Archive for March, 2014

The Second Letter-Robert Lane

March 12, 2014

The Second Letter
Robert Lane
Mason Alley Publishing, Mar 4 2014, $14.95
ISBN: 9780615841885

Jim and Dorothy Harrison left DC for the Long Key section of St. Petersburg Beach, Florida. Not long after their relocation, Jim mysteriously dies while away on business. In 1961, under four months after she became a widow, Jim’s associate at the CIA Theodore Sullivan visits Dorothy. He asks her to keep a sealed envelope with a letter inside safe as the agency prefers it stored outside of DC. Dorothy and her gardener Angelo conceal the unopened letter in her home.

Decades later, Dorothy’s home has been converted into the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum. However, a few days ago, vandals tore into the place. Concerned Colonel Janssen orders former Special Forces soldiers Jake Travis and Garrett to find the letter left in Dorothy’s care many years ago. Tampa strip joint owner, mob-connected Raydel Escobar insists he possesses the letter; which he will exchange if the seven million dollars the IRS claims he owes the government is considered paid in full. The two veterans, Jake’s girlfriend Kathleen Rowe nee Cunningham formerly of the Outfit, Morgan the neighbor, and others work the retrieval.

The incredible cast makes for a fantastic Florida crime caper as all the key players, secondary characters and even some tertiary participants appear real yet their development is smoothly interwoven with no deceleration (even with some unrelated criminal activity) of the thrilling plot. Fast-paced, fans will appreciate this entertaining tale.

Harriet Klausner

Gemini-Carol Cassella

March 11, 2014

Carol Cassella
Simon & Schuster, Mar 4 2012, $25.99
ISBN 9781451627930

The local doctor performed emergency surgery on the victim of a rural Washington State road hit and run. However while still in the ER undergoing life-saving techniques, Jane Doe lapsed into a coma. The patient is airlifted to Seattle ICU where Dr. Charlotte Reese takes charge of saving the life of the still unidentified victim while fearing the woman suffered irreversible brain damage.

Single mom of Jake who has an undiagnosed congenital neurological condition, Raney thinks back to her teen years in Quentin where she met Bo when his parents exiled him to his aunt while they divorced. At the same time Charlotte’s boyfriend Eric obtains a contract to write a series of science books. Meanwhile Charlotte searches for who Jane is and what happened to her that led to her residing in an unconscious state in a Seattle ICU.

Most readers will connect the three seemingly separate subplots rather quickly before Carol Cassella actually does for us in the author’s exciting third medical thriller (see Oxygen and Healer). The profound storyline pulls no punches as the protagonist condemns society for the impact of poverty and the lack of education on health care decisions especially when these choices (or lack of) effect vulnerable dependents. Although Charlotte’s non-medical and non-Doe inquiry asides feel distractingly unnecessary, readers (except for politicians refusing to expand Medicaid) will appreciate this exhilarating drama.

Harriet Klausner

The Burden Of Desire-Natalie Charles

March 10, 2014

The Burden Of Desire
Natalie Charles
Harlequin Romantic Suspense, Mar 4 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373278640

Concerned over his lead lawyer’s long hours on the Kruger first degree homicide case, Jack Reynolds introduces prosecutor Sally Dawson to the office’s new attorney retired JAG marine Ben McNamara as assisting her on the murder trial. Not only do Sally and Ben know each other from Columbia Law, she hates him for breaking her heart.

At a press conference on the eve of the court date, Mitch Kruger’s defense attorney Marlow introduces the dead wife Ronnie as alive. Though there was no body found, the forensic evidence overwhelmingly pointed to the murder of Mitch’s spouse; which now means someone else died. Jack assigns Ben to review the case file for prosecution wrong-doing. As Ben affirms that Sally’s diligent work was professional and convincing, each realizes something remains odd starting with why the victim waited a year to reappear. Continuing to dig, Ben and Sally also fall in love.

This second chance at love legal romance is an enjoyable thriller though the audience will guess early on what is going. The fully-developed lead couple is a nice pairing of beloved enemies; who readers will conclude deserve a sequel on a future case; as Burden of Desire is an enjoyable romantic mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Brooklyn Graves-Triss Stein

March 10, 2014

Brooklyn Graves
Triss Stein
Poisoned Pen, Mar 4 2014, $24.95
ISBN: 9781464202193

In the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, widow Erica Donato finds she can continue to pursue her History Ph.D., work at the museum, assist snobbish visiting dignitary Dr. Thomas Flint on his history of the Tiffany studio, and raise her teenage daughter Chris; just don’t sleep. She shows the unreasonable demanding Flint the National Historic Landmark Green-Wood Cemetery whose mausoleum contains incredible stained glass windows.

Someone murders Dima, husband of Erica’s friend Natalya and father of Chris’ friend Alex. Erica tries to get the grieving widow to understand that NYPD is not the Russian police that Natalya remembers from her childhood in her homeland. Though she has no time for sleuthing, Erica looks into the homicide. Erica also works with Flint’s geeky Pratt student assistant Young Ryan Ames (who dreams of being the next Dave McKean instead of a historian) on the documents including whether the author of many of them, Maude Cooper, was an unknown Tiffany Girl. To their amazement, the pair finds oddities.

The second Erica Donato Mystery (see Brooklyn Bones) is a fabulous amateur sleuth as the protagonist knows she should not make inquiries into the murder, but cannot stop herself. The seemingly diverse whodunits are entertaining although the abrupt climax relies too much on happenchance. Fans will enjoy frantic caring Erica’s guided tour of Brooklyn Graves.

Harriet Klausner

Poisoned Ground-Sandra Parshall

March 10, 2014

Poisoned Ground
Sandra Parshall
Poisoned Pen, Mar 4 2014, $24.95
ISBN: 9781464202247

Residents of Mason County, Virginia are divided between development of a resort and traditional use of the land. Those supporting the developers see a chance to make a lot of easy money by selling their property and argue for the influx of needed jobs; those opposed see urbanization’s crime and pollution destroy their pristine landscape and the minimum wage jobs fail to take care of a family.

Veterinarian Rachel Goddard tries to keep her opinion to herself since her husband Tom Bridger must remain neutral as the sheriff. However, the dispute turns lethal when someone murders Lincoln and Marie Kelly for no apparent reason except that they refused to sell. Complicating the double homicides are the adult children as the debt-ridden son is irate that his sister inherited most of the estate. Deal critic Joanna McKendrick finds her barn burned to the ground and others opposed to the development live in fear they will be next. As Tom leads the investigation, he and his staff try to get the angry adversaries to calm down while Rachel already disgusted with the attitudes of the developers personalizes the situation when her family is threatened.

The latest Rachel Goddard mystery (see Under the Dog Star and Bleeding Through) is a superb taut thriller with a deep focus on a fuming and frightened split populace fussing and fighting over land use. With a fabulous late twist adding topping to this timely (Keystone comes to mind) strong storyline, readers will appreciate Sandra Parshall’s puissant Poisoned Ground.

Harriet Klausner

Ten For Dying-Mary Reed and Eric Mayer

March 10, 2014

Ten For Dying
Mary Reed and Eric Mayer
Poisoned Pen, Mar 4 2014, $24.95
ISBN: 9781464202278

In 548 Constantinople, Emperor Justinian deeply grieves the death of his beloved wife Empress Theodora. He recently fired John as the Lord Chamberlain following his loyal aid’s investigation, made at the Emperor’s demand into the Empress’ death, as Justinian rejected the finding (see Nine For The Devil).

At the Church of the Holy Apostles, a fragment of the burial cloth of the Lord’s mother has gone missing. Justinian assigns Palace Guard Captain Felix to look into the theft. Felix persuades his friend disgraced John to help him. Church cleaner Mada and her husband lamp lighter Peterios tell the pair that the lights were extraordinary low; a bad odor putrefied the air, frogs appeared and demons ran amuck taking the relic with them. Felix feels unprepared to act on his own with the fallen John leaving for Greece in exile. Besides dealing with his gambling debt, his family and his new mistress Anastasia, Felix must also look into how a corpse was left at his house. Matters turn ugly as several people apparently want at a minimum Felix to fail and preferably die.

Though series fans are used to the shrewd John the Eunuch running the show, Ten For Dying is an exciting entry made fresh by Felix and Anastasia who proves more than a mistress. Felix struggles with the twisted case in which many want to possess the holy relic and him dead; with the lethal politics including from the capricious mourning emperor; and with his even more convoluted personal life. Readers will enjoy this apparent new path that Mary Reed and Eric Mayer has taken on, but also hope our favorite eunuch has a second coming perhaps in Greece.

Harriet Klausner

Board Stiff-Annelise Ryan

March 9, 2014

Board Stiff
Annelise Ryan
Kensington, Mar 4 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780758272768

In Sorenson, Wisconsin someone murders Twilight Home CEO and owner Bernie Chase. Resident Irene thinks Bjorn killed him, but he cannot remember what he did or saw. As she explains to Deputy Coroner Mattie Winston that Chase was killing patients costing him a lot of money for their care, she also shows her the body in the restroom with isolyser powder all over Chase.

Irene hesitates bringing the cops in to investigate as she wants to protect Bjorn. Mattie demands they do so while musing that she will see her former boyfriend Homicide Detective Steve Hurley for the first time since his wife and a teenage daughter he never met before arrived at his house. Mattie applies her forensics skills to help the cops with the inquiry.

The latest Mattie Winston Mystery (see Lucky Stiff and Frozen Stiff) is a wonderful amusing cozy due to a very strong cast beginning with the protagonist. Fast-paced, readers will appreciate this fun entry due to the residents of Twilight Home as seemingly every one of them insists Chase was a serial killer who deserved to die and though several suffer from dementia complicating the case; others conceal what they know behind a claim of having the disease.

Harriet Klausner

Street Justice-Kris Nelscott

March 8, 2014

Street Justice
Kris Nelscott
WMG, Mar 4 2014, $18.99
ISBN 9780615866451

In January 1970, unlicensed Black private investigator Smokey Dalton freezes in his unheated apartment while raising his unofficial adopted son eleven year old Jimmy. He carries a concealed gun after some recent attacks. He follows closely the Chicago Seven Conspiracy Circus and the Cook County Coroners’ inquest into the firefight deaths (that Smokey believes were official blue plate executions) of Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark.

Jimmy’s hysterical friend Keith Grimshaw calls Dalton pleading with him to help his thirteen year old sister Lacey at the Starlite Hotel where she was assaulted. Dalton finds the perpetrator but the assailant belongs to the mob connected Outfit that stalks school girls. The police, the city leaders and the school administration refuse to intercede; forcing Dalton to turn elsewhere for assistance, but no one in their right mind wants to tangle with this gang though he ultimately finds improbable allies.

The latest Smoky Dalton historical whodunit is a terrific entry in what is one of the best on going mystery series (see Days of Rage, War At Home and Smoke Filled Rooms). The powerful historiographical backdrop brings to life an era of protest and countermeasures through a powerful cast. The investigation and Smokey’s efforts to find brave people especially in authority willing to risk all to bring down the Outfit enhances the deep look at the beginning of the 1970s reactionary aftermath to the turbulent 1960s.

Harriet Klausner

Precious Thing-Colette McBeth

March 7, 2014

Precious Thing
Colette McBeth
Minotaur, Mar 4 2014, $24.95
ISBN: 9781250041197

In Brighton, England, Rachel’s dad vanished from the moment she was born and her resentful alcoholic mom Niamh despised her; blaming her child for her man leaving. At school, lonely Rachel meets dynamic Clara and they become BFFs. Niamh adores Clara and treats her as her child rather than her biological mistake. However, due to a nasty incident the friendship dies; Niamh blames her offspring.

Years later Clara and Rachel reunite as friends but their situations are radically different than when they were teens; as the former has had a tough go while the latter has become a successful reporter. Clara calls Rachel to meet her and other school friends at a club. Rachel arrives, but Clara fails to show. The police suspect Rachel harmed her BFF due to envy re Niamh. Now, the journalist must use her skills to learn what happened to Clara to stay out of prison.

This strong psychological thriller looks deep at the good, the bad and the ugly of friendships. The enjoyable storyline starts leisurely paced in order for the audience, through a Rachel filtering, to fully understand how each of the female trio thinks. Once the plot turns to the friendship renewal, the twisting tense tale soars into suspenseful first gear.

Harriet Klausner

Wrecked-Tricia Fields

March 7, 2014

Tricia Fields
Minotaur, Mar 4 2014, $25.99
ISBN 9781250021373

In Artemis, Texas someone shoots to death secretary Christina Handley for no apparent reason while her boss accountant Dillon Reese disappears. Reese’s girlfriend Police Chief Josie Gray understands the ramifications of her boyfriend’s vanishing means he is the prime suspect in the murder of his employee and she must recuse herself from the investigation.

When a ransom demand for nine-million arrives accompanied by a video of Dillon in captivity arrives, Josie fears for his life and relief he was not one of the killers though why they murdered Christina remains unknown as does how to meet the monetary demand. Josie asks hostage negotiator Nick Santos to help her rescue Dillon.

The third Josie Gray police procedural (see The Territory and Scratchgravel Road) is an entertaining mystery as this case is personal for the protagonist, which makes standing on the sidelines doing nothing but praying practically difficult when she craves killing the thugs. Fast-paced with for the most part exciting rotational perspectives, readers will appreciate Josie’s latest crime case.

Harriet Klausner