Saturday, 30 July 2016

What's a Girl Gotta Do? by Sparkle Hayter

Open Road Integrated Media


A Robin Hudson Mystery

From the cover:

Meet Robin Hudson. Dumped by her husband, she’s been demoted to third-string reporter at New York’s All News Network. Her downstairs neighbor thinks she’s a hooker. Louise Bryant, her finicky cat, refuses to chow down on anything but stir-fry. Now Robin’s being blackmailed by a late-night caller who knows her childhood nickname and other personal stuff, like whom she gave her virginity to. What could be worse?
Being the prime suspect in the bludgeoning death of her mystery caller—that’s what. In life, he was a PI who had the skinny on everyone. Now, while Robin is undercover investigating a suspicious sperm bank, she must also find the killer and clear her name. In her downtime, she’s amusing herself with her hot new boy toy, who may not be Mr. Right but could be Mr. Close Enough. When someone else is murdered, Robin races to break the story before she makes headlines again—as the next victim.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book written by Canadian author Sparkle Hayter, a journalist who has worked for CNN and Global Television, amongst others.   The author's inside knowledge of television journalism adds to the plot and the telling of the story.  This knowledge creates an air of realism in an otherwise funny, quirky tale. 
Robin Hudson is a character that is hard not to like.  She doesn't know when to keep her mouth shut and manners and good housekeeping are simply foreign to her nature.  She is strong, salty, independent and just a little horny.  I love how the story is told in Robin's voice as it is always intriguing to be inside someone else's head. 
My one quibble with the book is near the start.  Robin describes and interacts with numerous characters and not all of these characters are essential to the story.  It is much like standing around the water cooler getting the skinny on your co-workers on a Monday morning.  This is a small quibble and will not deter me from reading the other five Robin Hudson novels.
Reading about the author has led me to a category of books I had not heard of before - Tart Noir.  This is a line of reading I intend to pursue and will make room for on my bookshelves right beside the Stephanie Plum novels. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

The 14th Protocol by Nathan Goodman

Kindle Edition

One of the reasons I decided to read the 14th Protocol was because of the number of favorable reviews I had seen.  Unfortunately, I didn’t come to the same conclusion as a number of other readers. 

The book is usually referred to as a fast-paced Techno thriller and I agree it is definitely that.  The basic story is simply that after numerous terrorist attacks, the American people are on edge not knowing where the next attack will happen; only that it will happen and we need the FBI to save the day.  The plot is a slightly exaggerated reflection of the times we live in and covers to some degree false flags, but remains believable. 

What I liked:
      -  The main characters are sympathetic and likeable.
      -  The plot was believable and fairly fast paced.
      -  There are some interesting plot twists.
      -  The cliff hanger ending.

What I didn’t like:
      -      Too many incidental characters.  There were times I felt they were there to up the word count and nothing else.
     -        Awkwardly worded phrases.  There were a number of places I had to reread a sentence two, or three times to be clear on the meaning. 
     -        Though fast paced, the book would have benefited from being somewhat shorter.  This would have tightened the plot and increased the pace and tension.
     -     Not finding out until half-way through who the main character actually is.
     -     Having to order the postquel (no charge) from the author in order to tie up all the loose ends.  An original idea yes, but not sure I am a fan. 

Overall an okay read that would have benefited from better editing.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Deadly Tasting - Jean-Pierre Alaux, Noël Balen

Le French Book

Now I enjoy a glass of good wine with a meal but I am certainly not a wine connoisseur though I know what I like and I can decipher a wine label.  Initially, a mystery built around the many intricacies of wine did not appeal to me.  I have however, enjoyed everything that I have read so far from Le French Book and decided that was reason enough to read at least one volume from this series.  Again, a big Thank You to Anne Trager for translating and making these enjoyable award winning reads accessible to English readers.

Deadly Tasting is book four in the Winemaker Detective Series.  Local Bordeaux police consult wine expert Benjamin Cooker,  following the discovery  at the scene of a brutal murder, of twelve wine glasses deliberately placed in a semi-circle and only one glass contains wine. Cooker needs to identify the wine in the glass to understand the message the killer is leaving.  But when a second murder occurs and this time two glasses are filled with wine, Cooker and the police realize that time is of the essence if they are to stop the killer from striking again. 

Certain the wine left in the glasses is a grand crux Pomerol from the Pétrus estate, Cooker must figure out who could have an apparently unlimited access to such an expensive wine.  Delving into the history of the wine necessitates revisiting the history of the Nazi occupation of the area and digging up secrets from this dark time in Bordeaux history. 
The writing is tight and the story fast paced.  There are some lighter moments involving Cooker and the cabbage soup diet that his wife has him on.  Though not strictly necessary to the story, these moments help to lighten the mood following some of the more gruesome murder scenes and the telling of the heavier aspects of the Nazi occupation.
Much to my surprise I became quite intrigued by the wine information and found myself researching Pomerol wine, the Pétrus estate and even the cabbage soup diet.  Everything that I learned from my investigations confirmed how well the authors had done their research and how smoothly they incorporated facts and history into the mystery.
My research also led me to discover that I can order the Pétrus estate's Pomerol locally but I definitely can't afford to.  At thousands of dollars for a bottle, if I should ever be fortunate enough to have a full glass of it in front of me, there is no way I will be leaving it behind for someone else to discover as a clue.  Salut!

Have a look at some interesting facts about wine and be thankful you weren't a woman in Roman times.


Thursday, 8 January 2015

The Marco Effect – A Department Q Novel by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Penguin Group - Dutton

I chose to read this book for a number of reasons.  First, it is set in Denmark and I thought that would make a change from the US, British, and French mysteries I have been reading.  Secondly, I have read good things about the Department Q series and I enjoy a crime series where you get to know the characters and watch them develop. Also, Adler-Olsen is a best-selling author who has won a number of crime-writing awards.  The summary of the book piqued my interest as well as the fact that the story is based, loosely, on real events.

Cover summary:
“All fifteen-year-old Marco Jameson wants is to become a Danish citizen and go to school like a normal teenager. But his uncle Zola rules his former gypsy clan with an iron fist. Revered as a god and feared as a devil, Zola forces the children of the clan to beg and steal for his personal gain. When Marco discovers a dead body—proving the true extent of Zola’s criminal activities—he goes on the run. But his family members aren’t the only ones who’ll go to any lengths to keep Marco silent . . . forever.”

Meanwhile, the last thing Detective Carl Mørck needs is for his assistants, Assad and Rose, to pick up a missing persons case on a whim: Carl’s nemesis is his new boss, and he’s saddled Department Q with an unwelcome addition. But when they learn that a mysterious teen named Marco may have as much insight into the case as he has fear of the police, Carl is determined to solve the mystery and save the boy. Carl’s actions propel the trio into a case that extends from Denmark to Africa, from embezzlers to child soldiers, from seemingly petty crime rings to the very darkest of cover-ups.”

Well, it seems I should have picked a different book as an introduction to the series. The story goes from Denmark to Africa and back.  This is a lot of area to cover and I found it resulted in too many characters and minor storylines that detracted from the main event.  Normally, the thought processes and rationalizations of the villain is a part of a story that I look forward to, but the sheer meanness that was Zola just didn't hold my interest.
The story stands alone and I had no trouble following the recurring characters in the series and understanding their relationships.  I looked forward to the pages that were about Marco, or Mørck and his assistants. The rapport between Mørck and his assistants was to my mind the best part of the book.  Their humor, understanding, and respect for each other, make for a pleasant and entertaining read.  There were, however, one too many camel analogies from Assad for my personal liking.
The core of the story that revolves around Marco is interesting, believable and well-developed and everything is neatly wrapped up at the end.  I just think that this is an instance where less would have been more but that won't deter me from reading another book in the series.
Article about the BBC documentary on gypsy child thieves
Interview with Jussi-Adler Olsen

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Night Drop by Michael Sherer

Cutler Press
Imagine talking on the phone with someone you care about when suddenly that person's doorbell rings.  You remain on the phone while the person answers the door and then the next thing you hear are loud voices, then screaming, then dead silence. Frantic with fear you drive like a maniac across town only to find the house empty and blood on the living room floor.  You call the police.  Because you are the ex spouse of the person who has vanished, you become a prime suspect in the eyes of the police. What do you do?

If you are Blake Sanders, you immediately go on the offensive.  Your ex-wife Molly has rich parents and is a lawyer in a successful law firm.  It is not unreasonable to assume there will be a ransom demand so the FBI are in charge of the case.  Blake makes sure he is there when the ransom call comes in and he insists on implicating himself in the plans to rescue Molly.  He will bring her back alive or die trying.

It slowly comes to light that one of Molly's clients, Trip Macready, has also disappeared. He is an ex-Navy SEAL dolphin trainer turned animal rights activist.  The Navy connection brings Blake's sometime girlfriend, Reyna Chase, a Naval Intelligence Officer into the search and back by Blake's side. 

The story has three main threads.  Blake's attempt to find and rescue Molly; Macready's attempt to foil a terrorist plot and also rescue Molly; Yousef preparing his team to pull off an act of terror and elude Blake and the FBI. There was a point early on when it felt like I was reading three books and I wondered how everything was going to come together to make sense.  Trust me, it does. 

There is a lot happening in the story and quite a bit to remember and process. By maintaining three distinct threads, Sherer introduces the secondary characters in distinct, well-defined and separate settings, allowing you to get to know each of them well. Otherwise, you would easily lose track of whose who and what is going on. 

I happen to really like Blake Sanders as a character.  I find him to be sympathetic, understandable and believable.  He has his problems and he has his strengths; he's not perfect and he would make a reliable neighbor or solid friend.  Macready is also a character that I came to like and I hope he makes a return in a sequel. A team comprised of Blake, Reyna and Macready has the potential for one hell of an adventure.  
Night Drop kept me glued to my Kindle following the unexpected twists and turns and holding my breath waiting for what was going to happen next.  Looking forward to reading Night Strike, next in the series.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Summertime, All The Cats Are Bored by Philippe Georget

Europa Editions

I wish I could remember on whose recommendation I decided to buy this book, but since it has been sitting on my TBR pile for a year I simply don't remember.  Whoever it was - Thank You. Georget weaves a tale that involves murder and kidnapping in Perpignan, a town on the French Mediterranean near Spain.  Sebag and Molino, two tired cops who are being slowly devoured by dull routine and family worries, deal with the day’s misdemeanors and petty complaints without a trace of enthusiasm (from the book's cover). When the body of a young Dutch woman is found and another young Dutch woman goes missing as does a Spanish taxi driver she knew, the general lethargy that had an iron grip on the police department suddenly vanishes and a game of cat and mouse begins between Inspector Gilles Sebag and the kidnapper/murderer.

One of the amazing things about Georget's writing is his ability to create tone and atmosphere.  Georget is himself a resident of Perpignan and his intimate knowledge of the city permeates his descriptions of the residents and the city and surrounding areas. You feel the lethargy that has set in from the heat and humidity of summer. You sense the impact on the burgeoning small town invaded by summer tourists. You feel the pressure of a small police force under the microscopic eye of the international press. You witness the kidnap victim slowly acquiesce to her situation  - and you understand, completely.  You experience all these things not just through Sebag's eyes and thoughts, but also those of the kidnapped Dutch girl and her kidnapper. 

Sebag is an observer of life  who listens to his instincts about people and events.  He doesn't always immediately realize the significance of his observations and needs to let his thoughts ferment for awhile. He underestimates his own ability as a police inspector, as his wife, his partner and his boss often remind him.  The image of Sebag sitting beside the family pool with a glass of wine while he quietly mulls over the day's developments in his case, is reminiscent of Inspector Morse sitting in a pub with a pint, thinking things through. 

This is a police procedural and a well-written one that kept me reading late into the night.    The laid back atmosphere disguises a deceptively complex narrative.  The investigation is well thought through and develops at a very natural pace, but it is the characterizations that make this such an enjoyable read.  The relationships between Sebag and his colleagues, Sebag and his wife, Sebag and his children, all come together to create a character that you look forward to meeting again.
I am kind of happy I only recently got around to reading this book since the next book in the series, Autumn, All the Cats Return, will be released this October.  With a bit of luck I will read it before next spring.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Herbie's Game by Timothy Hallinan

Soho Press/Soho Crime

Sometimes a fictional character comes along that you simply connect with. Maybe you admire the character, share a common life experience or just outright fall in love with the character.  Well, I am in with love Junior Bender, he is my Hero.  He's intelligent, decent, tall and handsome, vulnerable and in touch with his feminine side. Except for the small detail that he is the thief's thief, giving him that bad boy appeal, he is perfect.  He is always on the side of right even when he's on the wrong side of the law.

This case is extremely personal for Junior.  He is hired to find out who stole a list of names from the safe of Wattles the "executive crook".  The list contains a chain of names that Wattles uses when he sets up hits.  He uses this chain of people to pass along the instructions at blind drops so that nobody in the chain knows who the actual killer is, except the killer. As soon as Junior sees the aftermath in Wattles' office he knows who stole the list - Herbie Mott.  The same man who took a seventeen year old Junior under his wing and taught him everything he knew, his mentor and substitute father has his signature unmistakeably all over the job.

Junior sets out to confront Herbie and find out what is going on, except he is too late. Someone has tortured Herbie in an effort to get him to reveal where he hid the list. But Herbie's heart gave out and he died before revealing the whereabouts of the list or becoming the next murder victim.  Once Junior begins the investigation, the people on the list start turning up dead, one after the other, and Junior wonders if he is next.

In thinking about Herbie’s Game I was struck by the fact that the story is the classical Hero’s quest.  Junior receives The Call to go down a path that he is Reluctant to pursue.  After all, this investigation means dealing with people who murder for a living and that’s not something that leaves you with a warm fuzzy feeling.  The Quest itself is, on the surface, about revenge and finding whoever tortured Herbie, but it is also about Junior’s emotional journey and how he discovers things about Herbie that he never knew.  We the readers meet Herbie through Junior’s reminiscences and Junior Re-Meets Herbie through the stories of others he encounters along the way.   He does not journey through the ordeal alone; he has his archetypical allies and helpers (especially female), most of whom we have met in previous stories, as well as a few intriguing new ones. 

The Road Back from the quest is life-changing.  Junior learns to reconcile the Herbie that he didn’t know with the one that he did and Junior matures and comes to terms with other relationships in his life.   Like all Hero quests, conquering the outer world entails mastering the inner world and Junior eventually finds peace and acceptance in his new found knowledge of Herbie and Herbie’s game.
I don’t want you to think that this is a serious deep book with the raison d'être to enlighten you as to the meaning of life. But it is multi-layered and Hallinan does his usual job of great characterizations, incredible dialogue and wonderful humour to demonstrate his  keen and sensitive insight into human nature as the characters come together to direct and tell the story.
I don’t know where Hallinan draws his inspiration from to create his characters but I hope it is a very deep well so that he can keep them coming.

Reading a book written by Timothy Hallinan is just great fun – don’t miss out.

Thank you NetGalley and Soho Press for the copy of the book. I want to mention that I love the cover art created by Katherine Grames for this series.

To read an excerpt go to the author's web site:

Great interview:

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Maxwell Street Blues by Marc Krulewitch

Random House Publishing Group - Alibi

As kids, a lot of us want to grow up to be like our parents or, their exact opposite.  Jules Landau is in the latter category.  He retains a strong memory of coming home from school to discover his prized basketball hoop lying mangled on the driveway. The Feds tore it down just for the heck of it, and then took the house, the cars and his prized Peugeot bike before sending his father off to jail.  With no great respect for law enforcement and even less for the criminals that dominate his family tree, he chooses to go to college to become a PI.  Checking up on the indiscretions of husbands and wives, doing background checks, surveillance and skip traces pays enough for the rent on a neat apartment. It's also enough money to own a 16 year old Honda Civic, buy cat food and keep raspberry sorbet in the freezer.  Jules is Living the life! - then his dad shows up.
Just 10 days out of jail his dad hires Jules to find out who murdered Snooky, an old family friend.  Charles Snook was a gentle man, a CPA and a money launderer for those in need of such services.  He was good at his job and appreciated by many on both sides of the law.  So why then did he end up on top of a pile of construction debris with two bullets in his head? 
When it comes to murder, Jules is the new kid on the block. This is his first murder case and it comes with some tough lessons not taught in PI 101.  He takes enough beatings in this one case to make you wonder why he doesn't change professions.  But he had a great affection for Snooky, so he pursues the case and like any great detective, he follows the money trail.

The trail leads to some very interesting characters, tattoo artists, meth heads, politicos, corrupt academics and cops.  Ultimately, he solves the case and the reader is left with the same feeling I imagine you have after eating a Maxwell Street Polish - full and satisfied.

There are overtones of Philip Marlowe in this tale.  The story is told in the first person and the plot contains the requisite femme fatale, criminals, and murder.  Like any good story it's all in the telling.  The dialogue is smart and snappy and the atmosphere has a big city smoky feel. The city itself is a major character in the story with its history of crime and corruption.  Maxwell Street really does exist in Chicago and I've read that there is a housing construction site right beside a major university, a key element in the plot. 
I look forward to further adventures with Jules in the south side of Chicago, the baddest part of town.

For a short interview with the author visit:

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Is truth dead and nobody told me?

This is not a book review.  This is me being philosophical again.  You have been warned.
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, truth is a noun (a person, place or thing) that means the real facts about something.  In light of the recent events surrounding the tragedy of Malaysian Airline flight MH 17, I have been wondering if this noun truth can be found anywhere besides the dictionary.  Is truth dead and no one wrote an obituary?

I look at pictures of the disaster and see the remains of an airplane torn apart, burnt remnants strewn everywhere, some with flames still burning.  Then another photo shows what appears to be the wreckage in a pile as if the plane had landed and exploded on impact.  I have to ask myself - are the photos simply taken from different angles or different areas, or are these pictures even of the same plane or wreckage. 
No, I am not a conspiracy theorist.  But in this technological world it is easy to distort the truth, even help it morph into something completely different.  Words, images, and minds are easily manipulated.  We see what we want to see.  Or do we?  Or do we see what others want us to see?   Are we able to clearly see things that aren’t now or ever have been part of our individual frames of reference?  And is that really seeing or is it imagining with the help of visual aids?
I watched a video of the aftermath of this disaster and a hand in the video is shown holding approximately twenty different passports. Of course, which ones does the person open and display to the camera, the ones of children.  How and why did these passports survive the crash and the flames, but not the passport holders? 

The camera pans to suitcases, some of which have either opened on impact or been opened for the benefit of the cameraman.  The camera macabrely lingers over a bright pink suitcase packed with books etc. for a young girl, then on a child’s toy, and next a child’s drawing. The cameraman or video editor opportunistically includes only items guaranteed to wring every last tear from your eyes and permanently bruise your heart.

 Yes, this is a human tragedy, a tragedy of lost lives, dreams and lost futures.   But all the while pictures and videos are being shot of the human carnage let’s not forget what sells.  Or more importantly, “Did you get the shot?”  Don’t forget to post to Twitter, You Tube, Instagram and to share on Facebook.    And if you have to use some artistic license to doctor the photo for dramatic effect, that’s okay.  How many ‘likes’ did you say the photo got?

I find it disconcerting to see that the integrity of the evidence is at stake on the site in the Ukraine.  I also find it disconcerting to look at photos of grim-faced men, shown in gray tones, combing a field of brilliant yellow sunflowers looking for bodies or body parts.  The contrast between gray and yellow, grimness and beauty are stark and crude.  And again I wonder if it’s real or photo shopped.

At the moment it appears there are those who are working hard to find out what really happened to flight MH 17. But it also appears there are those who are working just as hard to destroy evidence and hide what happened.  All we know for sure is that the passenger list shows 283 passengers and 15 crew members boarded that flight.  Out of respect for the victims and their loved ones I hope truth is not the unidentified casualty in this tragic event.
I'm not the only one who has been struggling with the definition of truth lately.  Follow the link to one of my very favorite sites Humans of New York - photojournalism at its finest. You'll find an older gentleman sitting on a park bench who is writing a play on the nature of truth.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Russian Hill by Ty Hutchinson

The couple that slays together stays together.  At least that's the way it is for Jerry and Vicki Carlson,  a psychopath and a sociopath respectively.  The tie that binds them is simple - the thrill of the kill.

The Carlsons are involved in a game that requires travel to major cities to complete challenges.  Their current game is called "Chasing Chinatown" and it consists of five Attractions. When the story starts they have just completed Attraction number three and are eager to embark on number four.  The game is being played out in San Francisco and this particular variation of the Amazing Race always ends in murder.

FBI Agent Abby Kane has been enjoying her work on white collar crime cases, a break from serial killers and organized crime, her specialities.  When a hiker is found with an axe sticking out of her chest Abby somewhat reluctantly accepts the case.  Then when the local  precinct thinks they have a serial killer on their hands, they consult with Abby and she realizes there is a link to her murdered hiker and their cases.  She teams up with SFPD Detective Kyle Kang and the adventure begins.

The first part of the story seesaws back and forth between the viewpoint of the Carlsons and Abby. It is fascinating to read the thoughts of Jerry and Vicki as they methodically plan their moves as a team, play their creepy game and live a lavish and somewhat perverted lifestyle. 
At the other end of the seesaw is Abby, working diligently to track them down. She is a creative thinker who gives her grey cells a work out before acting. But that entails methodically going over her notes late into the night and sacrificing some of the wholesome family time and outings she so cherishes.

Together Kane and Kyle systematically follow-up on every possibility in their pursuit of the killers.  Just as the case appears to be wrapped up, the story smoothly steers us into the criminal underground world of San Fran's Chinatown. Kane and Kyle are both trained in martial arts and this helps to ratchet up the action scenes with the Chinese villains.  Abby relies mostly on her wits, but when she has to defend herself physically, her petite size is deceptive and she kicks butt with the best of them.

The plot has a number of twists with just enough evil and danger lurking around corners to create a nice tension. Some scenes are a bit graphic, but Hutchinson lightens the mood  by providing off duty moments for some of the characters and witty banter between Abby and Ken to achieve a nice balance.

An engaging, entertaining, and quick read that I read in one sitting on a rainy afternoon.  Thank you NetGalley for a copy of this book.  Oh, and I love the cover art.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

A Swollen Red Sun by Matthew McBride

Open Road Integrated Media
Mysterious Press
Normally when I start a book I want to be drawn in by the first sentence, the first paragraph or first page.  By the time I had finished the first page of A Swollen Red Sun all I wanted to do was hurl.  Page two never looked so good. 

Now, before you get the wrong idea, it wasn't that the writing was bad; it was the scene and the unfortunately good description.

The setting for this novel is Gasconade  County, Missouri, which was once called the methamphetamine capital of the world.  The essential premise is a deputy sheriff stumbles across some drug money and although he is basically an honest guy, this time he decides to keep the money.  This one impulsive decision sets into motion a series of actions that are disastrous and deadly. 

Except for the main character Deputy Sheriff Dale Banks and his family, the majority of the characters are involved in the drug trade both as producers and users.  McBride takes us inside their heads so we can see how they see themselves and their dreams, especially when they are high, and leaves us to compare it to their downtrodden reality.  Life in Gasconade county is hard with very few rewards.

The character of Olsen Brandt is well drawn.  He is a lonely old man living out his days with his cherished dog on what is left of his farm.  Olsen is a sympathetic character whose strength is tested on a daily basis.  A tragic accident killed one of his sons at a young age, the surviving son is serving time in prison, and since his wife died a year ago all he wants to do is join her. 

Some of the characters are true degenerates like the very unsavory self-appointed Reverend,  Butch Pogue.  Yup - the name says it all. 

When thinking about this book I decided this simply isn't my type of book because it contains some rather graphic scenes.  Yet I realized I have read other books with scenes at least as violent, perhaps even more violent.  It's McBride's writing.  He can turn simple words into very powerful images.  The descriptions of the dry rural landscape in the humid heat, the dusty back roads with their "buffet" of potholes will leave you feeling parched. I particularly liked this description:

The sun went down behind the mobile home like a burst of egg yolk that dripped from the sky and consumed the trees. Sycamores on the river cast long shadows in the burnt auburn hue, and golden shafts punched holes through plump clouds that looked ripe to carry wetness for days.

The story itself is slow paced to start but picks up speed about two thirds of the way through.  All the loose ends are nicely tied up and will leave you feeling satisfied that some justice has been served.

If you like your suspense stories with a touch of red neck then this one is for you.

Author's tweet

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Face Value by Michael A. Kahn

Poisoned Pen Press
The body of a young attorney is found in an alley beside a 10 floor parking garage.  The police rule the death a suicide, something not uncommon amongst those stressed out by the high demands of being a young law associate.  Stanley Plotkin, a mailroom employee from the same firm as the young attorney Sari Bashir, is convinced that Sari didn’t commit suicide but was murdered. 

Stanley approaches Rachel Gold, a lawyer he knows, to say that he has proof Sari was murdered. He points to a broken heel from a high heel shoe and a tube of lip balm found four spaces down from Ms. Bashir’s parking space. He also brings into play his knowledge of FACS, the Facial Action Coding System that correlates hundreds of facial muscle actions to specific emotions and mental states.
Stanley may have Asperger’s but his knowledge of FACS is nothing short of genius. This knowledge tells him that in the days preceding her death, Sari may have been preoccupied or agitated, but she was definitely not suicidal.  Rachel agrees to look into the matter and along with her team she investigates the top lawyers at Warner & Olsen, an investigation that leads to secrets, cover ups, questionable ethics and finances.
This is my idea of a cozy mystery.  A main character supported by a group of other characters, some zany and others either really smart or really lucky.  Stanley is an original character, so much so that I felt at times he overshadowed Rachel. There are no gory scenes and the plot moves along at a moderate pace with little gems of humour incorporated into some well written dialogue. 
The author is a lawyer and the legal and financial information is well presented in a readable and informative manner that doesn't detract from the story.  Kahn also provides Rachel the ingenious idea of creating a memorial video about the victim, enabling Stanley to design the questions to ask each suspect and see their responses without having any social interaction with them, since social interactions can be very difficult for someone with Asperger's.  As ingenious as the idea is, and as well as it works as a device for plot development, it doesn't always make for great reading.
I loved how Kahn has the ability to make the setting of St. Louis seem so familiar and the characters so comfortable to be around, like old friends.  Even though this is the ninth book in a series I can vouch for it being a stand alone since I haven't read any of the others and I didn't feel that it made a difference.
Overall I found this a fun, interesting and worthwhile read - just not a nail biter.
To read an excerpt go to:
Author and publisher links: