Cadillac Beach by Tim Dorsey: Tim Dorsey has really hit his stride with Cadillac Beach, another maniacal ride through the Florida scene. Serge the psychopathic history buff, has found his niche as a historical tour guide in Miami. Murph the Surf, the Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan show in Miami Beach and of course, just 92 miles across the sea, Fidel Castro. All are grist for Serge’s mill. This time out, the ever-obsessive Serge is making a list – launch business, solve grandfather mystery, embarrass Castro, restore CIA pride (after the Bay of Pigs invasion), decimate mob, find gems. It is quite a list. But Serge has help – his sidekick Lenny Lipowicz, still smoking dope at 48 and still living with his parents – and the two cocaine “party girls,” Town and Country. Just like Santa Claus, in his heart, Serge knows who is naughty and who is nice. Unlike Santa, the outcome for those who are not nice in Serge’s universe is far worse than a lump of coal. Dorsey’s pace is non-stop and each page is funnier than the next. Buy two copies of this book – one for yourself and one to send someone from out of state. Neither of you will regret it. 03/04 ~This review contributed by Geoffrey` R. Hamlin.
A CALCULATED RISK by Katherine Neville: If you enjoyed the 1999 film Entrapment starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones, you will love this one. Verity (True) Banks is a 32 year old “bankette” who specializes in bank systems security and whose career path has just been short circuited by her bumbling jealous boss. This leads her to accept a challenge from her former mentor, a reclusive computer genius/Renaissance man, Dr. Zoltan Tor. Which of them can steal $1 billion, and invest it to earn $30 million in only three months? (Of course, the money will be returned, and no one will be injured.) And so, the race is on. I didn’t complete this one in a single night, only because #1 USC was playing and getting beaten by Oregon State. I loved it. 10/08 Jack Quick
CALICO JOE by John Grisham: The title is the nickname of a baseball rookie phenom who emerged from AA ball in the summer of 1973 for the Chicago Cubs. Warren Tracey was an aging pitcher for the New York Mets, determined to teach the rookie a lesson. He did, with devastating consequences. Warren’s son Paul was there, a young boy on the brink of manhood who learned many valuable lessons that summer. This is one of the best baseball stories I’ve read, but it is so much more than that. It is also the story of Warren and Paul Tracey and their father and son dynamic. Even though he’s known mostly for his legal thrillers, Grisham really excels at these types of stories, stories fraught with humor and pathos rather than suspense. I loved this book for its charm and nostalgia, but especially for the way Grisham brings these characters to life – they will be with me for a long time to come. 4/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
CALIFORNIA FIRE & LIFE by Don Winslow: My second Don Winslow. Is he ever good. Captures the California surfing scene as well as producing great procedurals. Jack Wade is “basically a Dalmatian” – when a fire happens he’s there. Jack, who works to live and lives to surf, was a sheriff’s department fire investigator until he got caught planting evidence in a warehouse arson to protect a witness, and is now the top claims adjuster for California Fire and Life. When Pamela Vale passes out drunk and accidentally burns down the west wing of her Dana Point mansion, along with half a million dollars of her husband’s antique furniture, Jack thinks maybe it wasn’t an accident. It turns out the victim was the half-sister of his ex-girlfriend which made it really personal. Jack’s opponent is Pamela’s estranged husband, Daziatnik Valeshin, now known as Nicky Vale, who has survived a Russian prison camp to make himself over into the model of a perfect Southern California gentleman. The more Jack learns the dirtier it gets and the more danger for him. A great read. 02/10 Jack Quick
CALIFORNIA GIRL by T. Jefferson Parker: Back in 1954, the Becker brothers, David, Nick, Clay and Andy, win a fight with the Vonn brothers at the Sunblesst orange packinghouse. Afterwards, the Vonns’ little sisters, Lynette and Janelle, show up to throw rocks at the Beckers. In 1968, Janelle is back at the packinghouse, only now she’s lying dead on the floor, her decapitated head several feet from her torso. Nick is with the county sheriff’s department working his first case as lead detective, brother Clay has been killed in Vietnam, Andy is a reporter on a local newspaper and David is a minister. More twists and turns than a back mountain fire trail – can you believe Richard Nixon as a cameo? One of Parker’s best. 03/06 Jack Quick
THE CALIFORNIA ROLL by John Vorhaus: If you even mildly enjoyed Redford and Newman in The Sting you will laugh out loud and love con artist Radar Hoverlander, the master of the snuke and its bafflegab and the scourge of every mook. From his early days of conning his grandmother (an Altzheimer’s victim) through running Ponzi schemes on his grammar school mates, and selling “exotic purebred” dogs to adoring yuppies, Hoverlander has learned it all. He can “read lips, pick pockets, pick locks, run a six-minute mile, hot-wire a car or disable its engine, field strip an M-16, throw a pot, and build a working computer from scratch.” He knows “biology, geology and half a dozen other -olgoies including theology.” Hoverlander is going to need all his skills and then some working with the dazzling and highly intelligent Allie Quinn. Radar simply wants to avoid prison or being killed and to work toward the grand snuke, the California Roll, the last payday he’ll ever need while it seems everyone in the world is set against him. The entire book is laugh out loud funny with lines like the driver of the SUV “my car ass-ended” was “a soccer-mom looking gal, with a Shroud of Turin coffee stain down the front of her white cable knit.” 02/11 Jack Quick
CALCULATED LOSS by Linda L. Richards: Madeline Carter’s ex-husband committed suicide, or so she was told. But her ex, the chef, certainly wouldn’t have done it by preparing a poisonous duck à l’orange. But the real giveaway that this suicide was really a murder? The wine that was served with the duck was a shiraz, a definite no-no to any self-respecting chef. Madeline goes to the police with her suspicions, but they blow her off. Since theirs was an amicable divorce, Madeline feels determined to figure out what really happened to her ex. This is a fun, fast mystery and book three of the series. Hopefully, there will be more to come. 09/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
CALCULATED LOSS By Linda L. Richards: Madeline Carter is a former New York stockbroker turned day trader, now living in Malibu. In this third outing she learns that Braydon, star of the Food Network and her former husband, is dead, officially a suicide. When she goes to Vancouver to the funeral, her ex-mother-in-law asks her to look into the business Braydon has built, thinking something is amiss. Those initial suspicions are confirmed when Madeline learns Braydon supposedly killed himself through dining on a poisoned duck a l’orange and beef Shiraz. Knowing Braydon would never have had that type of combination meal because of the conflicts in taste, she begins seriously investigating. This brings out all kinds of suspicions regarding possible financial malfeasance that led to the murder of Braydon and might even precipitate a second “suicide” if she isn’t careful. Well plotted and well written. 10/06 Jack Quick.
CALIBRE by Ken Bruen: Using the same mechanism as Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct outing, FAT OLLIE’S BOOK, Bruen has Inspector Brant writing his first crime novel, to be called CALIBRE. Although Brant can’t write, he can pick up stories from his peers, and he can, in his own, blundering take-no-prisoners fashion catch criminals. In this case, the “Manners Killer” (Jim Thompson’s THE KILLER INSIDE ME) who thinks anyone misbehaving in public is fair game to be added to his victim list. With anyone else, this all might be derivative, but you can always count on Bruen to give it his own special nuance and with his unique sparse prose, pull it all together. VIXEN was good but CALIBRE is better. 01/08 Jack Quick
CALL ME IRRESISTIBLE by Susan Elizabeth Phillips: Former PGA star and small town hero Ted Beaudine is about to marry Lucy Jorik, the former president’s daughter; that is, until her best friend/maid of honor, Meg Koranda, shows up and convinces her to rethink that decision. The bride runs away and Meg is left stranded, broke and the most hated woman in town. It’s an interesting twist to see the hero as the beloved good buy and the heroine as a mess, but nonetheless Meg is a very likeable character. Lots of angst, high drama and laughs before the usual happy ending. A fun, entertaining read, as light and sweet as cotton candy, and I’m a fan. 02/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
CALL ME PRINCESS by Sara Blaedel: Assistant Detective Louise Rick is well aware of the dangers of online dating. In fact, a reporter friend has recently covered these stories in detail for a local publication. When Louise is asked to interview a rape victim who was discovered bound and gagged in her own apartment, the detective could never imagine that she herself would become embroiled in a chilling game of cat and mouse with a twisted suspect. The victim reveals that she met her assailant on a popular online dating site. They had dinner at her place and everything seemed utterly normal. The victim admitted that her date was quite charming, until he turned on her, viciously attacking her. She survived, but the second victim isn’t so lucky. Now, Louise must put herself in the attacker’s sights, posing as “Princess,” a single woman looking for love online. This is not a book for the faint hearted; the attacks are described in brutal detail. The translation itself is good, if a bit dry—I’d imagine some of Blaedel’s style is stripped away in the process. Call Me Princess is technically the second of Blaedel’s books to feature Louise Rick, but is the first to be published in the US. 08/11 Becky Lejeune
CALLING MR. LONELY HEARTS by Laura Benedict: Everyone knows that teen girls can be cruel. When friends Roxanne, Del, and Alice plot against one man in particular, they can’t possibly imagine how it will come back to bite them in the end. Playing at witchcraft and Santeria, the girls thought they brought back an angelic being in the form of the perfect man. They were wrong. This man was very real and now this man is very angry. All grown up now, Del is happily married with her very own young step-daughter. But still, Del yearns for more. Roxanne is a successful artist, living the single life and seemingly loving it. And Alice, poor Alice, her marriage is falling apart and her husband is having a child with another woman. But then Alice meets a man who changes everything. She doesn’t know that Varick, her new lover, has been meeting with Del and Roxanne as well. She doesn’t know that man from all those years ago is finally having his revenge and Varick is the one who will bring it all about. Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts is quite a bit darker than Benedicts debut, Isabella Moon. Benedict tears down her characters, displaying their emotions and motivations with agonizing accuracy. Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts is a chilling read about the darkness that lives in us all. 12/08 Becky Lejeune
CALUMET CITY by Charlie Newton: What a great name for a mystery. The book itself supports the title with cool artwork and pages that feel gritty and dirty. Patti Black is Chicago’s most decorated cop, with a secret past. Several unrelated cases threaten to reveal her horrific childhood as an abused runaway and teenage rape victim, so Patti goes on the hunt for Roland Gantz, who she suspects is behind the crimes. She must also find her adopted son whom she thinks Roland is also trying to find. From Chicago to Calumet City to Arizona, a houseboat on Lake Michigan, a disintegrating slum building – a shoot out, a tornado. I mean, what more could you possible expect. If you can’t deal with violence, don’t even start. 08/08 Jack Quick
THE CALYPSO DIRECTIVE by Brian Andrews: Will Foster is special. Actually, it’s his blood that’s special and that’s why Vyrogen wants him. The company has kept Will under quarantine for five months, telling him that he’s infected with a rare and highly contagious form of flu. But now Will’s escaped and Vyrogen is willing to do whatever it takes to get him back. When Meredith Morley hires the Nicolora Foundation, she attempts to cover up what Vyrogen has been up to, claiming Foster is a terrorist who infiltrated Vyrogen intent on stealing their creation. But the foundation, nicknamed the Think Tank, is staffed with some of the best and the brightest. Soon Nicolora’s employees begin to uncover the truth about Morley and Vyrogen. And while Will is running for his life, the Think Tank could be his best ally. I enjoyed Andrews’s debut. It was an entertaining premise and a nice blend of action/adventure and medical thriller kind of in line with a James Rollins Sigma Six novel. The Foster’s backstory was one of my favorite parts, so it was interesting to discover that Andrews had released a free ebook companion, Ring of Flowers, focused on just that part of the tale. There were a few first novel hiccups but it seems Andrews is primed to turn the Think Tank into a series and I’d like to see what they do next. 8/12 Becky Lejeune
CAMOUFLAGE by Bill Pronzini: You don’t have to like your clients, but you do need them to stay in business. It starts out as a routine case for Nameless: Find David Virden’s ex-wife — and they know where she is. Deliver some papers to her and it’s all done. But she refuses the papers, sends a message to Virden to never contact her again, and slams the door. His colleague, Tamara, tells Nameless that Virden threatens to sue, stops payment on his checks, and claims that the woman they located isn’t his wife. Then Virden disappears and his fiancée hires Nameless to find out why. It gets curiouser and curiouser. Meanwhile Jake Runyon’s case is far more personal. Someone is abusing the son of his girlfriend Bryn. The boy, a pawn in Bryn’s divorce is clearly in danger but Runyon’s options are limited – until murder enters the picture. As usual, an outstanding effort from Pronzini. 07/11 Jack Quick
THE CANDIDATE by Paul Harris: Jack Hodges is a presidential hopeful with a powerful message. His supporters are ardent and believe that he will be able to bring about great change for this nation. Mike Sweeney is one of Hodges’s strongest supporters as well as one of his staffers. When Hodges becomes the target of an attempted assassination, Sweeney is assigned to find out why. At first glance, Hodges is clean as a whistle. The would-be killer is keeping totally quiet and no one knows why she’s gone after Hodges at all. Sweeney is finally able to trace the woman back to Guatemala and what he discovers could mean the end of Hodges’s campaign. The Candidate is a good political thriller and a very timely release. Harris certainly knows his stuff but never overwhelms readers with unnecessary politics or over-the-top explanations. He keeps the plot moving and includes just the right mix of behind-the-scenes campaign bits, policy workings, and history to make The Candidate an equally interesting read for folks with a little (or no) interest in political goings on as well as those with more insight into politics. 10/12 Becky Lejeune
CANDLES BURNING by Tabitha King and Michael McDowell: On Calliope Carroll Dakin’s seventh birthday, her father is found murdered in a very “unpleasant” way. Upon the reading of his will, it is discovered that the family fortune is gone. Fearful, Calley and her mother flee to Merrymeeting, a boarding home in Pensacola Beach, Florida. Here, a rotating round of regular visitors, along with owner Merry Verlow, provide Calley with a sort of supportive family unit. The supernatural elements of this story are more peripheral than anything — Calley is occasionally visited by ghosts but the purpose of these visits is usually unclear. There is talk of her large ears that enable her to hear the dead, an element that is not fully developed until the story is almost through. More than anything this is a strange sort of coming of age story. The pacing is somewhat slow, but deliberate, and forces you to savor the book. Though we can never know how the story may have progressed had the McDowell completed it prior to his death, I think King did a fantastic job. The transition between authors is, to me, seamless. Readers more familiar with either of these authors’ past works may be able to discern their individual styles but it won’t effect the overall enjoyment of the book. 11/06 Becky LeJeune
CANDY FROM STRANGERS by Mark Coggins: Veteran P.I. Augustus Riordan is trying to help his cross-dressing friend and assistant, Chris Duckworth, avoid a beating when he discovers the fresh corpse of a missing teenage girl in a San Francisco alley. Then Ellen Stockwell calls. Her husband is a Palo Alto police lieutenant and their daughter Caroline, an 18-year old art school student, hasn’t been seen in three weeks. Riordan’s search for Caroline leads him to additional gruesome discoveries and into the undercover world of Internet sexual predators. Is Riordan San Francisco’s version of Robert Parker’s Boston PI, Spenser? Could be, could be. At least this is his third strong outing so far. 12/07 Jack Quick
THE CAPABLANCA VARIATION by Douglas Quinn: The Capablanca Variation is named for José Raúl Capablanca y Graupera (1888–1942), who was World Chess Champion from 1921 to 1927. Quinn chose the name for his third in a series of books that begins with The Spanish Game and The Catalan Gambit. Although named for chess terms, there is nothing sedate about this action adventure series. The plot of this one is built around an effort to trap a terrorist using a young American woman (Jennifer Ellis) as bait. A team of specially trained operatives is in place to protect her and to seize the terrorist once he is lured into place. What can go wrong? Everything! Dr. William “Bill” Nash is mysterious, well-connected, fearless and nearly omnipotent. Clearly, he is a man to trust. Agent Mark David, Jennifer’s erstwhile boyfriend, proves himself to be a pompous, macho, ego-driven twit who is not to be trusted. Jennifer and her friends Remei Savall and Blair Fontaine – all resourceful, skilled, intelligent women – prove themselves to be more than equal to the men. They are able to accomplish what much of the special forces team members cannot. All are likable, authentic characters. vaguely reminiscent of Charlie’s Angels crossed with James Bond working with the CIA; no previous chess required. 12/10 Jack Quick
CAPE PERDIDO by Marcia Muller: Muller steps outside her Sharon McCone series for a new adventure in Northern California’s Soledad County – this one pitting environmental interests against the plans of developers. In this case international developers want to harvest water from the Perdido River and transport it in huge bladders down the coast to the Southern California cities that need it. The locals know this will destroy the remnants of their tourist-based economy. This book is interesting in that succeeding chapters are written from the standpoint of different characters, and today’s events are the natural outcome of a single night many years ago. A different pace but still the same strong talent. 08/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
CAPER by Parnell Hall: Parnell Hall’s latest features his hapless, cut-rate private detective Stanley Hastings. Stanley ’s sleuthing is normally limited to client-getting for a voracious personal injury trial attorney, Richard Rosenberg. Stanley knows his limits and is generally content with the cards that have been dealt him. Until the day Fate draws a card from the bottom of the deck and causes a beautiful woman to came into his office for help.
Because this is a detective story, the woman is trouble and things are not what they seem. Stanley knows that he is in over his head from the get-go, but feels compelled to play the hand out. Naturally, the result is a humorous disaster, with bodies appearing whenever Stanley goes to any apartment other than his own. I am pleased to report that Stanley is ultimately able to muddle his way through with help from his sarcastic, but supportive wife, Alice; his sarcastic, but supportive, contact in the police department, Sergeant MacAullif; and his sarcastic, but supportive boss, Richard.
Mr. Hall writes well and his Stanley Hastings stories are always enjoyable. This time out, it seemed to me that maybe his boss, Richard, was acquiring more of a voice and a place in the story. It would not surprise me to one day see that Mr. Hall has managed to sandwich a Richard Rosenberg novel in between his Stanley Hastings and his Puzzle Lady works. And when he does, I will buy it. 08/10 Geoffrey R. Hamlin
CAPTAIN FREEDOM: A SUPERHERO’S QUEST FOR TRUTH, JUSTICE, AND THE CELEBRITY HE SO RICHLY DESERVES by G. Xavier Robillard: It just goes to show that even a world-renowned superhero is no match against corporate sabotage. When Captain Freedom finds himself suddenly laid-off by Gotham Comix, there’s nothing left for him to do but enter therapy and begin writing his memoirs. Readers will laugh out loud as the unemployed superhero tells his tale and analyzes his inability to find an arch-nemesis. From his transformation as a sidekick into the superstar of his own comic, Captain Freedom takes you on a rollicking trip through the stand-out events of his life (you know, the ones that make for the best blockbuster flicks). This witty satirical read pokes fun at just about every aspect of pop culture including illegal pirating, pop music, politics, and even cars. Robillard, already a hilarious web presence, should be huge. I just dare you not to crack up and fall out of your chair while you read his debut. 02/09 Becky Lejeune
CAPTIVE OF SIN by Anna Campbell: Sir Gideon Trevithick is viewed by his fellow countrymen as a hero, but his survival of the ordeal that dubbed him so has left him a troubled man. This doesn’t keep him from coming to the rescue of Lady Charis Weston, though. Hiding out from her malicious stepbrothers, Charis knows that she only needs to make it to her twenty-first birthday. When Gideon finds her beaten and bedraggled, she purposely hides her identity, fearing that he will return her to her guardians. She couldn’t be more mistaken. Gideon is determined to help the woman, but it the end, it just might be Charis who helps him. Anna Campbell adds her own twist to the classic damsel-in-distress tale in Captive of Sin. As romance goes, Captive is about as escapist as you can get—it certainly moves quickly and keeps the reader interested throughout. Not being a regular historical romance reader, however, I had expected a much darker story based on other reviews of the book. Perhaps for romance, this is the case. As a regular reader of darker genres, though, Captive was only so-so in this department. 11/09 Becky Lejeune
CARAVAN OF THIEVES by David Rich: Rich has created a very intriguing picaresque character that is the star of this appealing novel. Rollie Waters is a marine working as an undercover agent in Afghanistan. His background includes a childhood with a father who has taught him how to lie, cheat and gain things he wants via being a con artist. Rollie is most comfortable working under cover utilizing identities other than his own. while working undercover in the field, he is seized by his own command and thrown into the brig. It is indicated that his father, Dan Waters, has stolen a great deal of money while in Iraq. Rollie is told that he is responsible for finding his father, and returning the money to the general in charge of his unit. In order to find his father, comply with the orders, and get himself out of trouble Rollie has to retrace his youth, wade through years of lies and deceptions and contact Dan. It is years since he saw his father and the task is formidable. Action takes Rollie back and forth between the US and Afghanistan and features an amazing amount of twists and turns. All are logically handled and incorporated into the book. Writing is crisp and engrossing and sweeps the reader along right from the start including a full picture of the complicated relationship between, to say the least, a very unusual pair of father and son. 9/12 Paul Lane
CARNAL SIN by Allison Brennan: The newest release in Allison Brennan’s combination police procedural/paranormal romance series finds Rafe, Moira, and team up against the second of the recently released Seven Deadly Sins: the demon Lust. The Los Angeles PD has had a chain of recent murders that at first seem to be unconnected, but when a morgue employee discovers identical birthmarks on three of the recently deceased, she puts in a call to Santa Louisa. The markings are strikingly similar to those found on the demon Envy’s victims, so Moira, Rafe, and Sheriff Skye McPherson travel to the City of Angels to investigate Though they are not exactly welcomed by the locals, Moira plans a quick trip to the scene of the latest crime and ends up invoking the wrath of more than just the demon itself. As Moira and Rafe prepare for battle, Anthony travels to Venice where he makes some startling discoveries about the coming war between good and evil. Carnal Sin is a great follow up to Original Sin: Brennan definitely set readers up for a whirlwind of a series and has delivered just that so far. As the series continues to build, Brennan weaves a world of amazing detail and plots with fantastic cross-genre appeal. 06/10 Becky Lejeune
CARNIEPUNK by Rachel Caine et al: It’s that time of the year, the time when the carnival arrives. The tents are raised, the barker is in position, and the smell of cotton candy and funnel cakes is in the air. But underneath it all is something strange and slightly foreboding. Carniepunk brings together some of the top urban fantasy and paranormal romance authors of the day. The collection ranges in subject and tone but they all have one thing in common: the carnival theme. In “The Three Lives of Lydia,” Delilah S. Dawson takes readers to the world of her Blud series with the story of the tattooed woman. Allison Pang sets Melanie St. James against a formidable foe in a prequel of sorts to her Abby Sinclair series. In “Werewife” Jaye Wells explores marital discord with a twist. And in “Parlor Tricks,” Jennifer Estep sends her Elemental Assassin lead to the carnival to help her sister track down a missing teen. The anthology includes fourteen authors total and each story stands completely alone even though some tie into existing series. If you’re a fan of paranormal romance and urban fantasy, this anthology is an absolute must have. Highly recommended. 7/13 Becky Lejeune
CARNIVAL by Elizabeth Bear: I don’t mind books that are challenging to read, as long as they reward you for your hard work. This book, though, just seemed difficult for no reason.
It has a great premise—two gay men are sent as diplomats from Earth to a planet that is entirely run by women, since they will not allow any straight men from outside to visit. All them men on the planet are more or less slaves, most required to fight in gladiator-style tests until they retire to father children for the women. The women are the political and business leaders, and they’re really badass—they fight duels and wear pistols and get involved with all kinds of political machinations.
Then there’s this whole other thing, where the city they live in is kind of a sentient entity, and there are these dragon things that…protect them? Or something? And the earth government is run by computers that were invented by environmental extremists who killed off almost the entire population except for the creative geniuses, I think.
The main problem I had was that there was just too much going on, and I couldn’t tell what the characters were even trying to do, much less what their loyalties were. Even the ending was confusing. Still, I did finish it, and I would probably read something else by the author, since I like her ideas. 05/07 Jenne Bergstrom
THE CARRIE DIARIES by Candace Bushnell: Hot on the heels of the blockbuster Sex and the City 2 movie comes a new book, this time offering us a glimpse into Carrie’s background. Aimed at the young adult market but being read by women of all ages, this is the story of Carrie’s last year of high school in a small New England town and how she made her way to her beloved New York City. As a long time fan of the show and the films, it was important to me that the Carrie I know be portrayed in this book, and she really was. We can see how she developed into the woman that we know, right up until the last page when the timeline goes awry – at least my memory of it. Nitpicking aside, it’s a good look at how Carrie developed her fashion sense, her feminism, and her belief in the power of friendship. 06/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE CARRIER OF THE MARK by Leigh Fallon: Megan Rosenberg is a very special girl with a very special gift – she is a Carrier of the Mark. When she and her father relocate to Ireland, she is immediately drawn to the wickedly handsome Adam DeRis. Adam finds himself equally drawn to Megan. Theirs is a connection that is written in legend and a connection that may not be meant to be. As Megan learns about her strange heritage and the powers that come with it, she and Adam grow ever closer, but a group called The Knox has been searching for the ones like Megan and Adam. The Knox will do anything they can to bring down those who bear the Mark. This teen debut and first in a new series is an original concept and a quick read. Fallon’s twist on Irish folklore will be a nice addition to the genre and a welcome one for readers looking for something a little different. 10/11 Becky Lejeune
A CARRION DEATH by Michael Stanley: Michael Stanley is the pen name of the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollop. Sears lives in South Africa and Trollop divides his time between South Africa and Minneapolis. I include this information because there is no trace of Minnesota in this first outing by the duo. Its strictly Africa and you can feel the heat, smell the dank vegetation and acrid animal smell on every page. This is home for Detective David “Kubu” Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. Like the hippopotamus (“Kubu” is Setswana for “hippopotamus”) that lives in his native land Bengu conceals a deceptively dangerous streak beneath a placid exterior. His large size is in keeping with his presence, whether it is on the sun-baked and blood soaked plains of the Kalahrai riverbeds or the plush and lavish offices of international conglomerates, Kubu will follow the trail to its end. A welcome addition to the likes of Kaminsky’s Porfiry Rostnikov, Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko, and even Ian Rankin’s John Rebus as larger than life, imminently entertaining but also flawed detectives who can’t be bought, or scared off. Looking forward to the next outing. 06/08 Jack Quick
CARTWHEEL by Jennifer duBois: Lily’s semester abroad becomes a nightmare when she’s arrested and charged with murdering her roommate. Her family is reeling from the news, sure their daughter must be innocent. The head prosecutor on the case is confident of Lily’s guilt, however, especially in light of her odd behavior after the murder. But did Lily really do it? What happened in the weeks leading up to the murder to cause such a horrendous crime? It’s no secret that Jennifer duBois’s latest is highly influenced by the Amanda Knox case. The book is being described as a thriller by some but I found that not to be the case. Instead, it’s more of a character study. The “did she or didn’t she” question is the driving force of the book, but stylistically duBois tells her story in a very roundabout way. It’s a definite wordiness that’s not at all overly descriptive but was difficult to read and made it hard for me to connect with the characters and become captivated by the story itself. 10/13 Becky Lejeune
CASANEGRA by Blair Underwood, Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due: Casablanca is Spanish for white house, casanegra means black house. In this black oriented adventure Actor Underwood (Sex and the City, etc.) teams up with accomplished authors Due and Barnes to produce a romp through Hollywood. Tennyson Hardwick, a semi-successful actor, ex-gigolo and incipient sleuth has to clear himself from a murder charge using his good looks and charm, a $2.5 million house inherited from a devoted client, martial arts skills and connections on both sides of the law. All the elements are there to create an on-going series — the sex for pay industry, the grind and glitz of Hollywood and the rap biz, some black film history, and a cool dude with a future. Could this be the John Shaft of the new millennium? 09/07 Jack Quick
CASE HISTORIES by Kate Atkinson: Private detective Jackson Brodie is trying to resolve three old London cases. Two sisters are looking for their missing sister, a retired lawyer is seeking the killer of his adult daughter, and the sibling of a killer is trying to reunite with a niece who witnessed the murder as a baby. Brodie’s efforts heat up all three cases in this tale of family dysfunction and random fate. To me, the book suffers from too many characters. Although well-written, you have to maintain a scorecard to keep up with the shifting cast. A case of too much spice and not enough stew. 01/06 Jack Quick
CASE HISTORIES by Kate Atkinson: The opening book in Kate Atkinson’s highly-praised and acclaimed Jackson Brodie series begins with three cases: a toddler who goes missing in 1970, a girl who is murdered in 1994, and a young wife who kills her husband in 1979. Enter Jackson Brodie. When the father of the toddler dies, two of the remaining daughters hire Jackson to find out what happened to their sister. Then, Theo Wyre hires Jackson to find his daughter’s killer. Finally, the murdering wife’s sister wants Jackson to track down her missing niece. Narrators rotate throughout the book: Jackson, the sisters, Theo, and others offer up their points of view and their pieces of the story. Atkinson also employs a sort of switchback narration when characters’ stories overlap, taking the story back to a prior point with a different narrator and then offering another perspective on an occurrence. Case Histories is an entertaining and often lighthearted mystery and Brodie is a character readers will fall in love with, literally. Case Histories is the first in the series and the first three Brodie books have recently been adapted into a BBC show rumored to be airing on Masterpiece in the US in the near future. 09/11 Becky Lejeune
A CASE OF REDEMPTION by Adam Mitzner: Dan Sorensen was a very successful defense attorney at the start of a promising career with a large New York law firm. Just after winning a high profile case, his wife and daughter are killed by a drunk driver. Dan, traumatized and devastated by the sudden loss, sinks into a period of despair leaving the firm and doing very little other than sinking towards the path of becoming an alcoholic. About 18 months after the tragedy, Dan is coerced into attending a dinner party given by relatives. He is approached by a beautiful woman and talked into coming back into the law in order to represent a rapper that has been accused of murdering his pop star girl friend. The rapper (stage name “Legally Dead”) has fired his first attorney, and based on Dan’s win of the case settled before the deaths of his wife and daughter, wants Dan to represent him. A partnership is set up with Nina, the woman that approached him at the dinner, when it develops that she is leaving a law firm in order to try and get more meaning into her life. The two meet with L.D. (Legally Dead) and he agrees to have Dan and Nina represent him. The pair begin preparations and work at Dan’s house on the administrative aspects of the defense. In the course of the trial the two find that they are falling in love, with Dan the biggest beneficiary of both the relationship and work on the trial when he finds that he is coming back to an interest in life again. Adam Mitzner’s day job is as a practicing attorney in New York, making his descriptions and analysis of the trial and byplay in it as real as possible. His characters live and breathe, acting as they undoubtedly would if involved in the action surrounding the trial. The end is not telegraphed but is a logical one and the reactions of all participants in the story definitely what they would have been in real life. A page turner, and a forecaster of Adam Mitzner’s success in the literary world. Certainly making sure that the reader looks forward to future books by him. 05/13 Paul Lane
CASTAWAYS by Briane Keene: If you like Survivor, you’ll like Castaways. Even if you hate Survivor, you’ll love Castaways. Contestants on a reality survival show find that they are fighting for much more than prize money in Keene’s latest horror release. First, a massive storm is headed straight for the island where they are shooting. The producers admit that while they can’t force anyone to stay on the island, anyone who chooses to leave will forfeit the game. No one who has lived through the grueling challenges thus far is ready to give up now. Then they find that the so-called uninhabited island is very much inhabited and the locals are not so welcoming to the contestants. In fact, the locals are downright bloodthirsty and the competitors are beginning to look like pretty good eating to them. Keene throws in one more wrench for his characters, but I don’t want to give it all away too soon. This gruesome and chilling “beach read” comes from a tale Keene wrote as tribute to the late, great Richard Laymon. A must read for today’s horror fans. 01/09 Becky Lejeune
THE CAT DANCERS by P.T. Deutermann: Two lowlifes escape punishment after robbing a gas station, murdering the attendant, and incinerating bystanders when they shoot up the gas pumps, because the Manceford County, North Carolina, police failed to read the suspects their rights. Soon thereafter, a mysterious e-mail arrives in the department, a link to a video of one of the murderers being executed in a homemade electric chair, ending with a voice announcing, “That’s one.” The shocking video spreads throughout the Internet, drawing the attention of local, state, and federal authorities and national media, and putting intense pressure on these same authorities to find the vigilante before he claims his second victim. Outstanding. 05/06 Jack Quick
CATCH ME by Lisa Gardner: Boston police Detective D.D. Warren is back and when we last saw her, she was newly pregnant. Baby Jack has been born and D.D. is just heading back to work after maternity leave, sleep and caffeine deprived but ready to go. Her first case involves the homicide of a pedophile, which is quickly linked to an unsolved murder of another pedophile. Sex Crimes Detective Ellen “O” quickly muscles her way into the case and brings a level of expertise to the table, spouting facts that scare the crap out of D.D. and parents/readers everywhere. While visiting the crime scene, D.D. sees a young woman hovering near her car who then takes off with D.D. in hot pursuit. Turns out Charlene Rosalind Carter Grant just wanted to check out the detective because she believes she will be the victim of a murder in a few days. Her two best friends were murdered on Jan. 21st on the two previous years. D.D. is intrigued and starts looking into the young woman’s story and finds the truth there. Grant is a police communications officer, keeping watch over her officers and handling 911 calls with aplomb, lending credence to her story. This is a fascinating look at the lives of 911 operators, the unsung heroes of the police department, and at a very interesting case. Lots of twists and turns and a whopper of a surprise ending made this a book that kept me up late into the night. Gardner just keeps getting better. 2/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins: Peeta and Katniss beat the odds and came out of the Hunger Games alive—together. As the twelve Districts begin to actively rebel, Katniss’s final act in the Games is blamed as the catalyst. After all, only one was supposed to survive, but Katniss and Peeta managed to convince viewers that they were so in love they were willing to die together rather than leave one another. As Katniss learns more, she finds that things are not quite what they seem. Capitol control of the Districts has been precarious for some time and she and Peeta are pawns in a game they cannot predict. As the rules change around them, they must fight for survival once again. Oh, a cliffhanger ending if ever there was one. At least the series wrap up, Mockingjay, is already out ‘cause I am dying to know what happens now. 12/10 Becky Lejeune
CELEBUTANTES by Amanda Goldberg and Ruthanna Khalighi Hopper: Hollywood’s newest generation takes a swipe at life in La La Land; Goldberg is the offspring of über-producer Leonard Goldberg, and Hopper is Easy Rider Dennis Hopper’s progeny. Together they’ve penned the story of Lola Santisi, daughter of a powerful director who’s up for his second Oscar. The story is set during Oscar week, and each chapter counts down the days and hours until the big event. Every party, picnic and religious event is documented with inside dirt, dish and name dropping galore, along with some thinly veiled pseudonyms – even though I was completely out of my element, I managed to pick up on the “Uncle Jon”/Jack Nicholson reference. After flopping big in her acting debut, Lola turns her talents to helping her Best Gay Forever friend Julian Tennant, wannabe fashion designer to the stars, by getting one of the A-List celebrities to wear one of his gowns on the red carpet at the Oscars. If you read People magazine religiously and channel surf between ET, Showbiz Tonight or whatever celebrity gossip shows there are out there, then this is the book for you. For me, reading this book was rather like watching a train wreck; I was disturbed, shocked, even horrified at times, but couldn’t stop looking. 03/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
CEMETERY DANCE by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child: In the latest Pendergast thriller, the illustrious detective must team up with D’Agosta to investigate what appears to be a killing by zombie. Worse yet, the victim is someone the two men consider a close friend. All evidence points to the killer being one of the vic’s own neighbors, a man who turned up in the morgue prior to the killing. Pendergast calls on the help of his childhood tutor, a man who specializes in Obeah and vodou, when the search leads to a strange cult centered in Manhattan. Public sentiment regarding the group in question has always been on the negative side, but the link to this recent murder is just what certain protest groups need to feed the fire. Soon it seems as though all of Manhattan is watching, just waiting to see what will happen, and Pendergast and D’Agosta are right in the middle. Preston and Child have done it again. Pendergast is as good as ever and, as usual, readers will be dying to know what comes next for this strange and fascinating character and his friends. 05/09 Becky Lejeune
CEMETERY GIRL by David Bell: When Tom Stuart’s daughter reappears after four years, the first question on everyone’s mind is, “What happened?” A witness claimed to have seen Caitlin with a man and soon others come forward with the same story. But Caitlin refuses to give any details about the past four years of her life, and when a suspect is arrested, she refuses to testify against him. As her father, Tom is determined to protect his daughter. As his marriage and his family fall apart in the aftermath of such a tragedy, he searches for answers that will explain how something like this could have happened and who can be held accountable. Cemetery Girl is a disturbing debut. Not only is the subject not for the faint hearted, but the misery that Bell conveys through Tom and the other characters, and the unsettling revelations that are slowly revealed about Caitlin’s past, make the book an uncomfortable read. 10/11 Becky Lejeune KINDLE
CERTAIN GIRLS by Jennifer Weiner: Weiner writes good chick-lit. She’s the author of In Her Shoes, which became a blockbuster movie with Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette. Weiner’s first novel was the chick-lit bestseller Good in Bed and Certain Girls is the sequel. In Good in Bed, our heroine Candace “Cannie” Shapiro gets dumped and reads about it in a magazine article written by the dumper. In retaliation, she writes a very angry, very funny novel that becomes a huge bestseller. Now we meet up with Cannie about 10 years later, as she’s getting ready for her daughter Joy’s bat mitzvah. The story is told in alternating first person chapters between Joy and Cannie, so we get both perspectives of the coming-of-age, mother-daughter relationship in all its glory. Being a mother of a 15 year old who went through the bat mitzvah process not that long ago, I could easily relate. Cannie has been pseudonymously writing a young adult sci-fi series for years and reveling in being a wife and mother. The angst arises when Joy gets hold of a copy of her mother’s bestseller, which raises all sorts of questions about her family. Certain Girls has lots of angst, lots of laughs and a very bittersweet ending – I loved it. 05/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
CERTAIN JEOPARDY by Captain Jeff Struecker: Fairly routine thriller about a team of six Special Ops soldiers who attempt to confirm the existence of an Al Qaeda base in Venezuela. In the process they stumble upon a plan to transport a kidnapped nuclear weapons expert from that camp to Iran. Labeled as Christian fiction, the action ebbs and flows around discussions of family and faith, which can be unsettling when juxtaposed with firefights and murder. Reminds me of the local anti-gambling folks who insist that Jesus likes Bingo but doesn’t approve casino gambling. Think Rambo, but “G” rated. 09/09 Jack Quick
CHAIN OF COMMAND by Colby Marshall: The President and the Vice President are both killed, catapulting the Speaker of the House into the White House as the first woman President of the United States. And that is just the opening of Marshall’s first novel. Talk about a thrill a minute; the book is definitely that and than some. Journalist McKenzie McClendon, relegated to second tier on the newspaper she works for, takes a popular opinion that U.S. Navy SEALS committed the crimes and writes a scathing condemnation of these elite warriors. Former Navy SEAL Noah Hutchins has an entirely different opinion of the crimes. His former buddy is found dead and blamed for one of the murders. He does not believe this and decides to go after the real killers. He convinces McKenzie to work with him with the carrot of being able to write the story of the century about the truth. The duo come into contact with several groups involved in the assassination plot; a violent feminist organization, foreign terrorists and crooked politicians. When the reader thinks they have the plot all figured out, there is another twist added, and all in all there are more twists and turns than a roller coaster. The ending is not telegraphed, although clues do appear in the scenario. Definitely a book that is impossible to put down, and needs to be finished in one sitting savoring the literature. Hutchins and McKenzie may appear in a future book but the most important thing is that there should be future books written by this talented author. 2/13 Paul Lane
CHAIN OF COMMAND by Caspar Weinberger and Peter Schweizer: A former Secretary of Defense working with an experienced author yields a debut political thriller of the first magnitude. The weapon of Secret Service Special Agent Michael Delaney is used to killed the President and wound the Vice-President. The new President declares a state of national emergency, putting the entire nation under martial law, and then prepares to take out a right-wing militia he claims is responsible. Delaney and others have doubts that quickly grow in proportion to the new President’s actions. All the action takes place in a hectic nine-day span. Maybe the dialogue isn’t the greatest but what a plot. 02/06 Jack Quick
A CHAIN OF THUNDER by Jeff Shaara: The second in Shaara’s planned trilogy about the western battles in the Civil War. The focus of this book is on the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi, a battle that established the reputation of Ulysses Grant and his later promotion to commander of the entire union army. Shaara uses the same format as he has done in his other books: that is, a great deal of research and the use of characters, both fictional and real. In relating the stories he sets up both conversations and interactions between the main individuals which have the ring of being possibly those that actually took place at the time. The reader’s interest is captured by the feeling that he or she is reading a well done novel with the understanding that facts presented are those that actually took place at the time of the book. General Grant looked at the capture of Vicksburg as a military necessity in order to disrupt the supply line for the Confederacy and achieve control of the Mississippi river. At a great cost in casualties he crossed the Mississippi and drew a line at the city. Due to the heavy casualties suffered by his army he elected to lay siege to Vicksburg rather than attempt to take it by frontal attacks. Shaara uses both Grant and General William Sherman as key commanders directing the siege, and Bauer, a private that was used in his book Blaze of Glory previously to depict the human side of the conflict. The Confederate side uses both Generals John Pemberton who commanded the men defending Vicksburg and Joseph Johnston who chose not to come to the aid of the troops under Pemberton, but remained in Tennessee indicating that the siege of Vicksburg was nothing but minor skirmishes between the armies. There is also the use of a civilian living in Vicksburg, Lucy Spence who was an actual person, and distinguished herself by volunteering as a nurse at a hospital ministering to the Confederate wounded. The book is ideal for any reader interested in Civil War history, but actually anyone that would like to immerse themselves in an excellent novel with the knowledge that it is based on fact. 7/13 Paul Lane
Chains Around the Grass by Naomi Ragen: This beautifully written tale brings the impoverished Markowitz family to life as their American Dream turns into a nightmare. Set in the 1950’s in the projects in The Bronx, those “chains around the grass” are metaphoric as well as physical for little Sara. Her strength of character comes from the strength of her faith and is a wondrous thing to behold. The autobiographical nature of this novel makes it a heart wrenching and compelling read. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE CHALICE by Nancy Bilyeau: In the year since the closing of Dartford Priory, Joanna Stafford and her fellow sisters and novices have tried to make a home for themselves in the local village. Their residence has been met with some conflict, however, with Henry’s ardent supporters’ increasing animosity towards everyone of the Catholic faith. Joanna is set on beginning a new life for both herself and her half brother, even planning to set up shop creating tapestries like those she worked on at the Priory. When they are both offered a chance to visit family in London, Joanna agrees thinking it will offer a bit of relief and a temporary change for the two of them. But all is not well in London. Joanna’s relatives are intent on setting in motion a prophecy that Joanna has long tried to escape, one that could mean a restoration of the Church and even possibly her order. The cost of this path would be steep, though, and Joanna fears for the fate of her immortal soul. This second in Bilyeau’s historical fiction trilogy is filled with political intrigue and mystery. It works well as a stand alone but is a perfect follow up to The Crown and set up for the forthcoming third part of the story, The Covenant. 9/13 Becky Lejeune
CHARLEMAGNE PURSUIT by Steve Berry: In the fourth title to feature Cotton Malone, Berry finally gives readers a glimpse into Malone’s past. In 1971, Cotton Malone’s father was stationed on a navy sub that went down in the Atlantic, or so he and his mother were told. Unofficially, the sub sank while on a mission to Antarctica – the files have been sealed ever since. Cotton requests access to the files as a favor from his boss, and within minutes of receiving the information he is attacked. He escapes, but then comes face to face with a set of ruthless twins who claim that their own father was part of the same mission as the elder Malone. It seems the sub may have been on a covert op that was inspired by Hitler’s own search for the Aryan race. Malone will have to retrace his father’s long lost steps in order to get out of this one alive. Meanwhile, back at the home base, Malone’s boss is teamed up with none other than the president’s right hand man in an attempt to lean the reason behind the mission and who has been keeping it under wraps all these years. Charlemagne Pursuit is full of the page-turning suspense that readers expect from Berry. The plot is expertly woven and the insight into Malone’s character is a welcome addition to the series. My favorite Berry title yet. 12/08 Becky Lejeune
THE CHAMELEON CONSPIRACY by Haggi Carmon: Third outing for Agent Dan Gordon, Senior Investigative Attorney for the Office of Asset Recovery and Money Laundering of the U.S. Department of Justice, who holds law degrees from the United States and Israel and has a three year stint in Mossad, as well as CIA credentials. It will take all of Gordon’s skill and experience as he goes against the master criminal and con man known as the Chameleon who has eluded international law enforcement for twenty years. As Gordon pursues his prey, he uncovers the fact that there is yet another side to the mysterious Chameleon – he’s an undercover sleeper agent. The Chameleon has been on the loose for twenty years, but he has never had Dan Gordon on his trail, an agent who will go anywhere, anytime, anyplace to face any danger – to succeed. 05/09 Jack Quick
THE CHAMELEON’S SHADOW by Minette Walters: Lieutenant Charles Acland returns to England a broken man after barely surviving an attack on the reconnaissance convoy he was leading in Iraq. The two soldiers that accompanied him are both dead. Acland himself has suffered severe head injuries and facial fractures that have left him with debilitating migraines, minor amnesia, and constant ringing in his ears. The attack cost him one eye and left major scarring to the side of his face. His temperament and personality have also been affected. He has become short-tempered, distrusts everyone around him especially women, and has broken off all ties with any remaining friends. Has he become a killer, though? Shortly before being shipped off to Iraq, two men were brutally attacked and murdered in London. After Acland returns to England, a third man is attacked shortly after an altercation with him at a bank ATM. Acland’s behaviors of late certainly seem to work against his favor but those around him doubt that he is responsible. That is until the evidence otherwise begins to pile up. Minette Walters is one of England’s queens of psychological suspense. Her subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) manipulation of readers through the use of unreliable characters leaves fans guessing until the very end. In some ways, Chameleon is similar to one of her previous works, The Dark Room. True to form, however, Walters has once again delivered an original and gripping edge of your seat thriller. 01/08 Becky Lejeune
CHANGELESS by Gail Carriger: In the second Parasol Protectorate installment, London’s supernaturals are all in a tizzy after a recent case of human temporarily afflicted them all. As a preternatural, Alexia, the new Lady Woolsey and muhjah to the Queen, is one of the few with such a power—with a touch she can render a vampire or werewolf completely mortal and exorcise ghosts as well. But even Alexia doesn’t have the ability to turn all of London’s paranormal beings at once. Her new official position on the Crown’s Shadow Council allows her to investigate on the Queen’s behalf, so she follows her husband to Scotland where he’s recently traveled to visit his old pack, consequently and unfortunately now without an Alpha to lead them. Alexia believes the strange events of late can be traced back to various packs and their recent travels and may have followed the Scots back to their territory, especially once she discovers that the Alpha-less wolves haven’t been able to change for some months. Undoubtedly, where Alexia goes trouble follows, but it’s never too much for the spirited and willful heroine to handle. Carriger’s quirky series is filled with witty sarcasm and humor. Truly enjoyable and completely original. 02/11 Becky Lejeune
CHAOS by Escober: What a week for British soldier Alex Fisher who has escaped to Mexico to try to put his life back together after a tour in Bosnia. It starts with a blackout, and then he is arrested for rape – a crime he is certain he did not commit. After the “police” work him over on a deserted beach, he is convince the cops, legitimate or not, plan to kill him, so he beats them to the punch, literally. Now there are two bodies, just the start of a series of life-threatening encounters, all of which seem related to a chance meeting with a mysterious woman named Angela. Mentally, Fisher is less than whole and the things that come creeping out form the cracks are not at all pretty. Where will it end. Sometimes the truth is harder to accept than the lies. This is the first of four books by a popular Dutch writing duo, and is their American debut. 08/09 Jack Quick
CHARLOTTE STREET by Danny Wallace: Jason Priestly believeed it might just be love at first sight when he helped a girl on Charlotte Street one afternoon. She was laden down with boxes and trying to hail a cab when Jason stepped in to help. After she was off, he realized he still had her camera. Thinking it would be a great opportunity to meet her again, he returned to Charlotte Street, imagining the conversation he’d strike up while returning the item. Unfortunately he misses his chance. Soon his roommate has convinced him to develop the film and together they begin a scavenger hunt for Jason’s dream girl, following in her footsteps and tracing her path through the twelve pictures. But is Jason ready for reality or is he better off living a dream? Danny Wallace’s debut is a wonderfully charming story about love, life, and friends. Jason makes mistake after mistake and ultimately has to face up to his future, but he serves as inspiration—and a source of frustration—to all of those around him. Charlotte Street is a fun and thoughtful read. 11/12 Becky Lejeune
THE CHASE by Clive Cussler: Cussler goes back over a hundred years for this one. Set in 1906, it tells the tale of the Government’s efforts to track down the Butcher Bandit, so named because he has gunned down 38 adults and two children in a series of robberies, leaving behind no clues or witnesses. Van Dorn Detective Agency lead agent Isaac Bell heads up the manhunt and ultimately identifies the Butcher. Then the chase is really on, through the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and onto a pair of steam locomotives and more high speed (for the times) thrills. A nice change of pace for Cussler. 07/08 Jack Quick
CHASING DARKNESS by Robert Crais: The latest in the Elvis Cole series lives up to the high standards set in its predecessors. Fires in the hills have become a staple of TV news, unfortunately, and Crais uses such a fire as an interesting way to introduce this story. As cops are going door to door, trying to evacuate a neighborhood that’s burning, they stumble across an old man who has apparently killed himself – several days before they got there. At his feet is a photo album filled with Polaroids of dead women. As if the fires weren’t hot enough, this story really blazes as Cole gets involved. Seems he helped exonerate the dead man, once accused of murdering one of the women in his photo album. Determined to prove that he didn’t err in that previous investigation, and uncertain about what really is in that photo album, Cole takes off doing what he does best – getting to the bottom of the mystery that the cops are all too happy to conclude is a done deal. An intricate story and a setting that comes alive as well as any character combine to make this a memorable novel for Robert Crais fans – including the new fans who haven’t discovered him until now. 7/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
CHASING DARKNESS by Robert Crais: Wow, what a plot. Police and fire department personnel discover the corpse of one Lionel Byrd, an apparent suicide. In his lap is a photo album containing crime scene photos from seven brutally murdered women, one per year for seven years. All the evidence appears to point to Byrd’s guilt as a serial killer. Three years ago, however, when Byrd was charged with the fifth of these seven murders, Elvis Cole was hired by Byrd’s attorney and found an exculpatory videotape that allowed Lionel Byrd to walk free. At the time Elvis was a hero. But was he in fact collateral damage? Now he is being reviled and threatened while he himself is desperate to know the truth. Was he responsible indirectly for the deaths of two young women? Can he and Joe Pike find out the truth before someone takes out Elvis? Start this one on a Friday since you aren’t gonna put it down soon. 08/08 Jack Quick
CHASING HARRY WINSTON by Lauren Weisberger: Emmy, Leigh, and Adriana have been friends for over a decade. Emmy was recently dumped by “the guy”, the man she thought she would marry and have children with. Leigh is a young publicist. She has the perfect job, the perfect apartment, the perfect man. Then she signs on as editor for Jesse Chapman a brilliant, yet impossible, writer. She begins to realize that the life isn’t that perfect. And finally, Adriana is the stunning daughter of a renowned supermodel. She has no qualms with flaunting and using her Brazilian charm to get any man she wants. Emmy and Adriana make a pact to put an end to their dismal lives. Emmy decides that she should expand her “knowledge” of men by traveling around the world and bedding a man from each country. Adriana resolves to pick one of many potential suitors and settle down. A year later the girls must decide just how much in their lives has changed. While I can admit that this was an engaging beach read, it reminded me a bit too much of Sex in the City. I kept envisioning Emmy, Leigh, and Adriana as Charlotte, Carrie and Miranda. The similarities between the two sets of characters are uncanny. 07/08 Jennifer Lawrence
CHASING MIDNIGHT by Randy Wayne White: Tomlinson gets himself and Doc Ford into serious trouble when he gets them invited to a private island reception hosted by a notorious Russian black marketer heavily involved in the illegal sturgeon/caviar trade. Environmental extremists take control of the island, or are they thugs hired by the Russian’s competitors? Whatever the motive, they have herded everyone together and threatened to kill one hostage every hour unless their demands are met-at which point they will just blow everybody up. Electronic jammers make communications with the outside world impossible. The only hope of avoiding terrible consequences: The militants do not know Ford’s capabilities, or that he is still on the loose. Can you believe Doc Ford saves the day. Wow. 4/12 Jack Quick
CHASING SMOKE by Bill Cameron: Detective Skin Kadash is currently on medical leave from the Portland PD, trying to get through treatments for bladder cancer, and not doing so well. Then he gets a call from his former partner in regards to her current case. Four seemingly unrelated suicides have popped up recently – unrelated but for the list dead man number one’s daughter shows up with after the discovery of his body. On the list are five names; four of them are now dead. Although the deaths have been officially ruled suicides, Skin’s partner is concerned enough to ask him to do some digging on the side, off the record, and out of their Lieutenant’s line of site. Skin is more concerned by the fact that each of the five men on the list were also being treated by the same oncologist that he sees. Pure coincidence or is something more sinister at work in Portland? Cameron’s second mystery is a gritty noir-esque piece filled with dark sarcastic humor and not one, but multiple probable femmes fatale. Readers may remember Skin from a brief appearance in Cameron’s debut, Lost Dog. 11/08 Becky Lejeune
Chasing the Dime by Michael Connelly: This stand-alone thriller is not in the same league as the Harry Bosch series, but is a good read nonetheless. Henry Pierce is a techno-millionaire who inherits the phone number of an Internet based escort named Lilly Quinlan. A few hours of incessant phone calls leads him to wonder why she hasn’t taken the phone number off her web page. Henry is worried about her, the residue of guilt over his prostitute sister’s death years earlier, so he ditches work and pursues the missing girl. Some of it really stretches the imagination, but there are some nice twists, interesting characters and good writing. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
CHASING THE DRAGON by Domenic Stansberry: Dante Mancuso is an ex SFPD cop coming home to North Beach, San Francisco’s traditionally Italian district of 19th-century row houses, “drunks caterwauling in the midnight streets,” and “old Calabrese … all dressed in black, hunched over like crows on the wire.” The homecoming is a mixed blessing for the agent who has spend the past seven years working for a covert security operation that has him traveling to hotspots all over the world. Coming home means coming to grips with some of the reasons he left in the first place, but it also means the opportunity to make a major Chinatown drug bust that may or may not assuage some of his feelings about the murder of a custom inspector that ultimately led to his leaving the force and the city. This is the first in a new series, and Stansberry seems to have nailed San Francisco perfectly. You can hear the sea lions, smell the sourdough, and know it can’t be anywhere else but the city that famous San Francisco newspaper columnist Herb Caen called Baghdad by the Bay. 06/07 Jack Quick
CHEAT THE GRAVE by Vicki Pettersson: The latest in Pettersson’s explosively original Zodiac series finds Joanna Archer mortal after sacrificing her powers to save a young girl. Abandoned by her troop, Joanna finds herself battling a new enemy alone. Or maybe not. Sleepy Mac, one of the rogues of MidHeaven has escaped and is out for vengeance. But Mac is not the only one who escapes the now locked world and Joanna finds herself amongst a group of rogues who have been hiding out just outside of Vegas town limits. Each of them is willing to follow and help protect Joanna, especially if it means finally upsetting the balance between the troops of Light and Shadow that have been waging war amongst themselves for decades. The rogues believe that if they can overthrow both troops, whose only concern has been defeating one another, then the rogues can offer protection to humans, something they believe the agents should have been doing all along. But joining them means that Joanna would become rogue herself, putting her on the wanted list for both troops and making enemies of her former allies. What happens next is anyone’s guess as Pettersson takes the series to completely unpredictable new levels. I love it, as usual. 05/10 Becky Lejeune
The Cheese Monkeys: A Novel in Two Semesters by Chip Kidd: A more accurate subtitle might have been “A Novel of Graphic Design”. Chip Kidd designs book covers for a living; this is his first novel. Our protagonist is a newly enrolled freshman at a state university, majoring in art because he hates art and figures that “…if any school would treat the subject with the proper disdain, it would be one that was run by the government.” Besides having a charming, quirky way with words, the author has outdone himself: the book itself is a masterpiece of design. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE CHEMISTRY OF DEATH by Simon Beckett: Forensic anthropologist David Hunter left the city three years ago when after his wife and daughter are killed in a drunk driving accident. No longer able to distance himself from the bodies he once examined, he retreats to the small village of Manham where he can start anew. Now, practicing as a general practitioner, he wants nothing more than to forget his prior profession. When two boys discover a badly decomposed body in the woods, Hunter is asked to help identify the body and the cause of death. Before they know it, the small village is faced with a sadistic serial killer who may be one of their own and Hunter finds himself being dragged deeper and deeper into the investigation. Beckett combines forensic anthropology and entomology in this fantastic debut. This promises to be a great new series. Beckett is a fresh new voice to the genre. 10/06 Becky LeJeune
CHERRY BEACH EXPRESS by R.D. Cain: Toronto Police Sex Crimes Detective Steve Nastos is good at his job. Perhaps that is why he has been wrongfully accused of murdering his dentist – a man whom he believes committed an unspeakable crime against his daughter. Freed on bail, Nastos attempts to track down the actual killer in a town where laws are seen more as guidelines and law enforcement agents adhere to their own moral relativism. With a recovering alcoholic lawyer, a rogue cop, and a two-faced judge, Nastos has the cards stacked against him. When his estranged yet beloved wife becomes involved in the case, the stakes become higher, and Nastos is forced to protect her. Nicely done, but not for the faint of heart. 06/11 Jack Quick KINDLE
THE CHESS MACHINE by Robert Löhr, translated by Anthea Bell: In the late 1700’s, a spectacle was touring Europe and eventually even the U.S. This spectacle was a chess playing automaton called the Mechanical Turk. Conceived and created by Baron Wolfgang von Kempelen in 1770 Hungary as a way to curry favor with the Empress Maria Theresia, this novel is a fictionalized version of that incredibly imaginative device and its history. The secret behind the Mechanical Turk wasn’t the earliest version of the computer, but rather a carefully hidden chess phenom who also happened to be a dwarf who could be easily concealed within the “machine.” Tibot Scardenelli was a little person who had spent his life playing chess for money, and getting beaten and robbed in the process. When his circumstances turn even more dismal and dangerous, Scardenelli decides to take up the Baron’s offer to defraud the Empress and the world. Some at court are suspicious of the machine, and tension mounts when a baroness is found murdered and evidence points to the Mechanical Turk. The Chess Machine is a fascinating story and a completely engrossing read. 07/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
CHICAGO BLUES edited by Libby Fischer Hellmann: My four favorite cities in the entire world are Atlanta, because I’ve lived there; San Francisco, because of its beauty; Boston, for its history; and Chicago, for its people. Only Chicago could have produced Elwood and Jake and nobody does blues like Chicago authors Sara Paretsky, Stuart Kaminsky, Barbara D’Amato, Max Allan Collins, Marcus Sakey, Sean Chercover, Michael Black, J A Konrath, and Libby Fischer Hellmann, among others. So ride the “El” to a $10 room in a no-name hotel above an all night bar, grab a six-pack of Rheingold “Not a common name. Not a common beer” and enjoy these stories. After all, it’s nearly a year until the Cubbies blow another pennant run. 11/07 Jack Quick
CHICAGO NOIR edited by Neal Pollock: This was the second in Akashic’s city-themed noir series, and is probably most noticeable for the names not included such as Max Allan Coolins, Sara Paretsky and Barbara D’Amato. Nevertheless, the eighteen stories are entertaining and reflect the diversity of Chicago, even if none of the authors are household names – at least they were all new to me – Jeff Allen, Jim Arndorfer, Daniel Buckman, Todd Dills, Andrew Ervin, Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski, Luciano Guerrieero, Kevin Guilfoile, Adam Langer, Joe Meno, M. K. Meyers, Achy Obejas, Bajot Ojikuto, Peter Orner, Neal Pollock, Amy Sayre-Roberts, C. J. Sullivan, and Claire Zulkey. If the stories are light on Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey and deep-dish pizza, it is where Chicagoans live, with nothing glossed over and nothing left uncovered. With titles like “Zero Zero Day”, “Goodnight Chicago and Amen” and “Marty’s Drink or Die Club,” you know you aren’t far from Wrigley Field. 12/07 Jack Quick
THE CHICAGO WAY by Michael Harvey: You wanna get Capone? Here’s how you get him. He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital; you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago Way – Sean Connery as Officer Jim Malone in The Untouchables. So that’s where Harvey got the title for this action packed debut and in depth portrait of the seamy underside of Chi Town. Michael Kelly is a former Chicago detective turned PI who is just trying to help an old partner when he lands right in the middle of a cover-up which involves a death row killer. From that point on, the subtitle should be the disco hit Stayin’ Alive, because that’s about all Kelly can do. Harvey, the co-creator and executive producer of A&E’s Cold Case Files, can also pen a darn good tale as well. 09/07 Jack Quick
THE CHICK AND THE DEAD by Casey Daniels: The spunky heroine from last year’s Don of the Dead is back. Pepper Martin’s story picks up literally where Don left off. To recap, Pepper Martin has been “gifted” with the ability to see the dead after hitting her head on a grave at the Garden View Cemetery where she works as a tour guide. It’s a gift she’d like to give back. After solving the murder of mob boss Gus Scarpetti, the word is out that Pepper is for hire and Gus has apparently recommended her services to one Didi Bowman, the dead and seemingly forgotten sister of the famous Merilee Bowman. Merilee is the author of the Civil War epic So Far the Dawn, a book that is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Didi does not want Pepper to solve a murder this time, though. Didi wants Pepper to prove that Merilee is not the real author. Didi wrote the book before she died and Merilee stole all the credit. Now, Merilee is back in Cleveland for the anniversary of the book’s release and the opening of the So Far the Dawn museum. Pepper’s investigation is not going to be easy considering the fact that Merilee stands to lose millions if the truth is revealed. When Merilee’s personal secretary dies after suffocating in her corset (for the reenactment ball of course) Didi and Ella (Pepper’s boss) are quick to suggest that Pepper take her place. The position will gain her access to the proof that she needs to solve Didi’s case but could it also get her killed? How hard can it really be to deal with a fraudulent septuagenarian after taking on the Mafia, right? This is a one-sitting read that’s perfect for a relaxing day off. 05/07 Becky Lejeune
CHILD 44 by Tom Rob Smith: In Stalinist Russia, the government would have you believe that Communism is the only way to live, that their system is the best, that they’ve eliminated crime and jealousy. To attempt to speak out and disprove the government means years of hard labor and even death. Everyone lives on edge wondering if they will be the next ones on the militia’s hit list. Leo Demidov, a war hero and well-respected member of the elite militia, has never questioned authority until now. His wife is accused of being a spy and Leo must show where his loyalties lie – with his superiors, or with his family. The wrong decision results in his exile and demotion. Then, a body is discovered. The accused is a mentally challenged teen from a local asylum. Leo knows that the boy can’t be responsible. In fact, Leo knows that this is not the first murder of its kind. But how do you prove there is a serial killer on the loose in a country that disavows even the possibility of crime. On his own, Leo discovers a second body in the area and, believing that he has proven the boy’s innocence, turns it over to authorities. Instead, the boy is killed for the first murder and a witch-hunt begins for a second killer, the government’s way of eliminating undesirables amongst their perfect society. A search through local records reveals over forty bodies and Leo will literally risk everything to find the real killer. This is one of the most talked about books of the year, and I’ve got to tell you, it definitely lives up to the hype. It’s brilliant debut based on painstaking research. Smith’s attention, not only to the physical details of his setting, but to the emotional strain and motivations of his characters amidst this environment are impeccable. This will be one of the best books you read all year. 05/08 Becky Lejeune
THE CHILDREN OF BLACK VALLEY by Evan Kilgore: Sam Mackie is an orphan. He grew up not knowing much about his past except a strange memory of a black and foreboding tower. He grows up to become a pharmaceutical executive, married with two sons. Then his life starts coming apart. His oldest son disappears, his wife dives into the bottle and they end up divorced. Things aren’t going well at work, and to top it all off, his remaining son is hospitalized with radiation poisoning. All the available evidence points to some link with Sam’s past and what turns out to be an abandoned nuclear silo in the jungles of Africa. Definitely different, and pretty well done. 09/08 Jack Quick
CHILDREN OF PARANOIA by Trevor Shane: This is the first novel by Shane, and planned number one in a prospective trilogy. If his first book is indicative of what is to come I can’t wait for the next to come out. The author manages to pull the reader directly into a very different world than our normal one. Into a world where a long term clandestine war between two opposing sides is being fought and murder of the opposition is the norm. The war is fought under the surface of the every day events happening in the world around it. Neither side is aware of the original causes of the war; only that they are born into it, and forced to take part by their families and the fact that they become the legitimate enemies of the other side when they reach 18 years of age.
The book is written in a first person narrative, first by “Joe” who is the principal protagonist , and than by his wife “Maria”. The choice of utilizing first person narration becomes an excellent means of character development showing logical initial and later reactions by both to the situation that they are forced to take part in. Events depicted drive both people towards a very logical , although disturbing climax with the scene set for the next book. Shane is excellent in being able to set up a believable world where the normal is complete paranoia regarding everything around the two and allowing the reader to envision such situations as being possible. 09/11 Paul Lane
THE CHILD THIEF by Dan Smith: Luka is a soldier turned reluctant farmer, living a hand-to-mouth existence in a small Soviet village with his wife and children. While out hunting, he finds a strange, sick man pulling a sled holding the bodies of two young children. Everyone in this small village lives in fear of the communists taking their homes and putting them on work farms, so a stranger in their midst causes a panic. The townspeople turn on Luka and hang the unconscious man, scaring Luka’s young niece to take off into the woods. Luka determines that a man has taken her and he, his twin teenage sons and the girl’s father take off through the frozen wasteland to find the girl and the man who took her. The terrain is barely passable; the weather is brutal, but not as brutal as the man who took the girl. Luka soldiers on, killing when he has to but determined to bring the girl home. The tone is dark and disturbing in this tightly written story, tension mounting until the unexpected ending. Sure to appeal to fans of David Benioff and Tom Rob Smith 6/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2013 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.
CHILI CON CORPSES by J. B. Stanley: What do you do when you’re in deep guacamole? Well, you could add black beans, Chihuahua cheese, homemade salsa, scallions, cheddar cheese, sour cream, seasoned beef, jalapenos, black olives and tortilla chips and then throw the “kitchen sink nachos” at your foe. Occasionally, you need a culinary mystery to cleanse the palate and this supper club series fills the bill nicely. With chapter titles like Apple Fritters, Virginia Ham, Peppermint Patty Hero Cake, and the like, you will be surprised to know that underneath all the goodies lurks a neat little mystery. The Mexican cooking class for supper club members was Lindy’s idea, so when people start turning up dead and the evidence points toward her, Lindy is hotter than a jalapeno. Our group finds far more spice in their life than they were seeking. So grab a handful of munchies and have at it. Oh, might also have some of those sticky things to mark the recipe pages as well. 03/08 Jack Quick
CHILL OF NIGHT by John Lutz: Ex-NYPD homicide detective has been “returned to duty” from medical retirement compounded by his don’t give a damn attitude toward the department brass. But they need him, and his skill, to capture the Justice Killer. Each of the Killer’s victims at one time served as foreman on a jury that acquitted an “obviously” guilty defendant. However, as the killer becomes more adept at his attempt to gain revenge for his own personal situation, he makes a startling discovery. He actually enjoys the killing, particularly of women. Now the stakes get higher as the list of potential victims expands exponentially. Although not ground breaking content, Lutz’ skill at keeping the suspense level high while maintaining credibility make this a first rate read. 10/08 Jack Quick
CHILLWATER COVE by Thomas Lakeman: FBI agent Peggy Weaver has just broken a huge child abduction case in Philadelphia. Evidence at the scene, however, will lead her back to the real case that started it all. One afternoon, young Peggy and her best friend, Samantha, were approached by a man in a black thunderbird. The man took Samantha, all the while telling Peggy he would trade her for her friend. The scared little girl ran home to her father, the chief of police. Samantha was finally returned and her family never spoke of the incident again – the driver of the black thunderbird was never found. Someone sent pictures of Samantha to Peggy’s crime scene. Samantha also received copies of the same pictures. Peggy returns home and spends one evening talking with Samantha, and it is agreed that the agent will use her resources to quietly solve the case. Then, Samantha goes missing again and what would have been a hushed investigation into a cold case becomes a life threatening and very public rush to save a woman’s life before it is too late. Peggy discovers that not all is as it seems and her father may even be involved in this strange conspiracy. This mystery has so many twists and turns that there is almost no way to predict the end. Lakeman pulls it off wonderfully. This second thriller can be read on its own or following the debut The Shadow Catchers. 11/07 Becky Lejeune
CHINA LAKE by Meg Gardiner: In the first Evan Delaney outing, Evan is dealing with an unstable sister-in-law who has become involved with a religious cult. The sister-in-law, Tabitha, thinks she wants her young son back, although her past performance as a mother has enabled the boy’s father to have total custody. One semi-accidental death followed by a murder puts Delaney i n the middle between police who aren’t really into deep thinking and a bunch of doomsday fanatics “chosen by the Lord.” Not bad for a first effort although a bit uneven. Will be interesting to see how she develops Delany in subsequent adventures. 12/08 Jack Quick
CHINATOWN BEAT by Henry Chang: Detective Jack Yu is transferred to his old neighborhood in Chinatown where he grew up. He is coping with the recent death of his father and the angst of memories of childhood friends now dead or on the other side of the law. In an area where 99 percent of the cops are white, Jack stands out in that not only does he speak the language, he understands the culture, as he is part of it. In this environment, he is confronted with a serial rapist preying on young Chinese girls, the assassination of Uncle Four, an elderly and respected Triad leader, and the disappearance of Four’s gorgeous young mistress whom he had imported from Hong Kong. Yu’s crime solving approach combines modern police techniques with the methods of an old friend who is an elderly fortune teller. Although I have never been there, the book seems to capture the sights, sounds and attitudes of Chinatown, beyond the facade seen by tourists. 10/06 Jack Quick
THE CHOCOLATE LOVERS’ CLUB by Carole Matthews: Lucy, Autumn, Chantal, and Nadia couldn’t be more different. Lucy is a single working girl who has just discovered her boyfriend is cheating on her, yet again. Autumn comes from a posh family but lives frugally and works with teen addicts. It just so happens that Autumn’s own brother has some addiction problems of his own and he has recently taken to crashing in her guest room and bringing his degenerate pals over at all hours. Chantal would seem to have it all, but her marriage is one without “perks.” Instead, she has a habit of meeting with random men at opportune moments to curb her urges. Nadia and her husband are also having troubles, but theirs are of a financial nature. Nadia’s husband has an online gambling addiction and has run up thousands of dollars in debt. The one thing that brings these women together is their undying love of all things chocolate and their regular “therapy” sessions at a shop called Chocolate Heaven. Here the ladies can hash out their problems and gorge on every kind of chocolate confection imaginable. Of course these women’s problems make for pretty amusing and sometimes raunchy reading, especially since those problems are sometimes similar to what all of us women have to deal with. Matthews has been one of the staples in chick-lit from the very beginning and her books have that certain charm and humor that seems to come naturally to all British writers. So, be prepared to laugh out loud as you commiserate along with this quartet of chocoholics, and keep some chocolate of your own on hand while you read. 02/08 Becky Lejeune
CHOKE POINT by James Mitchell: Its deja vu all over again as my previous read was CHOKE POINT by Jay MacLarty. In this CHOKE POINT, April Lennox, an L.A. reporter, is in Tucson to interview an undocumented Mexican who has agreed to tell her his story. Before she can meet with him, he is killed in the rioting surrounding the NCAA basketball finals. P.I. Roscoe Brinker gets involved and agrees to accompany the reporter into Mexico, but then another case intervenes. Lennox decides to make the trip alone – not a good idea, and well, best save the rest for you to read. Interesting with a likable main character in Brinker. 10/07 Jack Quick
CHOKEPOINT by Jay MacLarty: Big Jake Rynerson (think Howard Hughes played by John Wayne) is having problems with the construction of his new Macau mega resort, The Pacific Pearl, when he is shot in a street ambush. International courier and old friend Simon Leonidovich, the man who can deliver anything, anywhere, on time, every time, is called upon to help out. Simon must deliver a priceless artifact — the Crest of Ch’in — to the People’s Republic of China, in support of tri-lateral negotiations among the United States, China and Taiwan to frame a new international trade agreement. The action is non-stop in this high stakes world of great risk and great reward. Another satisfying outing for the “James Bond” of couriers. 10/07 Jack Quick
CHRISTINE FALLS by Benjamin Black: As a child Quirke was adopted by famed Judge Garrett Griffin. He and his adopted brother Malachy were sent to Boston to take part in a residency at a local hospital. There, they met and married two sister, Delia and Sarah Crawford. Unfortunately Delia died while giving birth to Quirke’s stillborn child. Since then, he has spent most of his nights, and days, drowning himself in whiskey. The night of Brenda Ruttledge’s going away party is no different. When Quirke stumbles drunkenly into his pathology lab, he discovers Mal bent over a file. It’s not until the following morning that Quirke recalls the name on the file, Christine Falls. The girl’s body has already left the morgue without undergoing examination, and Mal, an obstetrician, signed off on the file with the cause of death listed as pulmonary embolism. As Quirke investigates this curious incident, he finds that Christine Falls actually died in childbirth. What is Mal’s concern with this woman? What happened to the child? Quirke’s investigation leads him to some startling discoveries. Benjamin Black’s (John Banville’s) mystery debut is a dark and dramatic look at just how far some people are willing to go to cover up shameful family secrets. 03/07 Becky Lejeune
CHRISTMAS BLISS by Mary Kay Andrews: Welcome back Weezie and BeBe, besties from Savannah Blues, Savannah Breeze & Blue Christmas. BeBe is pregnant and in her last trimester when she finds out that her previous marriage was never officially ended, and she’s afraid to tell her live-in baby daddy. Weezie is a week away from her wedding to Daniel when he gets an amazing opportunity to headline at a New York City pop up restaurant. He heads off to New York and Weezie and BeBe try to track down the ex who hasn’t signed the divorce papers. This being a Mary Kay Andrews novel, lots of laughter, love and somehow believable craziness ensues. I have missed these characters so this little gem was truly a holiday gift. If you are looking for an evening’s escape, look no further. 10/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
CHRISTMAS IS MURDER by C.S. Challinor: Lets see. His name is Rex Graves, he’s driving a mini-Cooper, he is planning to spend Christmas in Swanmere Manor, an historic hotel in East Sussex. By Jove, I deduce we have a classic English mystery here including death by almond tart, masks the smell of cyanide, don’t you know. Was it the cook, Sandy Bellows, the gay twit of an antique dealer, or maybe the sherry-swilling handy-man. Its almost not worth the breakfast porridge made with Scots Quaker Oats and dollops of cream and brown sugar, but that’s far better than the cold kippers or going somewhere else in the blizzard. Shades of Agatha Christie and all that. You may not even want to save this one for the holidays. 09/08 Jack Quick
THE CHRYSALIS by Heather Terrell: A lawyer is ethically bound to represent their client to the best of their ability, regardless of their own personal opinions. What can a lawyer do when his or her own moral beliefs conflict with this ethical responsibility? This is the question that comes to play in Heather Terrell’s riveting debut. In an auction devoted to the Dutch masters, Beazley’s, a prominent auction house in New York, plans to sell off a painting called The Chrysalis. Hilda Baum claims that Nazi soldiers stole the painting from her family during WWII. Young attorney Mara Coyne has been assigned to represent Beazley’s in a case that could earn her a long-awaited partnership. The case seems to be a slam-dunk until Mara’s own investigation reveals a secret that Beazley’s has been hiding for decades. Although the villains tend to fall a bit flat, Terrell’s talent as a storyteller is evident. By alternating chapters between Mara, Johannes Miereveld – the fictional painter of The Chrysalis and Hilda Baum’s father Erich, Terrell provides very intricate stories for these characters. Overall, I thought this was a compelling and enjoyable read. 05/07 Becky Lejeune
CINDER by Marissa Meyer: As a cyborg, Cinder has less rights than a full-fledged human. Raised as a ward by a woman who never wanted her, Cinder is forced to work to support the family and is basically their possession. A virus has wiped through the human population—no one is immune, not even the ruler of the Eastern Commonwealth. As people become more and more desperate, cyborgs are being selected as test subjects in the search for a cure. When Cinder’s guardian volunteers her for testing, a startling discovery is made, one that could change Cinder’s life forever. A futuristic, cyborg Cinderella set in a post-outbreak Asia… what a wild ride and a fantastic testament to the boundless possibilities of imagination. Cinder is book one of the Lunar Chronicles, which means more to come from Marissa Meyer. 3/12 Becky Lejeune
CINNAMON KISS by Walter Mosley: It’s the Summer of Love and Easy Rawlins is contemplating robbing an armored car to raise money for his daughter’s critical medical treatment. There may be others as good as Mosley, but no one really better in capturing the setting and the reality of life on the edge. You may not always agree with the actions of his characters, but it’s difficult to not understand them as presented by Mosley. If you have ever been in Los Angeles on a hot August night, you will relate immediately. If you haven’t had the experience, this is as close as you will get. The story? Easy decides not to go for the robbery but then gets more than he bargained for in searching for a missing eccentric attorney and his beautiful assistant – Cinnamon. Mouse, the stone cold killer, helps Easy survive and Easy gains additional insight into his relationship with girlfriend Bonnie. Another home run. 09/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
CIRCLE OF ASSASSINS by Steve Rigolosi: The circle of assassins has an interesting premise. Since most murders are committed by people who know their victims, what would happen if a group of people each murdered a person who was a total stranger to them, in exchange for having someone in their own life being killed on their behalf. The circle is initiated by criminal mastermind “A” with an ad placed in a Manhattan community newspaper. Who will respond? Will they remain committed? Will they succeed? .Kind of a Fatal Attraction on speed. Very interesting. 05/07 Jack Quick
CIRCLES OF TIME by Phillip Rock: WWI has come to an end and that means peace for England once again. It’s 1921 when Circles of Time, the second in the Abingdon Pryory trilogy, begins and the Grevilles and others like them are finally able to begin putting their lives back together. Though England is undergoing many changes, Anthony Greville, Lord Stanmore, is anxious to return to his country estate. Abingdon Pryory has definitely seen better days — having served briefly as a hospital for convalescing soldiers has left the grand manse a bit worse for wear – but it will soon be restored to its former glory. Alexandra has returned recently from Canada, newly widowed and with a young son. The unconventional circumstances of her marriage have left a rift between her and her father, which has made everyone at the Pryory a bit on edge. Fortunately, all of that begins to change when Martin (Greville’s nephew) and friends are able to convince Lord Stanmore to bring Charles home. The eldest Greville had been suffering quite severely from shell shock, but his return to Abingdon brings about great improvement. Martin has taken on a position with a large international news agency, a job that allows him to travel first to the Middle East where family friend Fenton Wood-Lacy has been stationed, and then to Germany where he witnesses first hand the results of the war. This second in the series picks up almost immediately where The Passing Bells left off, offering readers a continuing look at this particular period of British (and world) history. Like Downton Abbey it also provides a great look at the continuing social changes of the time. 2/13 Becky Lejeune
CITIZEN VINCE by Jess Walter: Vince Camden never misses a morning making pastries at the Spokane, Washington donut shop where he works, but his real income is from his various sidelines, selling stolen credit card numbers, dealing a little pot, but hey, a guy in the witness protection program in 1980 has to make a living, right. But now Vince has two major issues he must address. Should he vote for Reagan or Carter, now that he is a registered voter for the first time in his life, and two, how to deal with the hit man, local cop, and minor league Mafioso who have him in their sights. From the opening line, “One day you know more dead people than live ones” to the surprise ending, Citizen Vince is a first rate read, and no, I’m not gonna tell you who he decides to vote for. I’m also not going to tell you why he only reads the first part of books, either, but I will share with you that “an Olympic gold medal is worth its weight in gold.” 09/07 Jack Quick
CITY OF ASH by Megan Chance: Seattle’s early days provide a backdrop for Megan Chance’s latest, a tale of love, scandal, betrayal, and vengeance. Geneva Langley, one of society’s upper crust, has been involved in one too many scandals of late. Now, she and her husband have been sent to Seattle to head up the family’s new business venture and wait for the gossip to die down. Beatrice Wilkes is an actress who’s made her way to the top—almost. When Geneva becomes involved with a new playwright, at the supposed encouragement of her husband, she gains the leading role in a play that was written for Bea. Of course Bea isn’t going to take this slight sitting down. Very soon, however, both women find that they have more in common than either of them ever suspected. Bea and Geneva drive the story, but the extras—the behind-the-scenes look at stage life in the nineteenth century and the historical context—make this a rich and wonderful novel. 08/11 Becky Lejeune KINDLE
City of Bones by Michael Connelly: The decades old, partial skeleton of an abused and murdered child is found in a shallow grave. Harry Bosch is determined to find the killer, and in doing so has to deal with his own troubled childhood. He also has to deal with seeing a woman the police department says he shouldn’t be seeing. Michael Connelly skillfully weaves together a story that will hold you hostage until you turn the last page. This series is going on ten years old; this is the eighth installment (the last one was A Darkness More than Night) and somehow Connelly just keeps getting better and better. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
CITY OF DRAGONS by Kelli Stanley: PI Miranda Corbie, a former escort who made the papers thanks to her first big case, is not known for backing down or playing it safe. When she happens upon a young Japanese man who’s been beaten to death in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Miranda is not satisfied to simply give her statement and move on: she knows that the cops have little interest in the case and decides to have at it herself. Her digging attracts some unwanted attention, however, and Miranda finds herself under the scrutinizing eye of the authorities and some unsavory characters as well (and in some cases, they are one and the same). Meanwhile, Miranda has been hired to track down a missing teen whose own stepmother claims the girl is responsible for her father’s death—a multi-layered plot with plenty of twists to keep you guessing. Stanley’s gritty noir style is a wonderful complement to her well-researched and impressive 1940s setting. City of Dragons is rich in detail and unforgettable characters; a grand start to what I am sure is going to be a fabulous new series. 02/10 Becky Lejeune
CITY OF DRAGONS by Kelli Stanley: February, 1940, San Francisco’s Chinatown – Tensions are running high between the Japanese-American and Chinese-American communities because of the atrocities at Nanking when a 33-year-old female private investigator stumbles upon the fatally shot body of Eddie Takahashi. The Chamber of Commerce wants it covered up. The cops agree. Only hard-nosed detective Mirana Corbie wants is justice–whatever it costs. Tough as nails but easy on the eyes, think Velma without Mike Hammer. This gal is destined to go places. 12/11 Jack Quick
CITY OF FIRE by Robert Ellis: It is the first “lead” homicide for newly promoted homicide detective Lena Gamble. A Hollywood housewife is sexually assaulted and brutally killed. Initial evidence points toward the husband, but when this turns out to be only the first of a series of grisly crimes, it become obvious there is a serial killer, dubbed Romeo by the press, on the loose. Gamble knows she has to solve this case and also deal with the aftermath of her brother being gunned down on a dark Hollywood street five years ago. As time passes, Lena suspects that the LAPD colleagues she has come to trust and admire are conspiring against her in the interest of closing a troubling case. Evocative of early Wambaugh, its real life COPS on the gritty streets of Los Angeles. 02/09 Jack Quick
CITY OF FIRE by Thomas Fitzsimmons: Somewhat disappointing debut about two cops in the Bronx being set up to take the fall for a series of deadly arson fires. Vinnie D’Amato is all cop while Michael Beckett has been changed by his small role on the TV drama Law & Order. It opens Beckett’s eyes to a world beyond that of criminals and cops, but at the cost of the bond of trust between the two partners. A number of other authors have done it better, particularly Wambaugh, T. Jefferson Parker, and even J.A. Jance and John Sandford. Maybe the next one will be better. 02/11 Jack Quick
CITY OF HOPE by Kate Kerrigan: This follow up to Kate Kerrigan’s City of Hope picks up about ten years later. Ellie has long since returned to Ireland and her husband, John. They’ve tried for a family but unfortunately Ellie has never been able to carry a child to term. Instead, she’s thrown herself into her work. Ellie has built a small business empire in their tiny town, including a country store, a typing school for young women, and a salon. Then John dies. Ellie, confused and distraught, seeks solace in the one place she thinks she can be happy: New York City. But the New York of 1934 is a very different New York than the one she left all those years ago. The city that once offered so much hope and possibility has fallen to the crippling after effects of the Great Depression. Ellie’s success in Ireland has left her a wealthy woman, though, and she finds herself in a position to help those around her. With new purpose, she barrels through her grief focusing all her efforts in helping the city and its people get back on their feet. Well other than the fact that Kerrigan ripped my heart out by killing off John, City of Hope was equally as wonderful as its predecessor. It should be noted that while this is the second part of a three part series, City of Hope can certainly be read on its own. I highly suggest starting with Ellis Island simply because I’ve enjoyed both parts of Ellie’s tale so much. 7/13 Becky Lejeune
CITY OF SOULS by Vicki Pettersson: This fourth in the Zodiac series proves that Pettersson just keeps getting better and better. The balance in this world has been upset after the events of The Touch of Twilight and it’s Joanna Archer’s fault. Zodiac Troop 175 is losing strength and support after Joanna borrows energy from one of the changelings. In the end, Joanna’s own soul splintered, leaving the child with growing powers and the girl set to take her place now living a slow death. Joanna knows of only one other agent to have made this same mistake, but has no way of finding him without access to the manuals that tell the tales of Light and Shadow. Then Warren, leader of their division, reveals a secret that has long been kept hidden from agents of both sides. There is a world other than our own. A world where women rule and rogue agents hide. It is here that Joanna might track down the missing agent and learn the secret to setting things right. But entering this world comes with a very heavy price and Warren has been keeping many more secrets that could affect not only the war between Light and Shadow, but could put Joanna herself at risk. Though there is some catch-up material in this book, the series is quite intricate and I wouldn’t recommend reading them out of order. This is one of the most original urban fantasy series out there and it’s one of my absolute favorites in the genre. Highly recommended. 06/09 Becky Lejeune
CITY OF THE SUN by David Levien: Jamie Gabriel lives in a community where boys still have paper routes; that is, until he and his bike vanish while delivering papers early one morning. His parents, Paul and Carol, report his disappearance to the police, but after a brief search leads nowhere, the authorities move on to other cases. More than a year later, on the advice of one of the deputies, the parents hire private investigator and former cop Frank Behr. Behr brings some baggage to the table; he’s divorced, and his son is dead. While he empathizes with the tragedy of not knowing what happened to Jamie, he is hesitant to take the case, warning that closure will undoubtedly be ugly. Tormented by the strain of having a missing child, Paul and Carol each try to cope in their own way, and their marriage suffers for it. Eventually, Paul starts working with Behr, and despite the cold trail, their quest leads them to some very troubling answers and a somewhat predictable ending. Nevertheless, in his fiction debut screenwriter Levien (who cowrote Ocean’s Thirteen, Runaway Jury, and Rounders) captures the hopelessness of the situation well, the pacing is relentless, and the story gripping and altogether disturbing. Highly recommended. 03/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2008 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.
CITY OF THE SUN by David Levien: United States statistics show that 2,300 people are reported missing every day. The first 24-72 hours of these cases are critical. Often, if the person is not recovered in that time period, they never will be. Jamie Gabriel is one of these people. He left this morning, just like every morning – picking up the papers for his route and riding off on his bike. Unlike every other morning, though, something happened to Jamie. A year later, his parents are ready to give up the search for their missing son. The police have no leads and have never made any progress on the case. In a last ditch effort, the couple hires PI Frank Behr. Behr initially refuses the case, but his guilt over the death of his own son compels him to try. Amazingly, he makes progress, but his investigation has stirred up a hornet’s nest of trouble. While both shocking and disturbing in subject matter, this thriller is wholly rewarding. I can imagine a grizzled Bruce Willis playing Behr in the movie. 03/08 Becky Lejeune
CITY OF THE SUN by David Levien: Twelve-year old Jamie Gabriel disappears while delivering newspapers in a suburb of Indianapolis. After over a year with no results from the police, his parents Paul and Carol hire PI Frank Behr, an imposing ex-cop with a checkered past. Behr has a special empathy for their situation as he also has lost a son, which led to his marriage dissolving and his departure from the Indianapolis police force. Behr soon discovers enough to begin to trace Jamie and the trail isn’t a pretty one. Child abuse is an ugly subject and this is a gritty but well written portrayal of how it affects not only to the children but also to their families. If you are a Harry Bosch fan, then make sure you grab this one. Bosch and Behr share some common DNA. 04/09 Jack Quick
CITY OF THIEVES by David Benioff: Benioff follows up The 25th Hour with this novel supposedly based on his grandfather’s surviving WWII in Russia. Seventeen year old Lev Beniov has elected to stay in Leningrad with his friends during the German siege, rather than leaving with his mother and sister. Everything changes when Lev is caught looting the corpse of a dead Luftwaffe pilot who unsuccessfully parachuted from his plane at altitude and froze to death before reaching the ground. Normally, the penalty for Lev’s conduct would be execution, but instead, he and newly made friend and Russian Army deserter Koyla, are spared at least temporarily, by Colonel Grechko, on the condition they come up with a dozen eggs for the colonel’s daughter’s wedding cake. They quickly learn this is no small task in the terrible conditions of the siege. But then they take on an even more daunting mission – to kill the commander of the local occupying German forces. While Benioff’s first book would have made a neat color film, this one would be starkly portrayed in black and white only, but still quite good. 06/10 Jack Quick
CITY OF TINY LIGHTS by Patrick Neate: Tommy Akhtar claims to be the best Ugandan Indian private eye in London and he probably is. After all, he was also a mujahideen in Afghanistan. He likes Wild Turkey and Benson & Hedges and cricket. His current case involves finding a missing hooker but quickly escalates with MI5 and CIA involvement. Speaking of hookers, Tommy imparts this knowledge to us: black hookers are always Melody, Harmony, Bianca, Ebony, Naomi or Tyra. Blonde ones are inevitably Marilyn, Caprice, Helene or Elle. Hispanics are Sandra or Salma or else named for cars – Fiesta, Sierra or Cleo. Petite girls? Kylie, always Kylie. Akhtar is truly one-of-a-kind, and the terrorist threat plot is right out of today’s newspapers. Although Neate calls this “Another Tommy Akhtar Investigation” it is apparently the first in a series. Let us hope so anyway. 08/06 Jack Quick
CITY OF VEILS by Zoë Ferraris: When the brutally disfigured body of a young woman is discovered on the beach in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the local police know that they’re in for a challenge. In a country where religion dictates law and women’s rights are questionable, the murder of an unidentified woman could be the product of any number of motivations. Katya, one of the few female employees in law enforcement, a lab worker at the coroner’s office, becomes involved in the case and is able to make the surprising discovery of the woman’s identity. This clue would seem to narrow the list of suspects, but sadly this is not true. The woman, a filmmaker who shot B-roll for a local station, stepped on more than a few toes with her controversial side projects. What’s worse, evidence starts to point to the involvement of an American living in Jeddah. With the help of her friend Nayir, Katya will play a pivotal role in the solving of the case. But Katya and Nayir’s friendship has often been at odds with the beliefs of their country and their partnership in the case pushes those boundaries even further. This sequel to Finding Nouf is a well-plotted mystery and a fascinating glimpse inside Saudi culture. Readers would perhaps be better prepared by reading Nouf first, however. 08/10 Becky Lejeune
CITY OF WHISPERS by Marcia Muller: Family always come first so when private eye Sharon McCone receives an e-mail asking for help from her emotionally disturbed half brother Darcy Blackhawk, she replies but gets no response. Thus begins the search which leads her to an Internet café in San Francisco, a city he’s never been to before. From there the investigation leads her to the body of a woman at the Palace of Fine Arts, where a witness had told her that Darcy was headed. Then, as she digs deeper, Sharon uncovers a connection to the unsolved murder of a young heiress to a multimillion-dollar banking fortune. Now Sharon must race to solve both murders and ensure her brother’s safety, despite the imminent danger that lurks within her own family. 1/13 Jack Quick
CITY OF WOMEN by David Gillham: This story is set in 1943 Berlin at the height of World War II, and focuses on Sigrid Schroeder, a good German woman whose husband is off fighting on the eastern front while she works at the patent office and lives with her overbearing mother-in-law. There are many such women left behind in Berlin, hence the title his book, and this is a fascinating look at their lives; the living with bombings, with neighbors turning in neighbors, food shortages, propaganda, Gestapo and more. Sigrid goes to work and escapes at the cinema, and it is there that she meets a Jewish man and has an affair. The story is told with flashbacks to the affair interwoven with Sigrid’s . befriending a young girl who works as a nanny to a neighbor and is a member of the underground. Sigrid becomes what is known as a “Righteous Gentile,” saving Jews and others trying to escape the Nazis. When her husband returns from the front, injured, her life becomes even more complicated. This beautifully written debut is a thoughtful exploration of relationships and honor, love and hate and horror. Another superb read from Putnam’s Amy Einhorn imprint. 9/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
Claire Marvel by John Burnham Schwartz: If you aren’t in love with our heroine Claire Marvel within the 40 pages or so of Schwartz’s new novel you are heartless. I also haven’t loved Cambridge, MA and Harvard this much since LOVE STORY and some of Kaysen’s work. However, I wouldn’t mind taking a swing at the nose of our hero (?) Julian Rose. Julian is . . . well exasperating to begin with, also a democrat who quickly puts aside his convictions to take a job in the republican world (during the Reagan Years to boot), and a boy who isn’t nice to his mother (alright, he has good reason for that). There is terrific writing here! Great characters too! So here is what I would do – – – wait to buy this when it comes in paperback. Then get all your friends buy it and read it. Then duke it out over WHEN Julian became a wimp. Then let me know why they needed to go all the way to France. PS: Schwartz wrote BICYCLE DAYS and RESERVATION ROAD (just too sad a premise for me to read). Both received great reviews. His publisher seems to look to this as his commerical breakout book. ~This review contributed by Ann Nappa
A CLASH OF KINGS by George R. R. Martin: War has come to the Seven Kingdoms. In the wake of Robert Baratheon’s death, Rob Stark has been named King of the North. The two younger Baratheon brothers have both claimed rights to the Iron Throne, and the Lannisters hold King’s Landing. As battles rage on throughout the land, Arya Stark travels with a group bound for the Night’s Watch in hopes of escaping Lannister scouts and Jon Snow travels with the Watch north of the wall where dead things have begun to rise. The return to Westeros is a welcome one for this reader, even with season two of Game of Thrones currently airing. Martin’s story is fairly simple—greed, honor, and revenge are motivation for everyone’s actions in the series. It’s the number of characters, the landscape, and the history that become complex. As such, the story is rich and the pacing is quick, making even these tomes easy and entertaining reads. 5/12 Becky Lejeune
CLEA’S MOON by Ed Wright: After being blacklisted, sent to jail on an assault rap, and abandoned by his wife, Ray Horn is a long, long way from his early success as a hero in B-movie westerns. Now he works as a debt collector for his former faithful Indian sidekick turned casino owner. It’s a short jump to sleuthing, and when an old friend approaches him with a problem, Horn is ready to go. The friend’s father, a real estate mogul, has died, leaving behind boxes of disturbing photos of young girls, one of whom is Horn’s stepdaughter. The friend gets pushed out a window, Horn’s stepdaughter goes missing, and Horn is forced into finding the link between the pictures, the girl, and the friend. A first rate first outing. 04/06 Jack Quick
A CLEAN KILL by Leslie Glass: Lieutenant April Woo of the NYPD is planning a delayed honeymoon with new husband Captain Mike Sanchez in this latest installment. Their plans face a major disruption 5 days before they intend to leave when two socialites are killed on consecutive days. While the cause of death is different, the victims are best friends and in both cases the bodies and their surroundings have been meticulously cleaned. April and Mike soon find other common denominators – the same personal trainer, nannies from the same upscale service, the same drug habits. April gets pulled into the investigation although the crimes are outside her precinct. Balancing duties, trying to have a private life, worrying about subordinates and the political ramifications of the “not by the book” investigation keep April on edge. Add in Skinny Dragon mother’s openly stated desire for her daughter to immediately become pregnant and get out of police work and you can see why April and Mike really could use the honeymoon. Will they get it? Who will be the next victim? And why? 08/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
THE CLEANER by Brett Battles: Jonathan Quinn is a professional “cleaner.” No, he doesn’t work with Merry Maids. He is a specialist working in the world of independent intelligence, cleaning up scenes and policing loose ends. Yes, its dangerous but for $60,000 per call and a call about once each month, he is doing quite well. That is, until his world comes apart. It started with a suspicious case of arson and quickly propelled him into an attempt to wipe out the entire “Office”, the organization for which Quinn works. Nicely done thriller, definitely a different perspective, but it has all the essentials – violence, betrayal, and revenge. 11/11 Jack Quick
THE CLEANER by Paul Cleave: Joe, the “cleaner,” works days cleaning a police station in Christchurch, New Zealand while his nights are spent as the Christchurch Carver, a serial killer who has raped and killed six women. The police have linked a seventh victim that Joe didn’t kill, and he’s determined to find out who did and frame them for all the murders, and having access to police files make that a real possibility. Joe tells his story in the first person, creating a unique insight into such a twisted mentality. The police think he is simple, as does Sally, the maintenance woman who lost her brother and thinks Joe can fill that void in her life, but Joe knows that he is smarter than all of them. He is also dealing with his domineering mother and that relationship lends additional insight into the character, as does Melissa, a woman after his own heart. Violence and torture are prevalent so this book is not for the faint of heart, but fans of Chelsea Cain and Thomas Harris will appreciate reading from Joe’s point of view. 12/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2012 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.
THE CLEANUP by Sean Doolittle: Matthew Worth has been relegated to security detail at a local grocery store after punching another cop – a cop that just happens to be sleeping with his wife. Worth spends his days helping bag groceries at the checkout, waiting for his probation period to end. When Gwen Mullen comes into work one day covered in bruises, Worth is reminded of a case from early in his career. The murder of Tiffany Pine has haunted Worth for years. As a result, Worth is determined to help Gwen at any cost. Gwen won’t have to worry about suffering any further abuse at the hands of her boyfriend, though. She’s taken care of that problem herself. Against his better judgment, Worth decides to protect Gwen from the inevitable fallout she would suffer as a result of killing her abusive boyfriend. Doolittle’s dark tale of crime and cover-ups is an engrossing and satisfying read. 03/07 Becky Lejeune
CLEMENTINE by Cherie Priest: This quick adventure marks the return to Priest’s Clockwork Century world, introduced in last year’s award winning Boneshaker. Captain Croggon Beauregard Hainey’s airship Free Crow has been stolen. Not one to go down without a fight, Hainey is willing to chase the thief to the ends of the Earth to get his ship back, even if that means trekking through enemy territory to do so. What he doesn’t know is that the thieves have a very specific mission in mind for the newly dubbed Clementine, and they’ve hired the Pinkertons to make sure the mission is completed. Belle Boyd, the detective agency’s newest employee, is put on the case. But Belle, a former spy for the Confederacy, is stubborn and smart and the more she learns about the case, the more it stinks. At just under 200 pages, Clementine offers up an action-packed easy read to get fans ready for Priest’s latest full-length Clockwork Century release, Dreadnought. Here’s hoping we’ll see more of Belle Boyd in the future as Priest has created in her a strong and fascinating heroine (but Priest is kind of known for that). 10/10 Becky Lejeune
THE CLEVELAND CREEP by Les Roberts: The 15th outing for Cleveland’s favorite PI Milan Jacovich (it’s pronounced MY-lan YOCK-ovich) is ugly, very ugly. It starts when the mother of 28-year-old Earl Dacey (an overweight under-socialized live-at-home photographer with acne) hires Jacovich to find Earl who has gone missing. In short order Jacovich discovers Earl was shadowing Catholic schoolgirls in Northeast Ohio shopping malls with his hidden camera taking “upskirt” videos without their knowledge. The porn connection leads him to the mob and then, when Dacey’s body is found, the Cleveland police – in particular Lieutenant McHargue, his nemesis from the past who suddenly is asking for his help. Then there is FBI Agent Kitzberger who feels his badge puts him above the law and threatens to “burn” Jacovich if he doesn’t use his “mob connections” to help Kitzberger make a big splash so he can move up from Cleveland. Also there is Kevin O’Bannion, an Army veteran with combat experience, a volatile temper, and a juvenile-crime record, but young and eager to learn the P.I. Business, who is hired at the request of a friend to assist Jacovich. About the only good thing going for Milan is he meets an interesting young Catholic school English teacher, with whom he has his first date since “Bush the First was President.” Will Milan survive it all and end up with the fair maiden? Stay tuned. 06/11 Jack Quick
CLEVER FOX by Jeanine Pirro: This sequel to Sly Fox finds prosecutor Dani Fox getting a page on New Year’s Eve, 1979 (remember beepers?) She is the only woman in the District Attorney’s office, heading up the newly formed Domestic Violence unit and fighting the old boy’s network on a daily basis. A New Jersey Mafia don’s daughter is found tortured and murdered, and Fox and her journalist boyfriend Will rush to the crime scene in Yonkers, New York, the working class area of upscale Westchester County. As Fox and her investigating officer start digging, they find that the dead woman had been having an affair with her father’s most hated enemy, head of another crime family. The FBI has an eyewitness agent that can place the don at the scene of the crime, and political pressure becomes unbearable as Fox’s boss demands immediate justice. She isn’t comfortable with charging a man based on circumstantial evidence, and as witnesses start disappearing, the pressure really heats up. Pirro joins the ranks of fellow prosecutors Linda Fairstein and Marcia Clark in turning out tautly written legal thrillers, and Pirro’s expertise shines on every page. 7/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2013 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.
CLICK TO PLAY by David Handler: Tim Ferris is dying and the former child TV star claims to know the truth behind an infamous Hollywood murder spree. He contacts the world’s oldest living Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist with a plea to come talk to him. Ernest Ludington Thayer is much too old to chase fire engines anymore so he sends his protégé, Hunt Liebling, not knowing that he would never see Liebling again. Ferris’ secret has the power to destroy a beloved US Senator who is on the path to the Presidency. With such high stakes everyone is at risk, including Leibling who is falsely accused of an all-new Hollywood massacre, and becomes the prime suspect himself. This has some interesting insights into current day Internet journalism and overall is a decent read. 10/09 Jack Quick
CLOSE CASE by Alafair Burke: District Attorney Samantha Kincaid is back in her third outing (Judgment Calls, Missing Justice) in this twisty tale of law and order. A white police officer, Geoffrey Hamilton, shoots an African American woman to death during a routine traffic stop, bringing some stepped up racial tension to Portland politics. Then local hero, Oregonian newspaper reporter Percy Crenshaw, is bludgeoned to death in his own driveway, the same night the race riots heat up. Caught on TV are two young men doing some damage with a baseball bat, and Samantha’s new live-in boyfriend, Detective Chuck Forbes, watches his partner, Detective Mike Calabrese, wrangle a confession to the Crenshaw murder out of one of the boys, using questionable methods at best. Samantha has to deal with the suspicious shooting and the quasi-confession, causing Chuck to wonder where her loyalties lie. Junior reporter Heidi Hatmaker has Crenshaw’s notes and is trying to put together a story for herself but is unwittingly endangering everyone involved. The first person narration works beautifully but alternating with occasional third person narration for the Hatmaker storyline feels awkward in this otherwise superb legal thriller. Highly recommended for all fiction collections. Copyright © 2005 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission. 07/05
CLOSE CASE by Alafair Burke: With each new outing, Burke grows stronger. Although her main character Samantha Kincaid still seems a bit naive to be thirty-two years old, she is acquiring some of the toughness she will need to succeed as a prosecutor. She can stand up to those within her office but still has problems relating to outsiders. In this episode seemingly unrelated cases come together at a terrible cost, in bodies and destroyed friendships. A murdered reporter, a “forced” confession, and an officer-involved shooting all swirl around Kincaid. Confessed murder suspects have airtight alibis and possibly corrupt police are difficult to identify. At each step more and more of her associates are alienated, some permanently. Yet in the end, the outcome is not only believable, but also seemingly inevitable. Recommended. 07/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
CLOSE ENOUGH TO TOUCH by Victoria Dahl: Hollywood make up artist Grace Barrett is on the run, having accidentally stolen money from an old boyfriend and then having it stolen from her before she can return it. She lands in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where her great aunt has an apartment house known as the “Stud Farm.” She gives Grace an apartment rent free to help her get back on her feet. Grace meets neighbor Cole Rawlins, a hot cowboy recovering from a devastating accident, where a stallion fell on him, fracturing his pelvis, femur and other assorted bones and requiring multiple surgeries and months of rehab. He is recovered enough to have lots of hot fights and hot sex with Grace, before they go riding off into the sunset together. 50 Shades fans may like this one. 1/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE CLOSERS by Michael Connelly: This is the 11th entry in the Harry Bosch series and it’s still working. Harry has his badge back and is working with his old partner, Kiz Rider, for the Open-Unsolved Unit, working on cold cases. First up is a 17 year old murder that was never solved, but DNA evidence has moved the case to the top of the pile. But nothing is as easy as it first seems, and this case is no different. I guess I hold Connelly to a higher standard than most because I know how tremendously talented he is, but while this is a very good book and an enjoyable read, it’s just not his best. The book plods along in places, and the writing is clunky at times. I expect more. 05/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE CLOSERS by Michael Connelly: LAPD detective Harry Bosch is back on the force assigned with former partner Kiz Rider to the Cold Case unit. Their first case back involves the killing of a bi-racial high school girl 17 years before, reopened because of a DNA match to blood found on the murder gun. The blood on the gun belongs to Roland Mackey, a local lowlife white supremacist. Connelly meticulously leads the reader along with Bosch and Rider as they explore the links to Mackey and along the way connect the initial investigation of the crime to a police conspiracy. In the process Bosch and Rider gain a better understanding of their own purposes in life. One of Connelly’s best and Bosch is back on the job, thank goodness. As he says, without the weight of his gun, he limps. 05/06 Jack Quick
The Clothes They Stood Up In by Alan Bennett: Adorable fable about dealing with the loss of possessions. Zen with a twist!
CLOUD ATLAS by David Mitchell: The current edition of this novel was recently released as a tie in with the movie starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant and Susan Sarandon. I did not have an opportunity to read it when it was first released but was now caught up in Mitchell’s command of the language, his ability to capture completely different moods and delineate a wide variety of characters. The novel involves six different vignettes loosely allied at the beginning of the book and than returning to them in reverse order at the last half of the book. It becomes apparent that there are tie ins from one to the other in spite of taking place in different times and places. There is an opening in 1850, another in a setting where clones are created to handle the grunt work of civilization and are trying to take their place as equals to normally born human beings. Settings in most cases involve the south Pacific and Hawai, also touching on England and the United States.
I was made completely aware of Mitchell’s ability to change choice of wording and reactions in each story making that section unique in the overall novel. He is also a wordsmith with a unique command of the English language and an ability to make the reader totally aware of the nuances involved in the story. A fascinating read and one that will leave the reader very satisfied with what he or she has just read. 11/12 Paul Lane
CLOUDLAND by Joseph Olshan: A series of murders has tainted the peace of Cloudland. As one of the few residents of the area, Catherine Winslow is particularly unsettled after discovering the body of a woman who went missing just months before. A former journalist, Catherine is no stranger to the dangers of society. In fact, she volunteers regularly at the local prison. When the county’s forensic psychiatrist is taken off the murders, Catherine’s own neighbor takes on the case and asks for her help as a consultant. Certain pieces of the crime scene begin to fall into place and Catherine becomes convinced that the killer could be copying a rare work by Wilkie Collins, a work so hard to find that her own copy is the only one in the area. Could the killer be someone Catherine knows? Cloudland never quite came together for me. An abundance of unnecessary information, a handful of red herrings that never really came off as convincing, and ultimately a leading character who could have been interesting but wasn’t bogged down the story. Unfortunately the pacing was slow and the development was clunky. Altogether Cloudland was a tough mystery to get through and one that did not pay off in the end. 5/12 Becky Lejeune
THE CLOVIS INCIDENT by Pari Noskin Taichert: At page 20 I didn’t care for this book — aliens, UFO’s and hallucinations. At page 40, as the plot began to thicken, I began to change my mind. At page 64 I hit the paragraph that convinced me this was a good book worth reading to the end. “If aliens were so advanced, with technology that far exceeded our own, why did they make a habit of snatching dowdy girls and pasty boys for their experiments? Why didn’t they go for nuclear physicists or Nobel Prize winners! And why was it always small town hicks?” Sasha Solomon, PR consultant and amateur sleuth, goes to Clovis looking for a job, only to learn her friend Mae not only has discovered a dead body on her dairy farm but has also been “abducted” by aliens. As Sasha gets drawn deeper and deeper into the case it seems every government agency and half the town’s leading citizens are already involved, all with different agendas. The ending is satisfying and startling, you might even say unreal. A must read. 06/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
CLUBBED TO DEATH by Elaine Viets: In this latest addition to the Dead-End Job series, Helen Hawthorne is working at the Superior Country Club in the customer service, AKA the complaint department. At one time this was a club that catered to old money, but hard times has fallen on the club and now they let anyone who can afford their dues in – drug money is welcome. Helen is still in hiding from her ex-husband, so she’s shocked when she runs into him in the parking lot of the country club. His new wife, known as the Black Widow due to her string of dead husbands, has docked her yacht at the club. Helen and her ex get into it, she socks him in the nose in front of her ambitious boss, and takes off. When he turns up missing, Helen is the prime suspect. Anyone who has ever worked in customer service will appreciate the lament of the clientele at the club: “Do you know who I am?” Lots of laughs in this twisty mystery, along with a dose of reality. Another winner from Viets. 05/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
COAL RUN by Tawni O’Dell: O’Dell returns to the dreary world of a tiny Pennsylvania coal-mining town in her second novel (after BACK ROADS). The book opens with a bang in a flashback that recalls the tragic underground explosion that took the life of the father of Ivan Zoschenko and 96 other men from Coal Run. Some 15 years later, just after college football hero Zoschenko is drafted by the Chicago Bears, his knee is crushed in an accident in the same mines. Zoschenko can’t deal with the result and he ends up in Florida, an alcoholic pest exterminator. When he learns that a former schoolmate, Reese Raynor, serving time for beating his wife into a coma, is being released, he returns to Pennsylvania. In spite of his drinking problem, Zoschenko is hired as a deputy by the local sheriff, leading to the inevitable brutal collision with Raynor. Hard folks surviving hard times in this gritty portrayal of life without much hope. Miss O’Dell has improved as a writer from her introductory work, but still too grim for many. I liked the book, but wouldn’t want a steady diet of this type. 12/06 Jack Quick
THE COAST ROAD by Peter Corris: Ace private detective Cliff Hardy is working on two cases in this outing. The daughter of a wealthy retired real estate maven is convinced her father’s death in a cottage fire was not accidental and hires Hardy to prove her stepmother was responsible. Hardy finds the police strangely uncooperative as he tries to find the truth. At the same time, he is searching for the precocious daughter of Marisha Karatsky, who has gotten into drugs and who knows what else. Its typical Hardy – corrupt coppers, compromised insurance agents, bikers as well as a few good guys. People get disturbed and people get killed as Hardy plods along seeking justice and resolution. Reading Corris is like reading Ed. McBain, you really know what to expect, but it manages to be refreshing and maintains your attention throughout. 11/07 Jack Quick
CODEBREAKER by Katherine Myers: Meg Parrish is the subject of the book’s title. She is working undercover at Portland, Oregon’s Signet Corporation software firm. She penetrates computer security and copies a database so valuable that the company’s CEO sends his security chief to kill her and recover the information. Co-worker Ross Eckland saves her from rape and murder and the two take flight from Signet, from federal intelligence agents, and from threatening strangers who seem to have their own agenda. The two survive multiple car chases, pursuit by helicopter and various other dangers. In the process they also fall in love. It’s definitely a suspense thriller even with the romance angle and a first rate read. Before its over you will find out more than perhaps you really want to know about electronic surveillance and tracking, encryption, DNA and genetics research, the federal intelligence community and the ethics of cloning. Lets hope its all fiction. 11/06 Jack Quick
CODEX by Lev Grossman: Edward Wozny, a 25 year-old “golden boy” investment banker is on a two-week vacation before he heads for a new post in London when he gets called into a strange task. The Wents, the duchess and duke of Bowmry, two of the firm’s biggest clients, wish him to catalogue a collection of ancient books in the attic of their New York apartment. As he gets deeper into this strange assignment he learns there is the possibility of finding a mythical codex by 14th-century monk Gervase of Langford. Most scholars believe that the text—which predicts the coming of the apocalypse and may conceal Went family secrets—never existed. At the same time Wozny becomes equally preoccupied with MOMUS, an intricate, frighteningly vivid computer game. Edward eventually comes to realize that cyberworld and real world are more connected than not. A twisty tale that starts slowly and gathers speed along the way. 02/09 Jack Quick
CODEX 632 by Jose Rodrigues dos Santos: Historian Martinho Toscano has been hired by a certain organization to research the original discovery of Brazil. In his studies, he comes across some surprising information in regards to Christopher Columbus and his voyage to the Americas. Unfortunately, Toscano passes away due to natural causes before he can reveal his discovery. It seems the historian was an extremely careful and paranoid man since he kept all of his notes in code. So, the organization approaches scholar and professor Thomas Noronha, a specialist in cryptography, to decode the notes and finish Toscano’s research. Noronha discovers that there is some question as to Columbus’s true identity and he is soon thoroughly enmeshed in the same mystery that so consumed Toscano. Codex 632 is touted as the “book that outsold Harry Potter in Portugal.” Unfortunately, I can’t really see why. At best the book reads like an interesting history lesson. At worst, it is a meandering and repetitive story with flat characters. The last few chapters seem like an attempt to finally flesh out Noronha and his family, but it is both awkward and too little too late. 04/08 Becky Lejeune
COFFIN COUNTY by Gary A. Braunbeck: Cedar Hill, specifically the area of town nicknamed Coffin County, has seen more than its fair share of human tragedy and misery. This is thanks to the fact that an ancient harbinger of death has taken a particular liking to the area. This entity has caused so many disastrous events, and yet no one has ever been able to make a connection – course, after centuries of mass killings, who would possibly suspect the same “person” would be behind them? Officer Ben Littlejohn is about to become one of the privileged few who learns the truth. It begins with a mass murder at a local diner; fingerprint analysis and video footage of the killing yield some pretty strange results. Before the local cops know it, they’ve got a multitude of crimes on their hands and Ben may be the only one who can put a stop to it. Braunbeck delivers an intensely creepy and truly original tale that’s guaranteed to give you chills late at night. Coffin County also comes with two additional Cedar Hill tales, I’ll Play the Blues for You and Union Dues. 06/08 Becky Lejeune
COGAN’S TRADE by George V. Higgins: Jackie Cogan is an enforcer for the New England mob. When a high-stakes card game is heisted by unknown hoodlums, Cogan is called in to “handle” the problem. With five consecutive shots from a Smith & Wesson thirty-eight Police Special, Cogan restores order to his corner of the Boston underworld. Sounds simple but the dialogue and authenticity of Higgins writing lifts this above the ordinary “pulp” tale. 5/12 Jack Quick KINDLE
THE COIL by Gayle Lynds: Although the name Gayle Lynds may not be top of mind, its hard to have missed her work. She has ghosted and co-authored many adventures including three Robert Ludlum’s and has four other thrillers out in her own name. In this, possibly her best work ever, Professor Liz Sansborough is trying to let bygones be bygones. She is no longer associated with the CIA and her father, a notorious Cold War assassin nicknamed Carnivore, is long dead. So why is everyone trying to kill her? It starts with the kidnapping of her cousin, Sarah. The ransom soon becomes apparent. Someone is looking for the files of the Carnivore. Just what is The Coil? Who are its members? How can Liz save her cousin and her own life? A high-speed version of The Davinci Code as Liz and her undercover companion, agent Simon Childs, try to escape death and The Coil. The ending will leave you breathless. Recommended. 07/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
COLD CITY by F. Paul Wilson: For Jack, moving to New York means a fresh start. In the big city, he can be whoever he wants to be. He’s able to live anonymously and under the radar. When his gig as a landscaper ends after a scrape with a fellow worker, Jack finds himself in need of a job and quick. A great opportunity presents itself when an acquaintance of a friend offers Jack a position as a delivery driver. The job may not be entirely legal but the pay is great and Jack is assured the risk is minimal. Unfortunately, a slight change in plans does land Jack in a heap of trouble when he—along with a couple of masked vigilantes—upsets a human trafficking ring. Some pretty nasty folks now have it in for Jack, but that’s becoming part of his regular routine these days. Cold City marks the first in a new prequel trilogy to Wilson’s popular Repairman Jack series—this is how Jack becomes the Repairman. There are a number of storylines in this first installment, none of which are tied up in the end. Regardless, I loved the way Wilson brought the story together and will look forward to seeing how things will turn out in the next piece of the trilogy. 12/12 Becky Lejeune
THE COLD, COLD GROUND by Adrian McKinty: Adrian McKinty has set out to imagine what it would have been like for the police in Northern Ireland to solve crimes during the “Troubles” in 1981. Imagine checking under your car every day for a bomb before driving to work. That’s what young Detective Sergeant Sean Duffy of the Royal Ulster Constabulary does, as he attempts to investigate what may be the beginning of a serial killer rampage against homosexuals, or may be something completely different. The setting is fascinating, as the opposing Protestant and Catholic sides fight bitterly against each other, but secretly cooperate in establishing their territories for drug trading and protection rackets. No one is pure in this environment which gets increasingly complicated as MI-5, the British Army and other agencies work their schemes and protect their turf. The Cold, Cold Ground is the first of a projected trilogy and I can’t wait for volumes 2 and 3. 2/13 Geoffrey R. Hamlin
COLD DAWN by Carla Neggers: If you ever get into trouble, who you gonna call? Maybe search-and-rescue expert Rose Cameron and smoke jumper Nick Martini. Together Nick and Rose are trying to track down a serial killer who uses fire as a weapon. The two have kindled some flames of their own in the past but now the town of Black Falls, Vermont is depending on them to save the town before others lose their lives. Nick’s partner Sean says he will trust Nick with his life, but with his sister? He is not so sure about that. More romance than suspense, but all-in-all a decent beach read. After all, what is cooler than Vermont skiing in the middle of the summer. 10/10 Jack Quick
COLD DAY IN HELL by Richard Hawke: This second outing, following Speak of the Devil, from the pseudonymous Richard Hawke (Tim Cockey), brings back New York City private investigator Fritz Malone in a slower paced, darker venue. Marshall Fox is the star of a New York City based late night TV show, but his star has fallen since his arrest for the murders of two women he was having affairs with. While he’s jailed, two more murders occur, causing speculation as to Fox’s guilt and the possibility of a copycat killer. The newest victim was a neighbor of Fritz’s girlfriend Margo, and Fritz had been investigating some hate mail she had received prior to her murder. NYPD detective Megan Lamb isn’t quite up to par since both her police and life partners were killed, so the police department is happy to have Fritz investigating the murders along side her as long as he shares what he finds. Despite an attempt on his life, Fritz keeps on digging through Quaker meetings, Fox’s clandestine affairs, kinky sex and the backstage maneuverings of the late night TV show. Recommended. 03/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch. Copyright © 2007 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.
A COLD DAY IN HELL by Richard Hawke: Marshall Fox is the new darling of late night television until he is arrested and jailed for the murder of two women with whom he was having affairs. The case looks pretty solid until two more bodies show up, both connected to Fox and the earlier murders. But how could Fox have committed the last two while he was behind bars? It is up to New York City PI Fritz Malone to sort out the details. The cops claim they need to no help but have no problem is using the leads Malone turns up. Somewhat darker than Malone’s debut in Speak of the Devil, which hopefully, is a sign of character growth and a portent of future outings. All in all, a very nicely done sophomore outing. 07/09 Jack Quick
COLD GLORY by B. Kent Anderson: Cold Glory is a very well done conspiracy novel – if the reader can look at the basic premise and read the book thinking that it is a possibility. In real life Generals Grant and Lee were alone together for several minutes at Appomattox court house prior to signing the surrender documents ending the civil war. There is no record of what they talked about, but Anderson has put together a very entertaining story about a secret document they both signed delineating a scenario for take over of the post war government in the event that it was not able to govern. The plot then sketches a clandestine group maintaining itself on the basis of that document from 1865 until present day and than deciding that the document now gives them the authority to overthrow the government.
A professor of history teaching in the state of Oklahoma , Nick Journey becomes aware of the group and their aims. He communicates his discoveries to Meg Tolman, an analyst in a secret US government group that looks at various matters for it’s parent partners such as Homeland Security and the FBI. Journey understands that the group, styling themselves as the Glory Warriors, are desperately seeking the original document signed by Grant and Lee in order to legitimize their planned overthrow of the government. Journey and Tolman begin working together in order to bring the Glory Warriors and their leadership to justice.
Anderson does an excellent job of fleshing out Journey and Tolman and they come alive as individuals in the novel. Journey is a middle aged out of shape father of an autistic child for whom he does a great job of taking care of in the face of the disability, and Tolman, although not a great pianist is more interested in piano recitals instead of the day to day work she does for her agency. Both have had marital problems prior to the opening of the story. In short they appear as real people in key situations when the events of the ongoing plot against the government catch up to them. Anderson is apparently making Cold Glory the first novel in a series featuring the people involved in the book. If this is so I would expect him to create the same very realistic scenarios as he did here and quickly bring in the reader to become engrossed in the novel. 1/12 Paul Lane
COLD GRANITE by Stuart MacBride: Another Ian Rankin? Scottish Detective Sergeant Logan McRae has returned to his Aberdeen beat after a year’s medical convalescence to tackle a case that makes even his most callous colleagues cringe: the strangling and mutilation of a four-year-old boy. More children turn up missing and, then, dead and it is obvious the press has a pipeline into the police investigation. Complicating the case is the fact that the forensic pathologist assigned to work with the investigators in McRae’s ex-girlfriend. All in all, an impressive first outing. 02/06 Jack Quick
COLD GRANITE by Stuart MacBride: DS Logan McRae is back on the job after a stabbing incident that left him laid up on extended leave. He’d hoped that his first days back would be easy, but unfortunately he was wrong. A body is discovered and is determined to be that of a boy gone missing three months back. Then another boy disappears and another body, this time a girl, is found. How—and if—the cases are connected causes real problems and McRae recognizes that a solid arrest is the only thing that will calm the citizens and ensure the safety of the children once again, but a string of false leads isn’t helping morale. As the folks in Aberdeen become more and more afraid for their children and enraged at the lack of progress, they begin to take matters into their own hands, actions that are fueled by a local reporter who seems to have an inside source. Cold Granite is a good start to what promises to be a dark and gritty series. The false starts and frustration on the part of McRae and his team make the read that much more intense and also makes the connection to McRae as the lead an interesting one for the reader. 03/11 Becky Lejeune
COLD MAGIC by Kate Elliott: In this first installment of the Spiritwalker trilogy, Kate Elliott introduces readers to an alternate world similar to our own. The land is covered in ice throughout much of the year and there are mages who wield the power of this element—power that controls and terrifies some while protecting others, at a cost. Cat has been raised alongside her cousin and is the eldest daughter of the Hassi Barahal line. Everything changes for Cat when a cold mage turns up claiming her hand in marriage as part of a long-held contract with her family. The mage, a member of the Four Moons House, is to seal the marriage contract immediately and return to the House with Cat in tow. Why she’s so important to them and what prompted the contract in the first place is a closely kept secret. How the deal will affect Cat and those around her will play out through the trilogy. Elliott has begun an intricate tale with Cold Magic, a high-concept fantasy with a carefully molded setting and cast of characters—a great set up for things to come. 10/11 Becky Lejeune
THE COLD MOON by Jeffery Deaver: The latest in the Sachs/Rhyme series finds the teams a bit at odds these days. Amelia is lead of her first investigation, the assumed suicide of a New York businessman. Based on the evidence, Amelia becomes convinced that this was no suicide, but rather a murder. Her investigation leads her to some very unexpected suspects when a request from on high forces her case to the back burner. A killer called the Watchmaker has left his mark on not one, but two crime scenes on the same night; a pier with a trail of blood leading to the water and an alleyway with a victim that has been strangely tortured. A strange moon faced clock, the Watchmaker’s calling card, is found at each scene. Rhyme and his team are joined by the amicable Kathryn Dance, a California cop whose specialty is reading body language. Deaver has always been a master of page turning suspense; do not read this book if you plan on getting any sleep. 09/06 Becky LeJeune
Cold Pursuit by T. Jefferson Parker: Terrific new thriller from the author of the Edgar Award winning Silent Joe. San Diego homicide detective Tom McMichael is on rotation when Pete Braga is murdered. The Portuguese Braga’s and the Irish McMichael’s have much in common with the Hatfield’s & McCoy’s, and the Montague’s & Capulet’s. Despite all the bad blood, McMichael chooses to remain on the case and an intriguing case it is. Braga is found bludgeoned to death by his nurse, who becomes the chief suspect and in an interesting twist, McMichael’s love interest. Conflict for sure, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg as the clues start contradicting each other until the surprise ending. But as always with Parker, it’s the writing that grabs hold and won’t let go. For instance, after watching the autopsy of the murder victim, we get this fabulous line: “McMichael left the building feeling like his soul had been cut out, weighed and thrown away.” This is visual, powerful writing. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
COLD PURSUIT by T. Jefferson Parker: The Portuguese Braga family and the Irish McMichael family have a rivalry going back two generations. Now old Pete Braga, a one time tuna fisherman who now moves in the city’s top financial circles, is murdered. Homicide detective Tom McMichael is “next man up” and draws the case. The history of the two families is a rich tapestry upon which the current story actually pales. Still a good read but not one of Parker’s best. 03/06 Jack Quick
THE COLD ROOM by J.T. Ellison: In the wake of the events that took place in Judas Kiss, Taylor Jackson finds herself demoted from Lieutenant to detective, with the killer known as the Pretender still out there taunting her. Her latest case begins with the discovery of a young woman, starved to death and posed as a grotesque copy of a famous Picasso piece. The scene is reminiscent of a string of murders the FBI has been investigating in Italy and England. Taylor has never had a case so disturbing in all her career. What’s worse, the killer reporters are now calling The Conductor is already looking for his next victim. Ellison keeps pushing the limits, successfully, with each new installment of the series. Taylor and Baldwin are taken to the edge and beyond with each new case, facing challenges that threaten their relationship, their careers, and their lives. Ellison is tough on her characters and her plots are intense. The theories she explores are always fascinating, this time around in particular. 10/10 Becky Lejeune
A COLD SEASON by Alison Littlewood: It’s been years since Cass left Darnshaw but now that she and her son are all but alone in the world, she thinks it could be just what they need. The pamphlet advertising the new converted mill condos arrives at a convenient time cementing Cass’s decision. She and Ben arrive to find the mill deserted and construction at a complete halt. While their new home is fully furnished and perfect for their needs, the half finished state of the rest of the apartments and the fact that they are the only tenants is some cause for concern. But Cass is determined to barrel through for Ben’s sake. After all, he’s still suffering from the loss of his father and Cass knows the move has been added stress for the boy. Cass truly believes that things can only get better for her little family. And boy is she wrong. A snowstorm leaves Darnshaw completely separated from the outside world: no phones, no internet, and no way out. Cass’s work is suffering, Ben’s behavior is increasingly erratic, and it soon becomes clear that Darnshaw isn’t at all the haven she’d hoped it would be. Alison Littlewood’s debut is excellent. The tension and atmosphere of the tale are almost painfully intense, with the story building perfectly bit by bit right up to the grand finale. 10/13 Becky Lejeune
COLD SHOT TO THE HEART by Wallace Stroby: The essence of any good tale is conflict. Crissa Stone carefully weighs risks and rewards and her criminal associates’ skills before undertaking a caper. Ex-con Eddie Santiago (aka Eddie the Saint) will kill on principle or for a buck. After one of Stone’s men kills Lou Letteri, whom they intended only to rob in a high-stakes Fort Lauderdale, Fla., card game, things go sour in a hurry. Lou was the son-in-law of a Jersey mobster, who hires Santiago to avenge the dead man. For more details you gotta read the book. Another excellent outing for Stroby. 03/11 Jack Quick
THE COLD WAR SWAP by Ross Thomas: I have been enjoying Ross Thomas for over four decades , but alas, I have finally read, to the best of my knowledge, everything this ex-reporter, editor and public relations director ever wrote. Ironically THE COLD WAR SWAP was his first novel (released in 1966) and has aged well. In a John Le Carre type tale, two Americans are running a bar in the West German capital of Bonn, called Mac’s place, during the height of the Cold War. One of the pair, Michael Padillo, isn’t around a lot; he keeps disappearing on “business trips.” McCorkle, his partner, (and the protagonist) wisely doesn’t ask questions; he knows Padillo has a second job — he’s a (reluctant) US agent. McCorkle is, however, ready to answer a call for help from Padillo, and he joins his friend in a blind journey with no inkling of what they will encounter at the turn of each dark and dangerous corner. 06/11 Jack Quick
COLD WAR HEROES by Tom Johnson: The merry misfits of the 202nd Military Police Company in France have their priorities straight – drinking French cognac and chasing French women. In between they have to deal with spies, the black market, and an on Post boxing tournament that may be too much for their hero. Think M*A*S*H – a decade later, different country, different unit, but as Radar would say over the public address system, “Follow the adventures of those good old boys from home as they fight to keep the world safe one bottle and broad at a time.” 8/12 Jack Quick
THE COLDEST BLOOD by Jim Kelly: Today is the seventh consecutive day with temperatures above 100 degrees and the forecast is for at least four more days of the same. What better time than now to tackle this tale of an English cold snap, which causes a series of seemingly, weather related deaths. Former Fleet Street Journalist Philip Dryden picks up on the fact that a pair of the victims is connected by more than just the cold. Both recently filed abuse charges against an orphanage where they lived as children. Dryden, now working at a lesser paper in the city of Ely, explores whether these two plaintiffs may have been murdered. Kelly’s descriptions of the city and its inhabitants is bleak and reminiscent of works from a much earlier era. This one caused a welcome shiver or two and kept me intrigued to the end. 08/07 Jack Quick
COLLATERAL DAMAGE by H. Terrell Griffin: A young room is shot to death on the beach of Longboat Key, the day after his wedding. Three seemingly unrelated murders occurred on board a dinner cruise on Sarasota Bay the same day. It turns out that the groom’s father served in Vietnam with Matt Royal, and actually saved Matt’s life. The father approaches Matt with a unique concept -Try to get enough evidence to file a civil lawsuit, and then turn that evidence over to the authorities who can then maybe convict his son’s killer. Matt quickly discovers evidence that may link all four murders and calls in the cavalry in the form of old buddies, Logan Hamilton and Jock Algren, Longboat Key detective, Jennifer Diane (J.B.) Duncan joins the investigation, but it still takes all each of them can do to solve the crime and survive. 8/12 Jack Quick
COLLISION by Jeff Abbott: Two unlikely figures collide violently and then work together to save their lives. Ben Forsberg, a widower whose wife was assassinated by a sniper while on their honeymoon. Pilgrim, a shadow warrior with an invisible covert-ops group called the Cellar. They are brought together by another assassination in Forsberg’s native Austin, Texas, where Pilgrim was supposed to be one of the victims, and Forsberg is suspected of being involved. Throw in Sam Hector, head of a vast private security firm à la Blackwater; Jackie, a sadistic Irish assassin crazed with grief at the loss of his older brother; and Khaled, zealous associate of a group called Blood of Fire, and you have a pot which takes little stirring to bring to a boil. Who is on which side for what reason for how long? Afterwards you may want to read a Lee Child or Tom Clancy to cool down. 06/09 Jack Quick
THE COLOR OF LAW by Mark Gimenez: When I first moved to Dallas in the early 1980’s, we passed a huge football stadium on the way to our new home. We assumed it was where the Cowboys played and wondered why it was stuck in the middle of the suburbs. We very quickly learned that it was, in fact, the high school football stadium, and thus we were introduced to Texas football, and Texas culture. I was quickly brought back to that memory as I read The Color of Law. Our hero, Scott Fenney, is a high-priced lawyer with a high-powered Dallas law firm. Fenney has a poster sized enlargement of the record-breaking moment of his school football career plastered on his office wall; the record that has made him a Texas legend. Those boys take their football seriously! Fenney is not the easiest guy to like; he’s all about the money, epitomizing all the bad lawyer jokes. In his run for president of the Texas bar, Fenney makes a campaign speech espousing the lofty legal ideals of Atticus Finch, none of which he means, but a judge in the audience decides that this is the man he will appoint as counsel to a black indigent hooker who is accused of murder. The victim is the good-for-nothing son of a Texas state senator who has a hankering to be President, and with $200 million of his own money to put into a campaign, he’s got a good shot at it. That is, unless his son’s lifestyle comes out in the murder trial. Fenney has to deal with a client he has no interest in defending until he starts getting pressured from every direction, forcing him to re-evaluate his morals, his priorities, and his life. This is a top notch legal thriller from a Texas lawyer who knows his stuff about law, and writing. 12/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE COLORADO KID by Stephen King: I’ve got to share this line from Bookmarks Magazine because they said it best: “There’s nothing like a good noir crime novel, and The Colorado Kid is nothing like a good noir crime novel”. It’s a fast read, it’s almost a sweet story, it’s a prime example of the ease with which Stephen King can spin a yarn. But it was published under the Hard Case Crime series, as noir, as pulp fiction, with a cover depicting pulp fiction, and it is not. As King himself points out in the afterward, not all mysteries are solved and so it is with this one. Two old newspapermen from a small seaside town in Maine tell their protégé the story of a man who was found dead on the beach. Told primarily in dialogue, we learn that a good story needs a beginning, a middle and an end and this story really only has a middle. Despite all that, I liked it, which I guess just comes down to I like the way Stephen King writes. 01/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
COLORADO KID by Stephen King: Number thirteen in the Hard Case Crime series, this is not so much a mystery as a reasonably well-told tale. Intern Stephanie McCann gets the owner and the managing editor of her weekly newspaper in an obscure corner off the coast of Maine to share with her the story of two high school sweethearts who find a dead body on the beach. There was no identification, and only a few items found with the body gave any hope of telling where he was from. Eventually we learn the dead man was from Colorado, hence the name of the book. The good news is that the Hard Case Crime imprint can attract authors with King’s reputation. The bad news is this is a really weak outing for him, and for the series. 11/06 Jack Quick
THE COLUMBUS AFFAIR by Steve Berry: Berry has written books involving retired U. S. government agent Cotton Malone who has opened a bookstore in Copenhagen, Denmark. These, and several short stories have served to solidify his literary reputation as an author of exciting and carefully planned works. The Columbus Affair is a stand alone novel concerning a subject that has baffled historians for the five centuries since Columbus lived. In actuality very little is really known about Christopher Columbus’ life and this book uses both known fact and intelligent conjecture to come up with a fascinating story about a modern day connection to him. Tom Sagan is a journalist that has been disgraced by a series of lies told about a story of his eight years prior to the opening of the book. The book opens as he is ready to kill himself since he cannot continue to live at the level that he has been forced to fall to. He is interrupted by a call advising that his estranged daughter, who has detested him for several years, is being held captive. Tom can free her only if he orders his father’s grave opened and the body exhumed. It would appear that his father was privy to secrets of Columbus about a treasure being brought to the new world in one of his voyages and took those secrets to his grave with him. In rescuing his daughter, and in the events succeeding that event evidence is brought out that Columbus was a converso. That is a Jew that seemingly converted to Catholicism in order to escape the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition but secretly practicing Judaism. He supposedly did not obtain financing for his voyage of 1492 from Isabella and Ferdinand but secretly from a wealthy Jew in order for Columbus to take Temple treasures kept hidden for thousands of years after the destruction of the first temple to safety in Asia. As is described in history Columbus was thought to be looking for a short route to Asia and landed at San Salvador Island opening up exploration of the Americas. The reason for the transport to Asia was due to the idea that Jews lived in peace there and the treasure could be guarded. Berry’s research into the events surrounding Columbus’ life and his voyages to the New World is, no doubt, a prodigious task by itself, and makes the book a fascinating trip both into history and modern day events based on that history. The book leaves the reader really wondering how much of Steve Berry’s conjecture is true, and how much is just an intelligent stretch of the imagination. The technique of rapid back and forth action between characters in the book serves as a tool to capture and hold the reader’s interest. This is definitely one to have to stay awake to finish. 5/12 Paul Lane
Columbus Slaughters Braves by Mark Friedman: Very satisfying novel about two brothers, one of whom is a superstar athlete, and the other, the narrator, just a regular guy. Their relationship, their lives, are described in almost embarrassingly, painfully honest, beautifully written prose. This one is staying with me.
COME AND FIND ME by Hallie Ephron: Diana Banks used to be happy. She, her husband Daniel, and their friend—all hackers of immense talent—decided to go legit and start what has become a successful computer security company. But when Daniel died, the tragedy proved to be too much for Diana. Plagued by panic attacks, she created a sanctuary for herself in her own home. A place where she can control everything in her midst and never has to leave to face the outside world. Unfortunately, she’s also made herself a virtual prisoner to her paranoia. Until her sister goes missing. Now Diana must force herself out in the open in order to save her sister. Ephron’s latest was a little bit of a letdown after the intensity of Never Tell a Lie. Her debut set the bar high and Come and Find Me didn’t quite reach the same level of believability, just missing the mark on the expectations set forth by that first book. 03/11 Becky Lejeune
COME HOME by Lisa Scottoline: Jill Farrow is a divorced pediatrician living with Sam, her fiancé, and her teenage daughter. One night Jill’s stepdaughter Abby, who she hasn’t seen since the divorce, shows up drunk at her door, claiming her father has been murdered. Jill has missed her stepdaughters but her ex kept them from her, so she’s eager to form a relationship once again, but Sam isn’t interested in bringing an ex’s kids into the picture. Not to mention he can’t figure out why Jill would even care if her ex-husband was murdered or not. Unfortunately, I agreed with Sam and I couldn’t understand why Jill decided to investigate on her own, after the police have ruled it an accidental death and even Abby takes off, apparently also uninterested. Lots of suspense and some nice plot twists, but I just didn’t like this main character. Scottoline continues moving in a new direction with this Picoult-like drama, but I am one fan who wishes she’d go back to her all girls law firm. 4/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
COMING BACK by Marcia Muller: In her last outing, Locked In, San Francisco private eye Sharon McCone was shot in the head and suffered from locked-in syndrome: almost total paralysis but with an alert, conscious mind. Now, Sharon, never known for an abundance of patience is struggling to regain control over her body, and her life. She realizes things will never by the same no matter how badly she wants to undo change. Her marital and professional relationships are showing the strain and, when Sharon’s friend from physical therapy goes missing, she must call upon her husband and colleagues to find out the truth behind the disappearance. By doing so, she enters into some national security issues and a situation dangerous to all involved. A true challenge for a healthy P.I., can the injured Cone handle this one, or will it be McCone’s last stand? 04/11 Jack Quick
COMING UP FOR AIR by Patti Callahan Henry: Lilly Eddington always did things the right way. Appearances meant everything and her advice to her daughter always ensured that Ellie would follow in her mother’s footsteps. But when Lilly passes away, Ellie discovers a journal chronicling her mother’s life. Lilly Eddington had a past she’d kept hidden from almost everyone who knew her. As Ellie learns more about the dreams and hopes and passions of her mother’s youth, she wonders why Lilly never shared these stories. Traveling through Lilly’s past unlocks desires Ellie has long suppressed, causing her to take a second look at the life she’s chosen. Coming Up for Air is a heartfelt story about the choices we make in life. Some of the secondary plot involving the beach house felt under developed and unnecessary. As a setting alone, it could have been more prominent, but I found the legend of the house distracting from the rest of the plot. 08/11 Becky Lejeune KINDLE
THE COMMONER by John Burnham Schwartz: This book is being favorably compared to Arthur Golden’s brilliant Memoirs of a Geisha, but I’m going to have to go with Memoirs of a Geisha-lite. The Commoner is quite interesting. Set in Japan, it opens in the 1950s during the search to find a wife for the future Emperor of Japan. He meets Haruko, a lovely young woman from an upper class family, when she beats him in a game of tennis. He is enchanted, but her bloodline is scandalously low for a future Empress. Nonetheless, the story follows their lives and the next generation as well, making for fascinating reading. Schwartz knows how to tell a story, hooking the reader a few pages in and not letting go until the last page is turned. History, love, and royalty generally make for a good story and The Commoner is no exception – I couldn’t put it down. Think Diana, Charles & the royals with a Japanese twist and there you have this thoroughly enjoyable book. 03/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
COMMUNITY by Graham Masterton: A fascinating adventure into the surreal: nothing is as it seems and what the reader wants to believe based on the events is not what is is real. The novel is one that will keep you gripped in it’s twists and turns and wondering what is going on. Michael is on a winter vacation with his girlfriend and soon to be wife into the mountains of northern California and is involved in a horrific accident near mount Shasta. His girlfriend is killed and he is badly injured and placed into a coma. He wakes up in a clinic where his treatment seemingly brings out an identity which is not his own. Due to losing all memories he accepts the facts that the attending medical personnel bring out and after some time at the clinic is moved to a house in the nearby community where a beautiful woman will live with him and take care of him. He quickly becomes sexually involved with her; an idea that both are happy about, but begins to notice strange things going on around him. People congregate around the house at night and in spite of frigid temperatures wear little clothing. They do not seem to leave any footprints in snow that might have fallen, and do not talk to him while appearing and disappearing instantly. He makes frequent trips into the clinic, and on one of these thinks that he sees his deceased girlfriend. Masterton keeps the reader glued to the book in spite of the fact that clues to what is going on are few and far between. The ending is a happy one yet it keeps with the surrealism of the rest of the book and is logical considering what has happened. The author’s reputation for a tight captivating read is upheld and leads to looking forward to his next book. 9/13 Paul Lane
COMPANY MAN by Joseph Finder: Finder is back with a new thriller that is almost as good as Paranoia, one of my favorite books last year. This time out we meet Nick Conover, CEO of a low tech company – an office furniture manufacturer that has been bought out by a behemoth corporation. Conover is forced into laying off several thousand of his employees, which pretty much affects everyone in this small town and makes him their least favorite resident. He becomes the victim of harassment – someone is breaking into his house and leaving the cryptic message “No Hiding Place”. Meanwhile his wife has recently passed away, his house is a mess due to the renovation of his kitchen that she had started, his kids are having adjustment issues and there is something unsavory going on at the corporate level above him. When someone is found trespassing on the property, Nick feels his family is threatened and reacts. He calls in the head of security, an old friend, to help him and things just start spiraling out of control from there. The good guy/killer dichotomy is a fascinating study in an intense story about the good and evil in all of us, and Finder twists a couple of storylines and keeps those pages turning. Great read. 04/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE COMPLAINTS by Ian Rankin: Thank goodness I had my iron infusion to correct shortness of breath before I started the first in Rankin’s new series featuring Malcom Fox who works for the Scottish equivalent of Internal Affairs, “Complaints and Conduct” (aka “the Complaints”), which investigates corrupt cops. Fox has just put away Glen Heaton and has been asked to look into the case of Detective Sergeant Jamie Breck, who worked with Heaton, and may be trading in child pornography over the Internet. Meanwhile, when Vince Faulkner, Fox’s sister’s lover and abuser, turns up dead, Fox becomes a murder suspect. Breck is assigned to the investigation reporting to Detective Chief Inspector William Giles who was Heaton’s superior bulldozed by Fox in the Heaton investigation. The plot is tortuous and Fox has yet to develop the appeal of John Rebus but I think we are off to a solid start here. 04/11 Jack Quick
CONCRETE MAZE by Steven Torres: This is dark, terrific story about a Puerto Rican family in crisis in New York City. Often called the “concrete jungle,” the maze is more than just the concrete streets of NY, but rather the circuitous route that needs to be followed when a 13 year old girl goes missing. Her father and cousin drop everything and will do anything to find her and get her back unharmed, while the police aren’t too concerned about another teenage runaway. Their search takes them into the world of runaways, drug addicts, sexual slavery, dirty cops and murder, making this a riveting ride through a complex, haunting tale. 08/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE CONFESSION by John Grisham: I did swear off Grisham a few books back, but the buzz on this one was good so I thought I’d give it a try. This is a Texas death penalty case with lots of angst, racial tension and dirty politics. The story moves along, somewhat predictably, with characters that are mostly caricatures but there are a few surprises too. Much like fellow attorney turned novelist Richard North Patterson, Grisham has neatly laid out his argument against the death penalty. If your politics don’t mesh, you probably won’t enjoy this. I did, despite the heavy handedness of the plot and the irritating way every loose end was neatly tied up with a bow. 12/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE CONFESSION by Domenic Stansberry: Industrial strength is a good way to describe Hardcase Crime #6 by Edgar-nominee Domenic Stansberry. Forensic psychologist and compulsive womanizer Jake Danser alternates between his day job — interviewing murder suspects and testifying about their mindset — and his other passion, seducing as many women as possible without letting his beautiful wife catch on. Then she finds out, one of his mistresses is murdered, and the entire focus is turned on Danser. Written in pulp style with modern trappings, this basically psychological thriller is not lacking blood and guts. In fact, as another reviewer remarked, upon finishing this one, a long shower is necessary to erase the impact of the book’s thoroughly steamy atmosphere. Definitely recommended for neo-noir fans. 06/07 Jack Quick
CONFESSIONS OF A CONTRACTOR by Richard Murphy: “Do not, under any circumstance, sleep with your contractor.” This is one of Henry Sullivan’s rules that he has constructed for his clients. Unfortunately, it’s not a rule he follows. Henry has spent the last fifteen years renovating houses for lonely married women in Los Angeles. He has learned over the years that people renovate their houses not because their houses need fixing, but because they need fixing. Henry takes on the renovation of the houses of two women who used to be friends. He instantly falls for both of them, and begins to examine their personal lives to find out what caused their friendship to end. Throughout Confessions the reader gets an honest inside look in the home renovation trade. While reading about Henry’s juicy relationships with former clients, the reader also picks up on valuable home renovating tips. I found this book to be extremely humorous and light-hearted, and it surpassed any expectations I had when I read the synopsis. 08/08 Jennifer Lawrence
CONFESSIONS OF A TEEN SLEUTH: A Parody by Chelsea Cain: The word that kept coming to my mind as I read this book was ‘silly’; but it’s also nostalgic and clever and laugh out loud funny at times, and is definitely geared towards the adults who grew up with the original Nancy Drew books. The book is written as if Nancy Drew was a real person and that Carolyn Keene was an old college roommate who stole her “stories” and wrote the books. This book is Nancy’s way of setting the record straight. All the series characters from that era make an appearance: the Hardy Boys (turns out Nancy really had the hots for Frank Hardy, although she ended up with Ned Nickerson), Cherry Ames, Judy Bolton, Tom Swift, Trixie Belden, etc. to more current ones like Encyclopedia Brown. There are several little mysteries scattered throughout the book as it moves from the 1920’s to the 1990’s, with these different characters showing up and helping solve each mystery by chapter’s end. It’s just a fun read. 07/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
A CONFIDENTIAL SOURCE by Jan Brogan: Hallie Ahearn is a down-on-her-luck reporter who has left Boston for Rhode Island. There she lands right in the middle of a fatal convenience store robbery. Barry Mazursky gets a bullet in his forehead, and Ahearn becomes involved as friend, eavesdropper, reporter and investigator. It seems there are problems everywhere including Mazursky’s family, corrupt Providence mayor Bill Lopresti, talk-radio show host Leonard Marianni and state-lottery honcho Gregory Ayers. Someday I will learn not to even begin any book which feature reporters or broadcasters as amateur sleuths. This on isn’t bad but contains just enough inaccuracies to set my teeth on edge. No more Ms. Ahearn for me. 03/09 Jack Quick
A CONFLICT OF INTEREST by Adam Mitzner: This debut ushers in a new voice in legal fiction. Alex Miller is the youngest partner at a high powered New York City law firm. He picks up a new client at, of all places, his father’s funeral. Michael Ohlig is an old friend of Alex’s father, although Alex doesn’t really know him other than through the stories he’s heard over the years. Ohlig is a super successful financial advisor, and his firm has come under investigation for securities fraud, putting Ohlig on trial. Alex represents him, even believing in his innocence – for a while. Lots of plot twists send this story spiraling in an entirely different direction, and a much more personal one for Alex. Add in some well developed characters and this is one impressive debut. 05/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
The Conspiracy Club by Jonathan Kellerman: Jonathan Kellerman has put Dr. Alex Delaware aside in his new book, along with the good doctor’s Cadillac and the West Coast life style, but has not abandoned the role of psychology in his story. In Conspiracy Club, his hero is a young Dr. Jeremy Carrier, a staff psychologist at Central City Hospital in an unnamed Midwestern city. Dr. Carrier’s girl friend was brutally slain not so long ago and he has thrown himself into his work as an outlet. Strangely, the clinic detachment afforded by the grieving process seem to make him even more effective than ever. This detachment is first dented and then crushed by the advent of two people into his life, Dr. Arthur Chess, a senior pathologist colleague, and a young resident, Angela Rios. Dr. Chess lures Carrier into revisiting his girl friend’s death with pointed comments about the nature of evil and the possibility of it being passed from generation to generation. At the appropriate point, he introduces Carrier to the members of his club, who also feed his curiosity. At the same time, Angela is teaching Carrier that love and happiness are real possibilities for him. That is, if he can solve the mystery of the unknown killer and persuade the police that he is not the culprit. Another solid effort from Dr. Kellerman. Just remember, people with WASP names like Jeremy and Arthur are good. All others are suspect. 12/03 ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.
Conspiracy.com by R.J. Pineiro: Thriller much like Grisham’s THE FIRM, updated from the ubiquitous law firm to a software company. A too-good-to-be-true job offer from a small, privately held company that keeps churning out millionaires thrusts our protagonist into the middle of a vast conspiracy involving, of all agencies, the IRS. Fast paced and fun. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE by Martha Powers: Clare Prentice had everything going for her. With her wedding just five months away, a routine check-up leads to a disturbing discovery about her family. It turns out that Clare was adopted. Her mother having died just a few years ago, Clare is left to find out from her family physician who assumed she already knew. The wedding is called off and Clare begins a search to find out who she is, who her birth parents were, and why there was so much secrecy behind the adoption. With only a high school class ring to go on, Clare ends up in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. It doesn’t take long to find out the identities of her birth parents, or to figure out why her past was kept hidden from her for so long. When Clare was only four years old, her father shot and killed her mother. Her aunt, Rose, raised her as her own from that day forward. Clare is determined to learn all that she can about her family, but someone in Grand Rapids doesn’t want her stirring up old trouble. The question is if the case of her mother’s murder is so open and shut, what could anyone possibly want to keep hidden? Martha Powers, aka Martha Jean Powers and Jean Paxton, creates a great light mystery that’s still packed with plenty of suspense. 10/08 Becky Lejeune
CONSPIRATOR’S ODYSSEY: THE EVOLUTION OF THE PATRON SAINT by A.K. Kuykendall: “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex…” President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Farewell Address to the Nation, January 17, 1961. It all started July 3, 1947 in Roswell, New Mexico with a bright saucer, shaped object with glowing lights moving across the sky. From that day forward a vast government conspiracy has been responsible for the Vietnam War, the Kennedy Assassination, the attack on the World Trade Center, etc, so on and so forth. Super soldier Captain Kalista Flaker is the product of this conspiracy, a hard-nose Army Ranger of the 4th Battalion, 76th Ranger Regiment, who through genetics and DNA manipulation is now of another race – one appearing to be human but with much greater physical and mental capacities. It is now 2015, and Captain Flaker relates her story. I assume this is the first of a proposed series and it may work. The problem I had with this outing was related to timing jumps. The author has a tendency to cover an event then jump back to show the preceding action that caused the event. Unless you check the date/time at the start of each segment you will end up totally confused. Hopefully the next outing can be presented in sequential form. 10/08 Jack Quick
CONTACT ZERO by David Wolstencroft: Newly minted spy Ben Sinclair survives an attempt on his life and learns that other classmates from Britain’s Spy School haven’t been as fortunate. Framed for a crime of which he is innocent and abandoned by his handlers, Ben teams up with a couple of his surviving classmates trying to reach the safety of Contact Zero, a legendary (and possibly mythical) sanctuary for people in their plight. Well written, twisty and probably down right scary if you are a Brit. You hope it really is a work of fiction. 02/06 Jack Quick
CONTAGIOUS by Scott Sigler: In the follow-up to his explosive Infected, Sigler continues his tale of alien invasion on Earth. “Scary” Perry Dawsey has survived his horrific ordeal (see Infected) and now works with the government to help identify new infected and to locate more gates. No one is quite sure yet what the gates’ purposes are, but it can’t be good, so destroying them is of the utmost importance. Perry has his own agenda as far as the infected are concerned thanks to having been one himself. While the government would love to get their greedy hands on one for themselves, Perry has been systematically eliminating them, something his superiors are not pleased with. Their problems with Perry become the least of their worries, however, when the infection mutates and becomes airborn. Plus, there seems to be a new boss in town, one who is beginning to block the signal that has been leading Perry to the infected. Could it be the end for human kind as we know it or will Perry and his team pull through and come out on top once again? Sigler’s cringeworthy attention to detail and his unique combination of horror, sci-fi, and medical thriller make for some great reading. With one book left to the trilogy, readers will be waiting anxiously to see what happens next. 01/09 Becky Lejeune
CONVICTION by Richard North Patterson: No one would ever accuse Richard North Patterson of avoiding hot topics: previous novels considered gun control (Balance of Power) and late term abortion (Protect and Defend), while Conviction takes a look at both sides of the death penalty issue. Fifteen years ago, brothers Rennell and Payton Price were sentenced to death for the brutal murder of nine-year-old Thuy Sen. Now as Rennell’s scheduled execution approaches, Theresa Peralta Paget (Eyes of a Child) takes up his final appeal, along with her attorney-husband and attorney-stepson, digging up fifteen year old information on her client, his family, the victim, and the lawyer that originally represented the brothers. Paget pursues the appeals process all the way to the Supreme Court while also dealing with her troubled teenaged daughter and her own guilt, until the final, stunning conclusion. While it is apparent that the author opposes the death penalty, Patterson nevertheless provides compelling evidence for both sides of the argument. In his sure hands, this fascinating and often agonizing in-depth look at the death-penalty process becomes a very personal journey as well; for the lawyers, the convicted, and the reader. 02/05 Copyright © 2005 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.
THE COOKBOOK COLLECTOR by Allegra Goodman: I tend to think of Goodman as a writer of Jewish family stories, mostly because of Kaaterskill Falls, and while this book certainly touches on that subject, it is not its main focus. Instead, we meet two sisters; Emily, the founder of Veritech, a data storage high tech start up on the eve of going public, and Jess, her younger, flightier sister, a vegan philosophy student who works part time in an antiquarian bookshop and fights to save trees. Emily’s boyfriend Jonathan is the founder of another high tech startup on the opposite coast; theirs is a bi-coastal relationship. Jess’s boss, George, is a retired Microsoft millionaire who is familiar with the process of going public and getting rich. The cookbooks of the title are really just a small part of the story; instead this is a story about relationships, money, values and secrets. An interesting read but not especially compelling or memorable. 09/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
A COOL BREEZE ON THE UNDERGROUND by Don Winslow: Young Neal Carey starts as a New York City pickpocket to support himself since his mother is a junkie and prostitute. He comes to the attention of Joe Graham when he tries to steal Graham’s wallet. Graham takes Carey under his wing, grooms and trains him to become an operative for Friends of the Family, a discreet, private investigation agency owned by the Kitteredge Bank. Neal is directed by, to find Allie Chase, the teenage, drug-addicted daughter of a U.S. senator and presidential hopeful. Allie is somewhere in England and must be returned to the States before the 1976 Democratic Convention nine weeks away. Neal finds Allie but is forced to use his cunning to bring her home; at the same time he suspects someone from the agency is trying to kill him. Outstanding first in a series. 03/10 Jack Quick
COP HATER by Ed McBain: In the first book of the much beloved 87th Precinct series, McBain broke new ground and is generally credited with inventing the police procedural. Originally published as a paperback, it was later reissued as a hardcover with an introduction by Ed McBain. He discussed the concept of a “conglomerate hero”, a police force as hero, not just one cop. He invented a city called Isola, based on New York City without the complications of getting every geographical detail right. And in this first book, he wrote a mystery featuring Detective Steve Carella, his deaf-mute girlfriend Teddy, and a few other members of the force who would later go on to become the center of other books. By rotating his protagonists, he kept the series fresh and interesting. In Cop Hater, we meet these cops during a brutally hot summer in the city. A detective is gunned down on his way to work. A few days later, another cop is killed. An obnoxious reporter decides to do a little investigating on his own that results in another cop being injured. The lieutenant tells his men to do their job and find this cop hater. And they do. Cop Hater was published in 1956 and it was followed by 54 more terrific books of the 87th Precinct. 10/05 BookBitch
COP TO CORPSE by Peter Lovesey: In a country where firearms are strictly controlled the shooting deaths of three policemen in twelve weeks is a major story. The detectives assigned to the case are making little headway when Chief Superintendent Peter Diamond is assigned to the case. After talking to the widows of the slain officers, Diamond is beginning to make some connections, but a direct encounter with the sniper seems to negate all of Diamond’s work. Although most unpopular, the evidence is beginning to suggest the sniper may, in fact, be a serving officer in the Bath area. Although this is book 11 in the Peter Diamond series, it is my first encounter with the Superintendent, but definitely not my last. Add Lovesay to the list of British procedurals authors who get it right. 10/12 Jack Quick
THE CORAL THIEF by Rebecca Stott: Daniel Connor is just one of many young students arriving in Paris with aspirations of greatness. His work back home in Scotland earned him a recommendation for an apprenticeship with the famous Georges Cuvier at the Jardin des Plantes. Daniel is sent to Cuvier with his hard-won letters of introduction, his own notes and research, and some rare and valuable fossils to be delivered to Cuvier himself. But Daniel makes a terrible mistake when he lets his guard down and falls asleep during the ride. When he awakens, his precious materials and fossils have been stolen. Daniel is sure that all is lost: how can he show his face at the Jardin after having lost such irreplaceable material? His only option is to recover his possessions, but he doesn’t even know the name of the mysterious woman who stole them in the first place, and he is a stranger with no connections in this post-Revolution city. Stott’s latest is a combination historical fiction and mystery with a touch of romance. Characters are based in actual fact—Cuvier, Napoleon, and even the infamous Vidocq in the form of Jagot the inspector. 09/09 Becky Lejeune
THE CORPSE READER by Antonio Garrido: Ci Song longs for nothing more than to return to the city of Lin’An and continue his studies. Until that time, he and his family are living with his brother, Lu, and helping with his land. When Ci discovers the body of a murdered man on Lu’s property – a man Lu is later convicted of killing – he feels ultimately responsible. His attempts to have his brother’s sentence commuted are just the beginning of the obstacles that will stand in Ci’s way to obtaining his dreams. He finds himself on the run, pursued by the village sheriff, but finally makes his way to Lin’An only to discover that his own father had been accused of embezzling. The Song name has been tarnished and Ci loses all hope. But a series of events lands Ci exactly where he needs to be and he soon catches the attention of the emperor himself. Set in charge of investigating a gruesome series of murders, Ci understands that failure could mean execution, but solving the crime could also mean the beginning of a new life for the Corpse Reader. The Corpse Reader is Antonio Garrido’s first book to be translated to English and released in the States. While the story is based loosely on the real Ci Song, the father of forensic science, much of Garrido’s tale is in fact fiction. It does make for a fascinating and entertaining read, though, and Garrido employs at least one of the actual cases Song outlined in his treatise in the story itself. 6/13 Becky Lejeune
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen: This tale of a dysfunctional family has been called a masterpiece which probably explains the difficulty I had getting through it. The first 30 pages are torturous, the few hundred that followed somewhat easier and the final couple of hundred make it all worthwhile. These characters will be staying with me for some time to come. This was postmodernist writing brought to the masses with wicked humor. Very well done. Oprah selection, October 2001, but don’t let that or the ensuing brouhaha discourage you. Winner of the 2001 National Book Award. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
CORRUPT PRACTICES by Robert Rotstein: Parker Stern was once a brilliant trial lawyer, but he hasn’t set foot in a courtroom since the death of his boss and mentor. Stern suffers from glossophobia – stage fright. Rich Baxter, an old colleague, stands accused of embezzling millions from a well-known and controversial religious organization called the Church of the Sanctified Assembly and he wants Stern as his defense attorney. Stern reluctantly agrees, in part thanks to his own desire to see the Assembly brought down, but his client is found dead of an apparent suicide the day his trial is set to begin. Dead in his cell. Under police watch. Now the Assembly has set its eyes on Baxter’s father, a man who insists his son would never have killed himself, and again, Stern is approached as council. Strangely, the elder Baxter’s words match those of Stern’s old mentor’s wife. And oddly enough, Stern’s old mentor and Rich Baxter, both apparent suicides, had been working for the Assembly at the time of their deaths. This first in a new series is pretty dark in terms of content. Not for the faint hearted. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty great debut from Rotstein, an entertainment lawyer who no doubt draws on his many years of experience in creating a wholly believable scenario and cast of characters. 6/13 Becky Lejeune
COUNTDOWN by Michelle Maddox: The last thing Kira Jordan remembers is stealing a new pair of shoes. Now here she is, chained to a wall in a darkened room. When the lights go on they reveal a man sitting across the room, also chained to the wall. His name is Rogan Ellis, a convicted rapist and murderer. Kira and Rogan have become a part of the Countdown, a reality show like no other. The two must work together through six levels of challenges in order to escape with their lives. Losing is not an option; losing means death. Kira soon finds that there is much more to Rogan Ellis than the show announcer would have her believe. In fact, could it be that everything she’s been told about this man is just another ploy for increased ratings. Could it be that her reaction to being paired with a violent criminal is what the viewers really want to see? Could it be that Rogan Ellis may indeed be the only person left who she can trust? It’s Running Man with a romantic twist. Maddox’s futuristic romantic action novel is a fun, fast, and intense read – it’s everything I’ve come to expect from Dorchester’s Shomi imprint. Another hit that’s sure to appeal to today’s generation of savvy romance fans. 08/08 Becky Lejeune
THE COUNTESS by Rebecca Johns: Erzsebet Bathory was born to a life of privilege. Her marriage to Ferenc Nadasdy earned her a title, and the death of her mother-in-law put her in charge of her new household. Convinced that discipline would lead to order, and obsessed with the idea that her servants were betraying her, Bathory’s punishments for lying, thievery, and promiscuity were humiliating and dangerous. When women in her employ began to die and then disappear, Bathory was imprisoned, forced to live out her days trapped behind walls. In Rebecca Johns’s fictional account of Bathory’s life—based on remaining court records of the day—the tale is told as Bathory’s writings to her orphaned son. This Bathory believes, to her dying day, that her actions were her right. The Countess is a fascinating look at a woman whose story has become a gruesome legend throughout time. Though Johns makes no effort to prove Bathory’s innocence, which I don’t believe has ever been a question, she does successfully attempt to humanize the monster that has been dramatized throughout the centuries. 10/10 Becky Lejeune
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN by Don Lee: Lisa Countryman is a half-Japanese, half black Berkeley graduate student who is working as a hostess girl at a men’s club when she disappears in 1980 Tokyo. Tom Hurley is a half-Korean, half-white junior diplomat at the US Embassy who first looks into the case. Kenzo Ota, a divorced Japanese police inspector who grew up in Missouri is assigned to the case. Who’s on first, what’s on second, I don’t know – to quote Abbott and Costello, but the story does tell a lot about race, identity, the Japanese sex trade, social conventions and law. Whether it needed to be so convoluted is another question. 08/06 Jack Quick
COUNTY LINE by Bill Cameron: Ex-cop Skin Kadash is that rarest of breeds in Portland – a native Oregonian. His lady friend Ruby Jane Whittaker has been there long enough that she claims native status. After all she is the founder and owner of the Ucommon Cup chain of coffee shops. So when Skin returns from a “retreat” and finds Ruby Jane gone he is somewhat concerned. His concern grows even more after having his wallet lifted by a pickpocket and then finding a dead man in the bathtub in Ruby Jane’s apartment followed by an attack from a mysterious stalker. Skin goes first to California, then across the country on a desperate journey deep into Ruby Jane’s haunted past. You get the feeling no matter what the ending, it won’t be good. Nicely done “ex-cop procedural.” 08/11 Jack Quick
THE COURIER by Jay MacLarty: The Courier’s Motto: the package always arrives unopened, undamaged, and in one piece. In this e-book, Simon Leonidovich is the owner of an international courier service that he operates with his sister, Lara. Par Olin is a Swedish scientist who discovers that millions of people who are taking a new weight loss drug are actually “killing themselves” by taking the drug. When Olin tries to report his research to the owners, the owners kill him to prevent his findings from becoming public. Before his murder Olin gets a copy of the disks containing his research to Simon. Simon tries to survive the ensuing efforts to retrieve the disks from him and get them to the authorities. He doesn’t know what the disks contain and, in fact, Simon himself is one of those taking the drug. Fast paced international adventure made even timelier by the current lawsuits regarding VIOXX, Fen-Phen, etc. Also available in paperback. 08/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
THE CONSUMMATA by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins: Started by Mickey Spillane and finished after his death by pal Max Alan Collins, The Consummata features the second outing of Morgan the Raider, a tough guy who used to be straight but now works outside the law. Of course the law is looking for him, something about a missing $40 million. Compared to this, the $75,000 he is trying to recover from struggling Cuban exiles of Miami is chickenfeed, but he owes them for keeping him away form the law. As the bodies pile up — dead men and beautiful women– the Raider wonders what kind of Latin hell he’s gotten himself into, and just who or what is the mysterious Consummata? Interestingly, Morgan’s first outing as chronicled by Spillane was pretty much a non-starter. Don’t know how much Max Alan Collins contributed to this one but I found it to be quite good, better than the last Mike Hammer that Collins completed. 12/11 Jack Quick
A CORPSE IN THE KORYO by James Church: The blurbs say – Impressive – Superb – Outstanding. I would add “Interesting”. Inspector O works for one of the myriad North Korean Police agencies in the capital of Pyongyang until he is drawn into a maelstrom of betrayal and death. North Korea’s leaders are desperate to hunt down and eliminate anyone who knows too much about a series of decade’s-old kidnappings and murders—and Inspector O discovers too late he has been sent into the chaos. This is a world where nothing works as it should, where the crimes of the past haunt the present, and where even the shadows are real. The focal point is a corpse in the city’s main hotel – the Koryo. O is assigned the task of finding the killer even when he can’t be told the identity of the victim or have access to critical information. As a police procedural it works, but even more interesting is the glimpse into a world gone mad, which unfortunately, exists, and is in possession of nuclear weapons. 8/12 Jack Quick
COUP D’ETAT by Ben Coes: This is the second book featuring the character of Dewey Andreas who was an army ranger and a member of Delta force. In Coes’ first book Dewey is found working as the crew chief of an off shore oil platform when a band of terrorists attack the rig and take it over. Dewey takes back the platform and kills the leader of the terrorist group. In the latest book, “Coup d’etat” the dead terrorist’s family is hunting Dewey who has fled to Australia and a ranch in order to get away from the killers. They manage to locate him and begin hunting him, but bigger events take precedent over the terrorist hunt. A minor incident on the Pakistan-Indian border explodes into a war between the two nuclear nations and Pakistan under the leadership of a blind ,but power crazed president explodes a nuclear weapon against a small Indian city. India intends to retaliate and mobilizes its weaponry to destroy Pakistan, but China which is allied with Pakistan mobilizes an army on the Indian border. The United States which would be obligated to ally itself with India sends a delegation to talk with India’s president to prevent a total nuclear Armageddon. The solution finally projected is to kill the Pakistani president and put a more moderate candidate into office. Dewey is picked by the Americans to lead the Coup d’etat. Coes is excellent at getting the reader into the excitement of both the terrorist group hunting Dewey, and the American attack on the Pakistani president. While there is some need for reading the first book “Power Down” it is not completely essential and short descriptions of the previous action suffice to keep the reader up to date. The ending of the book provides the setting for the scenario of the next Dewey Andreas novel, and I am anxiously awaiting that one. 12/11 Paul Lane
COVENANT by Dean Crawford: Covenant is the first book for Crawford, a writer living in Surrey, England. Every indication shows that he is a comer with an engrossing novel loosely based on current scientific knowledge (a la Michael Crichton) and moving into areas of plausible speculation. Lucy Morgan, an archeologist, working in Israel’s Negev unearths the 7000 year old skeletal remains of a humanoid figure that almost immediately is identified as something not of this earth. Just after announcing her find, Lucy is abducted by person or persons unknown. Ethan Warner an ex soldier and war correspondent has had experience looking for individuals snapped away in the area of Israel around Gaza. Three years prior to the opening of the story his fiancée was abducted in that area and never found. He is asked to help Lucy’s mother look for her daughter in the Negev and Gaza strip. A parallel situation is also set up with two police officers in Washington DC that are tasked with investigating a multiple murder with the bodies in condition not normal in a homicide. Both Ethan and the officers begin investigating their respective situations apart from each other. Results very logically put together by Crawford bring the two scenarios together for a climax that is one of the most intriguing I’ve seen in a long time. The reader is left wanting more, and two possible second or second and third novels are left open for future work. 12/11 Paul Lane
COVENANT by John Everson: Reporter Joe Kieran has been dying for a great story ever since he left behind his career in Chicago to start over in the small town of Terrell. Church bake sales and fund raising events seem to be the most exciting things that ever happen in the little coastal village, until Joe receives a report of a local teen suicide. Joe’s boss is cagey about the event and orders him to do nothing more than print a simple death notice. Joe’s reporters’ instincts are buzzing, though, and he soon uncovers a rash of suicide reports that date back over fifty years. Joe’s digging is making Terrell’s citizens none too pleased, something that only encourages him more. Could it be that these “accidents” are linked to the town’s own urban legends regarding evil spirits that are said to dwell in the local caves and roam the cliffside? Joe’s not too keen on the supernatural, but he’s determined to expose the truth behind Terrell’s terrible secret. Everson’s twisted and original tale earned him the coveted Horror Writers’ Association’s 2004 Bram Stoker award for Best First Novel. Although Covenant and it’s sequel, Sacrifice, were previously available as collector’s edition hardcovers, this is the first time that they have appeared as paperbacks. Sacrifice is set for publication in May of 2009. 08/08 Becky Lejeune
COVER OF SNOW by Jenny Milchman: This superlative dark, wintry debut is set in a small town in upstate New York. Nora Hamilton oversleeps one morning to find that her husband, Brendan, has hung himself. Nora is bereft, and she struggles to reconcile Brendan’s suicide with their seemingly happy life together and with his job as a cop in his hometown. Her mother-in-law, a cold, forbidding woman, blames Nora, who tries talking to his partner, a cop who was also Brendan’s best friend, but he advises her to move on with her life. Nora can’t move on, not without some answers, and as she starts digging, she uncovers secrets about her husband and the town, the kind of secrets that people will do anything, including murder, to cover up. The ravages of winter impede her progress, but she plows on, determined to learn why Brendan never confided in her, but the answers prove more shocking than anything she might have imagined. These well-defined characters take us on an emotional roller-coaster ride through the darkest night, with blinding twists and occasionally fatal turns. This is a richly woven story that not only looks at the devastating effects of suicide but also examines life in a small town and explores the complexity of marriage. Fans of Gillian Flynn, Nancy Pickard, and C.J. Box will be delighted to find this new author. 1/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2012 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.
COVER THE BUTTER by Carrie Kabak: Kate Cadogan walks into her home in Wales to find the remnants of a teenage party gone wild. Her husband’s and son’s complete indifference push her over the edge and she tumbles back and relives her life, starting with her childhood with her domineering, control freak of a mother and her proportionately weak father. We follow Kate as she makes friends, loses her first boyfriend, gets pregnant, and eventually marries Rodney, a man her mother is wild about. “Rodders” comes from a good (read: wealthy) family, and while Kate feels more or less ambivalent about him, she marries him anyway. After a twenty year loveless, almost sexless marriage in which she learns to despise her husband and his indifference to her while he’s totally preoccupied with playing squash and golf and so forth, she learns to stand up on her own two feet. And that’s despite her mother, her husband and her child – you just can’t help rooting for this woman who is trying so hard to please everyone else and still find herself. More than just a warm and funny coming of age story, this well written debut novel is charming, sensitive and thought provoking. It also has one of my favorite titles this year, and a beautiful cover – and sometimes you really can judge a book by its cover. 06/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
COVER-UP by Michelle Martinez: Melanie Vargas, federal prosecutor in NYC, returns in this latest thriller from the oh-so-talented Martinez. While dining out with her boyfriend, hunky FBI agent Dan O’Reilly, she is dragged along to the scene of a murder when he is paged to respond. Vargas had been laying low, taking low profile cases in order to recover from some rough cases and spend more time with her daughter. But being that she is in the right place at the right time – the murder scene of a celebrity, tabloid TV reporter Suzanne Shephard, Vargas realizes that this is an assignment she can’t walk away from. Shephard had plenty of enemies, and law enforcement has their work cut out for them to try and find the murderer. Terrific pacing in this legal thriller along with some hot romance makes this another fast, fun read from this author, who has turned into one of my favorites. 04/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
COVER-UP by Michele Martinez: Federal prosecutor Melanie Vargas is back in this third installment to the series. Melanie and FBI agent Dan O’Reilly were enjoying a quiet evening together when the call came that TV personality Suzanne Shepard had been found brutally murdered, in Central Park. As luck would have it, Melanie is picked not only to lead the investigation for the U.S. Attorney’s office, but also to hold an emergency press conference at the scene. Unfortunately, the killer just happens to have watched the conference and has chosen Melanie to be his next victim. As an investigative reporter for a popular series, Suzanne Shepard uncovered dirt on some of the city’s most prominent figures, the latest of which is mayoral candidate Clyde Williams whose own son is a close friend and coworker of Melanie’s. With the killer threatening her and the press claiming that she may be giving Williams special treatment, Melanie’s own life, and possibly her career, now depend on cracking this case. This is a great follow up to Most Wanted and Finishing School. I highly recommend Michele Martinez. Her stories are fresh and interesting and her characters are wonderfully engaging. Anyone who enjoys Lisa Scottoline will love the Melanie Vargas series. 03/07 Becky Lejeune
COVERT WARRIORS by W.E.B. Griffin & William E. Butterworth IV: I don’t smoke, gamble, drink to excess of chase strange women. I do, however, enjoy the unique talents of WEB Griffin and his improbable heroes. Colonel Charlie Castillo, forcibly retired is continuing to do good works for his country, including saving the lives of some of its citizens falsely put into jeopardy. This time there is an even bigger prize at stake – control of the government of the United States. It is up to Charlie and his band of dinosaurs “who still believe the only good communist is a dead communist,” to get the job done. Another outstanding outing. 2/12 Jack Quick KINDLE
COWARD’S KISS by Lawrence Block: The tale starts with New York City private investigator Ed London removing the body of his brother-in-law’s mistress from an apartment that he pays for. When the body is later found and identified London’s problems increase exponentially. It seems there is a missing briefcase that at least two different people want, both think London has it, and he doesn’t. He must find the killer before the killer and/or the police find him. Excellent Block stand-alone. 11/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
THE CRACKED EARTH by John Shannon: Actress Lori Bright has lost something very important to her – her fifteen year old daughter Lee, who has synthesia, a condition where she “sees” sounds in color. Interestingly, the main character in T. Jefferson Parker’s new book The Fallen, has the same condition. The case will take former aerospace worker, now PI, Jack Liffey, hunter of lost children, into the collision of the Old City of Angels and the new. Both are dangerous to your health, and to his, along with Jamaicans and periodic earth tremors. My first Liffey, but certainly not the last. 03/06 Jack Quick
CRASHED by Tim Hallinan: New York has its Bernie Rhodenbarr, a burglar and bookseller, courtesy of Lawrence Block. Now the West Coast has Junior Bender, a top-of-the-line burglar who also works as a private eye – for crooks, courtesy of Tim Hallinan. Other than their profession, the two are quite different. Junior is edgier and farther out of the mainstream which result in him getting into bigger messes, like this one. In Crashed, Junior finds himself on the wrong side of his own already paper-thin moral code, being forced to prevent sabotage against a multi-million dollar porn film starring exactly the kind of person he’d normally want to protect. At the age of 23, Thistle Downing is broke, strung-out, semi-suicidal, on the verge of obscurity, and has only Junior to keep her alive against a determined stalker. And you think you are having a bad day. Simeon Grist, Poke Rafferty, and now Junior Bender. You gotta like this Hallinan guy and his work. 1/11 Jack Quick NOTE: Only available for the Kindle
CRAZY FOOL KILLS FIVE by Gwen Freeman: No longer unemployed, bi-racial twenty-something Fifi Cutter and her half-brother Bosco Dorff (who is partial to women with big bazongas) are back. Cutter is now the Girl Friday to Reginald Wong, a legendary Chinatown trial attorney, of the firm Wong, Wu & Chu. He is handling a $60 million wrongful death suit against SkyBlu Charter Jet Service after a deranged ex-employee, well let Fifi tell it: “That crazy fool iced five people and offed himself. Now he’s gonna show up at the pearly gates at the exact same time as all those dudes he just killed. What’s gonna happen? I’ll tell you what’s gonna happen, (she) said, crossing her arms. He ain’t getting in “ Well, that may take care of heaven but there is still much to do here on earth as Fifi uncovers extortion, kidnapping, and murder along with double crossing attorneys, a drunken judge and insurance companies gone bad. It’s all in a days work for our heroine and her “giant food and beer-sucking swamp creature” of a brother who has never met someone he didn’t try to con. 06/08 Jack Quick
CREEPERS by David Morrell: Journalist Frank Balenger, former Army Ranger and Iraqi war vet, hooks up with a group of “Creepers,” urban explorers who infiltrate old, abandoned buildings, to see what they do and how they do it. Or so he says. The group is led by college Professor Robert Conklin, a high school teacher, Vincent Vanelli, and grad students Cora and Rick Magill. They decide to explore the old Paragon Hotel, which is scheduled to be demolished. The Paragon has some interesting history, built at the turn of the century by an eccentric millionaire who happened to be a hemophiliac and never left the building – until he killed himself outside the hotel on the beach. They approach the hotel at dusk, planning on exploring during the night and taking off at daybreak. But things start going awry almost from the beginning; not all the Creepers are who they appear to be, and worse yet, they are not alone. This is a genre-defining thriller written by a master wordsmith, alternately scary, creepy, violent, and emotional – and always excellent. I loved it and stayed up half the night to finish it.
CREOLE BELLE by James Lee Burke: It all starts with a visit by Tee Jolie Melton to Dave Robiccheaux while he is lying in a recovery unit on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans. His senses dulled by morphine, Dave can’t be sure whether his latest visitor is flesh and blood or a ghostly remnant of his Louisiana youth. He also doesn’t know that Tee Jolie disappeared weeks ago. When he learns that her sister has turned up dead inside a block of ice floating in the Gulf, he believes that putting the evils of the past to rest is more urgent than ever before. Meanwhile, an oil spill in the Gulf brings back intense feelings for Dave of losing his father to a rig explosion years ago. And ex-partner Clete has his own troubles, he’s discovered an illegitimate daughter who may be working as a contract killer—and may have set her sights on someone he loves. Although it sounds unnecessarily complicated you can count on Burke to tell the tale with his customary fluidity and attention to detail. When you can taste the Dr. Pepper on your tongue and feel the wet heat of the bayous competing with the gnats at the back of your neck, you know you have once again been captured by one of the best. Thank you, sir. 9/12 Jack Quick
CRIME AND SUSPENSE ANTHOLOGY NUMBER 1, 2005-2006: This nicely done paperback from Wolfmont Publishing features fifteen short stories from the first fifteen months of Crime and Suspense e-zine. Edited by Tony Burton, the stories range from 3 pages to 30 pages and cover a wide range of styles, but all in the genre. Burton selected these from over 113 stories published on site and they are good. Check out their website at http://www.crimeandsuspense.com. While you are there you may want to order your own copy of this neat little sampler. 06/07 Jack Quick
CRIME OF PRIVILEGE by Walter Walker: A practicing lawyer writing a book that brings out the twists and turns in the justice system; putting together a rape, a murder and the ability of a powerful family to completely subvert justice by paying off witnesses and corrupting officials. George Becket, a young lawyer working in the D.A’s office of the Cape and Islands government in Massachusetts, was witness to a rape during a visit to Florida in his college days. No one was ever punished for the crime and the girl in question committed suicide three years after the attack. Later another young girl is found bludgeoned to death at an exclusive golf club in Cape Cod with no one ever charged with the murder. The murdered girl’s father corners George in a bar and tells him that since his daughter’s death several years earlier, he has looked into the matter himself and supplied the police with data that should have resulted in further investigation but never did. George begins looking into the case and in the course of the investigation travels to Idaho, Hawaii, Costa Rica and New York as well as looking into clues that point to members of a Cape high society family as the perpetrators of both crimes. There is also the possibility that his ex-wife was possibly influenced in her marriage to him by the same family. Ascertaining the real facts of the crime finds a conspiracy of silence from all possible witnesses George manages to find. Walter Walker brings out the very real influence that money and power have on the course of justice, and it is very likely that the reader will not feel comfortable with the facts as outlined. But as in any situation corrupt behavior could be influenced by considerations of personal gain rather than any sense of right or wrong. A finely wrought novel making for compelling reading and a desire to see more from Walker in the near future. 6/13 Paul Lane
A CRIME TO BE RICH by David Snowdon: Shane Turnbull never intended to kill his wife of six years, even though he has just found out earlier that day that she was cheating on him with her boss. He lost his temper during their argument and struck her, not anticipating she would fall and fracture her “egg shell “ skull. Since he didn’t intend to kill her the successful London investment banker, didn’t feel he should be imprisoned for his error, and proceeds to dispose of the body. This starts a domino effect with Turnbull having to deal with the blackmailer who had called him to tell him about his wife’s dalliance in the first place, as well as the attention of Detective Inspector Ray Eubanks. One of London’s finest and most most persistent pursuers of wrong doing. What follows is predictable and inevitable as Turnbull spirals down to his ultimate fate, but not before taking others with him. Aside from the author’s predilection for describing in excruciating detail the clothes being worn by each character as they enter a scene, its a pretty good read, with a touch of woo-woo, and a protagonist that evokes little sympathy. 08/11 Jack Quick
THE CRIME WRITER by Gregg Hurwitz: Andrew Danner is a mystery writer whose life takes an ironic twist when he is found with a bloody knife in his hand, and accused of murdering his fiancée. The problem is, he doesn’t really remember what happened because, as the prosecution points out, he had a convenient brain tumor that required emergency surgery just as he was arrested for murder. Danner is found guilty by a jury of his peers, but the legal system works here and he is acquitted on the grounds of temporary insanity due to the tumor. He goes home in a daze, determined to find out what really happened. Luckily, his best friend, a former pro baseball player, doesn’t believe he did it, and one of the cops is also troubled by the case, so they both lend a hand to try and help Danner figure it out. Just to complicate things a bit more, it appears that Danner is being set up in another, similar murder case. It’s an interesting premise, but the first part of the book seemed slow and repetitious, although the rest of the book did move a lot more quickly. The Los Angeles setting lends some humor that lightens the tension now and then, and it ended up being a very enjoyable read. 10/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE CRIMES OF JORDAN WISE by Bill Pronzini: In a departure from the Nameless series Pronizini tells the story of Jordan Wise, a mild-mannered thirty four year old accountant with a large San Francisco engineering firm. Wise meets and falls in love with Annalise Bonner, an ambitious young woman who craves excitement, money and the good life. To win her affections, Wise steals more than half a million dollars from his firm. They escape to the Virgin Islands, but their plans to live a life of quiet luxury are beset by unexpected pitfalls and Wise is forced to carry out two more ingenious schemes as a result. All three of his crimes are perfect or are they? A man, a woman, and the wages of sin. Pronzini covers all the bases. 07/06 Jack Quick
CRIMES OF REDEMPTION by Linda McDonald: It took killing her captor for Gayla Early to escape from the cellar where Albert Raeder had been holding her prisoner for two years. Albert Raeder may be dead, but he wields power from the grave thanks to the good old boys he left behind. His buddies want someone to pay for his death and Gayla looks good for taking the fall. It takes a crotchety recluse and a Viet Nam vet-turned-sheriff to team up on her behalf. The unlikely alliance changes all their lives forever. 1/13 Jack Quick
CRIMINAL by Karin Slaughter: Will Trent is a brilliant agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, in spite of having been an orphan and suffering from dyslexia. When a local college student goes missing Will is kept off the case by his supervisor and mentor, deputy director Amanda Wagner. Will cannot understand Amanda’s motivation until the two of them literally collide in an abandoned orphanage they have both been drawn to for different reasons. Decades before—when Will’s father was imprisoned for murder—this was his home. Flash back nearly forty years. In the summer Will Trent was born, Amanda Wagner is going to college, making Sunday dinners for her father, taking her first steps in the boys’ club that is the Atlanta Police Department. One of her first cases is to investigate a brutal crime in one of the city’s worst neighborhoods. Amanda and her partner, Evelyn, are the only ones who seem to care if an arrest is ever made. Now the case that launched Amanda’s career has suddenly come back to life, intertwined with the long-held mystery of Will’s birth and parentage. Whether either Will or Amanda can survive is doubtful. Sometimes the garbage is just piled too high. Gripping. 10/12 Jack Quick
Criminal Intent by Sheldon Siegel: The third outing in this marvelous legal series just proves that Siegel keeps getting better and better. Ex-priest Mike, & his ex-wife Rosie, boutique lawyers sharing a practice while no longer sharing a marriage, have a new client, Angel Chavez, a movie star accused of killing her much older, very wealthy husband, producer Richard “Big Dick” MacArthur. Unfortunately, her only alibi is a lot of “I don’t know”, which makes Aunt Rosie’s job ever so much harder. Yes, this movie star is Rosie’s niece, and that’s not all the familial trouble heading their way. The different threads are skillfully woven throughout this story, building suspense along the way until the very last page. Another winner.
CRIMINAL INSTINCT by Kelly Lynn Parra: Over the top tale about a group of five prisoners given the choice of five years in prison or five years working as undercover agents Ana Moreno, who has a history of B and E convictions and a problem with authority, decides that she has nothing to lose, but quickly learns that her Narcotics handlers consider her and her fellow “volunteers” as dispensable, disposable, and now worth even the most basic decency. Ana’s team is sent to stop a deadly shipment of Ecstasy headed for San Francisco. Ana’s task is to get close to the handsome and dangerous Jonas Saven, right-hand man of a suspected drug dealer with a deadly agenda.. The deeper Ana goes the worse it gets, as she begins to fall under the spell of Saven. Which will it be – her mission or her man? 07/10 Jack Quick
CRIMINAL PARADISE by Steven M. Thomas: Interesting first effort that reads like a classic noir. Robert Rivers and his partner Switch rob the Cowtown, a restaurant owned by Orange County California entrepreneur Lewis McFadden. As part of the loot they find a photograph of a naked Vietnamese girl who looks like an underage teenager, which suggests McFadden is into the flesh trade. Rivers and his biker friend Reggie England break into McFadden’s house, where they find the Vietnamese girl, Song, tied to a bed. At this point you are generally sympathetic towards Rivers but the story goes downhill from here as overblown sex and violence hijack the plot Hopefully, Thomas’ next effort will be able to stay on track as he writes very well, as in this description of Rivers landlady “…carrying her 130 pounds lightly on a five-and-one-half foot frame. She gardened and did housework competitively, outcleaning her friends and tending a large vegetable patch…. “ Another interesting note. The typeface selected for this book actually looks like manual typewriting, which further enhances the book. Still you may want to wait for Thomas’ next one. 01/09 Jack Quick
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber: I spent the summer reading Victorian literature, including Charles Dickens and Wilke Collins, and I enjoyed the references to the writers of the day sprinkled throughout this book. This is a big honker of a Victorian novel that is a page turner due to all the explicit sex and the terrific characters that move this story forward. There was nothing erotic here, however, despite all the sex, and problems abound, the most insurmountable being that there is no ending; we are led down the primrose path and abandoned there.
The story is rich with description of the time and place; we are taken to England of the late 1800’s, and we can smell the streets. But it’s the characters that draw us in, chief of which are Sugar, a prostitute, and William Rackham, heir to a perfumery. William’s wife Agnes is mad, yet he refuses to put her away, instead keeping her home and drugged. Agnes refuses to acknowledge the existence of their daughter, Sophie, and William helps her keep up that pretense. William has a brother, Henry, who dreams of becoming a Parson, but secretly lusts after the widow Emmeline Fox, a woman determined to help prostitutes rise up from their lowly lives to positions of servitude in upper class homes. But the story revolves around William’s obsession with Sugar, although as in most Victorian novels, class distinctions and struggles are paramount to the plot.
At over 800 pages, this book needed some serious editing; there were huge chunks that could have been eliminated without any loss to the story, yet there are questions I still have about what I read. Maybe I’m just being cranky or obtuse, but I don’t understand the title, nor what William Rackham’s perversities were. Although to be perfectly honest, I think the major problem I had here was that I am resentful of reading a book I didn’t love for eight days in lieu of the four or five others I could have read in that same time. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
CRITICAL CONDITION by CJ Lyons: This fourth and final installation in the Angels of Mercy series finds the hospital literally under siege. With a blizzard raging outside, Angels is completely cut off when a group of mercenaries takes over the hospital. Gina, Amanda, and Nora are trapped inside as the killers search for Lydia. With virtually no hope of outside help, the three women must defend themselves and their friends and patients as they try to defeat the armed forces that are holding them hostage. All is finally revealed as the series comes to an end and each of the characters’ stories are nicely tied up and resolved. Lyons is said to be working on a new series co-written with Erin Brockovich due out next spring. 12/10 Becky Lejeune
CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER by Tom Franklin: I started reading this last year and it got lost in my house for a while. I finally found it and didn’t put it down until I finished it. I loved this book about two men, Silas, who is black, and Larry, who is white, who were childhood friends in a small Mississippi town. Their paths diverged and when a popular high school girl goes missing, Larry is blamed. He never confesses and he is never convicted, but in the eyes of this small town he is guilty, and he becomes a pariah. Many years later, Silas comes back to town as the constable, and Larry becomes suspect when another woman goes missing. This book seems to entwine both a plot driven story as well as a character study; it is elegantly written and simply engrossing. I loved it. 02/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
CROSS by Ken Bruen: Amazingly Jack Taylor made it all the way through THE PRIEST with neither a smoke nor a drink. Whether he will be able to continue in this fifth entry in the series is questionable. A Galway boy is crucified and Taylor’s Garda friend Ridge, seeks his help in the search for this killer. Meanwhile, the surrogate son Jack found in THE PRIEST lies in a coma in hospital. Its enough to make him throw it all in and leave Galway for good, but then the sister of the murdered boy is burned to death and Jack knows he will find no peace until these crimes are solved and those responsible are brought to justice, Jack Taylor’s justice. Bruen just gets better and better. 01/08 Jack Quick
CROSS by Ken Bruen: The sixth Jack Taylor book begins with Cody, Jack’s surrogate son, lying comatose in the hospital after the events of Priest. Jack is trying to kick the drinking and the smoking, but his daily struggle with depression is making it difficult. To make matters worse, his friend Ridge, a member of the Guards, has asked for his help with her latest case. Someone crucified a boy from Claddagh. Days later, the boy’s sister is discovered dead as well. Dripping with sarcasm and wit, this book goes down just as smooth as the Jameson whiskey Jack has a taste for. But talk about diving into the deep end with your eyes closed. This is my first Jack Taylor book and while I was not totally lost, I can see where the books should be read in order. 03/08 Becky Lejeune
CROSS COUNTRY by James Patterson: I had quit reading Patterson, Inc. output but thought since this was an Alex Cross, it would be worth a try. Wrong again. This has all the makings of a contract requirement to be met with minimal effort to meet a page count. There is blood on most pages as Cross goes after a new type of killer – Tiger, a merciless hit man with ties to Africa. Tiger, and a group of teenage thugs kill Ellie Cox, a former girlfriend of Cross, and entire family. This is the first of a series of killings in the Washington, DC area and in Africa which causes Cross to pursue Tiger in Nigeria. It’s Bond, bad Bond, and pretty much a waste of time. 02/09 Jack Quick
Cross Current by Christine Kling: I’ve been waiting for this sequel since I read Surface Tension last year. It once again features tugboat captain Seychelle Sullivan and the Fort Lauderdale waterways. Seychelle is on her way to rescue a boat with a dead battery when she sees a little girl clinging to a damaged boat. She finds a dead woman who she assumes is the little girl’s mother, and is hesitant about what to do. The child is Haitian, and will undoubtedly be put on a plane back to Haiti. Seychelle decides to try and do better for her, which takes her through South Florida’s Haitian community; Voodoo, violence and child slavery. Much more than just a mystery, Kling had something to say about the Haitian refugee problems and did it beautifully. A fascinating glimpse into something the tourists and locals alike don’t hear much about.
CROSS CURRENT by Christine Kling: Salvage boat captain and sometime sleuth Seychelle Sullivan (think Tug Boat Annie as Travis McGee) is plying the South Florida waters on her tugboat, the Gorda, with her mechanic/lover, B.J. when she discovers Solange on a swamped boat and makes saving her, both from danger and from immigration officials, a personal crusade. The recent murder of some Haitian refugees and a creepy visitor to Solange’s hospital room convince Seychelle that the frightened girl is in peril. More challenges come from tough guys with various agendas including Detective Victor Collazo and Border Patrol Agent Russ Elliott. Although there are a lot of people, Kling presents them in a colorful fashion so that you don’t feel overwhelmed by the mob. 04/06 Jack Quick
CROSSED by Ally Condie: This follow up to Matched picks up right where that one left off. Cassia and Ky have been separated as Society steps in to put them in their rightfully deemed places. As an Aberration, Ky has been sent to the Outer Provinces. Here he and other Aberrations serve as bait for the Enemy. Cassia plans to find Ky no matter what and knows that her time is running out. Her work detail will soon send her back to Central for her next assignment, meaning her window for escaping is quickly closing. As fate would have it, Cassia does not get sent to Central as planned. Instead, she’s placed on a plane headed to the Outer Provinces. When she learns that Ky has escaped, she and another girl quickly make their way to the nearby canyons to find him. Having always lived inside the boundaries of the Society, the journey for Cassia will be very dangerous. Not only must she face the elements, but both the Enemy and Society could come after them at any time. Condie alternates narration in Crossed between Cassia and Ky’s perspectives. Since each character has a very different background—Cassia grew up in and always trusted Society before now while Ky lived in the Outer Provinces with his parents, who always fought the rules and teachings of Society—it gives the reader the chance to see the story from two very different viewpoints. Condie touches on further detail of the history of the Society as well as the Rising, presenting some provocative ideas about whether it’s better to go along with Society or to think and fend for yourself. While Society is clearly not to be trusted, the alternatives aren’t necessarily what the characters hope for. 12/12 Becky Lejeune
CROSSING THE CENTER LINE by Allan E. Ansorge: The first attempt to kill Carl Fletcher cost him the life of his fiancée, the full use of his right leg, and his career in law enforcement. The second attempt endangers Michael McCaffery, Carl’s ex-partner in the Sheriff’s Department of Lake County, Wisconsin, who survives only because the would-be killer was dumb enough to wear leather-soled shoes on a slippery boat deck. Now it’s up to Carl and Michael assisted by Carl’s gun-toting Internet addicted mother and a cast of other volunteer amateur sleuths to find out what is going on before more bodies turn up. There are shoot-outs, legal shenanigans, and even a few moments of romance, in this somewhat off beat police procedural. Not bad, not bad. 06/09 Jack Quick
THE CROWN by Nancy Bilyeau: In the midst of the English Reformation, news that another religious protestor has been convicted of heresy is nothing new. But when Joanna Stafford, a novice at Dartford Priory, learns that her own cousin is to be burned at the stake, she feels she has no other choice but to abandon her position to be at her family member’s side. Joanna and her father are both taken into custody, accused of interfering, and held in the Tower of London. Joanna fears the worst for both her father and herself, but she is offered a reprieve – one that comes with strings. Legend has it that Dartford Priory is home to a very rare and special relic. The Bishop if Winchester has ordered Joanna to return to her position as novice and seek out the item in question. If she is successful, he will pardon her father. There’s a potential problem, though, in that the King’s men have places like Dartford in their sights. Should they arrive before Joanna can finish the Bishop’s task it could mean the end of the Priory itself. For Joanna, the potential loss of both her father and the Priory is the worst possible outcome, but being the Bishop’s pawn also means betraying her sisters and her faith. Nancy Bilyeau’s debut is quite brilliant. In fact, it’s hard to believe this is a debut at all. The Crown is incredibly well plotted and obviously carefully researched. This is the first in a projected trilogy. 8/13 Becky Lejeune
CRUEL CUTS by J. R. Lindermuth: CRUEL CUTS is the second in the Sticks Hetrick mystery series. Hetrick, the retired police chief of the rural community of Swatara Creek, Pennsylvania, has been called back to duty as a consultant by the new, less experienced chief. A vicious poison pen campaign directed against an ambitious young lawyer appears to link the lawyer to a rash of animal mutilations plaguing the area. Perhaps if you had read SOMETHING IN COMMON, the first in this series, this one would be more enjoyable. Without having read the first one this seems to ramble and there is too much “back-story” from book one. If the book had been edited more tightly without so many intertwining story threads it would have been a much better read. Better editing would also have eliminated lines like “Fortunately, overindulgence in beer had made him flaccid before he found the crevice he sought and Vic had passed out with the first thrust of moist flesh against her thigh. She didn’t know what he had told his friends the next day but Flora remained a virgin…” 11/07 Jack Quick
A Cruel Season for Dying by Harker Moore: Cruel Season is more a thriller than a mystery, but that is what seems to be selling these days. It opens with a graphic murder and then alternates between gore and lengthy bouts of tortured sensitivity.
The gore is provided by a murderer deranged by a near death experience. He now believes, with the regular fortification of LSD, that he is a fallen angel. Armed with this knowledge and his military training, his new purpose is to create an army of similarly fallen angels who, after their deaths, will assist him in reclaiming a rightful place in heaven. He selects his recruits by their “aura,” which seems to be especially strong in homosexual men. After filling his victims with LSD so that they can appreciate their “release,” he kills them and then inserts wings into their backs. This makes for an eerie crime scene, which he further enhances with other apocryphal touches and a smidgen of incense. The sensitivity is provided by the hero, police Lt. James Sakura, raised in both America and Japan, who is assigned track down this delusional killer. Assisting him are his profiling instructor from the FBI Academy and his even more sensitive former partner. Along with the blind, pregnant, (and need I say, sensitive) Japanese sculptress wife of Lt. Sakura, all are placed in jeopardy as the plot unfolds. While I wish that Lt. Sakura would massage his brow a little less often, this book works hard at being different and meets the requirements to be a best-selling thriller. It will be especially enjoyed by Peter Strauss/Richard Chamberlain fans and those readers who like TV movies on the Lifetime Channel. ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.
A CRUEL SEASON FOR DYING by Harker Moore: Japanese-American detective James Sakura of NYPD has a challenge – someone is creating angels, literally. The killer is attaching the white wings of swans to the shoulders of each victim after he kills them and positioning them in a peaceful pose. At first, it’s gay adults, but then a child is killed the same way. Moody and melancholy, reflecting the streets of the city he serves, Sakura must not only match wits with the killer, he must get ahead of him. The chase consumes him to the exclusion of everything else. Very well written, albeit a little slow at first. The tension and pace pick up as first one, then another suspect is identified and eliminated. The ending is a shocker. Recommended. 06/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
THE CRUSADER’S CROSS by James Lee Burke: I don’t know why people think Harry Potter is so special when you’ve got Dave Robicheaux. He can work all kinds of miracles. In this new adventure, Dave gets involved chasing after an incident that occurred when he and his brother were teens. Dave’s brother falls for a prostitute named Ida, who they thought was killed. Now they learn she may be alive. Dave’s involvement leads to a vicious attack on him, his restoration to the New Iberia Police Force, followed by an unsuccessful attempt on the lives of Dave and former police partner Clete Purcell. Along the way he finds a new woman – a nun named Molly – and he and Purcell skirt the edges of society once again. Oh, did I mention Robicheaux gets arrested for murder. Burke has become my favorite author and his Robicheaux series represent Burke at his best. Lets all hoist a Dr. Pepper and read on. 08/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
CSI: BINDING TIES by Max Allan Collins: Ten years ago, Las Vegas was terrorized by CAST, a vicious serial killer responsible for nearly half a dozen brutal murders. Now Gil Grissom and his CSI team are called in to investigate a homicide that perfectly fits the notorious criminal’s modus operandi, but all hell breaks loose when a reporter made famous by the original cases receives a letter from someone claiming to be CAST, and who says he has nothing to do with the latest slaying. 07/06 Jack Quick
CSI: DOUBLE DEALER by Max Allan Collins: Even in Las Vegas, Wednesday, 5:30 AM, in an out of the way hotel should be fairly quiet. This one is until a room service waiter discovers a corpse and a killer. This brings homicide detective Jim Brass, CSI team leader Gil Grissom and his team – Catherine Willows, Warrick Brown, Nick Stokes, and Sara Sidle. Their efforts toward solving this murder lead them to re-look at a case that occurred some fifteen years ago that bears the same double-tap signature. This draws the attention of FBI agent Rick Culpepper. With this much horsepower combined with cutting edge scientific technology, you know it won’t take long to solve the crime, or will it? 07/06 Jack Quick
CSI: MIAMI CULT FOLLOWING by Donn Cortez:: Miami Dade Crime Lab Lieutenant Horatio Caine has a truly mysterious death at an organic eatery. The victim, waiter Phillip Mulrooney, is bent over a stainless steel toilet, his clothing shredded, burn marks on his face, cell phone fragments scattered around, and his shoes blown off his feet. Incredible as it seems, the initial evidence points to death by lightning strike. The staff at The Earthly Garden believe Mulrooney’s death is an act of God — punishment for straying from the Vitality Method, their own spiritual philosophy. Or could it be a cellphone bomb? Or even something else? A bit far fetched but a good escape read. 05/06 Jack Quick
CSI: MIAMI FLORIDA GETAWAY by Max Allan Collins: Thomas Lessor left Las Vegas for Miami to get away from it all, including a charge of murder. Gil Grissom calls his counterpart in Miami, Lieutenant Horatio Caine, to assist in the return of Lessor to Las Vegas. Before Caine can make the connection, someone else connects with Lessor who disappears. Hot on his trail, the Miami CSIs are called to the scene of an abandoned limousine with a body in the truck. Its not Lessor, but his corpse soon shows up. From there on its sorting out the bad guys from the worse guys, and surprise, surprise, CSI prevails. 07/06 Jack Quick
CSI: MIAMI HEAT WAVE by Max Allan Collins: Miami crime boss Kurt Wallace won many battles before losing to a couple of well placed bullets. Since nature and the mob abhor a vacuum, a host of interested businessmen begin to move in, trying to take over Wallace’s former empire. CSI Lieutenant Horatio Caine and his crack team of forensic scientists must use all their skills to discover who committed the crime that all of Miami had a motive to commit. Not bad, if you are a CSI fan, otherwise, there are better Miami (and Florida) offerings. 08/06 Jack Quick
CSI: NEW YORK DEAD OF WINTER by Stuart Kaminsky: Detective Mac Taylor and his partner, Detective Stella Bonasera, lead a team of experts through the gritty streets of New York City piecing together clues and eliminating doubts along the way to solving cases. This time they have the body of a middle-aged man in the elevator of a ritzy doorman building on the Upper East Side with no motive, no bullets and no DNA. A few blocks away a witness being held in protective custody is murdered although the law enforcement officers on duty swear that the victim spent the night in a locked hotel room — only to be found dead in the morning. Just two more stories of the thousands from the city that never sleeps. 05/06 Jack Quick
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon: This stunning debut novel is the best book I’ve read this year. You know you are in for something different when you open the book to the first chapter, but it is numbered “2.” And the next chapter is 3, then 5, then 7, and so on until it is explained that Christopher, our 15-year-old protagonist, is autistic. As some differently-abled children are, he is a savant, in his particular case with prime numbers and the ability to name every country and its capital, and he has an extremely logical mind, but he also has other issues like he can’t stand to be touched, won’t eat brown or yellow food, and finds comfort in curling up in a corner and groaning. When he finds his neighbor’s dog has been killed, he decides to solve the mystery à la his favorite sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, and that is ostensibly what the book is about. But the reality is a beautifully written book with amazing characters and a great storyline – everything a book is supposed to have but seldom does. A truly remarkable book. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
CSI BODY OF EVIDENCE by Max Allan Collins: I am not a fan of the television show, but Collins has used the show formula to produce a good read. Las Vegas executive assistant Janice Denard discovers evidence of horrific crimes, shocking photographs left abandoned in a computer printer. Now, with the help of the LVPD’s computer forensics experts, the CSI team must track through hardware and software, deception and deceit to find the perpetrators. At the same time they uncover new and disturbing evidence in a high-profile media case – the brutal murder of the Mayor’s long-missing secretary. I’ll be back for more. 01/06 Jack Quick
CUBAN DEATH LIFT by Randy Wayne White: Before there was a Randy Wayne White and a Doc Ford and a Tomlinson, there was Randy Striker who wrote about the adventures of ex-Navy SEAL Dusky MacMorgan. Fortunately, Signet Books has seen fit to republish this series from the early 1980’s that gave Randy Wayne White the opportunity to become the great author he is today. In this latest reprint, Fidel Castro has allowed thousands of Cubans to depart for America in the Mariel Boatlift, including Cuba’s worst criminals and undesirables. The CIA isn’t up to the challenge so Dusty MacMorgan is called on to handle the situation. A one evening read but a darn good one. 09/07 Jack Quick
CUCKOO’S CALLING by Robert Galbraith: It is now known that Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K Rowling creator and writer of the Harry Potter series. If the reader is expecting just an adult version of Harry he or she will be pleasantly surprised. Rowling, or rather Galbraith changes focus completely and delivers an interesting and well plotted mystery novel. No magic involved other than the magic of a good writer changing emphasis to capture the attention of her readers. Cormoran Strike is a British private detective not doing very well in his attempts to attract a clientele. He is a veteran of combat in Afghanistan where he lost a leg and reduced by economic circumstances to sleep in his office. Out of the blue the brother of a famous model appears in his office with a job. The model ,Lula Landry known as the Cuckoo had fallen to her death from her apartment. The police rule it a suicide and close the case, but Lula’s brother is sure that she was murdered and hires Strike to investigate the situation. Galbraith proves a master at slowly, but surely developing Strike as a person with all the strengths and weaknesses inherent in the human condition. Logically, and as part of the action in the book we learn about him and understand why he goes about working the case as he does. His investigation is well delineated and takes us step by step to the conclusion and solution of the case. There are no sudden revelations and bolts from the blue providing answers but rather the logical plodding that surely accompanies any solution to a mystery. Along the way, Strike hires a temporary secretary, Robin, that is doing the job while she looks for full time work. She becomes fascinated by the detective work and proves that she is a great asset to her boss. She is engaged, and there is no love interest in the book between Strike and her but it is no surprise that she is hired on a permanent basis at the end. There is no doubt that this is book one of a series planned by Galbraith and if they follow suite will prove very popular. 8/13 Paul Lane
A CURE FOR NIGHT by Justin Peacock: Joel Deveraux is not the high-minded, do-gooder type usually found in the Public Defender’s office. He landed there only after being caught in a drug scandal at his first job with a prestigious law firm, and he’s lucky he was only asked to resign and wasn’t disbarred in the process. He spends his days pleading out drug dealers until he is asked to second chair one of the office stars, Myra Goldstein, who isn’t told why this Ivy-league lawyer is now working for her. Goldstein is handling a hot potato, a murder case involving Lorenzo Tate, a drug dealer accused of murdering a white college student in a street shooting. There’s an eye witness, the media is all over this one, and it’s not looking good for Lorenzo. While the story is set in New York City, it takes place in Brooklyn, one of the boroughs, which is a nice change of venue for a legal thriller. Deveraux is a damaged lawyer, adding interest to this smart, fast and thoroughly entertaining debut. 09/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch. Copyright © 2008 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.
THE CURIOSITY by Stephen Kiernan: This is Kiernan’s first novel and it is a very original, poignant book that combines a great love with a scientific achievement that makes that love possible. The story is very moving and will probably affect most readers emotionally. It also raises the question of if scientific advances come into conflict with the so called natural order of nature and the universe should we accept the consequences. Dr Kate Philo heads a scientific team searching the arctic ocean for tiny life forms frozen solid in order to attempt to bring them back to life. The team in a dive at an iceberg make an amazing discovery. Embedded in the ice mass is a man completely frozen solid still in the clothes he was wearing when frozen. Using the techniques that are successful in reviving the tiny frozen life forms the man is miraculously brought back to consciousness and found to be an individual that fell overboard during an arctic voyage in the early 20th century. He is Jeremiah Rice, and an intelligent, articulate man that was a judge in his previous life. Rice is returned to the expedition’s headquarters where he is studied and prodded. Kate Philo takes a personal interest in Jeremiah and both soon find that they are falling in love. They take trips together outside of the lab with Rice learning about a civilization different than the one he was brought up in. The format of the book is to use first person narratives of key individuals, including Jeremiah to tell the story, and it is this technique that allows the reader to feel Rice’s emotion when Kate brings him to the town he lived in and he visits the graves of the woman he was married to and his daughter now both long dead. In the background of the story are interests that are opposed to this resurrection of a man that was really not alive for almost a century and jealousies of members of the team vying for credit in their own right. A very riveting novel and one that will appeal on an emotional level leaving the reader with the satisfied feeling of having read something outside of the ordinary. 7/13 Paul Lane
THE CURSE-MAKER by Kelli Stanley: Agricola, leader of Roman Brittania, has ordered his physician to take some time off and enjoy Bath. Arcturus and his wife, Gwyna, are looking forward to a chance to relax and spend some much-needed time together, but the discovery of a dead body floating in the sacred spring turns out to be too much for the medicus, and sometimes investigator, to resist. At the request of the town council, and the urging of his wife, Arcturus agrees to help solve the case: a dead body in a town known for its healing waters is bad for business after all. Turns out, all is not as it seems in the ancient spa town. Rumor has it that the dead man, a curse-maker, was a little too talented—recipients of his curses tended to end up dead themselves. With a growing list of suspects and the superstitious townspeople getting antsy, Arcturus is feeling the pressure to unravel the mystery and get out of Bath as quick as he can. The Curse-Maker is second in this series (following Nox Dormienda), but can easily be read alone. Stanley’s attention to detail and careful research make each of her mysteries rich and entertaining reads. 02/11 Becky Lejeune
THE CURSE OF THE HOLY PAIL by Sue Ann Jaffarian: After 40 years of marriage its obvious sweet wife and I are somewhat compatible, although our reading tastes do differ. On this one, however, we both agree. A funny read, with off the wall characters, a twisty plot and not a surplus calorie to be had. Every succeeding owner of the vintage Happy Wheeler lunchbox has died and now wealthy Sterling Price (what a name for a wealthy client) has joined the list of late owners. Plus-size, middle-aged paralegal Odelia Grey goes looking for the lunch box which is worth a bunch of money and for the killer. There are plenty of suspects — Sterling’s loyal secretary, his discarded fiancée, his money-grubbing relatives, fellow collectors, and overzealous environmentalists. In the middle of the chase Odelia also has to deal with a surprise marriage proposal and the continuing challenge of an ill-fitting bra. The book is best summed up by its obligatory recipe: Odelia’s Favorite Cookie Recipe..1. Go to market when uniformed girls are outside. 2. Buy 12 boxes of thin mint Girl Scout Cookies. 3. Place in freezer. 4. The following year, repeat steps 1 – 3. Recommended. 03/07 Jack Quick
CURSE OF THE SPELLMANS by Lisa Lutz: Isabel and all those crazy Spellmans are back in the follow-up to last year’s hilarious debut, The Spellman Files. As in Files, Curse begins towards the end and, through Isabel’s narrative, works its way back to the beginning. Isabel has been arrested now for the fourth time in just a matter of weeks – but really it’s the second time because she’s not counting times two and three. As she tells her tale to her poor friend and lawyer, Morty, it becomes clear that Izzy’s suspicious nature – purely a result of working for a PI firm from a very young age – has once again gotten her into a world of trouble. Izzy has become convinced that her parents’ new next-door neighbor is hiding something. Who can blame her really, the man has a locked door in his own apartment and his name is John Brown. She launches a full-scale investigation into the man, resorting to breaking and entering, trash searches, and even dating the man to try and learn his secrets. Of course, this ends with restraining orders, cracked ribs, eviction from her parents’ house, and much, much worse before it’s all over. Again, Lutz had me in tears from all the laughter. I love the footnotes and appendices outlining all the crazy family antics as well. Both Spellman books are light-hearted and fun mysteries. Lutz finally has provided Janet Evanovich with some competition – giving us all something to read while waiting for her next book to come out. 03/08 Becky Lejeune
CURSE THE DARK by Laura Anne Gilman: In a satisfying follow-up to STAYING DEAD, Laura Anne Gilman continues to develop both the world she’s created – one where magic exists and the relationship she created between Wren Valere and Sergei Didier. While I admit to befuddlement on occasion regarding the baroque politics of various organizations, it wasn’t really essential for me to understand them to enjoy the book. Wren and Sergei escape Manhattan’s awful summer to track down a missing 10th century manuscript which, of course, is more than it appears. When their contact doesn’t meet them in Italy, it’s a hint at a darker problem involving a strange monastery with an even odder history. Returning to the city, they’re still on the trail of a powerful….something. The romantic and sexual tension in the first book is realized here and it’s done well; Sergei and Wren both respect each other and have tried their damndest not to give in to the attraction they feel. And of course, story lines often fail once the tension goes out of the narrative but I don’t think that’ll happen here. There are strange creatures, power both obvious and subtle, and two really interesting people in the middle of it all. 08/05 ~This review contributed by Andi Shechter.
CUT AND RUN by Ridley Pearson: Witness Protection Marshal Roland Larsen did the unthinkable – he fell in love with Hope Stevens, a protected witness, but their love was not to be. Hope is absorbed into the Witness Protection Program, and now six years later Larsen is called in when the architect of the computer program containing all the Program’s data disappears. He also learns that Hope has also gone AWOL. Larsen’s job – find the missing computer master and save Hope. Things get complicated very quickly when Larsen learns Hope has a five-year old daughter. Could she be his daughter as well? Fast paced and intriguing look at just how much a determined investigator can learn about you – whether you want him to or not. 10/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
CUT, PASTE & KILL by Marshall Karp: Another book likely to be in my top ten for 1010. This one is built around scrapbooking but is far from being a cozy. It starts with Lomax and Biggs, my two favorite LA cops, investigating the demise of one Eleanor Bellingham-Crump who turns up murdered on the floor of a Hollywood hotel bathroom. It turns out that the late Ms. Bellingham-Crump, now lying dead with a pair of scissors in her spleen, was the wife of a British diplomat, and that, as a consequence, her diplomatic immunity allowed her to skate when she, in a drunken state, ran over and killed a young boy getting off his school bus. All this was detailed in the meticulous scrapbook left with her body. Additional bodies yield equally intricate scrapbooks and send our intrepid heroes after a vigilante stalking unpunished criminals. Great police procedural with first rate dialogue and laugh out loud funny lines, but would you expect any less from the author who cast a pedophile as Rambunctious Rabbit in Wally World back in the first Lomax and Biggs caper. With each outing Karp just gets better and better. Oh, don’t overlook the screenplay Biggs gets roped into writing based on a concept from Lomax’s Dad – Two ex-cops; one eighteen wheeler, dispensing – SEMI-JUSTICE. This has all the makings of a future outing for the new Jack Webb and Sergeant Friday. 06/10 Jack Quick
CUT TO THE BONE by Shane Gericke: Prepare for an adrenalin deficit after reading this one. After all, when you find out at the end of the first chapter that the execution by electric chair you’ve just read about from the POV of the condemned is really only a practice for the real thing, then you know its tighten up the seat belts time. Naperville Illinois, detective commander Martin Benedetti and detective Emily Thompson have brought down a serial killer, Corey Trent, who is scheduled to die in the electric chair. No clemency is expected from Governor Wayne Covington whose younger brother was killed along with others back in the 1960’s. Benedetti and Thompson are now investigating a Napierville homicide and find at least nine others with the same modus operandi. Also the victims were the grandchildren of Naperville residents. As the killer makes his way back to Naperville and the scheduled execution, Martin and Emily are racing the clock to prevent other murders and to determine whether, in fact justice is to be done. A combination police procedural and thriller, CUT TO THE BONE will leave you exhausted, but satisfied. Give me a week of rest and I’ll be ready for another one, Mr. Gericke. 07/07 Jack Quick
THE CUTIE by Donald Westlake: Hardcase crime #53 is a reprint of Donald E. Westlake’s debut novel under his own name. Billy-Billy Cantell, a stuttering dope user/seller is the prime suspect in the murder of Mavis St. Paul, mostly because he was found at the scene of the crime. Only his friend and colleague Clay thinks Billy is not guilty and, following orders from their boss, gangster Ed Ganolese, he is trying to clear Billy’s name because the police aren’t interested in another suspect. Clay’s regular job is creating “accidents” for people who cross Ganolese, but now he has to play detective and discover who the “cutie” (as Ganolese refers to him) is that killed Mavis and framed Billy-Billy. Even in this relatively early outing the talent of Westlake is apparent. He did know how to tell a tale. 02/09 Jack Quick
THE CUTTING by James Hayman: Detective Sergeant Michael McCabe always thought that moving his daughter from New York to small-town Portland, Maine, would mean that he wouldn’t have to worry about her safety. He was wrong. When the body of a missing teenager is discovered brutally murdered and a second woman goes missing, McCabe must face up to the fact that no place is truly safe anymore. The girl is found dumped in a scrap metal yard, her heart expertly cut from her chest. McCabe is sure that this points to someone in the medical profession and has his eye on a very specific suspect, but this man’s position in the community leads to some difficulty in the investigation. Then McCabe learns that this may not be the first time the killer has struck. A cold case in Florida with striking similarities only cements his theory, but it may mean his career in proving it. Hayman’s debut works on many levels, but best of all, it’s a real page-turning read. Readers will never tire of this kind of thriller as long as authors like Hayman keep spinning such gripping tales. I do hope this is the first in a series, though, as McCabe’s own backstory leaves plenty of room for more. 06/09 Becky Lejeune
THE CUTTING SEASON by Attica Locke: This is the first book of Dennis Lehane’s new imprint at HarperCollins, and if this book is any kind of indicator, Lehane’s skill in selecting material is as fine as his writing skill. The “Cutting Season” refers to sugar cane, which is grown all around Belle Vie, a former plantation turned historic monument in Louisiana. Caren is the plantation manager, and she brings a unique skill set to the job; she grew up on the plantation, the daughter of the cook. Her mother’s passed on, the plantation owners live in town while Caren lives with her young daughter on the grounds. There are daily performances of life on the plantation that bring school field trips and other visitors to Belle Vie, not to mention the catering available making it popular for weddings and private parties. Until the night a migrant farm worker’s body is found on the plantation border with the sugar cane fields. The woman has been murdered and an investigation ensues, centering on one of Belle Vie’s actors that Caren is sure is innocent. Meanwhile there are rumors the the owners are selling the plantation, and that prompts Caren to start looking into her family history. As a child her mother told her about her ancestor Jason, a slave that was freed after the Civil War and subsequently disappeared. There was an unsubstantiated story that he was killed and his body never found. The two murders become intertwined in this beautifully written and complex mystery. These characters come to life in Locke’s talented hands and fans of Southern gothic fiction will love this atmospheric piece. 10/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE CUTTING SEASON by Attica Locke: When a body is discovered on the grounds of the Belle Vie plantation, the authorities are quick to turn their eye to the tourist attraction’s employees as suspects. Caren Gray, the manager of the site, is certain that the killer isn’t from Belle Vie, but how can she prove otherwise? Once a working sugar cane plantation, the elegant grounds have become a site featuring reenactments and special events, and the land has been pieced up and sold off for continued cane farming. Rumor amongst the employees is that the family behind Belle Vie is considering selling what remains of the plantation and Caren is forced to face her own ties to the land—a history that traces back to the 1800s and a freed slave named Jason. As Caren investigates the current mystery, she also finds herself digging deeper into Jason’s story. The Cutting Season is a smart mystery that involves two plots—the current murder mystery and Jason’s story—connected by one main character. Locke’s pacing and plotting are impeccable and her careful attention to detail makes this book a true stand out. The Cutting Season is the first book featured in Dennis Lehane’s new imprint with HarperCollins. 10/12 Becky Lejeune
Cyanide Wells by Marcia Muller: Ms. Muller, along with Sue Grafton, helped to carve out the territory of the woman private eye in contemporary American mystery writing. However this time out, she has left Sharon McCone in abeyance, while spinning a yarn of mystery and suspense set in Northern California. Her affection for the area is evident in her comfortable evocation of local color.
The protagonist of this book is Matthew Lindstrom, a happily-married photography instructor at a college in Minnesota…until his wife disappears. He is suspected of killing her, but the authorities are unable to prove up their suspicions. Nonetheless, the accusation is sufficient to cost him his job and he finds that the community has turned against him. He embarks on a new life as a fishing captain in British Columbia and is successful and content…until he gets a telephone call advising him that his wife is alive and that she too, has assumed a new name and a new life. Seeking vindication and closure, Matt sets out for Soledad County, California to find out if this is true.
His arrival in California, under an assumed name, plunges him into revisiting of the grisly death of two homosexual men. In the process, he solves the enigma that was his former wife, solves the crime and lays the foundation for a final and hopefully happy new chapter in his life. This is a good story by a good story teller and I have no qualms about recommending it. ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.
Cypress Grove by James Sallis: In a famous essay, Raymond Chandler argued that the detective novel can be literature. James Sallis proves it. Most recently, in his latest novel, Cypress Grove.
Mr. Sallis writes hard-nosed fiction, but his affinity for poetry can be seen in his careful use of language. The first paragraph of his novel is almost always memorable and Cypress Grove is no exception. “I heard the jeep a half mile off. It came up around the lake, and when it hit the bend, birds took flight. They boiled up out of the trees, straight up, then, as though heavy wind had caught them, veered abruptly, all at once, sharp right. Most of those trees had been standing forty or fifty years. Most of the birds had been around less than a year and wouldn’t be around much longer. I was somewhere in between.” The hero of Cypress Grove is a complicated man in search of a simple life and a place to call home. Turner is a Viet Nam survivor, a former policeman, an ex-convict and a retired psychotherapist. He has retreated to a small southern community where he is living in peaceful isolation. He is pulled, gently, from his shell by the local sheriff who requests his assistance in solving a bizarre murder. His experiences, education and training have given Turner a real insight into the human heart. Flashbacks to incidents in Turner’s past alternate with the progress of the investigation. The lessons of this book are simple, but profound. Human beings are human and place is important. Surely, one of the purposes of literature is to remind us of such truths. Mr. Sallis is not very well known, although the best contemporary mystery writers are familiar with his work and honor it. The major chains will probably not carry this book. But it is worth the search and if you do locate it, you will have in your hands one of the best-written mysteries of our time. (If you are lucky, you may also find a copy of Black Hornet, one of his Lew Griffin mysteries, which has recently been republished.) ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.
THE CYPRESS HOUSE by Michael Koryta: Arlen Wagner has never understood his ability to see certain death, but he doesn’t question it either. While riding a train down to the Florida Keys in search of work, Arlen sees the people around him turn to skeletons. Knowing this means something terrible is in store, Arlen tries to encourage the men to leave at the next stop. Ignoring his pleas, the passengers continue on their way while Arlen and one of his own coworkers, a boy named Paul, stay behind. The two are able to catch a ride to another work camp, but death manages to follow closely behind. Their driver is killed in Corridor County and Arlen and Paul find themselves on the wrong side of the area’s law enforcement officials. Left with no money and no options, they take refuge at a boarding house, soon discovering that the locals are hiding something that could cost Arlen and Paul their own lives. Like So Cold the River, Koryta brings fans another stand-alone thriller with a supernatural twist. Set in 1935 Florida with the Labor Day hurricane as a key element, The Cypress House becomes a noir-esque thriller reminiscent of Key Largo. 06/11 Becky Lejeune