Winter in June
Charles L. P. Silet

It's 1943 and Jayne Rosie Winter, sometime actress and amateur sleuth, joins the USO along with a friend so that she can go the Pacific theater of operations to search for her missing ex-boyfriend, Jack Castlegate.Rosie's United Service Organizations (USO) troupe--a singer, a comedienne and Jayne--is joined Stateside by ex-MGM star Gilda DeVane, recently released from her contract and looking to restart her career. However, the tour is destined to involve more than just entertaining the troops when a woman's body is discovered floating beside their transport.

Soon Rosie is searching for Jack, performing for the troops, fighting off the fauna on the base (human and otherwise), and trying to figure out the increasingly complicated mystery enveloping them all.

Kathryn Miller Haines does a fine job of replicating the war-time atmosphere, a bit reminiscent of the film Four Jills in a Jeep, and is bang-on with the period slang: lots of gams, peepers, and gedunks, as well as genuine military lingo like snafu, scuttlebutt, et al. This is the third Rosie Winter mystery. Let's hope Haines keeps them coming.

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

It's 1943 and Jayne Rosie Winter, sometime actress and amateur sleuth, joins the USO along with a friend so that she can go the Pacific theater of operations to search for her missing ex-boyfriend, Jack Castlegate.Rosie's United Service Organizations (USO) troupe--a singer, a comedienne and Jayne--is joined Stateside by ex-MGM star Gilda DeVane, recently released from her contract and looking to restart her career. However, the tour is destined to involve more than just entertaining the troops when a woman's body is discovered floating beside their transport.

Soon Rosie is searching for Jack, performing for the troops, fighting off the fauna on the base (human and otherwise), and trying to figure out the increasingly complicated mystery enveloping them all.

Kathryn Miller Haines does a fine job of replicating the war-time atmosphere, a bit reminiscent of the film Four Jills in a Jeep, and is bang-on with the period slang: lots of gams, peepers, and gedunks, as well as genuine military lingo like snafu, scuttlebutt, et al. This is the third Rosie Winter mystery. Let's hope Haines keeps them coming.

Wormwood
Dori Cocuz

There is a tangible undercurrent of sadness throughout Wormwood, the latest China Bayles novel by Susan Wittig Albert. Recovering from a personal tragedy, China travels to the touristy Mount Zion, where her plan to help a friend teach herbal workshops is sidetracked by a series of mishaps plaguing the restored Kentucky Shaker village. When a shocking murder occurs, her search to uncover the village's secrets leads to a second tale of deception, betrayal, and murder set in the village's end days, and told through the use of letters, journal entries, and newspaper clippings.

The deceptively Eden-like existence of the Shakers is stripped bare in Wormwood and the message that emerges is that good people will always be hurt by forces they can't control. It makes for compelling reading, especially when told through the voices of two devout Shaker sisters from the past. At times the narrative is cluttered with details that reveal the author's extensive research, but do little to move the story forward; but Albert is brilliant at turning the "present mimics past" structure upside down and interweaving the two times and places. Readers are kept guessing throughout about who is sabotaging the village, both present and past and who committed the murders. Author Susan Wittig Albert also pens the Beatrix Potter mysteries.

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

There is a tangible undercurrent of sadness throughout Wormwood, the latest China Bayles novel by Susan Wittig Albert. Recovering from a personal tragedy, China travels to the touristy Mount Zion, where her plan to help a friend teach herbal workshops is sidetracked by a series of mishaps plaguing the restored Kentucky Shaker village. When a shocking murder occurs, her search to uncover the village's secrets leads to a second tale of deception, betrayal, and murder set in the village's end days, and told through the use of letters, journal entries, and newspaper clippings.

The deceptively Eden-like existence of the Shakers is stripped bare in Wormwood and the message that emerges is that good people will always be hurt by forces they can't control. It makes for compelling reading, especially when told through the voices of two devout Shaker sisters from the past. At times the narrative is cluttered with details that reveal the author's extensive research, but do little to move the story forward; but Albert is brilliant at turning the "present mimics past" structure upside down and interweaving the two times and places. Readers are kept guessing throughout about who is sabotaging the village, both present and past and who committed the murders. Author Susan Wittig Albert also pens the Beatrix Potter mysteries.

A Little Learning
Lynne Maxwell

A little learning is a dangerous thing, according to Alexander Pope, but much pleasure can be derived from reading A Little Learning by Jane Tesh. Third in a series and succeeding A Case of Imagination and A Hard Bargain, this new entry is the best yet. Madeline Maclin, former beauty queen and current private eye, has settled into a quiet life in the (usually) sleepy town of Celosia, North Carolina. Newly married, she and her husband, Jerry Fairweather, have moved into his old family home and are making a new start. Principally, this entails discouraging the incorrigible Jerry from perpetrating various scams. An unregenerate con man, he strives to temper his urge to get over on people. Under Madeline's watchful eye, he is largely successful, except for a small con in which he represents himself as a medium who can summon the spirits of loved ones from beyond--a hoax that mushrooms out of control when Jerry makes promises that he can't keep.

Meanwhile, Madeline gets caught up in several mysteries of her own, one involving the murder of an unpopular schoolteacher and the other involving decoding a cryptic bequest, so that she can make sure that her client wins his just inheritance. Of course the plots converge cleverly and humorously, leading to satisfying solutions all around. Jane Tesh really knows how to present the aura of a small town, quirks and all. Ambience, characters, and humor make Celosia a place readers will want to visit again and again.

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

A little learning is a dangerous thing, according to Alexander Pope, but much pleasure can be derived from reading A Little Learning by Jane Tesh. Third in a series and succeeding A Case of Imagination and A Hard Bargain, this new entry is the best yet. Madeline Maclin, former beauty queen and current private eye, has settled into a quiet life in the (usually) sleepy town of Celosia, North Carolina. Newly married, she and her husband, Jerry Fairweather, have moved into his old family home and are making a new start. Principally, this entails discouraging the incorrigible Jerry from perpetrating various scams. An unregenerate con man, he strives to temper his urge to get over on people. Under Madeline's watchful eye, he is largely successful, except for a small con in which he represents himself as a medium who can summon the spirits of loved ones from beyond--a hoax that mushrooms out of control when Jerry makes promises that he can't keep.

Meanwhile, Madeline gets caught up in several mysteries of her own, one involving the murder of an unpopular schoolteacher and the other involving decoding a cryptic bequest, so that she can make sure that her client wins his just inheritance. Of course the plots converge cleverly and humorously, leading to satisfying solutions all around. Jane Tesh really knows how to present the aura of a small town, quirks and all. Ambience, characters, and humor make Celosia a place readers will want to visit again and again.

A Plague of Secrets
Jim Winter

In A Plague of Secrets, it's all business as usual for John Lescroart's defense attorney Dismas Hardy. This time someone has killed Dylan Vogler outside the coffee shop he managed. He had a backpack full of weed on him when he died and the police and the US attorney like shop owner Maya Townshend for the killing. Maya is a San Francisco city supervisor's sister and the mayor's niece and the crime threatens to implicate several of the city's elite.

Lescroart weaves police intrigue, political maneuvering, and hidden secrets in a complex tale set against the backdrop of San Francisco's court system. The plot is as rich and intricate as any Grisham novel, but Lescroart's characters and their dilemmas are more immediate and personal. From a police lieutenant distracted by a personal tragedy, to a wife afraid to admit her past to her husband, to a private investigator afraid of being exposed by the dead man's misdeeds, there's not a character in this book whose motivations readers aren't given insight into. And yet, you never see the ending coming. John Lescroart is first-rate thriller writer who knows how to twist a plot up to the last page.

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

In A Plague of Secrets, it's all business as usual for John Lescroart's defense attorney Dismas Hardy. This time someone has killed Dylan Vogler outside the coffee shop he managed. He had a backpack full of weed on him when he died and the police and the US attorney like shop owner Maya Townshend for the killing. Maya is a San Francisco city supervisor's sister and the mayor's niece and the crime threatens to implicate several of the city's elite.

Lescroart weaves police intrigue, political maneuvering, and hidden secrets in a complex tale set against the backdrop of San Francisco's court system. The plot is as rich and intricate as any Grisham novel, but Lescroart's characters and their dilemmas are more immediate and personal. From a police lieutenant distracted by a personal tragedy, to a wife afraid to admit her past to her husband, to a private investigator afraid of being exposed by the dead man's misdeeds, there's not a character in this book whose motivations readers aren't given insight into. And yet, you never see the ending coming. John Lescroart is first-rate thriller writer who knows how to twist a plot up to the last page.

A Talent for Murder
Lynne Maxwell

Enter, stage right, Polly Pepper, aging television star and legend in her own mind. We've seen this type before, but Polly is no Norma Desmond. She lives in comedy, rather than tragedy, even though murder intrudes upon the set. Jordan's ironic, hyperbolic representation of Polly is riotously entertaining. Our heroine loves to lounge around her pool, drink ever in hand, lamenting the untimely decline of her career to the rather bored audience of her maid, Placenta, and her gay son. "Placenta?" The name in itself alerts readers that a parody is to come, and indeed it does when, in an effort to resurrect her stardom, Polly signs on as a judge for the wildly popular talent show, I'll Do Anything to Become Famous. No reality show was ever more aptly named, and, as often suspected, some people really will do anything--even commit murder. Indeed, "a talent for murder" may be the only talent on display in this hilarious send-up of a book. When a nasty judge from the contest turns up dead, it appears that almost anyone could have killed him. After all, he was universally hated and deservedly so. However, Polly and her bizarre entourage won't take maybe for an answer, and their investigation is as incongruous as it is rollicking. This is entertainment, indeed.

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

Enter, stage right, Polly Pepper, aging television star and legend in her own mind. We've seen this type before, but Polly is no Norma Desmond. She lives in comedy, rather than tragedy, even though murder intrudes upon the set. Jordan's ironic, hyperbolic representation of Polly is riotously entertaining. Our heroine loves to lounge around her pool, drink ever in hand, lamenting the untimely decline of her career to the rather bored audience of her maid, Placenta, and her gay son. "Placenta?" The name in itself alerts readers that a parody is to come, and indeed it does when, in an effort to resurrect her stardom, Polly signs on as a judge for the wildly popular talent show, I'll Do Anything to Become Famous. No reality show was ever more aptly named, and, as often suspected, some people really will do anything--even commit murder. Indeed, "a talent for murder" may be the only talent on display in this hilarious send-up of a book. When a nasty judge from the contest turns up dead, it appears that almost anyone could have killed him. After all, he was universally hated and deservedly so. However, Polly and her bizarre entourage won't take maybe for an answer, and their investigation is as incongruous as it is rollicking. This is entertainment, indeed.

Alexandria
Mary Helen Becker

The new mystery by Lindsey Davis featuring her incomparable private informer Marcus Didius Falco is something to celebrate. Silver Pigs, his first adventure, was praised by both Anthony Price and Ellis Peters and delighted readers with Falco's adventures across the Roman Empire. Davis' new book, set in 77 A.D., is the account of the Falco family vacation in Egypt. Helena Justina, Falco's pregnant patrician wife wants to see the pyramids, so a motley group of relatives makes its way to Alexandria where Falco's "funny uncle" Fulvius has invited them to stay at his house. Uncle Fulvius gives a dinner party where they meet the head of the Great Library of Alexandria, who is found dead in his office the next morning.

Falco can't resist investigating the case of this "body in the library," and more deaths soon follow. Part of the Museion complex, the library and its scholars, are a distinguished cultural institution, but Falco's comic commentary on a faculty meeting is as good as anything in your favorite academic mystery. Known as the Emperor Vespasian's man, Falco puts his own life in danger as he unravels dastardly deeds all over town, including the theft of important scrolls from the Great Library. Falco's visit to the Pharos of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, is unforgettable. Lindsey Davis brings antiquity to life in a most delectable manner, with humor and suspense.

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

The new mystery by Lindsey Davis featuring her incomparable private informer Marcus Didius Falco is something to celebrate. Silver Pigs, his first adventure, was praised by both Anthony Price and Ellis Peters and delighted readers with Falco's adventures across the Roman Empire. Davis' new book, set in 77 A.D., is the account of the Falco family vacation in Egypt. Helena Justina, Falco's pregnant patrician wife wants to see the pyramids, so a motley group of relatives makes its way to Alexandria where Falco's "funny uncle" Fulvius has invited them to stay at his house. Uncle Fulvius gives a dinner party where they meet the head of the Great Library of Alexandria, who is found dead in his office the next morning.

Falco can't resist investigating the case of this "body in the library," and more deaths soon follow. Part of the Museion complex, the library and its scholars, are a distinguished cultural institution, but Falco's comic commentary on a faculty meeting is as good as anything in your favorite academic mystery. Known as the Emperor Vespasian's man, Falco puts his own life in danger as he unravels dastardly deeds all over town, including the theft of important scrolls from the Great Library. Falco's visit to the Pharos of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, is unforgettable. Lindsey Davis brings antiquity to life in a most delectable manner, with humor and suspense.

All the Dead Voices
Oline H. Cogdill

Declan Hughes has become to Ireland what Ian Rankin is to Scotland. Irish playwright Hughes' evocative look at Dublin and the city's changes are just a couple of the pleasures in his exciting fourth novel. In All the Dead Voices, Hughes focuses on Ireland's violent past, especially "the Troubles," that time from the 1960s to about 1998 when Northern Ireland's political conflicts exploded across the country and beyond.

Private detective Ed Loy tackles two cases that intersect. Ann Fogarty hires Ed to find out who killed her father, a revenue inspector, more than 15 years ago. The police had arrested the lover of Ann's mother, but the man was acquitted and Ann had never believed he was the killer. At the same time, Ed is asked to keep an eye on a rising soccer star who may be involved with a drug dealer.

Ed finds that both cases involve former members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Irish National Liberation Army (INLA). For the most part, these men, still hardened by their past, have tried to legitimize their business dealings. But they tend to brush off the many casualties of their violence with the mantras: "It was regrettable...It was wrong...It shouldn't have happened."

Loy is sick of the cavalier attitude that allows these former rebels to avoid responsibility for their actions. "History?" he says incredulously. "Bloodshed and glory and death." Adding to this view of Ireland's past, All the Dead Voices takes place during Easter weekend, a pivotal time of "the Troubles."

Hughes offers a vivid portrait of Ireland, depicting a country that just a few years ago was in the midst of an economic boom that has since gone bust. The excellent All the Dead Voices surpasses even last year's The Price of Blood, which earned Hughes an Edgar nomination.

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

Declan Hughes has become to Ireland what Ian Rankin is to Scotland. Irish playwright Hughes' evocative look at Dublin and the city's changes are just a couple of the pleasures in his exciting fourth novel. In All the Dead Voices, Hughes focuses on Ireland's violent past, especially "the Troubles," that time from the 1960s to about 1998 when Northern Ireland's political conflicts exploded across the country and beyond.

Private detective Ed Loy tackles two cases that intersect. Ann Fogarty hires Ed to find out who killed her father, a revenue inspector, more than 15 years ago. The police had arrested the lover of Ann's mother, but the man was acquitted and Ann had never believed he was the killer. At the same time, Ed is asked to keep an eye on a rising soccer star who may be involved with a drug dealer.

Ed finds that both cases involve former members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Irish National Liberation Army (INLA). For the most part, these men, still hardened by their past, have tried to legitimize their business dealings. But they tend to brush off the many casualties of their violence with the mantras: "It was regrettable...It was wrong...It shouldn't have happened."

Loy is sick of the cavalier attitude that allows these former rebels to avoid responsibility for their actions. "History?" he says incredulously. "Bloodshed and glory and death." Adding to this view of Ireland's past, All the Dead Voices takes place during Easter weekend, a pivotal time of "the Troubles."

Hughes offers a vivid portrait of Ireland, depicting a country that just a few years ago was in the midst of an economic boom that has since gone bust. The excellent All the Dead Voices surpasses even last year's The Price of Blood, which earned Hughes an Edgar nomination.

Bad Things Happen
Bob Smith

Harry Dolan's terrific debut novel, Bad Things Happen, is an old fashioned kind of mystery, a true whodunit for today's savvy readers, but with its roots steeped in the noir tradition. It's witty, fast paced, and offers dialogue that's clever without being corny.

It begins as the enigmatic protagonist, described as "the man who now calls himself David Loogan" arrives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and lands a job as an editor for Gray Streets, a mystery magazine. When Tom Kristoll, the publisher, is murdered, Police Detective Elizabeth Waishkey suspects Loogan. But Loogan and Tom's wife Laura were in bed together at the time of the murder and they alibi each other. Waishkey must now look at suspects among the magazine's authors, a group skillful in the art of (fictional) murder, and who might kill for real to get a bestseller. David and Elizabeth, who warily trust each other, alternate as adversaries and allies in a search for the killer. The plot twists and turns as more murders occur, lies are revealed, hidden pasts uncovered, and greed exposed. Reality becomes jumbled with fiction as new murders resemble plots from the suspect authors' published works. It's impossible to guess the killer's identity until the very end, but Dolan plays fair and never cheats on clues in this satisfying puzzle. The writing flows so smoothly it is hard to believe this is Dolan's maiden effort--an effort that should rank him with the very best.

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

Harry Dolan's terrific debut novel, Bad Things Happen, is an old fashioned kind of mystery, a true whodunit for today's savvy readers, but with its roots steeped in the noir tradition. It's witty, fast paced, and offers dialogue that's clever without being corny.

It begins as the enigmatic protagonist, described as "the man who now calls himself David Loogan" arrives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and lands a job as an editor for Gray Streets, a mystery magazine. When Tom Kristoll, the publisher, is murdered, Police Detective Elizabeth Waishkey suspects Loogan. But Loogan and Tom's wife Laura were in bed together at the time of the murder and they alibi each other. Waishkey must now look at suspects among the magazine's authors, a group skillful in the art of (fictional) murder, and who might kill for real to get a bestseller. David and Elizabeth, who warily trust each other, alternate as adversaries and allies in a search for the killer. The plot twists and turns as more murders occur, lies are revealed, hidden pasts uncovered, and greed exposed. Reality becomes jumbled with fiction as new murders resemble plots from the suspect authors' published works. It's impossible to guess the killer's identity until the very end, but Dolan plays fair and never cheats on clues in this satisfying puzzle. The writing flows so smoothly it is hard to believe this is Dolan's maiden effort--an effort that should rank him with the very best.

Black Water Rising
Betty Webb

In this superb literary suspense novel, we are reminded that no good deed goes unpunished when African-American attorney Jay Porter rescues a drowning white woman. Set in Houston, Texas, in 1981, when the wounds of the Civil Rights Movement and its more radical Black Power cousin are still fresh, Jay discovers that his valiant (although grudging) rescue has involved him in a high-end murder case--several murders, in fact. When Jay is offered hush money to "forget everything," he is tempted to take it. After all, his wife is about to give birth to their first child, and he's tired of dealing with the petty thieves, prostitutes, and malcontents who make up his low-rent client list. A former radical himself, Jay is paranoid, not without reason; the government is still tapping his phone. Now a modern Everyman, the young attorney is not particularly brave or even all that honest. Jay is, though, a basically decent man who can't say no to his friends, regardless of what kind of trouble they've found themselves in.

Moving back and forth through time, Black Water Rising recalls the radical '60s, Reagan-era political corruption, the struggles between labor unions and big business, and the ongoing conflict between personal conscience and family commitment. In an author's note which could serve as required reading in a contemporary sociology class, Locke reveals the genesis of her brilliant debut novel, and the fact that her own father was a man much like Jay--and how much it eventually cost him. Publishers like to pepper their hype with words like "superlative," "auspicious," "universal," and "dazzling" (all used about this book), claims that are usually ignored. This time, though, they're absolutely right. If you only read one suspense novel this summer, make it Black Water Rising.

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

In this superb literary suspense novel, we are reminded that no good deed goes unpunished when African-American attorney Jay Porter rescues a drowning white woman. Set in Houston, Texas, in 1981, when the wounds of the Civil Rights Movement and its more radical Black Power cousin are still fresh, Jay discovers that his valiant (although grudging) rescue has involved him in a high-end murder case--several murders, in fact. When Jay is offered hush money to "forget everything," he is tempted to take it. After all, his wife is about to give birth to their first child, and he's tired of dealing with the petty thieves, prostitutes, and malcontents who make up his low-rent client list. A former radical himself, Jay is paranoid, not without reason; the government is still tapping his phone. Now a modern Everyman, the young attorney is not particularly brave or even all that honest. Jay is, though, a basically decent man who can't say no to his friends, regardless of what kind of trouble they've found themselves in.

Moving back and forth through time, Black Water Rising recalls the radical '60s, Reagan-era political corruption, the struggles between labor unions and big business, and the ongoing conflict between personal conscience and family commitment. In an author's note which could serve as required reading in a contemporary sociology class, Locke reveals the genesis of her brilliant debut novel, and the fact that her own father was a man much like Jay--and how much it eventually cost him. Publishers like to pepper their hype with words like "superlative," "auspicious," "universal," and "dazzling" (all used about this book), claims that are usually ignored. This time, though, they're absolutely right. If you only read one suspense novel this summer, make it Black Water Rising.

City of Silver
Sue Emmons

For true torture and torment, you can't beat the Spanish Inquisition. In this historical mystery set in 1650, its tentacles have reached the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru and the city of Potosi (now Bolivia), one of the 17th century's great metropolises thanks to the riches of its vast silver mines. The spunky Mother Maria Santa Hilda, abbess of the Convent of Santa Isabella de los Santos Milagros, is the heroine of this story of corruption at the highest levels of government.

When it is found that the silver being coined in Potosi is not pure, the King of Spain sends prosecutor Dr. Francisco de Nestares to ferret out the culprits. Meanwhile, at the convent, Inez de la Morada, the daughter of one of the richest politicians in the city, dies while in the care of the abbess. Although some of the clues suggest suicide, Mother Maria Santa Hilda and the sisters believe otherwise and endeavor to prove the true cause of the girl's death.

The author has certainly done her research in this debut mystery rich in atmosphere and full of intriguing characters, including the ultra-rich mine owner Antonio De Bermeo y de Novarra Tovar, and the always-squabbling churchmen and politicians. Once the reader gets past the daunting names of the Spanish characters and places, there are lots of twists and treachery in this mystery with a touch of romance.

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

For true torture and torment, you can't beat the Spanish Inquisition. In this historical mystery set in 1650, its tentacles have reached the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru and the city of Potosi (now Bolivia), one of the 17th century's great metropolises thanks to the riches of its vast silver mines. The spunky Mother Maria Santa Hilda, abbess of the Convent of Santa Isabella de los Santos Milagros, is the heroine of this story of corruption at the highest levels of government.

When it is found that the silver being coined in Potosi is not pure, the King of Spain sends prosecutor Dr. Francisco de Nestares to ferret out the culprits. Meanwhile, at the convent, Inez de la Morada, the daughter of one of the richest politicians in the city, dies while in the care of the abbess. Although some of the clues suggest suicide, Mother Maria Santa Hilda and the sisters believe otherwise and endeavor to prove the true cause of the girl's death.

The author has certainly done her research in this debut mystery rich in atmosphere and full of intriguing characters, including the ultra-rich mine owner Antonio De Bermeo y de Novarra Tovar, and the always-squabbling churchmen and politicians. Once the reader gets past the daunting names of the Spanish characters and places, there are lots of twists and treachery in this mystery with a touch of romance.

Dark Entries
M. Schlecht

Crime fiction veteran Ian Rankin has already created quite a legacy with his Inspector Rebus series. The Edgar Award-winning author now jumps into the world of graphic novels by taking on a character with quite a history of his own. Occult detective John Constantine has been the subject of many comics and even a 2005 film starring Keanu Reeves.

In Rankin's tale, illustrated by Werther Dell'Edera, Constantine finds himself on a reality TV show in the style of Big Brother. The cameras are always turned on, and strange things are happening to the young contestants. The house seems to be preying on their worst fears, and the producers have no intentions of stopping it. It's up to Constantine to figure out just how these roommates are connected, since none of them can remember even signing up to be on the show. As the attacks continue, what he discovers offers no consolation.

It's a decent setup with plenty of postmodern appeal, but only hardcore fans of our hero Constantine will likely stick around to see him through. Just as the supernatural stakes are raised, the plot runs out of gas. Perhaps the novelist Rankin found it hard to tie up all the loose ends in the relatively short 200 pages of Dark Entries.

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

Crime fiction veteran Ian Rankin has already created quite a legacy with his Inspector Rebus series. The Edgar Award-winning author now jumps into the world of graphic novels by taking on a character with quite a history of his own. Occult detective John Constantine has been the subject of many comics and even a 2005 film starring Keanu Reeves.

In Rankin's tale, illustrated by Werther Dell'Edera, Constantine finds himself on a reality TV show in the style of Big Brother. The cameras are always turned on, and strange things are happening to the young contestants. The house seems to be preying on their worst fears, and the producers have no intentions of stopping it. It's up to Constantine to figure out just how these roommates are connected, since none of them can remember even signing up to be on the show. As the attacks continue, what he discovers offers no consolation.

It's a decent setup with plenty of postmodern appeal, but only hardcore fans of our hero Constantine will likely stick around to see him through. Just as the supernatural stakes are raised, the plot runs out of gas. Perhaps the novelist Rankin found it hard to tie up all the loose ends in the relatively short 200 pages of Dark Entries.

Dead Floating Lovers
Sue Emmons

This is a mystery centered on relationships, most of them dysfunctional. Emily Kincaid, a 30-something aspiring novelist, has moved to northern Michigan to chase her dream. She is fast running out of funds and so works as a stringer for a local newspaper to augment her income. Unfortunately, her straying ex-husband is on sabbatical and living nearby, providing plenty of distraction for Kincaid.

Her best--if contentious--friend, Deputy Dolly Wakowski, finds a woman's skeletal remains with a bullet hole in the skull in the shallows of a desolate lake. Blank dog tags with a red beer stein charm are found among the scattered bones and the deputy believes they are the same as the "wedding present" given her by her husband, who disappeared 13 years earlier. The small town soon is buzzing about the grisly discovery which arouses the interest of many of its eccentric characters: the local restaurateur, a secretive librarian, Kindcaid's crusty editor, an eclectic handyman and a mysterious Native American of the Odawa Tribe who may have his own agenda. The search for a killer escalates when it is discovered that two skeletons, not one, were found in the shallow lake waters. No surprise that the second victim is Dolly's long-missing husband. Working together the two women unearth long-held secrets while surviving threats to their own lives. Buzzelli is lyrical in her descriptions of the Michigan countryside in the spring and gives nice twists to her characters in this second outing for Kincaid after Dead Dancing Women. The ending will catch most readers by surprise and may even spur a tear or two.

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

This is a mystery centered on relationships, most of them dysfunctional. Emily Kincaid, a 30-something aspiring novelist, has moved to northern Michigan to chase her dream. She is fast running out of funds and so works as a stringer for a local newspaper to augment her income. Unfortunately, her straying ex-husband is on sabbatical and living nearby, providing plenty of distraction for Kincaid.

Her best--if contentious--friend, Deputy Dolly Wakowski, finds a woman's skeletal remains with a bullet hole in the skull in the shallows of a desolate lake. Blank dog tags with a red beer stein charm are found among the scattered bones and the deputy believes they are the same as the "wedding present" given her by her husband, who disappeared 13 years earlier. The small town soon is buzzing about the grisly discovery which arouses the interest of many of its eccentric characters: the local restaurateur, a secretive librarian, Kindcaid's crusty editor, an eclectic handyman and a mysterious Native American of the Odawa Tribe who may have his own agenda. The search for a killer escalates when it is discovered that two skeletons, not one, were found in the shallow lake waters. No surprise that the second victim is Dolly's long-missing husband. Working together the two women unearth long-held secrets while surviving threats to their own lives. Buzzelli is lyrical in her descriptions of the Michigan countryside in the spring and gives nice twists to her characters in this second outing for Kincaid after Dead Dancing Women. The ending will catch most readers by surprise and may even spur a tear or two.

Dead Men's Dust
Jim Winter

What happens when you pit Jack Reacher against the most psychotic of Ken Bruen's killers? Matt Hilton shows us in Dead Men's Dust.

The killer calls himself "Tubal Cain," or just Cain, descendant of the first murderer and, according to Genesis, inventor of knives. Cain is on a mission. He is, by his own reckoning, the most prolific undetected serial killer working in America. After killing an elderly couple in a California park, Cain heads to Los Angeles to announce his presence to the world. Joe Hunter also kills people. He does it for duty and for pay--and he does it legally. Joe is a former British Special Forces agent now working private security. He's also looking for his half-brother, John, a petty criminal who keeps running afoul of mobsters. Unfortunately for the brothers, John has unwittingly stolen something from the very dangerous Cain, and the mix-up puts Hunter and Cain on a bloody collision course.

Dead Men's Dust is a fast, violent mix of the modern spy thriller and dark noir. Hilton echoes both Bruen (through Cain) and Lee Child (via Hunter). Hunter shows promise as a continuing series character, seemingly invincible, but well aware he isn't. Cain, however, is the star of this one, a polite, charming demon, as evil as they come.

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

What happens when you pit Jack Reacher against the most psychotic of Ken Bruen's killers? Matt Hilton shows us in Dead Men's Dust.

The killer calls himself "Tubal Cain," or just Cain, descendant of the first murderer and, according to Genesis, inventor of knives. Cain is on a mission. He is, by his own reckoning, the most prolific undetected serial killer working in America. After killing an elderly couple in a California park, Cain heads to Los Angeles to announce his presence to the world. Joe Hunter also kills people. He does it for duty and for pay--and he does it legally. Joe is a former British Special Forces agent now working private security. He's also looking for his half-brother, John, a petty criminal who keeps running afoul of mobsters. Unfortunately for the brothers, John has unwittingly stolen something from the very dangerous Cain, and the mix-up puts Hunter and Cain on a bloody collision course.

Dead Men's Dust is a fast, violent mix of the modern spy thriller and dark noir. Hilton echoes both Bruen (through Cain) and Lee Child (via Hunter). Hunter shows promise as a continuing series character, seemingly invincible, but well aware he isn't. Cain, however, is the star of this one, a polite, charming demon, as evil as they come.

Death Wore White
Sue Emmons

Devotees of the creme de la creme of British psychological suspense procedurals should welcome this entry by Jim Kelly, who pairs Detective Inspector Peter Shaw, an officer keen on new techniques in crime solving, with Detective Sergeant George Valentine, his father's old partner who casts a dour eye on new forensics. With the first flakes of a blizzard falling from the sky, the policemen are sent to check on a barrel of possibly hazardous waste that has washed up on the North Norfolk Coast. What Shaw finds instead is an inflatable child's raft with a bloody body aboard. Above the bleak beach, another strand of the mystery begins to unfold as eight vehicles follow a mysteriously placed detour sign from the main coast road onto a single lane road, only to discover that a fallen tree blocks the way. When Shaw and Valentine come to the motorists' aid, another body is discovered in the lead van--with an ice pick inserted through his eye. The only footprints in the snow around the car are those of a second driver, who discovered the dead man and promptly had a heart seizure, and the two policemen. So how did the killer reach his victim?

This is only the beginning of the mayhem in this gritty mystery as one-by-one the secrets of the eight detoured drivers are cunningly exposed. In a twist, new evidence emerges about the botched final case handled by Valentine and Shaw's father, but superior officers refuse to reopen the investigation. The tentacles of crime reach in a myriad of directions before the two detectives solve the case. Hopefully, it is the start of a series by Kelly who deserves accolades both for his pithy plotting and his true-to-life characters, who prove to be crafty as well as charming.

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

Devotees of the creme de la creme of British psychological suspense procedurals should welcome this entry by Jim Kelly, who pairs Detective Inspector Peter Shaw, an officer keen on new techniques in crime solving, with Detective Sergeant George Valentine, his father's old partner who casts a dour eye on new forensics. With the first flakes of a blizzard falling from the sky, the policemen are sent to check on a barrel of possibly hazardous waste that has washed up on the North Norfolk Coast. What Shaw finds instead is an inflatable child's raft with a bloody body aboard. Above the bleak beach, another strand of the mystery begins to unfold as eight vehicles follow a mysteriously placed detour sign from the main coast road onto a single lane road, only to discover that a fallen tree blocks the way. When Shaw and Valentine come to the motorists' aid, another body is discovered in the lead van--with an ice pick inserted through his eye. The only footprints in the snow around the car are those of a second driver, who discovered the dead man and promptly had a heart seizure, and the two policemen. So how did the killer reach his victim?

This is only the beginning of the mayhem in this gritty mystery as one-by-one the secrets of the eight detoured drivers are cunningly exposed. In a twist, new evidence emerges about the botched final case handled by Valentine and Shaw's father, but superior officers refuse to reopen the investigation. The tentacles of crime reach in a myriad of directions before the two detectives solve the case. Hopefully, it is the start of a series by Kelly who deserves accolades both for his pithy plotting and his true-to-life characters, who prove to be crafty as well as charming.

Diamondhead
Oline H. Cogdill

Diamondhead is the latest thriller from author Patrick Robinson and the name of a lethal new anti-tank missile deemed so dangerous the U.N. has labeled its use "an international crime against humanity." That won't deter French industrialist and politician Henri Foche who may even step up production after he is elected president.

Navy SEAL Mack Bedford knows firsthand Diamondhead's devastation, having seen it kill his fellow soldiers on the battlefield. His vengeance for their deaths leads to his court martial and dismissal from the Navy. Back home, Diamondhead's production may force a shipyard that builds warships to shut down. The majority of the residents in Mack's small Maine town owe their living to the shipyard. To stop Diamondhead and save the town, a plan is hatched to assassinate Foche before he can get into office. Mack has an even more personal reason to accept the assignment--he'll use the money for an experimental operation for his sick son.

Mack's traipsing across Europe to kill Foche has echoes of The Jackal in this larger-than-life action tale. Diamondhead is strongest when Patrick Robinson, author of eight thrillers and co-author of the nonfiction bestseller Lone Survivor, concentrates on the action-packed scenes. Diamondhead shows the brutality of war in battlefield scenes that won't soon be forgotten.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

Diamondhead is the latest thriller from author Patrick Robinson and the name of a lethal new anti-tank missile deemed so dangerous the U.N. has labeled its use "an international crime against humanity." That won't deter French industrialist and politician Henri Foche who may even step up production after he is elected president.

Navy SEAL Mack Bedford knows firsthand Diamondhead's devastation, having seen it kill his fellow soldiers on the battlefield. His vengeance for their deaths leads to his court martial and dismissal from the Navy. Back home, Diamondhead's production may force a shipyard that builds warships to shut down. The majority of the residents in Mack's small Maine town owe their living to the shipyard. To stop Diamondhead and save the town, a plan is hatched to assassinate Foche before he can get into office. Mack has an even more personal reason to accept the assignment--he'll use the money for an experimental operation for his sick son.

Mack's traipsing across Europe to kill Foche has echoes of The Jackal in this larger-than-life action tale. Diamondhead is strongest when Patrick Robinson, author of eight thrillers and co-author of the nonfiction bestseller Lone Survivor, concentrates on the action-packed scenes. Diamondhead shows the brutality of war in battlefield scenes that won't soon be forgotten.

Dope Thief
Kevin Burton Smith

Can a man truly be defined by the worst thing he's ever done? That's the question that haunts Ray, the central character in Dennis Tafoya's fierce debut novel, Dope Thief. So many new "noir" writers seem to have been weaned on the popcorn pulp fiction fantasies of Tarantino and his disciples that it's an enjoyable kick in the head to discover an author who pays as much attention to character as to mayhem. Not that Dope Fiend is all Jane Austen or anything, but Tafoya's idea of action aims higher than just cooking up a few cool scenes to swig down with a jumbo Coke at the multiplex in a year or two.

Young Philly low lifes Ray and Manny have what they think is a sweet gig--posing as DEA agents and ripping off low-level drug dealers for their stash and their cash. It is an easy way to score but, as Ray reflects, "It couldn't go on forever. Everyone was high. Everyone was stupid. Everyone had guns." And sure enough, it's not long before these two criminal masterminds take down the wrong marks: a brutal gang of bikers who want more than just their pound of flesh. Forced to flee, the two friends split up, and the story takes an abrupt bounce, becoming a brooding, character-driven study with a peculiarly philosophical bent, as Ray tries to make sense of a raw, hard-scraped world of "fucked-up people." Refreshingly, this isn't glib, predigested cynicism or dime store nihilism on sale here--Tafoya isn't afraid to probe the wounds of Ray's tortured and bruised psyche, upping the ante on every sentence, every word in this book. Yeah, there's a girl, and enough of the sort of rough and bloody violence you'd expect, but the real action--and the real pleasure--lies in the author's willingness to dig deeper. Anyone can write about a character shooting a gun, but it takes a real writer to make us care not just about where the bullet's going but about the man who's pulling the trigger. Fans of the young man blues as played by Richard Price or George Pelecanos take note--there's a new kid in town.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

Can a man truly be defined by the worst thing he's ever done? That's the question that haunts Ray, the central character in Dennis Tafoya's fierce debut novel, Dope Thief. So many new "noir" writers seem to have been weaned on the popcorn pulp fiction fantasies of Tarantino and his disciples that it's an enjoyable kick in the head to discover an author who pays as much attention to character as to mayhem. Not that Dope Fiend is all Jane Austen or anything, but Tafoya's idea of action aims higher than just cooking up a few cool scenes to swig down with a jumbo Coke at the multiplex in a year or two.

Young Philly low lifes Ray and Manny have what they think is a sweet gig--posing as DEA agents and ripping off low-level drug dealers for their stash and their cash. It is an easy way to score but, as Ray reflects, "It couldn't go on forever. Everyone was high. Everyone was stupid. Everyone had guns." And sure enough, it's not long before these two criminal masterminds take down the wrong marks: a brutal gang of bikers who want more than just their pound of flesh. Forced to flee, the two friends split up, and the story takes an abrupt bounce, becoming a brooding, character-driven study with a peculiarly philosophical bent, as Ray tries to make sense of a raw, hard-scraped world of "fucked-up people." Refreshingly, this isn't glib, predigested cynicism or dime store nihilism on sale here--Tafoya isn't afraid to probe the wounds of Ray's tortured and bruised psyche, upping the ante on every sentence, every word in this book. Yeah, there's a girl, and enough of the sort of rough and bloody violence you'd expect, but the real action--and the real pleasure--lies in the author's willingness to dig deeper. Anyone can write about a character shooting a gun, but it takes a real writer to make us care not just about where the bullet's going but about the man who's pulling the trigger. Fans of the young man blues as played by Richard Price or George Pelecanos take note--there's a new kid in town.

Embarking on Murder
Dori Cocuz

In Embarking on Murder, Sue Owens Wright's slightly batty buttinsky, Elsie "Beanie" MacBean turns 50, gets involved in a murder investigation, claims she's seen the legendary Tessie (the Lake Tahoe version of Loch Ness' Nessie) and adds to her eclectic lineup of professions when she accepts a job as a private detective.

Embarking on Murder is chockablock with personality and word play. Beanie's vibrant persona practically leaps off the pages of the book and each page drips with "punishing" turns of phrase. But in spite of the sometimes overused and groan inducing puns, Beanie's antics are a good way to while away an afternoon. The reader just never knows what crazy hijinks Beanie and her Bassett hound sidekick Cruiser will get into next.Wright cleverly interweaves the murder whodunit with the mystery of the lake's mythological denizen and I was just as eager to find out the truth behind Tessie as I was to discover the bad guy's identity.

Embarking on Murder is a fair play mystery in the truest sense. Wright liberally sprinkles the novel with clues, and though a few red herrings might throw the reader off course, chances are you'll have figured out whodunit, and why, before Beanie does.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

In Embarking on Murder, Sue Owens Wright's slightly batty buttinsky, Elsie "Beanie" MacBean turns 50, gets involved in a murder investigation, claims she's seen the legendary Tessie (the Lake Tahoe version of Loch Ness' Nessie) and adds to her eclectic lineup of professions when she accepts a job as a private detective.

Embarking on Murder is chockablock with personality and word play. Beanie's vibrant persona practically leaps off the pages of the book and each page drips with "punishing" turns of phrase. But in spite of the sometimes overused and groan inducing puns, Beanie's antics are a good way to while away an afternoon. The reader just never knows what crazy hijinks Beanie and her Bassett hound sidekick Cruiser will get into next.Wright cleverly interweaves the murder whodunit with the mystery of the lake's mythological denizen and I was just as eager to find out the truth behind Tessie as I was to discover the bad guy's identity.

Embarking on Murder is a fair play mystery in the truest sense. Wright liberally sprinkles the novel with clues, and though a few red herrings might throw the reader off course, chances are you'll have figured out whodunit, and why, before Beanie does.

Fear the Worst
Kevin Burton Smith

You don't need lower-than-low life forms or exotic serial killers and hit men to set off fireworks. For most of us, noir hits us hardest when it hits us where we live. Which is why, perhaps, the suburban noir has enjoyed such a long, thematically unwavering history, stretching from Cain's Mildred Pierce right up to Harlan Coben's latest tangled family tale. Barclay's Fear the Worst is a solid addition to this sub-subgenre, and it's the sheer normality of most of its characters that really brings it back home. A broken home, a good daughter, a wild friend, a fragile ex-wife, new relationships, the shards of old ones, mopey teenagers, office squabbles, slick salesmen, a cookie cutter sub-division—if there's anything vaguely exotic about any of this, I sure missed it. Even the divorced couple at its core, used car salesman Tim Blake and his ex, Suzanne, aren't the perpetually squabbling wolverines so often depicted in literature and film, but normal, battered adults simply trying to rebuild their lives, hoping they haven't messed up their 17-year-old daughter Sydney too badly. They carry on, trying to do as right as they can. Just like you, just like me. Good intentions all around. But we all know where those can lead. And for Tim, hell is the moment Sydney doesn't come home from her summer job at a local hotel. She's no angel, Tim ruefully concedes, but things take an abrupt turn when the hotel staff claims to have never heard of her, and Tim's increasingly frustrating search eventually strips bare the safe, smug patina of banality that passes for the pursuit of happiness. Lies, hate, deceit, shattered families, fraud, alcoholism, jealousy, prostitution, loneliness, rape, even murder--none of it is quite as far away as you might think. By the time Barclay jacks up the tension to Hitchcockian levels, you'll be peering through the shades, wondering what the neighbor's doing in his garage this late at night. And where your own daughter is.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

You don't need lower-than-low life forms or exotic serial killers and hit men to set off fireworks. For most of us, noir hits us hardest when it hits us where we live. Which is why, perhaps, the suburban noir has enjoyed such a long, thematically unwavering history, stretching from Cain's Mildred Pierce right up to Harlan Coben's latest tangled family tale. Barclay's Fear the Worst is a solid addition to this sub-subgenre, and it's the sheer normality of most of its characters that really brings it back home. A broken home, a good daughter, a wild friend, a fragile ex-wife, new relationships, the shards of old ones, mopey teenagers, office squabbles, slick salesmen, a cookie cutter sub-division—if there's anything vaguely exotic about any of this, I sure missed it. Even the divorced couple at its core, used car salesman Tim Blake and his ex, Suzanne, aren't the perpetually squabbling wolverines so often depicted in literature and film, but normal, battered adults simply trying to rebuild their lives, hoping they haven't messed up their 17-year-old daughter Sydney too badly. They carry on, trying to do as right as they can. Just like you, just like me. Good intentions all around. But we all know where those can lead. And for Tim, hell is the moment Sydney doesn't come home from her summer job at a local hotel. She's no angel, Tim ruefully concedes, but things take an abrupt turn when the hotel staff claims to have never heard of her, and Tim's increasingly frustrating search eventually strips bare the safe, smug patina of banality that passes for the pursuit of happiness. Lies, hate, deceit, shattered families, fraud, alcoholism, jealousy, prostitution, loneliness, rape, even murder--none of it is quite as far away as you might think. By the time Barclay jacks up the tension to Hitchcockian levels, you'll be peering through the shades, wondering what the neighbor's doing in his garage this late at night. And where your own daughter is.

Filthy Rich
M. Schlecht

All fans of noir will enjoy Brian Azzarello's Filthy Rich, and those who also love graphic novels even more so. Victor Santos makes the seedy streets and clubs of New York come alive with his illustrations; the panels he draws of streetlight filtering through blinds in a bedroom are a great example of the possibilities of the genre.

The action begins with Richard "Junk" Junkin, a local football legend, trading in on his former glory to make a living selling cars. He's not very good at it, and when the boss offers a new job looking after his daughter, a rich girl who could give Lindsay Lohan a run for her money, Junk accepts. All fans of noir are by now nodding with recognition and the anticipation of events to come.

Despite the limitations of its classic femme fatale structure, Filthy Rich keeps things interesting with a range of colorful characters including young New York socialites, the paparazzi who follow them, and a troubled main character who's looking to turn his life around. He succeeds in that, but the direction he turns may not bode well for his future.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

All fans of noir will enjoy Brian Azzarello's Filthy Rich, and those who also love graphic novels even more so. Victor Santos makes the seedy streets and clubs of New York come alive with his illustrations; the panels he draws of streetlight filtering through blinds in a bedroom are a great example of the possibilities of the genre.

The action begins with Richard "Junk" Junkin, a local football legend, trading in on his former glory to make a living selling cars. He's not very good at it, and when the boss offers a new job looking after his daughter, a rich girl who could give Lindsay Lohan a run for her money, Junk accepts. All fans of noir are by now nodding with recognition and the anticipation of events to come.

Despite the limitations of its classic femme fatale structure, Filthy Rich keeps things interesting with a range of colorful characters including young New York socialites, the paparazzi who follow them, and a troubled main character who's looking to turn his life around. He succeeds in that, but the direction he turns may not bode well for his future.

Final Finesse
Verna Suit

Samantha Reid is Deputy Assistant to the President for Homeland Security. Mostly she writes speeches for her unbelievably incompetent boss. When a series of gas line explosions leaves parts of the heartland without power or heat in late December, it falls to Samantha to investigate whether terrorism is involved and what the motive could be. To drive up prices? To push alternative energy?

When Samantha meets Tripp Adams, a VP of GeoGlobal which owns the targeted lines, things quickly turn from professional to sizzling romance. When Tripp goes to Venezuela to negotiate company business and is kidnapped, Samantha risks her life and job by rushing to Caracas and leveraging her White House position to arrange Tripp's rescue.

The fragility of the natural gas supply provides the focus for this third book in Bodman's international thriller series following Checkmate and Gambit, but the somewhat abstract national concern diminishes the threat's impact. As with all her books, the insider details that Bodman, a former White House staffer with firsthand experience, brings to her descriptions is one of Final Finesse's biggest strengths. Scenes in the White House Mess are fascinating, but other details are sometimes irrelevant and interrupt building tension. Even so, this is a fast read that holds one's interest through the final exciting rescue.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

Samantha Reid is Deputy Assistant to the President for Homeland Security. Mostly she writes speeches for her unbelievably incompetent boss. When a series of gas line explosions leaves parts of the heartland without power or heat in late December, it falls to Samantha to investigate whether terrorism is involved and what the motive could be. To drive up prices? To push alternative energy?

When Samantha meets Tripp Adams, a VP of GeoGlobal which owns the targeted lines, things quickly turn from professional to sizzling romance. When Tripp goes to Venezuela to negotiate company business and is kidnapped, Samantha risks her life and job by rushing to Caracas and leveraging her White House position to arrange Tripp's rescue.

The fragility of the natural gas supply provides the focus for this third book in Bodman's international thriller series following Checkmate and Gambit, but the somewhat abstract national concern diminishes the threat's impact. As with all her books, the insider details that Bodman, a former White House staffer with firsthand experience, brings to her descriptions is one of Final Finesse's biggest strengths. Scenes in the White House Mess are fascinating, but other details are sometimes irrelevant and interrupt building tension. Even so, this is a fast read that holds one's interest through the final exciting rescue.

Free Agent
Verna Suit

It's 1969, and British Secret Intelligence Service agent Paul Dark learns that a Russian KGB officer in Nigeria wants to defect in exchange for naming a British agent recruited by Russia in 1945--namely Paul himself. Realizing his identity is about to be blown, he races to Nigeria to stave off disaster, after first murdering the only person who can connect him with the defector.

Free Agent moves into high gear in the first chapter and the suspense never lets up. Paul knows he's been used and lied to by both sides and no longer wants to serve either, but he also doesn't want to go to prison. Readers may not sympathize with Paul, clearly a traitor who has been selling out his country for almost 25 years, but they will empathize with his perilous situation as he runs for his life from both Brits and Russians. In Paul's world of double and triple agents, he is never sure who he can trust or if anyone is who they appear to be.

This intricate, exciting story plays out against a background of the Nigerian-Biafran Civil War (1967-1970), with flashbacks to 1945 Germany that throw light on Paul's recruitment and reasons for his divided loyalties. The authentic period settings and depictions of the world of intelligence benefit from the author's meticulous research, and an appended bibliography helps this work of fiction seem all the more real. This debut novel is the first in a planned trilogy featuring Paul Dark and I eagerly look forward to the next installment.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

It's 1969, and British Secret Intelligence Service agent Paul Dark learns that a Russian KGB officer in Nigeria wants to defect in exchange for naming a British agent recruited by Russia in 1945--namely Paul himself. Realizing his identity is about to be blown, he races to Nigeria to stave off disaster, after first murdering the only person who can connect him with the defector.

Free Agent moves into high gear in the first chapter and the suspense never lets up. Paul knows he's been used and lied to by both sides and no longer wants to serve either, but he also doesn't want to go to prison. Readers may not sympathize with Paul, clearly a traitor who has been selling out his country for almost 25 years, but they will empathize with his perilous situation as he runs for his life from both Brits and Russians. In Paul's world of double and triple agents, he is never sure who he can trust or if anyone is who they appear to be.

This intricate, exciting story plays out against a background of the Nigerian-Biafran Civil War (1967-1970), with flashbacks to 1945 Germany that throw light on Paul's recruitment and reasons for his divided loyalties. The authentic period settings and depictions of the world of intelligence benefit from the author's meticulous research, and an appended bibliography helps this work of fiction seem all the more real. This debut novel is the first in a planned trilogy featuring Paul Dark and I eagerly look forward to the next installment.

Get Real
Charles L. P. Silet

Donald Westlake first created the character of John Dortmunder, a dour work-a-day crook, in The Hot Rock published back in 1970. Get Real is the 14th and the last of Dortmunder and crew's criminally comic comedies.

The mother of Stan Murch, one of Dortmunder's gang, picks up Doug Fairkeep in her cab and soon finds out he is a producer of reality television shows. She lets slip that her son's work is somewhat on the left side of the law and Fairkeep immediately loves the idea of creating a show following a group of miscreants pulling a job. So Dortmunder and Co. go into show biz.

John Dortmunder assembles the gang, Stan, Tiny, Andy Kelp, and The Kid, and they begin plotting how they can collect their TV money, pull their on-camera heist, and finagle another, more lucrative, bit of work on the side without getting caught by either the cops or the Get Real production company. What ensues is the best kind of scheming, mishap, and humor.

Donald Westlake died last New Year's Eve at the age of 75. He had written over one hundred books, won Edgars in three different categories, and was a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master. Several of his novels have been made into films, and one of his Edgars was for the screen adaptation of Jim Thompson's The Grifters. Westlake wrote under a number of pseudonyms, the most famous of which was noir favorite Richard Stark. No writer was ever better at the comic crime caper than Don Westlake, and Get Real is a testament to that.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

Donald Westlake first created the character of John Dortmunder, a dour work-a-day crook, in The Hot Rock published back in 1970. Get Real is the 14th and the last of Dortmunder and crew's criminally comic comedies.

The mother of Stan Murch, one of Dortmunder's gang, picks up Doug Fairkeep in her cab and soon finds out he is a producer of reality television shows. She lets slip that her son's work is somewhat on the left side of the law and Fairkeep immediately loves the idea of creating a show following a group of miscreants pulling a job. So Dortmunder and Co. go into show biz.

John Dortmunder assembles the gang, Stan, Tiny, Andy Kelp, and The Kid, and they begin plotting how they can collect their TV money, pull their on-camera heist, and finagle another, more lucrative, bit of work on the side without getting caught by either the cops or the Get Real production company. What ensues is the best kind of scheming, mishap, and humor.

Donald Westlake died last New Year's Eve at the age of 75. He had written over one hundred books, won Edgars in three different categories, and was a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master. Several of his novels have been made into films, and one of his Edgars was for the screen adaptation of Jim Thompson's The Grifters. Westlake wrote under a number of pseudonyms, the most famous of which was noir favorite Richard Stark. No writer was ever better at the comic crime caper than Don Westlake, and Get Real is a testament to that.

Hoodoo
Betty Webb

You don't have to be a geologist to enjoy a mystery based on geology, but chances are good that after finishing Hoodoo, you might just hustle out to the nearest rock pile and begin poking around. The enthusiasm that Miller, herself a geologist, has for her subject is infectious. This tale of murder and greed is set in southern Arizona's Chiricahua National Monument, a wilderness area under threat from outsiders wanting to money-farm it, and mining companies wanting to destroy it. When a man is found murdered, his body surrounded by Apache Indian signs, field geologist Frankie MacFarlane, a part-Apache who loves "the mystery in the rocks," is drawn into the case. The characters, which include a former barrel-racer, a rancher dying of Alzheimer's, a racist mining executive, and an ethno-botanist who has taken a vow of silence, are as fascinating as the desolate setting. Woven throughout this intriguing mystery is a stern warning: Once the wilderness is gone, it can never be reclaimed. Hoodoo also provides some startling information. Those of us who own homes, ranches, or farms don't necessarily own the actual mineral rights; if we don't, companies that do own the rights can begin drilling in our backyards--without our consent.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

You don't have to be a geologist to enjoy a mystery based on geology, but chances are good that after finishing Hoodoo, you might just hustle out to the nearest rock pile and begin poking around. The enthusiasm that Miller, herself a geologist, has for her subject is infectious. This tale of murder and greed is set in southern Arizona's Chiricahua National Monument, a wilderness area under threat from outsiders wanting to money-farm it, and mining companies wanting to destroy it. When a man is found murdered, his body surrounded by Apache Indian signs, field geologist Frankie MacFarlane, a part-Apache who loves "the mystery in the rocks," is drawn into the case. The characters, which include a former barrel-racer, a rancher dying of Alzheimer's, a racist mining executive, and an ethno-botanist who has taken a vow of silence, are as fascinating as the desolate setting. Woven throughout this intriguing mystery is a stern warning: Once the wilderness is gone, it can never be reclaimed. Hoodoo also provides some startling information. Those of us who own homes, ranches, or farms don't necessarily own the actual mineral rights; if we don't, companies that do own the rights can begin drilling in our backyards--without our consent.

Killer Cuts
Lynne F. Maxwell

In Killer Cuts, the eighth installment in the always entertaining Dead-End Job series, Helen finds herself working in a trendy hair salon in Fort Lauderdale. She is still on the lam from both her sleazy, parasitic ex-husband and the long arm of the law, having destroyed her ex's car after catching him in flagrante delicto with her neighbor. While in her native St. Louis, Helen held an excellent professional position, earning a handsome six-figure salary. Now she maintains a low profile by seeking low status, low visibility jobs where corpses seem to somehow turn up--and her most recent job is no exception.

Killer Cuts finds Helen serving as factotum to Miguel Angel, hairdresser to the stars. Tension floods the salon as its celebrity owner prepares a young bride-to-be for her imminent wedding to a disgusting, but filthy rich, older man whose claim to fame is a cable TV gossip show. Helen and Miguel Angel are invited to attend the wedding reception, which turns deadly for the groom and for Miguel Angel's reputation. Helen, of course, and her own fiance Phil, leap into action to solve the murder. I won't spoil your pleasure by revealing more of Viets' clever and amusing plot, but cozy lovers should take my word that Killer Cuts is well worth a read, and the Dead-End Jobs series is one readers will visit again and again.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

In Killer Cuts, the eighth installment in the always entertaining Dead-End Job series, Helen finds herself working in a trendy hair salon in Fort Lauderdale. She is still on the lam from both her sleazy, parasitic ex-husband and the long arm of the law, having destroyed her ex's car after catching him in flagrante delicto with her neighbor. While in her native St. Louis, Helen held an excellent professional position, earning a handsome six-figure salary. Now she maintains a low profile by seeking low status, low visibility jobs where corpses seem to somehow turn up--and her most recent job is no exception.

Killer Cuts finds Helen serving as factotum to Miguel Angel, hairdresser to the stars. Tension floods the salon as its celebrity owner prepares a young bride-to-be for her imminent wedding to a disgusting, but filthy rich, older man whose claim to fame is a cable TV gossip show. Helen and Miguel Angel are invited to attend the wedding reception, which turns deadly for the groom and for Miguel Angel's reputation. Helen, of course, and her own fiance Phil, leap into action to solve the murder. I won't spoil your pleasure by revealing more of Viets' clever and amusing plot, but cozy lovers should take my word that Killer Cuts is well worth a read, and the Dead-End Jobs series is one readers will visit again and again.

Londongrad
Hank Wagner

Reggie Nadelson, where have you been all my life? This book is not just a well-written thriller, but one of those, "Damn, she's really good" type of books, the kind that inspires reading junkies such as this reviewer to immediately seek out the author's backlist to see what he's been missing. And lo, there is a backlist, and it includes seven books in this series alone, all receiving rave notices from critics and readers.

Londongrad is a dark, moody, brooding gem that's bound to get under your skin. First, it features Artie Cohen, a fine point-of-view character who readers are willing to follow just about anywhere. And anywhere is fairly accurate, as the Russian-born police detective travels from New York, to London, to Moscow (his time there evokes Martin Cruz Smith's classic, Gorky Park) seeking the truth behind two murders, one a ghastly, tragic mistake, and the other, well, that would be telling. Suffice it to say that the drama and pathos Nadelson milks from the second victim's passing is worth the price of admission all on its own.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-22 03:02:57

Reggie Nadelson, where have you been all my life? This book is not just a well-written thriller, but one of those, "Damn, she's really good" type of books, the kind that inspires reading junkies such as this reviewer to immediately seek out the author's backlist to see what he's been missing. And lo, there is a backlist, and it includes seven books in this series alone, all receiving rave notices from critics and readers.

Londongrad is a dark, moody, brooding gem that's bound to get under your skin. First, it features Artie Cohen, a fine point-of-view character who readers are willing to follow just about anywhere. And anywhere is fairly accurate, as the Russian-born police detective travels from New York, to London, to Moscow (his time there evokes Martin Cruz Smith's classic, Gorky Park) seeking the truth behind two murders, one a ghastly, tragic mistake, and the other, well, that would be telling. Suffice it to say that the drama and pathos Nadelson milks from the second victim's passing is worth the price of admission all on its own.