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Shattered by Death by Catherine Finger

Shattered by Death” is the second in the “A Jo Oliver Thriller” by Catherine Finger.  The protagonist is small town police chief, Jo Oliver, who is locked out of the investigation of the brutal killings of her estranged husband and his girl friend in a double homicide.  Oliver finds them in the boat house of the property she and her husband still own together.  Oliver’s close friend and budding romantic interest, FBI agent Nick Vitarello, presents evidence to clear Oliver of the crime, against the police chief’s will.

Many women will identify strongly with Oliver.  She is generous with her time in that she volunteers at a couple of women’s shelters.  This fact she wants to keep secret to protect the identies of the battered women who are sheltered, even though security tapes from the shelters will prove here whereabouts during the murders. She is in the process of adopting a child, even as she fights a contentious divorce. She is bull-headed, full of self-doubt about her worthiness to ever be loved (doubts Nick constantly tries to assuage), and she is a born-again Christian who frequently calls on God for guidance and support.

The identity of the serial killer who tries to frame the Chief is not a particular surprise to me, but the twists and turns that lead to the ending keep “Shattered by Death” a suspenseful read.  Two thumbs up.

Review copy was provided.

Liz Nichols

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The Job by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

The Job” is the latest in the collaboration between Evanovich and Goldberg in their “A Fox and O’Hare Novel” series.  In this series FBI agent, Kate O’Hare is tasked with managing a famous art thief, turned FBI informant, Nick Fox.  They get into some pretty hair-raising situations as they skirt along the edges of what is legal– and go over the edge quite often– in order to catch murderers and drug lords.  The action is non-stop and gives this series the kinds of qualities that one finds in action adventure movies.  That stands to reason, since Goldberg is a screenwriter and TV producer and at least one of Evanovich’s books has been turned into a movie.

In “The Job” Nick and Kate recruit some of the criminals Nick has worked with before, along with Kate’s own father, to pull a scam on a major Latin American drug lord living under an assumed identity in Marbella, Spain.  The story begins with someone apparently assuming Nick’s identity and committing art robberies in several cities around the world in order to attract Nick’s attention.  That individual is a former associate of Nick’s who just wants him to help her by taking revenge on a drug lord who killed her brother after he performed plastic surgery on the criminal.  Nick and his crew pull off a scam to make the drug lord believe he is financing the salvage of millions of dollars in gold and jewels from a shipwreck off the coast of Spain.  It’s an ingenious ruse, if one that is a little hard to believe could be pulled off so quickly or inexpensively.

Like most of Evanovich’s works “The Job” is a fast read and an entertaining plot.

Liz Nichols


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Rasputin’s Shadow by Raymond Khoury

A review of Khoury’s “Rasputin’s Shadow” in this week before Halloween is very appropriate.  The book goes back and forth between early 20th century Russia and modern day New York City.  Khoury invents a relationship for the ghoulish real-life figure, Grigory Rasputin, with a scientist side-kick who has invented a mysterious machine that can affect humans in many ways.  The descriptions of Rasputin and his relationship with the Tsar and Tsarina are historically accurate, but the scientist and his invention are figments of Khoury’s active imagination.

The other story line takes place in modern day New York where FBI agent, Sean Reilly, and his Russian FSB counter-part, Larisa Tchoumitcheva, investigate the death of a Russian embassy operative and the disappearance of a Russian emigre and his wife.  The missing man, a retired science teacher from Queens, secretly built a version of his grandfather’s mystery machine from the journals the older man left.  It has the potential for mind-control of humans and turning them into indiscriminate killers and, essentially, zombies using different microwave frequencies.  Of course, both U.S. and Russian agents want this machine.  One rogue Russian KGB agent kidnaps the hapless inventor and his wife and tests the machine on crowds in New York and Washington, DC before Reilly and Tchoumitcheva eventually catch up with him.

The invention and its effects are a little hard to swallow, but evidently there is “psychotronic” research going on currently which may make this weird machine not so far-fetched.

Rasputin’s Shadow” is a good, absorbing thriller, if a little implausible.

Liz Nichols



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Face of the Enemy by Joanne Dobson and Beverle Graves Myers

Face of the Enemy” is not only a great whodunit, it is also a first-rate historical account of the virulent hatred against Japanese-Americans that occurred in the United States immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

In this fictionalized account, Masako Fumi Oakley, the talented artist who is the wife of a prominent Columbia University professor of Asian history, is rounded up and held by the FBI right after the Pearl Harbor attack.  Masako had held a showing of her works at a prominent New York gallery and the show had been cut short by protesters who threatened to destroy the gallery and harm the owner if the show was not stopped.  When that same gallery owner turns up dead the local police find Masako a convenient scape-goat and the FBI wants to use Masako as a pawn in exchange for Americans stuck in Asia.  She is not only accused of being a murderer, but also of being a spy for her father, a high ranking Japanese official.  They will not listen to Masako’s insistence that she is more American than Asian and has severed all ties with her family.

The person who steadfastly believes in Masako’s innocence is nurse, Louise Hunter, who has recently been employed to care for the professor who is bedridden with pneumonia.  Hunter must do all the things the professor would normally do to try to prove Masako’s innocence and to find good legal representation for her.

In addition to shining an unflattering light on U.S. policy toward its German- and Japanese-American citizens and long-time residents during the early years of World War II, the book spins a good mystery.  There are plenty of potential suspects who might have good reason to murder the gallery owner:  his male lover, the anti-Japanese protesters, someone who took a precious Japanese brush pot, someone jealous of Misako and anxious to frame her, and the list goes on.   It takes Louise most of the length of the book to figure the mystery out.

The book is very well researched.  I appreciate that the authors even take pains to have the characters use slang and other words that would have been commonly used in New York of 1941.

Face of the Enemy” is a very successful collaboration between two acclaimed mystery authors, Joanne Dobson of New York and Beverle Graves Myers of Kentucky.

Liz Nichols

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