Thursday, June 28, 2007

Summer--Karen Kingsbury

Karen Kingsbury
Tyndale, Aug 2007, $13.99
ISBN: 9780842387484

Newlyweds Dayne and Katy Matthews are enjoying their new status as much as they are teaming on a movie as he stars her with him in his next film so he can feel right about the love scenes. However, once they begin filming, the couple finds their euphoric Bloomington, Indiana existence exposed under the bright lights of Hollywood.

Ashley Baxter Blake was already in heaven when she learned she was pregnant; however she is even more elated that her best friend her sister Kari is also carrying. She dreams of their two children bonding beyond just being first cousins; she wants them to become buddies like she and Kari have been. However, Ashley’s doctor provides her distressing information about the fetus she carries that makes her reconsider everything she once believed in including God.

The latest Sunrise family drama tale continues the Baxter saga although a third subplot starring their neighbors the Flanagans somewhat progresses also. The subplots rotate lead, but each is character driven. Dayne and Katy find their marriage too exposed to the demands of the media who cannot let go of the small town Midwest girl finding love with the prince of Hollywood. Ashley and Kari struggle with pregnancies especially the joys and setback that occur. Finally Bailey Flanagan and her family’s border Cody Coleman begin to widen their friendship. As always in this fine series, it is the characters that matter.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Harlequin-Laurell K. Hamilton

The Harlequin
Laurell K. Hamilton
Berkley, June 2007, $25.95, 432 pp.
ISBN 0425217248

Vampire executioner Anita Blake never thought she would see the day that Malcolm, head of the vampire Church of Eternal Life, would come to see her for help. When he does, she thinks he wants to get her lover Jean-Claude, Master of St. Louis, to withdraw his order to have his congregation perform the blood oath. Instead he tells her that something powerful that he fears is watching him but that he can only dimly sense it though he won’t reveal any details to her.

When she tells Jean-Claude he mentally raises his shields so she can’t read his mind and tells her if she is lucky she will never have to know what Malcolm is talking about. That hope is shattered when someone gives Anita a white mask. When she tells Jean-Claude about the gift he is scared and tells her to meet him in his office at the club. While there someone mentally manipulates Anita, and some vampires and shifters that are in Jean-Claude’s office using amplified anger to start fights. Jean-Claude who has also received a white mask tells Anita that The Harlequin, the policing agent of the Vampire Council, are in town. They and their human servants and their animals to call are endowed with special powers from their creator. Jean-Claude thinks they are in town to observe Malcolm’s vampires but then they are attacked by these creatures that are breaking their own rules of only observe. An unforeseen betrayal leaves Anita, Jean-Claude and the werewolves vulnerable to attack but an unexpected ally joins the fray giving them the strength to battle their unbeatable foe.

Laurell K. Hamilton has written an exciting and action driven urban fantasy that has much less sex then her previous Blake novels. This means that the talented Ms. Hamilton has many more plotlines she fully develops that crisscross the main plot of the HARLEQUIN and add depth to the storyline. Anita is portrayed as a person more at peace with herself. She realizes there is nothing wrong with having several lovers and is overjoyed that she is gaining control of her powers. Though the Harlequin is a caricature of the evil vampire, readers will thoroughly enjoy this creative, spellbinding and provocative work.

Harriet Klausner

Familiar Stranger-Michele Hauf

Familiar Stranger-Michele Hauf
Silhouette Nocturne, Aug 2007, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373617685

When he was a child, Jack Harris received a glass gazing ball filled with magic; next he saw a cat turn into a pregnant woman who was about to be killed by a demon. Finally he threw the ball at the demon saving the woman.

Twenty-four years later he works in M-15. Recently a demon murdered his partner; Jack stopped believing demons existed years ago; now he knows first hand the truth. He is recruited by P-Cell, a division of M-15, to kill demons. While on a hunt, he meets Mersey Banes, a demon hunter too. However, unlike Jack she incarcerates them instead of slaying them as her organization, the Cadre, wants to know what and why this species is crossing into the human plane. They agree about many things, but neither wants to admit how much they care about the other although Jack feels queasy when he learns Mercy is a familliar, a bridge that enables the demons to enter our world and can shapeshift into a cat. One demon has dark plans for Jack and Mercy; however, each of his chosen ones is willing to give up eternity for the other to live.

This superb romantic urban fantasy will remind readers of a paranormal modernization of the “Gift of the Magi” as the lead couple is ready to sacrifice what they hold dear so that the other lives. Michele Hauf has an inventive take on demons in which some are good and others are evil. There are many interesting characters who should have their own story, but FAMILIAR STRANGER is owned by the lead couple.

Harriet Klausner

Damned-Lisa Childs

Damned-Lisa Childs
Silhouette Nocturne, Aug 2007, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373617692

She lives on the street using drugs and alcohol as subtenances to block out the voices of the sisters that she is not sure are real and the mother who was killed as a witch. She hides from the murderer who is looking for her who intends for her to die in order to absorb her power. These are not part of Irina’s psychosis. She, Ariel, and Elena are witches who see the dead and witness the future.

Donovan Rourke searches for Irina because he wants her charm before he kills her. However, she does not recall where she left it. Ariel and Elena seek to reunite with her so that together they can hunt their stalking killer. Their friend suspended police officer Ty McIntyre finds Irina and guards her as she lacks her charm; he learns he does not have to be abusive like his father as Irina brings out his best qualities.which is good because a confrontation is coming and they need peace within themselves tf they want to eliminate the enemy.

DAMNED is an exciting urban romantic fantasy that will appeal to readers of both genres. This bewitching tale centers on two downtrodden people who find each other at a time when each has a personal crisis although in Irina’s case hers is deadly. There is plenty of action as Donovan tries to kill Irina while Ty tries to keep her safe. The changing relationship between Irina and Ty enhance an exhilarating thriller in which love might not prove strong enough to defeat evil.

Harriet Klausner

Hurricane Moon-Alexis Glynn Latner

Hurricane Moon-Alexis Glynn Latner
PYR, Jul 2007, $15.00
ISBN: 9781591025450

Near the end of the twenty-first century man’s reign is through as “judgment day” has come to the dying earth after two horrendous centuries of abuse and neglect. Realizing that government had its chance but chose to ignore the problems for short term economic gain, the far thinking Aeon Foundation has been planning for escape velocity for quite some time; their objective is
to find a hospitable planet to colonize. Thus interstellar spaceship Aeon is filled with people of vision and hope seek a brave new world leaving the Earth to its final death.

However, the planners envisioned a relatively short trek, but instead over a millennium passed while everyone for the most part remained in a stasis state. When the Aeon finds two acceptable orbs near a moon; Planet Green abundant with plants but few animals and Planet Blue an oceanic stormy world, lead medical practitioner Catharin Gault realizes problems limit their choice; over time cocooning in stasis has altered the molecular structure of the colonists making the Planet Green unusable. The only hope resides with the last addition to the journey, a person she dislikes and distrusts molecular biologist Joseph Devreze, but chances of fulfilling the vision of the Aeon Foundations seems impossible.

The incredible layers of science are easily understood without dumbing down which makes this a great outer space thriller. Catharin and Joe are a fine pairing of two enemies who must find a way to save humanity while also fighting their attraction to one another. Readers will appreciate the escapades of the Aeon, but once again it is the science that will have fans soaring through the stars trekking with Alexis Glynn Latner’s excellent futuristic adventure.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 25, 2007

Lucinda, Darkly--Sunny

Lucinda, Darkly


Berkley, Aug 2007, $14.00

ISBN: 9780425214640

Lucinda was a Monere queen before she died, strong enough to make the transition to become a demon dead, who travels between hell and earth looking to return wayward demons to hell. Her mission is interrupted when she saves Stefan, a rogue Monere warrior who ran away from his queen. They share violence and pleasure while she drinks his blood.

Lucinda returns to Hell; where the de facto ruler her brother Halcyon tells her to find Nico the rogue Monere warrior and return him to his queen. When she catches up with Nico he puts up a good fight refusing to be killed by her or returned to his queen who kills her warriors when they become too strong, but he loses to her. She returns him to Mona Si Guiri who annoys Lucinda with her attitude. Nico is placed in silver chains making his powers useless and Lucinda is held in black chains. However the demon side of Lucinda rises and she defeats the queens and her warriors. She must return to Hell or fade into nothingness. Derek a former guardian tries to prevent her return to Hell even as she begins to build a male warrior following in Arizona.

This superb fast-paced urban fantasy in the tradition of Laurel K. Hamilton contains strong characterization that makes the Monere universe seems genuine. There is also plenty of sex and violence, at times together, but it is necessary elements interwoven into the story line. Although this is a stand alone side thriller, reading the previous Mona Lisa tales (see MONA LISA BLOSSOMING and MONA LISA AWAKENING) will make it easier to understand Sunny’s complex realm.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Someone to Love-Jude Deveraux

Someone to Love
Jude Deveraux
Atria, Aug 2007, $25.95
ISBN 9780743437165

In 2002 Jace Montgomery traveled to England on business; his fiancée, Stacy Evans joined him. However, they got into an argument and she walked out on him. He completed his work expecting both will cool down. Instead he learns that she committed suicide; her family insisted he caused it as she feared breaking off from him, a martinet.

Three years later, a still distraught Jace finds a note asking for a rendezvous the day before she died with a photo of Priory House in Margate, England. Jace needs the truth so he persuades his wealthy uncle to lend him the money to buy the ugly looking Priory House as Stacy killed herself in Margate. He keeps calm when he meets the ghost of Ann Stuart, who lived at Priory House there in the 1870s and committed suicide just before her wedding. He does not stay calm when he meets local reporter Nightingale “Nigh” Smythe, who joins him in his quest to find out what happened to Stacy and Ann, whom thinks was murdered just like he believes his fiancée was too.

Two romances enhance this delightful paranormal romantic suspense. The fast-paced story line grips the reader from the moment Jace encounters Ann and never slows down until the final explosive climax. Jude Deveraux provides sub-genre fans with a fabulous tale due to a strong cast of characters, living and dead.

Harriet Klausner

Malice-Robert K. Tannenbaum

Robert K. Tanenbaum
Atria, Aug 2007, $26.95
ISBN 9780743271196

At Beth Israel Hospital, New York District Attorney Butch Karp recovers from a gun shot wound inflicted by rival prosecutor Rachel Rachman. His wife Marlene Ciampi saved his life when she killed the assassin.

While Karp heals, he has too much time to think. He is proud of his sundry family members who thwarted a plot by late mayoral candidate Andrew Kane and al Qaeda operatives (see COUNTERPLAY). He knows Kane is dead and that scheme stopped, but someone had to provide information to the terrorist. That person would have to be at the highest levels of American government physical security circle, but who betrayed his country remains just outside Karp’s radar scope. Once released he plans to continue his investigation into the leak while Ciampi is in Idaho doing her part to tie up loose ends with an apparent related disappearance of a college student.

COUNTERPLAY was way over the top, but MALICE is over Mt. Everest as plausibility vanishes on page one and never returns. Even Ciampi recognizes how far over the edge the story line soars commenting about killing cartel machines to hide secrets. Although best to read COUNTERPLAY first as references to that tale abound in this directly related sequel, series fans will enjoy the escapades of Karp, Ciampi and daughter Lucy as they complete the anti-terrorist sweep started in their previous adventure.

Harriet Klausner

The First Commandment-Brad Thor

The First Commandment
Brad Thor
Atria, August 2007, $25.95
ISBN: 9781416543794

President Jack Rutledge authorizes a deal with terrorists. Although the American government leaders always insist they will never negotiate with terrorists even for the release of hostages, he secretly releases five hardcore known terrorists locked away at Guantomino as part of a deal to protect at risk children. In fairness his advisors told them they can keep this quintet under control with monitoring of the isotope they put in the blood of these killers.

The President’s advisors missed another slammed dunk when they lose sight of the fearsome five. Just under six months later, an assassin shoots Homeland Security agent Scot Harvath’s girlfriend Tracy Hastings (see TAKEDOWN), leaving her comatose and he furious as isotopic blood is found at the crime scene. Soon afterward, his mother is attacked by locusts and some friends of Harvath murdered. He knows someone is coming for him, through his loved ones. Harvath begins to make inquiries, but is told to stay out of it. Even before these incidents he knew the leadership saw him as an expendable renegade so he ignores the order to take no action against the person methodically destroying his loved ones.

TAKEDOWN is an exciting action-packed frightening thriller; THE FIRST COMMANDMENT is as exhilarating and action-packed, but even more frightening as the plausibility of the plot will not be questioned. Harvath is at his anguished best in this often violent tale as he is ordered to do nothing although his counter terrorist instincts are screaming to go on the offense. The return of several characters from previous books enhances the feel of the long term concept of the war against terrorism as Brad Thor raises the adrenalin with this terrific thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Heaven's Net Is Wide-Lian Hearn

Heaven's Net Is Wide
Lian Hearn
Riverhead, Aug 2007, $26.95
ISBN: 9781594489532

Otori Shigeru is the young heir to the powerful ruthless Otori clan. Yet in spite of growing up in an authoritarian pyramidal hierarchy, he understands that greater Japanese society and especially his clan venerate loyalty.

However, his lessons were also tempered as an adolescent when he observed how dishonorable some behaved; seditious backstabbing by his uncles and an assault from the Iida family to gain power. The culmination occurs when his uncles’ perfidy and the Iida betrayal lead to the deaths of thousands of Otori warriors at Yaeahara and the eradication of his family. He lives, but is heir to nothing as the Otori clan was exterminated. Although those who murdered his family want him dead so he symbolizes nothing, Shigeru survives with an inner fortitude made stronger with what he saw enhanced by a desire for retribution. He turns to his former mentor warrior-monk Matsuda Shingen for guidance and patience, and meets Lady Maruyama who keeps him human and more as she knows what he is going through as the Tohan destroyed much of what she held sacred. However, the hope for retribution might begin in a mountainous village …

The fifth Tales of the Otori is a brilliant novel that brings the beginning and the end to this great saga of Medieval Japan. The story line is a superb historical fantasy as the audience learns much of how Otori got to where he ends. Fans of the series will fully appreciate this great finish that is also the beginning as HEAVEN’S NET IS WIDE completes this non-linear epic saga with a sweeping winner.

Harriet Klausner

Settling Accounts: In At the Death-Harry Turtledove

Settling Accounts: In At the Death
Harry Turtledove
Del Rey, Jul 2007, $26.95
ISBN: 9780345492470

Confederates States of America Brigadier General Potter knows the war they began is over with their defeat although his superior George Patton thinks they can still turn it around; Patton’s last thrust fails to stem the invading tide. Atlanta, which survived the War of Succession, the Second Mexican War, and the Great War, is not much more than rubble as their “neighbors” to the north continually bombs the key southern cities while their armies advance with brutal efficiency. Potter sadly realizes he will soon see the death of the CSA.

The United States of America with the help of their German allies has won WWII. Eight decades ago the CSA forefathers set forth to create a new great nation after winning their independence from the Union; now the CSA is no more unless President Featherstone, who egoistically started the war, uses his last weapon of mass destruction, the uranium bomb. As Featherstone ponders his legacy to bomb or not to bomb, the winners claim the spoils with the beginnings of an abusive brutal occupation while local insurgents turn to suicidal car bombings to kill the outsiders; that in turn lead to even more atrocities. The Northern Army of occupation punishes anyone southern as the victors claim that God is on their side. There is a rationalized retaliation for the mistreatment of Negroes (even as blacks up north are treated as secondary citizens).

The tenth and apparently final book in the Settling Accounts alternate history saga is a fabulous conclusion to a great series. The story line is fast-paced throughout even with the various perspectives (a trademark of Harry Turtledove), but which ending will occur as Featherstone debates using the bomb. Fans of the series will marvel at the creative exciting conclusion, but also plead with Mr. Turtledove not to stop in the 1940s; as Occupied Canada, CSA, and Utah remain fervent hotbeds for another round into the Cold War era.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 22, 2007

Fuse of Armageddon- Sigmund Brouwer and Hank Hanegraaff

Fuse of Armageddon
Sigmund Brouwer and Hank Hanegraaff
Tyndale, Jul 2007, $19.99
ISBN 9781414310251

Las Vegas Homicide Detective Kate Penner investigates a murder by Hoover Dam; the evidence points towards hostage negotiator Mulvaney Quinn, who normally works Israeli-Palestinian issues. Kate travels to Israel to extradite Mulvaney back to Nevada.

However, once in country, Israeli intelligence requests Kate to allow Mulvaney to complete a critical but difficult hostage deal. She agrees to let him work out the release of an American evangelical pastor and twenty-nine loyal practitioners from a Palestinian group that threatens to kill all of them if their demands are not met. However, she insists that she accompany him so that he cannot use the negotiation to escape his return to the states. Neither is aware at this time of a more insidious plot that could fuse a holy war of Armageddon proportions throughout the entire Middle East and retaliations beyond.

FUSE OF ARMAGEDDON is an exhilarating suspense thriller that stars two likable heroes whose attraction is open, but controlled as to not intrude on the missions. The story line is action-packed while also tearing into the modern American evangelical movement that, like the Crusades, insists biblical Israel needs to belong to the Jews. Readers will appreciate this strong thriller and seek out the previous work of this fine writing team (see THE LAST DISCIPLE).

Harriet Klausner

Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Ravens of Avalon-Diana L. Paxson

Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Ravens of Avalon
Diana L. Paxson
Viking, Aug 2007, $25.95
ISBN 9780670038701

In 60 A.D. the Romans have arrived in full force. After some brutal fighting, a ceasefire is agreed upon, but neither side expects the hostilities to end. Meanwhile Druid priestess Lhiannon has a second reason of concern as her student’s Celtic princess Boudica marries Iceni High King Prasutagos. He sues for peace while his wife and her mentor demand war to drive the invaders from their shore.

When Prasutagos dies, the Roman legion rejects Queen Boudica as the island ruler. Instead they torture her and rape her daughters. Outraged by the vicious affront, Boudica vows to avenge the Roman atrocities. With the help of Lhiannon and other Druids bringing the power of the battle goddess to her side, Boudica forges a powerful army to assault the Roman legions.

The late great Marian Zimmer Bradley would be proud of this prequel to THE FOREST HOUSE, the first time she and Diana L. Paxson teamed up. The story line smoothly combines ancient history with fantasy elements to please fans of both authors. Readers of the delightful Avalon series will appreciate learning what occurred that led to the formation of the Society of the Ravens.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Sanctuary-Raymond Khoury

The Sanctuary
Raymond Khoury
Dutton, Aug 2007, $25.95, 448 pp.
ISBN: 9780525950295

In 1749 Naples at the height of the inquisition, the Prince of San Severo wants the knowledge that his prisoner has. During the fight, the prisoner escapes with the irate Prince in pursuit searching in various countries under various names for something that will change the world.

In 2003, in Al-Hillah in Iraq archeologist Evelyn Bishop finds a series of underground tunnel chambers and in one of them an ancient codex. On one cell wall is the Ouroboros, the snake that eats it self. She met and fell in love with Tom Webster and together they discovered it was a sanctuary for the Brethren of Purity. In 2006 in Lebanon, Farouk who worked with Evelyn in 2003 has the codex and wants to sell it to her so he can leave the country. Evelyn is kidnapped by someone who wants the codex; her daughter Mia with CIA agent Jim Corbrn tries to rescue her mother. The kidnapper wants the book at any price and the seller has them in a secure place. This mission is personnel because the sadistic scientist experimented with Hussein’s approval on men, women, and children in a horrible way to find something everyone wants to get their hands on, something that if let loose could change the world forever.

Raymond Khoury follows up his best seller THE LAST TEMPLAR with another exciting and exhilarating thriller THE SANCTUARY. There are several groups and individuals who want the formulae found in the codex and what makes this tale so fascinating is that readers are never sure, with the exception of Evelyn and Mia who the heroes and the villains are. This is an action oriented story but Mr. Khoury develops his characters so readers can either empathize with them or despise them.

Harriet Klausner

Up Close and Dangerous--Linda Howard

Up Close and Dangerous
Linda Howard
Ballantine, July 2007, $25.95, 352 pp.
ISBN: 9780345486523

Bailey Wingate was left in charge of her stepchildren’s funds when her husband died of cancer. She dreads the day each month she give them their stipend because Seth and Tamzin hate that she lives in their family house while they do not, and she is younger than them. Bailey is looking forward to her vacation, but unknown to her Seth called J&L Executive Air Limo to confirm when she is flying with them.

When Bret comes in sick, Cam refuses to let her pilot Bailey so he takes the charter even though he doesn’t like his passenger believing she was a trophy wife. When their plane crashes, both are injured but Bailey who is in better condition saves Cam’s life. They realize they are falling in love with one another but first they have to get to civilization because it doesn’t look like they are being rescued. Then they need to find proof that the plane was sabotaged as they both believe.

Linda Howard is one of the best romantic suspense authors writing today. The changing relationship between the protagonists is fascinating as they struggle for dominance in their self-rescue. Filled with non-stop action that enhances the lead couples’ shifting attitudes towards one another, readers will like both characters and despise the parasitic siblings who hate “begging” for what they consider their money.

Harriet Klausner

Romancing the West-Beth Ciotta

Romancing the West
Beth Ciotta
Medallion, Jul 2007, $6.99
ISBN 9781932815924

In 1878 in California, librarian Emily McBride lives a double life as a prim and proper preacher's daughter and as the author of somewhat heated romantic adventures. However, she is somewhat ashamed that she loves writing these tales. That is until someone apparently knows about her clandestine vocation and threatens to expose her. Emily worries how her parents, especially her father will react and even worse, her new friend, a literary poet, who would find her novels distasteful

President Hayes established his top secret pet project The Peacemaker Alliance (PMA) to bring law and order to the Wild West. PMA Acting Director Athens Garrett hires lawman Seth Wright to enforce the law by bringing outlaws to justice. However he is stunned and a bit chagrined when his boss assigns him to deliver his proposal to Emily in Napa Valley, and when she accepts bring her to him so he can marry her. Still Seth does the job only to find the bride thinks he is a poet and confesses to him that she is doing some illicit activity. Seth wants to escape this obvious staid lunatic until he finds suitors hounding her. He goes undercover as a dandy poet to insure Emily is safe but also to not ruin her reputation because he is falling in love with the book nut.

ROMANCING THE WEST is an entertaining late nineteenth century romance starring two likable seemingly opposites and an eccentric support cast. Emily is a terrific character whose “steamy” novels embarrass her yet she enjoys writing them; those books showcase how far society has changed with the modern day romance novels. Seth is a courageous soul who throughout wonders if becoming a PMA agent is his thing as first the bride escort assignment, then undercover as a poet, and finally falling in love with an author. Fans will enjoy his courtship.

Harriet Klausner

Something Bad-Richard Satterlie

Something Bad
Richard Satterlie
Medallion, Jul 2007, $6.99
ISBN 9781933836133

In 1982 in Boyston, Tri County, preadolescent Gabe Petersen enjoys stopping at the Catholic Church to confess to Father Costello although the lad is Lutheran. However, this time he witnesses a strange little man pulling out dead animals from a bag and placing them at the alter while Father stands nearby in a daze. Thibideaux notices Gabe; his Organization will not allow him to directly kill an innocent especially a child so he insures the kid forgets everything he observes.

In 2007, Thibideaux returns to the Tri-county area with rumors he is investigating the region for a possible interstate connector. When weird accidental deaths of families begin to occur with one under five years old survivor in each incident, Gabe begins to think Thibideaux is behind this somehow and starts to remember what happened twenty-five years ago. To obtain the truth and defeat the little man, he must travel outside the tri-County to Chicago to see catatonic Father Costello but Gabe has never been able to leave the area as he suffers horrific panic attacks. When the threat turns towards pregnant Deena Lee, Gabe knows he must overcome all his “phobias” for he will not allow anyone to harm the woman he loves.

SOMETHING BAD has come back to Boyston is an enticing thriller that will have the audience pondering how Thibideaux accomplishes his deeds and just who is the Organization that does not allow direct murder, but accepts indirect homicides. The story line is fast-paced with fascinating subplots like Gabe’s attraction to the married pregnant Deena Lee and the trio investigating Thibideaux. Although the Organization is not explained much beyond some field rules for its “recruiters”, fans will appreciate Richard Satterlie’s entertaining suspense filled tale.

Harriet Klausner

Play Dirty-Sandra Brown

Play Dirty
Sandra Brown
Simon and Schuster, August 2007, $26.95, 404 pp.
ISBN: 9780743289351

He was the starting quarterback star for the Dallas Cowboys until he was caught gambling, throwing a game and being involved with criminals. Griff Burkett was sent away for five years at a federal minimum security prison and when he got out he had nothing. Everything was sold to pay off the lawyers, fines and court costs and he had to take a junky apartment in a lousy neighborhood and accept handouts.

He is shocked when wealthy paraplegic Foster Speckman, who brought SunSouth Airline out of bankruptcy, offers to pay Griff $100,000 if he agrees to impregnate his wife Laura because he is sterile; $ 500,000 more when she becomes pregnant. A desperate Griff takes the job all the while knowing his archenemy Rodarte, who wants an in with the syndicate, is trying to take him down. When tragedy strikes, Griff is on the run only this time he has to find the one person who can prove his innocence otherwise he will be sent away for life.

Sandra Brown has written another exciting thriller, full of action and angst. The feelings that spring up between the two protagonists are always muted even when they have sex yet the audience feels the heat they generate even though neither wants to admit how they feel for one another. Griff is not the typical hero as he did commit some very serious crimes yet readers will have a soft spot for him because what happened to him could happen to anyone who was tempted like he was. Rodartee is a great villain who threatens or hurts anyone connected to the hero just because he wants to make lots of illegal money. PLAY DIRTY deservedly is going straight to the top of the best seller lists.

Harriet Klausner

True Light-Terri Blackstock

True Light
Terri Blackstock
Zondervan, June 2007, $14.99, 291 pp
ISBN 9780310257691

In May a supernova started emitting electromagnetic pulses which reached earth and shorted out everything electrical. In one day, mankind was thrust back into a pre electrical age. Housing developments like OakHollow banded together trading goods and services in an effort to survive and eventually the federal government conscripted mechanics, electricians, and scientists to create by hand radiation hardened material.

Evil still exists as is evidenced by the shooting of Zach Emory. The people of OakHollow blame Mark Green because his father was a convicted murderer and his brothers were also involved with pornography, stolen goods and murder. Two teens testified that Mark was in the area where Zach was shot even though he claims he was closer to town in another hunting area. He is arrested but during a jail break guards are killed and the sheriff critically wounded. Mark doesn’t go with the escapees but is released. He wants to prove his innocence and with the love of his life Deni Branning, a relentless reporter, they attempt to do just that although and the killers are closer than they know to them.

This is the third Restoration novel and this is the best book in the series to date. Each novel is built upon the previous one so the readers get to see the event, and the progress man makes in coping with it, but it also behooves the audience to read the previous thrillers (see LAST LIGHT and NIGHT LIGHT). Readers ascertain the practical necessity is the mother of invention treatise as how new ideas find practical uses in a society used to electricity and the luxuries that came with it. The great mystery enhances a fine tale as Terri Blackstock slowly reveals each clue so that readers feel they have a chance of finding out who the shooter is before the lead duo might identify the culprit.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Swapping Paint-Joyce and Jim Lavene

Swapping Paint
Joyce and Jim Lavene
Midnight Ink, May 2007, $12.95
ISBN: 0738710202

Glad and Ruby have a very good and happy marriage although he is a generation older than her. Glad retired as a detective from the Chicago PD and with his pension and sound investments has more than enough money to travel around the country following the NASCAR circuit.

They are in Concord, North Carolina to watch the Coke Cola 600 and attend the pre-event galas as her brother Bobby is one of the racers driving for the Massey team. A tragedy occurs when one of Massey’s other drivers Ricky Sanders is found dead in his racing car. Bobby is the prime suspect because he is the last known person to have sent he victim alive; his prints are on the murder weapon; and his racing outfit is stained with blood. On top of the already damning evidence is the family feud between the kin of Bobby and Ricky. The police charge Bobby with the homicide that his sister and brother-in-law firmly believe he did not do as he could not hurt a fly so they look to prove that he is innocent.

SWAPPING PAINT, told in the third person from the perspective of Glad, is a madcap comedic whodunit that engages the audience due to the antics of the lead duo as he gladly prefers to watch the goings-on while she takes the wheel at speeds that NASCAR drives envy. Thus Glad’s love for his take the hill spouse shines through, as he undertakes actions for her and only her. Fans of racing and mysteries will enjoy this speedy turn around the track as Joyce and Jim Lavene provide a superb racing thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Lost-Michelle Hancock

The Lost
Michelle Hancock
Midnight Ink, May 2007, $13.95
ISBN: 9780738710365

In December 2004, ninety-five years old Aldo Cecilio dies from cancer; his daughter Pia inherits his vast estate including his Cecilio Museum of Art and Antiquities in New Paltz, New York. Among his papers is an ancient document written in a language that Pia has no idea what it might be. She visits Columbia University where she seeks to meet brilliant ancient language graduate student Guy Coffee Daniels. She asks him to translate her father’s apparent Dead Sea scroll.

What Coffee translates crushes his spirit as the document is the gospel by Jesus. In it the Son of God claims to be actually the Devil’s disciple. Unable to cope, Coffee becomes a homeless street person carrying a sign John 13.16 instead of the usual 3.16 as this fallen student knows now “the population wants to be deceived, so let them be deceived” for deception is the root of evil. Pia searches for the lost Coffee and her scroll not realizing that he fears revealing the truth because devout believers like her would handle the great con worse than a cynic like him who became a street person once he learned the meaning of the word.

Readers will be hooked by the underlying premise of THE LOST and wonder how Pia will react if she catches up to Coffee and gets him to reveal what he learned that sent him into a mental tailspin. The story line is fast-paced although it contains some well written “required” action scenes that add suspense but also takes the audience away from the powerful thought provoking philosophical issues. Michelle Hancock’s tale is stupendous when the plot coaxes the audience to a paradigm switching pondering of the plausibility whether Jesus and company pulled off the greatest hoax in history and if true how the faithful and the non-believers would react.

Harriet Klausner

Dead Copy-Kit Frazier

Dead Copy
Kit Frazier
Midnight Ink, Jun 2007, $13.95
ISBN 073870959X

Twentyish Cauley “The Obituary Babe” MacKinnon wants to make it as a highly respected reporter. She feels being an obit writer is stuck in the muddy ooze underneath the lowest rung of the journalistic food chain ladder.

When her sometimes boyfriend FBI hunk, that is agent Tom Logan, asks her for a favor besides sharing the sheets, she agrees to help him on a witness protection case as long as he provides her with the SCOOP. He wants her to write and print a fake obituary for Wiley Ray Puckett; Tom wants to keep him safe until he testifies against the El Patron gang leader Selena Obregon. However, Wiley is murdered anyway and a dead canary left by Cauley as a warning to back off or her obit will be next. With her faithful companion at her side (that is Marlowe the dog not Tom the rat who told her to back off) Cauley, being a typical sweetened tea Texan searches for Wiley’s missing sister Faith.

Though the coincidence meter is way beyond the top metric of plausibility (then again this is in the Austin area), chick lit investigative readers will enjoy Cauley’s latest escapades to obtain a scoop so she can escape the dead letter office hopefully without her own obit written. The zany story line is fun to read if the audience ignores the doses of luck (more than the sugar her mom puts in the tea) that leads Cauley one heel at a time on her inquiry. Tom is always there at the right moment whether that is for some kissing or for some rescuing, sub-genre fans will laugh with the antics of the heroine of this lighthearted mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Cast In Secret-Michelle Sagara

Cast In Secret
Michelle Sagara
Luna, August 2007, $14.95, 521 pp.
ISBN 9780373802807

One person in Elantra who made it out of the fiefs, the outposts of poverty and hideouts for criminals, is Private Kaylin Neya. She works as a police officer in the division of the Hawks. Her boss is a Leontine; she wears the mark of Lord Nightshade, an immortal outcast Barrani. She is tutored by a dragon in human form because she has a magic nobody understands, one that can withstand a dragon’s breath or heal a dying patient.

While visiting the Keeper in his store because he reported a theft, he takes her to his garden at the center of his shop. There she sees the face of a bruised child in a pool of water and needs to find her as well as the missing artifact. However, first she must visit enclave of the Tha’alanii, telepathic and empathic mind readers who communicate among themselves with the antennae on their foreheads. A girl was kidnapped by a man who is telepathically deaf and she visits Lord Nightshade who gives her the identity of the person involved with the girl and the kidnapper. While she is working the three cases, she learns if she can’t retrieve the artifact, Elantra will be destroyed.

Elements of a police procedural and a fantasy tale are combined to create the electrifying and wondrous CAST IN SECRET. It is a magical tale where different sentient races live in the same area ruled by an imperial emperor who is an immortal dragon. The heroine learns and grows while seemingly (the reader’s delight) always in the midst of trouble and goes the long way in getting out of it. Fans will enjoy her spunk and élan as Kaylin keeps on ticking.

Harriet Klausner

Marriage for Meghan-Mary Ellis

Marriage for Meghan
Mary Ellis
Harvest House, Oct 1 2011, $13.99
ISBN: 9780736930109

In Shreve, Ohio, Mrs. Joanna Kauffman will soon have to leaver her position as the teacher at the Old Order District Amish School due to her pregnancy. Nineteen year old intelligent but immature Meghan Yost wants the job. However, the Elders including her father the bishop has doubts that flighty Meghan can control a class when she cannot control her own impulses. They decide to give her a chance when her older sister Catherine agrees to come home to serve as the head teacher with Meghan as her assistant while waiting for her betrothed Isaiah to complete school in Kentucky.

As the siblings learn on the job, Meghan alienates her best friend Jacob Schultz who wants to court her. Additionally someone vandalizes Amish property and the school is trashed, which leads Wayne County Englisher Sheriff Strickland and FBI Agent Mast to investigate the hate crimes.

The second Wayne County tale (see Abigail’s New Hope) is a wonderful look at the Amish culture as for instance the Bishop upsets his peers when he calls in the outsider to investigate the attacks and Meghan’s brothers turn the other cheek against an assault. The story line is character driven by Meghan but ably supported by her family, her former beau, the students and several Englisher. Although the villain’s motives are left passive, fans will enjoy the return visit to the Yost family.

Harriet Klausner

Critical-Robin CCook

Robin Cook
Putnam, Aug 2007, $25.95
ISBN 9780399154232

As required the recent infectious disease deaths are brought to the attention of the New York City Office of the Medical Examiner. Dr. Laurie Montgomery cannot help but notice that the abrupt significant jump in these types of deaths are limited to three Manhattan hospitals, all owned by Angels Healthcare. However, when her husband, ME colleague Dr. Jack Stapleton informs her he is undergoing knee surgery at one of the Angels Healthcare hospitals, Laurie becomes alarmed as the number of post procedural deaths by virulent staph infection becomes personal.

Meanwhile Angels Healthcare CEO Angela Dawson struggles with the same deadly issue that makes no sense unless a new pathogen somehow delivered by her staff between the three hospitals is the cause. She desperately seeks to resolve the issue as her firm is going Wall St. public to avoid bankruptcy; bad PR will kill the company even as her prime backer the Mafia will kill anyone who harms the health of their investment.

CRITICAL is the usual Robin Cook medical thriller filled with plenty of non-stop action and cleverly intermingled with health information especially about infectious disease in hospitals. . Fans of Mr. Cook will appreciate the return of Laurie and Jack stars of the entertaining CRISIS and MARKER. Although the mob link is an unneeded sidebar that adds to the body count, the medical master has cooked up another magnificent suspense thriller that will have the audience wondering about hospital stays.

Harriet Klausner

Capitol Offense-Mike Doogan

Capitol Offense
Mike Doogan
Putnam, Aug 2007, $25.95
ISBN: 9780399154317

Just under a decade ago in Juneau, he was considered one of Anchorage’s best police detectives; than a night of off duty drinking led to his shooting a twelve year old boy, who a witness claimed was unarmed. Convicted he spent seven years in prison with the end of his reputation. Freed early because the witness admitted he lied as the kid carried, he recently was exonerated, but his wife who stood by him during the trial and incarceration is divorcing him and the APD refuses to take him back. Fiftyish Nik Kane has become a private investigator.

His former boss Police Chief Jeffords hires him to find proof that Native Alaskan state legislator Matthew Hope did not kill the beautiful young assistant. All the circumstantial evidence points in his direction. As he begins to dig around the capital, his estranged son, working as a summer intern there, rejects any contact with him. Meanwhile someone wants Nik to stop his inquiry and that someone has arranged beatings of the sleuth and threatens more than just bodily harm. Nik knows he has frightened the person he assumes is the real culprit.

Juneau is a refreshing change as most Alaskan mysteries showcase the stark beauty of the state’s vast wilderness. The story line is fast-paced although the plot has been done many times before albeit in the Lower Forty-eight. Nik is an interesting acrimonious individual as he knows he needs to move past his bitterness but finds it impossible not to react with sarcasm and childish anger. Fans of Alaskan mysteries will enjoy his second escapade (see LOST ANGEL) even if he follows his gut more than the clues.

Harriet Klausner

High Noon-Nora Roberts

High Noon
Nora Roberts
Putnam, Jul 2007, $26.95
ISBN 0399154345

Savannah Police Lieutenant Phoebe MacNamara is the Georgia city’s top hostage negotiator. Her work is how she meets sports bar owner Duncan Swift when he observes her talk a leaper whom he just fired from jumping. Unable to resist this fascinating woman, Duncan romances her although Phoebe's family baggage, her young daughter and her agoraphobic mother causes difficulty in their relationship.

At the police station, someone assaults Phoebe; battering her after he or she put a hood over her head so she cannot identify who her attacker is. She is stunned as this is the last place she would expect anyone to be so brazen. She looking deep inside herself and remembers when she was a child and she and her family were terrorized by a dangerous intruder in their home. Phoebe refuses to back down and become a victim though she is very shook up. When the terror campaign continues with threats to her loved ones, the frustrated Phoebe decides to uncover the culprit so that she can get into his or her face before her fears of harm to her loved ones cripple her.

This is a one sitting action-packed thriller that grips the audience from the moment they meet the intrepid Phoebe and never slows down until the final confrontation with her unknown adversary. The entertaining cat and mouse police procedural story line is gripping because the beleaguered heroine is likable while her anonymous antagonist remains shadowy adding tension. Fans of Ms. Roberts or anyone who appreciates a tense HIGH NOON drama will want to read Ms. Roberts’ strong Savannah saga.

Harriet Klausner

Killer Weekend-Killer Weekend

Killer Weekend
Ridley Pearson
Putnam, Jul 2007, $24.95
ISBN 0399154078

Attorney General Elizabeth Shaler reflects back to eight years ago when she was a victim and almost killed when an intruder attacked her in her Sun Valley, Idaho vacation home. Only the efforts of a dedicated rookie cop Walt Fleming saved her life.

Walt’s excellent police work has been rewarded as he is the Sun Valley sheriff. However, he and his staff are preparing for a difficult weekend as Ms. Shaler, who is planning a run for the White House, has come to town to announce her intentions at an upper crust conference. Fleming is concerned that a hitman coming for Shaler has vanished off the radar screen when he should have been on the plane from Salt Lake City. Shaler’s security team and the zillionaire host scoff at Fleming’s paranoia; writing him off as a local rube trying to pretend he belongs with the big guys. Meanwhile assassin Milav Trevalian has usurped the identity of a Utah blind man he killed because he knows no one would expect a “blind” person to be the professional killer.

This is an exciting police procedural political thriller starring a likable dedicated hero who is treated with disdain by the “big boys and girls” and by his staff; one deputy believes the job should be his just like Fleming’s wife is apparently his. The motive why Trevalian’s employer wants Shaler dead is not provided with any depth, but most readers will not care as the action never stops. The audience will enjoy this fine tale starring an overworked sheriff struggling with a murder investigation, an animal cruelty case, the Shaler protection entanglement, and his ambitious treacherous deputy in what proves to be a lost KILLER WEEKEND.
Harriet Klausner

Eye of the Beholder-Eye of the Beholder

Eye of the Beholder
David Ellis
Putnam, July 2007, $24.95, 400 pp.
ISBN 0399154337

In the summer of 1989, six women were found in the basement near the maintenance lockers of Mansbury College. All the women were tortured and each died in a different manner ranging from strangulation to near decapitation. One of the victims, college student Ellie Danzinger had gotten a restraining order out against Terry Burgos, a part time handyman at the college. Whey they went to his home, they found enough evidence to convict him for five of the killings. The case of the sixth girl he killed Cassie Bentley, daughter to a mega-mogul billionaire was never tried to her father’s influence. In 1996, Terry is killed but his last words, cryptic though they might be, were to the prosecutor Paul Riley: “I am not the only one”.

In the present, a series of murders are linked to the killings in 1989. Paul Riley, now the head of mega powerful law firm, receives strange notes from the killer, has his finger prints on one of the victims and is forced into part of the new case with it evidence similar to the case that solidified his reputation. Looked upon from a fresh perspective with new information, Riley finds that the 1989 case didn’t reveal all its secrets and someone wants them to stay buried.

This is one of the most energizing and emotionally satisfying police procedurals of the year. David Ellis makes his characters come alive so that readers will either root for or detest them; no one will remain detached. There is plenty of action and the changing from the eighties to the nineties to the present is smooth so that the readers are never jarred out of the storyline. The protagonist as he ages from a man who sees life as black and white to a person who realize there are subtle greys has to make some decisions as he confronts his greatest success with the realization it is also his greatest failure.

Harriet Klausner

The Secret Servant-The Secret Servant

The Secret Servant
Daniel Silva
Putnam, July 2007, $25.95, 352 pp.
ISBN: 0399154221

Gabriel Allon, one of Israel’s most dangerous and brilliant operatives, is sent to Amsterdam on what is supposed to be a quick in and out mission. Dutch citizen Solomon has sent Israel good Intel for years and has made many enemies because of his his speaking out against Islamic fundamentalism. Now that he was killed Allon is supposed to look for his files and wipe away any connection between the dead man and Israel.

He meets one of Solomon’s informants, who tells Allon that Solomon was going to tell his handler that a terrorist cell was slipped into England and there would be an attack someplace in the country. Finding verification, he warns London but it is too late, the American ambassador’s daughter is kidnapped and bombs are exploded at a stop on the underground, at Piccadilly Circle, and other crowed places. The Sword of Allah is behind the kidnappings and al Qaeda is behind the bombings. The terrorists want to destabilize Mubarik’s regime where the martyrs were recruited so that a fundamentalist government could come into power. The Sword of Allah says it will exchange the hostage for the prisoner Sheik Abdullah dying from cancer in an American jail. Allon is the only one who has the ruthless qualities necessary to rescue the hostage but he has to evade capture and death from his many enemies.

As action thrillers go, THE SECRET SERVANT is one of the best to come along in the last year. Daniel Silva starts off at the speed of light and the plot only defies physics by accelerating. What sets this book apart is it has depth because the author shows by the actions of the characters why the Muslim fundamentalists feel like they do (similar to Congressman Ron Paul at the Republican debates), how governments cope with constantly being in a state of red alert and how the terrorists mold the minds of the youth generation after generation in hopes of reestablishing a Caliphate in the Mideast. Mr. Silva also shows why there is so much Muslim unrest in Europe. This is the thinking person’s thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Slummy Mummy-Fiona Neill

Slummy Mummy
Fiona Neill
Riverhead, Jul 2007, $24.95
ISBN: 9781594489440

After giving birth, Lucy Sweeney quits her job as a TV news producer to stay home to raise their child Sam. Her anally oriented “Husband on a Short Fuse” Tom supports her decision to be a stay at home mommy.

When Lucy made that decision nine years ago with the support of Tom, she did not have all the facts as the family oriented crowd glamorize raising a kid with a stay at home mummy make that mommy. She was unprepared for the chaos and the mess as no process she undertakes meets the mommy standard operating procedure metrics when it comes to her infant timing or when it comes to her infant eating and excrement tendencies. Once Sam was in school she thought she could regain part of her lost life, but his timing and his eating and excrement habits are still atrocious and she remains the centerfold for chaos theory. Now she also wonders about her two best friends; one is seeing a married man with four children while the other is balancing two hunks. Meanwhile as her spouse avoids domestic non-tranquility, she considers respites with the domesticated dad next door.

SLUMMY MUMMY is a funny anecdotal look at motherhood starring a beleaguered person who believes she is a prisoner of war. Lucy’s humorous observations will have readers agreeing with her. However, at times she flashes back to those first volunteer days of yore when she gave up being Lucy Sweeney to become a mummy mommy held hostage by a preadolescent; this can prove disjointing yet the audience will appreciate this zany look at Dads and Moms.

Harriet Klausner