Saturday, November 29, 2008

DEATH WILL GET YOU SOBER by Elizabeth Zelvin

Bruce Kohler has been in and out of detox centers most of his adult life. On Christmas day, he isn’t too surprised to find himself in another center, this one on the Bowery in New York City. Bruce quickly befriends fellow patient Godfrey Kettleworth, III, a man on the outs with his rich family and not too popular with the staff. While in detox, an alcoholic with terminal cancer is found dead in the laundry room and Godfrey dies right before Bruce’s eyes. With the help of his lifetime friend Jimmy and Jimmy’s girlfriend Barbara, a counselor who has worked at the Bowery before, Bruce begins his own investigation into these two mysterious deaths, which unravels a murderous pattern among detox centers in New York and places his own life in jeopardy.

Zelvin’s debut novel provides the reader with an insightful peek into the mind and life of an alcoholic trying to stay sober, as well as AA’s 12-step program. The characters are intriguing and well-developed, especially alcoholic Bruce who faces a continual battle to refrain from drinking, and Barbara, a codependent counselor with a witty sense of humor. The plot moves at a fast pace with plenty of twists and turns and suspicious characters lurking about, all set within the glorious backdrop of New York City. This entertaining mystery is sure to draw fans anxious to read future books by this talented author.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

ASKING FOR MURDER by Roberta Isleib

By Roberta Isleib
Berkley Prime Crime
375 Hudson St.
New York, NY 10014
ISBN: 9780425223314
Paperback, 23 pages, $6.99 US
Genre: Cozy Mystery

When psychotherapist Rebecca Butterman’s friend, therapist Annabelle Hart, misses a luncheon engagement and does not return her calls, Rebecca becomes concerned. She goes to her friend’s house and finds Annabelle badly beaten. Annabelle is rushed to the hospital, where she lies in coma. Rebecca’s attempts to see Annabelle at the hospital are denied by Annabelle’s sister, a cold woman who writes a catty gossip column. Rebecca incorporates the help of Detective Meigs, who concludes that Annabelle was beaten as the result of a botched robbery, and then mysteriously disappears. Rebecca decides to do some sleuthing on her own, which isn’t easy with so many people connected to Annabelle acting suspicious, if not guilty.

This third outing in the Advice Column Mystery series by Roberta Isleib proves another winner. Rebecca Butterman is complicated, has unresolved issues, and is still trying to find her way in the world. She can be petty and has lingering doubts about her divorce, but overall is intelligent and loyal and works hard to make the best out of the situations she finds herself in while trying to deal with past traumas and lingering issues. Isleib throws in plenty of red herrings, wrapped around an intriguing plot.


By Maggie Bishop
High Country Publishers
197 New Market Center #135
Boone, NC 28607
ISBN: 9781932158847
Trade paperback, 176 pages, $12.00
Genre: Mystery

Jemma Chase and Detective Tucker return for another suspense-filled escapade in Perfect for Framing, the latest addition to Maggie Bishop’s acclaimed Appalachian Adventure Mystery series. With the advent of winter, Jemma turns from helping run Chase’s Dude Ranch to utilizing her skills as photographer and wood worker. Jemma is hired by Petula Windsor, president of a local property owners’ association, to build cabinets in her guest house, but before Jemma can collect her pay, Petula burns to death in the same house. Jemma, a CSI wannabe, would like nothing more than to be in on the investigation, and Tucker has a hard time trying to keep her interest at bay. But when Petula’s husband is found dead and Tucker’s life is jeopardized, Jemma won’t be stopped until she finds the murderer.

Once more, Maggie Bishop delivers a thrilling whodunit peppered with lovable characters and set against the beautiful backdrop of the mountains of North Carolina. Packed with breath-taking action and nail-biting suspense, with a twisting plot that guarantees constant speculation, this is one book that will have readers quickly turning pages, eager to find out what happens next.


By David Hunter
Tin Star Books
PO Box 1124
Powell, TN 37849
ISBN: 978-1888338041
Paperback, 208 pages, $12.95
Genre: Autobiography

Before David Hunter became an acclaimed crime writer and newspaper columnist, he patrolled the streets of Knoxville, TN as a police officer, or “warrior” as he calls these gallant protectors of citizens. The Archangel Caper is filled with antics from Hunter’s days as a cop, all delivered with wit and a touch of cynicism. Hunter takes his reader into the criminal lives of the One Percenters, prostitutes, and strip club owners, as well as domestic abusers, drunk drivers, and drug-dealing inmates. Above all, he offers an insight into the true natures of law enforcements officers, from rookie to seasoned, all of whom share one important attribute: care for their fellow man. Reading this intriguing book is sure to generate a newfound respect for law enforcement officials.


By Krista Davis
Berkley Prime Crime
375 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014
ISBN: 9780425224267
Paperback, 292 pages, $6.99 US
Genre: Mystery

Event planner Sophie Winston and lifestyle columnist, TV celebrity Natasha Smith have been rivals since childhood. And now Natasha is living with Sophie’s ex and coveting Sophie’s house, which belonged to her ex’s deceased aunt. Sophie has a busy Thanksgiving planned, with her mother, father, sister and sister’s fiancé coming to visit. But things get off to a bumpy start from the get-go, when Sophie discovers the dead body of a private investigator in a dumpster. She quickly becomes a suspect when the police find her name and photo inside the dead man’s car. Sophie engages in some amateur sleuthing and learns Natasha hired the PI. If that isn’t bad enough, dead bodies keep turning up, all with a connection to Sophie and Natasha. On top of which, Sophie is attracted to the detective who seems convinced she’s a murderer.

The first book in the Domestic Diva series starts the ball rolling with a glorified bang. This cozy mystery delivers a plethora of useful household tips and mouth-watering recipes immersed within a keep-you-guessing plot filled with suspicious-acting characters and twists and turns around every corner. Davis’s smart writing style and engaging characters are sure to garner fans anxious to read future books in the series.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


By Rose Senehi
Ingalls Publishing Group
197 New Market Center #135
Boone, NC 28607
ISBN: 9781932158830
Paperback, 292 pages, $15.95
Genre: Fiction

Hayden Taylor Parks’ life has been in turmoil since the death of her child and subsequent estrangement from her husband. Hayden grew up never having known her father and is shocked to learn that he only recently passed away. In an attempt to learn more about her father, Hayden moves to his home in Chimney Rock, NC and takes over the art gallery he owned while trying to decide what to do with the 400-acre tract of land she inherited from him. Ben Beckham is a former pro football player who recently lost his wife. After taking a position with Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, Ben meets with Hayden in an effort to persuade her not to turn the land over to developers. The two become friends and are drawn to one another, but neither feels ready to make the first move. While going through her father’s things, Hayden discovers evidence that he may have been involved in illegal activity. In an effort to redeem his reputation, she unknowingly places her life and the disposition of her father’s land in danger.

Rose Senehi draws her readers into the majestic expanse of the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, creating a powerful story about one woman’s journey to overcome grief and tragedy and begin a new life. Senehi’s knowledge of the region shines through in vivid detail, with colorful descriptive and instructive geographical data. Her gentle nudge regarding conserving this magnificent area is well understood and appreciated. Characters are well-developed and the plot engaging and suspenseful. Highly recommended.


By Mary Lou Cheatham and Paul Elliott
Blue Moon Books
207 N. Service Rd. E. #213
Ruston, LA 71270
ISBN: 097419123X
Paperback, 288 pages, $22.97
Genre: Cookbook

One wouldn’t think collards would be such an interesting subject, but this cookbook is filled with plenty of fascinating facts, including a detailed description of this vegetable and its amazing health factors, the best way to grow them, how to treat infestations, how to harvest them, and on to the best way to cook them. All this followed by recipes that look to be not only delicious but nutritional. Included in the book are Southern anecdotes which are entertaining and will be appreciated by all. A valuable cookbook for any kitchen, Southern or not.


By Lisa Black
William Morrow
10 East 53rd Street
New York, NY 10022-5299
ISBN: 9780061544453
Hardback, 341 pages, $24.95
Genre: Thriller

Theresa MacLean is a forensic scientist called to gather evidence at the murder of a bank officer which her fiancé, homicide detective Paul Cleary, is investigating. Later that morning, she learns that Paul has been taken hostage in a bank robbery which occurred at the bank where the slain man worked. Theresa heads to the scene and meets acclaimed hostage negotiator Chris Cavanaugh. Theresa convinces Cavanaugh to allow her to stay on during the negotiation and watches in horror as her fiancé is shot by one of the armed robbers. In an effort to save Paul’s life, Theresa approaches the robbers and asks that she be exchanged for Paul. The robbers agree, and from that point on, things spiral out of control.

This book has the makings of a good thriller, but distracting factors are the initial slow pace and lack of characters with real depth. A forensic scientist makes for not only an entertaining but an edifying read; however, there is very little forensic information relayed in the book. Theresa takes too long to figure out what’s actually going on and can’t seem to keep her emotions in check. The robbers’ rationalization for robbing the bank is not plausible; there is a much simpler way they could have accomplished what they were trying to achieve.


By Jane Riley
Blue Moon Books
207 N. Service Rd E #213
Ruston, LA 71270
ISBN: 0974191221
Paperback, 320 pages, $22.97
Genre: Cookbook

Flavored with Love is much more than the quintessential cookbook, offering its readers wonderful, heartwarming tales about the people whose recipes are included within. There’s plenty of advice offered about the best ways to prepare food (including how to make pork sausage), along with recipes that made this reviewer’s mouth water. But this cookbook doesn’t limit itself to Southern recipes, there’s a vast assortment of cuisine presented, from Italian recipes to Thai, and everything in between. Recommended for every kitchen.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

COLIN'S CONQUEST by Lisa Rene Smith

Colin, a centenarian vampire, marks Joanna as his future mate when she is a young girl. Years later, Joanna is compelled to go to her family’s cabin deep in the Texas woodlands, where Colin claims her for himself. But Joanna isn’t willing to remain captive in Colin’s lair and keeps trying to escape from him. Colin is surprised by Joanna’s fiery, independent nature and is baffled at the human emotions this strong woman brings out in him. Joanna is fascinated by Colin and her passion for him cannot be denied. However, few females survive the transition from human to vampire, and Colin, once he realizes he is in love with Joanna, decides that he does not want to risk her life. He hypnotizes Joanna, commanding she forget him and his young companion Ben. But Joanna’s body does not want to forget, and she risks her life to find Colin, unaware that other, powerful male vampires are heading her way, each determined to have her as his mate.

Colin’s Conquest is a captivating tale wrapped around a sizzling romance between characters readers will not soon forget, filled with vivid details of the sometimes brutal lives of blood seekers. Packed with suspense and rocking with action, this superb paranormal raises the bar in the romance field. Readers will be quickly turning pages, engrossed in the fascinating world Smith has created, so much so that they will be reluctant to leave it. Highly recommended.


Smith begins the second of her blood seeker series twelve years after the ending of the first. Centenarian Colin and his transformed wife Joanna remain married, residing with their daughter Chaos, Colin’s neophyte Ben and Linnea, Colin’s creator. Chaos enters puberty and quickly changes from child to woman in one day, sending out her siren’s song. Women vampires are a rarity and much coveted by the males of their clan, who hear her mating call and hasten to find her. But Colin and his family are committed to protecting Chaos and will gladly give their lives to see that she remains safe and by their side. But there are blood seekers more ancient and much stronger than they, and death and destruction lie in their path as they seek to protect Chaos.

Smith once more delivers an outstanding paranormal. Action and adventure abound and romance is hot and sweet. Characters from the first book in the series return for a more in-depth look into their backgrounds and personas. The fight scenes are well-written and filled with suspense. Smith’s visualizations are uniquely poetic and draw the reader into the story as she takes them from the piney woods of Texas to the Floridian coast. Highly recommended.


At a young age, Mercy Penhall witnessed her mother’s hanging and has not spoken in thirteen years. While sailing from Virginia to Massachusetts, her ship is destroyed by pirates and she is taken captive. Edmund Gramercy, forced by the pirates to be a captain, remains alive only because he knows how to navigate the seas. A compassionate man, Edmund protects Mercy from the other pirates, and is intrigued by her courage. Although attracted to Mercy, he realizes he can never have any sort of life with her due to his criminal background. Mercy has never experienced the feelings she holds for Edmund and would like nothing more than to remain by his side but fears she is not worthy of his love. Edmund helps Mercy escape and, from that point, both endure numerous hardships while longing for one another. Yet fate steps in more than once to bring the two together, only to be torn apart again.

Mary Clayton’s historical romance wraps the reader in an enthralling love story that moves from the high seas to colonial America. Clayton provides vivid detail of the time period with keen insight into the differences between the religious communities, the ongoing political strife, the way women were perceived, and the brutality of a pirate’s life. Characterization is excellent, from Mercy, a brave, mute Puritan who questions her religion and fears she is tainted, to Edmund, a compassionate man forced to live a cruel existence, to John Hanson, the evil Puritan minister intent on exorcising the witch within Mercy. Packed with action and suspense, readers will fall in love with the characters and this excellent love story. Highly recommended.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

CERTAIN PREY by John Sandford

By John Sandford
G.P. Putnam’s Sons
ISBN: 039914496X
Hardback, 339 pages, $24.95 US
Genre: Mystery

As a teenager, Clara Rinker ran away from home and an abusive stepfather. While working as a dancer in a strip club, Clara is raped but plots her vengeance and kills the man who assaulted her. This begins a long career for Clara as a hired killer. Carmel Loan is a successful defense attorney in Minneapolis, a woman who is used to getting what she wants. And she wants Hale Allen, but standing in her way is Allen’s wife. Through a third-party, Carmel hires Clara to kill Allen’s wife, at which point, Lucas Davenport steps into the picture. Before Clara can enjoy her new relationship with Allen, the liaison she used to contact Clara tries to blackmail Carmel, so Carmel hires Clara personally to take care of this matter. From this point, things begin to unravel, which requires Clara and Carmel to team up and commit more murders. All the while, Davenport and his crew are one step behind the two killers, with no evidence to tie either one to any of the murders.

This is the tenth book in the Prey series by John Sandford, which remains as fresh at this point as at the beginning. Lucas Davenport is an engaging character, an intelligent and intense investigator who enjoys his career chasing killers. Although there is no actual mystery to figure out here, which marks this as more of a thriller, the chase by Davenport and several strong secondary characters is fine-tuned and all the more enjoyable to follow.

THE OVERLOOK by Michael Connelly

By Michael Connelly
Little, Brown and Company
ISBN: 9780316018951
Hardback, 225 pages, $21.99
Genre: Mystery

LAPD detective Harry Bosh has a new job in the Homicide Special division, which handles murders with political, celebrity or media connections, or those called hobby cases, which are difficult to solve and take much time. His first call out involves a doctor killed at an overlook above Mulholland Dam. Bosch and his new partner, Ignacio Ferras, are surprised when the FBI shows up at the crime scene. The dead doctor worked with radioactive materials and the FBI thinks his murder is tied to a terrorist plot to build and activate a dirty bomb in Los Angeles. When they learn that radioactive material has been stolen from the doctor, the case shifts to investigate the terrorists who took the substance instead of who killed the doctor. But Bosch thinks there’s more to this murder than what’s obvious.

Harry Bosch is once more at odds with the FBI and his own police department, but this relentless detective will not back down and pursues his own investigation in his own way. Bosch is an edgy man with a rebellious streak, a detective whose skills continue to keep him in good standing with the upper echelons of the police department, although he always manages to alienate most of those around him. Although this mystery is relatively easy for the reader to solve, the plot is tight and suspenseful, and takes place within a 12-hour time span.

Saturday, May 31, 2008


By Betty Dravis
Amazon Short
ASIN: B000G03N25

Virgil and Winnie Crenshaw are on a tour bus headed toward Monterey to see the whales when the bus stops at Denny’s in Salinas for lunch. Winnie has been listening to Janis Joplin’s Me and Bobby McGee and realizes this is where Bobby McGee left Janis. She wonders if Bobby McGee is still alive and talks Virgil into leaving the tour with her in search of the man. The two find a craftsman who claims to know Bobby and tells them Bobby, still despondent over the death of his beloved Janis, hangs around the Mission talking to anyone who will listen about their life together. Winnie and Virgil find Bobby, who’s still good looking enough to make Winnie’s heart flutter, and take him along with them onto the tour bus and back home, in hopes of turning his life around, never knowing that things are not always as they seem.

Betty Dravis has this special talent – in one short paragraph, the reader will have a clear view of what a character looks like, their personality, and their take on the world. Not many writers can lay claim to that. Her sense of humor shines through with this short story, which had me in titters throughout. Winnie is a real hoot and such fun to read. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.


By Betty Dravis
Amazon Short

Homer is a wealthy movie producer, with a wife who’s, well, biased against anyone who isn’t white and doesn’t have blue or green eyes. Hector is a Mexican American who works for the county and has a side business as a gardener. When Hector accidentally backs into Homer’s jag, Homer feels sorry for the man. After all, he has ten kids and no insurance. So Homer asks Hector to his mansion so they can discuss how Hector can repay him. To his surprise, Homer enjoys hanging out with Hector and agrees to go to a ball game with him. Homer’s wife isn’t happy at all about this, nor that Homer intends to move Hector and his family into his gardener’s cottage, which he intends to enlarge to accommodate them. But Homer and his wife are about to learn a valuable lesson from Hector, one that will change their lives forever.

This short story has an important message at its center, made all the more enjoyable due to Ms. Dravis’s ability to deliver one heck of a good story wrapped around great characterization and dialogue. Like a talented comedian, this author knows when and where to display her glorious sense of humor and has a real knack for keeping her readers entertained throughout. Highly recommended!

V.O. by Betty Dravis

by Betty Dravis
Amazon Short

Charles, a respected banker in his sixties, takes a cruise with his wife and upon his return looks and acts much younger, as does his wife, who is now pregnant. When his elderly friend Walter inquires about this dramatic transformation, Charles tells him it lies with V.O. Asked to explain further, Charles swears Walter to secrecy and tells him about the cruise, where he and his wife were taken to a private room and there the most beautiful man and woman they had ever seen danced for them, culminating in the best meal they had ever eaten. Curious as to the mystery ingredient that made the meal so wonderful, they are simply told it is V.O. Walter, upon sponsorship by Charles, takes the cruise with his wife, and upon his return, Charles notes a dramatic improvement in his physical being, but is puzzled by Walter’s reluctant happiness over his transformation. It seems Walter figured out what V.O. means, and the reality of that is most horrible indeed.

Betty Dravis stands in the forefront as bestselling author of romance, mystery, and children’s books. Now she joins the ranks of Stephen King as writer of horror. The ability to incorporate such a brilliant plot -- which I’m sure King would have carried forward over 300 pages -- into a concise, well-written short story, speaks volumes of her talent. This is the first short story I’ve downloaded from Amazon and I’ve since ordered all written by Ms. Dravis, who has the unique ability to deliver a galvanizing plot which moves quickly, ending with a twist the reader does not see coming. Bravo!

Friday, May 23, 2008

DEAD EX by Harley Jane Kozak

By Harley Jane Kozak
ISBN: 9780385518024
Hardback, 338 pages, $21.95
Genre: Mystery

In the third book of the Wollie Shelley series, card designer Wollie Shelley is homeless and living with her boyfriend FBI agent Simon Alexander. Wollie receives an offer to be the dating correspondent on a talk show called SoapDirt, where she will be required to date celebrities and dish about them afterward. But before Wollie has her first date, her good friend David Zetrakis is found shot to death. Zetrakis was producer of a popular soap opera and Wollie’s best friend Joey was the last person seen with him. All leads point to Joey, divorcing her husband and now penniless, and who inherits a million-dollar Klimt upon Zetrakis’s death. When Joey’s estranged husband drowns under mysterious circumstances, the police are anxious to bring Joey in, but she manages to evade them with Wollie’s help while they try to figure out who is behind the murders.

Kozak leads the reader through the streets of Los Angeles and the world of television with this entertaining caper. Wollie Shelley is an endearing character, and her life and the people around her allow for humorous moments. Overall, a charming mystery.

Friday, April 18, 2008

SUNSET EXPRESS by Robert Crais

By Robert Crais
ISBN: 0786860960
Hardback, 274 pages, $21.95
Genre: Mystery

Wealthy entrepreneur Teddy Martin is accused of murdering his estranged wife, but Martin’s defense attorney, Jonathan Green, is alleging the arresting officer, Angela Rossi, planted evidence against his client. Green hires private investigator Elvis Cole to check into Rossi’s background concerning another case in which she was accused of planting evidence, as well as the present one. Cole’s investigation clears Rossi, yet Green announces to the media that Cole has cleared his client of the wrongful death of his wife. This puts Cole on the defensive and he begins to look into the attorneys surrounding Martin and their suspicious undertakings, all under the guise of proving their client innocent.

The Elvis Cole books are good reading, some better than others. This is one of the more mundane of the series, with a mystery that’s pretty simple to resolve, amidst commentary on the LA police department and their efforts to get past unsavory events. Cole is involved with Louisiana attorney Lucy Chenier, who seems distant and less involved in the relationship than Cole. All in all, a good read.

CHARM CITY by Laura Lippman

By Laura Lippman
William Morrow/Harper Collins
ISBN: 9780061210037
Hardback, 308 pages, $19.95
Genre: Mystery

In the second installment of the Tess Monaghan series, Tess, a former newspaper reporter, is working for an attorney while applying for her license as a private investigator. After business tycoon Wink Wynkowski announces he is going to bring pro basketball back to Baltimore, an article about his troubled financial situation appears in the Beacon-Light. The managing editor of the Beacon-Light hires Tess to find out who placed this article in the paper, since it was rejected until sources could be confirmed. But before Tess can fully investigate, Wynkowski is found in his garage, dead of carbon monoxide poisoning, which is attributed to suicide. When the reporter Tess suspects planted the story is found dead, also ruled as a suicide, Tess becomes convinced the two have been murdered and extends her investigation further to find out who is behind these deaths.

Charm City was initially released as a paperback by Avon Books in 1997, followed by the hardback edition by William Morrow in 2007. As a reviewer who has read and reviewed and enjoyed later books in the Tess Monaghan series, this was a somewhat disappointing read. The plot is slow and laboring, and Tess does not come across as a very likeable person. She seems immature and irritable and at odds with what to do with her life. Tess’s best friend Whitney Talbot is superficial and annoying. Tess’s boyfriend Crow adds much-needed warmth, but the saving grace is Esskay, the greyhound Tess’s uncle adopted, who ends up under Tess’s somewhat negligent, resentful care. As with each book, Lippman’s love for Baltimore shines through via her visual descriptions and narrative.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon

By Diana Gabaldon
Bantam Dell/Random House
ISBN 9780440221661
Paperback, 1443 pages, $7.99
Genre: Historical Romance

In the fifth installment of the Outlander series, time-traveler Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser and her eighteenth century husband, Jamie, have established their homestead on Fraser’s Ridge in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Grumblings among colonists against British tyranny have begun, and Jamie and Claire are resigned to the fact that the American Revolution will take place and there is nothing they can to do stop it. Although Jamie sympathizes with the colonists, his allegiance, for the time being, lies with William Tryon, Governor of North Carolina, who gave Jamie a land grant of 5000 acres in North Carolina, although Jamie is Catholic and this was forbidden at the time. When Governor Tryon appoints Jamie Colonel and asks he put down a forthcoming rebellion by the colonists (called Regulators) at Alamance, Jamie follows Highland tradition and calls together his fellow clansmen by burning a large cross, referred to as the Fiery Cross. Accompanied by Claire (acting as field surgeon) and Roger Wakefield, Jamie’s son-in-law, they journey to Alamance, where a brief but brutal skirmish takes place.

This installment addresses interesting issues of the eighteenth century, including everyday mundane activities, medicinal herbs and treatments, Highland superstitions, and a wide array of characters, savory and otherwise, made all the more intriguing by the time period. The love story between Claire and Jamie, is, as always, in the forefront and continues forward as they age with each book. Recommended.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon

By Diana Gabaldon
Bantam Dell
ISBN: 9780385335997
Paperback, 870 pages, $15.00
Genre: Historical fiction

The third book in the Outlander series finds time traveler Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser in the twentieth century, making preparations to travel back in time to the eighteenth century to find the love of her life, Highlander James Fraser. Claire has learned from historian Roger Wakefield that Jamie did not die at Culloden, as she has thought for twenty years. Claire is anxious to return to Jamie, though reluctant to leave Brianna, her daughter. Brianna, however, senses her mother’s need to be with her biological father and encourages her to go.

Claire steps through the stones and finds Jamie living in Edinburgh, where he is known in the city as Alexander Malcolm, a printer who prints seditious material, and on the docks as Roy, a smuggler. Claire is relieved to find their love as strong and passionate as ever, but their relationship will be tested in the days ahead, as she finds out that Jamie is now married to the woman who tried to kill Claire twenty years earlier and has two stepchildren. If that isn’t bad enough, Jamie has an illegitimate son.

During a smuggling operation, Jamie’s nephew Ian is kidnapped by pirates and Jamie and Claire begin a grueling journey to find young Ian and return him to Lallybroch. Their travels take them across the ocean to the West Indies, and on to America. Through their trials and tribulations, their love continues to grow, and this time, Claire is determined never to leave Jamie.

Once more Gabaldon provides her readers with a fast-paced, exciting adventure wrapped around one of the best romances written, with plenty of historical information provided regarding the eighteenth century, from the Scottish uprising at Culloden to smuggling operations, voodoo in the West Indies, and best of all, medical treatment of the time.

Christy Tillery French

Monday, March 24, 2008

DEADLY ADVICE by Roberta Isleib

by Roberta Isleib
Berkley Prime Crime/Penguin Group
ISBN: 0425214745
Paperback, 272 pages, $6.99 US
Genre: Mystery

Dr. Rebecca Butterman is a practicing clinical psychologist who also writes a weekly advice column for an online magazine. Divorced and living in a condo in Guilford, Connecticut, Rebecca is distressed to learn her neighbor, Madeline Stanton, apparently committed suicide. Rebecca is unsettled that she had not made efforts to know her neighbor very well, and when Madeline's mother asks her to take care of Madeline's cat until she can find a home for it, Rebecca readily agrees. But when Mrs. Stanton expresses her suspicions about her daughter's death and nudges Rebecca to look for clues as to why her daughter died, Rebecca's wary. Consequently, Rebecca's editor wants her to branch out and begin writing about her experiences in the dating field, but Rebecca is reluctant. However, when she learns that her neighbor had been involved with a speed dating service, she thinks it wouldn't hurt to look into Madeline's death while obtaining information for her column. It isn't long before Rebecca's reeled into the world of fast-paced dating, Internet seduction, murder investigations, and a killer on the loose.

Dr. Rebecca Butterman was first introduced in Isleib's Golf Lover's Mysteries, and fans of that series will enjoy the Advice Column Mysteries series, as well. Butterman is an engaging character, a psychotherapist who is divorced, approaching middle-age and trying to move forward with her life while dealing with past traumas. Her strongest features are her compassion for humans and animals and her inner sense of rightfulness. Deadly Advice is a fast-paced mystery, with red herrings around every corner, and plenty of twists and turns. Recommended.

NO GOOD DEEDS by Laura Lippman

By Laura Lippman
William Morrow/Harper Collins
ISBN: 9780060570729
Hardback, 343 pages, $24.95
Genre: Mystery

In Lippman’s latest installment of the Tess Monaghan series, Tess has taken on a new gig as consultant to the local newspaper, where her job duties are to train reporters in investigative techniques, using three recent cases as paradigms. One of the cases Tess plans to focus on is the murder of a local federal prosecutor. When Tess’s significant other, Crowe, befriends a homeless street kid, Tess inadvertently learns the young man has information about who killed the prosecutor. In an effort to inform the authorities without identifying her source, Tess sets up an interview between the young man and a reporter. Although she promises Crowe she will do everything she can to protect the young man’s identity, federal agents insist she reveal her source. When Tess doesn’t cooperate, they begin to threaten her family and hint at filing felony charges against her. Crowe goes into hiding with the young man, unaware that two federal agents have honed in and are after them, not to bring them in but to kill them.

The Tess Monaghan series remains a constant bestseller in PI series to date. Tess is a strong character, a young woman with an edge. To counterbalance her cynicism is her mate, laidback and amiable Crowe. Lippman excels at characterization, and with No Good Deeds allows the reader a deeper look into Crowe’s persona and background. And, as always, spending time with Tess is a bonus. This must-read moves at a fast pace and has plenty of interesting characters.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

MARKED MAN by William Lashner

By William Lashner
William Morrow/Harper Collins
ISBN: 978006072558
Hardback, 421 pages, $24.95
Genre: Mystery

Philadelphia Attorney Victor Carl wakes up one morning in the vestibule of his apartment building, his suit disheveled, socks missing, and the name Chantal Adair inscribed on his chest. Victor can’t remember what happened the prior night and is on a quest to find out, along with who Chantal Adair is. But his efforts are waylaid by a stubborn Greek woman on her deathbed, demanding he bring her son Charlie Kalakos home in return for a favor Victor’s father owes her. Charlie is wanted by the District Attorney’s Office and the FBI for stealing a Rembrandt painting from a museum. Charlie wants to return home to tell his mother goodbye but Charlie’s partners-in-crime would prefer he stay gone. While negotiating with the authorities as well as considering a shady offer by an art dealer/mercenary named Lavender Hill, Victor hires his own investigator to find Chantal Adair. To his surprise, a young girl with the same name disappeared the night Charlie and his gang stole the Rembrandt. Could the two crimes be connected?

Each outing with self-deprecating Victor Carl is a treat for readers who like a good mystery with wacky characters and a narrative voice that entertains throughout. A flawed man who thinks worse of himself than he actually is, Victor is tempted by fame and money with an internal monitoring system that allows him to step outside the bounds of law, but just barely. Victor, who seems to remain in a self-identity crisis, is joined this time by his partner, Beth Derringer, the moral gauge of their partnership. Lashner’s excellent style offers plenty of humor enmeshed within a good story and characters that just can’t be matched. This series is a hard one to top.


By J.D. Robb
ISBN: 9780425217542
Paperback, 400 pages, $7.99
Genre: Mystery

Lt. Eve Dallas and her partner Detective Delia Peabody are called on-scene to investigate the death of a teacher at one of NYC’s top private schools. Craig Foster was a popular history teacher who died from drinking poisoned cocoa. Since Foster brought the cocoa from home, Dallas and Peabody initially suspect his wife or a family member. But there are no red flags there, so they move on to the parents of Foster’s students or one of his colleagues. They hone in on another teacher, one known for his sexual promiscuousness and who Foster had had words with over his harassment of a school employee. Before they can investigate this man further, his body is discovered in the school’s pool. Dallas and Peabody are baffled but convinced more than ever that someone connected with the school is behind the murders.

For the first time, Eve is having a hard time concentrating on an investigation. A woman from Roarke’s past has entered the picture, and it isn’t long before there’s tension between Eve and Roarke and harsh words spoken. Stoic Eve is startled to find herself so emotionally overwrought by this woman and her efforts to create conflict between Eve and Roarke. But she forces her mind on the investigation and what she discovers shocks even the jaded Lt. Dallas.

Robb’s popular series remains a constant bestseller and it isn’t hard to figure out why, with likeable characters and suspenseful plots. The relationship between Dallas and Roarke is a bonus and is explored in-depth in this book. Robb displays talent for drawing the reader into her characters’ angst and despair at the disruption in their marriage. Eve’s and Roarke’s mutual fright over babies is humorous and adds a light note to an otherwise dark mystery.


J.A. Konrath
ISBN 9781401302795
Hardback, 292 pages, $23.95
Genre: Mystery

Homicide Lieutenant Jack Daniels has plenty on her mind. Her boyfriend just proposed; her partner’s been transferred, at his request, to Robbery; and she finds a letter from her mother telling her that her dad isn’t dead after all. To make matters worse, a psychopath who calls himself the Chemist is going around Chicago poisoning food supplies and people are dropping like flies. Jack’s tagged to lead the task force and ultimately becomes targeted by the Chemist. She manages to survive several attempts on her life, but when her boyfriend is poisoned, things turn personal. The Chemist demands two million dollars in ransom to stop the killings and chooses Jack to deliver the money. Jack would rather shoot the guy and put him out of everyone’s misery, but the mayor and his political officialdom believe that if they pay the ransom, the Chemist will go away. Jack doesn’t stop tracking the Chemist; she thinks he has a bigger scheme in mind and practically stumbles over his next fatal project, one that could possibly kill thousands of people.

Dirty Martini, the fourth in Konrath’s Jack Daniels’ series, is packed with action, suspense, and thrills. Jack Daniels is a die-hard toughie who faces death and injury with stoicism and a cop’s sense of duty to protect others above all else. The Chemist is not only insane but intelligent, which makes for an even creepier yet interesting bad guy. Dialogue, as always, is witty and adds levity to a horrifically realistic plot.

TILT A WHIRL by Chris Grabenstein

By Chris Grabenstein
Carroll & Graf Publishers
ISBN: 9780786715848
Hardback, 321 pages, $23.95
Genre: Mystery

Danny Boyle, part-time cop for the Sea Haven, New Jersey police department, has been partnered for the summer with John Ceepak, former military policeman in Iraq. Danny is bemused by Ceepak, a man of integrity and principles, who lives by what Danny calls the Code, meaning he does not break the law or bend rules in any way. Reginald Hart, a billionaire businessman, is shot at point blank while talking to his daughter on the Turtle Tilt a Whirl in their small town’s amusement park. Since Danny and Ceepak are first on the scene, their police chief designates Ceepak to head the investigation into Hart’s murder. Hart’s ex-wife is quickly ruled out and the investigators are looking in the direction of Latino gang members. But when a homeless drug addict called Squeegee kidnaps Hart’s daughter and demands ransom, they’re hot on his trail.

Tilt a Whirl is the first in a new series by Chris Grabenstein, and if this is any indication of future stories, the series is sure to be a hit. Written in a witty style, with characters that demand inclusion in future books, this twisting, turning mystery will keep the reader thoroughly entertained.

INVISIBLE PREY by John Sandford

By John Sandford
G.P. Putnam’s Sons
New York, NY
ISBN: 978039154218
Hardback, 388 pages, $26.95
Genre: Mystery

Lucas Davenport, special agent for Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, is trying to deal with the sensitive investigation of a local politician who has been accused of having a sexual relationship with a minor when his boss calls him in on another case that occurred in one of St. Paul’s richest neighborhoods. Two elderly women have been found bludgeoned to death in a home filled with antiques. Although robbery is the suspected motive, not much has been taken, so Lucas asks his intern, Sandy, to cross-match crimes of a like nature. What she discovers takes Lucas back to a cold case and has him researching the antiquities venue as he follows a twisting investigation that leads him away from the killers.

Although this is not the best in the Prey series, it is a good read. The two plots at times seemed to compete with one another, which made the read seem somewhat convoluted. Sandford is strong with characterization and the addition of Sandy, the intern, was a bonus, along with Detective Flowers, both of whom this reader hopes to see in future books. Sandford’s tendency to drop designer names grows tiring at times (can’t someone just once wear a simple shirt and pants?). One major disappointment for this reader is Davenport’s laid-back mellowness compared to the earlier books, where he was sharper, with a dangerous edge.

THE HARD WAY by Lee Child

By Lee Child
Delacorte Press
ISBN: 97803853366987
Genre: Mystery
Hardback, $25.00, 373 pages

Millionaire/mercenary Edward Lane hires Jack Reacher to find his wife, Kate, and stepdaughter, Jade. Both were kidnapped on a shopping trip and Lane is willing to pay whatever it takes to get them back. Patti Joseph has been surveilling Lane and his group of killers since the kidnapping and subsequent death of her sister, Anne, several years earlier. Anne was Lane’s former wife and Patti suspects he used her kidnapping as a cover-up for her murder. She puts Reacher in touch with former FBI agent, now private investigator Lauren Pauling. Like Patti, Lauren is haunted by the death of Anne Lane, and she and Reacher team up to try to find out what really happened then and now. Their investigation leads them to a civil war in Africa, where Lane abandoned two of his men, both of whom Patti suspects actually killed her sister at Lane’s behest. From there, it turns to England, where Reacher uncovers a brutal truth that places his and Lauren’s lives in mortal danger.

Jack Reacher is one of the coolest characters written. A former Army MP and loner by nature, he travels the world with only the clothes on his back and a toothbrush tucked in his pocket. He seems to drift in and out of people’s lives like a fine mist, leaving behind mayhem at the very least and murder at most, but always justice. Child’s style is gritty and bare-bones and compelling. He finely attunes this thrilling read with action-packed suspense, a workable mix of amiable and malevolent characters, and the ultimate draw: good versus evil. One of the best books yet in the Reacher series. This reader looks forward to many more.

LUCKY YOU by Carl Hiaasen

By Carl Hiaasen
Alfred A. Knopf
IBSN: 0679454446
Hardback, 353 pages, $24.00
Genre: Humorous Fiction

Grange, Florida is a small, out-of-the-way community known for its religious miracles, from the weeping Madonna to the stigmata man with holes in his palms that do not heal. Not to mention the road stain in the form of Jesus and the woman who visits every day in her wedding dress. And now, one of their own, JoLayne Lucks, has won one-half of the state’s lottery of $28 million. JoLayne works part-time as a veterinarian’s assistant and plans to use her lottery winnings to buy and maintain wooded acreage in danger of being developed into a shopping mall. The other half of the lottery winnings belong to Bode Grazzer, a short man convinced NATO forces are lining up in the Bahamas ready to invade America, and his sidekick Chub, a paint-sniffing wannabe mercenary. Chub and Bode, needing money to begin their own supremacist organization so they can defend the white man when America is invaded, decide to steal the other lottery ticket. They break into JoLayne’s home, beat her up and take off with the ticket. On the way to the lottery office, they recruit a convenience store clerk known for his lack of cognitive abilities and take hostage a Hooters waitress Chub has fallen in love with. To JoLayne’s aid comes Tom Krome, an embittered former investigative reporter now working for a small newspaper covering social events. Tom’s editor sends him to Grange to write a story about the lottery winner, but before he even pulls out his notepad, Tom finds himself in cahoots with JoLayne and hot on the trail of Bode and Chub. All six end up on a small island in Florida Bay, where a confrontation develops over the two lottery tickets and where two will remain behind forever.

Carl Hiaasen is a master at developing wacky characters and zany plots and dialogue that will leave the reader in stitches throughout the entire book. This is a book all readers will enjoy as they follow the madcap antics of these screwball characters.

LEAN MEAN THIRTEEN by Janet Evanovich

By Janet Evanovich
St. Martin’s Press
New York City, NY
ISBN: 9780312349493
Genre: Mystery

Stephanie’s ex, attorney Dickie Orr, goes missing shortly after Stephanie threatens his life. The only clue to what happened: bloody drag marks leading out of his house. The investigating detective wants to question Stephanie and she has no alibi so is in no hurry to talk. To make matters worse, Stephanie’s archnemesis, Joyce Barnhardt (the woman responsible for Stephanie’s and Dickie’s divorce), is hot on Stephanie’s trail. Joyce is back in a relationship with Dickie and wants the 40 million dollars he embezzled from his firm. Stephanie decides to conduct her own investigation into Dickie’s disappearance which leads to charred bodies and exploding buildings. Ranger steps in to protect Stephanie, which is hard going as she continues her investigation while trying to do her official job as a bounty hunter and track down a taxidermist who makes exploding road-kill and a grave digger who’s turned tax expert.

The usual gang’s around for the latest outing in the Plum series, including Lula and Grandma Mazur. The triangular relationship continues between Stephanie, Joe Morelli, and Ranger, with still no resolution on Stephanie’s part. Evanovich once more produces a laugh-out-loud whodunit wrapped around that delicious tease between Stephanie and the two men in her life.

THE FRUGAL EDITOR by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

The Frugal Editor
Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Red Engine Press
Branson, MO 97809

As the literary market continues to tighten its proverbial belt, today's writer must assume more of the responsibilities surrounding book publishing than ever before. No longer can a writer depend on a publisher or agent to accept a manuscript in need of editing, and submitting a manuscript that isn't as near perfect as possible will, in all probability, result in rejection. To the rescue comes acclaimed author Carolyn Howard-Johnson with The Frugal Editor, the latest in her How to Do It Frugally series.

This little gem is a must-have for any writer, published or not, bestselling or unknown. Filled with valuable tips, The Frugal Editor touches on all aspects of self-editing, such as how to spot common grammatical errors, from superfluous adverbs to confusing dangling participles, as well as how to organize the workspace, format the manuscript, and use Word's tools to the fullest. Also included are sample query and cover letters, and pointers on correcting intrusive taglines, when to use an ellipsis, and correct spacing, to name a few. The book takes the reader step-by-step through the editing process, from rough draft to galley. No questions are left unanswered, no topics left uncovered. This generous writer goes so far as to recommend resources through other books and websites, with plenty of advice from agents and editors. The Frugal Editor is one of those reference books every writer should have by their computer for constant use and study. Highly recommended.

HOLLYWOOD STATION by Joseph Wambaugh

Hollywood Station
Joseph Wambaugh
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017

LAPD's Hollywood Division is not as glamorous as it sounds. Here the prostitutes and transvestites troll for johns while "tweakers" fish envelopes out of mailboxes in search of anything they can use toward the purchase of their next hit of crystal meth and celebrity clones stroll along the Hollywood walk of fame seeking gullible tourists. Since Rodney King, law enforcement officials, from the beat cops to the detectives, must bide by rigid rules and continual scrutiny, from their internal affairs division to Washington DC. But they have the protective eye of their Sergeant on their side, a man they refer to as the Oracle, who has been on the Job for 46 years.

The story centers around a tweaker named Farley Ramsdale and his girlfriend, whom he calls Olive because she resembles Popeye's Olive Oyl. Farley is a small-time crook who thinks he is being smart by making Olive do all the dirty work: fishing envelopes out of mailboxes, trying to pass counterfeit bills in stores, and stealing magnetic cards from hotels which Farley sells to other criminals specializing in identity theft. When Cosmo, an Armenian immigrant and Ilya, his Russian girlfriend, steal diamonds from a jeweler, Farley quickly puts two and two together; Farley is the one who passed on to Cosmo a letter from the jewelry store inventorying the diamonds. When Farley demands a cut of the action, Cosmo decides he and Olive must be eliminated, but from that point on, everything begins to spin out of control.

Wambaugh is a master at characterization and witticisms. His humorous style and observations make this a fun read, with quirky, offbeat characters and plenty of action. What seems at first to be a loose, albeit amusing, telling of the goings on within the Los Angeles Police Department Hollywood Station and the criminals that surround it, comes together at the end to form one heck of a good story. The situations the officers find themselves in are at times laugh-out-loud funny, as are the interactions between the characters. Hollywood Station provides a poignant look into the inner workings and ever-present political wrangling behind the scenes of the LAPD. Highly entertaining; recommended.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

COLD MOUNTAIN by Charles Frazier

By Charles Frazier
Atlantic Monthly Press
ISBN 0871136791
Hardback, 358 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Even rustic Cold Mountain, NC feels the cold embrace of the Civil War and most of its young men answer the call to fight. Some of the more hardened stay behind and form the Home Guard, which amounts to nothing more than a group of violent men intent on delivering their own brand of justice to those they call outliers, deserters of the war.

This is the story of two people in Cold Mountain who meet, are separated by the war, and meet again, both drastically changed by the hardships they’ve endured. Inman, a Confederate soldier, walks away from the hospital where he’s being treated for a near-fatal wound and begins his long journey to reach Ada, the one woman he hopes can save him from his despair over humanity. Ada Monroe is a socialite whose preacher father took her to the isolated backcountry of Cold Mountain, NC. When Ada’s father dies shortly after the war begins, she finds herself alone and destitute. To her rescue comes Ruby, a homeless young woman who lives her life relying on natural signs. Ruby teaches Ada many life lessons, foremost of which, how to survive on her own.

While working his way back to Ada, Inman encounters every sort of danger imaginable, from men intent on killing him to wild animals. Ada encounters her own hardships, from starvation to hard living. The two work toward one another, physically and mentally, and when they meet have reached the point where their lives can merge into something truly beautiful.

Cold Mountain is a fascinating read; filled with historical and geographical information wrapped around a beautiful love story. Frazier’s style is eloquent, lyrical, and mesmerizing. He uses unique phraseology relative to the time of the story and delivers characters the reader does not soon forget.

BOOK OF THE DEAD by Patricia Cornwell

By Patricia Cornwell
G.P. Putnam’s Sons
ISBN: 978039153938
Hardcover, 405 pages, $26.95
Genre: Mystery

In the 15th installment of the Kay Scarpetta series, Scarpetta has relocated to Charleston, South Carolina, where she has opened her own private forensic practice. With her are her niece Lucy and former cop Pete Marino. Kay’s lover, Benton Wesley, is in Boston, working with a Harvard-affiliated psychiatric hospital and psychiatrist Marilyn Self is back, doing her best to wreak more havoc on Scarpetta’s life. This mystery opens with Kay and Wesley called to Rome to consult on the brutal murder of American tennis star Drew Martin. Back home, Kay is having trouble identifying the remains of a small boy, but her investigation into Drew’s death leads her back to this abandoned and neglected child, tied to a murderer the likes of which Scarpetta has never encountered. And all centering around mentally disturbed Self.

Cornwell delivers an interesting read; however, the constant angst of the major players in this book can be disheartening and painful to read. Marino continues his downward spiral and his aggressive and self-destructive actions alienate those close to him. Rose, one of this reader’s favorite characters, is terminally ill, and for some reason doesn’t want Kay to know. Kay and Lucy bicker more than agree, and even though Kay is now engaged to Wesley, they seem more estranged than ever. As with each Scarpetta book, forensics is in the forefront and at times fascinating.

DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon

By Diana Gabaldon
Dell Publishing
ISBN: 0385335970
Paperback, 743 pages, $15.00
Genre: Historical fiction

The second installment in the Outlander series is just as much a rollicking adventure as the first, albeit this one is told in flashbacks from time traveler Claire Beauchamp’s memory. The first of the book may be confusing to readers, as the end of Outlander left Claire with Scottish Highlander Jamie Fraser in the 1740s, yet the beginning of this book finds Claire in Scotland in 1968, where she has returned with her daughter Brianna, intending to tell Brianna who her true biological father is. Frank, Claire’s present-day husband, is dead and Claire hopes to learn what happened to Jamie some 200 years earlier. She asks historian Roger Wakefield to help with her search and relates to Brianna and Roger her history with Jamie, laird of Lallybroch.

Claire picks up her story when she and Jamie escape to France, where Jamie is to be interpreter for Prince Charles. Aware history shows that the bonnie prince’s failed attempt to reclaim the English throne caused massive devastation to the clans of Scotland at the battle of Culloden, Claire and Jamie are intent on thwarting Prince Charles’ efforts to accumulate the funds necessary to stage such a war. While in Paris, Claire and Jamie enjoy a lifestyle of luxury, but it seems that no matter what they do, they cannot stop the tide of history, and the battle takes place. But beforehand, Jamie is forced to kill his uncle Dougal, who tries to murder Claire. Knowing he must face punishment for killing his chieftain, Jamie tells Claire she must go back to the future, as it is his intent to die on the battlefield of Culloden. Claire goes back, but she takes a part of Jamie with her: his unborn child.

This series is a fascinating read, filled with historical facts, interesting information about medicines from the 18th century, nonstop action and nail-biting suspense. Claire and Jamie’s committed love for one another shines through the book and adds hot spice to a galvanizing read.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

RUN by Ann Patchett

by Ann Patchett
Harper Collins
ISBN: 9780061340635
Hardback, 304 pages, $25.95
Genre: Literary Fiction

This story centers around a small, religious statuette which bears a strong resemblance to Bernadette Doyle. It is tradition in Bernadette’s family that the statue be handed down from mother to daughter, but Bernadette and her husband have one biological son, Sullivan, and two adopted sons, African American brothers, Tip and Teddy, but no daughters, so the ultimate fate of the statue is in question. Bernadette dies from cancer when Tip and Teddy are young and Doyle assumes the responsibility of raising them. It is Doyle’s dream that his sons share his passion for politics and follow him into a career in same. But Tip is a student at Harvard who wants to be an ichthyologist while Teddy is interested in the priesthood. Doyle, however, asks Tip and Teddy to attend a speech by Jesse Jackson with him in hopes of interesting them in politics. Afterward, Tip argues with Doyle and unintentionally steps in front of a car. A black woman saves Tip by pushing him out of the way but is injured and rushed to the hospital. Doyle offers to care for her young daughter, Kenya, while she is recovering. And this one person stepping into their lives forces each of these men to come to terms with the past, each other and themselves.

Ann Patchett’s eloquent prose is exceptional, to be absorbed and savored, as she delves deep into the psyche of her characters and delivers a slowly evolving plot. Although Run does not quite meet the high standards of Patchett’s Bel Canto, it is an intriguing, enjoyable read.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Review of THE BLACKSMITH'S DAUGHTER by Suzanne Adair

by Suzanne Adair
Whittler’s Bench Press
Wilmington, NC 28406
ISBN: 9780978526535
Paperback, 354 pages, $19.95
Genre: Historical fiction

The second book in Suzanne Adair’s Revolutionary War series features Betsy Sheridan, daughter to Sophie Barton, the main character in her first book, PAPER WOMAN. Seventeen-year-old Betsy is pregnant and married to Clark Sheridan, a successful cobbler and avowed Loyalist. Although Betsy is a neutral, her parents have been branded spies by the British and are in hiding. When Betsy finds a coded message in one of Clark’s boots and witnesses a mysterious meeting between her husband and a Spaniard, she begins to suspect he, too, may be a spy for the rebels. But Betsy is loyal to Clark and holds her tongue. Shortly thereafter, their house is burned to the ground and her husband disappears. Betsy, aware that the British now suspect her of treason, intends to find Clark with the help of his apprentice Tom Alexander before joining her parents. Not far behind is Lieutenant Dunstan Fairfax, who wants nothing more than to find Sophie Barton, and he’ll do anything, including murder, to get to her.

THE BLACKSMITH’S DAUGHTER is a rollicking adventure from beginning to end. Adair holds the reader enthralled with constant action, spine-tingling suspense, and superb characterization, all wrapped within historical fact. She conveys the tense conflict between the Loyalists and Rebels, and the danger of being either one, in an exceptional and thought-provoking manner. This is one book the reader will not want to put down.

Review of THE MARATHON MURDERS by Chester Campbell

By Chester D. Campbell
Night Shadows Press
ISBN: 9780979916717
Tradeback, 215 pages, $14.95
Genre: Mystery

When Colonel Warren Jarvis asks Greg and Jill McKenzie, owners of McKenzie Investigations, to take on the case of his good friend Kelli Kane, they readily agree. Jarvis was instrumental in one of their former cases and the McKenzies feel indebted to him. Kelli needs the McKenzies’ help in clearing the name of her great-great-grandfather Sydney Liggett, accused of embezzling funds from Marathon Motor Works in 1914. Kelli’s grandfather recently received a phone call from Pierce Bradley, a construction supervisor at the former Marathon Motors building, who found papers belonging to Sydney Liggett which would have exonerated Liggett had he not disappeared before he could turn them over to the DA. And now Bradley is nowhere to be found. The McKenzies have barely begun their investigation when Bradley’s body is discovered submerged in a lake, but the papers he claimed to have come across are missing. The McKenzies hope to recover the papers, but nothing seems to jell and, to make matters worse, people connected to the investigation are ending up dead. The only clue: a Russian cigarette stub found at each crime scene.

This fourth installment of the Greg McKenzie Mysteries is proof positive the series remains strong and fresh and is a major contender in the mystery venue. Greg and Jill McKenzie are a nice pairing, an amiable blend against the shady backdrop of murder and deceit. This well-plotted cozy is sure to please its fans and lure even more into its fold, the not-so-easily-guessed mystery one readers will enjoy trying to solve.

Review of THE SCENT OF MONEY by Cherri Galbiati

By Cherri Galbiati
L&L Dreampsell
ISBN: 9781603180368
Tradeback, 219 pages, $16.95
Genre: Mystery

Matt and Becca McAllen live in the small town of Spike Texas, where Matt is Chief of Police. When their town’s bank president and his wife are murdered, the only witness is their red German shepherd,Tasha. Becca rescues the dog from a woman who is abusing her and becomes her caretaker. Tasha reminds Becca of a beloved dog she recently lost and Becca is determined to keep her, despite the fact that the bank president’s wife’s brother may stand to inherit her belongings. Matt senses that Tasha can lead them to the murderer, but the murderer quickly targets Becca and Tasha, and Matt is beside himself trying to keep them safe while tracking the killer.

This is an intriguing mystery, filled with twists and turns that will keep the reader guessing throughout. Galbiati’s small-town descriptive draws the reader into the story with a sense of actually being there. Becca has a feisty nature and is a delightful character, a woman who has no problem standing up for herself and who loves her husband very much. The relationship between Matt and Becca is at the center of the story and offers a sweet touch against the dark premise of murder. Tasha, the German shepherd, is an added bonus among a cast of lovable characters. The Scent of Money easily meets the criteria for a guaranteed good read: engaging characters, realistic dialogue, a galvanizing plot, and action-packed suspense.

Review of DANCE ON HIS GRAVE by Sylvia Dickey Smith

By Sylvia Dickey Smith
L&L Dreamspell
ISBN: 9781603180061
Tradeback, 250 pages, $16.95
Genre: Mystery

Sidra Smart is 51 years old and recently divorced from her preacher husband. When her brother dies in a motor vehicle accident, Sid, inherits his investigative firm, The Third Eye, in Orange, Texas. Sidra has no experience as an investigator and initially intends to sell the business but is intrigued by a young woman named Jewell, who claims her father murdered a woman 30 years before. Although Jewell was three when it happened, her memories are so intense, Sid can’t help but wonder if they’re real. She questions Jewell’s sister, Emma, who corroborates much of what Jewell remembers. Emma and Jewell confide in Sid their father’s cruelty, and both, along with their mother, are suffering mental and emotional sequelae as a result of his abuse. Sid contacts the sheriff of Orange, Texas with the information Jewell has provided, and shortly thereafter, her life is threatened. This makes Sid more determined than ever to bring justice upon the man who has severely damaged so many lives. But someone is intent on stopping her.

Dance on his Grave is a strong start to the Third Eye series and is sure to develop a large reader base. Sid Smart is a compelling character; a woman who lived a sheltered life until she decided she wanted out of a controlling relationship and is now determined to start her life anew, despite antagonistic actions from members of her husband’s parsonage. A female baby-boomer as a private eye is a fresh addition to the mystery genre, even more appealing, one with intelligence and maturity. Sid’s Aunt Annie is a likeable, albeit quirky character, and Sid’s mentor George Leger lends a colorful Cajun ambience to the story. This well-written mystery falls under the category of page-turner and will keep the reader entertained throughout.

Review of FLESH AND BONE by Jefferson Bass

By Jefferson Bass
Harper Collins/William Morrow
ISBN: 9780060759834
Hardback, 361 pages, $24.95
Genre: Mystery

Chattanooga medical examiner Jess Carter has been acting ME for Knoxville since the suspension of Dr. Garland Hamilton based on testimony by Dr. Bill Brockton, forensic anthropologist and founder of the Body Farm. When Brockton is asked by Carter to help investigate the death of a transvestite mutilated and bound to a tree in a state park, he recreates the crime scene at the Body Farm using a cadaver similar in appearance and body. As Carter and Brockton proceed through their investigation, they acknowledge their attraction for one another and tentatively begin a relationship. But very quickly, Brockton discovers Carter’s nude body tied to the surrogate corpse at the Body Farm, and all clues point to Brockton as the murderer. Brockton is banned from his offices at the University of Tennessee and his house has been taken over by the Knoxville Police Department as they build their case against him. With the aid of friend and renowned criminalist Arthur Bohanan, Brockton begins a frenzied investigation into the murder of Dr. Carter, which puts his own life in peril.

Jefferson Bass is the pseudonym for the writing team of journalist Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Bass, the actual founder of the Body Farm. The two have once more created a good whodunit while providing an edifying look into the fascinating world of forensic anthropology. Although the book tackles an issue some may find offensive, this does not detract from an overall good read.

Review of PEGASUS DESCENDING by James Lee Burke

By James Lee Burke
Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9780743277723
Hardback, 356 pages
Genre: Mystery

Years ago, Dave Robicheaux witnessed a good friend’s brutal death during a bank robbery at a time when Robicheaux was too drunk to intervene or help. This memory has followed him through sobriety and into his job as a detective with the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Department. Robicheaux is unsettled when Trish Klein, his dead friend’s daughter, shows up in his hometown, even more so that the men he thinks responsible for his friend’s death are now living there. Robicheaux suspects Trish has vengeance on her mind and grows concerned when he learns Clete Purcel, his former partner and best friend, is involved with Trish. Even more discomfiting to Robicheaux is his investigation into the apparent suicide of a young college student that leads back to the men who killed his friend years earlier.

Dave Robicheaux is a complex character, an alcoholic haunted by demons from his tour of duty in Vietnam. Married to a former nun, Robicheaux desperately tries to lead a good life and seeks redemption through her, but cannot shake the past nor his more primitive nature. James Lee Burke writes with a love and admiration for southern Louisiana, delivered with a Cajunesque lilt. The plot is twisty enough to keep the reader guessing, the characterization intriguing.