July 8, 2013
All That I Need
St. Martin’s, Jul 2 2013, $7.99
Travel writer Fallon Marshall has the patience of Job especially when things go wrong, but she always gets the job done right. She learns of an auction being held by Saxton Auction House at the famous Yates Estate. To gain access to the sale and the landmark home, Fallon will need the cooperation of Lance Saxton who two weeks ago she called a thief.
Fallon knows she first became attracted to Lance when she saw a photo of him in Fortune magazine. Lance knows he was first attracted to the journalist when they first met and argued. Each thinks the other uses the misfortune of people. He agrees to allow her access so she invites him to dinner to make up for her calling him heartless. Both are wary, but begin seeing each other as their attraction turns to love; which frightens these world travelers even more as each doubts relationships survive the early desire.
The latest Grayson Friends contemporary romance (see The Way You Love Me and One Night With You) is a fabulous entry as the protagonists struggle with love due to false preconceptions caused by caring family members trying to keep away the hurt only to make matters worse. With the recent passing away of Francis Ray, subgenre fans have lost one of the consistent greats whose Grayson pantheon is a fabulous legacy that has at least one more entry in the Fall (All That I Desire).
July 8, 2013
A Murder In Passing
Mark de Castrique
Poisoned Pen, Jul 2 2013, $24.95
In Asheville, North Carolina, Sam Blackman and Nakayla Robertson have no clients. Sam is bored so Nakayla suggests they close the Blackman & Robertson Detective Agency for the day and go on a mushroom hunt on the historic Kingdom of the Happy Land. Thinking this venture will increase his ennui, Sam goes anyway. Sam finds human skeletal remains on the freed-slave commune property. Henderson County Sheriff Deputy Overcash, who hates Sam for solving a case of his, warns the two private investigators to stay out of their inquiry; though jurisdiction may belong to Greenville County, South Carolina as the boundary is right at the hollow log containing the corpse.
Marsha Montgomery arrives at the office of Blackman & Robertson Detective Agency wanting to hire Sam and Nakayla to investigate a burglary at her mother Lucille’s home in 1967. She explains someone stole a rifle and a photograph of her mother, grandmother, and great grandmother taken in 1932 at The Kingdom of the Happy Land by famous photographer Doris Ulmann. The police arrest African-American octogenarian Lucille for the murder of her white lover Jimmy Lang over forty years ago. Sam and Nakayla investigate the cold case murder.
The fourth B & R mystery (see The Sandburg Connection, Blackman’s Coffin and The Fitzgerald Ruse) is an engaging investigative whodunit with the artist being the famous Appalachia photographer rather than a writer. Fast-paced from the moment Sam finds a body and never slowing down even with some repetitive back story, fans will enjoy this tale that links several decades at a place where former slaves created The Kingdom of the Happy Land.
July 8, 2013
The Terrorist Next Door
Poisoned Pen, Jul 2 2013, $24.95
Chicago PD Homicide Detective David Gold receives a Medal of Valor in a public ceremony for stopping student Hassan Al-Shahid from bombing the Art Institute of Chicago, but his partner and best friend Paulie Loszewski died. As he gives a short uncomfortable speech, a car bomb explodes and a text arrives claiming it is not over. His boss Maloney calls in the Feds as terrorism has come to South Chicago.
Other car bombs explode near landmarks with the motive to force the city to free Al-Shahid. As the city lives in fear with deaths mounting and no place safe, Gold, his new partner A.C. Battle and the FBI pursue a clever Muslim extremist terrorist thought to be related to Al-Shahid.
The Boston marathon bombing makes the first Gold police procedural appear authentic as terrorism shuts down a major American city. The lead cops have plenty of personal tsuris but remain focused on taking down the brilliant predator while their insight into Chicago (Cubs or Sox) brings depth to the mix. Although late happenchance detracts from the excitement and Mike Daley is on recess, readers will enjoy the taut Terrorist Next Door which warns Americans to avoid stereotyping the enemy.
July 8, 2013
The Right Side Of Wrong
Reavis Z. Wortham
Poisoned Pen, Jul 2 2013, $24.95
In 1966, twenty-four year old Constable Cody Parker is stunned by the snow piling up as it rarely comes down let alone sticks in Center Spring, Texas on the south side of the Red River. He notices tire marks in the snow so he follows them using his wife Norma Faye’s vehicle as his car’s battery died due to the freezing temperature. When he sees the sedan parked, Cody down shifts but skids anyway. The other driver fires a 12 gauge through the windshield hitting Cody whose Plymouth crashes. A starving pack of abandoned dogs fights over his injured body until elderly newcomer Tom Bell kills the alpha and another sending the rest fleeing.
Cody’s Uncle Constable Ned Parker and deputy sheriff John Washington lead investigations into the near fatal attack and other homicides in the area. Each concludes that a new type of trafficker had come to Red River; these homicidal predators sell drugs that they obtain in Mexico. Still upset with the assault that nearly killed him, Cody follows suspects south of the border. Ned follows his foolish nephew to save him from killers.
The third Parker clan historical police procedural (see The Rock Hole and Burrows) is a great 1960s period piece thriller with segregation remaining strictly enforced; for instance Washington is the Jackie Robinson of law enforcement in the area but separate facilities for whites and coloreds remain in place a dozen years after the Brown ruling. The drug trafficking is also just beginning to find favorite lethal migratory paths. The cast is solid as is the investigation, but it is the vivid look at 1966 Red River shootout that makes for a super entertaining tale.
June 7, 2013
It Happens In The Dark
Putnam, Aug 20 2013, $26.95
Peter Beck missed opening night of his Broadway play The Brass Bed. He arrives alone on the second evening somewhat drunk and angry at those involved in his production as he sits in his reserved seat. A very short blackout occurs, but when the lights go back on, the woman sitting near Peter screams as he dies in front of her. On stage, an actor comments “… Not again” as someone died on opening night.
New York Special Crimes Unit Detectives Mallory and Riker lead the investigation into the two suspicious deaths. Ironically, the production is based on the cold blooded massacre of a Nebraskan family. A ghostwriter redoing Beck’s dialogue leaves Mallory with taunting messages on a blackboard in the back area of the theater as Riker comments about this being a strange way of dating someone. As she works the case applying her high standard of diligence and deploying devious manipulations, the taunts continue as the anonymous author seems to have added Mallory to the cast; while the cop brings in some Cornhusker help.
The latest Mallory police procedural (see The Chalk Girl) is a great dark whodunit. The superb storyline primarily focuses on the investigation, but contains short interludes involving dying nonagenarian Charles that shows the heroine has a heart that she definitely does not wear on her sleeve. Action-packed series fans will enjoy Mallory ripping skin from peers and suspects as she expects no interference from the brass and seeks clues from suspects.
May 29, 2013
If The Shoe Fits: A Contemporary Fairy Tale
Sandra D. Bricker
River North, May 15 2013, $14.99
In the enchanted village of Cincinnati, BFFs since childhood Julianne and Will are legal partners. Whereas she is pleased with their personal buddies’ relationship, he has loved her seemingly forever. With every man she dates, his heart breaks but he remains silent about how he feels.
At a near multiple car crash where she almost played caboose, Jules notices a hunk who she believes is her Prince Charming. He leaves before she can exchange contact information, but she picks up his toolbox and a boot that fell off his vehicle. Jules begins her quest for her charming “Prince” Paul while her desperate partner decides that “where there’s a will there’s a way to his beloved’s heart at the Bar Association gala.
This is an engaging contemporary version of Cinderella with the twist that sometimes you look so hard for the image you fail to see the gallant knight riding a ten speed bike. Although Jules comes across as too pathetic, readers will enjoy this modern day fractured fairy tale romance that pays homage with chivalrous puns to Jay Ward.
May 26, 2013
Questions of Travel
Michelle de Kretser
Little, Brown, May 14 2013, $26.00
In 1966 in Sydney, Australia, her older twin brothers tried to kill two year old Laura Fraser after her mom died as they blamed this female “alien” for her death. In the 1980s her brother Cameron dies, but she has no grief as he clearly hated her. When the only person who cares about her Aunt Hester died, Laura inherits a lot of money. She begins a travel odyssey around the world seeking someone who would love her.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Ravi Mendis dreamed of seeing the world though he has no hope to escape his Sri Lankan village except perhaps to live in nearby Colombo. He marries and has a daughter, but the brutal civil war forces Ravi to flee his homeland. In 2000s he and Laura meet in Australia.
Questions of Travel is a fascinating look into journeys (of the mind as much as the body). The underlying premise is that the treasure is not always at the end of the rainbow; instead you may trek from and to sh*t. Character driven by the fully-developed lead pair within rotating subplots, readers who appreciate something different will enjoy this tale of leaving home.
May 26, 2013
Mulholland/Little Brown, May 14 2013, $26.00
In Tijuana, the first time Lutz tried to escape from her violent husband Mexican drug lord Rolando “El Principe”; her dog Pepito paid the price as he viciously stomped to death the toy poodle in front of her. Heartbroken but not totally helpless, Luz knows she must do a much better job with her next attempt. Thus she takes her time working out a plan until she executes it by killing two of his troops and taking his safe’s money.
Raging Rolando liberates American “El Apache” from a Mexican prison. He orders him to locate his wife in the States and to bring her back to him; failure or refusal are unacceptable as El Principe threatens to kill the man’s wife and child. El Apache knows this is no idle threat so he goes to California seeking Luz who in turn searches for her four years old daughter Isabel whom she left behind in the Los Angeles area.
Angel Baby is a taut thriller as a brutal killer forces a felon to go after his missing wife; fans will shudder at what the psychopath will do if he catches his spouse and what he will do if he does not in This Wicked World of his. Character driven, readers will enjoy this tense tale as increasingly it seems an innocent(s) will be maimed or killed.
May 26, 2013
Raymond E. Feist
Harper Voyager, May 14 2013, $29.99
With the death of King Gregory, the Congress of Lords meets to select the new ruler of the Kingdom of the Isles. However, there are no blood ties so an obvious frontrunner does not exist. The Congress remains divided as to who should be anointed. While they dither, civil war seems imminent as the royal place in Rillanon is threatened. Hal the Duke of Crydee, his brothers Martin and Brendan, and Jim Dasher Jamison and his grandfather Lord James struggle to prevent the war.
Meanwhile Pug the Master Sorcerer, his son Magnus, Nakor, and Miranda struggle to escape the devious trap sprung by the Adversary. This foe has sent his only viable opponent to a different plane of existence with no chance of ever coming back to periled Midkemia. Inside the impenetrable Grey Tower Mountains, a deadly assault on the Star Elves has begun as the Adversary continues his plan to achieve his only goal: oblivion.
The supposedly final fantasy in the three decade long Riftwars is a fabulous fitting Feisty finish to an overall exciting saga of thirty books. The enjoyable storyline is for the most part fast-paced even with reflective asides and ephemeral encounters with characters not seen in a while. Although the fifth of the Riftwars series targets fans only as Magician’s End is no place to start nor is the Chaoswar Saga (see A Kingdom Besieged and A Crown Imperiled), Raymond E. Feist ends with a bang not a whimper.
May 24, 2013
A Step of Faith
Richard Paul Evans
Simon & Schuster, May 7 2013, $19.99
Advertising executive Alan Christoffersen left Seattle when his beloved wife died and his partner Kyle Craig destroyed their business leaving the grieving widower with nothing but a need to get as far away as he can from the Pacific Northwest. His goal was to walk to Key West.
Alan awakens in a St, Louis hospital after falling unconscious on a roadside. He finds out that he has been diagnosed with a brain tumor; so heads to Los Angeles for treatment. There his father, his loyal former employee Falene, and Nicole who nursed him after a mugging in Spokane are there for him, but he drives them away as Alan reflects on his life while pondering whether he should give up as he feels like a failed Job or continue his trek until he realizes what he lost.
The fourth Walk saga (see The Walk, Miles to Go and The Road to Grace) is an entertaining entry as Alan realizes what he wrought with his caustic behavior towards those who love him. Except for a visit to a cult that slows down the pacing, for the most part this is a strong character driven tale; as each step on the journey requires faith if the protagonist is to refill his spiritual void.