Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Eat Him if You Like-Jean Teulé

Eat Him if You Like
Jean Teulé, Emily Phillips (translator)
Gallic, Oct 14 2014, $12.95
ISBN 9781906040390

In 1870, Beaussac, France Deputy Mayor Alain de Monéys soon will join the French army at the not so quiet eastern front in the war with Prussia.  However, today he plans to enjoy the day in spite of the unbearable August heat and the relentless drought.  Thus Alain rides his horse towards the Saint-Roch Fair in Hautefaye.  

He comes across his arrogant cousin Camille de Maillard, who mocks the Emperor and the Minister of War for their claim Berlin soon will fall as he points to the recent massacre loss at Reichsoffen and the need to retreat.  Someone in the angry patriotic crowd replies no retreat as the Prussians will fall just like the Austrians in Italy and the Russian in Crimea before.  As the crowd grows increasingly hostile accusing Camille of being a Prussian sympathizer, Alain intervenes explaining his cousin’s comment but terribly misconstrued.  Suddenly Alain’s friends and neighbors who he just exchanged salutations with pummel him before burning and eating him while the authorities fail to intervene.

Based on a real event that seems surreal, Eat Him if You Like is a cautionary historical novella that hooks the audience with how quickly a group of friends turn into vicious out of control monsters.  Mindful of Walter Van Tilburg Clark’s classic The Ox-Bow Incident with its thoughtful yet exciting look into the mob mentality when civil society breaks down.  This is not an easy read as friends and neighbors not only batter and lynch the victim, they roast and eat him.

Harriet Klausner

The Corpse With The Platinum Hair-Cathy Ace

The Corpse With The Platinum Hair
Cathy Ace
TouchWood Editions, Oct 14 2014, $14.95
ISBN: 9781771510875

On the Vegas Strip, Tsar! Casino and Hotel majority stockholder Miss Shirley invites several people to join her for dinner at the owner’s private dining room.  While enjoying the meal, the lights go out.  When the emergency lights turn on, hotel legal head Julie Pool screams in horror as she sees someone skewered with a Russian Saber Miss Shirley to her chair.  Attendee Professor Cait Morgan remarks to her boyfriend retired homicide detective Bud Anderson that wherever she goes corpse follow (see The Corpse with the Golden Nose and The Corpse with the Silver Tongue). 

Julie enters the codes to prevent a twelve hour security lockdown of the room as occurs when the lights go out; but her effort fails in spite of her doing it recently twice.  While LVPD cannot enter, Cait and Bud investigate the homicide and soon other deaths with several in the room having strong motives to kill Miss. Shirley.

The Corpse with the Platinum Hair is a classic-style (no CSI forensics available), yet modern day (brilliant use of an electronic shutdown) locked room whodunit.  As we meet the trapped suspects and the deceased through the inquiry by Cait and her sidekick, readers will relish this wonderful investigation by the dynamic Canadian couple. 

Harriet Klausner

Changing Michael-Jeff Schilling

Changing Michael
Jeff Schilling
Bancroft Press, Oct 15, 2014, $21.95
ISBN: 9781610881227

Alexander High School student Matthew is a hedonist who enjoys challenges as long as the adventure proves fun for him and avoids relegating him to the social outcast status of the bad weird lowlifes.  His brilliance lies in his ability to project friendship by faking interest while caring for only one person, himself; even his mom falls for his seemingly compassionate facade. 

While his friend and peer at the highest plateau in the teen hierarchy, Jack thinks he is crazy speaking to a nonentity; as an act of kindness Matthew decides to mentor Michael on being in and how to get others like parents to do your bidding as if it is their idea.  As Matthew befriends his subject’s estranged dad and younger half-sister Chrissy, his Changing Michael project seems helpless.

This is an intriguing teen character study of the changing relationship between a king of the hill BMOC and the beneath the food chain cesspool dweller.  Unlikable Matthew comes across as a poor cross between Bueller and Cher (of Clueless) because he lacks their good-natured charm; while Michael is cleverly captured as an apparent pathetic loser who looks forward to getting out of Alexander HS prison. 

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Falling Sky-Rajan Khanna

Falling Sky
Rajan Khanna
Pyr, Oct 7 2014, $17.00
ISBN 9781616149826

The Bug virus went pandemic leaving much of the surface of the world to its “victims” the Ferals.  Most of the dwindling non-plagued humans either reside in fortresses or live in the sky to avoid the Bug; which is easy to catch through the exchange of bodily fluids. 

Cherub airship scavenger Ben Gold supplements income with occasional taxying research scientists studying the disease until he refuses to transport them when they request the captivity of a Feral to conduct live experiments.  However, he likes one of them Meredith, so when pirates threaten her and her peers, Gold ignores for the first time his father’s rules of survival of the smartest in a hostile environs to especially take care of one’s self at all times.  He mounts a rescue only to lose his vessel to the brigands.  Thus with allies, Gold enters the pirate-controlled sky high city Gastown to retrieve the Cherub; only to learn his adversaries have a bigger agenda.

Falling Sky is an exhilarating timely post-apocalyptic thriller in which the Khanna world is desolate and antagonistic on the ground and not much better in the air.  The hero reluctantly gets involved with the scientists due to his attraction to Meredith and what he learns in the city.  Though the pace decelerates at times due to the deep descriptions of a world gone mad leading to tsunami societal survival changes to the once accepted norm; this remains a remarkable first act.

Harriet Klausner

Lamentation-Joe Clifford

Joe Clifford
Oceanview, Oct 7 2014, $25.95
ISBN 9781608091331

In the frigid weather near Lamentation Mountain, New Hampshire, Jay Porter clears out the two-hundred year old unheated farmhouse of recently deceased Ben Saunders while thinking back two decades to the tragedy that changed his life and that of his older brother Chris; the deaths of their parents when their car ended in Echo Lake.  Jay tries to finish the job so he can see his son Aiden before his former girlfriend Jenny puts the toddler to sleep. 

His boss Tom Gable informs Jay that Rob Turley wants to see him because Chris is being held at the Ashton Police Station.  Expecting the usual drug addicted village idiot scene, Turley explains Chris had a fight with his e-recycling Computer Solutions store partner Pete Naginis whose mama Betty says her son vanished soon afterward.  Losing his chance to see his child, Jay calls Jenny who rips him for once again putting up with Chris’ crap.  When Pete is found dead, the police suspect Chris; but he insists to his sibling he is innocent and a throwaway hard drive contains proof of wrong doing by a town icon who he believes either killed or arranged Pete’s homicide, and wants him disposed of too.  Jay assumes the drugs finally fried Chris’ brain.

Lamentation is a dark relationship crime drama starring an incredible protagonist struggling with a helpless depressed life in which his brother is the prime cause of his lament.  The keys to this riveting bleak storyline are the cast starting with Jay whose life has been flushed down the toilet by his constant cleaning up his addicted relative and the unexpected but realistic climax.  Not for everyone, Joe Clifford provides a powerful New Englander.

Harriet Klausner

Cattle Kate: A Mystery-Jana Bommersbach

Cattle Kate: A Mystery
Jana Bommersbach
Poisoned Pen, Oct 7 2014, $24.95
ISBN 9781464203022

On July 20, 1889 in the Wyoming Territory, a mob led by her accuser affluent rancher Albert J. Bothwell ignores Ella “Cattle Kate” Watson’s claims of innocence.  They lynch the almost thirty year old homesteader for rustling cattle.  As she dangles towards certain death, Ella tries not to die, but her efforts are hopeless unless someone intervenes, which increasingly is unlikely.

As she nears death, Ella thinks back to 1877 when her parents left Ontario for Kansas with a horde of kids including her.  Almost a decade later, she came to the Wyoming Territory where single women were welcomed.  She worked hard and married postmaster Jimmy Averell and soon afterward became a homesteader who alienated the big ranchers leading to a rope around her neck.

This is a tremendous biographical fiction that provides readers with an interesting glimpse at an “outlaw” never accused of any crime in what Jana Bommersbach argues is an injustice perpetrated by the rich and powerful.  The storyline opens with a gripping first scene and never let’s go of the captivated audience whether the plot occurs during the heroine’s childhood in Canada, the teen years on the Great Plains or as an adult in The Equality State.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Agent’s Surrender-Kimberly Van Meter

The Agent’s Surrender
Kimberly Van Meter
Harlequin Romantic Suspense, Oct 7 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373278916

In spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary CIA special skills officer Holden Archangelo rejects agent Jane Fallon’s contention that his dead twin brother Miko betrayed his country and murdered several people including his superior at the Department of Informational Development.  Holden insists his sibling would never commit treason or suicide. He claims to his Military Affairs Department boss Reed Harris that he has new evidence, but his supervisor says the matter is closed.  After Holden storms out, Jane and Reed chat and he agrees to give her one week with Archangelo as her sidekick to follow his alleged lead.

As they investigate the seemingly open-and-shut case that affirms Miko’s guilt, the pair finds an oddity that fails to fit the narrative.  As the two bickering agents fall in love, family matters drive each of them, but with radically different motives.  While the clock ticks, an unknown adversary observes their progress.

The lead pairing make for an enjoyable romantic suspense mostly due to Jane proving to be as tough, courageous and mouthy sarcastically humorous, if not more so, as her male partner is.  Following up on Moving Target and The Sniper, the action-packed inquiry grips the audience from the moment Harris teams them up and never lets up until the heroine mocks her beloved for entertaining another female in his apartment. 

Harriet Klausner