Fiction Reviews A: 1998-2013

ABANDON by Blake Crouch: In the winter of 1893, every man, woman, and child in Abandon, Colorado, disappeared without a trace. Professor Lawrence Kendall has studied the history of Abandon for years and has pitched a story to his daughter, journalist Abigail Foster, that she can’t resist. Together, with a set of tour guides and a couple of paranormal photographers, they will hike out to the ghost town and try to discover the truth about Abandon. Their first day in the seemingly empty town, though, they are met with two masked men armed to the teeth and searching for something they are sure Lawrence can lead them to. The story alternates with the final days of the 1893 settlers, culminating with today’s explorers facing the same twisted fate. Crouch’s tale is engaging enough to keep the reader hooked, and that may be its saving grace. I didn’t feel overly attached to, or, truth be told, all that interested in, most of the characters. They were underdeveloped in most instances or over the top in others. Disappointing because I had so been looking forward to this one. 07/09 Becky Lejeune

ABANDON THE NIGHT by Joss Ware: As the Envy Chronicles series continues, Ware rewards readers with a tale that’s been taunting us since book one. Quent and Zoe met in Beyond the Night. Their dance continued into Embrace the Night Eternal. Finally, Abandon the Night is their story. Growing up, Quent gave off the appearance of a spoiled playboy. He never had meaningful relationships and never got along with his father. In the allure and mystery of Zoe Kapoor, Quent has finally found a girl he can’t get out of his mind. But this new world is no place to start a family, a thought that has left Quent torn between desire and reality. When it is revealed that Parris Fielding, Quent’s father, was one of the Cult of Atlantis—the people behind the events that horribly shaped this new world—Quent vows to be the one to finally kill him. Zoe has her own reasons for wanting Fielding dead, but even she doesn’t know of his connection to her lover. Together, they’ll finally track the illusive Strangers, the Cult, and their hideout. But can Zoe trust the man whose own flesh and blood was responsible for the death of so many? 03/10 Becky Lejeune

THE ABDUCTION by Mark Gimenez: Caution: don’t start this book unless you have time to finish it – I could not put it down. After his excellent debut, The Color of Law, Gimenez just knocks it out of the park with his sophomore effort. The Brice family are a little more well-to-do than most; Elizabeth is a successful Dallas attorney, and her husband John is a computer nerd with a company that is about to go public and make him a billionaire. Their ten-year-old daughter Gracie is a budding soccer star and it is at her game that things go awry – Gracie is kidnapped while Dad is on the phone about his IPO and Mom is late coming from court. People may fear for their lives, but they really fear for their children’s lives, and these characters are so well drawn that it becomes incredibly easy to suspend your disbelief and get completely caught up in the story. I loved the tough-as-a-tiger mom, and the special bond between Gracie and her retired Green Beret grandfather was especially touching, all of which helped ratchet up the suspense even more. The Abduction is one of the best thrillers of the year.09/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

About the Author by John Colapinto: This brilliant thriller starts out with a simple case of plagiarism, but quickly twists and turns into a spellbinding story of deceit, lust, blackmail and murder. It’s rare to find a new angle in this genre, and I for one am most appreciative. Check out the Interview with Colapinto  Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ABSENT FRIENDS by S. J. Rozan: I have enjoyed all of Rozan’s Lydia and Bill novels and eagerly picked up this one. Unfortunately, it did not meet my expectations. Basically New York City Fire Capt. James McCaffery died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Exactly 22 years earlier, on September 11, 1979, Mark Keegan, a childhood friend of McCaffery’s killed a local Staten Island mob boss’s son. Keegan later was himself killed in prison and left behind a wife and young child. Ever since, the Keegan heirs have received financial support from McCaffery. Much to the dismay of McCaffery and Keegan’s friends, an enterprising news reporter is intrigued by the story and starts digging into it. The reporter then dies mysteriously. The smoke of the Twin Towers hangs heavy over all the narrative as Rozan attempts to weave a tapestry of some 40 interconnected lives over two and half decades. Maybe the next generation will deem this to be a classic, but for me, right now, it was too much, too soon, about a day that changed our world. 08/06 Jack Quick

THE ABSENT ONE by Jussi Adler-Olsen: In this follow up to The Keeper of Lost Causes, the newly formed Department Q has proven their worth and is gaining attention. Mørck, in spite of his personality quirks, has also managed to gain the grudging respect of others on the force. Now with their pick of cold cases to choose from it would seem odd that Mørck settles on a case closed with a confession and a conviction, but something about the file smells fishy – especially it’s appearance in the department altogether. Why would a closed case land on Mørck’s desk at all? Mørck’s curiosity is piqued when he learns that the case – the murder of a brother and sister in 1987 – is connected to a group of well-placed and highly connected individuals. What’s more, a growing list of unsolved crimes also seems to be tied to the case. Of course Mørck is warned off when his superiors learn what he’s up to, something that only spurs him on. Mørck’s brash nature and sour attitude are part of the appeal in this series. While the mystery is as well plotted and dark as Keeper, the eccentricities that I loved so much in the first book were not as present in this second of the series. Assad and Rose, the new addition to the department, didn’t seem to have much development at all, which didn’t detract from the overall read but is definitely something I hope will be addressed as the series continues. 8/12 Becky Lejeune

THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie: No one writes Native American like Sherman Alexie, and in this book for young adults, he tackles life on the rez with humor, passion and compassion. Arnold Spririt, a Spokane Indian, was born with water on the brain. Nevertheless, he is a bright, creative boy, despite being picked on most of his life. In looking around the reservation he realizes that his lot in life will be like that of everyone else he knows – poverty, alcoholism and an early death. But he’s a smart kid, and he also realizes that an education is the only way out, so he manages to get himself into an all white school twenty miles away. He can’t always get a ride, so he hitchhikes or walks, determined to get that good education. His Native American friends think he’s a traitor to his people, and the white kids aren’t sure what to make of him either. But with dogged determination, he succeeds in winning them all over, but not without lots of dramedy first. This semi-autobiographic coming of age story with a multicultural twist is a first rate read. 09/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ABUNDANCE by Sena Jeter Naslund: In 1770, at only 14 years of age, Marie Antoinette, Archduchess of Austria left her home to marry Louis August, the Dauphin of France – the man who would become Louis XVI. Four years later, she became Queen. In 1793, she was pronounced guilty of high treason and sentenced to a death by beheading. By using historical facts and biographies, Sena Jeter Naslund has created a vivid portrait of what Marie Antoinette’s life might have been like. Readers will get a feel for not only the excessive and opulent lifestyle the monarchy enjoyed, but also what it must have been like to grow and mature in the eyes of a country. Every part of her life, her image, and her family was under the scrutiny of the French public. No one can actually know Marie Antoinette’s thoughts and feelings but Naslund has added depth and flesh to the facts to produce a wholly believable story. This title will appeal not only to history buffs and those curious about Marie Antoinette, but to fans of literary fiction as well. 10/06 Becky LeJeune

THE ACADEMY by Bentley Little: Strange things are going on at Tyler High School. Recently converted to a charter school, Tyler High is undergoing a lot of changes. The principal, normally a very laid back and kind woman, has turned into a strict dictator-like leader. She has created a group of “Tyler Scouts” that parade around the school, empowering them to enforce rules and regulations with students AND teachers. Students and teachers that opposed the contract have gone missing. Ghostly images of children are seen playing on the school grounds, and student and staff alone are afraid to enter the school grounds at night alone. A handful of students and teachers still brave enough to stand up against the school join up and discover a way to destroy the evil at Tyler High. Bentley Little’s THE ACADEMY is full of horrific tales of the atrocities that take place at Tyler High. The ending seemed to be a little too “neat”, but that certainly didn’t take anything away from this great work piece of horror fiction. This was my first taste of Little’s writing; I can’t wait to read more from him. 11/08 Jennifer Lawrence

ACCESSORY TO MURDER by Elaine Viets: This is the third book in the Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper series and quite enjoyable. A supposedly random shooting at the mall leaves a young, upcoming scarf designer dead and Josie’s friend Alyce’s nerves shot. Things like that aren’t supposed to happen in an upscale suburb of St. Louis. But then Alyce’s husband is accused of the murder and she begs Josie to help. As Josie delves into the murder and upscale suburban life, she finds no one is as they appear and nothing is as it seems. Nice twisty little mystery with Viets’ hallmark humor plus some great shopping tips at the end of the book. 11/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ACCIDENT by Linwood Barclay: Glen Garber has a construction business that’s been hard-hit by the economy, and many of his neighbors are also having financial troubles. A couple of the women have taken to hosting “purse parties” where they sell illegal knockoffs of designer handbags as a way to make a little extra money. Glen’s wife, Sheila, is taking a business course at night so she can help him with the accounting, except one night Sheila doesn’t come home. Glen grabs his sleeping daughter and goes out to look for Sheila, but she’s been in a fatal car accident and killed two other people. The cops say she was drunk and at fault, and Glen is having a hard time believing it. A couple of weeks later, one of her best friends is killed in another accident, and Glen realizes things are seriously awryin this small Connecticut town. Throw in more deaths, a shady cop, a suspicious fire and lots more dirty laundry, and you have a real suburban nightmare. Verdict: A master of domestic suspense (No Time for Goodbye), Barclay has written an emotionally gripping page-turner that is scarily believable. Perfect for Harlan Coben fans. 08/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch KINDLE Copyright © 2011 Library Journal, a division of Media Source Inc. Reprinted with permission.

THE ACCIDENT by Linwood Barclay: Barclay is a master at grabbing the reader immediately and dragging him or her into the story. The Accident is no exception. Glen Garber is a contractor living an upscale life in the state of Connecticut. On a horrible evening Glen’s wife Sheila is very late returning from a business class she is taking in order to help with finances for the family. When Glen goes out looking for her he comes upon his wife killed in an accident that apparently she caused due to drunk driving, and which also killed two other people. Glen is 100% sure that Sheila was not drunk and does not drink to excess. His frenzied search for the real cause of the accident throws him into a world of lots of money available through the sale of “knockoffs”, that is, copies of name brand pocketbooks, watches and even pharmaceuticals. The knockoffs are sold by housewives throughout the affluent area they live in, with the merchandise supplied by a criminal group that will resort to murder if necessary to retain control of the market. In the course of solving what is really, his wife’s murder Glen’s work is instrumental in getting to the bottom of the area criminal structure. There are several other murders as well, all intertwined through the participation in the sale of the knockoffs. There is a great deal of similarity with the drug trade due to the presence of a lot of tax free money motivating criminal activity, and Barclay has painted a picture of a world that is not that well known, although most of us have encountered inexpensive knockoffs at various levels and bought them to show off our ability to afford the real trademarked goods. The final murder solved by Glen’s intervention is a bit of a surprise, but well within the parameters of the plot. 11/11 Paul Lane

THE ACCIDENT MAN by Tom Cain: An international assassin, Samuel Carver, is paid to take out bad guys who can’t be touched by legal means while making the hits look like accidents, is the intriguing premise for this first novel. Things get really tense when one of his targets is in a car full of people hurtling through a tunnel in Paris, and one of the passengers turns out to be Princess Diana. Immediately after that hit, someone tries to take Carver out, and the game is on. A beautiful Russian spy is one of the unlikely assassins, and Carver manages to turn her. Together they explore the plot to kill Diana and find out who is masterminding the whole thing. Conspiracy fans will love this. Cain is the pseudonym for a British investigative journalist, adding some heft to the conspiracy theory. 03/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ACCIDENT MAN by Tom Cain: British journalist Tom Cain has come up with a new twist on an old story. It’s Paris, 1997 and hit man Samuel Carver is in a tunnel preparing to do a job. The car wreck he creates causes a speeding black Mercedes to crash into a stone pillar, surely killing the car’s occupants. Moments later, Carver finds himself the target of an apparent Russian killer. Only later does he learn that the victim of his actions was, in fact, Princess Diana, and not the terrorist he was told would be occupying the car. Since Carver only does bad guys, he vows revenge on the people who set him up. This includes several spy organizations and various intermediaries. Think James Bond without the government backing. Nicely written and perhaps the basis for an on-going series featuring Carver and his Russian female accomplice. Wilbur Smith calls this “This is the best first thriller I have read since The Day of the Jackal, and that was a long time ago.” Not a bad recommendation. 05/08 Jack Quick

ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN by Simon Wood: It’s a good life for Josh Michaels – the California life, with nice house, loving wife, beautiful daughter, good job neat car. On the other hand, there is the attempt to kill him by running him off the road, the fact he is being blackmailed by a ex-lover and a secret that could land him in prison. Michaels survives the automobile accident but what about his other problems. Are they all inter-related? After a plane crash kills his flying partner instead of Michaels, he realizes the police aren’t going to be of much help. If he is to survive he must figure things out on his own. 09/07 Jack Quick

ACCORDING TO JANE by Marilyn Bryant: Something strange happens to Ellie Barnett at the moment she is first assigned Pride & Prejudice in her high school English class: Jane Austen herself begins to speak to her. For years, Austen would be Ellie’s constant companion, her voice of reason, her conscience. And Austen does her best to help Ellie maneuver her way through the dating world in order to find her very own Mr. Darcy. But now in her thirties, Ellie has begun to wonder if her Darcy will ever come. As she looks back on her years of unworthies, all conveniently fitting into P&P’s mapped out caste system of men, Jane Austen is there by her side, coaching and coaxing. But could both Jane and Ellie have been wrong about someone along the way? Or is Mr. Darcy yet to come? And how will Ellie know when and if he finally crosses her path? This latest in the Austen-inspired string of releases is a cute and light read. One does begin to wonder how much stock to place in Austen’s opinion of men, though. Her voice starts to get a bit curmudgeonly after a while and it’s hard to set aside the knowledge that Austen was never married herself. 10/09 Becky Lejeune

THE ACCOUNTING by William Lashner: William Lashner is the author of several successful detective novels featuring Victor Carl. The Accounting is a stand alone book with a lightning fast delivery, an engrossing plot and characters that are flawed but unforgettable. Jon Willing aided by his best friends Augie and Ben find a cache of money hidden with a large quantity of drugs in one of the houses in their neighborhood, lived in by two brothers who are their enemies. They agree to steal the money, hide it and not touch it until there is no longer any possibility of the theft being traced to them. Twenty-five years after the theft Jon finds himself in a failing marriage, out of a job due to the great recession slamming the country, estranged from his two children and facing financial ruin. To make matters worse his friend Augie is not returning his calls, and when Jon goes to Las Vegas to check on him he finds him in his bed, tortured and murdered. Realization hits letting Jon know that the worse has happened and the people behind the stolen money are now after him and his friends looking for payback. Escaping from them finds Jon running around the country and facing his past and real or imagined friends and enemies in getting to the resolution of his problems. Lashner keeps the reader glued to the book and going from one crisis to another. The ending is logically arrived at and quite satisfying in the light of the events depicted. Awaiting the author’s next book is a given. 05/13 Paul Lane

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis: Godspeed is humanity’s hope for the future: a massive ship traveling across the universe to deliver a very special cargo to a new, Earth-like planet. The trip was supposed to take three hundred years. Amy and her parents would sleep through the whole thing, waking when the ship reached its destination and helping to settle the new world. But something has gone very wrong and Amy is awake – fifty years ahead of schedule. In the time she has slept, things on Godspeed have changed dramatically and now a murderer prowls the ship. If Amy can help discover the killer’s identity and his plans, maybe she can save her parents and the rest of Godspeed. Across the Universe is a spectacular debut! A cross between science fiction and mystery, Beth Revis’s book is a highly imaginative and captivating read for both teens and adults, and is the first in a projected trilogy. 1/11 Becky Lejeune

ACTS OF NATURE by Jonathon King: Max and Sherry on vacation at a friend’s remote fishing camp in the Everglades, a trio of housebreakers and general ne’er do wells and a pair of deadly security guards. What ties them all seven together? An unpredictable shift in the course of hurricane Simone has placed them all at risk. Similar to but different from James Lee Burke’s Tin Roof Blow Down, King describes not only the awesome power of these storms but their effect on people, before, during, and after. A top notch read. 09/07 Jack Quick

ADDITION by Toni Jordan: A light-hearted tale of one woman’s struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Grace Lisa Vandenburg develops an insatiable need to count at the age of eight. She counts everything, number of steps taken, number of letters in names, number of seat in a restaurant. She finds comfort in both their simplicity and complexity. The numbers are always there for her. One day it all begins to change, though. Her carefully mapped out life is jarred out of sync when she runs into Seamus Joseph O’Reilly. First it is in the grocery store where her incorrect number of bananas prompts her to steal one from his basket when he is not looking. And then he’s in her café, the one she visits every weekend for hot chocolate and orange cake. She accepts his invitation to sit and it just goes from there. Can she stop counting long enough to live a normal life and enjoy the things around her, or will it all prove to be too much for her to handle? This is a sweet and funny novel about learning to love life and accept people’s individuality. A surprisingly light read in spite of its subject matter, but one that will no doubt stick with you long after you turn the final page. 02/09 Becky Lejeune

Adios Muchachos by Daniel Chavarria: Winner of the 2002 Edgar Award for Best Original Paperback. A delightful robbery/murder caper set in contemporary Havana where the characters do what they have to do to survive and do it with gusto, humor and Latin style. The main character is a young woman who decides that her best asset is the way she sits on a bicycle. She then proceeds to peddle that asset all over town. Some reviewers have described her as a “bicycle hooker,” but I think that is a little harsh. She likes men and she appreciates presents. The mechanics of the transactions are hilarious and involve her mother cooking dinner for the chosen client. They ultimately enmesh her in dealing with the worlds of high finance, high crime and treasure on the high seas. Also, a phallic totem. If you enjoy this book, I also recommend that you do a bookstore search for anything by Paco Ignacio Taibo II. ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin

THE AFFAIR by Lee Child: Jack Reacher is back and this time he’s way back – it’s 1997, right before he leaves the Army, and we finally learn why he did, why he started drifting, and why he carries that toothbrush in his pocket. MP Reacher is sent undercover to a small Mississippi town with an Army base to act as counterpoint to the MP on base who is investigating a woman’s murder. The army wants the soldiers cleared, and they want Reacher to make sure that happens. But Reacher wants to make sure justice is served, and finds more bodies than any small town should have. Child doesn’t disappoint with some nice twists in the story, but this story is all about backstory, and here Child really excels. If you haven’t read this series, you certainly could start here, but I think it is a more poignant read to those who are already invested in this character. An excellent addition to one of my favorite series. 10/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE AFFAIR by Lee Child: If you are old enough to have enjoyed Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In on television during the late 1960’s you will remember Arte Johnson who closed each show with his German soldier in the palms and his catchphrase: “Verrrry interesting, but…[‘stupid’, ‘not very funny’, and other variations]” Verrrry interesting describes Child’s latest which goes back to the beginning when Jack Reacher was still a military cop. Carter Crossing, Mississippi. 1997. A lonely railroad track. A crime scene. A coverup. An investigation spinning out of control. Hard to say more without spoilers. Let me just agree with the Washington Post – “With Reacher, #1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Child has created “a series that stands in the front rank of modern thrillers.” 12/11 Jack Quick

THE AFFINITY BRIDGE by George Mann: In this alternate Victorian England, Queen Victoria is kept alive through technology and her devoted investigators, like Maurice Newbury, serve as her eyes and ears in the city. A recent plague of zombie virus brought over from India is sweeping through the nation and a murderer seems to be on the loose in Whitechapel. But it’s a recently crashed dirigible that the Queen has asked Newbury and his newly hired assistant, Veronica Hobbes, to look into. Strangely, the Whitechapel murders and the wrecked zeppelin seem to be closely connected, but it will take Newbury’s and Hobbes’s skills together to solve the cases. Steampunk definitely lends itself well to blending with other genres and this mix with traditional mystery works fantastically. I’m looking forward to future adventures with Hobbes and Newbury. 02/11 Becky Lejeune

AFRAID by Jack Kilborn: When a helicopter crashes in the small town of Safe Haven, Wisconsin, the townspeople find themselves up against an enemy like nothing anyone has ever seen. Sheriff Arnold “Ace” Streng is a Vietnam vet and even he has never witnessed the brutality that his town will soon be facing. When he receives a call about the crash, Ace heads out to the site only to find his own cousin being tortured and the man’s wife butchered. The men behind this seem to want one thing and one thing only. They want to know where Warren is. It only takes Ace a minute to realize who they seek, but figuring out exactly why and how to rid his town of these enemies will take a bit longer. Jack Kilborn is a pseudonym for author JA Konrath, the man behind the Jack Daniels mystery series. This stand-alone thriller is a bit of a change of pace for Konrath, but is fast-paced and excellently plotted — extremely hard to put down. 04/09 Becky Lejeune

AFRAID OF THE DARK by James Grippando: This is the ninth entry in the Jack Swyteck series, and this book takes a turn out of Miami for international waters with a secret interrogation cell in Prague, Somali terrorists in London and murders back home in Miami. Swyteck is tapped to represent Jamal Wakefield as he stands accused of murdering his teenage girlfriend and blinding a cop in the process. Jamal insists he is innocent and that he wasn’t even in Miami when the murder occurs. To add complications to this already complicated story, Swyteck’s FBI fiancée is warning him off the case, despite their agreement to not get involved in each other’s work, and defense witnesses keep turning up dead. Grippando uses headline makers like terrorism and mistreatment of political prisoners to up the tension in this tightly written thriller of revenge. 03/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

AFRAID OF THE DARK by James Grippando: Miami criminal defense attorney Jack Swyteck has a case right our of today’s headlines. Jamal has a good job working on encryption projects for the computer industry. Then he is accused of killing McKenna, the daughter of his boss Chuck May and setting off a bomb that blinded Sergeant Vince Paulo of the Miami police, a friend of Chuck’s who had been keeping an eye on McKenna for her father. Paulo was also instrumental in an earlier hostage negotiation involving Swyteck. It seemed an open and shut case since McKenna, bleeding to death in Paulo’s arms had uttered the name of her murderer and ex-boyfriend: Jamal. But then the story gets really interesting. Jamal is located at the detention center at Gitmo where he spent the past two years. At the time of the murder he claims he had been abducted and taken to a CIA secret prison in Prague where his abductors had tried to get him to reveal the secrets of the computer work he was doing and had threatened to kill McKenna if he didn’t cooperate. The far-fetched story starts to gain traction and Vince, Jack, and Chuck soon realize they are facing a deadly danger that goes beyond McKenna’s death and crosses international waters. Embarking on a journey to piece together the past, the men are led through the back alleys of London, onto illegal internet sites, and straight into pure evil. IMHO, the best Grippando yet. 04/11 Jack Quick

AFTER HOURS AT THE ALMOST HOME by Tara Yellen: It’s Super Bowl Sunday and the Broncos are playing. It’s going to be the busiest day of the year for Denver’s Almost Home Bar and Grill which means that it’s the worst possible day for a new girl to start, and for one of the bar’s seasoned employees to disappear. Denny was leaving after his shift and is forced to work a double thanks to Marna’s untimely no-show. JJ has never waitressed before and everyone is giving her a hard time. Keith was supposed to leave with Marna but hasn’t heard a word from her. Marna also promised a special day with Colleen’s daughter Lily, neither of which have heard from her either. The staff makes it through the day, and closes up shop, but that’s when things get really interesting at the Almost Home. Everyone who’s ever had to work in the service industry can relate to Yellen’s tale. Anyone who has ever had doubts about what comes next in life, whether the decisions they make are the right ones and if everything will work out in the end, will connect with at least one of the characters in this book. It’s that combination of the quirky dysfunctional family situation that occurs in any workplace and the instances of self-doubt that everyone suffers that collide in this earnest literary debut. After creating such a resonating story in After Hours at the Almost Home, Yellen will surely be one to watch in literary circles for years to come. 04/08 Becky Lejeune

AFTERSHOCK by Collin Wilcox: Lt. Frank Hastings has problems. His newest case is the murder of a wealthy 70-year-old woman, found bludgeoned in the garage of her San Francisco, Sea Cliff district home. There is no shortage of suspects, within and outside the victim’s dysfunctional family. In the meantime, Hastings’ girl friend Ann Haywood is being stalked, apparently in connection with a previous Hastings case. Can Frank stay focused and solve both crimes? Another great police procedural from the 1970’s. 1/11 Jack Quick

AGAINST ALL ENEMIES by James B. Woulfe: The Longest Day is the term used to describe June 6, 1994, the day the Allies stormed ashore at Normandy in World War II. The longest book may be an appropriate sub-title for this tell all whether you want to know it or not fiction debut about a future war in South America against drug dealing revolutionaries who are contributing to global warming, world wide inflation, and various and other sundryr crimes and misdemeanors. You will learn more than your ever cared to about SEALS and submarines, Rangers and various color berets, female pilots who become POW’s, Air Force Commandos, and that is just a start. Somewhere there is a story here, but I could never really get into it because of the highly detailed technical picture drawn of all the special troops and gadgets available to the US fighting forces today. Sorry, it’s a new era and not one I want to be in. 11/09 Jack Quick

AGAINST THEIR WILL by Nancy L. Livingstone: Matt Grayson is flying home to Houston after his first movie opens to great reviews. The plane crashes upon approach and Grayson’s life is changed forever. He thinks he has saved the life of his seatmate, Lynn McCane, but when he recovers consciousness in the hospital he is told he was the only survivor of the plane crash, and that all passengers and crew have been accounted for. Months later, Lynn shows up at Matt’s movie studio in Hollywood, with a new name and no memory of the plane crash. Matt gets her to go for coffee with him and tries to talk with her about the crash. Within hours they are atop the FBI’s Most Wanted List and are being pursued, it seems, by every government agency except Fish and Wildlife. Scary medical thriller from 2002, which brings new meaning to stem cell research and cloning. e-book. 05/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

AIRTIGHT by David Rosenfelt: Second Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Judge Daniel Brennan is just days away from appointment when he is found murdered in his driveway. Nationwide attention is focused on the case, the Feds move in but New Jersey detective Luke Somers lands a hot tip that druggie Steven Gallagher may be the killer. Gallagher is armed and in the heat of the moment, Somers kills him and becomes a national hero. Steven’s brother Chris, home on leave from his elite Marine Force Recon unit, is outraged and determined to prove his brother’s innocence. He kidnaps Somer’s brother and threatens to kill him unless Luke finds the real killer within seven days. Somers starts digging and uncovers a slew of conflicting information, but he is not sure if it will be enough to save his brother. The tension is palpable and the pages fly by in this riveting standalone thriller from the author of the Andy Carpenter mystery series. The voice here is just as engaging, with enough humor to lighten the story without diminishing the suspense, and the ending is a real shocker. Sure to appeal to fans of Harlan Coben and Robert Crais. 2/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2013 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission. 

AIRTIGHT by David Rosenfelt: Rosenfelt is the author of a series of books about his lawyer creation Andy Carpenter as well as stand alone novels. Luke Somers is a police lieutenant in New Jersey. He is among the many law enforcement officers mobilized when Judge Daniel Brennan is found stabbed to death in his home. Brennan was about to take his newly earned seat in the second court of appeals when he was killed. Following one of the many tips called in, Luke finds and shoots to death Steven Gallagher who has enough incriminating evidence in his home to be blamed for Judge Brennan’s murder. Case closed and Luke becomes a hero to a public anxious for rapid closure in the killing. But wait, Steven, had a brother, Chris Gallagher, who is a force recon marine serving in Afghanistan who returns home looking for answers to Steven’s death. He decides to kidnap Luke’s brother Bryan, imprison him in an old bomb shelter and give Luke 6 1/2 days to find the real killer of Judge Brennan and exonerate Steven. Bryan is imprisoned with an air supply lasting only the 6 1/2 days and no more. Luke must take up the challenge even with his own belief that he killed the real murderer of the Judge. He must somehow convince Chris that whatever he finds is real in order to get him to release Bryan. The book is a page turner with the scene changing from one set of circumstances to another and bringing into play the oil and gas industries new drilling technique of fracking and the new found wealth that it could bring. Rosenfelt is certainly not a one dimensional writer relying only on the very popular Andy Carpenter but has proven in most of his stand alone books that his original ideas and character development make for very rewarding reading. Certainly another all-nighter for the reader. 3/13 Paul Lane

AIRTIGHT by David Rosenfelt: An eye for an eye, quickly becomes a brother for a brother. When Judge Daniel Brennan is gunned down New Jersey policeman Luke Somers is assigned the case. An anonymous tip leads him to Steven Gallagher, a drug addict about to be sentenced by Judge Brennan. When they go into Gallagher’s apartment he has a gun in hand. Somers reacts instinctively and shoots him dead. Now, Steven’s brother Chris Gallagher, who raised his brother, Steven, almost single-handedly, is certain that Steven is innocent. Chris, a Marine Recon Force member is one to be reckoned with. He kidnaps Luke’s own brother who will die if Luke refuses to help clear Steven’s name. Failure by Luke may lead to his brother’s death; success may lead to his own death. A good one.3/13 Jack Quick

ALEX CROSS’S TRIAL by James Patterson & Richard DiLallo: James Patterson has drafted a stable of advertising executives as writers for his books – seventeen of them coming up in the next three years. DiLallo is the latest and he puts a different spin on the usual Patterson fare by going back in time to the days of the Ku Klux Klan lynchings in Mississippi. The premise of this latest in the Alex Cross series is that Alex is writing a novel called “Trial,” based on stories that have been passed down in his family about Abraham Cross, an ancestor that lived in Eudora, Mississippi in the early 1900’s. Ben Corbett hails from Eudora but has become a lawyer in Washington DC who likes helping out the underdog. Unfortunately, the underdog often can’t pay and Ben’s wife is fed up with it. When President Teddy Roosevelt offers Ben a clandestine assignment to look into the lynchings, Ben goes to Mississippi alone; his wife won’t come. Ben finds that Eudora isn’t the same town he remembered, and his old friends aren’t the same either. Abraham Cross is an old man who has seen a lot, and he is Ben’s contact in Eudora. After they both escape being lynched, one young man is dead and the sheriff reluctantly arrests some of the town’s worst offenders – hence, the “trial”. This is an interesting look at a disturbing period of American history that is best remembered from time to time. Using the familiar two page chapters to move the story along makes this a fast paced and riveting read. 09/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch 

ALEX CROSS’S TRIAL by James Patterson: A book within a book. Alex Cross has heard the story of his great uncle Abraham and his struggles for survival in the era of the Ku Klux Klan. Now, Alex passes the family tale along to his own children in a novel he’s written called Trial. Ben Corbett is a Washington, DC lawyer during the Teddy Roosevelt era. Roosevelt asks Ben to return to his home town of Eudora Mississippi to investigate rumors of the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan there. Ben meets the wise Abraham Cross and his beautiful granddaughter, Moody, and enlists their help. The two Crosses introduce him to the hidden side of the idyllic Southern town complete with lynchings and other brutalities that have left the town’s black quarter in constant fear. Ben seeks the truth – not knowing the price the truth will cost him. Above average for a Patterson. 10/09 Jack Quick

THE ALEXANDER CIPHER by Will Adams: Daniel Knox is an American archaeologist turned dive instructor who is currently living in Egypt. A lifelong scholar of Alexander the Great, Daniel, along with Aussie partner, Rick, are on the trail of the massive golden funeral carriage used to bring his body back to Egypt in 323 BCE. Alexander’s power-hungry general, Ptolemy, stole Alexander’s body for his own purposes, and the funeral carriage vanished. The stakes quickly become higher when it appears possible they may be on the trail not of just the carriage, but of the actual body of Alexander the Great. Of course there are a few obstacle in Daniel and Rick’s path – Hassan, David’s rich Egyptian boss, whom Daniel beat up in order to keep him from raping a young woman; Hassan’s even nastier head of security, Nessim; Gaille Bonnard, the Egyptologist who blames Daniel for the death of her father’ and Nicolas Dragoumis, the wealthy industrialist whose own father seems oddly determined to ruin Daniel. With that many bad guys, the tale could easily become a farce, but Adams sticks to his guns and the result is a first rate thriller. 06/10 Jack Quick

THE ALEXANDRIA LINK by Steve Berry: In Berry’s second thriller featuring Cotton Malone, the antiquarian bookseller and retired secret agent must set aside all differences with his ex-wife in order to save his son from nefarious kidnappers. While working with the Magellan Billet, a government organization much like the CIA, Malone was assigned to protect and help hide George Haddad. Haddad was a scholar focused on the Old Testament and his theories threatened to shake the very foundations of Judaism as well as Christianity. His studies also garnered attention from a group called the Guardians, the members of which are sworn to protect the lost library of Alexandria. The Guardians extended an invitation to Haddad and challenged him to find the library. His quest would lead him to the most famous cache of knowledge known man, but the Mossad had already tracked and killed the last three invitees. The Billet sent Malone in with no knowledge of Haddad’s background, and today, Malone is the only person who knows where to find Haddad. This knowledge makes both Malone and his family prime targets for the numerous groups who will stop at nothing to find Haddad. Anyone looking for a great action/adventure thriller in the vein of The Da Vinci Code will love Berry’s work. He’s tackled everything from Russia’s rumored amber room to the Knights Templar and now focuses his attentions on Alexander’s library, which should segue perfectly into his upcoming release, The Venetian Betrayal, and the search for Alexander’s grave. 12/07 Becky Lejeune

Ali & Nino by Kurban Said: Re-release of a book originally published in 1937, the author is thought to be a pseudonym for the couple whose romance the book is loosely based on. Takes place at the turn of the 19th century, clash of cultures and religion. Definitely worth a read.  Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ALIAS MAN by Bill Pronzini: Jessie, a slender blonde Pennsylvania widow, meets a dream lover in Santa Fe who immediately asks her to marry him. Sarah, a slender blonde Vancouver bookstore owner, had her husband disappear just over four years ago leaving her in debt. Morgan, a slender blonde California schoolteacher, suspects her husband of just under four years of cheating on her as well as losing her money in poor investments. When she confronts him, he responds by leaving her. Then she finds a safe deposit box key in his study and uses it to uncover the secret of The Alias Man. Using his list of victims and aliases, and the cash she finds in the safe deposit box, she enlists Jessie and Sarah to help her. Together they track down the chameleon who for the past two decades has been marrying every four years, stealing that wife’s money, and then moving on to the next victim. An unusual Pronzini, but excellent as always. 05/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

THE ALIBI MAN by Tami Hoag: Elena Estes (Dark Horse, 2002) moved from being among the elite of Palm Beach, Florida, to become a policewoman. After a meth lab bust that went bad causing the death of a fellow officer, she is now physically healed but still emotionally crippled. She is working at her best friend’s horse farm when she happens upon the body of the farm’s beautiful, vibrant young groom, Irena in a canal being savaged by alligators. She is determined to see Irena avenged and the path leads her back into the upper echelons of Palm Beach society, power brokers, polo fields, and her ex-fiancé, who, Elena knows, is capable of committing the crime. She also quickly learns that Russian born Irena may have led a more complicated life than Elena thought. Fast paced, with plenty of action Hoag moves easily from the beautiful to the ugly and captures the conflicting emotions of people hurting as well as anyone. Recommended.02/09 Jack Quick 

ALL HE SAW WAS THE GIRLby  Peter Leonard: Peter Leonard has written a very tightly woven love story involving four characters in different areas of the world tied neatly together by circumstances. McCabe and his friend Chip are both students at an Italian university in Rome. McCabe is the first of the people involved in the love stories. He meets the beautiful Italian girl Angela in the normal way lovers meet. Angela and a group of gangsters kidnap him thinking that he is Chip, whose father, a US Senator is wealthy. He is released when Chip’s father pays the ransom asked, thinking that it is Chip being held. The other couple is Sharon and her husband Ray, a Secret Service agent released from the service. Sharon who has become bored with an existence that involves Ray’s constant absence due to duty with the service, and is having an affair with Joey Palermo, a Mafia enforcer. Ray comes home with the intention of making his constant absences up with Sharon and finds that she has decided to go to Italy with Joey, who has to leave the U.S due to Mafia pressures. Leonard has the ability to introduce and flesh out various characters in different areas and than tying their fates together through the progression of action he presents in the story. Events are shifted throughout the book between the characters and finally brought to a head in a very satisfying ending. The reader is swept forward and can’t put the book down until the end. This is the second Peter Leonard book I have read and am very anxiously awaiting the next one. 6/12 Paul Lane

ALL SEEING EYE by Rob Thurman: Imagine if you had the ability to see a person’s darkest secrets with just one touch. Jackson Lee Eye has that power. It began when he was just a kid, witnessing the final moments of his young sister’s life simply by touching an abandoned shoe. After that horrible event, he was orphaned and left to fend for himself. Now he makes a living taking advantage of his ability, but an unwelcome visit from a government agency soon forces him to take his power to another level. An experiment gone wrong has led to a number of murders and Jackson seems to be the only chance anyone has in stopping it. Each time I read one of Thurman’s books I’m a bit surprised at how dark they are. All Seeing Eye is no exception featuring a number of crime scenes filled with cannibals and psycho killers – and even some questionable BBQ. I wouldn’t want to hang out in the twisted depths of Thurman’s mind though it does make for a great paranormal thriller. 3/13 Becky Lejeune

ALICE IN JEOPARDY by Ed McBain: Alice Glendenning oversleeps. She is still grieving for her husband who disappeared off his boat 8 months ago. Late to work at the real estate agency where she has yet to sell a house, she calls her lawyer and the insurance company still refuses to pay off, later she gets hit by a car and has her ankle broken. When she gets home her children aren’t there. They have been kidnapped and the ransom demand is for $250,000 : the exact amount due from her insurance. Maybe she should have stayed in bed. McBain proves once again that he can spin a tale without or without the help of the 8thPrecinct boys. A good one. 11/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

ALL NECESSARY FORCE by Brad Taylor: This is the second book in an undoubtedly projected series about a secret cadre of elite service people serving outside the pale of normal military operations. They are known as the Task force and report to an oversight group consisting of leading public figures headed by the president of the United States. Their missions are set by the steering committee and must conform to professional standards which include attempting to respect the laws and traditions of the countries they operate in. Most of the Task Force consists of military personnel, although they have their own intelligence group, medical people and other necessary support groups as back up for the clandestine operations. While there are many books coming out today delineating the undercover wars against our terrorist enemies, All Necessary Force has one overriding feature which takes it from the ordinary into the obviously superior. The author, Brad Taylor, is a 24 year veteran of army special forces troops, retiring as a Lt Colonel commanding those forces. He also ended his career as an assistant Professor of Military Science at the Citadel in South Carolina. He has literally been there and done that. His descriptions of the thoughts, feelings and reactions of the characters in the books provides a great insight into people placed in kill or be killed positions brings the reader right into the narrative. And with Col Taylor’s background these reactions are surely right on. Pike Logan is a former special forces soldier forced out of the military by events in the first book of the series – One Rough Man. In that book he met Jennifer Cahill who forced him back into the world of the Task Force and has begun to supply a romantic interest that does nothing but make Pike more human and less a killing machine. Jennifer is indoctrinated into the Task Force, and becomes a part of their combat team. She has doubts about the nature of the combat operations but manages to look at what they do as a necessary evil in a world with enemies of our country. The target is a group of Islamic terrorists bent on a debilitating attack on the United States. Actions run from Eastern Europe where the terrorists pick up explosives for use in their projected action into the US, where the Task Force is not supposed to operate and into the US area which will come under attack. The narrative keeps the reader involved with the characters, their actions and of course reactions to events. The reader of this book is going to be waiting anxiously for the next in the series. 2/12 Paul Lane 

ALL THE FLOWERS ARE DYING by Lawrence Block: Scudder tries to help a fellow AA member who has attracted a mysterious boyfriend. Then his wife Elaine’s best friend is brutally murdered, with a letter opener purchased from Elaine. Is there a connection? Like Small Town, this book is set in New York City post 9/11 and seems darker and more brooding than previous Scudders. While AA is and should be the dominant force in the former practicing alcoholic’s life, sometimes this gets in the way of story flow, i.e., I don’t need the address and time of every AA meeting in New York. What would make a great series? TJ from Block and Tamara from Pronzini working together. Recommended. 05/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick. 

ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS by J. T. Ellison: A ruthless serial killer has been stalking young women in the southeast. Dubbed the Southern Strangler, he has left a grisly trail of dead coeds in his wake. Each girl has had her hands removed, one of which will be found at the following crime scene, and each subsequent victim goes missing the same day the previous victim is found. When the body of the third victim is discovered in Nashville, Lieutenant Taylor Jackson is called to the scene. Her involvement with FBI agent John Baldwin leaves her privy to certain details of the case, even after it leaves her jurisdiction, and leads to a disturbing discovery. The killer has been e-mailing clues to a well-known reporter in the Nashville area – clues that could finally lead to the discovery of his identity. Meanwhile, Jackson has other problems to deal with including a rapist who has recently attacked the lead investigator on the Rainman case. To make matters even worse, there appears to be a leak within the Bureau and there are whispers of corruption amongst Nashville’s finest. Ellison writes like a pro – her details are dead on, her plot is engrossing, and her characters are engaging. This masterful debut is sure to keep readers up all night in suspense. I highly recommend All the Pretty Girls (first in a new series with books two and three set for release in 2008). 11/07 Becky Lejeune

ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS by J.T. Ellison: Nashville homicide detective Taylor Jackson and her erstwhile boyfriend FBI Agent John Baldwin are on the trail of a serial killer, who targets pretty young girls for death and then leaves a grisly trademark. He removes the hands of his victims and at each murder site leaves one of the hands of his previous victim. Somewhat uneven, as most debuts are, but the seeds are here for what could be an interesting series. While there is no shortage of female detectives, private or official, Jackson is interesting. Hopefully, as the series develops it will become more focused and straight forward.04/09 Jack Quick

THE ALMOST MOON by Alice Sebold: The Lovely Bones was brilliant, so it was with great expectation and some trepidation that I began Sebold’s latest. The opening is quite the grabber: “When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily.” Another difficult subject for sure, but unfortunately, this story of matricide quickly becomes tedious. Helen has difficult relationships in her life; besides her Alzheimer’s afflicted mother, there is the ex-husband and her children. The book spans the course of one day, a mere 24 hours, yet seems so much longer than that, perhaps because it is missing the emotional wallop promised with that opener. 10/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ALMOST MOON by Alice Sebold: After reading Lovely Bones and Lucky, I was excited to read Almost Moon. My excitement didn’t last very long. Almost Moon is the tale of Helen Knightly, a divorced mother of two grown daughters. Her father having died decades earlier, it is up to Helen to take care of her emotionally abusive agoraphobic mother. Throughout the book the reader flashes back to episodes portraying the strained relationship she had with her mother. The first several chapters of the book were engaging. Helen can no longer take the strain and frustration of dealing with her mother, so she smothers her with a kitchen towel. The reader is then lead through Helen’s ritual of stripping and bathing her mother, then pulling her down the basement steps and putting her in the oversized freezer. A little out there, yes, but completely plausible. The remainder of the book goes downhill quickly and I completely lost interest. Almost Moonmight be a good book for those readers that haven’t read any of Sebold’s other work, and therefore have nothing to compare it to. But a diehard Sebold fan will definitely be disappointed with this one, as I was. 05/08 Jennifer Lawrence

ALONE IN THE CROWD by Luis Alfredo Garcia-Roza: Garcia-Roza’s latest, Alone in the Crowd, is about as good a psychological mystery as I have read in a long, long time. It is not a thriller, but rather a psychological study of a very strange bank teller who the good Inspector Spinosa knew when they were both boys playing soccer in the streets of Rio de Janeiro. The story begins like a James Joyce day in the life of an ordinary person story. The ordinary person in this case is an elderly lady, Dona Laureta Sales Ribiero. She spends most of the day waiting at her bank to withdraw her pension money. Then she goes to the grocery store, the pharmacy and the police station. At the station, she asks for the Chief and is advised that Inspector Spinosa is in a meeting but will be available later. She says that she will come back after dinner and leaves. Before she can return, she is run over by a bus. Like Sherlock Holmes, Spinosa is quick to sense the possibility of a crime before there is clear evidence of a murder to others. His investigation quickly centers on the teller at the bank, one Hugo Breno. Breno is a loner, who for reasons known best to himself, feels safest in a crowd. Spinosa eventually remembers their acquaintance as children and the remainder of the story is the way in which these two characters come to understand each other. And, as always in Garcia-Roza’s books, there is more than one puzzle for the reader. In this case, one side-puzzle is the behavior of Spinosa’s girl friend, Irena and her friend Vania. Although I would not classify this novel as a “thriller,” it does have an exciting finish. I am an unabashed fan of both Garcia-Roza and Inspector Spinosa and recommend this highly. 08/09 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

ALPHA by Greg Rucka: Marshall Karp gave us The Rabbit Factory, home of Rambunctious Rabbit and his Familyland theme park. Chris Grabenstein took us through all the Jersey Coast thrill rides, and now Greg Rucka brings us face to face with a nightmare at Wilsonville theme park. Retired Delta Force operator, Master Sergeant Jonathan “Jad” Bell, is Wilsonville’s lead undercover security officer. The threat begins with the announcement of a hidden dirty bomb, but quickly becomes something far, far worse. Jad’s daughter is one of the people caught up in the ensuing hostage situation. Definitely white-knuckle time. 10/12 Jack Quick

ALPHA by Rachel Vincent: The war that’s been brewing between the Prides has finally arrived. Just days after the events of Shift, Faythe and her Pride are ready to present undeniable proof that Calvin Malone has been manipulating and using the Council to suit his own needs, and at the expense of everyone else. But with the Council split between support for Malone and support for Faythe’s father, even now the task at hand seems impossible. The only option left is to fight to the death and hope that the good guys come out on top. It will mean losing some of their own but if the battle is lost altogether, it will mean much, much worse for Faythe and her family. In the midst of it all, Faythe’s own role with the Pride will change and she will finally have to decide who will lead alongside her: Jace or Marc. I’m sad to see the series go. With five books to build up the action and just one to tie it all up, I’m left wanting more from the story. I’m not sure what Vincent has planned next, but I’ve not doubt it’ll be great. 10/10 Becky Lejeune

Altar Music by Christin Lore Weber: A fascinating look at Catholicism and sex written by one who knows, an ex-nun. The story follows three generations of women and how their religion affected their lives. This book shows the darker side of the convent, as well as the personal damage that can be done in the name of God. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch 

ALWAYS SAY GOODBYE by Stuart M. Kaminsky: Sarasota, Fla., process server and occasional PI Lew Fonesca finally feels up to begin tracking down the hit-and-run driver who killed his wife, Catherine, a prosecutor in Chicago four years earlier. Hardly has he landed at Midway airport when Lew finds himself between two warring assassins-for-hire who believe Catherine had compiled a file of evidence against them that Lew now has. Chicago is obviously colder and more dangerous than Sarasota but this is something Lew has to do to move forward with his life. The fifth in the series, each one is better than its predecessor. 12/06 Jack Quick

THE AMATEURS by Marcus Sakey: Sakey writes these intense thrillers about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances and he’s one of my favorite writers. The Amateurs is his latest foray into the genre, and here he looks at what makes people do the things that they do – especially when they know they are wrong. In this case, a group of casual drinking buddies, a couple of whom have pressing financial needs, decide to add a little excitement and money into their lives by robbing the owner of the bar they hang out in. But what seems like a lark turns much deadlier very quickly. Mitch is a hotel bellman with low self esteem and an unrequited crush on Jenn, the only girl in the group. Jenn’s a looker, but she’s just bored with life and being a good girl. She wants an adventure. Ian is the most successful of the group, but he’s also a compulsive gambler with big debt to the wrong people. Alex is the bartender where they hang out, and a single father who’s ex is planning to move cross country with his daughter. When Alex tells his friends that he saw a big cash delivery to his big shot boss, they decide to steal it. Jenn will get her adventure, Alex and Ian the cash they need, and Mitch gets his chance to impress Jenn. They cook up what seems like the perfect plan, but of course it goes awry; after all, they are complete amateurs at crime. Sakey creates believable characters in this heartbreaking story of good guys gone bad. 08/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon: This year’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel is the beautifully written story of two men growing up together in New York. With WW2 at their backs, this historical look at the 20th century captivates the reader by introducing us to the golden age of the comic book. Their adventures in creating a comic book hero makes for a most compelling read. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

The Amber Room by Steve Berry: If you’re looking for something after the Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown has a blurb on the cover,) this could be your book. A fascinating blend of history and suspense involving the Amber Room, whose walls were made of the precious stone which was carved into artistic panels and was looted from Catherine’s Palace in St. Petersburg by the Nazis during WWII. A judge from Georgia inherits some cryptic letters from her father after his death, including the ominous warning that whatever she does, she shouldn’t look for the Amber Room. So of course she does, and her ex-husband ends up chasing after her to Germany. A couple of assassins are leaving a trail of bodies, while this secret society of art collectors tries to zero in on the find of the century. It was impossible to put down this fast paced treasure hunt.  Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE AMBITION by Lee Strobel: Only in Chicago – the mob, crooked politicians, old time newspaper guys, and a mega-church pastor turned politician. Strobel ties them all together in a tale that wanders all over the map before reaching a biting climax. It starts with a fourth generation O’Sullivan, a down-on-his-luck lawyer with a gambling problem. When he must bribe a federal; judge in connection with an upcoming mob trial, he secretly tapes the exchange. Later, the dirty judge becomes a finalist for an open U.S. Senate seat. His challenger is Eric Snow, a dot-com millionaire who found religion and founded Diamond Point, a massively successful evangelical Christian group. Think Mark Cuban investing in God rather than the Dallas Mavericks. Newspaper reporter Garry Strider is the glue who ties it all together as he threatens to uncover both candidates’ secrets in an investigation that may cost him his life. If you enjoy Michael T. Harvey’s portrayal of the Windy City, you will likely want to add Strobel to your reading list as well. 08/11 Jack Quick

AMERICAN SKIN by Ken Bruen: Only Bruen could take a fairly routine plot about bank robbers disagreeing over the disposition of the loot and take it into totally new territory. The key players are Stephen Blake who has the money, and whose girlfriend, Siobhan, knows how to launder it, John A. Stapleton, hit man for the IRA, who thinks 100% is a fair share and Dade, so psychotic he hits meth to enjoy movies and is obsessively devoted to the music of Tammy Wynette. Is this literature for the ages? Probably not, but what a helluva read. If you are a Bruen fan, go get it. If you are not a Bruen fan, still go get it. You will become one.10/06 Jack Quick

AMERICAN WIFE by Curtis Sittenfeld: Touted as a lightly fictionalized Laura Bush story, the author even includes a note stating that while names may have been changed, the people you recognize are, in fact, the people you think they are. That said, the Bush marriage has always puzzled me, and apparently a lot of other people too. This is the story of how a smart, pretty, hard working middle class librarian ended up married to a wealthy member of a political dynasty who achieved the Presidency of the United States, while often being perceived as a bumbling fool if not worse. I vaguely remember hearing about a car accident that Laura Bush was involved in, and this book pivots on that event. Alice Lindgren of small town Riley, Wisconsin, is a teenager when she runs a stop sign and kills a classmate. While never formally charged, this event affects the rest of her life. Alice is naive but sure of herself enough to be particular in who she dates. When she meets Charlie Blackwell, he charms her enough to sweep her off her feet and they marry within a few months. It takes her years to realize what even his own family knows; that he is lazy, bungling and a bit of an idiot. Alice feels that with her smarts and organizational skills, she can help Charlie meet his destiny, and she does, first as he buys a baseball team, then during his run for Governor and finally the White House. Fast reading for the most part and always interesting, especially the early parts of coming of age in a small town and even the marriage, but the ending was really over the top, bordering on ridiculous. 10/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

AMMUNITION by Ken Bruen: In this seventh Sergeant Brant outing, our hero is in a London pub brooding about the death of his idol, real-life author Ed McBain, when a gunman opens fire and then disappears. (Eats, shoots and leaves?) Although hit a number of times, he survives and to the dismay of criminals and cops alike he is soon back on the job, crankier than ever, and vowing revenge. Concurrently, Sergeant Falls and constable McDonald, key players in the previous adventures are having their own problems – Falls with a psycho named Angie and McDonald with the powdered white lady. It’s a train wreck in progress but somehow it all comes to a satisfactory end. 01/08 Jack Quick

THE ANALYST by John Katzenbach: Dr. Frederick Starks, a New York psychoanalyst, has adjusted to life as a single man during the three years since the death of his wife. His practice is successful and if asked, he would probably say he is content. All this explodes with a letter delivered on his fifth third birthday “Happy fifty third birthday, Doctor. Welcome to the first day of your death.” Suddenly he is in the middle of a horrific game designed by a man who calls himself Rumplestiltskin. The rules: in two weeks, Starks must guess his tormentor’s identity. If Starks succeeds, he goes free. If he fails, Rumplestiltskin will destroy, one by one, fifty-two of Dr. Starks’ loved ones—unless the good doctor agrees to kill himself. In a blistering race against time, Starks’ is at the mercy of a psychopath’s devious game of vengeance. He must find a way to stop the madman—before he himself is driven mad. Intense. 8/12 Jack Quick

ANATOMY OF FEAR: A Novel of Visual Suspense by Jonathan Santlofer: This has to be one of the most exciting new books to come out in a long time. Santlofer brings considerable skills to his latest endeavor, as both an emerging talent over the past few years as a thriller writer, as well as a life long career as a significant artist, with work represented in various museums. Graphic novels have gained significant popularity in the past few years, along with a healthy new respect – these are not your childhood comic books anymore. Now that respect for the illustration is transcending into other genres. In his latest novel, Santlofer combines his story with his art in the character of Nate Rodriguez, a police sketch artist of some renown. But this is no graphic novel; it is a thriller that happens to have an occasional illustration born out of Nate’s work that tends to help the reader visualize the story as well as propel the story forward. Nate is an interesting character; half Puerto Rican and half Jewish, and he uses both his heritages to his advantage. A serial killer is on the loose in New York City, leaving drawings of each murder victim at the scene of the crime. NYPD Homicide Detective Terri Russo thinks highly of Nate’s skills, and convinces her bosses to let him help out with the case. Meanwhile, Nate’s abuela, his Puerto Rican grandmother who dabbles in Santeria, is having vivid dreams that are somehow tied to the murders. Between his grandmother’s visions and his own visions, and the clues the police are able to obtain, Nate’s drawings are honing in on the murderer. This is a page turner of the finest kind, and the illustrations just ratchet the tension up a notch. I loved this book and ripped through it in one night, sadly turning the last page – I didn’t want it to end, and I hope we will see more of this character. 04/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ANCIENT LAWS by Jim Hansen: I have been a fan of the Laws series from the outset. Business interests and relatives in Denver have permitted me to spend enough time there that I feel I know the city. (If you visit the city, get someone to direct you to Gordo’s for great Mexican food served family style.) Situated between the fertile flat farmlands and the United States version of the Alps, Denver has always been a quirky place where women wearing boots attract less attention than men wearing ties. Jim Hansen has managed to capture this spirit completely. Bryson Coventry, his 34 year old serial womanizing, pickup truck driving, coffee drinking fanatic head of Denver’s homicide unit fits perfectly into the local scene. In this, the 8th of the Laws series, however, Coventry is away from his native Denver tracking a lead on a year-old murder. In Paris, he meets detective Ja’Venn Le Rue, whom Hansen advises will ultimately be the subject of her own Edge series. If they come even close to the quality of Laws, they will be great. In the meantime Coventry and Le Rue are pulled into a deadly game that will lead them from Paris to Cairo to the Valley of the Kings, a game involving ancient tombs, lost treasures, and archeological murders. 09/09 Jack Quick

AND EVERY MAN HAS TO DIE by Frank Zafiro: Another excellent police procedural about the men and women of the River City Police Department. Rookie B. J. Carson and the rest of the force are coping with a new threat. Russian gangster Valerity has big plans and is willing to do whatever it takes to make them a reality. Other gangs are dangerous and even deadly, but none as as ruthless as the Russians who think nothing of setting fire to homes with women and children as a way of proving their point. Instead of offering “protection” to businesses, they simply take them over and leave the former owner to run the business profitably or die. After all, to them, the American jail system is like summer camp, compared to what they previously faced in Russia. Zafiro is not yet in a class with Ed McBain but he is getting better with each outing. 05/11 Jack Quick NOTE: Kindle only

AND ONLY TO DECEIVE by Tasha Alexander: In the opening title of Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series, the newly widowed Lady Ashton finds herself embroiled in a mystery involving stolen antiquities. Emily was under no illusion that she was in love with her husband, but when he died quite suddenly after their nuptials, she was disheartened to realize that she knew little about the man. As she learns more about the deceased Philip Ashton, she begins to quite like him. Imagine her surprise when she begins to suspect that he may have been involved in some shady dealings with Greek and Roman antiques. And some unsavory characters have noted her interest as well. I needed a bit of a refresher now that the series is six books in and found my return to Lady Emily just as enjoyable as my introduction. Readers who enjoy smart period mysteries will love Alexander’s clever plots and playful writing. 12/11 Becky Lejeune 

AND SHE WAS by Cindy Dyson: This is a fantastic debut set in the Aleutian Islands in the mid 1980’s. When Brandy follows her boyfriend to this remote setting, she is left to her own devices as he ships off to sea on a fishing trawler. She manages to find work at one of the toughest bars in the world. Here, one of her favorite pastimes – collecting bathroom graffiti – causes her to get embroiled in a mystery of sorts that spans generations. Paralleling Brandy’s tale is that of three women and their female ancestors. In the 1700’s when explorers discover these remote islands, the men of the Aleutian society leave to protect their homes against the invaders. While the men are off fighting, the women and children are forced to fend for themselves. As hunting is a men’s task and all the men are gone, food is becoming scarce. Three women are forced to take matters into their own hands and in doing so they leave themselves open to being banished from their society. This is a story of self discovery and growth as well as one that gives insight to cultural differences and taboos. And She Was is a truly amazing read that I cannot recommend highly enough. Dyson’s writing is impeccable and the story will appeal to a very broad audience. 12/06 Becky LeJeune

AND THEN SHE FELL by Stephanie Laurens: This is part of Laurens’ Cynster series. Henrietta is known as the “Matchbreaker” because she’s willing to tell the truth when asked. Her brother’s best friend, James Glossup, is wooing a friend, but Henrietta knows he has to marry within a month or lose his inheritance. That bit of info causes the demise of that relationship, and James is quite put out. After he explains the situation, Henrietta feels bad and decides to become a matchmaker and help him find a bride quickly. But spending all that time together finds them falling in love, but neither will admit it as the matchmaking continues. Another enjoyable Regency romance from Laurens. 5/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

AND WHEN SHE WAS GOOD by Laura Lippman: To her neighbors, Heloise Lewis would appear to be an everyday, average single mother. In fact, some even seem to be jealous of her ability to handle everything life throws at her: son, work, home life, she seems to have it all under control. What they don’t know is that behind the façade, Heloise is actually a high-class prostitute with her own corral of working women. She’s careful about hiding her profession and not drawing attention to herself all the while doing the best she can to provide a stable and nurturing home for her son. Scott will never know what his mother actually does for a living and he’ll certainly never know the truth about his father, Heloise’s one-time pimp and incarcerated business partner. But when Heloise learns that Scott’s father could soon be released from prison, her carefully built world begins to crumble. Laura Lippman fans first met Heloise Lewis in Hardly Knew Her, the author’s short story collection released in 2008. Lewis proved to be a fascinating character and one that I was more than happy to return to here in And When She Was Good. All of Lippman’s characters are complex, but Heloise is by far one of my favorites. She’s so layered and is developed in a way that makes her seem completely realistic. While it’s not necessary to have read “One True Love” or Scratch a Woman (Heloise’s short and novella from Hardly Knew Her) the collection is a fantastic one and I’d highly recommend it as follow up reading for fans of And When She Was Good. 9/12 Becky Lejeune

ANGELOLOGY by Danielle Trussoni: The St. Rose convent in Milton, New York, has been home for Sister Evangeline since she was just twelve years old; the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration her family for over a decade. But Evangeline comes from a long line of Angelologists who have been studying and fighting the Nephilim for ages. Legend has it that the Watchers, God’s angels, were so enamored with human women, that they took them for wives. They were punished, imprisoned deep beneath the earth, where they still wait today. The Nephilim are their children: beings not wholly human and not wholly angel. The Nephilim are dangerous and vengeful creatures that have long fought humans for dominance on earth. But Evangeline knows none of this. When a request to search the convent’s archives for correspondence from Abigail Rockefeller piques Evangeline’s curiosity, she is thrown headfirst into a battle that began thousands of years ago, and the search for the one item that could give either side the advantage over the other. Angelology is as imaginative and exciting as Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian. A literary puzzle that unfolds with excellent precision, Trussoni’s fiction debut has it all: history, adventure, mythology, and a definite feeling that there will be more to come. 03/10 Becky Lejeune

THE ANGEL’S GAME by Carlos Ruiz Zafón: Zafón brings to life an eerie version of 1920s Barcelona in his second U.S. release. Readers will remember Sempere and Sons bookshop and the Cemetery of Forgotten Books from the author’s first release, The Shadow of the Wind. In Angel’s Game, author David Martin has been working for years writing penny-dreadfuls under a pseudonym. He longs for the recognition and respect deserving of a real author, however, and takes a commission from a strange man offering him unreal payment and favors in return. David, whose success prompted him to rent a foreboding home called The Tower House, has learned that there may be a deeper connection between himself and the previous owner of the home, a lawyer who left his business to write. As David digs into this man’s life and what led to his mysterious drowning, he begins to wonder what fate may await him at the end of his contract. Angel’s Game is very similar in many ways to Shadow of the Wind, but is no less magical a read. It’s one that begs to be savored and read slowly because, upon entering Zafón’s created world, you never want to leave. I’ve been waiting in great anticipation for Angel’s Game and was, obviously, not let down. I highly recommend that if you have not yet read Shadow of the Wind, you run out and buy both books now. 06/09 Becky Lejeune

ANGELS OF DESTRUCTION by Keith Donohue: Margaret Quinn leads a very lonely life. Ten years ago, her daughter ran off with her boyfriend, a revolutionary planning to join the Angels of Destruction. Just a few years later Margaret’s husband died leaving her all alone. But one night, in the wee hours, a young girl appears on Margaret’s doorstep. The girl, Norah, reminds Margaret so much of her lost daughter, that she allows Norah to stay. The two create a story in which Norah is Margaret’s granddaughter, left in her care by the missing daughter who returned just long enough to abandon the child. Norah’s presence is just what Margaret has been longing for all these years. When Norah begins disrupting her classroom and then the town itself with her talk of angels and apocalypse, cracks begin to form in their carefully plotted cover story. Is it possible that Norah really is an angel sent to answer Margaret’s prayers? Like Donohue’s debut, The Stolen Child, Angels of Destruction is a blend of fantasy and reality. It’s a tale of loneliness and forgiveness and of childlike faith. It’s touching and sweet and sticks with you long after you finish. 03/09 Becky Lejeune

ANGEL’S TIP by Alafair Burke: New York City rookie police detective Ellie Hatcher, first introduced in Dead Connection, is out doing her morning run when she runs into the dead body of a teenage girl who’d been strangled, stabbed and had her hair shorn. The nineteen year old blonde was visiting the Big Apple with friends and hitting all the clubs while on break from college, which creates a whirlwind of bad publicity for the city. NYPD breaks the case very quickly – or have they? Turns out there are some weird similarities to some cold cases that Hatcher’s deceased partner had been checking out, and she is unconvinced they have the right perp. When another young woman is killed in a similar fashion, even the hunky district attorney has to admit there are some problems with the case, and Hatcher is getting a very uneasy feeling that somehow it’s personal. Lots of suspense and plot twists galore keep the pages turning, but it’s the personal storylines about Hatcher, her boyfriend, her brother, and her partner that makes Angel’s Tip a winner. 8/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2008 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

ANGEL’S TIP by Alafair Burke: A first rate police procedural from the daughter of James Lee Burke. In this second Elli Hatcher outing, the newly assigned NYPD homicide detective is first on the scene at the discovery of the mutilated body of a college student. She and partner J.J. Rogan have an abundance is suspects that come into and then out of the picture as more evidence is unearthed that finally leads to a manhunt for a serial killer. Very nicely done and suspenseful to the end; let’s hope we continue to see more of Ms. Hatcher in the months and years ahead. Completely different from, but potentially as enduring as her dad’s Dave Robicheaux. 09/08 Jack Quick

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner: A big, sprawling novel of incredible description and complex characters. There are two stories going on here; the narrator of modern day writing a historical biography of his grandparents who helped settle the old West. Based on the life of Mary Hallock Foote, a writer and artist of the late 1800’s, Stegner combines her story with his imagination and comes up with a beautiful book. Winner of the 1971 Pulitzer Prize.  Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik: Five women, neighbors, meet in the early 1960’s in Minnesota and form the Freesia Court Book Club, but that name evolves into the Angry Housewives from a snide remark of the husband of one of the members. These women share their lives – their marriages, children, politics, and of course their love of reading, over the course of the next thirty-plus years. The characters are an interesting mélange of suburban housewives – Audrey, an independently wealthy woman who doesn’t leave home without baring her cleavage; Slip, the politically motivated feminist rebel; Faith, who has a past she’d rather forget; Kari, a slightly older widow who adopts a bi-racial baby; and Merit, the beauty who is married to the beast. Each chapter is written in the voice of the host (not hostess – Slip feels that feminizing nouns is demeaning to women), which begins each chapter, along with the book they are reading – which ranges from Love Story (they hated it) to The Total Woman (they really hated it – or was that me?) to On the Road (loved it) to A Confederacy of Dunces (thought provoking), along with the reason chosen or food served or highlight of the meeting, bringing a varying perspective to everything going on their lives and a nostalgic (for me) look back on the past few decades. This is obviously a book aimed at reading groups, yet it doesn’t come off as a commercial attempt at such, but rather a creative and fascinating look at the role of women over the last part of the twentieth century – the books are just an added bonus. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD by Kendare Blake: Cas Lowood is a ghost hunter. NOT a ghostbuster, mind you. As his dad did before him, Cas tracks down vengeful spirits that continue to wreak havoc well beyond their end. An angry ghost can stick around for ages, killing unsuspecting folks who wander within their territory. A tip has led Cas to Thunder Bay, Ontario, and the ghost of Anna, a girl who died in the 1950s on the night of her high school dance. The locals call her Anna Dressed in Blood because of her once white gown now said to be drenched in her own blood for all eternity. In the years since Anna’s death, she has killed countless individuals who have stumbled upon her old home. Now Cas intends to send her where she belongs. But even after Anna kills another teen right in front of him, Cas finds himself unable to send her away. Never mind the fact that Anna inexplicably spared Cas, something about this ghost is different from those he’s met before. Cas finds himself strangely drawn to her and determined to learn her story. Anna Dressed in Blood is creepy and intriguing. Anna is just part of the story and I appreciated the secondary plot equally as much as Anna’s tale. I thought Blake did a fantastic job tying together all of the pieces. This is one that will definitely appeal to both teen and adult readers. 8/12 Becky Lejeune

ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by L. M. Montgomery: The 100th anniversary edition of this classic children’s book was released in 2008, and I finally took the time to read it. I’m sure I read it when I was a child, but that was thousands of books ago and while I remembered I enjoyed it, I didn’t remember much more. I loved it, probably more than I did as a child because my perspective is so different, and I couldn’t put it down. The writing is lovely, the characters fully realized, and Anne Shirley’s adventures at the Green Gables farm on Prince Edward Island in Canada is a marvelous story that deserves to live on for  hundreds of years more. 02/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ANNIVERSARY MAN by R.J. Ellory: John Costello survived the Hammer of God killings in 1984. His girlfriend did not. Ever since then, John has become obsessed with the why. Why do serial killers do what they do? What made him and Nadia a target? Why did he survive? He’s devoted his career to their study and is the only one to draw a connection between a recent series of murders in New York. When Detective Ray Irving is alerted to the fact that these seemingly random crimes are all exact copies of previous serial killers’ scenes, he is assigned as lead in the investigation. But the department wants to keep this one quiet and Irving will need Costello’s help to try and catch the killer before he strikes again. The Anniversary Man is just Ellory’s second release here in the States (he has seven titles available in the UK) and he’s quickly cementing himself as one of my favorites in the crime genre. His stories are dark and disturbing, his plots keep you guessing, and they never end quite like you think they will. 06/10 Becky Lejeune

THE ANNIVERSARY MAN by R.J. Ellory: No sophomore slump here, as Ellroy’s second is, IMHO, a much better outing than 2009’s A Quiet Belief in Angels. This is an excellent story with much tighter writing and a tremendous plot. NYPD Detective Ray Irving risks his code of ethics and, ultimately, his life to track down a serial killer who is imitating the crimes of some of the worst monsters our society has spawned. Newspaper researcher John Costello, a psychologically damaged survivor of the “Hammer of God” killer, becomes a prime source of information even though twenty years have passed since his traumatic event. Costello inevitably becomes Irving’s number-one resource as well as his number-one suspect. The resolution is breath-taking. Definitely recommended. 08/10 Jack Quick

ANOTHER LIFE by Andrew Vachss: From 1985’s Flood to this, the18th Burke adventure (touted as the last one), Burke is either a character you love or hate. It is hard to envision anyone being neutral about this outlaw soldier-of-fortune investigator. Another Life starts as gritty as ever – Revenge is like any other religion: There’s always a lot more preaching than there is practicing – and proceeds to several seemingly unconnected sequences. A sniper shoots Burke’s “father” and the family tries to save “the Prof” sans hospital. Next, a representative of the U.S. intelligence establishment draws Burke into a kidnapping case. . Early one morning, somebody removed the infant son of a Saudi prince from his father’s custom Rolls, parked near an abandoned pier near the Hudson River. A prostitute, who didn’t realize the child was in the back seat, was servicing the prince, at the time. If you liked Burke before you will enjoy this one, if not, this one won’t change your opinion. Me, I liked it. 01/09 Jack Quick

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST by Jennifer Rardin: The second book in the Jaz Parks series picks up mere months after Rardin’s debut, Once Bitten, Twice Shy, left off. After recovering from her battle with the Tor-al-degan, a being that would have brought about the end of humankind as we know it, Jaz and her team have been brought together again for a new mission. The powers that be at the CIA have sent the team to Corpus Christi, Texas, where they will be attending (and much to Jasmine’s chagrin, performing in) the town’s Winter Festival. An ancient Chinese vampire has stolen a top-secret weapon prototype and the team must recover it before it is too late. Chien-Lung, the vamp in question, has taken an experimental set of armor that bonds to its wearer making him or her nearly invincible. Chien’s plan is to amass an entire army outfitted with the stuff and set off the next world war. The team’s mission impossible becomes even more complicated when they discover that they are up against a new enemy known as reavers. The reavers have been sent by none other than the Raptor, the government official who was behind the events of their last mission. Then, to make matters even worse, Jaz has been suffering from some killer nightmares, literally. If you can imagine Buffy and her Scooby gang growing up to work for the CIA, you have some idea what is in store for you with this series. Rardin has picked up some serious speed with book two; the characters are interesting and the plots are exciting and original. This is definitely a series that has to be started from the beginning. 12/07 Becky Lejeune

ANOTHER PIECE OF MY HEART by Jane Green: I’ve heard rumors that chick lit was dead, and this book from one of the mothers of the genre proves it. Welcome to the world of Jane Green’s women’s fiction, and she makes the transition beautifully. Andi married late, at 37, and to a man with two daughters but nonetheless, she still longs for a child of her own. As the years pass and it doesn’t happen, Andi struggles to deal with it. Then her stepdaughter gets pregnant and the predictable happens. But with Green’s superb story telling skills, she somehow elevates the story beyond what it could have been into something a bit more special and thoroughly enjoyable; a good read. 4/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ANOTHER THING TO FALL by Laura Lippman: Baltimore is the temporary home of a big budget television series, which doesn’t please the locals as much as one would think. Tess Monaghan manages to ruin a day’s shooting while out rowing, and in the process finds herself the sought after security detail for Selene, the twenty-year-old star of the show. Strange things are happening on set, and Tess agrees to baby-sit providing the producers give Crow’s latest project, Lloyd, a job. The details are worked out, but when Tess is outsmarted by Selene, she is forced to bring in extra help. Then one of the production staff is murdered, and it seems like everyone on set is suspect, from the producers to the actors to the writers and the staff. The production of a television series is complicated business, and Lippman includes lots of Hollywood detail in this Charm City murder mystery. It’s an interesting story with a lot of characters, but unfortunately Tess is the only character that is fully fleshed out. Not Lippman’s best effort, but fans of the series will want to read it anyway. 04/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2008 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

ANY GIVEN DOOMSDAY by Lori Handeland: Elizabeth Phoenix is psychic who uses her abilities to help solve crimes for the Milwaukee Police Department. Lizzie’s foster mother, Ruthie, is found viciously murdered, and the police believe the killer to be Jimmy Sanducci, her former lover. Lizzie immediately begins the hunt to find Ruthie’s murderer, and soon discovers a world of demons, vampires, empaths, and shape-shifters. Lizzie’s investigating reveals a plot to enslave and destroy all humans. She discovers that Ruthie was a seer-an individual that could detect demons. When Ruthie died, Lizzie has inherited her powers. Lizzie also has the ability to “steal” the powers of others, but the method of obtaining such powers isn’t easy. ANY GIVEN DOOMSDAY is a faced paced, action packed read, the first book in the Phoenix Chronicles. The storyline and slate of characters revealed in this book grab you from the beginning. The biblical aspect of the storyline was quite interesting and added another interesting spin to the story. The second installment of this series is scheduled to release in May 2009, which can’t come soon enough. 11/08 Jennifer Lawrence

ANY WHICH WAY BUT DEAD by Kim Harrison: This third book of the Hollows series starts off with a bang and never lets up. It begins with Rachel trying to find a way to outsmart the demon Big Al while still upholding her end of the bargain made in The Good, The Bad and The Undead that would make her his familiar and slave. She is successful, for the moment, but her trouble doesn’t end there. Her boyfriend Nick has been more than just a little distant lately, but Rachel is still surprised when he leaves for parts unknown claiming that he will be back in just a few months. Afraid that this means the end of their relationship, Rachel finds herself giving in to her attraction to Kisten, that hunky vampire that she can’t seem to avoid lately. Then, a powerful new boss arrives on the scene in Cincinnati and Rachel must do everything in her power to prevent him from taking over. Add to that the fact that she has managed to royally pissed off her pixy partner Jenks and that she’s been hired to protect the one elf that she absolutely despises and you get an absolutely hilarious and bewitching read. This series just keeps getting better and better and I can’t get enough. Kim Harrison is one of the best and the brightest in the urban fantasy genre. This is a series that is not to be missed. 04/07 Becky Lejeune

ANYA’S GHOST by Vera Brosgol: I am not a big graphic novel (AKA comic book) fan, but I keep trying them. This one came blurbed “A masterpiece!” by Neil Gaiman right on the cover so I gave it a shot – and I loved it. This is the story of Anya, a teenage Russian émigré who lives a fairly lonely, isolated existence. She goes to a private school and her only friend is another Russian immigrant who isn’t especially nice to her. She has an annoying little brother and a single mom who worries about her. One day Anya is wandering around alone when she falls into an old abandoned well. If that isn’t scary enough, there is a skeleton lying there beside her. As she screams for help, a ghost rises up from the skeleton and introduces herself as Emily. Emily tells Anya that she and her parents were murdered ninety years earlier. Anya is rescued, and Emily comes with her. The girl and the ghost become friends, until Anya decides to try and solve Emily’s murder. The story takes some creepy turns and nothing is as it first appeared to be. This is a fast read with a terrific story, interesting characters and subdued illustrations that perfectly serve the mood of the book. My 18-year-old daughter read it after I did, and also loved it, calling it “creepy and wonderful.” Anya’s Ghost is extremely well done, and is my new favorite graphic novel. Check out the book trailer, and if you’re curious as to how a graphic novel is written and illustrated, check out the author’s website Verabee. 06/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ANYBODY ANY MINUTE by Julie Mars: Women have mid-life crises too, as amply illustrated in this occasionally amusing, occasionally tiresome look at one such crisis. Ellen Kenny is a middle-aged hippie leftover from the sixties. This book is set in the 1980’s, primarily I think, to avoid the use of cell phones and to hammer home the point that Ellen was able to drive through a small town in upstate New York and buy a farm using the cash advance on her credit card. Even with the price of real estate falling through the floor these days, that just would not be possible today, unless you have really good credit, I guess. She moves to the ramshackle farm, and I’m being kind here, leaving her good looking, attorney husband alone in New York City while she tries to figure out what she is doing with her life. She meets some local folk who at first, appear to be the odd sort one would generalize about small town people, but it turns out they are gifted in their own ways, and share their gifts with Ellen. She ends up taking care of a neighbor’s dog and her sister’s baby, learning to take care of herself in the process. An interesting premise but just a little too cliché for me. 7/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ANYBODY OUT THERE by Marian Keyes: The lovable Walsh family (Angels, Watermelon) is back in Keyes’ newest endeavor, this time with Anna at center stage when she suffers serious injuries in a taxi accident in Manhattan and ends up recuperating at home with her parents in Dublin. But Anna has more to worry about: the escapades of her sister Helen, a private eye working for Irish gangsters; her best friend and her sorry romances; her sister Rachel’s upcoming nuptials; and her mother’s obsession with a dog that is being trained to poop next to the mailbox. Her physical wounds slowly heal and she gets the itch to go back to NY and find her husband Aidan, who is not answering her emails and seems to have become a rather shadowy character. Anna not only desperately misses him, she also misses her incredible job in the cosmetics industry and her New York lifestyle. Anna goes back, gets involved with a psychic and life takes some shocking turns. Once again Keyes has penned an intelligently written novel that is as funny as her previous books, but is ultimately much more heart-breaking. 05/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch. Copyright © 2006 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

ANYBODY OUT THERE by Marian Keyes: After surviving a terrible car accident, Anna Walsh returns to her parents’ home in Ireland to recuperate. While overseas, she places numerous calls to her beloved Aiden, wondering why he hasn’t come to see her or help her through this tough time. Upon returning to her home and her job in New York, Anna comes to the horrible realization that Aiden did not survive that fatal accident. Throughout her painful recovery and her subsequent return to New York, Anna recounts her experiences up until the horrible accident that changed her life. Her heart wrenching, but in typical Keyes fashion, amusing recovery will touch readers to the core. Fans will remember sisters Rachel, Claire and Maggie who have each been featured in previous Keyes titles. Helen’s part of the story significantly lightens things up as she plays private eye back in Ireland. This sweet and sad tale is surprisingly funny and has made a real Keyes fan out of me. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a light but touching read. 02/07 Becky Lejeune

THE APOCALYPSE CALENDAR by Emile A. Pessagno: Dr Pessagno is by education and background a very experienced Geologist and shows this skill in a book presenting both a factual and supernatural sequence of events. Dr Frank Miller, a geologist in a renowned Dallas Texas university, organizes an expedition into Mexico with four of his graduate students to do studies on the rock strata in different parts of the country. The author is very conversant with Mexico, it’s people and mores and of course with the actual opportunities for Geological exploration present there. This skill allows the groups travels, finds and contacts with various people to resound of being factual. The group hears about a fabled treasure termed Moctezuma’s treasure by the peoples inhabiting the villages and towns along the path of the expedition and takes a side trip to to try and find it. They do discover a stone hidden in a cave under the body of an ancient Mayan chief and take it back to Texas for study. There is a connection with a prehistoric visit by aliens from another star, as well as a curse placed upon it by a Mayan Shaman that leads to a spurt of international geological catastrophes of volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and separation of land masses. The events take place in the period prior to “December 26, 2013 which is thought of as being the actual date of the predicted end of the world by the Mayans. The book has an interesting premise and coupled with Pessagno’s knowledge of what he writes about and where it takes place should be a winner but the author’s prose makes it resound like a badly translated novel although he is an English speaker. Given additional books published Dr Pessagno has to find a way to couple his good ideas with better styling. 3/13 Paul Lane

APOCALYPSE COW by Michael Logan: The United Kingdom has been overrun by zombie cows! Terry, a slaughterhouse worker, survives what will become the first attack but is taken prisoner by the man behind it all. He does manage to escape alongside Lesley, a reporter who stumbled onto the story, and one of the scientists involved in the plot, but his twisted would-be jailer is hot on their tail. Poor Geldof thought his biggest challenge would be surviving adolescence, but he was very wrong. His mother always said meat was murder but this definitely wasn’t what she meant. Now his family is offering reluctant shelter to their neighbors as well as Terry and Lesley, who have brought their pursuer right to Geldof’s door. Their only hope is to get off the island and escape to Europe. If they can survive long enough, Lesley might be able to break the story worldwide, exposing the truth behind the infection and possibly even saving the rest of the world from a terrible fate. Michael Logan’s debut is wickedly funny and definitely not for the faint-hearted. It’s raunchy and twisted but will have the right audience rolling on the floor with laughter. 6/13 Becky Lejeune

APPALOOSA by Robert B. Parker: It is too bad the Spenser series is so good, otherwise we could petition Robert B. Parker to just write westerns. Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch are “town tamers”, itinerant lawmen who come into a town, civilize it with Cole’s Colt 45’s and Hitch’s eight-gauge double barreled shotgun, then move on to other challenges. They have been doing this together for fifteen years following a pattern of success. However, their stint in Appaloosa doesn’t quite follow the usual script. In fact, it is totally different. A hint. In a regular western the hero rides off at the end on his horse. In an adult western, the hero rides off with the girl. Appaloosa is definitely an adult western, and a darn good one. We can only hope that Virgil and Everett make future appearances elsewhere. As always, Parker’s terse style evokes images well beyond the text. As the two of them are about to go up against at least four bad guys –“Today be a good day to die?” I asked. “We ain’t gonna die,” Cole said. “Good to know,” I said. Cole didn’t say anything. He was looking at everything, walking through the fight as though he had already seen the rehearsal….” 07/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

APPEAL DENIED by Peter Corris: Will this be Cliff Hardy’s last outing? His brushes with the law have finally caught up with him to the point that his license has been suspended. The final appeal of the suspension procedure has been denied, so Cliff must now turn in his ID card and gun – but, his friend and lover, newspaper reporter Lily Truscott, is found shot to death. Of course, Hardy is going to leave the matter entirely up to the police. Yeah, right. And that is before one of Lily’s associates approaches Hardy about the police maybe covering up aspects of the murder. Another solid Hardy adventure – but I’m not going to tell whether it is really his last. You will have to find that out for yourself. 12/07 Jack Quick

The Apprentice by Tess Gerritsen: In this [not-so-great] sequel to The Surgeon [which was gristly and great!], Detective Jane Rizzoli is called to a crime scene out of her jurisdiction. The victim is a wealthy doctor, found with his throat slashed, sitting on the floor of his living room in his pajamas, with a teacup in his lap. His wife is missing, but her nightgown is found folded neatly on a chair in the bedroom. The similarities to the serial killer Warren Hoyt, nicknamed the Surgeon, are unmistakable, but he is in prison, which leads Rizzoli to think copycat killer. The killing spree continues, Hoyt escapes, and the F.B.I. is interested and not saying why. Meanwhile, Rizzoli has to deal with the emotional trauma she’s neglected since Hoyt was put away, her growing attraction to Special Agent Dean, and the very real possibility that she will be the next victim. There is gore galore and plenty of techno-babble for DNA aficionados, but there were no real surprises here and the ending was not very satisfying. Still, fans of The Surgeon will want to read this sequel. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2002 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

THE ARCHANGEL PROJECT by C.S. Graham: Husband and wife writing team C.S. Graham’s debut is a page-turning thriller with an interesting premise based on recently revealed government experiments involving psi soldiers. October “Tobie” Guinness joined the military hoping that her talents as a linguist would keep her from active duty. She was wrong. But her trip to Iraq ends with a psycho discharge and a stain on her record thanks to intel no one wanted to believe. Intel she herself could not back up thanks to the way it was acquired. Tobie subsequently learns that she is a talented remote viewer, able to “see” places and events simply by being given a set of coordinates on which to focus. Her involvement in a project at Tulane leads to catastrophic results when a black ops group is sent to eliminate both Tobie and the professor studying her ability. But getting rid of Tobie is not going to be so easy, especially after she receives help from a tough CIA agent determined to protect her. An absolute knock-out read. Fans of Steve Berry and James Rollins will love C.S. Graham. 11/09 Becky Lejeune

The Archivist by Martha Cooley: Intense, interesting, heart wrenching, excellent book and a must read for any T. S. Eliot aficionado. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ARK by Boyd Morrison: The story of Noah’s Ark has long intrigued Hasad Arvadi and discovering the Ark’s final resting place has been his life’s goal. But Hasad has been missing for three years. His daughter, Dilara, a renowned archaeologist in her own right, is surprised when Sam Watson, and old friend of her father’s, asks to meet under strange circumstances. Watson is murdered, dying before Dilara’s eyes, but not before passing along a shocking revelation: Hasad discovered Noah’s Ark. Not only that, but someone is planning to use Hasad’s discovery to kill millions and the only person who can help her is Tyler Locke. When Dilara finds Locke, he has no idea who she is. He’s never met her father and knows nothing about the Ark. What Locke does know is that Dilara is in grave danger and now his life is on the line as well. Their only solution is to work together to find out what Watson was trying to reveal and hope that they can stay alive long enough to prevent whatever catastrophe he was predicting. Morrison’s first Tyler Locke adventure is a fun read in the vein of James Rollins and Steve Berry. Lots of action, lots of science, and even a little fantastic truth in the mix that lends itself well to the believability of the tale. 09/11 Becky Lejeune

ARRANGED by Catherine McKenzie: After discovering her latest boyfriend’s a cheater, Anne Blythe comes across what she thinks is a business card for a dating service. Intrigued by Blythe and Company’s promise of “Arrangements made,” Anne hangs onto the card. When her best friend announces that she’s engaged, Anne decides to give Blythe and Co a try. Turns out, they’re not a dating service after all. Blythe and Company specializes in arranging marriages. Now, Anne must decide if she’s ready to take the plunge and if she’s comfortable leaving the process of finding a potential spouse in someone else’s hands. With Arranged, McKenzie’s leading lady is faced with just how far she’s willing to go to meet the man of her dreams and what to do if that person isn’t exactly what she’d imagined he would be. Like her debut, Spin, I loved McKenzie’s characters and her ability to maintain a light tone while tackling what can be a challenging topic. Arranged is a smart contemporary tale for chick-lit, romance, and women’s fiction fans. 5/12 Becky Lejeune

THE ARRANGER by L. J. Sellers: No matter where you stand on current government spending priorities, this one will get your attention. The year is 2023 and ex-detective Lara Evans is working as a freelance paramedic in a bleak new world. On an emergency call she saves the life of the federal employment commissioner, although she herself is nearly killed by the commissioner’s assailant. The next day Laura is to begin the Gauntlet – a national competition of intense physical and mental challenges with high stakes for her home state of Oregon. The commissioner oversees the annual contest and offers to help Evans is she won’t report the attack. At the competition she spots the shooter lurking at the arena and soon after, everything starts to go wrong. Sellers has vividly painted a future world with massive government control, economic stagnation, and many of the same types of crime and misdemeanors we know today, but in a magnified form. On a parallel path, a government computer programmer is using his skills to “sell” opportunities for job promotions by sabotaging existing employees. The reason – he needs the money for cosmetic surgery to enable to have a social life. The evolution of social media and refinements of current technology have made this all possible, but is it something you would want? You will have to decide for yourself. Recommended. 09/11 Jack Quick

THE ART OF DISAPPEARING by Ivy Pochoda: Was it coincidence, fate, or magic that brought together Mel Snow and Toby Warring? Mel doesn’t know, but two days later she marries Toby. Life seems to be going well for the new couple: Mel, a textile consultant, lands a job with a new casino and Toby, a magician, gets a gig just off the strip in Las Vegas. Las Vegas: the destiny of choice for all magicians. But Mel knows that Toby’s show is the real illusion. Toby is a real magician. No sleight of hand or misdirection, but really real magic. Even Toby isn’t sure just how much power he possesses, but his ability has caused him some great emotional trauma throughout the years. His last human assistant disappeared without a trace and Toby has been careful not to make the same mistake again. Toby is just one step away from the fame and recognition he’s always wanted, and just one step from total ruination as well. Mel’s love is strong enough to hold them together through it all, but when Toby’s magic begins to twist their reality, Mel begins to wonder if anything in their life is what it seems. Pochoda’s debut is a magical tale of romance and loss, sweet and heartfelt. 09/09 Becky Lejeune

THE ART OF FIELDING by Chad Harbach: Henry Skrimshander is a high school baseball player, but more than that, he is a gifted shortstop, living in a small blue collar town. When opposing team catcher Mike Schwartz sees him play, he recruits Henry for Westish College, a small private school in Wisconsin where Mike is team captain. Henry had never really considered college, but when he gets offered a scholarship he can’t say no. Henry lives and breathes baseball, and as Schwartz trains him and bulks him out, Henry starts attracting the attention of pro scouts. The president of Westish, Guert Aflenlighter, has never been a big baseball fan until he falls for Henry’s roommate, a brilliant scholarship student who plays ball brilliantly but sits and reads when riding the bench. Guert’s daughter Pella had run off and gotten married while still a high school senior, giving up a chance at Yale for a much older man. But Pella runs away from her husband and returns home to Westish, falling for Mike Schwartz soon after arriving. Then Henry has a bad throw which changes his life, and the story takes a different turn. Harbach is a young author whose grasp of story and ability to move a plot are extraordinary. In his hands these characters have depth and intellect, interact and intersect as they learn from each other about loyalty and independence and love. Baseball fans will surely appreciate this book, but so will those who just love a good story, well told. Don’t miss it. 11/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ART OF FIELDING by Chad Harbach: The Art of Fielding is in a category by itself among the new books that I have read this year. That it is a young writer’s first novel is even more impressive. It is story-telling in the grand American fashion centering around the great American pastime. It begins when the special fielding ability of a skinny summer league baseball player named Henry Skrimshander is spotted by the opposing catcher, Mike Schwartz. Mike quickly recruits Henry to his college, Westish. Westish is a small college in Wisconsin (which the author reminds us) is the state that is shaped like a baseball glove. At the Westish campus, Henry’s life begins to be shaped by two major forces – Mike Schwartz, who starts him on a grueling training regimen to build him up and refine his baseball skills; and Henry’s roommate, a gay mulatto scholarship student named Owen Dunne. As the season goes on, the President of the University, Guert Affenlight (a Melville scholar) finds himself drawn to Owen. And when his daughter Pella leaves her marriage and returns to the campus, she is drawn into Mike Schwartz’s orbit. Unfortunately, same sex affairs between college presidents and male scholarship students create problems. And even baseball players with major league potential being pursued by scouts can develop problems in their game. And husbands one has left show up on one’s doorstep and want explanations. All this is dealt with by the five friends. In the end, this book is about loyalty to friends and institutions of higher learning. What could be more American than that. I could not help but admire the author’s easy style and access to the parts of the human heart that feel both joy and pain. I expect this to be my choice for book of the year. 10/11 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

THE ART OF MAKING MONEY by Jason Kersten: Counterfeiter Art Williams Jr. was born in 1972 and abandoned by his father to poverty, the gritty gangs of Chicago and a mentally ill mother. He slid into an underworld of theft and violence before a money crafter introduced him to counterfeiting. For the next 14 years, Williams produced millions of dollars worth of uncannily accurate bills till the Secret Service caught up with him. This isn’t fiction although it reads that way with characters like a Chinese mob leader known as the Horse and tales of giddy shopping sprees fueled by sex and fake bills It’s a tale of how a young smalltime crook with a meticulous eye for artistic detail and an addiction to the thrill of crime crafts millions in high-quality phony bills who is also, as portrayed by Kersten “a sensitive young man seeking paternal love and aesthetic validation”. Nicely done tale. 10/09 Jack Quick

THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN by Garth Stein: Now I know what all the fuss is about. And by fuss I mean all the sterling reviews and the fact that Starbucks picked it for their one book of the month and gave me a really cute bookmark. The truth is things like that may sway me to pick up a book, but often disappoint when I’m done with the book. But not this time. I read this five books ago and I can’t stop thinking about it and talking about it and making everyone within earshot learn why they should read this book. So why should I stop now? It’s not what the book is about, which is a nice story about a wanna-be race car driver, his family and his dog, most of which I have no interest in. I like dogs but I share residence with Edgar, the psycho-cat. I am indifferent to NASCAR – I just don’t get the fascination with watching people drive around in circles for hours. Even if the people in question are very cute guys and a pretty-as-a-model girl. You can’t see them in their cars anyway. I wouldn’t even have picked up this book except that a good friend who is extremely discriminating (read: hates almost everything) loved it and told me to read it. So I did. I will skip the blow by blow synopsis which frankly, is probably overwrought and just isn’t all that important. I will tell you what is wonderful about this book and why I loved it. I loved the voice. It is told from the perspective of the dog, Enzo. Yes, the dog is the narrator and don’t go rolling your eyes, Stein makes it work so well that he makes you wonder why dogs don’t narrate more books. This is a book that tugs at the heartstrings without being cloying or cliché. I learned about car racing and the technical side of driving and why things work the way they do. Who knew I was even interested in such things, but turns out in Stein’s capable hands, I am. The characters – the humans too – are so well drawn that I became totally immersed in their lives and their story. It’s a book about dogs and family, love and passion, loyalty and life. It is a book that will make you laugh and cry but is ultimately uplifting. It is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, and you should read it too. 7/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ART OF SURVIVAL by A. E. Maxwell: This is the fifth in the Fiddler and Fiora series by the husband-and-wife team, A. E. (for Ann and Evan) Maxwell published in the 1980’s. Hard-nosed, worldly private eye Fiddler breaks again with his successful financier wife Fiora and leaves their California home for Santa Fe, art capital of the Southwest. (The two are great in bed, but a hazard to each other’s health, otherwise). Fiddler gets drawn into the local art scene with gallery owner Olin Nickelaw and artist Maggie Tenorio. Nickelaw has recently paid a million dollars for a recently discovered painting by Georgia O’Keefe by Fiddler suspects there is more than meets the eye here and that Nickelaw and Tenorio are no more than a pair of hustlers. In trying to uncover the fraud, Fiddler inadvertently endangers Fiora. Excellent read. 03/09 Jack Quick

As Long as She Needs Me by Nicholas Weinstock: Sweet, funny contemporary British love story along the lines of Bridget Jones Diary, except the protagonist is the flip side, i.e. the guy. Very entertaining. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ASCENT by Ronald Malfi: Tim Overleigh has been spiraling downward since the tragic death of his wife. Once a promising artist—an up-and-coming sculptor who was the talk of the art community—Tim has found his inspiration has left him. His new efforts have gone into drinking and extreme sports, activities that have nearly cost him his life. When an old friend approaches Tim with a proposal, he initially brushes it off. It would be the chance of a lifetime, a trek through the mountains of Nepal to reach the never-before-explored Canyon of Souls, an area steeped in mystical legend and lore. Tim finally decides to go for it, understanding that the trip will be harrowing and may even cost him his life. He and his fellow adventurers have no idea what they are really in for, though. I enjoyed the adrenaline-fueled action and am an admitted sucker for this kind of setting. Overall, for a quick and fun read, The Ascent delivered. My one complaint is that while there is some useful character development, it’s really just enough to get the story by. If you’re looking for a deep read, this is not it. If you’re looking for a book in the vein of Vertical Limit (guilty pleasure of mine), then you’ll enjoy Malfi’s latest. 09/10 Becky Lejeune

ASK THE DICE by Ed Lynskey: Tommy Mack Zane has faithfully worked as a contract killer for Watson Ogg, the Washington, D.C. crime boss, for some twenty years. Apparently, Mr. Ogg has decided to retire Zane – permanently. After Zane is framed for the murder of Ogg’s niece, he fights back with the aid of his friends the mercurial D. Noble and burly Esquire to fight with Mr. Ogg and his mercenary “dark suits” for his life. The story is rich, but told in spare, lean prose reminiscent of Ken Bruen or Robert B. Parker. Nicely done. 12/11 Jack Quick Note: available as an e-book only

ASK THE PARROT by Richard Stark: By now everyone probably knows that Stark is AKA Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Donald Westlake. By any name, he always turns out great work and this is no exception. Parker is on the lam from the botched robbery in Nobody Runs Forever (2004) when he meets up with reclusive Tom Lindahl. Lindahl rescues Parker from a bad situation because he wants him to help rob a local racetrack. Parker sees it as a good deal and also feels he owes Lindahl. As usual everything falls apart and only Parker can put even some of the pieces back together. Parker is the cold blooded professional with little redeeming value that you end up rooting for in spite of who he is. Let’s hope that Stark/Westlake continues to see fit to give us periodic Parker updates. We need them. 11/06 Jack Quick

THE ASSASSIN by Rachel Butler: Selena spent her first twelve years as an abused child on the mean streets of Jamaica until a wealthy American drug lord, rescued her and raised her to take over his business. But Selena has other plans, and they don’t include running drugs. Fourteen years later, she still feels sufficiently indebted to Davis (the drug lord) to submit to his demand that she kill a Tulsa cop who’s getting too close to exposing Davis’s operation. Selena’s target is Detective Tony Ceola, godson to Tulsa’s chief of police and her temporary next-door neighbor. Has all the makings of a great series and the second installment – Deep Cover – is already in print. 02/06 Jack Quick

ASSASSINS OF ATHENS by Jeffery Siger: Interesting police procedural set in modern Athens, Greece. Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis is investigating the murder of a boy from one of Greece’s most prominent families whose body turns up in a dumpster in one of Athens’ worst neighborhoods. The boy’s father is in the middle of a hostile takeover bid of Athens’ most respected newspaper and the fight has turned dirty – but has it led to murder. Kaldis’ politically incorrect search for answers takes him deep into the sordid, criminal side of Athens nightlife and on to the glittering world of Athens society where age-old frictions between old money and new breed jealousy, murder, revenge, revolutionaries, and some very dangerous truths. Nicely done and could be the start of a series featuring the dogged Kaldis, who will not take no for an answer. 02/10 Jack Quick

ASSASSIN’S SHADOW by Randy Wayne White: Ex-SEAL Dusky MacMorgan is at the elite resort of St. Carib. That’s where the rich and famous go to have their bodies perfected. A group of international terrorists have decided to wipe out the entire resort client list and it’s up to Dusky and his new found female partner to save the day. Think Bruce Willis meets James Bond in a Caribbean setting. Pure escape but fun, from White’s Randy Striker period. 01/09 Jack Quick

THE ASSASSINS GALLERY by David L. Robbins: It’s the waning days of World War II. Professor Mikhal Lammeck, a specialist in the history and weaponry of assassins, is in England, involved in training agents to be sent behind enemy lines. A former pupil, now a member of the United States Secret Service, arranges for Lammeck to come to the United States to look at a gruesome double murder on the beach near Newburyport, Massachusetts. Based on the evidence and Lammeck’s own knowledge he concludes that someone wants one last shot at altering history. An assassin is headed to Washington, D.C., to kill the most important soldier of them all – the U.S. commander in chief. Lammeck and the killer at the top of her profession circle the streets of the capital – one attempting to kill FDR, the other attempting to save him. Who will prevail? A first rate thriller. 12/07 Jack Quick

THE ASSOCIATE by John Grisham: Now I remember why I stopped reading Grisham. He’s a great storyteller, but I just can’t suspend my disbelief that much. Kyle McAvoy is the lawyer at the heart of this farfetched story. Brilliant student, editor of the Yale Law Review, and son of a hard working lawyer who believes in helping people, so no one can believe it when Kyle takes a job as an associate at the world’s largest law firm (more than 2000 lawyers) and goes corporate. What no one knows, except for the people blackmailing Kyle, is that he was present at the possible rape of a girl who liked to party with the frat brothers, but no charges were ever filed. But some bad people have hold of a video of the supposed rape, and threaten to destroy Kyle’s life by using it unless he become a corporate spy for them. Logic flies out the window and the brilliant law student is reduced to idiocy. The best thing I can say about it is that I managed to finish it. 02/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ASYLUM by John Harwood: Georgina Ferrars can’t remember anything from recent weeks. She has no memory of arriving at Tregannon Asylum and certainly no memory of checking in as a voluntary patient under the alias Lucy Ashton. When the doctor at Tregannon House tells her that she cannot be Georgina Ferrars because the “real” Georgina Ferrars is safe at home in London, Georgina finds herself officially committed. Under lock and key, she has almost no hope of proving her true identity or finding out who has taken her place, but she is determined to try. This latest from Harwood has all the same elements his fans have come to love in his work: a Victorian gothic setting and style as well as dual storylines that alternate from Georgina to a series of letters between her mother and a woman named Rosina. The mystery unfolds at a wonderful pace but the book ultimately falls a bit flat in comparison to Harwood’s earlier works. The reveal at the end is too hurried to truly live up to the expectation built throughout the novel. 5/13 Becky Lejeune

AT RISK by Stella Rimington: Ms. Rimington was the first female director general of MI5, having worked in all the main fields of the service including counter-terrorism, counter-espionage and counter-subversion before her retirement with 30 years tenure. In this, her first novel, she presents a taut, believable portrait of life in the service, warts and all. British Intelligence is facing an “invisible” – a terrorist who is an ethnic native of the target country and who can therefore cross its borders and move around the country without attracting attention. Her characters, particularly Intelligence Officer Liz Carlyle, seem genuine and realistic as they pursue the bad guys both within and outside the various branches that have to coordinate their activities. The murder of a fisherman in Norfolk using an armor piercing bullet gets them on the chase fairly quickly but the who, where, when and how of the terrorist strike are more difficult to unravel. Like a kettle coming to boil the tension increases as the plot unfolds, knowing that Liz is not necessarily certain to succeed within the time available. A good “Brit” story, well told, and hopefully the beginning of a long relationship with Ms. Carlyle and company. Recommended. 04/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

AT THE CITY’S EDGE by Marcus Sakey: The “city” of the title is Chicago, and it’s “edge” is populated by gangs. Jason Palmer is a soldier, newly returned home from Iraq, where he received an “other than honorable” discharge. He is floating; disturbed and unsure what to do with his life. His brother owns a bar in one of the gang-ridden neighborhoods, but he is also a crusader, working behind the scenes to clean up the streets. He touches a nerve, because he is murdered in front of his 8 year old son, and his bar is burned down. Jason is forced into parentage and responsibility, chief of which is determining why his brother’s murderers are now trying to kill him and his nephew. He also needs to find out why his brother was killed, and ultimately who the murderers were. He is joined in this effort by Elena Cruz, a cop who works the gangs but has some murky history of her own. This is a haunting story, beautifully written with rich, evocative images and tension building on every page, until the shocking ending. Sakey wrote an amazing debut with The Blade Itself, and with his sophomore effort has outdone himself. 01/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

AT THE CITY’S EDGE by Marcus Sakey: In Sakey’s second crime novel Jason Palmer, a veteran of the current Iraq war, is back in Chicago and at loose ends. His older brother Michael runs a bar in their old South Side Chicago neighborhood and tries to raise his eight-year-old son, Billy, as a single parent. But when Michael tries to disrupt the current of gang violence that tarnishes the area he becomes a target. When Michael is murdered and Billy is threatened, Jason reverts to soldier mode and in the process rediscovers himself. I liked this one much better than 2007’s THE BLADE ITSELF, and look forward to his next effort. 08/08 Jack Quick

ATLANTIS by David Gibbins: The secret of Atlantis is lost for centuries because of a common mugging. Now marine archeologist Jack Howard may have found the key to uncovering this legendary sunken city. A scrap of papyrus discovered in an Egyptian desert, which may contain a secondhand account of the lost city, sends Jack scrambling to assemble a team. Once prepped and in position in the Aegean Sea, Jack and company find themselves caught up with Kazakhstan terrorists and a multi-country fight over a missing Soviet nuclear submarine—and that’s before they’ve uncovered the ancient secrets of the lost city. Think Clive Cussler with a hefty dose of science. The historical conspiracy angle is reminiscent of The Da Vinci Code book and unless you are a science fan, you might want to wait for the movie version. All in all a good story, but would have benefited from tighter editing. 03/07 Jack Quick

THE ATLANTIS CODE by Charles Brokaw: Somewhat of a Da Vinci Code clone. Archeologist and linguist Thomas Lourds is trying to find the connection between a bell and a cymbal, both with writings in a previously unknown language. He is assisted in his quest by TV documentary producer Leslie Crane and by Moscow police inspector Natashya Safarov, sister of a Lourds associate who has been murdered. Opposing Lourds is Cardinal Stefano Murani, who is seeking the artifacts for his own evil purposes. From Alexandria, Greece to Moscow to Leipzig and Senegal, the chase is on. Could the artifacts be linked to Atlantis and do they hold a secret that will shake the foundations of the Catholic Church. Eventually the answers are revealed. If you really, really loved the Da Vinci Code, you might find this one of more than passing interest. Otherwise, you might look elsewhere. 03/10 Jack Quick

THE ATLANTIS PROPHECY by Thomas Greanias: Astro-archeologist Conrad Yeats has returned to Washington, DC after his near death experiences in Antarctica chronicled in Raising Atlantis. Vatican linguist Sister Serena Serghetti is back in Rome where she interprets Conrad’s father’s oddly sculpted tombstone which contains a cryptic message. Intrigued, Conrad investigates and discovers George Washington entrusted a treaty sealed in a celestial globe to the care of one of Conrad’s ancestors—but Conrad is not the only one looking for it. According to the Atlantis prophecy, when the stars’ align on July 4, 2008, with Washington, D.C., monuments, his sinister rivals’ new world order will begin clicking into place. Obviously in March, 2010, their sinister plan didn’t work, but who knows what the future lies – beyond the promised third volume of this exciting set. 03/10 Jack Quick

THE ATLANTIS REVELATION by Thomas Greanias: The final in Greanis three book series in which Archaeologist Conrad Yeats and Serena Serghetti, the beautiful Vatican linguist he loved and lost, battle the remnants of an ancient conspiracy who seek to ignite global Armageddon and revive an empire. Beginning with a sunken Nazi submarine and wending though Jerusalem, the city of God, a centuries-old secret awaits. Archaeologist Conrad Yeats discovers Hitler’s quest for Atlantis in the ruins of the Third Reich which yields the key to an ancient conspiracy that reaches the highest levels of every major government. Like the two previous outings Yeats and Serena are imperiled, but are up the challenge. Yes, it is derivative of The Da Vincie Code et al as well as Mission Impossible and Indiana Jones – but still a fast-paced fun read. Recommend reading all three (RAISING ATLANTIS, THE ATLANTIS PROPHECY, and this one (in sequence, of course). 03/10 Jack Quick

Atonement by Ian McEwan: This incredible novel started off slowly for me but soon became totally engrossing. Written in three parts, it encompasses love and war and betrayal and…atonement. Or does it? I didn’t like the main character, Briony, a precocious little brat, so I had difficulty staying inside her head at the beginning. But the way the author portrayed her, from the silliness and selfishness of that little girl, to her spiteful cruelty that changed the lives of so many, resonated throughout the novel. Once I got past the beginning, the searing heat between lovers Cecilia and Robbie made the book started clicking for me and I read the rest straight through. I found it totally engrossing, from the insanity of the family dinner to the insightful descriptiveness of war to the sterility of the hospital where Cecilia worked (not to mention the sterility of the nurses!) to the ultimate conclusion, the atonement. Simply put, it was beautifully written. Shortlisted for the Booker. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ATTACHMENTS by Rainbow Rowell: This debut is utterly charming, a slice of millennium life set at the brink of change, the then upcoming new century and all the fear and hysteria that went with it. Beth and Jennifer are best friends and colleagues at a small newspaper. Beth lives with her boyfriend, rock star wanna-be Chris, while Jennifer is married to romantic Mitch, who is pressuring her to have a baby. They share a good part of their lives through their company email. Lincoln works nights at the paper in security; it is his job to read the emails that the firewall software has flagged, and to issue warnings to employees who are breaking the rules. But as he reads Beth and Jennifer’s emails, he doesn’t have the heart to reprimand them and soon realizes that he has fallen for the very much taken Beth. Beth and Jennifer’s stories are told epistolary style, through their emails, while Lincoln has his own voice in alternating chapters. The mixed up format worked for me, and the comparisons to “When Harry Met Sally” are justified. Rowell offers up a cup of frothy fun, romantic reading at its best. I couldn’t put it down. 04/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

AUDREY’S DOOR by Sarah Langan: Audrey Lucas has never had things easy. Much of her life was lived on the road taking care of her bipolar mother. When the woman was finally committed, Audrey made her escape to New York City. Now with an architecture degree behind her, Audrey is ready to embark on the next phase of her life. She’s landed a position with a great architecture firm and found the apartment of her dreams: The Breviary is strangely within budget, but that could be due to the tragedy that took place in Audrey’s new apartment when the previous tenant killed her own children before committing suicide. The building itself, an architectural marvel, is enough to inspire Audrey. The fact that the apartment is beyond what she could expect in this area of the city is almost secondary. But The Breviary is hiding a secret, one that is decades old, and Audrey has been chosen as the one who can finally unleash the evil that lives within. Langan’s previous novels, The Keeper and Missing, have earned the author much-deserved praise and respect in the horror community. Once again, she delivers. Langan builds a scenario packed with a creepy atmosphere, suspenseful plot, and tangible characters with deep-seated issues. 10/09 Becky Lejeune

AUGUST MOON by Jess Lourey: Battle Lake, Minnesota is scorching hot and apparently potentially deadly year round in this, the fourth Mira James’ Murder-by-Month mystery (following May Day, June Bug, and Knee-High By The Fourth of July).. What is not hot is Mira’s love life, so she has decided to move down to Minneapolis and become a “cat-collecting, fist-shaking, asexual English professor.” A murdered high school cheerleader changes her plans and soon she is investigating the Right Reverend pastor Meale who runs the evangelical New Millennium Bible Camp. When the camp’s Creation Science Fair only turns up as a disturbing “Stepford Wives meets Hee Haw” atmosphere, Mira begins to have second thoughts. Peppered with sparkling dialogue like, “Can you drive?” “Is the Pope Catholic?” “I’m pretty sure he is. But can you drive? “Not in the eyes of the law, but that doesn’t stop me from where I’m going.” All in all, it’s not bad as Mira sticks to her guns and survives to star in the upcoming September Mourn. 08/08 Jack Quick

AUSTENLAND by Shannon Hale: Jane Hayes has relationship trouble. She’s obsessed with Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy – specifically Colin Firth’s version – and no other man can compare. Her great aunt is well aware of this obsession and warns Jane that she needs to embrace life and stop this fantasy. Jane does not listen. A few months later, Jane gets a call regarding her inheritance. It seems the great aunt that she barely knew has bequeathed her a vacation. The trip is an all expense paid, all inclusive, three-week stay at Austenland, a top secret Jane Austen resort. Vacationers “Experience” life as it was in 1816 – a Jane Austen life that is. No cell phones, no jeans, no cars, no exceptions. Ladies must adhere to the social norms of the time and dress appropriately. Jane, ready to give up on men altogether, decides to go out with a bang and immerse herself in “the Experience.” She hopes that this will finally allow her to get over Mr. Darcy. Or will it? Who could ask for a more sweet and enticing read? This oh-so-predictable happy ending is just what a girl needs sometimes and I absolutely adored it. 05/07 Becky Lejeune

AUTUMN by David Moody: It was a fluke that brought Carl, Michael, and Emma together. 99% of the population is now dead thanks to a mysterious contagion. Carl, Michael, and Emma are just a few of the remaining survivors, seemingly immune to the plague. The three come together in the beginning along with a larger group of survivors and hole up in a community center as temporary shelter. Soon they discover that some of the dead aren’t staying that way. With supplies dwindling, Carl and Michael decide that it might be best to find a better stronghold to set up in. Their plan is not met with much enthusiasm from the others, but Emma agrees that leaving would be best. The three set off, only to find that things are much worse than they’d feared, and the dead are getting smarter. Moody’s post-outbreak zombie horror is reminiscent of Survivors, with the addition of the walking dead, that is. 10/10 Becky Lejeune

AUTUMN: THE CITY by David Moody: In this sequel and companion to Autumn, Moody introduces readers to a new set of survivors. For those in the city during the outbreak, terror and confusion are ruling factors. Holed up in office buildings, department stores, and even a university building with no explanation of what’s going on, they are forced to watch as those around them first fall victim to an unseen plague and then begin to rise again. At first the dead seem to simply wander around, but then they begin to hone in on the survivors themselves and as more of the living come together, more of the dead follow. Moody is known for his great use of atmosphere in building suspense in his horror. Autumn and Autumn: The City both focus on the survivors and various challenges they face in this new post-outbreak world. Survival seems a bleak prospect, but I hope that the people left by the end of the tale will somehow make it through. Only time will tell. Autumn: Purification is due out in August. 02/11 Becky Lejeune

AUTUMN: PURIFICATION by David Moody: The two groups of survivors from Autumn and Autumn: The City have come together as one in Autumn: Purification. They have found temporary shelter in an underground military bunker. Thousands of undead swarm the ground above and those inside know that they won’t be safe forever. As the military prepares for a mass attack on the zombies, the rest of the survivors are forced to plan their escape back into the outside world. Moody once again pits his hearty survivors against seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The continued breakdown of society as a whole, the loss of hope, and the few who manage to hold on to the last strings of civilization are the driving forces of this series. 3/12 Becky Lejeune

AVALANCHE by Zane Grey: Occasionally a break is needed, and for Western fiction there is no better than Zane Grey. This is a classic tale of two men who grew up closer than brothers, absolutely inseparable in the wild western country until both fall in love with the same fickle woman. It takes the raging fury of nature itself to mend the hate that had broken their friendship. 04/06 Jack Quick

THE AWAKENED MAGE by Karen Miller: The stunning conclusion to Karen Miller’s Kingmaker Kingbreaker series is here. It picks up exactly where The Innocent Mage left off. The discovery of an ancient library led Durm, the master magician of the Kingdom of Lur, to make a grave mistake. His own curiosity opened a door that allowed the monster Morg – a magician turned evil through his own thirst for power – to enter the protected sanctum of Lur. Now, King Borne, his wife, and his daughter all lay dead as a result of Morg’s spell. As the only living member of the royal family, Prince Gar has been named king. Gar, the only Doranen ever to be born without the gift of magic, has also fallen prey to Morg’s scheming. Morg gifted the prince with a finite taste of magical abilities – the only thing that has allowed him to take the throne. Now that magic has left him and he fears the entire kingdom may fall into anarchy. Gar’s only salvation is his friend Asher. Neither knows that Asher will bring the coming of a new age. They will all soon discover that this Olken is the only one who can protect the kingdom from an ancient evil long thought dead. Miller’s series is absolutely entrancing. 10/07 Becky Lejeune

Azarel by Karoly Pap: Very intense, very emotional novel about a boy’s crisis of faith. Set in rural Hungary at the turn of the twentieth century and never before translated into English, Azarel chronicles the life of young Gyuri, a rebellious nine-year-old boy whose father is a rabbi and whose grandfather Jeremiah is an Orthodox fanatic. Jeremiah thinks his son and his followers are going to “melt the Jewish people in the furnaces of exile” – prophetic and haunting language for a book first published in 1937. Pap died in Bergen-Belsen. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

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