Daily Archives: March 15, 2011

How to Survive a Killer Séance: A Party-Planning Mystery by Penny Warner

How to Survive a Killer Séance Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Warner does it again in her third “Party-Planning Mystery,” How to Survive a Killer Séance. Like the first two books in the series, San Francisco’s premiere party planner Presley Parker has an “A” list of guests expected at one of the city’s cultural institutions for her event. This time it’s the Winchester Mystery House with party host Jonathan Ellington. He has asked for a séance themed party to unveil his new product. His idea is to use a hologram during a séance to bring the house’s former resident, Sarah Winchester back from the dead-all in good fun of course! Given this is a mystery, it’s a no-brainer that an all too real body will turn up. And since it happened at one of her events, Presley will be involved in the investigation dragging her crime scene cleaning neighbor Brad into it as well.

As with the first two books in the series, the mystery in How to Survive a Killer Séance is well plotted, with plenty of clues and possible suspects for the reader to mull over while seeking the solution. There is much humor thrown in along the way, giving the book a sharp and snappy feeling. Presley is a star protagonist and Brad, the crime scene cleaner, is a great side kick. They are both characters that are quite easy to like.

Dogs Don’t Lie by Clea Simon

Dogs Don't LieReviewed by Caryn St. Clair

The first in a new series for author Simon, Dogs Don’t Lie introduces readers to Pru Marlowe, animal behaviorist. Pru is not just the average run of the mill pet behaviorist either because, as fate would have it, after a particularly nasty bout with the flu, Pru found that she could actually hear what animals were thinking. This of course gives her a great edge in treating her patients.

As Dogs Don’t Lie opens, Pru has arrived at a client’s home only to find the client dead, in a pool of blood with his bloody pit bull standing guard. Readers may well jump to the same conclusion that the police did-that is that the dog turned on his owner. Pru not only knows this is out of the dog’s character, but because she can hear the dog think, knows the dog has witnessed the horrible event. The problem is, can she convince anyone else of the dog’s innocence?

I will admit I had a little bit of trouble settling into this book. It took me awhile to figure out that what was pulling me out of the story was my confusion with some of the conversations. That some of the animals have two names-their human given name and what they call themselves led to confusion. Also, the protagonist carries on actual conversations with these double named animals. So, I was to start with, a little confused who she was talking to sometimes.

That said, once I found the rhythm of the story, I found it hard to put the book down until the end. Pru is a fascinating protagonist and the animal therapy techniques she uses are interesting. The book has an extremely well woven plot line with several interesting twists. And while cats, dogs and a ferret figure prominently, this book is not a typical cutsey talking animal book. Life, as seen through the eyes of the animals in this book, is not always a pretty. Dogs Don’t Lie is more in the tone of the Shirley Rousseau Murphy’s Joe Grey books than Doctor Doolittle.

Executive Intent by Dale Brown

Executive IntentReviewed by Jud Hanson

Thor’s Hammer: America’s newest space-based defensive system. It’s capable of striking any place on the planet. Problems with it exist, however, as several of its components began to fail, the result of apparent sabotage. President Gardner has reservations about using it but things become worse when it misses its mark and kills thousands of Pakistani civilians. This provides an opening to China to establish a presence near Middle Eastern ports vital to America’s security. China goes a step further and launches a brutal attack on Somalia pirates’ havens in Somalia, a seemingly altruistic act. Tensions rise, however, when U.S. Naval vessels are attacked and the American space station is held hostage by a joint Chinese-Russian force of spacecraft, demanding the dismantling of Thor’s Hammer. McLanahan is called upon by U.S. Space Defense Force commander Kai Raydon to stop the sabotage of Thor’s Hammer and try to stop tensions from becoming a global war between superpowers.