Fiction Reviews J: 1998-2013

JACK OF SPIES by David Downing: A very well researched spy novel set in the period just prior to the beginning of hostilities of World War I, 1913-14. Downing has several books to his credit featuring John Russell, a spy working during World War II. Jack of Spies is undoubtedly the first book of a series to be set during the first World War and sets the stage very well. Jack McColl, is introduced working as a car salesman traveling through the world with his brother and another man selling luxury autos to interested buyers. Jack’s background includes combat in the British army during the second Boer war in South Africa 1899-1902. His memories show that war is not the glamorous adventure that many picture it as, and he obtains a job with the British navy as a spy for them possibly to help prevent the conflict brewing in Europe in 1913. Spying is in its infancy in terms of organization and planning and Jack is operating on a low budget with contact directly with the head of the division, and very little help from him. The first stop in his itinerary is Hong Kong and than Shanghai. It is in this segment that he finds that spying is not just some casual hob knobbing with Germans in these areas but a deadly business where his life is threatened. He also meets a beautiful Irish woman who is also traveling attempting to launch a career in journalism. Her brother and family are connected with the Irish Republican army bent on obtaining political freedom from English rule by any means including violence. Jack’s work as a British spy is complicated by the need to keep this a secret from the girl with whom he is falling in love. Downing places Jack in trouble spots during the period including a trip to Mexico when the future combatants are attempting to convince the Mexicans to side with them when war breaks out. There is a good description of the Mexican revolution going on and such principal characters as Pancho Villa, Emiliano Zapata and Victoriano Huerta taking part in the conflict. David Downing obviously did the necessary research to describe the period involved and his ability to bring his characters to life cements the read as a fascinating one. The ending is a logical one for this book, and sets the stage for the next one in the series which should take place with the war going on. 9/13 Paul Lane
Jacqueline Susann’s Shadow of the Dolls by Rae Lawrence: I read this the other night, and quite frankly wasn’t expecting much. This is the sequel to the mega-bestseller Valley of the Dolls, which I read repeatedly throughout high school (okay, so my age is showing!) I had fears of a repeat of the shudderingly awful sequel to Gone With the Wind, Scarlett, but I am happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised by this one. It was probably helpful that I hadn’t reread Valley of the Dolls, or I probably would have been pissed off by the whole thing. Jacqueline Susann died many years ago, leaving behind at least an outline of what was to follow. Rae Lawrence picked it up and ran with it, moving the story forward a couple of decades and retaining the flavor of the book. It is as good as this sort of thing ever gets; entertaining, engrossing and effervescent, as light and fleeting as cotton candy on the tongue.

JADE LADY BURNING by Martin Limon: Army investigators Ernie Bascom and George Sueno are investigating a murder in Vietnam-era Seoul, South Korea in this debut mystery. While the pace is sluggish, Limon captures the dark and dreary nature of the time and place exceptionally well. As a serving member in the US Army along the DMZ in Korea in 1972, my memories are still vivid. What Limon couldn’t capture was the overall smell of the land as well as the generally fatalistic attitude of both Americans and Koreans at that time. On the one hand, the GI’s were happy to not be in Vietnam, but the feeling of being overlooked and forgotten was always there, i.e., “the good stuff” went to Vietnam, the leftovers and rejects to Korea. They got out of country R&R, we got a 3 day weekend in Seoul, etc. In a country where it was not unheard of to obtain a job by hiring thugs to beat up the other job seekers, the lack of a moral compass led to many interesting situations. I look forward to his next work to see if the editing is better. 02/06 Jack Quick

THE JAGUAR by T. Jefferson Parker: Erin McKenna, a beautiful songwriter married to a crooked Los Angeles County sheriff ‘s deputy, is kidnapped by Benjamin Armenta, the ruthless leader of the powerful Gulf Cartel. Armenta has ordered Erin to tell his life story-in music-and write “the greatest narcocorrido of all time.”The two men who love Erin: her outlaw husband, Bradley Smith, and the lawman Charlie Hood, must work together to rescue her. Here, amid the ancient beauty and haunted landscape of the Yucatecan lowlands, the long-simmering rivalry between these men will be brought closer to its explosive finale. 1/12 Jack Quick

Jake & Mimi by Frank Baldwin: All I can say about this book is that it is HOT HOT HOT! Some romance, lots of kinky sex and a very dramatic ending…I loved it.

JAMAICA ME DEAD by Bob Morris: Fast fun romp through Jamaica, featuring the inimitable protagonist from Bahamarama, former Miami runningback Zack Chasteen. An old friend of Zack’s, Monk DeVane, asks for his help with security issues at the Libido Resort (I swear, I’m not making this up!) in Jamaica. Zack has to take him seriously when Monk’s boss is the victim of a bomb scare, right in the skybox at the Gators’ home game. Off Zack goes, more bombs go off, Homeland Security, the DEA and all sorts of island politicos get involved and Zack has to sort it all out while fighting off near-naked nymphs. Jamaica Me Dead is highly entertaining and highly recommended. 10/05

Jane Austen in Boca by Paula Marantz Cohen: A cross between Pride and Prejudice and Bridget Jones for the senior set. May Newman, a lovely Jewish widow residing in a country club community in Boca Raton, is beset upon by her well-meaning but meddling daughter-in-law Carol, who is convinced that May needs a husband to be happy. She sets her up with Norman, and the story takes off from there. May’s best friend Flo, a retired librarian with a sharp tongue and a mind to match, takes an instant dislike to Norman’s best friend Stan, a part-time English professor. The view of Boca Raton is close-up and on target (I had a couple of very minor quibbles) and there are plenty of laughs en route to the predictable ending. Cohen is a professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia, but her in-laws live in Boca, and she has obviously made several visits to the community. Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

JANE BITES BACK by Michael Thomas Ford: Michael Thomas Ford joins the multitude of authors playing with famous literary characters these days with his take on Jane Austen as a centuries-old vampire. The first of three proposed titles finds the authoress living in modern times and running her own bookstore. She’s also trying to get published under her now assumed name, Jane Fairfax. As she watches droves of others make money off her famous works, Jane struggles just to get one new book released. Imagine, 116 rejections while the Jane Austen Workout Guide becomes a hit in your own store. Meanwhile, her maker has reappeared and is threatening the new life Jane has made for herself. And, the creator of Mr. Darcy is finally delving into the dating world once again, and at something of a loss as to how to proceed, or even recognize a potential Darcy in her midst. What’s a vampire to do? Such a fun read. I especially love to imagine Austen duking it out with fellow literary blood-suckers, both literal and figurative. 01/10 Becky Lejeune

JANEOLOGY by Karen Harrington: A year after his wife is convicted of killing their son, Tom find himself under fire in the courtroom. One day, Jane snapped and drowned her two children; her daughter managed to survive. Public outcry demanded that there be some repercussions for Tom’s failure to prevent the crime, that, as her husband, he should have known she was on the edge of collapse and that he should have protected his children better. Tom’s lawyer hopes to exonerate Tom of all charges on the basis that Jane’s family history and genetic makeup made her predisposed to the crime. By tracing Jane’s family lines they uncover one example after another to support their theory, but will the jury buy it? Can you predict a person’s behaviors based on those of their forebears? What affects a person’s personality more, their DNA or the examples the witnessed in others? The question of nature versus nurture is a hot topic at the moment, one that Harrington handles with ease. Janeology is a thought-provoking and thoroughly engaging read. 05/08 Becky Lejeune

THE JANUS REPRISAL by Jamie Freveletti: This was the ninth Covert One novel ostensibly based on ideas and notes left by the late Robert Ludlum and authorized by the Ludlum estate. While Ludlum never wrote anything concerning a clandestine group called Covert One operating outside the auspices of the other intelligence agencies it is
exciting, fast moving and follows some of the Ludlum precedents. Action and suspense are continuous, with no letup. Lt. Col. Jon Smith, a member of Covert One, is at a hotel in The Hague to attend a WHO conference when a sudden, well executed attack occurs killing many in the hotel. The terrorists are after bio-chemical items stored by participants and succeed in recovering what they are after. Smith is a physician as well as a Covert One operative and is well suited to begin searching for the hazardous products the terrorists grabbed. He is aided by a beautiful woman, a successful money trader who somehow stole money from the leader of the terrorist group who is incidentally an old enemy of Smith. Also on his list of supporters is a social misfit who is a computer genius, and a rogue member of the CIA who is helping in spite of the enmity of that organization to Smith. If one does not seek great characterizations and a highly believable plot it is exciting and entertaining reading and does stand on it’s own without being attached to other Covert One novels. The book is fast reading when the reader wants to get involved with excitement and be entertained by pure adrenalin. 1/13 Paul Lane
The Jasmine Trade by Denise Hamilton: A car jacking gone awry turns into something much more complex when L. A. Times journalist Eve Diamond gets interested. She stumbles onto a Los Angeles subculture of gangs, the sex slave trade and parachute kids, wealthy Asian teenagers whose parents live on the other side of the Pacific, leaving them in the care of lawyers and housekeepers and trouble. Eve meets teen counselor Mark Furukawa and learns more about these kids and herself as their relationship intensifies. Intriguing characters and inspired writing move this story along at breakneck speed, culminating in a more realistic ending than most novels of the genre. It’s easy to see why it was nominated for the Edgar, Agatha, and Macavity awards. Don’t miss it.

JERUSALEM MAIDEN by Talia Carner: Esther Kaminsky, a young girl living in an ultra orthodox Jewish community, is always questioning her Abba about life, family and religion. In spite of her mother’s admonition that Esther has no need of such information her father indulges her. Her mother insists (and father quietly agrees) that Esther’s role in hastening the Messiah’s return will be through her submission to the man her father chooses as her husband. God, a harsh taskmaster, insists that Esther marry and have many sons. According to God, this is how she will fulfill her faithful duty as a Jerusalem Maiden. Esther, however, dreams of becoming an artist. JERUSALEM MAIDEN is a coming-of-age novel exploring the role religion, faith and family have on one girl’s hopes and dreams for her own future. Carner’s rich details subtly place the reader on the scene. Only when I stopped reading to contemplate Esther’s choices or caught my breath at the next turn in the road did I realize how deeply I was immersed in this story. JERUSALEM MAIDEN is breathtakingly beautiful and will provide many opportunities for personal reflection. 10/11 Kimberly Bower

JESUS OUT TO SEA: STORIES by James Lee Burke: Eleven previously published short stories, none of which include Dave Robicheaux or Billy Bob Holland. One is about the Vietnam War, two deal with the aftermath of Katrina. Others feature academics coping with the encroachments of society and several coming of age tales. All in all a very satisfying sampler, which shows the depth and breadth of Burke’s considerable talents. 07/07 Jack Quick

JESUS’ SON by Denis Johnson: Mr. Johnson currently has a very hot title in Tree of Smoke, so I picked up his book of short stories to see what he had done in that milieu. It is simply the most powerful writing that I have encountered in the last couple years. In these stories, Mr. Johnson writes from the disconnected perspective of the addict/alcoholic in full cry. I was particularly affected by the story, Emergency Room, in which two badly whacked out orderlies, a sort of nurse Rachett and a doctor who is in over his head attempt to treat a man who has been stabbed near his one good eye by his wife. One thinks of De Quincy, Poe, Burroughs, et al and concludes this guy can play ball in their league. His description of local bars in various cities, especially including one he calls The Vine are dead on as is his description of the anesthetized inhabitants. These stories will haunt you. 10/07 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

A JOB TO KILL FOR by Janice Kaplan: Of all the luck, L.A. interior designer Lacy Fields has her latest client drop dead while inspecting a posh penthouse she and her hubby are talking about buying. There goes a commission, and even worse the fingerprints of her pal Molly Archer are on the refrigerator where the arsenic laced bottle of Japanese tea that was the cause of Cassie Crawford’s untimely demise was stored. It turns out Cassie has a biker friend who is murdered soon after, and attention shifts to Lacy as suspect number one. Filled with great fashion moments like “I slowly peeled off my wet shirt and lace La Mystere cleavage-enhancing bra. The padded push-up cups had absorbed the ocean water like sponges, thrusting my chest up to my chin,” and “the necklace clinked against her wedding band, so heavy with sapphires and diamonds that Cassie risked carpal tunnel syndrome every time she lifted a well-manicured finger. Of course, now that she’d married Roger Crawford, she never needed to lift a finger again.” This is the second outing for Fields (after 2007’s Looks to Die For), from the Editor In Chief of Parade Magazine, the popular weekly newspaper supplement. 09/08 Jack Quick

JOE VICTIM by Paul Cleve: This sequel to The Cleaner (2012) finds serial killer Joe Middleton imprisoned and awaiting trial as the accused Christchurch Carver, but despite his imprisonment, dead bodies are still piling up. Joe’s had a run of bad luck; his first two attorneys were murdered, and the latest is court appointed and to Joe’s way of thinking, not that bright. Joe’s convinced a jury will find him innocent by way of insanity, but his lawyer and the court-appointed psychiatrist strongly disagree. The only bright spot is a disgraced ex-cop working for a TV psychic who offers Joe a deal; lead them to a murdered cop’s missing remains for a large payoff, which Joe decides is his ticket out of jail. Meanwhile he has to contend with fellow inmates trying to kill him, his mother’s upcoming wedding, and politicians looking to bring back the death penalty in time for his sentencing. Once again gruesome violence abounds, so fainthearted readers be forewarned. Chelsea Cain and Thomas Harris fans will appreciate reading from Joe’s viewpoint. 9/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2013 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.
JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL by Susanna Clarke: Two magicians battle for supremacy in this amazing literary fantasy debut. In early nineteenth century England, no one practices magic anymore. No one but Mr. Norrell, that is. While Mr. Norrell is dedicated to the study of practical magic, Jonathan Strange is quite the opposite. Strange is a young and stubborn magician with a thirst for knowledge and a growing curiosity about all things magic, especially the fabled Raven King. Norrell agrees to take on the young Strange as his pupil despite his knowledge of an ancient prophecy foretelling the rise of two great magicians destined to be enemies. Can the two friends defeat fate or are they destined to be pawns in an elaborate game set in motion by the Raven King decades ago? With a vivid cast and truly imaginative story peppered with her own original fairy tales, Clarke’s debut is nothing short of genius. Deemed the “adult Harry Potter,” this is an absolute must read for all book lovers. For readers who may be intimidated by the size of this tome, have no fear, there is a three volume trade collectors’ edition available. This makes it a bit more manageable, but be warned, with such an elaborate story you won’t want to wait long between volumes. 05/07 Becky Lejeune

JUAREZ JUSTICE by Jack Trolley: Tommy Donahoo is probably not what the boosters of NAFTA had in mind. When a beautiful Mexican lawyer says, “It’s not over until the fat lady is buried,” Donahoo “didn’t correct her. It was, he suspected, the Mexican version.” Donahoo is supposed to be in Tijuana assisting Mexican Police Captain Torres on a case involving the murder of a rich socialite who was prominent in helping the poor. The contrast between rich and poor is so great it causes Donahoo’s young SDPD translator to become involved in a reckless plot to assassinate Tijuana’s leading criminal. Donahoo begins to wonder if he is there to solve a crime or commit one, a distinction not always apparent to his Mexican counterparts. The Mexican and American cultures meet with the grace of two bull moose rutting in the forest. Trolley knows how to pack a punch into what otherwise might be an ordinary police procedural. 08/06 Jack Quick

THE JUDAS GATE by Jack Higgins: British Muslims have joined the war in Afghanistan – on the Taliban side. It is up to Sean Dillon and his mates to get to the bottom of this new and disturbing development. Both the President and the Prime Minister want this situation resolved immediately. In typical Dillon fashion, he doesn’t go to war, he brings the war to him. Another fine outing from the Brit master of the contemporary thriller. 02/11 Jack Quick

JUDAS HORSE by April Smith: Sometimes it takes a horse to save a horse. FBI Agent Ana Grey is back after a shooting incident when she learns that a fellow agent has been murdered by a group of hard-core anarchists operating behind the façade of FAN (Free Animals Now). The fellow agent not only went through basic with Ana, but at one time the two considered marriage. After successfully completing the FBI’s infamous undercover school, she must now play the part of a down-on-her-luck animal lover. In the process her “Judas Horse” becomes infatuated with the real mustangs the animal lovers are purporting to be trying to save. That infatuation doesn’t extend to Julius Emerson Phelps and his “family” who are determined to do damage to the Bureau. Ana is walking a tightrope that may or may not give out under her in this excellent thriller. Hopefully, we’ll continue to see more of her in future cases. 03/08 Jack Quick

JUDAS KISS by JT Ellison: Lt. Taylor Jackson returns from her much needed vacation to face what could be the toughest challenge of her career. When classy housewife Corrine Wolff is discovered bludgeoned to death in her home, the suspicion naturally falls upon her husband. Then Jackson and her team make some disturbing discoveries regarding the Wolff family and their extra-curricular activities and a whole new avenue of suspects opens up. Meanwhile, a run-in with a stranger leads Taylor to a startling discovery of her own, one that threatens her professional life. Plus, a crazy hit man is gunning for Baldwin, and has recently gone missing, and the Pretender still evades capture. It will take all of Taylor’s strength to make it through this one and still keep her cool. With each new installment to this series, JT Ellison continues to prove that she is one of the best and the brightest in the genre – she should be on everyone’s must read lists. 01/09 Becky Lejeune

JUDAS KISS by J.T. Ellison: Beautiful, pregnant Corrine Wolff is dead, apparently brutally beaten in front of her young daughter. It’s a dangerous case for Nashville Homicide Lt. Taylor Jackson which really explodes when it is learned that Wolff and her husband were making and distributing homemade pornography. In the course of the investigation her people turn up old X-rated footage of Taylor that could destroy her career and her engagement to FBI agent John Baldwin. Meanwhile, one of Baldwin’s old enemies is intent of exacting revenge on John. High stakes emotionally and professionally for both as they try to get to the bottom of all this without blowing up their own somewhat fragile relationship. Interesting. 12/09 Jack Quick

JUDGMENT CALL by J.A. Jance: Adequate police procedural heavy on the family relationships side. When Sheriff Joanna Brady’s daughter, Jenny, stumbles across the body of her high school principal, Debra Highsmith, in the desert Brady’s personal and professional worlds collide, forcing her to tread the difficult middle ground between being an officer of the law and a mother. Crime solving in the modern world of social media challenges Brady who soon learns more than she ever suspected as she finds and dismisses various suspects. Secrets buried for many years come to light as Brady works to be both a good mother and a professional law enforcement officer. 2/13 Jack Quick

Judgment Calls by Alafair Burke: I am a long-time fan of James Lee Burke and his Louisiana cop hero, Dave Robiocheaux, who has a young daughter named Alafair. I was not surprised, therefore, to learn that Mr. Burke also had a daughter named Alafair. I was surprised to learn that she is grown up, had been working as an assistant district attorney in Portland and has written a legal thriller of her own. It is an excellent story about a woman D.A.’s attempt to try a would-be murderer-rapist for a vicious attack on a 13 year old girl. Ms. Burke holds no brief for the accused or the criminals of the world, bluntly characterizing them as mean and stupid. Her writing is as tough as her father’s. My favorite passage was “I suppressed the impulse to mow her down with the Jetta. I would’ve opened a six-pack of Fahrfeghugen on her ass over the c-word, but under the circumstances I could handle the b-word.” Her descriptions of trial preparation and activity, as well as intramural skirmishing in the D.A.’s office, are dead on. This is one of the most accurate “lawyer books” I have ever read and will be a contender for best first mystery of the year. ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.

JUDGMENT DAY by Sheldon Siegel: It’s been a few years since the last Mike Daly & Rosie Fernandez legal mystery, but it was so worth the wait. I love this San Francisco series featuring ex-priest Daly and his ex-wife Fernandez. This time out they are working on a particularly intricate case; an attorney, imprisoned for murdering a couple of drug dealers and another attorney, is just days away from being executed. Last minute appeals rarely go well, and this case is complicated further by the fact that Mike Daly’s father was one of the cops involved in the arrest and prosecution. Great dialogue is one of the hallmarks of this series and really helps move the story along, while at the same time investing these characters with strong emotional appeal. I admit that I love the Perry Mason moments along the way that contribute towards making Siegel one of the best legal fiction writers out there. 06/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

Julie & Romeo by Jeanne Ray: This charming, contemporary romance is set in Boston with a middle aged Jewish/Italian Romeo & Juliet. Don’t miss it! Now available in paperback.

JULIE AND ROMEO GET LUCKY by Jeanne Ray: Julie and Romeo is one of my favorite books ever, so I was really looking forward to this sequel and I’m happy to say it did not disappoint. It also did not live up to the original, but sadly, sequels rarely do. Julie & Romeo are still dating, they haven’t figured out how to move past that Julie’s daughter Sandy, her husband (Romeo’s son) and their kids are living with her, and Romeo has the same problem at his place with the addition of his elderly mother who still harbors the family feud against Julie. Not as confusing as I’m making it sound but a problem for the happy couple. Until Romeo decides to carry Julie up the stairs a la Rhett Butler in the Gone With the Wind on a rare night that they have the house to themselves; unfortunately, Romeo isn’t as young or strong as Rhett was and he gets hurt – too hurt to move and he ends up living in Julie’s bedroom for a while. Meanwhile, Julie’s older daughter, the career woman who swore she never wanted kids hears her biological clock ticking and gets pregnant and ends up living with mom too, at least temporarily. With Romeo’s family visiting at all hours, chaos ensues. These are great characters that I enjoy spending time with, and combined with Ray’s trademark gentle humor and pathos bring the story home. The easiest description of this book for readers of her previous books is to say this reminded me of a cross between the first book and the last, Eat Cake. And it was equally delicious. 07/05

JULIET by Anne Fortier: Julie Jacobs is the “lesser” twin of Janice. Janice is prettier, has more friends, is more adventuresome, and when the aunt that raised them dies, she leaves Janice everything except a key to a safe deposit box in Siena, Italy. Julie is off on an adventure, where she learns that her real name is Giulietta Tolomei and that she is the direct descendent of Shakespeare’s inspiration for his Juliet. Their warring family are the Salembenis, and Julie/Giulietta spends time in Siena chasing down her history and searching for some mysterious treasure. The only problem I had with this book was the main character; a whiny woman with no self esteem. I liked Janice, the selfish, spoiled sister more, and I probably wasn’t supposed to. I do have an affinity for Shakespeare and history, so I found the story, which bounces back and forth between modern day and the 1300’s predecessor of Romeo & Juliet, just fascinating reading. 9/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

JULIUS KATZ AND ARCHIE by Dave Zeltserman: Shades of Nero Wolfe – Julius Katz shares the famed Rex Stout detective’s love of good wine, good food and interesting women. Boston’s most brilliant, eccentric and possibly laziest detective, Katz, has as his sidekick, Archie, a tiny marvel of whiz-bang computer technology with the heart and soul of a hard-boiled PI. Famous Boston mystery writer, Kenneth Kingston, tells Julius he wants to find out who’s planning to kill him. The problem is almost everyone in Kingston’s life has good reason to want to kill him, and this case soon plunges Julius and Archie deep into the world of murder and publishing. If you enjoyed Nero, you will love Julius and Archie is even better than RD-D2 or 3CPO as an android partner. 8/12 Jack Quick

JUNE BUG by Jess Lourey: Mira James never imagined life after college would be a doublewide trailer outside Battle Lake, Minnesota. Nor did she imagine her life would be endangered by a local legend. Nearly a century ago a diamond necklace was allegedly lost in Whiskey Lake. Mira’s diving expedition to try to find the necklace uncovers bodies, treasure maps, and much more than she bargained for. Nicely written cozy, heavy on local atmosphere and a good follow-on to May Day, Loury’s first Mira James adventure. Everybody has to have a gimmick. Mira’s is frozen Maple Nut Goodies. Hey, it could be worse. 03/07 Jack Quick

Jury of One by David Ellis: This third time out Ellis pens yet another winner. The first chapter draws the reader in immediately, but this isn’t just another page turner. Shelly Trotter is an attorney for the Child Advocacy Project. She represents kids who get into trouble, and barely makes a living. Actually, Ellis borrowed a trick that is popular with romance authors – he created a novel around a character that was barely mentioned in his previous book; in fact, I’m not sure she even was mentioned. Life Sentence revolved around some of her family members, but this is no sequel.
Shelly is approached by a young man she helped previously on a minor issue, only this time out 17-year-old Alex Baniewicz is in considerably more trouble – he’s accused of murdering a cop. Things become even more entangled when Alex informs Shelly that he is the son she gave up for adoption. There are enough twists and turns to keep the pages turning, but it’s the second storyline, Shelly’s personal story, that makes this story so memorable – plus the shocker of an ending. There are a lot of former & practicing lawyers writing books these days, some with considerable recognition – but Ellis is one of the best.

THE JURY MASTER by Robert Dugoni: David Sloane is a high powered attorney in San Francisco – with a conscience. After he wins a wrongful death suit for his obnoxious client, instead of celebrating, he suffers a migraine and a recurring nightmare that keeps haunting him. Meanwhile, the special assistant to the U.S. President, Joe Branick, commits suicide in a small West Virginia town – or does he? The local police detective is suspicious when the Justice department takes over the investigation with plenty of attitude. Then Sloane’s secretary tells him that Joe Branick left him a message the night before he died, and a mysterious package shows up in the mail. An ex-CIA agent has a visitor who delivers a thirty-year old file, bringing all sorts of trouble along with it. Innocent people (and animals) are being killed and somehow Mexico is going to solve our oil crisis. Dugoni manages to bring it all together at lighting fast speed in this superb, action-packed debut thriller. 03/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE JURY MASTER by Robert Dugoni: Dugoni opens this debut novel with wrongful death attorney David Sloane about to make his closing remarks. Sloane, who has won 14 cases in a row, hates his arrogant corporate client and must face an obviously hostile jury. Rather than focusing on the case, Dugoni quickly moves into new matters: a recurring childhood nightmare Sloane shares with former CIA agent Charles Jenkins, apparently a complete stranger. Meanwhile, West Virginia police detective Tom Molia investigates the suicide of a top adviser to the president. What he finds draws Sloane and Jenkins closer to the truth behind their shared terror: an international conspiracy 30 years in the making. An ambitious first effort, but it worked for me. Recommended. 07/06 Jack Quick

JUST ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE by A. E. Maxwell: California Private investigator Fiddler and ex-wife Fiora love each other too much to live together. In bed everything is fine, out of bed it is a good chance one will kill the other. But when Fiora’s twin brother is the object of a U.S. Customs Department investigation, she knows she needs Fiddler’s help in the daytime. It seems like in addition to dabbling in electronic chips, Danny has been dabbling into other areas, which have brought official and unwanted attention. With Fiora’s soft spot for her twin offset by Fiddler’s hard head and matching muscles, the pair swing into action, knowing they don’t have much time to save Danny from the feds, from his enemies and, most of all, from himself. Published in1985, this is first of what appears to be a fairly neat, yet now dated, series. 03/09 Jack Quick

A JUST DECEPTION by Adrienne Giordano: A love story (sort of) about a guy named Peter and a girl named Isabelle The minor details providing the ingredients for the plot are first; Peter is an ex Navy Seal and a former Jet Pilot. He has hang-ups about involvement with women beyond sexual activity because his ex wife dumped him due to his being busy as the aforementioned Seal and Pilot. Isabel is a beautiful attorney who has her own hangups due to a cousin of hers sexually molesting her when she was younger. Peter left the Navy and works for a private security company which is actually a mercenary business. Peter has to take some time off from work due to the fact that two of his subordinates were killed in the line of duty and Peter feels that he is to blame for their deaths. While on vacation Peter’s boss asks him to design a security system for Isabel. Peter is quite reluctant to do the job and points to his need for time away from work. Peter does finally take the job and guess what: it is lust at first sight for both. While working on the system’s design Isabel’s cousin is murdered and Peter is forced to prove that she is not culpable in the death. While proving Isabel’s innocence the lust turns into love and each are involved with removing the other’s hang-ups. The author does a good job of developing both protagonists as characters and while a simple plot the book is entertaining and makes for a good read. 11/11 Paul Lane NOTE: Only available as an e-book

JUST ENOUGH LIGHT TO KILL by A. E. Maxwell: California Private eye Fiddler is the nephew of an old time border smuggler so he is not totally at a disadvantage when he decides to head south to find what led to the execution of Special Agent Aaron Sharp, a man who once saved Fiddler’s life. A close encounter of the nearly deadly kind with a sniper quickly convinces Fiddler that there are those who do like his presence or his questions. Fourth in the 1980’s series featuring beautiful women, muscular men, and a cast of international villains. 03/09 Jack Quick

JUST MURDERED by Elaine Viets: This is the fourth entry into the always entertaining Dead End Job Series and it was as much fun as the books that preceded it. This time out Helen Hawthorne is working in a fancy bridal salon in Fort Lauderdale – former jobs included bookseller, salesgirl in a fancy dress salon, and telemarketer. Things seem to be looking up though – the money still sucks, but at least the boss is nice. But not all is swell in bridal-land. The beautifully sculpted Kiki Shenrad sashays into the salon with her drab daughter, the bride-to-be, and announces she needs a wedding gown, pronto. And some dresses for herself, the kind that will make her the center of attention instead of the bride. Many thousands of dollars later, Kiki is dead and Helen’s fingerprints are all over the place. Nothing to do but prove herself innocent, which Helen does – but it ain’t easy. Lots of laughs and lots to love about this book and this series. 10/05

JUST ONE DAY by Gayle Forman: Allyson and her best friend are off on a tour of Europe in the wake of their recent high school graduation. It’s their gift and vacation before heading off to separate colleges – Alyson to Boston and Melanie to NYC. On their last days in England, while visiting Stratford Upon Avon, the friends stumble upon a group called Guerrilla Will performing Twelfth Night in the streets. When Allyson runs into the play’s Sebastian on the train to London the following morning, it kicks off a string of events that will turn her world upside down. His name is Willem and Allyson spends just one day with him in Paris before returning to her everyday life. But in the year that follows, Allyson struggles with that old life. She no longer knows what she wants or even who she is, and it’s all thanks to that one day with a boy she barely even knew. A boy she can’t get out of her head. Oh, now I get it. Everyone raves about Gayle Forman and her books but until now I’d not read her myself. Just One Day is only half of the story. Forman has recently released Just One Year telling the tale from Willem’s perspective, which is perfect because the end of Just One Day is guaranteed to send readers on a mad hunt for the second book to find out more about Willem (and Allyson). 10/13 Becky Lejeune

JUST ONE YEAR by Gayle Forman: In this companion to Forman’s Just One Day the reader finally gets Willem’s side of the story. For him, meeting the girl he called Lulu made a lasting impression. But why, then, did he abandon her in Paris? Turns out Willem had a bit of an accident that landed him in the hospital and while Allyson was frantically trying to find her way back to London, convinced she’d been rejected, Willem was trying to find his own way back to her. Over the course of the next year he never forgets Lulu, but without knowing her real name he’s left with very little that can help him in finding her. And as Allyson is beginning to learn who she really wants to be, so is Willem. His own travels will take him to places he never imagined, both literally and figuratively, but will he get a happily ever after? I really loved getting to read this story from two different viewpoints. The reader gets to see how close the two come throughout their individual searches only to miss one another again and again. But like any good story, therein lies the excitement. Willem’s growth throughout Just One Year mirrors Allyson’s in Just One Day but it’s not until the very end that you’ll see what’s to come for the pair. A truly enjoyable read and a satisfying close to Allyson and Willem’s tale. 10/13 Becky Lejeune

Justice Deferred by Len Williams: First novel inspired by the real life events experienced by the author. Williams is the former CEO of Coca-Cola New Zealand, among other companies, and his son was kidnapped. A prison inmate, in for life on the three strike rule for theft, claimed he had killed the boy and offered to show Williams the grave. It turned out to be a bogus claim being used as an escape attempt, and Williams was horrified by the implications of the three strike law putting a man in prison for life for a nonviolent crime like robbery. He turned that story into this fascinating prison epic/legal thriller. Billy Ray Billings is a cracker from Mobile, Alabama and for the first half of the book we follow his life, starting with reform school and ending with life in prison for stealing small appliances. But the life sentence never should have been given – it was forced by the way the local cops were handling their cases to make their conviction rate look good. Enter Harry Brown, lawyer and free lance crime reporter for the local newspaper, who’s interest in this case is quite personal. The rest of the book deals with the legal maneuverings to get those life sentences overturned and have justice prevail. Williams draws the reader in from the first page and doesn’t let go – even after the last page, these characters will stay with you.

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