T IS FOR TRESPASS by Sue Grafton: I have enjoyed to a greater or lesser extent each of the previous nineteen Kinsey Millhone crime novels, but number twenty left me disappointed. Kinsey’s elderly neighbor, Gus Vronksy, is injured in a fall and she gets involved in his care. After Gus’ great-niece hires a home aide, Solana Rojas, Kinsey begins to suspect something isn’t quite right with this picture. We know what the problem is, since we have already learned that Rojas is an imposter. So there really isn’t a lot of mystery here, other than the final outcome. Grafton’ writing skills make the book worth reading, but again, not her finest . 01/08 Jack Quick
T IS FOR TRESPASS by Sue Grafton: The twentieth installment of the Kinsey Millhone series is finally here. T begins with Kinsey facing something of a dry spell in her normally exciting career. She’s serving up subpoenas, handing out eviction notices, and working on an accident investigation, all things that bring in money but are a bit ho-hum for our favorite PI. She should enjoy the quiet while it lasts, though. One morning as she is leaving for work, Henry and Kinsey find that their elderly neighbor Gus has fallen and dislocated his shoulder. With no one around to help, Gus is pretty banged up by the time they get to him. His great-great niece lives in New York and has to get back to her job so she places and ad in the paper for a part-time home health care provider. Solana Rojas seems to be perfect for the job. Gus’s niece asks Kinsey to run a basic background check on the woman and everything comes back clean. After just a few days though, Gus seems to be getting worse. Kinsey becomes suspicious and starts to dig a little deeper. She stirs up a hornet’s nest when Solana, a woman who has made a career out of identity theft, embezzlement, and elder abuse, discovers that Kinsey has been snooping around. Solana has no intention of getting caught and will do whatever is necessary to make sure Kinsey stays out of her way. Amazing that there are only six more to go in this series and Grafton is still just as good as she was in the beginning. 12/07 Becky Lejeune
Tagged for Murder by Elaine Flinn: Flinn’s newest is a worthy sequel to her first effort, Dealing in Murder. Molly Doyle is back and this time her estranged sister Carrie shows up with her twelve year old daughter in tow. Molly can’t stand her sister, but she won’t take that out on her new niece. Good thing, too, because she no sooner meets her then Carrie drops her off for a few hours – which turns into quite a bit longer than that. Seems that Carrie has moved to Japan. Meanwhile one of the antique dealers in town has a heart attack and dies at a show, but police chief Randall is acting mighty strange about a heart attack victim. There’s much more here than meets the eye, and Molly is determined to find out what’s going on once again. Carmel, California and the antique business make a very interesting background in this terrific page turner. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
Take Me, Take Me with You by Lauren Kelly: Lara Quade is a research assistant at Princeton University and a very lonely woman. A childhood accident left her physically and emotionally scarred and eventually estranged from her family. When she receives a ticket to a concert from an anonymous benefactor, she meets her seatmate, a man named Zedrick Dewe, who was also gifted with a ticket. Theirs is an uncomfortable yet synergistic meeting during which Lara invites Zedrick back to her apartment. While their intimacy ends in violence, Lara becomes nearly obsessed with Zedrick; she tracks him down, nudging their relationship further along. As they embark on the process of learning about each other, Lara gradually gains the courage to confront her painful past. But it’s the relationship between Zedrick and Lara that is at the crux of this haunting and beautifully written suspense novel. Kelly is the new pseudonym of Joyce Carol Oates as she steps into the suspense genre. 05/04 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2004 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.
TAKEDOWN by Brad Thor: Scot Harvath, covert counter terrorism operative for the Department of Homeland Security abducts an Algerian bomb-maker out of Montreal while another U.S. team snatches the head of al-Qaeda’s weapons of mass destruction committee from Somalia and stashes him in a secret facility in New York City. All hell breaks loose when Al-Qaeda operative Abdul Ali comes to New York to rescue his Al-Qaeda cohort. Before its over the President’s daughter is seriously injured while bullets fly, bombs explode, and thousands are killed. Another post 9-11, “don’t get mad, get even” treatment which is more awash in blood that most. I wouldn’t pay much for the Arabic translation rights on this one. 11/06 Jack Quick
TAKEN by Robert Crais: This latest entry in the Elvis Cole & Joe Pike series features both protagonists on fairly equal footing. Cole is the featured subject in a newspaper magazine spread which gets him a phone call from a woman who is convinced her daughter has run off with her boyfriend. Cole investigates and finds that they have been kidnapped as part of an illegal immigrant mass gang kidnapping. Competing international gangs bring truckloads of illegals into California, only to have them kidnapped by rival gangs. They are held for small ransom amounts which are repeated on a weekly basis until the ability to pay has been exhausted, then the victims are murdered. Cole ends up held hostage as well, and Pike brings in fellow mercenary Joe Stone to help find Cole. Crais delivers lots of action with only occasional touches of humor, but that palpable tension is what really propels this terrific story. 1/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
TAKEN by Robert Crais: Taken is the fifteenth Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novel and it’s the first to feature them both equally. Elvis Cole “The World’s Greatest Detective’ is hired to find a young Latina and her Anglo boyfriend who are kidnapped by bandits along the Mexican border. Cole soon discovers what has happened to her and he enters into a risky arrangement with a Korean organized criminal. It’s a desperate move and Cole knows it. When the plan doesn’t work out, Cole is seized by the bajadores and Pike must come to his rescue. Pike follows the trail left by his captors and holds nothing back from search for his best friend. The feds are also on the hunt for Cole and Pike must find him first before the federal agents make mistakes that could blow Cole’s cover – and his life. 9/12 Jack Quick
TAKEN by Chris Jordan: Kate Bickford’s worst nightmare has just come true. Her eleven-year-old son has been kidnapped. Stephen Cutter, an ex-military man and the brains behind the kidnapping plot, promises Kate that if she follows his very careful instructions, she will have her son back in twenty-four hours. Kate awakens to find police on her doorstep and a dead body in her basement. Just as Cutter planned, Kate is arrested and accused of the murder. No one is inclined to look for the boy in light of these developments and he is free to carry out the remainder of his plot. Kate’s time to find her son is quickly running out for both of them. Chris Jordan’s debut thriller is a hit that will have readers guessing until the end. 07/07 Becky Lejeune
TAKEOVER by Lisa Black: Forensic scientist Theresa MacLean knows all too well the dangers that come with being romantically involved with a fellow member of law enforcement. She knows all about the long work hours and the interrupted dates, but when her fiancé, Detective Paul Cleary is taken hostage in a bank robbery, Theresa must face her worst nightmare. Theresa is not willing to sit by and do nothing, and she’s also not willing to leave everything in the hands of hotshot negotiator, Chris Cavanaugh. In fact, Theresa is sure that her talents in the field of forensics may be the only thing that can help Paul. At the very least she hopes that her skills as a forensic scientist can help identify the perps’ motives and identities. Then an opportunity presents itself: Paul, has been shot and Theresa trades places with him. Her new position on the inside gives her a better chance of figuring the whole thing out and hopefully escaping with her life. Takeover is a good first effort. Overall, the book is an interesting mix of police procedural and forensic mystery with a believable plot and an interesting lead character. The twist ending will probably come as no surprise to any savvy mystery fan, but it’s an entertaining read. 08/08 Becky Lejeune
A TALE OF TWO SISTERS by Anna Maxted: Bestselling author Maxted (Being Committed) hits a home run with yet another delicious story about relationships, this time between sisters. Successful barrister Cassie is younger, prettier, and appears to be happily married, and Lizbet, who writes a sex column for a men’s magazine, is chunky and, along with her boyfriend Tim, the potty king, has her head in the clouds. Despite these cavernous differences, the sisters are somehow as thick as thieves, even when Lizbet accidentally gets pregnant while Cassie, after a year of trying, finds that she can’t conceive. Perhaps it is the strength of siblings struggling together to survive their blundering parents that keeps the two so close, despite the revelation of shocking secrets that threaten to tear them apart. Written in alternating voices, their stories are compelling and heartfelt while still displaying Maxted’s trademark humor. If you have a sister, you’ll want to share this book with her, and if you don’t, you’ll wish you did. 08/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2006 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.
TALLGRASS by Sandra Dallas: Unfortunately the liner notes for this book evoke TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Although good, I doubt TALLGRASS will be among Amazon’s top 500 books in 2054 as 1960’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is today. The time is World War II; the location is eastern Colorado. Thirteen-year-old Rennie Stroud is Scout Finch, and her dad Loyal plays the part of Atticus, although as a beet farmer instead of a lawyer. Japanese-Americans from California have been forcibly re-located to the Tallgrass internment camp near the backwater town of Ellis, Colorado. When young Susan Reddick is raped and murdered suspicion is placed on the internees, although there is no evidence to support such a contention. The who and why of the murder itself is illuminating. A good read but not on the scale of TKAMB. 12/07 Jack Quick
TAN LINES by J.J. Salem: This is a Jacqueline Susann–style thriller that would shock even Ms. Susann. Three young women spend a wild Hamptons summer reinventing themselves. Liza Pike is an unhappy fashionista feminist and political media pundit contemplating divorce. Kellyanne Downey is a former actress and current mistress of wealthy businessman Walter Isherwood. Indie rock chick Billie Shelton finds herself on a downhill slide. Put these three together in a posh Hamptons summer rental – let the estrogen flow and don’t take any prisoners. What is it they say in the movie ratings – contains nudity and adult language. You betcha. Elsewhere, the end of summer is capped with a leisurely Labor Day weekend, but in the Hamptons summer isn’t over without a grisly murder, a premature birth and a public meltdown. If you are looking for fine literature it’s not here – but if you are in the mood for a steamy summer beach read – it fills the bill. 07/08 Jack Quick
TANNER’S TIGER by Lawrence Block: First published in 1968, this is the fifth book in the series featuring Evan Tanner, “whose sleep center was destroyed in Korea” but who remains “not merely conscious but energetically and productively awake 24 hours a day.” Set firmly in that era, Tanner is investigating the Cuban Pavilion at the Montreal Expo where a kidnapping occurs. He gets involved with Quebec nationalists, especially a bright and beautiful young woman named Arlette, who teams up with Tanner to sort out the Cuban plot, rescue the kidnapped Minna and frustrate the militants with Block’s normal wit and wisdom. Dated, but still enjoyable. 03/06 Jack Quick
A TAP ON THE WINDOW by Linwood Barclay: Barclay delivers another book characterized by lots of permutations and combinations in the plot guaranteeing the total attention of the reader. In all of his novels, that which seems to be apparent is not, and we are always led on a fascinating round about trip to a satisfying ending. This is again the case in his latest book. Cal Weaver and his wife Donna have moved to a small town in New York State after Cal was asked to leave a police force in another town due to an incident involving violence in an arrest. Two months prior to the opening of the book their son Scott was killed in what is described as a tragic accident. The couple drift apart faced with the horror of losing their son and just go through the motions of living while trying to work through the tragedy. Cal now makes his living as a private detective and Donna has a clerical position with the local police department thanks to her brother who is the chief of police. One evening while Cal is driving home after working a case he stops at a light and hears a tapping on the passenger side window. The tapper is a young girl that he knows is in high school and knew his dead son. Both to get her off the street and also possibly find out if she knows anything more about Scott’s death he lets her into the car . The girl asks if he can stop at a restaurant so that she can go to the bathroom. Cal does so, but after waiting for her for quite a while goes inside and does not see her anywhere. He returns to his car and apparently the girl returns and sits down again. Problem is that it is immediately apparent that she is not the same girl that he first picked up, and that entered the restaurant. As the title suggests this action opens up a round of events that includes murders, corrupt cops, public scandals and political intrigue. Each twist and turn turns into another set of possibilities and brings up more questions that require answers. Every action is logical based on the facts presented by Barclay and keeps the reader glued to the book. The ending is not an all’s well that ends well finish but is in line with the sequence presented. A very engrossing read which will keep the reader glued to the book until finished. 8/13 Paul Lane
TARGET by Simon Kernick: Thriller writer Rob Fallon had a little too much to drink. Otherwise he would never have ended up in the apartment of the ex-girlfriend of his best friend. His memories afterward indicated two men broke into the apartment, abducted Jenny and tried to kill him. He barely escaped with his life and eventually made it to the police station in London’s West End. After telling his story to a sympathetic female DS, he returns with her to the scene. They find no evidence to support his claim, the doorman didn’t see him, the surveillance tape doesn’t indicate Rob and Jenny were there, and both the doorman and Jenny’s father say she is out of country on holiday. When a fearful Rob, knowing Jenny’s life is in danger, can’t let things go, he becomes the target of faceless killers. What is it they are so desperate to hide? How does an ordinary girl like Jenny get involved? Answers or death. It’s that simple. 04/09 Jack Quick
TARGET LANCER by Max Allan Collins: Everyone of a certain age knows exactly where they were when they got word that President Kennedy had been shot and killed in Dallas and many of us saw Jack Ruby kill Lee Harvey Oswald in the assassination’s aftermath. Long before November 22, 1963, Nathan Heller, “P.I. to the Stars,” knows that a conspiracy is in the works. Several years earlier, Heller had been involved with the Kennedys, the Mob, and the CIA in the early stages of a plan to assassinate Fidel Castro. Heller now realizes that he is the only one who knows all the players and may be the one person who can prevent a devastating political assassination of the man known to the Secret Service as “Lancer,” John Fitzgerald Kennedy. 12/12 Jack Quick
TARGETS OF OPPORTUNITY by Jeffery S. Stephens: It was a match made in hell – actually Pyongyang, North Korea. A ruthless South American and Kim Jong-Il’s North Korea have joined forces in a diabolic plot against the US. In a classic case of mid-direction, they have made it look like the plotters are operatives of the Middle East. The fanatics stage a stunning diversion in the Caribbean, mercilessly downing a passenger jet and unleashing an assault on a French intelligence installation. Its up to Jordan Sandor to get to real enemy in North Korea. A small team sent into the area provides intel that plunges Sandor into a frantic race against time, struggling to defeat a shadowy figure—a master terrorist with a plan of destruction so perfectly disguised that even with the new knowledge he has gathered, Sandor cannot guess where or how he will strike. A page turner, for sure. 9/12 Jack Quick
TARNISHED BEAUTY by Cecilia Samartin: Jamilet is a beautiful young woman from a small town in Mexico. Throughout her life she has been shunned by local townspeople because of a horrible birthmark that taints her back and part of her legs. She flees to Los Angeles illegally in order to seek treatment for her birthmark and begins working at a local mental institution. Her patient is an elderly man named Antonio, a difficult and angry man from Spain. Antonio steals Jamilet’s illegal immigration documents and promises to return them upon the condition that she listens to his story. Jamilet agrees, and thus begins an unbreakable bond. Antonio’s story details his pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago in Spain with his friend Tomas prior to joining the priesthood. Inspired by Antonio’s story, Jamilet learns that her mark does not define her as a person. Beauty is more than skin deep. She breaks herself free of the shell that has been preventing her from opening up and allowing herself to love. The ending of the story was a bit sudden; several aspects were left hanging, but this doesn’t detract from the powerful storytelling. 05/08 Jennifer Lawrence
TARNISHED ICONS by Stuart Kaminsky: After ten outings there has now been significant change in the life of Chief Inspector Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov:: His son Yosef has come to work in his department,; Colonel Yakovlev is Rostnikov’s new boss after the promotion of his former boss; and, he has had his bad leg amputated below the knee and is getting used to a new prosthetic leg. On the home front, Yosef has proposed to Elena Timofeyeva (the former Procurators niece) and wife Sarah has begun to have ‘episodes’ that might be related to the brain tumor she had removed. The latest crimes? Well there’s a murderer of Jews, a serial rapist, and a serial bomber, all to be identified and apprehended. Another awesome outing for Moscow’s most interesting cop. 03/08 Jack Quick
TAROKO GORGE by Jacob Ritari: A rambling first person stream of consciousness narrative about a disillusioned American reporter, and three Japanese schoolgirls who disappear into a dense and imposing Taroko Gorge, Taiwan’s largest national park. The journalists-who are themselves suspects-investigate the disappearance along with the girls’ distraught teacher, their bickering classmates, and a seasoned and wary Taiwanese detective. I just couldn’t get into the stream of things, but maybe others will find it satisfying. I came away feeling I had learned too much about things I didn’t care about and too little about the things I did care about. 02/10 Jack Quick
A TASTE OF MAGIC by Tracy Madison: Elizabeth Stevens has admittedly not been having the best of times lately. Her ex, after revealing that he was leaving her for another woman, has hired Liz and her bakery, A Taste of Magic, to make his new wedding cake. It probably wouldn’t be so bad if Liz had had anything resembling a relationship of her own for the past year, but sadly she has not. So when her grandmother gifts her with magical abilities on her 35th birthday, Liz has a lot to look forward to. Turns out Liz is descended from a gypsy witch and her own power shines when combined with her baking prowess. Soon she’s whipping up a batter of revenge for her ex, lust for her hunky neighbor, and even a little confidence for her friends. But of course, Liz is about to discover that the old adage, be careful what you wish for, is ever so true, and it could be that her greatest wish is closer than she thinks. This contemporary romance debut with a sweet touch of magic is the first in a new series — a cute and light read. 04/09 Becky Lejeune
THE TASTE OF NIGHT: THE SECOND SIGN OF THE ZODIAC by Vicki Pettersson: The Las Vegas Shadow troop has been awfully silent since the events of The Scent of Shadows. Joanna Archer knows that they are preparing for something big. As the Kairos, a star sign of Zodiac legend who is equal parts light and dark, Joanna fears that revealing what she knows will put her position in the troop at risk. Zodiac legend states that the Kairos will choose to fight for either light or shadow and that in choosing she will determine the outcome of the war. Joanna’s father, the Tulpa – a being brought into existence through thought alone – leader of the Shadows, believes that she can be turned. The leader of Troop 175 fears that this may be the case if Joanna cannot learn to control her Shadow abilities. When the Shadows unleash a terrifying virus on the citizens of Las Vegas, Joanna is finally forced to disclose her knowledge of the plans. Her admission leads to her exile from the troop. Now, Joanna must fight alone to save the people she loves and once again earn the trust of her team. Pettersson has created a brilliant mythology to support her Zodiac series. As each new part of the legend is revealed the story becomes more and more intriguing. Part X-Men and part Heroes, this series is incredible and I can’t wait to see what happens next. 04/07 Becky Lejeune
Tear This Heart Out by Angeles Mastretta: By turns violent yet tender, naive yet sexual, heartrending yet boisterously funny, feminist writer Mastretta takes us on a tour of post-revolutionary Mexico as we watch the coming of age of Catalina Guzman. At 15 she marries General Andres Ascencio, a highly ambitious, ruthless man more than twice her age, who has met his match in his smart, spunky child bride. Their life together is so hot it sizzles in this fascinating read. Translated by Margaret Sayers. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE TECHNOLOGISTS by Matthew Pearl: Matthew Pearl has earned a reputation as a master constructor of historical novels based on excellent research. The Technologists follows quite well in this path. It is set in the city of Boston in 1868 at the time that the newly chartered Massachusetts Institute of Technology is ready to graduate it’s first class. The situations, conversations, thoughts and behavior of the characters involved must certainly match the actualities of the day. And an underlying rivalry with the revered Harvard University is probably based on actualities of the day, when the Harvard emphasis on educating via liberal arts and molding the whole man (no women) was seen to make the technical emphasis featured at MIT suspect.
A series of events beginning with ships in Boston Harbor having their instruments fail at the same time causing chaos there and than having glass melting around the city causing injuries and one death leads to fear among the residents and visitors to Boston. A Harvard professor offers his services to the police to find the causes of these events, but Pearl pictures him as more than a little bumbling in spite of the actuality of his academic reputation of the time. The graduating class of MIT takes it upon themselves to look into these and following events as a means of proving that technology is useful in solving real problems based on scientific methodology.
Pearl introduces us to several characters that actually were at MIT and Harvard at the time, including Ellen Swallow who was the first woman to be allowed a technical education, and who in real life married one of the members of the first class, and than taught at MIT. Miss Swallow is pictured as she probably was due to the circumstances of her admittance and is interesting as her place at MIT indicates she should have been. The group eventually encounters the causes of the disasters, and are left as they receive their diplomas from the school. Absorbing reading and the obvious product of a good deal of right on research. 2/12 Paul Lane
TARGETS OF DECEPTION by Jeffery Stephens: Former CIA agent Jordan Sandor is reluctantly drawn back into action, when a series of violent events leads him to search out a new al-Qaeda conspiracy to initiate a new wave of cataclysmic assaults with poison gas. Sandor follows the deadly trail from New York to Florida to Paris and, ultimately, to the small town of Portofino on the Italian Riviera. Never sure who he can trust and who may be an enemy, Jordan relies on his experience, instincts and skills as he risks his life to uncover plans for attacks against the United States and its allies. When Sandor discovers a rogue agent behind the plot, he realizes he is the one man who can prevent the catastrophe. 6/12 Jack Quick
TEARS IN RAIN by Rosa Montero: By 2109, the countries of Earth have come together as the United States of Earth. Cloning and teleportation technology are regularly used and first contact with extraterrestrials is a thing of the past. Bruna Husky is a private investigator. She’s also a replicant, or rep, with just over four years left of her limited life span. After Bruna is nearly killed by another rep in her building, she’s hired by the Radical Replicant Movement to investigate a series of similar cases. Bruna’s neighbor fell victim to an illegal memory implant, a common element in a growing number of rep deaths. In the beginning, the deaths appeared to be suicides. The latest cases, however, have all happened in public places and in each instance the reps have managed to take out a number of others around them. Certain factions of the public have always been prejudice against the reps and with this new threat the tension becomes worse. Reps are now being perceived as a very real threat to the humans around them. The leader of the RRM hopes that Bruna can find who is behind the implants while also uncovering the purpose of what seems to be a plot aimed specifically at the reps themselves. Tears in Rain is both inspired by and also pays homage to Blade Runner. It’s an interesting mystery with a great sci-fi twist. This is Rosa Montero’s first book to be released in the States. 12/12 Becky Lejeune
A TEENY BIT OF TROUBLE by Michael Lee West: This is the sequel to Gone with a Handsomer Man, which was a delightful light mystery filled with quirky characters and humor. I didn’t find the sequel quite as engaging, probably because the surprise of these original characters was gone, but nonetheless it was still a terrific read. Teeny gets engaged but her high school boyfriend comes back into town and is trying hard to get her back, reminding me a bit of Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum’s triumvirate of love. Teeny accidentally witnesses what she thinks is a murder, and all kinds of craziness ensues, with more quirky characters like a child and a future mother-in-law, both seemingly spawns of the devil, to a creepy doctor, a self centered pharmacist and a computer geek bodyguard. More dead bodies turn up, but the darkness is lightened by all the humor and Teeny’s essential sweetness. All the story lines are skillfully woven together by the very satisfying ending, making this a successful sequel and the wait for the next volume that much more difficult. 6/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
Tell No One by Harlan Coben: The definitive page turner; this book had me wired until I finished it. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough! A great story that just keeps building and building along with believable, sympathetic characters makes this a winner. Don’t miss it. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
TEMPEST RISING by Nicole Peeler: Jane True has always known that she didn’t fit in in Rockabill, Maine. Until now, however, she’s not known that there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for this: she’s half selkie. Yes, strange but true, Jane’s mother, the woman who appeared in town one night totally nude and then disappeared without a trace, abandoning Jane and her father, was a selkie. But Jane doesn’t learn this until after she discovers a dead body floating in the ocean. Turns out, the dead man wasn’t quite what he seemed and this is when Jane is finally told the truth about the “others” who live among us. While working alongside the vampire investigator sent to solve the case, Jane will gets crash course in the supernatural and readers are taken along for the amazing ride. If you’re looking for fresh, new urban fantasy, you’ll definitely want to get your hands on Tempest Rising. Nicole Peeler’s debut is clever and fun, and Jane True is a totally loveable heroine. First in a new series with Tracking the Tempest due out next year. 10/09 Becky Lejeune
THE TEMPLAR SALVATION by Raymond Khoury: After 4 years, Khoury’s follow-up to his very popular The Last Templar begins in the year 1203. Constantinople is under siege; a small band of Knights Templars has snuck into the city and stolen valuable documents from the imperial library. After taking refuge in a monastery, the Templars are murdered, never having learned the contents of the documents. Now in the present day, an Iranian history professor is given an ultimatum: finish his work on a certain historical artifact, or his family will be killed. Meanwhile, FBI agent Sean Reilly is compelled to smuggle ancient documents out of the Vatican archives if he wants to see his lover, Tess, again. A warning – if you have not yet read The last Templar, you may be at a loss for some of the nuances, although Khoury does an adequate job of relating the back story. Overall, this very well constructed blend of historical mystery and present-day thriller doesn’t break any new ground, but there’s no denying Khoury is among the best of the Da Vinci Code clone writers. 11/10 Jack Quick
Temporary Sanity by Rose Connors: This is the sequel to Absolute Certainty, a first novel that was really superior. Connors has developed a character, Marty Nickerson, who is as real as it gets – flawed and fabulous. A single mom living on Cape Cod, in the first book she was a district attorney, but by the end she switched tables; in this new one she is now a practicing defense attorney, and the transition is smooth and believable. She is partnered with her lover, a former public defender named Harry Madigan. Her client is in a rather precarious position; he murdered the man who raped and murdered his seven year old son, and did it on live TV. This is no ordinary legal thriller; Nickerson has to tangle with both the moral and social implications and how a jury will deal with the situation. To further complicate things, she takes on another client, a woman who has been a victim of severe physical abuse by her lover, an upstanding citizen of the community – a parole officer. When he turns up dead, she stands accused and Nickerson has another volatile case on her hands. This is a gripping, emotional read with strong, believable characters from the lawyers and judges to the kids in the novel, and a wonderful sense of place to boot. Legal thrillers don’t get much better than this – don’t miss it. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
TEN by Gretchen McNeil: Meg and Minnie have never been invited to a party at White Rock House before. This weekend is different. Not only have they received the coveted invite, but the weekend promises to be the party of a lifetime. No parents, just a bunch of teens hanging out and drinking in a lavish house on a remote island. The first ten to arrive are stranded when a massive storm hits. Even the host has yet to show, but these ten are ready to make the best of it until everyone else arrives. Then they find the video. And then they start to die. The first death seems to have been a suicide. But then there’s another and another after that. There’s no denying now that something terrible and dangerous is happening. Somewhere on the island, a killer is hiding, and time is running out as the kids fall, one by one. Inspired by Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, McNeil has created a dark and twisted teen horror/mystery, reminiscent of the Christopher Pike books I read in my own teen days. McNeil’s second release is a satisfying read that left me guessing—and second guessing—until the very end. 11/12 Becky Lejeune
TEN BEACH ROAD by Wendy Wax: The title refers to an address on one of the most beautiful beaches in Florida, Pass-a-Grille. Madeline, Avery and Nicole have all been swindled out of their life savings by a Bernie Madoff type Ponzi scheme and the court awards these three strangers a share in a beachfront home. When the women show up to see their property, they find a beautiful old house that has been severely neglected and taken over by the elements. None of them has the resources to renovate, but the a local contractor agrees to front the money for a share of the profits, providing the women do all the grunt work. Without any other options, they move in and get to work, forming a new friendship along the way. They each have interesting stories; Madeline has just found out her husband lost his job six months previously, and has been pretending to go to work every day. Avery, a licensed architect, is in the middle of a divorce from her co-starring husband on a HGTV show, from which she has just been fired. Nicole has a millionaire matchmaker business that goes belly up when her funds vanish. The reader can’t help but care for these characters as they work to rebuild their only asset, and the ending has an unexpected twist. A very enjoyable, light read, rather like a HGTV reality show fleshed out on the page. 08/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
Ten Little Indians by Sherman Alexie: This new collection of short stories meets the high standards Alexie previously set in The Toughest Indian in the World. The stories are all engaging as his Indian characters all deal with the problems of life presented on and off the Rez.
Every reader who has a relationship with books will relate to the Corliss, the young Indian woman in the first story, who is seriously in love with books. She bemoans only having a “mirage library” in the school on the reservation where books have covers like all the classics but turn into cookbooks and auto repair manuals when you pick them up. She fantasizes about being buried in a coffin full of books. One day, she finds a book that talks to her and feels a need to track down the author, another Spokane Indian, in order to understand where he found his voice. And therein lies the tale.
The remaining stories are shorter but equally compelling and filled with a humor that is alternatively sly and generous.
Some reviewers have criticized Mr. Alexie’s universe as being too small. I disagree. Each of his stories is different and gives a new insight. If one can see the universe in a grain of sand, surely one can spend a long time taking a close look at the efforts of the Spokane tribe to survive, advance and yet preserve the best of their heritage. ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.
THE TENDERNESS OF WOLVES by Stef Penney: Penney’s stark portrayal of the Canadian wilderness is just one of the highlights of this literary debut. In 1860, two young girls went missing while on a day trip to pick berries. People in the small communities of Caulfield and Dove River still whisper theories of what happened even now – that’s because it’s the worst event in the history of the small colonial village until the murder of French trader, Laurent Jammet. Mrs. Ross, a woman with a questionable past, discovers the body while looking for her teenage son, Francis. Francis has been missing for two days and Mrs. Ross believes that the coincidence may cause people to suspect him of the crime. Her worst fears are realized when a team of inquirers is sent by the Hudson Bay Company to look into the murder. Jammet was not an employee of the Company, but it appears that he may have been conspiring to create his own competing trading company. Could this have been motive for his killing? As the newest addition to the nearest Company outpost, Donald Moody, has a lot to prove to the more seasoned members of the investigative team. He thinks that Francis could be a very important witness, at the very least. In an attempt to protect her son, Mrs. Ross sets out across the wilderness to find him first. What they all discover leads to a much larger conspiracy at hand. Both the deliberate pacing and the vivid portrayal of the unforgiving atmosphere make this one of the most interesting literary debuts of the year. Interestingly enough, Penney was battling agoraphobia at the time that she penned this novel. Some of that emotional turmoil no doubt played a part in the intense air of the novel. 07/07 Becky Lejeune
THE TENTH CASE by Joseph Teller: Early on in Joseph Teller’s debut legal thriller, a character borrows her husband’s Lamborghini for a ride down Park Avenue. When she decides she needs to return, she attempts a U-turn in mid-block where there are concrete median dividers. The result – a $400,000 one car accident and charges of driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, driving without a license, refusal to submit to a blood-alcohol test, and the clincher – failure to yield to a stationary object. Harrison J. Walker, Jaywalker, manages to get Samara Tannenbaum out of this mess, but now the stakes are much higher as the beautiful young ex-prostitute is accused of murdering her aging billionaire husband. It’s a first rate tale and the start of what should be an exciting series. 04/10 Jack Quick
THE TENTH GIFT by Jane Johnson: Julia Lovat’s lover has decided that its time to call it quits; he wants to make a go of it with his wife. As a parting gift, he gives Julia a book called the “The Needle Woman’s Glorie,” a centuries-old tome that is filled with embroidery patterns popular in the 1600s. It’s also filled with the writings of the original owner, Catherine Anne Tregenna, Cat for short, who was captured by Moroccan corsairs in 1625. Cat was to be taken back to Africa and sold into slavery, and she used the book to keep track of her story. The more Julia learns of Cat’s life, the more enthralled she becomes with the tale and the more questions she has about Cat’s eventual fate. Cat’s story has a profound effect on Julia, and sends her on her own adventure to Morocco in an attempt to learn more. Johnson’s book about a book is part mystery, part adventure, part history, and part romance. Throw in some pirates and ghosts of the past and you’ve got a surefire recipe for a summer hit. This book lived up to every expectation I had for it given its literary counterparts. Johson’s Tenth Gift is similar in style to Carol Goodman’s literary mysteries. 05/08 Becky Lejeune
THE TENTH WITNESS by Leonard Rosen: This is the prequel to All Cry Chaos (2011) featuring Henri Poincare. Set in 1978, Poincare is a brilliant engineer who has devised a way to allow divers to hunt for deeply buried treasure at sea. Lloyds of London had insured a ship that sank two hundred years earlier and hires Poincare and his partner to try to recoup their loss. While researching the area, Poincare falls in love with Leisel, who works with her brother for the huge Munich steel company founded by their father, Otto Krauss. When Poincare’s favorite uncle passes away, he is driven to learn about his uncle’s Holocaust experience. Poincare is shocked to learn that he worked at a Nazi steel factory run by Kraus, causing Poincare to really start digging into his girlfriend’s family. The Krauss family is quite protective of their past, which seems to have been rewritten, and they do not take kindly to Poincare’s interference. The Argentinian government is also interested in Poincare’s technology, and when he visits that country he finds himself in a nest of German ex-patriots. This is a complex story based on some history; however there are fictional liberties taken. Poincare’s character is deeply developed here, following his journey from engineer to Interpol, but there is plenty of action as well. This is a dark and disturbing story but an important one. 8/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2013 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.
Tepper Isn’t Going Out by Calvin Trillin: Welcome to the quintessential, pre-9/11, New York novel. Only in Manhattan could a man like Tepper, who enjoys sitting in his parked car reading his newspaper and refusing to give up his spot, become the toast of the town. Charming and quirky, always a nice combination. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
TERMINAL by Andrew Vachss: The Internet and societal changes have interfered with Burke’s ability to make a living in Vachss’s 17th Burke novel. That makes him vulnerable when white supremacist Claude Dremdell ropes Burke into a plot to extort money from three wealthy men who years earlier committed a brutal murder. The money is required to pay for a pricey experimental Swiss treatment for Dremdell’s “terminal” illness. This leads Burke into the world of intelligence and an Israeli operation working covertly in the United States. While still gritty and unrelenting, Vachss seems to have become more politicized than in previous efforts. It’s violent, it’s ugly, it’s not for everyone, but that’s Burke – and Andrew Vachss. 11/07 Jack Quick
TERMINAL FREEZE by Lincoln Child: When a group of scientists studying the effects of global warming in the Arctic Circle discover a strange creature frozen in the ice, the group funding their expedition immediately swoops in to film it. The scientists aren’t all that pleased that their backing comes from a television production company, there’s not much they can do. The channel in question is set to make this discovery their biggest docu-drama ever and they plan the thaw the creature on live television. But then the creature vanishes and the TV execs are sure that one of the scientists must be responsible. Paleoecologist Evan Marshall knows that this isn’t the case and fears that a local tribe of native Tunik may have been right in warning the group away from the site. The team is joined by self-proclaimed enigmalogist Jeremy Logan who has discovered evidence that over fifty personnel located at the base where all of this is occurring died under mysterious circumstances years ago, an incident that has been kept quietly under wraps ever since. Could the two events be linked? That is what Logan and Marshall are determined to find out. When the bodies begin piling up, though, they know that their time is quickly running out. Child always uses the most up-to-date and sometimes hard-to-imagine scientific theories in his novels. It works, though, and he makes you believe that all these things are possible, and who knows, maybe they really are. I do wish the characters were a bit more developed. Logan in particular is one that I would love to see more of in Child’s work. 02/09 Becky Lejeune
THE TERROR by Dan Simmons: In 1845, the John Franklin Discovery Expedition set off from England in search of the illusive Northwest Passage. The expedition’s two ships, HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, were better equipped for the voyage through this hostile environment than any before. The ships’ hulls were fortified against the ice and there was enough tinned food to last for five years. In 1947, the ships became frozen in the ice. Suffering from malnutrition as a result of the poorly prepared food, scurvy and lead poisoning, the men set off, on foot, across the ice. Evidence suggests that the men ultimately resorted to cannibalism in a desperate attempt to survive. Dan Simmons draws on an abundance of historical documents and adds his own signature twist to this gruesome and tragic tale. The story begins in October 1847, nearly two months after the ships become trapped in the ice. An unknown predator is silently stalking the sailors, killing them one by one. This is a very hefty and dense read. My hand literally fell asleep holding the book up. Simmons has brilliantly made over a fascinating tale of one of the most famous failed expeditions into a horrific and frightening fiction read — a great accomplishment for any author and just one more sure win for Simmons. 01/07 Becky Lejeune
TERROR TOWN (#9) by Stuart Kaminsky: Problems continue for Edgar-winner Kaminsky’s two favorite Chicago cops, Abe Lieberman and Bill Hanrahan. They are dealing with the robbery-murder of a young mother in South Side whose last words are “Abe Lieberman, the sudden unprovoked attack on a former Chicago Subs baseball player, and religious fanatic whose true calling is extortion. Top it off with Lieberman’s on-going fight against cholesterol and threats to Hanrahan’s pregnant wife Iris, and its business as usual. It’s a pity this is the next to last Lieberman published thus far by Kaminsky. 06/08 Jack Quick
TETHERED by Amy MacKinnon: Clara Marsh had an atypical childhood. As soon as she was old enough, she escaped her old life and began anew, embracing her chosen career as an undertaker. Clara lives her life surrounded by the dead, a life that is much more comforting to her than one that would include attempts at socializing with the living more than is absolutely necessary. When Clara discovers a little girl playing in the funeral home, she is immediately uncomfortable with the idea. Her boss encourages her to help the child, but it takes a shocking discovery before Clara understands just how much help this little girl needs. When it appears that the girl may be a link to an unidentified body that was found three years ago, Clara decides that she must do whatever she can to help protect the child and to help the officer still struggling to close the cold case. Her efforts may prove to be Clara’s breaking point and may even mean the end of the life she has so carefully built for herself. Amy MacKinnon’s strong debut is both haunting and eerily touching. MacKinnon’s style and tone are very reminiscent of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects. I found Tethered was much less brutal than Flynn’s debut, but it was an equally gripping thriller. 08/08 Becky Lejeune
THAT OLD CAPE MAGIC by Richard Russo: Russo won a Pulitzer Prize for Empire Falls, but this book just isn’t in that category – think of it as Russo-lite. It’s the story of a marriage, a family and a man’s fear of becoming his parents. Jack Griffin is in his late 50’s, a college professor and former screenwriter married for thirty years to Joy. They are heading up to Cape Cod, albeit in separate cars, for their daughter Laura’s best friend’s wedding. Laura announces her engagement then, and the book is framed by the two weddings, a year apart. Griffin has been riding around with father’s ashes in the trunk of his car for more than year, and his mother a constant annoyance on his cell phone. How he deals with his parents and his inner monologues about life comprise a good chunk of the novel, and a very revealing look at aging and familial relationships along with Russo’s trademark humor. This book actually seemed a throwback to his earlier books, smaller in scope and size, and more academic. It’s thought provoking yet fast reading and should be popular with book groups. 09/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: This book was originally published in 1937 and brought back into print because of an article in MS Magazine written by Alice Walker in 1975. It is considered a classic now, and is often required reading in South Florida high schools, and elsewhere I suspect, as well as being the book selected for Read Together Palm Beach County and for Read Together, Florida, a statewide reading project. Hurston was a member of the Harlem Renaissance movement, but was abhorred by Richard Wright who criticized her severely. Nonetheless, this book was an alternate pick of the Book of the Month Club when originally published. A short time later, some very ugly charges were leveled against Hurston; she eventually cleared her name but she never really got over it. Her books went out of print and she died, penniless, and was buried in an unmarked grave. Alice Walker found what was presumably Hurston’s grave and erected a monument that reads, in addition to her name and dates, “Genius of the South.”
Their Eyes Were Watching God has quite a bit of Hurston’s life, and more importantly, her beliefs invested in the main character of Janie Crawford. The novel is framed by Janie’s return to Eatonville, the first all black incorporated city in the United States. Everyone in town is gossiping about her, and Janie tells her story to Pheoby, her best friend, and asks her to tell the townsfolk. Janie was raised by grandmother, Nanny, a former slave, who marries her off to an older farmer, Logan Killicks, when she’s 16. She’s not happy in that marriage and she leaves and marries Joe Starkes, who takes her to the new town of Eatonville. He becomes mayor there, and builds a store that becomes the center of town life. Twenty years later he dies, and she hooks up with the love of her life, Tea Cake, who is much younger than she is. He takes her to the Everglades where they survive the hurricane of 1928 that wiped out the ‘glades, but Tea Cake gets bitten by a rabid dog in the process. After his death, Janie returns to Eatonville, completing the frame.
This is the story of a strong black woman’s search for happiness and independence in a time when neither of those things was easily attainable. It is written in dialect, and is not an easy read. I listened to the beginning of the book on CD, produced by Recorded Books and read by Michele-Denise Woods, which it made it much easier to read on my own. It is also available on audiocassette read by Ruby Dee. Reading it aloud also helps – hearing the dialect makes it much easier to read. It’s a terrific story and the language is incredibly beautiful, making the life of Janie Crawford a memorable one. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THEN CAME YOU by Jennifer Weiner: India Bishop has completely reinvented herself and reached her goal of becoming a trophy wife to a hedge fund billionaire, Marcus Croft. Bettina, Marcus’s twenty-something year old daughter, is pretty sure that her new stepmother is not who she says she is and hires a private detective to find out. Annie is also twenty-something, but from the other side of the tracks. She married her high school sweetheart and has two children already, and is just barely getting by. Jules is a brilliant, beautiful Princeton scholarship student whose father has some horrendous baggage. She is determined to earn enough money to get him the help he needs. All these women have compelling stories on their own, but their lives intersect and overlap when India decides she wants a baby, but at 40something it just isn’t happening. Science steps up for India, financial need moves Jules and Annie, and a tragedy moves Bettina. This book has been hit by the recession as a strong motivator for most of these characters. Shades of Jodi Picoult here as Weiner leaves her comfort zone of light, funny and romantic and moves to warm, occasionally humorous yet always compelling, contemporary women’s fiction. 09/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THERE’S CAKE IN MY FUTURE by Kim Gruenenfelder: Nicole, Seema, and Melissa have been friends for years and they each have very definite plans for their futures. Nicole is about to marry the man of her dreams and wants to get her career back on track. Seema is in love with her best friend, but is afraid to make a move. Melissa has been dating her boyfriend for six years and is ready for a wedding of her own. Nic’s wedding shower is the perfect opportunity to make sure that everyone gets exactly what she wants, with a traditional cake pull rigged so that each person pulls a very specific charm. But somehow, the charms get switched and nothing goes according to plan. There’s Cake in My Future is a hilarious read—just the right mix of sarcasm, laugh-out-loud humor, and heart. Gruenenfelder’s latest is chick lit at its very best. 12/10 Becky Lejeune
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HERE by Cecelia Ahern: Ever wonder where those missing socks go? Sandy Shortt does. It all began with Jenny-May Butler. When Sandy was ten years old, Jenny-May vanished without a trace. Jenny-May and Sandy were not friends, in fact, far from it. Jenny-May was a bully who made Sandy’s life miserable. Her disappearance, however, awakened a need inside Sandy, a thirst that could not be quenched. Where did Jenny-May go? Where does anything that is missing go? Not the things that are lost, those things can eventually be found. No, where do the missing things go? The answer is Here. One day, Sandy herself goes missing and she finds herself Here. Here is a place like our own, only nothing ever goes missing Here. Nothing, except Sandy’s watch. This one tiny event threatens to upset the precariously balanced lives of all the missing who have settled and made their homes here. The question then becomes this, if no one has ever left Here, can Sandy every return home? Ahern’s delightfully charming book is a very loose and modern play on The Wizard of Oz. It’s chick-lit laced with sweet undertones of fantasy. Each of her books is fun and heart-wrenching and I love every minute of every one. 01/08 Becky Lejeune
THESE BOOTS WERE MADE FOR STOMPING by Julie Kenner, Jade Lee, and Marianne Mancusi: This charming trio of tales all center around shoes. Not just any shoes, either, but shoes that can give their wearer some sort of power to help them along in life. In Kenner’s A Step in the Right Direction,” a pushover who lives her life in comics buys a pair of shoes that give her superpowers and allow her to finally live the life she’s always yearned for. In Lee’s “Kung Fu Shoes,” a mild-mannered teacher is suddenly endowed with ninja-like abilities that help her get her man and inspire her students all at the same time. Finally, in Mancusi’s “Karma Kitty Goes to Comic Con,” a comic book creator morphs into her own character when she puts on a special pair of golden boots. All three tales are sweet and funny as hell. Each story is just the right length for quick reading and is a great way to introduce new readers to some fantastic authors. Stomping will be followed next month with These Boots Were Made for Strutting where three more authors will show off their talents using the same sort of theme. 04/08 Becky Lejeune
THEY NEVER DIE QUIETLY by Daniel M. Annechino: In this aptly title debut, San Diego homicide detective Sami Rizzo is obsessed with her new assignment – leading a task force searching for a brutal serial killer. If she succeeds, she thinks this will give her the respect of her male colleagues. She lets her obsession get the best of her and she ultimately is captured by the villain. Now she is no longer fighting for respect, she is fighting for her life. The villain, Simon, is one of the spookiest perps I can ever recall, who is trying to purify the world by crucifying young women to free them from sin. Simon is so evil that it is impossible to generate much sympathy for him, however, the real villain in this matter is obviously Simon’s mother whose actions against him as a child led to the creation of the current misguided monster. A note with the book promises an even more bizarre follow-up from the author, which may be more than my fragile psyche can handle. Leave the lights on and have a lantern handy in case the power goes out. 05/10 Jack Quick
THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON’T THEY by Horace McCoy: Number Two in an awesome anthology entitled CRIME NOVELS: American Noir of the 1930’s and 40’s. This book was the basis for the 1960’s film of the same name. Ostensibly about the experiences of Couple #22, one of 144 couples who compete in a depression era dance marathon, the book is unrelentingly grim, but interestingly moves along at a faster pace than do the dancers. At the end of the novel, the 144 couples have dwindled down to twenty, after almost 900 hours of dancing with only a ten-minute break every two hours. You feel as numb as their feet probably are from the unrelenting merry-go-round, which is, of course, the metaphor for life among the less privileged. It is depressing, but actually quite beautiful in its own way. 07/07 Jack Quick
THICK AS THIEVES by Peter Spiegelman: Carr was let go by the CIA but has now found a much more lucrative career. He has become a criminal of sorts. He, and his bunch of seasoned pros steal from those who are unable or unwilling to invoke the authorities – drug sellers, arms smugglers, money launderers — anyone with un-reported cash or jewels. But now there is a problem. Carr’s mentor was killed in what Carr suspects was s setup. Now he is trying to hold his gang together for one big score. A planner, this is exactly the kind of role the CIA felt Carr was unsuited to handle. Adding to his problems are few of his crew are what they seem to be, and even his own past will turn out to be built on a lie. Nicely done. 12/11 Jack Quick
THICKER THAN BLOOD by Penny Rudolph: Give Penny Rudolph points for originality. Her heroine, Rachel Chavez, is recovering from alcohol and drug addiction, so maybe its not surprising that she lives in an LA parking garage. What is surprising is that Chavez owns the garage, which she inherited from her grandfather after her gambler father had bet away the family farm and her tuition money for Stanford. Like Barbara Serenella’s beloved “Munch”, Chavez is living one day at a time and trying to stay sober when she discovers a damaged car in her garage with what looks like blood on the fender. Then she learns that a hit-and-run driver has killed one of her regulars, an executive at nearby Interurban Water District. Is this the car? Who was driving? It is left to Rachel and her merry band of misfit companions to solve the crime and make Rachel’s garage safe for future adventures. 11/07 Jack Quick
Thicker Than Water by P. J. Parrish: This terrific tale captures the reader from the first chapter and doesn’t let go until the final pages. Jack Cade took the plea bargain of 20 years for the rape and murder of a teenage girl. Shortly after his release from prison he’s arrested once again, this time for the murder of his defense attorney. His son hires ex-cop/private investigator Louis Kincaid to prove his father’s innocence, but when Louis starts digging into the original rape conviction, he becomes almost obsessed with the victim and the case. There are lots of twists in this swift paced novel and an ending that is sure to shock in this latest in the Louis Kincaid series. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THIEVES LIKE US by Edward Anderson: Number Three in an awesome anthology entitled CRIME NOVELS: American Noir of the 1930’s and 40’s, this was the basis for Nicholas Ray’s They Live by Night, one of the seminal noir films of the 1940s. Bowie and Chicamaw have just busted out of the Alcatona Penitentiary and have hooked up with T-Dub. Now they are prowling the Oklahoma countryside. It’s a time and place where a raw onion, some fried eggs and yellow cornbread make a good meal, almost as good as stolen plums pulled off the tree. They are a bunch of thieves but there’s not that much to steal. Nevertheless they try, but as old T-Dub says “Laws never did worry me. It’s the fellers you thought was your friends that beats you. And a woman mad at you. They are what beat you.” You know how it’s all gonna end up, but its still a heckuva ride to get there. 07/07 Jack Quick
THINGS I WANT MY DAUGHTERS TO KNOW by Elizabeth Nobel: Barbara Forbes, mother of four, is dying of terminal cancer. Barbara is the glue that holds the family together; they all need her to survive. Barbara realizes that her daughters will be forced to embark upon life’s many journeys without her there to guide them. So she writes each of them a letter, endowing upon them a bit of motherly truth and wisdom. Lisa is oldest daughter. In her mid-thirties, she’s afraid of commitment. Jennifer’s marriage is just steps away from falling apart. Amanda, the world traveler, never seems to stick around long enough to form any type of relationship with her sisters. Hannah, a teenager, seems to be suffering the most. She’s entering the rebellious streak that hits most teens and doesn’t have a mother to reel her back in. The girls allow the letters to guide them through their grieving process. Each girl deals with the grief differently. Their reactions aren’t sugar-coated and that adds to the honesty and believability of this book. 07/08 Jennifer Lawrence
THE THINGS THEY CARRIED by Tim O’Brien: I bought this book in 1990, read the first few chapters/stories and then came to “On the Rainy River”. It upset me so much that I put the book down and didn’t pick it back up again for sixteen years. I don’t think most people would pick that story as the most upsetting, or the hardest to read, because it’s not about the horrors of Vietnam; it’s about the horrors of a young man getting his draft notice, and as that was a much more personal recollection for me, it packed an enormous emotional wallop. For me. I’m sure others had a much harder time with “The Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong”, about a soldier who smuggles his girlfriend in from the states and what happens to her during her stay there, or with “The Man I Killed” or with “The Ghost Soldiers”.
This book is a novel, a memoir, a collection of stories, a series of vignettes, the seminal work of fiction on the Vietnam War – take your pick, it’s all of these and more. The title page emphatically states that it is fiction, and indeed, there is even a chapter/story entitled “How to Tell a True War Story”, yet it is also dedicated to men with the same names as the characters in the book, and there is even a character named “Tim O’Brien”. But as O’Brien points out, the truth is a slippery thing, and if calling it fiction works best for the author, especially in light of the recent brouhaha over creative nonfiction writing, I certainly won’t argue the point.
Several of the chapters were previously published as short stories, including the title piece, “The Things they Carried”, an amazing piece of writing either on its own or as the opening to a novel. O’Brien lists the physical items that men carried with them in Vietnam, from the mundane like canteens and a toothbrush, to the war necessities of “…the three standard weapons – the M-60, M-16, and M-79 – they carried whatever presented itself, or whatever seemed appropriate as a means of killing or staying alive.” They carried good luck charms, a rabbit’s foot, a pebble sent from a girl back home. They carried diseases, and “…all the emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing –”
The stories are often tellings and retellings of the same event from different perspectives, again proving how difficult it is to nail down the truth. They flow, never moving linearly but rather back and forth through time, before the war, during the war, and homecoming. All in all, a very emotional read for me and I’m very glad I finally finished it. And I suspect it will be a book that I will read again. 04/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
THINK OF A NUMBER by John Verdon: Though retired detective Dave Gurney would never have considered college classmate Mark Mellery more than an acquaintance, when the new inspirational guru contacts Dave in regards to a puzzling series of letters, Gurney is intrigued. The letters, threatening in nature, imply that Mellery has somehow offended the sender. Fearing that the sender will escalate beyond simple correspondence, Gurney urges Mellery to contact the police. Mellery refuses and Gurney’s fears are soon realized when the man turns up dead. Gurney’s name and involvement in the case prompts the local authorities to make him an official consultant. As Gurney uncovers clues pointing to the killer’s identity, the case becomes even more complicated and the detective finds himself once again drawing on his unique skills to bring a twisted killer to justice. Verdon’s debut is fantastic. He’s earned the praise of some of the biggest in the industry, and deservedly so. Think of a Number is a smart mystery and the first in the series. 07/11 Becky Lejeune
THINK OF A NUMBER by John Verdon: Quite an auspicious debut by John Verdon. Dave Gurney is a retired NYPD detective having difficulty in restoring the “oomph” to his marriage. (There is a reason for the tension between Dave and wife Madeleine). So he views the intrusion into his life from a former college acquaintance as being a mixed blessing. On the one hand, he is intrigued by the taunting letters that end with a simple declaration, “Think of any number…picture it…now see how well I know your secrets.” On the other hand, he knows the police are much better prepared to deal with the completely baffling killer who is fond of rhymes filled with threats and warnings, whose attention to detail is unprecedented, and who has an uncanny knack for disappearing into thin air. This is one of those works that are bigger than the “genre’”, reminiscent in some ways of the best of James Lee Burke, although totally different in style. 08/10 Jack Quick
THINK TWICE by Lisa Scottoline: Scottoline (Look Again) takes us back to Bennie Rosato’s all-female law firm and the warm, witty women who work there. Bennie’s twin sister, Alice, shows up, and if we weren’t sure she was evil before, now we know: Alice drugs Bennie, buries her alive, then impersonates her sister in a scheme to steal her money. She almost gets away with it, running the show at the law firm while the wheels turn to move Bennie’s money offshore. In the interim, Mary is house-hunting with Anthony, creating additional stress for their relationship, and Mary’s parents are having their own relationship troubles. Bennie finds herself in a nightmare that brings out a side of her she never knew she had, and the tension keeps ratcheting up until the very end. VERDICT Readers who enjoy warm, believable characters, a touch of romance with their suspense, and a bit of humor will be delighted with the gang at Rosato’s and Scottoline’s intricate plot will keep thriller fans turning those pages. 03/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch. Copyright © 2010 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.
THE THIRD BULLET by Stephen Hunter: This is the book that Hunter has been building up to to write for many years. Most of his previous novels have involved action based upon duels between world class snipers using rifles, and in one case swords. His knowledge of guns and ballistics is encyclopedic and supplies fascinating explanations for the actions of the protagonists in his books.
Bob Lee Swagger has figured in many of the novels, and in this one is now 66 years of age, apparently quite content to stay at home with his family and enjoy his life. A woman approaches him asking Bob to investigate the death of her husband that, although classified as an accident, she feels was murder. Her husband had been researching a novel based upon the assassination of President Kennedy now 50 years in the past. Bob becomes interested when it is revealed that her husband found an overcoat in a building across the way from the Texas Book Depository where Lee Harvey Oswald fired the shots that killed Kennedy. The overcoat has a strange stain on it’s back almost as if a bike ran over it. Bob is galvanized to start an investigation based on that fact alone.
This discovery plunges Bob into an adventure investigating the past and taking him into a world of possibility not coinciding with the findings of the Warren Commission who named Oswald the sole perpetrator of the Kennedy murder. The book is filled with Swagger’s findings of the impossibility of Oswald being alone in the crime and postulates a scenario that could have really happened. Stephen Hunter’s knowledge of ballistics comes to the fore in explanations of possibilities not coinciding with prior theories of the assassination. Hunter launches into a first person narrative by the supposed planner of the murder which sets up the thinking and planning of those involved in the killing. This is not something Hunter has done before, but it is very successful in entering the mind and thoughts of a very intelligent, but twisted individual. The Third Bullet is not Stephen Hunter’s normal fare, and does provide an excess of information concerning the ballistics involved in the plot, but it is very fascinating reading. The ideas linger long after the reader finishes the book and allows the concept of conspiracy instead of individual crime to make it’s presence felt again. There is a great deal of material that postulates the existence of a larger conspiracy than original findings, but this is the first effort to utilize an approach using the ballistics of the day to describe a very possible alternative to other ideas currently prevalent. 1/13 Paul Lane
THE THIRD BULLET by Stephen Hunter: Former Marine sniper Bob Lee “The Nailer” Swagger is back in a thriller fifty years in the making. Swagger is interested in the events of November 22, 1963, and the third bullet that ended the life of John F. Kennedy and set the stage for one of the most enduring controversies of our time. Swagger begins his slow stalk through a much-traveled landscape, but soon he is right in the middle of the decades old controversy. As Bob investigates, another voice enters the narrative: knowing, ironic, almost familiar, that of a gifted, Yale-educated veteran of the CIA Plans Division. Hugh Meachum has secrets and the means and the will to keep them buried. When weighed against his own legacy, Swagger’s life is an insignificant expense—but to blunt the threat, he’ll first have to ambush the sniper. May be Hunter’s best ever. 2/13 Jack Quick
THIRD DEGREE by Greg Iles: Transpiring over the course of a day, Iles has written a disturbing thriller about a family in crisis. Laurel Shields is living the American dream; her husband Warren is a doctor, they have a beautiful home and two healthy children. Yet that isn’t enough, and Laurel finds herself falling in love with David, the father of one of her autistic students. Duplicitous as she is beautiful, Laurel juggles her affair for about a year before David ends it just weeks before Laurel discovers she’s pregnant. Meanwhile Warren’s partner at work is defrauding Medicare to make extra money, and soon Warren’s Boy Scout code of ethics crumbles and he wants in. As things start unraveling at work, an anonymous email leads Warren to find a letter from Laurel’s lover, and everything just flips into surreal as he takes his wife and children hostage, demanding to know who her paramour is. Despite the soap opera-ish sounding plot, Iles manages to create a page turner out of the angst; relentless and impossible to put down. 11/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE THIRD GATE by Lincoln Child: This is a very readable novel following in the general pattern of Lincoln Child’s books that deal with events that are just on the other side of normal. He has also partnered with Douglas Preston on various tales that follow the same off beat but logical plans. The Third Gate introduces Jeremy Logan, a man that might become a continuing protagonist for Child due to his profession of enigmalogist, described as being an expert in the inexplicable. He is also a professor at Yale University in order to earn money between looking at the inexplicable. Dr Logan is invited to take part in an expedition that is unearthing the tomb of the first pharaoh to unite upper and lower Egypt more than 5000 years ago. The tomb of the God-king Narmer is thought to also contain an archeological find so valuable that no price can be put on it.
The dig is covered by the mud and silt of the Sudd, a unique area far away from the normal Valley of the Kings near Cairo. To reach the tomb below such a formidable barrier the organizer of the expedition, Porter Stone, has constructed a floating marvel of engineering and staffed it with a group of foremost experts in Egyptology. Child logically describes the reaching of the tomb and its area through the morass of the Sudd. Strange happenings during the dig seemingly all have logical explanations, and the climax, while macabre in nature also might be something that could really be normal. Or could it? 8/12 Paul Lane
THE THIRD RAIL by Michael Harvey: I have now finished the first of what I am certain will be one of my top ten books for 2010. When Chicago commuters are being assassinated everyone gets involved – the Chicago PD, the Mayor, the FBI, the Archdiocese, Homeland Security and tough Chicago PI Michael Kelly around whom the action seems to be revolving. Kelly witnesses the first murder, and gets a taunting telephone call after the second. Aided by his buddy Detective Vince Rodriquez and newly found friend (maybe) FBI agent Katherine Lawson, Kelly digs into the situation which initially focuses on the transit system with which Kelly has a very personal history. Before it is over he will see a good friend dead and his girl friend Rachel Swenson become a victim. Its classic Chicago and Harvey captures all the nuances perfectly in this non-stop tale. Try to start it on a Saturday so you won’t have to put it down until the very last page. 05/10 Jack Quick
THE THIRD SECRET by Steve Berry: Another Da Vinci Code-like thriller – fast paced of course, but this one is very well written. The Third Secret is driven by the events of the miracle at Fatima, Portugal and a conspiracy in the Catholic Church, if you can imagine such a thing. The intricacies and politics of the Vatican are examined while the story races along, and coming on the heels of the latest conclave and installation of the new Pope just makes this book even more irresistible. Fascinating history, meticulously researched (as always by this author) and spellbinding to boot. 06/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THIRD STRIKE by Zoe Sharpe: Charlie Fox thought she had severed the ties with her family back in the U.K. when she moved to New York with boyfriend Sean Meyers. Imagine her surprise when she sees an interview with her surgeon father in New York, where he is under investigation for the death of a patient. Despite the animosity between father and daughter, is going to stand by and allow her father to become a scapegoat for what she learns is a coverup involving a shadowy government agency and the testing of a controversial new medical treatment. This is Charlie’s wildest adventure yet with ugly villains, lots of action, and plenty of “sax and violins”, as they say. Definitely recommended. 04/09 Jack Quick
THIRST by Pete Larson: Better not use the old “name your poison” line in Stu Carlson’s Longhorn Lounge in Travis City, Texas. Not after someone served Andrew Washburn a cyanide and soda along with his Glenfiddich at a local arts festival. What a waste of single malt scotch. Its unbelievable, even though Washburn holds the dual titles of Dean of Fine Arts and Resident Asshole. Then the sheriff arrests meek and mild-mannered Daniel Lackland for the crime. How could it be? Well, Lackland had the big three – means, opportunity and a huge motive. Two years earlier, Washburn stole Lackland’s wife. So is it chickens coming home to roost or is there more here than meets the eye. An excellent first effort with some truly interesting characters, like ex-minister now barkeep, Stu Carlson who is determined to clear Lackland. As the book blurb says, “Set in Texas this debut novel explores the relationships between love, faith and cyanide.” And does it well. 06/07 Jack Quick
THIRTEEN by Richard K. Morgan: For fans of SF, and particularly, J.D. Robb, this new stand alone from British author Morgan is a winner. Titled THIRTEEN in the US and BLACK MAN elsewhere, it tells the story of a soul-weary hit men, Carl Marsalsis, who is hired to help track down a genetically manipulated sub-human who has escaped from exile on Mars. Both the sub-human and Marsalis are “Thirteens” a variant that is an aggressive and ruthless throwback to pre-civilization. Marsalis may be the next century’s version of Evanovich’s “Ranger” or Parker’s “Hawk.” Although he is more empathetic than the normal people around him, they can see him only as an untrustworthy killer. Overall, the question may be are any of us as we seem or are we better or worse? Remember Dr. Zaius in PLANET OF THE APES, “To suggest that we can learn anything about the simian nature from a study of man is sheer nonsense. Why, man is a nuisance. He eats up his food supply in the forest, then migrates to our green belts and ravages our crops. The sooner he is exterminated, the better. It’s a question of simian survival.” 01/08 Jack Quick
THE THIRTEEN by Susie Moloney: Paula was just a teen when her mother sent her away from Haven Woods. Pregnant and sure that her mother was ashamed, Paula hardly ever returned in the following years and she never revealed the truth about her daughter’s father. When Izzy Riley calls telling her that her mother is very sick and needs her to return to Haven Woods, Paula is hesitant. Their current situation certainly allows for the trip – Paula recently out of a job and her daughter suspended for the remainder of the school year – but something about Haven Woods never felt right. Little does she know, something dark and sinister waits for them, something that has lived in Haven Woods for a long time. Moloney’s witches aren’t pc Wiccans or prankster dabblers, they’re full on dark and twisty women willing to sacrifice anything to get what they want. The Thirteen makes for a nice blend of horror and snarky suburban satire. 3/12 Becky Lejeune
TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY by Jay Asher: The “thirteen reasons” translate to thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah, a teenage girl who has committed suicide. Each tape is dedicated to one person who in some way contributed to the feelings that led Hannah to take her own life. We hear the stories as Clay, who is featured on the ninth tape, is listening to them. The lightest note in the book is when Hannah finds a way to create these cassette tapes, and the lengths necessary for Clay to find something to play them on in this age of digital recordings. A lot of the stories are interwoven, but as Clay listens, his emotions are in turmoil. He had a crush on Hannah and the guilt he feels for not being strong enough to overcome his shyness and be there for her is almost overwhelming. In a way, it reminded me of Erich Segal’s Love Story (1970) where you know from the beginning that the main character is going to die but you can’t help being hopeful that somehow it won’t be true. But this is no romance; this is a searing, emotional read that deals with difficult subject matter, including teen suicide, drinking and driving, rape and the aftermath and repercussions that go along with such horror. This debut novel was published in 2007 but continues to grow in popularity via word of mouth, especially among young adults. From the author’s website: “Universal Pictures and Strike Entertainment have acquired film rights for Thirteen Reasons Why with Selena Gomez signed on to star! Stay tuned for more information…” 07/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE THIRTEENTH TALE by Diane Setterfield: Every so often, readers get to experience a truly amazing story – this is one of them. Bestselling author Vida Winter has never been forthcoming about her past. For years, she’s done what she does best; told stories. Now, with her health failing her, she’s decided it’s time to tell the truth. Biographer Margaret Lea has spent her life immersed in classic literature. When she receives a letter from Ms. Winter requesting that she pen the author’s biography, her first instinct is to refuse. She becomes intrigued after reading Winter’s most famous novel Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation, a novel that has gained almost cult status due to the fact that there are only twelve stories. What follows is a tale of tragedy, ghosts, twins and, ultimately, family. By using elements found in classic gothic literature, Diane Setterfield has created a truly phenomenal debut. Her vivid story captures readers from the very beginning. This is perfect rainy day reading. 10/06 Becky LeJeune
THIS CASE IS GONNA KILL ME by Phillipa Bornikova: For a student straight out of law school, a position with a White-Fang firm is almost out of reach. Ishmael, McGillary, and Gold is one of the best and Linnet Ellery is lucky enough to have an in—her vampire foster happens to be great friends with Shade Ishmael himself. Of course this connection gets Linnet nothing but scorn from her fellow employees. Linnet is assigned to work with a lawyer who has just one case on his books, and it’s a doozy: a mother and her kids are suing for control of a company started by the woman’s dead husband. Problem is the company founder was turned into a werewolf and left control of the company to his own werewolf heir. The family never saw a penny and in spite of settlement offers, they want nothing less than full control of said company. The case has been on the firm’s books for almost two decades. Despite of her lack of enthusiasm at diving into seventeen years’ worth of paperwork, Linnet knows that she’s fortunate to have the job at all, but when her boss is murdered by a rogue were, she’s not so sure the position is worth it. With the help of an elf private eye, Linnet will have to find out who had it in for her boss. If it’s tied to their case, she could find herself a target as well. Phillipa Bornikova, aka Melinda Snodgrass, has launched a unique and thrilling new series with This Case is Gonna Kill Me. The combination legal thriller and urban fantasy is a great mix and the vampire, werewolf, and Alfar (elf) hierarchy and lore is like nothing I’ve read before. 10/12 Becky Lejeune
THIS CHARMING MAN by Marian Keyes: Paddy de Courcy is a rising political star in Ireland, with the good looks and charisma of the Kennedy clan. Unfortunately, he uses and discards women as he furthers his political ambitions, culminating with his engagement to the correct political wife-to-be, Alicia. The story alternates between four of his women, and their distinct voices – Lola writes without the use of pronouns, for instance – makes this somewhat complicated story much easier to follow. For this is Marian Keyes, queen of chick-lit with a purpose, and this time around that purpose is a myriad of women’s issues, primarily abuse and power. Lola is a fashion stylist, dressing the richest and most influential women in Ireland, and Paddy’s most recent discard. Grace is a journalist in a healthy relationship, but who also has a past with Paddy, as does her sister, Marnie, who is married with children and in the midst of some sort of breakdown. Their stories form a sort of cacophony, until the individual melodies are woven together, creating a lovely, yet engrossing story with an ending that should inspire women everywhere. 06/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2008 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.
THIS HOUSE IS HAUNTED by John Boyne: The author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is back and this time it’s with a gothic-esque ghost story. Eliza Caine is all alone in the world. Her beloved father has just died and the young woman is left with nothing. So it’s fortuitous that she comes across an ad listing a live-in governess position in Gaudlin. Eliza is immediately hired and makes her arrangements, but when she arrives she finds there are no adults in residence. The children appear to be living alone and report that their previous governess left the very same afternoon Eliza was set to arrive. As Eliza tries desperately to find out more about the Westerleys, her efforts are seemingly thwarted at every pass: the family attorney who supplies her salary is never available and even the townspeople of Gaudlin are tightlipped when it comes to the family. Then strange things start to happen at Gaudlin Hall. At first Eliza thinks they might be accidents but as she pieces together the bits of information she does manage to gather on the family and the house, she realizes these accidents are the result of something much more malicious. I love a good Victorian ghost story and Boyne has truly nailed it with This House is Haunted. 10/13 Becky Lejeune
THIS IS RAGE by Ken Goldstein: A novel about goings on in Silicon Valley: somewhat tongue in cheek, or is it? Two would-be entrepreneurs in an attempt to get funded for a business they want to start kidnap the two CEOs of a large software company and accidentally kill someone in the process. While holding the two, pending their demands, they are joined by a radio commentator just fired from his spot due to a much decreased listener base. Kimo Balthazar, the commentator, encounters an unexpectedly successful niche going on the internet and discussing the kidnapping and the demands of the kidnappers. The kidnapper’s demands are a trip to Shanghai, and funding for a new business there. Goldstein paints his characters well including their individual motivations towards resolution of what is taking place. We travel from California to Hawaii, meet the FBI and a Senator that embodies the worse attributes of that group in looking only for her own advantage and to heck with the needs of the people she represents. A new business is developed by the participants during the action, and the drop in company stock caused by the kidnappings of the twin CEOs is reversed by the anticipated success of the new launch in progress. Goldstein is well versed in the goings on and actions in 21st century Silicon valley and certainly launches himself successfully into the literary world with this, his first novel. Looking forward to his future books with a great deal of interest. 10/13 Paul Lane
THIS IS W.A.R. by Lisa Roecker and Laura Roecker: Willa Ames-Rowan is dead. The police are ready to call it an accident but her friends all know who’s responsible. In their town the Gregory family is pretty much above the law, but Willa’s friends aren’t going to let them get away with it this time. They’re going to make sure the Gregorys pay, no matter what. Because the story begins with Willa’s murder – and everyone seems to know who is responsible – the real mystery becomes how the group will take down the Gregorys. The book is divided into sections, each narrated by a different character, with the story playing out according to each of those characters’ perspectives. Each adds their own observations about the night of Willa’s death, eventually allowing the reader to see that the story isn’t as clear as it may have seemed in the beginning. Revenge among the country club set makes for the perfect teen summer read. This latest from the Roeckers is another great addition to SOHO’s teen mystery imprint – a winning tale of murder and revenge. 8/13 Becky Lejeune
THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU by Jonathan Tropper: Tropper writes very funny novels about dysfunctional Jewish families and he does it very, very well. This one starts off with the Foxman family patriarch’s death and his final request for his family to sit shiva for him. [Shiva is like a wake, only after the burial and with lots of food, but no alcohol] His four kids are stunned; their father was a sworn atheist and only went to synagogue once a year or so. But their mother insists that they carry out his dying wish so four grown children and their families move home for a week and a laugh out loud story begins, yes, with a death.
Judd is the only child to come home alone. He’s left his wife after catching her in bed with his boss in one of the funniest scenes I’ve every read. His brother Paul runs the family business and he’s there with his wife Alice, who is having fertility issues. Wendy, the only sister in the family, is there with her big money, workaholic husband and her three small children. The baby of the family, Phillip the charmer, shows up with a surprise; a fiancée who’s fifteen years older than he is. And in case you’re thinking the kids are the only dysfunctional members of this family, meet the mom, a world famous psychologist who authored a bestselling book on parenting. Put all these people in an old house with everyone they’ve every known walking through the door to pay their respects and you get a laugh out loud, totally engrossing novel. Don’t miss it. 02/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THIS WICKED WORLD by Richard Lange: In my proto-type favorite crime fiction novel, the hero gets no breaks, has the absolute crud beat out of him repeatedly and loses the girl in the end. But he has some small satisfaction in knowing that he was trying his best to do the right thing. Richard Lange’s debut novel, This Wicked World, fits that description so well that I felt that he had written it for me.
Lange’s protagonist, Jimmy Boone, is a tough guy – Marine veteran, former bouncer/bodyguard, currently tending bar in Hollywood and working as a handyman in a apartment complex, while he is on parole.
Jimmy agrees, reluctantly, to help a friend from the bar look into the death of a poor Guatemalan from dog bite wounds. Soon, he is on a quest. That quest embroils him in drugs, dog fighting, counterfeiting, general thuggery and beaucoup violence.
What really makes the story a success though is not all the bodies falling from being gut-shot, but that Lange has taken the time to develop his characters into believable people that the reader can get concerned about. Three are especially notable – Taggart, the middle-aged, but still scary serious badass who is looking for one big score so that he can retire and build his dream home; Simon, the weasely owner’s son who manages the club where Jimmy tends bar; and Amy, the love interest in the story.
Reviewers will make comparisons of this book to Raymond Chandler because of the L.A. settings, but it is even more consistent with his description of the detective in his essay, the “Simple Art of Murder”. 08/09 Geoffrey R. Hamlin
THISTLE AND TWIGG by Mary Saums: Thelma and Louise, move over, there’s a new pair on the block. Widows Jane Thistle and Phoebe Twigg now call Tullulah, Alabama home, but their home is threatened when they find a dead body, an event that just ruins their otherwise pleasant walk in the woods near Jane’s new house. Jane, originally from England and a military widow, is having none of this, and when she finds a neighbor is being harassed as well, she is determined to get to the bottom of what is going on. Phoebe Twigg is the product of a lifetime in Tullulah, and has all the classic Southern social graces, bless your heart. Even a firebomb in Phoebe’s kitchen doesn’t dissuade them from finding the truth. Along the way, they also answer that burning question, can you serve country ham biscuits at an English high tea? If you loved the Anne George Southern Sisters mysteries, you will find Thistle and Twigg a sparkling replacement. Mary, Mary, when is number two due????? Thath’s eathy for you to thay… 04/07 Jack Quick
THOSE ACROSS THE RIVER by Christopher Buehlman: This is Buehlman’s first novel, and the genre seemingly not what a writer of poetry should do. It is a horror story, but so well done that it held me in its grasp from start to finish. The principal character, Frank Nichols and his girl friend, soon to be wife, move to a small town in Georgia in order that Frank who has lost his position in Academia might resurrect his career via writing a book about an estate that is in his family, located in that town: and where an ancestor of his was killed during the Civil War by enraged slaves due to that individual’s extreme cruelty towards them. The time is after WWI with the great depression shaping the economy and the political climate.
The town turns out to be the very opposite of what a sleepy little Hamlet should be. There is an unspeakable horror that has permeated the lives of the townspeople for many years and blossoms due to their actions coinciding with Frank’s arrival. He and his girlfriend Eudora are thrown into the terror in spite of not wanting to be involved. Frank is a veteran of fighting on the western front in 1917, and flashbacks to these combat experiences are mixed with the reactions to what he feels when facing the events going on around him. Scenes of mass murder from the war juxtapose with the killings in the town as a result of the unleashing of the terror. The mood of horror is enhanced by the descriptions of trench warfare.
The story is very well told, and logical, if the horrors described were to really exist. The characters, Frank, Eudora, and townspeople are fleshed out nicely and react logically to the events depicted. I don’t know if Mr Buehlman will stick to the horror motif but I can’t help but feel that whatever he decides for the genre of his subsequent book or books will be interesting and well done. 10/11 Paul Lane
THOSE WHO SAVE US by Jenna Blum: This is a first novel that came out in 2004 and is growing legs – word of mouth is putting this at the forefront for reading groups. Trudy is a German history professor in Minnesota who has a fascinating family history herself – only she doesn’t know it. Her mother, Anna, was from a small town in Germany and emigrated to the US after WWII when she married an American soldier who was willing to take on a beautiful German wife and her small daughter. Trudy grows up on a farm and ends up teaching a course about women’s roles during the Holocaust, but she doesn’t know about her own mother’s role. The book unfolds in alternating sections so the reader learns Anna’s history while watching Trudy’s frustration with her uncommunicative mother. The author worked for Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation, and survivor interviews play a strong part in this story as well. It’s a very thought provoking, heartbreaking story that easily lends itself to discussion; in fact, it begs for it so read it, then give it to a friend to read. 08/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THREAT WARNING by John Gilstrap: It starts with “terrorist” attacks. Caught in the crossfire of one of the attacks, rescue specialist Jonathan Grave spies a gunman getting away-with a mother and her young son as hostages. To free them, Grave and his team must enter the dark heart of a nationwide conspiracy. But it is not all it seems. While everyone is trying to blame Islamic terrorists, they real culprits are a fundamental religious cult in Wets Virginia. Another nicely done thriller featuring the hostage rescue specialists created by Gilstrap. 11/11 Jack Quick
Three Junes by Julia Glass: I was not as enamored of this book as most of the critics – especially those who gave it the National Book Award. The book is written in three distinct sections that all get neatly tied together with a bow at the end. The first section deals with Paul McLeod, a recent widower who has left his home in Scotland and is wandering around the Greek isles. The middle, and longest section, deals with his son, Fenno, a gay bookstore owner in Manhattan. Fenno’s relationships with his family are explored here, as well as his relationship with Mal, his friend/neighbor who is dying of AIDS. The last section is devoted to Fern, who is so newly impregnated she hasn’t had a chance to even tell the father, who is out of town. Fern is staying with Tony, an ex-lover of Fenno’s, and somehow all the characters in the book come together in this relatively short section. The descriptive writing is beautiful, and the relationships under glass are interesting, but it is a slow moving, forgettable story. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THREE KISSES by Heath Daniels: Up until this point, I think the longest debut book I have ever read was Marshall Karp’s The Rabbit Factory, 550 pages in paperback, which read so quickly you wanted more at the end. Mr. Daniels debut novel runs 631 pages in small print trade paperback. Think Michener writing about Al Qaeda with Russians, the DIA, CIA, FBI, etc. all flowing through Syria, Mexico, Cuba, Iraq, the U.S. and Canada, involving current events – a major al Qaeda terror plot foiled in Canada, a war in Lebanon. It is truly an odyssey, and somewhere in there is probably a decent book of about 300 pages. Edit, edit, edit. 08/09 Jack Quick
THREE STATIONS by Martin Cruz Smith: Having another Arkady Renko novel almost makes up for no more Porfiry Rostnikov from Stuart Kaminksy. Renko is pursuing the murder of a woman whom everyone wants to dismiss as a “mere prostitute”. Meanwhile, Zhenya, the young street genius with whom Renko has established a connection, is trying to help a youthful mother whose baby has been stolen. All the action centers around Three Stations (aka Komsomol Square). The contrast between the bare bones existence of most Russians and the excesses of the wealthy at the Club Nijinksy show just how far the country has yet to advance. Although I wouldn’t want a steady diet of the melancholy of these settings, it is an interesting change of pace from “normal” American crime settings. 09/10 Jack Quick
THREE WEEKS TO SAY GOODBYE by C.J. Box: Denver couple Jack and Melissa McGuane are stunned when they receive a disturbing call from their adoption agency. Eighteen months ago, the McGuanes were chosen by their daughter’s biological mother to be the adoptive parents of her child. At the time, the agency attempted to contact the child’s father but received no reply. Now, nine months after the birth, the father wants his daughter back. Unfortunately, the law seems to be on his side. The McGuanes meet in secret with their case handler who tells Jack that under no circumstances would she want any child left in the care of this teen. The bad news is that this kid’s dad is a high-powered federal judge who seems dead set on gaining custody of his granddaughter. Jack and Melissa agree to meet with the boy and his father and attempt to plea their case, to no avail. They are given three weeks in which to say goodbye and prepare to hand their daughter over. Three weeks, is it enough time to dig up enough dirt on this family so that they can keep their daughter? They’re about to find out. This stand-alone from Box, author of the Joe Pickett series, really pulls at your emotions. An edge of your seat read that will leave you literally breathless all the way from the surprise beginning to the shocking conclusion. 01/09 Becky Lejeune
THE THREE WEISSMANNS OF WESTPORT by Cathleen Schine: Betty has been married to Joseph Weissmann for 48 years and cannot comprehend what is happening when he comes home one day and tells her he wants a divorce because of “irreconcilable differences.” What he doesn’t tell her is that he has fallen in love with his manipulative secretary, the much younger Felicity. She convinces Joseph that it would be totally unfair to saddle Betty with the upper West Side apartment they live in, so Joseph throws Betty out and cuts off all her income. Her cousin Lou takes her in, offering her a small cottage in Westport, Connecticut that had been rented out for many years until the tenant died. It also hasn’t been updated in many years, but nonetheless it is a roof over her head and Betty has no choice. Her daughter Annie is a single mother whose sons have both moved away. She’s a librarian and in love with an author with an overly possessive family. Miranda is a book agent specializing in memoirs whose career has hit the skids. It seems that a few of her clients have been caught telling outrageous, egregious lies in their memoirs, and Miranda is being sued by everyone in publishing. Both daughters decide that Betty cannot survive on her own and move in with her. This is the story of three grown women living together again after many years apart and dealing with the breakup of a family, a business, and a couple of romances. This book is both humorous and sad, quirky and sage, and most importantly, a very entertaining read. 03/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THRESHOLD by Bonnie Kozek: Bonnie Kozek’s debut novel, Threshold, is the first book in her Honey McGuinness series. The second book in the series, Just Before the Dawn, will be in print in 2009. The third book, The Story of Why, is scheduled for publication in 2010. Let’s just hope Honey McGuinness survives that long. She’s spit in the Devil’s eye and paid the price for it. Trying to escape her past becomes impossible when she finds her friend Billy lying in a pool of blood with a tape recorder strapped to his waist. Her hunt for he killer leaves her more battered and bruised but also leads to a big lug of a cop who just may be man enough to save her. Adult language and frontal nudity (at least in words). This gritty tale will pull you in deeper than you ever dreamed. First rate. 04/09 Jack Quick
THRILLER: Stories to Keep You Up All Night, edited by James Patterson: If you can’t make the convention in Phoenix then you must have this first publication from a new professional organization — International Thriller Writers, Inc. It’s the first short story collection ever dedicated strictly to thrillers and it is an outstanding anthology of 32 new stories by such top genre names as Lee Child, James Grippando, Denise Hamilton and David Morrell. Patterson provides an introduction to each story that could be a model about research and technique for would-be thriller writers. The stories themselves are first-rate, ranging from mysteries to pure thrillers and everywhere in between. Lovers of crime fiction in general and well-told action tales in particular will be well rewarded by the monster 576 page compilation with its dream list of genre superstars. It’s a genuine publishing event and, one hopes, just the beginning of many more collections of adrenaline-laced nail-biters. Don’t miss this masterful anthology! 06/06 Jack Quick
THROUGH TO YOU by Emily Hainsworth: Cam is lost without his girlfriend, Viv. It’s been two months since the accident—two months since Viv’s death—and Cam’s not getting over it. He can’t stop thinking about her and he can’t seem to be bothered caring about anything else. Then Cam discovers something amazing: a tear between his world and another very similar world. And in this other world, Viv is still alive. Cam’s best friend in this other world is a girl named Nina and she’s concerned that Cam is spending too much time with this alternate Viv. But Nina’s keeping secrets from Cam, secrets that might make Cam reconsider trading in his life for another. Hainsworth’s debut is an interesting blend of science fiction, mystery, and romance and an intriguing “what if” scenario. 11/12 Becky Lejeune
TIGERHEART by Peter David: Paul Dear has a very vivid imagination, thanks in part to the tales his father spins about The Boy. Paul sometimes even wonders if he actually is The Boy. With the loss of his newborn sister, though, everything in Paul’s world begins to change. His mother has asked his father to leave and has banned all stories involving The Boy. Paul comes to believe that the only hope is for him to enter the Anyplace and find a new sister. It’s fortunate then that he finds the mummified remains of Fiddlefix, The Boy’s pixie cohort. After reviving her, the two fly off to Anyplace in search of The Boy. Unfortunately, Anyplace has suffered greatly since the death of Captain Hack. Gwenny has returned to find The Boy a different person, and Fiddlefix is dead-set on revenge since it was The Boy’s proclamation that he didn’t believe in pixies that caused her death. Paul is immediately tagged as being the one to help set things straight. Will he succeed in his quest? Can he help save Anyplace and reunite his family at the same time? This whimsical story is, of course, a sort-of sequel to Peter Pan. It’s a fun tale that the truly young at heart will enjoy. Although it’s Peter Pan through and through, for this Gen Y girl, it’s also reminiscent of The Neverending Story and Return to Oz (or books 2 and 3 in Baum’s series). 06/08 Becky Lejeune
TILT-A-WHIRL by Chris Grabenstein: If the action is in an amusement park in a second ranked New Jersey seaside summer resort, then it would logically follow that the two police protagonists would not be run of the mill. John Ceepak is nearly a parody of the “24/7” super cop, a former military policeman who spends his spare time watching true-crime shows on television and studying forensics. Danny Boyle, his 24-year-old partner is a part time summer cop who joined the force to meet and impress college girls. Tied together by their love for Bruce Springsteen (did I say New Jersey?), the two are suddenly in deep waters with the stabbing death of a Donald Trump wannabe who was meeting his young daughter at the Tilt-A-Whirl ride in the town’s closed amusement park. (Tilt-A-Whirl, get it?) Anyway, Boyle tells you all about what is going on in his own naïve meandering way, and lo and behold the two unlikely cops (not ready to call them heroes yet) solve the crime and prepare for their next adventure. Could you ask for anything more? Well, Dirty Harry it isn’t but overall I’d say it’s no more fanciful than that other New Jersey bastion of the law, one Stephanie Plum. 11/06 Jack Quick
The Time Traveler’s Wife by by Audrey Niffenegger: This is a powerful love story with a twist of fantasy. Clare has been in love with Henry for most of her life, and she is the center of his world. Henry suffers from a genetic disorder that causes him to time travel, yet he always seems to find his way to Clare. While his life moves in a chaotic, zigzag fashion, hers proceeds linearly, creating an unusual roadblock on their journey to love, yet one that they manage to overcome. Because this is a complicated storyline, it requires close and careful reading, but fortunately the prose is so beautiful that it makes you want to linger over each line. 12/03 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THIS DAME FOR HIRE by Sandra Scoppettone: Faye Quick is not my mother, but perhaps she could have been. Faye starts as a secretary, learns everything her sleazy but charming boss knows about being a detective, then assumes charge of the agency after her employer is drafted. A female PI working in New York City on her own – in 1943. “Even though I looked like any 26-year-old gal ankling round New York City in ’43, there was one main difference between me and the rest of the broads,” Faye tells us. “Show me another Jane who did my job and I’d eat my hat.” After Quick discovers the body of a missing young woman, the victim’s parents hire her to find the killer. It’s a tough time and a tough city, but Faye is a tough broad. 01/07 Jack Quick
THIS FIERCE SPLENDOR by Iris Johansen: Johansen is at her best when writing about an all consuming love affair centered around a major event. Such is This Fierce Splendor: the event being a search for the lost city of Kantalan.
Elspeth MacGregor grew up in Scotland filled with her father’s talk about an ancient city destroyed by a curse and the gold fortune still there. Upon her father’s death she feels herself free to go and search for it looking for a man named Dominic Delaney who her father indicated knows where it is. . She encounters Dominic in Arizona finding him a drunk, a wastrel and a good for nothing. He, also is not at all partial to her. In true Johansen fashion they fall in love, Dominic matures, they marry and go searching for the city which they do find.
The two travel with secondary characters who are described by the author, and one is killed in the search fulfilling a prophecy concerning the finding of Kantalan. A flaw in the book is the lack of interactions with the secondary personnel who in brief descriptions are very interesting. The city is of course found and the gold is used to pay off Delaney’s father’s home, and to set Elspeth and Dominic up in their own home in Arizona. Johansen wrote several books about the Delaney family about the same time as writing this one, and perhaps it is the intention of the publisher to re release all of them. Published July 1990, there are about 20 years between this book and present day and Johansen, has of course developed as a major author sufficiently to notice a stylistic difference between the Iris of 1990 and 2011. 09/11 Paul Lane
A THOUSAND BONES by P.J. Parrish: This was my first P. J. Parrish but certainly will not be my last. Actually this is the first in a new series that evolves from their previous Louis Kincaid series. In A Thousand Bones, Kincaid’s lover Joe Frye, the only female Miami-Dade Police Department homicide detective tells him about her experiences thirteen years earlier as a rookie in the Leelanau County, Michigan sheriff’s department. The discovery of human bones in the woods of Echo Bay leads to the hunt for a serial killer. Well written and interesting, I look forward to more of the new series but also want to catch up on the backlist. 07/07 Jack Quick
A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS by Khaled Hosseini: I loved The Kite Runner so much that while I wanted more from this author, I also had some serious trepidation. Would I like anything else? Could he deliver another story as powerful? The short answer is yes. In fact, this new book may even be better than The Kite Runner, and I never thought that was even an option.
The story is once again set in Afghanistan, but this time it stays there. The main characters are two women, and it spans thirty years of their lives against the backdrop of all the political upheaval and war that Afghanistan experienced since the 1970’s. Mariam is the bastard child of a wealthy businessman and a very bitter mother. When she turns fifteen, circumstances change and Mariam is forced to marry forty-year-old Rasheed, a struggling businessman in another city. He is very old fashioned and forces Mariam to wear the burqua. All he wants is a son, and when Mariam fails to produce, he becomes quite brutal with her. Many years later, he takes another child bride, Laila, when her parents are killed in a bombing. The fourteen-year-old really has no options in that world – starvation, prostitution, or marriage, and Rasheed capitalizes on that. These two women live lives in constant peril, both from the world around them, and from the man they married.
A Thousand Splendid Suns is a brutal story that is beautifully told, and is simply captivating reading. This is my pick for Book of the Year. Don’t miss it. 05/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THREE by Jay Posey: When the world has all but ended, it’s best not to get too involved with others. Easier, too. At least, this is how Three has always felt. He can survive alone. But when he’s approached by a woman with a young son in desperate need of help, he finds he can’t turn them down. The woman calls herself Cass and she and her son are on the run from some pretty bad people. Three doesn’t know who they are and he doesn’t know why they’re after Cass. Her own explanation is full of holes and Three is more than aware that she’s keeping things from him. What he does know is that he’s probably the only person with the resources and the know-how to keep them safe. Three kicks off Jay Posey’s Legends of the Duskwalker series, which – based on this debut – promises to be a post-apocalyptic science fiction epic. Three does feel like a prologue to a much larger story, from the outset there are a lot of things left unexplained about the world and the characters. I’m not at all certain where Posey will be going next with the series, but I do know that if Three is anything to go by, it will be excellent. 8/13 Becky Lejeune
THREE PARTS DEAD by Max Gladstone: Alt Coulumb exists in a world run on Gods. The people of the city trade faith for Kos Everburning’s power, which is used for the heat and steam that run the city and surrounding areas. And now Kos is dead. Tara Abernathy has trained as a Craftswoman. Her unique set of skills has led to employment with Kelethras, Albrecht, and Ao, the firm hired to represent Kos and the church’s interests. With the help of one of Kos’s Novices and one of Justice’s Blacksuits – the policing force of the city – Tara is tasked with finding the cause of Kos’s death. It’s possible that the Old God can be resurrected but time is quickly running out. Mystery, fantasy, and legal thriller collide in this debut. Gladstone deftly combines these elements and brings to life a truly exceptional world with an intricate history and strong characters. 10/12 Becky Lejeune
THRILLED TO DEATH by L J Sellers: Ms. Sellers has a delightfully twisted mind and the talent to take her unsuspecting readers down trails that fork and bend back and curve and twist until at the end, you have a sense of satisfaction coupled with a pleasant mental exhaustion as your mind wanders back to how you got there. In her third outing for Eugene, Oregon’s Detective Jackson, she has concocted a particularly fiendish assignment. It begins with Jackson being diagnosed with a rare but treatable serious health problem. As he begins to cope it seems the whole world is following apart. Kera, the nurse he met in The Sex Club and has been seeing, has a grandson by her son (who was killed in Iraq) and his girlfriend who was pregnant when he went overseas. The grandson’s mother, Danette, goes missing after an appointment with a psychologist. Within twenty four hours another young woman about Danette’s age also goes missing. The difference is the second young woman, Courtney Durham, is the daughter of a woman who owns half the town – literally. Long days and sleepless nights continue unabated after Courtney’s body is found. Autopsy results are inconclusive, and as importantly, is there a connection between the two disappearances. You are gonna love this one. 07/10 Jack Quick
THRILLER 2 edited by Clive Cussler: Members of the International Thriller Writers (ITW) team up once again to bring fans another gripping anthology of short stories. In this all-new collection, a whole different set of authors has been chosen to thrill and chill readers of the genre. Simon Wood, Marcus Sakey, Lisa Jackson, and Tim Maleeny are just a few of the twenty-three contributors to this collection of tales. Bestselling author R.L. Stine cooks up a surprising tale of revenge in “Roomful of Witnesses,” Spanish author, Javier Sierra shows readers just why he’s an international success in “The Fifth World,” and David Hewson breaks from his Rome series with a shocking story of terrorism in “The Circle.” Some of the authors may be old favorites and some may be completely new to you, but one thing’s for sure: each of these tales is guaranteed to keep you in suspense to the very end. 05/09 Becky Lejeune
THROUGH THE CRACKS by Barbara Fister: Over 20 years ago, Jill McKenzie was the victim of the Lincoln Park Rapist, who also savagely beat her and killed her dog, a crime for which 16-year-old African American Chase Taylor was quickly charged. After Taylor’s conviction is thrown out decades later, McKenzie, now a sociology professor, finds rape cases much like hers and believes her assailant is still out there attacking women. She hires Chicago PI Anni Koskinen (In the Wind, 2008) to look for the real offender. Koskinen, an ex-cop herself, teams with Jerry Pozorski, the retired detective who had worked the McKenzie case, to build a new scenario despite resistance from the police and the politically ambitious state’s attorney, who convicted Taylor. All in all its another strong outing for Anni who is fast becoming a strong competitor to the likes of V.I. Warshawski, Chicago’s more famous female PI. Would it not be awesome to see them team up on a future case? Note to Barbara….. 10/10 Jack Quick
THROUGH THE EVER NIGHT by Veronica Rossi: While Aria and Perry found themselves separated in the end of Under the Never Sky, Through the Ever Night picks up with their reunion after some months apart. Perry has taken up the reigns as Blood Lord of the Tides and Aria has begun her search for evidence of the Still Blue, the rumored piece of land that remains untouched by the massive Aether storms that now plague the planet. Pods like Aria’s old home, Reverie, are no longer secure from the storms and the citizens are showing signs of Degenerative Limbic System, an illness Aria’s mother had been studying before her death. The same man who banished Aria from her home now holds her responsible for finding salvation for the people of Reverie. If she succeeds it means saving Perry’s nephew. If she fails it could mean the end for the people she once held dear. The story progression in Through the Ever Night was fantastic. It was everything I’d hoped for in finishing Under the Never Sky. All of the great character development and world building of book one were still present but there was so much more going on to move along the trilogy as a whole. That plus the killer ending leaves me itching for the release of book three. 1/13 Becky Lejeune
THUGS AND KISSES by Sue Ann Jaffarian: California-based paralegal Odelia Grey is living large and in charge. Its Class reunion time and while wheel chair bound boyfriend Greg stays home, attractive widower Devin Frye escorts Odelia. After 30 years Odelia has forgotten just how miserable her high school years were but she is quickly reminded just how cruel people can be. Then Donny Oliver, her tormentor, winds up dead, and next her boss, Mike Steele, vanishes just before a major trial. Is Odelia cursed or is there something else afoot. An excellent follow-up to 2003’s The Curse of The Holy Pail, Odelia shows once again why she is an original and very funny character. Enjoyable. 04/08 Jack Quick
THE TIGER’S WIFE by Téa Obreht: This debut novel is both a wondrous and languorous read. Natalia is a doctor practicing somewhere in the Balkans, trying to help orphans. War breaks out and she is caught on the wrong side of the fighting. Meanwhile her grandfather has died far from home. Natalia is very close with her grandfather as she grew up on his stories. She shares those of the “deathless man,” an immortal, and the “tiger’s wife,” a deaf-mute woman who managed to care for a tiger that escaped from the zoo after it was bombed by the Germans. The book meanders back and forth between her childhood and these stories to present day, where Natalia is living a life that will give her stories to someday share with her own grandchildren. This is a lovely, poignant mystical book well worth the adoration it has been receiving. 03/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
TIME FLIES by Claire Cook: What I love most about Claire Cook are her characters, and Time Flies is no exception. Melanie left her Massachusetts beach town when her husband was transferred to Atlanta, and their two boys grew up there. Melanie’s way of coping with the change was to become a sculptor, and when her husband leaves her for another woman, she carves up their bed, turning the mattress coils into some sculpture. Her best friend B.J. is still up in Massachusetts, and she insists that Melanie come up for their high school reunion. Melanie is reluctant until an old boyfriend contacts her to ask if she’s going. Figuring she could use a change of scenery, off she goes on a giddy road trip with B.J., working through all their problems as only two old friends can. If you’re looking for light and breezy, then you’ve found it; small, too, and easy to tote to the beach, even in hard cover. I loved it. 7/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
A TIME FOR WAR by Michael Savage: Generally unsatisfying thriller featuring Jack Hatfield, a popular television host hounded from his position by left-wing forces in the media for speaking the truth. A rogue element in Chinese intelligence has developed an electronic magnetic pulse weapon capable of causing catastrophic electrical failure in aircraft and surface vehicles. With the help of Dover Griffith, an idealistic young woman staffer at the Office of Naval Intelligence, Hatfield pursues a trail leading to a billionaire American electronics entrepreneur who has sold out his own country with the help of officials at the highest level of the American government. If the author had spent half the time developing plot and character as he did spouting political rhetoric to the right of Fox News, the book would have been much more enjoyable. 3/13 Jack Quick
THE TIME OF MY LIFE by Cecelia Ahern: Lucy Silchester is ignoring her life. He’s a bit frumpy and he’s kind of a mess and when he schedules an appointment to talk, Lucy goes out of her way to avoid him. She’s not even sure why her life is calling. It’s not like she’s unhappy. But Lucy has spent so long skating by and hiding things from those around her that she’s not even sure what she wants anymore. She’s lied about her breakup with her ex, she’s lied on her resume and has a job she’s not quite qualified for, she’s even kept her apartment off limits to her friends and family. She says that she was the one who dumped the ex, she’s secretly outsourced the Spanish portion of her job to someone else, and she claims the apartment is her personal space. The reality is, Lucy is in need of a change and whether she likes it or not, life is going to make it happen. This is probably one of my favorites from Ahern. For an author who never disappoints, she has managed to surprise me with something completely new and different. The idea that life is a real entity who forces Lucy (who’s pretty fantastic, I must say) to face facts is so much fun. Another hilarious and heartfelt read from one of my favorite authors. 5/13 Becky Lejeune
TIME OF MY LIFE by Allison Winn Scotch: One of my favorite books is Replay by Ken Grimwood, about a 40 year old man who dies and wakes up the next day as his 18-year-old self with all his memories intact, leading to that eternal question, if you could do it all over again, what would you do differently…or the same? Scotch takes that premise and gives it a little twist. Her heroine is Jillian Westfield, a thirty-something who feels stuck in her boring suburban marriage and stifled by full time mommyhood to a precocious almost two-year-old. When she learns that her ex-boyfriend is getting married, she feels her body tense up and runs to the hunky neighborhood masseuse. He opens up her chi, and she finds herself seven years in her past, all memories intact. She’s living life again, before her marriage, before her child, and she gets to see how different choices can make a different life, but is it a better life? Jillian struggles with the weight of all these decisions and we get a fascinating glimpse at the shoulda, woulda, coulda that we all sometimes wonder about. An interesting premise but perhaps not all that it could have been. 10/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
TIME OF MY LIFE by Allison Winn Scotch: Have you ever wondered what would have happened if you had made a different decision somewhere along the way? Jillian Westfield has. Married some six years and the mother of a toddler, Jillian often wonders what her life would have been like if she hadn’t given up her career and moved the suburbs. Her husband is often gone on business and she’s constantly trying to breathe new life into what she thinks is their dying love life. When her masseuse, Garland, unblocks her chi, Jill wakes to find herself in her old apartment. In fact, she seems to be in her old life with her old boyfriend, just months before she would meet the man who would become her husband. The question is this: can Jillian really do things differently this time? And if she does change something, will it be for the better? A sweet story about fate and the ramifications of each decision you make. Jill recounts her relationship with her husband even as she vows to do things differently and discovers that she is more responsible for their situation than she originally thought. Her personal revelations are refreshing and a bit different for this kind of “what if” story. An overall fun read. 10/08 Becky Lejeune
THE TIMER GAME by Susan Arnout Smith: I met the author in Phoenix at ThrillerFest 2006 and she gave me goosebumps in July with this one line synopsis of her new novel: “It’s about a woman being stalked by a very bad man, who targets her through her 5-year old daughter, and then he grabs the kid and forces the mother to play the kid’s favorite game, called The Timer Game, to get her back.” Great synopsis, but one line really can’t do justice to the intricacies of this plot. Grace Descanso is a brilliant pediatric heart surgeon who goes down to Guatemala to work among the poor. But her life is forever changed there, she gives up her career and comes back to the states and takes a job in San Diego as a crime scene tech. A recovering alcoholic and mother of a 5 year old, she invents the “timer game” to get her daughter moving in the morning. Using a kitchen timer and scavenger hunt type clues, her daughter dresses herself with each article of apparel in record time, with a prize at the end. Then someone takes her daughter, and challenges Grace to play the “timer game” to get her back. This is a frenetic, crazy game that propels the story forward at high speed towards the startling, yet believable ending. 01/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE TINROOF BLOWDOWN by James Lee Burke: The two seminal events of the new Millennium for those of us in the United States are 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Lawrence Block, S. J. Rozan, and others have written very poignantly about 9/11. Now James Lee Burke weighs in on the impact of Katrina on his beloved south Louisiana and New Orleans in the 16th Dave Robicheaux novel. It starts with Detective Robicheaux’s department investigating the shooting of two looters in a wealthy neighborhood. The house they had ransacked is the home of New Orleans’s most powerful mobster. Now he must locate the surviving looter before others do. As the story unfolds, we see both sides of the people affected by this national disaster as well as the good and the bad that resulted. Thank goodness there is a basis for optimism from all this, as the experience is a draining one. 08/07 Jack Quick
TINY LITTLE TROUBLES by Marc Lecard: Aaron Rogell has it all, gobs of money from the first techno-bubble (he got in and out in time), a nanotech startup in San Francisco that is about to go super nova, a beautiful ex-lawyer wife, a brand-new baby, a new Mercedes, a beautiful home, excited venture capitalists and a major zipper problem. From an up-scale call girl named Aphrodite to a toothless Tenderloin hooker of indeterminate sex, there seems to be nothing he won’t try. Aaron’s doing a pretty good balancing act until he comes to the attention of one of Aphrodite’s lowlife acquaintances – and then its lots of tiny little troubles for Aaron ad everyone associated with him. The book is not laugh out loud funny like an Evanovich, but you can’t help but chuckle at the antics of some of the characters while you try to reconcile scientific genius with social stupidity. Another winner from the author of Vinnie’s Head. 08/08 Jack Quick
TKO by Tom Schreck: No sophomore slump here. In fact, I liked this one so much better than Schreck’s first outing (On The Ropes) last year that I am now really excited about the planned continuation of this series. Duffy Dumbrowski is a Schlitz-drinking, Elvis-loving social worker and amateur boxer. He could easily become a cliché except for Schreck’s writing skills. Consider this opening line from Duffy, “Just because a guy slits the throats of two high school cheerleaders, axes the back of the quarterback’s head and runs down the class president in his mom’s LTD doesn’t make him a bad guy.” After an uncertain time in prison, Howard “Hacker” Reinhart is released and his case is assigned to Dombrowski. Soon, local high school VIPs start showing up dead. Coincidence or ?? Duffy is going to ask Howard about it, as soon as he can find him. Oh, wait there is also a huge upcoming boxing match, a new hormonal girlfriend, and the ongoing misadventures of Allah-King, his Muslim basset hound. One minor irritant in the ARC I read. There seemed to be some question of time placement. Reinhart served twelve years of a thirty-year sentence for crimes committed twenty five years ago and has been locked away for thirty years??? Hand me another Schlitz, would you. 08/08 Jack Quick
TOO DARN HOT by Sandra Scoppettone: In this sequel to This Dame for Hire (2005), Faye Quick, the New York steno who turns private eye after her boss goes off to fight in WWII is persuaded by. Claire Turner, a blonde beauty who works as a salesgirl at Wanamaker’s department store, to look for Claire’s missing GI boyfriend, Charlie Ladd. Not only is Charles too good to be true, butt here’s murder afoot and other foul play as well. It takes a tough dame to survive in this environment and Fay has all the right stuff, including a great name. My kind of broad. 01/07 Jack Quick
TO BEGUILE A BEAST by Elizabeth Hoyt: I’ve been told by an avid romance reader that Hoyt is one of the best writers today, so I took a shot at book three in The Legend of the Four Soldiers series. Definitely a step up from some of the others I’ve read, the storyline makes sense, the writing is intelligent yet the sex is still hot. Obviously a takeoff on the classic Beauty & the Beast story – who knew that fairytales were such fodder for grownup romance? Well, probably lots of romance readers knew, but I’m a neophyte and just learning.
I liked this book about an Englishman who is a famous naturalist writer/illustrator who was captured by the Indians in Colonial America, tortured, and left scarred for life. He returns home to his castle, where a beautiful young woman with a couple of young children turns up on his doorstep, announcing that she is his new housekeeper, sent by a mutual friend. His house, or rather his castle, has been long neglected, but this new hire is not really a housekeeper. She is the mistress of a Duke, and has run away with her children, planning to hide in this new role. The history told here is interesting, as are the royal machinations, and it was a believable story. Hoyt has written a very entertaining and interesting book, and I’d bet the rest of the series is just as good; here’s another romance that I can recommend. 9/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
TO DESIRE A DEVIL by Elizabeth Hoyt: This is the final book in the “Legend of the Four Soldiers Series,” and the second one I’ve read. Beatrice Corning lives with her uncle, the Earl of Blanchard, in his home in London after losing her parents. There is a painting hanging in the house of Reynaud St. Aubyn, the previous Earl, who was killed in the Colonies, that Beatrice moons over. Except seven years later he shows up on their doorstep, demanding his title and his home back. Turns out he was captured by the Indians and enslaved for all those years. He looks like a wild man and acts like one too, until Beatrice slowly tames him. This book brings closure to the mystery hanging over all four books in this series; who was the traitor that got these men captured and many of them killed? Lots of angst, love, sex and some nice twists make for a good way to spend a few hours reading. I am planning on going back and reading the first two books of the series now that I’ve found a romance author I really enjoy. 09/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
TO HELL AND BACK by Lilith Saintcrow: The final installment of the Dante Valentine series begins with our heroine’s release from hell. In an attempt to regain control over Japhrimel, the fallen demon who was once his right hand man, Lucifer kidnapped and tortured Danny. He may find that he has messed with the wrong girl this time. The truth about the fallen is finally revealed and Danny learns that she is the only one who can wield the weapon that could finally destroy the devil himself. It will be a fight to the death as the gates of hell are ripped open and the devil’s minions escape onto Earth. Friends will become enemies and enemies will become reluctant allies in a battle that could mean the end for everyone involved. Saintcrow’s amazing series, self-described as tech noir/urban fantasy, draws inspiration from numerous fictional, mythological, and certainly religious sources. Imagine my delight, though, when Saintcrow herself named one of my teenage favorites L.J. Smith’s Forbidden Game trilogy, as being among those inspiring works. Smith’s work attained almost cult status among my peers and I imagine Saintcrow soon will as well. It will be well deserved and I can’t wait to see what she does next. 01/08 Becky Lejeune
TO SPEAK FOR THE DEAD by Paul Levine: This is the first book in the Jake Lassiter series, which I read back in the day – it came out in 1990, I believe. So why am I rereading a book I read so long ago? Simple. Paul Levine’s next book is called Lassiter, which will be available 9/13/11, and continues one of my favorite series. Let’s call this a nostalgic read and a memory jogger. Paul Levine is one of my favorite writers; I love his characters, his sense of humor and his pacing. I know I loved this series and read them all, but it’s been several years since there’s been a Lassiter book and I’ve probably read a couple of thousand books since then. All that said, I fell in love all over again with this series. In this book, we meet Jake Lassiter, former football player turned tough as nails Miami attorney. Ex-stripper Melanie Corrigan is suing the surgeon she blames for her husband’s death for malpractice, whom Lassiter successfully defends. When that doesn’t work, she frames him for murder. Or did she? This book has more hairpin turns than Lombard Street, plus Miami crazy funny. And best of all, it’s available on ebook for only $2.99. I can’t wait for Lassiter. 08/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
To the Nines by Janet Evanovich: Stephanie Plum, inept bounty hunter extraordinaire, is back and the Burg is safe from bail jumpers. Or is it? Simon Singh, in this country on a work visa backed by a Vincent Plum bond, disappears along with his fiancée’s dog one week before his visa, and his bond, expires. This case is so important that it takes both Ranger and Stephanie to work it, much to Joe’s displeasure. They eventually track Singh down to Las Vegas, but Ranger has some legal issues there, so Stephanie, Lula and Connie are dispatched to pick up Singh and bring him home. Tom Jones impersonators, a riot at the blackjack table and other fun ensues as the trio takes Vegas by storm. And this time around Stephanie doesn’t lose a single car – but Ranger’s men are dropping like flies. Another fun read by Evanovich. Note from Geoff Hamlin: “On page 137, Joe tells Stephanie that Ollie is handling the case. She says ‘Oh great. Blubber-butt Ollie. The Bain of my existence…’ I take it that this is an insider reference to Ed McBain’s Fat Ollie’s Book.” Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
TO THE POWER OF THREE by Laura Lippman: This is a gripping standalone mystery from the author of the wonderful Tess Monaghan series. There is a high school shooting but with a twist – the shooter & the victims are girls. Three girls, friends since elementary school, are locked in the girl’s bathroom. One is dead, one has a self-inflicted life threatening injury and the third has been shot in the foot. Lippman delves into teenage angst, rivalries, and family problems until a believable story emerges. The story moves back and forth between the present day shooting and how the girls met and formed a friendship over the years, making these characters come to life. Despite some criticism about incorrect evidence gathering which I certainly wouldn’t question and frankly didn’t notice, it’s a very interesting page turner that I read in one sitting. 11/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
TOKEN OF DARKNESS by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes: Cooper Blake was an all-around average teen until a car wreck changed everything. Cooper was lucky just to be alive. Though football is now out of the question, the teen has been working hard to recuperate and heal. But something else came out of the accident. Something followed Cooper. Her name is Samantha and only Cooper can see her. As Cooper sets off to find out who the ghost is and how he might be able to help her, not to mention how he ended up being able to see her, he’ll discover that there is much more to the world than he is aware of. Fellow teens Delilah and Blake both know all too well what strange things surround them. They will each try to help Cooper along the way, but even they aren’t sure exactly why Samantha is here or what she wants. In her latest, Atwater-Rhodes presents some interesting ideas and a plot that will no doubt please YA readers looking for something different in the genre. I would have liked more depth to the story, but I think it’s just the right balance for younger readers. 02/10 Becky Lejeune
TOKEN OF REMORSE by Michael Stone: Richie Moats could be a fugitive from John Dortmunder’s gang. His mask falls off in mid-robbery revealing his face to the two people he’s robbing of the weekly take from a string of massage parlors. Richie’s uncle then hires Denver bounty hunter Streeter to find the lad. He isn’t in Mexico as thought, so Streeter comes home empty handed. But then Richie’s partner gets involved and Streeter is back on the case that gets a little complicated. You may need a diagram to keep track of the double-crosses, but two things are perfectly clear throughout: everybody’s into everybody else, and everybody’s going to get burned. 02/06 Jack Quick
THE TOMB by F. Paul Wilson: Repairman Jack doesn’t deal with electronic appliances. Instead, he fixes situations for people, situations that usually involve putting himself in deadly danger. This Block’s Matthew Scudder sober or Child’s Jack Reacher living in New York City. The current project involves recovering a stolen necklace, which alleged carries an ancient curse. In addition he must protect Vicky, the daughter of his girlfriend, Gia. Assuming Jack survives this outing, I am looking forward to new adventures. P.S. He does survive so there is bound to be a sequel. 07/06 Jack Quick
TOMMY GUN TANGO by Brant Randall and Bruce Cook: Marshall Ichabod Petrarch Lawe has lost his job as Marshall of Potemkin County in Peony Springs, Massachusetts and is headed toward Los Angeles. The County Supervisors let him keep his Ford police car complete with police radio as “mustering out” pay, although he had to sand off the Potemkin County Marshall decals on the doors. You immediately know this is a work of fiction when he fills up his tank with gas for $2.18. But then again, maybe that’s not too bad for 1932. Shortly thereafter he picks up a hitchhiker named Aloysious “Al” Haine, a big red headed Mick from Northern Ireland who is a gambler and an ardent Marxist who carries a knife strapped to his leg. Upon arrival in Los Angeles Lawe takes a job as a stuntman in Gower Gulch, the home of low budget western movies, which eventually leads him to a job in studio security at RKO. Haine picks up work at various studios as an extra and helps organize a labor movement among the actors. His union activities get him beaten by union-busting thugs and Lawe comes to his rescue. When Jean Harlow’s husband turns up dead from a gunshot wound to the temple, Lawe suspects that murder has been committed, which puts him on the wrong side of the most powerful executives in Hollywood as well as corrupt local police. Reminiscent of Stuart Kamisnky’s Toby Peters series and nicely done. 10/09 Jack Quick
Tonight I Said Goodbye by Michael Koryta: The Cleveland police would charge private investigator Wayne Weston with murdering his wife and daughter except that their bodies can’t be found and he’s dead, apparently a suicide. Weston’s father isn’t buying it, however, and he hires private investigators Lincoln Perry and Joe Pritchard to clear his son’s name and find his family. Perry is a former cop whose cheating ex-fiancé set him off on a bender that cost him his job. Pritchard, his old partner, is ready to retire and become what all retired cops become, a P.I. The hard-boiled cliché works beautifully here as these two men find themselves chasing Russian Mafiya, a real estate mogul, and an ex-Marine while dodging bullets, cops, and the FBI. The Cleveland setting is a nice change from the usual East Coast/West Coast locales, and the 21-year-old author excels at building characters and story, making this one of the best mystery debuts this year. Winner of the 2003 SMP/PWA Prize for Best First PI Novel, this is highly recommended. A student at Indiana University, Koryta lives in Bloomington. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
TOO BIG TO MISS by Sue Ann Jaffarian: “From the first time Adam noticed the shrinkage and explained it to Eve, men have been trying to tell women that size didn’t matter.” (And women have been saying the same thing to men). Hopefully this series will get the attention it deserves. Odelia Grey is forty-something, five-foot-one, and weighs in at 230 pounds. More importantly she is smart, determined, busy, and generally happy. She becomes an investigator when a fellow large person, fat woman activist Sophie London allegedly commits suicide, in full view of subscribers to the X-rated web site she operates. Odelia can’t believe this and perseveres through Girl Scout cookies (frozen thin mints are best) and other trials and travails to get to the bottom (poor word choice) of the matter. What the world needs is more plus sized detectives, even if they do eat Fig Newtons as an appetizer. 03/07 Jack Quick
TOO CLOSE TO HOME by Lynette Eason: Billed as Book One of the Women of Justice series, this is another chic lit romantic mystery with lots of excess estrogen. The plot: Samantha Cash, an FBI computer forensics expert and overall superwoman is sent to a small South Carolina town after several missing teens turn up dead. There she meets and immediately starts to have romantic feelings for Connor Wolfe, Chief Detective on the case. Compounding the emotional turmoil is the fact that Cash looks exactly like Wolfe’s late wife. Wolfe’s teenage daughter, Jenna get involved and then like any normal sixteen year old, thinks her Dad is being overly protective. But is he? The killer seems to be taking closer interest in Jenna as Cash and Wolfe race toward identifying the killer and dealing with their own burgeoning relationship. Throw in a heavy dose of contemporary Christianity and then wrap it all up in 327 pages. A treat for some but it left me wanting to brush the sweet taste out of my mouth. However, I will give Ms. Eason credit. She lives in South Carolina, as I once did, and seems to be one of the few authors who understand the role of SLED – South Carolina Law Enforcement Division – politically and operationally. 06/10 Jack Quick
TOO PRETTY TO DIE: A Debutante Dropout Mystery by Susan McBride: Tupperware parties are no longer. Now there are “pretty parties”, where a bunch of Dallas socialites get together and get shot up with Botox or whatever the latest anti-aging wrinkle filler is, by Dr. Sonja Madhavi. Except the cream of the crop, Miranda DuBois, former beauty queen and current news bunny, has a problem with Dr. Sonja; her injections have left Miranda with an eye won’t stop twitching and a droopy mouth, definitely not television-worthy. She shows up at the latest pretty party drunk, brandishing a gun and ends up taking a wild shot at Dr. Sonja. She misses, but gives the girls plenty to talk about and effectively breaks up the party. Our heroine, Andy Kendricks, was dragged to the party by her close friend, a society reporter for the local rag, who now really has a hot story. Andy ends up taking Miranda home, where she passes out on the couch. The next morning, Andy decides to check up on her and finds the neighborhood swarming with cops because Miranda is dead, apparently by suicide. Or is it? Do former beauty pageant queens off themselves? Andy doesn’t think so, and the fun really begins. This latest entry into a terrific series is back on the murder track – it’s light, fast, and a great way to while away a winter afternoon. 01/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
TOO RICH AND TOO THIN: NOT AN AUTOBIGRAPHY by Barbara DeShong: Psychologists aren’t crazy – they are on the other side of the line. Don’t mean they can’t act crazy, just that you can’t lock them up for it. Dr. Jessica LeFave is summoned to profile the killer who drove a spike through the heart of the notorious Bernice Jackson, which is kind of interesting since Bernice was a psychiatry patient of Jessica’s husband’s at the time of his death Jessica is convinced her husband was murdered to bury a secret revealed in therapy. Not that bad an assumption since her husband was found at the bottom of Lake Austin, complete with hotel receipt and another woman’s wedding rings in his pocket. So the stage is now set for a wacky wade into a truly bizarre situation, complete with dopes and dopers, eating disorders, obsessions, anxiety, psychotic dreams, and maybe in the middle of all these, some answers. 10/09 Jack Quick
THE TOOTH TATTOO by Peter Lovesey: Lovesey has constructed a wonderful backdrop for this latest Peter Diamond outing. It seems that one of the finest string quartets in the world has had its violist disappear. Mel Ferran, an unattached concert violist, is recruited by them in a mysterious fashion. One by one, he is vetted by each of the other members who are fascinating character studies in their own way. He wins the job and the group accepts a residency at the Bath Spa University while they learn to play together and develop their repertoire. However, a young string quartet groupie is killed, so Diamond, who is head of the Bath CID is called in to investigate. (Who knew string quartets had groupies?) The investigation is complicated by the return of the long-missing violist and the resemblance to a similar death which occurred while Diamond and his woman friend Paloma were on a Third Man tour of Vienna. I have always enjoyed the Peter Diamond stories, but I think that this one had more sheer fun than any of the others I recall offhand. And I was always humming as I read, whether it was the Third Man Theme or the more classical efforts of the Quartet. This is a perfect summer read. 6/13 Geoffrey R. Hamlin
TOP DOWN by Jim Lehrer: Van Walters was a secret service agent working as part of the Kennedy motorcade moving through Dallas on November 22, 1963. Van made the decision to leave the bubble top off of President Kennedy’s car due to the pleasant weather, and because it was not bullet proof. After the assassination Van lapses into a protracted melancholy blaming himself for the President’s death due to the decision to leave the bubble top off. At the same time fledgling newspaper reporter Jack Gilmore covered the motorcade for his paper and remembers asking Van if the bubble top would be put up. Jack retains the memory and wonders if the decision to keep the top off was the right one. Five years after the assassination Jack is called by Van’s daughter Marti asking for help with her father who has lost the will to live due to his feeling that he allowed Kennedy’s death. Marti picks Jack due to his presence on the site on November 22, 1963. Still consumed by his own curiosity he agrees and meets with Marti. Together they begin to try and reach Van and bring him back to the realization that he bears no fault for the murder. Nothing helps, including the work of a psychiatrist hired by Van’s wife until Jack conceives of an idea that may provide Van with a means to come back to reality. The ending of the book is excellent and is rewarding in itself for the reader. A book that will capture the reader and provide for an all nighter and an interest in exploring more books by Lehrer. 10/13 Paul Lane
TOP PRODUCER by Norb Vonnegut: Vonnegut’s financial thriller debut features Grove O’Rourke, a major player in the cutthroat world of Wall Street’s most talented stockbrokers. O’Rourke is among the hundreds who witness the bizarre murder of Charlie Kelemen, in a huge salt water tank at the Boston Aquarium where Keleman’s wife’s birthday is being celebrated. When O’Rourke tries to help Kelemen’s widow sort out some financial questions, the process leads him deeper and deeper into a labyrinth of deceit. As fallout from Charlie’s death and dealings start to taint O’Rourke, sharks even more vicious than those that beheaded Keleman, smell blood and begin to circle. O’Rourke won’t go down without a fight, and not all the blood in the water will be his. If you enjoy Christopher Reich, you will love this one. 11/09 Jack Quick
TORPEDO JUICE by Tim Dorsey: At the beginning of the Coen Brothers’ movie, The Big Lebowski, Sam Elliott, the narrator, says that sometimes there is a man that is just right for his time and place. In The Big Lebowski, it is “The Dude” in Los Angeles just before the turn of the century. In Torpedo Juice, it is Tim Dorsey’s homicidal hippy history buff, Serge, in Key West, Florida, just after the turn of the century. This fit is so perfect, it makes you wonder why Serge hasn’t tripped across this weird corner of the Sunshine State before now.
The plot of this comic mystery loosely involves a psychotic serial killer (no, not Serge) traveling around Florida pursued by the law and others. Woven into this is Serge’s decision that it is time for him to marry and experience that rich adventure.
The somewhat scattered development of this and other plot lines is more than compensated for by the non-stop madness of discrete comic episodes worthy of the Marx Brothers. Serge and Coleman’s adventures in grocery shopping are the stuff of which legends, or perhaps cult movies, are made. Day old pizza. Half-price chicken. “We must be in the Guy Section.”
Serge’s bewilderment at the turnings of the female mind and the tradeoffs of marriage are also memorable. They are equal parts humor and truth and worth reading out loud to the right evil companions.
Now that Serge is on the road and out of the Tampa area again, I would sort of like to see him expand his horizons by traveling further afield. Like maybe to Bisbee, Arizona.
If you are looking for a book to take on Spring Break, this is it. Enjoy. 03/05 ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.
TOTALLY DEAD by Michael Stone: Would-be mobster Alphonse Lucci needs protection from genuine tough guys muscling in on his restaurants. Mitch Bosco, a klutzy crook who listens avidly to self-help tapes and keeps a “Prosperity Journal,” tries to torch Lucci’s house but mistakenly burns a neighbor’s place. Bosco moonlights as a police informant, helping the cops sting a junkyard owner with a lucrative trade in stolen televisions and cars. These cases converge when Bosco’s boss, Freddy Disanto, decides to blow Bosco’s cover and steal the hot car money. Enter bounty hunter Streeter and his bondsman partner to pick up all the pieces. A delightfully twisty ending. 02/06 Jack Quick
TOUCH & GO by Lisa Gardner: The Denbe family of three has their problems like everyone else, despite their wealth and magnificent home. But things really take a turn for the worse when the entire family is kidnapped and disappear. The Boston police and the F.B.I. are at a loss until the ransom demand comes in a couple of days later. Justin Denbe owns a multi-million dollar construction company and carries insurance against such an event. Tessa Leoni, former Boston cop, is now a private investigator for corporate security, and she’s been assigned the Denbe case. As the clock clicks down, Tessa works hard to figure out what happened to this family in time to save them. Meanwhile the Denbe’s are trying to stay alive, and learning more secrets about each other than they ever wanted to know. These are characters the reader can empathize with, and the story is very twisty with an ending that hits from the blindside. I couldn’t put it down. 2/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE TOUCH OF TWILIGHT: THE THIRD SIGN OF THE ZODIAC by Vicki Pettersson: This third book in Pettersson’s amazing and inventive series finds Joanna facing the possibility of her shadow side finally rearing its ugly head. The third sign of the zodiac states that the dormant side of the Kairos will finally awaken. The Kairos being Joanna Archer, agent of the light, daughter of shadow, and the tipping point in the battle between good and evil. After proving her loyalty to the team, most of Zodiac Troop 175 is finally convinced of Joanna’s pledge to fight for good. Unfortunately, a doppelganger has broken through to our dimension and is dead set on taking over Joanna’s identity. Joanna may find herself forced to fight alongside her father in order to get rid of a seemingly common enemy. In addition to that, Joanna’s attempts to set her true love’s mind at ease has upset the balance of their world and has left him an open target for a vengeful shadow agent. With each new installment, Pettersson’s series becomes more intense and elaborate. Pettersson draws on world legends and myths (changelings, the Tulpa, and now doppelgangers) as well as the classic superhero/comic book mythos to make this the most exciting and original series in urban fantasy today. Anyone not reading the Signs of the Zodiac is seriously missing out. 05/08 Becky Lejeune
TOUGH LUCK by Jason Starr: Mickey Prada is a good Brooklyn kid. He is living at home, taking care of his widowed father, a victim of Alzheimer’s, and working at the fish market, saving his money to go to Baruch College and become an accountant. His troubles start when a new customer, Angelo Santoro, asks Mickey to place a few sports bets for him. Santoro seems to be a Made Guy, so Mickey doesn’t feel he can refuse. But Santoro never makes good on his losses. As Mickey quickly plunges into debt, he grows desperate for a way out, even agreeing to go in on a house robbery with his pal Chris and some guys from his bowling team. From that point on, his downward slide is steep and seemingly unstoppable. Quite a ride and a great read. 12/08 Jack Quick
TOWER by Ken Bruen and Reed Coleman: Nick is classic Irish bad – his mother says he “has the bad drop.” Todd is Nick’s best friend from boyhood and while both start down the path to being hoods, Todd gets pulled away to the legal side. The friendship, although increasingly strained, remains intact even when Nick kills cold eyed enforcer Griffin who works for the Bible quoting Boyle. Looming symbolically over both their worlds is the North Tower at which Nick’s Dad works. Presented in two parts, it is a testament to the skill of both these fine authors that you can’t discern who wrote which part. Outstanding. 12/09 Jack Quick
THE TOWER by Simon Clark: Fabien has always been a lucky one. Raised with money and all the opportunity it affords him, he has become something of a control-freak. When he lands a cushy job as a house sitter for The Tower, a home dating back to early colonial times now under contract to be renovated into condos, he drags his band mates and his girlfriend along for the ride. His idea is that the band can spend the month secluded and without distraction so that they can concentrate on learning his songs, songs he’s sure will get them on the fast track to a record deal and the big leagues. His band mates are just hoping for a little fun and relaxation in the countryside. The Tower has other ideas for the group, however. The Tower has a taste for blood and it has been far too long since that craving has been satisfied. Simon Clark is great at creating atmosphere. The whole tone of the book is very gothic and creepy, but I was left wanting more. The history of The Tower was one aspect in particular that was touched on but not as in depth as I would have liked. I was left unsatisfied with the catch-all “just because it’s evil” explanation, or lack thereof. It would be great if another book featuring The Tower were around, but not so as of yet. 05/09 Becky Lejeune
TOWER HILL by Sarah Pinborough: The danger of succumbing to temptation is the driving theme in this latest horror release from British author Sarah Pinborough. It’s the beginning of a new semester and the quaint town of Tower Hill is welcoming its latest influx of students. Two strangers have also just arrived in Tower Hill. One is posing as the enigmatic new history professor, Gray Kenyon. The other has taken the identity of the local clergyman, Father O’brien. From these two positions of power, the men begin to take hold of the town, transforming members of the community into entities that will become gateways to this world for spirits of the worst kind. Roommates Steve Wharton and Liz Clapton are both typical freshmen, hoping that college will offer them new lives and futures far away from the lives they’ve previously known. Neither of them is prepared for the evil that is about to be unleashed, but they may end up being Tower Hill’s last hope. There seems to be a running theme in horror these days, this Needful Things type scenario where the whole town is placed in grave danger and only a few outsiders are left immune to the evil. Tower Hill is one of the best ones I have come across lately. Pinborough tells a great story, it’s as plain as that. Her plot and her characters are interesting, and the twist is quite original. Anyone thirsting for something new and exciting in the genre should definitely check out Tower Hill. 07/08 Becky Lejeune
THE TOWN THAT FORGOT HOW TO BREATHE by Kenneth J. Harvey: In the past few weeks, there have been some changes in the town of Bareneed. Fisheries officer Joseph Blackwood had hoped to give his daughter Robin a nice vacation while sharing a bit of family history. The Blackwoods were once part of the town’s long line of fishermen, that is, until Joseph’s father moved his family to the city. Today, the cod industry has all but been eliminated with government sanctions and many of the townsfolk are out of work. Strange things are starting to happen. It begins when a handful of townspeople die of apparent asphyxiation. Soon the hospital is overcome with more people suffering from this strange ailment that affects their ability to breathe. They also seem to be suffering from a strange sort of amnesia. Other people in town begin to suffer from uncontrollable rage. Then, dead bodies begin to float to the surface of the lake and there are reported sightings of mythical sea creatures. Military officials appear and the town is subsequently, unofficially, quarantined. Just what is happening in the town of Bareneed? Can the people survive this nightmare? Canadian author Kenneth J. Harvey’s eerie debut will stay with readers long after they finish reading it. This is not a story to rush through, but one that should be savored. 11/06 Becky LeJeune
TRACE EVIDENCE by Elizabeth Becka: Evelyn James is a forensic scientist in the Cleveland, Ohio Medical Examiner’s Office and a single mom. Her newest case involves a young woman found in the river with her feet encased in a bucket of concrete. Then the daughter of her former boyfriend and now Cleveland’s mayor is found dead under similar circumstances. James starts her own crime solving but soon becomes fearful for the safety of her own daughter. Although certainly derivative of Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reich, I found it to be an interesting read and look forward to sequels, which, hopefully will show a little tighter editing and fewer cumbersome procedural details. 08/06 Jack Quick
TRACKERS by Deon Meyer: Deon Meyer is a South African author that has had several books already released in the United States successfully. His forte has been excellent character development coupled with good plots and looks into the political scene in post apartheid South Africa. Trackers is a stand alone novel as opposed to most of his books that have revolved around a police officer in his country.
Meyer successfully combines three apparently non related story lines, each of which is so well delineated that they could have been developed into separate novels. In keeping with his normal writings, the three stories combine excellent and very believable character development. The reader is brought into all three story lines wondering what they have to do with each other, and more important what they have in common with an underlying threat of an imminent attack on South Africa by Al Queda. What does the smuggling of two endangered black Rhinos into South Africa have to do with a search for a missing husband and the theft of valuable jewelry. And where does the attack by Al Queda come into play.
Meyer, in an almost magic scenario answers these questions while keeping his readers glued to the book. This is one that is almost impossible to put down. All three story lines meld into a logical ending coupled with an intriguing move by Al Queda which is one of those “was this really possible” developments. We are not going to see three fairy tale endings, but we are going to be satisfied that questions have been answered. Come on Deon – get cracking on your next book. You have a growing audience in the U.S. waiting for it with baited breath. 10/11 Paul Lane
THE TRAFFICKERS by W.E.B. Griffin: It seems like I have been reading Griffin books all my life – and enjoying everyone of them, so it is good to see that his son William E. Butterwoth IV is beginning to get equal billing, and will hopefully follow in his father’s footsteps. In this latest outing, Philadelphia Homicide Sergeant Matthew Payne is involved with multiple murders that all seem (to him) to be related to the burgeoning drug trafficking trade in the city. Joined by a long lean Texas Ranger who has been pursuing the matter from the other end of the country, the two set out to disable El Gato – the Cat, a twenty one year old Hispanic psycho from Dallas whose modus operandi includes cutting off the heads of young girls with a machete. Plenty of violence and shooting and a satisfactory ending. Now I am ready for another Griffin/Butterworth. 09/09 Jack Quick
TRAIL OF THE SPELLMANS by Lisa Lutz: The Spellmans are back, again. The Blakes want the Spellmans to follow their college-age daughter and make sure she’s on her best behavior. Adam Cooper has hired them to follow his sister. Margaret Slayter wants a report of all her husband’s comings and goings. And Walter Perkins needs someone to check in on him time to time. Each of the cases presents its own challenges and opportunities for hijinks, something the Spellmans specialize in. Meanwhile, the family has some unexpected visitors and some unique ways of dealing with them. Five books into the series, Lisa Lutz has managed to keep her plots and characters fresh and entertaining (laugh out loud entertaining). Readers can jump in at any time and fans will be pleased with this latest return to the quirky and slightly dysfunctional PI family. 3/12 Becky Lejeune
Train by Pete Dexter: Pete Dexter is again exploring the attitudes of racism in America in his new novel, Train. He forces us to take a hard look at where we are now and whether things have really gotten any better since the time of this tale set in Los Angeles of the 1950’s.
The protagonist, Miller Packard is an interesting, but not fully-realized, character who we must judge by his actions, since we are not permitted to share his emotions and can only guess at his motivations. We do know that he is a wounded man, both from W.W. II and from barroom brawls that he instigates.
Perhaps this is why he takes other wounded persons under his wing. One is a young Black caddy named Lionel (“Train”) Walk. He reminds us that many behaviors are just survival techniques reinforced by years of unconscious and deliberate cruelty. In his spare time, Train practices and he is good. Much better than the abusive county-clubbers that he bags for.
Another is Norah, who newly-wed is the subject of a vicious, mindless rape after the murder of the husband.
Packard gives both a place to live, the opportunity to re-invent themselves and even what may be affection.
Ultimately, the world has beaten them all up very badly and they cannot escape the character, feelings and responses that they have developed in response to those hurts.
Especially if you haven’t read anything by Pete Dexter before, I would recommend this book. ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.
TRAIN DREAMS by Denis Johnson: Denis Johnson is a fine contemporary writer and I try to keep a close eye on his work. I thought that the stories in Jesus’ Son were evidence of a very special talent and that Tree of Smoke was a fine novel. But the novella Train Dreams surpasses them both and is likely to be the work that he is remembered for. Train Dreams is the story of Robert Grainier, a man whose life has been shaped by the presence and the sound and the demands of trains as they make their way across the Western Frontier. His earliest memories were being sent by himself on the train to Idaho to live with his aunt’s family. As an adult, he supports himself by working on crews building railroad bridges, laying track and preparing timber for shipment. A loner for most of his life, he enters into marriage and has a daughter, only to lose them in a forest fire while he is away working. But Grainier is at a place and time to see special things as America goes through its growing pains. As impressive and compelling as the story is, what really makes this book special is the author’s command of language. I would describe the writing in this book as elegiac. The writing and the story reminded me a lot of John Williams’ Stoner, an American classic not read often enough. This is a book for people who like history, people who are dreamers and people who love language. 10/11 Geoffrey R. Hamlin
TRANSGRESSIONS edited by Ed McBain: Ten novellas in this hefty volume, each by a master. Start with Donald E. Westlake’s Dortmunder in Walking Around Money. Go on to Anne Perry, Walter Mosley, McBain himself, Lawrence Block, Joyce Carol Oates, Sharyn McCrumb, Stephen King and still two more to go. Pound for pound a great read for the holidays. 11/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
TRANSGRESSIONS, Volume 3 – Actually three novellas in one volume. MERELY HATE by Ed McBain, WALKING THE LINE by Walter Mosley, and WALKING AROUND MONEY by Donald E. Westlake. Three excellent stories by three great authors. The McBain is a classic 87th precinct job involving Muslim cab drivers (right out today’s paper (?). Mosley features Archibald Lawless and Felix Orlean, a New York City journalism student, and Westlake –who else but our old pal John Dortmunder, who gets involved with a crime no one is supposed to ever know what happened. Copyrighted in 2005, it refers to additional volumes in this series with other featured authors including Lawrence Block, Anne Perry and Jeffery Deaver. 02/07 Jack Quick
THE TRAVELER by John Twelve Hawks: In this world, there is a faction called The Tabula. For centuries, The Tabula – or The Brethren as the call themselves – have worked to create a world in which every decision is chosen for you, a world in which individuality has been nearly eliminated. Modern technology: computers, security cameras, cell phones and the like, have all helped to bring them closer to their goal. Our only hope against this bleak and lies with a group called The Travelers and their sworn protectors, Harlequins. Travelers have the ability to travel between the six realms – worlds that exist parallel to our own. The Tabula have been fairly successful in eliminating their enemies – only a few Harlequins remain and there are no known Travelers in existence, until now. Maya was raised and trained as a Harlequin life but has rejected this lifestyle as an adult. This has kept her safely out of the radar of The Tabula and off their elimination list. After receiving a message from her father, she travels to Germany where he reveals that there may be two living Travelers in the States. Maya refuses to help but soon changes her mind after her father is brutally murdered by Tabula mercenaries. Her last minute attempt to save her father has not gone unnoticed.
Michael and Gabriel Corrigan know nothing of their possible Traveler talents but that doesn’t stop the Tabula from kidnapping Michael. Now, Maya and Gabriel must work together to infiltrate the Tabula network and save Michael before it is too late. This paranoid vision of the future is reminiscent of both the Matrix and the more recent V for Vendetta – a very compelling debut. 07/07 Becky Lejeune
TRAVELS IN ELYSIUM by William Azuski: A mystery, awash with metaphysical discussions about history, the meaning of life, and if the witnessing of a white light by people that have had a near death experience means that there is another existence after dying. Nicolas Pedrosa, a recent university graduate living in England is stuck in a dead end job when he comes upon a newspaper ad looking for an archaeological apprentice for work on a dig on the Greek island of Santorini. Nick applies for the job and in spite of no real credentials, gets it. Upon arrival he begins work with the director of the project, Marcus Huxley, who is fixated with proving that the buildings, artifacts, paintings and writings that have been unearthed so far prove that the fabled city of Atlantis has been discovered by the team he heads up. The writings of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato talk of a cultured city in the Atlantic destroyed by an earthquake, and one of the areas that scientists believe might have been Atlantis is Santorini. Nicolas and others in Huxley’s team fall under the spell of the director’s philosophies and ideas and begin to imagine that they had separate lives in Atlantis as well as those they live today. Scenes of Atlantis become real to them, and the presence of spirits permeate their thoughts. Huxley leads the team also in the direction of thinking that the Greek concept of Charion ferrying the dead to another land is real and the portal to that land is in the area they have excavated. There are discussions of different concepts between the characters often leading them into following Marcus Huxley onto subjects which are completely metaphysical in nature and sufficiently well presented to carry the reader into analyzing what is discussed. Azuski’s concept of Atlantis existing on Santorini and being destroyed by a titanic earthquake is a fascinating one, and his juxtaposition of events in the present with those that may have taken place in the past is unique. A very original and enjoyable adventure into past and present events vividly presented. 05/13 Paul Lane
THE TREATMENT by Mo Hayder: In the second book to feature DI Jack Caffery, Hayder pulls out all the stops. At the start of The Treatment, Jack has been tasked to investigate a strange home invasion and kidnapping in Brockwell Park. A family was held, chained up without food and water for days until a passerby knocked on the door and interrupted the gruesome crime that was occurring inside. The perpetrator then took off with the family’s eight-year-old son. Jack and his fellow officers are convinced that the boy will be found somewhere in the park, but it will be days before they finally make the grisly discovery. Caffery and his girlfriend, Becky, have survived the horrific occurrences of Birdman but have yet to move on. Becky has blocked all memory of the event and the resulting stress endured by Caffery, coupled with this new case, has become almost too much for the man to handle. The relationship between Caffery and Penderecki, the pedophile Jack suspects is behind his own brother’s abduction years ago, has taken a strange turn with Penderecki leaving cryptic notes regarding his crime. Then, Jack discovers Penderecki’s dead body and a package arrives with information that could not only reveal the truth about Jack’s long lost brother, but could lead to a break in the current case as well. This emotionally charged thriller is possibly one of the most disturbing books I have ever read. The end is especially unsettling, but Hayder’s ability as a storyteller is magnificent. Readers will find some comfort in knowing that Hayder’s latest release, Ritual, also features Caffery and may offer some closure in regards to final pages of The Treatment. Highly recommended but definitely not for the squeamish. 03/08 Becky Lejeune
TREE OF SMOKE by Denis Johnson: Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction, 2007. The Philippines, 1963, “Last night at 3:00 a.m. President Kennedy had been killed. Seaman Houston and the other two recruits slept while the first reports traveled around the world.” Thus begins a saga that, if you lived through it as I did, will trigger all manner of emotions and memories – the Tet Offensive, the deaths of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, the fall of Saigon, and the continuing impact of the Vietnam war on the baby boomers of the United States and elsewhere. An exceptionally large cast of characters, some colorful, some vaguely chalked in, surround the primaries – CIA officer Skip Sands and GI’s Bill and James Houston, along with Sergeant Jimmy Storm – “We’re on the cutting edge of reality itself,” says Storm. “Right where it turns into a dream.” In some ways this book is like Apocalypse Now – just too bold and too big to wrap your arms around. The book ends, in 1983, in a heartbreaking soliloquy from relief worker Kathy Jones (fittingly, a Canadian) on the occasion of a war orphan benefit in a Minneapolis Radisson. Her last words are: “yes, yes, all will be saved. All will be saved. All will be saved.” Let’s pray she is correct. 12/07 Jack Quick
TRIAL AND ERROR by Paul Levine: Round four of the sparring match between Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord is a bit over the top but still thoroughly engaging and enjoyable. Steve’s autistic nephew Bobby has found a new passion, talking with the dolphins. Unfortunately, this passion leads him to sneak out of the house at night to visit his dolphin friends, until the night an ecoterrorist group decides to free the dolphins. In the melee, one man ends up dead, another accused of murder. Solomon represents the murderer, and somehow Lord ends up as a special prosecutor on the same case, keeping the tension running high. Take this quick read to the beach and enjoy. 06/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE TRIALS OF ZION by Alan Dershowitz: Abe Ringel, a Dershowitz-like lawyer/celebrity, returns (after Just Revenge) in this legal thriller set in Israel. A fictional Palestinian state is the site of a bombing that kills its newly elected leader, the U.S. President, and the Israeli prime minister. Ringel’s daughter Emma, a recent Yale law school grad, joins the team defending the suspected bomber, who wants to be convicted and die a martyr. Ringel is forced into the situation when Emma is kidnapped by the suspect’s brother, who threatens to kill Emma unless his brother is acquitted. There is also some subterfuge going on with Ringel’s wife, a former spy, and her friend, a former Secret Service agent. Dershowitz uses a forbidden romance between the Jewish Emma and her Palestinian boss as a teaching vehicle to shed light on the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. VERDICT One-dimensional characters and awkward dialog mar an engaging premise, but legal fans will enjoy learning about the differences between American and Israeli law. Fans of Richard North Patterson’s Exile might also like this. 09/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2010 Library Journal, a division of Media Source Inc. Reprinted with permission.
THE TRICKING OF FREYA by Christina Sunley: In Christina Sunley’s amazing debut, Freya Morris attempts to chronicle her family’s story, one that stretches from Iceland to Canada and through decades of vivid history, for a cousin she has only just discovered exists. Freya begins her tale with her first trip to meet her family, the same visit when her mother suffers an accident from which she never truly recovers, an accident that Freya believes is all her fault. Birdie, Freya’s aunt, turns out to be a true force to be reckoned with. Freya is too young to understand the woman’s manic episodes and idolizes the energetic woman. Events following the summer of Freya’s thirteenth year change everything for the family, though, and as Freya’s anger and later her own guilt prevent her from returning to Canada, she attempts to move on with her own life. It is only upon finally returning to Canada that she again finds purpose in life, purpose in telling her family’s tale and in finding her missing relative. Like the famed poet within, Sunley’s writing is truly poetic. She brings here settings alive in a way that will make you believe that you have been there and experienced it all yourself. 03/09 Becky Lejeune
Tricky Business by Dave Barry: I have to preface this review by saying that I absolutely adore Dave Barry. I read his columns religiously, and have tremendous respect for his talent. His nonfiction books are generally collections or expansions of his columns, and are so hilarious that I must read them in small doses or I can literally laugh until I am in pain. That said, I was very excited when his first novel, Big Trouble came out. However, it was a disappointment, although I attributed that to the fact that I listened to an abridged version of the audio book. When this new one came out, one review claimed that if you like the humor of “I Love Lucy”, you will enjoy this book. I’m a huge Lucy fan, but I didn’t understand the comparison here.
I read this one, not trusting the abridgement. But despite that, it was very uneven, alternating between one liners and moments of horrific violence, which just didn’t work for me. Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard and Tim Dorsey pull it off, but sadly, Barry doesn’t. Some of the humor was terrific, like the local news station that kept getting it’s employees killed in search of TV footage of Hurricane Hector. But most of the characters were no more than just caricatures, which made it difficult to care about them or what happened to them, and I think that is the big trouble here. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
TRIGGER CITY by Sean Chercover: The facts are simple – A lonely woman was murdered by her disturbed coworker. The police have investigated. The case is closed. Truth is, however, far more complicated. PI Ray Dudgen is hired by the woman’s father to find truth, or at least more facts. Ray really doesn’t want the job but his shoulder (injured in Chercover’s debut novel, Big City, Bad Blood) needs surgery and he needs money. Before he knows it, Ray is earning the money, dodging would be killers and getting pulled into the shadowy realm of covert intelligence. In the process he comes face to face with the competing interests of those involved with the War on Terror. No sophomore slump here for Chercover, as Ray Dudgen is beginning to look like a modern day Mickey Spillane. 10/08 Jack Quick
TRIGGER POINT by Matthew Glass: Trigger Point is an extremely interesting and timely book even though it is set in the near future. Events depicted, while featuring characters that are active in 2018. could be those that follow paths in existence today. A group of American Aid workers are killed in Uganda by a terrorist group and the US president decides to exact revenge by attacking the terrorists in return. China has interests in the Sudan which is neighboring Uganda and makes it known that they would be against any incursions into that country. At the same time a critical election is to be held in South Africa in which England has an interest in opposition to China’s interests. The US sides with England and makes their position clear to the Chinese. The most critical event is the manipulation of a huge investment bank which is 25% owned by the Chinese government causing it to declare bankruptcy and fostering panic and crisis in the US securities markets. The Chinese are blamed for allowing the bank to fail for reasons known only to them.
As a result of the three theaters of conflict between the US and China a naval battle off the coast of Uganda moves towards an inevitable climax and possibly an initiation of global war.
Mr Glass is extremely knowledgeable about movements in the stock and bond markets and presents an attention grabbing description of the back and forth actions of these markets as they move towards crashing and wiping out fortunes as well life savings of share holders. The analysis of the financial market movements is by far and away the strongest portion of the book, although the other conflict areas are very well melded into the work. 3/12 Paul Lane
TRIPLE CROSS by Mark T. Sullivan: In this era of Bernie Madoff, AIG bonuses, government bailouts and the collapse of institutions like FannieMae and FreddyMac, Chrysler and General Motors, Sullivan has written a novel that might strike a chord with many. Half a dozen of the richest men in the world are celebrating New Years at the Jefferson Club, a spectacularly exclusive private club in the mountains of Montana when the Third Position Army, a group that says it is revolting against “corporate tyranny” takes over. After freeing most of the guests, they hold a people’s trial for the financial barons that is webcast live. After the evidence is presented the group invites the viewers to decide – guilty or innocent. Those who are voted “guilty” are then dispatched—on camera—in novel and grisly ways. Terrorism meets reality TV. Obviously politically incorrect, but on a certain level, it felt good. 06/09 Jack Quick
TRIPTYCH by Karin Slaughter: triptych: a picture (as an altarpiece) or carving in three panels side by side. Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Will Trent and Detective Michael Ormewood are working on the case of an Atlanta area serial killer whose M.O. is biting off his victim’s tongue. They are joined by Angie Polaski, a vice squad undercover agent Will first knew in an orphanage where they were both placed after suffering severe abuse. A parallel story line involves John Shelley, an ex-con who has recently been released after serving twenty years for his teenaged conviction of the murder of a female classmate. Slaughter pulls all the threads together, ratcheting the tension as they tighten. Different in feel from her Grant County, Georgia series, this one still explores Slaughter’s connection of intimacy and violence. It will be interesting to see where Slaughter goes from here, back to Grant County, or further adventures in the bigger pond of Atlanta. 09/06 Jack Quick
THE TRIUMPH OF EVIL by Lawrence Block: Originally published under the name Paul Kavenagh, Block tells the tale of Miles Dom, a man whose sole function is to kill, and the role he plays in a series of assassinations designed to bring a demagogue into power. You’ll never guess where. The usual Block excellence. 05/06 Jack Quick
TROGLODYTES by Ed Lynskey: Troglodytes are members of a fabulous or prehistoric race of people that lived in caves, dens, or holes. P.I. Frank Johnson has been hired to locate American diplomat Sylvester Mercedes who has turned up missing in Turkey. Johnson will search high and low before finding the answer literally under his feet. Lynskey does a good job of wisely using the exotic locale without letting it interfere with a solid PI yarn. Highly recommended. 12/09 Jack Quick
TROJAN ODYSSEY by Clive Cussler: The 17th swash buckling adventure by the buckler of all swashers – Dirk Pitt. This time Cussler has him foiling a dastardly plot by outlandish villains to launch a new ice age, and at the same time demonstrating that the Achaeans were not Greeks but Celts, and that Troy was a town in what’s now England. Drawn into the web of danger are Pitts twin son and daughter as well as pal Al Giordino and assorted other NUMA stalwarts but good eventually prevails and Cussler himself makes an appearance in the final two pages. For pure escapism its hard to beat Cussler, even though Pitt is growing long in the tooth and is even thinking, egad, of finally settling down. But so long as there still villains left afloat in this world I suspect we will continue to see more of Mr. Pitt et al. Nicely done. 05/11 Jack Quick
TROUBLEMAKER, BOOK ONE: A BARNABY AND HOOKER GRAPHIC NOVEL by Janet Evanovich, Alex Evanovich, and illustrated by Joelle Jones: I tried this book because like most of the people who are going to try this, it had Janet Evanovich’s name on it. Several years ago she wrote two books, Metro Girl and Motor Mouth, featuring these same characters. Hooker is a Nascar racer, and Barnaby is a girl in his pit crew, his romantic interest, and features the typical Evanovich humor now taken to the graphic novel. I’m just not a huge fan of the genre, but like other genres I don’t particularly love, I keep trying. This is a short story set in Miami replete with voodoo, a missing woman who rolls cigars, her missing boss, and the Nascar racer’s hot mom/cougar. It ends in the middle of the story, to be continued in Book Two. I doubt I’ll read it, but maybe Evanovich will find a new audience here. 10/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
TRUE BLUE by David Baldacci: Mace Perry was a kickass cop – before she became a con. Actually she was just an inmate serving all but the last 48 hours of her two year sentence, before being released into the custody of her old sister Beth, chief of the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police. Mace had been seized by bandits, drugged and taken along on a series of armed robberies around Washington. Now she is willing to risk everything to clear her name and reclaim her life as a cop by cracking a big case on her own. The rape-murder of a powerful lawyer and the killing of a prominent U.S. attorney provide Mace an opportunity to vindicate herself. Full of non-stop action this one bodes well for the planned series featuring the Perry gals. 01/10 Jack Quick
TRUE LOVE AT SILVER CREEK RANCH by Emma Cane: This was my first Cane romance, and I enjoyed it. Set on a working ranch in a small town in the Colorado Rockies, Brooke Thalberg runs the place with her brothers and some assistance from her father, who is busy these days taking care of her mother who suffers from MS. Her illness is a minor plot point, but it is handled very well. Returning war veteran Adam Desantis is staying with his grandmother, a widow who lives in a boarding house with other widows. She feigns feebleness, hiding her feisty nature and good health in hopes her only grandson will stick around. He does, landing a job at the ranch where he tries to deal with his war injuries, both physical and mental. Brooke and Adam fall in love, but fight it every step of the way. Like most romances, this is a fast read and I enjoyed it. Looking forward to more from this author. 1/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
TRUST NO ONE by Greg Hurwitz: Imagine being awakened in the middle of the night, torn from your home and helicoptered to talk to a terrorist threatening to blow up a nuclear power plant. Those are the circumstances that Nick Horrigan finds himself in. He has no idea why this is happening until he finally speaks with the terrorist, but before he can get the whole story, the terrorist is killed. Nick sets off on a journey to find the truth, that somehow involves his Secret Service agent stepfather’s murder seventeen years earlier and the current political fracas involving the two men running for president. While there are a few holes in the story, nonetheless this is a tightly written, action packed political thriller of the best kind. 8/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
TRUST YOUR EYES by Linwood Barclay: Thomas and Ray Kilbride are two brothers brought together again after years apart by the death of their father. Thomas is schizophrenic and has rarely ventured out of the house that the brothers now own in common left to them by their father. Ray’s first inclination is to settle up the estate and provide for his brother’s well being either in the house or in a situation where he can be cared for by professionals. Things become quite complicated when Thomas, pursuing the work that has kept him completely occupied for years, discovers a crime which may be a murder. Thomas has spent his entire waking hours exploring cities through the vehicle of a computerized program based on previously filmed footage that allows moving up and down the streets and avenues of cities via the computer. In his fantasy he believes that he is doing this to be ready for an eventual virus which will wipe out all maps both computerized and on paper and doing so at the behest of the CIA. He writes them e-mails outlining the work and indicating that he will be ready when he is called upon to guide CIA operatives around the world after the virus strikes. Thomas prevails upon Ray to go to New York and check out the apartment seen for him. Ray uses a business trip he schedules for the area to go to the building and that activity starts a chain of events that Barclay makes sure that the reader gets completely wrapped up in. There was a murder in the apartment and Ray’s checking out the site begins the activity and the interactions of those involved in the crime, Ray and Thomas, and further victims that fall prey to the need for the original crime to be covered up. The only real fault in the novel is the ending which is obvious for a long time and is not a typical Linwood Barclay twist. This does not detract from the enjoyment of the read and the interest in keeping up with the plot. 9/12 Paul Lane
THE TRUTH ABOUT STYLE by Stacy London: Stacy London is the co-host, along with Clinton Kelly, of TLC’s What Not To Wear. If you are not familiar with the show, a poorly dressed woman with a good life story is nominated by friends and/or family for a makeover, and she is ambushed by the stylistic twosome, whisked away to NYC with all their clothes. The clothes are trashed, the lucky makeover has her style trashed and then is given $5000 to spend on a new wardrobe, which must be purchased by following Stacy & Clinton’s fashion rules. Tears are almost always invoked, along with a lot of resistance, but in the end the makeovers usually entail not only a new look, but new insight into why they were dressing so badly and an uplift in self esteem. I am a fan of the show, and this book Stacy tackles nine “startovers”, her word for makeovers with a variety of women of different ages, body sizes, and lifestyles. These are personal, uplifting stories and best of all, Stacy includes pages of places to shop for different types of clothes, different designers to look for in all price ranges, from Manolo Blahnik to Target. Also included is a glimpse of Stacy herself, her challenges growing up with a severe skin disorder and why she ended up a stylist. This book is a must read for anyone who feels helpless shopping, needs a lift or just enjoys fashion. 10/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
TSUNAMI by Gordon Gumpertz: With a name like Gumpertz, it has to be good. Sorry, and my apologies to the author, I just couldn’t resist it. Actually, this is a very good book. What would happen if there were another Mt St Helens type volcanic eruption – but this time deep in the mid-Pacific. Seismologist Dr. Leilani Sanches is alarmed by an ancient volcano’s rumblings but no one wants to believe it could cause a tsunami on the Southern California coast that would make the 2004 Asian event a minor happening. There’s a Coast Guard love interest, some Chinese gangsters involved in gun smuggling, the FBI, an unscrupulous land developer and plenty of action. If you enjoy Cussler type adventures, this one is up your alley. 12/08 Jack Quick
TUESDAY’S GONE by Nicci French: After her involvement with the Dean Reeve case, therapist Frieda Klein is a little surprised to get another request for help from the police. Sure the Reeve case closed fairly successfully with the kidnapped child recovered safely, but Frieda is facing a complaint from a patient’s wife thanks to the case. What’s more, Frieda soon learns that Reeve’s wife is releasing her version of the story in a published memoir that doesn’t necessarily paint the therapist in the greatest light. But when a social worker finds a dead man being served tea at one of her appointments, Karlsson decides that Frieda may be able to make some sense out of the whole thing. Frieda isn’t at all certain that the woman entertaining the dead man is actually responsible for his death, but the cops aren’t so sure. When the therapist expands her involvement beyond a simple consultation, however, she does manage to uncover evidence to support her theory. In spite of her success, Frieda is still unsure she wants any involvement in police work at all, and the continued scrutiny of both her professional and private lives complicates things further. This follow up to Blue Monday is excellent. The characters – Frieda in particular, but the more peripheral characters as well – are all quite quirky and, now that the series is beyond the introductory phase, are all beginning to grow in really intriguing ways. Although Tuesday’s Gone can stand alone, I have to recommend reading the books in order. The bit of continued plot from Blue Monday is something I particularly enjoyed and would definitely lose effect if readers jumped in at the second installment. 4/13 Becky Lejeune
THE TUNNELS by Michelle Gagnon: FBI agent Kelly Jones has no family, no real friends and no ties. Her only real motivation is her job, and the tragedy in her past that led to her career. Now, the bodies of two coeds have been found in an abandoned tunnel system below her alma mater. The first body, that of Anna Varelas, is found mutilated and posed before an odd image painted in blood. The blood belongs to Lin Kaishin, the second body discovered in the tunnels. Kaishin is also posed before the same strange image. This time, the blood is that of an unknown pregnant female. Further investigation leads to shocking revelations regarding the symbolism of each site. Everything from the positioning of the bodies to the way that they were killed leads Jones to believe that their suspect is anything but the textbook definition of a serial killer. Gagnon’s debut is sure to be a hit with mystery lovers. Jones is an appealing heroine and the plot is truly original. I really thought I had it figured out, too, but I was completely wrong in the end. I hope book two in the series is soon to follow. 06/07 Becky Lejeune
TURN OF MIND by Alice LaPlante: Dr. Jennifer White is a “person of interest” in the murder and mutilation of her best friend and neighbor, Amanda. What makes this debut so unique is that the story is told from Dr. White’s point of view, and she is the ultimate unreliable narrator: Jennifer has Alzheimer’s disease. The story moves beyond the genre and into a fascinating look at a person that is slowly slipping away from the people who love her, as this progressively worsening disease takes over. Her son and daughter share financial and legal guardianship over their mother, who is a retired orthopedic surgeon who specialized in hand surgery, which is what makes her the logical suspect when Amanda is found dead with four of her fingers surgically removed. We have to follow this unreliable narrator as her mind shifts from present to past, through good days and bad. This is a most compelling story that meanders with surprising twists and revelations until the final pages, making this a very special mystery indeed. I couldn’t put it down. 07/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE TURNAROUND by George Pelecanos: The very talented Pelecanos may have written his best book yet with what Publishers Weekly called “urban noir.” This is not part of any series, so if you haven’t read this talented author yet, now’s your chance to savor what the rest of us have been enjoying for years. The setting is Washington D.C. – not the White House/political side, but the streets, where you can find a laugh amid the ruined lives with a yummy dessert named “Marionberry Pie”. This story starts in 1972, when integration was on the cusp, but the reality was that white boys drove past black neighborhoods screaming epithets, just for fun. And sometimes, when that happened, boys of both colors ended up dead or injured, with the kind of injuries that take a lifetime to heal. Pelecanos explores such an event, perhaps with touches of his own past, as one of the white boys is Greek and works in his father’s luncheonette. The story moves forward to present day, and we follow the lives of the boys who are left and how that one day affected all their lives. This is dark, troubling crime fiction at its best – don’t miss it. 8/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE TURNING by Francine Prose: Two months on the remote island of Crackstone’s Landing, cut off from the outside world, would be torture for most teens. The sizable salary involved is enough to convince Jack that it’s worth it. He’s been hired to fill in as nanny for siblings Flora and Miles for the duration of the summer. The two young children are a bit peculiar, but they’re well behaved and Jack needs the money for college. What begins as a promising and quiet summer soon turns to terror as Jack experiences increasingly strange things on the island. The secret glances between brother and sister, once quirky, have become sinister. Jack has also seen a man and a woman lurking about the property, but no one else has reported them. As Jack’s summer progresses, he becomes ill and is soon convinced that things aren’t quite right at the house. Is it his imagination or something worse? The Turning is a modern, teen adaptation of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw. While it might work for a teen reader unfamiliar with James’s tale, the story lacks the atmosphere and menacing quality of the original. Prose has chosen to relay the story through letters, which could be to blame. The reader never gets a good feel for Crackstone’s Landing or the occurrences there. A missed opportunity in my opinion. 10/12 Becky Lejeune
TURNING ANGEL by Greg Iles: Do middle aged married men really want to have affairs with their teenage babysitters? Hell, yes! That’s not news, of course, but Iles takes that premise and runs with it. Kate Townsend is a 17 year old Harvard bound high school senior who ends up raped and murdered. Chief suspect is town golden boy Dr. Drew Elliot, 23 years her senior and her lover. Natchez, Mississippi is a hotbed of racial politics and Elliot becomes the prize winning pawn, especially after he calls on his close friend Penn Cage to represent him. Iles claims that all his books are stand alones, but apparently Penn was the protagonist of The Quiet Game and there are references to past events in this book. Penn, a former prosecutor, is retired from law and writing Pulitzer prize winning novels but nonetheless he takes a $20 retainer and starts investigating the murder. Drugs, murders, teenage violence and sex brings a small Southern town to its knees in this twisty torrid tale. 01/06 Stacy Alesi, the BookBitch
THE TWELVE by Justin Cronin: The highly anticipated sequel to The Passage is finally out and it’s another whopper! Peter, Alicia, Amy, and the others have managed to take down their first target in the The Twelve, but before they continue readers are brought back to the beginning of the outbreak. Lila Kyle is pregnant and after losing her first child, she’s determined this one will make it. She’s holed up in Cherry Creek, a high-end suburb of Denver close to the heart of where the end has begun. Lawrence Grey isn’t sure how he survived the recent events at the facility where he was working, but when he meets Lila he knows that he should help. With the voice of Zero in his head, Lawrence will do everything he can to protect Lila and her unborn child. Nearby, Bernard Kittredge, aka Last Stand in Denver, has banded together with another group of survivors traveling to a refugee center at Fort Powell. Almost a century later, their fates will greatly affect what comes next for Peter and the rest of the group. As they plot their continued strategy for taking down the remainder of The Twelve, big changes are coming for them all. So far, Cronin’s series is among the best of the best in apocalypse fiction—and I would add general fiction as well. The story is intricately plotted and the characters are all fantastically drawn. What’s more, Cronin’s style encourages quick reading, making these doorstoppers intense and fast-paced reads. 11/12 Becky Lejeune
Twelve Mile Limit by Randy Wayne White: This is one of his best. I have to reiterate that he is the heir to John D. MacDonald. Anyone else is just a pretender. Doc Ford is like Travis McGee and Meyer combined into one person, but with a hippy, psychic sidekick and a Jamaican Ya-Ya woman as a “sister.”
The book is full of local color and marine detail. More so than usual and the presentation of the manatee debate is even-handed and impressive. (Although the manatees come in second.) Pay attention to the octopi as well.
Ultimately, Doc Ford, after a series of McGee-type encounters with women, journeys into a South American Apocalypse Now.
My only complaint is that the foreshadowing in the book is a little heavy handed. I kept hearing Lloyd Nelson in the back of my head saying “Little did I know…” But that is a minor problem.
Sooner or later, this guy is going to be discovered big-time and we will be able to say “We knew him when and he belongs to us.” ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin, hopefully the first of many.
TWELVE SHARP by Janet Evanovich: When you need a quick escape from the daily grind, immerse yourself for a few pleasurable hours in the latest adventures of ditzy bounty hunter Stephanie Plum. People complain about this series because there’s really never anything new, but Evanovich knows what her audience likes and she provides it: a steady diet of Stephanie, Ranger & Joe, Grandma Mazur, Lulu, insanity at the funeral home, cars blowing up, and as always, lots of laughs. This time out Stephanie is trying to round up crazy bail jumpers, Ranger is accused of kidnapping his daughter, and a woman claiming to be his wife is stalking Stephanie. It’s laugh out loud funny and I was sorry to turn the last page. I don’t ask for any more than that from Evanovich. This is vintage Plum; if you’re a fan, you’ll love it. 06/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
TWELVE SHARP by Janet Evanovich: Stephanie Plum, who freely admits her failings as a hunter of fugitives, faces a growing work backlog that threatens the continued existence of her job. Now, in addition to bounty hunter wannabe Lula, she has a new colleague – a forlorn shoe salesman who Stephanie talks off a ledge with the offer of a position as file clerk in her cousin’s office. Ranger or Joe, Joe or Ranger, Stephanie’s tangled love life remains convoluted even after Ranger is accused of kidnapping his own daughter. Oh, there is another funeral parlor fiasco as well. Okay, its not great literature, but it can be funny. 03/07 Jack Quick
THE TWELFTH CARD by Jeffery Deaver: Sixteen year old Geneva Settle is doing research on one of her civil war era ancestors in the library. This man was a freedman who was accused of thievery and dishonored in the turbulent times after that war. Then Geneva is the subject of an apparent rape attempt, but the rapist kills the librarian she has consulted in making his getaway. Who is the real target. It quickly become evident that Geneva is being stalked by a serial killer. Who is UNSUB 109? Who hired him to kill this teenager and why? Is Geneva a target because of the historical research, research that may possibly have profound effect on current laws. Another strong entry in Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme series. 09/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
TWENTY WISHES by Debbie Macomber: Anne Marie Roche is a recent widow. Despite having several close friends and owning a successful bookstore, she feels alone. Anne Marie’s close friends also feel the loneliness of widowhood. Lillie Higgins lost her husband in a plane crash, the same crash that took the life of the husband of her daughter, Barbie Higgins. Elise Beaumont lost her husband to cancer. Anne Marie and her friends get together and celebrate their lives. They discuss their hopes and dreams. Each decides to create a list of twenty wishes, dreams that they’ve had all their lives but have never fulfilled. In subsequent months, all of the women start acting on their wishes. Anne Marie’s first wish: Find one good thing about life. To her, it seemed to be an admission of how depressed and low she really felt. She finds that Ellen is the key to her happiness, and together Anne Marie and Ellen quickly fulfill their twenty wishes. This was my first “Blossom Street” book and I absolutely loved it. Macomber’s characters come alive and I feel like they are a part of my life. Finishing the book, I felt a sense of loss, but I have plans to pick up the rest of the “Blossom Street” books and continue on with these truly amazing women. 05/08 Jennifer Lawrence
TWICE A SPY by Keith Thomson: I won’t say TWICE A SPY is twice as good as its predecessor – ONCE A SPY, but I will echo Christopher Reich’s blurb “Utterly original…Think Carl Hiaasen taking on John Le Carre.” The action picks up days after the end of the first book with Charlie Clark, his girlfriend and former NSA operative Alice and his father, Drummond Clark, who after a career as a CIA agent is sinking into the throes of early Alzheimer’s, but who’s able, when the occasion demands, to revive his old skills and save their skins, all on the lam in Switzerland. Alice is kidnapped and Charlie and Drummond have to travel to Martinique to locate one of the washing machine/ nuclear bomb detonating devices that Drummond had been selling for years to various terrorist groups. The hook? The devices are defective, by design, so they can never be used to actually cause the big bang. Let’s hope that the revolutionary treatment Drummond is taking for his Alzheimer’s is effective so this story can go on and on. 04/11 Jack Quick
TWILIGHT by Stephenie Meyer: This book is so bad that I have to see it as a parody of an actual book because if I take it seriously, my brain will explode. The main character, Bella, is so whiny that in just about every paragraph you can find her complaining about something, like her clumsiness. She has all these guys that like her, but she has no interest in them because she’s so interested in Edward Cullen. She’s obsessed with Edward, and he with her, going so far as to stay outside her room at night and watch her sleep. He doesn’t mind staying up all night as he doesn’t sleep because he’s a vampire. Apparently vampires have no need of sleep or even breathing. They can’t go out in sunlight because they sparkle. Really.
Bella is like every other spoiled teenage girl in that she doesn’t appreciate what she has. She has no interest in school because of her obsession with this boy that she’s known for a few weeks. Their relationship gets too serious too fast and the timeframe doesn’t make sense. Meyers breaks every vampire myth in popular fiction, which may not necessarily a bad thing, however in this case it is just ridiculous. Edward is perfect beyond measure; he’s good looking, of course, he runs really fast, and he’s super strong. He also happens to listen to all the music Bella likes, and he tries to protect her by constantly warning her of how dangerous he is. I found this novel to be comical and ultimately annoying. I don’t understand what so many teenage girls find appealing here, because I found nothing. 11/08 Ariel Alesi
TWIST by Colby Hodge: Abbey Shore is an architecture student who flips houses to earn a living. When an object hidden in the walls of her latest project house catapults her one hundred years into the future, she’s in for a big shock. It seems an outbreak of bird flu has drastically changed life on Earth. A group of beings called the Cronolotians – the ones who are responsible for all those vampire stories – had been feeding off of humans for quite some time and the pandemic forced them to come out of hiding. In the future, humans are at constant war against these beings in a desperate attempt to survive. The humans do have one thing on their side, though, a doctor who was changed before the infection fights with them. He knows Abbey and is convinced that she is the cause of everything. Abbey learns that this is not an altogether false accusation. The truth about what she is and where she comes from is the only thing that may finally save all of mankind. An action, suspense, romance about time-travel, a cataclysmic future, and aliens who are vampires – trust me, Twist is a fun, uncomplicated, and original one-sitting read that’s perfect when you need to unwind after a long day. 01/08 Becky Lejeune
A TWIST OF ORCHIDS by Michelle Wan: Third in Wan’s Dordogne based mystery series finds designer Mara Dunn and boyfriend Julian Wood poking into local mysteries once again. Julian, an orchidologist, is still searching for the elusive orchid photographed by Mara’s dead sister. As a side project, however, he ends up trying to help a Turkish couple find their missing son. Julian first approaches the couple to confront them about a product they are selling in their shop that contains ground up orchid root as a main ingredient. The production of the item in question has caused Turkish orchids to be put on the endangered list and Julian is determined to do what he can to at least prevent it from being sold in his area. The couple thinks that Julian may be able to talk some sense into their son, as he is enamored with “western” culture and rebelling against his more traditional parents. Meanwhile, Mara is concerned that their recently widowed and ailing neighbor may be in danger, not from himself, but from someone with sinister motives. Wan just keeps getting better and better. I’m so invested in these characters and the tight-knit community that surrounds them, that I just can’t get enough of this series. Twist is currently available in Canada and is slated to hit shelves in the US in June. 04/09 Becky Lejeune
TWISTED by Andrea Kane: A childhood friend of Sloane Burbank is one of several young women who have disappeared without a trace. Burbank, a 30 year old former FBI agent, is now a special consultant after almost being killed herself. Penny Truman’s mother hires Sloane to look into the matter of Penny’s disappearance and then Sloane learns that Derek Parker, her former lover is the FBI agent in charge of the case. Parker and Burbank had split after the stabbing that almost took Burbank’s life just over a year ago. Will the two get back together or will the stress of the case force them apart irrevocably? One of the better romantic suspense efforts of late and the start of a new series. Looking forward to number two. 04/08 Jack Quick
TWISTED by Andrea Kane: After an injury leaves Sloane Burbank without the full use of her right hand, she’s determined to regain her strength and rejoin the FBI. In the meantime, though, she’s been working as a private consultant in some high profile cases. When the parents of a childhood friend contact her asking for her help to find their missing daughter, Sloane can’t refuse. Though the case is almost a year old, Sloane and the girl’s father are able to get the FBI to renew their efforts, and that means that agent in charge Derek Parker must drop everything in order to reopen the cold case. Sloane’s digging does uncover new evidence, however, evidence that connects a string of missing women back to Sloane herself. Twisted is a total thrill-ride from beginning to end. Sloane and others return in Kane’s latest, Drawn in Blood. 10/09 Becky Lejeune
A TWISTED LADDER by Rhodi Hawk: Madeleine LeBlanc has made a career out of studying schizophrenia. As a child, Madeleine and her brother were often left to fend for themselves as their father disappeared for days at a time. When he was around, his crazy mood swings and behaviors remained completely unpredictable. Today, however, Madeleine believes that she has him under control on a strict regimen of medication. But when Madeleine becomes plagued by visions of her own, she will have to rethink everything. As she traces her roots she finds that River Magic, what she has always attributed to the schizophrenia, has long been a part of her family’s history. But can medicine and psychology truly explain the LeBlanc legacy? Rhodi Hawk’s debut is a pretty amazing read: she twists her story in such a way that the reader is completely enthralled from the very first line to the very last, and she captures the essence of Louisiana completely, adding a dark and foreboding layer over the rich atmosphere she’s created. 11/09 Becky Lejeune
TWISTED TRIANGLE by Caitlin Rother: Rother is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated former journalist for the San Diego Union Tribune. In this work of “faction” she tells the true story of Margo Bennett, a married FBI agent. Her husband Gene, also an FBI agent, kidnapped and attempted to kill her when she tried to obtain a divorce. A precipitating action in the story was Margo’s secret love affair with Patricia Cornwell. Stranger than fiction, this story describes the strange marriage, the makings of Gene’s complex plan for revenge, his insanity defense, and the trial that ultimately vindicated Margo and sent Gene to prison. Today, Margo Bennett lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she is a captain of the University of California, Berkeley, campus police department. Gene Bennett is incarcerated in Virginia, not far from the Washington DC area, where most of the events of this narrative took place. No real mystery but an interesting look at the forces and pressures that can affect and shape people, particularly those in law enforcement. 07/08 Jack Quick
THE TWO DEATHS OF DANIEL HAYES by Marcus Sakey: Sakey hits it out of the park with this twisty tale of a man’s dilemma; he’s not sure who he is and even worse, if he’s killed his wife. A man wakes up naked in the ocean off the coast of Maine. He doesn’t know who he is, what he’s doing there or how he even got there. He does know enough to get himself onto land and into the only car in the area. He sets off on a journey of self discovery and tries to learn what happened in his life to bring him to that point. We, as readers, get to follow along and we learn more as he does. This is a great story written by a terrific writer and I couldn’t put it down. Sakey has become one of my favorite authors; if you haven’t read him yet, you should and this is a great place to start. 8/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE TWO DEATHS OF DANIEL HAYES by Marcus Sakey: He wakes up on a deserted beach, cold, naked, and half-drowned. He manages to crawl away from the water and to an empty BMW. Inside he finds clothes that fit perfectly, shoes, a Rolex, a bank envelope stuffed with cash and an auto registration in the name of Daniel Hayes, resident of Malibu, California. Who is he? And who is Daniel Hayes? Is he Daniel Hayes? Why can’t he remember? Then things turn even darker. Why are the police after him with drawn guns? What has he done? All he can remember is a woman’s face and he sets out to find her. Will he succeed? And most importantly, what will he find out? You had better enjoy a mystery if you are going to read this one. Sakey has taken the “amnesia” thing beyond anything you’ve ever read. Definitely recommended. 07/11 Jack Quick
TWO DOLLAR BILL by Stuart Woods: Stone Barrington meets new client Billy Bob Barnstormer from Texas at Elaine’s in New York City, which proves Woods could probably tell a tale even after a couple of Stone’s hits of Knob Creek. Billy Bob’s trademark is the two-dollar bill he uses for tips, but Stone soon learns they might as well be three dollar bills. The Justice Department is after Billy Bob, so is the Secret Service and the CIA. All think Stone is helping the other agencies. Throw in ex-partner Dino of NYPD, some gun play, a dead hooker in Stone’s guest room, large sums of money, national security, and Stone’s usual penchant for attracting beautiful women and you have Woods’ eleventh Barrington adventure. Like Mom’s meat loaf and mashed potatoes – no real surprises but very comforting. 04/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.
THE TWO MINUTE RULE by Robert Crais: The author of the wonderful Elvis Cole series pens another standalone after Hostage (also a film with Bruce Willis) and Demolition Angel. Max Holman, the “Hero Bandit”, has just finished serving ten years in prison for bank robbery. Holman is a career criminal, now middle aged and finally understanding that he has to change his ways. His estranged son is killed on the day of his release, shattering any hope of a reconciliation. Turns out his son was a police officer and was killed along with three other cops, but when the Los Angeles police department quickly closes the case by blaming a junkie who then kills himself, Holman is unconvinced. He persuades the FBI agent who originally arrested him (and is now retired) to help him find the killer and the story takes off at breakneck speed. Crais creates a world that is totally believable with a likeable ex-con, while good and evil are turned upside down and spin out into a superb story. 02/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2006 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.
THE TWO-MINUTE RULE by Robert Crais: Two minutes, in and out, that’s the rule for robbing banks. Break that rule and you can end up in trouble like Max Holman who got caught during a robbery after he stopped to perform CPR on a bank customer who had a heart attack. About to leave prison on parole, the 48-year-old Max hopes he can establish contact with the cop son he never really knew, but the son is murdered. Max suspects crooked cops and the only person he figures can help him is Katherine Pollard, the fed who nabbed him, who’s now ex-FBI and a struggling single mom. This odd couple give a new twist to the classic bank robbery caper story. 03/06 Jack Quick
TWO TRAINS RUNNING by Andrew Vachss: Written by Vachss but reads like a Swagger adventure by Stephen Hunter. First rate, either way. Its 1959 and the mob is trying to muscle in on the good old boys who have been running vice in Locke City for years, turning it into a tourist destination. Boss Royal Beaumont ups the ante by bringing in a hired killer, Walker Dett – but that is just the first of a number of wild cards that get played including the local police, the FBI, the IRA, black militants, neo-nazis and the press. Then there’s Nixon versus Kennedy. Other authors have speculated but Vachss postulates an actual arrangement between the IRA and the mob to assure a Kennedy victory in the 1960 presidential election. What plays out in Locke City is the nation in microcosm. Fasten your seat belts for this one boys, it’s quite a ride. Recommended. 07/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.