Fiction Reviews B: 1998-2013

BABY CRIMES by Randall Hicks:  It’s been much too long since The Baby Game debut; I hope the wait isn’t as long for the next book in this wonderful series.  Toby is back, teaching tennis and lawyering on the side.  He’s seeing his childhood sweetheart, Rita, and life is good – until he’s hired to unravel a 16 year old adoption mess.  But there’s more to the mess than just a legal imbroglio; blackmail, organized crime and murder take this to a darker place.  Fully realized characters, intricate plotting, a bit of romance and good writing combine to make this a wondrous book; fun and compelling, yet comforting.  Hicks has a unique voice – don’t miss it.  09/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BABY CRIMES by Randall Hicks:  Arrange an adoption.  That’s what Toby Dillon, Esquire does – when he is not serving as Assistant Tennis Pro at Coral Canyon.  The prospective parents are County Supervisor Nevin Handley and his wife; the child is healthy and apparently adoptable.  The only hitch?  Lynn, the sixteen-year-old tennis prodigy, has been living as the daughter of the Handley’s since birth.  It seems that they “adopted” her without benefit of the law sixteen years ago, and now are being threatened with blackmail, they think by Lynn’s birth mother.  Just the kind of mess Toby is best suited to stumble through and, hopefully, come out the other end relatively unscathed.  The follow-on to 2005’s The Baby Game is just as good.  Don’t wait for the library.  Go order a copy today.  The new kissing scene with Rita is worth the price of admission alone.  Think of the rest of the book as a bonus.  08/07 Jack Quick

THE BABY GAME by Randall Hicks: A renowned adoption attorney turns his hand to mystery and writes a winner about what he knows best – adoption.  Toby Dillon is a young lawyer who decides to keep his job as a tennis pro just in case the law thing doesn’t work out.  His two best childhood friends, Brogan and Rita, ended up married to each other and oh yeah, they’re like the Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman Hollywood power couple (back when they were happy) and they ask Toby to help them adopt a baby.  Just as the happy couple are celebrating their successful adoption, they get a phone call that changes their lives.  Then the birth mother goes missing, bodies start piling up, the police are baffled and not very helpful, and Toby and Brogan decide to take matters into their own hands.  These are some wonderful, true to life characters (even the bad ones) and despite the desperation of the situation, there are plenty of laugh out loud moments as well as some really sweet ones, too, including one of the best “first kiss” scenes ever.  An incredible first effort that I couldn’t put down and didn’t want to end.  But it did, and it ended well.  I’m hoping for more from this gifted new author.  08/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BABY GAME by Randall Hicks: The Baby Game is one of those rare books where the improbable works seamlessly. The serious parts make the hairs on the back of your neck tingle and the funny parts are laugh out loud hilarious. An ex Peace Corps, assistant tennis pro, home schooled California attorney, who drives a Ford falcon convertible with a wooden cigar store Indian permanently wedged in the passenger seat sounds like the loser of a Dumb and Dumber contest, but Toby Dillon turns out to be believable, lovable, and competent, in roughly that order. The plot is deliciously twisty and at the halfway point, I still had no idea who the bad guys were. Although there is real jeopardy, there is still some question at that point as to whether a crime had even been committed. Well, actually Toby was well along the way to the five felonies he commits in the course of the book, but otherwise…All is well that ends well and the ending of The Baby Game – “And then I kissed her.” The best way to describe it, The Baby Game is similar to Lawrence Sanders’ McNally series, only a whole lot better. 08/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

BABY MOLL by John Farris:  Hardcase Crime #46.  Once in, never out.  Peter Mallory thought he had quit the mob, started his own business and built a home for his bride-to-be, but Florida mobster Macy Barr needs Mallory’s help and has the goods to force him to cooperate.  Otherwise, he can kiss his future wedding plans good-bye and maybe the rest of his life as well.  Prior to Mallory ever hooking up with Barr, a family was accidentally murdered after the father refused to be extorted.  Now someone is killing everyone associated with that arson.  Not only must Peter seek the killer, he also has to contend with a paid assassin, a rival mob chief and squabbles within the Barr household.  Classic pulp where the bad guys aren’t all bad, and maybe the good guys have some flaws as well.  Another good one from Hardcase Crime. 09/08 Jack Quick

BABY SHARK by Robert Fate:  Let me add my heaping of praise for this debut, a throwback to another era.  Set in 1952 Texas, the main character, Kristin Van Dijk, becomes known as Baby Shark. Her father was a pool hustler and she traveled the road with him until he was killed in front of her by a motorcycle gang, who then raped and savagely beat her, set the pool hall on fire and left her for dead. She survives and a year later she’s a trained killing machine, bent on revenge. Oddly enough, considering the male/female dichotomy here, there is something reminiscent of Mike Hammer in this character. It’s very well written and suitably fitting for the time period, touching on women’s roles, politics, and prejudice.  Hardboiled fiction really doesn’t get much grittier than this.  12/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BABY SHARK by Robert Fate: I understand a shark must constantly move to prevent its suffocation and that its attention span is so short that it can learn little from experience. Kristin, the baby shark of this book, moves a lot but she has also learned a lot and each experience leads her closer to the revenge she seeks. In October 1952, at the tender age of 17 she watched four bikers kill her pool hustler father in a Texas pool hall fight that leaves two other men dead as well. Sexually assaulted, beaten, and left for dead, she is rescued by the pool hall owner Henry Chin, a Chinese immigrant and father of one of the other murder victims. Since the local police are no help, Chin hires a private investigator to start searching for the killers. Then he hires two “tutors” for Kristin. She develops into one tough package, who also shoots a mean game of stick. At eighteen the Baby Shark is ready to hunt for the killers as she hustles pool in west Texas. Revenge is sweeter when it is served cold, but what happens afterwards. This is the first in a projected series of novels about a teenaged woman taking up the family business – pool hustling. I wish Mr. Fate well with his plans, as I think this will become a very interesting series of reads. 09/06 Jack Quick

BABY SHARK’S BEAUMONT BLUES by Robert Fate: Fate is apparently channeling the hardboiled masters of the 1950’s and 60’s with this terrific series that is just a breath of fresh air.  Baby Shark is Kristin van Dijk, the 17-year-old who was raped, beaten and left for dead in the first book.  She turned into a veritable killing machine, avenged those who did her wrong, and became a “girl dick” –  partnered with Otis Millett, Private Eye.  Set in the wild west of 1950’s Fort Worth, Texas, they are hired to find a runaway heiress.  But there are a few road blocks, several twists, a little romance and more dead bodies than even a coroner could wish for before they get the job done.  Don’t miss this fast, fun and furious page turner.  Baby Shark’s Panhandle Caravan is slated for release in March, 2008, and I can’t wait.  05/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BABY SHARK’S BEAUMONT BLUES by Robert Fate: A tough talking private investigator who shoots a mean game of pool as an income supplement. No big deal, except she is the 5’ 7”, 130 pound Baby Shark. Kristin Van Dijk and partner Otis Millett are on the trail of a missing Texas oil heiress and have to contend with Beaumont gangsters, Dallas cops, and the overwhelming scent of Evening in Paris. This is definitely a Friday night book, because no matter how fast you read you are going to be up late, late, late, and suffer from an adrenalin deficit the next day. Baby Shark just keeps getting better. I’ve lost count of the number of guys she has put down and even though she has been shot, stabbed, and slugged, no one has gotten the best of her yet. Hey Robert, where and when for Baby Shark Number Three? 05/07 Jack Quick

BABY SHARK’S HIGH PLAINS REDEMPTION by Robert Fate: Pulp fiction makes a comeback with this series featuring Kristin Van Dijk, better known as Baby Shark, the pool-hustling, butt-kicking 18-year-old heroine of Baby Shark and Baby Shark’s Beaumont Blues. Kristin is comfortable in her job as a private eye at the Millett Agency in 1950’s Texas. Their latest case seems simple enough; pick up bootlegger Travis Horner’s girlfriend and bring her back to him. Horner is one of the biggest bootleggers in Oklahoma, and his girlfriend happens to be the daughter of his biggest rival, Bull Smike. But someone doesn’t want that to happen, Otis is set up and Baby Shark walks into a fight and a shootout. The fights and shootouts continue nonstop until Baby Shark finds out that Horner considers himself to be a world class pool player. She challenges him to a game, and all scores are settled. These books must be read in order as there are no explanations as to what came before or how and why all these relationships were formed. The language is rough and the body count high in this fast paced shoot-‘em-up. 05/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BABY SHARK’S HIGH PLAINS REDEMPTION by Robert Fate:  Bull Smike and Travis Horner run the two biggest bootleg operations in Oklahoma.  Bull controls the east and Horner runs the west.  In the middle are two things – Oklahoma City – and Baby Shark.  Kristin Van Dijk and her PI partner, Otis Millett, travel to Oklahoma to track down Savannah Smike, Bull’s daughter and Horner’s girlfriend, who ís being held for ransom.  Although they are successful, the entire operation raises questions, which turn into real concerns when Millett is later shot.  That leaves Van Dirk to kick some serious butt to get things back on track.  Third time out for the Shark, and another solid win for series character we hope will be around for a long, long time. 06/08 Jack Quick

BABY SHARK’S JUGGLERS AT THE BORDER by Robert Fate: Sometimes a series just flows and Fate sure has a handle on how to make that happen. This is Baby Shark’s fourth outing, and she hasn’t broken stride yet. Kristin Van Dijk, better known as Baby Shark, is 23 years old now, and a seasoned private investigator. When her partner Otis Millett’s ex-wife turns up dead, the case becomes personal. Dixie Logan, a stripper known on the circuit as the “Dallas Firecracker,” never actually filed for divorce, so Otis is her next of kin. They hook up with the Fort Worth police department working to help solve her murder, Kristin goes undercover with the reluctant approval of the police chief, and almost gets killed for her trouble.  As with all the Baby Shark books, there is lots of action, fighting and shooting in 1958 Texas, and this truly is an homage to the hardboiled detective stories of that time period. If you haven’t met Baby Shark yet, start with the first book, Baby Shark, and enjoy them all. 09/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BABY SHARK’S JUGGLERS AT THE BORDER by Robert Fate: The prettiest little pool hustler and private investigator in all of Texas is at it again. Its October 1958 and Kristin Van Dijk, AKA Baby Shark, gets involved when Fort Worth police discover the body of Dixie “The Dallas Firecracker” Logan, a former regular on the Texas striptease circuit and ex-wife of Kristin’s partner Otis Millet. Otis and Kristin go to work with a by-the-book straight arrow Fort Worth homicide detective to try to find the killer, but even he can’t help it when the bad guys badly under estimate Kristin’s abilities. A few broken bones and dead bodies later, the unlikely trio is chasing the bad guys across West Texas. Not gonna tell you who wins, but I can’t wait for the next Baby Shark. She is bad good.  09/09 Jack Quick

BABY SHARK’S SHOWDOWN AT CHIGGER FLATS by Robert Fate: You don’t tug on Superman’s Cape, you don’t wave a red flag in front of a bull, you don’t hang red meat in front of a shark – and if you don’t want a mess of Baby Shark in your face, don’t mess with Otis Millett, Baby shark’s private eye partner in Ft. Worth. Bloodthirsty murderer Walter Fairchild breaks out of a Texas prison with revenge on his mind, and the cantankerous, Fort Worth private eye Otis Millett is at the top of his list. After several failed attempts to kill Otis, the Fairchild clan finally finds success in kidnapping him. Baby Shark aka Kristin along with fellow operative Henry Chin are going to rescue Otis, with or without the help of U.S. Marshals and Texas law enforcement officials. It’s a bad day to be in Texas if your name is Fairchild. Outstanding. 8/12 Jack Quick

THE BABY THIEF by L J Sellers: In this outstanding outing, Sellers has set up a situation that can only lead to serious problems.  Elizabeth, a sexually abused adopted child becomes a doctor specializing in genetics, although she is, herself, unable to bear children. A holdup brings businesswoman Jenna McClure and free-lance journalist Eric Troutman together.  Their paths will soon cross with that of Elizabeth by way of a bizarre religious cult headed by a Doctor who also has extensive experience in genetics and reproductive matters. The reason? Jenna had gone to Elizabeth’s clinic where, almost by chance, Elizabeth learned that Jenna was her unknown sister.  Rather than sharing this information, Elizabeth decides to use Jenna to help her create the perfect child. If you like suspenseful thrillers, this one is for you. 12/10 Jack Quick

BACK FROM THE DEAD by Peter Leonard: Peter Leonard’s second  book pairing Holocaust survivor Harry Levin and death camp Nazi killer Ernst Hess against each other is actually a continuation of the first book, Voices of the Dead.  In book one Harry kills, or thinks he kills Hess, but book two finds Hess miraculously surviving and recovering from his horrific bullet wound in the Bahamas.  Similarly the action is fast, going from one crisis to the next without letup.  Unfortunately Leonard’s promise as a creative author is muted by stilted dialog and completely predictable situations.  Hess is hell bent on getting Harry, and Harry is forced to go after Hess again in order to save his own life as well as those of his loved ones. If this were Leonard’s second book it would be difficult to read a third one, but this is his fourth, and the author’s promise was indicated in the first three.  Based on reading and enjoying his prior books I would not hesitate to buy the next and trust that Peter returns to the creative form he displayed previously.  Very possibly the mistake was writing a sequel to one book which as a stand alone was quite complete, with the second becoming superfluous and without a logical plot being possible. 2/13 Paul Lane

BACK TO BOLOGNA by Michael Dibdin: Mr. Dibdin passed away not so long ago and this was his second last book. Reading it reminded me of seeing a Tom Stoppard play called After Magritte many years ago. As the play opened the entire cast was caught stopped in what appeared to be inexplicably ludicrous positions. As the play moved along, it told a story and by the end when the characters reassumed their initial positions, it all made perfect sense. Similarly, B to B seemed like slow going at first. But as I moved through it, I realized that Dibdin was just putting the characters in their necessary place to produce wave after wave of farce (at which I laughed as I read) until it culminated in a finish equivalent to Its a Mad, Mad, Mad World (at which I roared). I am going to miss Mr. Dibdin, his descriptions of the various locations in Italy and, of course, Inspector Aurelio Zen. 09/07 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

BACK ROADS by Tawni O’Dell: This tale of a dysfunctional family is not a mystery per se. At the outset we know that the mother of nineteen-year-old Harley Altmyer is in prison for murdering her abusive spouse. Harley is left with the task of rearing his three younger sisters left behind. Working days as a bagger in the local grocery and delivery person for an appliance shop, Harley has to deal with cold cereal dinners prepared by six year old Jody and the way 16 year old Amber is sleeping her way through the town’s teenage boy population. Middle sister Misty, once her father’s favorite, seems to only be interested in shooting, a trait which worries him. Faced with these challenges, Harley ends up having an affair with married Callie Mercer, Jody’s best friend. The images evoked in this hardscrabble tale of struggle in the Pennsylvania backwoods are reminiscent of some of the efforts of Mark Billingham and Stephen Booth. Picked for the Oprah Book Club. Well written, but gloomy. Would avoid if easily depressed. 12/06 Jack Quick

BAD BLOOD by Linda Fairstein: Alexandra Cooper is back and she is feistier than ever.  I love the beginning of this book; Fairstein takes us immediately into the courtroom as Cooper’s star witness is destroyed on the stand by the defense attorney in a case about a wealthy man accused of hiring someone to kill his wife, but it goes beyond that when an underground explosion interrupts the trial.  Fairstein takes us along as she unearths the history of the water supply in New York City and the men who built the underground tunnels that support it, and more importantly, how they are related to the defendant.  Family tragedies coupled with heightened fears of explosions in the beleaguered city make this a timely, well executed story.  I have to add here that I have such tremendous respect for Ms. Fairstein and what she’s done for victims of violence in her work as the former chief of the Sex Crimes Unit in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.  Taking that experience and running with it here works.  03/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BAD BLOOD by John Sandford: The first victim was Kelly Baker, killed in neighboring Iowa. Then her friend Bobby Tripp, working at a grain mill, kills Jacob Flood, a local farmer delivering his harvest.  Bobby himself is the next victim, as he is arrested and then found hanged in jail.  Jim Crocker, the deputy on duty, is suspected of the crime but when Virgil Flowers of Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, called in by local Sheriff Lee Coakley, goes to Crocker’s house, he finds Crocker dead – another murder made to look like suicide. Coakley and Flowers catch a whiff of sexual abuse involving Bobby’s girlfriend, but have no idea of the depth and breadth of what they are about to uncover. As always, Virgil eventually always gets his man, but he also gets the girl. What Flowers lacks in polish is more than compensated for his ability to pull seemingly disparate elements together and doggedly follow them to the end.  Very nicely done.    11/10 Jack Quick

Bad Boy Brawly Brown by Walter Mosley:  It is good to have Easy Rawlins back in the ‘hood.  Time has moved on and Easy now has to deal not only with racist police but also Black Power activists and people with both white and black skins that try to manipulate them. Easy’s children are growing too.  Jesus wants to drop out of school and build a boat.  His daughter loves him unconditionally and is as vulnerable as such love makes a person.  Bonnie, the woman who is living with him, is steady and understanding.  While her character is not developed in very great detail in this book, she serves as Easy’s refuge and his moral rudder. The biggest change in the story line is that Easy’s friend Mouse is now dead (or thought to be dead).  Because Mouse was Easy’s dark side – the Black Man of strong emotions and violent reactions, Easy must now incorporate some of these characteristics in himself if he is to survive. But he is a survivor and his story contains interesting characters and an interesting perspective on society.  This book is worth reading.  While I am on the subject of Easy Rawlins, I have a few additional comments.  First, I still regard Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned as Walter Mosley’s finest book and regularly send it to my friends.  Secondly, it is interesting to note the parallels between Easy Rawlins’ experiences in a white society with Mickey Rawlings’ experiences of the dark sides of American history in Troy Soos’ baseball books.  Finally, this book took me back to a special time in my life when an entire generation believed that the world could be changed and made into a better, gentler, more loving place.  I am grateful that I had the opportunity to live in such a time. ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.

BAD DEBTS by Peter Temple: When Australian Jack Irish—ex-lawyer and sometime debt collector, cabinetmaker and barfly— gets a desperate message from Danny McKillop, whom he defended years before on a hit-and-run charge “at the beginning of the forgotten zone, the year or so I spent drunk,” he takes a while to call him back. When he does, Danny, who was fresh out of prison, is dead. Jack’s guilt fuels his search for the truth about Danny’s murder. 06/06 Jack Quick

BAD JUJU & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem by Jonathon Woods: Remember the old Name That Tune? I can review this book in one sentence – “I haven’t laughed so much over anything since the hogs ate my kid brother. Dashell Hammett Red Harvest.” No, that really doesn’t do full justice to this collection of violence, sex, and gonzo plot twists, which combine to make a diverting collection of 19 stories, most set in sun-and-blood-drenched borderlands. You really need the rest of the prologue “Oh, there is nothing better than intelligent conversation except thrashing about in bed with a naked girl and Egmont Light Italic. Donald Barthelme Florence Green is 81.” With descriptions like – A veneer of sweat covers her body like the glaze on a Christmas ham; shadows as murky as an abortion clinic in the Bible Belt; Her small conical breasts confronted him like twin interstellar ray guns – I enjoyed this bad boy even while lying in a hospital bed recovering from major surgery. Yes, it really is that good, even the one about a jealous archaeologist using a Mayan stone dildo to bludgeon to death the chairman of the Archaeology Department. Go ahead. Name three authors that have use that plot line in say, the last three centuries.  04/11 Jack Quick

BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE by Lee Child: Jack Reacher is back, and this time it’s personal – and really, really good.  If you are new to the series, this book will work because each book works quite well on its own, and if you’ve read them all, you will love this book because you finally get some of Reacher’s back story.  Reacher hooks up with some of the select military group that’s been hinted at in previous novels.  This time we get the real deal, meet all the characters and really learn what makes Jack tick.  A mysterious deposit into his bank account tips him off that something’s up and Reacher is off to California, where he hooks up with some of his former military team and finds out at least one of their members has been tortured and killed.  There’s lots of catching up to do, but more importantly, a murder needs to be solved, and avenged.  Park your disbelief by the door and enjoy – the action is non-stop, the body count high, and the pages just fly.  Child really has mastered the art of the series; every book betters the one that preceded it, and considering he started with a home run, that really says a lot. 05/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE by Lee Child:  Reacher’s newest adventure begins with the bad guys throwing a badly battered but still living Calvin Franz out of a Bell 222 helicopter 3,000 feet above the California desert floor.  Unfortunately for the bad guys, Franz was not only Military Police; he was a member of Reacher’s Special Investigations Unit. The rest of the book is reminiscent of the little boy in Sunday school who, upon hearing about the Crucifixation, looked up at his teacher and solemnly proclaimed, “They wouldn’t have done that if the Lone Ranger had been there.”  A former colleague sends Reacher a coded SOS; the two rendezvous in L.A. and they bring more members of the band back together, only to discover that Franz isn’t the group’s only casualty.  From there on it gets kind of hairy, so fasten your seatbelt and hang on for the best Jack Reacher to date.  Hint: the ending is imminently satisfying but definitely not for the faint of heart. 06/07 Jack Quick

BAD THINGS by Michael Marshall: Something sinister is waiting for John Henderson in the town of Black Ridge, Washington. Once, Henderson and his family called this quaint town home. But when John’s four-year-old son died, everything changed. It’s been three years and John, now a waiter in a beach restaurant in Oregon, is still trying to put his life back together. A mysterious phone call from a woman who claims to know what happened that fateful day finally prompts his return and a chance for him to gain closure. Maybe. The woman, Ellen Robertson, is recently widowed and still grieving her loss. At first, John can’t see any connection between the two events, but he knows that something is very wrong with Ellen’s story. As he begins to look into her situation, John comes to realize that there is indeed something strange going on in this tiny town. He should have left it alone. He should have never returned in the first place. But now it’s too late and John’s only hope is unraveling the mystery of Black Ridge. Michael Marshall is an amazing author who has yet to garner the attention he truly deserves. His combination of supernatural elements and superior plotting puts him right up there with the best in the thriller genre and also makes his stories appealing to a wide variety of readers. Bad Things is smart, gripping, and terrifying.  05/09 Becky Lejeune

BAD THOUGHTS by Dave Zeltserman:  Call it horror or call it crime fiction – either way it’s an intriguing read with a bizarre ending.  Bill Shannon is a police detective who is bothered with nightmares stemming from the discovery of his mother being murdered.  Now, approaching the twentieth anniversary of her death, the nightmares are worse and seem connected to current cases.  Is his mother’s killer at work again?  But he was sent to his grave twenty years ago.  Or could all this be a manifestation of Shannon’s own sense of guilt?  There’s no shortage of blood and gore, but if you don’t mind sinking into it, this may be the start of an ingenious series along the lines of Darkly Dreaming Dexter.  08/07 Jack Quick

BAD TRAFFIC by Simon Lewis:  When Inspector Jian receives a strange phone call from his daughter, begging for his help, he sets off from China to England determined to find out what is going on. Although is daughter has excelled in English studies, enough so that she can attend university in England, Jian has never been able to learn. He arrives without any resources but his own experience as a somewhat crooked cop and his resolve that he will not fail his only daughter again. The first thing he finds upon his arrival is that his daughter has not been attending classes for quite some time. Not only that, but she has moved out of her flat and no one knows where she is. He is able to trace her to her last place of employment where a gang of local Chinese proceed to rough him up in response to his queries. Sadly, Jian learns that the local tong have murdered his daughter in order to send a message to local business owners, her boss in particular. Hellbent on revenge, Jian meets up with an illegal worker who inadvertently gets caught up in his mission. Fast paced and completely enthralling, this stranger-in-a-strange-land mystery/thriller should be on everyone’s holiday reading list. Lewis grabs you from the beginning with that fateful voice mail and keeps hold all the way up to the surprising conclusion. 12/08 Becky Lejeune

BAGMAN by Jay MacLarty: No-questions asked delivery man Simon Leonidovich is approached by Big Jake Rynerson, a wealthy hotel magnate (think Donald Trump as portrayed by John Wayne). Rynerson’s daughter, an eco-activist, has just been kidnapped in South America, and he wants Simon to deliver the ransom. It doesn’t take long for Simon and Big Jake’s people to realize that the kidnappers have every intention of killing the daughter, money or not, and a simple delivery will no longer suffice. This is the second book of the series and the characters are much better developed than in the debut effort – THE COURIER. This has the makings of a great, somewhat offbeat, series. 07/06 Jack Quick

BAHAMARAMA by Bob Morris: Okay, I admit it.  I didn’t read this series in order.  But there’s only two books so far, this one and the recently released Jamaica Me Dead (review below) and either way, both books are as much fun as a romp on the beach with a frozen rum drink in hand.  In Bahamarama, we meet Zack Chasteen, a former Miami Dolphin who has been retired by an injury.  He’s living on his ancestral palm tree farm and working as a fishing guide off the coast of Florida.  That is, until he takes the fall for a counterfeiting ring that left their equipment on his boat.  Fresh out of two years in a country club jail, Zack finds trouble as he walks out the gate of the prison.  Instead of his girlfriend Barbara picking him up, there’s an SUV with a couple of gorillas quickly followed by a limo with a driver who claims to have been sent by the girlfriend.  A no brainer, Zack takes off in the limo leaving the gorillas behind and hurting.  He’s supposed to meet Barbara in the Bahamas, but when he gets there she’s working down on the beach.  She never returns and then there is a ransom demand.  Wonderful characters and crackling wit make this a page turner and one hell of a debut.  And you don’t have to read them in order.  11/05 Stacy Alesi, the BookBitch

BAHAMARAMA by Bob Morris: Well written debut tale of ex-Miami Dolphin strong safety Zack Chasteen who has just completed a two-year prison term on bogus charges.  His plans to join his girlfriend in the Bahamas are quickly disrupted by a gang of Cuban thugs who are after the loot Chasteen alleged had stolen.  Then his girlfriend is kidnapped.  Believable action thriller with a colorful cast of characters, and first rate descriptions of the Bahamas.  Adventure number two – Jamaica Me Dead – has already been released.  11/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

BAIT by Nick Brownlee: Jake Moore retired from Scotland Yard five years ago to become a partner in a Kenyan charter-boat business. The civil war outside Mombasa has frightened away European tourists leaving Jake and partner Harry owing the diesel dealer a bundle, and the general manager of the resort across the bay is taking all his charter business elsewhere. Daniel Jouma is a Mombasa police investigator, who meets and subsequently partners with Jake and the daughter of one of Jake’s friends who has been murdered.  Solving the crime may be their only hope for survival. Hopefully this is the start of a Jake and Jouma series.  12/11 Jack Quick

BALANCE OF POWER by Richard North Patterson: Patterson has written an extraordinary tour de force on gun control. Kerry Kilkannon, recently elected President (from Protect and Defend), is back and planning his wedding to Lara Costello. Lara’s sister Joan is being brutalized by her husband, and with Kilkannon’s background – his father abused his mother – he can’t just sit idly by. The inevitable tragedy occurs, but it takes Patterson a good fifty pages too long to get there. The tragedy and its aftermath spur political and legal maneuverings that were so repulsive, yet rang so true, that it literally turned my stomach. I had to put the book down more than once and just walk away from it to regain some emotional perspective. Patterson has an agenda here, and he is quite clear about it; he delves into tort reform, but primarily this is a treatise on gun control, for which he makes a very sound, exigent argument, although I’m afraid he’s preaching to the choir. NRA members wouldn’t touch the book with a ten foot pole, while former President Clinton blurbed it. The book does bog down in places and occasionally seems repetitive, but all in all Patterson does a brilliant job of explaining the intricacies and treacheries of exactly how our government works, while drawing us in emotionally with a compelling story and three dimensional characters that we can’t help but care about. 11/03 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BALBOA FIREFLY by Jack Trolley: What could be more challenging that preventing a madman from shooting down a commercial airliner in the glide path into San Diego’s Lindbergh Field? How about stopping two madmen, working independently trying to do the same thing? How about two madmen who know each and one is planning to frame the other for his actions? San Diego police sergeant Tommy Donahoo must prove himself up to the task in this well-written thriller in which Trolley weaves a complex plot so well that you can follow all the nuances. Hopefully he will do more. 03/06 Jack Quick

BALTIMORE NOIR edited by Laura Lippman:  This is the eighth volume in Akashic’s series showcasing dark tales of crime and place and Editor Lippman delivers a winner as editor and contributor.  Other brand new stories included are from Rafael Alvarez, Jack Bludis, Tim Cockey, Dan Fesperman, Lisa Respers France, Jim Fusilli, Rob Hiaasen, Sujata Massey, Ben Neihart David Simon, Charlie Stella, Marcia Talley, Joseph Wallace, Robert Ward, and Sarah Weinman.  Half of the sixteen authors have ties to the Baltimore Sun and the works range from noir to the supernatural with both period and futuristic pieces as well.  So how about some fresh Chesapeake Bay seafood washed down with some Clipper City brews.  12/07 Jack Quick

BALTIMORE, OR, THE STEADFAST TIN SOLDIER AND THE VAMPIRE: An Illustrated Novel by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden: After being injured by enemy fire, Lord Henry Baltimore, now Captain Baltimore, awakens to find himself left for dead in a trench filled with the bodies of his fellow soldiers. Strange bat-like creatures have descended into the pit to feed on the flesh of the dead. One of the creatures is distracted by Baltimore and approaches in curiosity. In his horror, Baltimore lashes out at the creature, slicing its face with his bayonet. His actions are the cause of a new unprecedented war between the vampires and humans, and the creature in question swears vengeance against Baltimore. In the time that has passed since the incident, a plague has spread amongst humans. Baltimore’s own family has fallen prey to the infection and months have passed since Baltimore’s friends have last seen him. The three men – a sailor, a soldier, and a doctor – have each received a summons from Baltimore. They are to meet him at an inn, and that is all they know. While waiting for him to arrive, each man tells two tales – how they came to meet the Captain and why they each accepted Baltimore’s strange tale as truth. Each man’s individual stories serve as vignettes that tie the whole thing together. This is not your typical vampire/horror novel. Instead, this is a look at war itself told through the scope of supernatural events. Well worth the read. 10/07 Becky Lejeune

BALZAC AND THE LITTLE CHINESE SEAMSTRESS by Dai Sijie:  Set in China during the Cultural Revolution of the 1970’s, this is an extraordinary story about the life-altering power of literature.  This one probably should have gone on my Best Books of the Year list.  Sigh. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BANG BANG by Theo Gangi:  Mystery Scene Magazine calls Gangi the “Hip-Hop Elmore Leonard”.  Izzy is a 38 year-old stick up kid – a gunman who preys on other criminals.  He and his partner Mal have one absolute rule – if someone gets killed, than all the witnesses have to die.  Sometimes this can lead to a roomful of bodies, but since the victims are usually criminals themselves, well that’s the price of admission.  Now if you will suspend belief for a few minutes, Izzy meets Eva and likes her, then Eva walks into the middle of a job going down because of her junkie cousin Theresa.  For once, Izzy, just can’t apply rule one – which ultimately leaves him at the mercy of a gang of vicious Albanian drug dealers.  No, it’s not quite logical, but Gangi makes it work in this gritty debut thriller, that indeed, does read like an Elmore Leonard outing.  If you are a realist, never mind, but if you are willing to go with the flow, Izzy and his posse will guarantee you some entertainment.  Looking for a sequel. 11/07 Jack Quick

BANGKOK HAUNTS by John Burdett:  Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep shows old friend Kimberley Jones, an American FBI agent, a vicious snuff film he’s received depicting the murder of an ex-lover of his named Damrong.  The two then set out to find Damrong’s killers, finding an important banker, an American teacher, a Buddhist and an exclusive men’s club called the Parthenon.  In the meantime, corrupt police colonel Vikorn, orders Jitpleecheep to help start a porn film business.  Add in the pregnancy of Chanya, a former prostitute with whom Jitpleecheep lives and it’s no wonder things can be a bit confusing.  However, if you persevere you will find that Burdett has once again woven an exotic tale with what has to be one of the most unusual policemen ever created. 07/08 Jack Quick

BANGKOK LAWS by Jim Hansen:  Thirty four year old Bryson Coventry, head of Denver’s homicide unit and serial womanizer, has survived four previous outings but this one may be his undoing, as he becomes involved in the collateral damage of a global killer.  Newly licensed attorney Paige Alexander is employed on her very first case.  It involves a deadly high-stakes international conspiracy that first manifested itself in Bangkok and will end who knows where.  The connection between Alexander and Coventry is San Francisco private investigator Ja’Von Deveraux who combines a lifeguard’s body with movie star features.  Deveraux has survived a terrible experience and is now looking for revenge.  She enlists Alexander to help her and then Coventry.  Not for the weak hearted but full of action and coffee drinking, crime solving Coventry and his cast of cohorts continue to evolve with each outing.  Rough as the Rockies, but also refreshing.  Can’t wait for the next in the series. 12/07 Jack Quick

BANGKOK RULES by Harlan Wolff: Carl Engel is an ex-pat Londoner who has been in Thailand for over 30 years working as a private investigator surviving through the twists and turns of Thailand’s chaotic political history. During a down period he is approached by an elderly American with a very unusual and potentially lucrative missing persons case, involving the client’s missing brother. Soon Engel is involved in the hunt for a particularly vicious current serial killer and a web of intrigue that stretches back to the Vietnam War. The trail leads Carl all over Bangkok and outside the country. Soon the danger becomes real rather than theoretical as the roots of the conspiracy and the amounts of money at stake involve forces and powers that could squash even Carl. Per the author’s notes, the character of Carl Engel is based on a real person. Overall I found this to be a decently written thriller that I would recommend. I have read better and also far worse. My biggest disappointment with the book was the plot, while well presented, tended to wander off at times rather than keeping me riveted into the story. Perhaps tighter editing would have helped. Not all thrillers have to unfold at a breakneck pace in order to be effective but there should be a reasonably constant thread of tension in order to hold the audience in. I didn’t feel that in this particular outing, but again, I did not read this under the best of circumstances so perhaps I am being too harsh. I would enjoy seeing the comments of other reviewers to prove or disprove my judgment. 6/13 Jack Quick

BANGKOK TATTOO by John Burdett: “Killing customers just isn’t good for business.” With this opening line for the sequel to Bangkok 8, Burdett returns us to District 8 – the underbelly of Bangkok’s underworld and Royal Thai Police Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep. Life is even more complicated post 9/11 and Sonchai must walk with care as he works through a particularly brutal murder of a CIA agent. Policeman by day and brothel keeper by night (the brothel’s co-owners are his mother and his police superior), Sonchai is very honest and moral but with values different from our expectations of cops. Burdett’s writing style brings his characters to life such as Sonchai describing an encounter with a recalcitrant prisoner – “ agonized over every cop’s dilemma in such circumstances: shoot the bastard or merely beat the shit out of him.” Sonchai’s take on a female CIA officer – “There is about her the restrained superiority of a senior librarian with access to secret catalogs,” and finally his description of “American” society – “The fear of letting go prevents you from letting go of the fear of letting go.” You will either love or hate Sonchai. I loved Bangkok 8 and think this one is even better. Recommended. 07/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

BANISHED by Sophie Littlefield: Author Sophie Littlefield, who’s debut, A Bad Day For Sorry, recently won her the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, makes her teen debut with Banished. Hailey Tarbell doesn’t have it very good. Her grandmother is a hard woman who sells drugs out of their basement and Hailey is an outcast even among the worst outcasts at school. When a classmate takes a bad fall and lands unconscious, Hailey discovers that she has the ability to heal. Unfortunately, her newfound gift doesn’t win her any friends and sets a couple of strange men on her trail. At the same time, an aunt she’s never met shows up in town and promises to take Hailey and her foster brother away from everything, but not before it becomes clear that there are others willing to prevent her leaving at all cost. I hope that Banished is just the tip of the iceberg for Hailey Tarbell. Littlefield touches on the backstory behind the Tarbells, the Banished, and their powers, and it’s a fabulous one. Not to mention the sort of cliffhanger ending that will leave readers anticipating a sequel. 10/10 Becky Lejeune

THE BARBARY PIRATES by William Dietrich: It’s 1802 and treasure-hunting adventurer Ethan Gage has come to Paris for some fun and maybe some debauchery. When Gage and his four companions are coerced into entering one of the city’s most notorious brothels, he never expects that it will lead to danger. Soon they are running for their lives, only to be arrested and turned over to Napoleon himself. It seems that Gage and Bonaparte share an enemy in the Egyptian Rite, an offshoot of the freemasons. Both the Rite and Bonaparte are interested in evidence that a devastating ancient weapon could be hidden in Greece, and Napoleon wants Gage to investigate. Not that Gage is given much of a choice. Readers be warned, The Barbary Pirates is a humorous and entertaining adventure, but one that begins three books earlier with Napoleon’s Pyramid. This fourth of the series can be read on its own, but there are numerous references to past adventures. 03/10 Becky Lejeune

THE BARBED WIRE KISS by Wallace Stroby:  Wow.  This one is good.  Former New Jersey state trooper and widower Harry Rane is semi-retired.  Then his best boyhood buddy calls. Bobby has gotten in a dope deal with Eddie Fallon that has gone bad. Bobby’s erstwhile partner has disappeared with the dope and with the rest of the money needed to pay Fallon.  When Harry gets involved things really get complicated. Turns our Fallon is married to a woman who 19 years before was forced to leave town by her parents after getting pregnant by Harry. At first glimpse you think the characters are all cliché’s but Stroby brings them to life in such a way as to create instant credibility.  It helps that the locale is the Jersey of Tony Soprano fame and Stroby makes you feel right at home. 02/10 Jack Quick

BARGAIN WITH THE DEVIL by F.J. Chase: Peter Avakian is a world class bodyguard but even he isn’t completely prepared for a routine business proposal that lands him in the middle of a complex plot to stage a political coup in Central Africa.   Knowing there is no way he can handle this alone, he turns to the CIA, who will help him for a price.  Avakian is to be the mole inside the conspiracy to gain control over the world’s oil supply, while dealing with assorted drug dealers, common criminals, and gunrunners, all loyal only to the one with the most money – at that time.  There are also two women to be dealt with – one is a CIA agent, the other a South African reporter.  Can either save him, or have him killed?  Nicely done contemporary tale of life in the international fast lane. 05/10 Jack Quick

THE BASINGSTOKE CHRONICLES by Robert Appleton:  The Fountain of Youth and time travel are among mankind’s oldest dreams, and although neither have come to fruition in real life (that we know of) the subjects continue to fascinate us.  Lord Henry Basingstoke and his friend, Rodrigo Quintas, are professional scuba divers, when a strange corpse is found floating off the coast of Cuba. The body itself isn’t that unusual but it is wearing a garment made from an animal extinct for over nine thousand years.  Attempts to solve the mystery actually open them to a daring journey back in time into a hidden land of rainforests, deadly creatures, and a doomed civilization.  Will they survive?  Will they return to the present?  It becomes, quite literally, a race against time. NOTE: This book will not be available until Sept., 2009.  06/09 Jack Quick

BASKET CASE by Carl Hiaasen:  This is a terrific mystery that hits a little closer to home for Mr. Hiaasen; the protagonist is a journalist.  Our hero publicly humiliates his publisher, and is subsequently banished to the obituary desk where he becomes somewhat obsessed with death.  When a rock ‘n roll star dies under mysterious circumstances, the caper begins.  While this time around there is a distinct lack of the usual frenetic insanity that often takes over his tales, I found this book hard to put down. Engrossing and entertaining. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BATTERED BODY by J.B. Stanley: The “Diva of Dough” has arrived at Quincy’s Gap to make the wedding cake for Milla and Jackson’s planned Christmas Eve nuptials.  The famous chef and television personality is Milla’s sister, and while her confections are sweet and beautiful, the Diva herself is demanding and rude.  When she is found dead all covered in cake batter there are no shortage of suspects.  James and the other members of the Supper Club in this fifth outing for the group, must sort the real clues from the false, kind of like separating egg whites.  Anyway, don’t get distracted by Lucy’s Hot Buttered Rum (page 47) or Mrs. Waxman’s Sweet Potato Pecan Pie (page 110) or you will never be able to solve the mystery.  On the other hand, whomever overlooks the Diva’s Pecan Praline Cake does so at their own risk. Bon Appetit. 03/09 Jack Quick

THE BATTLE OF THE CRATER by Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen: Forget the fact that Newt Gingrich is first and foremost a politician. He and William Forstchen have written several books together about various historical events in the form of novels. None of them have touched on the present day politics in which Mr Gingrich is immersed. The Battle of the Crater is their latest, and beyond any doubt their best to date. History is certainly subject to interpretation based on the documentation in existence about past events. The authors indicate that several years of research have gone into this book, and their thesis based on their findings is incredibly interesting. In 1864 northern and southern armies were facing off in trenches in Georgia engaged in a very costly and bloody stalemate with neither side having any advantage. The outcome of the Civil war which had raged for years looked like it would go to the south. Several divisions of Negro troops which had been used only as laborers were sent to the front and immediately picked up by General Ambrose Burnside to be incorporated into the fighting units he commanded on the Union side. These troops were desperate to prove themselves as fighting men. A plan was conceived by the north to tunnel beneath a fort held by the confederates and use a titanic amount of explosives to blow it up. The northern troops spearheaded by the Negro regiments would charge through the hole left by the explosion and take advantage of the resulting confederate chaos to go forward to seize important strategic positions with the almost definite result that the war would be ended and the south defeated. The digging under the fort goes forward and looks like the plan will be successful when a jealous General Meade changes all the factors and almost single handedly dooms it to failure. There is an inquest after the battle in which Meade is shown as a hero and Burnside actually removed from command and released from the army. Abraham Lincoln is informed of the real facts but will not change the verdict of the court because at the time he received the information Sherman has reached Atlanta and it appears that the tide has turned radically in the north’s favor. He does not want to “rock the boat” and incidentally ruin his chances of reelection at the forthcoming presidential election. Fascinating reading – like a good novel, with conversations set up for men that actually took part in these events. The reader once caught up in the book will believe that he or she is with the participants and feel the emotions probably felt like them. 11/11 Paul Lane

THE BAYOU TRILOGY by Daniel Woodrell: In the parish of St. Bruno, sex is easy, corruption festers, and double-dealing is a way of life.  Rene Shade, from “Frogtown”, is an uncompromising detective swimming in a sea of filth. Woodrell features Shade is three separate outings.  Not all the criminals are smart. Jewel Cobb’s cousin Duncan says about Jewel “ if you had a Sears catalog of dummies you couldn’t order a better one.”  Nevertheless Shade is still challenged as he deals with hit men, porn kings, a gang of ex-cons, as well as his own past, including a racist bar-tender brother.  It is not sweet, but it is vivid.  All in all, a good ride. 05/11 Jack Quick

THE BEACH by Alex Garland: While staying at a hostel in Thailand, Richard meets a strange man who calls himself Daffy. Daffy is decidedly off, but he tells Rich of a paradise island kept hidden from both locals and tourists. The following morning, Rich discovers Daffy dead at his own hand, but not before he copied the map for Rich. Rich is joined by a French couple and they set off to find this secret beach. Before leaving, though, Rich makes one mistake: he shares the map with two Americans. When the three travelers arrive, they find that all of the rumors are true—the beach is everything they expected, and more. There is a thriving community living there and Rich and his friends are welcomed, almost with open arms. Then it all goes south, fast. The Americans arrive and Rich is given the task of ensuring not only that they never find the beach, but that the map is destroyed. Meanwhile, a series of events at the camp will cause the islanders to face a reality that they have long since abandoned. Surprisingly, though it was released in 1996, this is my first time reading the book. It’s sort of a play on Lord of the Flies, an adventure tale that I think each generation of young adults can associate with. I love the movie adaptation, which amazingly, or not since Garland wrote the screenplay, follows fairly closely. 07/09 Becky Lejeune

THE BEACH HOUSE by James Patterson & Peter De Jonge:  Sure to be the beach read of the summer, this fast paced, multi-chaptered (well over 100 chapters! – will someone please explain why he does that???) is set in the quintessential summer getaway, the Hamptons, and pits the working class against the rich and powerful.  Entertaining and fun. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BEACH ROAD by James Patterson:  The James Patterson factory of book writing returns to the world of the Hamptons, where Patterson set 2002’s The Beach House.  Tom Dunleavy is a small-time lawyer who lands a big case defending a high-school basketball star accused of murdering three young men with whom Dunleavy plays basketball.  Dunleavy is assisted in working the case by his ex-girlfriend, a high-powered Manhattan lawyer.  The rich are truly different, as is amply pointed out in this typical Patterson larger than life tale. 06/06 Jack Quick

BEAR ANY BURDEN by Ellis M. Goodman:  The title of this thriller set in 1983 at the height of the Cold War is taken from John F. Kennedy’s 1961 Inauguration speech. “We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.’  Sir Alex Campbell, head of an international business is on a regular trip to Poland, a country in the midst of political turmoil, on behalf of his company and to perform a “little job” for the British Intelligence Services.  He is supposed to deliver an airline bag containing money and passports to a British agent who is to help the world-renowned nuclear scientist, Dr. Erik Keller, escape across the Iron Curtain to the West.  What begins as one of many routine “little jobs” Alex has done for the SIS, quickly turns into an increasingly dangerous game of cat-and-mouse, involving murder, bribery, and international politics.  Alex ultimately has to face his own family’s history and himself.  What do you do?  Do you turn and run?  Or do you “pay any price and bear any burden” for liberty and freedom?  Nicely done. 01/09 Jack Quick

BEAT THE REAPER by Josh Bazell:  Pietro Brwna was a bright New Jersey teenager when the grandparents who raised him were murdered, and a year later, he takes his revenge.  This area of Jersey is run by the Locanos, a Mafia family who take in Pietro and use his skills as a hit man until he decides it’s time to retire.  But no one retires from the Mafia, and Pietro goes into the Federal Witness Protection Program, becomes Dr. Peter Brown, and hides out in an old New York City hospital where he contends with muggers, sexy pharmaceutical reps and patients who deserve better care than they are getting. One of the newest patients is a New Jersey mob member who instantly recognizes Brwna/Brown, and the real fun begins. Fast paced and macabrely funny, Brwna/Brown is a smart, sarcastic wise-ass and a memorable character for sure, but it’s the writing style, told in the first person and replete with footnotes, that makes this page turner unique and eminently readable.  01/09 Stacy Alesi

BEAT THE REAPER by Josh Bazell:  Move over House, there is a new doctor in town that is even more hinky.  Dr. Peter Brown is practicing at a decrepit Manhattan hospital when a former Mafia associate turns up as a patient and threatens to expose him.  You see, Peter Brown was born Pietro Brwna in New Jersey.  After a couple of thugs gun down his grandparents who have been raising him, Pietro is taken in by the Locanos, a mob family.  Pietro is bent on revenge and pursues and executes the killers.  The Locanos are so impressed that David Locano recruits Pietro as a hit man.  Eventually Pietro tries to make a break from his past by entering the witness protection program only to have his past re-surface.  Even though the POV is first person, Bazell is able to combine humor and tension to make this a first rate read. Recommended. 01/09 Jack Quick

BEATING THE BABUSHKA by Tim Maleeny:  Maleeny’s second Cape Weathers mystery begins with movie producer Tom Abrahams falling/jumping/being pushed off the Golden Gate Bridge.  Soon former reporter turned PI Weathers finds himself being pursued by Russian gangsters as he has apparently stumbled into the middle of a turf war between the Russians and the Chinese who share the bulk of the San Francisco drug business.  With the help of the Sloth and the beautiful but deadly Sally Mei, Weathers finds evidence that resolves the mystery of Abrahams’s death while dealing with drug dealing Russian, Italian and Chinese mobsters as well.  Nicely done. 01/09 Jack Quick

BEAUTIFUL CHILDREN by Charles Bock:  What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas.  In this case, that’s a good thing.  This is the story of America’s “mutant” children, raised on video games, independence, and a disconnect with reality as most of us see it.  Newell is a twelve year old runaway, not from anything or toward anything, but just because he can.  Cheri Blossom doesn’t see anything wrong with mutilating her body in the name of “art”.  Bing Beiderbixze is into pornography as an alternative to the real world where he is singularly physically unattractive.  Ponyboy, who is mentally challenged, gay Kenny and his wacky aunt – all of these characters are larger than life and distorted by the life in which they exist.  “What am I supposed to do,” Kenny asks at the end of the book, not only on his own behalf but in the name of lost and confused humanity.  “Just what am I supposed to do now?”  BEAUTIFUL CHILDREN is not an easy read, nor is it a polished work.  I read it in an electronic version.  Perhaps in print, where you could more easily move back and forth to keep up with the various threads, it would be better.  I came away with that dull washed out feeling you get after too little sleep, too much stimulation, and wondering if it was all worth it. 04/08 Jack Quick

BEAUTIFUL LIES by Lisa Unger:  Ridley Jones is a freelance writer living in New York City and gets her fifteen minutes of fame when she saves a toddler who wandered out in front of a truck – and the incident is caught on film.  Her heroic deed gets her noticed by the Today Show and also by someone claiming to be her father.  Her parents deny and when new neighbor Jake saunters into her life, he helps her figure out what is really going on – or does he?  Twists and turns and lots of action make this an exhilarating read centered around a “Safe Haven” program where parents who don’t want their babies can leave them with no questions asked, like at hospitals or clinics.  While being touted as a debut novel, the careful plotting and well developed characters should tip off any reader that this author has been around – and indeed she has, as Lisa Miscione.  04/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

BEAUTIFUL MALICE by Rebecca James: It’s never easy to be the new girl, especially when you’re hiding a secret as big as Katherine Patterson’s. When Alice befriends her, though, Katherine is sure that things are looking up. That is until she begins to see that Alice is hiding something as well. As their friendship unfolds and Alice’s true nature is revealed, Katherine must decide what is more important: her new life or her new friendship. Rebecca James’s debut is a dark story that makes you wonder just how well you know the people around you; one that readers are sure to gobble up in one sitting. I have to admit that I had Beautiful Malice figured out fairly early on. The way the plot played out, though, was both intriguing and intense. It is easy to see why James’s book has been garnering so much attention and I look forward to what she has planned next. 07/10 Becky Lejeune

THE BECOMING by Jeanne C. Stein: Anna Strong was on a routine job tracking down a guy planning on jumping his bail. But then things went bad. Anna was brutally attacked and violated. Even worse, she awakens to find that she’s become a vampire. Avery, a doctor and fellow vampire, takes her under his wing, and soon becomes more than just a mentor, but is he everything he seems? Anna knows that Avery and others are hiding secrets from her. The question is, which of her new “friends” is really her enemy? As she learns the ropes and is initiated into this new world, her loyalties to her past are tested and pushed to the limit. Now she’s on a different kind of mission, hunting the man who made her this way, and deciding which side of the line between light and dark she belongs on. Stein’s debut is the first in a series and thankfully just the beginning of Anna’s story. Although things wrap up very neatly in the end, there are several loose ends and plenty more to learn about Anna. I’ll be interested to see how her character continues to develop as the series moves forward. 12/09 Becky Lejeune

THE BEDLAM DETECTIVE by Stephen Gallagher: Sebastian Becker is a former Pinkerton who’s recently relocated to England. His experience leaves him perfectly suited to a position as an investigator for the Lord Chancellor’s Visitors in Lunacy. Becker’s job is to investigate certain individuals to determine whether they are of sound mind and fit to manage their own affairs. His latest assignment involves Sir Owain Lancaster, the only survivor of a terribly cursed expedition to South America. Lancaster’s own account of the voyage claims the rest of his crew and his own family were the victims of creatures most believe could only be born of imagination. Becker is concerned that Lancaster could be involved in a more recent crime: the brutal murder of two children living near Lancaster’s estate. Gallagher’s latest is a great thriller/mystery with a unique character premise. I would love to see this developed into a series. 3/12 Becky Lejeune

BEDFELLOWS by Bob Garfield: A zany cast of characters highlight this light hearted mob story set in Ebbets Beach, a part of Brooklyn, New York. Jack Schiavone lost his job and ended up in jail protecting a girlfriend, and moves to Brooklyn to start over by opening a mattress store. He gets involved with the Donato family when one of their enforcers comes by to collect protection money. Business has fallen off for the Donato family with the economy and all, but the Russian mob is trying to move into their neighborhood so the Don hires a cut rate chiropractor/hit man to solve the problem. Meanwhile Jack has fallen for Donato’s daughter, a legal aid lawyer, and together they try to convince the Don to get out of the rackets and go legitimate. There is not a lot of action until the end; instead the story is propelled via anecdotes about the Family in all their glorious insanity. There hasn’t been a mob family this funny since “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.” Fans of Tim Dorsey will embrace these strange Bedfellows. 10/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2012 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.

BEFORE CAIN STRIKES by Joshua Corin: Former FBI Profiler and now consultant Esme Stuart and husband Rafe continue to experience marital conflict as set forth in the previous outing, “WHILE GALILEO PREYS.”  Their conflict boils over when Lynette Robinson, the woman Rafe had escorted to his high school prom, is found hand less, murdered, in a burned out home.  Rafe is torn between wanting Esme to find the killer and to not further risk their marriage and daughter. The villain himself. who would be described in a Brit procedural as a “wee shite” is only 14 but totally psychopathic. After his unsuccessful, (in his mind) experience with Ms. Robinson, he next abducts a three-month old baby. Adding to Esme’s problems are a seedy true-crime writer who is dredging up the deadly confrontation that nearly destroyed her. But that is just the beginning. Think FACEBOOK for serial killers.  Nasty and quite good. 08/11 Jack Quick

BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver: Samantha Kingston is a senior, one of the most popular at Thomas Jefferson High and everyone knows it. In fact, today is Cupid Day, the day when popularity can be measured by the number of roses each person receives. Sam has been looking forward to Cupid Day, but by the end of the night she will be dead. And when she wakes up, it’s Cupid Day… again. Sam soon learns that she will relive the day over and over again. Every new action has a different reaction and if she can change the outcome of the day, maybe she can change things for good. Before I Fall touches on a lot of teen issues without ever becoming melodramatic. In fact, the story sweeps you along and becomes eye opening and heart breaking at the same time.  12/11 Becky Lejeune

BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP by S.J. Watson: This debut novel is an unforgettable story about a woman who forgets everything. Everyday. Christine is a middle aged woman with a memory disorder. She can form new memories but when she wakes up the next morning she cannot recall anything, including her husband Ben. She wakes up in a bed with a man who is a virtual stranger. To help her, he has taped pictures of them together around the bathroom mirror which gives her some assurance that at least it is not a one night stand. She is working with a doctor behind her husband’s back as after so many years, he has given up hope on her ever getting better. This doctor has her write everything down in a journal, then he calls her in the morning and tells her where to look for it. The thing is that on the very first page she has written “Don’t trust Ben”. This is a book that is impossible to put down or to forget.  8/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP by S.J. Watson: Imagine if your memories were wiped clean every time you went to sleep. This is the reality that Christine faces. After a terrible accident, Christine’s short-term memory is damaged. She can retain new memories only for the span of a day. She’s suffered from the condition for so long, she no longer recognizes herself when she looks in the mirror. Instead, her husband retells her story every day. But Christine’s new doctor has her keeping a journal. As she reads about her own past—in her own words—, she discovers that her husband is keeping secrets. Christine begins to believe that if she can only unravel her own mysteries, she might be able to beat her condition. But why is her husband lying to her? Could it be for her own good or is there something else going on? No one can read Before I Go To Sleep without drawing connections to the film Memento, but as a plot device, this creates the most unreliable of narrators, making it a truly great puzzle for the reader to try to figure out every step of the way.  06/11 Becky Lejeune

BEFORE YOU KNOW KINDNESS by Chris Bohjalian: Very interesting story about a New England family and how they deal with a tragedy.  Twelve-year-old Charlotte accidentally shoots her animal-activist-vegan father with her uncle’s hidden hunting rifle.  Bohjalian presents more than just another family saga, however; the whole PETA-type tangent is front and center and clearly illuminated.  But ultimately it is the characters that drive the story; Charlotte, having to deal with more than any child should have to deal with; her uncle and his guilt over the gun; her cousin, with whom she shares a secret; her mother and aunt and their reactions; and the matriarch of the family, her grandmother, Nan Seton, of strong, stoic New England stock.  Much of the novel is autobiographic, especially the beautiful New Hampshire home and countryside which Bohjalian really brings to life.  Another fine effort from this very talented author.  04/06 Stacy Alesi AKA The BookBitch

BEFORE WE WERE FREE by Julia Alvarez:  Alvarez wrote one of my favorite books, In the Time of the Butterflies, about the politics and revolution in the Dominican Republic, and this is a young adult book on the same subject. Anita de la Torre lived in a house on a compound with all of her relatives in 1960. But then they started leaving, moving to America under various cover stories – escaping. She didn’t realize the regime she was living under until her favorite cousin moved to America and her favorite uncle disappeared. Their lives were turned upside down with visits from the secret police, the eventual arrest of her father and uncle, and Anita & her mother were forced into hiding. A very touching, intimate story, told from the perspective of this 12 year old girl as she grows up under the El Jefe’s regime. A heartbreaker – fiction, but not, and a must read. 09/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BEGINNER’S GOODBYE by Anne Tyler: This beguiling, quirky book is about a marriage that ends with a sudden, unexpected death and meanders its way through the grieving process. Aaron Walcott edits a vanity press, where people go to have their books published when traditional publishers turn them down. The self publishing world has changed dramatically in the past year or two, but you won’t find any of that chaos here. Aaron’s wife Dorothy is a doctor, and she passes away in a bizarre accident. Her timing wasn’t good, she and Aaron were fighting about Triscuits, of all things, when she passes. Aaron is having a hard time letting go, despite his sister’s constant presence in his life. Then Dorothy comes to visit from beyond, and Aaron starts healing. These characters are vividly brought to life in Tyler’s skilled hands, and theirs is a story worth reading. 4/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BEGINNER’S LUCK by Laura Pedersen:  Sixteen-year old Hallie Palmer is a wise-ass with big plans; as the small Ohio town’s most successful gambler, she’s saving her money to buy a car to take her to Vegas.  But she skips school one time too many and gets kicked off the soccer team, gets kicked out of the casino permanently, loses her life savings on a bad bet at the track, and her mother is pregnant with child number eight, the cumulative effect being that Hallie quits school and runs away from home.  Fortunately, she doesn’t run far.  She answers an ad for a yard person and goes to work for the town eccentrics; Olivia Stockton, a sixty-something radical feminist who alternates writing sonnets with writing pornography; her husband, the Judge, is in the last stages of Alzheimer’s; her son Bernard, an antique dealer and old movie aficionado with an obsession for cooking gourmet meals with a theme; his lover, Gil, the “normal one” (although he is a tooth prognosticator); and Rocky, an alcoholic chimpanzee the Stockton’s saved from a certain death – he was trained to work with a paraplegic, who died.  Hallie moves into their summerhouse and into their lives, and gets more of an education than she ever would have at school.  This poignant, quirky, unforgettable coming-of-age story is filled with humor, pathos and love. Note:  This is the first trade paperback original published by the Ballantine Reader’s Circle.  It comes with the reading group guide, an interview with the author and an excerpt from the author’s next book (which was terrific – a comedic romance between a Scotsman with terminal cancer and a dying nun) all bound in the back.  Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BEL CANTO by Ann Patchett:  It’s interesting to note that the chief criticism with this book about terrorists holding over 70 people hostage for several months is that it is unbelievable.  A couple of the hostages fall in love and there seems to be almost a party air about the situation.  I got some feedback from my reading group, and read some of the customer comments on Amazon and I have to point out that this book, while fiction and heavily dramatized, is based on an actual event – a revolutionary group called Tupac Amaru’s takeover of the Japanese Embassy in Lima, Peru in 1996 that lasted several months.  There were stories in the media about apparent pizza parties, soccer games on the lawn, and romance – and these stories triggered this novel for Patchett, who added an interesting character to the mix; a world famous American opera star. It’s a fast moving story that is well written and deserving of all the awards and accolades it has won.  It is now being written as an opera. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BENEATH A WEEPING SKY by Frank Zafiro: This is the third in Zafiro’s River City police procedural series. Zafiro himself is a career law enforcement officer and obviously knows his material. On the surface it appears that Zafiro might be trying to channel either Ed McBain or Joseph Wambaugh, with a kind of ensemble cast featuring a mix of detectives and officers.  In this outing Detective John Tower is trying to stop a serial rapist whose assaults are getting more and more vicious.  Tower is afraid the rapes will escalate into homicides.  Officer Katie MacLeod and Officer Thomas Chisholm play key roles in the search for the River City Rapist. While some of his characters are stereotypical, i.e., the Italian Stallion, the despised Internal Affairs Lieutenant who hates all cops, the earnest young female striving to compete, etc., he does give them some neat dialogue like “Humility is an affectation that I don’t have time for. It tends to get in the way of accomplishing anything great.”  With all humility I would say Mr. Zafiro is not Ed McBain or Joseph Wambaugh but does tell a pretty good tale. 07/10 Jack Quick

BENEATH THE SHADOWS by Sara Foster: A cozy cottage in the country seems to be just the thing for new parents Grace and Adam. They inherit the home from Adam’s recently deceased grandparents and decide that it’s the perfect opportunity to raise their daughter away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. But their new beginning soon turns into a nightmare. Adam disappears after taking the baby out for an afternoon walk. Grace finds her daughter bundled in her carriage on the front stoop but Adam is nowhere to be found. A year passes and Grace returns to Roseby. Her immediate plan is to clean out the cottage and have it ready for rental. She also hopes that she might finally be able to find a clue to Adam’s fate. The problem with Roseby is that everyone seems to be hiding something. Do they know what happened to Adam, or is it just their standoffish nature against Grace as an outsider? Foster’s debut is a quick read that left me guessing almost to the very end. The best part, though, is the bleak and somewhat claustrophobic setting. Reading this one late at night will make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. 6/12 Becky Lejeune

THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2010 edited by Otto Penzler and Lee Child: What would our life as mystery lovers be like without Otto Penzler? This time he teams up with best-selling novelist Lee Child to produce this year’s edition of some of the finest mystery stories of the past year.  If you are only a casual fan of the genre, you got to read this one with contributors like Mary Stewart Atwell, John Land, Dennis Lehane, Philip Margolin, and Kurt Vonnegut, how can you possibly not find at least one jewel to be treasured. I have enjoyed each volume in this annual series since 1997 and this one is another winner. 10/10 Jack Quick

THE BEST AMERICAN NOIR OF THE CENTURY edited by Otto Penzler and James Ellroy:  The editors’ search through one hundred years of Noir in the United States has yielded thirty-nine stories by authors as diverse as Mickey Spillane, Patricia Highsmith, James Cain, Elmore Leonard and Joyce Carol Oates.  If you are even remotely attracted to this sub-genre of hard-boiled fiction you will find some favorites here.  Spanning the time period from 1910 to 2010, there is something for all in this dark, stark and almost overwhelming collection of flawed souls, unattainable big dreams, doomed alliances and cross purposes.  No, there are no happy endings to the stories but certainly satisfaction for the reader.  10/10 Jack Quick

BETRAYALS by Lili St. Crow: Dru, Christophe, and Graves return in the follow-up to Saintcrow’s (St. Crow) teen debut, Strange Angels. Dru Anderson has never had what most would consider a normal life. And recently her life has been turned even more upside down by the discovery that she is Svetocha, a rare female half-vampire. After narrowly escaping the vampire who killed her father, Dru and her friend Graves, now a loup-garou (a werewolf with all the perks and none of the downside), are sent to a school meant to train djamphir and wulfen teens. Dru’s would-be savior, Christophe, believes that there is a traitor in their midst, however, and has Dru on the lookout for clues during her stay. But when Dru is approached by other factions with revelations about Christophe’s past, and the school comes under deadly attack, she has to wonder which of those alongside her can truly be trusted. I’m hooked. I’m a big fan of Saintcrow’s adult series, so it’s really no surprise that I would enjoy Dru’s story as well, but the tone of this series is what sets it apart from a lot of the teen crowd for me. 12/09 Becky Lejeune

BETRAYERS by Bill Pronzini:  When you have written 35 books in a series, then you are allowed one or two that don’t quite make it.  This is one of them.  Nameless (who we now know is Bill) looks into a dispute over real estate that may be connected with a campaign of harassment, which includes a ghost and a cat poisoning.  Tamara Corbin, pursues a private matter–tracking down the man who called himself Lucas Zeller when he slept with her.  Nameless’s other partner, Jake Runyon, goes after a bail jumper. All in all, a less than satisfying outing. Don’t judge the series by this one.  07/10 Jack Quick

THE BEST A MAN CAN GET: A Novel of Fatherhood and It’s Discontents by John O’Farrell: Cute story about a man with a Peter Pan complex and how he learns to grow up the hard way. Chick-lit written by a man! Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011 by Harlan Coben and Otto Penzler (Eds.): Best-selling novelist Harlan Coben is the editor of this year’s version of Otto Penzler’s awesome annual anthology of mystery stories. As usual, the author list is top notch, with familiar names like Lawrence Block, Loren D. Estleman, Ed Gorman, S. J. Rozan, and others. Even if you don’t enjoy all the stories, there is bound to be a nugget or two that you will savor. There is a reason this is the 15th annual edition of this anthology – it’s damn good. 10/11 Jack Quick

BEST KEPT SECRET by Jeffrey Archer: This is the third installment of the Clifton Chronicles, and these must be read in order – start with Only Time Will Tell, then Sins of the Father. I don’t know quite how he does it but this series is like crack; completely addicting, and I start jonesing for more as soon as the last page is turned. It may have something to do with the fact that the last page of each of these books ends in real cliffhanger. This book starts out with a judge deciding whether Harry or Giles will inherit the title and everything else. Despite the legal wrangling, the men really like each other and it doesn’t affect their relationship, that is until Giles marries Lady Victoria, a real bitch. Harry continues writing, together with Emma they try and control their strong-willed son Sebastian. He grows up, goes to his father’s school and is the first student in many years to win a place at Cambridge – until he gets “rusticated” for smoking, drinking and whoring. Afraid to go home, he visits his best bud Bruno in London. Bruno’s dad offers Harry a trip to Buenos Aires, if Harry will agree to accompany a package back to Sotheby’s. Rodin’s The Thinker is in the large crate, along with contraband that Harry isn’t aware of, but things go awry and the young Clifton’s life is in danger. Fade out to black… The first book in this series is undoubtedly the best, but once again I read this in a day, I couldn’t put it down. I am thoroughly invested in these characters and their lives and can’t wait for the next installment. 6/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BEST FRIENDS FOREVER by Jennifer Weiner:  Childhood friends Valerie, the good looking one, and Addie, the fat one, have a falling out in high school and stop speaking.  Years later the slimmed down Addie is shocked to find Val on her front step, asking for help because she thinks she may have killed a man.  A Thelma & Louise type girlfriend adventure begins, with lots of looking back at their lives, a bit of mystery and of course, the possibility of romance with the cop who’s investigating. This one really stretched the bounds of plausibility for me.  Although there are some fun moments for sure, I expected more. 08/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BEST STAGED PLANS by Claire Cook: Sandy Sullivan is an aging boomer who has reinvented herself several times. Her latest career is as a home stager to help people sell their homes in the declining real estate market in the seaside Massachusetts town where they live. She also wants to sell her home, and expects her retired husband and live-at-home adult son to help out, but they fall short of her goals. When an opportunity comes up to stage a boutique hotel in Atlanta, where her married daughter lives, she jumps at the chance. The break from her husband will do her good and she’ll get to spend time with her daughter and new son-in-law, or so she thinks. Instead, she meets a homeless woman and realizes how fortunate she truly is. This is typical Claire Cook; charming, warm, funny and fast. If you want something light and breezy, this is the perfect read. 07/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BEVERLY HILLS DEAD by Stuart Woods:  World War II is over and Hollywood is in full swing.  Rick Barron, once a lowly Beverly Hills cop, is now a decorated war time pilot and head of production for Centurion Pictures.  He is cranking up a western that has all the makings of a smash hit using little known talent and shooting in the mountains around Jackson Hole Wyoming, a locale not previously used for movie making.  Then Rick’s friend, Sidney Brooks, author of the screenplay from which Rick is making his movie, is called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee.  But it doesn’t stop there as the witch-hunt extends to other close friends and even his wife, the glamorous Glenna Gleason.  Fast paced and full of action, Woods captures this time of uncertainty and turmoil when it was better to be “dead than red.” 01/08 Jack Quick

BEWARE THE JABERWOCK by Chester Campbell: The end of the Cold War benefited many, but rogue elements on both sides of the Iron Curtain now join in a deadly plot to maintain their hold on power. Months later, Cameron Quinn, a veteran clandestine officer with a drinking problem, draws the task of tracking down the nebulous codeword “Jabberwock.” Quinn turns for help to a former FBI buddy, Burke Hill, whose tarnished career ended years earlier. For Hill, it becomes a quest to prove his own worth after an accident forces him to continue the investigation alone, without CIA sanction. With the help of Quinn’s daughter Lori, a former CIA operative, he discovers a multinational team of killers rehearsing on an island off the Florida coast. Fighting both official and unofficial forces, Burke and Lori are the only ways who can stop a plot to assassinate both the American and Russian presidents. 10/12 Jack Quick

BEYOND REACH by Karin Slaughter: Lena gets a mysterious phone call from her uncle Hank’s neighbor, saying that he is in a bad way. But when she tries to reach him, she can’t, so she heads home and finds the stuff nightmares are made from. When Jeffrey gets a phone call that Lena’s been arrested as a possible person of interest in a gruesome murder, and hasn’t uttered a word, he grabs Sara and they head off for the small Georgia town of Lena’s childhood. Sara is escaping from a malpractice suit that has completely undermined her confidence in everything she believes in; her skill as a doctor, and more importantly, her trust in her patients. But something is rotten in Elawah County, and it has to do with methamphetamine dealers and crooked cops and crooked politicians and lurid deaths. I cannot remember the last time I read a book that made me this angry. And not in a good way. Without giving anything away, I will say that I am not sorry that I was two books behind in this series, but very sorry that I decided to read this one instead of catching up in order. If you are invested in this series, don’t read this book. If you’ve never read Slaughter and want to start here, go for it but you probably will never read another. The author left some comments at the end, and a longer explanation on her website (with lots of spoiler alerts) so I’m certainly not going to spill the beans here. But if anyone reads it, and wants to discuss it, I’d love to hear from you. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you. 09/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BEYOND REACH by Karin Slaughter:  Slaughter’s sixth thriller in her Grant County, Georgia crime series focuses primarily on the problems of reckless detective Lena Adams who gets mixed up in a dangerous web of methamphetamine trafficking, white supremacy, and long buried family issues.  Her boss, police chief Jeffery Tolliver, is trying to help Lena but also is needed by his wife, Dr. Sara Linton, the county’s resident pediatrician and medical examiner, who is mired in a devastating malpractice lawsuit.  Slaughter builds the suspense to a perfect crescendo, finally connecting every loose plot strand into a devastating and unforgettable climax.  As always she spares none of the ugly details.  Fast becoming one of my must reads alongside Burke, Rankin, Muller, Pronzini, Child, et al.  A warning.  If you are one of those people who habitually turn to the end of the book to “see how its going to end”, resist that temptation with this one.   08/07 Jack Quick

BEYOND THE NIGHT by Joss Ware: For fifty years, while the world was coming to a virtual end, Dr. Elliot Drake and his friends slept, totally unaware. They entered a cave system in Sedona in 2010, emerging to discover that decades had passed while they were inside. None of them has aged at all and the world as they knew it has vanished. What is left is a wasted wreck where the tattered remains of the human race fight for survival in a land with little resources. Elliot and his friends have been traveling for six months, searching for answers that will explain the events that have led them to this point. When they encounter a group of teens from Envy, they believe that their luck may finally have changed for the better. What they find in Envy—once Las Vegas—is a struggling resistance: a group searching for a way to defeat The Strangers, beings Elliot and his friends have been lucky enough to avoid. Until now. Jade, one of those fighting the Strangers, knows more about these enemies than anyone else. Her experience has left her wary and on edge, but also stronger than most. Now she’ll have to open up and trust Elliot and his friends so that they may save the remaining survivors. This first in the Envy series is an exciting blend of romance and suspense in a post-apocalyptic setting. And did I mention there are zombies? 01/10 Becky Lejeune

THE BIG BAD WOLF by James Patterson: There is something to be said for consistency. Alex Cross is back and even though he’s newly employed by the F.B.I., everything still feels familiar and right. “Club Fed” training is going as well as one would expect, Nana is still making the best coffee in town, and Alex is still feeling guilty about his workaholic ways. When the wife of a federal judge is kidnapped, making it F.B.I. business, Alex is pulled out of class and sent to the crime scene, creating an interesting dichotomy of newly minted federal agent/star. It turns out to be just the latest in a string of such kidnappings and the F.B.I. suspects a possible white slavery ring. The Russian Red Mafiya king has been shaking things up with La Cosa Nostra and tops the lists of suspects, and Alex has a nasty new nemesis to deal with. Things are shaking up at home, too – a custody dispute emerges when Little Alex’s mom blows into town. There are no tidy endings here, just an engrossing story that will leave readers clamoring for the sequel. The Big Bad Wolf is the biggest, baddest Alex Cross novel in years.  Copyright © 2003 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.  Reprinted with permission.

THE BIG BAMBOO by Tim Dorsey: Tampa Bay’s master of the madcap crime novel is near the top of his form once more in The Big Bamboo.  The story involves Serge, Dorsey’s homicidical history buff psycho killer, travelling to Hollywood to perform a caper at the behest of his ancestor Sergio’s old cronies in crime.  Hollywood is, of course, the perfect setting for Serge.  Like Florida, Hollywood is a place that no one is from, but everyone comes to.  And like Florida, it is full of maps that tells you where what you think you ought to see is.  And like Florida, that means you overlook all the good stuff that made the place what it is in favor of what you want to see.  Fortunately, Dorsey and his alter ego Serge notice the important stuff and want to remind us about it. Unfortunately (for Serge and his faithful companion, Coleman), this caper involves kidnapping a movie star from two coke addled, hornier than hamsters studio executives whose studio is being financed by Japanese crime lords.  Serge is more than capable of dealing with the police and the studio thugs, but the crime lords have a secret weapon who is silent and deadly.  This cold-blooded killer has had his face tattooed as a skull and is consequently known in the trade as “The Tat.”  (Rhymes nicely with Wu Fat, by the way).  Will Serge and Coleman survive the Tat? More importantly, will he survive the movie actress? Even after a bout of Serge sex, she remains a spoiled whiner, who insists on going shopping.  The resulting sprees make them all folk heroes, but sort of expose them to everyone who is chasing them. All of this is grist for Dorsey’s mill because it gives him the basis for a slam bang chase scene finish with Harold Lloyd ladder stunts, frequent references to Its A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’s finale and reminded me no little bit of the romp through the studio at the end of Blazing Saddles (which for Dorsey, curiously, is not credited.) Along the way, Dorsey’s ear is as fine as ever.  His Hollywood cops do a perfect Jack Webb number early in the story.  The references to The Big Lebowski, one of my all time favorite movies, warmed my heart and of course, the homage to Mad World brought back high school in ’63 and seeing the movie on the big screen with The Blonde. I liked having Serge on the road and remain hopeful that he (Mr. Dorsey) will see fit to mine Southeastern Arizona and the old copper town of Bisbee one of these days. This is a very funny and enjoyable book and along the way you will learn a few things.  Buy it.  For that matter, check out Mr. Dorsey’s website, Serge’s store and the links to the late, great Bamboo bar in Kissimmee’s website. 04/06 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

THE BIG BANG by Max Allan Collins: The basic manuscript dates back to the mid ‘60’s, begun by the late Mickey Spillane and now finished by his longtime friend and collaborator Max Collins, giving us the treat of one more outing by Mike Hammer.  It starts with Hammer “accidently” interfering with a mugging in progress.  Then Hammer survives a street-corner knife attacker. The attacker ends up dead, although he was very much alive when Hammer left the scene.  Turns out Hammer and Horse are mixed up as the Mob is expecting a huge shipment of heroin an day and Hammer may be the only one who can hold up the delivery.  It’s the New York City of flashy discotheques, classy dames, bachelor pads, funky dialogue and vintage Hammer. So grab your rod and walk down the dirty rotten streets of Manhattan one more time with the man in the porkpie hat and his beautiful, deadly partner Velda. 05/10 Jack Quick

THE BIG BOOM by Domenic Stansberry: In Chasing the Dragon, Italian American Dante Mancuso, native of San Francisco’s North Beach, lost his father and his uncle. The former deep-cover CIA agent is back where he grew up, working as a private detective and trying to put his life together when a corpse found floating in the bay is identified as Angie Antonelli, a former lover. Her parents ask him to investigate, and the trail leads both back into North Beach history and forward into that twenty-first-century demilitarized zone where cyberspace collides with flesh-and-blood reality. Dante confronts Angie’s boss at a dot-com startup company and tracks down other employees who have moved on in the volatile job market. Soon the PI meets the crew of killers with a perverse fondness for drowning. The classic detective story lives on in Stansberry’s gritty but realistic portrayal of both sides of change, the good parts and the dark parts. Who gains and who loses. Hopefully there will be more. 07/07 Jack Quick

BIG CHERRY HOLLER by Adriana Trigiani: The second book in the Big Stone Gap series finds Ave Maria Mulligan MacChesney married for eleven years to her Jack and busy parenting a ten year old daughter, Etta.  Losing their son Joe a few years earlier had devastating effects on both Ave Maria and Jack, but neither is facing the problem.  Stress builds as the coal mine closes and Jack is out of work, forming a construction company with a couple of likewise unemployed friends.  The marriage appears to be floundering, giving this novel a more serious tone than the first one, but Trigiani’s trademark humor is still present and perhaps more poignant because of the seriousness of the story.  A trip to Italy brings about more questions but ultimately the answers are found back in Big Stone Gap.  Trigiani has a gift for telling a great story that is driven by these characters that feel like family.  Can’t wait to meet up with them again in Milk Glass Moon.   02/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BIG CITY, BAD BLOOD by Sean Chercover: Real-life Chicago PI Chercover, in his hard-boiled debut, writes Chicago like Ed Dee writes New York and Loren D. Estleman writes Detroit – gritty, dirty, scary, bold, and beloved by its citizens. Ray Dudgeon is a former Chicago reporter who has turned private detective. Bob Loniski is just trying to lock up some locations for movie making when he gets entangled in a ”Rent What You Don’t Own” scam. As a potential witness at the trial of the scammer, his life is threatened so he hires Dudgeon to look after him. Suddenly Dudgeon finds himself in the middle of an organized crime war complete with crooked politicians and assorted violence. Dudgeon turns out to be a classic private eye of the old school who can take a licking and keep on ticking – and quit is a word he never heard. Hopefully the first of many adventures for a guy that even has a nurse for a dame – and he needs one. 03/07 Jack Quick

THE BIG CLOCK by Kenneth Fearing: Number Four in an awesome anthology entitled CRIME NOVELS: American Noir of the 1930’s and 40’s. In the 1948 film of the same name, Charles Laughton played the punctuality obsessed, slave-driving head of a publishing empire (Earl Janoth) who won’t let his crime magazine’s star editor George Stroud (Ray Milland) take a day off to spend with his family. This was remade in 1987 with Kevin Costner as No Way Out. The overworked Stroud goes on a sorrow-drowning, barhopping bender with Janoth’s mistress. Later that night after Stroud has dropped her off at her apartment, Janoth murders her, and the next day Stroud is assigned to investigate, since a number of clues point to her having spent time with another man that night. Stroud, then, must not only find the real murderer but also sidetrack the investigation away from himself. 07/07 Jack Quick

BIG MONEY by Jack Getze:  Prior to the Bear Sterns collapse it was hard to picture a sympathetic character in the big time financial world.  But suspended and scruffy stockbroker Austin Carr is back to battle mobsters, women and his own big mouth.  The story starts with Carr in the company of a gorgeous naked lady – holding a shotgun.  It’s all in a day’s work for him as he’s being extorted into opening a money-laundering account for local crime boss Bluefish; an auditor who had been looking into his company’s books has turned up murdered; a female state police captain has him pegged as the key to her organized crime investigation; and his boss’s mother has been picked up for fixing her church bingo game.  Somehow Carr survived his previous outing in last year’s BIG NUMBERS, so he’ll probably survive all this.  Suggestion, try not to drink any beverages while reading this one, however, as you just might get the pages all wet. 03/08 Jack Quick

BIG NUMBERS by Jack Getze: This is one tough book. It arrived at my home in a package that looked like it had been used as a training aid for the USPS heavy equipment operators training school. Inside the somewhat battered covers was a dark but funny story about the near demise of a down on his luck stockbroker. Normally, one would not think of a stockbroker as a particularly sympathetic protagonist but when he is living in a truck bed camper in a public parking lot trying to avoid clients like Psycho Samson, a former professional wrestler whose first career choice of the NFL was denied him because of his “bad attitude”….. Austin Carr sums it all up “I swear the only subjects of interest around here are money, sex, and sports, in that order. Hopefully there will be a sequel to Big Numbers so we can get Carr’s take on sports. Recommended. 03/07 Jack Quick

THE BIG SECRET by Pete Earley: Nick LeRue is an unusual protagonist, a U.S. Senate investigator working for the Senate Judiciary Committee. He is approached by Melanie Cole, the twin sister of his former lover Heather, asking for his help in finding Heather who is missing in Mississippi. Heather, a reporter, is trying to unearth the secrets behind a 1955 lynching in that state when she is kidnapped and killed by one of the principals from the lynching. LeRue is a neat character but there is a bit too much woo-woo for me in the form of dream sequences that reveal key plot turns, etc. This is Earley’s fiction debut so hopefully future efforts will focus more on the reality of the characters rather than using plot gimmicks. 10/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

THE BIG SWITCH by Jack Bludis:  Finally, I got a Jack Bludis’ book to read and it is great.  Kane is a Hollywood P.I. in 1951.  This particular job isn’t that glamorous, but the pay is okay and it’s not that difficult.  He has been hired to catch a cheating husband – not hard when the man has not one, not two, but three different starlets that are “special friends.”  But when Kane shows up at the errant spouse’s home to deliver his report, he finds that the lady of the house is not, in fact, the lady who hired him.  Before Kane can solve this one, starlet number one is found dead, and although Kane isn’t responsible, there is a possibility his fingerprints are on the murder weapon.  Throw in some good scotch, discreet sex, and drop dead gorgeous women, and you wonder why this isn’t a series.  Definitely recommended.  12/07 Jack Quick

THE BIG SILENCE (#6) by Stuart Kaminsky:  As usual with this series, Chicago Jewish policeman Abe Lieberman and his Irish partner, Bill Hanrahan, known to colleagues as “the Rabbi and the Priest,” have to handle a combination of personal and professional challenges.  Hanrahan, a former football lineman and recovering alcoholic, is nearly suicidal over a blown assignment that resulted in a kidnapping and murder.  It’s the second time this kind of thing has happened to him.  His partner, Lieberman, must take up the slack while dealing with on-going family matters.  I think the key to this entire series is contained in this one line quote – “Crimes are not so much solved as resolved.”  Whatever, it’s always a good read. 05/08 Jack Quick

THE BIG SWITCH by Jack Bludis:  Fun, sexy mystery set in the Hollywood noir of 1951.  Private Investigator Brian Kane is hired by a star’s wife to follow her husband and see if he’s cheating, but someone else wants the incriminating pictures and has the gun to prove it.  A starlet is murdered, then another, and the bodies start piling up.  Everyone has a secret, and after Kane’s call-girl-girl-friend gets involved, he takes it very personally.  To make things even more interesting, the women find Kane irresistible, and so is this book.  It was fun going back to the time before cell phones and all the high tech gizmos of today’s PI’s.  The writing was clean and crisp and well suited to the time frame and story.  This is good hard boiled crime fiction.  And check out the sequel, The Deal Killer. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BIG WAKE-UP by Mark Coggins:  “I know as much about Argentine politics as you probably know about the San Francisco Giants.”  Before Coggins’s fifth mystery to feature San Francisco PI August Riordan is over, Riordan knows enough about Argentine politics to stick with his beloved Giants.  A random fatal encounter at a Laundromat with  23-year-old Araceli Rivero leads to a job from her Argentine family – find the location of Araceli’s dead aunt, whose body was transferred from a Milan cemetery to somewhere in the Bay Area in 1974. After quickly getting a promising lead, Riordan learns that his clients have been less than straight with him – the missing corpse is actually that of Evita Peron.  Riordan needs all of his wits, his network of friends and associates, and an unexpected legacy from the dead father he has never known to help him survive the deadly intrigue between powerful Argentine movers and shakers, ex-military men, and a mysterious woman named Isis who is expert in ancient techniques of mummification.  Very nicely done. 01/10 Jack Quick

THE BIGGEST LIAR IN LOS ANGELES by Ken Kuhlken:  It is 1926, and Los Angeles musician Tom Hickey has a full plate with a dance orchestra to lead and a wild younger sister to raise. Then he learns that an old friend, a Negro, was the victim of a lynching the Los Angeles newspapers failed to report, and that officially didn’t occur.  Tom is determined to obtain justice for his dead friend and beatings, gunfire, and warnings from Leo, a speakeasy owner, and a Klansman, that he’s made formidable enemies aren’t enough to dissuade him. Among those arrayed against him may be infamous Police Chief Two Gun Davis, Examiner publisher and political heavyweight William Randolph Hearst, and Harry Chandler, owner of the LA Times, who owns more land than any man in the world.  It all appears to be tied to an upcoming referendum that will decide who the city’s future belongs to:  the railroads, whose plans include subways and elevated trains; or the oil, automobile, and suburban development interests, devoted to building highways.  Sometimes when you win, you lose. 05/10 Jack Quick

BILLY BOYLE by James R. Benn: Benn is not yet on a par with Ken Follett but shows promise of getting there. Billy Boyle is a Boston cop, from a family of Boston cops, who reluctantly goes to war in Europe in 1942. His family calls on cousin Mamie to help find Boyle a cushy safe job, but Mamie’s husband, Boyle’s “Uncle Ike” needs a hotshot detective. Since Eisenhower has been told Boyle fills that description he sends him off spy chasing. Good plot and the action builds to a strong climax, but a bit over-clichéd. A sequel should be stronger and even more enjoyable.  10/06 Jack Quick

BIRD OF PREY by Tom Grace:  An enormous global corporation run by a ruthless woman willing to commit high-tech murder to stop her competitors is the basis for this techno-thriller than evokes Ian Fleming or Robert Ludlum.  Astronaut Kelsey Newton, fiancé of former Navy SEAL Nolan Kilkenny, is in danger, so Nolan sets out to find the source of the black space ship carrying a high-powered laser that has been knocking out space shuttles and communications satellites.  If it sounds like 007 in Moonraker, it does follow that same plot fairly closely.  Overall a crisp, enjoyable read with lots of action and just enough love interest. 01/06 Jack Quick

BIRDMAN by Mo Hayder:  In 1999, Mo Hayder made her debut with this gruesome and gut wrenching novel. London detective, Jack Caffery, was unlucky enough to pull call duty the week that five bodies are discovered buried in a construction yard. Each of the bodies is that of a young woman and all but one show serious signs of drug abuse. Even worse, each woman is found with a finch sewn into her chest. A piece of trace evidence found on one of the women leads the police to believe that they may already have a suspect in hand. Jack Caffery is not so sure. Jack is allowed a short period of time in which to follow up on his own leads but his discoveries may come too late and at a price. Caffery is an interesting character. He is smart and apparently attractive as many of the women around him seem to lust after him without his knowledge. He is unable to maintain healthy relationships, though, thanks to his obsession with the death of his brother. Hayder has the ability – through characters, setting, and plot – to induce every imaginable emotion from her readers – horror, sympathy, and disgust, to name a few. Birdman is sick, twisted, and highly disturbing. It is also a riveting thriller that introduced readers to the force that is Mo Hayder.  01/08 Becky Lejeune

BIRDMAN by Mo Hayder: Detective Inspector Jack Caffery has major problems. At work, he is dealing with a serial murderer who has killed at least five prostitutes, cut them open, and placed a live bird inside each brutally mangled corpse. At home, his girl friend, with whom he has decided there is no future, announces she is suffering a reoccurrence of her cancer. There’s a new DI from CID that’s trying to take over Caffery’s preferred position and lastly, Caffery remains obsessed about his next-door neighbor, a convicted pedophile who Caffery believes may have murdered Caffery’s own long-missing brother. Hayder does a good job winding all these threads together while creating a book that’s part mystery, part police/procedural and part thriller while displaying a fairly wide knowledge of British police techniques and basis forensics. Be forewarned, she is not shy in her descriptions, so those with a weak stomach may wish to pass. 09/06 Jack Quick

THE BIRTHING HOUSE by Christopher Ransom: After the death of his father, Conrad Harrison decides change is in order for his small family. After stumbling across an old Victorian in Black Earth, Wisconsin, Conrad makes a spur of the moment decision that will change their lives. Though their relationship has been on the verge of breaking for quite some time, Conrad believes that the house and the break from LA may be just what he and his wife, Joanna, need. But it’s not long before Jo becomes restless and leaves for work, adding more strain to the marriage. Conrad is left alone to fall under the spell of the home, and to learn it’s dark secrets. Strange noises in the night, stains on the floors and walls, and women appearing at his bedside are just some of the things that Conrad encounters in the birthing house—the house wants life and Conrad will soon find that what the house wants, the house has a way of getting. Christopher Ransom’s debut is so disturbing at times that it will truly terrify readers, quite an accomplishment for a debut, in my opinion. (The Birthing House brings to mind very early John Saul.) Ransom shows great promise in the horror genre. 08/09 Becky Lejeune

THE BITE by Michael Crow: After a major drug bust in Baltimore involving the Russian mob, Baltimore County Police Detective Luther Ewing and his partner “Ice Box” have been told to maintain a low profile. In his second outing, Ewing and Ice Box are sent up to the rural northern area of the county trying to get a handle on the crystal meth being cooked in that area. The Baltimore DEA Bureau chief is running a parallel operation and Ewing isn’t certain whether the two are in fact parallel or about to collide with a bang. Assorted villains and murders later, the entire structure comes tumbling down with Ewing frantically sorting the good guys from the bad guys. In the process he realizes he must break off his relationship with his girlfriend, Helen, who life has been put into danger by his actions. Ewing continues to be of the Dirty Harry, Jack Reacher mold and Crow’s writing is paced accordingly. Recommended. 07/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

BITING THE BULLET by Jennifer Rardin:  This third book in the fantastic Jaz Parks series has Jaz and her team pitted against one heinous necromancer. Jaz, Vayl, and all the others have been deployed to Tehran where a necromancer called the Wizard is said to be hiding out – the man has been a government target for some time now and it looks like this is the best chance they will have to finally bring him down. Surprisingly, Jaz and her team are assigned to be working with her own brother’s Spec Ops squad. The twins have not spoken since Jaz had to kill Dave’s fiancé after being turned into a vampire. Things are rocky at first, but Dave must rely on Jaz and her team’s specialties since it seems that one of the Spec Ops members may be a mole feeding info to the Wizard. Things are further complicated when Jaz learns that a reaver has put a bounty on her head and Tehran is now teeming with the soul suckers. Paranormal mysteries and urban fantasy are fun reading. The use of a very real setting combined with supernatural elements leaves authors like Rardin a lot of room to play, making it that much more interesting. More and more elements are added to Jaz’s story with each installment, and the cast of paranormal characters keeps growing. 03/08 Becky Lejeune

BITTEN TO DEATH by Jennifer Rardin: The fourth book in the Jaz Parks series finds Jaz, Vayle, and David sent out on an op in Greece that should finally lead to the capture of Edward “The Raptor” Samos – readers will recall that the elite CIA team has been on Samos’s tail since the beginning of the series. Vayl and Jaz have received information that a family of vamps (called a Trust in vamp lingo) has been offered a unique deal by the evil Samos. Vayl and his team have cut a second deal with the leader of the Trust that will finally allow them access to their foe. Unfortunately, the team soon discovers that the Trust has recently been overthrown and the new leader has plans of her own – plans that involve manipulating Vayl in ways that seem to lead Jaz into a fiery fury. Always fun and entertaining, this unique urban fantasy series could be the start of a whole new sub-genre: Spy-Fi. I wish I had come up with the term first. Cool gadgets, creepy crawlies like you’ve never seen, action, romance, and a healthy mix of humor make this series one of my absolute favorites.  08/08 Becky Lejeune

BITTER END by Christine Kling: Seychelle Sullivan is back in this third entry to one of my favorite series. Seychelle is a strong, self-sufficient woman running her own tugboat & salvage business in Fort Lauderdale. She’s on her way to push out a sailboat when she sees a familiar yacht – it belongs to Nick Pontus, who ran off with her best friend Molly and caused the two of them to stop speaking to each other. Seychelle hears shots fired, then the yacht runs aground. She chases after it, finds Nick dead and tows the boat in for repairs before it can sink. It means a big commission from the insurance company for saving the boat, but then her old friend Molly is arrested for the murder. Seychelle knows something isn’t adding up even if the cops don’t and sets out to prove her friend’s innocence. This is a well written tale of intrigue and a fine addition to the series. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BITTER END by Christine Kling:  Since kindergarten, Seychelle Sullivan and her best friend, Molly, had been as close as sisters, but it all ended suddenly when Nick Pontus, a slick, older, up-and-coming entrepreneur, came along.  A smitten Molly quit school, married her new beau, and never spoke to Seychelle again.  After thirteen years, it still stings but when her back-from-the-blue friend asks for help, Seychelle can’t just weigh anchor and cruise.  Seychelle didn’t see the sniper who picked Nick off at the helm of his yacht, but she knows that there are plenty of people in South Florida who wanted to see the gambling-boat tycoon dead: the Russian mobsters looking for a piece of his casino action, the Indian gamers who resent his competition, and the ecological activists fighting his plans to develop Fort Lauderdale’s waterfront.  Protecting Nick and Molly’s son, proving Molly’s innocence, and navigating between squalls of gunfire add up to a tall order as salvage jobs go, but Seychelle is equal to the task.  Another good one. 04/06 Jack Quick

BITTER LEGACY by H. Terrell Griffin:  First they shot Matt Royal’s friend Logan who survived only by a freakish coincidence.  Then they sent a guy with a gun to bring Royal in.  Add in the death of a lawyer, a tourist left for dead, and a reclusive billionaire.  Throw in a bad-ass biker gang and an ancient document and you have the makings of a  mystery that threatens Matt Royal as well as some of the most entrenched financial interests in Florida.  If you are fan of Randy Wayne White’s Doc Ford of James W. Hall’s Thorn, you will love this ex-Green Beret, ex-lawyer, good guy who stays in shape and can dish it out with the best of them.  My first Griffin, but certainly not the last. Very nicely done. 02/11 Jack Quick

BLACK by Christopher Whitcomb: The scariest part of Whitcomb’s first novel – a can’t put down techno-thriller involving terrorists, technology and today’s world – is the fact that Whitcomb spent 15 years with the FBI as a sniper, instructor and Director of Intelligence. You suspect that truth here may in fact be stranger than fiction. Special Agent Jeremy Waller is drawn into webs of intrigue when Jordan Mitchell, CEO of Borders Atlantic and one of the world’s richest men threatens to sell an encryption device to the Saudis. Accusations and bullets fly almost taking down a US Senator before it’s over. A good read, lots of action, beautiful women in peril and the good guys ultimately win. 08/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

BLACK AND WHITE by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge: It’s Heroes meets X-Men in the style of classic comics as authors Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge team up to put their own spin on the superhero genre in Black and White, the first of the Icarus Project series. Jet, a Shadow power and official superhero of New Chicago, is a by-the-book gal who always follows the rules as set forth in her Academy training. Once, she and Iridium were the best of friends. Now they are powerful enemies. But neither of them truly understands the pieces that have been set into play. Jet believes that they are on opposite sides, that she fights for good while Iridium has followed in her father’s footsteps along the path of anarchy and misrule. Jet will soon discover that the line between good and evil is not as clear as she once believed, and it could tear apart the fragile control she maintains over her power. Excellent, excellent read. Kessler and Kittredge work together with seeming ease and have created a tale that is addictively readable. Shades of Gray, the second installment in the series, hits shelves this summer. 04/10 Becky Lejeune

BLACK & WHITE AND DEAD ALL OVER by John Darnton:  There is murder afoot in a major national newspaper which bears an uncanny resemblance to the New York Times.  The first victim is a widely disliked egomaniacal (aren’t they all?) Assistant Managing Editor named Theodore S. Ratnoff who is found with an editor’s spike plunged deeply into his chest.  Other murders soon follow. It represents quite a puzzle to young ambitious female NYPD lieutenant Priscilla Bollingsworth who has a plethora of suspects, the mayor breathing down her neck and her every move under the intense scrutiny of big city news people.  The story is some ways mirrors the declining, some same dying print newspaper industry and Darnton has included all the key players in the rapidly changing situation – the resentful old guard, the clueless publisher, the aggressive career builders, the talented but unappreciated reporters, the self-centered columnists, and the ruthless international media tycoon. Probably enjoyed better by people outside the newspaper industry, Darnton has drawn a painfully accurate picture of the challenges facing today’s journalists, or as he prefers “hacks.” 01/10 Jack Quick

THE BLACK ANGEL by John Connelly: Parker, his new partner Rachel and their infant daughter Sam, are now in Maine away from the turmoil of New York City.  However, at Sam’s christening the aunt of Louis (one of Sam’s two gay Godfathers) shows up, seeking help in finding her daughter Alice, a New York City prostitute.  Parker is soon back in the game in New York City and the Czech Republic on the trail of the Black Angel, a statue sought be evildoers for centuries.  As always, Connolly delivers a very intense blend of Parker’s authentic soul searching in his own unique way. 11/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

THE BLACK BOX by Michael Connelly: Harry Bosch is back working open, unsolved homicides. This time the case is about the murder of a Danish reporter during the Rodney King riots twenty years earlier. Harry is butting heads with his new boss, who he considers a political hack, and that puts additional pressure on the detective. He has grown more comfortable with his young partner David Chu, using him for his computer skills on a regular basis. Harry is still dating Hannah and things at home with his daughter Maddie are much calmer. But some things never change, and Harry is as hard headed as ever when he gets his teeth into a case. This one is personal; he was the homicide cop that first looked at the crime scene but those times were crazy and nothing ever came of it. He decides to start with the only clue they found, a gun casing, and then follows the gun, applying today’s technology to yesterday’s crime scene. It works, but this is still a very complex storyline, and Harry has to deal with an accusation of impropriety on top of everything else. Connelly once again lures the reader in and doesn’t let go until the very last page and I couldn’t put it down despite the lateness of the night. Another great read from the master of crime fiction. 1/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BLACK BOX by Michael Connelly: During the LA riots in 1992, Harry Bosch and his partner are sent from death scene to death scene. One case remains in his mind and 20 years later he re-opens the cold case. The victim was a young female photographer from Scandinavia who was shot in the head execution style. Now Harry is “walking back the gun” after he finds it has been used in multiple killings, mostly gang-related. He thinks the murder of the photographer may have been no more than a “gang initiation”. Like an investigator combing through the wreckage after a plane crash, Bosch searches for the “black box,” the one piece of evidence that will pull the case together. As usual, an outstanding outing for Connelly. 12/12 Jack Quick

BLACK CATHEDRAL by L.H. Maynard & M.P.N. Sims:  When corporate employees on a “survival week” trip to remote Kulsay Island all go missing without a trace, the Ministry of Defense decides that it is time to call in Department 18. This group of paranormal investigators is trained to deal with the strangest occurrences out there, but in Kulsay Island, they may have met their match. The Ministry stipulates that Department 18’s Robert Carter must be involved. This is a bit of an issue considering Carter just recently lost his partner on a case; lost in the literal sense considering she vanished without a trace as well. Carter draws the connection to Kulsay Island, however, and agrees to go. When the team arrives, all seems normal except for the palpable air of menace that surrounds the place. As with the other group, the Department 18 folks find themselves cut off from the rest of the world and forced to defend themselves against an evil that has existed for hundreds of years. A fun sort of haunted house tale that brings to mind the old Poltergeist TV show. 12/08 Becky Lejeune

BLACK CROSS by Greg Iles:  Iles is one of my favorite authors, and I’ve been going back and reading his older books that I had missed.  I believe this was his second novel, and while it is very different from his more recent books, it is excellent and Iles considers it his best book, with good reason.  The plot is basically built around a young doctor attending his physician grandfather’s funeral.  He meets a Rabbi at the cemetery, who asks for a ride back and proceeds to tell the young doctor a story about his grandfather that makes up most of the book.  This is a Holocaust story, and a chilling one; Iles did a lot of research for this and it shows.  The premise is that Dr. Mark McConnell, “Mac”, a pacifist, was doing research in poisonous gas when he is manipulated into going on a dangerous mission with Jonas Stern, a Zionist terrorist, into Nazi Germany.  The Nazis had developed Sarin, and Soman, deadly gases that the Allies had no protection against, other than this plan.  With Winston Churchill’s blessing, these men set off for training and their mission.  This is a frightening story that is intensely riveting, and a terrific read. 04/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BLACK DEATH REPRISE by Don Pendleton:  Don Pendelton’s Mack Bolan was a pulp staple of the 1970’s, waging war on the Mafia all across the world in a series of action packed bloody adventures.  Now Bolan is back seeking a missing virologist with ties to an order of monks that legend proclaims was the mastermind of the Black Death.  The order has sent forty couriers to major cities around the globe to unleash a new plaque on the world.  Only Bolan can stop this diabolic assault on the modern world.  Will he succeed?  Let us hope so.  After all, a sequel would be nice. 08/08 Jack Quick

BLACK DOG by Stephen Booth: After hearing people rave about Stephen Booth for quite a while  now, I have to say my expectations were so high I figured no book could possibly live up to them.  But this one did – I loved this book. I’ve never been to the U.K. but Booth took me there, to the Peaks district in Northern England, and it was a vivid, exciting journey.  Detective Constable Ben Cooper is struggling with family demons when the body of a teenage girl is found in the woods.  He is paired up with the prickly Diane Fry, newcomer to the Peaks District, with her rather formidable reputation preceding her.  But Ben also has a reputation – his father was a cop who was killed in the line of duty.  Everyone in this small town knows Ben, and knows what happened, and they just love him, which really rubs Diane the wrong way.  She has her own history though, and their stories and their burgeoning relationship are as interesting as the who-done-it.   Happy note:  this is the first of a series, and is followed by Dancing with the Virgins then Blood on the Tongue, with hopefully more to come. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BLACK DOVE by Steve Hockensmith:  There is a joke about a fellow from Minnesota who took as his bride, a lady from Palestine.  To honor both their cultures, they named their firstborn son “Yassir Youbetcha”.  Gustav “Old Red” Amlingmeyer and his brother Otto “Big Red” Amlingmeyer find themselves in Chinatown in San Francisco in 1893.  Although cowpokes by training, the brothers fancy themselves experts as “deducifying” like their idol, the immortal Sherlock Holmes.  The brothers face guns and hatchets while defying the San Francisco Police Department, brutal Barbary Coast hoodlums and the deadly Chinatown tongs.  Their friend, Dr. Chan, is a victim of the hunt for the mysterious, exotic, and enigmatic hard to find “Black Dove.”  All that’s missing is Jackie Chan as “Chon Wang” from Shanghai Noon.  Definitely not your every day mystery but definitely amusing.  05/08 Jack Quick

BLACK GHOSTS by Victor Ostrovsky:  It’s the return of the Cold War.  General Peter Rogov was head of a special deep intelligence unit called the Black Ghosts. Similar units existed in other countries – “The Patriots” in the Netherlands, the “Gladiators” in Italy and the “Left-Behinds” in Norway.  At the end of the Cold war these units were to be disbanded, but not all did. In fact the Patriots began operating a “Think Tank” in London which was a cover for carrying out off the books intelligence operations for the West.  Likewise, in Russia the Black Ghosts remained active even though General Rogov was in a Siberian prison. Now he has escaped and plans to reunite the Union of Soviet Social Republics, by overthrowing the current Russian government and doing the impossible – kidnapping the President of the United States. The author, a former Mossad (Israeli intelligence) case officer, knows his stuff, Outstanding. 05/11 Jack Quick

BLACK IRISH by Stephan Talty: It is about time someone wrote a crime story set in my old hometown, Buffalo, New York again.  To those of us who grew up there, the City is a character all by itself.  And Stephan Talty gets that character right – the ghostly figures of the empty steel mills, the pollution that remains after the jobs have gone and the kicking of slush off behind the tires on your car before it freezes are all true notes. And I am pleased to report that he has placed a fine character, Abbie (Absalom) Kearney, in the still beating heart of that city. Abbie is a police detective who grew up in an Irish neighborhood and is the daughter of a retired hero of a policeman.  When she is called in to investigate the murder of a meter-reader whose body has been stuffed into a small space in a vacant Catholic Church, her detective senses begin to tingle. And rightly so, as this is the first in a series of murders where the bodies are carved for more than killing, the corpses are posed and placed significantly and a toy monkey is always concealed at the site.  These factors and the Irish connections of all the victims lead Abbie into a search through the Irish bars, the Irish secret societies and the Irish policemen of Buffalo.  At times, it seems like both the Irish community and the police department itself are stonewalling her.  And then, at the height of her frustration, she comes home to find a toy monkey hanging from her front door. The story moves along well and has a satisfying resolution.  I have put this book on my “Buffalo shelf” along with Dan Simmons’ Hard Freeze and Hard as Nails. More, please. 04/13 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

BLACK KNIGHT IN RED SQUARE by Stuart Kaminsky: Four dead, poisoned during the Moscow Film Festival.  Chief Inspector Porifry Rostnikov must stop the female terrorist who seems determined and capable of making the Russian police look as stupid and vulnerable as those of five other countries in which she has worked.  Written in 1984, Rostnikov is quite different from the brooding Arkady Renko of Martin Cruz Smith.  More like a John Rebus in Russia.  12/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

BLACK MAPS by Peter Spiegelman: Former up-state New York cop John Marsh is now working as a private investigator in New York City in this debut revival of the classic PI tale. Marsh is engaged through an attorney friend to track down a blackmailer and extortionist who is threatening an investment banker. Marsh knows a bit about that life, as he walked away from the investment-banking firm controlled by his family to become a rural sheriff’s deputy. Marsh had enjoyed his stint upstate until the death of his wife drove him back into the city. You sense Marsh could become very good at this or else fall into the bottomless pit that had claimed many others. Intense, well written, and full of action, makes you look forward to his next adventure. Well-deserved winner of the 2004 Shamus Award for Best First Novel.  08/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

BLACK MONDAY by R. Scott Reiss: Wow. What a thriller. The world has finally come under attack by a deadly microbe, but its not attacking humans directly. Instead it has contaminated almost all the world oil supply, effectively shutting down all cars, planes and machines—anything driven by oil. Food supplies and electricity run out. Police have no way to patrol the streets. Gangs and marauders seize control in the world capitals. In the middle of this, Dr. Greg Gillette, a Georgia Tech graduate and epidemiologist for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, must figure out how to stop the epidemic and restore order. The action ranges from rural Massachusetts to the Nevada desert as Gillette tries to remain focused on the problem and not his attractive boss whose presence threatens his marriage like nothing before. Not surprising that this one is already in production as a movie produced by Tom Jacobson. 04/07 Jack Quick

BLACK MONDAY by R. Scott Reiss: When a microbe infects the world’s oil supply, one analyst predicts that we will have just 50 days to discover the cause and rectify the situation or there will be no turning back. Greg Gillette finds himself racing against time to discover the source of the microbe and, if possible, a way to reverse the effects. The U.S. quickly degenerates as food supplies and other resources become scarce and people turn against one another in an attempt to save themselves. Neighbors begin looting and even killing as they fight to survive. Martial law becomes the norm and death is the punishment for even crimes such as looting. As a doctor with the CDC, Greg believes the “outbreak” should be treated the same as any other. His superiors do not agree and Greg is forced to try and solve this thing on his own. This timely and creepy debut is guaranteed to keep you up all night – a definite must-read for any thriller fan. 03/07 Becky Lejeune

BLACK OPS by W.E.B. Griffin:  We all need certain comfort foods and for avid readers, “comfort authors.” Griffin is one of my comfort authors.  Each book seems to have the same plot and the same cast of characters, with only variations in location, characters’ names and era, 1930’s to the present.  Nonetheless I always find Griffin satisfying and his gung-ho fifth presidential agent novel (after The Shooters) is no different.  In this one, the U.S. president assigns LTC Charley Castillo, a member of the Office of Organizational Analysis to track down the terrorists who murdered an American diplomat in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  This leads to an Iranian-run bioweapons factory hidden in the Congo.  While sometimes lacking realism, you can’t fault the characterizations of the planning and the bureaucratic tussles that have to occur before the first bomb goes off.  Another good one. 01/09 Jack Quick

BLACK ORDER by James Rollins: It begins with a historical note regarding experimentation during World War II, specifically an experiment called die Glocke, or, the Bell. This latest Sigma Force novel finds Painter Crowe isolated in the Himalayas and exposed to a mysterious outbreak that causes its victims bodies, and minds, to deteriorate rapidly. Meanwhile, Grayson Pierce has been sent to Copenhagen to investigate a recent slew of black market purchases of works by Victorian scientists. When he is sent to check on a particular item of interest, Charles Darwin’s bible, Gray discovers that these buyers will stop at nothing to get what they want. The two veins are linked through one thing, the Bell – an experiment that ties into the Thule Society and the theory of quantum evolution. Some readers may find Rollins’ titles are not always completely realistic or plausible, but no one can deny that they are fun. Each one is like a summer blockbuster and all that’s missing is the popcorn. Black Order is no exception; it’s an action packed novel that draws from very interesting background theories. Rollins elaborates more on the inspiration in both the forward and the afterward of the novel. Rollins’ fans will tear into this novel and will also be pleased to see the return of some familiar faces. 11/06 Becky LeJeune

BLACK OUT by Lisa Unger: This is a startling and complex stand alone thriller from the author of a couple of excellent thrillers (Sliver of Truth and Beautiful Lies) and mysteries (written under her maiden name, Lisa Miscione).  Annie is a complex woman with a hell of a past, and all her tragedy is played out as a story within a story within a story – three stories merging together in one psychological thriller.  She’s the fiercely protective mother of a young daughter, the loving yet dependent wife of a mysterious man, and is in therapy for her vastly abusive childhood; she’s also the daughter of a fervently religious woman who spent her life subservient to men to the point of marrying a convicted serial rapist and murderer while he was in prison.  Annie has issues, as they say, and is trying to work them out with the help of her husband, her therapist, and her in-laws in this tense, multi-layered and very compelling story.  She’s on shaky ground, and then her past starts to haunt her in ways that could shatter her new life.  A very thoughtful, thought-provoking book and one that I couldn’t put down.  06/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BLACK PATH by Asa Larson:  The story is relatively simple but the delivery is complex.  Inna Wattrang’s frozen body is found on a frozen lake, in an ark, a small cabin used for ice fishing.  Inspector Anna-Maria Mella and her longtime partner, Sven-Erik Stålnacke are assigned to the case, for which there are few clues.  New prosecutor Rebecka Martinsson is added to the team, although she is recovering from mental problems that have sidelined her.  Together the team focuses on the business of Kallis Mining, the company for which Inna worked.  More of a psychological thriller than a mystery, the book is delightfully dark and twisty and conveys the sense of life in a society different from say, mainstream America.  Great read. 08/08 Jack Quick

BLACK SITE by Dalton Fury: Dalton Fury is probably well known as the Delta Force commander that was tasked with the hunting down and killing of Osama Bin Laden after 9/11. He has created a Delta Force operative, Kolt Rayner, as the main character in this novel revolving around a black operations plan to free American captives held by Taliban terrorists.  Rayner had, in the past, disobeyed direct orders in an operation and lost several of the men in his command as well as having others taken prisoner. Rayner is asked if he will go back into Afghanistan on a seek only assignment to determine if the captives are still alive and if they can be rescued.  With Dalton Fury’s background and years of experience as a Delta Force commander the scenario lives in the minds of the reader.  The action, the danger, the interaction back and forth are real and one knows that this is the way it would probably happen. The project goes forward with starts and stops, missteps and advances. The further appearance of Raynor in future Delta Force novels is a forgone conclusion and I look forward to the next one.  2/13 Paul Lane

BLACK SWAN RISING by Lee Carroll: On her way home one rainy afternoon, Garet (Margaret) James takes cover in a strange antique shop. Garet, a jewelry maker who’s recently gained local recognition, is commissioned by the store’s owner to open a silver box coincidentally bearing a seal identical to the signet ring Garet’s mother gave her before she died. When she returns home, Garet immediately sets to work, but just minutes after opening the box, her home is broken into and her father is shot. The thieves get away with some very valuable paintings… and the box. And this is just the beginning. Soon Garet finds herself part of a magical and chilling other world that exists all around us. A handsome hedge-fund vampire, the King of the Fairies, sylphs, and other fey folk live amongst us, influencing events and quietly changing the course of everything. But one man, John Dee, would set the world into chaos and it is Garet who must stop him. This is undeniably urban fantasy at its very best. Lee Carroll (husband and wife team Carol Goodman and Lee Slonimsky) have created a world filled with wondrous magic and fairy tales, all of which come alive in their version of New York. 06/11 Becky Lejeune

THE BLACK TOWER by Louis Bayard:  Eugène François Vidocq was a soldier and criminal who lived in France at the time of the revolution. He later went on to become the founder and first director of the Sûreté National, France’s plain-clothes detectives division. Vidocq and his legacy provide the backdrop of Bayard’s latest literary mystery in which a Dr. Carpentier recounts his experience with the legendary detective and a case that traces back to a lost prince of the French monarchy. Twenty-six year old medical student Hector Carpentier is visited by Vidocq one afternoon after a body is discovered carrying the as-yet-graduated doctor’s hidden on his person. What Hector and Vidocq don’t know is that the man was not searching for Hector at all, but instead his father, a glass grinder and retired doctor who died eighteen months prior to the event in question. Hector is wrangled into acting as Vidocq’s unofficial partner in the investigation and ends up right in the middle of a state conspiracy that has been years in the making. Bayard’s combination of historical fact and creative license breathes new life into one of the most interesting players in all of criminal justice history. I can imagine that Vidocq himself would be pleased to be given the chance for one last adventure of this caliber.  08/08 Becky Lejeune

BLACK WATER by T. Jefferson Parker: This is the third installment in the Merci Rayburn series but it was my first foray into Parker’s work.  This is a series that should probably be read in order, and I can’t wait to read The Blue Hour, and then Red Light, which was an Edgar nominee.  It took me most of the book to figure out some of Merci’s background, but it was well worth the trouble.  She’s a single mom and a smart, dedicated homicide detective in Southern California.  When she is sent to a crime scene that overwhelmingly points to a murder-suicide of a cop and his wife, she remains unconvinced and sets out to find the truth.  Good, tight story and wonderful characters make Black Water a winner. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BLACK WATER by T. Jefferson Parker: Merci Rayborn is about the only one who thinks deputy Archie Wildcraft didn’t kill his beautiful young wife and then turn his service weapon on himself. The evidence against Wildcraft–now hospitalized with a bullet lodged in his head–seems overwhelming, but Merci (from The Blue Hour) is resisting pressure from her boss and a headline-hunting D.A. to arrest Wildcraft and charge him with murder. Then the deputy, who’s lost his memory and maybe his mind as a result of his injury, goes missing from his hospital room, intent on tracking down the real killers and managing to stay a step ahead of Merci. It’s a page-turner all the way. 03/06 Jack Quick

BLACK WATER RISING by Attica Locke: It is not the way it was supposed to be. Jay Porter is a struggling black lawyer in Houston, Texas in 198 with a pregnant wife and a dingy strip mall office. His most promising case is a call girl who was injured in an automobile accident while “servicing” a local bigwig. The police report indicates the gentleman was stopped for a broken taillight and makes no mention of the hooker or anyone else being in the car. Porter’s run for the American Dream was derailed by an FBI file, some guns, an informant and a trial that almost destroyed him. When he thinks things can’t worse they do. He saves a woman from drowning — and opens a Pandora’s box. Her secrets put Jay in danger, ensnaring him in a murder investigation that could cost him his practice, his family, and even his life in a mystery that reaches into the upper echelons of Houston’s corporate power brokers. Somewhat uneven as most debuts, it will be interesting to see if Ms. Locke continues Porter as a series character or moves on to something else. 09/09 Jack Quick

BLACK WIDOW by Randy Wayne White:  Doc Ford is never boring and this 15th outing is packed full of action as Ford answers a desperate appeal for help from an old friend.  Shay Money is the 26-year old daughter of an old Florida swamper.  Her pending marriage is in jeopardy after a girls night out on St. Joan of Arc led to the production of a video revealing her and her friends in sexually compromising positions.  Ford is asked to get the tape back and protect her.  The trail leads him into a sophisticated blackmail racket with a long list of victims.  Tomlinson is Tomlinson, there are women after Ford, and Ford continues to resent authority.  Hang on tight as the ride is bumpy in parts. 07/08 Jack Quick

THE BLACK WIDOW AGENCY by Felicia Donovan:  Computer forensics, surveillance technology and feminine intuition – a powerful combination dedicated to bringing justice to wronged women.  The four Black Widows are ex-cop Katie Mahoney; Margot Norton, mistress of disguise; office manager; Jane Landers, equally adept at dealing with numbers and hot flashes; and cybergoddess Alexandria Axelrod, keeper of her own tarantula.  These are the ladies at the Black Widow Agency and when they hear Amber Gordon’s heartbreaking story of sexual harassment, ending in a ruined career and lost custody of her daughter, they vow to spin a trap for the sexist automotive company run by Amber’s former father-in-law.  Ladies rejoice, for men, it’s the Sisterhood from Hell.  They celebrate their triumphs with something called chocolate genoise cake, an airy sponge cake sliced in half and layered with a chocolate mousse filling, then a white chocolate mousse filling made of marscapone cheese, all chilled and then covered with a silky fudge frosting, topped with fresh whipped cream, fresh strawberries and a melted dark chocolate drizzle.”  Then it’s back to the grindstone.  Definitely different, with lots of funny lines, i.e., his girlfriend is a doorknob – everyone gets a turn. 11/07 Jack Quick

BLACK WIND by Clive Cussler: The villain is a South Korean industrialist working for the North Koreans with an eye toward unifying Korea by ridding the country of American troops, allowing for an invasion of the South. His plan is to aim a sea-borne rocket filled with a combo of deadly viruses at Los Angeles, with clues laying blame on Japanese terrorists, thus distracting America while the North makes its move. The heroes are Dirk Pitt Jr. and his sister, Summer added by a white haired older man named Clive Cussler.  But villain and modus operandi matter less than the series of exciting hairbreadth escapes wrought by Dirks Jr. and Sr. and Summer—including Dirk Sr.’s escape from being poached alive in a minisub trapped underneath massive rocket boosters spewing an inferno of flames. 1/13 Jack Quick

BLACKBIRD, FAREWELL by Robert Greer: Damion Madrid chose a different path than that of his best friend, Shandell “Blackbird” Bird. The two were all-stars on their college basketball team and Shandell has been drafted for the NBA. Damion turned that life down in lieu of medical school. When Shandell is gunned down just days before his new career is to begin, though, Damion vows to unmask his killer at any cost. What Damion uncovers about his friend’s hidden life is something he never expected. Shandell is being accused of everything from point shaving and possible mob links to selling performance-enhancing drugs on the side. Damion enlists the help of a friend and ex-marine bailbonds-woman, Flora Jean Benson, in the investigation. Blackbird is a traditional whodunit wrapped up in the dirty side of professional sports. Although this is technically being considered the 7th title in Greer’s CJ Floyd series, Floyd is actually only a peripheral character. As such, Blackbird can be read as a stand-alone or as the latest in the series.  11/08 Becky Lejeune

BLACKBIRD HOUSE by Alice Hoffman: Alice, if you are reading this I loved your book! I spent a college summer on the Cape. As I rode my bike around looking at all the wonderful old houses, walking in the cemeteries there were so many stories to be told. You told them! The people, the smells, the tastes, the light– all unique to the Cape. This book is a wonderful gift to anyone of us who has stood in front of an old house and imagined what it was like to live there. Knowing that the life of a house is in the people, the trees, the plants, the animals, the birds, the water and our relationship to them. Thanks for taking me there Alice! ~This review contributed by Ann Nappa.

THE BLACKJACK CONSPIRACY by David Kent:  This is the third story of Department Thirty — a secret government agency that erases the identities of top-level criminals in exchange for the kind of information people would kill for.  Alex Bridge, a young, pregnant widow has been accused of embezzling millions of dollars from her employer, a giant media conglomerate and of killing an FBI agent investigating the embezzlement.  Faith Kelly of Department Thirty, a newly promoted case officer and former deputy U.S. marshal, offers Alex full protection in exchange for her testimony about her employer’s financial malfeasance.  The problem is Faith and Alex are up against a vast conspiracy that goes far deeper than a corporate accounting scandal, one that reaches back more than a century to a notorious frontier massacre in Oklahoma Territory and continues to this day in the highest levels of American justice.  05/06 Jack Quick

BLACKLANDS by Belinda Bauer: Belinda Bauer’s award-winning debut is a slim and bleak novel that packs a punch. For Steven Lamb, growing up in the shadow of his uncle, Billy Peters, has been rough. Missing for eighteen years, everyone knows Billy was a victim of Arnold Avery, a serial killer who stalked children in the area until he was caught and put away for life. But Steven’s grandmother waits for her son’s return every day. At twelve, Steven has become fixated on finding his uncle’s body and bringing him home for his nan. He knows that Avery buried the bodies out on the moor and he spends all of his spare time mapping it out and digging. When Steven begins writing letters to Avery, in hopes the killer will reveal the hidden grave, things take a very disturbing turn. This shocking tale pits a twelve-year-old boy against a sick and twisted serial killer. Steven is an excellent protagonist and carries the story well. In him, Bauer has done an amazing job of creating a believable young hero that readers will root for. Note that although Steven is just twelve, this is very much an adult novel with adult subject matter. 12/10 Becky Lejeune

BLACKLIST by Sara Paretsky: In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Chicago private eye V.I. (“Vic”) Warshawski is asked by a longtime client to investigate his mother’s suspicion that trespassers are living in the empty suburban Chicago mansion her father built and in which she lived for most of her life. On the first night Vic finds the body of Marcus Whitby, a young African-American journalist. Marcus’ sister then hires Vic to look into his death. This leads to Benji, a young Arab student and the likelihood that her lover, Morrell, on assignment in Afghanistan, is in danger. Paretsky reminds us that although victims change, prejudice is still alive and all too well in one of her deeper efforts. 01/06 Jack Quick

BLACKMAILER by George Axelrod: Hardcase Crime #32 is a re-print of a 1952 release by the author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Manchurian Candidate, and The Seven Year Itch, among other efforts. Take a recently deceased Hemingway-esque character, a short balding man with a high pitched voice that reminds you of Truman Capote, add a sexy Hollywood starlet, and you can see why Dick Sherman, New York publisher will risk much to find what could be the literary coup of the century, the last unpublished manuscript of one of the most noted authors ever. Some people would even kill for such a manuscript, as Sherman soon learns. Even an old lover is mixed up in the mess somehow, Sherman learns after being beaten, kicked, and slugged a few times. Classic pulp action.  06/07 Jack Quick

BLACKWATER SOUND by James W. Hall: In the prologue, young Andy Braswell is killed in a tragic confrontation with a blue marlin. Now ten years later bone-fishing iconoclast Thorn is involved in a rescue operation after a passenger plane crash that leads him into the lunatic world of the Braswell family. The surviving Braswell children – psychopathic Johnny and dangerously beautiful Morgan – make an impressively deadly combination and their plans to market a terrifying device promises a reign of terror of awesome proportions. Overriding that story is an even greater one of the magnificent blue marlin, which the Braswells have hunted for a decade like Ahab after Moby Dick. It’s a great sea story and possibly one of Hall’s best. 03/07 Jack Quick

THE BLADE ITSELF by Marcus Sakey: Danny and Evan grew up on the South Side of Chicago in a working class neighborhood.  They became partners in crime, stealing cars and doing small time burglaries, until Evan escalated the stakes with a pawn shop robbery gone bad.  Danny managed to get away but Evan does hard time; while Evan’s in prison, Danny’s been scared straight.  He’s a project manager for a small construction company, has a nice apartment and a great girlfriend – as long as he stays straight.  So when Evan gets paroled seven years later and wants to renew their partnership, Danny isn’t interested.  But Evan feels like Danny owes him, and prison certainly hasn’t softened him any.  In fact, it’s turned him into Danny’s worst nightmare.  The tension escalates as Evan starts putting the screws to Danny, and somehow Sakey keeps ratcheting it on up until the last page.  This is an old story, but it is told so well that it feels new.  This debut has garnered starred reviews and raves galore, drawing comparisons to Dennis Lehane’s masterpiece, Mystic River, as well as the writing styles of George Pelecanos and Joseph Finder, leaving me wondering: how can any book live up to all that hype?  Read it and find out –  because it did. 01/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BLADE ITSELF by Marcus Sakey: A burglary goes bad. Evan McGann goes to jail, his partner Danny Carter gets away. Carter is now a well-paid, respected construction manager in Chicago with a great girlfriend and a comfortable life when McGann is released from prison with plans to resume their alliance. Danny isn’t interested, but Evan threatens to expose Danny’s past, including his presence when the shop owner was shot. Danny feels he has no choice but to go along with Evan’s plan to kidnap the son of Danny’s boss for ransom. Then it quickly becomes apparent that Evan can’t be controlled by Danny or anyone. Its one of those where you keep turning the pages and then realize the reason you are lightheaded is that you have forgotten to breathe. Start it on a weekend if you can, otherwise the next day at work is going to be a rough one. 02/07 Jack Quick

BLAZE by Richard Bachman: Stephen King has unearthed and revamped a final Bachman tale.  Blaze was originally written in 1973 and misplaced until just recently.  It is the story of Clayton Blaisdell, Jr., an unfortunate man whose life began with promise and went downhill from there.  As a boy, Blaze was smart and studious, until his father pushed him down a set of stairs leaving him forever changed.  Blaze then became a ward of the state and was sent to Hetton House, a home for orphaned boys.  Here, Blaze learned the value of friendship but not much else.  Blaze is large for his size and not particularly bright, but loyal to a fault, and this eventually leaves him a perfect target for thieves and criminals in need of a strong-arm.  After much experience with simple con jobs, Blaze and his partner George have devised the perfect kidnapping.  Unfortunately, George dies and Blaze decides to pull it off on his own, sort of.  While I enjoyed this dark and bleak tale, I missed the distinctive style that was present in all of the previous Bachman books.  I think this comes from the length of time between when it was originally penned and when it was edited (1973 and now).  This edition also includes a short story called “Memory” that is the inspiration for King’s upcoming novel, Duma Key.  A must read for all King fans.  06/07 Becky Lejeune

BLEACHERS by John Grisham: After reading The Summons, I swore off Grisham books – there’s just too much good stuff out there to waste my time on crap. But Bleachers intrigued me; there was nary a lawyer to be found between its small covers.  And this book is small – it almost feels like a long short story more than even a novella.  Neely Crenshaw, long ago star quarterback of the Messina Spartans, has returned home to his small Georgia town because his legendary football coach, Eddie Rake, is dying.  This is a town that is on the map because of their high school football team and their thirteen state championships, all due to Rake.  Over the course of a couple of days, most of the boys – now grown men – who played for Rake over the thirty years he coached have come home to wait.  Neely had a promising career cut short by a college injury, but the injury went much deeper than just the physical wound and he’s been floundering for fifteen years.  The men sit their vigil in the bleachers and talk about the coach, and their lives, and Neely finds some peace.  At times it borders on being overly sentimental, but nonetheless it is a sweet and charming book and a pleasant diversion from Grisham’s usual fare. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BLEEDERS by Bill Pronzini: Bleeders is what Nameless calls blackmailers, grifters and con men who “bleed” their victims, but the blood quickly becomes real with two killed and Nameless spared only by a misfire. The experience is shattering and the now sixty-year old Nameless begins to really think about the future. Kerry wants him to slow down and turn over more of the work to Tamara and maybe hire a new operative. This is the transition book from the old Nameless agency to the new and it works pretty well in setting the stage for future episodes. All in all, another good outing for Nameless. 05/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

A BLIND EYE by G.M. Ford: Mr. Ford is yet another fine mystery writer who has moved over to the thriller arena. As in the case of Harlen Coben and Thomas Perry, the move has been a success. His previous effort in this genre – Black River, featuring a wayward journalist named Frank Corso, was a solid first foray. A Blind Eye follows Corso, into further frightening adventures. A Blind Eye opens in a car in a blizzard in the middle of nowhere. Corso and his photographer friend, Meg Dougherty, gradully realize that they are going to have to save themselves or die. It is a desperate struggle, too. Then, just when they are starting to thaw and the reader is ready to catch a breath, Corso and Dougherty discover a corpse beneath the boards of a deserted barn. Zigzagging across country ahead of a Texas grand jury left over from the previous book, the pair discover that murder, terror and just plain weirdness still exist in small corners not far from our biggest cities. The suspense and danger don’t let up, but they are leavened by Corso’s mordant humor. There has not been as cynical an investigative reporter since Gregory McDonald’s Irwin Fletcher. This book will send chills down your spine even on a hot summer day. But I miss Leo Waterman and the boys. And Myron Bolitar too, for that matter. Bring back the mysteries. ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.

BLIND EYE by Stuart MacBride: In this fifth outing Aberdeen Scotland Detective Sergeant Logan McRae is looking for the person or persons responsible for attacking and blinding Polish immigrants.  The case becomes more complicated when a local mobster is victimized.  Is this part of the Oedipus case or the opening salvo in a brewing turf war?  Throw in a pedophile who becomes an inadvertent—but key—witness, and various other victims and miscreants and you have a rollicking good police procedural with lots of funny lines and no shortage of action.  MacBride is rapidly becoming oen of my favorite UK authors.  Hope he is able to keep this series going for a long, long time.  BTW, for maximum effect read MacBride in order to fully appreciate the relationships he has developed among his characters.  12/09 Jack Quick

BLIND FEAR by Lynn Abecrombie:  In this follow-up to The Body Box. former Atlanta police detective Hank Gooch, bored with retirement, returns to work with a vengeance when his former partner, Sgt. MeChelle Deakes of the cold case unit, is abducted.  The kidnappers aren’t asking for ordinary ransom – what they want is for Gooch to solve old homicide with proof that would stand up in court.  Deakes is still the character from the previous outing while Gooch is Mr. Steady. Another nicely done police procedural. 06/09 Jack Quick

BLIND MAN’S ALLEY by Justin Peacock: Duncan Riley is a young lawyer on the fast track to partnership at a top law firm in New York City; that is, if he does what he’s told. That becomes difficult when his pro bono eviction case turns into a murder rap and the managing partner wants him to plead it out. Rafael Nazario is accused of murdering the security guard who turned him in for smoking pot, the basis of his housing project eviction. Duncan’s firm’s biggest client is behind the conversion of the housing project to a mixed-use property, but that doesn’t seem to cause any conflict of interest. Duncan is convinced his client is innocent, and a reporter feeds him information that will help his case, if he is allowed to try it. It starts looking like the firm’s biggest client is more involved than Duncan originally realized, creating additional pressure and some interesting twists. Verdict: While not as strong as Peacock’s Edgar Award–nominated debut, A Cure for Night, nonetheless this is good legal fiction with carefully crafted characters and deliberate pacing. Should appeal to fans of John Grisham or John Lescroart. 08/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch. Copyright © 2010 Library Journal, a division of Media Source Inc.  Reprinted with permission.

BLIND RAGE by Terri Persons:  In the follow-up to Persons’s Blind Spot, FBI Agent Bernadette Saint Clare is called to assist on what appears to be a rash of coed suicides. Each of the girls has emotional/psychological issues and has displayed suicidal tendencies. There’s something fishy going on, though, and Bernadette isn’t completely convinced that these girls were responsible for their own deaths. When the latest vic turns up dead in her bathtub, Bernadette gets her chance to take a closer look and hopes that her unique talent will come in handy. See, Bernadette has the power to touch an item and see through a killer’s eyes, and her current boss is the first one to support her and her gift.
Of course, it’s not an exact science and Bernadette still has to use regular investigative skills as well, and that’s what makes this a stand out series. Bernadette even occasionally gets some help from beyond the grave, but must do everything she can to keep her ability under wraps in order to be taken seriously. Sadly, Bernadette’s mysterious landlord is absent from this installment (no spoilers there). Persons’s second novel holds up to the expectations set by Blind Spot and I can’t wait to see what happens next for Bernadette. 12/08 Becky Lejeune

BLIND RUN by Pat Lewin:  Ethan Decker is a broken man.  Something went wrong while on assignment for the CIA and his five-year-old son was killed.  He leaves his wife and his job and is hiding out in the desert fighting his demons.  A few years later an old operative from his team shows up, two children in tow.  She dumps the kids and takes off, and when Ethan catches up with her, she’s dead.  The only clue is the last call she made on her cell phone – to Ethan’s ex-wife, Sydney.  The children tell him a fantastic story of being kidnapped and held on an island by people they call the “Keepers,” and thus begins a cross country chase where the line between the good guys and the bad guys keeps jumping.  Plan on sitting put for a while, this one is hard to put down. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BLIND SIGHT by Terri Persons:  FBI agent Bernadette St. Clare and her boss Tony Garcia return in this fast-paced third installment to the series. When a hunter discovers the mutilated body of a teenager in the woods, Bernie and Tony are called in to investigate. The girl, the missing daughter of a U.S. senator who is very outspoken against the feds, had been pregnant, but the body of the fetus is missing. Nearby folks whisper of witchcraft and Satanism, a fact that becomes very significant when investigators discover a pentagram etched in blood on the dead girl’s forehead—a pentagram that is subsequently wiped off by a person, or persons, who aren’t keen on their group coming under investigation. Bernadette must once again rely on her very unreliable “sight” to help solve this case. Meanwhile, she and Garcia are growing ever closer, a fact that must remain as secret as her special ability. Persons does a great job of balancing the supernatural element with what is essentially a traditional police procedural series. 05/09 Becky Lejeune

BLIND SPOT by Terri Persons: Everyone has heard that twins have a special connection. When Bernadette Saint Clare and her sister were young, they developed a special talent – they could see through each other’s eyes. Then, her sister died in a car accident and somehow Bernadette’s vision was transferred to that of her sister’s killer. Now, Bernadette can see through murderers’ eyes and uses her talent to help her in her job as an FBI agent. After being transferred to yet another new office, Bernadette finds herself in an odd situation. Her new supervisor seems to believe in her ability. On her first day in St. Paul, Minnesota, two boys find a hand while fishing; a body is discovered that afternoon in the woods. The first problem is that the hand is that of a woman and the body is that of a man. The second problem is that just one month ago, a hunting dog brought home a severed hand and a body was discovered shortly thereafter. Bernadette’s gift leads her to a serial killer hell-bent on his own form of retribution. Although the “psychic” detective is appearing quite often lately, it’s still a concept that I find intriguing. Persons’ thrilling debut makes a great stand-alone, but I sincerely hope, and suspect, that we will see more of Bernadette Saint Clare in the future. 03/07 Becky Lejeune

BLINDED BY THE LIGHT by Morgan Hunt: Imagine a giant popcorn machine spewing out words faster than you can read them. That’s the only way I can describe the frenetic pace of Hunt’s writing. (Opening lines: “Bristly black legs of foot-long tarantulas crawling over your naked body. In a locked room. Forever. That was the personal vision of hell of my best friend in high school. …My own version of hell would include Ron Jeremy, long hypodermic needles, and a looping soundtrack of the Oz munchkins. I spare you further details”.) Once you get used to the rapid fire diction which seems to come at you in all languages and all areas of the brain, you have a pretty good story. Amateur sleuth/breast cancer survivor Tess Camillo and her pregnant friend Beth are visiting an exotic earthworks art exhibit in the New Mexico desert called The Lightning Field. Tess has recently been involved in two homicides and is actually yearning the adrenaline rush that comes with a good murder, when lo and behold, there’s a body. Beth gets arrested, Tess solves the murder, a rabbi reveals all, and before it’s over, Tess faces being `blinded by the light’? This third outing from Morgan Hunt, herself a breast cancer survivor, is alternately funny and poignant, as you realize that there are real people facing some of these challenges every day. 04/09 Jack Quick

BLINDSIGHTED by Karin Slaughter:  This terrific thriller by first time author Slaughter is gripping as well as gruesome.  First of a series with a small town pediatrician/coroner as our protagonist with just enough romance thrown in to make things interesting.  Very well done – this author is one to watch. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BLISS by Lauren Myracle: Being the new girl can be tough, but in 1969, being the new girl who was raised on a commune is even tougher.  Bliss has never been to a regular school and views the new experience as something of an adventure. Anxious to make friends and open to all of the possibilities, the discovery that Crestview High is haunted by a malevolent spirit Bliss seems to be able to hear is troubling. As she settles into her new life, and takes great pains to avoid the ominous presence on campus, Bliss learns more about the spirit haunting the old commune. Unbeknownst to Bliss, there is another who can hear the ghost and this girl has terrible plans. Bliss is a chilling teen horror story that’s both quick and creepy. At times gruesome and disturbing, Myracle also incorporates real life events of 1969 to add depth to the tale.  12/11 Becky Lejeune

BLOCKADE BILLY by Stephen King:  King combines his love of baseball with suspense in this new novella.  “Blockade Billy” gets the nickname because of the way he guards the plate. The only problem is the catcher has a habit of bloodying base runners who try and get by him. He also has a rather unsettling habit of continually talking to himself, in the third person no less. Turns out there’s more to this story than meets the eye. Basically, it’s a good short story but as most of the reviews online point out, probably not worth spending the jacket price of $25 on. Definitely worth a visit to the library though. William Faulkner once said, “Maybe every novelist wants to write poetry first, finds he can’t and then tries the short story which is the most demanding form after poetry. And failing at that, only then does he take up novel writing.” King should probably stick with what he does best, those big, sprawling novels. 06/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BLONDE by Duane Swierczynski: He had flown to Philadelphia to meet the divorce lawyer representing his wife. Good enough reason to stop in the lounge for a quick one. Then, the blonde sitting next to him in the airport bar calmly tells him she has poisoned him. In order to earn the antidote Jack Eisley must stay within 10 feet of her. Obviously she is crazy, but then he encounters a relentless assassin, a double crossing spook, a violent waitress, shady cab drivers – and suddenly the blonde seems to be the only sane person in Philadelphia. Another wowser from the author of The Wheelman. Gotta get it. 11/06 Jack Quick

BLOOD AND RUBLES by Stuart Kaminsky:  Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov is a rarity among Russian policeman: shrewd, utterly incorruptible and destined to survive each complex political shift. Three young boys are robbing and killing drunks, a warehouse of invaluable artifacts disappears, and in a scene reminiscent of the best of “Hill Street Blues”, the prostitute Mathilde Verson, the only person to ever break through the robot exterior of Emil Karpo, is killed in a shoot-out between tattooed Russian Mafioso.  Add in a black American FBI agent, the kidnapping of a wealthy “entrepreneur” and you have another well written police procedural of the first rank. 03/08 Jack Quick

BLOOD BLADE by Marcus Pelegrimas: In the first of this new urban fantasy series, Pelgrimas presents yet another original spin on the popular vampire/werewolf tale. Cole Warnecki is a mild mannered video game producer out for a little adventure in the wilderness. But when he signed up for an extreme vacation in Canada, werewolf attack was not on the agenda. Cole survives the attack and promises a dying man that he will contact a woman named Paige and tell his tale. Paige immediately flies Cole to her location where she reveals to him that she, and the man that Cole spoke with, are part of a small group of people called Skinners, people who hunt vamps, werewolves, and shapeshifters that pose a threat to the public. Cole is given the chance to return to his normal everyday life, or train to become a Skinner himself. From there, he is catapulted into a dark underworld that he never imagined existed. It always amazes me how many different stories you can get out of a common theme. Pelegrimas’s series has so many different elements that it really does stand out from the rest. I hope the MEG (ghost hunters) guys play more of a part in subsequent books, though.  02/09 Becky Lejeune

THE BLOOD DETECTIVE by Dan Waddell:  Family historian and genealogist Nigel Barnes has never been approached to work on a police investigation, but there’s always a first. When a body is discovered in a London cemetery, the connection between Nigel’s work and a reference number carved in the dead man’s chest is not initially made. Not until DS Heather Jenkins recalls her mother’s brief interest in their family’s history. The number bears a striking resemblance to those used for historic birth, death, and marriage archives. It just so happened that Nigel was the man Heather’s mother hired back then, so Heather and her superiors call on his expertise to help them now. Nigel is able to trace the number back to another murder, this one over a century old, but hits a literal dead end from there. Or does he? Nigel discovers that this was actually the second in a string of murders in 1879. Sure enough, the police have an unidentified body of a homeless man that fits the pattern from back then. Unfortunately for them, the original killer struck again within a matter of days and left a total of five bodies behind before he was caught. With Nigel’s help, the police must trace the original case in order to identify their own killer before it’s too late. I loved this. It was fresh and original, a wonderful combination of historical and modern mystery. It’s also an ensemble mystery rather than a solo one. Nigel’s specialty is the driving force, but the whole cast of characters really make the book such an amazing read. First in a new series. 06/08 Becky Lejeune

BLOOD DIAMONDS by Ed Lynskey: Longtime grifter and suburbanite Jonas Blades works in a sash-and-door mill, so when Jacquie Mantooth, a voluptuous schemer who is putting together a plan to pull off a big diamond heist, offers her a slot, he jumps at it. She has no idea he will double cross her and grab the stolen diamonds all for himself.. Nine years later when Jacquie gates out of prison, she tracks down Jonas with a few hard questions. Things are complicated by Jonas’s current girlfriend Rita Jo Chapelle, Cullen, Jacquie’s goon brother and Virgil Högman, Jacquie’s old boyfriend who knows about the heist and where they can find Jacquie. A four-way scramble punctuated with mayhem, betrayal, and murder ensues to see which victor ends up with the “blood diamonds.” If noir is your thing, this one comes through is spades, uh, make that diamonds. Another great outing from another underappreciated current crime fiction master. 8/12 Jack Quick

THE BLOOD GOSPEL by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell: James Rollins is a prolific author of adventure novels and this is the first of the Order of the Sanguines Series. Due to the new collaboration with Rebecca Cantrell this book combines adventure with horror, religion and the supernatural. Dr Erin Granger, a noted archeologist is working on a dig in Israel when an earthquake hits the region around Masada killing hundreds of people and opening a tomb located there. Dr Granger, Jordan Stone a military forensic expert, and Father Rhun Korza, a Vatican priest, are called to the site by the Israeli government to investigate the tomb. The trio discover the mummified remains of a young girl but are than attacked by a force of flying vampires and forced to flee the site. Father Korza reveals that the tomb had possibly contained an ancient tome that may have been written by Jesus Christ himself in his own blood and revealing the secrets of his divinity. Led by Father Korza the trio begins a search for the book and find themselves embroiled in an ancient battle between nearly immortal evil vampires and priests converted to a race of good vampires that do not feed on human blood, but on sanctified blood blessed by the church. Accepting the thesis of a hidden long term battle between Christianity and dark forces being waged for centuries, the book becomes fascinating in it’s descriptions of the struggle and makes for an engrossing read. The ending neatly sets the stage for sequels. Well done and certainly a good collaborative team in the making between the authors. 1/13 Paul Lane

BLOOD HARVEST by Brant Randall:  Apparently Bruce Cook is the John Doe of authors.  Brant Randall is the Bruce Cook who wrote Philippine Fever (an excellent book) but has elected to publish this stand alone as Brant Randall to reduce confusion.  No matter what the author’s name, Blood Harvest is a good read.  Not as famous as the Hatfields and McCoys in Kentucky but just as serious was the feud between the DeCostas and the MacKays in Massachusetts.  Nick DeCosta is a hard working immigrant whose wine-making skills ably prepared him to make a fortune as a moonshiner in the 1920’s.  Unfortunately, even though he is wed to the wild young daughter, Mary Elizabeth MacKay, the business is too lucrative for the MacKay clan to allow competitors.  So is this why DeCosta was lynched?  Or were there other reasons?  Nicely done. 06/08 Jack Quick

BLOOD ISLAND by H. Terrell Griffin: Matt Royal is a lawyer in FL who always seems to get into trouble of some sort. His ex-wife, Laura, contacts him. Her stepdaughter, Peggy, is missing and she needs his help to track her down. Since she’s a legal adult, the police don’t seem concerned. Matt tracks Peggy down to a private island in the Keys, Blood Island. The island, and a number of “questionable” businesses in the area, are all owned by the same Bahamian corporation. Matt soon discovers a hidden world of at-risk teens, drugs, cults, and prostitution. Just as Matt saves Peggy, he uncovers a terrorist plan to destroy several churches in large cities. BLOOD ISLAND is action packed from page one and keeps you hooked till the end. This is my first taste of Griffin’s work and I hope to read more of his work in the near future. 01/09 Jennifer Lawrence

BLOOD LINE by Mark Billingham: This one opens with a scene all too familiar to me. Thorne and Louise are being told their child-to-be isn’t viable and Louise should have an immediate D&C. This happened to sweet wife and me 42 years ago and I still felt the same numbness as Thorne.  From there Thorne eagerly takes charge of what seems like, for once, an ordinary domestic murder. But when a mysterious sliver of bloodstained X-ray that was found clutched in the victim’s fist is replicated at other crime scenes around the city, it becomes clear that the past is coming back to haunt the city of London. Detective Thorne realizes that a killer is targeting the children of victims of an infamous serial killer from years before. Before everyone on the list is killed, Thorne must stop the most twisted killer he has ever hunted. Another awesome outing from an author Lee Child has called “the new wave leader” of crime fiction.  07/11 Jack Quick

BLOOD MAKES NOISE by Gregory Widen: Widen has done several screenplays prior to this his first novel and his writing is clear and crisp with no false steps in telling the story. An afterward indicates that the idea is based on true events occurring after the death of Eva Peron (Evita) in Argentina with, of course fictional license involved in creating the entire story. Michael Suslov, one of the first actual CIA agents working for the new agency and a man raised in Argentina is serving at the US Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1955 with a group consisting mainly of FBI agents. A contact of Michael’s and a member of Argentine Military Intelligence summons him to a secret vault which contains the body of the legendary Evita. He is asked to move the body to a new location due to the probable fall of Juan Peron from power. Michael feels obligated to do it and makes arrangements to do so. While preparing for the move there is a home invasion at his house, and in the chaos surrounding the break in, he accidentally shoots his wife and kills both her and their unborn baby. Sixteen years after these events Michael Suslov is barely able to go through the days and nights with the horror of his crime haunting him. The same member of Argentine Military Intelligence that contacted him to hide Evita’s body contacts him again, asking for help to bring her back to Argentina in the light of the probable return to power of Peron. In an attempt to somehow quiet the demons haunting him, Michael agrees. There are other forces anxious to get hold of Evita’s body and all their interactions are carefully delineated within the book. Widen does an excellent job of fleshing out the principal characters allowing the reader to understand their thoughts, reservations, ideas and consequent actions. Blood Makes Noise is truly a book to sit down with and enjoy for the story, the writing and the descriptions of the events of the period after Evita’s death and the later passing of Juan Peron and subsequent rise to power of his last wife Isabel. 05/13 Paul Lane

BLOOD MATTERS by Taffy Cannon: Roxanne Prescott is an experienced Austin, Texas cop, but a relative newcomer as a detective at the San Diego Sheriff’s Department when she and her colleagues catch a high profile case. Adoption agency CEO Sam Brennan has been beaten to death with a statuette of Michael Jackson. You know this one is gonna be kinky. The list of suspects begins with two ex-wives and a rejected lover but quickly expands when the detectives determine the extent of Brennan’s wealth, the tell-all book deal that he has entered, and his agency’s niche business of reuniting adopted children with their birth families. It is up to Prescott to figure out a way to lure the killer out of the mass of suspects. Don’t let the author’s name fool you. This is no cozy, it’s a first rate police procedural. Following on 2001’s Guns and Roses, which also featured Prescott. 06/07 Jack Quick

BLOOD MEMORY by Greg Iles: Natchez born Cat Ferry is a forensic odontologist, an expert on teeth and the damage they can inflict. The alcoholic granddaughter of Dr. William Kirkland, owner of the sprawling Malmaison estate and the most powerful man in Natchez, has worked with the New Orleans Police, in particular Detective Sean Regan before. But this time she is pregnant with Sean’s baby and feels she must go home to sort things out. There she accidentally discovers old bloody footprints hidden in the carpet fibers of her childhood bedroom. She thinks one footprint might be hers, made on the night her father died of an ill-explained gunshot wound. All this pushes her toward the depression she has experienced since she was fifteen. Possible child sexual abuse and repressed memories surface as Cat searches for the truth about her father’s death. Dark, but excellent. 02/07 Jack Quick

BLOOD MONEY by James Grippando: The book opens with an immediate crisis for lawyer Jack Swyteck and does not stop at any point to allow the reader to rest. Swyteck has defended a woman accused of killing her two year old daughter and gotten a not guilty verdict for her. In spite of the verdict, a star reporter for a large media company has worked hard to cause a public outcry at the trial results. She has accused the woman of getting away with murder. Sydney Bennett is scheduled to be released from the Miami jail but a large crowd gathers outside the prison to demand that justice be done. A Sydney Bennett lookalike is caught walking outside the prison and set upon by an angry mob. She is gravely injured and sent to the hospital where she lapses into a coma. This incident sets the scene for a complicated scenario involving Sydney herself, the lookalike injured girl, a mass murderer fascinated by Sydney, Jack’s FBI fiancée Andie Henning, a mercenary head of a large media company that blatantly shapes public opinion regardless of truth of what is happening. There is also the star reporter that stops at nothing to keep her reputation as the absolute leader in her industry and the scheming lawyer for the media company that goes against Jack in a lawsuit launched against the media giant as being culpable in the look alike girl’s injury. Jack Swyteck is very familiar to readers of Grippando’s books, and each novel can be read as a standalone with a plot differing from the last with the difference being that certain characters reappear. A very fast and fascinating read well worth the sleepless night or two involved in finishing it. 1/13 Paul Lane

BLOOD OATH by Christopher Farnsworth: Rumor has it that in the 1800s a sailor thought to have killed his shipmates by draining them of their blood was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson. Nathaniel Cade, a vampire, was spared that day and from then forward became one of the President’s men. Through a blood oath, Cade vowed to protect the President and all other keepers of the office from then forward. In this capacity, Cade is also the prime investigator of all things paranormal. When Zach Barrows is assigned as Cade’s partner, the young political worker gets a crash course in everything weird and supernatural. And right away, the two are sent out on a new case. Someone is shipping body parts into the country and Cade is sure that this can only mean one thing: a new terrorist plot involving an old nemesis. Farnsworth’s debut is just a super cool read. A screenplay writer and former journalist, Farnsworth clearly knows how to write for maximum impact. Blood Oath is fascinating and entertaining, and adds new blood to the current vampire craze. 05/10 Becky Lejeune

BLOOD OF ANGELS by Reed Arvin: Thomas Dennehy is an assistant District Attorney in Nashville who is famous for convicting two men of the same murder; one for negligent homicide, the other put to death for murder, and the irony is that the men convicted didn’t even know one another.  But then a convict claims to have committed that same murder and asserts that the wrong man was put to death for it.  If that wasn’t enough to deal with, Dennehy’s latest case involves the rape and murder of a white woman by a refugee of Sudan, causing racial tensions to escalate quickly.  Meanwhile Dennehy’s partner is retiring, he has to deal with conflicted emotions about an alibi witness in the rape case and an ex-wife and daughter who may be in danger.  A tightly twisted story that is propelled by crisp writing makes for an excellent, dark novel of suspense.  12/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BLOOD ON THE LEAVES by Jeff Stetson:  African-American professor Martin Matheson polarizes current students and the entire Jackson, Mississippi, community with his incendiary lectures about local lynchings and other atrocities at the height of the civil rights struggle which leads to a series of revenge killings.  Because blood evidence links Matheson to the killing of unrepentant racist Earvin Cooper, he’s tried not for inciting murder but for the act of murder itself.  Matheson is defended in court by Todd Miller, a venerable white liberal past his courtroom prime, while the prosecutor is a meticulous and well-respected black deputy district attorney, James Reynolds, who becomes the story’s moral center.  Interesting look at the legacy of attitudes and emotions of a half century ago. 04/06 Jack Quick

BLOOD RED SQUARE by Pat Mullan:  UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold died in a plane crash in the Congo in 1961. Although considered suspicious at the time, no evidence surfaced to show that it was anything other than an accident.  Now in 1997 new Russian entrepreneur Misha Kedrov steals Secret KGB documents pointing to collusion between Moscow and Washington in the death of Hammarskjold.  Kedrov, consumed by revenge for the murder of his parents, plans to use the documents to seek vengeance.  Owen MacDara, special envoy of Bill Clinton, the President of the United States, is the only one with a chance to stop Kedrov.  An action packed thriller, mixing fictional and real characters in a believable manner. 05/06 Jack Quick

BLOOD RELATIVES by Ed McBain: I thought I had read all the 87th Precinct novels but then discovered this one while packing for a pending move. What a joy.  From 1987, it starts with bloody handprints on each of the glass paneled doors of the 87th Precinct.  In this episode, Detective Steve Carella attempts to track down a psycho who has killed Muriel Stark, the seventeen year old cousin of  fifteen year old Patricia Lowery right in front of her eyes. Just when Carella thinks he has a positive ID, it turns out to be the wrong guy. 07/11 Jack Quick

BLOOD RIGHTS by Kristen Painter: Chrysabelle is a highly sought after comarré of exceptionally pure blood. Trained and sold to the highest bidder, she has served her vampire patron for a century. On the day she would have earned her freedom, though, her patron is murdered and Chrysabelle is the prime suspect. As the Elder of the House of Tepes, Lord Algernon possessed immense power and wealth. He also possessed a ring of great importance. Tatiana, a power-hungry Tepes with plans for the ring, will do anything to track down Chrysabelle and pin Algernon’s murder on the comarré. Chrysabelle knows that if Tatiana finds her and the ring, there will be terrible ramifications. But when Tatiana kidnaps Chrysabelle’s aunt in an attempt to draw her out, the comarré has no choice but to seek help in the most unlikely of places. This first in the House of Comarré trilogy is an intricately crafted near future world with new and unique beings. The vampires themselves have a different origin than most urban fantasy, one that is revealed through the plot and plays well with the overall arc of the story. 11/11 Becky Lejeune

BLOOD SACRIFICE by Michael Lister: This fifth book featuring former cop turned prison chaplain John Jordan has an exorcism turned murder at the heart of this complex story. Jordan’s marriage has fallen apart for the second time and he seeks counseling at St. Ann’s, an abbey in bucolic Gainesville, best known for being the home of the University of Florida Gators. Lister never mentions the college; instead, he shows us the rapidly dwindling unspoiled Florida wilderness that is rarely found anymore. The company that owns the abbey, an old abandoned paper mill nearby, and all the surrounding land wants to develop the property. An oversexed and deeply troubled young woman is murdered at the abbey, and the Priest performing the exorcism is the chief suspect. Her cousin is the small town cop investigating, and he asks Jordan for help. Intriguing characters populate the small town, and their relationships are integral to the mystery as one red herring after another forge stumbling blocks. Lister creates a dark and complex combination of religious and environmental mystery that should appeal to fans of Margaret Coel and Julia Spencer-Fleming. 10/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2012 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.

BLOOD SHOT by Stuart MacBride:  This one is quite different from Sara Parestsky’s fifth Victoria (V. I.) Warshawski 1989 outing of the same title.  McBride’s third Detective Sergeant Logan MacRae police procedural begins with the Aberdeen police on the trail of a serial rapist, when they catch Scottish sports hero Rob Macintyre stalking MacRae’s live-in lover, Woman Police Constable Jackie Watson.  Macintyre’s arrest ignites public sentiment against the police, stifling the investigation.  Bad things come in threes as MacRae also has to deal with a case that drags him into the local s&m scene and a third case involving an eight-year-old killer.  Throw in a couple of cranky, childlike detective inspectors demanding overtime and loyalty, and you have a fine kettle of fish as they might say, slowly cooling in the relentless sleet that seems to torture Aberdeen half the year. 01/09 Jack Quick

BLOOD TIES by Pamela Freeman: In a world ruled by warlords, where ghosts walk amongst the living, one man is planning an act of revenge that has been generations in the making. Thousands of years ago, Acton and his troops spread throughout what would become the Eleven Domains, raping, plundering, and murdering the original inhabitants. Those who survived took to the road, becoming known from then on as the Travelers. Bramble and Ash both carry Traveler blood within them and though they lead very different lives, their fates are intertwined and their paths will finally intersect in this first book of the Castings Trilogy. This story is primarily theirs – Freeman weaves their tales together, telling their separate histories and the trials that will lead to their involvement in the events to come. Their stories are interspersed with that of Saker, the enchanter who helps to set events into motion, and others that are met along the way. This is Freeman’s first adult title and marks the beginning of what promises to be a fascinating fantasy trilogy that melds together political intrigue and magic. 04/08 Becky Lejeune

BLOOD’S A ROVER by James Ellroy: At the outset, I should warn that James Ellroy has a very distinctive writing style and a very distinctive view of the world. He has a lot of fans and they will really like this book. However, if you haven’t read anything by him before, I would recommend that you leaf through a few pages in a bookstore before you decide to buy this two pound opus rather than blindly ordering the book online. Blood’s A Rover is the final volume in Mr. Ellroy’s Underworld USA Trilogy. As with the earlier two volumes, American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand, it is readable as a stand-alone story. The Trilogy, as a whole, reflects Ellroy’s distinctive view of the world or at least the United States that I mentioned above. In this view, there is no innocence, no golden age. It is a country and a time wholly populated by bent cops, perverted private detectives, the Mob and venal politicians, all powered by drugs and all out to get theirs. Blood’s a Rover covers roughly the years from the 1968 assassinations to 1974, although it begins with a flashback to an armored car holdup in Los Angeles in 1964. Ellroy, in his staccato, jazz style draws a dark picture of candidate and President Nixon allowing Howard Hughes to take over Los Vegas and the mob to penetrate the Caribbean after being evicted from Cuba. At the same time, he portrays J. Edgar Hoover, as an aging, senile “old girl” trying to infiltrate and subvert the black power movement by facilitating their entry into the drug trade. This 600+ page vision of paranoia is told in generally short sentences, consisting of impressions, some very clever and some not-so-clever wordplay, and nonstop descriptions of drugs and violence. Ultimately, everybody dies a violent death. In short, think the mind of G. Gordon Liddy writing like Jack Keruoac. I liked the book, but not without some reservations. Mr. Ellroy is a unique writer and it is important to look at the underside of the rocks in what we complacently think of as our pretty gardens. I don’t know if you have to live there though. 10/09 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

BLOOD’S PRIDE by Evie Manieri: When it was discovered that the ore in the mountains of the Shadar could be forged into weapons like none other, the Norlanders took the area by force. For two decades, the Shadari have been their slaves, forced to work the mines for the Norlander governor. Now, though, the governor lies on his deathbed and his daughter Frea has control. Eofar, the governor’s son, is hiding a secret that would tear his family apart and his youngest sister Isa longs for a chance to prove herself. The time is right for a Shadari strike and they’ve banded together to hire one of the land’s most notorious mercenaries to help. The Mongrel has her own plans, however, and though the Shadari are sure to win with her by their side, they aren’t sure if they can truly count on her. Manieri’s epic fantasy debut features an interesting world and a complex set of characters. Because the story begins already in progress, much of the beginning of Blood’s Pride is a bit confusing. Fortunately, Manieri’s pacing is such that the story does progress quickly and details become clearer as the reader continues. 2/13 Becky Lejeune

BLOODLINE by Jeff Buick: Colombian Pablo Escobar is dead. Fingerprint, dental records and DNA confirm it. So how can he be withdrawing money eleven years later from an account to which he alone had access. His ex-partners want him found, so they kidnap the wife and daughter of Escobar’s cousin and give him two weeks to find Pablo or the access code for the bank account. If you ever needed reminding there is nothing glamorous about the cocaine trade, this book will do that. The opulent life styles of the drug lords combined with their willingness to do anything to maintain power is amoral. Stacks of currency, unbelievable excesses, all fueled by the snow-white cocaine. An action packed thriller about life in a country where drug lords are in control and the relatives and even casual acquaintances of those in the trade are at risk all the time. 10/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

BLOODMONEY: A NOVEL OF ESPIONAGE by David Ignatius:  Much of this novel is intellectual but there is enough violence to please even the most discriminating action junkie.  A super secret CIA intelligence unit is attempting a new tactic in the war against terror.  Instead of identifying and neutralizing their opponents with force, they do it with money, lots and lots of money. In fact, the Hit Parade, as the unit is called, is earning billions through Alphabet Capital, a London hedge fund, that benefits from insider knowledge collected by the CIA and wielded for maximum financial impact.  The proceeds are then funneled to Pakistani militants in a scheme to subvert them.  What they don’t count on is one brilliant Pakistani, whose family was killed in a CIA drone strike, who is immune to their money, and in fact, sees that as just one more tool for exacting revenge against the CIA for his family. When two Hit Parade agents are unmasked and killed, Sophie Marx, a young CIA officer with an attitude is assigned to handle the situation. However, the closer Sophie gets to her quarry, the more she realizes that nothing in this gallery of mirrors is quite what it seems. An outstanding novel where the price of unchecked government is paid in blood, and peace can be bought only through betrayal. 06/11 Jack Quick

BLOODPRINT by Kitty Sewell: Madeleine Frank has effectively put her past behind her, but that doesn’t mean that she’s forgotten or that she’s even gotten over it. The death of her husband in a Florida hurricane left her devastated. Madeleine picked herself up, however, and relocated to Bath where she now practices as a psychotherapist. Her mother, a priestess of Santeria, has been institutionalized but is doing well enough and her father, a famous artist, is still going strong. Then one day Madeleine is approached by a new patient: Rachel Locklear, a woman with a dark past who is trying to free herself from an evil and domineering lover. After so long, Madeleine believes that in Rachel she may have found the daughter that she gave up for adoption so many years ago. Is it true or is Madeleine making connections where in fact none exist? Regardless, it is clear that Rachel is in some serious trouble and Madeleine may be the only one who can help her. Kitty Sewell does it again. Her debut novel, Ice Trap, was absolutely amazing and Bloodprint is equally so. Sewell builds the suspense in this tale slowly, weaving Madeleine’s own tragic past throughout,  and creating an intense psychological story that’s as rich and entrancing as its settings.  02/09 Becky Lejeune

BLOODSTONE by Nate Kenyon: An ancient evil lies waiting below the surface of quiet White Falls, Maine. Billy Smith’s nightmares have been preparing him for the danger to come and he answers the subconscious call that leads him there. Along the way, he kidnaps Angel, a woman who shares Billy’s nightmares, and brings her along for the ride. The two soon realize that although they have no idea what awaits them at the end of their journey, they do share a common bond and their once hostile relationship evolves into something more. Jeb Taylor has lived with the stain of his father’s horrible crime all his life. Now his father is dead, but his ghost won’t let Jeb be. In fact, people all over White Falls find themselves tossing and turning nightly with strange nightmares, haunted by the sins of their pasts. I guess this Stoker nominated title just wasn’t for me. First off, it reminded me way too much of another nominated title (from the same year) Sarah Langan’s The Keeper. Kenyon’s book, however, is slow to develop and left me with a feeling that there was something missing. The build-up to the final revelation is underwhelming and I still don’t really “get” what was happening. I wanted to like it but was sadly disappointed. Overall, other reviews of the book have been positive, though. 05/08 Becky Lejeune

BLOODTHIRSTY by Marshall Karp: If you haven’t read THE RABBIT FACTORY by Marshall Karp, its time to grab it. In THE RABBIT FACTORY two LAPD cops, Mike Lomax and his partner Terry Biggs, are investigating the murder of Rambunctious Rabbit, or at least the pedophile employee who wears the bunny suit at the Sherman Oaks, CA “Familyland,” a Disneyland clone. In BLOODTHIRSTY, the dynamic duo have been approached about making a movie about the Familyland case. Before they can even decide which current Hollywood hunks will play the daring pair, their would be producer, Barry Gerber, one of the most hated men in Hollywood, is a no-show for a red carpet event. The next morning he turns up dead, killed in such a bizarre way that neither Detectives Mike Lomax nor Terry Biggs nor anyone in Forensics has ever seen anything like it before. Two days later, the prime suspect – another despised show-business bad boy – is found murdered in the same sadistic manner. The list of suspects then becomes as long as the credits in a summer blockbuster. Sure its serious, I mean, as disliked as these folks are, Lomax and Biggs will never get their movie made until the killing is stopped. As their boss advises, “If you don’t solve this thing fast, I’m the guy who is gonna rip you a new asshole. You wouldn’t want that to happen would you, Biggs” “No, sir,” Terry said, “The last thing this department needs is another asshole.” Terry to Lomax, “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, blah, blah, blah.” “I believe that’s for postal workers,” Lomax replies. “Post office, police department.” Terry said. “What’s the difference” We’re all just guys in uniforms toting guns.” You gotta love ‘em. 05/07 Jack Quick

BLOODY AWFUL by Georgia Evans: After killing off the vampire that terrorized their little town in Bloody Good, Alice, Peter, and their friends begin their search for the next enemy. As a werefox, nurse Gloria Prewitt has always kept her Other-ness a secret from those around here. Now, however, she will find that not only is she finally able to be herself, but her talents will come in handy in the War. The Germans’ plans may have been set back by the loss of one of their own, but their remaining minions will carry on with the mission. This time, the vamps send one of their more powerful members into Brytewood, posing as the new town baker. Alice, Gloria, and the others are not fooled, though, and immediately begin hatching a plan to save their village. As Brytewood’s group of defenders grows, more town Others are revealed. Can they prevail and save their town, or will they succumb to the evil plot that has wormed it’s way inside? This is such a fun premise for a series. I can’t wait for what’s to come, but I’m so attached to this cast of characters that I’ll be sad to see it end. The final book, Bloody Right, hits shelves next month. 07/09 Becky Lejeune

BLOODY GOOD by Georgia Evans: This first in a new and original paranormal/fantasy trilogy is one of my new favorites. It’s World War II and the tiny village of Brytewood is about to get some unwanted visitors in the form of four blood-sucking vamps sent straight from Germany. Their plan is to infiltrate the small town, hiding out as loyal British citizens, wreaking havoc and giving the Axis the upper hand in the war. Worse yet, they are being helped by internal spies. When Dr. Alice Doyle finds a man stuck in a tree and in pretty bad shape, she rushes him back to her clinic for immediate treatment. The man seemed in dire condition, but apparently he was well enough to walk away when no one was watching. Then a local farmer dies of an apparent heart attack, and Alice demands further investigation. It’s discovered that the man had been completely drained of blood. Strange and inexplicable in and of itself, but then she hears that some local livestock has also been recently drained. Alice, part pixie, has always denied the existence of her “other” blood, but now she and her friends can no longer deny that something evil has entered they quaint town. I love everything about this series: the English countryside during WWII, all of the different “others” that are making an appearance, and the perfect blend of humor, romance, mystery, and, of course, paranormal stuff. Book 2, Bloody Awful, is due out in July and book 3, Bloody Right, will be released in August. Georgia Evans is a pseudonym for paranormal romance author Rosemary Laurey. 06/09 Becky Lejeune

BLOODY HARVESTS by Richard Kunzmann: On the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa, detective Harry Mason and his crew are trying to discover whether the mutilated corpse of a young child is the work of a serial killer on the loose; or the work of a cult leader practicing a tribal killing—in which children are sacrificed for their body parts in order to elicit powerful “medicine.” Mason’s police partner, Jacob Tshabalala, who is both a tribesman and a cop, is also faced with his own questions, whether the evil is emanating from a man a man or a true witch. The stress is taking a toll on the two men’s friendship which is further complicated by the presence of Nina Reading, a young reporter, and her own investigation into slave trafficking, which puts her in deep danger. What would be an interesting police procedural become even more engrossing with all the various cultural factors added in. My second South African author, with his first novel. Hopefully there will be more. 11/06 Jack Quick

BLOODY MARY by J. A. Konrath: Lieutenant Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels is back in this fast, funny and worthy sequel to Whiskey Sour.  This time Jack is having problems with her mother, her ex-husband, a psycho cat from hell named “Mr. Friskers”,  and her partner, who seems to be having some sort of mid-life crisis.  Not to mention a serial killer who is killing call girls but also has some sort of problem with Jack and amazing access to her personal effects.  Jack is a great character of the kind familiar to mystery lovers everywhere, the good cop with all the baggage, but somehow Konrath makes her feel fresh.  The pages fly by, the suspense will keep you on the edge of your seat, yet the laughs keep coming in this terrific, twisty thriller – don’t miss it. 07/05

BLOWBACK by Brad Thor: Scot Harvath is caught live by Al Jazeera television in an off the books operation which threatens to end his career and maybe even bring down the President. But this quickly become a side issue as the United States discovers that Al Qaedia has access to a biological weapon that only kills non-Muslims. Starting in Cyprus and then to London, Paris, Italy, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia Harvath races the clock to stop possibly the greatest challenge ever faced. Along the way he hooks up with the lovely Jillian Alcott, a major intellectual who brings focus to his efforts. Another high tension non-stop thriller from Brad Thor. You hope this is all fiction. 10/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

BLOWN AWAY by Shane Gericke:  Lucille Crawford apparently drove her car into a cemetery chain-link fence after a shot to the head.  The gun is on the seat beside her, still in the car.  After meeting Commander Martin Benedetti at the scene, new cop Emily Thompson and the rest of the police there initially decide it was a suicide.  Soon they learn this is the latest of a series of murders, all of which connect to Emily   Every murder includes not only her police card but also clues which point to one of the board games she played as a child.  Eventually Emily realizes that she is the ultimate target with her fortieth birthday as the target date.  Although she is surrounded by protection the final hours before Emily’s birthday prove that police protection isn’t enough.  Through a series of flashbacks we know who the killer is well before Emily does.  Well written, but could have benefited from better editing, i.e. fewer flashbacks, later in the book, each with more substance. 05/06 Jack Quick

BLUE BLOOD by Susan McBride:  This is the first of the “Debutante Dropout” mystery series featuring Andrea (Andy) Kendricks, daughter of an old Dallas moneyed family who has banked her trust fund to live on her income as a web designer for small businesses and charitable organizations.  Molly O’Brien, Andy’s best friend from high school or as her mother refers to her, “the scholarship girl,” calls Andy for help – she’s been arrested for murdering her boss, the notorious owner of Jugs, (think of a sleazier “Hooters”) but swears she only nicked him with that big knife…Andy’s mom Cissy gets her law firm to send out a young lawyer, Brian Malone, to defend Molly, but apparently Cissy has other motives as well – this turns out to be the beginning of a hot romance for Andy (or maybe that’s my wishful thinking?)  The cops are convinced they have the murderer so they aren’t into doing any additional investigating, causing Andy to think along the lines of “what would Nancy [Drew] do?” and try and find the real murderer.  Deciding the best way to do that would be to work at Jugs, she dons her tightest jeans, stuffs her bra and throws herself on the mercy of the former Dallas cheerleader/restaurant manager and finagles her way in.  Turns out the murder victim had lots of people who wanted him dead, but Andy is determined to clear her friend regardless.  Great characters and a fast moving story make this a terrific read, and the start of what should be a terrific series. 04/04 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BLUE CHEER by Ed Lynskey:  PI Frank Johnson didn’t just build a fire.  He didn’t build an oak fire.  The fire he built was aromatic red oak, lit with sappy pinecones and kindling.  How can you not enjoy this quality writing?  Johnson is living in rural West Virginia, looking for peace and quiet when a Stinger missile explodes in the air over his property.  One thing leads to another, he is beaten up, the wife of his best friend is murdered, and Johnson, an old time PI with lines like “Awaking the next morning on the cusp of the DTs, I quit drinking cold turkey, a knack the Black Irish carry in their genes” follows the trail of a cult called the Blue Cheer.  The real cheer here is that anyone who likes a good old fashioned PI novel with booze and dames, and even a shotgun pistol and mountain oysters is in for a treat.  The only jarring note is that Johnson is driving a Geo Prizm, when he ought to be in a big tired old Buick with a gas drinkin’ V-8.  Recommended.  08/07 Jack Quick

BLUE CHRISTMAS by Mary Kay Andrews: This lighthearted return to Weezie Foley and Savannah hits just the right note for a fun holiday read. Weezie’s antique business is doing well, and so is her relationship with chef Daniel, except for his aversion to Christmas. Weezie is on a mission to win the historic district’s holiday decorating contest, but has stiff competition from the gay couple across the street. Then a mysterious woman starts showing up in odd places, and things go missing from the shop and Weezie’s house. But this is a holiday story, so there is a very happy ending. Fun stuff. 12/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

The Blue Edge of Midnight by Jonathon King:  Journalist-turned-first-time-novelist King has written crime fiction with all the requisite elements of a top-notch book; slightly damaged characters, interesting setting and page-turning suspense.  Max Freeman was a cop in Philadelphia until he took a bullet in the neck, but he killed a child in the process.  Unfortunately Max is not quite as forgiving of himself as the police department was, so he quits.  He wants to be alone, and he contacts his friend Billy, a brilliant, good-looking, successful Latin lawyer in south Florida who also happens to have a stutter.  Billy arranges for him to live in a secluded shack deep in the Everglades, which gives Max exactly what he craves most; time to be alone.  I’m a long time south Florida resident, but like most area residents I’m not real familiar with the Everglades, so I just loved the descriptions in this book. The story centers around Max finding the body a baby in a canal near his shack.  He reports it to the ranger, and it turns out the cops are already on the way.  Living in isolation as he is, Max is not aware that there is a serial killer that has been hiding children’s bodies in the Glades and Max becomes their first suspect.  Soon it becomes apparent that someone is trying to set him up, and the story just starts twisting and turning like the waters of the Glades after that, culminating in a strong, although not terribly surprising ending.  This is the first book of a series; the second one comes out in April 2003. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BLUE EDGE OF MIDNIGHT by Jonathon King: Eerie. Ex-Philadelphia cop Max Freeman, has retreated to an isolated cabin in the Florida Everglades, after he kills a child during an armed robbery attempt. I was in Chapter 2 of this book when I received a telephone call that a foster child my youngest son had been caring for had been killed in similar fashion. Anyway back to the book, when Freeman discovers the body of a kidnapped youngster he immediately becomes a suspected serial killer as this is the fourth similar slaying to have taken place. Helping Freeman establish his innocence is black attorney and friend Billy Manchester. The setting is James W. Hall, the writing style evocative of James L. Burke, with the sparseness we associate with Robert B. Parker’s Spenser. What is not to like. I plan to spend some more time with Mr. King and Max Freeman in the coming weeks. 04/07 Jack Quick

BLUE EYED DEVIL by Robert B. Parker: This will probably be the last western from the hand of Parker who died earlier this year and it is a good one. Wisecracking gun slinging saddle pals Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch are back in Appaloosa where there is literally, a new sheriff in town.  Amos Callico is as crooked as Cole and Hitch are straight and with 12 rifle-toting cops of dubious background, he thinks he has the wherewithal to handle Cole and Hitch.   Time proves how wrong he is.  Meanwhile, Cole kills the son of a prominent rancher in a fair fight, renegade Apaches plan an attack on the town, and a mysterious dandy arrives in town with a sinister agenda. As usual, Cole and Hitch are smart and resourceful and survive the trickery, gunplay, throat-cutting and general mayhem, still standing at the end.  This one is leaner than a steer being grazed on sparse grass but as pleasing as an ice cold beer after a dusty day on the trail.  Adios’ brother Parker, we will miss you and the boys. 08/10 Jack Quick

BLUE HERON MARSH by Douglas Quinn:  I picked this book because the author lives in the Albemarle Sound area of Eastern North Carolina, a place old-timers swear could have been the site of the original Garden of Eden.  I made a good choice.  Evocative of Randy Wayne White.  A forty year old murder claims additional victims in this well written first mystery effort.  Army veteran Webb Sawyer got into trouble in Serbia and has recently been released from a U. S. Army psychiatric hospital.  Amanda Eure hires Webb to exonerate her friend Clara who has been arrested for the murder by hanging of her father, Willard Haynes.  While Webb and Amanda are searching for information to prove Clara innocent, Clara kills herself.  This is too much for Amanda but Webb can’t let the matter go.  Eventually he finds four victims who died in a similar fashion to Haynes.  All had attended a private school, where forty years earlier, seven white boys, all students, had hanged a black man.  The crime was covered up and the boys never charged.  Is the victim’s son now enacting revenge, or is something else at work here?  What is truth and where is justice?  And if you find them, what do you do with them.  Nicely done debut. 11/07 Jack Quick

BLUE JUSTICE by Ilona Haus: When Daryl Eugene Wardell kidnaps her — his next victim in a long line of female prey — he thinks she is just another hooker no one will miss. He has no idea she is, in fact, a Baltimore cop working as a Vice decoy. It is up to Detective Kay Delaney, and her fellow officers to find Detective Micky Luttrell, who hopefully, is still alive. Delaney faces her toughest challenge yet in this, the third Blue outing. Not for the faint of heart. This is police work at its grittiest. 04/09 Jack Quick

BLUE MONDAY by Nicci French: Husband and wife writing team Nicci French (Nicci Gerrard and Sean French) kick off a new series with Blue Monday, a psychological thriller introducing psychotherapist Frieda Klein. When Klein takes on a patient from a colleague, she ends up getting embroiled in a major child abduction case. The man, Alan, claims to have vivid dreams in which he longs for a son of his own, a son who sounds a lot like the missing Matthew Farraday. Klein believes her patient may have some knowledge of the abduction—or could be responsible himself—and reluctantly brings her information to the police. It’s not until a possible connection to another abduction appears that the detective on the case begins to take Frieda seriously. With no way of knowing whether Matthew could still be alive, they find themselves racing the clock to find the boy and solve the crime. I liked Frieda and I enjoy Nicci French’s titles. I admittedly had some difficulty with Blue Monday though. The style is odd: transitions between characters were abrupt and at times awkward or almost out of place. I assume a lot of it was an attempt to set up more character development for the series as it’s not something I recall from their other books. Not a major sticking point, I enjoyed Blue Monday overall. 3/12 Becky Lejeune

BLUE MOON by Alyson Noël: It seems like everything is finally going perfectly for Ever and Damen now that Drina is gone (see book one of the Immortals series, Evermore), until Damen begins acting strangely. It starts with the loss of his powers, and then all of a sudden he has an aura. To make matters worse, he’s begun to look at Ever as though he has no idea who she is. This man, who has chased her from one life to the next, through the centuries, to be with her and share the gift of immortality, has abandoned her. And the rest of the school seems to be following. Everything has been flipped upside-down in Ever’s world, and it all coincides with the appearance of new kid Roman. The solution lies in Summerland, an alternate world that Ever has never been able to enter without Damen’s help. This time, though, their fates and his life depend on her being able to find the answers herself. Noël’s second release is sure to please fans of her bestselling debut, Evermore, and the end will leave them desperate for the next installment. It’s a creative play on the popular teen paranormal romance trend. A definite must for the young adult set. 07/09 Becky Lejeune

BLUE MOONLIGHT by Vincent Zandri: Dick Moonlight is a private investigator who has survived a suicide attempt that left a bullet fragment lodged in his brain. The side effects are memory loss and the occasional blackout, usually in the midst of a stressful situation. When he wakes up handcuffed to a larger than life ex-football player turned FBI agent on a turbulent airplane, Moonlight realizes he may be in trouble. The FBI is bringing him in to help them find a flash drive that Russian mobsters and Middle Eastern dictators are after. Moonlight had the flash drive and gave it to a cop who decided selling it to the highest bidder would make his retirement a little easier. Unfortunately, the cop hooked up with a rogue FBI agent and Moonlight’s ex, and the three of them are holed up in Florence, Italy. This is a gritty story, reminiscent of the hard boiled private eyes of Dashiell Hammett and Mickey Spillane, but with modern day sensibilities. While dark, there is quite a bit of zany humor that lightens the story. This should appeal to Ken Bruen and Lawrence Block fans.  9/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2012 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.

BLUE NOWHERE by Jeffery Deaver:  Set a thief top catch a thief.  This time the thief is a computer kracker (a malicious hacker) who is stealing the lives of his victims.  Phate has managed to get into their computers and, in each case, lure them to their death.   A desperate head of the California State Police Computer Crimes Division uses the only weapon he has, convicted hacker Wyatt Gillette, to aid the investigation – against the loud protests of the rest of the division.  You don’t have to be a computer weenie to enjoy this state of the art police procedural featuring Gillette and Detective Frank Bishop, an old-school homicide cop who’s accustomed to forensic sleuthing.  This one will keep you occupied to the very last page, and completely different from the Lincoln Rhyme series. 07/09 Jack Quick

THE BLUE PLACE by Nicola Griffith:  Well written romantic suspense with a bit of a lesbian twist set in Georgia and Norway.  The descriptions were beautiful and mesmerizing, bringing the red clay of Georgia and those Norwegian fjords right into my lap.  I actually figured out whodunit, which is most unusual for me, but that didn’t lessen my enjoyment any. It was recommended by Dennis Lehane, so I was very curious to see what one of my favorite authors likes to read.  I’m happy to report that I absolutely loved it.  Griffith is an interesting and multi-talented author. She won the Nebula award (for sci-fi).  Her next book, STAY, is the sequel to this one yet Griffith is shedding her “genre” label altogether and moving over to the literary side of Doubleday, edited by the extremely prestigious Nan A. Talese. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BLUE PLACE by Nicola Griffith:  The blue place is that state of mind when you know that only violence will save you, when the adrenalin is rushing, your muscles are burning, and the blood beats in your veins like champagne…Aud Torvingen is a former cop, martial artist, and Scandinavian to the core.  She is also a graduate of Georgia Tech who lives in Atlanta and is trying to find an art thief and killer.  In the process she finds and falls for Julia, a smart, beautiful art dealer mixed up in the crime.  The writing is crisp and clean and the descriptions of both Norway and Atlanta strikingly accurate.  Although much more emotional, the writing is evocative of Bruen or Parker in its terseness.  A great read, and a truly fascinating character.  Totally different from Zoe Sharp’s Charlie Fox, but still a truly kick ass lady.  10/07 Jack Quick

BLUE SCREEN by Robert B. Parker:  Sunny Randall meets Jesse Stone in this fast paced Spenser adventure.  Private Investigator Randall is hired by Buddy Bollen, a Hollywood producer and overall sleaze to act as bodyguard for his girlfriend Erin Flint, who is trying to become major league baseball’s first female player.  When Erin’s younger sister turns up dead in Paradise, Mass, police chief Stone joins forces with Randall to solve the whodunit.  Coincidentally both Stone and Randall are on the rebound from failed marriages which adds a great deal of spice to what otherwise is a fairly ordinary mystery. However, Parker fans can look forward to future adventures with Sunny and Jesse as sleuthing and romantic partners.  This isn’t Parker’s best work, but it may be his most lighthearted. 07/06 Jack Quick

BLUE VALOR by Illona Haus: Baltimore Homicide Detectives Kay Delaney and Danny Finnerty are drawn into an investigation unlike any they have ever worked in Haus’ second Delaney adventure. They are called upon to solve a series of brutal crimes obviously committed by a madman who has left them a human heart calling card. Haus is already working on her third book, and if she can maintain the pace, we may well have a new V .I. Warshawski, but this one is on the force, not private. 03/06 Jack Quick

THE BLUE ZONE by Andrew Gross: After five co-author billings with James Patterson, Gross takes full credit for this thriller. Benjamin Raab is a dealer in jewels and fine metals in the Bronx who gets caught up in an FBI sting operation. He has been a participant, witting or unwitting, in a Colombian dug cartel money laundering scheme, and now the FBI demands his cooperation and testimony to avoid a twenty year prison sentence. Because this is occurring in the midst of a turf war amongst the Colombians, not only is Raab’s life at stake but also that of his family. Raab goes to prison, and his family, with the exception of Kate, a 23-year old medical researcher, go into the witness security program. A year later, Kate’s choice has kept her in danger and causes her to dig further into what her father had done and why. A bit heavy handed at times, Gross is definitely a talent and with some more experience, should be a first rate addition to the ranks of thriller writers on his own. 05/07 Jack Quick

BLUES IN THE NIGHT by Rochelle Krich:  This delightful mix of romance and suspense, charismatic characters that inspire interest set in the always quirky Los Angeles, made for a really good read.  Molly Blume is a Modern Orthodox divorced crime reporter with a couple of true crime books under her belt.  She has a family that is loving and close, but not too close, and a job that she loves.  When her high school sweetheart Zack Abrams dumped her, she moved on and in fact married, albeit badly.  But Zack comes back to town as the new Rabbi of Molly’s ex’s synagogue and before you can say Yenta, they are out on a date while Molly wonders if history is going to repeat itself.  Meanwhile, Molly is intrigued by a story of a hit and run that happened in a ritzy area of town during the middle of the night, but what intrigues her most is that the woman was hit while wearing a nightgown.  While she pursues her story, the Rabbi pursues her.  Krich was thoughtful enough to include a page of pronunciations for the Yiddish scattered throughout the book, but some of the explanations inserted into the story were distracting.  Despite that minor grievance, I thoroughly enjoyed this book reminiscent of early Faye Kellerman, and I’m looking forward to the next one in this new series. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BLUETICK REVENGE by Mark Cohen: When a couple parts ways, it’s always the dog that suffers. So why shouldn’t Pepper Keane steal Prince, champion bluetick hound from Bugg, the leader of a sadistic biker gang, after Bugg’s girlfriend, the dog’s co-owner, departs with three hundred grand of the gang’s loot. How could Keane possibly have thought he would end up with a price on his head with gangs from everywhere looking for him after he agrees to babysit the girlfriend until she can be entered into the Witness Protection Program. And since Keane is looking after the girlfriend, why not accept payment from Bugg to find her. Kind of a Robert B. Parker by way of Elmore Leonard caper story in Cohen’s second Pepper Keane work. A lot of fun. 12/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

BOBBIE FAYE’S (KINDA, SORTA, NOT EXACTLY) FAMILY JEWELS by Toni McGee Causey:  Bobbie Faye, the Contraband Queen and walking disaster of South Louisiana, is back and better than ever. Bobbie Faye’s latest adventure begins with a surprise visit from some of her nefarious cousins. It seems Bobbie Faye’s aunt, Marie, has gone missing with some diamonds and her estranged husband is willing to do just about anything to get them back – the diamonds, not necessarily his wife – and he’s not the only one, either. Homeland Security, gangsters, and Irish mafia all take shots at Bobbie Faye before too long, each group expressing their need to be the ones that Bobbie Faye makes her delivery to. Problem is, Bobbie Faye doesn’t have a clue what’s going on. Too bad for her, though, ‘cause no one is in any mood to listen. Where Bobbie Faye goes, disaster is sure to follow and this time she’s once again leaving behind her a trail of demolished property, terrified law enforcement agents, and bankrupt insurance companies. If you like the Stephanie Plum series, you’re going to love Bobbie Faye. She’s a tough and gutsy Cajun who’s not willing to take crap from anyone – I love it. Toni McGee Causey does for South Louisiana, and my hometown, what Janet E. does for the Garden State. Highly recommended. 06/08 Becky Lejeune

BOBBIE FAYE’S VERY (VERY, VERY, VERY) BAD DAY by Toni McGee Causey: Today, Bobbie Faye was supposed to be presiding over the opening ceremony at Contraband Days – a festival held in Lake Charles, Louisiana that plays on the pirate history of the area. Then she was scheduled to meet with Social Services to show that she is a fit guardian for her niece. Unfortunately, Bobbie Faye is a walking disaster. No, really. Bobbie Faye awakens to find that her trailer has flooded thanks to the washing machine her no-good brother was supposed to fix. Then Roy (the no-good brother) calls to say that he has been kidnapped and his captors are going to kill him unless Bobbie Faye delivers her mother’s tiara to them. Her mother, the unofficial Queen of Contraband Days, wore the tiara each year in the parade and passed both title and tiara onto her daughter when she died. Why anyone would want the tiara is a mystery to Bobbie Faye but she’ll do whatever it takes to save her brother. When Bobbie Faye goes to the bank to get the tiara out of her safety deposit box, she ends up being accused of robbing the bank. The real bank robbers steal the tiara and Bobbie Faye has to force a man at gunpoint to chase them down and it’s only 10 am. Before the day is over, Bobbie Faye will have to deal with car chases, explosions, gun runners and more than one pissed off ex-boyfriend. This hilarious debut is an absolute must read. I couldn’t stop laughing. Bobbie Faye is fantastic and fun. 05/07 Becky Lejeune

BOCA KNIGHTS by Steven M. Forman:  I couldn’t wait for this book because it was billed as a humorous suspense story set in Boca Raton, where I live.  It is humorous, in the “guy has conversations with his penis” sort of way, and it is set in Boca, but the suspense is secondary to the real story of a Boston cop who retires and moves to south Florida and has some trouble adjusting.  Eddie S. Perlmutter’s life story is the most interesting aspect to this book; grandson of a Russian with a mysterious past, blessed with a mysterious middle initial like his father that no one will explain, a mixed marriage – Eddie is Jewish and marries an Irish Catholic girl – and a decorated career on the North End of Boston, which means the Mafia makes brief appearances.  Then there is the south Florida/Boca Raton humor, reminiscent of Seinfeld – the cemetery that sells crypts and an after-life-style for upwards of a quarter of a million dollars, the country club politics, the early bird dinners.  But Forman doesn’t just poke fun at my hometown (and believe me, there is plenty to poke at), there is also subplot about the local cops and the good they do for the community.  So even though it wasn’t what I was expecting, it was a fast read, made me laugh and I’m looking forward to the sequel.  02/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BODIES LEFT BEHIND by Jeffery Deaver:  An interrupted 911 call leads Deputy Brynn McKenzie to the Lake Mondac weekend home of Steven and Emma Feldman.  What the rural police force doesn’t know is that Ms. Feldman is an attorney who has stumbled across major union corruption and consequently has been targeted by a professional hit man.  McKenzie survives the initial encounter with the two paid killers but loses her car, gun, and cell phone in process.  In exchange she acquires Michelle, the pampered city girl weekend house of the Feldman’s whose presence was a surprise to the two hit-men.  A lengthy cat and mouse chase ensues as the bad guys try to catch the good girls before they can get to help.  Not bad, but not up to Deaver’s usual standard.  It seemed padded and there was far too much information about Wisconsin woodlands, unless you plan to visit there later this spring. 02/09 Jack Quick

BODILY HARM by Robert Dugoni: David Slone is an attorney on the verge of winning a huge medical malpractice judgment against a pediatrician whose patient died. On his way into court, a crazed young man, Kyle Horgan, thrusts a folder into his hands saying that he’s the one who killed the child. Perplexed, Slone takes the folder and finds a design for a toy that is in pre-production testing. That folder makes Slone the target of an ex-CIA agent turned assassin, and Slone’s wife ends up murdered, thrusting his stepson into the middle of a nasty custody battle. Slone survives, determined to get his stepson back, but first he has revenge on his mind. Horgan disappears, the toy company is stonewalling trying to protect their potential moneymaker, and then another child dies, probably from the same toy. VERDICT: An intriguing premise incorporated with lots of action makes this a real page turner, but the courtroom is where the heart of this story lies. The combination of legal, corporate and even some political thrills will appeal to fans of Richard North Patterson and Joseph Finder. 05/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch. Copyright © 2010 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.  Reprinted with permission.

THE BODY BOX by Lynn Abecrombie: This is the first of two books by Walter Sorrells using this penname, featuring a feisty African-American detective Mechelle Deakes.  Let me say first that I am mildly claustrophobic and generally avoid “buried alive”, spelunking, scuba diving or submarine books.  I also avoid those that involve child abuse or animal abuse.  However, I made an exception in this case, and am glad I did. Abecrombie is an excellent writer and his character has a lot going for her.  Deakes has been demoted to the Atlanta Police Department’s cold case unit after getting busted for buying crack, and ends up working on a series of unsolved murders in the city and surrounding areas that date back to the ’80s. Each case involves children whose bodies exhibited unusual bone decalcification, the result of malnutrition. Deakes and her shady partner, Lt. Hank Gooch are determined to solve the case. How they get there is a great police procedural. Recommended. 06/09 Jack Quick

BODY COUNT by P.D. Martin: Not a bad book at all, but overall it was slightly disappointing. When Sophie Anderson came from Australia to Washington, DC to attend FBI profiler training, she fully intended to return to her native Australia where she might even be able to uncover some evidence from the childhood murder of her brother.  However, her psychic powers quickly set her apart from her peers and led to an immediate job offer with the FBI. Now six months into her stint with the Behavioral Analysis Unit, in Quantico, Anderson gets assigned to the baffling D.C. Slasher case after Samantha “Sam” Wright, Sophie’s friend and fellow profiler, becomes one of the victims.   Complicating the situation is FBI agent Josh Marco, who may have past links to the D.C. Slasher, and who may also have romantic designs on Anderson.  Now for the bad part.  I know it would be impossible for me to accurately write anything about Melbourne or Sydney or any other Australian city, so the fact that Australian author Martin gets so much right in this book, make the few errors quite glaring and enough to “take me out” of the story. Two examples – I-95 runs through Washington, not I-75, and US television stations do not have numbers in their call signs, i.e. WX40-TV should be something like WXRA-TV.   For someone unfamiliar with Washington, these might fly right by, but for me, it became a problem. With that caveat, I do recommend the book and refuse to divulge the ending. 09/09 Jack Quick

BODY WORK by Sara Paretsky: Chicago PI V.I. Warshawski is back in her 14th adventure which focuses on her cousin Petra, the local avant-garde art scene, and a performance artist Karen Buckley (aka the Body Artist) who invites members of the audience to step on stage to paint her nude body.  Chad Vishneski, a troubled Iraqi war veteran, is disturbed by the performance and so when two nights later someone shoots the woman who upset Chad outside the club, Chad is the logical murder suspect.  Chad’s estranged parents hire Warshawski to clear their son’s name and V.I. soon finds her path stretching from Windy City’s neighborhoods to Gulf War battlefields. Anger seems to be the dominant theme though out the book although a new love interest and on-going encounters with her aging neighbor provide some needed relief.  Having just finished Barbara Fister’s Through The Cracks with her Chicago P.I. Anni Koskinen, I would love to see them pair up on a case. 10/10 Jack Quick

BOMBSHELL by Barbara and Max Allan Collins:  Max Collins has been one of my favorite authors for a long time.  In BOMBSHELL, Collins and his wife offer an extraordinary what if? look into history.  In 1959, Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev comes to the U.S. to address the UN and meet with President Eisenhower.  The other two things he wants to do are visit the new Disneyland and meet Marilyn Monroe.  The mercurial Khrushchev is delighted with his Monroe meeting but incensed when his Disneyland trip is cancelled.  Marilyn helps hatch a plan to protect “Nikki,” who winds up getting his Disneyland visit after all–and with a very comely guide.  While aspects of the book read like a Doris Day movie of the era, it is all played out before the backdrop of nuclear annihilation.  If you lived through those times, you will never forget the Civil Defense films, the fallout shelters, and the very real fear that one miscalculation could send the world over the brink.  Definitely a different read and recommended. 05/09 Jack Quick

BOND GIRL by Erin Duffy: Erin Duffy’s hilarious debut offers an inside look at Wall Street from a woman’s perspective. Sure it may have seemed odd that Alex Garrett set her sights on a finance job at such a young age, but it was a goal that she stuck with. Straight out of college, Alex lands a sweet job at Cromwell Pierce, one of the biggest and best firms on Wall Street. She knows she’ll have to work her way up from the bottom, but nothing could have prepared her for the reality of the industry. From distasteful chauvinistic antics, to crazy college-style pranks, and even one cheesy punishment for showing up late, Alex experiences the worst the finance world has to offer. But the high rolling investors, late night parties, and camaraderie with her team may just help balance out the bad. While Duffy’s debut felt a bit lean on the development, it’s an amusing and quick read a la The Devil Wears Prada. The Wall Street setting makes it a bit unique and Alex is a character readers will root for all the way. 3/12 Becky Lejeune KINDLE

THE BONE HOUSE by Brian Freeman: Mark Bradley has already been accused of one crime: having a sexual relationship with one of his teenage students. Despite his claims of innocence and the girl’s own insistence that nothing happened, Bradley’s reputation has been completely blown. He’s lost his job and the townspeople aren’t ready to forget the stories they’ve heard. So when the same girl’s sister is murdered at a hotel where Mark and his wife are vacationing, he again comes under scrutiny. Hilary Bradley believes her husband is innocent, but even she has to admit that the timing and the evidence are bad. Unwilling to give up, the two know that they have to find out what really happened in order to clear Mark’s name. Freeman, known for his Jonathan Stride series, changes gears a bit with this standalone, introducing new characters but maintaining his signature plot twists, always sure to keep readers guessing until the end. 03/11 Becky Lejeune

THE BONE POLISHER by Timothy Hallinan:  Simeon Grist is a Los Angeles private detective who his beginning to sense his own mortality.   In this sixth outing, Grist is trying to solve the mystery of a serial killer whose victims are all gay.  Grist’s ostensible client is dying of AIDS and one of the few “non-suspects” in the murder of a 77 year-old former actor.  Grist gets beaten up by both the cops and bad guys but eventually solves the crime.  Nicely done, more than the usual PI tale, with its look at the meaning of age in a youth-obsessed and media-saturated culture.  Recommended.  11/08 Jack Quick

BONES BURIED DEEP by Max Allan Collins:  Based on the television show created from Kathy Reichs’ book series – Special Agent Seeley Booth is missing a confidential informant when he receives a “bag of bones”, literally a wired together skeleton dumped on the steps of the Chicago federal building.  Tempe quickly establishes that the remains come from not one but four different corpses.  A suspected serial killer is taken into custody but as Booth’s missing informant case heats up with violence and bloody discoveries, a tie to one of Chicago’s most notorious and gruesome killers emerges.  Tempe’s life is at stake now to find the solution. 07/06 Jack Quick

BONES OF BETRAYAL by Jefferson Bass: Collaborators Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson return with their latest in the Body Farm series. In this fourth installment, readers may be surprised to find that Dr. Bill Brockton’s forensic anthropology skills take a bit of a backseat. Instead, it is nearby Oak Ridge and the town’s history with the Manhattan Project that shine. It begins with the discovery of a body frozen in a hotel swimming pool. Brockton helps to recover the remains and they find that the man has died as a result of deadly radiation poisoning thanks to a tiny iridium pellet in the man’s guts, a pellet still packed with enough radiation to have near fatal results on the medical examiner working on the body. Brockton goes along as the investigators on the case search the dead man’s house hoping to find something that will lead to the killer. They are shocked, however, when the search leads to evidence of yet another murder, only this one is from he 1940s. At they try to unravel the two cases, they find that everything leads back to the secrets that are woven around Oak Ridge and the facility involved with creating the world’s deadliest weapon. I loved this book. As with the other books in the series, the science in this book is the star, and it’s absolutely fascinating.  02/09 Becky Lejeune

BONESHAKER by Cherie Priest: Steampunk, according to Wikipedia, is an offshoot of fantasy and sci-fi that takes place in a time “where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century and often Victorian era England.” And it’s everywhere. It’s in books, movies, and video games, and I’ll bet most people don’t recognize it. But it’s fantastic. Boneshaker is the first in Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century steampunk world. In this alternate history, 1880s Seattle has been destroyed by a giant drill called Dr. Blue’s Incredible Boneshaking Drill Engine. It was designed to make gold mining in the northwest easier. Instead, its fateful first run tore through the city, releasing a gas that infected any and all in its path, transforming people into the walking dead. The thick cloud of Blight, as the yellow gas is called, was effectively cut off with the wall that now surrounds the city. Briar Wilkes and her son, Zeke, live outside the wall, haunted by their connection to Blue. But Zeke has found a way into the city and is determined to clear his father’s name. And now Briar will once again have to face her past, and the place that was once her home, in order to save her son before it’s too late. Priest is an excellent storyteller. A definite must read for anyone and everyone, sci-fi fan or no. From cover to cover, readers will find themselves entranced and wholly engaged by Briar’s journey to find her son. 12/09 Becky Lejeune

BONEYARD by Michelle Gagnon:  FBI special agent Kelly Jones was all set to go on vacation when she was asked to look into a possible serial killer case on the Appalachian Trail in Vermont and Massachusetts.  The case is complicated because both officers from both states are involved and definitely do not see eye to eye.  It appears initially that the victims are all male prostitutes.  But these problems pale when it becomes apparent that there is a copycat killer at work as well.  Nicely plotted and interesting all the way to the end as Kelly races to save more victims from the bone yard.  10/08 Jack Quick

BONEYARD by Michelle Gagnon:  FBI agent Kelly Jones is back in an explosive follow-up to last year’s The Tunnels. Jones is about to embark on a much needed vacation when she is assigned to head up an investigation in Massachusetts. It seems a mass grave has been discovered in a state park and remains are found strewn across the Vermont border. It’s up to Jones to determine whether this is an interstate crime and if the feds should take over altogether. Unfortunately for Kelly, some of the locals seem to be less than cooperative in the case. Complicating matters further is the fact that ever since the events of The Tunnels, Kelly is finding that her motivation and passion for her job have been waning. She eventually determines that the locals can handle the case with just some coordinating help and decides to stick around until the end. The case takes an odd turn, however, with the discovery of even more bodies, and the team determines that they may be dealing with not one, but two serial killers. The question becomes this: can Kelly keep it together long enough to unravel the truth, or will these two mad men add even more victims to their growing lists. I find Kelly Jones to be one of the most captivating new characters in mystery. Her colored past and her emotional struggles, combined with the fact that she’s feisty and smart as hell, make her very real and easy to sympathize with. With just two books behind her, Michelle Gagnon has already proven herself to be one of the strongest new voices to the genre. Her characters and her intelligent plots make for truly addictive reading that will keep you awake long after midnight. 07/08 Becky Lejeune

BOOBY TRAP by Sue Ann Jaffarian:  Gentlemen prefer blondes and so does the serial killer labeled the Blonde Bomber who has already claimed four victims, all well-endowed long legged attractive flaxen haired ladies.  Odelia Grey, the plus sized middle aged sleuth, is ambushed first by a messy chicken parmigiana sub and then by her luncheon companion’s bombshell of her own.  For reasons she won’t go into, Lillian suspects her son, Dr. Brian Eddy, plastic surgeon to the rich and famous, is possibly the serial killer?  Odelia would never have suspected Dr. Eddy, but now that his name has come up, she decides to stick her big nose into the case, but not until she attacks the marinara stains on he blue blouse.  New husband Greg and dog Wainwright, friends Zee and Seth, Detective Dev Frye, and her boss Mike Steele, all get involved in this, her most complex case yet.  So warm up the mac and cheese and get settled in. After all, it isn’t every day a 2x lady gets measured for an XXXX stripper’s outfit. 03/09 Jack Quick

THE BOOK OF AIR AND SHADOWS by Michael Gruber: Fire damage at an antiquarian bookstore leads to what could be the most important literary discovery of all time in this new intellectual thriller by Gruber. When aspiring film student Albert Crosetti and his coworker Carolyn Rolly take home some damaged merchandise from Sidney Glaser Rare Books with orders to break the books and save the prints for sale, they never expected that it would land them in a whirlwind of trouble and intrigue. The two find a group of letters hidden in the binding of one of the books written by a man named Bracegirdle who claims to have spied on William Shakespeare. In these letters, his final correspondence to his wife, he claims to have knowledge of a hidden manuscript written by Shakespeare himself. The timeline of the letters seems to suggest that this could be a previously unknown play. Crosetti realizes that he is sitting on a potential goldmine and at Carolyn’s suggestion brings the letters to a well-known Shakespeare expert for authentification. Crosetti comes to believe that he and Carolyn could be in some serious trouble as a result of their discovery, and he agrees to sell the Bracegirdle letter to the man. Fortunately, he keeps a copy along with the remaining documents, some ciphered letters that also accompanied this letter to Bracegirdle’s wife. Said Shakespeare expert then takes the letter to Intellectual Property lawyer Jake Mishkin. Soon, the expert is found tortured and killed and Mishkin finds himself being threatened by Russian mafia. Gruber, who was once the ghostwriter for Robert Tanenbaum, made his own debut on the thriller scene with the Jimmy Paz trilogy (Tropic of Night.) This new release further proves that he truly is a brilliant and original voice that deserves to be recognized. 04/07 Becky Lejeune

THE BOOK OF FATE by Brad Meltzer: A word of caution: don’t start this book unless you have time to finish it – you won’t be able to put it down.  Wes Holloway is a young, cocky rising political star and aid to the President of the United States, until an assassination attempt is made.  President Manning is unhurt, but his deputy chief of staff, Ron Boyle, is killed, and Holloway takes a bullet to the face.  He survives but is permanently disfigured, both physically and emotionally.  And that’s just the opener.  Things become more complicated some years later when Holloway surprises an intruder who appears to be none other than the dead Ron Boyle. Throw in a psychotic murderer who believes the Freemasons have plotted to kill his mother and some unsavory political types, if you can imagine such a thing, and honey, the plot thickens.  The Book of Fate is a fast paced, suspenseful novel of political intrigue that will keep you on the edge of your seat until you turn the last page. And don’t forget to read the author’s note at the end, it’s fascinating.  Note for south Floridians –  see if you can find the reference to the popular morning radio show hosts, Paul and Young Ron.  09/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

A BOOK OF HORRORS, edited by Stephen Jones: This latest anthology edited by Stephen Jones features all new, original stories from the likes of Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Michael Marshall Smith, John Ajvide Lindqvist, and a slew of others. In Peter Crowther’s “Ghosts With Teeth” a couple returns home to find something strange is happening in their little town. A father and son experience terror like no other in John Ajvide Lindqvist’s “The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer.” A recently widowed man returns to England in hopes of connecting with his dead wife’s past in Elizabeth Hand’s “Near Zennor” and a nurse discovers pain can be a real monster in Stephen King’s “The Little Green God of Agony.” From ghosts and monsters to other dimensions, these fourteen tales return to the roots of horror. This is one of the best horror collections I’ve read in a while. An absolute must have for any horror fan, and one that will definitely leave you in the mood for more. 9/12 Becky Lejeune

THE BOOK OF ILLUMINATION by Mary Ann Winkowski and Maureen Foley: Anza O’Malley has a very special talent: she can see and speak to the dead. She’s recently left that life behind, however, and has been focusing her attentions on being a good mother and working as a bookbinder. When a friend of a friend, a fellow bookbinder, calls with a problem, though, Anza agrees to meet with her and see what she can do to help. The woman in question is working on restoring some books from a collection belonging to the estate of a recently deceased man. Much of the collection is being housed at the Anathaeum, in Boston, and one book in particular seems to have come with some unexpected bonus material. The bookbinder believes that the tome is a very valuable illustrated piece called The Book of Kildare, and it seems that the monks originally responsible for creating the book are now haunting the Anathaeum. Anza is sure that she can help them cross over, but the text is stolen before she is able to do anything. Now she will have to help find the manuscript before it is sold on the black market, or worse, destroyed and sold off in pieces. The Book of Illumination is the first in a new series coauthored by Winkowski—producer and basis for the Ghost Whisperer tv show—and Foley. A light mystery with a paranormal twist, and overall a very enjoyable read.  11/09 Becky Lejeune

THE BOOK OF LIES by Brad Meltzer:  Brad Meltzer has been one of my favorite thriller writers since his first book, The Tenth Justice, which still ranks as one of the best legal thrillers out there.  He’s done other things, like graphic novels, and with The Book of Lies, he combines his interest in the two into a fascinating story that spans history as we know it. He raises questions and seeks answers; we all know Cain slew Abel, but what was the murder weapon?  And is the mark of Cain necessarily a bad thing?  Swing ahead to the 1930’s when Jerry Siegel’s father was shot to death, yet the case was never solved and the murder weapon never found.  The traumatized Siegel created the world’s first bullet-proof man, who we all know as Superman.  And then to today, when Cal Harper drives around Fort Lauderdale helping the homeless.  One stop brings Cal face to face with the father he’s hasn’t seen since he was a child, when his father was convicted of killing his mother.  Meltzer manages to tie these stories together along with a hard look at father/son relationships in a fascinating read that is more mystery than thriller, more psychological than just action-packed. The Book of Lies is an unforgettable tale from a very gifted storyteller. I couldn’t put it down.  09/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BOOK OF LIES by Brad Meltzer:  Ever wonder what Superman and Cain have to do with one another? Brad Meltzer’s latest ties the two together in one strange but entertaining thriller. It seems that Superman co-creator Jerry Seigel’s father died under somewhat mysterious circumstance in 1932. The case was never solved but proved to be the inspiration for Book of Lies. Calvin Harper is not an avid Superman collector but when his father, last seen by Cal nineteen years ago, turns up having been shot and carrying a delivery that yields a very rare copy of the first ever Superman comic, Cal decides that this is one adventure he must follow through to the end – especially since it could mean clearing his own name in regards to the murder of a federal agent. A fun twist of superhero lore and Biblical history. 09/08 Becky Lejeune

THE BOOK OF LOST FRAGRANCES by M.J. Rose: The L’Etoile family has been a well-known name in the perfume business for generations. Now, it has fallen to siblings Jac and Robbie to save the company from disastrous failure. Their father has lost his mind and the debts have been piling up for years. Jac is certain the only solution is to sell two of their signature scents, but Robbie believes he could be onto a breakthrough that will not only save them, but also put the L’Etoile name back at the forefront of the industry. Before he can convince Jac and complete his work, Robbie disappears and a dead body is discovered in his workroom. Now it’s up to Jac to find her brother and maybe unravel a mystery that’s lasted through generations of L’Etoiles. The Book of Lost Fragrances continues the series begun with The Reincarnationist but can also be read as a stand alone. As always, Rose’s attention to detail and research is clear. From ancient Egypt and the Tibetan belief system to the French catacombs and the history of perfumes, each element of the book is fascinating and adds to the overall depth of the plot. 4/12 Becky Lejeune

THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS by John Connolly: It is 1939 and David’s mother has finally succumbed to a disease that has ravaged her body for years. Shortly thereafter, David’s father remarries and moves himself and his son into his new wife’s home. Within a year, David is a big brother. Something strange and secret also happens to David this year. David has always been intrigued and enthralled by books; his favorite books of all are fairy stories. Now, he can hear them speak. Each and every book in existence has a voice and only David can hear them. He also begins to black out for no apparent reason. One night, David follows his mother’s voice into the garden. He soon finds himself in a land where trees bleed and wolfmen roam, where twisted versions of his favorite fairy tales live and breathe. This fairy tale for adults, similar in some cases to The Wizard of Oz, makes for a magical and entertaining story. The book also contains some revamped versions of classic fairy tales and I can honestly say that I will never look at Little Red Riding Hood the same again. 12/06 Becky LeJeune

THE BOOK OF TOMORROW by Cecelia Ahern: Tamara Goodwin’s life has been completely turned upside down. Her father is dead and her mother has retreated into herself, sleeping all day and barely talking at all. They have even lost their home and have been forced to move to the country to live with Tamara’s aunt and uncle. When a mobile library stops by one day, Tamara picks out a book for distraction. But this book isn’t any regular book. It’s a diary—a diary that begins to show Tamara her future, one day at a time. Tamara discovers that it’s within her power to change that future… if she chooses to do so. Cecelia Ahern can always be relied on to deliver a great story. This one was a little different than I’d expected. Some of her past books have had the same touch of magic, but Book of Tomorrow was a little darker than I’ve seen from Ahern before. No less fantastic, though. I especially loved the teen protagonist. 1/11 Becky Lejeune

BOOKED TO DIE by John Dunning:  This is a fascinating look at the rare book business with murders thrown in to make in even more interesting.  First in a series featuring cop-turned-bookseller Cliff Janeway.  Next up: The Bookman’s Wake. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BORDER LORDS by T. Jefferson Parker: This week in Birmingham, Alabama two police officers were found not guilty of violating a felon’s civil rights for actions taken when they arrested him after a half hour plus high speed chase through the city which included almost wrecking a school bus loaded with children and striking a police officer with his van while the officer was attempting to place spike strips on the Interstate (the policeman lived with two broken legs and likely an end to his career, the felon is serving 20 years for that part of the episode).  ATF undercover agent Sean Ozburn, a close friend of LS sheriff’s deputy Charlie Hood, may have a more difficult time in convincing the jury.  After 15 months undercover, Ozborn has apparently gone rouge, invading a safe house under ATF surveillance and killing four young North Baja Cartel gunmen. Ozborn’s wife shares with Hood e-mails that indicate her husband “has been called by GOD to fulfill a MISSION” and indicates he may have begun taking performance enhancing drugs. Hood knows he has to bring Ozburn in, but his efforts are complicated by the wife’s attempting to save her husband. The porousness of the U.S.-Mexico border and the ease with which guns, drugs, and killers pass back and forth is nowhere better illustrated than in Parker’s Charlie Hood series. Although other writers have amply covered the drug trade, no one that I am aware of has addressed corollary gun issue to the extent of Parker. An excellent read, although it reinforces the fact that there is little hope the Mexican drug trade will be contained anytime in the near future when it is Mexico’s largest economic activity, supported by a thriving US contribution in the form  of weapons and drug users. 02/11 Jack Quick

THE BORN QUEEN by Greg Keyes: The fourth and final installment in Keyes’s epic Kingdom of Thorn and Bone series is here and all will finally be revealed. Anne Dare has taken the throne and declared war on the church and all of its followers leaving her own mother hostage at the hands of the neighboring kingdom of Hansa whose ruler has been harboring the usurper Robert. The natural law and order of death has been broken and Leoff and his young pupil Mery must try and set things right and in order to help defeat Anne’s enemies. Meanwhile, Cazio the swordsman, has discovered that opposing forces have infiltrated the kingdom without Anne’s knowledge. Aspar, the King’s woodsman has been fighting mythical beasts that have been unleashed in the forests, and Stephen, the scholar, has finally uncovered the ancient diary of Anne’s ancestor, the first queen, Virgenya. All of their discoveries could help Anne finally restore peace to her kingdom. Prophecies foretold ages ago are finally coming to be as this amazing fantasy series comes to its end. Mythology, political machinations, action and adventure, and fantastical beasts – this series has it all. Keyes handles his multi-layered plot with ease, shifting from character to character without losing steam and always maintaining their individual voices. It’s easy, even for non-fantasy readers, to get completely sucked into these books. Epic fantasy has never been better. 03/08 Becky Lejeune

BORN TO RUN by James Grippando:  Miami criminal defense lawyer Jack Swyteck gets caught in a dangerous web of intrigue and murder at the top levels of the United States government in his most high-profile and disturbing case yet.  Son of two-term Florida governor Harry Swyteck, much of Swyteck’s life is public knowledge, in spite of Jack’s efforts to maintain some family secrets.  When Harry’s friend, the vice president of the United States, goes hunting for alligators in the Everglades and winds up dead, the president positions Harry to be his new VP.  In spite of some previous family discord, Harry immediately asks Jack to be his lawyer.  The prestige that comes from the job turns lethal, however, when Jack finds himself at the heart of a complicated cover-up that spans nearly fifty years and the globe.  The very life of the President of the United States is at risk.  A real page-turner. 01/09 Jack Quick

THE BORROWER by Rebecca Makkai: This is a quirky debut novel about a children’s librarian in Hannibal, Missouri. Lucy Hull graduates from college with a degree in English, and isn’t entirely sure what she wants to do with her life. She ends up in this job courtesy of a fellow alumni, and really seems to enjoy her job. She is especially fond of Ian, a ten year old boy who is a voracious reader. He also seems to strike most adults as a child most likely to grow up homosexual, which upsets his fundamentalist Christian mother. She takes him to Pastor Bob for classes in preventing the “gayness,” which upsets Lucy to no end. The mom also restricts Ian’s reading to avoiding books about “Satanism…adult content matter…authors like Harry Potter” [sic]. Lucy helps Ian sneak out books that he actually wants to read by checking them out on her own card while he hides them down his pants. Eventually, Ian decides to run away and of course he ends up at the library, where he basically blackmails Lucy into helping him. They hit the road for a surreal trip which is highlighted by the author’s liberal insertions of familiar prose – she rewrites children’s classics like The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Goodnight, Moon so that the words are hers and fit this story, but the cadence is immediately recognizable to parents and children’s librarians. I read this book in one sitting, often laughing out loud and reading bits out loud to my family. I thoroughly enjoyed this and heartily recommend it to children’s librarians and booksellers everywhere. 12/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BOSTON NOIR 2 (THE CLASSICS) edited by Dennis Lehane: Who better than Mr. Lehane to edit an anthology of stories about his native Boston – and what stories there are. A rare gem from Robert B. Parker featuring an early adventure of Spenser, joined by an outing of Carolotta Carlyle (Linda Barnes cop-turned-private detective). Add in Joyce Carole Oates, David Foster Wallace and George V. Higgins, among others, and you have an outstanding collection from Akashic. 1/13 Jack Quick

BOUND by Sally Gunning: In 2006’s The Widow’s War, Gunning introduced readers to Lyddie Berry, a woman whose husband is killed in a whaling accident. The book takes place in eighteenth century New England and Berry, a woman who craves independence in a time when women were supposed to be quiet and submissive, is a compelling character. Berry and Freeman, her lawyer companion, appear again in Bound. This is not their story, though. Bound is about Alice Cole, a girl who is traded into indentured servitude at the age of seven. Her contract is to end when she is eighteen, and she is to be taught to read and taken care of by her master until that time. At first, things are not so bad and Alice is treated like one of the family. When she is fifteen, Alice is given to her master’s daughter and son-in-law. Alice is abused by both her new master and mistress and finds herself faced with two options, stay and endure it, or run. She chooses to run and soon makes the acquaintance of Berry and Freeman. Berry takes her in and gives her a job, but Alice’s new peaceful existence soon comes to a very dramatic end. Set amidst the turmoil of the beginnings of the American Revolution, Gunning again brings to the forefront the issue of women’s rights, or lack thereof, in colonial America as well as that of indentured servitude, and rape. A moving read filled with captivating characters. 04/08 Becky Lejeune

BOX 21 by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom:  Some of the words evoked by this book are – ruthless, cruel, cold, despair.  I didn’t enjoy it so much as I survived it.  Yes it is well written.  The characters are very lifelike, too much so, in some cases, in this U.S. debut of addiction, sexual abuse, physical and psychological abuse, and revenge set in Stockholm’s seedy underworld.  The protagonist is Ewert Grens, a veteran detective whose police officer wife is an invalid due to the actions of one notorious criminal Jochum Lang, whom Grens vows to put away for life.  Meanwhile, the detective arrives at a crime scene where a teenage prostitute, Lydia Grajauskas, has been nearly beaten to death by her Russian pimp.  Throw in Hilding Oldeus, a junkie, and Lydia’s friend Alena who, like Lydia, was lured from Lithuania to Sweden only to become sex slaves, and you have a cast that would depress a saint.  I would recommend this one only on a bright sunshiny summer day. In the dead of winter it could be devastating. 11/09 Jack Quick

THE BOY FROM REACTOR 4 by Orest Stelmach: This debut thriller takes the reader from New York to the Ukraine. Nadia Tesler is an immigrant’s daughter, and while she is fluent in the language, she is not close with her mother, and lost her father as a young teenager. All she remembers of him is a perpetually angry man, and she knows nothing of her family background. A stranger contacts her saying he knew her father well and they arrange a meeting, but he is shot dead on the street in front of her, whispering a cryptic message in her ear as he dies. She quickly realizes her own life is in danger, and sets out on a quest to decipher the message, learn some of her family history and keep one jump ahead of whoever is after her. It isn’t until she visits her ancestral homeland that she really starts deciphering her family story.  She meets Adam, a young hockey star who grew up skating at Chernobyl and suffers from radiation syndrome, but has a secret that many want – and will kill to get. This is a fast ride with lots of thrills and will appeal to adrenaline junkies.  3/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2013 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.

THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS by John Boyne: Ostensibly a book for young adults, it is nonetheless a powerful story for all readers; in fact, I’m not sure children would even get all the subtleties and nuances of this story.  The title gives a hint as to the substance of the book, it is a Holocaust story, but it is told from the perspective of a nine-year-old German boy named Bruno.  Bruno’s father is a high ranking military officer and they live in luxury in Berlin.  One night the “Fury” comes to dinner, and Bruno’s life is turned upside down when his father receives a promotion to Commandant and the family is forced to move to “Out-With”.  They live in an isolated house and a tutor is brought in for Bruno and his sister.  But from his window Bruno can see a barbed-wire fence surrounding a large area that he assumes to be a farm. Eventually, even though he is forbidden from doing so, his boredom and loneliness drive him to explore his surroundings.  He follows along the fence and finds a young boy sitting on the other side, wearing striped pajamas and no shoes.  Separated by barbed wire, Bruno and the boy, Shmuel, start talking and find they have much in common.  They are the same age, in fact they share the same birthday, and they become friends through the fence.  But to tell more of the story would be doing the book a disservice. For it is in the telling of the story, in the way it unfolds, that completely captures the imagination and the heart, yet it is a maleficent, devastating story that is finally unfurled.  It is a book to be read in one sitting, then shared.  It is a book that has haunted me since I read it a few months ago, and I suspect will haunt me for quite some time to come.  09/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BOYOS by Richard Marinick:  Jack “Wacko” Curran and his coked-out brother, Kevin, work for mob boss Marty Fallon, wholesaling drugs to a network of area dealer in and around “Southie,” South Boston’s working-class Irish-American enclave.  Local “boyos” like Curran resent the steady influx of young working professionals, who are gentrifying the area and pricing the old-time residents out.  Jack dreams of replacing Fallon and figures that the bankroll from the armored-car heist he’s planning will put him on his way.  What he doesn’t know is that Danny King, Curran’s getaway driver, has spilled the beans to Fallon.  Meanwhile, the police are systematically raiding the Irish mob joints in Southie and the Italians are hungry for revenge.  Written by a one-time Southie gang member and ex-con, you can cut the tension with a knife.  It’s not Robert B. Parker, but it’s in the neighborhood. 02/07 Jack Quick

THE BRACELET by Roberta Gately: Gately brings her real life as a humanitarian aid worker and nurse into the realm of fiction in the guise of United Nations nurse Abby Howell. She is on her way to her first assignment in Peshawar, Pakistan but has a layover in Geneva first.  There she witnesses a woman falling to her death, but the body is gone when the police arrive. Abby is haunted by the woman’s death, especially of the distinctive bejeweled bracelet on the dead woman’s arm.  She arrives in Peshawar to track statistics on the UN vaccination program, but quickly meets a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, who is supposedly there to interview the American nurse braving the politically unstable Pakistan. In reality, he is there to write an expose about human trafficking, a horrific story but one that may have been better served by the author showing instead of just telling.  There is a tepid romance between the reporter and the nurse, and just enough suspense to keep the pages turning, but it is the realities of life in Pakistan that is at the heart of this story. 11/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2012 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission

BRANDENBURG by Glenn Meade: Originally published in May of 1998 and now reissued in a paperback edition, the background and circumstances depicted in the original hardcover are more in keeping with today’s economic and political conditions than in 1998. Against the backdrop of world wide economic problems, joblessness, monetary crisis and political unrest, Joseph Volkmann, an international policeman is given the name of a German reporter, Erica Kranz, as the person that has information concerning murders he is investigating in different parts of the world. Volkmann contacts Erica who willingly tells him what she knows about the crimes and asks that he investigate the murder of her cousin in Asuncion, Paraguay. Volkmann obliges and with her aid begins the lengthy process of uncovering what is in reality an amazingly well thought out plot to change the political situation in the world. Meade delivers the scenario of this plot for the reader in a crescendo of events taking place in many different countries in South America, Europe and the United States. There are no haphazard twists and turns to the story, but a logical series of related events leading to one of the most amazing climaxes possible. This is a work of fiction, but it will be impossible for anyone reading it not to immediately recognize conditions described with actualities of today. That romantic feelings develop between Volkmann and Erica is certainly expected, and may allow future books based on International crime and detection to pair them again and will be welcomed by anyone reading Brandenburg. 4/13 Paul Lane

THE BRASS VERDICT by Michael Connelly:  Connelly is probably the best crime fiction writer today, and somehow he just keeps getting better and better.  Fans of his long running Harry Bosch series were nonetheless enthralled when he wrote The Lincoln Lawyer, more of a legal thriller featuring a new character, Mickey Haller.  But close readers and long time fans realized that there was a relationship between Haller and Bosch, and in The Brass Verdict, these two characters come face to face, on opposite sides of the table of course.  Haller has been laying low, recovering from a painkiller addiction and is tentatively stepping back into the law business when he inherits a high profile murder case; Walter Elliot is a Hollywood movie mogul accused of murdering his wife and her lover.  Elliot’s lawyer, Jerry Vincent, is murdered and Haller is appointed to replace him.  Harry Bosch is on the case of the murdered lawyer and Haller & Bosch get to know one another.  Great characters and a fast paced yet complex storyline keep the pages flying in this second Haller book and fourteenth Bosch book.  Great fun and a great read.  10/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BRASS VERDICT by Michael Connelly:  I work in the newspaper business and am eagerly anticipating reading Connelly’s latest – SCARECROW  featuring Jack McEvoy, the LA Times reporter from THE POET who is being downsized from his job.  That is the reality of being in the newspaper business today. I have enjoyed all of Connelly’s previous Harry Bosch efforts but feel that THE LINCOLN LAWYER, with Mickey Haller, may have, in fact been his best ever.  Now, Mickey Haller is back.  His friend and fellow attorney Jerry Vincent is murdered, and Mickey inherits all Vincent’s cases, including a career-maker: the trial of a studio executive accused of killing his wife and her lover. Imagine my delight 46 pages in to learn that, in fact, Harry Bosch is the detective working the Vincent murder, and then on page 59, guess who shows up?  Jack McEvoy.  To say much more might introduce plot spoilers.  Let me just say if you enjoy good legal thrillers, this one is for you.  If you like police procedurals this one is for you.  If you like good writing, this one is for you.  If you like interesting characters, well, you get the point. 06/09 Jack Quick

BRAVA, VALENTINE by Adriana Trigiani: This is the fabulous sequel to last year’s wonderful Very Valentine. Trigiani says she tries to write each book to also stand alone, and I think she succeeds to a point, but these characters are so much richer for having known their history with the first book. Valentine Roncalli has a struggling shoe business that receives a life-saving infusion when her brother Alfred becomes her partner. Neither is thrilled with the deal, but it is what it is and they get to work on growing the family business. Along the way Valentine finds a long lost family member in Buenos Aires, and there’s another trip to Tuscany as well for the globe trotting shoemaker. Love is in the air from an unlikely source, but love doesn’t happen easily for Valentine, and that leaves the door wide open for the next book in this series; sad to say we have to wait another year for that. Meanwhile, grab up this captivating, fun and funny family story and enjoy every page. It’s truly a delight. 02/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BRAZEN BRIDE by Stephanie Laurens:  This is book 3 of the “Black Cobra” series set during the early 1800’s in England. Not sure why I picked this up as I’m just not a fan of romance novels, but I feel like I should try them every now and then. The basic premise of the book is that Linnet Trevission, a gorgeous woman who lost both her parents and inherited all their property and businesses, likes to save people, so when Logan Monteith literally washes up on Guernsey’s shore, Linnet nurses him back to health, healing his wound and his amnesia. Before that happens, Linnet decides he should repay her hospitality by teaching her about sex. Yes, she turns our hero into her sex toy.  The first half of the book alternated between daily activities and nightly passion. Finally he remembers he’s on a dangerous mission, and off he goes, taking Linnet along. She is the most emancipated, independent 1800’s woman, and meets several more like-minded women on her journey. Meanwhile Logan and Linnet fall in love after having all that amazing sex, and they get their happily ever after. I always thought part of the romance formula was that there is supposed to be some sort of impediment to that happening, but it was so weak as to be pretty much nonexistent. The cliff hanger ending, and I use the term loosely, has nothing to do with their romance, but rather with this “Black Cobra” insanity, all of which was pretty boring and repetitive and will be forthcoming this fall in the next book of the series. The sex was hot but the book was not. 07/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BREACH OF TRUST by David Ellis: Dirty politics, Chicago style, is front and center in this sequel to Ellis’s acclaimed series debut, The Hidden Man. Jason Kolarich, still grieving the loss of his wife and baby daughter in a car accident, decides to pursue what happened that night; he feels guilty that he wasn’t with his family because he was waiting for a call from Ramirez, an informant. Ramirez was also killed that night, and Kolarich decides that solving that case may bring him some peace. He starts digging and, through a former client, finds his way into a lucrative contract as a state attorney to get closer to the files he needs. The next thing he knows, he’s in the middle of an FBI investigation of the governor. Forced into a position he never sought, Kolarich turns informant as he works his way into the governor’s innermost circle while searching for Ramirez’s killer. VERDICT The reality of ex-Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich’s trial (Ellis was the impeachment prosecutor) lends credibility to this intense, suspenseful tale set in a political cesspool. Ellis has turned out a sharp political thriller that should appeal to fans of David Baldacci and Vince Flynn. 02/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2011 Library Journal, a division of Media Source Inc.  Reprinted with permission.

BREACH OF TRUST by D. W. Buffa: San Francisco trial lawyer Joseph Antonelli.  is approached by former classmate Thomas Browning, heir to a legendary Detroit auto empire and lately vice president of the United States  to defend another classmate, Jimmy Haviland, who is going to be indicted by a Manhattan grand jury for the murder of a beautiful law student who fell from an eighth-floor window during a Christmas Eve party in 1965.  Because of his loyalty to his classmates, Antonelli reluctantly takes the case, which is being prosecuted by an ambitious Brooklyn Catholic district attorney. The national political implications of this case go all the way to the White House.  Nicely done.  11/11 Jack Quick

BREAKPOINT by Richard A. Clarke: The Internet has ushered in a new age, but it has also brought new possibilities for disaster.  Its 2012 and someone has crippled access to the Internet world wide by blowing up key facilities in the United States which have heretofore only been lightly guarded.  Add in a computer program called Living Software, designed to surge across the Internet, invent new software and clean up past mistakes on its own, without any human help and a group called the Transhumanist Movement, where children with extraordinary new chromosomes are being grown.   The results are fascinating but frightening.  Well written with enough detail to keep even the non-technocrat interested.  It’s all logical and which makes it even more scary. Recommended. 04/09 Jack Quick

BREAKING GLASS by Joe Kosiewska:  The aptly named Looking Glass Bar and Restaurant is a front for Stan Glass, information specialist and professional paranoid.  Businessman David Ringer is killed shortly after hiring Glass, whose initial investigation reveals two David Ringers.  Then Glass is accosted by two mob types and his long-time friend Eddie Dedman, a private investigator and former operative for the CIA who had referred David Ringer to him in the first place, is also killed.  Glass has to find out what he has stumbled into in order to save his own life from the mob and from Dedman’s wife Angela who shows up with a gun demanding answers.  Glass has secrets of his own having spent the last decade incognito, shifting from town to town and identity to identity in an effort to stay one step ahead of the vague government and corporate agencies pursuing him.  Although it stretches credibility, it is a fun read, and who knows, may be the blue print for the P.I. of the future, who carries a laptop instead of a gat. 12/07 Jack Quick

BREAKING SILENCE by Linda Castillo: Police Chief Kate Burkholder returns in this latest thriller from Castillo. A rash of hate crimes against the Amish has the local PD on their toes. As the crimes escalate, Burkholder is called to the scene of what seems to be a terrible accident: three members of a local farming family dead and four children orphaned. Kate is no stranger to tragedy, but it’s the children that get to her the most. Then the accident is determined to be a possible homicide and Kate has to wonder if it could be connected to the recent string of crimes—if it’s possible that their local criminal has now turned to murder. Castillo never shies away from controversial topics or violence. This third of the series maintains the momentum set by the first two installments: great pacing and a nice balance of character development to move along the series. 06/11 Becky Lejeune

A BREATH OF EYRE by Eve Marie Mont: What if you found out you could travel into the pages of a book? Emma Townsend is faced with just this question. It’s a new year at Lockwood, the exclusive prep school Emma attends on scholarship. For her English lit essay of the year, Emma has chosen Jane Eyre. Though it was her mother’s favorite book, this year will be the first time Emma has read the classic. When an accident after a party lands her in the middle of Jane’s tale, Emma is certain it’s a trick of her mind. But after spending more time in the story, she begins to be part of it herself. As she travels back and forth, she must decide if the allure of Jane’s world might be more compelling than the future her own world holds for her. This latest from Mont is an interesting way to present teen issues: Emma is faced with challenges of loyalty, friendship, family, and the uncertainty of what’s to come but in a fresh and interesting way. A Breath of Eyre is the first in a new teen trilogy and each new title incorporates a different classic. 4/12 Becky Lejeune

A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon: Fans of the series will be very happy with this sixth installment that is well worth the weight, and that is no typo.  This is a doorstopper of a book and at 992 pages tightly packed pages, it may be the bargain of the year.  If you haven’t read Gabaldon yet, skip this review and head right out and start with Outlander.  For everyone else, run out and buy this one.  Jamie, Claire, Brianna & Roger are all living on Fraser’s Ridge on the eve of the American Revolutionary War and in Gabaldon’s extraordinary hands, a fascinating time it was.  Gabaldon has done her usual impeccable research and the story is simply mesmerizing.  These are characters that I enjoy spending time with; I laugh with them, I cry with them and now I will be impatiently waiting for the next (last?) book. 09/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BREATHE by Sarah Crossan: Earth’s oxygen levels have been all but depleted, making it impossible for humans to breathe. For the lucky ones like Quinn and Bea, there is the pod. Quinn and Bea are best friends in spite of the fact that Quinn is a Premium (the upper crust and the only ones who can afford enough oxygen for sports and exercise) and Bea is an auxiliary (the lower class). Bea and the other auxiliaries are allowed a limited amount of oxygen and are fined for any use over that amount. Quinn and Bea were meant to be leaving the pod for a two-day camping trip, but a run in with Alina changes everything. Alina is a member of the Resistance, a group of people intent on proving Breathe and the Ministry wrong. Breathe controls the air inside the pod and everyone has been told that it will be generations before the Earth can regenerate enough plant matter to make outside air breathable. The Resistance believes otherwise. Now the three teens will find themselves at the center of a struggle that could have catastrophic results for everyone. Crossan’s latest is an environmentally driven teen dystopian with great world building. The basics of Breathe are pretty general but the specifics give it a unique spin on the dystopian setting. I loved Crossan’s characters and can’t wait to see what will come next. 10/12 Becky Lejeune

BREATHING WATER by Timothy Hallinan:  To write or not to write? That is the dilemma facing Poke Rafferty after he wins a bet to write the biography of Khun Pan, a major-league bad guy in a poker game.  The next morning Poke gets a call that he, his wife Rose, and daughter Miaow, will all be killed unless he drops the project.  Then Poke is abducted, taken to a high rise office building, and told that the same fate will occur if he doesn’t write the book.  So what is Poke to do?  Wisely he goes to Khun Pan, and lays it all out on the table.  Pan wants him to write a book, but maybe not the one the others want written.  Throughout it all Hallinan paints absorbing portraits of life in Bangkok, which is merely hard for many and all but unendurable for others.  The best Poke Rafferty yet. 11/09 Jack Quick

THE BREATHTAKER by Alice Blanchard: Sheriff Charlie Grover lives in Promise, Okla., deep in “Tornado Alley.” He is recently widowed and the father of a 16-year-old daughter enchanted by a teenage storm-chaser.  After Promise is hit by a severe tornado, Charlie discovers three bodies in a house that has sustained only minor damage.  All three have been impaled with wooden items and each has had a tooth extracted and replaced with another tooth.  As tornado season progresses, more victims are found and it is up to Charlie and scientist Willa Bellman, a “storm-chaser” herself, to solve the mystery.  Nice characterization but the connection to the majesty and destructive powers of tornados really set this above others of the ilk.  It will definitely make you think twice when storm clouds gather and the wind begins to pick up, particularly if you live in any of the nation’s “tornado alleys.” 08/08 Jack Quick

BREED by Chase Novak: For Alex and Leslie Twisden, starting a family of their own would be pure bliss. Blessed with great careers and a comfortable fortune, the couple is deeply devoted to one another. Unfortunately, after trying every option available, they have been unable to conceive. When they hear about a doctor in Slovenia who has had unprecedented success in helping infertile couples, everything about the rumor seems too good to be true. In spite of their concerns, they decide to give it a shot. Leslie becomes pregnant almost immediately but their hopes and dreams soon become nightmares. Breed is an entertaining read reminiscent of campy 80s horror. It also marks the horror debut for Novak (aka Scott Spencer). 9/12 Becky Lejeune

BREEDING GROUND by Sarah Pinborough: Matt and Chloe are expecting their first child and things couldn’t be better for the couple. Until, that is, Chloe’s pregnancy begins changing her in ways that are beyond normal. Matt’s in for a real eye opener, though, when he realizes that his wife is not the only woman this is happening to. All of the women in his small town, all of the women in England and maybe even the world, have begun to show the same strange symptoms. And what they give birth to may just mean the end of humankind. Matt and a small band of survivors manage to escape to relative safety, but no one knows just how long they will be able to hold out. And no one knows what’s caused the infestation or how to can defeat it. Breeding Ground is great—creature feature horror just doesn’t get any better than this.  09/09 Becky Lejeune

BRETHREN by Robyn Young: The Knights Templar, or the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, was created after the First Crusade in 1119 as an order of knights set to protect Christian pilgrims headed for Jerusalem. They were originally endorsed by the Catholic Church, but were eventually proclaimed to be heretics and forcefully disbanded. Their historic secrecy left them shrouded in mystery that still fascinates historians and readers today. Robyn Young’s Templar trilogy begins in 1260 as young Will Campbell begins his training to join the order. When Campbell’s champion is murdered, he is taken under the wing of a scribe who happens to belong to a secret order within the Templars called the Anima Templi. While the Anima Templi believes that all religions can live together in peace, their fellow knights – both Templars and other orders – believe that this can never be and to speak such a thing is heresy. Campbell’s initiation into the secret order will be just the beginning of his adventures as Young traces the final days of the Templars. Brethren is an adventurous read packed with interesting historical facts. Young also attempts to tell the tale through the eyes of the Mamluk forces on the other side of the epic confrontations that occurred in the Crusades, an effort that lends a nice balance to the tale.  02/09 Becky Lejeune

A BREWSKI FOR THE OLD MAN by Phyllis Smallman:  When Sherri Travie was thirteen, her mother’s boyfriend, John Ray Leenders, tried to rape her.  Now he is back in Jacaranda, Florida living with the single mother of a teenage daughter. The mother is one of Sherri’s tenants in the building which houses the Sunset bar that she owns, and while Sherri does not want to get involved, she can’t ignore the situation.  Then Sherri’s father, Tully Jenkins, also reappears in her life, dragging Sherri deep into the swamp to exact revenge on the men who set fire to Uncle Ziggy’s junk yard. Like Sherri says, there have only been a few murders in Jacaranda in anyone’s memory but Sherri was involved with all of them.  So if there is more trouble, you can bet she will be in the thick of it. 03/10 Jack Quick

THE BRIDES HOUSE by Sandra Dallas: A warm, engaging story about three generations of women who live in the same Victorian house. We first meet Nealie Bent, a young girl who has run away from home for very good reason. She ends up in Georgetown, Colorado, a small mining town in 1880. She is a serving girl in a boarding house, where she meets and falls in love with the wrong man. The right man has fallen in love with her but she doesn’t realize it until much later. There is a beautiful house being built in town, which Nealie’s beau christens the “Bride’s House,” and eventually Nealie gets to live there. The story next follows her daughter Pearl’s life there, and finally Pearl’s daughter Susan. The three women have much  in common, including a propensity to pick the wrong men. The history of the area is interwoven into this rich story filled with real characters we get to know and enjoy. This is a lovely, charming book and a very enjoyable read. 06/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch KINDLE

BRIDES OF THE IMPALER by Edward Lee:  Cristina Nichols managed to make it through a tough childhood and has become a very successful artist and businesswoman. Her line of twisted collectors dolls, cheerfully called Cadaverettes, are in high demand and her boyfriend, attorney Paul Nasher, has just purchased and refurbished the perfect Manhattan dream home for the two of them. Unfortunately, the fact that the home was obtained at a literal steal from the Catholic Church should be a bit of a concern to them. Cristina has begun to notice some changes in herself since moving into the home. Crazy nightmares plague her sleep, and the creepy set of homeless women that are always lurking nearby aren’t helping. Meanwhile, local detectives are investigating a series of murders in which the victims have been impaled on whittled stakes and propped up on Christmas tree stands. Who could possibly guess that all of the events are somehow tied to the legend of Dracula himself? Lee’s gory play on the tale of Vlad Dracul makes for entertaining reading. If you’re a fan of the hardcore, shocking variety of horror, Lee is your man.  08/08 Becky Lejeune

THE BRIEF HISTORY OF THE DEAD by Kevin Brockmeier: When a person dies, they live on in the memories of others. Brockmeier has taken this to a whole new level, playing off some African beliefs where the soul exists on three planes. The city of the dead is filled with those people who, having passed on, exist in this interim world as long as someone living remembers them. For reasons unknown to its inhabitants, the city is quickly shrinking both in size and in population. Meanwhile, in the land of the living, Laura Byrd finds herself trapped, alone, at a research site in Antarctica. With no communication to the outside world, her fellow researches set off, days ago, to find help. Laura, left with dwindling supplies, is forced to make a decision. She can wait and see which kills her first, the hunger or the cold, or, she can trek across the ice and try to find help on her own. This is an incredibly engaging tale that is both hilarious and thought provoking. Surprisingly, though the topic would seem to be heavy reading material, this is a very quick read driven by Brockmeier’s clever and dark humor. 12/06 Becky LeJeune

BRIGADOOM by Susan Goodwill: It is a pity this debut effort wasn’t written when Doris Day was in her heyday, because no one could have played Kate London like Doris Day. London deserved the court ordered anger management classes. After all, she was angry when she attacked her cheating fiancé, aka Mayor Ronnie Balfours, with a golf cart after she found him in the rough with Estelle Douglas on the seventeenth hole. Whether she intended to knock him and the port-a-john in which he had taken refuge down the hill toward eighteen, well… Of course, that really didn’t justify his condemning her Aunt Kitty’s beloved Egyptian Theatre to the wrecking ball, nor did it justify someone killing Ronnie and leaving the body in the trunk of her car. As a former lover, Sheriff Ben Williamson might have shown a little more compassion, but every time Kate finds a dead body, he insists on putting her in jail. And you thought Stephanie Plum had problems. Somewhere there is a mystery in here, but there is also a lot of non-mystery action as well. A light, pleasant read. 03/07 Jack Quick

BRIGHT FUTURES by Stuart Kaminsky:  In this sixth Lew Fonesca outing, Lew has been hired by a 17 year old student from a local school for the gifted to prove a friend of his did not kill a wealthy eccentric politician.  The plot thickens when Lew’s client’s grandfather wants to hire Lew to not pursue the case.  Soon an unknown assailant is taking pot shots at Lew with a pellet gun.  Although he escapes, two others are injured.  No one does it better than MWA Grand Master Kaminsky whose portrayal of a man battling constant depression is uncanny. 02/09 Jack Quick

BRIMSTONE by Robert B. Parker:  After Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch cleaned up the rough-and-tumble Old West town of Resolution., they set out to find Allie French, the woman who stole Virgil’s heart in Appaloosa. It took them over a year but they finally found her in a small-town brothel and the three head out to the aptly named town of Brimstone.   Pike, the town’s richest citizen hires Cole and Hitch to keep the peace in Brimstone.  Strangely the most danger appears to be from the sanctimonious church leader, Brother Percival, who professes to save the souls of Brimstone with his own brand of fire.  In the process the Reverend’s actions seem to be benefitting Pike more than saving souls.  Anyway, with Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, the situation is always in hand, even if it isn’t.   Robert B. Parker sure knows how to write a book. 06/09 Jack Quick

THE BRIMSTONE MURDERS by Jeff Sherratt:  Ex-cop and now attorney Jimmy O’Brien has his problems.  The police suspect him of murdering the alcoholic mother of a client.  She is found dead with Jimmy’s card in her hand.  O’Brien had been to see her to obtain her consent for him to attempt to have her son Robbie declared insane in order to save him from conviction for murder.  Then Robbie steals a deputy’s gun at the court hearing and escapes.  Can things get any worse for this Los Angeles criminal defense attorney?  Oh yes, the challenges are just beginning.  Like, where is his missing gun?  The one the guys cops think killed Robbie’s mother.  A breezy read about cults, criminals, and the trials and tribulations of attorneys.  Reminiscent of David Rosenfelt or Paul Levine. 01/08 Jack Quick

BROKEN by Karin Slaughter: Past and present collide violently as Slaughter brings her Grant County and Atlanta characters together for a second time. When Dr. Sara Linton returns home to Grant County, Ga., for Thanksgiving, she hopes to steer clear of the local police, especially Detective Lena Adams, whom she blames for the murder of her husband, police Chief Jeffrey Tolliver. In truth the department has spiraled downward after Jeffrey’s death and is put to the test when college student Allison Spooner is found dead in a lake. Tommy Braham, whom Sara treated as a mentally challenged child, is arrested for the murder but the investigation soon spirals out of control after Tommy dies in custody. When Sara calls in Georgia Bureau of Investigation special agent Will Trent from Atlanta to take over the case, the local police greet Will’s arrival with suspicion. Trent must weigh Sara’s personal vendetta against Detective Adams with the facts of the case, which grow more confusing the deeper he digs into the small county’s secrets. 07/10 Jack Quick

BROKEN PLACES by Sandra Parshall: Cam and Meredith Taylor are murdered within hours of one another, and veterinarian Rachel Goddard is dragged into the case because she heard – but didn’t see – Cam’s murder.  The Taylors had arrived in Mason County as volunteers in the 1960s War on Poverty, and they stayed on, making loyal friends and bitter enemies, so there is no shortage of suspects.  Cam had been badgering a number of people including newcomer Ben Hern, a cartoonist, for money to help him keep his local newspaper afloat.  Rachel grew up with Ben and can’t believe he could be involved.  Further complicating the situation – the victims’ daughter Leslie is the former girlfriend of Deputy Sheriff Tom Bridger, who is now dating Rachel.  Passions run as high as the Virginia summer heat as Rachel and Tom try to solve the crimes before others get hurt. 02/10 Jack Quick

THE BROKEN ONES by Stephen M. Irwin: The poles have reversed and the economy has tanked. What’s worse, everyone is now haunted by their very own ghost. They called it Gray Wednesday, the day the ghosts appeared. Since then, everything has changed. Oscar Mariani was one of the officers assigned to the newly formed Nine-Ten unit. The Nine-Ten, nicknamed “Barelies,” were supposed to investigate any case linked to ghosts. For Oscar, the assignment was basically a punishment for a failed dogged investigation into a fellow officer. Oscar still holds a grudge and when he and his partner, Neve, are called to investigate a body dump with a possible supernatural link, he’s set on keeping the case. The body is that of a Jane Doe, mutilated by machinery but still intact enough that Oscar can see strange markings carved into her skin. As he digs further into the case, Oscar discovers that something weird is going on after all. Irwin has such an original and fresh approach to standard horror tropes. The Broken Ones is a fantastic blending of mystery and paranormal, making it appealing not only to horror fans but also to fans of overall dark and well plotted suspense.  9/12 Becky Lejeune

BROKEN PREY by John Sandford: Lucas Davenport is an investigator for the Minnesota State Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Along with his partner, Detective Sloan, they chase a serial killer who has claimed at least three victims. Although evidence points toward a recently released sex offender named Charlie Pope, there are inconsistent elements as well. Eventually Davenport and Sloan realize they are chasing a team of killers. Fast moving and well written, another fine entry in the “Prey“ series. 12/05 Jack Quick

THE BROKEN SHORE by Peter Temple:  Homicide cop Joe Cashin is supposed to be recovering from an injury, but gets drawn into the beating death of Charles Bourgoyne, an elderly millionaire.  After three aboriginal teenagers try to sell Bourgoyne’s missing watch, the cops get them into a gun battle killing two.  For them the case is closed, over and done with, but Joe thinks there is more here than a simple murder case.  His explorations lead him into the worlds of child pornography and racism.  Excellent writing and a deliciously twisty plot put you right into Australia today, or at least a vivid portrait that would seem to be realistic and accurate.  Recommended. 01/08 Jack Quick

THE BROKEN WINDOW by Jeffery Deaver:  In this eighth novel featuring paraplegic forensic consultant Lincoln Rhyme and his partner Amelia Sachs, the two are faced with what seems like an open and shut case.  A painting is stolen, its owner is murdered, there is an anonymous witness, and loads and loads of evidence including DNA.  The only thing – the alleged perp is Rhyme’s cousin.  When he reluctantly enters into the case, he quickly finds other cases which are almost identical.  This leads him to a psychotic who is using 21st century technology including data mining to commit crimes.  In the process, they discover tangential connections to a company that specializes in collecting and analyzing consumer data.  Further investigation leads them to some startlingly Orwellian revelations:  Big Brother is watching your every move and could be a homicidal maniac.  Another awesome Deaver book. 07/08 Jack Quick

THE BROKEN WINDOW by Jeffery Deaver:  It’s been a decade since I read a book by Deaver, and boy…was I missing out! The Broken Window is the eighth installation in Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme series.  For those unfamiliar, Detective Lincoln Rhyme is a paraplegic forensic consultant for the NYPD. Combined with his cop girlfriend Amelia Sachs, the two forms an amazing crime-solving duo.  In this installation, Rhyme and Sachs have been called in for assistance when Rhyme’s cousin Arthur gets arrested for murder.  Evidence found in his home and car is undeniable.  Although Rhyme and his cousin haven’t talked in years, Rhyme agrees to help.  Quickly they discover that this case involves much more than a “simple” murder.  Rhyme and Sachs are introduced to the world of data mining, where companies collect personal data on individuals, including their shopping habits, medical history, etc. The unsub, referred to as 522 because his first crime was committed on May 22, is tainting the lives of several innocent people just by typing a few keystrokes. The Broken Window takes the reader on a fast-paced adventure with unexpected twists and turns. In the end, it leaves me very paranoid about the information that is collected each time I swipe my credit card.  08/08 Jennifer Lawrence

BROKEN WING by Thomas Lakeman:  In this third book of Lakeman’s series, FBI agent Mike Yeager is approached by his superiors with a very serious request. In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, a New Orleans mob boss is attempting to rebuild his territory. Mike played a crucial role in bringing down the organization years ago and now is his chance to finish the job. In order to do so, though, Mike has to be able to infiltrate the group himself and that’s the worst part of the deal. The powers-that-be arrange for some missing evidence to be found in Mike’s possession, which leads to a very real investigation into his “questionable” actions. It’s supposed to be a maneuver to prove to the mob that Mike is dirty, but it’s beginning to look as though the feds can’t be trusted. Mike must take matters into his own hands to complete the mission and make sure that his own record is not permanently ruined in the process. Lakeman has succeeded once again in producing another gripping thriller that can be read all on its own, or as part of Yeager’s continuing story.  03/09 Becky Lejeune

BRONX JUSTICE by Joseph Teller: Although second in the series, this outing goes back to the late 1970’s and a particular case that would shape the future of criminal defense attorney Harrison J. Walker, better known as Jaywalker for his rebellious tactics.   Darren Kingston, whom Jaywalker had previously successfully defended against a robbery charge, has been arrested for raping five white women in Castle Hill, an area of the Bronx long forgotten by the city. Darren, a young black man who is married and works at the post office is positively identified by four of the victims as the fifth prepares to do the same. It appears to be a slam dunk case with solid eyewitness testimony.  What Jaywalker learns during the course of the trial will stay with him the rest of his life. 04/10 Jack Quick

BRONX NOIR edited by S.J. Rozan:  This Akashic city-themed crime anthology addresses the borough called the Bronx, New York City’s northernmost borough, coterminous with Bronx County, and the only one of the city’s five boroughs situated primarily on the United States mainland rather than on an island.  Locations from the mean streets of South Bronx to affluent Riverdale are featured in 19 tales by a variety of authors.  Landmarks like Yankee Stadium and the Bronx Zoo are featured in efforts from Thomas Adcock, Kevin Baker, Thomas Bentil, Lawrence Block, Jerome Charyn, Suzanne Chazin, Terrence Cheng, Ed Dee, Joanne Dobson, Robert Hughes, Marlon James, Sandra Kitt, Rita Laken, Miles Marshall Lewis, Pat Picciarelli, Abraham Rodriguez Jr., S.J. Rozan, Steven Torres, and Joe Wallace.  There’s some noir, some sex, betrayal, despair, murder, mischief and mayhem, but hey, whadda you expect, a Bronx cheer?  This is truly an awesome series.  12/07 Jack Quick

THE BROOKLYN FOLLIES by Paul Auster: Early in his career, Mr Auster was one of the new American authors struggling against traditional forms. Now rounding into a career as an author, he seems to be more concerned with story. As is often the case with his work, the story is set on ground that is familiar to him and to his readers, New York City. Follies’ central character is a retired insurance salesman named Nathan Glass who has come home to Brooklyn to die. But he meets so many interesting people in his neighborhood that it seems more important to live. Along the way, he is able to use his maturity and accumulated wisdom to help all sorts of people, especially including a nephew, Tom Glass who reminded me of the unformed protagonist of Annie Proulx’ Shipping News. One of the main venues of this story is the bookstore where Tom works. His boss is a charming congenital liar who could be right out of Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels. This book is funny and charming. It is well-written and well worth reading. It will be on my 10 best list for this year.  11/06 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

BROWN-EYED GIRL by Virginia Swift: Take a ride with “Mustang” Sally Adler (for the car, not the horse) to Laramie, Wyoming and you won’t be sorry.  Laramie’s most famous resident, prize-winning poet Meg Dunwoodie, has passed away and left behind a legacy – an endowment chair at the University of Wyoming with more strings than a marionette.  First of the irregular provisos is that the University hire Sally (at a rather large salary for an academic) followed by the orders that she live in her house, be sole archivist to her papers, write her biography and not tell anyone anything about it.  The offer is enticing enough to get Sally to move back to her old stomping grounds, while unbeknownst to her, Hawk Green, the big love of her life, is also moving back.  Sparks fly when they meet up, but rumors abound that there is a fortune hidden in the house and strange things start to happen, and the state’s richest eccentric is suing the school over the stipulations of the endowment.  And therein lies the mystery in this not-especially-suspenseful “novel of suspense,” but why quibble when the characters are so real, the place so well defined and the writing is so fine. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BRUTAL TELLING by Louise Penny: The fifth installment to Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache/Three Pines series is a wonderful mystery. Just the right amount of cozy and non to appeal to readers across the board. When the body of an unidentified man is discovered in the Three Pines bistro, Gamache and his team are sent in to investigate. At first, though everyone is a possible suspect, it seems unlikely that anyone in the small town is involved. Not only does the man seem completely unknown to Three Pines residents, but the bistro is merely a dump site. Unclear as to why the body was left there in the first place, the inspectors are still at a loss as to where the man was actually killed. Gamache suspects that Olivier, the bistro owner, is hiding something, but even those closest to him cannot imagine the secrets this man holds. Olivier knows the dead man’s identity. But why would he keep it secret and what does it mean that the body was found in his restaurant? The Brutal Telling is a great place to start this series and Penny is a marvelous storyteller. Her setting is beautiful, her plot is thoughtful, and her characters are so rich you can almost imagine them sitting next to you as you read. A must read. 09/09 Becky Lejeune

THE BUBBLE GUM THIEF by Jeff Miller: An ominous warning–“This is my first crime. My next will be bigger”–is printed on a business card with a pilfered stick of bubble gum taped to the back. It is found at a convenience store, the first in a series of odd and increasingly serious crimes. Finally, after the same note is found at the scene of a bank robbery in Cincinnati, the case is brought to the attention of the FBI. Dagney Gray is a driven, anorexic FBI agent who needs to get healthy to do her job. She’s working the case while attending a class on terrorism taught by “the Professor,” a brilliant agent who has been pushed into a basement classroom due to office politics. Gray is starting to see a pattern in the case, but the Bureau is reluctant to take her seriously, and she is relegated to menial tasks. While the assistant FBI director puts thousands of agents on the front line, Gray, the Professor, and Gray’s newly appointed rookie partner, Victor, work the case on their own. There are lots of twists and turns here, and just when the case appears to be solved, it isn’t. A gripping plot and a terrific cast leave the reader hoping that this is the first of a series; these characters are too good for just one book. 1/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2012 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.

Bubbles in Trouble by Sarah Strohmeyer:  Bubbles Yablonsky, hairdresser/reporter, is back in a delightful mystery reminiscent of Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, but with a definite voice of her own.  This time, Bubbles slightly inebriated rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird”, air guitar and all, at a bachelorette party, has apparently convinced the bride-to-be to not be a bride.  She doesn’t show up for the wedding, Bubbles is blamed and sets off to find her.  Her first stop is at the home the bride shares with her uncle, whose body Bubbles find lying on the bathroom floor.  Not an auspicious beginning, and soon her chase takes her to the Amish country in Pennsylvania, with drug lords, theme park developers and other unsavory sorts crawling out of the hand carved wood work.  Bubbles goes undercover as Sally Hansen, Amish widow, which is no easy task for our bleached blonde, spandex addicted heroine.  In a strange twist of fate, hottie Steve Stilleto likes her new look and their romance heats up a notch as Bubbles gets the story, and her man.  Nicely plotted with lots of laughs, lots of surprises and more recipes for homemade beauty products, including a hangover cure (not that I’d ever need that.)  Treat yourself to a fun read. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BUBBLES UNBOUND by Sarah Strohmeyer:  I had a lot of problems with this book.  The author thanks Janet Evanovich for being her mentor but she doesn’t have to, the book screams it on every page.  Besides emulating her mentor with each and every character and plot device, there is also the matter of the gimmicky, although cute, home-grown beauty recipes strewn throughout the book.  The story itself is good and moves along briskly with some real good belly laughs along the way. It’s the beginning of a series so I will remain optimistic that Ms. Strohmeyer will find her own voice eventually. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BUDDHA IN THE ATTIC by Julie Otsuka: This is the story of Japanese girls who were sent to America by their families to become brides to Japanese men who came before them. Set at the eve of World War II, these women were sent photos of young, handsome men and were told they were professional men in need of wives to run their households. These were girls from impoverished families, many farming families where the women worked days in the fields and nights in the home, often starving in the process, their families wanting this better life for their daughters. Written in the collective “we” voice, this is these brides’ stories, from their voyage overseas through the immigration process, marriage, childbirth, but mostly about their lives in America through the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Poignant, often disturbing and beautifully written in lyrical language with enough detail to bring this time and place, and these women, to life, this is a mesmerizing piece of fiction. Sure to please fans of Otsuka’s first novel, the excellent When the Emperor Was Divine, and sure to earn her new fans as well. 11/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch KINDLE

BUDDHA’S MONEY by Martin Limon:  South Korean based Army CID investigators George Sueno and Ernie Bascom come to the aid of a Buddhist nun who is being attacked by what appears to be a GI.  Afterwards, Ernie finds himself the keeper of “Buddha’s money.”  Which he will need as he and George pursue the kidnappers of the adopted daughter of ex-infantry sergeant.  There are villains aplenty in this third adventure for George and Ernie and while it roams farther afield that Limon’s previous two efforts, it is still a good one. 02/06 Jack Quick

THE BUGHOUSE AFFAIR by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini: I have enjoyed many books by these two authors together and separately, but I found this first of a new series of lighthearted historical mysteries set in 1890s San Francisco, featuring former Pinkerton operative Sabina Carpenter and her detective partner, ex-Secret Service agent John Quincannon to be somewhat disappointing. The best way to describe it is “forced”. It is almost as if the book were written as a modern day Sharon McCone and then  substitution was employed to add a period flavor with yeggs, miscreants, hacks, dips and swag. The result does not make for smooth reading and the plot wherein two unrelated cases become intertwined just wasn’t that convincing. I guess this shows that not everyone has a perfect outing every time. 2/13 Jack Quick

BUILDING STORIES by Chris Ware: This is the latest graphic novel from the brilliant Chris Ware and I would say it is more art than book, but that would be doing it a disservice. It could stand alone as a book or as an art piece and either way it is just fantastic. I am not prone to hyperbole, so trust me when I say fantastic in every definition of the word. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “1) imaginative or fanciful; remote from reality: (of an object) seeming more appropriate to the imagination than to reality; strange or exotic. 2) extraordinarily good or attractive: of an extraordinary size or degree.” Point by point, I have to agree. The book comes in a box about the size of a board game.  Inside the box are fourteen pieces of ephemera; hardcover books, pamphlets, magazines, newspapers. The story may be read in any order the reader chooses; all you need to know is that it is about the residents of an apartment building in Chicago. The NY Times called it “magnificent,” Publishers Weekly named it the best book of 2012 and I have to agree with both assessments. This is a book that belongs in every library (and I am sad that my library isn’t buying it due to the difficulties of storing such a piece.) Don’t miss it. 11/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BULLET FOR A STAR by Stuart Kaminsky: Its 1940 and Toby Peters, Private Eye to the Stars has the assignment of protecting Warner Brothers hot new property from blackmail and perhaps murder. The property, one Errol Flynn, is featured in a very compromising photo with a very young appearing female. Is the picture real? Does it matter? In the wrong hands it could end Flynn’s career now. Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet, Humphrey Bogart and the Maltese Falcon all play a role in this first Toby Peters outing published by Kaminsky back in 1977. Like his other series featuring Lew Fonesca, Porfiry Rostnikov, and Abe Lieberman, this promises to be a good one – and one that I will hopefully be able to read entirely in order. Guess good things do come to those who wait. 04/09 Jack Quick


THE BURGLAR IN THE RYE by Lawrence Block: Bernie Rhodenbarr is a gentleman burglar who runs a used bookstore in between criminal acts, steals mostly from the rich, and only hurts people when it becomes absolutely necessary. The Paddington is where Bernie goes to liberate the letters of a reclusive writer named Gulliver Fairborn from a literary agent. Fairborn’s resemblance to J.D. Salinger and, of course, the fact that the woman who hired Bernie to steal the letters had an affair with Fairborn when she was a teenager, no doubt lend the book its title. But by the time Bernie gets to the Paddington, the agent has been shot, the letters already liberated–and a cop in the lobby recognizes our favorite burglar from a previous encounter. Now all Bernie has to do is find out who else wanted those letters badly enough to kill for them. 05/06 Jack Quick

THE BURGLAR ON THE PROWL by Lawrence Block: Another fun adventure featuring burglar extraordinaire, Bernie Rhodenbarr. Always up for a little larceny, Bernie’s cleaning out some poor chum’s safe when the fellow happens to come home with a companion and a drink. From his hiding spot under the bed, Bernie witnesses a crime. And shortly afterward, one of Bernie’s legit clients is gunned down outside his bookstore. Can the burglar save the day? Can the burglar save himself? Stay tuned for details. 05/06 Jack Quick

BURIED PREY by John Sandford:  Lucas Davenport’s newest case is also his oldest. Back in 1985, young cop Lucas davenport got involved with the case of two missing girls.  Their bodies were never found and the bosses declared the case closed, a conclusion that never set well with Lucas. Fast forward to today. A house demolition in Minneapolis reveals the bodies of two girls, wrapped in plastic that look like they’ve been there a long time. For Lucas, its a do-over, and this time he won’t stop until the ultimate truth is out, even though the search costs other lives. One of Sandford’s better outings. 07/11 Jack Quick KINDLE

BURIED SECRETS by Joseph Finder: This is the long awaited sequel to Vanished, featuring the private spy Nick Heller. What is a private spy you ask? Well, in this case he’s a retired Special Forces operative who has set up business as a private investigator in his hometown of Boston. An old family friend contacts him, Marshall Marcus, a hedge fund wunderkind whose teenaged daughter has gone missing. Marcus refuses to call the police and insists that Nick find Alexa. A link is sent to a live video stream showing Alexa has been buried alive with barely enough food and water to sustain her, along with a special request from the kidnapper. To complicate things further, Marcus is being investigated by the FBI. This novel moves on breakneck speed and I couldn’t put it down, staying up late into the night to reach the surprising and climactic denouement. It was worth the wait – don’t miss it. 06/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch  KINDLE

BURN DOWN THE SKY by James Jaros: The Earth has become a wasteland in the aftermath of a climate catastrophe and mankind has been wiped out thanks to a virus the likes of which we’ve never seen. Small outposts of humanity still remain, but they fight for everything they have, including their children. Marauders sent by religious zealots steal food, water, supplies, and the biggest commodity: young girls, trading them for gold dust and fuel. When Jessie’s youngest daughter is kidnapped, she vows to find her and bring her back home. But young Ananda is a tough one and even when faced with the most unimaginable horrors, she’s been taught to survive. James Jaros’s (aka Mark Nykanen) bleak future is a violent and chilling one to be sure. Burn Down the Sky is an interesting and disturbing post-apocalyptic thriller. 05/11 Becky Lejeune

BURN ZONE by James O. Born:  Burn Zone is the follow-up to Field of Fire and a complete departure from the light-hearted Bill Tasker series. The protagonist is Alex Duarte, an ATF agent in south Florida who is the strong, silent type, so it’s been a slow process getting to know him. This book helped with that. Alex has strong ties to his family, in fact, he lives in an apartment over the garage of his parents’ home and still takes most meals with them.  His brother is a hot shot lawyer, and in this tight-knit family, that doesn’t mean a whole lot.  Alex’s mom works on keeping everyone well fed, and his father worries about whether or not his sons are making a difference in the world.  Alex delivers, especially in this story.  He’s investigating a huge shipment of pot that’s being smuggled into the US.  But what he doesn’t know is that the drugs are just secondary to the mysterious package that is also being smuggled in from a power-mad Panamanian.  This case takes Alex on the road and away from his girlfriend Alice, who helps out long distance with her forensic lab skills and connections. This story moves through Florida, New Orleans, and Houston before it ends – and I loved the ending.  02/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BURNING GIRL by Mark Billingham: 4th adventure for Detective Inspector Thorne by one today’s best British authors. A teenage girl is set on fire and later commits suicide. Compounding the horror is that she was not even the intended victim, she was just mistaken for the daughter of a local gangster. Now her assailant is about to get out of jail and someone is harassing the DI who originally handled the case. At the same time Thorne’s father is suffering from Alzheimer’s which is becoming more of a problem for both him and his Dad. Add in the murder and mutilation of several of gangster Billy Ryan’s people as well as an undercover officer and Thorne is kept quite busy. Billingham has made Thorne a real person, not just a cop, but a man with problems, doubts, fears, and flaws, who still tries his best to uphold the law and do what is right. Thorne’s ideas and methods are often in conflict with his superiors but through sheer doggedness he manages to hold on and get results. Well done. 05/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

THE BURNING GLASS by Lillian Stewart Carl: Ferniebank Castle, in Stanelaw, Scotland, has seen its fair share of tragedy. It is said that Isabel Sinclair, the daughter of the lord of Ferniebank in the mid-sixteenth century, was set to marry a man of her father’s choosing although she loved another. She was locked away until her wedding day, mourning her true love. On the day she was to be married, she and her lover plotted their escape. Isabel was to set the tower on fire and get away in the confusion. The fire got out of hand and Isabel died. It is said that she still haunts the tower today.

A local “mystic” plans to revamp the castle and turn it into a sort of new age resort and Jean Fairbairn has been sent to write a story on Ferniebank for Great Scot magazine. Not so coincidentally, Jeanne’s “friend” (hopefully soon to be more) Alisdair Cameron has been hired on to provide security for the castle. Just before her arrival, Jean receives word that the famed Ferniebank clarsach has gone missing. The clarsach is the treasure of the castle, a harp that was said to have been played for Robert the Bruce and Mary Queen of Scots. Soon after the harp disappears, so does Angus Rutherford, a local councilor in Stanelaw. Wherever Jean goes, it seems trouble will follow and she and Alisdair are once again investigating strange occurrences and possibly murder. The third in a series, The Burning Glass is an entertaining mystery that can be read and enjoyed on its own – great for readers who are craving something light and fun.  09/07 Becky Lejeune

THE BURNING LAKE by Brent Ghelfi:  Russian agent Alexei Volkovoy first met the dissident journalist Katarina Mironova, known around the world as Kato, during his service in the Chechyen war.  Now he learns she is the 22nd journalist to die under the new regime. Volk will not allow her death go unavenged and his investigation takes him from Moscow to Mayak, the site of a nuclear reprocessing plant where a massive explosion occurred in 1958, then to Las Vegas.  All the while the life he has known with his long-time lover, Valya, and his patron, the General, slowly unravels as details about his secret ties to Kato begin to emerge.  At the same time secrets about the tragic consequences of a nuclear alliance among venal Russian, American, and French politicians are coming out and the American and the French governments will pay anything to keep them hidden.  Another outstanding thriller from the man described by fellow author Keith Thomson as a cross between Robert Ludlum and Aleksander Solzhenitsyn. 11/11 Jack Quick

Burning Marguerite by Elizabeth Inness- Brown, Knopf:  What a wonderful novel. Almost like reading a series of love letters.  Intertwined masterfully, each unravels the mystery of Marguerite. It reads like a poem in places – – – richly told with textures, colors, smells, sounds, tastes floating from the pages. There is much here to pause over, to reflect on, but the elements of suspense keep you reading. The price of love becomes a dear one to pay. Inness-Brown is the author of two acclaimed collections of short stories, SATIN PALMS and HERE. This is her first novel. Sometimes when reading novels by seasoned short story authors it seems to me they have taken different stories and inedeptly woven them together to create a novel. Not true of this. I’ve heard it compared to SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS (maybe cause of the weather), but I don’t agree. You’ll love Marguerite. She is her own woman and needs no comps.  PS: The author lives her setting – – she lives (and the novel is set) on an island in Lake Champlain, VT. Doesn’t that sound like bliss?  ~This review contributed by Ann Nappa

THE BURNING WIRE by Jeffery Deaver: My hot water heater failed and I was dissatisfied with the new one even after the technician came back twice to adjust it.  On the third visit the supervisor came along, and advised this was a new “low energy” hot water heater and we would just have to make do with it.  That night lying in bed, I had a thought.  I got up, went to the breaker box, and as I suspected the breakers for the hot water heater were OFF. Next morning I had a nice warm shower.  All leading up to the plot of this book, which revolves around the use of electricity as a weapon – in ingenious and heretofore unused methods.  While Lincoln Rhyme, et al, are dealing with the threat to Algonquin Consolidated Power, Rhyme is also staying in close touch with Mexican army and police commander Rodolfo Luna, who’s tracking dangerous assassin Richard Logan (aka the Watchmaker) in Mexico City. The twin investigations take an increasingly dangerous toll on quadriplegic Rhyme’s precarious physical health. Truly, an electrically charged thriller. 08/10 Jack Quick

BURNOUT by Marcia Muller:  In Muller’s 26th Sharon McCone outing, Sharon is wrestling with her future and that of her San Francisco detective agency.  She has retreated to her high desert ranch where she is unwittingly drawn into a local case.  Hayley Perez, the estranged niece of ranch manager Ramon Perez, has been murdered and Hayley’s teenage sister, Amy, and their alcoholic mother, Miri, have disappeared.  Bodies start to pile up as McCone looks into the Perezes’ family history.  By the end McCone has learned that she really can be effective as both an investigator and an executive, which bode well for the continuation of the series.  Has Muller ever written a bad one? 11/08 Jack Quick

THE BURNT HOUSE by Faye Kellerman: Rina Lazarus and Peter Decker are back! California citizens are reeling after a plane crashes into a local apartment building. Decker and team are inundated with looting and vandalism complaints as well as the understandable aftermath of the crash. One particular call hits a nerve with Peter, however. Farley and Shareen Lodestone are convinced that their daughter Roseanne Dresden did not die in the plane crash. They think that her husband Ivan killed her and then used the crash as a convenient way to shift the blame. Roseanne, a flight attendant, was rumored to have hitched a ride on the doomed flight so that she could later cover a shift for a fellow employee. She was not issued a ticket and she was not listed on the original passenger list. Then, excavators finally uncover female remains at the bottom of the wreckage. Unfortunately, the remains are not that of Roseanne. In fact, they are determined to be much older than those associated with the downed flight. Now Decker and crew must discover the truth behind Roseanne’s disappearance and they have new crime to solve as well. I have been a huge fan of this series for some time now. Kellerman never disappoints. 08/07 Becky Lejeune

BURY ME DEEP by Megan E. Abbott:  Inspired by the true story of Winnie Ruth Judd (aka the Trunk Murderess) this features Marion Seeley, a young woman whose doctor husband has gone to Mexico on undisclosed business, in 1931, while she remains behind to work in a clerical job at the Werden Clinic.  She eventually pairs up with Louise Mercer, a co-worker and good time gal.  From Louise, Marion learns which doctors have been misbehaving with the clinic’s nursing staff, and from that to involvement with Joe Lanigan, a close friend of the doctors.  Lanigan is a ready source of money and fun for the often cash-strapped nurses.  When Louise and Ginny Hoyt, Louise’s roommate, confront Marion about her relationship to Joe, the women get into a heated argument that leads to murder.  Slow start, but picks up steam and roars like a freight train at the finish. Abbott is good. 08/09 Jack Quick

THE BURYING PLACE by Brian Freeman: Returning to normal after nearly losing your life is hard on anyone. This is what Lt. Jonathan Stride faces after the events of In the Dark. Stride, now plagued by panic attacks, heads to Grand Rapids with girlfriend Serena Dial for some much needed time away from it all. Their recuperation is brought to an early end when the local sheriff asks Stride to step in on a missing persons investigation: Denise Sheridan’s own niece has disappeared, which makes the case too close to home. She also admits that her people simply don’t have the resources to handle the investigation. Meanwhile, Maggie Bei has stepped in for Stride in Duluth and is dealing with a possible serial killer in the area. When one of her own cops stumbles upon the killer in the act, the young officer becomes a target herself. Freeman pushes his characters to the absolute limit. Each of them struggles with cases that hit too close to home and the emotional impact of dealing with such high-stress situations. As usual, I’m anxious to see what happens to each of them next. Freeman has built a wonderful character base that readers can really connect with. 04/10 Becky Lejeune

THE BUSINESS OF DYING by Simon Kernick: London detective sergeant Dennis Milne is the main character in Kernick’s debut novel and what a character.  After years of dealing with London crime, he has finally decided to pursue justice in his own way : as a cold-blooded hit man.  Things begin to come apart when the drug dealers he thought he was taking out turn out to be a civilian and two customs agents.  At one level an excellent police procedural as Milne works diligently to solve the murder of a young hooker, on an other level a fascinating look into the real world of crime and what it can do to people on both sides of the ledger.  I look forward to more from Mr. Kernick. 11/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

BUST by Ken Bruen & Jason Starr: Hard Case Crime Number twenty features two of the best in an awesome collaboration. A wealthy and successful New York City business owner wants to get rid of his nagging wife so he can shack up with his sexy secretary. When the secretary introduces him to Dillon, a former IRA hit man, Max (the businessman) thinks his problems are solved, when in fact they are just beginning. What Max doesn’t know is that Angela (the secretary) is Dillon’s lover and that the two plan to double cross Max as soon as it is profitable. Enter wheelchair-bound Bobby Rosa, an ex-con with a taste for lewd photography, guns and blackmail, who has his own objectives. It’s pulp fiction at its finest, combining the best (worst) of both the Irish and New York City underworlds. 11/06 Jack Quick

BUSTED FLUSH by Brad Smith: What happens to a decent man who’s besieged by scoundrels and con men after his inheritance? When Dock Bass dumped his money-grubbing wife and real estate job, he thought he’d find peace in Gettysburg, remodeling the tumbledown house he inherited. Instead, he discovered unknown pictures of Abraham Lincoln, and, possibly a recording of him. Suddenly Bass is the focus of the media, as well as of a crooked antiques dealer and his partner. Smith has created a strong, independent man, worthy of the reader’s interest. Busted Flush is a fun story, with a humorous, likeable hero.  06/06 Lesa Holstine

BUSTED VALENTINE by Jerry Oster: Someone has killed the mistress of Solitaire’s best friend and mentor when he was on the force. The ex-cop is on disability and playing at being a Private Investigator. His name reflects his situation, down and out, but still with dreams of a better world, and the realization that he probably won’t ever see it. As he begins to look into the murder he quickly concludes that the killer was someone in the victim’s close circle, which means they are also likely to be part of his own daily life. His attempts to reconcile the moral issues interfere with his focus and may cost him his life. Entertaining, but not top shelf. 12/06 Jack Quick

BUTCHERS DOZEN by Max Allan Collins: After cleaning up Chicago, Eliot Ness and his band of Untouchables have moved on to Cleveland which is in the grasp of a madman who has already cut up at least a dozen victims leaving body parts strewn across the city. Ness has to go undercover and risk his own life to stop the butcher of Cleveland and save the life of a gorgeous woman who doesn’t understand the word stop. The usual first rate Collins applied this time to the roaring 30’s. 03/06 Jack Quick

A BUTTERFLY IN FLAME by Nicholas Kilmer: When I attended Georgia Tech many years ago, I studied many things. Unfortunately, art appreciation wasn’t among them. However, even a philistine like me can enjoy a good mystery, even one that revolves around art. Stillton Academy is a small art college in its sleepy namesake Massachusetts town on the New England coast north of Boston. Fred Taylor has been hired by Clayton Reed to go into the college undercover after one of the school’s instructors disappears with a female student who is the daughter of the Academy’s only significant donor. Soon Fred is deep into the campus scene and can’t decide whether he is uncovering incompetence or brilliance at disguising a deeper agenda. Artists or eccentrics? Fred Taylor better find out sooner rather than later because, after all, people are dying, and not just for the sake of art. Nicely done.  11/10 Jack Quick

BY ORDER OF THE PRESIDENT by W.E.B. Griffin: Griffin is the undisputed dean of military writers. Like a pioneering jazz tenor player, He laid much of the groundwork for future attempts of this type. Coonts, Clancy, et al, all drank at the same fountain.  Not only is he thoroughly versed in the military, his “Shield” series about the Philadelphia PD is a textbook crime series…and by the way… dead nuts on target.  I know, I was a resident of the COBL (city of brotherly love) for a fair amount of time.

WEB’s entry here is from his Presidential Agent series, but it involves characters from several of his ongoing story lines. A 727 is hijacked and flown to parts unknown. A CIA op, who happens to be special forces, writes a memo to all stations, which is ignored.  Enter Carlos (Charley) Castillo…by order of the President, he’s tasked with assessing who’s sleeping and who’s not within the defense and intelligence community. Along the way, he’s nearly killed by a Russian arms dealer, who ends up being his most reliable ally. Take it from there.  I refuse to blow the ending here, you’ll have to read this one yourself.  Those of you looking for an old fashioned shoot-em-up are going to be disappointed.  Very little action actually takes place.  Griffin’s whole point here seems to be twofold:

1. Bureaucracy, by it’s very nature, can’t deal with this kind of problem in a timely fashion.

2. A small group of people using their heads….can.

GREAT READ ….and especially timely. 02/06 DOC

BY THE CHIMNEY WITH CARE ed. by Tony Burton: This holiday crime story collection might be just what you’re looking for as we get closer to the busy time of year. Twenty different authors offer stories of hauntings, theft and murder during the Christmas holidays. Herschel Cozine offers a murderous take off of “The Night Before Christmas” in his entry, “The Plight Before Christmas.” Suzanne Flaig’s “Whatever Happened to Sandy Kloss” introduces a child witness that no one will believe. “Popcorn for Christmas” is a sad, lonely story set in New Orleans. It’s an anthology with a little for everyone – stories of forgiveness, stupidity and nostalgia. The authors have all given their stories so that proceeds from the book will benefit Toys for Tots. 11/06 Lesa Holstine

BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS by Giles Blunt: Detective John Cardinal (Blackfly Season) is back, and this time it’s personal. His wife, Catherine, who has been hospitalized on and off for depression for years, has seemingly leapt off of a roof to her death. She left a note and the coroner and police department rule it a suicide, and her psychiatrist, Dr. Frederick Bell, concurs. Cardinal starts having some doubts when disturbing notes arrive at his home, but he quickly realizes that he is the only one with doubts. Fellow police officer Lise Delorme feels bad for her friend, but she is tied up trying to track down a local pedophile who has plastered pictures of a young girl all over the Internet. More suicides among Dr. Bell’s patients in this small Ontario town further convince Cardinal that something is amiss, and contrary to departmental policy, he continues to investigate on his own while assisting Delorme with her investigation. Ostensibly a police procedural, this beautifully written and unusual story is really more of a suspenseful, psychological study into evil. 02/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS by Giles Blunt: “By the time you read this, I will have hurt you beyond all forgiveness.” So begins the suicide note left by Detective John Cardinal’s wife. After years of suffering from manic depression and psychiatric treatment, Catherine Cardinal has finally given up. At least, so it seems until John begins to get disturbing and anonymous “condolence” cards that lead home to believe otherwise. Further investigation leads to the revelation that the suicide note had been written months before the actual event occurred. Concurrent to John’s own investigation, fellow officer Lise Delorme is asked to investigate the discovery of a cache of child pornography that was discovered in Toronto. The photos are all of the same girl, ranging from the age of seven to thirteen. An analysis of the photos leads the Toronto Sex Crimes Unit to believe that the victim is from the Algonquin Bay area. While the subject matter is both chilling and disturbing on many levels, this is a truly page turning read. The characters are well developed and the writing is superb. This is actually the fourth book to feature Detective Cardinal and cast, but it reads as a stand alone, which makes it perfect if you are new to Blunt’s work. 02/07 Becky Lejeune

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