MAD DOG by Mark Rubenstein: It is actually Dr. Mark Rubenstein, a practicing psychiatrist, who authored this very taut, compelling novel. Rubenstein wrote five technical books before turning to fiction, and his first fictional effort certainly indicates a talent in that direction. Roddy Dolan and Danny Burns are old friends and successful men that have their roots in Brooklyn 30 years ago. Roddy almost went to jail at that time, but thanks to efforts by his friend Danny’s mother was allowed to enlist in the army instead of serving time. The experience turned his life around and he became a successful surgeon. Danny became an accountant with a wide practice. Both are married with loving families and very happy with their places in life. An old friend from their boyhood days in Brooklyn approaches them to offer a chance to divest their portfolios by investing with him into a restaurant as silent partners. Danny does the proper investigation and proposes that they do so. Their wives concur and both put up sums required to enter into the deal. The situation begins to go sour when Roddy determines that their friend has been skimming from the business and is on both drugs and drink. A loanshark enters the scene and demands that the three partners pay him money owed by the managing partner in the sum of at least double the amount invested. Roddy, who was known as “Mad Dog” as a boy, comes up with a scheme to put an end to the loan shark’s ideas to collect money, and collect more money whenever he wants to. The account of what Roddy and Danny have to do is extremely well handled. The characters are very well fleshed out, and the reader will understand the reactions and thoughts of both men. This is definitely an impossible book to put down with an ending that will cause a reaction of “of course” by readers. A short preview of Rubenstein’s next novel appears at the end of the book, and as I did will cause a note to be placed on file to get it as soon as it comes out. 10/12 Paul Lane
MAD DOGS by James Grady: Grady’s first novel (Six Days of the Condor, 1974) was awesome and I heartily recommend it to anyone who hasn’t read it. Time will tell whether his latest will stand the same test of time. Five former CIA operatives, deemed to be mentally unable to continue, are housed in a top-secret insane asylum in Maine. When their psychiatrist is murdered they realize they will be framed for the crime, so they break out and make their way to Washington, D.C. and a man they hope holds the key to the mystery. On one level this is a well-written thriller that moves at a rapid pace with plenty of action, or you may consider it an extended hallucination not unlike One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Ultimately, it’s a tale of emancipation and coming to terms with the realities of life, and one’s own limitations. 11/06 Jack Quick
THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER by Megan Shepherd: Times have been tough for Juliet Moreau since her father’s disappearance. Doctor Moreau was once a noted surgeon but rumors concerning the questionable nature of his research ruined his career. He left six years ago and Juliet has always assumed that he was dead. When her mother passed away, Juliet was left with no choice but to find a job. Fortunately, an old colleague of her father’s secured Juliet a position cleaning at the university. One evening, Juliet discovers a page of her father’s notes in the possession of some of the students. She traces the notes to a local inn, but instead of Moreau she finds Montgomery, his assistant. Montgomery admits that Moreau is very much alive and that he, Montgomery, has continued working alongside him all these years. At first Montgomery is insistent that Juliet cannot accompany him back to the island where Moreau does his research. But when Juliet attacks a man while defending her honor, Montgomery is left with no choice but to bring her along. Soon Juliet finds herself face to face with her father once again, but is she ready for what she’ll discover? Megan Shepherd’s take on HG Well’s Island of Doctor Moreau is fabulous. It’s a dark and twisted teen sci fi read that’s perfect for adults as well and it’s to be the first in a trilogy, which means there’s more to Juliet’s tale. 2/13 Becky Lejeune
MAD MOUSE by Chris Grabenstein: In this terrific sequel to TILT-A-WHIRL, Danny Boyle is applying for a full time position with the Sea Haven police department after spending the summer working part time with John Ceepak. Ceepak lives by a code of honor that is both refreshing and worth emulating, at least to Danny. Danny is partying one night at the beach with his friends when they are attacked by someone with a paintball gun. It’s not fun being hit, but it’s usually not dangerous either, except one of the girls gets hit in the eye. And then they get shot at again, more paintballs but also bullets go whizzing by, leaping up the investigation a notch. All of this is happening just prior to the Labor Day barbeque bonanza weekend, closing the summer season at the Jersey shore resort area. The new chief of police wants to keep a lid on things and not scare off the tourists and the mayor is worried about local businesses losing money if they have to cancel. Then another of the friends is shot and seriously wounded, the mayor and police chief are trying to keep everyone calm, and Danny and Ceepak are determined to find the shooter before anything else happens. Besides the suspense and the humor, you can smell the salt air and taste the taffy, making this the perfect beach read. 06/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
MAD MOUSE by Chris Grabenstein: Labor Day is coming and the New Jersey resort town of Sea Haven is gearing up for a big celebration. Easygoing part-time-summer-only cop Danny Boyle has become so enamored of police work with his partner, super-cop John Ceepak, that he wants to be promoted to full-time and kept on after the end of the season. Luckily, Ceepak, the decorated Iraq War veteran, is on the case when a sniper begins stalking Danny, girl friend Katie and their friends. The mayor wants things solved before the holiday festivities. Danny wants it solved before someone gets killed and John wants it solved period. Having now read both of Grabenstein’s initial efforts, I would comment, not negatively, that they would probably make better television show episodes than mystery books. Think Rockford Files meets Baywatch on the East Coast. Give it a Springsteen soundtrack, some eye candy, and a couple of mis-matched leads as Danny and John. It would be a lot better than most of what’s on the tube today. 11/06 Jack Quick
MAD RIVER by John Sandford: Virgil Flowers has his hands full with three teenagers with dead-end lives who go on a Bonnie and Clyde spree. The body count keeps mounting and Flowers can’t seem to move fast enough as their crime spree cuts a swath through rural Minnesota. With the growing army of cops after them, the end is pretty likely, but the getting there is not. Another good Sanford. 10/12 Jack Quick
MADE IN THE U.S.A. by Billie Letts: Lutie and Fate McFee have been dealt a really raw deal. They were abandoned by their drunk father; left with one of his many girlfriends while he made his way to Vegas for his fortune. Now said girlfriend, who was nice by all accounts, has dropped dead of a heart attack in the WalMart checkout line. After some inventive lies, Lutie packs up Fate and they head off to Vegas, in a technically stolen car with technically stolen money, in hopes that they can find their father. Upon arrival, they learn that their father was arrested and eventually died in prison. Lutie takes it upon herself to provide for Fate as best as she can, hoping to make it big and give them both a better life. Unfortunately, as with other Letts characters, Lutie and Fate experience some of the worst things that can befall kids on their own. I have to say that I think even the folks in Where the Heart Is had it a little better than these two kids. Another tear-jerking and overwhelmingly heart-warming tale of growth, redemption, and the importance of family. 06/08 Becky Lejeune
MADELINE MANN by Julia Buckley: Aha, another perky female newspaper reporter with uncanny sleuthing abilities. Madeline Mann, Madman to her brothers and close friends wouldn’t sign the Declaration of Independence – too conformist. She must go her own way and if that means getting involved in homicide investigations in her hometown of Webley, Illinois, so be it. You wouldn’t think a major metropolis like Webley would have political intrigue, love, greed, obsession, and an Annual Fall Harvest Festival. Count on the madman to find them all in this series, that’s series, not serious opener. There are appears to be more substance here than say, a big wad of cotton candy, but no steak and potatoes that I could find. I can’t help but wonder where all these young blonde femme fatales were when I was a newspaper publisher. All I ever got were like you know, functionally illiterate, or else ex-school teacher empty nesters seeking fame and glory, but heaven forbid you tried to give them direction. Anyway, it’s enjoyable. 08/07 Jack Quick
THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH by Maureen Johnson: Though Rory is much recovered from her run in with the killer known as the Ripper, her parents are less than anxious to allow her to return to life as usual. She’s living with them in Bristol, attending her mandatory therapy visits, but desperate to return to Wexford. She soon gets her chance, though, when therapist Julia announces that it’s the most promising opportunity for getting over the incident. Rory quickly learns that her return has been finagled by her friends, The Shades — the super secret ghost busting division of the police. They were in danger of being shut down after the Ripper destroyed their last Terminus – which allowed them to send ghosts back where they belong – but Rory has inherited a neat little power as a result of her Ripper experience: she’s apparently become a Terminus herself. With her help, The Shades can continue. As she tries to maintain a balance between school and her friends, she discovers something else. A murder near Wexford appears to be tied in with the aftermath of the Ripper case. At first, no one believes her, but it soon becomes clear that she’s right. But can Rory handle the secrets and responsibilities of her two different lives? This second in the Shades of London series continues where The Name of the Star left off. Johnson’s snappy prose and snarky wit make this a creepy and quirky series that perfectly ties together paranormal and mystery elements. 2/13 Becky Lejeune
THE MADONNAS OF LENINGRAD by Debra Dean: This is Russian immigrant Marina Buriakov’s story and it is a rather difficult one. Marina is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and her family is trying to cope with her and her granddaughter’s upcoming wedding at the same time. Marina can barely remember who her granddaughter is, but has no trouble remembering working as a docent at the State Hermitage Museum in Leningrad on the eve of WWII. The story alternates between the present day and her memories of that time, emptying the museum in preparation for the possible theft or damage of its treasures. The writing is lovely, especially about the artwork in the museum, but the theme of memory and how it affects our lives is most poignant and moving in this lovely, heartfelt family tale. 07/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE MAGDALEN MARTYRS by Ken Bruen: The Magdalen Martyrs is the latest mystery novel in author Ken Bruen’s series about a self-destructive Irish crime solver named Jack Taylor. While I think that this is his best so far, if this appeals to you, I would recommend that you go back and read his earlier novels as well and trace his development as an author.
Jack Taylor is a former member of the Irish police force known as the Guardia. His experiences on that job hardened him, turned him to the bottle and led him to resent any form of authority. His boozing and behavior led to his ouster from the Guards and they keep asking him to please give them their uniform coat back. Jack, at this point in his life, is an alcoholic going down. He hates his life, but finds consolation in his books (he likes mysteries, poetry, A.A. Alvarez and Thomas Merton in particular) and he finds numbness and forgetting in whiskey and drugs. Like Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder, who he admires, he has at this point in his descent, nonetheless developed a reputation as a detective of sorts and is asked to help various souls who are reluctant to involve the authorities.
The title of this book involves an Irish scandal that had been fairly widely publicized in the past year. It refers to the Magdalen laundry facility, a home established by an order of nuns for unmarried women thrown out of their families for engaging in premarital sex. A far cry from The Cider House, the women are not only forced to work as virtual slaves, but subjected to great physical and mental abuse as well. Many simply did not survive and even the survivors were scarred for life. In this case, Jack is asked to pay off a favor he owed to a very “hard man” in the Irish underworld. The hard man’s sister was a laundry survivor and he asks Jack (on the pain of being killed if he fails to perform) to find one of the teachers who retired from there and was the only good person on the staff. As the plot develops, it is clear that she was not an angel of mercy. In fact, the poor young women referred to her as Lucifer. And the hard man does not intend to thank her, but to make her experience the same sort of misery she meted out. In the course of investigating this case, and another unrelated matter, Jack gets beaten badly repeatedly, his clothes are ruined over and over again, he is thrown in jail and even his books are destroyed. (This gives him another to excuse to launch into one of his long lists of authors – I am getting a little tired of this, although I like the same writers Jack does). However, this destruction is secondary to that which he is imposing on himself in every page with each sip, each pill and each line of cocaine. I fear greatly for Jack.
Ultimately, and in very clever, but very tough fashion, the various plot lines are resolved, but the larger dilemmas in Jack’s life remain.
I have not enjoyed reading a new mystery author this much in several years. If you like hard-nosed crime fiction with a real Raymond Chandler hero, you can not miss these. 03/05 ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.
THE MAGDALEN MARTYRS by Ken Bruen: “So I drink. I’m way past my sell-by date and am on precious borrowed time. I should have gone down a long time ago. Lots of days, I wish I had.” Meet Jack Taylor who brings new meaning to the term hard-boiled. An erstwhile detective and full time alcoholic Taylor prowls the dark side of Galway, as if there were no tomorrow. Why? He really and truly doesn’t care whether there will be a tomorrow. After all, it will only be as bad as today and yesterday, anyway. Jack is trying to locate a woman associated with the notorious Magdalen Home for Unwed Mothers as well as determine whether a merry widow was responsible for her husband’s death. Powerful writing from the man called the Celtic Dashiell Hammett. 10/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
THE MAGDALENA CURSE by F.G. Cottam: Mark Hunter was an accomplished military man. His experiences and expertise made him an optimal choice for a very secret mission in the Amazon. It is this mission that hangs over him. Now Mark’s son is the victim of a terrible curse, the result of the wrath of an evil woman. Everyone becomes pawns in her game, playthings for her amusement. If Mark can’t free his son from the curse, it could mean the end of them both. With the help of a local doctor who has her own dark past, Mark will attempt to track down the one person with the power to stop things before they go too far. Cottam’s talent lies in his ability to build an intense and atmospheric story. The Magdalena Curse is a chilling horror tale from the very beginning. Unfortunately, the end is abrupt—one misstep in an otherwise effective and interesting read. 08/11 Becky Lejeune
THE MAGE IN BLACK by Jaye Wells: Sabina Kane is back in this follow-up to Jaye Wells’s urban fantasy debut, Red-Headed Stepchild. Since learning the truth about her family and her twin sister, Sabina has left behind her former life as an assassin for the vampire Domina. Sabina’s grandmother is not one to easily admit defeat, though, and Sabina soon finds herself being hunted by the Domina’s lackeys. Making matters worse is the fact that Sabina seems to have stepped on someone’s toes in New York: Her first night in, she’s attacked by a couple of werewolves and accused of poaching in their territory, an act that comes with its own penalties. It’s what happens next that really takes the cake, though. I like Sabina as a lead character; she’s feisty and has a killer attitude. I also enjoyed the momentum of Red-Headed Stepchild and was glad that Wells was able to keep up the pace in this second book of the series. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where Sabina’s story goes from here. 03/10 Becky Lejeune
MAGIC CITY by James W. Hall: The Magic City is Miami and Thorn is trying to determine if the magic he has found with Alexandra is powerful enough to enable him to leave his beloved Key West and move to Miami full-time. In the process Thorn gets involved in a betrayal and series of murders that occurred in 1964. A photograph taken ringside of the Sonny Liston – Cassius Clay heavyweight fight in Miami is apparently critical to solving the mystery, and the only remaining copy of the photograph belongs to Alexandra’s father, Lawton, who suffers from dementia. While Thorn is trying to make sense of the matter, a modern day murder spree erupts that reaches from the quiet neighborhoods of Miami all the way to the White House and puts Thorn and everyone he loves into grave danger. Quite a romp. 03/07 Jack Quick
THE MAGIC KNOT by Helen Scott Taylor: Rosenwyn Tremain is your average, everyday accountant. Growing up, her mother warned her never to go to Cornwall and, in spite of their many differences, Rose has obeyed her mother’s wish, until now. Rose is sent to Cornwall to investigate the bankruptcy of a local pub, the Elephant’s Nest. The pub is run by the charming and handsome Michael O’Connor, but it is his somewhat rude brother, Niall, who interests Rose. All of that is beside the point considering Rose’s desire to close the case and track down her long lost father, except for the fact that the O’Connor’s will figure in to both her past and her present in ways that she can’t ignore. See Rose was raised without being told of the race of fair folk who live in the world. Her race. Rose is half human and half pisky and she’s about to discover that she’s much more than that as well. Helen Scott Taylor’s debut fantasy/paranormal romance was winner of Romantic Times magazine’s American Title competition in 2008. It’s fun and original romance, and hopefully the beginning of a great new paranormal series. 01/09 Becky Lejeune
MAGIC TO THE BONE by Devon Monk: The job of a Hound is to track down and identify the illegal offloading of magic—all magic comes with a price and some choose to filter that price through another living thing. An after-hours job leads Allie Beckstrom, one of the best Hounds in the industry, to suspect that her own father, a prominent figurehead who’s made big business out of magic, has been using a young boy as an Offload. But when her father ends up dead, Allie’s own magical signature points the finger at her as the killer. Unfortunately, Allie’s price in using magic is her memory and she has no memory of what happened after confronting her father. Allie knows that she’ll have to use all of the power at her disposal to untangle the pieces and find out what her father’s role truly is. But Allie will also have to decide if, in the long run, the price she pays is really worth it. Devon Monk’s urban fantasy debut is a good read, but there is a lot of information in this first of the series for readers to digest. Building a world as setting for something different is a big challenge and I think Monk does it well, but I also think that the follow-up titles of the series will be even better now that a lot of the background has been introduced. 11/09 Becky Lejeune
THE MAGICIANS by Lev Grossman: I must confess I have not read a single Harry Potter book, nor have I seen a Harry Potter film. I am vaguely familiar with Narnia as a quite successful movie, but couldn’t tell you anything else about it. Therefore, I really couldn’t appreciate the various nuances and sub texts in this book. I can tell you it is well written and entertaining and probably a must read if you are into this sort of thing. Quentin Coldwater is a Brooklyn high school student and the nerdiest of nerds. His most devout wish is to be in a children’s series set in the Narnia-like world of Fillory. Instead, he and his friends are heading to an interview relative to his possible admission to Princeton. When they arrive, they find the interviewer is dead of a massive stroke. On the way back home he ends up at Brakebills, a very secret and exclusive college of magic in upstate New York. At Brakebills, Quentin learns about college life – friendship, love, alcohol and sex, while also learning all about modern sorcery. Upon his departure he and his friends stumble on the dark secret behind the story of Fillory. Call this an ultimate coming of age, where neither black nor white are completely clear, and the cost of knowledge is enormous. 07/10 Jack Quick
MAHU SURFER by Neil S. Plakcy: Surf’s up – and so is the body count. Gay Hawaiian police detective Kimo Kanapa’aka is mahu, a generally negative term for homosexual. Outed and semi-retired, Kimo must go undercover and stop a brutal killer who has already taken the life of three members of the close-knit surfing community. If he succeeds he may be able to return to active duty. If he fails, he most likely will be dead. Second in the series and certainly different. Not badly written, but overall not my cup of tea. It’s not the homosexual aspect so much as the fact that my take on Hawaii is more Gidget and Don Ho than Hawaii 5-0. A surfer cop is just a bit too much for me, no matter what the sexual persuasion. 11/07 Jack Quick
MAIDEN ROCK by Mary Logue: Pepin County is shocked by the Halloween death of a local high school student, an apparent suicide. When the autopsy reveals traces of meth, Deputy Sheriff Claire Watkins is off on a particularly difficult murder investigation. The victim is the best friend of her daughter, Meg. To makes matters worse, Meg and Krista had fought over a boy, just before Krista ran away. While Deputy Claire is faced with meth labs and doped up teenagers, mother Claire must try to help her own daughter make sense of the situation. Reminiscent of the J.A. Jance Joanna Brady series, and well done. 01/08 Jack Quick
MALICE by Lisa Jackson: In the end of Lost Souls, New Orleans homicide detective Rick Bentz is recovering in the hospital when he sees his ex-wife, Jennifer. His dead ex-wife. The scent of her perfume hits him at random moments as well, but it can’t be. He identified her body himself over a dozen years ago. He convinces himself it’s just some strange symptom of his injuries and hospitalization, but as Malice begins, he still can’t shake the feeling that she’s nearby. He begins to see her everywhere, even in his own backyard, and is convinced that someone is messing with his head. Then he receives a package containing recent photographs of a woman who looks exactly like Jennifer did when she died, and a copy of her death certificate with a question mark next to the date of death. In order to figure out what is going on and who is playing with him, Rick gives in and travels to California. Unfortunately, he is not welcome in the eyes of his former colleagues. Then a killer who has been quiet since Bentz left strikes again, and even his old partners begin wondering if Bentz being back is the reason behind the killer’s return. There are so many twists in this latest from Jackson, that even if you think you have it figured out, you’re probably dead wrong. Another suspenseful read, just what I’ve come to expect from her. 04/09 Becky Lejeune
MAMA DOES TIME by Deborah Sharp: Imagine Stephanie Plum in rural Florida. Her Mama is a true Southern woman partial to sherbet colored pantsuits and marriage (4 ex-husbands). Mace, and her sisters Maddie and Marty, are called by Mama from the police station. After an inopportune fender bender at the Dairy Queen, the body of the fiancé of the Police Department receptionist is found in the trunk of Mama’s car. The new handsome detective from Miami has few problems in seeing Mama for the crime. So it’s up to the girls, primarily Mace, to prove the man wrong. Colorful characters and a segment of Florida seldom seen by tourists evoke a Southern Sisters feeling in this very well written Southern fried epic. “Her voice was so cold, they could have pumped it into the beer cooler down at the Booze ‘n’ Breeze drive-through.” Or this scene at the office of Mace’s lawyer cousin – “Mr. Bauer, this lady says she’s Ms. Bauer. “Thanks, Amber. I might not have recognized Ms. Bauer with her clothes on. We used to splash nekkid together in the kiddy pool in my back yard. That was decades ago, darlin’, way before you was even born.” A winner. 12/08 Jack Quick
THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF VAMPIRE ROMANCE edited by Trisha Telep: An anthology featuring stories from the best and the brightest in the paranormal romance and urban fantasy genres, and it’s all about vamps. An absolute must read for paranormal romance fans everywhere. The collection features the likes of Vicki Pettersson, author of the fantastic Zodiac series. Pettersson, whose tales feature superheroes battling the forces of evil in Las Vegas, shows off her skills with a steamy installment, “Remember the Blood.” Lilith Saintcrow, author of the Dante Valentine and Jill Kismet series, gives readers a little extra with Liana’s story (Dante’s Valentine’s adopted daughter) “A Stand-up Dame.” Werecat author, Rachel Vincent takes a break from her feline heroine with “The Midday Mangler Meets His Match.” Other contributors include writing duo C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp, Keri Arthur, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Rebecca York, and Jenna Black, just to name a few. This collection truly has something for everyone, whether you prefer the sillier sarcastic stories or steamy sexy ones. 08/08 Becky Lejeune
Man and Boy by Tony Parsons: This was cute but not as spectacular as the reviews had led me to believe. Fairly standard boy meets girl, with the requisite tears and laughter, nods to Ms. Fielding. Personal note: the Gone With the Wind reference, which was to the movie as the book had obviously not been read, just pissed me off.
MAN CAMP by Adrienne Brodeur: Lucy and Marsha are two single New York City girls. Lucy is in love with Adam, until their Valentine’s Day vacation fiasco forces her to confront his shortcomings. Marsha can’t seem to get past the first date, causing her to start a business by dating men and critiquing their dating style. Reminiscent of the Will Smith movie, Hitch, Marsha’s “FirstDate” business soon evolves into a more intense program the girls surreptitiously call “Man Camp”. Lucy’s best friend from college, Cooper, is a gentleman farmer from West Virginia, and he agrees to host the city slickers and coach them on how to be real men, which encompasses teaching them how to change a tire and shoot a gun, but the students end up teaching the teacher when he almost loses the farm. Cooper and Marsha fall in love, but his southern bell of a mother isn’t too keen on her son taking up with a Yankee. Fast paced and fun, this debut is sure to please fans of chick-lit light. Adrienne Brodeur is the founding editor of Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope All-Story. Recommended for larger fiction collections. Pub date July 19. Copyright © 2005 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission. 07/05
MAN EATER by Ray Shannon: The author (really Gar Anthony Haywood) has put together a memorable cast in this Hollywood based tale that is the equal to any Elmore Leonard. There is stone killer Neon Polk who is after Ronnie “Raw” Deal, a sexy producer on the rise, ex-con Ellis Langford who is helping Ronnie, and the Ayala brothers, a pair of vicious, drug-dealing morons. Add in Antsy Carruth, a trashy bimbo who steals drug money from her equally trashy boy friend. Mix in a couple of confrontations, some wounded egos, and scenes like this one: “I better leave you with a little somethin’ to think about. So you don’t go and do somethin’ stupid like tell Five-Oh I was here. Which one of your ears you like best? Left or right?” Start it early in the day if you don’t want to stay up all night. 03/06 Jack Quick
THE MAN FROM PRIMROSE LANE by James Renner: David Neff hasn’t been able to write since his wife’s suicide four years ago. He’s been living off lucrative royalties from his debut release, The Serial Killer’s Protégé, a true crime book that nearly cost him his mind. Neff’s publisher thinks it’s time to try again and presents the perfect case for Neff to begin researching: the murder of The Man From Primrose Lane. The man had no visitors, lived under a stolen name, and was brutally murdered in his own home. The case has been cold ever since. Neff is intrigued. As his research into the case grows deeper, strange connections begin to appear and the author soon finds himself under investigation as well. The Man From Primrose Lane is a really brilliant multi-genre tale: part mystery/thriller, part science fiction, all exceptional! I loved it and definitely highly recommend it to anyone looking for a dark thriller that’s a bit different from the usual fare. 3/12 Becky Lejeune
The Man in the Box by Thomas Moran: I was hooked from the beginning: “During the war, we kept our Jew in a box,” and read the rest straight through. This engrossing novel is told from the point of view of the teenagers of a small town in Austria during WWII. A truly remarkable story.
MAN IN THE MIDDLE by Brian Haig: This book is scheduled to go on sale January 6, 2007. That might he a good day to be at your local bookstore when it opens and to plan on taking the rest of the day off. What is the true meaning of patriotism? During the weeks preceding the 2004 Presidential election, Army lawyer Sean Drummond is caught between duty to Washington’s elite and the soldiers in Iraq. Sent to investigate a reported suicide of one of the most belligerent of the hawks supporting the conflict in Iraq, Drummond uncovers the secrets that led to this war. Now he must choose. The soldiers dying overseas or the Washington power brokers, knowing that once exposed the information he has could destroy public support and undermine the presidency. This one has top ten written all over it, with roots in Vietnam, connections to the Carter presidency and to the Iraq Study Group Report. Whether or not its true, it is certainly plausible, and awesomely told. 01/07 Jack Quick
The Man I Should Have Married by Pamela Redmond Satran: First novel from the very successful author of baby name books like Beyond Jennifer and Jason and the upcoming Cool Names, and one of the first issues from the new Simon & Schuster imprint for chick lit and hip reads, Downtown Press. Kennedy and Frank have been married for a while and have a 5-year-old daughter, Amanda. Kennedy also has a teenage daughter, Maya, from her previous live-in lover Marco, who she dumped when his interest in drugs superseded his interest in his family. And also lurking in her past is Declan, who was her boss and best friend until the night she slept with him, after which she ran off to marry Frank. But Frank’s left Kennedy for Sunny, and Maya wants to find her father Marco, who she doesn’t even remember, and Kennedy is searching for what she really wants, while dealing with her past, her children and her five-time-married mother’s advice. It’s really not as confusing as it all sounds! These are great characters in a fast paced, sweet and funny story that I could not put down. Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
MAN OF THE HOUSE by Ad Hudler: Anyone who thinks men can’t write chicklit hasn’t read Ad Hudler. This is light, humorous, romantic fun at its best. I loved Househusband, and this sequel has been several years in coming but it was so worth the wait. Linc has always been the stay-at-home parent, cooking gourmet meals, keeping a spotless house, and being a great dad to Violet. But as Violet grows up and the family moves from New York to Florida, Linc starts having second thoughts about his role in the family and as a man in general. We hear directly from the newly teenaged Violet, her mom, Linc and Violet’s teacher, making us privy to their thoughts and ideas. Women will love how the traditional job of homemaker takes on the depth and importance that it deserves, and will appreciate Linc’s dive into the testosterone pool. All in all, a very satisfying and enjoyable read. 10/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE by Lee Goldberg: Harvey Mapes, an overeducated security guard for a Southern California gated community, is pulled out of his rut when a wealthy resident hires him to tail his wife. We learn that Mapes is fond of masturbation, television PI shows, nipples, masturbation, gratuitous violence, junk food and masturbation. Actually, this is not a bad read if you are into amateur detectives with lots of on-the-job training. The writing is crisp and the plot interesting, but overall not my favorite to come down the pike. 01/06 Jack Quick
THE MAN WHO WALKED LIKE A BEAR by Stuart Kaminksy: In the sixth Inspector Rostnikov thriller, Rostnikov is visiting his wife, Sarah, hospitalized in their home city of Moscow. The “walking bear” is a man who escapes from the mental ward and alarms the women in Sarah’s room before the inspector succeeds in calming him This strange event starts Rostnikov, with his comrades Karpo and Thach, on another series of Moscow adventures where the Inspector divides his time battling criminals, the KGB, and his police superiors. Another first rate police procedural on a par with McBain’s 87th Precinct. 01/06 Jack Quick
MANHATTAN NORTH by John Mackie: Sergeant Thornton Savage and his partners are challenged by a series of slayings – each one a notorious drug dealer. But after one of Savage’s long term friends is killed, the heat gets turned up big-time which in turn leads to threats against Savage and his fiancée. Another first rate procedural from John Mackie, author of Manhattan South, Eastside and Westside. Where will John take Savage next? Whichever direction, you can count on it being action packed. 03/06 Jack Quick
MANHATTAN SOUTH by John Mackie: Candace Mayhew and her Gambino mob boyfriend are murdered in a bar at closing time. Later that same morning, Andric Karazov plays with his toy Napoleonic Calvary and thinks about the less-than-perfect job he just completed, a senator in Queens contemplates his run for the presidency while his wife enjoys another rendezvous with her Russian lesbian lover. All of these people are linked to Candace Mayhew. NYPD Sergeant Thornton Savage ends up the target of both a shootout and an internal investigation before ultimately fitting all the pieces together of a plot involving infidelity, extortion and political intrigue. A very well-done police procedural. 01/06 Jack Quick
MANNHEIM REX by Robert Pobi: The way Gavin Corlie sees it, he has two options: suicide, or a complete change of scenery. The death of his wife has left him grieving and depressed and he knows he can’t take one more minute in their shared home. An old fixer-upper upstate seems to be the answer. The town of New Mannheim is quiet and more than a bit off the beaten path. The house needs work but sits on the banks of the picturesque Lake Caldasac and should be the perfect place to recuperate and begin work on his next novel. As a horror author, Corlie makes a living telling dark and twisted tales, but the secret hiding beneath the still waters of Lake Caldasac is all too real. After an accident on the lake almost claims the life of local kid Finn Horn, Corlie takes him under his wing and learns the truth about that fateful afternoon. Soon the two are on the hunt for a killer monster that’s been hiding in the depths of Lake Caldasac for decades. If they can catch it, it’ll mean fame and fortune for the young boy. If they fail, they could both become the creature’s latest victims. If you’re in the mood for a graphic and gory creature feature horror that doesn’t take itself too seriously, Mannheim Rex would have to be my recommendation. While I would have loved more of the creature itself, I thought this latest from Pobi was highly entertaining. 12/12 Becky Lejeune
MANIFESTO FOR THE DEAD by Domenic Stansberry: Knowledgeable critics panned this one when it came out in 2000. Fortunately, I am not a member of the intelligentsia so I enjoyed it immensely. Its 1971 and real life 64 year old novelist Jim Thompson is drinking himself to death at the famous Musso & Frank Grill on Hollywood Boulevard. A sleazy producer called Billy Miracle and a fading star named Michele Haze sign the vulnerable Jim to write a novel based on a screenplay, planning to entice movie mogul Jack Lombard into bankrolling both the book and the film. Haze is murdered and Thompson is set up as the chief suspect. As homage to Thompson, purists may quibble, but the writing is spare, dark, and full of simple but powerful imagery. (“He had not died after all. He was in Beverly Hills”) Maybe not Stansberry’s best work, but obviously audacious, and I thought, enjoyable. 06/07 Jack Quick
THE MANUAL OF DETECTION by Jedediah Berry: Charles Unwin is an agency clerk who loves his job. He’s careful about putting together files for his detective and strives to be the best clerk he can be. Then one morning Unwin is surprised to find that he’s been promoted to detective. It’s nearly unheard of for a clerk to be promoted to detective and it’s not exactly something that Unwin has ever aspired to himself. Then Unwin discovers that his detective, Travis Sivart, has gone missing. The only solution, for Unwin to find out what happened to Sivart so that he can go happily back to being a clerk. Turns out there’s something strange going on with Sivart’s cases, though, and it could be that the reason for Sivart’s disappearance lies hidden somewhere in the files themselves. The Manual of Detection is an interesting read to be sure. It’s in the same vein as the recently released Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes, and like Barnes’ debut, Berry’s novel can be quite hard to get a handle on. One blink and the reader runs the risk of completely losing their grasp on this strange tale. Overall, a clever mystery, but one that does require some amount of concentration. 02/09 Becky Lejeune
THE MANUAL OF DETECTION by Jedediah Berry: This debut is easy to read, but difficult to describe. A relatively simple story, but exceptionally well told. Charles Unwin is the personal clerk for legendary detective Travis Sivart, the key man in the Agency, in an unnamed rainy city. When Sivart goes missing, Unwin is promoted to fill the vacancy. All Unwin wants to do is find Sivart so he can go back to being a clerk. With the help of a book – Manual of Detection – he sets forth on his adventure. What makes this book so memorable is the quality of Berry’s writing. For instance, his description of Unwin – “life time resident of this city, rode his bicycle to work every day, even when it was raining. He contrived a method to keep his umbrella open while pedaling, by hooking the umbrella’s handle around the bicycle’s handlebar…Today he was behind schedule. He had scorched his oatmeal, and tied the wrong tie, and nearly forgotten his wristwatch…Now his socks were getting wet, so he pedaled even faster.” Can’t you just see the epitome of every meek little minor bureaucrat in that simple description. “Even Mr. Duden alluded to (his work), most often when scolding someone for sloppy work. “You like to think your files stand up to Unwin’s and you don’t even know the difference between a dagger and a stiletto?” Highly recommended. 05/09 Jack Quick
THE MAP THIEF by Heather Terrell: In the time since Mara Coyne dealt with the case surrounding The Chrysalis, she’s been able to begin fresh and open her own firm. To the average person, Mara’s firm specializes in legal cases surrounding stolen art. To the not-so-average clientele, she offers a very unique service that involves the tracking and returning of stolen items without the help of the authorities. This has allowed Mara to make some contacts in the underground art world that would otherwise be against her efforts.
Mara’s specialized service has caught the attention of one Richard Tobias, an affluent businessman who’s funding an archaeological dig in China. Richard received word from his chief archaeologist that a very important discovery had been made at the site, a fifteenth-century map that may very well be the first accurate world map, and it was created years before any such map was supposed to have been made. The next day, the map was stolen. Richard has hired Mara and her team to help recover the map without alerting Chinese officials of either the discovery or the theft of the item. Of course, Mara’s investigation doesn’t begin as easily as she would have hoped and the more she learns about the map itself, the more difficult she realizes this case will be. With The Map Thief, Terrell has transformed her series into something much more than that of a legal thriller. She alternates chapters between the present day and the Chinese and Portuguese expeditions in 1421 that surround this mysterious map. The combination of actual historical fact and her distinctive new direction for the series make this a captivating thriller. 07/08 Becky Lejeune
THE MAPPING OF LOVE AND DEATH by Jacqueline Winspear: Winspear says the character Maisie Dobbs, investigator and psychologist, sprang full blown in her head while she was stuck in a San Rafael traffic jam. By the time she arrived at her job in San Francisco the entire plot of her first book was firmly in hand. That led to Ms. Winspear’s career change to full-time writer. Now in Dobbs seventh outing, Maisie must unravel a case of wartime love and death. It’s April, 1932 and the parents of one Michael Clifton have retained Dobbs to look for the unnamed nurse mentioned in love letters recently discovered in France, love letters written to their son who has been listed as missing in action since The Great War. Her inquiries lead to the stunning discovery that unlike the other members of his unit who were killed by German artillery, Michael Clifton was murdered in his trench. When Clifton’s parents are brutally beaten in their hotel room, Dobbs soon realizes that this attack is somehow connected to the death of the son. Over the course of her investigation, Maisie must cope with the approaching loss of her mentor, Maurice Blanche, and her growing awareness that she is once again falling in love. 03/10 Jack Quick
MAPS OF HELL by Paul Johnston: Imagine waking up in cell, with virtually no memory, being subjected to physical and mental abuse, without knowing who is doing this or why it is being done? Crime writer Matt Wells learns he is the subject of secret brainwashing experiments in the Maine wilderness being conducted by a para-military group. He knows they’ve been feeding him instructions—but for what? As he begins to try to unravel the secret he learns that he is being blamed for some gruesome murdered and there is a woman, someone from his past, if only he could remember. Definitely over the top, and nicely done. 05/10 Jack Quick
MARGARITA NIGHTS by Phyllis Smallman: Amateur sleuth Sherri Travis is a bartender in an upscale Jacaranda, Florida bar but Sherri is from the side of town where luxury is an extra wide trailer. In this debut novel, her husband Jimmy Travis, from whom she is separated and who comes from Jacaranda’s social register, and his boat, the Suncoaster, explode in an orange ball of fire. The combination of a witness who puts Sherri on the Suncoaster hours before it went boom and a quarter million dollar insurance policy make Sherri the one and only suspect. Sherri knows she didn’t do it, but it is imperative that she fine who did. In the process she discovers a whole lot of people who wanted to see Jimmy dead. Interesting. 02/10 Jack Quick
MARIANA by Susanna Kearsley: The first time Julia Beckett laid eyes on Greywethers, she knew it was home. It would be another twenty-five years before it would become hers. After a small inheritance allows her to purchase the house, Julia relocates from the city intent on devoting herself to her latest project. But from the moment she steps over the threshold, Julia begins to experience something strange. She begins to dream of life through the eyes of a girl named Mariana. As the slips become more frequent, Julia realizes that they are not dreams at all. She is experiencing 17th century life as Mariana Farr, a girl who once lived at Greywethers. Originally published in the early 90s, Mariana has been recently re-released for a new audience. Kearsley’s gothic style and rich storytelling make Mariana an utterly satisfying read. 4/12 Becky Lejeune
THE MARK by Jason Pinter: Rookie reporter Henry Parker has landed his dream job with the New York Gazette. His first assignments, minor obituaries, have left him yearning for something a bit more exciting. When his mentor, Jack O’Donnell asks for help on one of his own stories, Henry is happy to oblige. O’Donnell is working on an article about rehabilitated criminals and Henry is sent to do one simple interview with a Luis Guzman. Something about Guzman and his wife concerns Henry though and he decides to follow up to find out why. On returning to the apartment, Henry finds that the Guzman and his wife have been tied up and brutally beaten. He defends the two and ends up killing their attacker in the process. Confused and scared, Henry leaves the scene only to find that he is now being accused of murdering a police officer. Henry must find out the truth behind the Guzman attack and clear his own name before the authorities, or worse, find him. Pinter’s thrilling debut promises to be a hit with readers this summer. This is definitely one that will have you hooked until the very last page. 06/07 Becky Lejeune
The Mark of the Angel by Nancy Huston: This was fascinating, well written, shocking and horrific. About a romance and a marriage, with two different men of course, with the Holocaust and other atrocities thrown in. Put me in mind of The Reader by Schlink. I loved it. Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
MARK OF THE DEVIL by William Kerr: Matt Berkely knew that cleaning up his aunt’s house after the damage inflicted by Hurricane Grace would be messy, but it’s his help locating a wrecked barge that leads to real trouble. As a former Navy Special Warfare officer and current member of NAARPA (North American Archaeological Research and Preservation Association), Matt is no stranger diving. When his friend asks that he assist in marking a wrecked barge, though, Matt makes a much greater discovery that could mean the revelation of long lost WWII secrets. What appears to be a German U-Boat has been trapped under the sand and silt at the bottom of the ocean until Grace leaves it partially uncovered. As there is no record of any ship going down in the area, however, it is clear that the sub’s presence could be of some significance. Before Matt can investigate further, though, his life is threatened and a friend is murdered. Seems the sub and the mission that led it to the coast of Florida all those years ago is still fresh on someone’s mind and they’re not too keen for others to learn the truth. A great thriller with a hint of espionage and enthralling history, This is latest in a series but can be read as a stand-alone. 02/09 Becky Lejeune
MARKED by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast: In Zoey Redbird’s world, everyone knows that vampyres are real. When Zoey is marked by one of their trackers, her life is turned upside down. The fact that she has no choice in the matter sucks. On the bright side, being sent to the House of Night does mean escaping her horrid stepfather. It also means giving up everything and everyone she knows to join the other fledglings like herself at the vampyre school. And life at the House of Night is pretty much like life outside, with the popular Dark Daughters and their leader, Aphrodite, bullying those outside of the clique. Zoey is destined for great things, though, and standing out only draws more unwanted attention to the new girl. Plus there’s the fact that her ex won’t leave her alone and she seems to be experiencing a very strong craving for blood. This first in the popular teen series offers a great twist on the vampire mythology and a heroine readers can really get behind. 04/11 Becky Lejeune
MARKS OF CAIN by Tom Knox: David Martinez’s grandfather is recently deceased, but his legacy is just beginning. David knows little about his family’s background and heritage, but a hefty inheritance leaves him wondering. His grandfather was well off, but lived a quiet and conservative life. Where then did the money come from and why was it kept secret all this time? The inheritance comes with one strange stipulation: David must go to the Basque region of Spain and deliver a map to an old acquaintance of his grandfather’s. It is this task that sets David on a dangerous path that will ultimately lead to the truth of his family’s origins. Meanwhile, a string of murders has led journalist Simon Quinn to the story of his life. As the two plot lines grow closer and closer together, a horrible truth is revealed. One that powers around the world will kill to keep under wraps. While Knox’s story is gripping and fast-paced, I wish there had been a bit more character development. Parts of the narrative felt unnecessarily rushed and would have benefited from being fleshed out a bit more in my opinion. A fun read, nonetheless. 05/10 Becky Lejeune
MARRIED WITH ZOMBIES by Jesse Petersen: Looking for a zombielicious read? Married With Zombies is the latest and greatest addition to the walking dead trend. Husband and wife Sarah and Dave have been trying to hold their marriage together, but their efforts are pretty much failing. With each independently seeking out divorce attorneys, their weekly couples’ counseling sessions seem to have been a waste of time and limited money. Until they walk in on their therapist snacking on her previous clients. Now Dave and Sarah are on the run from the living dead and will have to work together if they want to survive. If Shaun of the Dead is a favorite in your zombie collection, you won’t want to miss Jesse Petersen. This first in the new Living With the Dead series is seriously hilarious stuff. Books two and three are due out in January and June of next year and I can honestly say that you’re going to love the direction this post-outbreak zombie series is headed in. 09/10 Becky Lejeune
THE MARVELOUS BOY by Peter Corris: In this third Cliff Hardy adventure from 1982, Hardy is still more ex-surfer than accomplished PI. In spite of his beat-up leather jacket and jeans, Lady Catherine Chatterton, widow of a prominent judge, hires him to find her missing grandson. The search starts and almost ends with an aging drunk, but Hardy obtains a helpful photograph from the drunk – who is immediately murdered. Now Hardy is on a murder case. Dated but shows promise for further adventures. 09/07 Jack Quick
MARY, MARY by James Patterson: “Mary Smith” is sending e-mails to a Los Angels Times editor claiming credit for the shooting of a well known actress. She says this wasn’t her first victim nor will it be her last. The FBI Director calls in agent/psychologist Alex Cross who is on vacation with his family at Disneyland. It is like no other case Ales has ever tackled. Is this an isolated incident or part of a bigger pattern? Is Mary Smith really a woman? Delightfully twisty, and somewhat of a return to style of the earlier Patterson thrillers. 12/05 Jack Quick
MASK MARKET by Andrew Vachss: The anti-hero Burke is approached by a man about a job, but as he goes to his car to get Burke’s money, he is killed, leaving Burke with only the “meet money” and a DVD. Now, Burke and his family are trying to find out if there is something in it for them to find the man’s killer. Dark as always, Burke somehow survives in a world that we instinctively know would claim us in a minute. Not for the faint of heart, but Burke and his family, after a time, become familiar, if not trusted acquaintances. 08/06 Jack Quick
MASQUES by Bill Pronzini: Pronzini captures the New Orleans that was and hopefully will be again in this Mardi Gras pot-boiler. Photographer Steve Giroux is trying to put his life back together after a failed marriage and a devastating fire at his photography business. His Mardi Gras trip soon involves his being chased by a masked reveler who thinks Giroux has a photograph that the masked man wants. Giroux also gets involved with two women, each with a very different agenda. A quick read, very descriptive, which captures the Mardi Gras spirit quite nicely. Pass me some beads and another drink, please. 11/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
MASTER OF THE GAME by Sidney Sheldon: Originally published in 1982, Sidney Sheldon’s bestselling family drama now has a sequel, Tilly Bagshawe’s Mistress of the Game. And what a perfect time for readers unfamiliar with Sheldon’s work to be introduced. Master begins with Kate Blackwell celebrating her ninetieth birthday. As the matriarch of the Blackwell family, and the reigning heir of the Kruger-Brent empire and fortune, she has played the game well. Everything in her life has been carefully chosen to lead to this point and completely manipulated by Kate to ensure that she gets her way. As she recalls her family’s story, beginning with her father, Jamie MacGregor, as he sets off from Scotland to Africa to find his fortune in the late 1800s, the reader is taken along for the ride of a lifetime—literally. Kate’s tale is a century of family history punctuated by greed, deceit, manipulation, obsessive love, and tragic loss. In the end, however, she proves that she is indeed the Master of the Game. Sheldon has been described as a “master storyteller” and Master of the Game proves that this is so. At almost 500 pages, I found myself finishing this book in just two sittings. 08/09 Becky Lejeune
MASTERS MATES by Peter Corris: Booklist says there are three “evergreen” mystery series that never go stale – Westlake’s Dortmunder novels (35 plus years), McBain’s 87th Precinct series (49 plus years), and Corris’ Cliff Hardy series over 25 years. Having enjoyed McBain and Westlake for years, I am pleased to say that I agree with their analysis of Corris as well. When Hardy is hired by a beautiful woman to look into her husband’s heroin-smuggling conviction, he becomes threatened by a conspiracy that may be more than even Hardy can overcome. Another solid outing with believable characters and plenty of action. Lets hope this series could go on another quarter century. 10/07 Jack Quick
MATCHED by Ally Condie: The Society has been set up to protect its people from the dangers of the world. It is true that early societies became overwhelmed and overly dependent on technology. When that technology failed, society did as well. Today everything has been planned and measured out to ensure the happiness and longevity of the population. It is Cassia Reyes’s seventeenth birthday, the day she is to meet her match—the boy who will become her husband. Statistically, most girls who choose to be matched are paired with boys from other towns. To be matched with someone you know is almost unheard of, but Cassia is one of the lucky ones. Her match is her best friend, Xander. But for just one moment, Cassia sees another match, another boy that she knows. It’s impossible to have two matches, especially when Cassia learns more about this second boy. It is that tiny chance, though, that causes Cassie to ask, “What if?” And that question will lead Cassia to question much, much more about her life and the world around her. Condie’s imagined future is a scary one indeed, a world that seems perfect in every way but has no room for individuality or freedom. Perfect for fans of dystopian fiction. 12/10 Becky Lejeune
Matchstick Men by Eric Garcia: This book has a rather unusual sticker on the cover; it says, “Read next summer’s big movie this winter. Directed by Ridley Scott and starring Nicolas Cage.” Usually you see the “movie cover” when the paperback comes out, but this time it’s right on the hardcover of this just released book. Interesting.
The story revolves around two con men, “matchstick men”, Roy and Frankie, who have been partners for years. They sucker you in on page one and as the story progresses, the cons get more involved and the monetary rewards much larger until they finally pull the biggest scam of their careers, and go screeching towards the surprise ending. There isn’t a whole lot of plot here, but there is an easy, entertaining read.
MATRIMONY by Joshua Henkin: We meet Julian Wainwright in 1987 when the eighteen-year-old begins his freshman year at Graymont College. Julian dreams of one day becoming a writer. He meets Mia Medelsohn, Mia from Montreal, one evening after picking her out of a yearbook. They fall in love and eventually marry during their senior year. Following college, the couple relocates to Michigan where Mia pursues a graduate degree in psychology – a decision that results from the death of her mother. Julian is now attempting to write his “great American novel” and failing miserably. Henkin’s novel traces the couple through twenty years of life, love, and marriage. Over time, Julian and Mia will face the worst of betrayals and disappointments that life can hurl at them. It’s the mundane and ordinary events that are illuminated in Henkin’s novel, however. Julian and Mia are very real people. They face the same challenges and miseries that every young adult faces today. Some of the more serious issues, like the death of Mia’s mother, are absolutely heartbreaking to read. Julian’s and Mia’s expectations, hopes, dreams, and fears are all so achingly real that readers will find it impossible not to associate with them on some level. At times funny and always thoughtful, Matrimony is a wonderful literary novel. 11/07 Becky Lejeune
MATTERHORN by Karl Marlantes: There is no member of my generation that was not shaped in one way or another by the war in Vietnam. For all of us, Matterhorn should be a must read. It is the definitive “war story” of that conflict.
Author Marlantes tells us about Marine Company Bravo through the eyes of a young ROTC second lieutenant Mellas – a bright, ambitious young man, who thinks that military service will be helpful in a future political career. It is through his thoughts and feelings that we realize how young and unlived are the men and women that our leaders send off to fight our wars.
Matterhorn is a painfully honest account of the frustrations that arise from a lack of experience and equipment, distant micro-management and an environment that is as relentless as the enemy. As Mellas arrives in country, Bravo Company is assigned to take and secure a hill which has been designated “Matterhorn.” It is a brutal struggle and just as that hill has been won, the order comes to abandon it. Ultimately, the Company is assigned to take the hill again. Only this time, the enemy is embedded in the fortifications that Bravo had dug out and built there the first time.
The novel is graphic in its description of the toll that struggling in the jungle takes on the men. It is just as graphic and honest in the description of racial tensions between the troops which have the Black soldiers wearing symbolic nooses. We are reminded not only what the world was like then, but also that the military is merely a reflection of our larger society. It is unfair to hold soldiers to a higher standard or to expect them to behave better, particularly when they are risking their lives at every turn.
This book is 600 pages long and it is 600 pages of blood and pus and sweat and fear and death. At times, I had to put it down. But I will never forget it. 06/10 Geoffrey R. Hamlin
MAY DAY by Jess Lourey: Mira James is tired of her dead-end job in the Twin Cities of Minnesota anyway, so when she finds her boyfriend is cheating on her, that is enough to send here away. She moves to Battle Creek to enjoy the slower paced rural life. She begins her new career(s) as an assistant librarian and part-time reporter, and falls into an unexpected romance with a guy who seems to be the perfect man, that is until he is found dead in the reference stacks her tenth day on the job. Soon Mira uncovers even more unknown dangers lurking beneath the small town surface and that revenge is a tater-tot hot dish best served cold. Breezy first outing for Mira who is expected to be featured in further outings. 08/09 Jack Quick
THE MAX by Ken Bruen & Jason Starr: In 2006 it was BUST; then in 2007, SLIDE. This year the zany team of Bruen and Starr continue the madness with a free-for-all that has something for everyone. Drug baron Max Fisher, the Max, is in prison – where he belongs. He shares this fate with ex-girlfriend Angela Petrakos, who is also in prison – on the Isle of Lesbos. (Didn’t I say this had something for everyone?). Both are intent on making the best of a bad situation and maybe, perhaps, ultimately, getting free. To that end Angela hooks up with Sebastian and Max is counting on his hulking cellmate Rufus. Max is also in cahoots with one Paula Segal – an aspiring true-crime writer with a jones for Laura Lippman. Sleazy, depraved, daft, noir, ruthless, repulsive, dirty rotten scoundrels and natural born killers. What hath the two boys wrought? Another winner. 09/08 Jack Quick
MAXIMUM BOB by Elmore Leonard: Maximum Bob is liberal Palm Beach County Judge Bob Isom Gibbs, so named for his propensity to throw the book at a defendant. To quote Bob, “What is the book for if you don’t go by it and, yes, occasionally throw it at a criminal offender.” But now Bob has run afoul of the Crowe family, primarily Elvin, an habitual criminal who didn’t think it was fair that he had to do ten years plus five years probation when he shot the wrong guy. He is joined by twenty year old Dale Crowe Junior who is out less than 72 hours when he gets revoked for a fight with the bouncer at a strip joint and Dr. Tommy Vasco, ex-friend of Elvin’s prison boyfriend. Together they plot to take care of Maximum Bob who is meanwhile trying to scare off his weird young wife, Leanne, a possible psychic sharing a body with Wanda Grace, a dead slave girl. Kathy Diaz Baker, probation officer for Elvin, Elvin’s nephew and eventually Dr. Tommy works with Detective Gary Hammond regarding such questions as (Who brought a gator to Gibbs’s house? Who shot at the house? What’s Elvin up to with Dr. Tommy?) Although Maximum Bob wants Ms. Baker its Detective Hammond who will win the fair maiden, eventually. A riot. 03/11 Jack Quick
THE MAYOR OF LEXINGTON AVENUE by James Sheehan: This somewhat uneven story of miscarried justice and loyalty is the debut effort of Sheehan, a Florida trial lawyer. Rudy Kelly, a “slow” 19-year-old, is arrested for a murder he didn’t commit. Hotshot Miami attorney Jack Tobin, who was friends with Rudy’s father, is asked to intervene to repay a debt to Mikey Kelly, the boy who once named him “Mayor of Lexington Avenue.” After a somewhat slow start, the book finishes fast and Sheehan’s bar experience shows in his courtroom scenes and passages on legal maneuvering. 04/06 Jack Quick
MAZURKA by Aaron Paul Lazar: Middle aged Gus and Camille LeGarde are on their honeymoon in Paris, accompanied by Gus’s brother-in-law Siegfried, the victim of a brain injury which limits his ability to take care of himself. Siegfried is being taken to visit his great aunt who is dying of cancer. A bloody brawl on the Champs Élysées thrusts Siegfried and Gus into the news, where Siegfried is incorrectly identified as the killer of a Neo-Nazi group. The Nazis seek revenge on Gus and Camille while Siegfried is in the hospital recovering. They barely escape to safety in Denkendorf, at the home of Siegfried’s aunt. But the story is not over at that point, as there is a shocking family secret about Chopin’s steamy past. Not a bad tale, but suffers from poor editing, i.e, “The steaming hot water from the shower pulsed steadily against my muscles vibrating with sensuous memories of the night before.” In a romance, maybe, in a mystery, no. 04/09 Jack Quick
THE McCONE FILES by Marcia Muller: Before there was a V.I. Warshawski, or a Kinsey Milhone, or a Carlotta Carlyle, there was Sharon McCone, the 1977 product of Marcia Muller, credited with the creation of the modern female private eye story. McCone worked for All Souls Legal Cooperative in San Francisco for many years before starting her own detective agency. Fifteen of her All Souls cases were written up by Muller, and those fifteen are set forth in this volume. If you’re a McCone fan like me, it’s a must read. If not a fan, there still is probably at least one or two that you will enjoy. An original from Crippen & Landrau Publishers. 02/07 Jack Quick
ME BEFORE YOU by JoJo Moyes: Louisa has lived in a small English village her whole life, and even though she’s in her 20’s she has no plans on leaving. She loses her job when the cafe where she works closes, and the employment office in town offers her up one job more awful than the next, topped by their final offer; caretaker for a quadriplegic for six months. The money is very good, and her family relies on her income to get by, so after being assured she won’t have to wipe any bottoms, she grudgingly agrees to an the job. Her new boss is a much younger man than she expected. Will comes from money, but was a very successful businessman prior to his accident, the type that traveled world wide and lived life to the fullest. Struck by a car, he is in constant pain and needs constant care. He has someone to do the physical stuff for him, Louisa is there to be more of a companion for him. But he’s nasty and angry and she doesn’t know how to reach him. But eventually she does, and is determined to help him find a way to enjoy his life to the best of her ability, but will that be enough? Will wants to die, and his parents have agreed to let him provided he give them six months. Once Louisa learns this, she becomes more determined than ever to save him, falling in love with him along the way. What could have been a maudlin story, or an overly sweet one, is instead a cataclysmic love story that just resonates; this is a remarkable book. 8/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
MEAN TOWN BLUES by Sam Reaves: Tommy McLain is home from the Iraq war with a reconstructed abdomen. There is nothing left for him in his native Lexington, Kentucky so he heads for Chicago and an old friend. As he is getting settled in, he meets Lisa DiPetro who is being stalked. One thing leads to another and before you know it McLain is inside a different pentagon than the Army one. There are two mob families, two police departments and the FBI all looking into his life. Will he escape this five-sided puzzle? Lets just say that a sequel is not out of the question, and worth reading. 01/09 Jack Quick
MELANCHOLY BABY by Robert B. Parker: Sunny Randall is no Spenser but her fourth adventure reaffirms Parker’s ability to tell a story, and to tell it well. Sunny faces the emotional turmoil of her ex-husband Richie’s re-marriage while trying to solve a difficult case that ends up taking two lives and altering others. A young woman thinks her parents are not really her parents. Their actions convince Sunny that something is wrong, but she can’t figure out what. In the meantime she begins to see a shrink – Susan (remember Susan, Spenser’s girlfriend?). Sunny is also assisted by Leonard (remember Spenser’s friend Leonard?). All in all a good read, but definitely Spenser lite. Most memorable line – Sunny after meeting Richie’s new wife –“I spent the next two hours trying to figure out how to kill her without getting caught.” You go girl. 04/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
THE MEMORIST by M.J. Rose: When Meer Logan was young, she suffered from terrifying dreams of an elaborate box and a haunting melody. Desperate for help, her father contacted Malachi Samuels head of the Phoenix Foundation. Jeremy Logan and Samuels believed that Meer’s issues stem from reincarnation. Meer believes, however, that the box and the music are actually the result of false memories created by her own mind. Then her father discovers the real box and a letter hidden inside that appears to have been written by Beethoven himself. In the letter, Beethoven talks of a flute that when played with a specific tune will allow people to see their past lives – a memory tool. Meer’s dreams begin to return and she travels to Vienna in hopes that she can finally make sense of them. Instead, the dreams become even more vivid and seem to be leading Meer straight to the famous flute. Word of Logan’s discovery has been made public, though, and they’re all about to see just how far people are willing to go to get their hands on yet another memory tool. Rose delves into the mysteries of the mind and reincarnation again in this magnificent follow-up to last year’s Reincarnationist. Memorist features an all new cast of characters, with the exception of Samuels and the Phoenix Foundation, and can easily be read without having read book one. Like Reincarnationist, Rose moves easily from one storyline to the next, from one character to another, and from one century to another. The plot is elaborate and totally engaging; a page-turner that will stick with you long after you put it down. 11/08 Becky Lejeune
THE MEMORY COLLECTOR by Meg Gardiner: Jo Beckett, the forensic psychologist in the excellent Dirty Secrets Club, is back, only this time she’s called to the airport to determine whether or not Ian Kanan should be arrested or hospitalized; no more “psychological autopsies” for Beckett. One of the things I liked best about the Dirty Secrets Club was the unusual occupation; shrinks are a dime a dozen in thrillers, but I had never heard of a forensic psychologist who does psychological evaluations on the dead until Gardiner introduced me to it. To revert this character to yet another run-of-the-mill, super-smart, able-to-make-an-evaluation-in-a-single-bound psychologist, does the character, and the reader, a disservice.
Back to our story. Kanan was acting erratically on his return from a business trip to South Africa, and had to be physically restrained on board the plane. Beckett quickly determines he has a very rare condition called “anterograde amnesia,” the inability to form new memories. This means that Kanan forgets all new information every five minutes. Really.
This book is apparently an exercise in thriller writing for Gardiner; she’s included just about every gimmick and device used in the genre, from the rare medical condition that appears to be spreading and taking lives, a race against the clock with a kidnapped family-in-peril, high tech super-deadly explosives, international terrorists, high speed car chases, and a couple of strong women who can make jokes while outrunning a homicidal maniac. The complete lack of character development and terse writing style makes for a fast-paced story, but not necessarily a good one. 06/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch. Copyright © 2009 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.
THE MEMORY OF WATER by Karen White: It’s been ten years since Marnie Maitland left low-country South Carolina for the deserts of Arizona. Ten years since she last heard the sound of the ocean, ten years since she last spoke to her sister, Diana. Now she’s returned at the request of Diana’s ex-husband, Quinn. Two months ago, Diana and her son Gil were involved in a sailing accident. The official ruling is that it was an accident, but it’s left Diana angry and reserved, and Gil hasn’t spoken a word since. Quinn hopes that Marnie, an art teacher who works with special needs kids, can help his family to heal. What Quinn doesn’t know is that the accident that led to their own mother’s death tore apart the Maitland sisters and that the anger and hurt from all those years ago has only festered in the time since. Marnie has never understood her sister’s hatred towards her and she has almost no memory of the accident that took her mother’s life. Diana has remained silent all these years, and now she’s hiding something about her own accident with her son. An appealing story of loss and healing. White also tackles the complicated issue of bi-polar disorder and its effects on families. 06/08 Becky Lejeune
MEN FROM BOYS edited by John Harvey: Sometime a book’s cover nails the contents exactly. In this case the cover shows a fearsome looking automatic pistol, which upon closer examination, is revealed as a water pistol. Inside seventeen masters provide stories of boys becoming men, men becoming fathers, being a son, and being a man. Here’s the cast, in addition to John Harvey, Mark Billingham, Lawrence Block, Andrew Coburn, Michael Connelly, Jeffery Deaver, Reginald Hill, Bill James, Dennis Lehane, Bill Moody, George Pelecanos, Peter Robinson, James Sallis, John Straley, Brian Thompson, Don Winslow, and Daniel Woodrell. There is bound to be a story you will like, and you may discover a new to you author in the bunch. Grab a cold one of your choice, kick back, and enjoy. 06/07 Jack Quick
THE MERMAID OF BROOKLYN by Amy Shearn: When Jenny Lipkin’s husband disappears, the mother of two isn’t terribly worried. Her husband has been known to go on unannounced gambling weekends in the past. No, Jenny’s not worried. She is pissed, though. And stressed out. And the longer her husband is missing the more stressed and upset she becomes until one day she finally cracks. Help comes in the form of a rusalka – a mermaid – who saves Jenny after a fall from the Brooklyn Bridge. With the rusalka by her side, Jenny begins to put her life back together, but is her savior even real? There are so many things I loved about Amy Shearn’s latest. Shearn’s writing is wonderfully sarcastic and funny but also quite elegant. This unique blend brings both the characters and setting to life, making the story fun and believable. What I found I liked the most, though, was the fact that you never quite know whether the rusalka is real or a figment of Jenny’s imagination. The Mermaid of Brooklyn is an amusing and sweet read about families and motherhood. 5/13 Becky Lejeune
THE MESA CONSPIRACY by David Kent: Eric Anthony was raised by his tough loving but distant actress cousin Colleen. What happened to his “real” parents has never been an issue for Eric, but now on her deathbed, Colleen reveals to him a cryptic directive from the man who was his father. Now Eric, single dad to his young deaf son, feels obligated to go to Oklahoma and try to learn the meaning of his legacy. There he runs into Department Thirty where U.S. Marshall Faith Kelly is chasing the mastermind behind a wave of domestic terror. Their solo quests meet in a fashion that will have explosive implications for them both. Another good read about the Unit created to serve those whose value to the government outweigh the need to punish them for the crimes they have committed. 09/06 Jack Quick
THE MESSENGER by Jan Burke: In 1815, Tyler Hawthorne was a soldier fighting against Napolean at Waterloo. He was in his early twenties. He still is today. On the brink of death, Tyler was offered a deal, if he were to agree, he would never grow old and he would never die. In exchange, he must walk the Earth delivering the messages of the dead. His trusty sidekick, a massive dog called Shade, a cemetery dog, is his constant companion. Problem is, the deal was never meant to be for longer than a few years. Course Tyler had no way of knowing this, and his would-be enemy was eliminated long ago, or so he thought. This entity has finally returned and is determined to gain back what was once his. Amanda Clark has only just met her newest neighbor, and after mistakenly assuming that the man is a con artist of the worst kind, she finds herself drawn to him. Unfortunately, Amanda’s association with Tyler lands her right in the middle of the conflict. The Messenger is quite different from what Burke’s fans may be used to with the Irene Kelly series. At its heart, though, the plot is all her and will please new and old readers alike. A fantastic paranormal thriller. 12/08 Becky Lejeune
THE MESSENGER by Daniel Silva: Gabriel Allon, Israeli art restorer and spymaster returns to Rome when Ahmed bin Shafiq, a former chief of a clandestine Saudi intelligence unit, targets the Vatican for attack, in particular Pope Paul VII and his top aide, Monsignor Luigi Donati, who both appeared in Silva’s previous novels. Shafiq is allied with a militant Islamic Saudi businessman known as Zizi, a true believer committed to the destruction of all infidels. Gabriel must infiltrate Zizi’s organization, and protect his partner, beautiful American art expert Sarah Bancroft. Schedule some decompression time after the ending of this one. 01/07 Jack Quick
METRO GIRL by Janet Evanovich: Alex Barnaby is not Stephanie Plum as she tries to track down her missing brother in Miami. Assisted by the despised NASCAR driver Sam Hooker (Stephanie and Joe?), Alex risks life and limb to learn what has happened to Bill. Although the same fem-jep as the one-two-three series, Alex is more capable of defending herself and doesn’t quite fall to pieces like Stephanie. She is however afraid of heights, snakes, sex, and guns, but after all no one is perfect. The Miami and Key West locales are certainly more attractive than Jersey but apparently attracts similar wacky female characters. Bottom line. If you liked Stephanie Plum, you will probably like the slightly more accomplished Alex Barnaby. If you didn’t like Stephanie, take a pass. 05/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
MIAMI NOIR edited by Les Standiford: Akashic’s salute to Miami has sixteen new mystery stories by Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, Kevin Allen, Preston Allen, Lynne Barrett, David Beaty, John Bond, Tom Corcoran, John Dufresne, Anthony Dale Gagliano, James W. Hall, Vicki Hendricks, Christine Kling, Paul Levine, Barbara Parker, George Tucker and Jeffrey Wehr. From South Beach to Alligator Alley, from Haitian boat people and Cuban émigrés to home grown redneck psychopaths, you will find it all in these stories. Characters like Vicki Hendricks 4’ 10” protagonist – “too short for normal chicks, too tall for a dwarf” to James W. Hall’s “Jumpy”, a “6’4″ low life, skinny as a greyhound, pasty-skinned, all knuckles and Adam’s apple”. Guaranteed something for everyone. This is another great anthology. 01/08 Jack Quick
MICRO by Michael Crichton & Richard Preston: For Peter Jansen and his labmates, the opportunity to work for a company like Nanigen is the opportunity of a lifetime. It could make their respective careers. Fortunately, Peter’s brother is high up in the Nanigen food chain and when a number of positions open up with the company, all seven of them are hired on. Unfortunately, Peter’s brother is killed under somewhat mysterious circumstances just before their arrival. When Peter discovers that the head of Nanigen is behind the crime, he and his six colleagues end up in the line of fire. Shrunk down to the size of bugs by the company’s super-secret technology, the group finds themselves battling mother nature as they try to find a way to reverse the effects. Each of their specialties proves to be a strength, but the world around them is a challenge they may not survive for long. Knowing that Micro was only partially completed before Crichton’s death makes it pretty easy to be forgiving of the book’s shortcomings. If read for pure entertainment, the book pretty much delivers; it’s a fun way to spend an afternoon. 12/11 Becky Lejeune
MIDDLE MAN by David Rich: Rich’s book is a continuation of his first novel “A Caravan of Thieves” in which he introduces Rollie Waters a soldier serving in Afghanistan. Rollie’s father Dan is accused of stealing a large amount of money while serving in the Iraq war . The monies had been secreted in the coffins of soldiers killed in that war and shipped back to the US where those that set up the plan could dig up the grave and get the money. Unfortunately Dan had been killed in attempting to steal the money from the military leaders that set up the plan, and Rollie is tasked by his commanders to find it. He is recruited into an elite military group termed “Shade” and assigned to find the money. The one error committed by Rich is to assume that the reader has read “A Caravan of Thieves” and Rollie’s relationship with his deceased father and his constant imagined conversations with him during the action. Rollie’s attempts to find the money take him to Houston and back to Iraq. He meets the self proclaimed king of Kurdistan, his beautiful daughter and his interactions with them are part of a plan to recover the money. The ending leaves the reader more than a little befuddled with the many allusions to “Caravan” and imagined conversations with his dead father. It is obvious that Rich intends to continue with Rollie’s adventures and it is hoped that the next books will allow readers to come in and pick up on past actions with hints about what occurred rather than assume that everyone has read the previous novels. 9/13 Paul Lane
THE MIDNIGHT CHOIR by Gene Kerrigan: If someone asks you what is a crime novel, show them this one. Kerrigan’s garda patrol the underside of Dublin in this gritty tale of the inner city. There are several cases – a woman tries to mug a pair of tourists with a syringe as her weapon; a man plans a jewelry heist; a gangster’s life is torn apart by his brother’s murder; a detective builds a case against an accused rapist – it’s the day to day attempt to clean the worst of the garbage off the streets, without getting it all over you. Kerrigan, a veteran journalist who lives in Dublin, is about as good as you can get. 09/07 Jack Quick
THE MIDNIGHT HOUSE by Alex Berenson: CIA Agent John Wells is back undercover in the Arab world in this 4th adventure after last year’s The Silent Man. Task Force 673 was a secret unit formed after 9/11 and charged with interrogating high value terrorist detainees, by any means possible. Although the unit has been dismantled, someone has access to the names of the unit’s personnel and is out to eliminate them. Five of the ten are already dead when Ellis Shafer, John’s sort-of boss at the agency, calls him back to Washington, D.C., from his New Hampshire retreat for a new assignment. Find the killer or killers and put them out of business. Another great thriller. 04/10 Jack Quick
Midnight Pass by Stuart Kaminsky: Stuart Kaminsky’s latest mystery features one of his more recent heroes, the process-server Lou Fonseca, who is working out of Sarasota, Florida. Because process-servers have to know their way around town, Lou is regularly asked to “help” find people, despite his lack of a formal P.I. ticket. In this book, he is simultaneously searching for a wayward wife whose husband wants her back and a missing town father whose vote is necessary to preserve Midnight Pass from developers.
The geographic search for these people is easy and turns out to be tangential to Fonseca’s other search, which is to find out why they are missing and how they fit into the lives of many others. He finds them and helps them fit back in better ways. Along the way, Lou helps a lot of other people too.
Lou is a nice guy. He is desperately missing his dead wife and washes his own clothes at the laundromat. If you like the TV show, Monk, and I do, you will like this book. It is a good story by a good storyteller. 01/04 ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.
MIDNIGHT RAMBLER by James Swain: Jack Carpenter was a maverick but still a good cop. Then he is fired after a violent physical confrontation with a serial killer known as the Midnight Rambler. The incident also costs him his marriage and he ends up living alone working as an abductions specialist in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Then the body of one of the Midnight Rambler’s victims is found, and forensic evidence suggests that Carpenter jailed the wrong man. What little there is left of Carpenter’s world collapses when Simon Skell, (the Midnight Rambler) is released. The only one who seems wiling to continue to help him is an FBI agent whose own daughter vanished years ago. More intense that swains; Tony Valentine series and nicely done. I look forward to the sequel. 10/08 Jack Quick
MIDNIGHT RIOT by Ben Aaronovitch: Peter Grant gets a lucky break when he meets a ghost at a crime scene. Tapped for a position with the Case Progression Unit, i.e. the folks who take care of paperwork within the Metropolitan Police Service, his new ability to see the dead instead lands him a spot as protégé to Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale. Their division of two is responsible for investigating cases involving magic, like the murder of William Skirmish. While Skirmish doesn’t initially appear to be anyone terribly important, his murder sets in motion a series of strange events across London and Peter is soon thrown headfirst into a world of magic turf wars and faceless evils. Aaronovitch’s debut is a great addition to the urban fantasy genre. I loved the characters, the history, and the sheer originality of this first in the series. 02/11 Becky Lejeune
THE MIDNIGHT ROAD by Tom Piccirilli: I don’t usually try to compare authors directly, but in this case I would describe this new-to-me author as Stephen King-esque, at least in this outing. Suffolk County Child Protective Services Investigator Flynn has no idea when he responds to the possible child abuse call on a snowy wintry night that his life is about to be radically changed. Escaping the Shepards’ million-dollar Long Island home with daughter Kelly and an abused autistic uncle in hand, he is pursued by her gun toting mother, who has already shot her husband, and is finally forced off the road onto a frozen lake. He manages to get Kelly and her uncle out of the car to safety before the ice caves and takes him and his prized Dodge Charger with it. The cold is so intense he is flash frozen and then successfully revived after a 28 minute underwater ordeal. Unfortunately no one noticed Zero, Kelly’s French bulldog, who was also in the car. As a consequence Zero’s ghost is now is a near constant companion of Flynn (which raises some interesting mental health issues) and provides him with insights and guidance. Not long after a known prostitute approaches Flynn and hands him a note saying THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT. Before Flynn can learn more, the woman’s head explodes, victim of a sniper shot from over one hundred yards away. Now a determined homicide detective and a beautiful, inquisitive reporter are both all over Flynn and he is clueless. Certainly not your typical mystery, but nicely done. 01/10 Jack Quick
MIDNIGHT’S WILD PASSION by Anna Campbell: This is my romance of the month, as I continue my study of the genre. Labeled “historical romance,” this tale of a disgraced woman and the rogue who pursues her borders on erotica without a whole lot of history getting in the way. The Marquess of Ranelaw is on a mission of revenge. His half sister had her reputation destroyed by Godfrey Demerast, and now the Marquess is going to destroy Demerast’s daughter’s reputation in kind. But when he meets her chaperone, he finds himself in lust – and the feeling is mutual. I did enjoy this fast, sexy read, despite the shallowness of the plot. 04/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE MIDWIFE OF VENICE by Roberta Rich: This book was recommended to me by several people so I gave it a read and was not disappointed. Set during the 1500s, Hanna is a Jewish midwife living in the ghetto with her husband Isaac. Isaac is a spice merchant and gets kidnapped and taken to Malta as a slave. Jews are forbidden from giving medical assistance to Christians, but when a rich Venetian offers her enough money to ransom her husband back, Hanna agrees. The baby is the heir to a huge fortune, leaving his uncles plotting ways to get rid of him and Hanna. Hanna runs to her estranged sister, a courtesan who helps hide her. Meanwhile Isaac is trying his best not to starve to death in captivity to a nun who will only help him if he converts, and then to a brutal ship owner. The characters are not very well developed other than Isaac, but the story moves and is interesting. The Midwife of Venice feels like the anemic younger sister of The Red Tent by Anita Diamant or People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, but it’s definitely worth a read. 4/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE MIDWIFE’S CONFESSION by Diane Chamberlain: How well do you really know your friends? Emerson and Tara thought that they both knew Noelle Downie fairly well. The three had been friends since their college days, after all. Turns out, they barely knew the real Noelle. Noelle’s suicide comes as a shock to almost everyone who knew her. But when Emerson and Tara begin going through Noelle’s old things, they find a letter that implies something terrible about Noelle’s past. Secrets long hidden are soon revealed. Secrets that directly affect both Emerson and Tara. Secrets that proved to be too much for one person to handle alone. The Midwife’s Confession is an emotional and fast-paced read. Chamberlain touches on, but never dwells on, some tricky subjects. It’s the emotional impact of these subjects and her characters that are the big focus, making Chamberlain’s latest (my first by her) a sometimes heart wrenching—but overall touching—read with characters that come to life. 05/11 Becky Lejeune
MIGHTY OLD BONES by Mary Saums: America’s most mis-matched pair of sleuths returns for a new adventure. Jane Thistle has seen much of the world as the wife of a military officer while Pheobe Twigg has hardly even been away from the sleepy Alabama village of Tullulah. The odd couple are now the best of friends and practically inseparable. A severe thunderstorm knocks down a huge tree on Jane’s property, unearthing human remains – just in time for Halloween. While there is some evidence to indicate this may be an old Indian burial site, there is also the matter of the disappearance of one of the town’s older citizens. Add in some cute dogs and an unusually strong supporting cast, particularly the local restaurant owner, but then again, that’s another story, and you have a great Southern cozy that evokes memories of the Two Sisters, but even better. Another solid outing for Ms. Saums, whose love for her birth home shines through on every page. 07/08 Jack Quick
MILK GLASS MOON by Adriana Trigiani: This is the third volume of the Big Stone Gap series and I am just loving this series all over again. Ave Maria and Jack are struggling with Etta’s teenage years in the still lovely small town of Big Stone Gap, Virginia. The similarities to the family village in Italy are explored and the laughs and love just warm the heart. This is comfort reading of the best kind; real characters, interesting settings, and terrific writing that just makes you yearn for more. Trigiani is always a treat to read. 04/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
The Millionaires by Brad Meltzer: With nary a lawyer or politician in sight, this thriller is Meltzer’s best work yet. Two brothers find a way to commit a more or less victimless heist of $3,000,000 when suddenly it turns into much, much more than that. Everyone is after them and you can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys. It’s hard to root for someone who is committing a crime, but somehow Meltzer makes it all work. Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
MIND SCRAMBLER by Chris Grabenstein: This latest entry into the Ceepak series is a bit darker than previous adventures. John Ceepak, straight arrow cop and his young partner, Danny Boyle, are in Atlantic City when Danny’s old girlfriend calls. She’s now the nanny for a magician whose family act is headlining at one of the hotels. She tells him she needs help but before he can find out what’s going on, she ends up dead in what appears to be an S&M act gone bad. But that’s only the first murder, and the slight-of-hand and illusions are way more sinister than most magic acts. Deputized by the local police, Ceepak and Boyle help unravel the mess of lies to find the truth and the murderer. Another excellent mystery from Grabenstein, and apparently, and sadly, the last book of the series. 07/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
MIND SCRAMBLER by Chris Grabenstein: Danny Boyle and ultra-straight-arrow cop John Ceepak are on leave in Atlantic City when a former girlfriend of Boyle’s winds up dead in what appears to be a bizarre S&M sex ritual. Katie has been the nanny to the children of a magician performing there so from the outset you suspect nothing is at it first appears. Sure enough, the bodies start to pileup, both civilian and police, as the two deputized Sea Haven, N.J. cops work the “big city”. It’s another good one for the evolving Ceepak whom Grabenstein has made into a well done hybrid of Sherlock Holmes and Dudley Do-Right. It’s magic !! 07/09 Jack Quick
The Miracle Strip by Nancy Bartholomew: Very light mystery with a twist; the main protagonist is a stripper. This is the first one of a very cute series, bound to appeal to fans of Evanovich. The newest one in the series is Strip Poker. Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
MIRROR IMAGE by Dennis Palumbo: Dr. Daniel Rinaldi is a psychologist who consults with the Pittsburgh Police. His specialty is treating victims of violent crime, something with which he himself is familiar. Kevin Merrick is a college student and victim of an armed assault. Desperate for a role model and a sense of identity, Kevin has begun dressing like Rinaldi, acting like him, even mirroring his appearance. Before Daniel has a chance to work this through with his patient, he finds Kevin brutally murdered outside Rinaldi’s office. He and the police question whether the intended victim was Merrick or Rinaldi. Death threats made against Rinaldi make them think that, in fact, the Doctor was the intended victim but then it turns out that Merrick is the son of a Bill Gates-like biotech giant. This turns the murder into a national story which may or may not help solve the crime. Rinaldi, an ex-fighter who has himself lead a very interesting life, is a great main character but there are other strong characters as well in this nicely done debut likened to the efforts of Jonathon Kellerman. Lets hope the mean streets of Pittsburgh hold further adventures for Dr. Rinaldi. 08/10 Jack Quick
THE MIRRORED WORLD by Debra Dean: Xenia of St. Petersburg is the subject and inspiration of Dean’s latest. Born and raised in the eighteenth century, Xenia devoted her life to helping the needy after losing her husband. In The Mirrored World, Dasha, Xenia’s cousin, recounts their life together and the path that led to Xenia’s sainthood. Xenia always was a bit odd, recalling dreams that sometimes came true. Then she met Andrei and fell madly in love. The two married and Xenia longed for children, finally conceiving and giving birth to a daughter. But tragedy struck. Xenia was left widowed and retreated from the world. Dasha stayed by her side through it all, shocked to discover that Xenia had begun giving away all of her household possessions to the impoverished people of the city. And then Xenia disappeared. Years later, Dasha would find her living amongst the poorest of the poor, revered for her visions and good works. Dean has a great talent for bringing historic Russia to life but I felt that there were many parts of the story that were only glossed over and would have benefited from more attention. 9/12 Becky Lejeune
MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN by Ransom Riggs: As a child, Jacob idolized his grandfather and could never get enough of the fanciful tales of his youth. The amazing stories of an island in Wales and a home for strange refugee children with odd abilities—and the pictures to accompany them—fascinating young Jacob. As he grew older, however, the stories began to seem more like fairy tales, definitely not the kind of thing a teenager would mistake for an actual history. But when Jacob’s grandfather dies, his final request is that his grandson find the home and the woman who once ran it. Jacob convinces his father to take him on the trip and as he searches for his grandfather’s past, those stories of long ago become real to him once again. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is one of the most original and wonderful books of the year. The use of vintage images enhances the story and gives it even more of a unique but amazingly believable twist. Riggs’s book is a great one for readers of most ages (maybe not too young) to get lost in. 08/11 Becky Lejeune
THE MISSING by Sarah Langan: Sometimes I’ve thought the likes of the grand old days of horror writing would never come again — early Stephen King, Peter Straub, Ramsay Campbell — with a silent thank you aside to Dean Koontz for fairly consistently hanging in there. But in spite of much blurb hype, no new author has come into this genre who could hold a candle to those guys. Until now.
Her name is Sarah Langan, and the book is THE MISSING. Set in the present in an inland Maine town of some affluence called Corpus Christie, this is a story about what happens when a strange virus is released from soil in woods near the town — an area that was contaminated in the previous year by a fire that destroyed a pulp mill. (Langan has an earlier book about this, THE KEEPER, which I have not yet read.) But the virus, as it turns out, is much, much older than that; like the growth of ancient redwoods, this virus is triggered by fire. This is all eerily plausible, even as the town’s infected habitants begin to change into life forms that are no longer exactly human.
Langan’s greatest skill is that she truly writes well, creating characters we quickly grow to care about. This ratchets up the tension unbearably as they each try to escape infection, not giving up even when the CDC abandons the town. Do not begin this book on a night you’re unwilling to stay up late. And be prepared for the possibility of nightmares. Some of the images are sure to stay with you. 11/07 Dianne Day
MISSING MARK by Julie Kramer: Reporter Riley Spartz has been looking for a big story ever since she got her break in Stalking Susan. After all, sweeps week is nearing and the station is fighting for ratings. Plus, Riley’s not been up to much since uncovering that serial killer. She hasn’t had a shortage of dead bodies, though. In fact, by the end of Missing Mark, her tally is up to six. This latest mystery begins with an ad for a wedding dress for sale. “Never worn,” it says. Riley’s radar is immediately up—there’s got to be a story there. And she’s right. The bride was left waiting at the altar and the groom hasn’t been seen since the rehearsal dinner. Riley’s boss isn’t too keen on the story, though. In fact, she’s much more interested in the case of the missing record-size bass recently stolen from an indoor aquarium. As Riley balances both investigations, she trips over a third story and gets herself into trouble once again. Julie Kramer has proven that she has what it takes. Her books are light but a bit edgy and her heroine is fun, spunky, and completely loveable. 07/09 Becky Lejeune
MISSING WITNESS by Gordon Campbell: As a first year associate with the firm of Butler and Menedez, Doug McKenzie has not yet had the opportunity to work on a case. All that changes when Travis Eddington, only son of the biggest cattleman in Arizona, is murdered. The sole witness to the event saw the man’s wife, Rita, and daughter, Miranda, enter the home where the young Eddington had been staying and close the door. The witness heard six shots. Only seconds later Rita and Miranda emerged from the home. Then, the witness saw a gun drop from Rita’s hand. Eddington’s father retains the lawyers of Butler and Menedez to defend Rita. Why would a father hire a top law firm to defend the woman accused of murdering his son? This question weighs heavily on the minds of the lawyers, but Eddington is a major client for the firm and no one wants to lose this case. Hotshot defense attorney Dan Morgan is assigned to defend Rita, and he requests that newcomer McKenzie assist him. What follows is a series of events that will stay with McKenzie for the rest of his life. This page turning thriller is one of the most realistic legal dramas to come along since Grisham’s A Time to Kill. Campbell, an attorney for over 40 years, originally began work on his debut over thirty years ago. Not to worry, though, he’s already hard at work on his next title. 10/07 Becky Lejeune
THE MISSINGS by Peg Brantley: No sophomore slump here after Ms. Brantley’s first successful outing – RED TIDE. I must admit as a kidney dialysis patient and hopeful eventual recipient of a kidney transplant, I found the premise of this book riveting. Aspen Park, Colorado police are dealing with a serial killer with a twist. The first body they found had no visible abuse but had recently had a kidney removed. The second body had been carved up like a side of beef with a number of organs missing. Both were Latino. Then a female Latino teenager goes missing. The investigation by Detective Chase Waters is not helped by his supervisor, a curmudgeon who definitely would benefit from sensitivity training. Then it gets worse. A third body is found, but it’s not the missing girl. And the body count continues to rise. Another “unputdownable.” 11/12 Jack Quick
Mission Flats by William Landay: This superb debut novel of suspense is set in Boston and the small town of Versailles, (pronounces Ver-sales) Maine. Police Chief Ben Truman inherited his job when he left Boston University to help his retired police chief father care for his ailing mother, who eventually died from Alzheimer’s disease. Nothing much happens in this small town, so when during a routine inspection, Ben finds the body of a Boston D.A. in a cabin by the lake, the big city cops come visiting. Retired Boston cop John Kelly gets involved, and Ben gets involved with both Kelly and his D.A. daughter. Inner city drug lord Harold Braxton is the chief suspect and the cops seem determined to prove his guilt. Landay deftly manages to keep the suspense high through the final shocker of an ending in this terrific new chiller. Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
MISSION FLATS by William Landay: Ben Truman, the young police chief in the Maine town of Versailles gave up his pursuit of a doctorate in history at Boston University to come home and care for his Alzheimer’s-stricken mother. His biggest case to date starts with the discovery of the bloated body of a Boston assistant district attorney in a rental cabin. Ben joins a crew of big-city cops and prosecutors in a search through the blighted Boston neighborhood of Mission Flats for the answer to the ADA’s murder and a 10-year-old mystery. Will “Opie”, as the big city cops refer to Ben, prevail? Interesting first effort. 03/06 Jack Quick
MISSION ROAD by Rick Riordan: Everyone needs a little Texas in his or her life. Riordan’s PI Tres Navarre fills the bill perfectly. This time he is caught up in a twenty year old murder case involving his best friend Ralph, South Texas’ top mobster Guy White, girl friend Maia Lee (who has her own surprise for Tres), and a bunch of ticked off San Antonio police. And then it gets interesting. Fast paced, well written and portrays that part of the world perfectly. We are relatively sure Tres will survive all this, but at what price. Must read. To be released 06/05. 05/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
MISTER B. GONE by Clive Barker: Clive Barker’s long-awaited return to adult horror is finally here. In Mister B. Gone, Jakabok Botch, a low-level demon, recounts how he was lured from the depths of hell – Demonation – into our world. Upon his arrival, he is immediately set upon by group of entrepreneurial demon hunters. He manages to escape them only to be attacked by a blood-thirsty mob of village folk amassed in anticipation of a public execution. Botch is saved by Quitoon, a higher level demon with pyrokinetic powers. Quitoon and Botch travel the world throughout the centuries wreaking havoc and mayhem and searching out new inventions that will change the world. Jakabok reluctantly reveals his tale to the reader. You see, Jakabok is in fact trapped between the pages of this book. He sees our world through the lines of print and exists only in its prose. His persistent pleas that the reader burn the novel are amusing and make this read much lighter fare than is typical of past Barker titles. 11/07 Becky Lejeune
MISTER PIP by Lloyd Jones: In 1988, Bougainville Island in Papua New Guinea became the scene of a bloody rebellion that would stretch on for almost a decade. Matilda Laimo, the adult narrator of this tale, recalls how, in 1991, all the whites left the island except for Mr. Watts. Mr. Watts eventually takes over teaching the children of the island, including the then thirteen-year-old Matilda. During this time of turmoil, he introduces the students to Dickens’ Great Expectations. By reading them a chapter a day, Mr. Watts provides a safe and comforting escape from the terror that surrounds the children’s daily lives. Imagination becomes the key to survival for Matilda as the situation on the island deteriorates completely. It will be years, however, before Matilda will truly understand the lesson that Mr. Watts has taught her. While Mister Pip is both disturbingly brutal and realistic, it is also an inspirational and thought provoking novel. 07/07 Becky Lejeune
MISTRESS OF THE ART OF DEATH by Ariana Franklin: In the first of Franklin’s series featuring twelfth century Trotula (term based on an actual female physician from Salerno at the time) Adelia Aguilar, the King of Sicily sends his best master in the art of death to Cambridge where a handful of children have been kidnapped and murdered. The townsfolk suspect that the Jews are responsible and they have been moved to the sheriff’s own home for protection. Cambridge officials are getting desperate and so Adelia and one of Sicily’s top investigators, Simon of Naples, are brought in to help. It is only upon their arrival in town that the bodies of the missing children are discovered. Because of superstition and local law, Adelia must keep her occupation, and therefore her purpose in town, a secret. With a select few helping her, they set about trying to solve this case using her medical expertise and Simon’s deductive skills. But when Simon is murdered Adelia becomes determined, law or not, to track down the killer on her own if necessary. Mistress is a brilliantly conceived and original spin on the forensic mystery. Franklin has chosen what must be one of the most fascinating historical periods in which to base this series. A fantastic read. 03/09 Becky Lejeune
SIDNEY SHELDON’S MISTRESS OF THE GAME by Tilly Bagshawe: It’s been over two decades since Sidney Sheldon’s bestselling Master of the Game was initially released. Now, the Blackwell saga continues as Lexi Templeton, granddaughter of the inimitable Kate Blackwell, recounts her own rise to the top of the Blackwell family empire. The story begins with the death of Kate Blackwell in 1984. Her great-grandson, Robbie, was set to inherit everything she had worked so hard for, but like his grandfather before him, Robbie had other plans in mind. Instead, his young sister Lexi will take up the mantle in an attempt to stake her claim as the new master (mistress) of the game. But with her cousin Max as her strongest contender, she will find herself fighting temptation and learning some of the same lessons those who came before her struggled with as well. In the end, can she overcome what others would see as insurmountable odds and live up to her family’s legacy? Bagshawe captures Sheldon’s voice completely in this carefully plotted sequel to the “master storyteller’s” work. Fans new and old are sure to be pleased as they are once again swept up in the sordid and scandalous lives of the Blackwell heirs. 09/09 Becky Lejeune
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley: Magnificent book about the King Arthur legends, told from the female point of view. Don’t judge a book by its movie (or mini-series!) Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins: The wrap-up to Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games series, Mockingjay, answers all the burning questions brought forth by the first two installments. After being saved by District 13 (which does in fact exist) and the rebels, Katniss is being heavily pushed to represent them as the Mockingjay, the symbol of their rebellion against the Capitol. Her only concern is how to keep her friends and loved ones safe and to rescue Peeta from the other side, something that will come at a heavy price. Mockingjay lacks some of the intensity of Hunger Games and Catching Fire, in my opinion because of the games themselves. Overall, a wonderful and exciting (and more than a little disturbing) teen dystopian trilogy, but Mockingjay didn’t pack quite the punch I’d hoped. 1/11 Becky Lejeune
MOIST by Mark Haskell Smith: Start with a severed arm decorated with an erotic tattoo, add a minimum wage morgue attendant, mix in a one-armed murderer, a Wharton Business School graduate and a masturbation coach with unnatural urges and you have the basis for a one of a kind murder, sex, mobster tale worthy of Carl Hiassen or Elmore Leonard – and it’s a first effort. The jailhouse scene where Bob has to pee like a racehorse to preserve his manhood is in itself worth the price of admission. One funny, funny book. 01/06 Jack Quick
MONEY BURNS by A. E. Maxwell: In spite of their failed marriage, Fiddler and Fiora still work together solving cases. This time it’s a young bank owner who has run afoul of a murderous Colombian drug lord. Masquerading as financial consultants the two infiltrate Don Faustino’s organization, kidnap the son of his bagman, and make off with $15 million. But will they live to spend it? First-rate tale from the 1980’s. 03/09 Jack Quick
Money for Nothing: Donald Westlake has once again written a funny crime story that may very well be turned into a movie, as were The Hot Rock (Robert Redford) and Bank Shot (George C. Scott and Joanna Cassidy). In this particular case, Mr. Westlake must have been watching old Hitchcock, wrong man caught up in events not of his making movies when he sat down to write. The hero of this tale is Joshua Redmont, who has been receiving checks for $1,000 a month from a mysterious “U.S. Agent” for seven years. His attempts to find out where these checks have come from have been to no avail and he has simply accepted them as a needed supplement to his income. Until the day when a stranger sits down next to him and says “You have been activated.” Gulp.
Of course, he is out of his depth. Of course, there is an assassination plot and of course, his wife and child are threatened by the bad guys. Hitch would have insisted on it. But Westlake is in control the whole way and develops his characters with just enough human detail and a lot of humor. Reviewers will describe this book as “a rollicking good time.” It is. I was also reminded recently of what a good writer Westlake is when I read his foreword to the reissue of one of Ross Thomas’ books, Out on The Rim. They are a pair to draw to. This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.
MONEY SHOT by Christa Faust: “Coming back from the dead isn’t as easy as they make it seem in the movies. In real life it takes forever to do little things like pry open your eyes.” Opening lines from Hard Case Crime’s first offering by a female author. In order to clear her name of a murder charge, former porn star Angel Dare only has to locate a briefcase of stolen money and defeat an international sex-slavery ring. It’s all in a day’s work for this newest heroine. It’s Modern Noir at its finest from the woman film director Quentin Tarantino called “Veronica in a world of Betties.” With endorsements from Richard S. Prather, Jason Starr, Allan Guthrie and Duane Swierczynski – well, lets just say it, its darn good. 02/08 Jack Quick
MONEY TO BURN by James Grippando: This new stand alone thriller set on Wall Street is a real page turner; I couldn’t put it down. Michael Cantrello is a hedge fund wunderkind who impulsively marries his girlfriend while on vacation in the Caribbean. But she disappears on their wedding day and the DNA says she was eaten by a shark. Several years later it’s Michael’s 35th birthday, and his current wife throws him a big surprise party. But the real surprise comes later that night when Michael finds out he’s the victim of identity theft, and that all his money is gone, moved through an offshore account in his dead 1st wife’s name and then gone for good. The new wife throws him out, and the high life style Michael once knew is gone when she also cleans out their joint account, leaving him cashless, without any credit cards, and homeless. Someone is out to get him, but he doesn’t figure out who or why until the very end of this highly suspenseful, action packed thriller that’s a riveting, adrenalin charged read. 03/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
Money To Burn by James Zagel: A federal court judge, a firefighter/arsonist and two Federal Reserve Bank employees team up to rob the Federal Reserve bank of $100,000,000. Some interesting twists along the way, and even though the story bogs down in places, it’s still a good debut novel. Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
Monkeewrench by P. J. Tracy: This new author is actually a mother-daughter writing team and they are off to a fabulous start. “Monkeewrench” is a software company in Minneapolis, owned by an eclectic and eccentric group of friends. Their newest product, still in the beta testing stage, is a game called “Serial Killer Detective,” with crime scene photos providing the clues through the various levels of the game until the serial killer is found. But somehow one of their carefully staged murder scenes ends up happening on the streets of Minneapolis, so one of the partners, the enigmatic ice princess Grace MacBride, reports it to the police. Turns out this is the third murder and the murderer is playing their game for real. The software team is able to pinpoint the next murder, making themselves suspects in the process. Meanwhile, in a small town in rural Wisconsin, the local sheriff has a rather gristly murder on his hands – an elderly couple is found shot to death in the church. Somehow this all gets tied together – at breakneck speed, no less – and the big city cops and small town sheriff solve their respective cases. Well developed characters and crisp, witty writing make Monkeewrench a great read. Don’t miss it.
MONSTER by A. Lee Martinez: Monster is a freelance cryptobiological rescue agent—a division of animal control specializing in beasties and creatures of strange origin. Oh, and he changes color. When Monster and his paper gnome partner, Chester, are called to a grocery store with a yeti problem, they meet Judy, one of the night staff. Judy’s life isn’t glamorous. In fact, it’s a little boring. That must be why, when the trolls appear in her closet, she decides that Monster’s line of work is pretty interesting. Judy is a light cog, someone who can see magic but can’t remember it, which makes tagging along with Monster a bit difficult at times, but a memory spell fixes that. Course, Monster isn’t the easiest person to be around (he’s not very likable) but even he has to admit that strange things are happening around Judy at an alarming rate. Before he can find out why, Judy is kidnapped by a crazy cat lady and Monster’s house is wrecked, something that will be difficult to explain to his demon girlfriend. But that will be dealt with later, right now Monster has to find Judy and figure this whole thing out. Fun stuff. Martinez’s fantastical fiction will appeal to readers who enjoy Christopher Moore and Mario Acevedo’s Felix Gomez mysteries. 05/09 Becky Lejeune
THE MONSTER’S CORNER: Stories Through Inhuman Eyes, edited by Christopher Golden: What do you get when you bring together some of the best of the writing business in a collection of stories all featuring the most monstrous of characters? The Monster’s Corner, the latest anthology edited by Christopher Golden. The collection features new and never-before-published tales from horror and suspense heavyweights like Jonathan Maberry, Gary Braunbeck, Chelsea Cain, Sharyn McCrumb, and many others. In “The Awkward Age,” David Liss introduces readers to a teenager with an unhealthy eating habit, Kevin J. Anderson revisits one of horror’s most famous monsters in “Torn Stitches, Shattered Glass,” and Sarah Pinborough shows us another side of Medusa in “The Screaming Room.” From monsters created by their surroundings—or by others—to demons and other dark beings, this is an excellent collection of chilling and shocking tales for any time of year. 10/11 Becky Lejeune
THE MONSTERS OF TEMPLETON by Lauren Groff: Distraught and disappointed, twenty-eight year old Willie Upton has left Alaska where she was working at an archaeological dig as part of her PhD program, to come home to Templeton. An affair with her professor led to her trying to run over his wife with a plane and now Willie’s returned to home base to try and straighten out her life. Did I mention she may be pregnant? Willie’s own mother left her hometown for California at a young age and only returned after the death of her parents – Willie’s grandparents. The story is that the free-loving Vi was pregnant, unsure of who the father was, and planning to sell the family homestead when she up and decided to stay. The story is not all true. Turns out, Vi has been keeping a secret from Willie, a secret that she finally reveals in the midst of all this turmoil. Willie makes it her mission to uncover the truth about her parentage and in doing so, learns more about her family than she could ever imagine. As Willie unravels the many secrets of her heritage, her predecessors each take turns telling bits of the story themselves. As the most recent addition to a rather large family tree that begins with the founding father of Templeton, Willie and her family’s tale is closely intertwined with the history of the town itself. The cleverness with which Groff unfolds her debut is nothing short of expert. The monsters of Templeton, and they are there both literally and figuratively, make for humorous, touching, and scandalous reading. The Monsters of Templeton is a wonderful debut from a hugely talented writer that should be on everyone’s must read list this year. 02/08 Becky Lejeune
MONSTROUS BEAUTY by Elizabeth Fama: The locals have long whispered of mermaids and monsters of the deep. When Ezra, a naturalist in 1872, meets Syrenka, he is fascinated and smitten. As he learns more about her and her world, the two begin to share an undeniable connection. But when Syrenka becomes human, their fate is tragically sealed. Over a century later, Hester Goodwin has come to the decision that she must never fall in love or bear children. Her family’s history is filled with heartbreaking tales of mothers dying shortly after giving birth and Hester is sure the same awaits her. When she meets a man on the beach who suggests maybe it’s a curse, one that might be broken if only Hester can unravel it, she is leery. Something about the man draws her, though, and as she looks further into her family’s story, she becomes convinced that he may be onto something after all. Monstrous Beauty is great fun. In the beginning, chapters alternate between Syrenka and Hester, providing a nice setup for what comes later in Hester’s story. I especially loved the mix of modern and historic throughout the book. 9/12 Becky Lejeune
Montana 1948 by Larry Watson: Be forewarned: this small book carries a powerful punch. It is the coming of age story of David Hayden, set in a small town in Montana near the Canadian border. David’s father is the gun-kept-in-the-drawer, badge-in-the-wallet Andy Griffith type sheriff, a position he inherited from his father, who is determined to keep this a family business. His uncle Frank is the town doctor, but when Marie Little Feather, their Native American housekeeper, becomes ill, she gets hysterical when Frank is called in. David grows up real fast that summer when his father has to arrest his own brother for rape, and murder. Beautifully written, the stark scenery is as much a character as the family members in this painful, honest page-turner about family secrets and small town tragedy. 12/03 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
MOON OVER SOHO by Ben Aaronovitch: DI Peter Grant is back in this second book of the series following Midnight Riot. Peter’s friend and boss are both laid up thanks to their previous case, so Peter takes the lead on a new investigation involving the recent death of a jazz musician. Notes of a famous tune linger around the body and Peter knows this means that something magical is to blame rather than the initial death-by-natural-causes verdict. But when Peter discovers a string of the strange murders, he begins to realize that the case is quite complicated indeed. Meanwhile, another magic practitioner seems to be at play in London and his intentions are less than noble. Aaronovitch’s series is a welcome and exciting addition to the urban fantasy genre. Definitely recommended for paranormal mystery fans. 03/11 Becky Lejeune
MOON TIGER by Penelope Lively: My book club was supposed to read this a while ago, but I never got around to it until lately since it just didn’t sound like my kind of thing. You know, some old lady on her deathbed, remembering her life, blah blah. BUT IN FACT, her life was pretty dang interesting, and the book carries you right along. She was not always a nice person, but she was never dull. She experienced a wide variety of what was available to upper-class women of the mid-twentieth century, becoming a reporter in WWII and traveling through Egypt, among many other things.
It won the Booker Prize, and I also found myself thinking about it for days afterwards, both of which are usually good indications of an excellent book. 05/07 Jenne Bergstrom
THE MOON TUNNEL by Jim Kelly: This book offers an intriguing premise and setting: the discovery of a body which has been concealed in a tunnel. The corpse is discovered on the site of an old World War II English Prisoner of War camp; Italian and then German POWs were housed there. Who was this person? And why in heaven’s name would he be in what was clearly an escape tunnel heading into the camp? And is there any connection with the “real” treasure being sought on this site, where Anglo-Saxon items have been found?
The history is interesting and well-described; readers get to read about might be “enemy combatants” who stayed behind after the war was over. Upon realizing they would not be murdered by the Allies, as both Italian and German soldiers had been told, they found England congenial and became members of the community, made their homes, opened restaurants, raised families.
Not surprisingly, this is a tale of deception and pretty complicated history; I did get lost at times, but it’s just as likely that I don’t comprehend tangled family ties as it is that the author wasn’t clear. The protagonist is a reporter, with connections to the town that police might not have, which makes him a useful sleuth. The very well-written sideline, of Dryden’s wife, Laura, emerging from “locked-in syndrome” and learning to communicate after years is told well, with a minimum of bathos and a maximum of understanding. Recommended. 12/05 ~This review contributed by Andi Shechter.
THE MOONPOOL by P.T. Deutermann: Cameron Richter is back (The Cat Dancers and Spider Mountain). The retired cop who runs Hide and Seek Investigations, a PI firm staffed by other ex-cops is in Wilmington, NC following up on the death of one of the firm’s agents, Allie Gardner. The location of the death – a gas station bathroom. The cause of death – ingestion of a highly radioactive liquid. Although there is no solid reason to suspect a connection, Aristotle Quartermain, chief of security at Helios, the local nuclear power station hires Hide and Seek to determine whether it would be possible that the contaminated liquid came from their Moonpool – the pond where spent fuel rods were stored. Aiding Cam are his German shepherds, Frick and Frack, along with some first rate agents in this great thriller. Hopefully, Mr. Deutermann, who has nine stand-alones as well as these three in the Richter series will churn out more featuring this very engaging sleuth. 05/09 Jack Quick
MOONSHINE by Alaya Johnson: In Zephyr Hollis’s 1920’s New York, Others exist within regular society. That doesn’t mean that they’re readily accepted. As a suffragette, Zephyr fights for women’s rights, but she also regularly appeals for equal rights of Others as well. When she discovers a young boy recently turned, she knows she cannot bring him to the authorities. A vampire that young wouldn’t be expected to be able to control himself. As such, the law requires staking. One of her students agrees to take the boy into his protection. Amir is a mysterious man and definitely not human. In return, he asks a favor from Zephyr: find a vampire called Rinaldo. The catch, Rinaldo just happens to be a notorious crime boss who no one can recall ever laying eyes on. With this first in the series, Johnson has created a unique urban fantasy landscape within a historic setting. The combination of Prohibition-era backdrop, an appealing heroine, and Others makes Moonshine a fresh new standout in the genre. 4/12 Becky Lejeune
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins: T. S. Eliot called this “the first and greatest of English detective novels” and I am certainly not going to argue with that judgment. First published in 1868, this classic mystery involving the theft of a diamond from an English country manor has withstood the test of time. Collins created a formula that is still being used today, including the bumbling policeman; the famous, albeit eccentric, Scotland Yard detective; the concept of an ‘inside job’; false suspects; reconstruction of the crime; the least likely suspect being the guilty party; and the final twist at the end. While it is considerably longer in length than contemporary mysteries, any fan of the genre really should add it to their reading list.
MORE LIKE HER by Liza Palmer: Frannie Reid has just recently split with her boyfriend when she meets Emma Dunham, the new head of school at Markham. To Frannie, Emma is perfect: poised and polished with a great career and a seemingly perfect life. But Emma is living a lie that becomes all too clear when her husband brings a gun to a faculty party and kills her in front of Frannie. Now, Frannie and her friends are faced with the aftermath of surviving such a tragedy. More Like Her is like a punch to the gut. It begins with a horrible 911 call and then jumps back to Emma’s first day at Markham. The reader is aware that something horrible is coming in what is essentially a chick-lit story of a thirty-something woman hoping to meet the man of her dreams and learning to be herself. The transition between the prologue and the beginning of the story is jarring, as it should be given the nature of the overall story. More Like Her was not at all what I’d expected it to be, but I liked it. 4/12 Becky Lejeune
MORE THAN IT HURTS YOU by Darin Strauss: Can there be anything more frightening than Munchausen syndrome by proxy, the psychological disorder which leads parents to abuse their own children in order to draw attention or sympathy to themselves. Josh Goldin is a happily married TV airtime salesman living on Long Island with wife Dori, and an eight-month-old son named Zack. When Zack is treated twice for mysterious and life-threatening symptoms, the head of a pediatric ICU, Dr. Darlene Stokes, suspects Dori suffers from that disorder. The Goldin are Jewish, Dr. Stokes is black, and situation leads to a topsy-turvy world where doctors are trying to save babies from their parents, police legally tear families apart, and everyone turns on everyone else. In the midst of this chaos Josh sees all his faith and preconceptions torn abruptly away. What is left is not pretty. 06/09 Jack Quick
THE MORNING SHOW MURDERS by Al Roker and Dick Lochte: Go behind the scenes with Al Roker at a morning news program for a little murder and mayhem, and lots of laughs. Billy Blessing is a celebrity chef with a successful New York City restaurant and a regular gig on Wake Up, America – until the executive producer is murdered by poisoned coq au vin takeout from Billy’s restaurant. Billy becomes the leading suspect, the cops close down the restaurant and he’s suspended from the show. Billy decides to prove his innocence, and an amateur sleuth is born. Al Roker’s charm is evident throughout, but there are too many zany characters for my taste. All in all, a solid debut and what appears to be the first book of a possible series. 11/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
MORNING SPY, EVENING SPY by Colin MacKinnon: Described as a CIA procedural, this disturbing portrayal of the CIA from the end of 2000 to the night of September 10, 2001, grabs you and keeps you on edge all the way through. Agency troubleshooter Paul Patterson spends most of that time period investigating the murder of a shady CIA contractor in Pakistan. In the process he uncovers hints of a major al-Qaeda plot in the making. However, since the various intelligence services are determined to not share what they know, you sense with each passing day the increasing inevitability of what is going to happen at the end. Nevertheless, there are still surprises along the way. All in all this reminds me of the early Tom Clancy material in which you hope there is more fiction that fact, but fear there may be more truth than imagination. 03/09 Jack Quick
MORTAL FEAR by Greg Isles: Futures trader Harper Cole, moonlights as the systems operator of an erotic online services called EROS. When he contacts the New Orleans police with information about the murder of celebrated author-and EROS subscriber-Karin Wheat, he immediately becomes the prime suspect in six other murders of EROS subscribers across the country. Also on the FBI’s short list is Cole’s eccentric friend and EROS colleague Miles Turner, who has dubbed the killer “Brahma.” When Cole learns that the man he thought was Brahma was killed a year ago and that his online identity was stolen, a tense cat-and-mouse game commences. Coles’ digging leads to his posing on line as a potential victim, using as bait a secret that endangers the mother of his child, as well as his wife. The final climax is breathtaking. Recommended. 03/07 Jack Quick
MOSCOW RULES by Daniel Silva: Silva has done it once again with a grabber of an adventure for art restorer and Jewish James Bond – Gabriel Allon. Allon is in Italy working on restoring a Nicolas Poussin painting for the Vatican and celebrating his honeymoon with new wife Chiara, when he is summoned by “The Office” to take a meeting, with a Russian journalist who claims to have critical information that he will reveal only to Allon. The journalist is killed at the meet and Allon sets forth to discover what may be the greatest threat ever to Israel’s existence. Ivan Kharkov, a former KGB official and now global entrepreneur and gun runner, is apparently ready to provide unprecedented weapons to al- Qaeda. Allon must somehow prevent the exchange but this time he is playing by Moscow Rules – Anything goes, take no prisoners, and win at all costs. Wouldn’t you love to see Allon made into a movie, a real one, not the Mission Impossible, Who Killed Roger rabbit type? I’d get in line for tickets for it. 08/08 Jack Quick
MOST WANTED by Michele Martinez: First novel from a hot shot New York Federal prosecutor about a hot shot New York Federal prosecutor. Art imitates life in this fast paced debut. As with many first efforts, Most Wanted would benefit from a tighter editorial hand. We tend to learn too much about too many people. While it is obvious that Melanie the prosecutor is the main character, you’re not as certain about some of the others. Major gritty, even for a hard boiled fan like me. Nicely paced, but again just a bit jam packed, as though there is concern about no tomorrow (or second book). Overall a promising start for a shiny new talent. Maybe next time lets just focus on the crime rather than the crime, the separation, the baby, the new boyfriend, the family, the victim, the department… 03/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
MOTOR MOUTH by Janet Evanovich: This is the sequel to Metro Girl and what I suspect will be another Evanovich money-making series. Not because this is such a great book (it’s not,) but she has her fans and I’m one of them. This series features Alexandra Barnaby, AKA Barney, who is much like Stephanie Plum – clueless, sexy, and lovable, but she has only one male love interest, Nascar driver Sam Hooker. Personally, I find Nascar boring as hell, but I like the books although not nearly as much as the Plum series. These characters are fairly one dimensional, but this is not great literature (am I repeating myself?) and is completely plot driven. Motor Mouth centers around some new-fangled technology that can make a car win a race, except that it’s illegal. There are kidnappings, murders, sexual tension and dog jokes galore in this effervescent read that is real short on logic, but is fast & fun. Let’s call it brain candy – too much is certainly no good for you, but if you want to escape for a couple of hours and have a few laughs, go for it. 10/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
MOTOR MOUTH by Janet Evanovich: An epiphany. I have read and generally enjoyed the first dozen Stephanie Plum books. But, I don’t know that much about bounty hunting in New Jersey. This is the second book featuring Alexandra Barnaby in a NASCAR setting. I do know something about NASCAR, which is why this one is DNF (Did Not Finish) before the first green flag pit stop. If you are a NASCAR fan, I suspect you will quickly reach the same conclusion. If you are not a NASCAR fan, maybe the stilted dialogue, improbable plot and unrealistic scenario will appeal to you. Back to the drawing board on this series. 03/07 Jack Quick
MOUNTING DESIRE by Nina Killham: This second effort by Killham (after the very funny How to Cook a Tart) is a humorous inside look at the business of writing romance. Jack Carter, AKA Celeste D’arcy, is a very successful romance writer – but not finding the romance he wants in his own life. He takes a vow of celibacy, which proves to be the irresistible icing on the hunky-successful-romantic-guy cake and women are throwing themselves at him, literally. His sister convinces him to take in Molly, her friend who was fired from her job for inappropriate sexual behavior with a subordinate. He reluctantly agrees and the sparks fly despite their different agendas; Jack just wants someone to love, and then maybe he’ll think about sex, while Molly just wants sex and then maybe she’ll think about love. Then Molly starts writing her own romance novel while Jack ends up with writer’s block. I don’t read romance so I had the sneaking suspicion that I was missing some inside jokes about the business, but it was a fun and funny read nonetheless. 08/05
MOUNTING FEARS by Stuart Woods: Woods uses an implausible plot to showcase most everyone he has ever written about. Ostensibly about President Will Lee, Woods brings in Lance Cabot of the CIA and former Florida police chief Holly Barker to deal with a resurfaced Teddy Fay who has been “killed” in at least two previous Woods’ outings. Lee has loose nukes in Pakistan, a Vice-President who dies after surgery, and a new Vice President with a zipper problem and a vindictive wife from whom he is trying to escape. The polls are going in the wrong direction, and Lee’s wife, Kate Rule Lee, head of the CIA, is upset when a former Lee lover comes into the picture. Believe it or not, all ends well, the world is saved as well as the upcoming election, so there is sure to be a sequel. Not bad if you are a Stuart Woods fan, like me. If not, you may want to skip it. 04/09 Jack Quick
MOURNERS by Bill Pronzini: When Nameless made his assistant, Tamara, a partner in his detective agency and hired Jake, a new operative, he genuinely felt he was moving toward retirement. But business has increased, and Nameless finds himself reluctant to give up the work that has defined him for so long, even though he has recently become a husband and father. Pronzini’s series becomes more layered and complex with each entry. This time the primary characters are all in one stage or another of mourning. A dark, foreboding entry in a classic series. Pronzini is a master. 04/06 Jack Quick
THE MOURNING SEXTON by Michael Baron: The sexton in this story is an orthodox lawyer with a past. Having served ten years in the federal penitentiary for embezzlement, David Hirsch is trying to rebuild his life. He regains his law license with the proviso that he be allowed to practice only under the direct supervision of a lawyer in good standing for at least 20 years. His oldest friend takes him into his bankruptcy practice and David is working and living a quiet life. Until one of the minyan at the shul where he is sexton asks him to find justice for the daughter he lost in a car accident three years previously, and he reluctantly agrees to help out. As he immerses himself in the case, he finds irregularities and starts digging deeper. But his client is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease which is progressing rapidly, opposing council doesn’t want him looking into it any further, and things just spiral out of control from there. This is a well written, fast moving, original legal thriller with some very clever twists and I highly recommend it. 11/05 Stacy Alesi, the BookBitch
THE MOURNING SEXTON by Michael Baron: Michael Baron, who as Michael Kahn writes (or wrote) the Rachel Gold series, set in St. Louis; his characters are sharply drawn, and the stories are often complex without being dizzying, and he knows his city.
David Hirsch is getting his life back together. A high-flying attorney, he self-destructed, losing his practice, his family, and his sex-filled, embezzling way of life. Upon release from prison, old friends and new-found faith support him. One morning at his synagogue he’s approached by Abe Shifrin who wants justice in his daughter’s death in a seemingly straightforward car crash. Hirsch, along with his friend and law partner (who has to oversee this felon), ex-con Jumbo and Dulcie, an attorney who becomes a friend, begin to look into the death of Judith, who was the devoted law clerk of a judge.
This story reminded me (positively) of both Barry Reed’s “The Verdict” (made into a fantastic film in the 80s) and of the Gold books, the latter in their detailed knowledge of St. Louis landmarks. A tarnished guy going after big business with big arrogant lawyers is a good story. He’s got great loyal friends and is an appealing character. It was hard for me to buy that Hirsch was ever the schmuck he must have been to end up in federal prison, since he’s awfully nice here. 12/05 ~This review contributed by Andi Shechter.
MR. CLARINET by Nick Stone: Max Mingus spent seven years in Attica for killing three child molesters. Now the ex-Miami cop and erstwhile PI is trying to put his life back together. He is hired to find the missing three-year old son of a wealthy white Haitian family in the violent mid 1990’s world of Haiti. His search for Charlie Carver leads him from the richest to the poorest sections of the island and to powerful drug baron Vincent Paul. Not for the faint hearted, this first effort is gritty throughout. Hopefully we will hear more from Mr. Stone in the future. 01/08 Jack Quick
MR. MONK AND THE TWO ASSISTANTS by Lee Goldberg: I have not seen the USA Network show Monk, but this has a script feel to it. Monk, apparently a genius sleuth, is dealing with both his current assistant Natalie Teeger (who is the narrator) with his former assistant Sharona Fleming, whose husband, Trevor, is in prison for murder. The two are jealous and Monk’s idea of them both working part-time is certainly not the smartest thing he has done. He does deal with a few simpler challenges, gets Trevor out of prison, and is poised for his next adventure, same time, same station, next week. Very light-weight. 11/07 Jack Quick
Mr. Paradise by Elmore Leonard: Mr. Paradise is the derogatory name given to the aging (84 years old), Mafia don, Anthony Paradiso. A die-hard (unfortunate choice of words) U of Michigan football fan, Mr. Paradise prefers to review his library of Maize and Blue victories in the company of very attractive topless women in cheerleader skirts who he adorns with a big M in magic marker. Ever tasteful, Mr. Leonard slyly avoids Wisconsin jokes.
In the middle of his two-model pleasure, Mr. Paradise is bumped off by a couple of idiots hired by his loyal right-hand man. The rest of the story is police detective Frank Delsa’s efforts to track down all those responsible (and their lawyer) while absolving the model who quickly becomes his love interest.
As in most of Mr. Leonard’s books, the dialog in Mr. Paradise is superb. I was so struck by the sign in the Detroit police squad room that I immediately e-mailed a bunch of friends about it. If this isn’t the way that bad guys and cops and high fashion models talk, by God, it ought to be. And as is also typical in Mr. Leonard’s books, the action moves right along. (His explanation is “I cut out the parts everybody skips over.”)
However, this is not as side-splitting as some of this author’s recent books and I think will disappoint some of his newer fans. Too bad. They are missing a fine story while looking for laughs. 02/04 ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.
MR. PENUMBRA’S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE by Robin Sloan: Every once in a while I stumble onto a book so creative, so inspiring that it is just impossible to put down and impossible to forget. This is a conundrum of a novel; part mystery, part fantasy, very charming and just plain smart. The titled bookstore is unlike any I have been to; sure, they sell some used books, but mostly they warehouse a strange collection of books that are borrowed by an even stranger collection of people. When Clay Jannon loses his job due to economic collapse, he feels lucky to land the job of night clerk in this intriguing bookstore. Clay’s girlfriend is a Google employee and much is made about the Google culture, which adds another dimension to the story. This book is populated with quirky, interesting characters and they each bring a unique skill set to the story. Who are these people who wander into the store in the middle of the night and why do they borrow these strange books? If I may borrow from Winston Churchill, this book is truly a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, and I loved every page. 2/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
MR. SHIVERS by Robert Jackson Bennett: Horror meets the great depression in this genre-bending debut. Connelly’s daughter has been murdered. For him, life will never be the same, but the possibility that carrying out revenge might bring him close is enough. He sets off west, following the scarred man known to most as Mr. Shivers. Shivers leaves a wake of death and sorrow in his path, a path that spares some but brings great pain to many. Throughout Connelly’s journey, he meets others who also seek vengeance against the scarred man. Each person shares the same tale and each person is willing to sacrifice everything to see Shivers suffer as they have. But their payback comes at a hefty price. Robert Jackson Bennett creates a bleak and dark world that is virtually unforgiving to all. His characters’ suffering and pain is clear, making Mr. Shivers a macabre sort of read and a window into a world that one hopes to never enter themselves. 01/10 Becky Lejeune
MRS. SOMEBODY SOMEBODY by Tracy Winn: This debut collection from Tracy Winn seems to have something for every type of reader. Each of the stories is connected by locale: all of the characters are tied to mill town Lowell, Massachusetts. The similarities in stories pretty much ends there. Some of these tales are heartfelt peeks inside the life of one of Lowell’s citizens – June DeLise’s free trip to Central America in “Gumbo Limbo,” and young immigrant Izabel’s story in “Cantogallo.” Four of the tales connect through one family, the Burroughs: Dr. Charlie Burroughs’s return from war in “Blue Tango,” Delia Burroughs’s secret in “Glass Box,” son Frankie’s early days and downfall in “Smoke” and “Frankie Floats,” and daughter Helen in “Copper Leaves Waiting.” The Burroughs’s stories were by far my favorites, but as with all short story collections, readers will connect with their own favorite tales. Overall, a balanced and well-written selection from Winn. 06/10 Becky Lejeune
THE MULLAH’S STORM by Thomas W. Young: Air Force Major Michael Parson is navigator of a C-130 carrying a high-value prisoner from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan that is shot down. Not allowing the prisoner, a radical mullah, to be recaptured by his Taliban supporters is of the highest priority – beyond that of saving the lives of any of the plane’s crew or female Army Sergeant Gold, an interpreter/guard accompanying the mullah. This doesn’t sit well with Parson who fortunately has Dirk Pitt like superhuman powers to enable him to perform like Jack Reacher still in uniform. All in all, not a bad adventure tale, with authentic and believable information regarding weapons, tactics, and combat set in the severe Afghanistan landscape. Recommended. 09/11 Jack Quick
MUNCHIES AND OTHER TALES OF GUYS, GALS & GUNS by Jack Bludis: Munchies – a snack mix sold by Frito Lay, a confection sold by Nestle, a sudden strong desire for food, or best of all – the title story and title of Jack Bludis’ new collection of hard-boiled PI stories set in Baltimore, New York City and Los Angeles. Or, as Richard Helms proclaimed: “From Baltimore to the mean streets of New York, to the smoke-and-gin-soaked Hollywood of the 1940s, Bludis presents a lineup of some of the finest hard-boiled literature around. Page after page is filled with bullets, bucks, and broads. This is the good stuff!” This one reads like an alkie on his way to the gin mill and includes the Anthony and Shamus Award finalist tale, “Munchies,” plus “Pigtown Will Shine Tonight,” “Ticket to the Top,” “New Guy on the Block,” “Blonds, Blonds, Blonds,” and eight more short stories and novelettes. The only problem with this offering from the author of Shadow of the Dalhia is deciding which is best. My vote: The Transfer, in which the hundred seventeen year old Baltimore private dick is still hitting the streets and making it happen. Would that I could… 05/11 Jack Quick
MURDER AS A FINE ART by David Morrell: In his outstanding novel First Blood, David Morrell depicts a Vietnam veteran afflicted by post traumatic stress syndrome involved in violent confrontation with law officers of a small town. The horror of war and killing motivate John Rambo, to what happens to him in that town. “Murder As A Fine Art” has at its premise the psychology behind a murderer’s motivation. The novel is set in London in 1854 during the mid years of the Victorian age and shortly after the Crimean War between England and Russia. Two sets of murders take place: the first in a shop after business hours, and the second a few days later in a tavern. Called to the scene of the first set of murders is Sean Ryan who is depicted as one of the first detectives in England to have studied scientific detection methods. He approaches the murders with both an active searching for clues and a logical attitude towards the set up of the crime scene. Utilizing persons that actually lived at the time and facts about them enables Morrell to enhance the story and plot. First is Thomas De Quincey who was infamous for his memoir “Confessions of an English Opium-Eater”. He was a suspect in murders committed 43 years earlier in London due to his essay “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts”. He is enticed to come to London with his daughter by an anonymous offer of lodgings in order to meet with a woman that he loved during the period of the first murders and lost touch with. The murders currently perpetrated are similiar to those committed 43 years earlier and De Quincey again becomes a suspect. Next is Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston known as Lord Palmerston and home secretary during the period depicted in the book. An historical view of him shown by Morrell was his active secret movements to foment unrest in Europe as a means of fostering England’s continued rise to power. He was involved with protecting the Opium Trade with China which is an important background issue in the novel. He was a superb politician and his political machinations are done justice in the book. In an afterward David Morrell indicates that he spent a year researching the London of 1854 and his descriptions enhance an already good story. The noise, the filth, the overcrowding, the life of people forced by poverty to live on the streets is presented as it was and are an integral part of resurrecting the London of the era. The motivations of the murderer and the reasons for the crimes will be understood by today’s reader based upon current knowledge of abnormal psychology. An engrossing read and one which will keep the reader glued to the pages. 05/13 Paul Lane
MURDER AT HOTEL CINEMA by Daniel Edward Craig: A diva dives off the top floor of a Hollywood hotel during a hot party. Did Chelsea Fricks commit suicide or was this more than a publicity stunt gone badly. Hotel Cinema becomes the setting of the ensuing investigation, starring Chelsea’s former pit bull publicist; a hairy, star-struck detective; tasteless tabloid reporters; and the incompetent manager, who breaks every rule in the hotel handbook. Cristal champagne is flowing. Business is booming. But who will survive the uproar and are other deaths in store? Easy read. 08/08 Jack Quick
MURDER AT LONGBOURN by Tracy Kiely: Elizabeth Parker is a big Jane Austen fan. As is her aunt, the proud owner of the Longbourn B&B, named for the Bennett residence in P&P. Elizabeth was all set to spend her New Year’s Eve alone after a break-up with her cheating boyfriend, until her aunt invites her to her own shindig. The festivities were to include a murder mystery dinner and, as promised in the invite, “screams in the dark.” But when the lights came back on, a real murder was discovered and Elizabeth’s beloved aunt the unfortunate prime suspect. Now Elizabeth must unravel the mystery in order to save her aunt from being accused. This cozy debut is a light read with an engaging heroine. Elizabeth will charm readers just as much as her literary namesake and Austen fans will enjoy picking out the references to her famed work as well. Murder at Longbourn is a traditional British inspired mystery with a contemporary twist. 09/09 Becky Lejeune
MURDER AT THE FOUL LINE edited by Otto Penzler: excellent follow-up anthology to Penzler’s MURDER IS MY RACKET, which focused on the tennis court. In this one, due out in January, a similar group of heavyweights weigh in on the basketball court with new short stories from Lawrence Block, Jeffery Deaver, Mike Lupica, Laurie R. King, S. J. Rozan and interestingly a joint effort by Joan H. and Robert B. Parker, among others. If you’re into hoops, you’ll love this one. 12/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
Murder Between the Covers by Elaine Viets. The Dead End Job mystery series is set in Fort Lauderdale, and features great stories interspersed with gentle humor. This one revolves around the murder of a bookstore owner named Page Turner (you gotta love it!) Our heroine is Helen, who feels the need to stay on the lam from her ex-husband, preferring to keep out of his, and the law’s, radar. So she takes jobs that are way beneath her talents and education (a former high powered CPA in her married life) and ends up working for cash in a small, independent bookstore that is owned by a real creep. When the creep gets killed, Helen can’t help but get involved along with the zany cast of characters that populate this series. Sometimes I just want to read something light, fun and fast, and Viets always comes through. 04/04
MURDER GRINS AND BEARS IT by Deb Baker: Amateur sleuth Gertie Johnson says “Anyone who smears chicken grease all over himself and goes bear hunting with a bow and arrow is plain stupid or has a death wish.” In seems everyone in this second book in the Yooper Mystery series is some kind of over the top crazy, including Gertie. Opening day of bear season, game warden murdered, Gertie’s favorite grandson Little Donny (all 280 pounds in his boxer underwear with footballs on them) disappears. Just another day on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Oh yeah, did I mention Gertie’s man hungry friend Cora Mae, who, since her discovery of Wonderbras, follows her boobs wherever she goes. But what really gets Gertie’s goat is her son Blaze, the local sheriff named for one of the horses she didn’t have as a child, seems more interested in arresting his mom for driving without a license than finding Little Donny or catching the killer. I guess the best description is: think Stephanie Plum, except it’s the wilds of Michigan rather than Newark, and Granny Mazur is the lead character, not Stephanie. All in all, a fun read that can cause excess laughter. Then there’s BB. What does BB stand for? “Bazooka,” BB said puffing up his chest. Marlin snorted, “More like them little pellets they shoot rabbits with.” But Gertie knew the truth – Bottom of the Brain Barrel. PS: may be offensive to persons of Scandinavian descent, upholders of sobriety and those who feel that society should be staid, but as Grandma Johnson said, “Once I find my pistol, I’m taking one of ‘em down. Don’t know how I could misplace it, but I’m on the look out. It’ll show up.” 05/07 Jack Quick
MURDER IN THE ABSTRACT by Susan Shea: Sleuthing is definitely not part of museum employee Dani’ O’Rourke’s job description. In fact, her position requires that she schmooze with folks who can make significant contributions to the Devor Museum in San Francisco, so solving a murder is a bit out of her comfort zone. But that’s just the task Dani finds herself faced with when up-and-coming artist—and ex-boyfriend—Clinton Maslow takes a tumble out of her own office window. Not only does Dani want to know what happened to her friend, but she also finds herself uncomfortably tagged as the prime suspect in the case. With more than just her career and the museum’s reputation at stake, Dani must uncover the true murderer’s identity before it’s too late. Susan Shea’s cozy-ish debut is a light mystery with an engaging heroine and an interesting setting. With a cast of fun (and suspicious) characters and a mystery that really keeps you guessing, Murder in the Abstract has everything a mystery fan is looking for in a new series. Brings to mind the early Goldy Shultz titles by Diane Mott Davidson (set in the art world, of course). 06/10 Becky Lejeune
Murder in the Hearse Degree by Tim Cockey: Amusing romp with undertaker Hitchcock Sewell in this fourth book of the series. His former girlfriend Libby shows up with her kids in tow – turns out she’s left her abusive husband. Things get ugly when her nanny disappears and her body is found in the river, and the autopsy shows that she was pregnant. The police rule it suicide, but the girl’s mother is insistent that her daughter would never do that, and Libby has a hard time with that choice too. Finding the father may lead to finding the murderer, and Hitch is off and running. Then things really get interesting. This is a fun series and does not have to be read in order. Enjoy them all – The Hearse Case Scenario, The Hearse You Came in On, and Hearse of a Different Color are the first three.
MURDER IS A PIECE OF CAKE by Elaine Viets: The latest entry in the Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper series finds Josie engaged to her heartthrob veterinarian, so Josie is delighted when her boss has her mystery shop wedding cakes and bridal salons. Her fiancé lands a gig on the local news channel, but when they begin filming, a woman comes barging in, declaring that she is marrying the vet. Hysteria ensues and the crazy bride ends up murdered. There are enough kooky characters and red herrings to make this a really fun read with a surprise ending. Cozy mystery fans will enjoy this latest escapade as much as I did. Viets has two series going is doing a great job with them both, putting her on my must read list. 11/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
MURDER IS MY RACQUET: Original Tennis Mysteries, edited by Otto Penzler: Only the A-list in this anthology of fourteen original stories of love, death and tennis – the game that conjures the height of genteel sportsmanship. I enjoyed all fourteen chapters – I mean what is not to like from Lawrence Block, John Harvey, Stephen Hunter, Robert Leuci, Ridley Pearson and Lisa Scottoline, among others. Each story is tightly edited and on target. I am surprised Penzler didn’t hold out for one more story so the subtitle could be Love – Fifteen. A June release that will delight tennis buffs and mystery fans. 05/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
MURDER MOST MAINE by Karen MacInerney: I suppose if you live in Austin, Texas, one way to cool off would be to write about the rugged coast of Maine. Ms. MacInerney does this quite well in this, her third Gray Whale Inn mystery set on Cranberry Island off the coast of Maine. Actually this could be called Murders Most Maine because there are two – or at least the remains of two. One is a centuries old skeleton discovered in a secret compartment by contractors renovating the old lighthouse. The more immediate concern, however, is the demise of Dirk DeLeon, the hunky heart throb personal trainer at the local weight loss spa who was certainly in the peak of physical condition, just ask any of the local ladies. Innkeeper Natalie Barnes must come up with the answer as the suspicions of poisoning force her to close down her beloved kitchen while boyfriend John is being eyed as a key suspect in the murder. It’s cozy, but nicely done. Oh, check out the recipe for Nat’s Midnight Mint bars. Yummm. 11/08 Jack Quick
MURDER NEW YORK STYLE edited by Randy Kandal: New York City – its murder. This group of twenty-one stories hits all the bases – Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Westchester, and the Outer Reaches. This classic look at New York includes Chinatown, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, even a Turkish nightclub. The stories range in time from the Revolutionary War until now with ghosts and gore, murder and mayhem – all in that particular New York style. The authors are: Cynthia Baxter, Meredith Cole, Fran Brannigan Cox, Peggy Ehrhart, Erica Harth, Marianna Heusler, Nan Higginson, Randy Kandel, M.E. Kemp, Ronnie Klaskin, Chelle Martin, Margaret Mendel, Terri Farley Moran, Dorothy Mortman, Anita Page, R.M. Peluso, Triss Stein, Deirdre Verne, Pearl Wolf, Lina Zeldovich, and Elizabeth Zelvin. 03/08 Jack Quick
MURDER NOTEBOOK by Jonathan Santlofer: This is the terrific sequel to Anatomy of Fear, the first book to feature New York City police sketch artist Nate Rodriguez. Santlofer is an extremely gifted artist, and brings a unique combination of a complex and interesting page turner with original drawings that serve to create visual interest and propel the story along. Nate is working on two cases – he’s reconstructing a skull for identification purposes in a cold case, and working a murder case that soon multiplies into several murders – only he has to convince the rest of the NYPD that the murders are related. This is psychological suspense taken to a new level – don’t miss it. 06/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
MURDER ON THE CLIFFS: A MYSTERY FEATURING DAPHNE DU MAURIER by Joanna Challis: While vacationing in Cornwall, aspiring author Daphne du Maurier stumbles across the body of a dead girl. As someone seeking inspiration for a story, Daphne couldn’t ask for a better setting. The woman, once a member of the Padthaway kitchen staff and recently engaged to marry Lord David Hartley, was a beautiful girl with a somewhat questionable past. Her future mother-in-law made no bones about her disapproval of the match, and David’s own sister, Lianne, a troubled teen who is on the scene when Daphne makes her discovery, had her own issues with the dead girl. With such a fascinating cast of characters surrounding her as possible suspects, Daphne soon makes it her business to solve what can only be murder. Fans of du Maurier’s work, especially Rebecca, will enjoy seeing the author as the sleuth in this gothic-tinged cozy debut. I know I’ll definitely be looking forward to the next title in Challis’s series. 11/09 Becky Lejeune
MURDER ON THE EIFFEL TOWER by Claude Izner: While touring the grand opening of the Eiffel Tower, a woman collapses and dies after supposedly being stung by a bee. Bookseller Victor Legris thinks nothing of it until he follows a certain artist later on and happens upon a second “bee sting” that results in death. Victor is enthralled with the young woman, but realizes that she always seems to be around when another body pops up. Strangely enough, Victor has also noticed his partner in the book business, Kenji Mori, has been acting very odd lately. Victor discovers that Kenji can also be linked to some of the victims. With clues pointing to both his best friend and the object of his affection, Victor makes it his personal business to discover the truth behind these mysterious deaths. Set against the backdrop of the 1889 World Exposition in Paris, France, this first in a new traditional mystery series is a truly enjoyable read. Interestingly enough, Izner is a pseudonym for two French sisters, both of whom are booksellers and experts on the time in which the series takes place. Their attention to detail and social commentary on the period make this a great historical mystery. So far there are four books in the series. Murder on the Eiffel Tower is the first to be published stateside, and book four is due out in the UK next spring. 09/08 Becky Lejeune
MURDER ON THE MIND by L.L. Bartlett: A skull fracture gives Jeff Resnick the ability to “see” crimes” starting with the murder of his brother’s banker. Then there is another victim : the banker’s wife. Resnick must find out the truth to protect himself and his brother, even at the risk of his life. A little too woo-woo for me but nicely written and quite twisty. Set for general release 12/05. 11/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
MURDER ON THE TRANS-SIBERIAN EXPRESS by Stuart Kaminsky: All good things must come to an end, even the Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov Moscow police procedural series. In this, the 14th (and last) Rostnikov novel is assigned along with Sasha to ride the 6,000-mile Trans-Siberian Express to intercept a courier exchanging money for a package somewhere along the route. At the same time Rostnikov’s son and fellow policeman Iosef and his fiancé and fellow cop Elena Timofeyeva lead the effort to locate a madwoman whose random knife attacks have injured or slain men at a series of subway stops. Lastly, the “Vampire”, detective Emil Karpo and Zelach “the Slouch” are trying to locate a kidnapped heavy metal rock performer who is also the son of a powerful Jewish businessman. Too bad it all has to end. 03/08 Jack Quick
MURDER ON THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD by Stuart Kaminsky: Private Eye to the Stars Toby Peters’ second outing features Toby, Judy Garland, Clark Gable and Raymond Chandler along with a host of munchkins, except one who is lying on his back in the middle of the yellow brick road with a knife sticking out of his chest. Its 1940 and, having saved Errol Flynn in BULLET FOR A STAR, Toby must now deal with dreamers, child stars, and half-sized philosophers on behalf of the real Wizard of Oz, Louis B. Mayer, head of Metro-Goldwyn Mayer. If you have a thing for old movies as well as mysteries, this series is a must read. If not, you still should read it. Who knows what it might do for you. 04/09 Jack Quick
MURDER ONE by Robert Dugoni: David Slone (Bodily Harm) is slowly rebuilding his life after his wife’s murder. He runs into Barclay Reid, a beautiful attorney and an old adversary. Reid is also grieving; her daughter died from a drug overdose. They start dating, but Reid is obsessed with the man she believes caused her daughter’s death, so when he gets off on a technicality, Reid decides to go after him via a civil suit with the famous “Jury Master” himself, Slone, as her new lawyer. The romance flourishes until the drug kingpin ends up dead and Reid is arrested for his murder. Slone reluctantly tackles her defense, his first time in a criminal courtroom, with great skill regardless, but Reid isn’t always forthcoming and Slone finds his defense unraveling. His investigator finds some troubling evidence and the suspense really ratchets up a notch until the final surprise of an ending. VERDICT: Tight plotting and well developed characters push Dugoni to the head of the legal thriller pack in what is probably his finest book to date. Grisham and Turow fans should add Dugoni to their list of must-reads. 06/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
MURDER PASSES THE BUCK by Deb Baker: Great Britain may have had Sherlock Holmes and New York its Lincoln Rhyme, but nobody out sleuths 66 year old Gertie Johnson on the Michigan Upper Peninsula. In this “Yooper” mystery Gertie sets out to find who shot Chester Lampi in his deer blind on Opening day of deer season. Her son Blaze (named after a horse) who is now the local sheriff says it was an accident but Gertie knows better. With the help of Little Donny, her 6 foot 4 grandson and best friend hairdresser Cora Mae, she sets out to prove her son wrong. I mean you got to admire someone whose idea of putting out a building fire is ramming it with a vehicle. Fun read. 09/08 Jack Quick
The Murder Room by P. D. James: Sometimes a particular book seems to come along at just the right time. As it happened, The Murder Room found its way to me at a particularly pensive time of the year and suited my mood perfectly.
It is full of older characters and even Ms. James’ protagonist, Commander Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard is showing signs of age. This is not a bad thing as the passing of years instills in many persons of maturity a deeper appreciation for all aspects of life, its colors and smells, its frailties and noble moments and a keener sense of the nuances in all of these. Ms. James’ careful prose spelled these out and gave me too a sense of the rightness of whatever is going to happen.
The story itself involves a modest museum devoted to the history of the period between the First and Second World Wars. When its founder dies, his three children have very different ideas of what should be done with it and how they can best use it to their own personal advantage. The dissenting sib is immolated on the grounds in his precious Jaguar motorcar and Dalgliesh and his special squad are called in when the government senses that sensitive concerns may be involved.
The careful description of the principal characters in the book makes this more of a real solve-it type mystery than most these days. That too was a pleasure.
The final delightful twist in this tale is the parallel between the circumstances surrounding various murders and the murders depicted in the museum’s murder room of historic cases from the interwar years.
I enjoyed this thoughtful book, but if you want something more fast-paced, you had better look elsewhere. That is not to say that this book is without passion. Adam Dalgliesh believes he has found true love, but they have trouble getting together. His work and her lesbian roommate present serious and perhaps insurmountable obstacles to the flowering of their relationship.
Hopefully, you will get this book and stick it away for a cloudy day when you are in a reflective state of mind. 12/03 ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.
MURDER…SUICIDE…WHATEVER… by Gwen Freeman: Remember the scene in Good Morning Vietnam where the Lieutenant was discussing humor with Robin Williams? Well, I will tell you this lady is funny. Laugh out loud, hurt your sides funny. When “Uncle” Ted Heffernan, insurance broker to the (porn) stars is found dead inside a locked office it is up to unemployed bi-racial twenty-something Fifi Cutter and her half-brother Bosco Dorff (who is partial to women with big bazongas) to find out what happened and why. Pretending to be private investigators who are pretending to be grief counselors gives them access to situations which they completely and consistently screw up. How about this for an answer “If he told me, I would know. But if he didn’t tell me, then I wouldn’t.” Whomever invented the “locked room mystery” never had this pair in mind. You would not want to be locked up with them. Excellent debut. Janet Evanovich should be hearing footsteps. 03/07 Jack Quick
MURDER TALKS TURKEY by Deb Baker: In order to understand Gertie Johnson, you have to remember she named her children Heather, Star and Blaze, all names of horses she wanted but never had. Blaze is the local sheriff but he’s out of commission with bacterial meningitis on this fine spring day in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. So there is sixty-six year old Gertie, standing in line at the Stonely Credit Union on April 1 to cash her social security check when a man wearing a ski mask pulls a gun and demands all the money. Obviously he was from out of town, or he would have known everyone in Stonely was armed and most can shoot a nickel off the top of a soda can. So the robber is shot down by a police sniper in a room full of witnesses, but where is the money? In the excitement, the money has disappeared and its Gertie, Cora Mae, and Kitty, the geriatric gumshoes who must track it down. So pull up a plate of “hot dish” and have it. It’s a regular whodunit. 04/08 Jack Quick
MURDER UNDER THE LOON by Gerald Anderson: John Hofstead always wore a coat and tie, and in winter often a vest as well. After all, you wouldn’t want to entrust your money to just any insurance man. John was so good at his work that Hofstead Hail Insurance was now one of the most prosperous firms in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. So it just didn’t seem right when Hofstead’s body was found in the snow beneath a giant concrete loon, the apparent victim of a snowmobile accident. Sheriff Palmer Knutson isn’t so sure. After all there are no footprints in the snow and the death came on the eve of Hofstead’s planned announcement of the successor to his position as President of the Company he had founded. Had one of the four employees or their spouses taken the matter into their own hands to avoid the announcement? Its old-fashioned greed, ambition and jealousy in the North Country with a full cast of characters. Never fear Sheriff Knutson and wily deputy Orly Peterson will prevail. 04/08 Jack Quick
MURDER UNLEASHED by Elaine Viets: Viets hardcover debut and the latest in the Dead End Job mystery series is a hoot. Helen Hawthorne is living beneath the radar in South Florida after running from St. Louis and her unsavory past – she went after her cheating husband with a crowbar and then refused to pay him alimony. She’s surviving by living in a dumpy old apartment and taking any job that will pay her cash under the table. This time out she’s working for an upscale Fort Lauderdale pet shop with competing dog groomers, one of whom is a diva of the highest order. The parade of dog obsessed customers gets shorter when one is found with a pair of grooming shears stuck in her chest, a celebrity dog gets caught in a messy custody battle, and another body turns up, all of which is a prelude to the hurricane that’s blowing in. Helen is smart enough to see trouble coming and works hard to avoid it, often with hilarious results. A fast, fun read and a wonderful addition to the series. 05/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
MURDER WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS by Elaine Viets: Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper is checking out the local Christmas stores and it’s not putting her in the Christmas spirit – not when you have to buy Christmas “pornaments” and your gingerbread cake has a raisin with legs in it. Townspeople are furious, and they are picketing the store when a mysterious Santa up on the roof upends a shovelful of snow onto one of the picketers, putting her at death’s door. Then at the lovely Christmas store across the way, two customers end up hospitalized after eating chocolate sauce laced with antifreeze. One of those customers is Josie’s ex, a drug dealer whose sharp lawyer got him out of jail on a technicality. Lots of family angst amid the Christmas mayhem in this simple, light holiday mystery, which at this time of year, may be the perfect read. 12/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
MURDER WITH RESERVATIONS by Elaine Viets: This latest installment in the Dead End Job series has our heroine, Helen Hawthorne, finding another dead body. Still on the run from her ex-husband, Helen takes one low-paying, cash-under-the-table job after another, from bridal consultant to bookseller to dog groomer to this latest, maid in a small Fort Lauderdale hotel. But finding bodies is not a good way to stay undercover, and Helen is a nervous wreck when sure enough, her sister calls to warn her that the ex is on his way. Great characters, wonderful location, nice plot twists, and gentle humor make this a must read. Viets has penned another winner. 05/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE MURDERER VINE by Shepard Rifkin: Joe Dunne is just an ordinary gumshoe trying to make a living in New York City after being kicked off the cops. He handles a drug pusher for a client and the next thing he knows he is being hired to commit murder. It’s during the 60’s and three young men who have gone to rural Mississippi to register black voters have disappeared. Dunne is hired by the father of one of the men to confirm the boys are dead and then take care of the perps. It goes against all his scruples but the money comprises the proverbial offer you can’t refuse. Only at the end does he learn the true cost. Its Mississippi Burning, told yet another time. 05/08 Jack Quick
THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTERS by Randy Susan Meyers: Lulu’s mother told her not to let her father inside. But when he came knocking, young Lulu opened the door to her father’s bidding. That fateful day, Lulu’s father killed her mother. Merry, just five at the time, was stabbed and would bear the scar for the rest of her life, a reminder of the event that changed things forever. Afterwards, Lulu and Merry were left virtually orphaned with no one to care for them but each other. Through the story each sister grows, taking their secret with them, and dealing in their own way with the burden of their past. Lulu, an overachiever, pushes herself to great accomplishment while closing herself off emotionally. Merry, on the other hand, is always trying to please others first, including Lulu. Eventually, they must both recognize the ways that that pivotal moment has shaped their lives in order to finally move on. Randy Susan Meyers approaches her subject with grace and sensitivity. A thoughtful, if somewhat sad (but ultimately hopeful), story about family, sisters, and the tragic effects of domestic abuse and violence on children. 01/10 Becky Lejeune
Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook: This utterly charming novel is a fun read, perfect for whiling away an afternoon on the beach. Sarah Hurlihy is 40 years old, divorced and happily teaching preschoolers a multicultural curriculum. But her interfering, overzealous Boston Irish family thinks she should be dating, and with much love she is pushed into answering a personal ad from a gentleman seeking a lady “who enjoys elegant dining, dancing and the slow bloom of affection” and the clincher; he’s a man who “loves dogs.”
That date turns out to be the last man on earth any woman would want to date, but Sarah pushes on, slowly falling headlong into the dating game with decidedly mixed results. Meanwhile, Sarah’s widowed father has his own dating troubles, brother Michael is having marital problems, sister Carol is having troubles at home with her temperamental teenage daughter Siobhan, who turns to her favorite aunt for comfort and body piercing support. Somehow, they all seem to end up on Sarah’s doorstep at the most inopportune moments, keeping the laughs going all the way to the not-quite-storybook-perfect ending. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch. Copyright © 2002 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.
MY DEAR I WANTED TO TELL YOU by Louisa Young: The horrors of war are laid out in Louisa Young’s debut adult novel, My Dear I Wanted to Tell You. At the onset of WWI, young Riley Purefoy, a boy in love with a girl who seems out of his reach, joins up to serve and defend his country. The object of his affection, Nadine Waveney, comes from a good, middle-class family. She’d hoped to attend art school, but instead volunteers to do her part on the home front as a nurse. Meanwhile, Riley meets up with Peter Locke, a young professional and newlywed who is his commanding officer. Locke left behind a lovely bride, Julia, who wants nothing more than to please her husband. But the war has left its mark on Peter who is increasingly distant on each return home. His cousin, Rose, also a nurse, works with a cutting-edge surgeon whose techniques are offering injured soldiers a new life at home. Young offers an emotional glimpse inside the lives of these five characters, but it felt a bit unbalanced. Too often, I felt like Riley had become the focus of the story at the expense of other characters, though I never felt he was the main character in the book. Then the story ends. It wraps up so quickly, that I was left wanting more. More of the inbetween story before Riley is injured, more of Rose’s tale, more background on Julia and Peter. 06/11 Becky Lejeune
MY LAST CHRISTMAS AS A CHILD by Gabriel Melton: Lighthearted semi-autobiographical short tale of growing up in Alabama by a local (to me) author who co-incidentally is my age. Its all about first love, the agony of not “fitting in”, and learning some life lessons that will guide you as you become an adult. This would make a good stocking stuffer for that young teen or pre-teen in the household. 09/08 Jack Quick
My Lurid Past by Lauren Henderson: Lauren Henderson takes a break from her terrific Sam Jones crime series in her first attempt outside the mystery genre. Juliet Cooper is a 33-year-old Peter Pan wanna-be who spends her days as a food publicist with a gorgeous male assistant and her biggest client, Liam, an up-and-coming TV chef, both of whom have the hots for anything in a skirt. She spends her nights carousing with her good friend Mel, a professional dominatrix, and having casual sex, which has suddenly become unfulfilling. Juliet is mired down with an antagonistic, egocentric mother, a ne’er-do-well brother, and best gal-pal Gillian on the brink of divorce. Alex, who hasn’t made a pass and is “a coke virgin” [cocaine] to boot, is the only calm in the storm and helps Juliet discover that maybe it’s time for a real relationship. Henderson may push the chick-lit genre to the wall with this hint of a fetish fest but there’s too much whining and not enough story to make it work. 11/03 Copyright © 2003 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.
MY SOUL TO SAVE by Rachel Vincent: It’s only been a matter of months since Kaylee Cavanaugh learned that she was a bean sidhe—a banshee—responsible for singing a song that allows the soul of the dead to travel on. Kaylee never thought things could get any weirder than they already were, but when she and her fellow bean sidhe boyfriend, Nash, attend a concert and witness a pop star die on stage, that’s just what happens: things get weirder. Kaylee expects the soul song to begin, but it never does. In fact, what leaves the star’s body is not a soul at all, but something called Demon’s Breath, the substance takes the soul’s place after the soul is signed away. Kaylee may have been too late to save the girl, but she and her friends soon learn that there is another who will suffer the same fate if they don’t try to help. Helping will come at a cost, though. Kaylee will have to learn all she can about the Netherworld in order to track down and negotiate with the demon. And Netherworld is no place for the living, especially not a novice bean sidhe. Vicent’s Soul Screamers series is a stand out for so many reasons: First, the premise is totally original. Second, My Soul to Save enters some truly hair-raising territory with the Netherworld. And third, the story rocks (for teens and adults, I might add). 01/10 Becky Lejeune
MY SOUL TO TAKE by Rachel Vincent: Kaylee Cavanaugh, like most teens, sometimes wonders if she may be losing her mind. But Kaylee is far from the normal teen. Kaylee is a bean sidhe (banshee), one of few left in the world, and the latest in a line of bean sidhes. Kaylee has been completely in the dark about her ability, until now. She is able to sense death, and the overwhelming need to scream for the dying is not something that anyone has bothered to explain to her before. The truth behind Kaylee’s ability is revealed to her at the same time that a string of teenage girls have mysteriously dropped dead with no apparent cause. Kaylee knows that something strange is going on—stranger than learning that there are real bean sidhes and other beings walking the world, that is. Together with her friends’ help, Kaylee will uncover the truth behind the deaths, but is her power enough to stop them from continuing? Leave it to Rachel Vincent (author of the Shifters series) to find another corner of the urban fantasy market that has yet to be touched. This original and addictively readable teen debut also marks the inaugural title in the new Harlequin Teen line—and it’s such a perfect way to start. Highly recommended for adults and teens alike. 08/09 Becky Lejeune
MY WORK IS NOT YET DONE by Thomas Ligotti: In this time of economic crisis, I’m not sure if Ligotti’s tale of “corporate horror” becomes more amusing or more chilling. In “My Work is Not Yet Done,” the first part of this slim novel, office employee Frank Dominio has been let go after enduring humiliation from his coworkers, a demotion, and even theft of his ideas. His elaborate revenge plot is changed, though, when Frank discovers that he is no longer hampered by the physical world. The book also contains two other tales, “I Have a Special Plan for This World,” which, despite appearances, does not seem to be connected to Frank’s own tale, and “The Nightmare Network,” a series of disturbing want ads and internal memos from a nightmarish corporation that seeks to control and ultimately ruin everything. Ligotti’s creepy tales are highly original and contemplative. Perhaps not the best read for a work break, but otherwise recommended for any horror fan looking for something different in the genre. 05/09 Becky Lejeune
THE MYSTIC ARTS OF ERASING ALL SIGNS OF DEATH by Charlie Huston: Webster Fillmore Goodhue (Web) is kind of an asshole. Truth be told, he’s not completely without reason. His father is responsible for his best friend’s parents’ deaths and Web himself survived a truly horrific ordeal that has left him in a bit of a predicament. See Web used to be an elementary school teacher and a kind of nice guy. But then a random shooting ended with one of his students dead and left Web unable to return to work. So now, after months of loafing and mooching, he’s taken a job with a friend as a crime scene cleaner, and likes it. But then a girl asks for help and Web finds himself unable to say no which brings him into a messy situation that even his cleaning skills may not be enough to fix. Huston, author of the Joe Pitt vampire series, has created a witty and amusing dark tale of friendship and family and all the problems that come with both. Web is a likeable character in spite of his personality disorder, one that the reader wants to see come out on top, which makes the book that much more fun to read. 01/09 Becky Lejeune
Mystic River by Dennis Lehane: Phenomenal book about three men who were childhood friends. One day they were playing in the street when a car stops. They think it is the cops, and when the “cops” take one of the boys it changes their lives forever. He escapes but twenty-five years later they are all wearing the scars of that day. This book reminded me a bit of the way Stephen King tells stories, minus the supernatural stuff. There is enough horror and twists and turns to qualify it as a thriller, but it is the relationships of the characters that is so riveting and memorable. Another Lehane not to be missed: Gone Baby Gone. Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch