Wednesday, April 23, 2008

EVEN CAT SITTERS GET THE BLUES by Blaize Clement (Thomas Dunne)

Don't let the turquoise cover with the cute cat picture scare you off reading this! Dixie Hemingway IS a pet sitter, and she does get around her barrier island home on a bicycle. BUT when the first sentence in a book is "Christmas was coming, and I had killed a man," you can put your money down that it's not going to be a light-weight cozy. It's a cozy, but it's got real murder, real drama, and an imaginative story line.

An ex-homicide cop, Dixie is burned out on dealing with dead bodies and crime, so she neglects to report the body of a dead man while she's out on her pet-sitting rounds. Naturally, she's seen and tied to the crime. Did I mention that the body was at the home of her newest client or that the client has a mystery of his own?

I look forward to my next visit to Florida to spend time with Dixie!

EASY INNOCENCE by Libby Fischer Hellmann (Bleak House)

There's a new female PI in Chicago! Suspended cop Georgia Davis isn't afraid of a challenge. When a mentally retarded man is about to be railroaded for the murder of a beautiful high school girl, Georgia signs on to help, even though his attorney is ready to accept a plea bargain. There's plenty rotten in the case—and it's not just the fish guts that make two cameo appearances. From dirty politics to lazy cops to teenage hazing, this case is bad from beginning to end. Georgia Davis, however, is one tough cookie, and she's not about to let a little personal danger (well, a lot of personal danger) deter her from following her leads. Welcome, Georgia Davis, to the world of crime fiction!

THE ANATONISTS by Hal McDonald (Harper)

McDonald pays homage to the great one and his chronicler in this tale of two medical students in Victorian London. Forced to apply to a "ressurectionist" for a body to complete their anatomy studies, Edward Montague (Watson) and Jean-Claude Legard (Holmes) find themselves compelled to solve a crime before they can perform an autopsy—and before their medical school is brought down for sanctioning grave-robbing. Sit back and enjoy the game!

McDonald is the winner of the truTV "Search for the Next Great Crime Writer" and a professor of English at Mars Hill College in North Carolina. I was delighted that McDonald bestowed encomium without writing a pastiche.

DEATH WILL GET YOU SOBER by Elizabeth Zelvin (Thomas Dunne)

You guessed it! The protagonist in this book is drying out in rehab. There's a lot of death going on--first Bruce stumbles on a body in the laundry room and then his new friend dies in front of him. And they're just the first two! Fortunately, Bruce has a strong support team--Jimmy, his best friend from childhood (also a recovering alcoholic) and Jimmy's girlfriend Barbara who's a counselor. There are plenty of deaths for the team to investigate, and Bruce quickly realizes that he will have to stay sober to keep hold of all the threads.

This first Zelvin outing is filled with compelling characters and a solid story line even if a bit overladen with twelve-step rules. I look forward to future adventures with Bruce, Jimmy, and Barbara.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

SLEEPING DOGS by Ed Gorman (Thomas Dunne Books)

What could be more appropriate at this time than a political whodunnit? Dev Conrad is a political consultant who admires the policies of his candidate while abhorring the man. Dev was hired to run Sen. Warren Nichols' reelection campaign after the former manager's suicide. All of Dev's resources are called to the front when Warren collapses at a televised debate. Gorman skillfully weaves reality into his fast-paced story filled with warm fuzzy and truly sleezy characters. This one could be, almost literally, "ripped from the headlines."

SLEIGHT OF HAND by Robin Hathaway (Thomas Dunne Books)

This Agatha winner just gets better and better! In her third outing, Dr. Jo Banks interrupts a country bike ride to investigate a sound from her childhood: the hum of an old printing press. The printer is surprised by her visit and catches his hand in the press. He refuses to go to the hospital and insists that Jo treat him in his home. Guilt overwhelms her, so she also provides follow-up treatment. She soon becomes entangled with the printer, his child-like daughter, and the woman who mysteriously abandoned them.

The story is engrossing, the characters compelling, and the read delightful.