Buzz Bin Book Reviews – Crimespree 36

This is a good season for debut novels.  One of the new authors landing on the desks here in the Crimespree offices is Carol McCleary with her first book THE ALCHEMY OF MURDER (Forge). Set in Paris during the world’s fair of 1889 it’s the perfect place and setting for a killer to get lost in crowds. Reporter Nellie Bly thinks the killings are tied into an epidemic that is killing thousands of people. This is an entertaining book and McCleary does a great job of dropping the reader right into the Paris of the late 1800’s. Adding real life authors like Oscar Wilde and Jules Verne into the mix is just the icing on an incredible cake. We loved this book from cover to cover.
 
Laurell K. Hamilton has been writing vampires novels almost longer than anyone else doing it today. Her character Anita Blake has crossed into comics and will soon be on TV on IFC. The latest novel, BULLET (Berkley) is another nonstop action ride with Anita. An ancient and powerful vampire wants to use Anita as a stepping stone to take over the country. Thought to be dead her return has prompted people who know Anita well enough to know she can take care of herself to warn her off “Run if you can…” Make a pot of coffee, you won’t want to stop reading till you’re done.
Brian Wiprud has been a Crimespree favorite for years, hell even before Crimespree we loved his books. His latest, BUY BACK from Minotaur is his best yet. Insurance investigator Tommy Davin is good at his job recovering stolen art, but his skills are tested when he hatches a scheme to help his girl friend get out of debt. With his world imploding Davin is going to have to do some fast dancing to come out in one piece. Wiprud has a reputation for humor, and while this book does have some smirk causing moments, its real strength is the characters. These are people who you actually run across in real life, flawed and all too real. This is our MUST READ summer pick.
Edgar winner Stephanie Pintoff’s second book A CURTAIN FALLS (Minotaur) brings the return of Detective Simon Ziele set in the early 1900’s New York. Zeile is called back to New York by his former partner to help on a case that looks to be the work of a serial killer who is targeting chorus girls. Pintoff nails the period and weaves an intricate plot as a playground for her characters and it’s a pure joy to read. A superb sophomore book.
Meredith Cole’s first book was a great read, but her second is really something. DEAD IN THE WATER (Minotaur) brings back Lydia McKenzie, photographer and administrative assistant at a detective agency, in a book that will inhabit your head long after the reading is over. A photo job taking shots of hookers brings Lydia in  touch with a murder case. Warned off by everyone she knows, she still can’t help herself and gets involved when a simple unrelated assignment brings her to the murder site. Cole’s ability to write realistic characters and a wonderfully intricate plot make this book a winner.
EYE OF THE RED TSAR (Bantam) by Sam Eastland is a complicated blend of real historic events and fiction set during the late 1920’s in Russia. Pekkala is a detective working for Tsar Nicholas when the Bolsheviks take over which leaves him in a unfavorable position to say the least. Sent to the edges of Siberia he resigns himself to being an outcast and forgotten. He is brought back into the fold to solve a mystery too great for anyone else to unravel. Pekkala is to find the killers behind the execution of the Romanovs, at any cost. Knowing he can’t trust anyone makes his every move a perilous decision. Loving Russian detective stories got us to open the book, loving this book will get us to read everything else Eastland writes.
In February of 2003 the largest ever diamond heist ever pulled was a headline around the world when a Belgium diamond exchange was robbed. FLAWLESS (Union Square) is a true crime book that looks at the heist and the planning of this robbery which was done without hurting anyone. An in depth look at how the Italian thieves did the job after two years of planning, this book was well researched in is incredibly interesting. It is by Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell.
FLORIDA GOTHIC STORIES  (Kitsune Books) is a collection of awesome short story goodness from the always amazing Vicki Hendricks. 11 stories with an afterward from Michael Connelly and an introduction by Megan Abbott, this should be on every crime fiction lover’s book shelf.
Mary Logue does small town mystery better than almost anyone else. Her 8th  book in the Claire Watkins series, FROZEN STIFF (Tyrus) is possibly her best work yet. Local Daniel Walker is a rich man who doesn’t mind ignoring morals to make a buck. When he is found frozen in the snow naked it’s not hard to believe someone had killed him, the trouble is more who didn’t want to kill him? Wonderful pacing and characters that you can’t help but be invested in make FROZEN STIFF another jewel in the crown of Logue’s writing career.
LETHAL RAGE. What a great title for a book. It screams “pick me up!”. And picking it up was a good move. LETHAL RAGE (ECW) by Brent Pilkey is a real ass kicking hardboiled police procedural. Set in Toronto, but not in the friendly parts we see on TV, LETHAL RAGE’s protagonist Jack Warren is taken out of the nice part of the city and transferred to 51 division. Along with his boos, Jack is in the middle of a drug war with a man who really doesn’t care about anything but making his money. Before long the case becomes personal for Jack and all bets are off. This is not the happy drug war Reagan started back in the 80’s, this is trench warfare and people are going to get messy before it’s all done. A one sitting intense read that won’t let you put it down.
 
Joanna Campbell Slan’s third book in her Kiki Lowenstein series is out in May and it’s a damn good read. PHOTO SNAP SHOT (Midnight Ink) has Kiki’s daughter caught up in a murder at her private school as she may have seen the killer do the deed. Kiki steps in to help protect her daughter and discovers the secrets that abound in private schools (part of what makes them a perfect place for a mystery!). Slan writes with a wonderful knack for characters and the plot is laid out in a great classic style. If you haven’t read her before treat yourself to a wonderful traditional feeling mystery with characters you will love.

RANDOM VIOLENCE(Soho Crime) is crime fiction tale set in South Africa. Jassy Mackenzie isn’t writing the whimsical world that Alexander McCall Smith writes about, but instead deals with a more reality based country still coping with prejudice and inequality. A car jacking that goes to the next level to include murder has the police worried and the detective in charge look for help from the daughter of a former colleague.  Jade de Jong had left South Africa after her Father’s murder but is now back working as a PI. More than just a who-dunit this book is insightful without being preachy.

James Patrick Hunt is back with his third book featuring St. Louis cop George Hastings.  In THE SILENT PLACES (Minotaur) Hastings and the guys on his team have been given a detail as punishment for pissing off a few big shots on the force. Asked to keep watch on an up an comer Senator with bigger plans they discover a plot to kill him. However the killer is more than just a whack job as the Senator would like them to believe. A adrenalin filled thriller set in a great city.
Chris Collett has a terrific series featuring DI Tom Mariner and the 5th, STALKED BY SHADOWS (Piatkus) , might be the most nerve wracking of them to date. Mariner has his hands full working two cases. The first; a woman is being stalked by a mad man who is  just getting started. The second; a murder case involving a policeman’s widow. Is this a revenge killing against aimed at the dead officer. Fast,  like a punch to the gut, this is a book that will keep you guessing.
Debut author Ellen Horan has really jumped in with a big splash. 31 BOND STREET(Harper)  is a wonderful thriller set in the 1850’s. The murder of Dr. Harvey Burdell  has police baffled.  With no clues or witnesses, a suspect is scooped up and the powers that be want a swift trial to make them look good.  Defense attorney Abraham Oakey Hall is the only chance Emma Cunningham has of ever seeing daylight again. Atmospheric and wonderfully moody this is an example of what historical novels are when they are done right. Perfect for fans of early Caleb Carr.
Barbara Fister is back with her second book, THROUGH THE CRACKS (Minotaur) featuring PI Anni Koskinen.  Set in Chicago, it is full of police corruption, dirty prosecutors and secrets a plenty. A rape case proves to be a much more complicated undertaking than originally thought and Anni could be setting herself up for a big fall if she doesn’t watch her every step. A fab thriller.
 
Deborah Coonts brings all the fun of Vegas to her latest mystery, WANNA GET LUCKY? (Forge).  Lucky O’Toole is in charge of customer relations at a hot new hotel, but she can’t help but get involved when what looks like a suicide from a helicopter is a bit hinky. An adult film industry event should be enough to keep her busy but she can’t resist this case. Funny and fast paced this is a hoot of a mystery.
Last year Alan Bradley’s book SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE was a huge hit and his follow up is generating a lot of buzz. With good reason. THE WEED THAT STRINGS THE HANGMAN’S BAG (Orion) is a charming historical, traditional and gothic feeling mystery with broad appeal. 11 year old Flavia de Luce is once again solving a crime. A murder that happens during a puppet show has obvious ties to a murder from years earlier and Flavia will need every bit of her older than her years imply skills to get to the bottom of what is happening.
WHEN DEATH INTERVENES (Five Star) by L.C. Hayden is the latest in her Harry Bronson series. Set in South Dakota the retired Dallas PD Detective is thrust into a situation that will test his limits in all areas. A woman is running from a killer. The killer is, beyond a doubt, dead. Here in lies the Mystery. Fast pacing and wonderful characterizations make this a perfect summer read. Hayden pulled out all the stops on this book.