THE HA-HA by Dave King: Howard Kapostash is the most damaged, endearing and memorable character to haunt my dreams in a very long time. Howard is a Vietnam vet with a brain injury that has left him uncommunicative – he can’t speak, he can’t write, and reading is very difficult at best. Yet, as the cards he carries with him explain, he is of normal intelligence. Howard lives in a house that he has inherited from his parents, and he rents out a few rooms to a couple of house painters and a soup chef who also uses the kitchen for her business. The four of them live together yet they all live in their own separate worlds. But when Howard’s high school sweetheart has to go into drug rehab, she dumps her nine year old son Ryan on him, claiming she has no one else to take care of the boy. At first Ryan is uncommunicative too, but slowly he becomes the impetus for all the people living in the house to come together and form a new kind of family. More importantly, Howard learns that there can be more to a damaged life than he ever dreamed possible. King has created a legacy with his eloquent, sparse prose and his unforgettable characters. 03/05
THE HA-HA by Dave King: It’s not fair that The Ha-Ha is Dave King’s first novel. It’s extraordinary; well-written, brilliantly conceived, sympathetic without ever getting near cloying. The protagonist is someone who, if the author were less skilled, might evoke pity. But this book works, and works well. It tells the story of a man who has lost almost all ability to communicate. After spending only a couple weeks in Vietnam years ago, Howard Kapostash was severely brain-injured and has spent his time since in a peculiar world. He does not speak, lacks the ability to use alternatives such as writing or signing, and has major trouble reading. He’s clearly been traumatized and may have some other concomitant psychological problems; who wouldn’t? But he’s a smart man, a caring man, when he can be. There’s nothing wrong with the guy’s intelligence. He’s spent a good part of his life maintaining huge barricades against emotional involvement, also with understandable reasons.
All my gripes about the ending are minor; this is a fluid story, a stunning debut from someone who so totally grasps the issues his protagonist lives with. Howard is 100 percent real to me. There’s sympathy but no pathos, realism without any tirades about how crappy our disabled veterans are treated. This is a powerhouse of a book and it needs to be read. 08/05 ~This review contributed by Andi Shechter.
THE HADES PROJECT by Lynn Sholes & Joe Moore: Well written but derivative religious icon thriller featuring the Holy Lance used to pierce the side of Christ at the Crucifixion. Allegedly forged by the seventh generation grandson of Adam, the Lance has been possessed by powerful men – both good and evil – until the present time. Now the Forces of Evil intend to use the ancient relic to launch the Hades Project and bring humankind to its knees. SSN reporter Cotten Stone is drawn into the fray when her best friend from high school Lindsay calls her concerned about Lindsay’s daughter, Tera. When Cotton returns to Kentucky Lindsay and Tera have both disappeared leaving behind some very disturbing evidence. Cotton calls in her friend, Cardinal John Tyler, for help. Now it’s up to Cotten Stone to save the world and confront the man who holds in his hand our destiny, a man who died more than 85 years earlier. You can blame it all on The Davinci Code. 11/07 Jack Quick
HAIKU by Andrew Vachss: In his first post-Burke book, Vachss (Another Life) pens the story of a ragtag band of homeless men living on the streets of a cold, unnamed city. Ho is an elderly sensei who walked away from a successful life as a martial arts instructor after the death of one of his students, and the band includes damaged veteran Ranger, degenerate gambler Michael, ex-con and ex-gang leader Lamont, the mentally ill Target, and Brewster. Ho leads them around the city, scrounging for money, food, and shelter. One night a woman in a Rolls Royce dumps something in the river, and they decide to try to identify what it is and blackmail her. But that plot is soon forgotten in favor of a story line about the demolition of the abandoned building that houses Brewster’s pulp fiction collection. Lots of description and character development slow the pace of this bleak look at living on the street, and the story just meanders along without ever really getting anywhere. Fans of the grittier Burke series may miss the rapid pace and violence they’ve come to expect. 11/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch. Copyright © 2009 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.
HAIKU by Andrew Vachss: I had enjoyed every one of the Burke books penned by Vachss, and was hoping for the best with this new series. Unfortunately, it just didn’t take for me. The characters are interesting – Ho, an elderly martial arts teacher who once was the master of a successful dojo; Michael, once a high-flying stockbroker; Ranger, a Vietnam war vet; Lamont, an ex-gang leader and poet; Brewster, a psychotic; and Target, who speaks only in repetitive verbal explosions. It starts with a mysterious white Rolls Royce and then morphs into another plot concerning Brewster’s book collection. I won’t give up, but definitely not a good start. 12/09 Jack Quick .
HALF PRICE HOMICIDE by Elaine Viets: Helen Hawthorne has a new dead-end job working at a high end designer consignment shop. Wealthy women come in to sell their clothes and pocket the cash, but one woman is caught and confronted by her husband. They disappear to the dressing room to continue their argument until he storms out. But when Helen goes back there, she finds the woman with her head bashed in by a decorative pineapple, and hung by a designer scarf. Another job, another body in this series that somehow manages to combine real humor with real tragedy. Meanwhile, Helen’s fiancé insists on taking Helen home to St. Louis to get her legal troubles straightened out. To complicate things further, Helen’s ex-husband shows up trying to shake her down for more money again. Lots of plot twists and lots of laughs in this latest installment in the Dead-End Job series. 07/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
HALFWAY TO THE GRAVE by Jeaniene Frost: Half vampire and half human, Cat Crawfield is the result of an attack on her mother by a recently turned vampire who retained a few specific human traits. Cat spends her leisure time trolling clubs and bars for vamps, playing the innocent coed, and luring them to remote places. One such evening almost lands her in trouble when she targets the wrong man. Bones, a vamp who kills his own kind, strikes a deal with Cat. In exchange for her help, he promises to find her father. Bones has been stalking a very powerful vampire who has been responsible for a kidnapping ring that has been around for decades. Recently, the kidnappings seem to have spiked in the Ohio area and Bones is determined to finally stop it. Problem is, vampires can easily detect one another. Cat, with her mixed heritage, is able to sneak amongst them without being discovered, thereby making her the perfect partner for Bones’s plan. Balancing her new hobby with her everyday life is becoming more and more difficult, however, and things are further complicated when Cat finds herself extremely attracted to this mysterious vamp. Frost’s debut is a perfect blend of romance and action. This spunky heroine and her leading man make a great team and I hope to see much more of them in the future. 11/07 Becky Lejeune
THE HALO EFFECT by M.J. Rose: Once you pick up this book, don’t plan on putting it down – you get hooked on page one when a mutilated body in a nun’s habit is found. A serial killer is on the loose in New York City and he’s going after prostitutes with a vengeance – a religious fervor, you might say. Dr. Morgan Snow is a sex therapist with a client, a top shelf call girl (at $2000 and up a pop) named Cleo Thane, who goes missing. Meanwhile Detective Noah Jordain is heading up the serial killer investigation for the NYPD and calls on Dr. Snow for some outside psychological profiling. They trade info and join forces to try and find the missing Cleo and the serial killer. Rose writes erotic better than just about anyone and with the twisting plotline and surprise ending here, apparently she can do thrillers just as well as the big boys. This is the first book of a new series and I can’t wait for the next one!
THE HALO EFFECT by M. J. Rose: The Butterfield Institute is a Manhattan sex therapy clinic and employer of psychiatrist Dr. Morgan Snow. A patient, Cleo Thane, is a successful and selective call girl who has written a memoir which includes thinly disguised portraits of many of her clients. She leaves the manuscript with Dr. Snow and then disappears. In the meantime, NYPD Detective Noah Jordain and his team are investigating a series of gory, ritualistic murders of prostitutes. Snow and Jordain are drawn to each other, but she can’t persuade him that Thane may be a victim. In a desperate attempt to find Thane, Snow goes undercover and meets some of Thane’s principal clients herself. Could be subtitled, “A Catalogue of Sexual Dysfunctions and Obscure Perversions,” but, so long as graphic sex doesn’t dissuade you, it’s a pretty interesting read. As the South Alabama judge said at the obscenity trial, “I don’t know what’s pornographic, but I know what I like.” 06/07 Jack Quick
THE HAMMER OF GOD by Tom Avitabile: How do you fight an enemy that only wants to kill us and is not subject to reason or logical persuasion? Simple – you go after them with any means at your disposal and don’t worry about the bleeding hearts that feel they must teach an implacable enemy that it is best to discuss differences and resolve them peacefully. Several major authors have written books about individuals or groups that do just that and get the job done in any manner possible. In all probability many readers concur with this approach and know that the only way to fight terrorist groups is to eradicate them. Tom Avitabile has created such an entity called the Quarterback Ops group which is headed by Bill Hiccock and reports only to the President of the United States. This is the second of these books, with a third currently being prepared. A group of terrorists is engaged in a plot to bring in nuclear weapons hidden in cold cream jars to the United States for the sole purpose of exploding them to kill as many people as possible. The Quarterback Ops Group is charged with stopping them and utilizes every means possible to go after the terrorists and stop them before they have a chance to wreak the havoc they plan. The plot is fascinating, the writing crisp and engrossing. Avitabile combines brute force where needed with scientific investigation in arriving at solutions. It is impossible to put the book down once into the action. A very complicated, but well explained area of mathematics and science is utilized in providing answers. Bill Hiccock and his team are fleshed out and handle their areas of expertise very well in order to arrive at necessary ends. Well done and insuring that the reader will grab book three as soon as available. 6/12 Paul Lane
HANGING BY A THREAD by Sophie Littlefield: Clare has a keen eye for fashion and a talent for making vintage clothes into something completely new and original. She’s even started to sell her pieces to the locals in Winston. But Clare also has a unique ability that sets her apart from everyone else: with just a touch, Clare can read fabric. She can see things the wearers have done and feel their every emotion. Though she’s tried to suppress the ability and hide it from others, she is often unable. Such is the case when she comes across a beat up couture jacket found at a yard sale. The vision she has upon touching the jacket is so completely overwhelming that Clare becomes convinced she must learn what happened to the owner. But then Clare discovers that the person in question is actually a local girl who’s been missing for the past year. Clare knows something terrible happened to her and knows that she may be the only one who can figure out the truth. Littlefield’s latest is a bit of a different twist on the psychic powers spectrum. The mystery is interesting but my expectations, based on Littlefield’s previous works, was pretty high and somehow Hanging By a Thread just didn’t quite meet them. I blame it on the characters and the fact that they all seemed to flip flop between pages – changing opinions and personalities at the drop of a hat. Hanging was fun but not one of my favorites. 9/12 Becky Lejeune
HANGING HILL by Mo Hayder: Although sisters Sally and Zoey live in the same town, they haven’t spoken to each other in ages. An incident when they were kids ended with them being sent to separate schools and a secret in the family’s past caused a rift that has never healed. Today, Sally is trying to put her life back together after a divorce that left her virtually penniless. Raising a teen on her own and facing mountains of debt, an interesting opportunity arises when she is offered a job working for a wealthy local with a questionable past. Meanwhile, Zoey, a Detective Inspector with the Bath police, has worked hard to get where she is, but at the expense of relationships and human connection. When a local teen is brutally murdered, the sisters find themselves reunited and forced to face the demons they’ve long been avoiding. Brilliant. Hayder’s latest is an excellent mystery and thriller with dark and surprising twists, proving once again that she is simply one of the best of the genre. Hanging Hill is out now in the UK. 05/11 Becky Lejeune
THE HANGING VALLEY by Peter Robinson: In this fourth outing for Chief Inspector Alan Banks, a rotting corpse is identified by dental work and a receipt found in the trousers pocket of the murder victim as Bernard Allen, a local youth on a visit home from Canada. The investigation leads back five years to the unsolved murder of a Private Investigator hunting for a young girl’s killer and the nearly simultaneous disappearance of a village woman. Banks ends up traveling to Canada as part of his journey through a maze of passion and possible blackmail before finding the solution in long-kept secrets. Pour yourself a pint, light up a Silk Cut and join us as we make England a safer place. A really, really good police procedural series. 10/06 Jack Quick
HANGMAN BLIND by Cassandra Clark: After the death of her husband, Hildegard devotes her life to the church, and is now an abbess with the goal of starting her own small abbey. On her way to speak to the local abbot, Hildegard discovers a young man murdered in the woods. She does her duty and makes her report to the abbot’s men, also helping to recover the body. Then, with the gruesome discovery behind her, and with the abbot’s blessing, Hildegard continues on to the next part of her journey: an attempt to now secure a home for her venture. Fortunately her destination, Castle Hutton, is a familiar place for Hildegard and it’s master, Lord Roger de Hutton, a longtime friend of hers. But when Roger is poisoned and almost killed, Hildegard finds herself in the position of having to unmask the would-be murderer. While Hangman Blind neatly sets up readers for the next installment of the series, the conclusion of the two mysteries is a little too neatly wrapped up. The body in the woods is the more interesting of the two parts, but takes a backseat to the Hutton family/political intrigue. This is also a read that requires a bit of concentration if one is not familiar with the history of the time period and the hierarchy of the church: one look away, and you will find yourself lost. 11/09 Becky Lejeune
HAPPILY EVER AFTER by Harriet Evans: For Eleanor Bee a job in publishing is an absolute dream come true. She’s hired on at Bluebird, one of the last independents, and embarks on the career of a lifetime… working with romance novels. Eleanor isn’t sure she believes in a happy ending herself. In fact, while they make for fun reading, she’s almost convinced the same could never happen to her. As her career progresses, Elle moves on to New York and becomes head of her own division, but true love still has not crossed her path. Can a girl really have it all in this day and age? Will she ever be swept off her feet and find Mr. Right? Elle’s story starts off well enough, fun and funny with just the right amount of snark and sarcasm. About midway the book just kind of fizzles. In fact, even just twenty pages from the end I thought there was no way the book would come to any sort of satisfying conclusion. It did, in part, but I wish Evans had been able to maintain the momentum throughout. Overall a good summer read but not one that blew me away by any means. 6/12 Becky Lejeune
HAPPY HOUR OF THE DAMNED by Mark Henry: Amanda Feral may be new to Seattle’s supernatural scene, but the smart and stylish ghoul is not about to let a little thing like death stand in her way or slow her down. In fact, one night into her new gig and she’s already breaking and entering at a mortuary in search of decent cover-up. Plus, she may no longer be able to stomach Starbucks coffee, but it’s something of a relief to learn that even abovegrounders can still hold their alcohol. Course the taste for human flesh is a little less trendy, but Amanda’s even worked out a way to keep the blood off her designer duds. And when she learns that one of her fellow paranormal friends might be in trouble, she immediately sets out to help. But Amanda and her friends may be way over their heads when it starts to look as though a zombie outbreak is in the works. Mark Henry’s twisted and dirty humor makes for great Seattle underworld fun. Definitely not suitable for readers without a strong stomach, but for those of us who are blessed with such, Mark Henry delivers combination laugh-out-loud and cringe-worthy scenes that truly entertain. 01/10 Becky Lejeune
HARBOR NOCTURNE by Joseph Wambaugh: When Dinko Babich, a young longshoreman, delivers Lita Medina, a young Mexican dancer, from the harbor to a Hollywood nightclub, their lives are forever changed. Their paths cross with many of the colorful characters introduced in Wambaugh’s acclaimed best-selling Hollywood Station series: the surfer cops know as “Flotsam and Jetsam,” aspiring actor “Hollywood Nate” Weiss, young Britney Small, along with new members of the midwatch. Written with Wambaugh’s unflinching eye for detail and spot-on humor, this is a good one. 12/11 Jack Quick
Hard As Nails by Dan Simmons: This is a hard-nosed mystery story set in Buffalo, New York and I recommend it without any reservations. Could any town be more appropriate for a tough guy than Buffalo? [Editor’s note: the reviewer is from Buffalo.] And make no mistake about it, Kurtz, the hero, is a tough guy. After seeing all of the references in Ilium, I have to believe that the invocation of Conrad’s character is no accident, as well as a tip of the hat to the ethnic stew that is the best part of the fading Queen City of the Great Lakes.
In previous books in this series, Kurtz has been to Attica, courtesy of the State of New York, for throwing his partner’s killer off a rooftop. He is still on parole, which makes it impossible for him to return officially to his old private eye business. As this book opens, Kurtz and his parole officer are walking into a parking garage when all hell breaks loose. The ride has started and it is exciting as the old wooden roller coaster at Crystal Beach amusement park which Kurtz points out is now defunct.
The story finds Kurtz in the middle of a power struggle between the remnants of two old Mob families for the drug trade in the region, as well as fending off members of the Aryan Brotherhood he offended while in the slammer. The story climaxes in a small company town bearing a strong resemblance to the Coudersport of the Rigas family. And in this case, the roller coaster is filled with bodies.
This is the book I am sending to friends for Christmas with a note, saying “I found him first.” ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.
HARD AS NAILS by Dan Simmons: Same war, next generation. The Farino and Gonzaga crime families continue to fight over Buffalo and on killing Joe Kurtz. Neither family trusts the other and each fears that Kurtz is working for the other side. Both sides eventually hire him to find a killer who has been taking out their low-level drug dealers. In addition, Joe and his parole officer get shot in the head in an ambush at her office. What events are related? Who is on which side? Is there anyone Joe can trust? Add the newspapers and the police and you have a fine stew. To survive all this you had better be hard as nails. 09/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
HARD CURRENCY by Stuart Kaminsky: In the ninth Inspector Rostnikov novel, our hero is sent from Moscow to Cuba to solve a sensitive murder case. He takes along his assistant Elana leaving Karpo, “The Vampire” to track down a brutal serial killer in Moscow. Since the good Inspector is an avid fan of Ed McBain I thought it appropriate to share McBain’s own blurb about this one – “In Hard Currency, Stuart Kaminsky gets Russia right, and Cuba right, but best of all he gets his superb cop Rostnikov altogether right yet another time. Bravo. ” Kind of hard to add anything to that. 03/08 Jack Quick
Hard Eight by Janet Evanovich: Another delicious adventure featuring Stephanie Plum et al, with the usual dead body, exploding cars, with just a hint of hot sex. This time Stephanie has to find her Grandma’s next door neighbor’s missing daughter & granddaughter with nastier-than-usual bad guys on her case. Kudos to Evanovich for keeping this series amazingly fresh. A special holiday treat: the next adventure, Visions of Sugar Plums, comes out November 5!
Hard Feelings by Jason Starr: This is a perfect pitch Jim Thompson-esque noir novel set in modern Manhattan. Our dubious hero has a lot of problems – – a sales slump at his job, a worrisome wife and a pesky pooch among them, but his life is manageable until he bumps into an old Brooklyn neighbor at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Forty-eighth Street. The downward spiral that results takes only a few weeks and it is told in taut prose that keeps you turning the pages all night. HARD FEELINGS gets under your skin. Well written, well executed and well worth your time. PS: Interesting note – – the Black Lizard Crime series has some of the greatest noir novels of all time. Reasonably priced, lots of great authors – – definitely worth checking out, published by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard books. ~This review contributed by Ann Nappa
HARD FEELINGS by Jason Starr: Richie Segal doesn’t feel so good. First there is the job. His career as a computer systems salesman isn’t going anywhere – literally, he hasn’t closed a single sale in the six months he has been in his current job. Then there is the marriage. He suspects his wife is cheating on him, again. What not? She has just gotten a big promotion so she is the primary breadwinner, although there is the little matter of possible morning sickness. Is she pregnant? Is that why she so adamantly scolded him about “moving to the burbs and having a family?” Finally, there is Michael Rudnick, a prosperous lawyer, who had taken advantage of Richie when the two boys were neighbors growing up. All this is leading Richie back to drinking – and he can’t hold his liquor. Count on Starr to put you down and then apply a solid kick to the ribs. First rate is you are a fan of noir. 09/08 Jack Quick
HARD FREEZE by Dan Simmons: Buffalo, New York ex-con and former P.I. Joe Kurtz survived his initial case after a twelve-year prison term. Now he is taking on a new challenge. While continuing to dodge a contract on his head, Kurtz takes on the task of finding a child-murderer for a gravely ill client. It’s going to be a tough winter in Buffalo – cold enough to freeze the blood. Joe continues to be in the middle between the Farino and Gonzaga crime families and his efforts to avoid being killed by them actually lead to the solution of his new case. This series is as cold as the Buffalo winters and hard as the ice that forms around Niagara Falls in January. 09/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
HARD TARGET by Howard Gordon: Gideon Davis and his brother, Tillman, are not great fans of the current government. In spite of their experiences, they remain loyal to their country. So when a meth-head informant approaches Gideon and alerts him to a grand-scale plot to take down those in charge, Gideon brings his information to the authorities. Unfortunately they aren’t interested in what Gideon has to say. But Gideon and Tillman possess exactly the skills one would need to take down a terrorist plot all on their own and that’s exactly what they plan to do. Though there are few surprises to the plot, Gordon, a producer on 24 and the new show Awake, has put together a fun and fast-paced thriller. This is the second book by Gordon to feature Gideon and Tillman, though newcomers will have no problem dropping in without having read Gideon’s War. 3/12 Becky Lejeune
HARD TARGET by Alan Jacobson: An explosion pulverizes the president-elect’s helicopter on Election Night. Department of Defense covert operative Hector DeSantos and FBI Agent Aaron “Uzi” Uziel must sort out who is behind the bombings, and they need a solution in just nine days. Touted by both Vince Flynn and Lee Child, I agree this is a well-written thriller that will keep you on edge all the way through. Dangers from within can be more deadly than those threats from outside. Note: Hard Target also features Jacobson’s famed FBI Profiler, Karen Vail, in a key role affecting national security. Recommended. 9/12 Jack Quick
THE HARD WAY by Lee Child: This is one of my favorite series for pure escapist fiction. The tenth Jack Reacher thriller begins while he’s enjoying an espresso in a sidewalk cafe in New York City. He is approached by a man, obviously ex-military; that is, to Jack it’s obvious as he is an ex-Army MP and extremely observant. That observing nature gets him involved in helping to solve a kidnapping for the very mysterious Edward Lane and his band of disreputable mercenaries, but nothing is quite as it seems. Fast paced as always with some nice twists, this is another exciting adventure for the hero that all women want and all men want to be. 06/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE HARD WAY by Lee Child: In Child’s 10th Jack Reacher novel, Reacher agrees to help sinister ex-army officer Edward Lane track down his kidnapped daughter and trophy wife. Since the kidnapping of wife number one five years earlier ended in her death, Lane cautions Reacher that he will not tolerate police interference. Child’s excellent descriptions on Manhattan add to the sinister quality of the story, which is a page-turner all the way to the inevitable showdown, on a farm outside a tiny English village. 06/06 Jack Quick
HARDBALL by Sara Paretsky: The 13th novel to feature gutsy PI V.I. Warshawski, last seen in 2005’s Fire Sale, has our intrepid P.I. looking for a black man who disappeared during the racial turmoil of 1967. In her search for Lamond Gadsden, Vic reconnects with some of her policeman father’s old pals as well as crooks on both sides of the law with whom she herself has a history. The path leads to a murder conviction (for the death of Harmony Newsome a young black woman from Atlanta in Chicago for the civil rights protests) that may have been tainted. Back in the current era, the apparent kidnapping of Vic’s fresh-out-of-college cousin, Petra, who’s come to Chicago to work on a senatorial campaign, makes solving the problem even more critical. Nicely done. 11/09 Jack Quick
HARDCASE by Dan Simmons: Joe Kurtz is not one to mess with. So when a drug dealing thug that killed his girlfriend, the ex-PI returns the favor and gets 11 years in Attica. It’s there that he meets “Little Skag” Farino, the son of an aging Buffalo, New York mob boss. In exchange for protecting the kid’s manhood against any unwanted jailhouse affection, Kurtz gets an audience with Little Skag’s father upon his release from prison. Byron Farino is still clinging to what dwindling power he holds on the New York organized crime scene. He enlists Kurtz’s help to track down the Family’s missing accountant–a man with too much knowledge of Family business to have on the loose. But someone doesn’t want the accountant found. As the story twists and turns and the body count rises, Kurtz no longer knows who he can trust. Everyone seems to be after something, from the mob boss’s sultry yet dangerous daughter, to a hit man named The Dane, an albino killer who is good with a knife, and a dwarf who is armed to the teeth and hell-bent on revenge. About as gritty as it gets. 2/12 Jack Quick
HARDLY KNEW HER by Laura Lippman: Laura Lippman has long been a favorite of the mystery genre – readers and fellow writers sing her praises alike. Their appreciation is well deserved and this collection of twisted tales is a great place for new readers to familiarize themselves with her talent. Three of the tales feature Baltimore PI Tess Monaghan. There is also a novella, Scratch a Woman, which features a recurring character from “One True Love.” Each story features a strong, manipulative, or even murderous woman. In the title story, “Hardly Knew Her,” a daughter has her revenge against her gambling father. A Mardi Gras reveler gets a little surprise when he follows two girls in “Pony Girl,” and in “Black Eyed Susan” a young boy discovers some of the strange folks drawn to Baltimore’s Preakness. A great collection of darkly humorous and slightly disturbing tales from one of the biggest talents in the genre. 10/08 Becky Lejeune
HARK! by Ed McBain: The first crime novelist that I ever read was Ed McBain. My Mother gave me one of her dog-ear’d paperbacks, and told me… “You’ll like this…” I did… That’s why it kind of pains me to review this,
I wish it went better. Led by Carella, and the gang, the 87Th precinct has always been the place to go to learn the ways of the Police procedural. All the boys usually worked in concert, to solve the gig. Here’s a brief synopsis…the Deaf Man is back. He kills a broad who crossed him, and of course, the 87Th gets the squawk…
Initially, nothing seems to be there, but the DEAF man starts sending Carella, and the rest of the detectives letters, delivered by various couriers. Meanwhile, the Deaf Man has enlisted the help of a very opportunistic hooker, to further his cause. They become a symbiotic relationship…..Right here, He should have stopped, and went on with the mayhem. Instead, what he did was get a bunch of non-needed subplots involved, and made this all a literary game, i.e.: axioms, palindromes, oxymoron’s, any type of literary subterfuge he could think of was involved here. Personally, I don’t like to have to read when I’m reading. With that being said, it gets good towards the end. Keep your eye on the enterprising hooker. 01/06 DOC
HAROLD ROBBIN’S THE DECEIVERS by Junius Podrug: The very first book I ever read in galley proof was The Carpetbaggers by Harold Robbins, back in the mid 60’s. Since Robbins’ death in 1977, his estate has tried to continue the legacy with books like this one, supposedly20completed by Podrug from notes left by Robbins. It’s kind of like delivery pizza, not that bad, not that good. Basically it’s the story of disgraced New York City art expert Madison Dupre struggling to get by with a freelance business, who ends up in Cambodia tracking art smugglers. With references to Phnom Penh as the “pit stop before hell,” and that Buddhism’s Noble Eightfold Path to enlightenment apparently permitted “endless varieties of illicit sex, some of which involved young girls who should have been in classrooms rather than backrooms” and where “household pets even got into the act.” All in the first chapter which ends in a whorehouse, well you have been forewarned. There is enough of a story to tie it all together, but basically it’s a rather tawdry romp through sexual adventure land. 11/08 Jack Quick
THE HARROWING by Alexandra Sokoloff: It is Thanksgiving break at Baird College and everyone is returning home for the holiday. Everyone, that is, but five misfits in Mendenhall dorm. They are a jock, a brain, a loner, a musician and a phony. These five have one thing in common though – each one of them feels like they don’t belong. When the teens discover an old Ouija board in the common room, they awaken a new entity in Mendenhall. This ghost calls itself Zachary and is all at once charming and terrifying. Who is Zachary and what does he want? As the teens dig deeper into this mystery they come to realize that Zachary is not what he seems. Alexandra Sokoloff’s debut is a hauntingly original and eerie spin on the standard ghost story. I think Sokoloff is a fresh new voice in the genre and sincerely hope to see more from her in the future. I highly recommend this book; it’s a perfect rainy day read. 09/06 Becky LeJeune
HATER by David Moody: It begins with seemingly random attacks—a bar fight that gets out of control here, a fight in the streets there—seemingly normal occurrences in a crowded and populous area. Danny McCoyne witnesses one of the first on his way to work: a man chases and attacks an older woman, beating her to death before authorities can stop him. Just a few days later, while eating in a pub, Danny and his wife witness yet another fight. It builds so slowly that the public almost isn’t aware. Then it explodes. They say that only ten percent of the population is affected, but those who are turn on a dime. One minute they’re fine, the next they get this look in their eyes and they’re off in a fit of rage. Families have locked themselves away in their homes, afraid of turning on one another. Even the slightest hint that someone might become a “Hater” can have terrible results. Before long it’s unclear who “they” are anymore as “Haters” and suspected “Haters” come under attack themselves. Hater is a dark and brutal viral apocalypse tale, and the first in a projected trilogy. It’s a quick and shocking train-wreck of a read and definitely a new twist in horror. This first has already been optioned for film (Guillermo del Toro’s production team has purchased the rights). 06/10 Becky Lejeune
HAUNTED by Kelly Armstrong: Smart-mouthed Eve Levine may be dead but as a witch she can still raise hell in the hereafter. The Fates, three elusive sisters, are the rulers of this new dimension, and they have a job for Eve. If she can defeat a demonic Nix who’s inducing people in the human realm to kill, she’ll earn her wings—literally. The catch is she can’t capture the Nix without the powers that angelhood affords. Following the action in the ever changing netherworld can be a hassle but, if you are looking for spunk, sass and strong-arm savvy, Eve is your lady. 03/06 Jack Quick
HAUNTED by James Herbert: Renowned paranormal investigator David Ash has made a career out of debunking supernatural occurrences. It is just this reputation that has earned him a request from the tenants of Edbrook. It seems this stately manor may have some guests from the other side and they want Ash to investigate. Ash is welcomed to the home by Nanny Tess, her lovely niece Christina Mariell, and Christina’s two older brothers, Robert and Simon. On his very first evening in the home, Ash himself has a brush with the ghost of Edbrook. Ash is certain there must be some rational explanation behind the so-called haunting and stubbornly vows to find it before his stay at the home comes to an end. This dogged determination springs from the fact that he himself has a dark secret in his past, one that he might just have to face if life after death does in fact exist. It is my opinion that Herbert has been wrongfully overlooked by American horror fans. This melancholy ghost story is one of three intended tales featuring David Ash and is followed by The Ghosts of Sleath and an as yet unwritten third book. Though this chilling ghost story was originally published almost twenty years ago, it has recently been republished and is readily available to readers once again and can be read without its accompanying title. 11/07 Becky Lejeune
Havana by Stephen Hunter: This is a book for anyone who enjoyed the Walking Tall movies and the tough simplicity of Buford Pusser. Hunter’s protagonist is Earl Swagger, like Pusser, a war hero and a cop who previously cleaned up gangs in a rural community.
Havana is set in the early 1950’s, in the last days of the Big Sugar, I mean Batista, regime. Castro is coming and the effete Ivy League lads of The Company want to eradicate him. They think that sharpshooter Swagger is just the man to do it.
At the same time, the mob in New York has exiled one of their wayward troops to assist Meyer Lansky in protectng their casino operations in Havana. New York has become too hot for young Frankie who has committed the cardinal sin of whacking a cop’s horse.
The third ingredient in this mojito is the Russian secret service. They have rehabilitated a zek named Speshnev from the gulag to protect and mentor Castro and thwart Swagger.
If you like simple stories, simple heroes and believe in simple virtues, you will like this book. I personally think that the world is a much more complicated place. What saved the book for me was the Russian, Speshnev. He is a fascinating character who is two steps ahead of everyone in the game and enjoying life fully along the way. He is the Crash Davis to Castro’s Nuke Laloosh. He saves Swagger’s butt a couple of times and manages to keep Castro out of trouble too.
My suggestion to Mr. Hunter is that he ditch Swagger (unless he is making a lot of money with these books) and start a new series detailing Speshnev’s adventures throughout the Cold War period. Available 10.07.03. ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin
HAVANA REQUIEM by Paul Goldstein: Stanford law professor Goldstein brings back his alter ego, Michael Seeley, in a new intellectual property law story. Having covered the movie business in his debut, Errors and Omissions (2006,) Goldstein returns to the entertainment industry, but instead of Hollywood, he visits Cuba. Seeley is once again working in his old New York City law firm and takes on a case to get copyrights returned to the original Cuban composers of their “Buena Vista Social Club” type music, which has been enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Reynoso is his new client, and he delivers a list of several other composers who are in the same predicament. Seeley’s job is to convince them all to sign legal documents giving him the authority to go after their music, which puts him in direct conflict with his law firm’s clients, his legal partners, the Cuban government, and eventually the State Department. VERDICT: Plodding pacing and too many under-developed characters belie this book’s legal ‘thriller’ status. Buy for larger fiction collections only. 5/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2012 Library Journal, a division of Media Source Inc. Reprinted with permission.
HAVE MERCY ON US ALL by Fred Vargas: It’s easy to see why Fred Vargas is an international bestseller! In Mercy her first American release, a plague-monger is terrorizing modern-day Paris. Cryptic messages regarding an upcoming outbreak of the “black death” appear in the local town crier’s box. At the same time, an odd symbol appears on doors all over the city. Chief Inspector Adamsberg believes it is nothing more than a coincidence until the first body appears. Adamsberg will no doubt draw comparison to a roguish Columbo. However, this brilliant, if absentminded, inspector brings with him a whole cast of supporting characters who help solve the crime at hand. Insight into Adamsberg’s private life as well as heavy character development, are what makes this an especially fascinating read. This is not a traditional mystery in the sense that the reader is not given all of the clues to solve the mystery but rather follows along as Adamsberg reveals his own deductions. Mercy will leave readers longing for more. The good news is that book two is being released in October, so they won’t have to wait much longer! 09/06 Becky LeJeune
HEAD GAMES by Craig McDonald: Its hard to top what Ken Bruen had to say about this debut outing – “”You’ve got to find what you love and let it kill you.’ Jesus, I’d kill for those lines. This book just took my breath away. I am beyond impressed.” Its 1957 and Senator Prescott Bush (hmmm) wants Pancho Villa’s head. Aging writer Mason Lassiter gets caught in the cross fire between Mexican nationalists and frat boys out to place Villa’s head in Yale’s Skull and Bones Society trophy case. Following the yellow brick road, Lassiter encounters Orson Welles, Marlene Dietrich, Jack Webb and a young National Guardsman named “George W.” along with lines like “it’s a tricky thing, firing for flesh wounds with a machine gun at close range”. Call this one a comedy caper historical fiction road novel with chords of myth, history, loss and redemption, but mostly call it hilariously funny. 11/07 Jack Quick
HEADS YOU LOSE by Lisa Lutz & David Hayward: Mystery fans are in for a treat with this different sort of collaboration from Spellman series author Lisa Lutz and her ex, David Hayward. With Lutz’s beginning chapter to kick things off, the two work together to create a mystery that begins with pot growing siblings discovering a body on their property. Given their choice in career, calling the cops is not an option, but their curiosity about the killing leads to their own investigation, the results of which are a surprise to even the authors. The idea was that each author would alternate chapters, there would be no plotting/outlining, and neither author would make changes to the other’s chapters. What makes this book different is that the reader knows this from the outset and the authors’ comments and notes to each other are included. As the mystery draws to an end, the authors’ snarky arguments become more and more hilarious. Unbelievably, it works: the story is fun and the authors’ notes are even more so. 04/11 Becky Lejeune
HEART OF A KILLER by David Rosenfelt: David Rosenfelt has written nine novels involving his wise cracking attorney Andy Carpenter, all successful and very entertaining. They feature twists and turns in interesting plots. Two actually utilized Golden Retrievers, Rosenfelt’s favorite dogs, as part and parcel of the case that Carpenter was defending. Heart of a Killer is a stand alone novel and one of the most fascinating books I have read in a long time. Jamie Wagner is a young lawyer working for a large law firm and not very excited about the normal prospects of advancement in such firms. His supervisor calls him in suddenly and hands him a pro bono case which is one of the most interesting ideas I’ve come across. Sheryl Harrison is in her sixth year of a thirty year sentence for killing her husband, a crime that she confessed to right away. Her daughter has a damaged heart for which nothing can be done any more, and needs a heart transplant. Sheryl requires an attorney to get the state to allow her to pass her heart to her daughter – in effect via suicide.
Jamie takes the case and in pursuing it brings out information which is germane to a situation that the Federal government is currently investigating. A brilliant criminal computer hacker has committed several computer based crimes killing people and threatens more if he is not paid a prodigious amount of money. The hacker is a psychopathic killer and if not stopped will surely accelerate his crimes. Rosenfelt introduces a secondary character that helps Jamie and Sheryl with their case. He is incidentally the police officer that took Sheryl’s confession when he was sent to the scene of the murder and even then had the strong feeling that she could not have committed the crime. He also becomes involved with the government’s pursuit of the computer hacker. Based on Rosenfelt’s fleshing out of this character I think he might reappear in future books. The principal protagonists Jamie and Sheryl are very well done and coupled with a surprise twist at the ending of the book keep the reader absorbed and probably reading far into the night. Excellent idea, very well done and another Rosenfelt triumph. 3/12 Paul Lane
HEART OF A KILLER by David Rosenfelt: Jamie Wagner is a young lawyer flying under the radar at a large firm, when he gets a career making case handed to him as part of the firm’s pro-bono work Sheryl Harrison has served four years of a thirty-year murder sentence for killing her husband, who she claims was abusive. The case is settled—there shouldn’t be anything for Jamie to do—except Sheryl’s fourteen-year-old daughter, Karen, is sick. She has a congenital heart defect and will die without a transplant. Her blood type is rare, making their chances of finding a matching donor remote at best. Sheryl wants to be that donor for her daughter, and Jamie is in way over his head. Suicide, no matter the motive, is illegal. It appears that the only way he can give Sheryl he desire is to somehow get her conviction overturned. A page turner. 6/12 Jack Quick
HEART OF THE HUNTER by Deon Meyer: Thobela (Tiny) Mpayipheli aka Umzingeli, the Hunter is a hulking black motorcycle-shop janitor and former KGB-trained assassin who plied his trade in service of the struggle against apartheid. He is now a peace-loving family man, but when a plea for help comes from the daughter of an old friend, he is forced to race across the country on a motorcycle to deliver a coveted disk, chased by a homicidal special forces commander. In some ways, this is a standard thriller complete with CIA involvement, but what sets it apart is the emotional complexity of the hero’s journey and the unusual setting. There are a lot of loose ends which hopefully, may be addressed in a sequel. Definitely recommend. 02/11 Jack Quick
HEART OF THE WORLD by Linda Barnes: Boston PI Carlotta Carlyle is doing some “big digging” of her own in this 11th adventure. This time, however, the case is a very personal one. Paolina, Carlotta’s teenaged “Little Sister” whom she loves like a daughter, has disappeared and no one except Carlotta seems to care. Carlyle, a part-time taxi driver and part-time PI is very believable in her native Boston as she struggles with her relationship with Mafioso Sam Gianelli. Unfortunately, she doesn’t seem to travel well. It doesn’t take long for Carlyle to begin to suspect that Paolina didn’t run away on her own, but was in fact kidnapped. She hopes the kidnappers were in the employ of Paolina’s biological father, a Colombian drug lord known as Roldan. However, there is the possibility that it was enemies of Roldan who engineered the snatch. Carlotta travels first to Miami and tracks down Roldan’s lawyer and from there it is on to Bogota. While well written, as were previous Carlyle adventures, it is here that the story begins to break down a bit. With her height and red hair, Carlotta fits pretty well into Irish dominated Boston. In Bogotá both work against her, even though she conveniently speaks Spanish. In the midst of all this Sam decides to propose to Carlotta, which leads to an emotional ending that screams for a sequel soon. Overall another good entry from Ms. Barnes, but I would suggest that future adventures remain fueled on New England clam chowder. 08/06 Jack Quick
HEART-SHAPED BOX by Joe Hill: Aging rocker, Judas Coyne is a collector of the strange and macabre. Some of the items in his collection include artwork by a serial killer, a used hangman’s noose and a snuff film. When the opportunity to purchase ghost online is presented to him, it’s too good to resist even if he believes it’s a fake. The seller promises to send the dead man’s favorite suit and that the ghost of her father will surely follow. When the suit arrives, in an oversized, black, heart-shaped box, Jude hides the thing away in a closet, resigned not to think anymore about it. That night, the ghost appears. Jude soon realizes that he’s been duped in the worst way. This is no ordinary ghost. Jude has allowed an evil spirit, hell-bent on revenge, into his home and his life and now, he can’t get the ghost to leave. The not so well-kept secret about this author – he’s Stephen King’s son. By choosing the same genre as his famous father, Hill will no doubt draw comparison. This creepy debut proves, however, that Joe Hill is a superb addition to the horror genre with a style and voice all his own. 02/07 Becky Lejeune
THE HEARTBREAK LOUNGE by Wallace Stroby: Former New Jersey State Trooper Harry Rane is back in New Jersey and his wife, Cristina, is away in Seattle trying to determine how to keep their marriage together. Nikki Ennis used to work as a dancer at the Heartbreak Lounge in Asbury Park. She was pregnant when Johnny Hartow was convicted in Florida for attempted murder. She knew the best thing for her baby was to give him up at birth. Now seven years later, Johnny is back and looking for his son. Harry picks up some more bruises in this gritty sequel to the Barbed Wire Kiss, but there are a few glimmers of hope in this grim, but first rate effort. 03/10 Jack Quick
HEARTBREAKER by Robert Ferrigno: Ex-undercover cop Val Duran, appears on the television quiz show Jeopardy to catch the attention of a dangerous adversary named Junior. Half the dope dealers in south Florida were glued to the tube every afternoon, making bets, yelling at the contestants. Junior once shot out a forty-seven inch Mitsubishi over a missed answer. Junior also killed Val’s former partner and threatened his only living relative, his grandmother, Grace. Val takes the old woman with him from Miami, and they hide out in Southern California. Here, he plots some serious revenge on Junior but life gets complicated when he meets a beautiful, troubled marine biologist named Kyle Abbott and her seriously dysfunctional wealthy family. Add in a gorgeous female sociopath and a Gulf War Syndrome victim and you have what could become a cliché in lesser hands, but Ferrigno has the touch with lines like “Even before dawn the freeways buzzed with ambition. It made him homesick for the sultry indolence of Miami, cruising down the A1A, windows rolled down so he could smell the oleander blooming along the median.” A good one. 03/11 Jack Quick
HEARTSICK by Chelsea Cain: Set in damp Portland, Oregon, this thriller rises above the pack and draws comparisons to Thomas Harris’ Silence of the Lambs. Cain has penned a fascinating and macabre study of the relationship between a serial killer and the cop that chased her – yes, her – for ten years. Detective Archie Sheridan headed the task force until Dr. Gretchen Lowell offered to help. Turns out her idea of help was to kidnap and torture Archie for ten long days. But instead of making him her 200th victim, she turns herself in. Archie is put on medical leave and develops a serious pain killer addiction, but two years later is asked back to work when a few teenage girls are murdered and the task force is resurrected. Hoping to spin news coverage their way, a newcomer is added to the task force; Susan Ward, a crime reporter with pink hair that hides a very sharp mind. The story swings back and forth between those ten days of torture and the current case, creating a very interesting juxtaposition and a book that is impossible to put down. First in a series. 09/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
HEARTSICK by Chelsea Cain: Detective Archie Sheridan worked the Beauty Killer case for ten years. In the end, the case almost killed him. Archie was kidnapped and tortured for ten days before Gretchen Lowell, the face behind nearly two hundred murders, inexplicably turned herself in. Today, Archie barely hangs on through an addiction to pain-killers, sleeping pills, and anything else that will help to drown out the pain and the memories of what happened. Oddly enough, Archie is declared finally fit to return to work when his superiors decide to reinstate the Beauty Killer Task Force. A new killer has targeted the Portland area and three teenage girls have already been found dead by his hand. This chilling mystery is essentially a story in two parts. One is the current investigation and the race to discover the identity of the After School Strangler before more girls are killed. The second story is that of those horrendous ten days and their aftermath. This creepy debut has drawn comparison to the likes of Thomas Harris and his Hannibal Lecter thrillers. I can certainly see why. Cain has harnessed Harris’s muse – let’s just hope she writes a bit faster than he does. 09/07 Becky Lejeune
HEAT LIGHTNING by John Sandford: This is Sandford’s second outing for investigator Virgil Flowers, first featured in Dark of the Moon. Flowers is in bed with one his wives (the second one to be exact) when he is called out by Lucas Davenport to investigate the second murder in which the victim is found with two small caliber bullet wounds to the head and a lemon in his mouth. Both bodies were found near a veteran’s memorial. It seems obvious that the two murders are connected and Flowers fears there may be more forthcoming unless he can quickly determine what commonality there is between the two victims. A first rate police procedural. Hopefully this series will continue alongside the highly readable “Prey” series featuring Luca Davenport. 10/08 Jack Quick
HEAT WAVE by Richard Castle: I am not a fan of mystery TV shows, forensic shows, any of that. I’ve never willingly watched CSI or Law & Order or any of their mutations. Yet when a friend told me about this new show last year, Castle, I immediately set up the Tivo. Why? Because the main character is a suspense writer, and the show often uses real writers as guest stars – Stephen J. Cannell, James Patterson and Michael Connelly have all been featured. The stories themselves are generally over the top, murders neatly solved in 45 minutes. It’s the characters that make this show, specifically, the main character Rick Castle, played by Nathan Fillion. The premise is Castle is a friend of the Mayor, and has somehow gotten permission to shadow a female detective on the homicide squad as research for his book. On the TV show, the first book of a series featuring this woman detective is published, and magically, it is simultaneously available for sale at bookstores everywhere.
A Manhattan millionaire is found dead on the sidewalk. The trophy wife with a suspicious past becomes the first suspect. A slim volume with a mystery at it’s heart that is a simple as those on the TV show, the characters are again what make this book worth reading. Castle is transformed into “Rook”, a journalist rather than a novelist. Is it a great mystery? No. Is it especially well written? No. It’s a fun read, especially for fans of the show. Note: They have taken this gag as seriously as one can take something like this. The author bio references Castle’s fictional TV family. At the front of the book is a list of nonexistent books by this author. The author is a fictional character, and the books are a figment of his imagination. Please don’t annoy your bookseller or librarian by demanding these titles.
I would love to know who really wrote this book. I suspect Stephen J. Cannell, as he has been involved since its inception and “blurbed” the book, but I haven’t been able to find out…yet. 12/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
HEIR APPARENT by Twist Phelan: First issued in 2002 and the first book in a series, this is a new, revised edition that apparently smoothes out the original book to better mesh with FALSE FORTUNE, Phelan’s newest book, which will be released this fall. Young Joe McGinnis has just passed the Arizona bar when the Senior Partner of his Pinnacle Peak employer, one of the area’s most prestigious firms, dies in an automobile accident that we, the readers, are pretty certain is murder. Then on the night of McGinnis’ first date with Mia Ortiz, personal assistant to Cordelia Barrett, a wealthy client, the young couple return to Ms. Barrett’s home and find Barrett and her son both dead – sprawled in a pool of blood. Joe knows that Ms. Barrett had changed her will, an action with which her son violently disagreed. But then Mia is charged with the murder. Quite a challenge for a novice attorney. Looks like my summer will be spent catching up on this series. 05/07 Jack Quick
HEIR APPARENT by Twist Phelan: Just in time for the latest installment in her Pinnacle Peak series, Phelan has decided to re-release book one, with some editing and additions. Green lawyer Joe McGuinness is lucky he was able to keep his job after the unfortunate death of his new boss. It doesn’t mean that he is happy with his new assignment. With his mentor’s position open, Joe is reassigned to the Trust and Estates, or Deadhead, division of the firm. One of their prestigious clients, Cordelia Barrett, has made some recent changes to her Last Will and Testament and it’s Joe’s job to deliver the final copy. A lucky accident leads to his meeting Mia, Mrs. Barrett’s personal assistant. On the night of their first official date, Joe and Mia discover the bodies of Cordelia and her son Sonny. Mia is arrested and the evidence seems to point to her guilt but Joe is unconvinced. Someone was not happy with the changes in Mrs. Barrett’s will. With Sonny dead and Mia behind bars, Joe must discover who could stand to benefit from the Barrett’s deaths. There are a total of four mysteries involved in this one little novel, probably a few too many for me. Otherwise, Phelan’s mystery is enjoyable and entertaining. Joe McGuinness does not appear to be the main character in the following titles of the series, but his somewhat goofy buddy Jerry Dan is part of the reason this debut was re-released in the first place. 05/07 Becky Lejeune
THE HEIST by Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg: This is a new series centered around ex-Navy Seal turned FBI agent Kate O’Hare. Yeah, I’m pretty sure the Seals don’t take women but it works for this story. O’Hare is after Nick Fox, a con man who has escaped capture more times that she wants to think about. She finally gets her man and he escapes from custody at the courthouse. Kate is kicked off the case and put on vacation, but her idea of a vacation is catching her man. Turns out he’s been turned and is now her partner, working to capture other con artists that are beyond the legal reach of the FBI. Tracking their mark around the world makes for additional interest as does the crew they put together. Kate is backed up by her father, retired military who has taught her how to kill a man sixteen different ways with just a tweezer. The girl’s got skills and so do Evanovich and Goldberg. I’d like to see these characters more fully developed but the basic premise is good. This appears to be the first of a new series and I’m looking forward to more. 7/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
HELL FOR THE HOLIDAYS by Chris Grabenstein: When a customs agent’s kid gets snatched on Halloween in FBI agent Christopher Miller’s neighborhood, he goes into work mode. You may remember Miller from Slay Ride, the first terrific Christopher Miller Holiday Thriller. Miller is a kidnapping expert, but he has some family stuff to deal with – it was his daughter Angela who was kidnapped the previous Christmas by a “bad Santa”, and with the holidays approaching, her fears are resurfacing. But she is dying to go to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and her psychologist mom knows that seeing a “good Santa” can only be good for Angela. So they make hotel reservations and plan a therapeutic trip to NYC. Meanwhile, Miller wonders why there was no ransom demand, but the FBI isn’t interested, they are solely focused on international terrorists. What Miller doesn’t know is that Dr. John Tilley, a white supremacist, has a plan to take back America and unfortunately, his plan includes an ex-Marine sharpshooter with a Stinger missile and a parade target. Hell for the Holidays proves Grabenstein can do more than light and funny; the hatred being spewed made me uncomfortable at times, but the book moves at lightening speed, and I couldn’t put it down. Treat yourself to a holiday gift…12/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
HELL FOR THE HOLIDAYS by Chris Grabenstein: A lightly written book about holiday terror featuring African-American Jersey City FBI agent Christopher Miller. A white supremacist group is planning to disrupt the holidays by blowing up an aircraft full of folks departing New York for Africa on the day before Thanksgiving. All the stock characters are involved, and while the plot is complicated, the punches are telegraphed loud and clear and the dialogue leaves a lot to be desired. All in all, a cozy dressed up as a thriller/ police procedural. Not unlike a Stuart Woods, although Woods does a better job of character development. I think this was one that was written for the money. 09/08 Jack Quick
HELL GATE by Linda Fairstein: Alexandra Cooper is back and she’s got her hands full. First a boatload of illegal immigrants crashes on Rockaway Beach, washing up several bodies – at least one of whom was dead before she hit the water. If that isn’t enough to keep her busy, she is also dealing with a drunk driving married congressman with a crazy girlfriend who has his love child, and a politically ambitious mayor. Mike Chapman is on the case and somehow Fairstein manages to tie it all together by the end. Added bonus – learn lots about Gracie Mansion and the Federalist mansions in NYC. Fairstein provides a very entertaining read, as usual. 04/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
HELL HOLE by Chris Grabenstein: It wouldn’t be summer without John Ceepak and Danny Boyle, back in their fourth outing on the Jersey shore. Grabenstein has been going darker with his writing (Hell for the Holidays, Slay Ride) and this book – and its cover – reflect that change. It works. Ceepak is still the honorable man that Boyle aspires to, underscored by a decision to let the kids baseball team he coaches lose rather than accept a bad call in their favor by an umpire. The lightness ends with that game, however, as Boyle is called to handle a noise disturbance with a bunch of partying soldiers home on leave from Iraq. While talking to the soldiers, they get a call to identify the body of another soldier, an apparent suicide, found in the men’s room at a highway rest stop. Boyle won’t let the men, who’ve been drinking for hours, drive, so he escorts them there. He finds a detective he’d worked with before and found incompetent, a suicide that doesn’t look quite right, and the need to talk it all over with Ceepak. This leads to several questions, chief of which are how bad is the illegal drug situation in Iraq and how far will politicians go to gain the White House. Disturbing answers await in this intricate, fast moving and terrific tale. 7/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
HELL HOLE by Chris Grabenstein: It starts with the apparent suicide of Corporal Shariff Smith, an Iraqi war veteran, but it becomes very personal for super-Cop John Ceepak and his rookie sidekick, Danny Boyle, of the Sea Haven, N.J., police force when it is determined that the man was someone whose life Ceepak had saved in an Iraqi ambush. The plot is not overly complicated with a ring of local thieves, a squad of soldiers home from Iraqi, a Senator whose son may not be as advertised, and a potential new girlfriend for Danny – Auxiliary Officer Samantha “Sam” Starkey, who is as green as Danny was a few years ago. Serious but with the touch of lightness you would expect in a New Jersey beach-side resort town. 09/08 Jack Quick
A HELL OF A WOMAN: AN ANTHOLOGY OF FEMALE NOIR edited by Meg Abbott: What is the best story in this anthology? An easy question – the next one. From the opening line of the first one “”Hey.” Fucking blinding light in her eyes.” to the appendix where authors, booksellers, critics, and film aficionados pay homage to favorite noir writers, characters, and performers, this one is a walk on the wild side and a must read for anyone who “likes their women on the trashy side.” The foreword is by Val McDermid and there are 24 contributors, most of whom are stalwarts in the field – Ken Bruen, Zoe Sharp, S. J. Rozan, Vicki Hendricks, 4MA’s Donna Moore, Christa Faust, and Sandra Scoppettone. To quote Debby Marsh in 1953’s The Big Heat, “We’re all sisters under the mink.” Outstanding product from the folks at Houston’s Busted Flush Press. 01/09 Jack Quick
HELL OR HIGH WATER by Joy Castro: Nola Cespedes is sick of covering human interest fluff pieces. Then her boss approaches her with a real assignment: in the aftermath of Katrina, a number of sex offenders went off the map. The piece Nola’s boss has given her would involve covering the public’s opinions and perspectives as well as that of registered sex offenders living in the city. Though she’s not excited about the prospect of interviewing a bunch of perverted, and possibly even violent, criminals, it’s Nola’s one shot to make it big. Nola wants nothing more than to move to New York and make a name for herself, and she knows this is the best chance she’ll have. Meanwhile, a girl has been kidnapped — taken from a crowded restaurant in the middle of the day. It’s believed that the case is tied to two other recent murders. If Nola can connect the kidnapping and the murders with the piece she’s writing, she’ll be set. But Nola’s story places her in the middle of a shady subculture of criminals and as she pushes her limits at work, problems in her personal life are coming to a head. Hell or High Water is definitely one of those word of mouth books. The story is really too complicated to fairly sum up in a quick nutshell description, but it definitely deserves a lot of attention. Castro’s fiction debut is well plotted and features an intriguing lead character. Castro also does an amazing job with her setting. The real New Orleans comes to life in this book – the good and the not so tourist friendly but not quite bad as well. 8/12 Becky Lejeune
Hell to Pay by George Pelecanos: Strange & Quinn are back in this sequel to Right as Rain, and the streets of D.C. are as black and gritty as ever. The private investigators are hired to find a fourteen-year-old runaway girl from the suburbs, and it turns out she is working as a prostitute for one very bad guy. Things really spin out of control when one of the boys on Derek Strange’s PeeWee football team is killed, and Strange takes it personally. This fast moving, suspenseful story kept me turning pages until the wee hours.
HELL’S BAY by James W. Hall: Thorn is back in his wildest adventure yet. He is leading a fishing expedition into the isolated lakes and mangrove swamps of Hells Bay in the Everglades when he meets up with the Bates family. They are one of Florida’s aristocratic pioneer clans with huge holdings in real estate and mining. The family matriarch Abigail has been killed and her heirs want Thorn to solve the case, claiming he is, in fact, a long lost relative. Deliverance, meet Cape Fear, in what is probably Hall’s best effort to date. You can cut the tension with one of Thorn’s sharp fishing knives while in the background the sound of banjos can be heard over the surf. Hall certainly knows his Florida and with lines like “the air smelled of snakes and damp mud and an occasional gust of a sharp insistent citrus scent that made her think of a teenage boy’s first cologne,” you are pulled right into the swamps and sloughs. 04/08 Jack Quick
THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett: Jackson, Mississippi is the setting for this amazing debut novel about the civil rights movement in the early 1960’s. Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan is an old school, moneyed Southern belle who, unlike all her friends, is unmarried. Skeeter wants to be a writer, and applies for a position at a New York publishing house. The editor offers her the advice to “write about what disturbs you” and Skeeter does just that. Constantine, the black maid who helped raise her, mysteriously quits and moves away while Skeeter is away at college. Her parents won’t tell her why, and Skeeter is bereft. She turns to her friends’ maids, but they won’t tell her either. Then she gets the idea to write a book about how these maids really feel about their jobs, their employers and their lives. But this is the deep south, where a young man is beaten and blinded for using a white restroom even though it wasn’t labeled as such, and fears run deep. Eventually one maid agrees to talk to her, and then another, and their stories make for mesmerizing reading. Stockett includes an author’s note at the end that adds to the authenticity of the book. Book clubs are going to love this as much as I did – don’t miss it. 08/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
HELP FOR THE HAUNTED by John Searles: Sylvester and Rose Mason offer up a very unique service: they help the haunted. For a while they even took their two daughters, Sylvie and Rose, along with them. But one night, Sylvester and Rose get a phone call that proves to be their last. Everyone has always been certain that Albert Lynch was responsible. After all, Albert left his troubled daughter in the Mason’s care not long before their death. Sylvie is the star witness in the case, having entered the church where her parents were killed just moments after the crime took place. Lately, however, she’s had doubts about what she believed she saw that night. Searles’s latest is a mystery wrapped up in a bit of horror package. While the book is a thriller at heart, there are some seriously creepy elements to the story. Enough to give even the most hardy horror fan goosebumps. The narrative unfolds in two timelines, Sylvie post murder and Sylvie’s own version of events leading up to the incident as she tries to determine who had a motive to kill her parents. Help For the Haunted is one of my favorite novels of the year and one that I’d highly recommend to anyone looking for a fabulously plotted and somewhat scary read. 10/13 Becky Lejeune
HELPLESS by Daniel Palmer: Daniel Palmer burst on the literary scene in February 2011 with an extremely absorbing techno-thriller. It remained for him to prove that he is capable of producing the same quality novel, and with the publication of Helpless he certainly did and than some. The book is also a techno-thriller with a plot line that is both fascinating and frightening for people having so much of their lives based on computer records and actions. Mr Palmer spent a decade working on first generation web sites and his intimate knowledge of computer workings is brought to bear in Helpless, as it was in his first book, Delirious.
Tom Hawkins, an ex Navy Seal returns to his home town with the intention of raising his daughter Jill after the murder of his wife. He unexpectedly finds himself a suspect in his wife’s murder. While looking to extract himself from that charge he finds that evidence is presented gained from searches of his own computer and cell phone against him accusing him of buying porn photos of girls in the town and selling them, and at the same time a blog accuses him of sleeping with one of the soccer players on the girl’s high school soccer team that he coaches.
The FBI has jurisdiction in pornography marketing and sends in an agent and backup. Loraine Miles (Rainy) is the agent and after looking at the facts presented and talking to Tom becomes increasingly unsure that Tom was not framed for the crimes he is accused of. During the course of the investigation a romance begins to develop between the two.
The concept of being able to set up people as culpable for crimes committed using their own computers and cell phones is a very frightening one and looking at the accusations and facts established against Tom makes the reader aware that the same thing can happen to them if a computer expert sets his or her mind to it. Palmer makes a great case for setting up some oversight on possibly the part of the FBI to work with people who are caught in computer based accusations and are seemingly trapped. Daniel Palmer has written his first two books in the space of a year. That makes it probable that the next one will be out about the beginning of 2013. I plan to read it on the night before a day off so that when I’m done I can sleep late the next day. 3/12 Paul Lane
HEMLOCK by Kathleen Peacock: A white wolf has been killing people in Hemlock and Mac’s best friend, Amy, is the latest victim. After the discovery of Lupine Syndrome, werewolves have become commonplace everywhere. The bloodlust of a newly infected werewolf is uncontrollable and anyone suspected of infection is immediately shipped to a rehabilitation camp. Everyone believes the Hemlock murders have to be the result of a newly infected suffering from bloodlust. When the Trackers are brought in to bring down the wolf, Hemlock is thrown into chaos. Some students at Mac’s school are accused of being infected while others begin to fully support and follow the Trackers themselves. Haunted by Amy’s death, Mac decides the only way to gain closure and put things right is to find Amy’s killer on her own. But her investigation turns up surprising secrets concerning those closest to her. Could the killer be someone Mac knows? Hemlock is fantastic all around—characters that feel real and are believable as teens and a pacing and plot that are quick and compelling. Hemlock is definitely a must for urban fantasy and paranormal mystery fans both teen and adult. 5/12 Becky Lejeune
Henry’s List of Wrongs by John Scott Shepherd: A hilarious romp through one man’s attempt at repenting for all the wrongs he’s committed. Very enjoyable, quick read. Footnote: I read that the film rights had been sold with Jim Carrey (not my favorite actor) to star, which sort of threw a pall over the book for me.
HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY by Audrey Niffenegger: It’s been a few years since The Time Traveler’s Wife but I have to admit, it was worth the wait. Niffenegger is just a great storyteller, and she keeps turning my preconceived ideas on their heads. I don’t generally care for ghost stories, at least not since I was a kid, but this book – a ghost story in its simplest incantation – kept me mesmerized. Perhaps it was the twins angle; like many people I’ve always been fascinated by identical twins. The symmetry here is in two generations of identical twins. Edwina and Elspeth had a falling out and hadn’t spoken in decades, helped by the fact that Edwina moved to America while Elspeth stayed in London. When Elspeth dies, she bequeaths her worldly goods to Julia and Valentina, Edwina’s identical twin daughters whom she never met, with the unusual request that in order to collect, the girls must live in Elspeth’s flat for one year. The bigger catch, however, is that Elslpeth’s ghost hasn’t left the flat. Julia and Valentina are delighted; the twenty year olds have dropped out of college and just floundering, and an adventure abroad for a year seems like just the escape they need. During the course of their year, they learn about their interesting neighbors, and the famous Highgate Cemetary that borders the property. Lots of family secrets are eventually revealed, but it’s the truly interesting characters that propel this story forward. A great read. 10/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch.
THE HERETIC’S DAUGHTER by Kathleen Kent: Between February 1692 and May 1693, over 150 men, women, and children from Salem and the neighboring villages were accused of witchcraft. They would all be imprisoned, and some tortured and hanged, before the harrowing event would finally come to an end. On August 19, 1692, after being prosecuted and convicted, Martha Carrier was hanged and killed. Author Kathleen Kent is a tenth-generation descendant of this fascinating woman. The Heretic’s Daughter is Martha’s story as told through the eyes of her ten-year-old daughter Sarah. Their mother daughter relationship is a strained one, but in the months leading to her mother’s arrest and death, Sarah finally begins to understand and open up to her mother. Kent’s debut is an incredible read and her passion for her subject really shines through. It’s also one of the most emotionally turbulent books I’ve read in quite a while. The Heretic’s Daughter is a powerful novel that proves what a great talent Kathleen Kent has already become. This should be on everyone’s must read list for fall. 09/08 Becky Lejeune
THE HEROINES by Eileen Favorite: The Prairie Homestead is not your typical bed and breakfast. The average guest could be rubbing elbows with some of the most famous ladies of literature and never know it. Penny Entwhistle and her mother have successfully kept their infamous guests secret up until now. Penny’s own typical teen angst threatens to blow the lid on everything her mother has worked for. When Penny reveals to members of the public that the likes of Madame Bovary and Scarlett O’Hara have been hanging out at her house, her own mother lies and says that her daughter is imagining things. This lands Penny a vacation in a mental institution she calls the Unit. Desperate to get out, Penny again risks everything by having her own knight on a white horse rescue her – not her knight of course but one visiting from yet another classic tale of romance and woe. The results could be disastrous but the trip along the way is mighty entertaining. Favorite’s debut is a fanciful tale of mothers and daughters and growing up, with a twist of romantic literature. The Heroines is an amusing read for book lovers everywhere. 12/07 Becky Lejeune
HE’S GONE by Deb Caletti: Ian Keller has disappeared without a trace. The last thing Dani remembered before Ian went missing was returning home from his company party. They hadn’t fought, but she knew he was angry with her. The next morning he was gone. She thought maybe he’d gone to get coffee. Then she thought he might have run into someone and gotten caught up in a conversation. Dani ran through every possibility she could think of before she realized his car was still parked in the lot near their houseboat. And then she got worried. Did Ian leave her? It’s happened before – Ian left his first wife to marry Dani, who was married as well when they met. Or is it something worse? I’m at odds with Deb Caletti’s latest. On the one hand, the writing is fabulous. Dani’s narrative is devoted to analyzing every aspect of her relationship, trying to find a way to unravel what’s happened to Ian. On the other hand, He’s Gone is a really depressing read. 5/13 Becky Lejeune
THE HIDDEN by Bill Pronzini: The Northern California coastline is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The Coastline Killer thinks so, and is dedicated to do whatever it takes to keep it that way. Four victims so far for this “environmental activist.” Will jay and Shelby Macklin be his next victims? Does it matter to them? Their ten year marriage is coming apart at the seams, Jay is unemployed and nearly unemployable – a promising baseball career ended by injuries, the failure of his restaurant, and the heart problems he hasn’t disclosed even to Shelby. Shelby’s words, “Two people can’t live together without communicating” perfectly sum up their current situation. An EMT, She is attracted to an ER doctor but has resisted beginning an affair. Together and separately they are spending the week after Christmas at a cottage on the wild and beautiful northern California coast. Jay’s hope is that he can save their marriage, but a violent storm and the Coastline Killer make marital woes secondary to survival. Pronzini has written 70-plus novels, and The Hidden shows no drop off in quality. Not gory but suspenseful enough to make you double check the door and window locks before you go to bed tonight. 02/11 Jack Quick
THE HIDDEN MAN by David Ellis: Jason and Sammy grew up together, best friends until high school; Jason went on to college and law school, while Sammy coasted after his baby sister was kidnapped and never found. Jason became a star at a top law firm but left to practice solo after his wife and daughter were killed in a car accident. Then the past comes back to haunt them both. Jason receives a $10,000 cash retainer from a mysterious “Mr. Smith” to defend Sammy, who is accused of murdering the man long ago suspected of kidnapping his sister. But he won’t plead temporary insanity, which would allow the dead man’s past into evidence, and Jason is frustrated. “Mr. Smith” has explicit ideas about how he wants the defense handled, and things start going awry when Jason deviates from the plan. Edgar-award winner Ellis (Line of Vision, Eye of the Beholder) has created an interesting character, a damaged lawyer who’s not afraid to get his hands dirty, to build this new series around. 09/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch. Copyright © 2009 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.
HIDE by Lisa Gardner: Boston Police Sergeant D. D. Warren hooks up with Massachusetts State Detective Robert Dodge (Alone) to investigate a long abandoned underground cavern found on the grounds of the former Boston State Mental Hospital. The hospital had been shut down decades earlier, but the mummified bodies of six young girls are found below ground, somewhat reminiscent of a previous case. Annabelle Granger has spent her life running, moving from city to city with a new name every eighteen months or so at her paranoid father’s whim. Annabelle is thought to be one of the dead girls until she strolls into the police station, a beautiful young woman who bears a striking resemblance to a previous victim. Former patients and staff members of the hospital become the prime suspects in this fast paced, twisty thriller. The point of view occasionally shifts from Annabelle’s first person perspective to an omniscient narrator to easily give the reader more information than Annabelle has, but the introduction of a new, critical character towards the end of the book was rather unsettling. 02/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
HIDING PLACE by Collin Wilcox: In this fourth Lieutenant Frank Hastings outing (1973) the crew is working the homicide of a girl whose body is found in Golden Gate Park. The deeper the group investigates the more complicated the chase becomes. Then a second murder raises the stakes to resolve the case quickly. Another excellent police procedural of the that era – no cellphones or computers, cigarettes are still socially acceptable, and if there needs to be a little bit of leaning to unlock some clues so be it. Nicely done and highly recommended. 12/10 Jack Quick
HIGH PROFILE by Robert B. Parker: It is not a good day in Paradise when the body of Walton Weeks is found hanging from a tree. Weeks hosted a popular national radio gabfest, wrote a newspaper column, and churned out best-selling books until someone shot him and left him hanging from a tree. The next body to be found is that of Weeks’ pregnant lover. Paradise Chief of Police Jesse Stone finds himself in the middle of the highest profile case of his career as he tries to solve the double homicide with his 12-person force and remain sober during the process. He also has to contend with his ex-wife Jenn, now an investigative reporter, as well as private investigator Sunny Randall–a sometime lover—that he needs to help with Jenn. A typical Parker outing. Taut language, complex emotions, and a good mystery. One of his best. 02/07 Jack Quick
HIGH MIDNIGHT by Stuart Kaminsky: Its number 6 in the World War II era adventures of LA PI Toby Peters, Detective to the Stars. This one ain’t High Noon but like that famous 1952 classic, it does feature Gary Cooper. Someone wants to make a movie with him so badly they resort to threats, blackmail, and murder. With a little help from a writer type named Ernest Hemingway, Peters stumbles over corpses, avoids stray bullets, and tries to keep from being turned into a Kosher hot dog by some menacing East Coast thugs. Remember the words of Client Eastwood as Dirty Harry, “Nobody, I mean, nobody, puts ketchup on a hot dog.” If you are a movie buff, this series is for you. 05/09 Jack Quick
Hissy Fit by Mary Kay Andrews: This is just a fun read. It’s about a woman who catches her fiancé banging her best friend/maid of honor on the board room table at the country club during their rehearsal dinner. She goes wild, pitches an historic “hissy fit” and storms out, then meets a wealthy young man who’s amused at her misspelled keying of her ex-beloved’s car in the parking lot. She spends the rest of the book decorating his newly purchased plantation style home (this is Southern fiction) so he can impress some hot lawyer he saw on a PBS fundraiser. She pals around with her gay best friend who convinces her she has abandonment issues since her mother’s disappearance 25 years earlier, lending a pinch of suspense to the plot. It’s light, fast moving, entertaining fun and I couldn’t put it down (and just the perfect antidote to hurricanes.) Then I went back and read SAVANNAH BLUES, which was also great fun.
THE HISTORY OF LOVE by Nicole Krauss: This is an amazing book – I borrowed it from the library, read it, then ran out and bought a copy and read it again. The “love” in the title is a love of literature, of books, of family, of laughter despite the pain of life. Unforgettable characters, a book within a book within a book that all comes together in the end, a joy! Leo Gursky is an old man who creates disturbances wherever he goes just so people will notice him – for who notices an old man? His losses are numerous, yet he keeps on keeping on and making us laugh while he does it. His lost novel, appropriately titled The History of Love, unbeknownst to him was published by another. The woman he loved and wanted to marry who couldn’t wait and married someone else. His son, a revered author, who doesn’t even know who he is. Then there is a young girl, Alma Singer, named for the main character in the book Leo doesn’t even know was published. Her search for the truth while dealing with the death of her father adds a haunting suspense that enriches the story even further. To be drawn into this world is a delight, and I am grateful. 06/05
THE HIT by David Baldacci: Will Robie was introduced in The Innocent. He is an assassin working for the CIA and charged with killing persons deemed enemies of the United States at any location necessary. A skilled killer, with no mercy, he is considered by his peers at the agency as one of the best they have handling the assignments given to him, and not questioning the reason for the kill order. Will is handed the assignment of hunting down and killing Jessica Reel, a fellow employee who has apparently gone rogue and murdered two officers of the CIA with no reason, nor any official sanction to do so. Jessica has a reputation of being almost as good as, or possibly as good as Will in handling assignments for the CIA. With David Baldacci setting up the scenario we know that all is not as initially depicted, and the reader is again treated to another engrossing novel by this master craftsman. What is the truth, and where does it lead Will is a fascinating study in what could happen when people in power find reasons to abuse that power thinking that they are the only ones knowing what is right and wrong. The plot leads us from an assignment to stop a rogue agent to a conspiracy taking place at very high government levels. With his usual talent for fleshing out people in this books, we become involved in the action, and do understand why everyone acts as they do. Another page turner by Baldacci, and a continued desire to read more books by him. 05/13 Paul Lane
HIT ME by Lawrence Block: Keller, the hit man Block made famous, returns after a few years absence. When Keller’s previous arrangements blew up, he became a man named Nicholas Edwards who lives in New Orleans renovating houses, doing honest work and making decent money at it. Between his family and his stamp collection, all his spare time is happily accounted for. But now Dot ahs called and Keller is back in the trade. Keller’s work takes him to New York, the former home he hasn’t dared revisit, where his target is the abbot of a midtown monastery. Another call puts him on a West Indies cruise, taking care of a government witness. The real test comes in Cheyenne, where a recent widow is looking to sell her husband’s stamp collection. 3/13 Jack Quick
HIT AND RUN by Lawrence Block: Keller is like most of us. He has a job that he works at in order to pay his bills, feed his hobby (stamp collecting) and hopefully prepare for his eventual retirement. The major difference is Keller’s a hit man. After all these years and many successful assignments he is now ready to begin that retirement, but there is just one more job. Keller really doesn’t want to go to Des Moines for the job but it has been paid for so what else can he do? After all, there are no refunds in this business. While he is in Des Moines looking at additions to his stamp collection, someone kills the charismatic governor of Ohio. Normally this would have little impact on Keller – except the police have released a picture of the alleged killer. Guess who? Now Keller is stranded in Des Moines, cut off from his associate Dot in White Plains, New York, every cop in America’s just seen his picture, his ID and credit cards are no longer good, and he just spent almost all of his cash on the stamps. The best Keller yet. 07/08 Jack Quick
HIT MAN By Lawrence Block: Block is a multi talented writer, the winner of two Edgars and numerous other awards for his Scudder series, yet being the creative genius he is, he strays afield from time to time. He wrote a short story for “Playboy” called “Answers To Soldier” back in the late 70’s or early 80’s that becomes the lynch pin of this novel; what follows is a collection of brilliantly linked short stories that were published as individual efforts, but eventually became linked together.
Keller is his own man. He’s the guy on the next bar stool to you. He’s a lonely guy, on the one hand craving companionship, and on the other hand, doing his job ruthlessly. He could be your next door neighbor, the guy you wave hi to every day. But when he gets the call, packs his bag, and heads out, he’s a stone killer. The problem is that Keller is not sure that this is his calling. He’s a middle aged guy who’s thinking about getting out of the biz. Block balances Keller’s skill against his own self doubt. (My favorite one in this is called “Keller’s Therapy”) And eventually Keller (and his pal Dot) realize that things have to change. After all, it’s Keller’s only gig, and Dot’s true hope. By the way, Block parlayed this into a second collection called HIT LIST, and one soon to be released (July 4, 06) called HIT PARADE. The beauty of this is that these are short stories that are all interlinked. Block is a damn genius who deserves the accolades he’s received. This is a series that both Scudder and Bernie R. fans can equally get behind. Enjoy the master at work. 05/06 DOC
HIT PARADE by Lawrence Block: John Keller is a working man who ponders questions like: Does this assignment compromise my ethics? Will I ever get another job? Like all careers, his has its challenges, some imposed by circumstance, others generated by introspection. He also ponders a retirement in which he will abandon his Manhattan lifestyle for a trailer in the southwestern desert. The main difference between Keller and the rest of us is that Keller is a hit man, a contract killer who takes on assignments within his own code of ethics and performs them in how own style. You get the feeling that when Block writes about Keller he is really fantasizing for all of us about a life with no rules, or just those we make for ourselves. In any event, the stories in Hit Parade are at times humorous, thoughtful and quintessential Block at his best. 07/06 Jack Quick
HOAX by Robert Tanenbaum: I was prepared to not like this book. Instead of buying it, I waited until I could get it from the library. Apparently Mr. Tanenbaum used Michael Gruber as the ghost for the first 15 Butch Karp and Marlene Ciampi books, all of which were most enjoyable. Whoever has succeeded Gruber has a way to go to match his style and ability. Much of the book is a rehash of the first fifteen books while the plot is mundane – crooked politicians and priestly pedophiles. At 490 pages, it has the feel of being padded by at least a hundred pages. Nevertheless, the characters are like old friends, and while this visit wasn’t as good as some previous ones, it was acceptable. However, hopefully the new guy/gal will catch on quickly, otherwise, I will regretfully say goodbye to Karp, et al. 11/06 Jack Quick
HOLD TIGHT by Harlan Coben: I have had a love/hate relationship with Coben’s books for some time now. I was his biggest champion when he wrote his first standalone thriller, Tell No One. But as he continued to write and define the “family thriller”, I started having serious issues. Coben can suck a reader in and keep those pages turning like nobody’s business, but a few books ago I noticed that he was writing himself into a corner and taking absurd, unbelievable, completely far-fetched ways out of it. That, combined with his penchant for wrapping up every loose end in the last two pages caused me to stop reading him. But I was persuaded to try his last book, The Woods, and I was delighted to find that he finally learned how to write a believable, albeit entirely too detailed, ending. Which brings me to his latest effort, Hold Tight.
Coben recently penned an op-ed piece for the NY Times titled “The Undercover Parent”, about why parents should install software to spy on their children’s every move, every time they go online. He slams that ball home in this book. In lovely suburban New Jersey, one such family is weighing that very option as their teenage son’s grades are sliding and his behavior becomes erratic. The arguments both for and against are well presented, and it is an integral part of the story which includes moms getting murdered, teenage drug parties, and a teenage suicide – most of your basic parental nightmares rolled up into one riveting read – with an ending that makes sense. All in all, I’m happy to say this was an excellent read and a marvelous way to spend a few hours. 05/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
HOLD TIGHT by Harlan Coben: I’m not even certain where to begin with this book. Several different subplots simultaneously take place and unbelievably they all tie in together at the end. First, Sixteen year-old Adam Baye has been distant and emotionally removed lately. His best friend, Spencer, committed suicide and Adam’s parents, Tia and Mike, take action before he follows suit. They install a spy program on his computer that allows them to receive daily reports of his computer activity. They become instantly alarmed when they view some alarming messages that Adam has received. Meanwhile, Spencer’s mother has discovered some evidence that indicates that her son did not commit suicide. She confronts Adam, his best friend, and he disappears. A murderer is on the loose, killing women and leaving their bodies so badly beaten they are not recognizable. And finally, an adolescent girl is taunted at school after her teacher makes a comment about her appearance. Four seemingly very different subplots all come to one by the end of this suspenseful book. This was my first taste of Coben’s writing and I plan on continuing the experience. 07/08 Jennifer Lawrence
HOLD TIGHT by Harlan Coben: A night with a Harlan Coben book is a guaranteed night without sleep. In his latest stand-alone, parents come face-to-face with their worst nightmares. Tia and Mike Baye are concerned when their son, Adam, becomes more reserved and introverted after the suicide of one of his classmates. They go to extremes by installing a program on his computer that will track all of his activities online. Each day, the company responsible sends them a report, and each day is the same mundane stuff. Everything changes when Tia comes across a disturbingly cryptic instant message, and an e-mail about a party Adam is to attend. Mike plans to take Adam to a hockey game, to keep him from going to the party, but Adam disappears. It’s not the first time their son has run off, but Mike and Tia know there has to be something more than teen angst at play here. Coben is the absolute king of suspense – no one does it like he can. In Hold Tight he weaves multiple plot lines together to create yet another page-turning thrill ride that will keep you awake all night. If you pay attention, you just might recognize some familiar faces, too. 04/08 Becky Lejeune
THE HOLLOW MAN by Oliver Harris: Detective Nick Belsey wakes up bloody and bruised after spending the night in the grass. Nearby he finds a crashed police car, not even from his district, and knows he’s the one responsible. In fact, Belsey’s life has been in a slow decline for some time now. His paychecks no longer cover the minimum payments due on his many debts and the creditors are breathing down his neck. What’s more, he’s got no place to live. When he answers a missing person’s call, he starts to think things could turn around. A normal adult disappearance wouldn’t raise any flags but this guy is rich. Still, nothing seems suspicious and the man even left behind a note before leaving. Belsey comes up with a plan to temporarily borrow the man’s identity—and money—and get the heck out of dodge. As he learns more about the missing businessman, though, Belsey decides there’s more to this case than meets the eye. And it seems someone wanted the man dead badly enough that they’re willing to come after Belsey now, too. Harris’s debut is exceptional. Belsey is a true anti-hero, a bad guy in just about every way. His only motivation is completely self-serving and everything his does is to get himself ahead. Still, I couldn’t help but like him. I hope this is to be a new series because I would love to see more of Belsey and definitely can’t wait for more from Harris. 12/12 Becky Lejeune
THE HOLLOWER by Mary SanGiovanni: Dave Kohlar has seen it, so has his sister Sally, and so did the man from Sally’s therapy group who committed suicide. Dave would like to think that he’s a fairly rational man, but when he sees the faceless creature in an overcoat and hat following him around, he’s sure he must be losing it. Then Sally flips out and has to be committed. Shortly after that, she escapes without a trace and Dave knows the creature he calls The Hollower is behind it. Then Dave meets Erik and Cheryl. They see the creature too and it’s possible that the three of them working together may be able to fight this thing. They’re joined by two unlikely allies as they set off to kill something that none of them could possibly understand. Mary SanGiovanni’s debut was a 2007 Stoker nominee for best first novel. Her story is refreshingly original and features a villain who could rival Freddie himself. The Hollower is creepy without ever going over the top. The chills are there and the ending is a killer. No worries, though, the sequel Found You is already out. 09/08 Becky Lejeune
HOLLYWOOD CROWS by Joseph Wambaugh: In LA police jargon, “crows” are the members of the LAPD Community Relations Office (CRO) which handles quality of life issues. “Hollywood Nate” Weiss and partner Bix Ramstead are both crows mesmerized by Margot Aziz, a stunner in the middle of a particular; ugly divorce proceeding. Margot tries to use her feminine wiles to gain the upper hand over about to be ex-husband Ali, whose seedy night club requires regular infusions of cash to various police charities to stay in business. Hollywood and Bix are the main characters n a bunch that includes surfer cops Flotsam and Jetsam, and two female cops Cat Song and Ronnie Sinclair. The book is filled with cop humor like Officer F. X. Mulroney, who fires a taser dart into a tangle of wet steel fencing upon which three homies are sitting. The fifty thousand volts made a crackling sound and arced a blue dagger like in Frankenstein’s lab. Mulroney’s response, “But I was only doing a spark check! Shit happens! Mulroney spread his arms wide, looked up at the darkening sky, and cried, “God knows I’m innocent. Even Bill Clinton had a premature discharge!” Its Wambaugh, same as always, in his thirteenth fictional outing about the real life of LAPDs. 06/08 Jack Quick
HOLLYWOOD HILLS by Joseph Wambaugh: Three of Wambaugh’s most interesting characters are featured in this latest outing from the Hollywood Station of the LAPD. The two surfer-dude cops, known as Flotsam and Jetsam, team up with the veteran”Hollywood Nate” who has consented to keep an eye on the estate of B-list Director Rudy Ressler and his fiance, Leona Brueger, the older-but-still-foxy widow of a processed-meat tycoon. A circle of teenage burglars that the media has dubbed The Bling Ring has been targeting the homes of Hollywood celebs, so there is a real need for the service. Also minding the mansion is Raleigh Dibble, a hapless ex-con trying to put the past behind him. Raleigh is all too happy to be set up for the job–as butler-cum-watchdog–by Nigel Wickland, Leona’s impeccably dressed art dealer. What Raleigh doesn’t realize is that Nigel plans to steal two paintings hanging on the mansion’s walls which will guarantee him more money than he has ever seen. When Hollywood Nate, surfer cops Flotsam and Jetsam, and the rest of the team at Hollywood Station collide with the combination of Nigel and the Bling Ring, all bets are off. A roller coaster ride of a novel that showcases Joseph Wambaugh in vintage form. Highly recommended. 12/10 Jack Quick
HOLLYWOOD MOON by Joseph Wambaugh: No one would mistake the misfits from Wambaugh’s Hollywood Division for the straight arrow boys in blue of McBain’s 87th Precinct, but they can be incredibly funny and also do pretty good police work. The main thread of the book involves a husband-and-wife team of identity thieves, the weak-willed Dewey Gleason and his domineering mate, Eunice, who cross paths with Malcolm Rojas, a creepy teenager with major anger-management issues. It is in the trimmings, however, that make the book with characters like Hollywood Nate Weiss, the actor turned cop; Weiss’s beautiful partner, Dana Vaughn; and the surfer duo, Flotsam and Jetsam, who conduct on the spot sobriety tests involving tourists and balloons among other mischief. The language is adult but often laugh-out-loud funny, like the lawyer who charged the arresting officer with fanny burping him. The defense – frijoles from Taco Johns – or the charge that an officer had called a street citizen a name. “After I threatened to sue him for false arrest, he called me frogative, and I ain’t no frog.” What the officer said was, “that’s your prerogative.” Never mind. 12/09 Jack Quick
HOME by Matthew Costello: This follow up to Costello’s Vacation picks up immediately where we last left off. Christie and her kids, Kate and Simon, have escaped Paterville Camp. They’re dead set on making it home to safety but soon discover that things have gone drastically downhill since they left. Massive power failures have left the safe zones compromised and no one can tell them if their suburban haven is included in the mess. Without Jack along to help, Christie must make some tough choices. No matter what happens, though, she’s determined to keep her family together and safe. While I certainly missed Jack, Home gives the reader a chance to get to know Christie and the kids. Each character faces things that Jack otherwise protected them from before now, causing them to grow in interesting ways. By the end of Home, each character has transformed into lean, mean fighters, perfectly set up for whatever they might face next. And it’s clear that there is more to come for the Murphys. Home can be read as a stand alone, but I definitely recommend checking out Vacation first. 11/12 Becky Lejeune
THE HOME TEAM: UNDECLARED WAR by Dennis Chalker & Kevin Dockery: Ted “Grim” reaper was a casualty of a coverup and scandal in Bosnia which ended his career as a Navy SEAL. When drug dealing terrorists threaten his family and intrude on his early but well earned retirement, Reaper hooks up with some other special forces operators to deal with the dealers. Using all forms of combat, weapons, explosives, special equipment, and tactics learned while in service to their government, they are now on their own, with no government agency to hold them back, no congressional committee to supervise them, and no obstacles in their win at any costs private war. Let the blood letting begin. 10/08 Jack Quick
HOME TO BIG STONE GAP by Adriana Trigiani: This book came out last year but it had been so long since I’d read the earlier books in the series that I wanted to re-read them first. I enjoyed the first three books so much I forgot to read the newest one! But I’m glad I finally did – Trigiani writes great characters that I really enjoy spending time with. This book is a bit short on plot, but it doesn’t really matter. Jack Mac has some health issues, Etta is married and living in Italy, Ave Maria and Iva Lou have a falling out, Theodore comes to visit, and Ave thinks she sees a grown up Joe walking in the woods behind the house. If you haven’t met these characters, start with Big Stone Gap and work your way here, and if you know them, you’ll want to read this book too; it’s sweet, funny, heart wrenching, and most of all, charming. 08/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE HOMECOMING by Carsten Stroud: Attorney Kate Kavanaugh and her husband, Nick, a cop, decide to take in Rainey Teague. Rainey had been missing for over a year until he was found in a crypt; his parents committed suicide shortly thereafter and the troubled young man needed a home. All of this occurred because of a magic mirror that hearkens back to some nightmarish history. Kate’s brother-in-law is terrorizing his family, and her sister Beth finally leaves him, taking their kids and moving in with Kate and Nick too. Meanwhile Beth’s husband has been implicated in a bank robbery where several police officers have been killed, but while being transported, he escapes. Not to mention the Chinese spies that have all died in a plane crash. All these complications are nothing compared to the paranormal, ghostly creepy things going on in this small, southern town. All the characters are quirky but well developed, and the violence is integral to the story. This is the second book of the Niceville trilogy, and is a genre bending, page turning suspenseful supernatural read that is impossible to put down or to forget. 7/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2013 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.
A HOMECOMING FOR MURDER by John Armistead: It’s the Friday of Homecoming Week in Sheffield, Mississippi in this dated (1995) but excellent police procedural. Homecoming means high school football, homecoming queen pageantry, and murder for Sheriff Grover Bramlett of Chakchiuma County. The first victim is schoolteacher Jesse Bondreaux, shot in the head execution style with a .25 caliber automatic. Before the weekend is over, another teacher, Jo Ann Staples, is found dead, killed in the same fashion. As the body count mounts, Bramlett realizes his own grandson Marcellus may be in danger as well. While the identity of the murderer is telegraphed fairly early, who will be assigned the new patrol car – a Corvette confiscated from a drug dealer – is not revealed until the very end. 09/07 Jack Quick
HOMICIDE 69 by Sam Reaves: At 568 pages, this is a real “plow through” book but well worth the effort. Its 1969, the Vietnam War is raging; teens are trying to sneak in to the theatre to see Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy (after all, wasn’t The Graduate the dirtiest movie yet made?). Mike Dooley is a world-weary Chicago cop, worried about his Marine son in Vietnam and trying to solve the sadistic murder of former Playboy Bunny Sally Kotowski, a mobster’s ex-girlfriend. In the process he becomes fascinated by one of Sally’s friends, and refuses to accept the “official” version of the killing. If you are a “boomer” and lived this as I did, you will remember things long forgotten like draft numbers, Chicago Police corruption, rioting in Belfast, Jimmy Hoffa, a new major league baseball team in San Diego and the Cubs blowing a late summer lead. If you are too young (or too old) to remember the late ‘60’s, this is the way it was. One of my best of the year. 10/07 Jack Quick
HONEYMOON by James Patterson: Overhyped by Bookspan as the “2005 International Thriller of the Year” Patterson tells the story of FBI agent John O’Hara tracking down a serial killer. While almost all serial killers are male, this one happens to be a female – a black widow. Nora Sinclair is a widow who works as an interior designer for the very rich. She had inherited from her first husband when she killed him, is now married to a best-selling author in Boston, and is having an affair with a hedge-fund manager in upstate New York. She plans to kill both, but O’Hara gets involved after the poisoning of the hedge-fund manager. Instead of solving the case, he falls under her spell. Above average for the recent Patterson, but not up to its hype. 07/09 Jack Quick
THE HONOR OF SPIES by W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV: Like father, like son, and so far the father-son collaboration has worked well in extending Griffin’s long running multiple series about men in uniform. The date is August 6, 1943: and twenty-four-year-old Cletus Frade of the Office of Strategic Services is in a doozy of a situation. A German lieutenant colonel named Wilhelm Frogger is in a Mississippi prisoner-of-war detention facility. Frade’s job? To help Frogger escape. Frogger’s parents are in Frade’s custody in Argentina, because of their involvement in a secret German plan to establish safe havens for senior Nazi officials in South America, and the younger Frogger has agreed to help find out what they know. Even more important, however, is the secret within the secret. Before he was captured in Africa, Frogger was part of a conspiracy – its goal: to assassinate Adolf Hitler. It’s away all hands as the Germans, the Americans and the Argentines all try to get to the Froggers for their own ends. Maybe the best one yet in the Honor Bound series. 01/10 Jack Quick
HOOKED: A Thriller About Love and Other Addictions by Matt Richtel: Journalist Nat Idle is hanging out in an Internet Cafe when a note is dropped into his lap, warning him to get out of there. Intriguing of itself, but even more so when Nat realizes that the handwriting is just like that of Annie – his dead girlfriend. He follows the note dropper out, but she disappears, just in time for a bomb to go off in the cafe. The plot weaves in and out of Silicon Valley conspiracies and Nat’s flashbacks to his relationship with Annie, building suspense and keeping those pages turning. Despite the blinding, horrific – and I do mean horrific – cover, (I quickly turned it inside out, even the edges were annoying and distracting,) it’s a good read with lots of action, suspense, a little romance and the uncomfortable thought that someone is plotting to turn us all into Internet junkies – not that we need the help. 07/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
HORNS by Joe Hill: When Ig Parrish woke up to discover he had horns, he wasn’t sure what to believe: were they even really there or was it part of his imagination? Did he do something to bring them on? Maybe it was his impromptu trip out to Merrin Williams’s murder site that did it. Then Ig discovers that not only are the horns real, they make people reveal their darkest secrets and desires. In fact, with the horns Ig has the ability to make people act on those desires. But this isn’t Ig’s idea of a great time. He doesn’t want to know people’s darkest thoughts and he certainly doesn’t want to make them act on them. Or does he? Ig’s last year has been a living hell. After Merrin’s murder, Ig became the prime suspect and though there was never enough evidence to convict him – because he’s innocent – he’s suffered plenty in the aftermath. Not to mention the fact that his own grief over losing Merrin has been almost unbearable. And actually, it turns out the horns might be useful after all: Merrin’s murderer is still out there hiding their own dark secret. Joe Hill has most definitely proven he can tell an entertaining story. He’s got all the talent of his father but with his own unique voice. Horns is a strange and twisted tale, one that’s apparently coming to a big screen very soon and rumor has it Daniel Radcliffe has been tapped to play Ig. As an aside, I listed to much of this book on audio and then finished with the physical copy. Narrator Fred Berman does a great job as the tormented Ig. 8/12 Becky Lejeune
HOSTAGE ZERO by John Gilstrap: In this second thriller featuring freelance hostage rescue operative Jonathan “Digger” Grave gets involved in a complex, multilayered plot starting with two teenage boys being kidnapped from the Virginia residential school for children of incarcerated parents, set up by Graves. Grave and his crew set out to locate the victims and apprehend the abductors. One of the boys is drugged and left to die in a field, saved only by the fateful intervention of a passing homeless man, and Grave’s investigation begins to turn up leads that point to government and organized crime connections. If you enjoy pulse pounding thrillers, this one is for you. 11/11 Jack Quick
THE HOST by Stephenie Meyer: They call themselves souls. They can live essentially forever transferring themselves from one host to another, and Earth is just their latest conquest. Wanderer has lived more lives on more planets than most of her kind. It is for this reason that she is chosen to be placed inside one of the remaining resistant humans. The Seekers know that Melanie was with others and they hope that Wanderer will be able to tell them where these people are hiding. From the beginning, this host is different from the others. Melanie’s consciousness seems to have remained, and her memories of loved ones haunt Wanderer day and night. Melanie’s increasingly insistent voice drives Wanderer to the desert where she hopes to finally track down Melanie’s hiding family. Along the way, Wanderer begins to bond with Melanie and the other humans, and as a result, she becomes unsure where her place is in this life. In a utopian society that lives a collective, but perfect existence, there is no room for individuality. Humans embrace this aspect of life and though it is new and foreign to Wanderer, it offers her something that her previous existences never have. This is a more complex story than any synopsis can really express, but it’s essentially a tale of love, friendship, and the need to belong somewhere. Meyer has already conquered the teen scene, and captured the hearts of many adult readers as well, with her Twilight series. The Host is an absolutely amazing book that will give those few remaining holdouts the opportunity to see just what all the fuss is about. I’ll tell you now, it’s all true – I loved The Host and can’t recommend it highly enough. 05/08 Becky Lejeune
THE HOSTAGE by W.E.B. Griffin: Delta Force Major Charley Castillo of the Department of Homeland Security is asked by the president to go to Buenos Aires, where the wife of the deputy chief has been kidnapped and her husband has been murdered. Terrorists threaten to kill her children if she doesn’t tell them how to find her brother, who, it seems, may have knowledge about the UN-Iraqi oil-for-food scandal. The Hostage has a typically Griffin convoluted plot with lots of twists and action that could just as easily be in tomorrow’s headlines. Griffin’s formula approach worked for him in chronicling the exploits of the Army, The Marines, the Navy SEALS, and the Philadelphia Police Department. In his second Homeland Security tome, it continues to work well. 01/06 Jack Quick
HOT BLOODED by Lisa Jackson: Psychologist and radio talk show host Dr. Samantha Leeds returns home from vacation to find a disturbing message on her machine and a mangled photo of herself in the mail. Then someone calling himself John begins harassing her on her show and an upsetting event from Leeds’s past is revealed to her audience. Meanwhile, detectives are investigating a string of murders in the Big Easy that seem to point to a possible serial killer. Detective Rick Bentz suspects the two cases are linked somehow, but is on probation with his new department and needs more evidence before he can speak up. Sam receives some help in the form of new neighbor and beau Ty Wheeler, but Ty’s got his own agenda and is not being completely honest with her. Will Sam survive this and will Bentz be able to unravel the mystery before it’s too late for Sam and for another young victim of this so-called serial killer? Jackson’s novels are always quick paced and full of suspense. Hot Blooded marks to first in her New Orleans “series” and introduces readers to Bentz. 12/08 Becky Lejeune
THE HOT KID by Elmore Leonard: If Elmore Leonard has ever written a bad book, it must have been published under another name. Taking a break from his recent work, Leonard returns to the classic western format in The Hot Kid. Set in the1930s, Carlos (Carl) Webster is a Cuban Indian Oklahoma boy who becomes a United States Marshal, the result of an unfortunate childhood experience. Too bad the Duke has gone, because the part of Webster has John Wayne written all over it, down to the “I only draw my gun to shoot.” dialogue. At 21, Webster has already shot and killed two men while True Detective writer Tony Antonelli, who sees Webster as his own ticket to fame, makes Webster’s exploits even larger than life. Excellent read and hopefully the beginning of a series. Publication date is May 1. 04/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
HOT MAHOGANY by Stuart Woods: A lightweight but entertaining Stone Barrington outing with all the usual suspects. In this case, Stone is asked by his friend and sometime ally – CIA whiz Lance Cabot, for help. It turns out that Lance has an older brother, Barton, who has suddenly reappeared in Lance’s life as the result of the amnesia Barton has as the result of a mugging. It seems that Barton is a spy and a thief who builds and restores antique furniture, as well as minting counterfeit coins. Dino and Holly are enlisted in Stone’s efforts to recover a stolen antique secretary valued in the millions of dollars. Amusing diversion. 10/08 Jack Quick
HOT ROCKS by Lev Raphael: College teacher and amateur sleuth Nick Hoffman is facing that challenge we all hope for one day – middle age. Its putting extra strain on his life and the discovery of the body of the head trainer and all-around stud Vlado Zamario in the health club steam room brings further complications. Because of his history in previous outings, Nick is tabbed as a suspect and realizes the only way to permanently clear his name is to solve the crime (sound familiar?). Soon Vlado’s extreme and varied exploits with women in and out of the health club lead to the discovery of compromising photographs guaranteed to promote marital discord and provide motivation for a number of suspects. Hoffman is openly gay but, honestly, if his partner had been named Stephanie instead of Stefan Borowski, and a few pronouns were changed, I think the story would be otherwise unchanged. I think that reflects the strength of Raphael’s talent. This is a mystery first and foremost. 08/07 Jack Quick
HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET by Jamie Ford: Henry Lee lost his wife to cancer in 1986. The novel jumps back and forth from that time to when he was twelve years old during World War II and living in Chinatown in Seattle. His father forces Henry to only speak English at home, and since he doesn’t understand it, they cannot communicate very well. Henry is a scholarship student at an all white prep school where he is taunted and very lonely, until he meets the new scholarship student, Keiko, a Japanese American. Henry’s father hates the Japanese since they have been at war with China. Nevertheless, Henry and Keiko form a strong bond until her family is sent away to an internment camp. In 1986 Seattle, the hotel where Keiko’s family’s belongings were stored is under renovation, and a virtual museum is found in the basement. This historical novel tugs at the heartstrings as it goes back and forth in time, and while the history is interesting, the story just seems rather cliché. David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars had similar themes, but is a much better novel. 12/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
HOTHOUSE ORCHID by Stuart Woods: It’s old home week when CIA agent Holly Barker returns to Orchid Beach, FL where she was once chief of police. Renegade ex-CIA agent Teddy Fay, has chosen to settle in nearby Vero Beach. Lauren Cade, a former military comrade, is now a sergeant with the Florida State Patrol, until Holly makes it possible for her to transfer to a new state investigative unit headed by Hurd Wallce, Barker’s successor as Orchid Beach police chief. Then she learns that James Bruno, her former commanding officer who was tried and acquitted of raping Lauren and who once tried to rape Holly herself, is Orchid Beach’s new police chief. When Barker almost becomes a victim of a serial rapist and killer, she gets drawn into the manhunt. Not heavyweight, but a good read. 10/09 Jack Quick
HOUR GAME by David Baldacci: Two disgraced former Secret Service officers, Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, first introduced in Split Second, are now partners in a private investigation firm in a small Virginia town that King had fled to after a presidential candidate he’d been guarding was assassinated a few feet from where he stood. Maxwell’s career ended under a similar cloud when she lost a “protectee” to an ingenious kidnapping scheme. The partners are hired to investigate a burglary at the home of a wealthy local family. This leads them to a string of murders, each of which copies the techniques of another madman, from San Francisco’s Zodiac Killer to Chicago’s infamous John Wayne Gacy. Leave the lights on for this one. Nicely done. 01/09 Jack Quick
THE HOUSE AT RIVERTON by Kate Morton: It’s 1999 and ninety-eight year old Grace Bradley has lived an amazing life. An archaeologist with a grown daughter and a famous grandson who writes mysteries, Grace has not given much thought lately to her early career as a maid at Riverton House. That is until a film director announces that they are making a movie about the tragic event that occurred at the estate in 1924. Memories of her years at Riverton quickly resurface and Grace decides that it is time to tell all. She begins to record her memories on tapes that she sends to her grandson. It is in these tapes that she will finally reveal long hidden secrets about her time working for the Hartford family and the events that led to that tragic evening so long ago, when a famous British poet killed himself in the midst of a grand party. Unbeknownst to everyone but the two Hartford daughters, Grace was witness to the act and she’s never told anyone the truth about that evening. A lovely and haunting tale about family, loyalty, and the pain of keeping secrets. This is Morton’s U.S. debut. It has also been published as The Shifting Fog. 09/08 Becky Lejeune
A HOUSE DIVIDED by Deborah Leblanc: Sometimes a terrible event can leave a stain on a place, the evil soaking into every nook and cranny just waiting to be awakened. Laura Toups and Matt Daigle are about to learn this the hard way. Both Laura and Matt have just moved their respective businesses into two halves of the same house. Keith Lafleur, a building contractor in the area, bought the house at a steal but could only move it in pieces. Lafleur made each half into a building on its own with business space on the bottom floor and apartment space upstairs. What no one realizes is that the house has a dark and sinister past. Neighbors say that Morgan Devilier was already a sick woman but the death of her fifth child pushed her over the edge. She killed her own family in that house years ago. Now, Lafleur’s decision to split the house has unleashed something terrible in their small Louisiana town and no one will be safe until the house and it’s spirits are once again reunited. Deborah Leblanc is no longer a rookie in the horror business. With three titles under her belt and another three set to come, she is a force to be reckoned with! Her macabre creations are sure to keep you up all night. This is a must read for fans of the horror genre. 05/07 Becky Lejeune
THE HOUSE AT MIDNIGHT by Lucie Whitehouse: When Joanna’s longtime friend, Lucas, inherits his uncle’s home, he offers to make it a sort-of party-pad for all of his old friends. It’s an attempt to move on with his life and get past the all too recent death of his mother and his uncle’s unexpected suicide. The friends meet each weekend, eating and drinking, enjoying time away from their hectic everyday lives. Soon, Joanna and Lucas are an item, something she has longed for almost the entire time they’ve known each other. The more time everyone spends at the country home, however, the more they begin to change. Lucas and another of the friends, Danny, decide to say goodbye to city life altogether and make the home their full-time residence – abandoning full-time careers as well. Then, Lucas’s increased drinking and mood swings cause a rift between the newfound couple that is finally blown apart when Joanna is caught cheating. Over the course of a year, the friends find that everything they have known has irreversibly changed, but whether their growing up and growing apart will be of benefit to them is yet to be seen. I didn’t find that this was the gothic piece many said it was. Instead, it was a rather tragic look at the changes young adults (post-college and pre-career) go through, how people grow apart and begin to become the adults that they will be. A fine literary debut even if it is a bit gloomy. 06/08 Becky Lejeune
HOUSE DICK by E. Howard Hunt: Hardcase Crime #54 is a reprint of a novel originally published in 1961 under the name of Gordon Davis, one of Hunt’s many alter egos. It is ironic that the action is set in a Washington hotel, although not the one for which Hunt became infamous in the mid 1970’s. In this well-written tale, Pete Novak, the house detective and assistant personnel manager for the Hotel Tilden in Washington DC compares his job to garbage collecting but at least, as he mutters to himself, “You promised your Mom you would get a white-collar job.” Novak has 340 rooms to deal with but it seems the fifth floor is the scene of all the action. In room 515, Mrs. Boyd, reports that $90,000 of jewelry has been stolen from her room. Meanwhile Mr. Boyd seems to have a relationship with Paula Norton, the blonde dish in room 516, and the neglected Mrs. Boyd is playing footsies with a slimy “herb doctor” in room 522. It all leads to blackmail and murder. It is what you would expect from a former CIA agent. 04/09 Jack Quick
THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR by Anne Rivers Siddons: Colquitt and Walter Kennedy have a blessed life. Or, they did have a blessed life. When they first hear that the lot next door is under development, Colquitt is disappointed, to say the least. Their new young neighbors build a gem of a home, though, and everyone is in awe. But when the new neighbors’ lives are shattered in a truly scandalous way, Colquitt begins to suspect that there is something strange about the house next door. More accidents and dark events follow and Colquitt and Walter can no longer hide what they know. Now, as the house sits empty, waiting for its next victims, the Kennedys have decided that they must tell their tale. Originally published in 1978, Anne Rivers Siddons’s only “horror” story has pretty much stood the test of time and is still in print today. I’d recommend a quiet evening at home (with all of the lights on) for this atmospheric ghost story rather than a busy airport, though: I found myself easily distracted where I normally really enjoy the slow and deliberate pacing of this kind of story. 07/10 Becky Lejeune
THE HOUSE OF LOST SOULS by F.G. Cottam: Paul Seaton stumbled upon the story of Fischer House and Pandora Gibson-Hoare quite by accident, but it was a story that would change his life forever. Paul had been planning on helping his overwhelmed girlfriend with her thesis when he first heard of the photographer and her sad demise. Gibson-Hoare was by no means famous, but she was well known for her work in the 20s. Quite suddenly, though, she left the scene. She surfaced, literally, floating in the river after an apparent suicide. But Paul found out all about Pandora’s secret fascination with the occult world. As he delves deeper into this decades-old mystery, Paul becomes more certain that there is something sinister waiting for him in Fischer House, the home where Pandora and her friends experimented with the dark side. Ten years later, four students entered the house. Now three students remain and Paul is the only one who may be able to help. The House of Lost Souls is a chilling ghost story penned in the classic gothic style. It’s rich in atmosphere, has an excellent pacing, and is filled with hair-raising creepy undertones. Though this is not Cottam’s debut, it is the first of his works to be released here in the States (other titles released overseas under the name Francis Cottam). Highly recommended. 07/09 Becky Lejeune
House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III: This is a beautifully written tragedy of Shakespearian dimensions. We watch the story unfold, the clash of the Iranian and American cultures. The characters spiraling out of control, knowing there is nowhere for them to go but further and further into the abyss. A most compelling read.
HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN by Chuck Hustmyre: I bought this to tide me over until the next James Lee Burke. Turned out to be pretty good. Ex-New Orleans vice cop Ray Shane has served almost five years in federal prison and is now working as security for the mob owned casino/brothel known as The House of the Rising Sun. Four masked gunmen rob the place and kill the mentally handicapped adult nephew of the New Orleans mafia boss. Now its up to Ray to solve the crime, because there are some in the mob who think he was the one responsible. Fast read, fairly predictable, but well written. 07/07 Jack Quick
Househusband by Ad Hudler: First novel about a California “landscape architect to the stars” becoming a “househusband.” Lincoln gives it all up so his wife, Jo, can accept a promotion to COO of a hospital that moves them to New York. He is looking for a job, but meanwhile he cleans, even under the cushions on the couch; cooks California gourmet at every meal; supervises all the kids on the playground; and is raising his precocious three-year-old daughter with impeccable manners. He’s also dealing with the psychopathic part-time nanny, pretending not to notice gal-pal Marilyn’s groping and lascivious looks, and trying to keep his sanity while making the Stepford wives look like slackers. Lots of laughs in this feel good, light and entertaining treatise on men & women and their roles, but after a while the sheer perfection of man-as-mom was making me yawn. Also included are recipes for things like “Mexican Curry Sauce over Grilled Vegetables” and “Salad with Roasted Poblanos, Stilton Cheese and Pomegranate Seeds.” And the above mentioned prodigy eats this stuff. Hudler was a journalist who gave it all up to stay home.
HOW HIGH THE MOON by Sandra Kring: If you’re in the mood for a charming and quirky read, How High the Moon is going to hit the spot. It’s 1955 and Isabella “Teaspoon” Marlene has spent the past five years being raised by Teddy, her mother’s ex. Catty Marlene, the missing mom, is chasing down her dream of stardom in Hollywood. Everyone agrees that Teaspoon could use a strong female influence in her life and so she is signed up for the Sunshine Sisters program, a big sister program that teams young girls with teenagers who can teach them manners and grace. Brenda Bloom has everything: money, class, looks, and brains. But Brenda will find that Teaspoon has just as much to teach her as she has to teach Teaspoon. I was swept up in this story, completely and utterly enamored with Kring’s cast of characters. 04/10 Becky Lejeune
HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN by Louise Penny: I have been a huge fan of Penny’s since I first started reading her work. I have come to love her protagonist, Inspector Gamache and the people he surrounds himself with. He is the man I would like to be – wise, tolerant and yet, extremely effective. I love the small village setting in Quebec and the inhabitants of that village, Three Pines. It is clear from the start of her new book, How the Light Gets In, that there is the potential for bad things to happen to all of them and I read it almost with more trepidation than pleasure. Nonetheless, as this is the culmination of several long-running plot lines, it is a must read for the followers of her almost saintly Inspector Gamache. At the outset of the story, we find that Inspector Gamache has been increasingly out-Flanked by his archrival, Franceour, who is the head of the Quebec Surete. His loyalists have been taken from his homicide squad, scattered throughout the department and replaced by scoffers and do-nothings. His long-time sidekick, Jean Guy Beauvior, is completely in the grips of Oxycontin addiction and has left for another section, where he is increasingly unable to deal with the pressures racheted up against him. But the small crime at the heart of the story is the death of the last of a pair of famous quintuplets. (Penny is careful to pay homage to the Dionnes). This last quintuplet is murdered after visiting Myrna in Three Pines and so the Montreal police turn the case over to Gamache. Franceour is pleased as he hopes that this will distract Gamache from the larger crime about to take place in Montreal. As the story goes on, things just seem to get darker and darker for Gamache. Perhaps he has gotten too old and is too alone to get to the bottom of any of this. This would not be a Louise Penny novel if there wasn’t also sparkling banter among the inhabitants of Three Pines, a review of historical and present social issues and deep insight into human relationships and the wonder of the human heart. The use of the Leonard Cohen lyric in the title fits perfectly. This will easily be one of my top ten choices for the year. 9/13 Geoffrey R. Hamlin
HOW TO BE BAD by David Bowker: This satiric crime novel has as many laughs as dead bodies. Mark Madden, a twenty-three year old shy book collector still carries a torch for his high school sweetheart, Caro. When they hook up again he gets in way over his head as she asks him to kill her father, another old boyfriend and a loan shark named Bad Jesus. Psychotic though she is, he’s mad for her and somehow accidentally ends up with the requested dead bodies. She inherits a fortune, they marry and still the bodies continue to pile up. A fast, fun read. 09/05
HOW TO EAT A CUPCAKE by Meg Donohue: Once upon a time, Anna Quintana and Julia St. Clair were friends. All that changed with a terrible rumor in high school and the two haven’t been on speaking terms since. It would seem odd for Annie and Julia to go into business together, but that’s exactly what they plan to do. Annie is a talented baker with dreams of owning her own shop and Julia has the funds and business know how to get it up and running. Plus, Julia is getting married soon and promises to be out of Annie’s hair by the time the ceremony takes place. Can the two of them get past their differences long enough for the business to succeed? How to Eat a Cupcake is a sweet debut with truly likeable characters. Warning: cupcakes not included. 3/12 Becky Lejeune
HOW TO KNIT A WILD BIKINI by Christie Ridgway: This romance was so bad I only finished it because it was short, and I was sick and on drugs. Nikki Carmichael is a chef with a knee injury that resigns from her job in a restaurant because she can’t stand anymore. She wrangles a job as a personal chef for Jay Buchanan, AKA “Hef Jr.,” editor of a men’s magazine that sounds suspiciously like Maxim. His condition for her employment is that she also pretend to be his girlfriend, which in the confusion of this pathetic plot device, he decides she’s a lesbian. Lots of erotic foreplay later, he learns she is not a lesbian, they consummate the relationship and everyone lives happily ever after. There are also some very thin subplots about sperm donor siblings, teenage sexual abuse, knitting, and how Malibu has gone from great family playground to playground of the rich and obnoxious. Yawn. 09/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE HOWARD HUGHES AFFAIR by Stuart Kaminsky: Having survived Chicago in YOU BET YOUR LIFE, thanks to a cold cure that makes you almost want to keep the cold, Private Eye to the Stars Toby Peters is back in his native Hollywood, with sore feet, a bad back, and assorted bruises, scrapes, and a healing gunshot wound all because his ex-wife wants him to help a young but nervous billionaire who is convinced he has discovered a nest of spies. It is 1941 and the United States is on the verge of war. Since neither the LA police nor the FBI will look into the matter, it’s up to Toby to help out Mr. Hughes, Mr. Howard Hughes, that is, and with the help of Basil Rathbone, Toby, saves the day. A side note. The copy I read was originally published in 1979, and had the original “check out” card intact with the title and author typed in with a manual typewriter. That’s authenticity. 04/09 Jack Quick
HUMAN REMAINS by Elizabeth Haynes: Something strange is happening in Briarstone: there’s an increase in the number of bodies being found. Most of the deaths are deemed natural causes and all of them are people who sadly weren’t noticed missing. An analyst with the local police, Annabel first becomes curious about the trend after discovering her own neighbor’s decomposing body. The neighbor in question was there one day and gone the next and Annabel always assumed she’d simply moved away. The guilt and trauma over the discovery drives her to look into similar cases and statistics and she soon discovers that while such a thing has always happened, Briarstone has seen a strange and dramatic increase in such cases. With nothing suspicious surrounding the deaths, however, no one had ever looked into them until now. In this latest, Haynes has created a villain of the most disturbing and insidious kind: someone who manages to slide under the radar, manipulating people in their most vulnerable times. Human Remains is chilling and disturbing. 9/13 Becky Lejeune
HUNDRED-DOLLAR BABY by Robert B. Parker: The 34th entry in the Spenser series features April Kyle, the damsel in distress that Spenser rescued in two earlier books, Ceremony (1982) and Taming a Sea Horse (1986). April is now running a high-class Boston whorehouse, and seeks Spenser’s help in persuading some local mutts that she doesn’t need their help. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This is vintage Parker, with Spenser exchanging witty dialogue with the faithful Hawk, sexy dialogue with his beloved Susan and smart-alecky dialogue with cops and villains as he follows trails to New York City that involve the mob, a con artist and various other complications. Which is Parker’s best – Spenser? Sunny Randall? Jesse Stone? Does it really matter? 11/06 Jack Quick
THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins: I may be late to the party (this book published in 2008) but glad I finally made it. This is a fun read and I can see why people are obsessed with this series, although I won’t be reading the rest of the trilogy. I listened to the audiobook, and the reader, Carolyn McCormick, did a great job and kept my attention throughout. This is a terrific story set sometime in the future. The United States is no longer, and what’s left of it is now called Panem and is ruled by the Capitol. Panem is divided into 12 districts, and Katniss Everdeen is from one of the poorest, District 12. The Capitol has degreed that every year they will hold the Hunger Games. Each district must send one boy and one girl to compete in these televised games of kill or be killed. The last person left alive is the winner. When Katniss’s younger sister’s name is drawn to go, Katniss steps up and offers herself instead. These games are a sort of cross between the Miss America pageant, the Roman Coliseum & “Survivor.” It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s a bit bloody and a bit simplistic, but good, well written escapist fiction for sure. 3/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins: It’s been over seventy years since the districts last attempted a rebellion against the Capitol. District thirteen was decimated and the Hunger Games began as an annual reminder to keep the remaining districts under control. Each year, children ages twelve to eighteen have their names entered for the Games. Each year, one girl and one boy are chosen from each district. They fight for survival against the elements, both natural and manipulated, and against one another. Only one can survive. Suzanne Collins’s massively popular YA series is a captivating and somewhat disturbing blend of Running Man, Survivor, and Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” A truly fantastic and addicting read for both kids and adults. 12/10 Becky Lejeune
THE HUNT by Allison Brennan: Seven known victims and nine more women missing. One survivor who escaped “The Butcher” twelve years ago. A threesome determined to catch the killer. Miranda Moore, a former FBI trainee, who is the only known survivor of The Butcher, is now a member of the local search and rescue squad in Montana. Nick Thomas, Miranda’s former boyfriend, who is still in love with her, is now the Sheriff. Quincy Patterson, the FBI agent who investigated Miranda’s abduction, is back to help Nick and Miranda catch the killer. Miranda’s feelings about Quincy are unresolved as are hers about him. The tension among these three only adds to the mix, as they try to prevent the Butcher from kidnapping, torturing and then executing his next victim – by turning them loose in the woods and hunting them down like animals. Another good one. 04/08 Jack Quick
THE HUNT by Andrew Fukuda: In Gene’s world, vampires rule. Humans, or hepers, are all but extinct. The few that remain are farmed and studied at the Heper Institute or, like Gene, are living amongst the vampires, camouflaged as one of them. With morale low, the Ruler has decided that it’s time for a hunt—probably the last hunt ever. Folks are desperate to participate and will talk of the event for generations after. The hunters will be chosen by national lottery and sent to the Institute to train and learn about the humans before being set loose to hunt them down. It won’t last long, the hepers will be overcome by the more powerful and athletic vamps and torn to shreds. And this is exactly what would happen to Gene if he were ever discovered to be human. He’s lived by rules all his life, never attracting attention or doing anything to stand out. He must be diligent in keeping himself clean and shaved. He has to adopt all of the characteristics of the vampires around him. He can’t ever be noticed or found out. But when Gene’s number is chosen in the lottery, following the rules will no longer be enough. Gene is going to be at center spotlight, training and living with a voracious group of eager hunters. Fukuda’s latest is first in an exciting and unique series that will appeal to both teens and adults. There are no sparkly sympathetic vampires here, only vicious monsters and the end of humanity as we know it. And in the middle of it all, one teen all on his own and struggling to survive. 6/12 Becky Lejeune
HUNT AT THE WELL OF ETERNITY by Gabriel Hunt and James Reasoner: Unbuckle your swashes and lay in extra ammunition. Adventurer extraordinaire Gabriel Hunt is off on a swash buckling mission with plenty of fireworks. It starts with gunfire and the kidnapping of an Hispanic woman at a museum fund raiser. She leaves behind a bloodstained Confederate flag and a whiskey bottle full of water. From Manhattan, Hunt heads to St. Augustine, FL, dodging another attempted assassination enroute to the airport. The shooting resumes in Florida and follows Hunt to Mexico where he hooks up with the beautiful, gun-toting museum director Dr. Cierra Almanzar. Together they follow a path marked by fist fights, bullwhips and more gunfire. Often outnumbered but never outwitted, pulp adventure fans will be thrilled to see the genre revived in this series from Hard Case Crime. 07/10 Jack Quick
THE HUNTED by Wayne Barcomb: Twenty-one years ago, a little girl witnessed her father killing her mother. She was told to lie when the police came, but she told the truth about what she saw instead. Now her father has served his time and is ready for his revenge. The girl herself, nicknamed Lucky, was not left without damage, and she’s begun her own murder spree, seeking out a certain types of men and killing them in order to quiet her demons. Detective Frank Russo is on the case, but with little evidence and no leads, he’s not even sure where to begin looking. Barcomb’s latest is a bit disappointing. According to his bio, this is his third mystery, but The Hunted reads a bit like a first effort. There are so many characters introduced in the beginning of the book, an attempt to keep the true killer’s identity a surprise until the very end, but it ends up muddling up the story itself. Overall, I thought the book needed more development to reach its true potential. 04/09 Becky Lejeune
THE HUNTER by Asa Nonami: Officer Takako Otomichi is unfortunate in that she is one of few female officers in the Tachikawa Central Station Criminal Affairs Division of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. As a member of the task force set to investigate a fire that erupted in an all-night family restaurant, she is paired up with fellow officer Tumotsu Takizawa, an older gentleman of the belief that women should not be police officers. The investigation soon becomes one of homicide rather than arson when it is discovered that the one casualty in the fire was a targeted victim. This victim is soon linked to two more murders, the victims of which appear to have been mauled by a large dog. Although this mystery starts off quite promisingly, it soon degenerates into an unfortunately disappointing read. The characters’ inner dialogues, which are nothing more than arguments with each other, are more distracting than informative and Otomichi’s “bonding” with the killer wolf-dog was more than a bit over the top for my taste. 04/07 Becky Lejeune
HUNTER KILLER by Patrick Robinson: Moderation is not an issue here as Robinson crafts a takeover in Saudi Arabia mounted by a Saudi Arabian prince with French backing. Since the collapse of the Saudi Arabian oil industry and indeed the world economy is highly likely, the United States must jump in to prevent the coup. The showdown pits US Admiral Arnold Morgan against his arch rival, Ravi Rashood. Its big time global action with the future of the free world hanging in the balance. Yes, it’s been done before, even by Robinson, but you have to give him credit – he does it so well. 11/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
HUNTER’S MOON by Randy Wayne White: If the typical Randy Wayne White is a WOW, then this one is a WOW WOW. Kal Wilson, the Clinton-esque former President of the United States is dying from cancer. In his last month of life, he wants to avenge the death of his wife who was killed in a plane crash, while on a charitable mission in Central America. He enlist Doc Ford and Tomlinson as helpers promising them he can effect a full pardon for Tomlinson and make certain aspects of Ford’s previous government service “disappear.” It turns out Ford is actually battling his nemesis from 2004”s Tampa Burn (2004), the psychotic pyromaniac Lourdes, who had kidnapped Ford’s son. There is some philosophizing and appropriate concern for the environment, but mostly its kick-ass action as only White can write it. May be his best ever. 04/07 Jack Quick
THE HUNTERS by W.E.B. Griffin: Griffin has written the Brotherhood of War Series, The Corps Series, the Men At War Series, the Badge of Honor Series, the Honor Bound Series, and now the Presidential Agent Series. Together there are a total of thirty-five novels, with more than forty million copies in print in more than ten languages. Yet you can make the case that Griffin has written one very successful novel, which he keeps repeating. It’s true that the current series ranges more widely afield than the previous military thrillers, but its still the same basic plot. An independently wealthy individual surrounds himself with a band of co-conspirators who then use their skills and his wealth to further our country’s interests. Along the way, he risks his life, usually in exotic locales, meets and loves beautiful women, and somehow, ends up healthy, with the respect of his commanders and prepared to set forth on the next adventure. In this particular version, Presidential agent Charley Castillo continues his adventure previously begun in The Hostages following the malfeasance associated with the Iraq oil for food program. In Uruguay, a man is murdered before he can spill the secrets of an elaborate scam aimed at destroying the international reputation of the U.S. So it’s up to Castillo to follow up and solve the plot. Repeat or not, I enjoyed this Griffin just as I enjoyed the previous 34 and will probably enjoy the next one as well. He is just a darned good writer, even if you have the plot memorized, as I think I do. 03/07 Jack Quick
THE HUSBAND LIST by Janet Evanovich & Dorien Kelly: I suspected Evanovich had taken a page from James Patterson’s books and launched a new series with Dorien Kelly undoubtedly doing much of the work; it’s a win-win for both of them and this is the second book from the Kelly-Evanovich team. The first book, Love In A Nutshell, was contemporary romantic suspense and I found it very light on the romance and the suspense. This book takes the family name of one of the characters from Nutshell and moves back in time to just before the turn of the 19th century, to New York City and London during the gilded age in 1897. Caroline Maxwell is an heiress who has been groomed for most of her life to marry royalty. Her mother has her sights set on a Duke but Caroline has fallen in love with her brother’s best friend Jack. Jack’s only a second generation American, his father is Irish and self made, and totally unsuitable by Caroline’s mother’s standards. Will Caroline be forced into a loveless marriage? This is a romance; what do you think? This was a fast paced story and I found the time period very interesting; I found this a much better read than Nutshell. 1/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE HUSBAND’S SECRET by Liane Moriarity: Three women are the focus of this tale, and how their stories are woven together is at the crux of things. Cecilia Fitzpatrick is the perfect wife and mother, super organized, chairs committees, is involved with her children and her neighbors and genuinely likes doing the right thing. She’s also one of the top Tupperware sales people in Australia, but even her husband doesn’t realize her little job is bringing home some serious bacon. While he’s out of town on business, Cecelia stumbles upon a letter hand addressed to her by her husband, to be opened in the event of his death. His strange reaction to her finding it prompts her to read it, and all their lives are turned upside down. Rachel Crowley is an older woman whose daughter had been murdered while in high school. She’s never really recovered, and has lost her husband as well and tends to ignore her son, although her grandson is her reason for living. She finds something that convinces her that the P.E. teacher at the school is the one who murdered her daughter, but the police are hesitant to pursue him. Tess O’Leary lives across the continent where she is in business with her husband and her cousin, who also happens to be her best friend. When they confess to falling in love, Tess takes her son and moves in with her mother back home, where she has a fling with her old boyfriend, that P.E. teacher. This murder mystery has a lot of depth and character development as Moriarity shines her light on the lives of middle class women. Morality is not neatly defined here, and this novel is quite thought provoking while still being completely unputdownable. Another hit from the author of the terrific What Alice Forgot. 9/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
HUSH, HUSH by Becca Fitzpatrick: Nora Grey is not happy when she’s teamed up with the new guy in her Bio class. Patch is creepy and mysterious, in spite of being good looking, and he pushes all of Nora’s buttons. Then when she begins running into him outside of school, she has to wonder if he might be following her. But why would he bother? When Nora’s best friend is attacked, she’s forced to admit that something strange is going on around her, but is Patch behind it all or is it just a coincidence? Unfortunately for Nora, it seems that someone may have it in for her and whether it’s Patch or not, it’s clear that he’s hiding something. Hush, Hush is the first in an upcoming string of fallen angel fiction. Fitzpatrick’s story is original and engaging; definitely one that’s going to appeal to the thirsty horde of teen readers looking for something new to sink their teeth into. 10/09 Becky Lejeune
HYBRID by Brian O’Grady: Colorado Springs is experiencing a record number of violent deaths. Along with an outbreak of a strange flu, it’s inevitable that someone will connect the two. But the CDC has already examined the case and determined nothing more than an encephalitis outbreak. Amanda Flynn knows it’s not that simple. The only survivor of a strange virus called EDH1, or Hybrid, Amanda suspects that what’s happening in Colorado Springs is the same thing she saw in Honduras. Strangely, Amanda left Honduras with more than just an immunity to one of the most deadly viruses ever seen: the ability to use her mind for great violence. She can see other people’s thoughts and read their emotions. And if she were so inclined, Amanda could be a nightmarish weapon. When she senses another like herself amongst the new outbreak, she knows that she must come out of hiding and try to do something. But this new outbreak is just part of a horrible plan hatched by some of the world’s most twisted minds. O’Grady, a neurosurgeon by trade, makes his debut with this gripping medical thriller. 05/11 Becky Lejeune
THE HYPNOTIST by M. J. Rose: “The Hypnotist” is a centuries old statue currently at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art which has just been re-discovered after languishing for almost a century in a mislabeled carton in the Museum’s vast underground storage area. Iran has claimed the work was stolen from their country and wants it returned. Greece has filed a counter-claim that the work was created in Greece, but the Met is not going to give the piece away without a fight. The Iranians are not content to allow the matter to slowly proceed through the layers of bureaucracy that comprise the legal process. They think the statue is more than an art work, and indeed may hold the secrets of how man can tap the unused power of his imagination. Everything rests on the shoulders of Lucian Glass, special agent with the FBI’s Art Crime Team, who himself is suffering from a brutal attack, impossible nightmares and his own crisis of faith. Can he sort out fact from fiction before the mystery takes him as well? 05/10 Jack Quick