After his wife is stabbed to death during a bungled burglary attempt, Saginaw Park investment-broker Harvey Rozier asks that Sgt. Abe Lieberman be assigned to the case—even though Rozier murdered his wife himself and lives in fear that Lieberman will track down the hapless burglar who interrupted the killing. And he's not alone in his fear. While the witness, rabbity burglar and Sunday painter George (Pitty-Pitty) Patniks, hides under the covers from Rozier and the cops, Dr. Jacob Berry—the new Uptown Chicago police physician—cowers in his office with his illegal handgun, terrified of three teenagers who taunted him from a nearby el platform. And Lieberman's partner, Bill Hanrahan, who's bent on breaking Rozier's careful alibi, feels the heat from a Chinatown elder determined to keep him from marrying Iris Chen. The only comic relief comes on the home front, when Lieberman and his wife find their home invaded by a neighboring rabbi obsessed with buying the place now, right now, tonight. Another stellar performance, alight with menace and compassion; and if it's not up to the lonely heights of Lieberman's Day (1994), very few procedurals are. The biggest mystery: Why isn't this outstanding series, now in its fourth book, pulling in the vast audience abandoned by Harry Kemelman's Rabbi Small?

Pub Date: April 12, 1995

ISBN: 0-8050-2576-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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The moral overcomes the mystery in this sobering cautionary tale.


A hard-partying flight attendant runs afoul of Russian conspirators.

Cassandra Bowden, like her namesake, the prophetess who is never believed, has problems. A flight attendant since college, Cassie, now nearing 40, has a penchant for drinking to the blackout point and sleeping with strange men. On a flight to Dubai, while serving in first class, she flirts with hedge fund manager Alex Sokoloff, an American with Russian roots and oligarchic connections. She repairs to his hotel room, and during the drunken bacchanal that follows, Miranda, apparently a business acquaintance of Alex’s, visits with more vodka. The next morning Cassie wakes up next to Alex, who lies dead, his throat cut. She has blacked out much of the night, so although she’d grown rather fond of him, how can she be sure she didn’t kill him? Rushing back for the return flight, she decides not to disclose what happened, at least not until she's back home in New York City, where the justice system is arguably less draconian than in Dubai. At JFK, the FBI interviews the deplaning crew, and Cassie plays dumb. Unfortunately, her walk of shame through the hotel lobby was captured on security cam. Sporadically intercut with Cassie’s point of view is that of Elena, a Russian assassin for hire, who had presented herself as Miranda in Alex’s hotel room. After being thwarted by Cassie’s presence from executing Alex then, she returned to finish the job but decided not to make collateral damage of his passed-out bedmate, a bad call she must rectify per her sinister handler, Viktor. In the novel’s flabby midsection, Cassie continues to alternately binge-drink and regret the consequences as her lawyer, her union, and even the FBI struggle to protect her from herself. Although Bohjalian (The Sleepwalker, 2017, etc.) strives to render Cassie sympathetic, at times he can’t resist taking a judgmental stance toward her. As Cassie’s addiction becomes the primary focus, the intricate plotting required of an international thriller lags.

The moral overcomes the mystery in this sobering cautionary tale.

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-385-54241-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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By keeping the action limited to the college and its surrounding gossip network, James presents a sharply focused story that...


Murder on a college campus leads an informal investigator into interdepartmental drama that smacks of reality TV.

His longtime work in libraries has primed Charlie Harris (Six Cats a Slayin’, 2018, etc.) for lifelong learning. So when he has the opportunity to audit a class in the history of early medieval England at his alma mater, Athena College, Charlie jumps at the opportunity. He’s heard nothing but wonderful things about professor Carey Warriner, and the first day of class exceeds his expectations. There’s even another adult learner in the course, Dixie Belle Compton, who seems equal parts student and fashion plate. When Charlie chats briefly with Dr. Warriner after class, he overhears hints of some sort of conflict between the attractive professor and Dixie Belle. Not that it’s any of his business, but Charlie wonders how the two know each other outside class. Athena is apparently a hotbed of interdepartmental romantic scandals among the faculty. Although Dr. Warriner is married to a fellow professor, it’s possible that he’s been conducting himself with Dixie Belle on an informal basis. Charlie has a history of nosing his way into town gossip, so it’s natural for him to consult with his fellow Athenians about what might be going on, especially when Dixie Belle is killed before the second class meeting. Ably aided by large and ferociously friendly Maine Coon sidekick Diesel and his latest kitten addition, Ramses, Charlie uses his connections to separate fact from fiction. Will he be able to solve the case before the killer strikes again?

By keeping the action limited to the college and its surrounding gossip network, James presents a sharply focused story that celebrates the role of the armchair investigator and his informants.

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-451-49112-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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