Bordeaux: The Bitter Finish-Janet Hubbard

April 1, 2014

Bordeaux: The Bitter Finish
Janet Hubbard
Poisoned Pen, Apr 1 2014, $24.95
ISBN 9781464201547

American wine critic Ellen Jordan asks NYPD Detective Maxine Maguire to act as her bodyguard while she visits Bordeaux, France. Once in country Ellen asks French speaking (from her mom) Max also to protect one of the four wine magnums valued at over $30,000 each by auctioneer Paula Goodwin though the American believes these are worthless frauds.

At the annual regional wine tasting gala in Lussac, experts test the contested wines for authenticity. However, Ellen dies from asphyxiation in her hotel room and the magnum Max left in the hotel safe has vanished. Max believes her client was murdered so she persuades her former lover French magistrate Olivier Chaumont and Commissaire Abdel Zeroual to allow her in on the investigation.

With a nod to Ellen Crosby’s Wine Country Mysteries (though in France rather than Virginia) the second Vengeance in the Vineyard Mystery (see Champagne: The Farewell) is a super whodunit as suspects straddle both sides of the Atlantic. Fast-paced from the moment Max learns Ellen died, readers will enjoy this solid whodunit as questioning those with motives seems to disprove Vino Veritas.

Harriet Klausner

Warriors-Ted Bell

April 1, 2014

Warriors
Ted Bell
Morrow, Apr 1 2014, $27.95
ISBN: 9780062279385

Since the abductions in 2009 in Georgetown, Chinese General Sun-Yat Moon has kept American Nobel laureate Dr. William Lincoln Chase, Jr. incarcerated on Xinbu Island while at the same time the kidnapped man’s family resides in a North Korean death camp. The brutal Chinese officer demands the scientist’s cooperation on developing a stronger Chinese version of the Centurion Submariner he created for America in which an unmanned sub can launch multiple long-range missiles. Failure means his family will be slowly tortured to death.

In Cambridge, England the murder of a professor by ancient Chinese torture techniques sends MI6 operative Alex Hawke to investigate; New Scotland Yard Inspector Ambrose Congreve also makes an inquiry. As American President McCloskey fears for his people from the realistic Chinese threat, Hawke learns that his real mission is to rescue Chase and his family before tension between the two powers escalates to the use of the nuclear option.

The eighth Alex Hawke espionage thriller (see Phantom) is an exciting action-packed tale as the superspy understands he and his team must extract the scientist from an impenetrable fortress and the family from a confining death camp before the rival superpowers use the nuclear option. Adrenalin-pumping from start to finish, readers will appreciate the fast-paced save the world albeit over the top novel.

Harriet Klausner

Killer Physique-G.A. McKevett

March 30, 2014

Killer Physique
G.A. McKevett
Kensington, Mar 25 2014, $24.00
ISBN 9780758276544

Private detective Savannah Reid anxiously waits to meet the parents of her new husband Detective Sergeant Dirk Coulter for the first time. Her friends Ryan Stone and John Gibson invite Savannah and Dirk to attend the Hollywood premiere of their buddy superstar hunk Jason Tyrone’s new film.

The next day, Jason is found dead in his room at the Island View Hotel by Ryan and John, who call Savannah. Soon after the P.I. and her spouse enter the hotel room, San Carmelita’s medical examiner Dr. Jennifer Liu arrives and quickly announces accidental death due to massive steroid use. However Savannah and Dirk have doubts as they just met the hunk a few hours ago and he showed no signs of ill health. They investigate those inside of Tyrone’s circle starting with movie co-star Alanna Cleary who he allegedly had an affair with; his former lover Thomas Owen; and others employed by the late actor, and contacts at the studio and at the gym where he worked out.

The latest Savannah Reid mystery (see Killer Honeymoon) is an entertaining investigative tale as increasingly the sleuth, her mate and readers wonder if the M.E. is right. Although issues like steroid use and the inquiry feel superseded at times by the intrusive meet the parents subplot, series fans will appreciate the newlyweds working the case; as the couple that solves murder mysteries together, stays together.

Harriet Klausner

Whirlwind-Rick Mofina

March 30, 2014

Whirlwind
Rick Mofina
Mira, Mar 25 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778316091

In Wildhorse Heights, Texas, Jenna Cooper, accompanied by her four-year-old daughter Cassie and her five-month-old son Caleb, shop at the Old Southern Glory Flea Market for children’s clothing since money is tight. A terrible twister hits the area knocking Jenna out. When she regains consciousness she finds Cassie with her but Caleb missing. Franticly searching for her infant, hysterical Jenna knows she must act now without the support of her husband Blake who currently works in Alaska for a moving firm.

Though her job title is intern, Kate Page knows she competes with two others for a permanent position at Newslead in Dallas. Her rivals are Texans with experience while she is from Canton where she left her six year old daughter Grace in Ohio with friends. Kate interviews Jenna who tells her that a Good Samaritan helped her and her two children to safety just before she blacked out, but that person has also vanished. At the same time Kate investigates the apparent abduction, the FBI also works the case.

This is an exciting action-packed thriller made intense by the realistic hysteria of the mom and daughter, and kept anchored by insight into instant journalism and the reporter dealing with a prejudicial boss who believes her Lone Star blood is superior to Buckeye DNA. Gripping from the opening tornado and snatch, readers will appreciate Rick Mofina’s tense heart-wrenching Whirlwind.

Harriet Klausner

Safe Keeping-Barbara Taylor Sissel

March 29, 2014

Safe Keeping
Barbara Taylor Sissel
Mira, Mar 25 2014, $14.95
ISBN 9780778316169

The murdered corpse of Miranda Quick shakes up the residents of the small town. Many suspect her high school sweetheart, thirty-four years old loser Tucker Lebay killed her. While his mother Emily defends him, his Vietnam War veteran father Roy, who suffers from PTSD, wants to cut all ties with his son. The local police question Tucker, but soon release him.

Not long after the Miranda murder, the dead body of Jessica Sweet is found near the same location as the previous homicide. The police believe Tucker killed both females. A desperate Emily believes in the innocence of her adult child so, with help from her married daughter Lissa, she seeks to prove her Tucker killed no one. Meanwhile, Roy demands they kick Tucker out of their lives.

Safe Keeping is an intriguing family suspense in which relationships going back three decades impact the present as the child becomes the adult. The murder mystery storyline goes as expected to include a late twist. On the other hand, the effect of Tucker named by cops as a person of interest on his parents, sister and brother-in-law, and the high degree of misinformation that ironically remains accepted as Gospel even after being debunked as false make for an engaging thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Children of the Revolution-Peter Robinson

March 29, 2014

Children of the Revolution
Peter Robinson
Morrow, Mar 25 2014, $25.99
ISBN: 9780062240507

In Coverton, retired schoolteacher Margery Halton was walking her dog when the canine came across the corpse of reclusive Gavin Miller under a railroad bridge. Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks leads the investigation in which suicide has not been ruled out; as Miller lived alone in a hovel ever since Eastvale College fired him in scandalous disgrace from his lecturer position. Neither has homicide been eliminated as some of his injuries look like they occurred in a brawl with an assailant but a robbery did not happen as the deceased possessed 5000 pounds on him.

Banks, assisted by DI Annie Cabot and DC Gerry Masterson, makes inquiries into Miller’s recent and distant past as motive for the murder remains elusive. The police especially focus on two young ladies whose accusations led to the lecturer’s dismal from Eastvale.

The latest DCI Banks British police procedural (see Watching the Dark) is an entertaining whodunit in which the leisurely-paced storyline contains less action than usual, but replaced by a more cerebral approach (especially several interviews) to solving the murder mystery. The hero is irascible and independent as he ignores his boss who begins bantering the dreaded R word (retirement) to him. As always readers can bank on Peter Robinson for an enjoyable tale.

Harriet Klausner

I Remember You-Yrsa Sigurdardottir; Philip Roughton (translator)

March 28, 2014

I Remember You
Yrsa Sigurdardottir; Philip Roughton (translator)
Minotaur, Mar 25 2014, $14.99
ISBN 9781250019004

Married couple Katrin and Gardar, accompanied by a late friend’s widow Lif, leave Reykjavik, Iceland to renovate an old house they’ve recently purchased into a guesthouse in remote Hesteyri. Almost upon arrival, the trio feel like eating the financial investment as they are uncomfortable though none of them initially can explain why. They soon understand that the house contains a deadly resident, a ghost child, who demands they leave or suffer the consequences of their foolishness.

At the same time in Ísafjördur, police detective Dagný investigates a vandal incident at a school in which a young student, who vanished three years ago, remains missing. The cop asks psychiatrist Dr. Freyr to assist him with the case. They soon learn of an identical event at this same school six decades ago. In that historical cold case, the missing pupil’s classmates began mysteriously dying. Soon the eerie events happening in Hesteyri and Ísafjördur connect.

As Thora Gudmundsdottir (see The Day Is Dark) takes a respite, Yrsa Sigurdardottir provides an exhilarating Icelandic paranormal mystery. The Ísafjördur subplot is the stronger of the pair as each new clue forces the investigators and readers to change their opinion as to what is happening. The Hesteyri haunted house engages the audience with scary suspense, but loses some steam as the time to flee back to Reykjavik long passed. Still I Remember You is a fabulous fright fest.

Harriet Klausner

The Coal Black Asphalt Tomb-David Handler

March 27, 2014

The Coal Black Asphalt Tomb
David Handler
Minotaur, Mar 25 2014, $25.99
ISBN 9781250041975

Recently elected as Dorset, Connecticut’s first female selectwoman, Glynis Fairchild-Forniaux implements her plan to re-grade and widen Dorset Street in the town’s Historical District over the objection of many of the local Old Guard led by former long-time selectman Bob Paffin. When the work begins, the crew uncovers a corpse in a shredded U.S Navy uniform.

Connecticut State Trooper Resident Des Mitry leads the investigation into the death of Paffin’s older brother Lance, who vanished over forty seven years ago without a trace because he obviously was interred under the street in front of the Congregational Church since 1967. With help from her lover NYC movie critic Mitch Berger, Mitry questions many of the town’s leading older citizens; but Paffin, Gazette newspaper publisher Buzzy Shaver, and U.S. Congressman Luke Cahoon offer nothing; while the many females that Vietnam War hero Lance the womanizer victimized also remain silent. The case remains frozen, but Mitry refuses to resign herself that the code of silence will leave this unsolved.

The latest Berger and Mitry regional police procedural (see The Snow White Christmas Cookie and The Blood Red Indian Summer) is a wonderful twisting New Englander whodunit as the Dorset Brahmin close ranks refusing to cooperate. Mitry is at her obstinate intimidating Amazonian best refusing to give up; while Berger provides wry commentary on movies and elitist townsfolk. The strong case resolution is fresh in part due to help from unexpected individuals, but mostly because the dynamic opposites attract couple is at the top of their game.

Harriet Klausner

Resistant-Michael Palmer

March 27, 2014

Resistant
Michael Palmer
St. Martin’s, May 20 2014, $27.99
ISBN: 9781250030924

In an angry reaction to the New Deal, a clandestine cabal the One Hundred Neighbors formed with the mission to save United States from the Nanny State entitlements that they strongly believe only lead the country to inevitable financial ruin from unpayable debt and moral collapse. Over the decades this group insisting they are patriots secretly attack the nation from within in order to cause the people to lose confidence in the government.

Two weeks ago Becca Seabury shattered her elbow in a championship game. She was rushed to Boston’s White Memorial Hospital for surgery where she remains dying from an infection caused by an unknown microbe. At the same time Dr. Lou Welcome and his best friend Cap Duncan are in Atlanta. While Lou attends a conference, Cap injures his leg while jogging. Surgeons save the leg, but an infection identical to that of Becca sets in. The microbe resists all efforts to stop its spread. An unknown adversary abducts the CDC Antibiotic Resistance Unit lead scientist on this strain Dr. Kazimi after killing an associate and a security guard. Desperate to save Cap’s life and prevent a pandemic, Dr. Lou Welcome joins the inquiry as the One Hundred Neighbors threaten to destroy the U.S.A. if the social safety network is not destroyed instead.

This exciting medical thriller grips the audience with plenty of action; albeit over the top of the Bank of America Plaza. Fast-paced, readers who can suspend their plausibility especially the behavior of several cast members including the cutting off their nose to spite their face illogical villains will enjoy the late Michael Palmer’s newest Dr. Lou tale (see Path of Office and Political Suicide).

Harriet Klausner

The Berkeley Square Affair-Teresa Grant

March 25, 2014

The Berkeley Square Affair
Teresa Grant
Kensington, Mar 25 2014, $15.00
ISBN 9780758283955

In 1817, Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch enjoy their quiet life in London after years of dangerous intelligence missions (see Imperial Scandal and The Paris Affair). Malcolm belongs to Parliament while Suzanne has become a popular hostess amongst the Ton.

Their domestic tranquility ends when their battered friend Simon Tanner visits them at their Berkeley Square mansion. The injured playwright explains he held an alleged valuable copy of a Hamlet when thugs accosted him; they severely beat him before leaving with the prize. Not long after Tanner’s arrival, Malcolm’s former boss, Lord Carfax, calls on the couple. The spymaster thinks the stolen document contains clues to the identity of a traitor whose betrayal decades ago led to deaths during an Irish rebellion that also involved Malcom’s deceased father. Frantic Suzanne fears secrets she hid from everyone even her beloved will surface destroying their trust and probably end their marriage.

The latest Rannoch Regency mystery is an engaging early nineteenth century investigation due to the fabulous lead couple and the vivid background of post Napoleonic Wars London. The fascinating plot contains less suspense than previous entries (see Imperial Scandal and The Paris Affair) partly because the spying days during the war are over and partly because the prime cause of this caper is decades old. Still, fans will appreciate the Rannoch duet’s tour of London not long after the Congress of Vienna (see Vienna Waltz) tried to return the continent to the pre Napoleon era.

Harriet Klausner