Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Safer by Sean Doolittle

Paul Callaway and his wife, Sara, move to Clark Falls, Iowa to take jobs at the local university. The night they move in, Sara is attacked in their home by an intruder. He gets away, but the incident provides an opportunity to bond with the other neighbors in the cul-de-sac. Their neighbor across the street, Roger Mallory, is the head of the town's citizen patrol organization. Roger takes his job very seriously since a tragedy in his own family occurred ten years ago. Then, Paul makes a mistake that he soon regrets and finds himself arrested for a crime that he didn't commit. With the help of a good lawyer, will Paul be able to clear his name and uncover what's really going on in Clark Falls? A read-alike for Harlan Coben and Three Weeks to Say Goodbye by C.J. Box.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center

Lanie Coates moves from Houston to Cambridge, Massachusetts so her husband, Peter, can join the graduate program in musical competition at Brandeis University. With Peter very busy, Lanie finds herself overwhelmed taking care of three young sons under the age of four. Having no friends or family in the area, Lanie also feels lonely and out of shape. She finally gets up the courage to join a health club and when her mother sends her some old cameras, Lanie finds her artistic side is itching to come out. Slowly, Lanie begins to be comfortable in her new home, except that she and Peter seem to be growing apart. Will they again be able to find the passion and love that drew them to each other in the first place? For readers of Sara Lewis.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

Monday nights in Lillian's restaurant are devoted to her cooking class. In this session, she has eight students whom the reader meets in individual chapters. There's young mother, Claire, who views the classes as an escape. Carl and Helen have been married for almost fifty years. Antonia is an Italian kitchen designer. Tom is slowly overcoming a great loss. Chloe is just out of high school and learning to be an adult. Isabelle is struggling with Alzheimer's. Finally, there's Ian, who has a crush on Antonia. We get mouthwatering descriptions of food and the art of cooking as the students learn how to prepare food that touches the soul. A compact first novel that's a cozy as it is delicious. The School of Essential Ingredients is similar to Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen and The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand. If you like books where chapters are devoted to each character, try The Memoir Club by Laura Kalpakian and The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Death of a Witch by M.C. Beaton

Policeman Hamish Macbeth comes home from a vacation in Spain to find that the men in the village have been visiting newcomer Catriona Beldame late at night. After going to Catriona's home, he discovers that she's been supplying the men with potions for sexual dysfunction. Hamish warns Catriona to stop, since the men are becoming ill. She refuses and soon after, she's found dead in her cottage. Hamish, at first, is the prime suspect because he was overheard saying that he wanted to kill her. But then, several more people are murdered and Hamish has his hands full, not knowing if there's a serial killer on the loose. Hamish is also busy romantically as there's a new forensics policewoman, Lesley Seaton. Will he be able to bring the cases to a close and also finally find the love he's been searching for?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy

Dr. Clara Casey is the director of the new heart clinic associated with St. Brigid's Hospital in Dublin. She has the luxury of hiring all her staff, despite interference from hospital administrator Frank Ennis. Ania Prasky, recently arrived from Poland, is trying to learn English and handles all the small jobs around the clinic. Dr. Declan Carroll is on hand for a training stint and soon is smitten with nurse Fiona Ryan, who has a checkered romantic past. The reader also becomes familiar with Clara's assistant, Hilary Hickey, and local priest, Father Flynn, who is the object of a female stalker. Soon the employees at the clinic become like family (which is typical Binchy). Readers of her previous novels will also happy to get updates on characters from her books, Evening Class, Scarlet Feather, Quentins, and Whitethorn Woods.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Darker Domain by Val McDermid

Concerned mother Misha Gibson reports her father, Mick Prentice, missing. The problem for DI Karen Pirie and her partner, DS Phil Parhatka, is that Mick was last seen in 1984. Misha needs to find Mick because her young son needs a bone marrow transplant. Everyone in the community assumed that Mick went off scabbing to Nottingham during the miners' strike in the mid 1980's. As head of the cold case team in Fife, Misha's request falls under Karen's jurisdiction. As Karen starts investigating, new evidence for a very high profile cold case is discovered in Italy. While on vacation, journalist Bel Richmond has found a ransom poster for Catriona Maclennan Grant in an abandoned Italian farmhouse. Seizing the opportunity, Bel goes to Catriona's powerful, unscrupulous father Sir Broderick to convince him to share information with her about Catriona's kidnapping in 1985. He agrees because he's desperate to find Catriona's young son (now an adult himself), who disappeared during the ransom handoff at which Catriona was killed. He also consents to fund her search in exchange for being kept abreast of the details. Bel knows finding Sir Broderick's grandson is a career maker. Karen, meanwhile, tries to work on both cases, spending most of her time on Mick's disappearance while the Italian police keep her updated on the case there. Will the women be able to find out what really happened more than twenty years ago? A Darker Domain is a stand-alone mystery novel in the tradition of McDermid's A Place of Execution (one of the best mysteries I've ever read).

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Nemesis by Jo Nesbo

In Oslo, a bank robber executes a teller after she gives him all the money he asks for. Detective Harry Hole and his colleagues can't figure out why the killer that they've nicknamed "The Expeditor" just didn't leave the bank with his loot. Watching the video of the incident over and over again, they try to glean any clues they can about the identity of the robber. Harry, meanwhile, misses his girlfriend, Rakel, who is in Moscow trying to settle custody issues over her young son, Oleg. When Anna, an old girlfriend, calls, he gets together with her a few times. One morning after being at her house, Harry wakes up with no memory of the evening before. Anna is then found dead and it could be murder. Things get worse for Harry when someone starts sending him messages stating that they know about him being with Anna the night she died. Is someone trying to frame him for her death? It also doesn't help that the bank robberies are continuing. Nemesis is a multi-layered mystery (at times, maybe, a little wordy) that travels from Oslo to South America and introduces a wide range of suspects for the bank robbery and Anna's death. I enjoyed the slow unpeeling of the details to find out who was responsible for each of the crimes. The Harry Hole series is one that should be read in order because Nesbo reveals events that happened in previous books. The English language publishers have really botched the publishing of the series though. Nemesis is the third book to be published in the U.S., but should be read after The Redbreast. After reading The Redbreast and Nemesis, you can read The Devil's Star.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Our Lady of Pain by Elena Forbes

Rachel Tenison is a successful art dealer in London, yet very secretive about her personal life. When she's found dead in Holland Park, police detectives Mark Tartaglia and his female partner, Sam Donovan, have few clues on who could've murdered her. They start interviewing those close to Rachel, including her best friend, Liz Volpe and her stepbrother, MP Patrick Tenison. Tartaglia comes away from the interviews with the feeling that neither is being entirely truthful. He also discovers that Rachel had a history of rough sexual relationships. Then a journalist notifies the police of a possible connection between Rachel's death and another young woman. Are the police dealing with one or two killers? Our Lady of Pain is the second book in the Mark Tartaglia/Sam Donovan series. The publisher on the cover of the book is calling it "A Barnes Murder Squad Mystery", but it really isn't (no similarities to McBain's 87th Precinct here). The focus of the book is on Tartaglia and Donovan and regular readers of English police procedurals (James, Rendell, George, Crombie, Peter Robinson, Susan Hill) should give this series a try.