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June 18, 2009 Edition
This latest mystery in the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series starts out with a request from a friend: Dr. Erika Rosenthal has found a brooch up for auction – her brooch, stolen years ago during her escape from Nazi Germany. She contacts her friend Gemma who steps in to have a look, but soon finds her quiet queries have disturbed something big. The first casualty seems to be a young clerk involved with the brooch’s sale, but Gemma and Duncan soon wonder if Erika’s husband, David, who committed suicide while working on a book about Nazi sympathizers, wasn’t the real beginning. Sterlin has narrated all the Kincaid/James mysteries, and she switches deftly between the main personalities, animating each with the ease of long practice.
Readers who’ve followed the series have wondered what would happen to the Reverend Claire Ferguson and Detective Russ Van Alstyne following Russ’s wife’s death. The answer is that, despite the wall of guilt between them and regardless of Claire’s new job as a member of the National Guard, they still can’t stay out of each other’s way in the small town of Millers Kill. And when someone starts targeting the nearly-invisible community of Latino farm workers, they are thrown together again to unravel the mystery. Did the trouble follow the workers from elsewhere? Could it be drug-related? Meanwhile, Kevin is more than ready to relinquish the role of newest officer and perhaps even his bachelorhood when single mom Hadley Knox moves to town. With a honey-sweet Southern drawl in place for Claire and an appealing, rough-edged curtness for Russ, Toren has helped flesh out Spencer-Fleming’s characters from the first book. Spots of Spencer-Fleming’s trademark laugh-out-loud humor are excellent tension-breakers in this suspenseful sixth offering.
Do you like over-the-top musical comedy? Set in 1986, this is the story of Julliard drop-out (kick-out, actually), Edward Zanni (who appeared in Acito’s first novel, “How I paid for College”). Following his ignominious dismissal from his dream drama school, Edward scrounges jobs, becoming a “party motivator” at bar mitzvahs and weddings, and a “stealth guest” at corporate parties. And it’s at one of these that he’s swept off his feet by gorgeous stockbroker Chad, who then dumps Edward in the hot water of an insider traiding scandal. It looks like Edward’s going to end up in federal prison – until his high school crew comes to the rescue with convoluted (and hilarious) plans for Edward’s salvation. Woodman narrated Acito’s first novel as well, and reprises his characters with ease.
It’s 1943 and the entire starting lineup of the (fictional) Treasure State University has decided to enlist together. The eleven men, eager for action, are flung across the globe in disparate directions, united by Ben, whose hoped-for career as a pilot evaporates when the military discovers he’s a journalism major. Ben is assigned to create war heroes from his teammates, chronicling their training, assignments, adventures, and, seemingly inevitably, their deaths. Though, statistically, 9 out of 10 of the team should survive, Ben finds himself writing obituary after obituary. A major complication is his attraction to Cass Standish, the pilot given the task of flying him from one location to another, who is married to a soldier stationed in Guam. Stechschulte evokes the Western roots of his characters with his strong, steady delivery.