Books by Eleanor Taylor Bland

ELEANOR TAYLOR BLAND is the author of the Marti MacAlister mysteries. He lives in Waukegan, Illinois.

Released: Dec. 19, 2005

"Part police procedural, part domestic drama. But after 13 entries (A Cold and Silent Dying, 2004, etc.), the formula seems a bit, well, bland."
The cops in Lincoln Prairie, Ill., find a fresh and literal addition to the skeletons in a murdered actress's closet. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 3, 2004

"Although Bland accurately notes that the African-American mystery has come a long way in the past ten years, this landmark collection may not dissuade cautious readers from waiting a little longer for an investment-grade anthology."
Twenty-two well- and lesser-known African-American writers tackle the short form—with variable success. Read full book review >
FATAL REMAINS by Eleanor Taylor Bland
Released: Dec. 8, 2003

"Forget the ghost and the Smith relatives, cold as day-old toast. The points of interest here are the Potawatomi tribe, the child-size slave manacles, and Vik's manful efforts to grapple with his wife's deteriorating MS condition."
Ancestral honor and malfeasance collide for Bland's Illinois cops (Whispers in the Dark, 2001, etc.). Read full book review >
WINDY CITY DYING by Eleanor Taylor Bland
Released: Dec. 16, 2002

"As stolid and earnest as Marti's first nine cases (Whispers in the Dark, 2001, etc.), and animated only when Bland takes dead aim at the inadequacies of the juvenile welfare system and ponders the Olympic prospects of Marti's volleyball-playing daughter."
Adrian Quinn's spent 13 years in prison plotting his revenge. Once out, he'll take down everyone who conspired against him. And to make them really suffer, he'll begin by killing someone they loved. But his plan goes awry when he mistakenly slays one of political candidate Joseph Ramos's foster children instead of his daughter, leaving his other foster child, young Jose Ortiz, who often fought with the girl, to be charged with the murder. Quinn's more on target when he kills a judge's husband and a prosecutor's daughter, then zeroes in on a juror and his former boss. When he aims at Detective Marti MacAlister's firefighter husband Ben of Lincoln Prairie, Illinois, Marti and her white partner Vik Jessenovik, assigned to the Ramos case, are too busy trying to disprove Jose's guilt to see the connection between the victims. Over at the precinct, cops Slim and Cowboy do see the pattern, but by the time they alert Marti, fires have been set all over the city, Ben's been hurt at one and hospitalized, and Quinn, disguised as a woman, is riding the hospital elevators watching for Marti. Unluckily for him, she's quicker with a Beretta than he is with a knife. Read full book review >
WHISPERS IN THE DARK by Eleanor Taylor Bland
Released: Nov. 12, 2001

"As in most Blands (Scream in Silence, 2000, etc.), the domestic travails are more interesting and believable than the police work."
Marti MacAlister's extended family is all a-twitter. Her best friend Sharon has eloped to the Bahamas with handsome slickster DeVonte Lutrell without telling her AIDS-stricken mother or her teenaged daughter Lisa, who's temporarily bunking at Marti's. Meantime, the latest homicide that Marti and her white partner Vik Jessenovik have caught isn't much of a corpse—just a bit of an arm with traces of blue paint and metallic silver that send the Lincoln Prairie cops scouring the arts community for news of a missing painter or photographer. When they discover three other arm-only cases over a 20-year span, their interrogation of local artists Lucy, Nan, and Arlene leads to Arlene's death, Nan's debunking, and Lucy's cranky insistence that she was as good a painter as any of them, even her long-dead mother. Off in the Bahamas, Sharon finds she hates water, boats, sunning, and swimming, and almost drowns when DeVonte turns his back on her in the ocean. Just before a threatened hurricane hits, DeVonte, who's discovered he'd have to share Sharon's 401K plan with her daughter if she died, invites Lisa to Freeport. As soon as she casts a cold eye on DeVonte, Lisa phones home, bringing Marti and her love Ben out to save the girls, and leaving Vik stateside to wrap up those arms. There'll be a suicide in Lincoln Prairie and bodies galore tossed into the ocean before Sharon and Lisa return to watch the AIDS sufferer slip into eternal relief. Read full book review >
SCREAM IN SILENCE by Eleanor Taylor Bland
Released: Feb. 1, 2000

In Lincoln Prairie, Illinois, the salt-and-pepper law-enforcement team of Vic Jessenovik (salt) and Marti MacAlister (pepper) is head over shakers in rampant rascality. To begin with, there's a mad bomber-arsonist who's causing things to go burn in the night. Then there's the seemingly senseless murder of a woman who was once Vic's much disliked schoolmate. Only the most naãve readers will join the characters in assuming that these matters are unconnected. In the meantime, there's trouble on Marti's domestic front'not major-league trouble, just a smidgen of the obligatory aggro fictional adolescents are required to generate these days. To compensate, however, there's the idyllic experience Marti is having with her bridegroom, fireman Ben Walker. In the throes of frequent erotic paroxysms, they smear each other with vanilla extract, behavior regarded fondly by the rest of the MacAlister family as the sign of a flourishing relationship. And the relationship is still flourishing'it only seems as if Marti and Ben have had more than enough time to grow old together'when solutions are provided and culprits identified. Vic goes home to his very sick wife, Marti to her frisky Ben and the pervasive odor of vanilla. Each new series entry (Tell No Tales, 1999, etc.) is slower than the last, the tone flatter, the mystery-mongering more hushed, so that now, despite the alarmist title, even bigotry seems lulled asleep. (Author tour) Read full book review >
TELL NO TALES by Eleanor Taylor Bland
Released: Feb. 8, 1999

So there's Detective Marti MacAlister (she's black) enjoying a deliciously snowbound honeymoon at a picture-postcard inn when suddenly the phone rings. It's her partner, Detective Matthew Jessenovik (he's white). Scratch one slightly used idyll because he needs her. Back in Lincoln Prairie, there's been a murder, a high-profile murder. The victim—reclusive, 67-year-old Barnabas Cheney of the mover-and-shaker Cheneys—has been found clubbed to death. At first there seems no possible connection between this murder and the startling discovery a few days earlier of a mummified corpse. How could there be? It's the corpse of a young black woman hidden away for 34 years in a secret corner of an abandoned theater, disinterred by accident; the remains offer few clues to the woman's identity. But in a town as modestly sized as Lincoln Prairie, how come no one ever missed her? And then Marti discovers that the Cheneys once owned the theater—and a neighboring theater as well, in which another long-ago murder took place. Now it's clear (to Marti at least) that there's a connection as real as a blunt instrument. And yet her partner keeps backing away from it. Doggedly, Marti persists with a view of the case that puts considerable strain on the heretofore sturdy MacAlister-Jessenovik relationship. When the smoke clears after a climactic shoot-out, though, we see that as usual Marti had it right. In a series never briskly paced (See No Evil, 1998, etc.), this entry flirts with the downright sluggish. And for the first time, the domestic side, the more interesting side, of Marti's life fails to get its due. Read full book review >
SEE NO EVIL by Eleanor Taylor Bland
Released: Feb. 17, 1998

Halloween week is anything but festive for Det. Marti MacAlister and her partner Vik Jessenovik. There's the case of pregnant Ladiya Norris, who came all the way from Chicago to Lincoln Prairie to fall, or get pushed, from a bridge to the beach below. (Her unsavory married boyfriend, Barry Knox, has enough strikes against him, from drug-dealing to wife-beating, to motivate a dozen homicides.) There's the case of Dare (nÇ George Washington Jones), missing buddy of Marti's streetcorner snitch Isaac, who's convinced that he didn't just move onhe was moved. There's the case of the pumpkin-suit flasher, a seasonal wacko who hasn't been caught in seven yearsand won't be this year unless Marti and Vik can bring themselves to team up with a pair of vice cops as lazy as they are inept. There's trouble at school with an iron-willed teacher determined to split up Marti's son Theo and her fiancÇ Ben Walker's son Mike, even though they've gone all through school together. There's the self-lacerating search of Marti's housemate Sharon for true love, or whatever she can find instead. But the biggest threat is one Marti doesn't even know about: the stalker who's moved into her house part-time in preparation for executing her whole family. Bland's blunt honesty about her characters' conflicted emotions makes this the best of Marti's six cases (Keep Still, 1996, etc.) to date, even though individual storylines stay stubbornly distinct. Read full book review >
KEEP STILL by Eleanor Taylor Bland
Released: July 9, 1996

What looks at first like a fatal accident and at second like an unassuming, all-in-the-family homicide—elderly widow Sophia Admunds's quiet fall down her basement steps—reveals a much more sinister side when Lincoln Prairie, Illinois, cop Marti MacAlister (Done Wrong, 1995, etc.) and her partners link it to the drowning of teacher's aide Liddy Fields. Liddy had even fewer friends than Sophia had bickering heirs; the one blip on her screen is her attachment to Natalie Beatty, a schoolgirl she couldn't save from being returned to her abusive family eight years ago. Natalie disappeared soon thereafter; the rest of her family has disappeared, too; and now, it seems as if everybody who knew her at Park Elementary—Sophia Admunds, for instance— may be on the endangered list. A heartfelt indictment of child abuse that's still the most uneventful of Marti's five cases. But the killer's chilling final confession strikes deep. Read full book review >
DONE WRONG by Eleanor Taylor Bland
Released: July 21, 1995

A Chicago narcotics cop's suspiciously fatal fall from the roof of a parking garage rips open Marti MacAlister's three-year- old wounds of grieving for her own husbanda colleague of Julian Cantor's who supposedly ate his gun in a Chicago cemetery. Now, even though she's made a new life for her family in suburban Lincoln Prairie, Marti's driven to return to the city with her partner, Vik Jessenovik, to get the truth about Johnny MacAlister's death. With some unwilling help from a rogue's gallery of druggies, snitches, transvestites, and convicts, the pair piece together the tale of two sorry drug-busts in which big dealer Angelo Estlow walked and $250,000 vanished, presumably into the Man's hands. But as Marti, aided by some coded clues Johnny left behind, finally closes in on his killers, she doesn't know that an assassin named Diablo has targeted all her leading suspectsretired Vice chief Daniel Crosby; his old buddy, Deputy Chief Joe Riordan; drug unit leaders Lt. Frank Murphy and Sgt. Leotha Jamisonif they don't trip over themselves betraying each other first. Crisp action sequences, dirty cops, dogged procedural work, quietly telling family scenes: Marti's fourth appearance (Gone Quiet, 1994, etc.) has it all. Read full book review >
GONE QUIET by Eleanor Taylor Bland
Released: July 21, 1994

When you die on a Friday night in Lincoln Prairie, Ill., the way Deacon Henry Hamilton did, your body lies in bed all day Saturday—time enough for the Mt. Gethsemane choir, 40 strong, to traipse through your house on their way home from rehearsal, find your body, console your widow, and wipe out all the forensic evidence. So investigating officers Marti McAlister and Vik Jessenovik (Slow Burn, 1993) don't have anything to go on but gossip about Henry's family, and that's altogether too revealing. Seems that Henry, a pedophile who abused his stepdaughters, Denise and Belle, when they were five years old, may have been getting interested in his daughter Terri Whittaker's four-year-old girl, Zaar—and might have been poisoned or smothered (medical evidence points to both) by a family member with a long memory or a fearful imagination. Incompetent Lt. Howie Sikich, temporarily reassigned from Procurement, presses Marti to arrest her friend Denise, but Vik trumps Howie's high-level contacts long enough to extract a confession from a more unlikely source. Probably the most low-key tale of murder and child abuse you've ever encountered. No wonder Marti and Vik are able to keep the entire case contained within Lincoln Prairie's close-knit black community. Read full book review >
SLOW BURN by Eleanor Taylor Bland
Released: Aug. 16, 1993

A second outing for Lincoln Park, Illinois, detectives MacAlister and Jessenovik (Dead Time, 1992) again finds them tired, overworked, and ODing on bad coffee while the bodies pile up- -including two at an abortion clinic that's been torched. An anonymous call ties R.D., a kiddie-porn merchant, in with the little, unclaimed, unidentified smoke-inhalation victim, and Marti and Vik are soon rousting R.D. Meanwhile, the clinic doctor tells them lies about a stolen door key and the receptionist who perished; a teenage junkie hooker comes clean; and a wino snitch offers clues to the comings-and-goings near the clinic. Bleary-eyed Marti and Vik come to understand that a hit-and-run victim and the death of a poor old lady are related to the ``baby doll'' porn scheme, but it'll take even more late nights before Vik goes home to his wife and Marti heads for the woods to make peace with her widowhood on the eve of what would have been her husband's 40th birthday. More polished than this team's debut, with a toned-down relationship between Marti (black) and Vik (white), and with more nuances to Marti's dealing with the black community and her own two grieving children. Read full book review >
DEAD TIME by Eleanor Taylor Bland
Released: March 10, 1992

An improbably peopled first novel in which the Lincoln Prairie, Illinois, detective team of Marti MacAlister (black/widowed, with two kids/intuitive) and her male partner, Vik Jessenovik (white/gruff/factual), try to solve the murder of an often hospitalized (schizophrenia) young woman, Dorsey, at the Cramer Hotel, a flophouse for social misfits. Then Dorsey's loony neighbor down the hall is killed, and the night desk clerk as well, and indications are that the killer is after the eyewitnesses—a pair of thieving but lovable street kids. Will Marti and Vik find the ``little people'' before the killer does? Despite being overworked, overtired, and lied to by the few people in Dorsey's past they manage to trace, the two converge on the kids just in time to rescue them for Christmas and tie in Dorsey's murder with that of her musician boyfriend back in Vietnam days. Far-fetched and sluggish. Read full book review >