Mating Season
Oline H. Cogdill

Mating--or let's just call it sex--seems to be on everyone's mind in the resort town of Provincetown, Massachusetts. Police Detective Frank Coffin and his off-again, on-again ex-wife are trying to have a baby and the constant attempts are leaving him exhausted. Coffin's partner, Sergeant Lola Winters also has amour on the mind with her new girlfriend--and this time she might be "the one" for the policewoman. Even animals are doing it in the street.

With wry humor, Jon Loomis ties all this emphasis on "mating" to Frank and Lola's murder investigation of Kenji Sole. Wealthy, beautiful, intelligent and very much into porn, Kenji was always on the prowl for a mate. She preferred married men because they were easier to control. The detectives' investigation hinges on Kenji's myriad married lovers--and their furious wives--some of whom are leaders of the town, the county, and even the state. But first Frank and Lola have to start with Kenji's hundreds of porn DVDs, most of which were filmed in her bedroom with her in the starring role.

While Mating Season features much subtle humor, Loomis also brings depth to his characters with serious subplots including Frank's relationship with his mother who has Alzheimer's and wants to die. Loomis follows last year's clever debut, High Season, with the equally sharp Mating Season.

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

Mating--or let's just call it sex--seems to be on everyone's mind in the resort town of Provincetown, Massachusetts. Police Detective Frank Coffin and his off-again, on-again ex-wife are trying to have a baby and the constant attempts are leaving him exhausted. Coffin's partner, Sergeant Lola Winters also has amour on the mind with her new girlfriend--and this time she might be "the one" for the policewoman. Even animals are doing it in the street.

With wry humor, Jon Loomis ties all this emphasis on "mating" to Frank and Lola's murder investigation of Kenji Sole. Wealthy, beautiful, intelligent and very much into porn, Kenji was always on the prowl for a mate. She preferred married men because they were easier to control. The detectives' investigation hinges on Kenji's myriad married lovers--and their furious wives--some of whom are leaders of the town, the county, and even the state. But first Frank and Lola have to start with Kenji's hundreds of porn DVDs, most of which were filmed in her bedroom with her in the starring role.

While Mating Season features much subtle humor, Loomis also brings depth to his characters with serious subplots including Frank's relationship with his mother who has Alzheimer's and wants to die. Loomis follows last year's clever debut, High Season, with the equally sharp Mating Season.

Murder at Graverly Manor
Mary Helen Becker

Lots of people seem to think it would be fun to own a bed and breakfast. They should read this book before they give up their day jobs! Trevor Lambert, who has worked in luxury hotels, returns home to Vancouver, B.C. to find a new job and spend a little time with his family. Learning that Graverly Manor, an elegant Victorian mansion, is for sale, he is carried away with the notion of buying it and turning it into the B&B of his dreams. The eccentric owner requires Trevor to work there for a month before she will sell to him. Is the house haunted? What really happened to several people who mysteriously disappeared over the years? The author provides a detailed picture of the nightmarish effort required to run such a place with neither enough money nor staff. Will this be just a detour in Trevor's journey as general manager of one great hotel after another, or will he end up owning a bed and breakfast?

Structurally, the novel is unusual--the first chapter recounting a climactic scene, and the second beginning a long flashback that comprises most of the rest of the book. The third in his "Five-Star Mystery" series, Murder at Graverly Manor is peculiarly creepy.

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

Lots of people seem to think it would be fun to own a bed and breakfast. They should read this book before they give up their day jobs! Trevor Lambert, who has worked in luxury hotels, returns home to Vancouver, B.C. to find a new job and spend a little time with his family. Learning that Graverly Manor, an elegant Victorian mansion, is for sale, he is carried away with the notion of buying it and turning it into the B&B of his dreams. The eccentric owner requires Trevor to work there for a month before she will sell to him. Is the house haunted? What really happened to several people who mysteriously disappeared over the years? The author provides a detailed picture of the nightmarish effort required to run such a place with neither enough money nor staff. Will this be just a detour in Trevor's journey as general manager of one great hotel after another, or will he end up owning a bed and breakfast?

Structurally, the novel is unusual--the first chapter recounting a climactic scene, and the second beginning a long flashback that comprises most of the rest of the book. The third in his "Five-Star Mystery" series, Murder at Graverly Manor is peculiarly creepy.

Murder in the Raw
Lynne F. Maxwell

In Murder in the Raw, Scottish barrister Rex Graves must expose--and I do mean expose--the killer of Sabine Durand, a French actress who goes missing one evening from a nudist resort in the Caribbean. Responding to a plea from a friend, Rex leaves conventional life in Scotland to bask for a time in luxury on the island of St. Martin. Since he is not forewarned that the tropical resort is, in fact, a nudist colony, it takes him awhile to adjust to seeing more of his friends and companions than he would like, but adjust he does, and he sets out to uncover the relationship that each character had with the missing woman.

Set on an island, Murder in the Raw is a clever variant on the locked room mystery, and Rex discovers that everyone in this self-contained locale has a secret when it comes to the intriguing Sabine. Who, though, would benefit from her disappearance or murder (a suspected one, as no body has turned up)? With a host of colorful characters, a dose of humor and a balmy locale, you will want to devour this well-plotted mystery. I won't spoil your pleasure by divulging the solution, but suffice it to say that Challinor provides a most compelling answer.

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

In Murder in the Raw, Scottish barrister Rex Graves must expose--and I do mean expose--the killer of Sabine Durand, a French actress who goes missing one evening from a nudist resort in the Caribbean. Responding to a plea from a friend, Rex leaves conventional life in Scotland to bask for a time in luxury on the island of St. Martin. Since he is not forewarned that the tropical resort is, in fact, a nudist colony, it takes him awhile to adjust to seeing more of his friends and companions than he would like, but adjust he does, and he sets out to uncover the relationship that each character had with the missing woman.

Set on an island, Murder in the Raw is a clever variant on the locked room mystery, and Rex discovers that everyone in this self-contained locale has a secret when it comes to the intriguing Sabine. Who, though, would benefit from her disappearance or murder (a suspected one, as no body has turned up)? With a host of colorful characters, a dose of humor and a balmy locale, you will want to devour this well-plotted mystery. I won't spoil your pleasure by divulging the solution, but suffice it to say that Challinor provides a most compelling answer.

No Such Creature
Barbara Fister

Blunt takes a detour from his tough, intelligent, and nuanced police procedural series featuring John Cardinal for a lighthearted caper featuring an unlikely pair of thieves: one of them an elderly Shakespearian actor named Max with a gift for disguise, the other his young nephew Owen. They have made a decent living by traveling the country, executing highly-planned, non-violent, and extremely profitable heists. But three things happen that put their livelihood on shaky ground. They rescue a young woman from an obsessed and abusive born-again stalker; they are targeted by a vicious gang of "subtractors" who specialize in robbing other thieves, using the violence that Max so carefully avoids. And Max is showing signs of senility as he plans his last heist.

Though the relatively light-hearted tone of the story is a departure for Blunt, depicting the quirks and oddities of a criminal community with a jauntiness reminiscent of Damon Runyon, the story is a neatly-constructed adventure. Blunt has always been particularly insightful about the mindset of minor criminals who combine haphazard morality with hapless innocence. Though No Such Creature skirts the emotional depths and gritty realism of the John Cardinal series, it's a well-written entertainment with enough character development to give the story ballast. After his previous emotionally wrenching novel, By the Time You Read This, a little lightheartedness seems well earned and Blunt pulls this caper off with aplomb.

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

Blunt takes a detour from his tough, intelligent, and nuanced police procedural series featuring John Cardinal for a lighthearted caper featuring an unlikely pair of thieves: one of them an elderly Shakespearian actor named Max with a gift for disguise, the other his young nephew Owen. They have made a decent living by traveling the country, executing highly-planned, non-violent, and extremely profitable heists. But three things happen that put their livelihood on shaky ground. They rescue a young woman from an obsessed and abusive born-again stalker; they are targeted by a vicious gang of "subtractors" who specialize in robbing other thieves, using the violence that Max so carefully avoids. And Max is showing signs of senility as he plans his last heist.

Though the relatively light-hearted tone of the story is a departure for Blunt, depicting the quirks and oddities of a criminal community with a jauntiness reminiscent of Damon Runyon, the story is a neatly-constructed adventure. Blunt has always been particularly insightful about the mindset of minor criminals who combine haphazard morality with hapless innocence. Though No Such Creature skirts the emotional depths and gritty realism of the John Cardinal series, it's a well-written entertainment with enough character development to give the story ballast. After his previous emotionally wrenching novel, By the Time You Read This, a little lightheartedness seems well earned and Blunt pulls this caper off with aplomb.

Plea of Insanity
Verna Suit

A 911 call by a six-year-old brings police to a house in the upscale Miami neighborhood of Coral Gables, where they find a young mother and three children brutally murdered. The father, Dr. David Marquette, is arrested for the crime, but his high-priced lawyer soon enters a plea of "guilty by reason of insanity," citing a history of schizophrenia that runs in the doctor's family. Assigned to second chair the prosecution is young Assistant State Attorney Julia Vacanti, who harbors a secret and a prejudice that she tells no one--when she was 13, a similar tragedy struck her own family.

In Jilliane Hoffman's capable hands, even the legal process becomes interesting, as she uses flashbacks and multiple points of view to provide differing perspectives on the case and the effects that schizophrenia can have on families. Central to the story is the difficulty of diagnosing the disease: Is Dr. Marquette a victim of mental illness or is he a manipulative psychopath who deserves the death penalty? Julia's work on the case is colored by her own family's history and the plight of her schizophrenic brother, as well as her relationship with the ambitious lead counsel. The resulting combination of psychology and crime makes Plea of Insanity a terrific courtroom drama made absolutely compelling by its subject matter. The book's unsettling ending will haunt readers long after reading.

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

A 911 call by a six-year-old brings police to a house in the upscale Miami neighborhood of Coral Gables, where they find a young mother and three children brutally murdered. The father, Dr. David Marquette, is arrested for the crime, but his high-priced lawyer soon enters a plea of "guilty by reason of insanity," citing a history of schizophrenia that runs in the doctor's family. Assigned to second chair the prosecution is young Assistant State Attorney Julia Vacanti, who harbors a secret and a prejudice that she tells no one--when she was 13, a similar tragedy struck her own family.

In Jilliane Hoffman's capable hands, even the legal process becomes interesting, as she uses flashbacks and multiple points of view to provide differing perspectives on the case and the effects that schizophrenia can have on families. Central to the story is the difficulty of diagnosing the disease: Is Dr. Marquette a victim of mental illness or is he a manipulative psychopath who deserves the death penalty? Julia's work on the case is colored by her own family's history and the plight of her schizophrenic brother, as well as her relationship with the ambitious lead counsel. The resulting combination of psychology and crime makes Plea of Insanity a terrific courtroom drama made absolutely compelling by its subject matter. The book's unsettling ending will haunt readers long after reading.

Probable Claws
Dori Cocuz

When cats are poisoned at her friend's animal shelter, Theda Krakow volunteers to help find the poisoner. Theda quickly suspects a bag of poisoned food that came from the city animal shelter, run by Rachel, another of Theda's cat-loving friends. But poisoned pets take a backseat to murder when Theda finds Rachel dead at the shelter. Found holding the murder weapon, Theda is immediately arrested for the crime. Convinced the police are not looking for another suspect, she takes it upon herself to find the real killer.

Author Clea Simon does an excellent job creating believable characters in Probable Claws. Theda and the rest of the cast of characters could each be someone the reader already knows in everyday life, or might bump into tomorrow. But Simon spends too much time showing us Theda's world through her interior thoughts and perceptions. By the middle of the book I found myself skimming through the inner dialogues in order to get to the action. When the action finally does enter the story, about 100 pages in, Simon doesn't leave much room for thought. From the moment Theda find's Rachel's body, the pace of the story picks up significantly. Things get progressively worse as Theda attempts to get to the truth, pushing Theda and readers to a near-breaking point before the finale and a sweet sigh of relief.

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

When cats are poisoned at her friend's animal shelter, Theda Krakow volunteers to help find the poisoner. Theda quickly suspects a bag of poisoned food that came from the city animal shelter, run by Rachel, another of Theda's cat-loving friends. But poisoned pets take a backseat to murder when Theda finds Rachel dead at the shelter. Found holding the murder weapon, Theda is immediately arrested for the crime. Convinced the police are not looking for another suspect, she takes it upon herself to find the real killer.

Author Clea Simon does an excellent job creating believable characters in Probable Claws. Theda and the rest of the cast of characters could each be someone the reader already knows in everyday life, or might bump into tomorrow. But Simon spends too much time showing us Theda's world through her interior thoughts and perceptions. By the middle of the book I found myself skimming through the inner dialogues in order to get to the action. When the action finally does enter the story, about 100 pages in, Simon doesn't leave much room for thought. From the moment Theda find's Rachel's body, the pace of the story picks up significantly. Things get progressively worse as Theda attempts to get to the truth, pushing Theda and readers to a near-breaking point before the finale and a sweet sigh of relief.

Red April
M. Schlecht

Associate District Prosecutor Felix Chacaltana Saldivar is a diligent civil servant, whose efficiency is in inverse proportion to the slow, corrupt system of government around him. When a badly burned corpse, missing an arm, turns up at the morgue, he dutifully begins to file a report. The police, however, are not cooperating in the investigation, and Saldivar does not take the hint that it may be in his best interests to sit this one out. If you think you know where events are headed at this point, think again. For one thing, our Peruvian prosecutor has mother issues. Haunted by the death of his beloved mother, Saldivar has moved from the capital, Lima, to her small home in the provincial town of Ayacucho. Each night he solemnly takes her clothes from the drawer, spreads them on the bed, and has a little chat. Not surprisingly, this kind of behavior does not impress the first woman he manages to bring back to his place.

Red April is also a visceral examination of Peru's bloody recent history under President Alberto Fujimori. As mutilated bodies begin to show up during Holy Week festivities in Ayacucho, the prosecutor is convinced he is dealing with Sendero Luminoso, the Communist "Shining Path" guerrilla organization. Town officials would prefer not to cause a panic, however, and as Saldivar is met with a wall of silence, he descends into paranoia and frustration.

Author Santiago Roncagliolo deftly puts the reader in the middle of an overheated religious and political climate, and the results are both surprising and disturbing. Red April won the prestigious Alfaguara literary prize in its original Spanish edition.

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

Associate District Prosecutor Felix Chacaltana Saldivar is a diligent civil servant, whose efficiency is in inverse proportion to the slow, corrupt system of government around him. When a badly burned corpse, missing an arm, turns up at the morgue, he dutifully begins to file a report. The police, however, are not cooperating in the investigation, and Saldivar does not take the hint that it may be in his best interests to sit this one out. If you think you know where events are headed at this point, think again. For one thing, our Peruvian prosecutor has mother issues. Haunted by the death of his beloved mother, Saldivar has moved from the capital, Lima, to her small home in the provincial town of Ayacucho. Each night he solemnly takes her clothes from the drawer, spreads them on the bed, and has a little chat. Not surprisingly, this kind of behavior does not impress the first woman he manages to bring back to his place.

Red April is also a visceral examination of Peru's bloody recent history under President Alberto Fujimori. As mutilated bodies begin to show up during Holy Week festivities in Ayacucho, the prosecutor is convinced he is dealing with Sendero Luminoso, the Communist "Shining Path" guerrilla organization. Town officials would prefer not to cause a panic, however, and as Saldivar is met with a wall of silence, he descends into paranoia and frustration.

Author Santiago Roncagliolo deftly puts the reader in the middle of an overheated religious and political climate, and the results are both surprising and disturbing. Red April won the prestigious Alfaguara literary prize in its original Spanish edition.

Revenge of the Spellmans
Lynne F. Maxwell

Congratulations to Lisa Lutz, who has created the Spellmans, the most hilariously dysfunctional family since the Royal Tenenbaums. Narrated by Isabel, the black sheep in a household of eccentrics, these mysteries take on a life of their own, leading readers in wholly unexpected directions. Following Curse of the Spellmans, a 2009 Edgar-nominee for Best Novel, Revenge of the Spellmans finds Isabel tending bar to rebel against well-intentioned parental blackmail, and equivocating over whether she will cave in to their pressure to join the family detective agency. Atypically, there's no murder in Revenge. Rather, the conundrum is to determine who's tailing whom--and why--all of which is highly entertaining. The family members relentlessly employ their investigative skills to spy and to play pranks upon the others. Especially guilty of this is Rae, Isabel's precocious and obnoxious teenage sister, who loves to behave perversely (e.g., she "throws" her PSAT exams so that her mother won't push her to go to college). Lutz' style is refreshing and razor-sharp, including Isabel's witty dialogue with her psychiatrists during her court-ordered therapy sessions (following events from the previous book). Revenge continues the good times in this wry, inimitable series.

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

Congratulations to Lisa Lutz, who has created the Spellmans, the most hilariously dysfunctional family since the Royal Tenenbaums. Narrated by Isabel, the black sheep in a household of eccentrics, these mysteries take on a life of their own, leading readers in wholly unexpected directions. Following Curse of the Spellmans, a 2009 Edgar-nominee for Best Novel, Revenge of the Spellmans finds Isabel tending bar to rebel against well-intentioned parental blackmail, and equivocating over whether she will cave in to their pressure to join the family detective agency. Atypically, there's no murder in Revenge. Rather, the conundrum is to determine who's tailing whom--and why--all of which is highly entertaining. The family members relentlessly employ their investigative skills to spy and to play pranks upon the others. Especially guilty of this is Rae, Isabel's precocious and obnoxious teenage sister, who loves to behave perversely (e.g., she "throws" her PSAT exams so that her mother won't push her to go to college). Lutz' style is refreshing and razor-sharp, including Isabel's witty dialogue with her psychiatrists during her court-ordered therapy sessions (following events from the previous book). Revenge continues the good times in this wry, inimitable series.

Starvation Lake
Betty Webb

In this excellent debut novel, hockey is a metaphor for life, so if you hate hockey and all the violence that skates along with it, this book may not be for you. That would be your loss, however, because this ice-bound tale of a failed hockey player turned failed journalist makes for unusually gripping reading. Set in 1998, Gus "Trap" Carpenter has scuttled back to the small northern Michigan town of his birth to edit a small newspaper that never prints anything negative about the locals. Trap's self-loathing increases when a snowmobile once belonging to his revered but long-dead hockey coach surfaces from a lake bed, bearing the unmistakable imprint of a bullet. He suspects that his coach was murdered, and not the victim of an accident, as was originally believed. But Trap, reluctant as usual to print the ugly truth, busies himself with harmless articles about a local Bigfoot museum and a proposed recreational development near the town's marina. Eventually, though, the once-gutsy journalist in him reemerges, and he risks what's left of his career to find out the truth.

Watching Trap get his spine back, both on and off the ice, is sheer joy. By the end of Starvation Lake, Trap has learned that life--just like hockey--may beat you up, but you continue to play.

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

In this excellent debut novel, hockey is a metaphor for life, so if you hate hockey and all the violence that skates along with it, this book may not be for you. That would be your loss, however, because this ice-bound tale of a failed hockey player turned failed journalist makes for unusually gripping reading. Set in 1998, Gus "Trap" Carpenter has scuttled back to the small northern Michigan town of his birth to edit a small newspaper that never prints anything negative about the locals. Trap's self-loathing increases when a snowmobile once belonging to his revered but long-dead hockey coach surfaces from a lake bed, bearing the unmistakable imprint of a bullet. He suspects that his coach was murdered, and not the victim of an accident, as was originally believed. But Trap, reluctant as usual to print the ugly truth, busies himself with harmless articles about a local Bigfoot museum and a proposed recreational development near the town's marina. Eventually, though, the once-gutsy journalist in him reemerges, and he risks what's left of his career to find out the truth.

Watching Trap get his spine back, both on and off the ice, is sheer joy. By the end of Starvation Lake, Trap has learned that life--just like hockey--may beat you up, but you continue to play.

Still Life
Barbara Fister

If men's fiction could be characterized as foregrounding action, and women's novels as being about relationships, Still Life would qualify as a definitive woman's novel. In fact, the heroine not only can't kick-box, she can't lift a finger on her own behalf--literally. After a car slams into Casey Marshall, breaking every bone in her body and putting her into a coma, she gradually begins to regain consciousness and assess her condition: unable to move, unable to see, or communicate she is only able to hear some of the conversations around her as her friends, her flighty sister, and her husband meet at her bedside. And out of those snatches of conversation she has to figure out which of the people close to her tried to kill her.

It's a daring concept and brings to mind Mark Billingham's Sleepyhead, but in this case a detective barely makes a walk-on appearance. Instead, it's up to a totally helpless woman to solve the crime. We learn about how Casey tried to raise her troubled sister when their wealthy parents neglected them; how she had a falling-out with her sassy best friend when she decided to pull out of their business and become an interior designer, how she met her broken-hearted husband. Halfway through the book, it becomes clear who was responsible for her "accident," and the suspense shifts to whether the seemingly comatose Casey will be able to prevent her own murder. Fielding adds a new wrinkle to the traditional "woman in peril" storyline by taking it to its logical extremes.

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

If men's fiction could be characterized as foregrounding action, and women's novels as being about relationships, Still Life would qualify as a definitive woman's novel. In fact, the heroine not only can't kick-box, she can't lift a finger on her own behalf--literally. After a car slams into Casey Marshall, breaking every bone in her body and putting her into a coma, she gradually begins to regain consciousness and assess her condition: unable to move, unable to see, or communicate she is only able to hear some of the conversations around her as her friends, her flighty sister, and her husband meet at her bedside. And out of those snatches of conversation she has to figure out which of the people close to her tried to kill her.

It's a daring concept and brings to mind Mark Billingham's Sleepyhead, but in this case a detective barely makes a walk-on appearance. Instead, it's up to a totally helpless woman to solve the crime. We learn about how Casey tried to raise her troubled sister when their wealthy parents neglected them; how she had a falling-out with her sassy best friend when she decided to pull out of their business and become an interior designer, how she met her broken-hearted husband. Halfway through the book, it becomes clear who was responsible for her "accident," and the suspense shifts to whether the seemingly comatose Casey will be able to prevent her own murder. Fielding adds a new wrinkle to the traditional "woman in peril" storyline by taking it to its logical extremes.

Stone's Fall
Charles L. P. Silet

Stone's Fall is a novel of receding time. It follows an investigation into the life of self-made man, William John Stone, who dies from a suspect fall from a window. One of the bequests of Stone's will is to a previously unacknowledged and unknown child. Matthew Braddock is hired to try and locate this child, a search that opens up a rather murky personal life to inspection and provides the impetus for the novel's narrative.

Stone's Fall is in three parts each narrated by a different character, each pushing the story farther into the past. Part one begins in Paris in 1953 at the funeral of Elizabeth, Lady Ravenscliff attended by the narrator, Matthew Braddock, who once worked for her, before moving to London in to initiate the investigation of the mysterious death of William John Stone. Part two takes place in Paris in 1890 and is narrated by Henry Cort, an espionage agent who tells of Stone's life (and of his own history, recruitment, and career) before Braddock's investigation. Part three is told by Stone himself, beginning in Venice in 1867 and provides the final information to close Braddock's investigation.

As he did in his previous bestselling historical mystery The Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears has written a compelling, complex, and compulsively readable novel. The story slides from period to period and from location to location while Pears captures both the times and the locales with consummate skill.

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

Stone's Fall is a novel of receding time. It follows an investigation into the life of self-made man, William John Stone, who dies from a suspect fall from a window. One of the bequests of Stone's will is to a previously unacknowledged and unknown child. Matthew Braddock is hired to try and locate this child, a search that opens up a rather murky personal life to inspection and provides the impetus for the novel's narrative.

Stone's Fall is in three parts each narrated by a different character, each pushing the story farther into the past. Part one begins in Paris in 1953 at the funeral of Elizabeth, Lady Ravenscliff attended by the narrator, Matthew Braddock, who once worked for her, before moving to London in to initiate the investigation of the mysterious death of William John Stone. Part two takes place in Paris in 1890 and is narrated by Henry Cort, an espionage agent who tells of Stone's life (and of his own history, recruitment, and career) before Braddock's investigation. Part three is told by Stone himself, beginning in Venice in 1867 and provides the final information to close Braddock's investigation.

As he did in his previous bestselling historical mystery The Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears has written a compelling, complex, and compulsively readable novel. The story slides from period to period and from location to location while Pears captures both the times and the locales with consummate skill.

The Cold Light of Mourning
Sue Emmons

A bride goes missing on the day she was to wed the scion of a wealthy family in this cozy village mystery set in Wales. Since the villagers have not yet met the erstwhile bride, who lives elsewhere, curiosity about her abounds. Penny Brannigan, a Canadian ex-patriate of a certain age who is the proprietor of the local manicure shop, agrees to give a woman claiming to be the bride a manicure on the morning of the wedding. Penny complies, but finds this an unusual request since the bridal party traditionally completes its pampering the day before the festivities. Later, when the bride fails to appear for the ceremony, it becomes apparent that the woman whose nails were so perfectly prepared for the sumptuous nuptials was an imposter, who made the appointment to delay discovery of the missing bride.

Penny finds herself embroiled in this case even as she mourns the death of her best friend--a beloved teacher. In the aftermath of her friend's funeral, it is the vivacious manicurist who supplies police with a vital and very spooky clue that quickly turns a missing persons case into murder.

Members of the bridal party as well as their relatives crowd a growing suspect list. Duncan is deft at descriptions and spot-on with her mostly charming characters--although there are so many crammed into this mystery that it is sometimes difficult to keep them in their proper places. Among the cast are a hunky detective chief inspector and his female partner who quickly discover that Penny's hunches pay off. When a friend of the manicurist is injured in a violent attack, the hunt intensifies. Ultimately, the motive for the murder may leave readers somewhat incredulous, but fans of cozies should enjoy this village and the characters that inhabit it.

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

A bride goes missing on the day she was to wed the scion of a wealthy family in this cozy village mystery set in Wales. Since the villagers have not yet met the erstwhile bride, who lives elsewhere, curiosity about her abounds. Penny Brannigan, a Canadian ex-patriate of a certain age who is the proprietor of the local manicure shop, agrees to give a woman claiming to be the bride a manicure on the morning of the wedding. Penny complies, but finds this an unusual request since the bridal party traditionally completes its pampering the day before the festivities. Later, when the bride fails to appear for the ceremony, it becomes apparent that the woman whose nails were so perfectly prepared for the sumptuous nuptials was an imposter, who made the appointment to delay discovery of the missing bride.

Penny finds herself embroiled in this case even as she mourns the death of her best friend--a beloved teacher. In the aftermath of her friend's funeral, it is the vivacious manicurist who supplies police with a vital and very spooky clue that quickly turns a missing persons case into murder.

Members of the bridal party as well as their relatives crowd a growing suspect list. Duncan is deft at descriptions and spot-on with her mostly charming characters--although there are so many crammed into this mystery that it is sometimes difficult to keep them in their proper places. Among the cast are a hunky detective chief inspector and his female partner who quickly discover that Penny's hunches pay off. When a friend of the manicurist is injured in a violent attack, the hunt intensifies. Ultimately, the motive for the murder may leave readers somewhat incredulous, but fans of cozies should enjoy this village and the characters that inhabit it.

The Increment
Betty Webb

Spy novels are a dime a dozen, but not since John le Carre's haunting The Spy Who Came In from the Cold has one been so exquisitely written or so perfectly paced as The Increment. This time the ostensible threat is Iran's race to build a nuclear bomb, but the real villains are the US government officials who, in an attempt to scale new levels of power within the White House, plan to bomb Iran before the facts are all in. Caught in the middle of this political maelstrom are "Dr. Ali," a dissident Iranian nuclear scientist leaking information to the West; Harry Pappas, a CIA agent grieving over the loss of his son in the Iraq War; and Adrian Winkler, a member of Britain's MI-6, who runs a secret "wet work" group called The Increment. Helping--or hindering, as the case may be--are Kamal Atwan, a wealthy Lebanese businessman; Al-Majnoun, "The Crazy One," a mysterious figure with a surgically-altered face; and the Increment team itself: Jackie, a beautiful, well-bred Englishwoman; Hakim, a Pakistani; and Marwan, an Arab, all loyal-to-the-death Brits. Set partially in Iran, as well as London and D.C., the book contains such lush descriptions of Tehran that you can almost smell the hot desert air. Gorgeous descriptions and heart-pounding action aside, The Increment is at its heart a character-driven novel which returns to the "We have met the enemy and they are us," heart-broken cynicism that drove le Carre's own great work. As Winkler muses, "We work with the worst people in the world...and some of it is going to rub off." In this peerless novel, it certainly does.

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

Spy novels are a dime a dozen, but not since John le Carre's haunting The Spy Who Came In from the Cold has one been so exquisitely written or so perfectly paced as The Increment. This time the ostensible threat is Iran's race to build a nuclear bomb, but the real villains are the US government officials who, in an attempt to scale new levels of power within the White House, plan to bomb Iran before the facts are all in. Caught in the middle of this political maelstrom are "Dr. Ali," a dissident Iranian nuclear scientist leaking information to the West; Harry Pappas, a CIA agent grieving over the loss of his son in the Iraq War; and Adrian Winkler, a member of Britain's MI-6, who runs a secret "wet work" group called The Increment. Helping--or hindering, as the case may be--are Kamal Atwan, a wealthy Lebanese businessman; Al-Majnoun, "The Crazy One," a mysterious figure with a surgically-altered face; and the Increment team itself: Jackie, a beautiful, well-bred Englishwoman; Hakim, a Pakistani; and Marwan, an Arab, all loyal-to-the-death Brits. Set partially in Iran, as well as London and D.C., the book contains such lush descriptions of Tehran that you can almost smell the hot desert air. Gorgeous descriptions and heart-pounding action aside, The Increment is at its heart a character-driven novel which returns to the "We have met the enemy and they are us," heart-broken cynicism that drove le Carre's own great work. As Winkler muses, "We work with the worst people in the world...and some of it is going to rub off." In this peerless novel, it certainly does.

The Language of Bees
Joseph Scarpato Jr.

Some fictional characters are so extraordinary, they outlive not only their archenemies, but their authors as well. Sherlock Holmes is a perfect--if you'll pardon the pun--case in point. This is the latest installment of the bestselling series featuring Sherlock Holmes' much younger wife, Mary Russell, and it comes on the 150th anniversary of the birth of Arthur Conan Doyle.

Just back from their latest sleuthing adventure in San Francisco, the couple are visited by a young man whom they had earlier learned was the son Sherlock never knew he had by Irene Adler. Damian Adler has come to ask for Sherlock's help in finding his missing wife and child. While they are away, Mary is busy investigating why one of their working beehives has suddenly and mysteriously been deserted by the bees.

Before long, Damian becomes separated from Sherlock and finds himself a suspect in a murder. Mary and Sherlock, first separately and then together, find themselves in a puzzling case involving a strange religious cult, astrology and Norse mythology.

Although Sherlock and his brother, Mycroft, figure prominently in the story, it is written from Mary Russell's point of view, so most of the action and detecting falls on Mary to accomplish. Having been trained in the martial arts and detecting by her husband, she is, in some respects, his female equivalent.

What makes this series work so well, in addition to the quality of the writing, is the respect King shows for the Holmes canon. She doesn't try to remake or modernize Holmes, merely make him older and a bit more mellow. As the series has progressed, Mary becomes less of an acolyte and more of a full partner in an unusual, but nonetheless believable, relationship.

Laurie R. King is one of only two novelists to win an Edgar (US) and a John Creasey (UK) award for Best First Crime novel. She is also the author of the series featuring San Francisco detective Kate Martinelli.

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

Some fictional characters are so extraordinary, they outlive not only their archenemies, but their authors as well. Sherlock Holmes is a perfect--if you'll pardon the pun--case in point. This is the latest installment of the bestselling series featuring Sherlock Holmes' much younger wife, Mary Russell, and it comes on the 150th anniversary of the birth of Arthur Conan Doyle.

Just back from their latest sleuthing adventure in San Francisco, the couple are visited by a young man whom they had earlier learned was the son Sherlock never knew he had by Irene Adler. Damian Adler has come to ask for Sherlock's help in finding his missing wife and child. While they are away, Mary is busy investigating why one of their working beehives has suddenly and mysteriously been deserted by the bees.

Before long, Damian becomes separated from Sherlock and finds himself a suspect in a murder. Mary and Sherlock, first separately and then together, find themselves in a puzzling case involving a strange religious cult, astrology and Norse mythology.

Although Sherlock and his brother, Mycroft, figure prominently in the story, it is written from Mary Russell's point of view, so most of the action and detecting falls on Mary to accomplish. Having been trained in the martial arts and detecting by her husband, she is, in some respects, his female equivalent.

What makes this series work so well, in addition to the quality of the writing, is the respect King shows for the Holmes canon. She doesn't try to remake or modernize Holmes, merely make him older and a bit more mellow. As the series has progressed, Mary becomes less of an acolyte and more of a full partner in an unusual, but nonetheless believable, relationship.

Laurie R. King is one of only two novelists to win an Edgar (US) and a John Creasey (UK) award for Best First Crime novel. She is also the author of the series featuring San Francisco detective Kate Martinelli.

The Last Child
Charles L. P. Silet

Johnny Merrimon is juggling too many things: searching for his kidnapped sister, Alyssa; trying to care for his once-beautiful mother, Katherine, who is strung out on booze and pills; and being the man of the house, since his father went missing after his sister's disappearance. And he's only a 13-year-old junior high school student.

Johnny's obsession with his sister drives the plot in The Last Child and connects its various threads as he fights to keep the search alive. Johnny is sometimes helped, but more often let down by various father figures like Clyde Hunt, the local detective who has nightmares a year after he failed to find Alyssa, and the wealthy Ken Holloway, who is exploiting Johnny's mother.

After a second girl goes missing, the whole town becomes involved in looking for the missing children, and the investigation uncovers crimes that network throughout the community, revealing some very nasty secrets. John Hart evocatively captures the small-town traits of a close-knit, caring, and neighborly society that is also claustrophobic and oppressive, doubly so in this Southern setting where lives have been intertwined for generations. Hart successfully explores this environment and skillfully transports the reader into the mind of his teenaged protagonist without lapsing into sentimentality or dumbing down the complexities and interactions of the plot. Edgar-winning author John Hart has written another exciting thriller of social depth, with intriguing characters and a thoroughly wrenching ending.

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

Johnny Merrimon is juggling too many things: searching for his kidnapped sister, Alyssa; trying to care for his once-beautiful mother, Katherine, who is strung out on booze and pills; and being the man of the house, since his father went missing after his sister's disappearance. And he's only a 13-year-old junior high school student.

Johnny's obsession with his sister drives the plot in The Last Child and connects its various threads as he fights to keep the search alive. Johnny is sometimes helped, but more often let down by various father figures like Clyde Hunt, the local detective who has nightmares a year after he failed to find Alyssa, and the wealthy Ken Holloway, who is exploiting Johnny's mother.

After a second girl goes missing, the whole town becomes involved in looking for the missing children, and the investigation uncovers crimes that network throughout the community, revealing some very nasty secrets. John Hart evocatively captures the small-town traits of a close-knit, caring, and neighborly society that is also claustrophobic and oppressive, doubly so in this Southern setting where lives have been intertwined for generations. Hart successfully explores this environment and skillfully transports the reader into the mind of his teenaged protagonist without lapsing into sentimentality or dumbing down the complexities and interactions of the plot. Edgar-winning author John Hart has written another exciting thriller of social depth, with intriguing characters and a thoroughly wrenching ending.

The Last Testament
Oline H. Cogdill

Peace negotiator Maggie Costello is pulled back into the fray when she's asked to mediate an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement. But before there can be peace, there is more war when Shimon Guttman, a well-known, right-wing academic, is mistaken for an assassin and gunned down during a rally. Guttman's death sparks a series of retaliation murders that on the surface appear to be random. Joining forces with Guttman's son, Maggie learns that someone is targeting archaeologists and historians whose knowledge of ancient secrets may hold the key to the future of peace--and war.

Sam Bourne follows his 2006 debut, The Righteous Men, with another look at the Middle East. But Bourne, the pseudonym of British journalist Jonathan Freedland, overloads The Last Testament with so many complicated subplots that the story often is hard to follow. Still, Bourne delivers a heroine for the times in Maggie Costello, an intelligent negotiator who knows how to work her way around myriad political and cultural landmines. Her numerous flaws will make readers want to root for her, and Bourne's knowledge of the Middle East and all its vagaries elevates The Last Testament.

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

Peace negotiator Maggie Costello is pulled back into the fray when she's asked to mediate an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement. But before there can be peace, there is more war when Shimon Guttman, a well-known, right-wing academic, is mistaken for an assassin and gunned down during a rally. Guttman's death sparks a series of retaliation murders that on the surface appear to be random. Joining forces with Guttman's son, Maggie learns that someone is targeting archaeologists and historians whose knowledge of ancient secrets may hold the key to the future of peace--and war.

Sam Bourne follows his 2006 debut, The Righteous Men, with another look at the Middle East. But Bourne, the pseudonym of British journalist Jonathan Freedland, overloads The Last Testament with so many complicated subplots that the story often is hard to follow. Still, Bourne delivers a heroine for the times in Maggie Costello, an intelligent negotiator who knows how to work her way around myriad political and cultural landmines. Her numerous flaws will make readers want to root for her, and Bourne's knowledge of the Middle East and all its vagaries elevates The Last Testament.

The Long Fall
Charles L. P. Silet

First there was Easy Rawlins and then Socrates Fortlow. Now Mosley introduces New York City private eye, Leonid Trotter McGill, a slightly down-at-the-heels, decidedly old school, hard-drinking ex-boxer in his fifties, who has recently decided to turn over a new leaf.

L.T. is a little suspicious when he is hired by an investigator from Albany to find four men who were once street punks: B-Brain, Jumper, Toolie, and Big Jim, but he finds them and turns over their addresses anyway. Big Jim is already dead from an overdose, but when the others also begin to die under mysterious circumstances, L.T. decides it's time to do a little digging.

Like other Mosley novels, The Long Fall's dialogue rings true, and the landscape is chock-full of quirky characters like low-level gangster Tony "The Suit" Towers, a surveillance whiz, Tiny "Bug" Bateman, and a stone killer, Hush, among others. Walter Mosley has a solid reputation for writing high-quality crime fiction and The Long Fall is no exception. L.T. McGill looks to be another engaging series character and Mosley's new setting of modern-day New York is a welcome move. The Long Fall is a 21st century PI novel, but with deep roots in the past and stylistic echoes of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammet, and Ross Macdonald with a dash of Chester Himes. It is an exciting new series debut.

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

First there was Easy Rawlins and then Socrates Fortlow. Now Mosley introduces New York City private eye, Leonid Trotter McGill, a slightly down-at-the-heels, decidedly old school, hard-drinking ex-boxer in his fifties, who has recently decided to turn over a new leaf.

L.T. is a little suspicious when he is hired by an investigator from Albany to find four men who were once street punks: B-Brain, Jumper, Toolie, and Big Jim, but he finds them and turns over their addresses anyway. Big Jim is already dead from an overdose, but when the others also begin to die under mysterious circumstances, L.T. decides it's time to do a little digging.

Like other Mosley novels, The Long Fall's dialogue rings true, and the landscape is chock-full of quirky characters like low-level gangster Tony "The Suit" Towers, a surveillance whiz, Tiny "Bug" Bateman, and a stone killer, Hush, among others. Walter Mosley has a solid reputation for writing high-quality crime fiction and The Long Fall is no exception. L.T. McGill looks to be another engaging series character and Mosley's new setting of modern-day New York is a welcome move. The Long Fall is a 21st century PI novel, but with deep roots in the past and stylistic echoes of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammet, and Ross Macdonald with a dash of Chester Himes. It is an exciting new series debut.

The Scarecrow
Betty Webb

When Los Angeles Times reporter Jack McEvoy (introduced in The Poet) is given a pink slip, he decides to go out with a bang by filing a story that discloses the innocence of an African American youth accused of a particularly heinous torture-murder. His good intentions turn dangerous when the real murderer begins to target McEvoy, hacking not only into his bank accounts and credit cards, but also into the L.A. Times computers themselves. Soon McEvoy is on the run, running out of cash, and with a crumbling reputation as he's tracked from California to Nevada to Arizona as he attempts to connect with former lover, FBI agent Rachel Walling. While the torture-murders (several more are committed before the book's conclusion) are frightening enough in themselves, the true terror in this wake-up-call of a suspense novel comes from learning about the apparent ease with which computer hackers operate, spreading disinformation and ruining lives with the click of a mouse. These are new villains for a new age, villains who can--and do--negatively impact the lives of each of us. But The Scarecrow also serves as an elegy for the crumbling newspaper industry and the once-vibrant newsrooms that are now empty. Definitely read The Scarecrow for the thrills, but reread it for the warnings the book delivers. Not only can it happen here, it already has.

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

When Los Angeles Times reporter Jack McEvoy (introduced in The Poet) is given a pink slip, he decides to go out with a bang by filing a story that discloses the innocence of an African American youth accused of a particularly heinous torture-murder. His good intentions turn dangerous when the real murderer begins to target McEvoy, hacking not only into his bank accounts and credit cards, but also into the L.A. Times computers themselves. Soon McEvoy is on the run, running out of cash, and with a crumbling reputation as he's tracked from California to Nevada to Arizona as he attempts to connect with former lover, FBI agent Rachel Walling. While the torture-murders (several more are committed before the book's conclusion) are frightening enough in themselves, the true terror in this wake-up-call of a suspense novel comes from learning about the apparent ease with which computer hackers operate, spreading disinformation and ruining lives with the click of a mouse. These are new villains for a new age, villains who can--and do--negatively impact the lives of each of us. But The Scarecrow also serves as an elegy for the crumbling newspaper industry and the once-vibrant newsrooms that are now empty. Definitely read The Scarecrow for the thrills, but reread it for the warnings the book delivers. Not only can it happen here, it already has.

The Secret Speech
Bob Smith

After having taken over the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev made a secret speech to the Politburo denouncing Stalin's brutal policies against the people, but soon the secret leaked and the contents became known. The effect of that speech was devastating to the state, especially to members of the KGB and Secret Police who had carried out those policies, and many are threatened and murdered by those wrongly accused and tortured. Leo Demidov, who in the early stages of his KGB career had betrayed a Russian priest and his wife, is being targeted. Leo, however, has mellowed and regrets his former activities. Married, he and his wife adopted two sisters whose parents had been denounced and executed by the state. The oldest daughter, Zoya, associates Leo with those who killed her parents, and hates him. The wife of the priest is released from prison and seeks revenge, specifically against Leo. She heads up a gang of thugs and systematically goes about extracting her form of justice. She kidnaps Zoya and blackmails Leo into arranging to free her husband, the priest, from a prison. Leo succeeds but is stunned when Zoya takes to gang life and joins them in the fight against the State. Author Smith loads this book with enough plot twists, action, and excitement for a dozen thrillers. Things are never exactly what they appear to be and unanticipated developments complicate matters even more. It all climaxes in a spectacular confrontation during the October Hungarian revolution. This is a stunning follow-up to Smith's bestselling debut novel, Child 44.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:57:37

After having taken over the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev made a secret speech to the Politburo denouncing Stalin's brutal policies against the people, but soon the secret leaked and the contents became known. The effect of that speech was devastating to the state, especially to members of the KGB and Secret Police who had carried out those policies, and many are threatened and murdered by those wrongly accused and tortured. Leo Demidov, who in the early stages of his KGB career had betrayed a Russian priest and his wife, is being targeted. Leo, however, has mellowed and regrets his former activities. Married, he and his wife adopted two sisters whose parents had been denounced and executed by the state. The oldest daughter, Zoya, associates Leo with those who killed her parents, and hates him. The wife of the priest is released from prison and seeks revenge, specifically against Leo. She heads up a gang of thugs and systematically goes about extracting her form of justice. She kidnaps Zoya and blackmails Leo into arranging to free her husband, the priest, from a prison. Leo succeeds but is stunned when Zoya takes to gang life and joins them in the fight against the State. Author Smith loads this book with enough plot twists, action, and excitement for a dozen thrillers. Things are never exactly what they appear to be and unanticipated developments complicate matters even more. It all climaxes in a spectacular confrontation during the October Hungarian revolution. This is a stunning follow-up to Smith's bestselling debut novel, Child 44.

The Thin Black Line
Gary Phillips

In the prologue of The Thin Black Line by the late Chicago Police Commander and mystery writer Hugh Holton, he mentions almost off-handedly that the first black officers were in New Orleans in 1805. These free men of color were called on to administer a particularly ironic brand of law enforcement: catching runaway slaves. As documented in another book, Black Police in America by W. Marvin Dulaney, Holton suggests that free blacks--some of mixed race--were part of the city guard and constabulary as early as 1803. Holton goes on to point out these black police, who had no powers of arrest over white citizenry, wanted to be seen as loyal to, and as much as possible a part of, the white power structure rather than be identified with their brethren in bondage.

Or as comedian Richard Pryor would so aptly opine, "Black cops had to do more shit to keep their jobs than white cops."

Often black cops had to repeatedly demonstrate to their white fellow officers that they were willing to be as hard on the black community as the white cops were. That racism and a kind of split personality pervades the world of blacks in law enforcement is a subtext in The Thin Black Line but, as Holton's very brief mention of the black slave catcher's dilemma indicates, it isn't the main focus of the book. This is not a heavy-handed sociological examination but an enlightening and entertaining set of interviews with men and women cops, parole officers and prison personnel.

As in a mystery novel, all the information to solve the puzzle isn't readily available to you. In the Editors Note in the front of the book, Robert Gleason, who completed the book after Holton's death, relates a story that isn't in the author's description of his law career. Gleason relates that when Holton, a Vietnam vet, returned home to Chicago, he applied to the police department in early 1969 and was turned down. In fact, 16 out of the 17 black applicants were turned down for flat feet and heart arrhythmias--ailments, Gleason notes, that are measured subjectively and largely unprovable. Hugh Holton went back home, put on his army uniform, and returned to do a second physical. He told them that if he was healthy enough for combat, surely he's healthy enough for the Chicago PD.

One of the white guys seeing this says, "Hell, Hugh, I didn't know you were a Vietnam vet. Forget about it. You passed."

If Gleason hadn't put that telling anecdote in, then you wouldn't have the full picture. Similarly, it's only by reading the interviews that you discover Holton's father, Hubert, was also on the Chicago PD. The senior Holton doesn't recount all the shit he undoubtedly had to put up with when he joined the department in 1955, the year of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He doesn't go on about how he, like a lot of blacks who came north, was part of the huge migration from the Deep South (he was born in Louise, Mississippi) to the industrialized north seeking a better life. In the matter-of-fact tone of the other cops interviewed, he only notes that there were a small number of blacks on the force when he joined. He goes on to talk about the units he worked in, and that he and a white cop were the first salt-and-pepper team in a particular area in Chicago. We later learn in Hugh Holton's interview that, at one point, father and son served simultaneously as commanders--the only time this has ever happened in the Chicago Police Department.

Or take La Verne Dunlap, one of the first female, let alone black, officers hired in an unidentified rust belt town north of Gary, Indiana in 1971. Before becoming a cop she was traveling with a band in 1969 and was harassed by local law in a Mississippi town for swimming in the hotel pool. "I thought if I ever became a cop," she said, "I would put a stop to that kind of injustice."

The subjects in The Thin Black Line offer varying takes on their law enforcement careers. Some love the job and some, by the time of their interviews, had moved on to other arenas. Some, like Roger Tucker of the Philadelphia Police Department, are keenly aware of that tortured lineage begun long ago in New Orleans. "I also considered my police work to be mercenary work because I was policing my community for the majority of society." But his and the others' observations are not there to preach from a soapbox but to document how these professionals did their job and took some measure of satisfaction of being part of that thin black line.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:57:37

In the prologue of The Thin Black Line by the late Chicago Police Commander and mystery writer Hugh Holton, he mentions almost off-handedly that the first black officers were in New Orleans in 1805. These free men of color were called on to administer a particularly ironic brand of law enforcement: catching runaway slaves. As documented in another book, Black Police in America by W. Marvin Dulaney, Holton suggests that free blacks--some of mixed race--were part of the city guard and constabulary as early as 1803. Holton goes on to point out these black police, who had no powers of arrest over white citizenry, wanted to be seen as loyal to, and as much as possible a part of, the white power structure rather than be identified with their brethren in bondage.

Or as comedian Richard Pryor would so aptly opine, "Black cops had to do more shit to keep their jobs than white cops."

Often black cops had to repeatedly demonstrate to their white fellow officers that they were willing to be as hard on the black community as the white cops were. That racism and a kind of split personality pervades the world of blacks in law enforcement is a subtext in The Thin Black Line but, as Holton's very brief mention of the black slave catcher's dilemma indicates, it isn't the main focus of the book. This is not a heavy-handed sociological examination but an enlightening and entertaining set of interviews with men and women cops, parole officers and prison personnel.

As in a mystery novel, all the information to solve the puzzle isn't readily available to you. In the Editors Note in the front of the book, Robert Gleason, who completed the book after Holton's death, relates a story that isn't in the author's description of his law career. Gleason relates that when Holton, a Vietnam vet, returned home to Chicago, he applied to the police department in early 1969 and was turned down. In fact, 16 out of the 17 black applicants were turned down for flat feet and heart arrhythmias--ailments, Gleason notes, that are measured subjectively and largely unprovable. Hugh Holton went back home, put on his army uniform, and returned to do a second physical. He told them that if he was healthy enough for combat, surely he's healthy enough for the Chicago PD.

One of the white guys seeing this says, "Hell, Hugh, I didn't know you were a Vietnam vet. Forget about it. You passed."

If Gleason hadn't put that telling anecdote in, then you wouldn't have the full picture. Similarly, it's only by reading the interviews that you discover Holton's father, Hubert, was also on the Chicago PD. The senior Holton doesn't recount all the shit he undoubtedly had to put up with when he joined the department in 1955, the year of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He doesn't go on about how he, like a lot of blacks who came north, was part of the huge migration from the Deep South (he was born in Louise, Mississippi) to the industrialized north seeking a better life. In the matter-of-fact tone of the other cops interviewed, he only notes that there were a small number of blacks on the force when he joined. He goes on to talk about the units he worked in, and that he and a white cop were the first salt-and-pepper team in a particular area in Chicago. We later learn in Hugh Holton's interview that, at one point, father and son served simultaneously as commanders--the only time this has ever happened in the Chicago Police Department.

Or take La Verne Dunlap, one of the first female, let alone black, officers hired in an unidentified rust belt town north of Gary, Indiana in 1971. Before becoming a cop she was traveling with a band in 1969 and was harassed by local law in a Mississippi town for swimming in the hotel pool. "I thought if I ever became a cop," she said, "I would put a stop to that kind of injustice."

The subjects in The Thin Black Line offer varying takes on their law enforcement careers. Some love the job and some, by the time of their interviews, had moved on to other arenas. Some, like Roger Tucker of the Philadelphia Police Department, are keenly aware of that tortured lineage begun long ago in New Orleans. "I also considered my police work to be mercenary work because I was policing my community for the majority of society." But his and the others' observations are not there to preach from a soapbox but to document how these professionals did their job and took some measure of satisfaction of being part of that thin black line.

The Tourist
Bob Smith

If you enjoy plot driven thrillers with exotic locales, characters who seldom are what they initially seem to be, and more twists and turns than an Alpine mountain road, then The Tourist is for you. Billed as a post cold-war spy novel, it is one of those stories in which the hero is accused of a crime he didn't commit and must race against time to prove his innocence.

Milo Weaver works as a "Tourist," one of a group of American Intelligence agents who roam the world killing, torturing, and collecting intelligence on orders from a secret section of the CIA. After a semi-botched assignment in Venice the day before the 9/11 tragedy, in which he meets a pregnant woman who later becomes his wife, Milo comes in from the cold to a desk job. His main duty is to track down a notorious hit man, code named Tiger, but Tiger's death drags Milo back into the Tourist game and sends him careening around the world searching for clues as to who is the power behind the killer.

Deaths pile up; Milo's family is in danger; his own secret past becomes unraveled; friends turn out to be enemies and vice versa. With the CIA, Homeland Security and a couple of foreign intelligence agencies in pursuit, Milo must use all his long dormant operative skills in order to survive. The action never ebbs even if some of the plot twists defy belief.

George Clooney has purchased the rights to The Tourist and will star as Milo. It should make an exciting movie, similar to the Bourne series.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:57:37

If you enjoy plot driven thrillers with exotic locales, characters who seldom are what they initially seem to be, and more twists and turns than an Alpine mountain road, then The Tourist is for you. Billed as a post cold-war spy novel, it is one of those stories in which the hero is accused of a crime he didn't commit and must race against time to prove his innocence.

Milo Weaver works as a "Tourist," one of a group of American Intelligence agents who roam the world killing, torturing, and collecting intelligence on orders from a secret section of the CIA. After a semi-botched assignment in Venice the day before the 9/11 tragedy, in which he meets a pregnant woman who later becomes his wife, Milo comes in from the cold to a desk job. His main duty is to track down a notorious hit man, code named Tiger, but Tiger's death drags Milo back into the Tourist game and sends him careening around the world searching for clues as to who is the power behind the killer.

Deaths pile up; Milo's family is in danger; his own secret past becomes unraveled; friends turn out to be enemies and vice versa. With the CIA, Homeland Security and a couple of foreign intelligence agencies in pursuit, Milo must use all his long dormant operative skills in order to survive. The action never ebbs even if some of the plot twists defy belief.

George Clooney has purchased the rights to The Tourist and will star as Milo. It should make an exciting movie, similar to the Bourne series.

The Way Home
Barbara Fister

George Pelecanos has been exploring the nature of masculinity since his first novel, A Firing Offense, was published in 1992. One way or another, all of his books are about what it takes to be a man, and how men negotiate the minefield that lies between violence and honor. That path toward manhood often is illuminated by the relationship between fathers and sons, a theme that is front and center in The Way Home.

As the book opens, Thomas Flynn is visiting his son at a juvenile facility, barely able to contain his anger and his pain as his son, the only white inmate there, stares at his parents with studied indifference. Chris had capped off a career of minor crime with a highly-publicized police pursuit that left cars totaled and people seriously injured. But he shows no remorse and tells his father that he knows "how to jail."

The story follows Chris and some of his fellow inmates as he begins to recognize the choices he has in front of him, then jumps forward in time. Chris has straightened out and is working for his father's flooring company, trying to stay out of trouble and make a life for himself as his parents watch warily for more signs of trouble. But he ends up being targeted by a couple of deeply evil men and has to decide how to respond.

The Way Home is a powerful book that derives its toughness and its grace from the relationship between Chris and his father as they try to find a way to connect to each other--and to the person each is striving to be. The plot is excellent, but the energy of the book comes from deep inside the characters. Pelecanos's project to understand manhood in America is beautifully realized in this novel. Highly recommended.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:57:37

George Pelecanos has been exploring the nature of masculinity since his first novel, A Firing Offense, was published in 1992. One way or another, all of his books are about what it takes to be a man, and how men negotiate the minefield that lies between violence and honor. That path toward manhood often is illuminated by the relationship between fathers and sons, a theme that is front and center in The Way Home.

As the book opens, Thomas Flynn is visiting his son at a juvenile facility, barely able to contain his anger and his pain as his son, the only white inmate there, stares at his parents with studied indifference. Chris had capped off a career of minor crime with a highly-publicized police pursuit that left cars totaled and people seriously injured. But he shows no remorse and tells his father that he knows "how to jail."

The story follows Chris and some of his fellow inmates as he begins to recognize the choices he has in front of him, then jumps forward in time. Chris has straightened out and is working for his father's flooring company, trying to stay out of trouble and make a life for himself as his parents watch warily for more signs of trouble. But he ends up being targeted by a couple of deeply evil men and has to decide how to respond.

The Way Home is a powerful book that derives its toughness and its grace from the relationship between Chris and his father as they try to find a way to connect to each other--and to the person each is striving to be. The plot is excellent, but the energy of the book comes from deep inside the characters. Pelecanos's project to understand manhood in America is beautifully realized in this novel. Highly recommended.

Ultimatum
Hank Wagner

Ultimatum opens in November 2032, as Arizona Senator Joe Benton is elected to the presidency. He takes on the job at a perilous time, as global warming has led to rising sea levels, dislocating millions. Still, Benton hopes to implement his vision for the country, which he feels has suffered terribly under 12 straight years of Republican rule.

Benton sets an ambitious agenda for his first term, but soon finds out the truth regarding that old saw about the futility of making plans. Mere days after his election, the sitting president shares incontrovertible secret evidence with the President-elect that the global warming problem is far worse than anyone has imagined. Knowing that certain disaster lays ahead, Benton is forced to make some agonizing domestic and international policy decisions; those decisions, which affect the lives of billions, will literally change the course of history.

Folks who miss television shows like The West Wing, or films like The Missiles of October or books like Alan Drury's Advise and Consent, will consume this talky, wonky novel of back room intrigue with delight, thrilling to the global chess game played out between rival superpowers, a game in name only, as the negative consequences of a mistake are enormous. Lacking any characters remotely like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Chuck Norris, Ultimatum is a thinking man's thriller; it's a book where the stakes are as high as those in one of their movies, but where problems aren't solved with a gun or a fist, but by intelligence, determination and fortitude.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:57:37

Ultimatum opens in November 2032, as Arizona Senator Joe Benton is elected to the presidency. He takes on the job at a perilous time, as global warming has led to rising sea levels, dislocating millions. Still, Benton hopes to implement his vision for the country, which he feels has suffered terribly under 12 straight years of Republican rule.

Benton sets an ambitious agenda for his first term, but soon finds out the truth regarding that old saw about the futility of making plans. Mere days after his election, the sitting president shares incontrovertible secret evidence with the President-elect that the global warming problem is far worse than anyone has imagined. Knowing that certain disaster lays ahead, Benton is forced to make some agonizing domestic and international policy decisions; those decisions, which affect the lives of billions, will literally change the course of history.

Folks who miss television shows like The West Wing, or films like The Missiles of October or books like Alan Drury's Advise and Consent, will consume this talky, wonky novel of back room intrigue with delight, thrilling to the global chess game played out between rival superpowers, a game in name only, as the negative consequences of a mistake are enormous. Lacking any characters remotely like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Chuck Norris, Ultimatum is a thinking man's thriller; it's a book where the stakes are as high as those in one of their movies, but where problems aren't solved with a gun or a fist, but by intelligence, determination and fortitude.

Wild Sorrow
Sue Emmons

For those readers who thrive on outdoor mysteries, Wild Sorrow fills the bill. The heroine of this mystery series set in northern New Mexico is Bureau of Land Management agent Jamaica Wild, who is accompanied on her adventures by her pet wolf. As a blizzard rages through the mountains, Wild stumbles onto an abandoned Native American school while tracking a wounded mountain lion. Inside, she discovers a woman's battered body. When the storm abates, the FBI enters the murder investigation as Wild continues tracking the mountain lion, but soon learns that she herself is being stalked by a stone killer linked to the crime. She also learns that the school has been used for nefarious purposes, both past and present. This tale, with its emphasis on Native American heritage and the rugged wilderness still largely untouched in America, is both gritty and beguiling. Wild is a tough and engaging agent, who handles pure terror with panache. This is her second outing after Wild Inferno, which won the Mary Higgins Clark Award, and was hailed as one of the best mysteries of 2008. Her steely second outing will not disappoint.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 02:57:37

For those readers who thrive on outdoor mysteries, Wild Sorrow fills the bill. The heroine of this mystery series set in northern New Mexico is Bureau of Land Management agent Jamaica Wild, who is accompanied on her adventures by her pet wolf. As a blizzard rages through the mountains, Wild stumbles onto an abandoned Native American school while tracking a wounded mountain lion. Inside, she discovers a woman's battered body. When the storm abates, the FBI enters the murder investigation as Wild continues tracking the mountain lion, but soon learns that she herself is being stalked by a stone killer linked to the crime. She also learns that the school has been used for nefarious purposes, both past and present. This tale, with its emphasis on Native American heritage and the rugged wilderness still largely untouched in America, is both gritty and beguiling. Wild is a tough and engaging agent, who handles pure terror with panache. This is her second outing after Wild Inferno, which won the Mary Higgins Clark Award, and was hailed as one of the best mysteries of 2008. Her steely second outing will not disappoint.