The Rose in the Wheel by S.K. Rizzolo


The Rose in the Wheel by S.K. Rizzolo
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Historical, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full (310 pgs)
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

This well imagined, carefully detailed, and cleverly plotted debut draws on actual historical events of 1811 London.

Regency London knows Constance Tyrone as the conspicuously celibate founder of the St. Catherine Society, dedicated to helping poor women. One wet November evening a carriage mows down Constance outside her office. Why was a gentlewoman abroad in the night? And if she died under the wheel, whose hands bruised her neck and stole her monogrammed crucifix?

Dismissing the idea of an accident, Bow Street Runner John Chase forms an unlikely alliance with Penelope Wolfe, wife of the chief suspect. A young mother paying the price for an imprudent marriage, Penelope is eager to clear her husband Jeremy, a feckless portrait painter whose salacious drawings of the victim suggest an erotic interest. Barrister Edward Buckler, drawn despite himself to Penelope, shakes off his habitual lethargy to join the investigation.

As horrifying murders on the Ratcliffe Highway claim all London’s attention, the trio discovers that it won’t be easy to unravel the enigma of Constance Tyrone, a woman who revives the legend of martyred St. Catherine.

I absolutely LOVE English mysteries– movies, books, TV shows — you name it, I’m willing to give it a shot. So when thihs book became available to review, I jumped at it, and I’m so very glad I did.

With it being a debut novel, I was prepared for a few issues and, with it also being the first book in a series, there was the very good chance that it might be a little slow in places as the author introduces her characters. What a surprise when none of those expectations came to pass. The book kept me intrigued to the point where anytime I had a few minutes, I picked my reader up to read another few pages.

The characters are wonderfully drawn, and I really enjoyed the chemistry between them. I’m looking forward to reading more and seeing how their relationships grow in future books. One of my very favorites is Penelope’s daughter, Sarah. Children are sometimes hard to capture, but she is just adorable.

The pacing moved right along without feeling rushed, and the mystery itself was very neatly solved with true detection and “putting the puzzle together-ness” that was refreshing. Often a mystery will be solved through a series of coincidences and pure luck, and it’s not the case here. All the clues are there for the reader to see, and this reader was surprised at the culprit. Always the mark of a good mystery, in my book.

I would love to see this series wind up on BBC (are you listening?)… it’s that good.

I’ve already downloaded the next book in the series, and I can wait to jump back in the world of Chase, Wolfe, and Buckler. Kudos, Ms. Rizzolo– you are now on my auto-buy list, so I hope you have many more books in store for us.

Red Flags by Tammy Kaehler

RED
Red Flags by Tammy Kaehler
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (304 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

When Kate Reilly arrives in Long Beach, California, a week ahead of the Grand Prix, she s immediately plunged into a new social scene as well as a murder investigation. Her cousin Billy is found dead, with Kate s card in his pocket. The cops want to know why, and sponsors and race organizers anxious to keep racing s image clean want Kate to investigate. Doubting she can solve another murder, especially that of a relative she despised, Kate reluctantly agrees. At the same time, coaching a gorgeous and talented actress for a celebrity race brings Kate into the orbit of Hollywood s hottest bachelor. And then a local FBI agent takes notice of more than her driving and sleuthing skills. She goes from Sony Studios to Venice Beach and from Rodeo Drive to the Hollywood Hills, attending parties, power-shopping, and dodging unwelcome paparazzi. Kate s ballooning media exposure generates national commentary, testing her composure and forcing her to get ahead of the stories whether critical or flattering. Kate s professional dreams are also coming true. The upcoming Grand Prix is her first race with a new sponsor that s also funding an IndyCar test drive and a ride in next year’s Indy 500 along with future possibilities in NASCAR. The downside? New sponsor Frame Savings is owned by her family, and its management, outside of her long-estranged father, is unfriendly to her even rivalrous. Kate must stay on her toes as the Long Beach race weekend begins. She s negotiating the next steps in her career, driving two racecars and coaching a third, discovering more about the disreputable members of her father s family than she wanted to know, and juggling questions and suspects. On track, red flags fly to warn her of danger. Off track, Kate struggles to interpret warning signs and stay out of a killer s grasp.

Racing and murder never felt this good.

I love the books of Tammy Kaehler because she knows her racing. The story flows well and it felt like I was right there in the car with her. The racing descriptions were rich and detailed. It truly felt like I rode with her in those races.

Now the writing flows well, like I said. I turned the pages wanting to know what would happen next. There’s so much going on for Kate and it’s hard to keep it all straight. There isn’t much room for extra in this book. While that’s good, it can be a little frustrating keeping what’s going on straight, but don’t let that keep you from picking up this book. I don’t want to give away the plot because it is great, so I recommend picking it up.

Keeping up with Kate, the investigation and all of her new situations is fun. That’s what summed up the book for me. It’s fun. If you’re in the mood for a good mystery, then this might be the book for you.

When Bunnies Go Bad by Clea Simon

BAD
When Bunnies Go Bad by Clea Simon
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (255 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Winter is hard in Beauville, where the melting snow can reveal much more than last season s dead leaves. So when a wealthy, obnoxious tourist and his ski bunny girlfriend surface in Pru Marlowe s little Berkshire town, she knows she should stay out of their way. The bad-girl animal psychic has to focus on more immediate concerns, including a wild rabbit named Henry, supposedly tamed and illegally living with an eighty-four-year-old lady in her home. Henry, who seems to be acting out and hiding, avoids responding to Pru. Yet when Pru discovers the tourist murdered and his girlfriend s high-maintenance spaniel falls to her care, she gets dragged into a complicated case of crime and punishment that involves some new friends, an old nemesis, and her own shadowed past. A recent museum art heist draws the feds into the investigation along with a courtly gentleman radiating menace, who represents secretive business interests in New York and shows a surprising awareness of Pru. Her on-again, off-again romance with police Detective Creighton doesn t stop him from warning her to steer clear of the inquiry. The spaniel, however, lures her in. Pru lives in a world where only her crotchety tabby Wallis knows the whole truth about her past, her flight from Manhattan, and her unique gift that surfaced abruptly one day. Fearing the worst, Pru now comes dangerously close to being exposed. With everything in motion, Pru, Wallis, and everyone they hold dear will be lucky to escape by a hare.”

Despite almost having her degree as an animal behaviorist, Pru Marlowe still struggles to make ends meet. By taking odd jobs walking dogs and helping out around the town, she finds a way to keep herself – and her cat, Wallis – fed and happy. She knows Wallis is happy too, and not just by the tabby’s contented purr. No, Pru has a limited psychic connection with animals of all varieties, which makes her day to day jobs both more difficult and more entertaining. So, when she stumbles across a murdered tourist, it’s only natural she’s going to enlist the aid of the critters all around her.

This was my first Pru Marlowe novel and I can safely say it won’t be my last. Although Pru herself is pretty problematic – she has a million and one personal issues – she’s also kind hearted, intelligent, and loyal. The relationship she has with her cat, Wallis, cracked me up because it reminded me so much of how I interact with my own feline. But the way she conducts herself around other animals’ people is probably her greatest strength. Even when the humans don’t deserve it, she’s polite and straightforward for the sake of the animals she cares for.

Some of the best characters in this novel were the animals. Wallis, Pru’s tabby cat, is a constant source of disdain and entertainment since he serves as Pru’s main confidante. Growler, a dog she walks regularly for a rather unpleasant woman, gives her great insights into what other animals might do and think in certain situations. He’s actually one of my favorite characters in this story because he’s such a gossip, giving Pru a running commentary on the neighborhood animal’s activities every walk. Stewie is a little spaniel who is wrapped up in the murder mystery and all he wants is to go back to his person, and you never really know for sure who that is, until the very end.

Cozy mysteries are one of my favorite genres to read. Adding animals and a touch of the paranormal to it only makes it more fun, as far as I’m concerned. Clea Simon does an excellent job of mixing humor, romance, and mystery into one coherent and exciting tale. The humans are engaging and fun, but the non-human characters are even more so. That the author was able to infuse so much personality into animals that really have no voice – as sometimes all Pru can get from them is a vague sense of their emotions – really amazed me. I’ve already purchased the first book in this series because I can’t wait to start at the beginning and discover how this all started.

Funeral Hotdish by Jana Bommersbach

HOTDISH
Funeral Hotdish by Jana Bommersbach
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Recent Historical, Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (238 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Sensational crime, intrepid reporter, deaths too close to home Seeing Sammy the Bull Gravano strut through a Phoenix restaurant shocks investigative reporter Joya Bonner. The notorious Mafia hitman nineteen murders and FBI snitch testimony sent Godfather John Gotti to prison is hidden in the federal Witness Protection Program, yet he s now a successful drug lord. His products travel national highways with tragic results for Joya s Midwest hometown, where grief turns to revenge, violence, and murder. By chasing the biggest scoop of her career, Joya risks her job, her love, and her life to see if Sammy can be stopped. Can she spur her family and neighbors at home to do more than let sleeping dogs lie?”

This funeral hotdish is more like a good chili – a whole lot going on and with a dash of spice.

I love a good mystery. I cut my teeth on Agatha Christie novels when I was in junior high, so when I saw this book up for grabs, I nabbed it.

The premise of Funeral Hotdish is exciting. There’s possible murder, overdoses, family drama… oh and a mob situation to boot. With all of that in the plot, the story kept my attention. I wanted to know how everything would shake out. I mean, Sammy Gravano and John Gotti in a book? Yeah, this has to be a winner.

Well…kind of a winner. While the book was good and the plot had more twists and turns than a mountain road, I had a few issues.  Ms. Bommersbach has a definitive writing style and while she’s descriptive, the author tends to head hop a bit. I had to go back an reread to make sure I knew whose point of view I was in a few times. Some readers might not be bothered by this. Unfortunately, I was. Another thing I had a tick of trouble with were the descriptive parts. Now don’t get me wrong. I felt like I was right there with Joya sorting out this mystery. I did. But there were times the story felt more like informational dumps, rather than pulling me in with description.

Now I know it sounds like I wasn’t thrilled. Not so. There is a thread of family and heartbreak that runs through this tale and I’m glad it did. It made me more emotionally involved with the story. The teen and boyfriend who takes the ecstasy…that thread hit close to home because the time the story is set (the late 1990s) was a formative time for me. I could see my friends in the characters of Amber and Johnny. So kudos to Ms. Bommersbach for reeling me in that way.

If you want a book that’s got twists and turns to boot, has characters you won’t forget and heart, then this might be the story for you.

Isolation by Mary Anna Evans

ISOLATION
Isolation by Mary Anna Evans
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (272 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Faye Longchamp-Mantooth has dug herself a deep hole and she can’t make her way out of it. As she struggles to recover from a shattering personal loss, she sees that everyone she loves is trying to reach out to her, but she just can’t manage to reach back. Joe Wolf Mantooth has never felt so alone, despite living in his house with the wife he loves, the son he adores, and the father who hasn’t got around to telling him how long he’s been out of prison or what he did to get sent there. When one of their close friends is brutally murdered, Joe begins to wonder whether Faye will ever be herself again, and he knows he needs to help her. As crimes against women rock Micco County, one after another, he realizes that Faye is in danger from both her inner demons and an outside evil. This evil has intruded on their island home and violated the isolation that they had always believed would protect them. Faye and Joe can only fight this evil if they work together, but first they have to remember how. And all the while, the danger snakes further into their lives, threatening the people they love, the very ground beneath their feet, and even their home and the island where it stands. No man is an island, and no woman. Faye and Joe must break open the isolation that grips them, or they will lose everything.

She’s lost her drive and her ambition. Losing the baby has almost made her lose her mind. But finding an old fuel tank on her island home gets her attention, especially since she has to call the environmentalists in.

Ms. Evans adds a bit of history to her books, writing about often forgotten history trivia that adds an interesting aspect to the tale she’s telling. She mixes past and present and ties it up with a big bow to make it all fit together.

Faye has a husband, a daughter and a son. Her father-in-law is staying with them currently. She has plenty of reason to live if she can just get out of her funk. Joe is trying to be patient but it bothers him.

With inspectors checking out the fuel (which turns out to be kerosene), she meets with a man who searching his ancestors. He uses her great grandmother’s name in connection with a soldier who never came home from the war even though he was married. He thinks she was keeping him captive. She knows that couldn’t be true, but what was the truth?

When the local marina’s diner owner is shot and killed, Faye has something else to interest her. She doesn’t realize how close and personal that death is going to become to her.

My favorite part is watching Faye trying to figure out why the soldier would be there at all and where he might have lived. When she finds arsenic, it’s a clue. But a clue to what?

This is a very good read with exciting parts, some trauma, and family secrets being unearthed. It’s a fascinating read that keeps you glued to the pages. I’m ready to read the next in this series.

Brooklyn Secrets by Triss Stein

SECRETS
Brooklyn Secrets by Triss Stein
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (231 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Erica Donato, Brooklyn girl, urban history grad student and single mom, is researching the 1930s when Brownsville was the home of the notorious organized criminals the newspapers called Murder Inc. She quickly learns that even in rapidly changing Brooklyn, Brownsville remains much as it was. It is still poor, it is still tough, and it still breeds fighters and gangs. Doing field research, Erica stops in at the landmark local library and meets Savanna, a young woman who is the pride of her mother and her bosses, and headed for an elite college and a future. A few days later, Savanna is found beaten and left for dead. Her anguished mother is everywhere, insisting someone knows something. After a massive, angry demonstration, a young girlfriend of Savanna s is found dead, too. Is there a connection? Did perfect Savanna have a few secrets? Erica s curious. But she s focused on the 1930s and has located a few women who are happy to share memories. Two are childhood friends who disagree on much but guard secrets, too ones kept for a lifetime. Never one to resist looking deeper than her research requires, Erica keeps encountering an apparent derelict white man, a vengeful rejected girlfriend, the role of boxing as a way out of poverty, and fading evidence of long-ago crimes.

She’s doing a thesis on Brooklyn in the past. That involves looking into the people who were around then and their activities. When she finds an old file with photographs that depict life at that time, she starts trying to identify them.

The author has a good knowledge of Brooklyn. She talks about the past and the buildings that are gone as well as about the ones that still stand. She adds in the criminal element that is still present today. When she adds in a murder, too, it starts to get even more interesting.

Inner city gangs are still around. In earlier days they were different nationalities but the crime and fear squads have always been there. When Erica goes to the local library to do research, four black boys harass her. Luckily, the museum guard comes to her rescue.

Even when they know who attacked a young black girl, nothing can be done. They have solid alibis even if they are lies. Life starts to get dangerous in the ‘hood. When the next girl shows up dead, the case ramps up. While Erica is concerned about the girls, she also dealing with two oldsters who lived in the neighborhood in the time period she’s researching. One of them asks her to find out what happened to her brother. The two ladies are good friends but they fight as much as they get along.

This is a good look at what things are like in the poorer sections of town. Nowadays it happens in the heart of the city as well. Everyone is searching for power, money, and more. The story is good, the motives are mixed and the killer was a surprise. This isn’t any happily ever after but it is life. I’d read another in this series.

The Puffin of Death by Betty Webb

PUFFIN
The Puffin of Death by Betty Webb
A Gunn Zoo Mystery
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (243 pgs)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

California zookeeper Theodora Bentley travels to Iceland to pick up an orphaned polar bear cub destined for the Gunn Zoo’s newly installed Northern Climes exhibit. The trip is intended to be a combination of work and play. But on day two, while horseback riding near a picturesque seaside village, Teddy discovers a man lying atop a puffin burrow, shot through the head. The victim is identified as American bird-watcher Simon Parr, winner of the largest Powerball payout in history. Is Teddy a witness―or a suspect? Others include not only Parr’s wife, a famed suspense novelist, but fellow members of the birding club Parr had generously treated to their lavish Icelandic expedition. Hardly your average birders, several of them have had serious brushes with the law back in the States. Guessing that an American would best understand other Americans, police detective Thorvaald Haraldsson grudgingly concedes her innocence and allows Teddy to tag along with the group to volcanoes, glaciers, and deep continental rifts in quest of rare bird species. But once another member of the club is murdered and a rockfall barely misses Teddy’s head, Haraldsson forbids her to continue. She ignores him and, in a stunning, solitary face-off with the killer in Iceland’s wild interior, concludes an investigation at once exotic, thrilling, and rich in animal lore.

It’s always a pleasure to find a new mystery author, and even more of a joy when the first book you read is part of a series. The Puffin of Death reminded somewhat of an Agatha Christie novel with lots of suspects, and a wonderful setting where everyone is out of their element. As with Christie’s books, The Puffin of Death has a cast of characters, some oddball ones thrown in, and all with the perfect motive and opportunity to have committed the crime, which in this case, is the murder of a fellow birder.

The sleuth is zookeeper Therodora, otherwise known as Teddy, who’s dispatched to Iceland to bring back a polar bear to California. As with all good mysteries, nothing goes to plan and Teddy finds herself playing detective to solve the crime.

I really enjoyed this lead character even though I hadn’t read any of the books that preceded this one. She’s funny, smart, and a top class amateur detective. The dialogue was really good and the pacing fast. However, the thing that sealed the deal and turned this into a fun read was the setting. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything set in Iceland before and Ms. Webb did a great job with making it feel like you were really there along with Teddy. The flora and fauna and the active volcanoes and glaciers were so well described it had me wondering if the author had spent time there.

Overall, this was a fun read and I’ll be looking for more books in this series and recommend it as the ideal book for some winter reading.

Return to Dust by Andrew Lanh

DUST
Return to Dust by Andrew Lanh
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (300 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

When Marta Kowalski is discovered beneath the Farmington River Bridge, the police write off her death as an unfortunate suicide. Marta had become depressed since the death of an old friend. Marta was a simple woman who cleaned houses, mostly for elderly professors, and faithfully attended Mass. Sometimes she went gambling in Atlantic City or at the Indian casinos. She had no enemies, let alone friends. Murder? There’s no evidence of a crime. Yet her niece Karen is convinced of foul play. She hires Amerasian Rick Van Lam, the only investigator she knows in this bedroom community. He had never really cared for Marta. Yes, she’d dusted his apartment a couple of times, but she was a little too nosy. And she’d fought with a local gardener, a full-blooded Vietnamese man. Jimmy, his mentor and partner at nearby Hartford, Connecticut’s Gaddy Associates, aces at insurance fraud, frowns on Rick taking another murder case. But aided by his sidekick Hank Nguyen and Hank’s wise Buddhist grandmother, Rick begins asking questions and finds himself mired in affluent Farmington’s parochial pettiness and scandal. Digging deeper, he unearths rivalries, jealousies, and viciousness to shame a Miss Marple village―and realizes to his amazement that Marta was no mere unassuming housekeeper. Any number of townsfolk had reason to shove her off that bridge―one of them mind-blowing.

When Marta is found dead below bridge, everyone believes it was suicide. Her daughter doesn’t, however, and she hires Rick Van Lam to prove it.

Mr. Lanh’s detective is half Vietnamese and half American soldier. That makes asking questions is a bit harder. Neither the whites nor the Vietnamese trust him. The white’s don’t trust his dark skin; the Vietnamese don’t trust his blue eyes. He perseveres and has the skills to wait long enough to get answers or to get thrown out.

Marta was his housekeeper. She worked for many others. Most didn’t like her much. Maybe someone hated her. It’s when he finds out she had another side than the one he saw that he learns she had some secrets. She liked to drink, she liked to gamble, and she dressed for the part. Was that what got her killed?

This author has a way of drawing you in while showing you the secrets of families and friends. Most everyone in the story has a secret somewhere. He shows you that the death of a man she thought she was in love with was a big issue in her life. She kept trying to find him even after he moved. She was almost obsessed. What she finds by mistake gets her killed but that’s a mystery until the end.

The story is paced well, the clues he bleeds into the story keep you reading, and almost every character within is touched some way by this murder and the people involved. It was an interesting read.

Café Europa: An Edna Ferber Mystery by Ed Ifkovic

VCAFE
Café Europa: An Edna Ferber Mystery by Ed Ifkovic
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Historical, Mystery/suspense
Length: Full Length (278 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Snapdragon

In 1914, as rumors of war float across Europe, Edna Ferber travels to Budapest with Winifred Moss, a famous London suffragette, to visit the homeland of her dead father and to see the sights. Author Edna is fascinated by ancient Emperor Franz Joseph and by the faltering Austro-Hungarian Empire, its pomp and circumstance so removed from the daily life of the people she meets. Sitting daily in the Café Europa at her hotel, she listens to unfettered Hearst reporter Harold Gibbon as he predicts the coming war and the end of feudalistic life in Europe while patrons chatter.

Then a shocking murder in a midnight garden changes everything.

Headstrong Cassandra Blaine is supposed to marry into the Austrian nobility in one of those arranged matches like Consuela Vanderbilt’s still popular with wealthy American parents eager for titles and impoverished European nobility who have them to offer. But Cassandra is murdered, and her former lover, the dashing Hungarian Endre Molnár, is the prime suspect. Taken with the young man and convinced of his innocence, Edna begins investigating with the help of Winifred and two avant-garde Hungarian artists. Meanwhile possible war with Serbia is the topic of the day as Archduke Franz Ferdinand prepares to head to Sarajevo. While the world braces for disaster, Edna uncovers the truth –and it scares her.

Set in the early 1900s, this series features a female reporter-slash-investigator out to solve murders.

Edna Ferber travels to Budapest along with a well-known suffragette. They stay near the famed ‘Café Europa,’ a restaurant at the heart of the city in several different respects. Most importantly, its the place to hear all of the news of the day. It is there that Ferber runs into the American heiress, Cassandra Blaine, who is almost immediately murdered.

Ferber is on the case. From this point forward, Café Europa proceeds to deliver a classic type murder mystery, plus a little more. The location is exotic, reference to historic events sets it all in its historic time, and the motivation to solve the crime grows steadily throughout. Sadly, I found I didn’t care quite enough for the Heiress, and so failed to feel much motivation to solve her death. However, clearing an innocent man becomes the focus, and will keep readers’ interest. I have read more riveting mysteries, though.

Those interested in the history of the time will be fascinated not only by events, but by attitudes. Mr. Ifkovic creates an amazing and believable aura; we know the doom that is coming, but somehow, still feel the desperateness of the times, the anxiety, and even the doubt. Details as small as clothing and food are noted and somehow, in this book we ‘see’ the times so clearly. Beautifully written, it is very readable and quite worthwhile.

Collar Robber by Hilary Bell Locke

COLLAR
Collar Robber by Hilary Bell Locke
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (296 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

How can you make money from a painting that you don’t own, can’t steal, and couldn’t fence even if you succeeded? What if you convince people you already had stolen it?

An assortment of shady and brutal players in Collar Robber think that—leaving a corpse or two along the way—they can use that bright idea to gouge fifty-million dollars from Jay Davidovich’s employer, Transoxana Insurance Company. Davidovich, first met in 2012’s Jail Coach, is a Loss Prevention Specialist. Fifty million would be a good loss to prevent.

Cynthia Jakubek from But Remember Their Names has jumped from the gilded drudgery of lawyering with a big Wall Street firm to the terrifying adventure of starting her own solo practice in Pittsburgh. One of her clients wants to help Davidovich—for a hefty price—and stay alive in the process. Another wants to get married in the Catholic Church to a fiancée who was briefly wed years before to someone who now has an interest in the painting. An annulment is needed.

As Davidovich and Jakubek face brawls on street corners and in court rooms, confrontations in brothels, confessionals, and Yankee Stadium luxury suites, and Tasers, machine guns, and religious vestments used as weapons, they have to remember that “take no prisoners” isn’t always a metaphor…

When an original painting and fifty million dollars hang in the balance, unlikely partnerships are bound to form. What will those pairings be? The insurance company and the Church? Or the lawyer and the criminal? By the time it all works itself out, it could be all of these and more. But who will come out on top and will the painting ever be safe from those who want it? Only time and a lot of intrigue will tell.

Cynthia Jakubek is a woman worth admiring. She had it all – a great job on Wall Street for a major law firm and the insane pay to go with it – and gave it all up to be able to chase the bad guys and have her day in court. For her, it was more about results than the money and she happily took a giant cut in pay in order to get out from under the thumb of the bigger lawyers and be able to do more than grunt work. She’s scrappy, determined, and takes no prisoners. I love a strong, feisty female lead and Jakubek is just that.

Jay Davidovich is pure muscle and knows how to use each and every one. Working loss-prevention for Transoxana Insurance Company, he gets to put it to good use on a regular basis. I’m not entirely sure why, but Jay was my favorite character in this novel. His tough exterior is present right up until he starts thinking about his wife, Rachel, and then he turns into a giant teddy bear. He’d be the idea kind of guy to have on your side. Intelligent and dangerous, he also has a soft side to match it.

This novel left me feeling rather torn. The story itself is well written and intense, yet, I still found myself confused more often than not. I think that, for me, there may have been too many characters, some of which you only get a cursory introduction to, leaving you without any decent way of remembering their purpose. About halfway through the novel, however, I began to figure out who was who and what their jobs were and it became easier to follow. Although, despite my initial confusion and lack of understanding, Collar Robber is an intricate and complex story that keeps you guessing until the very end.