Archive for January, 2014

Nantucket Sawbuck-Steven Axelrod

January 18, 2014

Nantucket Sawbuck
Steven Axelrod
Poisoned Pen, Jan 7 2014, $24.95
ISBN 9781464200878

On Nantucket Island, Preston Lomax draws up a long list including his wife and children as to who wanted him dead and who will shortly join that parade. Three weeks later, his daughter finds his corpse in his eyesore Mcmansion. Massachusetts State Police Detective Lonnie Fraker claims jurisdiction as this is a capital crime, but new resident Chief of Police Henry Kennis stays actively involved. The homicide investigation surfaces many suspects; as his family loathed him for his abuse of them; and every islander and many on Wall Street had a strong motive to kill Lomax who was in major debt and allegedly ready to default by vanishing.

Fraker solves the screwdriver stabbing murder by arresting David Treizize. However, Kennis’ gut from years working homicide in L.A. tells him they locked up the wrong person. Following his feelings, he continues the inquiry though alienating many locals who demand case closed and the State who threatens to destroy him.

The fabulous first Kennis Nantucket police procedural is a strong whodunit that brings to life the island in a vivid though not always complementary way. Although transitions at times come across unsmooth, readers will appreciate this taut, fast-paced yet character driven murder mystery.

Harriet Klausner

An Air of Treason-P. F. Chisholm

January 18, 2014

An Air of Treason
P. F. Chisholm
Poisoned Pen, Jan 7 2014, $24.95
ISBN 9781464202209

In 1592, the Queen ignoring the advice of Mistress Thomasina de Paris directs the woman to order Deputy Warden of the West March Sir Robert Carey to investigate a death that occurred just after he was born in 1560; he must resolve the cold case before the Queen enters Oxford. Though there was a year-long inquiry thirty-two years ago just after Amy Dudley tumbled down stairs to her death, that probe found no evidence of homicide but Elizabeth like many believes the wife of deceased Robert Dudley was murdered.

Robert prefers to avoid this mess because he knows whatever he does is dangerous to his well-being especially since the late Widower Dudley was a special suitor of Her Highness, making the Royal a prime suspect. As he begins his investigation Robert finds clues that imply murder and imply his father was part of a conspiracy. While his dedicated guard Sergeant Henry Dodd vanishes, an unknown adversary poisons Carey with belladonna; leaving him blind with no time to heal.

The latest Robert Carey Elizabethan mystery is a great entry in a strong historical series (see A Famine of Horses and A Murder of Crows) with a current focus on the investigation by a real person into actual mysterious death of Amy Dudley. Fast-paced throughout with the spin that Dodd has his own exciting subplot; P.F. Chisholm provides another entertaining late sixteenth century whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

The Ascendant-Drew Chapman

January 17, 2014

The Ascendant
Drew Chapman
Simon & Schuster, Jan 7 2014, $25.00
ISBN: 9781476725888

Twenty-six year old Garrett Reilly lives in two states: anger at the world and being high. He is also Wall Street’s top bond trader because he quickly recognizes number patterns that no one else notices. He informs his boss at Jenkins & Altshuler, Avery Bernstein that the Chinese are selling off two hundred billion dollars of treasuries bought twelve years ago through Dubai-based Al Samir trading house by an unknown client. Garrett explains their plan to flood the market with debt and destroy the dollar. He further tells Avery they also can make a fortune on this.

DIA overhears Avery’s call to Treasury re Chinese selling of American debt. Major General Kline sends Captain Alexis Truffant, who insisted the Chinese declared war in a type never seen before, to test if Garrett is the Ascendant. In minutes, Garrett identifies who she is and why she seeks him out; except he hates the military since his brother died in combat in Afghanistan. DIA places hostile Garrett in charge of the modern day Cold War operations using market manipulation as the WMDs.

With a nod to the TV show Numb3rs but on a global scale, The Ascendant is a tense thriller that grips readers from the moment Garrett reads the pattern and never slows down as actions affirms his distrust of both sides in the monetary war. The protagonist is a fascinating antihero ironically placed in the position of saving a world he loathes by those he detests. Although the motive for the Chinese actions seem over the top of the Great Wall, readers will appreciate this action-packed tale as the latest “War to End All Wars” fought by a different set of numbers.

Harriet Klausner

Sentinel’s Choice-Michael E. Witzgall

January 17, 2014

Sentinel’s Choice
Michael E. Witzgall
CME Publishing, Dec 12 2013, $13.95
ISBN: 9780615938905

In Dallas, a serial killer targets religious leaders. Assigned to lead the investigation is DPD CAPERS/Homicide Unit Sergeant Detective Renee LaFleet. A Marine Force Reconnaissance Officer veteran, Ren quickly concludes this case may prove tougher than his combat experience in Iraq as the body count mounts by a perp who knows what he or she is doing.

As he begins to see the pattern emerge, Ren fears his BFF, retired Navy SEAL turned Catholic priest Father Richard Shannon, may be the culprit. What eludes Ren is why and how to prove his buddy Rick has become an avenging angel when even the cop disbelieves his own assertion and circumstantial evidence that someone he has known for so long could be this murdering bringer of death.

Sentinel’s Choice is an exhilarating police procedural that grips the reader from the surprising prologue to the stunning climax. Ren is a terrific protagonist who refuses to accept his own theory as his mind stubbornly insists no way leading to his rejecting what his senses insist is the truth. With a great twisting finish to a strong investigation, fans will relish Michael E. Witzgall’s refreshing serial killer novel.

Harriet Klausner

Hunting Shadows-Charles Todd

January 17, 2014

Hunting Shadows
Charles Todd
Morrow, Jan 21 2013, $25.99
ISBN 9780062237187

In 1920 in East Anglia, someone, shooting from a distance, murders Captain Hutchinson as he enters Ely Cathedral to attend the fashionable wedding of his cousin, and soon after kills Tory Parliament candidate Herbert Swift as he began a campaign speech. Two weeks after the Hutchinson murder, the local police make no progress on the homicides so ask Scotland Yard to investigate.

Inspector Ian Rutledge takes over the inquiry with little substantiated information and the case somewhat cold. He knows that most likely the same sniper killed both men and a woman insists she witnessed the Swift killing by what she strongly claims is a monster. As Rutledge ties the killings to the Great War, he fears his own combat issues will explode his brains if the adversary does not do it first.

Team Todd has written one of the best Inspector Rutledge historical police procedurals in the strong long running series (see Proof of Guilt). The protagonist struggles with PTSD, customized to his combat experiences (with Hamish) and his overall demeanor, while working a case that accentuates his inner demons. Readers will appreciate this taut whodunit that brings to life the still timely (with present day veteran and military suicide rate much greater than the rest of the public) unintended consequences of war on the soldiers after the hostilities between nations end; but never for those who served at the front.

Harriet Klausner

Blotto, Twinks and the Bootlegger’s Moll-Simon Brett

January 16, 2014

Blotto, Twinks and the Bootlegger’s Moll
Simon Brett
Felony & Mayhem, Jan 7 2014, $14.95
ISBN: 9781937384920

Due to plumbing at their Tawcester Towers, the Lyminster Family is in financial trouble; besides more important the noisy pipes and flooding (even a Gainsborough took a drenching) drive the Dowager Duchess crazy. She assesses their assets and decides the best bet is marrying her handsome but dumb son Deveraux AKA Blotto to a wealthy American as doltish as her male offspring for paying to enter the aristocracy.

Thus his Mater exiles Blotto, accompanied to keep him on mission by his brilliant beautiful sister Twinks, to Chicago for him to wed Mary, the heiress daughter of meat-packing magnate Luther P. Chapstick III. Furthermore, Mater explains to her son he will live in the States with his in-laws and wife as they are unacceptable in her England. However, Mr. Chapstick makes demands that the Duchess arranges a party filled with blue bloods or his daughter marries someone else. Twinks realizes that Chapstick is wealthy from his illegal activities, but she knows Blotto must marry Mary and the mob or face a more dangerous foe their Mater.

The latest Blotto and Twinks 1920s English drama (see Blotto, Twinks And The Dead Dowager Duchess and Blotto, Twinks And The Ex-King’s Daughter) is an engaging satire that lampoons mysteries and rigid social mores. Though the behavior of the matrimonial dealmakers is over the top of the Willis Tower as stereotypes of a mobster and a monetary strapped aristocrat (albeit their discussions are inanely amusing), readers will appreciate the Bootlegger’s tale.

Harriet Klausner

The House On The Cliff-Charlotte Williams

January 16, 2014

The House On The Cliff
Charlotte Williams
Bourbon Street Books/HarperCollins, Jan 7 2014, $14.99
ISBN: 9780062284570

Actor Gwydion Morgan finds his anxiety attacks destroying his career and perhaps his life as he considers suicide to end his anguish. Desperate to overcome his phobia of buttons before he takes a final curtain call, Gwydion turns to Welsh psychotherapist Jessica Mayhew for help. Jessica finds her patient’s mental trauma fascinating as the actor’s freezing in abject fear from koumpounophobia and is prepared to end his misery by death. She investigates his family past and present and learns his au pair as a child drowned in a strange accident.

Jessica’s home life is in shambles as her rebellious teenage daughter is nasty towards her and her spouse admits to sleeping with someone else. Upset Jessica considers an unprofessional relationship with Gwydion and his renowned father director Evan Morgan.

The House on the Cliff is a wonderful psychological suspense that is at its best when the focus is on the therapist or her patient in conjunction with each other or with their respective families. The amateur sleuthing subplot detracts from an otherwise strong relationship drama starring a deep lead and a fully developed supporting cast.

Harriet Klausner

Dying to Know-TJ O’Connor

January 15, 2014

Dying to Know
TJ O’Connor
Midnight Ink, Jan 8 2014, $14.99
ISBN: 9780738739502

In Frederick County, Virginia working late hours for days with his partner Bear Braddock, police detective Oliver Tucker feels good about being home asleep for a change with his wife Angela, a university archeology professor. When she wakes him up having heard a noise, he investigates only someone shoots him. Oliver realizes he is dead and the only one who sees him as a ghost is their dog Hercule. He assumes he remains on earth to find his killer though his memory is porous.

Bear and the rest of the cops assume the murder of one of them is tied to a killing last week of a security guard Oliver and his partner were investigating. To forget temporarily, grieving Angela works her consulting assignment at a development site where bones were found that stopped the project until she can ascertain its historical significance. As Oliver makes contact with his Angel, he begins to suspect his best friend Bear might be involved with his wife and perhaps his murder since his partner of fifteen years acts strange. Still with the help of Angel and other ghosts, Oliver works the case, which expands from just finding his killer but also keeping his beloved safe and helping restless spirits.

The first Gumshoe Ghost Mystery is an entertaining paranormal whodunit with a strong investigation, a super late twist and a deep cast led by the confused jealous Oliver. Fans will appreciate this supernatural whodunit though the bewildered mental filter of the lead ghost re relationships at times slows down the pacing of an otherwise fun tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Execution-Dick Wolf

January 15, 2014

The Execution
Dick Wolf
Morrow, Jan 7 2014, $27.99
ISBN: 9780062064851

Not long after the Mexican presidential election, someone beheads twenty-three people at the American border. Mexican Comandante Cecilia Garza recognizes the Hummingbird etching on each body as the trademark of Chuparosa the assassin. Garza concludes Chuparosa plans a major event at the United Nations Week summit in New York where her President Vargas will attend; so she heads to Manhattan.

Having dealt with Swedish jihadists coming through the porous Canadian border, NYPD Intelligence Division Detective Jeremy Fisk works security at the summit though his role is at the office. While a mass murder with decapitated bodies with etched hummingbirds occurs in Rockaway, Queens, Fisk meets Garza and learns of Chuparosa’s planned assassination of President Vargas. Though both suffer from the violent loss of loved ones and a need to cooperate, the two cops reluctantly agree to team up to not just prevent Chuparosa from causing murderous havoc at the UN and Manhattan, but to end his reign of terror permanently though neither of their agencies believe this mass killer exists.

The second Fisk police procedural (see The Intercept) is a strong thriller due to the fully developed lead triangle as readers get to know each of them; especially interesting is Garza whose motivation is her mother and sister. The fast-paced storyline is frantic as time runs out and action-packed but decelerates as the plot nears the anticipated climatic confrontation before regaining final twisting speed. Still this is a ride worth taking by genre fans.

Harriet Klausner

The Moses Virus-Jack Hyland

January 15, 2014

The Moses Virus
Jack Hyland
Taylor Trade, Jan 7 2014, $24.95
ISBN: 9781589799080

The American Academy of Rome sponsors an excavation led by Bryn Mawr College archeology professor Dr. Robert “Doc” Brown into an underground passageway at the Roman Forum that he believes leads to Nero’s Palace missing for 2000 years. Attending the dig besides Doc and his students are NYU Forensics Archeology Professor Dr. Tom Stewart and International Herald Tribune Jim Ruchet. With care and diligence, the staff lowers Doc and his assistant Eric Bowen into the hole. The pair reaches a crumbling wall which they manage to open only communications turn silent. A tug on the rope from above proves they remain tied but neither Doc or Eric pull back to show they are okay. Greg Bater goes down into the hole to find their corpses horribly twisted and moss covering them.

The autopsy states a long buried virus caused the deaths, but the official position is that a cave-in killed Doc and Eric while burying the passageway. No one believes this as journalists and shadier people stalk anyone at the dig. Fearing the virus will end up in unscrupulous hands and distrusting a private firm too interested in the virus; nor the Vatican, the Italian government and other interested nations to do the right thing to prevent a pandemic, Stewart seeks the virus to destroy it.

The Moses Virus is an exciting cautionary thriller that grips the audience once Eric enters the hole and never slows down until the climatic confrontation. Although grad student Alexandra Cellini is a strong brave female, her romantic tie to the beleaguered hero seems more of a subgenre requirement. Still readers will relish this fast-paced taut tale.

Harriet Klausner