming his seriousness of achieving his goal, at the festival Grant assaults Maddy’s fiancé Bob Lemon.

That same night, someone stabs Grant to death. Police chief Kevin Hurley suspects Bob killed Grant. The sisters refuse to accept Hurley’s premise that Bob committed murder so they begin to investigate only to find a horde with motives (including Maddy with two powerful incentives).

The sixth Pizza Lovers amateur sleuth (see Killer Crust and Rest in Pizza) is a delightful regional whodunit as the sisters and readers learn that there are plenty of people with strong reasons to kill Grant. Series fans will enjoy this entry as once again Chris Cavender provides a fabulous Tarheel whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Staged to Death-Karen Rose Smith

December 5, 2013

Staged to Death
Karen Rose Smith
Kensington, Dec 3 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9780758284846

In Kismet, Pennsylvania, thirty-two year old realtor Caprice DeLuca works with wealthy clients staging a for sale home with a theme. Her open house productions are events catered by her sister Nikki.

Her current assignment is turning her friend Roz Winslow’s mansion into a Camelot castle. However, Roz’s husband Ted refuses to cooperate in ridding the place of clutter like all the swords and daggers in his antiques weapons collection room. During the gala, Caprice observes Ted kissing a woman. Unsure what to do, her indecision becomes meaningless when Caprice and Roz find Ted’s corpse with an antique dagger protruding from his back. Realizing the police focus on Roz as the prime person of interest, Caprice looks to prove her friend is innocent; though that may mean identifying the killer.

The first Caprice De Luca mystery is an enjoyable amateur sleuth with a Cecil Demille size cast including the heroine’s supportive family; as the queen of family romantic dramas, Karen Rose Smith, brings her upbeat uniqueness to the amateur sleuth sub-genre. Character-driven with several suspects and a town that cares, readers will relish Caprice’s complex case as the home designer stages her initial investigation.

Harriet Klausner

The Tunnel-.D. Tooley

December 2, 2013

The Tunnel
S.D. Tooley
Full Moon Publishing, Dec 1 2013, $26.00
ISBN: 9780988868335

Several months have passed since Chasen Heights Police Detective Jake Casey died in an explosion. His wife Sam barely functions as she struggles with her grief though she tries her best with their toddler Dillon. She no longer uses her gift to assist the cops on cases by communicating with the dead or touching objects the killer held; nor does she go anywhere with her persistent BFF Jackie.

Since his mom died, six-year-old Nemo lives alone in an abandoned building. He ignores his late mom’s warning to never enter the tunnels in the sub-basement. There he encounters a severely abused drugged man locked up like a dangerous convict. The lad brings fresh food and water to the prisoner. When Nemo takes fruit from Sam’s mom Abby, her friend Alex Red Cloud pursues the child observing his hideaway. Alex enters the building and finds Nemo’s mom dead. He anonymously calls the cops who identify her as addict Coralee Adams shot dead by Jake’s gun. Feeling a purpose, Sam sets out to learn what happened to her beloved spouse in his final hours when he went for coffee after losing the coin flip to his partner only instead of returning to the precinct he journeyed alone into death.

This Sam Casey paranormal investigative tale is a fresh entry due to the despairing protagonist behaving hopelessly rather than her usual competent self (see Restless Spirit and When The Dead Speak) as her grief overwhelms her in spite of the efforts from caring family and friends. Although a nepotistic appointed cop adds humorous realism, he feels like a distraction from what we readers (and the heroine) want to know: what happened to Jake and why.

Harriet Klausner