Saturday, March 31, 2007

Friends in High Places by Marne Davis Kellogg

Former jewel thief Kick Keswick is enjoying retirement in Provence when she hears that the auction house she used to work for, Ballantine and Company, is in financial trouble. It has become public knowledge that Ballantine was selling fake jewels--jewels that Kick had made and substituted for ones she had stolen. Not wanting her secret exposed, Kick realizes she must go back to Ballantine to find out what is going on. This leads Kick on a journey to the Italian Alps, going undercover for a long weekend at a high-class wedding where she uncovers the truth and a murderer. This is the fourth book in the Kick Keswick series and all are equally enjoyable. Kellogg brings the reader up to date on Kick's background in each book, so it's easy to start anywhere. I like Kick's view on life, she doesn't take herself too seriously (as a colleague pointed out). I think that's one of the great appeals. The books have a very light and humorous style and Kellogg knows how to write about the upper crust lifestyle without making it seem trashy. I LOVE this series. A sure bet.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Con Ed by Matthew Klein

After a recent stint in prison, con artist Kip Largo works a $10/hour job at a dry cleaner, trying to stay straight . One day he's approached by the wife of a Las Vegas real estate magnate to help her steal a great deal of money from her husband. At first he refuses, but when his son Toby comes to him and says he owes money to a Russian mobster, Kip realizes he must set up a con to save his son's life. Con Ed is a humorous novel that keeps you guessing about where the scam is going and who can really be trusted. The book is filled with details of real cons and was a lot of fun--except for a plot point at the end of the novel that I saw coming.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Sammy's House by Kristin Gore

In this sequel to Sammy's Hill, Samantha Joyce is now a health-care advisor to the White House since RG, the senator she worked for in the first book, is now vice president. Sammy is busy helping the adminstration with legislation about prescription drugs while dealing with the news that her boyfriend, Charlie, a Washington Post reporter, is moving to the New York bureau. On top of that, she has inside information that the president seems to have a chronic alcohol problem. While the plot I've described might seem dry, it isn't. Sammy's personality--her love of Japanese Fighting Fish, Steve Martin, and celebrating weird events (the 29th anniversary of Charlie Chaplin's death, for example) make the novel entertaining. As an added bonus, since the author is the daughter of Al Gore, one wonders if any of the people or events described in the book are based on Kristin Gore's personal experiences or DC gossip. It will be published in July.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Wayward Muse by Elizabeth Hickey

17 year-old Jane Burden lives in poverty with her family in 1850's Oxford. While at the theatre with her sister, she is discovered by Dante Gabriel Rossetti who wants her to pose for him. After much relunctance from her horrible mother, Jane is sitting for Rossetti who considers her his new muse. They then fall passionately in love, but she ends up marrying William Morris, founder of the English Arts and Crafts movement. The Wayward Muse is the story of Jane's life from the time she meets the individuals of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood until about twenty years later. I loved the book and its insights into the behind-the-scenes lives of these Victorian poets and painters. It was interesting to see it all through the eyes of a poor girl who happened just by chance to be part of something so important. Other novels I've enjoyed that feature artists and writers include Johanna: a Novel of the Van Gogh Family by Claire Cooperstein and Vindication by Frances Sherwood about Mary Wollstonecraft, feminist and mother of Mary Shelley.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Devil's Star by Jo Nesbo

Oslo detective Harry Hole is on his last legs as a policeman because of his alcoholism and reluctance to stop pursuing a case against a colleague, Tom Waaler, who Harry believes is responsible for his friend's death. His final assignment, three weeks before forced retirement, is the search for a possible serial killer who leaves behind a five-pointed star. Ironically, Harry has to work alongside Waaler because it's summertime and they are short-staffed. Harry tries to stay sober, but his suspicions about Waaler's bad side are never far from the surface, especially after Waaler offers Harry help in staying on the force if Harry will perform a mysterious task. Will Harry be able to stop the killings and/or Waaler or be destroyed in the process? The Devil's Star is for people who like Scandavian mysteries and don't mind a couple of disturbing scenes. Jo Nesbo's novels have not be published in the U.S. yet, but should be available through interlibrary loan from your library.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

Thirty years ago, two sisters disappeared from a mall in Baltimore, never to be heard from again. Now, after a hit and run accident, a woman claims that she is the younger sister, Heather Bethany. Heather, however is being extremely cagey about her past, saying that she doesn't want her current life exposed. Is this woman really Heather? If she isn't, why does she know so much about the sisters' childhoods? Taking place over five days, with a lot of time spent retracing the family's lives over the last thirty years, Lippman has written her best stand-alone novel yet. She also writes the long running Tess Monaghan mystery series.

The Return by Hakan Nesser

A body is found in the woods with no hands, feet, or head. DCI Van Veeteren and his fellow Swedish policeman are stumped. Soon, they learn that the victim was Leopold Verhaven, a man convicted of two murders almost twenty years apart. The question of who killed Verhaven soon involves another look into the events years ago and the distinct possibility that Verhaven was wrongly convicted for two murders he didn't commit. Hakan Nesser writes a mystery that is a lot like the books of Henning Mankell. Mankell's novels, however, are more complex in terms of plot and character.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Daddy's Girl by Lisa Scottoline

Nat Greco, a law professor at UPenn, has always felt overshadowed by her family. When a colleague asks her to accompany him to a local prison to do a lecture, she agrees. While there, a riot occurs and a prison guard is killed, but not before telling Nat to tell his wife "'s under the floor." Nat feels the right thing is to tell Barb Saunders her husband's last words. This information plunges Nat into danger and a race to find the truth and save her reputation. In this book, Scottoline again departs from her series characters at Rosato and Associates. The book, though, is every bit as good as her others. I hated to put it down.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Died in the Wool by Rett MacPherson

Torie O'Shea, president of the historical society in New Kassel, Missouri, is excited to discover that the Kendall house is for sale. Tori would like to buy the 19th century home and open up a textile museum highlighting the quilts of Glory Kendall, whose handiwork was shown at the World's Fair. The current owner of the house claims that it's haunted by Glory, who committed suicide there along with her two brothers. After going inside the home for the first time and finding Glory's quilt diary, Tori is convinced that she needs to discover what really went on there many years ago. Tori's journey leads her back to the period after World War I and a story about love, illness, and secrets. Died in the Wool is another solid addition to this long running cozy series. MacPherson is again able to combine a mystery of a genealogical bent with a main character who is a mom with a sense of humor. I really enjoy this series.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

The small town of Sterling, New Hampshire is rocked by a shooting at the high school. Bullied student Peter Houghton takes revenge by killing ten students and injuring many others. His former childhood friend, popular girl, Josie Cormier is spared, but has no memory of the shootings. Her mother, Alex, a superior court judge, probably will preside over Peter's trial. The novel revolves around these three characters delving into the past from when Peter and Josie were young up until the day of the shooting and the trial afterwards. Picoult has again created a novel hard to put down with in-depth characters and a compelling story. This book will also appeal to teens.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Whitethorn Woods by Maeve Binchy

St. Ann's Well near the town of Rossmore has been a spot for people from all over Ireland to come and wish for changes in their lives. Now the well is threatened with plans for a bypass road that will go right through Whitethorn Woods. Binchy's novel is really a collection of vignettes about people in the area and around the world with some connection to Rossmore or the well. Unfortunately, the stories are paired in twos and a lot of the time have no connection with any of the other stories. It was also hard to keep the characters and time periods straight. I'm a fan of the Binchy books with in-depth characters and more substantial stories (Firefly Summer, Circle of Friends, Glass Lake). It's been a while since she's written a book that good. An author that writes books like classic Binchy is Jojo Moyes. Another enjoyable book is A Breath of Fresh Air by Erica James.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Life You Longed For by Maribeth Fischer

Grace's three year old son, Jack, has a terminal illness. She spends her time taking care of him and her other two children. Her respite is her extramarital affair with high school love, Noah. When Grace finds out that someone has filed a report with child services saying that Jack is a victim of Munchausen by Proxy, the family's world is turned upside down. Grace has always been her son's fiercest advocate (she has a background in epidemiology) and now it turns out that someone is trying to use her love and commitment to her son against her. How will Grace and her family persevere? The subject matter of The Life You Longed For is serious, but Fischer writes a novel about love and how it affects the choices we all make.
This novel reminded me of the books of Caroline Leavitt.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Blind Spot by Terri Persons

FBI agent Bernadette "Cat" Saint Claire has moved around the country for her job, thinking that her bosses are uncomfortable with the fact that she can read a killer's thoughts by holding something that they touched. Now recently settled in St Paul, Cat is working on a case where the murderer cuts off one of the victim's hands and separates it from the body. It appears that the killer is a vigilante who has his own brand of justice. Will Cat correctly be able to "read" the clues she gets in order to capture him? Persons writes a thriller similar to Jodi Compton.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Shopaholic & Baby by Sophie Kinsella

Becky Brandon is back! She's pregnant with her first child and so excited to discover that there's a whole new world of shopping that she knew nothing about. While outfitting the baby's nursery and buying all the baby gear, she hears about London's A-List obstetrician, Venetia Carter, and realizes she must have her as her doctor. Besides, Venetia Carter's even gives goody bags. When Becky discovers that Venetia is her husband Luke's old girlfriend from university, will it jeopardize their marriage? Kinsella delivers with another humorous book in the Shopaholic series. I look forward to future adventures with Becky, Luke, and their new baby.