Blog Posts by David

  • "Cold Shot to the Heart" by Wallace Stroby: Book Review

    "Cold Shot to the Heart" by Wallace Stroby
    Minotaur, 289 pp., $24.99
    Reviewed by David Marshall James


    This stand-alone thriller staked on a robbery gone wrong at a high-rollers' poker game comes up all aces in every suit.

    Crissa Stone, the somewhat unlikely yet perfectly amenable protagonist, has escaped a lousy childhood in small-town Texas and worked her way up as a "call-girl" for crime bosses across the country.

    Her assignments-- she can "yea" or "nay" on any prospect-- generally involve a small team of others who are in the same racket. This far along, she is always familiar with at least one of her conspirators on any given assignment.

    Once a robbery goes down, Crissa and her fellow criminals get the heck out of Dodge, as it were, putting multiple state lines behind them. They split the take, with ten percent back to their boss.

    As the novel commences, Crissa is residing way uptown in New York City, near Columbia University, yet hoping to get out of the business and to

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  • "The KenKen Killings" by Parnell Hall: Book Review


    "The KenKen Killings" by Parnell Hall
    Minotaur/Thomas Dunne, 326 pp., $24.99
    Reviewed by David Marshall James


    Some three years ago, a pleasant, past-ready-to-retire librarian inquired: "Do you Sudoku?"

    To which I responded: "Yes, but I don't call it that."

    Now, a reply lies in wait should anyone ask, "Do you KenKen?" That is, "Yes, but that commute to the Moulin Rouge is a killer."

    Truth be told, I had no idea what a KenKen was until looking into Parnell Hall's twelfth Puzzle Lady mystery.

    The Puzzle Lady is the much-married (thank goodness she's given the boot to the bottle), currently single, alleged cruciverbalist, and commercial spokesperson Cora Felton of Bakerhaven, Connecticut.
    To simplify: She is a widely syndicated crossword-puzzle constructor.

    Except: She really isn't. Cora just takes all the credit for the hard work generated by her niece, Sherry, with whom she resides, along with Sherry's newspaper-reporter husband, Aaron.

    Not that Cora planned things that way,

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  • "Backstage Stuff" by Sharon Fiffer: Book Review

    "Backstage Stuff" by Sharon Fiffer
    Minotaur, 290 pp., $24.99
    Reviewed by David Marshall James


    Drama brings ad-exec-turned-"picker" Jane Wheel home (yet again) to Kankakee, Illinois, in a murder mystery that deserves a standing-O by final curtain.

    First off in the drama department, Jane contends with a domestic upheaval.

    She's splitting up with her husband, as amicably as possible, seeing as how her ex-to-be is always off on archaeological digs. Jane puts their son, Nick, on a plane to visit, and he's soon tweeting and putting pics on Facebook faster than you can say, "Goldman Sachs."

    Which begs the question, who's Margo?

    Plenty of comfort abounds, however, as Jane temporarily re-ensconces herself at her parents' home in Kankakee. Her mom, Nellie, may be a tough nut to crack, but she does dish up hot-fudge sundaes and blueberry pancakes, although any comparisons to June Cleaver end there.

    Nellie is also trodding the boards (actually, she's portraying a comatose character who

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  • "The Attenbury Emeralds" by Jill Paton Walsh: Book Review


    "The Attenbury Emeralds" by Jill Paton Walsh
    Minotaur, 338 pp., $25.99
    Reviewed by David Marshall James


    Purists will always object to another hand reviving beloved fictional characters that a creator's passing have rendered immobilized.

    However, if the literary revitalization is not only well-intentioned, but also remarkably well-written and faithful in flavor to the exploits of the original character-- then really, why grouse?

    (It's not as if dozens of successful mystery novelists haven't taken a stab at Sherlock Holmes and his associates, providing some surprisingly delightful new adventures.)

    British author Jill Paton Walsh-- who has written across many literary genres and established her own commendable mystery series set at Cambridge University-- brings Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey and wife Harriet into a freshly minted mystery that proves noteworthy not only for its artfully devised plot, but also for its thematic underpinnings pertaining to changing attitudes

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  • "The Diva Cooks a Goose" by Krista Davis: Book Review


    "The Diva Cooks a Goose" by Krista Davis
    Berkley Prime Crime, 290 pp., $7.99 (paperback only)
    Reviewed by David Marshall James


    Pour a cloud of miniature marshmallows on top of your steaming mug of hot chocolate, dip in a peppermint stick, and-- if you're really feeling festive-- liven up your libation with some Bailey's and Frangelico.

    Sink into your favorite chair, preferably before a blazing Yuletide hearth. Then savor Virginia author Krista Davis's fourth Domestic Divas mystery, set in snowy, well-decorated Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia, beginning on Christmas Day and ending on New Year's Eve.

    Davis transports the action from her protagonist's, Sophie Winston's, neighborhood to that of Sophie's brother, George; his wife, Laci; and their daughter, Jen.

    Whoa, Rudolph! Did we say "Sophie's neighborhood"? Naughty us. It's Natasha Winston's neighborhood as far as Sophie's domestic diva rival is concerned.

    How Sophie can remain so calm about her ex-husband, Mars, marrying the

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  • "The Cruel Ever After" by Ellen Hart: Book Review

    "The Cruel Ever After" by Ellen Hart
    Minotaur, 320 pp., $25.99
    Reviewed by David Marshall James

    Oh, beware of ex-spouses when they drop in unexpectedly, after oh-so-many years.

    Thus begins Jane Lawless's latest predicament (to put it lightly) in this eighteenth mystery featuring the Minneapolis restaurateur.

    It's bad enough for Jane that the circumstances surrounding her brief and only matrimonial foray are highly unusual and laden with her regrets, but they are laced with surprises yet to surface.

    Also, within one week's time, the lives of Jane, her father, her brother and sister-in-law, her niece, her former lover, and her best bud are all pitched asunder by the charming, handsome, lying Chess Garrity.

    Chess, an antiquities dealer who divides his time between Turkey and Amsterdam, is dealing in loot that was plundered from the Baghdad Museum during the confusion (again, to put it lightly) surrounding the U.S. invasion.

    His prize of prizes is a

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  • "Threats at Three" by Ann Purser: Book Review

    "Threats at Three" by Ann Purser Berkley Prime Crime, 346 pp., $23.95 Reviewed by David Marshall James

    It's always the incomers (newcomers) in these English villages, isn't it?

    What a soddy lot they can turn out to be.

    As problematic as two families of incomers to Long Farnden-- in this tenth Lois Meade mystery by British author Ann Purser-- reveal themselves, most of the village stalwarts come to their various rescues, and attempt to assist them in assimilating.

    Does help that both families have small children, a surefire magnet for mother and grandmother wannabes (as well as the "already are's"). How awful can the newbies be, when they possess precious tots?

    Long Farnden regulars begin with Mrs. Meade-- mother hen to a host of charming charwomen, employees of Mrs. M's cleaning service, New Brooms. 'Course, Lois likes a good snoop as much as she does a good sweep; hence, her rather tempestuous nonaffair with Detective Hunter Cowgill of the constabulary in nearby

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  • "Kay Thompson: From Funny Face to Eloise" by Sam Irvin: Book Review

    "Kay Thompson: From Funny Face to Eloise" by Sam Irvin
    Simon & Schuster, 416 pp., $26.99
    Reviewed by David Marshall James


    She kapowied the ala-KAY-zam into showbiz, but Kay Thompson (who began life as Kitty Fink, in St. Louis) is most-remembered today as the author of the "Eloise" books, ostensibly for children.

    And, although Eloise debuted when Thompson was nearing age 50, the character had been a large part of her life theretofore, an alter-ego via Kay got her way, only moreso.

    Film historians are well aware of her contributions to the Golden Age of the MGM musical, her spectacular arrangements and compositions of special material for such production numbers as the Oscar-winning "On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe," from "The Harvey Girls" (1945).

    Thompson mentored scores of performers before (on radio and stage), during, and after her MGM tenure, including some who were not accustomed to singing and were suddenly required to warble. If nothing else, she coached them to

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  • "The Athena Project" by Brad Thor: Book Review


    "The Athena Project" by Brad Thor
    Atria, 336 pp., $26.99
    Reviewed by David Marshall James


    Brad Thor's latest thriller may be Scot Harvath-less (by-and-large, as he does make some brief appearances herein), but it still delivers on every front, earning every genre-applicable adjective from "action-packed" to "zoom-paced."

    The reader has come to expect Thor to supply a glimpse into the cloak-and-dagger world of U.S. government special ops, their zigzags to sometimes unpronounceable (how's about "Ljubljana"?) locales around the globe, and their use of gadgetry that would be found lying about the (Desilu-era) USS Enterprise and that has since come to pass.

    As if those enticements weren't sufficient, the author structures these proceedings around a team of four ultra-physically-fit, tech savvy, gun-wielding, kick-down-the-door young women who also happen to look great in miniskirts and four-inch heels, not to mention black lacy undergarments.

    Indeed, their charm and allure are but

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  • "Miss Dimple Disappears" by Mignon F. Ballard: Book Review


    "Miss Dimple Disappears" by Mignon F. Ballard
    Minotaur, 262 pp., $24.99
    Reviewed by David Marshall James


    South Carolina (though native Georgia) aurthor Mignon F. Ballard may have wrapped up her Augusta Goodnight mystery series featuring the titular guardian angel, but she's back for a bow with a brand-new series that all her readers-- and undoubtedly some new ones-- should find equally, if even more, to their tastes.

    Ballard sets the clock back to autumn 1942, with Thanksgiving fast approaching in the fictitious Georgia burg of Elderberry, somewhere between Milledgeville and Augusta.

    All eligible townsmen have left for the war, or are just about to do so, as is third-grade teacher's, Charlie Carr's, beau Hugh Brumlow.

    Meanwhile, Charlie's younger sister, Delia, is expecting her first child by her soldier husband out in Texas, while the two sisters' only brother, Fain, is serving under Generals Eisenhower and Montgomery in North Africa.

    Jo Carr, widowed mother of the brood,

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Pagination

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