Hollywood Buzz
Charles L. P. Silet

Margit Liesche packs a lot of history into her World War II Hollywood spy mystery, as Nazi agents, Hungarian expatriates, and movie folks disport themselves in 1940s tinsel town. Pucci Lewis, fresh from espionage exploits in Detroit, is detailed to advise the production of a Victory film short about the Women Air Force Service Pilot (WASP) program of civilian female flyers who transport aircraft for the military. A WASP herself, and an investigator, Pucci is the perfect candidate to become immersed in the wartime movie business and to do a bit of undercover work as well.

The second-rate director hired for the film is in fact taking a rather sexist and demeaning tone, and there are odd things happening on the set, including pranks with a sinister slant. Among the characters Pucci encounters are an oddball foreign newsstand operator, a junkie writer, a blackmailed producer, and Bela Lugosi, who keeps drifting in and out of the plot.

Hollywood Buzz is great fun and a worthy follow-up to Lipstick and Lies, Liesche's first Pucci Lewis book. Her attention to the historical detail gives the novel a resonance beyond the often veneer-thin handful of references, and her tough-minded heroine proves a credible protagonist. One wonders where she will turn up next.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:31:50

Margit Liesche packs a lot of history into her World War II Hollywood spy mystery, as Nazi agents, Hungarian expatriates, and movie folks disport themselves in 1940s tinsel town. Pucci Lewis, fresh from espionage exploits in Detroit, is detailed to advise the production of a Victory film short about the Women Air Force Service Pilot (WASP) program of civilian female flyers who transport aircraft for the military. A WASP herself, and an investigator, Pucci is the perfect candidate to become immersed in the wartime movie business and to do a bit of undercover work as well.

The second-rate director hired for the film is in fact taking a rather sexist and demeaning tone, and there are odd things happening on the set, including pranks with a sinister slant. Among the characters Pucci encounters are an oddball foreign newsstand operator, a junkie writer, a blackmailed producer, and Bela Lugosi, who keeps drifting in and out of the plot.

Hollywood Buzz is great fun and a worthy follow-up to Lipstick and Lies, Liesche's first Pucci Lewis book. Her attention to the historical detail gives the novel a resonance beyond the often veneer-thin handful of references, and her tough-minded heroine proves a credible protagonist. One wonders where she will turn up next.

In the Shadow of the Master
Joseph Scarpato Jr.

Whether you're a fan of Edgar Allan Poe or not, you have to admit that the mystery community owes him a debt of gratitude for basically inventing the modern detective story. So it's fitting that, on the bicentennial of his birth in 1809, the Mystery Writers of America honor him with this wonderful collection of classic tales by Poe along with brief essays from 20 prominent MWA members.

Among the many stories included here are such favorites as "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Pit and the Pendulum," "The Gold Bug" and, of course, "The Raven."

In addition, there are some lesser-known stories (at least to me) such as "William Wilson," "Manuscript Found in a Bottle," "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar," and "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym," and others.

What makes this book special, however, are the words of tribute--some light-hearted and some serious--offered by the modern-day writers, many of whom have won one or more of the Edgar Awards presented each year by the MWA.

Here are a few brief examples: Michael Connelly, who edited this book, tells of being inspired by Poe to write his mystery, The Poet, in which the killer leaves behind lines from Poe poems; Lawrence Block writes about how he broke the curse of not winning an Edgar by eventually marrying a woman whose mother's maiden name was Poe; and Laura Lippman describes her experience of actually witnessing a visit by the Poe Toaster at Poe's Baltimore gravesite.

In addition, the late Edward Hoch writes that his love of the short story (and he published some 975 of them!) was inspired by Poe; Joseph Wambaugh pens a poetic take-off of "The Raven"; Jeffrey Deaver also uses poetry to highlight his discussion of how Poe has influenced the music genre and Laurie King complains facetiously about how Poe has usurped all the best mystery plot ideas. All in all, an enjoyable read on a dark and dreary night and a great gift idea for the Poe lover.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:31:50

Whether you're a fan of Edgar Allan Poe or not, you have to admit that the mystery community owes him a debt of gratitude for basically inventing the modern detective story. So it's fitting that, on the bicentennial of his birth in 1809, the Mystery Writers of America honor him with this wonderful collection of classic tales by Poe along with brief essays from 20 prominent MWA members.

Among the many stories included here are such favorites as "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Pit and the Pendulum," "The Gold Bug" and, of course, "The Raven."

In addition, there are some lesser-known stories (at least to me) such as "William Wilson," "Manuscript Found in a Bottle," "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar," and "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym," and others.

What makes this book special, however, are the words of tribute--some light-hearted and some serious--offered by the modern-day writers, many of whom have won one or more of the Edgar Awards presented each year by the MWA.

Here are a few brief examples: Michael Connelly, who edited this book, tells of being inspired by Poe to write his mystery, The Poet, in which the killer leaves behind lines from Poe poems; Lawrence Block writes about how he broke the curse of not winning an Edgar by eventually marrying a woman whose mother's maiden name was Poe; and Laura Lippman describes her experience of actually witnessing a visit by the Poe Toaster at Poe's Baltimore gravesite.

In addition, the late Edward Hoch writes that his love of the short story (and he published some 975 of them!) was inspired by Poe; Joseph Wambaugh pens a poetic take-off of "The Raven"; Jeffrey Deaver also uses poetry to highlight his discussion of how Poe has influenced the music genre and Laurie King complains facetiously about how Poe has usurped all the best mystery plot ideas. All in all, an enjoyable read on a dark and dreary night and a great gift idea for the Poe lover.

Living the Vida Lola
Lynne F. Maxwell

This first mystery by Misa Ramirez has it all: murder, romance and humor, courtesy of soon-to-be series protagonist Lola Cruz, a neophyte detective for a small private investigation operation located in decidedly unsexy Sacramento. Lola wants to prove herself by solving major cases, but until she receives an assignment to investigate the suspicious disappearance of a local woman, she sees little challenging action. This case, however, is a puzzle requiring the top-notch investigative skills. Fortunately, Lola reunites with Jack Callaghan, a newspaper reporter who was her major, unrequited crush in high school, and who supports her career choice as a private investigator. Jack is just the man to spark Lola's new life, and he convinces her of this as they combine forces to solve the mystery. Living the Vida Lola offers plenty of plot twists and action, in addition to hot moments of romance.

Readers will applaud the ending, as Jack and Lola realize their long-postponed love for each other. Living the Vida Lola is a worthy contribution to the growing, but still underrepresented, body of mysteries featuring Hispanic protagonists. In this enjoyable book, Ramirez provides humorous insight into the close-knit nature of Hispanic families. Mexican readers will chuckle with recognition at Ramirez' representation of life within their culture, while others will appreciate the similarities and differences between cultures. For a touch of welcome diversity in the mystery novel, I highly recommend Living the Vida Lola.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:31:50

This first mystery by Misa Ramirez has it all: murder, romance and humor, courtesy of soon-to-be series protagonist Lola Cruz, a neophyte detective for a small private investigation operation located in decidedly unsexy Sacramento. Lola wants to prove herself by solving major cases, but until she receives an assignment to investigate the suspicious disappearance of a local woman, she sees little challenging action. This case, however, is a puzzle requiring the top-notch investigative skills. Fortunately, Lola reunites with Jack Callaghan, a newspaper reporter who was her major, unrequited crush in high school, and who supports her career choice as a private investigator. Jack is just the man to spark Lola's new life, and he convinces her of this as they combine forces to solve the mystery. Living the Vida Lola offers plenty of plot twists and action, in addition to hot moments of romance.

Readers will applaud the ending, as Jack and Lola realize their long-postponed love for each other. Living the Vida Lola is a worthy contribution to the growing, but still underrepresented, body of mysteries featuring Hispanic protagonists. In this enjoyable book, Ramirez provides humorous insight into the close-knit nature of Hispanic families. Mexican readers will chuckle with recognition at Ramirez' representation of life within their culture, while others will appreciate the similarities and differences between cultures. For a touch of welcome diversity in the mystery novel, I highly recommend Living the Vida Lola.

Mixed Blood
Barbara Fister

In Cape Town, South Africa, an American family has settled into a pleasant house in a new suburb, high above the shantytowns that fester in the shadow of privilege. But the family's happy existence is more fragile than it seems for two reasons: Jack Burns is wanted for a bank robbery gone wrong, and he's brought his family to a very dangerous place of refuge.

When two drug-addled robbers break in and threaten the family, Jack Burns dispatches them in self-defense, but he can't turn to the police. Instead, he does his best to dispose of the bodies, hoping to keep his secrets--and hold his unraveling marriage together. But the whole incident is witnessed by Benny Mongrel, a down-and-out watchman at the construction site next door. An Afrikaner cop who is corrupt to the core senses an opportunity and sets a disastrous chain reaction in motion.

This is a dark, difficult book. The portrayal of the hopelessness of the South African slums teeming with misery under the thin, glittering surface of wealth is no doubt as accurate as it is dispiriting. It's hard to sympathize with the American fugitive or any of the rest of the cast apart from Benny Mongrel, a hard case who was thrown on a trash heap at the moment of his birth. After fending for himself and spending many years in prison, he is just beginning to experience the emotion of caring for someone else as he grows attached to his decrepit guard dog. The other characters all seem uniformly violent and depraved, their humanity worn away by adversity. But it's worth sticking with this brutal narrative. The spare, well-paced story gathers momentum to a Miltonic moment of retribution, and in the shattered remnants of the storyline there are glimpses of redemption.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:31:50

In Cape Town, South Africa, an American family has settled into a pleasant house in a new suburb, high above the shantytowns that fester in the shadow of privilege. But the family's happy existence is more fragile than it seems for two reasons: Jack Burns is wanted for a bank robbery gone wrong, and he's brought his family to a very dangerous place of refuge.

When two drug-addled robbers break in and threaten the family, Jack Burns dispatches them in self-defense, but he can't turn to the police. Instead, he does his best to dispose of the bodies, hoping to keep his secrets--and hold his unraveling marriage together. But the whole incident is witnessed by Benny Mongrel, a down-and-out watchman at the construction site next door. An Afrikaner cop who is corrupt to the core senses an opportunity and sets a disastrous chain reaction in motion.

This is a dark, difficult book. The portrayal of the hopelessness of the South African slums teeming with misery under the thin, glittering surface of wealth is no doubt as accurate as it is dispiriting. It's hard to sympathize with the American fugitive or any of the rest of the cast apart from Benny Mongrel, a hard case who was thrown on a trash heap at the moment of his birth. After fending for himself and spending many years in prison, he is just beginning to experience the emotion of caring for someone else as he grows attached to his decrepit guard dog. The other characters all seem uniformly violent and depraved, their humanity worn away by adversity. But it's worth sticking with this brutal narrative. The spare, well-paced story gathers momentum to a Miltonic moment of retribution, and in the shattered remnants of the storyline there are glimpses of redemption.

Nemesis

It doesn't matter that almost every cop in Oslo is looking for a brazen daytime bank robber who killed a cashier during his last heist. Inspector Hole insists on running his own investigation, teamed up with Beate L

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:31:50

::cck::2565

Never Tell a Lie
Barbara Fister

Ivy Rose and her husband are holding a yard sale outside their Victorian home when an old high school acquaintance stops by. Melinda White, who was an awkward, unpopular girl at school, acts as if she and Ivy were close friends, though Ivy barely remembers her. They now have only one thing in common: both are very pregnant. Melinda's peculiar and overbearing intimacy makes Ivy uncomfortable, so she's relieved when her husband distracts the woman by offering to show her around their house. Ivy thinks that's the end of it, but it's only the beginning. When a short time later the former schoolmate is reported missing, the police grow suspicious of Ivy's husband and after peculiar things start to happen, Ivy isn't sure who to believe.

Character development is not a hallmark of this novel; the reader never really gets to know Ivy's husband or gain a nuanced sense of their relationship. Instead, the focus is on steadily ratcheting up the tension, with a pace that's as inevitable as the approach of Ivy's delivery date. Ephron, an experienced novelist who published the Edgar-nominated book, Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel, knows how to build suspense. The mood proceeds smoothly from disquiet, to distrust and doubt, to panic. It seems suitable, somehow, that much of the action takes place in an old house, full of history and secrets, where Ephron can blend the pulse-pounding creepiness of a Gothic horror story with the puzzle-pieces of a mystery.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:31:50

Ivy Rose and her husband are holding a yard sale outside their Victorian home when an old high school acquaintance stops by. Melinda White, who was an awkward, unpopular girl at school, acts as if she and Ivy were close friends, though Ivy barely remembers her. They now have only one thing in common: both are very pregnant. Melinda's peculiar and overbearing intimacy makes Ivy uncomfortable, so she's relieved when her husband distracts the woman by offering to show her around their house. Ivy thinks that's the end of it, but it's only the beginning. When a short time later the former schoolmate is reported missing, the police grow suspicious of Ivy's husband and after peculiar things start to happen, Ivy isn't sure who to believe.

Character development is not a hallmark of this novel; the reader never really gets to know Ivy's husband or gain a nuanced sense of their relationship. Instead, the focus is on steadily ratcheting up the tension, with a pace that's as inevitable as the approach of Ivy's delivery date. Ephron, an experienced novelist who published the Edgar-nominated book, Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel, knows how to build suspense. The mood proceeds smoothly from disquiet, to distrust and doubt, to panic. It seems suitable, somehow, that much of the action takes place in an old house, full of history and secrets, where Ephron can blend the pulse-pounding creepiness of a Gothic horror story with the puzzle-pieces of a mystery.

Pleasing the Dead
Beverly J. DeWeese

Attorney Storm Kayama has come home to Hawaii to help out an old friend, Lara Farrell, set up a high-end dive equipment shop. Lara has also become engaged to the son of a secretive financier who's helping her. But when a local restaurant is bombed and one of Lara's employees kills himself and his daughter, Storm suspects Lara may be involved with the Japanese Yakuza mob--whether as a victim or a player though, he's not so sure.

This is a skillfully plotted mystery with loving descriptions of Maui beaches, some tidbits of Hawaii folklore, and a lot of fascinating background on the gritty underbelly of Hawaii that tourists never see. But it's the equally appealing characters and the plot that really make this book. Storm is an intelligent, believable heroine who is a relatively sensible detective. She even has a promising romantic relationship, and she obviously loves Hawaii and its ethnic diversity. Even Atkinson's colorful supporting characters mirror both the good and bad aspects of contemporary Hawaiian life. Many of the characters have emotional scars and tragic secrets as a result of the Yakuza's sleazy, immoral business practices. Pleasing the Dead is recommended for an interesting plot, and its unique characters and setting.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:31:50

Attorney Storm Kayama has come home to Hawaii to help out an old friend, Lara Farrell, set up a high-end dive equipment shop. Lara has also become engaged to the son of a secretive financier who's helping her. But when a local restaurant is bombed and one of Lara's employees kills himself and his daughter, Storm suspects Lara may be involved with the Japanese Yakuza mob--whether as a victim or a player though, he's not so sure.

This is a skillfully plotted mystery with loving descriptions of Maui beaches, some tidbits of Hawaii folklore, and a lot of fascinating background on the gritty underbelly of Hawaii that tourists never see. But it's the equally appealing characters and the plot that really make this book. Storm is an intelligent, believable heroine who is a relatively sensible detective. She even has a promising romantic relationship, and she obviously loves Hawaii and its ethnic diversity. Even Atkinson's colorful supporting characters mirror both the good and bad aspects of contemporary Hawaiian life. Many of the characters have emotional scars and tragic secrets as a result of the Yakuza's sleazy, immoral business practices. Pleasing the Dead is recommended for an interesting plot, and its unique characters and setting.

Posed for Murder
Charles L. P. Silet

Photographer Lydia McKenzie has landed her first gallery show in her Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg. Her photographs feature unusual tableaus of posed models that represent various unsolved murders of anonymous female victims. Her source is a book by a local reporter called Lost Girls that she found in a used bookstore, and the detail of the reporter's descriptions intrigued Lydia, who then replicated the period clothing of the women and locales of the murders.

But the appearance of NYPD Detectives Romero and Wong at the reception puts a damper on the evening when they reveal that one of Lydia's models has been killed in the same pose as her photograph. Soon Lydia's life is in danger; her apartment is ransacked; and another of her models is murdered.

Posed for Murder won the Minotaur Books/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel competition. Author Cole has created a tough-minded and attractive central character who is resilient and believable, as well as strong secondary characters who add to the novel's depth. It is a solid debut crime story with a fascinating premise, engaging characters, and a good feel for the novel's urban space.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:31:50

Photographer Lydia McKenzie has landed her first gallery show in her Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg. Her photographs feature unusual tableaus of posed models that represent various unsolved murders of anonymous female victims. Her source is a book by a local reporter called Lost Girls that she found in a used bookstore, and the detail of the reporter's descriptions intrigued Lydia, who then replicated the period clothing of the women and locales of the murders.

But the appearance of NYPD Detectives Romero and Wong at the reception puts a damper on the evening when they reveal that one of Lydia's models has been killed in the same pose as her photograph. Soon Lydia's life is in danger; her apartment is ransacked; and another of her models is murdered.

Posed for Murder won the Minotaur Books/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel competition. Author Cole has created a tough-minded and attractive central character who is resilient and believable, as well as strong secondary characters who add to the novel's depth. It is a solid debut crime story with a fascinating premise, engaging characters, and a good feel for the novel's urban space.

Runner
Betty Webb

Fans of Thomas Perry's Jane Whitefield thrillers have been distraught since the Edgar-winning author halted the series nine years ago, but Jane, a half-Seneca woman who helps desperate people find new identities, is back, thanks to a multitude of fans who, while mourning her loss, wrote bushels of letters beseeching Perry for her revival. In the breathtaking Runner, Jane is now supposedly settled down as the suburban wife of a doctor, but she takes one "last" case by helping Christine, a pregnant girl, escape from a team of hunters hired by the baby's abusive father, a San Diego CEO. The high-intensity action begins with a bombing at an upper New York hospital where Christine has taken refuge, then spills across the country with a stop in Minneapolis, where Jane sets up Christine and herself with new identities. Unfortunately for them, in the post-9/11 world, it's much harder for a person to disappear. Cameras and computers are everywhere, and not only the good guys use them.

Jane remains an extraordinary character: charismatic, courageous, and perfectly prepared to die to protect her client. Her mystic connection to her Seneca ancestors adds another layer of depth; particularly affecting is the scene where Jane offers gifts to the Jo-Ge-Oh, the Seneca's "little people," imploring them to keep Christine and her baby safe. Jane Whitefield fans, rejoice! Our girl may have been away for a while, but she's re-emerged tougher and more dedicated than ever.

Admin
2010-04-22 02:31:50

Fans of Thomas Perry's Jane Whitefield thrillers have been distraught since the Edgar-winning author halted the series nine years ago, but Jane, a half-Seneca woman who helps desperate people find new identities, is back, thanks to a multitude of fans who, while mourning her loss, wrote bushels of letters beseeching Perry for her revival. In the breathtaking Runner, Jane is now supposedly settled down as the suburban wife of a doctor, but she takes one "last" case by helping Christine, a pregnant girl, escape from a team of hunters hired by the baby's abusive father, a San Diego CEO. The high-intensity action begins with a bombing at an upper New York hospital where Christine has taken refuge, then spills across the country with a stop in Minneapolis, where Jane sets up Christine and herself with new identities. Unfortunately for them, in the post-9/11 world, it's much harder for a person to disappear. Cameras and computers are everywhere, and not only the good guys use them.

Jane remains an extraordinary character: charismatic, courageous, and perfectly prepared to die to protect her client. Her mystic connection to her Seneca ancestors adds another layer of depth; particularly affecting is the scene where Jane offers gifts to the Jo-Ge-Oh, the Seneca's "little people," imploring them to keep Christine and her baby safe. Jane Whitefield fans, rejoice! Our girl may have been away for a while, but she's re-emerged tougher and more dedicated than ever.

Schemers
Kevin Burton Smith

Once more the 2008 MWA Grand Master juggles multiple viewpoints and plotlines, as the members of the thriving, but so far still nameless, detective agency follow their separate but thematically linked cases. The San Francisco agency boasts another operative (alluded to briefly) and even a second location, but the heart and soul of the agency is still Nameless (his co-workers may refer to him as "Bill" but he'll always be Nameless to me, as in fact he has been for most of this long, long-running series). Even semi-retired, he remains a hands-on kind of boss, stepping in to aid fledgling operative and office manager Tamara or seasoned ex-cop Jake Runyon when the spirit moves him. And the spirit certainly moves him when Barney Rivera, the obnoxious and manipulative chief claims adjuster for Great Western Insurance whom Nameless cut ties with years ago, goads the detective into personally accepting a seemingly impossible case: solving the disappearance of eight extremely rare signed mystery novels, worth almost half a million dollars, from the library of a rich collector. It's an offer he knows he should refuse, but Nameless lets himself be talked into it. When the locked-room burglary abruptly becomes a locked-room murder, Nameless realizes he's being set up. But by who? Meanwhile, Jake is out on the road, dealing with another schemer--an anonymous stalker preying on two middle-aged brothers. The mysterious assailant's tactics have moved rapidly from desecrating their late father's grave to burglary and personal attacks, and yet neither brother, both quiet, unassuming family men, can name anyone bearing them any sort of grudge. The theme, of course, is manipulation, and Pronzini, with his tight, terse prose style and sparse but always sharp characterization, brings it all home in a thematically and narratively satisfying conclusion. As always. Pronzini, it turns out, is quite the schemer himself.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:39:57

Once more the 2008 MWA Grand Master juggles multiple viewpoints and plotlines, as the members of the thriving, but so far still nameless, detective agency follow their separate but thematically linked cases. The San Francisco agency boasts another operative (alluded to briefly) and even a second location, but the heart and soul of the agency is still Nameless (his co-workers may refer to him as "Bill" but he'll always be Nameless to me, as in fact he has been for most of this long, long-running series). Even semi-retired, he remains a hands-on kind of boss, stepping in to aid fledgling operative and office manager Tamara or seasoned ex-cop Jake Runyon when the spirit moves him. And the spirit certainly moves him when Barney Rivera, the obnoxious and manipulative chief claims adjuster for Great Western Insurance whom Nameless cut ties with years ago, goads the detective into personally accepting a seemingly impossible case: solving the disappearance of eight extremely rare signed mystery novels, worth almost half a million dollars, from the library of a rich collector. It's an offer he knows he should refuse, but Nameless lets himself be talked into it. When the locked-room burglary abruptly becomes a locked-room murder, Nameless realizes he's being set up. But by who? Meanwhile, Jake is out on the road, dealing with another schemer--an anonymous stalker preying on two middle-aged brothers. The mysterious assailant's tactics have moved rapidly from desecrating their late father's grave to burglary and personal attacks, and yet neither brother, both quiet, unassuming family men, can name anyone bearing them any sort of grudge. The theme, of course, is manipulation, and Pronzini, with his tight, terse prose style and sparse but always sharp characterization, brings it all home in a thematically and narratively satisfying conclusion. As always. Pronzini, it turns out, is quite the schemer himself.

Shatter
Barbara Fister

It's unusual to find a book that balances equal measures of nuanced character development and pulse-pounding plot. Shatter pulls it off brilliantly.

Psychologist Joe O'Loughlin has scaled back his career since being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. He and his family have moved to Somerset where he teaches a university course and cares for his daughters while his wife travels abroad for her job in international commerce. He's called away from a lecture when a woman threatens to jump off a bridge. But this is not the usual suicide. She is wearing nothing but high heels and, as Joe approaches, she's speaking to someone on a cell phone. She doesn't respond to Joe's gentle urging and tells him "You don't understand" just before she leaps to her death.

After a second similar suicide, Joe finds himself tracking a clever and controlling adversary who preys on women's instincts to protect their children. The man's good at it, thanks to his time in the military, where he was trained in breaking minds. Robotham tells a creepy, gripping story, but he does more than that: he raises questions about our responsibility for evil that linger long after the last page is turned.

In other hands, this story could have been a sensationalized, high-concept mess, but Robotham knows how to develop three-dimensional characters who jump off the page and draw you into their lives. Though this is the fourth in a loosely-linked series, they don't need to be read in order--but by all means read them, because they are some of the best books being published in the genre.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:39:57

It's unusual to find a book that balances equal measures of nuanced character development and pulse-pounding plot. Shatter pulls it off brilliantly.

Psychologist Joe O'Loughlin has scaled back his career since being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. He and his family have moved to Somerset where he teaches a university course and cares for his daughters while his wife travels abroad for her job in international commerce. He's called away from a lecture when a woman threatens to jump off a bridge. But this is not the usual suicide. She is wearing nothing but high heels and, as Joe approaches, she's speaking to someone on a cell phone. She doesn't respond to Joe's gentle urging and tells him "You don't understand" just before she leaps to her death.

After a second similar suicide, Joe finds himself tracking a clever and controlling adversary who preys on women's instincts to protect their children. The man's good at it, thanks to his time in the military, where he was trained in breaking minds. Robotham tells a creepy, gripping story, but he does more than that: he raises questions about our responsibility for evil that linger long after the last page is turned.

In other hands, this story could have been a sensationalized, high-concept mess, but Robotham knows how to develop three-dimensional characters who jump off the page and draw you into their lives. Though this is the fourth in a loosely-linked series, they don't need to be read in order--but by all means read them, because they are some of the best books being published in the genre.

Shooters and Chasers
Hank Wagner

Chicago homicide detectives Mark Bergman and John Dunegan seem to have a classic open-and-shut case on their hands when it comes to the death of Wilson Willetts, a famous architect who is gunned down during a botched mugging. First, they have a reliable witness who can identify the killer by means of an elaborate tattoo he sports on his left arm. Second, they find the murder weapon shortly after the crime in the possession of one Emelio Jesus Garcia, who has just such a tattoo. But something doesn't sit right with the detectives, and they doggedly pursue some incongruous leads even as the alleged killer is brought to trial. Their investigations uncover some surprising results, eventually landing the detectives in Southern California on the trail of those who actually executed the brutal crime.

Kleinfeld rarely misses a beat in this dazzling debut, from its apt and amusing title, to the Riggs-Murtaugh Lethal Weapon vibe between Bergmann and Dunegan, to the satisfying finish--a witty and thorough summation in which readers discover the current status of the book's myriad characters. In addition to a smooth prose style and a great sense of humor, Kleinfield is terrific at depicting the relationships between his characters, those existing as the story begins, and those that develop as the plot unfolds. As a result, the people in this impressive first novel come to vivid life.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:39:57

Chicago homicide detectives Mark Bergman and John Dunegan seem to have a classic open-and-shut case on their hands when it comes to the death of Wilson Willetts, a famous architect who is gunned down during a botched mugging. First, they have a reliable witness who can identify the killer by means of an elaborate tattoo he sports on his left arm. Second, they find the murder weapon shortly after the crime in the possession of one Emelio Jesus Garcia, who has just such a tattoo. But something doesn't sit right with the detectives, and they doggedly pursue some incongruous leads even as the alleged killer is brought to trial. Their investigations uncover some surprising results, eventually landing the detectives in Southern California on the trail of those who actually executed the brutal crime.

Kleinfeld rarely misses a beat in this dazzling debut, from its apt and amusing title, to the Riggs-Murtaugh Lethal Weapon vibe between Bergmann and Dunegan, to the satisfying finish--a witty and thorough summation in which readers discover the current status of the book's myriad characters. In addition to a smooth prose style and a great sense of humor, Kleinfield is terrific at depicting the relationships between his characters, those existing as the story begins, and those that develop as the plot unfolds. As a result, the people in this impressive first novel come to vivid life.

Sucker Punch
Kevin Burton Smith

Retitled for the American market (who presumably would be confused by its original 2006 British title, Donkey Punch), Ray Banks' second Cal Innes novel still packs a decisive wallop. It is as hard and fine a crime novel as I've read in a long, long time. Fresh out of prison, the disgraced former private eye is back on the hardscrabble streets of Manchester, England, trying to keep clean and sober (albeit with an occasional codeine pick-me-up), and doing odd jobs for big soft-hearted Paulo who runs a local boxing club for young offenders. But trouble promptly rears its ugly head when Cal agrees to escort Liam, a hot-headed young fighter, to a major tournament in Los Angeles--and a bout that may or may not be fixed. It doesn't help that Liam is possibly even more psychologically fouled up than Cal, or that Cal's chronic back pain and drug habit are getting worse. Toss in a possible nut-job with a thing for young boxers, the disappearance of Liam right before the big match, and a running commentary on the state of the U.S. of A. from a homesick and increasingly frantic Cal, and you've got one of the best fish-out-of-water travelogue crime stories I've read in a while. But what truly separates Banks' writing from that of so many other current "noir" writers is that he's not afraid of letting in a little light. He skips the juvenile, self-conscious shock tactics and adolescent one-upmanship to focus on character and story. Sure, the action is suitably fierce, the worldview appropriately bleak and the jabs hard and sharp, but the scenes between Cal and his friend Paulo, mostly by long distance, also show plenty of heart. Contender? Hell, no. Banks already writes like a champ.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:39:57

Retitled for the American market (who presumably would be confused by its original 2006 British title, Donkey Punch), Ray Banks' second Cal Innes novel still packs a decisive wallop. It is as hard and fine a crime novel as I've read in a long, long time. Fresh out of prison, the disgraced former private eye is back on the hardscrabble streets of Manchester, England, trying to keep clean and sober (albeit with an occasional codeine pick-me-up), and doing odd jobs for big soft-hearted Paulo who runs a local boxing club for young offenders. But trouble promptly rears its ugly head when Cal agrees to escort Liam, a hot-headed young fighter, to a major tournament in Los Angeles--and a bout that may or may not be fixed. It doesn't help that Liam is possibly even more psychologically fouled up than Cal, or that Cal's chronic back pain and drug habit are getting worse. Toss in a possible nut-job with a thing for young boxers, the disappearance of Liam right before the big match, and a running commentary on the state of the U.S. of A. from a homesick and increasingly frantic Cal, and you've got one of the best fish-out-of-water travelogue crime stories I've read in a while. But what truly separates Banks' writing from that of so many other current "noir" writers is that he's not afraid of letting in a little light. He skips the juvenile, self-conscious shock tactics and adolescent one-upmanship to focus on character and story. Sure, the action is suitably fierce, the worldview appropriately bleak and the jabs hard and sharp, but the scenes between Cal and his friend Paulo, mostly by long distance, also show plenty of heart. Contender? Hell, no. Banks already writes like a champ.

The Baptism of Billy Bean
Bob Smith

Vietnam veteran Lane Hollar and his grandson are fishing when they witness the murder of Billy Bean--well, not so much "witness" as "hear" the crime. Bean is a none-too bright resident of the Appalachian area of West Virginia where this tale unfolds and everyone else, including a deputy who seems to have it in for Lane, writes off the death as an accidental drowning. But Lane is a persistent old cuss and begins investigating on his own, with only aural clues to help him. Lane isn't the most social man around, and tends to rankle people as he investigates, which doesn't help when he needs support. He is pestered by friends and strangers alike to cease and desist, but he keeps digging and eventually uncovers a drug smuggling operation headed by Nickle Ballew, a Bible quoting psycho with no scruples when it comes to killing. Soon Lane's family, an estranged son, daughter-in-law and grandson, are in danger.

The author has a tendency to overwrite and to include subplots and descriptions with little bearing on the main story, but The Baptism of Billy Bean is still a good, if not a particularly easy, read. Skipper has an interesting tale to tell here and the Appalachian setting adds to the novelty of the book.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:39:57

Vietnam veteran Lane Hollar and his grandson are fishing when they witness the murder of Billy Bean--well, not so much "witness" as "hear" the crime. Bean is a none-too bright resident of the Appalachian area of West Virginia where this tale unfolds and everyone else, including a deputy who seems to have it in for Lane, writes off the death as an accidental drowning. But Lane is a persistent old cuss and begins investigating on his own, with only aural clues to help him. Lane isn't the most social man around, and tends to rankle people as he investigates, which doesn't help when he needs support. He is pestered by friends and strangers alike to cease and desist, but he keeps digging and eventually uncovers a drug smuggling operation headed by Nickle Ballew, a Bible quoting psycho with no scruples when it comes to killing. Soon Lane's family, an estranged son, daughter-in-law and grandson, are in danger.

The author has a tendency to overwrite and to include subplots and descriptions with little bearing on the main story, but The Baptism of Billy Bean is still a good, if not a particularly easy, read. Skipper has an interesting tale to tell here and the Appalachian setting adds to the novelty of the book.

The Battered Body
Sue Emmons

Fans of cuisine cozies should eat up this fifth serving of J.B. Stanley's "Supper Club Mysteries" featuring the Supper Clubbers (aka the "Flab Five" because of their devotion to fabulous food). In The Battered Body, cake-baking diva Paulette Martine arrives in their small Shenandoah Valley town of Quincy's Gap during Christmas for the wedding of her sister Milla and the father of Supper Clubber James Henry. The celebrity baker has volunteered to concoct the wedding cake, but her tumultuous arrival and nasty comments about small town life quickly raise the hackles of many of Quincy Gap's close-knit residents. When she is found murdered, her mouth stuffed with a rich and gooey cake batter, the amateur sleuths of the supper club become involved. A second killing complicates the case as a dysfunctional family wedding is instead supplanted by a dysfunctional family funeral. This original trade paperback offers sumptuous recipes along with hearty servings of suspense. While there are authors offering more sophisticated plots in the food mystery genre, this tale will still provide a treat for readers who enjoy mixing food with murder.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:39:57

Fans of cuisine cozies should eat up this fifth serving of J.B. Stanley's "Supper Club Mysteries" featuring the Supper Clubbers (aka the "Flab Five" because of their devotion to fabulous food). In The Battered Body, cake-baking diva Paulette Martine arrives in their small Shenandoah Valley town of Quincy's Gap during Christmas for the wedding of her sister Milla and the father of Supper Clubber James Henry. The celebrity baker has volunteered to concoct the wedding cake, but her tumultuous arrival and nasty comments about small town life quickly raise the hackles of many of Quincy Gap's close-knit residents. When she is found murdered, her mouth stuffed with a rich and gooey cake batter, the amateur sleuths of the supper club become involved. A second killing complicates the case as a dysfunctional family wedding is instead supplanted by a dysfunctional family funeral. This original trade paperback offers sumptuous recipes along with hearty servings of suspense. While there are authors offering more sophisticated plots in the food mystery genre, this tale will still provide a treat for readers who enjoy mixing food with murder.

The Bellini Card
Joseph Scarpato, Jr.

This is one of the most unusual mysteries I've read, not least because it features the only eunuch detective I've ever read about, one Inspector Yashim of Istanbul. The year is 1840 and Yashim is called upon by the new young sultan to go to Venice to locate and purchase a painting of one of the sultan's illustrious forebears, a portrait presumably painted by Giovanni Bellini, one of the great Italian High Renaissance artists. When he is warned off his trip by the sultan's vizier, a political power behind the throne, Yashim sends his friend, the former Polish ambassador Pawlewski, in his place. No sooner does Pawlewski arrive in Venice, disguised as an American art collector, than he meets a beautiful Italian countess and dead bodies start turning up, all of whom are somehow connected to the countess. Do the deaths have to do with the elusive painting? Are the Austrians who now control Venice responsible? And will Pawlewski be the next victim? When Yashim himself becomes a suspect, the eunuch arrives in disguise to solve the mystery.

In some ways, this book reminds me of Umberto Eco's masterpiece, The Name of the Rose: It is as much a history lesson as a mystery; the plot is serpentine and the writing is somewhat florid, yet it all pays off if readers stick with it. This is the third Inspector Yashim mystery in a series that began impressively with The Janissary Tree, winner of the coveted Edgar Award for Best Novel.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:39:57

This is one of the most unusual mysteries I've read, not least because it features the only eunuch detective I've ever read about, one Inspector Yashim of Istanbul. The year is 1840 and Yashim is called upon by the new young sultan to go to Venice to locate and purchase a painting of one of the sultan's illustrious forebears, a portrait presumably painted by Giovanni Bellini, one of the great Italian High Renaissance artists. When he is warned off his trip by the sultan's vizier, a political power behind the throne, Yashim sends his friend, the former Polish ambassador Pawlewski, in his place. No sooner does Pawlewski arrive in Venice, disguised as an American art collector, than he meets a beautiful Italian countess and dead bodies start turning up, all of whom are somehow connected to the countess. Do the deaths have to do with the elusive painting? Are the Austrians who now control Venice responsible? And will Pawlewski be the next victim? When Yashim himself becomes a suspect, the eunuch arrives in disguise to solve the mystery.

In some ways, this book reminds me of Umberto Eco's masterpiece, The Name of the Rose: It is as much a history lesson as a mystery; the plot is serpentine and the writing is somewhat florid, yet it all pays off if readers stick with it. This is the third Inspector Yashim mystery in a series that began impressively with The Janissary Tree, winner of the coveted Edgar Award for Best Novel.

The Last Gig
Kevin Burton Smith

A refreshing change from some of her more earnest, politically scrubbed contemporary sisters, Alessandra "Al" Martillo's character owes at least as much to old school pulp fiction and 1970s-era blaxploitation flicks as to any current notions of female empowerment. In fact, were it not for the fact that she's Puerto Rican, not black, and hails from the Bronx, not Harlem, it would be easy to imagine a Foxy Brown-era Pam Grier playing Martillo in some cheesy 1974 B-flick with an Isaac Hayes soundtrack thumping in the background. Al is definitely a badass--a damaged, pool-hustling, former street kid working for sleazy Marty Stiles, a NYC ex-cop turned PI and repo man.

In this promising series debut, Marty and Al both go to work for Mickey Caughlan, a supposedly reformed Irish mobster. Marty is hired to nab whoever's using Caughlan's trucking company to jockey dope around, while Al looks into the still-murky circumstances of Caughlan's 20-year-old son Willy's fatal OD six months earlier. Along the way, Green offers a typically bleak crawl through the urban underbelly and the usual cornucopia of vice and violence, plus a few well-aimed pokes at tabloid journalism and the star-making machinery of the popular song. Fans of rock 'n' roll in general, and The Who's Pete Townshend in particular, should get a real kick out of one of the climatic scenes. But the true star here is Al herself--a decidedly flawed, politically incorrect head case carrying a few king-size chips on her shapely shoulders. Of course, few men can resist her, but her concerns over her dying uncle, some serious father issues, and a bullheaded obsession for autonomy, make her more than just some two-dimensional Betty Boop with a gun. It's good to have a bad girl back on the streets.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:39:57

A refreshing change from some of her more earnest, politically scrubbed contemporary sisters, Alessandra "Al" Martillo's character owes at least as much to old school pulp fiction and 1970s-era blaxploitation flicks as to any current notions of female empowerment. In fact, were it not for the fact that she's Puerto Rican, not black, and hails from the Bronx, not Harlem, it would be easy to imagine a Foxy Brown-era Pam Grier playing Martillo in some cheesy 1974 B-flick with an Isaac Hayes soundtrack thumping in the background. Al is definitely a badass--a damaged, pool-hustling, former street kid working for sleazy Marty Stiles, a NYC ex-cop turned PI and repo man.

In this promising series debut, Marty and Al both go to work for Mickey Caughlan, a supposedly reformed Irish mobster. Marty is hired to nab whoever's using Caughlan's trucking company to jockey dope around, while Al looks into the still-murky circumstances of Caughlan's 20-year-old son Willy's fatal OD six months earlier. Along the way, Green offers a typically bleak crawl through the urban underbelly and the usual cornucopia of vice and violence, plus a few well-aimed pokes at tabloid journalism and the star-making machinery of the popular song. Fans of rock 'n' roll in general, and The Who's Pete Townshend in particular, should get a real kick out of one of the climatic scenes. But the true star here is Al herself--a decidedly flawed, politically incorrect head case carrying a few king-size chips on her shapely shoulders. Of course, few men can resist her, but her concerns over her dying uncle, some serious father issues, and a bullheaded obsession for autonomy, make her more than just some two-dimensional Betty Boop with a gun. It's good to have a bad girl back on the streets.

The Little Sleep
Hank Wagner

The "little sleep" referred to in the title of Paul Tremblay's neat little debut is narcolepsy, a sleeping disorder which afflicts the book's hero, the intrepid and sarcastic South Boston PI Mark Genevich. Although Genevich has had the disorder (characterized by sudden and uncontrollable attacks of deep sleep) for over eight years, it hasn't been a major obstacle for him, since he does most of his detecting work via computer. That is, until the opening pages of this very successful and clever offering, when a symptom of the disease causes him no end of trouble as he methodically attempts to piece together the jumbled facts of a blackmail case presented to him by a client whose identity he has since confused with someone else.

Because Genevich is the point of view character, readers travel down this bumpy road along with him, as this tireless (well, mostly tireless) knight errant makes his erratic way to the truth, or what he hopes is the truth. If you liked Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, you'll probably enjoy its twisted namesake, both for its basic story, and for Genevich's way with a funny line, especially when he finds himself in peril. If you thrilled to the movie Memento, you'll no doubt dig the way Genevich makes his haphazard way to the ugly truth. But even if you didn't like either of those, you'll likely come to appreciate The Little Sleep for what it is at its core: a fast, funny, hardboiled, entertaining read.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:39:57

The "little sleep" referred to in the title of Paul Tremblay's neat little debut is narcolepsy, a sleeping disorder which afflicts the book's hero, the intrepid and sarcastic South Boston PI Mark Genevich. Although Genevich has had the disorder (characterized by sudden and uncontrollable attacks of deep sleep) for over eight years, it hasn't been a major obstacle for him, since he does most of his detecting work via computer. That is, until the opening pages of this very successful and clever offering, when a symptom of the disease causes him no end of trouble as he methodically attempts to piece together the jumbled facts of a blackmail case presented to him by a client whose identity he has since confused with someone else.

Because Genevich is the point of view character, readers travel down this bumpy road along with him, as this tireless (well, mostly tireless) knight errant makes his erratic way to the truth, or what he hopes is the truth. If you liked Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, you'll probably enjoy its twisted namesake, both for its basic story, and for Genevich's way with a funny line, especially when he finds himself in peril. If you thrilled to the movie Memento, you'll no doubt dig the way Genevich makes his haphazard way to the ugly truth. But even if you didn't like either of those, you'll likely come to appreciate The Little Sleep for what it is at its core: a fast, funny, hardboiled, entertaining read.

The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death
Bob Smith

If you are looking for a gentle cozy to cuddle up with this winter then The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death is not the book for you. Cozy and gentle it ain't; it's tough, bloody, brutal, complex, off-beat, sarcastic, and challenging but never, ever boring. Huston's style here is anything but orthodox and this is not an easy read. The book is 75% dialogue, but no quotation marks are used, making it sometimes difficult to figure out who's speaking. It takes a while to get into the flow of this novel, but once you do, the pleasures are immense, if a bit gory. You get swept up in the story without exactly knowing what's happening or why, but as you read on, it eventually makes wonderful, loony sense.

Plot? Characters? Plenty of both. Web Goodhue, an ex-elementary school teacher, gets a job with a "crime scene cleaning service," a company that goes in after a murder or suicide and cleans up the blood, excrement, and body splatter (i.e. erasing all signs of death). At one job he meets Soledad, a woman to whom he is immediately attracted. When she later turns to Web to clean up a bloody mess caused by her crooked brother, he unwittingly becomes involved in gang warfare, murders, and a non-too-swift truckload of unsavory smugglers. Web remains baffled as he tries to fathom Soledad's connection to a major smuggling operation and even more baffled when he learns that it all concerns a can of almonds--a MacGuffin even Hitchcock would admire. Sound weird? It is! Forget the cozy, grab yourself a stiff drink and settle down for a wild, wonderful, offbeat adventure you'll have a hard time forgetting.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:39:57

If you are looking for a gentle cozy to cuddle up with this winter then The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death is not the book for you. Cozy and gentle it ain't; it's tough, bloody, brutal, complex, off-beat, sarcastic, and challenging but never, ever boring. Huston's style here is anything but orthodox and this is not an easy read. The book is 75% dialogue, but no quotation marks are used, making it sometimes difficult to figure out who's speaking. It takes a while to get into the flow of this novel, but once you do, the pleasures are immense, if a bit gory. You get swept up in the story without exactly knowing what's happening or why, but as you read on, it eventually makes wonderful, loony sense.

Plot? Characters? Plenty of both. Web Goodhue, an ex-elementary school teacher, gets a job with a "crime scene cleaning service," a company that goes in after a murder or suicide and cleans up the blood, excrement, and body splatter (i.e. erasing all signs of death). At one job he meets Soledad, a woman to whom he is immediately attracted. When she later turns to Web to clean up a bloody mess caused by her crooked brother, he unwittingly becomes involved in gang warfare, murders, and a non-too-swift truckload of unsavory smugglers. Web remains baffled as he tries to fathom Soledad's connection to a major smuggling operation and even more baffled when he learns that it all concerns a can of almonds--a MacGuffin even Hitchcock would admire. Sound weird? It is! Forget the cozy, grab yourself a stiff drink and settle down for a wild, wonderful, offbeat adventure you'll have a hard time forgetting.

The Renegades
Jim Winter

T. Jefferson Parker returns with the follow up to L.A. Outlaws. This time out, L.A. County Deputy Charlie Hood patrols the high desert north of Los Angeles in a self-imposed exile. On a routine call to a Section 8 housing project, Hood's partner, Terry "Mr. Wonderful" Laws is shot point blank with a machine gun. Internal Affairs wants to know why. And they tap Hood to find out.

Meanwhile, a reservist for the Sheriff's Department, Coleman Draper, tells a young recruit the other side of the story: how he and Laws made seven grand a week running drug money to Baja for a cartel leader named Herredia.

Hood is a decent cop, a homicide detective wannabe who ends up in IA. Draper, however, is simply evil, and he knows it. He keeps two women and he frames Herredia's California lieutenant for skimming, then performs the execution himself. He even knows why Terry Laws was killed and Hood was left alive. What he doesn't expect is Hood being assigned to investigate the case or to trail him throughout Southern California.

Parker goes younger in this one. Hood and Draper are both just shy of 30, whereas his protagonists in Stormrunners and California Girl are a bit older, at least in the present day. While Parker drifts toward Lee Child territory with Herredia's almost god-like control of his cartel, The Renegades still carries much of the literary ambition of California Girls. It's a very satisfying mix of high-stakes action and serious crime fiction.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:43:05

T. Jefferson Parker returns with the follow up to L.A. Outlaws. This time out, L.A. County Deputy Charlie Hood patrols the high desert north of Los Angeles in a self-imposed exile. On a routine call to a Section 8 housing project, Hood's partner, Terry "Mr. Wonderful" Laws is shot point blank with a machine gun. Internal Affairs wants to know why. And they tap Hood to find out.

Meanwhile, a reservist for the Sheriff's Department, Coleman Draper, tells a young recruit the other side of the story: how he and Laws made seven grand a week running drug money to Baja for a cartel leader named Herredia.

Hood is a decent cop, a homicide detective wannabe who ends up in IA. Draper, however, is simply evil, and he knows it. He keeps two women and he frames Herredia's California lieutenant for skimming, then performs the execution himself. He even knows why Terry Laws was killed and Hood was left alive. What he doesn't expect is Hood being assigned to investigate the case or to trail him throughout Southern California.

Parker goes younger in this one. Hood and Draper are both just shy of 30, whereas his protagonists in Stormrunners and California Girl are a bit older, at least in the present day. While Parker drifts toward Lee Child territory with Herredia's almost god-like control of his cartel, The Renegades still carries much of the literary ambition of California Girls. It's a very satisfying mix of high-stakes action and serious crime fiction.

The Samaritan's Secret
Oline H. Cogdill

Omar Yussef is not a detective. This middle-aged, out of shape teacher at the United Nations School in Palestine is the first to admit that. But his determination and love of history pull him into the murder investigation of a young man who belonged to the tiny Samaritan community just outside the city limits of Nablus. While the Biblical tale of the Good Samaritan is well known, the small Samaritan community keeps a low profile. "In a way, they're Palestinians and Jews, and neither, all at the same time," Yussef clarifies to a friend.

While the murdered man was held in low regard by his community, his job with the Palestinian Authority put him in control of millions in government money that's now missing. If the funds aren't returned in a few days, the World Bank will eliminate all its financial aid to Palestine.

Matt Beynon Rees, a former Jerusalem bureau chief for Time, invests his story with the sounds, smells and ambience of Palestine. Here, an outing for dessert in the casbah can erupt into violence, and young religious men have machine guns slung over their shoulders in the mosque. In his third novel, Rees continues to skillfully show the individual's struggle in Palestine against the overwhelming political and religious landscape that he so richly established in his debut, The Collaborator of Bethlehem.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:43:05

Omar Yussef is not a detective. This middle-aged, out of shape teacher at the United Nations School in Palestine is the first to admit that. But his determination and love of history pull him into the murder investigation of a young man who belonged to the tiny Samaritan community just outside the city limits of Nablus. While the Biblical tale of the Good Samaritan is well known, the small Samaritan community keeps a low profile. "In a way, they're Palestinians and Jews, and neither, all at the same time," Yussef clarifies to a friend.

While the murdered man was held in low regard by his community, his job with the Palestinian Authority put him in control of millions in government money that's now missing. If the funds aren't returned in a few days, the World Bank will eliminate all its financial aid to Palestine.

Matt Beynon Rees, a former Jerusalem bureau chief for Time, invests his story with the sounds, smells and ambience of Palestine. Here, an outing for dessert in the casbah can erupt into violence, and young religious men have machine guns slung over their shoulders in the mosque. In his third novel, Rees continues to skillfully show the individual's struggle in Palestine against the overwhelming political and religious landscape that he so richly established in his debut, The Collaborator of Bethlehem.

The Seance
Helen Francini

I have at last resolved to set down everything I know of the strange and terrible events at Wraxford Hall, in the hope of appeasing my conscience, which has never ceased to trouble me. So, irresistibly, begins "Part Two" of The Seance, a highly entertaining and literate page turner that gives fans of Gothic novels and Victorian ghost stories plenty of reason to celebrate.

London native Constance Langton survives a childhood filled with particularly Victorian melancholy, and begins her adulthood almost completely alone in the world. Then she receives a bequest from a distant relative, hitherto unknown to her--Wraxford Hall, a crumbling old mansion with a nasty history. Against the advice of the kindly old solicitor whose fate is bound to this property, Constance visits Wraxford Hall and learns its inhabitants' story, which includes murder, madness, and mayhem enough to please the most demanding reader.

This delightfully chilling tale contains nods to all the best 19th century spine-chillers from Frankenstein to Dracula. The saga of Wraxford Hall is told from several points of view, each narrator picking up where the previous one left off, each with their own strongly individual voice. Although one character writes of her wedding night in more detail than most Victorian novels would have allowed, the description is far from completely modern. Harwood uses refreshingly authentic language, such as "scarlatina" for "scarlet fever," and perfect touches of dry wit lace the story throughout. The Seance will keep you reading until the wee hours of the morning, and make you weep when there is no more left to read.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:43:05

I have at last resolved to set down everything I know of the strange and terrible events at Wraxford Hall, in the hope of appeasing my conscience, which has never ceased to trouble me. So, irresistibly, begins "Part Two" of The Seance, a highly entertaining and literate page turner that gives fans of Gothic novels and Victorian ghost stories plenty of reason to celebrate.

London native Constance Langton survives a childhood filled with particularly Victorian melancholy, and begins her adulthood almost completely alone in the world. Then she receives a bequest from a distant relative, hitherto unknown to her--Wraxford Hall, a crumbling old mansion with a nasty history. Against the advice of the kindly old solicitor whose fate is bound to this property, Constance visits Wraxford Hall and learns its inhabitants' story, which includes murder, madness, and mayhem enough to please the most demanding reader.

This delightfully chilling tale contains nods to all the best 19th century spine-chillers from Frankenstein to Dracula. The saga of Wraxford Hall is told from several points of view, each narrator picking up where the previous one left off, each with their own strongly individual voice. Although one character writes of her wedding night in more detail than most Victorian novels would have allowed, the description is far from completely modern. Harwood uses refreshingly authentic language, such as "scarlatina" for "scarlet fever," and perfect touches of dry wit lace the story throughout. The Seance will keep you reading until the wee hours of the morning, and make you weep when there is no more left to read.

The Silent Man
Bob Smith

The suspense starts immediately in The Silent Man, when three Muslim terrorists steal two nuclear missiles from a Russian storage area, and builds steadily and relentlessly. Berenson creates the ultimate page-tuner here as he chronicles the terrorists' efforts to get the missiles into the US, disassemble them to obtain the needed material inside, and use that to build a bomb with destructive power greater than the atomic bomb at Hiroshima. The author brings the enemy to life, creating multi-dimensional characters dedicated to a cause they fully believe in, and not just presenting them as caricatures from Hollywood B-movies. The chapters alternate between the terrorists and the efforts of the rest of the world to stop them, especially CIA operative John Wells. Wells is a semi-maverick intelligence agent who isn't against using violence to obtain results, but he is stymied here by a reluctant bureaucracy and few facts with which to work. As Wells tracks down clues, three terrorists work feverishly to produce the bomb. Along the way we learn a great deal about making a nuclear bomb, but it is done gradually, in a way that doesn't overdose readers with tech-talk. A book this well written and with this much suspense makes the reader forget that the basic plot has been used before, but it proves that in the right hands a good book, like a nuclear bomb, can blow you away. The Silent Man is a follow-up to Berenson's two previous best sellers, The Faithful Spy and The Ghost War. Read all three, this guy is too good to miss.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:43:05

The suspense starts immediately in The Silent Man, when three Muslim terrorists steal two nuclear missiles from a Russian storage area, and builds steadily and relentlessly. Berenson creates the ultimate page-tuner here as he chronicles the terrorists' efforts to get the missiles into the US, disassemble them to obtain the needed material inside, and use that to build a bomb with destructive power greater than the atomic bomb at Hiroshima. The author brings the enemy to life, creating multi-dimensional characters dedicated to a cause they fully believe in, and not just presenting them as caricatures from Hollywood B-movies. The chapters alternate between the terrorists and the efforts of the rest of the world to stop them, especially CIA operative John Wells. Wells is a semi-maverick intelligence agent who isn't against using violence to obtain results, but he is stymied here by a reluctant bureaucracy and few facts with which to work. As Wells tracks down clues, three terrorists work feverishly to produce the bomb. Along the way we learn a great deal about making a nuclear bomb, but it is done gradually, in a way that doesn't overdose readers with tech-talk. A book this well written and with this much suspense makes the reader forget that the basic plot has been used before, but it proves that in the right hands a good book, like a nuclear bomb, can blow you away. The Silent Man is a follow-up to Berenson's two previous best sellers, The Faithful Spy and The Ghost War. Read all three, this guy is too good to miss.

Therapy
Verna Suit

Sebastian Fitzek's first novel is a psychological thriller in the truest sense of the word. When the young daughter of noted Berlin psychiatrist Viktor Larenz becomes ill and then disappears, Dr. Larenz is devastated. Four years later, he awakes from a drug-induced coma and begins telling the story of how he came to be committed to a mental asylum for life. It is a strange tale, involving his retreat to an island cottage and a mysterious woman who shows up there asking him to be her therapist. She claims to be a writer and a schizophrenic who is plagued by characters who come to life. Larenz agrees to treat her after sensing that she has something important to tell him. In a way, she does.

Therapy presents a perplexing and intriguing challenge to readers. Inconsistencies in Larenz' account suggest an unreliable narrator. In addition, a legitimate mystery begs to be solved: What really happened to Larenz's daughter and who is to blame? Fortunately, the last chapters of the book explain everything, with twists and turns that even the most astute reader will never anticipate. Armchair psychologists will enjoy this exploration of the mind's complexities.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:43:05

Sebastian Fitzek's first novel is a psychological thriller in the truest sense of the word. When the young daughter of noted Berlin psychiatrist Viktor Larenz becomes ill and then disappears, Dr. Larenz is devastated. Four years later, he awakes from a drug-induced coma and begins telling the story of how he came to be committed to a mental asylum for life. It is a strange tale, involving his retreat to an island cottage and a mysterious woman who shows up there asking him to be her therapist. She claims to be a writer and a schizophrenic who is plagued by characters who come to life. Larenz agrees to treat her after sensing that she has something important to tell him. In a way, she does.

Therapy presents a perplexing and intriguing challenge to readers. Inconsistencies in Larenz' account suggest an unreliable narrator. In addition, a legitimate mystery begs to be solved: What really happened to Larenz's daughter and who is to blame? Fortunately, the last chapters of the book explain everything, with twists and turns that even the most astute reader will never anticipate. Armchair psychologists will enjoy this exploration of the mind's complexities.

Three Weeks to Say Goodbye
Betty Webb

When suburban Denver couple Jack and Melissa McGuane adopt baby Angelina, their life seems complete--that is until Garrett Moreland, the baby's birth father, shows up on their doorstep claiming he never signed away his parental rights. Garrett's ties to gang-bangers and drugs add to the McGuanes' anguish, but the boy's father, a powerful federal judge, unaccountably takes his son's side in the custody dispute. Over the McGuanes' protests, Judge Moreland gives the couple three weeks to say goodbye to Angelina. The clock starts counting down and the suspense rises to an almost excruciating level, one that ensures readers won't sleep until the conclusion.

Aided by childhood friends, a real estate millionaire and a disgraced cop, Jack and Melissa wage a battle to keep their baby, a battle that escalates into shattering violence. For a while, justice seems ephemeral, and evil triumphant, but C. J. Box is an old hand at twisting the knife in his readers' guts, and granting reprieves at the last possible minute. His stomach-knotting plot alone would be enough to make this book extraordinary, but Box has peppered its pages with a host of wondrous characters, especially Uncle Jeter, a Wyoming mountain man who loves to play rough. Jack's ranch hand parents, too, are beautifully textured, providing a stark contrast between the judge's citified machinations and Wyoming's pristine wilderness.

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2010-04-22 02:43:05

When suburban Denver couple Jack and Melissa McGuane adopt baby Angelina, their life seems complete--that is until Garrett Moreland, the baby's birth father, shows up on their doorstep claiming he never signed away his parental rights. Garrett's ties to gang-bangers and drugs add to the McGuanes' anguish, but the boy's father, a powerful federal judge, unaccountably takes his son's side in the custody dispute. Over the McGuanes' protests, Judge Moreland gives the couple three weeks to say goodbye to Angelina. The clock starts counting down and the suspense rises to an almost excruciating level, one that ensures readers won't sleep until the conclusion.

Aided by childhood friends, a real estate millionaire and a disgraced cop, Jack and Melissa wage a battle to keep their baby, a battle that escalates into shattering violence. For a while, justice seems ephemeral, and evil triumphant, but C. J. Box is an old hand at twisting the knife in his readers' guts, and granting reprieves at the last possible minute. His stomach-knotting plot alone would be enough to make this book extraordinary, but Box has peppered its pages with a host of wondrous characters, especially Uncle Jeter, a Wyoming mountain man who loves to play rough. Jack's ranch hand parents, too, are beautifully textured, providing a stark contrast between the judge's citified machinations and Wyoming's pristine wilderness.