Fiction Reviews I: 1998-2013

I AM HALF-SICK OF SHADOWS by Alan Bradley: Flavia de Luce returns in this fourth of the series. This time, she’s out to catch Santa in the act. With a booby-trapped roof and a fireworks display in the makings, the eleven year old is sure that her plan is foolproof. But Flavia’s scheme is complicated when the family estate is rented out to a film crew. With Christmas just days away, a charity event is announced on site as well, leaving much of the population of Bishop’s Lacey snowed in and camping out in Flavia’s house. When the star of the show is discovered dead, Flavia can’t help but become involved in the investigation. Can she solve the murder before Saint Nick’s arrival? Newcomers to the series can safely jump in with this holiday installment. Bradley’s heroine is delightfully fun and the mystery will keep you guessing until the very end. 12/11 Becky Lejeune

I AM LEGEND by Richard Matheson: In I am Legend, thirty-five year old Robert Neville is the sole survivor of a strange plague of vampirism that has struck the United States following a catastrophic war. It seems to have begun with raging dust storms and swarms of mosquitoes. Then Robert’s own family succumbs to this mysterious ailment. Robert spends his evenings barricaded in his home, trying to drown out the sounds of the vampires outside. His days are spent searching out and killing as many of these bloodthirsty souls as possible. At first, survival is all Robert is concerned with. Then, he begins to focus his energy on research. What caused the virus? Why is garlic effective while bullets are not? The discovery of a living dog sends Robert on a desperate search for a cure. Surely, if he and the dog have both survived, other people must have as well.
Some readers may recognize this particular story and well you should. The 1964 film Last Man on Earth, starring Vincent Price, and the 1971 film The Omega Man, starring Charleton Heston, are both adaptations of this particular tale. And yes, this fall another version will hit the big screen. Matheson is one of the most well-known horror writers of all time. Many of his stories have been adapted for the big screen, including What Dreams May Come and Stir of Echoes.
Of course, I am Legend is just one of many stories in this collection. Others feature dancing zombies, a particularly angry house, voodoo death curses, and angry Zuni spirits – just to name a few topics. Matheson is an amazing talent who has inspired many of today’s horror authors. Read the story, then see the movies. 07/07 Becky Lejeune

I AM PILGRIM by Terry Hayes: An extremely literate story about a battle between two titans of their respective sides. One is an American, adopted son of a family with a great deal of privilege, currently an agent for a U.S. government agency only depicted as higher than the CIA. The other is a poor Arab boy born in Saudi Arabia but turned into a terrorist by the Saudi’s execution of his father for no apparent reason. The American uses the name of Pilgrim in order to hide his real identity and has become one of the most effective agents his agency has. The Arab is turned onto terrorism by the Saudi’s execution of his father just because the man spoke badly of the king. He decides that revenge against Saudi Arabia would be best served by a massive terrorist attack on the United States, which he deems the Saudi’s ally. He proceeds to buildup a well prepared background becoming known as the Saracen in order to effect this attack. Hayes is brilliant in developing the two characters, their motivations, their reactions to each other as mortal enemies. The reader knows each one intimately through the author’s descriptions and can relate to their actions on an ongoing basis. What the Saracen decides to use to attack the United States demands a preparation that only a very bright mind could conceive of and work towards. It is a credible threat that the reader will be able to identify as possible. Pilgrim’s planning and actions against this enemy must be even more clever in order to win the mental battle between them. The action moves back and forth starting with a murder investigation in New York and ending in Turkey. Hayes, in an afterward, indicates that film rights are in process and I would certainly be a fan of that if it comes out. In the meanwhile I do trust that the author is planning more books for the near future, and those I will grab as soon as available. Available on only, to be published traditionally on May 27, 2014. 10/13 Paul Lane

I, IAGO by Nicole Galland: As Shakespeare’s Othello opens, Othello and Desdemona have eloped and Iago, Othello’s friend and ensign, has been passed over for promotion in lieu of Cassio. Iago plots an intricate revenge that ends in the death of his wife, his friend Roderigo, Othello’s wife, and Othello himself. Galland’s I, Iago is a look at Iago from childhood through the events that lead to his undoing. From the beginning, Iago believes that merit will get him to the top. He is known as being honest, though he is somewhat manipulative in his honesty. His friendship with Othello, his pain at being slighted, and other imagined insults all become fuel for the fire of his jealousy and anger. Galland is a clever writer and worthy of the challenge of taking on Shakespeare. Her Othello is a complex character and his story is one that readers unfamiliar with Othello can appreciate as well as the greatest of Shakespearean scholars. 5/12 Becky Lejeune

I DO SOLEMNLY SWEAR by D. M. Annechino: Feminists rejoice; Kansas farm girl turned Governor Kate Miles takes office as the first female president when the president dies of a coronary less than a year into their administration. However, the first lady warns the new president that something is amiss about her husband’s death, and away we go into conspiracy land. The new President has her hands full with her selection of a new vice president, a crumbling marriage, a Middle East crisis, the investigation into the apparent assassination, and a staff with varying allegiances. Unfortunately, the only characters that are fully fleshed out are President Miles and the bad guy with the requisite abusive childhood. The rest of the characters dance across the pages with no motivation, no background and occasionally no purpose. If all this sounds a bit cliché, it is; nonetheless the pages fly by despite the occasional jolting transitions in storyline and the trite ending that leaves the door wide open for a sequel. While not in the same class as Brad Meltzer, Vince Flynn or David Baldacci, political thriller junkies may still enjoy Annechino. 10/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2012 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.

I LOVE THIS BAR by Carolyn Brown: My delve into the romance genre continues with this contemporary Texas love story between a rich rancher and a lonely barmaid. Daisy O’Dell rides into town and stays when her car dies, eventually inheriting the Honky Tonk when the owner, Ruby, who took her in, gave her a job and a home and a friend, dies. A few years later one of the ranchers in town loses his wife and his mind, he’s diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and his favorite nephew comes to the ranch to help him out. Escaping from his cantankerous uncle one night, he literally runs into Daisy and it’s lust at first sight for the both of them. He’s convinced it can never be more because his aunt and his mother have pounded it into his head that he deserves more than just a barmaid. She’s convinced of the same, so of course it’s inevitable that the two of them a butt heads before they finally get together. It’s a fast, fun read, but a little too simpleminded and repetitive for my taste. Are there any intelligent romances out there? Romances that don’t assume the reader has an IQ no higher than the double digits, or am I missing the point? I don’t mean to sound like a snob, but there has to be more to this genre than this complete fluff. I’m going to keep looking. 9/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

I LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER by Larry Doyle: Since June is high school graduation month, it’s no coincidence Harper Collins just released I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle. This is the graduation story to end all graduation stories. Denis Cooverman is Buffalo Grove High School’s class valedictorian. As part of that honor, he is required to give a graduation speech. Instead of the usual “life is just beginning, the world is our oyster, we can heal the planet” oration, Denis instead declares his undying love for Beth Cooper, the popular, pretty cheerleader he sat behind in every class since first grade.
After that, all manner of hell breaks loose.
The story takes place over the course of 24 hours. Within that time frame, Denis and his best friend, Richard, who may or may not be gay, get entwined in a series of escapades that are simultaneously violent, comic, and surreal. Beth Cooper’s boyfriend is a drug-addled, hummer-driving, Iraq war veteran, intent on ending Denis’s life. Each chapter chronicles Denis receiving a good solid beating followed by a narrow escape. The beginning of each chapter also includes an image of Denis at that point in the story. He starts out as your everyday nerd and, by the book’s end, winds up a naked, toothless, puked-upon, bloody mess.
I Love You, Beth Cooper is by no means young adult fiction. It’s probably not suitable for parents of high school age children either. This is not your average coming-of-age tale. Graduation night in Buffalo Grove is a Dionysian orgy that makes the ancient Greeks look like bluestockings. It’s all there: harsh language, substance abuse, graphic violence, lurid sex. Although it may sound as if this book is out to shock, it’s actually quite funny. Hysterically so. Larry Doyle is a former writer for the Simpsons (television program) and currently contributes to the New Yorker. I Love You, Beth Cooper is smart-funny, loaded with references to popular culture, and the dialogue simply crackles with wit.
Throughout the beatings and the booze, Denis slowly develops a relationship with Beth Cooper. Meanwhile, Richard, who may or may not be gay, takes up with Beth’s cheerleading pals. Despite the raunchiness and grotesquerie, a touching story develops. Doyle reminds us what it is like to be eighteen years old again. The clumsiness and insecurity of youth are brilliantly rendered. He takes us back to those wild graduation parties and makes us grateful that we, somehow, survived those fateful days. 06/07 Dan Cawley

I, SNIPER by Stephen Hunter: The latest Bob Lee Swagger starts with the sniper murder of four prominent aging Viet Nam anti war protestors starting with Joan Flanders, a Jane Fonda knock off. The FBI quickly zeroes in on a scenario involving a Viet Nam vet with an axe to grind and a very specific set of skills. The list of prospective suspects isn’t that long and the authorities settle on retired Marine Carl Hitchcock. When Hitchcock commits suicide, he leaves the FBI empty handed. Enter our hero, Bob Lee Swagger, who doesn’t believe that Hitchcock was the culprit and for reasons of his own decides to prove it. As you would expect he ends up in real killer’s sights but perseveres so we can look forward hopefully to another Swagger outing. This book is much better than the last couple, so maybe Hunter is back in his groove. 01/10 Jack Quick

I THINK I LOVE YOU by Allison Pearson: If the title immediately sends you back to the 1970’s, then you will probably love this book. Yes, it is about that song, well, more specifically about the singer that made that song, David Cassidy, and the teenage girls who adored him. I was a young teenager then and knew lots of girls who were wild about The Partridge Family star. This book is about two young teens from Wales who considered themselves his biggest fans.
Petra, a budding cellist, grew up with a very proper mother who did not allow posters or pop music in the house. Her best friend Sharon had the David Cassidy shrine on the walls of her bedroom and the scrapbooks, while Petra hid her copies of “The Essential David Cassidy Magazine” under the floorboards in her bedroom. The first half of the book leads up to the girls sneaking off to see his concert, and culminates with the magazines Ultimate David Cassidy Quiz, offering the winner a chance to fly out to Hollywood and meet the pop idol on the set of his TV show. Convinced they will win, Petra sends off her entry, naming Sharon as the friend to accompany her on the winning trip, but the book cuts away to a thirty-seven year old Petra before we find out more.
Petra is having a really bad day. She finds out her philandering husband has decided to move in with his much younger girlfriend a mere few hours before receiving the phone call that her mother has died. In coping with all that, Petra goes home to clean out her mother’s house and finds the letter informing her that she had won the contest – but her mother hid that letter and never told her. In a moment of madness, she calls the current incantation of that magazine and demands her prize. Human interest story for sure, and the magazine goes for the reunion idea. We also meet Bill, the writer who started out as David Cassidy for the magazine and ended up running a string of celebrity rags, and how all their paths eventually cross. But this is so much more than a story about innocence lost. Much like her first novel, I Don’t Know How She Does It, Pearson turns the idea of chick-lit on its head and takes us on a much deeper journey. This is a thought-provoking book intertwined with nostalgia, tears and laughter. An added bonus is the afterword; the author’s 2004 interview with the icon himself. 02/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
I THINK I LOVE YOU by Allison Pearson: It’s 1974 and David Cassidy is coming to England. Not only that, but winning the ultimate David Cassidy quiz contest means that two lucky fans will get to meet the teen idol face to face. Thirteen-year-old Petra and her best friend Sharon are sure that it will be them; no one loves Cassidy more. Twenty-four years later, Petra’s mother has passed away and Petra discovers a letter hidden away for over two decades. Turns out Petra and Sharon really did win that contest. On a wild chance, Petra contacts the now defunct magazine only to discover that the current publication thinks her story would be perfect for print—she and Sharon will get a second chance to meet Cassidy as well as the real man behind the fantasy. And it’s not at all what they thought it would be. Pearson’s latest begins as a sweet and nostalgic sort of chick-lit but later transitions into a more deep story about friends, family, and growing up. Even though Cassidy was before my time, I nonetheless found myself humming the namesake song from start to finish. 02/11 Becky Lejeune

THE ICE PRINCESS by Camilla Läckberg: When the body of Alex Wijkner is discovered, officials are ready to rule the death a suicide. In fact, a first glance of the crime scene would indicate that this is true. At closer inspection, however, evidence soon proves that Alex was the victim of a cold and calculated murder. Her childhood friend, Erica Falck, makes a living as a biographer and author. At the request of the family, Erica agrees to write a piece on Alex for a local paper. But Erica is not done there. Her curiosity wins out and she becomes determined to solve the mystery of Alex’s death. Together with investigator Patrik Hedstrom, the two will unravel a secret that the folks in Fjallbacka have been hiding for decades. Fans of Scandinavian mystery giants Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson are sure to love The Ice Princess. Läckberg’s strength lies not only in smart plotting, but also in excellent character development. This first in Läckberg’s highly praised series, originally released overseas over ten years ago, marks her US debut. Book two, The Preacher, is now available as well. 05/11 Becky Lejeune

ICE TRAP by Kitty Sewell: Years ago, after a horrible surgical accident, Dr. Dafydd Woodruff escaped to the tiny, secluded town of Moose Creek, Alaska. Woodruff served nine months as a temporary doctor in the town and then returned to his home in Whales. Today, Dr. Woodruff is a much respected surgeon who has managed to put his past behind him. Woodruff and his wife have everything going for them, but have been trying unsuccessfully to have a baby. Then one day, Dafydd receives a letter from a thirteen-year-old girl back in Moose Creek. She claims that she and her twin brother are Dafydd’s children. The problem is Dafydd swears he never had any sort of physical relationship with the children’s mother. DNA results don’t lie, however, and Dafydd returns to Moose Creek to find out just what is going on. What he discovers there will change his life forever. This gripping debut is infectiously readable. From page one, Sewell snatches hold of readers and never lets up. Surprisingly enough, Ice Trap is inspired by – but not based on – an actual event in the author’s life. With her debut title already the subject of much buzz and nominated for multiple awards, Kitty Sewell is one author who will definitely be a great. 02/08 Becky Lejeune

THE ICON by Neil Olson: For the foreseeable future all novels of this type will be compared fairly or unfairly to The Da Vinci Code. The Holy Mother of Katarini is a Greek Orthodox religious icon that becomes the focus of international intrigue, deception and death because of its role in certain World War II events in Greece. The book is well written and fast paced as NY Metropolitan Museum employee Matthew Spear tries to stay alive and come to grips with the power of the icon. Spear’s Greek grandfather was involved with the disappearance of the icon in World War II but it shows up some 55 years later in the custody of the granddaughter of a German officer who was also present at the “disappearance” of the icon. Olson does a good job of filling in details for those of us not familiar with the inner workings of the Greek Orthodox Church without over doing it. There are at least four factions involved as the story evolves and the surprise ending reveals even more truths about the events that set the chain into motion. All in all, a fascinating tale, well written and thought provoking. How does it compare to The Da Vinci Code? Read both and judge for yourself. 05/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

I’D KNOW YOU ANYWHERE by Laura Lippman: Eliza Benedict is married to a good provider, has two terrific kids, and they’ve just moved home to the U.S. after several years in London. Everyone is having adjustment problems but hers become especially difficult after she is contacted by Walter Bowman. He is on his last weeks of death row for kidnapping, rape and murder. Benedict was his only victim that lived; he kidnapped her when she was 15 years old and held her for several weeks before she finally got away. Now he wants to speak with her and her life is turned upside down. Her husband knows, but no one else does, especially her kids who are having enough problems of their own. This is a very powerful novel, psychologically compelling and one of Lippman’s best – which is saying a lot. Don’t miss it. 09/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE IDEAL MAN by Julie Garwood: As I continue my study of the romance genre, I would have been remiss not to read this NY Times bestselling author, and I’m very glad I did. This is not your grandmother’s romance; this is smart, contemporary and suspenseful. Dr. Ellie Sullivan is young, beautiful, and brilliant and finishing up her residency as an emergency room surgeon. She witnesses a shooting while running in the park that is part of an FBI investigation. An agent has been shot and Ellie saves his life. His partner, Agent Max Daniels, fears for her life as all the previous witnesses were either killed or they disappeared. Ellie is going home for her sister’s wedding, and Max decides to accompany her, especially after he reads her file and finds out she’s been troubled by a stalker for years. The romance is sweet, the story is entertaining and edgy, and all in all, this was a good read. 09/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

IDENTITY CRISIS by Debbi Mack: Lawyers generally start out at a disadvantage as protagonists because not everyone holds their profession in high regard. Female lawyers like Samantha “Sam” McRae are placed at a further disadvantage when, early on, they hop into bed with a married man as an antidote for months of abstinence. Her personal characteristics notwithstanding, Sam has a problem – a missing female client who may or may not be involved with a complex case of murder and identity theft that involves strips clubs, the Mob, and the FBI. Set in and around Baltimore, the well written story deserves a heroine who can get the job done out of bed rather than cluttering up the script with her personal needs. False identities can hide dark secrets, and those secrets can destroy lives. So can thoughtless actions. 12/09 Jack Quick

THE IDENTITY MAN by Andrew Klavan: Yes, John Shannon is a petty thief but he is not the vicious killer the police think he is. On the run with the cops closing in on him, he figures all he has to look forward to life in prison-or death by lethal injection. Then, he meets the Identity Man who offers him an incredible chance to start over with a new face, a new home, a new beginning. Soon, to his amazement, Shannon finds himself working as a carpenter and a wood carver, and for the first time falls in love with the sort of woman who could make him a better man. Its almost too god to be true – and it is. It turns out this city is corrupt from top to bottom with crooked politicians, gangsters, dirty cops everywhere. Shannon finds all of them are after him, for some reason he doesn’t know. —and, for some reason he doesn’t understand. If he is going to have any life, he must solve this mystery quickly. Nicely done. 11/10 Jack Quick

IDENTITY THEORY by Peter Temple: This is the sixth novel for Australian Temple and his American debut. You almost wish that it were science fiction rather than mystery. John Anselm is a former journalist working in Hamburg, Germany with a former intelligence officer, some stolen software and computer hackers who provide information on demand for the highest bidder. The only way you can evade their attention is if you have no job, no bank, no driver’s license, no utilities, nothing that is ever entered into a computer and you also never pass underneath the eye of a security camera. Otherwise, you are a possible target. This time they get into something much deeper than the run of the mill malfeasance they normally deal with – an entire government is at stake. Anselm’s past rudely intrudes on the present as forces far more powerful than their little intelligence company struggle over their work. Recommended. 04/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

IF JACK’S IN LOVE by Stephen Wetta: Set in the late 1960’s, this coming of age story revolves around 12 year old Jack and his family; the Witchers’ are the town pariahs. Jack is an anomoly, bright and sensitive, while his father is an unemployed hillbilly from the backwoods who loves stirring up trouble in the neighborhood, whether by storing trash all over the yard or fighting with the neighbors. Jack’s mom is sweet but homely and completely downtrodden, while Jack’s brother Stan is a pot smoking hippie yet also a street tough with a violent temper. I found this character, Stan, a little hard to understand, having grown up in the late 60’s/early 70s, when it was my experience that most pot smoking hippies were also peace loving gentle folk. Jack has few friends and a major crush on Myra, but that is a relationship that is fraught with difficulties, especially after her brother goes missing and Stan is the prime suspect in his disappearance. Racism and anti-Semitism are touched on, and the mystery surrounding the missing teen ratchets up the tension a bit, but this is Jack’s story, and despite all that is going on around him, this is a lovely fairytale, if you will, about a boy who rises up beyond his beginnings. An excellent read, especially for book groups. 09/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

IF YOU COULD SEE ME NOW by Cecelia Ahern: Ivan is an invisible friend – he only appears to those who need him and only stays until they no longer need him. When he meets Luke, he’s pleased to have found a friend so soon after helping his last one. What surprises Ivan is when Luke’s aunt, Elizabeth Egan, sees him as well. Strange as it may seem, Elizabeth needs Ivan’s help the most. See, it’s rare that Ivan appears to adults even though he appears to be an adult himself. Elizabeth may have a great career as an interior designer, but she’s not happy. She’s always been the dependable, responsible sister and, as a result, is raising her nephew Luke. Elizabeth has no room in her life for magic or love or even fun but Ivan is about to open her up to all three. Cecelia Ahern’s books are such a treat. Each one is sweet and funny and truly heartwarming; an all around feel good read. 10/06 Becky LeJeune

IGGY by Dalton Stephenson: Stephenson is a retired Alabama school teacher and former corporate executive. Like his previous efforts, this short work is a morality tale. Igor Goren “Iggy” Yasananovich is the disfigured son of an immigrant Russian coal miner. Added to his misfortune was the family’s location in the rural South of the early twentieth century, where the vast majority of people were of either British or African ancestry. John Luke Smart befriends Iggy and helps him through his troubles. Short, simple, and morally correct. 12/08 Jack Quick

Ilium by Dan Simmons: This is a big book, sprawling across our solar system from Earth to Mars and beyond. The title derives from a replication of the Trojan War taking on Mars for the entertainment of godlike creatures residing imperiously on Olympus Mons. To observe the extent of their power and compare their recreation with the original, they have brought back to life period scholars from twenty-first century Earth. The first party narrator of this part of the story is one of those “scholics,” Thomas Hockenberry. His observations of the progress of the conflict and discussions of specific characters will delight readers with a familiarity with Homer’s classics. His eventual interaction with the “gods” and principals of the story, including a dalliance with Helen herself, will delight science fiction fans. This would have been sufficient for a good book, but was not enough for this “big book” which contains two more story lines from other planets as well.
Earth for the most part has been abandoned and is left only to an effete pleasure seeking race whose every need is catered to throughout their measured 100 year lives. Their pleasures include watching the events occurring on Mars like an MTV video through the medium of a device called a “Turin-cloth.” However, this life is not enough for a small band of curious adventurers who, despite their race’s loss of the ability to read, are determined to find out the how and why of their existence.
The final, and most fun, story line involves biomachines, like something from a cable TV channel, sent from Jupiter to probe and perhaps destroy the mysterious emanations from Olympus Mons. These space-hardened machines are the real intellectuals of the book, specializing in Shakespeare and Proust, and having perhaps the most authentic emotions of any of its characters. This background is helpful when they encounter Prospero, Ariel and Caliban.
As I said, this is a big book. And apparently, one big book was not enough, because a following volume, Olympus, promises to bring all of this conflict and confusion to some sort of resolution. I have to believe that the reason the book is so big is because Simmons had so much fun writing it and just couldn’t bring himself to stop. I enjoyed it and I think readers of science fiction and epics will enjoy it. But I emerged from it feeling more that I had been sitting under a Turin cloth than getting a real intellectual workout. ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.

I LOVE MY SMITH & WESSON by David Bowker: Robert B. Parker is the master of sparse prose but Ken Bruen and now David Bowker are showing some of the same talent. Rawhead, the former chief executioner of the Manchester mob, gets back into the business, after learning that a $50,000 bounty has been placed on his head. Gritty and dark, like the streets of Manchester, the cobbles of which are dyed by the generations of blood spilled on them. Graphic violence, etc. and a twist which sets up future adventures. A good one. 06/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

ILL WIND by Rachel Caine: The first of Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden books proves to be an excellent start to a refreshingly original urban fantasy series. Joanna Baldwin has the ability to control the air and water. She is a Weather Warden of great power, but some debated whether she was trainable—in other words, controllable. When an incident with her boss leaves Joanna on the run from the Wardens and carrying a Demon Mark, she knows that there is only one person who can possibly help her. Lewis, a fellow Warden who has the power to control all of the elements—a rare combination amongst the Wardens—has been on the run himself. Before he left, though, he managed to steal three of the Warden’s coveted Djinn. Rumor has it that a Demon Mark can successfully be transferred to a Djinn. But Joannna must find Lewis in time to save her own soul. Elemental based magic and genies. Ill Wind is just the first of a series that is so far comprised of eight additional titles (the latest due out this summer). With a killer plot and an excellent ending, Ill Wind is a must read for any urban fantasy fan. 04/10 Becky Lejeune

ILLEGAL by Paul Levine: Jimmy “Royal” Payne is a shady Los Angeles lawyer. He lost his son, and then his wife, and is not too popular with the local police. He manages to screw up a sting operation and goes on the run when he crosses paths with a 12-year-old Mexican boy. Tino is looking for his mother because they were separated in their illegal border crossing. Payne’s ex, a local cop, gives Payne an ultimatum: help the boy or go to jail. So Payne and Tino go off looking for the boy’s mother, and find themselves mixed up with the immigration problems in California’s farming community, not to mention forced prostitution. Payne is likeable in a very similar way to Levine’s previous Lassiter & Solomon characters, but this is a much edgier, darker book. Taking on the hot political potato of immigration gives a new twist to a tautly written thriller. I couldn’t put it down. 04/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ILLEGAL ACTION by Stella Rimington: Ambitious MI-5 officer Liz Carlyle has been transferred from counter-terrorism to counter-espionage after the discovery of a mole in the previous outing. Although the counter-espionage section has been scaled back as the result of the end of the Cold War, there is no shortage of potential action, as there are more spies operating in London in the twenty-first century than there were during the height of East-West hostilities. While the Russians maintain a large presence much of their current activity is Russian versus Russian as the old regime splinters. Liz quickly uncovers a plot to silence one of these Russians: Nikita Brunovsky, an increasingly vocal opponent of Vladimir Putin. The Foreign Office is adamant about forestalling a crime that could become a full-blown international incident, but there’s not a single clue as to how the assassination will be carried out. It is up to Liz to make the save. Another well written book by the first woman Director General of MI-5. You got to wander where fact ends and fiction starts. 07/08 Jack Quick

I’M WATCHING YOU by Mary Burton: Two days before her seventeenth birthday, Lindsay Hines returned home from her summer job to find her mother dead in her backyard. After suffering years of abuse at the hands of Lindsay’s father, it had finally gone too far. It’s been twelve years since that horrific night and Lindsay Hines is now Lindsay O’Neil, a strong and independent woman who has worked to recover emotionally from the traumas of her childhood. Lindsay now provides help and support to other women like her mother. On the anniversary of her mother’s death, Lindsay will discover that someone else has been watching her, someone who is targeting the very men Lindsay is trying to protect her clients from. I’m Watching You is a great one-sitting read with just the right combination of suspense and romance. Characters will return next Fall in Burton’s upcoming thriller, Dead Ringer. 08/08 Becky Lejeune

AN IMAGE OF DEATH by Libby Fischer Hellmann: Videographer and producer Ellie Foreman is really a nice person, she just keeps coming into contact with dead bodies, and killers. This time it’s a mysterious videotape delivered to her door that shows a young woman being murdered. Ellie gets the gruesome feeling this is no act, but rather the real thing. This time Ellie’s adversary is the Russian Mafia, but with the help of village police officer Georgia Davis she manages to survive once again. There are some problems, however, as she and her lover, David, come very close to breaking up. With each book, Hellman just gets better. For example “Park Ridge has always been a schizophrenic suburb, unsure whether it wants to be home to the Little House on the Prairie or the Mall of America. But what can you expect from a town that originally went by the name of Pennyville?” Another treat. 06/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

IMMORAL by Brian Freeman: A terrific new thriller from a terrific new writer. A teenage girl goes missing one night, a year after another teenage girl disappeared. Neither case seems related, yet both are haunting Detective Jonathan Stride. Set in Duluth, Minnesota, wonderfully drawn characters that come to life populate this twisty tale deceit, betrayal and murder. Freeman is being compared to Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly & Dennis Lehane, some pretty heavy hitters and I can see why. This book was un-put-downable. 09/05

IMMORTAL LAWS by Jim Hansen: Blues singer Heather Vaughn has the same bloodlines as a young woman who is found with a wooden stake driven through her heart – both are descended from men who were reputed to be vampires. In this, his sixth outing, coffee drinking serial womanizing Denver homicide detective Bryson Coventry is under suspicion because of the disappearance of childhood friend Jena Vernon, now a local television news reporter, last seen with Coventry. Heather is trying to stay alive while helping to find a group of slayers that appear to be roaming the world to eradicate vampire descendents. Coventry doesn’t believe in ghosts, or vampires, or werewolves, or any of that stuff, but he does believe in himself “Just because I don’t know what I’m doing doesn’t mean I’m wrong.” Another solid police procedural with only a touch of “woo-woo”, that doesn’t interfere at all with the action in this modern-day thriller rooted in ancient and deadly rites. All in all, another very satisfying read. 09/08 Jack Quick

THE IMMORTALS by J.T. Ellison: It’s Halloween and Taylor Jackson has just been reinstated as Lieutenant. Her unit has been reassembled—with one missing exception—and the team has been called to the scene of a shocking crime: Seven Nashville teens have been brutally murdered and an eighth lies in critical condition. The bodies have been marked with pentagrams and some of the deaths caught on camera, the terrible video up on display all over the web. With evidence that points to the supernatural, the normally grounded Taylor is convinced there is something more earthly behind the murders. As she and her team investigate, Baldwin is facing a disciplinary hearing at Quantico, forced to pay the price for a secret he’s kept for six years. Another great installment in the series. Ellison really shows that she can step out of the box and take her characters to unexpected places with The Immortals. 11/10 Becky Lejeune

THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD by Ian Rankin: Rankin’s second novel featuring Malcolm Fox and his colleagues in The Complaints (the name given to the Internal Affairs department who seek out dirty and compromised cops), conduct a major inquiry into a neighboring police force. A copper has been found guilty of using his position to extort sex. He is found guilty but there is some question whether three of his mates may have conducted a cover-up and/or committed perjury. The case quickly turns even more serious when the uncle of the convicted copper, the one who turned him in, is found shot to death. Suicide? Fox doesn’t think so. With secrets buried in the past, and reputations on the line, the result is a pulse-pounding thriller. 12/11 Jack Quick
IMMUNITY by Lori Andrews: Dr. Alexandra Blake may have stumbled across a virulent new outbreak in this third installment of the AFIP (Armed Forces Institute of Pathology) based forensic series. When DEA agent Ted Silliman’s body is sent to Walter Reed Hospital for autopsy, Blake is the one who ends up bringing the results back to his fellow officers. His superiors are ready to chalk the man’s death up to an overdose and sweep the whole thing under the rug, but his partner, Castro Baxter, is insistent that the man wasn’t using. Alex decides to dig a little deeper, but then the body goes missing. She discovers evidence of a second similar case in Taos, New Mexico – the same place Silliman and Baxter had been working when the DEA agent died. When more cases begin to pop up, Alex is convinced that they’re facing a deadly new infection that needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. Her concerns are ignored by the powers that be, however, and she and the AFIP team decide to take matters into their own hands before chaos ensues. Immunity is an effective and intense combination of forensic mystery and medical thriller. Throw in some political turmoil and you’ve got yet another exciting installment to a stand-out and original new series. 09/08 Becky Lejeune

In Fidelity by M. J. Rose: This is fast and furious reading, completely entertaining and enthralling.

IN FOR THE KILL by John Lutz: Retired NYPD homicide detective Frank Quinn and his team of Pearl Kasner and “Feds” Federman, who were featured in Darker Than Night are called back into action to help stop a woman-killing madman in New York City. The serial killer, nicknamed the Butcher, kills his victims, all brunette women, in a particularly bizarre fashion. He drowns them in the bathtub, drains their bodies of blood, then dismembers them, leaving the body parts stacked in ritualistic fashion in the bathtub. After the first three victims are discovered it becomes apparent that the killer is targeting Quinn as the first letters of the last names of the victims are Q-U-I. Sure enough, the next two have last names beginning with N. The return of Quinn’s daughter from California to live with him rachets up the suspense yet another notch. Extremely well done page turner. 11/08 Jack Quick

IN HARM’S WAY by Irene Hannon: This is the third and final book of Hannon’s The Heroes of Quantico series. As with last year’s An Eye for An Eye, I found it to be too much romance and too little suspense. FBI agent Nick Bradley is dealing with a sensitive and artistic piano instructor, Rachel Sutton, who has had a psychic experience from a Raggedy Ann doll buried in the snow of a parking lot. Nick is unable to shake a persistent feeling that Rachel is for real and soon the report of a missing baby is linked with the doll. Predictably Nick and Rachel become emotionally involved and Rachel becomes imperiled. Ho hum. 03/10 Jack Quick

In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner: A lovely, funny look at sisters. Rose is a successful attorney, slightly overweight and living alone until her beautiful, flighty sister Maggie gets evicted and moves in. Maggie has sticky fingers, helping herself to Rose’s money, makeup, shoes, and eventually, well, something no sister should ever take from another. There is the requisite happy ending though, making this a fun, feel good read. Note to author: Poetry is not found in the fiction stacks, but in the 811 stacks in any public library, including Broward County’s.

IN PLAIN SIGHT by Mike Knowles: Wilson is a hit man who gets hit himself by a drunk driver, which causes him to wake up in the hospital handcuffed to the bed, and under the control of an ambitious “dirty” cop who is willing to trade Wilson for “a bigger fish.” Of course, this means Wilson will remain on the hook and be dangled as bait, neither of which sounds good to him. Meanwhile, there are some Russian mobsters who want a piece of Wilson as well. Can he lure both cops and robbers into his own trap? Can he then extricate himself from this mess? Third outing for Wilson after Darwin’s Nightmare (2008) and Grinder (2009). Just keeps getting better. Definitely recommended. 10/10 Jack Quick

IN PLAIN VIEW by J. Wachowski: Having spent over four decades in the media, I generally avoid media based mysteries, but this one was pretty good. The first person protagonist, Maddy O’Hara, is a former freelance Chicago reporter forced by economics to sign on with a suburban Chicago television station. Part of her assignment is shepherding and training the nephew of the station’s program director. On their first outing, they come across a man in Amish clothing hanging from a tree – dead. O’Hara didn’t even know there were Amish in the area. Soon she learns there is much more to this story that people do not want to come out, especially Sheriff Jack Curzon. What starts out as a simple assignment soon turns into a gauntlet as O’Hara tried to solve the mystery and save herself and her family. Not bad. ( only) 06/10 Jack Quick

IN SEARCH OF THE ROSE NOTES by Emily Arsenault: Nora and Charlotte were eleven when their babysitter, Rose, went missing without a trace. The girls were determined to solve the mystery back then. Nora had been the last person to see Rose alive: they walked home together that evening and then Rose disappeared over the hill up the street. Now, it’s sixteen years later and Rose’s body has finally been found. Though Nora has thought about that night for a long time, returning to her hometown in the wake of the discovery brings a lot of buried memories to the surface. Then Nora finds a series of poems that seem to connect to Rose and the weeks before her disappearance. Now, she and Charlotte have resumed their investigation. Arsenault’s mystery is one that plays off the natural anxieties and worries of children and teens, skillfully bringing to life the emotions of all the characters involved. 07/11 Becky Lejeune
IN SECRET SERVICE by Mitch Silver: Yale history professor Amy Greenberg is newly engaged to boyfriend Scott Brown and loves her work. Then she receives notice that she needs to come to Dublin to claim the contents of a safe deposit box leased by her deceased grandfather, a World War II veteran who served with the famous Ian Fleming (“Bond, James Bond”) during the War. Inside the box is an unpublished, nonfiction manuscript written in 1964 that Fleming had intended would not see the light of day until fifty years after his death. Instead the pending closure of the bank has placed the material in Amy’s hands in 2005. The Fleming manuscript details a previously unknown conspiracy between former King Edward and Adolf Hitler. The conspiracy apparently continues to this day as Amy and Scott find themselves in danger from villains looking to steal the manuscript. An interesting premise, but unfortunately this first time novelist doesn’t quite pull it off, as the coincidences and connections are occasionally strained and the non-historical characters sometimes come off as caricatures, i.e. a New York City homicide detective accepting that a person allergic to peanuts would voluntarily consume them. I think (and hope) Silver’s next effort will be much better. 01/08 Jack Quick

IN SECRET SERVICE by Mitch Silver: Ansbacher bank in Ireland is having trouble with taxing authorities and will most likely be closing its doors. All persons holding safe deposit boxes at the bank have received letters requesting that they empty out the boxes or the contents will be auctioned off. Amy Greenberg is the recipient of one such letter on behalf of her grandfather, Raymond “Chief” Greenberg. The Chief has now been dead for ten years and Amy had no knowledge of any safe deposit box. A trip to Ireland to recover the contents leads Amy to an extraordinary discovery. Contained in the box is what appears to be an unpublished manuscript by none other than 007 creator Ian Fleming. “Provenance” is not an unknown Bond novel, however. It appears to be Fleming’s own account of a traitor within the monarchy during WWII. The secret that Fleming wants Amy to help him reveal – for the manuscript was addressed directly to Amy all along – is one that has been contained since the war. Silver’s debut is, in many places, in danger of being overwhelmed by characters and names and “interesting facts.” Amy herself, fortyish and about to earn her doctorate, also comes across as a bit immature in my view. The book is saved, however, by the intriguing plot and amazingly fast pacing. Silver enhances this tale with copies of documents that are supposed to be included with the manuscript in order to prove the revelations in the fictional Fleming’s manuscript. Over all, In Secret Service is entertaining and gripping. Not being a history buff, I couldn’t tell you if any of it is true, though. 05/07 Becky Lejeune

IN SESSION: Dr. Morgan Snow with Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher & Barry Eisler’s John Rain by M.J. Rose: This is a must read for fans of Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher and Barry Eisler’s John Rain series. Rose resurrects one of her former series character, sex therapist Dr. Morgan Snow, and has her in session with each of these other series’ characters. The characters naturally fall into meeting with Snow, not because they are seeking therapy but for other, wilier reasons. Available as an ebook only, this is a fun read that offers some interesting insights into characters that I have enjoyed for years and was approved by each of their creators so you know it has to be good. I can’t think of a better way to spend $1.99. 11/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

In the Clear by Steve Lopez: What is it about New Jersey that invites comic relief into the murder and mayhem? Whatever it is, Lopez is no comic tour de force, but he definitely has a good time. An Atlantic City casino mover and shaker is determined to build a resort oasis, replete with gambling and a Sea World type theme park, in the small island town of Harbor Lights, New Jersey, no matter how many homes and businesses he has to raze to do it. He hires the only cop in town, Sheriff Albert LaRosa, as head of security, but bombs keep going off, and the only suspects are Albert’s father, his girlfriend and/or her son and a town eccentric. Corruption is uncovered and the F.B.I. moves in. Lines like, “Albert felt so good he almost wanted to pay his taxes,” kept me entertained, but the ending was a bit too tidy for my liking.

IN THE COMPANY OF LIARS by David Ellis: Edgar Award winning author David Ellis (Line of Vision, Jury of One) has come up with a new twist in thrillers; he’s written this one in reverse chronological order. The story unpeels like an onion, layer by layer, as it moves backward day by day by week by month until it reaches the beginning of the story, which is the end of the book. Read backwards and forwards, it feels somewhat gimmicky but skilled writing and a tricky storyline make it work, although it is slow-going. Allison Pagone, a best selling crime novelist, has killed herself – or was it murder? As the story backtracks, Sam Dillon, Allison’s paramour and a Washington lobbyist, has been murdered and Allison is charged with the crime. It seems she may be protecting her ex-husband and/or her daughter, and several government agencies want to know who is involved in possible bribes of key senators, a cover-up in the pharmaceutical industry and with mysterious Middle Eastern terrorists. All these threads are neatly woven into this intricate plot, but nothing is as it seems as the roller coaster ride keeps coiling backwards, finally hurtling back to the starting point. 04/05 Copyright © 2005 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

IN THE DARK OF THE NIGHT by John Saul: Every summer, the Newells and the Sparks rent cabins on Phantom Lake. This summer, the Brewsters will be there too. More a mansion than a cabin, the Brewsters are able to get a great deal on Pinecrest, a house once owned by Dr. Hector Darby. The house has stood empty since Dr. Darby mysteriously disappeared years ago. No one in Phantom Lake knows about Dr. Darby’s strange hobby. No one knows about the secret room in the carriage house where he kept his strange collection. When Eric Brewster, Tad Sparks and Kent Newell discover the room, they can’t imagine the evil that they have awakened. I have been a John Saul fan for years and I must admit that Dark is not one of his better works. The predictable plot and simplistic characters were very disappointing. 09/06 Becky LeJeune

IN THE DARK by Brian Freeman: The latest in Freeman’s Jonathan Stride series finds Stride faced with reopening a case that made him the man he is today. At 17, Jonathan Stride knew that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Cindy Starr. That summer, Cindy’s older sister Laura was found beaten to death. Years later, after losing Cindy to cancer, Stride still sees her ghost. So when Tish Verdure, a self-proclaimed friend of Cindy’s, shows up with the intention of writing a book about Laura’s murder, Stride is reluctant, but agrees to help. Stride himself was never happy with the story that a wandering vagrant was behind the brutal murder, but with evidence gone missing and no new leads, it was unlikely the case would ever be solved, until now. Tish knew that Laura was being stalked and is able to produce a letter from all those years ago that may still have useable DNA evidence. And strangely, for a case that seemed so open and shut ages ago, new leads and witnesses seem to be showing up all over the place. In the Dark is as intense and fast-paced as you would expect it to be, and I love the flashbacks and the insight into Stride’s past. This would also be a great place for new readers to jump into the series. In the Dark was published as The Watcher in the UK. 04/09 Becky Lejeune

IN THE DARK OF DREAMS by Marjorie M. Liu: Jenny has always stood apart from those around her. As the third generation of a family that created the Consortium, A Priori, and Dirk and Steele, Jenny was exposed to a world that most are unaware of. Psychics, witches, demons, and shapeshifters are just everyday parts of the family business. But when Jenny was twelve, she met a merman. She never told anyone of the encounter, but has spent the rest of her days since searching for him. When the two do finally meet again, everything they know hangs in the balance. The end is coming and Jenny and her merman hold the key to stopping the destruction. I love that readers can pick up most of the books in the Dirk and Steele series at any point, without having read them in order. I did find that this one in particular had some elements that would have been better understood by a reader familiar with the series history, however, but it’s still not totally necessary to have read all of the previous books. Liu’s paranormal romance series goes way beyond the typical werewolves and vampires. 12/10 Becky Lejeune

In the Forest of Harm by Sallie Bissell: Taut, fast paced thriller set in the Nantahala National Forest. Mary Crow is a winning D.A. in Atlanta who has just put away “Handsome Cal” for murder, despite his wealthy family’s connections, although in doing so, she humiliated his brother on the witness stand. To celebrate her victory, she invites her two best friends to go home with her, back to her Cherokee roots – hiking in the mountains of North Carolina. Mary hasn’t been home in twelve years, since her mother was raped and murdered, and her grandmother took her away to live in Atlanta, and she feels it is time to face the demons she left behind. But things go awry when one of her friends is raped, and the other abducted. Mary is determined to find her missing friend, and all her childhood tracking skills come back to her in her pursuit. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Mary, she is also being pursued. Bissell creates tension that just keeps building page after page, but somehow also manages to create unforgettable characters and uses breathtaking imagery in her descriptions of the forest. I ripped through this in one sitting – an excellent read, although not for the squeamish – lots of graphic, albeit not gratuitous violence.

IN THE LIGHT OF YOU by Nathan Singer: This one grabs you by the throat from the opening line, “It’s hard to know how to feel when your best friend blows out a man’s stomach with a shotgun,” spoken by fourteen year old Mikal Fanon. Fanon’s first name is Mikal, because his parents didn’t understand that the letters “chae” were, in fact, a preferred alternative to “ka” in that particular name. In this coming of age story, Fanon ends up with a violently right wing group – the Fifth Reich, led by the charismatic Richard Lovecraft. Two women cause him to have second thoughts. One is a beautiful black activist, Niani Shange. The other is Richard’s girlfriend, Sherry Nicolas, who seems to regard Mikal as competition for Richard’s affections. Called brutal by both J. D. Rhoades and Marcus Sakey, this one kind of makes you glad you are no longer a teenager. 08/08 Jack Quick

IN THE MIDST OF DEATH by Lawrence Block: Detective Jerry Broadfield knew he was inviting trouble when he volunteered to squeal to an ambitious district attorney. about police corruption. When a prostitute accused him of extortion he decided he had Scudder trouble. When the prostitute’s dead body was discovered in his apartment he knew it was Scudder trouble. Can unlicensed private eye Matthew Scudder save Broadfield? And is he as innocent as he claims. Another excellent Lawrence Block. 06/06 Jack Quick

IN THE NAME OF HONOR by Richard North Patterson: Patterson returns to what he does best; creating a taut legal thriller based on a strong political point of view. This time the subject is post traumatic stress disorder and the war in Iraq. Paul Terry is a brilliant defense lawyer in the Judge Advocate General’s office who is assigned to a case involving two Iraqi vets. Lieutenant Brian McCarran comes from a long line of soldiers, and his famous father is the Army Chief of Staff. The lieutenant has killed his superior officer, Captain Joe D’Abruzzo and claims it was self defense. The first problem is that McCarran claims he has no memory after he fired the first shot. Things are complicated even further because the McCarran family and D’Abruzzo family are intertwined. But the real crux of the matter is that neither McCarran or D’Abruzzo will talk about what happened in Iraq, and both of them came home changed men, suffering with nightmares and significant personality changes. The only problem I had with with this book is that Terry becomes involved with his client’s sister, an attorney who is sitting in as second chair on the case. Something about their relationship just felt forced to me and didn’t ring true. That aside, Patterson writes legal thrillers better than just about anyone else, and this is a terrific read. 07/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

IN THE NAME OF HONOR by Richard North Patterson: If you liked the book/movie A Few Good Men, then you should love this one. Lieutenant Brian McCarran shoots and kills his superior officer, Captain Joe D’Abruzzo, at Fort Bolton in northern Virginia soon after they return from a tour in Iraq. McCarran is a fourth generation soldier and son of legendary Gen. Anthony McCarran, the current army chief of staff, soon to become the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Complicating matters is that Joe was married to Kate Gallagher, the general’s goddaughter, son of his best friend who was killed in Vietnam, and lifelong friend of Brian and the McCarran family. Chosen to defend McCarran is 31-year-old Captain Paul Terry, of the army’s JAG Corps, who is serving out his last few months in the Army prior to going into civilian practice, along with Brian’s gorgeous older attorney sister, Meg, who insists on working with Paul. You can’t fault Patterson for facing things head on – in this case PTSD and the war in Iraq. This may be his best ever. 07/10 Jack Quick

IN THE SHADOW OF GOTHAM by Stefanie Pintoff: Dobson is a small and quiet town just north of New York City. Detective Simon Ziele transferred here after losing his wife in the tragic General Slocum disaster of 1904. Ziele had hoped for a break from the big city, time to recover from his loss and move on. He’s been relatively successful at that until now. Sarah Wingate, a brilliant college student, is horribly tortured and murdered. Enter Alistair Sinclair, a man devoted to the relatively new study of criminology. His offer of assistance in the case surprises Ziele, especially when Sinclair claims to know the identity of the killer. As the two men work together to track down the suspected murderer, their case becomes more complex and twisted than either of them ever suspected. Pintoff’s debut was recently awarded the Edgar for Best First Novel. Her use of real events in New York’s history makes this a rich and satisfying read with a great plot. 05/10 Becky Lejeune

IN THE WIND by Barbara Fister: Chicago has bred another PI and she is a good one. In her debut Anni Koskinen is involved with a “cold case” dating from 1972. In that year, in the middle of the turmoil surrounding the Vietnam War, FBI Agent Arne Tilquist was murdered and the killer never caught. Fast forward to the present. Arne’s son Jim is now an FBI Agent and good friend of Anni Koskinen. Koskinen is an ex-Chicago cop with an autistic brother. She has known Jim ever since she and her brother, abandoned by their parents, were united with a kindly old man who took them in, largely as the results of Jim’s efforts. As a favor, Koskinen agrees to take Rosa Saenz, one of her friend Father Sikora’s community center volunteers, to Bemidji, Minn. It turns out that Rosa, aka Verna Basswood, is a prime suspect in the decades old murder. Koskinen wades into the mix of undercover police (who dislike her) overly ambitious FBI agents, the American Indian Movement, the white-supremacist Nordic League and a host of interesting characters including Jim Tilquist’s manic-depressive daughter. Don’t look now V.I. but you have some serious competition. 09/10 Jack Quick

IN THEIR BLOOD by Sharon Potts: Jeremy Stroeb has spent the past year traveling around Europe and trying to figure out what to do with his life. He never thought that he’d end up the sole guardian of his teenage sister. He never imagined that his last moments with his parents would be spent arguing with them. He could never have foreseen their shocking murder. Jeremy vows that things will change, that he will be there for his sister, Elise, and that he will find out what happened to his parents. As Jeremy gains access to each of his parents’ private worlds, he learns that both of them were hiding secrets, and both of them were surrounded by people with motives for murder. Jeremy will have to uncover the truth hidden underneath his parents’ seemingly perfect lives in order to discover the identity of their killer. Potts’s debut is an impressive and smartly plotted mystery that is sure to keep readers guessing from start to finish—the pacing is quick and the story has just the right amount of action and suspense. 09/09 Becky Lejeune

Incriminating Evidence by Sheldon Siegel: Special Circumstances (his first novel) was the best new legal thriller to come out in a long time. It was with much anticipation (couldn’t wait for another Mike Daley story!) tempered by slight trepidation (could he do it again?) that I started reading Incriminating Evidence. I am happy to report that my fears were completely unfounded.
Sheldon Siegel is a master of his craft.
I ripped through this book in a few hours, oblivious to all around me. Murder, betrayal, and kinky sex combined with intelligent humor kept the pages turning. Great characters and believable dialogue take the reader deeper and deeper into ex-priest-turned-lawyer Mike Daley’s world, twisting and turning along the way. There is enough intrigue and courtroom drama to please any fan of the genre. Siegel creates a story that is totally engrossing and enthralling every step of the way! It will hold you spellbound.
INDEFENSIBLE by Pamela Callow: Follow up to Damaged, released earlier this year. Lawyer Kate Lange been handed a case that seems utterly unwinnable – defending her boss, high-profile lawyer Randall Barrett. Barrett’s a prosecutor’s dream – an attorney generally disliked by his peers who was cuckolded by his ex-wife, known for his temper, who had argued bitterly with the victim the previous day in full view of their children. The victim is Barrett’s ex-wife. Randall’s teenage son is intent on killing him. His daughter wants only to feel safe again. The entire legal community would like nothing better than to see Randall publicly humiliated. Lange’s limited criminal law experience hasn’t prepared her for the combination of a high profile trial and a broken family. John Grisham for women. 12/10 Jack Quick

The Inexquisite Eye by D.B. Smith: I know this sounds bitchy but if this book had a different title and a different jacket it could have much more mass appeal and that would be a good thing. It would appeal to young women caught in the first job trap, or girls in college about to be caught. As it is, it stands to get lost. And that’s too bad because Elissa Laughlin is a character worth meeting. She will frustrate and confound you but ultimately she achieves something that few of us have the courage to even attempt – -and that is to live an examined life. This story of a young woman lawyer who goes off to make her own way has enough suspense to keep you guessing – -(will she? won’t she? and why?). The characters are likeable (we see how her family, friends and lover give meaning to her life even if she can’t) and so is the New Haven, CT setting. There is a great ‘you go girl’ scene. You may never agree or understand Elissa (even our narrator steps in and seems to give up at the end) but her story is worth hearing.

PS: From the book: “Biography is the story of a few choices. We make these choices and they make our lives. We choose a future for ourselves with no knowledge of it, without even reasonable grounds for prediciting it, and then the choice becomes our circumstances . . . We spend the rest of our lives choosing between the consequences of decisions we made when we were very young . . .” you can read the rest in the book. ~This review contributed by Ann Nappa

INFAMOUS by Ace Atkins: Atkins is back with another historic novel based on a real crime – this time its the 1933 kidnapping of Oklahoma oil baron Charles Urschel which transformed small-time bank robber George Kelly into the infamous “Machine Gun” Kelly. . George is portrayed as an affable mug, more interested in two-toned shoes and 16-cylinder Cadillacs than crime and machine guns, a crook who was dismissed as a lightweight by other gangsters. On the other hand behind every bad man there is a worse woman. Wife Kathryn is a force of nature, a preening, determined-not-to-be-poor-again shopaholic, a celebrity-obsessed Lady Macbeth. Atkins makes this a compelling road trip through Depression-era America with his vivid portraits of the Dust Bowl, foreclosures, the grinding poverty, gnawing hunger, desperation, and the rage at bankers as well as the imminent end of the gangsters’ heyday. Very nicely done. I never got into Atkins’ Nick Travers series but three of his stand-alones – WICKED CITY, THE RANGER and now INFAMOUS are all first rate. 09/11 Jack Quick

INFECTED by Scott Sigler: This gross-out tale of “biological possession” is the first major release from online phenom Scott Sigler. Strange cases of an unidentified infection have been popping up all over the States and the CIA has teamed up with the CDC to try and figure out the cause. The symptoms involve extreme paranoia and psychosis that so far has resulted in mass killings and suicides. No one knows how the virus spreads and a live case has yet to be found. The bodies of those confirmed victims all decompose at such an alarming rate that the doctors on the case have yet to be able to study the thing. The one physical trait they are able to identify is the appearance of strange triangular growths on the victims’ bodies. Ex-college football star, Perry Dawsey, has just become one of these infected. Sigler treats the reader to a gory and gruesome play-by-play of the progression of the infection. The interesting storyline and Sigler’s graphic detail drive this sci-fi horror tale and are guaranteed to entertain readers. This is the first part of a proposed trilogy and will leave you hanging in suspense. 04/08 Becky Lejeune

THE INFORMANT by James Grippando: A combination police procedural and newspaper story. Miami Tribune crime reporter Mike Posten has been offered an incredible opportunity – a caller claims that, for money, he can predict the next victim of a serial killer who has eluded the FBI’s Child Abduction and Serial Killer Unit. After a brief debate, Posten and his paper pony up for a series of exclusives. At the same time Posten also talks to FBI agent Victoria Santos, who is alone in believing that the informant and the actual killer are different people. Unusually non-gory for a serial killer plot, this is an unusually cerebral and low-key thriller, emphasizing procedure, forensics and professional ethics rather than shock or even suspense until the later half when everything goes over the top. Nicely done. 08/09 Jack Quick

THE INFORMANT by Thomas Perry: The Butcher’s Boy is back. Some two decades after the retirement of the second generation most proficient hitman ever hired by the Mafia, someone makes the mistake of trying to kill him and claim the reward on his head. Justice Department official Elizabeth Waring is the only one who believes he ever existed. Waring, now high up in the Organized Crime Division of the Justice Department, receives a surprise late night visit from the Butcher’s Boy. Knowing she keeps track of the Mafia, he asks her whom his attackers worked for, offering information that will help her crack an unsolved murder in return. As the Butcher’s Boy works his way ever closer to his quarry in an effort to protect his new way of life, Waring is in a race against time, either to convince him to become a protected informant—or to take him out of commission for good. Its not decided until late in the game and not everyone will agree with the conclusion, but all will enjoy the ride getting there. Perry, IMHO, is one of those under-rated authors whose work always satisfies. 05/11 Jack Quick

THE INFORMATIONIST by Taylor Stevens: Vanessa Michael Munroe is the daughter of American missionaries who grew up in Cameroon before escaping at age 15 after killing a man who had abused and raped her. Nine years later she has forged a new life in Texas as an “informationist,” a person who specializes in gathering information about developing countries for corporations. Munroe’s best friend, marketing consultant Kate Breeden, refers her to Miles Bradford, a high-stakes security pro, who believes she’s the perfect choice to help Houston oilman Richard Burbank find his adopted daughter, Emily, who vanished four years earlier at age 18 while vacationing in west central Africa. Munroe returns to Africa, where she reconnects with her ex-boyfriend, Francisco Beyard, a sexy drug-and-gun-running businessman, who assists in the dangerous search for Emily. This one is high octane, folks, and highly recommended, except for the squeamish. Think Zoe Sharpe’s Charlie Fox, only rougher. 04/11 Jack Quick

INHERENT VICE by Thomas Pynchon: I should start by declaring my prejudices. I believe that Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow is the finest American novel of the 20th Century. In its scope and varied detail, it rivals the all time great American novel, Moby Dick. Inherent Vice is not Gravity’s Rainbow. But it doesn’t pretend to be. It is a thoroughly enjoyable and whimsical romp through a place and time which is dear to the hearts of my generation. Its hippy, psychedelic language is just perfect for this summer of 2009 when the 40th anniversary of Woodstock is being celebrated. Much like The Dude in the movie, “The Big Lebowski”, is a “man for his time”, Inherent Vice is a book for its time.
On the surface, it is sort of the story of the case that Doc Sportello, a true son of the 60’s private eye, commits himself to at the plea of a former girl friend. Like most of Pynchon’s other novels, there is a plot which drives a major paranoid vision of the Universe. In this case, the drivers are not Thurn and Taxis, but the Golden Fang society, involved in smuggling, land development, secret organizations and outright corruption of officialdom. The story twists and turns, revealing layers of reality within other realities, and introducing fascinating character after fascinating character. If more was needed, there are also the delightful little side insertions reminiscent of the story of Bennie the Bulb in Gravity’s Rainbow. In Inherent Vice, one of these side “trips” is an LSD adventure that Doc gets reluctantly sucked into in his pursuit of the truth.
However, the real delight in Pynchon’s writing is always his play with words. One such small gem is naming a surfer Mexican restaurant Wavos. (If this requires explanation, you probably don’t have the necessary cultural referents and should skip this book.) A more extended demonstration is the description of the sign outside Doc’s office. “The sign on his door read LSD Investigations, LSD, as he explained when people asked, which was not often, standing for ‘Location, Surveillance, Detection.’ Beneath this was a rendering of a giant bloodshot eyeball in the psychedelic favorites green and magenta, the detailing of whose literally thousands of frenzied capillaries had been subcontracted out to a commune of speed freaks from Sonoma. Potential clients had been known to spend hours gazing at the ocular mazework, often forgetting what they had come here for.” My personal favorite was Pynchon locating a health food store called The Price of Wisdom on the second floor over a rundown gin mill called Ruby’s because, according to the book of Job, “the price of wisdom is above rubies.”
Is this a masterwork? No. Is it a wonderful exposition of a fine and clever mind at play? Hell, yes. You will be missing a special fun and challenging trip if you don’t put this book on your list. 09/09 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

THE INHERITANCE by Simon Tolkien: The case seemed cut and dry: Stephen Cade, furious at the prospect of being cut from his father’s will, shot the man in cold blood. Now Stephen is on trial and the expected sentence is death by hanging. As the trial moves forward, however, questions are raised about the elder Cade’s involvement in the murder of a French family during WWII and it seems that Stephen Cade was not the only person with motive to kill. Detective Inspector William Trave begins to doubt Stephen’s guilt, but with the prosecutor literally out for blood, the detective’s hands are tied unless he can come up with a solid new suspect. Set in 1959, Tolkien (J.R.R.’s grandson) is able to twist a legal thriller into something new. The subplot of the WWII events and the particular legal precedents of the time in England are fascinating devices that move the story along in a great way. Though the book doesn’t feel like the beginning of a series, Trave returns in Tolkien’s recent follow-up, The King of Diamonds. 04/11 Becky Lejeune

THE INNER CIRCLE by Brad Meltzer: Beecher White is an archivist at the National Archives in Washington D.C. The Archives is like the attic of America, housing all the papers and artifacts that haven’t landed anywhere else, like the Smithsonian or a presidential library. After a devastating breakup with his fiancé, Beecher hooks up with his first crush, Clementine, on Facebook. When she comes to visit, he can’t help but want to show off where he works, and with the help of his friend Orlando, the security guard, he manages to get her into one of the private vaults where the President visits and reads every week. While there, they accidentally uncover a hidden book that once belonged to George Washington. That seemingly innocuous, accidental find causes a chain of events that could not be foreseen, starting with Orlando’s murder. Clementine has her own secrets, and so do just about everyone else in this story, but separating the good guys from the bad guys is no easy feat in this twisty, fascinating thriller. Lots of American history – the kind they never teach you in school – raises the bar even higher. I walked around with this book as I literally couldn’t put it down. Don’t miss it! 1/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE INNOCENCE GAME by Michael Harvey: An engrossing and different novel written by an author mainly famous for his books about a private detective named Michael Kelly. This stand alone novel concerns three students enrolled in a graduate level seminar at a top journalism school. The purpose of the seminar is to allow the participants to engage in research designed to find new evidence in “solved” cases and possibly allow falsely imprisoned individuals to be freed from jail. The three students, Ian Joyce, Sarah Gold and Jake Havens, seemingly have little in common until they select a case regarding a young boy killed 10 years ago with the accused murderer killed while in jail. The three unearth fact after fact about that case and tie it with other murders seemingly committed by individuals imprisoned for those crimes and than killed in prison. The three find that there is more and more commonality than is apparent among them including possible romance and rivalry between Ian and Jake with regard to Sarah. Mr Harvey slowly but surely pulls the reader towards a conclusion and the possibility that the crimes and the reason for them reach high up into local, state and federal governments as a means of controlling events favorable to certain people. A must read and a good reason for a stay up all night session. 05/13 Paul Lane

INNOCENT by Scott Turow: It took Turow more than 20 years to bring us the sequel to his bestselling first novel, Presumed Innocent, and it was worth the wait. Now 60 and long after being acquitted of murdering his mistress, Rusty Sabich has become chief judge of the County, IL appellate court and is running for the state supreme court. When his wife dies in her sleep, Sabich waits 24 hours before calling his son or anyone else, setting off suspicions of foul play with his old nemesis, acting prosecutor Tommy Molto. The coroner determines she died of natural causes, but Molto and his chief deputy Brand quietly start building a case, convinced Sabich is trying to get away with murder again. VERDICT This is a beautifully written book with finely drawn characters and an intricate plot, seamlessly weaving a troubled family story with a murder. Drawing the reader in and not letting go until the last page, Turow’s legal thriller is a most worthy successor to Presumed Innocent and perhaps the author’s finest work to date. 05/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch. Copyright © 2010 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

THE INNOCENT by David Baldacci: He is 40, a hit-man employed by the US government. After many successful missions, he is tasked with a job close to home, a black female government employee with two children. It doesn’t feel right and after he doesn’t make the kill, Robie becomes a target himself and must escape from his own people. On a late night bus out of town he meets a fourteen-year-old runaway from a foster home who just saw her parents murdered, and her own life put in danger. Against all of his professional habits, Robie rescues her and finds he can’t walk away. He needs to help her. Even worse, the more Robie learns about the girl, the more he’s convinced she is at the center of a vast cover-up, one that may explain her parents’ deaths and stretch to unimaginable levels of power. Now, Robie may have to step out of the shadows in order to save this girl’s life . . . and perhaps his own. 6/12 Jack Quick

INNOCENT MAGE: KINGMAKER KINGBREAKER BOOK ONE by Karen Miller: Aussie author Karen Miller makes her stateside debut with this marvelous fantasy. Six hundred years ago, the Doranen people were decimated through a catastrophic war. They fled their land and made a pact with the neighboring Olken people in what would become the Kingdom of Lur. The Doranen built a wall that was to be maintained by magic and would protect themselves, as well as the Olken, from the monster they left behind. An ancient Olken prophecy foretells a time when the wall will fall and death will follow in its wake. One of their own will save the world in its final days. This prophecy is a closely held secret known by very few.
Asher, a fisherman by trade, has come to the capital city to earn enough money to buy his own boat and support his father. Unbeknownst to him, he is about to become a pawn in a game he is ill prepared to play, for Asher is the innocent mage. This is a tale that is full of magic, political maneuvering, and the true tests of friendship and loyalty. Miller brings to life an intricate world with a complex history that is exciting and enthralling. I highly recommend this title even if you don’t normally read fantasy. The story concludes in the upcoming release, Awakened Mage. 09/07 Becky Lejeune

INSIDE OUT by Barry Eisler: Celebrate America’s freedom this 4th of July by reading this eye opening thriller. Black ops spy Ben Treven is back and finds himself in a foreign jail after some anger management issues. Much to his surprise, his old boss, Hort, gets him out – the same Hort who tried to kill him in Fault Line. Hort has his reasons of course; he wants Treven to hunt down a rogue spy who is presumed dead yet is somehow blackmailing the federal government. Turns out there were videotapes made showing Americans torturing prisoners in questionable interrogations, and no one wants those tapes to surface. This taut thriller has an ending that intimates a return for Treven, possibly along with Eisler’s other hero, John Rain. But the scariest thing in the book is the bibliography at the end – apparently these tapes do exist and this story is based on more truth than I care to think about. Eisler has been a strong, vocal opponent of the American stance on torture and he lays it on the line in this terrific thriller. 07/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

INSIDE OUT GIRL by Tish Cohen: Rachel Berman is publisher of Perfect Parent magazine. She’s also an extremely overprotective single mother of two: Janie, a rebellious teen still searching for her identity, and twelve-year old Dustin. Len Bean is the single father of ten-year old Olivia, who has a non-verbal learning disorder. Rachel and Len meet when Rachel offers to help Len change a flat tire. Eventually, they begin dating. This is to the chagrin of Janie and Dustin, who know Olivia from school as “The Inside Out Girl”, the girl that wears her clothes wrong-side-out. Olivia is extremely intelligent, but due to her learning disorder, she is unable to pick up on facial and verbal cues, which often results in socially inappropriate behavior. Rachel and Len’s world is suddenly upended and Rachel is forced to deal with hidden secrets from her past. Will she be able to be the perfect parent that she aspires to be, or is this level of perfection unattainable? It is impossible not to fall in love with Cohen’s characters. My personal favorite was Olivia. Olivia’s combination of innocence and vulnerability tugs at your heartstrings. She alone is the individual responsible for joining together two very unlikely families into one. 09/08 Jennifer Lawrence

THE INSIDER by Reece Hirsch: A reasonably well written legal thriller that posits we are in great danger from a powerful encryption device called the Clipper Chip, designed to provide the government with “key access” to all encrypted computer transmissions. Although the project was officially abandoned in 1995, Hirsch suggests that instead, the program was given to a private software firm to be secretly implemented. In the book, Will Connelly, a young attorney who has just made partner at a San Francisco law firm, is assigned the task of negotiating a merger transaction involving Jupiter Software, the world’s foremost provider of computer encryption programs. During the due diligence process, Connelly discovers Jupiter Software has a big secret. Will Connelly be able to use this knowledge to prevent even more government intrusion into our daily lives, or will his knowledge lead to his death, as it apparently did for his lawyer colleague Ben Fisher. Connelly quickly finds himself with the ripple whammy of being the prime suspect in a murder, the target of an SEC insider trading investigation, and the feeling he is being manipulated into something even worse. Great subject matter realistically portrayed, but missing that spark that would take this one over the top. Mr. Hirsch, himself a lawyer, has written a good book. Too bad there wasn’t a strong editor to help put more punch into the prose, which seems to drag at tines, like it was, well, written by a lawyer. Still I would recommend this one. 06/10 Jack Quick

INSTITUTIONAL MEMORY by Gary Frank: The employees at New Jersey’s Osprey Publishing have been noticing some strange things in their office building. The not quite derelict, but on its way there, building is half empty by now and a pretty creepy place, basement aside, but when Sharon Walters disappears after heading downstairs for a few boxes, things take a turn for the worse. Marcy Browne is worried about her friend. She has to still be in the building, her purse is still at her desk. No sign of Sharon can be found, though, and the police say they have to wait 48 hours before they can consider her missing. Bettie Winters has been having trouble with her computer and her telephone acting up. Fuzzy images appear on the computer screen and an indecipherable electronic voice can be heard through her phone. She’s sure that something strange is going on, but she’s got no idea just how bad it’s going to get. This job may just turn out to be a killer. Frank’s second horror outing is quite fun and it’s also different from the other shock-tactic titles that have been hitting the shelves lately. Frank’s 2006 debut, Forever Will You Suffer was nominated for a Stoker. 09/08 Becky Lejeune

INTENT TO KILL by James Grippando: Finally a stand-alone thriller from the writer of the Jack Swytek series. I like the series, but I love his thrillers more. This one will remind you how good Grippando can be – his earlier thrillers like Found Money, The Abduction and The Pardon are terrific and so is Intent to Kill.
Ryan James was an up and coming baseball star in the minor leagues, and ready to move up to the majors; that is, until his life fell apart. His wife was killed in a hit-and-run accident, leaving James alone to raise his preschool-age daughter. The driver of the hit-and-run was never found, James loses his focus on the game and eventually is dropped from the team, moving over to jock radio instead. Three years after the death of his wife, new rumors start surfacing about how she died, and it appears it may not have been an accident at all. His brother-in-law, a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome, calls the radio station and on air tells James that he killed his sister. All hell breaks loose, and the story just rockets. The characters are so well drawn that it is easy to suspend disbelief and become part of the world Grippando created. Don’t miss it. 05/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

INTERTWINED by Gena Showalter: Adult paranormal romance author, Gena Showalter, makes the leap into the teen genre with the first in her new series, Intertwined. Aden is a 16-year-old that has been labeled trouble from an early age. Abandoned by his parents, he’s made his way through the foster system and a variety of institutions over the years. It doesn’t help that he shares his body with four other souls, each of whom has a special ability that Aden must keep secret. Now, though, Aden is hoping for a chance at a normal life. When he meets classmate Mary Ann Gray, he feels a connection he’s never experienced before. And then there’s Victoria, the vampire princess he dreamed about and has fallen head over heels for. But just when Aden thought things were finally going his way, he discovers that a horde of paranormal beings is making their way to his small town, and they’re all interested in one thing: Aden. Teens are about to discover what romance fans already know: Showalter is great. Intertwined has so many twists and intriguing elements that the YA crowd is sure to be anxious for the next installment set for release next summer. 09/09 Becky Lejeune
THE INTERVIEW ROOM by Roderick Anscombe: Dr. Paul Lucas, a forensic psychiatrist, is asked to examine Craig Cavanaugh, a very wealthy, charming young man accused of stalking a teaching assistant in one of his classes at Harvard. Is he competent to stand trial? Dr. Lucas meets with him and realize that Craig is evil, but not insane and Craig is released back into society with the proviso that he continue therapy, with Dr. Lucas. But the two of them end up trying to psyche each other out with devastating results in this beautifully written and gripping tale. 05/05

INFECTED by Scott Sigler: CIA operative Dew Phillips has never had an assignment quite like this one. Across the country ordinary people are going berserk and killing strangers, family, anyone in their path. Phillips’ mission is to capture one of these maniacs alive. At the same time CDC epidemiologist Margaret Montoya is working with the killers’ corpses to learn if there is a common source for these outbreaks. She finds all the killers are victims of a bioengineered parasite far more complex than current science could create. At the heart of the battle for the human race is Perry Dawsey, former football player and now cubicle-bound desk jockey who wakes up one morning to find several mysterious welts growing on his body. Then he begins hearing voices, acting strangely and thinking mysterious thoughts. Where will it end? Amazingly fast read for such a technical thriller and definitely recommended. 04/08 Jack Quick

THE INNOCENT by David Baldacci: Baldacci is a consummate story teller as evidenced by his ability to always capture the interest and attention of his readers through the many books and themes he has written. The Innocent does not involve any of the protagonists involved in his other books, but does, as always, create an immediate bond with the principal characters of this novel. Will Robie is a hitman for a government agency who has completed many assignments to take out enemies of the US that regular actions cannot remove. In his latest job he is directed by his controller to assassinate a woman and her child. Upon arrival at the scene of the assignment he has the sensation that something is not quite right and does not complete the killing. The woman and child are immediately shot by a backup assassin and Robie goes on the run with the probability that his own department is after him. Boarding a bus to travel to New York from DC he meets a young girl that is fleeing the scene of her parent’s murders and understands that she is earmarked by the killers to be next. Will develops a need to protect her and promises to find out who the killers are that killed her parents while continuing to work on his own problems.

Robie’s situation and that of the girl coincidentally involve the same background circumstances and moving towards resolution brings out a side that Will did not realize he possessed; empathy for another human being, and the need to protect her. On the way to finding out what has happened Will develops an appreciation that the girl is a bright and analytical person and builds on his liking for her. At the same time Robie meets a girl living in a building next to his and in spite of his background falls in love with her. Both situations are integral parts of the story and resolved to the reader’s satisfaction. As in all of his books, the principal characters are fleshed out and believable. They experience real emotions and don’t meander through the plot. The novel’s conclusion is a very logical projection of the incidents and findings encountered and leave the reader completely satisfied. Another protagonist that has the ability to appear in a future book and leave us hoping that he will. 4/12 Paul Lane

INNOCENT TRAITOR: A NOVEL OF JANE GREY by Alison Weir: In the time of religious upheaval following the death of King Henry VIII, advisors convinced King Edward VI to repeal the line of succession set forth in his father’s last will and testament that would have placed Mary on the throne following Edward’s death. Instead, Edward’s second cousin, Lady Jane Grey, a devout follower of the Protestant faith was crowned Queen of England. Her tragic reign lasted a mere nine days until Mary and her supporters rescinded Edward’s decision thereby revoking Jane’s claim to the throne. Jane Grey was eventually labeled a traitor to the monarchy and beheaded. She was sixteen years old. Alison Weir is the author of ten previous historical biographies. Although she has touched on the life of Jane Grey in past works, her fiction debut is a captivating and in-depth look at the short life of this unfortunate figure in British history. Weir’s use of historical evidence combined with her own clever narrative work together to create a plausible depiction of the life of Lady Jane Grey. 02/07 Becky Lejeune

THE INQUISITOR by Mark Allen Smith: This is Mr. Smith’s first novel and it is a treasure that promises a great literary future for him. Geiger, the principal character, is the epitome of the anti hero and is very vividly fleshed out by the author. He comes to New York City as a young man with no memories of his past and moves smoothly into a position sponsored by a gangster as an Information Retrieval specialist. I.R. in this case means an expert in extracting information from people either by mental or physical torture. He becomes the best in his field and works on hundreds of cases with no qualms about the horrors that he inflicts. In the course of his work he picks up a partner – Harry – who handles the details of getting the jobs, collecting the pay and delivering the victims to Geiger. And he has one fast rule; he will not work on children. A job is picked up involving an individual that has stolen a valuable piece of art with the client contracting Geiger to extract the whereabouts of the painting from the thief. When the subject is delivered in a closed box it is found that this is not the man that has been expected, but his teen aged son. It is also found that there is no painting, but sources of information that are very valuable to the contractor. Completely out of character Geiger takes the boy out of the torture chamber set up to work in, spirits him away and begins to work on finding out what is really at stake, as well as getting the boy into the hands of his mother.
The book is a deeply satisfying look into the mind and motivation of a troubled man. Geiger has been seeing a psychiatrist attempting to resurrect the past that he cannot recall, and in the course of the book puts together pieces of his past life. He finds memories of a traumatic childhood, with a father that subjected him to physical torture as a means of “getting him ready.” Getting ready is possibly the reason that Geiger can do the work he does. His protective feelings towards Ezra, the boy he has rescued from the torture show another side of this complex man. In addition to the very different plot and action Smith adds to the pull of the book by proving himself an absolutely superb wordsmith. The author is working on a sequel featuring Geiger, and if this first novel is any indication that book will be another success. A definite must read. 4/12 Paul Lane
THE INQUISITOR by Mark Allen Smith: Geiger is a specialist in “information retrieval”. He doesn’t recover data from computer hard drives – he extracts truth even from the most reluctant subjects, on behalf of paying clients, high-paying clients, because Geiger is the best. Unlike most of his competitors, Geiger rarely sheds blood, but he does use a variety of techniques—some physical, many psychological—to push his subjects to a point where pain takes a backseat to fear. Only then will they finally stop lying. One of Geiger’s rules is that he never works with children. So when his partner, former journalist Harry Boddicker, unwittingly brings in a client who demands that Geiger interrogate a twelve-year-old boy, Geiger responds instinctively. He rescues the boy from his captor, removes him to the safety of his New York City loft, and promises to protect him from further harm. But if Geiger and Harry cannot quickly discover why the client is so desperate to learn the boy’s secret, they themselves will become the victims of an utterly ruthless adversary. Mesmerizing and heart-in-your-throat compelling. Mark Allen Smoth is a major new talent. 4/12 Jack Quick
THE INSANE TRAIN by Russell Sheldon: After his success in The Yard Dog, one armed railroad detective (yard dog) Hook Runyan has been transferred from Oklahoma to California. He has also picked up a real yard dog, Mixer, whose ferocity as a watch dog is matched only by his devotion to Hook. An insane asylum in the desert town of Barstow, California, suffers a disastrous, fatal fire, and Hook becomes responsible for the relocation of dozens of patients to a new location in Oklahoma. Some of the patients are criminally insane and very dangerous, and only four staff members are going to relocate. Hook is forced to hire three hoboes, WWII vets, and a railroad hooker as attendants, and the only train available may not be able to complete the journey. Hook has his hand full and more as he faces the challenges. An excellent crime fiction book and a great railroad book all in one. I am so looking forward to more from Hook. 1/11 Jack Quick

THE INSIDE RING by Michael Lawson: First novel about a Presidential assassination attempt and a close up look at the Secret Service, Homeland Security and Congress and how they all have the ability to abuse their power. The story isn’t as simple as it first appears and there are lots of interesting twists before reaching the very satisfying conclusion. Crisp writing and fast pacing make this political thriller debut a winner. 08/05

THE INTERPRETATION OF MURDER by Jed Rubenfeld: It is August 1909 as Sigmund Freud disembarks from the steamship George Washington, accompanied by Carl Jung, his rival and protégé. One young lady is dead — whipped, mutilated, and strangled and rebellious heiress Nora Acton barely escapes the same fate. Afterwards Nora can recall nothing of her attack. So Dr. Stratham Younger, America’s most committed Freudian analyst, calls in his idol, the Master himself, to guide him through the challenges of analyzing this high-spirited young woman whose family past has been as complicated as his own. A most different and unusual approach to a mystery. 09/06 Jack Quick

INTERPRETATION OF MURDER by Jed Rubenfeld: In 1909,Sigmund Freud visited the U.S. and never returned again. Interpretation of Murder stems from the question regarding what happened during that visit. A beautiful heiress is strangled in her New York apartment. Then, a second heiress is attacked in her Gramercy Park home; she survives but remembers nothing. Dr. Stratham Younger, an up and coming psychoanalyst is determined to find out what happened to this young girl. Freud and Carl Jung play pivotal roles in the underlying subplot concerning the newly emerging practice of psychoanalysis. Rubenfeld, a professor of law at Yale, wrote his thesis on Freud. He has taken pains to ensure that everything is as historically accurate as possible and the story is peppered with actual dialogues that occurred between Freud and his protégé. More a psychological thriller than a mystery, Rubenfeld delves deep into Freudian psychology to produce what is sure to be a favorite this fall. I think Rubenfeld is an incredible new talent in the mystery genre! 09/06 Becky LeJeune

INTERRED WITH THEIR BONES by Jennifer Lee Carrell: A lost Shakespeare play is the focal point of this first novel with action from the Globe theatre in London to Utah, Arizona, and Washington, DC in a wild ride reminiscent of The Da Vinci Code. Katharine Stanley manages to stay alive while bodies pile up around her. Peppered with Shakespearean clues, the plot involves Jesuit spies, Miguel de Cervantes, ciphered Biblical texts, Arizona copper mines, and a string of clues hidden in the works of Shakespeare that may unlock literary history’s greatest secret. Exactly who was the author of Hamlet, Macbeth, et al? A bit ponderous, but I suspect all the Shakespearean minutiae would delight an English literature major. 11/07 Jack Quick

INTO THE DARKEST CORNER by Elizabeth Haynes: Cathy Bailey is a changed woman. Just a few years ago, she was pretty happy go lucky. She’d hoped to fall in love but she was okay playing the field until finding the right guy. Then she met Lee Brightman. Lee seemed great in the beginning. He was charming and all of Catherine’s friends loved him. Then Lee’s true colors started to show and before long, Catherine began to fear for her life. Unfortunately, no one around her believed what was going on until it was almost too late. Now Lee is serving out a four-year sentence behind bars and Cathy is struggling to fight her everyday fears. When she receives word that Lee is being released, things get much worse. The narrative flips between present day and almost exactly four years in the past, illustrating just how much has changed in Catherine’s life and personality thanks to her time with Lee. Intense doesn’t even begin to describe Haynes’s dark and twisted debut. Into the Darkest Corner is the kind of book you immerse yourself in all the way through to the explosive end. 6/12 Becky Lejeune

THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE by Julie Orringer: Starting off in Budapest in 1937, we meet Andras Lévi, a young Jewish man who has won a scholarship to a famous architecture school in Paris. While in Paris he meets Klara, a Hungarian ballet teacher who is several years older than he is with a teenage daughter and a mysterious past. Despite their differences, they fall in love. Andras also befriends the other Jewish students who fight off rising intolerance as Hitler comes to power. Eventually forced back to Hungary, the story takes a turn for the dark side as Jews are forced from their homes into the army and eventually concentration camps. Despite its 600 pages, this is a gripping story and a real page turner that I read in two days – I could not put it down. While there have been many books set during the Holocaust, this one feels very personal, perhaps because of Orringer’s own familial connection to this story. Beautifully written with well developed characters and a compelling story, Orringer’s debut is a must read. 11/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

Invisible Life by E. Lynn Harris: Fast paced fabulous novel about love…it’s sexy, romantic, heartbreaking and wonderful! This is the first of several books with overlapping characters, and they just get better and better.

INVISIBLE PREY by John Sandford: Thus far Lucas Davenport has pursued Prey with Rules, Minds and Eyes that are Silent, Secret, Sudden, Certain, Easy, Chosen, Mortal, Naked, Hidden and Broken, in Shadow, Winter and Night. Now the prey are invisible as Davenport works on a politically sensitive case involving state Senator Burt Kline who is under suspicion of having sex with a minor and maybe her mother as well as a double murder of wealthy widow Constance Bucher and her maid. Bucher lived in a mansion stuffed with antiques, though initially it’s unclear if robbery was the motive for the murders. Aided by an imaginative intern, Davenport uncovers a series of similar crimes across the Midwest in which the victims were all old, wealthy art collectors. Eventually, the Bucher and Kline cases come together in an unexpected way. Another excellent Sandford effort. 06/07 Jack Quick

THE IRON DAUGHTER by Julie Kagawa: After her sudden introduction to the faery realm, Meghan has returned to uphold her contract with the Winter Court. Stuck in Queen Mab’s kingdom, her only ally now an enemy due to politics, Meghan longs for escape. Mab is a mad ruler obsessed with the idea that Meghan’s father, King Oberon of Summer Country, is out to betray her. So when the Scepter of the Seasons is stolen from her and her eldest son murdered, of course Mab believes Oberon had a hand in it. Meghan knows the Iron Fey are responsible and the only way to stop the brewing war between Mab and Oberon’s courts is to defeat the Iron Fey and recover the Scepter. If Meghan and her friends are unsuccessful, the results would be devastating for the fey and human realms alike. This second in the Iron Fey series is another fine outing from Kagawa. The blending of classic faery mythology and Kagawa’s modern creation, the Iron Fey, is wonderfully original. 09/11 Becky Lejeune

IRON HOUSE by John Hart: Michael is an assassin for the mob; expectedly ferocious and cunning, yet equally loyal, sensitive and even loving, making him the unlikeliest of heroes. Yet it is Michael at the center of this complex, action packed thriller that moves between the back mountains and rolling estates of North Carolina, and the mean streets of New York City. The story is built around children living a Lord of the Flies existence, schizophrenia, familial relationships, dirty politics and revenge. Hart has the skill to build multi-faceted characters and weave them into multiple plot lines, creating a spellbinding story that is impossible to put down, or to forget. This is only his fourth novel, and it is easy to see why he was he has won multiple awards for his previous three, including the unprecedented back to back Edgar Award winning novels Down River and The Last Child. VERDICT: With Iron House, Hart continues to build his legacy as one of the brightest stars in the crime fiction genre. He’s at the top of his game with his darkest novel yet, and fans of Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke and Elmore Leonard will appreciate his style. 07/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2011 Library Journal, a division of Media Source Inc. Reprinted with permission.

THE IRON KING by Julie Kagawa: Meghan Chase is a pretty average teen—or so she thinks. Her family lives in Louisiana, where they moved after her father disappeared. Now her mother is remarried and Meghan has a little brother. And on her sixteenth birthday, everything changes. Meghan returns home after school to find her brother has been switched with a changeling, a creature she’d never heard of until her best friend, Robbie (aka Puck), saves her from it. Now, determined to rescue her brother and bring him home, Meghan must brave the lands of the fey. But what Meghan discovers in this strange other world is not at all what she expects. Kagawa’s debut is perfect for a teen audience but great for adult urban fantasy fans as well. As an older reader, I found it very reminiscent of Labyrinth. I loved the various characters, especially the addition of the iron fey. 08/11 Becky Lejeune

IRON LAKE by William Kent Krueger: In this first of a series, Chicago cop Cork O’Connor and his lawyer-wife Jo have moved back to his northern Minnesota hometown of Aurora to improve their quality of life. It didn’t work. They split and Jo is working for Indian tribal rights while Cork is running a diner and gift shop, sleeping with the hired help, and wanting to get back with his wife and daughters. A former judge apparently commits suicide, an Indian newsboy disappears, and Cork is drawn into the mystery – in conflict with the newly elected sheriff, wife Jo and her lover (the judge’s son), as well as local tribal leaders. There’s plenty of plot and this appears to be a solid basis for the series. 03/06 Jack Quick

IRON ORCHID by Stuart Woods: Former Orchid Beach, Fla., police chief Holly Barker has opted for a CIA career in Woods’ by-the-numbers thriller. Barely through basic training at a highly regimented CIA “training farm,” Barker’s class is suddenly enlisted to track down calculating killer (and opera buff) Teddy Fay. An ex-CIA agent himself, Fay uses insider information to continue assassinating international political figures who also happen to be enemies of the U.S. After an initial slow start the pace accelerates as Barker just misses Teddy in disguise in several encounters. While most of Woods’ characters are somewhat superficial, Barker in particular leaves a bit to be desired. Of course there is always Barker’s dog, Daisy the Doberman, to make up for any shortcomings. 07/06 Jack Quick

THE IRON QUEEN by Julie Kagawa: After revealing their love for one another, Ash and Meghan have been banished from Faery. The Winter and Summer courts do not mingle and for Mab’s son and Oberon’s daughter to be together breaks all of the rules. But the Iron Fey are not done with Faery yet and Mab and Oberon are soon forced to appeal to Meghan for help. As the Iron Fey approach the Winter and Summer kingdoms, the world is beginning to die and the false king has declared war on the old fey. Meghan’s defeat of Machina and her ability to handle iron make her the fey’s best chance of defending their land. If she succeeds, she and Ash can earn a full pardon, allowing the Winter Prince to return to his home. Readers will be desperate to learn what comes next in the fourth and final installment, The Iron Knight, due out in October. 09/11 Becky Lejeune

THE IRON KNIGHT by Julie Kagawa: When we last left the Iron Fey series, Meghan had taken the throne in the Iron Realm and released Ash from his bonds. As with all fey, exposure to iron is deadly for the Winter Prince. He vows that he will find a way to return to Meghan and this is the story of The Iron Knight. Ash begins his quest with Grim and Puck by his side. They are joined by the Big Bad Wolf and a seer who can lead them to the only possible solution: Ash must become human. Their adventure will take them to the End of the World where Ash will have to undergo a series of tests in order to earn his soul. The Iron Knight is yet another example of Kagawa’s extraordinary imagination. There are whole new parts of the Nevernever that are filled with all new creatures. Kagawa also stays true to her characters, giving readers more of the Grim, Ash, and Puck that we’ve come to know and love. One thing to note, however, is that the Iron Fey series now stands at four titles—the original three books that make up Meghan’s story and this fourth additional installment. They need to be read in sequence, but The Iron Knight is Ash’s story through and through. 12/11 Becky Lejeune

IRON RIVER by T. Jefferson Parker: With Iron River T. Jefferson Parker has written a trilogy that is gritty, emotional, action packed, and most of all entertaining. In L.A. Outlaws, Parker introduced Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy Charlie Hood, plunging him into a glamorous, fast-moving world of antiheroes-and antiheroines. In The Renegades, Hood was ensnared in a major case of police corruption. This time around, Hood is running the California-Mexico border with the ATFE, searching for the iron river-the massive and illegal flow of handguns and automatic weapons that fuels the bloody cartel wars south of the border. Gunrunners by nature aren’t exactly ethical, but the lengths they’ll go to, and the innocent lives they’ll risk, are shocking even to Hood. Most shocking of all is the close personal connection Hood finds wrapped up in events south of the border-a connection that shakes him to his core. These three must be read in order for maximum effect – and are not for the faint-hearted. 01/10 Jack Quick

IRONSIDES’ PERIL by Michael D. Urban: Zach Colt is featured in this contemporary thriller with roots in the War of 1812. In 1805 the United States waged war on the Barbary Pirates. This led to the formation of the US Navy which would play a pivotal role in the War of 1812. The USS Constitution is the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel afloat and is most famous for her actions during the War of 1812 against Great Britain, when she captured numerous merchant ships and defeated five British warships. It is now 2012. The War of 1812 is long over, but the War of 2012 has just begun. July 4, 2012. A terrorist with roots to the original Barbary pirates and his ruthless band have hijacked the USS Constitution while on a celebratory cruise of the Boston harbor. On board are the former President of the United States, the current vice-president, the Secretary of the Navy and the ships’ crew and other hostages. Unfortunately for the terrorists, so is Zach Colt. The quandary for Zach – How do you recapture an 18th-Century warship – and sacred American icon — using 21st-Century weapons and tactics? The answer is ingenious. As thrillers go, this one benefits from an unusual setting – the USS Constitution, as well as a likable hero in Zach Colt, a combination of Bruce Willis and Batman, who is not content to simply use his vast wealth to do good, but also seeks some hand on action when necessary. I suspect Urban has the making of a reasonably on-going series that can be successful as long as he comes up with plots such as this one. A good read. 6/13 Jack Quick

IRONSKIN by Tina Connolly: The Great War left many scarred and carrying fey curses. They’re looked down on and, in some cases, reviled thanks to their marks. Jane will always have to wear iron to cover her scars and protect others from the curse she carries—a feeling of intense anger that can come over anyone in her presence if the scars are free. With her sister soon to be married, Jane does not want to be a burden. Trained as governess and a teacher, she’s hopeful when she answers an ad specified for the care of a child born during the war. Jane knows that she is more than qualified but even she is unprepared for the extent of the situation. Though the girl bears no outward scars, she does indeed carry a fey curse. The girl’s father, Edward Rochart, is desperate. None of the other governesses has been willing to stay and he knows his daughter will be shunned if she cannot be taught to control and mask her ability. Jane is determined that she will succeed but soon discovers Rochart is hiding other secrets as well. For example, why does he seem to have an endless supply of blue packs—fey energy used to power fey technology and all but non existent in the days since the war. And what about the steady stream of women who come to Rochart for services no one has really explained to Jane? Tina Connolly’s debut is a richly imagined and unique spin on the classic Jane Eyre. 11/12 Becky Lejeune

THE IRRESISTIBLE BLUEBERRY BAKESHOP & CAFE by Mary Simses: When Ellen Branford’s grandmother was dying, she asked Ellen to deliver a letter for her. Ellen is a high powered lawyer in New York City, engaged to a politically ambitious, wealthy, (think Kennedy) man. He’s about to win a big award, but when her grandmother dies Ellen takes the letter and heads up to the tiny town of Beacon, Maine, her grandmother’s hometown, to deliver the letter. Her intentions are good; personally deliver the letter, then head home the next day in time for the awards dinner. But the best laid plans don’t always work out. While out sightseeing, Ellen falls through an old dock and gets caught up in a rip tide, but is saved by Roy Cummings, a local carpenter working nearby. She becomes the talk of the town, which she doesn’t enjoy. When she tries to deliver the letter, no one is home so she feels stuck in Beacon until she can personally hand it over. She starts learning secrets about her grandmother’s past, keeps running into Roy, and starts changing the way she feels about her high stress life in New York and even her fiancé. While the ending may be somewhat predictable, the journey there is fresh and fun, and offers food for thought. This is thoroughly enjoyable reading, and I can see why James Patterson was so captivated. He blurbed the book, and helped get it published. 9/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
ISABELLA MOON by Laura Benedict: Carystown, Kentucky seems like a nice, small town – the kind of place where neighbors wave and grocers know your name. There is a dark secret at this heart of this town, though, one that refuses to stay buried. Two years ago, nine-year-old Isabella Moon went missing. The case has weighed on Sheriff Bill Delaney, but with no evidence and no witnesses coming forward, there’s not much he can do. Kate Russell appeared in Carystown right around the same time that Isabella disappeared. She was hoping that the town would offer her a fresh start where she could forget the demons of her past. Then, she begins to dream about Isabella Moon. In her dreams, the little girl leads her to where she is buried. Kate feels compelled to help Isabella and opens up to Delaney about the source of her information. Unsure whether the woman is crazy or possibly involved, Delaney investigates and, sure enough, finds the body of the young girl buried just where Kate said it would be. The discovery of Isabella’s body is just the beginning. Carystown is revealed to be not quite such an idyllic town after all, and the web of lies and deceptions plaguing its townspeople ranges from drugs and infidelity to murder. I loved Isabella Moon. There is an underlying creepiness that permeates the entire tale – a sense that the town may not survive the trouble that has been unearthed. But, the reader wants Carystown and its people – the good ones anyway – to prevail. Benedict’s debut is a compelling read that brings to mind a strange combination of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio and Stephen King’s Needful Things. Laura Benedict is definitely one to watch. 09/07 Becky Lejeune

ISIS by Douglas Clegg: Iris Catherine Villiers was by all accounts a normal child. She led a blessed life until her father was sent off to war. Her family relocates to England, to the manor house run by her creepy grandfather, a man so crazy he’s eventually set off in his own wing so the rest of the family can live in peace. The grounds surrounding the home are filled with tales that fascinate Iris and her days are spent following her beloved brother, Harvey. Then a terrible accident changes everything, unleashing a power hidden deep inside Iris. This is how Iris became Isis, a character prevalent in Clegg’s fantastic and haunting Harrow House tales. Isis is a chilling fable for adults and a great atmospheric read all by itself. Readers familiar with the Harrow House books will love to finally see Isis’s story and new readers will no doubt want to see where she goes from here. This edition features beautiful and macabre illustrations from Glenn Chadbourne. 09/09 Becky Lejeune

ISLAND OF LOST GIRLS by Jennifer McMahon: Rhonda lives in a small town. The kind of town where everyone knows your name and everyone knows your business. She makes a last minute stop at the town’s only gas station one afternoon and ends up being the only witness to quite a strange occurrence – a rabbit gets out of a gold VW beetle and walks over to a neighboring car where a girl sits waiting for her mother. The girl gets out, takes the rabbit’s hand, and gets into the beetle. They drive away before a shocked Rhonda can even think to do anything about it. Appalled by her own lack of action, Rhonda becomes determined to help find the missing girl. The case will force Rhonda to finally face memories of her own past that have been dormant up until now, memories of a summer long ago when everything she knew as a child began to change. Island deals with many of the same issues that were found in McMahon’s phenomenal debut, Promise Not to Tell. Both books tackle issues of child abuse, childhood secrets, and the nature of small towns. McMahon has a real talent for expressing the conflicting range of emotions felt by her heroines. She’s also great at creating these quiet mysteries that really involve the reader. It’s easy to sympathize with her characters, and she manages to keep the outcome a surprise even while she’s given you every clue you need to figure it out. 05/08 Becky Lejeune

THE ISLANDS OF DIVINE MUSIC by John Addiego: In this literary debut, Addiego chronicles the lives of five generations of one family. From matriarch Rosari and her father Lazaro, Italian immigrants who enter the United States in the early nineteen hundreds, through Rosari’s great-grandchildren, Addiego tells of their wonderful and fabulous adventures and everyday lives of this quirky family. Each chapter features a different family member, though not all of the family gets a chapter, and reads a bit like short stories with a common thread. Addiego also blends aspects of magical realism and spiritualism into the tale. At times funny and at others quite sad, Addiego succeeds in giving readers a thoughtful and amusing look at one hundred years of “history” through the eyes of the Verbicaro family. Islands of Divine Music will appeal to readers who enjoy the likes of Laura Esquivel and Sandra Cisneros. 10/08 Becky Lejeune

IT HAPPENED ONE KNIFE by Jeffrey Cohen: Reading Cohen’s book is like hearing a great story in a bar – conversational, amusing, and you just want to buy someone a beer when you are done – and then ask for more. This is the second book in his second series, the Double Feature Mystery series. Cohen creates wonderful characters and Elliot Freed is a guy who’s right on the edge of nuttiness, but is so kind and big-hearted, that it’s easy to forgive his obsession with old comedies. He owns an old movie house that his father helped him restore and he only shows comedies, and in pairs – one new, one old. Until his projectionist, who also happens to be a budding film maker, asks if Elliot will show his first film for him. It’s a slasher film and it disappears after its one and only showing. Elliot is the chief suspect for some reason, and he’s concerned enough to try and clear his name. Meanwhile, he’s planning for one of the biggest events in his life – a live appearance by Lillis, half of the Lillis & Townes (think Laurel & Hardy) comedy teams who happens to be living in a nearby nursing home. But when Lillis casually drops into conversation that Townes murdered his wife 50 years ago, Elliot can’t let it go and starts to investigate. Things get even more complicated when another old actress at the nursing home confirms the story. Lots of laughs, some nice red herrings, and a perfect way to spend a summer afternoon. 7/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

It’s My F—ing Birthday by Merrill Markoe: Each chapter in this poignantly funny book (a la Bridget Jones) is another birthday for our narrator. Starting at age 36, we struggle through relationships with men and with family along with our protagonist, who I am happy to say, doesn’t feel compelled to end things all tied up with a pretty bow. Markoe spent years as the Emmy-award winning head writer for The David Letterman Show. This is her first novel.

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