Monday, September 22, 2014

Fiction River: Past Crimes-Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Editors)

Fiction River: Past Crimes
Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Editors)
WMG Publications, Oct 1 2014, $15.99
www.wmgpublishinginc.com
ISBN: 9781561466061

“Stolen In Passing” by Dory Crowe.  In 1857, the slave catchers arrive at Cape Cod in pursuit of a runaway; unaware why here.

“New World Gambles” by Leah Cutter.  As the Canadian-Pacific is built, with a Tong connection Mei works tables in Victoria.

“The Bank Teller” by Jamie McNabb.  He left Puget Sound for five years, but in 1901 returns seeking revenge against those who shanghaied him.

“An Education For Thursday” by Dean Wesley Smith.  Arriving in Delamar, Idaho Angela seeks revenge against two rapists.

“The Curious Case Of The Ha’Penny Detective” by Lee Allred.  In 1923 on the Canadian Pacific, Drennen and Nevins discuss Professor Chase. 

“The Horns Of Hather” by Richard Quarry.  Decreeing all will worship Aten, the Pharaoh sends Chenzira to stop the Festival of Opet.

“Impressions” by Lisa Silverthorne.  In 1780s London, as a child he saw his first death mask; as an adult he hunts this serial killer.

“The Raiders” by Cat Rambo.  In 1858, he met the pickpocket in New York; they meet again as POWs in Andersonville.

“The Monster In Our Midst” by Kris Nelscott.  In 1918 Arkansas, Lureen sends a postcard depicting a lynching to Emerson in Atlanta.

“Blood And Lightning On The Newport Highway” by M. Elizabeth Castle.  The Revenuer returns to Knoxville with plans for the nearby moonshiners.

“Deathmobile” by Michelle Lang.  In 1977 Long Island, Mr. Deathmobile threatens Little Rocky and Tony. 

“The Stonewall Rat” by JC Andrijesdi.  Working for the mob, he and his partner seek the informer at the gay establishment when a kid arrives; soon afterward the police raid the place.

Meeting the exceptional quality of previous anthologies, this collection contains excellent Past Crimes short stories.


Harriet Klausner

The Goddess Of Small Victories-Yannick Grannec

The Goddess Of Small Victories
Yannick Grannec, Willard Wood (translator)
Other Press, Sep 9 2014, $26.95
ISBN 9781590516362

In 1980, the Institute for Advanced Study sends archivist Anna Roth to the Pine Run Retirement Home in Pennsylvania to persuade obstinate widow Adele Gödel to release the papers of her late husband, brilliant troubled mathematician Kurt.  Anna says she would like to catalogue the Nachlass so that those qualified can study it.  She also explains she reads the rarely used Gabelsberger shorthand; the style Kurt employed.

Adele tells the visitor how they met in Vienna and though several years older than Kurt with his mother’s reluctant approval they married.  When the Nazis annexed Austria, Kurt and Adele fled eventually arriving in America, but treated as enemy agents due to their accents.  While she did everything to make her disturbed mate’s life easier over the five decades together, for the first time Kurt, still distressed, found acceptance at Princeton because of his brilliant work.

This is an intriguing biographical fiction that focuses on the mentally tough widow and through her filter we see the great but mentally ill genius.  Although distracting from the fascinating main storyline, a well-written secondary subplot re the relationship between Adele and Anna further shows the strength of the older woman; as she encourages her visitor to be all she can be with what she wants out of life.  With real persona like Einstein; documented incidents (with footnotes) and events like the A-bombs and the Cold War to anchor time and place, readers will appreciate The Goddess Of Small Victories.


Harriet Klausner

The Language Of Silence-Peggy Webb

The Language Of Silence
Peggy Webb
Gallery Books, Sep 9 2014, $16.00
ISBN: 9781451684810

In 1976 in Tupelo, Mississippi, Ellen Blair fears her husband Wayne.  To the rest of the world Wayne is a charming businessman; but inside their home he is violent having sent his wife to the hospital with accidents caused by her clumsiness.  Knowing if she does not flee soon, her spouse will one day kill the child she carries. 

Her Great Aunt Ruth Gibson encourages her to leave town just like Ellen’s grandmother Lola did five decades earlier.  Lola joined the Great Giovanni Bros/ Hogan & Sandusky Circus as a star tiger tamer to escape family violence.  When Ellen gets to the Haven House shelter, Wayne greets her with a beating he disguises as a car accident.  Her mom offers no hope as Josie insists Wayne is a good husband if Ellen could learn the Language of Silence.  When Ruth is hospitalized in Arkansas, Ellen insists on going to the Ozarks while Wayne demands they stay home to greet his visiting Japanese client.  Leaving Tupelo, Ellen joins the same traveling circus as her grandmother did but as a teacher with her favorite student being mute Nicky.  Ruth welcomes her niece, but soon sees visions of irate Wayne coming for his runaway spouse.  With Lola’s help, the female relatives flee for their lives from a psychopathic husband.

The Language of Silence is a profound tale that looks deeply at spousal abuse during the “Stand By Your Man” at any cost even your life era.  Ironically, Wayne believes in the sanctuary of his vows enhanced by his fists.  Although the ending seems over the top of the trapeze wire, The Language Of Silence is a wonderful second chance at life if you take the risk.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sword of the Bright Lady-M.C. Planck

Sword of the Bright Lady
M.C. Planck
Pyr, Sep 9 2014, $18.00
ISBN 9781616149888

At first mechanical engineer Christopher Sinclair thought he was in some sort of weird dream with no electrical device anywhere and a dirty teenaged stranger named Helga sharing his bed instead of his wife.  He changes his mind about sleeping and assumes he was in a plane crash in a remote medieval part of Europe.  However, he soon realizes this is not Arizona, America or Switzerland; as somehow he “walked” into another realm.

Feeling lost and missing his spouse, Christopher begins to learn the rules of “physics” in his new world are based on tael death magic with the power hierarchy dependent on how much a person controls.  To initially survive in this war-ravaged dominion, Christopher pledges allegiance to the Goddess of Healing, the Bright Lady.  When Marcius the God of War offers the engineer a better deal he accepts performing the deity’s quests in return to going home.  Sinclair introduces a new type of magic based on guns and butter as he teaches commoners to forge steel to make weapons and household items.

Book One of The World Of Prime is a fantastic opening act in fantasy as a twenty-first century American engineer with contemporary inclusiveness ethics and a belief in physics falls through a rabbit hole into a medieval feudal land whose system is magic based and deity connected.  Much more Clark Kent than Superman, bewildered Christopher keeps the intense storyline focused by muddling through his new life as a fish out of water while dealing with enemies who relish the status quo and Doubting Thomas supporters.  He wants to go home, but the Gods refuse to give him ruby red slippers.


Harriet Klausner

A Death On Sunday-Tish Owen

A Death On Sunday
Tish Owen
Willow Tree Press/E.M.A. Mysteries, Jul 29 2014, $16.95
ISBN: 9781937778194

Maher Investigates sleuth Tessely Anne Marie Maher cherishes brunch with her extended family at her mommy’s home.  However, this time a long-distance shot is fired towards the house; Tess’ best friend Chick Donnelly falls out of a tree dead.  Near his body are drawings he made of his beloved Tess.

Although Chick’s death may have been a freakish hunting accident; Tess, her brother County Sheriff Connell Maher and their father the former sheriff believe a professional hit occurred though none of them can fathom why.  The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation sends Agents Lyle and Boyd to take charge of the homicide inquiry based on Chick’s alleged drug dealings.  They warn the Maher family to stay out of their case or face charges of interference in an official state investigation.  Firmly believing that grieving Tess murdered her lover over drug money, the TBI cops look nowhere else for the killer.  Knowing she will be railroaded, Tess, with help from her family and friends, stealthily conducts her own inquiry seeking a motive including Chick’s business, Donnelly Repair and Restoration.

Putting aside that a family of cops and a private eye fail to obtain a lawyer with TBI focused solely on Tess, A Death On Sunday is a terrific whodunit as the homicide is personal.  Mourning her loss, Tess’ chats with the late Chick feel genuine and add depth to an engaging investigation in which the heroine works around the Knoxville stereotyped obnoxious outsiders.


Harriet Klausner

The Front Seat Passenger-Pascal Garnierr

The Front Seat Passenger
Pascal Garnier, Jane Aitken (translator)
Gallic, Sep 9 2014, $13.95
ISBN 9781908313638

After visiting his père in Normandy, Fabien Delorme returns to Paris to an empty house.  He actually is pleased though surprised his wife Sylvie is not home as their relationship has drifted apart.  Fabien soon learns that Sylvie and her lover Martial Arnoult died in a car accident in Dijon.

Instead of grief, Fabien obsesses over his spouse having a secret lover she concealed from him.  In Dijon to identify Sylvie’s corpse, Fabien notices a woman do likewise with Arnoult’s body.  Obviously he concludes she is Arnoult’s widow, Martine.  Ironically in spite of her cuckolding him, Fabien misses Sylvie who kept him anchored.  Thus he decides since Arnoult stole his wife, he will do likewise with the other man’s widow.  Stalking Martine, Fabien becomes part of her life and that of her companion.

The latest Gallic translation of a Pascal Garnier suspenseful French middle class tragedy (see Moon in a Dead Eye, The Panda Theory and How’s the Pain?) is another superb dark surrealistic novella.  Character driven by an unlikable but realistic three degrees of separation quintet, readers will appreciate the impact on their respective mates by the deaths of The Front Seat Passenger and the driver.


Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Broken-Tracie L. Slatton

Broken
Tracie L. Slatton
Parvati Press, Sep 5 2014, $16.99
http://www.parvatipress.com
ISBN: 9780986061158

In 1939 earth time Alia mourns the loss of Ariel by leaving Heaven to take on mortal form just before Paris falls.  A self-anointed fallen angel, the hedonistic Alia insists she cares nothing about the beleaguered Broken Parisians and even less with the evil Nazi occupiers to come.

However, Alia enjoys sex with her sweet ferocious lover, half-Spaniard, half German Jew Pedro the bullfighter, whose father abandoned him and his mom in Spain while he was still in the womb.  Archangel Michael questions Alia why here when she knows the torment to follow.  She insists she did not lose her way; that God did by allowing this mad Führer loose on his so-called beloved mortals.  Michael reminds her she has one miracle to offer, he prays she wisely uses it.  As the war intensifies and unthinkable atrocities occur, Alia meets Josef the Jewish physicist, mathematician and violinist, and soon to be her lover.  As the years pass, Alia’s day of reckoning that Michael predicted finally arrives when she must choose between continual self-indulgence and sacrifice to save the lives of her friend Jewish widow Suzanne Dubois and her child Cecile.

Though the action is somewhat muted, Broken is a great philosophical WWII drama that focuses on a fallen angel who no longer believes God cares.  The key cast is fully-developed with diverse reactions to what is happening to the Jews and not just Hitler’s Final Solution as Josef learned in Antwerp and others in Cuba and America; while real persona like Sartre adds a powerful sense of time and place.  Tracie L. Slatton provides a profound look at religion during a crisis of faith in which even angels question whether God abandoned the flock.


Harriet Klausner