Valley of the Lost
Sue Emmons

In their second outing, British Columbia police officers, crusty Sgt. John Winters and beguiling Constable Molly Smith, once again investigate murder in their tranquil valley community of Trafalgar. A young woman is found dead of an apparent heroin overdose, an infant at her side. The probe into her death, however, leads police to suspect a more brutal demise. Moreover, it is Molly's mom who both discovered the victim in the woods and rescued the child. To her daughter's dismay, she insists on keeping the baby in her care in defiance of the children services authorities. All the traditional village mystery factors are in play here, and rampant gossip tops the list, as the two intrepid police officers dig in to determine both the identity of the dead woman and the reason for her gruesome death. A subplot involves Winters' wife, who has been offered a job to promote plans for a controversial resort, a project that has divided the small town's residents. This is a nice cozy for readers fond of the village genre and the police who are entrusted with keeping the peace. Young Molly in particular is nicely characterized as a rookie police officer. For those who want more of the characters in this village, I'd also recommend Delany's first book in the series, In the Shadow of the Glacier.

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

In their second outing, British Columbia police officers, crusty Sgt. John Winters and beguiling Constable Molly Smith, once again investigate murder in their tranquil valley community of Trafalgar. A young woman is found dead of an apparent heroin overdose, an infant at her side. The probe into her death, however, leads police to suspect a more brutal demise. Moreover, it is Molly's mom who both discovered the victim in the woods and rescued the child. To her daughter's dismay, she insists on keeping the baby in her care in defiance of the children services authorities. All the traditional village mystery factors are in play here, and rampant gossip tops the list, as the two intrepid police officers dig in to determine both the identity of the dead woman and the reason for her gruesome death. A subplot involves Winters' wife, who has been offered a job to promote plans for a controversial resort, a project that has divided the small town's residents. This is a nice cozy for readers fond of the village genre and the police who are entrusted with keeping the peace. Young Molly in particular is nicely characterized as a rookie police officer. For those who want more of the characters in this village, I'd also recommend Delany's first book in the series, In the Shadow of the Glacier.

Whisper to the Blood
Mary Helen Becker

Kate Shugak, her half-wolf dog Mutt, her 16-year-old foster son Johnny Morgan, and Alaska state trooper "Chopper Jim" Chopin are back in another wonderful adventure set in a fictional Alaska national park. In what might appear to be uninhabited wilderness to most outsiders, there is plenty going on: Global Harvest Resources, Inc., a Canadian mining firm has big plans to mine more gold than was found in the Alaskan gold rush, not to mention copper and molybdenum; and the "Park Rats" who inhabit the area are torn between the desire for the high-paying jobs promised by the company and the fear that changes brought by the mine will destroy their ancestral hunting and fishing grounds. Four elderly "aunties" who appear to spend most of their time quilting, but who are, in fact, traditional area power figures, arrange for a reluctant Kate to chair the board of the Niniltna Native Association. Chopper Jim is troubled by a cold case, which heats up as new violence and murder complicate the scene. The novel presents a sensitive and sensible approach to the environmental problems and threats to the traditional order. The author brings to life even the most minor characters with dialogue that is simple, often humorous, and invariably just right. Mystery, action, and suspense are enhanced by the background of the unforgiving Alaskan winter. Stabenow does her usual excellent job in this superb tale of the Alaskan Bush. This is one of the best books I've read in a long time.

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

Kate Shugak, her half-wolf dog Mutt, her 16-year-old foster son Johnny Morgan, and Alaska state trooper "Chopper Jim" Chopin are back in another wonderful adventure set in a fictional Alaska national park. In what might appear to be uninhabited wilderness to most outsiders, there is plenty going on: Global Harvest Resources, Inc., a Canadian mining firm has big plans to mine more gold than was found in the Alaskan gold rush, not to mention copper and molybdenum; and the "Park Rats" who inhabit the area are torn between the desire for the high-paying jobs promised by the company and the fear that changes brought by the mine will destroy their ancestral hunting and fishing grounds. Four elderly "aunties" who appear to spend most of their time quilting, but who are, in fact, traditional area power figures, arrange for a reluctant Kate to chair the board of the Niniltna Native Association. Chopper Jim is troubled by a cold case, which heats up as new violence and murder complicate the scene. The novel presents a sensitive and sensible approach to the environmental problems and threats to the traditional order. The author brings to life even the most minor characters with dialogue that is simple, often humorous, and invariably just right. Mystery, action, and suspense are enhanced by the background of the unforgiving Alaskan winter. Stabenow does her usual excellent job in this superb tale of the Alaskan Bush. This is one of the best books I've read in a long time.

A False Dawn
Oline Cogdill

It doesn't reveal any plot points to mention right away that Maxine, the adorable eight-pound miniature dachshund who is the companion, comfort, and sometimes partner to ex-cop Sean O'Brien makes it through A False Dawn unscathed. Despite living on the edge of the alligator-ridden St. Johns near the Ocala National Forest in Florida, Max is just fine and even becomes a heroine in Lowe's flawed, but ultimately satisfying, debut.

After the death of his wife, Sean takes an early retirement from the Miami Police Department for a simpler existence with his dog along the St. Johns. But he is drawn back into police work when he finds the body of a young woman in the woods near his home. Although he no longer carries a badge, his sleuthing skills are on high alert, especially when he becomes the target of one cop's investigation. Finding two allies among the sheriff's deputies, Sean discovers a market for human trafficking in rural Florida, and an old enemy.

Although A False Dawn succumbs to several genre cliches--a burned-out ex-cop, a police detective who seems determined to railroad him, and a tendency to pack the plot--Lowe's enthusiasm for his story makes him a regional author to watch. The author, a documentary writer and director, brings a breathtakingly cinematic feel to his atmospheric view of rural central Florida, an area oddly neglected by the state's cadre of mystery writers. Angst-filled Sean O'Brien makes for a realistic hero that readers will want to spend time with and the hardboiled plot reaches an intriguing conclusion.

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

It doesn't reveal any plot points to mention right away that Maxine, the adorable eight-pound miniature dachshund who is the companion, comfort, and sometimes partner to ex-cop Sean O'Brien makes it through A False Dawn unscathed. Despite living on the edge of the alligator-ridden St. Johns near the Ocala National Forest in Florida, Max is just fine and even becomes a heroine in Lowe's flawed, but ultimately satisfying, debut.

After the death of his wife, Sean takes an early retirement from the Miami Police Department for a simpler existence with his dog along the St. Johns. But he is drawn back into police work when he finds the body of a young woman in the woods near his home. Although he no longer carries a badge, his sleuthing skills are on high alert, especially when he becomes the target of one cop's investigation. Finding two allies among the sheriff's deputies, Sean discovers a market for human trafficking in rural Florida, and an old enemy.

Although A False Dawn succumbs to several genre cliches--a burned-out ex-cop, a police detective who seems determined to railroad him, and a tendency to pack the plot--Lowe's enthusiasm for his story makes him a regional author to watch. The author, a documentary writer and director, brings a breathtakingly cinematic feel to his atmospheric view of rural central Florida, an area oddly neglected by the state's cadre of mystery writers. Angst-filled Sean O'Brien makes for a realistic hero that readers will want to spend time with and the hardboiled plot reaches an intriguing conclusion.

A Quiet Flame
Kevin Burton Smith

If you think that skinhead with a swastika tattoo at the mall is just some harmless dork "acting out," think again. Scottish author Philip Kerr's belated follow-up (two books in three years, after a 15-year gap) to the now-classic Berlin Noir trilogy finds Bernie Gunther, ex-cop, former Berlin private detective and (reluctant) SS officer, emigrating to Argentina under an assumed name, just another German fleeing justice post-WWII. That Bernie was never a Nazi is really what makes this series so compelling. His unflinching eyewitness account of the rise and fall of the Third Reich is disturbing and ugly--there's no spin here, no trying to play nice with the past. What saves this book from being an excursion into black-and-white finger pointing (or a cartoonish wallow like Jerry Stahl's recent Pain Killers) is that Bernie is no superman. He's all too recognizably human: alternately weak, horny, stupid, brave, honorable and cowardly, and prone to startling lapses in judgment--his running stream of wisecracks comes off as a sort of Chandleresque version of Tourette's Syndrome. It certainly does him no favors in Peron's Nazi-friendly Argentina, where his past catches up with him and is used to pressure him into investigating the rape and murder of a young girl whose mutilated corpse bears disturbing similarities to a case Bernie once worked on in prewar Berlin. Could a fellow German refugee be responsible? The prolonged flashbacks that intersperse this taut, masterfully plotted book serve as a sort of microcosm of the entire series, whipsawing the reader back and forth in time between the two cases, allowing readers to bear witness once more to the horrors of the regime and its aftermath--and to question the complicity and indifference of numerous other nations that allowed or even encouraged it to happen. Sharply drawn characters and an in-your-face history lesson make this one required reading.

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

If you think that skinhead with a swastika tattoo at the mall is just some harmless dork "acting out," think again. Scottish author Philip Kerr's belated follow-up (two books in three years, after a 15-year gap) to the now-classic Berlin Noir trilogy finds Bernie Gunther, ex-cop, former Berlin private detective and (reluctant) SS officer, emigrating to Argentina under an assumed name, just another German fleeing justice post-WWII. That Bernie was never a Nazi is really what makes this series so compelling. His unflinching eyewitness account of the rise and fall of the Third Reich is disturbing and ugly--there's no spin here, no trying to play nice with the past. What saves this book from being an excursion into black-and-white finger pointing (or a cartoonish wallow like Jerry Stahl's recent Pain Killers) is that Bernie is no superman. He's all too recognizably human: alternately weak, horny, stupid, brave, honorable and cowardly, and prone to startling lapses in judgment--his running stream of wisecracks comes off as a sort of Chandleresque version of Tourette's Syndrome. It certainly does him no favors in Peron's Nazi-friendly Argentina, where his past catches up with him and is used to pressure him into investigating the rape and murder of a young girl whose mutilated corpse bears disturbing similarities to a case Bernie once worked on in prewar Berlin. Could a fellow German refugee be responsible? The prolonged flashbacks that intersperse this taut, masterfully plotted book serve as a sort of microcosm of the entire series, whipsawing the reader back and forth in time between the two cases, allowing readers to bear witness once more to the horrors of the regime and its aftermath--and to question the complicity and indifference of numerous other nations that allowed or even encouraged it to happen. Sharply drawn characters and an in-your-face history lesson make this one required reading.

A Trace of Smoke
Barbara Fister

In her debut novel, Cantrell evokes a vivid picture of Berlin in 1931, where the economy is in shambles and the Nazi party is on the rise. Journalist Hannah Vogel makes a visit to the Alexanderplatz police station in search of a story, and finds a familiar face among the photographs in the Hall of the Unnamed Dead: that of her brother, Ernst, pulled from the water a couple of days earlier, stabbed through the heart. But she can't help the police with their inquiries because she previously coaxed Ernst's identity papers from him to help Jewish friends escape the country. Though the police can't identify the body, Hannah sets out to find out who was responsible for her brother's murder.

Ernst was a transvestite singer with a beautiful voice and an entourage of lovers, including a jealous rival, and a young Nazi whose sexual identity puts him at odds with his family and the party. Hannah's quest is complicated when a small boy, who has internalized the popular Karl May adventure stories and insists on talking like an Indian brave, shows up at her apartment door and claims she is his mother.

Hannah and the boy who adopts her are compelling enough, but the real star of the book is Berlin. Hannah's quest takes the reader on a tour of the dark side of German society at a critical moment, and though Cantrell, who studied in Germany, loves her research enough to include a glossary, it's not intrusive. It's immersive and compelling.

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

In her debut novel, Cantrell evokes a vivid picture of Berlin in 1931, where the economy is in shambles and the Nazi party is on the rise. Journalist Hannah Vogel makes a visit to the Alexanderplatz police station in search of a story, and finds a familiar face among the photographs in the Hall of the Unnamed Dead: that of her brother, Ernst, pulled from the water a couple of days earlier, stabbed through the heart. But she can't help the police with their inquiries because she previously coaxed Ernst's identity papers from him to help Jewish friends escape the country. Though the police can't identify the body, Hannah sets out to find out who was responsible for her brother's murder.

Ernst was a transvestite singer with a beautiful voice and an entourage of lovers, including a jealous rival, and a young Nazi whose sexual identity puts him at odds with his family and the party. Hannah's quest is complicated when a small boy, who has internalized the popular Karl May adventure stories and insists on talking like an Indian brave, shows up at her apartment door and claims she is his mother.

Hannah and the boy who adopts her are compelling enough, but the real star of the book is Berlin. Hannah's quest takes the reader on a tour of the dark side of German society at a critical moment, and though Cantrell, who studied in Germany, loves her research enough to include a glossary, it's not intrusive. It's immersive and compelling.

Borderline
Oline Cogdill

Nevada Barr's melding of natural beauty and human evil reaches a new height in the excellent Borderline, her 15th novel about park ranger Anna Pigeon. Set against the breathtaking beauty of Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas, Barr delivers a taut, suspense-filled plot that explores the hot-button issue of Mexican immigration and the post 9-11 closing of the Texas/Mexican border in the area.

Still recovering from the events in Winter Study, Anna is now on leave from the National Park Service. Anna fears the leave may be permanent, but she is never one to stay indoors so she and her husband, Paul, take a raft trip on the Rio Grande. The Chihuahuan Desert's beauty and the river's power may be the right medicine for Anna. The four college students also on the trip are congenial company. But the trip turns to tragedy when the raft is lost and the group finds a pregnant woman caught in a strainer between two boulders. They manage to pull her out of the river just before she dies. To save her baby, Anna performs an emergency C-section. After the group is rescued, an ambitious politician will use the tragedy for her own cause.

Borderline may be Barr's best novel to date. The author depicts the individuals affected by the border closing which, before 9-11, had operated with a more open-door policy. Yet never does Barr allow the issues she tackles to overwhelm the story. Barr keeps this series fresh by continuing to show new sides of her heroine. On leave, Anna finds that others in authority don't take her as seriously as when she was a working ranger. As usual, it's not wise to underestimate Anna.

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

::cck::1373

Cecilian Vespers
Joseph Scarpato, Jr.

Monty Collins is a lawyer in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1991 when he becomes involved both professionally and personally with the setting up of the Schola Cantorum. The new choir school, directed by his friend, Father Brennan Burke, is dedicated to celebrating and promoting the Gregorian chants and other age-old Catholic music previously discouraged by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. During the choir's first performance, the singing of Vespers on Saint Cecilia's day, a sudden scream destroys the peaceful ambience of the old church as the bloody and nearly decapitated body of one of the older priests is discovered in the sanctuary. Oddly, several valentine cards and a swizzle stick are found near the body. When another priest confesses to the crime, the police are satisfied that the case is closed. Soon, however, Collins and Father Brennan become aware that the confessed murderer may not be the murderer at all, and they begin their own investigation, interviewing the handful of people who had the opportunity, and perhaps the motive, to commit the crime earlier that day.

In addition to being a first-rate mystery peopled by an interesting and international cast of characters, Cecilian Vespers provides a thoroughly-researched look at how the Second Vatican Council has changed not only the celebration of the Mass, but the priesthood and the Catholic religion over time. This is the third mystery written by Anne Emery, herself a lawyer, reporter and researcher. Her novel Sign of the Cross won Canada's Arthur Ellis award for Best First Novel.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:46:47

Monty Collins is a lawyer in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1991 when he becomes involved both professionally and personally with the setting up of the Schola Cantorum. The new choir school, directed by his friend, Father Brennan Burke, is dedicated to celebrating and promoting the Gregorian chants and other age-old Catholic music previously discouraged by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. During the choir's first performance, the singing of Vespers on Saint Cecilia's day, a sudden scream destroys the peaceful ambience of the old church as the bloody and nearly decapitated body of one of the older priests is discovered in the sanctuary. Oddly, several valentine cards and a swizzle stick are found near the body. When another priest confesses to the crime, the police are satisfied that the case is closed. Soon, however, Collins and Father Brennan become aware that the confessed murderer may not be the murderer at all, and they begin their own investigation, interviewing the handful of people who had the opportunity, and perhaps the motive, to commit the crime earlier that day.

In addition to being a first-rate mystery peopled by an interesting and international cast of characters, Cecilian Vespers provides a thoroughly-researched look at how the Second Vatican Council has changed not only the celebration of the Mass, but the priesthood and the Catholic religion over time. This is the third mystery written by Anne Emery, herself a lawyer, reporter and researcher. Her novel Sign of the Cross won Canada's Arthur Ellis award for Best First Novel.

Death and the Lit Chick
Sue Emmons

Delicious. That's the best word to describe the second outing of Detective Chief Inspector Arthur St. Just, who has been wheedled into speaking to a group of crime writers whose publisher has invited them to a weekend outing at a desolate Edinburgh castle. Newcomer chick lit crime author Kimberlee Kalter is the audacious diva of the event, with her first book topping mystery charts and her fans clamoring to duplicate her signature pink and black couture. Unfortunately, Kimberly's career comes to a jolting end when she is thrown down a steep staircase to her death in this tale of jealous rivalries among writers, agents, publicists, and at least one would-be author on the castle staff who hopes to pen the first Neanderthal whodunit.

Malliet is laugh-out-loud funny in describing the cadre of crime writers encountered by the sometimes-flustered St. Just. The author neatly skewers the writers/suspects who include a beloved but fading veteran who for more than 30 years has basically rewritten the same story, the oft-hailed writer who concentrates on forensics to the vast amusement of those who actually work in the field, the thriller/spy writer with secrets of his own, the man who pens serial killer mysteries, and even the cat, dog, and food mystery writers now in vogue. Among this group, the widowed St. Just also finds a tinge of romance. Not only is the writing in this mystery stiletto sharp and the characterizations delightful, but the culprit should surprise all those readers who like to think they have pounced on the killer in the very first chapter.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:46:47

Delicious. That's the best word to describe the second outing of Detective Chief Inspector Arthur St. Just, who has been wheedled into speaking to a group of crime writers whose publisher has invited them to a weekend outing at a desolate Edinburgh castle. Newcomer chick lit crime author Kimberlee Kalter is the audacious diva of the event, with her first book topping mystery charts and her fans clamoring to duplicate her signature pink and black couture. Unfortunately, Kimberly's career comes to a jolting end when she is thrown down a steep staircase to her death in this tale of jealous rivalries among writers, agents, publicists, and at least one would-be author on the castle staff who hopes to pen the first Neanderthal whodunit.

Malliet is laugh-out-loud funny in describing the cadre of crime writers encountered by the sometimes-flustered St. Just. The author neatly skewers the writers/suspects who include a beloved but fading veteran who for more than 30 years has basically rewritten the same story, the oft-hailed writer who concentrates on forensics to the vast amusement of those who actually work in the field, the thriller/spy writer with secrets of his own, the man who pens serial killer mysteries, and even the cat, dog, and food mystery writers now in vogue. Among this group, the widowed St. Just also finds a tinge of romance. Not only is the writing in this mystery stiletto sharp and the characterizations delightful, but the culprit should surprise all those readers who like to think they have pounced on the killer in the very first chapter.

Deep Waters
Lynne F. Maxwell

Author Kate Charles is a transplant from the Midwest who has found her spiritual home in Great Britain, where she has lived since 1986. Demonstrably, England is the perfect venue for Charles, given her fascination with the Church of England. Her knowledge about church dynamics certainly comes into play in Deep Waters, her third series novel featuring Callie Anson, an Episcopalian curate. A curate, apparently, is a priest-in-training, which characterizes Callie's position at her vicarage. Her subordinate status becomes evident when a storm ravages the church hall where she is living, and, until the hall is repaired, she must live in the well-appointed vicarage of her boss, the vicar, and his unpleasant wife. It would take the patience of a saint to relish this living situation, and Callie is still fallible, so she avoids her temporary residence and its occupants as much as possible. Fortunately, she has a romantic interest, Mark Lombardi, a family liaison officer associated with the police department. Moreover, she has a murder to solve. Mark and Callie apply their skills when they begin investigating the sudden death of Muffin, the infant daughter of a major celebrity couple (think Brad and Angelina). The child's death becomes even more upsetting when the coroner announces that it wasn't caused by crib death. Rather, she was fatally shaken. As Callie proceeds to solve the mystery, Charles' expertise at suspense, along with her sure hand for issues of faith and organized religion, becomes increasingly evident. Let us pray that this wonderful young series has a very long life.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:46:47

Author Kate Charles is a transplant from the Midwest who has found her spiritual home in Great Britain, where she has lived since 1986. Demonstrably, England is the perfect venue for Charles, given her fascination with the Church of England. Her knowledge about church dynamics certainly comes into play in Deep Waters, her third series novel featuring Callie Anson, an Episcopalian curate. A curate, apparently, is a priest-in-training, which characterizes Callie's position at her vicarage. Her subordinate status becomes evident when a storm ravages the church hall where she is living, and, until the hall is repaired, she must live in the well-appointed vicarage of her boss, the vicar, and his unpleasant wife. It would take the patience of a saint to relish this living situation, and Callie is still fallible, so she avoids her temporary residence and its occupants as much as possible. Fortunately, she has a romantic interest, Mark Lombardi, a family liaison officer associated with the police department. Moreover, she has a murder to solve. Mark and Callie apply their skills when they begin investigating the sudden death of Muffin, the infant daughter of a major celebrity couple (think Brad and Angelina). The child's death becomes even more upsetting when the coroner announces that it wasn't caused by crib death. Rather, she was fatally shaken. As Callie proceeds to solve the mystery, Charles' expertise at suspense, along with her sure hand for issues of faith and organized religion, becomes increasingly evident. Let us pray that this wonderful young series has a very long life.

Devil's Food
Sue Reider

Devil's Food is filled with a variety of thoroughly charming characters, many of them tenants in the apartment building housing Corinna Chapman's Earthly Delights bakery. Things for Corinna aren't all sweet in this third installment of the series: Her father has disappeared in Melbourne and two of her shop girls have overdosed on an herbal weight-loss tea from a shady cafe. Faced with finding both her father and the tea seller, Corinna's real challenge is her lack of self-confidence. Strong and bright with a thriving business, she's also described as obese--in a world passionate about thinness. As her relationships evolve throughout the book, Corinna becomes more confident, even finally recognizing her PI lover accepts her as she is.

The book is remarkable for its essential lack of violence. It is filled, for the most part, with pleasant and kind people who care deeply about others: Corinna's neighbors--the gay couple, herbalist witch, weaver, diplomat's widow and retired professor are all well-delineated. Each of them is kindly, likeable, and open to new experiences. The narrative moves along at an unhurried pace that allows the reader to enjoy every nuance of a complex, and thoroughly delightful, story.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:46:47

Devil's Food is filled with a variety of thoroughly charming characters, many of them tenants in the apartment building housing Corinna Chapman's Earthly Delights bakery. Things for Corinna aren't all sweet in this third installment of the series: Her father has disappeared in Melbourne and two of her shop girls have overdosed on an herbal weight-loss tea from a shady cafe. Faced with finding both her father and the tea seller, Corinna's real challenge is her lack of self-confidence. Strong and bright with a thriving business, she's also described as obese--in a world passionate about thinness. As her relationships evolve throughout the book, Corinna becomes more confident, even finally recognizing her PI lover accepts her as she is.

The book is remarkable for its essential lack of violence. It is filled, for the most part, with pleasant and kind people who care deeply about others: Corinna's neighbors--the gay couple, herbalist witch, weaver, diplomat's widow and retired professor are all well-delineated. Each of them is kindly, likeable, and open to new experiences. The narrative moves along at an unhurried pace that allows the reader to enjoy every nuance of a complex, and thoroughly delightful, story.

Devil's Garden
Kevin Burton Smith

Let's see: Prohibition, Hollywood, celebrities, booze, sex, corruption, rape, murder, a trial-of-the-century, plus a soon-to-be world famous mystery writer as the detective. How did Max Allan Collins miss this one? Atkins—best known for his series of mysteries featuring blues professor Nick Travers—visits Collins' turf and spins his own nifty historical detective yarn, retelling the notorious Fatty Arbuckle case. The silent film star was charged with the rape and subsequent death of a young starlet during a wild party in his San Francisco hotel suite, and among the Pinkerton agents hired by Arbuckle's lawyer is young, sickly Sam (Dashiell) Hammett. There is some question as to whether Hammett actually worked the case, but as the Hammett legacy lurches into public domain and interest is renewed, I guess we better prepare for more of this sort of thing.

Fortunately, Devil's Garden is enjoyable enough on its own terms, but like Joe Gores' recent Spade & Archer, the tendency to wear one's research on one's sleeve comes perilously close at times to sandbagging the story. The swirl of celebrity characters and meandering points of view never quite gel, and the deluge of call-outs and tips of the fedora are great fun but eventually grow wearisome. Intimations of characters and situations that would eventually work their way into Hammett's fiction abound (a snapped cable provides a Flitcraft-like moment, and a comely female "dry agent" sports "silver eyes," etc.) but don't always serve the story as well as they should. A little less trivia and a little more character development (and an afterword that pinpoints where conjecture and fact deviate) wouldn't have hurt. Still, an intriguing take on a relatively uncharted part of Hammett's life.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:46:47

Let's see: Prohibition, Hollywood, celebrities, booze, sex, corruption, rape, murder, a trial-of-the-century, plus a soon-to-be world famous mystery writer as the detective. How did Max Allan Collins miss this one? Atkins—best known for his series of mysteries featuring blues professor Nick Travers—visits Collins' turf and spins his own nifty historical detective yarn, retelling the notorious Fatty Arbuckle case. The silent film star was charged with the rape and subsequent death of a young starlet during a wild party in his San Francisco hotel suite, and among the Pinkerton agents hired by Arbuckle's lawyer is young, sickly Sam (Dashiell) Hammett. There is some question as to whether Hammett actually worked the case, but as the Hammett legacy lurches into public domain and interest is renewed, I guess we better prepare for more of this sort of thing.

Fortunately, Devil's Garden is enjoyable enough on its own terms, but like Joe Gores' recent Spade & Archer, the tendency to wear one's research on one's sleeve comes perilously close at times to sandbagging the story. The swirl of celebrity characters and meandering points of view never quite gel, and the deluge of call-outs and tips of the fedora are great fun but eventually grow wearisome. Intimations of characters and situations that would eventually work their way into Hammett's fiction abound (a snapped cable provides a Flitcraft-like moment, and a comely female "dry agent" sports "silver eyes," etc.) but don't always serve the story as well as they should. A little less trivia and a little more character development (and an afterword that pinpoints where conjecture and fact deviate) wouldn't have hurt. Still, an intriguing take on a relatively uncharted part of Hammett's life.

Don't Look Twice
Verna Suit

In the posh New York suburb of Greenwich, Connecticut, an unlikely drive-by shooting claims the life of federal prosecutor David Sanger. Lt. Ty Hauck of the Greenwich PD was himself nearly killed in the attack so he has a personal as well as official interest in finding the shooter and his motive. Before long, indications turn up that Sanger had a gambling problem and that the attack was related to a casino scam.

The problem is, when Hauck takes a second look, things appear differently. Everyone tells him not to take that second look. Sanger's widow insists her husband was a good man and begs Hauck not to ruin his reputation. Both Hauck's boss and brother advise him not to disturb the web of favors that makes the world function. Hauck, likeable but naive for a police detective, has ethical choices to make. He might end up waging a lonely crusade against a lucrative Indian casino that is a huge tax generator for the state.

Andrew Gross has co-authored six novels with James Patterson and has the thriller formula down pat. Don't Look Twice, the second of Gross's own Lt. Hauck books after Dark Tide (2008), is a fast read with high stakes. It is a largely predictable plot, but insider details on casino security prove darkly fascinating and the book's ending does hold a few surprises. Those who follow geopolitics will find the ultimate solution to the mystery worth thinking hard about.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:46:47

In the posh New York suburb of Greenwich, Connecticut, an unlikely drive-by shooting claims the life of federal prosecutor David Sanger. Lt. Ty Hauck of the Greenwich PD was himself nearly killed in the attack so he has a personal as well as official interest in finding the shooter and his motive. Before long, indications turn up that Sanger had a gambling problem and that the attack was related to a casino scam.

The problem is, when Hauck takes a second look, things appear differently. Everyone tells him not to take that second look. Sanger's widow insists her husband was a good man and begs Hauck not to ruin his reputation. Both Hauck's boss and brother advise him not to disturb the web of favors that makes the world function. Hauck, likeable but naive for a police detective, has ethical choices to make. He might end up waging a lonely crusade against a lucrative Indian casino that is a huge tax generator for the state.

Andrew Gross has co-authored six novels with James Patterson and has the thriller formula down pat. Don't Look Twice, the second of Gross's own Lt. Hauck books after Dark Tide (2008), is a fast read with high stakes. It is a largely predictable plot, but insider details on casino security prove darkly fascinating and the book's ending does hold a few surprises. Those who follow geopolitics will find the ultimate solution to the mystery worth thinking hard about.

Even
Jim Winter

David Trevellyan just wants to go home. Too bad he stopped to help a guy he found in an alley, just as the police arrive to find him crouched over the body. The NYPD likes him for the murder, as does the FBI, since the dead man turns out to be an agent. Too bad the man they've wrongly accused is a Royal Navy spy, a man who makes James Bond look neurotic and jumpy. It gets better. Trevellyan escapes and allows himself to be picked up by some amateurish thugs. He could elude them, but Trevellyan wants to know who else is involved in this mess. It turns out to be a woman known only as Lesley, a vicious criminal with a penchant for ritual castration. From there, Trevellyan is soon entangled in a federal probe of a private military contractor tied to an organ trafficking scheme. Through it all, Trevellyan's blood pressure goes up maybe two points.

If this sounds a lot like Jack Reacher, it should be no surprise. Author Andrew Grant is Lee Child's younger brother. That's a good thing, since intricate plots, cinematic description, and relentless pacing run in the family. Grant's Trevellyan is cool under pressure, never one to let fear get the better of him. He's also a tad arrogant, often risking everything to get results in this solid debut for an exciting spy series.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:46:47

David Trevellyan just wants to go home. Too bad he stopped to help a guy he found in an alley, just as the police arrive to find him crouched over the body. The NYPD likes him for the murder, as does the FBI, since the dead man turns out to be an agent. Too bad the man they've wrongly accused is a Royal Navy spy, a man who makes James Bond look neurotic and jumpy. It gets better. Trevellyan escapes and allows himself to be picked up by some amateurish thugs. He could elude them, but Trevellyan wants to know who else is involved in this mess. It turns out to be a woman known only as Lesley, a vicious criminal with a penchant for ritual castration. From there, Trevellyan is soon entangled in a federal probe of a private military contractor tied to an organ trafficking scheme. Through it all, Trevellyan's blood pressure goes up maybe two points.

If this sounds a lot like Jack Reacher, it should be no surprise. Author Andrew Grant is Lee Child's younger brother. That's a good thing, since intricate plots, cinematic description, and relentless pacing run in the family. Grant's Trevellyan is cool under pressure, never one to let fear get the better of him. He's also a tad arrogant, often risking everything to get results in this solid debut for an exciting spy series.

Face of Betrayal
Beverly J. DeWeese

Pretty Senate page Katie Converse has disappeared and may be dead. The most obvious suspect is Senator Fairfield, her over-friendly sponsor. However, as the Triple Threat Club (an investigative team composed of two law enforcement women and a reporter), investigates the case, the solution is unexpected and troubling.

Though the setup of this debut novel is familiar, the authors throw in some unexpected plot twists and have created a trio of likeable investigators who struggle with their own problems as well as investigating the page's disappearance. Federal Prosecutor Allison Pierce is finally pregnant, and her impending motherhood certainly affects the way she views child abduction and murder. Pragmatic FBI agent Nicole Hedge is raising her young daughter alone and is also unforgiving about child or spousal abuse. Lovely, successful reporter Cassidy Shaw will do anything to get a lead story, yet she doesn't really believe in herself. Add offbeat characters, such as Tim, the penniless Vietnam vet who has to raise his child in the woods to save money, a twisty plot, and perceptive references to common social ills, and this is a good read. Fans of The Women's Murder Club especially should enjoy this.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:46:47

Pretty Senate page Katie Converse has disappeared and may be dead. The most obvious suspect is Senator Fairfield, her over-friendly sponsor. However, as the Triple Threat Club (an investigative team composed of two law enforcement women and a reporter), investigates the case, the solution is unexpected and troubling.

Though the setup of this debut novel is familiar, the authors throw in some unexpected plot twists and have created a trio of likeable investigators who struggle with their own problems as well as investigating the page's disappearance. Federal Prosecutor Allison Pierce is finally pregnant, and her impending motherhood certainly affects the way she views child abduction and murder. Pragmatic FBI agent Nicole Hedge is raising her young daughter alone and is also unforgiving about child or spousal abuse. Lovely, successful reporter Cassidy Shaw will do anything to get a lead story, yet she doesn't really believe in herself. Add offbeat characters, such as Tim, the penniless Vietnam vet who has to raise his child in the woods to save money, a twisty plot, and perceptive references to common social ills, and this is a good read. Fans of The Women's Murder Club especially should enjoy this.

Flipping Out
Bob Smith

To state the obvious, I "flipped out" for Marshall Karp's Flipping Out, a police procedural that gleefully avoids the over-used CSI-type technical details and concentrates on the joys of a solid plot with fun characters, brisk dialogue, dark cop humor, and a pair of highly likely protagonists.

The "L.A. Flippers" are a group of women who buy houses, fix them up and resell or "flip" them for a considerable profit. Their leader is Nora Banister, a noted author of popular mysteries who, whenever a house is to be sold, publishes a new book and centers the plot at that address. People willingly pay above market prices to own one of "Nora's houses," and all is a success--until someone begins murdering the women and panic sets in.

The husbands of the Flippers, including homicide detectives Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs, are all poker-playing police pals, so solving the murders becomes a personal matter. Lomax and Biggs are torn when they have to interrogate their own buddies, but also know the first rule of any homicide investigation is that the husband is the number one suspect. Was it a real estate deal gone wrong? A maniacal killer? Revenge against the police? Or something else entirely?

Eventually a murderer is identified, but Lomax and Biggs can't accept where the evidence leads. Despite orders not to continue their investigation, they follow their hunches to a very surprising conclusion. This fast-paced, suspenseful, highly-readable and thoroughly delightful mystery is a follow-up to Karp's initial effort The Rabbit Factory, and hopefully the beginning of a long-running series.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:46:47

To state the obvious, I "flipped out" for Marshall Karp's Flipping Out, a police procedural that gleefully avoids the over-used CSI-type technical details and concentrates on the joys of a solid plot with fun characters, brisk dialogue, dark cop humor, and a pair of highly likely protagonists.

The "L.A. Flippers" are a group of women who buy houses, fix them up and resell or "flip" them for a considerable profit. Their leader is Nora Banister, a noted author of popular mysteries who, whenever a house is to be sold, publishes a new book and centers the plot at that address. People willingly pay above market prices to own one of "Nora's houses," and all is a success--until someone begins murdering the women and panic sets in.

The husbands of the Flippers, including homicide detectives Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs, are all poker-playing police pals, so solving the murders becomes a personal matter. Lomax and Biggs are torn when they have to interrogate their own buddies, but also know the first rule of any homicide investigation is that the husband is the number one suspect. Was it a real estate deal gone wrong? A maniacal killer? Revenge against the police? Or something else entirely?

Eventually a murderer is identified, but Lomax and Biggs can't accept where the evidence leads. Despite orders not to continue their investigation, they follow their hunches to a very surprising conclusion. This fast-paced, suspenseful, highly-readable and thoroughly delightful mystery is a follow-up to Karp's initial effort The Rabbit Factory, and hopefully the beginning of a long-running series.

Havana Fever
Kevin Burton Smith

Book five in what was once called the Havana Quartet, all featuring Inspector Mario Conde, Havana Fever is more than ample proof that authors should never say never when announcing the demise of a popular character. And that translated books don't have to be dry, clunky reads. That the prose flows so freely from its original Spanish is a testament to Peter Bush translation mojo and, of course, Padura's own considerable talent--he effortlessly nails his native Havana the way Chandler nailed L.A. or James Lee Burke nails Louisiana; with a dark, unapologetic poetry that gets under your skin. It's been 14 years since the Inspector retired to become a used book dealer, and he's thriving, as beleaguered families are forced to sell off their books to survive. But Conde is no Batista-era fat cat--his love for Cuba and its people transcends we-and-them politics. While evaluating a collection of books in a crumbling mansion, Conde comes across a clipping about a legendary bolero singer from the fifties who abruptly retired after recording one classic 45 rpm. Conde becomes intrigued with the singer and her death, and begins to investigate. Of course, this is really just an excuse to slip back and forth in time, offering a cultural and social history of his beloved Cuba, from the glitz of the mob-owned nightclubs of the Batista era to the crumbling economy and decaying cities of the post-Castro present. The division of the book into an A-side and a B-side (ask your parents, kids) is a little cute, but in a book so obsessed with duality (then versus now, democracy versus communism, greed and corruption versus, well, greed and corruption), it makes a sort of weird sense. And Padura's hellish vision of Havana past and present is deliciously rendered. Vivid, compassionate and passionate, Padura continues to rip the lid off contemporary Cuba and let us get a good look at the works. You don't have to read the previous novels to enjoy this one but you'll want to.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:46:47

Book five in what was once called the Havana Quartet, all featuring Inspector Mario Conde, Havana Fever is more than ample proof that authors should never say never when announcing the demise of a popular character. And that translated books don't have to be dry, clunky reads. That the prose flows so freely from its original Spanish is a testament to Peter Bush translation mojo and, of course, Padura's own considerable talent--he effortlessly nails his native Havana the way Chandler nailed L.A. or James Lee Burke nails Louisiana; with a dark, unapologetic poetry that gets under your skin. It's been 14 years since the Inspector retired to become a used book dealer, and he's thriving, as beleaguered families are forced to sell off their books to survive. But Conde is no Batista-era fat cat--his love for Cuba and its people transcends we-and-them politics. While evaluating a collection of books in a crumbling mansion, Conde comes across a clipping about a legendary bolero singer from the fifties who abruptly retired after recording one classic 45 rpm. Conde becomes intrigued with the singer and her death, and begins to investigate. Of course, this is really just an excuse to slip back and forth in time, offering a cultural and social history of his beloved Cuba, from the glitz of the mob-owned nightclubs of the Batista era to the crumbling economy and decaying cities of the post-Castro present. The division of the book into an A-side and a B-side (ask your parents, kids) is a little cute, but in a book so obsessed with duality (then versus now, democracy versus communism, greed and corruption versus, well, greed and corruption), it makes a sort of weird sense. And Padura's hellish vision of Havana past and present is deliciously rendered. Vivid, compassionate and passionate, Padura continues to rip the lid off contemporary Cuba and let us get a good look at the works. You don't have to read the previous novels to enjoy this one but you'll want to.

Havana Lunar
Hank Wagner

Havana Lunar transports readers to Cuba circa August, 1992, during the severe economic downturn the Castro regime indifferently labeled "The Special Period." As the book's protagonist, Doctor Manolo Rodriguez, reveals through his cynical, world weary first person narration, the only thing "special" about the time was the extreme hardship the island's populace had to endure.

Plagued by migraines and ennui, Rodriguez spends his days toiling in a community medical clinic. It's here that he meets and falls for Julia, a teenage prostitute who's trying to escape from her pimp, the loathsome Alejandro Martinez. Martinez's brutal decapitation, and Julia's subsequent disappearance, put the doctor in an untenable position, where he is persecuted and molested by both the police and Martinez's unsavory associates. Believing that Julia represents salvation, the doctor tries to protect her even as he struggles to determine her whereabouts.

Subtitled "A Cuban Noir Novel," Arellano's debut certainly lives up to that designation, evoking a sense of hopelessness and despair in its readers, as they are dragged down into the deepest, darkest recesses of the squalid island through the lush, moody, at times hallucinatory prose of its narrator, a man struggling to survive against steep odds. Arellano's depiction of Rodriguez's descent into this figurative Hades is masterful, and worthy of your attention. One caveat to all this praise--if you don't have a working knowledge of Spanish, make sure you have access to a dictionary or a website that does passable translations, as much of the dialogue is rendered in the doctor's mother tongue.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:46:47

Havana Lunar transports readers to Cuba circa August, 1992, during the severe economic downturn the Castro regime indifferently labeled "The Special Period." As the book's protagonist, Doctor Manolo Rodriguez, reveals through his cynical, world weary first person narration, the only thing "special" about the time was the extreme hardship the island's populace had to endure.

Plagued by migraines and ennui, Rodriguez spends his days toiling in a community medical clinic. It's here that he meets and falls for Julia, a teenage prostitute who's trying to escape from her pimp, the loathsome Alejandro Martinez. Martinez's brutal decapitation, and Julia's subsequent disappearance, put the doctor in an untenable position, where he is persecuted and molested by both the police and Martinez's unsavory associates. Believing that Julia represents salvation, the doctor tries to protect her even as he struggles to determine her whereabouts.

Subtitled "A Cuban Noir Novel," Arellano's debut certainly lives up to that designation, evoking a sense of hopelessness and despair in its readers, as they are dragged down into the deepest, darkest recesses of the squalid island through the lush, moody, at times hallucinatory prose of its narrator, a man struggling to survive against steep odds. Arellano's depiction of Rodriguez's descent into this figurative Hades is masterful, and worthy of your attention. One caveat to all this praise--if you don't have a working knowledge of Spanish, make sure you have access to a dictionary or a website that does passable translations, as much of the dialogue is rendered in the doctor's mother tongue.

Illegal
Bob Smith

Jimmy "Royal" Payne is a fast-talking, down-on-his-luck lawyer on the run from the police. Tito Perez is a 12-year-old Mexican searching for his mother, Marisol, after being separated from her while crossing the border illegally. They meet when the boy steals the $5,000 that Jimmy stole from the LAPD detective who forced him to bribe a judge. All that in just the first few pages! Marisol becomes a prisoner in a brothel after being shuffled from one relay station to another by ruthless "coyotes," men engaged in smuggling illegals into America. When Jimmy's ex-wife begs him to help Tito find his mother, the two set out to trace Marisol's steps from Mexico to California's Hellhole Canyon. This is a duo whose adventures rival Batman and Robin, with new cliff-hanging dangers in every chapter. They just keep missing Marisol, as she is moved to new locations, and they must use all their wits to keep from getting killed. Through the adventure they begin to bond: Tito filling in for Jimmy's son previously killed in an auto accident, and Jimmy filling in for the father Tito never had. If ever you rooted for a couple of underdogs to come out on top, this is the book for you. It is filled with laugh out loud lines juxtaposed with unexpected shocks as author Levine creates a serious--at times horrifying--yet delightful tale centered around one of this country's major political controversies. He relates the story in an even-handed manner, clearly presenting all sides of the illegal alien issue. This book is highly recommended. The first chapter alone is worth the price.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:46:47

Jimmy "Royal" Payne is a fast-talking, down-on-his-luck lawyer on the run from the police. Tito Perez is a 12-year-old Mexican searching for his mother, Marisol, after being separated from her while crossing the border illegally. They meet when the boy steals the $5,000 that Jimmy stole from the LAPD detective who forced him to bribe a judge. All that in just the first few pages! Marisol becomes a prisoner in a brothel after being shuffled from one relay station to another by ruthless "coyotes," men engaged in smuggling illegals into America. When Jimmy's ex-wife begs him to help Tito find his mother, the two set out to trace Marisol's steps from Mexico to California's Hellhole Canyon. This is a duo whose adventures rival Batman and Robin, with new cliff-hanging dangers in every chapter. They just keep missing Marisol, as she is moved to new locations, and they must use all their wits to keep from getting killed. Through the adventure they begin to bond: Tito filling in for Jimmy's son previously killed in an auto accident, and Jimmy filling in for the father Tito never had. If ever you rooted for a couple of underdogs to come out on top, this is the book for you. It is filled with laugh out loud lines juxtaposed with unexpected shocks as author Levine creates a serious--at times horrifying--yet delightful tale centered around one of this country's major political controversies. He relates the story in an even-handed manner, clearly presenting all sides of the illegal alien issue. This book is highly recommended. The first chapter alone is worth the price.

In the Dark (Freeman)
Hank Wagner

Freeman's fourth novel to feature Duluth, Minnesota police detective Jonathan Stride, In the Dark casts further light on his history, focusing on a life altering event that occurred in his teens--the brutal 1977 murder of Laura Starr, sister of Cindy Starr, the woman who would one day become his wife. Not only was the night of the murder the first time he made love to Cindy, it was the night he met his mentor, Ray Wallace, and the night he conceived his desire to become a cop.

The decades old cold case does not lack for suspects. Among them are rich boy Peter Stanhope, who is used to taking what he wants. There's also Finn Mathison, a man who never recovered from the trauma of a twisted childhood, and a vagrant the locals call Dada, a huge, dreadlocked black man who disappeared soon after Laura was bludgeoned with an aluminum baseball bat. Stride has to revisit his youth even as he delves into the troubling case of a local peeping tom; doing so, he learns that almost everyone involved in the case harbors a secret, including his deceased wife, Cindy.

Freeman does a masterful job of managing his large cast, and provides plenty of red herrings to distract readers who like to guess whodunit before the author does his big reveal; although this reviewer did guess correctly fairly early on, there were several junctures where I doubted my answer. Just chalk that up to Freeman's proven talent in constructing a riveting novel of suspense.

Admin
2010-04-22 02:46:47

Freeman's fourth novel to feature Duluth, Minnesota police detective Jonathan Stride, In the Dark casts further light on his history, focusing on a life altering event that occurred in his teens--the brutal 1977 murder of Laura Starr, sister of Cindy Starr, the woman who would one day become his wife. Not only was the night of the murder the first time he made love to Cindy, it was the night he met his mentor, Ray Wallace, and the night he conceived his desire to become a cop.

The decades old cold case does not lack for suspects. Among them are rich boy Peter Stanhope, who is used to taking what he wants. There's also Finn Mathison, a man who never recovered from the trauma of a twisted childhood, and a vagrant the locals call Dada, a huge, dreadlocked black man who disappeared soon after Laura was bludgeoned with an aluminum baseball bat. Stride has to revisit his youth even as he delves into the troubling case of a local peeping tom; doing so, he learns that almost everyone involved in the case harbors a secret, including his deceased wife, Cindy.

Freeman does a masterful job of managing his large cast, and provides plenty of red herrings to distract readers who like to guess whodunit before the author does his big reveal; although this reviewer did guess correctly fairly early on, there were several junctures where I doubted my answer. Just chalk that up to Freeman's proven talent in constructing a riveting novel of suspense.

Killer Keepsakes
Mary Helen Becker

Jane Cleland's fans will be thrilled to find the fourth Josie Prescott mystery in bookstores this spring. Cleland, who used to own a rare books and antiques shop in New Hampshire (and knows whereof she writes) has created Prescott's Antiques and Appraisals in the fictional town of Rocky Point, located near Portsmouth on the very short shoreline of New Hampshire.

In Killer Keepsakes, as in the earlier books, Josie's first person narration reveals her thoughts and struggles. A strong businesswoman, she is nevertheless fragile because of her mother's early death and the death of her father at a pivotal point in her life. As the novel opens, Gretchen, Josie's cheerful helper, is missing. After apparently returning to New Hampshire from her Hawaiian vacation, she never returned to work. Worried about this uncharacteristic behavior, Josie goes to Gretchen's condo and discovers the corpse of an unknown man. Gretchen has never revealed anything about her past, and Josie has long suspected that she may have taken on a new identity. Determined to find her friend, Josie and her likeable crew at Prescott's Antiques put themselves in harm's way as they discover exciting facts about the antiques and artifacts along the way. The series is frequently referred to as the Antiques Roadshow for mystery lovers. The author does an excellent job of bringing the business to life and sharing antiques lore in an engaging fashion. Her ongoing cast of characters have become old friends to readers, and the new ones will as well. Cleland makes research exciting--into the lives of her characters as well as the provenance of rare vases or books. New readers can look forward to hours of enjoyment in this fine series.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:46:47

Jane Cleland's fans will be thrilled to find the fourth Josie Prescott mystery in bookstores this spring. Cleland, who used to own a rare books and antiques shop in New Hampshire (and knows whereof she writes) has created Prescott's Antiques and Appraisals in the fictional town of Rocky Point, located near Portsmouth on the very short shoreline of New Hampshire.

In Killer Keepsakes, as in the earlier books, Josie's first person narration reveals her thoughts and struggles. A strong businesswoman, she is nevertheless fragile because of her mother's early death and the death of her father at a pivotal point in her life. As the novel opens, Gretchen, Josie's cheerful helper, is missing. After apparently returning to New Hampshire from her Hawaiian vacation, she never returned to work. Worried about this uncharacteristic behavior, Josie goes to Gretchen's condo and discovers the corpse of an unknown man. Gretchen has never revealed anything about her past, and Josie has long suspected that she may have taken on a new identity. Determined to find her friend, Josie and her likeable crew at Prescott's Antiques put themselves in harm's way as they discover exciting facts about the antiques and artifacts along the way. The series is frequently referred to as the Antiques Roadshow for mystery lovers. The author does an excellent job of bringing the business to life and sharing antiques lore in an engaging fashion. Her ongoing cast of characters have become old friends to readers, and the new ones will as well. Cleland makes research exciting--into the lives of her characters as well as the provenance of rare vases or books. New readers can look forward to hours of enjoyment in this fine series.

Life Sentences
Jim Winter

Once upon a time, Calliope (pronounced like "alley oop") Jenkins stood accused of killing her infant son. She responded to the charges with a wall of silence even her own lawyers couldn't penetrate. After seven years in jail for contempt of court, she was set free--and disappeared.

It's a story childhood friend Cassandra Fallows can't resist. For whatever reason, the story comes back to her after two bestselling memoirs and a novel. Fallows tells herself she wants to reconnect with her childhood friends, to set the record straight on what she'd written about them in her first book. Her friends, however, not only want nothing to do with the story, they seem determined to stop her from finding Callie, living in anonymity somewhere near Baltimore.

Laura Lippman's latest is less a crime novel than a novel about childhood coming back to haunt adults in middle age. None of Cassie's circle, except, ironically, Callie, come away blameless. Cassandra's pursuit of the story risks upsetting not only their quiet lives in middle age, but those of her family. A standalone novel, it nonetheless brings back a few familiar Lippman characters, most notably lawyer Gloria Bustamente. Life Sentences is Lippman's least crime-oriented novel, but it is also her deepest one yet.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:46:47

Once upon a time, Calliope (pronounced like "alley oop") Jenkins stood accused of killing her infant son. She responded to the charges with a wall of silence even her own lawyers couldn't penetrate. After seven years in jail for contempt of court, she was set free--and disappeared.

It's a story childhood friend Cassandra Fallows can't resist. For whatever reason, the story comes back to her after two bestselling memoirs and a novel. Fallows tells herself she wants to reconnect with her childhood friends, to set the record straight on what she'd written about them in her first book. Her friends, however, not only want nothing to do with the story, they seem determined to stop her from finding Callie, living in anonymity somewhere near Baltimore.

Laura Lippman's latest is less a crime novel than a novel about childhood coming back to haunt adults in middle age. None of Cassie's circle, except, ironically, Callie, come away blameless. Cassandra's pursuit of the story risks upsetting not only their quiet lives in middle age, but those of her family. A standalone novel, it nonetheless brings back a few familiar Lippman characters, most notably lawyer Gloria Bustamente. Life Sentences is Lippman's least crime-oriented novel, but it is also her deepest one yet.

Lone Star
Charles L.P. Silet

Edna Ferber, author of a number of popular novels, many of them made into successful Hollywood movies, is visiting the film capital to observe the final shooting of the celluloid version of Giant, perhaps her most famous novel, at the request of "it" producer Jack Warner and director George Stevens. She meets up with a couple of old friends including Mercedes McCambridge, who is in the movie, and is ready for a quiet, if not entirely pleasant, visit before beating it back to her beloved New York.

That is before she meets the enigmatic James Dean, the emerging star who in many ways will steal the film from Rock Hudson and Liz Taylor, and becomes involved in investigating the death of Carisa Krauss, the actress who is blackmailing Dean and Warner Brothers over the baby she is carrying and claims is Dean's. Of course, Ferber's search for the killer uncovers much more than she intended of the jealousies, infighting, and secrets under the sanitized veneer of the film colony.

Lone Star refers both to the beer consumed by the cast and crew while filming Giant in Marfa, Texas and the lonely young star of the film. It also refers to the loneliness of Hollywood and even of the aging author at the heart of the novel. The book's publicity mentions that this is the first of a series. It will be interesting to find out where Edna Ferber will turn up next.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:46:47

Edna Ferber, author of a number of popular novels, many of them made into successful Hollywood movies, is visiting the film capital to observe the final shooting of the celluloid version of Giant, perhaps her most famous novel, at the request of "it" producer Jack Warner and director George Stevens. She meets up with a couple of old friends including Mercedes McCambridge, who is in the movie, and is ready for a quiet, if not entirely pleasant, visit before beating it back to her beloved New York.

That is before she meets the enigmatic James Dean, the emerging star who in many ways will steal the film from Rock Hudson and Liz Taylor, and becomes involved in investigating the death of Carisa Krauss, the actress who is blackmailing Dean and Warner Brothers over the baby she is carrying and claims is Dean's. Of course, Ferber's search for the killer uncovers much more than she intended of the jealousies, infighting, and secrets under the sanitized veneer of the film colony.

Lone Star refers both to the beer consumed by the cast and crew while filming Giant in Marfa, Texas and the lonely young star of the film. It also refers to the loneliness of Hollywood and even of the aging author at the heart of the novel. The book's publicity mentions that this is the first of a series. It will be interesting to find out where Edna Ferber will turn up next.

Long Lost
Betty Webb

Sports agent Myron Bolitar and his super-rich business partner Win Lockwood III return in a thriller that incorporates Homeland Security, Interpol, and a shadowy charity called Save the Angels. In a deceptively standard opener, Myron receives a long-distance phone call from Terese, a long-ago lover, who asks him for help. When Myron rises to the challenge and flies off to Paris, he quickly discovers that Terese's dark past has embroiled her in a conspiracy that has global repercussions. The daughter Terese once believed died in an automobile accident may have been spotted, very much alive, but if the girl is still alive, who--or what--lies buried in an English grave? To help unravel this mystery, Myron puts in a call to Win, which considerably ratchets up the action. Misogynist Win is a perfect foil for gentleman Myron, because the millionaire is as determined to use women as his friend is to help them, and this raises one complication after another. Jumping from Manhattan to Paris and London, Long Lost takes Terese, Myron and Win and pits them against a seemingly invulnerable group of killers. The electrifying climax to Long Lost provides a theory so shocking that it will startle even the most experienced thriller fan--and so chillingly believable that it could even be truth, not fiction.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:46:47

Sports agent Myron Bolitar and his super-rich business partner Win Lockwood III return in a thriller that incorporates Homeland Security, Interpol, and a shadowy charity called Save the Angels. In a deceptively standard opener, Myron receives a long-distance phone call from Terese, a long-ago lover, who asks him for help. When Myron rises to the challenge and flies off to Paris, he quickly discovers that Terese's dark past has embroiled her in a conspiracy that has global repercussions. The daughter Terese once believed died in an automobile accident may have been spotted, very much alive, but if the girl is still alive, who--or what--lies buried in an English grave? To help unravel this mystery, Myron puts in a call to Win, which considerably ratchets up the action. Misogynist Win is a perfect foil for gentleman Myron, because the millionaire is as determined to use women as his friend is to help them, and this raises one complication after another. Jumping from Manhattan to Paris and London, Long Lost takes Terese, Myron and Win and pits them against a seemingly invulnerable group of killers. The electrifying climax to Long Lost provides a theory so shocking that it will startle even the most experienced thriller fan--and so chillingly believable that it could even be truth, not fiction.

Look Again
Jackie Houchin

The question confronting readers in Lisa Scottoline's new suspense novel is, "What would I do? Seek the truth or turn a blind eye?" This dilemma faces single parent and newspaper reporter Ellen Gleeson after seeing a flyer for a missing child who's a dead ringer for her three-year-old adopted son.

While covering a hospital story two years earlier, Ellen's heart went out to a gravely ill baby who seemed to have no family. An inquiry revealed that the absentee mother was eager to give him up. Following procedures, Ellen secured parental consents, paid medical bills, and legally adopted Will. Now she faces the shocking possibility that he could be another couple's kidnapped child. As Ellen moves to discover the truth, she's haunted by what she might learn, and what she will do if her worst fears are realized.

With layoffs looming and her newspaper job in jeopardy, Ellen can't afford to ignore her new assignment; but unable to concentrate on anything except Will, she puts her career on hold and plunges obsessively into a hunt for evidence. What she discovers will break her heart. It will also put her life in jeopardy, as a cold-blooded murderer with a lot to lose makes her his next target. In a story that is terrifying on many levels, Scottoline keeps the suspense high with short, fast-paced chapters and escalating tension. Her research into DNA collection, mortuary procedures, and the newspaper business is fascinating, and readers will applaud her strong, appealing heroine. They will also be astonished by the unexpected conclusion.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:52:00

The question confronting readers in Lisa Scottoline's new suspense novel is, "What would I do? Seek the truth or turn a blind eye?" This dilemma faces single parent and newspaper reporter Ellen Gleeson after seeing a flyer for a missing child who's a dead ringer for her three-year-old adopted son.

While covering a hospital story two years earlier, Ellen's heart went out to a gravely ill baby who seemed to have no family. An inquiry revealed that the absentee mother was eager to give him up. Following procedures, Ellen secured parental consents, paid medical bills, and legally adopted Will. Now she faces the shocking possibility that he could be another couple's kidnapped child. As Ellen moves to discover the truth, she's haunted by what she might learn, and what she will do if her worst fears are realized.

With layoffs looming and her newspaper job in jeopardy, Ellen can't afford to ignore her new assignment; but unable to concentrate on anything except Will, she puts her career on hold and plunges obsessively into a hunt for evidence. What she discovers will break her heart. It will also put her life in jeopardy, as a cold-blooded murderer with a lot to lose makes her his next target. In a story that is terrifying on many levels, Scottoline keeps the suspense high with short, fast-paced chapters and escalating tension. Her research into DNA collection, mortuary procedures, and the newspaper business is fascinating, and readers will applaud her strong, appealing heroine. They will also be astonished by the unexpected conclusion.

Lords of Corruption
Jim Winter

NewAfrica, one of those charities you see advertising on late-night television, makes ex-con and recent college grad Josh Hagarty an offer he can't refuse. Josh goes to a small African nation to run an agricultural project in exchange for a modest salary, medical coverage, and a free education for his sister. Hagarty isn't in Africa long before he realizes he's window dressing. NewAfrica isn't interested in helping native Africans help themselves--they're all about making money. For themselves. For President Mbiti. And for Gideon, the intimidating overseer for Hagarty's project. The Africans themselves seem puzzled and just a tad contemptuous of the outsiders, who are clueless about how tribal dynamics work and don't seem to appreciate the fact that the locals have survived for thousands of years before the Europeans came.

Lords of Corruption shines an unflattering light on the West's attempts to help Africa right itself while telling a tale that falls somewhere in between a John Grisham novel and one of Frederick Forsythe's classic political thrillers. The stakes are high, as is the suspense. All the while, Mills puts a very human face on a dire situation.

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2010-04-22 02:52:00

NewAfrica, one of those charities you see advertising on late-night television, makes ex-con and recent college grad Josh Hagarty an offer he can't refuse. Josh goes to a small African nation to run an agricultural project in exchange for a modest salary, medical coverage, and a free education for his sister. Hagarty isn't in Africa long before he realizes he's window dressing. NewAfrica isn't interested in helping native Africans help themselves--they're all about making money. For themselves. For President Mbiti. And for Gideon, the intimidating overseer for Hagarty's project. The Africans themselves seem puzzled and just a tad contemptuous of the outsiders, who are clueless about how tribal dynamics work and don't seem to appreciate the fact that the locals have survived for thousands of years before the Europeans came.

Lords of Corruption shines an unflattering light on the West's attempts to help Africa right itself while telling a tale that falls somewhere in between a John Grisham novel and one of Frederick Forsythe's classic political thrillers. The stakes are high, as is the suspense. All the while, Mills puts a very human face on a dire situation.