Like his Owen Allison series (Stonewall Jackson’s Elbow, 2006, etc.), Billheimer’s new franchise emphasizes local color in...

FIELD OF SCHEMES

A sportswriter with a gambling problem tries to help a trainer escape indictment for steroid abuse.

Dale Loren used to be a major league pitcher. After he blew out his arm, he found work as a trainer for the Meckenburg Mammoths, Cleveland’s AAA team. Accustomed to free access to performance enhancement drugs that are now illegal, the minor leaguers pester Dale for steroids until finally, he mixes a concoction of cold cream, sunblock and lemon juice for hot prospect Sammy Tancredi. Whether it’s the weight training Dale insists on to explain Sammy’s bigger muscles or just a placebo effect, the young player’s hitting explodes, catapulting him into the majors. Once there, he tests positive for steroids and names Dale as his supplier, landing the trainer in the middle of a congressional probe of steroid use in baseball, with a grand jury indictment the next stop. Lloyd Keaton, who’s slammed U.S. Representative Bloodworth in his sports column for his fixation with steroids, sets out to find evidence to exonerate Loren. But after losing a huge bet to Little Bill Ellison’s West Virginia syndicate, Keaton finds himself in the crosshairs. And when Dave Bowers, a bookie who lost even bigger to Little Bill, is pushed down an elevator shaft in his wheelchair, Keaton knows that it’s just a matter of time before the West Virginia boys catch up to him, too. Can he find evidence to clear his pal before the syndicate cleans his clock?

Like his Owen Allison series (Stonewall Jackson’s Elbow, 2006, etc.), Billheimer’s new franchise emphasizes local color in small-town America as its heroes prove to be their own worst enemies.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4328-2617-8

Page Count: 380

Publisher: Five Star/Gale Cengage

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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A gritty, complicated heroine like Flora Dane deserves a better plot than this needlessly complicated story.

FIND HER

A kidnapping survivor–turned-vigilante tries to save another young woman while the police do everything they can to save them both.

Flora Dane might look unscathed but she’s permanently scarred from having been abducted while on spring break in Florida seven years earlier by Jacob Ness, a sadistic trucker who held her captive for 472 days, keeping her in a coffin for much of the time when he wasn't forcing her to have sex with him. Now back in Boston and schooled in self-defense, Flora is obsessed with kidnapped girls and the nature of survival, a topic she touches on a bit more than necessary in the many flashbacks to her time in captivity. Gardner (Crash & Burn, 2015, etc.) must walk a fine line in accurately evoking the horrors of Flora’s past ordeals without slipping into excessive descriptions of violence; she is not entirely successful. When Flora thwarts another kidnapping attempt by killing Devon Goulding, her would-be abductor, Gardner regular Sgt. Detective D.D. Warren’s interest is piqued even though she’s meant to be on restricted duty. Then Flora disappears for real, and Warren, along with Dr. Samuel Keynes, the FBI victim specialist from Flora's original kidnapping, fears it’s related to the kidnapping three months earlier of Stacey Summers, a case Flora followed closely. Gardner alternates between Warren’s investigation into Flora’s disappearance and Flora’s present-day hell at the hands of a new enemy, but the implausibility of the sheer number of kidnappings, among other things, strains credulity.

A gritty, complicated heroine like Flora Dane deserves a better plot than this needlessly complicated story.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-525-95457-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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Nearly as many recipes as Joy of Cooking, and about as much narrative.

COCONUT LAYER CAKE MURDER

A baker helps solve her sister’s boyfriend’s classmate’s murder.

Hannah Swensen is suffering from stress due to a trauma incurred in her last adventure (Chocolate Cream Pie Murder, 2019) but alluded to only in the most elliptical terms in her current entry. Hannah’s stepfather, Doc Knight, is adamant: She must leave at once for vacation. He sends Hannah and her mom off to California for a stress-free holiday helping Hannah’s college friend Lynne Larchmont pack up her palatial home and move back to Lake Eden, Minnesota, where Hannah’s shop, The Cookie Jar, provides sweet treats for all. A New York minute after she arrives in Los Angeles, Hannah receives a hysterical call from her sister, Michelle. Michelle’s boyfriend, Lonnie, is the main suspect in the murder of Darcy Hicks, an old friend from high school. Since Lonnie is one of Lake Eden’s handful of police detectives, everyone else on the force is deemed ineligible to conduct the investigation, leaving only amateur sleuth Hannah to crack the case. Hannah moves back in, platonically of course, with her old flame Norman Rhodes, since her Lake Eden condo was the scene of that unspecified trauma and her husband, Ross Barton, has disappeared, or died, or maybe killed somebody—it’s not quite clear which. Hannah begins her investigation by checking out Brian and Cassie Polinski, who were with Darcy and Lonnie at the Double Eagle, a dive bar, the night of her death. But it’s hard for her inquiry to build up any steam because almost every chapter ends with copious directions for making another nifty treat, complete with tips on which brands to use, advice about where to buy the ingredients, and little anecdotes about the people who feast on the finished products.

Nearly as many recipes as Joy of Cooking, and about as much narrative.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4967-1889-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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