Saturday, May 31, 2008

Slightly Suburban-Wendy Markham

Slightly Suburban
Wendy Markham
Red Dress, Jul 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780373895618

No longer just SLIGHTLY MARRIED Tracey and Jack are happy together in New York City, albeit in a tiny apartment. However, Tracey feels they would have a nicer lifestyle if they left the Big Apple for a somewhat SLIGHTLY SUBURBAN locale especially since that would mean coming home to Jack and not his best buddy Mitch who seems to be more of a fixture in their lives then they are. Although Jack has doubts, he reluctantly agrees to their moving to Westchester County.

However, after mortgaging a fixer-upper, Tracey loses her copyrighting job at Blair Barnett Advertising so she stays home more. Once she begins to meet the suburban mommas, she finds herself not slightly but totally bored and wonders if she made an error as wants back to Manhattan.

Continuing her "Slightly" chick lit Tracey and Jack saga, Wendy Markham provides a refreshing tale in which grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Tracey is at her best as she moans, groans and laments city life and then suburban life. Any moment readers will expect her to sing the theme song to Green Acres although Westchester County is a very urbanized suburb. Fans will appreciate her coping not always well with issues at work, unemployment, family, and just fitting in as Ms. Markham provides an engaging look at an urbanite struggling with adjusting to life in the burbs.

Harriet Klausner

Sister's Choice-Emilie Richards

Sister's Choice
Emilie Richards
Mira, Jul 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780778325659

For years thanks to unhealthy childhoods and an age gap of just under a decade, sisters Jamie Dunkirk and Kendra Taylor never bonded until recently. They have become the sisters they always wanted to be, but feared becoming. Jamie and her two young daughters, Hannah and Alison, even move into a cabin on property owned by Kendra and her husband Isaac in the Shenandoah Valley.

Jamie, a graduate architect student, decides to repay Kendra’s kindness by drafting up the plans for the dream house her sister and Isaac desire. Looking forward to being an aunt, she also offers herself as a surrogate mother so that the dream house contains the child her sis and husband so desperately want but never had. However, builder Cash Rosslyn makes Jamie reconsider part two as she is falling in love.

This is an engaging family drama starring fully developed protagonists. The tension in the tale occurs when Cash enters the lives of the three Dunkirk females as each has differing opinions re his being part of their family dynamics. Emilie Richard’s provides an engaging contemporary tale of various types of relationship loves, but especially that between sisters.
Harriet Klausner

Oh Baby!-Judy Baer

Oh Baby!
Judy Baer
Steeple Hill, Jun 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780373786190

In the Twin Cities, doula birthing coach Molly Cassidy is in high demand by pregnant women and their mates. Most will say it is because of her caring personality that makes her a popular health provider.

Obstetrician Dr. Clay Reynolds has just moved to town three months ago from California and already has a strong practice at the Bradshaw medical Center. However, when he hears all the females and many of the men swear by Molly, he is outraged. He does not believe a non-medically trained person should be offering assistance to women. Clay admits to himself he is attracted to Molly, who shares his feelings. However, their dispute over the role of a doula coaching pregnant women threatens to end their relationship before it begins.

This is an engaging contemporary romance that focuses on two people adamantly disagreeing over the merits of a doula birth coach. The story line is fun to follow, but perhaps a bit too long as the prime debate loses some of its argumentative freshness to redundancy. Still with two fully developed caring people falling in love while arguing health care advice provided by a non-professional makes for an interesting look at what is acceptable health care at a time when costs are skyrocketing and American’s infant mortality rate is worse than that of Cuba.

Harriet Klausner

Stop Me-Brenda Novak

Stop Me
Brenda Novak
Mira, Jul 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780778324607

In a Sacramento mall, Jasmine “Jaz” Stratford opens a package and almost faints in shock when she sees what is inside it, the bracelet. She thinks back to sixteen years ago to Cleveland when she was twelve and made the bracelet as a birthday present to her eight years old sister Kimberly before the bearded tall man too her away. Kimberly was never found and her case went cold. Now the package postmarked from New Orleans also contains a strange note written in blood: “STOP ME”.

Jaz heads to New Orleans where she meets Romain Fornier, who four years ago killed the murderer of his then ten years old daughter. However Jaz believes, Romain did not kill his child’s murderer and that same person who kidnapped Kimberly years ago is still free, taunting and taking children. Although he doubts her theory that the monster lives Romain joins Jaz as they search to stop a serial pedophile killer.

The second Last Stand tale (see TRUST ME) is a dark thriller that keeps the romantic subplot for the most part in the background. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the package is opened and never slows down as Jaz and Romain work one clue at a time. The epilogue is perfect as it wraps up with the right touch to a grim realism. Readers will appreciate this deep dark tale in which love and a bit of jocularity are the only tiny spots of light in a gloomy environs.

Harriet Klausner

Moscow Rules-Daniel Silva

Moscow Rules
Daniel Silva
Putnam, Jul 2008, $26.95
ISBN: 9780399155017

Art restorer Alessio Vianelli also known in some secretive circles as Israeli master-spy Gabriel Allon is on his honeymoon with his second wife Chiara in Umbria when his friend and undercover associate Uzi Navot meets with him at an Assisi, Italy restaurant. Uzi, a senior official for the Israel secret intelligence service, informs Gabriel that Russian arms dealer Ivan Kharkov is selling weapons to al-Qaeda. The assumption is obvious that a planned major terrorist attack is forthcoming, but none of the western espionage agents knows which cell or where. Gabriel insists on investigating.

The tip came from inside Moscow as Ivan’s wife Elena warned the west. Gabriel believes she is the only avenue to who specifically her spouse is selling the weapons to; she must be recruited in order for her to obtain Kharkov's ledger sheet. Unknown to Gabriel and his associates is that the former Russian Colonel and his associates have grandiose schemes to return Russia to its Soviet Empire glory days and thanks to western, Chinese, and Indian thirst for oil, money is no longer an obstacle.

The Allon counterespionage series is one of the best spy thriller sagas on the market today; however his latest escapades in Moscow is fast-paced, but lacks the moral underpinnings that make the enemy seem human. Perhaps it is because MOSCOW RULES follows the fantastic THE SECRET SERVANT, which placed the spy thriller quality bar at stratospheric levels especially with the extraordinary explanation on how a person metamorphosis into a terrorist. In spite a shaky ending, Daniel Silva’s tale showcases a different no longer bleak Moscow in which oil money and America’s economic woes has made many think they can revisit and win the Cold War especially influential ruthless former military colonels.

Harriet Klausner

Shadows Return-Lynn Flewelling

Shadows Return
Lynn Flewelling
Bantam, Jul 2008, $7.50
ISBN: 9780553590081

Alec and Seregil have returned to their home base of Rhiminee, a Skalan city. Both look forward to some R&R as depraved drunken aristocrats. However, both know they are on call by their Queen Phoria who uses the duo as operatives so they can only get intoxicated so much.

Phoria informs her agents she has a job that is of the utmost immediate necessity. She wants them to return to Aurenen, Seregil’s hometown that they just returned from, to bring home her Highness’’ half-sister. Instead they are abducted and sold separately into slavery. Their hopes of rescue and freedom dim by the moment especially Alec, whose master experiments with his half-human/half-Aurenfaie slave.

The return to the Flewelling universe (see HIDDEN WARRIOR and THE BONE DOLL'S TWIN) is a winner as the two heroes struggle to survive in the alchemists’ world in which ethics are similar to that of royal espionage as anyone else is expendable because the pseudo scientists rationalize it for knowledge. Fans will appreciate their joint and separate escapades as Seregil and Alec, especially the latter are in deep trouble in this terrific fantasy thriller that can stand alone, but is enhanced by the other tales in the Skalan saga.

Harriet Klausner

Tower Hill-Sarah Pinborough

Tower Hill
Sarah Pinborough
Leisure, Jul 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843960525

In Maine college roommates Steve and Liz are excited to be accepted by Tower Hill as incoming freshmen. At the same time that the two students look forward to the semester, Jack arrives posing as Father O’Brien, a priest he killed with assistance from his friend Gray Kenyon, a teacher at the school.

These two psychopaths have come a long way from finding a chest filled with documents in a cave in Afghanistan. They seek two objects with Jack finding his first and then locating the red stone meant for Grey. As the duo becomes less human, they begin to change the townsfolk into zombies they control. Liz and Steve realize something ugly and supernatural is occurring in Tower Hill; they believe they must fight it, but have no idea what or how only why.

TOWER HILL focuses on the basic essences of human nature and supernatural evil; however Sarah Pinborough does this with a fascinating twist. The prime players are not the heroic somewhat stereotypical Liz and Steve; but instead the story line predominantly concentrates on Jack and Gray; readers know them better than their two student opponents. Thus paranormally caused evil has a human face with a deep look inside their rational thoughts that seem logically yet perverse as if a different value system motivates them. Fans will appreciate this strong horror thriller in which the malevolent duo owns the story line.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Fidelity Files-Jessica Brody

The Fidelity Files
Jessica Brody
St. Martin's, Jun 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780312375461

Everyone who knows Jennifer Hunter assumes she is a very successful financier or banker because her job title she uses is "fidelity inspector". However, Jennifer is actually an “undercover” agent using the operative name Ashlyn when a client hires her to test the loyalty and faithfulness of a significant other.

She has so many customers using her service, Jennifer for practical purposes do not exist; she spends more time in her alter ego role. When she successfully exposes a cheating spouse, he vows vengeance. Worse happens when she meets someone who makes her want to get out of the business of kiss-and-telling on philanders, but her recent experiences with one noted Chicago exception with men leaves her with some doubts.

THE FIDELITY FILES is an interesting intriguing tale starring a fascinating woman whose undercover job is exposing cheating husbands. The story line is fast-paced as the heroine and her Hawthorne team makes the rounds for their clients never running only power rush walking. Fans will relish the lead character as Ashlyn’s inquiries of the first encounter and Jennifer’s relationship issues with men starting with her sneaker clad dad make for an engaging read.

Harriet Klausner

Hot Property-Carly Phillips

Hot Property
Carly Phillips
Harlequin HQN, Jul 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 978037377336

In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Amy Stone is the activities director at a retirement community run by her mom. She loves the elderly clients, but feels the time has come to be with people her age. Her New York based Uncle Spencer Atkins offers her a position with his public relations firm, Hot Zone PR and Athletes Only, which she accepts.

Amy’s first client is New York Renegades’ star center fielder John Roper, who had a horrendous World Series somewhat caused by playing with a badly injured shoulder; they first meet at her cousin’s wedding. His high maintenance family demands he pamper them; while he wants his new PR administrator to take care of him personally.

The latest trip to the Hot Zone (see HOT ITEM, HOT STUFF and HOT NUMBER) is a fun look at a celebrity’s life style. As always in a Carly Philips’ HOT PROPERTY, the lead couple makes the tale. In this case, he has no time for romance, feels a need to pull a Floyd Patterson (after the Liston first fight) and wants to elude his out of control family. However, his new PR operative will not allow him to hide in the shadows or behind a mask. Fans will enjoy this lighthearted hot romance between them.

Harriet Klausner

Sweet Talk-Susan Mallery

Sweet Talk
Susan Mallery
Harlequin HQN, Jul 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780373772971

The Keyes sisters are estranged from one another or at least with Claire since their dad’s funeral several years ago. However, Jesse calls her sibling renowned pianist Claire to tell her Nicole is undergoing gallbladder surgery and will need help since she will be recuperating for six weeks and her bakery has apparently shut. Claire sees this as an opportunity to make up with her fraternal sis and agrees.

However, in Seattle, Claire learns that Jesse and Nicole are not talking to each other and that her ailing sibling does not want her here. Claire ignores Nicole’s protest. When Claire meets Nicole’s friend Wyatt Knight an attraction surfaces immediately. However, neither wants to pursue their desires because she is in town for Nicole so feels strongly she must reject any intrusions including a loving one and he has been burned in his previous relationships

The battling Keyes sisters are as dysfunctional siblings as one will find short of fratricide; each has what they perceive is a legitimate gripe against her siblings. In fact it is the interrelationships between the trio that is the key to this fine emotional tale. Even the romance between Claire and Wyatt, though well done, takes a back seat to the war as Nicole feels her close friend is betraying her by his attraction to her enemy sister. Susan Mallery provides a powerful passionate backdrop to a fine contemporary romance.

Harriet Klausner

Unmasked-Nicolas Cornick

Nicolas Cornick
Harlequin HQN, Jul 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780373773039

In 1805 the Home Secretary loudly orders Major Nick Falconer to investigate the murder of his odious cousin and to go to Yorkshire to destroy the infamous Glory Girls gang. Nick prefers to do neither, but immediately races off for Yorkshire before his superior rips more skin off his back.

In Yorkshire, Nick meets Widow Mari Osborne; whereas he swears they met in London on the same night his cousin died, she insists they never met before. A bit taken aback as he knows she has no twin or doppelganger, Nick concludes she is lying although he cannot fathom why. He decides to make her his priority as he is attracted to her, but he remains unaware that the two other cases his superior has made Nick’s will soon tie together through the woman he loves.

Robin "Hood-ettes" inside a regency romance make for a merry tale filled with suspense and murder. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that the government operative and the widow meet and never slows down as he investigates her secrets while she tries to nudge him onto false trails filled with red herrings. That passion called love makes for strange bedfellows as Nicolas Cornick provides an enjoyable historical cat and mouse tale.

Harriet Klausner

Hit and Run-Lawrence Block

Hit and Run
Lawrence Block
Morrow, Jul 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0060840900

Hit man John Keller is in Des Moines on what he had decided will be his last job; he does not need the money so he figures it is time to retire. With his tongs and the Scott’s stamp catalogue with him, John inspects a Norway Posthorn issue he needs for his collection and discusses Sweden with the dealer. However, while they negotiate, CNN shows the assassination of charismatic Ohio Governor Longford killed in Iowa.

Suddenly the country is looking for Keller. He flees Iowa heading for his apartment in New York City and to his assistant in White Plains. When he arrives in Manhattan, he finds his stamp collection stolen and the real killer stalking him to silence him permanently. Keller travels to New Orleans where he rescues Julia Roussard from a rapist. They are attracted to one another, but John knows he must first prove his innocence and take out the guy who framed him, or spend his remaining life on the run.

This is an exhilarating Hit Man thriller as Keller becomes the target of law enforcement when he is set up to take the fall of a high visible political assassination. The story line is fast-paced but filled with humor as Keller had been thinking retirement, but has a personal clean up to take care of. Fans will enjoy this strong thriller as the heat is on Keller.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Matter-Cameron Cruise

Dark Matter
Cameron Cruise
Mira, Jul 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780778325031

Westminster, California Police Detectives Stephen "Seven" Bushard and Erika Cabra investigate the murder of a teenage girl found by a triathlete in the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve near Huntington Beach. Seven thinks how he just recently taken his nephew fishing in this pristine locale defiled by a killer who probably raped the girl. Soon after they begin their inquiry, FBI agent Carin Barnes informs them that their victim probably is not the first murder by this perp; two other deaths are most likely from the same culprit.

The clues take Seven and Erika to psychic artist Gia Moon and her daughter Stella; both are having haunting dark visions. Meanwhile Stella tries to help her new friend from beyond with some issues only to become the focus of a serial killer. In trying to help the boy she's seeing, Stella places herself squarely in harm's way.

The paranormal police procedural returns the good guys from THE COLLECTOR in an exciting cat and mouse investigation. The villain in many ways in a few appearances steals the show as he will frighten the audience with his logical insanity. Fans of dark investigative thrillers with solid psychic and psycho support will appreciate this fast-paced tale.

Harriet Klausner

Boneyard-Michelle Gagnon

Michelle Gagnon'
Mira, Jul 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780778325390

FBI agent Kelly Jones is looking forward to her first vacation in years. However the workaholic is asked by Special Agent in Charge Gerald McLarty to delay her leave when skeletal remains are found on the Appalachian Trail. She heads to the Berkshires where more corpses have surfaced.

Because the bodies are spread around with many jurisdictions involved, a battling taskforce filled with plenty of local yokels, state, county and Feds is created. However as she ignores the locals, Kelly begins to piece together the common thread between the victims; all are young and gay. The other thing obvious is the serial killer has been murdering men for years and still is active. Private security chief Jake Riley arrives to help his beloved Kelly on the investigation, but she knows the hunk is the one distraction she needs to avoid as she TUNNELS through a nasty serial killer case in which the cops are roadblocks.

The return of FBI Agent Kelly Jones (see THE TUNNELS) MAKES FOR AN EXHILARATING POLICE PROCEDURAL as she struggles with the petty jealousies of the task force members who all want glory and know who they work for; which is not her. The storyline is fast-paced and filled with plenty of non-stop action as Kelly and company work the case. The support cast, especially the prime task force members, seems genuine and Jake adds to the pressure on the heroine; while the killer is more shadowy, which embellishes the overall effect. Michelle Gagnon provides an entertaining serial killer thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Darkest Pleasure-Gena Showalter

The Darkest Pleasure
Gena Showalter
Harlequin HQN, Jul 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780373773107

Reyes has known for millenniums that his immortal life is ugly as he hosts the demon Pain ever since he and dark warriors destroyed Pandora and released her box’s content. However, after all this time, he faces his most difficult dilemma. He wants Danika Ford like has never desired a woman before, but will have to kill his possessed long time comrade Aeron who contains the demon Wrath while the Titans demand he murder the woman.

Reyes has kept her alive from the crazed Aeron, but feels he failed his mission when Hunters capture her; probably to use as bait. He has avoided her, but now must risk his existence to save her life. However, he also wonders why the Gods need this woman and her family dead.

The latest Lords of the Underworlds saga (see THE DARKEST KISS and THE DARKEST NIGHT) is once again an extremely dark exciting tale in which Gena Showalter’s earth seems genuine. The hero is a fascinating brooding protagonist who for the first time since his fall has a sliver of hope although he does not know it as all he can see is battling Aeron to keep him from harming his courageous Danika yet struggles not to harm his long time friend. Though a stand alone, romantic fantasy fans who appreciate a modernization of ancient myths should read the previous two novels; not only are they excellent, they provide depths to this reading pleasure.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bobbie Faye's (Kinda, Sorta, Not-Exactly) Family Jewels

Bobbie Faye's (Kinda, Sorta, Not-Exactly) Family Jewels
Toni McGee Causey
St. Martin's, Jun 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780312354503

In Lake Charles, Louisiana Bobbie Faye Sumrall is tired of battling the universe as if the cosmos was her spouse. From the bank loan rejection just because she has been shot at making her a life risk to her job at the gun counter of the infamous CeCe’s Cajun Outfitter and Feng Shui Emporium, harassment is the norm. To top off Bobby Faye’s day in which she is her usual crazy, cranky, and cantankerous self, Francesca the diva cousin invades her space at work.

Francesca using the DNA connection as improbable it might seem demands Bobby Faye help her find the family jewels. Apparently, Francesca the drama queen insists her momma, Bobby Faye’s loving aunt, vanished taking diamonds with her that she stole from her adversarial husband who by the way purloined those from a dangerous criminal who wants them back or he will cut off that limb of the family tree. Bobby Faye knows the only way to rid herself of the pest is to do her bidding. With her boyfriend Trevor of the FBI and her childhood pal Cam the detective, Bobbie Faye begins the quest for the family jewels (the diamonds too).

This is a sort of Stephanie Plum reincarnation into a Bayou Babe as sassy, brassy and assy Bobbie Faye winds up in one predicament after another; several of those caused by family assistance. The story line is an amusing regional chick lit mystery that never slows down although somewhat overwhelmed by an eccentric cast out of the De Mille extravaganza. Fans of lighthearted farces will enjoy this fun tale and BOBBIE FAYE'S VERY (VERY, VERY, VERY) BAD DAY.

Harriet Klausner

The Blood Detective-Dan Waddell

The Blood Detective
Dan Waddell
St. Martin's, Jun 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0312378904

Scotland Yard hires genealogist Nigel Barnes as a consultant to their investigation into ghastly serial killings haunting London. The only link between the victims besides a gruesome death is each corpse is marked with "1A137".

Barnes follows up on the death number and soon realizes it is the number on the death certificate filed in 1879 for murder victim Albert Beck, who was stabbed to death in a churchyard. As he widens his historical search, he learns that Beck was one of the five victims allegedly murdered by the Kensington Killer; Eke Fairbairn was arrested as such, tried and executed. Further evidence seems to imply Eke was innocent and an apparent descendant is avenging his undeserved execution by executing relatives of the prosecution.

Although the climax seems implausible, readers will relish this strong police procedural with a fascinating lead character, who uses genealogy to uncover nineteenth century clues to a present day serial killer. The story line is fast-paced, but held together by Nigel as he begins to piece together the puzzle. He will remind the audience somewhat of Rhett McPherson’s Missouri genealogist Torie O'Shea. Fans will enjoy this fine English whodunit while looking forward to more such cases starring Nigel.

Harriet Klausner

Escape from Amsterdam-Barrie Sherwood

Escape from Amsterdam
Barrie Sherwood
St. Martin's, Jun 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 0312380402

University of Kyoto student Aozora Fujiwara has run up quite a gambling debt to local gangster Mr. Uno who runs an illegal mah-jongg parlor. However, his IOU may be covered because lucky for him his wealthy Auntie Okane died leaving him and his sister Mai with a large estate. However, a stipulation in his aunt’s will causes Aozora some concern; to collect his sister must be with him. She vanished from opera school.

While the yakuza mobsters seek to break some of his bones, Aozora searches for his sibling, whom he has not seen in over a year. Clues lead him to Amsterdam (Japan not Europe) where she is performing at the strange Dutch-themed amusement park home to the renowned "Harry Potterdam". However, even there Aozora runs into mobsters as local kingpin Gondo refuses to free the indentured Mai, who owes him; besides she does not want to leave her status as a princess entertaining his special clients here.

This is an engaging lighthearted farcical Noir look at the nastier side of Japan through the eyes of a beguiling rascal who can be summed up by his self deprecating observation that women see his penis as a lobster fest. Fans will appreciate his unwanted escapades as Aozora seems to cross thugs or bores everywhere even on the bullet train. Manga illustrations and photos augment this mellow young man’s run through the criminal gauntlet.

Harriet Klausner

I Shall Not Want-Julia Spencer-Fleming

I Shall Not Want
Julia Spencer-Fleming
St. Martin's, Jun 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0312334877

In Miller’s Kill, New York, Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson and Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne remain in shock over the death of his wife Linda (see ALL MORTAL FLESH). Out of respect for the dead and lingering guilt over their feelings for one another, though both remain strongly attracted to each other, Clare and Russ avoid one another.

Their grief and guilt are interrupted when an unknown vigilante team assaults a van loaded with Mexican migrant farm workers. Russ investigates the nasty incident with Clare assisting him as he believes her presence as a woman and a minister might enable him to get the migrant workers to open up; otherwise he faces a wall of silence as Mexican workers do not trust law enforcement in these times of harassment. Soon other Latinos are murdered; leaving the cop and the preacher to wonder if a war on foreigners has come to Upstate New York.

The latest Fergusson and Van Alstyne tale continues the complicated and convoluted relationship made exponentially even more complex by the haunting spectral memory of Linda; each feels they betrayed her by their feelings for one another. Although the plot takes improbable spins, the exciting look at foreign migrant workers is timely. Fans of the series will enjoy this character driven entry.

Harriet Klausner

Jaded-Karin Tabke

Karin Tabke
Pocket, Jun 17 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 1416564446

In Montrose in Silicon Valley, highly regarded men’s club Callahan’s changed ownership two months ago and consequently watered down the entry fee. It used to be old money, but now crass nouveau riche has changed the place into what is becoming a whore house instead of just female companionship.

Manager Jade Deveraux would quit if she did not need the money to support her sister Tina attending college. The latest affront is from Andrew Townsend who assumes she is a hooker. She warns him she will slice his balls off if he did not back away. The next morning a cop walking a beat finds Andrew’s corpse with his balls stuffed into his mouth; he asphyxiated on his maleness. Police Detective Jase Vaughn leads the inquiry, which takes him to Callahan and the enticing Jade. He and his partner Ricco Naza interview people and observe the activity especially when Otis Thibideaux from Louisiana accuses Jade of being trailer trash Ruby Leigh. Jase knows Jade is hiding something, but he believes it relates to Townsend’s murder instead of Bayou Country; however his biggest regret is that she is a hooker who he falling in love with.

This romantic police procedural is a terrific thriller starring two likable protagonists who neither want love in their respective lives, but cannot prevent the attraction. The story plays out on two subplots: first the whodunit and second what happened in Louisiana years ago. Fans will appreciate JADED even though the Silicon Valley serial killer and the motive are over the top of the Sierras.

Harriet Klausner

The Night Bird-Catherine Asaro

The Night Bird
Catherine Asaro
Luna, Jul 2008, $14.95
ISBN 9780373802685

Student mage Allegra was on her way to receive training when she was abducted by desert raiders who plan on selling her as a sex slave; her golden hair they assume will make them quite of bit of money. In Jazid, ruthless General Yargazon and outlawed Prince Regent Markus Onyx bid on Allegra; the latter wins the slave.

However, Allegra is not a docile native female willing to sit idly by while men do whatever they want to her. She intends on escaping but understands the difficulty in a society in which women are by law cattle.. As she plots her freedom, Alegra is attracted to her owner and him to her. However, her hope for escape relies on her untrained mage skills while the General sets in motion a scheme that will gain him power by plunging the region into a large scale war.

What makes this romantic fantasy spellbinding for fans of Catherine Asaro’s Lost Continent saga (see THE FIRE OPAL AND THE MISTED CLIFFS) is the incredibly deep look at the male dominated Jazid culture. Thus being a female makes it that much more difficult for Alegra to escape as being a woman means legally you just don’t wander around. Although the general is a stereotypical Macbeth-like antagonist with ambitions to be the ruling despot and no scruples, readers will enjoy the delightful taboo romance in a fantasy realm in which allies are apt to back stab you rather than watch your back.
Harriet Klausner

The Court of the Air-Stephen Hunt

The Court of the Air
Stephen Hunt
Tor, Jun 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765320421

Molly Templar is driving orphanage owner Beadle crazy because he wants to make a profit on her before she is freed next year; but the teen has been fired four times in four months. Desperate the Beadle apprentices her to a major employer of women, Damson Emma Fairburn owner of Fairburn and Jarndyce brothel. At her new employment location, Molly sees a brutal murder that scares her; she races back to the orphanage for safety, but instead finds a mass murder site; every orphan and some of the adults are dead. Molly flees again, but knows she has no haven as she was the target in both places because she has information that several people are plotting against the state.

Oliver Brooks was contented living with his merchant uncle until someone murdered his relative and framed the lad as the killer. Fey special agents try to kill Oliver to insure he cannot defend himself. A Court of the Air agent helps Oliver flee. When he and Molly meet, they team up to battle an ancient evil considered dead since it had not reappeared in a thousand years; defeated back then this malevolence now has strong cold-blooded partners.

THE COURT OF THE AIR places Charles Dickens like orphans in an exciting fantasy thriller. Readers will admire the unsinkable Molly who plans to make something of herself once she is freed of the Beadle; Oliver is the naive one as his uncle somewhat pampered him. On the run on the ground and in the air, they make a dynamic duo whose allies would sacrifice either of them in a heartbeat if they did not need him for their cause, preventing the return of nasty ancient gods. This is a fun fast paced frenzy as Molly and Oliver quickly learn to depend on one another as the good guys and the bad guys could not care less about the mean; only the end matters.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Maytrees-Annie Dillard

The Maytrees
Annie Dillard
Harper, Jun 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780061239540

Just after WW II ends in Provincetown on Cape Cod, wannabe thirtyish poet Toby Maytree and college student Lou Bigelow meet. Though an author, Toby struggles to get his tongue straight as he is unable to put together two coherent thoughts let alone sentences. Still she senses something deep inside his soul; they relish the dunes, fall in love and marry. A few years later they add a son Pete to their perfect family.

However, their idyllic life together ends when a cheating Toby leaves his wife and son to go be with his lover in Maine. Two decades later, a tragedy brings Toby and Lou together for the first time since he left his family behind. They poorly coped with his desertion. Feelings between the pair remains strong, but love proved weak the first time around.

The key to this fine family redemption drama is Annie Dillard avoids values pointing in order to make a “guilty” verdict re her flawed characters; instead she leaves that to readers to decide who failed at relationships and why. No action, this is a purely character driven tale of paradise lost and paradise regained maybe; as a wiser Toby, Lou and Pete finally understand life is a journey to death.

Harriet Klausner

Washington's Lady-Nancy Moser

Washington's Lady
Nancy Moser
Bethany House, Jun 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9780764205002

When her beloved Daniel died as well as two of their children, wealthy widow Martha Dandridge Custis vowed death would never mock her again. However, being affluent and young, many want to court her; none interest her. That is until she meets the French and Indian War Colonel George Washington, a shy warrior. She knows she has met her soulmate.

They marry and live in his Mount Vernon home. However, their life together is interrupted by war as George now a general leads the rebel forces against the mightiest army in the world; a side he once belong to. There are several years of separation and worry as Martha tries to hold the family together while George is at war. When they reunite, their love is stronger and helps them several years later when she becomes the first First Lady; but death will return to mock her once again.

As she has done with Jane Austen (see JUST JANE) and Nannerl Mozart (see MOZART’S SISTER), Nancy Moser provides a strong look at the first First Lady, who Washington insisted was “my other self”. Readers will see how deaths of loved ones shaped her adult life and helped her as the “mother of our country”. Biographical fiction fans and historical novel readers will appreciate this superb glimpse of WASHINGTON’S LADY, Martha.

Harriet Klausner

Trio-P.F. Kozak, Devyn Quinn, Jane Ledger

P.F. Kozak, Devyn Quinn, Jane Ledger
Kensington Aphrodisia, Jun 2008, $12.95
ISBN: 0758225318

“Hot Pepper” by P.F. Kozak. Pepper Kaufmann has just come home after a decade away. Back in high school, Butch Lorenzo was her soulmate while Ted Duncan was her best friend. This time she plans to taste both men.

“No Strings Attached” by Devyn Quinn. Exotic dancer Lara Green says yes to a chance to earn a million dollars if she spends a week at a mountain cabin as the sex toy of wealthy Nick Conway and his best friend Jared.

“Bring It On” by Jane Ledger. In an accident in which no one was hurt, Nancy Roman ran into her high school friend police officer Steve Karan and his partner Jack Ginnis. She decides to go for the men in (make that out) of uniform insisting she looks forward to doing both men with their birthday suits.

Not for everyone as the title is apropos with three entertaining ménage a trois tales. The triangles are set up reasonably well so that the erotic story lines do more than just heat the sheets. Fans who prefer something hot yet different will enjoy these women as it takes two men to satisfy them

Harriet Klausner

Damned, Delicious and Dangerous- Delilah Devlin, Lisa Renee Jones, Megan Kerans

Damned, Delicious and Dangerous
Delilah Devlin, Lisa Renee Jones, Megan Kerans
Kensington Aphrodisia, Jun 2008, $12.95
ISBN: 0758225504

“The Demon Lord’s Cloak” by Delilah Devlin. Voletta is the sacrifice left naked and tied for the fallen angel Damien to devour. However, instead of the usual fear he sees in the women dumped on him, she welcomes his touch.

“Night Sins” by Lisa Renee Jones. In Las Vegas, Ethan the vampire and Kayla the watcher know a relationship between them is taboo by both their species; however, neither can resist the lure of the other.

“The Devil’s Paradise” by Megan Kerans. Dash gave away his soul centuries ago leaving himself condemned for eternity until he meets wedding planner Justice who plans a gala at The Last Resort Hotel, but nothing is like she expected when she meets the soulless one.

These are three lighthearted paranormal exotic romances starring likable female humans who go after DAMNED, DELICIOUS AND DANGEROUS hunks with no fears in their hearts.

Harriet Klausner

Phantom in the Night-Sherrilyn Kenyon with Dianna Love

Phantom in the Night
Sherrilyn Kenyon with Dianna Love
Pocket, Jun 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9781416503576

Her partner was dead and she entered rehab to recover from the injuries, but Terri Mitchell also quit the DEA to join the Bureau of American Defense. Nathan Drake walked away as a field operative after learning his mom was undergoing chemo and his brother Jamie murdered after joining the Marseaux mob. This pair has never met, but shares much negativity in common as both fight internal demons and external foes.

Using guerilla tactics in New Orleans Nathan stalks the Marseaux mob; focusing on leaders especially of the drug ring. This PHANTOM IN THE NIGHT and Terri meet as she is working a personal case that takes a terrorist attack spin she hopes to prevent. They need each other to achieve their mission objectives and though neither will admit it even to themselves to mend their broken souls.

Both lead characters are bad to the bone as neither care one iota about law when doing field work involving deadly gangsters and deadlier terrorists. Whereas Nathan is an avenging assassin, Terri has her need for vengeance too. Fans will appreciate this over the top thriller and look forward to more works from this dynamic duo.

Harriet Klausner

Don't Tell a Soul-David Rosenfelt

Don't Tell a Soul
David Rosenfelt
St. Martin's, Jul 2008, $22.95
ISBN 9780312373955

Timothy Wallace still mourns the shocking death of his wife Maggie. It is not just her sudden death that has shaken Tim; it is also how she died. Several months ago, she died in a boat explosion on Long Island Sound in which he was the prime suspect in her death.

While getting drunk at a local dive on New Year's Eve, another intoxicated customer tells Tim a stunner re his late wife’s death. Tim is further stunned when he becomes the prime person of interest in a second woman’s suspicious death and the cops, especially Police Detective Jonathon Novack, looks closely at him again for Maggie’s death. Tim tries to ignore being the focus of Novack who believes the widower is a cold blooded murderer by concentrating on his successful security construction firm that is working on the development of Newark’s Federal Center; unaware others watch him and the work for odious reasons.
with a one sitting thriller with a dedicated stubborn cop looking at a widower who is looking at how a construction deal ties to his wife’s death.

Harriet Klausner

Black and White and Dead All Over-John Darnton

Black and White and Dead All Over
John Darnton
Knopf, Jul 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780307267528

The New York Globe is in deep trouble financially with ads and circulation dropping dramatically and consequently the stock price is falling. However, that is no reason for someone to murder odious assistant managing editor Theodore S. Ratnoff; whose corpse is found in an office of the paper.

NYPD Detective Priscilla Bollingsworth and Globe's investigative reporter Jude Hurley join forces to find the killer. The problem is almost everyone working at the Glove had the motive including Jude because Theodore took pleasure in humiliating anyone and everyone. The list expands as bad cops, a reporter accused of plagiarism and a disgraced by the deceased executive editor have motives and opportunities. The inquiry spins even uglier and more complex when a Globe’s gossip columnist and a food critic are killed.

BLACK AND WHITE AND DEAD ALL OVER is a wonderful whodunit in which the cleverly designed case and the news milieu make for powerful social observations on what and how get printed regardless of the medium. Priscilla and Jude are a fine pairing as their professions insure mutual distrust, but need each other to thoroughly investigate who likes to contribute to the obituary column. John Darnton provides a strong entertaining murder mystery with solid hooks at society’s hypercritical foibles.

Harriet Klausner

Null-A Continuum-John C. Wright

Null-A Continuum
John C. Wright
Tor, May 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765316295

Being a dual brained, Gilbert Gosseyn does not fear death because when he dies he wakes up in a new body with his previous lives recalled. However, what he does not know but wants to know are his origins, why the Chessplayer uses him like an expendable pawn, and who the woman is who visits him in his dreams is.

He investigates all three using his ability to telepath great distances with a thought. However, he has to put aside his personal inquiries when he learns of a plot to destroy Earth and Venus by diabolical Enro the clairvoyant dictator who wants to expand his vast empire. Enro’s prime ally is Gilbert’s previously unknown third brain.

This is clearly paying homage to the late great A.E. van Vogt and it pays for the reader to have read THE WORLD OF NULL-A and THE PLAYERS OF NULL-A to better understand the somewhat convoluted yet complex story line. The above reflects a small segment of all that is going on with detailed clarifications embellished by even deeper revelations. Though not easy to follow and no character even Gilbert hooks the reader as the dissertations supersede the players, Mr. van Vogt is smiling in science fiction heaven.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Front Porch Prophet-Raymond L. Atkins

The Front Porch Prophet
Raymond L. Atkins
Medallion, Jun 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781933836386

Sixty miles southwest of Chattanooga live one thousand souls in Sequoyah, Georgia. Two of them, A. J. Longstreet and Eugene Purdue have been best friends since childhood. However, the buddies fight over Eugene's Peter Pan lifestyle that irritates A.J. who insists he act like an adult. They go their separate ways.

Years later, A.J. is dying from terminal pancreatic cancer. He welcomes his childhood friend Eugene who has come to see him back into his life. They renew their friendship, but A.J. demands two things from his pal. First he needs Eugene’s help to visit his family, past and present, to learn what made him what he is. Second when the time comes, he wants no machine keeping him alive; instead he pleads with Eugene to end it for him Peter Pan is no longer in Neverland as mortality and euthanasia requires a grownup.

THE FRONT PORCH PROPHET is a deep poignant look at friendship in a small Georgia town. Humor is used to somewhat abate the tension of pending death with light touches like the local fire department’s inability to put out a fire or even names of the eccentric support cast. Fans will appreciate this insightful glimpse at life in the south where sipping Georgia ice tea on a cabin’s porch might be dangerous as anything can fall from the sky; just ask the cops.

Harriet Klausner

Highland Fire-Hannah Howell

Highland Fire
Hannah Howell
Zebra, Jun 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780821774298

In 1400 off the Northwest coast of Scotland, Moira Robertson recklessly risks her life to rescue her kidnapped cousin. She cannot help noticing the older man on board George Fraser, who stares at her when she thinks she does not notice and wonders about his secrets just like he does likewise about her. A sudden storm sweeps Moira and George overboard. They manage to make it to shore where she realizes his bulging stomach is gone and so is his gray. Elderly George is a hunk her age not thrice her age.

Tavig MacAlpin explains to Moira why he was disguised. He tells her he has been accused and convicted by Sir Ivor of a crime he did not commit; his sentence is the gallows. He seeks proof of his innocence, but the ransom to capture him allows for his death. As they help each other on their quests, they fall in love, but neither can look at the future as the present is filled with danger.

This is an engaging Scottish historical romance with a wee bit of the paranormal (she is a healer and he can see the future). The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down until the final confrontation. Although Moira can be a pain in the butt with her continual rejections of the hero’s declarations of love based on the Scottish superstitions that she might be evil (except when she heals someone with her touch), fans will enjoy Hannah Howell’s latest fun Highlander historical.
Harriet Klausner

Too Little, Too Late-Victoria Christopher Murray

Too Little, Too Late
Victoria Christopher Murray
Touchstone, Jun 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9781416552529

Although she has done plenty of wicked things in her life, Jasmine plans to remain faithful to her husband Reverend Hosea Bush. Cementing her vows to God and her spouse, she loves her husband and their child Jacqueline. Hosea not only loves his wife and accepted her child from another man as his; he proudly admires her transformation from sinner to strong believer in the Lord’s way.

The Bush trio has temporarily left New York for California where Jasmine finds her sinful shameful past testing her new Christian devotion. Not only is Jacqueline’s biological father Brian Lewis there with marital woes as his wife believes he is cheating probably with Jasmine; Hosea’s former fiancée, Natasia Redding is also there. She wants her man back and will do what it takes to steal his soul; Hosea struggles with the TEMPTATION of the flesh that Natasia offers. Not one to sit back, Jasmine muses that it is A SIN AND A SHAME, but God takes care of those who take care of themselves so she fights as only she can to keep her man.

Too Little Too Late is an excellent entry in the Jasmine Larson Bush Christian Lit saga; perhaps the best so far. The key is Hosea who proves humanly fallible as he finds himself filled with lust and willing to omit some truths from his wife. Fans will appreciate this fine tale as everyone seems to have gone full circle in a well written intense drama. That could lead to the unthinkable, two destroyed marriages.

Harriet Klausner

Nights in Black Leather-Noelle Mack

Nights in Black Leather
Noelle Mack
Kensington Aphrodisia, Jun 2008, $12.95
ISBN: 9780758221896

Lara Stone lives up to her surname as she leaves no stone unturned or untouched for that matter in her quest to clmb the corporate ladder. Thus when an opportunity arises, the ambitious at all cost Lara avidly agrees to be the corporate headquarters’ mole in their London office; she sees an opportunity to shortcut the climb to the top.

Lara leaves Chicago for England to spy on hedge fund magnate Adam Bowlin. However, she is stunned by the hunk she assumed was a playboy. Instead of clubbing he prefers nights in his chateau spent with the beautiful American as they explore together virtually and reality BDSM and more including her most secret desires. However, in daylight she fears how her beloved will react when he learns why she came to England.

This is an engaging erotic romance although too much emphasis is on the BDSM scenes and not on the lead couple outside of their sexual encounters. The story line hops from one BDSM scenario including virtual reality to another. Fans who prefer their hardcore to dominate the tale will relish the erotic moody blues of NIGHTS IN BLACK LEATHER.

Harriet Klausner

Peach Blossom Pavilion-Mingmei Yip

Peach Blossom Pavilion
Mingmei Yip
Kensington, May 27 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758220141

In 1918 China Xiang Xiang’s father Baba is accused of a crime, convicted, and executed; throughout he swore he was innocent; his crime was being righteous while “meddling in rich men’s business”. He left behind his beloved daughter and his wife, Xiang’s mom, but the disgrace forced the older female survivor to enter a Buddhist nunnery in Peking and to “sell” her daughter due to the machinations of a distant relative Fang Rong who conned the grieving widow.

With no options the teenage virgin enters the Peach Blossom Pavilion. Owners Fang Rong and Wu Qiang see the young girl as a valuable commodity as virgins sell well in a bidding war although the newcomer treats them like honored parents. Still Precious Orchid as she is now called hopes to earn enough money to leave and to one day learn who set up her beloved father. Over time with the help of her best friend Pearl, she adapts and soon becomes the most poplar courtesan. Richard Anderson for instance enjoys chatting with the intelligent Precious Orchid and also enjoys listening to her play a musical instrument. Ultimately he offers her marriage, but will tainted Precious Orchid say no thank you or will innocent Xiang say yes.

This is a fascinating historical biographical fiction that grips readers from the moment Xiang Xiang explains what happened to her parents and never slows down as she relates her life story to her granddaughter in California (and to the audience). The Chinese social system of the early twentieth century encourages avarice and corruption; something Precious quickly learns to manipulate for her personal gain. Her vow is not to repeat her father’s mistake of righteousness, but to use her innocence as a tool to live the good life paid for by the same affluent types who murdered her father. Fans will admire Xiang as she does what she has to do, not to just survive, but to live a luxurious pampered life; will she give it up for Richard?

Harriet Klausner

Bella-Lisa Samson

Lisa Samson
Thomas Nelson, May 2008, $14.99
ISBN: 9781595546081

In New York, Jose was once a famous Mexican soccer player, but since the tragic accident four years ago he is not the same person. His career and his social life died along with another person, whom he visits at the cemetery all the time. That is when he is not cooking at older brother Robert’s restaurant El Callejon.

Nina is a waitress at the restaurant. She and the boy next door law school student Ryan exchanged emails that led to drinks and action; now one week after a lonely twenty-fifth birthday, she spends time throwing up. Her life besides being pregnant is cheap videos and cheaper take-out.

Nina plans to get rid of the baby; Jose wants to help her anyway he can except support an abortion. Can these two lost souls help each other; Jose is determined that this is God’s test of him while Nina remains in denial except for morning sickness.

This is a well written novelization of the 2007 film. The story line is an entertaining contemporary drama starring two wounded warriors struggling with life. The support cast is powerful as the audience obtains a close look at a Mexican-American family. Fans of inspirational tales will appreciate BELLA as each of the lead couple sees the unborn in a different light; redemption or damnation.

Harriet Klausner

Medium of Murder-Susan Budavari and Suzanne Flaig(ed)

Medium of Murder
Edited by Susan Budavari and Suzanne Flaig
Red Coyote, $14.95
ISBN: 9780976673347

These eighteen murder paranormal mysteries turn McLuhan upside down as “The Medium is the Message” (by S.M Harding) with a wide connotation from the authors. The tales range from a connection to the sprit world with some fraudulent (“Dead Reckoning” by Gary Earl Ross) and some genuine (“Dead Even” by Frank Zafiro); while some tales focus on the hocus pocus of the mass media (iRomance by Gary Tolti Kinsman). Each tale is well written and entertaining with no clinkers in the anthology. By having some diversity in definition, the compilation becomes more fun to read as the audience does not know which track the writer takes. Personally I enjoyed all the entries, but my favorites are John Randall Williams’ avenging “Rose” by any other name is a killer, Kris Neri’s “Hocus-Pocus on Friday the 13th”, “Neither Rare nor Well Done” by Judy Starbuck. However, the best of this strong compilation in my opinion is the terrific twisting “Medium Risk” by Susan Budavari. All are solid tales as this collection runs the gamut of MEDIUM OF MURDER.

Harriet Klausner

The Aztec Heresy-Paul Christopher

The Aztec Heresy
Paul Christopher
Signet, Jul 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451224521

In 1521 the Nuestra Senora was carrying treasure meant for the Spanish Royals, but it was lost at sea during a storm. Also gone is the Codex, the guide to where Cortez stole the gold and jewels from the Mayans he conquered. He did this because he knew that if he went back with all the booty he would be excommunicated and declared a heretic. In 1962 two hydrogen bombs were dropped from planes over the Yucatan.

In the present, in the general archives of the Indies in Seville Spain, treasure hunters Finn Ryan and Lord Billy Pilgrim are looking for clues to the lost treasure ship. Their efforts lead them to an Israeli spy who tells them to go to a Frenchman who owns a bookstore. He informs them of the chronicles of the Codex and where the ship is located. It is held by psychotic drug dealer Guzman who makes a deal with pharmaceuticals businessman James Noble and his son Harrison. Guzman has the two bombs dropped over forty years ago and hopes to deal with his Cuban allies who want them. There is going to be a showdown on the Yucatan as different groups want the bombs, the treasure ship and the Codex; all tied to the man who would be King of Mexico Guzman.

THE AZTEC HERESY is an action-packed thriller with a persistent heroine mindful of Lara Croft. The scenarios are set up so that the escapades could easily be seen as a Caribbean movie (starring a female Indiana Jones). However, readers do not get to know the characters very well because the emphasis is on the adventures that keep on coming one after another. Readers who appreciate a fast-paced 200 proof action adventure thriller will want to read Paul Christopher’s engrossing epic.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 26, 2008

Leave It to Chance-Sherri Sand

Leave It to Chance
Sherri Sand
David C Cook, May 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9781434799883

Her mom calls Sierra Montgomery to tell her she just inherited an old horse from Miss Libby. Sierra explains to her mom that she is struggling to feed and shelter her three children so what is she going to do with a horse after losing her job and her ex philandering spouse’s child support checks bounce higher than a basketball. She hides the fact that horses frighten her

Although her kids want to take a Chance on the aptly named horse, Sierra decides she must sell the ancient steed. However, she fails to close the deal so her mom finds a place where Chance can stay and even buys his feed. The stable owner, landscaper Ross Morgan offers to buy Chance from Sierra, but something about the horse makes her hesitate especially since her oldest child raging Braden has found a friend in the horse and in Ross who becomes the father the lad desperately needs at this time. While Ross and Sierra are attracted to one another, both agree the kids come first, Chance second and then them.

This is an engaging inspirational family drama in which a mother and her three kids feel abandoned by God and a rat of a husband-father until Chance and then Ross come into their lives. The key to this enjoyable tale is the ensemble cast is full blooded with issues and doubts that make them seem real (can’t say human as Chance is quite a title character). Fans will appreciate Sherri Sand’s fine tale of a horse leading people to each other and back to God, who has time for everyone.

Harriet Klausner

Fool on the Hill-Morgan Hunt

Fool on the Hill
Morgan Hunt
Alyson Books, Apr 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9781593500276

Between being a breast cancer survivor and the serpentine murder attempt on her life (see STICKY FINGERS), Tess Camillo knows she has come a long way baby. The San Diego resident vows to live her life to the fullest and not let her fears get in her way.

Tess and her roommate Lana Maki attend the Gabrielle Leatheross concert; though they are more interested in hearing the opening act, 1980s fold rock star Cody Crowne perform. The next day Tess decides to relax in Torrey Pines States Preserve. When she hears ravens squawking she goes to investigate only to find a crucified Cody. After calling the police, Tess goes home and tells Lana what she saw, horrifying her roommate and her confidante Raj her Welsh Terrier owner. Unable to let the cops do their job, Tess and Lana feel a need to sleuth.

Putting aside the logic of two amateurs investigating a homicide of a celebrity stranger (let alone anyone), fans will appreciate this enjoyable whodunit. The story line is character driven by the unsinkable Tess who comes out of nasty incidents so much stronger. The mystery is fun especially a late twist as Tess and her Finnish friend compete with the cops and a killer willing to add two nosy females to the death list.

Harriet Klausner

Occupational Hazards-Jonathan Segura

Occupational Hazards
Jonathan Segura
Simon & Schuster, Jul 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9781416562917

Reporter Bernard Cockburn works the crime beat for the Omaha Weekly News-Telegraph; though in his late twenties, Bernard is already burned out with only alcohol and some questionable drugs enabling him to walk the mean streets of Omaha. His lover pregnant Allison demands he grow up by giving up the booze and drugs for the sake of their unborn, but so far that haze is the only thing that keeps him obstinately working; he detests her nagging and prefers she rid them of the fetus especially in light of all the sh*t they have used.

His current interest beyond the latest foolishness of Police Detective Dick, an apropos name if their ever was one, is a strange downtown land deal that smells of city kickbacks. His efforts to learn why LLC is buying decaying property meet roadblocks and official bureaucratic stalling; he struggles to even identify the group members. However everything turns dark when LLC board members die after he interrogates them; soon Bernard links their homicides to a vigilante neighborhood watch cleansing the streets brutally and lethally of drug and sex traffickers.

Bernard is not likeable; in fact he is reprehensible with his irresponsible and uncaring nature. However, in spite of his only desire being the next hazy high, readers will appreciate this antihero whose asides are poignant from a negative outlook. His dissertation on motive is on target as befitting a depraved cynic who feels there is nothing a person will not do. The inquiry is fun to follow as Bernard stays in character with his dirty purple haze outlooks throughout while walking the streets of Omaha and while fighting with Alison over the rug rat growing inside her. Not for everyone, purebred urban noir fans will welcome this unwelcome protagonist.

Harriet Klausner

Chasing Darkness-Robert Crais

Chasing Darkness
Robert Crais
Simon & Schuster, Jul 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9780743281645

The forest fire remains out of control so police are evacuating homes in the blaze’s path in Laurel Canyon. In one of the houses the cops find the corpse of Lionel Byrd; he apparently committed suicide.

When Los Angeles private investigator Elvis Cole learns of the death, he is stunned and filled with remorse. Three years earlier, Byrd was accused of a homicide; working for the defense, Cole found proof that his client was innocent; the charges were dropped. However, recently new evidence has been found that strongly implies Byrd committed that murder, four known others before being caught and at least two more since Cole found the prof that freed him. Wracked by guilt for those who died perhaps by his actions, Cole investigates determined to learn whether he was duped, erred, or was right three years ago.

Returning to Cole after his partner Joe Pike starred in THE WATCHMAN, fans of the series will see a different hero as he is obstinately determined to learn the truth; thus there are less amusing asides than usual and few scenes with friends; the plot fits the tone of his demeanor, as Cole suffers from crippling guilt. The story line is fast-paced from the onset, filled with plenty of action, and plausible but powerful twists and red herrings. CHASING DARKNESS is a strong tale as a more introspective Cole than ever before battles personal demons.

Harriet Klausner

Mission Canyon-Meg Gardiner

Mission Canyon
Meg Gardiner
Obsidian, Jul 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451224729

Evan Delaney is on his way to a society function to serve a summons on Cal Diamond, who is dressed as Zorro. Her mission fails when she sees there are two Zorro's at the event and she has no way of distinguishing them. Frustrated she returns to the van where her fiance waits for her. Jesse Blackburn is uninterested in Evan’s summons any longer because he saw Franklin Brand, the man who ran over him and left him a paraplegic while also killing his best friend Isaac Sandoval.

Evan gives chase, but loses Franklin. The police are on the case and catch Brand, but he makes bail and is released before vanishing. Evan sees him meeting with Kenny Rudneski, the son of theowner where Brand worked as a VP before being caught embezzling. Evan and Jesse are determined to find Franklin while also believing that Mako technologies, owned by Kenny and his father, is the cause of the blackmail attempts against them and the secret jobs they must undergo as told to them by the cabal if they want to keep their loved ones safe.

MISSION CANYON is unfortunately a very believable tale about cybercrime in which businessmen ally with thieves leaving the innocent to bear the costs of their criminal activities. Evan is an admirable courageous woman who does not care that her Jesse is wheelchair bound; she even acts at times as if she does not notice the chair. There are many suspects and the exciting plot is filled with twists and revelations (perhaps a few too many of the latter) that shock the audience just when the story line seems to be settling into a pattern. Fans will enjoy this timely tale of the avaricious crooks, cops, businessman and innocents caught in their web.

Harriet Klausner

Mage-Guard of Hamor-L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Mage-Guard of Hamor
L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Tor, Jul 2008, $27.95
ISBN: 9780765319272

On the island of Recluse, master scribe Kian mentored his apprentice younger son Rahl; but unbeknownst to the teacher, his pupil to avoid hassles and make life easier on himself serendipitously used tiny doses of order magic. The Council magisters traced his misuse back to him; his impulsive temper and his seemingly out of control skill led to his exile across the sea to the wilds of Hamor; a place where he will either learn to control himself and his order magical use or die (see NATURAL ORDERMAGE).

On Hamor, mages work for the government or they do not work. Mage-guard Taryl is assigned a bitter Rahl as his pupil. Rahl loathes his instructor who only complains about his failing apprentice. During a civil war between brothers, Rahl is deployed with the Emperor’s army in horrific field conditions. If they are not in combat, the weather is good, and they have foraged enough food and water for sustenance then the soldiers are bored; however usually Rahl and his unit are in the midst of hostilities either from the enemy, the weather or the farmers. He begins to gain wisdom about good and bad, and order and chaos. He realizes he must choose when to be defiant or the Ordermage system will continue to destroy him.

First off, MAGE-GUARD OF HONOR can stand alone, but is so much more understandable if read after NATURAL ORDERMAGE as the audience will better comprehend Rahl’s personality and the complex rules of magic. The story line is a coming of age tale, as Rahl gains wisdom on the tedious trek. Although the exhaustive, agricultural, climate and cultural dissertations can become tedious but realistic, fans will appreciate the latest Recluse tale that occurs almost entirely on a different island.

Harriet Klausner

The Time Engine-Sean McMullen

The Time Engine
Sean McMullen
Tor, Jul 2008, $26.95
ISBN 9780765318763

In 3144 Wayfarer Inspector Danolarian Scryverin had just completed his patrol in the West Quadrant. He stopped at the Mermaid’s Slipper for an ale by himself to reflect about the year of change. He thinks back to the Lupan invasion of Greater Alberin leading to his squad member Riellen preaching electocracy, winning the government power, leading to the expulsion, and finally changing the calendar so that tomorrow what would have been 3145 is now 1 YE (Year of Electocracy).

His musing ends when Lady Velender holding the cat Constable Wallas enters the tavern. Soon afterward, he learns the hard way that she has abducted him into the future along with Wallas and they are on the run while trying to learn how she did it and more important why she did it. He also knows that before he can return to his time and place, he must somehow go to the past to complete a basic law of physics, the circle of causality. He lands in a world rumored to be paradise unless you are the focus of 5000 naked horsemen who apparently have your access home, THE TIME ENGINE; obtaining it does not automatically mean returning.

The action obviously takes place in the future and the past, but in both periods it never slows down for even a nanosecond even with sidebars explaining the somewhat convoluted tale. Fans of the series will appreciate the fourth Moonworlds Saga (see VOIDFARER) as Danolarian is caught in dangerous yet Three Stooges like scenarios.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Abbeville-Jack Fuller

Jack Fuller
Unbridled, Jun 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9781932961478

George Bailey felt he lived “A Wonderful Life” until the collapse wiped out his wealth; worried about the impact on his family, he thinks back to his youth when his grandfather seemed contented whether he was wealthy or broke. Needing inspiration to get past his gloom and doom, George goes to the place of his nineteenth century roots, Abbeville, Illinois.

This is where his grandfather Karl Schumpeter began working at as a clerk at his uncle's logging company before going to Chicago during the 1893 Exposition to trade in grain futures. After getting married, Karl returns to Abbeville where he thrives as a banker. In his late thirties Karl goes to France as part of the ambulance corps as WWI ignites Europe. However after the Great Depression’s Black Tuesday, Karl makes illegal loans to friends and family; he goes to prison for his actions. Always upbeat, he feels he disgraced his family; he was never quite the same, but once back with the love of his family never stopped trying. Now his grandson, George fears he will fail his family too.

Using the cycles of the twentieth century as a backdrop of rise and fall at a family level, Jack Fuller provides a great saga of an individual’s spirit embraced by his values to survive war, economic disaster, personal loss of loved ones and pride; yet through it all Karl kept rising like a phoenix. Fans will want to join George on his odyssey to discover how his ancestor remained optimistic even as he felt humiliated when he was caught in the American nightmare; staying upbeat is easy when you live the American dream. This is an excellent look at the impact of momentous events on people through a deep look at a caring person who would not make a footnote outside of his family.

Harriet Klausner

The Elite-Jennifer Banash

The Elite
Jennifer Banash
Berkley, Jun 2008, $9.99
ISBN: 9780425221570

With her mom traveling in Europe, Casey McCloy left Normal, Illinois to attend the prestigious Meadowlark Academy in New York. She will live with her Nanna in the affluent Bramford Building in the Carnegie Hill section of Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Her first impression of her new abode is shock at is elegance starting with the doorman.

Although the sophistication level is stratospherically hirer than Illinois, Casey quickly grasps the basic rule of teenage survival in New York is not that different from Normal; who you knows pay dividends in the social bank account. The it girl is extremely popular Madison Macallister; Casey met her in the lobby of the Bramford before she even made it to Nanna's apartment the first time. Madison can destroy any other student with just a look. Casey soon meets Madison's posse Sophie and Phoebe; and soon afterward Drew, who may be the ruler’s boyfriend. Casey spends time with the Madison trio who seem to have adopted the rube until Madison sees her talking with Drew. The welcoming committee turn into the queen of mean and her court as Madison wants Drew back anyway she can.

The cast makes this a strong high school character study as Jennifer Banash hones in deeply at the social caste system. Interestingly, the support players like Madison’s retinue seem fully developed while the lead triangle is each strong individuals though the battling females are somewhat stereotyped like professional wrestlers. Fans will enjoy the tug of war with Drew as the rope between the mean queen of THE ELITE and the sweet not quite country bumpkin.

Harriet Klausner

What She Wants-Cathy Kelly

What She Wants
Cathy Kelly
Downtown, Jun 2008, $15.95
ISBN: 9781416564607

In Bath, England, Hope Parker struggles between her roles as mother to two toddlers Toby and Millie, wife to writer Matt and her job at Witherspoons. However, she believes Matt is too distracted as he nears his fortieth birthday; she fears he is having an affair. Before she can figure out what next, Matt announces he wants the family to spend a year in rural Redlion, Ireland, home of his late Uncle Gearoid, so he can focus on his novel and alleviate the guilt of not visiting his beloved relative in four years until it became too late. Though she has doubts, Hope agrees as she figures that should take him away from his mysterious woman; if there is one that is.

In Redlion, Hope makes friends with Mary-Kate the pharmacist, her niece Delphine and recently widowed grandma Virginia. Connell However as Matt ignores her and seems to spend more time in England than Ireland, she wonders if he moved her and the kids out of the way. Still she has a hunk of her own to perhaps tryst with.

This is a strong character study starring several protagonists with future issues caused by mistakes in the past or present. The relationships between everyone make for a strong realistic drama as fans and Hope wonder WHAT SHE WANTS. All the players from the four females, to the local hunk to Matt and others (even the deceased) make for a deep entertaining tale that looks at people keeping PAST SECRETS from loved ones and pondering ALWAYS AND FOREVER or nevermore.

Harriet Klausner

The Brimstone Murders-Jeff Sherratt

The Brimstone Murders
Jeff Sherratt
Echelon, Feb 2008, $12.99
ISBN: 9781590805527

In Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Jimmy O’Brien understands the overwhelming evidence against his current client Robbie Farris, who confessed in the name of Jesus to stabbing Golden Valley College Professor Carmichael twenty-seven times. Still the consummate professional Jimmy plans to insure Robbie gets the best defense he can provide him even as the seemingly deranged lad mentions his friend the Lord told him to kill the Catholic professor.

However, at Robbie’s arraignment, the accused pulls out a gun that he somehow obtained; he escapes. Soon after Jimmy visits Robbie’s mother Hazel Farris, she is found murdered in her dumpy house trailer. The cops suspect Jimmy killed her as he admits he was at the crime scene just before she died. Jimmy uses his associate twenty-six year old Rita to defend him from a murder in the first degree charge of killing Hazel. Following clues mostly by tracking his runaway client, Jimmy lands in the middle of brimstone evangelists; one of whom wants to send Jimmy to hell before his time.

This entertaining legal thriller hooks the audience the moment Jimmy’s client mentions the Lord told him to kill the professor and never slows down until the final confrontation. The story line in many ways is more of an investigative thriller filled with twists and red herrings as makes inquires into the evangelistic world, but also has strong legal subplots. Fans will appreciate THE BRIMSTONE MURDERS as the odds are SIX TO FIVE AGAINST the hero (see ONE, TWO, & EVEN for a previous O’Brien case).

Harriet Klausner

The Fourth Watcher-Timothy Hallinan

The Fourth Watcher
Timothy Hallinan
Morrow, Jul 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780061257254

In Bangkok, travel writer Poke Rafferty, accompanied by his girlfriend former hooker Rose and their adopted child Miaow, is conducting street research into the unsafe underbelly of the Thai city as part of his next book. However, he vows to stay out of trouble starting with the three “faded” shirts who remind him of Pennyman’s First Law of Espionage: “the other guy is good”. However he remains unaware of the Fourth Watcher.

Meanwhile the U.S. Secret Service accuses the statuesque Rose of working for the North Koreans by passing counterfeit money; apparently the Kim II government is surviving by inundating the world with billions of fake dollars. While Poke tries to extradite his now fiancée from her mess, Ming Li abducts him and takes him to his estranged despised father, Frank, whose adversary Colonel Chu begins a deadly scheme; Rafferty with his friend police officer Arthit, whose wife is caught in the growing tsunami, try to counter it.

This exciting sequel to A NAIL THROUGH THE HEART is a terrific twisting thriller that takes the audience on a tense tour of Thailand as Poke struggles to save the two women in his life and the wife of his buddy. The story line is fast-paced and the cast solid; especially enlightening is the relationship between father and son as the latter has not forgiven the former for walking out on his mother and him years ago. Fascinatingly Chu believes blood is thicker than water so he expands his personal war to include Poke, Rose, and Miaow. Throw in Kim’s agents and American counterspies on top of all that is going on leads to one heck of a Bangkok ride.
Harriet Klausner

Walk on the Wild Side-Christine Warren

Walk on the Wild Side
Christine Warren
St. Martin’s, Jun 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 0312947917

In Tennessee while driving home with her mom Misty, their truck crashes. Misty is unconscious, but Kitty Jane Sugarman manages to get both of them clear of the vehicle. However, they need help desperately, but on the back roads no one is in sight. Somehow while in severe pain, Kitty Jane for the first time in her life shifts her body; she now knows her father is an Other, a lion shapeshifter.

The Felix of the Red Rock Leos, Martin Lowe is dying from cancer. He wants to meet his daughter before he dies. He sends his trusted aide Marcus “Max” Stuart to arrange for his meeting Kitty. Max goes to Vegas to meet Kitty at the airport. He is stunned to find an innocent twenty-four years old instead of the hardened easterner that he expected. However, many in the Pride want Max and Kitty out of the way so the can replace Martin and inherit his wealth; none expected the strong loving bond between the number two Leo and the daughter of the Felix.

The latest Others’ supernatural romance is a strong tale starring a solid cast who make believers that shapeshifters exist. Kitty and Max are a wonderful coupling as they fight, fuss, and purr in love. However, the star is Kitty who had no inkling of her paternal DNA until the accident, but whose steel magnolia personality comes in handy as she deals with her dad’s pride, a totally new side of the family; with at least one or more wanting her either frightened back to backwoods Tennessee or dead. Fans will enjoy the war between love and avarice as Christine Warren provides another terrific paranormal romantic suspense thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Dragon and Liberator-Timothy Zahn

Dragon and Liberator
Timothy Zahn
Starscape (Tor), Jun 2008, $17.95
ISBN 9780765314192

Fourteen-year-old space pilot Jack Morgan and poet-warrior Draycos continue their symbiotic quest to bring the human closure following the murders of his family and a way to save the K'da dragon’s race from genocide. They have survived much, but neither feels they have made any meaningful progress towards achieving either stretch goal and time is running out at least for the K’da Dragons. Still they work together as Draycos hides as a tattoo on Jack's back.

Neverlin, the human killer of Jack's parents and the fleet in which Draycos was the only survivor, has obtained a Death machine. He plans to use it in conjunction with his allies to eradicate millions of K'da refugees. Only Jack and Draycos stand in his way, but what can a teen and a tattoo do to prevent the holocaust.

Although obviously similar in tone to the previous five books in this exhilarating young adult saga, the final Dragonback adventure is a great finish as the suspense grows to extraordinary levels with the heroes literally having their backs against the wall. The story line is faster than a K’da scout ship never slowing down with the readers wondering if the heroes are going to lose. Although targeting middle school, science fiction fans of all ages will appreciate this strong series as the dragon and human have battled against impossible odds in search of justice for themselves and others.

Harriet Klausner

Fall with Honor-E.E. Knight

Fall with Honor
E.E. Knight
Roc, Jul 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780451462107

2075 in the old calendar, but most would say it is the fifty-fourth year of the Kurian Occupation. These alien murders took the planet by surprise; winning the war with hardly any counter resistance. The Kur stay hidden in their towers while their loyal avatars the reapers release the life energy from humans to send back to the Kur as their nourishment; the reapers sustain their life on blood.

However, five plus decades later, the resistance grows stronger as a fighting force winning some victories and creating pockets of human civilization freeholds to thrive away from the Kur and their minions. The human Southern Command prepares for combat as their plan is to forge a freehold in Appalachia, which will anger the enemy. They also are going to Eastern Kentucky to augment a strong resistance that has surfaced. Southern Command Major David Valentine has been following the resistance since he was old enough. He especially detests the quislings who sold out mankind to the Kurians. David realizes that there is a lot about the Kur he does not know, but he and his force better learn fast as the time of reckoning part two is coming.

The invasion and subsequent occupation is seen through David’s eyes; he knows that facing a devious treacherous enemy means committing atrocities or become fodder. Readers will feel empathy for the hero who is tormented with what he has done including to humans in his unit and what he expects to do if his side is to ever defeat the foe. E.E. Knight focuses on the humans whose differing factions battle the Kurian Order in a chilling occupied earth future.

Harriet Klausner.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Getting Even-Mitzi Szereto (Editor)

Getting Even
Mitzi Szereto (Editor)
Serpent’s Tail, Jun 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9781852429614

These seventeen tales share the title theme as women avenge affronts and insults perpetrated mostly by men although in a few cases a couple is the cause and target. The short story collection is fun as the audience compares the means and opportunities used by each of the scorned female; motives are provided throughout and make important segments of all the stories, but it is how the woman gets even that makes this an engaging compilation; although I wonder why my husband chose a business trip at this time as he kept mumbling “Be Very Afraid” as “Hell Is Where the Heart Is”. He took some solace in that he is an Aquarius and not an Aries. This is a fun compilation as “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned”.

Harriet Klausner

Tumbleweed-Jane Candia Coleman

Jane Candia Coleman
Leisure, Jun 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780843961041

Now elderly and still as tiny as a “skeeter” but with a bite ten times worse, Allie Earp thinks back to her days with her beloved Virgil, one of the famous Earp brothers. Allie now knows how wonderful her Virgil was to her as he never shut her up when she cursed or used a gun; in fact he encouraged her to be a strong person in her own right and not just a tough woman. She reminisces of the days of riding at his side along with Wyatt and the rest of the now legendary brood. She was there at dangerous Deadwood for the most famous gunfight in history, the O.K. Corral. She was always there for Virgil and he was there for her. Now in her old age, Allie provides a fresh perspective to what most believe was a testosterone lifestyle.

This is an excellent historical autobiographical fiction starring a woman who literally stood by her man just like her man stood by her. Well written, readers see a wider deeper scope into the Earp legends from a woman who was with them through many of their adventures. Jane Candia Coleman will enthrall her audience with this fine tale as Allie looks back on what she considers a rewarding life with her beloved supportive Virgil.

Harriet Klausner

LoveHampton-Sherri Rifkin

Sherri Rifkin
St. Martin's, May 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780312380212

Manhattan media expert Tori Miller feels her world is imploding when the love of her life dumps her with no warning and her employer dumps her with even less warning. Still Tori somewhat rebounds from her woes by opening up her own production company, MillerWorks.

However her two “J” employees and her buddy Alice worry about her depression and rejection of males. They form the “Transformation Trio” using Tori as the first makeover on their new TV reality show. The new glamorous Tori joins a Hampton time sharing summerhouse with five yuppies. The rules drive her crazy as they change before she can learn them and contradict one another so one is doomed to break them. Still that insanity does not prevent her from trysting with housemate Andrew Kane or helping another mate Cassie Dearborn with her escapades.

LOVEHAMPTON is an amusing summer breeze as Tori takes over the Hamptons. The support cast is strong in Manhattan and on Long Island, but the tale belongs to the star as Tori finds this is the most wonderful summer of her life even as she breaks the sacred timesharing taboos.

Harriet Klausner

Every Secret Crime-Doug M. Cummings

Every Secret Crime
Doug M. Cummings
Five Star, Jun 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146657

In Wihega County, Illinois an intruder breaks into the home of renowned TV show hosts attorneys Croix and Margo Hayden; he expected no one home at the time. However, the teenage son Trey is there so the assailant shoots him in the chest before fleeing. The victim’s sister finds him.

The county cops hone in on Trey’s pal Lucas Bremer as they had a fight at a party earlier that night over the former's girlfriend Lindsey and he was seen later at the crime scene. However, TV reporter Reno McCarthy thinks the cops are looking for an easy solution to make this media frenzied case vanish even as officials control the news better than the Pentagon does. He begins his own inquiry while the police refuse to cooperate and warn him to back off or spend time in jail; someone else uses a firebomb at the station to try to get Reno off the case. All these attacks, other related murders, watching corrupt powerbrokers scurrying like roaches for cover and personal problems intensify Reno’s investigation

This is an entertaining journalistic investigative tale as Reno finds the cops and the county government acting peculiar as if they must conceal something that he plans to reveal once he learns what is going on. The story line is fast-paced and never slows down as Reno takes a licking but keeps on ticking.

Harriet Klausner

We All Fall Down-Simon Wood

We All Fall Down
Simon Wood
Leisure, Jul 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843960532

Design engineering contractor Hayden Duke is pleased to have been hired by Marin Design Engineering for a short term project. He hopes that his work will impress the firm’s bosses so they would hire him for a full time position. Before he was selected, another contractor walked into the ocean and drowned. The witnesses who called 911 heard the man mumble he did a horrible thing and must pay the price.

The person who hired Hayden is his friend Shane Fallon who is glad to have his pal on board. A couple of days after Hayden starts working Shane sends him an email with an attachment that he cannot open. Hayden calls Shane, who warns him to delete it. Hayden goes to Shane’s house only to find a hallucinating man who is locked inside his apartment seeking electronic bugs. He kills himself and the autopsy reveals a bruise on his hand like the man who committed suicide in the ocean. Shane’s sister Rebecca and Hayden believe there is more to his apparent suicide and it is linked in some manner to the project. When the project is completed, everyone associated with it except Hayden and Rebecca die in an arson fire. Trying to stay alive and elude police and fire officials’ suspicions, the pair seek the truth, which may prove deadly for them.

WE ALL FALL DOWN is an exciting enthralling thriller that focuses on two characters, Hayden and Rebecca, who obstinately and perhaps foolishly are determined to learn what is going on. They refuse to quit their amateur sleuthing although each step especially false leads they take opens up additional cans of worms and exponentially increases the danger to them. Simon Wood provides a dynamite suspense story as the audience is beguiled into anticipating what next.

Harriet Klausner

One With the Darkness-Susan Squires

One With the Darkness
Susan Squires
St. Martin's, Jun 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 0312941048

Eighteen hundred years have past since Contessa Donnatella di Poliziano followed her species’ strict rule outlawing the creation of a new vampire. Over the eighteen centuries, she has been lonely, angry and acerbic because back then she had the chance to save the life of the only man she loved, Jergan, but timidly let him die instead of converting him to what she was and is.

In 1821, her Renaissance friends Michelangelo and Leonardo left Donnatella a note that they knew of a time machine that would enable her to back to that first century and mend her broken heart. However, upon her return to the age of Caligula when she was and once again is Livia Quintus Lucellus, she forgets her quest. Instead she is part of a group wanting the Emperor removed from power. However, fate intervenes when she buys Jergan the slave, but will the second time around end any different than the first tragic time.

This is a superb time travel vampire romance starring a courageous heroine who goes after the love of her life in an attempt to rectify what she believes was an error on her part. The underlying second chance at love theme enhances a strong plot in which Caligula’s Rome is a key element. Susan Squires knows her vampires as she provides a strong tale of forbidden love in Ancient Rome.

Harriet Klausner

Ink and Steel-Elizabeth Bear

Ink and Steel
Elizabeth Bear
Roc, Jul 2008, $14.00
ISBN 9780451462091

Prometheus Club author and subtle supporter of Queen Elizabeth through his plays containing magic that emboldened her rule Christopher “Kit” Marlowe is reported murdered. Everyone who knows him is stunned and assumes the enemy Sorcerers assassinated the playwright who has caused them numerous problems in their effort to dethrone the monarch and destroy England.

Kit’s close friend young playwright Will Shakespeare is assigned the responsibility of the new author who spins magical spells with his literature. However, Morgan le Fey saved Kit from murderers resurrecting him in the land of Faeire. Meanwhile the talent and value of Shakespeare has made him a target of the various factions who want to control the Queen. However, Kit brings Will into Faerie where they must confront there an unknown force seemingly more powerful than queens on either side of the veil; an essence that stalks them even as Kit knows they must go home to ferret out the Prometheus traitor who set him up to die.

Set before the events of BLOOD AND IRON and WHISKEY AND WATER, INK AND STEEL is and exciting Elizabethan Era fantasy with the second part book to be published in August; which is the only issue this reviewer takes issue with as we must bear a one month’s wait for the finish. As with the previous books in the saga, the story line contains intriguing references to the real Marlowe and Shakespeare, which in turn makes the magic of their words seem even more genuine. Fantasy fans will appreciate Elizabeth Bear’s terrific historical saga as Promethean Age is at its best in the treacherous land of faerie and at the even more dangerous seditious Queen Elizabeth’s court of intrigue.

Harriet Klausner

Saturn’s Children-Charles Stross

Saturn’s Children
Charles Stross
Ace, Jul 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441015948

By the twenty-third century humanity was extinct leaving behind androids that were built to feel and think and even dream like mankind once did. The androids created a caste system. The Aristos are nobles who own slaves expected to obey them or else. There are also some free independent droids who are mostly impoverished manual laborers.

Freya Nakamichi was made to be a sexbot, but thanks to her sibs is free. The mysterious Jeeves offers Freya a well paying job as a courier; she accepts. Her first assignment is to go to Mercury to pick up a biological sample that she is to place in her uterus and bring it to a lab on Mars. The task seems simple and straightforward although she has no idea what the sample is and why suddenly people seem to be hunting her for her “package”. She eludes killers, thieves and an assortment of other predators as she races to Mars.

Imagine a world in which androids are the dominant species and act like humans in all respects except they cannot reproduce. Thus SATURN’S CHILDREN is about a culture the androids have forged centered on a caste system although the slaves and the free strive for a better life. Freya is a bot Lara Craft, a strong willed skilled beauty who uses brain and some brawn to think her way out of danger. Charles Stross answers the Philip K. Dick philosophical question Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? with this original look at a mirror humanoid culture.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 23, 2008

Tall Tales and Wedding Veils-Jane Graves

Tall Tales and Wedding Veils
Jane Graves
Forever, Jun 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 0446617873

In Las Vegas, Heather Montgomery and Tony McCaffrey marry after too much champagne. However when they return to their hometown, the prim and proper accountant realizes they are incompatible as she is a workaholic and he is a player. She informs her spouse she will annul their marriage; he offers no resistance.

When she learns it will take a month, he suggests they live together for the thirty days; then they file saying they made a mistake; this way she will not suffer local humiliation for her drunken I do. She agrees, but soon their attraction has both seeking compromise. He teaches her to relax and have fun and she shows him how to make his sports bar dream a reality.

This is a fresh throwback contemporary romance between two likable characters. The story line is fast paced from the onset as Tony looks forward to returning to being the playboy of the western world, but his conscience demands he protect from scandal and ridicule the vulnerable Heather. Readers will enjoy their antics of living together for one month as he never cleans his toothbrush while she sterilizes everything. The life planner and the chaotic free faller make for an engaging Texas romance.

Harriet Klausner

Saving Paulo-David J. Walker

Saving Paulo
David J. Walker
Five Star, Jun 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146558

In Chicago, after losing his job for calling his boss a sexist a-hole, Charlie Long meets his cousin lawyer Eugene “Sal” Pacewlli at the Billy Goat Tavern to tell him he was fired. Frustrated with his Sir Galahad relative, Sal leaves in disgust. Soon after Sal leaves Charlie heads to the bathroom when he sees a well dressed black guy pulling a mixed race looking little kid when two white thugs fire and kill the adult. Without warning Charlie grabs the little kid and takes off.

The profession al hitmen pursue Charlie and the kid who ducks into a porn shop before entering a fortune teller store owned by elderly Zorina. She keeps the man and child safe while insisting Charlie must keep the kid, who does not talk, out of harm’s way; he says no.

At the same time heiress Maria “Mary” McGrady has come home after working at Porto de Dues Orphanage in Rio. She searches for a boy Paulo who was abducted from her in Rio. As the local police, FBI, Russian hitmen and Paulo’s uncle seek the child, Charlie hides the lad with the help of Zorina and eventually Mary.

Although there is a touch of the extrasensory via Zorina’s skills and her insistence that this is Charlie’s destiny, SAVING PAULO is an entertaining thriller in which a Good Samaritan is unable to prevent himself from interfering. The story line is fast-paced from the onset, but loses some of its steam once the Feds takes the lead players to South America as the truth of uncle affection becomes known to Charlie and Mary and a child is a sacrificial pawn to the agents. Fans will enjoy this fine tale of a man who in spite his misgivings feels a need to protect a helpless preadolescent stranger.

Harriet Klausner

Dead in Red-L.L. Bartlett

Dead in Red
L.L. Bartlett
Five Star, Jun 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146404

Jeff Resnick was mugged with his culprit swinging a baseball bat at his head. When he recovered from his injuries, he found he had the ability to psychically see things. He tries to prevent his so called gift from ruining his life.

Jeff takes a job as a bartender at The Whole Nine yards, his favorite drinking spot in Buffalo. However, he learns that his predecessor Walt Kaplan vacated the job due to being murdered. He begins seeing flashes of what happened and with the help of his reluctant older half-brother physician Richard, still recovering from a bullet wound he received helping Jeff ten weeks ago (see MURDER ON THE MIND), he begins to investigate starting with a receipt for custom designed red shoes that lead the siblings to the underground drag queen community.

DEAD IN RED is an engaging paranormal amateur sleuth starring a likable protagonist and his brother and brother’s girlfriend who want him safe. The story line is fast-paced as Jeff seeks the dazzling red shoe that he believes will lead them to the culprit. Although the whodunit is well written and fun as is Jeff’s talent that seems to place them in trouble not keep them out of trouble, it is the relationship between the siblings that make this a special whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

The Narcissist's Daughter-Craig Holden

The Narcissist's Daughter
Craig Holden
Simon & Schuster, Jun 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9781416572787

In 1970s in Cleveland, pre-medical student Daniel "Syd" Redding hates his narcissistic boss, Dr. Ted Kessler. He dreams of killing the egomaniac, who makes his life at the hospital miserable. Working the grave yard shift, Syd meets Kessler's sexy wife, Joyce. She outrageously flirts with the young student and soon has him controlled under her siren’s S&M spell.

However, their affair falls apart leaving Syd angrier than his heroes the Ramones and bitter. His need to obtain revenge against these affluent snobs is stratospheric eating at his gut. He knows he cannot attack directly as he would lose. He chooses their seventeen years old daughter, Jessi. He planned to make her the avenue of his vengeance starting with dating her, but falls in love.

Two decades later, happily married Syd and Jessi raise a family together. All is well until a construction crew digs up human remains.

This reprint of an engaging family drama is fun to read as Jessi changes Syd’s attitude from hate to love, but twists it into a suspense thriller as that fateful year 1978 comes back to haunt them decades later. The story line is fast-paced once the players are introduced especially after Syd meets THE NARCISSIST’S DAUGHTER as he fears his relationship with her mom will surface like a Mrs. Robinson and destroy his happiness; instead a corpse threatens it. Although the homicide suspense comes across somewhat secondary in a supportive role, fans of character driven tales will appreciate Craig Holden’s fine look at family relations.

Harriet Klausner

Undertow-Sydney Bauer

Sydney Bauer
Berkley, Jul 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 042522290X

To celebrate her daughter Teesha’s seventeenth birthday in style, Boston based attorney Rayna Martin rents a boat to take her teenage child and Teesha’s three musketeer friends (Christina, Mariah and Francie) on a sea trip. However, the happy occasion turns tragic when Christina drowns.

Christina’s father Senator Rudolph Haynes is outraged blaming race for the death of his daughter. He and his child are white Brahmins while the Martins and the other two friends are African-American working class. He pounds the DA into charging Rayna with a race related murder. Rayna hires attorney David Cavanaugh to defend her while her best friend Sara Davis vows to help prove a tragic accident occurred.

Rudolph is overly stereotyped as an ambitious always right manipulative conservative politician rather than a full blooded grieving dad lashing out at the only adult he can; whereas the rest of the cast including the late Christie seem genuine. Stealing the show from a secondary perspective is the victim’s mom who reassesses all she believed in the American dream. Well written, UNDERTOW is an exhilarating legal thriller that turns over the Simpson premise that money can buy the dream team defense as influence can purchase the best prosecution in the world.

Harriet Klausner