THE SABOTEURS by W.E.B. Griffin: Griffin and his son reactivate a series first published in the 1980’s in paperback under the pseudonym Alex Baldwin featuring the Office of Strategic Services; its fabled chief, Col. William J. “Wild Bill” Donovan; and OSS agent Maj. Richard M. Canidy. Two primary plot lines drive this new adventure: the U.S. preparation for the invasion of Sicily and mainland Italy in 1943, and the tale of four German saboteurs who have landed in America. The German saboteurs are eventually dealt with, but the behind-the-lines Sicilian operation led by Canidy is only hastily outlined after a long buildup, which makes it likely that the Sicilian story will appear in a future installment. If you know Griffin, you know this is “formula” writing, but he probably does it better than anyone else today. 06/06 Jack Quick
SACRED by Dennis Lehane: It starts with a kidnapping. Boston sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro are grabbed and brought to the side of dying billionaire Trevor Stone. He wants them to find his missing daughter Desire who, grief-stricken over the death of her mother, has disappeared. The first investigator Stone hired, Patrick’s mentor, Jay Becker, has also disappeared. Its “through the looking glass” for Patrick and Angie as they follow the trail to Florida after a brief encounter with a group of religious swindlers who may be involved with the disappearances. The problem isn’t a lack of clues, its clues too many as every person they meet adds more confusion and conflicting information to the puzzling case. Some humor, some violence, some excitement and a pinch of romance. Bake until done. 02/07 Jack Quick
SACRIFICE by S.J. Bolton: The discovery of a body on the small island of Shetland sets off a chilling chain of events and uncovers a dark and ancient secret in Bolton’s page-turning debut. Tora Hamilton has only been on Shetland for a short time when she discovers a body buried within the boundaries of her new property. At first, officials believe that the remains may be one of the famous “bog bodies”—ancient remains preserved in peat—and therefore none of their concern. Evidence points to a ritualistic murder: the woman’s heart has been cut from her chest and runes carved into her flesh. Tora realizes, however, that the body cannot be as old as the police think, and her suspicions are confirmed; the body is that of a young woman killed just two years ago. Though she is warned off of the case, Tora can’t help but feel some responsibility toward the dead woman and begins to assist one of the investigators on the case. Tora’s discoveries lead her to one of the island’s oldest folk legends, and evidence that that the tale may be more fact than not. Bolton’s heroine is really put through the wringer in this one. I love the combination of folklore and mystery in this one, it makes for one of my favorite kinds of thrillers. 06/09 Becky Lejeune
SACRIFICE FLY by Tim O’Mara: Raymond Donne is a cop turned special education teacher who has left the force after a debilitating injury. When one of his favorite students, about to graduate with a baseball scholarship to a private high school, goes missing, Donne can’t help getting involved, especially when the lead detective on the case seems more concerned with getting home on time than investigating. Donne discovers the boy’s father has been murdered, complicating the case and drawing more attention not only from the cops; Donne and his sister are threatened. But it is the well drawn characters that really bring this mystery to life, including the Williamsburg, Brooklyn setting, which almost becomes another character in this skillfully written debut. Donne is a damaged protagonist, and it is not just the physical injuries he sustained as a cop, but the more important psychological injuries that hinder him, and it is this type of character à la Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch or James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux that tend to keep the reader coming back. Hopefully this is just the beginning for Tim O’Mara and his Raymond Donne. 10/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2012 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.
THE SACRIFICE GAME by Brian D’Amato: Some science fiction and a large amount of research into an ancient civilization generates a fascinating description of that civilization. The Sacrifice Game is Brian D’Amato’s second book of a planned trilogy. The first book, In Courts of the Sun, was published in 2009. It’s imaginative look at the Mayan calendar’s seeming prediction of the transit of one phase of our world into the next and the ending of ours via the calendar’s coming to an end caught the reader right from the get go. The only unfortunate circumstance are the three years between the first book and the new book, and for those that did not have the pleasure of reading book one the allusions made are not sufficient to allow the reader to slide easily into the plot.
Jed DeLanda, a descendent of the Mayans was rescued from poverty in Guatemala in current times and brought up in the United States. Given the advantage of a university education Jed develops into a math prodigy. His knowledge of the ancient Mayan “Divinity” game which seemingly predicts the date for the end of our world causes a major group to offer Jed an opportunity to go into the past via a method of energy transfer. He is to look for answers about the prediction of end world by learning more about the game first hand. After being exposed to Mayan culture, it’s blood lust, human sacrifices and cannibalism Jed decides to use his knowledge of the Divinity game to allow the world to end on December 21, 2012. The group that sent him back to the height of Mayan civilization and than retrieves him learns of his intentions and knows that they must stop him. The actions and interactions of both Jed and the group he worked for are mixed with a very surprising development not expected by the reader, and lead to an ending which neatly sets up book three of the trilogy.
D’amato has creatively set up Jed’s interactions both with his 21st century contacts and the individuals met while inhabiting the body in the Mayan past. The Mayan preoccupation with death and wholesale slaying of both friends and foes is delineated very well allowing the reader to understand Jed’s acceptance of killing as ceremonial and normal and perhaps his new attitude towards 12/21 and possible end of our world. The only major defect in this book was to have waited 3 years for publication. Book three should come out sooner and might be planned to coincide with 12/21. 8/12 Paul Lane
The Sacrifice of Tamar by Naomi Ragen: Also Sotah and Jephte’s Daughter, all books about Orthodox Jewish women that I’ve heard about for years but they are all out of print. I tracked them down at the library and loved them all. Her newest one and the only one still in print is the Ghost of Hannah Mendez.
THE SAD TALE OF THE BROTHERS GROSSBART by Jesse Bullington: The brothers Grossbart are a nasty and nefarious pair. Ugly and violent grave robbers set on leaving their home for the Middle East, the brothers begin their journey by murdering their neighbor’s family and running. Throughout their adventures, as they travel from Germany and through Italy on their way to “Gyptland,” they encounter a slew of strange characters including beasts, bandits, and even witches, and leave a streak of dead bodies and ruined villages in their wake. A crazy sort-of adventure story, The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart is not for innocent readers. Bullington’s imaginative debut is a dark and twisted fairy tale for adults who don’t mind laughing at the dirty stuff. 11/09 Becky Lejeune
SAFE AS HOUSES by Simone van der Vlugt: When Lisa sees a strange man stumbling through her yard, her immediate concern is the protection of her daughter, Anouk. She runs to her house but isn’t able to get there in time to lock the man out. Now she’s a prisoner in her own home. Her captor is Mick Kreuger, a murderer and escapee from a local psychiatric facility. He says he only wants a safe place to hide out until the officials on his trail have moved on, but Lisa has already seen how violent he can be. Then a random passerby happens by the house and Lisa is convinced she will be their salvation. As more and more time passes, though, Lisa begins to lose all hope that any rescue is coming. With her daughter’s safety in mind, Lisa starts to concoct a plan for escape. Now all she has to do is live long enough to put her plan into action. Safe As Houses is an intense and quick read with a fairly simple plot. There’s nothing overly complicated or all that surprising in the story, but it is well written – well translated – and gripping. Safe As Houses was originally published in Amsterdam in 2012 as Blauw Water and is out now in the UK. 7/13 Becky Lejeune
SAFE HOUSE by Christine Duncan: (e-book) This title has been used for a number of mystery and thriller outings. This time it’s about a 14 year old – Elissa Pappas, gone missing from her home in Arvada, an upscale suburb of Denver, Colorado. Her mother knows she has been hanging out with older “goth” kids doing drugs and alcohol, but now she is missing. Then they find her body. The main character, Kaye, – the mother of Elissa’s former best friend – works as a counselor in an abused women’s shelter – a “safe house.” When Kaye’s son RJ becomes a suspect in Elissa’s death, it’s all she can do to hold it together. As someone who raised three teenagers, I have empathy for her, but the entire story came across more as “chic lit” than as a mystery, even of the cozy variety. 06/08 Jack Quick
THE SAFETY OF SECRETS by DeLauné Michel: Fiona and Patricia have been utterly inseparable since they first met in grade school. Today, they’re each navigating the treacherous world of Hollywood, but their careers have taken very different paths. Fiona has had minor success with small television roles, but is still waiting for her career to take off. She’s happily married and maybe, finally expecting her first child. Meanwhile, Patricia lives the life of Hollywood’s elite. Her career has been a major success ever since she was lucky enough to get a job hosting a popular reality show. She’s become flighty and somewhat wild compared to Fiona’s stable life, though, and Fiona no longer seems to be anywhere near the top of her priority list. The worst happens, though, when Patricia reveals a secret that the two have kept for over two decades. Fiona is forced to reevaluate their friendship and decide whether it is worth having Patricia in her life. Safety of Secrets is a moving story that any woman can relate to. Michel manages to keep a refreshingly light tone throughout in spite of the somewhat serious subject matter. It seems genetics may be partially responsible for literary talent considering Michel’s who’s who of literary family members! She’s a wonderful author whose talent really shows in her writing. 07/08 Becky Lejeune
SAIL by James Patterson & Howard Roughan: Dr. Katherine Dunne plans a sailing vacation for her and her three children in hopes that it will bring them back together. Since her husband died four years ago, her family has been in a quick downward spiral. Carrie, her teen daughter, has an eating disorder and is suicidal. Mark, her teenage son, is an irresponsible pot-smoker. And poor Ernie, just ten years old, is too wise and mature for such a young age. Katherine’s mandatory vacation seems to be the perfect bonding experience, until things start to go very wrong. Carrie attempts to drown herself, the boat begins to malfunction, and just when the Dunne’s think the issues have been resolved, disaster strikes and this time the damage irreparable. The Dunne’s are instantly forced to work together; their survival is at stake. This book lives up to the Patterson name. It has all the suspenseful twists and turns that Patterson is famous for. 07/08 Jennifer Lawrence
SAIL by James Patterson & Howard Roughan: Purely by happenstance I have been reading books this month alphabetically, starting with At The City’s Edge through The Spies of Warsaw. Sail breaks the pattern and not for the best. Anne Dunne is a widow with three children and mega-problems that, of course, can all be solved by an elaborate sailing vacation. Less than an hour into this great adventure, teenage daughter Carrie is planning her own drowning, teenage son Mark is higher than the masthead on dope, and ten year old Ernie is nearly catatonic (Apparently he read this book in pre-publication ARC form). I have long given up on buying James Patterson books, and alas, I think I will now forego getting them from the library. Per the blurb, Written with the blistering pace and shocking twists that only James Patterson can master, SAIL takes “Lost” and “Survivor” to a new level of terror. My fear is that this will become a television series and/or Patterson will release a sequel. 08/08 Jack Quick
SAINT CITY SINNERS by Lilith Saintcrow: Dante Valentine is finally coming home to Saint City and you’d better watch out. Danny has just learned that one of the four demons Lucifer has hired her to track down is none other than Eve, the end result of Santino’s evil scheme in Working for the Devil. The revelation has caused serious trust issues in her relationship with Japhrimel and has set the devil on her trail. Too late to back out of her deal with Lucifer, her only choice is to stall long enough for the contract to finally run out. Japh has been keeping secrets though and Danny has no idea what she is in for. Then she receives a message from a friend in Saint City. Gabe and her husband Eddie have both been murdered and Danny is pissed. She promises to avenge their deaths and not even Japh or the devil himself can stop her. Unfortunately, her return has not gone unnoticed and Danny becomes the prime suspect in the case. Things have changed in Saint City but Danny still has plenty of allies on her side. She’s going to need them with the number of enemies she has against her. With only one book left in the series, readers can only guess what will happen next. 01/08 Becky Lejeune
THE SALARYMAN’S WIFE by Sujata Massey: Rei Shimura is a 27-year-old Japanese American English teacher. Her tiny paycheck barely allows her to exist in Tokyo, the world’s most expensive city, but she is determined to not use the plane ticket home to California that her parents have offered. She discovers the body of the wife of a wealthy businessman when she visits the ancient castle town of Shiroyama. Her subsequent involvement (crashing a funeral and posing as a bargirl among other things) angers the conservative police and the local citizenry but she presses on. Interesting character in a very different environment. Although the plot sounds like an Evanovich caper, this is totally different. 07/06 Jack Quick
THE SALON by Nick Bertozzi: I am not a graphic novel aficionado, and in fact I’ve only read half a dozen in the past several years. The books I’ve been drawn to (no pun intended) are of a more serious nature; books like Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi or In the Shadow of No Towers by Art Spiegelman. Without the political punch of a memoir of growing up during the Islamic revolution, or the introspection of 9/11, there is an immediate disadvantage to a lightweight pseudo-mystery like The Salon. The Salon refers to a group of Modernist writers and artists, notably Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Alice B. Toklas, among others, and a murderer who has ripped the head off his victim. There are some interesting references to the emergence of Cubism and Modernism, which I enjoyed, but I mostly found the storyline confusing. There is also drug use, in the form of a hallucinogenic “blue absinthe” that allows the artists to travel into their paintings, thus seeing them from an entirely different angle. But it was the full frontal nudity and sex which has generated the most publicity for this book, although I didn’t find it the least bit offensive or really even all that interesting. So the bottom line: is it worth the $20? I don’t think so. 05/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE SALT MAIDEN by Colleen Thompson: Heiress Dana Vanover has recently suffered some great disappointments in life. After a hysterectomy to remove what was a benign tumor, her fiancé left her saying he had always wanted a family. Then, Dana’s mother pleads with her to find her sister. Angela Vanover is a wanderer addicted to many things. She doesn’t stay in touch with her family, and her monthly stipend from her inheritance is more than enough to support her habit. Angie had a daughter who was given up for adoption. That daughter is in desperate need of a bone-marrow transplant and Angie’s mother is determined to save her. Unfortunately, Angie appears to have gone missing, her last two checks uncashed. Dana drives out to the remote town of Devil’s Claw to discover that her sister had made many enemies. She was obsessed with a legend of someone called the Salt Woman and with saving the desert from a proposed waste-management contract – a contract that would have brought much needed funding to this dying town. Then, a body is discovered in the heart of the desert. Could it be Angie? Was someone angry enough to kill her? Dana is determined to find out what happened to her wayward sister and nothing, not even her burgeoning romance with newly elected chief of police, Jay Eversol, will stop her. A romantic suspense that is sure to please fans of authors such as Heather Graham and Iris Johansen. 11/07 Becky Lejeune
Sammy’s Hill by Kristin Gore: It should come as no surprise that Al and Tipper Gore’s daughter has written a first novel with a political bent. Samantha Joyce is 26, single, and the most neurotic yet endearing character to come along since Bridget Jones. Her foibles include befriending telemarketers, unwittingly killing a steady stream of Japanese fighting fish, and having a penchant for pratfalls. But she’s also unfailingly honest, principled, and passionate about her work in public service. Sammy is an assistant to the junior senator from Ohio, giving Gore plenty of opportunity to share her insider knowledge of how things really work in Washington and on the campaign trail (hint: don’t leave home without your Blackberry). Smart writing, lots of laughs, and a captivating story line move what could have been a rather ordinary boy-meets-girl story well ahead of the pack. In addition, Gore tackles national healthcare, making this a timely debut. Expect lots of buzz. Strongly recommended for all public libraries. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
SAMMY’S HOUSE by Kristin Gore: In this sequel to Sammy’s Hill by former Vice President Al Gore’d middle daughter, Samantha Joyce is back, only this time she’s in the White House. The senator she works for has been promoted to Vice President, and while she’s only the assistant to an assistant of the VP, she still gets to bend some pretty important ears with her vast knowledge of the health care industry. Gore has some fun with her fictional President, a former alcoholic who’s been sober for twenty years; that is if you don’t count whiskey mixed with Diet Dr. Pepper at ten in the morning as drinking. This time Sammy takes on the pharmaceutical industry, blogging, reality TV, Canada and India, pointing out some very sobering realities. Gore brings back a great character and creates an interesting storyline; the writing is crisp and funny, and although it does get a bit repetitive at times, it moves along briskly. Anyone who delights in knowing what really goes on behind White House doors, even fictional doors, will recognize enough truth here to really enjoy this romp through D.C. 07/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2007 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.
SAMURAI CODE by Don Easton: Interesting police procedural featuring Jack Taggart, the loosest cannon in all the RCMP. In this fourth outing, Taggart is supposed to be working a relatively low priority case following the trail of a Saturday-night special found at the scene of a murder. He initially traces the gun from the manufacturer to original person, from whom it was initially stolen and then passed along from criminal to criminal. Before he knows it Taggart is knee-deep and sinking in a major heroin import ring. Taggart pretends to be an Irish gangster and penetrates the criminal organization, only to discover that the real crime boss is a mysterious figure out of Asia. Taggart and his partner are then flown aboard a private jet where they find themselves alone and without backup in the lair of one of the largest yakuza organized crime families in Japan, where all heck breaks loose. A guy like this has got to survive for further adventures but it looks awfully iffy for a bit. Recommended. 07/11 Jack Quick
SAN FRANCISCO THRILLERS edited by John Miller: If you love Herb Caen’s Baghdad by the Bay as I do, then you will love this eclectic collection of fact, fiction, and drama. With writers like Bill Pronzini, Dashiell Hammett, Jim Thompson, Martin Cruz Smith, Joe Gores, and Marcia Muller, among others, how can you go wrong. From the early days of the city to the 1995 print date of this volume, its one portrait after another of what Smith calls “that most elusive and feminine of American cities. And to add to your enjoyment, there are stunning surrealist photographs from Francis Bruguiere to help place you into each setting. So, sit down with an Irish coffee (first served in the US at the Buena Vista in San Francisco on November 10, 1952), a few fortune cookies (invented in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Japanese Tea Garden in 1909) and enjoy. 09/07 Jack Quick
SANCTUARY by Ken Bruen: Reading a Bruen book is not unlike seeing a bad automobile accident – you know you shouldn’t gawk, but you just can’t help yourself. Jack Taylor’s plans to go to America have been postponed because Ridge, his former partner, is diagnosed with cancer, so he stays to support her: “It’s God’s own vicious joke, the only woman I managed to keep in my life was gay.” He gets involved in the hunt for a killer, falls off the wagon, climbs back on, and somehow or other, manages to keep it loosely together. Let’s hope there are at least one more pint and a fag in his Xanax and whisky driven future. 06/09 Jack Quick
SANDMAN SLIM by Richard Kadrey: Eleven years ago, James Stark was sent to hell. The first living human in the realm, he became plaything, slave, and eventually assassin for hire Downtown. But when his girl is murdered, Stark slays his master and returns to the world of the living, hellbent on revenge. Stark was a talented magician before he was sent away, but now he’s even better. With the help of Vidocq — yes, that Vidocq. The famous French investigator of the 1800s is still alive and kicking and ready to help out a friend — Stark will track down his enemies and show them a punishment much worse than simple death. Oh, Sandman Slim’s debut appearance is a great one. Fans of Jim Butcher and Kim Harrison will love Kadrey’s hero/anti-hero. What makes it even better is the fact that Kadrey throws the heaven/hell/fallen angel plot into the mix as well. 10/10 Becky Lejeune
SANTA FE DEAD by Stuart Woods: Santa Fe lawyer Ed Eagle, who escaped a murder-for-hire plot in Woods’ previous Santa Fe Rules is endangered again. Wife Barbara has escaped from police custody, so Ed knows neither he, his new girlfriend, nor any unlucky rich man who might cross her path, will be safe until she is re-captured. At the same time, Ed’s new client, Doc Wells, may or may not have murdered his own wife and son. From Southern California to the New Mexico desert to Tijuana, Mexico, there is little in the way of domestic bliss, but even that little bit is better than being Santa Fe Dead. Another good one if you are a Woods fan like me. 05/08 Jack Quick
SATORI by Don Winslow: Nicholai Hel has spent the last three years in solitary confinement after the end of World War II. Now it is the fall of 1951 and the Korean War is raging. Hel is a master of hoda korosu or “naked kill,” fluent in over six languages, and has honed extraordinary “proximity sense”–an extra-awareness of the presence of danger. The Americans offer Hel freedom in exchange for one small service: go to Beijing and kill the Soviet Union’s Commissioner to China. It’s almost certainly a suicide mission, but Hel accepts. Hel out-Bonds James Bond in this thriller that has enough sex and violence to satisfy the most discriminating taste. I loved it. 03/11 Jack Quick
SATURDAY by Ian McEwan: McEwan deals with the aftermath of 9/11 with an interesting premise – a day in the life of a British neurosurgeon. However, this Saturday is not just any Saturday; it’s set on February 15, 2003, the day of the great London anti-war march and indeed, a historic date that saw millions worldwide protest the imminent invasion of Iraq. Brought down to a smaller, personal scale makes the impact that much more memorable.
Dr. Henry Perowne wakes early that morning to see what appears to be a plane crash. He immediately wonders if it’s terrorists, because that’s what we do in this day and age. His day off from brain surgery continues with a trip to the gym to meet a friend for their weekly squash game, but he is delayed by a detour because of the protest march. That detour triggers a minor fender-bender which turns into something with much more sinister repercussions. The other driver, Baxter, is of criminal ilk and attacks Henry, who manages to save himself by pointing out a health issue that Baxter is suffering.
Henry had been looking forward to this day because he is hosting a small family reunion; his daughter, a newly published poet living in Paris, and his father-in-law, a famed eccentric poet, will be there in time for dinner. But the day doesn’t turn out as planned; he argues with his daughter about the war, Baxter shows up at Henry’s home with calamitous results, and he eventually finishes his day off by returning to the hospital to work.
McEwan was interviewed on PBS and he spoke about how he couldn’t write fiction for a couple of years after 9/11. He felt people needed to be informed, and in fact, he himself was hungry for information to help make sense of what happened. His only published writings during that time were essays and letters to the newspaper. But his métier has always been fiction. McEwan obviously had something to say about the war in Iraq and chose this fine novel as his medium. While I don’t think he achieves the brilliance he reached with Atonement, my favorite of all the McEwan novels, perhaps it is his most personal and cathartic book, and certainly a very worthwhile read. 03/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SATURDAY WIFE by Naomi Ragen: If you can imagine Emma Bovary as a contemporary, Orthodox Jew, you have the gist of this latest Jewish family saga from Ragen. Delilah Goldgrab, whose name is completely symbolic of her personality: Delilah is a “bad girl,” an Orthodox Yeshiva student who falls for & has sex with the son of a famous rabbi, who promptly dumps her. Goldgrab is interested in only one thing: grabbing the gold, as in making a successful marriage to a man who can keep her in the style to which she would like to become accustomed. Delilah is a beauty, which definitely helps ensnare rabbinical student Chaim Levi. But no matter what he does for her, no matter what she has, it’s never enough and never what she feels she deserves. It’s a fascinating story and a mesmerizing one, rather like watching a train wreck; you know it can’t possibly end well, but you can’t stop reading. 08/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE SAUDI CONNECTION by Jack Anderson and Robert Westbrook: Well written but predictable thriller from the Pulitzer Prize winning and former syndicated muckraking journalist Jack Anderson about Pulitzer Prize winning and former syndicated muckraking journalist Ron Wright. The essence of the story is that the wife of the Saudi ambassador to the United States may have secretly given $20 million to an American white supremacist group, the White Brotherhood of Christian Patriots. When Anderson/Wright seeks to confirm the story to reclaim his professional status, people start dying. Not a bad read, but the U.S. supporting Saudi Arabia supporting Al Qaeda fighting the U.S. has been done so many times, it has almost become a cliché. 09/07 Jack Quick
SAVAGE GARDEN by Denise Hamilton: L.A. Times reporter Eve Diamond continues to be involved in more murders than most LAPD members. This time the victim is diva and erratic actress Catarina Velosi, coincidentally a former lover of Eve’s boyfriend Silvio Aguilar. Eve has an unwelcome sidekick, slick fast track African-American intern Felice Morgan. Together they pursue the case, conducting interviews and unearthing side stories, which may or may not lead to further adventures. An underlying theme throughout is the impact of Jason Blair, the New York Times African-American reporter who was found to be fabricating stories, on the entire journalism profession. I don’t know if Ms. Hamilton is getting tired or if it’s my own burnout, but this one just didn’t have the sparkle of her previous efforts. 01/08 Jack Quick
Savage Run by C. J. Box: This is the sequel to Open Season, featuring Wyoming game warden and all around likeable guy, Joe Pickett. An exploding cow, ecoterrorists and beautiful scenery just keep those pages turning. Ignore the cover; it has little to do with the story.
SAVAGES by Bill Pronzini: Can you believe 32 episodes in the Nameless Detective series? In this outing Nameless is working for a former client, Celeste Ogden. Several years ago he had done a background check on her sister’s fiancée. Now the sister is dead and Ogden is convinced her brother-in-law was responsible. Meanwhile a routine subpoena service by Jake Runyan turns into an entirely different adventure when Runyan discovers a body, is himself knocked unconscious and pulled into the conflicts of a small California town. Tightly written and well crafted as always. Let’s just hope that these keep on coming. 07/07 Jack Quick
SAVAGES by Don Winslow: It’s not Cheech and Chong, but Ben and Chon who are running a lucrative marijuana operation out of ritzy Laguna Beach, California. Both are peace loving dudes – Ben, a charitable, environmentally conscious Berkeley grad, and Chon, a former Navy Seal, who only want to run their business and smoke primo weed. So when members of the Mexican Baja Cartel decide they want a piece of the action, they ignite a fuse that eventually leads to bullets, blood, and violence, not to mention Letterman, Leno and Gerald Ford masks, as the two businessmen concoct various schemes and plots involving improvised explosive devices, kidnapping, etc. as they try to win back their close confidante and frequent bedroom playmate who has been kidnapped by the Mexicans to bring pressure on our heroes (?). Its Winslow at his best, not for the squeamish, but probably an uncanny insight into the realities of today’s drug culture. 09/10 Jack Quick
SAVANNAH BREEZE by Mary Kay Andrews: This is a quasi-sequel to the very popular Savannah Blues; quasi because Andrews uses a device common to romance writers. She takes a secondary character and puts them front and center in the next book. The heroine of the first book, Weezie, has a much smaller, secondary role here to her best friend BeBe Loudermilk. Bebe’s been married & divorced three times and her taste in men doesn’t seem to be improving when she hooks up with con man Ryan Edward “Reddy” Millbanks. She falls fast and hard for him and he skips town even faster with almost everything she owns. He leaves her with a ramshackle old motel and out of desperation she moves in and renovates, along with handyman/fisherman Harry, who was already ensconced and working on the motel. Determined to get her money and pride back, Bebe does some private detecting to try and track Reddy down, learning she wasn’t the first woman he’d scammed. Count on a little mystery, a little romance, and some laughs from this author because she always delivers. I zipped through this lovely bit of fluff in a few hours and enjoyed every minute. 04/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
SAVE ME by Lisa Scottoline: Scottoline steps out of her usual legal box with this standalone suburban thriller. Rose McKenna has moved to this lovely small town because her daughter Melly had been the victim of bullying. Melly was born with a large birthmark on her face, and by the time she’s 8 years old has learned that sometimes people can’t see past it. Rose has volunteered as a lunch mom, helping keep an eye on things in the school cafeteria at this brand new school. But she soon learns that some things never change, and she catches a couple of girls teasing her daughter. Melly runs out of the room, and Rose keeps the troublemakers behind during recess to talk to them about teasing. But there is an explosion and the cafeteria becomes a fiery inferno. Rose is torn between helping the two little girls she is with and finding her daughter. She leads the girls out to the hallway, leaving them to follow all the other children out of the building, then runs through the fire to save her daughter. But her heroism is tainted when one of the girls runs back into the fire to get her toy and ends up at death’s door. Rose becomes the town pariah and is determined to find out what caused the explosion. That leads her down a very twisted path to a breathless conclusion. Scottoline has moved into Jodi Picoult territory here and does a damn fine job of it. 04/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SAVE YOURSELF by Kelly Braffet: Patrick lives with the guilt of his father’s crime. Convicted of killing a young boy while driving drunk, the elder Cusimano is now serving time behind bars but his sons have been convicted in the court of public opinion and are serving out their own figurative sentence. It’s worse for Patrick in particular since he was the one who ended up turning in his dad – something that unfortunately earns him no credit or consideration with the angry townspeople. For Layla and Verna Elshere, life is no simpler. The two high school girls are the daughters of a local minister who recently went head to head with the school board in protest over the teachings of a popular instructor at their school. As a result the girls are the victims of a bullying campaign that’s only getting worse as time goes by. Layla soon becomes obsessed with Patrick, seeking him out first out of curiosity and then something more. The consequences of this entanglement will have deep ramifications for both families. This latest from Braffet is compelling in so many ways. From the outset, there’s a sense that things are not going to end well for any of the characters involved. Like the proverbial train wreck, though, it’s impossible to look away. 9/13 Becky Lejeune
SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT by Beth Hoffman: The trend of writing adult books with a child as main protagonist continues with this sweet and funny Southern debut novel. This book strongly reminded me of Montgomery’s Ann of Green Gables, a book I love to be sure, but would recommend to teens and tweens and then only to adults looking for something light and entertaining.
We meet CeeCee Honeycutt when she is about 7 years old or so. Her father is a traveling salesman and is rarely home, which is probably a good thing because when he is home, he’s usually drunk and somewhat abusive to his wife. CeeCee’s mother is a southern belle who’s been transplanted to her husband’s home in Ohio, and can’t seem to make the adjustment. The reader may start out thinking the mom has some humorous personality quirks, but quickly we learn that there is something much darker and scarier going on. CeeCee loses her childhood pretty fast, and by the time she’s twelve years old she goes to live with her great aunt in Savannah, where she learns what being a southern belle is all about, but more importantly, what being loved is all about. Pure escapist fiction, and a lovely way to spend a few hours. 03/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SAVING PAULO by David J. Walker: Pretty decent thriller from the author of two different mystery series. Like his series, this one is set primarily in Chicago where Charlie Long, formerly employed by the city of Chicago, gets involved with a Brazilian boy (“Paulo”) who has been abducted and brought to Chicago. Professional Russian hitmen are after the boy as well as Maria “Mary” McGrady, an heiress who has come home from Brazil where she had been working at the Porto de Dues Orphanage when Paulo was abducted while under her care. Also involved is an elderly fortune-teller Zorina who has a certain amount of ESP. As with most thrillers you have to suspend belief at some of the coincidences, i.e. Maria finding her way to Charlie in Chicago in one outing, but all in all it’s a good read. A caution, Paulo has been abused but the book doesn’t focus on the actual abuse so much as it effect on the boy. 09/08 Jack Quick
SCANDAL SHEET by Gemma Halliday: Tina Bender, gossip columnist for the L.A. Informer, makes a living digging up other people’s dirt and turning it into witty headlines. Lately, though, someone has been less than pleased about making it into the papers. All it takes is one threatening phone call and Tina’s boss calls in a private bodyguard. Tina’s not one to sit back and wait for things to blow over, though, and she plans on using all of the resources at her disposal to unmask her celebrity stalker. But when the calls escalate to physical threats, and even murder, Tina has to admit that she could use some help on this one. This first in the new Hollywood Headlines series is a fun and sexy mystery. Scandal Sheet is sure to satisfy longtime Halliday fans and hook new readers as well. Hilarious and highly recommended. 10/09 Becky Lejeune
SCARE ME by Richard Parker: A very taut extremely fast paced novel that drags the reader into the spinning world of a psychopathic serial killer and doesn’t let up until the very last pages. Will Frost, a successful British businessman is awakened one night from a sound sleep by a call from a woman telling him that he should immediately check himself out on Google. Will does so and is plunged head long into a horror never before imagined by himself nor his wife Carla. He sees seven houses on a site created for him and told that he must visit them in order, or his daughter and her boyfriend will be killed. The couple ascertain that the two have been kidnapped and are being held captive. Will begins a trip to each of the houses as guided by directions on a laptop he carries with him. He is told that he has to get an item owned by his daughter at each of the houses. The horror is that occupants of the houses have been brutally killed and left for him to discover and in most cases murdered just prior to his arrival. In the space of four days he is bounced from England to the U.S to the Far East and back again to England with no apparent rhyme or reason. Parker shows himself to be a master at maintaining the tensions of not knowing if Will’s daughter is dead coupled with coming head on with indescribable violent murders of people he doesn’t know anything about. We experience the complete exhaustion of the Frosts as each works via cell phone with the other in order to comply with the seemingly senseless directives of the killer. Scare Me is a book that readers will finish in one sitting and end up exhausted from event after horrifying event coming one after another. Excellent read and masterful fleshing out of people forced to comply with the dictates of lunacy, and this includes the motives of the killer explained at the book’s ending. 05/13 Paul Lane
THE SCARECROW by Michael Connelly: Former journalist Connelly pays tribute to the troubled newspaper business with the return of Jack McEvoy (The Poet.) The L.A. Times is downsizing, and Jack is next on their hit list. Determined to go out with a bang, he goes after a story about how an African American teenager turns murderer. Except the boy’s family blames McEvoy for their troubles, insinuating that it is his story that will ultimately put their “innocent” child in jail. McEvoy digs and soon finds that the boy’s confession is tainted, to say the least, and realizes that there is a serial killer on the loose. He hooks up with FBI agent Rachel Walling, and together they go after the Scarecrow. a brilliant, high tech, very scary whacko. If you like multiple plot twists, terrific suspense, engaging characters and a completely gripping story, then you won’t want to miss this. Connelly is the master – run to your nearest bookseller/library and settle in for a hell of a ride. (And check out all the websites that are mentioned throughout the book, they exist…) 06/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch.
THE SCARECROW by Michael Connelly: This is one is painfully realistic to those of us in the newspaper industry. Jack McEvoy is number ninety-nine of the last hundred layoffs at the Los Angeles Times. Before he begins his long waited second career as a novelist, (isn’t that the dream of all journalists?), he has one more story to write. It turns out to be the biggest of his career, as he focuses on Alonzo Winslow, a 16-year-old drug dealer in jail after confessing to a brutal murder. But as he delves into the story, Jack realizes that Winslow’s so-called confession is bogus. The kid might actually be innocent. Soon, Jack is tracking a killer who operates completely below police radar–and with perfect knowledge of any move against him, including Jack’s. Bosch, Mickey Haller, and now Jack McEvoy – unforgettable Connelly creations. 08/09 Jack Quick
SCAREDY CAT by Mark Billingham: Billingham’s second thriller (after Sleepyhead) featuring London Detective Inspector Tom Thorne offers double the challenge as Thorne and his colleagues track a serial killer after two women are strangled on the same day. Slowly, as the evidence mounts, the team becomes convinced they have not one, but two serial killers, acting in concert. The pace picks up as the hunt intensifies. Thorne remains a morose and intense character, who thinks deeply about death and guilt. Another reviewer said this one has more red herrings than a fish and chips shop. While I didn’t find it quite that twisty, it did make me want to continue to read subsequent Thorne adventures. 10/06 Jack Quick
SCENARIOS: A “NAMELESS DETECTIVE” CASEBOOK: by Bill Pronzini – a 2003 collection of fourteen short stories tracking the evolution of the “Nameless Detective” from his first case in 1968 to the time of the writing of this book. Only a master could evolve a character over a thirty-five year period, without even giving him a name. A real treat for existing and going to be Nameless fans. These stories fill in some of the gaps between the twenty eight novels and include one adventure never before published in English, only Japanese. Recommended. 05/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
THE SCENT OF RAIN AND LIGHTNING by Nancy Pickard: Pickard is a multiple award winning mystery writer, and this book garnered the trifecta of starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist and Library Journal, not to mention raves from the NY Times, the Boston Globe, etc., yet she has totally flown under my radar until now. One of my library patrons raved about this book so I gave it a try and now it’s my turn to rave.
This is the sort of book that defies characterization. The Linder family has ruled the small town of Rose, Kansas for generations, running the largest working ranch in the area and taking their responsibility as the biggest employer very seriously. The Linders have several grown children who work in the family business as well. They have guardianship of their granddaughter, whose parents were killed during a home invasion when she was just a small child. The story starts twenty years after the murders, when the man who was convicted has his sentence commuted due to a technicality, and this small town is up in arms about it. This cold case is at the heart of this story, but it is truly a character study of a small town and its inhabitants that move the story forward. Pickard managed to create a real page turner here and I couldn’t put it down. A terrific read for any crime fiction fan, and book groups will find lots to discuss as well. 04/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE SCENT OF RAIN AND LIGHTNING by Nancy Pickard: Jody Linder was just three when her life changed forever: Her father was brutally murdered and her mother disappeared, never to be heard from again. Now, twenty-three years later, her father’s accused killer is being set free. The Linders have always been known for their generosity and charity towards folks who need a second chance. It was this that left them vulnerable to Billy Crosby in the first place. When his son, Collin, fresh out of law school, uncovers gaping holes in the evidence, though, even Jody has to wonder if the man is truly guilty of murder. Though some of the Linders’ neighbors believe Billy Crosby to be innocent, everyone agrees that he belongs in prison, if only for the safety of those around him. As the truth about the night in question is finally revealed, Jody will have to face the realities that have long been hidden from her. Nancy Pickard’s work is so amazingly visual. In reading her fiction, you can imagine that you are there with the characters as the story unfolds. I also love her manipulation of the facts. Just when you think you’ve figured it out, it turns out you’re wrong. 05/10 Becky Lejeune
THE SCENT OF SHADOWS by Vicki Pettersson: In all honesty, trying to describe this book and do it justice is extremely difficult. Vicki Pettersson’s supernatural fantasy debut is fresh and exciting. In a genre that is full of vampire hunters and witches, she has given us superheroes: Joanna Archer, the central character in this tale, is the daughter of an agent of the light – a member of Zodiac troop 175, paranormal division, Las Vegas. Joanna knows nothing of this thanks to the fact that her mother disappeared shortly after her sixteenth birthday. New initiates of the Zodiac are typically trained as children. Joanna’s own violent initiation as a member occurs on her twenty-fifth birthday. She soon discovers that she is also a descendant of the Shadows, the enemy of the Zodiac. She alone is said to be the one who can rebuild the Zodiac and bring balance to the war between good and evil. Fans of the Rachel Morgan series by Kim Harrison and Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series will absolutely love Vicki Pettersson’s Zodiac series. 02/07 Becky Lejeune
SCHEMERS by Bill Pronzini: Pronzini’s 34th Nameless Detective novel connects pulp magazine collector “Bill” with a wealthy collector of first edition mysteries. Someone has stolen eight volumes from the locked room in which Gregory Pollexfen stores his treasures. Just as stealing pennies from the collection plate inevitably leads to serial killing, Nameless also has to contend with the subsequent shooting death of Pollexfan’s tramp brother-in-law in the same locked library. Meanwhile, Tamarah as her groove back and is anxious to tell all, and Jake Runyon, has finally begun to emerge from the emotional shell after the death of his wife. Runyon is trying to find the stalker who is after a Los Angeles couple. Another solid outing for the Grand Master. 04/09 Jack Quick
SCHOOL DAYS by Robert B. Parker: Two boys wearing ski masks shoot up a school killing seven. Then they barricade themselves in an office. When the SWAT team negotiates a surrender, only one boy is in the office. Two days later he names Jared Clark as his partner. Although Clark confesses his involvement, his grandmother is convinced he is innocent and hires Spenser to prove him so. Spenser immediately runs into real resistance to his pursuing the matter which makes him think there may be something to the grandmother’s beliefs. Another Robert B. Parker masterpiece. 10/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
SCHOOLED by Anisha Lakhani: Anna Taggart, recent Colombia grad, is thrilled when she lands a teaching job at an elite private school. Her parents are less than thrilled; they don’t understand how she can just waste all the money they put toward her Ivy-league education and become a teacher. Teaching is her passion and she can’t wait to dive in. Until she notices that the work handed in by her students isn’t their own. The majority of her students have high-priced tutors that are doing the work for them. Anna, desperately broke, gets sucked into “the dark side” and becomes a tutor after school hours. She quickly begins earning more money than she would ever have made as a teacher. She moves to a pricey “doorman” apartment, goes on shopping expeditions every weekend; the life she always thought she wanted, until she begins tutoring a young girl that wants a “real” tutor, not someone to do her assignments for her. Anna soon learns that money isn’t everything and remembers why she decided to become a teacher—to teach. SCHOOLED is a hilarious debut novel with a view of the private schools and tutoring that could only be written by someone that has knows it personally. 08/08 Jennifer Lawrence
THE SCORCH TRIALS by James Dashner: The follow up to Dashner’s The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials does nothing to clear up questions left from the first in the trilogy: I feel no closer to knowing what’s going on that I did at the end of Maze. That said, Dashner drags readers along on yet another fast-paced adventure as the surviving Gladers are set to their next test of survival. WICKED (World In Catastrophe, Killzone Experiment Department) is not done with Thomas and his friends yet. This time, the teens must race across a landscape that’s been devastated by the sun. To add to their trials, a WICKED representative tells the boys that they have all been infected with a disease called Flare, which damages the mind and apparently turns people into crazed and violent killers. If the boys can reach their destination within the allotted time period, they will be rewarded with a cure. But just like the Maze, there are plenty of obstacles standing in their way. Hopefully all of the questions will be answered in book three, currently titled The Death Cure. I’m certainly dying to know. 10/10 Becky Lejeune
THE SCORELESS THAI by Lawrence Block: Originally published as Two for Tanner in paperback in 1968, this hardcover reprint seems dated now but still a great read today. Tanner is the Korean War veteran with a head injury that destroyed his sleep center. Never having to sleep Tanner has plenty of time to become interested in hopeless causes, oppressed groups, obscure languages and exotic travel. In this fourth Tanner novel, he is in Thailand looking for a missing girlfriend, singer Tuppence Nagwa, an African-American beauty into the jazz scene. She and her fellow musicians have been kidnapped by Communist insurgents, immediately after a major burglary of the local royal jewelry collection. It’s Tanner to the rescue but not without his own pitfalls and perils. Again, a great read or re-read. 05/08 Jack Quick
THE SCORPION’S BITE by Aileen Baron: Third outing for Baron’s World War II era archaeologist Lily Sampson. She has been sent to Trans-Jordan, by the OSS, along with Gideon Weil, the famous director of the American School of Archeology in Jerusalem. When they become stranded in the Wadi Rum and their Bedouin guide is murdered Gideon is accused of the crime. In trying to clear him, Lily discovers that two oil pipelines run from Iraq through the desert to the ports on Mediterranean, one through Trans-Jordan that supplies the Allies, the other through Syria that supplies the Nazis. Syrians and Vichy French are raiding across the border, threatening to destroy the Trans-Jordan pipeline. At the same time Lily learns of a Nazi plot to kidnap and kill the eight-year old King Faisal of Iraq and take over Iraq. Now, Lily and Gideon must act to protect the Trans-Jordan pipeline, sabotage the Syrian line, rescue Faisal to prevent the Nazi takeover of Iraq, and return safely for further adventures. Its all in a days work for this female incarnation of Indiana Jones/James Bond, with sensible shoes and [probably a bit more stamina than her octogenarian creator. 08/10 Jack Quick
THE SCOTTISH WITCH by Cathy Maxwell: Everyone in Glenfinnan knows about the Chattan curse: generations ago, a Chattan wooed a Scottish girl. When his family disapproved of the union, the Chattan was forced to marry another. The girl, so fraught with anguish over losing her one true love, took her own life. Unfortunately for the Chattans, the girl’s mother was a powerful witch and she vowed that from that day forward any Chattan who fell truly in love would die. Harry Chattan is determined that he will find a way to break the wretched curse that has plagued his family before his brother is to become its latest victim. He’s traveled the Highlands far and wide and now he’s come to Glenfinnan in search of a witch powerful enough to help him. When Portia Maclean hears the story and learns that Chattan is offering up a hefty reward to any witch who can break the curse, she hatches a plan to swindle the addled noble. She poses as a witch and sets a meeting by moonlight with Chattan, but upon meeting him, Portia realizes he is earnest in his belief in the curse. She abandons her scheme in hopes that Chattan will leave Glenfinnan without discovering her identity. Fate has other plans in store for Portia and Harry, though. Historical romance isn’t normally one of my go to genres, but Cathy Maxwell’s latest was too enticing to pass up. This is the second in the Chattan Curse trilogy and the follow up to Lyon’s Bride, though either book can be read before the other. Now that I’m invested in the Chattan story, I’ll be anxiously awaiting book three, The Devil’s Heart. 11/12 Becky Lejeune
THE SCRAPBOOK OF FRANKIE PRATT: A Novel in Pictures by Caroline Preston: When Frankie Pratt graduates from high school, she gets her father’s old Corona typewriter and starts keeping this scrapbook, a charming, epistolary novel about a young woman coming of age in the 1920’s. Using vintage memorabilia including postcards, magazine ads, candy wrappers, menus and such, we follow Frankie from Vassar to Paris and back home again. It’s a fast read since there isn’t a whole lot of text, but nonetheless this is a rich, multilayered story that illuminates a brief period of American history, and I loved it. 12/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SEA CHANGE by Robert B. Parker: Former LAPD cop and current Paradise, Massachusetts police chief Jesse Stone has an unidentified woman’s body surface during the annual Race Week. A Florida driver’s license from a renter who never returned her boat is a promising lead but the case quickly becomes more complex as Stone digs into the woman’s past. Even Spenser gets a brief mention. Damn, Parker is good. 02/06 Jack Quick
THE SÉANCE by John Harwood: After the deaths of her parents, Constance Langton receives notice that she has been named heir to Wraxford estate. She’s never heard of the family, but learns that she is a distant relative through her mother’s line. It seems that all other Wraxford descendants that would otherwise be considered for the inheritance have either died or disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The lawyer handling the estate recommends that Constance sell the estate, sight unseen, thereby ridding herself of a manse that has been plagued by tragedy. He leaves her with his journal, outlining what he himself knows about the strange occurrences, as well as that of a woman named Eleanor Wraxford, nee Unwin. Constance becomes obsessed with the house and its history, especially Eleanor and the accusations that have befallen her. In an attempt to discover the truth and clear Eleanor’s name, Constance does indeed visit the home. Will she survive the Wraxford curse or unravel the truth behind the years of paranoia and fear that have surrounded the estate? The Séance is written in the tradition of a classic Victorian ghost story – not unlike the tales that pepper Harwood’s chilling debut, The Ghost Writer. Readers who enjoy the style and pacing of traditional gothic literature will love this book. Although this Aussie author’s sophomore title has yet to be released in the States, it is available online. Highly recommended. 05/08 Becky Lejeune
A SEASON FOR THE DEAD by David Hewson: University professor Sara Farnese is at her desk in the Reading Room of the Vatican Library when former lover and fellow university professor Stefano Rinaldi careens into the room dragging a large plastic bag containing “the freshly flayed skin of an adult male” and quotes the Christian theologian, Tertullian (“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”). Before she can learn more he is shor to death by a panic stricken Swiss Guard. Then the story begins to get interesting. First of a projected series involving various characters in Rome, this one takes the Da Vinci Code sub-genre to an entirely new level. 11/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
SEASON OF THE WITCH by Natasha Mostert: Years ago, Gabriel Blackstone took part in a project called Eyestorm – a project using remote viewers to help solve various cases. As one of the most talented remote viewers in the program, Gabriel was also arrogant an unwilling to cooperate with the team. His stubbornness leads to an accident that has haunted him ever since. Gabriel has not used his remote viewing abilities since he left Eyestorm. Then, Cecily Franck (Frankie) his former lover and friend from the project, approaches Gabriel with a request. Frankie is now married to a man named William Whittington. His son, Robert Whittington, has gone missing and they want Gabriel to find out what happened to him. As a favor, Gabriel agrees to “tap the ride” – their term for using the remote viewing ability – one last time. What he sees leads him to believe that Robert has been murdered. Gabriel follows his vision to Minnaloushe and Morrighan Monk, two charming and beautiful sisters who are hiding a secret. Gabriel hacks into the sisters’ computer hoping to find clues that will lead him to the identity of Robert’s killer. Swept under the sisters’ spell, Gabriel is unsure which sister is the killer and which sister he has fallen in love with. One thing he is sure of, if he doesn’t figure it out soon it may be too late. This deliciously atmospheric novel is packed with secrets and suspense. 05/07 Becky Lejeune
THE SECOND DEATH OF GOODLUCK TINUBU by Michael Stanley: The round mound of detection, deceptively dangerous Assistant Superintendent David “Kubu” (for hippo) Bengu faces challenges beyond the killer of two guest stars at a tourist camp – they don’t even have the ingredients for a proper steelworks. Stanley (the pseudonym for the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollop) effectively mix the murders with cross-border drug smuggling and the circumstances surrounding an upcoming African Union meeting. With lesser talent, what would be stereotype figures come to life in this second outing for Kubu. Another excellent police procedural, with extra mustard and some first rate deviled eggs. 07/09 Jack Quick
SECOND GRAVE ON THE LEFT by Darynda Jones: Charley Davidson is back and on the hunt for Reyes’s body. Charley knows all about Reyes now—who he is and why he’s here—but she doesn’t know WHERE he is. Able to travel incorporeally, Reyes appears to Charley at some of the most random moments. His physical body has disappeared and Reyes tells Charley that he’s decided to leave it behind. Unfortunately, if Reyes succeeds, the results could be catastrophic—end of the world catastrophic. Charley also has a new case on the books. Cookie’s friend Mimi has gone missing, but not before leaving a cryptic message on a bathroom wall. Now Charley has two fake FBI agents trailing her, three heavies who keep turning up at her apartment, and her uncle has put his own tail on her in hopes that she’ll lead him to Reyes. As the Grim Reaper, Charley could never say she led a normal life, but lately it’s been a little weird even for her! This is such a fun series. Jones cleverly blends PI mystery with paranormal elements while building her own mythology and world base for her Grim Reaper series, all with a seriously funny sense of humor. 09/11 Becky Lejeune
THE SECOND MOUSE by Archer Mayor: The early bird may get the worm, but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese. Joe Gunther doesn’t believe the young woman took her own life, and wants to dig deeper. His normally trustworthy medical examiner is having problems, which are crippling the investigation. Joe needs to help her and also work against a looming deadline before others lose their lives. Vermont’s most prolific policeman solves yet another case in this well written series, which captures the spirit of the region perfectly. To be released in mid-October at the height of the “leaf-peeping” season. “I’ll have a coffee and one of those maple walnut scones, please, heated and buttered.” 10/06 Jack Quick
THE SECOND OBJECTIVE by Mark Frost: An unusual but excellent blend of espionage and a police procedural in wartime. Bernie Oster is an American born auto mechanic whose German parents returned to the Fatherland in 1938. He is in the Army only to save his life and longs to return to America. He is paired with Erich Von Reinsdorf, a diplomat’s son who went on to become an SS officer at Dachau, a stone cold killer trying to live down his part-Jewish heritage. Both are conscripted into a commando unit operating disguised as American troops in Operation Autumn Mist, a last-ditch effort to defeat the western Allies in late 1944 by breaking through the lightly defended Belgium-Luxembourg region. Within this German unit is a special group of 20 commandos who will face almost certain death trying to achieve a secret “second objective.” Opposing this force is a U.S. army made up of tired veterans, green troops and one tough MP with the criminal investigation division, Earl Grannit, a New York cop in civilian life. Frost is able to breathe life into his characters and make this more than just another war story. Recommended. 07/07 Jack Quick
SECOND SHOT by Zoe Sharp: Charlie Fox’s second U.S. thriller (after 2005’s First Drop) centers around her assignment to protect recent lottery winner Simone Kerse and her daughter Ella. Kerse’s ex-boyfriend doesn’t want to be ex any more. Meanwhile Simone wants to find her estranged father and so Charlie, Simone and Ella journey to Boston and on to New Hampshire. Charlie ends up shot and puzzled, but soldiers on in this non-stop thrill ride. Ms. Sharp can write and Charlie Fox is one kick-ass broad. You will stay up late with this one for sure. 11/07 Jack Quick
SECOND SON by Lee Child: For all you Reacher fans out there, no, you didn’t miss another Reacher book exactly. Second Son is a ” Single”, basically a short story available on ebook only for $1.99. Child was only the fifth author to join the ” Million Club” having sold over a million books so this was just a natural extension of that popularity. It is a fun read, a glimpse into the emergence of the young man known, even then, as Reacher. Fans of the series know that Reacher was an army brat, and this story is set in 1974 when the family was stationed in Okinawa. It is a voyeuristic peek through the front window of that house, and will leave fans wanting more – the next book in the series, The Affair, comes out September 27th. 09/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch SINGLE
THE SECRET ADVENTURES OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE by Laura Joh Rowland: In a break from her enormously popular Sano Ichiro series, Rowland spins an enthralling tale if intrigue around one of literature’s most interesting families. Charlotte and Anne Bronte are forced to travel to London to prove to their publishers that they are indeed two different authors. On the ride there, Charlotte befriends a strange young woman named Isabel White. The woman is suspicious and seems to be convinced that she is being followed. Upon arriving in London, Isabel and the Brontes part ways. That afternoon, however, Charlotte witnesses a murder in one of London’s alleys; the victim is none other than Isabel White. What’s more, it seems that Isabel had been trying to contact Charlotte just moments before the murder. The police are convinced that it is simply a mugging gone bad. Charlotte has her doubts and those doubts are confirmed when she and Anne are attacked on the train home. Charlotte quickly finds herself embroiled in a mystery that has more to do with the murder of one young lady. Though this is a completely fictional tale, Rowland has woven her story around actual events. Most of the characters are historically accurate as well – Charlotte’s friends in the book were her friends in real life. All of this makes the narrative all the more believable. A fantastic period mystery. 03/08 Becky Lejeune
SECRET ASSET by Stella Rimington: In this second outing by the former head of Britain’s MI5, Liz Carlyle is excited about a possible terrorist action in the making. Before she can really sink her teeth into it, however, she is shuffled over to the task of finding an IRA mole within the ranks of MI5. Despite her initial disappointment she soon finds the two cases are interrelated and, in fact, she must solve her task to enable the apprehension of the terror cell. Well written with lots of detail, it combines technical proficiency with believable characters and plots. That makes it even more of a thriller. 07/07 Jack Quick
SECRET DEAD MEN by Duane Swierczynski: Reading a Duane Swierczynski book is like looking at a Gahan Wilson cartoon. It may be incredibly funny, and although you may not fully understand it, you just know it is going to give you nightmares. Page 1: “Then again, what do I know? At the time I was a dead man impersonating an FBI agent.” First sentence, Chapter 2: “My name is not actually Special Agent Kevin Kennedy. My name is Del Farmer and I’m a soul collector.” Obviously Del Farmer isn’t your ordinary private eye. Brad Larsen, his latest dead guy, just may be the key for Farmer in his long going battle with The Association. Not that there aren’t other problems. An FBI agent unstuck in time is toying with him. A mysterious couple keeps trying to kill him and a mundane babysitting job is threatening to steer him into disaster. Definitely not your run of the mill work, and exceedingly good. 11/06 Jack Quick
THE SECRET HISTORY OF ELIZABETH TUDOR VAMPIRE SLAYER as told by Lucy Weston: Imagine Buffy meets Tudor history with a very supernatural twist and you have an idea what to expect in Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor. Elizabeth is twenty-five and about to take her place as ruler of England when her secret heritage is revealed to her. As a descendant of Morgaine, Elizabeth and her mother both were born as Slayers. It is Elizabeth’s destiny not only to reign over her kingdom but also to protect her people from vampires. Her biggest threat is none other than King Arthur’s son himself, Mordred, the vampire king who has long waited for someone strong enough to rule beside him amongst the undead. Not only is this just the latest in a long list of literary/historical mashups, but readers will notice the author “herself” is a literary pseudonym, the premise being that Lucy Weston of Bram Stoker’s Dracula fame has been alive and well all these years and obtained secret journals belonging to Elizabeth, outlining her adventures as a Slayer. An entertaining read to say the least, and one that requires quite a bit of suspension of disbelief. 12/10 Becky Lejeune
A SECRET KEPT by Tatiana de Rosnay: Antoine and Melanie Rey were just kids when their mother, Clarisse, died as the result of an aneurism. As adults, the siblings never realized just how little they knew about the woman. For Melanie’s 40th, Antoine decides to surprise her with a trip to Noirmoutier, where they vacationed as kids. But the trip sparks a memory for Melanie resulting in an accident that leaves her hospitalized for weeks. She recovers, but that one memory causes Antoine and Melanie to question everything they thought they knew about their family. Meanwhile, Antoine, who has been having a hard time coping with his divorce, is starting to move on, something even he doesn’t realize right away. Events in his life cause him to reevaluate his current situation as well as the life he remembers as a child and in learning more about Clarisse, Antoine also learns more about himself. To be honest, I entered A Secret Kept with an expectation of a tale of mystery and suspense, as implied by the description of the title. Rather, the book is one of personal growth, of family relationships, and of moving on and coping with change. Antoine’s story made for a good read, but I was left wanting something a bit more. 09/10 Becky Lejeune
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd: Beautifully written story dealing with the meaning of family, set against a backdrop of racism, feminism and spirituality in small town South Carolina in the early 1960’s. Lily Owen lives on a peach farm with her abusive father, T. Ray, and her nanny Rosaleen. She lost her mother in a tragic accident when she was four years old, and Rosaleen is as close to a mother, to a parent, that she knows. When Rosaleen tries to register to vote, she ends up arrested, beaten and hospitalized, fourteen-year-old Lily decides it’s time to escape, and takes Rosaleen with her. They end up at an apiary and the bees make a beautiful metaphor for this sweet, yet somehow not sticky, tale.
THE SECRET LIFE OF JOSEPHINE: NAPOLEAN’S BIRD OF PARADISE by Carolly Erickson: In 1763, Marie Josephe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie was born, the daughter of a plantation owner in Martinique. In 1779, she left the island for France where she married Alexandre, Vicomte de Beauharnais. Following the French Revolution, both husband and wife were arrested and imprisoned. Alexandre was sentenced to death by guillotine. Rose was saved, however, and reentered society. In 1796, Rose managed to catch the attention of the already famous Napolean Bonaparte. The two were wed that same year. Eventually, Rose, now dubbed Josephine by her husband, would become Empress Josephine. Although Josephine already had two children from her previous marriage, she was unable to give Napolean an heir and eventually, the two divorced. It was said that Napolean’s final words were in regards to his Josephine. But what happened behind the scenes? What was Josephine really like? This fictional account of Josephine’s life provides readers with an interesting and highly imaginative version of history as seen through the Empress’s eyes. Carolly Erickson calls her novel “historical entertainment” and it is just that. Readers looking for an accurate account of the Empress’s life should refer to Erickson’s biography of Josephine. Readers looking for an absorbing read with a hint of historical truth will enjoy this tale. 09/07 Becky Lejeune
THE SECRET LIVES OF DRESSES by Erin McKean: Dora has been trying to figure out her place in life for a while and her grandmother, Mimi, has been there all along, encouraging and supporting her. When Mimi suffers a stroke, Dora is determined to keep things running smoothly at her grandmother’s vintage clothing shop until she recovers. As Dora steps into her new role, she begins to fall in love with the store in a way that she never expected. But with Mimi’s health uncertain, Dora’s not sure which path to choose: continue on to grad school or stay and run the store. The Secret Lives of Dresses is a sweet and charming book that began with McKean’s blog, A Dress a Day. In an interesting and unique twist, the story includes the secret lives (short stories told from the dress’ perspectives) of some of the vintage dresses from Mimi’s shop. 02/11 Becky Lejeune
THE SECRET LIVES OF THE KUDZU DEBUTANTES by Cathy Holton: It’s been one year since Eadie, Nita, and Lavonne taught their cheating husbands a lesson they would never forget. Eadie and Trevor worked things out and have moved to New Orleans where Trevor has been working on his novels. Lavonne’s deli has become a burgeoning business and Nita is about to remarry. Unfortunately, the future is not so bright for these three ladies. Eadie has grown restless in the Crescent City and longs to return to Ithaca and Nita has doubts about her impending marriage. Meanwhile, Virginia Broadwell, Nita’s ex-mother-in-law is planning her own revenge and it involves making Nita’s life as miserable as possible. The ladies still have a few tricks up their sleeves though and their discoveries about Virginia’s well hidden past will prove to be the society maven’s downfall. The Kudzu Debutantes are a loveable trio and new readers need not have read the previous title to understand what’s going on, although I do highly recommend them both. 08/07 Becky Lejeune
THE SECRET OF CRICKLEY HALL by James Herbert: It has been almost one year since young Cameron Caleigh went missing when his mother fell asleep in the park. One year of hoping, beyond all hope, that he will be found alive. Gabe Caliegh and his family have left their London home and taken up temporary residence in Crickley Hall, a home in the quiet village of Hollow Bay. Here, they hope to recuperate and begin to recover from their loss. Eve immediately dislikes the ugly and foreboding house and insists that they leave. At the request of her husband though, the family decides to give the house a chance. Strange noises from a hall closet and the sound of footsteps in the attic keep the family up all night and the family soon begins to suffer from violently real nightmares. The Caleighs discover that the house has a terrible and tragic past. In 1943, a great flood swept through the town of Hollow Bay killing sixty-three people. Of these, eleven were orphans sent to Crickley Hall to be cared for during the war. Their caretaker, Augustus Cribben, was a violent and demented man. Now, heavy rains, similar to those that caused the flood of 1943 have started again and the spirits of Crickely Hall have awakened. James Herbert is commonly known as the King of British horror. The title is well deserved and although this particular book has yet to be officially released in the states, it is available in many specialty stores as well as online. This is a great haunted house story that kept the cabin fever at bay during our most recent snowstorm. 01/07 Becky Lejeune
SECRET PREY by John Sandford: Ah, the joys of moving. Disovered a previously unread John Sandford. This “ninth” book in the series is the first after Davenport and Weather split up. Top banking executive Daniel Kresge is shot and killed in a hunting lodge north of Minneapolis. Any of Kresge’s four fellow hunters–all employees at his Polaris Bank–could have shot him, and all had motives, as did his almost ex-wife. It is up to Davenport to sort though all the conflicting stories and discover the real culprit. Although written in 1998, the villainous bankers fit right in with today’s general anti-banking anti-Wall Street atmosphere, and make very believable suspects. 10/11 Jack Quick
THE SECRET SISTERHOOD OF HEARTBREAKERS by Lynn Weingarten: For anyone who’s ever felt head over heels in love and for anyone who’s ever felt the true pain of losing their first love, there is The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers. Lucy’s sophomore year begins as an absolute nightmare. After months away from her boyfriend, he returns to school to dump her on the very first day. When Lucy is approached by three heartbreakers who tell her there is a way to heal her shattered heart, she is understandably leery. But when she sees the girls in action, she knows there is only one solution: learn their magic and win back her ex for good. But there’s a catch, it has to be done in just seven days and the sisterhood can’t know Lucy’s real plan. Lynn Weingarten captures the craziness of teen adoration and obsessive love through her writing. The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers is a light and breezy read for teens. 1/12 Becky Lejeune
THE SECRET SOLDIER by Alex Berenson: John Wells has lost it all – his wife, his child, his lover, his religion, and his job as a deep cover CIA operative. Now he is free-lancing, as much for the adrenaline rush as the money. He flies to France to meet a prospective employer, who turns out to be Saudi Arabia’s king, Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz. The king fears that his brother Saaed, the Saudi defense minister, is plotting against him to insure that Saaed’s 48-year-old son, Mansour, succeeds to the throne. Saaed’s scheming has extended to supporting the gunmen who just shot up a bar in Bahrain popular with Americans. Unable to trust his own people, the monarch asks Wells to find out who’s behind the terrorists, a hazardous mission that action-hero Wells readily accepts. The result is a fast paced thriller which the good guys (i.e. Wells) eventually win. 03/11 Jack Quick
THE SECRET SPEECH by Tom Rob Smith: It’s been four years since Leo hunted down the serial killer in Child 44, four years since he was allowed to start his own investigative office focusing strictly on homicide. In the course of an investigation involving the death of a local printer, Leo determines that the man is actually a suicide rather than a homicide. He does discover evidence that seems to point to blackmail as the factor that forced the man into his decision. Meanwhile, Leo’s old boss approaches him to discuss yet another case of blackmail. The man is drunk and Leo convinces him to put off the talk until they are both rested. That evening Leo’s boss kills his family before turning the gun on himself. These two men are just the beginning. Though Russia is in a state of change, someone is anxious to ensure that no one forgets the crimes of the past, and that includes the things Leo himself did as an officer of the state. Leo’s home situation complicates matters and leaves him distracted, which may be why his adopted daughter is so easily taken hostage, becoming a pawn in this game of politics and murder. Tom Rob Smith is off to a brilliant start and will not disappoint fans of his debut, Child 44. Both titles are an absolute must read for thriller fans. 05/09 Becky Lejeune
Secret Sanction by Brian Haig: A military thriller with a pedigree from a West Point graduate & first time novelist. If the name sounds vaguely familiar that is because he is Alexander Haig’s son … personally, I’m not holding that against him (grin). This book is good! Our protagonist is a lawyer from the Judge Advocate General’s Corp investigating a possible massacre by the U.S. Army in Kosovo. Despite the morbidity of that premise, there is lots of humor and I found myself laughing out loud more than once.
THE SECRET SERVANT by Daniel Silva: Art restorer Gabriel Allon is the secret servant of Israeli intelligence in this seventh novel in the Allon series. Amsterdam professor Solomon Rossner, also a secret Israeli agent, is assassinated and Allon is sent in to clean out the dead professor’s files. While in Amsterdam, Allon and his former partner Eli Lavon come across a terrorist plot that centers around the kidnapping of the daughter of the U.S. Ambassador in London. Its up to the two of them to sideline some of Israel’s and the world’s most violent enemies. This series just keeps getting better and better. 12/07 Jack Quick
SECRETS TO DIE FOR by L. J. Sellers: Another top notch outing from the author of THE SEX CLUB. Someone is raping lesbians in generally gay friendly Eugene Oregon. When the dead body of Raina Hughes, a 20-year-old social worker, is found, Detective Jackson gets the case. Jackson, the father of a 14-year-old daughter and divorced from her substance-abusing mother, is particularly affected by the brutal attacks, all too easily envisioning his own daughter as a potential victim. At first he suspects the father of the eight year-old boy Raina is trying to help, until additional evidence points elsewhere. A young woman journalist helps Jackson find the clues that give him the connection he seeks, and then it becomes a matter of time and the chase to see if he can find the answer in time to stop another brutal death. Sellers manages to maintain suspense as well as treating a potentially salacious subject with dignity Hopefully this series will continue. There is ample material and Sellers’ writing style is superb. 01/10 Jack Quick
SEEDFOLKS by Paul Fleischman: Kim is a young Vietnamese-American girl mourning her grandfather. Kim lives in Cleveland in the inner city. Near her home is an empty lot, long abandoned. It is filled with trash and other discards but Kim finds a small patch of earth, hidden behind an old refrigerator. She plants some lima bean seeds in her grandfather’s memory. Every day she visits and waters her beans, thinking she is alone. Unbeknownst to her, an old woman who lives on an upper floor of the building that lines one side of the lot has been watching her. The woman is sure she is up to no good and gets curious about what the girl has buried there. When Kim doesn’t show up for a few days, the old woman decides to check it out. She unearths a couple of the bean seeds, and realizes her error and replants them. Then she waters them. While she is doing so, Kim returns and the old woman shows her how to water in a better way.
Each very short chapter in this book introduces a new character who adds their own little garden. Eventually, the ugly lot is transformed into a place of beauty and more importantly, community. Each new character interacts with at least one of the previous characters, despite all their differences. For this is a city like many others, with people of many countries and cultures and languages. Vietnamese garden side by side with Poles and African Americans and Hispanics, the garden bringing them all together, helping one another and learning to get along. So not only is the empty lot transformed, so are these characters.
This is a truly multicultural story showing how each character inspires the other characters to look outside their own culture to see what they share with others. By coming together, they teach us that despite our differences we can all get along if we try. I loved this story and found it to be truly inspiring. Some of the criticism of this book reflects the fact that we don’t get the complete story of each character, that there are hanging threads that are not resolved. But I think those critics miss the point. The characters we meet briefly but learn enough to appreciate their part in the larger story, and that is the point. It is a very quick read, but memorable nonetheless. Fleischman really brings home what community means. 11/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE SELECTION by Kiera Cass: Thirty-five girls in the Kingdom of Illéa have been chosen to participate in The Selection. At the end, one of them will have won the crown and the heart of their beloved prince. America Singer knows that winning would make all the difference for her family, but she does not love Prince Maxon. America’s true love was left behind, the price she had to pay in exchange for the opportunity just being part of The Selection would give her loved ones. The Bachelor in a dystopian setting! I had a lot of fun with The Selection. There’s an interesting underlying plot regarding the history of Illéa, attacks on the royal family, and the factions that are warring against them. A lighter teen dystopian to be sure, but an enjoyable one, and there’s a cliffhanger ending that will leave readers anxious for the release of book two. A TV series based on The Selection is already in development. 4/12 Becky Lejeune
SENSELESS by Mary Burton: Imprisoned for ten years after being accused of murder at just seventeen, Eva Rayburn is trying her best to put her life in order and get back on track. She’s got a new job, is saving for college, and trying to put the past behind her. But when a dead woman is discovered behind the shelter where Eva has been volunteering, the police begin to look at her old file once again. The woman’s body is marked with burns in the shape of a four-pointed star, burns remarkably similar to the one Eva bears herself. Eva’s crime is not one she remembers committing: she was brutalized by a fellow classmate and when the boy was killed, Eva was convicted. The only way Eva might save herself this second time around is if she can find out what really happened that fateful night. Burton’s latest is an intense read and is followed next month by Merciless, which features Eva’s lawyer sister, Angie. 1/11 Becky Lejeune
THE SENTINELS: FORTUNES OF WAR by Gordon Zuckerman: Zuckerman’s debut, the first in a possible series of political thrillers, starts off with an intriguing premise. In 1938, the Sentinels, a group of six economics doctoral students at the University of California, Berkeley, all with family connections in international finance, claim to have discovered a pattern that explains and can even predict repeating cycles of the rise and fall of world powers. In particular, the Sentinels assert that German industrialists are pushing Europe into war. They propose a watchdog organization to eradicate these problems when lower-level means can still be used effectively. Of course, it’s too late for anyone to stop WWII. The story picks up mid-war when the same group decides to finance their proposed watchdog organization by stealing $100 million from the Nazis. Their daring strategy of Robin Hood style thievery puts their lives on the line to serve justice as the battle a dangerous and violent international conspiracy. Think Christopher Reich financial thriller set during World War II. Recommended. 07/10 Jack Quick
THE SENTRY by Robert Crais: This is the latest entry in the Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series, and Crais continues alternating the lead character. This time out it’s a Joe Pike book, which is a very different book from the lighter, funnier Elvis Cole, “World’s Greatest Detective” books. I love them both, so it’s all good to me. Pike is at a gas station when he sees a couple of gang bangers acting suspiciously. Being Pike, he follows them to see what they are up to and ends up in the middle of a shakedown in a sandwich shop. They gang bangers are beating up an old man, Wilson, and Pike sends one to the hospital and one running out the back door. The old man’s niece, Dru is a looker and Pike falls for her fast. Wilson and Dru are refugees from Hurricane Katrina, and Pike offers his protection which turns out to be a lot more complicated than keeping the gangs out of the shop. In addition to the gang, there are Bolivian drug lords, Mexican Mafia, a creepy killer and enough twists to keep those pages turning. The Pike books are reminiscent of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series; they are similar type characters and I really enjoy them. The Sentry is an excellent addition to the series. 1/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE SENTRY by Robert Crais: It all starts when Joe Pike notices two gangbangers as he is filling up his Jeep with gas at a local service station. He follows them across the street and interrupts their beating Wilson, a Katrina refugee operating a sandwich shop. However, it is Wilson’s niece Dru Rayne that catches Pike’s eye and leads him to keep an eye on the store and follow-up. Soon both Wilson and Dru have disappeared and Pike is up to his neck in a mix of Mexican drug cartels, the FBI, and the LAPD. With the help of partner Elvis Cole, Pike is determined to get to the bottom of this, even though they more they learn, the more they don’t know. The book is best summed up in this exchange between Pike and gang leader Miguel Azzara. Azzara – “You are making a mistake. You think you’re talking to some pretty-boy Mexican, but you are talking to La eme. We are two hundred thousand strong. You should wait like I say. You don’t want to go to war with us.” Pike – “War is what I do.” Another good one. 03/11 Jack Quick
SEPULCHRE by Kate Mosse: 1891: Léonie Vernier and her brother Anatole have left Paris for a stay with their aunt at her country estate, Le Domaine de la Cade. Léonie is unaware of the true reason behind their impromptu trip to visit the aunt that she has never met, but is excited nonetheless. She does not know that Anatole is hiding a very dangerous secret from her and she does not know about Le Domaine’s dark past. When she discovers the old sepulchre on the estate and begins to read about the legends of the area, her curiosity is piqued.
Present day: Meredith Martin is working on a biography on Claude Debussy but has ulterior motives for visiting the village of Rennes-les-Baines. Her quest to learn more about her biological family has led her straight to Le Domaine. As she digs deeper into the mystery of her past, she comes to realize that her present is inextricably linked to events that occurred over 100 years ago.
Mosse expertly weaves together these two stories and timelines to create an addictive tale of mystery and intrigue all wrapped around a strange tarot deck. While I enjoyed Labyrinth, I found Sepulchre to be far more interesting a tale; a great literary and historical mystery that breaks from the Da Vinci Code mold in spite of the familiar territory of Rennes-les-Bains/Château and the brief appearance of Bérenger Saunière. 11/08 Becky Lejeune
SEQUENCE by Lori Andrews: Lawyer and scientific advisor Lori Andrews’ fiction debut is the first in a very promising series. Genetics expert Dr. Alex Blake has just begun a two-year stint with the Armed Forces Institutes of Pathology, or AFIP. Her goal is to use the AFIP resources and facilities to map the genes of the 1918 flu and use that information to create a super vaccine to protect against bioterrorism. AFIP’s new director, Colonel Jack Wiatt, has other plans. Angered that he has been passed over as head of the FBI, Wiatt discovers that AFIP has long been handing over responsibility for various investigations to the Bureau. As part of his own personal grudge against the Feds, he begins pulling cases back under AFIP’s jurisdiction. One of these cases is that of a serial killer who has been strangling women and tattooing their left breasts. Alex is temporarily ordered off her own project and onto what has been dubbed the Tattoo Killer Case. When a link is discovered between this case and the high profile murder of a technology company’s CEO, even the President himself steps in and applies pressure to the Institute. With Wiatt’s own career under scrutiny and increased pressure to AFIP to solve the case as quickly as possible, everyone is at risk of losing not only their jobs, but also their credibility. This intriguing first novel is packed with engaging characters and interesting facts. With an author who is able to draw from such a vast amount of experience, you can be sure that this series will never become boring. 04/07 Becky Lejeune
SERIAL by Jack Kilborn and Blake Crouch: “The hardest thing about killing a hitchhiker is finding one to pick up.” That opening line ranks right up there with the tale of the sadist marrying the masochist – and no one being satisfied. What if a crazy driver picked up a nutcase hitchhiker? What if two great writers came up with an innovative experiment in collaboration? Kilborn wrote the first part, Crouch wrote the second part. Together they wrote the third part in a series of 100 word e-mails with neither having read the other’s opening section. What will happen to you if you read this? That is the easiest question of all. You will be entertained. 06/09 Jack Quick
SERPENT POOL by Martin Edwards: English police procedural with classic puzzle elements. The book starts with a book collector who is burned to death in his converted boathouse filled with priceless books. He is one of the best customers of second hand bookseller Marc Amos. Amos is the live in of DCI Hannah Scarlett who is determined to uncover the truth behind Emily Friend’s mysterious drowning in the Serpent Pool. In the meantime she has to cope with a new sergeant with a troublesome reputation, a new house, and new cause to doubt the fidelity of Amos. Then she meets Louise Kind, sister of the historian Daniel Kind, who has just returned from America to work on a book about Thomas De Quincey and the history of murder. How are all of these elements related? Edwards is experienced enough to pull all the threads together without going overboard. 02/10 Jack Quick
SERPENT’S KISS by Mark Terry: Derek Stillwater, Department of Homeland Security bioterrorism expert has his bags packed and is four hours away from a flight to Mexico and some much needed vacation, when his boss calls. Fifty-two people are dead in a Detroit restaurant from a sarin gas attack. Special Agent Jill Church is assigned by her by-the-book boss to keep Stillwater out of the loop, but while the FBI brass are playing politics with the press, the killer ups the ante. Calling himself the Serpent, he demands three millions dollars or more people will die. You can almost hear the Mission Impossible theme song playing in the background as Stillwater and Church fight both the bureaucracy and the killer. It becomes even more personal when the life of Church’s son is at stake, along with some 21,000 other young people. Hopefully, slightly unbelievable but a great thriller read anyway. 07/07 Jack Quick
THE SERPENT’S TALE by Ariana Franklin: In the time since solving the mystery in Cambridge (Mistress of the Art of Death), Adelia and her friends have been living quite happily in the countryside. Adelia has given birth to Allie, the result of her affair with Rowley (who is now a man of the cloth), and all is well, until Rowley summons. It seems that someone has poisoned Rosamund, the King’s favorite mistress, and Rowley fears that gossip will soon lead to the Queen as the most likely suspect. The whole team united, they pack up and head out to Godstow so that Adelia can examine the body. Her initial investigation is interrupted, however, when unexpected visitors arrive just as she is about to begin her examination of the corpse. Unfortunately Adelia and Rowley find themselves in the middle of an attempted coup, and being favored by King Henry puts them right in the middle of danger. I love that Franklin incorporates actual events into her tales. It is true that Rosamund Clifford retired to Godstow before her death. It is even true that popular legend says that Rosamund was poisoned even though actual history has shown that she was not; it certainly makes for a great murder mystery, though. Serpent’s Tale was published in the UK as Death Maze. 03/09 Becky Lejeune
A SERPENT UNCOILED by Simon Spurrier: Dan Shaper is a private eye, a fixer type character far beyond F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack, but this career comes after giving up his membership in a London crime family. He is freelancing, and the book opens with him solving a drug theft problem in a brothel for elderly men. Shaper is foremost a drug addict, who learns to detox after each job, but only a day into this detox he is offered a new job he can’t refuse. A serial killer has targeted George Glass, who claims to be three thousand years old with a faulty memory, lots of money and an assistant that Shaper falls for fast. He’s on the job but his old crime family wants him back, giving him more than he wants to deal with. Shaper is both worrying yet oddly compelling, moving through a drug induced fog with an occasional glimmer of brightness pushing through. This is exhaustive reading; every character is multi-layered in this fantastical urban horror story, the language is rich and descriptive and the story moves quickly from one nightmare to the next. 8/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2013 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.
SERVANT OF THE UNDERWORLD by Aliette de Bodard: Acatl, a Priest of the Dead, has been called in to investigate a missing persons case. A Priestess has disappeared, her room drenched in blood. Acatl’s own brother, a Jaguar Knight rumored to be having an affair with the woman, is the primary suspect. Acatl believes the woman is still alive, but finding her will prove to be a race against the clock as he is also sure that she will not survive long. Fantasy, history, and mystery collide in this debut by de Bodard, and the combination works quite well. Drawing on the history and belief system of the Aztecs, de Bodard blends genres in a classic whodunit and first in a unique new series. 12/10 Becky Lejeune
THE SERVANTS by Michael Marshall Smith: For Mark, Brighton will always be a place full of family memories: happy vacations with his mother and father. Vacations that will no longer happen. Now Mark is stuck in Brighton living in his stepfather’s home. His family has been torn apart and Mark sees David, his mother’s husband, as nothing more than an obstacle preventing Mark and his mother from once again being happy. When Mark meets the woman who lives in David’s basement apartment, he becomes fascinated by the old servants’ quarters that lie beyond her room. Upon entering, he begins to see things from another time. But what hides behind that door and beneath the regular everyday lives of the people upstairs becomes a chilling parallel of Mark’s life in the real world. And like the hidden depths of the home, what is going on in Mark’s life is much more complicated than a first glance may reveal. I enjoy Michael Marshall Smith’s blend of supernatural and real world. I have to say, though, in the case of The Servants, what I thought was a good read would actually be a great one for a YA audience. 09/10 Becky Lejeune
SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE by Libby Fischer Hellmann: After a tragic housefire claims the lives of her father and twin brother, Lila Hilliard struggles to move on. As she discovers more about her own past, she begins to wonder if the accident was indeed an accident at all. Lila begins to suspect that someone may be following her, a suspicion that worsens when she’s almost run over one afternoon. Her fears are realized, however, when another attempt is made on her life. Now she must find out what secrets her family has been hiding and why someone would kill to make sure they aren’t uncovered. Hellmann’s latest is a complex thriller that ties back to the unease and upheaval of the 1960s, when activism and protest were just a step away from terrorism. An interesting blend of history and mystery; I found the backstory to be fascinating, but the mystery itself a little thin and predictable. 12/10 Becky Lejeune
THE SEVEN SINS by Jon Land: What happens in Vegas, doesn’t stay in Vegas in this latest thriller built around the astonishing Las Vegas hotel-cum-fantasy-land, The Seven Sins. Michael Tiranno (Sicilian for the “tyrant”) is very loosely based on real life entrepreneur Fabrizio Boccardi, who has plans to build this hotel sometime in the not-too-distant future. In this story, we learn how Tiranno made his millions with a little help from his “Godfather” style guardian, and how he plans to keep Vegas out of harm’s way from Middle Eastern terrorists. Land takes several plot lines and seamlessly weaves them together with nonstop action, explosions, dead bodies, and travel across three continents, keeping the story moving so fast that it’s impossible to stop turning the pages. Strong characters, both men and women, and exotic locations just add to the fun. First of a new series from this talented author. 06/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
Note: The back of the review copy I read had pictures of both Jon Land and Fabrizio Boccardi, along with a note that the lead character was loosely based on the real life Italian. I asked the author whether he was commissioned to write this novel, perhaps to promote a new hotel in Las Vegas? Here is his reply:
“In answer to your question, I was commissioned to write the book after Fabrizio Boccardi met my publisher and told him his very vague concept of the character of Michael Tiranno. I built the entire story around that vague concept, but not really to promote a hotel that won’t exist for another who knows how many years.
Michael Tiranno is more like James Bond, a character who will appear in books, movies (A deal will be announced in the very near future.), video games, and more. He is kind of Fabrizio’s alter ego but Fabrizio didn’t really know what he wanted until I came up with the concept of a GODFATHER-like saga that would both show Michael as a man and how he became that man. Unlike standard promotional deals, then, I had full creative freedom to plot the story and develop the character as I saw fit.
The rendering/drawing of the casino on the rear end papers is based on architectural sketches of how the hotel is envisioned. While Fabrizio has every intention of some day building the real Seven Sins, breaking ground is still quite a ways off, a few years at least.
So the story is more “loosely inspired” by Fabrizio’s life than “based upon” it. He was never in the mob, never imploded a casino or sunk a freighter (Imagine what the Nevada Gaming Commission would do with that!), but Michael’s experiences in Monte Carlo, Zaire, and Cuba pretty much mirror Fabrizio’s since he made his original fortune in soft commodities trading.”
Seven Up by Janet Evanovich: Fabulous continuation of the wild, comic adventures of bounty hunter Stephanie Plum. My only complaint was that it wasn’t long enough. I want more! This is my favorite series by far. If you haven’t read them, do yourself a favor and start now. One For the Money; Two For the Dough; Three to Get Deadly; Four to Score; High Five; Hot Six
THE SEVENTH SURVIVOR by Lori Lacefield: Junior Leaguer socialite Palmer Reed is elected to the board of the prestigious Diamond Foundation in Knoxville, Tennessee, an organization which is dedicated to righting wrongs and providing relief for victims of various crimes. Palmer immediately enters the Foundation’s society of country clubs, fancy balls, and fundraisers. So far, sounds like your typical cozy, right? But what happens when Palmer is introduced to the Foundations secret method of fundraising and its complete agenda for obtaining justice? Is a charitable cause worth killing for? Well written with a twist. The Diamond Foundation honcho “the Vindicator” could have only been played by Mama Dearest, Joan Crawford. Recommended. 08/06 Jack Quick
SEVERANCE PACKAGE by Duane Swierczynski: This fast-paced, action-packed thriller from the author of The Blonde really goes over the top. David Murphy calls his staff in for a mysterious Saturday morning meeting, where he then informs them that the company is closing up shop, and they are all fired. Well, not fired exactly – they are all to be killed. He calmly informs them that all exits are sealed and if they do manage to open a door, they will be killed by deadly Sarin gas. When mild mannered Molly Lewis quietly pulls a gun and shoots the boss, all hell breaks loose. We eventually learn that Molly is, in fact, a Polish spy and trained killer and this is where I had trouble with suspending my disbelief. Molly is a killing machine, extraordinarily strong and fast as a speeding bullet, but I just couldn’t buy it. The pages fly by, but I couldn’t get past the ridiculousness of the situation and the people involved, and I couldn’t get involved enough with these cartoonish characters to care. 8/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SEVERANCE PACKAGE by Duane Swierczynski: Swierczynski does in book form what Dolly Parton did cinematically in “Nine To Five” and Johnny Paycheck did musically with “Take This Job And Shove It.” Having a job doesn’t always mean you are on the pathway to success. David Murphy is the CEO for a Philadelphia financial company. He calls his staff in for a Saturday morning meeting with news that is bad and worse. Bad is they are all about to become unemployed, worse is that they are all about to be killed. Every escape route from the 36th-floor office has been sealed off or rigged with lethal sarin gas. There is no hope – until mousy Molly Lewis pulls out a gun and eliminates Murphy. In the ensuing panic, the reader learns there is much more to Murphy’s business than meets the eye; much, much more. To say more would spoil some of the surprise. As he did with “Blonde”, Swierczynski can surely make you wonder what is real – and what isn’t. Excellent. 08/08 Jack Quick
THE SEX CLUB by L. J. Sellers: I grew up in and currently live in Birmingham, Alabama where Eric Rudolph killed officer Robert Sanderson and critically injured nurse Emily Lyons in the bombing of an abortion clinic January 29, 1998. Consequently, I feel a special empathy with Kera Kollmorgan, a registered nurse at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Eugene, Oregon, which suffers a similar encounter. A pipe bomb goes off, damaging the building and causing severe injuries to one patient. Things only get worse the next day when the dead body of a young girl who has visited the clinic is fond in a nearby dumpster. Detective Wade Jackson is initially assigned to the bombing case and later to the homicide. He is a single father of a fourteen- year old girl who was friends with the victim. In addition to the personal implications, there are also political implications complicating the case. I understand this is the first of a series featuring Detective Jackson. I hope so, and think it will do well. 05/08 Jack Quick
SEX IN A SIDE CAR by Phyllis Smallman: Florida has two seasons – hurricane and tourist. Either can be dangerous, both together really nasty. Sherri Travis is tending bar at the Bath and Tennis Club where two women have been murdered. There are more than enough suspects among the staff. At the head of the list is a charming chef who wants to cook up something hot with Sherri. There is also a gardener lurking in the bushes, and a pool boy who delivers more than fresh towels. With hurricane Myrna raging into the gulf, a murdered tourist at her feet, and a fallen palm tree blocking the only road off the island, Sherri battles to stay alive as the murderer closes in. Second in the Sherri Travis series – too edgy to be a true “cozy” but light enough to make a quick enjoyable read. 02/10 Jack Quick
SEX, MURDER AND A DOUBLE LATTE by Kyra Davis: Mystery author Sophie Katz never thought she would be living out her own stories, but that is exactly what seems to be happening in this entertaining and snappy debut. Sophie is the first, and only, to make a connection between two recent celebrity deaths: A famous rapper is gunned down in a scene reminiscent of one of his very own videos, and then a Hollywood producer commits suicide in a stage set remarkably close to one from a film he was involved with. Sophie is convinced that something strange is going on, especially when scenes from her own books begin to play out around her. It’s subtle at first, a broken glass in her apartment and a misplaced book, but then she begins receiving prank calls and her car is vandalized. Could Sophie be next in this bizarre string of murders? If so, it looks like she’s on her own to figure it out — everyone around her is a potential suspect, and the cops think she’s absolutely nuts! This first in the series is a great blend of humor and suspense; a perfect light mystery that will keep readers on their toes and dying for more. 04/09 Becky Lejeune
SHACKLES by Bill Pronizini: Pronzini’s Nameless Detective is kidnapped one winter night near his home in San Francisco. He is then driven to a remote mountain cabin and left, chained in a leg iron, with only enough supplies to last three or four months. His masked captor has planned a slow and vengeful death. Enduring solitude and physical hardship, summoning great effort of will, Nameless survives, escapes and, as a profoundly altered man, sets off to find his would-be murderer. Still relevant after more than two decades. 1/13 Jack Quick
SHADES OF GRAY by Jessica James: Set in Civil War Virginia, SHADES OF GRAY is a powerful tale of loyalty and the love of one’s country. Andrea Evans, a Union spy, disguises herself as a young boy to defend her country. She crosses paths with Captain Alexander Hunter, a Confederate officer. Hunter, unaware of her true identity, becomes obsessed with bringing down the young soldier that caused the deaths of several of his men. They meet again at the deathbed of Hunter’s brother, Daniel, a Union officer. Hunter promises his brother to protect Andrea at all costs. Andrea is captured by the Confederates and severely injured. Hunter, abiding by the promise he made his brother, takes her to his home to heal. Evans detests Hunter, but due to her injuries she is unable to leave Hunter’s home, Hawthorne. Despite their differing allegiances, both Hunter and Evans let down the wall surrounding their hearts, and fall in love. Civil war raging around them, they cannot deny the love they share, a love that transcends the battle lines. SHADES OF GRAY is an amazing book full of historical detail. The reader is pulled into the raging war. I loved the characters—they were well developed and defined. I was pulled in from page one and was saddened when the story ended. I would highly recommend this book to any fan of historical fiction. 01/09 Jennifer Lawrence
THE SHADOW by Kristina Streetman-DiGiovanni: I picked up this book since it was the first effort of a local (to Birmingham, AL) author and it has a local setting. The Shadow is a stalker and the book does a credible job of portraying the escalating tension as incident after incident occurs without resolution. Although not written in the first person, it is obvious the author is the victim of the stalking which adds an interesting twist to the tale. 08/06 Jack Quick
SHADOW CATCHER by James R Hannibal: Hannibal is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, a veteran combat pilot and his experience lends credibility to this novel centering on the exploits of a special group of men known as the triple seven chase team. Ten years prior to the opening of the action Major Nick Baron, the leader of the chase team left a B-2 Stealth bomber sunk at the bottom of the Persian Gulf after a mission he was on. Now Major Baron is tasked with finding a way to bring up, and destroy, or simply destroy the bomber so that no enemy nation can get it and discover the secrets of it’s on board technology. As work proceeds on solving the problem of the sunk bomber a message is received from a soldier, long thought dead, that has escaped from imprisonment in China and is hiding awaiting rescue. There is only one solution to pick up the soldier hiding in the middle of China and that is to use a new plane termed the Shadow Catcher which has capabilities way beyond anything that has come before it’s development. Both projects proceed drawn with an excitement that keeps the reader glued to the pages. Action is complicated by the presence of a spy that has infiltrated the Triple Seven team and the need to outthink him and handle the assignments given. Hannibal, thanks to his background has the ability to make action real and flowing making sure that the reader stays with it, and upon finishing the book awaits the next one featuring Nick Baron and his group. 10/13 Paul Lane
THE SHADOW IN THE WATER by Inger Frimansson: THE SHADOW IN THE WATER continues the story of Justine Dalvik, which began in GOODNIGHT, MY DARLING. Justine is an unusual protagonist; the six years past have mellowed her, but not much. She’s still all edges, oddly attractive, occasionally repulsive, and she still lives in that tall house by the waters of Lake Malaren with her wild bird. Yet this story belongs more to other characters whose lives run on a tangent with hers.
Hans Peter Berman, Justine’s live-in lover, continues to escape every evening to his job as night manager at a hotel in town. Ulf, the hotel’s owner, has cancer and may sell it to pay for an operation overseas, a possibility that fills Hans Peter with dread. Ariadne is a cleaner at the hotel — she has an abusive husband, a blind daughter, and a shining, steely soul; hers is the most compelling of the several stories. The others involve Tor, husband of missing-presumed-dead Berit, and Jill, Berit’s friend who is tentatively reaching out to him; and Micke, son of Nathan, Justine’s lover from years past who died in the jungle. Micke blames Justine for all that has gone wrong in his young life.
Amid an atmosphere of sustained ominousness, these stories run until finally they converge when Berit’s body surfaces from Malaren’s dark waters after a storm. The conclusion is quietly satisfying, like the faint illumination of a Swedish winter’s sun. 05/08 Dianne Day
SHADOW LAWS by Jim Michael Hansen: In this second of the “Laws” series, Denver homicide detective Bryson Coventry, and beautiful young attorney Taylor Sutton, are separately hunting vicious killers but for very different reasons. A lawyer friend of Sutton’s has a mysterious client, with whom he has only talked by phone, that he thinks is trying to kill him. He has tapes of their conversations that are not conclusive and wants Sutton’s advice as to whether he can ethically turn them over to the police. In the meantime Coventry is looking for a missing woman that he fears is dead. Soon they are in pursuit of a sicko who likes to play games with his victims, the police and attorneys. Eventually the paths of Coventry and Sutton cross and they close in on the truth. Another excellent outing. 11/06 Jack Quick
SHADOW MAN by Cody McFadyen: The protagonist, FBI agent Smoky Barrett, lost her husband and daughter in an attack by a serial killer. Still on the job, she and her team are now tracking a madman who apparently believes he is a descendent of Jack the Ripper. He kills women, mostly prostitutes, and sends videotapes of the killings to Barrett and her team. Well written with a punch, it is hopefully the start of a series. Barrett, while strong, is a deeply troubled person and it will be interesting to see how she evolves from the tragedies that have befallen her. 08/06 Jack Quick
SHADOW MEN by Jonathon King: Moody ex-Philadelphia cop Max Freeman, now a fully licensed PI in Florida, agrees to look into the disappearance of a father and two sons who signed on for three weeks of work on the Tamiami Trail 80 years earlier and never made it home. The Tamiami Trail runs across the Everglades and like so much of the area’s development, has a checkered history. The mysterious Nate Brown, who helped Max in The Blue Edge of Midnight, is back, along with Max’s cast of friends. The government still wants to evict him, friend/attorney Billy Manchester has once again come up with a case that interests him, and his love life remains as fragile as before. All in all the 3rd outing is just as good as the previous two. You can smell the swamp and feel the humidity of south Florida with every page. 05/07 Jack Quick
SHADOW OF BETRAYAL by Brett Battles: Jonathan Quinn is a freelance operative and professional “cleaner”. Three jobs, no questions. That was the deal Quinn had struck with his client at the Office. Unfortunately for him, Ireland was just the first. Now Quinn, along with his colleague and girlfriend–the lethal Orlando–has a new assignment touched off by the killings in Ireland. Their quarry is a U.N. aide worker named Marion Dupuis who has suddenly disappeared from her assignment in war-torn Africa. When Quinn finally catches a glimpse of her, she quickly flees, frantic and scared. For Quinn the assignment has now changed. Find Marion Dupuis, and the child she is protecting, and keep them from harm. In the process Quinn will unearth a horrifying plot and an act of terror more cunning, and more insidious, than anyone can guess. 1/12 Jack Quick
SHADOW OF POWER by Steve Martini: Terrance Scarborough has become an overnight celebrity with his controversial book, Perpetual Slaves. In it, he reveals to the world how the words that bound an entire race to slavery for generations have been repealed but not struck from the U.S. Constitution. His work riles up the public, unearthing deep-set emotions in opposing factions, and creating a hostile and violent reaction. His overnight success ends abruptly, however, when he is murdered in his hotel room. The case seems open and shut when the police arrest young Carl Arnsberg, an employee at the hotel who is said to have been a member of the local white supremacy group. Carl swears his innocence but with so much damning evidence, defense attorney Paul Madriani has his work cut out for him. In the course of his investigation, Madriani learns that Scarborough bragged openly about possessing a copy of a letter rumored to have been written by Jefferson, a letter of such an explosive nature that he removed all reference to it from the book for fear of the possible repercussions. Any fears must have been long gone by the time he was murdered, though, because he was threatening to go public with it in order to boost sales. Since the murder, no one has been able to locate the document in question. As Madriani investigates further, all signs seem to point back to a member of the US Supreme Court and he begins to wonder just what was in this letter and who is actually behind the murder. Martini’s latest legal thriller has a fascinating plot and some of the most realistic portrayals of courtroom events that I have come across. It’s an exciting and dramatic installment to his popular Madriani “series.” 05/08 Becky Lejeune
SHADOW OF POWER by Steve Martini: Legal scholar Terry Scarborough has stirred up a hornets nest with his book about the Constitution, particularly Article I, Section 2 which sets forth the way votes are apportioned. (Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons .(i.e. slaves)) Although this language was superseded by the 14th amendment, section 2, the fact that the amending process for the Constitution requires the offending language to remain in place is offensive to many. When Scarborough is brutally murdered, this becomes even more of an issue. Scarborough has also hinted at a missing letter of Thomas Jefferson’s, which if real, could further divide the country. It’s up to Defense Attorny Paul Madriani to untangle the mess as the only hope for his client, Scarborough’s accused slayer. From California to Washington, D.C. and the nation’s highest court, Madriani and partner Harry Hinds chase the elusive truth while the politcial stakes become immense. Nicely done. 06/08 Jack Quick
SHADOW OF THE DAHLIA by Jack Bludis: The June 12, 1994 murder of Nicole Brown Simpson, wife of football star O.J. Simpson, in Los Angeles attracted world-wide attention. Officially, her murder was never solved. On January 15, 1947 the mutilated severed body of Elizabeth Short was found in Leimert Park in Los Angeles. Officially, the murder of the woman who came to be known as “The Black Dahlia” was never solved either. Private eye Rick Page is trying to locate a millionaire’s missing wife when he becomes involved in what was then the case of the century. Page is unwillingly drafted to find a young man who wronged the daughter of a crime lord. Soon, bodies – tortured in the same manner as the Dahlia – begin to pile up, and Page learns that he’s in deadly danger. Is this a cunning copycat attempting to confuse the police, or has he fallen under the shadow of the Dahlia’s killer? Bludis captures the mood perfectly with dialogue and characterizations that pull you right into that heady post-war atmosphere, when the survivors felt they had control of the world and only the brightest of futures. If you like Mickey Spillane, you will love Bludis as Rick Page can compete with anyone’s private eye. 12/10 Jack Quick
SHADOW OF THE RAVEN by David Sundstrand: Add another name to the list of western mystery writers who do it right. Francisco “Frank” Flynn is a half-Irish, half Native American Bureau of Land Management officer who finds the bloated corpse of a poacher, left to die without shoes or water. Frank teams up with reporter Linda Reyes to investigate. Their search for the murderer parallels that of the victim’s brothers—Roy, Hickey and Jason Miller—a trio of unrepentant, unwashed misfits whose detecting methods leave a trail of death and destruction. Inevitably they all come together in the canyon where Donnie Miller died and the good guys win, bad guys lose. Nicely done and hopefully the first of a long running series. 01/09 Jack Quick
THE SHADOW PATROL by Alex Berenson: In 2009, the CIA’s Kabul Station fell for a source who promised to lead it to Bin Laden, but instead he blew himself up, taking the station’s most senior officers with him. Now in 2011, the station is still floundering, agents are dying, and at Langley the CIA’s chiefs wonder if the unthinkable has happened, if somehow the Taliban has infiltrated the station. John Wells reluctantly agrees to return to the country where his career as an undercover operative began. As soon as he arrives he is in a vipers’ nest of hostility and mistrust-and clues that hint at a drug-trafficking operation involving the Agency, the military, and the Taliban. Americans are dying, and an American is responsible. And only John Wells stands in his way . . . for now. If he can survive. Nicely done. 4/12 Jack Quick
SHADOW TRADE by Alan Furst: Furst uses a real live event as the basis for this, one of his first spy vs. spy thrillers, originally published in 1983. In June, 1977, the CIA dismissed 820 Clandestine Service officers in a single day. In this book, one of them, named Guyer, goes into business for himself, the only business he knows, clandestine operations. As elsewhere in the business world, Guyer has to face competitive challenges and market his product successfully. Unfortunately in this shadow world of espionage the rules are few, and hardly ever followed, and there are no government regulator agencies to keep the players in bounds. Although now fifteen years old, this gives you a good inside look at the world of clandestine contemporary intelligence – mail drops, computers, honey traps, anonymous funds transfers and all the rest. If you are even a slight bit paranoid, you may want to skip this one. But if you have a strong heart, it’s a great read. 09/08 Jack Quick
SHADOW WALTZ by Amy Patricia Meade: Marjorie McClelland is a mystery writer with a penchant for getting in on the action. Engaged to wealthy Englishman Creighton Ashcroft, everyone feels it is time for Marjorie to settle down and focus on her wedding plans and other more seemly topics. After all there is a Great Depression and women should be seen and not heard. Unfortunately when a young mother’s appeal for help in finding her missing husband leads Marjorie and her fiancé to the dismembered body of the husband’s mistress, the question of “Did he or didn’t he?” takes precedence over “Will you, Marjorie, take Creighton, etc. etc. Even though the husband is convicted in the murder, Marjorie isn’t certain that justice has been served. So who will win out – her fiance’ or a man who may be deserving of his fate? Third in the series, and a fast read. 06/08 Jack Quick
THE SHADOW YEAR by Jeffrey Ford: Edgar winner Jeffrey Ford’s latest is the story of one strange year through a 12 year-old boy’s eyes. The story begins in the days leading up to the end of summer vacation, sometime in the 1960s. A boy from the narrator’s class has gone missing and there are reports of a peeping tom in the neighborhood. The boy and his older brother take it upon themselves to catch the perpetrator themselves and begin to collect evidence in the case. Then another classmate goes missing and the boys begin to notice a strange white car lurking on their street. Our narrator begins to write brief descriptions of all his neighbors in a notebook and relays these entries to his younger sister, Mary. At the same time, the boy’s older brother, Jim, keeps a model of the neighborhood in the basement complete with clay figures to represent each of the neighbors. They begin to notice something strange about Mary – she seems to be somehow moving the clay figures around the model in a way that suggests that she can “see” what any one person is doing at any given time. The brothers enlist her help in identifying the trespasser, believing that he must also be responsible for the missing children. Unfortunately their snooping has caught the wrong person’s attention and even the adults may not be able to protect them any longer. Although the children are dealing with some quite frightening events throughout the course of the story, Ford’s unique style and his use of a young narrator lends a playful innocence to the tale that makes the reading quite enjoyable. It was, for me, reminiscent of King’s story The Body. 03/08 Becky Lejeune
SHADOWS by Edna Buchanan: in the second outing for Buchanan’s Miami Cold Case Squad, a woman seeking to save Shadows, an historic area mansion, pleads with the police to stop the bulldozing of the house which was the scene of the 1961 murder of a former Miami mayor. A search of the property unearths a cache of mummified human infants, which takes the case from cold to fiery hot. Even the best don’t hit homeruns every time, but still an imminently readable effort from a pretty good writer. In her own words, “Life would be simple if people told the truth.” They don’t and that makes mysteries. 11/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
SHADOWS IN THE WHITE CITY by Robert W. Walker: “The Phantom of the Fair” is slaughtering innocents and taking away from the splendor of Chicago’s magnificent “White City” in this summer of 1893. It’s up to Inspector Alastair Ransom to solve the problem before it completely besmirches the reputation of the great Exposition. To do so, Ransom must ignore the rules established by the police hierarchy and the ruling politicians. He must become judge, jury and …executioner. But will the price be too great. An extremely well written historical mystery that captures the flavor and spirit of the times. The dialogue in particular draws you into the story, and to quote the song you “end up in another place and time.” First rate. 05/07 Jack Quick
SHADOWS STILL REMAIN by Peter deJonge: deJonge is a much better author on his own than with James Patterson (Beach Road). NYPD Detective Darlene O’Hara, is looking for missing NYU student Francesca Pena, a very pretty teenage girl with long jet-black hair and bottomless brown eyes whose body is eventually found in East River Park. She has been tortured and assaulted to the point that the ME thinks she probably died of heart failure. The focus of the investigation is David McLain, Pena’s ex-boyfriend, who first reported her missing. McLain had been in town visiting and staying with Pena and his story doesn’t seem to completely add up. McLain remains O’Hara of her own son and this causes her to continue the investigation with extreme consequences. In many respects this is a predictable police procedural with many of the usual characters, but deJonge keeps the pace going nicely and has set up the situation nicely for follow on outings. 05/09 Jack Quick
THE SHADOWY HORSES by Susanna Kearsley: The search for the lost Ninth Legion has been endless. Peter Quinnell has spent his career hoping to discover the truth about their fate. At Rosehill, he believes he may have finally found something. When Verity Grey accepts an interview with Quinnell, she has no idea it involves the Ninth. What’s more, she has not been told that Quinnell is driven by a ghostly sighting reported by a local boy. Upon learning so, Verity is understandably wary but can’t deny her own curiosity. When the dig yields almost unquestionable proof of Roman occupation, she becomes determined to see the season through. Verity is not one to place much stock in ghosts, but even she has to admit that the boy’s insight is eerily accurate. The longer Verity stays at Rosehill, the more convinced she becomes of the ghost’s existence and that he was once a member of the Ninth as well. And then there’s the draw of Eyemouth itself, a charming coastal fishing village, and David Fortune, a local archaeologist on the dig. The Shadowy Horses is a gorgeous read. Kearsley’s pacing is excellent all the way until the end. Admittedly the resolution comes about a bit quickly compared to the build of the story itself, but the end is still a satisfying one. 10/12 Becky Lejeune
Shanghai Baby by Wei Hui: Called the “Chinese Tropic of Cancer”, this book was banned in China and many other countries. Translated into sex, drugs & rock ‘n roll in stilted English. Interesting.
SHANGHAI GIRLS by Lisa See: The author of the terrific Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is back in form again with this excellent new novel. The title “girls” are sisters May, the beautiful one, and Pearl, the smart one. They come from a wealthy family in Shanghai where they lead very sheltered lives in privilege and comfort until they find out that their father has gambled away all their money and is in debt to some rather unsavory characters. A wealthy Chinese-American wants to buy the girls as wives for his sons in Los Angeles, and after meeting the boys, May and Pearl agree. But they never get on the ship for America, instead running away until the Japanese start bombing China. They lose their parents and decide their best chances for survival lie in America.
They arrive at Angel Island, the 1930’s Los Angeles answer to Ellis Island, where they are detained for months while the authorities question them repeatedly, trying to determine if they are legitimately married to Americans. They are finally released to their husbands to begin their lives there. There are huge adjustments, the girls have been through much and find out some uncomfortable truths about their new in-laws, the movie business, Chinatown and life in general for the Chinese in Los Angeles. This is a fascinating book that has well developed characters with a compelling story. I found it totally engrossing and engaging. 07/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE SHANGHAI MOON by S. J. Rozan: Rosalie Gilder was 18 years old when she escaped the Nazis in Austria by emigrating to Shanghai, along with 20,000 other Jews. Lydia Chin and Bill Smith, Rozan’s PI team, are hired to help find Rosalie’s jewelry. It was recently unearthed in Shanghai, a government official there stole it and it was believed he was trying to sell it in New York’s Chinatown. Lydia’s Chinese-American heritage comes in handy, which is why Joel Pilarsky, another PI, recommended her for the job. But Joel is killed, the police don’t think there’s any connection to the case and as she scours Chinatown looking for the jewels, Lydia and Bill are also in danger. Lydia is also becoming a bit obsessed with Rosalie’s life, reading the letters she left behind that are archived at the Holocaust Museum and meeting some of her descendents. This is a fascinating story that moves seamlessly between Shanghai during the Japanese occupation in WWII, and present day New York. 04/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE SHANGHAI MOON by S. J. Rozan: Lydia Chin and Bill Smith are welcome back after a long hiatus (after 2002’s Winter and Night). They are trying to find a legendary brooch created in the late 1930’s Japanese-occupied Shanghai, combining diamonds smuggled out from Austria by Rosalie Gilder and jade supplied by her aristocratic husband Chen Kai-Rong. The brooch disappeared during World War II and may have now re-surfaced. A Swiss asset-recovery specialist hires Lydia’s pal Joel Pilarsky, to look for jewelry alleged stolen by Wong Pan, a corrupt Chinese official who is possibly in New York. When Pilarsky is murdered Lydia and Bill follow a trail to Manhattan’s Chinatown, where they encounter Rosalie’s son and other relatives eager to recover the brooch. Lydia’s friend Mary gets involved by way of the murder of a Chinese policeman also involved. Nicely complicated with twists and turns enough to delight anyone. It’s good to have this duo back. 10/09 Jack Quick
SHARP OBJECTS by Gillian Flynn: This Edgar-nominated debut has an unusual protagonist, Camille Preaker, a reporter with a history of mental instability and cutting who works for a kindly-but-gruff editor at a smallish Chicago newspaper. When two little girls are murdered in her hometown an hour and a world away from Chicago, her editor sends her home to check it out. There are a lot of clichés in this creepy, dysfunctional family saga, but some real surprises too. The leisurely pacing builds the suspense but this mystery almost crosses genres and borders on horror. I had a hard time getting through it for a variety of reasons, but it was ultimately worth the struggle. 02/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SHARP OBJECTS by Gillian Flynn: When a little girl goes missing in Wind Gap, Missouri, townspeople can’t help but be reminded of disappearance of another young girl just one year ago. The first girl was found strangled with all her teeth missing. Camille Preaker, reporter for the Chicago Daily Post is sent to cover the story. She’s perfect for the job, seeing as how she grew up in Wind Gap. It’s been eight years since Camille last returned home, and for good reason. On her second day, Camille herself discovers the body of the missing child, propped up against a building. Again, all the teeth have been removed. Camille is unwillingly thrown into the investigation when her editor requests that she follow the story through to its chilling conclusion. What she will discover will reveal even more troubling secrets about her own past and threaten her own sanity. This is a shocking and brutal mystery – like a train wreck that you just can’t turn away from. I loved everything about it. Really a magnificent read. 11/06 Becky LeJeune
SHATTER ME by Tahereh Mafi: Juliette is cursed with a terrible ability. With just one touch, she can kill a person. She’s been locked up since she was fourteen and has no hope of ever getting out. But then something changes. Juliette is given a roommate, a boy she remembers from before. She doesn’t know why he’s been locked up with her but the end of her solitude gives her reason to hope. This is one of those books that is tough to describe without giving too much away. It’s a futuristic dystopian tale that very much leans in the X-Men direction by the end of this first in the series. The standout is Mafi’s style: told in first person and through Juliette’s own words, the story features Juliette’s thoughts in a somewhat stream of consciousness format. Shatter Me has garnered much buzz in the YA community, most of it well earned. I did quite enjoy Mafi’s debut but I didn’t quite think it lived up to the promised expectation of so much hype. 1/13 Becky Lejeune
SHELTER by Harlan Coben: Coben continues his Myron Bolitar series for the Young Adult crowd, but this should still please adult readers. Mickey Bolitar has had a rough year, losing his father and moving in with his estranged uncle Myron. Forced to go to a new high school, things are looking up when Mickey meets Ashley and he falls for her hard. But then Ashley disappears, and Mickey and a couple of new friends seem to be the only ones who even notice. They try and find her, stumbling into danger on more than one occasion. Even though Mickey is a teenager, the suspense is high and the twists pure Coben genius. Consider this a gift to tide you over until his next adult book comes out. 09/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SHE’S GONE COUNTRY by Jane Porter: Shey Darcy had an idyllic life; supermodel, mom, and happily married until the day her husband revealed he was leaving her for another man. Shey packs up her three teenage boys and hightails it home to the Texas ranch she grew up on, only to find that her high school love, Dane Kelly, is a retired national bull riding champion who is divorced and living nearby. Shey’s heart was broken when her parents sent her away to boarding school, effectively breaking them up, and when she came home Dane was married and had a child. But that doesn’t seem to matter anymore and Shey finds herself drawn to him all over again. Trouble arises when her city boys have a tough time adjusting to life on the ranch, her ex starts making custody threats, and Dane isn’t sure dating a still married woman is a good idea. VERDICT: Porter started off writing romances, dabbled in women’s fiction and chick lit, but here returns to her roots in this formulaic romance with the requisite happy ending. Sure to appeal to fans of Susan Elizabeth Phillips or Linda Howard. 08/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch. Copyright © 2010 Library Journal, a division of Media Source Inc. Reprinted with permission.
SHE’S SO DEAD TO US by Kieran Scott: Two years ago, Ally and her family had to leave behind their home. Two years ago, Ally had to abandon her friends. Two years ago, Ally’s father left without another word. Finally getting back on her feet, Ally’s mother decides that it’s time to return, but they won’t be moving back into their mansion in The Crest. Nope, they’re moving into a small condo in Orchard Hill, the only thing in Ally’s mother’s budget after her father loses everything in a bad investment. Even worse, Ally’s father convinced her friends’ families to invest as well, which makes Ally enemy number one for her former besties. Stuck in the middle is new kid Jake, who now lives in Ally’s former abode. Not sure whether he should stick by his new Crestie friends or defend the girl he thinks he’s falling for, Jake is sure this year is at least going to be interesting. Kieran Scott’s snarky and witty teen read is quick and fun, and devastatingly realistic. With an end that’s sure to leave teens on edge wondering what comes next, I sincerely hope that there’s more of Ally and Jake to come. 05/10 Becky Lejeune
SHIFT by Tim Kring & Dale Peck: Wow, fasten those seat belts and pull the straps up tight for this collision of ’60s counterculture and the rise of dark forces in world government. FBI. CIA. LSD. JFK. USSR, LSD – this one has it all. Your inner conspiracy theorist will overdose. Melchior, one of three “wise men” recruited by a CIA operative known as The Wiz, claws his way out of a newly sanctioned 1963 Cuba only to find that he has been quietly swept under the rug and forgotten. In other CIA action a Persian prostitute giving various government targets covert doses of LSD finds that her latest mark—a career student with family ties in high places—holds the key to vast mental powers unlocked by the mind-altering properties of LSD. Add to this a freshly minted FBI agent blindly seeking an answer to a question he doesn’t understand and you have the recipe for a massive, out-of-control conspiracy so unreal it almost sounds credible. Set in the crucible of the 1960s, Shift is primarily the story of Chandler Forrestal, a man whose life is changed forever when he is unwittingly dragged into a CIA mind-control experiment. After being given a massive dose of LSD, Chandler develops a frightening array of mental powers. He uncovers a plot to assassinate President Kennedy. and becomes a target for rogue CIA agents, Cuban killers, Mafia madmen, and ex-Nazi scientists. With cameos from Lee Harvey Oswald to Timothy Leary to J. Edgar Hoover, Shift makes you re-think the unbelievable. 09/10 Jack Quick
SHIFT by Rachel Vincent: Faythe Sanders and her Pride have been gearing up for war. Before they can strike, however, another conflict arises: a Flight of thunderbirds, beings Faythe and her family have encountered only through legend, has attacked the ranch and no one is quite sure why. When the cats capture one of the birds, they realize that someone has set them up, and all of them are sure they know just who it is. One of the Flight was killed by a cat over a kill dispute. Unfortunately, the attack happened off Pride territory and a witness claimed that it was a member of Faythe’s Pride who was responsible. Now Faythe must prove their innocence while sniffing out the real killer in order to save her friends and family from retribution. As each installment brings the characters closer and closer to all out battle, the series becomes even more intense. Vincent has definitely mastered the art of keeping her readers on the edge of their seats with anticipation. I love that the series still feels fresh and new every time; I’ve been hooked since Stray. Alpha, the sixth in the series, is due out this fall. 03/10 Becky Lejeune
THE SHIMMER by David Morrell: I have enjoyed most of Morrell’s books including the Rambo series but found this one a bit over the top. Based on the real life “Marfa Lights” in Marfa, Texas, the plot involves the disappearance of Santa Fe police officer Dan Page’s wife who has gone to a remote Texas town, along with hundreds of other spectators to gaze at the mysterious “Rostov Lights.” As the spectators are watching (some seeing the mysterious lights, other not) a gunman opens fire screaming “Go back to hell where you came from,” then turns his rifle on the bystanders, massacring a number of innocents until Page’s wife, using the gun of the felled Rostov Police Chief manages to shoot the gunman. Page sets out to solve the mystery of the lights which leads him to a deadly government secret dating back to the first World War. Move over Area 51, there is a new spooky place in the neighborhood. 06/10 Jack Quick
SHINE by Lauren Myracle: A coming of age tale set in a small, poverty stricken Southern town, Cat is a sixteen year old loner. She has an older brother who she was once very close to, but something happened that made her withdraw from him and all her friends, including her best friend, Patrick. Patrick is gay, and that is not acceptable in this town, so when he is beaten within an inch of his life and left for dead, the sheriff isn’t too concerned, deciding it must of been a car full of college boys from out of town that did this heinous crime. While Patrick lies in a coma in the hospital, Cat decides to investigate herself, stirring up the town in her wake. She eventually solves the mystery and grows up in the process, becoming the person she was meant to be. This book first came to my attention when it was short listed for the National Book Award for Young Adult fiction – in error. The mistake was handled so badly, got so much negative press in book nerd world, that in protest of the mess I decided to read it, and I’m very glad I did. 11/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SHIP BREAKER by Paolo Bacigalupi: In the future, flooding, hurricanes, and other inclement weather have completely transformed the landscape of the United States. Nailer, a kid living in the South, is a ship breaker. It’s what he knows. It’s what he’s been taught. It’s what he’s good at. He’s responsible for salvaging metal from the big tankers that have washed up all along the shore. Now, graceful clipper ships carry the world’s cargo and the tankers are good for only recyclable material and the occasional lucky discovery of oil hidden in their depths. Nailer dreams of a day when he might leave this world behind and travel on the clippers like the rich folks do. When one of those swank clippers washes up on the beach, Nailer gets his first chance to see the inside. But his discovery of a survivor, a teenage girl, changes things. Nailer must decide whether to be her salvation or to leave her and collect the bounty for her ship. While others might sell out to achieve their dreams, Nailer’s recent experiences make the decision a tough one and his choice will leave him forever changed. Bacigalupi’s teen debut is amazing and definitely offers up appeal to readers of all ages. A new entry into the growing dystopian trend, and a fine one at that. 05/10 Becky Lejeune
A Ship Made of Paper by Scott Spencer: Very interesting, beautifully written novel about relationships, infidelity, and race, yet so much more than that. Daniel Emerson is a NY city lawyer who is threatened by a client whose case he lost. The client happens to be African American, and this triggers a black paranoia in Daniel until he feels he has to move out of the city. He returns to his small hometown with his live-in lover Kate and her daughter, Ruby. Daniel is Ruby’s primary caregiver, freeing Kate to write, but at preschool he meets and falls in love with Iris, the mother of Ruby’s best friend who happens to be African American. And married. The couples’ lives become more and more entangled until they are just spiraling way out of control.
Spencer uses an unusual literary device in that he starts each chapter with a tiny excerpt of the pivotal finale, building a surreal tension, and contriving a feeling of deja vu when the reader finally gets there. He creates a tautness in story and mood that is truly exquisite, until the last page is turned and the realization hits that there is no more. And that is a sad moment indeed. 12/03
SHIVERS by Charles R. Gillenwaters: Gillenwaters is an Alabama attorney who has represented some three dozen defendants charged with capital murder. Thus, he brings a unique perspective to this short noir-ish tale of an innocent man being sentenced to death by the system and a District Attorney who is less interested in justice being served than in winning at any cost. The victim is Mary Margaret, an attractive, pregnant nurse, lying in a pool of blood. She is the wife of Sgt. Jack McManus, a well liked police officer. The alleged murderer, recently paroled Sonny Ray Shivers, is the man singing nearby found by veteran police officer Zabrowski, the first to respond to a report that a woman was lying outside her car. Although he d spent many years on the force, Zabrowski had never been to a murder scene and had never drawn his weapon. From there things go downhill quickly with an ambitious DA, an alcoholic council and Sonny Ray’s record. Not bad for a debut, heavy on legal procedure and with unfortunately, a totally believable plot. 08/09 Jack Quick
SHOCK WAVE by John Sandford: Virgil Flowers is looking for the maniac who has bombed the headquarters of the superstore chain PyeMart and its newest store site in a Minnesota river town. Two people die and then the chase gets very personal when a bomb blows up Virgil’s boat. Almost a “puzzle” mystery with an interesting problem solving technique to aid solid police work. Recommended. 11/11 Jack Quick
THE SHOEMAKERS WIFE by Adriana Trigiani: The title of this book threw me; I was expecting the third book in the Valentine trilogy which is also about a shoemaker, but this book is not it – that book is coming probably next year, so think of this book as a gift to ease the wait. All will be explained…this shoemaker is Ciro, a young man who, along with his brother, is abandoned by his mother after his father’s death and left with the nuns at the local church in this small village in the Italian alps. This is no orphanage, but they take in the boys and raise them as their own. While doing a favor for the nuns, Ciro meets Enza, and there is instant attraction. But Enza’s family has their own problems and she ends up going to America and landing a job as a seamstress at the Metropolitan Opera. The story moves between Italy, New York, and Minnesota, and touches on World War I, immigration and opera. But as always with Trigiani’s books, it is the characters that pull you in and won’t let go, and it broke my heart to turn the last page of this wonderful epic story and leave them behind. If you like warm family stories with more than a touch of romance and a touch of humor, stories that tug at the heart, you won’t want to miss this treasure. 4/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SHORTCUT MAN by P.G. Sturges: A lawyer once told me that unless the matter involved money over $25,000 or a deeply held moral conviction, filing a civil lawsuit was a losing proposition. Enter Dick Henry, the “Shortcut Man.” Henry and his cohorts can get the desired results in much less time and for about a fourth of what the lawyers would cost by avoiding all those pesky rules and procedures. The best part is you don’t have to pay in advance, either. You will pay, of course, since tracking down welshers of any kind is a Dick Henry specialty. Whether he’s hired by a landlord coping with a deadbeat tenant or a woman whose widowed father is being bilked by a pen pal, Henry is there with a smile, a fist, a solution—and no annoying paperwork. The Shortcut Man is an offbeat, funny, suspenseful, and definitely recommended debut. Lets hope there are more. 03/11 Jack Quick
SHOOT HIM IF HE RUNS by Stuart Woods: In a continuation of an earlier adventure Stone Barrington returns to St. Marks Island at the request of President William Lee to hunt ex-CIA-agent-turned rogue Teddy Fay. Unlike his previous trip, Barrington is accompanied this time by Holly Barker, Dino Bacchetti, and Dino’s current squeeze. In between frolicking in the waves and between the sheets (and perhaps hanging from the chandelier, who knows), Stone and Holly strike up an acquaintance with Irene Foster, also ex-CIA, who is thought to have had a previous relationship with Fay. Soon they are caught up in the local corrupt regime and when the island’s chief of police is gunned down, they all realize this is more than just a fun in the sun caper. Woods hasn’t run out of steam yet. 11/07 Jack Quick
SHOOT TO THRILL by P.J. Tracy: Popular social-networking sites take center stage in Tracy’s fifth technological thriller (after Snow Blind) as murderous videos are posted online. FBI agent John Smith is on the case and invites the Monkeewrench gang, that group of software geniuses, to determine who is posting the videos and to find a way to differentiate between what turns out to be real murders and staged ones. As one of the killings takes place in Minnesota, Minneapolis detectives Magozzi and Rolseth join the investigation. This odd group of crime fighters makes for a very effective team, even though both Magozzi and Smith are interested in Grace MacBride, the gang’s beautiful, superparanoid leader. VERDICT Shifting from murder to terrorism leaves holes in this convoluted story. It will appeal mainly to fans of the Monkeewrench series, who have been waiting four years since Snow Blind, and to those who appreciate high-tech hijinks. 04/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch. Copyright © 2010 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.
SHOOT TO THRILL by P.J. Tracy: They appear to be a series of random murders, each done differently, each in a separate location. When the FBI’s cyber crimes unit discovers that someone is anonymously posting videos of the murders on the Internet, they soon find their skills insufficient to crack the case. That’s when special agent John Smith goes to the top of the hacker world – Monkeewrench, the Minneapolis based super team featured in Tracy’s previous four books. They catch a minor break when it turns out one of the homicides is in their own backyard of Minneapolis. There is even a witness, sort of; the drunken ex-judge has a blood alcohol level higher than that of the top of the line bourbon he stays sloshed with, so he isn’t as much help as they hoped. Soon the Monkeewrench team has been able to uncover a pattern in the murder videos, and even better, a site where references to the killings are being posted – before they occur. Armed with this information they are able to thwart the next two attempted murders, but by now, the publicity has attracted clones and wannabes which make their search even more complex. All in all another first rate outing from this mother-daughter writing team, whose characters have become as familiar and enjoyable as that other Minneapolis phenom – Lucas Davenport, of the John Sandford Prey series. 05/10 Jack Quick
SHOOT TO THRILL by P.J. Tracy: The Monkeewrench gang are all back and this time they’ve been chosen by the FBI to help out in a most shocking investigation. Five murders have occurred throughout the country. Five amongst many, but what makes these different is that the killers have posted actual video of the crimes online. Protected by the intricacies of the web, the killers are free to continue as the feds are slowed by law and bureaucracy. But Monkeewrench has none of these impediments, and if the feds want to turn a blind eye in order to allow them to do their job quickly and effectively, Grace and her friends are definitely on board. Shoot to Thrill has been a long time coming for P.J. Tracy fans. Four years can be quite a lifetime in a series but, as they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder. I hope the next one doesn’t take near as long, parts of Shoot to Thrill felt somewhat incomplete, so I’m hoping that the various storylines will continue into the next installment. 04/10 Becky Lejeune
THE SHOOTER by Barry Sadler: Yes, this is the same Barry Sadler who wrote and performed the Ballad of the Green Berets in the 1970’s. This book was published in 1987, and likely would have been the basis for a “pulp” series except Sadler was killed in 1989, the victim of a brutal robbery in Guatemala City. Rosen and Tomanaga are former US Marines no in the business of assassination, but only when they believe the cause is just. When retired Colonel Leonard Oates and Army Major turned magazine publisher, Robert Green, provide them evidence that at least two American soldiers are still being tortured and held prisoner at a camp nestled among the borders of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, they will do anything, pay any price, to save these men. Heeding the call of the Colonel and the Major, Rossen and Tommy find themselves deep in the ruins of Angkor Wat, battling for their lives and hunting for this remote prison camp, but what they find is well beyond their worst nightmare… 2/12 Jack Quick
THE SHOOTERS by W.E.B. Griffin: Once again W. E. B. Griffin has mined the quasi-military “band of brothers police thriller” genre that he helped create in an interesting outing. Colonel Charley Castillo is in Argentina trying to tie up the ends of the UN oil-for-food scandal when a young American lieutenant and veteran of the Afghan war, arrives to throw a monkey wrench in the plans. A key agent for the DEA whose family happens to be close to the Chicago power structure has been kidnapped. Since Castillo has already proven the ability to do the impossible on several previous occasions, the President decides the rescue of “Junior” Timmons is doable for this band of marauding misfits, particularly since the President is busy dealing with Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Maybe the characters aren’t multi-dimensional and the action predictable, but if you make it past the first fifty pages, it’s doubtful you will stop before the end. Another great outing. 02/08 Jack Quick
Shop Till You Drop: A Dead-End Job Mystery by Elaine Viets: This is the first of a new series featuring Helen Hawthorne, former executive, now on the lam in South Florida. Helen is trying to keep under the radar of her ex-husband after she took her frustrations out on his car, so she takes off out of St. Louis and lands a job in an exclusive Fort Lauderdale dress shop, off the books, where everyone has a past they are trying to hide. Things aren’t quite what they seem though; the dress shop manager may have a few unsavory side businesses going on and when she disappears, Helen is determined to find out what’s been going on. Lots of truths and lots of laughs in this well researched and fast moving story with memorable characters. You have to love a mystery where a woman’s body is identified by the serial number on her breast implants. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.
Shopgirl by Steve Martin: Quirky novella, not as funny as one would expect from a well known comedian, but rather poignant instead.
THE SHOPKEEPER by James D. Best: Not a bad book, but not my usual cup of tea. I don’t usually do historicals, but this one is thriller like. Steve Dancy is wealthy after selling off his Eastern businesses and is set on experiencing the West. Folks soon learn he is more than a dilettante Easterner intent on writing a journal about his adventures on the frontier. It isn’t long before he’s caught up in gunplay, which leads him into taking desperate measures, including buying a bank and a hotel, and influencing the upcoming gubernatorial elections. Dancy is a far different man than these Westerners think he is, because he’s sure not like any other shopkeepers they know. This is a fast paced tale with an interesting hero with enough twists and turns to provide an entertaining and exciting story. 12/09 Jack Quick
THE SHORE by Robert Dunbar: In this follow-up to Dunbar’s debut, The Pines, the Jersey Devil strikes again, this time in the small tourist town of Edgeharbor. One man has followed a series of murders all the way here, hoping to track down another child suffering from the monstrous mutation. A local cop joins the search after a mutilated body is discovered floating offshore. As raging storm approaches this tiny community, the monster strikes again and again. Can they discover the killer’s identity and his hiding spot before it’s too late? The Pines, a classic from the 80s, was re-released in its entirety just in time for fans new and old to discover Dunbar’s talent. (The Shore can be read on its own, or directly following The Pines.) Dunbar’s style is reminiscent of “classic” horror: a refreshing balance of in-your-face gore and violence and low-key, chilling atmosphere. 07/09 Becky Lejeune
A SHOT TO DIE FOR by Libby Fischer Hellmann: Single mom videographer Ellie Foreman is menaced in convincing fashion after she witnesses a sniper shooting. Daughter Rachel is now fifteen with all the challenges that entails and Ellie’s “love life” continues to be rocky, but she does make progress in addressing her fear of flying. Foreman is shooting a video at the former Playboy Club Resort on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Is the sniper murder Ellie witnesses a random event or the result of an incident decades earlier at the resort? Hellmann paints an interesting picture of the generation that “no longer works” but instead focus on disposing of the millions earned by their forebears. The contrast between the very rich and the rest of us is handled nicely. This is another good outing for Ms. Foreman, excellently plotted and well written. Surprising but believable ending. 08/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
SHOTGUN LULLABY by Steve Ulfelder: Conway Sax, former racecar driver turned Massachusetts mechanic, is a recovering alcoholic and a member of the Barnburners, a tightly knit group that is an offshoot of Alcoholics Anonymous. A new member of the group, Gus, bears a striking resemblance to Sax’s estranged son so Sax becomes his sponsor and champion. Gus lives in a halfway house, but when three of the housemates are murdered, Sax correctly figures that Gus was the real target. There are a lot of suspects; Gus’s wealthy father, his trophy wife, the crime family Gus ripped off, and a con man from Texas. Sax may have his drinking under control but not his temper, which gets him into a few near death situations and some trouble at home. The bodies keep piling up and the action doesn’t let up while Sax turns fixer. With help from his parole officer’s son and a local cop, Sax finally figures out who is behind all the killing and why. This action packed story moves lightning fast and Sax makes an appealingly damaged protagonist. Dennis Lehane and Robert B. Parker fans should enjoy Ulfelder as well. 5/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2013 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.
SHOTGUN OPERA by Victor Gischler: Mike Foley is making wine in Oklahoma, and life is almost as good as it gets when you’ve been hiding out for forty years. But Mike’s nephew Andrew has seen something he should not have and needs to disappear now. Nikki Enders, the most lethal of a deadly sisterhood, is chasing him. Can Uncle Mike stop her? When the kill teams descend on Foley’s farm, he is ready, with shotguns blazing. Remember, it ain’t over till the last bullet. 06/06 Jack Quick
Shrink Rap by Robert B. Parker: Parker’s latest involves his female Boston P.I. character, Sunny Randall. In this book, Sunny is travelling with a best-selling female author to protect her from her manipulative and sadistic psychiatrist ex-husband. The bookstore signing scenes ring true. At the same time, Sunny is trying to think through her own relationship with her ex-husband. She can’t seem to live with him and she can’t seem to live without him. She consults a psychiatrist for advice on how to handle the stalker and learns a great deal in the process about her own relationships.
Parker’s writing is always spare and this book is full of short sentences and unspoken thoughts and conclusions. I was not put off by it, although some might feel a little cheated. The reason I was not put off was because I was so taken by Parker’s never-ending effort to understand the man/woman relationship. Sunny’s relationship with her ex- is the mirror of Spenser’s relationship with Susan and one has to believe of Parker’s own relationship with his wife.
I didn’t think that the lean dialogue suited a female character or the subject of relationships very well. It didn’t ring true. But it had enough truth and enough personal pain in it to keep my attention. ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.
THE SHUDDERING by Ania Ahlborn: They only come when it snows… Ryan and his sister Jane are headed up for one last hurrah at the family cabin with their friends before the retreat is finally handed over to its new owner. Unfortunately, Ryan and his sister never heard the stories some of the old timers in the area obviously used to share. An unexpected blizzard leaves the group trapped in the mountains and they’re all set to ride it out until they discover they’re being hunted. It begins with strange noises outside at night, thumping on the roof, and eerie evidence of animal kills in the woods nearby. The group soon realizes that they’ve become the target of a ruthless killer. Now, with their food quickly running out and no way of contacting anyone for help they must do whatever they can to survive. For an author who burst onto the scene so spectacularly, I have to admit I found The Shuddering a bit underwhelming. While the idea isn’t overly unique, the scares are decent and it’s an overall entertaining read, unfortunately it just doesn’t quite meet the expectations set by Ahlborn’s previous titles. 7/13 Becky Lejeune
SHUT UP AND KISS ME by Christie Craig: When Shala Winters is hired to help bring tourism to Precious, Texas, she never expected that it would become the hardest, and possibly last, job of her life. While attending the town’s regular powpow put on by the local Chitiwa tribe, Shala breaks a vital rule and brings her camera. Though it clearly states no pictures are allowed, Shala is not going to leave her $8,000 lifeline behind. But when another woman snaps a picture, it is Shala who is caught and her camera that is confiscated. Determined to get it back no matter the cost, and leave Precious behind, Shala confronts Sky Gomez, threatening legal action.
Unfortunately for Shala, in Precious, Sky is the law. But then things take a strange turn when someone breaks into the Chitiwa clubhouse with the intent of stealing the camera. Since it’s actually in Sky’s possession, the would-be thief takes things to the next level and begins stalking Shala with an intent to kill. Discovering what is on the camera becomes second for Sky only to protecting this feisty photographer who could just be his soulmate. Christie Craig is like chocolate: addicting and good for you. I dare you to dive in and not get a good laugh. 05/10 Becky Lejeune
SHUNNING SARAH by Julie Kramer: Riley Spartz is a TV reporter in Minneapolis with a new boss who is intent on cutting the budget, regardless of ratings. First thing he does is eliminate the camera man, forcing reporters to film their own stories while reporting them. He also wants all the stories to stay local, so when Riley’s parents tell her about a little boy who fell in a sinkhole in the Amish area well outside their geographic circle, Riley fights for the story anyway. It turns into ratings gold when the boy is rescued and tells the Sheriff about a dead woman who shared the sinkhole with him. Turns out she was only 18 years old, and Amish – but her family is none too forthcoming as she was being shunned for very disturbing reasons. This is a fascinating look into the Amish world with a twisty, complex mystery at its heart. Well defined characters with enough back story to make them engaging help propel the story along quickly until the dramatic ending. This is compelling reading. 9/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SHUT YOUR EYES TIGHT by John Verdon: John Verdon’s second novel, Shut Your Eyes Tight, is a wonderfully plotted story. His protagonist, retired NYPD homicide detective Dave Gurney found tremendous satisfaction in his job in solving the puzzles presented by his cases. Although he has what he knows should be an idyllic retirement in the country upstate, he finds that he is not enjoying it as much as his wife, Madeleine, who seems to have a calm oneness with their new situation. As a result, he is sucked into “consulting” on a grisly wedding day murder investigation.
The plot then twists and turns with the best of crime fiction and I don’t want to spoil it by giving any of them away.
I was particularly taken early in the book by Dan’s lecture to a class of police students on going undercover. After he stressed the importance of making your cover believable by making others want to believe you, you can’t help thinking as you go through the story about how the criminal(s) in this case are similarly deceiving the police in their current investigation. And of course, there is always the overarching issue of how a writer makes the reader believe. So this novel works on a number of levels.
There is some danger in having the hero of the book be a problem-solver. It can make them seem unaware of the emotional sides of the people involved and especially their own emotional well-being. Verdon avoids that pitfall. While Gurney is a driven “onion-peeler” in one of his old cohort’s words, he understands the costs and is trying hard to achieve some inner peace as well satisfaction from solving a crime.
My favorite line of the book was the description of a not-so-good detective still on the force as “ignorance armed and ready for battle.”
I have not read Verdon’s first book, Think of a Number, but I am going to now and I will read his next one too.
Perhaps I can best sum up the impact of this reading experience by saying that I will think twice the next time someone tells me to “shut my eyes tight.” 07/11 Geoffrey R. Hamlin
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane: This book had a bit of controversy surrounding it; people either love it or hate it, and frankly a lot of folks who loved Lehane’s Mystic River and his Patrick Kenzie/Angela Gennaro series have hated this book. I read it a week ago and can understand what is driving those passionate responses. Lehane is a virtuoso of the mystery/thriller genre, and that talent shines on every page. This is a fast paced thriller, the kind you can’t put down, combined with a classic locked room mystery (a woman vanishes out of a locked room) and lots of twists, but it’s the ending of the book that have put people at odds with it. As soon as I finished the last page, I went right back to page one and started reading again, I needed to reassure myself that I hadn’t missed anything, and I hadn’t. I believe it was the Washington Post’s review that compared the style of this book to that of Edgar Allen Poe, and having read it, all I can say is that was right on the money – and that is high praise indeed. This is a book – a genre book, a mystery – that is brilliantly plotted, splendidly written, deliciously confusing and infuriating and thought provoking, and totally transcends the genre. 12/03 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SHUTTER ISLAND by Dennis Lehane: U.S. Marshals Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule have been sent to Shutter Island, home of the notorious Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, to investigate the disappearance of one of the institution’s prisoners. With a massive storm heading their way, Teddy and Chuck find that they are stranded on an island with virtually no way off. Ashecliffe, home to the country’s most violent offenders, seems to be almost impenetrable. But how then, was one woman able to escape undetected and in bare feet. Teddy is sure that the doctors in charge are hiding something big. As he and Chuck dig deeper into the secrets of Shutter Island, they become further entangled in a thick web of lies and they find that nothing on the island is quite what it seems. With the movie adaptation right around the corner, this was one book that I was definitely determined to read beforehand, and I am so glad that I did. What an amazing thriller. Stylistically, I found it much different from some of Lehane’s other work, and much easier to get into. Shutter Island is a very quick and intense read that will definitely keep you on your toes. 11/09 Becky Lejeune
THE SIEGE by Simon Kernick: A truly thrill-a-minute novel that captures and keeps the reader glued to the pages right from the get go. Action is set in London, and opens with two bombs going off in two train stations with consequent casualties. These are followed by the well planned and extremely well executed take over of a major hotel near Hyde Park. The Hotel Stanhope is filled with guests all of whom are subdued by the terrorists making the attack. The leader of the terrorist group termed “Fox” tells the police responding to the alarm that they are a group of Islamic soldiers and they demand that England back off from their campaigns against the Arab world. The truth of what they want and who they are is an integral part of the novel, with Kernick doing a super job of fleshing out a few of them. Victims of the attack include an ex-soldier that has just killed three people and was preparing to leave the hotel, a man suffering from terminal cancer that has checked into a room with plans to end his pain via suicide, a mother and son on vacation in England from their home in Florida, the police officer placed in charge of the situation who is forced to come to grips with a horrible choice in working the situation and a very pretty assistant manager of the hotel that has just become engaged. Each of these people act individually and then together, attempting to survive the situation and they come alive in the capable hands of Simon Kernick. Also making her appearance towards the end of the book is a maverick police officer named Tina Boyd whom Kernick indicates in an afterward will make additional appearances in other books of his. In the same afterward Kernick talks about a siege that occurred in Mumbai several years ago and was characterized by the absolute terrorism demonstrated by the attackers. He does incorporate this attitude in the group that plants the bombs in the train stations and takes over the hotel with what they really want and expect to get out of the carnage they perpetrate. An absolute first rate action novel and a certain motivation to seek out more books by Kernick. 6/13 Paul Lane
SIGN OF THE CROSS by Ann Emery: Location, location, location. It’s true in real estate and also true in crime fiction. Defense attorney Monty Collins is defending a secretive priest accused of murder. In order to mount an effective defense Collins must first investigate his own client and then determine what to do with the information he uncovers. Not that unusual a plot twist, but the fact that the action is occurring in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with lots of “local flavor” sets this one apart from many others of the same ilk. All in all, a nicely done debut and I expect we will hear more from Mr. Collins in the near future. 12/07 Jack Quick
SILENCE by Thomas Perry: Jack Till is new at this private eye business, but not inexperienced. So when Wendy Harper comes to his door, this retired LAPD detective knows what to do. Harper has been beaten and fears this was just the first attempt to kill her. She wants Till to help her disappear, even if it means giving up her share of a very successful restaurant she owns with chef partner and former lover Eric Fuller. Now six years later, the discovery of a bloody baseball bat and blouse fragment has led to murder charges against Fuller. Till suspects someone is trying to frame Fuller but the only way for Till to prove Fuller’s innocence is to produce Harper in the flesh. First he has to find her, then protect her. Nicely done PI/police procedural. 11/08 Jack Quick
The Silence of the Rain & December Heat by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza: I happened to pick up The Silence of the Rain a couple of weeks ago. I hadn’t heard anything about it and I like trying new stuff that is under the radar. It was a fortuitous choice. Silence charmed me. The plot involves the death of a corporate executive in a parking garage in Rio de Janeiro. The case is assigned to Inspector Espinosa who deduces that it was a murder because there is no weapon with the body. However, things are not as they appear. And that is the rule of this book. Every time I got comfortable with the plot, it took another delightful twist. Not a big jump, but just the disclosure of an additional fact that gave new meaning to the death and the characters around it.
Espinosa is the Brazilian version of the cop who has seen it all. He has resisted the temptations of corruption and thus has secured for himself his own investigative niche, as well as insuring that he will never advance any further in the power structure. And just to sweeten the pot a little more, the good Inspector is a reader – haunting used bookstores and unable to control the stacks piling up in his apartment.
As I was nearing the homestretch on Silence, a review of Garcia-Roza’s new second book, December Heat, appeared in the Crime page of the NY Times Book Review. I added it to the stack. While the plot is not as tightly managed in Heat as it was in Silence, Espinosa is just as delightful the second time out. In Heat, he is investigating the murder of a hooker friend of a retired policeman who is a Brazilian Andy Sipowicz. If a contemporary United States author had written this book, it might have been titled The Case of the Three Hookers. The women are treated gently but fairly, without any judgments being made about them. They are what they are and they do what they do. And what would Rio be without heat and sex?
If you are looking for a change of pace and an interesting pair of books, these should do the job and may well exceed your expectations. I am looking forward to the third book in this series. ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin
THE SILENCED by Brett Battles: Jonathan Quinn specializes in disposing of dead bodies and cleaning crime scenes so as to leave no evidence behind. When David Wills, a client based in London, gives Quinn and his team a series of jobs that requires them to clean up after assassinations, Quinn finds himself dealing with not only the requisite bodies but also another team of unknown origin that’s bent on stopping the assassinations. Suddenly his remaining family is also put into jeopardy. Maybe it is me, but the plot doesn’t seem to hold up as well as Battle’s three previous outings, but it is good and I hope to see more of the team of Quinn, Nate and Orlando in the future. 1/12 Jack Quick
SILENCED by Kristina Ohlsson: Frederika Bergman returns in the latest installment from this Swedish author. Frederika is the only civilian working with Alex Recht’s federal investigation unit, but you would not know this was her book until the very end. The novel opens with the rape of a teenage girl in her own backyard. Then we fast forward several years when a priest and his wife are killed in an apparent murder-suicide and in a seemingly unrelated incident, a man is killed in a hit-and-run accident. Alex and his team, including the very pregnant Frederika, start investigating and things are not at all how they first appeared to be. Human trafficking is going on from the Middle East through Bangkok and then to Sweden, and then things really get twisty. The story slowly unfolds, revealing layer upon layer of deception. The interplay between the detectives adds another level of interest to this intriguing puzzle, as does the inner workings of a foreign police department. This Scandinavian suspense novel is less gristly than most of the genre and should appeal to international mystery fans. 3/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2013 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.
SILENCED CRY by Marta Stephens: Being a cop is a tough job. Being a homicide detective is probably the toughest job for a cop. Being a homicide detective working for the same force where your father was a homicide detective, working under some of the same people who worked with him, well, that’s about as tough as it gets. Detective Sam Harper loses his narcotics partner in a shootout and ends up in homicide on cold cases. Then he is called out on a decade-old child homicide. His past–and the past of his friends, family, and nemeses quickly combine to turn this case into the biggest case Harper has ever known. First in a planned series, lets hope those plans materialize. Recommended. 08/07 Jack Quick
SILENCER by James W. Hall: Thorn ended up in Hell’s Bay with a huge fortune. Now girlfriend Rusty Stabler has found a way to use the money to accomplish something that makes Thorn happy – a deal to protect 300 square miles of Florida from development and also put Earl Hammond’s Coquina Ranch game-hunting operation out of business. Then Hammond is shot to death and Thorn is kidnapped. While Rusty and Sugarman, Thorn’s longtime friend try to find him, they come up against warped contract killers Jonah and Moses Faust, who deal in serial killer memorabilia. Hammond’s very different sons, ex-football star Browning and Miami cop Frisco, are also in the mix. Another excellent outing from Hall who manages to maintain a high suspense level combined with elements of Florida’s natural history, its early development and later overdevelopment. 10/10 Jack Quick
THE SILENT ASSASSIN by Lori Andrews: In her second fiction release, Andrews returns to AFIP (the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology) and geneticist, Dr. Alex Blake. Recent events have lead to a request by Vietnamese officials that certain “trophy” items taken in the war be returned to the country. Unfortunately, these trophies – a mutilated collection of skulls brought back by American soldiers – are in no shape to be returned without causing an embarrassing media frenzy. It is Alex’s job to make them as presentable as possible for a quiet reparation ceremony. Suddenly the quiet ceremony has become a White House event and Alex is asked to try and identify the remains. She soon makes a startling discovery regarding one of the skulls that leads her to question her own father’s involvement in the war. Once again, Alex lands herself in trouble when her investigation catches the wrong attention. This is one of my favorite new series. If you like Kathy Reichs or Patricia Cornwell you’re guaranteed to enjoy Lori Andrews. 05/07 Becky Lejeune
SILENT ENEMY by Thomas W. Young: Four years have passed since the events of The Mullah’s Storm. This time the protagonists, Air Force Major Michael Parson and now Army Sergeant Major Sophia Gold are reunited in another heart pounding adventure. Sergeant Major Gold is working as a teacher at the Afghan National Police training center in Kabul, when it is hit with a truck bomb. Gold, along with the more seriously injured are hurriedly loaded onto a C-5 Galaxy bound for Germany, piloted by Major Michael Parson. Once airborne they receive a chilling message. The jihadists claim to have placed bombs on board some planes leaving Afghanistan and it is entirely possible the Galaxy is one of them. If Parson tries to descend-the possible bomb will go off. Parson, Gold, and everybody else aboard are trapped at altitude, until either they or someone on the ground can figure out what to do. They can refuel in midair, but not indefinitely. The aircraft is deteriorating, the condition of the patients is worsening, the crew is tiring-and their biggest challenges are yet to come. Another great read. 09/11 Jack Quick
SILENT IN THE SANCTUARY by Deanna Raybourn: In the second mystery to feature Lady Julia Grey, our heroine and two of her brothers have been having a rather extended holiday in Italy following the events surrounding the death of Julia’s husband. Their vacation is cut short when the family patriarch summons them home for Christmas. Apparently, the elder March became quite angered upon learning that one of his sons had gotten married while on vacation. The three siblings, plus one new daughter-in-law and a second Italian guest, soon arrive home at the family abode – a converted abbey that is now overcome with visitors in preparation of the Christmas holiday. Amongst the guests are two of Julia’s cousins, one of who is to be married shortly in the abbey chapel. Also visiting is the nefarious and dashing Nicholas Brisbane, also with a fiancé in tow. Julia tries to act like this revelation is no concern of hers, but in truth, she is quite hurt by this news. Her own feelings are soon set aside when a body is discovered in the chapel and she and Brisbane are set in charge of the investigation. Once again, the two are working together to solve a mystery, this time in hopes of proving the innocence of one of Julia’s own family members. Raybourn’s remarkably addictive Victorian mysteries are a true delight. Julia and the rest of the Marches are charmingly quirky and the plots are both witty and fun. I highly recommend them to anyone looking for a great cozy read. 01/08 Becky Lejeune
THE SILENT LAND by Graham Joyce: While on vacation in the French Pyrenees, Jake and Zoe, aiming to get a head start on the slopes, are buried in a sudden avalanche. They dig their way out and make it back to town only to discover that everyone else has gone. Thinking that the town has been evacuated thanks to more avalanche activity, they attempt to leave only to find that they are strangely unable. Now, the couple must face the horrible possibility that neither of them survived at all. Maybe they are already dead. This is my first from Joyce and I found it to be a quietly chilling tale that was both mesmerizing and intriguing. I quite enjoyed this book – it’s a fairly short, but dense, read and though Joyce presents ample clues regarding the truth about Jake and Zoe’s fates, the unfolding of the tale offered plenty of surprises. 04/11 Becky Lejeune
THE SILENT MAN by Alex Berenson: It isn’t easy to steal warheads from the heart of Russia’s nuclear complex in Mayak. It requires a great deal of money, coordination, ingenuity, and sleight-of-hand, and just a touch of luck. But if you’re determined enough, anything is possible. CIA agent John Wells, the only American to fight both for and against the Talibhan in Afghanistan faces a nuclear challenge in this third outing. He and his colleague and fiancée, Jennifer Exley, are driving into work when traffic comes to a standstill, due to accidents on both bridges into Washington. A pretty big coincidence, he thinks, beginning to get a bad feeling—a feeling that only gets worse when he spots the red motorcycle zooming up between cars toward him. From that point on it’s a madhouse with unbelievable stakes and constant action. Berenson outbonds Bond and has become my go-to guy for contemporary spy adventures not unlike LeCarre, Ludlum and some of his other forebears. A top notch read. 03/09 Jack Quick
SILENT ON THE MOOR by Deanna Raybourn: In the third Julia Grey novel, our heroine has decided to follow Brisbane to Yorkshire where he has recently purchased an estate. When Julia and her entourage arrive, however, she finds that Brisbane is in no mood to accept guests. And it seems the previous tenants of the estate are strangely still in residence. When Julia learns of the circumstances, though, she decides that the family needs her help. It seems that Brisbane purchased the home after the death of the only son and heir. The man’s sisters and mother were left with nothing in his will and Brisbane has allowed them to stay until he can arrange housing for them on the estate. But Brisbane’s attitude about the whole thing, paired with the oddities of the family itself are enough to set Julia’s mind working. Soon she learns that Brisbane shares a history with the family, one that is full of secrets and lies. Can she have her happily-ever-after ending and still solve this one? That’s the question that will be on every reader’s mind as they dive into this lush and wonderful Victorian mystery. Each new installment to the series reveals new things about Julia and the mysterious Brisbane, and each new book is another adventure that ends too soon. I can’t wait until the next chapter in their story comes along. 02/09 Becky Lejeune
SILENT THUNDER by Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen: Mother and son team up in this blockbuster worthy thriller. Hanna Bryson is an expert in the field of marine architecture. As such, she is tapped to inspect a Russian sub that has been recently acquired for display in an American maritime museum. When her brother Connor discovers encrypted messages on the interior plates of the sub, Hannah knows that something of great significance has been found, she just doesn’t understand how great. Then, Connor is murdered and Hannah vows revenge at all cost. In order to succeed, Hannah teams up with a Russian mercenary who’s with his own agenda. Every aspect of Iris Johansen’s trademark romantic suspense is present in this collaborative effort, but son, Roy, lends a nice balance and something of an edge to the whole story. The combination works quite well. I think fans of both authors will be pleased. 07/08 Becky Lejeune
SILESIAN STATION by David Downing: Berlin, 1939. British-American journalist John Russell is trying to save himself, his actress girlfriend, Effi Koenen, and son Paul from his previous marriage, as German society becomes increasingly hostile for all non-Aryans who eschew the Nazi party line. Russell finds himself, almost accidentally, in the employ of the intelligence services of his native Britain and the United States, as well as those of the Soviet Union (Russell was once a Communist) and the German SD. While balancing all these conflicting interests, Russell also takes time to do what he can to help the Jews who are being persecuted. He has already managed to secure the exit of four surviving members of one family and is now involved in finding Miriam Rosenfeld, a young Jewish woman dispatched from provincial Silesia by her Uncle Thomas, who is Russell’s ex-brother-in-law, but fails to arrive in Berlin. An exciting thriller full of period detail, Downing effectively captures life in the police state of Berlin on the brink of war. Not pretty but exceeding well done. 09/09 Jack Quick
SILVER FALLS by Anne Stuart: After her daughter’s best friend is murdered, Rachel Chapman finds herself looking to settle down and provide some stability for her teen. She thought that marrying David Middleton was the perfect solution, but she was oh, so very wrong. Caleb Middleton has returned to his hometown of Silver Falls with one thing in mind, stopping his brother before it’s too late. Rachel is drawn to Caleb initially, but when the bodies start to turn up in their quaint little town, she becomes convinced that there must be some connection. She’s right, but not in any way she can imagine. And she is in no way prepared for the secret her new husband’s family has been hiding. Poor Rachel, the reader knows from the very beginning what a creep David is, but for her and her daughter, the worst they’ve been through is nothing compared to what’s to come. Silver Falls is heavy on the suspense and guaranteed to keep readers up late into the night. David Middleton is the most skin-crawlingly, creepy bad guy I’ve come across in a while. 06/09 Becky Lejeune
SILVER GIRL by Elin Hilderbrand: Obviously inspired by the Bernie Madoff scandal, this is the story of Meredith Delinn, whose husband Freddy ripped off investors in a giant Ponzi scheme. Billions of dollars are missing, Freddy has been convicted and sentenced to 150 years in jail, and he’s not talking, even though his silence implicates his wife and son. Meredith is the most hated woman in America, or at least it feels that way to her. The only friend she has left in the world is her lifelong best friend Connie. They had a falling out when Connie’s husband was dying of brain cancer and he pulled their investments from Freddy, but Connie knows Meredith like no one else does and can’t believe that she was a part of the deception. The two women head for Connie’s house on Nantucket for the summer. Meredith is in hiding, but despite her disguise she is recognized and there are repercussions. This is an interesting look at another side to the whole Madoff nightmare and while this is not a novelization of that disaster, it does help to put a more human face on what happens to the family of someone who has ruined so many innocent lives. While this could have been a bleak story, in Hilderbrand’s hands it is a totally absorbing read about friendship, familial relationships, love, betrayal and more. 08/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SIMPLE GENIUS by David Baldacci: In this third Maxwell/King outing (after Split Second and Hour Game) from Baldacci, the two former Secret Service agents are having their problems. Michelle Maxwell, distraught over their previous case, has ended up in a psychiatric treatment center. In order to pay for the treatment Sean King has taken on the task of investigating the death of a top mathematician from a super-secret scientific company headquartered in Babbagetown, named for Charles Babbage who conceived of the computer in the early 1800’s. The mathematician died on CIA property and King ends up being opposed by the CIA, the FBI, and unknown spies. In the meantime Maxwell is doing some investigating of her own at the treatment facility. Another excellent outing from Baldacci. 07/09 Jack Quick
SINGER OF SOULS by Adam Stemple: Adam Stemple’s background in music forms the basis of this fantasy adventure. It will help if you share that knowledge; readers of SINGER OF SOULS might have a hard slog if they don’t know the legends of “the fey folk”; you don’t need to know all of it, but a working knowledge will help make sense of things.
Douglas, who’s fighting a heroin addiction, decides get as far away as he can from Minneapolis, so he heads to Edinburgh where his grandmother is based. She takes him in, encouraging his plans to work as a street musician; busking is a respected tradition in the UK, and when the Fringe Festival rolls around, there’s lots of money to be made if you’ve got any talent. Dougie can read a person and excels in creating songs for strangers. One day, Aine appears and wants a song; her payment to Dougie is the ability to see the faery folk who live among the “real” people of Edinburgh. This isn’t necessarily a gift.
While there are some things that don’t always work here – wouldn’t someone notice a priest as crazed as Father Croser? – the story moves quickly and you just have to accept some things. Douglas is a flawed but pretty tough guy. There’s too much blood and gore for my comfort, and I’m not exactly sure I like how the story ends, but the ending is appropriate, so you’ll have to judge for yourself. 08/05 ~This review contributed by Andi Shechter.
SINNERS’ BALL by Ira Berkowitz: Jackson Steeg is a former NYPD detective turned sometime private eye whose brother Dave, is a Hell’s Kitchen mobster. While Jackson normally avoids Dave, family is important. So when Dave is being set up to take the fall for a warehouse fire that left six mutilated, charred corpses, Jackson commits to helping his brother. Soon, Steeg is the target of some very bad guys working to protect the secrets of some of the most powerful people in Manhattan. As Steeg tries to reconcile family loyalties with his sense of what’s right, you can see the conflict will not end well. 12/11 Jack Quick
THE SINS OF THE FATHERS by Jeffrey Archer: I loved the first book in this series, Only Time Will Tell, so much that I saved this new one for a day when I could just read the whole thing in one sitting. Those days don’t come around very often but what a special day it was. This sequel is just as riveting as the first book in the series. We were left hanging with Harry Clifton having assumed the identity of an American sailor, and upon his arrival in New York he was arrested for murder as he disembarked the ship. That mistaken identity doesn’t unravel for quite a bit, and meanwhile Harry is treated as a murderer and deserter of the Navy. More characters are introduced, but it is still Emma and Harry’s story, and what a twisted, captivating story it is. Every character comes alive in Archer’s skilled hands. and the pacing is relentless. I loved this book as much as the first, and that bar was set quite high. Don’t miss either of these books but do read them in order. I can’t wait for the next installment. 6/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE SINS OF THE FATHERS by Jeffrey Archer: This is the second book of at least a trilogy, possibly more, about the English Clifton family’s adventures beginning in 1920, and in this book going through the second world war. The book, like almost all other Archer books is extremely engrossing and fleshes out the large list of characters very well. The biggest fault is that it is a continuation of the first book in the series Only Time Will Tell. The reader will not be able to follow the nuances of the events and reactions without having read the first book. This said, those that read the first book have most assuredly been awaiting the second one and experienced the same pull to read it at one sitting.
Harry Clifton, introduced in book one continues his adventures in resolving an issue preventing his marriage to Emma Barrington. These issues were delineated in book one and continue to prevent the union of the two characters. In the course of resolving the problem Harry joins the British Merchant Marine, has his ship sunk, lands in the U.S and via his use of a false identity lands in prison there. Other characters in both books do require reading of the first one in order to continue to understand them. The events are riveting and keep the reader mesmerized by the story. Without the knowledge it is still a good read and some allusions to book one will help, but Sins of the Father is really the next chapter in this series. All in all with Archer’s writing skills it is worth while to pick up the first book, read it and than continue with the series. 6/12 Paul Lane
SIR, I CAN EXPLAIN by Stephen D Cork: Retired army Colonel Cork has created the consummate soldier in this, his first novel about her. She is Jennifer O’Shane a major and soon to be Lt Colonel in the military police. She is pretty, petite, ambitious, acts more like a Delta force operative and stretches army rules and regulations to their limits in getting things done. The book is a fast read, interesting, with the only flaw Cork’s propensity to put Jennifer into situations one right after another at a pace really too fast and not conducive to allowing the reader to keep up. This should change for the better as Cork sets up more scenarios and action for Jennifer in future books. Jennifer is charged by the President of the United States with helping Interpol break up a huge criminal operation trafficking in human captives. She jumps into the assignment with a zest that will become her trademark in the future going from Saudi Arabia, where she rescues a prince of the realm, and is made a princess as reward, to Argentina and other sites carrying out her work. One of the major highlights of the book is a description of a HALO (High altitude, low opening) parachute jump. Cork got expertise to help him describe this, and it is one place that we can feel the emotions and fears of the jumpers. Good first effort and indication that we have the probability of better and better works about Jennifer. 10/13 Paul Lane
SIREN OF THE WATERS by Michael Genelin: Commander Jana Matinova of the Slovak police has been assigned to investigate the deaths of a crashed and burned van of imported prostitutes. The assignment takes her across Europe to the Ukraine and southern France in pursuit of the mysterious Koba. As a debut, the book is heavy on backstory but sets the foundation for what may be an interesting new series featuring an unusual female protagonist in a rich but seldom used setting on what used to be Eastern Europe. I will definitely try a sequel if one becomes available. 09/09 Jack Quick
SIROCCO by D. L. Wilson: A well written thriller which graphically illustrates how vulnerable we are to bioweapons. Palestinian agent Sharifah Abbas is not only a beautiful woman but a deadly killer who has been working since 1987 on perfecting a bioweapon to be released in the United States unless Congress funds a new Palestinian government and convinces Israel to return strategic occupied land to the Palestinians. Opposing her on our side is an alphabet soup of agencies and Brett Reynolds, an attorney representing the pharmaceutical lobby. Early on Brett is distracted by the death of his brother in a bizarre suicide/murder. He must also cope with being re-united with old flame, Deborah Lansford, with whom he has an intimate relationship in college. Good ultimately prevails after a long and bumpy ride. 07/11 Jack Quick
THE SISTER by Poppy Adams: It’s been almost sixty years since Ginny’s sister Vivi left home for London. Now she’s back, with no explanation. At first Ginny is excited about her sister’s return. They had been the best of friends and thick as thieves when they were children, after all. But Ginny’s neat and ordered world is soon upset by Vivi’s presence. As she recalls the events that eventually led to Vivi’s estrangement, it becomes clear that there is something very wrong with Ginny. There are clues throughout, but it’s never made clear whether these issues are the product of upbringing or something more serious. Ginny is at once a character that you can sympathize with while still remaining leery of. She seems unreliable, but then so do the rest of the characters in this dysfunctional family. This strange and surprising debut is addictive and dark reading. Poppy Adams manages to weave a tale that seems innocent in its telling but has undeniably suggestive tones throughout. It’s a story that sticks with you long after you turn the final page. 06/08 Becky Lejeune
SISTER WIFE by Natalie Collins: Kelsey Waite thinks she has left her past behind when she flees from Utah to California – the abuse and molestation from her father who had become enamored of a polygamous cult. Ten years later, her daughter is stolen and a neighbor is killed. Is this an attempt to fulfill the prophecy she thought she had escaped? The focus is on the practice of polygamy, which the book makes clear is not a practice condoned by mainstream Mormons or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Cults are cults, no matter what they use as a basis to attract members. Can Kelsey save her daughter and herself from this cult? Interesting read. 08/07 Jack Quick
THE SISTERS by Nancy Jensen: Bertie and Mabel are the title sisters and they grow up during the depression in rural Kentucky. Dysfunctional family angst leads to a tragic misunderstanding that ultimately causes heartbreak and an irreparable rift between the sisters that doesn’t heal even as they have children and grandchildren of their own. Events of World War II and Vietnam affect the families, but it is their personal stories that are so compelling. This is a real page turner with warm, carefully drawn out characters that are as real and complicated as we are. Based on the author’s own family mystery and born of intellectual and emotional curiosity, this is a terrific first novel sure to have book groups buzzing. 1/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SISTERS OF MISERY Megan Kelley-Hall: In the small town of Hawthorne, Massachusetts, your family name and image are everything. Maddie Crane knows all too well the privileges that come with having a good name. She’s friends with the right crowd and gets invited to all the great parties, and that’s just what her mother wants. When Maddie’s aunt Rebecca and cousin Cordelia arrive in town, they’re immediately pegged as outsiders and their interests in apothecary herbs and fortune-telling cement this. Maddie’s own mother would rather neither of them had ever come to town and fears the effects they will have on her carefully cultivated facade. Maddie is drawn to her cousin, however, in spite of her mother’s and her friends’ opinions. Soon Maddie is forced to choose between loyalty to her friends and love for her family. Her decision comes too late, though, and Cordelia’s suffering at the hands of Hawthorne’s elite culminates with her disappearance on Halloween. Now Maddie is determined to uncover her cousin’s fate at all cost. Megan Kelley-Hall’s wonderful and chilling debut is technically a teen novel, but it will certainly appeal to readers of all ages. Gripping and eerie, Sisters of Misery marks the beginning of a fantastic new gothic teen series. 07/08 Becky Lejeune
SISTERS OF MISERY by Megan Kelly Hall: Maddie Crane is a sixteen year old girl who lives in Hawthorne, MA, just miles away from the site of the infamous Salem witch trials. She’s friends with the most popular girls in school, a clique known as the Sisters of Misery. The Sisters are all from families of powerful women in Hawthorne, a legacy that goes back centuries. When Maddie’s eccentric cousin, Cordelia, moves to Hawthorne, Maddie is torn between staying a part of Sisters and relinquishing to the mystical way of life that her cousin and aunt have embraced. Her decision is quickly made for her when Maddie becomes involved in one of the Sisters’ schemes, a plan that destroys her life and the lives of all those that are close to her. While Sisters of Misery is categorized as a YA book, audiences of all ages will be pulled into the gothic style writing of Megan Kelly Hall. I’m impatiently looking forward to more from this amazing debut author. 08/08 Jennifer Lawrence
SIX SECONDS OF DARKNESS by Octavus Roy Cohen: Interesting premise marred by use of every cliché ever uttered. Civic reformer Edward Hamilton is murdered and energetic sleuth David Carroll is put in charge of the investigation. His immediate problem is determining if any of the three people trying to confess to the crime are actually guilty. Better than nothing at all to read. 04/09 Jack Quick
SIX YEARS by Harlan Coben: Jake Fisher teaches at a small private college and his life revolves around his career. He lost the love of his life during a summer at a retreat while working on his thesis. He assumed they would marry and was shocked, when at the end of the summer, Natalie invited him to her wedding to another man. She made him promise to leave her alone, and he did – for six years, until he saw her husband’s obituary in the newspaper. He attends the funeral, planning on offering his condolences but the widow is not his former flame but someone else entirely. When he tries to visit the artist retreat where they met, he is ordered off the property and no one in town will admit there is such a place. Perplexed but determined to find his true love, Jake puts his job in jeopardy, not to mention his life, in trying to solve this twisty mystery. Who knew Coben had such a romantic soul? He may pick up some new readers; his regular readers will love this, and fans of Sandra Brown and Linda Howard should definitely give this a read. Very well plotted and executed, this is Coben at his best. 3/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SIX YEARS by Harlan Coben: Another gem by Harlan, an author that has consistently been able to produce engrossing novels and different, well thought out plots. Jacob Fisher (Jake) is a professor at a small college and has thrown himself into his career as a teacher, forsaking any private life. Six years prior to the opening of the book, Jake met the love of his life during a retreat he attended in order to facilitate the writing of his thesis. Natalie was at a nearby facility working on her art talents. The couple had an affair lasting three months which Jake assumed would lead to marriage. Suddenly, Natalie announced that she was about to marry a previous love of hers, and made Jake promise to never bother her or her husband again. Jake complies with Natalie’s request in spite of a heart that is broken, and his constant thoughts about her. By chance he comes upon an obituary of her husband, with the cause of death a break in to his house. Jake decides that he will at least put aside his vow to Natalie about leaving them alone and seek her out to extend his condolences. We are immediately taken into the strange world of her deceased husband, who is found to be married to another woman, and a family with her. Jake’s subsequent searching for Natalie and the circumstances surrounding her desertion make the developing novel an attention grabber for the reader. Certainly an all nighter with no real answers to why Natalie left Jake to supposedly marry someone else until the very end of the book. The book is an excellent example of Harlan Coben’s literary skills and leads to the same end as his other books. When will he come out with the next one for me to order? 3/13 Paul Lane
SIX YEARS by Harlan Coben: Six years ago, Jake said one final goodbye to Natalie as she married another man. She made him promise he would leave them alone, but he never got over their whirlwind romance or their sudden break up. When he learns that Natalie’s husband has died, Jake decides the time for promises is over. He travels to the funeral only to discover that the man’s widow is most definitely not Natalie. Jake realizes that something strange is going on and as he attempts to track down Natalie he catches the attention of some seriously unsavory folks. One of Jake’s students is attacked and Jake himself is kidnapped. He barely manages to escape but the authorities only brush it off as a drunken mishap on his part. It doesn’t end there, however. Natalie seems to have disappeared without a trace and someone has decided that Jake knows where she is. He has no idea what Natalie might be wrapped up in, but all signs seem to point to her being in grave danger. What started as an attempt to reconnect with a lost love becomes a desperate effort to protect the person who matters to Jake most. True to form, Six Years is another page turning suspense read that grabs hold from the very beginning and doesn’t let the reader loose until the final page. At certain times in reading this latest from Coben, though, I found it began to closely resemble Tell No One. It was a fine read but one that I wish stood out a little more from that first stand alone. 3/13 Becky Lejeune
SIXKILL by Robert B. Parker: At a raucous, three-day party in 1921, a young starlet became severely ill and died four days later. Newspapers went wild with the story: popular silent-screen comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle had killed Virginia Rappe with his weight while savagely raping her. Though the newspapers of the day reveled in the gory, rumored details, juries found little evidence that Arbuckle was in any way connected with her death. Fast forward to today. On location in Boston, bad-boy actor Jumbo Nelson is accused of the rape and murder of a young woman. Spenser lawyer friend Rita Fiore is defending Nelson and hires Spenser to investigate. Spenser encounters Jumbo’s bodyguard: a young, former football-playing Native American named Zebulon Sixkill. Sixkill really becomes the focus of the story as Spenser becomes his mentor after Jumbo fires Sixkill, Fiore and Spenser. A little thing like being fired never stopped Spenser, but this time its good that he has Sixkiller as a backup since Hawk is somewhere in Africa. If this is indeed the last Spenser, its a good one to end on. 06/11 Jack Quick
THE SIXTH MAN by David Baldacci: Former Secret Service agents Sean King and Michelle Maxwell are hired by attorney Ted Bergin, an old friend of Sean’s. The client is Edgar Roy – an alleged serial killer and former IRS employee held in a secure, fortress-like Federal Supermax facility in Maine. Bergin is murdered before the first meeting with King and Maxwell who find the cationic Roy to be totally uncommunicative. The rapid response of the FBI surprises King and Maxwell who are even more surprised when someone fires a high powered rifle bullet through their car while it is traveling at 70 miles per hour. So: Is Roy a killer? Who murdered Bergin? The more they dig into Roy’s past, the more they encounter obstacles, half-truths, dead-ends, false friends, and escalating threats from every direction. Their persistence puts them on a collision course with the darkest powers at the highest levels of the government. Scary good. 05/11 Jack Quick
SIXTYONE NAILS by Mike Shevdon: Niall Petersen was just a regular guy. Until he dies and a woman called Blackbird saves him. Blackbird tells Niall that he is in grave danger: he has become a target of the Untainted — members of the Seventh Court of Feyre. The first six Courts have all mingled with mankind for some time now, but the Untainted believe that those of mixed human and Feyre blood should be eliminated — those like Niall. Niall’s only hope is to gain favor with one of the other six Courts, earning their sanction and protection from those who would have him killed. But there’s a catch and Niall, who knew nothing of the Courts before now, will need Blackbird’s help if he is to succeed. A brilliant series opener. Shevdon’s London is dark and magical, wonderfully conceived and brought to life on the page. This is urban fantasy at its absolute best and I can’t wait for more. 09/10 Becky Lejeune
SIZZLING SIXTEEN by Janet Evanovich: Stephanie Plum, inept but lucky bounty hunter, has a real dilemma on her hands. Vinny, her boss, has been kidnapped by some very bad men because he owes them close to a million dollars in gambling debts. Stephanie feels compelled to help him as he is her cousin and he did give her a job when no one else would, so with office manager Connie and sidekick Lula in tow, the women are on the hunt for the kidnapped Vinny. Cars are wrecked of course, but this time out there are also some animal mishaps, stinkbombs, firebombs, Hobbits running amok and stoner Mooner makes an appearance too. Stephanie is also drifting back towards Joe but Ranger, as usual, isn’t making it easy. I totally admit I am addicted to this series, and Evanovich offers up another fast, fun summer diversion. 06/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SKATING AROUND THE LAW by Joelle Charbonneau: Rebecca Robbins is home from Chicago after her mother dies and leaves her the roller skating rink she grew up at. Rebecca is determined to sell it and move back to Chicago, but the local handyman turns up dead in the rink’s bathroom, causing buyers to rethink their possible purchase. The broker tells her until the murder is solved they may as well pull it off the market, causing Rebecca to have to ask for a leave of absence from her job in Chicago, where her boss was trying to put the moves on her. The town sheriff is more interested in his garden than in actually solving the case, so Rebecca decides to look into it herself, with some help with her grandfather, the town’s lothario. Living in a small town again is not her idea of fun until she meets the new large animal vet – and his pet camel. I loved the small town setting, there were lots of laughs, a bit of romance and a loveable amateur sleuth, all combining to make this one terrific read. 09/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SKATING OVER THE LINE by Joelle Charbonneau: This is the second in a lighthearted, humorous mystery series set in a small town. Please bear in mind that this particular series really must be read in order, so start with Skating Around the Law, then move to this one. I am really enjoying this series that features Rebecca Robbins, who inherited her mother’s roller skating rink and is trying to sell it and move back to Chicago. Rebecca grew up at the rink, literally – she and her mom lived in an apartment above the rink so there are lots of memories there. But Rebecca has an independent streak which is prompting her desire to move back to Chicago, except for the romance she finds in Indian Falls with the hunky town veterinarian, and the tug of responsibility for her Elvis impersonating grandfather. So far a dead body turning up at the rink turned off the first potential buyer at the start of the series, and there are further complications this time around. This is a charming, fun read and I’m really enjoying this series, much in the way I loved the early Evanovich books. I am not a big fan of cozy mysteries as a rule, but there are a few series that have become must reads for me, and this is one of them. 12/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SKELETON MAN By Tony Hillerman: Hillerman’s southwest Indian country crime series has become an American staple. In this entry, retired Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn opens by relating the story of this case to the rest of his bud’s at The Navajo Inn. In doing so, phone calls are made, and help is enlisted, to aid the slow witted Billy Tuve, who’s accused of robbery and murder. Yet he tells a fantastic story of being given the diamond he’s accused of stealing, while gathering ceremonial clay for paint for ancient Hopi rights at their Salt Shrine, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Meanwhile, in 1956, two planes collided over the canyon killing everyone on board, leaving a crucial body part plus millions in diamonds scattered to the winds, waters, and walls of the gorge.
SKIN by Mo Hayder: DI Jack Caffery and police diver Phoebe “Flea” Marley return straight off the events of Ritual in this fourth Caffery thriller, and second in the Walking Man trilogy. After analyzing the tapes again and again, Caffery is convinced that there was another party involved in the case now being referred to as Operation Norway (see Ritual). His determination to prove this is not earning him any points, though, as everyone would prefer that the case be shut for good. So when Caffery insists that a local suicide may be connected, his superiors are not at all thrilled. But Caffery is stubborn, eventually earning himself time off the books to investigate. Meanwhile, Flea is dealing with some troubling family issues that are tied to a different high-profile case. Hayder once again pushes her characters to the limits in this twisted and well-plotted installment to the series. Hayder’s completely unpredictable and brutal thrillers are utterly addicting. Skin will leave fans breathless and desperate for the next chapter in Caffery’s and Marley’s stories. (Gone hits shelves in the UK in February.) 01/10 Becky Lejeune
SKIN DEEP by Timothy Hallinan: Way back in 1991, there were them that could write like: “In all, it seemed to me that the people who understood carburetors could get along much better without the people who understood Dickens and Thackery than the people who understood Dickens and Thackery could get along without those who understood carburetors.” LA private eye Simeon Grist is hired to watchdog Toby Vane, the golden boy of prime-time TV, whose gee-whiz smile and chiseled features are worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the lucrative syndication market. The problem is that Toby every now and then beats up a woman, and almost any woman will do. When some of the women around Toby begin to turn up dead, Simeon has to figure out whether he’s protecting a murderer – or whether one of Toby’s multitude of enemies wants to put him away forever. When Simeon meets the beautiful Nana, the whole situation becomes very personal, very fast. The true test of a writer is how well his work holds up and Mr. Hallinan fully fills the bill. Simeon Grist, Poke Rafferty and now Junior Bender – just a few of my favorite guys. 2/13 Jack Quick
Skipping Christmas by John Grisham: Very cute Christmas fable. It made me laugh, made me cry, all the requisite Christmas emotions. Don’t get me wrong, it’s no Gift of the Magi, but if you find yourself wanting something new to read to get in the holiday spirit, there ya go.
SLAMMER by Allan Guthrie: Scotsman Nicholas Glass should never have become a prison officer. He lacks the courage and the temperament. So it is almost inevitable that he would become the target of abuse from both cons and fellow officers. When the verbal abuse turns into threats against his wife and daughter, he feels has to agree to do a group of inmates a “favor”: One favor leads to another, leads to another, and finally, you guessed it – Glass shatters. A dark ugly tale about the fragility of the human mind. Not for the squeamish. 09/09 Jack Quick
SLAY RIDE by Chris Grabenstein: This is a dark departure from Grabenstein’s terrific Jersey shore series (Tilt-A-Whirl, Mad Mouse). Slay Ride is a dark, dangerous journey with a nasty Russian limo driver, smuggling, torture and murder that takes a page from James Patterson; this book has 101 very short, page-turning chapters, some of which are only paragraphs long.
Scott Wilkinson is an up-and-coming advertising executive with a beautiful wife and baby on the way. He’s also a bit OCD, and when his limo arrives a few minutes late, he is incensed. The driver drives like a lunatic, completely pushing him over the edge and he calls the limo company to complain. FBI agent Chris Miller is riding a desk because his expertise and bravery in solving a kidnapping landed him on the front page of the newspaper, pushing his boss out of the limelight. And an old Russian woman is robbed as she enters her Brooklyn apartment by two young men. These seemingly unrelated storylines all start twisting together and spiraling out of control in this fast paced tale of Christmas terror. 11/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SLEEPER by Gene Riehl: In this second episode, FBI agent Puller Monk has to match wits with a sexy, dangerous, blonde assassin born Samantha Williamson but now named Sung Kim. She was stolen from America as a child and trained in North Korea in various martial and felonious arts. In the midst of personal problems, Monk accepts a secret assignment to find a priceless stolen painting. Riehl breaks no new ground with regard to international relations, but it is a. fast read with a nice twisty plot. I’m ready for another. 06/06 Jack Quick
SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS by Madeleine Wickham: Chloe and her family are definitely due a relaxing and rejuvenating vacation. How perfect then that their friend Gerard has offered them use of his private villa in Spain. Unfortunately, they are about to find that they have become part of a twisted joke purely for Gerard’s own entertainment. See, Gerard has also promised use of the villa to Hugh and his family. Chloe and Hugh have an unfortunate past that they have tried to keep secret and put behind them. Everyone agrees that they should try and enjoy their respective vacations, there’s plenty of space for them all, but will the heady summer heat prove to be too much for them to handle? Wickham, aka Sophie Kinsella, wraps things up a little too neatly for my taste. Sleeping Arrangements is a sweet read, but I felt like some of the characters didn’t quite get what they deserved for their behavior. 07/08 Becky Lejeune
THE SLEEPING DOLL by Jeffery Deaver: California Bureau of Investigations agent Kathryn Dance was first introduced to readers in last year’s thriller The Cold Moon. Now she’s back and featured in her own series. Dance is an expert in reading body language, a study known as kinesics. She is called in to interview former cult leader Daniel Pell regarding his possible participation in an unsolved murder. Pell, also known as the Son of Manson, has been serving consecutive life sentences for the murder of a software programmer and his family almost a decade ago. While in prison, Pell apparently appealed to a soon to be released cellmate, requesting that he remove incriminating evidence that could lead to the discovery of Pell’s involvement in this second murder. Dance soon determines that Pell’s so-called confession to his cellmate was nothing more than a ploy to get him transferred to a less secure lock-up. Her fear that Pell may be planning an escape is soon realized and Dance is placed in charge of the team responsible for bringing him back. This is an exciting first installment to Deaver’s new series. True to form, he delivers an intense page-turner that fans, new and old, will not be able to put down. Never fear die-hard Rhyme fans, Deaver promises to alternate books in the series each year. Next year’s title will return to Rhyme and his partner Amelia Sachs and Kathryn Dance’s story will return the following year. 06/07 Becky Lejeune
THE SLEEPING DOLL by Jeffery Deaver: Move over Lincoln Rhyme. Hello Special Agent Kathryn Dance, a brilliant interrogator and kinesics expert with the California Bureau of Investigation. Daniel “Son of Manson” Pell is serving a life sentence for the brutal murder of the Croyton family in Carmel many years ago. He is also a suspect in newly discovered crime and it is up to Dance to use all her skills as an interrogator and student of body language to get to the truth behind Daniel Pell. Then Pell escapes, leaving behind a trail of dead and injured and Dance is now in charge of her first ever manhunt. She must seek answers from the past to solve the problems of today. To get them, she arranges a reunion of three women who were in Pell’s cult at the time of the killings. How deep is the sickness that drives Pell and how can Dance use it to capture him? Don’t read after dark, unless you want to end up double checking the doors and window latches every half hour as I did. A good one. 12/07 Jack Quick
SLEEPING WITH THE AGENT by Gennita Low: What would otherwise be an above average thriller is marred badly by the author’s assumption that you have already read the first two books of this trilogy and therefore you are ready to jump in mid-story with no back fill, introduction of characters or anything. Once you get past page fifty and can begin to see a bit of what is going on, the story is pretty goof. Lily Noretski is a former CIA agent who was turned into a “sleeper cell”. While under another’s control she betrayed the only friend she had ever known. Now she is on the run from both the good guys and bad guys, all of whom are interested in a destructive weapon that could potentially upset world power. Navy SEAL sharpshooter Reed Vicenzio is tasked to “take her out.” But he recognizes her compassion and courage and decides to try to save her instead. True love conquers all, even some one who really, really needs a good editor. Recommended only if you have waded through books 1 and 2 first. 09/08 Jack Quick
SLEEPLESS by Charlie Huston: Over ten percent of the population is now infected with SLP, a prion that attacks the thalamus, rendering its victims sleepless until they finally succumb to death. The only treatment, the only thing that offers any ease of their symptoms, is Dreamer. Parker Haas, a cop who has always followed the rules, has been assigned an undercover position tracking the illegal trade of Dreamer. Unfortunately, in a world that has become a virtual war zone, it’s becoming harder and harder for Parker to do his job. Although he himself is not sleepless, his wife is. And their baby is showing symptoms as well. When Parker stumbles onto a murder scene in the course of his work, he unknowingly attracts the dangerous attentions of a disturbed mercenary for hire. As Parker gets closer and closer to a lead on Dreamer, this assassin learns more about Parker and his family. With this much resting on his shoulders, it’s no wonder Parker is finding it harder to sleep. Mesmerizing! Sleepless should come with a warning label. Huston’s character and world building are excellent and his trademark noir style makes this semi-apocalyptic read a true standout of the year. 1/10 Becky Lejeune
THE SLEEPWALKERS by Paul Grossman: Set in Germany in the days just prior to Hitler’s rise, The Sleepwalkers is an excellent mix of history, mystery, and suspense. Detective Willi Kraus, famous for solving one of Germany’s most heinous crimes, is also a war hero… and a Jew. A proud patriot and a member of law enforcement, Willi is sure that things will work themselves out in the end. In the meantime, he’s been tasked with solving two separate cases: In the first, the body of a girl is found floating in the water near Spandau, her legs horribly mutilated by someone with obvious surgical talent. In the second case, Willi has to track down a missing princess. Though missing persons is not his department, Willi was specifically requested for the case. With the current political situation in Berlin, Willi has to be careful not to draw too much attention to himself. But both cases begin to come together in a way that seems almost too convenient. As the detective digs further, he begins to realize just how tenuous his position is and solving, or not solving, the cases could mean more than just his career. 10/10 Becky Lejeune
Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham: Serial killer/medical thriller with a rather unique twist: the killer isn’t actually trying to kill his victims, he’s trying to induce strokes in them. He is “successful” with one victim – Alison – and thus begins a fascinating look at “locked-in syndrome.” We get to share Alison’s thoughts, as that is all she is capable of doing – thinking. She is completely paralyzed but her brain is fully functional, and only after some time has passed and with great effort is she able to even blink her eyes in response to a question. The detective in charge of the investigation, Tom Thorne, is a middle-aged slightly obsessive sort that is not too popular with his bosses. Tom becomes involved with the doctor, Anne Coburn, who is treating Allison, adding yet another layer to this intriguing story. Note: the most incredible book was written by a man with locked-in syndrome; he dictated it one letter at a time. It’s called The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death by Jean-Dominique Bauby and made my favorites list for 1998.
SLICKER by Lucy Jackson: Desiree Christian-Cohen is in desperate need of a change of scenery. Her life is in flux, she and her boyfriend have broken up, and she’s not prepared for the responsibilities that come with being a grown up. This is why she’s in Honey Creek, Kansas, a town chosen simply by placing her finger randomly on a map. Honey Creek is a new world of sorts for Desiree and the more she’s exposed to the people and the ways of this tiny town, the more she realizes that she herself is changing as a person. At the same time, Desiree’s mother, Nina, feels as though her own world is falling apart. Abandoned by her husband and now her daughter, Nina must face her own challenges as well as care for her ailing father. As both women discover more about themselves, they each grow in the most unexpected ways. Slicker is a heartfelt and entertaining story although I did find that certain points in the novel become a bit rambling and off track around the middle. It does manage to pick up again and becomes a bit of a literary chick lit that is both thoughtful and funny. 08/10 Becky Lejeune
SLICKY BOYS by Martin Limon: U.S. Army criminal investigation division agents George Sueno and Ernie Bascom specialize in the bar and brothel district called Itaewon in Seoul, Korea. A beautiful Korean woman asks them to deliver a message to a soldier who is found murdered the next night. George and Ernie feel like they may have somehow been used in setting up the murder. Their investigation becomes a personal vendetta as they delve, literally, into the Korean underworld. Again Limon captures the time and place perfectly with descriptions like “The (UN Club) smelled like a toilet…the aroma of cigarette smoke…rotted lemons, stale booze, the reek of the urinals, all of it coalesced to create a blast to the nostrils that I’d never noticed before.” Or “Two weeks later he was back in boots. Clean. Quieting the aching need in his gut by filling it with liquor. To the point of madness. A fully acceptable pastime, as far as the army was concerned. They even encourage drunkenness. They considered it wholesome.” 02/06 Jack Quick
SLIDE by Ken Bruen & Jason Starr (Hardcase Crime Number 36): Read Bruen and Starr’s 2006 Bust first to get the maximum effect of this violent, bloody, crude, funny, twisted, no-holds-barred tale that is noir at its best. New York businessman Max Fisher was betrayed by his former mistress/assistant whom he tried to get to arrange the murder of his wife. Afterwards he falls down, down, down, ending up in a drunken spree in Robertsdale, Alabama before climbing back up to become Wall Street’s premier crack dealer, the M.A.X. Meanwhile Angela Petrakos has ended up with a new boyfriend, an Irish psychopath (Is that redundant? hmm) and she still has Max in her sights. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll wonder why…. Another excellent outing from Messrs Bruen and Starr and the Hardcase Imprint. 12/07 Jack Quick
SLIDE by Jill Hathaway: Silvia Bell has a problem. Everyone around her believes she has an extreme case of narcolepsy. In reality, Silvia’s spells are something quite different – she slides into other people, seeing things through their eyes. What she sees is almost never good. When she witnesses the murder of a classmate, she knows that she has to do everything she can to unmask the true killer. But truth is even more twisted than she could expect. Hathaway’s debut is a good mystery read for teens. The first half is great: nice set up, plenty of time getting to know Silvia and all the other characters. The second half did feel a bit rushed. The plot could have been fleshed out and stretched a bit more in length to please a seasoned mystery reader. 3/12 Becky Lejeune
SLIP AND FALL by Nick Santora: Robert Principe is the first lawyer in his working class Italian family. He is an idealist, a man of ethics and principles, and is slowly starving to death. He’s three months behind on his mortgage, pays his secretary sporadically, and his wife is pregnant. Desperate, he turns to his cousin Jackie, a Brooklyn mobster. Robert proposes an insurance scam, and Jackie is in – and so’s his boss; there’s nothing the mob likes more than easy money. Robert gets in way over his head and the pages fly by as the Robert’s life starts spinning out of control. But who better to write a terrific Mafia tale than Santora; this former lawyer got his writing chops writing for Prison Break, Law & Order, & The Sopranos. 08/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SLIP AND FALL by Nick Santora: After reading Santora’s new book, Fifteen Digits, and being fascinated by his story telling ability and his treatment and fleshing out of characters I had to read his first book. It was just as good. The premise is a conflict between good and evil. Robert Principe is an attorney that seemingly has all the right credentials. He graduated at the top of his Columbia University Law school class and decided to enter private practice instead of going to work for the many Wall Street type law firms that went after him at graduation. He is an honest man and tries to do the right thing but drifts along with a marginal law practice. Things come to a head when he is faced with mortgage payment problems, his wife becomes pregnant, and his sister also pregnant with a Downs syndrome baby who is than deserted by her husband. As a result of these issues, Robert comes to grips with his need for income versus a slow moving honest practice. He dreams up an insurance fraud scheme and contacts his cousin, who is associated with a mob, to put the idea into action. With the help of his cousin Jackie Masella and Jackie’s crime family boss, the scheme is put into action and proves successful. Robert looks carefully at the results of the first scheme and decides that this is too dishonest for him to pursue but he is now unable to get away from the mob he has become associated with. Since the scheme is very lucrative and solves big problems for the mob they do not let him out and precipitate an inevitable and logical chain of events culminating in a not very fairy tale like ending. Santora, who was an attorney before becoming a successful writer and TV producer, is excellent in sketching out Robert’s thought processes and the realization that people can be successful through luck as well as skill. Robert’s turning to a dishonest scheme and subsequent turn off by the results is very well done and we follow his feelings and actions with a great deal of ease. The premise of the book is possible and Santora leaves the reader with the idea that such schemes might be more than a little common in the practice of law today. 6/12 Paul Lane
SLIVER OF TRUTH by Lisa Unger: This is the sequel to one of my favorite thrillers of 2006, Beautiful Lies and this is definitely a case of having to read the books in order. I read Beautiful Lies more than a year ago, and I found the beginning of the sequel hard to follow. Once more of the story started coming back to me, I started enjoying this one a lot more and I really couldn’t put it down. The story revolves around Ridley Jones, who in Beautiful Lies learns that she is adopted and that her beloved Uncle Max is really her father. Max is gone, but things start happening that make Ridley wonder if he really is dead. She starts learning more about her father, many things she wished she never knew, and the story takes off at lightening speed, with one jolt after another, creating a storm that won’t soon be forgotten. Written in the first person, but in a very conversational way, as if the author is having a conversation with her best friend, the reader, creating an intimacy that also makes it hard to put this book down. A most worthy sequel. 02/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SLIVER OF TRUTH by Lisa Unger: Since the events of last year’s Beautiful Lies, Ridley Jones has been working to put her life back together and to reconcile the realities of her past with the memories of a life she no longer recognizes as her own. The revelations about Max Smiley and the truth that Project Rescue — an organization that was meant to place unwanted children into loving homes — was nothing more than a glorified kidnapping ring, were only the beginning. Now, the FBI seems to think that Max may still be alive and that he has been shadowing Ridley since the time of his supposed death. The feds aren’t the only ones looking for Max, either. Ridley will soon discover that Project Rescue may have been the least of Max’s sins and, once again, she will come to question everything and everyone in her life. Yet again, Lisa Unger has written a perfect thriller with a wholly engaging plot. A definite up all night read. 01/07 Becky Lejeune
SLOW MAN by J.M. Coetzee: Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee has produced another fine novel which should stand the test of time. In Slow Man, he tells the story of the multi-faceted rehabilitation of a very solitary person who loses a leg when his bicycle is run down by an automobile. Coetzee uses this dramatic event as a basis for exploring not only the emotions of his characters and their reactions to a world not of their choosing, but also the tenuous relationships between what is real and what is imagined and between an author and his characters.
The basic story is simple enough and clearly limned in the clean prose of an author who chooses his words with care and precision. Paul Rayment (the slow man) is minding his own business riding his bicycle in his Australian neighborhood when his serenity and his body are shattered by a careless young driver. He wakes to find himself in the clutches of his country’s social welfare net. This system, while well-intentioned, seems to him to operate in an almost Kafka-esque fashion. It is designed to make him better whether he wants to be or not, in a rigidly prescribed fashion whether he likes it or not. Forced to receive home nursing, he is ultimately tended to by a remarkable Croatian immigrant woman for whom he develops strong feelings.
This straight-forward story line is jolted, no less than Rayment was jolted by the errant vehicle, by the appearance of the central character from another of Mr. Coetzee’s books, Elizabeth Costello, at Rayment’s front door and her insistence on inserting herself into his life.
The remainder of this story involves Rayment’s efforts to achieve a more satisfying relationship with his nurse and expel the pesky author from his flat. To say more would be telling.
This is a fine and challenging read and will be on my list of ten best books for 2005. 11/05 ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.
SMALL CRIMES by Dave Zeltserman: It starts with alcohol, and gambling, and cocaine, and minor theft and then major theft and arson and the maiming of a District Attorney. Joe Denton, ex-cop, now on parole, is having a hard time returning to Bradley, Massachusetts. DA Phil Oakley, whose face is horribly disfigured from Denton’s attack seven years ago has sworn he will get revenge, Oakley’s daughter tries to frame Denton on rape charges, and Denton’s corrupt ex-boss want him to commit murder. Amazingly, Zeltserman makes Denton’s manipulations, evasions and self-deceptions comprehensible, if not still reprehensible. Highly recommended, if you enjoy gritty cop noir. 12/08 Jack Quick
Small Town by Lawrence Block: I have very mixed feelings about this book. A mid-list author is accused of murder which impels him into a multi-million dollar book deal, while an art gallery owner becomes obsessed with him. It’s set in New York City post September 11, and revolves around a serial killer who was deeply affected by the tragedy, which made me very uncomfortable. There is enough well written kinky sex in here to qualify this book for the erotica section rather than the mystery section of any bookstore, but it seemed superfluous to the story. Nonetheless, that, plus the historical bits about New York and the inside look at the publishing industry were the highlights for me. The ending was simply a synopsis rather than prose, and a big turnoff. It kept my interest and kept me turning pages, but it was unsettling.
THE SMART ONE by Ellen Meister: Bev is the smart one. Her sister Clare is the pretty one and her other sister Joey is the wild one. Ultimately, Bev feels as if she’s not lived up to the expectations that have come with being “The Smart One.” She’s a 35-year-old divorcee attempting to begin a second career as a grade-school teacher. All she needs now is the job, and a little support from her family would be nice, too. When her mother asks her for a favor while she and Bev’s father are vacationing in Florida for the summer, Bev feels reluctantly obligated to comply. The favor – prepare her parents’ next door neighbors’ house for sale. What Bev isn’t told is that the neighbors’ son, Kenny, a man who both embarrassed her and caused her extreme misery in high school, is also going to be home for the summer. Plus everyone fails to mention the fact that Kenny’s father may have killed a woman and hidden the body in a barrel under their house. Soon Bev’s stuck with neighbor drama on top of her own personal drama and then she discovers that each of her sisters has their own drama going on as well. It’s beginning to look like Bev is succeeding in being the smart one after all, and the sane one, and the normal one, too. There are some more serious issues here, but Ellen Meister maintains an upbeat tone throughout making this an overall light-hearted read that will literally have you laughing out lout. 08/08 Becky Lejeune
SMOKIN’ SEVENTEEN by Janet Evanovich: Every June is time for the latest entry into the Stephanie Plum series, and once again I enjoyed this silly romp with Trenton, NJ’s most inept bond enforcement agent. All the major players and plot points are here: Stephanie bouncing back and forth between Ranger and Joe, Grandma Mazur creating havoc at the funeral home, the usual exploding cars and dead bodies, and for a new twist, a dancing bear. This time out the bail bond business is hurting and the building itself is gone. Vinnie is rebuilding but the backhoe reveals a dead body before they can even pour the new foundation. Mooner’s bus becomes the new home to the business, wrapped in a picture of Lula and a digitally enhanced Stephanie that seems to help turn things around. I can’t help but laugh at all the silly antics even though I’ve seen them all before. This series relies on the old adage, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Evanovich knows how to cater to her audience and in this book, to keep them coming back for more; it ends with a cliffhanger. This book is with a new publisher and for some reason, they are moving her mid-June Plum books to November, so look for Explosive Eighteen then. 08/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SMOKIN’ SEVENTEEN by Janet Evanovich: Well, the bond agency is now working out of Mooner’s van and construction is about to begin on the new digs. Unfortunately, a body is discovered on the property. Then a second, and a third bearing the note “For Stephanie.” Thing is, no one’s quite sure who Stephanie or Vinnie, or anyone else for that matter, might have pissed off to warrant such a thing. Add to that the recent attempts by Stephanie’s mother to get her wayward daughter to settle down, and a curse from Morelli’s grandmother that has some unexpected side effects, and it is business as usual for Stephanie and friends. This series is always a welcome treat each summer, though the plot hasn’t moved forward much along the way. Not that I mind the exploding vehicles and hijinks, but I’d have chosen Morelli already. 08/11 Becky Lejeune
SNATCHED by Karin Slaughter: Short outing for GBI Agenet Will Trent. Trent has been assigned airport duty after a run-in with his boss. It means he has to spend the day in the men’s restrooms looking for homosexual predators. When a man comes in with a 7 year old girl, his instincts are alerted but not quickly enough to stop the man from handing the girl off to an associate. Would Will find them amidst the hordes of travelers in the airport? The desperate attempts by the GBI and the Atlanta Police to find the man and the girl make for a fast-paced suspenseful story. Intense. 8/12 Jack Quick
SNIPER ELITE: ONE WAY TRIP by Scott McEwen: Scott McEwen is not nor ever was a Navy Seal, but his novel introducing Gil Shannon is probably as realistic as any book describing their exploits can be. He does support various military charitable organizations including the Seal Team foundation, and in a preface to the book implies that he has talked to many active Seals about their activities. A botched mission in Afghanistan sees a female helicopter pilot captured by the Taliban who decide to use her to discredit the U.S. She is raped by the leader of the group holding her, with the attack being captured on camera and exposed on the internet. When viewed, the president, fearful of his next election being compromised by a botched rescue mission, prohibits any attempt to rescue her. The next move by her Taliban captors is to demand a ransom of $24 million dollars for her return. The sum is obviously ludicrous but in order to maintain his standing with the electorate, at first decides to pay it. When his advisers go against paying it because it may cause more kidnapping and monetary demands, the president than orders a massive attack on the town that the woman is being held in. Gil Shannon understands that should such an attack be launched the Taliban will surely kill their captive and unilaterally decides to try a rescue attempt, first on his own, and than with the aid of two of his Seal buddies. The ensuing action and events are described in a manner that surely would have happened with coordination between the Seals and a volunteer air group in the raid and rescue of the woman. The combat scenes are as real as possible, and the dangers faced by Gil and his buddies very well described. The actual rescue and retrieval are a high mark in the action and show a great deal of knowledge on McEwen’s part of something that is very intricate and involves an incredible amount of coordination. It wouldn’t be possible to imagine that Gil Shannon will not appear again in other books by McEwen and it is sure that his readers will look forward to them. 6/13 Paul Lane
SNOW ANGELS by James Thompson: Because of my medical condition my body temperature is below normal and I am cold all the time. When then did I chose to read this mystery set in northern Finland during kaamos, the country’s two weeks of complete darkness, where temperatures of minus 40 Celsius are the norm. I am glad I did, because this turned out to be an outstanding series debut. Inspector Vaara is newly married and about to become a father, but his American wife finds northern Finland depressing and lonely, especially after a young Somali movie star is brutally murdered, and the case consumes Vaara’s days and nights. Then Vaara finds out that his ex-wife might be involved and its gets even more interesting. 2/12 Jack Quick
SNOW BLIND by P. J. Tracy: Summer is so good. Another of my favorite series, from the mother/daughter writing team known as P. J. Tracy, is back with their fourth Monkeewrench tale. What could be a more perfect read for days of 90+ degree heat than the latest adventure in wintry, cold, snowy Minnesota?
At the annual snowman building contest sponsored by the police department, all the fun comes to a halt when a young boy realizes that one of the snowmen contains a person – or rather, a dead body. And so does another, and worse yet, the dead are cops. Detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth are there for the contest and find themselves dealing with some sort of macabre cop killer. Then another body is found in a small town outside of Minneapolis, so Magozzi & Rolseth join up with the recently elected Sheriff on her first day of work. The trademark humor of this series is more muted this time, and the Monkeewrench crew has a much smaller role. More than a story about a cop killer, this is a story about justice and what that really means, making this the most compelling and important story in this terrific series. 08/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SNOW BLIND by P.J. Tracy: The discovery of the frozen bodies of two Minneapolis police officers inside two snowmen plays havoc with the downtown snow festival being attended by detectives Leo Magozzi and Gina Rolseth. Then the body of an area parole officer is found in similar fashion in Dundas County. The detectives learn that the parole officer’s last known appointment was with a repeat violent offender who almost killed his wife. Leo and Gino head up to Dundas County to see if there is any evidence linking the crimes only to find Bitteroot, a secured fortified area populated by four hundred armed women, sworn to protect themselves and each other. Is the next body they discover the work of the original perps or do they now have a copy cat killer to deal with as well? Set aside some time when you start this one. It is plenty cold in Minnesota in winter but the pace of this action will keep anyone warm. Another winter winner from the mother-daughter duo known as P.J. Tracy. 08/06 Jack Quick
THE SNOW CHILD by Eowyn Ivey: Jack and Mabel have a stillborn baby and escape the sadness by homesteading a farm in 1920’s Alaska. Mabel is sad and lonely, and Jack is bone tired from the back-breaking work. One night during a snowfall they finally have some fun when Mabel pelts a snowball at Jack. They end up building a small snowman, and then Jack sculpts a beautiful little girl’s face on it. Mabel drapes it in the red had and mittens her sister had knitted for her, and they go off to bed. The next morning, their snow sculpture is gone as are the hat and mittens, but a small, spritely girl finds her way into their yard. Mabel is convinced that she is a snow child, right out of the Russian fairytale her father used to read to her when she was a girl. The girl calls herself Faina, and the couple fall in love with the child. But she is a wild thing and cannot be tamed; she comes and go as she pleases and disappears altogether every summer, only reappearing at the first snow fall. This is a beautifully written fantastical story that delves into the hardships of farming in Alaska and surviving in such a brutal, lonely climate. It is a story not to be forgotten any time soon – I loved it. 2/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN by Lisa See: Maybe once or twice a year a book comes along that you just want to give to everyone you know. Books like The Kite Runner, Secret Life of Bees, Memoirs of a Geisha or The Ha-Ha, and there are many others, but for me, this year Snow Flower is that book. It is the coming of age story of a young girl named Lily and her “same” (best-friend-for-life,) Snow Flower, set in a remote village in 19th century China. It is a beautiful story about the friendship between these two girls/women, about the cruelty of foot binding told in very graphic detail, and about “nu shu”, a secret language just for women. This meticulously researched tale will keep you mesmerized until you turn the last page. Don’t miss it! 06/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SNOW WHITE MUST DIE by Nele Neuhaus: In 1997 the village of Altenhain experienced unimaginable horror when two teens disappeared. Though their bodies were never found, a local man was tried and convicted for their murders. Eleven years later Tobias Sartorius has returned home, and while he’s served his time, the people in Altenhain will never forget his supposed crimes. For years, Tobi’s family struggled with the repercussions of their son’s conviction. On the day of his release, Tobi’s mother is hospitalized after being pushed off a pedestrian bridge into oncoming traffic. Pia Kirchhoff and her boss Oliver von Bodenstein are assigned the case and quickly come to suspect that the incident might be tied to Tobi’s release. Tobi has always claimed to have no memory of the events of that night but when another Altenhain girl goes missing, everyone believes Tobi has struck again. Now involved with two cases linked to Tobi and Altenhain, Pia starts digging into the old 1997 case files and discovers some strange discrepancies. She soon begins to doubt Tobi’s guilt, but with the town rallying against him how will she unmask the true killer before he claims another victim? While this is Nele Neuhaus’s first release here in the States, it’s actually the fourth series title to feature Kirchhoff and von Bodenstein. It does work well as a stand alone and/or introduction to the characters, but will no doubt leave mystery and thriller fans anxious for more from Neuhaus. Fortunately there are plans to publish at least one more of her titles here in the US. 2/13 Becky Lejeune
SNOW WHITE MUST DIE by Nele Neuhaus: On a September evening eleven years earlier, two seventeen-year-old girls vanished from a small village without a trace. In a trial based only on circumstantial evidence, twenty-year-old Tobias Sartorius, Rita Cramer’s son, was sentenced to ten years in prison. Now Ms. Cramer has fallen from a pedestrian bridge onto a car driving underneath. According to a witness, the woman may have been pushed. Police detectives Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein discover that Tobias, after serving his sentence, has just now returned to his home town. Did the attack on his mother have something to do with his return. When another young girl disappears, the events of the past seem to be repeating themselves in a disastrous manner and the villagers are determined to take matters into their own hands. Will justice be served or perverted? 2/13 Jack Quick
SNOWBOUND by Bill Pronzini: When a planned December armed robbery in northern California goes terribly wrong, the three perpetrators take refuge in a safehouse they have arranged in a small mountain town. The second night they are there an avalanche covers the only road into the town and traps the would be robbers along with some 75 others for a week with no way out. How to pass the time? Why not rob the entire town? After all, it is Christmas, and they suspect that at least one villager has some serious cash. They can take over the town Church during services, round up any stragglers, and then flee the scene on the only two snowmobiles in the village. Never mind that none of the three has ever ridden a snowmobile. Reads like a serious version of a Donald E. Westlake “John Dortmunder” caper. The mayor gets caught in an affair. The ”mysterious stranger” helps save the villagers, and everyone learns more about themselves than they might want to know. An oldie but goodie. Recommended. 06/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH by J.T. Ellison: It’s been only forty-eight hours since Taylor pulled the trigger on her latest suspect and The Pretender has accelerated his game. After snatching one of Taylor’s closest friends, her foe has also set in motion a series of crimes nationwide that are meant to copy some of the most famous serial killers of all time. With Taylor’s team and loved ones at risk, she feels there’s no choice left but to wipe out The Pretender once and for all. One mistake is all it takes for Taylor and Baldwin to finally get a lead on The Pretender’s identity. Pushed to her limit, Taylor is willing to do anything to make sure this criminal’s reign of terror will finally end. I am amazed at the level of intensity that Ellison has maintained throughout this series. Each book leads straight into the next with intricate and careful details becoming clues that lead further down the line in later installments. Ellison has a true talent for character building and for plots. 02/11 Becky Lejeune
SO COLD THE RIVER by Michael Koryta: One outburst was all it took for Eric Shaw to effectively ruin his career in Hollywood. Now he spends his time making videos for weddings and funerals. Alyssa Bradford hires Eric to make a film about her father-in-law, the wealthy Campbell Bradford. The man never talked much about his early days, but Alyssa knows that he grew up in West Baden Springs, Indiana, and she’s given Eric a memento that Campbell has carried around all these years: an old bottle of Pluto mineral water. Strangely, the bottle—still sealed after all this time—is cool to the touch. As Eric arrives in West Baden Springs, he notices that the bottle actually becomes frosty. They used to say that Pluto Water could cure anything. Curious, Eric decides to try a little taste and the results are more than he bargained for. Now Eric must unravel the secrets of Campbell Bradford’s past, but he’s not even sure what’s real anymore. Koryta’s So Cold the River is a chilling and dark thriller that captures readers from the very start and doesn’t let up until the final page. The grand West Baden Springs Hotel, the Lost River, and even Pluto Water are all very real, though drinking the water is not really recommended today. 06/10 Becky Lejeune
SO MUCH PRETTY by Cara Hoffman: A small town teenage girl, Wendy, goes missing, only to have her body turn up in a ditch several months later. Stacy Flynn is a reporter in this small town, but she’s an outsider, originally from Cleveland. No one will talk to her about this murder, the townspeople prefer to stick to the “drifter” theory, unwilling to consider that one of their own may be a murderer. Alice Piper is a teenager that is also new to town, her hippie parents moved there to have a safer place to raise their child. Alice is a very bright girl, and begins to piece together what may have happened to Wendy. This is an ugly story about violence against women, and other women who turn a blind eye to it, but it’s also fast reading, totally engrossing and a really terrific debut. 03/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE SOCORRO BLAST by Pari Noskin Taichert: Sasha Solomon is awakened in the wee hours of the morning with a call that no one wants. Her niece Gabi has been hospitalized after her mailbox exploded. At first, the incident is chalked up to a teenage prank. Gabi is a grad student at the local college who has given failing grades to more than one undergrad. Sasha then discovers a racial/religious slur painted on her niece’s porch, along with an unpleasant gift, and she begins to suspect that the mailbox bomb – certainly stronger than the firecrackers the police are blaming – may actually have been a very serious hate crime. Gabi has been working on some secretive research with her advisor, and lover, that just happens to involve explosives. Then said advisor goes missing and Gabi refuses to talk. Coincidentally, Sasha, a public relations consultant who has been hired to help revitalize tourism in the area, finds out that her new boss’s daughter is married to the missing professor. Whispers of terrorist plots begin to make their way through the community and Sasha has to use her PR and investigative talents to help clear her niece’s name before it is too late. Like her fellow Murderati blogger, Louise Ure, Pari Noskin Taichert has a real talent for drawing readers in. This is a great cozy mystery with more than a little cultural criticism and just a hint of the supernatural (Sasha’s occasional visions that she reckons are due to mental exhaustion). Sasha Solomon is a loveable and flawed character with a whipped cream addiction and a true loyalty to friends and family. Although this is technically the third in a series, Socorro can be read and enjoyed all on its own. 01/08 Becky Lejeune
THE SOCORRO BLAST by Pari Noskin Taichert: At first I didn’t really care that much for New Mexico public relations expert Sasha Solomon, but either she is changing or I am. I think its because there is now more action and less woo woo In this enjoyable third outing, Sasha has been hired by Socorro town leader Papi Sanchez to help the town boost tourism. This is great from Sasha’s point of view since her favorite niece is a graduate student at New Mexico Tech in Socorro studying explosive technology. But when Gabi is victimized by a mailbox bomb, is she the victim of random violence or is this a hate crime, since Gabi is Jewish with an Iranian surname? Not only is Socorro the home of New Mexico Tech, it is the home of secrets and scandals that imperil Sasha as she searches for the truth. First rate. 04/08 Jack Quick
SOFT TARGET by Stephen Hunter: Stephen Hunter was formerly the chief film critic for the Washington Post, now retired, and has developed a second career as a writer of action oriented novels. His main thrust in most of his works are the exploits of snipers in situations outside of combat. Soft Target begins what will probably be a series of books about Ray Cruz, an ex-marine with plenty of combat experience under his belt and also the son of Hunter’s previous protagonist, and the grandson of the first. Ray is a well trained and experienced sniper like his father and grandfather before him. Ray and his fiancee are spending a day shopping in the largest mall in the United States, obviously meant to be the Mall of the Americas in Minnesota. The mall is invaded by a force of terrorists that are heavily armed and easily cow the shoppers, none of whom has weapons. The terrorists kill five people within one hour of the takeover indicating to the authorities now surrounding the mall that they are serious. They make a demand for the release of three extremists captured recently which is granted by the man who is in charge of coordinating the situation. Ray, not believing that the terrorists will really keep their part of the supposed bargain by releasing the hostages, manages to kill one and get his gun. A SWAT sniper on the roof of the mall manages to communicate with him and together they begin a counterattack.
Hunter is very knowledgeable about small arms and special ammunition used by these weapons, especially the identified snipers and even if the reader is not really interested in the technicalities of the weapons used it provides insight into the world of shooting. Characters in all his novels are fleshed out quite well, and we go into the minds of what are really killers- good and bad. The book and the situation depicted provide enough action and movement to keep the reader completely engrossed and ready for the next Ray Cruz novel. 12/11 Paul Lane
SOLAR by Ian McEwan: Whether or not you like Mr. McEwan’s stories, his use of language always makes reading his work a pleasure. In this case, he writes about an absolutely revolting excuse for a human being, Michael Beard. Beard won a Nobel Prize for a gloss on Einstein’s attempts at unification referred to as the “Beard-Einstein Conflation.” Since that time, he has done nothing of significance. He has rested on his laurels professionally, cheated on his five wives at every opportunity and gotten fat.
As this story opens, wife number 5 is giving him a taste of his own cheating medicine and he doesn’t like it. Ultimately, she even cheats on him with one of his young and exceptionally idealistic co-workers. When the confrontation between Beard and this man comes, his youthful rival slips on rug, hits his head on a table and bleeds to death in front of him – classic Chaplin slapstick. In best rotten guy practice, Beard frames another of his wife’s lovers for the death and steals the co-worker’s work product, a promising technology for renewable energy.
Beard continues to flourish without any effort on his part until the end of the novel, where everything suddenly turns on him.
While not particularly thought-inspiring, this is nonetheless a good story told by a fine writer with generous portions of humor. Without going into particulars, my favorite extended joke involved a cruise to the South Pole to examine the effects of global-warming first hand. Imagine for a moment, Beard in a snowsuit on the back of a snow mobile, teasing a polar bear. And the joke actually gets much, much better.
This is an excellent summer read which will enable you to feel superior to your friends reading fluff on the beach while you secretly have just as much fun. 06/10 Geoffrey R. Hamlin
SOLO by Jack Higgins: This Jack Higgins thriller, a classic cat and mouse tale, is now available as an ebook. The mouse is piano virtuoso John Mikali who uses his skill as a brilliant musician to cover his other trade as an assassin. Mikali is the grandson of a wealthy Greek businessman who is reared by his maternal grandmother and a doting Greek woman who could have no children of her own. Tragedy shapes Makili’s life and he ends up in the French Foreign legion where he learns and refines his killing skills. When he kills a young woman while fleeing from a murder scene, the woman’s father, a special forces soldier in the British military, vows to avenge his daughter’s death. Asa Morgan, the cat to Mikali’s mouse, is a soldier of great cunning. He has built up a fury in his heart toward John Mikali and will stop at nothing to find him and kill him. Both men are locked into the deadly game, playing for the ultimate stakes. The hunt will keep you on your toes and turning pages, albeit electronically, until the mater is resolved. 10/10 Jack Quick
SOLOMON VS. LORD by Paul Levine: Stephen Solomon is a wise-cracking, womanizing defense attorney with a heart of gold that he likes to keep hidden. Victoria Lord is a tightly-wound new prosecutor and a product of old money and an Ivy league education. They butt heads over her first case and end up in adjoining jail cells when the judge cites them for contempt. Lord ends up unemployed until Solomon makes her an offer she can’t refuse. A wealthy young socialite and friend of Lord’s is accused of killing her much older husband while engaging in some rather kinky sex. Solomon sees an opportunity and seizes it, forcing Lord into what she thinks will be the partnership from hell. The chemistry between these two flies off the page and makes the pages fly. A couple of interesting subplots – Solomon’s custody battle for his disturbed nephew and Lord’s engagement to a wealthy avocado farmer add depth to the characters and the story. There is lots of humor in this fast paced twisty tale but it’s the characters and the writing that make this story sing. It’s been many years since Levine penned a novel, but it was well worth the wait. Find out more in my interview with Paul Levine.
SOLOMON VS. LORD by Paul Levine: By-the-book Victoria Lord and outlandish Steve Solomon “beating the state’s butt for nine years”; are working together as the defense attorneys for Katrina Barksdale, a “grieving” widow who’s been charged with murdering her wealthy husband during a kinky sexcapade. While this basic plot is nothing new, Levine does it so well that you think its never been done before. Quirky characters, witty dialogue, and some true laugh out loud moments with observations like: “A lawyer who is afraid of jail is like a surgeon who is afraid of blood.” “When the law doesn’t work, work the law.” And “You should never call opposing counsel a total (expletive deleted) shark in open court. Save it for recess.” I want the sequel, and I want it now. 02/06 Jack Quick. Note: The sequel – THE DEEP BLUE ALIBI – is available!
SOME LIKE IT HOT-BUTTERED by Jeffrey Cohen: Everyone has a dream, but not everyone gets to live theirs. Elliot Freed loves movies, comedies in particular, so he sells the house his parents gave him and buys an old, run down movie theater. With help from his family and friends, and his alimony from his ex-wife the doctor, he re-opens it and calls it Comedy Tonight, showing double features of old and new comedies. But this dream becomes a bit of a nightmare when one of the customers isn’t laughing at Young Frankenstein; he can’t, because he’s dead. At first appearances, it’s a heart attack but the autopsy shows death by poison, via the popcorn. The cops are investigating, but not quickly enough for Freed, who wants to reopen his theater, so he decides to help. A cache of illegally recorded DVDs are found in the basement of the theater, the movie-obsessed projectionist goes missing, and Freed finds himself attracted to one of the cops working the case, all of which make this a twisty mystery with lots of laughs and lots of heart. This is the first in the “Double Feature” mystery series, and hopefully it won’t be too long a wait for the next. 10/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SOME NERVE by Jane Heller: Ann Roth, reporter for Famous magazine, is terrified of flying. When her new boss orders her to get THE interview of a lifetime with Malcolm Goddard, the man no one gets an interview with, Ann thinks it is impossible. She tries everything from pleading with his agent to bribery. When Goddard finally agrees, it is on one condition, that the interview take place on his personal plane. Unable to conquer her fear, Ann loses her chance and ultimately loses her job as well. She returns home to Middletown, Missouri only to discover that Goddard, diagnosed with a heart condition, is convalescing at Middletown’s very own Heartland General. Posing as a candy striper, Ann is determined to get her story and get back at Malcolm for ruining her career. Somewhere along the way, Ann’s priorities are flipped upside down. She discovers there is more to Malcolm Goddard than meets the eye. This is a quick and easy read that’s both hilarious and heartwarming. A fantastic chick-lit read that is sure to pull at your heartstrings. I highly recommend this title. 08/06 Becky LeJeune
SOME WELCOME HOME by Sharon Wildwind: Captain Elizabeth “Pepper” Pepperhawk has returned from a Vietnam tour to serve at the army hospital at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. When she checks into the Transient Officers Quarters there is a dead man in her bed. This occurs not long after the infamous McDonald case at Ft. Bragg in which Captain McDonald’s pregnant wife and two children are slaughtered, so the military police are particularly edgy about the situation. This the first of a planned five book set by a former Army nurse who recreates the atmosphere of the early 70’s military extremely well, down to the “slang” of the times. As a veteran of that era, I look forward to the future volumes. 11/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
SOMEBODY ELSE’S DAUGHTER by Elizabeth Brundage: This a cross between Peyton Place and a Jackie Collins tell all, where nothing is at it seems. Nate and Cat are in the San Francisco drug scene when Cat gets pregnant. Knowing they cannot raise a daughter, they give up Willa for adoption. Fast forward. Willa now attends a private New England day-school and lives in upper middle class comfort with her adoptive parents. However, her adoptive father, Joe is one of the nation’s largest producers of porn. The lid starts to come off when Nate, now clean and respectable is hired by the Pioneer school. At the same time the son of a struggling artist, Claire Squire, gets a back-door admittance to the land of school ties, little plaid skirts, and do-gooder opportunities. Guess what – fireworks follow. Would probably be a good Oprah pick, but never really got me going. 06/09 Jack Quick
SOMEBODY OWES ME MONEY by Donald E. Westlake: “I bet none of it would have happened if I wasn’t so eloquent. That’s always been my problem – eloquence, though some may claim my problem was something else again.” Thus begins the tale of New York City cab driver Chet Conway in Hardcase Crime #44, a reprint of a 1969 classic from Westlake. Conway’s troubles start with a good tip from his latest fare – Purple Pecunia – a horse that looked to be lucky to finish a race the same day he started. But Conway takes a chance and the nag wins. When Chet goes to collect he finds his bookie shot to death and soon at least two groups trying to make him the same way. The only good thing that happens is he becomes friends with the dead man’s beautiful sister, a Las Vegas blackjack dealer, but only after she also threatens to kill him, as well. A good breezy read. 06/08 Jack Quick
SOMEONE’S WATCHING by Sharon Potts: This follow up to In Their Blood is an intense, fast paced mystery set in the South Beach area of Miami, Florida. Surely inspired by all the headlines about young girls being drugged in night clubs then forced into prostitution, Potts takes that scenario and makes it personal when the young prostitute in this story turns out to be the half-sister Robbie Ivy never knew she had. Robbie’s tending bar these days, so when her long lost father shows up on her doorstep looking for his other daughter, things get heated up quickly. A scary look at the nightclub scene, blackmail, wild parties in the Keys and the possibility of a reconciliation between Robbie and Jeremy add up to a terrific story, and all the twists and turns made this a book I couldn’t put down. 02/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SOMETHING BORROWED by Emily Giffin: It is the night before Rachel White’s thirtieth birthday and though things haven’t ended up exactly as she’d planned, she’s in a good place. Except for the lack of a significant other. It could be the drinks, it could be the turning point in her life, but whatever the case, good girl Rachel ends up in bed with her best friend’s fiancé. What follows is something of a frustrating rationalization of her affair throughout the book. At the outset, and not in small part influenced by the upcoming film based on the book, I’d assumed this would be a fun, lighthearted chick-lit. I was wrong. Something Borrowed is an ok read, but definitely not a light and fuzzy one. I also found it very hard to sympathize with any of the characters, at times feeling bad for the friend and even a bit angry at Rachel and her lover. Unfortunately a case of the wrong read at the wrong time for me. 03/11 Becky Lejeune
SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING BLACK by Loren Estleman: Peter Macklin is a retired contract killer whose life is abruptly disrupted when he makes the mistake of taking his young bride – beautiful, innocent Laurie honeymooning in Los Angeles. Unknown to Peter a former Detroit crime boss in now in LA and needs his services. After taking a strange phone call Peter tells Laurie he has to go to Sacramento to take care of business, and he’ll be back in a day. After a day passes, though, a man called Abilene shows up with a note from Peter saying Abilene will take care of her until his return. Macklin’s retirement seems to have been premature, and Laurie’s innocence is about to end. 1/13 Jack Quick
SOMEWHERE IN THE CITY by Marcia Muller: If you are a fan, this 19 story volume recounting the adventures of Sharon McCone and ace apprentice Rae Kelleher in the earlier days of the McCone Detective Agency will feel like that old flannel shirt that is too worn and tattered to wear outside the house, but has too many memories and feels too good to consider throwing away. If some of them seem familiar, then why not, you probably have read them through the years. On the other hand, if you have not yet discovered Muller, this is a great way to test drive one of my favorite series. And don’t forget husband Bill Pronzini who is also known to have written a book or two. 08/07 Jack Quick
THE SOMNAMBULIS by Jonathan Barnes: Conjurer and sometime detective Edward Moon and his silent, milk addicted sidekick the Somnambulist, are working a new case. There is a nefarious plot to overthrow London. Not many are aware of the plan and those that are, are not the most reliable witnesses. It begins with a murder. Police are quick to wrap it up but soon discover that they have not solved anything. Moon is approached after a second murder occurs and is somewhat forced into compliance. The peculiar truth that is slowly discovered is a conspiracy that is deeply rooted in the beliefs of a dead poet. Strange characters with even stranger affectations abound in this weirdly wonderful debut. Jonathan Barnes’s novel transcends many genres and that’s what makes it so good. Part detective novel, part supernatural fantasy and all original, The Somnambulist may be hard to describe but it sure is twisted fun. Barnes is already drawing comparison to the likes of Susanna Clarke and Neil Gaimen. The Somnambulist certainly is much less daunting than Clarke’s tome, but is just as rewarding in the end and the comparison between the two stops there. In my opinion, Moon and his story resemble a sort of odd and aging Sherlock Holmes. I’m sure everyone will have their own opinions, but I am also sure that they will enjoy it nonetheless. 02/08 Becky Lejeune
THE SONG IS YOU by Megan Abbot: While most everyone has heard of the Black Dahlia, the disappearance of actress Jean Spangler from Los Angeles in 1949 is much less well known, until now. Abbot uses this real life case to tell the story through the actions of a journalist turned studio pr hack named Gil “Hop” Hopkins. In the book, Hopkins helps cover up the facts surrounding Spangler’s initial disappearance and then late becomes remorseful over his role in the affair. Down, dirty, gritty, and ugly, its an interesting read, but afterwards you will probably want to wash your hands with lots of soap and hot water, several times. There are no heroes in Hollywood. 08/07 Jack Quick
SONG OF KALI by Dan Simmons: It’s summer 1977 and poet Bobby Luczak has been asked to travel to Calcutta in search of famed poet M. Das. Das has been missing and presumed dead for seven years, but recent reports suggest that not only is he alive and well, but that there are new works to be acquired. Bobby decides to make it a family trip and brings along his wife and young daughter for the ride. Little does he know the horror that awaits him in this foreign land. Luczak soon finds himself sucked into a terrible and dangerous underworld said to have links to the goddess Kali, a figure that some say represents death and destruction. Upon arrival, Luczak’s biggest fear is that the reports of Das may be at best a mistake and at worst a scam. Before he returns home, he will face the ultimate tragedy and the true meaning of fear. Simmons’ debut novel was winner of the World Fantasy award in 1985. Since then he has gone on to win multiple awards in horror, science fiction, and mystery. This is the book that started it all. Chilling and magnificent, Song of Kali is a book that will continue to stand the test of time. 11/08 Becky Lejeune
SONG OF SCARABAEUS by Sara Creasy: In the future, the Crib rules. This government is set on terraforming new worlds, making them suitable for human settlement and able to produce food and farming for the people. The rule of thumb is that any world with a developed ecosystem is not a candidate for terraforming. Edie is recruited as a cypherteck for her ability to manipulate the biocyph used to make terraforming possible. Unfortunately the first world she is assigned to is a beautiful planet with an advanced ecosystem of its won. In other words, it was supposed to be off limits. It was the Crib’s biggest failure and Edie’s finest achievement. Now Edie will be forced back to that world. Forced to face the truth of the Crib and the effects of biocyph. But after being a slave to the oppressive Crib for so long, Edie may not be able to escape. Though some of the sci-fi concepts eluded me, Creasy’s debut is still a fine achievement; a wonderfully plotted adventure and a gripping story. 04/10 Becky Lejeune
SONG OF THE SILK ROAD by Mingmei Yip: Lily Lin has received word of a great inheritance: three million dollars from an aunt she has never met. But the money comes with one caveat, she must travel the Silk Road, following the same path her aunt traveled before her and completing a series of tasks as laid out by said aunt. If Lily completes the tasks in the time period stipulated, she will collect her fortune at the end. As Lily travels the road of her ancestors, she will find love and learn great things about herself and her heritage. Mingmei Yip’s latest is a humorous and enlightening read that offers a unique look at Chinese culture. A great book club pick that’s a little different from what you might expect, but completely entertaining. 04/11 Becky Lejeune
THE SONNET LOVER by Carol Goodman: The life and identity of William Shakespeare has been a popular topic of debate among academics for quite some time. One mystery involves the identities of the two people thought to have been the subject of Shakespeare’s sonnets – one, a young man, and the other, a woman known as the Dark Lady. In Carol Goodman’s latest literary mystery, she tackles the possible identity of this Dark Lady who captivated Shakespeare’s heart. During a reception in his honor, Robin Weiss, a film student at Hudson College, falls to his death from a school balcony. Authorities are convinced it was suicide, especially following the witness accounts. Dr. Rose Asher, one of Robin’s professors, was not close enough to see what happened, but she has her doubts as to the cause of Robin’s death. Only moments before his fall, Robin passed Rose an envelope containing a sonnet and a letter in which he requested that Rose accompany him to Italy. Robin claimed to have discovered a cache of poems hidden at La Civetta – a villa owned by one of the patrons of the college. Rose is well aware of the rumors regarding the villa. A sixteenth century poet named Ginevra de Laura was said to have been the mistress of La Civetta. According to the stories, Ginevra de Laura was cast out of the home upon the death of her lover. Although she was said to have been a great poet, none of her work has ever been discovered. Other rumors purport to link Ginevra to Shakespeare himself. Determined to discover the truth, Rose travels to Italy where she confronts her own past as well as the ghosts of La Civetta. Goodman’s work is truly amazing. Her lyrical prose and luscious settings make each novel a true delight for readers. 07/07 Becky Lejeune
SORROW’S ANTHEM by Michael Koryta: Private Investigator Lincoln Perry is back and this time it’s personal. Perry hears that Ed Gradduk, his estranged childhood friend, is accused of murdering a lawyer and then burning the house down around her, and subsequently is the object of a manhunt through his old neighborhood. Perry feels compelled to try and help his old friend who then proclaims his innocence. But the chase ends with Gradduk dead under the wheels of a cop car, ending any hope of reconciliation and opening up a lot of questions for Perry, who witnesses the accident. Perry isn’t sure Gradduk is guilty and sets out to find the truth, but first has to deal with a lot of old baggage and call in a lot of favors. While the story of childhood friends, grown in different directions yet finding their lives still intertwined is interesting (and somewhat reminiscent of Mystic River by Lehane), the pacing is uneven, the characters fall flat and the story just strains credibility. While I absolutely loved the title and the story behind it, nonetheless this was a disappointing second effort from the gifted young writer of Tonight I Say Goodbye, but I expect better the next time around. 02/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch. Copyright © 2006 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.
SORRY by Zoran Drvenkar: Four friends start an agency for apologies. Business accounts only, but if you’ve wrongfully fired an employee and think the situation could end badly, these are your guys. Need to mend your broken relationship? Sorry, they don’t do that. What starts out as a great business plan soon turns messy when a dead woman is discovered. Kris, Wolf, Tamara, and Frauke are blackmailed into first apologizing to the dead woman and then hiding her body. But how far can it go? Now the killer has a hold over them and their friendship is falling apart. Without each other for support, who knows what will happen next. Originally published in German, the translation is one of the better ones I’ve read. The author’s style seems to come through without interruption. The overall subject is incredibly disturbing, but the plot moves along at a quick pace and the author plays with the narration in a way that I’ve not seen before. As the story moves from one character to another, the point of view moves from third person to second. Without a doubt one of the most interesting books I’ve read this year. 09/11 Becky Lejeune
THE SOUL CATCHER by Alex Kava: Kava dives headfirst into the headline-grabbing worlds of cult religions and FBI standoffs in this third novel to feature FBI Special Agent and profiler Maggie Odell is called to attend the autopsy of an agent with whom she has previously worked. He was killed when a standoff in the Massachusetts woods results in the deaths of five young cult members holed up in a backwoods cabin. Then a U.S. senator’s daughter is found murdered in Washington, D.C., and her death seems to be related to the cult and its charismatic leader, Rev. Joseph Everett. It becomes even more personal for Maggie when she learns her former alcoholic mother has joined Everett’s church and partner Tully’s daughter was with the senator’s daughter on the night she was killed. Twistier than a Six Flags roller coaster ride, you will want to hold on throughout this one. 01/10 Jack Quick
Soul Circus by George Pelecanos: The BookBitch recommended Pelecanos to me some time ago. Of course, she was right. I was hooked after reading Nick’s Trip and proceeded to devour everything else I could find by Pelecanos. He writes tough and he does it extremely well. But more than that, Pelecanos has a sense of how our heritage and place shape us. When he talks about growing up in Washington, D.C. and generations of Greek families, I can’t help but think of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s chapter about the customs house at the beginning of The Scarlet Letter.
But back to the blood and guts. Soul Circus has ’em. D.C. is still the place and it is going downhill as young dropouts carve lives for themselves in gangs and the drug trade. Derek Strange, a former cop, sees it and tries, unsuccessfully, to stand apart, as he creates a family for himself. But he can’t. His search for mitigating evidence to present on the death penalty portion of a murder trial puts him in the middle of a gang war, the recruitment of school age children into the drug trade and the illegal trade in weapons.
At the end of the book, lots of people are dead and those who did bad things are punished. But the problems remain in D.C. and Strange knows it. He is truly walking (or driving his hooptie) down the “mean streets.” ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin
SOUL THIEF by Jana Oliver: Jana Oliver’s second Demon Trappers installment picks up directly where The Demon Trapper’s Daughter leaves off. Riley and the other trappers who survived the attack on the Tabernacle find themselves on the defensive when officials start asking questions about the tragic occurrence. Riley herself ends up in the crosshairs thanks to the appearance of her dead father just seconds before the attack, in spite of his efforts to warn them all. Rumor has it that Riley and her father might be responsible and somehow in league with the devil and his minions. Riley is also keeping a big secret, a deal made with the angels in exchange for saving her boyfriend’s life. When the Vatican steps in and sends their official hunters to the scene, things get much worse. Now, Riley must find the summoner who raised her father in hopes that she can find answers that may clear her name. I like Riley. She’s smart and stubborn and there’s a hint of something big that’s yet to be revealed about her. Oliver’s whole cast of characters are a big draw for me. From Riley and Beck all the way to the little klepto demon, I just want to know more. 10/11 Becky Lejeune
SOULLESS by Gail Carriger: Miss Alexia Tarabotti is nothing if not a modern woman. In a Victorian London that has embraced vampires and werewolves, Alexia is more comfortable keeping her own secrets to herself, but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t thirst for knowledge or that she’s willing to sit idly by as events unfold around her. When a new vampire very rudely attacks her at a party, Alexia accidentally kills him. An investigation begins and there are rumors that Alexia’s incident might have been somewhat intentional. Confident that she can help unravel the mystery, she begins poking her nose into the event, and learns that someone has been creating new vampires without the consent of the powers that be. Add to that the fact that unattached vampires and werewolves have been disappearing from London and the surrounding areas and Alexia’s got the makings of a mystery on her hands. If she can solve the case, she can prove her worth to the investigators, not the least of which is the ever-irritating Lord Maccon. With society’s constrictions, though, Alexia will have to keep things under wraps, and Maccon watching her every move is making it that much more difficult for her to conduct her own inquiries. Carriger’s debut is a fun mix of paranormal and steampunk and I can’t wait to see what comes next for Alexia and Maccon. A definite stand out. 10/09 Becky Lejeune
SOULSTICE: THE DEVOURING BOOK 2 by Simon Holt: This creepy follow-up to Simon Holt’s debut, The Devouring, takes place six months after Reggie Halloway and her friends came head to head with the Vours on Sorry Night. Vours, evil, demon-like beings, can only enter a human’s body on Sorry Night. But Reggie’s own ability to enter the Fearscape has changed everything. Now the Vours are gearing up for something different and it’s all going down on the Summer Solstice, a date that is fast approaching. Reggie and her best friend Aaron will once again have to fight to protect the ones they love, and this time to prevent an event that could allow the Vours open access to our world. The horror elements and imagery in Holt’s series make it a true standout in the YA genre, and the end will leave fans begging for more. 09/09 Becky Lejeune
SOUTH OF BROAD by Pat Conroy: I became a Pat Conroy fan while living in South Carolina many years ago. Imagine my surprise to learn this week that he met his wife in my (Hoover, Alabama) library. What a small world. In a way, that also describes his latest effort. The narrator is Charleston, S.C., gossip columnist Leopold Bloom King who, in the late ’60s and after his brother commits suicide, befriends a cross-section of the city’s inhabitants: scions of Charleston aristocracy; Appalachian orphans; a black football coach’s son; and an astonishingly beautiful pair of twins, Sheba and Trevor Poe, who are evading their psychotic father. From that point the story alternates between 1969 and 1989, as the foundations of southern society are quaked by the social and political forces unleashed earlier in the sixties. Over the two decades, these friends find success in journalism, the bar, law enforcement, music, and Hollywood while coming to grips with truths about love, lust, classism, racism, religion, and what it means to be shaped by a particular place, be it Charleston, South Carolina, or anywhere else in the U.S. Highly recommended. 09/09 Jack Quick
SOUTH PHOENIX RULES by Jon Talton: It’s not every day that you receive a heavy FedEx package that contains the severed heard of your boyfriend. Historian turned Sheriff’s Deputy David Mapstone has just resigned from the Sheriff’s office after his friend and mentor lost the most recent election. His wife Lindsay is in Washington with an elite anti cyber terror unit and her sister, Robin, is staying with David. The head is that of Robin’s boy friend Jax Delgado, whom everyone thinks is a visiting professor from New York. Turns out that Delgado is connected to one of the world’s most brutal drug cartels and now Robin is at risk. Failing to protect her would likely cost David his already shaky marriage, but the job of protecting her may well cost him his life. History must give way to the present and amid the violent world of modern day smuggling, Mapstone must play by South Phoenix Rules. Part of a series and very nicely done. 12/10 Jack Quick
SOUTHTOWN by Rick Riordan: FBI agent Sam Barrera and cop Fred Barrow ended Will Stirman’s career as a flesh peddler selling illegal Mexican immigrants into slavery. Now Stirman has escaped and is looking for revenge. Barrow is long dead, shot by his abused wife Erainya Manos, for whom Tres Navarre is now working as a PI in his native San Antonio, Texas. Barrera, now a PI as well, is suffering from beginning Alzheimer’s and is only partly able to help when Stirman turns his anger on Manos and her eight year-old son. Through it all, Navarre walks a thin, highly believable and surprisingly suspenseful line in the type adventure for which Riordan has become justly noted. 07/07 Jack Quick
Southwesterly Wind by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza: The third entry in Mr. Garcia-Roza’s Inspector Espinoza series is just as unusual and engrossing as the first two – The Silence of the Rain and December Heat. This time out, a troubled young man comes to the police station to report that a psychic has foretold that he will murder someone before his next birthday. When he feels that the police and his girl friend are not taking him seriously, he buys a gun and goes looking for the mysterious fortune-teller. Then people around him start dying.
Inspector Espinosa thinks and daydreams his way through to the conclusion of the deaths, but there are several interesting twists along the way.
The plot is further enriched by the human touches in the good inspector’s life. In addition to gazing at the ocean in times of confusion, the good Inspector is still working on his bookshelves made of books. And he is thinking about getting a dog.
Inspector Espinosa is a breath of decency in a tough and corrupt business and these books are a refreshing change also. I recommend them highly. 03/04 ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.
SPADE AND ARCHER by Joe Gores: Joe Gores is to Dashiell Hammett as Michael Connelly is to Raymond Chandler. There are strong parallels between Hammett and Gores. Both were residents of San Francisco and their work reflects a knowledge of place and its history. Both actually worked as private detectives for a time and both have written about fictional detective agencies – Hammett, the Continental and Gores, Dan Kearney and Associates.
Gores’ respect for Hammett led to Hammett’s daughter approving Gores’ Spade and Archer, a prequel to The Maltese Falcon. It succeeds in every respect. As it happens, I watched The Maltese Falcon again midway through my reading and not a beat is missed. I think that Hammett himself would have liked it. (Although he would have wanted to be paid, too.)
Spade and Archer is the story of Sam Spade coming to San Francisco from the Seattle area and setting up his own one-man shop. It explains how he came to hire his secretary Effie and eventually bring in Miles Archer as a partner despite his deficiencies in character. Although the novel involves several different cases, there is a connected thread in the form of a criminal mastermind who kills any potential witnesses and is never seen. Sam methodically works his way through each case in approved, old time private detective fashion, with shoe leather, booze, and assistance from colorful characters he knows and solves each of them to the grateful client’s satisfaction. Although not before making sure that he has run up a sufficient bill to compensate himself and Effie.
Each case story is a treat and the final confrontation is perfect for a black and white movie. (It is too bad that John Huston, Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Elisha Cook, Jr. are no longer around. But that means that you can cast your own actors as you read.) This book will be on my list of annual favorites for 2009. If you are a fan of noir crime fiction, Dashiell Hammett, or old movies, you are in for a rare entertainment. Enjoy. 05/09 Geoffrey R. Hamlin
THE SPACE BETWEEN BEFORE AND AFTER by Jean Reynolds Page: February 1, 2003, the date the space shuttle Columbia fell apart upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. Holli Templeton tries to shake off the sense of dread and foreboding that falls upon her as she watches the news coverage, but her family does have a history. Strange as it seems, major NASA events seem to coincide with one of her family’s own tragedies. Her fear prompts her to call her grandmother, Raine, in Texas – Holli’s son, Connor, and his girlfriend, Kilian, are living in a trailer at the back of Raine’s property. Connor, her son, answers and assures her that everything is fine, but that Raine has been acting strange. When she next speaks to her grandmother, Raine claims that she had a talk with her daughter, Holli’s dead mother. The conversation ends abruptly and Holli prepares herself to travel home and confront her past. In coming to grips with the current challenges facing their family, each one of them will have to reevaluate their past, present, and future expectations. Holli will have to let go of years of anger, Raine will have to learn to forgive herself her past mistakes, and Connor will have to make some tough decisions and finally grow-up. This is a very character-driven novel, and each one of Page’s creations is a rounded and complex person you can sympathize and easily connect with. As a result, Space is a touching, sometimes heart-wrenching, read. 05/08 Becky Lejeune
SPARE CHANGE by Robert B. Parker: The Spare Change Killer terrorized Boston killing seven people apparently at random. It was very frustrating for Boston cop Phil Randall who was head of the Task Force assigned to catch him. The Killer made it worse by sending notes to Randall. Now twenty years after the first seven killings a new body and note have turned up. This time around, Phil involves P.I. daughter Sunny Randall and the two serve as consultant and assistant respectively to a new task force. In addition, Sunny is trying to reconcile her own relationship problems with ex-husband Robbie. Stir in a few cameos from some of the characters of Parker’s other series, and Sunny Randall number Six may be the best yet. Not that there has ever been a bad one. Parker and James Lee Burke, and an occasional Michael Connelly. I do read the good life. 06/07 Jack Quick
SPEAK OF THE DEVIL by Richard Hawke: Can a book live up to its hype? This one does – it definitely lives up to the glowing reviews from all the professional journals. This ‘first novel’ is a fast paced PI story featuring a smart, fearless, sharp-witted private investigator named Fritz Malone. Fritz has connections; his father was the former NYC police commissioner who disappeared several years earlier. As this is the start of the series, solving that case may turn up at some point. However this story starts out with a shooting at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but it really is about connections, city politics and ultimately, good and evil. Fritz is quite likeable, his girlfriend and her father good supporting characters, and Hawke spins out a tale that is full of surprises. 01/06 Stacy Alesi, the BookBitch
SPEAK OF THE DEVIL by Richard Hawke: PI Fritz Malone is the illegitimate son of a former NYPD Commissioner, which gives him some leeway and more access to police affairs than the ordinary PI. When he gets involved in a shooting at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, he has no idea it will draw him into a situation where a terrorist (aptly named Nightmare) is out for blood and money. Malone not only must identify and find him, he also needs to figure out what has triggered this whole affair. Great PI tale with police procedural aspects. Malone is the real deal and, hopefully, will appear in further adventures. 07/09 Jack Quick
Special Circumstances by Sheldon Siegel: Move over John Grisham! There’s a new lawyer on the block, and this one writes a taut, fast-paced legal thriller that you can’t put down. Random House signed this first time author to a multi-book contract. Read this book and you will know why!
THE SPECIALIST by Gordon Aalborg: If you loved Hannibel Lector, then this book is for you. If you prefer your crimes tied up neatly with a minimum of muss and fuss, then better put this one aside as a last resort. Kirsten, a Vancouver jewelry designer is trying to locate missing sister Emma, when on a caving expedition, she finds a piece of jewelry she made for Emma. Someone among her circle of caving friends may be responsible for Emma’s probable death, someone who brings new meaning to the phrase, “she looks good enough to eat.” As Aalborg spins the tale there are at least three possible culprits. Genuinely creepy and a pretty good daytime only read. 06/06 Jack Quick
THE SPECIMEN by Martha Lea: For young Gwen Carrick, Edward Scales seemed a dream come true. He appeared to be respective of her intellect and supportive of her desire to study science. He even invited her along as his assistant on a research trip to Brazil. In the nineteenth century this is quite a rare thing. Such pursuits are not only unseemly for a young woman but a single woman traveling alongside a man is down right scandalous. Seven years later, though, things have taken a very wrong turn and Gwen stands accused of Edward’s murder. Just what went wrong? Martha Lea’s debut is a twisted tale of desire and obsession. It’s also one of curiosities, Darwinism, spiritualism, and quite devious minds. Each character is hiding things from one another, something that becomes more clear to the reader as the story progresses. But the reader remains in the dark about most of these matters until the characters begin to discover them for themselves. It does make for a curious, and at times confusing, read. Overall, however, I have to say it was a fascinating mystery even if I did come away with questions unanswered. The Specimen is out now in the UK. 2/13 Becky Lejeune
SPECIMEN DAYS by Michael Cunningham: An homage to Walt Whitman, this strange, brooding and brilliant book parallels three stories celebrating New York City past, present and future. The first, set during the industrial revolution, has the ghost of a man named Simon inhabiting the machine that killed him. His younger brother Luke takes his place at the machine where he feels it warning him of impending doom for Catherine, Simon’s girlfriend. In New York City present, Cat, an African American police psychologist, deals with terrorist bombings on the streets of the city which keeps her younger, white boyfriend Simon, entranced. But when she meets Luke, one of the children involved, her priorities shift. The final story takes a turn toward science fiction with Cataleen, a lizard-like creature from another planet as nanny to children with the delightful names Tomcruise and Katemoss. A half man/half robot type creature named Simon ends up running away with her and they meet a young prophet named Luke on their journey. Whitman is melded into a character in each story and is quoted throughout, creating a cacophony from that single voice that is simply unforgettable.
SPEED SHRINKING by Susan Shapiro: Julia Goodman is in a bit of a bind. She’s known for her inspiring and best-selling self-help titles that help people kick addictions and realize their potential. But Julia, an addictive personality herself, is shocked and a bit lost when her best friend and her therapist move away in the same month. With nowhere to turn, Julia starts a sugar-binge that leads to some serious weight gain. And with mere months before her new book on conquering food addiction is released, the timing couldn’t be worse. As Julia begins a desperate search for a new therapist and a diet that will actually work, she struggles to get into shape for her book launch and hide from the press (and anyone else who will recognize her) before she can get toned and abandon her cupcake habit. Speed Shrinking bounces back and forth between amusing and kind of annoying. Julia’s various neuroses can get a bit overwhelming at times, and it’s not until the very end that one of her therapists tells her what the reader has been thinking all along, “You look fine and your weight talk is superficial and trite.” But then again, the title does hit a bit close to home for me and that could be my own neurotic tendencies I’m seeing reflected on the page. 08/09 Becky Lejeune
SPELL BOUND by Kelley Armstrong: Savannah Levine has lost her powers. It seems to be the result of an accidental deal with an unknown entity: her spells in exchange for the freedom of a woman arrested after Savannah’s last case. Savannah’s problems are only getting started, though. A witch-hunter has been stalking her and the supernatural world is restless. Soon, Savannah and her friends are drawn into a mystery that involves all of the world’s supernaturals and rumors of a strange prophecy. Spell Bound follows straight on the heels of Waking the Witch, and unlike other installments, does not stand alone. This twelfth in the series is the beginning of the big finale and brings together characters from most, if not all, of the previous Otherworld books. While not one that unfamiliar readers should start off with, Spell Bound will definitely be a hit with longtime Otherworld fans and will leave readers on the edge of their seats until next year’s final release. 08/11 Becky Lejeune
THE SPELLMAN FILES by Lisa Lutz: I think I was oversold by the “hype” on this book. In a nutshell, Isabel “Izzy” Spellman is a San Francisco PI who began working for Spellman Investigations at age 12. Now at age 28, she is making lists of things as she tries to decide whether to continue in this line of work or try something else. A cold case assignment leads to the disappearance of 14-year old sister Rae, but even that comes across with all the sense of jeopardy usually associated with a Grandma Mazur visit to a Trenton funeral home. Overall, I didn’t find the book that funny, nor did I ever sense any feeling of danger. I would be willing to try a second outing but only if it is more focused. A disappointment. 04/07 Jack Quick
THE SPELLMAN FILES by Lisa Lutz: Meet Isabel Spellman. She’s a spunky troublemaking private eye who works for her parents’ P.I. firm. The story begins with Izzy being interrogated in regards to her young sister Rae’s disappearance. What follows is a hilarious chronicle of Izzy Spellman’s life leading up to the event in question. As a child and young adult, Izzy tormented her parents. She keeps an exhaustive list of all the “crimes” she got away with and a list of “interrogations” held in her parents’ basement for crimes she is suspected of having committed. She also keeps a running list of all ex-boyfriends, the most recent of which has led Izzy to the decision that she must leave the family business and try to live a “normal” life. Unfortunately for Izzy, her parents are not willing to let her go without a fight. Before they will agree to let her go with a reference that will allow her to gain employment elsewhere (and move out of their house) Izzy’s parents force her to work one last case – a twelve-year-old missing persons case that they hope will convince their daughter to stay. It is at this point in the story that fourteen-year-old Rae goes missing. Hilarity ensues as this quirky and dysfunctional family reluctantly pulls together to find its youngest member. Anyone who loves Janet Evanovich has to try Lisa Lutz. 03/07 Becky Lejeune
THE SPELLMAN’S STRIKE AGAIN by Lisa Lutz: The latest Spellman hijinks will have you rolling on the floor with laughter. I certainly was. As Izzy’s relationship with ex-boyfriend #12 matures, her mother pulls one of her final blackmail cards out of her hat: prom 1994. With this hanging over Izzy’s head, the elder Spellman begins sending her on an endless round of blind dates fitting her own guidelines for Izzy’s perfect mate. Meanwhile, David and his new girlfriend are trying to outsmart the PI family and are hiding a secret. But is their secret as enticing as the one that Izzy’s parents are hiding? And teenage Rae finds a new cause in pro bono research, but takes things just a bit too far in rallying her troops. Curious yet? You should be. Lisa Lutz is wonderful. I laughed, I cried (literally), and now I’ll go into withdrawal until Izzy and her insane family return. 03/10 Becky Lejeune
THE SPIES OF WARSAW by Alan Furst: My first Furst, but thank heavens he has written others. While most books about the time period leading up to World War II seem to focus on the major players- England, Germany, Japan – Furst’ effort revolves around French Colonel Jean-Francois Mercier, the military attaché at the French embassy in Warsaw, Poland. Mercier is a decorated hero of the 1914 war on a par with Charles de Gaulle and, at best, a reluctant spymaster. While he recognizes the value of espionage, like many of the officer class of his generation, it is just not something gentlemen willing do. Mercier is “running” a German engineer who has been caught in a “honey trap” and is not providing information on the evolving German panzer tanks. At the same time, the handsome aristocrat finds himself in a passionate love affair with a Parisian woman of Polish heritage, a lawyer for the League of Nations. The parallels between his situation and that of his agent are obvious and troublesome to Colonel Mercier who must constantly work in the shadows again powerful and well-trained opponents. Furst has created rich characters and seems to have captured the time period perfectly. Along with Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva, The Spies of Warsaw is among my best reads of the year. 08/08 Jack Quick
SPIDER LIGHT by Sarah Rayne: Dr. Antonia Weston has just been released from a five-year stint in prison after being convicted of murdering one of her patients. The man in question had developed a twisted obsession with her and the killing was undeniably self-defense. The court determined, however, that because Weston was the man’s doctor, and because as a medical professional she had taken an oath to heal not to hurt, she must serve time. Her reemergence into normal society will be a delicate one and so, to ease back into the world, she rents a small cottage in the secluded town of Amberwood. Here she becomes enthralled with the local history of the town’s mill, Twygrist, and the now demolished mental asylum, Latchkill. Unfortunately for Dr. Weston, her peaceful and relaxing stay in Amberwood has been manipulated by someone who doesn’t feel that she has quite been punished enough for her crime. Amberwood has seen more than its fair share of tragedy and Rayne twists multiple story lines together in this novel creating what is both a modern and historical thriller. Disturbing doesn’t even begin to describe many of the horrendous crimes that take place in this book. In spite of this, or rather because of it, Spider Light is a gritty and suspenseful thriller that delivers. Rayne is great suspense for fans who enjoy the likes of Minette Walters and Mo Hayder. 02/08 Becky Lejeune
SPIDER’S BITE by Jennifer Estep: Gin Blanco was alone in the world, until Fletcher Lane took her in and trained her in the ways of the assassin. Now her handler, Fletcher is responsible for researching, negotiating, and handing out Gin’s assignments. When a great deal on a rush job comes through, neither Fletcher or Gin can pass up the paycheck. But problems arise when another hired killer shows up on the scene and reveals that Gin is to be the fall guy for the whole thing. Gin escapes, but isn’t able to save her surrogate father from being tortured and killed himself. But Gin, known as the Spider, has been underestimated. Gin will have her revenge and the person responsible for the set up will pay. Spider’s Bite marks the beginning of a new urban fantasy series from Estep, author of the Bigtime series. Gin’s a great female lead with lots of attitude and an interesting backstory. The concept of the elementals is also one that I haven’t really seen in the genre, making this series a definite stand out. 09/10 Becky Lejeune
SPILLED BLOOD by Brian Freeman: Brian Freeman is no novice to the world of psychological thrillers with a myriad of awards and recognition in the literary world. He has written both free standing books as well as those featuring his detective- Jonathan Stride. Spilled Blood is a stand alone novel showcasing Freeman’s ability to capture his readers, immerse them into his book and the characters in it, and weave a plot that is both captivating and complex.
Clay Hawk is an attorney practicing in Minneapolis. The people of St. Croix are locked in a struggle with the city of Barron which is just across the Spirit river from them. Barron is the home of a successful research company and is an affluent community due to that company’s work. St. Croix is poor, and has suffered from a large number of cancer deaths, which they blame on waste from the research company Mondamin. Initiating the action in the book the daughter of Mondamin president and founder is shot to death and circumstantial evidence points to Clay Hawk’s daughter, Olivia, as the killer.
Freeman is excellent in fleshing out his characters. Clay Hawk is still in love with his estranged wife and very much wants to be a part of his daughter’s life. He begins an investigation to get to the facts of the murder and absolve Olivia. He has to look into the reality of a long term deadly feud between St Croix and Barron, and get through the lies and evasions of people in the area. The plot is intricate involving twists and turns as well as different premises. The ending is logical, although not anticipated by the reader. Freeman builds upon the underlying psychological makeup of his various characters as he has done in all of his books. His principal characters have mixed feelings about what to do, and are as ready to resort to violence to achieve goals as they are to do the right thing. A very rewarding and captivating read, one that insures that the reader will be looking for Freeman’s next book. 5/12 Paul Lane
SPIN by Catherine McKenzie: Kate Sandford is thirty and it’s finally time to grow up. After showing up massively hung over and blowing an interview at The Line magazine—without a doubt the biggest mistake ever—Kate’s offered a second chance. One of The Line’s sister magazines is interested in sending Kate to rehab on an undercover assignment. Kate is to report on and cover all the happenings associated with Amber Sheppard, a big, big star with a big, big drug problem. Kate thinks thirty days in rehab is a decent trade off for the job of her dreams, but once she gets to know Amber, she starts to have doubts. Spin is quite fun. Kate’s screw ups and Amber’s antics, while couched in the very serious setting of a rehab center, keep the book at a lighter level making it both entertaining and a bit heartwarming. This is McKenzie’s US debut and will be followed by two additional releases this year. 2/12 Becky Lejeune
SPIRAL by Paul McEuen: This is a fantastic debut novel from a Cornell professor. Liam Connor is an 85 year old professor emeritus at Cornell University who is a Nobel prize winning biologist and mentor to a young physics professor, Jake Serling. Connor is not only brilliant, but he’s also charming, so his death is doubly disturbing. There is a bridge at Cornell that is infamous for the many suicides that have launched from it, and at first, Connor is thought to have jumped to his death. But there is something much more sinister afoot, and that includes a sadistic woman who seems to enjoy torturing her captives. Connor has been doing some high tech work at Cornell, and somehow that is tied to the deadly biological weapon that Connor uncovered during World War II. Serling, Connor’s granddaughter Maggie and her son are swept up in a nightmare of cutting edge technology and nanoscience, which is explained enough to keep this former English major informed yet still enthralled, as well as some very disturbing Asian history. This is one of the most gripping thrillers I’ve read in a very long time. Don’t miss it. 04/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE SPIRE by Richard North Patterson: Patterson steps off his soap box in this departure from political hot potatoes like the Arab/Israeli conflict (Exile) and oil in South Africa (Eclipse) to write this intriguing novel of psychological suspense. Character development is key here; Mark Darrow, the young football player who receives a scholarship to Caldwell, a small, private college; his best friend Steve Tillman, who is in prison for a murder he may not have committed; and Lionel Farr, ex-Special Forces and the professor who becomes Darrow’s mentor and closest friend. Darrow leaves Caldwell for law school and fame as a defense attorney until Farr asks him to come back as President of the college. The current president is under investigation for embezzlement, and they need someone popular enough and persuasive enough to help keep the money flowing in from the alumni. For Darrow, going home again means visiting his old friend Steve in prison and reexamining his conviction, and investigating the embezzlement and all the current board members, making some people very uncomfortable. Then another murder occurs, and the suspense intensifies until the shocking conclusion in this tightly plotted story. Sure to please fans of Raymond Chandler, Michael Connelly and James Lee Burke. 09/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch. Copyright © 2009 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.
THE SPIRE by Richard North Patterson: When I was a student at Georgia Tech, the term for not obtaining the grades or respect you felt you were entitled to was known as being shafted or given the shaft. Today at the center of campus is an 80-foot-tall campanile (the Kessler Campanile) which has the rough appearance of a twisted obelisk, tapering towards the top and capped with a pyramidal piece. It is constructed of 244 stainless steel plates, with each rotated slightly to produce the swirling pattern as height increases. On campus it is known, of course, as The Shaft. Similarly the Spire, a 200 foot plus sandstone belltower, is the centerpiece of Caldwell College in Wayne, Ohio. It is there that gifted athlete Mark Darrow discovers the body of murdered black coed Angela Hall, a murder for shich his best friend is convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Now a nationally renowned lawyer, Mark is offered by his friend and mentor Lionel Farr, now the provost of Caldwell College, the post of college president 16 years after Angela’s murder. Mark agrees to return to Caldwell, now struggling with the suspected embezzlement of $900,000 from its endowment by its current president. Upon his return, Mark investigates both the embezzlement and the old murder hitting exposed nerves and stirring up both old and new tensions. A good one. 06/10 Jack Quick
THE SPIRIT OF LIBERTY by Ted Allbeury: Philby, Burgess and Maclean – arguably the three biggest traitors of the Cold War. But was there a Fourth Man? One who was never uncovered. George Carling, now Lord Carling, one of the top British SIS agents during the cold war, could be that person and now a tabloid newspaper is threatening to expose dark secrets about him. The SIS wants to know the truth – and before anything gets printed, so agent Tim Mathews is sent to visit Carling and hear his version. A spy story based more on emotion than action, this is another good one from one of the masters. 09/07 Jack Quick
SPIRIT HOUSE by Christopher Moore: I have enjoyed Tim Hallinan’s Bangkok series featuring Poke Rafferty so much that I thought I would give this one a try. Vincent Calvino is a disbarred lawyer working in Bangkok as a PI. When a farang (foreigner) is found dead, the Bangkok police have a confession the next morning from a young paint-thinner addict. It doesn’t seem right to Calvino, so he weighs in on behalf of the addict for a friend who runs a slum charity. The freight is being paid by the father of the expat Brit victim, Ben Hoadly. Money is no problem and soon Calvino’s best friend, Pratt, a Shakespeare quoting Thai police colonel, and his loyal assistant, Ratana are deeply into a dangerous world of addicts, dealers, fortune tellers, inexpensive hit men, oversexed foreigners, and professional bar girls. I think I still prefer Hallinan but will certainly try more of Moore – did I really write that? Oh well. At least the contest between Moore and Hallinan did not end in a Thai. 11/09 Jack Quick
SPLIT IMAGE by Robert B. Parker: This ninth Paradise police chief Jesse Stone novel also includes PI Sunny Randall and Susan Silverman, the significant other of Parker’s best known character – Spenser. Stone is following up on the gunshot murders of Petrov Ognowski and Knocko Moynihan. Moynihan and Reggie Galen are both ex-mobsters (?), neighbors and husbands of identical twin wives. Their apparent happiness (at least prior to Moynihan’s murder) sets Jesse off on an introspective review of his own failed marriage. Randall is trying to help the parents of 18-year old Cheryl DeMarco to get her to come back home from a Paradise religious cult, an act that also sets off the emotional alarms and send her to Silverman. If you are a Parker fan, you have to wonder if he sensed his own demise and is trying somehow in this book to clean up a lot of loose ends. Enjoyable, but different. 03/10 Jack Quick
SPLIT SECOND by David Baldacci: Secret Service agent Sean King is distracted-by something when the presidential candidate he’s guarding is shot dead. Eight years later, agent Michelle Maxwell lets the candidate she’s watching enter a funeral parlor room alone; he’s kidnapped. King ends up as a successful lawyer in a small Virginia town, living a quiet and peaceful life that is shattered by the murder of one of his employees, a man who was in the federal Witness Protection program. Maxwell sees King on TV and decides to look into the event that caused his disgrace, so similar to hers. Meanwhile, King’s old flame, Joan Dillinger, an ex-agent whose security firm has been hired to find the kidnapped presidential candidate, hires King to help in the hunt. The personal and inter-agency conflicts throughout drive the story to a somewhat unlikely conclusion, but the journey there is first rate. 01/09 Jack Quick
SPOOKY LITTLE GIRL by Laurie Notaro: Lucy has just returned from her long-awaited vacation to Hawaii (didn’t turn out quite as she’d hoped) to find all of her possessions on the lawn and the locks on her doors changed. Her fiancé has kicked her out and cancelled the wedding, with no explanation. Then she loses her job after being accused of stealing and mysteriously failing a drug test. So Lucy packs up and heads home to her sister, hoping for a fresh start. And a fresh start is what she gets, though not in the way she expected. Lucy is hit by a bus and lands in ghost school where she’ll be taught to maneuver the world of the living in order to complete an assignment that will allow her to move on. But the assignment isn’t clear and apparently involves hanging out with her ex and his new girlfriend. Notaro’s fiction debut is a fun story that mixes her unique humor with a sweet paranormal tale of friendship, family, and unfinished business. 05/10 Becky Lejeune
SPOON by Robert Greer: The American West comes alive in this story about a family-run ranch in early 90s Montana. When TJ Darley meets Arcus Witherspoon, a man in search of the truth about his own past and heritage, he can’t know how much the man will affect him and his family over the course of the coming year. Spoon proves his worth to the Darleys and earns himself a position as a ranch hand on the farm after completing a seemingly impossible task: impressing TJ’s father. The family opens up to him and he in turn does his best to help improve their situation. When a large company sets their eye on the Darleys’ ranch and the land neighboring theirs, Spoon’s smarts and talents will prove to be more valuable than any other resource at hand. Greer’s tale is one that is easy to fall into. From start to finish, the reader is completely swept up in the Darleys’ and Spoon’s stories. An excellent book that perfectly illustrates Greer’s talent as a storyteller and writer. Spoon was previously published as a short story included in Greer’s Isolation and Other Stories. 10/09 Becky Lejeune
SPRING FEVER by Mary Kay Andrews: Annajane Hutchins has been divorced from Mason Bayless for years. She’s involved in a new relationship so feels quite comfortable attending Mason’s wedding. Or does she? Feelings thought long dead spring alive and when an unfortunate, and hilarious, event occurs that stops the wedding cold. Annajane starts to think that maybe it happened for a reason, and maybe she isn’t as over Mason as she thought. Set in a small southern town with the zany characters and southern charm that Andrews excels at, this is a light, fun read with lots of heart. Spring Fever is Mary Kay Andrews at her best. If you’re only going to have one beach read this summer, make it this one. 6/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SPUN TALES by Felicia Donovan: They are back, those lovable ladies of the Black Widow Agency who specialize in bringing their own brand of justice to wronged women like themselves. This episode revolves around a famous author whose controversial medical thrillers (hmm, insert guess here) have made her the target of angry fanatics and powerful pharmaceutical interests as well as adoring fans, who may be the most dangerous group of all. It takes all their trademark blend of computer forensics, surveillance technology and plain old-fashioned feminine intuition to keep the author and her unpublished manuscript safe. Don’t stumble over some of the scenes like this one: “By the way, Ma, you may want to go out a little more. Mrs. McDougal cornered me and said she is worried about you because you haven’t been out much. Oh, dear what did you say to her? That you were full of shit. Katie! Sorry but I had to think of something. Oh, and by the way, don’t be surprised if she shows up with prune pie and extra pulp orange juice.” You gotta love ‘em. 09/08 Jack Quick
THE SPY WHO CAME FOR CHRISTMAS by David Morrell: Paul Kagan is the son of Russian gymnasts who defected to the United States when his mother determined she was pregnant. Reared in Florida, he speaks fluent Russian and English and has grown up to hate communists. He is the perfect candidate to become a CIA spy and has been infiltrated into the Russian Mafia to find whether they are in league with Al Qeada. Now it is Christmas Eve and Kagan is in Sante Fe, wounded and being pursued by three Russian “magi”. He has broken cover to run off with a package his bosses have hired him to steal — the baby son of a modern-day peacemaker. It is a marvelous variation on the Christmas story while not being overtly cutesy. 09/09 Jack Quick
THE SPY WHO JUMPED OFF THE SCREEN by Thomas Caplan: The premise of the book should be an interesting one. Three nuclear weapons are stolen to be delivered to a force that will use them against American interests. In desperation the president of the United States calls upon Ty Hunter, an ex covert operator who has retired from military service and has become the most sought after actor in the world. Why he calls on Ty is more than a little unknown, but it is apparently due to his personal good looks, his inherent charisma and of course, his acting ability. Hunter accepts the mission since the US president explains that Ty has coincidentally visited the thief due to a chance meeting with that person’s fiancée, Isabella Cavil, and an invitation by her to visit a yacht owned by the scoundrel stealing the nuclear warheads and has been invited to return. Ty returns to Europe and the Mediterranean to check out the situation and recover the weapons, and naturally begins falling for the lovely Isabella who reciprocates, finding out that she really doesn’t love the dastardly villain. Caplan has a tremendous command of the English language and lavishes it on the reader with lengthy conversations and overlong descriptions of various things and situations. The book is 400 pages in length and might be more interesting cut down to about 300. The characters are all two dimensional and inspired no interest on my part to revisit them in any further books on their actions. The ending is abrupt without really satisfying any desire by the reader to reach any conclusions about it’s satisfaction. In summary too wordy, too descriptive and not really interesting. 1/12 Paul Lane
SPYCATCHER by Matthew Dunn: Initial outing from a former MI6 Intelligence officer. Fantastic plot and we can only hope Mr. Dunn’s overall writing skills can improve to the level of his plotting. I enjoyed the book, but couldn’t help comparing it some of le Carre’s best because of the plot, and with some better writing this would be right up there. Will Cochrane is the CIA’s and MI6’s most prized asset … and their deadliest weapon. Since childhood, the only world he has ever known is a clandestine realm of elaborate lies and unholy alliances—where trust is rare, betrayal comes cheap, and a violent death is often the penalty for being outplayed by an opponent. Now his controllers have a new game: neutralize one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, believed to be a general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards. In a breakneck race through the capitals of Europe and into America’s northeast, the spycatcher will discover that his prey knows the game all too well … and his agenda is more terrifying than anyone could have imagined. 1/12 Jack Quick
THE SPYMASTERS by W.E.B. Griffin: Summer 1943. Two of the Allies’ most important plans for winning World War II are at grave risk—Operation Overlord’s invasion of France, and the Manhattan Project’s race to build the atomic bomb. A furious FDR turns to OSS spy chief Wild Bill Donovan—and Donovan turns to his top agent, Dick Canidy, and his team. As usual Griffin captures the drama and uncertainty of those perilous times, telling a great story while focusing on the human players, their fears, and willingness to do whatever it takes to accomplish their goals. Another good one. 9/12 Jack Quick
ST. ALBANS FIRE by Archer Mayor: St. Albans Fire, the latest in Mr. Mayor’s Joe Guenther series may be his best yet. In addition to his always picture perfect invocation of present day New England life, this time Mr. Mayor explores the hearts and minds of his principal characters in greater detail than usual and with an almost exquisite sensitivity not normally encountered in crime fiction.
His description of the feelings of a teenage farmboy gripped in the emotional chaos of his first sexual encounters gets the hormonal kaleidoscope exactly right and then thrusts this bundle of hopes and potential into a fatal firestorm in the family barn.
Joe Guenther is assigned by the Vermont Bureau of Investigation to look into this and two other earlier barn fires in the general area. During the course of his investigation, he deals with the whole spectrum of emotional types – the laconic New England farmer father, the angry mother, the mobster’s squeeze on the side, and even his own cantankerous staff. In every instance, he explains why he understands this behavior and responds to their various needs to the extent possible. Mayor even invests his bad guys with some humanity, noting that bad people are capable of loving behavior.
As always, Joe’s procedure is sound and leads to his solution of the crime, if not in time, at least in satisfying fashion.
I really enjoyed the additional development of the characters and believe that this makes this an even stronger than usual offering. However, I do have a niggling concern that this unusual empathy may be unrealistic in a police officer. Even one who has seen a lot of stuff for a long time. I will be interested to see which direction this series goes next.
Despite my concern, this is, I think, the best book in a fine series and worth reading for fans of crime fiction. 11/05 ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.
ST. ALBANS FIRE by Archer Mayor: Three mysterious barn burnings, two of which are obviously related, are the basis of Joe Gunther’s 16th adventure as the number two man in the Vermont Bureau of Investigation. Gunther becomes involved because the third fire has a human victim as well as dairy cattle. His investigation leads him to New Jersey where he and sidekick Willy Kunkle are eventually able to solve the case. Another well-written entry in this series which captures rural New England and all its quirks as well as its beauty and appeal. 11/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
STALKED by Brian Freeman: In the third installment of this thrilling series, Jonathan Stride and Serena have left Vegas and returned to chilly Minnesota. Stride has been reinstated as lieutenant in charge of the Detective Bureau and Serena is now working the private sector, earning money as a PI. The book begins with the murder of Maggie’s husband, Eric. With Maggie the undeniable prime suspect, Stride is not allowed to work the case. So, instead, he tackles a missing person’s investigation; a local woman who was recently involved in a fake rape scandal has disappeared. Stride soon discovers an unmistakable link between Eric and the missing woman. The case takes yet another turn when the body of the woman in question is discovered in one of the area’s frozen lakes. At the same time, someone has been strategically stalking Serena and manipulating her into a position where he can finally strike. He’s been biding his time and planning his revenge, and now with Stride distracted, he’ll finally get his chance. Freeman wowed thriller fans with his debut title, Immoral. His stunning follow-up, Stripped, showed that he was no one-hit wonder. Now, with Stalked, he has surely cemented his position as a guaranteed bestseller. 03/08 Becky Lejeune
STALKED by Brian Freeman: There is a saying that revenge is a dish best served cold, but even Duluth, Minnesota, can become red hot when you look underneath all that beautiful winter snow. Duluth Police Lieutenant Jonathan Stride is certain that his partner Maggie Bei didn’t kill her husband, but she is hiding a secret. There are other secrets as well. A beautiful young woman has disappeared and his lover – former Las Vegas cop and now Duluth P.I. is chasing a blackmailer, who seems to know all the city’s little secrets, including Maggie’s. Throw in some kinky sex, and a who did what to whom and when and how and you have a great long weekend book that will keep you turning pages all the way to the end. A good one. 04/08 Jack Quick
STALKING SUSAN by Julie Kramer: Reporter Riley Spartz has had a tough time lately. After losing her husband in an explosion, she’s had to take some time off to recover. Time off could mean the death of a reporter’s career. It’s a good thing then that her friend, newly retired police officer Nick Garnett, has handed her a sweet tip on what could be a cold serial case. Two women, each named Susan, killed on the same day exactly one year apart. As Riley investigates further, she finds more possible victims, but she worries that the killer, who seems to have been dormant for almost a decade, may be reawakened by her stories. As the anniversary date of these murders draw near, it becomes clear that someone else has taken an interest in Riley’s story, and an unhealthy interest in Riley herself. Can she uncover the killer’s identity before it’s too late? What a great debut. Kramer, a freelance news producer, combines her years of experience in the industry with her obviously great storytelling ability to create what could be one of this summer’s best mysteries. Riley is a sassy and quick-witted heroine that readers will adore. Stalking Susan is the first in a new series. 07/08 Becky Lejeune
STALIN’S GHOST by Martin Cruz Smith: Senior Investigator Arkady Renko is back in Moscow and is splitting his time between two cases. One involves two fellow police detectives, Nikolai Isakov and Marat Urman, both former members of Russia’s elite Black Berets, who served in Chechnya, who may be involved in a murder for hire scheme. The other involves reports that the ghost of Stalin has begun appearing on subway platforms. Bodies start showing up, Renko’s life is threatened, but he slowly and deliberately builds his case until all the pieces come together. No one else other than Stuart Kaminsky, seems to do contemporary Russia as well as Smith. Both consistently provide great reads, and this one is no exception. To paraphrase another reviewer, Renko always seems to be digging his own grave, but thus far hasn’t had to use it. Definitely recommended. 08/07 Jack Quick
STANDING IN ANOTHER MAN’S GRAVE by Ian Rankin: Old meets new as John Rebus returns to investigate the disappearances of three women from the same road over ten years. Rebus has never shied away from lost causes – one of the many ways he managed to antagonize his bosses when he was on the force. Now he’s back as a retired civilian, reviewing abandoned files. Unlike his skeptical colleagues, Rebus can sense a connection – but pursuing it leads him into the crosshairs of adversaries both old and new. Among the new one are Malcolm Fox of Complaints who feels Rebus must be dirty, just based on his reputation. Fellow officer DI Siobhan Clarke believes in Rebus and her support just may cost her job. Delightfully twisty. 2/13 Jack Quick
STAR ISLAND by Carl Hiaasen: It’s been a long wait for a new book but apparently Hiaasen has spent the time reading the tabloids and keeping his pen rapier sharp. He takes on Hollywood, the music business, and the paparazzi in this fresh, funny tale of a teenage superstar who is used and abused. The former Cheryl Gail Bunterman, known as Cherry Pye to her fans, was a good looking 14 year old girl when she was discovered by the degenerate running Jailbait Records. She had her first hit, and her parents figured out that she could support the whole lazy family. She couldn’t sing worth a damn, but learned to lip sync, drink, do drugs and have one messy affair after another, all by the time she was 16. Her pervert producer hired publicists (fraternal twins turned identical via plastic surgery) but despite their combined efforts, one cancelled concert due to “gastritis”, AKA a drug overdose, made Cherry’s career careen into a downward spiral. Her parents hire Ann DeLuisa, a look alike actress, to help divert attention from Cherry’s misdeeds, but in the process Ann gets kidnapped by a paparazzo who is obsessed with the star and determined to get photos before she overdoses and dies. Throw in a bodyguard with a missing hand and a weed-wacker for a prosthesis, a one-eyed ex-governor of Florida turned vigilante, a Florida real estate scammer, and the whole South Beach scene and then you have Star Island in all its incredible, ridiculously excessive glory. I loved it. 08/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE STAR OF ISTANBUL by Robert Olen Butler: A novel set 100 years ago during the first World War at a time that the U.S. had not entered the fray as yet. Butler has set up a plot that moves through major events occurring in 1915 and brings them to life in a well researched novel featuring Christopher Marlowe Cobb a war correspondent and spy utilized by the author in other books. Cobb is tasked by the US government to follow a man named Brauer aboard the liner Lusitania in May of 1915 believing that he has information vital to the war effort. Cobb does so and while sailing on the ship meets actress Selene Bougani, with whom he begins a romantic attachment, falling in love with her. It also appears likely that Selene has her own secrets regarding events in the conflict raging in Europe. The liner sails from New York loaded with passengers in spite of an ad placed by the German consulate advising that the Lusitania is British and is sailing into a war zone. Nearing the coast of Ireland on May 7th the ship is torpedoed by a German u-boat and quickly sinks. Butler’s description of the attack, the panic and chaos that follow is a definite highlight of the book. He subtly changes his style of writing during description of the sinking to get the reader to rapidly follow events becoming more attuned to what most likely did happen and reactions of the people involved. Cobb helps Selene to survive and once ashore follows her ultimately to Istanbul where she has had a meeting arranged by Brauer with Enver Pasha, rising star of the Turkish army and later to become Ataturk, the power behind the formation of modern Turkey. In the background of the events depicted are the ongoing battle between Turkey and Anzac soldiers at Gallipoli only 150 miles away from Istanbul, and another outburst of the massacre of Armenians and attempts to deport them that has been going on for many years. A fascinating book and depiction of another time brought to life by the author. A novel that brings a great romance into world shattering events. Cobb and Selene are very well sketched out and brought to vivid life and it is sure that Cobb will be featured in future novels by Butler set in the WWI era. 10/13 Paul Lane
STARDUST by Neil Gaiman: The town of Wall sits between London and the land of Faerie. A wall is the only thing that separates this world from theirs. While walking Miss Victoria Forester – the prettiest girl in all of Wall – home one evening, Tristran Thorn spies a fallen star. He pledges to bring the star back in exchange for Victoria’s hand in marriage. He sets off on a journey that will take him into the land of Faerie. When he reaches the star, he is surprised to find that it is in the shape of a girl, Yvaine. The star escapes from Tristran and her mother, the moon, soon appears to him in a dream. The moon has requested that Tristran protect her daughter from those that would wish her harm. One of these is a member of the Lilim, a witch queen who wishes to tear the heart from Yvaine so that she may regain her youth. Yvaine is also being pursued by the remaining heirs of the Kingdom of Stormhold, one of whom will inherit only after retrieving a certain item she carries. This sweet fairy tale is yet another example of why Gaiman is so popular today. It’s also a great starting point for anyone interested in Gaiman’s work.
The PS edition, released by Harper Perennial, features some interesting extras including a preface to another tale Gaiman was originally working on called Wall. Also, for Gaiman fans and Wall enthusiasts, Susanna Clarke, author of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, once wrote her own Wall tale – Gaiman mentions it in his preface – this tale can now be found in Clarke’s own collection of short stories (it was previously only available in A Fall of Stardust a book of collected art that was released in 1999). 06/07 Becky Lejeune
STARK by Edward Bunker: If Ken Bruen had grown up in Southern California in the 1960’s he could have written this book. Edward Bunker was an ex-con, author, and actor. STARK was apparently written in the late 1960’s and only discovered after his death in 2005. It’s the gritty tale of a California hophead, who is out to make a big score. Only problem is with two strikes, one more mistake will put him behind bars for life. So if he has to screw over the whole town, so what? He really has nothing to lose. Violently full of lowlifes and a main character that James Elroy describes in the forward as “so cool he is freon frigid… (craving) boss threads, fast rides, slick bitches.” A great read. 03/08 Jack Quick
THE STARLITE DRIVE-IN by Marjorie Reynolds: The summer of 1956 was a pivotal one for Callie Anne Benton. Her father managed and ran the Starlite Drive-In, a position that came with housing for himself and his family. Callie Anne’s mother doesn’t leave the house—she is trapped by her own fears and a husband who resents her for it. But a drifter named Charlie Memphis will change everything. Years later, bones are found on the grounds of the old Starlite and Callie Anne is transported back to that long ago summer. Originally released in 1997, The Starlite Drive-In is new out on shelves to be rediscovered by audiences. It’s a quick and easy read with a cast of characters that evoke all sorts of emotions. Callie Anne is easy to love, but readers may find it hard to truly love or hate some of the others involved. In showing the multiple sides of each of them, Reynolds creates a story that is simply entrancing. 2/12 Becky Lejeune
STARTERS by Lissa Price: When there was not enough vaccine to go around, the government had to make a tough decision. Ultimately, the most vulnerable were the only to receive the injection: the very young and the very old. As a result the population has been whittled away. Enders, those over 60, now enjoy a much longer and healthier life, living beyond their first century. To protect their interests, laws have been placed on employment and Starters – teens — are not allowed jobs. Many of the young whose parents were killed in the Spore Wars are now orphans, frequently rounded up and placed in institutions. Callie Woodlawn and her brother have been living on the street trying to survive and avoid the Marshals. As a last resort, Callie signs on with Prime Destinations, a company that allows Enders to rent Starters’ bodies. But something has gone wrong with Callie’s renter. Warned against returning to Prime Destinations, Callie finds herself in the middle a massive conspiracy that will have grave ramifications for others like herself. Price’s debut is mind-blowing! A chilling version of the future that is all too believable. Book two, Enders, is due out in December. 4/12 Becky Lejeune
STATE OF THE UNION by Brad Thor: Series hero ex-Navy Seal and special agent with the Office of International Investigative Assistance Scot Horvath is neck deep in a twenty-year old Russian operation to hide at least 19 suitcase size nuclear weapons in secret U.S. locations. Now the Russians are using the threat to try to control President Jack Rutledge. While beating the Russian plot (in seven days) Horvath also must determine if family friend and former FBI Deputy Director Gary Lawlor is part of the plot. You know the good guys will win in the end, but what a ride to get there – from a Berlin brothel around the world to the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC. Hold on tight. 10/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
STATEN ISLAND NOIR edited by Patricia Smith: Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, Manhattan and now Staten Island – the five boroughs of New York City. If you have not yet discovered the Akashic Noir Series, you are in for a treat. Each volume, including this one and the others in the New York series (Brooklyn 1, 2 & 3, Manhattan 1 & 2, Bronx and Queens), feature short stories by well known and not so well known authors which occur in the same geographical area. You may not care for all of them but I guarantee you will find a gem or two. For me, it was Lighthouse by S.J. Rozan and the User’s Guide to Keeping Your Kills Fresh from Ted Anthony. 11/12 Jack Quick
STAY by Nicola Griffith: Devastated by her lover’s death in a slaying that was her fault, Aud (as in “shroud”) Torvingen is rebuilding an isolated Appalachian cabin and trying to overcome her grief over the death of her lover. Her oldest friend Dornan seeks her help to locate his fiancée who has gone missing. Aud quickly tracks the missing Tammy Foster to a Soho loft, and then is ultimately persuaded to put an end to the activities of Geordie Karp, the psychopath who turned Tammy into a sexual and psychological slave and has already chosen his next victim, a 12-year-old girl who’s been smuggled into the country and sold to Karp. This sequel to The Blue Place is best read after that outing but is strong enough to stand alone on its on. Recommended. 02/09 Jack Quick
STAY CLOSE by Harlan Coben: Another superb standalone from the master of the suburban thriller. This time out our suburbanite is Megan, a soccer mom of two and happily married to David – except Megan isn’t exactly what she appears to be, or at least she wasn’t. This is a novel about secrets and how they eventually come out with sometimes disastrous consequences. Ray also has a secret. Now he’s a pseudo-paparazzi, taking pictures of bar mitzvah boys and desperate dates for money because he hasn’t been able to live with his secret. Jack is a cop, a detective who caught a case of a missing husband that he wasn’t able to solve and seventeen years later, still can’t let it go. Coben tells compelling stories with interesting, complex characters and twists that I never see coming. Lots of action and tension that just keeps mounting make Stay Close un-put-downable. 3/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
STAY CLOSE by Harlan Coben: Coben has since 1995, written and had published 16 books. He began with works about his sports agent and side line detective Myron Bolitar and graduated to several very high quality stand alone books which vaulted him quickly into the top tier of mystery and thriller writers. Stay Close, a stand alone, is involved with the complex emotions of three people rooted in traumatic experiences seventeen years prior to the events in the book. Megan is a suburban wife living the good life with a loving husband and two children, but she has a past that is rooted in another existence on the wild side. Ray was a great photojournalist prior to events of seventeen years ago, and now completely traumatized is a third rate photographer taking pictures for a small company hiring out as paid paparazzi for small change. He and Megan were lovers and although apart neither can release the other from their memories. Jack is a detective that investigated a disappearance 17 years ago in which a husband was never found, and for some reason cannot let the case go. Each year on the date of the disappearance he visits the house where the husband lives which the wife maintains exactly as it was 17 years prior. The story is set in Atlantic City, and when someone goes missing on the same day as the disappearance 17 years ago, the event presents similarities to the first case and pulls all three characters into proximity, dredging up memories and feelings long suppressed. Coben is a master of fleshing out these characters; we feel Megan’s pull towards her past and her very ambivalent feelings about her present life. Ray also in meeting Megan in the present day brings up old, very strong feelings for her. Jack needs closure to his case and finds working it again in an active manner is just what the doctor ordered. The ending is a bit of a surprise but in line with the facts brought out in the book, and leaves the reader wondering what the three principal characters will do next. Another good one by Harlan Coben. 4/12 Paul Lane
STEALING THE DRAGON by Tim Maleeny: This is a wowzer. Cape Weathers is a young private investigator/former cop in San Francisco investigating two incidents. First, a ship from China full of illegal refugees runs aground when the crew is murdered. Then Cape’s best friend Sally disappears, and the Chinese Triads, an organized crime group, thinks he knows where she is. What he doesn’t know is that Sally is a trained assassin, and the chapters alternate between Sally’s back story, which is completely fascinating, and the refugee mess in Chinatown that is compounded by a hotly contested political battle for Mayor. Intricate plotting, appealing locations, unusual characters, and a touch of humor combine to make this one amazing debut novel. 05/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
STEALING THE DRAGON by Tim Maleeny: Wow. San Francisco PI Cape Weathers, a former cop, is enlisted by his buddy on the force to look into the murder of the crew of a ship carrying hundreds of Chinese refugees. Indications are that a professional assassin is responsible. Coincidentally, Weather’s partner Sally (who happens to be a trained assassin), is missing. Cape must survive a deadly war with the Triads, the Chinese organized crime syndicate. Maleeny captures the essence of San Francisco beautifully in this first effort. I can’t wait for Cape Weathers’ next outing. 09/07 Jack Quick
Step-Ball-Change by Jeanne Ray: Another charmer from the author of Julie & Romeo. Caroline seems to have it all; happily married for 42 years, four attorney (or attorney-in-training) children, and her own dance studio. Then her daughter announces her engagement to the son of the oldest and wealthiest family in town, with her future in-laws announcing they will split the cost of the wedding for 900+ guests with them, her sister blows into town and moves in to nurse her wounds from her impending divorce, and the contractor just told her he can’t finish her sun porch as the foundation is about to cave in. But somehow it all works out in this feel-good book.
STEP ON A CRACK by James Patterson: Chrissy, three; Shawna, four; Trent, five; twins Fiona and Bridget, seven; Eddie, eight; Ricky, nine; Jane, ten; Brian, eleven, and Juliana, twelve – the ten reasons why NYPD detective Michael Bennett has to hold it together this Christmas even though his wife is succumbing to cancer. This was not the plan when he and Maeve had begun adopting their brood. Nor was it in the plan that the former First Lady would be killed. Her funeral at St. Patrick’s Cathedral becomes even more of a challenge when men storm the church and take hundreds of attendees hostage. Michael is asked to try to reason with a sinister man named Jack. Jack releases all but the most famous people, and makes his demands: he wants several million dollars each from his celebrity hostages which include the mayor, a popular comedic actor, a beloved talk show host, and a pop starlet. Once Jack starts killing, Michael realizes he’s up against a truly diabolical foe. Patterson pulls all the strings on this one, which is the first entry in a potential new series that he hopes will be as successful as the Alex Cross outings. Time will tell, but it’s off to a pretty good start, character wise. 03/07 Jack Quick
THE STEPMOTHER by Carrie Adams: Bea is the divorced mother of three daughters, is overweight, drinks too much and has issues with her own mother. Tessa is single, pushing forty, beautiful, and a successful lawyer. The bad news is that they are both in love with the same man, Bea’s ex, Jimmy, who Tessa calls James. The differences in their relationships begin with the name, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. When James introduces Tessa to his daughters, the little girls are easy but not surprisingly, the 14-year-old seems a bit difficult. Tessa has great friends and amazing parents to ask for advice, and between taking that advice, using her godchildren as foils and bribing the kids, she manages to earn their grudging respect. Meanwhile, Bea’s life is sliding downhill rapidly; and when disaster strikes, the whole family pulls together to work things out – but that leaves Tessa out in the cold. Or does it? Alternating between Tessa and Bea’s viewpoints, this sequel to The Godmother is a well written, punchy fairytale of a story, and a fun read. 03/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch. Copyright © 2008 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.
STETTIN STATION by David Downing: The experiences of John Russell in Nazi Germany continue in this third “Station” novel. It is November, 1941 and Russell has decided that he and his German actress girlfriend, Effi Koenen, need to leave Berlin while they still can. Since Koenen is a “celebrity” the only way they can do it is illegally. At the same time U.S. and Japan relations are growing even more intense and there is growing evidence that the Nazis have begun carrying out the Final Solution with the forced transport of Berlin’s Jewish community. In addition to working for British, American and Soviet intelligence, Russell’s is a courier for the Wehrmacht intelligence service, all of which make him an obvious candidate for extra scrutiny by the Gestapo, adding further complications to his plans. Downing is a master at painting the bleakness and fear that pervaded Germany during those perilous times. 05/11 Jack Quick
STIFFS AND SWINE by J.B. Stanley: The pigs is in the pit and it’s up to the supper club members to select the winners at the forty-seventh Hog Festival in this fourth Supper Club Mystery. Not only will they select the Queen Sow, they will also award the cash prize and trophy to the winner of the Blueberry Pie eating contest. Of course, first they need to find out who killed one of the barbecue festival’s family-oriented, finger-licking, fun-loving contestants, particularly since one of the five supper clubbers is accused of murder and jailed. A breezy read coupled with some authentic barbecue-friendly recipes. 01/09 Jack Quick
STILL ALICE by Lisa Genova: Alice Howland is 50 years old, a happily married mom of three grown children and a world renowned professor of psychology at Harvard when she starts noticing that she is getting somewhat forgetful. She initially attributes it to the onset of menopause, but soon becomes uncomfortable enough about it to go see her doctor. A battery of tests are run and eventually the devastating diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer’s disease. This is Alice’s story from start to finish, we see how her world changes month by month through her eyes. We watch her get lost while out running a few blocks from the home she has lived in for many years. We watch her contemplate suicide. We watch her rapid deterioration, and how her family deals with it. This is not an easy read. I found myself crying and having to put the book down and walk away from it more than once – several times, in fact. But it is also a fascinating story and a very personal look at a frightening disease from the perspective of the person going through it. Book groups will find a lot to discuss here, and there is a reading group guide and an interview with the author at the back of the book. Genova, a professor of neuroscience at Harvard, discusses her research, and how the book came to be published. Readers will not soon forget Alice – I know I won’t. 01/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
STILL LIFE by Louise Penny: This first in the Three Pines series finds Chief Inspector Gamache and his team on site in the small village after Jane Neal, a well-liked spinster and retired teacher, is killed in the woods. At first, it appears the death may have been a simple hunting accident, but when no one comes forward, Gamache and team dig deeper. Soon evidence points to murder rather than accident and the people of Three Pines are hurled into an investigation that leaves almost all of them considered suspects. Louise Penny’s award-winning debut is a great character study and a good first mystery. Honestly, though, since I’ve started the series with one of the later titles, I think I enjoyed Still Life more for it not having been my introduction to Gamache and Three Pines. I love the characters and going back to their beginnings was a great reading experience. The plot itself confused me at times, but I trusted that Penny, and Gamache, would reveal all in the end. I’m not sure this would have hooked me to the series alone, but I have seen where Penny takes Three Pines and the rest of her cast of characters, and I have seen how her style evolves. 09/10 Becky Lejeune
STILL MISSING by Chevy Stevens: Annie O’Sullivan’s day began as any normal day would. A real estate agent, she had an open house with a somewhat disappointing turnout. As she is packing to leave, a last minute viewer turns up. Unfortunately for Annie, this man has been watching her and planning her abduction for quite some time. She is held in captivity for a year and forced to endure a truly horrendous ordeal. But that’s not where Annie’s story begins. From the outset, the reader is well aware that Annie has escaped. Annie’s tale is told through sessions with her therapist as she recounts the events that led to where she is today. It also becomes awfully clear that Annie’s nightmare is far from over. This much-talked about debut is a surprising and shocking read. That being said, Stevens is a hugely talented author with an ability to spin a story that will enthrall readers from beginning to end. Still Missing is a thriller comparable in caliber with the best in the genre: Thomas Harris and Chelsea Cain to name a few. 08/10 Becky Lejeune
STOLEN by Kelley Armstrong: When Elena meets her first witches, it doesn’t go down quite as she’d imagined. Nevermind the fact that Elena is a werewolf, she never believed witches even existed. While tracking down a lead about werewolf intel – a threat the pack takes very seriously – Elena meets Ruth and Paige Winterbourne. The two women placed their ad hoping to draw the wolves out so that they could warn them about a very real danger threatening all of the races: a group led by Ty Winsloe, a well known internet tycoon, has been snatching up witches, vampires, shamans, and demons. The witches had hoped that the Pack would join them in attempting to overthrow Winsloe and his entourage, but it’s not until Elena is taken that the wolves have a vested interest in bringing down the kidnappers. This second in the series introduces a lot of the characters that become key players later on and also expands the world Armstrong began building with Bitten. 8/12 Becky Lejeune
STOLEN by Daniel Palmer: Daniel Palmer, in an engrossing novel, brings us the ultimate identity theft book, and as he has done in his previous stories keeps the reader riveted to the pages right up to the final words. John and Ruby are young marrieds seemingly on top of the world, both with John’s growing on line gaming business and a perfect marriage when like a bolt of lightening their world crashes around them. Ruby is hit with a devastating diagnosis of cancer, and the low end insurance they have will not pay the bills for the proper treatment. John, frantic at his wife’s apparent death sentence, devises a scheme based on his knowledge of computer controls. He searches out and grabs the identities of two people that have played his games on line and have the profiles of barely hanging onto a much better insurance plan. The scheme seems to begin working immediately with Ruby’s treatment being paid by the other insurance plan when out of the blue he gets a call from the man whose identity he has stolen. John is told that the scam will not be reported if he does what the man wants him to do. His nightmare begins when he is ordered to steal expensive scarves from a high end store and doesn’t do so. A woman living in the same building as he and Ruby is killed in a violently gruesome fashion and John is told that this is the price for not playing “Criminal,” the game devised by his caller. More demands are made and John finds himself in a web of terror attempting to comply with those demands and trying to save lives threatened by the man tormenting him. He has to continue in order that Ruby can receive her treatment or she will die, but lives a life trapped in the hands of what is really a serial killer in action. Characterizations of the people in the story are excellent and in keeping with Palmer’s previous books. The ending is not telegraphed at any point but is logical and well thought out. Chalk up another winner for Daniel Palmer. 05/13 Paul Lane
THE STOLEN by Jason Pinter: Reporter Henry Parker has a nose for a good story. Unfortunately, he also has a nose for trouble. His investigative talents result in amazing articles, to be sure, but it seems that more often than not he ends up attracting the unwanted attention of some very nefarious individuals. Five years ago, Daniel Linwood disappeared without a trace. Yesterday, he showed up on his parents doorstep, five years older but otherwise healthy. Daniel’s mother has agreed to give the Gazette an exclusive interview and Henry is given the assignment. Over the course of the interview, though, Henry notices that while Danny claims to remember nothing at all about the past five years, his comments seem to indicate that maybe subconsciously he does recall something. Parker digs deeper into the story and discovers another case similar to Danny’s, a girl who was kidnapped and returned years later with no memory of the incident. As he uncovers more connections between the two cases, Parker becomes convinced that there is something very strange going on, and once again, his insatiable need to discover the truth has put him right in the middle of trouble. Pinter is a force to be reckoned with in the thriller world. His plots are smart, his writing is crisp, and Henry Parker is everything a hero should be. The Stolen also delves deeper into the characters surrounding Parker, giving readers a keen insight into the emotional turmoil that he has been dealing with in terms of his love interest and the future issues that will come about as a result of the incidents that occur in this book. Stolen offers enough back-story that it can easily be read as a stand-alone which means it’s a good place for readers unfamiliar with Pinter to get started. 07/08 Becky Lejeune
STOLEN PREY by John Sandford: Lucas Davenport could use the Monkeewrench crew on this one. In the small Minnesota town of Wayzata, an entire family has been killed—husband, wife, two daughters, dogs. It looks an awful lot like the kind of scorched-earth retribution he’s seen in drug killings sometimes. He quickly learns the husband operated a company selling Spanish language software and the wife had been employed at one of the Twin Cities’ major banks. The death of another bank employee seems to confirm that they are on the right track – unearthing a drug money laundry involving the bank’s computers and millions of dollars. One of the best by Sandford. 10/12 Jack Quick
STONE CREEK by Victoria Lustbader: Stone Creek is a small, quiet town in upstate New York. It is home to Danny, a young widower. He lost his wife a year ago and can’t seem to come to grips with his loss. To make things worse, his obtrusive mother-in-law blames him for her daughter’s death. The only thing that keeps him afloat is his five year old son, Caleb. Lily Spencer is a childless, married woman who comes to Stone Creek to get away from her work-obsessed husband and the constant reminder of her inability to have children. They meet; Lily’s heart instantly melts for young Caleb. The three form an instant and powerful bond and the healing begins for all. Lily has a bit of self-discovery and learns that for too long she has allowed her husband decide the fate and future of their marriage. Danny learns to open his heart up to his mother-in-law, and begins to see the hope and beauty in his life and his son. Lustbader does a wonderful job of portraying the strong, cold emotion of loss and abandonment. Stone Creek is powerful display of love, loss, passion, and forgiveness. 06/08 Jennifer Lawrence
STOP THIS MAN by Peter Rabe: Hardcase Crime Number 58 is a re-print of a 1955 classic from Peter Rabe who was born in Germany as Peter Rabinowitsch in 1921, immigrating to the U.S. with his brother in 1938 to escape the Nazis. He began his writing career by turning in a humorous story about the birth of his first son. Soon after, he began submitting hardboiled stories to Gold Medal where he found an enthusiastic editor and a ready market. The original edition of Stop This Man was blurbed by no less a literary figure than Erskine Caldwell, author of God’s Little Acre and Tobacco Road. Stop This Man tells the story of down-and-out thief Tony Catell, who, after stealing 36 pounds of radioactive gold from a lab, must stay one step ahead of the FBI while desperately trying to find someone to take the hot gold off his hands. If the radiation doesn’t kill him, and the cops don’t get him, he may escape the electric chair. 08/09 Jack Quick
STORM FRONT: BOOK ONE OF THE DRESDEN FILES by Jim Butcher: Harry Dresden is a wizard. He doesn’t do children’s parties or love potions, but he is pretty good with finding lost things, especially people. He also occasionally helps out the local police with any suspicious and possibly supernatural crimes. When the bodies of Jennifer Stanton and Tommy Tomm, an upscale call-girl and a bodyguard for notorious mobster Johnny Marcone, are discovered dead, their hearts having exploded out of their chests, the Chicago PD has no choice but to call in Dresden. Harry’s involvement in the case becomes more than a consultation when a demon comes knocking on his door. Soon, the White Council, the governing body of over all wizards, is after him as well. See, Harry may well be the only wizard capable of such murders. With more bodies piling up, and more evidence pointing in his direction, Harry must discover the true killer, or, die trying. Witty prose and fast pacing keep this book interesting and readable. However, with multiple supernatural private eye series to choose from, nothing in particular makes this book stand out among the others. I will admit to being interested enough to give book two a chance to catch me, though. 01/07 Becky Lejeune
A STORM OF SWORDS by George R. R. Martin: A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 3: As war rages on in Westeros, King’s Landing has won itself a reprieve. Stannis Baratheon has retreated and the Lannisters have held the throne. Theon has fled the north, leaving Winterfell a ruin. Jon Snow has joined Mance Rayder and the wildlings North of the Wall in hopes of discovering their plans and helping defend his brothers in the Night’s Watch. Unbeknownst to him, the Watch has taken a massive hit. Many of their numbers were lost when they were attacked by the wights and others turned on their ranks, betraying their brothers in arms. Arya has been taken by thieves and rogues who hope to ransom her back to her family and Bran is on his own journey North while everyone else believes he’s dead. Meanwhile, Daenerys builds an army across the sea and continues her preparations to regain the throne. A Storm of Swords further proves that everything is game in this series. No character is safe and no story arc is predictable. In fact, with seven books total and only five out at this point, I think it would be safe to assume that none of us has a clue where the story will take us. I can say that it’s a wild and immensely entertaining ride! (Fans of the show should note that season 3 is said to be planned to cover about half of A Storm of Swords.) 6/12 Becky Lejeune
Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman: Rina Lazarus asks her husband, Peter Decker, L. A. police lieutenant, to go to NY and help out when a distant relative of sorts is murdered while the teenage niece he was with goes missing. This is an engrossing story that just draws you in, with lots of twists along the way. No sign of Peter’s daughter in this one, and the rest of the kids are just periphery, as they should be. I am happy to report that this is the best Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus book in years. If you’re a fan of the series, you will love this, and if you haven’t read them, you can start here or at the beginning of this marvelous series with The Ritual Bath.
STORM CYCLE by Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen: Rachel Kirby has devoted her time and her resources to finding a cure for the disease that has been ravaging her sister for years. She’s developed a super computer data system that has the capability of using power from computers around the world to aid in the search for a cure. When her system is hacked by a resourceful and interesting jack-of-all-trades in Egypt, a man who’s life rests in Rachel’s hands, she is intrigued. John Tavak has been hired by some of the biggest and baddest in the world to track down items of varying importance. This time, he’s discovered evidence that one of the world’s oldest physicians, a woman called Peseshet, may have discovered the secret to cell regeneration; an ancient cure that could be just the thing Rachel has been looking for. John and Rachel find themselves racing against time and devious foes as they search for a treasure that has remained hidden for centuries. Will they find it in time to save Rachel’s sister and beat out their enemies as well? This second collaboration, and stand-alone, between mother and son is a fun read even if the characters are a bit flat. 07/09 Becky Lejeune
STORM PREY by John Sandford: Two parallel stories make this one of the more suspenseful entries in the Prey series. The hospital where Weather works has a half million dollars of drugs stolen from its pharmacy and the attendant killed. Lucas Davenport and his Bureau of Criminal Apprehension team are called in to assist the investigation. Meanwhile, Weather, a surgeon at the hospital, may be able to identify one of the killers. An attempt on Weather’s life follows. Then, the bodies of two motorcycle gang members are found in a rural area. Weather, even under 24-hour guard, is part of a surgical team working to separate conjoined twins in a procedure that’s captured the attention of the world’s media. This twenty-second Prey novel has the usual sharp plot, snappy dialogue, and believable action, but the background playfulness and gallows humor that usually fill in the gaps are in short supply. But the parallel story lines certainly make up for that. Highly recommended, specially in hot July while Luca et.al. are battling below zero temps. 07/10 Jack Quick
STORM RUNNERS by T. Jefferson Parker: This book opens with a bang – “Stromsoe was in high school when he met the boy who would someday murder his wife and son,” and doesn’t let up until the last page is turned. Stromsoe and Tavarez meet in marching band and become friends, and eventually rivals for the same girl. They also follow different paths into adulthood; Stromsoe becomes a cop, Tavarez becomes the head of La Eme, the Mexican Mafia. After Tavarez kills Stromsoe’s family he gets life in prison, while Stromsoe tries to deal with life. Eventually he ends up working as a private investigator protecting Frankie Leigh, a TV weather forecaster who is being stalked. Frankie is not your typical weather bunny; in fact, she is descended from a rainmaker and is determined to repeat his success with manipulating weather, but the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power may have other ideas. Some nice twists, believable characters and a really interesting storyline make this another winner for Parker and his legion of fans – I’m glad I’m one of them. 03/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
STORM RUNNERS by T. Jefferson Parker: “Stromsoe was in high school when he met the boy who would someday murder his wife and son.” With such an opening line, you know this one is going to be good. Now with his family gone, killed in an explosion aimed at him, a recovering Matt Stromsoe agrees to serve as bodyguard for TV weatherperson Frankie Hatfield. She is supposedly being stalked, but there is more to this than meets the eye. Hatfield’s great grandfather was “The Rainmaker” and Hatfield is determined to follow up and prove the validity of his attempts to influence rainfall. There are powerful vested interests that do not want this to occur and Stromsoe’s presence soon becomes a lightning rod in the middle of the storm. Nicely done, with action all the way to the final page. 03/07 Jack Quick
THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE by David Wroblewski: Edgar is born mute to Trudy & Gar Sawtelle, a small town Wisconsin family that earns its living by breeding a rare type of dog that can communicate with people. No, the Sawtelle dogs don’t speak, but much like Edgar, they do have this other-worldly way of communicating, bringing a touch of magic realism to this extraordinary story, somewhat reminiscent of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi or even John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany. This is a first novel that is beautifully written, but more than that, has a heart and soul and defies categorization. Hamlet brought forward to the 1970’s immediately springs to mind as there is a mystery here; Edgar’s father dies suddenly, leaving the opportunity for his estranged brother Claude to insinuate himself into the family, especially into Trudy’s affections. Edgar not only communicates extraordinarily with his dogs, but also with his father’s ghost, among others. He is convinced that Claude is responsible for his father’s death, but when he tries to prove it, everything goes wrong, forcing Edgar to run away into the woods of Wisconsin, three of his dogs by his side. The novel then becomes Edgar’s coming-of-age story, a survival story again tinged with magic. The characters are rich and well developed, but unlike most literary novels, plot is king here, the story is all. And it is a story not easily forgotten – this one will be on the best books of 2008 lists, on mine for sure. 8/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
The Story Teller by Arthur Reid: Written by a pair of publishing pros under a pseudonym, this tale of suspense revolves around, what else, the publishing industry. Steven King (not Stephen King) is a struggling literary writer, waiting to finish his first book and make his family proud. Then he meets Ben Chambers, a raconteur who has led a fascinating life, and their relationship takes on an almost father/son veneer. Ben confides that he has written several books but never wanted them published, never submitted them, nothing. When Ben dies and leaves everything he owns, including the manuscripts and the rights to them, to Steven, he starts reading them and finds a commercial treasure trove. He retypes one, puts his name on it and sends it off to his agent/cousin, who sells it at auction and a star is born. But he is not the only one who has read some of these manuscripts, and blackmail rears its ugly head. It’s a similar plot to About the Author by John Colapinto, which was a much more enjoyable book. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE STORYTELLER by Jodi Picoult: Picoult steps away from her usual ripped-from-the-headlines plots to one that feels much more intimate, yet worldly. The titled storyteller refers to Minka, a Holocaust survivor who got through Auschwitz by taking a page from Scheherazade and enthralling one of the upper echelon SS officers with her fairytale that Disney wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole; her hero is a cannibal and the story is an allegory for the Nazis, despite her naïveté about it. Minka’s story is interwoven amongst her own Holocaust experience, her granddaughter Sage, a baker in a small New Hampshire town with a lot of her own angst, two brothers of the Third Reich, and Josef, a ninety-five year old highly respected and admired retired teacher and coach. This is compelling reading, despite all the clichés strewn throughout. I must admit to feeling uncomfortable even saying that, because is it cliché to repeat the oft told horrors of the Nazi regime or is it just reinforcing those stories in hopes of remembrance? Yet somehow I expect more, especially from Picoult with her enormous talent, not to mention her professional editor, to bring her own unique perspective to these horrors instead of dishing us up more of the same. Regardless, the story is intriguing, based on the premise of an old man asking a young woman he perceives to be Jewish to forgive him for his war crimes and help end his life. The legal aspect adds an additional layer of intrigue as does the surprising, twisty ending. 4/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE STRAIN by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan: The Strain, the first in a new horror trilogy, is a collaborative effort between mystery/thriller author Chuck Hogan and award-winning director Guillermo del Toro. It begins with the legend of Jusef Sardu, a tale that stays with Abraham Setrakian through his growing years and beyond as he escapes Nazi troops, movies to Italy where he learns all he can about the legend of the strigoi (vampire), and eventually settles down in New York City. Then an international flight, inbound from Germany, lands at JFK… and goes dark. When investigators are finally able to crack the plane open they discover that every passenger is dead: no signs of struggle, no signs of biological weapons, nothing to indicate cause of death. Dr. Ephraim Goldweather, a member of the CDC’s Canary project, is called in to unravel the mystery and finds that they were wrong in assuming that everyone had died. There were four survivors, none of whom can shine any light on the events onboard. And then the real dead bodies begin to disappear. Setrakian tries to warn them all, but by the time Goldweather and his partner Nora begin to listen, it may be too late for everyone. This is classic vampire horror del Toro style; there are hints of Dracula and even Blade II. The inclusion of vampire legends and mythology are fascinating and bring an extra depth to the tale. I can’t wait to continue on with book two, The Fall. 06/09 Becky Lejeune
STRANDS OF BRONZE AND GOLD by Jane Nickerson: Sophia Petheram is fortunate to have such a kind and caring godfather. Or so she thinks. After her father dies, Bernard de Cressac offers to take Sophia in as his ward. His home, the grand if somewhat dour, Wyndriven Abbey – shipped over from France piece by piece – is too big for one man alone and Sophia’s family is struggling without their father. But Sophia quickly comes to realize that all is not well at Wyndriven. Her godfather is charming to be sure, but he’s unwilling to socialize with any of the neighbors in their small Mississippi town. What’s more, his treatment of his servants leaves something to be desired. And when Sophia sees de Cressac lose his temper, she realizes that the good natured and humorous godfather who seemed so willing to provide for her every need, is someone very different indeed. Jane Nickerson brings an excellent Southern gothic twist to the classic Bluebeard fairy tale. This teen debut is atmospheric and creepy and should definitely appeal to teen and adult readers alike. 6/13 Becky Lejeune
STRANGE AFFAIR by Peter Robinson: My first Robinson, but certainly not the last. Detective Inspector Banks is depressed after being injured and losing all his worldly possessions to a perp who got away (Playing With Fire?). His name and address in the pocket of a murdered woman apparently enroute to see him, as well as a disappearing brother, quickly get him back into the job. Soon it is apparent the two incidents are connected. Fast paced and very well written. If not authentic, this police procedural certainly reinforces any “Brit” stereotypes – you can almost smell the vinegar on the fish and chips and the centuries of smoke in the pub. I look forward to more from the series Stephen King says may be the best on the market today. Recommended. 05/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
STRANGE ANGELS by Lili St. Crow: Dru Anderson and her father don’t live normal lives. Sure, Dru attends high school like all the other kids her age—her father is adamant that she earn a decent education even amidst all the relocating that comes with his job. But Dru’s dad doesn’t work a regular job like other dads. Nope, Dru and her father are hunters tracking down the things that go bump in the night—things most people will never know exist in their world. One day, Dru’s dad doesn’t come home. And then, when he does finally return, Dru is forced to kill him. See someone turned Dru’s dad into a flesh-eating zombie and now Dru is going to hunt that person down and make them pay. Dru’s hunt will lead her to some big revelations about her family and her own destiny, if she survives that is. I loved this book. Lilith Saintcrow’s teen debut has a very dark and adult feel, harder and edgier than most teen titles. This first in the series, and the heroine, are just what I had hoped for and expected after reading Saintcrow’s adult titles. Dru is a strong female lead and while the book is very teen appropriate, I think it will definitely appeal to adults as well. Highly recommended. 05/09 Becky Lejeune
THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL TALE OF MISS PERCY PARKER by Leanna Renee Hieber: The Guard were chosen and gifted with abilities to help fight against the strange enemies that would endanger our world. On the night they were chosen, these six boys and girls understood that one day they would be joined by a seventh. Prophecy foretold that the seventh would be a woman, a peer whose coming would herald great danger. Over two decades later, the seventh still has yet to appear. But then Percy Parker shows up at the Athens Academy. A student, older than most who come to the school, with a strange appearance and air about her; she could almost be a ghost. Alexi Rychman and Rebecca Thompson, both members of the Guard who work at the school, are sure that this girl couldn’t possibly be the seventh, especially when Miss Lucille Linden arrives in the Guard’s midst. But Alexi finds himself strangely drawn to this pale student, and all of the signs are convincing him that she might be the one. Hieber’s latest is a fabulous combination of romance, paranormal, mystery, and fantasy, all in a gothic Victorian setting filled with specters and other beings. A mesmerizing read reminiscent in both style and tone of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr.Norrel. Highly recommended. 08/09 Becky Lejeune
STRANGENESS AND CHARM by Mike Shevdon: Niall Petersen narrowly managed to rescue his daughter in The Road to Bedlam. Her imprisonment has left her—and others like her—damaged and bearing a grudge against those who conspired to lock them up. Now, some of the former detainees have begun to wreak havoc amongst the human population. In order to maintain the truce between humans and fey, Niall must track down the escapees and bring them to the Courts. If they are deemed worthy contributions to fey society, they will be offered a place amongst the ranks. If they aren’t… well, Niall isn’t sure what happens then. But not all of these rogue fey are willing to come along without a fight. Now that the world has been established and some of the mythology has been explored, Shevdon’s begun delving more into the characters and the tension between the fey and human worlds. There’s also a nice twist at the end of Strangeness and Charm that’s setup for book four in the Courts of the Feyre series. 6/12 Becky Lejeune
STRANGER IN PARADISE by Robert B. Parker: Apache Indian hit man Wilson “Crow” Cromartie is no stranger in paradise. Ten years ago, Crow was part of a team of ex-cons who plotted to capture Stiles Island, the wealthy enclave off the Paradise coast, making off with millions in loot. Now that the statute of limitations has run, Crow is back, and this time, is seeking Police Chief Jesse Stone’s help. Crow is trying to find young Amber Francisco and bring her back to her father, Louis, in Florida. When Louis orders Crow to kill Amber’s mother Fiona before heading back with Amber, he can’t follow through. You see Crow may do everything else, but he won’t harm women. Its part of his warrior code. Anyway, Jesse’s on-again, off-again relationship with ex-wife Jenn needs a boost and maybe, just maybe, some good will come out of this. Typical spare Parker prose makes this one read like a Paradise, Massachusetts summertime ocean breeze. 03/08 Jack Quick
THE STRANGER HOUSE by Reginald Hill: A stand-alone from an experienced British writer which contains supernatural content, extensive and often incomprehensible Aussie and Brit slang, detailed information on the history of the Catholic versus Anglican Churches, a priest protagonist, set in a rural area – in short almost everything I don’t like. On the other hand it contains deceit, obstruction, mystery, violence and love – all the things I do like, and the writing is awesome – “The rich Catholic families of Hampshire provided the Church with money, congregation, and voluntary workers, but saw no reason to provide priests, not when the poor Catholic families of Ireland needed the work.” Another quote – “Odd thing this about you Catholics, even those ready to risk the sin of fornication will draw the line at contraception.” The plot is devious, the characters are portrayed in great detail, and the story is believable. If this is a typical work, I definitely want to try more of Mr. Hill. 10/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
STRAY by Rachel Vincent: Rachel’s Vincent’s fantastic new series introduces readers to a wholly original set of characters. Faythe is like any other normal young adult, trying to find her place in the world and establish her identity. One thing about Faythe that her college classmates don’t know is that she’s a werecat. In fact, she’s the boss’s daughter and one of the most sought after members of her Pride. See, female werecats have become few and far between and it’s become worse ever since someone has made them a target. This same someone has set his eye on Faythe. She holds her own in a fight and defends herself well when the first attack comes, but her father has other ideas and brings Faythe home where he and the others can protect her. Despite the precautions, Faythe is snatched from the Pride’s own property. Can the others get to her in time or will she have to rely on her own strength and training to save her skin? As with any new and original concept, the amount of explanation required to keep readers from feeling completely in the dark can be overwhelming. Vincent seems to have had no problem with this as the plot moves along smoothly and easily. The amount of play Vincent has with this storyline should provide for some pretty interesting reading for many books to come. Stray marks the beginning of a great new paranormal mystery/urban fantasy series that’s great for fans and new readers of the genre alike. 03/08 Becky Lejeune
STREET MAGIC by Caitlin Kittredge: DI Pete Caldecott has made a career out of logic, but her latest case defies everything she thought she knew. Then she receives a tip from a dead man. Pete was just sixteen when Jack Winter took her to a graveyard and conjured up a dead man. She was sure he’d been killed that night, but here he is now, alive and not so well. The tip turns out to be a good one and a missing child is recovered, but then two more children are taken and Pete has no choice but to ask for Jack’s help. Jack’s magical talents and ability to see the dead around him will certainly come in handy, but he’s been trying to block out one and drowning the other for so long that Pete may not be able to dig the real Jack out again. If she can help him sober up, they may be able to find out what evil force is responsible for the string of kidnappings. If. This is the first in the Black London series and it’s a really great beginning to what I think is going to be a stand out in urban fantasy. I enjoyed Kittredge’s use of Celtic folklore, I feel like it gave Street Magic a fresh appeal. 03/10 Becky Lejeune
THE STREET OF A THOUSAND BLOSSOMS by Gail Tsukiyama: This is a warm family saga interwoven with twenty years of Japanese history, and a thoroughly enjoyable read. Two little boys are orphaned and go to live with their grandparents. Hiroshi dreams of becoming a sumo wrestler, and Kenji dreams of creating the masks worn in the theater. But both their dreams are put on hold when the bombs of WWII start falling on their lives. The boys grow up with the horror and famine of war, and but then their lives begin again as a new Japan literally emerges from the ashes. Tsukiyama has penned another poignant story that is never cloy, is always interesting, and should be read. 09/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
Strega by Andrew H. Vachss: First one of his books I’ve read, I ran out and bought another as soon as I was done, very dark, excellent read.
STRIP by Thomas Perry: If someone hasn’t already snapped up the screen rights to this one, I want them. The opening scene features Joe Carver hiding out in the control cab of a building crane two hundred fifty feet up admiring the nude photos that Mitch, the crane operator has posted on the dash. With a wife like that, Carver understands why Mitch wants to hurry home at the end of each day’s work. From there it rapidly proceeds to utter chaos. The scene where Joe manages to pick up one Hummer SUV with the crane, lift it up five stories, and then drop it on another Hummer is quickly topped by aging strip-club owner Manco Kapak who learns the hard way that shooting a gun through a closed window that you are standing in front of, sans clothing, can be detrimental to your near term sex life. Kapak is shooting at Carver, whom he thinks was the masked man who stole his cash receipts. It wasn’t Carver, who decides to fight back. In the meantime, the real thief, Jefferson Davis Falkins, decides to make robbing Kapak a life’s profession. LAPD Lt. Nick Slosser, husband to two wives and father of five kids at or nearing college age, doesn’t need the aggravation, as he worries about tuition payments and keeping his two families secret from each other. Carrie Carr, is Falkins Bonnie to his Clyde and Spence, Kapak’s trusted bodyguard, the only one smart enough to deal with Carver, round out the primary cast in this exquisite thriller/police procedural romp though crime and law enforcement. 06/10 Jack Quick
STRIPPED by Brian Freeman: This follow up to last year’s Immoral finds Jonathan Stride and girlfriend Serena Dial in Vegas. Stride has left his post as Lieutenant of the Duluth, MN police force and is working as a detective in Sin City. Stride is called in to investigate when MJ Lane, son of famous producer Walker Lane, is found gunned down in the street. Meanwhile, Serena and her partner have been working on a hit-and-run accident that now appears to have been intentional. Stride and Serena realize that their cases are one and the same when the two victims turn out to have ties to a murder at the Scheherazade Casino and Hotel that occurred over fifty years ago. The infamous murder was that of a Spanish showgirl who headlined the casino’s show. The killer was said to be a stalker who later committed suicide. Rumor has it, the lead investigator on the case was not too thorough and the real killer got away scot free. Now, the murder site is scheduled to be demolished to make way for a new casino and an article highlighting the case has awakened what seems to be an elaborate cat and mouse game of revenge. Freeman is a great new voice on the mystery scene. These books definitely need to be read in order; my recommendation is to start the series now because we will definitely be seeing more of Jonathan Stride in the future. 11/06 Becky LeJeune
STUFF DREAMS ARE MADE OF by Don Bruns: Skip and James are back with yet another hair-brained scheme meant to set them on the road to success. Following the almost catastrophic events of Stuff to Die For, the two friends have given up their plans of using their truck to become the next U-Haul and have decided to go into the catering business. Reverend Preston Cashdollar and his weekend revival are set to roll into town shortly and James has it on good authority that working the weekend could prove to be a cash-cow for the two of them. The work turns out to a bit more difficult than either of them could predict, though, when it turns out that murder might just be on order for them both. It seems that Cashdollar is suspected of being under the watchful eye of the FBI and some of his full-timers suspect that Skip and James are undercover agents. Though Bruns lives in Ohio, it seems his Florida travels have significantly rubbed off on his writing. Bruns’s colorful Florida based mysteries put him right up there with resident favorites like Carl Hiassen and Tim Dorsey. 09/08 Becky Lejeune
STUFF TO DIE FOR by Don Bruns: Skip and James have been best friends since grade school. That first day, James told Skip he would be his best buddy for a small payment of just fifty cents. Although James had made the same deal with about two dozen other students, Skip is the only one who stuck around. James’s entrepreneurial streak has only grown in the time that they have been together and Skip goes along with every plan. The latest scheme involves a white box truck and other people’s stuff. James’s idea is that the two can start off hauling with one truck and eventually bring in enough dough to expand and hire on employees to do the work for them. Problem is, on the very first haul the two accidentally open a piece of mail that contains a severed finger. Worse yet, the finger seems to belong to one of their high school classmates. With the bad guys chasing after them and their plans for the good life quickly turning south, the two twenty-somthings realize that they have gotten themselves into a mess of trouble and the only way out is to uncover and expose the whole plot before it’s too late. This Lefty nominated mystery marks the beginning of a new series for Bruns. Stuff is a fun and wacky mystery with some of the craziest characters I’ve ever seen and I can’t wait to read the next book, Stuff Dreams are Made of due out later this year. 03/08 Becky Lejeune
STUFF TO SPY FOR by Don Bruns: Skip Moore and James Lessor (and their box truck) return in this third outing of the Stuff series. This time around, Skip has a legitimate job prospect in the form of a huge contract to install a new security system for a company that’s supposed to be working for the Department of Defense. Of course, anything that involves Skip and James is never quite what it seems. Skip has been hired to install the system, sure, but he’s also being paid extra to pretend to be dating one of the employees, a woman who’s having an affair with the boss and wants to keep his wife from finding out. But with so much money on the line, how could Skip refuse? Like all of their schemes, things don’t go as planned and Skip and James are once again risking it all in an effort to get ahead, or in this case, just keep up. Bruns’s comedic series, recently dubbed “dude-lit,” is just the thing for mystery fans looking for something both humorous and still full of suspense. 11/09 Becky Lejeune
SUCCUBUS BLUES by Richelle Mead: In the grand scheme of things, Georgina Kincaid leads a pretty normal life. Well, normal for a succubus charged with tempting men into sin and stealing their life energy. Georgina has a day job as an assistant manager at a local bookstore, and she has good friends. What more could a girl ask for? Considering Georgina has sworn off dating, not much. But when her favorite author sets up shop in her bookstore, the succubus can’t help but imagine what it would be like to live out the fantasies she’s been dreaming up. Before she can even consider changing her no dating rule, however, a local vampire turns up dead. Vamps and other immortals are not so easily disposed of—that’s why they’re called immortal—so for someone to have stalked and killed a vampire is a pretty big deal. After a short time as the prime suspect, Georgina decides to do some digging on her own. And when another of her friends is attacked, no way is Georgina going to consider backing down in her search, despite warnings otherwise. This first of the Georgina Kincaid series makes for a super fun read. A great combination of humor, paranormal, and mystery elements, plus, Georgina is a totally lovable lead. 02/10 Becky Lejeune
SUCCUBUS IN THE CITY by Nina Harper: Lily and her friends are some of satan’s top minions. Lily lures men through lust and delivers them straight to hell, after sleeping with them of course. Her life has left her longing for true love, though, and she may just have found it in sexy PI Nathan Coleman. Problem is, her cover may be about to be blown. A group of serious religious fundamentalists seems to be gaining some inside information about the ladies and their occupations. Their goal is to eliminate the women by any means. The ladies are tasked to discover the demon mole who’s been doling out clues to the mortals, and deliver him straight to satan herself. Harper’s debut has the perfect blend of romance, mystery, and paranormal elements, making it a fun and light addition to the urban fantasy genre. It’s a hip first installment to another original new series. 04/08 Becky Lejeune
SUCCUBUS TAKES MANHATTAN by Nina Harper: In the second book of the series, Lily, a succubus in the service of satan, has just been dumped. Yes, it’s true, even the most desirable woman in the world can have her heart broken, and by a mortal no less. See Lily has been told that she can earn her freedom if a man in full knowledge of her “career” falls in love with her. Well, PI Nathan Coleman just couldn’t handle dating one of the devil’s minions so Lily is alone once again. Or is she? Her one-time fling from the Caribbean has arrived in New York claiming he just couldn’t miss the opportunity to see her again. And just what is it that brings him there in the first place? Official business with the devil’s second in command. It seems there may be a coup in the works and Lily could possibly help discover who’s behind it. When a lower demon is kidnapped in Lily’s place, though, her plans begin to go all wrong. Out of desperation, Lily calls on Nathan for help, but her barely mended heart could be getting the best of her. Funny and feisty Lily and her fashionista pals make fore super fun reading. This humorous paranormal series is perfect for fans of other supernatural reads such as Kim Harrison’s Hollows series, and even Charlain Harris’s Southern Vampire mysteries. 12/08 Becky Lejeune
Sucker Bet by James Swain: This is the third entry in the Tony Valentine series, and it’s a treat. Tony is a retired cop living on the west coast of Florida who keeps busy as a casino consultant. Casinos hire him to help them find the cheaters – either the players or the employees or usually, both. And he’s really, really good at his job. This time around the Micanopy Indian Reservation Casino hires him to find out how a player was able to win 84 hands of blackjack in a row. Things gets more personal when someone puts a live alligator in Tony’s car while he’s investigating. There’s a con being run on a rich retired rock musician whose being set up by the delicious Candy Hart, the “raggle” (the pretty girl distraction) and some not so pretty men. Swain explains the inner workings of casinos in easy to understand language while never taking away from the story. Valentine is a great character, and I’m looking forward to the next entry in the series – it’s a prequel, taking Tony back to his cop days. I had the privilege of meeting Jim Swain, and after being warned not to get into a game of strip poker with the man, I got to see him do what he writes about – he is one of the world’s greatest card handlers, and at his book signings he demonstrates some of the card techniques the cheaters use. He is truly amazing to watch, and a delight to read.
SUDDEN DEATH by David Rosenfelt: In this, the sequel to the Today Show book club pick, BURY THE LEAD, our favorite smart-ass lawyer Andy Carpenter is back, this time defending a pro-football player accused of murder. It’s the Jets versus the Giants, only this time the stakes are much higher than any football game (yes, some things are more important than football and no, that is not sacrilegious!) Rosenfelt has a series of books that are funny as hell yet have enough suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat, and this one is no exception. Sure to make my favorites list once again – highly recommended. 05/05
SUDDEN DEATH by David Rosenfelt: The missing wide receiver for the New York Jets turns up dead at the home of the star running back for the New York Giants. If that’s not enough of a case for ace lawyer Andy Carpenter in his fourth outing, his canine rescuer partner, his crossword puzzling secretary, and his girlfriend/private investigator each have their own agendas requiring Carpenter’s attention. Although he wants to believe his client is innocent, troubling evidence surfaces of other deaths occurring in locations where his client is present. .If the third time out is the charm, this fourth outing by Carpenter is the entire charm bracelet – and if Andy’s not careful the bracelets (cuffs) may end up on his wrists. As with Rosenfelt’s previous efforts, a fast read with more twists than a New Jersey amusement park roller coaster. Andy and dog Tara are so unlike Parker’s Spenser and Pearl, but just as likable. I look forward to their next adventure. 01/06 Jack Quick
SUGAR POP MOON by John Florio: Jersey Leo is a mixed race Albino working as a bartender in a Hell’s Kitchen, New York speakeasy. His father, a former boxing champion, doesn’t approve of his son working for gangsters, and Jersey doesn’t know who his mother was. Jersey gets a great deal on some moonshine called Sugar Pop Moon, but when he serves the first pour, he realizes he’s been taken in a bait and switch operation. His boss is out of town, giving Jersey a couple of days to get the money back and replace the shine or he’s a dead man. He chases the con man to Philadelphia, where a crazed man with a hatchet tries to kill him. Jersey turns to his father for help and in the process, learns about his mother and her family. This is a hardboiled, prohibition era novel and Jersey Leo is a well-developed, likeable character. The story moves fast, the violence is appropriate to the times and there are laugh out loud moments amid the mayhem. Sure to appeal to fans of Mickey Spillane, Raymond Chandler, and Robert Fate’s Baby Shark series. 7/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2013 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.
SUICIDE COLLECTORS by by David Oppegaard: It started slowly and by the time everyone realized what was happening, it was too late. There was no treatment or cure for Despair. Norman, his wife, and their neighbor Pops are all that remain in their Florida town. That is, until Norman returns home one afternoon to find that his wife is dead by her own hand just like everyone else. The Collectors appear that evening to take the body and Norman kills one in his rage. After that, he and Pops decide it is time to hit the road and see if the rumors of a growing community of survivors in Seattle are true. It is said that there is a doctor there working on a cure and that society is trying to rebuild. Shortly after taking off in a rebuilt plane, however, they are shot down and must continue on foot. The journey will be long and arduous, but for Norman and his friend it is their last hope. Although this debut is not being billed as a horror, readers will find that parts of this novel are truly horrific, not to mention utterly bleak. This painfully thought provoking and somewhat strange novel is both disturbing and amazing. 12/08 Becky Lejeune
THE SUICIDE EFFECT by L J Sellers: I finally bought a Nook in order to read e-Books during my thrice weekly five hour kidney dialysis sessions. Therefore it is only fitting that the first book read on my new Nook is this excellent outing from L. J. Sellers. Native American Sula Moreno overhears a conversation about an undisclosed side effect a drug being developed by her employer. She desperately needs her job to gain the judge’s favor in a custody hearing for her son. Yet hundreds of patient lives could be at stake. Two days later when the drug’s lead scientist disappears, Sula is compelled to search for the incriminating data. But Prolabs’ CEO is a desperate man determined to stop her. Can Sula get the proof and expose the drug’s fatal flaw before the CEO risks everything to silence her? Compounding the situation is the fact that the CEO’s son may be one of those at risk. Recommended. 8/12 Jack Quick
SUICIDE SQUEEZE by Victor Gischler: Teddy Folger has burned down his comic book and baseball card store in Pensacola, Fla., for the insurance, and now plans to sail away from his old life—and wife—on the about to be repossessed Electric Jenny. But what repo man Conner Samson soon discovers is that an almost priceless treasure, a baseball card signed in 1954 by both Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, is hidden on the Jenny—and that a Japanese collector with a team of deadly ninjas will kill anyone who gets in the way of his acquiring it. Conner may well be Gischler’s finest creation. Let us hope to see him again. 02/06 Jack Quick
SUMMER BLOWOUT by Claire Cook: Bella Shaughnessy is trying to move on with her life, but it ain’t easy. Her ex-husband left her for her half-sister, who she can’t avoid as this big pseudo-Italian, Irish family all work together in her father’s chain of beauty salons. Bella’s sworn off men, that is until she meets the very cute, very smart Sean Ryan. He’s not interested in being her rebound relationship, yet is having trouble fighting off their mutual attraction. Another light, breezy and at times, laugh out loud funny summer romance from the author of Must Love Dogs. And there is a Paris-Hilton-pocket-size, slightly stolen dog who almost steals the story. 7/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
The Summons by John Grisham: What a disappointment, I could not get into this book at all. I kept waiting for it to get better and it never did. No plot to speak of, just the simplest of stories, no suspense, no interesting characters save one good old boy lawyer who is never fully developed and the sort of haphazard editing that tends to pull me right out of the story (“a elderly waitress”?) The gist of the story is a lawyer driving around with three million dollars in the trunk of his car for about 200 pages. A complete and utter waste of time.
SUN OF SUNS by Karl Schroeder: Karl Schroeder is getting to be one of my new favorite SF authors. His books can be classified as “hard” SF, since the ideas and situations in them are based on hard science, but they’re a lot more than just “lookit the cool lasers!” Sun of Suns takes place on (in?) a world that is basically an enormous balloon floating in space. Inside the balloon are towns and cities that float in microgravity around artificial suns that support life and agriculture. Despite the tech-y premise though, the story is more like a swashbuckly action/revenge novel, with pirates and swordfighting and ruthless Machiavellian women. Plus, they have these motorcycle things that are basically just a jet engine with handlebars. (The author has said that he mainly wrote the book in order to put the cycles in.) The plot follows a young man who has gone undercover with a rival government to avenge the deaths of his family and most of his town, but of course he soon gets embroiled in a much larger struggle and learns a thing or two about women along the way. A really fun book, with a sequel on the way! 03/07 Jenne Bergstrom
SUNDAYS AT TIFFANY’S by James Patterson: Admittedly, the premise of this book is a little odd. Girl falls in love with her childhood imaginary friend. But, despite this, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a pretty fabulous book. Jane is a lonely child that grows up to be a lonely woman. Her mother, head of a Broadway theatre company is oppressive and overbearing. Jane’s attempts to spread her wings and fly are repeatedly squashed. Then one day she sees him, Michael, her childhood imaginary friend. The only person she could ever confide in, the only person that truly understood her. He shows her that she has the strength and ability to walk out from beneath her mother’s overbearing arms and become the woman she is meant to be. Aside from the odd premise, this is a wonderfully endearing love story, based on something Patterson’s son said to him—“‘Love means you never have to be apart.” 05/08 Jennifer Lawrence
SUNSTROKE by Jesse Kellerman: Gloria Mendez has worked with Carl Perreira for ten years and though their relationship has never progressed past close friendship, she’s been secretly in love with him the whole time. While vacationing in Mexico, Carl goes missing. Gloria’s only clue about is disappearance is a garbled message on the business answering machine. After hounding Mexican authorities, Gloria is told that Carl died in a car accident. She collects his body and returns to the states set on discovering the truth behind his death. Soon, a man claiming to be Carl’s son appears and Gloria finds that everything she knew about Carl Perreira may have been a lie. Just who was this man and what secrets lie hidden in his part? I imagine any new author is a bit intimidated when having their debut novel released. It must be even harder when both of your parents are bestselling authors (Faye & Jonathan Kellerman) themselves. Jesse Kellerman has the skill and talent to stand on his own and Sunstroke proves it. 01/07 Becky Lejeune
SUMMER AND THE CITY: A CARRIE DIARIES NOVEL by Candace Bushnellhttp://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=&l=as2&o=1&a=0061728934&camp=217145&creative=399349: This latest entry for Sex and the City fans is aimed at the explosive young adult market, but most adults should enjoy it too. The first book in this series, The Carrie Diaries, introduced Carrie in her last year of high school, how she got to New York City and how she met Samantha. This book continues her first adventure in the big city, her new friend Miranda and their continuing friendship with Samantha. This summer was a momentous one for Carrie – she is accepted into a prestigious summer writing workshop and she loses her virginity. It ends with Carrie getting her first writing gig and meeting Charlotte, introducing what is sure to be the next installment in the series. A definite must for all Sex and the City fans. 06/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SUMMER IN TUSCANY by Elizabeth Adler: I listened to the audio book version read by Celeste Lawson, who does a great job portraying the different characters and getting the mood just right. Gemma Jericho is an emergency room doctor at one of New York City’s busiest hospitals. Her teenage daughter’s father took off as soon as he heard about the pregnancy. Gemma’s mother, Nonna, rounds out this small family. When Nonna gets a letter from her parish priest back in the small town in Tuscany where she grew up, informing her that she has inherited a large villa at the center of the town, the whole family plans on spending the summer in Tuscany, settling the estate. But when they get there, they find that the attorney in charge of the estate has sold it to an American, Ben, who is turning it into a hotel. The attorney has disappeared, leaving the town divided over who the rightful owner really is. Meanwhile Gemma and Ben can’t fight their attraction to each other, despite their legal wranglings, and Nonna seems to be falling for an old beau from her school days. While the plot it completely predictable, Adler does a great job creating mood, especially in Tuscany, with the food, the wine, and these characters all coming to life. A lovely, gentle romance with a spectacular setting. 6/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SUMMER OF NIGHT by Dan Simmons: Old Central School is being put out of commission. The ancient and crumbling building will not host classes and students will no longer walk the halls, but something ancient and evil creeps along its corridors instead. On the last day of school, a student goes missing. His sister insists that he never left the building and that the adults know something about it. To most, the boy is deemed to be a problem kid who’s finally run off. But some of his fellow students suspect something more ominous. With nothing better to do, and sure that something stinks, friends Duane, Mike, Kevin, Jim, Dale and Dale’s brother, Laurence, decide they will find out what happened to the missing boy and uncover the secrets of Old Central School. But their plans for an amusing way to spend their summer turn dangerous when they begin to expose dark secrets that have been hidden for generations. In the tradition of King’s It and “The Body” Simmons pits a group of kids against a terrifying enemy creating a masterful and chilling read that has become a classic in the horror genre since its release in 1991. 03/11 Becky Lejeune
SUMMER RENTAL by Mary Kay Andrews: Ty Bazemore inherited a beach house in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, which he is struggling to keep afloat. He rents out most of the house as “Mr. Culpepper,” without telling his tenants who he is or that he is actually living above the garage. His newest tenant, Ellis, is meeting up with her best friends for a month of rest and relaxation, which they are all desperate for. Ellis has just been downsized and doesn’t know what she’s going to do, but she does recognize the chemistry between her and Ty. Julia is a model who realizes her modeling days may be over and is having a hard time dealing with that, and her insecurities are affecting her marriage as well. Dorie is a newlywed, but her friends suspect trouble in paradise when her husband doesn’t come with her. These women share the house and their lives, until Dorie meets Maryn who seems well off and very nice, yet somehow homeless. She invites her to stay, and it turns out Maryn, like all these characters, has some secrets too. This is vintage Mary Kay; light and breezy and total escapist fiction. I really enjoyed getting to know these women and sharing their summer on the beach – take this book with you to the beach and have a fun afternoon. 06/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
Surface Tension by Christine Kling: A new mystery series set in Ft. Lauderdale, featuring a tugboat captain with the fabulous name of Seychelle Sullivan. She’s trying to make a go of the boat salvage business she inherited from her father, and is just scraping by. She hears a Mayday call from a woman on board the Top Ten, a luxury yacht she happens to be familiar with – it’s captained by her ex-lover, Neil. She heads out to try and save the boat with money in mind, but when she arrives just ahead of the Coast Guard, she finds the woman dead, and no sign of Neil or anyone else. Good characterizations and an appealing locale add interest as the story starts spiraling deeper into murky waters, but Seychelle emerges slightly battered and perhaps even stronger. I am looking forward to more from this new author who knows whereof she writes; Christine has been working on boats for more than twenty years.
SURFACE TENSION by Christine Kling: Tugboat Annie meets Travis McGee in this strong suspense debut. Seychelle Sullivan responds in her salvage tug to a distress call from the Top Ten, a yacht skippered by her former lover, Neal. When she arrives, no sign of Neal, just the body of a dead girl, who was apparently the one who made the distress call. Next, her modest cottage is searched and her stash of emergency money is missing, so she figures Neal must be alive, hiding from the police or from the girl’s killer. Life gets even more dangerous for Sullivan as she searches for answers to what happened to Neal and The Top Ten. 01/06 Jack Quick
The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen: Very well written gruesome medical thriller that kept me up half the night. My first foray into Ms. Gerritsen’s work and it certainly won’t be my last. Excellent read.
THE SURVIVOR by Greg Hurwitz: There are many books given the description “I couldn’t put it down”. The Survivor is easily the 2012 winner of the stay up all night award. It grabs the reader right from the start and never lets him or her go. Nate Overbay, a discharged army combat veteran, divorced, estranged from his family and dying from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) has reached the end of his tether and decides to end his life. He selects a bathroom window outside of a bank to jump from and is just building up his courage to let go when he sees that there is a bank robbery beginning inside. Several people have already been shot by the thieves, and a young bank teller is dying right inside the window. Nate reenters, and using his military training surprises the robbers, kills some with their weapons and causes the remainder to flee the scene.
Unfortunately for Nate the thieves are able to identify him, grab him and using the threat of killing his estranged wife and daughter demand that he return to the bank and get something they want out of a safe deposit box. What they need, what it is and the reasons for murder to get it form a major part of the story. Ensuing events are perfectly timed by Mr Hurwitz and keep the reader just going on and on thriving on the action. While the climax is by no means a fairy tale ending it is just perfect for this book. Needless to say the characters, both good and bad are fleshed out perfectly, and their motivations understood by the reader. Read this one after a light dinner, and the entire night to read. 8/12 Paul Lane
SUSPECT by Robert Crais: Maggie is a German Shepherd war hero suffering from post traumatic stress disorder after her stint in Afghanistan. Scott James is a Los Angeles cop who is severely injured when his partner is killed. These two sad cases are joined together at K9 school, where prospects are dim for both of them. But James falls hard for the dog, and they form a special bond during training. James is determined to find whoever killed his partner, but months have passed and the case is stone cold. It doesn’t help that he had insulted the detective that had handled the case either. But with Maggie at his side, James soldiers on. This is a fascinating look at the training process these heroic dogs go through interwoven with terrific suspense and an occasional look at the world through Maggie’s eyes. I loved this book and dog lovers for sure shouldn’t miss it. 1/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SUSPECT by Robert Crais: A love affair between two wounded individuals, but nothing like your ordinary love story. One of the two is Scott, a police officer shot during a night time assault that also killed his partner; Stephanie. The other is a German Shepherd named Maggie who had served several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a marine dog in which she sniffed out explosives. Her handler was killed by an exploding IED and she was wounded in the same explosion. After his recovery from the wound received in the assault Scott refuses to take a medical retirement from the force and is transferred to the police department’s K9 corps where he is teamed with Maggie. The dog had been donated to the department but is deemed suspect due to her wounds. Scott and Maggie bond in a way that only can happen between a human and a dog. The perpetrators of the assault that wounded Scott and killed his partner have not been apprehended nine months after the crime occurred and Scott is allowed to work with the detective team that has been investigating the crime. Crais paints a a picture of the training that goes into bonding a police officer and his partner animal. He describes the feelings of each and does a fantastic job of making the possible thought processes of the dog come alive in her growing relationship with her partner. Robert Crais obviously loves dogs and allows this love to come out in his descriptions of the development of Maggie’s aid in helping Scott and the police department finally come up with answers to the mystery of the assault and individuals involved in it. Many of Robert Crais’ books feature either Elvis Cole or Joe Pike, but he has a fascinating point of departure from his norm in Suspect. He is as good at character development and plot in this stand alone novel as he is in his other books, and the inclusion of Maggie as one of the characters developed is quite unique and fascinating. An engrossing read with a satisfying end and posing the question of whether Scott and Maggie will appear in future Robert Crais books. 2/13 Paul Lane
SUSPECT by Robert Crais: LAPD cop Scott James and his new partner Maggie share a common bond. Each was shot and nearly died in actions in which their respective partners were killed. Scott lost his partner Stephanie in a shocking nighttime assault by unidentified men killed. Maggie is a German shepherd who survived three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan sniffing explosives before losing her handler to an IED. They are each other’s last chance. Shunned and shunted to the side, they set out to investigate the one case that no one wants them to touch: the identity of the men who murdered Stephanie. It is an incredible journey of discovery as each tries to make their other whole. Crais doesn’t need Elvis Cole or Joe Pike to turn out a first rate thriller. 2/13 Jack Quick
SUSPECT by Michael Robotham: Interesting debut from Australia. Joe O’Loughlin is a London psychologist who suffers from Parkinson ’s disease and even worse, is the primary suspect in the killing of Nurse Catherine Mary McBride. Joe has to somehow convince the police that he ahs been falsely accused so he can return to wife Julianne and eight-year-old daughter Charlie. The book is much easier to read than to classify. Is it a psychological thriller or is it a conspiracy thriller. Actually it’s a bit of both told from a very unusual point of view. I look forward to reading more from Robotham. 08/09 Jack Quick
SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES by Sandra Ruttan: I don’t normally pay much attention to blurbs, but when you see Ken Bruen and Robert Fate both on the same cover, you really want to see what’s inside. Reporter Lara Kelly and policeman Tymen Farraday are the unlikely team attempting to solve the mystery of a videotape that appears to depict the death of a woman in this gritty debut. Lara’s newspaper story causes the police chief to assign Farraday to discredit her but when potential evidence is stolen and Lara is attacked, Farraday is forced to put aside his negative feelings about reporters and work with her to solve the murder and protect her from the killer. Two more murders occur as they are seeking the answer. In a town where one person holds all the power, not even the police can be trusted. Cozy fans beware, this is one police procedural with the real stuff. 01/07 Jack Quick
SWAN PEAK by James Lee Burke: The seventeenth Dave Robicheaux novel, and they just keep getting better. Dave has accepted the offer of long-time friend Albert Hollister to come to the Bitterroot Mountains of Western Montana to escape the post-Katrina blues. Wife Molly and friend Cletus Purcell come along and they look forward to an entire summer of fishing and relaxing. Unfortunately, Clete runs across a hardass who was a driver for mobster Sally Dio, killed in a plane crash in Black Cherry Blues, the third Robicheaux outing. The thug now works for Ridley Wellstone, a wealthy ne’er do well who counts among his antagonists, retired English professor Albert Hollister. The discovery of the body of a college student, shot execution style, found not far from the body of the dead boy’s raped and murdered girlfriend, coupled with Clete becoming enamored of Jamie Sue Wellstone, wife of Ridley’s brother, Leslie, and throw in Jimmy Dale Greenwood, prison escapee and Jamie Sue’s former lover, and you have the beginnings of a mess. For good measure add in sadistic prison director Troyce Nix in pursuit of Jimmy Dale, and the “Reverend” Sonny Click, and you know there will fists flying and maybe bullets as well, before it all gets pulled back together. If this were Home Run Derby, it would be no contest. Burke has hit it out of the park once again. 07/08 Jack Quick
SWAP by John McFetridge: Difficult to follow tale of Toronto’s criminal underworld. A Detroit born Afghanistan veteran is well suited to provide leadership and weaponry to Toronto’s biker gangs who are gaining control of all of the local vice – narcotics, sex, and so on. The police are portrayed as being basically inept so it is up to the bad guys to screw themselves up, which “Get” does when he gets involved with stick-up artist Sunitha who wants him to join her in an attempt to rob the biker’s gold bullion drug money. Interesting premise but too many characters, too many twists, and plot not well organized. Sorry. 09/09 Jack Quick
SWAPPING PAINT by Jim & Joyce Lavene: Even a casual race fan might pick up on the title of this book – NASCAR for two cars bumping together at speeds about three times what you drive on the highway. However, it would take a Die-Hard (former sponsor) fan to understand the angst of risking an eighteen-month jail term for breaking and entering in order to recover the personalized license plate of Rusty Wallace (former driver). In this high-speed romp, NASCAR driver Ricky Sanders is dead. Its up to former Chicago policeman Glad Wysznewski to solve the murder (since his brother-in-law is a prime suspect) so he can get on with partying in the infield of Lowe’s Motor Speedway and the Coca-Cola 600. As a mystery, this is a pretty well written book, but for a race fan, its potentially nirvana with equal parts of cold beer and hot exhaust blended into the mix. Recommended, particularly for racin’ fans. 05/07 Jack Quick
THE SWEET DEAD LIFE by Joy Preble: In the five years since her father left, Jenna Samuels’s life has gone steadily downhill. Her mother has become a recluse, her teenage brother supports the family with two part time jobs, and Jenna is showing signs of some strange and indeterminate illness. Then things get weird. Jenna and her brother are almost killed in a car accident on the way to the hospital. Amazingly, Jenna survives and her brother, Casey, comes out not just unscathed but improved. Turns out Casey did die in the accident after all. Now he’s been sent to serve as a guardian angel and help put his family back together by finding out what’s wrong with Jenna and their mom and what happened to their dad. The Sweet Dead Life is Joy Preble’s contribution to the growing list of teen mysteries for the new SOHO Teen imprint. In Jenna and Casey, Preble has created convincing and likeable teen characters with real problems. The mystery is well plotted and her overall style is light and funny. The combination of paranormal and mystery elements along with the snarky teen heroine makes The Sweet Dead Life a fun and easy read, perfect for a teen audience. 5/13 Becky Lejeune
Sweet Dream Baby by Sterling Watson: I was given this book by a friend-of-a-friend, who called it a thriller, and it was blurbed by Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly, and Elmore Leonard, so I started reading it, waiting for a murder. About halfway through, I finally realized that it is not a thriller, but rather Southern fiction, but I was totally engrossed in it which surprised me as that is my least favorite genre. I loved this beautifully written and very compelling coming-of-age story. It’s the 1950s and eleven-year-old Travis is being sent to spend the summer with his grandparents and his sixteen-year-old Aunt Delia in the tiny town of Widow Rock, in Florida’s Panhandle. His Japanese mother is having a nervous breakdown, and his hard-as-nails father can’t deal with both of them. Travis’s grandfather is the Sheriff, and his grandmother is a southern lady prone to having headaches, while Delia is a beautiful girl and the belle of the town. Delia and Travis spend all their time together, listening to the radio and sharing confidences. She teaches him a lot, like how to drive, to skinny dip and the facts of life, and he simply worships her, making the kick-ass ending most unexpected and disturbing, and very well done. It turns out that while it’s not exactly a thriller, it is a character study of one of the creepiest psychopaths I’ve read about in a while. And it’s the first book of a trilogy, with the second book much more of a thriller. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SWEET MAN IS GONE by Peggy Ehrhart: I will say up front that cozies, in particular, musical cozies are not my forte, but this one is pretty good. Maxx Maxwell is trying to make it with her band, Maximum Blues, which is finally beginning to attract some attention. Then her guitar player, one Jimmy Nashville, is found dead in an alley outside his apartment building. The somewhat cursory police investigation concludes he jumped from his ninth floor apartment window. Maxwell doesn’t want to believe this so she starts her own sleuthing. She finds a tape and some handwritten music in Jimmy’s apartment that leads her to a recently deceased country singer. Then Jimmy’s girl friend is found in her tub, wrists slashed. This is too much even for Walter Stallings, the soon to be retired cop, who had been handling Jimmy’s case. If you have ever been around the bar band scene, you will enjoy the atmosphere and the quirky cast of characters, who, believe it or not, probably are pretty well accurately portrayed. It will be interesting to see if Maxwell has any sustaining power for further outings. 09/08 Jack Quick
THE SWEET SCENT OF BLOOD by Suzanne McLeod: Genny Taylor, a talented member of the Spellcracker team, is a sidhe with a secret. Half fae and half vampire, it’s her vamp side that she must keep hidden at all cost. As an employee at Spellcrackers, it’s her job to fix or solve magical problems. But the witches don’t work for—or with—vampires. Until now. A new case involving a possible vampire as a murderer has the vampire community in an uproar and the higher ups suspect magic even though no evidence of a spell has been found. It’s by special request that Genny is put on the case, but can she crack the spell without risking exposure of her own secrets? This first in McLeod’s series is an interesting concept and an intricate world. Nice set up for the follow-up installment, The Cold Kiss of Death. I’ll admit, however, that I sort of felt like I’d jumped in at the middle. Genny’s background and the details of the series set-up are eventually revealed, but I was still somewhat confused by the end of the story. Hopefully more will be explained in later installments. 05/11 Becky Lejeune
SWEETHEART by Chelsea Cain: In Cain’s follow up to Heartsick, we find Portland Detective Archie Sheridan still getting over from his “encounter” with serial killer Gretchen Lowell of two months prior. This is virtually impossible, however, as Archie and Gretchen have a twisted sadistic bond that runs deep. A woman’s body is found in Forest Park, the same location of the first of Gretchen’s Beauty Killings ten years ago. Archie can’t help but believe the murders are related, but since Gretchen is in prison it seems to be impossible. Archie begins to work with Susan Ward, a reporter, and when they uncover the identity of the body it becomes a high-profile case. But when Gretchen escapes from prison, Archie is unable to focus on the case. He knows he is the only one that can bring in Gretchen, once and for all. But just how much is he willing to sacrifice? He almost lost his life once, is her apprehension worth risking it again? Just like Heartsick, Sweetheart pulls you in from the first few lines. The storyline is faced paced and powerful. The various sub plots slowly weave together, and the ending appears with the reader begging for more. I sincerely hope Cain has another Archie Sheridan book up her sleeves. The demand definitely exists. 09/08 Jennifer Lawrence
SWEETHEART by Chelsea Cain: In Heartsick, Chelsea Cain introduced readers to one of the most disturbing serial killers imaginable. Now, in this second of the series, Gretchen Lowell returns with a vengeance. A body has been discovered in Portland’s Forest Park—again. This same location was where Lowell’s first suspected victim was discovered, a case that has long weighed on Detective Archie Sheridan. Lowell claimed to have killed two hundred people. To date, Sheridan has been able to close just over forty of the files. Heather Gerber’s file is still open. This new body is not tied to Lowell’s crimes, but unfortunately for Sheridan hits too close to home. And when Gretchen Lowell escapes from prison, Sheridan will have to deal with the fallout. Meanwhile, Susan Ward is unable to let the new Forest Park case rest, especially after her mentor dies in a suspicious car accident. Chelsea Cain literally holds nothing back. This dark series is brutally violent and intense, but hits the spot for readers looking for a chilling read that will keep them up all night. 03/11 Becky Lejeune
THE SWEETHEARTS’ KNITTING CLUB by Lori Wilde: Legend has it that the town of Twilight, Texas was built upon the site that brought two young lovers together after years apart. Now, famous for its romantic history, the town draws reunited sweethearts and tourists from all around. Flynn MacGregor’s own high school sweetheart, Sheriff Beau Trainer, has been asking for her hand for ten years now. But Flynn, a woman who has put everyone’s needs before her own for so long, has managed to hold out until now. Senior year, Flynn fell hard for bad boy Jesse Calloway. But when Jesse was arrested and sent to prison, Flynn had to rethink everything. Now, just as she’s ready to give in to Beau’s latest request, Jesse returns to town with two things on his mind: a new life and Flynn, the girl who got away. Flynn will be given a second chance to follow her heart, but will it be Jesse or Beau who makes her dreams come true? The Sweethearts’ Knitting Club is a charming and lighthearted romance with a memorable cast of characters. Readers will fall in love with Twilight and the Sweethearts. Luckily, Twilight will be setting for Wilde’s next title as well. 12/09 Becky Lejeune
SWEETIE’S DIAMONDS by Raymond Benson: Off the wall, in spades. David Boston is thirteen going on fourteen. He is near-sighted, the tallest kid in his class, and a sufferer of Marfan syndrome which precludes his playing any sports. He is also quite smart. David’s mom and dad have been divorced for over a year and he and his mom have moved into an apartment where, while unpacking, he discovers a box of unmarked videotapes. They are hardcore adult movies from the 1970’s starring one Lucy Luv, a porn star who mysteriously disappeared in 1980. David knows her well – as Diane Boston, his mom. Things then start to get interesting. Diane has a sister who has been comatose for over two decades, her care paid for from money Ms. Boston gets from fencing high quality diamonds every few months. What has suddenly become a very complicated mother-son relationship spins even further away from normal when a West Coast porn czar with organized crime ties finds out that Diane was not murdered as was thought, and he sets out top recover the stolen diamonds that had disappeared with her. Delightfully twisty with one surprise after another. Benson knows how to structure a high-octane thriller as well as anyone. 05/11 Jack Quick
SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE by Alan Bradley: The title is a misnomer; the sweetness in this book starts at the top and runs all the way through. Twelve-year-old Flavia de Luce is a precocious, brilliant, brave child stuck in a motherless home in a small English village in 1950. She loves chemistry and has her own lab, where she’s completely fascinated by poisons. When she finds a dying man in her yard, she thinks it exciting. But when her father is arrested for his murder, Flavia knows she can solve the crime and save the day. Of course she stumbles into a little trouble in the process, but nothing that she can’t get out of. This book was entirely too cute for me, and I couldn’t help but wonder why it is being marketed as a book for adults. It’s received accolades, in part because it is a first novel by a septuagenarian. Nevertheless it seems to me that its appeal would lie more with prepubescent girls who admire Harriet the Spy and Pippi Longstocking. 05/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SWEETSMOKE by David Fuller: Sweetsmoke Plantation is a Virginia tobacco plantation. As the Civil War rages on in the background. Cassius Howard, a slave on this plantation, risks his life to avenge the murder of Emoline Justice, a freed slave. Emoline saved Cassius’ life after his wife died and his son was torn away from him, and became his surrogate mother. During his stay with her, she taught him how to read and write. Cassius uses this forbidden skill to his advantage and leaves the plantation to search for Emoline’s murderer. The amount of research Fuller put into this work is very evident. We learn about slave customs, including marriage and social standings. This book is not only a story of a search of vengeance, but a history lesson as well. I don’t recall ever reading a book that delved so deeply into the slave world of the Civil War South. Fuller’s vivid descriptions and detail of the characters is probably the biggest asset. We discover so much about the characters of Howard Hoke, the plantation owner, Cassius Howard, Emoline Justice, and the slaves of Sweetsmoke that we feel as though we know them personally. We feel their pain and we suffer along with them. I was lucky enough to obtain an early release copy of this book, and I am forever grateful. I have no doubt that this novel will soon join the ranks as an amazing piece of Civil War fiction like The March and Gone with the Wind. 09/08 Jennifer Lawrence
SWEPT OFF HER FEET by Hester Browne: When Evie is asked to appraise the contents of an old Scottish estate—discreetly mind, they wouldn’t want it to get out that they’re having financial trouble—she couldn’t be more pleased. It’s like a dream come true: an historic castle filled with the memories and lives of the past. Plus, Kettlesheer is home to a famous annual ball featuring hours of Scottish reeling. Though Evie is not part of that world, she dreams about it always. If she can uncover some treasure hidden amongst the amassed belongings of the estate, she may be able to save the McAndrews’ family home. And, if she can impart some sort of wisdom on the city-boy heir, Robert, then her job will truly have been a success. Of course Evie starts to fall for Robert, and Kettlesheer, a little too hard. Will she be able to leave the dream behind and return to her own real world? Will she have to? Hester Browne’s latest is a fun read that most assuredly hits the chick-lit/contemporary romance spot. Satisfying in every aspect. 03/11 Becky Lejeune
Swift As Desire by Laura Esquivel: I never read Like Water for Chocolate, so I can’t compare it. All I can say is this book is one gorgeous love story.
SWORD OF LIBERTY by Loren J Enns: This was published as a paperback and more a vehicle for the author’s opinions than a novel. John Laurens, a marine corps special ops warrior is shown as a larger than life, self styled hero that is plunged constantly into different missions by the supervisor of his crack secret unit. In the middle of his constant assignments Laurens is called to the island of St Croix to meet with lawyers holding a will from a legend of the American past naming him as sole heir to a sword previously held by heroes of liberty in other times and places. Oh yes, and incidentally John meets a gorgeous woman sent to assassinate him by forces within the government. Very quickly he thwarts the assassination attempt and they fall in love.
Enns was obviously disgusted with the free spending style of the US government and wanted to publicly denounce it and provide a clarion call to the people to peacefully and legally change the government. As part of the story we are brought back to ancient Greece, Rome and England in order to see how the peoples of these countries fought for and earned personal liberty while providing for the growth that economic and personal freedom foster.
Unfortunately, John Laurens and his girlfriend are not at all fleshed out and are used only as characters existing to give some life to Enns’ opinions on what is happening to “We the People” and what can be done peacefully to change the stultifying status quo. Great reading this is not, but the ideas expressed could provide some food for thought. The actual sword that John inherits has a supernatural background and is the connection with past battles for personal liberties. 8/12 Paul Lane
THE SWORN by Gail Z. Martin: War is coming to the Winter Kingdoms. The Sworn have seen signs that evil is stirring, an evil that has been buried for centuries, an evil that they have been trying to suppress for ages. Signs point to a dark summoner in their midst, one who would raise the dead as his army and awaken beings that have slept until now. Fans of Gail Z. Martin’s Chronicles of the Necromancer will love this return to the Winter Kingdoms, but this first in the new Fallen Kings Cycle also offers a great opportunity for new readers to jump into the world as well. In all honesty, the prologue bringing readers up to speed was more confusing than helpful for me as a newbie, but thankfully the book itself proved to be easy to follow. An excellent showcase in world-building and a story that is completely captivating, I’m looking forward not only to the follow-up and continuation of the Fallen Kings Cycle, but to starting Chronicles in the meantime as well. 1/11 Becky Lejeune
SWORN TO SILENCE by Linda Castillo: The body of a young woman has been discovered in the tiny town of Painters Mill, Ohio. She has been mutilated and defiled beyond imagination. But this isn’t the first time such a travesty has occurred in this quiet town. Sixteen years ago, a serial killer struck. Chief of Police Katie Burkholder was fourteen at the time, and would have been a victim herself if she hadn’t killed the man first. Her father and brother buried the body and the crime was never spoken of again. Everything about this new scene points to the same killer. How then, if the man is dead, could his crimes be repeating after all this time? And where has he been for over a decade? As Katie tries desperately to hide her own past and still uncover the identity of the killer, the bodies begin to pile up and the small community grows impatient with their Chief’s secrets. Castillo is the author of a slew of romantic suspense novels, but Sworn to Silence promises to be the breakout title for the author. Katie Burkholder, a character I hope we see much more of in the future, is a great lead with a different background—a former member of a close-knit Amish community who has returned home to become Chief of Police. Castillo’s debut thriller is not for readers with a weak stomach either. Fans of Thomas Harris and Chelsea Cain are going to love this one. 06/09 Becky Lejeune
SYMPATHY BETWEEN HUMANS by Jodi Compton: In the previous book, The 37th Hour, a murder was committed and Shiloh, the husband of Minnesota Detective Sarah Pribek was sentenced to prison time in Wisconsin for the car theft which occurred at the same time. In this excellent follow-up Pribek is balancing several delicate cases while playing a cat and mouse game with the former Dallas, Texas inspector now assigned to Mankato who wants to prove her guilty of the murder that occurred in The 37th Hour. To whom does she owe her loyalties? What if she is charged with the crime, which she didn’t commit, but knows who did? Intense, but would probably not be as good if you haven’t read The 37th Hour first. Not yet up to John Sandford or P.J. Tracy but still an excellent third Twin Cities voice. 10/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.