Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Lady Be Good - Meredith Duran

Lady Be Good
Meredith Duran
Pocket Books, Jul 28 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9781476741376

In London, Viscount Kit Stratton worries about the lunatic threatening his loved ones.  This military hero believes Catherine Everleigh, co-owner with her brother Peter of Eveleigh’s Auction House, can lure the maniac into the open so that Kit can end the danger to his family. 

When Kit catches Everleigh Girl hostess Lilah Marshall stealing letters from her employer, he seizes an opportunity to catch the homicidal enemy.  Kit blackmails Lilah into helping him with his crusade.  Thus Lilah, who left her crime family kin behind four years ago, travels with her boss to Kit’s estate.  However, neither Kit nor Lilah expected to fall in love, which makes her the prime target of a psychopath. 

The latest Rules for the Reckless Victorian (see Fool Me Twice, That Scandalous Summer and E-novella Your Wicked Heart) is a thrilling romantic suspense filled with tension and a vibrant resilient lead couple.  The entertaining relationship hooks the audience as on the surface Lilah is from Venus and Kit from Mars, but readers know before the protagonists how much they actually have in common.  The merciless predator brings out the good and fear in the targeted prey as fans of historical novels anticipate High Noon in 1886 England.

Harriet Klausner

The Devils Seal - Peter Tremayne

The Devil's Seal
Peter Tremayne
Minotaur Books, Jul 28 2015, $26.99
ISBN: 9781250059727

In 671 Ireland, religious leaders are irate over the latest Papal decree of Rule of the Blessed Benedict.  They come to Cashel to debate over how to implement and more important ignore the dictate by the Council of Autun.  One of the attendees Anglo-Saxon Brother Egric survives a shipwreck that killed his three traveling companions.  He claims to be Brother Eadulf’s brother who the latter thought died years ago.

Before the divided discussion between the Irish and Anglo-Saxon delegates commences someone slices the throat of Saxon emissary Brother Cerdic; leaving his corpse in a position of prayer.  At Cashel, Mumen King Colgu assigns his sister (Eadulf’s wife) Sister Fidelma to investigate in hopes of preventing more homicides from occurring.  As she makes her inquiries, additional killings happen including Cill Naile steward Sister Dianaimh.

The silver anniversary Mysteries of Ancient Ireland (see Atonement of Blood) is an enjoyable medieval whodunit.  The fascinating focus on the various religious leaders’ reactions to the Papal decree anchors the novel in time and place.  Sister Fidelma’s intriguing investigation entertains the faithful, but the climax lacks the vigor of most entries (including this novel) in one of the consistently best historical series.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Death Chamber - Sarah Rayne

The Death Chamber
Sarah Rayne
Felony & Mayhem, Aug 7 2015, $14.95
ISBN: 9781631940507

In 1938, Dr. Walter Kane returns to Calvary Gaol for the first since he made the vow to his late dad, but as part of the staff.  .  Though he suffers doubts at times over a convict’s guilt, Walter diligently performs his execution duty even when a case haunts him.  In WWII, Walter joins the British military and after the hostilities end moves to Switzerland.

In the present, Walter's great granddaughter Georgina Grey knows nothing about his time at Calvary Gaol.  The Caradoc Society Secretary Vincent Meade informs her that her great grandfather donated to their paranormal cause and they will give her any money left after paying off debts.  This enables Georgina to flee a failed business and an ugly relationship with David the deserter to look first hand into her ancestor’s life especially when he served as the prison doctor.  Meanwhile a television show investigates abnormal energy at Calvary Gaol.  Neither Georgina nor the crew expected ghosts clamoring for their tale to be told and even worse the nasty clamoring to kill the living telling their tales.

Aptly titled, The Death Chamber is an action-packed paranormal epic.  The twisting ghost story starts off as a leisurely-paced historical starring Walter during WWI and WWII; but accelerates once his descendent and the ghostbusters arrive at Calvary Gaol to look into the past (except when Georgina to our chagrin reflects on David); unaware until it may be too late of the horrors that welcome them. 

Harriet Klausner

Possessed By The Fallen - Sharon Ashwood

Possessed By The Fallen
Sharon Ashwood
Harlequin Nocturne, Jul 1 2015, $5.75
ISBN: 9780373009497

Their peers at the Company of the Dead assume field agents Jessica Lark the fashion designing fey and Jack “Death” Anderson the vampire died fighting the forces of the dark.  Instead the former lovers must trust and rely on one another to enable the pivotal wedding between enemy kingdoms to occur.  Unable to move passed “fool me once, it's her fault, but fool me twice is my fault”; Jack has overwhelming doubts of teaming with the woman who stabbed him (see Possessed By A Warrior).

Their adversaries know that by preventing the marriage of Crown Prince Kyle of Vidon and Princess Amelie of Marcari, they keep alive the lethal status quo; while nuptials followed by an heir and a spare will cement an alliance the dark fey do not want.  However, the stakes intensify when the darkness abduct Princess Amelie.  More than ever Jack and Jessica need to unite to rescue the kidnapped royal.

The fourth Les Compagnie des Morts romantic fantasy is an engaging thriller in which much of the focus is on the dangerous rescue and the returns of doubting (with strong reasons) partners.  Like the previous three entries (see Possessed By An Immortal and Possessed By A Wolf), fast-paced but also highlighted by the dysfunctional relationship between Death and the designer Fey who betrayed him, readers once again feel possessed by Sharon Ashwood’s fabulous finish.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Embracing the Seasons: Memories of a Country Garden - Gunilla Norris

Embracing the Seasons: Memories of a Country Garden
Gunilla Norris
BlueBridge, Jun 9 2015, $14.95
ISBN: 9781629190051

At Gunilla Norris’ farmhouse, frogs announce in song the arrival of spring.  Song birds join nature’s choir celebrating the rebirthing of life with Joy to the World (Three Dog Night).  Moving forward through the months, the peonies need stakes to support them as they show that spring has given way to summer.  Displaying the warmth of this season vines grow, cicadas click and black snakes crawl until the months culminate in a harvest.  Fall takes center stage with colorful leaves depicting this quarter that climaxes with Thanksgiving.  Finally dark winter brings cold and stormy weather yet also the beauty of the sculptured naked ash trees.  Late in the season the thaw begins and wildflowers start to bloom reminding readers that the frogs and birds will sing their song of spring.

Gunilla Norris celebrates life through the cycle of the seasons in this poetic memoir; as the author offers an uplifting look at the joys she found in nature’s constant changes at a country garden.  Though similar in philosophy and method to Ms. Norris’ A Mystic Garden, fans of lyrical meditations will appreciate reflections on Embracing the Seasons and do likewise with our personal fond contemplations (like skiing and sleighing down the hills of the Bronx in the 1960s winters).

Harriet Klausner

Isolation: A Faye Longchamp Mystery - Mary Anna Evans

Isolation: A Faye Longchamp Mystery
Mary Anna Evans
Poisoned Pen, Aug 4 2015, $26.95
ISBN 9781464204043

On Joyeuse Island, Florida Joe Wolf Mantooth worries about the behavior of his archeologist wife, Faye Longchamp-Mantooth who seems very distracted grieving over what she recently lost.  Her only focus is digging holes on their property as she neglects everything important like her health and their business; and though he urgently tries to believe otherwise their children (two years old Michael and seventeen years old Amande) and him.  He knows their perceptive teen away at camp will soon realize something is not right with mom.

Joe’s former convict father Sly arrives at his son’s Gulf Coast home.  Soon after that Micco County Sheriff and environmental inspector Gerry Steinberg arrives with a team looking into a poisonous leak that poses a health threat.  Genealogist Delia Scarsdale, accompanied by Oscar Croft, come to the Mantooth home seeking information on the latter’s great-great-grandfather Union soldier Elias Croft and Faye’s great-great-grandmother Cally Stanton who allegedly held him prisoner.  Meanwhile the murder of bar and grill owner Liz Colton and assaults on other women frighten the residents.

The fantastic ninth Faye Longchamp mystery (see Rituals, Strangers and Plunder) captures series fans throughout; starting with Joe’s opening lament.  The environmental and murder subplots are top rate, but it is the 1935 Federal Writers’ Project to record oral history (in this case a fictional account of the legend of Cally Stanton) that steals the show.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Chorus of Innocents: A Sir Robert Carey Mystery - P.F. Chisholm

A Chorus of Innocents: A Sir Robert Carey Mystery
P.F. Chisholm
Poisoned Pen, Aug 4 2015, $26.95
ISBN 9781464204623

In the fall of 1592, Sir Robert Carey and his dedicated aide Land Sergeant Henry Dodd still recover from their ordeal of less than three weeks ago (see An Air of Treason); but no time for R&R.  They are in the dangerous borderlands between England and Scotland where feuds and changing allegiances are the norm.

At the same time in Wendron, two men invade a home and kill Minister James Burn before taking turns raping his eight-month pregnant wife Poppy.  After they leave her hysterical, crying all the way Poppy rides forty miles to Widdrington Castle seeking help from Lady Elizabeth Widdrington.  The two women travel together to Wendron where Elizabeth investigates the homicide-assault that has the border clans raging with accusations at each other with hostilities imminent.

The seventh Sir Robert Carey engrossing Elizabethan mystery (see A Famine of Horses and A Murder of Crows) is made fresh by placing Widdrington as the lead instead of the series star.  Her inquiry enables the audience to understand social strata from a female perspective with the rights of women and children in the ooze below the food chain; ironically in an era ruled by a powerful queen at the top of the pyramid.  Filled with action and an awesome climax, the intelligent heroine uses her brains to navigate in a male-only world.

Harriet Klausner