8/series. Poison pen threats, flaming topiary, a family reunion involving a will, old retainers with old grudges, all set in a grand Palladian villa. And then there's the ghost of sophisticated Aunt Dimity, still hanging around helping her great-niece solve mysteries. Lori and her husband, Bill, are house guests: Bill to do his lawyerly thing, and Lori to help "protect" a friend's husband. Lori, always with an eye to the seductive male, again finds a soul-mate while husband Bill slaves away at his client's behest. Boy, Atherton really knows how to dish up a dandy. Another 5 for this marvelous cozy series.


You might think this is going to be a funny story a la Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum; well, it ain't. We've all known - or have been, or maybe even still are - toughies like Roxy Abruzzo: she's seen too much, heard too much, all at too early an age to understand or escape. Now as an adult, she's prickly and feisty, a tough-love (or worse) mother, but author Martin has given her enough humanity to capture a reader's interest. Roxy runs a salvage business, which leads her to the occasional lapse of honesty, particularly the removal of an old marble statue from a murdered client's estate. Turns out the statue is priceless, a genuine BC Greek art work. The family of the deceased - all weird, all millionaires -  want the statue. As does a mysterious killer who's driven to more murder to keep secrets and get the statue. With a charming but scheming lawyer, a drug-addled art lover and a granny who fakes comas, and lots of compelling reasons to act as she does, Roxy finally comes face to face with the murderer...but on whose terms? I'll give this a 3.5; you might give it more...or less. What do you think of the title? Does it have anything to do with the story? For me, it was misleading, just a catchy title that didn't have a thing to do with the story. What'd I miss??


1/series. A delightful spin-off from Gabaldon's Outlander series, Lord John Grey moves among some of Georgian London's highest circles, where unapologetically dissolute behavior is the norm, and the idle life led by most of the nobility leads to bizarre excess. But not Lord John's behavior: as a gay man, he treads a wary path that has acquainted him with the seamier side of the city's offerings. Click below for more...



Elvis Cole series. Gritty realism in the California mold, that's Crais's style. But it's way more than that, also being a chronicle of friendship, of revenge, and of how far people can be driven. A man's body, dead a week, is discovered when police evacuate a community threatened by wildfire. Police soon discover the dead man could be a serial killer, with the murders of seven women to his credit. On one of them, Elvis Cole had proved the cops wrong and the man was freed. Shortly, Cole, world's best detective, gets life-threatening calls. Questioning his previous work, he must go back to the crimes and see what went wrong. As usual, top-notch suspense and an intricate plot leads the reader to a surprising conclusion...no, two surprising conclusions. A 4.5.


FALLING ANGELS, by Tracy Chevalier

Author Chevalier, whose marvelous Girl With A Pearl Earring was a best-seller, has created another world in which a woman's narrow life and limited options drive her to incautious action. The story begins the day of Queen Victoria's death in 1901, in London.


THE EYRE AFFAIR, by Jasper Fforde

1/series. Okay, I've got a new off-the-wall author hero: Jasper Fforde. I picked this up at the library, expecting a Jane Austen-oriented cozy of some sort, and was plunged almost instantly into a time-warped Britain in 1985, where the Crimean War is entering its 185th year, a single gigantic corporation runs the country, and cloned dodos are everyday pets. Thursday Next, our heroine - and a great one - has a 1.2 version dodo. Thursday's father is a fugitive from the time police and


THE GHOST WAR, by Alex Berenson

4?/series. Indomitable John Wells of Times Square fame (read best-seller The Faithful Spy) returns in this complex and edgy suspense novel. Stalked by images of those he's killed, Wells constantly pushes his luck (weapon of choice: motorcycles). When his lover, CIA agent Jennifer Exley, discovers evidence that the Taliban is getting outside training help, Wells volunteers to return to Afghanistan (where he spent a harrowing decade as an undercover spy) and join a special mission. Meanwhile,


AND WHEN SHE WAS GOOD, by Laura Lippman

Lippman's style of writing puts her in a class by herself: she sneaks up on you with what could be perceived as a benign tale about Helen Lewis, a woman who runs a high-end call girl operation. The story shuttles back and forth from her childhood, when her vicious father called her "nothing face", through the various years - and men - that formed her, to the present day as she juggles the boxes of her life. She's compartmentalized everything to keep it all separate...and safe. But she really isn't safe at all, in fact she's a prime candidate for murder. I love being blind-sided by a writer, and Laura Lippman, a New York Times bestselling author, does a flawless job of just that. She also gives a compelling portrait of a woman trying to get by, and of other women struggling to do the same. Her voice is accurate and telling. All in all, a great read. This is a 5.

THE VALCOURT HEIRESS, by Catherine Coulter

Don't you just love a romance story that isn't full of dithering maidens with heaving bosoms pursued by snorting, ground-pawing males? You'll love this one, too. Coulter is a highly accomplished author both in the historical romance genre and in the modern FBI suspense genre. Her characters are always nicely drawn; Merry, the mysterious but lovely (of course) heroine, handsome (of course) Garron of Keswick, the new Baron Wareham of forbidding Wareham Castle.


THE ASTRONOMER, by Lawrence Goldstone

Paris, 1535: Martin Luther had posted his condemnation of corruption in his church only 17 years before, but the new religion that has sprung from Luther's words has brought the fury of the Catholic Church - in the person of the Inquisition's French agent, the vicious Ory - to stamp out all traces of the upstart faith. A young student at the church's infamous College de Montaigu - Amaury de Faverges - is chosen to replace a murdered Inquisition courier.


LAST TO DIE, by James Grippando

The last thing Miami attorney Jack Swyteck wants is to take on the sullen Tatum Knight - enforcer, tough guy - as a client, but he owes Tatum's brother, who's Jack's best friend. At first glance, Tatum may not be in serious trouble: he stands to inherit a large amount of money. Sally Fenning, wealthy widow, murdered as she sits in her car at a stoplight, leaves her considerable fortune to six people whose positive connections to her are, at first glance, obscure.



Essex writes about Georgian England and the independent Lizzie Paxton, who only wants to be a widow. Married life, such as it was back then (not much fun for women) was not to Lizzie's liking. Despite an ogre for a father, she's managed to refuse all suitors until a long-gone flame returns. Captain James Marlowe - exiled for his attraction to the then-teenage Lizzie - now offers marriage with the understanding that he'll die in the next few years. Really?


SUSPECT, by Robert Crais

A wonderful stand-alone book from a skilled crime writer, this novel stars a K-9 dog names Maggie, discharged from the Marines after she was wounded and her handler killed in Afghanistan. Now, LAPD officer Scott James, recovering from the horrific night his partner was killed and he nearly died from his own wounds, has come as a trainee to the K-9 unit. Maggie, who has failed to pass the examination, is to be sent home. But Scott sees the PTSD Maggie suffers, and takes her on. Crais, whose many award-winning novels usually star private eye Elvis Cole and his enigmatic friend Joe Pike, has departed from his usual human-oriented tales and turned out a marvelous, compelling tale of love and trust and the terrible price some must pay for our freedoms. It's a 5+.

A MURDER OF CROWS by P. F. Chisholm

2/series. I'm a sucker for Elizabethan-era England stories, and this mystery is as good as any I've read in a long while. Author Chisholm knows her stuff, and brings historical accuracy comfortably into the dialogue and mannerisms of the story.You'll sink right into the action and intrigue of the Queen's Court.


THE GRAVE GOURMET, by Alexander Campion

1/series. Foodies, it's time to celebrate! We have a great new series of cuisine-related mysteries set in the world's most foodie place: Paris. France, of course. Campion, who was sent on a six month assignment to Paris and never came home, has the insider's sure command of places, customs, food, and everything that makes Paris such a magnet. Starring food critique Alexandre LeTellier and his adorable policewoman wife, Capucine, must investigate the death of an auto manufacturer. How did the corpse wind up in the cooler of one of Paris' most elegant restaurants? What killed the man? Are there undercurrents of national security? How to defeat the inevitable friction between various departments of law enforcement? And how will Capucine, newly-transfered to a criminal squad, earn the respect of her subordinates? A charming start to a fun series. It's a 4.

BAIT, by Nick Brownlee

A first novel that reads like a very smooth tenth! Brownlee is a long-time journalist, so the usual errors by an emerging writer are absent. Set in chaotic, corrupt Mombasa on Africa's Kenyan coast, the novel opens with a horrific murder and a boat explosion which proves to have killed Dennis Bentley, a friend of ex-flying squad copper Jake Moore.


BILLY BOYLE, by James R. Benn

1/series. This well researched and written World War II mystery series stars a young Boston cop - Billy Boyle, Irish and no lover of the English - whose Uncle Ike (General Dwight Eisenhower) brings him onto his staff in London during the Blitz. I love finding new authors to enjoy - particularly of a series character - and Benn's a new fave.



This book, complete and detailed, could change the way you cook. It almost certainly will change the way you entertain. None of what chef and foodie Mark Bittman writes - that I've read, anyway - is fiction: he writes about food and cooking. Every recipe of his I've tried has been excellent, and his commentary is low-key and spot-on.


THE DAMASCENED BLADE, by Barbara Cleverly

3/series. India, 1922. Scotland Yard Inspector Joe Sandilands is still trapped in India, this time on the treacherous North West Frontier (present day Pakistan) where his old WWI friend James Lindsay is in charge of Gor Khatri, the last outpost before the Khyber Pass. Then pampered American heiress Lily Coblentz and an assortment of agenda-driven guests both military and private arrive at the fort, followed by an Afghani escort from beyond the Khyber. Startlingly handsome, British-educated Zeman Khan and his second-in-command are guests in the fort; Zeman quickly captures the heiress's interest. But in the morning, everything changes, and between murder, kidnappings and the threat of starting a new Afghan War, Joe has seven days to bring a killer to justice. A 4; for me, the chatty tone of dialogue gets a bit much after a while, but the authenticity and plot keeps the tale interesting. A 4.



This is my first Cristina Garcia book, but it absolutely won't be my last. I adore authors who have a quirky unique voice, mix the awfulness and the beauty of life in one delicious story. Six protagonists - a half-Japanese female matador with a foot fetish, a guerilla fighter turned waitress, a murderous army colonel, a depressed and suicidal Korean mill owner, and a former Cuban jailbird who's adopting a baby - all stay at a luxury hotel in an anonymous Central American city.


THE BARBED CROWN, by William Dietrich

6/series. The intrepid, forever-in-trouble-up-to-his-ears Ethan Gage, frontier marksman and sometimes confidante of Napoleon Bonaparte, is once again at the helm of a ship heading for a reef. Literally. This time he's sneaking back into France, intent upon avenging his beloved family's death: both the deliciously ornery Astiza and their son Horus (Harry) have died and Gage wants revenge. The gorgeous French aristo at his side wants something, too, but increasingly Gage isn't sure their aims are similar.

DEAL BREAKER, by Harlan Coben

1/series. If you're looking for a great author with a finely-tuned sense of the absurd, tight-as-a-new-boot plots, and sidekicks worthy of Oscars, Harlan Coben is your guy. And Myron Bolitar, 6'6" ex-basketball superstar, mensch, and sports agent is a lead character to love. Myron's new client, Christian Steele, an engaging, humble, photogenic quarterback just breaking in to the big time, is beset by problems, chief among them the disappearance the year before of his fiancee. Myron, a hands-on agent who gets involved in his clients' lives like a substitute father, copes with sleazy team owners, even sleazier porn mag publishers, a stunningly gorgeous ex-girlfriend, and Esperanza, ex-wrestler and business associate who pulls no punches. And then there's Win, once Mryon's FBI sidekick, now gone a bit over the edge. By now, this series has nearly a dozen books and a devoted following; join the throng and enjoy. It's a 5.