Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Blacklands by Belinda Bauer

Twelve-year-old Steven Lamb spends his spare time digging on the moors, hoping to find where his Uncle Billy is buried. Almost twenty years ago, eleven-year-old Billy went missing and was assumed to be murdered by Arnold Avery, a serial killer of children. Steven feels his sorry home life would improve if both his grandmother and mother had some closure, so he takes his search a step further when he writes to Avery in prison hoping to coax his uncle's whereabouts out of the mind of a man who would love nothing more than to kill again. But Avery is unused to attention after being locked away for all these years and relishes nothing more than playing games with the letter writer, especially after he discovers that the person is a young boy. Does young Steven realize just how perilous the game can become? Blacklands, a first novel, by Belinda Bauer packs both a emotional and psychological punch. I had a hard time putting it down and can't wait to see what the author writes next. Creepily good....

Monday, December 28, 2009

Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourn

Lady Julia Grey travels with her sister, Portia, to Grimsgrave Hall in Yorkshire. Portia is going to help out the new owner, Nicholas Brisbane, get the decrepit estate in order. Julia, in love with Brisbane, uses the visit to spend time with him. The sisters, however, are shocked at the state of the place and the behaviors of the last members of the destitute Allenby family, who are living at Grimsgrave thanks to Brisbane's kindness. It's up to Julia to untangle the mystery of the Allenbys after someone is poisoned. Silent on the Moor is the third book in the Lady Julia Grey series and while it's about the same number of pages as its predecessors suffers from too little plot to sustain a book of that length. However, I'm thrilled to see the relationship of Julia and Brisbane move forward, so I'll look for the next book when it's published.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler

When sixty-one year old Liam Pennywell is let go from his job teaching fifth grade at a private boys school in Baltimore, he decides to downsize to a smaller apartment. After moving in, he wakes up in the hospital with no memory of being knocked unconscious by an intruder the night before. Upset by his brief amnesia, he visits a neurologist. There, he encounters a woman named Eunice who is assisting a wealthy patient as a sort of "memory aide." Liam is first intrigued by her job and then by her. With a lot of free time on his hands (and spurred by his recent misfortunes), Liam also reflects on his relationships and mistakes with his former wives and three daughters. Anne Tyler has written another novel that is perfect for book groups and those who love her eccentric character studies. It will be published in early January.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton

Private detective Kinsey Millhone is hired by Michael Sutton to find out if something he has just remembered from his childhood really happened. When he was six in 1967, he remembers being in a neighbor's backyard and seeing two men burying something. He feels it was the body of Mary Claire Fitzhugh who was kidnapped back then and never found. Now in 1988, he hopes Kinsey can find the grave and the men. Alternating back and forth between the past and present (as well as the points of view of Kinsey and other characters possibly integral to the crime), Grafton has written a more complex mystery than some of her earlier books in the series. It was an enjoyable read.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Fell Purpose by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Detective Inspector Bill Slider and his team from the Shepherd's Bush police station are called to the scene of the death of a teenage girl, Zellah Wilding. Zellah was an only child with an overprotective father and a mother who wanted to give her more freedom. While from a modest background, she was best friends with two girls who came from families that were well-off. After interviewing people who were close to Zellah, it appears that she showed different sides of herself to everyone and even had a secret man in her life. The police find no shortages of suspects and hope that they will find the man who ended Zellah's short life. Fell Purpose is the latest book in the long-running Bill Slider series. I'm so glad that Severn House has picked up the publishing of the series in the U.S. The books are not as well known as some of the other more popular British police procedurals, but just as good.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Stitches by David Small

In this graphic novel memoir, illustrator David Small recounts growing up in 1950's Detroit in an emotionally stunted home. Given numerous x-rays to cure sinus problems during his childhood by his doctor father, he ends up unable to speak after an operation to remove one of his vocal cords. Fourteen at the time, David is stunned to discover he has lost his voice--he had no idea he had cancer and was kept in the dark about his condition. Slowly, David grows up using his talent as an artist to escape the trauma of his childhood. Stitches is a moving book, with the black and white pictures adding to the emotion impact of the story.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Snow Angels by James Thompson

Kari Vaara is a police inspector in the small town of Kittila in the Arctic Circle. When an immigrant Somali actress, Sufia Elmi, is found brutally murdered, Kari's prime suspect turns out to be the man his first wife left him for many years ago. Soon, both the Finnish press and the international media are focused on the case and have sensationalized Sufia's death, comparing it to the 1947 Black Dahlia murder in Los Angeles. He also has to deal with the fact that some people feel the arresting of his ex-wife's boyfriend is strictly revenge. In addition, Kari is worried about his American wife, Kate, who is pregnant with twins. She has become unhappy with the bleakness of life during the long winter and wants to leave. Snow Angels emphasizes darkness, both literally and by giving the reader a view of contemporary small town Finnish life. Since the author is an American who lives in Finland, the style of writing and the conciseness of the story is similar to where he came from. However, due to its dreary setting and descriptions of graphic violence, the novel reminds me most of the Canadian mystery series by Giles Blunt. If you enjoy both American and Scandinavian procedurals, give this one a try. In case it's not clear, I really liked it. Snow Angels will be published next month.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Pursuit of Other Interests by Jim Kokoris

Charlie Baker is a CEO at a Chicago ad agency when he's fired out of the blue. Over the years, he's given more and more time to his work neglecting his wife, Donna, and teenage son, Kyle. After being let go, he finds he can't even tell Donna about his job loss and realizes he's missed years of Kyle growing up. What ensues is Charlie's attempt, sometimes lightheartedly misguided, to get his family back. He also interacts with other unemployed executives at Rogers and Challenger, an outplacement firm, along with the man helping in his job search, Ned Meyers. In his third novel, Kokoris has created another humorous emotionally clueless main character very similar to the father in The Rich Part of Life. After the misstep of his second novel, Sister North, it great to see Kokoris shine again.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Darkest Room by Johan Theorin

Joakim Westin recently moved to Eel Point on the Swedish isle of Oland with his wife and two young children. Eel Point is an isolated estate (a manor house adjacent to two lighthouses) at which there have been a number of unfortunate deaths since the mid-1800's. When Joakim's wife, Katrine, is found drowned, he wonders if it was suicide or murder. Joakim also feels that Katrine is still around as a ghostly spirit. Meanwhile, three men are robbing houses all over the island and set their sights on Eel Point. Newly arrived policewoman Tilda Davidsson tries to find out who's responsible for the stealing, at the same time thinking that Katrine might have been the object of foul play. The Darkest Room follows these three storylines, as well as those of the past inhabitants of Eel Point, to create a mystery that slowly picks up speed as the threads intersect. Patient readers will be rewarded with an unputdownable ending. The novel is a sequel to Theorin's first book, Echoes of the Dead.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Necessary as Blood by Deborah Crombie

Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid of Notting Hill CID and Scotland Yard, respectively, are drawn into the life of three-year-old Charlotte Malik when her father, Naz, is found murdered. Charlotte's mother, Sandra, an artist, disappeared a few months earlier and when Charlotte repeatedly says that her father went to look for her mother the day he died, it leads Gemma and Duncan to believe the cases are connected. Delving into London's East End, specifically the area of Brick Lane, they try and find out who's responsible. On a personal front, Gemma worries about her mother's deterioration from cancer, the pressures of planning her wedding to Duncan and arranging care for Charlotte. Necessary as Blood is a worthy addition to this long-running British police procedural series.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Grave Secret by Charlaine Harris

Harper Connelly is in north Texas working for wealthy Lizzie Joyce. Lizzie wants Harper to tell her what her deceased grandfather, Rich, died of. Harper's news that it was possibly murder and that his young caregiver, Mariah died in childbirth, confuses and angers the family. Harper and her stepbrother/boyfriend, Tolliver, are also in Texas to see their young half-sisters, who were taken away from the family when Harper and Tolliver were teens (because of their respective parents' drug use). Seeing their sisters always brings up mixed emotions for them, given all the bad memories dredged up, especially the disappearance of Harper's sister, Cameron, who's been missing for years. Tolliver's father, Matthew, has also recently gotten out of prison, and is trying to re-establish contact with him. When it appears that someone wants Harper dead, she wonders if it's because of the Joyce case or a more personal matter.... Grave Secret is the fourth book in the Harper Connelly series.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The First Rule by Robert Crais

Joe Pike hasn't seen Frank Meyer in over ten years. But when Frank and his family are murdered in their home, Pike decides he must find out who killed them. Frank had been part of Pike's crew when both worked as mercenaries around the world. Then Frank retired when he married his wife, Cindy. The LAPD suspects that Frank is involved in something illegal and the crime is tied to a series of break-ins around Los Angeles. Pike, on the other hand, believes Frank is clean and enlists his friends and contacts, including detective Elvis Cole, to hunt down the killer. The First Rule is the second novel to feature Joe Pike, who is actually Cole's partner (Cole is featured in Crais' long-running mystery series). The First Rule is a page turner in the tradition of Lee Child and James Swain's Jack Carpenter series. It will be published in January.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Monster in the Box by Ruth Rendell

When Reginald Wexford was starting out as a policeman, he suspected Eric Targo of murder, but had no proof. Over more than thirty years, Targo has stayed in Wexford's mind, and he has kept loose notice of Targo's whereabouts. But after seeing him for the first time in many years, Wexford feels the need to tell his partner and friend, Mike Burden, of his longtime suspicions, including another old murder of which he suspects Targo of being the culprit. Burden isn't convinced, but Wexford presses on. Meanwhile, Burden's wife, Jenny, and DS Hannah Goldsmith take up the cause of a young Muslim woman named Tamima Rahman who they believe might be forced into an arranged marriage. Wexford and Burden feel that the women are poking their noses in where they don't belong. Are Jenny and Hannah overeacting? The Monster in the Box flashes back over the years of Wexford's career in which he met his wife and has children. Fans of this long-running series will be happy for this background material.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Death Angels by Ake Edwardson

In Gothenburg, someone is brutally killing young male tourists from England. Similarily, in London, men from Sweden are turning up dead. Erik Winter, Sweden's youngest ever Chief Inspector, heads the case there, while in London Steve Macdonald is investigating. The connections seem to be the degree of violence, the staging of the crime scenes and the choices of victims. Winter heads to London, figuring that liaisoning with Macdonald can only help solve the crimes. Will the detectives be able to find the murderer before he kills again? Death Angels is the first book in the Erik Winter series. Three subsequent books have already been published in English. While Death Angels is important because it shows the beginning of Winter's career as a Chief Inspector, I enjoyed some of the other books in the series more, such as Frozen Tracks.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly

Detective Harry Bosch is investigating the death of John Li, murdered in his liquor store in south Los Angeles. It appears Li was killed by a member of the Chinese triad. But then the case takes a personal turn for Bosch when his teenage daughter, Madeline, is kidnapped in Hong Kong, where she lives with her mother. Bosch suspects that Madeline's disappearance is connected with his case in Los Angeles, especially since he received a phone call to back off the Li case right before finding out about her abduction. As Bosch rushes to Hong Kong to get Madeline back, he knows the case at home might fall apart. Bosch, however, must rescue his daughter, no matter the cost. Nine Dragons is the first full-length original Harry Bosch book since 2006 and is a pivotal book in the series. It's been a long wait to see Bosch in action, but definitely worth it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tears of Pearl by Tasha Alexander

Emily has just remarried and is on her honeymoon in Constantinople with husband, Colin Hargreaves. When a young women, Ceyden, from a harem is found murdered, Emily and Colin are asked by the victim's father to find the killer. Emily goes between the palaces of Topkapi and Yildiz questioning servants and the women of the harems. She finds most of the women tight-lipped, yet is able to find out some details about Ceyden's life. Emily also encounters Roxelana, a woman who wants her help in escaping the confining life of a harem. In this fourth book of the Lady Emily series, Alexander brings the role of women in the Ottoman empire in the late 1800's to life.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dark Mirror by Barry Maitland

At the London Library, a woman named Marion Summers collapses and dies from arsenic poisoning. Marion was working on her PhD at London University, concentrating her studies on Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. She also led a very private life, without her friends and family knowing much about her personal life--including where she was living. Newly promoted, DI Kathy Kolla delves into Marion's movements and research to find out who wanted her dead. With an ex-con stepfather, a possibly jealous supervisor and a secret lover, suspects abound. I throughly enjoyed this latest book in the sometimes hit-or-miss Brock and Kolla series. Since Maitland focuses more on the details of the investigation than the lives of the detectives, it helps to be interested in the topic. In this case I am, and I think it's one of his best.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah

Last year, working mother Sally Thorning spent a week at a hotel with a man named Mark Bretherick. Originally, Sally was supposed to go away on a business trip. But when the trip was cancelled, she decided to take a break from her family and go away. That's where she met Mark. Now, a year later, as she's watching the news one evening with her husband, Nick, she sees a report about a local man named Mark Bretherick whose wife, Geraldine, committed suicide after murdering their six-year-old daughter, Lucy--except the man on the screen looks nothing like the Mark she knew. This is also frightening because her Mark had a wife named Geraldine and a daughter Lucy. Not wanting to get involved, Sally tries to anonymously contact the police with what she knows. Then Sally realizes she's being followed. Is she in danger? Interspersed with Sally's story is that of DC Simon Waterhouse and his old female colleague, Charlie Zailer, who are trying to investigate the deaths. Also included in the novel are Geraldine Bretherick's diary entries. Will the police be able to untangle the personal lives of those involved before serious harm comes to anyone else? Another psychological novel with a maternal bent from author Sophie Hannah. In addition, this is the third book to feature Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer.

Monday, October 5, 2009

There Goes the Bride by M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin's ex-husband, James Lacey, is getting married to a much younger woman, Felicity Bross-Tilkington. Suddenly, Felicity is shot to death just before the wedding. Agatha is considered a suspect because she was overheard telling James to shoot Felicity to get out of marrying her. Still, Agatha is hired by Olivia, Felicity's mother, to find out who murdered her daughter. Agatha, along with the other detectives from her agency and friends like Sir Charles Fraith, attempt to find the killer as more bodies pile up. Agatha also is still trying to find love and wonders if her best detecting days are behind her. I so love this cozy mystery series even after twenty books.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason

A boy is found dead, frozen to the ground in his own blood. Detective Erlendur and his team identify the boy, Elli, who is half Thai, half Icelandic. Elli's older brother, Niran, is also missing, and the police hope that something terrible hasn't happened to him, too. Because of Elli's background, the authorities wonder if the murder might be racially motivated. Erlendur, Sigurdur Oli and Elinborg interview all the people Elli and his family come in contact with--neighbors, teachers and other students--in order to find his killer. For readers who enjoy police procedurals.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

In 1962, Skeeter has just returned home to Jackson, Mississippi after graduating from college. At loose ends, she's under pressure to marry, yet yearns for a career as a writer. She's also missing Constantine, the African-American maid who raised her (and who has left town under mysterious circumstances). Aibileen is another maid in Jackson who has raised seventeen children. She suffers from the sorrow of losing her son, Treelore in an accident. Minny is Aibileen's best friend. She is also a maid who has had lots of employers because she sometimes voices her opinions. When Skeeter gets the idea to write about the lives of maids in Jackson, both Aibileen and Minny agree to tell her their stories. All three women endanger their own lives for the project, since the races are not supposed to intermix and maids are not meant to be heard. The Help lives up to all the hype surrounding it and deserves its bestseller status. It transports the reader back to the height of the civil rights movement and creates a very memorable setting and characters. Unputdownable...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Night Monster by James Swain

Even though it's been two years since he was fired from his job as the head of the missing persons unit in Broward County, Florida, Jack Carpenter still thinks about his unsolved cases. Eighteen years ago, his first case was that of a young woman named Naomi Dunn, abducted by a crazed and gigantic suspect whom Jack failed to stop when he had the chance. When Jack's daughter, Jessie, asks him to check out a guy that's been videotaping her college team's basketball practices, his confrontations with the guy (named Mouse) lead Jack to realize that Mouse's partner is the giant from many years ago. Then one of Jessie's teammates, Sara Long, is kidnapped by Mouse and his friend. Jack is determined to right the wrong of the past and also find Sara alive. With a tenacity that is similar to the current great detectives Elvis Cole and Harry Bosch, Swain has created another suspenseful entry in the Jack Carpenter series.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Evil at Heart by Chelsea Cain

Gretchen Lowell is the "Beauty Killer", a serial murderer who has escaped from prison and (because of her gorgeous looks) has become an obsession with both the print and TV media. Archie Sheridan, a cop, survived being repeatedly tortured by Gretchen and now has checked himself into a mental hospital to regroup and try to conquer his addiction to Vicodin. When dead bodies start showing up around Portland, Archie and his partner, Henry, wonder if Gretchen has started a new killing spree or if a copycat is at work. Reporter Susan Ward wants to write a book about the "Beauty Killer" and has been trying to get Archie to speak to her while he's been in the hospital. As in the previous two books in the series, Archie, Henry, and Susan become immersed in Gretchen's mindgames and machinations while trying to stop her from killing anyone else or becoming victims themselves. A gruesome yet suspenseful book that's better than the last book in the series, Sweetheart. It helps to read the books in order, though.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

Thirteen-year-old Henry needs pants for the new school year and is able to convince his shut-in mother, Adele, to take him to a local store. While there, they are approached by a man named Frank who needs a ride. Frank is actually an escaped convict, but both lonely Henry and Adele are drawn to him and let him hide out in their house during the Labor Day weekend. Soon, Frank is opening up a new world to both of them--cooking pies and other delicacies, playing baseball with non-athletic Henry and (much to Henry's discomfort) starting a relationship with Adele. Henry begins to worry that Frank and Adele will run off together and leave him behind to live with his father and his new family, whom he doesn't like. Seen through Henry's eyes and set during the 1980's, Labor Day is a heartfelt character-centered novel similar to When the White House Was Ours.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Summer Kitchen by Karen Weinreb

Nora Banks leads a very privileged life that comes crashing down around her when her husband, Evan, is arrested for defrauding investors. Left alone with her three small sons and their nanny, Beatriz, she's shunned by everyone in the town of Bedford, New York. She's also left with no furniture or possessions when the government hauls everything away. Nora decides to fall back on one of the things that's given her joy throughout her life--cooking. With Beatriz's help, she takes a job as a pastry chef at a local cafe and takes on extra catering jobs. Soon, she's learning to appreciate a simpler life with her boys, without all the expensive trappings. Still, she harbors a lot of anger towards Evan for creating the situation in the first place. He, however, maintains his love for her while in prison. When Fox Silverworth, a lawyer, says he'll help Nora out, she's grateful and attracted to him also. Will Nora give in to her desire for Fox or learn to forgive Evan? The Summer Kitchen has interesting secondary characters (Nora's support system) and descriptions of food, but is clunky in it's story of the triangle of Nora, Evan, and Fox.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin

Angel is known in Kigali, Rwanda as the go-to person if you want a cake for a special occasion. While having customers look through her book of cake photographs, she brews some tea made with milk, sugar, and cardamom (the way they serve it in her home country of Tanzania). Then Angel and her guest discuss why they need a cake--which always leads to conversing about their lives. Angel, herself, has come with her husband, Pius, and her five grandchildren to the capital when Pius gets a job at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology. They live in a gated apartment complex with a host of other international residents. These are the people that provide most of Angel's work--professionals from a host of organzations. But just because they are considered fortunate it doesn't mean that the ills of society haven't affected them. AIDS and the past horrors of genocide in the country which is now their home are never far beneath the surface. Even so, Parkin has created a warm novel with similarities to the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Short Girls by Bich Minh Nguyen

Sisters Van and Linny grew up in a Vietnamese household outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Van was the intellligent overachiever, while Linny hung out with the popular crowd. Now as adults, they still are not close. Van, a lawyer specializing in immigration, lives in Ann Arbor and is in a state of disbelief because her husband, Miles, left her. Linny, meanwhile, is single in Chicago and has broken off a relationship with a married man. When their father, Dinh, announces that he's finally becoming a U.S. citizen and that both his daughters must come home for the event, it causes the sisters to reflect on their childhood, parent's marriage, and future. Short Girls is an enjoyable novel about accepting your past and moving on set against the quirky backdrop of Dinh's failed career as a inventor of devices to aid short people.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A.D. : New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld

In this graphic novel, Neufeld traces the lives of seven New Orleans residents during and after Hurricane Katrina. There's Denise, who lives with her extended family and doesn't evacuate. Leo and Michelle are a couple who do leave. Abbas and Darnell are friends who decide to wait out the storm in Abbas' convenience store. High school student Kwame flees to Florida with his family. Finally, there's the Doctor, a resident of the French Quarter who hosts a party during the storm. Through his drawings and the story, everyone's experiences come alive just as vividly, probably even more so, than any non-fiction book on the topic.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Vanished by Joseph Finder

Nick Heller gets a phone call from his teenage nephew, Gabe, asking for his help. Nick's older brother, Roger, is missing, and his sister-in-law, Lauren, is in the hospital after being attacked in Georgetown. Nick is a private spy, hired by influential people, sometimes even the U.S. government, for secret investigations. Even though he's been estranged from Roger for years, Nick feels an obligation to help out for Lauren's and Gabe's sakes. Slowly, Nick finds out things about his brother and his employer, Gifford Industries (a defense contractor) that raise even more questions. Will Nick be able to find his brother--dead or alive? With this book, Finder creates a hero, Nick Heller, that will be start of a series. I enjoyed the book, but the author has a long way to go in terms of character development to be as good as Lee Child.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Wet Nurse's Tale by Erica Eisdorfer

Like her mother before her, Susan Rose becomes a wet nurse to earn a living. She finds that the work is easier than being a maid or cook in the homes of the wealthy because you live upstairs with the family so you can feed the baby. But the job carries the uncertainty of being let go at the whim of the baby's mother when she decides to wean. Life is also hard and takes unexpected turns for Susan because she's a single lower class woman in Victorian times. When she has a baby out of wedlock, Susan must be crafty in order to be reunited with him after he's taken away from her. As a plucky, strong, robust, yet sometimes trampy main character, Susan comes alive on the page. I enjoyed this short novel that highlights a woman's profession at a particular time in English history. Not a great cover, though...

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Hidden Man by David Ellis

Lawyer Jason Kolarich is still in mourning over the deaths of his wife and daughter. He's barely working when he's hired by a mysterious Mr. Smith to defend Sammy Cutler. Sammy was arrested a year ago for killing child molester Griffin Perlini. Sammy believes that Perlini kidnapped his sister, Audrey, over twenty-five years ago (she was never seen again). Sammy's trial is in one month and Mr. Smith wants Jason to get Sammy off with no continuances, even though he's brand new to the case. Jason and Sammy also share a past. They were best friends when they were young and Jason remembers when Audrey went missing. Jason wonders about Mr. Smith's bosses' motives in rushing to get Sammy free, especially since they are trying to influence his handling of the case. Do they know what happened to Audrey and/or are they responsible for Perlini's death? The Hidden Man is the first book in the Jason Kolarich series. In addition to crafting a good story, Ellis has created a character that the reader roots for, despite his personal and professional flaws . The book will be published next month.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Panic Attack by Jason Starr

After Adam Bloom shoots an intruder to death in his home, his family (Adam, his wife Dana and their recent college graduate daughter, Marissa), think the worst is behind them. They couldn't be more wrong. A second robber got away and wants revenge for his friend's death. Johnny Long is gorgeous and fashions himself as a great lover who beds women and then robs them. He decides he wants to destroy Adam's life and figures that becoming close with Marissa will be the perfect way to accomplish his plan. Will anyone figure out who Johnny really is before he completes his murderous task? With Adam and Dana's marriage in shambles and their relationship with Marissa strained, Johnny's job may almost be too easy. Starr creates a book that's hard to put down, with detailed shifting perspectives that help create a high level of suspense.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

New Tricks by David Rosenfelt

Andy Carpenter is designated the caretaker of a Bernese dog who is the middle of a custody battle after his owner is murdered. Waggy's owner, Walter Timmerman, was a chemist who made his millions in the pharmaceutical industry. Right after he's appointed, Walter's wife, Diana is killed when a bomb blows up her home. Walter's son Steven disliked Diana (his stepmother) and is soon arrested for her murder. Andy decides to take him on as a client. But when Andy's girlfriend, Laurie, is shot, he realizes that someone wants Waggy dead. But what kind of threat does the dog really pose...and to whom? New Tricks is another humorous, light mystery in the long-running Andy Carpenter series set in Paterson, New Jersey.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Water's Edge by Karin Fossum

Reinhardt and Kristine Ris are a long-married couple who can barely stand to be in each other's company. When they find the body of a young boy while out on a regular walk together, the experience affects them differently. Reinhardt thinks it might be his fifteen minutes of fame, while Kristine dreams about the much longed for child that she feels Reinhardt has denied her. The murder case falls to Inspector Konrad Sejer and Jacob Skarre and they feel they have a great lead because the Rises saw the person who dumped the boy in the woods. When another boy goes missing, everyone wonders if the same individual is responsible. The Water's Edge continues Fossum's Sejer/Skarre mystery series. While I liked the book, it was missing the strong psychological aspect that some of her other books have. Her masterpiece in the series is definitely The Indian Bride.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Undone by Karin Slaughter

Dr. Sara Linton crosses paths with detectives Will Trent and Faith Mitchell while on the job in the emergency room at Grady Hospital in Atlanta. In treating a woman who was the victim of a hit and run after she was severely tortured, Sara's expertise and her background as a former coroner come in handy. With the victim near death and not able to communicate, Will and Faith are glad for any help, especially since the local police are resentful of them taking over the case (they work for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation). After Will finds a second victim, they know a serial killer is at work and wonder if they can amass enough clues to find him before he inflicts his gruesome acts on another woman. In Undone, Slaughter brings her two series together in one book successfully.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Where Petals Fall by Shirley Wells

Five years ago, forensic psychologist Jill Kennedy and DCI Max Trentham thought they had seen the last of a serial killer the authorities had named "The Undertaker" when the suspect, Edward Marshall, plunged over a cliff during a chase. His body was never found. Now a local florist, Carol Blakely, has been murdered in a style very similar to "The Undertaker's." Is Marshall still alive or has a copycat surfaced? Both Jill and Max doubt their abilities, at times, because of past events. Will they be able to focus and capture the killer? Where Petals Fall is the third book in the Kennedy/Trentham series. It would appeal to people who like traditional British police procedurals.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey

Detective Inspector Darko Dawson's newest case takes him from his home in Accra to the small village Ketanu in Ghana's Volta Region. A young medical student, Gladys Mensah, has been found murdered and Dawson's boss thinks he's the perfect person to help with the investigation because he knows the local language. Dawson finds he has no shortage of suspects because Gladys disapproved of the local custom of trokosi, in which young women are given over to a High Priest to soothe the gods after a crime was commited by a family member. She was also involved in AIDS education, which angered some local residents. On a personal front, Ketanu brings out a mix of feelings in Dawson. His aunt lives there, but it was also the last place his mother was seen before she disappeared when he was a child. Will he be able to nativigate the world of long-held customs using contemporary methods to find a killer? Wife of the Gods is a mystery full of descriptions of Ghanian life along with a main character who is, at times, flawed. An enjoyable book that I hope is the start of a new series.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Fire and Ice by J.A. Jance

J.P. Beaumont and his wife Mel Soames have been working on finding the person who's been burning women to death in western Washington. When the latest body is found with the victim's teeth still intact, Beaumont and the state's special homicide team hope this will provide them with a lead since the other victims are still unidentified. Meanwhile, in Arizona, Sheriff Joanna Brady and her colleagues are working on the murder of a man who was run over repeatedly in some dunes. Over time, as Beaumont and Joanna delve into their separate cases, information surfaces that indicates the two are connected. Will they be able to put their past attraction aside to bring the people responsible to justice? In Fire and Ice, Jance reunites her two popular series characters. This is their second appearance together, after Partner in Crime. I really love the J.P. Beaumont series and enjoyed this latest mystery.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

In the Heart of the Canyon by Elisabeth Hyde

A group of twelve people take a two-week rafting adventure on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. J.T. is the head guide on his 125th trip. His assistants are Abo and Dixie. As for the tourists, Jill and Mark are accompanied by their two teenage sons. Ruth and Lloyd are on their last whitewater trip because of Lloyd's advancing Alzheimer's. Susan is with her overweight daughter--they can barely stand to be around each other. There are the singles, Evelyn (a Harvard professor) and Peter (a twentysomething who's tending to his broken heart). Lastly, there's Mitchell (who gets on everyone's nerves) and his quiet wife, Lena. The book does a great job of describing the setting and the ins and outs of rafting while also spending time on the characters' thoughts and feelings. The strangers get to deal with both the expected and unexpected on their journey.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand

One summer day the lives of a group of friends are changed forever. Married couple Greg and Tess MacAvoy drown during a sailing trip off the island of Nantucket while celebrating their wedding anniversary. In addition to leaving behind their young twins, the survivors include their best friends-- three other couples who did everything together with them. Andrea was Tess' cousin and her husband, Ed, is the Chief of Police. Addison was having an affair with Tess even though he was married to Phoebe. Delilah was the closest to Greg despite being Jeffrey's wife. Throughout the book and from each character's perspective, we see how the friendships began and the grief they feel over the mysterious deaths. Hilderbrand has a deft hand at portraying feelings and at writing about everyday island life. I had a hard time putting the book down. Definitely one of her best.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ravens by George Dawes Green

The Boatwright family has just won $318 million in the Georgia lottery. Shaw McBride hears of the Boatwright's windfall while he's on his way to Florida with his friend, Romeo Zderko. Shaw hatches a plan to claim half of the lottery money by ingratiating himself with the family and then threatening to have Romeo start killing the Boatwrights' close relatives if they don't give him the cash. In the novel, the reader sees the situation through many of the characters' eyes, which gives it a psychological bent. Will Shaw be able to keep the family in a constant state of fear so they follow his orders or will they find some way to keep all the winnings themselves?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner

Addie and Val were best friends as children, but during senior year in high school, they stopped being friends. On the night of their fifteenth high school reunion, Val shows up late at night at Addie's door, bloody, asking for help. Not having spoken in all this time, Addie is hesitant to lend a hand. It turns out that Val thinks she's run over Dan Swansea, a jerk they knew when they were teenagers. With blood found in the parking lot of the country club where the reunion was held, Chief of Police Jordan Novick is trying to figure out which of the attendees was injured. Jordan's path crosses Addie's and he's instantly smitten. But Addie and Val feel they need to leave town because they're not sure what happened to Dan. Will Val's impulsive vehicular act change the characters lives for the better? Weiner alternates the current story with that of Addie and Val's childhood friendship and Addie's life in the intervening years. Best Friends Forever features the author's usual depth of character along with touches of humor. A perfect book for the beach.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Awakening by S.J. Bolton

Clara Benning is a wild animal veterinarian in rural Dorset who avoids people because of a childhood accident that left her face scarred. She finds herself thrust into the public eye in her village when she rescues a baby from a snake that was in her crib and another neighbor dies of a snake bite. Clara wonders if the incidents were accidents or something more sinister. With the help of local policeman Matt Hoare and Sean North (a well-known herpetologist), Clara realizes that there's a killer on the loose who is using snakes as his weapon of choice. She then puts her own life on the line to try and find the murderer. Awakening is a mystery with a sense of place and loads of information about snake behavior.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Big Steal by Emyl Jenkins

Antiques expert Sterling Glass is hired by an insurance company to try and appraise items that were stolen or broken during a robbery at Wynderly, an estate in Virginia that was turned into a museum, now closed. While Sterling is extremely knowledgeable about antiques and fakes, she finds the job a challenge--the museum's curator won't leave her alone, the foundation Friends of Wynderly is plagued by bickering and secrets and the paperwork for the antiques is unorganized. As she's doing her work, Sterling can't help being intrigued by the story of Hoyt and Mazie Wyndfield. Soon, Sterling has more questions than answers about what's been happening there. Will she be able to complete the task that she's been employed to do? The Big Steal is chock full of information about the worths of various antiques along with a really likable and developed main character. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the Sterling Glass series, Stealing with Style, and am glad that another has been published. The strength of the book lies in the antiques and in the character, however, not the mystery.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo

Kate Burkholder is the chief of police in Painters Mill, Ohio. After leaving her Amish upbringing behind her at 18, she's now come back to her hometown. When a woman is found brutally murdered on a local farm, Kate's past comes rushing back. When she was a teen, a killer was loose, raping and murdering young women. Kate believed that she had secretly killed him all those years ago, with her father and brother burying him. Now she's not so sure, since the current killer's m.o. is very similar to the one sixteen years ago. Soon, the small town's leaders are panicking and call in outside help to find the murderer. Will Kate be able to sort out the past in order to prevent more deaths? Sworn to Silence is a page turner with an interesting setting, some insight into Amish culture, and a main character that you want to spend more time with. The book is similar to Sallie Bissell's In the Forest of Harm.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Memory Collector by Meg Gardiner

In her job as a forensic psychiatrist, Jo Beckett is used to delving into the lives of the dead to find out if they died of natural or suspicious causes. When she’s called to consult on the case of Ian Kanan, a man who’s barricaded himself on an airplane landing at the San Francisco airport, it’s new for her. Soon, she discovers that Kanan has suffered some kind of brain injury that has prevented him from forming new memories. Basically, his mind resets every five minutes and he can't remember anything that's just happened. He does, however recall everything from before a few days ago--his family, his job, and a mission to destroy those whom he believes have poisoned him. Jo slowly tries to build a picture of Kanan's life and finds out that the situation is way more deadly than she could have ever imagined. The Memory Collector is the second book in the Jo Beckett series. It's full of non-stop action and a fully developed main character. Even better than The Dirty Secrets Club.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich

In the latest book in the Stephanie Plum series, Lula accidentally witnesses the decapitation of celebrity chef Stanley Chipotle. Worried that the killers are after her, she tries to stay lay low and, with Stephanie's help, identify the culprits and collect the million dollars of reward money. Stephanie, meanwhile, is on the outs with Morelli and is helping Ranger find out who's trying to ruin his home security business. Will Stephanie's working with Ranger put even more of a wedge between her and Morelli? There's lot of fire, farts, and laughter as Stephanie and Co. get into their usual trouble.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay

Tim Blake's 17-year-old daughter Sydney is staying with him over the summer. When she doesn't return from her job at a local hotel, he begins to worry. After going to Just Inn Time and discovering that Sydney never worked there, he realizes that she's missing and was possibly keeping secrets from him. Tim makes it his mission to try and find his daughter, even though it puts his job and life in jeopardy and leads the police to consider Tim a suspect himself. With the help of his ex-wife and her boyfriend, Tim just might be able to bring his daughter home. Fear the Worst is a page turner that would be a perfect beach or airplane read. It will be published in August.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall

Vish Puri (nicknamed Chubby by his family and friends) is the owner of Most Private Investigators Ltd. in Delhi. Puri is very good at his job and has surrounded himself with dedicated employees like Handbrake and Facecream. He is hired by Ajay Kasliwal, a lawyer, to find a maid named Mary who worked for Kasliwal and has gone missing. The police have questioned him about Mary and the rumor mill is running wild that he's murdered her. Puri's task proves difficult because he has hardly any information about Mary like her last name or even a photograph. The detective has also been enlisted by Brigadier Bagga Kappor to find out dirt about Mahinder Gupta. Gupta is set to marry the brigadier's granddaughter, Tisca, and he believes Gupta is not a suitable match. In addition, Puri's own mother does some detecting of her own when someone tries to kill Puri while he's tending to his chili plants on the roof. Of course as a mother, protecting her son is her top priority--even if she has to do her investigating in secret, since Puri disapproves of her participation. The Case of the Missing Servant is a delightful mystery that immerses the reader in contemporary Indian culture. Readers of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series will be thrilled to find a book that combines a foreign locale and an engaging main character with a humorous/cozy bent.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Seven Mile Beach by Tom Gilling

Reporter Nick Carmody should have broken off his friendship with Danny Grogan a long time ago. They met at St Dominic's, a posh school in Sydney, and have stayed friends since, despite Danny's partying ways and run-ins with the law (that his billionaire father, Harry Grogan, has gotten him out of). When Danny is caught speeding by a traffic camera, Harry persuades Nick to say he was driving instead. Nick thinks he'll lie in court and that will be the end of it. Instead, it's just the beginning, as Nick realizes that he's been duped by the Grogans into being a fall guy. Soon he's on the run, wondering what he's got himself into and realizing he probably can never go home again... A page turner in a setting that we don't often see--Australia.