Friday, May 30, 2008

Because Your Vampire Said So

Because Your Vampire Said So
Michele Bardsley
Signet Eclipse

Paranormal Romance

Broken Heart, Oklahoma is a different kind of town. It’s full of vampires, lycanthropes, and various other supernatural creatures. A group called the Consortium runs the place and secures the perimeter; and they’ve even relocated all the unsuspecting mortal inhabitants. One resident is a single mom, beautician, lover of country music, and new vampire (Turn-blood,) Patsy Donahue.

While closing up her shop one night – sure, business has dropped off, but she’s thinking of offering animal grooming for all those wolf types – Patsy gets a visit from Gabriel, who says he’s her new guardian. She’s miffed, for about two minutes, when an eight-foot demon attacks. Then she’s pretty glad to have him around. Relief turns to confusion when Gabriel disappears. And when she finds out he’s not the guardian, anyway.

Fact is, things are getting pretty hot in Broken Heart. The Ancients, the original vampires, are on the verge of an all-out war for control. And then there’s this prophecy about how some Turn-blood is supposed to unite the vampires and the lycans. Like anyone on either side is going to let that happen. On top of all this, Patsy is trying to deal with her teenaged son, who is seriously, dangerously, into drugs and alcohol.

Let me state at the outset that I haven’t read the first two books in this series. Obviously, that’s my loss. There’s enough background here for us newbies (don’t miss the glossary at the end for more info) but I did feel like I was missing large swaths of story. The narrative moves at lightning speed. This is great in that in keep the pages turning, but sometimes it feels like bits of the story got lost. Again, this may be stuff I missed by not reading the first two books. There’s plenty of humor and action here, making this the perfect read for a lazy summer evening or an afternoon by the pool.

Rating: 6 ½
May 2008
ISBN# 978-0-451-22386-9 (paperback)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Murder Can Crash Your Party - Selma Eichler

Murder Can Crash Your Party
A Desiree Shapiro Mystery
Selma Eichler


Manhattan PI Desiree Shapiro is both flattered and confused when she’s invited to speak at the Arresting Women conference. The conference is made up of female mystery writers who use female sleuths, and their fans. At first, she’s reluctant to go, since public speaking is not her favorite thing. But the lure of a weekend in Connecticut at a lovely inn, a speaking fee, and a lot of free publicity decides her.

The next morning, she meets writer Belle Simone. Belle is a romance writer who is currently engaged in writing her first mystery. She wants Desiree to read it, but there’s a twist. She offers Desiree $24,940 if she can solve the mystery, given only three clues. The mystery hooks Desiree from the start, but she can’t help but be suspicious of Belle’s motives. Why pay such a large (and odd) sum of money to a stranger to solve a fictional murder?

Desiree is a very likeable character. She’s a widow in late middle age, possessed of “glorious hennaed hair” and a very normal figure. She loves her job, mysteries, and ice cream. The only time she’s not completely engaging is when she’s mooning over her erstwhile love, Nick. Not having read previous books, it’s entirely possible that I’m missing something in their relationship.

The construction of the mystery is interesting, a sort of book within a book, as Desiree reads Belle’s pages and attempts to solve each clue. It’s not hard to figure out whodunit; the fun is all in getting there.

Rating: 6 ½
May 2008
ISBN#978-0-451-22384-5 (paperback)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cruel Zinc Melodies - Glen Cook

Cruel Zinc Melodies
A Garrett, P.I. Novel
Glen Cook

Fantasy/Noir Mystery

Sometimes the best thing about winter is that being snowed in gives you an excuse not to go out and do anything. In the world of TunFaire, it’s been snowing for quite a while, and Garrett has been taking full advantage. He’s happy to hang around, not doing much, with his biggest problem being that he needs more beer.

Enter Garrett’s leading lady, Tinnie Tate, with her friend Alyx Weider. Alyx’s very wealthy father is currently building a theater so she can star in plays. Nice work if you can get it. But the construction has been plagued – so to speak – by insects. Gigantic insects. And ghosts. And various other problems. Maybe it’s just a local gang looking to score a protection gig. Maybe it’s something more. The overriding factor is that Alyx’s father is the head of a brewing company and can supply Garrett with plenty of beer. An excellent reason to take on a case.

Those who are new to TunFaire will have no problems reading this as a standalone. There are plenty of characters that were clearly introduced in previous novels, but there’s enough background given for new readers to feel pretty much at home. The writing is sharp, mixing fantasy with elements of noir detective stories, and not a small amount of dry humor. The blend works perfectly. Not only do I look forward to more Garrett, I’ll be seeking out his previous adventures, as well.

Rating: 8
May 2008
ISBN# 978-0-451-46192-6 (paperback)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

To Taste Temptation - Elizabeth Hoyt

To Taste Temptation
The Legend of the Four Soldiers
Elizabeth Hoyt
Grand Central

Historical Romance

Samuel Hartley arrives in London in 1764 with his 19-year-old sister, Rebecca. The two were born and raised in the colonies, and Sam is now one of the richest men in Boston. That fact does not exactly impress members of the London ton, who view Sam with varying degrees of amusement and scorn. His habit of wearing leather leggings and moccasins on nearly all occasions – even while wearing a coat and vest – does nothing to dispel the notion that he is not worthy of Society. But Sam isn’t in London to join the elite; he’s trying to find out what – or who – really caused the massacre of the 28th Regiment.

Lady Emeline Gordon’s beloved brother, Reynaud, was one of the soldiers killed during that massacre. When Sam asks her to take on his sister and introduce her into Society, Emeline is reluctant until Sam tells her that he was a friend of Reynaud’s. It isn’t until later that she discovers Sam’s true reason for being in London. As a widow with a young son and a thriving hobby as a chaperone, Emeline has no need to become involved with an untitled man from the colonies; nevertheless, something draws her to him. But Sam’s suspicions about the true cause of the massacre may destroy everything for both of them.

Elizabeth Hoyt has an amazing knack for bringing her characters to life. Emeline and her Tante Cristelle are both the crustiest of the upper crust, but each has an inner life that shines through quite clearly. In the society of the time, it’s completely reasonable that Emeline would be reluctant to associate with Sam; rich in Boston hardly equates to titled gentry in London. Sam’s background is expertly woven into the story and is essential to understanding who he is and why he acts the way he does. Both main characters are intelligent grown-ups; it’s great fun to watch their interactions.

As with previous books (THE RAVEN PRINCE, THE LEOPARD PRINCE) this one is told in parallel with the story/fairy tale of four soldiers; begun in the prologue and continued in each chapter heading. I hope there are three more stories coming from this very talented author.

Rating: 7 ½
May 2008
ISBN# 0-446-40691-0 (paperback)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Strip For Murder - Max Allan Collins

Strip For Murder
Max Allan Collins
Illustrations by Terry Beatty
Berkley Prime Crime


In Manhattan in 1953, two comics are archrivals. One is called “Tall Paul,” drawn by Hal Rapp; the other is “Mug O’Malley,” drawn by Sam Fizer. The artists, published by the same paper, consider themselves to be in direct competition; and neither one is taking it well. But the war is mostly a cold one until “Tall Paul” is scheduled to become a Broadway musical. Fizer is livid. To make matters worse, Misty Winters is going to have a role in the play. Misty is Fizer’s wife.

While everyone concerned knows this won’t end well, no one expects it to end in death. Fizer’s death, in a scene that is obviously staged, and meant to look like a suicide. And all the evidence points to Rapp. Jack Starr, VP and general troubleshooter for his late father’s comic syndicating empire, doesn’t believe it for a moment. Neither does his stepmother, Maggie Starr. The two have already gained some fame as amateur sleuths (A KILLING IN COMICS) and they’re more than ready and able to jump into the murky waters surrounding Fizer’s death.

Any time a Max Allan Collins book comes out, readers everywhere should rejoice. He truly excels at setting the time and place, writing this series in a comic/noir voice that fits the subjects perfectly. The Broadway production of “Tall Paul” is a riff on the production of “Lil’ Abner.” Do not miss the author’s note, here called A Tip Of The Fedora, for a wealth of information. Each chapter begins with a comic illustration done in the style of the time. These panels go the extra mile to set the mood.

Rating: 8
May 2008
ISBN# 978-0-425-22139-6 (trade paperback)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Clubbed To Death - Elaine Viets

Clubbed To Death
A Dead-End Job Mystery
Elaine Viets


Helen Hawthorne is still in hiding from her ex-husband. She quit her high-paying job and lives in anonymity, taking low-paying, dead-end jobs so that her cheating ex can’t get alimony from her. She just learned that her ex, Rob, got married again. To Marcella, a fabulously wealthy woman whose husbands have a strange habit of dying; usually after she catches them cheating. Which means Rob may not last too long. And Helen is unsure how she really feels about that, despite trying and failing to stop the wedding.

Now she’s working at the Superior Club, a club that once accepted only the cream of the social register, but now takes anyone who has money, no matter what the source. Helen works in “customer care.” That’s complaints, anywhere else. It’s not fun to cater to the whims of the spoiled and idle (and rude) rich, but it’s the best-paying job she’s had in quite a while. When Marcella’s huge yacht docks in the marina, Helen’s main concern is avoiding Rob. But, of course, that’s not going to happen. He stops her in the parking lot late one night. One thing leads to another, and Helen lands an incredibly satisfying punch right to his mouth.

The following day, Marcella reports Rob missing. He pretty much admitted to Helen that he might be cheating, among other things. And when security finds his blood-soaked shirt on the grounds, Helen is the prime suspect. One of her supervisors, who never met a rule she didn’t love to exploit for her own gain, saw the fight and is only too happy to tell the authorities about it. Just when things seem like they couldn’t get more bizarre, Helen is arrested, then bailed out. By Marcella, who is already speaking of Rob in the past tense.

This latest in a long-running series is the most entertaining of the lot. Seeing Helen get a bit of her dignity back, if only for a moment, is very satisfying for those who have been following her so far. The setting provides for plenty of likely suspects, and Rob is the type of guy who makes a habit of irritating people. There are several possibly outcomes, and it’s interesting to see the whole thing play out, especially since Helen’s investigation is aimed at clearing herself from suspicion. Written in a breezy and engaging style, this is sure to make fans of the series very happy.

Rating: 7
May 2008
ISBN# 978-0-451-22394-4 (hardcover)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pointe And Shoot - Natalie M. Roberts

Pointe and Shoot
A Jenny T. Partridge Dance Mystery
Natalie M. Roberts
Berkley Prime Crime


Jenny T. Partridge is making a go a running her own dance studio in her hometown of Ogden, UT. There’s no shortage of dance moms who want to see their kids on stage, but money is always tight. Jenny’s idea is to expand the studio and add a shop to sell dance clothes, costumes, and accessories. Every parent and student will be a built-in customer. This expansion will take money, too. That’s where the Ultimate Dance Championship comes into the plan. The winning studio earns $2,500 in prize money. That’s enough to ease the stress a bit.

While trying to tighten up the dance routines, Jenny gets an unusual visitor: a gorilla. It’s a singing telegram, and the contents of the message are threatening. After questioning the gorilla-suited singer, Jenny finds that the woman who hired him – who didn’t give her name, of course – was driving a silver Hummer. The same kind of car that has been menacing Jenny recently. That night, there’s an unwelcome passenger in Jenny’s truck. Someone killed the singing gorilla guy and left him there. That message is pretty unmistakable.

This is the third in the series, following TUTU DEADLY and TAPPED OUT, and the author continues to improve. There are funny scenes, but they’re written without going over the top. Jenny’s relationship continues with a local detective, and many of the characters from previous books make welcome return appearances. For a fun cozy, this one is right en pointe.

Rating: 6 ½
May 2008ISBN# 978-0-425-22128-0 (paperback)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bit The Jackpot - Erin McCarthy

Bit The Jackpot
A Tale of Vegas Vampires (Book 2)
Erin McCarthy
Berkley Sensation

Paranormal Romance

Note: If you haven’t read the first book, HIGH STAKES, this review contains unavoidable spoilers.

Seamus Fox is an Irishman who never thought he’d find himself living in Las Vegas. He probably never thought he’d live to be nearly 400 years old, and a vampire, either. He’s spent the last few years working as the campaign manager for Ethan Carrick, incumbent president of the Vampire Nation. For the past two centuries, Seamus has been all work and no play. But things change when he enters a strip club one evening. As things are wont to do. His real mission is forgotten as he finds himself mesmerized by the sight of a shadow dancer behind a screen. He introduces himself and tries a little vampire mind control on the woman, Cara Kim, and he’s shocked when it doesn’t work.

Leaving the club, he’s attacked by several vampires who, most likely, work for the opposition party. Cara gets caught in the crossfire, makes a run for it, and dies in a hit-and-run accident. Overcome with guilt, Seamus makes the instant decision to turn her. Now he needs to teach her to be a vampire. And, if possible, keep her a secret from the vampire public, since this is exactly the kind of thing that could derail Ethan’s election.

In the first novel, HIGH STAKES, Seamus was pretty much a non-emotional work machine. It would have been interesting to watch him slowly evolve into something else once he meets his destined mate. Here, however, his change happens in minutes, and from the first chapter. Add to this the character of Cara, the virgin stripper who dances completely naked behind a screen but is too shy to wear a bathing suit in public; who dances only for the money to put herself through veterinary school and keep her grandmother in a nursing home. This book is not meant to be a deep character exploration by any means, but the clichés pile up a little too fast to be palatable.

On the bright side, if you’re looking for a paranormal romance that’s light and frothy this is a very fun book. There’s some interesting political maneuvering carried over from the first novel, as Ethan’s opponent uses means both fair and foul to get elected. Many characters from the first book make appearances here, but this can easily be read as a standalone. The pace of the story is very fast and the writing consistently breezy. This might be the perfect summer beach book.

Rating: 6 ½
June 2008
ISBN# 978-0-425-22997 (paperback reprint)

ISBN# 0-425-21213-0 (trade paperback)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Astropolis: Earth Ascendant - Sean Williams

Astropolis: Earth Ascendant
Sean Williams

Science Fiction

Nearly a million years in the future, the galaxy, once united, has been broken apart into competing systems by a phenomenon called the Slow Wave. The wave severed the Line that once connected all worlds under one, cohesive rule. Now, Imre Bergamasc, First Prime of the Returned Continuum travels the galaxies in an attempt to bring everything back together. Imre has all the time he needs to complete his mission. His consciousness is transmitted through the Line into a hardcaster, a device that gives new bodies to Imre and his companions.

Many worlds are content to live in isolation, away from Earth and its rules. This attitude is not acceptable to Imre, who uses all means at his disposal, military and diplomatic, to achieve his goals. He is always aware that assassins and – from his perspective – terrorists wait on every world, bent on his death. This time, however, his consciousness is late in arriving, hijacked by an intelligence with a message: return to Earth. Earth is 20,000 light years away from his current position, and it’s not the next scheduled stop. But something tells Imre that he needs to be there.

Fans of hard scifi will love this look at a far future society, where nearly anything is possible. Through various technologies, and individual can live for millennia. That’s a lot of time to develop military and political strategies. The story is presented from Imre’s point of view, but it’s easy to empathize with the views of others. Within the framework of technology and intrigue live individuals who are still quite human and familiar. Read it for technology, read it for the politics, read it for the space opera; no matter how you approach it, it’s an entertaining ride.

Rating: 7 ½
May 2008
ISBN# 978-0-441-01585-6 (paperback)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Perfect Poison - Joyce and Jim Lavene

Perfect Poison
A Peggy Lee Garden Mystery
Joyce and Jim Lavene
Berkley Prime Crime


Dr. Peggy Lee (no, not that one) is a widow, a forensic botanist, and the owner of her own garden shop called The Potting Shed. As the story opens, Peggy, along with many others, are attending a funeral when emergency personnel arrive, looking for the sheriff. There’s a diver in a nearby lake, checking the structure of the dam, and he’s stopped replying to hails. Dr. Ruth Sargent, an expert in underwater forensics, and another friend of Peggy’s, is also in attendance, and offers to go into the lake – she has her equipment with her, from a dive earlier in the day – and check on the man. She asks Peggy to go with her, mostly for moral support, but also in case the scene requires a forensic botanist. This will be Peggy’s first case in an official capacity.

Ruth emerges from the water with the sad news that the diver is dead. According to his wife, he was a careful diver, but Peggy knows that accidents can happen at any time. According to the new mayor of the town, this was not the first diver to die while inspecting the dam. As a forensic botanist, Peggy finds duckweed and muskgrass on the body; both common to any lake in the area.

A few days later, Peggy is summoned to a private home, the scene of a pool drowning. The dead woman has duckweed in her hair. That shouldn’t be, since duckweed cannot live in chlorinated water. While the two crime scenes seem completely unrelated, the duckweed connection stays with Peggy. She becomes further involved in the case when news gets out that Ruth and the deceased diver had an affair. Ruth becomes the prime suspect, but Peggy can’t believe that her friend would kill.

This is the latest in a series (POISONED PETALS) but can easily be read as a standalone. The authors skillfully weave in the pertinent facts and background about Peggy and other recurring characters without interrupting the story. Peggy’s relationship with Steve continues to evolve, and she faces competition from a new, larger, garden center. Each chapter begins with a bit about various plants, and there are plenty of gardening tips throughout. The heart of the story is the mystery, and it’s just as involving as in past installments. Peggy is a wonderful amateur sleuth: charming, mature, no-nonsense, and exactly the kind of person you’d like to have as a friend.

Rating: 7
May 2008
ISBN# 978-0-425-22127-3 (paperback)

The Cracked Pot - Melissa Glazer

The Cracked Pot
A Clay and Crime Mystery
Melissa Glazer
Berkley Prime Crime


Carolyn Emerson, owner of the pottery studio Fire At Will, has a very excited assistant on her hands. According to David, who knows these things, the famous ceramics artist Charles Potter is due to visit the local college for his first-ever public lecture. Up to now, he’s been a presence on the Internet and through his book, but no one has ever met him. Before the lecture, he’s promised to stop by Fire At Will to speak with David.

Imagine David’s disappointment when that meeting never happens. The lecture never happens, either, since Potter declined to show. The following day he arrives in Fire At Will. Carolyn is utterly shocked to see that “Charles Potter” is, in reality, Richard Atkins, the heel who ran off and left her best friend, Hannah, when she was pregnant. With David.

David gets his chance to meet Charles/Richard, but Richard handles it badly and David leaves the shop at a run. Hannah spends the day looking for him, to no avail. That night, Carolyn finds him. Unfortunately for her, she finds him, facedown in her outdoor pit/kiln. That makes her a prime suspect, along with Hannah and David. But, as she soon discovers, there were other people who were very angry with Richard two decades ago when he suddenly left town. Clearly, someone is still holding a grudge.

As in the first installment (A MURDEROUS GLAZE) the group of studio regulars, who call themselves the Firing Squad, is there to lend a hand when Carolyn needs it. The mystery works best when it’s an ensemble affair, since the group – a young reference librarian, a retired judge, a maybe-retired criminal, and a mother of five – are such interesting characters. Readers who are interesting in working with clay will find some great tips for beginners scattered throughout the text, and in a section at the end. This is a great choice for lovers of cozy mysteries.

Rating: 6
May 2008
ISBN# 978-0-425-22126-6 (paperback)

Friday, May 09, 2008

Dying Breath - Wendy Corsi Staub

Dying Breath
Wendy Corsi Staub


Camden (Cam) Hastings has lived with a secret for as long as she can remember. She has visions. Her English teachers called it the gift of vivid imagination and steered her into creative writing classes. Only Cam knows the truth: that these visions are real. She sees children who are kidnapped, terrified, and about to die. Over time, she begins to keep a diary of whatever details she can glean from the visions; that’s how she discovers that her visions are really premonitions. The events haven’t happened yet. But without a name or a place attached, there’s nothing she can do. Not that anyone would be likely to listen to her, anyway.

She keeps the secret, even from her husband, Mike, and fourteen-year-old daughter, Tess. She becomes very good at keeping secrets, and eventually creates a distance in her marriage that results in a trial separation. Adding to that distance is the alcohol that she consumes to keep the visions at bay. Just after Mike leaves, Cam discovers that she’s pregnant. That’s enough to stop her from drinking. And that brings the visions back.

Trying, for Tess’ sake, to keep life as normal as possible, Cam plans on spending most of the summer at the beach. Even the beach setting can’t relax Cam. She’s still having visions, and she hasn’t told Mike about the baby. The beach community is a small one, and when a first girl, then a second, goes missing, it’s huge news. To everyone but Cam, who recognizes their pictures from her visions. Then she starts having visions about her own daughter, fighting for her life against the same killer.

The suspense plot is engrossing. The scenes from the killer’s point of view are chillingly creepy. While the author presents a number of possible suspects, the identity of the killer is cleverly hidden until the end. What didn’t work so well for me was the relationship between Mike and Cam. I’m just not a big fan of problems that could be solved by one honest two-minute conversation. They each have their reasons for feeling the way they do, but it would be so very easy to resolve things if simply communicated. If you don’t like child-in-jeopardy stories, better skip this one. That aside, the narrative hits the ground running and continues at a very fast pace throughout the novel, making this one hard to put down.

Rating: 7 ½
May 2008
ISBN# 978-1-4201-0131-7 (paperback)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Ghost And The Femme Fatale - Alice Kimberly

The Ghost And The Femme Fatale
A Haunted Bookshop Mystery
Alice Kimberly
Berkley Prime Crime


The small town of Quindicott, Rhode Island, is having a film noir festival. With the help of some film historians and professors, the locals have completely refurbished the old, single-screen movie house to its original Art Deco glory. The festival will be a celebration, tied to several other events in town, including a book signing at Buy the Book, Penelope (Pen) Thornton-McClure’s bookshop. The crowing achievement of the festival is the attendance of onetime starlet Hedda Geist, star of the festival’s opening-night film.

Pen doesn’t really need the film experts who will speak after the movie. She’s got a built-in resource in the ghost of Jack Shepard, a private investigator who died in the shop in 1949. For some reason, he connected with Pen when she arrived, and together, the two of them have been instrumental in solving mysteries. Of course, his participation goes unnoted by others.

After the premiere noir film, visiting expert Dr. Lilly begins some prepared remarks, including a plug about the book signing to be held the next day. During her speech, Hedda Geist is recognized in the audience and takes the stage to much applause, followed by her look-alike granddaughter. Just as she reaches the microphone, the newly installed speaker crashes to the floor, narrowly missing her. What looks like an accident may be merely a dress rehearsal for the real crime. The next morning, Pen finds Dr. Lilly dead in her bookshop. It appears that she merely fell from a ladder, but given the previous night’s events, Pen and Jack aren’t so sure.

The events of the present day are nicely interwoven with a case from Jack’s past, also involving Hedda and her former film studio. It’s a unique approach to a cozy mystery series (THE GHOST AND THE DEAD MAN’S LIBRARY) and the author excels at blending the two, with more than a touch of noir and the paranormal. The end result is something more than the sum of its parts. Readers interested in checking out noir films will find the text sprinkled with titles from which to choose. As always, Pen is as realistic as Jack is cynical. They’re an odd couple, but together they make for a great detective team.

Rating: 7 ½
May 2008
ISBN# 978-0-425-21838-9 (paperback)

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Child 44 - Tom Rob Smith

Child 44
Tom Rob Smith
Grand Central Publishing


In Russia in 1953, the State claims that they are nearing a utopian society. That means that there is no crime. The existence of habitual criminals, those who are in it for the thrill or the profit, would be a criticism against Stalinism; thus, they do not exist. Any crimes that cannot be completely covered up are attributed to some local individual who is sick, insane, and completely disposable. These individuals are removed from society via execution so that the workers can live in Stalin’s promised paradise.

Leo Demidov was a hero of the Great Patriotic War, and now the ranking officer in his Moscow section of the MGB, the State Security Force. His rank allows him to live in an apartment with his wife, alone, whereas most others live with three generations of a family in two rooms. His parents also have their own apartment, complete with running water and other amenities that are reserved for the elite of society. It’s understood that the wrong word to the wrong person or a glance in the wrong direction can result in arrest, the Gulag, or execution. Arrest never means release; that would be admitting to a mistake by the authorities. Informants are everywhere and paranoia is just survival instinct.

One of Leo’s men, Fyodor, is unwisely making waves. His four-year-old son was found dead near the railroad tracks. Fyodor and his family claim the child was murdered. Leo is dispatched to talk sense to the man. Since there is no crime, there are no murderers. The child was playing near the tracks and had a tragic accident. Leo firmly believes it all as he stares down Fyodor. Not only does Leo believe it, he believes it is essential for the security of the State and for the safety of Fyodor’s entire family that Fyodor believe it as well. If the talk continues, the entire family could easily disappear. Only later does Leo come to regret the visit.

At his new post in Voualsk, hundreds of miles from Moscow, Leo hears of another dead child. This child was killed in the same way as Fyodor’s son. The head of the local militia is anxious to close the case in the best way for his career, and blames it on a local teen who is known to be mentally impaired. The similarities stay with Leo and when he and his wife, Raisa, find another child, killed in the same way, Leo realizes that the State he serves is set up perfectly to allow a murderer to operate with immunity. Investigating will certainly put his life at risk, as well as the lives of his wife and parents.

CHILD 44 is as much the story of a serial murder investigation as it is the story of Leo and his gradual awakening to the severe limitations of the State he’s served so enthusiastically. No one could despise a political system so thoroughly if he had not first loved and believed in it so completely. There are several subplots stranded through this amazing novel, and all are presented with depth and complexity. Leo’s personal journey is just as important and fascinating as the serial murder plot. For those who wonder, the murders are based on a real case; details provided in the Further Reading section at the end.

I’ve never read a novel quite like this one, presented from the point of view of a true believer inside the Stalinist State. It’s a frightening and oppressive place to live, even if you’re one of the ‘lucky’ ones. This is not a light and easy novel to read, but the rewards are myriad. It’s hard to believe that this is a first novel. It’s original, thrilling, and utterly engrossing from the first page to the last. I’m anxious to see what this author does next.

Rating: 9
April 2008
ISBN# 978-0-446-40238-5