Friday, March 31

Patterns in Silicon by Maureen Robb

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Lea Sherwood opened Panache, a restaurant, in San Francisco recently.  Her ex-boyfriend Keith Whitten decides to come to dinner there with a couple of his executives.  Just that day his company Whitten Systems Corp. had taken over Decision Ace, a company run by her current boyfriend Paul Boyd.   

During dinner Keith is poisoned and dies.  Since Lea served him, she becomes a prime suspect.  Lea is determined to uncover the real killer to salvage the reputation of her restaurant and herself. 

Due to the bad publicity, reservations to her restaurant are canceled daily.  This just fuels her desire to uncover the truth.  Can she do so without putting herself or her restaurant in harm's way? 

I really enjoyed this novel.  Lea is a fun character.  You can tell the author has real knowledge of the restaurant world, as well as technology.  This is an interesting mix and is blended together expertly in this book. 

I like the setting of San Francisco for the book.  It really adds to the ambiance.  Having it set in a restaurant makes it yummy as well! 

I highly recommend this book.


Mew is for Murder by Clea Simon

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Theda Krakow is a freelance writer.  She goes to interview cat lady Lillian and finds her dead.  Everything points to her death being an accident except for the fact that someone keeps breaking into Lillian's house.  It is rumored there is hidden treasure in the house.  Theda is determined to get to the bottom of things and prove Lillian was murdered and why. 

There are quite a few suspects including the real estate neighbor, the schizophrenic son, and a waitress who helped Theda with the cats.  Can Theda find out who the killer is without putting herself in jeopardy? 

I really enjoyed this first novel.  I can't wait to read another one in this series.  I am not fond of the many cat mysteries, but even though this was is billed with a cat, the cat is not prominent and does not solve the crime.   

The characters and setting were well written.  The plot was well crafted and there are plenty of red herrings to keep the reader guessing. 

I highly recommend this book.


Murder, She Wrote Majoring in Murder by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Jessica is teaching a semester course on writing mysteries at a small college in Indiana.  Jessica is caught off guard when a tornado hits the college and almost doesn't make it to shelter in time.  While many buildings have extensive damage, there are very few injuries.  Until they discover the head of the English department dead in the rubble. 
 

Everyone believes the storm killed him, but Jessica feels there is more to the story.  She attempts to look into things but the police are determined it was natural causes and throw up roadblocks to stop her.  She pushes so hard she ends up in jail.  Thankfully the judge is a fan, and she doesn't have to stay long.
 

Jessica and a student who helps her retrieve the murder weapon from the rubble.  Knowing the way the police feel about the death, she gets the Cabot Cove police department to help get the weapon to the lab.
 

Jessica presses on to uncover the truth.  In the meantime she uncovers another mystery and solves it too.
 

I love this series and really enjoyed this one.  The college setting really lent itself to this story.  I normally don't like when Jessica is traveling as I miss the hometown characters.  This time they make small appearances via phone and help with the investigation in small ways so that I didn't feel they were left out.
 

I highly recommend this book.

A Shot to Die For by Libby Fischer Hellman

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Ellie Foreman is a documentary filmmaker.  She stops at a rest stop on her way home from scouting shoot locations.  She overhears a distressing phone call and engages in conversation with the woman.  Before Ellie realizes it, the woman, Daria, is shot in a drive-by sniper shooting. 

Since Ellie was the last person to speak to her, the police talk to her at length.  Then Daria's mother and sister visit asking Ellie for any information she has as to why Daria was shot.  They ask her assistance in finding out more. 

When Ellie does a little digging, she finds a murder from thirty years ago and wonders what the connection might be.  She also meets Luke Sutton.   Ellie finds herself attracted to him, but she is concerned because he seems to be very involved in these murders.  She works harder to uncover the truth, hoping to clear Luke in the process.   

I had never read any books in this series.  I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading others.  Ellie is a very likeable character.  The setting is well written and inviting.  I found this to be a book you kept wanting to read to find out who did it and why.  I highly recommend this book.


A Hoe Lot of Trouble by Heather Webber

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Nina Quinn has a landscaping firm called Taken By Surprise.  They specialize in surprise garden makeovers.
 

She thought she had the perfect life until she found lipstick on her husband's boxers.  Kevin is a police detective.  He admitted he is cheating on her.  She has kicked him out, but her teenaged stepson Riley has remained.  He's making life difficult for her. 

Plus gardening tools are ending up missing every day.  Who is stealing them and why?  Could it be one of the ex-cons she employs?   

To top it off her gardening mentor is found murdered.  What has happened to her quiet idyllic life? 

Can Nina get to the bottom of everything while still dealing with Riley and Kevin?  And can she find the murderer and the thief without putting herself in danger? 

I really enjoyed this book.  I can't wait to read more of Nina's adventures.  This book is a quick, easy cozy to read.  The story is paced well and keeps you wanting to turn the page and find out what happened.  I highly recommend this book.


Shadow of Death by Patricia Gussin

Review by Gloria Feit

In Shadow of Death, author Patricia Gussin juxtaposes the lives of Laura Nelson, a young white woman, and the Diggs family, African-Americans living in the midst of the inner-city ghetto in Detroit, seemingly worlds apart but forever entangled with each other after one fateful night in the Fall of 1967, when Detroit was experiencing the worst civil violence ever anywhere in the US other than during the Civil War.  On that night, Laura is brutally attacked, and the aftermath of that horrific incident and Laura's decision never to reveal its secrets, forever alters both families' lives.  Ms. Gussin makes very real the atmosphere of hostility, racial unrest and poverty which pervaded the city during that period.

Laura is a first-year medical student, and her first patient, Anthony Diggs, is a young African-American man on life support, after sustaining a gunshot wound to the head during a robbery in the midst of the riots that plagued the city.  His brother, mistaking Laura for another blonde nurse who screwed up badly when Anthony was first brought into the ER, lies in wait for Laura and rapes her at knifepoint.  Fearing for her life, Laura shoots her attacker with an unregistered weapon she carries at her husband's insistence.  In her panic, she decides she has too much at stake – her career, her marriage, her two young sons – to risk anyone knowing about what happened, and decides to keep anyone from the knowledge that it even took place.  Once that decision is made there is no turning back.

The author does a masterful job of exploring these two families' lives, the one of a hardworking black woman struggling to enable her children to climb out of the difficulties facing them in a world of chaos; the other a young woman trying to balance a career she doesn't want to give up with being a 'dutiful' wife and mother, when the reality of those violent times comes crashing down on her.  Laura is a very human and compelling protagonist.  Nail-biting tension and suspense drive the story to its shocking climax.  This is, surprisingly, a first novel by the author, and it is a remarkable debut.

Pursuit by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza

Review by Theodore Feit

           Pursuit was published over a month ago, and I just got around to reading it.  The wait was more than worthwhile.  This is the fifth novel in the Inspector Espinoza Mystery Series, and is quite different from its predecessors.  For the most part, previous stories have been police procedurals, with Inspector Espinoza, when he wasn't browsing used book stores, solving crimes logically and step-by-step. In this case, we have a psychological thriller

 Key to the plot is uncovering the truth of a complicated situation.  It begins with a psychiatrist treating a patient and expands to unstated—or at least misunderstood--threats.  The doctor reports that his daughter is missing, possibly kidnapped.  He tells Espinoza the patient is out to destroy him by seducing his daughter (which in fact he does).  As a result, when she returns home, he commits her to a private clinic and treats her with mind-changing drugs.  And he then has the patient transferred to another hospital, where he supposedly dies.

The novel is told in three parts—three separate stories from various points of views.  Just what are the facts?  Espinoza can interpret them several ways, raising questions about who is driving whom crazy.  The reader is treated to all the ramifications, and is no closer to the truth until the end—if then.  While Pursuit is unlike its predecessors, which are recommended if one has not read them, it is a thoughtful and meaningful study, worthy of Inspector Espinoza.

The Fallen by T. Jefferson Parker

Review by Andrea Maloney

Homicide Detective Robbie Brownlaw was thrown from a building three years ago and ended up with synethesia, a neurological condition where your senses get mixed up.  Now when people talk to him he can see their voices as colored shapes triggered by their emotions. This is a great help to him when working on cases because he can now tell when suspects are lying.  He is now assigned to the murder of Garrett Asplundh who was shot in his car under a San Diego bridge.  Asplundh was an investigator for the San Diego Ethics Authority Enforcement Unit who had recently uncovered widespread corruption in San Diego which would make for plenty of enemies in the local government and police force. But was Asplundh's death an execution to keep him from revealing what he knew or was it personal?

T. Jefferson Parker has written a suspenseful mystery with a very intriguing character in Robbie Brownlaw. His synethesia is a terrific edition to the detective's bag of tricks but not overdone. Parker includes a wonderful cast of supporting characters, crisp dialogue and a plot that moves right along and holds your interest until the very end. A very enjoyable read that I highly recommend.

The Cellini Masterpiece by Raymond John

Review by Andrea Maloney

Graduate student Stef Olson discovers a drawing by Benvenutu Cellini for an unknown work.  The patron's name is on the drawing and Stef goes to Malta to contact the descendent of the patron. While there he is kidnapped and tortured.  Stef's brother Rick comes to the rescue and is immediately involved in a deadly game involving his brother's kidnappers, the patron and an international terrorist while aided by a beautiful Maltese woman. In a race against time he works to rescue his brother, crack a code hidden in Cellini's work and stop an international terrorist.

Raymond John's book is a well researched thriller with wonderful details showing a great love for Malta. However the dialogue was rather awkward and the two main characters sometimes acted like two year olds. The book reads slow and would have benefited from some more editing to pick up the pace.  But the plot was intriguing and the descriptive detail of Malta was fascinating.

Tuesday, March 28

For Better or Hearse by Laura Durham

Review by Gloria Feit
 
 
Annabelle Archer is one of Washington DC's top wedding planners, and encounters an unexpected pre-wedding hazard when Chef Henri, the Fairmont Hotel's famed and eccentric chef, chases her from the pre-nuptial kitchen at knifepoint.  Shortly thereafter his body is discovered, impaled on one of the ice sculptures in the reception ballroom.  Although Annabelle herself is initially held by the police, she is soon released.  There is no dearth of suspects, for the chef had a host of enemies.  When Annie's friend and the hotel's catering executive, Georgia, is arrested for the murder, she begs Annabelle to try to clear her.  The charming cast of charac ters includes her assistant, Kate, she of the endearing malapropisms; the eccentric elderly neighbor, Leatrice; and Richard, her close friend who is thought to be the city's best caterer.

For Better or Hearse
, the second in the Annabelle Archer series by Laura Durham, herself a real-life DC wedding planner, is a light-hearted romp depicting a life revolving around planning others weddings, when dead bodies and drunk brides disrupt her best-laid plans.  [I have to admit, though, I was a bit taken aback by a reference early in the book to a pianist playing Œtunes‚ from Madame Butterfly.]

Killer Instinct by Joseph Finder

Review by Theodore Feit


  My first thought while reading this exciting novel harkened back to the Broadway show, "How to Succeed in Business…," and its theme song, "The Company Way."  But as I read, the development of the plot was like anything but the light-hearted tune.  Certainly, the protagonist, Jason Steadman, climbs the corporate ladder--but in a variety of unusual, if not unethical, ways until he lands on top, even if he is redeemed in a manner of speaking.

  A likeable and even capable salesman, Jason is a happy-go-lucky working stiff, employed by a Japanese electronics giant.  His wife and immediate superior have him pegged as lacking the drive—"Killer Instinct," if you will—to advance.  Then he meets by accident a former Special Forces soldier with a wide range of abilities—from gathering intelligence to sabotage to murder—which are "secretly" used to assist Jason in his job.  Suddenly available to him are customer secrets to seal deals, undermining co-workers and sabotaging their equipment, making them lose sales.

  As a result, Jason shines and is promoted and then promoted again.  Then he begins to suspect the underhanded assistance he has been receiving and tries to stop it.  His new-found friend—who by now has become head of security (he was hired on Jason's recommendation)—and he begin a struggle until Jason faces imminent danger.

  The author creates tremendous tension, with twists and turns that keep the reader turning the pages to find out what happens next.  The fine narration and portrayals of various types of company men is a Finder trademark.  I thoroughly enjoyed "Killer Instinct," and am sure you will too.

Monday, March 27

Mercy Falls by William Kent Krueger

Review by Andrea Maloney


Sheriff Cork O'Connor answers a domestic disturbance call with his deputy Marsha Dross. When they arrive they find the occupants of the house gone and their dogs dead.  Someone takes a shot at them and wounds Deputy Dross. An investigation into the incident reveals that the shot was meant for Sheriff O'Connor.  At the same time an unpopular Chicago businessman, Eddie Jacoby,  in town negotiating a contract between his management firm and the local Indian casino is murdered and Cork must deal with this high profile murder while looking into the shooting that injured Deputy Dross. Into this mix comes a beautiful private investigator with eyes for Cork and the victim's brother who used the be Cork's wife's lover and you end up with a story  with more twists and turns than a roller coaster. Cork is a terrific and likeable person and is surround by an interesting supporting cast of characters. With Krueger's writing you get a terrific sense for the beauty of Minnesota. A deft plot wonderfully weaves together the two stories with an ending that will definitely leave you wanting more from this talented writer.

Prisoner of Memory by Denise Hamilton

Review by Theodore Feit

  The author casts her memory back to her Russian family, combining Cold War spying, modern Russian Mafia and murder in a fascinating story in which Eve Diamond once again becomes the focus instead of the reporter.  In this installment, we find the beguiling Los Angeles Times reporter transferred from the boondocks to the news desk downtown.

  While on assignment in Griffith Park with a Fish and Wildlife officer tracking a mountain lion, she discovers the body of a young man shot in the head.  He is the son of a Russian émigré.  A few days later, the latter's older son is the victim of a hit-and-run driver, witnessed—of course—by Eve.  All this Russian business causes Eve to seek out her own history.

  Meanwhile, a visitor claiming to be her cousin from Moscow shows up on her doorstep—destined to provide a vital role in the tale as well as to key Eve on some facts concerning her family background:  It seems he contracted with the Russian Mafia to illegally bring him into the United States.

  Eve becomes fixated with uncovering the boys' murderer, initially investigating the Russian Mafia and then mixing in past Cold War spies, almost getting herself murdered to boot.  It is a well-told story, and one well worth reading.  The plot, characters and other aspects of the novel are excellently handled, in keeping with the quality of the series.


Sunday, March 26

Blood Hunt by Ian Rankin

Review by Gloria Feit

            Gordon Reeve is a former soldier, having served in the SAS/Special Forces, now in business doing survivalist training over 72 hour periods, at his property in Scotland.  His even-keeled life is interrupted one day by a phone call telling him that his brother, James, a journalist, has been found dead in San Diego, California, his death apparently a suicide.  Gordon flies out to the States, alone, his wife and son staying at home.  What he finds leads him to have serious doubts that his brother committed suicide, and he becomes convinced that he was murdered.  He returns home to Scotland, having had his brother’s body cremated in the US, and continues his search to find what his brother was working on that had caused him to go to California and led to his death.  Relentless does not begin to describe his quest.
 
            Reeve discovers ties to a huge international company, and finds that tracking down his brother’s past movements in that direction, and his own now, has inherent problems when he contemplates exposing the truth of what he finds: “as long as companies like them are throwing money at advertising departments, publishers will love them, and the publishers will see to it that their editors never print anything that might upset Sugar Daddy.”  The plot takes the reader from Scotland to San Diego to England, France, Wales, NYC and Washington DC, with plenty of nerve-jangling suspense as it goes roaring into its denouement.
 
            The author delves into Nietzsche and other philosophers of that period; he quotes David Hume thus:  “A man, brought to the brink of a precipice, cannot look down without trembling,” and indeed begins the book with the line  “He stood on the edge of the abyss, staring down.”  
 
            Mr. Rankin’s writing, as we’ve come to expect from this author, is wonderful, and seems to effortlessly carry the reader along with him.  This is an author who never disappoints.
 
            Blood Hunt was originally published in 1995 in the UK under the author name of Jack Harvey, as, IIRC, are all Mr. Rankin’s book not in the Rebus series.

Friday, March 24

A Clean Kill by Leslie Glass

Review by Gloria Feit

In the latest book in her excellent April Woo series, Nancy Glass takes us to the newest case being investigated by the recently promoted/recently married  NYPD homicide detective, Lieutenant April Woo Sanchez, now Commanding Officer of the Midtown North Detective Unit.  She and her husband, Capt. Mike Sanchez, are scheduled to take a belated honeymoon cruise at the end of the week, but the murder of an East Side woman, the mother of two small children and wife of a renowned chef, threatens to interfere with those plans.  Hard upon the heels of that murder, another young wife/mother, and close friend of the first woman, is killed.  Similarities between the two crimes include the fact that their nannies were close friends, both coming from the same agency; both women shared the same personal trainer [in more ways than one]; and both crime scenes were meticulously cleaned after the brutal murders.  There is fear that there is a serial killer on the loose, and a great deal of pressure  to find him/her.  The nannies come under scrutiny [as one of the women tells April, They hate us. They wear our clothes. They steal our things. If they can get our husbands, they'll steal them too.] and the husbands come under suspicion as well.

The book is briskly paced and the police procedural aspects interestingly described.  Ms. Glass keeps the suspense growing.  This is another good entry in the series, and it is recommended.

Tuesday, March 21

The Price of Silence by Kate Wilhelm

Review by Andrea Maloney


Brindle, Oregon is a dying town but in spite of this Ruth Ann Colonna, who has run the town's newspaper for almost sixty years, wants to put out a special centennial edition of The Brindle Times with photos, letters and newspaper articles about the inhabitants back to the founding fathers. Todd Fielding needs a job and is offered a job at The Brindle Times utilizing her computer expertise.  It seems like the perfect job opportunity for her since she and her husband, Barney, desperately need the money. Soon after their arrival in Brindle a young girl disappears and no one in the town seems concerned…another runaway they say.  But looking back into the past history of Brindle Todd finds that five other very similar girls have "run away" and no one is interested in finding them. When Todd starts to try to find out the truth about the "run away" girls she finds resistance on the part of the townspeople and murder. But in spite of the silence of the town the past has a way of making itself felt.

Kate Wilhelm has written a masterful psychological thriller with just a touch of the supernatural. Terrific character development shows a small town that would rather deny that anything is wrong rather than admit they might have a monster living in their midst and that all is not right in their town. Tightly plotted, intriguing and spooky, The Price of Silence is a book that will keep you up late into the night until you finish this story of a town that is paying the deadly price of silence.






For Love and Money by Leslie Glass

Review by Gloria Feit

       In a departure from her excellent April Woo series, Leslie Glass has written a fast-moving novel in which the reader is plunged, practically from page one, into this tightly constructed standalone.  Annie Custer, bright, successful and ambitious stockbroker, has a lot going on in her life;  Her out-of-work husband, Ben, also a broker, is now in melt-down after a combination of things, not least PTSD following 9/11.  Their teenage daughter, Meg, is pursued by her own demons, while her younger sister, Bebe, is smoking marijuana, and her housekeeper is leaving to go back to Argentina.  As if all this weren't enough, her best friend, Carol, at Carol's father's request, begs Annie to take possession of her mother's stocks and bonds [her mother is apparently dying of cancer and her father becoming increasingly senile].  Annie feels she has no choice but to agree, fraught as the situation is with risk.  The total value of the 'stash' of securities turns out to be well over $3 million.  Annie does take the securities [including a huge stack of bearer bonds at once incredibly valuable and dangerous for her to handle], all with appropriate powers of attorney and a complete list of what is being taken.  When Carol's father, not shockingly, promptly changes his mind, claims he 'wuz robbed,' and threatens to sue, the battle is joined.  Machinations by another client with securities purportedly worth millions make the picture complete.

Annie is an interesting protagonist, dealing with difficult situations in her personal and professional life, and the author gives us an interesting tale of loyalty, friendship, deception, and marriages teetering on the edge.

Monday, March 20

Final Fore by Roberta Isleib

Review by Gloria Feit


       In her welcome return in Final Fore, Cassie Burdette is preparing for her first US Open, the most prestigious tournament in women's golf, at the same time that she is trying to decide whether or not to accept an invitation to the upcoming Buick Championship, itself a wonderful testament to her abilities.  To add to these stresses, her dear friend and caddie, Laura, has just advised her that she has to bow out of caddying for her in the Open due to her father's having just suffered a stroke, which, aside from the personal aspect, obviously comes at the worst possible time.  Putting a different kind of pressure on Cassie is the fact that each of her family members, described by the author as "an unhappy mother, a runaway dad, two difficult stepparents, two teenage half-brothers, and her real brother, Charlie," who hasn't had a real conversation with her father in years, is expected to attend the tournament, which background has contributed to Cassie's self-described history of aband
onment, competition and disappointment..

       The setting is the campus of Mt. Holyoke College in Connecticut, referred to as a "rich girls' school," and one from which Julie Nothstine, a sophomore-year golfer who has befriended Cassie following the latter's panic attack on the day she arrives, graduated.  In addition, Cassie has recently been receiving strange, unsettling and sinister notes and e-mails containing veiled threats from someone who apparently doesn't want her playing in the PGA-sponsored tournament.  Among the cast of characters and ultimately potential suspects are Cassie's ex-boyfriend, Mike Callahan; her current not-quite-boyfriend, golf psychologist Joe Lancaster; her sponsor, Lloyd Pompano [who for one year is staking Cassie's expenses in exchange for 10% of her winnings, adding to Cassie's need to earn some money so she can end that obligation]; Amber Clancy, a teenage amateur golfer/phenom; Amber's caddie, Jason, who Cassie knew from her Florida college days, and her famous coach, Lucien Beccia; and assor
ted other golfers.

       The day before the start of the tournament, Amber is felled by convulsions, and there is suspicion that she was poisoned.  Her subsequent death hits Cassie particularly hard:  Amber had had a brief conversation with Cassie in which she felt her out about her well-known detecting skills, something Cassie didn't pursue, and her resultant feelings of guilt prompt her to investigate Amber's death.  The tension mounts as to both the outcome of the tournament and the identity of the killer/stalker, and the solution when it comes is a surprise.

       The fact that this reader has never played a single hole of golf didn't detract from my enjoyment of this well-written novel, and I am certain golfers will absolutely love it.  Cassie is a terrific and very human protagonist.  The book is recommended.

Sunday, March 19

Face Down Beside St. Anne's Well (A Lady Appleton Mystery) by

Review by Theodore Feit

There have been nine previous novels in this series, but, I must confess, this is the first I’ve read.  It is set in the year 1575, and the setting and language is Elizabethan.  A three page glossary of terms is provided to assist the reader in various quaint terms.  On the whole, the cast of characters, period and customs described are charming.

Without going into a lot of detail, at the heart of the mystery is the discovery of a body face down in a well.  It is ruled a case of accidental drowning.  However, teenage Rosamond, a ward of Lady Appleton, believes it was really a murder.  She tries to enlist a friend to provide her with information about poisoned mushrooms, which she thinks is the cause of death.  Lady Appleton, who has extensive knowledge of poisons, learns of this, and travels to join her ward to protect her.

The plot is overlaid with possible intrigues to free Mary Stewart, Queen of Scots, with claims to Elizabeth’s crown, as well of that of France.  Other unusual devices include depicting teenage rebellion and willfulness, bisexual alliances and casual nude mixed bathing, common at spas at the time (and you thought nude beaches a relatively modern development).  Spying, religious antagonism ˜Catholic, Church of England, Protestant and Huguenot˜ and treason all play a part in complicating the tightly woven plot.

Some readers may find the stilted language difficult but really it contributes to the authenticity of the novel.  The language and details are essential to this enjoyable tale.

Recommended.

The Last Full Measure by Hal Glatzer

Review by Gloria Feit


The all-girl band of which Katy Green, the protagonist in this series by Hal Glatzer, is a member has a gig on the liner the SS Lurline from San Francisco to Honolulu, on almost literally the eve of the American entry into WWII.  Distrust of Japanese people on the ship and in America is rampant.  The tale involves a treasure hunt on the Big Island, the nature of the prize of which is in doubt but the value of which is not.  The prospect of the treasure hunt leads to a murder during the cruise, and Katy becomes embroiled in the hunt for the murderer.  There are several potential suspects and few if any clues.  

There is a great deal of color and texture of the period in this entertaining novel, with interesting factual background on the history of Hawaii.  The author makes the point that everybody has two faces, that being the case with several of the characters who populate his book.  There are parallels drawn between that period and today, e.g., “There’s no point in declaring‚ war anymore.  If you need to make war, you just do it!”  The problem for this reader was that the dialogue didn’t ring true, even allowing for a different time and culture.  But maybe that was just me.  However, the descriptions of shipboard life and the lives of the musicians working on the ship and the sense of nostalgia created by the book definitely worked for me.

Thursday, March 16

Who Gets the Apartment? by Steven Rigolosi

Review by Claire McManus


The premise of this first book in the new "Tales from the Back Page" series is the stuff of an urban nightmare.  A New York book editor, about to be thrown out of her rental apartment as it's about to go co-op, finds the apartment of her dreams - a duplex penthouse on Central Park for an amazingly low sum.  On move-in day, as she's about to pop open the champagne to celebrate, three more people attempt to move in.  Long story short - a rascal (with a grudge against the apartment's owner) has swindled them and made off with their money.

At that point, the four have to figure out "who gets the apartment," and they embark on a series of different scenarios to figure it out.  In one scenario, they create a competition that gets very ugly indeed.  In another, they decide to band together to track down the thief and get their money back.  The narrator warns the reader up front that only one of the scenarios is the real one, and the reader has to figure it out.  In the second half of the book, there is a sequel, "Good Boys Never Win," where we find out what happened ( i.e., who got the apartment) AND get another story about a plot to take down an incompetent power monger and his evil secretary (this section meet with cheers from three of our group members, who had all found themselves in that situation at one point or another in their lives).
 
Overall, my book club found this book enjoyable from start to finish.  The pages simply fly by.  The author has a light touch and a positive approach to humanity.  This isn't noir or hardboiled fiction, so (and I don't think this is a spoiler) you can be assured of a satisfying ending.  We also liked the details about the publishing industry (some of us are writers and it was good, if depressing, to see all of our fears validated about what goes on, and doesn't go on, at publishing companies).  We decided that the book reminded us of more traditional books where the plot is the key thing, instead of more modern books where the goal is intense character study, often with very depressing people as the protagonists (drug addicts, alchoholics, people who cannot love, etc.).   
 
Since we believe that all books can benefit from a little criticism, we wished we had known a little more about the characters' backgrounds.  One of the key characters is African-American, and there are a few secondary Latino and Asian-American characters, and we wished we had known more about them.  But several others pointed out that the book is so modern in that everyone sort of mixes together in an urban atmosphere, where background/ethnicity becomes less important than about shared experiences as New Yorkers.  In that way, a few of us saw a resemblance to the Alexander McCall Smith books -  the author doesn't get into huge amounts of detail, and lets the readers fill in the blanks.
 
We also wondered if the premise of the story is based on fairly sophisticated characters being too naive.  But most of us accepted it as a sign of their desperation for a place to live.  Finally, the "alternate scenarios" structure was lauded by 7 of us as something we haven't seen in a while; the other 2 preferred more traditional structure.  However, we all did agree we would like to spend more time with these characters and see what kinds of trouble they can get into in the future.

Monday, March 13

Without Mercy by Jack Higgins

Review by Andrea Maloney

Picking up where Higgins' Dark Justice left off, Sean Dillon and colleagues seek revenge on the Russian agents responsible for murdering their colleague. The Russians themselves, however, are not too happy with Dillon for killing their man, billionaire and former KGB official Josef Belov. With the death of Belov, Russia's prospects for a steady flow of oil out of Iraq are threatened; so the Kremlin institutes a new plot to gain control of Belovs' company and get rid of Dillon and team.

When I started reading this book I though it must be a farce or parody.  The characters have no character, they are one dimensional, flat, stereotypical characters. The dialogue is painful and the plot is plotless. And how these people can function after constantly drinking gallons of alcohol is beyond me. I cringed while reading it. I only finished it because I kept hoping it would get better…it didn't.  If you want to read a good thriller read one of Higgins' early books because this one just doesn't have it.

Lifeguard by James Patterson & Andrew Gross

Review by Andrea Maloney


Ned Kelly has met the woman of his dreams.  His cousin has offered to cut him on a deal worth a million dollars.  A simple break-and-enter.  His dreams are all on the verge of coming true.  But on the night of the heist something goes horribly wrong and Ned finds his life spinning out of control.

Not a literary masterpiece but it was a nice escapist read.  Ned Kelly was a likeable character, the female FBI agent's character however was rather silly and farfetched. The villain character seemed a little too snotty and annoying. The plot was enjoyable and kept moving at a nice clip. A good book for when you don't want to read anything too heavy.

Friday, March 10

Blood Hollow by William Kent Krueger

Review by Andrea Maloney

When the body of a high school student is found all evidence points to her boyfriend. But Aurora's former Sheriff, Cork O'Connor,  doesn't believe it for a minute. Small town bigotry and bureaucracy hinder his efforts to find the truth but in the end the truth will be revealed.

This is a wonderfully written book.  Terrific mystery with more twists and turns than a roller coaster, great cast of characters and an evocative and beautiful setting. William Krueger creates in depth characters and the writing is breathtaking. This is the fourth in the Cork O'Connor series.

Dance of Death by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Review by Andrea Maloney

Two brothers, one a top FBI agent the other a twisted psychopath are in a battle of wits with the stakes as high as they get.  Dance of death brings together many of the beloved characters from Preston & Child's other novels with terrific results. This hard to put down thriller will have you at the edge of your seat from beginning to end. Pendergast is a delightful & complex character surrounded by many other terrific in depth characters that are all intertwined in this wonderful novel. Fast paced, terrific writing that will leave you wanting more.

The Quick by Dan Vining

Review by Andrea Maloney

It's a private eye book with a supernatural twist. Private investigator Jimmy Miles works the Hollywood nights. His new client is the desperate daughter of a dead man. Her father was executed for a long-ago murder-and she wants Jimmy to uncover the truth about the crime and the real killer's identity. A well written noir story with an interesting mystery, fascinating characters and a really cool woo woo element. The story did leave some unanswered questions which I hope may be answered in another book if this is intended to be a series. If you are looking for a cozy this isn't it. Rather it's a noirish, haunting mystery that may leave more questions than it answers.

Spiked by Mark Arsenault

Review by Andrea Maloney

Eddie Bourque, a reporter for the Lowell Empire in Massachusetts, finds himself involved in a mystery that for him is personal...Eddie's beat partner has been found dead in a mill canal. Blocked at every step of the way Eddie is determined to find his partner's killer. Eddie struggles to stay ahead of ruthless hitmen, the city's power elite and the curious police detective who always shows up when Eddie wishes she wouldn't. I found the story a little slow in the begining but towards the second half it really picked up the pace and I found myself liking Eddie Bourque and waiting with baited breath for the solution to this involved mystery. Mark Arsenault really knows his stuff about the inside world of the newspaper business and local politics and conveys this with great writing, interesting characters and a great story. And wait until you meet General VonKatz...he's quite the character!

Dangerous Undertaking by Mark de Castrique

Review by Andrea Maloney

Barry Clayton is an ex. cop turned undertaker since his father is no longer able to run the business. At a graveside service for an elderly woman, her grandson strides in like Clint Eastwood complete with duster, rips out a shotgun and murder's his entire family. I read this book with great anticipation since the I found the description of the story intriquing and I wasn't disappointed. The author writes convincingly about the Applachian mountains and it's people, alzheimer's and the effects on a family while involving us in a compelling mystery. Along the way there are some twists and turns and a surprise at the end that I did not anticipate. I fully recommend this mystery for it's great character's and the ability of the author to transport us into the Applachian mountains and community.

Relative Danger by Charles Benoit

Review by Andrea Maloney

Relative Danger by Charles Benoit starts in 1948 Singapore with the murder of Russell Pearce. In present day Pennsylvania Doug Pearce has always been fascinated with stories of his Uncle Russ the black sheep of the family. A letter from an old friend of his uncle's arrives with an offer he can't refuse. A chance to solve the murder of Russel Pearce and recover a legendary red diamond. Doug agrees to play detective for how bad could it be? Follow Doug as he jets from Morocco to Egypt to Singapore following a trail left years ago by his uncle and his uncle's killer.

Relative Danger envelopes you in it's story. I was sorry to find out "who done it' because the whole journey to arrive at the denouement was so well written that I didn't want it to end. Relative Danger is a lively read with a likeable hero, exotic locations, fascinating characters and non stop action. Put this all together and you have a can't put down must read mystery! I can't wait to read Charles Benoit's next book.

First, Do No Harm by Larry Karp

Review by Andrea Maloney

Martin Firestone can't figure out why his father, the eccentric painter Leo Firestone, is throwing a fit. All Martin did was tell his dad he'd been accepted to medical school. Then, Leo tells Martin a story about his own father, Dr. Samuel Firestone, an extraordinarily gifted doctor and living legend in the small city of Hobart, NJ, but a man with a serious character flaw. During the summer of 1943, while Leo worked as Samuel's extern, he witnessed some highly questionable behavior. When Leo decided his father was covering up a murder, he and his girlfriend, followed a trail of clues to find the truth. By the time they realized they were in far over their sixteen-year-old heads, it was too late to call off the investigation. But there are loose threads in Leo's story. Martin picks them up, and sixty years after the fact, goes snooping in Hobart. And like his father, he comes away with a whole lot more junk than he'd bargained for.

This is a terrific book that I just couldn't put down. The writing is powerful, the characters dynamic and the story fascinating. The author pulls you into the story with the first paragraph and gradually peels away the layers on a sixty year old mystery. The more you read the more you want to know. This book is not only about the destination (the solution of the mystery) it's also all about the journey to get there. It's a grand journey with a compelling ending and a fascinating look into the world of the past when doctors were perceived as gods who in the end were just as human as everyone else.

Blood for Blood by S. K. Rizzolo

Review by Andrea Maloney

In the spring of 1812, the Luddites are on the march, Lord Byron is taking London drawing rooms by storm, and Penelope Wolf has become a lady's companion. When one of the footmen turns up dead with a knife to the heart, Penelope and Bow Street Runner John Chase with the help of barrister Edward Buckler, are entangled in a web of family secrets and political conspiracy that stretches far beyond luxurious St. James's Square. This is one heck of a good book! Well written with a terrific plot that pulls you in from the beginning and never lets go until the very end. Tightly woven into the plot is wonderful historical detail about how the classes interacted, how the police operated, the plight of unwed mothers during this time and the millennial fervor occurring in Regency London when thousands were waiting for the end of the world. A gripping mystery that is a must read.

Five for Silver by Mary Reed & Eric Mayer

Review by Andrea Maloney

The year is 542. Peter, John the Lord Chamberlain's elderly servant, claims a heavenly visitor revealed a murder to him. It transpires that Peter's old army friend has indeed been stabbed, but then John discovers that Gregory was not what he appeared to be. Is the solution to the mystery to be found in a hidden identity, in the will made by a dying ship owner with a wayward son, or perhaps even amid the oracles in a merchant's garden.

Five for Silver is set in Constantinope against the backdrop of the plague. It is an extemely well written mystery with loads of terrific historical detail and well developed characters you come to care about. The details on the plague will give you the chills just imagining what it must have been like to live thru it. An elaborately plotted mystery that will leave you guessing, speculating and trying to solve it until the very end. Just when you think you have finally figured it out....you haven't! A must read mystery that will send you scrambling for the first four in this dynamite series.

Spurred Ambition by Twist Phelan

Review by Andrea Maloney

Business attorney Hannah Dain finds herself in the middle of an anti-Indian protest, a kidnapping and complex securities fraud.  All the while trying to deal with a shocking family revelation and her relationship with her boyfriend.

If you are looking for a little adventure this mystery has it in spades. Twist Phelan has written a complex mystery filled with lots of twists and turns. Her heroine, Hannah Dain,  is a likeable, adventurous woman who has her fill of problems both family and business related. From the very beginning when Hannah finds herself in the middle of an anti-Indian protest until the end you will find yourself unable to put down the book until you finally make it to the dramatic ending.  And now I'm off to find the first book in this wonderful series so I can catch up on the adventures of Hannah Dain.

Tropic of Murder by Lev Raphael

Review by Andrea Maloney

The academic world at the State University of Michigan is going out of control. As one crisis after another occurs English professor Nick Hoffman and his partner, Stefan, decide it's time to get out of there for a little break. A week at a Caribbean Club Med sounds like just the thing. But the island of Serenity is anything but serene as they find themselves face to face with murder.

Lev Raphael has written a wonderfully amusing, literary mystery full of the craziness of academic politics. The writing is a delight to read, the plot will keep you guessing and the characters come to life. A fun read that will make you want to read the rest in the series if you haven't already.

Six for Gold by Mary Reed & Eric Mayer

Review by Andrea Maloney

Another terrific installment in the John the Eunuch series. Accused of murdering a senator , John is saved from torture and execution by being banished by Emperor Justinian.  Justinian sends him to Egypt to solve the mystery of why sheep in an Egyptian village are slitting their own throats. John finds the local landowner locked in battle with a magician who both want control of the land and the mysterious maze/shrine that is on it.  And back in Constantinople John's friends and family desperately try to prove his innocence.

A fascinating look into the historical time of Emperor Justinian, a time of plague and the conflict between the Christians and pagans.  Loaded with wonderful historic detail and a terrific mystery. John is a likeable hero and the supporting characters are quirky and wonderful.  Historical mystery lovers will want to be sure to read all the books in this series as will everyone else. It's well written, with great characters, a lively mystery and lots of well researched historical detail.

Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood

Review by Andrea Maloney

Cocaine Blues is the very first Phryne Fisher mystery where we learn how Phryne first got involved in solving mysteries. 

The London Season is in full fling at the end of the 1920's, but Phryne finds herself bored with the usual high society trivialities.  So she decides that it might be fun to try her hand at being a lady detective in Melbourne, Australia. The Colonel and his wife have asked her to look into the matter of their daughter.  She has been sickly since she married and moved to Australia and they feel that there is more to it than meets the eye. Phryne leaves the tedium of English high society for Melbourne, Australia, and never looks back.  From the time she arrives Phryne is entangled in mysterious goings on: poisoning, cocaine smuggling, corrupt cops and communism. Not to mention erotic encounters with a handsome Russian dancer.

I really enjoyed this book. Phryne is a high spirited, delightful and memorable character who I can't wait to read more about.  She has more fun and adventure in a day than most people have in a lifetime. It was a terrific read from beginning to end.  A fun romp thru the 1920's yet with gripping details about the struggles of women during this time. The story line was wonderful, the characters were intriguing, the period detail was just great (love the clothing), and  the dialogue spirited and witty. Phyrne Fisher is a heroine you will want to read about again and again.

Wedding's Widow by Alex Matthews

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Cassidy McCabe is a psychotherapist in Oak Park, outside of Chicago.  Cassidy has been treating Claire Linden through the divorce of her abusive ex-husband.  Now Claire is finally remarrying and Cassidy and her husband Zach, a reporter, are attending the wedding. 

At the outdoor wedding, Max O'Connell, the groom, is shot before the vows can be completed.  Claire is devastated.  She asks Cassidy and Zach to help find out who killed Max.  Her ex-husband is a prime suspect, but she doesn't believe he did it.  Cassidy and Zach have helped solve a few crimes before, so they accept. 

As they start uncovering Max's past, they find things were not quite as they seemed.  He was deeply in debt and suspects begin to start stacking up.  Can Cassidy and Zach sort through the suspects and find the killer?  Cassidy is being followed and threatened quite regularly.  She refuses to give up the investigation.  Can Zach keep her safe? 

I had never read anything by this author before.  I really enjoyed this book.  I found myself continuously picking it back up to read another chapter to figure out who did it.  I thought the abundance of suspects was well written.  I did not figure out who did it before the killer was unmasked. 

I like Cassidy and Zach.  They are well written and their interaction is great.  Just enough strife to make it interesting, but yet not so much that I got frustrated with them. 

I highly recommend this book and can't wait to read another!


Hot Grudge Sunday by Rosemary & Larry Mild

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Inspector Paco and Molly set off on a luxury bus tour for out West their honeymoon.   

Every day there is an accident.  But are they really accidents?  Ray Symington, the target of the "accidents" asks Paco and Molly for protection.  Paco refuses to protect him but they do begin to do some investigating.  Especially after they and others begin to become victims. 

What they find is a lot of animosity towards Ray from his salesmen and their wives who are also on the tour. 

Add in some bank robbers and you have the wild west for sure! 

I had not read any of Paco and Molly's adventures before.  That will be changing.  I really enjoyed them and their adventurous spirit.  I can't wait to read more!  I highly recommend this book! 


New Year’s Eve Murder by Leslie Meier

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Elizabeth and her mother Lucy have won a makeover in a contest by Jolie magazine.  They, along with five other mother-daughter duos, go to New York for a weekend.  The contestants will all be judged, and the winning duo will win $10,000. 

Lucy has just received a letter stating that due to their income increasing, they owe $10,000 towards Elizabeth's tuition that would have previously been covered by her scholarship.  That would be a problem except that this year their income has dropped significantly.  Lucy wants more than ever to win that $10,000 prize. 

During the makeovers, the fashion editor is killed and Elizabeth is hospitalized.  It turns out Anthrax is the reason for both.  Lucy sets off to find who could have sent it and why.  She uncovers a lot of misdeeds, including quite a few hot-button issues.  

I really like this series.  Lucy is a fun character.  This time she is outside her comfort zone, and because of that I think we see a different side of her.  I didn't mind that.  I thought it was written to fit the context of the story and situation, as well as the fact they were in New York city. 

I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading the next in this fabulous series! 


Who Killed Swami Schwartz by Nora Charles

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Kate Kennedy attends a dinner for Swami Schwartz, founder of the Palmetto Beach Yoga Institute.  Swami drops dead because someone spiked his double espresso with cyanide. 

Kate is recently widowed and fairly new to retirement in South Florida.  Her ex-sister-in-law Marlene lives in the same condo building.  The two of them decide to try to figure out why he was poisoned. 

Their investigation leads them to a cryogenics firm where you can have your head frozen for $30,000 or your whole body for $128,000.   

There is a plethora of suspects.  Can they figure out who did it and why without putting themselves in danger? 

I really enjoy this series.  I think Kate is a fun senior sleuth. The escapades that she and Marlene get into are very entertaining.  It is a fun, fast read!  A great cozy mystery. 

For those of you who might not know, she has also written the Ghostwriter series as Noreen Wald.  They're great fun too! 

I highly recommend this book!

Another Murder in the Inn by Barbara Fox

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Sandy Evans runs a bed and breakfast inn in Washington, DC.  She thought a fitness getaway week would be fun.  She didn't plan on murder! 

There are many suspects including the cheerful exercise teacher and her jealous husband.  Then there's a matchmaker, bride, mystery writer and belly dancer, just to name a few. 

As if Sandy isn't busy enough, her twin sister Allison arrives and wants to shoot a scene at the inn.  She is a casting director for a Florida movie studio.  Plus there appears to be romance in the air for Allison. 

Can Sandy keep the inn going, her sister out of trouble, and find a killer?  All without putting herself in danger! 

I had never read anything by this author before.  I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more by her!  Sandy is such a fun character.  I especially liked the setting as I live in a Virginia suburb of DC and new many of the places that were mentioned. 

This is a fun, light read and I highly recommend this book.

Dead Giveaway by Leann Sweeney

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Abby Rose is a PI specializing in adoption.  She's also a Texas heiress. 

Will Knight hires her to find his birth family.  He's now a superstar college athlete, but once he was a baby abandoned on a doorstep. 

There aren't many clues to his background, just an expensive baby blanket and Verna Mae, the woman who found him. 

Abby meets with Verna Mae.  She feels she knows more than she is telling.  But before they can meet again, Verna Mae is murdered.   

Abby is determined to find the truth.  She follows the clues from the Huntsville state prison to the richest parts of Houston.  Someone feels she's asking too many questions.  Can she discover the truth without being silenced? 

I really like Abby Rose.  She is such a fun and likeable character.  She is well written.  This is a quick and enjoyable cozy to read!  The Texas setting really lends itself to the story, and I highly recommend this book.



The Baby Game by Randall Hicks

Review by Andrea Maloney

Attorney Toby Dillon likes to help people. His two best friends, friends since childhood, need his help to adopt a baby.  They are Hollywood's latest glamour couple and the adoption story is like gold to the news media. Everything goes perfectly until there is a kidnapping, the birth mother disappears and suspects start turning up dead.  Soon the past comes back to haunt them and things go from bad to worse.

Randall Hicks has written a terrific first mystery novel. The Baby Game is a mystery with a comic twist, delightful characters well written and believable, a suspenseful mystery with enough twists & turns to leave you guessing up until the surprising ending. A gem of a first mystery that will leave you wanting more from this up and coming author.

Improbable by Adam Fawer

Review by Andrea Maloney

David Caine, is a compulsive gambler with a brilliant mathematical mind who is also subject to epileptic seizures. One night he makes a costly mistake and suffers the most intense seizure he has ever had. Desperate to get his seizures and his life under control he agrees to test a new experimental medication with incredible results. Not sure if what is happening is real or if he is on the verge of a psychotic break, David finds himself on the run, trying to save his life and his very sanity.
Improbable is an intense thriller with loads of twists and turns, likeable characters, believable villains and an intriguing premise that will keep you reading long into the night. There are detailed explanations about probability theory, quantum physics and other scientific principles that some people might feel bogs down the story but I rather enjoyed it. I think I understood the concepts better in this book than I did when in college. A terrific first novel from an author I hope to read more from very soon.

Dead Run by P. J. Tracy

Review by Andrea Maloney

The third outing for the Monkeewrench crew finds Grace, Annie and Sharon (Wisconsin deputy from the first book, now on loan to the FBI) traveling from Minneapolis to Green Bay, Wisconsin to help out with a string of serial killings. Along the way their car breaks down and they find themselves trapped in a town where everyone has vanished and a group of soldiers are making sure that no one gets out of the town alive.

Another first rate addition from P.J. Tracy in the Monkeewrench series. Again filled with the likeable characters from the previous books, a rich plot and subtle humor which adds a fine frosting to this fine mystery.  The characters are what really draws you into the Monkeewrench mysteries, they are nicely developed and you can't help but love them. It feels as if they are good friends you are reading about not just characters in a book.

Blindfold Game by Dana Stabenow

Review by Andrea Maloney

Hugh Rincon an information gatherer for the CIA discovers a terrorist plot to launch a dirty bomb in Alaska but he can't get the director to take him seriously so he sets out on his own with the help of his wife, Sara Lange, an officer on a Coast Guard cutter to chase down the terrorist.

A first rate thriller from author Dana Stabenow. A highly believable premise turned in to an action packed novel will leave you wondering if this couldn't happen today. Dana Stabenow spent 16 days aboard a Coast Guard Cutter and it shows in the rich details of life on a Coast Guard ship. Rich characterization adds depth to this first thriller from author, Stabenow.

Don't Look Back by Karin Fossum

Review by Andrea Maloney

This is the first of the Norwegian Inspector Sejer mystery novels to appear in America although it is actually number 5 in the series. Inspector Sejer is called in to solve the murder of a young girl, loved by all, from a small idyllic mountain village where everyone knows everyone else.  Sejer must uncover the truth in a town where some people will do anything to make sure their secrets are never revealed.

A terrific mystery from Karin Fossum. Great sense of small town life in Norway, wonderfully written characters, terrifically plotted mystery. Somber and chilling with great psychological insight into the different characters…you really feel you know them and how they think and react.  My only quibble was that sometimes it was hard to figure out who was speaking.  But still a highly enjoyable book and I'm looking forward to reading more from Karin Fossum..

Speak Now by Margaret Dumas

Review by Andrea Maloney

Charley Van Leeuwen surprises everyone by returning from London with a new husband, Jack Fairfax. He's a mild mannered meteorologist who is tall, dark and handsome, all that you could wish for in a husband. But Charley begins to suspect there is more to Jack than meets the eye, especially after finding a dead body in their bathtub, following him on a ransom drop and being rescued by Jack while bullets are flying. Charley has her hands full dealing with kidnapping, murder, bitter ex-boyfriends, crazy relatives and trying to stage a play for her struggling repertory theater.

Margaret Dumas has written a delightfully funny mystery featuring Charley and Jack who are reminiscent of Nick & Nora Charles with a modern twist. Witty banter, humorous characters and a good solid mystery keep you enthralled from beginning to end. An entertaining debut novel that will leave you wanting to hear more about the adventures of these madcap newlyweds.

Thursday, March 9

Mahu by Neil Plakcy

Review by Pat Brown

With word of an impending heroin sale going down, Honolulu detective, Kimo Kanapa’aka, his partner Akoni and several other undercover officers are after the dealers. When the bust goes awry, Kimo ends up at the Rod and Reel Club, a local gay bar.

Because Kimo has been living a lie. He lies to his brother cops, he lies to his family. Mostly he lies to himself. Kimo has known he’s attracted to men since he was a teenager. And he knows he can’t ever tell anyone.

Then disaster strikes. He finds a dead body outside the gay bar. To call it in would mean revealing where he is. So Kimo makes his first mistake. He leaves the scene. From that point on his life unravels. His secret comes out, he is suspended from the force and has to face the dismay of family and friends. But he also finds support from some surprising places.

Skillfully intermixed with Kimo’s self-discovery is a tightly constructed crime novel. Dirty cops, a crime that comes too close to home for Kimo and making sure a brutal killer doesn’t get away with murder are all played against the backdrop of a Hawaii you will never forget.

A wonderful debut for this first mystery by Author Neil Plakcy. I look forward to more in the series. Tight and suspenseful, the main character’s sexuality plays a large role, but it does not define the character. He’s as multidimensional as he is multi cultural. Mahu may be a derogatory word in Hawaiian but in this book it becomes a powerful symbol of a man who won’t surrender himself to empty prejudices. Memorable characters pull you in and won’t let you go. I whole-heartedly recommend this crackling good book to anyone, gay or straight, who loves a good mystery. For more visit www.mahu.com

Whipsaw by Steve Brewer

Review by Gloria Feit

Whipsaw is the name of a computer game devised by DelaTek, a fledgling firm for which Matt Donahue headed security after leaving the Marine Corps, and which has now become quite successful, making its founder, David LaCosta, very wealthy. Donahue left that firm two years ago after his wife left him for LaCosta, to whom she is now married. Understandably, there is no love lost between the two men. But when LaCosta asks Matt to help him retrieve the stolen source code for Whipsaw as well as the gaming platform built around it, on which virtually the entire future of the company rests, as computer gaming is currently a huge market and the company having invested everything to develop them, Matt has little choice but to agree, since his own financial future is tied up heavily in DelaTek stock. The hackers responsible have demanded a $3 million ransom, specifying that Matt deliver the money. But things of course do not go as planned, and Matt now feels compelled to see the search for the culprits through. Kate Allison, the beautiful head of Systems Security for the firm, lends a hand, and the plot takes off from there. The corpses start to pile up as the chase continues, right up to its exciting finish [despite my having guessed the identity of the Œbad guy‚ before the author identified him].

Steve Brewer, the author of two mystery series, has written a standalone worthy of his prior novels. Whipsaw is a fast-moving, well-written tale. Quibble: there are a couple of points at which the dialogue gets a bit melodramatic and doesn‚t quite ring true, e.g., at one point LaCosta says „Let‚s go save this company,‚ which sort of had the ring of the old „Let‚s put on a show‰ line. But it is a fun and quick read, filled with wonderful descriptions of San Francisco, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Escape Clause by James O. Born

Review by Theodore Feit

Special Agent Billy Tasker, of the Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement, has been through a series of calamitous events in the previous six months, lastly being shot up and undergoing painful rehab. Just at the end of his recovery, he is in a bank with his young daughter when two armed robbers enter the bank. One shoots the bank manager dead. Billy can‚t just stand by: he shoots the killer and apprehends the other robber.

Procedure, of course, following the shooting, is to place Billy on administrative leave pending investigations. While he is cleared, a possible grand jury inquiry looms. A governor‚s aide offers a deal to make a possible indictment go away˜and there is no choice but to accept. It is suggested he take a working „vacation,‰ investigating the death of an inmate at a state correctional institution. The inmate is the son of a wealthy contributor to the governor. It‚s supposed to be a whitewash.

And as the Scot poet said: the best laid plans∑Tasker gets involved in all kinds of side issues, plots and unorthodox prison procedures. A couple of murders contribute to the complications. And his love life becomes equally complicated. Somehow the entangled web comes together in an ending that is explosive, not to mention dangerous to Tasker and his newly found love interest.

The author moves the story back and forth among a series of interesting characters. The high quality of writing in his previous books is maintained throughout, as is the plotting and atmosphere. Completely enjoyable, Escape Clause is an excellent read.

Artrage by Everett Aison

Review by Theodore Feit

This is one of the more unusual books I‚ve read in a long time. It‚s written in sort of a surreal stream-of-consciousness, flitting back in forth in time, recounting events and dreams in juxtaposition with other incidents. The main character seems to be sex-obsessed, although the novel isn‚t X-rated, but Parental Guidance is suggested.

Mace Caslon is a college scholarship graduate who became a prominent Wall Street attorney after Yale Law School. An avid art collector, primarily acquired directly from artists, he seems to be quite the expert. At this point in his life, he is bored with the law, and takes exception to the art world scene, the galleries and dealers and artists (although he has a long-standing love affair with a gallery owner).

One day out of the blue, he enters the Metropolitan Museum of Art and sprays a $41 million Picasso with acid, destroying the painting. Of course he is arrested and charged with a felony by the U.S. Attorney (how this becomes a Federal case is never explained). He remains silent and refuses to explain his actions. A female attorney with quite a reputation inserts herself to defend him, basing her defense on placing exploitive television personalities, museum officials, collectors, dealers and the rest of the art world on trial instead of Caslon.

The novel is introspective, tracing the development of Caslon and other characters, including a Police Captain jailer of the arrestee. The public is in a turmoil, with some condemning Caslon, others demanding he be set free. When Caslon‚s lover‚s son repeats his act of vandalism, Caslon makes a tape confessing in a deal to keep the kid out of jail At trial (after pleading guilty?) a couple of twists surprise the reader.

I don‚t know how most readers will react to this unusual novel, and I can‚t venture an opinion.

The Fallen by T. Jefferson Parker

Review by Gloria Feit

Robbie Brownlaw, a San Diego homicide detective [self-described in a phrase new to me: a "dead dick"], suffers from synesthesia, a [probably] very real neurological disease - there appears to be some small bit of controversy over this - defined as an involuntary joining of senses in which the real information of one sense is accompanied by a perception in another sense. In this instance, Robbie sees shapes and colors of emotions behind spoken words, a fact of which only he and his wife are aware. This came about following a near-miraculous recovery after being thrown out of 6th floor hotel window, turning him into a local hero and resulting in two police department promotions. For the most part this condition, sort of a built-in lie detector as deceptive speech provokes a very specific shape and color that seems to emit from the speaker's mouth, plays out as mostly background in The Fallen, but an intriguing one. As the book opens Robbie and his partner are called in to investigate the death, which may or may not be a suicide, of Garrett Asplundh, a former cop who was now an ethics investigator. The search turns up evidence of the dead man's current investigations into possible corruption both inside various law enforcement agencies and city government, and the detectives are urged to keep whatever findings they may uncover under wraps and in-house. They must also look at a motive of a more personal nature. Garrett and his wife have been separated since the tragic drowning death of their three-year old daughter, and on the night of his death they were to meet for what may have been a reconciliation. Robbie and his wife are going through their own marital troubles. Both men are married to very beautiful women they adore, and the difficulties in their marriages and the toll taken on all concerned are movingly drawn.

This is another suspense-filled novel by Mr. Parker, his 13th book. His descriptions of San Diego and its environs are excellent, and his characters very well-drawn. The power game played among the various government movers and shakers, as well as the wanna-bes and those lower down in that food chain, are compelling. Another strong book from this author.

A Killer Collection by J.B. Stanley

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Molly Appleby is a writer for Collector’s Weekly magazine. She is currently covering the kiln opening of a rising star in Southern pottery-making. Everyone related to pottery is there. Even George-Bradley Staunton, a very obnoxious collector from North Carolina.

Molly’s mother is a collector as well and has Molly pick up a couple of pottery pieces once everyone is allowed in. Molly is surprised by how cut-throat some of the collectors are.

Soon George-Bradley Staunton drops dead. It is ruled an accident, and the police close the case. Molly suspects it is murder. Then his rival disappears along with some of George-Bradley’s valuable pieces from his collection.

Molly and her mother, along with some friends, set out to find the who and why. Can they uncover the truth without putting themselves in harm’s way?

I really enjoyed this book. Molly and her mother are very likable characters. Molly’s co-workers really add to the flavor of the story.

Antiques/Collectibles are becoming a type of mystery that I really enjoy. I look forward to reading many more books in this series in the future! What a great first mystery. I highly recommend this wonderful cozy mystery.

Batteries Required by Jennifer Apodaca

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Samantha and her best friend Angel get given a box of sex toys at a local casino. Angel sells lingerie and receives the sex toys to consider selling. She asks Samantha to hold the box for her and then goes missing.

Samantha gets Detective Vance to look into her disappearance. But things aren’t what they seem, and soon Detective Vance is quit put out with Samantha. Samantha’s boyfriend and ex-cop turned PI, Gabe, helps her investigate.

Samantha owns and runs Heart Mates, a dating service. While investigating, she is also fending off a stalking fan trying to find romance writer R. V. Logan. Samantha has promised to not tell anyone that Detective Vance writes those romances, but can she keep that promise and solve the mystery, saving Angel at the same time?

I love this series. The characters are so well written. The story moves along at a great pace. Samantha gets herself in her share of sticky situations. She has to juggle family, work, and investigating. She is such a fun character.

Then there’s Gabe and Detective Vance. They really keep the story hopping. They’re both after Samantha and also kept busy keeping her safe.

I highly recommend this book.

Better Read Than Dead by Victoria Laurie

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Abby Cooper is a psychic intuitive. Her friend Kendal gets her to help him read Tarot cards at a wedding reception. This isn’t her forte, but she owes Kendal. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for them to realize they’re doing some readings for very shady characters. They leave immediately.

If only that were the end of it. A Mob boss hears about it and wants her to help him with some business. She tries to say no, but he doesn’t take no for an answer. Before long, Abby finds herself deep in trouble.

At the same time, her FBI boyfriend Dutch is off on a special assignment with a beautiful new partner. And Dutch’s old partner Milo has Abby helping him find a masked man who is attacking and raping women.

Abby tries everything to stay out of trouble and get her life back, but she almost loses her life along with everything else. Can she survive and get free from the Mob?

I am not a believer in psychics, but I really enjoy this series. Abby is a fun and likable character. Dutch and Milo as well as Abby’s friends and family really enhance the story. I like the way the author has made Abby so that she doesn’t always understand the messages she gets. This lets her bumble her way through life which can get her into trouble without her always knowing. I do like the way she works with the police, but they are still quite skeptical.

I highly recommend this book.

Deadly Collection by Elaine Flinn

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Molly Doyle is hired to help Frances O’Brien sell off all her parents’ antiques. She is unsure of taking the job, but once she sees all the treasures, she can’t say no. Frances is very difficult to deal with, and Molly often regrets taking the job. But not as much as she does when a mummified human corpse is found behind the walls.

Molly’s niece Emma that recently came to live with her is such a great addition to this series. Her knowledge of antiques is proving to be a real asset in this book. There are so many items to catalog. Plus Emma keeps Molly from dumping this job more than once.

Randall, Chief of Police, and Molly have worked together to solve a few other murders. Most of the time Randall is trying to keep Molly out of things. This is no exception. Molly feels compelled to find out who the killer is, especially when her friend Daria becomes a suspect.

I really enjoy this series. I’m not an antiques lover, but I have really grown to love Molly and the rest of the characters created by this author. They are so believable and entertaining. I would love to go to Carmel and meet them all. If only I could!

I can’t wait for the next book to be written and published. It’s like hearing from an old friend when I read a book in this series. The author has done a wonderful job with the plot, setting, characters, and pace. Keep them coming!

I highly recommend this book.

Scent to Her Grave by India Ink

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Persia Vanderbilt is helping her aunt in her local bath and body store, Venus Envy, in Gull Harbor, Washington. Persia blends custom oils for the customers.

Lydia Wang won a local beauty pageant, but she is not very nice. She wants the Mirror of Aphrodite that Persia’s friend brought back for her. It reflects only the most beautiful aspects of the person looking into it. It’s not for sale.

The next morning Persia arrives at the shop to find not only Lydia dead, but the mirror missing. The police suspect Trevor, one of the shop’s treasured employees. Persia sets out to prove that Trevor didn’t do it.

Can she find out the truth without becoming a victim herself?

This is the first book I’ve read in this series, but it definitely won’t be the last. I really enjoyed Persia. She is a fun and likeable character, and she didn’t do stupid things in her investigating.

The plot was well written and the story moved along at a good pace. It is a great cozy mystery. I highly recommend it.

Thrilled to Death by Jennifer Apodaca

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Samantha’s grandfather, Barney, is under suspicion of hiring a hit man to try to kill magician spoiler Shane. Samantha owns and runs Heart Mates dating service, but she also works part-time as a PI under her ex-cop PI boyfriend, Gabe. Samantha is hired by Nikki and her grandmother to find out which magician Shane plans to expose in his upcoming show that will be televised.

Plus Sam and Gabe are deep in renovations. They are putting their two businesses under one roof. Gabe’s brother Cal shows up and helps with renovations, but Sam is sure there is another reason Cal is in town, even though the guys won’t admit it.

Amidst everything else going on, Lola appears at Heart Mates. Blaine, Samantha’s assistant, cannot stand her. Sam has to keep the two of them apart as well as figure out what is going on there while trying to keep her grandfather out of jail and figure out who did kill Shane.

Sam is a great character. She is an ex-soccer mom, but she no longer sits on the sidelines. In this book she is trying to decide whether she wants to continue learning to be a PI. Plus, where does Gabe fit in her life?

Shane’s death is difficult for her to solve as all the suspects are friends of hers. Can she uncover the truth without hurting the ones she loves?

I like this series a lot. The interaction between Gabe and Sam is great. Her family is well written and interspersed throughout the mystery.

I highly recommend this book.

Dead Roots by Nancy J. Cohen

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Marla Shore and her fiancé Detective Dalton Vale head off on a much-needed vacation. Marla is excited as she will be introducing Dalton to many of her extended family. They are going to a family reunion at the Sugar Crest Resort. Her Aunt Polly arranged the reunion.

Turns out Marla’s relatives once owned the place and it is now supposedly haunted by some of her past relatives. Apparently Polly wanted to right some wrongs and uncover family secrets by having the reunion there. Unfortunately, Aunt Polly is found dead before she can do much more than ask Marla to look for some old letters and gems. Marla is not sure they really exist, but her curiosity gets the best of her.

When a workman falls to his death, Dalton believes the death to be murder. The house doctor lists it as an accident. Unfortunately, the local police believe the house doctor and not Dalton. This just spurs Marla on further in her investigation. Dalton is doing some investigating as well. When they discover that Aunt Polly’s death wasn’t a natural death, things really heat up.

Can Marla help Dalton uncover the truth without anyone else being hurt, including herself?

I really enjoy this series. Marla is such a likeable character. Most of the books are set in and around her Florida salon. While I enjoy that, this was a nice change. The relationship between Marla and Dalton has really matured and it is fun watching it grow and change through the various books. Marla is a believable sleuth. She does get herself into some scary situations, but she has a level head most of the time.

I highly recommend this book and the whole series.

Identity Crisis by Debbi Mack

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Sam McRae takes on a simple domestic abuse case. But it turns out to be anything but simple.

A friend asks Sam to find Melanie Hayes. This pulls Sam into a case with identity theft and murder. She even finds herself running from the mob. She makes an alliance with an offbeat PI in her attempt at getting the truth about Melanie and her boyfriend.

When she finds Melanie, Sam has to convince her to trust Sam. Then Sam has to find a way to keep Melanie safe until everything can be cleared up. This isn’t always easy.

The story is set in and around Baltimore. There are many twists and turns in the plot that will keep you guessing right up to the end. I really enjoyed this book and found it hard to put it down.

I highly recommend you read this book. I can’t wait for the next Sam McRae mystery.

The Ghost and the Dead Deb by Alice Kimberly

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Penelope Thornton-McClure is back solving another mystery. She has young author Angel Stark speak about her latest novel, true crime, in her bookstore Buy The Book that she owns with her Aunt Sadie. Angel’s book is about the unsolved mystery surrounding a debutante found strangled to death. There are juicy details pointing fingers at a lot of people in the dead deb’s circle of friends. Many of them are at this event and speak out about Angel’s new book.

Then when Angel ends up strangled to death, too, Penelope begins to investigate things. She is assisted by her bookstore’s resident ghost, hard-boiled PI Jack Shephard. Fifty years ago, he was shot in the bookstore without knowing who shot him. He has been stuck there ever since.

Can Penelope and Jack discover who the killer is without anyone else becoming a victim?

I normally don’t like mysteries with ghosts, but I love this series. It is such a great cozy and the ghost is so well written that I often forget he is a ghost. He always shows up at just the right time with just the right words. He often helps Penelope, but sometimes he flusters her with his words.

This is the second book in the Haunted Bookshop Mystery series, and I hope there will be many, many more. I always enjoy reading them. I highly recommend this book and the series.

Shadows at the Fair by Lea Wait

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Recently widowed Maggie Summer is participating in the Rensselaer County Spring Antiques Fair. She owns Shadows Antiques.

There have been some deaths of antique dealers, so everyone is on edge. Security has been hightened for the show as well.

Many of the same dealers who were at the show where John Smithson died of a poisoning last week are at this show. The dealers make the identical circuit each year and seem to know each other well. But do they really?

On opening night there is another death. The show goes on, but Maggie spends almost as much time investigating as she does selling antiques. She is determined to help prove that her friend Gussie’s nephew Ben, who has Down’s syndrome, is not the killer. Hardest part is trying to prove who is. She can’t believe any of these people that she knows could be a killer.

I really enjoy this series. Maggie is such an enjoyable character. The interspersing of information about antiques really moves the story. I found myself having trouble putting the book down. I’m not an antiques enthusiast, but the way she weaves the story and the antiques information together really makes it interesting.

I highly recommend this book and the whole series.

Knit One, Kill Two by Maggie Sefton

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Kelly Flynn returns to Colorado after her aunt Helen’s death. She inherits her aunt’s cottage. It is across the street from her aunt’s former farmhouse which has been converted to a yarn store, House of Lambspun, in one half and a café in the other half.

The police believe her aunt’s death was the result of a burglary gone bad. Kelly doesn’t agree. Aunt Helen had just borrowed $20,000. Why? And more importantly, where is that money now? Also, Kelly finds some other items missing.

Kelly needs to return to her accounting job in DC, but talks her employer into letting her do some work from there while looking into the circumstances surrounding her aunt’s death.

What Kelly finds is the women at House of Lambspun are willing to help her. This really surprises Kelly.

But can she find out who killed her aunt without putting herself in danger?

I’m not a knitter, so sometimes the references to knitting were a bit overdone. I do know that knitters can be a tight knit group. So much of that rang true. Overall, I enjoyed this book. It is a great first mystery and I look forward to reading more in this series. Hopefully Kelly’s character will really evolve and the love interest with Steve Townsend, a local developer, and her friendships with the ladies at House of Lambspun will grow and provide a little more variety in the next book.

I recommend this book!

Pretty Poison by Joyce and Jim Lavene

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Peggy Lee is widowed and now owns The Potting Shed, a local garden shop. Her husband was a police detective. She also teaches part-time at the local university. She is a botanist.

She arrives at her shop only to find a dead man. How did he get inside her locked shop? Who is he and who killed him? And why here? These are some of the many questions she wants answered.

He is Mark Warner, a very wealthy man. The police arrest a local homeless man for the murder because he had his shoes and belongings. Peggy does not believe he killed him.

In the meantime, Peggy is adopted by an enormous Great Dane. The only good thing is that she and the veterinarian seem to hit it off.

Her son is not too sure about the dog or veterinarian, and he definitely disapproves of her trying to discover the identity of the real killer. She starts stirring thing up by interviewing the various women in Mark’s life.

Peggy starts digging up secrets that someone doesn’t want known. She puts herself in danger to try to uncover the truth.

This is the first in a great new series. I can’t wait to read the next. Peggy is such a wonderfully crafted character. The students she employs really add to the story. I loved the Great Dane and the veterinarian, too.

The story is well developed and runs along at a good pace. It is a wonderful cozy that you will find hard to put down. The only bad thing is that it will be over too soon! I highly recommend this book.

Blessed is the Busybody by Emilie Richards

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Aggie Sloan-Wilcox and her family had recently relocated to Emerald Springs, OH. Her husband, Ed, is the pastor of Consolidated Community Church.

When a naked body is discovered on their front porch, outspoken Gelsey Falowell works even harder to turn everyone against Ed and have him and his family removed. At first no one knows who the dead woman is. It is soon discovered that Jennifer, the murdered woman, had come to Ed for counseling recently. The worst part is that Ed refuses to disclose to anyone, including the police, what she needed counseling for. This makes him a suspect in her death.

Aggie and her best friend Lucy begin to look into Jennifer’s life. Detective Kirkor Roussos doesn’t look to kindly on their meddling. Neither does Ed or the church congregation. And most importantly, neither does Gelsey.

Can Aggie discover the truth and find the real killer before Ed is fired and without putting herself in danger?

This is the first in this delightful series. I can’t wait to read more. Aggie is such an enjoyable character. Even their daughters Teddy and Deena are believable characters. The location is a great small town in America. The church and community really add to the story.

I highly recommend this book and can’t wait to read the next one!

Nothing To Fear But Ferrets by Linda O. Johnston

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Kendra Ballantyne is continuing her pet sitting business while studying to take the ethics exam in hopes of reinstating her law degree.

A neighbor’s Hummer crashes into her house. She discovers her tenants living in her former home are keeping illegal ferrets.

Soon after she discovers a corpse in her tenants’ den. The ferrets are the prime suspects. The corpse turned out to be Chad Chatsworth and Charlotte LaVerne, her tenant, and her boytoy Yul become suspects. Charlotte asks Kendra to help prove they didn’t do it. Kendra had recently helped prove her own innocence. With the help of her boyfriend Jeff Hubbard, a P.I. and security specialist, Kendra sets out to look into Chad’s background. She finds he had many enemies. Can she discover who killed him and why he was killed in her home and the ferrets were implicated without putting herself or others in danger?

I really enjoy this series. Kendra is such a fun character. Her pet sitting adds so much to the enjoyment of this series. Plus her relationship with Jeff and police detective Ned Noralles make for a fun read.

This cozy is a fun, easy read. I always find myself coming to the end of the book before I realize it since I just want to keep reading!

I highly recommend this book and the whole series. Can’t wait to read Fine-Feathered Death, the next in the series.

Mourners: A Nameless Detective Novel by Bill Prozini

Review by Gloria Feit

Bill Pronzini is among that rare group of authors, like the late Ed McBain, who just keeps writing masterful novels, of which Mourners is the latest [his 33rd book].

The detective agency is asked to delve into what has changed Lynn Troxell‚s husband‚s behavior in the past few months. Seems like an innocuous situation ˆ a girlfriend on the side, for instance, something Mrs. Troxell adamantly insists is not possible. So Nameless and Jake Runyon, with Tamara‚s assistance, take on the task, and it ultimately proves to be anything but innocuous.

Jake is dealing with his wife‚s death from cancer; Nameless with his daughter‚s approaching adolescence and his wife‚s uncharacteristic reticence, as well as the question of the identity of her Œreal‚ father; Tamara‚s 7-year relationship with Horace has just crashed and burned. And the initial investigation morphs into a search for the man who strangled and raped a young woman, whose grave is regularly visited, flowers and all, by Mr. Troxell. [I had one small quibble: at one point the author refers to an attorney who was „defending a plaintiff in a civil suit.‚ This would seem to be a contradiction in terms ˆ I‚m guessing the correct word would have been Œrepresenting‚ a plaintiff.] The book moves very rapidly, with a big dose of extra tension as things wrap up. There was a very weird undercurrent for this reader while devouring Mourners ˆ in an eerie coincidence here in New York the body of a young woman was found a couple of days ago, and she‚d been raped, either before or after she was strangled, and left in the brush off the side of a road; as the March 2nd NY papers said, the police were trying „to solve a crime with an apparently random victim, no clear motive, no suspect and a litany of built-in investigative challenges,‰ all much like the victim in this novel ˆ an instance of life imitating art, if that isn‚t [unintentionally] making light of a very tragic story.

Mr. Pronzini has written another winner.