Books by Susan Dunlap

OUT OF NOWHERE by Susan Dunlap
Released: Sept. 1, 2016

"Dunlap's creation of occupations for side characters that seem to exist solely to help her heroine (Switchback, 2015, etc.) makes sense given that her writing focuses more on ends and means than enjoying the journey."
A stunt double and Zen student adds sleuthing to her resume as she asks what might have driven her brother out of town. Read full book review >
NO FOOTPRINTS by Susan Dunlap
Released: Aug. 14, 2012

"As her plot thrusts forward, Dunlap's terse style battles her complex storyline, with a result more ZipCar than Zen."
San Francisco stuntwoman Darcy Lott (Power Slide, 2010, etc.) learns the burden of responsibility that comes from saving someone's life. Read full book review >
POWER SLIDE by Susan Dunlap
Released: Aug. 1, 2010

"Loyal fans of Darcy's adventures (Civil Twilight, 2009, etc.) will gobble this up as a satisfying potential end-cap; for newcomers, it's a miss."
Darcy Lott's work as a stuntwoman is always less dangerous than her real life. Read full book review >
A SINGLE EYE by Susan Dunlap
Released: Nov. 1, 2006

"Though the whodunit is overlong and predictable, Dunlap deftly explores the conflicts between Darcy's appetite for answers and her deference to Garson-roshi, who seems determined that she leave every single stone unturned in searching for his assailant."
Dunlap (Fast Friends, 2004, etc.) launches a new series heroine: a stunt double whose crippling phobia leads her to a Zen monastery as troubled as she is. Read full book review >
FAST FRIENDS by Susan Dunlap
Released: Nov. 1, 2004

"The resulting no-holds-barred chase is a tour de force you will have forgotten by next week. But you won't leave it unfinished either."
A pair of college friends and a pet pig foil a crooked cop and a terrorist plot in this high-wire change of pace from Dunlap (Karma and Other Stories, 2002, etc.). Read full book review >
KARMA by Susan Dunlap
Released: July 1, 2002

"The title story makes this barely-a-collection worth a closer look—especially if you missed it the first time around."
The other stories promised by the subtitle are nothing more than a pair of six-year-old curtain-raisers for the main event, the 185-page 1981 novella "Karma." In the first of the two opening acts, "The Court of Celestial Appeals," Dunlap's whimsically unnamed, ungendered Celestial Detective (The Celestial Buffet, 2001), an unwilling astral being appointed to investigate earthly crime, solves the murder of heaven's newest arrival, huffy California senatorial candidate Judge Stone Girard. In "A Contest Fit for a Queen," Dunlap's regular sleuth, Berkeley cop Jill Smith (No Immunity, 1998, etc.), competes with Seth Howard, her fellow beat officer and sometime lover, to see who can tell a better story of their most memorable Valentine's Day collars, only to find out that their two collars are smartly complementary. The novel-length title story begins with a magic trick: a Ceremony of Dissolution of Hate at a Buddhist ashram that veers out of control when the presiding guru is stabbed to death on stage in view of dozens of witnesses. Digging into Bhutanese Padmasvana's past and the checkered lives of his followers—from his laconic assistant to his self-satisfied American impresario to a tepee-dwelling groupie to a grasping realtor whose son was the victim last year of a conveniently accidental drug overdose at the ashram—Jill soon uncovers a net of deception so tightly woven that every new round of interviews bares new secrets. Read full book review >
Released: May 31, 2001

Despite Dunlap's loyalty to California in her novels, variety is the keynote in these 17 reprints (1978-99). Continuity among the wide range of structures, tones, and settings is provided by four stories featuring Berkeley cop Jill Smith (Cop Out, 1997, etc.), one more starring La Jolla shamus Kiernan O'Shaughnessy (No Immunity, 1998, etc.), and two following the adventures of the Celestial Detective, who solves short mysteries from beyond the grave—strictly in accordance with California law. Read full book review >
COP OUT by Susan Dunlap
Released: May 1, 1997

Nine times now have we heard from Berkeley policewoman Jill Smith. Having in Sudden Exposure (1996) been busted to a beat cop after a stint as homicide detective, Jill continues to aggravate her boss and buddies by identifying with social outsiders. This time, local p.i. Herman Ott has disappeared with an unidentified stranger, leaving an equally unidentified unexplained dead body in his characteristically messy office. Mangy but moralistic Herman had had a secret for Jill that he reneged on telling. And now TV celebrity Brian Hemming, champion ``mediator'' between little guys and corporate interests on the eve of a career upgrade to D.C, has also been murdered by: 1) his assistant Roger Macalester, whose idea had been coopted? 2) his ex-wife Daisy Culligan, whose own career had been hung out to dry? 3) Brother Cyril, a cleric with attitude and the disgruntled recipient of Brian's services? 4) or Ott himself, who kept a likely murder weapon stashed in an unused flag-holder? Other questions: was bribery a factor, or chicanery vis-Ö-vis the artists' money fund Brian administered? Jill's case wheels in grinding circles as she winnows the ``old rad'' Berkeley culture to find the points where it impinges on corrupt careerism. Obsessed with a stubborn loyalty to absent Ott, she repeatedly disobeys orders until she pays the price. Solid and laden with local color, but lifeless. Whatever secrets Jill uncovers, Dunlap's real preoccupation is with her heroine's conflicted relationship with her cop life and lover, making this more of a sociologically enhanced soap opera than a mystery. Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1996

In an eighth outing, Jill Smith, the author's Berkeley-based policewoman (Time Expired, 1993, etc.), recently on Homicide detail, goes back to patrol duty when Detective Sergeant Brucker arrives from Sacramento and takes over her job. She's soon fielding complaints from Bryn Wiley, onetime Olympic team diver and owner of a fitness center called The Girls Team. Someone's been shooting out car windows in the driveway of the house in the hills she shares with her look-alike cousin and secretary Ellen Waller. Bryn accuses neighbor Sam Johnson, whose anarchistic leanings go way back. He's now married to Fanny, once another Olympic contender, now crippled. Sam has recently opened the Heat Exchange, in direct competition with The Girls Team. Vandalism escalates to murder when Ellen is found shot to death behind the wheel of Bryn's car. The case is complicated by Ellen's fabricated identity and by a connection to Bryn's other neighbor—Karl Pironnen, a recluse obsessed with dogs and chess. Jill, with crucial help from old friend and adversary Herman Ott, a local p.i., manages to bring the case to a close before Brucker even begins to get a handle on it. The author's affection for Berkeley's past and present eccentrics is clear. Most everything else here is a muddle— uncompelling motives, contrived plot twists, and Jill's interminable inner musings. Lots of fuss; no fire. Read full book review >
HIGH FALL by Susan Dunlap
Released: Sept. 9, 1994

Ten years after dying on a fiery Hollywood set in the ill- fated film Bad Companions, nonpareil stuntman Greg Gaige is back in the news. Lark Sondervoil, an unflappable 19-year-old stuntwoman, has mastered the Gaige Move, a fiendishly difficult gymnastic maneuver, and she invites the San Diego press to watch her segue from the Move to a high fall from a cliff in a new movie. But somebody moves Lark's starting marker, and she goes over the wrong cliff. Watching her are pathologist-shamus Kiernan O'Shaughnessy (Not Exactly a Brahmin, 1985, etc.), whose life Greg had touched briefly but decisively, and five of the people who were on the set the day Greg died: a jinxed second-unit director; a producer; a media liaison; a pesky studio brat; and the stuntman whom Greg had replaced in Bad Companions. Whodunit, how, and why? To find out, versatile Kiernan will masquerade as a union representative to crash the studio screening of the fatal rushes; sneak into the San Diego morgue for a freelance autopsy; and break into Lark's studio, only to run into the burglar who's already there. Along the way, there'll be such an engaging series of conversations, so many telling forensic details, and such a sure sense of the leading players that only the captious would complain about the disappointing revelations at the end. (Mystery Guild main selection; author tour) Read full book review >
DEADLY ALLIES II by Robert J. Randisi
Released: April 12, 1994

Following the Edgar-winning Deadly Allies: 11 pairs of stories on variously related themes (felonious spouses, con artists, the performing arts, etc.), half by members of the Private Eye Writers of America, half by Sisters in Crime. The product is a decidedly mixed bag. If the stories were all as good as the best of the bunch—S.J. Rozan's ``Film at Eleven'' and Benjamin Schultz's ``What Goes Around,'' professional tales of sting and countersting; Joan Hess' caustic ``Paper Trail,'' chronicling the gentle cross-plotting of a famous writer and her slavey; and ``Gentle Insanities,'' newcomer Christine Matthews' peek at a p.i.'s agonized private life—the anthology would be the bargain of the year. But most of the other big- name tenants—Marcia Muller, Jeremiah Healy, John Lutz, Max Allan Collins, Faye Kellerman, Loren D. Estleman, Marilyn Wallace, and both editors—have done better work elsewhere. Still: a generous double-helping from just the authors you'd want to have, even if they're holding less than a full house. Read full book review >
TIME EXPIRED by Susan Dunlap
Released: May 5, 1993

Berkeley's Homicide Detective Jill Smith (Death and Taxes, 1992, etc.) is the negotiator in a hostage threat, played out in a local canyon, that turns out to be phony but seems to be connected to a rash of mostly harmless practical jokes recently plaguing the hated cops of the parking-meter squad. Overlooking the canyon is a small nursing home where Jill, looking for clues to the joker, finds Madeleine Riordan, onetime hotshot lawyer, civil-rights activist, and police adversary. She's dying of cancer, sharing a cottage with frail patient Claire Wellington, and under the care of aide Michael Wennerhaver. Fending off Jill's questions, Madeleine asks her to return the next night. Jill does—only to find Madeleine dead, and not of natural causes. Where is her veterinary husband Herbert Timms through all this? Why have the pranks against the police taken on a vicious edge since Madeleine died? Who couldn't wait for her imminent death and why? A tense, surprising, last-minute confrontation answers the questions and tests Jill's skills and smarts to the max. Despite occasional sags and Jill's tiresome musings on Madeleine's psyche: an adroitly plotted, consistently interesting police procedural and one of the author's best. Read full book review >
DEATH AND TAXES by Susan Dunlap
Released: April 15, 1992

Homicide detective Jill Smith of Berkeley, California (A Dinner to Die For, etc.), has plenty of suspects after the murder of implacable IRS auditor Philip Drem—though his wife Victoria, her immune system shattered and living in one germless room, isn't one of them. Instead, Jill's efforts are focused on exercise guru Lyn Takai; Scookie Logan, whose flourishing business was axed by Drem; overaged hippie sculptor Mason Moon; and entrepreneur Ethan Simenon—all partners in the rundown Inspiration Hotel and all mercilessly pursued by Drem, as was flashy tax-accountant Rick Lamott. Jill's frenetic sleuthing is further muddled by her personal angst with boyfriend Howard, until a flabby sting operation finally nabs the killer. By this time, though, the audience may have departed, having decided that intricate tax scams make even less scintillating reading than their own 1040s. Dreary stuff. Read full book review >