Friday, April 17, 2015

A Broken Life - Jan Christensen

A Broken Life
Jan Christensen
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Oct 24 2014, $14.99
ISBN: 9781502974624

In Taylor, Rhode Island private investigator Paula Michael heads to her office when she realizes a nearby homeless woman is her high school classmate Martha Hendricks.  Paula persuades a reluctant Martha to have coffee and pastry, and to tell her what happened to her.  Downtrodden Martha explains she worked for five years as an office manager at a medical practice when her boss Dr. Treverson learned from a routine background check she spent three days in jail for drug use.  Martha insists she never spent one day behind bars, but someone gave her identity as theirs to the police.  No one believes her innocence and soon Martha found her life broken.

Paula takes Martha to meet lawyer Geri Smithfield who after hearing the story agrees to take on a pro bono case.  The sleuth also takes Martha into her home while she investigates.  The PI obtains info from Dr. Treverson, but upon leaving she spots an amateur in a car obviously tailing her.  Not long after she began her inquiry, someone kills Treverson, threatens Paula and an attempt to silence her fails; however an assault on Martha leaves her unconscious.

While Tina Shaw takes a breather after being Buried Under Clutter, the second Paula Mitchell, P.I. case (see Perfect Victim) is a timely, tense and twisting cozy.  The impact of the identity theft feels incredibly genuine due to key factors: Treverson waited too long to explain why he really fired her (instead of his downsizing excuse); and by the time she knows the truth impoverished Martha had driven away all her friends (her parents were dead) and lacked transportation to get legal aid in Providence. 

Harriet Klausner

The Red Notebook - Antoine Laurain

The Red Notebook
Antoine Laurain; Jane Aitken (translator)
Gallic Books, Apr 7 2015, $14.95
ISBN: 9781908313867

In Paris, Laurent Letellier walks towards his Le Cahier Rouge bookstore when he notices a handbag on top of a bin.  Believing the owner was probably a mugging victim, Laurent takes the bag with him; but his efforts to give it to the police are met with polite sarcasm.  At his shop, he empties it seeking the identity of the owner so he could return it to her; especially when he finds personal items like a red journal.  However, nothing he finds tells him who she is.

Laurent remains steadfast to his resolution but unable to decide what next.  His daughter encourages him not to give up his mission when chance intervenes.  Eventually learning that Laure Valadier owns the bag, the red book and other sundry; Laurent wants to meet her as he feels he knows her.  However he also feels his obsession already led him to overstep decency; unaware that recently released from the hospital Laure wants to meet the person who rescued her red notebook. 

This is a warm whimsical romantic cozy in which the location and the support cast bring plausibility to Laurent’s quest that will remind the audience of the movie Serendipity.  Readers will root for fate to intervene by bringing Laure and Laurent together so they can collaborate on a new red and blue notebook.

Harriet Klausner

Fatal Games - Mari Hannah

Fatal Games
Mari Hannah
HarperCollins/Witness Impulse, Apr 7 2015, $11.99
ISBN: 9780062387134

On Bambaugh Beach just below the Bambaugh Castle in Northumberland, a father and child find human bones.  Leaving Newcastle with her team, Detective Chief Inspector Kate Daniels leads the investigation hampered by increasingly bad weather and the poor terrain.  Forensic anthropologist Abby Hunt says the victims were both females with one being a teen and the other a tweener.  However every time Kate and Detective Sergeant Hank Gormley believe they made progress on resolving what happened to the two young girls, more questions arise especially when more corpses are found; as the case to the chagrin of everyone involved seems heading to the cold files. 

Psychologist Emily McCann returns to work at nearby HMP Northumberland Category B Prison for the first time since her husband died a few months ago.  Although worried about her young daughter Rebecca being without her for the first time since she lost her dad, Emily also fears her fascination with convicted sexual predator Walter Fearon who will soon be released after his seven year sentence for raping an elderly woman ends.  Emily also is concerned with Fearon’s return to society.  Clues finally lead the police to diabolically brilliant Fearon at the prison where Kate’s former lover psychologist Jo Soulsby works.

The fourth Kate Daniels police procedural (see Deadly Deceit, Settled Blood and The Murder Wall) is a very dark atmospheric mystery.  In a cold foreboding background and character-driven especially by Fearon and the prison staff perhaps even more than the DCI and her team, subgenre fans will want to read this exhilarating British whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, April 16, 2015

False Tongues: A Callie Anson Mystery - Kate Charles

False Tongues: A Callie Anson Mystery
Kate Charles
Poisoned Pen, Apr 7 2015, $24.95
ISBN 9781464200045

In spite of having a new beau in London Police Family Liaison Officer Mark Lombardi, All Saints Church Anglican curate Callie Anson wants to skip Deacon's Week; as she is not ready to see her former lover Adam who dumped her for someone else.  Still Tamsin Howells insists Adam is not coming; so Callie’s friends Val Carver and Nicky Lamb persuade her to head to Cambridge.  However, to her dismay Adam decides to attend Deacon’s Week.

At the same time that Callie struggles to arrive in Cambridge, Mark works on the murder investigation led by Detective Inspector Neville Stewart of popular teenager Sebastian Frost in Paddington Green.  However, the cops soon find a cyber-crack in Sebastian’s seemingly golden life as an intelligent, handsome star athlete and son of two medical professionals.  Mark works on obtaining the cooperation of the victims’ reluctant parents while reading the riot act to his own family for their cold reactions towards Callie.

Linked only by each subplot containing a close look at family relationships, these diverse captivating dramas grip the audience throughout the outstanding fourth Callie Anson (and Mark Lombardi at least in this book) mystery (see Secret Sins, Evil Intent and Deep Waters).  The Callie tale focuses on encountering a former love for the first time since the other party broke it off; while the Lombardi segue concentrates on cyberbullying and families rallying around one of their own (in death or against their loved one’s wishes).

Harriet Klausner

Blood Sweep: A Posadas County Mystery - Steven F. Havill

Blood Sweep: A Posadas County Mystery
Steven F. Havill
Poisoned Pen, Apr 7 2015, $24.95
ISBN 9781464203893

In Posadas County, New Mexico an unknown sniper just misses killing Sheriff Robert Torrez.  The trail leads to a dead Miguel A. Quesada, whose vehicle contains a rifle that could be the one used in the murder attempt; but leaves unanswered who killed him and why.

Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman worries about her beloved former boss retired Sheriff Bill Gastner who broke his hip; her nonagenarian mom who withdrew $8000 from the bank; and her concert pianist son performing in a cartel dominated area of Mexico.  Adding to her tsuris is meeting Benedicte Maz√≥n, who insists he is the black sheep uncle she never met before or even heard of.

The twentieth Posadas County police procedural is an intriguing mystery in which Reyes-Guzman’s family drama supersedes the Torrez-Quesada subplot.  Targeting longtime fans, Blood Sweep engages those who have read the backstory (see NightZone and One Perfect Shot); newcomers will appreciate the police case and the rustic environs but struggle with understanding what the heroine knows and more significantly not knows re her family.

Harriet Klausner

Vengeance of the Demon - Diana Rowland

Vengeance of the Demon
Diana Rowland
DAW, Apr 7 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756408268

Demon lords abetted by a summoner tampered with the energy nodes.  As such the demon realm turns nasty; with the ugliness overflowing onto the earth.  If left as is, demons could cross over without a summoning but also intensify the growing instability on both sides until it becomes irreversibly lethal. 

Summoner of demons Kara Gillian knows she must bring order back starting with fixing the nodes.  Fuming at his peers’ dangerous foolishness, Kadir the demon lord, Idris, Bryce and others assist Kara.  At the same time the police are interested in questioning Kara as a witness reported seeing her near Farouche when he was murdered at the Plantation.

The seventh Kara Gilliam demon urban fantasy (see Fury Of The Demon and Touch of the Demon) is an entertaining entry with a lot going on (several more subplots than above), but very little resolved; as Vengeance reads more like a setup novel for the next act or two.  Kara has come a long way since the Mark and as usual the ensemble cast adds depth to a likable tale.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Manhattan in Miniature: A Miniature Mystery - Margaret Grace

Manhattan in Miniature: A Miniature Mystery
Margaret Grace
Perseverance, Apr 7 2015, $15.95
ISBN 9781564745620

Lincoln Point, California SuperKrafts store manager Bebe Mellon has a booth in a Manhattan Christmas crafts show.  She invites her friend retired English high school teacher Gerry Porter to accompany her to help with the setup.  Having grown up in the Bronx, an excited Gerry calls her former neighbor Cynthia Bishop that she and her tweener granddaughter Maddie are coming to town.  Ignoring Gerry’s explanation that she is working, Cynthia, who was there for her when her late husband had cancer and knows about the sleuthing success, tells her that someone murdered her Aunt Elsie; but NYPD refuses to investigate.

Besides assisting Bebe, Gerry shows Manhattan to an awed Maddie.  However at the event, Maddie watches a woman pocket an item on display from a table; while Gerry looks into the alleged homicide.  Grandma’s inquiry places the California pair on the radar of a clever killer.

The eighth Miniature mystery (see Monster in Miniature and Madness in Miniature) is an appealing amateur sleuth that combines two fine investigations with a charming tour of the Big Apple.  Although I admit I am biased when it comes to New York City settings having grown up in the Bronx (I even know why the borough is called THE Bronx), Manhattan in Miniature is a superb cozy.

Harriet Klausner