Thursday, October 30, 2014

Treacherous Tart-Ellie Grant

Treacherous Tart
Ellie Grant
Pocket Books, Oct 28 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9781451689563

Maggie Grady and her widowed Aunt Clara own Pie in the Sky in Durham, North Carolina.  The business is booming and both females have boyfriends.  Maggie met hers, reporter Ryan Summerour, when he worked on the homicide of her former New York boss (see Plum Deadly); while Aunt Clara’s Donald Wickerson is a steady customer.

Ryan writes an exposé on Donald suspected of killing several wealthy wives in what seemed like coincidental accidents that enabled him to inherit their money.  Clara reads Ryan’s article and rejects it as her Donald is sweet and kind and ergo no way a murdering widower.  When someone kills Donald in the Pie in the Sky, Maggie knows that DPD will look closely at her beloved aunt as the prime suspect just as they named her when her boss’ body was left by the pie shop’s back door (see Plum Deadly).  With Ryan at her side she investigates the homicide only to seemingly find enough people with revenge motives to fill Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The second Pie Shop mystery is an entertaining culinary cozy with a dynamic witty lead sleuths, denier Aunt Clara and several viable suspects filled with rage at the apparent uxoricide serial killer.  Team Grant provides the audience with a winning regional investigative whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

‘Tis The Season-Robyn Carr

‘Tis The Season
Robyn Carr
Harlequin MIRA, Oct 28 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778316640

“Under the Christmas Tree.”  Hairstylist Annie stops to admire a Virgin River Christmas tree only to find eight newborn puppies underneath it. Obviously abandoned, Annie brings the canines to the town `s vet Nathaniel.

“Midnight Confessions.”  One year ago on New Year’s Eve, Sunny’s fiancé Glen jilted her.  Though she wants to celebrate this New Year's Eve alone at home, her Uncle Nathanial and his fiancée Annie insist she accompany them to Jack’s Bar.  UCLA Orthopedic resident Drew Foley and Sunny meet at the bar; whereas she rejects his attempts to get to know each other, he refuses to quit trying.

“Backward Glance.”  In Durango five years have passed since John last saw his beloved Leigh, but every time he drives passed her mom Jess’ house he looks to see if she is visiting.  Jess tells John she has a bad ticker but is not seeing the doctor.  Worried about her mom’s health, Leigh, accompanied by her four year old twins (Mitch and Ty), returns home.  When John and Leigh meet, they have a fight over who was at fault; as they reconcile another argument may destroy their love. 

The first two tales are warm reprints of Virgin River novellas though the leads of Midnight Confessions seem unlikely to overcome their respective failed relationships as the prime icon etched in their respective brains.  Backward Glance is a pre-Virgin River second chance but with an overused premise. 

Harriet Klausner

A Country Christmas-Debbie Macomber

A Country Christmas
Debbie Macomber
Harlequin MIRA, Oct 28 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778316510

“Buffalo Valley”.  Vaughn leaves the Army to return to civilian life in Seattle where he starts a job in the New Year.  However, over the holidays Vaughn visits his family in Grand Forks, North Dakota.   While in town, the veteran introduces himself to elderly pharmacist Hassie; Vaughn’s parents named him after her son who died in Nam.  At the pharmacy, Vaughn and trainee Carrie meet and quickly fall in love. However, he has an ethics dilemma when he learns his Washington State employer plans to build a superstore that will destroy the mom and pop shops in Buffalo Valley.

“Return to Promise”.  The schism in their marriage started when Cal hid from his wife Jane that he signed up to participate in the Promise, Texas Labor Day Rodeo bull-riding event. The next incident begins when Jane's mother calls to inform them that her father is ill. Jane, accompanied by her three-year-old son and eighteen-month-old daughter, travels to her California home while Cal stays behind.  The third mess occurs when Nicole makes a bold bid to catch geographical bachelor Cal's interests.  With Jane in California and Cal in Texas, their relationship appears dead.

Buffalo Valley is a reprint that returns readers to the Dakota trilogy on an interesting journey to a Shangri-La threatened by "progress".  Return to Promise is a reprint of a Heart Of Texas family drama starring protagonists who substantiates that men and women occupy different galaxies not just planets or states.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Black Dog: Hellhound Chronicles-Caitlin Kittredge

Black Dog: Hellhound Chronicles
Caitlin Kittredge
Harper Voyager, Oct 28 2014, $14.99
ISBN 9780062316912

Ava the hellhound collects a debt owed by Bob Dobkins to her employer Gary the reaper who sent the miscreant’s soul to Hell.  Ava is lonely as she has been for the past century in which Gary has owned her; as no one human or otherwise with an ounce of sanity, wants coffee with a hellhound; except her vicious boss when he makes demands of her that she knows she better fulfill.

Gary’s boss Lilith orders the Reaper to send his Hellhound to look into the increase in deadhead activity in the Mohave near the locale of Alex Ivanoff and kill the human for dabbling in necromancy though his debt is not due.  In Vegas, a deadhead juiced by a necromancer attacks her; only he is not an Alex convert; he is Alex.  Instead of killing Ava, Leonid Karpov the necromancer kidnaps her.  Leo explains she is his third captured hellhound, but the first two died snarling at him; that he still owns his soul; and that with her help he will kill Gary starting with Ava stealing her reaper’s scythe.

The first Hellhound Chronicles is an exciting urban fantasy starring a sympathetic repo hellhound who muses on how far she has fallen since she fled as a teen Bear Hollow, Tennessee for New Orleans during Prohibition.  However, the Cecile B. DeMille sized support cast and especially an inordinate number of supernatural species are difficult to follow and keep track of without a paranormal classification similar to the Linnaeus seven-category hierarchical biological systemStill subgenre fans will want to tour the USA with Ava as our snarling badass guide.

Harriet Klausner

Ho-Ho-Homicide-Liss MacCrimmon-Kaitlyn Dunnett

Ho-Ho-Homicide: Liss MacCrimmon Scottish Mystery
Kaitlyn Dunnett
Kensington, Oct 28 2014, $24.00
ISBN 9780758292834

In Moosetookalook, Maine, Gina Snowe asks her high school BFF Liss MacCrimmon Ruskin to look at the Christmas tree farm in New Boston she inherited from a late great-uncle to see if it is a feasible money-making enterprise.  Owner of the successful Scottish Emporium, Liss agrees to help her Chicago-based lawyer friend though they had drifted apart several years ago.  She and her husband Dan decide to check out the farm that is a couple of hours west of their home with a one week pre-holiday paid vacation.

However, the town and the farm residents lack the Christmas spirit as seemingly everyone demands the visitors leave.  Liss learns of a corpse buried amidst a delivery to New York and the farm’s owner vanished.  As Liss investigates the cold case incidents, the uncooperative locals, especially the cops, resent her inquiry, but one of them has a deadly vendetta.

The eighth Liss MacCrimmon Scottish Mystery (see Vampires, Bones, And Treacle Scones; and Bagpipes, Brides, And Homicides and Scotched) is a pleasurable twisting Yuletide amateur sleuth.  Although the Ruskin relationship is not quite as cozy as the detecting into the farm and town, this is a Merry Christmas tale.

Harriet Klausner

By Winter’s Light: A Cynster Novel-Stephanie Laurens

By Winter’s Light: A Cynster Novel
Stephanie Laurens
Harlequin Mira, Oct 28 2014, $16.99
ISBN: 9780778317470

In 1837, the six Cynster families, their servants and others in their circle like tutors come to Casphairn Manor in Scotland to enjoy the holidays.  Attracted to each other, Daniel Crosbie (tutor to the sons of Lucifer and Phyllida) and Claire Meadows (governess to the daughter of Rupert and Alathea) especially look forward to the extended family gathering as this gives them an opportunity to see each other. 

Daniel patiently waited until he is on sound financial footing before he asks Claire to marry him.  Though she believes she loves the kind honest tutor, the widow refuses as being married once was one time too many for her.  However, Daniel knows who he wants to spend his life with so he continues to court his reluctant Medy.

The second Cynster Christmas special (see The Promise in a Kiss) is a pleasant holiday historical with a large cast (a listing helps with who belongs to whom) that includes the romance between the two likable employees, the return of leads from the previous twenty novels and the introduction to the Cynster offspring who will probably lead in a new Victorian series.  Targeting her fans, Stephanie Laurens authors a warm (even in snowy Scotland) Yuletide treat.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dead Don't Lie-L. R. Nicolello

Dead Don't Lie
L. R. Nicolello
Harlequin HQN, Oct 28 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373785001

In Europe, eighteen year old model Evelyn Maslin returns home to find a DVD apparently sent to her by her family in Seattle.  When she plays it, she observes the vicious slaughtering of her parents and her fourteen years old sister.  Numb but she prays this is a cruel prank until Police Detective Nikols calls to inform her that her family is dead.

Fifteen years later, having changed her surname and motivated by the slaughter of her family, Seattle Detective Evelyn Davis now is considered the top profiler in the department, reinforced by the horrible Langdon homicides.  She keeps her distance from everyone, but her partner Ryan O’Neil, his wife Kate and their children welcome her as a favorite “relative”.  Dinner with the O’Neil brood ends when their supervisor Captain Kessler tells them Chief Diaz wants them working a family annihilator case on Mercer Island, the second in two weeks there.  Due to the mayor’s request, FBI Special Agent Marcus Moretti joins the investigative team.  He provides information on the deaths of the Garland and Middleton family who both had two young daughters.  Marcus conceals one thing from Evelyn; that he wants her on his special task force.  As they work the case that turns Deja vu personal, the Fed and the local officer fall in love.

Dead Don't Lie is a taut police procedural that grips the audience from the first family invasion until the final confrontation.  Readers will respect Evelyn and admire caring Marcus even while the serial killer pushes the heroine’s buttons into mental freefall.  Although the love subplot is unnecessary, this is a tremendous romantic suspense.

Harriet Klausner