Thursday, February 28, 2008

Judas Horse by April Smith

When a fellow FBI agent to whom she was close is found murdered, Ana Grey feels she has no choice except to go undercover in order to find out what happened to him. After some intense FBI training, Ana becomes Darcy DeGuzman and tries to work herself into the life of Julius Emerson Phelps by befriending Phelps' animal activist girlfriend. Soon, Ana finds out that Julius is not who he says he is and that living with him is dangerous and isolating. Julius also appears to be in the process of plotting an act of terrorism. Will Ana be able to stop him without coming to harm herself? Ana's task is complicated by the fact that she's still recovering emotionally from shooting someone months ago and that the FBI is not being completely straight with her, information-wise. This is the fourth Ana Grey novel that Smith has written. I haven't read one since 1994's North of Montana (the first). Judas Horse was a quick read and I would read another. The descriptions of undercover work reminded me of the novels of Lee Child.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Lady Killer by Lisa Scottoline

It's a blast from the past for Mary DiNunzio when a "mean girl" from high school comes to her for help. Trish Gambone has an abusive boyfriend who's connected to the mob and she fears for her life if she leaves him. Mary offers what aid she can, telling Trish to disappear for a while or get an order of protection. Trish refuses and Mary feels terrible guilt when Trish and her boyfriend, Bobby, go missing. Mary makes it her job to find out what happened to Trish, despite having a full workload. Her emotions are also invested deeply in the case because she had feelings for Bobby when they were teenagers. Lady Killer marks the return of series characters from the law firm of Rosato and Associates. Scottoline also immerses the reader in the Italian-American neighborhood of South Philadelphia. Unfortunately, it was hard for me to believe the extent that Mary would go to help Trish because of how badly she's treated in return. The book also could have used more of a plot. Not one of her best, although I will continue to read her books.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Blood Ballad by Rett MacPherson

Torie is bearing the cold weather, participating in New Kassel's first ever bird-watching olympics, when she and her partner, Eleanore, stumble upon a dead body in a trunk. The next day, a man named Glen Morgan comes to see Torie at work with information about her own family tree. He claims that Torie's grandfather was actually the son of Scott Morgan, leader of the musical group the Morgan Family Players who were popular in the 1920's. Soon, it turns out that the body in the trunk might be connected to Torie's new genealogical research. With the approval of Sheriff Mort, Torie helps with the investigation, along with her father-in-law, Mayor Colin Brooke. What kind of long-buried secrets would be worth killing someone over today? As usual, I loved the latest book in this cozy series. MacPherson combines a puzzle with a lively main character who is balancing her life's work of genealogy with being a mom and wife. It's hard to believe that her eldest daughter, Rachel, will be going to college next year.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Death of a Gentle Lady by M.C. Beaton

Everyone in Lochdubh loves Mrs. Margaret Gentle, except policeman Hamish Macbeth. However, Macbeth has agreed to marry her maid, Ayesha Izmir, so she can stay in the country after Mrs. Gentle throws her out and her visa has expired. Macbeth then has two murders to solve--Mrs. Gentle and Ayesha. Who would have wanted to murder them? Mrs. Gentle had recently said she was going to cut her nephew out of her will and the rest of her family disliked her. It also appears that Ayesha was not who she said she was. Macbeth juggles both cases while trying to keep his one man police station in the Highlands open. At the same time, he's pondering his love life and keeping his jealous co-worker Detective Chief Inspector Blair in check. Macbeth even has his own life put in danger. Regular fans of this longtime mystery series will not be disappointed.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Going Dutch by Katie Fforde

Both Jo and Dora are in a bad way. Jo has been traded in by her husband, Philip, for a younger woman. Dora is the best friend of Jo's daughter, Karen, and has cancelled her wedding to John, whom she had been dating since she was seventeen. Dora moves in with Jo on a barge near the Thames in London. The women, despite the more than twenty years age difference between them, become each other's friends and confidantes. Even though they've sworn off men, Dora becomes friends with Tom, who encourages her to be more adventurous by daring her to sing karoake and go to a rock festival. Jo, on the other hand, crosses paths with Marcus, someone she last saw when she first met her husband years ago. The foursome is thrown together when they take the barge to the Netherlands for repairs. Will love come out of the trip or will the journey be a disaster, especially since Marcus' girlfriend, Carole tags along? Going Dutch starts slowly in my opinion and doesn't really pick up (with a good story and characterizations) until more than halfway through the book. Regular readers of Fforde might be disappointed and this would not be the first book I would give to a new reader. Try Rose Revived, Stately Pursuits, or last year's Practically Perfect instead. Also, Going Dutch has not been published in the U.S. yet (probably next year?)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Every Last Cuckoo by Kate Maloy

Sarah and Charles Lucas have been married for more than fifty years when she suddenly finds herself a widow. They had built a fulfilling life for themselves in rural Vermont, with three children and the usual marital ups and downs. Soon, Sarah's home becomes crowded again when she takes in relatives and friends, including a writer from Israel, a few teenagers, and two women and their children who are going through upheaval in their own lives. Though the plot may seem basic or simple, Maloy creates a novel to remember. Her characterizations of Sarah and the people around her are well-developed. Add to this the Vermont setting and the fact that this book explores in full the latter stages of life and going on after grief and you have one of the best novels I've read in awhile. A book to treasure.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Standing Still by Kelly Simmons

A mother's worst nightmare comes true when Claire Cooper discovers a stranger attempting to kidnap her young daughter in the middle of the night. Claire's first thought is to ask the man to take her instead. He agrees. Slowly, she learns why her family was targeted and the lengths her husband will or won't go to on her behalf. Claire also develops a relationship with her kidnapper even though she doesn't know his name. Interspersed throughout the book are flashbacks to scenes in Claire's past that reveal who she is. Standing Still is a novel about the trials of a woman's life, framed by the account of a complex ordeal. I wanted to keep turning the pages to see how it ended.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Money Shot by Christa Faust

Former porn star Angel Dare now works as an agent for other girls in the industry. As a favor to old friend Sam Hammer, she agrees to make one more movie. Except it's all a trap and she finds herself left for dead in a truck of a car and soon accused of Sam's murder. With the help of her agency's bodyguard Lalo Malloy, she works to find out who set her up, leaving violence in her wake. I throughly enjoyed this mystery. Faust has, at times, a humorous writing style which reminds me of Janet Evanovich. While the cover of the book and the porn world setting might make it seem like it's for a narrow readership, this book has wider appeal.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ice Trap by Kitty Sewell

Dafydd Woodruff is a doctor in Wales who gets a jolt from the past when he's contacted by Canadian teenager Miranda Hailey and informed that he's her father. Fourteen years ago, after he performed a botched operation on a young boy in England, Dafydd fled to Moose Creek in northern Canada, but returned to Wales after a short time. Miranda's letter causes a rift between Dafydd and his wife, Isabel, who have been trying to have a child of their own. Miranda's mother, Sheila, a nurse at Dafydd's Canadian hospital, is someone that Dafydd abhorred and he can't remember ever sleeping with her. However, when DNA results come back positive on Miranda's twin brother Mark, Dafydd knows that he must travel back to Canada to meet his supposed kids. Returning to the isolated outpost of Moose Creek brings back memories of Dafydd's time there and he is again immersed in Sheila's machinations and her intense dislike of him. Combining the story of Dafydd's past in Moose Creek along with the scenery of Canada's Northwest Territories makes for an interesting read.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Not Dead Enough by Peter James

"Three murders, one suspect, no proof" reads the cover of this latest mystery by Peter James. DS Roy Grace returns to try and uncover who's behind the deaths of three women in Brighton. Is it the prime suspect Brian Bishop, who seems to have an alibi even though he has connections to two of the victims? Grace and his team try to uncover the truth before someone else comes to harm. Besides dealing with the case, Grace is grappling with the fact that an old friend has contacted him because he saw Sandy, Grace's wife (who has been missing for nine years), in Munich. Recently, Grace has made strides in putting Sandy behind him by dating Cleo Morey, a pathology techinican. How will this news affect Grace and his relationship with Cleo? Not Dead Enough is the third book in the Roy Grace series, but has not yet been published in the U.S. I hope that Carroll and Graf (James' American publisher) hasn't abandoned these books. The character of Grace, the setting of Brighton, and the puzzle in all three books are first-rate.