31.7.14

NO ONE LEFT TO TELL, by Karen Rose

If you like them fast and furious, Karen Rose could be the author for you. In this dense, intense contemporary romance, Baltimore apprentice PI Paige Holden witnesses the assassination of a woman who had come to her for help in getting her unjustly-convicted husband out of prison. Her dying words implicate the police. Where can Paige turn to for help? Who can she trust? Grayson Smith, assistant state's attorney, sees the subsequent film a very odd onlooker took of the incident. With the memory of the Beltway Sniper fresh in everyone's memories, the powers-that-be are determined not to make an epic of this death. But are there ulterior motives at work?

DAUGHTER OF THE GOD-KING, by Anne Cleeland

A delightful Napoleonic-era tale of the intrepid Hathor "Hattie" Blackhouse, self-admitted to have a very short temper, neglected daughter of Egyptologists who have gone missing from their Valley of the Kings dig under mysterious circumstances. What is even more mysterious are the various men lurking around the edges of Hattie's life as she leaves the dull Cornish countryside for Paris. There, Hattie and her companion, the unflappable, cool-as-ice Bing, discover that Hattie's childhood friend who is now a diplomat (but doing what, exactly?), is engaged to a much older woman. Shortly after that, find themselves in a situation which requires them to exit the Prussian ambassador's party via a grapevine on the side of the house. Click below for more no-spoiler review...

28.7.14

WHEN THE DUKE WAS WICKED, by Lorraine Heath

1/series. For over a score of books, award-winning Lorraine Heath has created engaging, very human lords and ladies whose lives, despite their privilege and status, are lacking...true love. Consistently, these marvelous tales of the late Victorian era will entangle you from the first page. When the Duke Was Wicked is no exception. Henry Sidney Stanford, seventh Duke of Lovingdon, died. Not literally, but when his beloved wife and daughter perished of typhus, a disease he knew in his heart he'd brought home. Lovingdon becomes a recluse, a rake, a debauched gambler. Two years into his spree, a young girl he'd long known re-appears in his life. All grown up...and then some...

26.7.14

THE DIRTY DUCK, by Martha Grimes

4/series. Boy, can Martha Grimes write! The plotting, setting, action and characterizations are superb, but it's the humor that sets this series apart. Read them and chuckle! Her main characters are both proper and irreverent (don't know how she does it); Richard Jury of Scotland Yard, and his iconoclastic pal Melrose Plant, are the perfect sleuthing duo. In this tale, a series of grisly razor murders strike American women in a tour group, first in Stratford-on-Avon, and then in London. Snippets of poetry with each body hint that there will be more deaths to come.But what is the link between them?

24.7.14

PLEASURE UNBOUND, by Larissa Ione


1/series, a Demonica Novel. Brace yourself for a wild paranormal romance ride in a New York that's fairly normal up top and seething with demons underneath. Demon hunter Tayla Mancuso wakes in a hospital ward with the hottest doctor she's ever laid eyes on at her side. The sexy physician, Eidolon, proves to be a demon, one of the many she's trained to hunt and kill. The hospital is staffed by and for demons, and Tayla will be lucky if she leaves there alive. Eidolon, a Harvard graduate, is nearing his hundredth year (nine hundred or so to go), and faces a brutal change that will bring his most savage heritage to the fore; to avoid that, he must mate, and soon. Click for more...

23.7.14

BORDEAUX: THE BITTER FINISH, by Janet Hubbard

2/series. For wine, travel, or France enthusiasts, it would be hard to find a more entrancing book. Hubbard obviously knows her stuff insofar as wine and the wine trade, food from everyday to the hautest of cuisines, the French, Bordeaux and its fabulous environs, are concerned. Max Maguire of the NYPD whose French mother and New York cop father have given her a conflicted veiw of the world, returns to France as bodyguard. Almost at once, her client shows up dead, poisoned by a fine French blue cheese. Olivier Chaumont, the juge de instruction (a kind of magistrate, perhaps?) and Max's love interest lives in the area, and once again the one-of-these-days lovers are on the complicated trail of murder, wine forgery, and a host of other forms of skulduggery. No contest, Hubbard knows the millieu. And she ought to know her writing, seeing as she teaches it. And Poisoned Pen Press, her publisher, is well respected. Why, then, is the book riddled with typos, abducted words, overly-complicated plots, so many characters you need an address book to keep track of them, choppy conversation, and the last quarter of the book so chock full of plain old proofreading errors it looks like a newbie self-published work? I had the same reaction to the first book, hoped it would be fixed in the second, but it appears the plague is spreading. It's a 3, you might give it more (Linda Fairstein did), but there's too much wrong with it. But...if you love France and wine, it can't be beat.
For hundreds of no-spoiler book reviews of both American and foreign authors, in all genres but zombies, go to www.nuts4books.com
www.janethubbard.com

21.7.14

AWAY, by Amy Bloom

Book reviews of this kind of writing are so simple. Fabulous book. Beautifully written, with every word polished to a surgical gleam. Worth reading for book clubs or people just wanting a mesmerizing, sometimes very funny, read. Tough and merciless; tender and touching. This is the story of Lillian Leyb, a Ukranian Jewish immigrant who comes to America and what happens to her. She's lost her entire family, parents and husband and her young daughter Sophia, during brutish sectarian violence. There's no place else to go but away when a relative gives her the name of another relative in New York City. And so she goes, in the bottom of the boat, as so many of her kind (the huddled masses) have done.

20.7.14

MISSING YOU, by Harlan Coben

A stand-alone novel by the award-winning (every kudo you could think of) master of the "soft-centered" thriller. A new genre description for me, but one that makes a lot of sense when it comes to Coben's low-key but intense style of writing. Eighteen years ago, Kat Donovan's cop father was murdered. His killer, a contract assassin, went to prison for life. Kat, devastated by the death, was then dumped by the love of her life, Jeff.  Now, nearing forty and a police detective, Kat learns the killer is dying. At the same time, her best friend signs her up for a dating service. One of the first faces she sees is Jeff's: windowed, with one teen-aged daughter, looking for love. But not, apparently, Kat's: he writes on the chat line he's moving on to a new life. This triple-threaded story weaves these two elements, plus a determined but troubled young man who's convinced his mother has been abducted by her on-line date. Complex, soft around the edges but solid steel in the center (wait. maybe it ought to be steel around the edges but soft in the center?), this is the kind of novel you'll read in one sitting. I did exactly that. It's a 5, another Coben triumph.
For other no-spoiler books in the thriller and all other genres, go to www.nuts4books.com
www.harlancoben.com

19.7.14

THE LEOPARD, by Jo Nesbo

8/series. Translated from the Norwegian, these intricately-plotted prize winners just keep getting rougher and tougher. Harry, disintegrating with panache in Hong Kong's drug-ridden Kowloon, is brought back to Oslo by a policewoman after she tells him his father is near death. Hole must return, and - despite the horrific toll his last case (The Snowman) took on him - agrees to work on what appears to be yet another serial killer. He is soon, as always, embroiled in the vicious in-fighting at the upper levels of law enforcement, now threatened to be brought under a single controlling entity.

18.7.14

RAIDERS OF THE NILE, by Steven Saylor

2/prequel to series. Saylor's long-running Roma sub Rosa series, starring super-sleuth Gordianus the Finder, now has two prequels, starting when the sleuth-for-emperors was a mere youth. What a clever idea! In the main series (begun in the early 1990's), Gordianus has aged as Rome went through the paroxysms wrought by various rulers, including Julius Caesar. Now, as the sleuth is in his old age, we are gifted with his early years. The first book was The Seven Wonders; this one takes us to Alexandria, Egypt, during the reign of last of the Ptolemys, where the twenty three-year old Gordianus has somehow mislaid his new slave, the beautiful, mysterious, highly-treasured Bethesda.

13.7.14

THE RED POLE OF MACAU, by Ian Hamilton

4/series. Ava Lee's in over her head again! This time her half-brother Michael and his partner have unwisely invested in a Macao construction project which never gets off the ground. Pressed for additional money to keep the project afloat, Michael Lee and his overbearing partner Simon To, have left it to Ava to discover their Macao partners are a pair of hardened ex-triad criminals who have run this scam repeatedly. In the good old days, triad discipline would keep these two under control, but the old days are gone, much lamented by Uncle, Ava's elderly business partner. After an initial meeting with the duo, in which Ava breaks the arm of the enforcer (in triad terms, the Red Pole), thing inevitably go from bad to cosmically awful.

10.7.14

FAIR WARNING, by Robert Olen Butler

If I lived to be a thousand, I would never be able to learn to write like Robert Olen Butler. I'm working my way through all his books, and this one is yet another grab-you-and-won't-let-go. Elegant, sexy, fast-paced. Amy Dickerson, hot shot New York City auctioneer, began her career at age six by auctioning her younger sister Missy when the kid was only three years old. The new owner couldn't collect, and Amy ate her spaghetti alone in her bedroom. Now living large as the undisputed star of her Big Apple auction house - facing her fortieth birthday - Amy still has Missy issues. But other issues are on her plate as well, notably her lack of a love life. Click for more...

7.7.14

THE COCKROACHES, by Jo Nesbo.

2/series; translated from the Norwegian. Amazing titles; first in this series was The Bat (or maybe The Leopard; titles change from country to country). Hard-hitting police procedurals from Norway's best-selling author. Gritty, cut-to-the-bone action, no punches pulled for police detective Harry Hole, semi-disgraced with some really awful personal tics, but a totally brilliant officer with a jones for self-destruction. To say he doesn't play well with others is ludicrously mild. Sent to Bangkok to investigate the murder of the Norwegian ambassador, Hole works with an American head detective and her team, in spite of endless interference from political suits in both countries. Nothing like a CYA politician for insanely wrong motives and actions, isn't there? Click for more...

6.7.14

THE WILD BEASTS OF WUHAN, by Ian Hamilton

2/series. The indominable Ava Lee, accountant-turned-sleuth, is up to her pretty neck in conspiracies in this fast-paced intricate tale. A Chinese powerbroker and his sharp-witted wife have been repeatedly defrauded as they built up an unusual collection of Fauvist paintings. Ava, at fist unwilling to attempt to recover the seventy million dollars involved, finally agrees to do some initial research; she has no expertise in the art world. The art dealer who sold the paintings has died, his records destroyed, so Ava must re-create the trail from forger through art experts and on to the unwitting couple. From Wuhan, the trail leads...Click for more...

FIDEL'S LAST DAYS, by Roland Merullo

Amazing what you can find when you spend some time browsing in your local library stacks. The good writers you never have heard of, the crazy titles that make you laugh, the astonishing bodies of work some authors have built up year by year. Fidel's Last Days is an intricate, subtle, at times horribly chilling book about a plot to kill Fidel Castro. Carolina Perez, once a CIA agent and now employed in a similar capacity by a clandestine group called the White Orchid, has spent five years deep under cover, all this time working toward a single goal: the death of Cuba's aging, paranoid dictator and the release of the island nation from the grip of a failed revolution and the men who keep an iron fist on the suffering population. Click for more...

3.7.14

BROOKLYN, by Colm Toibin

There are books that hit you over the head, that grab you and won't let go; action, confrontation, deadlines, endless tension. Then there are books that sneak up on you, entice and whisper, planting their hooks deeply before you realize it. Brooklyn is one of the latter. Eilin Lacey, a young Irish girl living in the impoverished wreckage of her post World War Two country, is sent to America. Sponsored by the local priest, she arrives in Brooklyn, which seems to be populated largely by immigrants. Irish, Italian, Jewish. In Ireland, Eilin was studying to be a bookkeeper; in Brooklyn...Click for more...

1.7.14

COME TO GRIEF, by Dick Francis

3/series starring Sid Hally. The late, great, much-lamented Dick Francis was - among other things - jockey for Queen Elizabeth. But his award-winning mysteries, all involving the horse racing world, made him more than just famous in England. Always a mix of authentic racing scenery and people, the acclaimed novels also have an enduring human touch that makes this excellent reads for just about anyone who will read a mystery. Not only well-written but filed with completely human characters, from the noble to the completely ignoble. Which brings us to the villain in this piece, an ex-jockey who succumbs to his darkest and most perverted dreams. Click for more...

KEEPERS, by Kathy Brennan & Caroline Campion,

Simple. Scrumptuous. A fabulous, easy cookbook for every busy person. Use-tested by a lot of friends, I can attest that the recipes are - while not screamingly original - solid dishes you'll be happy to add to your outa-time-outa-energy repertoire. Loaded with good tips for any cook, the two authors have serious Saveur Magazine chops, so you can rely on their expertise in prep tricks, cooking timing, and just plain good kitchen sense. Take, for example, Morning Chicken on page 44: simple, direct, and it will anchor a fabulous meal. Or the veggie recipes: No-Fuss Roasted Potatoes is perfect as a side to almost any main. One of my favorites is Italian Tomato-Bread Salad, page 176. This book will make your life so  much simpler! It's a 4. And, by the way, the Massaged Kale salad is sooo easy, and you'll wow friends and family with your technique. Look for a monthly cookbook review at www.nuts4books.com as well as no-spoiler book reviews.