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Tuesday, February 23, 2016


4 stars out of 5

Be careful what you wish for. To-wit: Over the course of the last three or four books in this series, I've watched one of my all-time favorite characters - the dashing, talented and filthy rich Roarke, husband of emotionally fragile homicide detective Eve Dallas  - transition from loving and supportive to borderline smothering and controlling. To be sure, it's a fine line to cross (especially given Eve's emotional fragility that resulted from an abusive childhood), but I'm not the only one to point this out; other reviewers have noted it as well. 

In this latest installment, the difference was notable; this time around, when Roarke crosses that line by initiating changes he believes his wife "needs" without consulting her, Eve fights back - to the point of bruising his sometimes enormous ego. Admittedly, her objections are mitigated as the story progresses and their issues are resolved mostly in Roarke's favor; still, it was rather nice to see Eve stand up for herself in her personal life for a change.

Other than that - and maybe in part because of that,  the book seemed to lack the punch of other installments. Yes, I read it as quickly as possible, as usual not wanting to put it down. But overall, I'd have to describe it as a bit bland compared with others I've read. It begins as Dennis Mira, husband of Dr. Charlotte Mira, a friend of Eve's and a police profiler, pays a visit to his late grandfather's brownstone in New York's West Village. Dennis's brother, Edward, who co-inherited the property, is intent on selling it over his brother's objections and supposedly is meeting with a real estate agent on this day.

As Dennis enters, he hears voices and then spots his brother, who's apparently been attacked; almost immediately, Dennis is hit in the head from behind and goes down for the count. When he wakes up, Edward - a former lawyer, judge and senator - has disappeared. Dennis makes the call to Eve to help locate his brother; an investigation reveals that all traces of intruders have vanished, along with the house security tapes. Given Edward's background (and the fact he's clearly not a nice man) mean more than a few people don't like him much - including his brother Dennis. Could it be, then, that someone has decided to get even?

Eve enlists the help of her technologically gifted Irish husband to sort it all out, digging into backgrounds, facts and figures generally unavailable even to police and despite the futuristic setting (sometime in the 2020s, I believe). Along the way, a very sordid story is unearthed - a story that elicits painful memories of Eve's nightmarish childhood (a bit too often, in my opinion). It's also one not for the squeamish, although descriptions of the crimes aren't particularly graphic (also in my opinion). One thing, though, is crystal clear: Payback really is a you-know-what.

Brotherhood in Death by J.D. Robb (Berkley, February 2016); 389 pp.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


4 stars out of 5

Lately, I've been caught up in moving to a new home (well, new to me and my husband) and trying to keep on top of reviews of books I've received at no cost from publishers in exchange for reviews. So far, those books have been nothing short of stellar, but I admit it's more than a teeny bit stressful knowing I've got to pay close attention so as to render a review that's both honest and fair.

So it was that I looked forward to the time when I could turn to a favorite author - one I know won't disappoint. I've followed Jonathan Kellerman's Alex Delaware series from the beginning, prompted early on by a love of psychology (my undergraduate degree) and murder mysteries. Many were absolutely outstanding, and those that were a bit less so were enjoyable as well.

This one falls into the latter category. As always, the writing is stellar; but for the first half or so, I wondered when the action would begin. Alex is called in by an elderly psychologist to evaluate Ovid, the five-year-old son of TV actress Zelda Chase (who clearly has mental issues). A few years later, Zelda is committed to a psychiatric facility - and not long after she's released, she turns up dead. Primarily concerned about Zelda's son - whose whereabouts at this point are unknown - Alex turns to his longtime friend, LAPD Lieutenant Milo Sturgis, for help with solving the murder and locating the child.

The tracking-down process, though, is tedious almost to the point of boring.  Both Alex and Milo seem a bit subdued, and Alex's love Robin doesn't contribute much beyond trying to cheer Alex up by running her fingers through his hair.

But then, things started to pick up, and all the details revealed (slowly)  in the first part begin to come together and the suspense builds up. It's not that I didn't enjoy the book - I did - but at the same time it didn't quite have the zing of others in the series. All told, it may not be my favorite in the series - hence the four-star rating - but it's still well worth reading.

Breakdown by Jonathan Kellerman (Ballantine Books, February 2016); 369 pp.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


5 stars out of 5

Right off the bat, I'll admit that feeling sympathy for any kind of Bernie Madoff wannabe who, by his own admission, wants what he wants and will do anything to get it, just isn't in my emotional wheelhouse. Honestly, I never really "liked" Jonathan Caine right up to the end of this book (in fact, especially not at the end). But in the final analysis, that matters not a whit; I thoroughly enjoyed this well-written story that held my attention throughout. 

As Jonathan's efforts to turn a few billion bucks in the market turns nasty, he leaves his trophy wife Natasha at their expensive penthouse condo to attend his 25th high school reunion. There, he spots Jacqueline Williams, who (you guessed it), was well out of the reach of Johnny from the 'hood back then. She's still as gorgeous as ever, and the now filthy rich Jonathan decides to try for what he wants despite being married. As it turns out, she's married as well - to a high school football star with a penchant for spousal abuse. 

That fact only increases Jonathan's intent to conquer, and he's delighted when he finds she's receptive to his attentions. Jackie is unaware, though, of Jonathan's pending financial crisis (which he's kept to himself in the fear that she'll dump his sorry butt), so that revelation looms over their affair. Jonathan does, however, share the fact that his father is on his deathbed - after all, that's just another speed bump in his as perfect as he can make it world. But as their relationship intensifies, Jonathan begins to contemplate what's really important and what he must do if he wants to turn his life around.

That, of course, brings up questions: Is he serious, or are his feelings simply another case of this, too, shall pass? If it's real, how can he and Jackie dump the spouses neither of them wants? Can Johnny avoid life-altering fallout from his financial plunders and blunders? And will he get the comeuppance I think he deserves?

To get those answers, you'll just have to read the book. As for me, I thank the author and publisher, via NetGalley, for allowing me to read an advance copy in exchange for a review (it's scheduled for release on April 5, 2016). Now, I'm planning to take a look at the three other law-related books by the author, an attorney himself, BTW: A Conflict of Interest, A Case of Redemption and Losing Faith

The Girl From Home by Adam Mitzner (Gallery Books, April 2016); 336 pp.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


5 stars out of 5

If you have anything left that's worth more than a loaf of bread or a couple of packs of chewing gum when you leave this world, do you know who'll get it? If you have an estate plan and a Last Will and Testament, you do; otherwise, your goodies may be distributed in ways you neither expect nor want.

That's the purpose of this short book, written in lighthearted fashion by a Chicago attorney. And while it's not meant to be legal advice - an up-front disclaimer I know is necessary because I've got a son who's a lawyer (for better or worse) - the author's points are well taken.

The lighthearted part comes from looking at wills of some rich and famous folks, from Will Shakespeare to Joan Crawford (she of the hated wire coat hangers) to JFK Jr. There's also a list of people who died intestate (that means they didn't have wills at all); although some might be pardoned because they probably weren't expecting to kick the bucket - such as John Denver, who died at age 54 and Jimi Hendrix at 28 - others certainly should have known better (think Pablo Picasso, who lived to the ripe old age of 92).

The sample wills are followed by excerpts from the author's Fiona Gavelle mystery series, which at the time of this writing totals four with a fifth planned for publication sometime this year. They, too, are filled with both humor and dead bodies. These stories, the author says, are derived from personal experience - illustrating that there's plenty of fodder for stories in everyday life. 

The whole thing can be read in an hour or so; and while I'll admit the mystery series is intriguing, it's the "stuff" in those wills that got the lion's share of my attention. It all goes to show, I guess, that we all put our shoes on one foot at a time. Good reading!

Lettuce Read Wills by Una Tiers (Fiona Gavelle, February 2016); 84 pp.

Monday, February 8, 2016


4.5 stars out of 5

After I finished the first few chapters of this book, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to care much what happens to Aubrey Hamilton, the central female character. Her much-loved husband Josh went missing five years earlier after mysteriously failing to show up at a friend's bachelor party. As the prime suspect, Aubrey was arrested, charged and put on trial but acquitted for lack of evidence; now, and her nasty mother-in-law Daisy finally succeeded in her quest to have her son declared legally dead.

When Aubrey meets a new guy (about whom I'll provide no details so as not to spoil it for anyone else), she turns into the angst-ridden, hand-wringing female who questions everything everyone says or does - including herself - and I got that old familiar feeling of, "Oh no - not another of those wishy-washy women I so dislike."

But then - thanks to chapters that switch back and forth among various characters (including Aubrey) and time periods, I began to realize what Aubrey was all about. This is a technique that's been overused in books of late, IMHO, but in this case, the author has used it to, in effect, build layers of each character that results in an ending that came as a bit of a surprise to me. 

Bottom line? This is a good one, folks! I thank the author, publisher and NetGalley for providing me an advance copy in exchange for a review (it's scheduled for release on March 22). 

No One Knows by J.T. Ellison (Gallery Books, March 2016); 384 pp.