Monday, November 26, 2007

Hot Mama - Jennifer Estep

Hot Mama
Jennifer Estep

Paranormal Romance

By day, Fiona Fine is a famous fashion designer in Bigtime, New York. But when a citizen is in trouble, she becomes Fiera, one of the Fearless Five; a superhero who can create and manipulate fire. There’s just one thing missing in Fiona’s life: love. Years ago, Travis – aka Tornado - her fiancé, was murdered, and she’s still mired in grief and anger over it. Deciding that it’s time to live her life fully again, she embarks on an affair with Johnny Bulluci, the brother of another designer.

But Johnny has a few secrets of his own. He, too, is looking for revenge against Intelligal, the killer of superhero Johnny Angel, and he’s decided to take on the superhero’s identity to exact it. Meanwhile, the supervillains haven’t been idle. Intelligal and Siren are working together in a plot to take over Bigtime by use of a machine that amplifies Siren’s hypnotic voice.

Will Fiona manage to balance her fashion designs, her crimefighting career, and her love life without exposing her secret identity? Will Johnny manage to take revenge? Or will Johnny decide that revenge is a dish best left to the villains? And what is Johnny’s relationship to the late Johnny Angel? Can two superheroes manage to fall in love, foil the villains, and save Bigtime, New York at the same time? All these answers and more, in HOT MAMA.

This novel is set in the same world as KARMA GIRL, and can be read quite easily as a stand-alone. The comic book conventions are all in place, with supervillains threatening the city unless the superheroes can find a way to stop them. There was maybe just a bit too much time devoted to Fiona’s musings on life, death, and revenge at the beginning, but it does serve to set the stage nicely for Johnny’s motivations. The story is at its best when serving up action scenes. No previous comic book experience is needed. Just settle in and prepare to enjoy this chick lit-comic hybrid. I’m hoping for another installment soon.

Rating: 7
November 2007
ISBN# 978-0425-21734-4 (trade paperback)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Signed, Mata Hari - Yannick Murphy

Signed, Mata Hari
Yannick Murphy
Little, Brown and Company


She was born in the Netherlands and named Margaretha. By the age of seventeen, her father had left and her mother had died. By the age of eighteen, while living with an uncle, she had answered a classified ad placed by a captain looking for a wife. In short order, she was married to the older man, who was often abusive, and moved to Indonesia. Years later, having lost everything, she returned to Europe and became a famous exotic dancer and courtesan. Most famously, she became a spy. And, in the end, she was arrested and executed for her activities.

No matter what you think of her, and she will give you cause to doubt, Mata Hari is arguably the most famous female spy in history. Much of her life is a mystery. This book fills in the blank spaces with little vignettes told in tiny chapters that read like the pieces of a dream. Some of them read like memoir, some like biography. All are beautifully and compellingly written. There’s almost a sense of disconnect, as if the woman who would be Mata Hari moved through her life, yet remained untouched by it. And this is the hypnotic allure of Mata Hari. She knows, as a dancer, as a spy, as a courtesan, and as a storyteller, that sometimes it’s what goes unseen, unsaid, that tells the real story.

Rating: 9
November 2007
ISBN# 978-0-316-11264-2 (hardcover)

Hunting the Demon - Jaci Burton

Hunting the Demon
Jaci Burton

Contemporary Romance/Paranormal

Note: If you haven’t read the first novel in this series, SURVIVING DEMON ISLAND, this review contains a few unavoidable spoilers. And, if you haven’t read the first book, you’ve missed a great read, just FYI.

Nic Diavolo comes from some serious money. The family owns a diamond mine in northern Australia. The one glitch is his life is the presence of a recurring dream. In the dream, he first runs from a swarm of beasts with talons, then is surrounded and worshipped by them. One morning, on his usual surf run, Nic spots a gorgeous and intriguing woman. After she’s gained his trust, he finds that she’s something far different than what he’d imagined. She is, in fact, his kidnapper.

Shay Pearson thought this assignment would be a snap. Find Nic Diavolo, find out what he knows and how he feels about his family heritage, and, hopefully, recruit him to the side of the good guys, the Realm of Light. The big snag in that plan is that she finds herself instantly attracted to him, for reasons both obvious and not so obvious. The Realm knows that Nic is half-demon. The question is, will be become a member of the Sons of Darkness, or can the Realm recruit him?

Nic feels justifiably betrayed by Shay’s actions, and there’s a whole new level of distrust added when he discovers that his own brother masterminded the plan. It should come as no surprise to learn that Nic manages to turn the tables on Shay at one point, getting even by perpetrating his own kind of betrayal. For my money, these two forgave each other far too easily and much too often, but, honestly, the novel is just so much fun that even this didn’t stop me from enjoying it.

Shay was introduced in the first book, but we find out much more about her and her abilities here. There’s a plot involving a black diamond – desired by both the Realm of Light and the Sons of Darkness - that takes the group into the mine, and also serves to set up the couple for the next novel, Ryder and Angelique. Nic and Shay are both great, complex characters, and I wish that the Ryder and Angelique story hadn’t intruded quite so much. That said, the author excels at combining action, intrigue, and paranormal elements, making the pages seem to turn themselves.

Rating: 8
September 2007
ISBN# 978-0-440-24336-6 (paperback)

Into Thin Air - Cindy Miles

Into Thin Air
Cindy Miles
Signet Eclipse

Paranormal Romance

Gawan of Conwyk has been at work for a long, long time. Over 900 years, in fact. He’s an earth-bound angel, and is less than a month away from retirement, which will give him what he desperately wants: mortality. On his way back home (to his castle, of course) in the north of England, he spots a woman standing in the road. Since it’s pouring rain, she’s completely drenched. There’s no car or other vehicle anywhere on the single-track road that could be hers. She doesn’t remember what happened, or even her name. Gawan takes her to his castle, where she disappears. Literally disappears.

Gawan’s castle is inhabited by a few spirits, and they are of the opinion that Ellie (she chose the name from a tapestry) is somehow hovering in between life and death. That’s why she can appear as a corporeal being in the castle, yet disappear as if she was never there. Obviously, Gawan is meant to find Ellie’s physical body before she dies, and discover what happened to her. In addition, it becomes clear quite early that Ellie is Gawan’s intended soul mate. This is unfortunate, since, once he sets things right for her, she will retain no memory of him. And all of this must be done before his retirement date, or he will remain immortal.

INTO THIN AIR is a lovely ghost story. Almost old-fashioned in tone, it’s sweet without becoming saccharine. The connection between Ellie and Gawan is obvious and realistic, but Ellie’s faulty memory and predicament present clear obstacles. Gawan’s staff and resident spirits play integral parts in the story, and are worthy characters. Readers looking for a fun paranormal romp will adore this story. I was sorry to see it end.

Rating: 8
November 2007
ISBN# 978-0-451-22262-6 (paperback)

Atlantis Awakening - Alyssa Day

Atlantis Awakening
The Warriors of Poseidon, Book 2
Alyssa Day
Berkley Sensation

Paranormal Romance

Erin Connors is a witch, and a member of a coven in Seattle. The coven knows that there is an old and powerful vampire at work in the city. It appears that the vampire is not simply intent on killing, but on creating new vampires, as if building an army. Whatever his objectives, it’s clear that he must be stopped. Erin has a personal stake in the matter, desperate for revenge against those who killed her family.

Ven, a warrior from Atlantis, is tasked with protecting the witches. He’s not thrilled about that, but witches are better than vampires, any day. Ven doesn’t want to be attracted to Erin, but he may need her. He’s searching for a fabled ruby, and Erin is a gem-singer. Until meeting Erin, the people of Atlantis thought that gem-singers were myth. Ven and Erin are bound together, and none too happily, both in the search for the vampire Caligula, and in the search for the powerful ruby.

This is the second novel in the series, but can be read as a stand-alone. I must admit that I wish I’d read the first book prior to this one, since there are obvious relationships and alliances already in place. The author does a good job of setting out the basic background for new readers, though. Both Erin and Ven are dark characters, driven by their need for vengeance. This works in the book’s favor, since dark characters are often more interesting. The two are at odds initially, and the move from antagonism to romance is quite abrupt. But, somehow, that fits these two perfectly. Ms. Day has created a fascinating world, populated by intriguing characters. Some of the secondary characters are definitely worthy of their own stories.

Rating: 7 ½
November 2007
ISBN# 978-0-425-21796-2 (paperback)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Geek High - Piper Banks

Geek High
Piper Banks

Young Adult

Up until the moment she began attending Notting Hill Independent School for Gifted Children, Geek High to attendees, math genius Amanda Bloom felt like a complete social outcast. This might have something to do with the fact that her parents called her the ‘human calculator’ and called on her, as a small child, to entertain party guests with her little ‘trick.’ But when Miranda got to Geek High, she discovered something both amazing and disconcerting. In this age of computers and PDAs, being able to do complex math problems in your head is almost useless. So, while she’s undeniably a math genius, her gift maybe makes her the least-geeky geek at Geek High.

And there’s a new blog making the rounds at Geek High. No one knows who’s writing it, but it promises to out some pretty juicy secrets about both students and teachers. And, within the first few weeks of school, it does just that by revealing that a certain student got into Geek High not on merit, but because of parental involvement. Since Amanda just had a fight with this student, the headmaster suspects her of writing the blog. She didn’t, but she’s pretty sure she knows who did. And, despite the school’s honor code, she’s not going to start naming names and get one of her best friends tossed out of school.

Because of her refusal, the headmaster imposes a terrible punishment. Amanda will be in charge of planning the dreaded Snowflake Gala. This event is always a huge snooze, but attendance is mandatory. And this year, everyone will be able to place the blame for their boredom at Amanda’s feet, unless she can pull off the impossible.

Anyone who has ever been to high school will identify with Amanda. The fact that she’s a genius doesn’t make her any less of a regular girl when it comes to friends, boys, family, and social life. On top of everything else, she has to deal with living with her estranged dad, step mom and stepsister. That’s enough to try anyone’s patience; throw in the fact that the stepsister is dating the boy of Amanda’s dreams, and it’s almost unbearable. The trials faced by Amanda will be familiar to any girl in her teens and beyond. I hope to see more of Amanda and her friends in the future.

Rating: 7
November 2007
ISBN# 978-0-451-22225-1 (trade paperback)

Turkey Flambe - Nancy Fairbanks

Turkey Flambé
A Culinary Mystery
Nancy Fairbanks
Berkley Prime Crime


The good people of lower Manhattan could be forgiven for thinking that a terrorist attack was underway one afternoon when a couple of apparent fireballs came raining down on the street. One hit a publisher, briefly setting his beard ablaze, leaving him shocked but unhurt. The other, larger, fireball hit a limousine carrying foreign diplomats, causing the limo to crash into another car. The most seriously injured person ended up in the hospital, in a coma. Various police and anti-terrorist agencies responded quickly to the event.

As it turns out, those fireballs were flaming turkeys, thrown from an upper floor reception room by a couple of panicky people who hoped to keep the room from catching fire. The reception was in honor of Carolyn Blue’s new cookbook. She was demonstrating how to flambé turkeys using a mixture of reduced cognac. The huge fires that resulted were definitely not on the menu, and Carolyn instantly suspected sabotage. To prove her theory, she managed to save the last, unburned, turkey; and talked her good friend, Luz Vallejo, a retired cop, into helping her investigate.

The story is told in alternating chapters, from the points of view of both Carolyn and Luz. In less skillful hands, this might have been confusing, but the two women have such unique voices and perspectives on events, that it’s always quite clear. The author includes a note, explaining that the flaming turkeys were inspired by the annual increase in house fires around Thanksgiving, due to attempts gone wrong at deep-frying turkeys. As always, there are many recipes included along with a fun and involving mystery.

Rating: 7
November 2007
ISBN# 978-0-425-21904-1 (paperback)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Poets' Corner - John Lithgow

Poets’ Corner
The One-And-Only Poetry Book For The Whole Family
Compiled by John Lithgow
Grand Central Publishing


If you’re still reading, congratulations. Far too many people feel intimidated by poetry, as if it’s a strange foreign language that requires a specialized education to understand. As John Lithgow explains beautifully in his Introduction, nothing could be further from the truth. Our lives have always been full of poetry, from nursery rhymes to Shakespeare to rap music.

Ferreting out the deeper, esoteric meaning of a poem, while interesting to some, is absolutely not necessary to being able to enjoy a poem for what it is. This collection contains a very wide selection of poets. Some poems may be familiar from school; some may be recognizable due to the parts that are quoted often in popular culture; some may be completely new to you. All of them are worth reading for the sheer enjoyment of it. Each poem is accompanied by a few paragraphs that give pertinent information about the poet, the poem, or both. There are even suggestions for other poems by that particular poet.

As anyone who has ever read a Shakespeare play in high school can tell you, reading the words silently is one thing. Hearing the words spoken is a completely different experience. Many people are astounded at how very accessible Shakespeare is, when spoken aloud. To that end, this book comes with a CD that contains 50 works from the collection, read aloud by Jodie Foster, Gary Sinise, Helen Mirren, and Morgan Freeman, to name a few. This collection and the accompanying CD are perfect for readers/listeners of all ages. It will remind older readers of the joys of poetry, and introduce a new generation to those same joys.

November 2007
ISBN# 978-0-446-58002-1 (hardcover with CD)

Dying To Be Thin - Kathryn Lilley

Dying To Be Thin
A Fat City Mystery
Kathryn Lilley


Television news producer Kate Gallagher has taken a double hit recently: first, she was laid off from her job at the news station; then, her boyfriend dumped her. In re-evaluating her life, Kate decides that her next job will be in front of the camera. Of course, that means that she needs to be incredibly thin. And therein lies the problem. Over the past couple of years, Kate has put on some fifty extra pounds because of stress, late nights, and bad eating habits. But she’s got a plan. She’s going to the Hoffman Clinic in Durham. She’ll be staying there for at least a couple of months to lose the weight. At the same time, she’s managed to snag a part-time job with a local TV station. Her first assignment is to document her own weight loss story.

Arriving at the Hoffman Clinic, Kate notes with a certain amount of pleasure that, compared to most of the other guests, she’s practically svelte. Her first night there, she meets Dr. Hoffman. She is less than impressed, honestly, but the other residents seem to almost revere him despite his imperious behavior. The following morning, she meets Hoffman again. This time, he’s seated on the porch swing. And he’s covered in vomit. And someone stuck fondue forks into his eyes. And he’s dead. Obviously, someone else agreed with Kate’s initial assessment of Hoffman. And this will make a much more interesting story than Kate’s shrinking thighs.

Kate is a great new character. She’s taken some hard knocks recently, but she’s not sitting around feeling sorry for herself. She’s taking action and changing her life. She’s also got a wicked sense of humor about just about everything. There are plenty of suspects around, and it doesn’t take long to figure out that Hoffman had more than enough enemies. The author knows of what she writes. The weight loss in service to an on-camera career is based on her real-life experiences. I’m happy to report that a second Kate Gallagher mystery is planned for next fall.

Rating: 7 ½
October 2007
ISBN# 978-0-451-22240-4 (paperback)

Friday, November 09, 2007

Sexiest Man Alive - Diana Holquist

Sexiest Man Alive
Diana Holquist
Grand Central

Contemporary Romance

Jasmine Burns is a talented young costume designer. Living in New York, she makes ends meet by taking on private clients. Her clients are women, never men, because Jasmine suffers from intense anxiety in the presence of men. And if the man in question is attractive, she can count on stammering, tripping, and generally making a fool of herself. The first pages find her in a virtual panic over the prospect of interviewing with an extremely attractive and influential theater director. In the end, panic wins and she flees the interview. The director, mistaking panic for artistic arrogance, hires her anyway, and she winds up working with movie superstar Josh Toby.

In a maybe-coincidence, Jasmine’s sister, Amy, who claims to be psychic to the extent that she can tell you the name of your One True Love, has just told Jasmine that her One’s name is, yes, Josh Toby. Josh, who knows nothing of this purported destiny, simply likes his new costume designer. She’s not part of the Hollywood machine; she’s not jaded; she’s a real person. At this point in his career, Josh desperately wants to be known for his acting talent rather than his pretty face. It’s just possible that Jasmine takes him seriously as a man, not a star. If only she wasn’t so nervous around him.

Lest you think this novel is a serious examination of a heroine with social anxiety, put your mind at ease. Jasmine is a likeable character, but, too often, her reactions to various situations are completely over the top, and the eventual explanation for her anxiety doesn’t quite some up to scratch. Josh is far more believable as an actor who wants some kind of reality in his life. The romance between the two is very sweet, but this one steps a bit too far over the ‘zany line’ for my taste. To really enjoy this novel, you need to actively suspend your disbelief. If you can do that, this is a fun and frothy book.

Rating: 6 ½
October 2007
ISBN# 978-0-446-41798-7 (paperback)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Never Say Never - Geralyn Dawson

Never Say Never
Geralyn Dawson
Signet Eclipse

Romantic Thriller

Eighteen months ago, Torie Bradshaw met Matt Callahan, a CIA operative, and the man who saved her life. The trouble is, he thought he was saving her twin sister, molecular geneticist Helen, from a fiancé with ties to a South American terrorist organization. When Torie confessed her identity, and also the fact that Helen was not in any danger since she was out of the area, Matt naturally felt betrayed. Instead of saving an innocent scientist, he felt he was suckered into saving her “evil twin,” a paparazzo photographer.

Torie is used to getting a nasty reaction to her career choice, but she loves the challenge, and claims that most of her subjects (some would say, ‘victims’) aren’t innocent, anyway, and so should not be given privacy in which to commit affairs or crimes. All of this becomes a fairly moot point, when, eighteen months after their meeting and acrimonious parting, Torie arrives at Matt’s Texas vineyard, looking for protection from a stalker.

From Matt’s point of view, the situation is pretty much karma. Torie spends her time basically stalking and photographing people, so she’s getting a bit of her own medicine. And she’s got a rather unusual way of asking for help. She points a gun at him, demands his assistance, then shoots out the headlight of his truck. He’s not feeling any too charitable, but his sense of justice is too great to allow a real criminal to get away with a crime. And the stalker has been invading her home, taking photos of her sleeping, and leaving serious threats.

Torie isn’t really a very sympathetic character. Her job is ethically iffy, at best, although she makes the excellent point that her job wouldn’t exist if the demand for those pictures didn’t exist, too. It’s really to the author’s great credit that she makes the story so involving that my ambiguous feelings about Torie as a person didn’t get in the way of my enjoyment. There’s plenty of action, and some great verbal sparring between Torie and Matt. Their relationship evolves, despite the obstacles, in a very believable manner, while never overshadowing the thriller plot. This novel should appeal to fans of thrillers as well as those looking for good, strong, romantic suspense. This was my first novel by this author, but it definitely won’t be my last.

Rating: 7 ½
October 2007
ISBN# 978-0-451-22243-5 (paperback)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Forget About It - Caprice Crane

Forget About It
Caprice Crane
5 Spot

Chick Lit

Have you ever wished you could just chuck everything in your life that isn’t working and start over again? At age 25, Jordan Landau manages to do just that. One day, she’s got a lousy boyfriend, an unfulfilling job, and a strained relationship with her family. The next day, it’s all gone. Or so she says.

Riding her bike home from yet another crap day at her crap job, Jordan is hit by a car. Well, a car door, but it’s enough to knock her out and send her to the hospital. When she wakes up, she realizes that this is her chance to essentially start over, by claiming amnesia. It’s like an automatic do-over for the past couple of years. And, amazingly enough, people buy it. Now she’s in line for a better job at the ad agency, and, somehow, her mom isn’t quite so worried about her weight when there’s a head injury to consider. Maybe best of all, there’s a better boyfriend on the horizon. It’s all going so very well until the whole ‘starting over’ thing becomes very real, forcing Jordan to get real, too.

This second novel, by the author of STUPID AND CONTAGIOUS, is a funny and bubbly read. It seems more than a little mean for Jordan to make everyone believe she’s got amnesia. But the plot point that forces her to truly start over, and her actions afterwards, make her a believable and likeable character. If you had it to do over again, what would you change? How would you make your life into the life you want? Why don’t you? These are questions the author addresses, but in a light and entertaining way.

Rating: 7
August 2007ISBN# 978-0-446-69755-2 (trade paperback)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Raven Prince - Elizabeth Hoyt

The Raven Prince
Elizabeth Hoyt
Warner Forever

Historical Romance

Anna Wren, a 31-year-old widow in 1760 England faces dire financial circumstances. Living in a small house with her mother-in-law, the women have made every economy possible, but still need some form of income. Anna, the daughter of a vicar who believed in education for all children, calls around at various homes in the village, searching for a position. She’s about to give up when she meets Felix Hopple, the estate manager of Ravenhill Abbey. It seems that the Earl is in need of a secretary. Anna begins work, transcribing papers while the Earl is away.

When Edward de Raaf, Earl of Swartingham, arrives home, he is astonished to see a woman working in his library. Truth be told, his temper has driven off two secretaries in as many months, and he needs a paper transcribed for a presentation at the Agrarian Society, so he allows her to stay. The two met before, briefly, and it was an uncomfortable encounter. Anna thinks Edward is unattractive and rude; Edward thinks Anna is plain and mousy. But she has more than enough spine to stand up to his displays of temper; something he admires. Anna realizes that she’s attracted to the man, and makes arrangements for a much more intimate encounter with him at a masked ball.

THE RAVEN PRINCE is an amazing debut novel. I read THE LEOPARD PRINCE first, loved it, and immediately wanted to find this one. Any historical inaccuracies are completely swept away by the depth of characterization and the story, refreshingly free of silly romance clichés, that unfolds between Anna and Edward. Both are widowed, both are mature adults, and both have been hurt by life. Anna is more practical, of necessity. Edward lashes out at people around him. Little by little, the two grow closer, despite their apparent differences. The love story between the two is completely believable and wonderful to watch. The story of the Raven Prince is told bit by bit at the beginning of each chapter. This is one of those rare books that will keep you spellbound, first page to last.

Rating: 8
November 2006
ISBN# 978-0-446-61847-2 (paperback)

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Crafty Teddy - John J. Lamb

The Crafty Teddy
A Bear Collector’s Mystery
John J. Lamb
Berkley Prime Crime


After twenty-some years on the SFPD, retired detective Brad Lyon knows the sounds of a break-in when he hears it. The thing is, he never expected to hear it in his own house located in a sleepy Virginia farm town. Leaving his wife Ashleigh to call the sheriff, Brad spots the intruder in front of the case that holds the most valuable of the couple’s teddy bear collection. These are antiques and artisan bears. The intruder fires at Brad and runs, leaving a few ruined bears in his wake. Obviously, he was no ordinary burglar, since the only thing missing is an antique bear.

Weeks later, Brad is spending time at a local bbq place when two Asian men enter and ask for directions to a small local museum. Instantly on alert, Brad notes the third man standing outside and takes down the license plate of their Hummer. When the men leave, Brad tells his friends that the men were obviously Yakuza, or Japanese Mafia. On his way home, unable to shake his suspicions, Brad stops by the museum. He finds the place empty, except for the director, who is lying on the floor, dead, apparently crushed by an antique china cabinet.

When the medical examiner arrives, it’s clear that the museum director was hit over the head before the china cabinet was tipped over on him in an attempt to conceal the crime. In their haste to leave, one of the Asian men carelessly left his business card in the director’s shirt pocket. Ashleigh is the one to notice other oddities at the scene. There are two very valuable antique teddy bears on display. Both are still there, but their placements have been switched. In addition, an antique quilt hanging on the wall seems just a little too stiff to be a real antique. As a consultant to the sheriff’s department, and a teddy bear collector and creator, Brad is just the man for this investigation.

It seems odd, to say the least, that the Yakuza would be cruising around rural Virginia. And it seems like a stretch to connect the crimes. Brad’s background in police work makes him an invaluable assistant to the local sheriff. And his macabre humor in the face of a violent death makes perfect sense. His wry humor, coupled with a few truly eye-rolling puns, keeps the story from becoming too twee for mystery enthusiasts. His wife, Ashleigh is a real cop’s wife, who understands and assists her husband in his investigation. Their relationship is mature and real and refreshingly free from silly misunderstandings and fights. This is the third entry in a series, following THE MOURNFUL TEDDY and THE FALSE-HEARTED TEDDY, and it’s an addition that’s solidly entertaining.

Rating: 7
November 2007ISBN# 978-0-425-21885-3 (paperback)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Accessory to Murder - Elaine Viets

Accessory to Murder
Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper
Elaine Viets


The very suburban Dorchester mall, home of Lord & Taylor, Talbot’s and a tearoom, has had a recent makeover of sorts. In order to attract a younger, hipper clientele, the mall recently opened a store called Gangsta Boyz Home. This store has definitely pulled in a younger, more urban crowd; but longtime shoppers complain that it has also attracted more of the criminal element. Case in point: as Josie Marcus and her friend, Alyce Bohannon complete their assigned shopping trip to designer Halley Hardwicke’s shop, just down the hall, a couple of kids pull an armed robbery at an athletic shoe store.

A short time later, Halley Hardwicke is shot to death during an apparent carjacking. The police immediately arrest a young black man, but quickly determine that he’s not the shooter. Halley’s death rocks Alyce to the core. Halley lived just down the street from Alyce, in a gated community. Things like violent crime and death aren’t supposed to happen to people who live in upscale safety. Days later, Alyce’s attorney husband, Jake, is arrested and charged as a conspirator in the murder.

The murder weapon was Jake’s gun; a gun he left in an unlocked car for weeks and now claims must have been stolen. The evidence points to a very personal relationship between Jake and Halley; but Alyce is determined to believe her husband’s denials. Josie isn’t so sure, but desperately wants to help her friend. Gossip spreads quickly, and both Alyce and Josie have heard the stories of Halley’s damaged marriage and her desire to move to New York to further her design career. But gossip and suspicion won’t be enough to clear Jake. Alyce and Josie need to find proof.

Most of this story takes place in a shopping mall and in upscale suburbia. If you’re thinking “Desperate Housewives,” you’re not far wrong. When Jake is arrested, the neighbors Alyce though of as friends desert her instantly. Josie, last seen in HIGH HEELS ARE MURDER, comes from much-reduced circumstances and knows what could await Alyce, stands by her. Josie is more than a little ambivalent about the people and wealth that reside in the gated community, and this kind of reverse-snobbism is a jarring note in her personality. At the same time, it makes her a character with human faults; someone who is realistic and relatable. The narrative centers on the friendship between the two women, but there are plenty of suspects to investigate. The scenes of Josie at her mystery shopping day job are entertaining, as always.

Rating: 6 ½
November 2007
ISBN# 978-0-451-22258-9 (paperback)

A Murderous Glaze - Melissa Glazer

A Murderous Glaze
A Clay and Crime Mystery
Melissa Glazer
Berkley Prime Crime


For the past five years, fifty-something Carolyn Emerson has been living her dream by running her very own pottery shop and studio, called Fire at Will. During those years, she has accumulated a group of regulars, known collectively as the Firing Squad. She has also, unfortunately, acquired a dead body. This dead body is a very recent addition, and belongs to one Betty Wickline, a woman who was roundly disliked by virtually everyone who knew her. Sadly for Carolyn, someone killed Betty in her shop at a time when the shop should have been locked and deserted for the night.

To her shock, almost everyone immediately believes that Carolyn is the killer. This, despite the fact that Carolyn has lived in tiny Maple Ridge, VT all of her life and has not a blemish to her name. But, the fact that the body was found in Carolyn’s shop is enough to dry up business to the point that Carolyn and the Firing Squad decide that, unless they take matters into their own hands, the real murderer will never be brought to justice.

I had a very hard time believing that everyone in town would instantly turn on an upstanding lifetime resident. The truth is, though, that the characters here do not act in believable ways. Many of the characters, Carolyn in particular, seemed to swing from aggressive and snappish to contrite and teary in just a few lines. It’s disconcerting, to say the least. There are a few odd plot holes, such as wondering what a suspect's voice sounds like when he’s yelling, when he did just that a mere twenty pages earlier. And, most annoying, a key element to the motive is never explained at all.

On the very bright side, this debut novel in a new series sports an interesting cast of characters in the Firing Squad. There’s a reference librarian, a mother of five, a college student who would prefer to be a potter, a retired judge, and a man with a shady past who now claims to be living on the right side of the law. This is a great mix of people, and with some polishing, they could really shine in further ensemble stories.

Rating: 4
November 2007
ISBN# 978-0-425-21836-5 (paperback)