The Water's Edge (Judson)
Hank Wagner

After a double murder in the Hamptons--the corpses of two mobsters, their hands severed, are found hanging from the Shinnecock Bridge--ex-boxer Jake "Pay Day" Bechet assumes that someone has crossed his former employers, the Castello crime family, with whom he has forged an uneasy truce. Still, such activity so close to home makes him uneasy. It turns out that that feeling is justified, as he is subsequently accosted by Jorge Castello, who tries to blackmail Bechet into investigating the killings, claiming someone is trying to pin the blame on his organization. Although reluctant to become entangled in Castello business again, Bechet realizes that the only way to keep his past from destroying his present is to uncover the truth. His investigation leads him to form an uneasy alliance with Tommy Miller, a retired PI whose ex-girlfriend Abby figures prominently in their mystery investigation.

The Water's Edge is an atmospheric masterpiece, teeming with melancholy, longing, and sudden, shocking violence. Although Bechet and Miller are fascinating leading men, perhaps the most important character is Abby, who Judson never brings on stage, instead presenting her to the audience through remembrances, and appearances on videotape. That readers experience the presence of this enigmatic character so powerfully is a tribute to Judson's writing ability--readers come to trust his characters' perceptions as if they were dealing with one of their own intimate, flesh and blood, acquaintances.

Admin
2010-04-25 16:07:34

After a double murder in the Hamptons--the corpses of two mobsters, their hands severed, are found hanging from the Shinnecock Bridge--ex-boxer Jake "Pay Day" Bechet assumes that someone has crossed his former employers, the Castello crime family, with whom he has forged an uneasy truce. Still, such activity so close to home makes him uneasy. It turns out that that feeling is justified, as he is subsequently accosted by Jorge Castello, who tries to blackmail Bechet into investigating the killings, claiming someone is trying to pin the blame on his organization. Although reluctant to become entangled in Castello business again, Bechet realizes that the only way to keep his past from destroying his present is to uncover the truth. His investigation leads him to form an uneasy alliance with Tommy Miller, a retired PI whose ex-girlfriend Abby figures prominently in their mystery investigation.

The Water's Edge is an atmospheric masterpiece, teeming with melancholy, longing, and sudden, shocking violence. Although Bechet and Miller are fascinating leading men, perhaps the most important character is Abby, who Judson never brings on stage, instead presenting her to the audience through remembrances, and appearances on videotape. That readers experience the presence of this enigmatic character so powerfully is a tribute to Judson's writing ability--readers come to trust his characters' perceptions as if they were dealing with one of their own intimate, flesh and blood, acquaintances.

The Winter of Her Discontent
Mary Helen Becker

Set in 1943, Rosie Winter's second adventure finds her still living in a Greenwich Village rooming house for young women in the theater. Her boyfriend Jack is missing in action and her career has yet to take off, but romance, career, and wartime rationing are the least of her worries when her friend Al, who works for a gangster, is put in prison for a murder Rosie and her friend Jayne are certain he did not commit. Determined to help him, they keep turning up to visit, but Al is not glad to see them. They can't understand this or why Jayne's off-and-on boyfriend, mobster Tony, doesn't get Al out.

The World War II atmosphere here is excellent--Rosie learns about codes, black market meat, and vicious scams perpetrated on the troops. And the actresses volunteer at the Stage Door Canteen in an effort to cheer up soldiers home on leave. Winter of Her Discontent is not a typical murder mystery, but contains plenty of crime and suspense, all told through Rosie's humorous take on life despite the tragedy of the war.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:07:34

Set in 1943, Rosie Winter's second adventure finds her still living in a Greenwich Village rooming house for young women in the theater. Her boyfriend Jack is missing in action and her career has yet to take off, but romance, career, and wartime rationing are the least of her worries when her friend Al, who works for a gangster, is put in prison for a murder Rosie and her friend Jayne are certain he did not commit. Determined to help him, they keep turning up to visit, but Al is not glad to see them. They can't understand this or why Jayne's off-and-on boyfriend, mobster Tony, doesn't get Al out.

The World War II atmosphere here is excellent--Rosie learns about codes, black market meat, and vicious scams perpetrated on the troops. And the actresses volunteer at the Stage Door Canteen in an effort to cheer up soldiers home on leave. Winter of Her Discontent is not a typical murder mystery, but contains plenty of crime and suspense, all told through Rosie's humorous take on life despite the tragedy of the war.

To the Death
Charles L.P. Silet

To the Death is the concluding novel of the post-Bush espionage thrillers starring the wily and cantankerous Admiral Arnold Morgan, personal advisor to the United States' President. It has what all first-rate international thrillers have: multiple characters (three pages worth), globe-hopping action, and overlapping story lines.

This time the Commander in Chief of Hamas, General Ravi Rashida, and his Palestinian wife, Shakira, plan to assassinate Admiral Arnold Morgan in retaliation for their foiled attacks in the US, and for a failed assassination attempt on their lives. It all begins at Boston's Logan airport when two local cops discover a bomb and manage to dispose of it before it injures too many passengers. Then a wayward Canadian airliner is shot down from a flight path aimed directly at the Capitol. Meanwhile reporter Henry Brady of the Washington Post works to expose a military cover-up involving the destruction of a civilian aircraft and the secrets of the US intelligence apparatus.

As the action ricochets around the world from the Middle East to the United States, London, Ireland, and Scotland, Robinson cranks up the tension and keeps the plot on the boil right up to its breakneck conclusion.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:07:34

To the Death is the concluding novel of the post-Bush espionage thrillers starring the wily and cantankerous Admiral Arnold Morgan, personal advisor to the United States' President. It has what all first-rate international thrillers have: multiple characters (three pages worth), globe-hopping action, and overlapping story lines.

This time the Commander in Chief of Hamas, General Ravi Rashida, and his Palestinian wife, Shakira, plan to assassinate Admiral Arnold Morgan in retaliation for their foiled attacks in the US, and for a failed assassination attempt on their lives. It all begins at Boston's Logan airport when two local cops discover a bomb and manage to dispose of it before it injures too many passengers. Then a wayward Canadian airliner is shot down from a flight path aimed directly at the Capitol. Meanwhile reporter Henry Brady of the Washington Post works to expose a military cover-up involving the destruction of a civilian aircraft and the secrets of the US intelligence apparatus.

As the action ricochets around the world from the Middle East to the United States, London, Ireland, and Scotland, Robinson cranks up the tension and keeps the plot on the boil right up to its breakneck conclusion.

Vita Nuova
Charles L.P. Silet

Magdalen Nabb died last August so Vita Nuova will be the last Marshall Guarnaccia novel. Her detailed use of Florence and environs lent to her series a rich sense of place and atmosphere, and this latest, in which the Marshall is called in to investigate the shooting death of a woman at a posh hillside villa outside of the city, is no exception.

The victim turns out to be the daughter of a local gangster, Paoletti, who runs prostitutes from Eastern Europe through his nightclub and employment agency. Attached to the club is a brothel that caters to a variety of sexual interests, including those involving children. The Marshall discovers a list of prominent Florentines who have used Paoletti's services, making them vulnerable to blackmail. Among the listed is prosecutor Fulvio De Vita, under whom the Marshall is conducting his case. If he probes too hard the Marshall could lose his job, but with children involved, he pursues the investigation in spite of the dangers to his own career.

In the last pages of the novel one of the characters tells Guarnaccia that he is a good man. And he has always been the most compassionate of police officers, as gentle with the criminals he arrests as he is with the victims he comforts. He is a loving husband and father, an understanding son, and a patient mentor to the junior officers under his tutelage. Sadly, we will not have any more investigations to look forward to by this good man.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:07:34

Magdalen Nabb died last August so Vita Nuova will be the last Marshall Guarnaccia novel. Her detailed use of Florence and environs lent to her series a rich sense of place and atmosphere, and this latest, in which the Marshall is called in to investigate the shooting death of a woman at a posh hillside villa outside of the city, is no exception.

The victim turns out to be the daughter of a local gangster, Paoletti, who runs prostitutes from Eastern Europe through his nightclub and employment agency. Attached to the club is a brothel that caters to a variety of sexual interests, including those involving children. The Marshall discovers a list of prominent Florentines who have used Paoletti's services, making them vulnerable to blackmail. Among the listed is prosecutor Fulvio De Vita, under whom the Marshall is conducting his case. If he probes too hard the Marshall could lose his job, but with children involved, he pursues the investigation in spite of the dangers to his own career.

In the last pages of the novel one of the characters tells Guarnaccia that he is a good man. And he has always been the most compassionate of police officers, as gentle with the criminals he arrests as he is with the victims he comforts. He is a loving husband and father, an understanding son, and a patient mentor to the junior officers under his tutelage. Sadly, we will not have any more investigations to look forward to by this good man.

Vodka Neat
Betty Webb

Faith Zanetti, a foul-mouthed, hard-drinking British journalist, makes her American debut in Anna Blundy's remarkable Vodka Neat, which describes a contemporary Russia which appears much less safe than under Soviet rule. This is a topsy-turvy world where a neighborhood filled with Mercedes is a neighborhood where only gangsters reside. Faith should know: 15 years earlier, she married one of them.

Back in Russia after a long absence spent covering various wars and enduring various breakdowns, Faith discovers that her estranged husband has been locked up after confessing to a grisly double homicide. Guilt-ridden because of her own half-remembered involvement in the crime, she visits him in his ghastly prison, but the secret she uncovers in his cell is even more shocking than the murders.

Blundy, a former Moscow Bureau Chief for the London Times, is peerless in her depiction of modern Moscow, with its soot-colored snow, ersatz-Western nightlife, and depressed British ex-pats slugging back vodka with their Russian gangster friends. When she takes us to Vorkuta, a nightmarish settlement deep inside the Arctic Circle, she makes us shiver in the sub-zero temperatures and feel the despair of forgotten families who can only dream of the warmer comforts of Moscow.

Vodka Neat is astonishing in its bleak beauty, uncompromising in its depiction of a deeply-flawed woman in pursuit of her long-vanished innocence. Yet for all its grimness, this is a hugely funny book, containing wit on every page. For, as Faith tells us, the harder life gets in Russia, the more its citizens laugh.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:07:34

Faith Zanetti, a foul-mouthed, hard-drinking British journalist, makes her American debut in Anna Blundy's remarkable Vodka Neat, which describes a contemporary Russia which appears much less safe than under Soviet rule. This is a topsy-turvy world where a neighborhood filled with Mercedes is a neighborhood where only gangsters reside. Faith should know: 15 years earlier, she married one of them.

Back in Russia after a long absence spent covering various wars and enduring various breakdowns, Faith discovers that her estranged husband has been locked up after confessing to a grisly double homicide. Guilt-ridden because of her own half-remembered involvement in the crime, she visits him in his ghastly prison, but the secret she uncovers in his cell is even more shocking than the murders.

Blundy, a former Moscow Bureau Chief for the London Times, is peerless in her depiction of modern Moscow, with its soot-colored snow, ersatz-Western nightlife, and depressed British ex-pats slugging back vodka with their Russian gangster friends. When she takes us to Vorkuta, a nightmarish settlement deep inside the Arctic Circle, she makes us shiver in the sub-zero temperatures and feel the despair of forgotten families who can only dream of the warmer comforts of Moscow.

Vodka Neat is astonishing in its bleak beauty, uncompromising in its depiction of a deeply-flawed woman in pursuit of her long-vanished innocence. Yet for all its grimness, this is a hugely funny book, containing wit on every page. For, as Faith tells us, the harder life gets in Russia, the more its citizens laugh.

A Job to Kill For
Lynne Maxwell

Editor in Chief of Parade magazine, TV producer, and established author, Janice Kaplan knows what it takes to assemble a winning plot, and A Job to Kill For is proof positive. In Kaplan's sophomore mystery, L.A. decorator Lacy Fields witnesses the startling death of Cassie Crawford, a young and wealthy client. Soon Lacy discovers that it wasn't an accident that killed Cassie: It was a murder. Lacy embarks upon her own private investigation, focusing upon Cassie's ultra-wealthy and oft-wed older husband, along with other potential suspects. She also has reason to consider her best friend a possible suspect. To compound matters--or, rather, to confound them--Lacy's son becomes involved in a secret and dangerous college fraternity that proves to be connected to the crime.

While the plot takes numerous unexpected twists and turns, the prime feature of this novel is Kaplan's wholly credible characterization of Lacy. A soccer mom and dedicated parent, married to a handsome, supportive plastic surgeon, Lacy has it all, but she is still down-to-earth, witty, and someone I would love to count as a friend. Kaplan's ability to bring Lacy alive in the face of death makes this a book to kill for.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:07:34

Editor in Chief of Parade magazine, TV producer, and established author, Janice Kaplan knows what it takes to assemble a winning plot, and A Job to Kill For is proof positive. In Kaplan's sophomore mystery, L.A. decorator Lacy Fields witnesses the startling death of Cassie Crawford, a young and wealthy client. Soon Lacy discovers that it wasn't an accident that killed Cassie: It was a murder. Lacy embarks upon her own private investigation, focusing upon Cassie's ultra-wealthy and oft-wed older husband, along with other potential suspects. She also has reason to consider her best friend a possible suspect. To compound matters--or, rather, to confound them--Lacy's son becomes involved in a secret and dangerous college fraternity that proves to be connected to the crime.

While the plot takes numerous unexpected twists and turns, the prime feature of this novel is Kaplan's wholly credible characterization of Lacy. A soccer mom and dedicated parent, married to a handsome, supportive plastic surgeon, Lacy has it all, but she is still down-to-earth, witty, and someone I would love to count as a friend. Kaplan's ability to bring Lacy alive in the face of death makes this a book to kill for.

Angel's Tip
Barbara Fister

New York police detective Ellie Hatcher is back after her debut in Dead Connection. This time she is investigating the murder of an adventurous college student from the Midwest who has become the victim of her own sense of youthful invulnerability. After leaving a club in the early hours before dawn, the best night of her life turns out to be her last.

Ellie has risen fast through the ranks, but has a lot to prove before being accepted by her colleagues. Fortunately, she is partnered with a man who recognizes her potential and has the good sense to back her up as she handles a hot potato of a case--even when she sticks her neck out, pursuing connections to cold cases, racing to prevent the next murder.

Though billed as a thriller and burdened with standard-issue chapters written from the point of view of a serial killer--a convention that should have been retired to the Museum of Crime Fiction Cliches long ago--the real strength of the book is in its procedural elements, which are authentic and engaging.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:07:34

New York police detective Ellie Hatcher is back after her debut in Dead Connection. This time she is investigating the murder of an adventurous college student from the Midwest who has become the victim of her own sense of youthful invulnerability. After leaving a club in the early hours before dawn, the best night of her life turns out to be her last.

Ellie has risen fast through the ranks, but has a lot to prove before being accepted by her colleagues. Fortunately, she is partnered with a man who recognizes her potential and has the good sense to back her up as she handles a hot potato of a case--even when she sticks her neck out, pursuing connections to cold cases, racing to prevent the next murder.

Though billed as a thriller and burdened with standard-issue chapters written from the point of view of a serial killer--a convention that should have been retired to the Museum of Crime Fiction Cliches long ago--the real strength of the book is in its procedural elements, which are authentic and engaging.

Bloodstorm
Kevin Burton Smith

The storm of unapologetically dark violence, brooding angst and unexpected poetry that's been raging through Irish crime fiction the last few years shows no signs of abating, and may even be rising in intensity. Certainly, that seems to be the case with Sam Millar's new novel, the ambitious but flawed Bloodstorm, which seeks to crank it up even further. Like protagonists from contemporaries Ken Bruen, John Connolly, and Declan Hughes, Millar's Belfast private detective hero Karl Kane is damaged goods--an uneven mess of substance abuse and psychological scars that simply won't heal. Not surprising, perhaps, since he won't stop picking at them.

Granted, the middle-aged, balding PI's almost crippling angst is understandable. He's trapped in an Emerald Isle job and plagued by everything from hemorrhoids and rejection slips (he's also a failed writer), to trauma from childhood sexual abuse and witnessing his mother's rape and murder. And the book itself is a deep, dark wallow in about 20 different kinds of nastiness: a violent noir odyssey of failures--of justice, of mercy and of nerve. But in working so hard to avoid the comic book heroics and glib affability of more mainstream detective fiction, Millar's may have gone a little too far. His tendency to rub his readers' faces in unpleasant similes ("dead leaves covered the streets like unhealed scabs") doesn't seem so much evocative as just plain gross.

After a dynamite opening--one of the most gripping I've read in a while--the story becomes a messy kaleidoscope of seemingly disconnected unpleasantness (Rape! Murder! Revenge! Corruption! Man-eating pigs!). Though when the pieces finally fall into place, they do so with considerable narrative force.

When Millar lets up on the overwhelming gloom and doom, hints of poetry, wit and even a begrudging sense of humanity begin to creep in. There's enough promise in here to keep me waiting anxiously for the next installment. Millar's willingness to grind his readers' faces in the dirt is clear--now let's see what will happen if he lets them see a sliver of light.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:07:34

The storm of unapologetically dark violence, brooding angst and unexpected poetry that's been raging through Irish crime fiction the last few years shows no signs of abating, and may even be rising in intensity. Certainly, that seems to be the case with Sam Millar's new novel, the ambitious but flawed Bloodstorm, which seeks to crank it up even further. Like protagonists from contemporaries Ken Bruen, John Connolly, and Declan Hughes, Millar's Belfast private detective hero Karl Kane is damaged goods--an uneven mess of substance abuse and psychological scars that simply won't heal. Not surprising, perhaps, since he won't stop picking at them.

Granted, the middle-aged, balding PI's almost crippling angst is understandable. He's trapped in an Emerald Isle job and plagued by everything from hemorrhoids and rejection slips (he's also a failed writer), to trauma from childhood sexual abuse and witnessing his mother's rape and murder. And the book itself is a deep, dark wallow in about 20 different kinds of nastiness: a violent noir odyssey of failures--of justice, of mercy and of nerve. But in working so hard to avoid the comic book heroics and glib affability of more mainstream detective fiction, Millar's may have gone a little too far. His tendency to rub his readers' faces in unpleasant similes ("dead leaves covered the streets like unhealed scabs") doesn't seem so much evocative as just plain gross.

After a dynamite opening--one of the most gripping I've read in a while--the story becomes a messy kaleidoscope of seemingly disconnected unpleasantness (Rape! Murder! Revenge! Corruption! Man-eating pigs!). Though when the pieces finally fall into place, they do so with considerable narrative force.

When Millar lets up on the overwhelming gloom and doom, hints of poetry, wit and even a begrudging sense of humanity begin to creep in. There's enough promise in here to keep me waiting anxiously for the next installment. Millar's willingness to grind his readers' faces in the dirt is clear--now let's see what will happen if he lets them see a sliver of light.

Borderlands
R. Smith

The body of a nearly naked teenage girl is found straddling the border between North and South Ireland known as the Borderlands. Since she was from the south, the case goes to Inspector Ben Devlin of the Irish Republic's An Garda Siochana, i.e., An Garda or The Guards, and thus begins the debut novel of an exciting new police procedural series, one that is sure to draw raves in the States as it has in England.

The only clues Devlin and his team have is a photograph and a ring far more costly than the victim could ever afford. Suspicion shifts among some local thugs, a prominent politician and even to members of An Garda itself, and Devlin must sort through the deception and lies to find the killer. It becomes a challenge to separate the present from the past and the good from the bad.

Devlin is a rare type of fictional cop: happily married with small children, no major hang-ups, decent. He is distracted by the overtures of an old girl friend (now the wife of the town's leading citizen and Garda critic), by the slaughter of a neighbor's sheep which might be the work of his own pet dog, and by threats against his family, but he stays focused. Readers familiar with Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor books will be interested in the more favorable treatment given An Garda by the talented Brian McGilloway. Those who love a great story combined with superb writing are urged to get in on the ground floor of this new series. You'll thank yourself for it.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:07:34

The body of a nearly naked teenage girl is found straddling the border between North and South Ireland known as the Borderlands. Since she was from the south, the case goes to Inspector Ben Devlin of the Irish Republic's An Garda Siochana, i.e., An Garda or The Guards, and thus begins the debut novel of an exciting new police procedural series, one that is sure to draw raves in the States as it has in England.

The only clues Devlin and his team have is a photograph and a ring far more costly than the victim could ever afford. Suspicion shifts among some local thugs, a prominent politician and even to members of An Garda itself, and Devlin must sort through the deception and lies to find the killer. It becomes a challenge to separate the present from the past and the good from the bad.

Devlin is a rare type of fictional cop: happily married with small children, no major hang-ups, decent. He is distracted by the overtures of an old girl friend (now the wife of the town's leading citizen and Garda critic), by the slaughter of a neighbor's sheep which might be the work of his own pet dog, and by threats against his family, but he stays focused. Readers familiar with Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor books will be interested in the more favorable treatment given An Garda by the talented Brian McGilloway. Those who love a great story combined with superb writing are urged to get in on the ground floor of this new series. You'll thank yourself for it.

Burn Out
Betty Webb

At the beginning of Marcia Muller's 26th, aptly-named Sharon McCone mystery, the San Francisco PI is teetering on the edge of disbanding her successful investigation agency. Suffering from a depression that even her doctor can't fix, she decides to reconsider the direction her life has taken during a stay at her ranch in the high desert.

But depression follows her there, paralyzing her to such an extent that she doesn't follow through on her offer of help to a distraught Indian girl standing in a small town parking lot. Later, when a young woman's body is found not far away, McCone wonders if her own inaction could have contributed to the death. When the murder appears to involve some of her closest friends, her depression deepens even further.

Readers accustomed to some of Muller's more action-oriented novels might at first be puzzled by Burn Out with its much slower pace, but those who prefer a psychological approach to mystery will find great rewards here. Throughout the entire series, McCone's character has deepened, becoming ever more complex. After making peace with her own Shoshone Indian heritage and an ever-widening circle of relatives, the PI has discovered that the past can cast a murderous shadow; and that sometimes, the shadow leads us right back to where we started--home. This is a careful, thoughtful read, and for McCone fans, one to be savored.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:07:34

At the beginning of Marcia Muller's 26th, aptly-named Sharon McCone mystery, the San Francisco PI is teetering on the edge of disbanding her successful investigation agency. Suffering from a depression that even her doctor can't fix, she decides to reconsider the direction her life has taken during a stay at her ranch in the high desert.

But depression follows her there, paralyzing her to such an extent that she doesn't follow through on her offer of help to a distraught Indian girl standing in a small town parking lot. Later, when a young woman's body is found not far away, McCone wonders if her own inaction could have contributed to the death. When the murder appears to involve some of her closest friends, her depression deepens even further.

Readers accustomed to some of Muller's more action-oriented novels might at first be puzzled by Burn Out with its much slower pace, but those who prefer a psychological approach to mystery will find great rewards here. Throughout the entire series, McCone's character has deepened, becoming ever more complex. After making peace with her own Shoshone Indian heritage and an ever-widening circle of relatives, the PI has discovered that the past can cast a murderous shadow; and that sometimes, the shadow leads us right back to where we started--home. This is a careful, thoughtful read, and for McCone fans, one to be savored.

Caravaggio's Angel
Mary Elizabeth Devine

Curator Regine Lee of the National Gallery in London plans to mount a small exhibit centered on Caravaggio's painting, Saint Cecilia and the Angel/em>. Of the three versions in existence, one must be borrowed from the Louvre, a loan usually arranged without problem. However, when Regine gets to Paris, she is told that the offer has been withdrawn--no explanation given.

Determined to learn the reason for this high-handed behavior, Regine attempts to track down Antoine Rigaut, the curator who denied the loan. Unfortunately, before she can speak to him, he is murdered. Regine seeks out Antoine's octogenarian mother in France. In one of the funniest scenes in the novel, she tells Regine how she masterminded (at age 18) the "borrowing" of one of the Louvre's Caravaggios.

The plot is interesting (though probably not to a non-art lover) in its dizzying pace and high art counterfeiting. Regine is a complex character, trying against odds to learn the truth and worrying (correctly) that her intransigence has been the cause of two murders. When it comes to a final test of morality, Regine makes a tough choice that reveals a heroine as complex and complicated as a Caravaggio masterpiece.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:07:34

Curator Regine Lee of the National Gallery in London plans to mount a small exhibit centered on Caravaggio's painting, Saint Cecilia and the Angel/em>. Of the three versions in existence, one must be borrowed from the Louvre, a loan usually arranged without problem. However, when Regine gets to Paris, she is told that the offer has been withdrawn--no explanation given.

Determined to learn the reason for this high-handed behavior, Regine attempts to track down Antoine Rigaut, the curator who denied the loan. Unfortunately, before she can speak to him, he is murdered. Regine seeks out Antoine's octogenarian mother in France. In one of the funniest scenes in the novel, she tells Regine how she masterminded (at age 18) the "borrowing" of one of the Louvre's Caravaggios.

The plot is interesting (though probably not to a non-art lover) in its dizzying pace and high art counterfeiting. Regine is a complex character, trying against odds to learn the truth and worrying (correctly) that her intransigence has been the cause of two murders. When it comes to a final test of morality, Regine makes a tough choice that reveals a heroine as complex and complicated as a Caravaggio masterpiece.

Cold in Hand
Barbara Fister

After a series of ten brilliant books, John Harvey retired his rumpled, jazz-loving Nottingham detective, Charlie Resnick--until now. With Cold in Hand, Resnick returns, and readers rediscover what makes this series so great. The streets are mean, the jazz is muted, and a cop who is good to the core does what he can to set things right, knowing that it's always two steps forward, three back.

On Valentine's Day, a gang dispute leads to violence and Resnick's partner, Lynn Kellogg, is caught in the middle. Her vest saves her from a deadly gunshot, but the girl she is arresting isn't so lucky and her family blames Kellogg for her death. As the case is being investigated, Lynn has to prepare for another trial: A woman was stabbed to death in a massage parlor and her Albanian pimp is on the hook for it. Yet a key witness disappears and the Albanian is released, thanks to pressure from an elite police unit investigating illegal firearms. That puts the remaining witness, a young Romanian hooker who Lynn persuaded to testify, in peril.

Harvey handles the multiple strands of Cold with ease, letting each take the melody in turn and making it seem as effortless as a jazz riff. Like the music that Resnick loves, Cold in Hand mingles beautiful writing with a lingering sense of sorrow.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:07:34

After a series of ten brilliant books, John Harvey retired his rumpled, jazz-loving Nottingham detective, Charlie Resnick--until now. With Cold in Hand, Resnick returns, and readers rediscover what makes this series so great. The streets are mean, the jazz is muted, and a cop who is good to the core does what he can to set things right, knowing that it's always two steps forward, three back.

On Valentine's Day, a gang dispute leads to violence and Resnick's partner, Lynn Kellogg, is caught in the middle. Her vest saves her from a deadly gunshot, but the girl she is arresting isn't so lucky and her family blames Kellogg for her death. As the case is being investigated, Lynn has to prepare for another trial: A woman was stabbed to death in a massage parlor and her Albanian pimp is on the hook for it. Yet a key witness disappears and the Albanian is released, thanks to pressure from an elite police unit investigating illegal firearms. That puts the remaining witness, a young Romanian hooker who Lynn persuaded to testify, in peril.

Harvey handles the multiple strands of Cold with ease, letting each take the melody in turn and making it seem as effortless as a jazz riff. Like the music that Resnick loves, Cold in Hand mingles beautiful writing with a lingering sense of sorrow.

Deadly Beautiful
Verna Suit

The international fashion world provides a stylish setting for Deadly Beautiful, second in a series featuring Annie Anderson, editor at a British fashion magazine. Annie's best friend, fashion critic Lou, is concerned about her half-sister Scarlett, a former child supermodel who has disappeared in Japan. Scarlett may have fallen victim to a serial killer. Annie, who used to be an investigative journalist, agrees to hunt for Scarlett to help Lou, but also because she senses a big story.

Annie moves breathlessly from New York's fashion week, to a Japanese proving ground for young models, to fashion week in Milan. Her experiences as a Westerner in Tokyo make for the book's most fascinating reading, as she follows in Scarlett's footsteps and becomes immersed in the details of modeling work and the parallel world of club hostessing. Also absorbing are the tortured childhoods of Lou and Scarlett that are revealed in a series of flashbacks.

Deadly Beautiful has few likable characters, with both Annie and Lou carrying around bitterness and hatred. Annie doesn't really have sympathy for anyone and treats her loyal boyfriend quite shabbily. Perhaps the cynicism and self-loathing is a reflection of the fashion world itself, which author Sam (Samantha) Baker certainly knows well as editor in chief of Cosmopolitan UK. It's tempting to compare Baker's mystery series with that of Kate White, American editor of Redbook and now Cosmopolitan. Though their worlds are similar, Baker's books are a fashionable shade darker.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:07:34

The international fashion world provides a stylish setting for Deadly Beautiful, second in a series featuring Annie Anderson, editor at a British fashion magazine. Annie's best friend, fashion critic Lou, is concerned about her half-sister Scarlett, a former child supermodel who has disappeared in Japan. Scarlett may have fallen victim to a serial killer. Annie, who used to be an investigative journalist, agrees to hunt for Scarlett to help Lou, but also because she senses a big story.

Annie moves breathlessly from New York's fashion week, to a Japanese proving ground for young models, to fashion week in Milan. Her experiences as a Westerner in Tokyo make for the book's most fascinating reading, as she follows in Scarlett's footsteps and becomes immersed in the details of modeling work and the parallel world of club hostessing. Also absorbing are the tortured childhoods of Lou and Scarlett that are revealed in a series of flashbacks.

Deadly Beautiful has few likable characters, with both Annie and Lou carrying around bitterness and hatred. Annie doesn't really have sympathy for anyone and treats her loyal boyfriend quite shabbily. Perhaps the cynicism and self-loathing is a reflection of the fashion world itself, which author Sam (Samantha) Baker certainly knows well as editor in chief of Cosmopolitan UK. It's tempting to compare Baker's mystery series with that of Kate White, American editor of Redbook and now Cosmopolitan. Though their worlds are similar, Baker's books are a fashionable shade darker.

Death's Half Acre
Art Taylor

The changing North Carolina landscape--and particularly the impact of rampant residential and commercial development on rural settings--has been a recurrent theme in Maron's Deborah Knott novels. In Death's Half Acre, she tackles that topic and the politics behind it head-on.

The murder of Candace Bradshaw, a hard-nosed businesswoman and new chair of the Board of Commissioners, has no lack of suspects, especially because she was poised to help vote down a recommendation to slow growth across Colleton County. Her family, her political rivals, and even the political bigwigs used her as a puppet--and all seem to have both motive and opportunity. But when Deborah discovers suggestions of Bradshaw's political malfeasance in the files of late newspaper editor Linsey Thomas, the net widens--suggesting that the hit-and-run that killed Thomas might not have been accidental and that present events might draw strongly from past wrongdoings. Deborah finds the past casting a long shadow over her as well: Her name is in Thomas' files and in the dead woman's notes, along with references to a missing flash drive that could solve the case, but might also reveal details about Deborah's dubious path to her judgeship.

An equally compelling subplot involves real estate maneuverings by a local minister. When the grandson of one parishioner turns to Deborah's father Kezzie to help save the family farm from being turned over to the church, the old bootlegger proves he's still got some tricks up his sleeve--another harkening back to the beginnings of this fine series.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:07:34

The changing North Carolina landscape--and particularly the impact of rampant residential and commercial development on rural settings--has been a recurrent theme in Maron's Deborah Knott novels. In Death's Half Acre, she tackles that topic and the politics behind it head-on.

The murder of Candace Bradshaw, a hard-nosed businesswoman and new chair of the Board of Commissioners, has no lack of suspects, especially because she was poised to help vote down a recommendation to slow growth across Colleton County. Her family, her political rivals, and even the political bigwigs used her as a puppet--and all seem to have both motive and opportunity. But when Deborah discovers suggestions of Bradshaw's political malfeasance in the files of late newspaper editor Linsey Thomas, the net widens--suggesting that the hit-and-run that killed Thomas might not have been accidental and that present events might draw strongly from past wrongdoings. Deborah finds the past casting a long shadow over her as well: Her name is in Thomas' files and in the dead woman's notes, along with references to a missing flash drive that could solve the case, but might also reveal details about Deborah's dubious path to her judgeship.

An equally compelling subplot involves real estate maneuverings by a local minister. When the grandson of one parishioner turns to Deborah's father Kezzie to help save the family farm from being turned over to the church, the old bootlegger proves he's still got some tricks up his sleeve--another harkening back to the beginnings of this fine series.

Different Paths
Mary Helen Becker

Different Paths, the fifth in Clemens' fine series set in rural Pennsylvania, has the small community around Stella Crown's dairy farm in turmoil: The local vet, a woman, has been badly injured in a car-jacking; the new Mennonite pastor has had her office vandalized; the local doctor is found murdered in her surgery, and that is not all. The victims are all professional women, apparently targets of someone who can't accept women in jobs traditionally held by men.

Stella's small farm is delightfully portrayed, making readers feel at home--although a dairy farm must be as exotic to most of today's readers as Paris, Venice, or Istanbul. Clemens is particularly good at creating characters and showing the dynamics of large families. Walk-ons and major figures are equally well-evoked. The author shows her characters' flaws and handicaps while putting them in situations that reveal their strengths. Stella, through most of the tale, is suffering from a broken foot, stepped on by a pregnant cow; Nick, her boyfriend, has been diagnosed with MS. An amateur detective who is taken seriously by her friends at the police department, Stella is a very likeable heroine. Readers who have not yet discovered Judy Clemens will enjoy these mysteries that are cozy in the best sense.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:07:34

Different Paths, the fifth in Clemens' fine series set in rural Pennsylvania, has the small community around Stella Crown's dairy farm in turmoil: The local vet, a woman, has been badly injured in a car-jacking; the new Mennonite pastor has had her office vandalized; the local doctor is found murdered in her surgery, and that is not all. The victims are all professional women, apparently targets of someone who can't accept women in jobs traditionally held by men.

Stella's small farm is delightfully portrayed, making readers feel at home--although a dairy farm must be as exotic to most of today's readers as Paris, Venice, or Istanbul. Clemens is particularly good at creating characters and showing the dynamics of large families. Walk-ons and major figures are equally well-evoked. The author shows her characters' flaws and handicaps while putting them in situations that reveal their strengths. Stella, through most of the tale, is suffering from a broken foot, stepped on by a pregnant cow; Nick, her boyfriend, has been diagnosed with MS. An amateur detective who is taken seriously by her friends at the police department, Stella is a very likeable heroine. Readers who have not yet discovered Judy Clemens will enjoy these mysteries that are cozy in the best sense.

Envy the Night
R. Smith

When he was 18 years old, Frank Temple's father committed suicide rather than face jail as a murderer-for-hire. And for the next eight years Frank lived with the shame of this. Frank loved his father and still believes him a good man who killed only criminal types, so when he learns that mobster Devin Matteson, who Frank suspects of turning in his father to avoid prosecution himself, is returning to the Wisconsin lake where they grew up, he is determined to exact revenge.

Driving to the lake, Frank deliberately smashes into a car he mistakenly assumes is driven by Matteson. Vaughn Duncan, the actual driver, suspiciously insists on paying in cash to have the two cars fixed at the local garage with no questions asked. Duncan then flees to hide out at Matteson's cabin on a nearby island lake in company with a mysterious beautiful woman. Two of Matteson's goons arrive and murder the garage's mechanic to learn Duncan's whereabouts. The FBI is called in and immediately suspect Frank of following in his father's footsteps. Frank, who had been trained in all the defensive fighting skills by his father, enlists the aid of Ezra, a fishing guide who served with both Frank's and Matteson's dads in Vietnam. Along with a young woman who owns the local garage, they try to stop Matteson and his thugs.

Once all the main characters are finally in place, the action never stops, with plot twists to satisfy the most avid thriller fan. This is Michael Koryta's first standalone in addition to his Edgar-nominated Lincoln Perry series.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:07:34

When he was 18 years old, Frank Temple's father committed suicide rather than face jail as a murderer-for-hire. And for the next eight years Frank lived with the shame of this. Frank loved his father and still believes him a good man who killed only criminal types, so when he learns that mobster Devin Matteson, who Frank suspects of turning in his father to avoid prosecution himself, is returning to the Wisconsin lake where they grew up, he is determined to exact revenge.

Driving to the lake, Frank deliberately smashes into a car he mistakenly assumes is driven by Matteson. Vaughn Duncan, the actual driver, suspiciously insists on paying in cash to have the two cars fixed at the local garage with no questions asked. Duncan then flees to hide out at Matteson's cabin on a nearby island lake in company with a mysterious beautiful woman. Two of Matteson's goons arrive and murder the garage's mechanic to learn Duncan's whereabouts. The FBI is called in and immediately suspect Frank of following in his father's footsteps. Frank, who had been trained in all the defensive fighting skills by his father, enlists the aid of Ezra, a fishing guide who served with both Frank's and Matteson's dads in Vietnam. Along with a young woman who owns the local garage, they try to stop Matteson and his thugs.

Once all the main characters are finally in place, the action never stops, with plot twists to satisfy the most avid thriller fan. This is Michael Koryta's first standalone in addition to his Edgar-nominated Lincoln Perry series.

Exit Music
Barbara Fister

The title of this entry in the popular John Rebus series is bittersweet for the readers who have followed him for two decades. It's only a few days before Rebus' retirement, and he's spending them in good form: He's pursuing a murder case that the brass wants buried, dragging Siobhan Clarke with him to the brink of insubordination, and telling us things about the world that are complicated and troubling.

The dead man is a Russian poet and dissident. Though he may be the victim of official skulduggery, he hasn't been poisoned exotically, like another famous dissident who lies dying in an English hospital; rather, he's found battered to death on a secluded Edinburgh street. Rebus senses a connection to a wealthy Russian businessman who is busy making deals with Scottish financiers--and perhaps even Rebus' old nemesis, Big Ger Cafferty. But as always, Rebus' intuition is met with skepticism among his colleagues and hostility from those who see an opportunity to revitalize the city--or their own bank accounts.

Rankin paints on a Hogarthian canvas that revels in a vast cast of fully-realized characters, a well-loved setting, a twisty plot, and a wry sense of irony. Take a step back, though, and out of that detail something larger always emerges. In this case, the underworld Rebus fought for so long is beginning to look more and more like business as usual. That recognition of opposites is most poignantly revealed in the last pitch-perfect scene.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:07:34

The title of this entry in the popular John Rebus series is bittersweet for the readers who have followed him for two decades. It's only a few days before Rebus' retirement, and he's spending them in good form: He's pursuing a murder case that the brass wants buried, dragging Siobhan Clarke with him to the brink of insubordination, and telling us things about the world that are complicated and troubling.

The dead man is a Russian poet and dissident. Though he may be the victim of official skulduggery, he hasn't been poisoned exotically, like another famous dissident who lies dying in an English hospital; rather, he's found battered to death on a secluded Edinburgh street. Rebus senses a connection to a wealthy Russian businessman who is busy making deals with Scottish financiers--and perhaps even Rebus' old nemesis, Big Ger Cafferty. But as always, Rebus' intuition is met with skepticism among his colleagues and hostility from those who see an opportunity to revitalize the city--or their own bank accounts.

Rankin paints on a Hogarthian canvas that revels in a vast cast of fully-realized characters, a well-loved setting, a twisty plot, and a wry sense of irony. Take a step back, though, and out of that detail something larger always emerges. In this case, the underworld Rebus fought for so long is beginning to look more and more like business as usual. That recognition of opposites is most poignantly revealed in the last pitch-perfect scene.

Folly Du Jour

Commander Joe Sandilands of Scotland Yard is in Paris in 1927 to attend an Interpol conference when he learns that a friend, Sir George Jardine, has been arrested for murder. At the conclusion of a performance at the Folies Berg?

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:07:34

Commander Joe Sandilands of Scotland Yard is in Paris in 1927 to attend an Interpol conference when he learns that a friend, Sir George Jardine, has been arrested for murder. At the conclusion of a performance at the Folies Berg?

Germania
Joseph Scarpato Jr.

Some good news and some bad news for mystery readers. First the bad news: This novel is not a mystery. The good news? It's a terrific first novel and a very readable historical thriller set during the final months of the Nazi regime.

In addition to the real historical characters who people this novel, such as Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Albert Speer, Admiral Donitz and many others, the primary protagonists are four Jewish quadruplets, known to Berlin and the world before the war as the Magical Flying Loerber Brothers. In addition to great talent as singers, dancers and tumblers, Manni, Franzi, Ziggy and Sebastian each have a distinctive special power of sorts from thought transference to healing.

Despite their Jewish heritage, which they take pains to hide, in the spring of 1945 the first three find themselves in important positions with the German military: Manni with Albert Speer, Franzi with Himmler, and Ziggy as a U-Boat captain under Admiral Donitz. Sebastian, meanwhile, is an operative for a secret Jewish terror network. Through their eyes, readers see what was happening in the German High Command as the Allied forces made their way toward Berlin from the west and the Russians from the east. When Franzi's life is imperiled, his three brothers try to use their special powers to save him.

Although the Loerber brothers are interesting characters, the primary interest for me was the realistic and historically accurate description of the Third Reich's final days. The author is a former Pentagon defense journalist himself, and spent years researching the period and interviewing many of the people who were around at that time.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:07:34

Some good news and some bad news for mystery readers. First the bad news: This novel is not a mystery. The good news? It's a terrific first novel and a very readable historical thriller set during the final months of the Nazi regime.

In addition to the real historical characters who people this novel, such as Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Albert Speer, Admiral Donitz and many others, the primary protagonists are four Jewish quadruplets, known to Berlin and the world before the war as the Magical Flying Loerber Brothers. In addition to great talent as singers, dancers and tumblers, Manni, Franzi, Ziggy and Sebastian each have a distinctive special power of sorts from thought transference to healing.

Despite their Jewish heritage, which they take pains to hide, in the spring of 1945 the first three find themselves in important positions with the German military: Manni with Albert Speer, Franzi with Himmler, and Ziggy as a U-Boat captain under Admiral Donitz. Sebastian, meanwhile, is an operative for a secret Jewish terror network. Through their eyes, readers see what was happening in the German High Command as the Allied forces made their way toward Berlin from the west and the Russians from the east. When Franzi's life is imperiled, his three brothers try to use their special powers to save him.

Although the Loerber brothers are interesting characters, the primary interest for me was the realistic and historically accurate description of the Third Reich's final days. The author is a former Pentagon defense journalist himself, and spent years researching the period and interviewing many of the people who were around at that time.

Good People
Betty Webb

Some people are just too good to be true, as in Marcus Sakey's thrilling Good People. Young Tom and Anna Reed want a baby so desperately that they're willing to do anything to get one--other than adopt. Instead, they've almost bankrupted themselves in several attempts at in vitro fertilization. So imagine their joy when, in putting out a stove fire in their downstairs tenant's kitchen, they discover $400,000 in cash hidden in the cabinets. After the tenant is found dead of an overdose, Anna convinces her husband to use the money for more in vitro treatments. Neither knows that the money was part of a drug deal/robbery gone deadly, and now some very bad people want it back every bit as much as the good Reeds want a viable pregnancy.

Each person in Good People has a dream: to have a baby; to retire to a cabin by a woodland lake; to gain street cred; to move to Arizona. And thanks to Sakey's gifts for dead-on characterization, each of these dreams, grand or simple, loom more or less equal. The Reeds often look less than good and the robbers not entirely evil. Even the murderers are sometimes honorable.

Disguised in 323 sleep-depriving, roller-coaster, shoot'em-up pages, Sakey has inserted a subtle morality tale, an almost mythic story where dreams can kill and desperation can cleanse. Never has that old adage, "Be careful what you wish for," been more adeptly illustrated.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:07:34

Some people are just too good to be true, as in Marcus Sakey's thrilling Good People. Young Tom and Anna Reed want a baby so desperately that they're willing to do anything to get one--other than adopt. Instead, they've almost bankrupted themselves in several attempts at in vitro fertilization. So imagine their joy when, in putting out a stove fire in their downstairs tenant's kitchen, they discover $400,000 in cash hidden in the cabinets. After the tenant is found dead of an overdose, Anna convinces her husband to use the money for more in vitro treatments. Neither knows that the money was part of a drug deal/robbery gone deadly, and now some very bad people want it back every bit as much as the good Reeds want a viable pregnancy.

Each person in Good People has a dream: to have a baby; to retire to a cabin by a woodland lake; to gain street cred; to move to Arizona. And thanks to Sakey's gifts for dead-on characterization, each of these dreams, grand or simple, loom more or less equal. The Reeds often look less than good and the robbers not entirely evil. Even the murderers are sometimes honorable.

Disguised in 323 sleep-depriving, roller-coaster, shoot'em-up pages, Sakey has inserted a subtle morality tale, an almost mythic story where dreams can kill and desperation can cleanse. Never has that old adage, "Be careful what you wish for," been more adeptly illustrated.

Green Monster
Sue Reider

Louis Kenwood, owner of the Boston Red Sox, receives an extortion threat involving the authenticity of the Sox's 2004 World Series title win. He hires private investigator Sam Skarda to discreetly find the blackmailer and, while he's at it, to discover whether the allegations are true.

Sam is a master of networking. He has all sorts of connections in the world of sports, including a vast knowledge of mobsters and sports betting. He uses these to great advantage as he travels from Boston, to southern California, to Venezuela in search of the truth. Though his employer wants to keep the investigation out of the public eye, Sam tends to go his own way in spite of his employer's instructions. He has little patience, and becomes physically aggressive with little provocation, which creates abrupt, but well-handled, shifts in the story from relative calm to violence.

The story is intriguing because of Sam's uncanny ability to uncover small lies and reveal miscommunications. He's a rough hero who also possesses the smarts to put a multiplicity of facts together to reach a solution. Shefchik's incorporation of baseball history and trivia into this action-oriented tale adds to the enjoyment.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:07:34

Louis Kenwood, owner of the Boston Red Sox, receives an extortion threat involving the authenticity of the Sox's 2004 World Series title win. He hires private investigator Sam Skarda to discreetly find the blackmailer and, while he's at it, to discover whether the allegations are true.

Sam is a master of networking. He has all sorts of connections in the world of sports, including a vast knowledge of mobsters and sports betting. He uses these to great advantage as he travels from Boston, to southern California, to Venezuela in search of the truth. Though his employer wants to keep the investigation out of the public eye, Sam tends to go his own way in spite of his employer's instructions. He has little patience, and becomes physically aggressive with little provocation, which creates abrupt, but well-handled, shifts in the story from relative calm to violence.

The story is intriguing because of Sam's uncanny ability to uncover small lies and reveal miscommunications. He's a rough hero who also possesses the smarts to put a multiplicity of facts together to reach a solution. Shefchik's incorporation of baseball history and trivia into this action-oriented tale adds to the enjoyment.

Heartless
Oline Cogdill

Alison Gaylin skillfully blends chick lit and the supernatural into a lively plot in her fourth novel. Although she occasionally strides a little over the top, Gaylin's high energy and enthusiasm for her story make Heartless believable.

Romance is the only thing that Zoe Greene thinks of when she decides to meet her lover, handsome actor Warren Clark, at his villa in the quiet Mexican town of San Esteban. A former investigative reporter turned writer for a soap opera magazine, Zoe's involvement with Warren crosses an ethical line. But how can she resist this "male Susan Lucci"? There's an excitement to those clandestine meetings, furtive glances and that most modern of secretive plans, text messages, in a crowded room.

Although she chucks her job--and possibly her sanity--to join him for three weeks, Zoe hardly knows Warren whose entire life, it turns out, is a series of secrets. No personal items adorn either his dressing room or his home; a creepy amulet of a heart on a cross is hidden in his closet and he refuses to talk about his past or any friends. When he and Zoe are together, Warren is an attentive lover. So why does he keep disappearing every morning from his villa? And where does he go?

San Esteban holds even more secrets than Warren. On the surface, it's an idyllic mountain town filled with "American hippies, retirees who think they're artists." But the murder of a young man, his heart ripped out, and the existence of a strange longevity cult, exposes San Esteban's sinister side. It's disconcerting when nearly every person asks Zoe's age and then says, enviously, "We don't get a lot of young people around here." As Zoe's affair with Warren unravels, she asks for help from her best friend, reporter Steve Sorenson.Gaylin keeps the action high, especially at a scary party at which Zoe is the reluctant guest of honor, and provides a nifty, breathless twist at the end. Zoe's warm personality, not to mention her incredible bad taste in men makes her as appealing as she is infuriating. Her friend, Steve, who is secretly in love with her, is Zoe's perfect foil. An aging groupie, her inquisitive niece and a stoic doctor add to the story. Gaylin (Hide Your Eyes, You Kill Me) avoids cliches while keeping Heartless fresh and creepy.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:07:34

Alison Gaylin skillfully blends chick lit and the supernatural into a lively plot in her fourth novel. Although she occasionally strides a little over the top, Gaylin's high energy and enthusiasm for her story make Heartless believable.

Romance is the only thing that Zoe Greene thinks of when she decides to meet her lover, handsome actor Warren Clark, at his villa in the quiet Mexican town of San Esteban. A former investigative reporter turned writer for a soap opera magazine, Zoe's involvement with Warren crosses an ethical line. But how can she resist this "male Susan Lucci"? There's an excitement to those clandestine meetings, furtive glances and that most modern of secretive plans, text messages, in a crowded room.

Although she chucks her job--and possibly her sanity--to join him for three weeks, Zoe hardly knows Warren whose entire life, it turns out, is a series of secrets. No personal items adorn either his dressing room or his home; a creepy amulet of a heart on a cross is hidden in his closet and he refuses to talk about his past or any friends. When he and Zoe are together, Warren is an attentive lover. So why does he keep disappearing every morning from his villa? And where does he go?

San Esteban holds even more secrets than Warren. On the surface, it's an idyllic mountain town filled with "American hippies, retirees who think they're artists." But the murder of a young man, his heart ripped out, and the existence of a strange longevity cult, exposes San Esteban's sinister side. It's disconcerting when nearly every person asks Zoe's age and then says, enviously, "We don't get a lot of young people around here." As Zoe's affair with Warren unravels, she asks for help from her best friend, reporter Steve Sorenson.Gaylin keeps the action high, especially at a scary party at which Zoe is the reluctant guest of honor, and provides a nifty, breathless twist at the end. Zoe's warm personality, not to mention her incredible bad taste in men makes her as appealing as she is infuriating. Her friend, Steve, who is secretly in love with her, is Zoe's perfect foil. An aging groupie, her inquisitive niece and a stoic doctor add to the story. Gaylin (Hide Your Eyes, You Kill Me) avoids cliches while keeping Heartless fresh and creepy.

Hell Hole
Chris Grabenstein

This latest John Ceepak novel once again features his likable cop sidekick Danny Boyle as narrator. This time Danny runs into a hard-partying group of soldiers home on leave from Iraq and vacationing on the Jersey shore. Soon one of their group, Cpl. Shareef Smith, turns up dead at a roadside rest stop. Local investigators pronounce the soldier's death a drug-induced suicide, but Danny has his doubts and urges his partner John Ceepak to investigate the case.

Ceepak, known for his cool logic and absolute adherence to the truth, soon finds clues that point not only to murder, but also to the theft of objects from Smith's car. Still unsure that the two events are even related, Ceepak and Boyle must nonetheless step up the investigation when the obnoxious Sergeant Dale Dixon threatens vigilante justice for his fallen comrade. What they discover eventually pits them against some very powerful people--people who view killing as a necessary evil.

Boyle's witty sarcasm serves as an effective counterpoint to Ceepak's often robot-like responses and also humanizes many of the more horrific aspects of the plot. Two minor criminals lend humor to the story, as does part-time cop Samantha Starky. For longtime readers, the introduction of Ceepak's nasty father and the insight into Ceepak's character he provides should be of interest. All in all, smooth writing and an unpredictable plot should please fans of Anthony award-winner Chris Grabenstein.

Xav ID 1
2010-04-25 16:07:34

This latest John Ceepak novel once again features his likable cop sidekick Danny Boyle as narrator. This time Danny runs into a hard-partying group of soldiers home on leave from Iraq and vacationing on the Jersey shore. Soon one of their group, Cpl. Shareef Smith, turns up dead at a roadside rest stop. Local investigators pronounce the soldier's death a drug-induced suicide, but Danny has his doubts and urges his partner John Ceepak to investigate the case.

Ceepak, known for his cool logic and absolute adherence to the truth, soon finds clues that point not only to murder, but also to the theft of objects from Smith's car. Still unsure that the two events are even related, Ceepak and Boyle must nonetheless step up the investigation when the obnoxious Sergeant Dale Dixon threatens vigilante justice for his fallen comrade. What they discover eventually pits them against some very powerful people--people who view killing as a necessary evil.

Boyle's witty sarcasm serves as an effective counterpoint to Ceepak's often robot-like responses and also humanizes many of the more horrific aspects of the plot. Two minor criminals lend humor to the story, as does part-time cop Samantha Starky. For longtime readers, the introduction of Ceepak's nasty father and the insight into Ceepak's character he provides should be of interest. All in all, smooth writing and an unpredictable plot should please fans of Anthony award-winner Chris Grabenstein.

Winter 2010, Issue #113 Contents
Mystery Scene

113cover250

Features

Diving For Danger

Randy Wayne White uses his love and detailed knowledge of Florida's Gulf Coast to craft riveting thrillers.
by Oline Cogdill

Building Your Book Collection, Part 3: Condition

Is that cover chipped, sunned, or foxed? Understanding a bookseller's decription of condition.
by Nate Pedersen

G.M. Malliet: Birth of a Cozy Writer

Malliet used her Cambridge education—and the Malice Domestic convention—to jumpstart her career
by Oline Cogdill

The Murders in Memory Lane: Ross Thomas

Lawrence Block recalls his friendship with the later thriller writer and considers his top-notch body of work.
by Lawrence Block

Romancing the Con

These happy couples found true love at mystery fan conventions.
by Twist Phelan

P.D. James: Talking About Detective Fiction

The grande dame of crime fiction is the latest in a long line of noted writers to turn a critical eye to the history of the mystery.
by Jon L. Breen

The Little Priest from Essex

Belying his innocuous appearance, G.K. Chesterton's modest little Catholic priest is in fact a revolutionary figure in the mystery genre.
by Steven Steinbock

Encore! Rupert Holmes Returns to Center Stage

Holmes takes on a new and exciting challenge with his stage adaptation of Agatha Christies' Witness for the Prosecution.
by Wm. F. Hirschman

Departments

At the Scene

by Kate Stine

Our Readers Recommend

by Mystery Scene readers

New Books Essays

by Kenneth Wishia, Wendy Clinch, Martin Edwards, Kris Neri, Kelly Stanley, Thomas Kaufman, and Sarah Wisseman

Child's Play: Books for Young Sleuths

by Roberta Rogow

What About Murder? Reference Books Reviewed

by Jon L. Breen

Small Press Reviews

by Betty Webb

Gormania!

by Ed Gorman

Short Stories Considered

by Bill Crider

Very Original: Paperback Originals Reviewed

by Lynne Maxwell

Mystery Scene Reviews

Admin
2010-04-06 02:39:02

113cover250

Features

Diving For Danger

Randy Wayne White uses his love and detailed knowledge of Florida's Gulf Coast to craft riveting thrillers.
by Oline Cogdill

Building Your Book Collection, Part 3: Condition

Is that cover chipped, sunned, or foxed? Understanding a bookseller's decription of condition.
by Nate Pedersen

G.M. Malliet: Birth of a Cozy Writer

Malliet used her Cambridge education—and the Malice Domestic convention—to jumpstart her career
by Oline Cogdill

The Murders in Memory Lane: Ross Thomas

Lawrence Block recalls his friendship with the later thriller writer and considers his top-notch body of work.
by Lawrence Block

Romancing the Con

These happy couples found true love at mystery fan conventions.
by Twist Phelan

P.D. James: Talking About Detective Fiction

The grande dame of crime fiction is the latest in a long line of noted writers to turn a critical eye to the history of the mystery.
by Jon L. Breen

The Little Priest from Essex

Belying his innocuous appearance, G.K. Chesterton's modest little Catholic priest is in fact a revolutionary figure in the mystery genre.
by Steven Steinbock

Encore! Rupert Holmes Returns to Center Stage

Holmes takes on a new and exciting challenge with his stage adaptation of Agatha Christies' Witness for the Prosecution.
by Wm. F. Hirschman

Departments

At the Scene

by Kate Stine

Our Readers Recommend

by Mystery Scene readers

New Books Essays

by Kenneth Wishia, Wendy Clinch, Martin Edwards, Kris Neri, Kelly Stanley, Thomas Kaufman, and Sarah Wisseman

Child's Play: Books for Young Sleuths

by Roberta Rogow

What About Murder? Reference Books Reviewed

by Jon L. Breen

Small Press Reviews

by Betty Webb

Gormania!

by Ed Gorman

Short Stories Considered

by Bill Crider

Very Original: Paperback Originals Reviewed

by Lynne Maxwell

Mystery Scene Reviews