Ballantine, Apr 2010, $28.00
Windsor Preparatory Academy teacher Elise Freeman is found dead in her apartment in Studio City. The victim is found lying in a tub of dry ice. Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Weinberg assigns the homicide investigation to Lieutenant Milo Sturgis with a stern warning to keep the exclusive Brentwood school out of the inquiry as much as possible though he offers no explanation; veteran cop Milo is used to personal agenda restrictions from superiors.
Milo is concerned with his boss’ admonition because Elise left behind a DVD accusing three of her peers of sexual harassment. He believes the case must start with them. Psychologist Alex Delaware assists Milo on the case and soon the pair find a teacher with plenty of skeletons that those involved with her want to remain interred. However, one of them has killed before and is willing to kill again to keep the bones buried.
As always in this remarkable police procedural, the lead pair of Milo and Alex make for a fine story line as they debate the merits of the case and much more. The investigation is totally hampered by Chief Weinberg placing a major stipulation on Detective Sturgis; this adds depth and a sense of realism to the whodunit. Fans of the long running series will enjoy Deception as the investigators seek Evidence while walking the tightrope of brass interference. Harriet Klausner
The Burning Lamp
Putnam, Apr 20 2010, $25.95
In the late seventeenth century alchemist Nicholas Winters developed the Burning Lamp to enhance his arcane skills, but the cost was an insanity curse to his descendents. Only a woman of special power, a dreamlight reader, can work the artifact and prevent the descent into insanity. His enemy Sylvester Jones formed the Arcane Society to police practitioners and remain vigilant in watching the Winters’ brood.
In the late Victorian Era, recently orphaned fifteen years old Adelaide Pyne is sold to a brothel. Her first customer Mr. Smith shows her a special lamp with it’s’ power not activated. Smith uses a crystal to kill the brothel owner, but Adelaide shocks him with her dreamlight skill when she puts him to sleep. Although unsure why, she runs away with the lamp and his money.
Thirteen years later, London Director of the Consortium crime lord Griffin Winters seeks a social reformer who has raided brothels though he does not own whorehouses. He needs this woman and the Burning Lamp to prevent his descent into insanity. He arranges through a mutual acquaintance to meet the Widow. She recognizes he uses shadow magic to conceal himself, but he is excited when she easily spots him. Griffin explains he needs her to prevent his fall into insanity. She mentions possessing the Burning Lamp which was stolen from his parents the night they were murdered. They are attracted to each other and she agrees to help him. However Smith abetted by crime lord Luttrell is coming for her and the lamp.
This exhilarating Arcane Society Victorian romantic fantasy moves forward the overarching theme of the Dreamlight trilogy (see Fired Up) but easily stands alone. The lead couple is an interesting pairing of a crime lord and a social reformer although he never displays criminal activity; while Jones and Jones play support roles. Although the two villains never quite live up to reader anticipation, fans will relish this superb thriller. Harriet Klausner
Putnam, Apr 20 2010, $25.95
Lawyer Stone Barrington and his former partner when he worked for NYPD Dino Bachetti are at Elaine’s when Herbie “the loser” Fisher enters carrying an attache case. He rushes over to Stone hiring him on the spot to be available when he needs an attorney. Stone and Dino knows something is bt off in the universe when Herbie pays Stone $1 million as a retainer. Herbie explains he won several with the lucky lotto, but the lawyer and the cop are skeptical.
Soon afterward British intelligence officer Felicity Devonshire retains Stone to find vanished former operative Stanley Whitestone, who disappeared a dozen years ago, but remains a person of interest by his former agency. Apparently, he was seen in New York recently. Jim Hackett, owner of a large private security firm, also employs Stone, who believes there is a reasonable chance he is Whitestone. Like a bad penny, then there is Stone’s crazy ex-wife Dolce Bianci causing havoc in his life.
This is an entertaining Barrington thriller that is filled with action and increasingly peril for the hero, but also somewhat tempered smoothly like good bourbon with jocularity. The two cases are fun and Dolcie brings her usual insanity to the mix as she is Loitering with Intent. As expected even the British spy joins the great Kisser for some boudoir activity as Stuart Woods provides an enjoyable blending of babes, bourbon and sleuthing in his latest Barrington tale.