Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Butterfly Waltz - Jane Tesh

Butterfly Waltz
Jane Tesh
Silver Leaf Books, Jun 15 2015, $17.95
ISBN: 9781609751241

Ambitious Galaxy News Weekly tabloid reporter Jake Brenner searches for the supernatural story that will make him famous and wealthy.  He knows his only hope at success resides with his best friend musician Desmond Fairweather, who seems to own a magical charm that ease people’s natural reluctance to strangers.  Jake blackmails Des to come with him to investigate talking flowers at the Snowden Estate in Maine in exchange for arranging an audition with the local symphony.

Upon arriving at their destination Jake feels immediately protective of vulnerable twentyish Christine Snowden.  Des plays a composition he wrote on their host’s piano; his music stirs hidden magical Kalida.  Attracted to the pianist, Kalida keeps her distance for fear that her former Legion compatriots will leave the Caverns to hunt her down and anyone she cherishes like this Des.

Butterfly Waltz is a charming romantic fantasy in which readers will believe the Lovin’ Spoonful is right in that the “magic’s in the music and the music’s in” (Des).  The beguiling romances lead the audience to anticipate two diverse confrontations: one on the human plane and the other on an esoteric supernatural level.

Harriet Klausner

Tipping the Valet: A Workplace Mystery - K.K. Beck

Tipping the Valet: A Workplace Mystery
K.K. Beck
Perseverance, Sep 9 2015, $15.95
ISBN 9781564745637

University of Washington student Tyler Benson works as the Lead Service Associate at Elite Valet.  The Seattle Account Manager for the Pittsburgh-based firm Jessica assigns Tyler to the top local account, the downtown exclusive Alba Restaurant for a one-night gala.

However, to his embarrassment, Tyler’s alcoholic dad makes an appearance at Alba’s properly dressed as a drunk in slippers.  At the same a mortified Tyler tries to get his father to leave; a drive-by shooting aimed at techie billionaire Scott Duckworth occurs.  Inadvertently Tyler finds a gun and a corpse in the trunk of a car in Alba’s parking lot.  Things turn odder to bewildered Tyler as cars are stolen, his dad seems to be part of a crime ring and he has no idea where Flavia Torcelli fits in the fiasco though he knows where he wants her to fit.  All that is tame compared to the SPD and the Russian Mafia targeting Tyler though he confused as to why him.

This amusing, frantic suspense is a zany student in peril that any moment seems on the verge of going over the top of Mt. Rainier, but K.K. Beck shows her talent by keeping the storyline focused.  Fans of madcap thrillers will relish the first Workplace Mystery as we root for the beleaguered valet to survive for another novel.

Harriet Klausner

Shakespeare No More - Tony Hays

Shakespeare No More
Tony Hays
Perseverance, Sep 9 2015, $15.95
ISBN 9781564745668

In 1616 Stratford, suffering from a horrific fever William Shakespeare nears death.  He summons his former BFF wool merchant and Stratford Corporation Constable Simon Sadler to his dying bed.  Shakespeare insists someone poisoned him.  Even if he believed the dying Bard, which he does not, Sadler hates him for sleeping with his wife. 

Physician John Hall believes his renowned but almost universally disliked father-in-law died from arsenic poisoning.  Hall convinces the constable that someone murdered Shakespeare.  However, though many Stratford residents including Sadler loathed Shakespeare, the constable diligently performs his duty and journeys to London because he thinks the killer resides there.  Attempts on his life confirm Sadler’s contention.

This excellent police procedural will thrill readers, but it is the early seventeenth century elements at Stratford and in King James court that makes this one of the best of historical novels of the year.  With a powerful cast, a sense of readers feeling we are in 1616 England and a fascinating mystery, Tony Hays (see The Arthurian Mysteries) authors a taut whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Cold Hearts - Sharon Sala

Cold Hearts
Sharon Sala
Mira, Aug 25 2015, $7.99
ISBN 9780778318309

In Mystic, West Virginia, Melissa Sherman takes her car to Paul Jackson’s garage for repair.  Paul muses to himself that he always liked Lissa who was his son Mack’s high school girlfriend; thus he stays open late to repair her vehicle.  After troubling auto parts dealer Freddie Miller to stay open so that he can get what he needs to do the job; Paul finishes the repair at eleven that evening.  Before he steps away from beneath the hydraulic lifted car; a friend enters the garage.  The newcomer releases the lift dumping Lissa’s car onto Paul. 

Mack comes home for his father’s funeral, but is stunned to learn that Lissa’s car killed him and that the lift was not broken; someone murdered his dad.  The police focus on a 1980 DUI tragedy as the motive since Paul is the second recent homicide victim (see Wild Hearts) with ties to that three-decade old vehicular accident.  At the same time, Mack and Lissa turn to each other for solace while each looks back to the miscarriage that ended their relationship.

The second entertaining Secrets And Lies romantic suspense uses the same theme as its predecessor: a modern day homicide police procedural tied to a cold case vehicular death and a contemporary second chance romance.  The storyline starts somewhat slow; but once the cast is set, rotating viewpoints between several players accelerates the plot into a tense hyperspeed mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Come Away With Me - Karma Brown

Come Away With Me
Karma Brown
Mira, Aug 25 2015, $14.95
ISBN 9780778318323

In a festive mood on Christmas Eve, Chicago newlyweds Tegan and Gabe Lawson look forward to the birth of their first child.  Gabe loses control of their car while driving over black ice.  Their unborn dies in the ensuing accident leaving extremely depressed Tegan blaming her husband for their loss.

Feeling guilty about their baby’s death; Gabe also worries about his beloved wife who threatens to end their marriage.  Believing reconnecting somewhat would ease their anguish and desperate to help his wife and himself; Gabe suggests they draw three locations from their “jar of spontaneity”.  Tegan wants to tell him to drop dead, but reluctantly agrees to visit Hawaii, Italy and Thailand. 

Come Away with Me is a fresh look at the impact on survivors from a personal tragedy.  The couple begins their journey stalled in the earlier phases of grief; as Karma Brown makes a profound argument that mourning a loss is customized and though a person moves on one never fully heals because you never fully forget.  This is a powerful emotional family drama.

Harriet Klausner

A Window Opens - Elisabeth Egan

A Window Opens
Elisabeth Egan
Simon & Schuster, Aug 25 2015, $26.00
ISBN: 9781501105432

Alice Pearse loves her life as a New Jerseyite wife, mother of three, dutiful daughter, year round dog walker, eternal children’s book fan, reading club member and part-time You magazine editor.  Her perfect world collapses when her husband Nicholas angrily tosses a laptop at the Manhattan legal firm where he works after failing to make partner.

Nicholas tries to put a positive spin to his unemployable situation in which no reputable firm will hire him after his “terrible twos” temper tandem when he explains to astonished, shocked Alice he always wanted to open his own practice, which he plans to do in the suburbs.  Realizing she needs full employment to pay the bills while her spouse struggles with his start-up, Alice catches a break when Genevieve Andrews hires at chic Scroll bookselling.  Initially her life looks even better than before her husband’s infantile meltdown, but her perfect job proves hellish instead and her mate turns increasingly to alcohol to numb his failures.

This witty, mirthful middle class satire mocks the American dream especially skewering the super suburban soccer-grizzly mom perception and the SCOTUS concept that as Mitt Romney states: “corporations are people”.  Although the pacing somewhat decelerates late in this fabulous family drama; since going full time employment while remaining full time (including on call) at home Alice (and her fans) feels like she fell through the rabbit hole.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, August 28, 2015

Feels Like Family - Sherryl Woods

Feels Like Family
Sherryl Woods
Mira, Aug 25 2015, $14.95
ISBN 9780778318408

In Serenity, South Carolina, she muses that perhaps it is seeing the happiness of her two best friends (see Maddie in Stealing Home and Dana Sue in A Slice Of Heaven) but divorce attorney Helen Decatur suddenly feels alone.  Her work always was enough, but now at forty two years old that reaction formation defense mechanism no longer works especially since her biological clock has abruptly set off alarms.  She decides to have a child, but has no one in her life to sire the infant.

If she was to choose, Helen would select pastry chef Erik Whitney as the father of her offspring.  The attraction between them is palpable as her buddies can sense it as well but he seems to ignore his feelings.  She begins a scheme to seduce the chef, but when she falls in love she realizes she wants to raise a family with him; Erik has personal reasons from his past to reject the love she offers that he so dearly craves.

This reprint of the 2007 third Sweet Magnolias tale is an enjoyable contemporary as series fans will delight in the often amusing witty repartee between Helen and Erik; who both have serious issues that surface while their relationship simmers before boiling.  The story line is entertaining due to the antics of the lead couple encouraged by Helen’s BFFs and their beloved mates. 

Harriet Klausner