Bestselling Author

“Dead Cat Bounce” by Sarah Graves

Book Cover - Dead Cat Bounce

The ‘Home Repair is Homicide’ series gets off to a hammering start with this first installment, “Dead Cat Bounce.” Jacobia Tiptree has purchased a fixer-upper on an island in Maine and while handy with a wrench and other assorted tools, she is not prepared for the corpse she discovers in her storeroom one murky morning.

 

When the body is revealed to be that of a local billionaire and Tiptree (the newcomer in town) begins to investigate why he wound up in her house, her safety and that of her son is threatened. Family trust is tested, an ex-husband proves to be a forever jerk, and Tiptree relies on her Wall Street savvy to uncover the truth behind the murder. Graves reveals that ‘dead cat bounce’ refers to stock market jargon for a temporary rise in a stock’s trading price after a sharp drop…“even a dead cat will bounce if dropped.”

 

Along the way, we learn handy home repair tips for old houses. I now know why sagging floors have to be jacked up slowly and that if repairs turn out to be extensive, “you might as well stick your checkbook on the back door and let people fill out their own.” “Dead Cat Bounce” is a witty take on murder in a small town, with home repair as the source for many of the plot twists. A gal with a tool belt cannot be underestimated.

 

This mystery is completely guilty of solid character development and deeply felt relationships, and because of that, Tiptree is someone we’d like to help, invite over for coffee, get financial advice from, and especially have her on our side if we were ever accused of murder. I’ve read several of Graves’ fifteen books in the series and the people surrounding Tiptree are so real, they could be my own neighbors. Except for the killers, I hope.

 

The most recent in the series, “Dead Level,” was published in 2012, and “A Bat in the Belfry” is coming out in April, 2013.

 

For more information, visit www.sarahgraves.net

 

 

“Stone Cold” by Robert B. Parker

Book Cover - Stone Cold

 

Robert B. Parker was the author of more than fifty books and regrettably, I did not pick up a single one until Jesse Stone (the police chief in Parker’s nine book Stone series) appeared in the form of Tom Selleck in a movie of the week titled, "Stone Cold." My bad.

 

In both book and movie, Stone, formerly an L.A. cop, is now the police chief of Paradise, a seaside Massachusetts town. He has baggage that many readers have sympathized with over the years: failed marriage, complicated relationship with the ex-wife, issues with drinking, and an inability to escape from himself in a town where everybody knows your name.

 

And, in this town, some nasty crimes are taking place…not only a spree of seemingly random murders, but also a teenage rape. Stone’s handling of both cases is intensely personal; he wants to understand the suspects, but also needs to help and avenge the victims. He sometimes steps outside the law to do that when the law doesn’t quite deliver the justice deserved.

 

Luckily for Parker fans, the TV movie script does not stray far from the crisp dialogue that characterizes the book. Stone is a man of few words until it’s necessary to expand his generally monosyllabic responses. His thoughts, however, are deeper and richer, and the feeling that Selleck expresses by a glance or a frown on the small screen, Parker describes in full measure on the printed page.

 

There is a hint at discord with the town council, but in “Stone Cold,” it’s not overplayed.  The council members want information about ongoing cases, but Stone doesn’t feel it necessary to share and the scene is set for more problems in future books. Crime waves make people fearful about living normal lives and random killings are even more frightening, so it would be normal for a mayor and council to be actively concerned and want to reassure the townsfolk that it’s safe to go out at night. It’s just that Stone knows better than to let the council control the department decisions.

 

An easy connection exists between Stone, Molly, and Suit, the local law enforcement team. They protect each other and play the role of a family that Stone doesn’t have. To get through some of the deeper issues, he sees a shrink by the name of Dix, who at times is also a sounding board when Stone wants a psychological profile done of a suspect. The interplay of the principal characters is so realistically portrayed that while “Stone Cold” is a stand-alone book, it would be interesting to go back to the beginning of the series to see how these relationships began and subsequently developed.

 

Sadly, Robert B. Parker passed away in 2010 at the age of 77, discovered by his wife at his desk, having been in the midst of writing a novel. In addition to the seven TV movies inspired by the Stone series, there was a weekly TV show, “Spenser for Hire,” based on the character of the same name in other Parker books. The Parker estate has decided to continue the hugely successful work of the ‘dean of American crime fiction’ with new Stone and Spenser books written by people who worked closely with him in TV and film.

 

Visit www.robertbparker.net to learn more about the man, his books, and his legacy.

 

 

 

“Scarpetta” by Patricia Cornwell

Book Cover - Scarpetta

Kay Scarpetta is a celebrated forensic pathologist who has taken an assignment in NYC. Her resume includes solving unusually difficult cases by painstaking attention to detail and determined exploration of every possibility. This time her patient, Oscar Bane, isn’t dead. And, he has demanded her world-renowned expertise and integrity be used to exonerate him. The case gets more bizarre with each fingernail clipped, each bruise examined. Oscar Bane has been injured during the course of the murder of his girlfriend, which he swears he did not commit.

 

Patricia Cornwell reinvented the forensic thriller genre over twenty years ago and during the intervening time has earned the Edgar, Creasey, Gold Dagger, Anthony, McCavity, Sherlock and Galaxy British Crime Thriller of the Year Awards. In each book, the reader is privy to the grisly reality of autopsies, the intimate invasion of the body in order to uncover how the victim died, as well as clues to the identity of the killer. Those twenty years have generated many technological advances in forensic science and as each is unveiled in real-life, Cornwell incorporates them into Scarpetta’s well-equipped labs.

 

The anchoring story in “Scarpetta” addresses the invasive power of the internet. Lucy, a computer phenom who is fiercely protective of her aunt, zeroes in on people who have been slandering Scarpetta online with sleazy photos and ridiculous articles. Cornwell’s message is that we are all vulnerable to the baseless smear campaigns that exist on some sites only to snag more readers and keep them hooked.

 

“Scarpetta” (#16 in the strand) is sometimes darkly disturbing, because the dialogue is so matter of fact, so real. It often seemed as if I was eavesdropping, listening in on private, painful conversations between Scarpetta, her niece, Lucy, her forensic psychologist husband, Benton Wesley, and the investigator and former friend, Pete Marino. No matter the existing murderous storyline, their complex interactions have evolved in true-life fashion during the twenty books in the Scarpetta series.

 

There are well-developed, sometimes creepy, supporting characters, mature subjects, surprising plot twists and turns, and plenty to satisfy Cornwell fans.

 

For more information about Patricia Cornwell, her books and other series, visit www.patriciacornwell.com  The site is interactive, with something to find on every page.

 

 

“Wrongful Death” by Robert Dugoni

 

Book Cover - Wrongful Death2

David Sloane comes off a big courtroom win (the 18th in a row) and seems unstoppable in the legal arena. Then, an impossible situation is placed before him: challenge the military to acknowledge a widow’s claim that her husband died a wrongful death while fighting for his country. What should be an easy case to turn down, becomes a personal issue when a preliminary review of the paperwork indicates something stinks. But, what?

 

The case evolves into a legal grenade tossed into the world of government contracts and the big players involved. The damage is messy and unpredictable. Sloane’s family is threatened, witnesses are dying and the stakes are higher than anyone had imagined. He calls on friend and former CIA operative turned P.I., Charles Jenkins, to help find answers and arrange protection for his new wife and stepson.

 

Bestselling author and former lawyer, Robert Dugoni, has written a legal thriller that combines courtroom drama with explosive investigation in the field and flashbacks to a military convoy traveling through hostile Iraqi territory. Dugoni reveals some of the facts of the Iraqi operation through the eyes of the dead man being defended.

 

“Wrongful Death” flows seamlessly between the flashbacks and present day events and was tough to put down. Almost none of the action seems far-fetched. Dugoni has created a suspenseful story so realistic that I can imagine a lawyer and his family being thrust into these circumstances and then dealing with the fallout in just these ways – if I had two top-notch operatives as friends.

 

Kudos to Dugoni for writing the two lead women in the book (wife-Tina, bodyguard-Alex) as smart and resourceful without becoming cartoonish; relying on brains to stay alive. And the action involving Sloane that is a little over the top, is just plain fun. Who wouldn’t want a tank coming to the rescue, just when you need it?

 

I met Robert Dugoni when he was teaching a writing class at a NYC conference. “Wrongful Death,” the second in the ‘David Sloane’ strand, had just come out and Dugoni autographed the book for me. I’m especially delighted that I waited in line because this one is a keeper. An equally intelligent screenplay would make for a great movie.

 

"Wrongful Death" (2009) was followed by "Bodily Harm," (2010) "Murder One," (2011) and "The Conviction." (2012) Dugoni has written other, stand-alone novels, as well as co-authoring a non-fiction title, “The Cyanide Canary,” a true crime story.

 

For more information about Robert Dugoni and his work, visit www.robertdugoni.com

 

 

 

 

“Sword Song” by Bernard Cornwell

Book Cover - Sword Song

Drama, blood, gore, and a few maimings are all a part of best-selling author Bernard Cornwell’s series (the Warrior Chronicles/Saxon Stories) dealing with the birth of England in the 9th century. “Sword Song” is the fourth in the series and continues the story of Uhtred, a renowned and respected warrior of King Alfred the Great. Uhtred, a dispossessed Northumbrian Lord who was raised by Vikings, shifts allegiances as war and his ambition require. We are never quite sure where Uhtred’s sword will wind up, but we know it will be a rousing good read while the battles unfold.

 

Cornwell is a master of making historical fiction come alive, by writing interestingly flawed central characters who must live by their wits and skills in a time when nice guys died early. Each of his books is thoroughly researched to ensure authenticity, but the reader feels as if the details are part of the story, not minutiae to fill the page. Battles are for the most part historically accurate and only altered when needed to fit a particular storyline. It is one of the fascinating aspects of reading the series that one can come away with a strong understanding of the chronological changes in the nature of war. 9th century strategies are explained, weaponry both large and small is described and ancient armor can be easily envisioned. In my case, a visit to an exhibition of 12th-14th c. armor at the Met in NYC was enhanced by having read Cornwell’s books.

 

“Sword Song” (2007) was followed by “The Burning Land,“ (2009) and “Death of Kings” (2011).  A friend of mine, a student of the ‘art of war’ in both non-fiction and fiction platforms, has purchased every title in the series, disappointed only by the fact that he had to wait between each publication for the next.

 

If you don’t yet have your own copies, go forth and seek some. The gauntlet has been thrown!

 

For more information about Bernard Cornwell and his many internationally famous books and series, visit www.bernardcornwell.net

Read the review of "Agincourt" here.

 

 

“Killing Floor” by Lee Child

Book cover - Killing Floor

 

“I was arrested in Eno’s Diner” – the phrase that began the wildly successful Jack Reacher series.

 

Reacher strolls into a spotless, apparently prosperous little Georgia town, looking for a man his brother suggested he check out –  a musician from the area. Reacher eats breakfast in a brand new local diner and less than thirty minutes later, gets thrown in jail for a murder, just because he’s a stranger in town who passed a crime scene on his walk into the burg. But, he knows he hasn’t killed anybody. “Not for a long time, anyway.” Events go from bad to much worse. Within a few hours, he is taken to prison along with another innocent man and both are ‘mistakenly’ delivered to the 'Killing Floor.' Only Reacher’s exceptional skill set saves them from becoming two more bloody smears on the Floor.

 

Reacher is a loner who likes women and thinks of each of them kindly, fondly, respectfully. But, enjoying his six months of freedom on the road after years of following orders as a military brat and then doing a stint in the service as an MP, he is not thinking of settling in one place any time soon. He doesn’t even have a suitcase – he buys new clothes, takes the dirty ones off his back and throws them away. No need for a car either – he walks everywhere.

 

It is impossible to discuss the plot points without giving away the incredible story, but the thrill ride is spectacular and never disappoints. The bad guys are evil, the murders vicious and the twists and turns truly surprising. Throw in the reason for the entire town keeping a secret, as well as his own brother’s involvement in that secret, and Child hooks his readership for good.

 

“Killing Floor” was a solid beginning in 1997 to the tough guy Jack Reacher series and won the Anthony Award as well as the Barry Award. It is not a gentle read, but “Killing Floor” makes me want to find out more about Reacher’s inner workings. Lots of people choose to travel for a bit, but what would really cause Reacher to choose the life of a rambling man, off the radar, without even a mobile phone to call his own? Child has legions of fans that have followed the Reacher character through 17 books, quite satisfied with plots, action, and what makes Reacher tick. "A Wanted Man," published in 2012, received the UK National Book Award for Thriller and Crime Novel of the year.

 

Reacher enthusiasts are anticipating the release of the movie, "Jack Reacher," opening on December 21st. Tom Cruise fans (and detractors) are curious to see whether or not he measures up to the very tall shadow cast by the character developed during the 17 book (#18 comes out next year) run. Child is very happy with the casting and "Rolling Stone" says that Cruise nails it.

 

I can't wait.

 

(R for adult situations, violence, and some language.)

 

For more information about Lee Child and his books, visit www.leechild.com

 

 

 

“The Reincarnationist” by M.J. Rose

 

"The Reincarnationist"

by M.J. Rose

 

A blinding flash from an explosion sends photojournalist Josh Ryder back into another era and into the life he left behind, over 1600 years ago. When he recovers from his near fatal injuries, he is back in the present, but his 21st century world has changed forever.

 

“The Reincarnationist” takes the reader on a quest to get to the root of Josh’s desperately disturbing images, a quest that uncovers a forbidden love in the time of ancient Rome and secrets that could change how the past merges with the present. Secrets for which people are willing to kill, no matter what the century.

 

Meticulously researched, “The Reincarnationist” delivers. Whether you believe in reincarnation or not, you will be intrigued by the plotting, the characters and the flashbacks between the centuries. And, you will completely believe that love has the power to reach across the ages to bring answers to the future that must be revealed.

 

I have a moviegoer’s approach when reading a work of fiction. I see the action and hear the dialogue as if I’m sitting in a movie theater and I become immersed as if I’m one of the participants. If the scenes don’t come alive for me, the author has left something on the editing floor.

 

In the case of “The Reincarnationist,” M.J. Rose has created an emotional, mental and visual canvas, a work easily transferred to the small or large screen. I hope that one day a movie producer will see the potential in this intelligent, fascinating tale. I’d love to have the DVD next to the book on my shelf.

 

"The Reincarnationist" was the first in this series. It was followed by "The Memorist," "The Hypnotist," and "The Book of Lost Fragrances," all as great as the first! Read the review of "The Book of Lost Fragrances" here.

*For more information about MJ Rose and her books, visit http://mjrose.com/content/

 

 

 

 

 

Scroll to Top