THE WIFE by Alafair Burke

February 28, 2018

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Wow, what a read! This was the last book I read before I went back to work and it was a one day read for me, I could not put it down.

Angela grew up in the Hamptons, and we find out fairly quick that something traumatic happened when she was a teenager – and that story teasingly unfurls throughout the book.

As an adult, Angela became a successful caterer in East Hampton, and when she meets Jason at her best friend’s house where she’s catering a party, she assumes this will be a short fling as most relationships between townies and summer people go. But Jason has other ideas.

Even being a single mother doesn’t deter him and Angela falls for him and the way he cares for her son. Jason is one of the good guys, a smart, successful college professor and they marry. They live in NYC and Jason gets Spencer into a good private school. When Jason writes a bestselling book, he becomes a celebrity which makes Angela somewhat uncomfortable because she’s always afraid her past will come back to haunt her. Jason, of course, knows, and he respects her wanting to keep her secrets.

Then Jason is accused of sexual harassment by one of the interns he supervises. He tries to blow it off, but then another woman comes forward and accuses him of rape. Angela, always a survivor, realizes she needs to stand by her man, even after he admits to having an affair with his accuser. But as things progress, their life starts spiraling out of control.

There are many twists in this story but the ending is the real shocker. The pacing is relentless, the characters are so well drawn that they completely drive the narrative. If you are a fan of the “girl books,” put this on your list. In general I’m not, but this book was exceptional, I loved it.

2/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE WIFE by Alafair Burke. Harper (January 23, 2018). ISBN: 978-0062390516. 352p.

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Best Books of 2018: Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

December 24, 2018

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Every year I think I will do a top ten list and every year I just can’t do it. That said, there were three books that I recommended over and over again this year – The Wife by Alafair Burke, The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang, and The Widower’s Notebook by Jonathan Santlofer.

Here are my 25 favorite reads of 2018.

THRILLERS

THE WIFE by Alafair Burke: Wow, what a read! There are many twists in this story but the ending is the real shocker. The pacing is relentless, the characters are so well drawn that they completely drive the narrative. If you are a fan of the “girl books,” put this on your list. In general I’m not, but this book was exceptional, I loved it.

SUNBURN by Laura LippmanThis is a standalone novel and Lippman’s turn at the unreliable narrator genre that has permeated the best seller lists. She does an excellent job of it. There are a lot of lies, more deaths and several unexpected twists to this story, not to mention quite the shocking ending. This was a one night read for me, albeit a very late night, but I couldn’t put it down.

THE ESCAPE ARTIST by Brad MeltzerA twisty, at times violent, roller coaster ride of a thriller. There is a lot of really fascinating information on the death process of fallen soldiers, history about Houdini, his friends and family, and about magic in general. The surprises keep coming, the pacing is relentless, and the body count high in this terrific political thriller. (And librarians, the President appointed Librarian of Congress plays a prominent part!)

OUR HOUSE by Louise CandlishWowza! This book has been getting all sorts of accolades and it’s easy to see why. It’s a very different kind of story and a timely one. Set in London, it feels like it could be set in any suburban community. A real page turner of a book, fast paced and interesting with great characters and more twists and turns than a hurricane.

TRUE FICTION by Lee GoldbergThis is a fast paced story with lots of action, explosions and chase scenes as well as a lot of laughs, my favorite combination. I’m not sure if the all the technology mentioned is accurate and I really don’t want to know – if big brother is watching us all that closely, I’d be terrified. It is a terrific introduction to a new series, and I can’t wait for the next book.

AFTER ANNA by Lisa ScottolineIn this new standalone thriller, there are two sides of a heartwrenching story alternating chapter by chapter, and in a truly unique way, one is moving forward and the other is moving backward. Scottoline has the mad writing skills to pull it off and do it really well. I was reading away, completely engrossed with this family and their saga when suddenly the story took a hard turn and starting moving at breakneck speed to a really shocking ending. I stayed up late to finish it, then stayed up even later thinking about it. I love when that happens.

BOOK CLUB BETS

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING by Delia Owens: Kya is a most unusual character and we meet her when she is about five years old. Her coming of age is an astonishing story and beautifully told. The writing is simply superlative and the descriptions just bring this unusual setting, a marsh in rural North Carolina, to life. It’s perfect for book discussion and anyone who enjoys a good story, engaging characters and beautiful writing.

THE GREAT ALONE by Kristin HannahThis is a fascinating look at a life most of us would never experience living entirely off the land and bartering for whatever else you need in a remote village in Alaska. It is also a coming of age story, a story about the effects of war, about an abusive marriage, anarchy, and more…This is not a happy story, but a dark, searing one that will be staying with me for a very long time. It is such a gripping novel that I just couldn’t put it down and I can’t wait to talk to someone who has read it.

THE IMMORTALISTS by Chloe BenjaminBenjamin poses the philosophical question if you knew when you were going to die, would you live your life differently? But it delves even further than that into relationships, both familial and others. It is beautifully written and each character drives their own story. Worthy of all the praise it has received, and certainly worthy of discussion.

MANHATTAN BEACH by Jennifer EganThis is a fascinating look at the roles of women during the Depression and the war, and the lives of sailors, politicians, and gangsters and how their lives intertwine. Anna is a terrific character and moves the story along. A very interesting and enjoyable read, with much to discuss.

WOMENS FICTION

ALL YOUR PERFECTS by Colleen Hoover: Hoover has a way of drawing the reader in and making us care about her characters, even when it is painful to do so. By alternating the darkness of a marriage on the rocks with the light of falling in love, she makes us think about how a relationship goes from one extreme to the other. I never saw this ending coming, and it was a masterful finish to a very thought provoking, emotional read. I loved it.

HOW TO BE FAMOUS by Caitlin MoranCaitlin Moran writes strong, feminist fiction with a unique protagonist and a wicked sense of humor. While set more than twenty years ago, this Bildungsroman feels very topical and should appeal to strong women of any age.

THE BUCKET LIST by Georgia ClarkThe Bucket List takes a very serious subject, a 25 year old woman testing positive for the BRCA1 gene, meaning she is very likely to get breast cancer, and provides a sweet, funny, sexual romp. While tackling a serious subject, Clark injects quite a bit of humor here, making this a fun, sexy read.

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

THE KISS QUOTIENT by Helen HoangSo hot sex? Check. Lots of laughs? Check. Great characters? Check. An unputdownable story? Double check! This book checks all the boxes for a great romance and really ups the ante. I can’t wait to see what Hoang does next. Don’t miss it.

JOSH AND HAZEL’S GUIDE TO NOT DATING by Christina Lauren: Christina Lauren is the pen name of two women who write together, and they are quickly becoming one of my go-to authors. Two of my go-to authors? This is a smart, funny and completely irresistible romance. These characters are brought to life with such impact that I feel like I could run into either of them tomorrow. I laughed out loud quite a bit and just couldn’t wait for their happy ending. There are some explicit sex scenes which work with the story but it is the sweet romance that really is the draw here. Runners up (when the same author puts out three books in one year!): Love & Other Words, My Favorite Half-Night Stand

THE PROPOSAL by Jasmine GuilloryI loved these characters, they had their faults which only made them seem more real. They were very well developed and I couldn’t wait to see how their story turned out. Happily ever after, of course, this is a romance, but with a lot of fun, food and sex along the way. And laughs. Lots of laughs.

COWBOY ROMANCE: BIG BAD COWBOY by Carly BloomMy love affair with cowboy romances continues with this terrific entry into a new series. The setting was a small town in Texas. Maggie is a strong, independent woman, and you can’t help rooting for her to succeed. Travis is respectful yet playful, and their chemistry is so electric that it is palpable. He has a whole host of problems, but manages to overcome them. I loved them together, and I can’t wait for the next book in the series

HISTORICAL ROMANCE

BEYOND SCANDAL AND DESIRE by Lorraine HeathSins for All Seasons, Book 1.
There are a few nice twists in this story and a truly shocking ending, but no fears, everyone gets their happily ever after. Don’t forget to read the author’s note at the end, her research was remarkable, fascinating and heartbreaking. I loved this fast, fun and unexpected read – what a great start to a new series!

THE GOVERNESS GAME by Tessa DareI love Tessa Dare and this is a really good example of why. Her writing is crisp, the dialogue is fast and funny, the pages fly by and the characters come to life on the page. Dare takes things even further by making her heroine half-mestiza Filipino. Diversity is a wonderful thing and I am happy to see traditional authors expanding their horizons from the of-so-white world of Regency England. Many authors create strong female heroines that behave in ways that are completely out of character for the time period, so why not mix up the races, too. The point is not belabored by any means, but just is. And it works.

A SCANDALOUS DEAL by Joanna ShupeThe passion felt real, the odds of this couple getting together were almost insurmountable, and the characters rang true. The tidbits about the history of New York were just an added bonus. This was a terrific one night read for me, I really loved it.

YOUNG ADULT: I HAVE LOST MY WAY by Gayle Forman: I will read anything Forman writes, and I can’t say that about too many authors, especially those who write books for young adults. She’s just a great storyteller, and if you haven’t read her, or read a young adult bool before, try this one. It’s short, only 272 pages, and it moves. The writing is beautiful, the characters interesting and believable, and the story spans out over the course of one day. It explores themes of friendship and empathy, love and kindness and family.

COOKBOOK: DINING IN by Alison RomanA really great cookbook, mostly because the recipes are truly accessible. Nothing takes days to make, a rare esoteric ingredient pops up but for the most part these recipes are easy to source, easy to make and easy to enjoy. I can say is I love this book and hope you will, too.

ART BOOK: BIBLIOPHILE by Jane MountI am a long time fan of Jane Mount’s art and often spend time drooling over her website, the Ideal Bookshelf. If you are a complete book wonk like me, Mount offers paintings/prints similar to the cover of this book. She has hundreds of collections and books to choose from and you can create your own “ideal bookshelf”.

MEMOIRS

THE WIDOWER’S NOTEBOOK by Jonathan SantloferThis is a beautifully written, haunting and emotional memoir about loss, grief, love, and moving on. It is thought provoking, intelligent, important and ultimately inspirational. Comparisons to Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking are inevitable, and Jonathan is the yin to her yang. A book worth reading and sharing.

EDUCATED: A MEMOIR by Tara WestoverThe accolades for this book keep rolling in and what can I say, they are all well deserved. It is a difficult story, beautifully told. Dr. Westover gave us all a gift, and I am most appreciative.

SERIES: THE LAKESHORE CHRONICLES by Susan Wiggs
I loved this heartfelt series about love, laughter and family set in the Catskill Mountains in New York. The characters are well developed and became my friends. The setting is picturesque and nostalgic. I wish I could read them all over again for the first time! Here are the books in order, and I think they are best read that way:

1. Summer at Willow Lake
1.a.“Homecoming Season” (a novella in MORE THAN WORDS: STORIES OF COURAGE)
2. The Winter Lodge
3. Dockside
4. Snowfall at Willow Lake
5. Fireside
6. Lakeshore Christmas
7. The Summer Hideaway
8. Marrying Daisy Bellamy
9. Return to Willow Lake
10. Candlelight Christmas
11. Starlight on Willow Lake


Win the January ’18 bookshelf of signed thrillers!

January 1, 2018

Happy New Year and welcome to the January bookshelf of signed thrillers! As 2018 kicks off, I want to let you all know how much your support means to me. My regular readers who come back all the time to read reviews, share your thoughts and of course, try to win some books! New readers who find the site through their friends or social media. I appreciate every one of you, and welcome you all.

This month the International Thriller Writers have provided some excellent thrillers for you to win. To enter, go to the Win Books page. More books will be added throughout the month, so check back often.

Best of luck!

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HELLBENT by Gregg Hurwitz: When the man who raised and trained him warns him that secret government forces are trying to eliminate all surviving members of the Orphan Program, Evan Smoak is challenged to track down and protect his teacher’s last protâegâe from a brutal new Programleader.

FALSE WITNESS by Andrew Grant: Investigating the disappearances and murders of women on sequential birthdays, Detective Devereaux makes a high-profile arrest, only to discover that the wrong person has been taken into custody, a situation that leads to a race against time to prevent another killing.

CITY OF ENDLESS NIGHT by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child: Heading an investigation into the murder of a wealthy tech billionaire’s daughter, Lieutenant CDS Vincent D’Agosta teams up with FBI Special Agent A.X.L. Pendergast, only to uncover the work of a serial killer whose agenda threatens an entire city.

ACT OF REVENGE by Dale Brown: When Boston is hit by a coordinated string of terrorist attacks, robotics innovator Louis Massina leads a team of tech geniuses to deploy every bot, drone and cyberweapon at their disposal to save the city and bring the plot’s mastermind to justice.

THE WIFE by Alafair BurkeMarrying an economics professor she met while catering an East Hampton dinner party, Angela finds her tragic past coming under scrutiny at the same time she is asked to defend her husband against wrongful accusations.

THE GOD GENE by F. Paul WilsonRick Hayden and Laura Fanning investigate the baffling disappearance of Rick’s brother, a prominent NYU zoologist whose writings alluded to a mysterious gene marking the evolutionary development of human consciousness.

HONEY-BAKED HOMICIDE by Gayle Leeson, A Down South Café Mystery, Book 3: When struggling beekeeper and Southern café owner Amy’s new business partner, Stuart Landon is murdered, Amy investigates and finds herself in a sticky situation as the list of suspects grows longer, causing quite a buzz in the community. Includes recipes.

NAKED AMBITION by Rick PullenWhen newspaper reporter Beck Rikki receives an unsolicited call from a high-ranking government official sending him off to investigate a candidate for President of the United States, he doesn’t realize he’s stumbled onto the story of a lifetime.

You can win autographed copies of these books! If you are new to the site, each month I run a contest in conjunction with the International Thriller Writers organization. We put together a list of books from debut authors to bestsellers, so you can win some of your favorites and find some new favorites.

What makes this contest really special is that all of the books (except eBooks) are signed by the author! Books with multiple authors will be signed by at least one of the authors.

Penguin Random House books for giveaway were provided by the publisher. #PRHpartner

Don’t forget, if you subscribe to the newsletter or follow this blog, you get an extra entry into every contest you enter. Check out the Win Books page for more information on all these books and how you to enter this month’s contest.

Thanks for reading, and good luck!


Win the November ’18 bookshelf of signed thrillers!

November 1, 2018

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Welcome to the November bookshelf of signed thrillers! Lots of terrific books to win this month from bestsellers to debuts. More books may be added throughout the month, so check back often.

To enter, go to the Win Books page.

Best of luck!

YOU DON’T OWN ME by Mary Higgins Clark & Alafair Burke: Asked by the parents of a celebrity doctor to feature their son’s case on “Under Suspicion,” television producer Laurie Moran dives into the case, placing herself in the path of a mysterious stalker.

LOOK ALIVE TWENTY-FIVE by Janet EvanovichWhen three consecutive managers from a famous deli go missing, leaving no clues behind but a single shoe each, latest manager Stephanie Plum navigates Lula’s theories about alien abductions to avoid becoming the next victim.

MURDER SHE WROTE: MANUSCRIPT FOR MURDER by Jessica Fletcher & Jon Land: When an FBI investigation into possible financial malfeasance leads to the apparent suicide of her longtime publisher, Jessica Fletcher begins an investigation that centers on a mysterious missing manuscript.

FIND ME GONE by Sarah Meuleman: A successful fashion magazine columnist investigates the mysterious disappearances of Agatha Christie, Barbara Follett and Virginia Woolf before endeavoring to figure out what happened to a friend who went missing during their teen years.

SILENT SCREAM by Karen Harper: Assisting a college roommate at a Florida peat bog archaeological dig where long-buried bodies have been discovered perfectly preserved, forensic psychologist Claire Britten uncovers clues pointing to her criminal lawyer husband’s murder case.

HIGH CRIMES by Libby Fischer HellmannHow do you solve a murder when there are 42,000 suspects?  That’s the task facing Chicago PI Georgia Davis, hired to hunt down those behind the assassination of Resistance leader Dena Baldwin at a demonstration fourteen months after the 2016 election.

WE, THE JURY by Robert Rotstein: Follows the fictional trial of a man who killed his wife with an ax on the eve of their twenty-first wedding anniversary as the jurors sort through conflicting and even more startling evidence against the central figures involved.

THIEVES by Steven Max Russo: Esmeralda works for a housecleaning service during the day and as a restaurant hostess at night. It isn’t long before Esmeralda finds herself trapped by both circumstance and greed, forced to try and defend herself against one of her partners in crime, who she quickly discovers is far more dangerous than she ever thought possible.


You can win autographed copies of these books! If you are new to the site, each month I run a contest in conjunction with the International Thriller Writers organization. We put together a list of books from debut authors to bestsellers, so you can win some of your favorites and find some new favorites.

What makes this contest really special is that all of the books (except eBooks) are signed by the author! Books with multiple authors will be signed by at least one of the authors.

Penguin Random House books for giveaway were provided by the publisher. #PRHpartner

Don’t forget, if you subscribe to the newsletter or follow this blog, you get an extra entry into every contest you enter. Check out the Win Books page for more information on all these books and how to enter this month’s contest.

Thanks for reading, and good luck!


THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW by A. J. Flynn

April 12, 2018

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From the publisher:

Instant #1 New York Times Bestseller!

“Astounding. Thrilling. Amazing.” —Gillian Flynn

“Unputdownable.” —Stephen King

“A dark, twisty confection.” —Ruth Ware

“Absolutely gripping.” —Louise Penny

For readers of Gillian Flynn and Tana French comes one of the decade’s most anticipated debuts, to be published in thirty-six languages around the world and already in development as a major film from Fox: a twisty, powerful Hitchcockian thriller about an agoraphobic woman who believes she witnessed a crime in a neighboring house.

It isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening . . .

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

Twisty and powerful, ingenious and moving, The Woman in the Window is a smart, sophisticated novel of psychological suspense that recalls the best of Hitchcock.

An Amazon Best Book of January 2018

“The rocket fuel propelling The Woman in the Window, the first stratosphere-ready mystery of 2018, is expertise. . . . Dear other books with unreliable narrators: This one will see you and raise you.” (New York Times Book Review)

“Finn’s debut lives up to the hype. . . . A riveting and mature first novel that stands out in a crowded genre.” (Library Journal [starred review])

“Next year’s ‘Gone Girl’? Perhaps. ‘The Woman in the Window’ lives up to the hype” (Washington Post)

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I’m posting the publisher’s information, including the blurbs, because they are diametrically opposed to my impressions of the book and I want to be fair. This is another of the “girl books”, a subgenre of thriller that includes a woman of dubious character, an unreliable narrator, as protagonist. This is my least favorite type of thriller. I have really enjoyed a few of them, The Wife by Alafair Burke and The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney spring immediately to mind. But I mostly hate them –  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, the book that really started this whole craze and I couldn’t even get past the first fifty pages and I tried and tried and tried. I did manage to read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins but I hated it, rather like The Woman in the Window.

This is an unlikely (it’s a debut novel) huge bestseller. My best friend loved it, and she generally has impeccable taste (but not this time.) My library patrons keep raving, even after I tell them I read the first 50 pages, then went back and read some more, the first 100 pages, and I didn’t like it. I caved to peer pressure and read the whole damn book, a couple of hours I’ll never get back. I figured out a couple of the main plot twists, which is really odd because I wasn’t even trying and I almost never figure out this stuff, but it was so obvious to me. And I hate when that happens.

So if you are a fan of the girl books, or want to read the book before the movie comes out, this is the book for you. Sadly, it was not the book for me.

4/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW by A. J. Flynn. William Morrow; 1st Edition edition (January 2, 2018). ISBN 978-0062678416. 448p.


Best Books of 2013

December 27, 2013

Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

BEST FICTION

THE HUSBAND’S SECRET by Liane Moriarity: Three women are the focus of this tale, and how their stories are woven together is at the crux of things. Morality is not neatly defined here, and this novel is quite thought provoking while still being completely unputdownable. Another hit from the author of the terrific What Alice Forgot.

WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE by Maria Semple: Bernadette Fox is a world renown, award winning architect who disappears into the Seattle suburbs with her equally brilliant husband, a Microsoft guru. Their daughter Bee chronicles most of this epistolary novel with first person narrative interspersed with emails, legal documents, and such. Bee’s voice is charming and compelling, and this is ultimately the story of a mother daughter relationship in a world gone mad. I loved it.

MR. PENUMBRA’S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE by Robin Sloan: Every once in a while I stumble onto a book so creative, so inspiring that it is just impossible to put down and impossible to forget. This is a conundrum of a novel; part mystery, part fantasy, very charming and just plain smart. If I may borrow from Winston Churchill, this book is truly a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, and I loved every page.

ME BEFORE YOU by JoJo Moyes: What could have been a maudlin story, or an overly sweet one, is instead a cataclysmic love story that just resonates; this is a remarkable book.

LADIES’ NIGHT by Mary Kay Andrews: Every June I kick off my summer reading with Mary Kay, and she never disappoints. This is Mary Kay Andrews at her best, with lots of angst, laughter, food and love.

BEST FICTION DEBUTS 

BIG GIRL PANTIES by Stephanie Evanovich: When I first saw this author’s name, I thought this must be someone’s brilliant pseudonym, combining the character name with her famous author’s name. Turns out not be be a pseudonym but rather Janet Evanovich’s niece, who apparently inherited her aunt’s writing talent and sense of humor. This is a very funny, very sweet contemporary romance and is the best new romance I have read in a long time; Evanovich comes out of the gate like a pro.

THE ROSIE PROJECT by Graeme Simsion: Don Tillman is a brilliant professor of genetics at an Australian university, whose personality and quirks seem to place him somewhere on the autism spectrum. He devises a test to find a wife, but it doesn’t work out exactly as planned. Suspend your disbelief and enjoy this fast paced, laugh-out-loud, slightly skewed look at love and life.

BEST CRIME FICTION

VISITATION STREET by Ivy Pochoda: This is ostensibly a mystery, but the story revolves around the characters, and they are wondrous. All of these characters are fully brought to life, and the Red Hook section of Brooklyn itself becomes yet another character in this tightly written and moving story. This is a memorable read, beautifully written and imaginatively conceived. Don’t miss it.

NEVER GO BACK by Lee Child: The Jack Reacher series is my version of literary comfort food. The books are consistent in their excellence, character development and action. Never Go Back adds another layer to the seemingly simple yet truly complex character that Jack Reacher has evolved into, and it is done flawlessly.

THE BLACK BOX by Michael Connelly: Harry Bosch is back working open, unsolved homicides. Connelly once again lures the reader in and doesn’t let go until the very last page and I couldn’t put it down despite the lateness of the night. Another great read from the master of crime fiction.

SUSPECT by Robert Crais: Maggie is a German Shepherd war hero suffering from post traumatic stress disorder after her stint in Afghanistan. Scott James is a Los Angeles cop who is severely injured when his partner is killed. This is a fascinating look at the training process these heroic dogs go through interwoven with terrific suspense and an occasional look at the world through Maggie’s eyes. I loved this book and dog lovers for sure shouldn’t miss it.

SIX YEARS by Harlan Coben: Who knew Coben had such a romantic soul? He may pick up some new readers; his regular readers will love this, and fans of Sandra Brown and Linda Howard should definitely give this a read. Very well plotted and executed, this is Coben at his best.

THE LAND OF DREAMS by Vidar Sundstol: While written in Norwegian, this Scandinavian thriller is set in Minnesota on the shores of Lake Superior and is the first book of a trilogy. The landscape is a big part of the story, as is the history of the area, making this a fascinating look at Minnesota as well as a suspenseful read. Scandinavian crime fiction has exploded in popularity, and this is a superior addition to the genre.

AIRTIGHT by David Rosenfelt: The tension is palpable and the pages fly by in this riveting standalone thriller from the author of the Andy Carpenter mystery series. The voice here is just as engaging, with enough humor to lighten the story without diminishing the suspense, and the ending is a real shocker.

ACCUSED: A Rosato & Associates Novel by Lisa Scottoline: Scottoline is back in the legal minefield of the Philadelphia all female law firm of Rosato & Associates. Scottoline writes Nancy Drew inspired mysteries for adults; Mary’s naiveté and belief in justice are heartwarming and believable, and all the characters are recognizable without being cliché. This is a long-awaited solid entry into this terrific series

THE HEIST by Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg: This is a new series centered around ex-Navy Seal turned FBI agent Kate O’Hare. The girl’s got skills and so do Evanovich and Goldberg.

BEST CRIME FICTION DEBUTS

RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA by Kimberly McCreight: This is a heartbreaking story but it is told well, with lots of curveballs thrown in. McCreight’s first novel is as polished as a pro’s – this is an author to watch.

COVER OF SNOW by Jenny Milchman: This superlative dark, wintry debut is set in a small town in upstate New York. These well-defined characters take us on an emotional roller-coaster ride through the darkest night, with blinding twists and occasionally fatal turns. This is a richly woven story that not only looks at the devastating effects of suicide but also examines life in a small town and explores the complexity of marriage.

RAGE AGAINST THE DYING by Becky Masterman: Brigid Quinn is a retired FBI agent who gave her all to the bureau until she was forced out over shooting an unarmed man. Brigid is a marvelous, well-developed character and her skills are fearsome for an old broad. Although she sometimes takes things too far, stretching the bounds of credulity, it is worth the suspension of disbelief to hang with her. Fans of Lisa Gardner and Tess Gerritsen will love this book.

BEST NONFICTION

BLOOD, BONES AND BUTTER: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton:  Hamilton is not only a chef, she is a gifted writer with an M.F.A. in fiction writing to prove it. This book is her story, of growing up with a French mother and a father who took to roasting whole lambs at their back yard barbecues. When they split up, Gabrielle got into drugs, embezzlement and a host of other decidedly un-chef-life behaviors that make for a fabulous, fascinating story.

CONSIDER THE FORK by Bee Wilson: I loved this book about how we eat and how we cook. Her writing style is conversational rather than instructional, making this an incredibly interesting and easy read. This is fascinating reading for anyone who cooks, or eats. I loved this book.

BEST COOKBOOKS

OLD-SCHOOL COMFORT FOOD: The Way I Learned to Cook by Alex Guarnaschelli: This is not an intimidating, gourmet “chef-fy” type cookbook; instead it is full of great recipes for food most people can easily make. And it is true to her voice; reading it, I could hear her talking to me. If you are not familiar with this talented, down to earth woman, you will be after reading her book. The introduction is a glimpse into her life, and many of the recipes have little stories or tips to go along with them. This terrific cookbook is also a fun read.

BAREFOOT CONTESSA FOOLPROOF: Recipes You Can Trust by Ina Garten: I am a big Barefoot Contessa fan, and this latest cookbook just adds to the awe. Some of the recipes are classics and appear in several of her cookbooks, but most are new and all look terrific.

Becky Lejeune
Top 10 of 2013

THE UNINVITED by Liz Jensen – a creepy read with an apocalyptic twist and some really creepy kids, Liz Jensen is a must for thriller fans.

THE DIFFERENT GIRL by Gordon Dahlquist – Dahlquist’s teen debut was just as unforgettable as his previous novels. A charming narrator and a sci-fi, dystopian twist made this a true stand out for me.

LONDON FALLING by Paul Cornell – a London based urban fantasy that kicks off what I think will be an excellent series. I can’t wait for more!

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill – Joe Hill is brilliant, just brilliant! I look forward to each new release with great anticipation.

THE WONDER BREAD SUMMER by Jessica Anya Blau – this was my intro to Blau’s work and it put her instantly on my must read list. The Wonder Bread Summer is a twisted and hilarious summertime read.

CARNIEPUNK by Rachel Caine et al – some of the best in urban fantasy and paranormal romance contributed to this weird carnival themed collection. I loved each installment and discovered some new-to-me authors.

PREP SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL by Kara Taylor – this teen mystery is Taylor’s debut release. The plotting is tight and clever and I am definitely looking forward to reading the next in the series.

EVERYTHING YOU NEED by Michael Marshall Smith – I’ve long been a fan of Michael Marshall Smith and his latest collection was truly wonderful.

DOCTOR SLEEP by Stephen King – King never lets me down. This sequel to The Shining lived up to its predecessor on all counts!

THE LOST GIRLS OF ROME by Donato Carrisi – Carrisi is one of my favorite new authors. His books are full of suspense and unpredictable twists. I want every thriller reader out there to discover how fabulous his work is.

 Paul Lane
Top 10 of 2013

Innocence by Dean Koontz – Haunting update of the Beauty and the Beast theme. Beautifully written. Two principal characters are emotionally rendered and the first person narrative used allows readers to completely related to them and what they experience.

The Absence of Mercy by John Burley – A first novel by Burley exploring the psychology and abnormal psychology involved in murder and attempted murder in a small town. The ending is a complete surprise and one of the most thought provoking finales in recent plots.

The October List by Jeffrey Deaver – An experiment by Deaver in starting the book with the last chapter and progressing to chapter one. Totally logical sequence. Will not be enjoyed by everyone but worth reading because of the expertise in presenting the events and causing them to be completely understood and correct.

The Lincoln Deception by David O Stewart – Very readable questioning of whether John Wilkes Booth was alone in planning and carrying out the assassination of Abraham Lincoln or was it in reality a much wider plot. Stewart puts together the facts as known about the murder in 1865 and comes up with a different idea than written about in our history books.

Ghosts of Bungo Suido by Peter Deutermann – Deutermann is a retired navy Captain, serving only on surface ships but delivers a tribute and a great novel about the World War II submarine war in the Pacific. Research on his part is obvious in descriptions of the fighting and extraordinary dangers in manning of the U boats. The book brings us a description of the end of the war with the bombing of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki from the point of view of the Japanese present for these events. Very well worth the read regardless of your taste for war stories or not.

Brilliance by Marcus Sakey – A “different” book by the very versatile Sakey projected to be the first of a trilogy. Setting is the U.S. in a near future where the presence of an extremely intelligent segment of human beings complicates life for normal people. Extremely well thought out and outlining possibilities for civilization that cannot be comprehended by people living in today’s society. The book is already in development for filming.

The Curiosity by Stephen P Kiernan – Beyond doubt the book I liked the most for 2013. A great love story combined with a scientific achievement that makes that love possible. Emotionally wrought and will make the reader feel with the characters created. A scientific expedition to the north pole comes up with an event that is beyond the norm and creates conflict for people witnessing the results of that event. They question whether the consequences of something beyond the normal progression of events should be accepted or fought as not real.

No Way Back by Andrew Gross – Gross takes us into the world of the Mexican Drug Cartels. Two women from different walks of life living in the United States find themselves at odds with Drug Cartel members Events in the book and in the background of one of the women bring the two together in order to fight to survive. Gross is a wordsmith and employs a logical sequence bringing the two together in order to fight for their lives.

Six Years by Harlan Coben – Coben at his best setting up a “different” plot to keep his readers mesmerized by the book. A love lost to Jake Fisher the principal male character and completely beyond his understanding after going through a torrid love affair with the supposition that it terminate in marriage with the girl. Why was the affair abruptly ended without explanation and is resolution possible is the crux of the situation and well answered by Coben.

The Third Bullet by Stephen Hunter – Hunter has made a literary career writing about snipers and gun duels. He is an expert on the science of ballistics and has obviously built up to this novel which is based on his vast knowledge of guns and bullets. He sets up a scenario in which Bob Lee Swagger, Hunters favorite character begins investigation of the Kennedy Assassination in 1963. Facts are brought out based on Hunter’s knowledge of ballistics that postulates a different set of events than the lone gunman sequence generally accepted and the result of the Warren commission investigation at the time of the murder. Hunter’s descriptions of the probable real sequence of events is not dry, but presents the reader with a good case to see the Kennedy murder in a new light with a possibly wider frame than just Lee Harvey Oswald as the long killer.

 Geoffrey R. Hamlin
Top 10 of 2013

1. Eleven Days – Lea Carpenter. The story of Sara, a single mother, after she is advised that her son has been reported missing on a Special Operations mission. The story of his childhood is told through her memories and the story of his military training and experiences is told through the letters she has received from him. A moving story told in language that cuts to the bone. Should be required reading for anyone serving in the United States Congress.

2. The Gods of Guilt – Michael Connelly. One of his finest and that is saying a great deal. The Lincoln Lawyer has suffered setbacks in his personal and professional life. Not only is he feeling guilty, but others that are close to him are laying a lot at his doorstep too. On the surface, this is the story of the preparation for and trial of a murder case. Underneath, it is the story of how good defense lawyers do what they do and what it costs them. There are humorous references to the Lincoln Lawyer movie, suggesting that it has spawned a fleet of imitators which causes a careless Mickey Haller to get into the wrong car. And there is a character called “Starry-Eyed Stacey” which I like to think is in honor of my friend, the one and only Bookbitch.

3. Transatlantic – Colum McCann. The first part of this book is the story of three historical figures travelling from North America to Ireland – two war veterans making the first non-stop transatlantic flight in a refurbished W.W. I bomber, the abolitionist Frederick Douglass in the mid-nineteenth century and George Mitchell attempting to negotiate an end to the “troubles” in the late twentieth century. The second part of the book is the story of women that were involved or participated in these events and how their lives spun out. Simply story-telling at its very finest.

4. Bleeding Edge – Thomas Pynchon. In my humble opinion, Gravity’s Rainbow was the finest American novel of the 20th century. Pynchon approaches that level again in Bleeding Edge. It is the story of Maxine Turnow, a fraud investigator doing business as the firm of Tail ‘Em and Nail ‘Em in New York City around the time of the events of 9/11. As Maxine investigates the tech billionaire Gabriel Ice and his hashslingerz.com in the corners of New York and the deep web, she runs across a wonderful supply of Pyncheon characters who are ridiculous but so reflective of the extremes of our society that you suspend your disbelief willingly.

5. How the Light Gets In – Louise Penny. Not my favorite Penny story, but still far ahead of the rest of crime fiction. Several of the story lines in the saga of Inspector Gamache are resolved in this tale of corruption at the highest level of the police force and the provincial government.

6. Three Can Keep a Secret – Archer Mayor. One of my very favorite regional crime fiction writers, Mayor is up to the mark again in this story involving the murder of a retired state politician and a female escapee from a mental institution, all in the aftermath of the flooding resulting from Hurricane Irene. The estimable Joe Gunther must deal with the crime, the crisis and some personal issues and does so in his satisfyingly straight-ahead good cop way.

7. Dissident Gardens – Jonathan Lethem. A sweeping view of left-wing “movements” in American history and an examination of the people that might have been involved in them. From communism to communes to the Occupy Movement, with appropriate accompanying music. Lethem understands how close ridiculous and heart-breaking can be.

8. W is for Wasted – Sue Grafton. At this stage of the alphabet, each Sue Grafton effort simply has to be recognized and read. Not as smooth and as neat as some of her earlier efforts, just as Kinsey Milhone’s involvement with her past is not smooth and neat. A must read just because.

9. Night Detectives – Jon Talton. Talton has a wonderful understanding of the corruption in the history of Phoenix and Arizona and the silliness in its current events. Night Detectives reflects both of those as former policeman/history professor David Mapstone and the former Sheriff Mike Peralta try their hands at the private detective business. These volumes reflect great credit on one of the fine independent bookstores in America, the Poisoned Pen of Scottsdale and the Poisoned Pen Press.

10. Seashells, Gator Bones, and the Church of Everlasting Liability – Susan Adger. A fine look at small town Florida life in the 1930’s through the eyes of the residents of Toad Springs, Florida.

 Jack Quick
Top 10 of 2013

15 SECONDS by Andrew Gross: It starts out with two seemingly unrelated events. First, 19 year old Amanda Hofer, stoned on prescription drugs, is involved in a traffic accident that kills a mother and her young son, a child never seen by his father who is serving in Afghanistan. Then a Doctor is stopped in Jacksonville, Florida, in a seemingly meaningless traffic stop. Things get ugly when backup cops arrive but eventually everything settles down. Doctor Henry Steadman thinks he is going to get off with a warning. But then a blue sedan drives by and shots ring out. The policeman who stopped Dr. Steadman is dead, and Steadman knows there are a bunch of policemen who think he is the killer, so he runs to the only friend he has in Jacksonville. When he gets there he finds his friend shot to death. From there on, things only get progessively worse for Henry Steadman. On the run and cut off from the help he needs, Steadman’s only hope is a Jacksonville Community Relations officer who seems to be the only one willing to not pass judgment on Steadman’s guilt or innocence. Will that be enough? Andrew Gross cut his teeth co-authoring with James Patterson but has certainly come into his own. This one puts the thrill in thriller as a diabolical plot unfolds trapping the guilty and the innocent in a maze from which there appears to be no exit. Yes there are parts that are “over the top” but isn’t that true of most thrillers? That is part of what makes them so exciting. This one was unputdownable.

AIR TIGHT by David Rosenfelt: An eye for an eye, quickly becomes a brother for a brother. When Judge Daniel Brennan is gunned down New Jersey policeman Luke Somers is assigned the case. An anonymous tip leads him to Steven Gallagher, a drug addict about to be sentenced by Judge Brennan. When they go into Gallagher’s apartment he has a gun in hand. Somers reacts instinctively and shoots him dead. Now, Steven’s brother Chris Gallagher, who raised his brother, Steven, almost single-handedly, is certain that Steven is innocent. Chris, a Marine Recon Force member is one to be reckoned with. He kidnaps Luke’s own brother who will die if Luke refuses to help clear Steven’s name. Failure by Luke may lead to his brother’s death; success may lead to his own death. A good one.

THE BROKEN PLACES by Ace Atkins: Third in the Quinn Colson series, the town of Jericho is besieged by a band of escaped criminals from the infamous Parchman Farm prison as well as a violent tornado that reeks havoc just as sheriff Colson is getting to the bottom of why Jericho has become so popular with hardened criminals. In his second year after becoming Sheriff the challenges facing Colson and his chief deputy, Lillie, are as big as they get. Although I wasn’t that impressed with much of Atkins previous work, in my opinion he has hit a homerun with this character and this series. Looking forward to outing number four.

THE FAME THIEF by Tim Hallinan: Through his previous work, LA burglar Junior has acquired a protector and mentor. The problem is the person who has involved himself in Junior’s life is one Irwin Dressler, Hollywood’s scariest mob boss-turned-movie king. Having Dressler for a mentor is not unlike walking a greased high wire over a pit of piranhas during a windstorm. Even though Dressler is ninety-three years old, Junior is thinks hif life is over when Dressler’s henchman haul him in for a meeting. It turns out that Dressler wants Junior to solve a “crime” he believes was committed more than seventy years ago, when an old friend of his, once-famous starlet Dolores La Marr, had her career destroyed after compromising photos were taken of her at a Las Vegas party. Dressler wants justice for Dolores and the shining career she never had. After all, it’s been seventy years. Even if someone did set Dolores up for a fall from grace back then, they’re probably long dead now. But Junior can’t say no to Irwin Dressler (no one can, really). So he starts digging. As additional motivation Dressler knows Junior’s deepest secret hideaway which means the alternative would be to flee California and his daughter forever and that is not going to happen. Another outstanding offering from Tim Hallinan.

LIGHT OF THE WORLD by James Lee Burke: This may be Burke’s most complex work since In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead. Dave Robicheaux and his longtime friend and partner Clete Purcell are vacationing in Montana’s spectacular Big Sky country with Dave’s wife Molly, daughter Alafair and Clete’s daughter, Gretchen Horowitz. It should be nothing but fly-fishing, relaxing, and having a good time. But it turns out there are some strange locals, including some corrupt lawmen, an oil billionaire, and a mysterious rodeo cowboy to contend with. To top it off there are indications that a sadistic serial killer, whom Alfair interviewed in prison and who supposedly died in a collision between a tanker truck and a police transport vehicle, may, in fact, be alive and is stalking Alafair. There are also attempts on Gretchen’s life. It’s up to the Boogie-woogie boys from down home in New Orleans to protect their respective daughters and get everyone out alive. As always, outstanding.

LITTLE ELVISES by Tim Hallinan: Cops and robbers, mobsters and gun molls – what has LA burglar Junior Bender gotten himself into this time. Crooked LA cop Paul DiGaudio is going to frame Junior for a particularly nasty burglary unless Junior can prove aging music industry mogul Vinnie DiGaudio (Paul’s uncle) is innocent of the murder of a nasty tabloid journalist he’d threatened to kill a couple times. It doesn’t help that the dead journalist’s widow is one pretty lady, and she’s trying to get Junior to mix pleasure with business. In addition, Junior’s hard-drinking landlady begs him to solve the disappearance of her daughter, who got involved with a very questionable character and both Junior’s ex-wife and his thirteen-year-old daughter, Rina, seem to have new boyfriends. After being run into with a Humvee, been threatened with death a few times, Junior must also cope with having the kingpin of LA crime involved with his little task. It’s almost enough to make a thief go honest. Serious but funny action in a story superbly told by a master of the genre, Mr. Timothy Hallinan.

RULES OF CRIME by LJ Sellers: Another outstanding police procedural from Ms.Sellers featuring Detective Wade Jackson and his cohorts of the Eugene, Oregon Police Department. This time its personal as Jackson’s ex-wife, Renee, is missing, Jackson suspects alcoholic Renee has climbed back inside the bottle that destroyed their marriage. But the truth is far worse: kidnappers have snatched Renee and are demanding ransom from her wealthy fiancé. In the meantime, Jackson’s protégé, Detective Lara Evans, is working a seemingly unrelated case involving a battered coed and a whispered rumor of a secret sorority. Add in Eugene’s new FBI liaison, Agent Carla River, (formerly Carl) and you have all the main characters hard at work to save lives and bring the perps to justice. I still miss Ed McBain, but Ms. Sellers has become my go-to for solid police procedurals.

SKIN DEEP by Timothy Hallinan: Way back in 1991, there were them that could write like: “In all, it seemed to me that the people who understood carburetors could get along much better without the people who understood Dickens and Thackery than the people who understood Dickens and Thackery could get along without those who understood carburetors.” LA private eye Simeon Grist is hired to watchdog Toby Vane, the golden boy of prime-time TV, whose gee-whiz smile and chiseled features are worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the lucrative syndication market. The problem is that Toby every now and then beats up a woman, and almost any woman will do. When some of the women around Toby begin to turn up dead, Simeon has to figure out whether he’s protecting a murderer – or whether one of Toby’s multitude of enemies wants to put him away forever. When Simeon meets the beautiful Nana, the whole situation becomes very personal, very fast. The true test of a writer is how well his work holds up and Mr. Hallinan fully fills the bill. Simeon Grist, Poke Rafferty and now Junior Bender – just a few of my favorite guys.

SUSPECT by Robert Crais: LAPD cop Scott James and his new partner Maggie share a common bond. Each was shot and nearly died in actions in which their respective partners were killed. Scott lost his partner Stephanie in a shocking nighttime assault by unidentified men killed. Maggie is a German shepherd who survived three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan sniffing explosives before losing her handler to an IED. They are each other’s last chance. Shunned and shunted to the side, they set out to investigate the one case that no one wants them to touch: the identity of the men who murdered Stephanie. It is an incredible journey of discovery as each tries to make their other whole. Crais doesn’t need Elvis Cole or Joe Pike to turn out a first rate thriller.

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.


Best Books of 2007

December 27, 2013

BEST BOOKS OF 2007

from Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

This year I put my selections in preferential order. It forced me to evaluate and re-evaluate each title, although the longer I look at this list, the more tempted I am to start rearranging again. At any rate, it helped me winnow it down to a reasonable number. The problem with being as passionate as I am about books is that I tend to fall in love a lot…and I need to learn to be more discerning. Choosing this list helped me do just that.

BEST FICTION OF 2007

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

ON CHESIL BEACH by Ian McEwan: This novella centers around the wedding night of a young couple in the early 1960’s. Unlike their freewheeling, sexually permissive counterparts that were the hallmark of that decade, these two are both shy and sexually inexperienced. However, this is not a book about sex, but rather how one incident, one night, can cataclysmically change lives. McEwan gives us just enough background on each of them to see how and why they reach this point, but nonetheless it is still a heartbreaker. Beautifully written, this compelling yet simple story has the hallmark of a classic. 06/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

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

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

BABY CRIMES by Randall Hicks: It’s been much too long since The Baby Game debut; I hope the wait isn’t as long for the next book in this wonderful series. Toby is back, teaching tennis and lawyering on the side. He’s seeing his childhood sweetheart, Rita, and life is good – until he’s hired to unravel a 16 year old adoption mess. But there’s more to the mess than just a legal imbroglio; blackmail, organized crime and murder take this to a darker place. Fully realized characters, intricate plotting, a bit of romance and good writing combine to make this a wondrous book; fun and compelling, yet comforting. Hicks has a unique voice – don’t miss it. 09/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

SATURDAY WIFE by Naomi Ragen: If you can imagine Emma Bovary as a contemporary, Orthodox Jew, you have the gist of this latest Jewish family saga from Ragen. Delilah Goldgrab, whose name is completely symbolic of her personality: Delilah is a “bad girl,” an Orthodox Yeshiva student who falls for & has sex with the son of a famous rabbi, who promptly dumps her. Goldgrab is interested in only one thing: grabbing the gold, as in making a successful marriage to a man who can keep her in the style to which she would like to become accustomed. Delilah is a beauty, which definitely helps ensnare rabbinical student Chaim Levi. But no matter what he does for her, no matter what she has, it’s never enough and never what she feels she deserves. It’s a fascinating story and a mesmerizing one, rather like watching a train wreck; you know it can’t possibly end well, but you can’t stop reading. 08/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

HEARTSICK by Chelsea Cain: Set in damp Portland, Oregon, this thriller rises above the pack and draws comparisons to Thomas Harris’ Silence of the Lambs. Cain has penned a fascinating and macabre study of the relationship between a serial killer and the cop that chased her – yes, her – for ten years. Detective Archie Sheridan headed the task force until Dr. Gretchen Lowell offered to help. Turns out her idea of help was to kidnap and torture Archie for ten long days. But instead of making him her 200th victim, she turns herself in. Archie is put on medical leave and develops a serious pain killer addiction, but two years later is asked back to work when a few teenage girls are murdered and the task force is resurrected. Hoping to spin news coverage their way, a newcomer is added to the task force; Susan Ward, a crime reporter with pink hair that hides a very sharp mind. The story swings back and forth between those ten days of torture and the current case, creating a very interesting juxtaposition and a book that is impossible to put down. First in a series. 09/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

SLIP AND FALL by Nick Santora: Robert Principe is the first lawyer in his working class Italian family. He is an idealist, a man of ethics and principles, and is slowly starving to death. He’s three months behind on his mortgage, pays his secretary sporadically, and his wife is pregnant. Desperate, he turns to his cousin Jackie, a Brooklyn mobster. Robert proposes an insurance scam, and Jackie is in – and so’s his boss; there’s nothing the mob likes more than easy money. Robert gets in way over his head and the pages fly by as the Robert’s life starts spinning out of control. But who better to write a terrific Mafia tale than Santora; this former lawyer got his writing chops writing for Prison Break, Law & Order, & The Sopranos. 08/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE STREET OF A THOUSAND BLOSSOMS by Gail Tsukiyama: This is a warm family saga interwoven with twenty years of Japanese history, and a thoroughly enjoyable read. Two little boys are orphaned and go to live with their grandparents. Hiroshi dreams of becoming a sumo wrestler, and Kenji dreams of creating the masks worn in the theater. But both their dreams are put on hold when the bombs of WWII start falling on their lives. The boys grow up with the horror and famine of war, and but then their lives begin again as a new Japan literally emerges from the ashes. Tsukiyama has penned another poignant story that is never cloy, is always interesting, and should be read. 09/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BEST NONFICTION OF 2007

EVERYTHING IS MISCELLANEOUS: The Power of the New Digital Disorder by David Weinberger: People like to ask me about books – I’ve been asked to name my favorite books, the books I would take to a desert island, and the books that have changed my life. My favorites change from year to year, I would need an entire cruise ship to fill with enough books to sustain me on a desert island, and while books in general have changed my life, I’ve never had any sort of epiphany while reading, at least not that I can recall. Until now. Reading Everything is Miscellaneous gave me my moment. It was a “EUREKA” moment, rather like that lovely story about Archimedes in the bathtub. Lest you think I’ve completely taken leave of my senses, let me get down to it.

This is a book about many things, but what I am focusing on here is organization. Specifically, the organization of books, in a library. 95% of all public libraries use the Dewey Decimal System, which has worked reasonably well for quite a long while. Other libraries use a different classification system culled from the Library of Congress, while bookstores tend to use something called BISAC, the Book Industry Standards and Communications. But what Mr. Weinberger wonders is this: if we have computers and are using them, why are we limiting ourselves to such specifics? And it made me wonder too. Yes, books need a specific place on the shelf, but we can look for books, search for books, in other ways that have nothing to do with the physical location of the book, but rather with the need of the reader.

But that’s only a small part of this fascinating book. Weinberger examines how Google has changed our lives, the wonder of Wikipedia, looks at the business model of the digital music industry and what it portends for the future of all businesses, and even why Staples is so successful. I read this book several months ago, and have just reread it, and I may have to read it yet again. 12/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, Camille Kingsolver, and Steven L. Hopp: Kingsolver has been an advocate of eating locally grown food for some time, and was able to put her beliefs into practice when she moved to a farm in Virginia. She spent a year eating only the foods they grew on her farm or that were grown in a hundred mile radius as much as possible, and wrote this fascinating book about that experience. Her husband, Steven Hopp, and daughter Camille also contributed. When people ask if she didn’t get tired of eating the same things all the time, Kingsolver gently points out that every month grows a new menu. They weren’t sure if their pantry would get them through the winter, but it did, although March was a tough month. My favorite part of the book was about the turkeys they raised. Apparently turkeys have been artificially inseminated for decades, but these turkeys were being raised by hand and Kingsolver wanted them to reproduce the old fashioned way. She finally found some information on turkey breeding au natural in an antique farming book, and her female turkeys soon gave up coming on to Steven and instead set their sights on the Tom turkey. What I liked about this book was Kingsolver’s tone; on rare occasion almost preachy, but for the most part just passionate, informative and often funny. Anyone with an interest in how and why we eat what we do should take a look at this book, which was most reminiscent of The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. There’s also a website with lots of pictures and recipes: http://www.animalvegetablemiracle.com/ 06/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

TOO SOON TO SAY GOODBYE by Art Buchwald: Art Buchwald’s kidneys were failing. He needed dialysis to get his leg amputated, but then decided no more dialysis. He was in complete renal failure, checked himself into hospice and began the process of spending his last few weeks dying. Except he didn’t. At least not for several months. He became the “Man Who Would Not Die” and got to say goodbye to everybody who meant anything to him – some of them more than once. He plans his funeral, his eulogy, the food being served; discusses heaven, living wills, and all the other things no one discusses about death. This is pure Buchwald, dying on his own terms and determined to make us laugh as he does it – a truly fitting goodbye from an American icon. 02/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

OUR DUMB WORLD: Atlas of the Planet Earth, 73rd Edition by the Onion: If you are not familiar with the Onion, “America’s Finest News Source” and the originator (I think) of pseudo news, get thee over there immediately. Today’s headlines, as I write this: “Mel Brooks Starts Nonprofit Foundation To Save Word ‘Schmuck'”, “Christian Charity Raising Money To Feed Non-Gay Famine Victims” and most appropriately for this site, “Third-Person Limited Omniscient Narrator Blown Away By Surprise Ending.” But Our Dumb World isn’t about news, per se, it’s an atlas, and if you weren’t sure about this, the cover helpfully steers you towards the Onion’s skew by proclaiming “Now With 30% More Asia” and such highlights as “Fewer Clouds on Maps” and “Long-Standing Border Disputes Resolved.” A sampling from the page on the South, “Where the Mistakes of the Past Come Alive” include this gem on my home, Florida: “The Silent Holocaust: Though on the surface Florida appears to be a tropical paradise, inside this state lurks a dark, gruesome secret: Each year, thousands of Jews are sent here to die.” The Onion doesn’t leave a stereotype unturned, from Malaysia, “An Allah-Inclusive Terrorist Resort” to India, “Please Hold While We Die of Malaria” to French Guiana, “The Colony That France Totally Forgot It Still Had” to Germany, “Genocide-Free Since April 11, 1946.” All the map lovers in your life, and even those who can’t fold a map, will find something to laugh at here. 11/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BEST THRILLERS OF 2007

WRITTEN BY MEMBERS OF THE
INTERNATIONAL THRILLER WRITERS ORGANIZATION

In order of preference, although it was quite a struggle and there were several ties …

THE ABDUCTION by Mark Gimenez: Caution: don’t start this book unless you have time to finish it – I could not put it down. After his excellent debut, The Color of Law, Gimenez just knocks it out of the park with his sophomore effort. The Brice family are a little more well-to-do than most; Elizabeth is a successful Dallas attorney, and her husband John is a computer nerd with a company that is about to go public and make him a billionaire. Their ten-year-old daughter Gracie is a budding soccer star and it is at her game that things go awry – Gracie is kidnapped while Dad is on the phone about his IPO and Mom is late coming from court. People may fear for their lives, but they really fear for their children’s lives, and these characters are so well drawn that it becomes incredibly easy to suspend your disbelief and get completely caught up in the story. I loved the tough-as-a-tiger mom, and the special bond between Gracie and her retired Green Beret grandfather was especially touching, all of which helped ratchet up the suspense even more. The Abduction is one of the best thrillers of the year. 09/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

DOWN RIVER by John Hart: Hart’s sophomore effort surpasses his debut, the multi-award nominated King of Lies. A small North Carolina town is torn apart when a power company wants to buy up all the farmland on the river; some cling to their bucolic way of life, while others only see dollar signs. Adam Chase’s family has owned the largest parcel in the area for centuries, and his father has no desire to sell. But tempers are flaring and soon a young woman is severely beaten, a body is found on the Chase farm, and Adam is the chief suspect. Newly arrived after five years away, Adam is the town pariah. His stepmother accused him of murdering a family friend, and while the court acquitted him, his family and friends did not. But time has softened some of them it seems, while others have just been storing up their anger and are ready to unleash it. Down River is reminiscent of Raymond Chandler, hard boiled and rich with evocative metaphors. Complex relationships blur the lines between friend and foe, heightening the suspense in this intricate, haunting story of a family in crisis, and the writing is simply superb. 10/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2006 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS by Giles Blunt: Detective John Cardinal (Blackfly Season) is back, and this time it’s personal. His wife, Catherine, who has been hospitalized on and off for depression for years, has seemingly leapt off of a roof to her death. She left a note and the coroner and police department rule it a suicide, and her psychiatrist, Dr. Frederick Bell, concurs. Cardinal starts having some doubts when disturbing notes arrive at his home, but he quickly realizes that he is the only one with doubts. Fellow police officer Lise Delorme feels bad for her friend, but she is tied up trying to track down a local pedophile who has plastered pictures of a young girl all over the Internet. More suicides among Dr. Bell’s patients in this small Ontario town further convince Cardinal that something is amiss, and contrary to departmental policy, he continues to investigate on his own while assisting Delorme with her investigation. Ostensibly a police procedural, this beautifully written and unusual story is really more of a suspenseful, psychological study into evil. 02/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2007 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

THE BLADE ITSELF by Marcus Sakey: Danny and Evan grew up on the South Side of Chicago in a working class neighborhood. They became partners in crime, stealing cars and doing small time burglaries, until Evan escalated the stakes with a pawn shop robbery gone bad. Danny managed to get away but Evan does hard time; while Evan’s in prison, Danny’s been scared straight. He’s a project manager for a small construction company, has a nice apartment and a great girlfriend – as long as he stays straight. So when Evan gets paroled seven years later and wants to renew their partnership, Danny isn’t interested. But Evan feels like Danny owes him, and prison certainly hasn’t softened him any. In fact, it’s turned him into Danny’s worst nightmare. The tension escalates as Evan starts putting the screws to Danny, and somehow Sakey keeps ratcheting it on up until the last page. This is an old story, but it is told so well that it feels new. This debut has garnered starred reviews and raves galore, drawing comparisons to Dennis Lehane’s masterpiece, Mystic River, as well as the writing styles of George Pelecanos and Joseph Finder, leaving me wondering: how can any book live up to all that hype? Read it and find out – because it did. 01/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ANATOMY OF FEAR: A Novel of Visual Suspense by Jonathan Santlofer: This has to be one of the most exciting new books to come out in a long time. Santlofer brings considerable skills to his latest endeavor, as both an emerging talent over the past few years as a thriller writer, as well as a life long career as a significant artist, with work represented in various museums. Graphic novels have gained significant popularity in the past few years, along with a healthy new respect – these are not your childhood comic books anymore. Now that respect for the illustration is transcending into other genres.

In his latest novel, Santlofer combines his story with his art in the character of Nate Rodriguez, a police sketch artist of some renown. But this is no graphic novel; it is a thriller that happens to have an occasional illustration born out of Nate’s work that tends to help the reader visualize the story as well as propel the story forward.

Nate is an interesting character; half Puerto Rican and half Jewish, and he uses both his heritages to his advantage. A serial killer is on the loose in New York City, leaving drawings of each murder victim at the scene of the crime. NYPD Homicide Detective Terri Russo thinks highly of Nate’s skills, and convinces her bosses to let him help out with the case.

Meanwhile, Nate’s abuela, his Puerto Rican grandmother who dabbles in Santeria, is having vivid dreams that are somehow tied to the murders. Between his grandmother’s visions and his own visions, and the clues the police are able to obtain, Nate’s drawings are honing in on the murderer. This is a page turner of the finest kind, and the illustrations just ratchet the tension up a notch. I loved this book and ripped through it in one night, sadly turning the last page – I didn’t want it to end, and I hope we will see more of this character. 04/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

COVER-UP by Michele Martinez: Melanie Vargas, federal prosecutor in NYC, returns in this latest thriller from the oh-so-talented Martinez. While dining out with her boyfriend, hunky FBI agent Dan O’Reilly, she is dragged along to the scene of a murder when he is paged to respond. Vargas had been laying low, taking low profile cases in order to recover from some rough cases and spend more time with her daughter. But being that she is in the right place at the right time – the murder scene of a celebrity, tabloid TV reporter Suzanne Shephard, Vargas realizes that this is an assignment she can’t walk away from. Shephard had plenty of enemies, and law enforcement has their work cut out for them to try and find the murderer. Terrific pacing in this legal thriller along with some hot romance makes this another fast, fun read from this author, who has turned into one of my favorites. 04/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE by Lee Child: Jack Reacher is back, and this time it’s personal – and really, really good. If you are new to the series, this book will work because each book works quite well on its own, and if you’ve read them all, you will love this book because you finally get some of Reacher’s back story. Reacher hooks up with some of the select military group that’s been hinted at in previous novels. This time we get the real deal, meet all the characters and really learn what makes Jack tick. A mysterious deposit into his bank account tips him off that something’s up and Reacher is off to California, where he hooks up with some of his former military team and finds out at least one of their members has been tortured and killed. There’s lots of catching up to do, but more importantly, a murder needs to be solved, and avenged. Park your disbelief by the door and enjoy – the action is non-stop, the body count high, and the pages just fly. Child really has mastered the art of the series; every book betters the one that preceded it, and considering he started with a home run, that really says a lot. 05/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE CONCRETE MAZE by Steven Torres: This is dark, terrific story about a Puerto Rican family in crisis in New York City. Often called the “concrete jungle,” the maze is more than just the concrete streets of NY, but rather the circuitous route that needs to be followed when a 13 year old girl goes missing. Her father and cousin drop everything and will do anything to find her and get her back unharmed, while the police aren’t too concerned about another teenage runaway. Their search takes them into the world of runaways, drug addicts, sexual slavery, dirty cops and murder, making this a riveting ride through a complex, haunting tale. 08/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

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

DEAD CONNECTION by Alafair Burke: Burke takes a break from her terrific Samantha Kincaid legal thriller series (Judgment Calls; Missing Justice; Close Case) with this novel of Internet dating, murder and high tech mayhem. Young New York City police detective Ellie Hatcher is temporarily re-assigned from the robbery division to maverick homicide detective Flann McIlroy. McIlroy is trying to tie together the murder of two young single women and wants some input from someone who can relate. An email is found on the body of the second victim and traced to an online dating service called FirstDate.com. After determining both women were members, the online dating service is approached about the men who had contacted the victims, but FirstDate is not too forthcoming – and anonymous men make difficult suspects. Hatcher and McIlroy dig deeper but more bodies start piling up, forcing the detectives to chase all over – including New Iberia, Louisiana, in a lovely homage to the author’s father, James Lee Burke. This stunning thriller ends with a tantalizing glimpse into what is sure to be a highly anticipated sequel. 07/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2007 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

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

TOP TEN from Jack Quick

BABY CRIMES by Randall Hicks: Arrange an adoption. That’s what Toby Dillon, Esquire does – when he is not serving as Assistant Tennis Pro at Coral Canyon. The prospective parents are County Supervisor Nevin Handley and his wife; the child is healthy and apparently adoptable. The only hitch? Lynn, the sixteen-year-old tennis prodigy, has been living as the daughter of the Handley’s since birth. It seems that they “adopted” her without benefit of the law sixteen years ago, and now are being threatened with blackmail, they think by Lynn’s birth mother. Just the kind of mess Toby is best suited to stumble through and, hopefully, come out the other end relatively unscathed. The follow-on to 2005’s The Baby Game is just as good. Don’t wait for the library. Go order a copy today. The new kissing scene with Rita is worth the price of admission alone. Think of the rest of the book as a bonus.

BABY SHARK’S BEAUMONT BLUES by Robert Fate: A tough talking private investigator who shoots a mean game of pool as an income supplement. No big deal, except she is the 5’ 7”, 130 pound Baby Shark. Kristin Van Dijk and partner Otis Millett are on the trail of a missing Texas oil heiress and have to contend with Beaumont gangsters, Dallas cops, and the overwhelming scent of Evening in Paris. This is definitely a Friday night book, because no matter how fast you read you are going to be up late, late, late, and suffer from an adrenalin deficit the next day. Baby Shark just keeps getting better. I’ve lost count of the number of guys she has put down and even though she has been shot, stabbed, and slugged, no one has gotten the best of her yet. Hey Robert, where and when for Baby Shark Number Three?

BANGKOK LAWS by Jim Hansen: Thirty four year old Bryson Coventry, head of Denver’s homicide unit and serial womanizer, has survived four previous outings but this one may be his undoing, as he becomes involved in the collateral damage of a global killer. Newly licensed attorney Paige Alexander is employed on her very first case. It involves a deadly high-stakes international conspiracy that first manifested itself in Bangkok and will end who knows where. The connection between Alexander and Coventry is San Francisco private investigator Ja’Von Deveraux who combines a lifeguard’s body with movie star features. Deveraux has survived a terrible experience and is now looking for revenge. She enlists Alexander to help her and then Coventry. Not for the weak hearted but full of action and coffee drinking, crime solving Coventry and his cast of cohorts continue to evolve with each outing. Rough as the Rockies, but also refreshing. Can’t wait for the next in the series.

BIG CITY, BAD BLOOD by Sean Chercover: Real-life Chicago PI Chercover, in his hard-boiled debut, writes Chicago like Ed Dee writes New York and Loren D. Estleman writes Detroit – gritty, dirty, scary, bold, and beloved by its citizens. Ray Dudgeon is a former Chicago reporter who has turned private detective. Bob Loniski is just trying to lock up some locations for movie making when he gets entangled in a ”Rent What You Don’t Own” scam. As a potential witness at the trial of the scammer, his life is threatened so he hires Dudgeon to look after him. Suddenly Dudgeon finds himself in the middle of an organized crime war complete with crooked politicians and assorted violence. Dudgeon turns out to be a classic private eye of the old school who can take a licking and keep on ticking – and quit is a word he never heard. Hopefully the first of many adventures for a guy that even has a nurse for a dame – and he needs one.

BLOODTHIRSTY by Marshall Karp: If you haven’t read THE RABBIT FACTORY by Marshall Karp, its time to grab it. In THE RABBIT FACTORY two LAPD cops, Mike Lomax and his partner Terry Biggs, are investigating the murder of Rambunctious Rabbit, or at least the pedophile employee who wears the bunny suit at the Sherman Oaks, CA “Familyland,” a Disneyland clone. In BLOODTHIRSTY, due out in May, the dynamic duo have been approached about making a movie about the Familyland case. Before they can even decide which current Hollywood hunks will play the daring pair, their would be producer, Barry Gerber, one of the most hated men in Hollywood, is a no-show for a red carpet event. The next morning he turns up dead, killed in such a bizarre way that neither Detectives Mike Lomax nor Terry Biggs nor anyone in Forensics has ever seen anything like it before. Two days later, the prime suspect – another despised show-business bad boy – is found murdered in the same sadistic manner. The list of suspects then becomes as long as the credits in a summer blockbuster. Sure its serious, I mean, as disliked as these folks are, Lomax and Biggs will never get their movie made until the killing is stopped. As their boss advises, “If you don’t solve this thing fast, I’m the guy who is gonna rip you a new asshole. You wouldn’t want that to happen would you, Biggs” “No, sir,” Terry said, “The last thing this department needs is another asshole.” Terry to Lomax, “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, blah, blah, blah.” “I believe that’s for postal workers,” Lomax replies. “Post office, police department.” Terry said. “What’s the difference” We’re all just guys in uniforms toting guns.” You gotta love ‘em.

CUT TO THE BONE by Shane Gericke: Prepare for an adrenalin deficit after reading this one. After all, when you find out at the end of the first chapter that the execution by electric chair you’ve just read about from the POV of the condemned is really only a practice for the real thing, then you know its tighten up the seat belts time. Naperville Illinois, detective commander Martin Benedetti and detective Emily Thompson have brought down a serial killer, Corey Trent, who is scheduled to die in the electric chair. No clemency is expected from Governor Wayne Covington whose younger brother was killed along with others back in the 1960’s. Benedetti and Thompson are now investigating a Napierville homicide and find at least nine others with the same modus operandi. Also the victims were the grandchildren of Naperville residents. As the killer makes his way back to Naperville and the scheduled execution, Martin and Emily are racing the clock to prevent other murders and to determine whether, in fact justice is to be done. A combination police procedural and thriller, CUT TO THE BONE will leave you exhausted, but satisfied. Give me a week of rest and I’ll be ready for another one, Mr. Gericke.

DEADMAN’S SWITCH by Barbara Seranella: Charlotte Lyon, victim of obsessive compulsive disorder, has turned her illness into a career, as a crisis management specialist. No matter how bad the situation, Charlotte can think up even more dire scenarios. This case involves a train wreck, a Hollywood star who is fatally injured, possible sabotage, and even a new love interest for the widowed Lyon. Throw in Charlotte’s dysfunctional mother and voluntarily absent sister, and you have quite a cast. Unfortunately it ends all far too quickly. From The Big Chill Richard is having a late-night snack while talking to Sam and Nick “There’s some asshole at work you have to kowtow to, and you find yourself doing things you thought you’d never do. But you try and minimize that stuff; be the best person you can be. But you set your priorities. And that’s the way life is. I wonder if your friend Alex knew that. One thing’s for sure, he couldn’t live with it. I know I shouldn’t talk; you guys knew him. But the thing is… no one ever said it would be fun. At least… no one ever said it to me.” Barbara, no one ever said it would be fun, and no one ever said it would be fair, but you were a winner and went out at the top. God Bless. She saved her best for last.

ON EDGE by Barbara Fister: Konstantin Slovo is a vacationing Chicago cop who gets caught up in the events of the coastal town of Brimsport,. Maine. Initially rousted as a potential suspect in a recent child abduction, Slovo is freed when the local police chief discovers he is a cop. Slove ends up staying in town and makes friends with the chief’s daughter Ruth, who along with Slovo’s Doctor Chakravarty, fill him in on the town’s history of child molestation and abuse. Not the most pleasant subject matter, but well written and while you probably won’t want to invite Slovo to your next dinner party, he is the one you want on your side when things get tough. Well done and recommended.

THE RABBIT FACTORY by Marshall Karp: In National Lampoon’s Vacation, the Griswolds drove across the country to visit Wally World. Had they read this book, they would have stayed home. Two LAPD cops, Mike Lomax and his partner Terry Biggs, are investigating the murder of Rambunctious Rabbit, or at least the pedophile employee who wears the bunny suit at the Sherman Oaks, CA “Familyland,” a Disneyland clone, conceived of by the late Dean Lamaar, who, like Disney, started out as an animator. The theme park has recently been sold to a Japanese conglomerate that is interested in opening a Las Vegas theme park. Another murder takes place, and another, and it quickly becomes obvious that someone has it in for Lamaar’s enterprises. Mike and Terry are under tremendous pressure from Ike Rose, CEO of Lamaar, to keep the whole mess under wraps, and an equal amount of pressure from their Chief to “get it solved.” They work smart and long and hard to uncover a conspiracy, finding a big surprise at the end of the search. Don’t be put off by the heft of this book. Although it’s 632 pages, it reads “fast”.

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.

TEN FAVORITES FOR 2007 from Geoffrey R. Hamlin

1. FLIGHT by Sherman Alexie. A vivid and touching story of teenage angst in a Native American runaway. As always, Alexie is both poignant and instructive.

2. FALLING MAN by Don DeLilo. The 9/11 book. It not only describes the incident exactly as I have heard it from a survivor who ran across the Brooklyn Bridge, but also examines in thoughtful fashion how far apart people are in our society and how necessary it is that we communicate our feelings to others. A profound lesson in the human condition.

3. THE TIN ROOF BLOWDOWN by James Lee Burke. It is my belief that if Mr. Burke had been around at the time the Bible was drafted, he would have been chosen to write the Book of Revelation. Katrina was apocalyptic for those it touched and Burke’s descriptions seemed more real to me than the footage that I remember on the nightly news.

4. TREE OF SMOKE and JESUS’ SON by Denis Johnson. Because I had some trouble locating Tree of Smoke, I read Johnson’s older book, Jesus’ Son first. The detachment experienced by the addicts, alcoholics and users in Jesus’ Son is accurate and haunting. That same detachment didn’t work as effectively in the context of the Viet Nam war in Tree of Smoke. War is a total experience requiring total involvement. Nonetheless, it is a fine book and I recommend it.

5. BANGKOK HAUNTS by John Burdett. Mr. Burdett is a unique asset to the field of crime fiction. He describes a far away place so effectively that we taste it and smell it. And he explains the perspective of both Buddhists and the Thai people so well that we feel one with them as well. Although some may shy away from the intermingling of unusual sexual activities with the story, they contribute more to the sense of the exotic in Mr. Burdett’s hands than they do the erotic.

6. WHAT IS THE WHAT by Dave Eggers. The story of the Lost Boys of the Sudan. There is nothing fair in a world where boys must bury other boys. The fact that that place is far away is no excuse.

7. THE SHOTGUN RULE by Charlie Huston. Teenage violence is a topic not often-enough explored. You can commit terror and be terrorized when you are still riding a bicycle.

8. WASH THIS BLOOD CLEAN FROM MY HAND by Fred Vargas. What a delight! Mr. Vargas’ tale of Commissaire Adamsberg struggling against his archrival in France and Canada is extremely well plotted and kept my interest from start to finish. Even better than Simenon and that is really saying something.

9. CRIPPLE CREEK by James Sallis. This follow up novel to Cypress Grove is every bit as good and only confirmed my position on Mr. Sallis’ abilities. He is the real thing and his work will survive.

10. TIPPERARY by Frank Delany. I had to get one Irish book in my list. As in his earlier book Ireland, a story is used as a device to review the history and geography of Ireland. In this case, however, the span of history examined is much shorter, consisting only of about 100 years. But what a hundred years they were. We meet Charles Stewart Parnell, James Joyce, and Oscar Wilde. My favorite poet, William Butler Yeats, plays a special role in the main character’s life. Unfortunately, Tipperary is at bottom just a drawn out and mostly sad romance – think Love in the Time of the Potato Famine. However, I can forgive the narrowness and sorrow of the story because of sentences like these- “At my conception some wonderful spiritual exchange must have happened between my father and my mother, because my chief asset is, I believe, a notable zest, an exuberant, rich energy for all the excellent things that life can bring. I love wines, I play a smooth hand at cards, and such horses as I have wagered upon have almost won a number of races…” Writing this sweetly and humorously is the real Irish heritage.

Although they did not make my list, a few other books that I would offer for consideration would be Nathan Englander’s The Ministry of Special Cases, Gary Shteyngart’s Absurdistan, and Paul Levine’s Trial and Error.

TOP TEN of 2007 from Becky Lejeune

1. SILENT IN THE GRAVE by Deanna Raybourn – A great debut! This is an amusing Victorian mystery with a fantastic heroine and a great plot.

2. THE SECRET OF CRICKLEY HALL by James Herbert – An atmospheric ghost story by one of horror’s best. Somewhat reminiscent of del Toro’s film, The Devil’s Backbone.

3. THE TERROR by Dan Simmons – A gripping horror story based around the tragic John Franklin expedition that set out in search of the Northwest Passage. A fine example of Dan Simmons’s expansive talent as an author of all genres.

4. YOU SUCK by Christopher Moore – My first introduction the wonderfully twisted talent that is Christopher Moore. Dark humor at it’s best!

5. HEART SHAPED BOX by Joe Hill – The debut horror novel by Stephen King’s son. An aging rock star buys a ghost on e-bay the consequences of which are quite frightful. Hill is sure to be one of the great ones.

6. SCENT OF SHADOWS by Vicki Pettersson – The debut title in one of the most original and exciting urban fantasy series of the year. A superhero unit based in Las Vegas and set on protecting humans from their evil counterparts.

7. THE SPELLMAN FILES by Lisa Lutz – A hilarious mystery in the vein of Janet Evanovich.

8. BLIND SPOT by Terri Persons – A psychic detective story that stands out among the many released recently. Persons’ heroine is one I hope to see more of in the future.

9. SEASON OF THE WITCH by Natasha Mostert – A very original and creepy gothic horror/suspense story with some quite sophisticated theories behind it.

10. A GOOD AND HAPPY CHILD by Justin Evans – This twisted debut is both scary and thought provoking. The best psychological thriller of the year in my opinion.

Favorite Books of 2007 from Jenne Bergstrom

Best First Novel: Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman

It’s the literary novel with killer robots that I’ve been looking for all my life.

Best New Book in a Series: Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik

Novik takes her dragons-in-the-Napoleonic-Wars series to Africa.

Best New Book by a Famous Author: The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon

Part classic detective story and part alternate history, Chabon’s writing is lavish and amusing as always.

Best Older Book You’ve Probably Never Heard Of: Becoming Alien by Rebecca Ore

One of the best books about what it means to be human that I’ve ever read.

Best New Discovery of a Book Everyone Else Has Probably Read Already: The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye

Epic romance, exotic locations, exciting adventure—it’s the perfect vacation read.

Best Gay Nordic Animal-Telepathy Novel: A Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear

Actually pretty unusual and thought-provoking.

Favorite Fiction of 2007 from Dan Cawley

Gum Thief (Coupland, Douglas)-Once again, Mr. Coupland revisits his familiar terrain of grief, sadness, alienation, pathos, and, thankfully, humor. In this most recent installment, he places a novel within the novel. In lesser hands, such a device is rendered cloying. Coupland, however, makes it sing.

Terminal (Vachss, Andrew)-Burke is back and he’s badder than ever! Unfortunately, knowledge of the seventeen previous novels in this series is essential to fully grip the storyline. Read them all. Then read Terminal. Nobody does noir like Vachss. Nobody.

You Don’t Love Me Yet (Lethem, Jonathan)-Young Los Angeles slackers form a mediocre rock band and languish in obscurity until a mysterious lyricist arrives on the scene. The band becomes almost famous and everything implodes. Accurate in its description of the “indie-lifestyle.” Frighteningly real in its portrayal of the vacuous X-generation.

Pinball Theory of the Apocalypse (Selwood, Jonathan)-Tasteless, politically-incorrect, off-color, profane, depraved. My favorite book of the year!

Jimi Hendrix Turns Eighty (Sandlin, Tim)-What will become of all the aging hippies? In 2023, many wind up in the Mission Pescadero Assisted Living Facility just outside of San Francisco. Little has changed since 1969; these geezers still love to smoke pot and get laid. Between all the acid trips and free love, Sandlin explores serious themes like old age, infirmity, and death.


Best Books of 2003

December 27, 2013

I have given up on limiting myself to some arbitrary number of favorites in any given year. I like what I like so I’ve included them all. My criteria has little to do with publication date; if I read it this year, it’s on here. What I do consider is the writing, the story, the characters and the author photo. Just kidding on that last one. I read a lot, and I can generally look at a book and know whether I’ve read it or not, and whether I’ve liked it or not, but when I can look at a book after some time has elapsed since I’ve read it and remember the details (Haddon,) the plot (Life Sentence,) the characters (Miracle Life of Edgar Mint) and so on, and I love it – that is the key to the whole thing – then that book ends up on this list.

The Haddon book was probably my favorite for the year, so it’s on top of the list. A close, very close second is the Pedersen book. The rest I tried to put in preferential order but I found I kept changing my mind so it just seemed easier to list them alphabetically by title.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon: This stunning debut novel is the best book I’ve read this year. You know you are in for something different when you open the book to the first chapter, but it is numbered “2.” And the next chapter is 3, then 5, then 7, and so on until it is explained that Christopher, our 15-year-old protagonist, is autistic. As some differently-abled children are, he is a savant, in his particular case with prime numbers and the ability to name every country and its capital, and he has an extremely logical mind, but he also has other issues like he can’t stand to be touched, won’t eat brown or yellow food, and finds comfort in curling up in a corner and groaning. When he finds his neighbor’s dog has been killed, he decides to solve the mystery à la his favorite sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, and that is ostensibly what the book is about. But the reality is a beautifully written book with amazing characters and a great storyline – everything a book is supposed to have but seldom does. A truly remarkable book.

Beginner’s Luck by Laura Pedersen: Sixteen-year old Hallie Palmer is a wise-ass with big plans; as the small Ohio town’s most successful gambler, she’s saving her money to buy a car to take her to Vegas. But she skips school one time too many and gets kicked off the soccer team, gets kicked out of the casino permanently, loses her life savings on a bad bet at the track, and her mother is pregnant with child number eight, the cumulative effect being that Hallie quits school and runs away from home. Fortunately, she doesn’t run far. She answers an ad for a yard person and goes to work for the town eccentrics; Olivia Stockton, a sixty-something radical feminist who alternates writing sonnets with writing pornography; her husband, the Judge, is in the last stages of Alzheimer’s; her son Bernard, an antique dealer and old movie aficionado with an obsession for cooking gourmet meals with a theme; his lover, Gil, the “normal one” (although he is a tooth prognosticator); and Rocky, an alcoholic chimpanzee the Stockton’s saved from a certain death – he was trained to work with a paraplegic, who died. Hallie moves into their summerhouse and into their lives, and gets more of an education than she ever would have at school. This poignant, quirky, unforgettable coming-of-age story is filled with humor, pathos and love.
Note: This is the first trade paperback original published by the Ballantine Reader’s Circle. It comes with the reading group guide, an interview with the author and an excerpt from the author’s next book (which was terrific – a comedic romance between a Scotsman with terminal cancer and a dying nun) all bound in the back.

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik: Five women, neighbors, meet in the early 1960’s in Minnesota and form the Freesia Court Book Club, but that name evolves into the Angry Housewives from a snide remark of the husband of one of the members. These women share their lives – their marriages, children, politics, and of course their love of reading, over the course of the next thirty-plus years. The characters are an interesting mélange of suburban housewives – Audrey, an independently wealthy woman who doesn’t leave home without baring her cleavage; Slip, the politically motivated feminist rebel; Faith, who has a past she’d rather forget; Kari, a slightly older widow who adopts a bi-racial baby; and Merit, the beauty who is married to the beast. Each chapter is written in the voice of the host (not hostess – Slip feels that feminizing nouns is demeaning to women), which begins each chapter, along with the book they are reading – which ranges from Love Story (they hated it) to The Total Woman (they really hated it – or was that me?) to On the Road (loved it) to A Confederacy of Dunces (thought provoking), along with the reason chosen or food served or highlight of the meeting, bringing a varying perspective to everything going on their lives and a nostalgic (for me) look back on the past few decades. This is obviously a book aimed at reading groups, yet it doesn’t come off as a commercial attempt at such, but rather a creative and fascinating look at the role of women over the last part of the twentieth century – the books are just an added bonus.

Final Verdict by Sheldon Siegel: This newest installment in the Mike Daley & Rosie Fernandez series is terrific and has to have one of the best opening chapters (“Assault with a Deadly Chicken”) of any legal thriller in recent memory. A first chapter sets the mood of the book to come, giving the reader the impetus to keep reading, and this book will not disappoint. It clips along briskly with Siegel’s good natured humor shining through the murder and mayhem: while questioning a potential (and not very helpful) witness, we hear Mike thinking, “If he can spew clichés, I can spout bullshit.” Lines like that just make this a most compelling and enjoyable read.

Former client Leon Walker got Mike & Rosie’s fledgling legal firm more press than they ever dreamed of when they got him off a felony murder charge on a technicality – but it also broke up their marriage. Ten years later he’s been accused of murder and begs Mike to take the case. He’s dying and will never make trial, but wants his name cleared. Rosie is none too happy with the situation, and the cops & District Attorney all have long memories about former defendants who they feel have gotten away with murder. All the evidence points towards Walker, bringing those wonderful “Perry Mason moments” to the courtroom. San Franciscans will love the local color and politics too. Don’t miss it.

First Degree by David Rosenfelt: The Edgar Award nominee for his first novel, Open & Shut, has penned another winner. Andy Carpenter, loveable lawyer (no, that’s not an oxymoron,) is back and suffering from a severe case of “lawyer’s block.” When you’ve inherited $22 million dollars, it takes away your incentive to represent any old criminal who walks through the door. But things change when a cop of questionable ethics is killed. The same cop, Alex Dorsey, that Andy’s lover, PI Laurie Collins, turned in when she was on the police force. Then a man strolls into Andy’s office, confesses, and asks Andy to represent him. Meanwhile the police have arrested someone else, someone Laurie is sure is innocent. One suspect after another fizzles out until Laurie becomes the chief suspect. Circumstantial evidence abounds, and Andy finally has a client he can get behind. It’s personal now and the stakes have never been higher as Andy has to find the real killer and exonerate Laurie. Somehow the laughs keep coming as tension mounts and the bodies pile up, no easy feat but a sure testament to Rosenfelt’s skill. This fast, funny read will keep you on the edge of your seat and leave you wanting more.

Justice Deferred by Len Williams:  First novel inspired by the real life events experienced by the author. Williams is the former CEO of Coca-Cola New Zealand, among other companies, and his son was kidnapped. A prison inmate, in for life on the three strike rule for theft, claimed he had killed the boy and offered to show Williams the grave. It turned out to be a bogus claim being used as an escape attempt, and Williams was horrified by the implications of the three strike law putting a man in prison for life for a nonviolent crime like robbery. He turned that story into this fascinating prison epic/legal thriller. Billy Ray Billings is a cracker from Mobile, Alabama and for the first half of the book we follow his life, starting with reform school and ending with life in prison for stealing small appliances. But the life sentence never should have been given – it was forced by the way the local cops were handling their cases to make their conviction rate look good. Enter Harry Brown, lawyer and free lance crime reporter for the local newspaper, who’s interest in this case is quite personal. The rest of the book deals with the legal maneuverings to get those life sentences overturned and have justice prevail. Williams draws the reader in from the first page and doesn’t let go – even after the last page, these characters will stay with you.

Life Sentence by David Ellis: David Ellis sets a new standard with this superb legal thriller, surpassing his Edgar Award winning debut novel Line of Vision. This multi-layered, tightly woven story breathes new life into the old cliché about revenge being a dish best served cold. Jon Soliday and Grant Tully share a dirty secret leftover from their teenage years; after a night of drinking and drugs, Soliday climbed through the bedroom window of a beautiful young woman, but blacked out and doesn’t remember anything after that – not even how she ended up dead. Family connections get the matter dropped, and twenty years later he is chief legal counsel to Senator Tully, who is in a fierce campaign for Governor. Soliday finds a legal loophole that can get Tully’s opponent disqualified, but a set-up, blackmail, and murder put a definite crimp in their plans. Elegant prose skillfully impels Soliday through a haze of deadly deceit, where no one is who they appear to be and nothing is as it seems, until the smoke finally clears to reveal the stunning ending. Highly recommended. Copyright © 2003 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

Lost Light by Michael Connelly: This may be Connelly’s finest yet. As fans of the Bosch series know, Harry turned in his LAPD badge in City of Bones (which made my favorites list for 2002,) so this one finds Harry with a private investigator permit languishing in the drawer. The other big change is the point of view; this is Connelly’s first attempt at writing in the first person, and he pulls it off beautifully. As a friend (Geoff) pointed out, it’s a lot tougher for Harry to be an asshole when he’s telling the story. And an interesting story it is; another retired cop calls Harry and convinces him to look into a cold case – a murder of a young actress that somehow was tied into a $2,000,000 heist four years earlier and was never solved. This cop retired after his partner was killed and he took a bullet to the neck, rendering him a quadriplegic. The F.B.I.’s little-known-but-oh-so-powerful Homeland Security Department gets involved and things really start happening. Connelly has written a real dilemma of a book – it’s so good you don’t want to put it down, but you don’t want it to end, either.

Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani: Kit lives in an apartment building in modern day NY with her neighbor, the slightly eccentric 70-year-old Aunt Lu, who is always draped in mink. One afternoon they have tea together, and Aunt Lu proceeds to regale the curious Kit with her life story. Lu is the Lucia of the title; a beautiful 25 year old Italian-American feminist in 1950, an age where feminism was unheard of and good Italian girls did as they were told. Lucia is pursued by Dante, who expects her to give up her job as a seamstress in the couture department of the swanky B. Altman’s department store as soon as they are married. But Lucia wants more out of life than being a baker’s wife, she has her own ambitions. Then she falls for John Talbot, a suave uptown businessman who sweeps her off her feet and adorns her in that infamous mink, but things don’t work out exactly as Lucia planned. This novel is peopled with wonderful characters and offers a fascinating glimpse into the gentile world of Italian-American Catholics of the 1950’s with the values and culture that have long since faded away.

The Miracle Life Of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall: The best first line of the year: “If I could tell you only one thing about my life it would be this: when I was seven years old the mailman ran over my head.” Edgar Mint is a part Apache Indian orphan and this is his coming of age story. By turns laugh-out-loud funny and heartbreakingly sad, this emotional rollercoaster is a ride not easily forgotten. Udall’s writing style is reminiscent of Richard Russo and John Irving, two of my favorites, and I am looking forward to more from this author.

Monkeewrench by P. J. Tracy: This new author is actually a mother-daughter writing team and they are off to a fabulous start. “Monkeewrench” is a software company in Minneapolis, owned by an eclectic and eccentric group of friends. Their newest product, still in the beta testing stage, is a game called “Serial Killer Detective,” with crime scene photos providing the clues through the various levels of the game until the serial killer is found. But somehow one of their carefully staged murder scenes ends up happening on the streets of Minneapolis, so one of the partners, the enigmatic ice princess Grace MacBride, reports it to the police. Turns out this is the third murder and the murderer is playing their game for real. The software team is able to pinpoint the next murder, making themselves suspects in the process. Meanwhile, in a small town in rural Wisconsin, the local sheriff has a rather gristly murder on his hands – an elderly couple is found shot to death in the church. Somehow this all gets tied together – at breakneck speed, no less – and the big city cops and small town sheriff solve their respective cases. Well developed characters and crisp, witty writing make Monkeewrench a great read. Don’t miss it.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith: I usually prefer murder in my mysteries, or at least the threat of it, and there is none to be found here. Yet I loved this sweet, charming and intelligent book. Precious Ramotswe is one of the most interesting and loveable characters ever – she is aptly named – and the setting of contemporary Botswana is fascinating and unusual.

The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland: This is the fictionalized biography of Artemisia Gentileschi, a feminist Renaissance painter. Who knew there was such a woman? I certainly didn’t, and her life is a fascinating look at an extraordinary time in the art world. Vreeland manages to bring art to life with her skillful story telling.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd: Beautifully written story dealing with the meaning of family, set against a backdrop of racism, feminism and spirituality in small town South Carolina in the early 1960’s. Lily Owen lives on a peach farm with her abusive father, T. Ray, and her nanny Rosaleen. She lost her mother in a tragic accident when she was four years old, and Rosaleen is as close to a mother, to a parent, that she knows. When Rosaleen tries to register to vote, and she ends up arrested, beaten and hospitalized, fourteen-year-old Lily decides it’s time to escape, and takes Rosaleen with her. They end up at an apiary and the bees make a beautiful metaphor for this sweet, yet somehow not sticky, tale.

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane: This book had a bit of controversy surrounding it; people either love it or hate it, and frankly a lot of folks who loved Lehane’s Mystic River and his Patrick Kenzie/Angela Gennaro series have hated this book. I read it a week ago and can understand what is driving those passionate responses. Lehane is a virtuoso of the mystery/thriller genre, and that talent shines on every page. This is a fast paced thriller, the kind you can’t put down, with a classic locked room mystery (a woman vanishes out of a locked room) and lots of twists, but it’s the ending of the book that have put people at odds with it. As soon as I finished the last page, I went right back to page one and started reading again, I needed to reassure myself that I hadn’t missed anything, and I hadn’t. I believe it was the Washington Post’s review that compared the style of this book to that of Edgar Allen Poe, and having read it, all I can say is that was right on the money – and that is high praise indeed. This is a book – a genre book, a mystery – that is brilliantly plotted, splendidly written, deliciously confusing and infuriating and thought provoking, and totally transcends the genre.

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.

BONUS: Nonfiction
A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance by Jane Juska
: This is a memoir of a retired English teacher from Berkeley, California who decided to take control of her life. Divorced for many years, she was a single mom raising her son alone. He grew up, and she became lonely, so she placed this personal ad in the New York Review of Books:

“Before I turn 67–next March–I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me.”

She received lots of responses, more than she ever expected, from a variety of men of different age groups and geographic locations. She seemed especially drawn to New York, to the men and the city itself. She met a handful of men, had some heartbreak and some good times, and drew on her experiences to write this book. With various references to classical music and fine literature, this book is alternately intelligent, sweet and salacious, which works for me.

GEOFF’S 10 FAVORITE BOOKS FOR 2003
(AKA the winners of Geoff’s Mysteries as Literature category for 2003)

1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon: The story of an autistic boy who focuses his singlemindedness on solving the mystery of the death of the dog next door. Through the skill and sensitivity of the author, we appreciate the logic behind the boy’s unconventional behaviors. We also come to understand the tremendous responsibility his parents, without any training or preparation, have had to bear. I was almost in tears for them by the end of the book. A remarkable statement of the human condition. A book for the ages.

2. Cypress Grove by James Sallis: In a famous essay, Raymond Chandler argued that the detective novel can be literature. James Sallis proves it. Most recently, in his latest novel, Cypress Grove.
Mr. Sallis writes hard-nosed fiction, but his affinity for poetry can be seen in his careful use of language. The first paragraph of his novel is almost always memorable and Cypress Grove is no exception.
“I heard the jeep a half mile off. It came up around the lake, and when it hit the bend, birds took flight. They boiled up out of the trees, straight up, then, as though heavy wind had caught them, veered abruptly, all at once, sharp right. Most of those trees had been standing forty or fifty years. Most of the birds had been around less than a year and wouldn’t be around much longer. I was somewhere in between.”
The hero of Cypress Grove is a complicated man in search of a simple life and a place to call home. Turner is a Viet Nam survivor, a former policeman, an ex-convict and a retired psychotherapist. He has retreated to a small southern community where he is living in peaceful isolation. He is pulled, gently, from his shell by the local sheriff who requests his assistance in solving a bizarre murder.
His experiences, education and training have given Turner a real insight into the human heart. Flashbacks to incidents in Turner’s past alternate with the progress of the investigation. The lessons of this book are simple, but profound. Human beings are human and place is important. Surely, one of the purposes of literature is to remind us of such truths.
Mr. Sallis is not very well known, although the best contemporary mystery writers are familiar with his work and honor it. The major chains will probably not carry this book. But it is worth the search and if you do locate it, you will have in your hands one of the best-written mysteries of our time. (If you are lucky, you may also find a copy of Black Hornet, one of his Lew Griffin mysteries, which has recently been republished.)

3. Hard As Nails by Dan Simmons: This is a hard-nosed mystery story set in Buffalo, New York and I recommend it without any reservations. Could any town be more appropriate for a tough guy than Buffalo? [Editor’s note: the reviewer is from Buffalo.] And make no mistake about it, Kurtz, the hero, is a tough guy. After seeing all of the references in Ilium, I have to believe that the invocation of Conrad’s character is no accident, as well as a tip of the hat to the ethnic stew that is the best part of the fading Queen City of the Great Lakes.
In previous books in this series, Kurtz has been to Attica, courtesy of the State of New York, for throwing his partner’s killer off a rooftop. He is still on parole, which makes it impossible for him to return officially to his old private eye business. As this book opens, Kurtz and his parole officer are walking into a parking garage when all hell breaks loose. The ride has started and it is exciting as the old wooden roller coaster at Crystal Beach amusement park which Kurtz points out is now defunct.
The story finds Kurtz in the middle of a power struggle between the remnants of two old Mob families for the drug trade in the region, as well as fending off members of the Aryan Brotherhood he offended while in the slammer. The story climaxes in a small company town bearing a strong resemblance to the Coudersport of the Rigas family. And in this case, the roller coaster is filled with bodies.
This is the book I am sending to friends for Christmas with a note, saying “I found him first.”

4. Office of Innocence by Thomas Keneally: After side trips into history-writing and biography with The Great Shame and American Scoundrel, Mr. Keneally has again turned his hand back to fiction with Office of Innocence which should be nominated for several major awards by the end of the year.
Keneally’s story-telling often involves an ordinary man placed in extraordinary circumstances. In To Asmara, it was a journalist heading to battlelines in Eritrea and in Flying Hero Class (my personal favorite and a book ahead of its time) it was the manager of a troupe of indigenous dancers caught up in an air hi-jacking. Schlinder’s List, involving similar issues, became better known because of the movie that was made from it.
In Office of Innocence, the ordinary man is Frank Darragh, a young Australian priest caught up in the turmoil of the Second World War as the Japanese march ever southward through Asia, towards Darwin and Northern Australia.
Frank is a simple man, from a rural family and has not had a lot of experience with life or any great yearning for such experience. In other words, he was prime seminary fodder. Mr. Keneally’s ear as a story teller seems to ring true when he has more jaundiced seminarians translating “Memento homo quia cines es, et ad cinerem reverteris” into “Remember, squirt, that thou are dirt, and unto dirt thou shalt revert.” Frank’s innocence is bemused but not distracted by such by-play.
During his initial assignment as a parish priest, Father Frank finds hearing confessions rewarding and it becomes his forte. While his contemporaries and seniors are hardened to the routine sins they must hear over and over again, Frank responds to those on the other side of the screen and quickly becomes the most popular confessor in the area.
His lack of worldliness presents problems for Frank as he confronts the loneliness and selfishness that reach extreme levels under the stresses of wartime. It also presents problems for his superiors who fear scandal and wish that he would spend more time learning the “business” of the church.
At the heart of the story is the testing of Father Darragh’s faith and his innocence by a variety of parishioners and others – a dying woman in a non-traditional relationship, a trade union rabble-rouser, the lonely wife of a prisoner of war and an aggressive American military policeman. Frank’s background simply does not equip him to understand such people, but his desire to help is such that he must get involved. The core issue is whether he will gain understanding at the cost of his faith.
There is also a late-developing murder mystery contained within the story, the resolution of which costs Father Frank his position and his reputation, but gains him a new knowledge of himself and how he may play a meaningful role in the world.
This is another fine book from an extraordinary author.

5. Lost Light – Michael Connelly: . I am such a big fan of Michael Connelly’s work that I didn’t think that I could do a fair review of this book.  He is one of the two best mystery writers we have now and this was one of his better books. (If you like this, go back and catch The Concrete Blonde and Bloodwork).

6. Everglades by Randy Wayne White: Whenever a new Randy Wayne White book comes out, I push everything else on my stack to one side. Everglades proved, again, that this preferential treatment is well deserved. I find myself getting seriously annoyed these days when the blurbs on anyone else’s book covers talk about the author being “the new John D. MacDonald.” There is only one legitimate heir and Mr. White is it.
Per the MacDonald method, Everglades begins with a damsel in distress. (Remember the woman dropped from the bridge in MacDonald’s Darker Than Amber?) In this case, it is Doc Ford’s old friend Sally Carmel (hmmm-colored names) Minister. Sally’s husband has disappeared and she is being followed and terrorized.
In an effort to find out who is following her, Doc gets involved in a tussle which evokes a thorough discussion of amateur wrestling which would do John Irving proud. (At that point, I had to e-mail the BookBitch™ to rave to her.)
The bad guys prove to be the principals in a TV cult combining elements of the Bagwan and the Church of Scientology with canny real estate development and investing.
Strangely, however, after all the elements for the quintessential MacDonald story were in place, the book seemed to drag. Mostly because Doc Ford is feeling sorry for himself, remembering long dead friends and drinking so much that even his hippy sidekick, Tomlinson, feels compelled to intervene.
One of my favorite subplots has Tomlinson becoming an internet idol as a result of an essay he wrote as an undergraduate entitled “One Fathom Above Sea Level.” To his dismay, the essay has recently become the subject of favorable critical acclaim internationally. Sample – “Pain is an inescapable part of the human experience. Misery, however, is not. Misery is an option.” Some of the lighter moments in the book arise from his trying to flee those who are seeking wisdom from him.
I am pleased to report that Doc eventually does have a moment of clarity in which he is able to put everything back into perspective again. It is an exciting scene and I don’t want to spoil it for readers. In the process, Doc Ford pretty much fully becomes Travis McGee. The finish of the book is thoroughly satisfying.
And of course, there is intellectual sustenance in Mr. White’s writing as well. Discussions of marine life, the geology of Florida and the difficulties tribes face being recognized by the U.S. Government all have places in Doc Ford’s inquiring mind.
All in all, Everglades is a wonderful read and deserving of priority on your stack of books too.

7. Death in Dublin by Bartholomew Gill: I should confess from the outset that I am a big McGarr fan. One of my favorite lines comes from an earlier book and involved the questioning of a bartender by the Irish police. He explains that at the time in question, he was at the trough in the bathroom. The policeman responds “I guess you have a cast-iron alibi, then.” Death in Dublin was the last book written by Bartholomew Gill before his passing and I am going to miss him and his characters.
The book starts with the theft of The Book of Kells from Trinity College and the literal sucking the life out of the watchman who admitted the crooks. Atlhough the signs point to a cult proclaiming itself to be the New Druids, the plot grows increasingly more complicated. It involves such current matters as oxycontin addiction and the Opus Dei organization and such old themes as lust, politics and money.
McGarr’s progress throughout this maze is monitored, assisted and hindered by a young aggressive female reporter and the rich, despicable, but politically-connected publisher of the newspaper for which she is working.
McGarr is assisted in his investigation by two former members of his squad who were forced to resign from the Garda Soichana when their communal marriage was exposed by that newspaper. They become vital when a “pretty boy” on the way up is put in charge of the Guarda.
By the end of the story, McGarr has not only solved the crime, but exposed corruption at the highest levels of government, religion and industry. And as a bonus, learned the true facts surrounding the earlier murder of his wife and father-in-law.
As to whether he would have found love or happiness afterwards, we can only speculate. I hope so.

8. The Silence of the Rain by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza: I happened to pick up The Silence of the Rain a couple of weeks ago. I hadn’t heard anything about it and I like trying new stuff that is under the radar. It was a fortuitous choice. Silence charmed me. The plot involves the death of a corporate executive in a parking garage in Rio de Janeiro. The case is assigned to Inspector Espinosa who deduces that it was a murder because there is no weapon with the body. However, things are not as they appear. And that is the rule of this book. Every time I got comfortable with the plot, it took another delightful twist. Not a big jump, but just the disclosure of an additional fact that gave new meaning to the death and the characters around it.
Espinosa is the Brazilian version of the cop who has seen it all. He has resisted the temptations of corruption and thus has secured for himself his own investigative niche, as well as insuring that he will never advance any further in the power structure. And just to sweeten the pot a little more, the good Inspector is a reader – haunting used bookstores and unable to control the stacks piling up in his apartment.
As I was nearing the homestretch on Silence, a review of Garcia-Roza’s new second book, December Heat, appeared in the Crime page of the NY Times Book Review. I added it to the stack. While the plot is not as tightly managed in Heat as it was in Silence, Espinosa is just as delightful the second time out. In Heat, he is investigating the murder of a hooker friend of a retired policeman who is a Brazilian Andy Sipowicz. If a contemporary United States author had written this book, it might have been titled The Case of the Three Hookers. The women are treated gently but fairly, without any judgments being made about them. They are what they are and they do what they do. And what would Rio be without heat and sex?
If you are looking for a change of pace and an interesting pair of books, these should do the job and may well exceed your expectations. I am looking forward to the third book in this series.

9. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith: I am normally a fan of hard, edgy, big city private eye stories and this book is none of those things. What it is is charming. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is the story of Mma Precious Ramotswe who takes the money from the sale of her late father’s cattle and opens the only women’s detective agency in her town of Gaborone, Botswana. It is written in straight-forward and (there is that darn word again) charming fashion.
The people of Botswana are treated with dignity and their day to day problems are taken seriously. Mma Precious solves the problems of her townspeople with logic and common sense. Missing persons, con men and philanderers are grist for her mill.
Her wisdom reminded me of Mark Twain’s Puddinhead Wilson, but her humor is gentler. I loved (darn, there is another of those words) this book and am looking forward to the sequels, Tears of the Giraffe, Morality for Beautiful Girls, and The Kalahari Typing School for Men.
This book is a great change of pace and a wonderful reaffirmation of the human spirit that exists in everyone regardless of their color or their nation. It came as especially welcome in these troubled times when we are trying to figure out what makes people alike and what makes them different.
I think that you will be charmed by it, too.

10. Judgment Calls – Alafair Burke:   Who knew that James Lee Burke really had a daughter named Alafair? Who knew that she would grow up and be a prosecuter and then write mysteries? What a great thing to have happen for mystery fans in any year. She has written a hard-nosed first book about the adventures of a woman prosecuter, Samantha Kincaid. Ms. Kincaid is as tough as they come. My favorite line – “I suppressed the urge to mow her down with the Jetta. I would’ve opened a six-pack of Fahrfegnugen on her ass over the c-word, but under the circumstances I could handle the b-word.”


Fiction Reviews 1-7000: 1998-2013

December 23, 2013

1st To Die by James Patterson: First of a brand new series, set in San Francisco with a woman cop as the main character. Enough twists and turns, gristly murders and nasty sexual stuff to keep me riveted for a few hours until I reluctantly turned the last page.  Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

2nd Chance by James Patterson & Andrew Gross: Patterson’s best book since, well, 1st To Die. The Women’s Murder Club is back and the bullets are flying. This entertaining thriller is a fast, fun read. Only complaint: there is a new chapter every third page, which translates to two pages of text per chapter. Seriously. That’s way too many chapters. There must be some reason for this, but damned if I know what it is.  Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

4TH OF JULY by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro: Detective Lindsay Boxer is in trouble and in danger. Her trouble comes from a shooting incident for which she is being sued. Lindsay tries to get away from it by going to her sister’s home at Half Moon Bay which puts her in danger from following up on a ten year old unsolved murder from her rookie days. The setting is appropriate for what is almost a beach read, albeit an entertaining one. Interestingly the why of the various murders seems to jump out much sooner than the whodunit. While the mystery of who really writes these books remains unsolved, Lindsay does survive the other challenges. Recommended. 06/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

THE 6th TARGET by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro: The latest from Patterson, Inc. starts with a shooting on a San Francisco ferry. Four are killed and Women’s Murder Club member and San Francisco Medical Examiner Clair Washburn is critically injured. Just as fellow Women’s Murder Clubber Lindsay Boxer and her new partner at SFPD get on the trail of the shooter, a news challenge erupts. Someone is kidnapping the children of the rich and their nannies – and they are not demanding ransom. And then there’s even more danger. Either you like these fast paced procedural/thriller/semi-mysteries or you don’t. I do, and I also like an occasional chocolate dipped soft ice cream cone. James Patterson is re-investing a lot in the industry, so grab a copy and be lightly entertained for an hour or so. 07/07 Jack Quick

7 DEADLY WONDERS by Matthew Reilly: The race is on to find the seven pieces of the Golden Capstone that once sat atop the Great Pyramid at Giza. Two millennia ago, Alexander the Great broke the Capstone into seven pieces and hid them in the seven ancient wonders of the world. According to legend, whoever finds and replaces them during a rare solar event called “Tartarus Rotation” (predicted for March 20, 2006) could secure a thousand-year reign of absolute power. Among the contenders are the United States, a coalition of European nations (and the Vatican), an Islamic terrorist group, and a team of smaller nations (including Canada, Ireland and New Zealand) led by Australian Jack West Jr. The Europeans and the U.S. want the Capstone for their own benefit, while West’s noble team believes it’s too potent to belong to any one superpower. Obviously, the date has come and gone, but maybe they didn’t have the right date after all. In the event of stoppage of breathing oxygen masks will drop down. Secure your mask before resuming reading. 07/06 Jack Quick

7th HEAVEN by James Patterson: Remember when reading a James Patterson book was an experience. You hoped for a long weekend so you could enjoy it. Today the books bearing Patterson’s name are like the 100-calorie snack bags – tantalizing but hardly satisfying. Two high profile cases occupy San Francisco homicide inspector Lindsay Boxer and partner Rich Conklin. One involves the disappearance of the teenage son of a former California governor – think Jon Benet Ramsey without a corpse. Also there is a serial arsonist at work responsible for the deaths of a string of wealthy couples. The two cases twist and turn before reaching their appointed end in the required number of pages. Maybe you will want to just catch this one on television – on a slow night. 07/08 Jack Quick

7 SOULS by Barnabas Miller & Jordan Orlando: Mary’s seventeenth birthday is not going down the way she’d expected. She’d thought that she would be inundated with well wishes, showered with gifts, and basically made to feel like the most special girl in the world on “her day.” What she got instead was an embarrassing wake up call: naked and locked inside a Crate & Barrel. Then, when she arrives on campus, her boyfriend dumps her and not one person acknowledges her birthday. Making matters worse is the fact that she’s been having strange episodes paired with visions of a weird house. But it’s when Mary is murdered that she has to admit this has officially been the worst birthday ever. Forced to relive the day of her death through the eyes of seven people, Mary must try and figure out what’s going on if she has any hope of saving herself. To be honest, this was a fascinating concept that didn’t completely work for me. In truth, though, it is a teen thriller that will probably be well received by its intended audience. It’s certainly an original plot, but felt a bit like a paranormal twist onGossip Girl. 07/10 Becky Lejeune

THE 8TH CONFESSION by James Patterson: San Francisco Police Detective. Lindsay Boxer is searching for a killer whose victims are all well-off and have no signs of violence on their bodies. Eventually the trail leads to a perp using a krait, a rare Indian snake, to poison the victims. Meanwhile, journalist Cindy Thomas is pressing the police to devote resources to a low priority murder – that of a homeless man known as Bagman Jesus, whose real name is a mystery. It’s all kind of what you have come to expect from Patterson, Inc. I think I’ll add this series to the other Patterson’s which no longer hold my interest. 07/09 Jack Quick

9 DRAGONS by Michael Connelly: Harry Bosch has a partner he’s not inordinately fond of and a case that he feels is beneath him when a liquor store owner, John Li, is killed during a robbery. Harry’s partner has chained himself to the desk, too scared after recovering from a shooting incident to get back on the streets again. Luckily Harry has help from the Asian Gang Unit to try and solve the murder. But this case turns out to have far reaching implications that Harry never thought possible – especially when his daughter, who lives in Hong Kong, gets involved. 9 Dragons is very gritty, at times heart wrenching, and faster paced than usual. This may be the best Bosch yet. 10/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

9 DRAGONS by Michael Connelly: The latest Harry Bosch mystery, 9 Dragons, not only shows the homicide detective at his most irascible, but is also a fine piece of crime fiction. It recalls several formative episodes in his life (tunnel rat in Viet Nam, the Angel’s Flight case, and his romance with Eleanor Wish) and may foreshadow some major changes for him.As the story opens, Harry is assigned to investigate the murder of a Chinese liquor store owner, John Li. One of Harry’s guiding principles is that he believes that every homicide victim deserves justice and it is his job to see that that is done. He is very short with other policemen who feel less strongly – like his partner. That desire is intensified in this case because Harry had taken refuge in this liquor store during a riot many years ago and had been befriended by Mr. Li. The investigation suggests that this was not a “smash and grab” gone wrong, but may have been connected to a regular program of triad shakedowns.As soon as this possibility is revealed, Harry gets a message that he should back off and then is told that his daughter living in Hong Kong with her mother has been kidnapped. He is given leave to fly to Hong Kong to attempt to rescue her. The mother, Eleanor Wish, is a former FBI agent who is now making a very nice living playing cards for the house in an opulent Hong Kong casino. Harry, Eleanor, and her new companion set out to track the daughter down. The resulting drama is tightly drawn, with plenty of surprises and nasty turns along the way.I was initially drawn to this series because Mr. Connelly really gets policemen right. With his ex-reporter’s eye, he is dead on in his descriptions of controlling attitudes and often unpleasant personalities. And he is just as good with his descriptions of police protocol and politicking, criminal behavior and the local neighborhoods in Los Angeles. But it seems to me now that he is giving Harry more of a human side. In other words, I think that Mr. Connelly is morphing from a reporter into a writer concerned with the subtleties of the human heart. I can’t wait for the next book. 1/09 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

9 DRAGONS by Michael Connelly: Imagine Dave Robicheaux in Paris, Stephanie Plum in Ethiopia, or Dragnet’s Sergeant Friday in Oslo. Now think Harry Bosch in Hong Kong. In this 14th Bosch outing, Connelly sends him overseas in a tightly wound thriller that, while interesting, just doesn’t feel totally correct. Bosch is called out to investigate the shooting death of a Chinese liquor store owner and discovers the dead man was paying a weekly protection fee to a man Bosch suspects is part of a Chinese triad. When Bosch doesn’t back off as warned, the triad kidnaps his 13-year-old daughter, Madeline, who lives in Hong Kong with her mother – Bosch’s ex-wife, a former FBI agent. Bosch flies to Hong Kong to try to rescue Madeline in 39 hours and get back to the United States to keep the triad bad guy in jail and while Bosch is Bosch, the pace is more DaVinci Code or Mission Impossible which takes away from some of Connelly’s adept character development. If you are Connelly fan, 9 Dragons is acceptable, but if you are not familiar with Connelly, don’t judge him solely on this outing. 01/10 Jack Quick

11/22/63 by Stephen King: Jake Epping is just your average English teacher until he’s given a chance to go back and change history. Al Templeton has discovered something amazing in the back room of his diner. It’s a door of sorts that leads straight to 1958. In fact, it always leads to 1958 and every new entry is a complete reset. But by the time Al himself has come up with a plan that could change present day for the better, he hasn’t got time left to put it in play. Al is dying and Jake is his only hope. As a local with no ties, a fairly young man, and a friend, Al turns to Jake as his alternate. By showing Jake the door and giving him a taste of what could be, Al convinces him to take on the task: Jake is to go back to 1958 and stop the Kennedy assassination that will occur in 1963. To succeed, Jake will have to live in the past, taking on a new identity, and studying the movements of the key players. Fortunately, Al did his homework well, but it is Jake who will have to come up with—and follow through on—a plan that will alter the course of history. King never ceases to amaze me. In a typical time travel plot, there are always holes if the reader looks close enough. King’s solution and answer to those (which I won’t tell) works great. As a storyteller, he never ceases to amaze me. This is another one to add to my favorites list. 12/11 Becky Lejeune

12 DRUMMERS DRUMMING by Diane Deverell: e-book also available in hardcover. Kathryn Collins is a state Department Foreign Officer who, with lover Stefan, a former Polish agent who defected to the US, broke up a terrorist operation some years ago. Now Global Flight 500 explodes over Scotland in an eerie duplication of the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie. Kathryn is afraid Stefan was on the flight, but when she tries to check into it, the FBI becomes convinced she and possibly Stefan in fact were involved in the bombing. They threaten to subpoena her and have arranged for a suspension of her security clearance. She knows she must get out of the country if she has any hope of finding out what has happened to Stefan. Well written and action packed. 10/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

13 BULLETS by David Wellington: Jameson Arkeley thought he had essentially eliminated vampires when he fought Piter Byron Lares in 1983. He was wrong. Politics prevented him from killing the last vampire, a woman named Justinia Malvern. Due to the increased need for blood as they age, Malvern was unable to kill on her own. As a result, it was determined that killing her would actually be murder. The government has kept her alive all this time, studying her and feeding her. Unfortunately, they also unknowingly allowed her to create a new brood of vamps that are determined to free their master. Pennsylvania State Trooper Laura Caxton was working a routine DUI screening stop when a driver took flight. According to Caxton, this is a rather routine occurrence when a driver fears that they will not pass the sobriety test. What happened next, was not so routine. The trunk of the car was filled with the mutilated dead bodies of a hunter and his family. The driver ran on foot and left behind a still moving arm. Enter US Marshll Arekely, the vampire expert. Much to her dismay, Arekely enlists Caxton as his partner in the investigation. At first, she believes him when he says that this is because she has read up on his past. She soon discovers that Arkeley’s motives are much more self-serving. The vamps have a strange interest in Caxton and Arekely plans on using her as bait to draw them in. Like his zombie trilogy, Wellington’s tales are amped up versions of classic horror subjects. He has a real talent for making them new and refreshing for fans of the genre. It’s Dracula on steroids mixed with a bit of police procedural and enough blood and guts to please today’s horror fans. 06/07 Becky Lejeune

13 DAYS: THE PYTHAGORAS CONSPIRACY by L.A. Starks: Gasoline at $10 per gallon??? Lynn Dayton manages six vast complexes that transform oil into gasoline. Robert Guillard, a suave Parisian intellectual, directs the sabotage of US refineries, one by one. Robert schemes to coerce Lynn into collaborating as he pursues his outwardly humanitarian goal of building refineries in Third World countries. If she refuses, he will hold hostage her sister, Ceil Dayton, whom he has lured to Paris. An industrial accident at Lynn’s troubled Houston refinery arouses her suspicions. Government officials conclude routine negligence caused the accident, but her own investigation leads Lynn to suspect sabotage. Within a few days, explosions and fires at nearby refineries claim victims. The resulting fuel shortage affects the lives of everyone in North America. Then Lynn is kidnapped. She fights for her life on a catwalk above a storage tank of hot, sulfurous oil and escapes. Deciphering the full extent of Robert’s scheme, she flies to Paris. But will she be in time to derail Robert’s plans and save her sister? Kind of a reverse femjep. 10/06 Jack Quick

13 TO LIFE by Shannon Delany: It’s only been a few months since the accident that killed Jessie Gillmansen’s mother. Things have been tough, but she’s been making it: she still crushes on the heartthrob football player, who seems to be paying more attention to her lately, and she’s got her friends for support. But when Pietr Rusakova moves to town, Jessie’s world begins to turn upside down. She tries to deny her feelings for him and control her curiosity about him, but inevitably the two are drawn together. Is their connection strong enough to survive the revelation of Pietr’s family secrets? 13 to Life is a teen read with werewolves and Russian mobsters. It’s also the first in a series and it’s obvious—much of the story is setup, which throws the pacing off a bit in my opinion. The promise of more Russian folklore is intriguing, though, and the action of the last twenty pages should lead directly into book two. 09/11 Becky Lejeune

14 by J.T. Ellison: Lieutenant Taylor Jackson is just days from walking down the aisle when she’s called to the scene of a gruesome murder. Strangely, the MO resembles that of a serial killer who struck Tennessee in the early 80’s. Dubbed the Snow White Killer thanks to his dark haired, pale skinned victims, and his penchant for smearing bright red lipstick across their faces, he left behind ten victims before apparently throwing in the towel; he was never caught. Has Snow White reemerged after such a long break or are they facing a copycat. Then new evidence is found to support the copycat theory and Jackson and her team are faced with uncovering both of the killers’ identities in order to solve the case. With just two titles released, J.T. Ellison has proven herself to be one of the best new thriller authors out there. Her characters are solid and her plots are refreshingly original – and what a great ending. The third title in the series, Judas Kiss, is due out next spring. 09/08 Becky Lejeune

14 by J.T. Ellison: In the mid 1980’s a serial killer, dubbed the Snow White Killer, terrorized Nashville, Tennessee. There were ten victims, each with pale skin and long dark hair, slashed across the throat, with the same red lipstick smeared across their lips. Then the murders stopped. Now as Homicide Lieutenant Taylor Jackson is finalizing her wedding plans four more bodies are found, marked with the same fatal signature. Is the Snow White Killer back, or is it a copycat killer? What about Jackson’s father who has disappeared off his boat? Interesting follow-up to All the Pretty Girls. 07/09 Jack Quick

15 SECONDS by Andrew Gross: It starts out with two seemingly unrelated events. First, 19 year old Amanda Hofer, stoned on prescription drugs, is involved in a traffic accident that kills a mother and her young son, a child never seen by his father who is serving in Afghanistan. Then a Doctor is stopped in Jacksonville, Florida, in a seemingly meaningless traffic stop. Things get ugly when backup cops arrive but eventually everything settles down. Doctor Henry Steadman thinks he is going to get off with a warning. But then a blue sedan drives by and shots ring out. The policeman who stopped Dr. Steadman is dead, and Steadman knows there are a bunch of policemen who think he is the killer, so he runs to the only friend he has in Jacksonville. When he gets there he finds his friend shot to death. From there on, things only get progessively worse for Henry Steadman. On the run and cut off from the help he needs, Steadman’s only hope is a Jacksonville Community Relations officer who seems to be the only one willing to not pass judgment on Steadman’s guilt or innocence. Will that be enough? Andrew Gross cut his teeth co-authoring with James Patterson but has certainly come into his own. This one puts the thrill in thriller as a diabolical plot unfolds trapping the guilty and the innocent in a maze from which there appears to be no exit. Yes there are parts that are “over the top” but isn’t that true of most thrillers? That is part of what makes them so exciting. This one was unputdownable. 5/13 Jack Quick

15 SECONDS by Andrew Gross: Gross came upon the literary scene primarily through several novels written in collaboration with James Patterson. He has currently written several novels under his own name and been able to put together plots and situations that instantly capture the reader’s attention. 15 Seconds, his latest book, continues in the same vein as the previous novels. Suspenseful, riveting and pulling the reader into the story almost upon opening the book. The first section of the novel puts together a sequence of events that, the principal character, Dr. Henry Steadman finds incredulous. A successful Florida plastic surgeon, he is arriving to deliver the keynote address at a conference in the Carolinas. Upon getting off the plane and driving towards his hotel, and a prearranged game of golf, he is pulled over by a policeman and accused of unstated crimes. Several of the officer’s colleagues drive up and continue the browbeating, than drive away. The original officer moves back to his car, and is suddenly shot and killed by person or persons unknown. Henry rightly does not know what has just happened but feeling that he will be blamed for the murder runs away. The remainder of the first part deals with subsequent, unexplained events that seem to involve Henry more and more into criminal activities. The second section of the book explains and provides the reasons for the continuing attacks on Dr. Steadman but rather than allowing the reader some breathing room drives up the pace even more. The approach to the truth is logical and follows section one quite neatly. Along the way, Henry finds an ally in the person of a young woman that has just returned to work at her job as a publicist with the local police department after going through personal tragedies of her own. Via contact on the phone she realizes the truth of the accusations against Henry, and helps him. Dr Steadman is divorced and the developing romance between the two is a logical adjunct of the story. Engrossing, filled with constant action and definitely a book that can’t be put down, 15 Seconds continues Andrew Gross’ steady rise in the literary world. 8/12 Paul Lane

18 SECONDS by George D. Shuman: Blind and beautiful Sherry Moore has an epileptic type condition that gives her an extraordinary talent. Each of us has approximately 18 seconds of short term memory “present” in our brain at all times. At death, those “final” 18 seconds are stored in the brain. Moore, because of her condition, can “see” these final moments by touching the deceased corpse. This is not without pain, however, as she “relives” those moments in her own mind, a debilitating and terrifying experience. Earl Sykes was imprisoned thirty years ago but is now on the streets of Wildwood, New Jersey, abducting and killing young women. Police Lieutenant Kelly O’Shaughnessy is puzzled by the sudden disappearance of several young females from the boardwalk – crimes reminiscent of a series of unsolved disappearances in the seventies. Eventually she enlists the aid of Moore in a desperate attempt to end the bloodshed. Although a bit of “woo-woo,” I found the book to be well written and intriguing, but not for the faint of heart. Hopefully, there will be more from this ex-Washington, DC Metro Police veteran. 06/07 Jack Quick

20TH CENTURY GHOSTS by Joe Hill: A great short story must accomplish in roughly twenty pages what a full-length novel takes time to develop. It’s not an easy task. Many authors refuse to even try their hands at short fiction. Some, however, have truly mastered the effort and Joe Hill falls into this category of talent. This award winning collection features a wide array of stories. Some are bloody and shocking while others are more sweet and sentimental. In “20thCentury Ghost” a haunted theater is celebrated by years of patrons who were touched by its ghostly visitor. In “The Cape” a child’s fantasy becomes a reality that haunts him into adulthood. And, in “Last Breath,” a macabre museum is more than meets the eye. Each story is an absolute gem that proves Joe Hill is new talent to be reckoned with. Not only can he create chilling tales of horror like that of “Best New Horror” – a story that is more than a little reminiscent of the southern gothic trend – but he also brings together long separated lovers for one afternoon of what-ifs in “Bobby Conroy Comes Back From the Dead.” I highly recommend this collection to all readers. Not only is this a perfect introduction to an amazing author, read one at a time, these short tales provide an entertaining break in a busy day. 10/07 Becky Lejeune

THE 25TH HOUR by David Benioff: I don’t think I have ever read a book quite like this one. Monty Brogan is a 27-year-old drug dealer who will enter Otisville Federal Prison tomorrow to do seven years hard time. Monty really wanted to be a fireman, but fell in love with “sway,” the deference afforded a young man with important connections. That led him to selling drugs for Uncle Blue in Manhattan. His buddy, maverick bond trader Frank Slattery, thirsts for serenity, while fighting his covert lust for Monty’s Puerto Rican girlfriend. Despite Monty’s dismal future, shy Jakob Elinsky, an ethical, awkward high school English teacher, envies his friend’s self-assurance with women as he struggles to control his own secret hunger for a talented writing student, 17-year-old Mary D’Annunzio. The three friends spend one last night together dancing and drinking at Uncle Blue’s nightclub. It’s all about lost youth and what might have been, if different paths had been taken. Very well done. 06/10 Jack Quick

31 BOND STREET by Ellen Horan: The murder of Harvey Burdell and the trial that followed captivated New Yorkers in 1857. The murdered dentist, Burdell, shared his home with Emma Cunningham, a widow without means of her own and in search of a husband. Emma was accused and prosecuted for the murder. Now, the case is brought to life once again in Ellen Horan’s masterful debut. Attorney Henry Clinton hears of the case and receives a note from Emma that prompts him to come to her defense. His decision to take on the case, and the popular district attorney, severs his partnership at his law firm. Not one to be that easily deterred, Clinton vows to fight for justice for his client. But the question that Clinton, and the citizens of New York, have to ask themselves is whether Emma Cunningham is really capable of murder or if she’s become an unfortunate victim of the justice system. Much of the mystery is ripped straight from the actual 19th-century headlines. Horan’s impressive twisting of the actual case and politics of the time period makes 31 Bond Street a definite stand out. Historical mystery fans take note, this is one you won’t want to miss. 03/10 Becky Lejeune

47 RULES OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE BANK ROBBERS by Troy Cook: This debut novel about a father training his 9-year-old daughter in bank robbery is zany black comedy at its best. Wyatt Evans is a brilliant psychopath who has made a career out of robbing banks. Along the way, he killed his wife and taught his daughter the 47 rules of the family business. But by the time Tara is 23, she is chafing under her father’s rigid, psychotic thumb and wondering if it is time to move out on her own. Then she meets Max, who empathizes with Tara as he has a nut of a father himself, although on the other side of the law – his father is the Sheriff. Meanwhile Wyatt is heading the FBI’s ten most wanted list, Tara & Max take off and Wyatt, the Sheriff and the FBI are all on the chase. 47 Rules is well written, original, clever and laugh out loud funny – don’t miss it. 07/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

47 RULES OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE BANK ROBBERS by Troy Cook: As they rehearse a bank robbery, nine year old Tara to her father Wyatt, “How come they don’t make a Bank Robber Barbie?” Wyatt’s response, “It’s that damn Corporate America! They’re trying to warp your fragile little mind.” Further advice from Wyatt Evans to his daughter, “You keep your gun pointed straight at him and say anything you want. The crazier the better…The crazier you are, the more respect you get. This is one of life’s lessons here, so remember it.” With this for a beginning, it’s no wonder that Troy Cook’s debut has created a storm. Tara grows up but doesn’t outgrow her raising, which makes for an interesting story of the two most unlikely bank robbers since Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. You have to love it, even when Tara falls in love with the son of the local sheriff. Like Wyatt says, “It’s always something.” 12/06 Jack Quick

THE 47TH SAMURAI by Stephen Hunter: Retired Marine Corps sniper Bob Lee “The Nailer” Swagger, now in his sixties, returns in this thriller that began some sixty years ago on Iwo Jima when his father Earl won the Medal of Honor. Philip Yato is the son of the Japanese officer who commanded the bunker, which was the basis of that skirmish. He has come to America seeking the family sword taken into battle by his father and brought home by Swagger Senior. It turns out there is more to the sword which leads to a series of terrible crimes with Swagger deeply involved. Another first rate outing from Hunter who has so skillfully told the story of three generations of Swaggers. 07/08 Jack Quick

61 HOURS by Lee Child: Jack Reacher is back and in fine form in this latest outing. This time he’s caught a ride on a tour bus but it spins out on the ice and he lands in Boulton, South Dakota. After helping the senior citizens off the bus, Reacher realizes something is going on in this small town. The local police are trying to deal with guarding a retired librarian turned states witness and there appears to be a huge meth lab on the outskirts of town at an abandoned military installation, run by a motorcycle gang at the behest of a Mexican drug lord. The cops are also on call for the federal penitentiary that employs most of the town; seems the mayor agreed to have every cop in town at the beck and call of the prison warden in the event of an emergency. It doesn’t take Reacher long to get involved with the local police department, using his military connections to help with the meth lab problem and taking his turn guarding the witness. Not quite as action packed as previous Reacher novels, yet nonetheless this is a page turner of the finest kind. 05/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

61 HOURS by Lee Child: All the action in this 14th Jack Reacher adventure occurs in just 61 hours, hence the title of the book. Reacher appears early on as a passenger in a tour bus that skids off the road and crashes near Bolton, S.Dak., a tiny burg with big problems. A highly sophisticated methamphetamine lab run by a vicious Mexican drug cartel with bikers as security has begun operating outside town at an abandoned military facility. Additionally they are the site of both a Federal and a State prison facility with a mutual aid compact that requires 100% participation by the Bolton police department in the event of an escape. That would greatly hinder their current top priority, safe guarding the life of a sweet little old lady who is the key to their shutting down the biker meth operation. After figuring out the snow-bound, marooned Reacher’s smart, great with weapons, and capable of tapping military intelligence, the helpless local cops enlist his assistance, and, as always, that get the full measure of our wandering hero. Another great Reacher. If you haven’t begun this series, today would be a great day to start. 07/10 Jack Quick

88 WAYS TO DIE by Johnnie Mitchell: Interesting PI tale self-published by the author earlier this year. Black PI Ellis Mason is a small businessman in Chicago in 1988 who gets caught up in a murder case when the girlfriend of his client is killed. As he is pulled deeper and deeper into the matter he hooks up with Brad Royce, a big time agency owner who numbers among his clients a congressional candidate looking for dirt on a rival. It is Chicago, after all, so, its not surprising that Mason and Royce are soon swimming upstream in a river of murder, greed, and political corruption. As with many self- published efforts, this book could have benefited from some tighter editing, more street time and less “bed time.” I hope Mr. Mitchell does well enough to produce some more, as Mason could potentially be Chicago’s answer to LA’s Eazy Rawlins. 10/07 Jack Quick

172 HOURS ON THE MOON by Johan Harstad: In the years since Apollo 11, NASA has made great effort to return to the moon. That effort has finally become a reality and will be the opportunity of a lifetime for three teens. A new mission has been set and three teens from around the globe will be randomly selected to accompany a team traveling to DARLAH-2, a modular space station built at the site of that original moon landing. The station has been unmanned until now but has always been meant for use during longterm missions. The team, including the teens, will test the facility and make sure everything is set for future use. But the mission isn’t that straightforward. There’s a reason moon missions have been delayed for so long. Is the world ready for the secrets NASA has been hiding all these years? Space horror is something I love, in theory, but have seen very little of. And what’s out there tends to be great or greatly terrible. Fortunately Harstad’s teen moon horror falls into the former category. The characters are a bit formulaic at the outset, but once the story picks up and the uber creepy atmosphere takes over, 172 Hours on the Moon becomes an ultimate win in my opinion. 3/13 Becky Lejeune

212 by Alafair Burke: 212 is the area code for Manhattan and also the “name” of a swanky New York apartment building developed by Donald Trump clone Sam Sparks. When Sparks’ bodyguard, Robert “Robo” Mancini, is found murdered in Sparks’ penthouse apartment, Sparks reaction seems to be too over the top forNYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher. Hatcher’s aggressive pushing of the case ends up costing her a night in jail on a contempt citation, and a stern warning to stay away from Sparks. But when Hatcher and her partner, J.J. Rogan, begin investigating the murder of NYU student Megan Gunther, the target of threatening posts on a college gossip Web site, they discover a link between the student and a recently murdered real estate agent. Are all three connected in some way? Was the real estate agent really moonlighting as a prostitute? Just like her dad, James Lee Burke, you can count on a full book’s worth of excitement from Alafair. Highly recommended. 04/10 Jack Quick

212 by Alafair Burke: In the beginning of 212, the latest Ellie Hatcher thriller, a body is found in a rich real estate mogul’s apartment. Ellie and her partner, J.J. Rogan, are sent to investigate and Ellie promptly arrests the exec for disturbing her scene. The fallout from that action is swift and though Ellie suspects the man may have had a hand in the murder, the man’s become all but off limits. A few months later, the case still open and no concrete leads to speak of, Ellie and Rogan are sent to a new scene. This time, a college coed and her roommate have been brutally attacked, the roommate barely survives and the other girl is pronounced dead on the scene. Turns out, the girl was being harassed on a popular college gossip site. She and her parents approached the police just one day before the murder and were told there was nothing they could do. With two high-profile cases weighing heavy on her, Ellie has her hands full, but she is dead-set on solving them both. Though this is the third in the series, readers who are new to Burke can jump right in without missing a beat. I’m looking forward to going back to Ellie’s beginnings until I can see what’s in store for her next. 03/10 Becky Lejeune

THE 731 LEGACY by Lynn Sholes & Joe Moore: Black Needles is the code name for an ancient virus discovered by an ultra-secret Japanese WWII Unit. Now it is the hands of the North Koreans, specifically a descendent of the original Japanese Unit 731 with a grudge against the world and Americans in particular. A dying man, an early victim of Black Needles, makes his way to SNN headquarters, where he delivers a mysterious message to Cotten Stone with his final breath. As Cotton is trying to decipher the meaning of this, her friend, Cardinal John Tyler is kidnapped while on a diplomatic mission to the Eastern European Republic of Moldova. Cotton rushes to Europe and there she finds that Black Needles and John’s kidnapping are intertwined. While battling the forces of evil, Cotten fights for her soul as the Nephilim attack the person she loves most in the world. A high-speed continuation of The Grail Conspiracy and very nicely done. 12/08 Jack Quick

7,000 CLAMS by Lee Irby: Frank Hearn was all set to go to Florida with the proceeds from his cache of smuggled Canadian scotch, when it gets taken away from him. There is little left for him to do but steal a $7,000 IOU from the one and only Babe Ruth and set out for Florida to cash in. Babe’s IOU is actually a gambling debt owed to a underworld boss, and before it makes front-page news, everyone from crooked cops to rabid henchmen get involved. Throw in a botched kidnap attempt and a few gallons of bathtub gin and you have the roaring twenties down pat. A bit uneven, as most first novels are, but captures the spirit of the times quite nicely. Tighter editing should help his next work. 01/06 Jack Quick


Fiction Reviews A: 1998-2013

December 23, 2013

ABANDON by Blake Crouch: In the winter of 1893, every man, woman, and child in Abandon, Colorado, disappeared without a trace. Professor Lawrence Kendall has studied the history of Abandon for years and has pitched a story to his daughter, journalist Abigail Foster, that she can’t resist. Together, with a set of tour guides and a couple of paranormal photographers, they will hike out to the ghost town and try to discover the truth about Abandon. Their first day in the seemingly empty town, though, they are met with two masked men armed to the teeth and searching for something they are sure Lawrence can lead them to. The story alternates with the final days of the 1893 settlers, culminating with today’s explorers facing the same twisted fate. Crouch’s tale is engaging enough to keep the reader hooked, and that may be its saving grace. I didn’t feel overly attached to, or, truth be told, all that interested in, most of the characters. They were underdeveloped in most instances or over the top in others. Disappointing because I had so been looking forward to this one. 07/09 Becky Lejeune

ABANDON THE NIGHT by Joss Ware: As the Envy Chronicles series continues, Ware rewards readers with a tale that’s been taunting us since book one. Quent and Zoe met in Beyond the Night. Their dance continued into Embrace the Night Eternal. Finally, Abandon the Night is their story. Growing up, Quent gave off the appearance of a spoiled playboy. He never had meaningful relationships and never got along with his father. In the allure and mystery of Zoe Kapoor, Quent has finally found a girl he can’t get out of his mind. But this new world is no place to start a family, a thought that has left Quent torn between desire and reality. When it is revealed that Parris Fielding, Quent’s father, was one of the Cult of Atlantis—the people behind the events that horribly shaped this new world—Quent vows to be the one to finally kill him. Zoe has her own reasons for wanting Fielding dead, but even she doesn’t know of his connection to her lover. Together, they’ll finally track the illusive Strangers, the Cult, and their hideout. But can Zoe trust the man whose own flesh and blood was responsible for the death of so many? 03/10 Becky Lejeune

THE ABDUCTION by Mark Gimenez: Caution: don’t start this book unless you have time to finish it – I could not put it down. After his excellent debut, The Color of Law, Gimenez just knocks it out of the park with his sophomore effort. The Brice family are a little more well-to-do than most; Elizabeth is a successful Dallas attorney, and her husband John is a computer nerd with a company that is about to go public and make him a billionaire. Their ten-year-old daughter Gracie is a budding soccer star and it is at her game that things go awry – Gracie is kidnapped while Dad is on the phone about his IPO and Mom is late coming from court. People may fear for their lives, but they really fear for their children’s lives, and these characters are so well drawn that it becomes incredibly easy to suspend your disbelief and get completely caught up in the story. I loved the tough-as-a-tiger mom, and the special bond between Gracie and her retired Green Beret grandfather was especially touching, all of which helped ratchet up the suspense even more. The Abduction is one of the best thrillers of the year.09/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

About the Author by John Colapinto: This brilliant thriller starts out with a simple case of plagiarism, but quickly twists and turns into a spellbinding story of deceit, lust, blackmail and murder. It’s rare to find a new angle in this genre, and I for one am most appreciative. Check out the nowCulture.com Interview with Colapinto  Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ABSENT FRIENDS by S. J. Rozan: I have enjoyed all of Rozan’s Lydia and Bill novels and eagerly picked up this one. Unfortunately, it did not meet my expectations. Basically New York City Fire Capt. James McCaffery died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Exactly 22 years earlier, on September 11, 1979, Mark Keegan, a childhood friend of McCaffery’s killed a local Staten Island mob boss’s son. Keegan later was himself killed in prison and left behind a wife and young child. Ever since, the Keegan heirs have received financial support from McCaffery. Much to the dismay of McCaffery and Keegan’s friends, an enterprising news reporter is intrigued by the story and starts digging into it. The reporter then dies mysteriously. The smoke of the Twin Towers hangs heavy over all the narrative as Rozan attempts to weave a tapestry of some 40 interconnected lives over two and half decades. Maybe the next generation will deem this to be a classic, but for me, right now, it was too much, too soon, about a day that changed our world. 08/06 Jack Quick

THE ABSENT ONE by Jussi Adler-Olsen: In this follow up to The Keeper of Lost Causes, the newly formed Department Q has proven their worth and is gaining attention. Mørck, in spite of his personality quirks, has also managed to gain the grudging respect of others on the force. Now with their pick of cold cases to choose from it would seem odd that Mørck settles on a case closed with a confession and a conviction, but something about the file smells fishy – especially it’s appearance in the department altogether. Why would a closed case land on Mørck’s desk at all? Mørck’s curiosity is piqued when he learns that the case – the murder of a brother and sister in 1987 – is connected to a group of well-placed and highly connected individuals. What’s more, a growing list of unsolved crimes also seems to be tied to the case. Of course Mørck is warned off when his superiors learn what he’s up to, something that only spurs him on. Mørck’s brash nature and sour attitude are part of the appeal in this series. While the mystery is as well plotted and dark as Keeper, the eccentricities that I loved so much in the first book were not as present in this second of the series. Assad and Rose, the new addition to the department, didn’t seem to have much development at all, which didn’t detract from the overall read but is definitely something I hope will be addressed as the series continues. 8/12 Becky Lejeune

THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie: No one writes Native American like Sherman Alexie, and in this book for young adults, he tackles life on the rez with humor, passion and compassion. Arnold Spririt, a Spokane Indian, was born with water on the brain. Nevertheless, he is a bright, creative boy, despite being picked on most of his life. In looking around the reservation he realizes that his lot in life will be like that of everyone else he knows – poverty, alcoholism and an early death. But he’s a smart kid, and he also realizes that an education is the only way out, so he manages to get himself into an all white school twenty miles away. He can’t always get a ride, so he hitchhikes or walks, determined to get that good education. His Native American friends think he’s a traitor to his people, and the white kids aren’t sure what to make of him either. But with dogged determination, he succeeds in winning them all over, but not without lots of dramedy first. This semi-autobiographic coming of age story with a multicultural twist is a first rate read. 09/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ABUNDANCE by Sena Jeter Naslund: In 1770, at only 14 years of age, Marie Antoinette, Archduchess of Austria left her home to marry Louis August, the Dauphin of France – the man who would become Louis XVI. Four years later, she became Queen. In 1793, she was pronounced guilty of high treason and sentenced to a death by beheading. By using historical facts and biographies, Sena Jeter Naslund has created a vivid portrait of what Marie Antoinette’s life might have been like. Readers will get a feel for not only the excessive and opulent lifestyle the monarchy enjoyed, but also what it must have been like to grow and mature in the eyes of a country. Every part of her life, her image, and her family was under the scrutiny of the French public. No one can actually know Marie Antoinette’s thoughts and feelings but Naslund has added depth and flesh to the facts to produce a wholly believable story. This title will appeal not only to history buffs and those curious about Marie Antoinette, but to fans of literary fiction as well. 10/06 Becky LeJeune

THE ACADEMY by Bentley Little: Strange things are going on at Tyler High School. Recently converted to a charter school, Tyler High is undergoing a lot of changes. The principal, normally a very laid back and kind woman, has turned into a strict dictator-like leader. She has created a group of “Tyler Scouts” that parade around the school, empowering them to enforce rules and regulations with students AND teachers. Students and teachers that opposed the contract have gone missing. Ghostly images of children are seen playing on the school grounds, and student and staff alone are afraid to enter the school grounds at night alone. A handful of students and teachers still brave enough to stand up against the school join up and discover a way to destroy the evil at Tyler High. Bentley Little’s THE ACADEMY is full of horrific tales of the atrocities that take place at Tyler High. The ending seemed to be a little too “neat”, but that certainly didn’t take anything away from this great work piece of horror fiction. This was my first taste of Little’s writing; I can’t wait to read more from him. 11/08 Jennifer Lawrence

ACCESSORY TO MURDER by Elaine Viets: This is the third book in the Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper series and quite enjoyable. A supposedly random shooting at the mall leaves a young, upcoming scarf designer dead and Josie’s friend Alyce’s nerves shot. Things like that aren’t supposed to happen in an upscale suburb of St. Louis. But then Alyce’s husband is accused of the murder and she begs Josie to help. As Josie delves into the murder and upscale suburban life, she finds no one is as they appear and nothing is as it seems. Nice twisty little mystery with Viets’ hallmark humor plus some great shopping tips at the end of the book. 11/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ACCIDENT by Linwood Barclay: Glen Garber has a construction business that’s been hard-hit by the economy, and many of his neighbors are also having financial troubles. A couple of the women have taken to hosting “purse parties” where they sell illegal knockoffs of designer handbags as a way to make a little extra money. Glen’s wife, Sheila, is taking a business course at night so she can help him with the accounting, except one night Sheila doesn’t come home. Glen grabs his sleeping daughter and goes out to look for Sheila, but she’s been in a fatal car accident and killed two other people. The cops say she was drunk and at fault, and Glen is having a hard time believing it. A couple of weeks later, one of her best friends is killed in another accident, and Glen realizes things are seriously awryin this small Connecticut town. Throw in more deaths, a shady cop, a suspicious fire and lots more dirty laundry, and you have a real suburban nightmare. Verdict: A master of domestic suspense (No Time for Goodbye), Barclay has written an emotionally gripping page-turner that is scarily believable. Perfect for Harlan Coben fans. 08/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch KINDLE Copyright © 2011 Library Journal, a division of Media Source Inc. Reprinted with permission.

THE ACCIDENT by Linwood Barclay: Barclay is a master at grabbing the reader immediately and dragging him or her into the story. The Accident is no exception. Glen Garber is a contractor living an upscale life in the state of Connecticut. On a horrible evening Glen’s wife Sheila is very late returning from a business class she is taking in order to help with finances for the family. When Glen goes out looking for her he comes upon his wife killed in an accident that apparently she caused due to drunk driving, and which also killed two other people. Glen is 100% sure that Sheila was not drunk and does not drink to excess. His frenzied search for the real cause of the accident throws him into a world of lots of money available through the sale of “knockoffs”, that is, copies of name brand pocketbooks, watches and even pharmaceuticals. The knockoffs are sold by housewives throughout the affluent area they live in, with the merchandise supplied by a criminal group that will resort to murder if necessary to retain control of the market. In the course of solving what is really, his wife’s murder Glen’s work is instrumental in getting to the bottom of the area criminal structure. There are several other murders as well, all intertwined through the participation in the sale of the knockoffs. There is a great deal of similarity with the drug trade due to the presence of a lot of tax free money motivating criminal activity, and Barclay has painted a picture of a world that is not that well known, although most of us have encountered inexpensive knockoffs at various levels and bought them to show off our ability to afford the real trademarked goods. The final murder solved by Glen’s intervention is a bit of a surprise, but well within the parameters of the plot. 11/11 Paul Lane

THE ACCIDENT MAN by Tom Cain: An international assassin, Samuel Carver, is paid to take out bad guys who can’t be touched by legal means while making the hits look like accidents, is the intriguing premise for this first novel. Things get really tense when one of his targets is in a car full of people hurtling through a tunnel in Paris, and one of the passengers turns out to be Princess Diana. Immediately after that hit, someone tries to take Carver out, and the game is on. A beautiful Russian spy is one of the unlikely assassins, and Carver manages to turn her. Together they explore the plot to kill Diana and find out who is masterminding the whole thing. Conspiracy fans will love this. Cain is the pseudonym for a British investigative journalist, adding some heft to the conspiracy theory. 03/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ACCIDENT MAN by Tom Cain: British journalist Tom Cain has come up with a new twist on an old story. It’s Paris, 1997 and hit man Samuel Carver is in a tunnel preparing to do a job. The car wreck he creates causes a speeding black Mercedes to crash into a stone pillar, surely killing the car’s occupants. Moments later, Carver finds himself the target of an apparent Russian killer. Only later does he learn that the victim of his actions was, in fact, Princess Diana, and not the terrorist he was told would be occupying the car. Since Carver only does bad guys, he vows revenge on the people who set him up. This includes several spy organizations and various intermediaries. Think James Bond without the government backing. Nicely written and perhaps the basis for an on-going series featuring Carver and his Russian female accomplice. Wilbur Smith calls this “This is the best first thriller I have read since The Day of the Jackal, and that was a long time ago.” Not a bad recommendation. 05/08 Jack Quick

ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN by Simon Wood: It’s a good life for Josh Michaels – the California life, with nice house, loving wife, beautiful daughter, good job neat car. On the other hand, there is the attempt to kill him by running him off the road, the fact he is being blackmailed by a ex-lover and a secret that could land him in prison. Michaels survives the automobile accident but what about his other problems. Are they all inter-related? After a plane crash kills his flying partner instead of Michaels, he realizes the police aren’t going to be of much help. If he is to survive he must figure things out on his own. 09/07 Jack Quick

ACCORDING TO JANE by Marilyn Bryant: Something strange happens to Ellie Barnett at the moment she is first assigned Pride & Prejudice in her high school English class: Jane Austen herself begins to speak to her. For years, Austen would be Ellie’s constant companion, her voice of reason, her conscience. And Austen does her best to help Ellie maneuver her way through the dating world in order to find her very own Mr. Darcy. But now in her thirties, Ellie has begun to wonder if her Darcy will ever come. As she looks back on her years of unworthies, all conveniently fitting into P&P’s mapped out caste system of men, Jane Austen is there by her side, coaching and coaxing. But could both Jane and Ellie have been wrong about someone along the way? Or is Mr. Darcy yet to come? And how will Ellie know when and if he finally crosses her path? This latest in the Austen-inspired string of releases is a cute and light read. One does begin to wonder how much stock to place in Austen’s opinion of men, though. Her voice starts to get a bit curmudgeonly after a while and it’s hard to set aside the knowledge that Austen was never married herself. 10/09 Becky Lejeune

THE ACCOUNTING by William Lashner: William Lashner is the author of several successful detective novels featuring Victor Carl. The Accounting is a stand alone book with a lightning fast delivery, an engrossing plot and characters that are flawed but unforgettable. Jon Willing aided by his best friends Augie and Ben find a cache of money hidden with a large quantity of drugs in one of the houses in their neighborhood, lived in by two brothers who are their enemies. They agree to steal the money, hide it and not touch it until there is no longer any possibility of the theft being traced to them. Twenty-five years after the theft Jon finds himself in a failing marriage, out of a job due to the great recession slamming the country, estranged from his two children and facing financial ruin. To make matters worse his friend Augie is not returning his calls, and when Jon goes to Las Vegas to check on him he finds him in his bed, tortured and murdered. Realization hits letting Jon know that the worse has happened and the people behind the stolen money are now after him and his friends looking for payback. Escaping from them finds Jon running around the country and facing his past and real or imagined friends and enemies in getting to the resolution of his problems. Lashner keeps the reader glued to the book and going from one crisis to another. The ending is logically arrived at and quite satisfying in the light of the events depicted. Awaiting the author’s next book is a given. 05/13 Paul Lane

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis: Godspeed is humanity’s hope for the future: a massive ship traveling across the universe to deliver a very special cargo to a new, Earth-like planet. The trip was supposed to take three hundred years. Amy and her parents would sleep through the whole thing, waking when the ship reached its destination and helping to settle the new world. But something has gone very wrong and Amy is awake – fifty years ahead of schedule. In the time she has slept, things on Godspeed have changed dramatically and now a murderer prowls the ship. If Amy can help discover the killer’s identity and his plans, maybe she can save her parents and the rest of Godspeed. Across the Universe is a spectacular debut! A cross between science fiction and mystery, Beth Revis’s book is a highly imaginative and captivating read for both teens and adults, and is the first in a projected trilogy. 1/11 Becky Lejeune

ACTS OF NATURE by Jonathon King: Max and Sherry on vacation at a friend’s remote fishing camp in the Everglades, a trio of housebreakers and general ne’er do wells and a pair of deadly security guards. What ties them all seven together? An unpredictable shift in the course of hurricane Simone has placed them all at risk. Similar to but different from James Lee Burke’s Tin Roof Blow Down, King describes not only the awesome power of these storms but their effect on people, before, during, and after. A top notch read. 09/07 Jack Quick

ADDITION by Toni Jordan: A light-hearted tale of one woman’s struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Grace Lisa Vandenburg develops an insatiable need to count at the age of eight. She counts everything, number of steps taken, number of letters in names, number of seat in a restaurant. She finds comfort in both their simplicity and complexity. The numbers are always there for her. One day it all begins to change, though. Her carefully mapped out life is jarred out of sync when she runs into Seamus Joseph O’Reilly. First it is in the grocery store where her incorrect number of bananas prompts her to steal one from his basket when he is not looking. And then he’s in her café, the one she visits every weekend for hot chocolate and orange cake. She accepts his invitation to sit and it just goes from there. Can she stop counting long enough to live a normal life and enjoy the things around her, or will it all prove to be too much for her to handle? This is a sweet and funny novel about learning to love life and accept people’s individuality. A surprisingly light read in spite of its subject matter, but one that will no doubt stick with you long after you turn the final page. 02/09 Becky Lejeune

Adios Muchachos by Daniel Chavarria: Winner of the 2002 Edgar Award for Best Original Paperback. A delightful robbery/murder caper set in contemporary Havana where the characters do what they have to do to survive and do it with gusto, humor and Latin style. The main character is a young woman who decides that her best asset is the way she sits on a bicycle. She then proceeds to peddle that asset all over town. Some reviewers have described her as a “bicycle hooker,” but I think that is a little harsh. She likes men and she appreciates presents. The mechanics of the transactions are hilarious and involve her mother cooking dinner for the chosen client. They ultimately enmesh her in dealing with the worlds of high finance, high crime and treasure on the high seas. Also, a phallic totem. If you enjoy this book, I also recommend that you do a bookstore search for anything by Paco Ignacio Taibo II. ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin

THE AFFAIR by Lee Child: Jack Reacher is back and this time he’s way back – it’s 1997, right before he leaves the Army, and we finally learn why he did, why he started drifting, and why he carries that toothbrush in his pocket. MP Reacher is sent undercover to a small Mississippi town with an Army base to act as counterpoint to the MP on base who is investigating a woman’s murder. The army wants the soldiers cleared, and they want Reacher to make sure that happens. But Reacher wants to make sure justice is served, and finds more bodies than any small town should have. Child doesn’t disappoint with some nice twists in the story, but this story is all about backstory, and here Child really excels. If you haven’t read this series, you certainly could start here, but I think it is a more poignant read to those who are already invested in this character. An excellent addition to one of my favorite series. 10/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE AFFAIR by Lee Child: If you are old enough to have enjoyed Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In on television during the late 1960’s you will remember Arte Johnson who closed each show with his German soldier in the palms and his catchphrase: “Verrrry interesting, but…[‘stupid’, ‘not very funny’, and other variations]” Verrrry interesting describes Child’s latest which goes back to the beginning when Jack Reacher was still a military cop. Carter Crossing, Mississippi. 1997. A lonely railroad track. A crime scene. A coverup. An investigation spinning out of control. Hard to say more without spoilers. Let me just agree with the Washington Post – “With Reacher, #1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Child has created “a series that stands in the front rank of modern thrillers.” 12/11 Jack Quick

THE AFFINITY BRIDGE by George Mann: In this alternate Victorian England, Queen Victoria is kept alive through technology and her devoted investigators, like Maurice Newbury, serve as her eyes and ears in the city. A recent plague of zombie virus brought over from India is sweeping through the nation and a murderer seems to be on the loose in Whitechapel. But it’s a recently crashed dirigible that the Queen has asked Newbury and his newly hired assistant, Veronica Hobbes, to look into. Strangely, the Whitechapel murders and the wrecked zeppelin seem to be closely connected, but it will take Newbury’s and Hobbes’s skills together to solve the cases. Steampunk definitely lends itself well to blending with other genres and this mix with traditional mystery works fantastically. I’m looking forward to future adventures with Hobbes and Newbury. 02/11 Becky Lejeune

AFRAID by Jack Kilborn: When a helicopter crashes in the small town of Safe Haven, Wisconsin, the townspeople find themselves up against an enemy like nothing anyone has ever seen. Sheriff Arnold “Ace” Streng is a Vietnam vet and even he has never witnessed the brutality that his town will soon be facing. When he receives a call about the crash, Ace heads out to the site only to find his own cousin being tortured and the man’s wife butchered. The men behind this seem to want one thing and one thing only. They want to know where Warren is. It only takes Ace a minute to realize who they seek, but figuring out exactly why and how to rid his town of these enemies will take a bit longer. Jack Kilborn is a pseudonym for author JA Konrath, the man behind the Jack Daniels mystery series. This stand-alone thriller is a bit of a change of pace for Konrath, but is fast-paced and excellently plotted — extremely hard to put down. 04/09 Becky Lejeune

AFRAID OF THE DARK by James Grippando: This is the ninth entry in the Jack Swyteck series, and this book takes a turn out of Miami for international waters with a secret interrogation cell in Prague, Somali terrorists in London and murders back home in Miami. Swyteck is tapped to represent Jamal Wakefield as he stands accused of murdering his teenage girlfriend and blinding a cop in the process. Jamal insists he is innocent and that he wasn’t even in Miami when the murder occurs. To add complications to this already complicated story, Swyteck’s FBI fiancée is warning him off the case, despite their agreement to not get involved in each other’s work, and defense witnesses keep turning up dead. Grippando uses headline makers like terrorism and mistreatment of political prisoners to up the tension in this tightly written thriller of revenge. 03/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

AFRAID OF THE DARK by James Grippando: Miami criminal defense attorney Jack Swyteck has a case right our of today’s headlines. Jamal has a good job working on encryption projects for the computer industry. Then he is accused of killing McKenna, the daughter of his boss Chuck May and setting off a bomb that blinded Sergeant Vince Paulo of the Miami police, a friend of Chuck’s who had been keeping an eye on McKenna for her father. Paulo was also instrumental in an earlier hostage negotiation involving Swyteck. It seemed an open and shut case since McKenna, bleeding to death in Paulo’s arms had uttered the name of her murderer and ex-boyfriend: Jamal. But then the story gets really interesting. Jamal is located at the detention center at Gitmo where he spent the past two years. At the time of the murder he claims he had been abducted and taken to a CIA secret prison in Prague where his abductors had tried to get him to reveal the secrets of the computer work he was doing and had threatened to kill McKenna if he didn’t cooperate. The far-fetched story starts to gain traction and Vince, Jack, and Chuck soon realize they are facing a deadly danger that goes beyond McKenna’s death and crosses international waters. Embarking on a journey to piece together the past, the men are led through the back alleys of London, onto illegal internet sites, and straight into pure evil. IMHO, the best Grippando yet. 04/11 Jack Quick

AFTER HOURS AT THE ALMOST HOME by Tara Yellen: It’s Super Bowl Sunday and the Broncos are playing. It’s going to be the busiest day of the year for Denver’s Almost Home Bar and Grill which means that it’s the worst possible day for a new girl to start, and for one of the bar’s seasoned employees to disappear. Denny was leaving after his shift and is forced to work a double thanks to Marna’s untimely no-show. JJ has never waitressed before and everyone is giving her a hard time. Keith was supposed to leave with Marna but hasn’t heard a word from her. Marna also promised a special day with Colleen’s daughter Lily, neither of which have heard from her either. The staff makes it through the day, and closes up shop, but that’s when things get really interesting at the Almost Home. Everyone who’s ever had to work in the service industry can relate to Yellen’s tale. Anyone who has ever had doubts about what comes next in life, whether the decisions they make are the right ones and if everything will work out in the end, will connect with at least one of the characters in this book. It’s that combination of the quirky dysfunctional family situation that occurs in any workplace and the instances of self-doubt that everyone suffers that collide in this earnest literary debut. After creating such a resonating story in After Hours at the Almost Home, Yellen will surely be one to watch in literary circles for years to come. 04/08 Becky Lejeune

AFTERSHOCK by Collin Wilcox: Lt. Frank Hastings has problems. His newest case is the murder of a wealthy 70-year-old woman, found bludgeoned in the garage of her San Francisco, Sea Cliff district home. There is no shortage of suspects, within and outside the victim’s dysfunctional family. In the meantime, Hastings’ girl friend Ann Haywood is being stalked, apparently in connection with a previous Hastings case. Can Frank stay focused and solve both crimes? Another great police procedural from the 1970’s. 1/11 Jack Quick

AGAINST ALL ENEMIES by James B. Woulfe: The Longest Day is the term used to describe June 6, 1994, the day the Allies stormed ashore at Normandy in World War II. The longest book may be an appropriate sub-title for this tell all whether you want to know it or not fiction debut about a future war in South America against drug dealing revolutionaries who are contributing to global warming, world wide inflation, and various and other sundryr crimes and misdemeanors. You will learn more than your ever cared to about SEALS and submarines, Rangers and various color berets, female pilots who become POW’s, Air Force Commandos, and that is just a start. Somewhere there is a story here, but I could never really get into it because of the highly detailed technical picture drawn of all the special troops and gadgets available to the US fighting forces today. Sorry, it’s a new era and not one I want to be in. 11/09 Jack Quick

AGAINST THEIR WILL by Nancy L. Livingstone: Matt Grayson is flying home to Houston after his first movie opens to great reviews. The plane crashes upon approach and Grayson’s life is changed forever. He thinks he has saved the life of his seatmate, Lynn McCane, but when he recovers consciousness in the hospital he is told he was the only survivor of the plane crash, and that all passengers and crew have been accounted for. Months later, Lynn shows up at Matt’s movie studio in Hollywood, with a new name and no memory of the plane crash. Matt gets her to go for coffee with him and tries to talk with her about the crash. Within hours they are atop the FBI’s Most Wanted List and are being pursued, it seems, by every government agency except Fish and Wildlife. Scary medical thriller from 2002, which brings new meaning to stem cell research and cloning. e-book. 05/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

AIRTIGHT by David Rosenfelt: Second Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Judge Daniel Brennan is just days away from appointment when he is found murdered in his driveway. Nationwide attention is focused on the case, the Feds move in but New Jersey detective Luke Somers lands a hot tip that druggie Steven Gallagher may be the killer. Gallagher is armed and in the heat of the moment, Somers kills him and becomes a national hero. Steven’s brother Chris, home on leave from his elite Marine Force Recon unit, is outraged and determined to prove his brother’s innocence. He kidnaps Somer’s brother and threatens to kill him unless Luke finds the real killer within seven days. Somers starts digging and uncovers a slew of conflicting information, but he is not sure if it will be enough to save his brother. The tension is palpable and the pages fly by in this riveting standalone thriller from the author of the Andy Carpenter mystery series. The voice here is just as engaging, with enough humor to lighten the story without diminishing the suspense, and the ending is a real shocker. Sure to appeal to fans of Harlan Coben and Robert Crais. 2/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2013 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission. 

AIRTIGHT by David Rosenfelt: Rosenfelt is the author of a series of books about his lawyer creation Andy Carpenter as well as stand alone novels. Luke Somers is a police lieutenant in New Jersey. He is among the many law enforcement officers mobilized when Judge Daniel Brennan is found stabbed to death in his home. Brennan was about to take his newly earned seat in the second court of appeals when he was killed. Following one of the many tips called in, Luke finds and shoots to death Steven Gallagher who has enough incriminating evidence in his home to be blamed for Judge Brennan’s murder. Case closed and Luke becomes a hero to a public anxious for rapid closure in the killing. But wait, Steven, had a brother, Chris Gallagher, who is a force recon marine serving in Afghanistan who returns home looking for answers to Steven’s death. He decides to kidnap Luke’s brother Bryan, imprison him in an old bomb shelter and give Luke 6 1/2 days to find the real killer of Judge Brennan and exonerate Steven. Bryan is imprisoned with an air supply lasting only the 6 1/2 days and no more. Luke must take up the challenge even with his own belief that he killed the real murderer of the Judge. He must somehow convince Chris that whatever he finds is real in order to get him to release Bryan. The book is a page turner with the scene changing from one set of circumstances to another and bringing into play the oil and gas industries new drilling technique of fracking and the new found wealth that it could bring. Rosenfelt is certainly not a one dimensional writer relying only on the very popular Andy Carpenter but has proven in most of his stand alone books that his original ideas and character development make for very rewarding reading. Certainly another all-nighter for the reader. 3/13 Paul Lane

AIRTIGHT by David Rosenfelt: An eye for an eye, quickly becomes a brother for a brother. When Judge Daniel Brennan is gunned down New Jersey policeman Luke Somers is assigned the case. An anonymous tip leads him to Steven Gallagher, a drug addict about to be sentenced by Judge Brennan. When they go into Gallagher’s apartment he has a gun in hand. Somers reacts instinctively and shoots him dead. Now, Steven’s brother Chris Gallagher, who raised his brother, Steven, almost single-handedly, is certain that Steven is innocent. Chris, a Marine Recon Force member is one to be reckoned with. He kidnaps Luke’s own brother who will die if Luke refuses to help clear Steven’s name. Failure by Luke may lead to his brother’s death; success may lead to his own death. A good one.3/13 Jack Quick

ALEX CROSS’S TRIAL by James Patterson & Richard DiLallo: James Patterson has drafted a stable of advertising executives as writers for his books – seventeen of them coming up in the next three years. DiLallo is the latest and he puts a different spin on the usual Patterson fare by going back in time to the days of the Ku Klux Klan lynchings in Mississippi. The premise of this latest in the Alex Cross series is that Alex is writing a novel called “Trial,” based on stories that have been passed down in his family about Abraham Cross, an ancestor that lived in Eudora, Mississippi in the early 1900’s. Ben Corbett hails from Eudora but has become a lawyer in Washington DC who likes helping out the underdog. Unfortunately, the underdog often can’t pay and Ben’s wife is fed up with it. When President Teddy Roosevelt offers Ben a clandestine assignment to look into the lynchings, Ben goes to Mississippi alone; his wife won’t come. Ben finds that Eudora isn’t the same town he remembered, and his old friends aren’t the same either. Abraham Cross is an old man who has seen a lot, and he is Ben’s contact in Eudora. After they both escape being lynched, one young man is dead and the sheriff reluctantly arrests some of the town’s worst offenders – hence, the “trial”. This is an interesting look at a disturbing period of American history that is best remembered from time to time. Using the familiar two page chapters to move the story along makes this a fast paced and riveting read. 09/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch 

ALEX CROSS’S TRIAL by James Patterson: A book within a book. Alex Cross has heard the story of his great uncle Abraham and his struggles for survival in the era of the Ku Klux Klan. Now, Alex passes the family tale along to his own children in a novel he’s written called Trial. Ben Corbett is a Washington, DC lawyer during the Teddy Roosevelt era. Roosevelt asks Ben to return to his home town of Eudora Mississippi to investigate rumors of the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan there. Ben meets the wise Abraham Cross and his beautiful granddaughter, Moody, and enlists their help. The two Crosses introduce him to the hidden side of the idyllic Southern town complete with lynchings and other brutalities that have left the town’s black quarter in constant fear. Ben seeks the truth – not knowing the price the truth will cost him. Above average for a Patterson. 10/09 Jack Quick

THE ALEXANDER CIPHER by Will Adams: Daniel Knox is an American archaeologist turned dive instructor who is currently living in Egypt. A lifelong scholar of Alexander the Great, Daniel, along with Aussie partner, Rick, are on the trail of the massive golden funeral carriage used to bring his body back to Egypt in 323 BCE. Alexander’s power-hungry general, Ptolemy, stole Alexander’s body for his own purposes, and the funeral carriage vanished. The stakes quickly become higher when it appears possible they may be on the trail not of just the carriage, but of the actual body of Alexander the Great. Of course there are a few obstacle in Daniel and Rick’s path – Hassan, David’s rich Egyptian boss, whom Daniel beat up in order to keep him from raping a young woman; Hassan’s even nastier head of security, Nessim; Gaille Bonnard, the Egyptologist who blames Daniel for the death of her father’ and Nicolas Dragoumis, the wealthy industrialist whose own father seems oddly determined to ruin Daniel. With that many bad guys, the tale could easily become a farce, but Adams sticks to his guns and the result is a first rate thriller. 06/10 Jack Quick

THE ALEXANDRIA LINK by Steve Berry: In Berry’s second thriller featuring Cotton Malone, the antiquarian bookseller and retired secret agent must set aside all differences with his ex-wife in order to save his son from nefarious kidnappers. While working with the Magellan Billet, a government organization much like the CIA, Malone was assigned to protect and help hide George Haddad. Haddad was a scholar focused on the Old Testament and his theories threatened to shake the very foundations of Judaism as well as Christianity. His studies also garnered attention from a group called the Guardians, the members of which are sworn to protect the lost library of Alexandria. The Guardians extended an invitation to Haddad and challenged him to find the library. His quest would lead him to the most famous cache of knowledge known man, but the Mossad had already tracked and killed the last three invitees. The Billet sent Malone in with no knowledge of Haddad’s background, and today, Malone is the only person who knows where to find Haddad. This knowledge makes both Malone and his family prime targets for the numerous groups who will stop at nothing to find Haddad. Anyone looking for a great action/adventure thriller in the vein of The Da Vinci Code will love Berry’s work. He’s tackled everything from Russia’s rumored amber room to the Knights Templar and now focuses his attentions on Alexander’s library, which should segue perfectly into his upcoming release, The Venetian Betrayal, and the search for Alexander’s grave. 12/07 Becky Lejeune

Ali & Nino by Kurban Said: Re-release of a book originally published in 1937, the author is thought to be a pseudonym for the couple whose romance the book is loosely based on. Takes place at the turn of the 19th century, clash of cultures and religion. Definitely worth a read.  Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ALIAS MAN by Bill Pronzini: Jessie, a slender blonde Pennsylvania widow, meets a dream lover in Santa Fe who immediately asks her to marry him. Sarah, a slender blonde Vancouver bookstore owner, had her husband disappear just over four years ago leaving her in debt. Morgan, a slender blonde California schoolteacher, suspects her husband of just under four years of cheating on her as well as losing her money in poor investments. When she confronts him, he responds by leaving her. Then she finds a safe deposit box key in his study and uses it to uncover the secret of The Alias Man. Using his list of victims and aliases, and the cash she finds in the safe deposit box, she enlists Jessie and Sarah to help her. Together they track down the chameleon who for the past two decades has been marrying every four years, stealing that wife’s money, and then moving on to the next victim. An unusual Pronzini, but excellent as always. 05/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

THE ALIBI MAN by Tami Hoag: Elena Estes (Dark Horse, 2002) moved from being among the elite of Palm Beach, Florida, to become a policewoman. After a meth lab bust that went bad causing the death of a fellow officer, she is now physically healed but still emotionally crippled. She is working at her best friend’s horse farm when she happens upon the body of the farm’s beautiful, vibrant young groom, Irena in a canal being savaged by alligators. She is determined to see Irena avenged and the path leads her back into the upper echelons of Palm Beach society, power brokers, polo fields, and her ex-fiancé, who, Elena knows, is capable of committing the crime. She also quickly learns that Russian born Irena may have led a more complicated life than Elena thought. Fast paced, with plenty of action Hoag moves easily from the beautiful to the ugly and captures the conflicting emotions of people hurting as well as anyone. Recommended.02/09 Jack Quick 

ALL HE SAW WAS THE GIRLby  Peter Leonard: Peter Leonard has written a very tightly woven love story involving four characters in different areas of the world tied neatly together by circumstances. McCabe and his friend Chip are both students at an Italian university in Rome. McCabe is the first of the people involved in the love stories. He meets the beautiful Italian girl Angela in the normal way lovers meet. Angela and a group of gangsters kidnap him thinking that he is Chip, whose father, a US Senator is wealthy. He is released when Chip’s father pays the ransom asked, thinking that it is Chip being held. The other couple is Sharon and her husband Ray, a Secret Service agent released from the service. Sharon who has become bored with an existence that involves Ray’s constant absence due to duty with the service, and is having an affair with Joey Palermo, a Mafia enforcer. Ray comes home with the intention of making his constant absences up with Sharon and finds that she has decided to go to Italy with Joey, who has to leave the U.S due to Mafia pressures. Leonard has the ability to introduce and flesh out various characters in different areas and than tying their fates together through the progression of action he presents in the story. Events are shifted throughout the book between the characters and finally brought to a head in a very satisfying ending. The reader is swept forward and can’t put the book down until the end. This is the second Peter Leonard book I have read and am very anxiously awaiting the next one. 6/12 Paul Lane

ALL SEEING EYE by Rob Thurman: Imagine if you had the ability to see a person’s darkest secrets with just one touch. Jackson Lee Eye has that power. It began when he was just a kid, witnessing the final moments of his young sister’s life simply by touching an abandoned shoe. After that horrible event, he was orphaned and left to fend for himself. Now he makes a living taking advantage of his ability, but an unwelcome visit from a government agency soon forces him to take his power to another level. An experiment gone wrong has led to a number of murders and Jackson seems to be the only chance anyone has in stopping it. Each time I read one of Thurman’s books I’m a bit surprised at how dark they are. All Seeing Eye is no exception featuring a number of crime scenes filled with cannibals and psycho killers – and even some questionable BBQ. I wouldn’t want to hang out in the twisted depths of Thurman’s mind though it does make for a great paranormal thriller. 3/13 Becky Lejeune

ALICE IN JEOPARDY by Ed McBain: Alice Glendenning oversleeps. She is still grieving for her husband who disappeared off his boat 8 months ago. Late to work at the real estate agency where she has yet to sell a house, she calls her lawyer and the insurance company still refuses to pay off, later she gets hit by a car and has her ankle broken. When she gets home her children aren’t there. They have been kidnapped and the ransom demand is for $250,000 : the exact amount due from her insurance. Maybe she should have stayed in bed. McBain proves once again that he can spin a tale without or without the help of the 8thPrecinct boys. A good one. 11/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

ALL NECESSARY FORCE by Brad Taylor: This is the second book in an undoubtedly projected series about a secret cadre of elite service people serving outside the pale of normal military operations. They are known as the Task force and report to an oversight group consisting of leading public figures headed by the president of the United States. Their missions are set by the steering committee and must conform to professional standards which include attempting to respect the laws and traditions of the countries they operate in. Most of the Task Force consists of military personnel, although they have their own intelligence group, medical people and other necessary support groups as back up for the clandestine operations. While there are many books coming out today delineating the undercover wars against our terrorist enemies, All Necessary Force has one overriding feature which takes it from the ordinary into the obviously superior. The author, Brad Taylor, is a 24 year veteran of army special forces troops, retiring as a Lt Colonel commanding those forces. He also ended his career as an assistant Professor of Military Science at the Citadel in South Carolina. He has literally been there and done that. His descriptions of the thoughts, feelings and reactions of the characters in the books provides a great insight into people placed in kill or be killed positions brings the reader right into the narrative. And with Col Taylor’s background these reactions are surely right on. Pike Logan is a former special forces soldier forced out of the military by events in the first book of the series – One Rough Man. In that book he met Jennifer Cahill who forced him back into the world of the Task Force and has begun to supply a romantic interest that does nothing but make Pike more human and less a killing machine. Jennifer is indoctrinated into the Task Force, and becomes a part of their combat team. She has doubts about the nature of the combat operations but manages to look at what they do as a necessary evil in a world with enemies of our country. The target is a group of Islamic terrorists bent on a debilitating attack on the United States. Actions run from Eastern Europe where the terrorists pick up explosives for use in their projected action into the US, where the Task Force is not supposed to operate and into the US area which will come under attack. The narrative keeps the reader involved with the characters, their actions and of course reactions to events. The reader of this book is going to be waiting anxiously for the next in the series. 2/12 Paul Lane 

ALL THE FLOWERS ARE DYING by Lawrence Block: Scudder tries to help a fellow AA member who has attracted a mysterious boyfriend. Then his wife Elaine’s best friend is brutally murdered, with a letter opener purchased from Elaine. Is there a connection? Like Small Town, this book is set in New York City post 9/11 and seems darker and more brooding than previous Scudders. While AA is and should be the dominant force in the former practicing alcoholic’s life, sometimes this gets in the way of story flow, i.e., I don’t need the address and time of every AA meeting in New York. What would make a great series? TJ from Block and Tamara from Pronzini working together. Recommended. 05/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick. 

ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS by J. T. Ellison: A ruthless serial killer has been stalking young women in the southeast. Dubbed the Southern Strangler, he has left a grisly trail of dead coeds in his wake. Each girl has had her hands removed, one of which will be found at the following crime scene, and each subsequent victim goes missing the same day the previous victim is found. When the body of the third victim is discovered in Nashville, Lieutenant Taylor Jackson is called to the scene. Her involvement with FBI agent John Baldwin leaves her privy to certain details of the case, even after it leaves her jurisdiction, and leads to a disturbing discovery. The killer has been e-mailing clues to a well-known reporter in the Nashville area – clues that could finally lead to the discovery of his identity. Meanwhile, Jackson has other problems to deal with including a rapist who has recently attacked the lead investigator on the Rainman case. To make matters even worse, there appears to be a leak within the Bureau and there are whispers of corruption amongst Nashville’s finest. Ellison writes like a pro – her details are dead on, her plot is engrossing, and her characters are engaging. This masterful debut is sure to keep readers up all night in suspense. I highly recommend All the Pretty Girls (first in a new series with books two and three set for release in 2008). 11/07 Becky Lejeune

ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS by J.T. Ellison: Nashville homicide detective Taylor Jackson and her erstwhile boyfriend FBI Agent John Baldwin are on the trail of a serial killer, who targets pretty young girls for death and then leaves a grisly trademark. He removes the hands of his victims and at each murder site leaves one of the hands of his previous victim. Somewhat uneven, as most debuts are, but the seeds are here for what could be an interesting series. While there is no shortage of female detectives, private or official, Jackson is interesting. Hopefully, as the series develops it will become more focused and straight forward.04/09 Jack Quick

THE ALMOST MOON by Alice Sebold: The Lovely Bones was brilliant, so it was with great expectation and some trepidation that I began Sebold’s latest. The opening is quite the grabber: “When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily.” Another difficult subject for sure, but unfortunately, this story of matricide quickly becomes tedious. Helen has difficult relationships in her life; besides her Alzheimer’s afflicted mother, there is the ex-husband and her children. The book spans the course of one day, a mere 24 hours, yet seems so much longer than that, perhaps because it is missing the emotional wallop promised with that opener. 10/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ALMOST MOON by Alice Sebold: After reading Lovely Bones and Lucky, I was excited to read Almost Moon. My excitement didn’t last very long. Almost Moon is the tale of Helen Knightly, a divorced mother of two grown daughters. Her father having died decades earlier, it is up to Helen to take care of her emotionally abusive agoraphobic mother. Throughout the book the reader flashes back to episodes portraying the strained relationship she had with her mother. The first several chapters of the book were engaging. Helen can no longer take the strain and frustration of dealing with her mother, so she smothers her with a kitchen towel. The reader is then lead through Helen’s ritual of stripping and bathing her mother, then pulling her down the basement steps and putting her in the oversized freezer. A little out there, yes, but completely plausible. The remainder of the book goes downhill quickly and I completely lost interest. Almost Moonmight be a good book for those readers that haven’t read any of Sebold’s other work, and therefore have nothing to compare it to. But a diehard Sebold fan will definitely be disappointed with this one, as I was. 05/08 Jennifer Lawrence

ALONE IN THE CROWD by Luis Alfredo Garcia-Roza: Garcia-Roza’s latest, Alone in the Crowd, is about as good a psychological mystery as I have read in a long, long time. It is not a thriller, but rather a psychological study of a very strange bank teller who the good Inspector Spinosa knew when they were both boys playing soccer in the streets of Rio de Janeiro. The story begins like a James Joyce day in the life of an ordinary person story. The ordinary person in this case is an elderly lady, Dona Laureta Sales Ribiero. She spends most of the day waiting at her bank to withdraw her pension money. Then she goes to the grocery store, the pharmacy and the police station. At the station, she asks for the Chief and is advised that Inspector Spinosa is in a meeting but will be available later. She says that she will come back after dinner and leaves. Before she can return, she is run over by a bus. Like Sherlock Holmes, Spinosa is quick to sense the possibility of a crime before there is clear evidence of a murder to others. His investigation quickly centers on the teller at the bank, one Hugo Breno. Breno is a loner, who for reasons known best to himself, feels safest in a crowd. Spinosa eventually remembers their acquaintance as children and the remainder of the story is the way in which these two characters come to understand each other. And, as always in Garcia-Roza’s books, there is more than one puzzle for the reader. In this case, one side-puzzle is the behavior of Spinosa’s girl friend, Irena and her friend Vania. Although I would not classify this novel as a “thriller,” it does have an exciting finish. I am an unabashed fan of both Garcia-Roza and Inspector Spinosa and recommend this highly. 08/09 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

ALPHA by Greg Rucka: Marshall Karp gave us The Rabbit Factory, home of Rambunctious Rabbit and his Familyland theme park. Chris Grabenstein took us through all the Jersey Coast thrill rides, and now Greg Rucka brings us face to face with a nightmare at Wilsonville theme park. Retired Delta Force operator, Master Sergeant Jonathan “Jad” Bell, is Wilsonville’s lead undercover security officer. The threat begins with the announcement of a hidden dirty bomb, but quickly becomes something far, far worse. Jad’s daughter is one of the people caught up in the ensuing hostage situation. Definitely white-knuckle time. 10/12 Jack Quick

ALPHA by Rachel Vincent: The war that’s been brewing between the Prides has finally arrived. Just days after the events of Shift, Faythe and her Pride are ready to present undeniable proof that Calvin Malone has been manipulating and using the Council to suit his own needs, and at the expense of everyone else. But with the Council split between support for Malone and support for Faythe’s father, even now the task at hand seems impossible. The only option left is to fight to the death and hope that the good guys come out on top. It will mean losing some of their own but if the battle is lost altogether, it will mean much, much worse for Faythe and her family. In the midst of it all, Faythe’s own role with the Pride will change and she will finally have to decide who will lead alongside her: Jace or Marc. I’m sad to see the series go. With five books to build up the action and just one to tie it all up, I’m left wanting more from the story. I’m not sure what Vincent has planned next, but I’ve not doubt it’ll be great. 10/10 Becky Lejeune

Altar Music by Christin Lore Weber: A fascinating look at Catholicism and sex written by one who knows, an ex-nun. The story follows three generations of women and how their religion affected their lives. This book shows the darker side of the convent, as well as the personal damage that can be done in the name of God. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch 

ALWAYS SAY GOODBYE by Stuart M. Kaminsky: Sarasota, Fla., process server and occasional PI Lew Fonesca finally feels up to begin tracking down the hit-and-run driver who killed his wife, Catherine, a prosecutor in Chicago four years earlier. Hardly has he landed at Midway airport when Lew finds himself between two warring assassins-for-hire who believe Catherine had compiled a file of evidence against them that Lew now has. Chicago is obviously colder and more dangerous than Sarasota but this is something Lew has to do to move forward with his life. The fifth in the series, each one is better than its predecessor. 12/06 Jack Quick

THE AMATEURS by Marcus Sakey: Sakey writes these intense thrillers about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances and he’s one of my favorite writers. The Amateurs is his latest foray into the genre, and here he looks at what makes people do the things that they do – especially when they know they are wrong. In this case, a group of casual drinking buddies, a couple of whom have pressing financial needs, decide to add a little excitement and money into their lives by robbing the owner of the bar they hang out in. But what seems like a lark turns much deadlier very quickly. Mitch is a hotel bellman with low self esteem and an unrequited crush on Jenn, the only girl in the group. Jenn’s a looker, but she’s just bored with life and being a good girl. She wants an adventure. Ian is the most successful of the group, but he’s also a compulsive gambler with big debt to the wrong people. Alex is the bartender where they hang out, and a single father who’s ex is planning to move cross country with his daughter. When Alex tells his friends that he saw a big cash delivery to his big shot boss, they decide to steal it. Jenn will get her adventure, Alex and Ian the cash they need, and Mitch gets his chance to impress Jenn. They cook up what seems like the perfect plan, but of course it goes awry; after all, they are complete amateurs at crime. Sakey creates believable characters in this heartbreaking story of good guys gone bad. 08/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon: This year’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel is the beautifully written story of two men growing up together in New York. With WW2 at their backs, this historical look at the 20th century captivates the reader by introducing us to the golden age of the comic book. Their adventures in creating a comic book hero makes for a most compelling read. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

The Amber Room by Steve Berry: If you’re looking for something after the Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown has a blurb on the cover,) this could be your book. A fascinating blend of history and suspense involving the Amber Room, whose walls were made of the precious stone which was carved into artistic panels and was looted from Catherine’s Palace in St. Petersburg by the Nazis during WWII. A judge from Georgia inherits some cryptic letters from her father after his death, including the ominous warning that whatever she does, she shouldn’t look for the Amber Room. So of course she does, and her ex-husband ends up chasing after her to Germany. A couple of assassins are leaving a trail of bodies, while this secret society of art collectors tries to zero in on the find of the century. It was impossible to put down this fast paced treasure hunt.  Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE AMBITION by Lee Strobel: Only in Chicago – the mob, crooked politicians, old time newspaper guys, and a mega-church pastor turned politician. Strobel ties them all together in a tale that wanders all over the map before reaching a biting climax. It starts with a fourth generation O’Sullivan, a down-on-his-luck lawyer with a gambling problem. When he must bribe a federal; judge in connection with an upcoming mob trial, he secretly tapes the exchange. Later, the dirty judge becomes a finalist for an open U.S. Senate seat. His challenger is Eric Snow, a dot-com millionaire who found religion and founded Diamond Point, a massively successful evangelical Christian group. Think Mark Cuban investing in God rather than the Dallas Mavericks. Newspaper reporter Garry Strider is the glue who ties it all together as he threatens to uncover both candidates’ secrets in an investigation that may cost him his life. If you enjoy Michael T. Harvey’s portrayal of the Windy City, you will likely want to add Strobel to your reading list as well. 08/11 Jack Quick

AMERICAN SKIN by Ken Bruen: Only Bruen could take a fairly routine plot about bank robbers disagreeing over the disposition of the loot and take it into totally new territory. The key players are Stephen Blake who has the money, and whose girlfriend, Siobhan, knows how to launder it, John A. Stapleton, hit man for the IRA, who thinks 100% is a fair share and Dade, so psychotic he hits meth to enjoy movies and is obsessively devoted to the music of Tammy Wynette. Is this literature for the ages? Probably not, but what a helluva read. If you are a Bruen fan, go get it. If you are not a Bruen fan, still go get it. You will become one.10/06 Jack Quick

AMERICAN WIFE by Curtis Sittenfeld: Touted as a lightly fictionalized Laura Bush story, the author even includes a note stating that while names may have been changed, the people you recognize are, in fact, the people you think they are. That said, the Bush marriage has always puzzled me, and apparently a lot of other people too. This is the story of how a smart, pretty, hard working middle class librarian ended up married to a wealthy member of a political dynasty who achieved the Presidency of the United States, while often being perceived as a bumbling fool if not worse. I vaguely remember hearing about a car accident that Laura Bush was involved in, and this book pivots on that event. Alice Lindgren of small town Riley, Wisconsin, is a teenager when she runs a stop sign and kills a classmate. While never formally charged, this event affects the rest of her life. Alice is naive but sure of herself enough to be particular in who she dates. When she meets Charlie Blackwell, he charms her enough to sweep her off her feet and they marry within a few months. It takes her years to realize what even his own family knows; that he is lazy, bungling and a bit of an idiot. Alice feels that with her smarts and organizational skills, she can help Charlie meet his destiny, and she does, first as he buys a baseball team, then during his run for Governor and finally the White House. Fast reading for the most part and always interesting, especially the early parts of coming of age in a small town and even the marriage, but the ending was really over the top, bordering on ridiculous. 10/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

AMMUNITION by Ken Bruen: In this seventh Sergeant Brant outing, our hero is in a London pub brooding about the death of his idol, real-life author Ed McBain, when a gunman opens fire and then disappears. (Eats, shoots and leaves?) Although hit a number of times, he survives and to the dismay of criminals and cops alike he is soon back on the job, crankier than ever, and vowing revenge. Concurrently, Sergeant Falls and constable McDonald, key players in the previous adventures are having their own problems – Falls with a psycho named Angie and McDonald with the powdered white lady. It’s a train wreck in progress but somehow it all comes to a satisfactory end. 01/08 Jack Quick

THE ANALYST by John Katzenbach: Dr. Frederick Starks, a New York psychoanalyst, has adjusted to life as a single man during the three years since the death of his wife. His practice is successful and if asked, he would probably say he is content. All this explodes with a letter delivered on his fifth third birthday “Happy fifty third birthday, Doctor. Welcome to the first day of your death.” Suddenly he is in the middle of a horrific game designed by a man who calls himself Rumplestiltskin. The rules: in two weeks, Starks must guess his tormentor’s identity. If Starks succeeds, he goes free. If he fails, Rumplestiltskin will destroy, one by one, fifty-two of Dr. Starks’ loved ones—unless the good doctor agrees to kill himself. In a blistering race against time, Starks’ is at the mercy of a psychopath’s devious game of vengeance. He must find a way to stop the madman—before he himself is driven mad. Intense. 8/12 Jack Quick

ANATOMY OF FEAR: A Novel of Visual Suspense by Jonathan Santlofer: This has to be one of the most exciting new books to come out in a long time. Santlofer brings considerable skills to his latest endeavor, as both an emerging talent over the past few years as a thriller writer, as well as a life long career as a significant artist, with work represented in various museums. Graphic novels have gained significant popularity in the past few years, along with a healthy new respect – these are not your childhood comic books anymore. Now that respect for the illustration is transcending into other genres. In his latest novel, Santlofer combines his story with his art in the character of Nate Rodriguez, a police sketch artist of some renown. But this is no graphic novel; it is a thriller that happens to have an occasional illustration born out of Nate’s work that tends to help the reader visualize the story as well as propel the story forward. Nate is an interesting character; half Puerto Rican and half Jewish, and he uses both his heritages to his advantage. A serial killer is on the loose in New York City, leaving drawings of each murder victim at the scene of the crime. NYPD Homicide Detective Terri Russo thinks highly of Nate’s skills, and convinces her bosses to let him help out with the case. Meanwhile, Nate’s abuela, his Puerto Rican grandmother who dabbles in Santeria, is having vivid dreams that are somehow tied to the murders. Between his grandmother’s visions and his own visions, and the clues the police are able to obtain, Nate’s drawings are honing in on the murderer. This is a page turner of the finest kind, and the illustrations just ratchet the tension up a notch. I loved this book and ripped through it in one night, sadly turning the last page – I didn’t want it to end, and I hope we will see more of this character. 04/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ANCIENT LAWS by Jim Hansen: I have been a fan of the Laws series from the outset. Business interests and relatives in Denver have permitted me to spend enough time there that I feel I know the city. (If you visit the city, get someone to direct you to Gordo’s for great Mexican food served family style.) Situated between the fertile flat farmlands and the United States version of the Alps, Denver has always been a quirky place where women wearing boots attract less attention than men wearing ties. Jim Hansen has managed to capture this spirit completely. Bryson Coventry, his 34 year old serial womanizing, pickup truck driving, coffee drinking fanatic head of Denver’s homicide unit fits perfectly into the local scene. In this, the 8th of the Laws series, however, Coventry is away from his native Denver tracking a lead on a year-old murder. In Paris, he meets detective Ja’Venn Le Rue, whom Hansen advises will ultimately be the subject of her own Edge series. If they come even close to the quality of Laws, they will be great. In the meantime Coventry and Le Rue are pulled into a deadly game that will lead them from Paris to Cairo to the Valley of the Kings, a game involving ancient tombs, lost treasures, and archeological murders. 09/09 Jack Quick

AND EVERY MAN HAS TO DIE by Frank Zafiro: Another excellent police procedural about the men and women of the River City Police Department. Rookie B. J. Carson and the rest of the force are coping with a new threat. Russian gangster Valerity has big plans and is willing to do whatever it takes to make them a reality. Other gangs are dangerous and even deadly, but none as as ruthless as the Russians who think nothing of setting fire to homes with women and children as a way of proving their point. Instead of offering “protection” to businesses, they simply take them over and leave the former owner to run the business profitably or die. After all, to them, the American jail system is like summer camp, compared to what they previously faced in Russia. Zafiro is not yet in a class with Ed McBain but he is getting better with each outing. 05/11 Jack Quick NOTE: Kindle only

AND ONLY TO DECEIVE by Tasha Alexander: In the opening title of Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series, the newly widowed Lady Ashton finds herself embroiled in a mystery involving stolen antiquities. Emily was under no illusion that she was in love with her husband, but when he died quite suddenly after their nuptials, she was disheartened to realize that she knew little about the man. As she learns more about the deceased Philip Ashton, she begins to quite like him. Imagine her surprise when she begins to suspect that he may have been involved in some shady dealings with Greek and Roman antiques. And some unsavory characters have noted her interest as well. I needed a bit of a refresher now that the series is six books in and found my return to Lady Emily just as enjoyable as my introduction. Readers who enjoy smart period mysteries will love Alexander’s clever plots and playful writing. 12/11 Becky Lejeune 

AND SHE WAS by Cindy Dyson: This is a fantastic debut set in the Aleutian Islands in the mid 1980’s. When Brandy follows her boyfriend to this remote setting, she is left to her own devices as he ships off to sea on a fishing trawler. She manages to find work at one of the toughest bars in the world. Here, one of her favorite pastimes – collecting bathroom graffiti – causes her to get embroiled in a mystery of sorts that spans generations. Paralleling Brandy’s tale is that of three women and their female ancestors. In the 1700’s when explorers discover these remote islands, the men of the Aleutian society leave to protect their homes against the invaders. While the men are off fighting, the women and children are forced to fend for themselves. As hunting is a men’s task and all the men are gone, food is becoming scarce. Three women are forced to take matters into their own hands and in doing so they leave themselves open to being banished from their society. This is a story of self discovery and growth as well as one that gives insight to cultural differences and taboos. And She Was is a truly amazing read that I cannot recommend highly enough. Dyson’s writing is impeccable and the story will appeal to a very broad audience. 12/06 Becky LeJeune

AND THEN SHE FELL by Stephanie Laurens: This is part of Laurens’ Cynster series. Henrietta is known as the “Matchbreaker” because she’s willing to tell the truth when asked. Her brother’s best friend, James Glossup, is wooing a friend, but Henrietta knows he has to marry within a month or lose his inheritance. That bit of info causes the demise of that relationship, and James is quite put out. After he explains the situation, Henrietta feels bad and decides to become a matchmaker and help him find a bride quickly. But spending all that time together finds them falling in love, but neither will admit it as the matchmaking continues. Another enjoyable Regency romance from Laurens. 5/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

AND WHEN SHE WAS GOOD by Laura Lippman: To her neighbors, Heloise Lewis would appear to be an everyday, average single mother. In fact, some even seem to be jealous of her ability to handle everything life throws at her: son, work, home life, she seems to have it all under control. What they don’t know is that behind the façade, Heloise is actually a high-class prostitute with her own corral of working women. She’s careful about hiding her profession and not drawing attention to herself all the while doing the best she can to provide a stable and nurturing home for her son. Scott will never know what his mother actually does for a living and he’ll certainly never know the truth about his father, Heloise’s one-time pimp and incarcerated business partner. But when Heloise learns that Scott’s father could soon be released from prison, her carefully built world begins to crumble. Laura Lippman fans first met Heloise Lewis in Hardly Knew Her, the author’s short story collection released in 2008. Lewis proved to be a fascinating character and one that I was more than happy to return to here in And When She Was Good. All of Lippman’s characters are complex, but Heloise is by far one of my favorites. She’s so layered and is developed in a way that makes her seem completely realistic. While it’s not necessary to have read “One True Love” or Scratch a Woman (Heloise’s short and novella from Hardly Knew Her) the collection is a fantastic one and I’d highly recommend it as follow up reading for fans of And When She Was Good. 9/12 Becky Lejeune

ANGELOLOGY by Danielle Trussoni: The St. Rose convent in Milton, New York, has been home for Sister Evangeline since she was just twelve years old; the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration her family for over a decade. But Evangeline comes from a long line of Angelologists who have been studying and fighting the Nephilim for ages. Legend has it that the Watchers, God’s angels, were so enamored with human women, that they took them for wives. They were punished, imprisoned deep beneath the earth, where they still wait today. The Nephilim are their children: beings not wholly human and not wholly angel. The Nephilim are dangerous and vengeful creatures that have long fought humans for dominance on earth. But Evangeline knows none of this. When a request to search the convent’s archives for correspondence from Abigail Rockefeller piques Evangeline’s curiosity, she is thrown headfirst into a battle that began thousands of years ago, and the search for the one item that could give either side the advantage over the other. Angelology is as imaginative and exciting as Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian. A literary puzzle that unfolds with excellent precision, Trussoni’s fiction debut has it all: history, adventure, mythology, and a definite feeling that there will be more to come. 03/10 Becky Lejeune

THE ANGEL’S GAME by Carlos Ruiz Zafón: Zafón brings to life an eerie version of 1920s Barcelona in his second U.S. release. Readers will remember Sempere and Sons bookshop and the Cemetery of Forgotten Books from the author’s first release, The Shadow of the Wind. In Angel’s Game, author David Martin has been working for years writing penny-dreadfuls under a pseudonym. He longs for the recognition and respect deserving of a real author, however, and takes a commission from a strange man offering him unreal payment and favors in return. David, whose success prompted him to rent a foreboding home called The Tower House, has learned that there may be a deeper connection between himself and the previous owner of the home, a lawyer who left his business to write. As David digs into this man’s life and what led to his mysterious drowning, he begins to wonder what fate may await him at the end of his contract. Angel’s Game is very similar in many ways to Shadow of the Wind, but is no less magical a read. It’s one that begs to be savored and read slowly because, upon entering Zafón’s created world, you never want to leave. I’ve been waiting in great anticipation for Angel’s Game and was, obviously, not let down. I highly recommend that if you have not yet read Shadow of the Wind, you run out and buy both books now. 06/09 Becky Lejeune

ANGELS OF DESTRUCTION by Keith Donohue: Margaret Quinn leads a very lonely life. Ten years ago, her daughter ran off with her boyfriend, a revolutionary planning to join the Angels of Destruction. Just a few years later Margaret’s husband died leaving her all alone. But one night, in the wee hours, a young girl appears on Margaret’s doorstep. The girl, Norah, reminds Margaret so much of her lost daughter, that she allows Norah to stay. The two create a story in which Norah is Margaret’s granddaughter, left in her care by the missing daughter who returned just long enough to abandon the child. Norah’s presence is just what Margaret has been longing for all these years. When Norah begins disrupting her classroom and then the town itself with her talk of angels and apocalypse, cracks begin to form in their carefully plotted cover story. Is it possible that Norah really is an angel sent to answer Margaret’s prayers? Like Donohue’s debut, The Stolen Child, Angels of Destruction is a blend of fantasy and reality. It’s a tale of loneliness and forgiveness and of childlike faith. It’s touching and sweet and sticks with you long after you finish. 03/09 Becky Lejeune

ANGEL’S TIP by Alafair Burke: New York City rookie police detective Ellie Hatcher, first introduced in Dead Connection, is out doing her morning run when she runs into the dead body of a teenage girl who’d been strangled, stabbed and had her hair shorn. The nineteen year old blonde was visiting the Big Apple with friends and hitting all the clubs while on break from college, which creates a whirlwind of bad publicity for the city. NYPD breaks the case very quickly – or have they? Turns out there are some weird similarities to some cold cases that Hatcher’s deceased partner had been checking out, and she is unconvinced they have the right perp. When another young woman is killed in a similar fashion, even the hunky district attorney has to admit there are some problems with the case, and Hatcher is getting a very uneasy feeling that somehow it’s personal. Lots of suspense and plot twists galore keep the pages turning, but it’s the personal storylines about Hatcher, her boyfriend, her brother, and her partner that makes Angel’s Tip a winner. 8/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2008 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

ANGEL’S TIP by Alafair Burke: A first rate police procedural from the daughter of James Lee Burke. In this second Elli Hatcher outing, the newly assigned NYPD homicide detective is first on the scene at the discovery of the mutilated body of a college student. She and partner J.J. Rogan have an abundance is suspects that come into and then out of the picture as more evidence is unearthed that finally leads to a manhunt for a serial killer. Very nicely done and suspenseful to the end; let’s hope we continue to see more of Ms. Hatcher in the months and years ahead. Completely different from, but potentially as enduring as her dad’s Dave Robicheaux. 09/08 Jack Quick

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner: A big, sprawling novel of incredible description and complex characters. There are two stories going on here; the narrator of modern day writing a historical biography of his grandparents who helped settle the old West. Based on the life of Mary Hallock Foote, a writer and artist of the late 1800’s, Stegner combines her story with his imagination and comes up with a beautiful book. Winner of the 1971 Pulitzer Prize.  Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik: Five women, neighbors, meet in the early 1960’s in Minnesota and form the Freesia Court Book Club, but that name evolves into the Angry Housewives from a snide remark of the husband of one of the members. These women share their lives – their marriages, children, politics, and of course their love of reading, over the course of the next thirty-plus years. The characters are an interesting mélange of suburban housewives – Audrey, an independently wealthy woman who doesn’t leave home without baring her cleavage; Slip, the politically motivated feminist rebel; Faith, who has a past she’d rather forget; Kari, a slightly older widow who adopts a bi-racial baby; and Merit, the beauty who is married to the beast. Each chapter is written in the voice of the host (not hostess – Slip feels that feminizing nouns is demeaning to women), which begins each chapter, along with the book they are reading – which ranges from Love Story (they hated it) to The Total Woman (they really hated it – or was that me?) to On the Road (loved it) to A Confederacy of Dunces (thought provoking), along with the reason chosen or food served or highlight of the meeting, bringing a varying perspective to everything going on their lives and a nostalgic (for me) look back on the past few decades. This is obviously a book aimed at reading groups, yet it doesn’t come off as a commercial attempt at such, but rather a creative and fascinating look at the role of women over the last part of the twentieth century – the books are just an added bonus. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD by Kendare Blake: Cas Lowood is a ghost hunter. NOT a ghostbuster, mind you. As his dad did before him, Cas tracks down vengeful spirits that continue to wreak havoc well beyond their end. An angry ghost can stick around for ages, killing unsuspecting folks who wander within their territory. A tip has led Cas to Thunder Bay, Ontario, and the ghost of Anna, a girl who died in the 1950s on the night of her high school dance. The locals call her Anna Dressed in Blood because of her once white gown now said to be drenched in her own blood for all eternity. In the years since Anna’s death, she has killed countless individuals who have stumbled upon her old home. Now Cas intends to send her where she belongs. But even after Anna kills another teen right in front of him, Cas finds himself unable to send her away. Never mind the fact that Anna inexplicably spared Cas, something about this ghost is different from those he’s met before. Cas finds himself strangely drawn to her and determined to learn her story. Anna Dressed in Blood is creepy and intriguing. Anna is just part of the story and I appreciated the secondary plot equally as much as Anna’s tale. I thought Blake did a fantastic job tying together all of the pieces. This is one that will definitely appeal to both teen and adult readers. 8/12 Becky Lejeune

ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by L. M. Montgomery: The 100th anniversary edition of this classic children’s book was released in 2008, and I finally took the time to read it. I’m sure I read it when I was a child, but that was thousands of books ago and while I remembered I enjoyed it, I didn’t remember much more. I loved it, probably more than I did as a child because my perspective is so different, and I couldn’t put it down. The writing is lovely, the characters fully realized, and Anne Shirley’s adventures at the Green Gables farm on Prince Edward Island in Canada is a marvelous story that deserves to live on for  hundreds of years more. 02/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ANNIVERSARY MAN by R.J. Ellory: John Costello survived the Hammer of God killings in 1984. His girlfriend did not. Ever since then, John has become obsessed with the why. Why do serial killers do what they do? What made him and Nadia a target? Why did he survive? He’s devoted his career to their study and is the only one to draw a connection between a recent series of murders in New York. When Detective Ray Irving is alerted to the fact that these seemingly random crimes are all exact copies of previous serial killers’ scenes, he is assigned as lead in the investigation. But the department wants to keep this one quiet and Irving will need Costello’s help to try and catch the killer before he strikes again. The Anniversary Man is just Ellory’s second release here in the States (he has seven titles available in the UK) and he’s quickly cementing himself as one of my favorites in the crime genre. His stories are dark and disturbing, his plots keep you guessing, and they never end quite like you think they will. 06/10 Becky Lejeune

THE ANNIVERSARY MAN by R.J. Ellory: No sophomore slump here, as Ellroy’s second is, IMHO, a much better outing than 2009’s A Quiet Belief in Angels. This is an excellent story with much tighter writing and a tremendous plot. NYPD Detective Ray Irving risks his code of ethics and, ultimately, his life to track down a serial killer who is imitating the crimes of some of the worst monsters our society has spawned. Newspaper researcher John Costello, a psychologically damaged survivor of the “Hammer of God” killer, becomes a prime source of information even though twenty years have passed since his traumatic event. Costello inevitably becomes Irving’s number-one resource as well as his number-one suspect. The resolution is breath-taking. Definitely recommended. 08/10 Jack Quick

ANOTHER LIFE by Andrew Vachss: From 1985’s Flood to this, the18th Burke adventure (touted as the last one), Burke is either a character you love or hate. It is hard to envision anyone being neutral about this outlaw soldier-of-fortune investigator. Another Life starts as gritty as ever – Revenge is like any other religion: There’s always a lot more preaching than there is practicing – and proceeds to several seemingly unconnected sequences. A sniper shoots Burke’s “father” and the family tries to save “the Prof” sans hospital. Next, a representative of the U.S. intelligence establishment draws Burke into a kidnapping case. . Early one morning, somebody removed the infant son of a Saudi prince from his father’s custom Rolls, parked near an abandoned pier near the Hudson River. A prostitute, who didn’t realize the child was in the back seat, was servicing the prince, at the time. If you liked Burke before you will enjoy this one, if not, this one won’t change your opinion. Me, I liked it. 01/09 Jack Quick

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST by Jennifer Rardin: The second book in the Jaz Parks series picks up mere months after Rardin’s debut, Once Bitten, Twice Shy, left off. After recovering from her battle with the Tor-al-degan, a being that would have brought about the end of humankind as we know it, Jaz and her team have been brought together again for a new mission. The powers that be at the CIA have sent the team to Corpus Christi, Texas, where they will be attending (and much to Jasmine’s chagrin, performing in) the town’s Winter Festival. An ancient Chinese vampire has stolen a top-secret weapon prototype and the team must recover it before it is too late. Chien-Lung, the vamp in question, has taken an experimental set of armor that bonds to its wearer making him or her nearly invincible. Chien’s plan is to amass an entire army outfitted with the stuff and set off the next world war. The team’s mission impossible becomes even more complicated when they discover that they are up against a new enemy known as reavers. The reavers have been sent by none other than the Raptor, the government official who was behind the events of their last mission. Then, to make matters even worse, Jaz has been suffering from some killer nightmares, literally. If you can imagine Buffy and her Scooby gang growing up to work for the CIA, you have some idea what is in store for you with this series. Rardin has picked up some serious speed with book two; the characters are interesting and the plots are exciting and original. This is definitely a series that has to be started from the beginning. 12/07 Becky Lejeune

ANOTHER PIECE OF MY HEART by Jane Green: I’ve heard rumors that chick lit was dead, and this book from one of the mothers of the genre proves it. Welcome to the world of Jane Green’s women’s fiction, and she makes the transition beautifully. Andi married late, at 37, and to a man with two daughters but nonetheless, she still longs for a child of her own. As the years pass and it doesn’t happen, Andi struggles to deal with it. Then her stepdaughter gets pregnant and the predictable happens. But with Green’s superb story telling skills, she somehow elevates the story beyond what it could have been into something a bit more special and thoroughly enjoyable; a good read. 4/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ANOTHER THING TO FALL by Laura Lippman: Baltimore is the temporary home of a big budget television series, which doesn’t please the locals as much as one would think. Tess Monaghan manages to ruin a day’s shooting while out rowing, and in the process finds herself the sought after security detail for Selene, the twenty-year-old star of the show. Strange things are happening on set, and Tess agrees to baby-sit providing the producers give Crow’s latest project, Lloyd, a job. The details are worked out, but when Tess is outsmarted by Selene, she is forced to bring in extra help. Then one of the production staff is murdered, and it seems like everyone on set is suspect, from the producers to the actors to the writers and the staff. The production of a television series is complicated business, and Lippman includes lots of Hollywood detail in this Charm City murder mystery. It’s an interesting story with a lot of characters, but unfortunately Tess is the only character that is fully fleshed out. Not Lippman’s best effort, but fans of the series will want to read it anyway. 04/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2008 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

ANY GIVEN DOOMSDAY by Lori Handeland: Elizabeth Phoenix is psychic who uses her abilities to help solve crimes for the Milwaukee Police Department. Lizzie’s foster mother, Ruthie, is found viciously murdered, and the police believe the killer to be Jimmy Sanducci, her former lover. Lizzie immediately begins the hunt to find Ruthie’s murderer, and soon discovers a world of demons, vampires, empaths, and shape-shifters. Lizzie’s investigating reveals a plot to enslave and destroy all humans. She discovers that Ruthie was a seer-an individual that could detect demons. When Ruthie died, Lizzie has inherited her powers. Lizzie also has the ability to “steal” the powers of others, but the method of obtaining such powers isn’t easy. ANY GIVEN DOOMSDAY is a faced paced, action packed read, the first book in the Phoenix Chronicles. The storyline and slate of characters revealed in this book grab you from the beginning. The biblical aspect of the storyline was quite interesting and added another interesting spin to the story. The second installment of this series is scheduled to release in May 2009, which can’t come soon enough. 11/08 Jennifer Lawrence

ANY WHICH WAY BUT DEAD by Kim Harrison: This third book of the Hollows series starts off with a bang and never lets up. It begins with Rachel trying to find a way to outsmart the demon Big Al while still upholding her end of the bargain made in The Good, The Bad and The Undead that would make her his familiar and slave. She is successful, for the moment, but her trouble doesn’t end there. Her boyfriend Nick has been more than just a little distant lately, but Rachel is still surprised when he leaves for parts unknown claiming that he will be back in just a few months. Afraid that this means the end of their relationship, Rachel finds herself giving in to her attraction to Kisten, that hunky vampire that she can’t seem to avoid lately. Then, a powerful new boss arrives on the scene in Cincinnati and Rachel must do everything in her power to prevent him from taking over. Add to that the fact that she has managed to royally pissed off her pixy partner Jenks and that she’s been hired to protect the one elf that she absolutely despises and you get an absolutely hilarious and bewitching read. This series just keeps getting better and better and I can’t get enough. Kim Harrison is one of the best and the brightest in the urban fantasy genre. This is a series that is not to be missed. 04/07 Becky Lejeune

ANYA’S GHOST by Vera Brosgol: I am not a big graphic novel (AKA comic book) fan, but I keep trying them. This one came blurbed “A masterpiece!” by Neil Gaiman right on the cover so I gave it a shot – and I loved it. This is the story of Anya, a teenage Russian émigré who lives a fairly lonely, isolated existence. She goes to a private school and her only friend is another Russian immigrant who isn’t especially nice to her. She has an annoying little brother and a single mom who worries about her. One day Anya is wandering around alone when she falls into an old abandoned well. If that isn’t scary enough, there is a skeleton lying there beside her. As she screams for help, a ghost rises up from the skeleton and introduces herself as Emily. Emily tells Anya that she and her parents were murdered ninety years earlier. Anya is rescued, and Emily comes with her. The girl and the ghost become friends, until Anya decides to try and solve Emily’s murder. The story takes some creepy turns and nothing is as it first appeared to be. This is a fast read with a terrific story, interesting characters and subdued illustrations that perfectly serve the mood of the book. My 18-year-old daughter read it after I did, and also loved it, calling it “creepy and wonderful.” Anya’s Ghost is extremely well done, and is my new favorite graphic novel. Check out the book trailer, and if you’re curious as to how a graphic novel is written and illustrated, check out the author’s website Verabee. 06/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ANYBODY ANY MINUTE by Julie Mars: Women have mid-life crises too, as amply illustrated in this occasionally amusing, occasionally tiresome look at one such crisis. Ellen Kenny is a middle-aged hippie leftover from the sixties. This book is set in the 1980’s, primarily I think, to avoid the use of cell phones and to hammer home the point that Ellen was able to drive through a small town in upstate New York and buy a farm using the cash advance on her credit card. Even with the price of real estate falling through the floor these days, that just would not be possible today, unless you have really good credit, I guess. She moves to the ramshackle farm, and I’m being kind here, leaving her good looking, attorney husband alone in New York City while she tries to figure out what she is doing with her life. She meets some local folk who at first, appear to be the odd sort one would generalize about small town people, but it turns out they are gifted in their own ways, and share their gifts with Ellen. She ends up taking care of a neighbor’s dog and her sister’s baby, learning to take care of herself in the process. An interesting premise but just a little too cliché for me. 7/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ANYBODY OUT THERE by Marian Keyes: The lovable Walsh family (Angels, Watermelon) is back in Keyes’ newest endeavor, this time with Anna at center stage when she suffers serious injuries in a taxi accident in Manhattan and ends up recuperating at home with her parents in Dublin. But Anna has more to worry about: the escapades of her sister Helen, a private eye working for Irish gangsters; her best friend and her sorry romances; her sister Rachel’s upcoming nuptials; and her mother’s obsession with a dog that is being trained to poop next to the mailbox. Her physical wounds slowly heal and she gets the itch to go back to NY and find her husband Aidan, who is not answering her emails and seems to have become a rather shadowy character. Anna not only desperately misses him, she also misses her incredible job in the cosmetics industry and her New York lifestyle. Anna goes back, gets involved with a psychic and life takes some shocking turns. Once again Keyes has penned an intelligently written novel that is as funny as her previous books, but is ultimately much more heart-breaking. 05/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch. Copyright © 2006 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

ANYBODY OUT THERE by Marian Keyes: After surviving a terrible car accident, Anna Walsh returns to her parents’ home in Ireland to recuperate. While overseas, she places numerous calls to her beloved Aiden, wondering why he hasn’t come to see her or help her through this tough time. Upon returning to her home and her job in New York, Anna comes to the horrible realization that Aiden did not survive that fatal accident. Throughout her painful recovery and her subsequent return to New York, Anna recounts her experiences up until the horrible accident that changed her life. Her heart wrenching, but in typical Keyes fashion, amusing recovery will touch readers to the core. Fans will remember sisters Rachel, Claire and Maggie who have each been featured in previous Keyes titles. Helen’s part of the story significantly lightens things up as she plays private eye back in Ireland. This sweet and sad tale is surprisingly funny and has made a real Keyes fan out of me. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a light but touching read. 02/07 Becky Lejeune

THE APOCALYPSE CALENDAR by Emile A. Pessagno: Dr Pessagno is by education and background a very experienced Geologist and shows this skill in a book presenting both a factual and supernatural sequence of events. Dr Frank Miller, a geologist in a renowned Dallas Texas university, organizes an expedition into Mexico with four of his graduate students to do studies on the rock strata in different parts of the country. The author is very conversant with Mexico, it’s people and mores and of course with the actual opportunities for Geological exploration present there. This skill allows the groups travels, finds and contacts with various people to resound of being factual. The group hears about a fabled treasure termed Moctezuma’s treasure by the peoples inhabiting the villages and towns along the path of the expedition and takes a side trip to to try and find it. They do discover a stone hidden in a cave under the body of an ancient Mayan chief and take it back to Texas for study. There is a connection with a prehistoric visit by aliens from another star, as well as a curse placed upon it by a Mayan Shaman that leads to a spurt of international geological catastrophes of volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and separation of land masses. The events take place in the period prior to “December 26, 2013 which is thought of as being the actual date of the predicted end of the world by the Mayans. The book has an interesting premise and coupled with Pessagno’s knowledge of what he writes about and where it takes place should be a winner but the author’s prose makes it resound like a badly translated novel although he is an English speaker. Given additional books published Dr Pessagno has to find a way to couple his good ideas with better styling. 3/13 Paul Lane

APOCALYPSE COW by Michael Logan: The United Kingdom has been overrun by zombie cows! Terry, a slaughterhouse worker, survives what will become the first attack but is taken prisoner by the man behind it all. He does manage to escape alongside Lesley, a reporter who stumbled onto the story, and one of the scientists involved in the plot, but his twisted would-be jailer is hot on their tail. Poor Geldof thought his biggest challenge would be surviving adolescence, but he was very wrong. His mother always said meat was murder but this definitely wasn’t what she meant. Now his family is offering reluctant shelter to their neighbors as well as Terry and Lesley, who have brought their pursuer right to Geldof’s door. Their only hope is to get off the island and escape to Europe. If they can survive long enough, Lesley might be able to break the story worldwide, exposing the truth behind the infection and possibly even saving the rest of the world from a terrible fate. Michael Logan’s debut is wickedly funny and definitely not for the faint-hearted. It’s raunchy and twisted but will have the right audience rolling on the floor with laughter. 6/13 Becky Lejeune

APPALOOSA by Robert B. Parker: It is too bad the Spenser series is so good, otherwise we could petition Robert B. Parker to just write westerns. Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch are “town tamers”, itinerant lawmen who come into a town, civilize it with Cole’s Colt 45’s and Hitch’s eight-gauge double barreled shotgun, then move on to other challenges. They have been doing this together for fifteen years following a pattern of success. However, their stint in Appaloosa doesn’t quite follow the usual script. In fact, it is totally different. A hint. In a regular western the hero rides off at the end on his horse. In an adult western, the hero rides off with the girl. Appaloosa is definitely an adult western, and a darn good one. We can only hope that Virgil and Everett make future appearances elsewhere. As always, Parker’s terse style evokes images well beyond the text. As the two of them are about to go up against at least four bad guys –“Today be a good day to die?” I asked. “We ain’t gonna die,” Cole said. “Good to know,” I said. Cole didn’t say anything. He was looking at everything, walking through the fight as though he had already seen the rehearsal….” 07/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

APPEAL DENIED by Peter Corris: Will this be Cliff Hardy’s last outing? His brushes with the law have finally caught up with him to the point that his license has been suspended. The final appeal of the suspension procedure has been denied, so Cliff must now turn in his ID card and gun – but, his friend and lover, newspaper reporter Lily Truscott, is found shot to death. Of course, Hardy is going to leave the matter entirely up to the police. Yeah, right. And that is before one of Lily’s associates approaches Hardy about the police maybe covering up aspects of the murder. Another solid Hardy adventure – but I’m not going to tell whether it is really his last. You will have to find that out for yourself. 12/07 Jack Quick

The Apprentice by Tess Gerritsen: In this [not-so-great] sequel to The Surgeon [which was gristly and great!], Detective Jane Rizzoli is called to a crime scene out of her jurisdiction. The victim is a wealthy doctor, found with his throat slashed, sitting on the floor of his living room in his pajamas, with a teacup in his lap. His wife is missing, but her nightgown is found folded neatly on a chair in the bedroom. The similarities to the serial killer Warren Hoyt, nicknamed the Surgeon, are unmistakable, but he is in prison, which leads Rizzoli to think copycat killer. The killing spree continues, Hoyt escapes, and the F.B.I. is interested and not saying why. Meanwhile, Rizzoli has to deal with the emotional trauma she’s neglected since Hoyt was put away, her growing attraction to Special Agent Dean, and the very real possibility that she will be the next victim. There is gore galore and plenty of techno-babble for DNA aficionados, but there were no real surprises here and the ending was not very satisfying. Still, fans of The Surgeon will want to read this sequel. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2002 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

THE ARCHANGEL PROJECT by C.S. Graham: Husband and wife writing team C.S. Graham’s debut is a page-turning thriller with an interesting premise based on recently revealed government experiments involving psi soldiers. October “Tobie” Guinness joined the military hoping that her talents as a linguist would keep her from active duty. She was wrong. But her trip to Iraq ends with a psycho discharge and a stain on her record thanks to intel no one wanted to believe. Intel she herself could not back up thanks to the way it was acquired. Tobie subsequently learns that she is a talented remote viewer, able to “see” places and events simply by being given a set of coordinates on which to focus. Her involvement in a project at Tulane leads to catastrophic results when a black ops group is sent to eliminate both Tobie and the professor studying her ability. But getting rid of Tobie is not going to be so easy, especially after she receives help from a tough CIA agent determined to protect her. An absolute knock-out read. Fans of Steve Berry and James Rollins will love C.S. Graham. 11/09 Becky Lejeune

The Archivist by Martha Cooley: Intense, interesting, heart wrenching, excellent book and a must read for any T. S. Eliot aficionado. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ARK by Boyd Morrison: The story of Noah’s Ark has long intrigued Hasad Arvadi and discovering the Ark’s final resting place has been his life’s goal. But Hasad has been missing for three years. His daughter, Dilara, a renowned archaeologist in her own right, is surprised when Sam Watson, and old friend of her father’s, asks to meet under strange circumstances. Watson is murdered, dying before Dilara’s eyes, but not before passing along a shocking revelation: Hasad discovered Noah’s Ark. Not only that, but someone is planning to use Hasad’s discovery to kill millions and the only person who can help her is Tyler Locke. When Dilara finds Locke, he has no idea who she is. He’s never met her father and knows nothing about the Ark. What Locke does know is that Dilara is in grave danger and now his life is on the line as well. Their only solution is to work together to find out what Watson was trying to reveal and hope that they can stay alive long enough to prevent whatever catastrophe he was predicting. Morrison’s first Tyler Locke adventure is a fun read in the vein of James Rollins and Steve Berry. Lots of action, lots of science, and even a little fantastic truth in the mix that lends itself well to the believability of the tale. 09/11 Becky Lejeune

ARRANGED by Catherine McKenzie: After discovering her latest boyfriend’s a cheater, Anne Blythe comes across what she thinks is a business card for a dating service. Intrigued by Blythe and Company’s promise of “Arrangements made,” Anne hangs onto the card. When her best friend announces that she’s engaged, Anne decides to give Blythe and Co a try. Turns out, they’re not a dating service after all. Blythe and Company specializes in arranging marriages. Now, Anne must decide if she’s ready to take the plunge and if she’s comfortable leaving the process of finding a potential spouse in someone else’s hands. With Arranged, McKenzie’s leading lady is faced with just how far she’s willing to go to meet the man of her dreams and what to do if that person isn’t exactly what she’d imagined he would be. Like her debut, Spin, I loved McKenzie’s characters and her ability to maintain a light tone while tackling what can be a challenging topic. Arranged is a smart contemporary tale for chick-lit, romance, and women’s fiction fans. 5/12 Becky Lejeune

THE ARRANGER by L. J. Sellers: No matter where you stand on current government spending priorities, this one will get your attention. The year is 2023 and ex-detective Lara Evans is working as a freelance paramedic in a bleak new world. On an emergency call she saves the life of the federal employment commissioner, although she herself is nearly killed by the commissioner’s assailant. The next day Laura is to begin the Gauntlet – a national competition of intense physical and mental challenges with high stakes for her home state of Oregon. The commissioner oversees the annual contest and offers to help Evans is she won’t report the attack. At the competition she spots the shooter lurking at the arena and soon after, everything starts to go wrong. Sellers has vividly painted a future world with massive government control, economic stagnation, and many of the same types of crime and misdemeanors we know today, but in a magnified form. On a parallel path, a government computer programmer is using his skills to “sell” opportunities for job promotions by sabotaging existing employees. The reason – he needs the money for cosmetic surgery to enable to have a social life. The evolution of social media and refinements of current technology have made this all possible, but is it something you would want? You will have to decide for yourself. Recommended. 09/11 Jack Quick

THE ART OF DISAPPEARING by Ivy Pochoda: Was it coincidence, fate, or magic that brought together Mel Snow and Toby Warring? Mel doesn’t know, but two days later she marries Toby. Life seems to be going well for the new couple: Mel, a textile consultant, lands a job with a new casino and Toby, a magician, gets a gig just off the strip in Las Vegas. Las Vegas: the destiny of choice for all magicians. But Mel knows that Toby’s show is the real illusion. Toby is a real magician. No sleight of hand or misdirection, but really real magic. Even Toby isn’t sure just how much power he possesses, but his ability has caused him some great emotional trauma throughout the years. His last human assistant disappeared without a trace and Toby has been careful not to make the same mistake again. Toby is just one step away from the fame and recognition he’s always wanted, and just one step from total ruination as well. Mel’s love is strong enough to hold them together through it all, but when Toby’s magic begins to twist their reality, Mel begins to wonder if anything in their life is what it seems. Pochoda’s debut is a magical tale of romance and loss, sweet and heartfelt. 09/09 Becky Lejeune

THE ART OF FIELDING by Chad Harbach: Henry Skrimshander is a high school baseball player, but more than that, he is a gifted shortstop, living in a small blue collar town. When opposing team catcher Mike Schwartz sees him play, he recruits Henry for Westish College, a small private school in Wisconsin where Mike is team captain. Henry had never really considered college, but when he gets offered a scholarship he can’t say no. Henry lives and breathes baseball, and as Schwartz trains him and bulks him out, Henry starts attracting the attention of pro scouts. The president of Westish, Guert Aflenlighter, has never been a big baseball fan until he falls for Henry’s roommate, a brilliant scholarship student who plays ball brilliantly but sits and reads when riding the bench. Guert’s daughter Pella had run off and gotten married while still a high school senior, giving up a chance at Yale for a much older man. But Pella runs away from her husband and returns home to Westish, falling for Mike Schwartz soon after arriving. Then Henry has a bad throw which changes his life, and the story takes a different turn. Harbach is a young author whose grasp of story and ability to move a plot are extraordinary. In his hands these characters have depth and intellect, interact and intersect as they learn from each other about loyalty and independence and love. Baseball fans will surely appreciate this book, but so will those who just love a good story, well told. Don’t miss it. 11/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ART OF FIELDING by Chad Harbach: The Art of Fielding is in a category by itself among the new books that I have read this year. That it is a young writer’s first novel is even more impressive. It is story-telling in the grand American fashion centering around the great American pastime. It begins when the special fielding ability of a skinny summer league baseball player named Henry Skrimshander is spotted by the opposing catcher, Mike Schwartz. Mike quickly recruits Henry to his college, Westish. Westish is a small college in Wisconsin (which the author reminds us) is the state that is shaped like a baseball glove. At the Westish campus, Henry’s life begins to be shaped by two major forces – Mike Schwartz, who starts him on a grueling training regimen to build him up and refine his baseball skills; and Henry’s roommate, a gay mulatto scholarship student named Owen Dunne. As the season goes on, the President of the University, Guert Affenlight (a Melville scholar) finds himself drawn to Owen. And when his daughter Pella leaves her marriage and returns to the campus, she is drawn into Mike Schwartz’s orbit. Unfortunately, same sex affairs between college presidents and male scholarship students create problems. And even baseball players with major league potential being pursued by scouts can develop problems in their game. And husbands one has left show up on one’s doorstep and want explanations. All this is dealt with by the five friends. In the end, this book is about loyalty to friends and institutions of higher learning. What could be more American than that. I could not help but admire the author’s easy style and access to the parts of the human heart that feel both joy and pain. I expect this to be my choice for book of the year. 10/11 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

THE ART OF MAKING MONEY by Jason Kersten: Counterfeiter Art Williams Jr. was born in 1972 and abandoned by his father to poverty, the gritty gangs of Chicago and a mentally ill mother. He slid into an underworld of theft and violence before a money crafter introduced him to counterfeiting. For the next 14 years, Williams produced millions of dollars worth of uncannily accurate bills till the Secret Service caught up with him. This isn’t fiction although it reads that way with characters like a Chinese mob leader known as the Horse and tales of giddy shopping sprees fueled by sex and fake bills It’s a tale of how a young smalltime crook with a meticulous eye for artistic detail and an addiction to the thrill of crime crafts millions in high-quality phony bills who is also, as portrayed by Kersten “a sensitive young man seeking paternal love and aesthetic validation”. Nicely done tale. 10/09 Jack Quick

THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN by Garth Stein: Now I know what all the fuss is about. And by fuss I mean all the sterling reviews and the fact that Starbucks picked it for their one book of the month and gave me a really cute bookmark. The truth is things like that may sway me to pick up a book, but often disappoint when I’m done with the book. But not this time. I read this five books ago and I can’t stop thinking about it and talking about it and making everyone within earshot learn why they should read this book. So why should I stop now? It’s not what the book is about, which is a nice story about a wanna-be race car driver, his family and his dog, most of which I have no interest in. I like dogs but I share residence with Edgar, the psycho-cat. I am indifferent to NASCAR – I just don’t get the fascination with watching people drive around in circles for hours. Even if the people in question are very cute guys and a pretty-as-a-model girl. You can’t see them in their cars anyway. I wouldn’t even have picked up this book except that a good friend who is extremely discriminating (read: hates almost everything) loved it and told me to read it. So I did. I will skip the blow by blow synopsis which frankly, is probably overwrought and just isn’t all that important. I will tell you what is wonderful about this book and why I loved it. I loved the voice. It is told from the perspective of the dog, Enzo. Yes, the dog is the narrator and don’t go rolling your eyes, Stein makes it work so well that he makes you wonder why dogs don’t narrate more books. This is a book that tugs at the heartstrings without being cloying or cliché. I learned about car racing and the technical side of driving and why things work the way they do. Who knew I was even interested in such things, but turns out in Stein’s capable hands, I am. The characters – the humans too – are so well drawn that I became totally immersed in their lives and their story. It’s a book about dogs and family, love and passion, loyalty and life. It is a book that will make you laugh and cry but is ultimately uplifting. It is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, and you should read it too. 7/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ART OF SURVIVAL by A. E. Maxwell: This is the fifth in the Fiddler and Fiora series by the husband-and-wife team, A. E. (for Ann and Evan) Maxwell published in the 1980’s. Hard-nosed, worldly private eye Fiddler breaks again with his successful financier wife Fiora and leaves their California home for Santa Fe, art capital of the Southwest. (The two are great in bed, but a hazard to each other’s health, otherwise). Fiddler gets drawn into the local art scene with gallery owner Olin Nickelaw and artist Maggie Tenorio. Nickelaw has recently paid a million dollars for a recently discovered painting by Georgia O’Keefe by Fiddler suspects there is more than meets the eye here and that Nickelaw and Tenorio are no more than a pair of hustlers. In trying to uncover the fraud, Fiddler inadvertently endangers Fiora. Excellent read. 03/09 Jack Quick

As Long as She Needs Me by Nicholas Weinstock: Sweet, funny contemporary British love story along the lines of Bridget Jones Diary, except the protagonist is the flip side, i.e. the guy. Very entertaining. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ASCENT by Ronald Malfi: Tim Overleigh has been spiraling downward since the tragic death of his wife. Once a promising artist—an up-and-coming sculptor who was the talk of the art community—Tim has found his inspiration has left him. His new efforts have gone into drinking and extreme sports, activities that have nearly cost him his life. When an old friend approaches Tim with a proposal, he initially brushes it off. It would be the chance of a lifetime, a trek through the mountains of Nepal to reach the never-before-explored Canyon of Souls, an area steeped in mystical legend and lore. Tim finally decides to go for it, understanding that the trip will be harrowing and may even cost him his life. He and his fellow adventurers have no idea what they are really in for, though. I enjoyed the adrenaline-fueled action and am an admitted sucker for this kind of setting. Overall, for a quick and fun read, The Ascent delivered. My one complaint is that while there is some useful character development, it’s really just enough to get the story by. If you’re looking for a deep read, this is not it. If you’re looking for a book in the vein of Vertical Limit (guilty pleasure of mine), then you’ll enjoy Malfi’s latest. 09/10 Becky Lejeune

ASK THE DICE by Ed Lynskey: Tommy Mack Zane has faithfully worked as a contract killer for Watson Ogg, the Washington, D.C. crime boss, for some twenty years. Apparently, Mr. Ogg has decided to retire Zane – permanently. After Zane is framed for the murder of Ogg’s niece, he fights back with the aid of his friends the mercurial D. Noble and burly Esquire to fight with Mr. Ogg and his mercenary “dark suits” for his life. The story is rich, but told in spare, lean prose reminiscent of Ken Bruen or Robert B. Parker. Nicely done. 12/11 Jack Quick Note: available as an e-book only

ASK THE PARROT by Richard Stark: By now everyone probably knows that Stark is AKA Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Donald Westlake. By any name, he always turns out great work and this is no exception. Parker is on the lam from the botched robbery in Nobody Runs Forever (2004) when he meets up with reclusive Tom Lindahl. Lindahl rescues Parker from a bad situation because he wants him to help rob a local racetrack. Parker sees it as a good deal and also feels he owes Lindahl. As usual everything falls apart and only Parker can put even some of the pieces back together. Parker is the cold blooded professional with little redeeming value that you end up rooting for in spite of who he is. Let’s hope that Stark/Westlake continues to see fit to give us periodic Parker updates. We need them. 11/06 Jack Quick

THE ASSASSIN by Rachel Butler: Selena spent her first twelve years as an abused child on the mean streets of Jamaica until a wealthy American drug lord, rescued her and raised her to take over his business. But Selena has other plans, and they don’t include running drugs. Fourteen years later, she still feels sufficiently indebted to Davis (the drug lord) to submit to his demand that she kill a Tulsa cop who’s getting too close to exposing Davis’s operation. Selena’s target is Detective Tony Ceola, godson to Tulsa’s chief of police and her temporary next-door neighbor. Has all the makings of a great series and the second installment – Deep Cover – is already in print. 02/06 Jack Quick

ASSASSINS OF ATHENS by Jeffery Siger: Interesting police procedural set in modern Athens, Greece. Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis is investigating the murder of a boy from one of Greece’s most prominent families whose body turns up in a dumpster in one of Athens’ worst neighborhoods. The boy’s father is in the middle of a hostile takeover bid of Athens’ most respected newspaper and the fight has turned dirty – but has it led to murder. Kaldis’ politically incorrect search for answers takes him deep into the sordid, criminal side of Athens nightlife and on to the glittering world of Athens society where age-old frictions between old money and new breed jealousy, murder, revenge, revolutionaries, and some very dangerous truths. Nicely done and could be the start of a series featuring the dogged Kaldis, who will not take no for an answer. 02/10 Jack Quick

ASSASSIN’S SHADOW by Randy Wayne White: Ex-SEAL Dusky MacMorgan is at the elite resort of St. Carib. That’s where the rich and famous go to have their bodies perfected. A group of international terrorists have decided to wipe out the entire resort client list and it’s up to Dusky and his new found female partner to save the day. Think Bruce Willis meets James Bond in a Caribbean setting. Pure escape but fun, from White’s Randy Striker period. 01/09 Jack Quick

THE ASSASSINS GALLERY by David L. Robbins: It’s the waning days of World War II. Professor Mikhal Lammeck, a specialist in the history and weaponry of assassins, is in England, involved in training agents to be sent behind enemy lines. A former pupil, now a member of the United States Secret Service, arranges for Lammeck to come to the United States to look at a gruesome double murder on the beach near Newburyport, Massachusetts. Based on the evidence and Lammeck’s own knowledge he concludes that someone wants one last shot at altering history. An assassin is headed to Washington, D.C., to kill the most important soldier of them all – the U.S. commander in chief. Lammeck and the killer at the top of her profession circle the streets of the capital – one attempting to kill FDR, the other attempting to save him. Who will prevail? A first rate thriller. 12/07 Jack Quick

THE ASSOCIATE by John Grisham: Now I remember why I stopped reading Grisham. He’s a great storyteller, but I just can’t suspend my disbelief that much. Kyle McAvoy is the lawyer at the heart of this farfetched story. Brilliant student, editor of the Yale Law Review, and son of a hard working lawyer who believes in helping people, so no one can believe it when Kyle takes a job as an associate at the world’s largest law firm (more than 2000 lawyers) and goes corporate. What no one knows, except for the people blackmailing Kyle, is that he was present at the possible rape of a girl who liked to party with the frat brothers, but no charges were ever filed. But some bad people have hold of a video of the supposed rape, and threaten to destroy Kyle’s life by using it unless he become a corporate spy for them. Logic flies out the window and the brilliant law student is reduced to idiocy. The best thing I can say about it is that I managed to finish it. 02/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ASYLUM by John Harwood: Georgina Ferrars can’t remember anything from recent weeks. She has no memory of arriving at Tregannon Asylum and certainly no memory of checking in as a voluntary patient under the alias Lucy Ashton. When the doctor at Tregannon House tells her that she cannot be Georgina Ferrars because the “real” Georgina Ferrars is safe at home in London, Georgina finds herself officially committed. Under lock and key, she has almost no hope of proving her true identity or finding out who has taken her place, but she is determined to try. This latest from Harwood has all the same elements his fans have come to love in his work: a Victorian gothic setting and style as well as dual storylines that alternate from Georgina to a series of letters between her mother and a woman named Rosina. The mystery unfolds at a wonderful pace but the book ultimately falls a bit flat in comparison to Harwood’s earlier works. The reveal at the end is too hurried to truly live up to the expectation built throughout the novel. 5/13 Becky Lejeune

AT RISK by Stella Rimington: Ms. Rimington was the first female director general of MI5, having worked in all the main fields of the service including counter-terrorism, counter-espionage and counter-subversion before her retirement with 30 years tenure. In this, her first novel, she presents a taut, believable portrait of life in the service, warts and all. British Intelligence is facing an “invisible” – a terrorist who is an ethnic native of the target country and who can therefore cross its borders and move around the country without attracting attention. Her characters, particularly Intelligence Officer Liz Carlyle, seem genuine and realistic as they pursue the bad guys both within and outside the various branches that have to coordinate their activities. The murder of a fisherman in Norfolk using an armor piercing bullet gets them on the chase fairly quickly but the who, where, when and how of the terrorist strike are more difficult to unravel. Like a kettle coming to boil the tension increases as the plot unfolds, knowing that Liz is not necessarily certain to succeed within the time available. A good “Brit” story, well told, and hopefully the beginning of a long relationship with Ms. Carlyle and company. Recommended. 04/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

AT THE CITY’S EDGE by Marcus Sakey: The “city” of the title is Chicago, and it’s “edge” is populated by gangs. Jason Palmer is a soldier, newly returned home from Iraq, where he received an “other than honorable” discharge. He is floating; disturbed and unsure what to do with his life. His brother owns a bar in one of the gang-ridden neighborhoods, but he is also a crusader, working behind the scenes to clean up the streets. He touches a nerve, because he is murdered in front of his 8 year old son, and his bar is burned down. Jason is forced into parentage and responsibility, chief of which is determining why his brother’s murderers are now trying to kill him and his nephew. He also needs to find out why his brother was killed, and ultimately who the murderers were. He is joined in this effort by Elena Cruz, a cop who works the gangs but has some murky history of her own. This is a haunting story, beautifully written with rich, evocative images and tension building on every page, until the shocking ending. Sakey wrote an amazing debut with The Blade Itself, and with his sophomore effort has outdone himself. 01/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

AT THE CITY’S EDGE by Marcus Sakey: In Sakey’s second crime novel Jason Palmer, a veteran of the current Iraq war, is back in Chicago and at loose ends. His older brother Michael runs a bar in their old South Side Chicago neighborhood and tries to raise his eight-year-old son, Billy, as a single parent. But when Michael tries to disrupt the current of gang violence that tarnishes the area he becomes a target. When Michael is murdered and Billy is threatened, Jason reverts to soldier mode and in the process rediscovers himself. I liked this one much better than 2007’s THE BLADE ITSELF, and look forward to his next effort. 08/08 Jack Quick

ATLANTIS by David Gibbins: The secret of Atlantis is lost for centuries because of a common mugging. Now marine archeologist Jack Howard may have found the key to uncovering this legendary sunken city. A scrap of papyrus discovered in an Egyptian desert, which may contain a secondhand account of the lost city, sends Jack scrambling to assemble a team. Once prepped and in position in the Aegean Sea, Jack and company find themselves caught up with Kazakhstan terrorists and a multi-country fight over a missing Soviet nuclear submarine—and that’s before they’ve uncovered the ancient secrets of the lost city. Think Clive Cussler with a hefty dose of science. The historical conspiracy angle is reminiscent of The Da Vinci Code book and unless you are a science fan, you might want to wait for the movie version. All in all a good story, but would have benefited from tighter editing. 03/07 Jack Quick

THE ATLANTIS CODE by Charles Brokaw: Somewhat of a Da Vinci Code clone. Archeologist and linguist Thomas Lourds is trying to find the connection between a bell and a cymbal, both with writings in a previously unknown language. He is assisted in his quest by TV documentary producer Leslie Crane and by Moscow police inspector Natashya Safarov, sister of a Lourds associate who has been murdered. Opposing Lourds is Cardinal Stefano Murani, who is seeking the artifacts for his own evil purposes. From Alexandria, Greece to Moscow to Leipzig and Senegal, the chase is on. Could the artifacts be linked to Atlantis and do they hold a secret that will shake the foundations of the Catholic Church. Eventually the answers are revealed. If you really, really loved the Da Vinci Code, you might find this one of more than passing interest. Otherwise, you might look elsewhere. 03/10 Jack Quick

THE ATLANTIS PROPHECY by Thomas Greanias: Astro-archeologist Conrad Yeats has returned to Washington, DC after his near death experiences in Antarctica chronicled in Raising Atlantis. Vatican linguist Sister Serena Serghetti is back in Rome where she interprets Conrad’s father’s oddly sculpted tombstone which contains a cryptic message. Intrigued, Conrad investigates and discovers George Washington entrusted a treaty sealed in a celestial globe to the care of one of Conrad’s ancestors—but Conrad is not the only one looking for it. According to the Atlantis prophecy, when the stars’ align on July 4, 2008, with Washington, D.C., monuments, his sinister rivals’ new world order will begin clicking into place. Obviously in March, 2010, their sinister plan didn’t work, but who knows what the future lies – beyond the promised third volume of this exciting set. 03/10 Jack Quick

THE ATLANTIS REVELATION by Thomas Greanias: The final in Greanis three book series in which Archaeologist Conrad Yeats and Serena Serghetti, the beautiful Vatican linguist he loved and lost, battle the remnants of an ancient conspiracy who seek to ignite global Armageddon and revive an empire. Beginning with a sunken Nazi submarine and wending though Jerusalem, the city of God, a centuries-old secret awaits. Archaeologist Conrad Yeats discovers Hitler’s quest for Atlantis in the ruins of the Third Reich which yields the key to an ancient conspiracy that reaches the highest levels of every major government. Like the two previous outings Yeats and Serena are imperiled, but are up the challenge. Yes, it is derivative of The Da Vincie Code et al as well as Mission Impossible and Indiana Jones – but still a fast-paced fun read. Recommend reading all three (RAISING ATLANTIS, THE ATLANTIS PROPHECY, and this one (in sequence, of course). 03/10 Jack Quick

Atonement by Ian McEwan: This incredible novel started off slowly for me but soon became totally engrossing. Written in three parts, it encompasses love and war and betrayal and…atonement. Or does it? I didn’t like the main character, Briony, a precocious little brat, so I had difficulty staying inside her head at the beginning. But the way the author portrayed her, from the silliness and selfishness of that little girl, to her spiteful cruelty that changed the lives of so many, resonated throughout the novel. Once I got past the beginning, the searing heat between lovers Cecilia and Robbie made the book started clicking for me and I read the rest straight through. I found it totally engrossing, from the insanity of the family dinner to the insightful descriptiveness of war to the sterility of the hospital where Cecilia worked (not to mention the sterility of the nurses!) to the ultimate conclusion, the atonement. Simply put, it was beautifully written. Shortlisted for the Booker. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ATTACHMENTS by Rainbow Rowell: This debut is utterly charming, a slice of millennium life set at the brink of change, the then upcoming new century and all the fear and hysteria that went with it. Beth and Jennifer are best friends and colleagues at a small newspaper. Beth lives with her boyfriend, rock star wanna-be Chris, while Jennifer is married to romantic Mitch, who is pressuring her to have a baby. They share a good part of their lives through their company email. Lincoln works nights at the paper in security; it is his job to read the emails that the firewall software has flagged, and to issue warnings to employees who are breaking the rules. But as he reads Beth and Jennifer’s emails, he doesn’t have the heart to reprimand them and soon realizes that he has fallen for the very much taken Beth. Beth and Jennifer’s stories are told epistolary style, through their emails, while Lincoln has his own voice in alternating chapters. The mixed up format worked for me, and the comparisons to “When Harry Met Sally” are justified. Rowell offers up a cup of frothy fun, romantic reading at its best. I couldn’t put it down. 04/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

AUDREY’S DOOR by Sarah Langan: Audrey Lucas has never had things easy. Much of her life was lived on the road taking care of her bipolar mother. When the woman was finally committed, Audrey made her escape to New York City. Now with an architecture degree behind her, Audrey is ready to embark on the next phase of her life. She’s landed a position with a great architecture firm and found the apartment of her dreams: The Breviary is strangely within budget, but that could be due to the tragedy that took place in Audrey’s new apartment when the previous tenant killed her own children before committing suicide. The building itself, an architectural marvel, is enough to inspire Audrey. The fact that the apartment is beyond what she could expect in this area of the city is almost secondary. But The Breviary is hiding a secret, one that is decades old, and Audrey has been chosen as the one who can finally unleash the evil that lives within. Langan’s previous novels, The Keeper and Missing, have earned the author much-deserved praise and respect in the horror community. Once again, she delivers. Langan builds a scenario packed with a creepy atmosphere, suspenseful plot, and tangible characters with deep-seated issues. 10/09 Becky Lejeune

AUGUST MOON by Jess Lourey: Battle Lake, Minnesota is scorching hot and apparently potentially deadly year round in this, the fourth Mira James’ Murder-by-Month mystery (following May Day, June Bug, and Knee-High By The Fourth of July).. What is not hot is Mira’s love life, so she has decided to move down to Minneapolis and become a “cat-collecting, fist-shaking, asexual English professor.” A murdered high school cheerleader changes her plans and soon she is investigating the Right Reverend pastor Meale who runs the evangelical New Millennium Bible Camp. When the camp’s Creation Science Fair only turns up as a disturbing “Stepford Wives meets Hee Haw” atmosphere, Mira begins to have second thoughts. Peppered with sparkling dialogue like, “Can you drive?” “Is the Pope Catholic?” “I’m pretty sure he is. But can you drive? “Not in the eyes of the law, but that doesn’t stop me from where I’m going.” All in all, it’s not bad as Mira sticks to her guns and survives to star in the upcoming September Mourn. 08/08 Jack Quick

AUSTENLAND by Shannon Hale: Jane Hayes has relationship trouble. She’s obsessed with Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy – specifically Colin Firth’s version – and no other man can compare. Her great aunt is well aware of this obsession and warns Jane that she needs to embrace life and stop this fantasy. Jane does not listen. A few months later, Jane gets a call regarding her inheritance. It seems the great aunt that she barely knew has bequeathed her a vacation. The trip is an all expense paid, all inclusive, three-week stay at Austenland, a top secret Jane Austen resort. Vacationers “Experience” life as it was in 1816 – a Jane Austen life that is. No cell phones, no jeans, no cars, no exceptions. Ladies must adhere to the social norms of the time and dress appropriately. Jane, ready to give up on men altogether, decides to go out with a bang and immerse herself in “the Experience.” She hopes that this will finally allow her to get over Mr. Darcy. Or will it? Who could ask for a more sweet and enticing read? This oh-so-predictable happy ending is just what a girl needs sometimes and I absolutely adored it. 05/07 Becky Lejeune

AUTUMN by David Moody: It was a fluke that brought Carl, Michael, and Emma together. 99% of the population is now dead thanks to a mysterious contagion. Carl, Michael, and Emma are just a few of the remaining survivors, seemingly immune to the plague. The three come together in the beginning along with a larger group of survivors and hole up in a community center as temporary shelter. Soon they discover that some of the dead aren’t staying that way. With supplies dwindling, Carl and Michael decide that it might be best to find a better stronghold to set up in. Their plan is not met with much enthusiasm from the others, but Emma agrees that leaving would be best. The three set off, only to find that things are much worse than they’d feared, and the dead are getting smarter. Moody’s post-outbreak zombie horror is reminiscent of Survivors, with the addition of the walking dead, that is. 10/10 Becky Lejeune

AUTUMN: THE CITY by David Moody: In this sequel and companion to Autumn, Moody introduces readers to a new set of survivors. For those in the city during the outbreak, terror and confusion are ruling factors. Holed up in office buildings, department stores, and even a university building with no explanation of what’s going on, they are forced to watch as those around them first fall victim to an unseen plague and then begin to rise again. At first the dead seem to simply wander around, but then they begin to hone in on the survivors themselves and as more of the living come together, more of the dead follow. Moody is known for his great use of atmosphere in building suspense in his horror. Autumn and Autumn: The City both focus on the survivors and various challenges they face in this new post-outbreak world. Survival seems a bleak prospect, but I hope that the people left by the end of the tale will somehow make it through. Only time will tell. Autumn: Purification is due out in August. 02/11 Becky Lejeune

AUTUMN: PURIFICATION by David Moody: The two groups of survivors from Autumn and Autumn: The City have come together as one in Autumn: Purification. They have found temporary shelter in an underground military bunker. Thousands of undead swarm the ground above and those inside know that they won’t be safe forever. As the military prepares for a mass attack on the zombies, the rest of the survivors are forced to plan their escape back into the outside world. Moody once again pits his hearty survivors against seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The continued breakdown of society as a whole, the loss of hope, and the few who manage to hold on to the last strings of civilization are the driving forces of this series. 3/12 Becky Lejeune

AVALANCHE by Zane Grey: Occasionally a break is needed, and for Western fiction there is no better than Zane Grey. This is a classic tale of two men who grew up closer than brothers, absolutely inseparable in the wild western country until both fall in love with the same fickle woman. It takes the raging fury of nature itself to mend the hate that had broken their friendship. 04/06 Jack Quick

THE AWAKENED MAGE by Karen Miller: The stunning conclusion to Karen Miller’s Kingmaker Kingbreaker series is here. It picks up exactly where The Innocent Mage left off. The discovery of an ancient library led Durm, the master magician of the Kingdom of Lur, to make a grave mistake. His own curiosity opened a door that allowed the monster Morg – a magician turned evil through his own thirst for power – to enter the protected sanctum of Lur. Now, King Borne, his wife, and his daughter all lay dead as a result of Morg’s spell. As the only living member of the royal family, Prince Gar has been named king. Gar, the only Doranen ever to be born without the gift of magic, has also fallen prey to Morg’s scheming. Morg gifted the prince with a finite taste of magical abilities – the only thing that has allowed him to take the throne. Now that magic has left him and he fears the entire kingdom may fall into anarchy. Gar’s only salvation is his friend Asher. Neither knows that Asher will bring the coming of a new age. They will all soon discover that this Olken is the only one who can protect the kingdom from an ancient evil long thought dead. Miller’s series is absolutely entrancing. 10/07 Becky Lejeune

Azarel by Karoly Pap: Very intense, very emotional novel about a boy’s crisis of faith. Set in rural Hungary at the turn of the twentieth century and never before translated into English, Azarel chronicles the life of young Gyuri, a rebellious nine-year-old boy whose father is a rabbi and whose grandfather Jeremiah is an Orthodox fanatic. Jeremiah thinks his son and his followers are going to “melt the Jewish people in the furnaces of exile” – prophetic and haunting language for a book first published in 1937. Pap died in Bergen-Belsen. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch