Archive for February, 2014

Wendell Black, MD-Gerald Imber, M.D.

February 20, 2014

Wendell Black, MD
Gerald Imber, M.D.
Harper/Bourbon Street, Feb 11 2014, $14.99
ISBN 9780062246851

NYPD police surgeon Dr. Wendell Black flies home from Heathrow when the purser asks him if he is a physician and if yes show identification. After an annoyed Wendell complies, the purser escorts him to middle aged Marjorie who explains the young woman next to her began sobbing and babbling while not looking very well. As he tries to ascertain the cause, the woman suffers a seizure and dies. Later ME Chief Dr. Benson informs Wendell that his airplane she-victim is Azuk Capinpin, a genetic anatomic-he who was a mule carrying heroin inside his body when the breast implant erupted killing him with an overdose.

Farzan Byarshan, a friend of Black’s girlfriend Dr. Alice Sheppard, provides Wendell with information about the dead person on the plane, but soon is murdered too. Alice vanishes while a frantic Black, working with the Feds, investigates what begins to look more like a terrorist plot rather than illegal drug smuggling.

The first Wendell Black, MD mystery is a thrilling whodunit that hooks the audience from the opening 747 scene and the fast-paced storyline never let’s go of its grip until the final confrontation. The plot loses some believability when it veers from a police procedural into a terrorist thriller, but retains the exciting action-packed tension as readers will appreciate Dr. Gerald Imber’s entertaining tale.

Harriet Klausner

Trilemma-Jennifer Mortimer

February 19, 2014

Jennifer Mortimer
Oceanview, Feb 4 2014, $26.95
ISBN 9781608091126

American Linnet “Lin” Mere knows little about her New Zealand paternal family except that her late father, who died when she was twelve, abandoned his family and left his homeland to marry her mother. Amongst her mother’s things, Lin finds a photo of a painting “The Road to Ngatirua” by Rose Mere. She learns from the net that Rose is her deceased dad’s first wife.

Deciding to see her paternal relatives, Lin travels to Wellington. There she and her twin stepsisters meet for the first time. She soon becomes CEO of startup Hera telecommunications over the objections of her mean-spirited male rivals and also accepts the end of her beloved Ben in her life. However, as much seems to go relatively smooth, someone willing to kill wants her gone.

This “Roots” storyline is excellent when the focus is on the American trying to adapt to New Zealand society once she meets her family and at the workplace. The lethal suspense subplot detracts from the powerful character-driven look at difficult dilemmas people make to belong and to get ahead while sometimes these choices include deciding whether to abandon loved ones.

Harriet Klausner

Green Living Can Be Deadly-Staci McLaughlin

February 19, 2014

Green Living Can Be Deadly
Staci McLaughlin
Kensington, Feb 4 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780758275028

In Blossom Valley, California, O’Connell Organic Farm and Spa marketing expert Dana Lewis arranges for a Green Living Festival to showcase their products. Dana’s middle school best friend Wendy Hartford will host a booth for her carbon footprint offset firm Invisible Prints.

Another classmate Kimmie Wheeler finds the murdered corpse of Wendy in her Invisible Prints booth. Kimmie persuades a stunned Dana to investigate the homicide over the strong admonitions by lead Detective Palmer warning her to stay out, and her mother and her boyfriend reminding her of how dangerous her two previous cases (see All Natural Murder and Going Organic Can Kill You) proved. Dana uncovers the shocking truth that Invisible Prints was a fake, which angered the financial backers, and that the victim’s loved ones seem indifferent that she died.

The latest Blossom Valley cozy is an enjoyable murder mystery though the audience must accept the heroine risking her life to investigate after her previous dangerous escapades to enjoy the fun whodunit. Fast-paced, fans will appreciate Dana’s fumbling inquiry especially the amusing relationship between the heroine and her demanding “boss” Kimmie with her trimmed nostrils remaining in headquarters while the marketer works the lethal field.

Harriet Klausner

Death Of An Irish Diva-Mollie Cox Bryan

February 19, 2014

Death Of An Irish Diva
Mollie Cox Bryan
Kensington, Feb 4 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780758266330

The day after the St. Patrick’s Day gala in Cumberland Creek, Virginia, renowned Irish dancer Emily McGlashen, who gave the crowds quite a performance at the parade, is found murdered in her studio with her shoe lace around her neck. Freelance reporter Annie Chemovitz takes a leave of absence from her book she is writing on the New Mountain Order to cover the story.

The police name Vera Matthews as a major suspect as her purse was at the crime scene. Additionally Vera owns a rival dance studio that has lost most of its business since Emily opened hers up and raided her customer pool; forcing the former to live in her studio after renting out her home. Vera’s Cumberland Creek Scrapbook Club Cropper friends reject the theory she is a murderer. Led by Annie, the Croppers investigate with clues leading to nowhere until an antique scrapbook surfaces.

The latest Cumberland Creek Scrapbook Club cozy (see Scrapbook of Secrets) is an enjoyable whodunit as the Cropper crew finds many people loathing the despicable victim, but none who clearly committed the killing. Although there is similarity to Scrapped with a Cropper named as the suspect, readers will enjoy this investigation as the inquiry fails to absolve Vera until the scrapbook provides clues in another direction that Annie hopes does not end in another dismal dead end.

Harriet Klausner

A Bad Reputation-Jane Tesh

February 18, 2014

A Bad Reputation
Jane Tesh
Poisoned Pen, Feb 4 2014, $24.95
ISBN: 9781464202322

Former beauty queen Madeline Maclin works as a private detective in Celosia, North Carolina. She is happily married to former con man Jerry Fairweather, who seeks legitimate employment as he no longer wants to swindle people or take money from his affluent family.

Former resident Wendall Clarke returns to Celosia accompanied by his second wife Flora. He plans to open an art gallery in the downtown area. However, his triumphant homecoming ends when someone murders him at his gallery. Flora retains Madeline to investigate her husband’s death. The P.I. is shocked by the vast pool of people from his first wife to his second spouse’s former husbands to an angry rival to local artists wanting Wendall dead. At the same time, Honor Perkins comes to Celosia attempting to tempt Jerry away from Madeline as she wants him back as her partner.

The latest Madeline Maclin Mysteries (see A Case of Imagination, A Hard Bargain, and A Little Learning) is a wonderful regional investigation due to the antics of a fabulous eccentric cast. The Clarke case inquiry takes a back seat to these characters as marvelous Madeline deals with a horde of whimsical suspects containing strong motives and a con artist targeting her husband.

Harriet Klausner

Drowning Barbie-Frederick Ramsay

February 18, 2014

Drowning Barbie
Frederick Ramsay
Poisoned Pen, Feb 4 2014, $24.95
ISBN 9781464202162

In Picketsville, Virginia, Andy Lieux walks his dog in the woods until his canine scratches at the ground revealing a gray-green hand. At the same time the dog found the corpse of meth addict Ethyl Smut; recuperating from the deadly Scone Island case Sheriff Ike Schwartz and his new wife Ruth are enjoying Vegas having married at the Budding Rose Wedding chapel in a drunken haze.

The newlyweds return home to learn that Smut was interred on top of another body, murdered a decade ago. The prime suspect in the present day homicide is Ethyl’s teenage daughter Darla, who has a strong motive to kill her mom for pimping her for years to support her addiction. Ike concludes Darla probably did not commit the matricide, but the teen also remains a victim as those who paid for her services fear the seventeen year old will expose them.

The latest Ike Schwartz Virginia police procedural is an entertaining whodunit as the locals feels Smut deserved death but tremble at what Darla knows and might reveal without the control of her mother. Although there is too much happenchance moving the investigation along; series fans will enjoy the inquiry, the nuptials and the reactions to both in this overall lighthearted whodunit with a serious look at the impact of abuse and addiction on the young not invincible.

Harriet Klausner

Baptism-Max Kinnings

February 15, 2014

Max Kinnings
Quercus, Feb 4 2014, $24.95
ISBN 9781623651022

On Madic Farm in Snowdonia, Wales religious fanatic Tommy Denning deploys his plan to surrender to God’s will by killing Father Owen of the Church of Cruor Christi. Tommy, his even crazier sister Belle and Simeon head to South Wimbledon where they kidnap the wife and two children of George Wakeham to use as hostages in order force the subway driver to cooperate or else they will die.

During a severe heat wave that makes the London Underground an unmanageable sauna, Wakeham’s train stops between the Leicester Square and Tottenham Court Road stations while three hundred plus frightened passengers face heat stroke and imminent execution. Blind Police Detective Chief Inspector Ed Mallory tries to negotiate with the psychopath in charge. As the deaths mount, MI5 conducts a deadly lone wolf operation and officials inside air conditioned rooms take advantage of the situation to further their ambitions.

With a modern day fiery John Brown Taking of Pelham 123, Baptism is an exhilarating action-packed thriller that focuses on the danger of religious fanatics cherry picking the bible to defend their claim of doing God’s will even sacrificing the innocent like Abraham was willing to do. The key players are fascinating as each has major flaws they overcome in everyday life as George drives an underground train in spite of being a claustrophobic; Tommy is a 200 proof psychopath yet a brilliant methodical operational planner; and Ed uses his other senses to overcome his lack of sight. The two prime females (George’s wife and Tommy’s sister) are less developed but enhance, along with the support cast, this bloody look at a lethal brand of religious fanaticism.

Harriet Klausner

Miss Dimple Picks A Peck of Trouble-Mignon F. Ballard

February 14, 2014

Miss Dimple Picks A Peck of Trouble
Mignon F. Ballard
Minotaur, Feb 4 2014, $24.99
ISBN: 9781250035622

In 1944 with school out for summer in Elderberry, Georgia, first-grade teacher Miss Dimple Kilpatrick visits an orchard to pick peaches when she hears a scream. Stopping her activity immediately, Miss Dimple rushes to see if she can offer assistance to the person in distress at the Peach Shed. No one is there including teenager Prentice Blair, who was working at the Peach Shed.

Not long after the eighteen year old vanished, her corpse is found by the old mill. The murder scene is where she and her boyfriend Clay Jarrett would make out. Clay is the prime suspect as recently Prentice dumped him. “Mad Hattie” McGee insists she saw the abduction, but not considered creditable; as she is known throughout town when she is not claiming she is Scarlett for her persistence that Nazis stalk her and her insistence that she knows where buried Confederate gold is. Miss Dimple, with other teachers assisting her, investigates the homicide.

The latest Miss Dimple WWII amateur sleuth (see Miss Dimple Suspects a Mystery) is a wonderful historical regional cozy. The inquiry is terrific as the focus is on identifying the killer, but also enables readers to taste life in the home front of 1944 rural Georgia.

Harriet Klausner

Poison Town-Creston Mapes

February 11, 2014

Poison Town
Creston Mapes
David C. Cook, Feb 1 2014, $14.99
ISBN 9781434704870

Trenton City Dispatch reporter Jack Crittendon remains angry for the house invasion that traumatized his daughters (seven years old Rebecca and five years old Faye) and the kidnapping by Granger Meade of his wife Pam (see Fear Has a Name). He hides his rage from his family, but his wife knows her husband is fuming even at the Lord; but she is unaware he carries a gun now that Meade is out on parole.

When Jack drops his car off at friend Travis Randall’s garage, the mechanic tells him that his father has begun to obtain proof that the Demler-Vargus run chemical plant produces fiberglass and a toxin making all the employees and many local residents ill. Jack investigates whether the plant with government approval or ignorance is changing Trenton, Ohio into Poison Town.

The second Crittendon Files Christian suspense thriller is an exciting timely environmental tale (think of Keystone) that rotates perspective so that the audience understands the full scope of the issue. Although the climax feels unlikely, fans will enjoy this tale as Jack, already dealing poorly with his faith battered, struggles with the avarice of the local industrial-government complex in which poisoning workers and locals is an acceptable money-making job creating (including the medical field) by-product.

Harriet Klausner

Ripper-Isabel Allende

February 8, 2014

Isabel Allende; Oliver Brock (translator) and Frank Wynne (translator)Harper, Jan 28 2014, $28.99
ISBN: 9780062291400

In 2012 San Francisco, high school senior Amanda Martín loves her divorced mother Indiana Jackson, but is more like her beloved dad Ed the homicide cop. Whereas her spiritualistic mother sees the good in everyone, her daughter and her ex-husband see the evil in the same people. Meanwhile her mom has two suitors she admires but Amanda notices the dark flaws in both candidates seeking to be her stepfather.

Amanda loves mysteries and serves as the headmaster of an online whodunit game Ripper. The players include her sexagenarian maternal grandfather Blake; wheelchair-bound New Zealander online as “Esmeralda” the Gypsy; a lonely New Jersey teen called Sir Edmond who never leaves his room except for the bathroom; a Montreal nineteen years old with an eating disorder using the name Abatha the psychic; and in Reno thirteen years old genius “Sherlock Holmes”.

After her grandmother’s omen of a city bloodbath, someone murders Golden Hills Elementary School security guard Ed Staton with a bat and soon other killings follow. Deciding to investigate, Amanda persuades her Ripper playing friends to change the setting of their game from 1888 London to 2011 San Francisco so that they can help her investigate. When Indiana vanishes, Amanda fears for her mom’s life, so with resolve and her online support, Amanda works the case that turned frighteningly personal.

Ripper is an exciting amateur sleuth starring a precious investigator and a fabulous support team whose online persona radically differs from their reality. Although the online game is never developed, the players are especially their virtual personalities. Readers will appreciate Amanda and her virtual squad gum-shoeing the mean streets of San Francisco.

Harriet Klausner