Monday, September 7, 2009


by Lisa Lutz
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
ISBN: 9781416593386

Private investigator Isabel Spellman quit her job with her family’s detective business and is working part-time as a bartender at her friend Milo’s bar while trying to decide what to do next. She’s also been through one block of court-ordered therapy and has been passed by that therapist on to another. Milo persuades Isabel to take on a relatively simple case for one of his friends, whose wife is acting mysterious and bringing home expensive items. Meanwhile, Isabel’s brother David returns from a secret trip and stops going to work. Isabel finds out David has a secret apartment in his basement so moves in without his permission. Isabel’s sister Rae’s been accused of cheating on the PSATs and has finally made Detective Henry Stone angry enough he is no longer speaking to her. Isabel can’t sleep in her new home due to her fear of being found by David, so takes naps on buses. She tails the wife, only to be tailed herself. If that isn’t bad enough, her car keeps disappearing. And her feelings for Henry Stone just can’t stay put.

Once more Lisa Lutz provides readers with a fun-filled whodunit which is more about the wacky Spellman family than the actual mystery, but readers won’t mind one bit. The Spellmans are a fascinating, dysfunctional family with individual quirks and laugh-out-loud personas. A definite must-read for those who enjoy a good dose of humor along with a good book.

THE EMPTY CHAIR by Jeffery Deaver

by Jeffery Deaver
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
ISBN: 0684855631

Quadriplegic, criminalist Lincoln Rhyme, accompanied by his lover, investigator Amelia Sachs and his assistant Thom, is in Avery, North Carolina, where he hopes to undergo experimental surgery to aid with spinal cord regeneration. His first day there, Rhyme is visited by Jim Bell, sheriff of Paquenoke County, where two women have been kidnapped and a young man killed by 16-year-old Garrett Hanlon, nicknamed the Insect Boy because of his interest in bugs. Garrett’s on the run and Bell wants Rhyme to help find him before he kills the two women he kidnapped. Sachs talks Rhyme into looking into the case and the two begin their unique investigating: Rhyme examining the forensic evidence in a lab with Sachs doing the legwork. They eventually track Garrett through forensics and he is arrested but refuses to reveal the whereabouts of the two women. Sachs thinks there is more to what’s going on than they’ve been told, so she lets Garrett go under the condition he will lead her to the two women. Now Sachs is in a world of trouble with the law and Rhyme’s trying to trace her whereabouts, fearing she will be shot either by Garrett or law enforcement.

Rhyme and Sachs are two very likable characters who mesh well together. Rhyme, frustrated with the physical limitations he is forced to endure, seeks a way to become whole again while Sachs secretly wants him to remain a quadriplegic, fearing he will not want her once he is mobile. As with each book in the series, the forensics investigation is fascinating. The mystery of Garrett and his reason for kidnapping the women is well-done, as is the suspense as Sachs and Garrett are pursued.

THE KEEPSAKE by Tess Gerritsen

by Tess Gerritsen
Ballantine Books
1745 Broadway in New York, NY 10019
ISBN: 9780345497628

The discovery of a preserved mummy in the basement of Boston’s Crispin Museum causes much media attention. Egyptologist/ archeologist Josephine Pulcillo, in hopes of not disturbing the wrappings, plans to scan the mummy beforehand to see what they can learn. Medical examiner Maura Isles is invited to be present for the scan and discovers this is no Egyptian mummy of ancient times but a woman who died more recently. When a shrunken head is discovered behind a wall in the museum, homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and Dr. Isles become suspicious they have a serial killer on their hands who is proficient in the ancient rites of preservation. This notion is confirmed when a bog-preserved body is found in the trunk of Josephine Pulcillo’s car. The only thing the three bodies have in common: Josephine Pulcillo, whom Rizzoli suspects is hiding secrets from her past.

This latest in Gerritsen’s series involving Maura Isles and Jane Rizzoli is an exceptional read; filled with historical information regarding mummification and forensics, enmeshed within a thrilling mystery. Dr. Isles is still involved in an illicit affair with a priest and Rizzoli remains in her stable relationship with an FBI agent. The two women are tough and independent and very likable. Rizzoli is maturing and mellowing in her marriage while Isles is in a relationship that brings her more despair than happiness. This well-written series continues to remain strong and fresh not only because of these strong women characters but the issues they face, forensically and personally.

THE SLEEPING DOLL by Jeffery Deaver

by Jeffery Deaver
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
ISBN: 9780743260947

California Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Kathryn Dance is a renowned interrogator with an expertise in kinesics. Kathryn is sent to question prisoner Daniel Pell, known as the “son of Manson” due to his cult activities and the brutal slaying of the wealthy Croyton family in Carmel, mimicking the murders committed by the Manson family years earlier. Pell has recently been linked to another murder and Kathryn hopes to learn more about Pell and his reasons behind the murders. After the interview, Pell manages to escape and begins a murderous rampage, targeting those he feels have maligned him in the past in some way. Kathryn leads the investigation, aided by her good friend Michael O’Neil, chief deputy with the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office, and Winston Kellogg, a cult expert from the FBI. Kathryn turns to the three women who were part of Pell’s family years before, as well as the one victim he left behind when he murdered the Croytons, in hopes they can offer clues as to where Pell may be hiding.

This series is a refreshing addition to the mystery genre; exploring the intriguing world of kinesics and the role it plays in criminal investigations as well as everyday life. Kathryn Dance is captivating, an intelligent woman who is now widowed and whose priority is keeping her small family together. As always, Deaver offers his reader plenty of forensics information packed within a suspenseful plot.

THE TALL WOMAN by Wilma Dykeman

by Wilma Dykeman
Holt, Rinehart and Winston
10801 N. MoPac Expressway, Austin, TX 78759
ISBN: 0030309654

Lydia Moore grew up in the Appalachian region before the Civil War and married Mark McQueen shortly after it began. Her husband went off to fight for the Union while her father and brother fought for the Confederates. While the men were gone, outliers raided Lydia’s mother’s home, assaulting her and stealing the livestock. A pregnant Lydia returned to her old home place to tend to her mother and brothers and sisters. When her labor began, the doctor was too inebriated to come, so Lydia’s Aunt Tildy delivered the baby, who was turned the wrong way, causing brain damage. After the war, when Mark returned, Lydia learned he had been imprisoned. Her Mark was a changed man who dealt with demons from the war and harbored a deep hatred for the men who had raided Lydia’s mother’s home, blaming his son’s mental problems on them. Through the years, Lydia had more children while dealing with her husband’s alienation and cynicism, hoping that through her love, he would become the man he used to be. Times were rough in their mountain region, but Lydia worked hard, trying to do her best for her children and their small community.

Lydia McQueen is the epitome of a strong Southern woman. She never let challenges daunt her and plowed ahead, trying to do the right thing and persevere through. The Tall Woman tells one woman’s journey through life and the lives she touches as well as the changes she leaves behind.

BLOOD GAME by Iris Johansen

by Iris Johansen
St. Martin’s Press
175 5th Ave. New York, NY 10010.
ISBN: 9780312368128

Forensic sculptor Eve Duncan has dealt with evil killers before but Kevin Jelak is by far the worst. Jelak believes that if he consumes enough “rich” blood from strong women, he will become a vampiric god. Targeting Eve as the one woman whose blood will ensure eternal life, he leaves a goblet of blood in Eve’s refrigerator and begins playing the blood game with her. But first he must reach the proper level to receive her blood, so in the interim kills young women. When Jelak murders a Senator’s daughter, Eve’s lover, detective Joe Quinn is drawn into the hunt for Jelak. Joe is acting strange and Eve can’t figure out why and worries Joe is growing tired of her obsessive need to find the killer of her daughter years before. Seth Caleb joins the hunt, claiming he is attuned to Jalek and has been tracking him for years. Joe is reluctant at first to allow his help but eventually realizes Caleb has a connection to Jelak. But will either man find Jalek before he takes from Eve what he feels he deserves?

This latest in the Eve Duncan Forensic Thriller series touches on the paranormal through one of its primary characters. Jelak is deliciously evil and Johansen does a good job relaying his unstable mindset. Eve and Joe are interesting characters, both independent and strong and realistically portrayed as a couple. Seth Caleb is intriguing and adds dimension. Forensics takes a bit of a back seat with this thriller, but this does not detract from an exciting, suspenseful read.