Fiction Reviews U: 1998-2013

U IS FOR UNDERTOW by Sue Grafton: U is for Undertow takes place in 1988, with flashbacks to 1967, the “Summer of Love.” What makes this case unusual for the thirty-seven year old private investigator – “In my ten years as a private eye, this was the first case I ever managed to resolve without crossing paths with bad guys. Except at the end, of course.” The case involves Michael Sutton, who claims that he recently recalled an event that occurred when he was just six years old. In July of 1967, four-year-old Mary Claire Fitzhugh was abducted from her home in Horton Ravine, California. Although her parents agreed to pay the ransom demanded by Mary Claire’s kidnappers, the money was not picked up and the child was never seen again. Sutton remembers playing in the woods when he saw two men digging a hole and burying a bundle in the ground, and he cannot help but wonder if the pair was burying the corpse of little Mary Claire. Michael hires Kinsey to reconstruct the past and find out if his memories are accurate. Although not the greatest who-dun-it, this may be the best overall Grafton, with its insights into current and new characters and the overall plot does offer some interesting insights once all the facets are revealed. Let us hope Ms. Grafton has few more arrows in her quiver. 1/11 Jack Quick

U IS FOR UNDERTOW by Sue Grafton: Number twenty-one. I tell you, it’ll be a sad day for me when the Kinsey Millhone series comes to an end. Until then, there should be at least five more to go. In this latest, Kinsey is hired for one day, investigating the decades-old memory of a possible burial site. Over twenty years ago, Mary Claire Fitzhugh was kidnapped. There was a ransom demand, but the drop was botched and the girl was never seen again. Michael Sutton was only six years old at the time, but after seeing a newspaper article on the anniversary of the case, old memories begin to surface. Sutton becomes convinced that he saw two men burying the body of Mary Claire and is even able to give Kinsey instructions to the site. The dig turns up the body of a dog rather than the missing child, but in spite of growing questions regarding the credibility of her client, Kinsey can’t help but dig deeper. The flashbacks in this one really threw me for a loop at first; they seemed disconnected until more of the story was revealed. Once I was able to get into the usual flow I expect from Grafton, U is for Undertow became a very satisfying addition to the series. 12/09 Becky Lejeune

UGLY DUCHESS by Eloisa James: James, a Shakespeare scholar and professor at Fordham University, continues her fairy tale series with this latest entry, based on the Hans Christian Anderson classic, “The Ugly Duckling.” Theodora Saxby is the ugly duck in question, but she’s loaded, making her fair game for the Duke of Ashbrook. He insists his gorgeous son James marry the girl, but James is torn. Theodora’s father was the Duke’s best friend, and when he passed away the Duke helped raise her, leaving James and Theodora to feel more like brother and sister than possible marriage partners. But James has been away for a few years and once his father tells him how he has embezzled from the girl, he acquiesces and convinces her to marry. But this is a romance novel and the course of true love never runs smoothly. Lots of interesting history here along with a hot love story. Another terrific read from one of my favorite romance writers. 1/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

AN UNACCEPTABLE DEATH by Barbara Seranella: One time drug addict, prostitute, and motorcycle mama, Munch Mancini is about to become a wife and she and adopted daughter Asia will have a more normal existence. But first Munch’s fiancé, detective Rico Chacón, has to take care of the little matter of a bounty put on Munch’s head by the newly reformed Satan’s Pride Motorcycle gang (whom Munch had helped take down years back). In the process he is shot dead by other cops in a drug bust gone bad. To compound matters, the police department is withholding Chacón’s pension from his family, claiming that he was corrupt. Determined to clear his name and to get revenge, Munch sets out on a dangerous investigation of her own. It just doesn’t get any better. Thank you, Barbara. 04/06 Jack Quick

THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER by Michelle Hodkin: When Mara wakes up in the hospital, she’s told that her friends have died in a building collapse. Mara has no memory of the events that led up to the tragedy. Her friends and her past haunt her nonetheless. Plagued by nightmares and hallucinations, she convinces her family that she can heal in a new environment—it’s her last desperate attempt to avoid the possibility of being institutionalized. But as she tries to cover up the increasing visions and horrors around her, she begins to wonder if she really is going mad. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is great for so many reasons. It’s a teen mystery with a big, big twist and so many questions left unanswered that readers will be scrambling to get their hands on the second book. 3/12 Becky Lejeune

UNBOUND by Kim Harrison, Jeaniene Frost, Vickie Pettersson, Jocelynn Drake, and Melissa Marr: Urban fantasy fans will definitely want to add this anthology to their must read lists. Whether you’re a long-time fan of any (or all) of these authors, or it’s your first introduction to them, this collection is perfect. Readers familiar with the various series characters will love to get a little extra taste, but the tales can serve as a great preface for new fans as well. In Harrison’s “Ley Line Drifter,” Jenks is approached by a fellow pixy with a possession issue. Frost’s “Reckoning” takes Bones to the Big Easy where he must track one of the town’s most notorious couples. Pettersson’s “Dark Matters” is a look at a story that’s only been hinted at in the series. Drake’s “The Dead, The Damned, and The Forgotten” has Mira investigating the death of a fellow nightwalker. And Melissa Marr’s “Two Lines” marks the popular teen author’s debut adult tale. Each story makes for a fun one-sitting read and will surely give readers something to tide themselves over with until the next books in each series is released. 09/09 Becky Lejeune

AN UNCOMMON EDUCATION by Elizabeth Percer: Naomi Feinstein knows exactly what she wants out of life. She will attend Wellesley College and she will become a cardiac surgeon. Her idea comes about after witnessing her father’s near-fatal heart attack. Just nine at the time, Naomi believes that this is what she needs to do and what she needs to become. A few years later, Naomi loses her best friend. The two events and her mother’s frequent bouts of depression become more motivation in Naomi’s ultimate goal to save people. When she finally makes it to Wellesley, however, Naomi finds herself reevaluating those old ideals and wondering if she’s on the right path after all. Percer’s debut is heartfelt and thoughtful and Naomi’s story is one that I could easily sympathize with. 5/12 Becky Lejeune
UNCOMMON GROUNDS by Sandra Balzo: A mystery set in a coffee shop – I grabbed a latte and started reading. Three women form a partnership and open a trendy coffee shop in a small town, but on opening day, one of the partners is found dead, electrocuted by the espresso machine. A hunky new sheriff in town adds a romantic spark to this first novel filled with gentle humor and easy pacing. 05/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE UNDEAD KAMA SUTRA by Mario Acevedo: Felix’s latest adventure begins with the death of the alien who has been masquerading as long-time friend Gilbert Odin (see Nymphos of Rocky Flats for more on this particular case). The alien more or less hires Felix to find his killer, cryptically telling him to find Goodman and save the women of Earth before giving Felix a set of coordinates for disposing of his remains and finally dying. Felix complies with the disposal part and then, thoroughly confused, resumes his search for an ancient manuscript that is said to have the ability to psychically heal vampires. His search for this book, The Undead Kama Sutra, was what led him to Florida in the first place. He tracks rumors of the manuscript back to Carmen Arellano, leader of the Denver vamps, who has been recreating and translated the ancient work. As it turns out, Carmen is also missing a chalice – a human who willingly gives blood to vampires. The woman in question turns up in the local morgue, dead as a result of a blast from one of the aliens’ own weapons. Felix is back on the case and even manages to track down the mysterious Goodman. Where the case leads next, though, is completely unexpected. Readers who are not familiar with Acevedo’s quirky series should definitely begin at the beginning. There is history between Felix and the aliens, all laid out in the previously mentioned Nymphos. Fast plots, strange occurrences, and conspiracy theories are par for the course with any Acevedo title, when you combine that with his twisted sense of humor, you end up with a pretty great paranormal PI series that I highly recommend. 03/08 Becky Lejeune

UNDER A RAGING MOON by Frank Zafiro: Ed McBain had his 87th precinct in Isola. Zafiro has created River City, Washington and a group of very human cops who police it. But whereas McBain’s people were able to generally stay above the fray, these cops get right down into the gritty, dirt ugly world. In this case, they are dealing with a serial gunman who is robbing convenience stores. With each stickup he becomes more violent and dangerous. Unless he’s taken down soon, it’s going to really get nasty. Chisolm,. McLeod, Kopriva and Ridgeway, along with the rest of the gang, are determined to make it happen. Not McBain caliber yet, but a lot of potential here. 08/06 Jack Quick

UNDER FIRE by Margaret McLean: Senegalese immigrant Amina Diallo lives above her small African grocery store and lunch spot with her fifteen year old son. What started as a typical immigrant makes good in America story takes a turn for the ugly when her husband is deported and her home and business face foreclosure. Then the building goes up in flames, trapping Amina and her son upstairs. Firefighters passing by stop and one of them is shot and killed while trying to save the Diallo family. They are rescued, but Amina is arrested and charged with arson and murder. Former prosecutor Sarah Lynch is talked into working with her defense lawyer uncle Buddy, but Amina’s Muslim and wears the traditional Hijab, making her an easy target for racial profiling. The Boston fire department turns out in droves for the funeral and the trial, and Sarah has her hands full, not to mention that her life is in danger. VERDICT: This is a fast paced legal thriller with an interesting immigrant twist. 07/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2011 Library Journal, a division of Media Source Inc. Reprinted with permission.

UNDER THE DOME by Stephen King: Dale Barbara was on his way out. He’d had enough of Chester’s Mill and was ready to move on. But then the dome came down. Just a few more minutes and he might have made it out. Now, he’s trapped inside with the other townsfolk, some who are desperate to survive and some who are actually a little pleased to have their town closed off from the rest of the world. No one knows where the dome came from or who could be responsible, but as days pass things in Chester’s Mill go downhill fast, and what was once a typical small town becomes the setting for a mad battle of neighbor versus neighbor. While some will come together to try and help one another make it through, others will find that keeping their dirty secrets hidden under the dome is becoming harder and harder. In the fourteen years since I read my first Stephen King, he has not disappointed me as a fan. Under the Dome is certainly no exception. King’s characters and settings come to life, reaching out and grabbing readers for over 1,000 pages of incredibly fast-paced, horrific and twisted, roller-coaster fun. 11/09 Becky Lejeune

UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi: Aria and her friends in Reverie have always led a peaceful and sheltered life. When a night of adventure ends in death, however, Aria is banished. Death in the outer world is almost certain, but Aria is saved when she comes across Perry. Perry has lived his whole live on the outside. Aria is reluctant to rely on an outsider given everything she’s always been taught, but Perry is her best chance for survival. Perry has no love for Dwellers, or Aria, either. It was Dwellers that stole his nephew and now Aria is his only hope for getting him back. This debut from Rossi is an inventive twist on the utopian/dystopian, post apocalyptic trend. While Under the Never Sky was somewhat unique and certainly engrossing, much of this first in the series is focused on set up in the world. Hopefully book two will move the plot along with more action. 1/13 Becky Lejeune

UNDERCURRENT by Paul Blackwell: Callum Harris wakes up in the hospital with almost no memory of how he got there. Apparently he fell into the local Crystal Falls and everyone says he’s lucky to even be alive. For Callum, though, things since his accident have gotten a little strange. For one, he remembers his parents being separated. While he might be able to assume they’ve reconciled recently because of his accident, it’s just the first of a slew of strange things he’s noticed. He recalls never having any interest in sports, but he’s apparently wrong about that as well: Callum is one of the stars of the high school football team. People he remembers ignoring him in the halls at school are now his best friends and the people he thought were his friends either don’t know him or hate his guts. Unless he wants to be sent back to the hospital, Callum has to go along with this new reality, but maybe if he can remember his accident he can figure out what’s going on. This is probably a fine read for the younger teen set. Unfortunately, Callum never quite rounds out as a whole character and his story becomes a bit predictable the further the book progresses. 7/13 Becky Lejeune

UNDERTOW by Peter Corris: Cliff Hardy is hired by an old friend, retired senior policeman Frank Parker, to look into a case from early in his (Parker’s) career involving two doctors, one of whom was convicted of hiring a hit man to kill the other and was found guilty of the crime. The convicted, now dead doctor may have been innocent, and Parker had been the lover of that doctor’s wife. As Hardy begins to track down the now ageing names and faces, he uncovers more than he or Frank ever suspected, and there are still those who are trying to hinder the search for the truth. Classic PI, well written with interesting characters and an unusual premise. My first Peter Corris, but I am looking forward to many more. Does Aussies really say fair dinkum? 09/07 Jack Quick

Underworld by Don DeLillo: Follow the bouncing ball from the Brooklyn Dodgers through the 20th century. A whole lotta book here.

UNDONE by Karin Slaughter: Slaughter combines her Atlanta/ Georgia Bureau of Investigation series with her Grant County series in this latest outing. Dyslexic GBI agent Will Trent and partner Faith Mitchell are working a case involving a psycho who is kidnapping and brutally torturing women. Mitchell is in the emergency room being seen by Dr. Sara Linton, who left rural Grant County after her husband’s murder, for a new life at the underfunded Grady hospital in Atlanta, when the first victim is brought in. . While Mitchell and Trent are the main focus, Linton becomes involved in the investigation, even as it dredges up painful memories from her past. If books carried warning labels this one would have the excessive violence tag, but you have to admire Slaughter’s ability. On a personal note, after having dealt with diabetes for the last 16 years, I found the sequence regarding Mitchell’s first self injection of insulin to be spot on. However, my experience has been that low blood sugar levels, not high, lead to irritability and anxiousness. 08/09 Jack Quick

UNFINISHED BUSINESS by Barbara Seranella: Our ace mechanic, Munch Mancini, is upset when a customer is found dead on the side of the freeway with electrocution marks on her body. The details resemble a rape case that Mace St. John, her cop friend, is working on. Then a third victim, who is also a customer at Munch’s garage, shows up and the rapist begins to make threatening phone calls to Munch. Delightfully twisty and yes, good does prevail at the end. 03/06 Jack Quick

UNHOLY DOMAIN by Dan Ronco: Very interesting techno-thriller based on the premise that the conflict between fundamental religious extremists (the Church of Natural Humans) and those pressing for technological expansion, particularly in the areas of bio-medicine, artificial intelligence, robotics and nano-technology will eventually lead to open warfare between the two. The year is 2022 and the world is still feeling the effects of the Internet shutdown in 2012 allegedly caused by software expert Ray Brown. Brown’s son David has undertaken an investigation to clear his father’s name while Brown’s sister Claire has become a “showcase” member of the Church of Natural Humans. The creators of illegal technology, the Domain, have decided to take over the government. Who will prevail? This is the second book of a proposed trilogy; so don’t expect a “final” solution. 09/08 Jack Quick

UNLEASHED by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié: When Katelyn McBride is left orphaned in the wake of a tragic fire, she is sent to Wolf Springs to live with her only living relative. Her grandfather’s home lies in the middle of nowhere, miles from the small Arkansas town, and surrounded by woods. His only rule is that Kat never go out alone at night. When Kat learns that another teen was recently found mauled to death in the woods, she begins to understand that her new home offers up something more dangerous than her California upbringing. But she has no idea just how dangerous Wolf Springs can be. Holder and Viguié do a great job building up the suspense for the big reveal in this one and then leave readers hanging on the edge of their seat in anticipation of book two of The Wolf Spring Chronicles. Kat was a great character. She comes across as a stubborn teen on the brink of adulthood, something I find doesn’t always come through smoothly in teen reads. 11/11 Becky Lejeune

UNLEASHED by David Rosenfelt: This is the latest installment in the Andy Carpenter series, and while it is a little darker than some, the humor is still here as are the terrific characters in the Paterson, New Jersey world that Rosenfelt has created. Andy is happily enjoying retirement, spending more time with his beloved dogs at the shelter his foundation created when his long time friend Sam Willis, asks him for help. An old friend of Sam’s needs a criminal attorney, but before Andy can meet with him, the prospective client dies and his wife is accused of murder. Andy takes on her case but things don’t go as planned – Andy has his suspicions about his client. Meanwhile a string of murders is occurring around the country and a scary plot is emerging that somehow has ties to Andy’s case. Lots of twists keeps the pages turning and Rosenfelt’s humor lighten the load. Another terrific story in one of my favorite series. 10/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

UNLIMITED by Davis Bunn: A well done story of a man that lost himself through a transgression against a good friend and mentor and was able to find himself through prayer and love. Simon Orwell, a brilliant electrical engineer, is in a state of personal despair after harming the reputation of his friend in order to save himself from a prison sentence. Out of the blue he receives a message from his mentor requesting that he come down to Mexico to help finish a project the two had been working on. The aim was to supply unlimited free energy to the public via equipment the two have been developing. With no apparent future Simon makes the trip but on arrival at the border town his friend was living in he lands in the midst of trouble with a Mexican drug cartel. To help himself he comes to an orphanage that his mentor was aiding, and finds that his friend has been killed. He meets several very talented people that are dedicated to making the orphanage a success, including the director, a man that walked away from a career with NASA to work at the orphanage, and a beautiful woman that has been educated in the United States but has found her way via aiding the orphans. With proximity to these dedicated people Simon is able to resurrect himself while working on finishing the energy device. A love interest is found with the lady he meets at the orphanage and he is able to rebuild his beliefs in himself and his religion. A charming story that will bring the reader into the changes that Simon goes through while returning to life and make him into a whole person again. 9/13 Paul Lane
AN UNMARKED GRAVE by Charles Todd: As WWI wages on in this fourth book of the series, Bess Crawford is posted at a battlefield hospital in France. The flu is spreading, making things worse for everyone on the Front and Bess herself soon falls victim, but not before an orderly has a chance to alert her to an unaccounted for body amongst the dead. Bess believes she recognizes the dead soldier but becomes ill before she can raise any alarms. She’s sent home to England to recover and almost believes the incident was a fevered dream, until she learns that the soldier’s wife has received a letter informing her of her husband’s death. Bess’s suspicions are raised when she realizes that the letter claims the soldier was killed by shrapnel. The body Bess saw had no wounds other than a clearly broken neck. She soon learns that the orderly who first brought the body to her attention has committed suicide. But Bess knew the orderly well and is certain that he would never have killed himself. Bess returns to France in hopes of clearing up matters and soon finds herself a target. Her only hope is in unmasking the murderer before becoming a victim herself. I have to say I feel I’ve been missing out in only just discovering this series. Though there are three other installments preceding this one, I found that it stood quite well on its own. An Unmarked Grave is an excellent historical who-done-it with a wonderfully appealing heroine. 1/13 Becky Lejeune

Unpaid Dues by Barbara Seranella: Munch Mancini is not the typical heroine of a murder mystery. For one thing, she’s a mechanic – a grease monkey, and she’s a recovering drug addict, clean for several years. Her best friend is a cop who’s not happy that she’s also having an affair with another cop – who’s involved with someone else. And did I mention she has a young daughter? All in all, there’s some heavy baggage here which makes for a very real, very interesting protagonist. Unfortunately, the story isn’t quite as interesting. A woman is murdered and dumped in a storm drain, and in trying to identify her, Munch’s name comes up. Turns out they share some history, the woman in question was part of the crowd Munch ran with in her druggie days. Then another piece of history ends up on her doorstep in the form of the teenage son of another addict friend, and Munch has to deal with more of her past than she ever wanted to. There’s a nice twist at the end but this gritty saga lagged. This is the sixth installment in the Munch Mancini series, but my first crack at it and I will be back for more. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

UNSEEN by Nancy Bush: When someone tries to run down a pedophile in a small Oregon town, Deputy Will Tanninger is reluctant to admit that there are no solid leads. Their one possible suspect is a woman who was admitted to the hospital the same day the event occurred. The woman in question, Gemma LaPorte, has suffered minor head trauma but has no memory of the days leading up to the event. Worse for Gemma is the fact that she has almost no memory of her life before the incident either. As her memories begin to return, even she wonders if she could be the person behind the attempted murder. Will Tanninger hopes she’s not as he seems to be falling for the mysterious woman on top of everything else. Nancy Bush, author of the Jane Kelly series, really delivers in this stand-alone romantic suspense. There is also just a hint of paranormal, enough to lend an intriguing twist, but not too much to overwhelm what is otherwise a traditional thriller. Readers unfamiliar with Bush will definitely be looking for more from her. In addition to her series, Bush is the co-author of the recently released Wicked Game, written with her sister, Lisa Jackson. 04/09 Becky Lejeune

THE UNSEEN by Heather Graham: Heather Graham is an extremely prolific author of more than 100 novels spanning many subjects including romance, horror and paranormal. During the early 1800s, a very valuable diamond known as the Galveston Diamond is brought into Texas and won in a poker game by a young man. He gives it to his girlfriend to hold and eventually sell, so that both of them can leave the area to find their fortunes elsewhere. The girl, Rose Langley, is attacked, raped and killed by an assailant seeking the stone. Rose had hidden in it in her hair and the diamond is not found, Rose ends up being buried with it. Flash forward to our era when several women are found murdered in the very same room in the Longhorn Saloon where Rose was killed. Texas Ranger Logan Raintree cannot refuse the assignment to head a group of paranormal investigators looking into these murders, especially in view of his extraordinary ability to communicate with the dead. One of his investigators is Kelsey O’Brien, who in her own right has the ability to see the past unfolding in the present. Together Raintree and his group travel to the Alamo in San Antonio and the newly reopened Longhorn Saloon where their abilities allow them to solve the problems besetting the Saloon. It is no doubt Ms. Graham’s intention to use both Raintree and O’brien in additional novels involving paranormal situations, and I look forward to reading these over time. 4/12 Paul Lane

THE UNSEEN by Alexandra Sokoloff: Alexandra Sokoloff’s latest paranormal thriller is a masterful blend of fascinating fact and chilling fiction. From 1927 to 1965, Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, had its very own parapsychology department. Just recently, 700 boxes of material from this department have been opened up to the public for viewing. Dr. Laurel MacDonald has only just relocated to the university’s psychology department and she finds herself drawn to these files, curious about what seems to have been the rather sudden closure of what was such a renowned program. Her search leads to evidence of a shocking experiment that may have ended to multiple deaths, an experiment that was expertly covered up and remains a secret even today. Laurel is surprised to discover that her own family has a connection to this incident and she decides that this will be the subject of her scholarly research. As she gets closer to the truth behind the events of 1965, however, she also finds herself closer to an evil that must never be released. Sokoloff never fails to surprise me with her tales. Her fabulous choice of setting and the original twist on what is essentially a true story (the experiment is fiction) make this an unsettling and highly entertaining horror/thriller read. 05/09

THE UNSEEN by Katherine Webb: Cat Morley has been offered a second chance. Born into a tough situation, she was given a job in service after her mother’s death. But Cat wants more than a life of servitude earned only by birth. An active suffragette, she serves time for supporting the cause and her imprisonment has left her with more than just a black mark on her reputation. Hester Canning agrees to take on Cat as a maid in her household. The wife of Cold Ash Holt’s vicar, Hester is dealing with her own issues. While she strives to be a good and supporting wife to her husband, Albert, she longs for a family. Her husband becomes increasingly distant and obsessed with theosophy, going so far as to seek out elemental spirits and bringing theosopher Robin Durrant into their home. Cat and Hester both know that Durrant is not to be trusted and he brings discord to Cold Ash Holt. One hundred years later, the War Graves Commission in Belguim discovers the body of an unknown soldier bearing letters written by Hester. Leah Hickson agrees to investigate and travels to the small village in hopes of identifying the soldier. But that’s only part of the mystery. Hester alludes to a crime that’s been committed. One that she helped cover up. One that Leah hopes to find out more about. The Unseen is a wonderfully atmospheric tale that alternates between 1911 and present day. Cat, Hester, and Leah are excellently drawn characters and their stories are compelling and well plotted. 6/12 Becky Lejeune

THE UNTHINKABLE THOUGHTS OF JACOB GREEN by Joshua Braff: This almost-coming-of-age story follows Jacob Green’s life from age 10 through 15 as he attempts to deal with his learning disabilities and his dysfunctional, Orthodox Jewish family in 1970’s suburban New Jersey. Jacob idolizes his older brother Asher, an artistic rebel, but is scared to death of his tyrannical father. His mother is so busy trying to escape her life that she has almost no presence in her son’s life. Jacob expresses himself well, especially in his thank you notes for his Bar Mitzvah gifts and his letters to Meagan, the babysitter whose seductive ways leave a lasting impression on Jacob in this funny yet poignant novel. 05/05

UNTIL IT’S OVER by Nicci French: Astrid Bell has been really unlucky lately. It started with an accident in which she was knocked off her bike by a distracted neighbor. Then the neighbor turns up dead, murdered that same afternoon. Of course Astrid is not a suspect. Just days later, Astrid, a bike messenger, gets sent out for a pickup and discovers that the client in question has been murdered. While giving her official statement, Astrid makes a comment about the first murder that does not go unnoticed by police. Again, Astrid is not considered a serious suspect, but the police are starting to wonder if she could be the connection between the victims. Then Astrid discovers a third body, the girlfriend of her landlord, a woman who was getting Astrid and her friends evicted from their home. This time it’s hard for investigators not to believe that Astrid is behind it. Astrid’s story is just part of the book, though. After the investigation into the third murder, the story begins again from the killer’s perspective and I guarantee you’ll be dying to know who is behind it all. A clever new mystery from husband and wife team, Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. 03/09 Becky Lejeune

UP FROM ORCHARD STREET by Eleanor Widmer: This is the story of the Roth family, headed by the beautiful and talented cook/matriarch, the Bubbe, Manya, who has managed to raise a rather self-centered son who marries a very self-centered wife, leaving the Bubbe to raise their daughter. Lots of anecdotes about life on the Lower East Side of New York during the early 1900’s, but not a whole lot of plot here. This is the author’s first novel, and her last. She was 80 years old when this very autobiographical work of fiction was published, and she has since passed away. 02/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

Up in the Air by Walter Kirn: Interesting story about a man with an unusual quest; to garner one million air miles. Along the way he collects women, collects relationships and collects words, which was my favorite part.

URGENT CARE by C.J. Lyons: First came Lifelines, C.J. Lyons’s knockout debut medical thriller that introduced readers to the ladies of Angels of Mercy Medical Center. Lyons’s follow-up, Warning Signs, continued the drama and delved deeper into each of the women’s stories. Now, Nora, Lydia, Gina, and Amanda are back in this third installment to the series. Nora has been hiding a terrible secret from everyone around her. Two years ago, she was brutally assaulted. After escaping, she focused on getting her life and her career back to normal, but she never told the police. When a fellow hospital employee is found murdered, Nora is sure that the same man who attacked her is responsible, and she truly believes that if she had told authorities, she could have prevented the woman’s death. Meanwhile, Lydia learns more about her own past, Gina struggles to hold her own against her domineering family, and Amanda is faced with a true medical mystery that so far has left her stumped. I love Lyons’s work. I really do. Each new book is smart and intriguing, and her character development is so incredible that she leaves me literally breathless waiting to see what will happen next. 10/09 Becky Lejeune

USER I. D. by Jenefer Shute: Protagonist Vera de Sica is a risk-averse, single, 38-year-old from New York and antagonist Charlene Cummins is a 38-year-old Southern Californian with an abusive con-man boyfriend, a bad credit rating and a penchant for living on the edge. The two women come together when Charlene’s boyfriend, Howard, steals Vera’s rental car finding enough information to max out Vera’s credit cards, draw cash advances and open bank accounts. The psychological interplay between the victim and victimizer is intense as each develops fantasies about the other. As the story unfolds, it raises interesting issues about what is identity and the degree to which we control it. 02/06 Jack Quick

UTTERLY MONKEY by Nick Laird: Mis-titled. Should have been: Utterly Boring. Laird, a poet, former lawyer and husband of Zadie Smith, probably should focus on his day job and leave the mysterious to those who do mysteries. In this debut, Danny Williams is a well-paid lawyer at a prestigious London firm. Geordie Wilson, his boyhood chum from Northern Ireland, is “officially an unemployed labourer” who’s just showed up on Danny’s doorstep desperate for a place to stay. Geordie’s in trouble with the Ulster Unionists back home, primarily because he has a sack full of their cash. There should be a plot here, but all I could think of was Katherine Hepburn starting a car on a cold morning. You know, urrrrrrrrrgh, uurrrrrrrrrrrrrgh, urrrrrrrrrrrrgh, urrrrrrrrgh, urrrrrrrrgh. Would that this book could be that exciting. 01/07 Jack Quick

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