Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Chanukah Guilt by Ilene Schneider

Title - Chanukah Guilt
Author - Ilene Schneider
ISBN -978-934041-31-4
Genre - Mystery - Amateur Sleuth
Number of pages - 312
Rating 3.75 out of 5

Sometimes mysteries with religious content become venues for moralizing. Not so with this good mystery by Ilene Schneider. Chanukah Guilt weaves Jewish culture and mystery in a delightful blend.

Rabbi Aviva Cohen, 50-something and twice-divorced, would never have chosen to officiate at an unpopular land developer's funeral. And his highly dysfunctional family won't make it any easier on her, especially when one of his daughters asks to see her privately the day after the funeral. When a second family member turns up dead, this time declared a suicide, the family starts to wonder. Could both deaths have been murder? Rabbi Cohen is dragged into the investigation when one family member threatens her with a lawsuit, and she's compelled to search for answers.

The character development in this book is very good. Ilene Schneider's writing style allows you to really know both the main characters and the supporting roles. You finish this book with a solid picture of what these people look like and their personality quirks. Chanukah Guilt gives insight in to the Jewish culture and religion because the rabbi's life revolves around the synagogue where she is employed. The plot moves along well and the conclusion is satisfying. I enjoyed this cozy mystery and look forward to the next instalment by this talented author.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Whack A Mole by Chris Grabenstein

Title -Whack A Mole
Author - Chris Grabenstein
ISBN - 978-0-78671-818-4
Number of Pages -312
Genre - mystery
Rating - 4 out of 5

I live in a resort city and enjoy going to unique places that most tourists do not go to. So the fact that Chris Grabenstein uses this setting is a draw for me.

The unearthing of an old high school ring on the beach in Sea Haven take John Ceepak and his partner Danny Boyle on a hunt for the owner. The discovery that the ring was given to a young woman 20 years before and who subsequently disappeared leads Ceepak into making inquiries regarding the disappearance. Not long afterwards other grisly finds are made which lead Ceepak and his wisecracking parter Boyle on a hunt for a once dormant serial killer who is planning to start killing again.

Once again Chris Grabenstein in Whack A Mole has written a good mystery that is darker than his previous books Tilt a Whirl and Mad Mouse. The killer uses an atypical manner to mock the police. The plot is very good with enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing as to who the killer is. The pace, although bit slow in the first quarter of the book , picks up and moves along quickly to a satisfying conclusion. I particularly enjoyed the richer character development of Ceepak and Boyle. The setting of a resort community with its tasteless and brassy souvenier shops is authentic. This series is now one of my favourites and I look forward to reading more of Ceepak's exploits.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Big Money by Jack Getze

Title - Big Money
Author - Jack Getze
ISBN - 978-1-59133-239-8
Genre -mystery/thriller
Number of pages- 234
Series -2nd in the Austin Carr series
rating- 4.25 out of 5

I'm a person who enjoys some of the classic mystery novels from the 1960's and Jack Getze's novel Big Money has that same feel and style of writers such as John D. Macdonald.

Austin Carr, a stockbroker who lost his license, is left in charge of Jersey Shore Investment firm while his boss Mr. Vick goes on vacation. Vick also makes him promise to look after his adult daughter Carmella and his mother Mama Bones. Vick has barely left the country when Carmella ex-husband returns and beats up on her, Mama Bones is arrested, and the regulatory audit of the investment firm turns up some questionable transactions. To top it off a local mob boss tries to persuade Austin in a not too friendly manner to launder money through the firm.
Before long Austin finds himself a target of a hit man and his children in danger.

Jack Getze has written a fast paced mystery with plenty of action and suspense. His first person point of view is well done and his bumbling protagonist Austin Carr is well developed. I found myself turning the pages hoping that everything would turn out well for Austin while at the same time chuckling at Austin's view of the world. The plot is good and the conclusion is very satisfying. I look forward to reading more in this series.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Memories Are Murder by Lou Allin

Title - Memories are Murder
Author - Lou Allin
ISBN -978-1-894917-33-9
Genre - mystery
Series- 5th in the series of 5
Number of pages -282
rating - 4 out of 5

I often worry when I start to read a book at the end of a series. Starting at the end of a series is kind of like going into a movie with 30 minutes left to go and trying to figure out who the people are and what the story is about . My worries completely vanished as I started Lou Allin's Memories Are Murder. Allin's fine writing hooked me into the story and kept me turning the pages to a satisfactory conclusion.

Belle Palmer is a real estate agent in Sudbury Ontario. To her surprise Belle runs into a former classmate who she had persued and dated in high school without success. Now a zoologist Gary Myers is doing research on elk in the wild and is looking to rent a cottage for a couple of months. A few days later Gary is found dead apparently a victim of accidental drowning. When Matthew Malloy (nicknamed Mutt) Gary's partner of several years arrives he and Belle begin to look into Gary's research and death and find themselves targets of an unknown killer.

Lou Allin has written a good novel more on the cozy side than not with humorous descriptions of life in Northern Ontario. The sense of place is very good and the characters are interesting and well developed. Allin's use of unusual names helped to endear and bring life to the characters. The plot is good with enough twists and turns to provide a satisfactory ending. I plan to read the back list of this talented author and I look forward to reading her new series.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Killer Heat by Linda Fairstein

Title - Killer Heat
Author - Linda Fairstein
ISBN -978-385-52397-4
Genre- Mystery
Number of Pages - 370
Rating - 3.75 out of 5

Alex Cooper, the assistant District Attorney, is working on the final preparations
for the Floyd Warren trial when she is called to the scene where of a body of a young woman is discovered. Before long two more bodies are discovered and Alex is beginning to suspect that the murders are done by the same killer. When another young woman disappears, Alex and detective Mike Mercer race against time finding themselves scouring abandoned sites in order to save a life and their own as well.

Once again Linda Fairstein has written a good fast paced novel. Her ability to take the reader to places in New York that they may not have even known enhances the story. The behind the scenes information on how prosecution has changed over the years was very informative and added to the story. There are few surprises in the story which made the plot feel a bit formulaic but the suspense build up is good and the conclusion satisfying. I look forward to reading the next installment of this series.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Pandemic by Daniel Kalla

Title - Pandemic
Author- Daniel Kalla
Genre - Medical Thriller
ISBN -0-765-35084-X
Number of Pages -407
Rating - 4 out of 5

Noah Haldane of the World Health Organization is sent to China to investigate a new form of flu that kills 25% of the people that are infected. The outbreak is contained and there is great relief. New outbreaks occur in Canada, England, and the United States. Dr. Gwen Savard, director of Counter Bio-terrorism for Homeland Security joins Noah Haldane to search for the cause and cure of the deadly virus and discover that they are dealing with a mad religious zealot intent on bringing down America and its allies.

Daniel Kalla blends fact and fiction into this very good medical thriller. The novel is fast paced and chilling particularly so because it is a "could happen" scenario. Pandemic is a thought provoking debut novel that is historically and medically accurate. I particularly enjoyed the fact that Kalla didn't simply focus on the extreme factions of Islam. In the character of inspector Eleish and his family Kalla shows the quiet side of the faith, those who study the religion in order to find a deep abiding spirituality from which they gather strength for daily living. His protagonists are well fleshed out and the plot well executed. I highly recommend this debut thriller.

The Monarchs Are Flying by Marion Foster

Title - The Monarchs Are Flying
Author - Pen Name Marion Foster - Susan Shea
ISBN - 978-0932379337
Genre -Mystery
Rating - 4.00

Gay/lesbian/bi-sexual/transexual folk have, in our society, always been on the margins. GLBT folk have been legally discriminated against in the workplace, in housing opportunities, religious institutions, the legal system, as well as dealing with homophobic people in other aspects of society. In Monarchs Are Flying , Marion Foster paints such a picture of homophobia in a small conservative northern Ontario town..

TV reporter Leslie Taylor is arrested for murder of her ex lover Marcie Denton, who, after their break up marries an abusive man whom she had been trying to leave. Harriet Croft, an older divorced lawyer, is called on the case by Marcie's husband who want to be sure that Leslie is prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But Harriet is attracted to Leslie's courage and after Leslie fires her local lawyer, she agrees to represent her and prove her innocence.

I rated this book highly because Marion Foster in her writing gives the reader a very good sense of what it is like to live in a small community where homophobia is present. Perhaps what is even more important is her ability to demonstrate how internalized homophobia is destructive to the GLBT person. Leslie decides early in the novel to plead guilty even though she is innocent because of her own sense of guilt over who she is. The plot of the novel is standard and straight forward and moves along well. As a mystery the book is average. As a character study in growth and development, Foster's insight is excellent.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Hell's Bay by James W. Hall

Title- Hell's Bay
Author - James W. Hall
ISBN 978-0-312-35958-4
Genre - thriller/suspense
Number of pages 306
Rating 2.75 out 5

Daniel Thorn agrees to be a fishing guide for a luxury commercial undertaking by his former lover. His job is to take small groups out on week long fishing trips into the Florida everglades on a custom made houseboat.. The first customers are a travel writer with her photographer and a father/daughter pair who turn out to be Thorn's uncle and niece. Before long they find themselves to be the target of a killer who is determined to kill them all.

James Hall has written a straight forward story that follows the traditional plot device, an isolated location and a small group of people under attack, and is able to give the reader a sense of building suspense. There are few twists and turns, and few characters to keep track of. Hall does however give a very good sense of setting. I found myself wondering why Thorn, a man who hates the impact of modern society on nature, would agree to take a commercial venture into an untouched and unspoiled area of the everglades. Overall, Hall's thriller is very readable but felt that something was missing.

A Chilling Goodbye by Jean Sheldon

Title - A Chilling Goodbye
Author - Jean Sheldon
ISBN - 978-0-9723541-5-8
Genre - Mystery
Number of Pages 244
rating 4 out of 5

I'm a Canadian who lives in the "cold" north and am used to the freezing winter weather. However the thought of being frozen in order to be re-animated at a future time absolutely chills me to the bone.

Winter is bitterly cold in Chicago and Detective Kerry Grant has to bundle up to take her trash out to the dumpster. Amidst the thinly spread garbage she discovers the naked body of a woman. Three more bodies are found in dumpsters and one is found on a beach. All were previous frozen by a technique called cryonics. As Kerry and her partner Mike track down where the bodies came from and investigate the murder of the owner of the cryonics lab they find themselves targets of a killer who will stop at nothing to keep a secret hidden.

This is the third book in the Kerry Grant series by Jean Sheldon and the first I have read. Sheldon has created a well developed character in the stubborn and impulsive Kerry Grant who frequently finds herself in the not so good graces of her superior Lieutenant Romero. The plot is well paced and the conclusion is satisfying. I particularly enjoyed the way Sheldon gives us insight into Kerry through her relationship to her P.I. lover Marty. I strongly recommend The Chilling Goodbye and I personally plan to read the backlist of this very talented author.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Black Order by James Rollins

Title - Black Order
Author - James Rollins
ISBN - 978-0752882161
Genre - Thriller
Rating - 4 out of 5

I enjoy thrillers and this book by James Rollins is the best of his recent Sigma novels.

Lisa Cummings is a doctor on a mountain climbing expedition when her expertise is needed. She and Sigma Force operative Painter Crowe are investigating a Buddhist monastery in Nepal where something very strange seems to be happening to the monks and one goes on a murderous rampage.

In Denmark, another Sigma Force operative, Grayson Pierce is pulled by a young girl into an investigation a stolen Bible that belonged to Darwin himself, and supposedly holds clues to a secret scientific experiment. In South Africa, something very strange is happening with some of the animals, causing them to brutally attack humans when unprovoked.

Three seemingly unrelated series of events unfolding appear to have chilling ties to a Nazi experiment conducted during WWII that was supposedly destroyed. Suddenly, Sigma Force operatives are in a race against time to get to the bottom of these events before it destroys them all.

Once again James Rollins has written a good action thriller. He keeps up a good pace and the suspense builds up well to a satisfactory climax. I found, however, that the switching of points of view happened too frequently for me but everything came together well and the climax was satisfactory. I look forward to more novels by this author.