Fiction Reviews P: 1998-2013

PACIFIC GLORY by P.T. Deutermann: Well written, but somewhat derivative tale of Annapolis graduates involved in the three defining naval battles – Savo Island, Midway, and the Battle of Samar – of WWII in the Pacific. Marsh Vincent, who barely survives Savo and Mick McCarty, whose dive bombing at Midway sinks a Japanese aircraft carrier that helped devastate Pearl Harbor both love Glory Hawthorne, a navy nurse, whose husband Tommy Lewis, a classmate, was killed at Pearl Harbor. After Savo, Marsh fears he may not have the courage to face combat again. Mick, an Annapolis football hero, has problems with alcohol and authority. If you have seen Pearl Habor, Midway and In Harms Way then you know all the “big picture” moments, but Deutermann, himself a former Navy ship commander, fills in all the small details in a most entertaining way while being true to the overall history of the era. 04/11 Jack Quick

PAINKILLER by Will Staeger: First novel from an ESPN Television Network producer rambles a bit but is not badly written. A semiretired local CIA operative in the Caribbean is involved in something which may or may not be related to events in China which cause a young analyst in Washington forecast an invasion of Taiwan, possibly by North Korean troops. Throw in a touch of voodoo, self-serving higher ups and the usual politicos and you have a pretty convincing yarn. Written in short chapters alternating between the enigmatic W. Cooper in the BVI and ambitious Julie Laramie in Virginia, you will see the connection before they do. Book reads much longer than it is because for the most part it is two books until well past the half way mark. Recommend and look forward to more from Mr. Staeger. 06/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

PAINTED LADIES by Robert B. Parker: In thirty eight outings Parker’s Spenser has come full circle, from 1973’s The Godwulf Manuscript to this final adventure. In both the first and the last, Spenser tries to retrieve a priceless work of art and deals with the rarefied and nasty world of academics. The plot this time plays off Spenser’s shame over the murder of a client. A college art professor asked him to provide backup during a delicate ransom exchange for a rare seventeenth-century Dutch painting. The exchange goes bad and Spenser, ever true to his modern-day chivalric code, cannot let himself off the hook for the professor’s death, even when his investigation unveils the professor’s avocation as a sexual predator of coeds. Halfway through the book, Parker writes a perfect valedictory for the much-loved Spenser: “Sometimes I slew the dragon and galloped away with the maiden. Sometimes I didn’t. . . . But so far the dragon hadn’t slain me.” I couldn’t have said it any better. 12/10 Jack Quick

A PALE HORSE by Charles Todd: Hmm. To start with, Charles Todd is really a mother and son writing team. She lives in Delaware. He lives in North Carolina. The book is decidedly British, with much of the action occurring not in the London we know but in Berkshire, specifically where cottages once built to house lepers stand in the shadow of a great white horse cut into the chalk hillside. The action occurs during that lull after the Great War and before the Great Depression. The protag, Inspector Ian Rutledge, is a World War I vet who regularly listens and often talks to Hamish, a ghostly character whose acquaintance he made in the trenches in France during the war. I am so glad I didn’t pay any attention to the above because this is one great book. A police procedural with a puzzle that keeps you turning page after page. Now I have learned this is the tenth outing for Inspector Rutledge so I have nine more treats in store. Awesome. 04/08 Jack Quick

PALE HORSES by Jassy Mackenzie: Sonet Meintjies accidentally jumps to her death off a swanky downtown Johannesburg skyscraper when her parachute doesn’t open in this fourth book in the Jade de Jong series. Her base jumping partner hires private investigator Jade de Jong to clear his name and find out what really happened. De Jong reluctantly takes the case and immediately finds much more than she bargained for; Sonet’s sister, an investigative journalist looking into the timely topic of genetically modified seeds, is missing. As de Jong starts digging around, all leads seem to point to a small, mysteriously abandoned farming community in Limpopo. In a another storyline, Ntombi Khumalo, a widow with a young son, is working as a driver for a man she is sure is a murderer. Her employer has effectively trapped her in his employ; she is completely dependent on him for all support, and he threatens her very existence. Khumalo is terrified, yet determined to protect her young son no matter the cost. De Jong is tough as nails and persistent, despite the fact that every clue leads down a dark, twisted and dangerous alley. The South African setting and culture are fascinating, the strong women characters intriguing, and the way the storylines eventually intersect adds another layer to this dark and disturbing tale. While not for the faint of heart, Pale Horses is sure to appeal to fans of Liza Marklund, Zoe Sharp and fellow South African crime writer Deon Meyer. 4/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2013 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.

PANIC by Jeff Abbott: This fast paced thriller is based on a simple yet terrifying premise – what if everything you thought to be true about yourself and your family, your reality, turned out to be totally fabricated? That’s what happens to Evan Casher, a young, up-and-coming documentary film maker. He receives a panicky phone call from his mother, urging him home under mysterious circumstances. His new girlfriend slips out of his apartment without him realizing it, and his life as he once knew it begins to unravel, and fast. Enter the mysterious and dangerous Jargo – friend or foe yet to be determined. Ditto the CIA. And Casher’s father appears to be missing on top of all the other duplicity. The pages fly by, rife with international intrigue and a whirling cast of players who seem to be changing sides by the minute. Casher has no one to trust as the bodies start falling and the truth finally wins out. What a wild ride… 08/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

PANIC by Jeff Abbott: Evan Casher is a successful documentary filmmaker in Austin, Texas, when his mother telephones him to come home immediately. Upon arrival, he finds her murdered and is almost killed himself. Thus starts an adventure where nothing is at it seems. A group of spies called the Deep is after him. His girlfriend is one of them. The CIA is involved. Is the CIA contact on his side or is he aligned with Jargo, a cunning, brutally efficient point man who believes that Casher has a computer file containing secret information about the organization’s contacts. Why does Jargo think he has the file? Where is it? Was Casher’s mother really a Deep operative? What about his father? Where is he and what connection does he have with Jargo? It was enough to make me panic, even if Evan didn’t. Well done, with a final twist that will leave you breathless. 10/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

PANIC ATTACK by Jason Starr: Things were nearly perfect for Dr. Adam Bloom. Admittedly, he did have some bad dreams, but he and his wife Dana live in a luxurious house and his practice has given him financial security. All this is shattered when Marissa, their twenty-two-year-old college graduate daughter wakes him up one night and says, “Somebody’s downstairs.” Adam shoots one of the two intruders dead, but the other escapes, and this ends the Bloom’s orderly life. Adam no longer feels safe but refuses to move since he has lived there all his life. The ensuing stress takes its toll on their marriage. Then Marissa meets a young, talented artist named Xan. Adam feels that something’s not quite right with Xan, but his daughter ignores his warnings and falls deeply in love with him. Because this is a Jason Starr novel, you know these people going to make a train wreck of their lives. 06/09 Jack Quick

PANIC ZONE by Rick Mofina: A young mother in Wyoming is thrown clear of a devastating car crash. She thinks she sees someone pull her infant son from the crash. The police believe it’s a case of trauma playing cruel tricks on the mind, until the night the grief-stricken woman hears a voice through the phone: “Your baby is alive.”
Jack Gannon’s first international assignment is to find out whether his colleagues killed in a café’ explosion in Rio were innocent victims or targets, who got too close to a huge story. In the Caribbean, a cruise ship passenger has an agonizing death. How are these events connected? Robert Lancer is a top ranked counterterrorism official trying to determine whether someone has resurrected long-buried secret research, research that is now being used as a deadly weapon. With millions of lives at stake, experts work frantically against time as an unstoppable force hurls them all into the panic zone. Another first rate thriller from Mofina. 06/10 Jack Quick

PANIC ZONE by Rick Mofina: In this follow up to Vengeance Road, reporter Jack Gannon has left behind small-town Buffalo to join the World Press Alliance, a move that has more seasoned WPA journalists a little miffed. When a bombing in Rio de Janeiro kills two of their own and the Alliance is scrambling for coverage. Jack is sent to the scene itself where he quickly steps on locals’ toes, but what Jack discovers is more far-reaching that the purported drug bombing itself. Jack’s digging eventually leads him to Big Could, Wyoming where a recent widow has been investigating her husband’s death. The couple was involved in a devastating car crash and her husband was killed almost instantly. Authorities told the woman that her baby died in the accident as well, but she distinctly remembers seeing someone pull the infant from the wreckage. Jack may be the only one who will listen and together they will find themselves at the heart of a plot that has global ramifications. Mofina has certainly shown his ability to stretch his creative talents in this second Jack Gannon installment. From the beginning, I had no idea where the story was heading. The addition of a sort of bio warfare theme was an unexpected surprise. For some it may be too far, but I found it to be an interesting twist. 07/10 Becky Lejeune

THE PANTHER by Nelson Demille: John Corey and his wife Kate Mayfield are members of a joint anti terrorist task force based in New York City. John is an ex NY City police officer, and Kate is an active member of the FBI both posted to the group. DeMille has written other books involving them and their joint activities in fighting terrorism. They are called into their supervisor’s office and asked if they would join with a CIA sponsored operation in Yemen to hunt down and capture an Al Qaeda leader calling himself The Panther. Characteristically John wisecracks his thoughts about this and is reluctant to go but does so to go along with his wife who feels that such an operation will enhance her career. John has been in Yemen previously hunting The Panther who is acknowledged to be the mastermind of the attack on the US Cole and the killing of American sailors some years ago. He does have the need to complete the task of hunting down this murderer and putting finish to the job. Why John and his wife are asked to go and join in with the CIA in the hunt is one of the underlying motives in the plot and is well developed as events unfold once in Yemen. Demille reintroduces Paul Brenner (The General’s Daughter, Upcountry) and he becomes a part of the team that, under the CIA aegis, will hunt down and arrest the Panther. A good deal of DeMille’s personal opinions about the Arab world and the machinations of the CIA in carrying out it’s missions comes through in the book making it more engrossing. One of the highlights is the casting of the Panther as an American born Muslim, raised and educated in the US and his reasons for leaving, hating America and Americans, and developing into a terrorist leader. There is a logic in this that is shown to the reader and proves, right or wrong, very interesting. The ending is obvious, but mixed with several convoluted motives to keep the reader following closely. Obviously room is left for future novels involving John and Kate and possibly Paul Brenner. 10/12 Paul Lane

PANTOMIME by Laura Lam: While Iphigenia Laurus had never imagined running away to the circus, RH Ragona’s Circus of Magic becomes her refuge and home. She joins as Micah Grey, keeping her past secret and her secrets closely guarded. As Iphigenia, Gene for short, there were certain things expected of her: she was raised in high society and set to make a good match. But the constant reminder that she was different from those around her and the confined limits of her life forced her to leave. Now, as Micah, the sky is literally the limit. But the Laurus family is still searching for their daughter and life in the circus is turning out to be more difficult than Gene imagined. Laura Lam’s debut was not quite what I’d expected. In addition to the fantasy aspects and the unique world Lam has built for her story, the book deals quite a bit with issues of identity and acceptance. I was surprised that this was a debut – Lam’s writing is confident and her characters and world are all strongly developed. What’s more, she handles a quite difficult topic with what seems like ease. 2/13 Becky Lejeune

Paranoia by Joseph Finder: I haven’t been this excited about a book in a long time; Joseph Finder has taken the ordinary-guy-in-extraordinary-circumstances thriller to a new level. Adam Cassidy is a worker drone, but manages to use his computer skills to one-up his company by throwing an executive style $78,000 party for a retiring dock worker, and sticking them with the bill – or so he thinks. But he gets caught and much to his surprise, being fired isn’t an option. He is offered a choice – certain jail time, or the chance to infiltrate a competing company and pass along their secrets. Under intensive tutelage, Adam manages to work his way into a position as assistant to the competing CEO, thus avoiding the prison stint. But his new boss treats him like a son, and he finds himself with a deep moral dilemma – should he pull out, and even scarier, can he? The tension mounts almost unbearably as Adam is caught in the middle, making Paranoia impossible to put down. The technical stuff is handled masterfully – it’s obvious Finder knows what he’s talking about, but he isn’t the least bit condescending, and the writing is clear and concise and gives the reader enough information to make the story work without getting bogged down in details, which is a really tough ratio to find. Perfect pacing, and even more impressively, a perfect ending, should put Finder at the forefront of the thriller genre. 01/04.

PARANOIA by Joseph Finder: Adam Cassidy becomes an unwilling industrial espionage agent for Wyatt Telecom and its slick and relentless CEO Nick Wyatt. Cassidy is placed at competitor Trion Systems where he becomes personal assistant to Trion founder Jock Goddard. Adam comes to admire Jock and certainly is deliriously happy with all the trappings of his new position but he can’t get away from the demands of his former employers, or can he. The ending is a shocker. May well be Finder’s best yet. 03/06 Jack Quick

PARIAH by Dave Zeltserman: This is the second (after 2008’s SMALL CRIMES) of a planned “bad ass out of prison” series. Kyle Kevin was a power in the South Boston Irish Mob until a falling out with head mobster Red Mahoney lead to an eight year term in prison. Now Kyle is out, has come home, and wants revenge on both Mahoney and on his girlfriend Janet, who didn’t wait for him while he was sent away. Imagine his surprise when he finds his younger brother has gone straight, has a straight job, and a straight girl friend. Kyle lures his brother back into the life with unforeseen consequences that ultimately give Kevin the celebrity status he has been seeking. But all things come with a price. Its noir, its satire, and its Boston that you don’t see on Cheers. Nicely done follow-up to SMALL CRIMES. 10/09 Jack Quick

THE PARIS ENIGMA by Pablo De Santis: I don’t do many “historicals” but found this one to be first rate. The 12 Detectives, the world’s most famous sleuths, are scheduled to meet in Paris for the first time at the 1889 World’s Fair. Founding member Renaldo Craig of Argentina, is taken ill and sends in his place, Sigmundo Salvatrio, loyal assistant and last remaining member of Craig’s “Detective Academy” that was set up to pass along the skills of the master detective. Salvatorio is also the unwitting messenger conveying something from Craig to fellow Twelve co-founding member Viktor Arzaky. Shortly before the fair’s opening, Louis Darbon, one of two claimants among the 12 for the title of Detective of Paris, falls to his death from the Eiffel Tower. Arzaky takes Salvatrio on as his apprentice, and the pair struggle to solve the mystery before more victims are claimed. They soon realizes that the stakes involved are unimaginably high; they must not only catch the stalking murderer but also alter the fate of their precious brotherhood. Definitely recommended. 01/09 Jack Quick

PARISHIONER by Walter Mosley: This nameless house of worship near Santa Barbara is a sanctuary for the worst kinds of sinners: the congregation and even the clergy have broken all ten Commandments and more. But is there more to this Church? Xavier Rule—Ecks to his friends—didn’t come to California from Harlem in search of salvation but, thanks to the grace of this church, he has begun to learn to forgive himself and others for past misdeeds when a woman arrives to seek absolution for the guilt she has carried for years over her role in a scheme to kidnap three children and sell them on the black market. As part of atoning for his past life on the wrong side of the law, Ecks is assigned to find out what happened to the abducted children. As he follows the thin trail of the twenty-three-year-old crime, he must struggle against his old, lethal instincts—and learn when to give in to them. Unique. 12/12 Jack Quick

THE PARTICULAR SADNESS OF LEMON CAKE by Aimee Bender: When Rose Edelstein turns nine years old, her mother bakes her favorite lemon and chocolate cake. But when Rose eats it, it tastes strange and she realizes she is tasting emotion – her mother’s emotion. Then she starts noticing it in everything she eats; the hurriedness of one baker, the rage of another. She hates her gift but doesn’t know how to get rid of it or deal with it. Her brother also has a a rather supernatural gift, but this isn’t his story. It is a family story, a coming of age story, and a sort of reverse Like Water for Chocolate magic realism story. It also reminded me a bit of Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray, but that book was so much more developed and enjoyable and this one just misses. This book has been praised for its language, which I didn’t particularly notice, and has been a big hit with book groups. It felt wanting to me, it needed more developed characters besides Rose, and really more story. I liked the premise and was hoping to be transported into this magical world, but it just didn’t work for me. 09/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE PASSAGE by Justin Cronin: The end begins with an experiment gone awry. There were twelve chosen for the program—twelve convicts, plus one little girl. Amy was the last. She was different from all of the others. Almost a century later, humanity is on the brink of extinction. A group in California built a careful and precarious community that has somehow managed to survive. Amy’s return will prompt a small group of these survivors to begin a quest that will change everything. Mankind’s continued existence rests in the travelers’ hands. Whether they will succeed remains to be seen, but learning the truth about Amy will prove to be a pivotal part and could be their last hope. Folks have been talking about The Passage with great anticipation, making it what promises to be the big blockbuster book of the summer. I have to say that the hype is very well deserved. The first part of a projected trilogy, The Passage is a gripping and hefty post-apocalyptic vampire book that lived up to, in fact exceeded, every expectation that I had of it. Cronin builds a magnificent landscape filled with a rich history and a fantastic cast of characters that will sweep readers along on an epic tale of survival amidst the end of the world as we know it. [Note from the BookBitch: Director Ridley Scott owns the film rights, and it is in development] 06/10 Becky Lejeune

THE PASSING BELLS by Phillip Rock: In the summer of 1914, the most pressing things on the minds of Greville family of Abingdon Pryory are marriage and matchmaking. Alexandra is about to make her introduction on the scene and the eldest, Charles, is intent on settling down with an unacceptable match. Before much can be made of either, war breaks out in Europe and everything changes for the Grevilles. Charles enlists alongside his best friend, Roger Wood-Lacy, and Alexandra volunteers as a nurse. Hanna Greville’s American nephew was already abroad when the war began and he’s been tasked with covering the campaigns. Roger’s brother, Fenton Wood-Lacy, has been sent to France and witnesses the atrocities from its earliest days. Nothing will ever be the same for any of them. This first in Phillip Rock’s trilogy was originally published in the 70s and has been re-released thanks to Downton Abbey popularity. Frankly it’s a quite brilliant resurrection, in my opinion. Fans of Downton will likely expect The Passing Bells to closely resemble the show. In truth, while it does begin quite similarly, the story quickly takes a much darker turn with first hand narrative focused on the frontlines. The book quite graphically explores the brutality of the war and its effects on the people involved. 1/13 Becky Lejeune

PASSIONS OF THE DEAD by L J Sellers: “You can choose your friends, but not your family.” In this fourth outing, Detective Jackson is facing even more problems than usual. Will he fall victim to budget cuts that will cost him his job just before he finishes twenty years on the job? What about his now unemployed ex-wife? Add that quandary to the usual stress of solving violent crimes. A multiple homicide in which three members of the Walker family are killed and the fourth wounded takes Jackson’s mind away from the topic of job security, although unemployment seems to be a major factor in the slayings. The case quickly becomes a real basket case with multiple family connections and involvement of different family members. Sorting out all the suspects keeps the entire unit busy, as new information keeps pointing to first one, and then another family member. This is another outstanding effort from Sellers and sure to please any police procedural fan. 11/10 Jack Quick

PASSPORT TO PERIL by Robert B. Parker: Way back before Robert B. (B for Brown) Parker started writing about Spenser, there was another Robert B. Parker (B for Bogardus). The original Robert B. Parker is spotlighted in this Hardcase Crime Book Number 57 which takes you on a run behind the Iron Curtain. Parker, a World War II foreign correspondent knows the territory and this 1951 thriller originally published almost sixty years ago captures the fears and dangers of the era perfectly. So take a trip on the Orient Express back into time to a place that is no more – “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia; all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow.” 06/09 Jack Quick

PATIENT ONE by Leonard Goldberg: Doctor Goldberg works at the UCLA medical center and based on both his expository and medical skills has written quite a few medical thrillers in the past few years. He has also written technical material published for the medical field. While many of his novels have utilized a Forensic pathologist named Joanna Blalock as the protagonist, Patient One is a stand alone.
The principal character David Ballineau might become an ongoing character in future novels due the interesting characterization created for him. David is a former special forces soldier that left the military due to post traumatic stress disorder. He studied medicine after leaving the military and is an emergency room physician in a large regional hospital as the story opens. The president of the United States is hosting a state dinner for the Russian president in celebration of the signing of a new economic treaty between the two countries. Both presidents and many other diners become violently ill due to unknown causes and are rushed to the nearest hospital where David is on duty. The illness had been planned and orchestrated by a group of Chechen terrorists who seize the hospital and hold both presidents hostage. Their demands include the release of Chechens captured by both the US and Russia or people held will be killed.
Dr Ballineau manages to become active both in the care of patients in the hospital, including the presidents, and also utilizing his military training to help in the freeing of the prisoners. A bit of romance is introduced when Carolyn Ross, a trauma nurse helps David. Both have had crushes on each other for some time but have been quiet about it. Their work together in helping to end the crisis certainly brings them together. Like Michael Palmer, the medical descriptions of the novel are what would really be the case, and David’s reactions to the abnormal problems encountered in treatment of the patients is correctly based on his militarily trained reaction times. 5/12 Paul Lane
PATIENT ZERO by Jonathan Maberry: Maberry’s latest, and the first in a new series, begins with Baltimore cop Joe Ledger going up against a dead man, literally. Ledger is part of a task force tracking terrorist movement in the States when he kills a man named Javad Mustapha. Just days later, Ledger is picked up by some agents representing a group called the Department of Military Science. The DMS has been involved in a very strange and interesting case and they want Joe’s help, but first they need him to kill Javad, again. Seems someone has been experimenting with some pretty unique viruses and has managed to create killer zombies. No group has taken responsibility just yet and given what they’re up against, the DMS thinks Ledger could be just what they need to lead their new elite team. Joe and his fellow badasses vow to do their best to track the people responsible while eliminating the threat before the virus spreads, but when it begins to look as though someone in the DMS may be helping the other side, Joe gets pretty pissed. Patient Zero is part horror, part thriller and all action. Both horror and thriller fans alike are sure to love this one. A smart blockbuster novel. 03/09 Becky Lejeune

PATRIOT ACTS by Greg Rucka: Love your country. Fear your government. Know your enemy. Although bodyguard Atticus Kodiak is ready to settle down it is not to be. He is almost killed in an ambush that does take the life of one of his closest friends. Afterwards he and Drama, now known as Alena, try to break away from The Ten – a group of cold-blooded killers operating around the globe. A conspiracy that reaches high into the U.S. government will not allow this, so the two set to work to clear their names and avoid death in a desperate chase around the world. This is possibly the best ever Kodiak book. 01/08 Jack Quick

THE PATRIOTS CLUB by Christopher Reich: At the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, a group of the founding fathers form “The Patriots Club” – to preserve the political special interest initiatives that the country’s founding fathers had defended in the foundation of this nation. Fast forward to the present and Thomas Bolden, a successful 32-year-old investment banker and Harlem Boys Club Foundation trustee, come into the sights of the successors of that group. Bolden chases a pair of muggers through Manhattan’s financial district after they rob his girlfriend, Jenny Dance. They abduct him at gunpoint, but a narrow escape reunites him with Jenny. Bolden already knows too much, though, and the Patriot Club begin to systematically dismantle Bolden’s life. He and a newly pregnant Jenny run for their lives, tracked at every turn by the well-connected “club,” which is headed by retired detective Francois Guilfoyle. Politics and wealth fuel the chase which ultimately leads to a satisfactory conclusion showing why Reich is still among today’s leaders in the international thriller genre. 09/09 Jack Quick

PAY THE PIPER: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Fairy Tale by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple: A young adult book that doesn’t quite read like one; PAY THE PIPER offers a protagonist who is an adolescent girl with smarts. This short book is strongly written, well told by a mother and son team who combine their writing and music skills to tell an old tale.
Callie MacCallan knows that something is just odd about the appearance of big-name band the Brass Rats, in her town. For one thing, her parents loved the band when they were young and the band members don’t seem to have aged. And this isn’t exactly a major concert venue. When she overhears and sees some odd things, she wonders just who will believe her. When all the children in town disappear Halloween night – except for Callie who had to stay home, trying to write this very tough story for her school newspaper (they gave her the press credentials to cover the concert) – she knows that what she saw wasn’t to be ignored.
Interspersed with Callie’s story, is the story of the otherworldly band, especially lead singer Peter Gingras, an exiled prince of Faerie. He made some very bad mistakes in his youth (centuries past), and he owes the price, which is normally silver and gold. But a misunderstanding with the tour promoter leaves him with the other option – payment in souls, and thus the band takes the children of the town to pay Peter’s debt. And it’s the smart kid who finds a way out that works for pretty much everyone. 07/05 ~This review contributed by Andi Shechter.

PAYBACK TIME by Carl Deuker: A young adult title about football and journalism. High school journalist Daniel “Mitch” True wants more than anything else to have his name on page one of the New York Times. However, at the moment he is more concerned with getting to the bottom of a story closer to his Seattle home. Angel Marichal is obviously a very talented football player, with speed and strength to anchor the Abraham Lincoln High School football defense, but Coach McNully won’t play him. What is going on here and why? As True eats his way through the story, he soon learns that the law of unintended consequences applies to your actions in ways you never imagined. Not bad for what it is. 09/10 Jack Quick
PAYING THE PIPER by Simon Wood: Wow! Eight years ago reporter Scott Fleetwood was interjected into the case of the serial kidnapper called the Piper. At the time, Scott thinks he is dealing with that person, but instead, he and the FBI are fooled by a wannabe. The confusion leads to the real Piper taking his first life, that of the only child of wealthy real estate mogul Charles Rooker. Now the Piper is back and wants revenge. To start, he has kidnapped one of Fleetwood’s twin sons, and demanded $2 million ransom. But is it really money he wants, or Fleetwood’s help in tracking down the man whose imitation created the earlier problems. Its every parent’s nightmare and it affects everyone, Fleetwood, the FBI agent who was originally on the case, Rooker, the wannabe Piper, and of course the Piper himself. Hard to believe this is Wood’s sophomore effort. Delightfully twisty and an amazing climax. 03/08 Jack Quick

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger: I loved this beautifully written book about a family and a place – Minnesota and the North Dakota Badlands. Every character comes to life through the narration of 11-year-old Reuben Land, who suffers from asthma. I fell in love with his sister Swede, a 9-year-old writer of enchanting cowboy poetry with exquisite meter. But older brother Davy kills two boys that have been attacking this family and pays a steep price for it, sending them out on the road and into what surely must be some of most beautiful land in America. But it’s Reuben’s father, Jeremiah Land, conduit of miracles, who holds them all together. Suspend your disbelief and plunge headlong into the inspirational world of the Land family; you will not forget them.

THE PEACH KEEPER by Sarah Addison Allen: Sarah Addison Allen combines a little bit of mystery, a touch of romance, and the feel of a fairy tale in her latest. The Jacksons were once high society in Walls of Water. Thanks to changing industry in the 1930s, the family lost everything, including their home, The Blue Ridge Madam. Willa Jackson thought she left her life in the small town well behind her after high school. But when her father dies, Willa returns to be close to her grandmother. Paxton Osgood, a local rich girl who was never a friend of Willa’s, is experiencing growing pains. Still living with her folks, she throws herself into her work, trying to ignore the fact that she’s falling head over heels for the wrong guy. When renovations at the Madam unearth a secret that’s been buried for seventy years, Paxton and Willa find themselves unexpectedly drawn together and determined to learn the true story behind the discovery. The Peach Keeper is a sweet southern read about the magic of friendship. 10/11 Becky Lejeune

PEGASUS DESCENDING by James Lee Burke: Robicheaux is still going strong and sober in his fifteenth adventure (after Crusader’s Cross), only this time it’s personal. During the dark days in Miami, Robicheaux witnessed the execution of his friend Dallas Klein during an armored car robbery. Fast forward many years to New Iberia, Louisiana, where a young girl with everything to live for commits suicide, a homeless man is killed in a suspicious hit and run, and another young woman – Dallas’s daughter, Trish – is caught passing a hundred dollar bill with the telltale dye mark of stolen funds. Robicheaux hooks up with his former partner, PI Clete Purcel, who does a little private investigating and somehow ends up involved with Trish. While Robicheaux is obsessing over his cases and seriously butting heads with the politically ambitious district attorney, he also manages to unsnarl the mess and get the bad guys with his own inimitable style, while just briefly touching on the horror of Hurricane Katrina. With his superbly written prose and intricate plotting, Burke’s latest is sure to please his legion of fans. 07/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2006 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

PEGASUS DESCENDING by James Lee Burke: Dave Robicheaux can’t escape the past. Years ago when he “was still going steady with Jim Beam straight up and a beer back” a friend, Dallas Klein, was killed in an armored car robbery that Dave witnessed but was too drunk to stop. Now Dallas’ daughter Trish, a grifter and con artist, shows up in New Iberia apparently intent on getting revenge on the mobsters who caused her father’s death, mobsters who coincidentally now live in New Iberia. If possible, Burke continues to get better. Not only is the story riveting and the prose as elegant as ever, but he breaks the mood from time to time with outrageously funny moments and characters before ratcheting the tension up another notch. For instance, there is “Calamity Jane” AKA Betsy Mossbacher, an FBI agent originally from Chugwater, Wyoming, who deserves her own series. She begins by crashing her vehicle into a New Iberia police cruiser, insults the chief and generally acts more like the proverbial bull in the china shop than a heifer. Mixed in with the serious stuff are incidents like the 911 call from a meth addict who was outraged when his dealer showed up without the drugs the caller had paid for, thereby committing fraud, and according to the caller, added insult to injury by robbing him at gunpoint of seventy-eight dollars and his stash. It just doesn’t get any better. 07/06 Jack Quick

PELHAM FELL HERE by Ed Lynskey: Wow! If you are a Lee Child fan, then plan on grabbing this one to keep you going between Jack Reacher adventures. Frank Johnson has been around the block more than once. Like Reacher, Johnson is a former Military Policemen and now works as a PI and part-time gunsmith. When his cousin Cody Chapman is gunned down with a twelve-gauge shotgun, Johnson starts looking for answers. Before he gets them, two deputy sheriffs ambush and try to kill him. Two on one aren’t sufficient odds as he survives, but only by killing the deputies. Now he is both the hunted and the hunter. Thank goodness he survives, with a little help from his friends, because we want to see more of this guy. 06/08 Jack Quick

PELICAN POINT by Douglas Quinn: A worthy sequel to Quinn’s Blue Heron Marsh. All army veteran Webb Sawyer wants to do is relax in his North Carolina Outer Banks stilt house, fish, spend quality time with his cat Basil, and make the occasional casual foray with one of the local women.. It is not to be. When his college student son Preston makes the gruesome discovery of the body of the Director of Arts and Humanities with a letter opener stuck in the back of his head, Preston is tabbed as a primary suspect. Then Preston disappears leaving Webb and Preston’s girlfriend, Sunshine Bledsoe (got to love these character names), to discover what has happened to Preston and hopefully solve the professor’s murder that has set this chain of events in motion. Having lived in this part of the world for seven years, I can honestly say that Quinn gets the location right, and also tells a mean story well. Definitely recommended. (Author furnished book). 10/09 Jack Quick

THE PEOPLE COUNT by Robert M. Dias:The American dream is over, the political system is broken, corruption rules and the only hope to fix up this mess is a popular revolution by the people who have become victims of big money’s tyranny. This is the thesis of Dias’ book and he goes at it with all guns blazing. It is a novel rather than an essay, but since he does not try and flesh out the varied characters in the book it does come across as an extended essay. A lot of what Dias says is what many Americans feel is the truth. Congress is in constant stalemate, the Supreme court is not the objective body it was set up to be by our founding fathers, and big corporations run the country by payments to anyone that they feel can get things done for them. Dias lays the blame for most of the country’s ills squarely on the Republican party, but also takes shots at President Obama who, he indicates, began well but soon sold out to the Republican party and was neutered as a consequence. The book is not very well written with an overabundance of jumping around, poorly constructed scenarios and contrived conversations, but it is certainly entertaining and allows the reader to go along and agree heartily with what is said or vehemently oppose the ideas presented. Either way it does certainly openly criticize our less than effective government. While presenting a very unappetizing solution to the problem, possibly opening some much needed discussion about the problems and perhaps some answers. One of the areas he opens for discussion is the very real fact that the United States, if left unchecked, is drifting towards becoming a Banana Republic and thinking Americans must realize that such a situation taking place would most certainly negatively impact our quality of life. Read the book, not for great prose, but for some ideas that even if you don’t agree with will provoke and disturb. 6/12 Paul Lane

THE PEOPLE NEXT DOOR by Christopher Ransom: For Boulder couple Mick and Amy Nash, times are certainly tough. Money is tight and the current economy has not been kind to the family business. Their relationship is strained, their daughter, Briela, has been acting out, and their son, Kyle, is going through the usual teenage angst. When the new neighbors move in next door, things become even worse. To say the Renders are strange is an understatement. Vince Render rubs Mick the wrong way and both he and his wife, Cassandra, have a habit of turning up at the oddest moments. Vince tells Mick that he is there to help and that all the Nash’s worries will go away. But Mick and Amy will never guess just what the Renders have in store for them. What a fantastically chilling tale this was. Ransom has a talent not just for great writing but for great surprise twists that take the reader in unexpected and unpredictable directions. The People Next Door is now out in the UK. No US release date has been set, but it’s available through various special order means. 09/11 Becky Lejeune

THE PEOPLE WHO WALK IN DARKNESS by Stuart Kaminsky: Kaminsky continues his methodology of having the Moscow version of the 87th Precinct work on three cases simultaneously. This time, however, all three are interrelated, and Chief Insp. Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov only has nine days in which to solve them. He and Emil Karpo (The Vampire) are off to Siberia to investigate the death of a Canadian geologist who died in a Siberian diamond mine rumored to be haunted by ghosts. His son Josef and his partner Zelach are sent to look into the torture-murder of two black South Africans whose bodies were found seated in a cemetery and Sasha Tkach and Elena Timofeyeva are looking into the murder of a Moscow prostitute found dead in the most expensive private care on a train from Kiev to Moscow. The stakes are high – Rostnikov’s continued employment is at stake, and the time is short. One the best yet from an MWA Grand Master. 10/08 Jack Quick

PERFECT KILLER by Lewis Perdue: Project Enduring Valor has for seventy years sought the ultimate warrior drug – one that would turn ordinary soldiers into ruthless killers. Dr. Bradford Stone, “legendary Marine recon operative turned healer and scientist,” is contacted by a woman from his past with a baffling mystery. Why would a black civil rights attorney in Mississippi want to save a convicted white racist murderer on death row? What is the connection to Project Enduring Valor and who will be the next president of the United States? Add in a female sniper, a love interest, a massive conspiracy and the richness of the Mississippi Delta and you get a very exciting novel. 01/07 Jack Quick

PERFECT LITTLE LADIES by Abby Drake: It all begins with a pair of La Perla panties. Purple La Perla panties. And a ransom note for said pair of lacy undies. To the world, Elinor Young would seem to be the perfect Washington wife. But Elinor is hiding a secret behind her sweet suburban façade. Elinor’s been having an affair and is desperate to keep it a secret from her husband. Now she must appeal to her very best friends for help in retrieving the notorious underwear, tack down her blackmailer, and in keeping her trysts hidden from the rest of the world. As the five women band together in this light caper, they will each have to fess up to secrets of their own. Perfect Little Ladies is a quick and breezy read with more than a few laughs at the expense of the well-to-do upper crust of society. 09/09 Becky Lejeune

THE PERFECT LOVE SONG by Patti Callahan Henry: Jimmy Sullivan is in love. And it is this love that prompts him to write a song that many consider the perfect love song. The song is so perfect, in fact, that it gains enough attention to send Jimmy on a Christmas tour with one of country music’s most famous duos. Without his brother and the rest of his band by his side, Jimmy tells himself that the tour will be worth it all in the end. But as his vision of the song is twisted from one about undeserved love, inspired by Charlotte, the girl who captured his heart, into one that the tour manager, the magazines, and the music stations have turned into the perfect Christmas song, Jimmy starts to lose sight of everything that means the most to him. As his song inspires others throughout the holiday season, his brother and Charlotte start to wonder if they’ll lose him to the trappings of fame after all. A short and sweet holiday story that continues the one that started in When Light Breaks. 10/10 Becky Lejeune

Perfect Match by Jodi Piccoult: A legal thriller from a master storyteller. Nina Frost is a driven D.A. who specializes in convicting child molesters. Her world is turned upside down when her 5 year old son is sexually abused, the chief suspect a Priest. Nina knows all too well how the legal system fails children, so she takes the law into her own hands with devastating results. This is a very emotional, very intense story that is extremely well done.

PERFECT ON PAPER: The (Mis)adventures of Waverly Bryson, by Maria Murnane: It’s the day every woman remembers—her wedding day. For Waverly Bryson, it’s a day she’ll never forget. Before she can even walk down the aisle, her fiancée calls off the wedding, claiming that they weren’t meant to be. Waverly’s life goes in a downward spiral. In addition to the breakup, she has a horrible relationship with her father, and her job in sports PR isn’t quite as exciting as it should be. But one thing Waverly is able to retain is her sense of humor. When times are bad, she writes “honey” notes to herself, putting a humorous spin on that particular situation. Example: “Life has its ups and downs, right? Honey, if you’re talking about my weight and my bank account the unfortunate answer is yes, in that order. “Waverly’s “honey” turn out to be the key that opens to door to her success and happiness. PERFECT ON PAPER is a hilarious and addictive book. I guarantee you won’t be able to put it down. Waverly’s character leaves you laughing so hard you cry. Waverly, and her close network of friends, are unforgettable and easy to relate to. Each chapter begins with a “honey” note. I jotted several down myself. PERFECT ON PAPER is definitely a book I would recommend. 01/09 Jennifer Lawrence

PERFECT ON PAPER: THE (MIS)ADVENTURES OF WAVERLY BRYSON by Maria Murnane: Waverly Bryson finally had things in place: great career, great friends, and just two weeks away from walking down the aisle. But then her fiancé called the whole thing off. It’s now one year later, and Waverly is no closer to finding Mr. Right. As each new date turns into a total disaster, Waverly is also faced with the fact that her career isn’t what she’d hoped. Throughout it all, Waverly buoys her own spirits by creating “Honey” notes—funny little pieces of wisdom inspired by her daily life and experiences. But Waverly is not alone in her (mis)adventures and given the chance, she might be able to inspire others who share the same doubts and fears in life. Maria Murnane’s debut is a light and funny read about a twenty-something woman facing the same decisions and challenges as the rest of us. If you’ve ever felt like your life wasn’t going the way you’d planned, then you can’t help but connect with Waverly’s tale. 02/10 Becky Lejeune

THE PERFECT VICTIM by James McKimmey: Al Jackson was mostly talk but the townspeople of Willow Creek didn’t know that. So when the beloved town beauty ends up dead, murdered in her room above the Willow Creek coffee shop, and Al Jackson is the only stranger in town, its not hard to see why the folks of Willow Creek suspected Al, particularly since he had been coming on to her in the Coffee Shop. Published in 1957, this is a quick and easy read, about small town life and whether justice can be had. The clerk at the used bookstore said this one was “so old and so thin,” she would only charge me a quarter. Not bad for a Dell First Edition and paperback classic. 03/08 Jack Quick

PERMANENCE by Karl Schroeder: Schroeder’s Sun of Suns was on the less sciency side of SF, but Permanence is pretty much full-bore, spaceships-aliens-and-nanobots, convention-attending, total-nerd Science Fiction. And it is awesome. The setup here is that there is a big galactic civilization, with some planets orbiting actual stars and others farther out that orbit brown dwarfs—they give out enough heat to support life, but not enough to power the faster-than-light starships that connect the inner worlds. SO, there are these enormous ships called cyclers that travel (below light speed) between the outer worlds and pass on supplies and passengers, keeping the society connected and thriving. The only problem is that now the inner worlds have the fast ships, there are fewer and fewer cyclers, and the outer worlds are getting cut off. There’s a lot more to it, a whole political thing and a rebellion and so on, but that’s all mostly a MacGuffin—the main point of the story is more about the search for (and attempt to understand) other advanced alien civilizations, and whether any civilization can survive without annihilating itself or everyone else. I love books that have an interesting take on aliens (Vernor Vinge is another author who does this especially well) and I really recommend this book even though I suspect the hardcore SF aspect will put a lot of people off. Seriously, get over it and read this – it will make you think. 03/07 Jenne Bergstrom

PERSON OF INTEREST by Theresa Schwegel: Another gritty outing from Schwegel. Chicago PD detective Craig McHugh loses his objectivity in pursuing the source of a deadly batch of heroin. He goes undercover in an attempt to infiltrate the Fuxi Spiders Chinese gang. In the process he loses his partner, and is in jeopardy of losing his wife and daughter, his job and his life. Can he pull it all back together or will he be destined to go down the tubes? Not for the faint of heart with descriptions of the world of drugs and gangs and their effect on the rest of society. Above average. 09/08 Jack Quick

PERSONAL EFFECTS: DARK ART by J.C. Hutchins and Jordan Weisman: Zach Taylor, a young art therapist making a name for himself in his field, has been asked to take on the biggest case seen in the history of Brinkvale Psychiatric Hospital. Notorious serial killer Martin Grace is set to go on trial in just a short time, and it’s Zach’s job to determine whether the man is fit for the hearing. Grace has always claimed innocence, but there are two things that make his case stand out amongst the others: Grace suffers from psychosomatic blindness, and he claims that the person responsible for the killings is someone he refers to as “the Dark Man.” Zach soon finds himself confronting memories of his own mother’s death and questioning whether Grace may be linked to a dark and sinister force of a supernatural origin. This unique and innovative thriller takes the form of a patient file with props, or “personal effects,” websites, and even telephone numbers, that allow the reader to follow right along, and even interact, with Zach Taylor’s investigation. A very different delivery, a great concept, and a fun read besides. 06/09 Becky Lejeune

A PERSONAL HISTORY OF THIRST by John Burdett: No, this is not a treatise on alcoholism. The title is derived from the name of one of the key characters – Oliver Thirst, whose life and death shaped the lives of ambitious London lawyer James Knight, a defender turned prosecutor; Oliver Thirst, his former client; and Daisy Smith, a wayward American. Like Gaul, the book is divided into three parts. In the first part, Daisy is charged with Oliver’s murder. The second part is a flashback to the late 1970s, which establishes and develops the dark triangle. The third and most compelling and funny part of the novel returns to the present to cover Daisy’s trial, with all its manipulations and ramifications. Decidedly different and nicely done. This is the first of four books by Burdett, this one set in England, and three set in the Far East. 08/08 Jack Quick

Persuader by Lee Child: Newest installment in the Jack Reacher series. The book opens with ex-military police officer Reacher saving a young man from an apparent kidnapping. But the kidnapping attempt is a set up to get Reacher into the boy’s family home, where his father, Zachary Beck, a rug importer (and who knows what else he’s importing,) is under investigation by the FBI. A female agent is missing, there are steroid overloaded bodyguards hanging around the house, and Reacher finds out that an old enemy, Quinn, long thought dead, is alive and involved. Reacher wants Quinn, and agrees to help the FBI with their investigation. Intriguing characters, interesting setting and twisty story make this the best Reacher book yet. Don’t miss it.

PETTY MAGIC by Camille DeAngelis: The subtitle of this book “Being the Memoirs and Confessions of Miss Evelyn Harbinger, Temptress and Troublemaker” really sets the tone perfectly. Evelyn Harbinger, a 149-year-old witch (she prefers the term beldame) is still as feisty as ever, spending her Saturday nights dolling herself up—and making herself appear younger—hitting the bars and picking up men. Evelyn had one great love, Jonah, a man she met and worked alongside during WWII. Since then, her dalliances have been nothing more than fun ways to pass the time, never growing a more serious attachment than simple fondness. All that changes when Evelyn meets Justin, a man over a century her junior and more and more the spitting image of her lost Jonah. But Evelyn’s love life—past and present—and her antics are just part of the story. When Helena, one of Evelyn’s sisters, is accused of murdering her long-dead husband, the family must band together to prove her innocence, complicating matters in Evelyn’s life even further. Camille DeAngelis’s tale of love and magic is the perfect read in every way. Evelyn is truly one of the most enchanting characters I’ve encountered in a while and the flow of the story is such that it just begs to be read all at once. An amusing and fabulously rich tale of witches and true love. 10/10 Becky Lejeune

PHANTOM PREY by John Sandford: Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Lucas Davenport, in his 18th outing, gets into the local goth scene at the request of his wife. A wealthy young woman has been kidnapped and presumed murdered. Her mother is a friend of Weather Davenport, and seeks Lucas’ help through Weather, in trying to gain closure regarding her daughter’s disappearance. Then there is a second death. It becomes clear there is a serial killer targeting Goths and anyone else who becomes involved, including Lucas. Although not the best Davenport, this one will still keep you involved late into the night. 07/08 Jack Quic

PHILIPPINE FEVER by Bruce Cook: Homeland Security Agent Sam Haine is tracking a cargo container of Chinese AK-47s destined for terrorists in Texas when he finds the American buyer of the weapons dead behind a sex club in the red light district of Manila. In order to stop the shipment, Sam must first find the killer. Sam soon finds himself deep into an unsavory stew of CIA covert operations, corrupt politicians, Al Qaeda and the international trafficking of sex slaves. Fast paced and not for the faint of heart. 07/06 Jack Quick

THE PHILOSOPHER’S APPRENTICE by James Morrow: This is a tale in three parts, each being equally fascinating and equally mind-boggling. In part one, Mason Ambrose is hired to act as tutor and moral coach to Londa Sabacthani, a young girl living on a private island off of Florida. As it turns out, the girl is actually one of three clones created so that their “mother” can experience every stage of motherhood before she dies. Part two begins ten years after the end of part one. Ambrose and Londa have not spoken in ten years. Londa’s grown, completed her own college education, and has in fact created her own sort-of utopian village using Ambrose’s philosophy teachings to create a better world. Her plan backfires, however, when a group of crazy religious fundamentalists gets wind of some of her varied “works.” In part three, Londa has abandoned her more positive approach to bettering society – she’s also thrown aside Ambrose’s well-meaning warnings in regards to her more extreme plan to exact change on today’s morally ambiguous society. Humorous, tedious, and enlightening are all appropriate ways to describe this book. Morrow is wonderful in his wacky and illustrative prose, but he can also prompt some pretty heavy thoughts despite his mostly light tone. A thought provoking, if somewhat confusing read. 04/08 Becky Lejeune

A PICTURE OF GUILT by Libby Fischer Hellmann: it has been three years since Ellie’s last adventure. Her thirteen going on twenty-one daughter is still a challenge. This time it’s the out-takes from one of her videos that puts her squarely between the mob and the FBI during a highly publicized Chicago murder trial. Johnnie Santoro is found guilty of murdering his girlfriend, Mary Jo, in spite of Ellie’s video showing him elsewhere. Then Mary Jo’s best friend Rhonda tells Ellie she was with Mary Jo the night Mary Jo was killed and Johnny is innocent. That night Rhonda is killed in a one-car accident with no witnesses. Ellie decides to tell Johnny’s lawyer anyway, but the lawyer is killed in a botched robbery at his office. Then Ellie is locked into a video suite and the building set on fire. You’ll have to read the remaining two-thirds yourself. Recommended. 06/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

PICTURES OF YOU by Caroline Leavitt: Suspend your disbelief and sink into this compelling story of two doomed marriages. Isabelle finds out her husband is not only having an affair, but that his girlfriend is pregnant. Estranged from her mother because of her husband, she nonetheless flees the marriage, heading out of town. April seems to have it all; Charlie, a successful husband who dotes on her, and Sam, her eight year old son. Sam suffers from terrible asthma, and April hovers so much that the nurses in the hospital avoid her. But April also has a secret, and as she prepares to leave town, she finds Sam hidden in the back seat of the car. There is a terrible collision, leaving one woman dead and the other wounded. Charlie is confused, he can’t understand why April was hours from home with Sam. The lives of these well drawn out characters intertwine in pain and love, making for a very interesting dynamic, and leading us to a satisfying conclusion that still leaves the doors of hope open. Very well done. 04/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

PIG ISLAND by Mo Hayder: Journalist Joe Oakes has been recruited by the Psychogenic Healing Ministries to write a story about their community. After years of being labeled devil worshippers, the cult hopes that Oakes can paint a more socially acceptable light on the community. Oakes’s own motivation in agreeing to write the story stems from his past experience with the ministry. One of the many philosophies of the group is the belief that no medical intervention is necessary to heal. When Oakes’s aunt falls victim to Pastor Malachi Dove and his followers, Oakes exposes Dove for the fraud that he is. Now, years later, Oakes’s curiosity has gotten the best of him. Oakes suffers an unfortunate accident while on the island and is rushed to the mainland to recuperate. When he returns, he discovers that every last member of the ministry has been brutally murdered. Anyone who has not read Mo Hayder has been missing out, her shocking and brutal thrillers are maddeningly intense. Pig Island is somewhat reminiscent of Wicker Man but is much more satisfying, even if it is a bit predictable towards the end. 02/07 Becky Lejeune

PINES by Blake Crouch: Ethan Burke is on his way to the small town of Wayward Pines to find two fellow Federal agents who have gone missing. He has a bad car accident on the edge of town, waking up in the hospital and not at all sure of what is going on. The psychiatrist on staff tells him that he has suffered a brain injury and warns him not to leave, but he takes off anyway. The town sheriff is less than helpful, and, with no ID or money, Burke can’t reach his superior or his wife, and he starts fearing for his sanity (reminiscent of Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island.) Matters turn ominous when Burke finds the ravaged body of one of the missing agents and realizes he needs to run for his life. Clearly, despite the idyllic beauty of Wayward Pines, something is seriously out of kilter: a helpful bartender disappears, picnicking mothers turn homicidal, and seemingly innocent children display maniacal tendencies. The suspense builds to an almost unbearable point, culminating with a twist that ratchets it up even further. Fans of Stephen King, Peter Straub and F. Paul Wilson will appreciate this genre-bending, completely riveting thrill ride, which mixes suspense, horror, science fiction and dystopian nightmare all rolled up into one unputdownable book. 8/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2012 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.

THE PINES by Robert Dunbar: This cult classic, originally published in a somewhat edited version in 1989, is now back in print, and in full. Pine Barrens, New Jersey is the home of the famous legend of the Jersey Devil. Robert Dunbar, an expert on this American folk tale, weaves an original narrative around this classic New Jersey horror story. Legend has it that in 1735 a woman called Mother Leeds cursed her thirteenth child and swore that his father was the devil. Upon its birth, the child appeared normal but quickly transformed into a terrifying beast. Now, Pine Barrens and the surrounding area are beginning to see an increase in unexplained disappearances and deaths. Athena is not from Pine Barrens. She only moved there after being swept off her feet by Wallace Monroe. After their marriage, he brought her back to the home he grew up in, but died shortly thereafter. Left alone in the dilapidated old farmhouse, Athena does her best to provide for herself and her son. The locals don’t like her and the only help she gets is from her sister-in-law, a woman who could never have kids of her own and now dotes on Athena’s. Athena knows there is something wrong with her son, that he’s not like other children, that the “Piney” blood that runs through him is at least partially responsible. It becomes clear pretty soon, however, that Matthew himself has some strange connection to the recent occurrences in Pine Barrens. A thoroughly satisfying horror read! Dunbar is reported to be working on a sequel to The Pines to be published in 2009. 10/08 Becky Lejeune

PIPSQUEAK by Brian Wiprud: New York taxidermy collector Garth Carson makes his living by restoring stuffed animals and then renting them out for photo shoots and the like. His girl friend Angie is a professional jeweler who does piece work at home for various manufacturers, gem setters and art jewelers, involving cutting tools, torches and exotic metals. Is it any wonder that this seemingly ordinary American couple is threatened by becoming involved in the recovery of one Pipsqueak the Nutty Nut squirrel, star of an old kiddies’ cartoon show, which also featured General Buster, Howlie the Wolf, Possum his sidekick, Magic File Drawers and the Milkshake Saloon. If you don’t laugh somewhere during this one, have the relatives call Carson to come pick you up. It’s time to get you stuffed and placed on a shelf along with Howlie, Possum and the infamous Pipsqueak. 06/07 Jack Quick

THE PIRATE’S DAUGHTER by Margaret Cezair-Thompson: It’s 1946 and Errol Flynn has just arrived in Jamaica. Ida Joseph’s father, Levi, is the only taxi driver and justice of the peace in Port Antonio. Both positions lead Flynn directly to him. The two become fast friends and Levi even begins a property search for Flynn after he decides to stay in Jamaica. Thirteen-year-old Ida quickly becomes enamored with the star and finds herself, just three years later, carrying his child. Her infatuation with Flynn never truly dies, and up until his death, she still believed that she could save him from himself. Despite years of hardship that follow the birth of Ida’s daughter, May, fortune finally smiles on them. Baron Karl von Ausberg marries Ida and buys Flynn’s estate on Navy Island. Meanwhile, the political and cultural atmosphere of Jamaica has begun a tumultuous period of change. May leaves the country to attend college, but is drawn back to the island. Neither Ida nor May truly fits into this new Jamaica, the land they still call home, and they are in danger of losing Navy Island as well. Both Ida and May must confront the ultimate questions: who am I and where do I belong? This gorgeous and phenomenal book has been earning well-deserved praise of late. It is a tale of amorous love and belonging, of family drama, political unrest, and cultural discordance as a result of colonialism. The Pirate’s Daughter is an amazing book. 10/07 Becky Lejeune

PLAY DEAD by Ryan Brown: By now everyone knows just how big Texas is on football. Debut author Ryan Brown takes it to a whole new level by adding zombies to the mix. When the Killington Jackrabbits make it to the final game before the playoffs, it looks like the historically losing team finally has a shot at going all the way. Their rivals, the Elmwood Elks are none too pleased. In fact, the Elmwood players are willing to do just about anything to make sure that the Jackrabbits don’t get that far. When threatening and maiming the star quarterback doesn’t work, the Elks decide to play a prank that has devastating results. Little do they know, Black Mona, Killington’s resident “witch” is a huge Jackrabbits fan and she’s got a few tricks up her sleeve. Excellent. Brown’s football playing zombies are definitely a win in my book. Great atmosphere, dark humor, and zombies in Texas, it just doesn’t get any better. 05/10 Becky Lejeune

PLAY DEAD by David Rosenfelt: This is the latest in one of my favorite series, and it’s fabulous. All you need to know of the plot is that our hero, Andy Carpenter, millionaire lawyer who picks and chooses his cases based solely on whether or not he cares enough to do the work, takes on a new client who faces execution. This death row inmate, however, is a golden retriever accused of biting, and the law says biters get put down. The last minute stay of execution opens another can of worms, as Andy realizes that this golden is also the only witness to a five year old murder. As implausible a plot as this may sound, due to Rosenfelt’s writing skill it works on every level. You don’t have to be a dog lover to enjoy this romp, but I bet you will be one by the time you’re done. Don’t miss this laugh out loud funny, twisty mystery. 06/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

PLAY DEAD by David Rosenfelt: Probably every shaggy dog joke ever created will work its way into one or more reviews of this, Rosenfelt’s sixth legal thriller featuring independently wealthy Paterson, N.J., lawyer Andy Carpenter. In this outing Carpenter takes on a death row case involving a defendant accused of attacking his owner. Owner? Yogi, a golden retriever, is freed from the animal shelter and joins longtime pet Tara in the Carpenter home. The real action begins when an ordinary street walk turns into a reunion of sorts when Karen Evans recognizes Yogi, AKA Reggie, presumed dead five years earlier after the conviction of Karen’s brother, U.S. Customs Inspector Richard Evans, for the murder of his fiancée, Stacy Harriman. Carpenter realizes this is a case he can really sink his teeth into (sorry I had to) and sets out to free Richard Evans to reunite him with Reggie, ah Yogi. Anyway its up to the high standards set by Rosenfelt in previous outings. 06/07 Jack Quick

PLAY DIRTY by Sandra Brown: Griff Burkett is probably the most hated man in Dallas. They take their football seriously there, and the Cowboys star quarterback got caught throwing a game. He did time in prison and when he gets out, he finds himself ostracized at every turn, not to mention the target of the cop who busted him. Rodale is convinced he got away with murder, and is terrorizing Burkett and everyone who is involved with him. Unable to get any sort of job, he’s desperate enough to take the one thing he is offered. Foster Speakman is the CEO of a Southwest Airlines clone, a paraplegic married to a much younger woman. Speakman offers Burkett a job, of sorts: he wants Burkett to father a child for him, the “natural way.” Mrs. Speakman is amenable, but then things really heat up. This is romantic suspense at its best; by turns sexy and scary but always thrilling. 08/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

PLAYING FOR PIZZA by John Grisham: Throw away any preconceived notions you have of Grisham and his books. Forget that he’s written some really excellent legal thrillers. Forget that he’s written some really mediocre legal thrillers. Forget the southern fiction and the true crime. Instead, pretend he’s a new author, first time out of the gate. Would this book land on the NY Times bestseller list in the number one spot two weeks after publication? Not in this lifetime. Is it worthy of a spot on the list? Probably not. Bottom line: is it a good book, and worth the time it takes to read it? Definitely; for one thing, it’s a small book (only 272 pages). And if you love football, and love Italy and all things Italian, especially the food, then it’s a great read. I loved it.
A friend who started reading it before I did said it reminded her of Heat, the Bill Buford book about Babbo, Mario Batalli’s restaurant, and having read it, I can see the correlation. There are a couple of chapters devoted entirely to food. Another to the churches in Italy. But most to the game of football, American football, that is played in Italy. Who knew.
The plot is a simple one; Rick Dockery is the third string quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. Third string quarterbacks aren’t supposed to play, they rarely see field time except in extreme circumstances, and there’s a reason for that. Without giving away the entire first chapter, let’s just say Dockery becomes the most hated man in Cleveland and needs a new job, preferably out of town, and fast. His better-than-you-might-expect agent comes up with nothing but a few lies and a ticket to Parma, Italy, home of the world’s best prosciutto di parma, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and the Parma Panthers, not the world’s best American-style football team. Italy’s rules allow three Americans per team, and Dockery runs off to join the Panthers as their starting, star quarterback, dreaming of beautiful Italian cheerleaders and not much else. While in Italy, Dockery eats really well and learns the meaning of home, friendship and loyalty during the short season. Football and Italy make for a magical, in the Disney sort of way, combination that worked really well for me. 11/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

PLEA OF INSANITY by Jillian Hoffman: Julia Vacanti is a prosecutor in Miami who’s fairly new to the job. She has a one night stand with the star prosecutor in the office, and the next thing she knows he’s insisting she second chair on a media-hot murder case. Dr. David Marquette is a successful surgeon who is accused of murdering his wife and three young children who is pleading insanity, claiming that he’s schizophrenic. Is he a psychopath just trying to fool the court-appointed psychiatrists or is he really insane? Julia has a little personal experience with that question; her brother murdered her parents, leading to all sorts of complications with this case. A very gripping read despite some holes in the story, and probably Hoffman’s best book since her debut novel, Retribution. 06/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

PLUM LOVIN’ by Janet Evanovich: In my grocery store they have something called “two bite brownies”. As Stephanie’s companion Lula would say, “You need a whole case of them little things to know you’ve had any.” Like Christmas 2002’s Visions of Sugar Plums, this is a “between-the-numbers” 2007 Valentine’s Day Stephanie Plum book that is too long to be a short story, but at 164 pages doesn’t offer the satisfaction of say, a dozen fresh Krispy Kremes or a large order of chili cheese fries. Not content with just two men in her life (Morelli and Ranger) Stephanie hooks up with Diesel to pursue an FTA (Failure To Appear). As the name implies, Diesel is kind of the “whitebread” Ranger with maybe a bit more muscularity. It’s the usual cast of characters and enjoyable if you’re already a fan and if you can get it free from the library like I did. If not, Stephanie playing Cupid for a shy butcher, a desperate vet, an overworked single mom, a 30-something virgin and the marriage-phobic fellow who just happens to be Stephanie’s pregnant sister’s boyfriend is probably not your cup of tea. 03/07 Jack Quick

PLUM LUCKY by Janet Evanovich: I love the Stephanie Plum books, but these “between the numbers” books haven’t thrilled me as much, although this is probably the best of the three so far (Visions of Sugar Plums; Plum Lovin’.) It’s rather like eating the crumbs of Stephanie’s favorite Tastee Cakes, but us diehard fans will take what we can get until Fearless Fourteen comes out in June. So far, these books have been centered around holidays: Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and now St. Patrick’s Day. Grandma Mazur takes off with a duffel bag that she found on the street. It’s full of money, and she’s convinced she’s found the leprechaun’s pot of gold and it’s hers to keep. But the “leprechaun” wants his money back, and so do the gangsters he stole it from. Grandma takes off for Atlantic City, so Stephanie, Lula and Connie take off after her. Diesel shows up too; he’s looking for the leprechaun. The scene with Lula causing a ‘distraction’ in the casino was priceless, as anyone who’s familiar with that character can imagine. At well under 200 pages, it’s a very quick, very enjoyable read that will leave fans hungry for more. 01/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

PLUM LUCKY by Janet Evanovich: Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum’s objective in this one is her own Grandma Mazur who has found a duffle full of money on the street and taken off for Atlantic City. Unfortunately, the money was money was stolen from a notorious Trenton mobster. Stephanie and friend Lulu hot-foot it to Atlantic City to find Grandma and recover the money before Grandma is caught. Diesel returns and there is a new whack job – Snuggy, an ex-jockey who originally stole the money and is convinced he’s a leprechaun. Of course, it is all absurd and full of funny lines and hilarious situations, but isn’t that why you read Evanovich anyway. 03/08 Jack Quick

PLUM SPOOKY by Janet Evanovich: The further adventures of Stephanie Plum, via a “between-the-numbers” book. At least this one if almost full size, previous “between-the-numbers” books have been quite petite. Diesel is again the featured hunk, with brief appearances by on-again, off-again fiancé Joe Morelli and the hot, non-committing Ranger. This time out Stephanie is looking for Munch, a brilliant scientist who has hooked up with Diesel’s evil cousin, the other-worldly Wulf. Meanwhile a previous skip has dumped her pet monkey on Stephanie, with a note to babysit until she gets back from her honeymoon. Several visits to New Jersey’s infamous Pine Barrens (if you’re a Sopranos fan, you’ll know it well,) a free spirit who is hell-bent on saving trees and lab monkeys, and a plot to control the world’s weather makes this story even more far-fetched than usual, but with all those monkeys, you can be sure the laughs abound. Not the best Plum by any means, but enjoyable enough to get me through to June and the next book. 02/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

PLUM SPOOKY by Janet Evanovich: By now I think everyone knows the drill. Improbable bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, the pride of Trenton, New Jersey, muddles around and gets into troubles from which boyfriends Joe Morelli and Ranger have to extricate her. Throw Diesel in the mix this time, add a generous serving of monkeys, weird FTA’s (Failure to Appear, i.e. fugitives), Morelli’s brother Anthony, and things that go bump in the dark and you have a Plum that is Plum Spooky. It is lightweight, it has little plot, but it does have some laugh out loud moments and snappy dialogue such as: “Carl (the monkey) is eating Fruit loops, so that leaves leftovers from last night, peanut butter, hamster crunchies, and half a jar of salsa. Looks like you ate all the chips.” On the same page, describing her infamous partner Lula – She didn’t have any makeup on, and her hair was somewhere between rat’s nest and exploded canary. Lula has her own take on things as well, “I got a high skill level. I just shot a rat off a rafter.” “You weren’t aiming for it.” “Yeah, my skill level is so high I do things I don’t even try to do.” Read it for laughs. 04/09 Jack Quick

POE’S CHILDREN edited by Peter Straub: Horror readers should definitely not miss this extraordinary collection. Straub has put together some of the best in the genre. The collection features a selection of original and award-winning tales from some of horror’s brightest and most famous, including Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, and Straub himself. The collection also features some authors readers may be unfamiliar with, or may even consider outside of the genre, such as sci-fi and fantasy authors Neil Gaiman and M. John Harrison, relative newcomer (and son of Stephen King) Joe Hill, and short fiction author Benjamin Percy. Stories range from the super creepy like Dan Choan’s “The Bees” and the strange, M. John Harrison’s “The Great God Pan,” to the somewhat sweet “20th Century Ghosts” by Joe Hill (one of my favorites). Just in time for Halloween reading. 10/08 Becky Lejeune

POISON FLOWER by Thomas Perry: In this seventh novel in Thomas Perry’s celebrated Jane Whitefield series, Jane spirits James Shelby, a man unjustly convicted of his wife’s murder, out of the heavily guarded criminal court building in downtown Los Angeles. Within minutes, men posing as police officers kidnap Jane and, when she tries to escape, shoot her. Jane’s captors are employees of the man who really killed Shelby’s wife. Jane manages to escape but she is alone, wounded, thousands of miles from home with no money and no identification, hunted by the police as well as her captors. She must rejoin Shelby, reach his sister before the hunters do, and get them both to safety. In this unrelenting, breathtaking cross-country battle, Jane survives by relying on the traditions of her Seneca ancestors. When at last Jane turns to fight, her enemies face a cunning and ferocious warrior who has one weapon that they don’t. 6/12 Jack Quick

POISON PEN by Sheila Lowe: One of the advantages of being a reviewer is that you often find books that you would not otherwise have tried. This was one of those books for me, as my interest in handwriting analysis is negligible. Lindsey Alexander, a top Hollywood publicist, has apparently committed suicide. Claudia Rose, a forensic handwriting expert and acquaintance of Alexander’s, is hired by the publicist’s business manager to analyze the alleged suicide note. Soon Rose is in the middle of some sordid business dealings involving, among others, a United States senator and a prominent Beverly Hill plastic surgeon. Rose also has to deal with Detective Joel Jovanic, whose level of skepticism about handwriting analysis is even greater than mine. A well-written fiction debut evocative of Marcia Muller’s early works. The story wandered a bit for my tastes but Lowe does an excellent job of pulling all the disparate threads together for a satisfying ending. Recommended. 03/07 Jack Quick

POISON PEN by Sheila Lowe: Claudia Rose is one of the foremost experts in the field of graphology, or handwriting analysis. When a college “friend,” PR guru and overall nasty person, Lindsey Alexander, commits suicide, Lindsey’s business partner asks that Claudia analyze the suicide note. Claudia agrees with some reluctance as the man’s reasoning that Lindsey couldn’t have committed suicide hinge directly on the fact that the note was printed and she only wrote in script, and that the ink used was black rather than her signature green. Of course, he also reveals that if the death is ruled a suicide, the insurance won’t pay out and he can’t keep the business afloat without it. In searching for usable comparison handwriting, Claudia comes across one of Lindsey’s darkest secrets about her past. Then, Lindsey’s partner is murdered just moments before Claudia arrives to meet with him and Claudia has to admit that the evidence strongly suggests that Lindsey’s death was something much more sinister than the suspected suicide by overdose. Sheila Lowe herself is an expert in the field of handwriting analysis and the use of this rather interesting field as a background for the series is quite refreshing. Lowe develops her tale with an ease that is quite uncommon in many debuts. Poison Pen is a must-read for forensic mystery fans looking for something a little different. 10/08 Becky Lejeune

THE POISON THRONE by Celine Kiernan: The Moorehawkes are finally returning home, but the homecoming is bittersweet. In the five years since the king sent his Protector Lord to the north, things have fallen apart in the kingdom. The royal prince is missing and the king’s illegitimate son is being groomed to take the throne. The people of the kingdom are growing weary of events and beginning to make their discontent known with growing severity. As the kingdom splits into two factions—those who support the king and those who support the banished prince—Wynter and her father find themselves in a precarious position. The Royal Protector’s health has suffered greatly in the past five years and Wynter is in the dark about the cause of much of the trouble. Though things have changed greatly, Wynter’s loyalty to her loved ones remains the same and it is this that drives her to find a solution to the troubles that surround her. But can one girl reunite the king’s family and prevent the bloodshed that is sure to come? The Poison Throne is the first in a projected trilogy from Kiernan and is her US debut; an excellent introduction to a fine storyteller and I can’t wait to read more. High fantasy at its very best. 04/10 Becky Lejeune

THE POISON TREE by Erin Kelly: When Karen Clarke meets Biba Capel and her brother Rex, she finds herself completely entranced. Everything about their lives is so different from Karen’s own: from their carefree attitudes to their open lifestyle, she wants to be part of it all. But being a part of the Capel’s world also means leaving her own behind. As their summer together continues, Karen learns of the Capels’ secrets and finds that there are deep issues hidden beneath their laissez faire façade. Ten years later, Karen and her daughter, Alice, welcome Rex back into their lives. He’s served his sentence, but the tragedy that ripped their world apart a decade ago is far from forgotten. Erin Kelly’s debut is a tightly-plotted and well-executed tale of psychological suspense, a puzzle reminiscent of Ruth Rendell’s and Minette Walters’s best works. 1/11 Becky Lejeune

THE POLISH OFFICER by Alan Furst: Furst is as good as it gets when chronically the late 1930’s and early stages of World War II. Through his words you feel you are actually part of the fear and uncertainty of the era when death is potentially around every corner. This outing features Polish Army Captain Alexander de Milja who embarks on a harrowing rail journey to smuggle the Polish gold reserves out of the country at the start of the war and ends up as an operative of the Polish underground working against both the Nazis and the Soviets. From Poland to France to the Ukraine, de Milja takes whatever is dished out and squeals his way through situations of great personal danger. An excellent read. 10/08 Jack Quick

POLITICAL SUICIDE by Michael Palmer: A senator has been murdered and Dr. Lou Welcome’s friend Gary McHugh stands accused. Gary insists he’s not the killer but claims that he can’t remember anything that happened that evening. He’s struggled with alcoholism and admits that he’d been drinking heavily after his mistress—the senator’s wife—tried to break things off. Lou knows it looks bad for Gary, but believes him anyway. With Gary locked up and the police certain they have their man, Lou becomes determined to prove Gary’s innocence. Lou quickly discovers there was someone else with a motive to kill the senator, but when he brings his suspicions to the police they are seemingly unwilling to listen. Lou’s investigation does raise the interest of someone else, though, and he soon finds himself a target. Palmer combines politics and medical aspects in his latest to create a smart and intense page-turner. While this is the second book to feature Lou Welcome (after Oath of Office) it does stand completely on its own. 12/12 Becky Lejeune

POLITICAL SUICIDE by Michael Palmer: This is the second Dr. Lou Welcome but can be read as a stand alone. Dr. Welcome works for a group that treats other physicians for problems generally stemming from drinking or drug abuse. He is called by a friend of his and ex patient Dr. Gary McHugh for help. Dr. Mchugh had been involved in an affair with Congressman Eliot Colston’s wife and is caught drunk after a car wreck. He was seen leaving Colston’s house when Colston was shot to death in his garage. Mchugh insists that he was at the house only to visit his lover and get the news that she wanted to terminate the affair. Circumstances look bad for him: he is arrested and charged with murder and incarcerated pending trial. Dr. Welcome agrees to look into the crime as a favor to his friend and ex-patient. A completely different scenario than a love crime emerges, enveloping an official of the US government and an elite unit of the US Marines. Palmer has created a scientific possibility that could become real for both military and civilian personnel. In investigating the situation Welcome becomes involved with Sarah Cooper, Dr. McHugh’s attorney, a woman whose husband died as a result of a medical error and consequentially hates all doctors. The relationship between Sarah and Welcome is an important part of the book and to be continued. Michael Palmer has always drawn in his readers to his medically oriented novels and kept them glued to his books. It is almost a certainty that Lou Welcome will figure in future novels and I do look forward to reading them. 1/13 Paul Lane

PONTOON by Garrison Keillor: Occasionally you need a change of pace and no one steps outside the bounds of conventional writing nearly so well as Keillor whose stream of consciousness manner of presentation takes you completely away from the real-world and deeply into the trials and travails of his hometown, the fictional Lake Webegone, Minnesota. Ostensibly the story covers a week in the life of this imaginary town, which begins with Evelyn Peterson, a spry 82 year old dying in her sleep, except she has insomnia so technically that’s probably not correct. Daughter Barbara, who starts each day with a shot of Kailua in order to face her job at the elementary school lunchroom, discovers her body. Evelyn wants to be cremated and have her ashes encased in an emerald colored bowling bowl to be dropped into the Lake. The title comes from the pontoon boat that is to be used by Debbie Detmer, who made her fortune as an animal aroma therapist for the rich and famous, to hold a grand commitment ceremony to celebrate her relationship with a private jet time-share salesman. There’s obviously lots more, but I am already falling into Keillor’s meandering style so let me leave it with this – highly recommended if you need a good belly laugh. 10/08 Jack Quick

POP by Aury Wallington: I don’t read tons of Young Adult fiction but probably more than a lot of adults do. I find it a good way to keep up with teenage trends and since I have one (a 14 year old,) it’s important to me. This book has generated a lot of buzz because it deals with a teenage girl’s desire to lose her virginity, and graphically explains various sex acts, but the real cause celebre was Border’s decision not to carry the book in any of their stores. It is available from their chief competitor, Barnes & Noble, and most other bookstores, both bricks and mortar and online. But more importantly, it’s worth reading.
Marit is a high school senior and feels like the last virgin left on the planet. After a close encounter with a boyfriend with huge nostrils, her two best friends, Caroline and Jamie, point out that she tends to freak out and dump every boy who even gets close to having sex with her. Totally depressed about her apparent aversion to sex, she confides in her older sister Hilly, who advises her to find a “friend with benefits”. Hilly suggests Jamie, since he, too, is a virgin and cute and they are already friends. Marit decides that is the perfect solution so she approaches Jamie, who eventually agrees. But as everyone knows, sex between friends isn’t as simple and carefree as Marit thinks it will be, leaving her to deal with nasty gossip, friendships, a new boyfriend, and the newness and uncertainty of sex – the entire gamut of high school culture. The characters are believable, the plot moves along briskly, and the angst is balanced with humor. This book will appeal to a lot of teenage girls who are worrying about sex, and perhaps reassure them that their fears are normal, maybe even more importantly, so are their urges. 11/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

POP TART by Kira Coplin and Julianne Kaye: Like many young adults, Jackie O’Reilly is not really sure what she wants to do with her life. After dropping out of college and dabbling here and there, she decides that she would like to be a makeup artist in her native Los Angeles. She gets her big break when she’s sent out to do a video shoot for up-and-coming pop star Brooke Parker (think Miley and Britney all rolled up in one). The two hit it off, in a way, and Brooke soon becomes dependent on Jackie for friendship and support in her new role as teen pop diva sex symbol. Through their friendship, Jackie gets a glimpse of just how crazy, and wicked, the entertainment industry can be. This biting debut might just do for Hollywood what The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada did for Manhattan society and the fashion magazine world. 07/09 Becky Lejeune
Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross: Fascinating dive deep into the middle ages. This is the story of the legend of Pope Joan, a woman who disguised herself as a man to rise through the ranks of the Catholic Church, eventually taking the Papal throne for two years. Well written, well researched and well worth it.

POPPET by Mo Hayder: This latest installment in Mo Hayder’s Jack Caffery series finds the detective facing two cases. The first is that of Misty Kitson, a model who went missing from rehab in Skin. Caffery knows the truth about Misty and believes it’s time to bring the case to a close but can’t do so without the cooperation of another officer. Meanwhile, patients are dying at the Beechway psychiatric hospital. The wards at Beechway are plagued by chilling rumors of a creature called the Maude, and recent events at the hospital have caused a resurgence in supposed sightings. With every new mishap blamed on this mythical monster, the unexpected death of a patient only adds fuel to the fire. AJ LeGrande is convinced there may be some truth behind the stories. In fact, he suspects it could be linked to a recently released patient who’s now gone missing. If AJ is right, it’s possible blame could be set on the Beechway staff. He approaches Caffery in hopes the detective can begin an inquiry while keeping things under wraps. Believe it or not, Poppet does work quite well as a stand alone. I don’t recommend it as such by any means. Hayder is a one of my favorite authors. Readers diving in with Poppet will miss the evolution of Caffery and Flea as well as the brilliant plot that’s been building throughout the series. 5/13 Becky Lejeune

PORTRAIT OF A SPY by Daniel Silva: Gabriel Allon is retired and trying to enjoy life in England with wife Chiara when a suicide bomber pulls him back into the shadow world where one misstep can mean the difference between life and death. At the center of the new world wide terrorism threat is an American-born cleric in Yemen to whom Allah has granted “a beautiful and seductive tongue.” A gifted deceiver, who was once a paid CIA asset, the mastermind is plotting a new wave of attacks. Gabriel and his team devise a daring plan to destroy the network of death from the inside, a gambit fraught with risk, both personal and professional. To succeed, Gabriel must reach into his violent past for a woman with whom he shares a unique connection. It was Gabriel who killed her father who was financing terrorist activities. Suspenseful and twisty, no one captures the essence of the Middle East conflict like Silva. 10/11 Jack Quick

POSED FOR MURDER by Meredith Cole: Lydia McKenzie is a photographer on her way to the top, hopefully anyway. Her set of prints based on cold cases from an old book that she once read has finally landed her a showing in NYC, but opening night ends in disaster when the police arrive and notify her that one of her models has been murdered. Worse yet, the model was found in the exact position portrayed in one of Lydia’s photos. Lydia fears that the killer may be after more of her models and begins investigating on her own, in hopes of saving her friends. Of course, if the killer has targeted her models, it could be that he’s targeted her as well. Cole’s debut was winner of St. Martin’s Malice Domestic Award for Best First Traditional Mystery Novel in 2007. Though the concept seems a bit reminiscent of John Carpenter’s film, The Eyes of Laura Mars, the story is actually quite different. Posed is a quick read that toes the cozy line. I look forward to seeing what else Cole has up her sleeve after this one. 02/09 Becky Lejeune

THE POSTCARD KILLERS by James Patterson & Liza Marklund: A psychopathic couple is seducing and murdering young couples in Europe. One of the victims is Kimmy, daughter of NYPD detective Jacob Kanon. After Kimmy and her boyfriend were murdered while on vacation in Rome, young couples in Paris, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, and Stockholm have been found dead. Little connects the murders, other than a postcard to the local newspaper that precedes each new victim. Now Kanon, mentally and physically a wreck from the loss of his daughter, but still the most knowledgeable person about the psycho-couple, teams up with Swedish newspaper reporter, Dessie Larsson, who has just received a postcard in Stockholm–and they think they know where the next victims will be. Much better than other recent Patterson outings. 02/11 Jack Quick

THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE by James M.Cain: Number One in an awesome anthology entitled CRIME NOVELS: American Noir of the 1930’s and 40’s. James M. Cain’s first novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice, published in 1934, is considered to be the noir novel that paved the way for all the noir fiction that followed. A drifter named Frank Chambers is dropped off at a rural diner where he meets and is attracted to Cora, the sexy young wife of the owner Nick. Cora sees Chambers as the way to a better life and, after beginning their clandestine affair, plots with him to kill Nick. Written in the spare style now used so effectively by Ken Bruen, there seems to be no socially redeeming values in any of the main characters. In the true spirit of noir, there are no winners, only losers. Violent, ugly, and mesmerizing. According to liner notes, this book “inspired no less than three great movies: Luchino Visconti’s classic Obsessions, in 1942; the 1946 remake, starring John Garfield and Lana Turner and directed by the extraordinary Tay Garnett; and Bob Rafelson’s underrated 1981 version with Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange. When you read the magnificent source for these movies, you’ll be astonished at how three different incarnations could all, in their own ways, be faithful to the novel.” 07/07 Jack Quick

THE POSTMISTRESS by Sarah Blake: A lot of the publicity surrounding this book invite comparisons to The Help by Katherine Stockett, and at first glance I wasn’t sure why. The Help is a debut novel set in the 1960’s south during a time of civil unrest and explores themes of class and racial division. The Postmistress moves between a small town in Massachusetts and Europe in 1940 at the beginning of World War II and explores themes of war and family. But after reading The Postmistress, I can tell you that both books will hold similar appeal for readers. Both deal with women’s lives and their roles in society, both the strong and the oppressed, each in a unique and fascinating way. While the Publishers’ Weekly review refers to The Postmistress as a debut, it is not; Blake also wrote Grange House, published in 2001 to fair reviews. It seems her writing has improved since then; Blake has garnered multiple starred reviews for her latest effort, and if I did that sort of thing here, I would star it as well.
The titular postmistress is actually Iris James, the single, 40 year old, new postmaster of the Franklin post office. Franklin is a small town on Cape Cod where everyone knows everyone else. The other newcomer to town is Emma Fitch, the young doctor’s new wife. When Dr. Fitch loses a patient, he decides he can do more good in London and off he goes, leaving his pregnant wife behind to frequent the post office in search of mail. Everyone in town listens to Edward R. Murrow and the first woman reporter in England during the Blitz, Frankie Bard, on the radio. When Frankie’s roommate Harriet, a young reporter, is killed, Frankie takes up her investigation into what is happening to the Jews of Europe. Murrow arranges for her to take the train to France, and then to Germany, interviewing refugees along the way and recording their stories. Blake skillfully weaves these stories and characters together into a mesmerizing tale of the tragedies of war and how people deal with it. The Postmistress is intelligent, deeply perceptive and utterly absorbing, and undoubtedly one of the best books of the year. Book groups will devour it. 03/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
POUND FOR POUND by F.X. Toole: This is simply the best fight book I have read since Fat City. Mr. Toole gets it exactly right. It is a tough, hard life. But that does not mean that the participants in the life are less than human. Their pain and humanity come shining through in his language.
The book’s central character is a young fighter from Texas named Chicky Garza. He leaves his drunk, addicted grandfather who fought under the name El Lobo, to seek the big time in L.A. L.A. is not a city that is kind to the innocent. Fortunately, in the nick of time, Chicky falls under the tutelage of a gruff Irish trainer Dan Cooley, who has lost everything in life that had any meaning for him. The story of their struggles separately and together makes for a powerful read.
This novel was published posthumorously after the success of the Clint Eastwood movie, Million Dollar Baby, which was based on Mr. Toole’s short story of the same name. 11/06 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

THE POWER OF THE DOG by Don Winslow: If you have not yet discovered Don Winslow, get thee to the nearest library now. It’s really simple: 1. Art Keller is a brilliant DEA agent who sometimes breaks the rules to serve justice. 2. Adan Barrera is an urbane drug dealer whose charm masks his brutality. 3. Nora Hayden is a high-class call girl whose heart is in the right place, and 4. Sean Callan is a taciturn mob hit man, a stone-cold killer who just wants out of the life. Winslow follows these four characters as they cross paths over three decades in the international drug trade, from Keller’s first encounter with Barrera in 1970s Mexico, through the drug cartels’ corruption of government officials in the U.S. and Mexico governments, to a final showdown on the U.S. border in 1999. Its complex, gritty, detailed, everything you could ask for in a thriller. Winslow’s depth of research and unflagging attention to detail bring the story alive. The only thing I can compare it is the early work of Harold Robbins, i.e. The Carpetbagger. Winslow is a winner. 07/10 Jack Quick

THE POWER OF THREE by Laura Lippman: In this departure from her Tess Monagham series, Lippman tells the story of a school shooting that affects three girls found in a bathroom. One is dead, one critically injured, and one minimally wounded and uncooperative with police. The homicide sergeant investigating the case seems more like a social scientist that an investigator and the narrative quickly becomes “CSI: Baltimore: Acceptable but somewhat disappointing. 09/06 Jack Quick

POWER PLAY by Joseph Finder: Finder, the CEO of the corporate thriller and the winner of the Best Thriller Novel from the International Thriller Writers for Killer Instinct, pens another winner in this tale that takes us out of the workplace and on to a corporate retreat for the top management of an airplane manufacturing company. One of the head honchos has a conflict, so he sends his assistant, Jake Landry, in his place. The retreat is at a very swanky lodge in British Columbia, but while the food and wine may be amazing, there are no televisions, computers, or even cell phone towers. They are virtually in an electronics-free zone, ready to go hunting or fishing and whatever other bonding exercises the new president of the company comes up with – except she’s a woman, and these men aren’t too sure they like her, or respect her. On the other hand, she smells a rat or two among her top staff, and is planning on using the weekend to ferret out the traitors. But all those plans are laid to rest when some men come in and take everyone hostage. They appear to be local mountain men, but Landry is suspicious because they seem to know quite a bit about these executives and the company they work for. The tension is almost unbearable as the hostage takers make their demands known and show no qualms about killing people to get what they want. Don’t plan on putting this one down until you turn the last page. 08/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

PRAY FOR SILENCE by Linda Castillo: A sadistic and brutal crime like nothing Sheriff Kate Burkholder has ever seen rocks the community of Painters Mill in this follow up to last year’s Sworn to Silence. When an Amish family is discovered murdered on their own land, everyone is shocked. Murder in the Amish community is rare and though there are cases of hate crimes against them, those too are uncommon. The nature of the murders themselves is particularly disturbing, but a journal hidden by the family’s youngest daughter reveals secrets that hit very close to home for Kate. Though it seems that there is an abundance of damning evidence, narrowing down the list of suspects will prove to be more complicated than anyone expected. Faced with the toughest case of her career, Kate Burkholder will have to once again confront the demons of her past in order to move forward. Castillo pushed boundaries with her first in this series, but Pray for Silence blows all of those out of the water: her handling of the subject matter is impressive and the book is very well plotted. Again, not for the easily shocked and one that will utterly consume you as you follow Burkholder and her team. This series seriously needs a warning label. 06/10 Becky Lejeune

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving: I just re-read this book, having read it when it was originally published (1989) and it remains my favorite of Irving’s books. This is Irving at his best; well defined characters that draw you into their world, a story with twists and turns that somehow keep you incredulous yet believing. An emotional ride that is not easily forgotten.

A PRAYER FOR THE DYING by Jack Higgins: Another classic Jack Higgins thriller now available as an ebook from Open Road Publishing. Main character Martin Fallon was a ruthless hitman and executioner for the IRA when he made a mistake that resulted in a school bus loaded with children being exploded. Now retired from that life, he is threatened by the Meehan brothers to make one last hit. Father Michael De Costa is a witness to the killing of Jan Krasko and now everyone wants De Costa dead except Fallon, who is determined to protect him as a way of gaining redemption for his own prior deeds. Jack Higgins is the New York Times bestselling author of more than sixty thrillers that have sold over 250 million copies worldwide. 10/10 Jack Quick

PRAYER OF THE DRAGON by Eliot Pattison: In this fourth novel of Eliot Pattison’s mystery series, former Beijing investigator and escaped prisoner Chan is called to a Tibetan mountain village even more remote than most. His ancient monk friends and fellow escapees, Gendun and Lokesh, have preceded him. He finds them chanting over the body of a comatose man who is suspected of murder. The man, ostensibly Tibetan, turns out to be an American Navajo on a quest with his anthropologist daughter, who disappeared at the same their two companions were ambushed, murdered, and mutilated. That is only the tiniest tip of the iceberg that is Dragon Mountain, which proves to be by far the strangest and darkest place Chan has come to yet. If Chan cannot find the daughter and prove the man innocent, Gendun will be tortured by the village head man and most likely he and the monks will be killed, along with the Navajo.
Unexpected bits of contemporary Chinese and international life penetrate the remote setting from time to time, in jarring but revealing clashes of old vs new. Dragon Mountain is saturated with Bon, the old religion that preceded Buddhism; Bon gods are fierce and uninterested in compassion. It is a place where even the best possible outcome leaves any survivors exhausted and still questioning. Truth be told, this series is not easy to read and its fourth book is the most difficult yet. It is also the most rewarding. 01/08 Dianne Day
PREACHING TO THE CORPSE by Roberta Isleib: Just in time for Christmas, Isleib’s second mystery featuring advice columnist and psychologist Dr. Rebecca Butterman involves a postcard-perfect Connecticut Christmas, perfect except for the dead matron whose demise may be connected to the search for a new assistant pastor at the Congregational Church. Dr. Butterman not only has to deal with the twelve days of Christmas, she is also contending with Commandments number six and seven – “Thou shalt not murder” and “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Actually the broken Sixth Commandment is the one that is rapidly leading to the issue of Commandment Seven – with a very married detective who is trying to prevent her from being broken Commandment Six, Part II. Dr. Butterman is one of the more interesting amateur sleuths. 12/07 Jack Quick

PRECINCT PUERTO RICO by Stephen Torres: A police procedural with a twist – Sheriff Luis Gonzalo of Angustias, Puerto Rico, helps recover the bodies of illegal Dominican immigrants washed up on shore near his sister-in-law’s village. He can tell that one was murdered, but then the body disappears. It becomes apparent that not all is as it seems and that maybe there is corruption in high places. First of a series, it has promise with its laidback protagonist and somewhat exotic locale. 02/06 Jack Quick

PRECIOUS by Sandra Novack: It’s the summer of 1978, a summer that will prove to be disastrous in many ways. Sissy Kisch will always remember it as the summer that her mother left and the summer that her best friend disappeared. Sissy’s sister, Eva, will begin her senior year in August, but that summer she makes a mistake. Eva has been rebelling for quite some time, but her anger over her mother’s abandonment and her father’s reaction to it leads to an affair with a married teacher. In many ways, the disappearance of Vicki Anderson, or even Natalia (Eva and Sissy’s mother) and her abandonment are the catalyst for everything that happens to the Kisch family. Everything changes for Sissy and her family that summer. This is by no means a happy family tale. In fact, if you’re looking for a happy ending, this is not the book for you. The Kisch family’s circumstances and the eventual revelation about the missing child are a bit unsettling. Sandra Novack reveals the secrets that lie behind the closed doors of one typical American family, and makes you wonder what your own neighbors could be hiding. 03/09 Becky Lejeune

PRECIOUS CARGO by Clyde Ford: PI Charlie Noble is about to set off on his first boating trip with his new girlfriend when a couple approaches him and asks that he take on a new case. The couple had been about to leave on their yearly cruise to Alaska when they brought up a woman’s body with their anchor. Having lost their own daughter with no explanation, they want Charlie to discover the woman’s identity so that her family will not suffer as they have. The police are involved but have already admitted that this case is not top priority in the department, so Charlie agrees and sets his own plans on hold as he begins his investigation. He hires local salvage man and diver Dan “Raven” Ravenheart Washington to help him dive the area where the body was found in hopes of finding some evidence. Instead, the two discover more bodies. Now Charlie is embroiled in a murder investigation with connections to human trafficking and prostitution, and the players involved are not pleased about the attention their affairs are attracting. Ford has a great twist in that the novel has a heavy nautical theme. It’s a great gritty PI novel with an original spin. Precious Cargo is technically the second book to feature Charlie Noble. Red Herring, Noble’s first appearance, does appear to be out of print at this time. Cargo has just been re-released and Ford is rumored to be working on a third Noble story. 10/08 Becky Lejeune

PREP SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL by Kara Taylor: Switching schools mid year is definitely not ideal, but after Anne accidentally catches part of her school on fire, she doesn’t have much of a choice. Her father does manage to pull some strings – on short notice and even considering his daughter’s new record as an arsonist – and gets Anne a place in an exclusive Boston boarding school. All in all it’s not so bad at Wheatley, at least not in the beginning: Anne’s roommate is nice and she does make other friends at the school fairly quickly. But when Anne’s roommate is murdered, she is determined to see the killer brought to justice. After all, if she’d stayed in and hung out with Isabella instead of going to a party, the girl might still be alive. But why was Isabella out that evening at all? And who would want to kill her? Kara Taylor’s debut is pretty fabulous. Technically it’s a teen mystery but the plot is quite clever and sure to appeal to long time mystery readers as well as its intended teen audience. It’s also the first in a new series and one that I’m definitely looking forward to continuing. 8/13 Becky Lejeune

THE PRESERVATIONIST by Justin Kramon: Sam is sure that he and Julia are meant to be. He noticed her on campus and was undeniably drawn to her, and when she returns the sentiment it’s certain. For Julia, it seems that Sam is the kind of person she can truly be herself with. But before Julia met Sam, she was dating Marcus and though their relationship was short, Marcus seems unwilling to let Julia go. As if settling into college weren’t stressful enough, now Julia has to deal with the growing tension between Marcus and Sam. And then there are the reports of attacks on campus as well. Freshman year is definitely not shaping up the way Julia had imagined. Kramon’s second release is an edge of your seat thriller that begs to be read in one go. It’s a story with a lot of twists, and while some are a bit predictable, there are plenty of others that are complete surprises. In fact, Kramon does an excellent job of gradually increasing the level of suspense throughout the story. 10/13 Becky Lejeune

THE PRESIDENT’S VAMPIRE by Christopher Farnsworth: Nathaniel Cade and his handler, Zach Barrows, are back in this follow-up to Farnsworth’s debut, Blood Oath. This time, the vampire is sent out to fight a strange mutated creature he calls Snakeheads. As Cade hunts down pockets of the enemy around the globe, Barrows is forced to stay behind and work alongside a group of secretive CIA operatives who have a motive of their own. It soon becomes clear that the Shadow Company—a covert group that Cade has long been trying to bring down—is involved and that the case ties in to one from Cade’s past, in a tiny village called Innsmouth. I love what Farnsworth has done. His tidbits of conspiracy theory and, in this case, ties to some of Lovecraft’s most famous tales, provide a unique and stand-out element in this series. 05/11 Becky Lejeune

PRESSURE by Jeff Strand: Darren Rust, budding sociopath – Alex Fletcher, shy and scared – meet first at Branford Academy, a “dumping ground” for problem children whose parents can afford the tuition. Their lives diverge until college, when Darren pops up at Alex’s college campus. Friends, yet enemies, for how can you be friends with a monster? Now Alex is all grown up with a wife and family, when Darren re-appears. Not for the weak hearted, or as Darren would say, “I’m a strangler, not a decapitator.” Best read during daylight hours. 09/06 Jack Quick

THE PRESSURE OF DARKNESS by Harry Shannon: Jack Burke earned his stripes as a Special Operations agent near Somalia in 1993, refined his skills in the Las Vegas PD and is now an unlicensed PI in Los Angeles. Nicole Stryker hires him to look into the gruesome death of her father, horror author Peter Stryker. The death has been labeled suicide but Burke picks up indications that it was, in fact, murder. Enter Burke’s former employer, the CIA; drug cartels, religious cult leaders, murder and mutilation of homeless people, a Mexican connection – and it just keeps getting more nerve racking, fast moving and complicated. This is definitely a horror, mystery, PI, military/adventure, techno-thriller with religious overtones, romantic angles and enough guts and gore to satisfy the most blood-thirsty. Amazingly hard to put down even though it runs well over 400 pages. This may be the break out book for Shannon, who has written two previous Mick Callahan novels. 11/06 Jack Quick

PRESSURE POINT by Dick Couch: Interesting techno-thriller with a twist. Palestinian terrorists hijack a Puget Sound ferry and then use it to capture and tow away a Navy Trident submarine with its nuclear weapons intact. It is up to Delta Force and the US Navy SEALs to deal with the threat but it is ferry Captain Ross Peck and First Mate Janey McClure that are instrumental in bringing this episode to an end and saving passengers’ lives. Nicely done with lots of detail on modern antiterrorist tactics, but hopefully not an accurate picture of lax security at a major nuclear naval base. Recommended. 11/09 Jack Quick

PRESUMED DEAD by Shirley Wells: “Dylan (Scott) wondered if life could get any worse. He was thirty eight years old, he had no job and little hope of getting one, his wife had thrown him out, his mother had moved in, and he’d had to hunt through a pile of laundry currently lying in front of his as-yet-unused washing machine for the shirt he was wearing.” So begins the saga of an ex-cop thrown off the police force for assaulting a suspect and all his resulting troubles. So when Holly Champion begs him to investigate the disappearance of her mother thirteen years ago, he could hardly refuse, could he? The local police still believe Anita Champion took off for a better life, but Dylan’s inquiries turn up plenty of potential suspects: the drug-dealing, muscle-bound bouncer at the club where Anita was last seen; the missing woman’s four girlfriends, out for revenge; the local landowner with rumored mob connections, among others. Who knows what other secrets this one sleepy little town holds and will Dylan survive the inquiry. Interesting ex-police procedural from the author of the Jill Kennedy and DCI Max Trentham series. 08/10 Jack Quick

PRESUMED INNOCENT by Scott Turow: Why am I reviewing a book originally published back in the 1980’s? Because that’s when I read it the first time, and there is a sequel, Innocent, coming out May 4, so I wanted to revisit the first book again. I remembered that I loved it, and that it was probably the first legal thriller I’d ever read and I’ve been hooked on them ever since. But I’d forgotten how beautifully it is written, how richly developed the characters are, how twisted the story is, and how shocking the ending was. And even more to Turow’s credit, it holds up remarkably well today; there are no jolts that scream “1987”, and the only thing missing from the courtroom is DNA evidence.
A prosecuting attorney, Rusty Sabich, has an affair with a co-worker who apparently liked to do that sort of thing – a lot. Several months later she is found raped and murdered at home. Sabich’s boss is running for re-election and one of the other prosecutors is working for the opposition. The politics of it all becomes part of the trial when Sabich is accused of the murder. Publisher’s Weekly had called it “spellbinding” and that was the perfect word for it, I hated to put the book down and when I did, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Not much higher praise than that. 03/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

PRETTY LITTLE THINGS by Jilliane Hoffman: When thirteen-year-old Lainey Emerson meets Zach online, she thinks he’s the perfect guy. Nevermind the fact that he’s a senior in high school, he’s hot and he seems interested in her. Lainey’s only worry when Zach suggests they meet in person is that the high schooler will discover her real age. Two days later, Lainey’s mother reports her missing. Bobby Dees, an officer with the Crimes Against Children Squad, is called in to investigate. Though most are sure Lainey is just another teen runaway, Dees is not convinced. Turns out he’s right and the case is much more complicated than anyone imagined. Soon a killer begins sending personal messages to Dees, messages that include gruesome clues linking more missing girls in the area to Lainey’s case. This latest from Hoffman is an intense thriller about a very timely subject. I don’t know if there are any plans for more Bobby Dees stories, but I could easily see this developing into an intense series with lots of possibilities. A definite recommended read for thriller fans. 09/10 Becky Lejeune

THE PREY by Andrew Fukuda: This second in Fukuda’s post apocalypse vampire series picks up right where last year’s The Hunt left off. Gene, Sissy, and the others have managed to escape their pursuers, traveling up the river on a boat left behind by the Scientist – Gene’s father. But the vampires aren’t so easily dissuaded. They continue to hunt the humans by day and are willing to die trying to capture these last remaining hepers. Following instructions left by the Scientist, they take the river to its end and discover a small settlement of humans. With protection and abundant resources, they seem to finally be safe. Unfortunately, it isn’t long before Gene and Sissy realize that there’s something strange about their newfound sanctuary: the settlement is led by a handful of older men called Elders who have set forth a strict series of rules for the town to live by. What’s more, there are no men or boys present other than the Elders themselves. It soon becomes clear that there is no salvation to be found here. But the Scientist’s trail seems to be at an end and Gene isn’t sure who to trust or where to turn next. Fukuda ramps up the suspense more and more as this trilogy continues and I am dying to find out what happens next. This is a great read for adults and teens. 2/13 Becky Lejeune

PREY by Rachel Vincent: It’s been nine months since Faythe has last seen Marc. Nine months since her trial for killing and accidentally infecting a human in Pride. Nine months since Marc was exiled. The plan was to meet Marc in the free territory—territory not under Pride control—so that he can help escort them to where Manx will now face the council for her own crimes. While on their way, the team is attacked by a pack of strays. Strange as it is that a group of strays would band together, the team has much worse to worry about when Marc is captured. They fear he may be dead, but Faythe knows differently. Still, time is running out and a war is about to be waged between the Prides as Faythe’s own family comes under siege from enemies within the werecat community. This fourth in the series will leave readers breathless waiting for the next installment. Conflicts that have been building in previous books are finally coming to a head and I’m just dying to see what will happen next. 06/09 Becky Lejeune
THE PREY by Allison Brennan: It has to be a crime writer’s worst night mare. Rowan Smith’s books have done very well, so well that two have been made into movies and she is now in a rented Malibu beach house working on the screenplay for her third movie. Then the press shows up, followed by the police and the FBI. A woman in Colorado with the same name, looks, and occupation as a character in one of her books is found dead in Denver. Then another person is killed in a direct rip off from the pages of her books. Is there a connection with her former career as an FBI agent, or is this a fan expressing his devotion in a most disturbing fashion. Terrific plot and good characterization. I definitely will read more by Ms. Brennan. 04/08 Jack Quick

PREY by Michael Crichton: The Military is always looking for the better weapon. This one is called Nanotechnology. Imagine if you could put an entire Army on the head of a pin, then transport them to the battlefield, and bring them back to full fighting strength. It’s every four star’s cream dream. Of course the “government” has been pursuing this for years, Thank God it’s not been proven successful yet. Crichton tells a classic story of the “unintended consequences” theory to great effect. The problem here seems to be that the technology, while feasible, has some major problems. Basically the problem is if you give these things the gift of reason, they’ll eventually outsmart their creators and conquer them. A group of really besieged scientists are the last line of defense here, and you’d better hope they win. 03/06 DOC

THE PRICE by Alexandra Sokoloff: Horror fans were in for a treat with Sokoloff’s amazing and original debut, The Harrowing. Her sophomoric effort is no less amazing. How far would you go to save the life of a loved-one? To save yourself? This is the question that Sokoloff poses in The Price. Miracles happen all the time. Hospitals make a business out of them. Brilliant doctors make new discoveries in science everyday. People are cured, seemingly miraculously, and go on to live long and healthy lives. Something different is happening at Briarwood Medical Center, though. Within these hallowed halls someone waits. He listens, intent on hearing those four magic words, “I would do anything.” Will Sullivan is about to discover just how far one will go to experience the hope of a miracle. Extraordinarily creepy. Sokoloff infuses even the most innocent scenes with an undeniable sense of dread. You know something bad is coming but it still sneaks up and scares the pants off of you. 03/08 Becky Lejeune

THE PRICE OF BLOOD by Declan Hughes: If you are a fan of Ken Bruen and have not yet tried Declan Hughes, you have a treat in store. Written in the same gritty manner but with a bit more lavish detail, Hughes follows Dublin PI Ed Loy, first in 2006’s The Wrong Kind of Blood, 2007’s The Color of Blood and now in The Price of Blood. When you have both Michael Connelly and John Connolly among your fans you have to be doing something right. In this outing Father Vincent Tyrrell hires Loy to find Patrick Hutton, a jockey missing for 10 years. There is not one, but rather two grisly murders with which Loy becomes involved. Before the final conclusion at a famous Irish horse-racing festival Loy will be beaten up, warned off, and blamed for actions taken and not taken. Parts are brutal – but it couldn’t be any other way. So pour yourself a pint and enjoy. 04/08 Jack Quick

PRIDE by Rachel Vincent: Following right on the heels of the events of Rogue comes the third installment to Vincent’s fabulous Shifters series. It is finally time for Faythe to go up against the council and plead her case. Infecting a human is a capital crime among the Prides and though Faythe has evidence to back up her claim that she accidentally infected her human boyfriend, certain members of the council are still convinced she is lying. Not only that, but they believe that she killed him, not to defend her life as she claims, but to cover up her crime. With part of the council pushing for death, Faythe will be lucky to get out of this one alive. She is granted a brief reprieve, however, when a local Bruin (were bear) appears at the meeting to make a complaint. It seems a group of Strays has been hunting in his territory and he wants them gone. When a human couple goes missing in the area, Faythe’s fellow werecats all agree that they must act fast in order to keep their existence secret. As the series continues, Vincent’s carefully constructed mythology keeps getting more and more intriguing. Just like Rogue, Pride ends with a major cliff-hanger that will have readers waiting anxiously for Prey (book four) to hit shelves later this year. 01/09 Becky Lejeune

THE PRIEST by Ken Bruen: After the tragedy that ended THE DRAMATIST, Jack Taylor has spent the last five months in a mental hospital. Now that he has recovered (?) he takes on three new cases involving a beheaded child molesting priest, a stalker, and the missing father of the girl who died while Taylor was babysitting her. This one is dark even by Bruen standards, but if you are into Bruen, its great. If not, this one won’t change your mind at all. Personally, I liked it. 01/08 Jack Quick

PRIME TIME by Hank Phillippi Ryan: Charlotte McNally is a seasoned reporter in the cutthroat world of television journalism. An apparently innocent e-mail may hold the answer to a murder, mayhem and multimillion-dollar fraud ring. Is she going to pursue the matter? You bet. Is her investigation going to lead her to a hunky guy whose appearance makes her want to overlook his apparent inability to tell the truth. Raging female hormones at 10 PM with the rest of the story. Somehow, I couldn’t get over the Harlequin imprint on the cover and take this one that seriously….. 11/07 Jack Quick

PRIME TIME by Hank Phillipi Ryan: Investigative journalist Charlotte (Charlie) McNally is not about to let her career end without a fight. After a string of Emmy awards, she’s always on the lookout for the next great story. And as a forty-something in an industry that’s so focused on youth and beauty, she knows that her talent is second-to-none, but she has to continue to prove it. When she is called to fill in last minute at the news desk, a story of a local man reported missing sparks her curiosity. Later, the man is discovered dead and his case is deemed a suicide. But Charlie is not so sure. Is it a coincidence that the man worked for a local pharmaceutical company that has recently been taken to court for dirty billing practices? And, when she discovers that the dead man tried contacting her very near the time of his death, she becomes more than convinced that something fishy is going on. Prime Time is the first title to feature spunky reporter Charlie McNally and her fellow cast of characters. The plot is great and will leave readers wanting more. 08/09 Becky Lejeune

PRIMITIVE by Mark Nykanen: Think Al Gore, with dialogue provided by Dan Brown. A “neo-primitive” cult, possessing secret government documents filled with terrifying information about global warming, kidnaps a famous fashion model and holds her hostage, forcing her to act as their spokesperson. Big government, big oil, big problems – all in this nicely done eco-thriller. Read it if you enjoy thrillers, read it and shudder if you have concerns about the future of our environment. 1/11 Jack Quick

PRINCE OF FIRE by Daniel Silva: The fifth novel featuring art restorer/Israeli agent Gabriel Allon continues the series place among the tops in spy fiction. This time Gabriel is pulled from his cover to hunt down terrorists who have bombed the Israeli embassy in Rome. The mastermind behind the bombing is French archeologist Paul Martineau, aka “Khaled, son of Sabri, grandson of Sheikh Asad. Khaled, avenger of past wrongs, sword of Palestine.” Khaled is also the adopted son of Yasir Arafat, who has sent him to exact vengeance on the enemies of Palestine and the PLO. Gabriel’s team of agents is able to track down the terrorist, but then there is a stunning twist. Gabriel’s mentor tells him “You’re the one who defends Israel against its accusers. You’re the angel of judgment – the Prince of Fire.” Hopefully there will be future missions. 01/07 Jack Quick

The Princess Bride by William Goldman, Ballantine Books: I know you think you know The Princess Bride, but I’m writing to tell you you don’t know it until you’ve read the book. I found myself with 3 hours to kill and a copy in front of me, and I’m so glad I picked it up. Bring itto the beach one sunny day and you’ll be glad you discovered it. It’s funnier than the movie, more interesting than the movie and much more lively than the movie – and I really enjoyed the movie!

PS: Where it tells you to write to Urban del Rey at Ballantine Books you ought to know that Ballantine has moved from 201 East 50th St to 1540 Broadway NY, NY 10036. I have no idea about Urban. Read the book to find out what I’m talking about!!! ~This review contributed by Ann Nappa

PRIOR BAD ACTS by Tami Hoag: Former state prosecutor Carey Moore becomes a criminal-court judge, but feels like she must be above reproach in her rulings so as to not give rise to charges of favoritism. The cops and prosecutors are sure that Karl Dahl is the one who brutally raped and murdered a mother and her two children, but Moore won’t allow Dahl’s “prior bad acts” to be admitted into evidence. Next Moore is brutally attacked and Dahl escapes. Homicide detectives Sam Kovak and Nikki Liska give chase in this first-rate thriller with a mind-blowing finish. 07/06 Jack Quick

THE PRISONER OF HEAVEN by Carlos Ruiz Zafon: In the time since The Shadow of the Wind, Daniel and Bea have married and are now parents to an infant son. The holiday season is upon them and Sempere & Sons is struggling. If their customers don’t return soon, Daniel and his father may have to make some tough decisions. But there’s good news as well, Fermin is to be married and everyone is ready to celebrate the big day. Daniel is alone in the shop one afternoon when a strange customer arrives and purchases a very rare edition of The Count of Monte Cristo. The customer informs Daniel that the book is a gift and he would like Sempere & Sons to deliver it to the recipient themselves. When Daniel realizes this is because the gift is in fact intended for Fermin, he becomes suspicious and decides to follow the man. Later, when he confronts Fermin over the issue, his friend is visibly shaken and warns Daniel to back off. Of course Daniel is reluctant to do so, believing that his friend is in trouble. When he learns the truth behind the visitor and Fermin’s past, however, Daniel discovers that his friend has been hiding some very strange secrets, one of which concerns Daniel and his family. Fans of Zafon’s work will love this return to the setting and the characters introduced in both The Shadow of the Wind and Angel’s Game. Anyone who has yet to read the prior releases should be wary, however, as it is necessary to read both books before diving into Prisoner and though Angel is technically a prequel, I’d recommend reading them in order of release: Shadow followed by Angel and then Prisoner. Word is there is one more book to come. 8/12 Becky Lejeune

PRISONER OF MEMORY by Denise Hamilton: Having tackled Southern California’s Asian and Latino communities, its time for Eve Diamond to check out the Russians. In this fifth outing, Diamond, an ambitious LA Times reporter, is checking out reports of a mountain lion in Griffith Park when she finds the dead body Dennis Lukin, teenage son of recent Russian immigrants. The mountain lion isn’t responsible unless he was armed with a 9mm Glock, but the experience quickly leads to further involvement when Mischa Tsipin, an illegal Russian immigrant running from gangsters to whom he owes money, appears claiming to be a cousin of Eve’s (her mother was Russian). It’s a regular who’s on first and I don’t know with Eve, FBI agent Thomas Clavendish, and reporter colleague, Josh Brandywine helping her solve the riddle. Not the best of plotting, but well written and enjoyable. 07/08 Jack Quick

PRIVATE WARS (QUEEN & COUNTRY) by Greg Rucka: In this sequel to A Gentleman’s Game (2004), Special Operations Officer Tara Chase is now the mother of an infant daughter. The baby’s father was killed in an unsanctioned operation for the British Secret Intelligence Service. Afterwards, Tara quits the service only to find retirement is not as easy as it looks. Paul Crocker coaxes her back into the game with a chance to vindicate herself and perhaps obtain revenge for her dead lover, Tom Wallace. Edgy and contemporary, the Tara Chase series are evocative of Adam Hall’s Quiller novels as well as the works of Len Deighton. (Faith, Hope, Charity, Hook, Line, Sinker). Let’s hope there are many more. 01/07 Jack Quick

PROBABLE CAUSE by Theresa Schwegel: Did you ever get stopped at a road construction project in the summer where the oily hot asphalt fumes also seemed to bring a fine coating of road grit that couldn’t be washed off? That’s the best way I can describe Schwegel’s writing. Its gritty. Ray Weiss didn’t join the Chicago PD to be a thief, but he quickly learns that in order to be initiated, he has to participate in a jewelry store robbery. Only when he breaks in, he finds the owner there – shot dead. From there it’s double-crosses, illegal immigration and cover-ups. Weiss’ father is a cop, but whose side is he on? Is he really helping Ray, or is he part of the problem? Not for the faint of heart. It’s hard to be sympathetic toward anyone, even the bumbling Ray who is trying to do right. 04/07 Jack Quick

THE PRODIGY by Charles Atkins: Charles Atkins is Dr. Charles Atkins, a practicing psychiatrist and Yale professor published both in Psychiatric News and Writer’s Digest along with two other novels prior to this one. Who better to take you inside the head of a dangerous sociopath with the opportunity and means to act on his every impulse. James “Jimmy” Martin IV should never have been released, but the combination of incredible wealth and a devoted twin sister, can trump even a lifetime sentence in a mental institution. The product of sadistic parents, Jimmy and his twin Ellen are cunning, ruthless, amoral and capable of just about anything. Better read with the lights on. 04/08 Jack Quick

THE PROFESSION by Stephen Pressfield: This over the top thriller takes place in 2032 after the third Iran-Iraq war which has left the region open for grabs. Oil companies, multi-national corporations and banks employ powerful, cutting-edge mercenary armies to control global chaos and protect their riches. Even nation states enlist mercenary forces to suppress internal insurrections, hunt terrorists, and do the black bag jobs necessary to maintain the new New World Order. Force Insertion is the world’s merc monopoly. Its leader is the disgraced former United States Marine General James Salter, stripped of his command by the president for nuclear saber-rattling with the Chinese and banished to the Far East. Opposing him is the novel’s narrator, Gilbert “Gent” Gentilhomme, Salter’s most loyal foot soldier and as close to him as the son Salter lost. Its a nicely done thriller although I tended to get bogged down in some of the technical details and found myself going back to re-read some sections where my focus had drifted. 08/11 Jack Quick

THE PROFESSIONAL by Robert Parker: In this 37th Spenser novel, Parker presents an interesting challenge to our Boston-based PI. Four attractive women, each married to an older rich man, have had affairs with a sexual predator calling him self Gary Eisenhower. Now Eisenhower is threatening to blackmail them and a lawyer associate of Rita Fiore has recommended Spenser to solve their problem. They want Eisenhower to go away, but they won’t press charges or testify because of the impact on their marriage and husbands’ careers. They say they don’t want him hurt (one is still seeing him, even now) and Eisenhower has indicated to Spenser that nothing short of someone killing him (Eisenhower) will stop him. Can Spenser find a non-violent solution to the dilemma or will he have to rely on Hawk’s willingness to put the matter to rest? Nice read. 12/09 Jack Quick

PROMENADE OF THE GODS by Koji Suzuki: Shirow Murakami receives a disturbing phone call late one evening from Miyuki, his best friend Matsuoka’s wife. It’s been two months since Matsuoka walked out on his family. All seemed fine with the couple, but after watching tv one Sunday evening, he just left. Miyuki has received a few phone calls, but has seen nothing of her husband since that evening. With no real education and no means to support herself but her dwindling savings, Miyuki is becoming somewhat desperate to discover what happened to her husband and Shirow is the only one she can go to for help. The two begin looking into Matsuoka’s past and they discover that this is not the first time he has run off. Shirow begins to suspect that Matsuoka may have fallen victim to some strange cult. Like Ring the main character is once again thrown into an investigation into the unknown. Fans of Suzuki’s horror might recall mention of one of the key characters and will recognize many similarities in theme. Promenade is a stand-alone, though, and is a great place for readers to begin to familiarize themselves with Suzuki’s work. 09/08 Becky Lejeune

PROMISE NOT TO TELL by Jennifer McMahon: The children of New Canaan and the surrounding areas still love to tell ghost stories about the Potato Girl. Del Griswold, aka the Potato Girl, was an unfortunate victim of circumstance. A farmer’s daughter in a family full of boys, Del suffered at the hands of schoolyard bullying. Kate Cypher never intended to become friends with the Potato Girl. Living in a nearby hippie community, Kate struggles to fit in amongst her classmates as well. Her shortcut home cuts right through the Griswold farm, though, and this is how two outsiders found each other and became best friends. Unfortunately, the friendship was short lived and Del’s murder was never solved. Kate had escaped her past and moved to Seattle but is forced to return to New Hope when her mother’s Alzheimer’s begins to threaten the safety of the few remaining members of New Hope. On the night of her arrival, a group of kids sneak up to the Griswold farm and another girl is found murdered. The scene is shockingly reminiscent to that of Del’s murder. McMahon’s powerful debut is one that will shake readers to the core. A story of childhood betrayal and the loss of innocence, Promise Not to Tell is a brilliant mystery. 06/07 Becky Lejeune

PROOF OF INTENT by Walter Sorrells: I recently learned Walter Sorrells is Lynn Abercrombie is Ruth Birmingham. Whatever the name, the result is a good tale. Charley Sloan had a bad day yesterday but today is worse. Local author Miles Dane calls him to his house in the wee hours of morning where Sloan finds the author and Dane’s dead wife. Dane tells his tale to Sloan who calls the police. Upon their arrival he proceeds, in front of Sloan, to tell the investigators a different story. So Dane is a liar? But is he a murderer? Did he kill his wife or is he trying to take advantage of the event to revive his flagging career? A different take on the ordinary whodunit and Sloan must find out the truth. It really gets dark when evidence surfaces that Dane seems to be following a script based on one of his own novels. Stay tuned for this finish. This one goes to the wire. 05/09 Jack Quick

PROOF OF PURCHASE by Richard B. Schwartz: Ex-Army Colonel Jack Grant is a sometimes private investigator and most times alcoholic who is called in to investigate the missing Cynthia Bladen, who happens to be Jack’s ex- girl friend. When Bladen’s mutilated body is found, Jack teams up with Lieutenant Diana Craig, a tough-as-nails tracker, whose razor-sharp insights and intellect give Jack a run for his money. They go from wary rivals to a relationship marked with cozy banter and growing trust. The investigation reveals ties to organized crime and Jack tries to remember if anything in his prior experience could have an effect on the case. Interesting. Hope we get to see more of Jack Grant. 03/07 Jack Quick

PROOF OF GUILT by Charles Todd: Inspector Ian Rutledge’s latest case involves the body of an unidentified man. The body, found lying in the street, seems to be the victim of an automobile accident. But there’s evidence the man had been dragged quite a way and all identifying items are missing, causing the first officer on the scene to suspect something more sinister than an accident. Rutledge discovers a unique and expensive watch on the man and is able to trace it to a pair commissioned for a local wine merchant family. The watches were gifts for brothers Michael and Lewis French, the elder of whom was killed in battle. When Rutledge attempts to call on Lewis French, he discovers the man is missing. Unfortunately, French’s sister claims the body is not her brother’s. As Rutledge continues his inquiries in an attempt to identify the dead man and now locate French, more and more questions pile up. With his superiors pushing for a resolution, Rutledge is running out of places to turn. This latest in the Rutledge series is an interesting and quick read. The plot is smart but the slew of red herrings and the abundance of investigative avenues pursued by Rutledge does border on becoming a bit too confusing by the time things begin to wrap up. The book works fine for readers who are just starting the series, but having read the earlier installments no doubt gives the reader a better handle on Rutledge himself. 2/13 Becky Lejeune

THE PROP by Pete Hautman: Peeky Kane has a most unusual job. The attractive middle aged woman works as a “prop” at a Native American owned casino near Tucson, Arizona. Whenever they need someone to fill in a shorthanded poker game, Peeky comes in earning a salary, health insurance, and any winnings she can pick up. Things are going reasonably well for Peeky until she becomes the unwitting accomplice of some crooked dealers who have come up with a new way to steal money. Hautman seems to know his gambling and keeps the action going at a good clip. The book is similar in setting to the James Swain series, but with less emphasis on mechanics and more on action. Enjoyable, even if, like me, you aren’t into Texas-Hold’em. 11/06 Jack Quick

PROPHECY by Paul Mark Tag: Its 1889, and over 2,200 people are about to perish in one of the greatest environmental disasters to befall the United States. More than 400 more people would die in the Johnstown, Pennsylvania flood than would be killed by Hurricane Katrina over one hundred years later. Minutes before the poorly maintained sporting dam above Johnstown gives way a nineteen-year old girl enters a local church and places a letter in a bottle, and secures the bottle in a safe. One hundred ten years later in 2009 the safe is unearthed. At the same time, Russian laboratory experiments would seem to confirm the contents of the letter – the author of the letter knew of the impending flood. In what could prove to be the scientific discovery of the ages, researchers uncover a rare genetic mutation that could scientifically explain the clairvoyant powers exhibited by prophets of old. Now the hunt begins for a present-day carrier who could confirm the gene’s potential. The stakes: theological chaos for the world’s religions-and the power to control the planet. Fasten your seat belts and hang on. This one has a bit of everything and Tag manages to pull all the threads together nicely. 11/07 Jack Quick

PROSPECT PARK WEST by Amy Sohn: Way too much whine and wine for me in this tale of Park Slope mommies and all their tired, trite problems like husbands who travel too much, husbands who don’t want to have sex, and husbands who cheat. Then there are the mommies who are so lonely that they condescend to semi-friendship with other mommies met on the playground, mommies who are famous actresses trying to prove they are down to earth by living in Brooklyn, mommies who are really lesbians, mommies who are bordering on psychotic yet in Sohn’s hands, somehow are also exceedingly dull. Only one of the mommies actually lives in Prospect Park West and she is desperate to move up to the Slope. This is a collection of stories about women who are too boring, too neurotic and too self centered to generate any interest in their banal, superficial lives, despite an occasional glimmer of humor or human interest. For me, this was a complete waste of time I could have spent on something more interesting, like cleaning my oven. (Note to self: if you don’t particularly care for an author’s work, like Lauren Weisberger, don’t trust their blurbs, either.) 11/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

Protect and Defend by Richard North Patterson: Impeccable research and excellent writing make this novel about the political hot potato of late term abortion a riveting read. The only negative is the physical problem with this hardcover book; the spine breaks, causing the book to literally fall apart with more than one reading. I love cloth books (hardcovers) but if you want to keep this one, you’re better off with the paperback.

THE PROTECTOR by Gennita Low: Lt. Jazz Zeringue is a Navy SEAL on assignment in an unspecified foreign country working to stop terrorists from smuggling weapons. He meets Viviviene Verreau, a government agent, working to stop the same terrorists from selling women of all ages into prostitution against their will. Sparks fly between the two before they finally realize they have a common goal. Middling adventure, but not top rank. 10/08 Jack Quick

The Protector by David Morrell: This is a page-turner from the get go. Cavanaugh is a protector, one notch up from a bodyguard – a specially trained ex-government agent for hire. Daniel Prescott has invented a powerful new drug, and everyone from the drug cartels of South America to the U.S. Federal government is after him, and he hires Cavanaugh to protect him. But Prescott kills Cavanaugh’s associates and tries to take Cavanaugh out too, then takes off, and Cavanaugh goes on the hunt for Prescott. The action is non-stop in this well written and well researched book. Morrell suffered a broken collarbone researching one of the weapons used – the knife on the cover of the book. Yet another Morrell book that I could not put down – I stayed up until the middle of the night to finish it. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

PULSE by Jeremy Robinson: Jack Sigler’s team, a Delta squad nicknamed Chess Team thanks to their call signs, has the week off and Sigler himself is on his way to Peru to help with private security on a friend’s archaeological dig. In Herculean mythology, Hercules killed the Hydra and buried its immortal head. Though the story has long been thought to be just that, a story, recent discoveries point to Hercules as being a real person. But if the Hercules was real, what else about his legend was real as well? The discovery in Peru is unprecedented and more than one person is convinced that the real Hydra is buried there. Manifold Genetics and its founder, Richard Ridley, believe the Hydra’s remains hold the key to regenerative properties that can be sold to the highest bidder. Their experiments in this area have so far led to disastrous and gruesome results, but the find in Peru might finally be the key. They take the site by force, but Sigler survives. Now Sigler and his team are on Manifold’s tail and they’ll stop at nothing to ensure that they bring Ridley down for good. Robinson kicks off his Jack Sigler series with a bang in Pulse. Though the story lacks some depth, the premise is interesting. Pulse makes for fun reading and pure entertainment in the book equivalent of an action movie (or video game). 04/11 Becky Lejeune

PUMPED FOR MURDER by Elaine Viets: This tenth entry in the Dead End Job Series follows a new path since Helen and Phil are married. They’ve started their own P.I. firm, Coronado Investigations, so how to get Helen in another dead end job? Easy when their first client wants to know who her husband is fooling around with. He’s been working out for hours a day at the gym, so Helen gets a job there as the receptionist to see what she can find out. Their second client, Gus, wants them to follow up on a 25 year old cold case that had ruled his brother a suicide, but Gus is convinced was murder. Then a dead bodybuilder turns up at the gym, and Helen and Phil really have their hands full trying to solve all three cases. Viets once again writes a tight story with lots of laughs amid the murder and mayhem. I couldn’t put it down. 05/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

PURE by Julianna Baggott: After the detonation, the world became a very different place. Partridge, a Pure, was protected by the Dome when the detonation happened. Raised by his father, he’s expected to be one of the best and the brightest, but Partridge longs for something more. Pressia was just a child when the detonation occurred. Like those around her, she is permanently marked by the event. When Partridge escapes the Dome, it is Pressia who comes to his aid. But Partridge and Pressia are part of something much bigger than either of them can imagine. In Pure Julianna Baggott presents a nightmarish vision of the post-apocalypse. The world building alone is remarkable and sets the stage for something that promises to be huge. This is the first of a highly anticipated trilogy, one that delivers on all counts. 2/12 Becky Lejeune

Pure by Rebbecca Ray: When I was (a very wild) 14, I remember reading books about teenagers and thinking these people don’t have a clue what it’s like. I always wanted to write a book about the truth and now I don’t have to, Ray did it for me when she was 16 years old. It’s a very dark, very fast read.

PURGATORY CHASM by Steve Ulfelder: Steve Ulfelder’s initial crime fiction effort comes at a good time. With the passing of Robert Parker and Spencer, there is room for a new crime/problem solver in that portion of New England south of Archer Mayor country. And Purgatory Chasm is a pretty good first effort.
The hero of Purgatory Chasm is a competent, if itinerant, automobile mechanic named Conway Sax. He has some issues in life – he is on parole and faithfully attending meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. But he is an honest and likeable fellow who is potential series material.
Since this is crime fiction, Conway doesn’t always deal well with women, but that is a part of the formula. The dialog in those interactions and his internal reactions seem, well, honest and likeable.
The mystery, or problem in this case starts with his attempts to get a fellow AA-er’s car back from an auto repair shop. Pretty soon, Conway is wrestling with both law enforcement and organized crime to solve both a murder and a nice missing money problem.
I enjoyed the book. It is faithful to the genre and well-written. My only quibble is with Ulfelder’s creation of a vengeful AA group as a device to generate and move the plot along. For an accurate depiction and use of AA in crime novels, you have to look to Lawrence Block and Matthew Scudder. Ulfelder is not a Lawrence Block yet, but I hope that he keeps trying. 05/11 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

THE PURE IN HEART by Susan Hill: Once in a great while, in this uneven experience called life, everything comes together in a way that is so remarkable, so perfect, we instinctively know we’ve been given something significant to treasure. I think that is what happened for Susan Hill when she conceived her character Simon Serrailler. Now she has passed along the gift to us in THE PURE IN HEART. I admit having been skeptical about this series after reading its first book, THE VARIOUS HAUNTS OF MEN, but no longer. Serrailler is the most enigmatic, complex, fascinating man to come down the pike of British police procedurals in a long time, and well deserves comparison to PD James’ detective Adam Dalgleish.
The crime that brings the Detective Chief Inspector home from a vacation sketching in Venice is the disappearance of a nine year-old boy from Lafferton, Hill’s fictional catheral town. Serrailler sets his flawless team, headed by brash, bright Sergeant Nathan Coates, into action and keeps them motivated through a frustrating investigation. Lafferton is a small place, where the disappearance of a child touches everyone, including Simon’s family, and we readers are touched too. The best thing about THE PURE IN HEART is that all the characters are so real, you forget you’re reading a book and simply participate in their lives. And so, page by page, you realize that not all mysteries are handled in police stations, and there may be as much satisfaction in illuminating dark corners as there is in solving crimes. This book goes on my short list for best of 2007. 12/07 Dianne Day

PURGATORY CHASM by Steve Ulfelder: “Tander Phigg was an asshole, but he was also a Barnburner. Barnburners saved my life. I help them when I can. No exceptions.” The job seems simple. Conway Sax, a no-nonsense auto mechanic with a knack for solving difficult problems, has never liked obnoxious blowhard Tander Phigg. But a promise is a promise. Tander’s a Barnburner, a member of the unique Alcoholics Anonymous group that rescued Conway, and when a Barnburner has a problem, Conway takes care of it. This time the road is long and twisty and Conway learns new things about himself while re-discovering his father and helping Try Phigg, Tander’s son, learn about his own family. 1/12 Jack Quick
PURSUIT by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Rosa: Saturday Night Live once had a skit featuring a Hispanic television game show parody entitled Who is Most Macho? In this fifth Inspector Espinosa installment, the sub-title might be who is most crazy? The tale involves a psychiatrist, his family and a patient, as well as the good Inspector. The point of view is sometimes that of his doctor, of his daughter, of the patient, and occasionally, Espinosa. There is murder and revenge, which may or may not be appropriate, some chilling moments and unusual insights. Nothing in the book will enhance your opinion of the profession of psychiatry, or as the Amish would say – all are crazy, except me and thee, and I sometimes wonder about thee. It’s a love/hate book, which I liked. 01/06 Jack Quick

THE PURSUIT OF PERFECT by Tal Ben-Sharar: Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D., is the New York Times best-selling author of Happier. He taught the most popular course at Harvard University and currently teaches at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, Israel. He consults and lectures around the world to multinational organizations, the general public, and at-risk populations. He obtained his Ph.D. in organizational behavior and his B.A. in philosophy and psychology from Harvard. This new book should sell well as it is a straight forward easy to read self-helper with a simple proposition. The Perfectionist views life’s journey as a straight line while the Optimalist realizes it is an irregular spiral. The Perfectionist fears failure while the Optimalist uses failure as feedback. The Perfectionist is rigid, critical and defensive while the Optimalist is adaptable, forgiving, and open to suggestions. The Perfectionist focuses on the destination while the Optimalist focuses on the journey as well as the destination. Obviously Optimalists have more fun and play better with others. The good Doctor shares ways to improve you Optimalist quotient, along with specific examples and simple exercises you can do yourself. Recommended. 03/09 Jack Quick

PUTTING MAKEUP ON DEAD PEOPLE by Jen Violi: There’s no way around it. Death changes people. For Donna the change began four years ago with the death of her father. At that time, Donna withdrew from her family and friends. That’s normal. Fast forward four years to the spring of her senior year. Here, at the funeral of her classmate, she discovers she is more comfortable around dead people. Well, not so normal. Also, not the future her mother has in mind. High school graduation is a point where change cannot be avoided. While her friends receive acceptance letters from high profile colleges, Donna seeks entrance into mortuary school. With her past weighing heavily on her and a secret sure to cause unbearable strife at home, Donna seems to be stuck in neutral. In Putting Makeup on Dead People, Jen Violi provides a fresh angle on the coming of age story. She successfully weaves elements of a family struggling to move past death, the faith of a new friend, the power of reconciliation, the infatuation of first love and the classic boy-next-door to create an altogether believable tale. Sometimes destiny comes in strange packages. This one is sure to have wide young adult appeal. Of note, however, is one scene where manual stimulation is vividly depicted. 08/11 Kimberly Bower

PYRES by Derek Nikita: Lucia Moberg is 15 years old when she convinces her college professor Dad to take her to the mall. He hangs out in the bookstore while she almost gets caught stealing a CD, so she whisks him out to the car, only to witness him being shot to death in the front seat. And the chase is on, to find the truth about the Moberg family and the killer. Motorcycle outlaws and a pregnant dumb blonde with a violent boyfriend lead the cops on a not-so-merry chase, and the reader on a ride they won’t soon forget. But this is Lucia’s coming-of-age story, and it’s told very well. Nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel with damn good reason. 03/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

PYRES by Derek Nikitas: Luc (Lucia) Moberg will always regret begging her father to take her to the mall on that horrific day. She had planned to steal cds as gifts for her friends’ upcoming birthdays, but barely manages to evade mall security and feigns sickness in order to leave. While hiding in the backseat of the car, Luc is the only witness to her father’s murder – she never saw who pulled the trigger. Now, Luc is forced to come to terms not only with the loss of her father, but her mother’s seeming inability to cope with the tragedy. Her mother attempts suicide and awakens unable to remember the past fifteen years. Unfortunately for Luc, her mother knew something about her husband’s death and the killer isn’t finished. The climactic chain of events that follows Oscar Moberg’s death will claim the lives of many before it is through. An interesting debut with three parallel stories: the Mobergs, the criminal, and the determined cop on the case. It’s a somewhat literary thriller that is both captivating and thought provoking. The pacing is insistent and the book begs to be read in one sitting. Pyres is a haunting tale about the illusion of the perfect family. 10/07 Becky Lejeune

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