“When the Dead Awaken” by Steffen Jacobsen review and more.


By Steffen Jacobsen

If there was ever a ‘model’ for an edge-of-your-seat thriller, this is it. Author Steffen Jacobsen is a Danish surgeon, and this is the first of his three novels to be translated into English.

To begin, City of Naples Assistant Public Prosecutor Sabrina D’Avalos, is a strong woman, who years before resolved to avenge the death of her father who she believes was murdered by the criminal Mafia/Camorra.

At the Port of Naples, a crane drops a container that’s about to be placed onto a ship. The crane operator is so scared of the consequences of the accident that he jumps to his death, landing on top of the container. When the container breaks open, the dockworkers see the bags of human remains concealed inside…an accident that takes place in front of Camorra assassin, Urs Savelli.

As fate would have it, the prosecutor assigned to the case is Sabrina D’Avalos. Her job will be to identify the corpses from the letters F to L. She reports to her boss that she’s linked two of the victims—a pregnant woman, Lucia Forlani, and her son, Salvatore—to a rash of violence back in 2007 that took the life of her father, Gen. Baron Agostino D’Avalos. He had put the mother and son into witness protection. Lucia’s husband, Giulio, was murdered the same week that she disappeared, along with all the top scientists working with him at Nanometric, a techno company that could prevent forgeries from being thought of as real.

As the Mafia/Camorra’s income mostly comes from designer knockoffs and fakes, the murders are believed to have been done by Savelli, the Camorra’s number one hit man, and a woman called L’Artista, who is also a hitter. Sabrina is gung ho as she is sure that her father’s death was orchestrated by these two people, and she will not rest until she proves it.

A psychological, suspenseful thrill-ride that will appeal to anyone who is interested in fast-paced action.

Reviewed by Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian and Co-Owner of The Write Companion  ■



By Joe R. Lansdale

This book opens with bank robbery and murder, as Jack Parker, sixteen years old, his sister, Lula, fourteen years old, and their grandfather, are attacked on a Sabine River Ferryboat. Grandfather is murdered and Jack is swept overboard as the robbers ride off with Lula.

Jack’s thoughts are focused on rescuing his sister, and while searching for a sheriff to help him, Jack meets Eustace, a gravedigger and tracker who is the owner of a pet 600-pound hog. Hog is around so he can act like a very large watchdog as Eustace leads Jack to Shorty, a bounty hunter, and the quartet set off to track the robbers and save Jack’s sister. It seems that the criminals have taken Lula into ‘The Big Thicket,’ a wild stretch of forest that is home to outlaws. And as Eustace says, it is a place where “if you ain’t scared, it’s because you’re too stupid.”

Along the trail, the gang of four collect more folks to help them on their quest. Winton, a bounty hunter turned Sheriff; Spot, a janitor; and Jimmie Sue, a hooker with a heart of gold who will keep readers intrigued. This is definitely a true walk through early twentieth-century East Texas, because by the time the little band reaches the Big Thicket a lot of it has been reduced from those scary deep, dark woods to miles of cleared, desolate land. Will it help them find Lula? You’ll have to wait and see.

Violent in parts, this is an area full of familiar heroes and antiheroes that are highly entertaining. As for being civilized, during this time in history East Texas was still a wild ride. So for those who love suspense, mysteries, westerns, and those fans out there who were thrilled by the Coen Brothers’ flick No Country for Old Men, this is most definitely the read for you!

Reviewed by Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian and Co-Owner of The Write Companion   ■



By Nancy Atherton

Another hit in the long line of Aunt Dimity books. Plenty of mystery in this cozy, but no murders.

Lori Shepherd and her husband Bill are Americans, but they’ve settled into the small English village of Finch so comfortably that they truly care about the town and its future. Bill’s father, William Willis Sr., has even moved up the lane from them, and lives at the rather grand Fairworth House. Amelia Thistle, accomplished watercolorist, has agreed to marry Willis, Sr. This would be a joyous occasion, except that Bill’s Boston aunts, better known as The Harpies, are coming to the wedding. If you have relatives you dislike, I dare you to put them up against Honoria and Charlotte—very nasty women. Lori lives in dread of their arrival.

With Amelia moving out of her cottage, Lori is worried about the future of Finch. It will now have four empty cottages. Many people are looking, but no one is moving in. Lori sets out to determine why. But first, Lori’s friend, Emma, has been mapping the village and its surrounds, so Lori decides to take her baby, Bess, on a walk along a path Emma has discovered. Distracted by the sight of kites flying above the neighbor’s wall, she steers the pram into a pothole. She’s startled to see an odd man perched on the wall. His clothes are casual and rumpled, but he wears a crown of dried grapevines and buttercups on his gray hair. He’s the Summer King, he tells her.

Aunt Dimity, if you haven’t met her, is an unusual ghost. She communicates with Lori by writing in a special book. She lives in the house with Lori, Bill, the twin boys, Will and Rob, and baby Bess. Mysteries abound, piled on top of each other and interwoven as Lori seeks help from her to figure out what’s happening to the village and who is responsible. And also seeks help getting through the nuptials with The Harpies.

Reviewed by Kaye George, author of “Eine Kleine Murder”   ■



By Allan Topol

This book is a classic tale of scandal in the nation’s capital. It’s all about the fast track, and all the right plots figure into the story.

A public figure is enjoying a small vacation with his young model mistress on the island of Anguilla, when said mistress makes sure to give her boy a lesson. Either marry me, or face up to the consequences that scandal will bring. Lose your career and everything along with it, because she’s ready and willing to go to the newspapers with a CD that she recorded of his meeting with a Chinese agent. But, as luck or lust would have it, the mistress in this case, Vanessa Boyd, has a mysterious accident, drowning in the ocean before she has a chance to do anything.

Andrew Martin, a prominent Washington attorney, just happens to own the house on Anguilla. Mr. Martin is on the short list to earn a seat on the Supreme Court, so he certainly doesn’t want anyone to know that he lent his property to someone who may or may not have had a hand in murder. Martin calls the island and gets some of his cohorts to turn the death of Vanessa into an accidental death,  while he backpedals to make sure the President doesn’t hear about the problem before he picks the next Supreme Court Judge.

Meanwhile, Vanessa’s twin sister, archeologist Allison Boyd, is on the hunt for clues that will prove Vanessa was murdered. She knows that her sister was a good swimmer and wasn’t likely to drown. Although usually digging up mummies, Allison is pure detective and will never give up until the high-powered folks get the punishment they deserve, and crumble accordingly.

This is a real page-turner that comes together at the end perfectly. What people want versus what they deserve is the statement behind this political thriller, and all readers will be more than satisfied.

Reviewed by Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian and Co-Owner of The Write Companion  ■



By Bill Pronzini

This author has, for many years, written about the very cool Nameless Detective, whose first name just happens to be Bill. These books have been favorites of many and just keep getting better and better.

In this new tale, Bill leaves California and drives to Mineral Springs, Nevada, to help out an old flame, Cheryl Rosmond. Cheryl’s son, Cody, has been arrested for three assaults made on women in the small town. And the evidence against Cody has been given to police by Max Stendreyer, who just happens to be the local drug salesman that has identified Cody as the person who was running from the scene of the third woman’s assault.

Cheryl is sure her son is innocent and asks Bill to help find out who the real culprit is so she can save her family. Cody’s girlfriend, Alana, also thinks he’s innocent, but no one else in town is on their side, especially not County Sheriff Joe Felix, who is so sure of Cody’s guilt that he’s not even looking for anyone else to take the blame. He also stands in the way of Bill, not allowing him to even speak to the prisoner. The three victims are also adamant about Cody’s guilt, and Alana’s ex-boyfriend backs them up, although he has a definite reason for wanting Cody to stay locked up.

Bill digs around for clues and finally makes enough progress that a bullet is sent his way by an unknown shooter. He has made enemies in town, including the local District Attorney. What’s worse is the fact that Bill may just have uncovered a different crime that Cody is linked to, which makes him think that he made the wrong decision by coming to Mineral Springs in the first place.

You cannot get enough of this character. A really good story which, of course, offers the biggest surprise on the final pages. Here’s hoping that Mr. Pronzini is already hard at work on the next Nameless mystery.

Reviewed by Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian and Co-Owner of The Write Companion  ■



By Laura Lebow

Lorenzo Da Ponte is a librettist (a musical theater poet) in 1700’s Vienna. Well liked, he is not well paid, scraping by on commissions as he strives to be a collaborator with Mozart on The Marriage of Figaro.

Lorenzo is asked by his barber, Johann Vogel, to investigate the Baron Gabler—Vogel’s former employer. He needs to find out anything he can about his own birth mother. Vogel is sure that she was a noblewoman and that family connections will help the barber pay off his outstanding debts to Gabler’s housekeeper. That way, the man can be let out of prison to marry Baroness Gabler’s maid.

During the investigation, the Baron’s page is killed. Said page, Florian, is the only son of a prince and being set up for a very important job with the Baron when he meets his death. A very deep, dark mystery ensues, as Emperor Joseph soon calls on Da Ponte to pose as Baroness Gabler’s poetry teacher in order to uncover the killer. The Emperor promises Lorenzo that he will be tried for Florian’s murder if he does not comply.

During this time, Da Ponte is trying to finish the work he’s doing on the Figaro opera, while trying to link a strange medallion to the mystery of Vogel’s birth mother and make sense of a notebook he’s found. Secrets begin to be uncovered that include Da Ponte’s own, as he finds that looking for a killer is bringing him closer to ultimate disaster.

This book is not your usual mystery. Complicated, yes, but a thrilling tale that for a true mystery buff makes for a very interesting afternoon of reading. Whether an opera fan or not, doesn’t matter. The style is different, the plot intriguing, and the main character is perfect since he is a very reluctant detective. The author has definitely done her research about eighteenth century Vienna, and Vienna’s love for the opera comes across in the passion of this writer’s words.

Reviewed by Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian and Co-Owner of The Write Companion   ■



By P.L. Gaus

Gaus puts forward another in his acclaimed Amish-Country mysteries. In this story, the author continues the tale of Fannie Helmuth that started in the previous book, “The Names of Our Tears.”

Fannie and her friend, Ruth Zook, became drug mules (carrying drugs for criminals). They tried to right the wrongs that they knew they had committed but Ruth, unfortunately, was killed.

Fannie is on her own now and also on the run, hiding from the drug ring that took away her precious friend. An old pal, Howie Dent, has come to her. He aids Fannie by hiding with her among the various communities of Amish people. Yet another tragedy happens when Howie loses his life, as well. The law in this particular Amish community in Holmes County, Ohio, Sheriff Bruce Robertson, has been searching for Fannie so he can put her in protective custody. He needs her to testify against the drug ring she’s running from in order to get these people off the streets before they do even more harm.

He believes that Ruth’s murder was committed by Teresa Molina, and that Fannie is surely on the run from the Molina Drug Ring. When Howie’s body is found, the sheriff knows that it’s only a matter of time before the gang goes after Fannie and finally brings her down. Tracking Fannie through some letters sent by Amish scribes to the local paper, the sheriff sends a couple of local citizens to get Fannie and bring her back. But as Fannie wonders if she can stay alive long enough to make things right, the sheriff receives an answer to it all in a dream that he has had since childhood…bringing a ‘lion’ into the mix to find a way to fight and win against some truly bad guys.

After reading this, fans will look at the world of ‘horses and buggies’ in a brand new light. The book is a true mystery that does not give up its secrets easily.

Reviewed by Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian and Co-Owner of The Write Companion  ■



By Ausma Zehanat Khan

This is the first novel by a new author on the scene, with Khan introducing readers to Canada’s Community Policing Section.

This section of law enforcement handles Canada’s minority/sensitive crimes. One such crime they are looking at was first considered to be nothing more than an accident; a man fell off a cliff. It becomes a sensitive crime when a war-crimes historian suspects that the victim, Christopher Drayton, was really a wanted war crimes culprit who was behind the Srebrenica massacre of 1995—an event said to be Europe’s largest atrocity since WWII.

Introducing Inspector Esa Khattak, who is soft-spoken, respectful, and one of those “good men” on the job. He is the boss of Sgt. Rachel Getty, a young woman who is nothing like her higher-up partner, except when it comes to her stringent work ethic. Ten years younger, she is a very capable officer. And as the tale expands, this is one set of detectives that will find out they do have more in common than they first thought.

The clues concerning the possible murder come out slowly, as the two detectives have to determine whether Drayton is really war crimes felon, Krstic. If, in fact, he is the criminal, there will be many witnesses to the massacre and many suspects. A slew of survivors apparently have made homes in Canada and live close to where Drayton met his fate. As the partners uncover information proving more and more that the victim is actually the hated man, including a type of gun known only to be used by the Bosnian Serb army, anger and doubt heat up.

Khattak and Getty’s investigation is solid. The book is written with a great deal of humanity, trust and self-expression, which allows readers to see it as a definite series in the works with more tales to come. Highly emotional, in this debut the author has told it like it is, or was, and makes no bones about it.

Reviewed by Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian and Co-Owner of The Write Companion   ■



By Sarah Graves

Lizzie Snow is a police officer from Boston who has just accepted a job in Bearkill, Maine. There is a method to her madness, for there is far more in Bearkill than just a job; she’s hoping to find her niece who’s been missing for many years, and Lizzie has just received an anonymous tip that the child is in or near Bearkill.

She still has misgivings about moving but the possibility that her niece, Nicki, could be found is enough for her to accept the position with the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Department. The town of Bearkill is barely a town, however, made up of a small market, laundromat, luncheonette, and corner bar called, Area 51. When she enters this “grim little town miles from nowhere,” she immediately begins her hunt for clues that may take her right up and/or over the Canadian border.

Lizzie finds herself surrounded by some mysterious crimes and a killer who seems to be sneaking around very close by, but able to remain just out of reach. Her new boss, Sheriff Cody Chevrier, is counting on her fresh new eyes to separate accidents from true murders when local ex-cops are suddenly being found dead as doornails. These are truly ‘freak’ accidents, if that’s what they are at all, and this is one backwoods locale that houses the truly desperate, the morally corrupt, and one person who is set to destroy anything the innocent have to offer…if Lizzie doesn’t find the culprit first.

When you speak about a new ‘cop series’ you want to speak very well. With this title, that’s not hard to do. Lizzie Snow is interesting, and might be remembered from Graves’s last book where she was first introduced to readers. And let’s face it, the ‘Master of Horror’ uses Maine for one reason and one reason only…and this incredible writer agrees: this icy town is part of the perfect world where creepfests are truly cool.

Reviewed by Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian and Co-Owner of The Write Companion  ■



By G.M. Ford

This is an extremely interesting story featuring Detective Sgt. Mickey Dolan. Let’s just say that Mickey is not a person who is in the best of moods most of the time, which is quite sad because his time may just be running out faster than he assumed it would.

Mickey is assigned to the case of a powerful councilman who has reported that his wife and daughters have disappeared, and the detective knows that this one case could be his swan song if he makes even one mistake.

While on the case, Mickey meets Eve Pressman and her daughter, Grace. Grace seems to have the impossible ability to bring patients out of comas. In addition, this mother-daughter team might actually know where the councilman’s family is and why they were taken in the first place. Many mysteries ensue. First of all, how does Grace wake people up from a coma? Is this a supernatural gift of some sort, or is there a scheme being played? And can Mickey find the missing family, or is there something a little bit fishy about the powerful councilman that makes him a suspect instead of a heartbroken husband and father?

Readers will have to keep on reading in order to deduce everything that the author has set up in this plot. Although many questions need to be answered, not all were. The characters were outstanding, with their own interesting and distinct personalities. And the pace of the novel was fast, which means extra care needs to go into not missing a word.

Finally, as the reader approaches the end, the feeling becomes that something, perhaps a small piece for the future, will be left in limbo. A good tale that will definitely leave everyone thinking of the early stories written by Chandler and Christie, as one and all await the next G.M. Ford creation.

Reviewed by Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian and Co-Owner of The Write Companion  ■


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