Fiction Reviews F: 1998-2013

THE FACE by Angela Hunt: Sarah Sims was born with Treacher Collins syndrome. Her case was actually worse than most and she could not survive without a series of painful surgeries. Her mother died in childbirth and her father died working for the CIA; Sarah was told that she had no one. Twenty years later, after the death of her mother, Renee Carey discovers that her niece, thought to have died in birth, survived. Renee is determined not only to meet Sarah, but to help her have the life and love she should have had all along. It’s not as easy as it would seem, though. Sarah has lived with and worked for the CIA all her life. For Renee to gain access to her niece, she has to jump through multiple CIA hoops and eventually gets a job with the agency. After they are united, Sarah agrees to undergo a very experimental facial implant, but meanwhile, the case they are working on has become more intense and dangerous to everyone involved, including even Sarah. Hunt, a prolific Christian author, has produced what is at its heart an intense thriller that should appeal to readers of all genres. The book is thoughtful and thought-provoking, but is not at all a heavy read. A page-turner through and through. 11/08 Becky Lejeune

THE FACE OF DEATH by Cody McFadyen: In McFadyen’s debut thriller, Shadow Men, FBI agent Smoky Barrett was faced with a ruthless killer who fancied himself the heir to Jack the Ripper’s legacy. She’s lost her family and her best friend and she’s endured brutal torture. Everyday she must face the mental and physical scars left from her ordeal, but ultimately she has survived and she is still damn good at her job. Smoky has taken some long overdue vacation time with the intention of spending quality time with her adopted daughter and allowing herself to finally say goodbye to her murdered family. Her vacation is interrupted, however, when the only survivor of a multiple homicide has asked for her at the scene. The survivor, a teenage foster child named Sarah, thinks that Smoky is the only person who might believe her story and want to help. Sarah claims that a man she calls The Stranger killed her foster family just as he killed her own parents ten years ago. According to Sarah, The Stranger is grooming her for a very special purpose, a twisted plot of revenge that Smoky and her team must unravel before it’s too late. Smoky Barrett is a tough-as-nails investigator with some serious demons to battle. McFadyen seems to have no sympathy for his heroine, but each ordeal only proves to make her that much stronger. To top it all off, McFadyen twists some crazy original and relentlessly paced stories. If you’re a fan of Silence of the Lambs, and other such psychological thrillers, you need to add Cody McFadyen to your list. 08/08 Becky Lejeune

THE FACE OF DEATH by Cody McFayden: McFadyen’s second outing turns into three books in one, that probably would have more appeal for the causal mystery reader than the more devoted one. First there is a fairly detailed text on forensics complete with discussions of blood spatter patterns, evidence gathering, use of technology, transference between attacker and victim, etc. – all the stuff you have already learned about on CSI. The next part is an extensive discussion of the psychological make up of the serial killer interspersed with numerous segments on depression and how to deal with it. Lastly, interspersed with the above is the tale of “The Stranger,” a serial killer seeking revenge for a miscarriage of justice, who has targeted 16-year-old Sarah Langstrom. It is up to Smoky Barrett and her outstanding L.A. Violent Crimes Unit to catch this monster who inflicts pain on Sarah by systematically killing anyone she loves. Actually the writing is not bad, but I found myself wanting to tell McFayden on occasion to shut up the lecturing and get on with the storying on far too many occasions. I understand the third book in this series is better. I hope so. 11/08 Jack Quick

THE FACE OF EVIL by John McPartland: first published in 1954, this pulp tale is now available as a free download e-book from http://www.blackmask.com. From the opening fight in a Newport Beach, California saloon to the final moments, it is exactly what you would expect from a good pulp read. Bill Oxford was a war correspondent in the Big War, then a LA Times journalist. Now he is a fixer – for those in and around Hollywood – of problems that others might not want to touch. After all the stench of those problems has begun to settle on Oxford and he is no longer as welcome as he was once was where the beautiful people play. Now he is just hired help. But still lethal. 11/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

FACE TIME by Hank Phillippi Ryan: Reporter Charlotte “Charlie” McNally is back in this follow-up to Hank Phillippi Ryan’s debut, Prime Time. In the news world it’s all about ratings, and it’s up to Charlie and her producer, Franklin, to make sure that they are first to get the next hot story. This time a connection Franklin has with a local activist group could not only lead them to a prime ratings headline, but could also free a woman who’s been wrongly convicted of murder. Dorinda Sweeney confessed to killing her husband and has been serving a life sentence for the crime. Now, new evidence proves that she is innocent, but Dorie is sticking to her story. Can Charlie crack the case or will her involvement land her in the crosshairs of a killer who’s determined to stay out of the limelight? Charlie’s second outing is even better than her first. Hank Phillippi Ryan’s series is a great blend of suspense, wit, and lighthearted fun. 09/09 Becky Lejeune

FACES OF THE GONE by Brad Parks: Carter Ross is an investigative reporter for a Newark, NJ newspaper who is assigned to look into the execution of four drug dealers that the cops are blaming on a bar robbery. Ross doesn’t buy it, and does his own investigating, putting himself, his cat Deadline, and pretty much everyone else he interviews in harm’s way. The characters are strongly defined, from the go-go dancer’s mother to the editor with a ticking biological clock. The Newark projects and their inhabitants come to life as do the local politicians and the cops. The newsroom rings true, especially the budget issues and there are some funny moments with the competition between the newspaper journalists and the TV news reporters. New Jersey seems to produce some of the funniest mystery writers, and Parks joins the ranks of Janet Evanovich and David Rosenfelt with his gritty, humorous debut. 01/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

FACES OF THE GONE by Brad Parks: Its take a very good “newspaper” story to keep my attention and Parks has a great one here. Carter Ross, investigative reporter with the Newark Eagle-Examiner, doesn’t buy the police story that 4 bodies, each with a single bullet wound in the back of the head, stacked like cordwood in a weed-choked vacant lot is payback for a local tavern robbery. Determined to uncover the true story, he enlists the aide of Tina Thompson, the paper’s smoking-hot city editor, to run interference at the office; Tommy Hernandez, the paper’s gay Cuban intern, to help him with legwork on the streets; and Tynesha Dales, a local stripper, to take him to Newark’s underside. It turns out there is a connection between the four victims but it isn’t something as minor as a bar robbery. Carter starts out looking for a story and ends up looking for a way to save his life. Nicely done. 02/10 Jack Quick

FADE TO BLONDE by Max Phillips: The second offering from Hard Case Crime (September 2004) shows they can still write ‘em like they used to. Ex-boxer/failed screenwriter Ray Corson is as tough talking as any classic gumshoe. Blonde bombshell Rebecca LaFontaine is a classic damsel in distress (“I’m really a good girl who was made to do bad things.”) She hires Corson to protect her from murderous rejected suitor Lance Halliday, a Hollywood porn producer. Corson’s investigation of Tinsel Town’s tarnished underside uncovers drug dealing, gangland activity and evidence that LaFontaine just may not be exactly who she says she is. Classic pulp at its finest, typed out two fingered on a battered Remington with sheets of carbon paper separating the pages. Don’t need no stinkin’ word processor. 08/06 Jack Quick

FADE TO WHITE by Wendy Clinch: Avid ski enthusiast and amateur sleuth Stacey Curtis returns in this second Ski Diva mystery. When famous aging actor Harper Stone shows up in Spruce Peak to shoot a mouthwash ad, fans couldn’t be more pleased. For the younger generation, Stacey in particular, it’s just an annoyance that’s closed down the lift and slowed her day at the slopes. But when Stone goes missing, later to be found by Stacey herself, she once again begins poking her nose into police business. This follow-up to Double Black was something of a disappointment. Stacey takes a backseat to the many supporting characters, some of whom are introduced only to later disappear without mention again. The plot itself seemed somewhat promising but the big reveal in the end was overwhelmingly anticlimactic. Sad for a book I’d been looking forward to after enjoying Clinch’s debut last year. 1/11 Becky Lejeune

THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL by Carolyn Turgeon: Rapunzel has been raised in almost complete seclusion, kept safe deep in the forest. Her guardian, Mathena, has taught her everything she knows about the healing powers of plants. Together, they live a quiet and secure life. While hunting in the woods one afternoon, Prince Josef hears an enchanting melody. He follows the sound to Rapunzel and the two are immediately smitten. But the Prince is promised to another and Mathena has vowed to protect Rapunzel from danger – even the dangers of the heart. Turgeon’s latest is an interesting, if somewhat odd, twist on the classic Rapunzel and Snow White tales. It’s a quite clever blend of the two, to be perfectly honest, and one that is sure to appeal to fans of fairy tale retellings as well as Turgeon’s previous novels. 8/13 Becky Lejeune

THE FAITHFUL SPY by Alex Berenson: CIA agent John Wells, the first Western intelligence officer to penetrate the upper levels of al-Qaeda, is assigned a mission on American soil by bin Laden’s chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Wells, now a devout Muslim (for real), finds his years spent in deep cover have left him conflicted. Has he been turned? The scrutiny intensifies when two bombs go off in L.A., killing 300. Although a bit clunky, the mounting suspense, a believable scenario and a final twist add up to a compelling tale of frightening possibilities. It’s not for the squeamish, though: the torture sequences and bombing descriptions are graphic and chillingly real. 08/06 Jack Quick

FAITHLESS by Karin Slaughter (Bantam Dell 8/1) – The publicity blurb says Faithless will be (Slaughter’s) breakthrough hardcover bestseller. It’s the same cast as Slaughter’s previous Grant County, Georgia novels with Coroner Sara Linton, ex-husband Sheriff Jeffrey Tolliver, and Detective Lena Adams. Sara and Frank find the body of a young woman who had been buried alive in a wooden box with a breathing tube, but then poisoned with cyanide. The autopsy reveals she is pregnant and, it turns outs she is part of the Church of Greater Good, associated with a soybean cooperative that uses Atlanta homeless people as workers. Each character is involved with no single focus, which makes for very interesting reading. With sentences like this one -“(Lena) wasn’t used to being around religious people unless they were down at the police station.” – I agree with the publicity blurb. This is the best one yet. 07/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

THE FALL by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan: The strigoi have taken Manhattan. Eph, his son, Setrakian, Fet, and Nora have managed to survive the first wave, but the vampire plague is quickly spreading. The powers that be have tried to ignore the signs and now their actions are too late to stop the epidemic. Setrakian, who’s been tracking and killing the vampires for decades, suspects that the truth of their origin lies hidden within the pages of the Occido Lumen, a book shrouded in mystery and curses, currently being auctioned in New York. If he can get his hands on the book, humanity may have a hope in surviving. In the meantime, the group must continue to evade the strigoi Master and his minions. The Fall kicks off immediately where The Strain leaves off. Del Toro and Hogan have created a dark and horrific story based in the classic monstrous vampires of early legend—no romantic and brooding heartthrobs here, the strigoi are parasites feeding on and eliminating the human race. Note this series does have to be read in order. 11/11 Becky Lejeune

FALL OF A COSMONAUT by Stuart Kaminsky: It’s the thirteenth outing for Moscow’s version of Ed McBain’s Steve Carella. The three cases that occupy Rostnikov this time provide a sad picture of a country thrashing about in search of an identity. He and his son Iosef, now a fellow policeman are searching for a missing cosmonaut who happened to mention Rostnikov’s name on a tape recorded before the cosmonaut came down from the Mir space station and then disappeared. Iosef’s lover, Elena Timofeyeva, and her partner, Sasha, are involved with a nasty and pompous film producer, whose life is in danger and Emil Karpo heads the investigation into the murder of an unpopular scientist at the Center for the Study of Technical Parapsychology. As usual a satisfying conclusion is reached for all three, and our heroes all appear ready for further adventures. 03/08 Jack Quick

The Fall of Light by Niall Williams: Romantic historical Irish family saga, a little slow but worthwhile.

THE FALL OF TROY by Peter Ackroyd: In 1868, Heinrich Schliemann took over the excavation site at Hisarlik, in Turkey. The site was believed to have been the ancient city of Troy. Schliemann, his expedition, and his eccentric nature all play out in Ackroyd’s latest novel. Upon receiving his proposal, and generous dowry, Sophia Chrysanthis’s parents gladly give their daughter’s hand in marriage to German archaeologist Heinrich Obermann. It is to be a prosperous marriage, one that will secure Sophia a comfortable place in society. Soon after the wedding, Obermann carts his new bride off to Turkey where he has been laboring diligently, or more appropriately, obsessively, to uncover the once famous city of Troy. Sophia leaves her home with some trepidation but soon comes to love the excitement of discovering the remains of this lost civilization. Before long, Sophia comes to realize that any evidence that would contradict her husband’s theories – those supported by the writings of Homer – soon disappears or is coincidentally destroyed. She also discovers that her new husband has neglected to reveal certain important facts in regards to his past. Obermann’s mania reaches a dangerous peak and Sophia is forced to decide just where her loyalties lie. This slim novel is interesting if a bit anticlimactic. The real Obermann (Schleimann) and his exploits are a fascinating bit of archaeological history that makes the story much more appealing. Unfortunately, the fact that this story is partially true is only briefly mentioned on the flap of the dust-jacket, and Schleimann’s name is not mentioned at all. 11/07 Becky Lejeune

FALLEN by Karin Slaughter: I loved Slaughter’s series, and was so invested in her characters that when she killed off one of her major characters, I stopped reading her. Well, it’s been several years and time heals all wounds, so to speak, especially when so many people were telling me that I had to read this book and how terrific it was. So I put myself on the waiting list at my library and patiently waited my turn. Meanwhile, Ms. Slaughter had undertaken a project to help the underfunded libraries in her community, and other communities, and received a very special “Silver Bullet” award from the International Thriller Writers group, and my admiration. I wrote to thank and congratulate her on this project, and she sent me a copy of Fallen. Took my name off the list at the library and fell into it. I can see why everyone is raving about this book; the characters are so well drawn and the story so compelling that I could not put this book down. I still miss the character that died, but I was comfortable with how the story has evolved from there. Now I am impatient for the next book, while I am still savoring this one.
Faith Mitchell is a Georgia cop whose mother is watching her infant daughter. When the training class she’s in runs late, Faith calls her mom to let her know but gets no answer. Faith drives to her mother’s house, dread building as she still cannot reach her. Evelyn Mitchell is a retired detective, and it is not like her to be out of reach. Faith arrives at the house, sees blood on the door, hears music her mother would never play and calls for back up. But this is her mother and child at risk, so throwing caution to the winds she enters a nightmare. The story hurtles forward, twisting and turning and the tension just doesn’t let up until the last page. Apparently while I wasn’t reading her, Slaughter really amped up her game. This book is sure to make my best books of the year list. 09/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

FALLEN by Karin Slaughter: Hail, hail the gang’s all here. When the mother of Georgia Bureau of Investigation Agent Faith Mitchell is kidnapped, it brings all of Slaughter’s disparate characters together. First there is dyslexic fellow agent Will Trent who is Faith’s partner and the man responsible for causing her mother to have to resign from the Atlanta Police Department’s Narcotics Squad in a scandal that sent six of her officers to prison. Then there is Amanda, Will and Faith’s boss, who was a contemporary of Faith’s Mother at APD. Lastly there is trauma doctor Sara Linton, formerly of Grant County and now working at Atlanta’s Grady hospital trauma center and who has a soft spot for Will from their previous encounters. Hostages, drugs, cops, cons, multiple murders, and somewhere a common thread that ties it all together. Slaughter’s best effort to date and definitely recommended. 07/11 Jack Quick

FALLEN by Lauren Kate: Luce learned long ago that talking about the shadows around her would get her into trouble. Her somewhat “normal” existence is shattered, though, when a fellow student dies in a fire. Luce can’t remember the events surrounding the boy’s death, but that doesn’t matter when judgment is passed. Now she’s a new student at Sword & Cross, a reform school for trouble—and troubled—teens. In spite of a quite rude first encounter, Luce finds herself drawn to Daniel Grigori, a mysterious boy she feels a certain connection to. In fact, Luce can’t shake the feeling that she’s met him somewhere before. But Luce can’t begin to understand the bond that she and Daniel have. And if she were ever to guess their shared past, history could quite possibly repeat itself… again. Fallen is yet another fallen angel tale for teens. This one, however, had a deliciously dark and gothic feel to it. My one complaint is that although the build was fantastic, the end was very abrupt: a great premise with great development, but the conclusion just felt rushed. 12/09 Becky Lejeune

THE FALLEN by T. Jefferson Parker: Homicide Detective Robbie Greenlaw has a gift from an unfortunate accident – he was thrown out a sixth floor window. He survived, but suffers from a rare neurological disorder called synesthesia, which causes him to visualize different colored shapes coming out of a speaker’s mouth, coordinating with the emotions of the speaker; lies are red, jealousy is green and so forth. He doesn’t tell anyone but his wife about it, fearing reprisal, but it turns out to be a somewhat useful tool for a detective to have a sort of built-in lie detector. Greenlaw is assigned to case involving a former cop who is murdered. Things get really complicated when he uncovers a prostitution ring with political and police connections and the story just flies. Parker has achieved the Holy Trinity of starred reviews – Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus, and those stars are well deserved. This is an extraordinary story, told by an extraordinary writer. Don’t miss it. 03/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE FALLEN by Mark Terry: Derek Stillwater’s latest outing revolves around a GQ Summit meeting in Colorado Springs. A terrorist group, the Fallen Angels, led by Richard Coffee, has infiltrated the meeting and taken twenty world leaders hostage. Coffee’s first demand: release twenty detainees from Guantanamo Bay, or he’ll execute one leader each hour until his demands are met. Stillwater, working undercover as a maintenance man at the resort where the meeting is being held, is the only one in position to prevent the massacre. The odds may be twenty to one but don’t underestimate Stillwater. He and Coffee have a history, and Stillwater is determined that history will end here in the Colorado Rockies.. Another good thriller. 06/11 Jack Quick

THE FALLEN ANGEL by Daniel Silva: This is Silva’s 12th book about Gabriel Allon, who is portrayed as being one of the top agents of Israel’s intelligence service. Over the time involved in the novels Gabriel has become quite well known to readers of these books. His thoughts and reactions to situations have been thoroughly sketched by Silva so that he has become someone we know rather than a character created just to interact in a story. As in many of the books about him, Allon is first found working on a restoration project. This time on a painting by Carvaggio located in the Vatican. The background knowledge and descriptions of the art world and the work going into maintaining great art are a set piece in most of Silva’s books about Gabriel. While working on the portrait an apparent suicide of a female curate occurs, and Gabriel is asked by a friend of his who is a high placed official with the Vatican to “look into the matter”.
From looking at a suicide, that may be murder, into an international plot by Iran to destroy Israel Allon moves forward rapidly mobilizing a team he works with in order to foil the plots. Possibly more than a bit far fetched events as depicted and actions described succeed in capturing the reader and pulling him or her into moving forward with Allon and his team to a satisfying ending. The research that Daniel Silva undoubtedly does in setting up his novels is evident, and while the truth is somewhat distorted it does make for great reading, and a consistent look forward to the next book by him. Obviously, there are a good many allusions to previously written Gabriel Allon novels, but all can be read as stand alone books with understanding of what is currently going on. 8/12 Paul Lane

THE FALLEN ANGEL by Daniel Silva: “Rule number one at the Vatican,” Donati said. “Don’t ask too many questions.” Gabriel Allon, the wayward son of Israeli intelligence, has taken refuge behind the walls of the Vatican, where he is restoring one of Caravaggio’s greatest masterpieces. But early one morning he is summoned to St. Peter’s Basilica by Monsignor Luigi Donati, the all-powerful private secretary to His Holiness Pope Paul VII. The body of a beautiful woman lies broken beneath Michelangelo’s magnificent dome. The Vatican police suspect suicide, though Gabriel believes otherwise. Gabriel learns that the dead woman had uncovered a dangerous secret that threatens a global criminal enterprise that is looting timeless treasures of antiquity and selling them to the highest bidder. But that is not all. A mysterious operative is plotting an act of sabotage that will plunge the world into a conflict of apocalyptic proportions. With each succeeding book, Silva’s legacy grows, deftly mixing Jewish and Catholic faiths and beliefs in ways that highlight the similarities and minimize the differences all in adventure fiction that is as good as it gets. 8/12 Jack Quick

FALLING IS LIKE THIS by Kate Rockland: Ending a relationship is never simple, but moving on proves to be a little easier for Harper Rostov when she meets guitarist Nick Cavallero on the same afternoon that she finally walks out on her current boyfriend, Andy. Cavallero, a member of Hitchhiker’s Revenge, a punk rock band that Harper has been a fan of for ages, is the exact opposite of Andy. He’s older but not necessarily more mature. Just different. And it only takes a day for Harper to begin to fall for him. But is a rock star boyfriend and the punk scene really all it’s cut out to be? Can a whirlwind love affair with the poster boy of punk turn out the way Harper hopes it will? And is it all worth it in the end? Rockland has a quirky style and an interesting way of viewing things that translates well through her main character. There are moments when the new “love” and heavy flirting can become a bit overwhelming, but even that’s as it should be, I think, when reading about a young relationship. 05/10 Becky Lejeune

FALLING TOGETHER by Marisa de los Santos: Once upon a time, Pen, Cat, and Will were the best of friends. They met in college and were inseparable for years to come. Then they went their separate ways. Pen is now a single mother who has recently lost her father. Will is a successful writer who has managed to control his anger issues. And Cat… well, no one is sure. Pen and Will both receive the same email from Cat apologizing and asking for them to meet up at their college reunion. But Cat never shows. Instead, her husband is there claiming that his wife has disappeared. As Pen and Will reconnect, they decide to help Cat’s husband track her down, ultimately facing the very things that tore them apart in the first place. Falling Together is a bit slow to start, but once the story picks up it’s impossible to put down. Marisa de los Santos has an interesting voice – very banter-ish. Pen is the most well developed character in the story, and my preference would have been for her to be the overall lead character – she certainly gets the most page time and could definitely have carried the book. Instead, the story is unevenly split between Pen and Will, leaving Will feeling a bit underdeveloped as a whole. Overall a sweet story and a fairly easy read. 10/12 Becky Lejeune

FALLS THE SHADOW by William Lashner: Defense attorney Victor Carl in his fifth outing as a “Philadelphia Lawyer”, which you soon learn is somewhat different from being an attorney elsewhere. Like voting in Chicago, Philadelphia lawyers are involved early and often in various political matters. In this one, Carl takes on the task of getting a retrial for a convicted murderer. His efforts uncover some strange connections, with the usual Philadelphia political overtones. Along the way he befriends a young client assigned by Child Services and unveils a different side of Carl. Without spoiling the plot, I will say for Lashner fans that Carl does survive the various attempts on his life, so he should be back for another case. Recommended. 05/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

A FALSE DAWN by Tom Lowe: Retired homicide detective Sean O’Brien wants nothing more these days than to relax, work on renovating his new home and boat, and hang with his dog, Max. Then Sean discovers a woman who has been beaten, abused, and left for dead in the woods near his home. As the woman lay dying in his arms, Sean promises her that he will find the people responsible. Unfortunately, one of the locals seems to have an agenda of his own and pegs Sean as his number one suspect. As Sean’s investigation leads him to the heart of a human trafficking ring, connections to some of Florida’s most prominent business folk cause him to wonder just who is on the take and who is really interested in solving the case. Soon Sean finds himself tangled in a mystery that leads him back to one of his own unsolved cases from his Miami days. This is a great debut. O’Brien is a character readers will really root for, and even given the circumstances of the tale, I’ll bet you’ll be planning a Florida vacation thanks to Lowe’s descriptions and setting (I’ll avoid the gators, thanks.) 04/09 Becky Lejeune

FALSE FACES by Seth Margolis: Ostensibly, Linda Levinson had no enemies but she is murdered one balmy summer night in yuppie Seaside Harbor, N.Y. When Police Office Joe DiGregorio begins to dig into the case he learns that Linda is quite a character. To her roommate, Linda was a good though moody friend. To her latest one-night stand, Linda was a castrating bitch. To her boss, the dead woman was “quiet…sweet…didn’t go out much.” Digging further, Joe finds that Linda was running a stock market scam and her partner becomes the chief suspect in her slaying – but then he becomes a homicide statistic. Even Joe almost falls victim to the killer. When its all over, you may be left with a less than satisfactory taste in your mouth because of the shallowness and crass materialism of some of the characters, but still a darn good read. 10/06 Jack Quick

FALSE PROFITS by Patricia Smiley: L.A. management consultant Tucker Sinclair has been accused of helping a client obtain $11 million using a fraudulent business plan. When Sinclair begins to defend herself she finds the original files missing out of her office. So she goes to the office of the client neurologist, Milton Polk, and discovers not her elusive doctor but a policeman with a Polaroid of the dead Polk. From this point on, its up to Sinclair to save her reputation and livelihood by finding out who and why, and staying alive during the process. Sinclair is smarter than Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum but no match for Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone in this, her first outing. It will be interesting to see how she develops in subsequent adventures. For now, not too tart, not too sweet, and an okay read. 11/06 Jack Quick

A False Sense of Well Being by Jeanne Braselton: I loved this book about a woman having a mid-life crisis which manifests itself in fantasies of her husband dying in various ways. Black comedy for sure, but so much more! The characters are well defined and sympathetic, even in their neuroses. This is a book that begs discussion. And single-handedly, Ms. Braselton has opened my mind once again to Southern fiction. A reading group guide, interview and preview chapter from Braselton’s next book are available in the Ballantine Reader’s Circle edition or online. Click here for more info.

FALSE TESTIMONY by Rose Connors: Marty Nickerson & Harry Madigan are law partners and life partners. In this fourth outing of the pair, they each have a client whose story doesn’t hold water. Nickerson is defending the Massachusetts senator whose aide has mysteriously disappeared, and Madigan is defending a very young parolee accused of murdering a priest – which he admits to doing, but claims it was in self defense against attempted sexual assault. Connors brings home the stark winter of Cape Cod in this bisecting tale of truth or consequences amid great courtroom scenes with great style and great writing. 07/05

FALSE WITNESS by Randy Singer: Bounty hunter Clarke Shealy gets an ominous phone call—a Chinese mafioso has taken Shealy’s wife hostage, and if Shealy wants to see her again, he must track down a missing Chinese mathematician, who has discovered an extremely valuable algorithm that could change Internet technology forever. That’s part one. In part two, three students at a prestigious law school in Atlanta become involved with a couple in the witness protection program. The students, an African-American ex-jock, a feisty liberated woman, and an endearing math nerd, are saved from being caricatures through the excellence of the writing. At the end, all the loose ends are pulled together so nicely, one would hope to see a sequel to follow the story even further. 01/08 Jack Quick

THE FAME THIEF by Tim Hallinan: Through his previous work, LA burglar Junior has acquired a protector and mentor. The problem is the person who has involved himself in Junior’s life is one Irwin Dressler, Hollywood’s scariest mob boss-turned-movie king. Having Dressler for a mentor is not unlike walking a greased high wire over a pit of piranhas during a windstorm. Even though Dressler is ninety-three years old, Junior is thinks hif life is over when Dressler’s henchman haul him in for a meeting. It turns out that Dressler wants Junior to solve a “crime” he believes was committed more than seventy years ago, when an old friend of his, once-famous starlet Dolores La Marr, had her career destroyed after compromising photos were taken of her at a Las Vegas party. Dressler wants justice for Dolores and the shining career she never had. After all, it’s been seventy years. Even if someone did set Dolores up for a fall from grace back then, they’re probably long dead now. But Junior can’t say no to Irwin Dressler (no one can, really). So he starts digging. As additional motivation Dressler knows Junior’s deepest secret hideaway which means the alternative would be to flee California and his daughter forever and that is not going to happen. Another outstanding offering from Tim Hallinan. 7/13 Jack Quick

THE FAMILY FANG by Kevin Wilson: Caleb and Camille Fang are performance artists; their lives revolve around their art. Their children, Annie and Buster, known as Child A and Child B, become additions to the act, and secondary to their parent’s art. The story moves back and forth from present day – Annie is an actress of some renound and Buster is a respected journalist and novelist – to their childhood as the often unwitting participants in their parents’ productions. This family puts the “fun” in dysfunctional and their story is a charming, heart wrenching and heartwarming tale. The humor ranges from broad slapstick to black comedy, and reading groups will find much to discuss here. 09/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

FANGLAND by John Marks: As an associate producer for the television news program, The Hour it Is, Evangeline Harker’s job to feel out a potential story and decide if it will make the cut and become an actual piece. Newly engaged, she grudgingly agrees to go to Romania to meet with someone who may have information regarding regional crime lord, Ion Torgu. Torgu has become a mythical figure whose existence is questionable. When Evangeline is late for her interview, she believes the whole story is blown. She’s surprised though when Torgu himself shows up. From the set meeting place, he takes her to a remote hotel in the mountains where she discovers his grisly secret. Months pass with no word from Evangeline. Hours of almost blank footage arrive from Romania. Editors begin to suffer from a strange sort of viral depression and everyone at The Hour has reported hearing strange whispering throughout the halls. This modern adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula is cleverly modified for a post 9-11, media driven world. Marks twists the literary classic to make it his own. 02/07 Becky Lejeune

FAR FAR AWAY by Tom McNeal: Once upon a time in the town of Never Better, there lived a boy whose best friend was a ghost. The boy was Jeremy Johnson Johnson and the ghost was Jacob Grimm. When Jacob died, he wandered the world looking for his brother. Having finally decided that – for reasons he still did not understand – his brother was not in fact wandering this plane of existence along with him, he settled in Never Better. He’d heard that the small town was home to an Exceptional – someone who could hear the dead – and that this Exceptional (Jeremy) would need protection from a Finder of Occasions – someone who makes trouble by taking advantage of… occasions. Jeremy’s mother left one day without saying goodbye. Heartbroken, his father cut himself off from the world. And so, Jacob Grimm became Jeremy Johnson Johnson’s protector, companion, and surrogate parent and has been ever since. The Finder of Occasions has yet to show himself and Jeremy is in his final years of high school. Jacob has been helping him with his studies so that he can get into a good college, but Jeremy’s life is no fairy tale, not even when Ginger Boultinghouse starts coming around. In fact, his troubles are just beginning and Jacob might not be able to help him when things get really bad. Far Far Away is a fun and somewhat gruesome teen fairy tale. I loved the framework of the story and thought the use of Jacob Grimm as narrator was quite clever. 6/13 Becky Lejeune

A FAR PIECE TO CANAAN by Sam Halpern: Samuel Zelinsky may have spent just three years in Kentucky, but those three years would impact his life in ways he never considered. His wife, Nora, knew this and always urged him to revisit his time there but he always found a reason to avoid the issue. That is, until Nora’s death. Her final request before she died was for Samuel to go back to Kentucky. Now in his seventies, Samuel finds himself finally returning to the farmland his family sharecropped decades ago. And while those years have long passed, Samuel finds that the memories of that time are as fresh as ever. This debut from Sam Halpern (of Justin Halpern’s Sh*t My Dad Says fame) is a wonderfully thoughtful and compelling read. The story alternates between Samuel’s childhood and present day. Halpern does a fantastic job setting the tone and scene throughout the book, even switching to what the character calls “hillbilly” dialect in the flashbacks. I’ll admit I did find that the flashback portions of the tale had more impact for me as a reader than the final chapters concerning the present day closure the character faced, but A Far Piece to Canaan is still, in my opinion, a truly excellent debut. 6/13 Becky Lejeune

FAST LANE by Dave Zeltserman: As cold and unforgiving as an alleyway off East Colfax Avenue in January, Johnny Lane is Denver’s premier private eye. He stays that way by solving the difficult cases and then writing about them in a monthly column “Fast Lane” in the Denver Examiner. Not one to mince words in print or in public he responds as follows to a red head who questions his sad expression in a local watering hole. “I just found out that I won’t qualify for this year’s Miss America contest. I guess you must have been told the same thing years ago.” The redhead, Marge, becomes another chapter or chapters in the legend of Johnny Lane. As Zeltserman says in the forward, “Hope you like your crime fiction dark and disturbing.” Whatever happened to Mickey Spillane? Now we know. He changed his name and moved west. 08/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

Family Orchard by Nomi Eve: This is a fictionalized account of the author’s family history that goes from her father’s journal to what I believe to be her version of how events happened. I found the two different voices distracting and unnecessary. There was a snippet about each character but not enough depth about anyone until the end. The first six pages were the best. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

A Farewell to Legs by Jeffrey Cohen: This is the second entry into the terrific Aaron Tucker/Hemingway series (Tucker is the protagonist, Hemingway supplies the titles.) This time around Aaron goes to his high school reunion, and so does the girl everyone had the hots for, Stephanie Jacobs. But while they are catching up, someone kills Stephanie’s husband back in Washington D. C. Louis “Crazy Legs” Gibson was a womanizing political right winger with lots of enemies and his wife is the number one suspect, but she has an ironclad alibi. Using her political connections, she arranges for a magazine to hire Aaron to write a piece about the murder and hopefully solve the crime, and the fun and games begin. It’s the wonderfully written characters that really makes these books shine, but there are also lots of nice twists and a real surprise ending in this humorous whodunit. 12/03 Bookbitch

A FAREWELL TO LEGS by Jeffery Cohen: Called a combination James Bond and Bart Simpson, Aaron Tucker-is looking for the killer of a conservative politician who was once a classmate of Tucker’s, while also handling family matters and pursuing his ambition of becoming a successful screen writer. Other words that come to mind are quirky, adorable, and downright funny. Maybe he’s more of a Woody Allen, the master anti-sleuth. 12/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

Fat Ollie’s Book by Ed McBain: Long before Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue, Ed McBain was turning out what are almost universally conceded to be the best police procedurals of our time. His close-knit team of characters in the 87th precinct know their jobs and they perform them well.
But what characters! From Meyer Meyer to Burt Kling to the protagonist Steve Carella himself, each is richly developed over the series and absorbing in his own right.
In Fat Ollie’s Book, McBain has elevated a peripheral comic character from earlier books to center stage and done so in a way that humanizes him without losing his humorous aspects.
Detective First Class Oliver Wendell Weeks, aka Fat Ollie, is an officer from the adjoining 88th Precinct who in a previous book saved Carella’s life twice. Once by shooting a lion. In this volume, Detective Weeks has written a book which he has entitled Report to the Commissioner. Unfortunately, his manuscript is stolen from his police car while he is at the scene of the murder of a local politician. Both investigations proceed simultaneously and manage to entwine.
This story is yet further evidence of McBain’s complete mastery of this field. It is interesting, convincing and funny. If you haven’t read McBain, this would not be a bad place to start. This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin

A FATAL DEBT by John Gapper: This is a first novel and is certainly an intriguing beginning. Gapper is the chief business columnist for the Financial Times and has written two non-fiction works concerning the financial world. Ben Cowper is a psychiatrist working at a large hospital in New York City. He admits Harry Shapiro, the fired former head of a large financial firm that has suffered the problems of the recent Wall street crisis. Harry’s wife has requested the her husband be admitted due to the depression he suffers from the loss of his job. Harry objects and wants to be released, but Ben’s superiors insist that Shapiro’s request be honored since he and his wife are large benefactors of the hospital. Harry is released against Ben’s better judgment, and several days afterwards becomes involved in the murder of a former colleague . He accepts blame for the murder and is put in prison awaiting trial. Insinuations are that it is actually Ben’s fault for releasing him too soon. Ben has to begin work on clearing his professional reputation and the ins and outs of arriving at satisfactory conclusions provides a plot that keeps the reader very much involved. There is a long list of characters whose interactions are intricate and keep anyone reading the book guessing and awaiting answers. The final answer is a surprise, although Gapper has provided clues to this in the course of the action. Good read, and certainly enough for the reader to await Gapper’s next novel with interest. 6/12 Paul Lane

FATAL ENCRYPTION by Debra Purdy Kong: A non-geeky computer mystery, well, at least a minimally geeky computer mystery. Alex Bellamy, AKA Kermit the Frog on Halloween night is only a few miles away from where Zachary Ternoway is stabbed at his front door. Alex is hired to help catch a computer prankster at McKinleys’ Department Store. It gets serious when the cracker threatens to permanently encrypt the company’s data unless he is paid million in ransom for the means to preserve their data. One of the suspects is the brother of Zachary Ternoway. Is there a connection? Alex thinks so and he has less than two weeks to solve both the murder and the threatened extortion. He also has to deal with current about to be former girlfriend and former, wants to become current, girlfriend as well as family. Set in Canada and nicely done. 06/08 Jack Quick

FATAL FEBRUARY by Barbara Levenson: Mary Katz thought her little fender bender in the car wash parking lot and the results of that fateful meeting would mean the end – the end of her relationship and the end of her career. Well, it did, but in a good way. After meeting the suave and handsome Carlos Martin, Mary is discovered holding a special meeting with him in her office. She calls off her engagement, breaks up with her boyfriend (who discovered them), and quits her cushy job at his law firm. Other than the fact that her ex seems bent on exacting revenge for his hurt ego, things in Mary’s life are going great. She opens her own practice and is involved in a high profile murder trial that could really help her if it all goes her way. Levenson, an attorney and now judge, debuts with this light and funny legal thriller. An uncomplicated read that’s perfect for someone looking for a little suspense and a lot of entertainment. 01/09 Becky Lejeune

A FATAL GLASS OF BEER by Stuart Kaminsky: Toby Peters is a World War II era private eye who runs with the movie crowd in LA. This time he and his Swiss “little person” pal are employed by none other than W.C. Fields to drive across country and to find the thief who is looting all of the comedian’s secret bank accounts, carefully hidden under such fake names as Cormorant Beecham and Quigley E. Sneersight, in towns like Coschocton, Ohio, Altoona, Pennsylvania and Ottumwa, Iowa. Someone is serious about Fields not getting his money, and if it means taking out the entire group, so be it. Danger lurks and in Fields own words “A glass of beer could be fatal and then where would the lovely urchins be?” 8/12 Jack Quick

A FATAL GRACE by Louise Penny: The death of CC de Poitiers isn’t high up there in Three Pines tragedies. After all, no one but CC herself thought all that much of the woman. To say she rubbed people the wrong way would be an understatement: she was a narcissistic and mean-spirited woman in spite of her so-called self-improvement philosophy. The way CC died is particularly strange, however, and smells of murder. Gamache and his team are assigned the case and quickly discover a long list of potential suspects with motive to rid Three Pines of such a hateful personality. Once again, Gamache has his work cut out for him. What I love about this series is the carefully built setting and the lovely, well thought out cast of quirky characters. Some may call Penny’s work cozy but I find the series to be a little on the darker side and filled with attitude. This is the second installment in Penny’s Gamache series and while it can be read and enjoyed on its own, it does refer back to happenings in the series debut, Still Life. 9/13 Becky Lejeune

FATAL INCIDENT by Jim Proebstle: Interesting docu-drama novel based on a factual World War II episode wherein Minnesotan Nick Morgan, an Air Traffic Command pilot and his Okie crop-duster copilot, Red, are tapped by the Manhattan Project for classified flying duty over the isolated Yukon Flats region. They are caught up in a Soviet plot aimed at stealing top-secret bomb and test site development documents.. When Nick’s plane goes down in a botched hijacking attempt by a Russian agent, all three crew members and eighteen military passengers are presumed dead by the U.S. military. A much-delayed recovery effort reveals there was at least one survivor, which sparks a massive search to find the person who escaped with the documents. The CIA gets involved and the situation just gets messier and messier. A nicely done second outing from the author of In The Absence of Honor. Recommended. 08/11 Jack Quick

FATAL LAWS by Jim Hansen: Third in the Laws series (NIGHT LAWS and SHADOW LAWS), and hopefully there will be a lot more to come. Beautiful women surround Denver homicide detective Bryson Coventry. Unfortunately, some of them are dead. Why are women disappearing and where are they between the time they disappear and when their bodies are found? Since one of the victims is an attorney, lawyers are involved as well. Another well written combination police procedural and “attorney book” that keeps ratcheting up the ante. Definitely recommended. 06/07 Jack Quick

FATAL LEGACY by Elizabeth Corley: By all accounts, Arthur Wainwright is not a likable fellow. But did he deserve to be killed in a manner that suggested suicide? Then comes the classic English “reading of the will.” Not only was the Wainwright estate far larger than thought, the bulk of the estate, to the dismay of his other kin, was bequeathed to his nephew Alex, and Alex’s wife Sally. So was the murder Alex’s doing or that one of the disgruntled heirs? Sally starts to look into the matter when the financial controller for the Wainwright firm is brutally murdered. Enter Detective Chief Inspector Andrew Fenwick and what starts out kind of cozy becomes a first rate police procedural. If you enjoy Stephen Booth, Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson et.al, then add Ms. Corley to your reading list. I have. 03/08 Jack Quick

FATAL UNDERTAKING by Mark de Castrique: “Can I borrow a coffin?” Even for funeral director and part time sheriff Barry Clayton, this is the most absurd request he has ever heard – until he learns the casket will be the centerpiece of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycee) haunted house. Imagine the shock when the casket is put to use in the murder of the Jaycee’s President on Halloween. Sheriff Tommy Lee Wadkins assigns Barry to be the lead investigator of a case that presents no motive and no suspects. Then someone fires a shot at Jaycee member Archie Donovan, and Barry wonders whether the victim in the casket had even been the intended target. Clayton’s ex-wife is trying to use the case as a springboard into network television. Her prying into the case leads to another murder as old wounds are ripped open, family rifts exposed, and a criminal enterprise revealed that cuts to the heart of the community. 10/10 Jack Quick

FATED by Alyson Noël: Daire is plagued by visions she can’t understand. The outbursts that result have caused a lot of trouble, so much so that her mother has become desperate. When the doctors and medications prove to be useless in helping Daire, her mother agrees to send her to New Mexico to stay with her grandmother, Paloma. Paloma and Daire share a calling: they are both Soul Seekers, able to travel between the realms. Daire should have been raised with this knowledge, but her father died before she was even born and Daire never met Paloma until now. As she learns to master her new talents, Daire is also faced with the knowledge that she is the only one with the power to defend the worlds from an old enemy. This first in Noël’s latest series is an interesting premise. Noël builds the story well, providing a unique backdrop for a fascinating blend of Native American and Hispanic legend and lore. 9/12 Becky Lejeune

THE FAULT TREE by Louise Ure: While walking home from work one evening, Cadence Moran is witness to a horrible murder. Cadence has no idea what has occurred, though, because Cadence is blind. Wanda Prentice, creator of Wanda’s Story Hour, a show loved by a generation of young baby boomers, is murdered in her home when she interrupts two robbers. The two escape after killing Wanda and attempting to run down Cadence, the only witness to the event. Of course the killers have no idea that Cadence is blind and they will stop at nothing in an attempt to tie up this one loose end. Cadence is far from helpless, however. She has spent her time honing her skills as an auto mechanic. Her sightless world is full of sounds and smells that go unnoticed by many. She may not be the ideal witness for the police on the case, but her tenacity and plain stubbornness make her one witness these killers will wish they never messed with. My first introduction to Louise Ure’s writing was through her guest blog on Muderati.com. I look forward to reading her entries and was very excited to read her new release. She did not let me down. Cadence Moran is certainly one of the most original characters in modern mystery and Ure’s ability to “show” readers Cadence’s world through scent and sound is magnificent. This fantastic mystery is not to be missed. 01/08 Becky Lejeune

THE FEAR INDEX by Robert Harris: Robert Harris has proven himself an extremely versatile author of material in various directions in his books. He has written about a victorious Germany in World War II, the last days of the Roman city of Pompeii prior to the volcanic eruption that destroyed it and the work of British code breakers looking to unlock Nazi codes during the second World War. The Fear Index touches upon the idea of Artificial Intelligence and what it can do for man and the possible problems it could bring. Alex Hoffmann is a mathematical genius and computer specialist that has developed a system based on mathematical algorithms that can direct a Swiss based giant hedge fund. The fund and the system of guidance behind it prove successful until Alex is attacked in his own house by a mysterious man and finds out that someone has been spying upon him from the very beginning of the hedge fund’s opening.

With the help of the Swiss police, and his own security force Alex looks to find a solution to his own attack and the spying and apparent meddling going on in his company. The answer to his problems is a concept that has permeated science fiction works for many years, but is handled in a very well researched form by Harris. The reader will be grabbed right at the opening and find him or her self in sympathy with Hoffmann’s problems and fascinated by the answers provided by the author. 3/12 Paul Lane

FEAR THE NIGHT by John Lutz: Although not one of Lutz’ best, Fear The Night is still quite good. It’s a cat-and-mouse game between retired NYPD Detective Vincent Repetto and the “Night Sniper”, who only strikes after sunset. While the main characters are almost stereotypical, it is in the portrayal of the various victims that Lutz shines. Each victim from whatever situation is brought to life and becomes an individual that we feel we really know, when the Sniper takes them out. Maybe this is what Lutz intended, to show the true horror of such crime by making the victims real, even if the villain isn’t quite in focus. Recommended. 08/06 Jack Quick

FEARLESS by Tim Lott: Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this book is that it is marketed as being Lott’s first for younger readers. Little Fearless is one of the inmates in City Community Faith School in a future world that is safe from terrorists, where the streets are clean, and girls labeled “juvies” or “mindcrips” have been hidden away. Birth names have been replaced by a letter and number, and all work long hours with no prospect of future change. Her faith and conviction spur Fearless to pursue a bold and unthinkable plan of escape that will either assure her freedom or her demise. Think George Orwell’s 1984 for children. I found it unremittingly bleak and not a book I would recommend for my grandchildren at all. 01/08 Jack Quick

FEARLESS FOURTEEN by Janet Evanovich: If you haven’t read this series, go right out now and buy One for the Money. Go ahead, I’ll wait. If you are all caught up and just waiting, money in hand, for the newest one, read on…and the only money I’ll save you is to tell you that all the chain bookstores will discount like crazy the first week it goes on sale, so plan to shop on Tuesday for the best deal. Every June, Evanovich releases the latest Stephanie Plum book and I have enjoyed every one. She’s taken a lot of hits the past several Junes that the books aren’t as funny, as well written, as well plotted, etc. etc. Some or all of that may be true, but the thing is, I know what to expect from these books. A light mystery, none too taxing. A light romantic threesome – will she go for Joe Morelli, the hot cop she’s had an on-again-off-again engagement with, or Ranger, the hunky bounty hunter with commitment issues? Explosions, be it cars or funeral homes. Some of the craziest and most loveable characters – it wouldn’t be a Stephanie Plum adventure without Grandma Mazur and Lula. And laughs. Lots of laugh-out-loud-so-your-family-will-wonder-what-the-heck-you-are-reading laughs. If you expect more than that, you will be disappointed. If that works for you, as it does for me, enjoy this latest romp where Lula gets engaged (!), a dead body turns up in Joe’s basement, Stephanie’s skip is a single mom who leaves her graffiti-artist teenage son in Stephanie’s care, and oh yeah, he’s a distant cousin of Joe’s, as is his uncle who just got released from prison for armed robbery to the tune of $9,000,000 that some people think he still has hidden. In Joe’s house. Convoluted? Sure, but who cares with characters as warm and funny as these, a Trenton that every New Jersey-ite will love to call home, and lots of laughs. Enjoy. 06/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

FEARLESS FOURTEEN by Janet Evanovich: I’m afraid Stephanie is “plum worn out.” It had to happen eventually and this appears to be the one outing too many. All the familiar faces are there – bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, ex ‘ho Lula, Morelli, Ranger, Tank, Grandma Mazur and even a teenager (named “Zook”) who may in fact be Morelli’s son. But all the jokes are beginning to wear thin. Stephanie sleeps with Morelli and flirts with Ranger. Tank and Lula are going to get married in a ceremony to rival that of Princess Diana. For half the book Stephanie is blue, literally, after opening a booby trapped brief case that gave her, Lula and aging diva Brenda an unplanned facial. Actually her blue face goes well with her “Zookmobile” which the teenager has tagged with fluorescent spay paint. Anyway, while there are a few laugh out loud lines, an implausible plot and repetition of the older jokes leaves this one kind of flat. I’ll try Fifteen Whatever, but if not better then I will confine Stephanie Plum to history. 08/08 Jack Quick

FEAST DAY OF FOOLS by James Lee Burke: The latest Sheriff Hackberry Holland outing continues the action from Rain Gods. Sheriff Holland still mourns the loss of his cherished wife and is locked in a perilous almost-romance with his deputy, Pam Tibbs, a woman many decades his junior. When alcoholic ex-boxer Danny Boy Lorca witnesses a man tortured to death in the desert and reports it, Hack’s investigation leads to the home of Anton Ling, a regal, mysterious Chinese woman whom the locals refer to as La Magdalena and who is known for sheltering illegals. Quickly, Hack is neck deep in trouble as various factions are searching for a missing DEA agent whose knowledge of the Predator drone would be invaluable to Al Qaeda. Throw in Preacher Collins, perhaps the most vicious psychotic this side of Hannibal Lecter and some nearly as fearsome Mexican villains and Hack probably would be better off with just a nest of rattlesnakes. Can this man ever write. 09/11 Jack Quick

FEAST: HARVEST OF DREAMS by Merrie Destefano: The town of Ticonderoga Falls has been cursed for decades. Throughout the years, though, what began as a binding punishment for the death of one of the Darklings (creatures who feed off of the dreams of humans) became a source of protection for the town. Ash, whose wife was killed all those years ago, created a boundary that kept other Darklings from entering and feeding off the townspeople. This year, things are different. It is time for the Hunt and Maddie MacFaddin has returned to Ticonderoga Falls. As a child, her family vacationed in this area. Ash protected her then and he vows to protect her now, even though he risks falling under her spell. Feast no doubt sprang from one of the author’s own dreams, and like a dream remembered, the story didn’t feel as though it came to life quite the same way. Each time the various threads of story would begin to pull together, they’d fall apart again. Interesting concept and imagery, but a story that seemed more complex than could possibly be laid out in the length of one average book. 07/11 Becky Lejeune

FEED by Mira Grant: Shaun and Georgia Mason are undeniably the product of their generation. The year is 2040—twenty-six years since the cure for the common cold combined with the cure for cancer to create an outbreak of incomparable proportions. The dead no longer stay that way. Everyone carries the infection, but for most, death is the catalyst that sets it loose. Mandatory blood tests are administered at every turn. Patio dining and public assembly are almost nonexistent and entire cities are now inhabited by zombies. In this day and age, bloggers are the new newshounds, telling the truth behind events the real media would otherwise take the safe and government approved approach to. Georgia and her brother are two of the best. Their reputations have earned them the much-coveted position of campaign journalists for the Republican party’s would-be nominee for the next presidential election. Georgia and Shaun believe that their time has finally come. What they’ll discover will change everything, and it’s too soon to tell whether they’ll live to see the story go live. Awesome. Fantastic. A post-outbreak, futuristic zombie tale that feels like it could actually happen. Feed is a totally creepy page-turner and first in the Newsflesh trilogy. 04/10 Becky Lejeune

FEEDING GROUND by Sarah Pinborough: London had been overrun by giant flesh-eating spiders. Blane Gentle-King might have been a typical thug until he discovered a way to control the beasts. Now he’s become a force to be reckoned with in the desolate remains of the city. His second-in-command, Charlie, is worried that this tentative hold on the spiders may not last and that there will be hell to pay when it all falls apart. Meanwhile, two separate groups of kids are trying desperately to survive and find a way out: one, teens hiding from King and his minions, the other a group of kids on a school trip. All of their stories will collide as they fight to beat the creatures that have infested the streets and buildings around them. I’d hoped for a sequel to 2006’s Breeding Ground after the way it left off. Although this is not that sequel, it is a great companion piece. Feeding Ground will definitely satisfy horror fans, it hits all the right notes. 10/09 Becky Lejeune

FEELERS by Brian M. Wiprud: Brian Wiprud writes very funny stuff. Not the tightly plotted Elmore Leonard funny stuff. More like Timmy Dorsey’s Serge character on a rant. Sort of like a Marx brothers’ movie. Each book sort of starts out in left field, takes all its clothes off and runs around through the stadium with cops and bad guys both chasing after a wacky hero – like his forensic taxidermist character, Garson Carson in his earlier books – Tailed, Stuffed and Pipsqueak.
In this case, the hero, Morty Martinez is a “feeler,” from Brooklyn. Fortunately, he explains right at the outset that a feeler is a person who contracts to clean out old homes, where he suspects the former occupants may have stashed away cash. The book begins as Morty hits the mother lode, a stash of 32 “tight ones” under an old couch. “Tight ones” are rolls of bills, often stashed in something like an easily-hidden peanut can, coiled so tightly as to resemble, well, you know. In this case, the total comes to over $800,000.
As you can imagine, sums of money like this most often are the result of illegal activity. In no time at all, Morty is being pursued by the sole survivor of the heist gang, the retired cop who put him away, real cops, newspaper men, and infamy of infamy, his very jealous fellow professional feelers who get wind of his amazing find.
And a merry chase it is. This book is a lot of fun and I actually think that Wiprud’s writing is getting better every time out. Summer is coming and this would be a great book to take to the beach. You will meet a lot of new people asking you “What are you laughing at? How can anything be that funny?” 05/09 Geoffrey R. Hamlin
FEET OF CLAY by Ruth Birmingham: Atlanta private investigator Sunny Childs is helping her younger sister, Lee-Lee, make a documentary about a death row prisoner. Convicted of the brutal sex murders of two local women, Dale Weedlaw is scheduled to be executed in a few days. When Lee-Lee arrives in Pettigrew, the small Georgia town where the killings took place, looking for an interview she’s arrested on false charges and thrown into jail. With Sunny’s help it becomes clear that there are likelier suspects for the murders still at large. Steel magnolia Sunny has to kick some butt before they get to the bottom of this one. May I have another one of those mint juleps, please. 07/06 Jack Quick

FELONIOUS JAZZ by Bryan Gilmer: Jeff Davis Swain is an investigator for a Raleigh, North Carolina, trial law firm. Mickey Reuss, one of the firm’s clients, a real estate developer, has his suburban Rocky Falls home burglarized and his new wife’s dog left dead in the kitchen. Then they discover that the home of one of his sub-contractors has been burglarized and the family cat killed. Swain, after talking with a newspaper reporter, suspects that the two crimes, obviously related, might be connected to a development that Reuss is building. Another oddity is that both pets had previously been saved from fatal diseases through intensive veterinary intervention. We know early on that the culprit is a hand sanitizer drinking washed-up jazz bassist named Leonard Noblac who is creating an album of crime and destruction in Rocky Falls. It becomes a personal challenge between the Swain and Noblac with potentially fatal consequences. This is a well-written book and the author captures the Raleigh-Durham area quite nicely even though he moves thing around a bit, I presume, for legal protection. The good guy is complex and the bad guy, also complex, is quite evil. The only jarring note for me was the animal cruelty, which is my own personal hang-up. 09/09 Jack Quick

The Fencing Master by Arturo Perez-Reverte: Intriguing mystery set in the late 1800’s in Spain against a backdrop of political upheaval and romance. A fascinating look at fencing as well.

FEVER by Lauren DeStefano: This follow-up to Wither, finds Rhine and Gabriel on the run and racing to New York. They have temporarily escaped the clutches of Vaughn, Rhine’s father-in-law, and hope to make it to the Big Apple to find Rhine’s twin, Rowan. They have no way of knowing if he’s still waiting, but now that they’re out in the real world, it’s their only plan. Rhine knows that Vaughn will never give her up, but if she can stay out of his reach she may be able to survive. In a world where men live to only 25 and women 20, there is little to hope for. Girls are sold as brides, servants, or prostitutes and live out their fate until their inevitable death. While some search for a cure, others have given up. The Chemical Garden trilogy is one of the stand-outs of the current dystopian trend. It’s dark and twisted—a society that’s lost hope and is dying off would have to be—and DeStefano’s characters are multifaceted and complex. I’m not sure what to expect from book three, but I certainly can’t wait to find out. 3/12 Becky Lejeune

FEVER by Bill Pronzini: Bill and Runyon and Tamara are at it again in another great outing for the Nameless Detective. The primary case involves gambling addiction. Mitch Krochek hires Nameless to track down his wife Janice, who has disappeared for the fourth time in four years. Meanwhile Jake Runyon is working a pro bono case involving a young computer expert who has been beaten. Are the two cases related? Only in that addiction can take many forms. On the plus side, Tamara is beginning to get over her former boyfriend, and even starts to build a better relationship with her father, and Runyon may be starting to have closure from the death of his wife. . No one does PI’s better that Bill Pronizin, and the San Francisco setting is absolute icing on the cake. 09/08 Jack Quick

FIDDLE GAME by Richard Thompson: Convoluted plot involving Herman Jackson, a former Detroit bookie who now resides in St. Paul where he leads a respectable, low-profile life as a bail bondsman, while keeping a watchful eye for any connection to his past. The problem starts when young Amy Cox leaves Jackson a priceless antique violin as security for her brother’s bail bond. She is murdered in front of Jackson’s place and the police like him for the crime. With his criminal past, Jackson can’t afford to even be a prime suspect for jaywalking, much less for murder. He hits the road trying to solve Cox’s murder pursued by one real and one crooked cop, a band of urban Gypsies who claim to have first rights to the violin, and an unknown killer who also wants Jackson dead. Nobody is who he claims to be, nothing is what it seems, and the violin, which is reputed to carry a 400-year-old curse, begins to take on a life of its own. Maybe Herman should have stayed in Detroit. 01/09 Jack Quick

FIDDLERS by Ed McBain: This is Ed McBain’s last book, so I asked the BookBitch if I could please write the review and try to express my thanks and bid farewell to a writer who kept my interest and gave me great pleasure over many years.
It is very fitting that Evan Hunter (itself an adopted name – interesting story, ask the BookBitch for details) should conclude his well-applauded career with a novel of his fictional 87th precinct under his pen name, Ed McBain.
It is my understanding that at one point, Mr. Hunter decided to write a conclusory book, putting an end to the precinct and its characters, so that they would not suffer after his demise at the hands of another. However, he changed his mind and I think that this way is better. Just as at the end of NYPD Blue, Sipowicz moved up to a new challenge, so too now, can Steve Carella and his cohorts of the 87th Precinct live forever in some alternate universe Isola, his imaginary city.
It is fitting also, that most of the familiar squad’s lives are illuminated in this novel. Carella is having problems controlling his wayward daughter, Fat Ollie is falling deeper and deeper in love (and getting thinner) and Kling’s interracial relationship is foundering on the rocks of mistrust.
The plot is simply your basic psychotic killer story, a man out to get revenge on everyone who did him wrong. But in the hands of a master, the killer becomes an interesting man and the story becomes so much more.
You should not only read this book, you should keep it on your shelf.
Someone once told me that “writers write.” Mr. Hunter was a prolific writer with, I think, 55 novels in the 87th Precinct Series. He not only wrote, he did a fine job of it. Thank you, sir. 10/05 ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.

Last words from the BookBitch: Evan Hunter aka Ed McBain aka Richard Marsten aka Hunt Collins aka Curt Cannon aka Ezra Hannon aka John Abbot was born Salvatore Albert Lombino. He legally changed his name to Evan Hunter, which he came up with by combining parts of the names of his high school (Evander Childs High School) and college (Hunter College) because he felt that such an ethnic name would not be publishable. He was probably right, given it was the 1950’s. It was under his legal name, Evan Hunter, that he wrote the screenplay for the Alfred Hitchcock film ”The Birds.” His first success as a novelist was with the publication of The Blackboard Jungle, but it was the 87th Precinct and subsequent series that led him to sell over 100 million books in his lifetime. Rest in peace.

FIDDLERS by Ed McBain: You almost think that Ed McBain knew he was at the end of the 87th Precinct when he wrote this, the 55th and last one before his death. A killer is shooting his victims in the face at close range with the same 9mm Glock. Since the 87th caught the first one, they are also assigned the following ones. While the whole cast of the 87th is stretched thin trying to track down clues in geographically disparate killings McBain gets everyone involved in the chase – Fat Ollie, Steve Carella, Bert Kling, Meyer Meyer. Maybe not his strongest, but certainly a fitting finale. 12/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

FIDELITY by Thomas Perry: Is anyone ever who you think they are? Los Angeles PI Phil Kramer is shot dead. His wife Emily and his staff set out to solve the crime and unearth more about Kramer that anyone suspected. Meanwhile, Jerry Hobart, the killer hired to eliminate Kramer decides he might be better off learning the secret of his client that Kramer allegedly held, a secret that his principal is now willing to have Emily killed for. It gets complicated but provides an interesting insight into how certain actions can be viewed so differently by different people. Not as spare as Robert B. Parker, but approaching Parker’s economy of detail. 12/08 Jack Quick

FIELD OF BLOOD by Denise Mina: Memo to self. After 40 years in the media business, do not pick up any books featuring perky young reporters or kooky DJ’s solving world-class crimes while effortlessly going about their daily routines. The exception is Denise Mina whose Paddy Meehan, an aspiring journalist in Glasgow, Scotland, is really a natural detective but doesn’t realize it. Her first “case” involves clearing the name of an eleven- year old boy already “convicted” in the press for the murder of a three-year old child. Her family has “shunned” her because they think she is responsible for the news story that caused everyone to believe him guilty. Mix in the story of her namesake, a safecracker who may or may not have betrayed the British to the communists years earlier and its a double handful. Well written and recommended. Grab a half-pint and packet of crisps and settle in for a great read. (Release date 7/11/05). 06/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

FIELD OF DARKNESS by Cornelia Read: Madeline Dare can trace her roots back to the founding of America, but lives with her husband Dean in Syracuse, New York and works as a journalist on the small town newspaper. She hears about a twenty-year old double murder dubbed the “Rose Girls” because their bodies were left with a crown of roses, one white, one red, in a bizarre tableau. Dare’s interest is piqued when she finds out her cousin, Lapthorne “Lappy” Townsend, may be a suspect – his dog tags were found at the site. She decides to investigate and prove his innocence but twenty years later, her investigation is prompting more murders. Read weaves a tale that is both complex and sinister, and certainly deserving of all the accolades this book has won. 07/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

FIELD OF FIRE by James O. Born: Can you judge a book by its cover? Not always, but in this case you can. The cover is a large police shield and is very reminiscent of Joseph Wambaugh, and so is this book, a police procedural and a dark departure from the terrific Bill Tasker series (Walking Money; Shock Wave; Escape Clause). Our hero is Alex Duarte, an ATF agent (Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) in south Florida. Alex is Paraguayan (yet doesn’t speak Spanish) and lives in an apartment that he shares with his lawyer/brother that’s above his parents’ garage. He doesn’t trust food that his ma hasn’t cooked, and his hero is his father, a hard working, honorable man who expects the same from his boys. When a car bombing kills a young boy, Alex is assigned the case because of his experience as a bomb expert in the military in Bosnia. There is suspicion that the bombing may be linked to possible labor issues that have resulted in bombings in Seattle and California, and Department of Justice attorney Caren Larson is assigned to work with Duarte. The intended victim of the bombing is Alberto Salez, a bad guy who thwarted the ever vigilant Duarte. Lots of action and a high body count move the story along, but it is the enigmatic Duarte that offers the most intrigue. Originally conceived as a stand-alone, I’m happy to say that a sequel is now in the works. It’s not a requirement that only cops write police procedurals, but as Born proves yet again, it sure does help. 02/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

FIELD OF FIRE by James O. Born: This first of a series features Alex Duarte as a laid back Hispanic former combat engineer and explosives specialist now working for the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms section of the federal government. (Think Jack Reacher, but still working within the establishment.) The plot is interesting – a Florida migrant-labor camp bombing kills a child, and ATF agent Alex Duarte is assigned the case. The Justice Department links the incident to a series of union-related bombings across the country. Duarte is partnered with a DOJ lawyer Caren Larson to solve the case. Unfortunately Duarte is so laid back he tends to get lost among the other characters including Alberto Salez, the intended victim of the Florida bombing, who is himself a murderer. Hopefully Duarte can grow in subsequent books to become a protag that brings you back for more. 07/08 Jack Quick

The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon: I loved this historical romance/fantasy series that starts out in England in the 1940’s then transports us back a couple of hundred years and miles. The chief complaint I read in the reviews of this long awaited fifth installment was that there was no time travel involved. It didn’t bother me a bit. There were amusing references enough to be in keeping with the basic storyline. FIERY CROSS reminded me most of OUTLANDER, the first book in the series, mostly due to the amount of violence and war involved. It is a fascinating look at what life was like in America’s infancy. Each book in this series is excellent! Read them in order: Outlander; Dragonfly in Amber; Voyager; Drums of Autumn; The Fiery Cross.

FIFTEEN DIGITS by Nick Santora: This is the first book I’ve read by Santora and I was completely captivated by it. Nick’s writing credentials include several television hits, including The Sopranos, plus one other novel, Slip and Fall. Rich Mauro lost his parents at an early age due to an accident and was raised by his blue collar uncle. Rich is trying to pick himself up by his bootstraps and puts himself through college, and wants to eventually get into law school. He is helped by an old family friend of his parents to get a job in the print shop of a major law firm while going to school, and becomes friendly with several of his co-workers. Rich meets a beautiful girl that he wants to marry, but understands that the low salary he is earning and the slow pace of finishing school will prevent any serious steps for some time. His fellow workers in the print shop are also in need of improving their financial position, and one of Rich’s acquaintances, an attorney with the firm, presents them with an opportunity to make a lot of money fast. It is a very novel idea and well set up by Santora, due to his knowledge of the financial world. The fleshing out of the characters is extremely well done and they are completely believable in their reactions to what they are experiencing. The ending is not a fairy tale one, but consistent with the events depicted in the story. The book immediately captures the reader and makes it almost impossible to put down until the end. Well done, and certainly points to awaiting Santora’s next book with a great deal of anticipation. 6/12 Paul Lane

THE FIFTH ASSASSIN by Brad Meltzer: Meltzer creates a scenario that is fascinating in it’s concept and as well written as his previous books. A minor problem is that several characters from previous novels are utilized as main interests with no recap of many of their thoughts and ideas. What if our first president, George Washington, set up a secret group called the Culper Ring designed to protect and save the presidency when and if needed even if against that same president. What if a diametrically opposed group terming itself the Knights of the Golden Circle also was formed and has been instrumental in the assassinations of the four U.S. presidents killed since the days of Washington. Taking this scenario as the basis for a good story and very well researched historical presentation The Fifth Assassin becomes a fascinating journey into a centuries old conspiracy. Beecher White is an archivist for the US government, and is a member of the present day Culper Ring. He notices that murders of leading clergy bear similarities to the assassinations of the four presidents killed in US history. His theory is that the Knights of the Golden Circle are gearing up to killing the current president by setting up these murders. In a previous book Beecher has determined that the current president is unworthy of having the job, but his commitment to the ideals of the Culper Ring force him to begin the work of thwarting the anticipated assassination attempt. Meltzer is a very knowledgeable historian, and his novels have generally set up the historical backgrounds incorporated into them with a great deal of detail and accuracy. The Fifth Assassin is engrossing and fascinating reading with the only, albeit, important factor, being no explanation of previous details regarding the principal characters. The ending is one that does very clearly set up another book with Beecher and the Culper Ring involved. All in all anther winner for Brad Meltzer. 2/13 Paul Lane

THE FIFTH FLOOR by Michael Harvey: Harvey is as Chicago as Wrigley and deep dish pizza and hot dogs served only in poppy seed buns. In his second outing, PI Michael Kelly starts with a simple domestic violence case and ends up with murder and major scandal. The fifth floor is the location of the office of the Chicago mayor and Kelly’s client is the wife of one of the mayor’s “fixers”. Kelly follows him to a grisly murder scene from which unfolds an interesting story. Did Ms. O’Leary’s cow start the Chicago Fire of 1871 or was it the work of two of Chicago’s most prominent families conspiring to rid the city of Irish immigrants by burning down the city’s slums? .Kelly vows to get to the bottom of this even if it kills him, and that’s a real possibility given the power and wealth involved. Add Michael Kelly to the list of great hard-ass PI’s. 10/08 Jack Quick

FIFTH GRAVE PAST THE LIGHT by Darynda Jones: This latest installment in the Charley Davidson series picks up shortly after the end of Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet. Reyes has successfully been freed and is no longer a wanted man… well, wanted by the authorities that is. Now he’s taken up residence in Charley’s building, causing distraction and lusty feelings at every turn. But when Charley wakes one day to find her apartment is infested with numerous dead blondes, almost all thoughts of Reyes and his hot body are set aside (almost). Charley is sure the women must be victims of a serial killer but how can one man have killed so many women without ever coming to the attention of the public? Unfortunately, none of the women are talking. Meanwhile, Garrett Swopes is still recovering from his own brush with Reyes’s father after a quick trip to the other side, but he’s come back with a bit more information about reapers, Charley, and her unusual powers. His information could be key in discovering exactly how Charley plays into Satan’s apocalyptic plans. This series just keeps getting better and better. It’s really the perfect combination of paranormal mystery and paranormal romance, which is sure to make it appealing to fans of both genres. 7/13 Becky Lejeune

THE FIFTH VIAL by Michael Palmer: The lives of three individuals converge in this pulse pounding, morally driven tale of medical suspense. Natalie Reyes trained as an Olympic hopeful until a devastating injury ended her running career. Now a med-student in her mid-thirties, she has been dealt a second potentially career ending blow when she is kicked out of her residency program and placed on academic probation for insubordination. When one of her mentors sends her to Brazil to attend a medical conference on his behalf, she is kidnapped and shot, left to die in an alley. She survives the ordeal but loses a lung in the process. Meanwhile, private detective Ben Callahan has been hired by Organ Guard International – an agency established to investigate potentially illegal activities in the organ trade. The body of a young, unidentified man was been discovered in Florida with marks that appear to be the result of a bone marrow donation. Similar markings had been previously discovered on woman in the northeast who claimed that a couple in a mobile home kidnapped her and held her prisoner. Callahan’s investigation leads to a shocking discovery. The third character, Dr. Joe Anson, has been working in Camaroon to develop a life saving drug he calls Sarah-9. Anson suffers from a life threatening debilitation that could prevent him from seeing his work through to completion. Palmer’s thrillers have always been tension driven, quick reads and The Fifth Vial is no exception. I did find, however, that the end left something to be desired since everything was wrapped up just a little too neatly and abruptly. 02/07 Becky Lejeune

FIFTH VICTIM by Zoë Sharpe: Charlie Fox is on assignment on Long Island, the playground of New York’s wealthy and privileged, tasked with protecting the wayward daughter of rich businesswoman Caroline Willner. It seems that an alarming number of the girl’s close friends have been through kidnap ordeals, and Charlie quickly discovers that the girl herself, Dina, is fascinated by the clique formed by these former victims. In the middle of what has become a particularly troublesome assignment Charlie receives devastating personal news. The man who put her partner Sean Meyer in his coma is on the loose. She is faced with the choice between her loyalties to her client and avenging Sean, but the two goals are soon inextricably linked. Gut wrenching. 3/12 Jack Quick

THE FIFTH WITNESS by Michael Connelly: The return of Mickey Haller, the Lincoln Lawyer who works out of the back seat of his vintage Lincoln Town car, finds Mickey back on the defense side of things where he belongs. Business has slowed however, due to the downturn in the economy, so Mickey is working wrongful foreclosures to pick up the slack. Lisa Trammell retained Haller to help her fight off a foreclosure, but her bank protesting has earned her a restraining order. When her mortgage broker is killed, Lisa becomes the prime suspect and Haller is once more back in the courtroom defending a client on a murder charge. The sleazy foreclosure racket going on in this country is front and center in this compelling legal thriller, and don’t miss the little wink to the Lincoln Lawyer movie. Connelly has proven once again that he is the master storyteller of crime fiction today. 04/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE FIFTH WITNESS by Michael Connelly: In the fourth Mickey Haller legal thriller, our maverick L.A. lawyer has hooked up with a real growth business – “foreclosure defense.” Little does he know it will quickly return him to his old haunts as his first foreclosure client, Lisa Trammel, is the prime suspect when Mitchell Bondurant, a mortgage banker, is killed with a hammer in his office parking lot. The evidence is so compelling even Mickey has his doubts Connelly takes us through a gut wrenching trial which doesn’t end with the verdict. Be prepared for not one, not two, but three post verdict twists that showcase Connelly as a master story teller. At this point I honestly don’t know whether I want his next one to return to Harry Bosch or stick with Mickey. Tough choice. 06/11 Jack Quick

Fifty Cents for Your Soul by Denise Dietz, published by Delphi Books: If you like hot sex with demons, Fifty Cents for Your Soul is your book! If, however, you are interested in dialog, plot development, and some of the other characteristics that make a novel hang together maybe this isn’t your book? Thrill seekers will love the action and the fast pace of a horror flick filming plagued with suspicious problems. The characters can be stereotypes but, they are the kind of stereotypes that really move the action along! There is lots of suspense, and when our heroine reveals the mastermind murderer it is indeed a surprise. The body count is high. The comedy is black. The sex is varied. PS: Interesting note – – the author’s sister played some of the demonic scenes in The Exorcist. Many mysterious events plagued the filming of that movie. ~This review contributed by Ann Nappa

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY by E.L. James: I’m a librarian. I’ve been reviewing books, popular fiction mostly, for fifteen years. This is the book that everyone is talking about and I simply had to read it. It’s been front page news, literally, of the Sun Sentinel and countless other papers. Worthy of a fabulous, filthy skit on Saturday Night Live. Numerous TV interviews. Over 500 people (mostly women) showed up at one of her first book signings in the U.S. at Books & Books in Miami. E.L. James is the ‘it’ girl of the year. Why?

After reading this, the first book in the trilogy, I’m still not sure. Yes, I can agree with all the reports (including the author’s own admission on the Today Show) that it is poorly written. It is annoyingly repetitive, cliché-ridden, and smarmy more often than not, yet somehow it’s also completely captivating. The story is as old as time; fresh faced innocent college girl meets gorgeous powerful “older” (he’s 27, my son’s age!) billionaire with some added kink thrown in. Call it “Intro to BDSM” or Bondage Light. I wouldn’t classify this as romance in the strictest sense of the word as there are no wedding bells at the end of the book, but it is definitely erotica. And not very good erotica. Yet somehow it works and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. It ends with a cliffhanger, forcing me to pick up Fifty Shades Darker. Stay tuned for that review… 6/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
FIFTY SHADES DARKER by E.L. James: Book Two in the trilogy of the year starts off where the first book ends. Christian and Ana are going through hell being apart. No worries, Christian works his way back to Ana, and she to him. Ana grows up a bit in this book, learns to be a bit more assertive and less intimidated by her domineering billionaire Christian. There are some subplots but the point of this book is, like the first book, all about sex. It is as poorly written as the first book, with frowns, lip biting, and smirks on every page, but there is no denying the heat between these two. It is an easy read, an easy book to skim if that is your wont, and still an engrossing story. See my review of the final book, Fifty Shades Freed, for more thoughts on this series. 6/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

FIFTY SHADES FREED by E.L. James: It’s hard to summarize these books without giving away the major plot points, and there is little point in reading them if you know what is going to happen. That said, as a trilogy, these books form a complete story arc. The length is due to all the sex, which is occasionally quite erotic, but more often than not, just repetitive. The glimmer of dominance and submission, bondage and discipline is fun and apparently quite fascinating to most readers. If you want more information, legitimate information, on the subject, I highly recommend Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns: The Romance and Sexual Sorcery of Sadomasochism by Phillip Miller and Molly Devon. If you just want titillation, stick with 50 Shades or for the real down and dirty, the Sleeping Beauty series by A. N. Roquelaure (also known as Anne Rice,) or the Story of O by Pauline Reage. The difference is that it is probably easier to identify with Ana than O for most women because the love story there goes both ways, while that is not clear in O’s case.

Final thoughts…the appeal of the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy lies with the characters and their great love affair. We can’t help but root for the insecure girl who lands the gorgeous rich guy, and the damaged man brought out of the dark by her. Ana and Christian save each other, inspire each other so that their sum is greater than their parts. Their torrid love affair, the “mommy porn” aspect is candy to some, inflaming imaginations and libidos, while others will fly past those pages. Nonetheless, Ana and her 50 Shades bring to mind other great loves in literature like Romeo and Juliet, and Scarlett and Rhett. Most romance readers are looking for that, and those that don’t usually read romance are perhaps surprised at how they are swept away with Ana and Christian, enough to overlook the abysmal writing, the lip biting, the smirking. I know I was. 6/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
FIFTY TO ONE by Charles Ardai: For the 50th release from Hard Case Crime Charles Ardai has penned a 50 chapter master work with each of the chapters titled after one of the books in the series. Together they spin a great yarn about the early days of pulp fiction with a supposed non-fiction account of a heist at a Mob-run nightclub, actually penned by an 18-year-old showgirl, and the renegade publisher who puts it before the public. Both the cops and the crooks are after him and it’s a chase to the finish. A special bonus – a full color gallery of the covers of the 49 previous books in the Hard Case Crime Series. A fitting fiftieth from a master of mystery fiction. 11/08 Jack Quick

FINAL EXPOSURE by Steve Carlson: David and Rebecca Collier have a great life. A relatively young and vibrant couple in their forties, David has just retired his career as a very successful defense attorney to pursue his writing and Rebecca is about to publish a book of photography featuring California mansions of the thirties. All that comes to a screeching halt when Rebecca is gunned down and David is injured in what seems to be a home invasion. Then David is targeted again while recovering in the hospital and it’s discovered that Rebecca’s photos are missing. What at first looked to be a tragic but random event now seems to have been something much more sinister. David tries lying low while the police investigate, but every day reminds him more and more Rebecca and the life they had together. And so, David begins an investigation of his own, uncovering what is beginning to look like a huge and complex terrorist plot. Final Exposure is a quick and intense read. There are some slightly unbelievable aspects to this story, but overall it’s pretty fun. The quick action and an interesting plot make it easy to overlook any inconsistencies. 10/08 Becky Lejeune

FINAL FINESSE by Karna Small Bodman: Nicely done thriller featuring an unusual main character. Samantha Reid is the White House Deputy Director for Homeland Security, who grew up in the Texas oilfields, with her oilman father. When a natural-gas pipeline explodes in Oklahoma, she senses there is more to the story and tries to get official attention. Failing that, when there are repeat explosions she teams up with Tripp Adams, Vice President of GeoGlobal Oil & Gas, owner of the pipelines, to investigate. Inevitably the two become more than “work partners”. Then the stakes are raised to an even higher level and it falls to Reid to break all the White House rules to save Tripp and prevent further disaster. Bodman’s six years service within the White House are nicely reflected in the details of this third offering from Bodman. I hope to see more in the future. 05/09 Jack Quick

FINAL SECONDS by John Lutz: The eighteen year career of NYPD Bomb Squad member Will Harper ends with a bang – that costs him part of his right hand. Former FBI profiler Harold Addleman lost his FBI job in a bottle. While Harper is in Florida visiting his former partner, Jimmy Fahey, who works for a Tom Clancy^-like writer, a letter bomb arrives and the resulting explosion kills the writer and Fahey. Addleman thinks this is the first of a series of celebrity bombings and he and Harper are the only hope to stop the imminent death of one of the world’s most famous women. Well-written with tension ratcheting page by page as Harper and Addleman battle both uncooperative officials as well as the bomber, who seems to always be one step ahead of them. 08/06 Jack Quick

FINAL TARGET by Stephen Gore: Steven Gore spent his career as a private investigator in the San Francisco Bay Area. His international thrillers draw on his investigations throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. In FINAL TARGET, private investigator Graham Gage is trying to help his closest friend Jack Burch, who is lying unconscious in a hospital bed, the victim of a violent assault the police are calling “road rage.” If he recovers, prosecutors are waiting to indict him for conspiracy, eager to send him to prison for the rest of his life. Gage believes Burch had no part in the ever-widening criminal conspiracy surrounding the collapse of defense contractor SatTek Industries, but his search for the truth is rocketing him to hot spots around the globe and making him the target of lies, greed, and terror perpetrated by an assortment of traitors, killers, and international gangsters. The body count rises quicker than the plot but eventually we learn the FINAL TARGET is not Burch, but instead the entire country. 02/10 Jack Quick

FINAL THEORY by Mark Alpert: What if there was a weapon much more powerful than the atomic bomb? You don’t have to be a physicist in order to enjoy this break neck thriller. It starts with one of Albert Einstein’s assistants, 79 year old theoretical physicist Hans Kleinman being tortured. Columbia University professor David Swift is at Kleinman’s bedside when the old man makes a few cryptic statements, imparts a string of numbers, and then dies. Soon governments and mercenaries seeking Einstein’s proposed Unified Theory – a set of equations that could explain all the forces of nature and revolutionize our understanding of the Universe, are pursuing David. Up until now, the conventional wisdom is that Einstein never completed his work. But if he did, whoever can gain that knowledge will hold power beyond imagination. With the help of another physicist, the beautiful Monique Reynolds David manages to stay just one step ahead of his pursuers. This is The Da Vinci Code of science and nicely done. 07/08 Jack Quick

FINAL VECTOR by Allan Leverone: Sometimes the world is much smaller than we think. His wife is murdered after she uncovers evidence that a pentagon employee is selling secret information. Her husband, air traffic controller Nick Jensen, throws himself into his work at Logan International Airport in Boston. Returning to the operations room from a break, he sees three heavily armed men dressed in black fatigues and patrolling the corridors of the supposedly secure FAA facility. Unknown to Nick, they are using the information sold by the traitor his wife had unearthed. After having murdered two armed guards, the terrorists have unfettered access to the control tower while the president of the United States is nearing Logan Airport. To dismantle the terrorist assassination plot, Nick must risk everything. 10/12 Jack Quick

Final Verdict by Sheldon Siegel: This newest installment in the Mike Daley & Rosie Fernandez series is terrific and has to have one of the best opening chapters (“Assault with a Deadly Chicken”) of any legal thriller in recent memory. A first chapter sets the mood of the book to come, giving the reader the impetus to keep reading, and this book will not disappoint. It clips along briskly with Siegel’s good natured humor shining through the murder and mayhem: while questioning a potential (and not very helpful) witness, we hear Mike thinking, “If he can spew clichés, I can spout bullshit.” Lines like that just make this a most compelling and enjoyable read.

Former client Leon Walker got Mike & Rosie’s fledgling legal firm more press than they ever dreamed of when they got him off a felony murder charge on a technicality – but it also broke up their marriage. Ten years later he’s been accused of murder and begs Mike to take the case. He’s dying and will never make trial, but wants his name cleared. Rosie is none too happy with the situation, and the cops & District Attorney all have long memories about former defendants who they feel have gotten away with murder. All the evidence points towards Walker, bringing those wonderful “Perry Mason moments” to the courtroom. San Franciscans will love the local color and politics too. Don’t miss it.

Final Witness by Simon Tolkien: Legal fiction from the grandson of J. R. R. Tolkien with nary a hobbit in sight. This Tolkien is a barrister, and his legal background is at the forefront of this debut novel cum dysfunctional family saga. A young man witnesses his mother’s murder, but is convinced that his father’s new wife has masterminded the whole thing. Daddy doesn’t agree of course, and the story unfolds as the trial progresses. The characters all speak for themselves as this book seemed to consist of mostly dialogue, which grew wearying after a couple of hundred pages. But it’s all neatly resolved just in the nick of time, making for a good page turner. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

A Fine Dark Line by Joe R. Landsdale: A Fine Dark Line is a change of pace from Mr. Lansdale’s recent beat ’em up, blow ’em up, shoot ’em up adventure mysteries featuring Hap Collins and Leonard Pine. It is a gentle coming of age story set in 1950’s Texas. It takes place during the summer when young Stanley Mitchell, Jr. not only learns that there is no Santa Claus, but more than he wants to know about sex and racism. Fortunately, he is guarded and guided by his wise father, loving mother and equally curious older sister.
At the heart of the story, there is a mystery, an old death and a haunted house. Tutored in the ways of Sherlock Holmes by the Black Indian projectionist at the family drive-in, young Stanley gets to the bottom of the mystery and discovers the truth about old families and their twisted offspring. He will have a heckuva paper to write about “how I spent my summer” when he goes back to school.
This is a nice change of pace for the jaded reader as well. ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.

A FINE NIGHT FOR DYING by Jack Higgins: This is a 2007 re-issue of a 1969 Higgins sequel to The Bormann Testament. In this tale Special Agent Paul Chavesse is investigating the murder of a gangland boss by going undercover as an Australian criminal attempting to get smuggled into England. In the process he finds an international conspiracy led by some very powerful men. They aren’t about to let Chavasse interfere with their plans. Don’t worry, however, you can sense there are more adventures coming, so Paul will make it. In fact, the book reads almost like “James Bond Light”, complete with “M”, “Moneypenny.”, and a beautiful woman in peril. With Higgins, you know what you’re getting, and I, for one, like it. 05/07 Jack Quick

A FINE RED RAIN by Stuart Kaminsky: This new tale finds Inspector Rostnikov trying to save a young circus aerialist from the killer of her two fellow performers. He himself is working without a net as he is the target of both a jealous supervisor and a serial killer. In addition he is trying to help his colleague Karpo, catch the knifer of eight prostitutes and foils a plot by a Soviet official threatening his young policeman friend, Tkach. It’s a thrill a minute under the Moscow Circus Big Top and another fine outing for Rostinikov. 12/05 Jack Quick

FINGER LICKIN’ FIFTEEN by Janet Evanovich: Stephanie Plum is back, along with Ranger, Joe, Lula and the rest of the gang. This is an edgier story than most; Lula accidentally witnesses a man get decapitated and for some reason, the guys who did it don’t want witnesses. Lots of shooting, firebombing and the usual mayhem ensues, but not as many laughs this time out for me. If you haven’t read this series, don’t start here, but if you’re looking for some light summer reading, go for it. 06/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

FINGER LICKIN’ FIFTEEN by Janet Evanovich: There is an old joke about buying Playboy Magazine “for the articles.” In that same vein, don’t buy Evanovich for the well-hidden almost invisible plot. It’s the one-liners and unique characters that make this bubble gum series so much fun. Lula is witness to the beheading of culinary TV star Stanley Chipotle in a Trenton, N.J. Enter Stephanie’s on-again off-again boyfriend, cop Joe Morelli. Meanwhile, Lula and Grandma Mazur enter the same barbequing competition Chipotle was in town to promote, hoping to lure the murderers out of hiding. Let’s face it. These two have no business being around fire. Then there is Ranger who generates the inevitable sparks between himself and Stephanie, with Morelli grumbling on the sidelines. All is well that ends well and thank goodness this one ended before I was totally laughed out. A fun read. 08/09 Jack Quick

THE FINISHING SCHOOL by Michele Martinez: Manhattan federal prosecutor Melanie Vargas returns in this entertaining sequel to Martinez’s debut novel, Most Wanted. This time out Melanie’s separation from her cheating husband has made juggling the demands of her job and her one-year-old daughter even more complicated. Two Park Avenue prep school girls overdose on heroin and a third girl goes missing, prompting a middle-of-the-night page from Melanie’s difficult, politically scheming boss. Melanie’s assignment: get the dealer and get him jailed, pronto. One of the girls is the daughter of a candidate for U.S. senator and things heat up even more when FBI hunk Dan O’Reilly gets assigned to the case. But there is more to this story than fast times at Holbrooke High and the twists keep coming. The romance is hot and the suspense is high in this absorbing, fast paced novel. Highly recommended. Copyright © 2005 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

THE FIRE by Katherine Neville: Thirty years ago, Cat Velis was thrown into a game of epic proportions, a game that had been playing out for almost as long as man has walked the earth. It is said that King Charlemagne was gifted with a chess set that hid a secret so terrible that he parted with the set as quickly as possible. Charlemagne gave the set to a knight who in turn hid the set away. Years later, the nuns at Montglane Abbey are faced with moving the set and separating the pieces to ensure that the wrong people can never obtain them. In 1972, Cat and her friends are forced into the same game. Their pieces were scattered and buried, but it seems that the game has begun anew and this time it’s Cat’s own daughter who must find them. It begins with the death of Aleksandr Solarin just moments after he sees the Black Queen – a piece that he and Cat thought was buried with the others. Ten years later, Alexandra, Cat and Solarin’s daughter, is invited to Colorado for her mother’s birthday. She arrives to find that Cat has disappeared. It is at this point that Alexandra learns of what occurred all those years ago. Like The Eight, this long awaited sequel also has a duel story line. Alexandra and her adventures begin in 2003, but Neville also tells a tale that begins in 1822 in Albania. Readers familiar with The Eight will love this twenty-years-in-the-making sequel and the story of Cat’s daughter. Those who are unfamiliar with the story won’t be left out of the adventure either, it is not necessary to have read The Eight (although I would highly recommend it) as their tale is somewhat recapped in the beginning, when Alexandra learns the story herself. The Fire shows that Neville is still at the top of her game, and reigns supreme as the master of literary puzzles. 10/08 Becky Lejeune

FIRE SALE by Sara Paretsky: V.I. Warshawski gets talked into returning to her old high school to fill in as basketball coach. She tries to obtain financial support for the team from William “Buffalo Bill” Bysen, the school’s most notable alum and founder of By-Smart, perhaps the only true competitor to Wal-Mart. One thing leads to another including arson and murder. Mix in some personal problems, and a headstrong grandson “Billy the Kid” Bysen and you have another strong performance by our favorite south Chicago ethnic female detective. 09/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

FIRECRACKER by Ray Shannon: Raygene Price, a tight end out of Florida State and the next All-pro signs with the Dallas Cowboys for a chunk of change, much of which he promptly loses in various bad business ventures. Raygene is equally careless about birth control as he’s impregnated several women who have later made financial demands. One of them also has the Super Bowl betting slip that Raygene (“Gene the Dream”) bought in serious violation of league rules and gave to her as a seduction gambit. Everything comes to a head in Las Vegas on Super Bowl Sunday, and there’s loads of action and double-crossing. Sounds too real to be fiction, doesn’t it? Well done, Mr. Haywood, eh, Shannon. Note: Shannon is a pseudonym for Gar Anthony Haywood. 04/06 Jack Quick

THE FIREMAN by Stephen Leather: The narrator, a nameless reporter, was once a “fireman:” i.e., a trouble-shooting journalist who covers global hot spots. Now booze and stress have reduced him to second fiddle on the crime beat of a London newspaper when he receives a call that his younger sister, trying to follow his career path, is dead in Hong Kong. It’s during that uncertain period before 1997 and all of the territory is on edge because of the pending reversion to Chinese rule. The police call her death suicide but the fireman thinks his sister’s death was arranged as the result of stories she had been working on that may have implicated Chinese international gangs. Although a decade old, Leather’s writing still rings true as he portrays the hubbub that is Kong Kong, and the strange alliances that occur routinely in international journalism. Nicely done. 06/08 Jack Quick

FIRES RISING by Michael Laimo: The turn-of-the-century Church of St. Peter has finally been scheduled for demolition. The last holdout of its block will soon be transformed into yet another office complex and apartment building like every other in New York City. Then, demolition crews unearth something evil in the process of tearing down the church; something the church’s forefathers had hoped would stay hidden forever. A war between good an evil is about to be waged in the city and only one man, the sinless one, can stop it. Laimo’s somewhat disappointing read is amusing for an afternoon with nothing else to do. The apocalyptic storyline is interesting but unoriginal. In fact, the gore factor is the only great thing about this book. It was satisfyingly and gratuitously violent for a horror novel. Perhaps more back-story could have saved the whole thing. 03/08 Becky Lejeune

The First Counsel by Brad Meltzer: Go backstairs at the White House and find drugs, blackmail, backstabbing and ultimately murder. This is Meltzer in top form.

THE FIRST CUT by Dianne Emley: Nan Vining is a 34-year-old single mom and detective on the Pasadena, California police force. A year ago, she was, for two minutes and twelve seconds, the force’s fifth ever officer killed in the line of duty. Only this time, they saved her. Now on her first case back, she is looking for who killed LAPD Vice Cop Frankie Lynde, a young blonde who got “too close to her work.” Nan now seems to have the ability to hear the dead. Is this connected to her own near-death experience or a symptom of post-traumatic stress? In any event it leads to cracking the Lynde case and provides a clue to her own unknown attacker, whom she and her 14-year-old daughter, Emily, have dubbed T.B. Mann or “The Bad Man.” An enjoyable read in spite of the touch of woo woo. 12/07 Jack Quick

FIRST DAUGHTER by Eric Van Lustbader: A potentially great thriller flawed by errant attempts to inject religion to the point you wonder what the book is really all about. The plot: – Nineteen-year-old Alli Carson, daughter of the U.S. President-elect, is abducted just before her father’s inauguration. The current President has become a born-again Conservative who believes God-less atheists are responsible and is seeking an excuse to have an all-out Holy war on non-believers, sort of a Christian Jihad. Dyslexic ATF agent Jack McClure is chosen to lead the search for Alli, primarily because she was the boarding school roommate of his now deceased daughter, Emma. Jack has his own issues since he feels his devotion to his job cost Emma her life. Throw in McClure’s ritualistic abuse as a child, because of his dyslexia, the First American Secular Revivalists and their secret partners, the E-Two terrorist group and you have the makings of what could have been an excellent book. Regrettably, the pauses to preach sermons and espouse various personal beliefs reduce the action to a crawl. First Lustbader I haven’t liked. 12/08 Jack Quick

First Degree by David Rosenfelt: The Edgar Award nominee for his first novel, Open & Shut, has penned another winner. Andy Carpenter, loveable lawyer (no, that’s not an oxymoron,) is back and suffering from a severe case of “lawyer’s block.” When you’ve inherited $22 million dollars, it takes away your incentive to represent any old criminal who walks through the door. But things change when a cop of questionable ethics is killed. The same cop, Alex Dorsey, that Andy’s lover, PI Laurie Collins, turned in when she was on the police force. Then a man strolls into Andy’s office, confesses, and asks Andy to represent him. Meanwhile the police have arrested someone else, someone Laurie is sure is innocent. One suspect after another fizzles out until Laurie becomes the chief suspect. Circumstantial evidence abounds, and Andy finally has a client he can get behind. It’s personal now and the stakes have never been higher as Andy has to find the real killer and exonerate Laurie. Somehow the laughs keep coming as tension mounts and the bodies pile up, no easy feat but a sure testament to Rosenfelt’s skill. This fast, funny read will keep you on the edge of your seat and leave you wanting more.

FIRST DROP by Zoe Sharp: Charlie Fox is a no-nonsense, former British Army soldier (and survivor of a gruesome gang rape) who has joined the protection agency run by her ex-lover, Sean Meyer. Her first assignment is guarding 15-year-old Trey Pelzner, son of Keith Pelzner, a computer whiz working for a small software company specializing in accounting and data manipulation. After an attempt is made on Trey’s life, Charlie discovers that not only has Keith has vanished, but Sean has disappeared as well. Charlie is on her own to try to save Trey’s life and to find the missing men. Its non-stop action and Charlie is one kick-ass broad. Can’t wait for the next one. 10/07 Jack Quick

FIRST FAMILY by David Baldacci: Baldacci lets out all the stops in this fourth Maxell and King outing. Former Secret Service agents Michelle Maxwell and Sean King have been engaged to solve a kidnapping. The victim – a 12 year old girl. The connection – she is the niece of the President and First Lady (daughter of the First Lady’s brother). The villain is introduced early on (62-year-old Sam Quarry, an obsessed man from north Alabama) but his motivation remains unknown for much of the book. Meanwhile, there is also a murder or two involved, high stakes financial dealings involving Homeland Security, turf battles between the FBI, the Secret Service and the agents, while Maxwell is also dealing with issues surrounding her mother’s death. Carefully plotted and tightly written, the suspense ratchets up from page to page as Baldacci keeps you off balance until the end, even while revealing so much in the process. Recommended. 08/09 Jack Quick

FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT by Darynda Jones: Charley Davidson can see and speak to the dead. She’s a grim reaper. Her ability gives her a unique advantage in her job as a PI and she’s been known to help the local police with more than a few difficult cases. When the bodies of three lawyers from the same firm all pop up dead on the same morning, Charley is already on the scene, having been dragged there by the ghost of one of the dead men. The three murder victims believe that their deaths must have something to do with one their biggest cases, a client they believe has been wrongfully convicted of murder. All of this would be no problem if Charley wasn’t suddenly being forced to deal with recurring visions of a dark shadow following her around and some disturbingly erotic dreams that have started to hit her at inopportune moments. Darynda Jones’s debut is great fun. Charley’s got attitude and humor and the mix of paranormal, mystery, and romance is perfect for fans of any of the subgenres. 02/11 Becky Lejeune

FIRST KILL by Michael Kronenwetter: A small Wisconsin town is the setting for this first novel and winner of the 2004 PWA/SMP Best Private Eye Novel [interesting note: there was no winner selected for 2005.] Hank Berlin is a private investigator with a small practice that barely pays the bills. He’s divorced and has shared custody with his high-powered ex, so his son is living with him while his wife is in France on business. He gets a surprise visit from his high school sweetheart Liz, who dumped him to marry his best friend Jack. Jack’s been murdered and Liz isn’t happy with the police investigation, so Hank, who was never able to deny her anything, agrees to look into it. Interesting characters keep this story believable even when stretched to the max, and there is enough suspense to keep the pages turning until the surprising ending.
NOTE: From the truth is stranger than fiction file…King County Journal, Bellevue, Washington: A resident called 911 at 4:15 p.m. Oct. 20 to report seeing a handwritten note in a car window at the Safeway on Northwest Gilman Boulevard. The note read, “First Kill Michael Kronenwetter.” An investigation revealed that “First Kill” is the name of a novel by author Michael Kronenwetter. 03/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE FIRST LOVE COOKIE CLUB by Lori Wilde: Sarah Collier gave up on true love at the tender age of fifteen. Before that, she dreamed of her soulmate: Travis Walker, a boy a few years older than her who lived next door to her grandmother in Twilight, Texas. Travis got married at Christmas the year that Sarah was fifteen, and Sarah humiliated herself by trying to stop the wedding. Since then, she’s kept her dreams in check, put love on the back burner, and never gone back to Twilight. Now a bestselling children’s author, Sarah has been asked to return to the quaint Texas town to attend the annual Christmas festivities. The request comes from a sick fan, a little girl whose wish Sarah cannot refuse. But when Sarah is forced to face her fears—and Travis—once again, she’ll learn that dreams can come true if you give them a chance. A cute holiday romance, Wilde returns to Twilight, Texas in this third outing, following The Sweethearts Knitting Club and The True Love Quilting Club. Each book can be read as a stand alone, but each are connected by one charming Texas town. 12/10 Becky Lejeune

FIRST PATIENT by Michael Palmer: President Andrew Stoddard is the fabulous fictional “first patient” except his doctor seems to have disappeared. So he asks his old buddy, Dr. Gabe Singleton, to leave his ranch in Wyoming and come take care of him at the White House, but he neglects to mention that he is having some very mysterious health problems. But Gabe is on it, and along the way he falls for Nurse Allison, tries to figure out what happened to his predecessor and what is wrong with the President. Throw in a little high tech medicine and some Secret Service secrets, and you have one terrific thriller. 03/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE FIRST QUARRY by Max Allan Collins: Before Lawrence Block’s Heller and Dot there was Quarry and the Broker. Killing is a young man’s game and this Hardcase Crime number 48 provides the backstory for Collins’ likable hitman. Quarry comes home from Vietnam and finds his wife in bed with another man. A couple of says later Quarry sights the man working on his car so Quarry drops the jack on him. This leads him to the Broker and finally to his first job in December 1970. The person of interest is a college professor who spends more time “counseling: coeds than he does teaching. A first rate read, and the start of a great series. 10/08 Jack Quick

FIRST RULE by Robert Crais: In this book, the “first rule” refers to a code lived by organized crime members of the former Soviet Union. The code is simple: one must forsake all family members, wives, mothers, children for his crime family. They come first, and if this rule is broken, it means death. Frank Meyer is murdered, along with his wife and children, in what appears to be another in a string of home invasions. The police believe he was involved in something shady, but Joe Pike does not. Frank was one of Joe’s team back in the day when they were mercenaries, but Frank left the life to marry and built a successful business, and had a happy family. Pike determines to find out who did this to his friend, and bucks the police, the FBI, and some scary gangsters to do so. Pike may not have much to say, he is the strong, silent type for sure, but he gets the job done. Elvis Cole, his partner, is just a minor character in this taut, complicated thriller – this is Pike’s story, and it is an excellent piece of crime fiction writing. 01/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE FIRST RULE by Robert Crais: “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape” and when Serbian mobster Michael Darko and his gangbangers hit the house of garment importer Frank Meyer and execute his family in their Los Angeles home, Darko has definitely screwed up. Meyer was one of Pike’s guys, and ex-policeman, ex-mercenary, now PI Joe Pike may be more dangerous than any caped crusader. Pike discovers that Frank’s nanny and her family have ties to Eastern European organized crime which leads him to Darko. With the help of PI partner Elvis Cole (the lead in Chasing Darkness and eight other books), Pike engages in a dangerous—and not always legal—game of cat and mouse with some of the city’s most dangerous crooks. You know Pike is gonna win, but the journey getting there is filled with excitement. Maybe the best Crais yet. 02/10 Jack Quick

FIRST THRILLS: High-Octane Stories from the Hottest Thriller Authors edited by Lee Child and Steve Berry: Previous reviewers have quibbled over some of the details but generally have given top marks to this 25 story anthology assembled by Child and Berry from stories submitted by members of ITW (International Thriller Writers), divided between fledgling authors and established names such as Gregg Hurwitz, Stephen Coonts, and Heather Graham. I won’t try to describe each individual story but they contain elements of mysteries, science fiction, and horror and feature an equally diverse cast of characters ranging from con men and killers to aliens, ghosts, and zombies. 12/10 Jack Quick

A FISTFUL OF CHARMS by Kim Harrison: Book four of the Hollows series picks up in the spring following the events of Every Which Way But Dead. Jenks is still refusing to return to Vampyric Charms and Rachel is getting desperate until the pixy’s wife turns up one afternoon begging for her help. It seems that Rachel’s ex-boyfriend Nick is a professional thief and he’s dragged Jenks’s oldest son Jax into the mess. Rachel and Jenks set off to Mackinaw, Michigan to save Jax, but first they have to make the trip a bit easier for the pixy by making him big. With his new height Jenks is able to make the trip and provide protection for Rachel as they infiltrate an island full of angry werewolves. Rachel soon discovers that Nick has stolen a valuable Were artifact that has been hidden for centuries. If the Were packs were to gain possession of the item, it would cause an all out war between werewolves and vampires. With multiple packs of pissed off Weres now on their trail, the gang has to figure out how to clean up Nick’s mess before they can safely return home. Kim Harrison is the Janet Evanovich of urban fantasy. Each book is a combination of dark humor and steamy sex appeal. A warning though, this series needs to be read in order. 04/07 Becky Lejeune

FIT TO DIE by J. B. Stanley: I don’t do many “Cozies” but as a life-long dieter, I had to try this one, particularly since each chapter is titled with a food item. The Flab Five diet group in Quincy’s Gap, Virginia, is stuck between Chilly Willy’s Polar Pagoda, a new ice cream shop serving praline caramel kiss sundaes, and the Witness to Fitness weight loss center, run by the fanatical Veronica Levitt. Maybe Veronica’s “take-no-prisoners” approach can keep them out of the Pagoda. In the meantime, when an arson investigation turns into a murder investigation, the Flab Five have a full plate they must tackle. But enough of the food jokes. Grab a bowl of celery sticks, hoist a can of diet soda and have at it. Oh, didn’t someone say that chocolate consumed while reading has no countable calories, something about the energy consumed turning pages effectively negating the effect of the “soul food.” If you need to lose a few more pounds, and have some leftover chocolate, this is the second in the Supper Club series, after Carbs and Cadavers. 05/07 Jack Quick

FIVE DAYS IN SUMMER by Kate Pepper: In this debut, Emily Parker, devoted wife and mother of three wants the end of her visit to her mother’s Cape Cod retreat to be special, but she disappears without a trace from the supermarket parking lot. Her husband Will tries to get the local police to begin a search but 24 hours are lost before FBI profiler John Geary now retired and writing a book on serial killers who were never caught, identifies a connection between Emily’s kidnapper and a killer who resurfaces every seven years. The story takes off at this point and eventually reaches a satisfactory conclusion. Apparently this works for Ms. Pepper because she has repeated the “disappears without a trace” theme in ONE COLD NIGHT and SEVEN MINUTES TO NOON. Apparently the major thrust of each, other than the disappearance, is the frustration factor for those left behind. All in all, above average, but not the best ever. 02/07 Jack Quick

FIVE LITTLE RICH GIRLS by Lawrence Block: “Five Little Rich Girls,” is the third in a series of novels about Chip Harrison, teen-age assistant to the world famous detective, Leo Haig. (Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin??) Harrison answers an ad which reads “Resourceful youth wanted to assist detective. Low pay, long hours. Familiarity with tropical fish helpful but not absolutely necessary.” Chip answered the ad because he was on the lookout for a job with a future. Chip believes the death of a girl from an overdose of heroin was murder. She was one of five rich girls (sisters), four of whom die in the novel. Were their deaths related? Were they all murders? Chip and Haig believe so. 05/06 Jack Quick

THE FIVE LOST DAYS by William Petrick: Documentary producer Michael Burns and his team travel to remote Belize in an attempt to capture the “magic” of the last curandero (healer) on film. It is Burns hope to unearth some yet undiscovered medicinal property found native to the rain forest. He meets Kelly Montgomery, a ethnobotanist that is stationed in Belize with her husband. Burns is instantly drawn to her strength, her natural beauty. Burns and his crew discover that they have gotten themselves into more than they expected and soon find themselves in the middle of a local political battle. THE FIVE LOST DAYS is a thrilling tale of ancient beliefs and local politics that will keep you begging for more. 01/09 Jennifer Lawrence

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom: I’ve been wrestling with how to write this for more than a week. When I finished it, my first thought was it was good, but not as good as I was expecting – hoping – from the author of Tuesdays with Morrie, which I loved. But the more I think about it, and I do keep thinking about it, the more of an impact I realize it made.
The story is relatively simple. Eddie is an 83 year old maintenance man at Ruby Pier, an amusement park at the shore. He’s worked there all his life, like his father before him, and he dies there trying to save a little girl’s life as a ride is about to drop on her. He arrives in heaven and is told there are five people he needs to meet, some he may know, some he may not, who will explain his life to him. Eddie thinks of himself as just an ordinary guy who’s life hasn’t made a difference, and he learns how one life interacts and entwines with another on this journey.
Most reviews have been conjuring up images of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol and another Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, and those comparisons are justified. The book is sweet and sentimental and I cried more than once while reading it, yet somehow it is never cloying. The Five People You Meet in Heaven is thought provoking, life affirming, and utterly charming. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE FIXER UPPER by Mary Kay Andrews: Dempsey Jo Killebrew is a young, naive aid to a Washington DC lobbyist who gets caught with his hands in the cookie jar. He promptly throws Killebrew under the bus, and she is out of a job. Her future isn’t looking too good either – the FBI is investigating her. In a panic and out of money, she agrees to move to Guthrie, a small town in Georgia, to fix up an old house her father had inherited. What her father didn’t know was that a distant cousin is squatting in the house with her little dog, and that the house needs way more than a coat of paint. Leaving her Manolos in the closet, Dempsey literally steps into her dead relatives shoes, and overalls, and begins a major renovation of the house. She gets some help from the father/son attorneys who are handling the inheritance, and they introduce her to some of the local townsfolk who can help with the renovation. In this case, hard work is good therapy for the confused and desperate Dempsey, especially when the FBI and DC reporters come knocking on her door. With a little help from her new friends, and a little romance from her lawyer, Dempsey and the house undergo a remarkable transformation. Another terrific, charming Southern tale from one of my favorite authors – I couldn’t put it down and read it in one delightful afternoon. 07/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

FLAWED by Jo Bannister: In the seventh book of the series, Brodie Farrell finds herself in an inconvenient situation – she’s pregnant. She knows that she will be unable to care for a new child and still devote the time necessary to her business, Looking for Something?, so she decides to take on an employee. Fortunately, her best friend Daniel Hood volunteers for the task. On one of his first days alone in the shop, a young boy approaches him and asks for his advice. The child is the one and only son of well-known solicitor Adam Selkirk. Hood believes that Selkirk is physically abusing his son and vows to help the boy and his mother. Meanwhile, the Serious and Organized Crime Agency has launched an investigation against Terry Walsh, a self-made man whose business practices are rumored to be not so ethical. Walsh’s lawyer just happens to be none other than Selkirk himself, and the police plan to use Hood’s suspicions to force the man to turn evidence over on his client. This is a great series for readers who enjoy those fringe cozies – the ones that are barely on the edge of being a more serious and gritty mystery. Bannister’s style is smooth and easy to read and her characters are easy to identify with. I would recommend, however, starting with book one, Echoes of Lies. Readers would be doing themselves a great disservice diving into a series that is this well established. 09/07 Becky Lejeune

FLESH HOUSE by Stuart MacBride: Just when you thought it was safe to go out and play, along comes Detective Sergeant Logan McRae in MacBride’s fourth and latest novel. When human remains are discovered first in a shipping container and later in a local butcher shop, McRae’s superiors send him to round up Kenneth Wiseman (aka the Flesher), who terrorized the city 20 years earlier but was released on a technicality. McRae’s nemesis, Detective Inspector David Insch was involved in the original investigation. In spite of Insch’s continuing involvement, McRae soon realizes that the police have been looking in the wrong direction. McRae is left with a grisly puzzle and random body parts. MacBride’s writing skill makes this one less a stomach turner and more of a page turner. McRae is becoming a classic alongside Rebus, Dalziel and Pascoe. 01/09 Jack Quick

Flesh Tones by M. J. Rose: Genny Haviland is on trial for the murder of her lover, famed artist Slade Gabriel. Her defense is a tad unusual: assisted suicide. Rose writes these terrific books that just defy categorizing. This one is her best effort yet, a psychological/legal thriller based in the art world, with more passion than found in most romance novels, and enough twists along the way to make this a real joy-ride. Don’t miss it.

FLIGHT by Sherman Alexie: A fine, funny novel. This will definitely be in my year’s 10 best. Mr. Alexie’s protagonist in this book is an angry, violent, confused and lonely runaway Indian teenager who goes by the name of Zits. How could you not like it? Zits has been pushed or fled from multiple foster homes already in his young life and is of the opinion that all foster parents are jerks, Indian or not. While preparing for a revolutionary, Columbine-like act in a bank he has a moment of clarity in which his consciousness takes flight, occupying several other bodies. It is quite a ride. One of these bodies is that of his own father. This experience changes his whole life and the outcome of the showdown.
Mr Alexie proves my thesis that there are fine writers in our own country today writing about the eternal truths revealed in their own experiences and settings. Don’t miss them pursuing the latest “in” book. 07/07 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

FLIP THIS ZOMBIE by Jesse Petersen: Making a living after the apocalypse would be challenging for most, but Sarah and David have figured it out. After working through their differences and honing their skills as zombie killers, they’re officially in business as Zombiebusters Exterminators, Inc in this second of the Married With Zombies series. Sarah and David are willing to hire out their services in exchange for all kinds of goods and trade, but then a particularly interesting job comes their way. This time, they may even be able to help save the world, if they can agree long enough to finish the job. Petersen’s twisted sense of humor makes for excellent laugh-out-loud reading. I’m loving this series more and more and can’t wait until number three comes out this summer. 1/11 Becky Lejeune

FLIPPING OUT by Marshall Karp: Maybe someone mistake them for the LA Clippers, the perfectly terrible professional basketball team that also resides in Los Angeles, but then again, maybe not. The latest case for ace LAPD homicide detectives Michael Lomax and Terry Biggs is way too close for comfort. Their significant others, along with the wives of some fellow officers, are involved in a partnership with popular mystery writer Nora Bannister, to buy, fix up and flip houses in the then highly competitive Southern California real estate market, i.e. the LA Flippers. So when the members of the partnership start dropping like the current real estate market, Lomax and Biggs, set out to find damning evidence before they lose their own loved ones and/or higher-ups shut the case in their face. This third outing has the humor Karp included in RABBIT FACTORY and BLOODTHIRSTY but notches up the suspense very nicely. Definitely recommended. 05/09 Jack Quick
FLIRTING WITH FORTY by Jane Porter: Porter started out writing romance, switched to chick-lit (The Frog Prince) and now seems to have found her niche with women’s fiction, that catch-all for other genre-defying books that are definitely aimed at the female reader. Our heroine, Jackie Laurens, is celebrating her fortieth birthday, not that she feels like she has much to celebrate. Jackie is a divorced mom of two kids and a growing design business, yet she’s lonely. She wants to be paired up like all of her friends are. Her friend Anne coaxes her into a birthday weekend in Hawaii, but at the last minute married Anne has to cancel so Jackie goes off by herself. The pool is full of hopeful middle-agers, but it’s a young surf instructor, Kai, who gets her attention. Romance blooms but life intrudes, making it difficult for the single mom to juggle her life in Seattle with her romance on the big island. This is the perfect book to read surfside or poolside, frozen drink in hand. Enjoyable. 07/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

Flood by Andrew Vachss: I’ve been wanting to read this book, the first in the Burke series, for a while now. The timing was right and I ripped through it. Dark and gritty enough to leave sand in your bed. Or maybe I brought that home from the beach…

FLY BY NIGHT by Ward Larsen: An exotic setting – modern day Sudan near Khartoum; a man used to violence but intellectually gifted who is an ex US Marine and Jet Pilot named Jammar Davis, a beautiful woman placed in proximity by logical circumstances and you have ingredients that a good adventure story needs. We have a very good one in Ward Larsen’s Fly By Night. Jammar has retired from US government service, his wife was killed in an auto accident three years before the story begins and his teen age daughter is safely away with friends that live in Norway. Jammar’s ex boss approaches him and asks him to travel to the Sudan to investigate the disappearance of a top secret US Drone aircraft. Coincidentally at the same time a small fly by night air service based there has had one of their planes crash. The real motivation to get Jammar to undertake the search for the Drone is that an old enemy of his is chief pilot for the airline. Upon arrival and assuming the role of a US government investigator sent to investigate the air crash Jammar has a run in with his enemy and meets the lovely Dr Regina Antonelli. Dr Antonelli works for an agency geared to providing medical services to third world countries. The stage is set, the writing is crisp and the action fast. Suffice to say that the reader will be very satisfied with the actions and solutions presented. Ward has written another book involving Jammar, but this one does very well as a stand alone novel. 11/11 Paul Lane

FLY BY NIGHT by Ward Larsen: Jammer Davis, the NTSB’s biggest headache and best investigator is sent into Khartoum ostensibly to assist the local government in determining the cause of the crash on an ancient DC-3 flown by a cargo airline named FBN – Fly By Night. In reality Davis has two other missions – one, to assist the CIA in locating the priceless remains of America’s latest technological marvel – a top-secret drone that had crashed. Equally important to Davis is “grounding” Bob Schmidtt, who had been responsible for the death of Davis’ friend and fellow pilot, Walt Deemer. Nicely done, not too heavy on the technical details and sufficiently twisty. 9/12 Jack Quick

FLY BY WIRE by Ward Larsen: Nicely done thriller featuring Frank “Jammer” Davis, a retired U.S. Air Force fighter pilot now working as an investigator for the NTSB. A brand new C-500 freight airframe has plunged from six miles up over France killing the pilot and first officer. Just as Davis starts his investigation, news of the crash is overshadowed by a more spectacular disaster: suicide bombers attack oil refineries worldwide, sending governments and financial markets into a tailspin. Davis soon learns that the crash and the oil refinery attacks are inter-related. Finding and implementing the solution takes him literally to the final seconds of a situation in which failure cannot be an option. Very enjoyable. 9/12 Jack Quick

FLY PAPER by Max Allan Collins: “The mob couldn’t kill him, the cops couldn’t catch him, and even time can’t slow him down.” “Him” could be Nolan or “him” could be Max Allan Collins, still churning them out today. This classic from 1981 features bullet riddled bloody strongbox stealing action with one hundred fifty grand for the winner and certain death for whomever comes in second. Can you believe it all started with a parking meter scam? There’s no cellphones or Internet, just lots of old fashioned gun totin’ action. I read it in one sitting which may have been all it took Collins to write it, but like an occasional extra slice of pie, it was still darned good. 07/06 Jack Quick

Flynn’s World by Gregory McDonald: Speaking of Fletch, Gregory McDonald has just put out a new book about Fletch’s fellow crime-solver, Boston “Inspector” Francis Xavier Flynn. As was the case in Skylar in Yankeeland, McDonald takes dead, but hilarious, aim at New England pretense. In Flynn’s World, he zeroes in on Harvard University and what passes for “thinking” on a politically correct campus these days. Flynn is ably supported by his incredibly gifted and mischievous family, his retired police friend Cocky, and even the clueless Grover in responding to a request for help from the University President. This is simultaneously a good story and a broadly painted satire of academic life that will keep you laughing from start to finish. ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.

FOLLOW ME DOWN by Marc Strange: This one starts with a bang – actually, its more of a swish, as a man is impaled by two arrows into the abdomen and left hanging from a tree at the edge of the forest that surrounds Dockerty, Newry County, Ontario. Orwell Brennan, Dockerty’s chief of police, wonders whether it is a hunting accident when a sergeant tells him it’s been ruled a murder. Although outside his jurisdiction the case becomes a bit of an obsession for Orwell who wants it solved—no matter whose toes he steps on. This one proves that there are secrets to be found everywhere if you just know where to look. Not a bad police procedural with some interesting twists. 05/10 Jack Quick

THE FOLLOWER by Jason Starr: Katie Porter has been having trouble meeting the right man. All that is about to change though. Peter Wells knows he is perfect for Katie. He’s been planning for months, following her and getting to know her very well. Katie doesn’t know it yet, but she and Peter are going to be very happy together. All Peter has to do now is eliminate the competition. Nothing is going to get in his way. Starr’s chilling tale of a stalker and his prey is enough to keep any reader up all night checking their windows. 08/07 Becky Lejeune

THE FOLLOWER by Jason Starr: Stalking in New York City. Katie Porter thinks her health club encounter with Peter Wells is pure chance. She doesn’t know he once dated her sister back in her hometown and has elaborate plans to marry her. In the meantime, her current boyfriend, Andy Barnett, a twenty-three year old single guy on the prowl in Manhattan, is about to dump her. When Peter decides he needs to eliminate the competition, this Looking for Ms. Goodbar suddenly becomes a very funny, dark social satire. If you are into yuppies and the New York singles scene, this one is for you. 01/09 Jack Quick

FOLLOWING POLLY by Karen Bergreen: Alice Teakle has been laid off. Unsure what she wants to do with her life, her mother suggests therapy. Her therapist suggests a life goal. Then, out of the blue, Alice runs into a former—and hated—college classmate: Polly Dawson. Polly Dawson has everything— money, class, great husband. But Polly is not a nice person. In an admittedly poor spur-of-the-moment decision, Alice begins to follow Polly: certainly if Polly has it all, she must be doing something right. Maybe in following Polly, Alice can discover the secret. Unfortunately for her, someone has it in for Polly and Alice is the perfect scapegoat. On the run and unable to turn to family or friends, Alice starts following someone else. Someone who may be in a position to help her discover Polly’s killer and clear her name. Honesty, I wasn’t sure about Alice Teakle in the beginning. By the time Polly is murdered, though, and the unlikely heroine goes on the lam, she’d won me over. Following Polly is a witty mystery with an eccentric cast of characters. It’s a debut that definitely makes you take notice. I’d love to see what Karen Bergreen does next. 06/10 Becky Lejeune

FOOTBALL’S BEST SHORT STORIES, edited by Paul D. Staudohar: Can’t really add much to what the title says. Stories are by Grantland Rice, John Updike, Damon Runyan, Ellery Queen, Michael Chabon, Don DeLillo, among others, all revolving around the sport of “American football”. As a fan of the game I had been saving this one until this first week of the season as a way of getting into the mood, so “Yea, White, Yea, Blue, Go, Team, We For You” On to victory, strike up the band, hit ‘em high, hit ‘em low, stand up and yell…..Oh well, it’s a pretty good book. 09/06 Jack Quick

FORBIDDEN by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee: FORBIDDEN is set in a post-apocalyptic world, a world almost completely annihilated by man’s greed, hatred and war. Now, almost five hundred years later, nothing remains except for the Order and one emotion, fear. Rom discovers through a message from an escaped prisoner followed immediately thereafter by a series of heart-stopping and murderous events that all is not as it seems. His father, a Keeper, was murdered to suppress the truth. Left with a vial of blood, a cryptic writing and his promise to find the leader of the Keepers, Rom flees from the Citadel Guards who now seek his life as well. When Rom discovers the truth he realizes he must enlist the help of four others to culminate his quest. The Book must be found, a suppressed princess must decipher the code and the rightful heir to the throne must be endorsed by the Senate prior to the crowning of the new Sovereign in five days time. Forbidden is the first in a new series by Dekker and Lee. As characters experience a flood of new emotions there are tender scenes emanating from ‘light’ emotions as well as violent scenes churned up from ‘dark’ emotions. The pacing ebbs and flows flawlessly between these two extremes. The plot is somewhat predictable but the sequel will still be welcomed. 10/11 Kimberly Bower

THE FORBIDDEN DAUGHTER by Shobhan Bantwal: Isha and her husband, Nikhil, are expecting their second child. Their first was a daughter and Isha is desperate for her second to be a son. When the sonogram reveals that Isha is having another daughter, their doctor suggests the possibility of a selective termination. Not only do Isha and Nikhil refuse, but Nikhil files a complaint with the authorities. Threats are made, but Nikhil won’t back down. He even goes as far as to steal information from the doctor’s computer as proof of his illegal practices. Unfortunately, Nikhil’s efforts result in his death and Isha is left a widow with another child on the way. Her in-laws have made it clear that she’s a disappointment to them and their superstitious beliefs lead to their blaming the unborn child for all of the ill events that have befallen the family. Isha flees, taking her two children with her, and attempts to make a life for herself without their support. Bantwal’s novel is an eye-opening read. In India, it’s currently illegal for the parents to even know the sex of their child before its birth. Statistics on selective abortion are startling. Isha’s dilemma as a young widow in a traditional Hindu family is heart-wrenching at times. Her struggles to survive and do right by her children without a means of support are admirable. Bantwal’s keen insight, not only into the current generation of mothers, but into the elder generation and their beliefs will help readers to understand an issue that is completely foreign to us here in the States. 09/08 Becky Lejeune

THE FORBIDDEN DAUGHTER by Shobhan Bantwal: Isha Tilak and her husband, Nikhil, have just discovered that the child they are expecting is a girl. What would be wonderful news to just about any couple is a curse to the young couple. Young Isha and Nikhil live in India, in a society where male heirs are sought out above all else; female children are viewed as burdens. When they are urged to have an illegal abortion, Isha and Nikhil are furious and adamantly refuse. Soon after, Nikhil is found brutally murdered. Isha decides that living with her oppressive in-laws is detrimental to the life and safety of her young daughter, Priya, and her unborn daughter. She leaves with a small amount of money and just a few belongings. Isha and Priya seek refuge at a local convent. It is there that Isha gives birth to young Diya, and where they meet Harish Salvi, a doctor that treats the children at the convent. Isha ultimately receives the life insurance money that she and Nikhil kept hidden from his parents and is then able to purchase a more appropriate residence for her and her young girls. She discovers that her husband has left her with evidence of the selective abortion trade, and suddenly her life, and the lives of her children, is in danger. FORBIDDEN DAUGHTER tells a difficult story of the treatment and value of women in India. The characters were very compelling as was the storyline. It has it all: love, bribery, murder, blackmail, kidnapping. Isha is an amazingly strong woman who will stop at nothing to protect the lives of her daughters. 11/08 Jennifer Lawrence

A FOREIGN COUNTRY by Charles Cumming: A spy story with a different spin. Cumming pulls the reader into a novel of a conspiracy plot that is different than any other spy novel I have read. Amelia Levene is slated to become the first female head of British MI6 in a few weeks. She takes a trip to the south of France to attend a funeral and than indicates that she intends to take a painting course before coming back to England. When she disappears the ensuing panic within MI6 causes Thomas Kell, a disgraced and ousted former agent, to be called upon to find her with the insinuation that finding Levene might bring him back into the MI6 fold. Kell travels to the south of France and then to Tunisia looking for her. This is a plot that is fascinating and very well delineated. The reason for Amelia’s disappearance and events surrounding this are the basis for the novel and provide an intriguing and compelling read. Cumming has written other spy related novels and continues his success in the field with A Foreign Country. Characters and their motivations are fleshed out quite well and keep the reader’s continued interests. No problem in anticipating and buying future novels by Charles Cumming. 9/12 Paul Lane

THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH by Carrie Ryan: Generations ago, something terrible happened. Mary does not know specifics, but she does know that she and her family are safe behind the fence. The Guardians take care of the fence and the Sisters take care of everyone within; order is very important in Mary’s world. But even with hordes of the undead surrounding her home, Mary longs for a glimpse of the world beyond. When her mother is bitten and becomes one of the Unconsecrated herself, Mary is forced to join the Sisterhood. While living within the walls of the Cathedral, Mary witnesses something the Sisters are desperate to keep secret — a girl from beyond the fence has entered their community. Mary will do just about anything for a chance to speak to the girl, but the next time she sees her, the girl has been forced out with the Unconsecrated. Mary sees her chances of escape dying before her very eyes, until the town is overrun and she and a small group of others are forced to flee. Will they find salvation beyond the fence, or are humans destined for extinction? If George Romero wrote and directed The Village, you would get The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Unlike most teen titles, which are surely fun escapes for adults, it is easy to forget that this amazing and horrifying debut is a teen read. This book is wholly appropriate for teens, but I have no doubt that many adults will find it as engrossing as I did. Ryan says her following release will take place in the same world as The Forest of Hands and Teeth. 03/09 Becky Lejeune

THE FORGOTTEN by David Baldacci: Trafficking in human slavery in the 21st century is the underlying theme in David Baldacci’s latest book featuring John Puller. John is a military criminal investigative officer charged with investigating crimes involving army personnel. He is returning home after Zero Day. Contemplating a short vacation after his ordeal in that book he visits his hospitalized father who gives him a letter from his aunt. The letter alludes to problems in existence in her home town of Paradise, Florida. John, who was raised by this aunt, decides to use his vacation to determine how he can help her. Upon arrival in Paradise he finds that his aunt has died, apparently after an accidental drowning in her back yard. John makes the determination that her death was not accidental, but murder, and begins an investigation into the circumstances. Several colorful characters are involved in the story and well fleshed out by Baldacci. There is a very large man that enters the scene after swimming miles ashore to Paradise escaping from an abandoned oil rig in the Florida Gulf Coast. The rig held a large group of captives awaiting transportation to their ultimate destinations as modern day slaves. We have a beautiful lady cop that fixes on Puller, and helps him out in his investigations. A female one star general, also somewhat fixated by John that takes a leave from her post to help him in his investigation, plus another attractive, but mysterious woman whose place in the story is not described until late in the book. Baldacci has taken it upon himself to describe the actuality of trafficking in human slaves in our time. It is a highly lucrative operation, and apparently controlled by major criminal groups in existence today. While this is very fast moving and engrossing fiction, one wonders about about the scope of modern day slavery. I have never read a book by David Baldacci that wasn’t a good read, engrossing and keeping the reader up all night. The Forgotten is no exception with only the slight flaw (remember this is fiction) of having a contrived ending which keeps moving and insures all awaiting the next Puller book. 12/12 Paul Lane

THE FORGOTTEN by David Baldacci: If they had known about her nephew, maybe they wouldn’t have killed the old lady. Army Special Agent John Puller is the best there is. A combat veteran, Puller is the man the U.S. Army relies on to investigate the toughest crimes facing the nation. Think Jack Reacher – but still in the Army. His aunt has been found dead in Paradise, Florida, a picture-perfect town on Florida’s Gulf Coast that thrives on the wealthy tourists and retirees drawn to its gorgeous weather and beaches. The local police have ruled his aunt’s death an unfortunate, tragic accident. Before she died, she mailed a letter to Puller’s father, telling him that beneath its beautiful veneer, Paradise is not all it seems to be. Underneath the beautiful beaches is a mess and Puller is just the man to clean it up. Outstanding. 1/13 Jack Quick

The Forgotten by Faye Kellerman: The newest installment in the Peter Decker series touching on teenage angst and anti-Semitism amid the murder and mayhem. Good read.

THE FORGOTTEN MAN by Robert Crais: The Forgotten Man is an unforgettable tale of intrigue and angst. Crais really knows how to build a series, giving us more insight into his characters in each outing, and he continues the trend here. Elvis Cole receives a middle-of-the-night phone call from Los Angeles Police Detective Kelly Diaz, saying that a man has been murdered, and his dying words were to find his son – Elvis Cole. Elvis never knew his father so his response is immediate. Working with the LAPD, Elvis and partner Joe Pike ferret out the truth in their own inimitable style and in the process, Elvis learns more about himself and his family. Former bomb squad technician turned detective Carol Starkey (Demolition Angel) helps out too, mostly because she has a crush on Elvis but he’s too enmeshed in memories of Lucy Chenier (The Last Detective) to notice. Quirky characters bring some dark humor to this finely written yarn of suspense, with creepy killers, praying prostitutes and enough surprises to keep the pages turning until the harrowing and extraordinary ending. 02/05 Copyright © 2005 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

THE FORGOTTEN MAN by Robert Crais: If you are an Elvis Cole fan, buy this book. It’s the best yet. If you are not yet an Elvis Cole fan, rent or borrow this book while saving money to buy the other seven Elvis Cole books. A man dying from a gunshot wound in a Los Angeles alley tells police he is the father of Elvis Cole. Elvis never knew his father and sets forth to learn all he can. In the process we learn more about Elvis, but it gets curiouser and curiouser. Although the body count doesn’t mount until the end there is abundant action with cops and hookers, blackmail, and re-opening of old hurts. Thank goodness for friends like Joe Pike who saves Elvis’ life for adventure number nine. To say more is to spoil it. Definitely recommended. 05/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

For Whom the Minivan Rolls by Jeffrey Cohen: Another funny mystery writer, just in case you couldn’t tell from the title of the book, and he’s from New Jersey where this gentle suburban mystery is set. I’m not sure what is in the water in Jersey these days, (actually, I don’t think anyone is) but it’s working for me, à la Harlan Coben, Janet Evanovich, Steve Lopez, David Rosenfelt, and now Jeffrey Cohen.

Aaron Tucker is a free lance writer, which means he works at home while his wife, who he has the perpetual hots for, works outside the home as an attorney. Their two kids include a precocious little girl and an adolescent boy with Asperger Syndrome, which is handled with grace, dignity and apparent honesty. When the town’s most prominent citizen’s wife goes missing, Aaron is hired to find her – but why, he doesn’t know. After trying mightily to get out of the assignment, power prevails and he finds himself investigating the disappearance. It’s a mystery indeed, but it’s the characters that bring this story to life. They are endearing people, the kind you want to spend time with. And I’m glad I did.Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

FORESTS OF THE NIGHT by James W. Hall: Cherokee Indian Jacob Bright Sky Panther is number eight on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. It is no wonder that Coral Gables Police detective Charlotte Monroe is shocked to find him in conversation with her husband Parker and daughter Gracey. Before the SWAT team can respond, Panther hightails it with Gracey. It turns out Parker, who is a lawyer, is friends with Panther’s uncle. Charlotte must come to grips with aspects of her husband’s life that were previously unknown while also trying to rescue her daughter. The action ventures into the mountains and North Carolina and deep into the past of Parker, Panther and the entire Cherokee nation. It will take all of Charlotte’s skills including her uncanny ability to interpret facial expressions to accomplish her objectives. No Thorn, but still first rate Hall. 04/07 Jack Quick

THE FORGERY OF VENUS by Michael Gruber: Chaz Wilmot is a commercial artist in New York City living a modest life when his former roommate from Columbia, Mark Slade, offers him $150,000 to come to Venice and restore/reproduce the collapsed ceiling in a Venetian palazzo he has bought. What happens is not pretty as Wilmot is sucked into a bizarre world in which he begins to question his own sanity – or is he being manipulated for a purpose. Intelligent, literate, and unusual – I only wish I knew more about art in order to appreciate the nuances about which Gruber writes so knowledgably. Very nicely done. 06/08 Jack Quick

FORGET ME KNOT by Sue Margolis: Somewhere between chick-lit and romance falls this latest tale of love betrayed and new love found. Abby Crompton is a small but successful florist in London. Her business is hot-hot-hot since the local rag named her of the trendiest florists in town. Down the street is one of Britain’s oldest and stodgiest department stores/grocers. Abby shops there for the fond memories, but is frustrated by their lack of style. She’s engaged to Toby, British nobility, and is finally to meet the mother he’s been afraid of all his life. On the way she gets stuck in an elevator and gets sloshed. Needless to say, dinner with the mother-in-law-to-be don’t go well, and shortly after things end. Meanwhile, a low budget movies plans to shoot in her shop for a week and how can a romance not flourish in a flower shop? There’s high drama with the gay shop assistant that puts Abby in the middle of a feud with his ex-lover/boss, another florist, not to mention lots of laughs in this light, humorous, fun read. 09/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch.

FORGIVEN by Jana Oliver: Riley Blackthorne is back in this third book of the Demon Trapper’s series. After striking one deal with heaven in exchange for another trapper’s life and one deal with the devil thanks to a particularly charming fallen angel, Riley has become a target for the Vatican. Accused of being in the devil’s pocket, Riley must now defend herself and her honor against the worst possible punishment. Nevermind the fact that her closest ally has abandoned her and may even have sold her out. On the bright side, Riley’s father has turned up and is being safely held by Mort, a summoner who seems to have good intentions. But both Mort and Riley will have to be careful. The folks after her father’s body are still sniffing around and Riley won’t be able to do much in the way of protecting him if the Vatican hunters have their way. Oliver’s series is one of my current favorites — dark and gritty and perfect for teen and adult urban fantasy fans. 4/12 Becky Lejeune

FORGOTTEN by Catherine McKenzie: Just before her death, Emma Tupper’s mother gifted her with a ticket to Africa. Emma believed the trip would be a chance to think things over and come home fresh in the wake of losing her mom. She was only supposed to be gone for a month, but just days into the trip Emma falls ill. Deemed too sick to travel the distance to the nearest medical facilities, Emma is left in the helpful hands of a visiting couple building a school for the local children. And then the unthinkable happens: Tswanaland is struck by a massive earthquake. All lines of travel and communication are cut off and it’s six months before Emma can make it home where she’s been declared missing and presumed dead. Her bank accounts have been frozen and her apartment has been re-leased. What’s more, her best friend and her boyfriend are both out of town. Fortunately, the new tenant in Emma’s apartment is kind enough to let her stay and even helps her begin to put her life back together. Forgotten is a wonderful, heartfelt read. Emma’s story is funny, sweet, and thought provoking—it makes the reader really wonder what if. What if you had the chance to start all over? Would you? 10/12 Becky Lejeune

Foul Matter by Martha Grimes: Ms. Grimes, normally the author of the solid Richard Jury mysteries, obviously has something to get off her chest about the business of publishing authors. And she does it with a vengeance (so to speak) in Foul Matter. Her new book can easily be thought of as The Bonfire of the Vanities of the publishing oligopoly which currently victimizes both authors and readers.
After she gets done making sure that the reader fully appreciates what self-indulgent, amoral scum are running the book business these days, Ms. Grimes tells a funny tale reminiscent of Donald Westlake or Lawrence Block.
The starting point of her story is an author who is guaranteed, on the strength of his name, to sell millions of copies of his next book, no matter what it says. But the author, Paul Giverney, wants more. He wants to secure the services of the editor who he feels will make his book be taken seriously. He agrees to sign for what is a huge advance, of course, only if the publisher can get rid of the author that the editor is currently working with. The publisher, and his minions take their marching orders to “get rid of” that author, Ned Isaly, who is a fine writer and innocent chap, all too seriously.
And that it where the fun begins. The initial set of hired killers are very fussy about their victims. They want to get to know them first. They follow him. They read his books. Meanwhile, remorse is setting in at the publishing house and concern is rising in the author’s friends. Killers, detectives and bodyguards begin to proliferate. This all culminates in a trip in Pittsburgh that is like the Marx brothers cramming people into a stateroom on an ocean-liner.
This is a nice change of pace for Ms. Grimes and a lot of fun for readers who share her concern about the publishing industry. ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.

FOUL PLAY IN ACADEMIA by Geohn C. McAmby: This is what I would term a “commuter read.” It’s short, lively, and not so intense that one would miss their getting off spot. Professor McAmby of Nunnery College discovers the body of a colleague in the basement of the campus theatre resting on the platform that is used to raise and lower flats from the basement storage area. There is no indication she fell, suicide is unlikely without an accomplice, so is it murder? If so, what is the motive? This is a classic puzzle mystery and the third in this series. Kind of like half a candy bar – good, but not totally satisfying. 05/07 Jack Quick

FOUND YOU by Mary SanGiovanni: Dave and his friends thought that they had killed the creature they called the Hollower. They thought they were safe. They were wrong. Their Hollower had friends and one of them has returned to seek revenge against the humans that killed its companion. Dave’s sister Sally is the first to die. It was Dave’s job to keep her safe and he failed. Now, a whole new group of people are being terrorized by this otherwordly stalker and it’s up to Dave and Erik to gather them together for yet another battle, hopefully the last. This follow-up to the Stoker nominated The Hollower proves once again that Mary SanGiovanni is a fantastic addition to the horror genre. I hope that her hints at other weird phenomena in the Jersey area will hopefully lead to many more scary tales. 10/08 Becky Lejeune

FOUR AND TWENTY BLACKBIRDS by Cherie Priest: Eden Moore has spent her life haunted by the past: long hidden family secrets, and ghosts that only she can see. The three women—sisters Mae, Willa, and Luanna—have been dead for decades, but their story is one that Eden will have to understand in order to survive today. Eden was just a girl the first time her cousin came for her. She was able to outrun him and he was institutionalized. But he escaped and now he’s after her again, convinced that she is a wicked spirit returned from the grave. As she learns her ancestors’ tales of dark magic, madness, and revenge, Eden will be faced with a task that many before her have failed: to defeat her enemy or die trying. This first of the Eden Moore series is a great spine-tingling story. An utterly perfect debut in every way. Priest creates magic with intriguing characters and dark and mysterious settings. I’m so glad that there is more to follow. 12/09 Becky Lejeune

Four Blind Mice by James Patterson: I didn’t like Roses are Red, I hated Violets are Blue (I couldn’t even read it, I just skimmed it) so this one is definitely the best Alex Cross book in years. Unfortunately, that’s not saying much. The story revolves around Army vets being set up as murderers by a for-hire group of assassins leftover from the Vietnam War. The weaknesses here are the writing and the plot; the suspense builds nicely and these are the characters we expect them to be after all these years. I didn’t enjoy it much – I’ve guess I’ve had enough of this series. His next book, The Jester, (03.03) is a complete departure for Patterson – it’s set during the Middle Ages.

FOUR SUMMONER’S TALES by Kelley Armstrong, Christopher Golden, David Liss, and Jonathan Maberry: What do you get when you give four very different authors one writing prompt? You get four very different tales, of course. The prompt: A strange visitor comes to town, offering to raise the townsfolk’s dearly departed from the dead – for a price… was conceived by Golden and Maberry one evening. The format chosen was the novella and with the addition of Armstrong and Liss, they had a book. Armstrong and Liss both took historic approaches – Armstrong’s “Suffer the Children” is set in the 1800s in a small Canadian village that has been hit hard by diphtheria. A strange man arrives claiming to be able to bring back the town’s recently deceased children. But of course there’s a price. Liss’s “A Bad Season for Necromancy” on the other hand is set in the eighteenth century in England. A man calling himself Reginald January makes a discovery that grants him the power to raise the dead and he believes it will solve everything. But of course he couldn’t be more wrong. Golden’s “Pipers” is set present day in a small Texas border town that’s seen increased conflict with a local Mexican drug cartel. The conflict reaches its peak when the cartel guns down over twenty of the town’s citizens in one night. A man arrives claiming he can restore these people to life, but in exchange he wants their help in bringing down the head of the cartel. And finally Jonathan Maberry gives us another Joe Ledger tale in “Alive Day.” In this stand-alone story, Ledger and his team are tasked to recover a missing ops team in Afghanistan. They soon realize their enemy is something much more terrifying than terrorists. A fantastic collection. 9/13 Becky Lejeune

FOURTH DAY by Zoë Sharp: Is Fourth Day an extremist cult supporting eco-terrorism or is it, as the cult’s charismatic leader Randall Bane claims, a retreat for those with serious mental and emotional issues to find peace within themselves. Charlie Fox goes in undercover to learn the truth. It turns out that greed is the primary factor involved here and Charlie ends up on the wrong side of both Homeland security and her fellow security personnel. Amidst the several murders, Fox is deeply in danger of losing her soul mate, Sean, which would be the equivalent of killing her. A good one. 2/12 Jack Quick

FOURTH GRAVE BENEATH MY FEET by Darynda Jones: This fourth in the Charley Davidson series starts two months after the end of book three, Third Grave Dead Ahead. The snarky reaper is recovering from her last case and a close call with Reyes’s psychopathic father and has developed something of a shopping addiction as well as a bit of agoraphobia. She’s abandoned her office as part of her argument against her own dad – well warranted considering he had her arrested in an attempt to get her to quit her job. The prospect of a new case is just too tempting to pass up, though, especially after her friends and family gather in an intervention. Charley’s new client is convinced someone is after her. She’s been harassed most of her life but no one believes her until she meets Charley. Meanwhile, the demons that once plagued Reyes have returned. As Reyes hunts them down, they become more violent in their pursuit of the reaper, putting her in yet another gravely dangerous situation. Darynda Jones’s hilarious series never fails to amuse. Each new book moves the series forward, presenting new questions about Charley and her abilities, Reyes, and the fate of the world. Super fun and super addicting as well as a great blend of paranormal and PI mystery. 11/12 Becky Lejeune

The Fourth Hand by John Irving: Irving is probably my favorite author, and this newest effort was certainly an enjoyable read. The story is about a TV news anchor who has his hand chewed off by a lion, broadcast live all over the world. Eventually he gets a hand transplant, and a romance. The book felt incomplete to me, like it was missing something (no pun intended). The depth of the characters that his books usually delve into was missing here. On the other hand, it is my understanding that many people have been daunted by the sheer length of some of his previous novels, so perhaps this book of just a few hundred pages will inspire new readers to discover the magic of John Irving.

THE FOURTH PERIMETER by Tim Greene: Kurt Ford left the US Secret Service and became a very successful businessman. His life is shattered when he is told his son, following in his own steps as a Secret Service agent, has committed suicide. Ford can’t believe this and soon finds evidence that supports the likely assassination of his son and other agents who have apparently been unwitting witnesses to a Presidential meeting from which they should have been excluded. Ford vows he will avenge his son, even if it means taking on the President of the United States. Unlike no other previous Presidential assassin, Ford is also determined to escape. Green knows how to ratchet up the suspense and you can’t help but imagining the movie, with Harrison Ford playing the role of Kurt Ford. 08/08 Jack Quick

THE FOURTH WATCHER by Timothy Hallinan: Ex-pat Poke Rafferty, American travel writer turned investigator, has been in Bangkok, Thailand for more than two years – enough time to adopt the Bangkok Glide, the energy efficient and peculiarly graceful way Thai people have of getting themselves from place to place without melting into the sidewalks during the mid-day heat. He has also been there long enough to fall in love with Rose, a former bar girl who is now his fiancé and with Miaow, his newly adopted precocious daughter (Think Tatum O’Neal in Paper Moon). In this second outing, Poke variously faces: Chinese gangsters, a rogue American Secret Service Agent and a North Korean counterfeiting operation. Delightfully twisty from beginning to end that gets even more complicated when Poke’s father Frank and half-sister Ming Li are added to the mix. 07/08 Jack Quick

FOX FIVE by Zoe Sharp: A neat little treat from this great author – five short stories featuring ex-Special Forces soldier turned self-defense expert and bodyguard, Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Fox. The first – A Bridge Too Far, introduces us to Charlie before she’s become a professional in the world of close protection. Postcards From Another Country has Charlie guarding the ultra-rich Dempsey family against attempted assassination – no matter where the danger lies. Served Cold puts another tough woman center stage – the mysterious Layla, with betrayal in her past and murder in her heart. Off Duty finds Charlie taking time away from close protection after injury. She still finds trouble, even in an out-of-season health spa in the Catskill Mountains. And finally, Truth And Lies puts all Charlie’s skills and ingenuity to the test as she has to single-handedly extract a news team from a rapidly escalating war zone. For current and about to be Charlie Fox fans. 08/11 Jack Quick NOTE: Only available as an e-book

FRACTURED by Karen Slaughter: Dyslexic Georgia Bureau of Investigation detective Will Trent is caught up in a crime situation as complex as Atlanta’s freeways with enough plot complications to support two afternoon soap operas. Atlanta matron Abigail Campano comes home to find what she thinks is her daughter’s bloody body with the killer standing over her. She manages to kill the young man, only to discover that: a). he has also been stabbed and was probably trying to help rather than being the killer, b), the body is not that of her daughter Emma, but Emma’s best friend, Kayla. c). Emma, has, in fact been kidnapped, d) Emma’s father was in foster care with Will many years ago d) the Atlanta Police detective assigned to the case is Faith Mitchell, daughter of an Atlanta police supervisor forced to resign as the result of a investigation into police corruption by Will, and e) the son of Faith’s out-of-wedlock son is apparently the nephew of Will’s supervisor, Amanda Wagner. If you can keep all this somewhat straight, you will find that Ms. Slaughter has done an excellent job of portraying Atlanta, as it exists today, and writing a pretty decent suspense novel. Thumbs up. 08/08 Jack Quick

FRAG BOX by Richard A. Thompson: In St. Paul, Minnesota., bail bondsman Herman Jackson investigates the murder of one of his more unusual repeat customers, Charlie Victor, a homeless Vietnam vet. Jackson, to whom Victor bequeathed a mysterious box, immediately receives visits from the FBI, an odd bully who wants to take over Jackson’s business and a band of heavily armed mercenaries of unknown origin. Assisted by fearless newspaper reporter Anne Packard, Jackson tries to follow the scant clues to solve the secrets of Victor’s past and solve his own present problems. Second outing for Jackson, and I hope more will follow. 12/11 Jack Quick

FRAGILE by Lisa Unger: Though it seems a perfect little town at first glance, The Hollows hides dark secrets. When Charlene Murray goes missing, everyone would like to assume that the troubled teen ran away on her own. Local detective Jones Cooper and his wife, Maggie, know Charlene well enough to believe this could be the case, but their son, Ricky, insists that something is wrong. Charlene’s mother, Melody, is frantic with worry. And she has every right to be. When Charlene, Jones, and Maggie were teens, another girl went missing, her mutilated body later discovered in the woods. For many in The Hollows, Charlene’s disappearance stirs up long buried memories of that earlier case. In Fragile, Lisa Unger has built not one story, but a town full of them. Each person introduced is linked through events of the past and present and each offers a new and different element to the story as a whole. The result is a unique and gripping psychological thriller involving a town in crisis and a look inside the different perspectives of the people involved. 09/11 Becky Lejeune

FRAIL by Joan Frances Turner: You’re either ex or frail these days—ex-human, ex-zombie, or one of the few remaining people unaffected by the outbreak that has transformed Earth’s population. Amy is a frail, one of the last from her hometown. Amy is on the road for a short time, dogged by her own guilt, when she meets up with an ex named Lisa (ex-human, in this case) who takes Amy under her wing. Together, they plan to travel to a town that has become a human outpost. On the way, however, they are forced to join the ranks of a very different place, one where exes are in charge. If Amy is to survive, she will have to keep Lisa on her side while staying wary of the locals. Here, even alliances with fellow frails are questionable. With just one book in the trilogy to go, Turner is playing her cards close. I’m not sure if any reader can predict exactly where the series is headed. Frail is a companion to Dust, and technically the second in the trilogy but can be read out of order. All the pieces revealed thus far come together only in reading both books. 11/11 Becky Lejeune

THE FRAILTY OF FLESH by Sandra Ruttan: Another great outing from Sandra Ruttan who is building her cast of Canadian constables into a winner of a series. A child is found beaten to death, his brother names their sister as the killer. The entire family is obviously dysfunctional and an impediment to solving the crime. A cold case continues to haunt the department and jeopardize current activities. Nolan, Hart and Tain are strong personalities, yet Ruttan successfully blends them together so each is a major player. One of the few authors who can manipulate multiple plot strings and keep it all together. Definitely recommended. 01/09 Jack Quick

FREEDOM by Daniel Suarez: I would heartily recommend you not open the cover on this one until you have read Suarez’s Daemon (2009), as the two books form one continuous story about the late, mad-genius game designer Matthew Sobol who launched a cyber war on humanity. In this frightening, near-future world, Sobol’s bots continue to roam the Internet, inciting mayhem and siphoning money from worldwide, interconnected megacorporations out to seize control of national governments and enslave the populace. FBI special agent Roy Merritt is dead, but still manages to make a dramatic comeback, while detective Pete Sebeck, thought to be executed in Daemon, rises from the supposed grave to lead the fight against the corporations. Other characters from Daemon include disgraced NSA cryptanalyst Natalie Phillips, the hacker Jon Ross, and Loki, the bloodthirsty Master of the Darknet. Daemon and Freedom together form the cyberthriller against which all others will be measured. 03/10 Jack Quick

FREEZE FRAME by Peter May: Parisian journalist Roger Raffin has written a best selling book featuring seven cold cases from around the world. Forensics ace Enzo Macleod, a Scot who’s been teaching in France for many years, rashly boasted that he could solve all seven cases. He was successful with the first three and now tackles the fourth. He begins at the study which the dead man’s heir has preserved for nearly twenty years. The dead man left several clues there designed to reveal the killer’s identity to the man’s son, but ironically the son died soon after the father. On the tiny island off the coast of Brittany in France where the murder occurred, Enzo must deal with hostile locals who have no desire to have the infamous murder back in the headlines. Throw in an attractive widow, a man charged but acquitted of the murder, a crime scene frozen in time, a dangerous hell hole by the cliffs, and a collection of impenetrable messages, and you have as Ollie would say, “a fine kettle of fish.” 03/10 Jack Quick

FRESH DISASTERS by Stuart Woods: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Woods’ suave hero, attorney Stone Barrington tried to hire a photographer to take pictures for a potential divorce case. The photographer wasn’t available but persuaded Barrington to use the photog’s nephew, one bumbling Herbie Fisher, who fell through the apartment skylight over the bedroom occupied by the couple he was supposed to be photographing. Now attorney Herbert Q. Fisher is in hock to the mob and gets taken out of Elaine’s in front of Barrington and police pal Dino. Fortunately for Fisher, and unfortunately for Barrington, Dino stops the mayhem, before Fisher is killed over his gambling debts. Now Barrington, against his will and better judgment, has the unenviable task of representing Fisher in suing Mob boss Carmine Datilla, aka Datilla the Hun, for personal injury damages. No one will serve Datilla so Barrington has to do it himself. The response is his being thrown through the glass door of Datilla’s coffeehouse out on to the sidewalk, where only Dino saves him from Fisher’s would be fate. On the positive side, this episode leads Barrington to Celia, a tall and beautiful masseuse. All this in the first fifty pages of what another reviewer calls “light escapist fare.” I say ROFLMAO, if you know what I mean. 05/07 Jack Quick

THE FRIDAY NIGHT KNITTING CLUB by Kate Jacobs: I can see why this first novel was so popular, especially with reading groups. I don’t knit, but despite the title and setting, this isn’t a book about knitting; it’s a book about women. Georgia Walker is a single mom in Manhattan with a precocious daughter just entering her teenage years. Her best friend gave her the seed money to start her business, a yarn shop. Some of the regular customers also become friends, especially when they decide to form the knitting club. It isn’t always about the knitting though; it’s about life and all its struggles. The writing style is breezy and engaging, but also manipulative. If you enjoyed Angry Women Eating BonBons by Lorna Landvik or The Memory Keepers Daughter by Kim Edwards, then this is your kind of book. Not my favorite, but still an enjoyable read. 04/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

FRIENDSHIP BREAD by Darien Gee: I hadn’t heard of Amish Friendship Bread before reading this lovely book, but when I mentioned it to a few friends, they all knew about it. From what I understand, the bread is more like a cake, except it is made from a starter which is similar to that used for sourdough bread. You make the starter, feed it, then end up with enough starter to bake your cake and share with three others.
This novel is set in a fictional small town outside of Chicago. Julia lost her son in a tragic accident several years prior, but cannot seem to get out of her depression despite the birth of her daughter. One day she finds a bag of starter, a cake, and the recipe on her front porch. She’s not much of a baker, in fact, since her son died, she pretty much just lays in bed all the time. Her daughter begs her to make a cake, and when the starter is ready, they do. This, of course, leaves her with enough starter for three more people and Julia stumbles onto a couple of new friends. Madeleine is a widow who has recently moved to town and taken over the local bed & breakfast, turning it into a tea shop. Hannah is a young concert cellist, forced into early retirement because of back injuries, who is struggling with the fact that her husband has left her. The three women become friends through the friendship bread, but eventually the town is just overrun with the stuff – in fact, the author does some simple math and the numbers are simply staggering. A local reporter turns it into a news story which has much different repercussions than what she expected. It is a charming book and a very enjoyable read. Haven’t made the friendship bread yet, but I will. Recipes: Amish Friendship Bread Starter Recipe [PDF] Amish Friendship Bread Recipe [PDF] 04/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
FRINGE BENEFITS by F.M. Meredith: If you are going to commit a murder, it can be helpful to be a cop. Officer Cal Sylvester’s affair with Darcy Butler, wife of a fellow policeman, is going into the deep freeze. Only money will re the flame and Sylvester thinks he knows how to get it, by collecting his wife’s life insurance. Of course, there is one little detail that needs to be taken care of. Enter sixteen-year-old Adler “Patch” Costello, who runs away from home and right into trouble. In the meantime there is a dangerous rapist on the loose who strikes every Wednesday. The third of Meredith’s Rocky Bluff P. D. series. Lets hope there are many more. 02/07 Jack Quick

THE FROG PRINCE by Jane Porter: Holly Bishop led a fairy tale life, married her Prince Charming and planned on living happily ever after. Except it turns out Prince Charming didn’t love her and really didn’t want to have sex with her, so she left. We meet Holly as she is going through what amounts to be a pretty damn amicable divorce, but she wallows in self pity while she whines about it, repetitively, through an annoying 300 pages. The other 70 pages or so have your usual chick-lit stuff going on, like dieting, the blind dates from hell and the trendy new job with a bitch of a boss. There is a terrific ending, but after a complete whine-fest of a book, who cares? Porter has made a successful transition from traditional romance to chick-lit, but unfortunately, it just didn’t work for me. 05/05

FROM BLACK ROOMS by Stephen Woodworth: Ten years ago, Natalie Lindstrom left the North American Afterlife Communications Corp (NAACC) for good. Her work, calling the dead forward to live out their own murders before the courts, became too much when Violets themselves became the target of a sadistic killer. A Violet is a person born with the ability to channel the dead. They are known by their violet eyes. Today, the Corp has blacklisted her from any means of employment in hopes that they can force her to return and hand her daughter over for training as well. In Black Rooms Corps scientists have found a way to turn an average people into Violets. Unfortunately, there is a flaw in the experiment. Plagued by guilt, Dr. Bartholomew Wax tries to end it all by killing himself, but not before murdering each and every test subject. Now, Carl Pancrit has struck a bargain with the one man Natalie fears the most, the real Violet Killer – Evan Markham. Through Markham, Pancrit will try to force Dr. Wax to continue his work on the experiment. In exchange, Pancrit will give him Natalie. Woodworth’s supernatural thrillers are incredibly original and smart. I look forward to each new installment in this series with great anticipation and am never let me down. I can’t wait to see where he takes the series next. 11/06 Becky LeJeune

FROM NOTTING HILL WITH LOVE… ACTUALLY by Ali McNamara: Scarlett O’Brien has a bit of a movie obsession. True she and her father run a business that provides popcorn machines to theaters and true her fiancé’s family owns a number of cinemas, but neither of them understands Scarlett’s passion for films. With her wedding looming, a blow up with her fiancé convinces everyone that Scarlett needs some time away. The solution: house sitting in Notting Hill. Her family and friends believe it’ll be just the thing to get Scarlett to settle down and finally abandon her movie fantasies. Scarlett has other plans. She thinks that this month will give her the opportunity to prove to everyone that living a life straight out of the movies is possible after all. From Notting Hill with Love… Actually is not just light, it’s downright fizzy. It’s chick flick filled (and inspired) fiction with references to everything from Hugh Grant’s repertoire to Pretty Woman. I should point out that like a rom com, there are few surprises in Scarlett’s story. Given the massive quantity of movie references, it would have been nice to see Scarlett’s tale play out in a somewhat different way. From Notting Hill is still a cute read if you’re a fan of romantic comedies. 10/12 Becky Lejeune

FROM THE GROUNDS UP by Sandra Balzo: Maggie Thorsen is back and she needs a new location for her coffee house after a freak snowstorm took it down. Maggie’s real estate agent and friend, Sarah Kingston, has the perfect spot: the old train depot. A new partnership is born and they get to work on renovating the old building. But then strange accidents start happening and Maggie is convinced someone doesn’t want her to open up again. Her boyfriend, Sherriff Jake Pavlik is worried too, but Maggie pushes on until she figures out who is leaving the bodies behind. Another great installment in the series and a delicious read to enjoy with a cup of your favorite coffee. 03/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE FRONT by Patricia Cornwell: Let me start off by saying that I’m a devout fan of Cornwell’s work. I loved her Kay Scarpetta books and typically her work is amazing. However, something was lost when Cornwell created a new slate of characters. The Front is the second in this new series starring Win Garano, Massachusetts state investigator. Garano has been ordered by his boss, District Attorney Monique Lamont, to investigate information on an unsolved sexual homicide case that is four decades old. Lamont believes that this individual may be the first victim of the Boston Strangler and believes if this case is solved, it will send her career soaring. The plot and story line don’t appear to go anywhere. Perhaps if this book was expanding beyond the 192 pages it would have had potential. I kept going back and rereading chapters, thinking I missed something, but to no avail. It seemed that the ending was rushed, everything wrapped up in just a few pages. I read the prequel, At Risk, and was hopeful. Normally, I’m pretty excited when I hear that one of my favorite authors has started off on a new adventure, but I’m upset that I wasted my time and money on this one. 06/08 Jennifer Lawrence

FROSTBITE by David Wellington: The Arctic is a cold and uninviting place for most, but Chey is on a mission. The goal of her wilderness trip is not to conquer this icy land, but to track the werewolf that killed her father almost a decade ago. Chey survived that attack and has been plotting her revenge, but severely underestimates her prey. When Chey is bitten by the wolf, she becomes infected with the curse as well. As the moon rises each evening, Chey has no choice but to relinquish control to the wolf. And with the days growing shorter, her new understanding of the man that she’s been hunting grows as well. But Chey’s partners in this mission are not going to let the wolf escape and Chey will prove to be their bait in the hunt. Wellington’s start to his werewolf series is a quick read, but I find that the characters are a bit flat and hard. Powell himself and his backstory proved to be the most intriguing parts of Frostbite for me, but are only a brief part of the story as a whole. 11/10 Becky Lejeune

THE FRUMIOUS BANDERSNATCH by Ed McBain: Fat Ollie (aka Detective Oliver Wendell Weeks), Steve, Cotton, Kling, Hawes – they are all here in this funnier 87th precinct novel which includes in its cast of characters divas, dumb and dumber crooks, and cops who are legends in their own mind. Leave it to the 87th to bulldoze through the muck until everything so tangled or untangled that the mystery is solved. Despite its funky title, another good outing by McBain. 11/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

FUGITIVE by Phillip Margolin: Charlie Marsh was a former prison inmate who reinvented himself as the Guru Gabriel Sun when he saved the warden’s life during a prison riot. His newfound wealth and fame soon dissipate when he was suspected of murdering a U.S. senator. Charlie was having an affair with the senator’s wife and he disappeared after the murder, hiding out in the People’s Republic of Batanga, a small African country with no extradition that’s run by a cannibal dictator. The dictator’s wife is tortured and killed when he finds out she is having an affair with Charlie. Charlie knows his days are numbered and he seeks help from an American tabloid. They smuggle him out of Africa and home to the US, where he will have to stand trial for the senator’s murder. The senator’s wife had been acquitted of being an accessory years earlier when Frank Jaffe defended her, and his daughter, Amanda, will now defend Charlie; that is, if Batanga’s secret police don’t get to him first. The pages fly in this violent, twisty tale of one man’s journey through the legal system. 06/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch. Copyright © 2009 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

FULL MOON RISING by Keri Arthur: Riley Jensen and her twin brother Rhoan are something different. Having been banished from their pack, the half vampire and half werewolf twins struggle to keep their secret safe from the world. Brother and sister are both employees of the Directorate of Other Races, a group that polices others and protects humans. Rhoan is a guardian, or field agent, in the Directorate while Riley works in the actual Directorate office. Riley wants no part of the field action. Unfortunately, she’s about to be forced into it. First, a naked vampire with amnesia shows up on her doorstep looking for Rhoan. Then, someone tries to kill her with a silver bullet. Finally, when Rhoan does not return from one of his missions, Riley is forced into action. Keri Arthur’s action packed and sexually charged debut, is full of werewolves, vampires, secrets and conspiracies. Paranormal romance fans are in for a real treat. 03/07 Becky Lejeune

FUN AND GAMES by Duane Swierczynski: This book is an homage to noir, although it is set in contemporary times. Charlie Hardie is a retired cop, and he wasn’t too good at that job. Now he’s drinking and wandering all over, basically homeless other than his house-sitting for the rich and famous. Except when he shows up at his new gig at a mansion in California, a wild woman is in the house carrying on about men who kill people and make it look like accidents. Turns out she may be right, and you can’t help but be swept up in this crazy rollercoaster of a ride. Fun and Games is aptly named, in the creepiest sense, and I couldn’t put it down. 06/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

FUN AND GAMES by Duane Swierczynski: Ever try to watch an episode of “Mission Impossible” after missing the opening “mission definition”? Or walk into a movie fifteen minutes after start time? Swierczynski uses this “drop-in in the middle” technique very nicely to create added suspense in this first of three new pulp thrillers. Charlie Hardie is an ex-cop who has become a glorified house sitter. His latest gig comes replete with an illegally squatting B-movie actress who rants about hit men who specialize in making deaths look like accidents. Unfortunately, it’s the real deal. Hardie finds himself squared off against a small army of the most lethal men in the world: The Accident People. As Mae West said, “Fasten your seat belts, boys, it’s gonna be a rough ride.” 06/11 Jack Quick

FUN HOUSE by Chris Grabenstein: This is not the normal semi-scary fun house found at many arcades with trick mirrors, rolling floors and air jets to blow up the skirts of un-suspecting female visitors. No, this fun house is a reality TV show where college age buff and boozy kids are partying it up in a Jersey shore rental house for TV’s summertime hit TV show. By-the-book officer John Ceepak and his wisecracking young partner, Danny Boyle, are assigned to babysit the Fun House kids when the entire script suddenly becomes very unfunny. One of the cast participants is found hanging with the stuffed animal prizes at the Knock Over The Milk Bottles Arcade game. Looming over all this is a development that might portend the end of the ace crime fighting team. 6/12 Jack Quick

FURY by Robert K. Tanenbaum: The central theme of this 17th entry in the Butch Karp/Marlene Ciampi series is rape. Karp is defending the city in a $250 million lawsuit filed by four young men, originally convicted for a vicious rape and then late released. They are now represented by race-baiting lawyer Hugh Louis, so Karp has his hands full. In the meantime Karp’s wife, Ciampi, is simultaneously working to exonerate a college professor accused of rape as well as helping Butch with the Coney Island Four case. If that is not enough, a terrorist cell led by a brutal Iraqi takes over an abandoned subway tunnel and takes a member of Karp’s family hostage as part of its plan to blow up Times Square on New Year’s Eve. There is never a dull moment in New York when you are hangin’ with Tanenbaum and his cast of characters. 08/10 Jack Quick

A FUTURE ARRIVED by Phillip Rock: This third and final installment of Phillip Rock’s Abingdon Pryory trilogy moves beyond the characters we’ve come to know and love in The Passing Bells and Circles of Time, introducing the next generation. It begins in 1930 where we meet Derek Ramsey, a student at Burgate House School (where Charles is now headmaster); Colin Ross, Alexandra’s eldest child; Albert Thaxton, Martin’s young brother-in-law, who is determined to follow in Martin’s footsteps as a journalist; and the Wood-Lacy girls, Jennifer, Victoria, and Kate. The story quickly moves forward to WWII where these new characters begin to face some of the same struggles and turmoil their elders experienced in WWI. Rock’s trilogy features a broad cast of characters readers can’t help but become emotionally invested in. Their dreams, passions, and the horrors they experience are heart wrenching. I have absolutely loved each piece of the Abingdon story and am sad to finally have to say goodbye. 3/13 Becky Lejeune

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