Monday, August 31, 2009

The Baby Album-Roz Denny Fox

The Baby Album
Roz Denny Fox
Harlequin SuperRomance, Sep 2009, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373715862

In Round Rock, Texas her husband Dane abandons pregnant photographer Casey Sinclair. She needs work so she applies at Wyatt Keene's photography studio in Austin, but conceals her delicate condition as she assumes no one wants to hire someone who will go on maternity leave in a few months. He tests her at a school and she does a great job so he hires her.

She soon learns that Wyatt's wife died a year earlier due to an ectopic pregnancy. Finding this out makes Casey feels guilty as she will soon reveal the truth and probably be sacked for concealing it. As they fall in love, Casey notices how Wyatt is hesitant even before he finds out she is carrying.

This is a super second chance at love starring two individuals with differing personal issues from their previous relationships. Casey still reels from abandonment while Wyatt grieves his loss. Each is tentative about their attraction for good reason as she fears her heart would break if she takes a chance and he leaves while he unsure he can ever deal with a pregnancy. Roz Denny Fox provides readers a wonderful contemporary romance.

Harriet Klausner

Here To Stay-Margot Early

Here To Stay
Margot Early
Harlequin SuperRomance, Sep 2009, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373715893

Dog trainer Sissy Workman loves her husband Elijah but hid one truth from him for years out of fear he will leave. Their first born is not his. Sissy jilted someone else before marrying Elijah, but learned she was pregnant after they wed.

Now he knows he did not sire their oldest when the child needed a transfusion and his blood type is unacceptable. He is outraged for several reasons including the omission she kept from him and he wonders what else she concealed. As their anniversary comes up, Sissy fears her failure will end their happy family as Elijah increasingly acts distant.

Using reverse engineering, Margot Early tells the back story of the relationship between Sissy and Elijah and to a lesser degree their children. Thus the story line is character driven as Elijah struggles with what he believes is a betrayal of their trust while he and his spouse look back over their time together. Although the technique adds freshness, the use slows down the present day plot of vying for the Westminster Dog Show or fleeing to lick his wounds.

Harriet Klausner

Finding Their Son-Debra Salonen

Finding Their Son
Debra Salonen
Harlequin SuperRomance, Sep 2009, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373715886

His Lakota uncle sent Eli Robideaux to go out and find himself by completing Hanblecheyapi. Instead he arrives at Char Jones' Native American shop without a penny to his name. Desperate, he tries to rob her so he can go home, but fails at the attempt when she recognizes him as her high school boyfriend.

When Eli learns he left Char pregnant, he feels chagrin and remorse. He wants to find the child she gave up for adoption and persuades Char to accompany him on the search for their son. On the trek to California, they fall in love, but she fears he will desert her again.

This fine second chance contemporary romance stars a suspicious Entrepreneur and a young man struggling with his identity. Eli and Char are a terrific pairing whose quest is FINDING THEIR SON. Although the ending is too perfect even for the sub-genre, fans will enjoy the trek with this likable duo as guides.

Harriet Klausner

Cowboy Christmas-Mary Connealy

Cowboy Christmas
Mary Connealy
Barbour, Sep 2009, $10.97
ISBN: 9781602601451

In 1879 in a mining camp in Missouri, Claude Leveque orders hymn singer Annette Talbot to perform in a revealing dress or watch her elderly friend Elva die. Fearing the brute will beat Elva, Annie is shocked when her pianist gives her money for a one way ticket out of town saying she is dying from a bad heart. Vowing to never forget her beloved friend, Annie heads to her widower father’s home in Ranger Bluff, Wyoming Territory; six years since she left him a bitter hardened man.

Elijah Walker still reels from the death of his Pa and the betrayal of his beloved Priscilla that destroyed the family ranch. He vows to never trust a woman ever again.

Annie and Elijah meet on the stagecoach and each remembers knowing each other as children. Although attracted to one another, he assumes a young woman traveling alone must be another Priscilla. She thinks he is an obstinate yahoo. As they fuss and fight they fall in love, but he seems incapable of getting past the haunting hardening of his heart.

COWBOY CHRISTMAS is a terrific western romance that grips the audience from the moment the vile Claude grips Annie’s blouse and unlike him never let’s go of the reader. The lead couple is a wonderful pairing, but it is the strong cast even those who have short appearances make this tale work by bringing a sense of time and place to the plot. Sub-genre fans will relish Mary Connealy’s super late nineteenth century romance (see MONTANA ROSE).

Harriet Klausner

Primitive-Mark Nykanen

Primitive
Mark Nykanen
Bell Bridge, Oct 2009, $16.95
ISBN: 9780982175644

Renowned model Sonya Adams has no prior notice of a shoot for the Frontier Ahead in Bozeman, Montana, but tells Chatwin Modeling Agency agent Jackson she will be there. She is disappointed that her twenty-three years old obstinate, opinioned offspring Darcy failed to return her call, but that will not prevent her from catching the flight tonight from Denver tonight. Still she feels a little better when she is able to take Darcy out for her birthday before catching the one-hour flight.

Sonya is abducted in the Bozeman airport and taken to an isolated area hours from the city. The Council of Consensus survival group informs Sonya she has been found guilty by the Earth’s Court of Justice for championing “rampant consumption”. They explain her choices are to die brutally or speak up against what she stood for as the cult possesses top secret proof that the feds lied about the timeline of global warming; which is yesterday. The cult blows up a refinery to the shock of most Americans who consider them terrorists and uses Sonya as their spokesperson with authorities assuming she is a victim of the Stockholm syndrome. Though they picture themselves as Malcolm X to Al Gore’s Martin Luther King, none of the Council factored in Darcy’s obstinacy; she is coming for her mom in spite of eco-terrorists, government, oil or Queen Katie Corwin preferring mother and daughter to come home in body bags.

This is an exciting gripping thriller that hooks the audience from the onset when Sonya is kidnapped and never slows down even when terrorists overdo the explanations. The story line is fast-paced built off the premise that global warming is not a theory or in the future, but reality already beyond the point of return as the earth. A profound cautionary tale, Mark Nykanen makes a strong argument that to save economies but not the earth seems like Gregory Bateson’s double bind theory with a touch of weak tea from Lewis Carroll’s Bread and butter fly dilemma.

Harriet Klausner

The Grave Thief-Tom Lloyd

The Grave Thief
Tom Lloyd
Pyr, Sep 22 2009, $16.00
ISBN 9781591027805

Humanity stunned the gods when they failed to cower, hide or bow to their superiors. Instead mankind had the audacity to fight. Outraged and stunned especially since their pets are actually winning, the gods turned to a different gameplan. They created the super Mortal-Aspects from the humans to serve as their warriors.

At Scree, Lord Isak, in spite of the visions of his death, led the Farlan to victory over the powerful shadow-god Azaer. However the human noble knows that was a minor temporary setback for the shadow god and devastated much of Scree. To the victors goes another battle as the bone weary Farlan must recruit rookies for the next fight; this time against Azaer and the well rested Menin while at the same time the Mortal Aspects are cutting a destructive path across the country.

Though the third tale of the Twilight Reign fantasy (see THE TWILIGHT HERALD and THE STORMCALLER), THE GRAVE THIEF feels more like a transitional middle book in a trilogy as nothing major ends. Still the story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action especially with the heroic efforts of Isak trying to get his exhausted force in pitch battle berserker frenzy. Fans will enjoy the latest entry, but also lament nothing closes.

Harriet Klausner

Dawnthief-James Barclay

Dawnthief
James Barclay
PYR, Sep 22 2009, $16.00
ISBN: 9781591027799

The war has devastated much of the Kingdom of Balaia. In that realm the Raven magnificent seven mercenaries are known for always getting the job done. These thieves know the key to their success is the six humans and one elf trust their respective back with one another.

They are rejoicing over another successful endeavor when their next assignment runs into them. The Wytch-Lords are on the verge of escaping their incarceration due to the stealing of an amulet that is critical to the Dawnthief spell which has imprisoned the arrogant demi-god mages. The Xetsek College of Magic demands they escort senior mage Denser, who insists he works for the gods, on a quest to retrieve the Dawnthief. The Raven seven mistrust any of the four colleges of magic whose mages would destroy their own kind for power as much as they have doubts about anyone who claims the Gods employ them. Still saving the planet from the return of the Wytch-Lords, if true, is more critical than worrying about their untrustworthy new allies for they each know they have “Raven”.

This is a terrific opening quest fantasy filled with fast-paced action and the belief that the mages have power and dragons exist. The use of the “Raven” to help the five warriors, one berserker warrior and an elven mage through difficult situations like when Hirard is trapped by a Dragon is a fantasy equivalent to the Three Musketeers. Although the cast is somewhat stereotyped out of the Tolkien 101 handbook; for instance with aging mercenaries considering retirement and all powerful mages causing collateral consequences that leave a world teetering, no one will care as James Barclay’s opening entry bodes well for a powerful saga.

Harriet Klausner

The Quiet War-Paul McAuley

The Quiet War
Paul McAuley
PYR, Sep 22 2009, $16.00
ISBN: 9781591027812

The Brazilian cargo ship dropped off bio-engineer Macy Minnot at Rainbow City on the Jupiter moon of Callisto. She will work on creating a lake for the Callistan city as an act of friendship between Brazil and the Outer planets. However, Macy realizes there are agents whose mission is to prevent the needed lake from being developed. Her exposure of the nefarious scheme costs her immensely as she can never safely go home to earth and has become a target of espionage agents and psyops propagandists who label her a Quisling supporting the enemy. There are many in Brazil and on the Outers that want war. Those seeking an honest peaceful solution to the crisis like Mary are called traitors and harassed. She is arrested on false charges but is freed on the Saturn moon Dione as war seems imminent.

Professor Doctor Sri Hong-Owen leads the efforts to save earth following the massive ecological meltdown caused by global warming. Although not a member of the War Party, the scientist is allied with them. Macy meanwhile tries to tell the truth about her world, but the war drummers control the media; few listen to her until she meets Avernus who created the ecology that led to the Outer developments. Brazil sends its armada to conquer the Outers under a false charge while telling the masses this will be a cheap quiet war that will not touch them.

This is an exciting military science fiction that obviously parallels and thus makes a strong condemnation of the Bush invasion of Iraq while also providing a more even handed look at the debate between economic development and the ecology. The story line has several other sub-plots though what happens to Macy and Sri are the prime focus of this excellent thriller. Although the Outer communities seem off kilter for early settlements in hostile environs, sub-genre fans except for the Cheney crowd will enjoy Paul McAuley’s strong war in space saga.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, August 30, 2009

On The Bluffs-Steven Schindler

On The Bluffs
Steven Schindler
Elevated Press, Aug 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 9780966240818

Middle aged Brian DeLouise knows where he went wrong as his stomach protrudes and his hairline recedes. His only fun is fantasy baseball as he has not had sex with his wife Frances in over two years; and for the most part when they did have sex over their two decades or so marriage it was perfunctory as neither brought any energy to the boudoir. Frances has found pleasure in the arms of other men.

Frances asks for divorce claiming everything as her hers just when Brian prevents a mugger from robbing a couple at a time he also lost his job as Night Hawks producer. Depressed he looks back to the most wonderful summer of his life. The one just before he impregnated and married Frances, who lost the child she was carrying. That summer on Cape Cod, Brian worked summer theater where he met and fell in love with Portia Smart. With nothing to hold him in the DC area, Brian decides to find the love of his life.

This is an entertaining character study of a man who married the wrong woman though he did it for a noble reason. The story line starts a bit slow as the audience ponders why Brian stays married to a man-eater, but picks up considerably when he meets Portia and her daughter. Although Frances is a stereotype who ends up with everything as Brian believes it is worth the cost to get her totally out of his life, fans will enjoy this fine second chance at love if Brian and Portia take that key risk of admitting their feelings especially with her daughter nay-saying him.

Harriet Klausner

After You-Julie Buxbaum

After You
Julie Buxbaum
Dial, Sep 1 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9780385341240

Since the death of her baby, Bostonian Ellie Lerner has had nothing that turns her on. Neither her marriage to Phillip nor her teaching position matters. Her only tie to the living is Lucy Stafford who moved to England where she married Greg and has a child, Ellie’s goddaughter Sophie.

When Lucy is tragically murdered by a mugger, Ellie’s apparent last tie to life dies with her. However, something whispers to Ellie to cross the Atlantic to be there for Sophie. While Phillip is confused and Greg is hiding his grief with indifference, Ellie comes for the funeral but stays to take care of the hurting now mute eight years old Sophie who witnessed her mom’s death. .

This is a well written contemporary tale starring realistic characters struggling with life after a tragedy. Ellie is terrific as she finds a reason to live in the needs of Sophie whose father has abandoned her as if she mugged and killed his American wife. Her nurturing Sophie through their nightly ritual of reading the Secret garden together brings to her solace that she had not previously found. Whereas the two females forge a deep relationship that helps each move on somewhat beyond their respective trauma by regaining a sense of self, the two males in their live remain bewildered. AFTER YOU is a strong character study that focuses on regaining one’s equilibrium after a tragedy has occurred.

Harriet Klausner

Forgiven-Shepard Gray

Forgiven
Shelley Shepard Gray
Harper, Aug 2009, $12.99
ISBN: 9780061474477

The fire devastated the Lundy barn and injured Winnie Lundy when she tried to rescue trapped animals. Her brother Jonathan (see WANTED for his tale) saves her life. An ambulance takes the severely burned Winnie to the hospital, which is too far from her loved ones to visit her by carriage. Family friend Eli Miller accompanies her to the hospital. The marshal tells them cigarettes caused the inferno.

Eli arranges for his English brother Samuel Miller, who left their Amish community for the university, to visit Winnie at the hospital so she has companionship while healing away from her family. Soon after he began seeing her, Winnie and Samuel fall in love, but though they believe in the Lord, their belief systems are different. While they seek a common faith, Jonathan cannot turn the other cheek like he knows he should forgive the transgressor and his wife Katie encourages him to do so; instead he obsesses over who smoked the cigarettes. Also Anna and Henry pray her mom will come around

The third Sisters of the Heart inspirational Amish romance is a terrific tale with three subplots that tie together around the theme of forgiving the FORGIVEN for their sins. The cast is strong as an obstinate Jonathan cannot move past the fire with his sister so badly hurt; Samuel and Winnie need to forgive one another if they fail to find common ground; and Anna cannot move past her mom’s rejection of her embracing love and faith in Amish country. Shelley Shepard Gray writes a strong inspiring tale as to err may be is human but to gracefully hug the forgiven is truly divine.

Harriet Klausner

The Ghosts Of Belfast-Stuart Neville

The Ghosts Of Belfast
Stuart Neville
Soho, Oct 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9781569476000

Gerry Fegan believed in the cause of freeing Northern Ireland from the British. He was a soldier who did the assigned tasks willing to die for his belief and committed atrocities against adversaries. He felt no remorse when he killed a civilian as collateral damage is the norm in warfare especially urban guerilla warfare.

He was able to ignore the greed of his superior officers as long as the cause was just especially with whiskey. However Gerry is not an ordinary soldier as he has always been able to communicate with the dead. While believing in the cause, he could keep the spirits of those he killed in the shadows, but no more. The Good Friday Agreement leaves Gerry free in Belfast living under British Rule and wondering why he believed. Those he followed in combat and went to prison for now serve in Parliament; while they are fat, dumb and wealthy, Fegan feels the guilt of the twelve innocent people he killed; their ghosts demand he do what those fat cats trained him to do: kill his former allies.

This is a great haunting war story whether one agreed with the IRA or not as THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST could easily have been the ghosts of Saigon or even Baghdad, as the soldier’s psyche depends critically on the cause. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as Gerry begins his new mission while his former friends send an agent to stop him. Readers will appreciate this thought provoking thriller that will have the audience pondering the prime underlying cause and the short and long term effects.

Harriet Klausner

The Scarpetta Factor-Patricia Cornwell

The Scarpetta Factor
Patricia Cornwell
Putnam, Oct 20 2009, $27.95
ISBN: 9780399156397

Marriage between Benton Wesley and Kay Scarpetta seems to be working out fine even though he remains angry and jealous of police officer Pete Marino. His feelings makes it difficult for them to work together, which they must on her latest cases. Toni Darien was murdered by a blunt force trauma to the head; which is obvious but the time of death is not. Reliable eye witnesses insist she was still alive hours after the medical examiner declared her dead.

Besides her pro bono ME position in Manhattan, Scarpetta is the forensic expert on the CNN Carley Crispin Show, hosted by Carly Crispin whose superiors want to replace her. They want Kay to star on a new show The Scarpetta Factor because she has the gift of always finding the killer. When Kay returns to her ME office, she picks up a Fed-Ex package that strikes her as off kilter. She calls for the bomb squad and is proven right that there was a bomb in the package that could have badley injurered her and Benton. Kay, Benton, her niece Lucy Farinelli,, Pete Marino, ADA Jaime Berger work together on several cases though there is a strain within the sleuthing group. They believe there is a connection to Toni’s death and the disappearance of beautiful millionaire Hannah Starr as well as the bomb scare. None of these so-called experts has found the link between all their cases as a clever diabolical puppeteer works their strings perfectly.

It does not take being a forensic expert to know that Patricia Cornwell’s latest Scarpetta Factor is filled with excitement and plausible twists that also contains revelations about each of the recurring cast; none of this is easy to do when this is number seventeen in this great series. Switching perspectives without slowing down, the story line is told in the third person with varying leads enabling the readers to get deep inside each of the main players especially to what fears and traumas they must overcome. Fans will enjoy competing with the Scarpetta zoo crew in trying to discover who killed Toni and why and what happened to Hannah.

Harriet Klausner

Five Hundred Years After-Steven Brust

Five Hundred Years After
Steven Brust
Orb (Tor), Aug 2009, $15.99
ISBN: 9780765319661

FIVE HUNDRED YEARS AFTER the events of THE PHOENIX GUARDS, in which Khaavren fulfilled his life dream to become an Imperial Guard, he remains the same rank with little hope for promotion and no further aspirations. As he goes about his duty, the Dragaeran Empire leadership is very concerned as assassinations are happening seemingly everywhere even in safe havens.

Emperor Tortaalik I directs Captain Khaavren and his three still wary buddies and fellow Imperial Guards (Aerich, Tazendra and Pel) as well as others to investigate who is behind the killings. They and their allies soon uncover a great conspiracy fostered by unlikely partners starting with Dragonlord Adron and street urchins of Underside. At the same time the eldritch Sethra Lavode and Adron’s daughter Aliera are in the crosshairs.

This is a reprint of an early 1990s sequel that once again pays obvious homage to Alexandre Dumas. The saga occurs about five hundred years before the time that Vlad Taltos roamed Dragaera. The adventures of the four musketeers are fun to follow though none come across as more than courageous, loyal, but somewhat superficially charming rogues who still lack depth though have matured since they first joined the Imperial Guards. FIVE HUNDRED YEARS AFTER is an engaging often amusing swashbuckling sword and sorcery fantasy that also introduces the reader to key characters in the Taltos era.

Harriet Klausner

Ariel-Steven R Boyett

Ariel
Steven R Boyett
Ace, Aug 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441017942

Like everyone else who was there when the machines stopped working and the mythological creatures appeared, Pete Garey can tell you what he was doing at the precise moment, 4:30 to be exact when the lights went out as the Change occurred. A high school student at the time of the Change, he survived by scavenging what was taken for granted before the Change.

Pete was washing himself in waters that before the Change would go on fire when he sees the unicorn with her broken leg. He sets the leg with splints and they become traveling companions with Pete scavenging for food especially the impossible to find peppermints that Ariel loves. They meet Russ Chafney in the library in Atlanta and he takes them to Malachi Lee who teaches Pete to use a sword in a dangerous world in which guns being machines fail to work. However, a dangerous necromancer has learned of the unicorn and sent his minion led by the Griffin rider to either capture the beast or steal the horn. Malachi insists he will fight the necromancer alone in the evil one’s stronghold in Manhattan. However, Pete and Ariel follow him to New York City as he is their brother in arms.

This reprint of a strong post-apocalyptic fantasy is an engaging tale as good and evil center on a struggle to either befriend and protect; or incarcerate or kill the unicorn. The story is fast-paced especially once the lead couple reaches Atlanta, DC and NYC. Pete is a terrific as he must stay virgin pure to remain Ariel’s companion while the unicorn brings a coming of age (some not realistic) feel to the plot. Although the audience needs to ignore the reasons why the Change occurred as they are not forthcoming, ARIEL is a super tale with wry humor that asks whether a return to nature is the only way to save the planet from humanity.

Harriet Klausner

Dracula: The Un-Dead-Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt

Dracula: The Un-Dead
Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt
Dutton,Oct 2009, $26.95
ISBN 9780525951292

Twenty-five years has passed since the horrific events of 1897 ended with Dracula turning into dust; none involved have moved on as each remains haunted by the encounter with the Count. Mina and Jonathon married, but neither obtained closure when the vampire was killed; stressed and estrnaged, they conceal from their son Quincey what happened. Seward survives with heroin while Holmwood became a hermit. Their mentor Van Helsing obsessively lives for the return of Dracula as the vampire’s death was his life’s goal so he has nothing else. Scotland Yard believes Van Helsing was involved in the unsolved Ripper murders.

In 1912, Stoker is frustrated as he struggles to convert his horror thriller Dracula to the London stage. However, although the author knows the full truth, he and the others except perhaps the ever vigilant Van Helsing are unprepared for a gruesome serial killer horrifying London. Scotland yard once again believes a fanatic Van Helsing is deeply connected to the killings, but too old to perform them. Those involved with what happened back then find themsleves and their loved ones under siege as if Van Helsing’s belief the Count will return from the dust has occurred. The survivors of the previous encounter regroup to battle evil again although they are unsure who stalks them.

This is a super vampire thriller that brings forward the stars of Dracula into the Edwardian Era with a where are they now tale. The clever story line is fast-paced while introducing the audience to the survivors of the previous horrific encounter to include Bram Stoker. Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt explore the essence of evil and good through a cast of humans who have used psychological defense mechanisms to barely survive and a vampire who may or may not be Dracula, but has the same attitude re the food chain as well as a thirst for the blood of vengeance. Filled with terrific twists fans of Dracula and those who appreciate a strong historical urban fantasy will relish the THE UN-DEAD.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Shadow Season- Tom Piccirilli

Shadow Season
Tom Piccirilli
Bantam, Oct 27 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780553592474

A former NYPD cop Finn teaches literature at the prestigious Upstate New York St. Valarian’s Academy for Girls. Finn finds it ironic that his students wonder how he keeps his collection of books so brand new conceding how easy it is to maintain a pristine collection when you are blind. He has a relationship with Roz the nurse and muses over the crushes his students have on him except for Vi who he and the dean Judith worry about; he also wonders about his former wife Danielle.

Christmas empties the school leaving a few loners with no place to go behind. A blizzard further isolates those still at the academy including Finn. However, the nurse and a student seem to have vanished. Almost immediately afterward, two thugs arrive demanding Finn pay his debt or else. As he fears for those trapped inside the school, he thinks of his detective partner Ray and how many ways he would relish killing him, but for now must somehow deal with the “ill will” of a killer leaving dead students and faculty in his or her wake.

This is an exciting action-packed thriller that hooks the audience from the moment Finn begins his musing and never slows down as the readers wonders why someone is mass murdering those trapped at the school. The story line is fast-paced once the characters are set and never slows down until the anticipated final confrontation with the ill wind and the academy’s champion, a sort of good vs. evil battle on a small scale. SHADOW SEASON is an engaging tense tale as Tom Piccirilli provides a superb suspenseful story.

Harriet Klausner

While My Guitar Gently Weeps-Deborah Grabien

While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Deborah Grabien
Minotaur, Sep 15 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312590963

In San Francisco, someone uses a guitar to hammer the head of Bombardier lead vocalist Vinny Fabiano. No one seems to mourn the death of Vinny, who alienated everyone including his band mates, but everyone grieves the death of the guitar, custom made by the great artist Bruno Baines.

The late Vinny even managed to insult MRI specialist Bree Godwin, band mate JP Kincaid's old lady. JP and Bree remain amazed that the killer would use such a murder weapon. They are not amazed to learn Vinny's prized Zemaitis guitar is missing. Soon afterward, Vinny's guitar technician Rocco Galliano is also murdered. Not wanting to become part of a Christie And Then There Were None, JP and his mates investigate.

The second Kincaid mystery (see ROCK AND ROLL NEVER FORGETS) is an enjoyable amateur sleuth mystery enhanced by a fascinating look at guitar making although that detracts from the whodunit. The lead pair has health issues with JP dealing with multiple sclerosis and Bree struggling with a cancer scare , but unlike guitar manufacturing the illnesses augment the investigation as they make the inquiry that more difficult. Fans will rock with Kincaid as he and Bree follow the chords.

Harriet Klausner

Arctic Chill-Arnaldur Indridason

Arctic Chill
Arnaldur Indridason
Minotaur, Sep 15 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312381035

Outside a slummy Reykjavik apartment, the corpse of an Asian-Icelandic boy is found lying in his frozen blood. Police detective Erlendur Sveinsson leads the investigation into the homicide. He finds no motives for killing the half Thai child so he explores racism as the only possibility in spite of a tolerant society in which native males marry Thai women, divorce them, and abandon them and their offspring to live in the slums. The victim is El'as whose mom Sunee worked in a chocolate factory but has recently vanished; she was estranged from her carpenter husband Idinn for bringing her other son Niran with her.

Erlanger has personal issues starting with the shock of his former boss Marion’s slow death that reminds him of his own mortality and his obsession to reconcile with his estrange adult children. The detective continues his inquiry into a missing woman who probably committed suicide, but he seeks closure in the case.

The latest Icelandic police procedural is a deep look at society struggling with the problems Thai women face in Iceland. The story line also deeply digs into a father’s struggles with his two offspring who have issues that make him feel like a failure. As their father he wants to shower them with love; an emotion he cannot show to anyone even the woman he desires as love denotes weakness. This is another winner as the case is solid but supports the profound glimpse into society and relationships.

Harriet Klausner

At Empire’s Edge-William C, Dietz

At Empire’s Edge
William C, Dietz
Ace, Oct 6 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441017591

The Uman Empire has never been challenged by any of their conquests as they increasingly rule the stars; colonizing planets along the way. However, recently a planet has been found containing violent prone shape-shifters; to control the nasty Sagathis, the Uman scientists biologically reengineered a special forces unit the Xeno Corps who has the skill to see past the bodily changes into the essence of these aliens.

A battle with the Vord forced a Xeno Corps ship escorting a captured Sagathi to land on former prison planet Dantha for repairs. The crew including Jak Cato gets smashingly drunk. When Jak regains consciousness with a splitting headache, he learns to his horror that every other Xeno cop he served with was slaughtered during the night. Filled with survivor guilt and fueled by rage, Jak vows to hunt down and kill everyone involved with the slaughter especially the person who betrayed them.

This is an entertaining police procedural (loosely that is) space opera for fans who relish blood, gore and blood. The story line is fast-paced as Jak and the villains emote overly dramatic while bystanders are killed at an alarming rate. Fans who enjoy a blood-spattered science fiction thriller will want to read the first of a two part saga as William C. Dietz provides an exciting but out of control opening act.

Harriet Klausner

Fledgling-Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Fledgling
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Baen, Sep 2009, $24.00
ISBN: 9781439132876

Theo Waitley has lived a contented life on the matriarchal run “Safe World” Delgado with her mom Kamele and her mother’s onagrata Jen Sar Kiladi; both of the adults are professors. However, life abruptly changes when Kamele suddenly leaves Jen Sar and taking her daughter with her relocates into a smaller family housing unit. Professor Kamele adapts and quickly becomes a department sub-chair while Theo struggles with new friends and feeling clumsy and awkward residing inside the Wall after years on the outskirts. She also misses Jen-Sar whom she considered her father.

Matters change even more abruptly when her mom informs her she is going off planet for a half year to investigate a nasty accusation of scholarly misconduct that could shake several academic worlds. Ignoring Theo’s preferences to stay behind with her father, Kamele takes her daughter with her on a forensics documents search. Theo will either adapt or face much more shunning than just being considered physically challenged.

This is a stand alone Liaden Universe coming of age tale targeting young adult readers. Theo is a delightful center holding the story line together; ironically fans of the saga will know her true roots that have been hidden from her. With a strong cast and a solid forensics subplot, readers will enjoy the escapdes of the FLEDGLING whose life has changed dramatically (in her mind not in a good way since she misses her “father” and their suburban home) as she nears her fifteenth birthday.

Harrier Klausner

Audrey's Door-Sarah Langan

Audrey's Door
Sarah Langan
Harper, Oct 2009, $7.99
ISBN 9780061624216

Following the break up with her fiancĂ© Saraub and her mother’s lapse into a coma, architect Audrey Lucas feels fortunate to find an apartment in Morningside Heights for under a $1000 a month as she was thinking of relocating to Queens. She moves into the historical Breviary, which was construed in 1861 and is an architect’s delight with its rarely used “Chaotic Naturalism” style.

Audrey is a bit taken aback to learn the previous occupant drowned her four small children before killing herself, but prefers bad vibes to the boroughs. Soon after moving in, Audrey’s mind begins to lose its grip on sanity. Ghosts and other renters warn her to construct a door before it is too late although the other living occupants are urban hermits of sorts hiding behind the doors they each built. Still even as she is aware she is losing it, Audrey obsessively begins to build the door so they can escape

AUDREY’S DOOR is an engaging haunted apartment house horror thriller that grips the readers mostly because of its Columbia University location; a seemingly unlikely place for a haunting unless you know the neighborhood overlooking Harlem. Audrey is a wonderful protagonist who is loaded with neurotic tendencies. Although the climax can be on a foggy day as far away as Hoboken, fans will enjoy Sarah Langan’s tense Gotham thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Neuropath-R. Scott Bakker

Neuropath
R. Scott Bakker
Tor, Oct 13 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765321893

Psychologist Tom Bible still misses Nora and their two children following her divorcing him and he loathes his teaching position lecturing bored grad students. He muses about his best friend Neil Cassidy who teaches in California to bored grad students; and recalls the “Argument” re free will or lack of as his friend firmly believed everyone’s brain is pre-wired forcing an individual to choose a pre-determined selection.

Neil visits Tom out of the blue to discuss the Argument in person; proclaiming he has done work for the NSA on destroying the minds of terrorists. Soon after showing up Neil vanishes. The Feds follow him to interrogate and then enlist Tom in their quest to find Neil, who they claim has lost his mind as they show the video of a woman whose brain was rewired; a skill only Neil has. FBI agent Samantha “Sam” Logan insists Tom’s best friend has switched from rewiring known terrorists to average American citizens with his target apparently those inside of Tom’s inner circle.

NEUROPATH is an exhilarating frightening modernization of Dr. Frankenstein using modern science to change the brain, which causes conflict as R. Scott Bakker makes a strong case that naturing is much more powerful than nurturing. The story line is fast-paced even when the lead character debates with himself over what he knows about Neil. Although some subplots seem stretched, fans will appreciate this extremely dark taut thriller filled with shocking twists that looks deep into the Argument of free will vs. pre-determinism; in a modern context of chemical syntax making the choices instead of rational minds. No one who reads Mr. Bakker’s tale will simply accept the words I love you in the same way.

Harriet Klausner

ArchEnemy-Frank Beddor

ArchEnemy
Frank Beddor
Dial (Penguin), Oct 15 2009, $17.99
ISBN: 9780803731561

Queen Alyss of Wonderland has taken over throne from Redd, who used dark imagination to rule as a dictator. In a contentious battle between the two females, light imagination wins. However a third player surfaces as King Arch of the Overlands wants to rule Wonderland. He employs WILMA (Women of Inconceivable Loss and Massive Annihilation) to ruin the Heart Crystal, which is the source of all imagination in creation.

The power of imagination vanishes from Wonderland and will soon disappear from earth and other worlds too. Alyss tries to line up support to fight the King and Queen of clubs and other allies of King Arch, who insist there is no place for imagination to flourish. Her lone remaining choice is to ally with the Redd Queen as her friends are being tossed in prisons by the WILMAs and the caterpillar between puffs says nothing of meaning.

This is the final book in the Looking Glass Wars trilogy and in spite of the subject retains all the imagination and charm of the previous novels (see THE LOOKING GLASS WARS and SAVING REDD). Alyss is bold and brave as she rules with benevolence until the threat surfaces that returns her into a determined resolute fighter. Arch is an interesting enemy whose goal appears not be power but instead the elimination of power; which makes him a difficult opponent to defeat as he has a personal quest. Although written for young adults, older readers will enjoy Alyss’ latest adventures in Wonderland.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sins of the Father-Angela Benson

Sins of the Father
Angela Benson
Avon, Aug 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061468520

Feeling remorse that he never recognized his two children from out of wedlock and encouraged by a letter his late mom left him, Abraham Martin, after informing his beloved wife Saralyn what he did three decades ago just before he married her, admits he sired Michael and Deborah with their mom Leah. His revelation upsets his son, Isaac, who quits abruptly the family business, MEEG. As he tries to develop a relationship with the two adults he abandoned when they were babies and patch up the split with Isaac, Leah demands Abraham take care of his other offspring.

Deborah welcomes his efforts and is elated he has given her a firm to manage while her brother Michael rejects everything offered by Abraham to him. His acrimony impacts his relationships with his mom and wife Josette as he is filled with rage and a thirst of vengeance. Isaac also takes his anger with his dad into his relationship with his spouse Rebecca. Meanwhile the only seemingly contented child of his since his pronouncement Deborah is attracted to Abraham's attorney, Alan Weems, who is the same age as her parents, which has her mom worried that her daughter seeks a father figure.

With a modernizing of the relationships of the biblical Abraham, Angela Benson provides an engaging contemporary drama. The story line feels like a soap opera as one melodramatic event follows another. Still the cast is full dimensional (even Abraham’s late mother) with each reacting differently to the patriarch’s revelations. Fans will appreciate the SINS OF THE FATHER as Abraham’s efforts for redemption seem to have fallen apart as his past transgressions with two women appears to be repeated by his offspring.

Harriet Klausner

Damas, Dramas and Ana Ruiz-Belinda Acosta

Damas, Dramas and Ana Ruiz
Belinda Acosta
Grand Central, Aug 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780446540513

Ana Ruiz has her hands full as her fourteen year old daughter Carmen blames her for her dad Esteban leaving them although he cheated on her and he left. She wonders if she made a mistake hiding Esteban’s affairs from Carmen and their other older child Diego.

Regardless Ana desperately wants to regain what Esteban destroyed when he walked out: her closeness with Carmen. She decides to throw a quinceanera gala for her daughter, but Carmen seems disinterested; preferring to punch her mom by exclusion and omission, Ana is hurt more by Carmen’s behavior than the womanizing and abandonment by Esteban. Diego plays intermediary between his wary mom and his acrimonious sis while his cousin Bianca takes over the role of quinceanera party planner.

This is a well written family drama that deftly focuses on the extended Ruiz brood. Ironically the “white girl from Kansas” enhances the profound look at a Mexican-American family as she knows more about Mexican music than the Ruiz family. Carmen is angry and but holding her mom culpable while her brother guesses at the truth. Ana is superb as the prime player who feels as if her world has ended yet resolutely hides what Esteban did to her from her daughter. Fans will enjoy this drama that looks into the trials and tribulations of a Mexican-American family.

Harriet Klausner

A Cousin's Prayer-Wanda E. Brunstetter

A Cousin's Prayer
Wanda E. Brunstetter
Barbour, Sep 2009, $10.97
ISBN: 9781602600614

Katie Miller left her Indiana Amish community to live with her grandparents in Florida after blaming herself for panicking over a bee in their vehicle heading to Hershey Park. They were in an accident as her boyfriend Timothy’s van crashed; he, Paul and Raymond died in the crash while Wayne lost the use of his legs and Jolene her hearing. Grieving her loss, she returns to her Hoosier State roots to attend the wedding of Loraine to Wayne. Afterward, Katie knows she cannot go back to Florida as the sunshine died with her boyfriend.

Still grieving Katie also suffers from anxiety, panic attacks and depression. Freeman Bontrager, who has been half in love with Katie for years, offers her solace. Katie finds him comforting, but he also seems interested in Eunice. When rumors spread about Katie, she feels Freeman betrayed her after she trusted him with her fears and secrets.

The second Indiana Cousins relationship drama (see A COUSIN’S PROMISE) is a terrific character driven tale as Kate and others struggle with survivor guilt that even engulfs loved ones who were not in the accident. For instance Kate’s mom feels remorse for sending her to Florida last year, but was unsure then and remains uncertain as to what to do. Fans will enjoy this deep saga as everyone tries to move pass the tragedy through the help of God and loved ones.

Harriet Klausner

Mahu Vice-Neil S. Plakcy

Mahu Vice
Neil S. Plakcy
Alyson Books, Aug 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 9781593501112

Honolulu Police Detective Kimo Kanapa'aka ended his six-months relationship with Fire Inspector Mike Riccardi after his significant other cheated on him while attending a conference in San Francisco; Mike, who is still hiding in the closet from his family and peers, came back with gonorrhea. However, though he kicked the hunk to the curb, Kimo has struggled with his equilibrium; even accepting rough sex with some kick butt guys he meets over the Internet. His brothers and a friend intervene trying to help Kimo regain his self worth.

An arson fire in a shopping center leads to the death of a young boy. Kimo and Mike investigate together; as they did when they first met and fell in love with eighteen months ago. They remain attracted to one another but wary. Kimo finds clues that the fire was set to hide human smuggling and prostitution. He soon finds photos used by a blackmailer to extort money from those caught in sexual encounters that they might not want revealed. This includes Kimo who sees himself in a picture with one of his recent illicit sex mates that if revealed could cost him his career.

This is an enjoyable gay investigative tale that mixes a strong whodunit with deep caring characters. The key to this terrific entry is Kimo who puts a realistic face on a gay cop whose significant other male lover devastated him by cheating on him. The official inquiry into the arson-homicide is super though perhaps too easily forcing Kimo and Mike to meet. However that case and the deep look at issues gays face with in or out make surfing Hawaii’s waves with Kimo and company thoughtful fun.

Harriet Klausner

Top Producer-Norb Vonnegut

Top Producer
Norb Vonnegut
Minotaur, Sep 15 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312384616

The murder of wealthy hedge fund operator Charlie Kelemen has sent shock waves up and down Wall St. Especially stunned is his thirty two years old best friend Grove O’Rourke, who manages two billion dollar in accounts at Sachs, Kidder and Carnegie Investment Bank. Grove saw the homicide along with a few hundred people.

Feeling survivor guilt and wanting to pay homage to his best friend, Grove learns that Charlie’s widow Sam apparently is broke, which makes no sense since Keleman was worth a fortune. He tries to help her while avoiding the financial death by association that frequently takes down Top Producers like him. However, his efforts begin to look futile as his peers and superiors at the bank go after him with ferocity as do the outside competitors. Still Charlie refuses to walk away from the fight for survival at Sachs, Kidder and Carnegie or from learning what happened to O’Rourke’s money.

This is a well written financial thriller that digs deep into some of the voodoo fund flow of Wall St that seems relevant with all that has happened over the past few years. Overall the story line is fast-paced although the plot can slow down with the profundity of fund management as non practitioners will have to be totally focused. Still the tale is fun mostly because Grove is a likable hero swimming in toxic waters. TOP PRODUCER is an enjoyable insider thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Mirror-Barry Maitland

Dark Mirror
Barry Maitland
Minotaur, Sep 29 2009, $24.99
ISBN 9780312383992

In the London Library, Ph.D. candidate Marion Summers researches nineteenth century Pre-Raphaelite artists when she suddenly crumples and drops dead. Since Marion suffered from diabetes, the assumption by all who knew her is the disease caused her death. Recently promoted Detectives Inspector Kathy Kolla leads the official investigation, her first time in charge of a case, though she also expects the medical examiner will determine the cause of death to be related to diabetes.

However, instead the medical examiner finds arsenic inside Summers’ body. Kolla is in charge of the homicide investigation. The cop learns Summers was focusing on the use of arsenic and other poisons by the Pre-Raphaelites. Her theories were upsetting the academic circles as being too way-out. However, that should not be a motive for murder. With Detective Chief Inspector Brock's mentoring, Kolla looks into the personal non-academia life of the victim finding several people who might want to kill her and who had the opportunity to poison her, using ironically what Summers was studying as the means which remains difficult to ascertain.

This is an exciting fresh British police procedural as DI Kolla heads her first investigation as the lead with DCI Brock supporting her. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plausible twists that enhance the inquiry. Fans of the series will enjoy this super Kolla-Brock collaboration.

Harriet Klausner

The Test-Patricia Gussin

The Test
Patricia Gussin
Oceanview, Oct 5 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9781933515199

In Philadelphia, the family of the late famous billionaire philanthropist Paul Parnell gathers for the reading of his will. He had outlived the three women in his life before dying at seventy-five. His first spouse Katherine died in 1963 giving him his two oldest children Daniel and Francis. His second significant other Monica expired in 1995 but they divorced two decades after one offspring, Monica. Finally his last marriage was to Vivian who past away three years earlier after leaving him with three kids (Rory, Ashley and Carla).

The estate is enormous, but his adult children and those with spouses are stunned by what the executor explains to them. Paul felt he neglected his family and decided to “test” them. His five legitimate heirs are further disturbed to lean of his illegitimate offspring Monica. The angriest is Frank and his wife Meredith as they planned on his presidential run funded somewhat by the inheritance. The stipulation is simple: each must give back to society over the next year in order to deserve a share of the billions. Taking advantage of the confusion is avaricious psychiatrist Dr. Conrad Welton who plots to marry Ashley. Let the fun begin.

THE TEST is Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None in a sort of Dynasty Survival contest in the first two years of this century. The story line is driven by the ensemble cast who by their varying behavior seem genuine though most of them spoiled as they cause twists to the plot compounded by a serpent in the battle to own Eden. Readers will enjoy Patricia Gussin’s entertaining tale as Paul wanted to just get his children to give back and not just take, but he could not have known how deadly his test would prove to some of his children and their spouses.

Harriet Klausner

Gwenhwyfar-Mercedes Lackey

Gwenhwyfar
Mercedes Lackey
Daw, Oct 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780756405854

Gwenhwyfar is the daughter of King Lleeudd, the nominal vassal to King Arthur, who is struggling to unite England while fighting off the Saxon incursion. Her mother follows the old ways while Arthur straddles the line between the pagan past and the followers of Christ. Gwenhwyfar has a younger sister Gwenhwyfach who hates her goes off with Morgana to learn the magic of the Old ways. The good daughter is heavily imbued with power and it is thought she would go study at the school of the Ladies of the Well.

However Gwen is told she is touched by another Goddess Epora who is worshipped by warriors as the horse goddess. Gwen turns her back on magic and with her father’s consent, becomes a warrior. Over time she becomes the head of her father’s army respected by the men as their best warrior. For years she has done what makes her happy but when Arthur’s second wife dies without an heir, Gwen is the chosen one as his next spouse. Arthur’s bastard son kidnaps her and the leader of the Otherworld with the assistance of a priest helps her escape. She must return to a husband who she does not love in a land on the brink of war with her sister Gwenhwyfach amongst the enemy.

Mercedes Lackey has written her version of King Arthur who is an old man married to a young woman in order to begat his heir. He is far from the hero of legend especially with his treatment of his wives. Gwenhwyfar is a courageous hardened warrior who plans military strategy for her father in a world where Christ is displacing the old ways, she tries to treat both camps fairly although she possesses some of the magic of the Sisters. This is a brilliant feminist twist to the Arthurian saga

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Greatest Knight: The Unsung Story of the Queen's Champion

Greatest Knight: The Unsung Story of the Queen's Champion
Elizabeth Chadwick
Sourcebooks, Sep 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9781402225185

In the early thirteenth century, as the younger son of an affluent influential family, William Marshal has limited prospects. However, he proves quite skillful with a sword. When he performs a chivalrous act that saves the life of powerful Queen of Eleanor of Aquitaine, he earns the position of special protector. He becomes tutors to the princes and pledges loyalty to the heir Henry out of his fealty to the lad’s mother. He stays loyal as rebellion pits father against son and when Henry dies, Marshal swears loyalty to Henry's brother Richard. This placed him against his brother who pledged loyalty to Richard’s brother Prince John. While Richard is on Crusade, John makes a bid for the throne; this puts Marshal between a rock and a hard place as he must choose between honoring his pledge or his family. He obviously chose right as he became known as the "greatest knight” by his peers.

This is a terrific biographical fiction that fans of the era will enjoy as William served loyally and bravely to a who’s who of the period. The cast starting with Eleanor and the succession of princes/kings/cardinals and popes enhance a strong look at a fascinating individual.

Harriet Klausner

Sheer Folly-Carola Dunn

Sheer Folly
Carola Dunn
Minotaur, Sep 15 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312387754

Writing a book about the SHEER FOLLY of architectural design disasters, Daisy Dalrymple and her best friend photographer Lady Lucy Binscomb travel to see Appsworth Hall; owned by friendly Mr. Pritchard of Pritchard's Plumbing Products. Daisy’s husband Scotland Yard Detective Chief Inspector Alex Fletcher reluctantly will baby-sit their twins while she is away for the weekend.

Daisy and Lucy arrive at the estate only find their host Mr. Pritchard is throwing a garish party attended by Daisy’s friend Julia Beaufort; Lord Rydal known as Rhino; his lover Lady Ottaline Wandersley and her husband Sir Desmond; and Canadian historian Charles Armitage who seems attracted to Julia and she in him. An explosion leaves Rhino dead, but his paramour and his chauffeur survive. The spouses of Daisy and Lucy arrive just in time for the DCI to investigate.

This is an engaging 1920s investigative tale that ironically feels fresh because the local cops are euphoric to have an experienced DCI to work the case. The story line as always in this wonderful long running series (see BLACK SHIP) provides the reader with a glimpse of the English upper class just before the depression. The support cast is solid and the whodunit cleverly devised to enable the reader and Daisy to compete with Alex. It would be SHEER FOLLY for historical mystery fans not to read this superb tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Hunt For Atlantis-Andy McDermott

The Hunt For Atlantis
Andy McDermott
Bantam, Sep 29 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780553592856

Her parents were in Tibet in their quest to find Atlantis when they died. Their deaths shook up their daughter archeologist Nina Wilde, who is in New York City when word reaches her. She has no time to grieve as someone tries to kill her.

Former personal security expert Eddie Chase saves her life. Eddie introduces Nina to reclusive billionaire Kristian Frost and his daughter, Kari. Father and daughter are interested in finding the mythical city and are willing to fund the right expedition; they believe Nina is the right person to lead the quest. Seeing this as a legacy for her late parents, she agrees and begins a globetrotting expedition following clues and dodging human perils fostered on her and her team by The Brotherhood of Selasphorus with Eddie’s help.

This globetrotting breakneck speed thriller will have readers thinking of Indiana Jones (Josephine) as the heroine races back and forth onto four continents being chased by the brotherhood every step of the way. Filled with twists the story line is action, action, and more action as THE HUNT FOR ATLANTIS contains a somewhat limited plot, but fans will enjoy trekking the world faster than the speed of light (or at least the bad guys) with Nina.

Harriet Klausner

Dead Docket-Mitchell Graham

Dead Docket
Mitchell Graham
Forge, Jul 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765322456

They became lovers in New York City (see MAJESTIC DESCENDING), but while John Delaney is a Big Apple law professor, Katherine Adams is an Atlanta lawyer. They miss one another, but keep in contact though long distance relationships are difficult.

Delaney is excited and sad as he has a professional reason to see Katherine. Delaney is heading to Georgia to settle the estate of the daughter of his father’s partner. Apparently Sarah fell off a cliff while camping in Cloudland Canyon in north Georgia Mountains. However, this simple matter turns ugly when Delaney learns O'Connor allegedly stole a file from the US Attorney’s office where she worked as a legal intern; the file contained incriminating evidence against crime boss Warren Blendel. John soon realizes that Sarah’s apartment was searched and that the FBI has kept a case open involving her and her boyfriend Andre Rostov. Not long after that Blendel’s thugs come to Atlanta to bury anyone associated with the evidence. Katherine and John find a tie to his fathers’ death as the case spins further out of control.

Throw away your plausibility meter somewhere on the East Coast and the reader will have a great time going along for the ride of an action-packed thriller. The story line is action-packed and feels at times out of control as Adams and Delaney land in one dangerous disaster after another. Filled with twists, fans will appreciate this entertaining but improbable thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Grace Hammer-Sara Stockbridge

Grace Hammer
Sara Stockbridge
Norton, Sep 21 2009, $23.95
ISBN: 9780393067187

In 1888 in the Whitechapel section of London Grace Hammer and her children live relatively snug especially when compared with their East End neighbors. She and her kids are expert pickpockets, which is how they fund their fine home.

Having taken purses since she was a child and also training her children to do likewise; Grace has a history; she hopes her past remains buried as some of her victims would like to get back at her if they could find her; which is unlikely because of her residence. However, rusticating not out of choice resides one of her victims, the outraged Mr. Blunt. Years ago a beautiful hooker stole a special treasure from him and he vowed to find her and get back what she purloined and more; as retribution is his. Blunt now knows where she hides and exacts punishment but not by directly targeting her, but like she did with his missing piece take from her what she cherishes most.

This is an engaging late Victorian thriller that in spite of being decades after Oliver Twist took place has a similar sense of locale even with the era and section of London being that of Ripper. The fast-paced tale is at its best when the focus subtly is on the dark atmosphere of the East End underground; on the other hand when Sara Stockbridge indulgently turns poetic with flowery figures of speech GRACE HAMMER loses some of its taut dark edge even when the metaphors and similes are gloomy. Still fans will enjoy this fine historical suspense tale in anticipation of High Noon in Whitechapel.

Harriet Klausner

A Prisoner of Versailles-Golden Keyes Parson

A Prisoner of Versailles
Golden Keyes Parson
Thomas Nelson, Sep 1 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9781595546272

In spite of the Clavell family willing to vow on the bible, King Louis XIV refuses to accept their contention as he firmly believes that Philippe Clavell is not his son. Knowing how obstinate and dangerous the monarch can be, the Clavell brood flees hoping for sanctuary in Switzerland, but fails to get out of France as the monarch spares no expense sending Captain Maisson to bring back Madeleine and her oldest son Philippe to what he calls the most beautiful palace, Versailles.

The King's men capture them and escort Madeleine and Philippe to Versailles. Madeleine depends on Pierre Bovee, who kept her safe once before; while Philippe tries in vain to persuade the ruler that he is not his offspring. However, Bovee is arrested for high treason with little chance of getting out of prison alive. Frightened for her family, friends and herself, Madeleine feels God is either testing her or more likely abandoned her. She also realizes her only way to save her kin and her former protector is agreeing to become the mistress of King Louis XIV.

The second Darkness to Light (IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN KING) historical thriller is an exciting fast-paced tale starring a strong woman who sacrifices her own well-being to try to keep her loved ones safe. There is plenty of taut suspense and a secondary romantic subplot that tie together nicely in support of the prime story line that focuses on surviving the Sun King’s peccadilloes and wrath in seventeenth century France.

Harriet Klausner

Eye of the God-Ariel Allison

Eye of the God
Ariel Allison
Abington Press, Oct 2009, $13.99
www.abingtonpress.com
ISBN: 9781426700682

The art thief ring the Collectors wants the Dali painting hanging in a Rio de Janeiro museum. Smithsonian curator Dr Abigail Mitchell travels to Rio warns the museum’s director Dr. Ana Santos about the possible thefts. While they meet, two masked men steal several paintings. They are brothers Alex and Isaac Weld who plan to steal the Hope Diamond from the Smithsonian.

Abby is in charge of the fund raising gala with the Hope Diamond as the centerpiece. Alex poses as a journalist and gets close enough to Abby to place a bug on her so that he and Isaac can listen in on discussions about security arrangements. As he gets closer to Abby, his emotions get entangled for the first time with a mark although he intends to go through with the theft. The theft will be easier because at the last moment it is decided Abby will be wearing the Hope Diamond. When she asks her father for help in recovering it, he dismisses her as he had all his life. She learns Alex betrayed her, but though hurt remains resolute to recover what belongs to the Smithsonian.

This is an exhilarating inspiring thriller starring a heroine who never received her father’s affection as a child or an adult yet still covets it and reaches out to him knowing the rejection is coming. Alex gets passed her mental defense mechanisms playing on her need to be loved; his betrayal rips her heart as like her father he affirms men don’t care though he feels remorse and regret. Filled with action on three continents, EYE OF THE GOD is a riveting fast-paced thriller, but it is Abby in spite of another let down by a man remains filled with hope who makes Ariel Allison’s tale a super read.

Harriet Klausner

Personal Demons-Gregory Lamberson

Personal Demons
Gregory Lamberson
Medallion, Oct 1 2009, $7.95
ISBN: 9781605420721

The Cipher is a psychopathic serial killer who takes perverse extra pleasure with seeing the face of terror on his victims. He slices their throats with a caring tenderness; takes a photo of their fear-ridden face; and finally kills them. Afterward he uses the picture to have a likeness tattooed on his body so he carries their soul with him that he steals just when they die.

Jake Helman is a fallen cop who uses cocaine to take the edge off the demons that haunt his soul. His wife Sheryl is irate with him and is threatening to leave him. Although he cares about her and what she will do, he remains diligent with stalking the Cipher. Billionaire Nicholas “Old Nick” Tower needs a Chief of Security to protect his genetic engineering corporation; he learns of Jake and hires him, which saves his marriage but not his soul as the Tower Corporation takes him away from the Cipher hunt, but soon the soul searching former cop has a new evil to investigate.

This taut serial killer horror thriller hooks readers from the onset and as the tension grows the audience becomes deeper involved. The cast is strong especially the Cipher who is an incredible villain with no doubts or bouts of remorse while his adversary is crippled with doubts and bouts of remorse; throw in aptly named Old Nick into the mix. Each has crutches with Cipher being the tattoos and Jake cocaine and alcohol. Fans will appreciate this edgy dark thriller anticipating the gruesome confrontation between evil and fallen good.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Piece de Resistance-Sandra Byrd

Piece de Resistance
Sandra Byrd
WaterBrook, Sep 15 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9781400073290

After completing her pastry classes in Presque le Chateau just outside of Paris, Chef Lexi Stuart returns home to Seattle looking forward to running and baking a bakery. However she knows she has one year to succeed.

At the same time she works hard to make her bakery a success, Lexi deals with her relationship with her French boyfriend Philippe and his daughter, Celine and local lawyer Dan. She wonders if she can have her cake and eat it too, but soon will understand that Lovin’ Spoonful means more than just a recipe entry, as she now knows what Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind truly means.

The third Lexi Stuart tale (see LET THEM EAT CAKE and BON APPETITE) is a fine entry as the lead protagonist has come home but her choices with opening a bakery and her personal life are complex. Lexi makes the story line sweet yet her relationships are complicated and her decisions difficult leaving fans enjoying the aptly titled PIECE DE RESISTANCE as even the cover is mouth watering delightful

Harriet Klausner

Her Inheritance Forever-Lynn Cote

Her Inheritance Forever
Lynn Cote
Avon, Aug 2009, $12.99
ISBN: 9780061373435

In 1836 someone hired a rogue Comanche to abduct Alandra Sandoval. Her guardian Quinn and a ranch hand Scully Falconer rescue her. Quinn, his wife Dorritt and Alandra believes whoever was behind the kidnapping covets her ranch that she will soon run.

However, upon returning to her spread, she also finds her paternal family who were not there for her when her brother died wants the rancho. As rebellion is in the air leaving it undecided whether Mexican or Tejano law will rule in Texas, Alandra and Scully agree to a marriage of convenience to protect her interests in whatever court has jurisprudence. Scully is half way in love with Alandra, but she is a Creole lady and he is nothing with a nightmare that haunts him. However, as he accompanies Quinn to learn what happened at the Alamo, she is snatched again. This time Scully plans to rescue his beloved wife and persuade her he loves her and wants her forever.

The latest Texas Stars of Destiny historical romance leaves the Era of Good Feelings (see DESIRES OF THE HEART for the story of Quinn and Dorritt) for the uncertain Texas War of Independence period. Fans will feel the anxiety and uncertainty as communication is relatively poor; for instance no one knows what happened at the Alamo. Alandra and Scully are full developed characters who fans will root for while her guardians are going into middle age gracefully and still in love. However, her Mexican family is stereotyped one dimensional avarice thugs. Still fans will enjoy the inspirational adventures of Scully and Alandra as they fall in love while setting some sort of record for kidnappings and rescues.

Harriet Klausner

Trick or Treat-Kerry Greenwood

Trick or Treat
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen, Oct 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590585320

In Melbourne, large size baker Corinna Chapman becomes concerned when competition moves in down the block from her Earthy Delights bakery. She knows her food is superior to the chain, but their prices are much less than hers. At the same time she is panicky over her shop, an old friend visits her Israeli boyfriend, Daniel Cohen who is busy searching for stolen by the Nazis loot owned by Greek Jews. Georgiana is gorgeous and appears to want Daniel and though she admits to herself jealousy might taint her opinion Corinna believes the bakery too.

As she struggles to hold on to her business, perfectly sane people are jumping off buildings to their deaths. The police shut down foods shops to investigate the root cause. Meanwhile her friend Meroe the witch owner of Sibyl's Cave is unhappy with the gathering to celebrate Samhain. Soon the food issue, the stolen loot, and the witches’ coven camp converge as a deadly predator has been working the neighborhood.

The latest Chapman mystery is a superb amateur sleuth that deftly merges several mysteries with the Lonsdale Street neighborhood goings-on that impact the lead heroine and her friends. The story line is fast-paced from the first confection to the final confrontation as Kerry Greenwood bakes a delightful Australian tale with a terrific twist that will send readers to the previous HEAVENLY PLEASURES of the EARTHY DELIGHTS Bakery.

Harriet Klausner

Chinese Whispers-Peter May

Chinese Whispers
Peter May
Poisoned Pen, Oct 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590586082

The Chinese authorities try to conceal the serial killings of four prostitutes by the Beijing Ripper, whose methods are reminiscent of the late nineteenth century notorious Victorian psychopath. They actually were somewhat successful until the victim is visiting Chinese American Professor Lynn Pann, in Beijing to show new law enforcement tools using the Mermer brain scan method to the Municipal Police Chief of CID Li Yan.

Li investigates the latest homicide with plenty of superiors watching his every move. He thinks the motive is related the Mermer method. As he begins to follow the clues based on the American finding something about one of her subjects, someone with power is trying to destroy him by denying his American lover's visa renewal, kidnapping their son, arresting his sister for drug trafficking and finally firing Li. As an expert falls from a window, Li works the case unofficially, which in China means illegally.

This is a gripping at times gruesome Ripper police procedural with the freshness being the Communist authorization government interfering in Li’s investigation and his romance with his beloved American. The story line is fast-paced on both fronts as Li struggles with ending a serial killer’s murder spree while confronting all sorts of assaults on his loved ones from an unknown adversary with a grudge and highly connected. Fans will appreciate this super Chinese serial killer police procedural and seek previous Li Yan cases (see THE FIREMAKER, KILLING ROOM and SNAKEHEAD); especially those in Beijing.

Harriet Klausner

The Other Girl-Sarah Miller

The Other Girl
Sarah Miller
St. Martin’s, Sep 15 2009, $16.99
ISBN: 9780312334154

At Midvale Prep, students Molly McGarry and Gideon Rayburn are an entry. She is his perfect girlfriend as she knows his desires as if she is reading what is inside his head; which is what she is actually doing as she is INSIDE THE MIND OF GIDEON RAYBURN.

However, during an intimate interlude, Molly is stunned when she reads her beloved’s thoughts as Gideon’s mind wanders over to beautiful Pilar Benitez-Jones. Upset, but needing to conceal what she knows about his mental misdemeanor in order to hide her telepathy ability, Molly struggles with what to do next. However, she loses control of what next when somehow she mislays her brainwave connection to Gideon as her skill abruptly for no known reason that she can comprehend switches to reading Pilar. At the same Gideon starts a campaign to seduce Pilar.

Although some of the support students are stereotypes of the affluent snob, Molly makes the tale with her rapid take no prisoners narration of others especially the rival. Older teen fans will enjoy her antics as she surfs heads not liking what she hears especially Gid and Pilar as a sexual entity. Sarah Miller provides a wonderful sequel as Molly is inside the mind of THE OTHER GIRL.

Harriet Klausner

Quatrain-Sharon Shinn

Quatrain
Sharon Shinn
Ace, Oct 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780441017584

“Flight”. Living in atonement for her sins, Aunt Salome protects her niece Sheba from the dark archangel of Samaria Raphael as she knows first hand his temptation.

“Blood”. Seventeen year old Kerk Socast leaves the Gold Mountain to find his mom in the Lost City with the help of Jalciana Candachi.

“Gold”. Her parents send Princess Zara from the war to live with her Uncle Jaxon in Alora. Later after it is safe, she refuses to go home to Castle Auburn as she prefers living on the other side of the River Faelyn as there her love for her restrained guard Orlain can flourish.

“Flame”. The untrained reclusive Mystic Senneth knows when she uses her gift; the headache and other pains leave her believing she is cursed. She meets the villagers at a gala that her friend Evelyn insists the too tall big boned hermit attend. However, soon afterward, the villagers realize she has the gift of the magi with her skill to call and put out the fire. However that condemns her as flames burn down the village.

These are four great fantasy novellas that showcase the talent of a wonderful author. It’s a sin if you have not read Sharon Shinn.

Harriet Klausner

The Mermaid's Madness-Jim C. Hines

The Mermaid's Madness
Jim C. Hines
Daw, Oct 6 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756405830

The Mermaid princess gave up everything for love except her life; however, the human she cherished turned elsewhere so her love was unrequited. Irate and jealous and isolated form her own kind due to her sacrifice, she attacked the cause of her lost love: Queen Beatrice of the Kingdom of Lorindar. Her effort proves successful leaving the Queen in a regal coma. Her three princess wards (Snow White, Talia the Sleeping Beauty and Danielle Cinderella) are worried about their beloved mentor’s comatose state, but soon have their own problems when they are under assault next.

They survive, but must find out who is behind the violence in order to put an end to it. They journey to the underwater kingdom of the Mer to obtain allies and to ascertain who amongst them might be the aggressor and why. Drinking plenty of terrible tasting tea to combat seasickness, the princesses risk their lives trying to save Queen Beatrice and themselves from a dangerously cunning adversary.

This entertaining twisted fairy tale sequel to THE STEPSISTER SCHEME is an amusing dark spin of the Little Mermaid as Jim Hines tells the “true” tale of what happened; not the happy ending one. Fans will laugh at the princess stereotyping that lightens through lampooning the sinister enchanted fairy tale with nods to Fractured Fairy Tales of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame (Jay Ward, Alex Anderson and Bill Scott).

Harriet Klausner

Serrano Succession-Elizabeth Moon

Serrano Succession
Elizabeth Moon
Baen, Sep 8 2009, $24.00
ISBN: 9781439132883

“Change of Command”. The Familias Regnant are stunned when the dynastic head Bunny Thornbuckle is assassinated. The murder throws the Family into chaos and discord. Hobart Conselline cleverly takes advantage of the confusion and lack of successor power to become the new council speaker of the Grand Council at Castle Rock He gets new laws passed that target removing his only threat, the late Bunny’s Widow Miranda, his daughter Brun and the children that the latter was forced to carry (see RULES OF ENGAGEMENT). At the same time the Regnant is divided between Hobart supporters and those loyal to the widow, military officers Esmay Suiza and Barin Serrano marry over the objections of their respective adversarial families.

“Against the Odds”. The Fleet military wing of the Familias Regnant rebels. This leaves the Familias in jeopardy from its bigger stalking neighbor, the Benignity. Meanwhile the Fleet discharges Lieutenant Esmay Suiza for marrying Barin Serrano compounded by her religious belief. Suiza travels to Castle Rock where she hopes to obtain support from Grand Council member Brun Meager, whom she rescued at a time the leadership debates the issue of near-immortality of the wealthy vs. the aspirations of their heirs.

These are reprints of two of the Suiza-Serrano tales that will please fans of the outer space romantic science fiction series; newcomers will be better off starting with last year’s reprint; SERRANO CONNECTION. Both tales are well written and enable the audience to feel they are in space as family members of a Mafia like planetary government. Although the myriad of subplots can prove confusing and bog down the pace, SERRANO SUCCESSION remains a super spellbinding Suiza-Serrano space saga with more stories to reprint.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Counterfeit Guest-Rose Melikan

The Counterfeit Guest
Rose Melikan
Touchstone, Aug 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9781416560876

In 1796 England, Mary Finch has become a wealthy heiress as she marvels how far she has come in about a year since she met her estranged uncle and the recent adventures she shared with two mysterious men (see THE BLACKSTONE KEY). In London her best friend Susannah and her new husband Colonel Crosby-Nash throw a ball honoring the once impoverished teacher. During the gala, Mary notices Nash meeting with a stranger, who is obviously in a disguise. She meets the mysterious COUNTERFEIT GUEST Cuthbert Shy.

Undercover espionage agent Cuthbert believes the colonel is committing acts of treason, but lacks solid information to prove his case. He persuades Mary to assist him, which she agrees to do. She accompanies the newlyweds to his estate in Kent. There she meets Captain Robert Holland, whose Woolwich headquarters is a target of the saboteurs. Although attracted to Mary, he fears her new affluence makes him unacceptable as he is only a lowly artillery officer.

This is a fun sequel that follows the further adventures of eccentric Mary Finch with another mysterious male. The story line is filled with action from the moment that Marry and THE COUNTERFEIT GUEST meet and never slows down. Although the use of fortunate luck helps marvelous Mary on her escapades fan will enjoy her early Regency exploits.

Harriet Klausner

Love Finds You in Sisters, Oregon-Melody Carlson

Love Finds You in Sisters, Oregon
Melody Carlson
Summerside, Sep 2009, $12.99
ISBN: 9781935416180

Thirty-two years old attorney Hope Bartolli comes home to Sisters, Oregon to attend her beloved Nona’s funeral. Still grieving her loss and filled with guilt for not returning more often to see Nona before she died, Hope is stunned that her grandmother’s will includes a stipulation for her to inherit. She must remain in Sisters for one year.

Hope left Sisters to avoid her ex boyfriend Drew and her baby sister Cherry after they became an entry and married. She does not want to go home because she knows sibling warfare is what awaits her as she still is hurt and angry; as the only gem left for her in Sisters is her eleven year old niece Avery. The oldest sister Faye is also arriving coming from Portland having split from her husband Still for Nona, Hope will try, but her premonition proves correct as the three sisters go to war with one another.

Although there is a romance with Lewis the state executor, the well written story line is more about the relationships between three adult sisters who became enemy combatants that Nona wanted to end and also hoped her Hope would find happiness back in Sisters. The key characters including the late Nona are fully drawn so that the fights and squabbles seem genuine. Fans who appreciate a profound family drama will want to tour Sisters, Oregon guided by Faith, Hope, and Charity.

Harriet Klausner

Love Finds You in Poetry, Texas-Janice Hanna

Love Finds You in Poetry, Texas
Janice Hanna
Summerside, Aug 2009, $12.99
ISBN: 9781935416166

In 1904 Poetry, Texas has several German immigrant bachelors who are of marrying age. Seeing an opportunity, Belinda Bauer becomes a marriage broker. She works the personal ads across the country seeking perfect matches for all the eligible men in town.

Belinda proves quite good at matching up men with their ideal women and visa versa. However, she soon realizes she made one mistake when she found the perfect match several times for her best friend barber Georg Kaufman. Belinda wants to be his perfect match as she now realizes she loves her best friend forever.

The romance between Georg and Belinda is deftly handled so that it seems as if the matchmaker is unaware that her BFF is doing his own subtle matching without hurting the pretenders. The story is a lighthearted historical frolic that brings vividly to life the German immigrant wave of the beginning of the previous century in which advertising for wives was done in newspaper personal ads. With a nod to Hello Dolly except in Texas, fans will enjoy a trek back to the early twentieth century in aptly named Poetry, Texas as Belinda writes poems to find a match.

Harriet Klausner

How to Rob an Armored Car-Iain Levinson

How to Rob an Armored Car
Iain Levinson
Soho, Oct 1 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9781569475997

In Pennsylvania Mitch Alden manages an Accu-mart store; he also struggles with the stress and poverty level wages by buying weed to numb the work. However, his purchase fails to help this time as he becomes introspective wondering why he would spend his last money on getting high in order to get through his shift.

Mitch needs a new source of income to pay for his numbing devicers: beer and drugs. He persuades two friends, married father Kevin and Doug who is having an affair with his buddy’s wife to help heist a TV from the store. The three feel a natural high, which encourages the planner of the trio Mitch to go for something more expensive. However, the gang who can’t walk straight (nod to Jimmy Breslin) fail at swiping a Ferrari from a doctor, but become teammates with him trying to sell his Oxycontin hoard. That is half of an afternoon as Mitch and his buds dream of the million dollar deal.

Timely with the economic recession, HOW TO ROB AN ARMORED CAR is a tense yet amusing crime thriller as working class slackers go after the American dream by stealing their way to wealth only doing it the lower middle class way through hard core robberies. The story line is character driven mostly by the three amigos but also to a lesser degree their new business partner. Fans will enjoy Iain Levinson’s entertaining look at DOG EAT DOG working class capitalists.

Harriet Klausner

Capitol Offense-William Bernhardt

Capitol Offense
William Bernhardt
Ballantine, Oct 2009, $26.00
ISBN 9780345502995

Following his time in DC as a temporary appointed US Senator (see CAPITOL CONSPIRACY) Ben Kincaid has returned home to Tulsa to practice law and consider a run for the permanent seat. Professor Dennis Thomas visits Ben asking the attorney to defend him on a murder rap that has not yet occurred. Dennis hates bureaucrat Police Detective Christopher Sentz who ignored his begging to do a missing person’s search for his wife Josylyn. She died after being trapped inside her car for a week following an accident while her vehicle was in a ravine.

Dennis visits a hotel where Sentz is conducting a sting operation. Soon afterward someone fires seven shots at Sentz killing the cop. Dennis swears to Ben he never killed the man though his rage put him over the edge. Caught with questions of client privilege, Ben wonders if he was set up. Still even as he has a political campaign to run, Ben decides to defend the still fuming professor who is at the center of a media frenzy in which everyone believes he killed the cop, but debate whether grief or madness is a justification. Private Investigator Loving begins to uncover dark secrets involving their client, his late wife and the murdered detective that makes the defense even more insane.

The latest Kincaid thriller will delight long time fans as the hero is back in Oklahoma, but working on a case that his chief of staff tells him to drop as it is political suicide. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Professor Thomas asks Kincaid to defend him from a murder he had not yet committed. Fans will enjoy Ben’s latest CAPITOL OFFENSE as he defends a client who confessed his plan before hand and was found at the murder scene with the corpse. William Bernhardt provides a strong fresh entry with a great unexpected climax and coda.

Harriet Klausner

Gallows Lane-Brian McGilloway

Gallows Lane
Brian McGilloway
Minotaur, Sep 15 2009, $23.99
ISBN: 9780312384326

Superintendent Costello directs Garda Detective Inspector Benedict Devlin to warn convict James Kerr as he leaves Maghaberry Prison to not settle in Lifford. Kerr refuses to speak with Devlin insisting he only is coming to town to forgive his former partner Peter Webb, who with others betrayed him during the Castlederg robbery that sent James to prison.

Soon afterward, someone kills Webb whose wife was with her lover Decko O’Kane at the time of the homicide. Kerr was allegedly seen nearby, but Devlin thinks the case is too obvious. He is proven right when Kerri is crucified followed by the murder of Decko. Devlin believes the robbery is the link between the deaths; if he can solve that he can solve the serial killing of those who were involved. The DI has other cases to work too that prove pressure laden to resolve.

Inspector Devlin in his second whodunit (see BORDERLANDS) makes this Irish police procedural so good even when he struggles with anxiety and panic attacks while his spouse and his long time partner Carline Williams beg him to back away from this case that is mentally crippling him. However, the DI cannot; instead he feels compelled to work even harder at this and other cases. Readers will feel root for the hero as he tries to keep his ethical compass steady in spite of the trouble he faces doing it.

Harriet Klausner

Stoneholding-James G. Anderson and Mark Sebanc

Stoneholding
James G. Anderson and Mark Sebanc
Baen, Sep 2009, $14.99
ISBN 978143913299-9

The king of Ahn Norvys is assassinated and the queen and their infant heir are kidnapped. With a power vacuum looming, the powerful Mindal merchant council select dangerous Gawmage as the ruler although many object though none as strongly as those in the highlander Stoneholding keep in Arvon.

It has been almost two decades since the murder and Gawmage has tightened his control through a powerful army that is strangling the kingdom. The only hope to rally opposition resides with the lost Prince Starigan, whom has not surfaced in all that time. Gawmage’s army seems set to destroy all holdouts including Arvon. Although feeling ancient and achy, the High Bard of Arvon Wilum knows time has run out as the Black Scorpion Dragoons attack. He will need to venture out of the devastated keep for the first time in decades and pray that the sacred artifacts that he guards diligently, the Sacred Fire and the Talamahd golden harp, will remain safe while he, his apprentice Kalaquinn Wright, and a few ragged survivors of the assault search for the lost prince and find a way to relight the Sacred Fire.

With a nod to Beowulf and Tolkien, the strong cast (especially the intrepid brilliant apprentice and his dedicated intelligent master) makes for an exciting energizing epic fantasy. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action although some spins seem doubtful with what is known in this realm. Still fans will relish this super saga once the audience understands Baen has left at least for STONEHOLDING the science fiction and alternate history genres.

Harriet Klausner

Bite Marks-Jennifer Rardin

Bite Marks
Jennifer Rardin
Orbit, Oct 2009,
ISBN: 9780446043823

Jaz Parks and her boss and lover Vayl the Vampire are part of a CIA hit team who battle mortal and supernatural entities. The squad is in Canberra, Australia are on an important assignment to stop a horde of gnomes led by the followers of the god Ufran from getting their larvae into the Canberra Deep Space Complex. Jaz figures kicking gnome butt will prove easier than moving sheep. From the moment they arrive at the Canberra Space Complex nothing goes right.

The gnomes are sending carriers of larvae to Madrid and California Space Complexes as ; if the larvae succeed, three stations will be destroyed. Jaz has additional issues starting with King Brude the Domtyr who sends souls to the hells. He now reside inside Jaz’s head. While she tries to restrain Brude so she can work the mission, one of her team Cassandra the seer is avoiding Kyphas whom she signed a binding contract with, but regrets her action. The team rallies around her and they are all getting ready to do battle with the Ufranites. This is all in a day’s work for crappy pay as Jaz thinks this is so not a walk in the park because one said anything about fighting Kyphas the invincible demon or that would be a traitor in their midst.

Jennifer Rardin’s latest Jaz Parks urban fantasy is a super Down Under thriller in time for Halloween as the story line is filled with action (in and out of the heroine’s head) and romance (also in and out of the heroine’s head and other body parts). Jaz is a sort of Lara Croft with perilous adventures of all sorts as she battles gnomes, seers, Domtyr , souls in her head, and a female demon. BITE MARKS is a bitingly good jazzed up tale.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Lucky One-Nicholas Sparks

The Lucky One
Nicholas Sparks
Grand Central, Aug 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780446698344

While deployed to Iraq U.S. Marine Logan Thibault finds the picture of a woman with a dog half buried in dirt. Although he is unsure why he feels she is his lucky charm he keeps the picture, carrying it wherever he goes as he survives his third tour of combat. He believes she saved his life. He vows to find “E” once he returns to Colorado.

Back in America, Logan begins his hunt to find his lucky charm in person. In North Carolina, he has a nasty encounter with Sheriff Keith Clayton; but the former marine steals the law enforcement official’s camera loaded with shots of underage girls. Soon afterward he succeeds in his quest when he meets “E”, divorced mom Elizabeth Greene, whom he believes is the reason he is alive. Logan learns she is Clayton’s ex so he hides from her the picture and his assertion of destiny as his brother in arms Victor insisted and encouraged his hunt. Instead he obtains work at the dog training facility of her ailing grandmother and begins to date Elizabeth. Already in love with his image of her, he also falls in love with the real person; she reciprocates. However, he begins to believe he owes her the truth of how she saved his life in Iraq.

THE LUCKY ONE is an engaging contemporary romance starring a nice single mom, her mean spirited former spouse and the vet who feels she is the destiny that kept him alive. The story line is character driven from the moment Logan finds the discarded photo that he believes is his lucky charm. Although the plot is thin especially after a strong first half and the climax too convenient fans of Nicholas Sparks will enjoy his latest love story.

Harriet Klausner

The Asylum Prophecies-Daniel Keyes

The Asylum Prophecies
Daniel Keyes
Leisure, Oct 2009, $7.99
ISBN 9780843962710

A coalition of terrorists have merged with a plan to deploy Operation Dragon’s Teeth that will make 9/11 look like a quiet day at the park. The only person outside of gangs who knows of the specifics of the upcoming assault is Raven Slade, the daughter of a CIA field operative; resident of a mental institution in Athens, Greece as she suffers from multiple personality disorder (MPD) and talks with her dead sister.

Her father hypnotized Raven to insure she cannot reveal what she knows about 17N and MeK to anyone even the FBI or CIA until they are defeated. However, she is kidnapped and tortured by one of the terrorist groups, the 17N. Rookie FBI agent Frank Dugan is sent to Europe to prevent the plot scheduled for 17 November by the Mujhadeen-e Kalq starting with rescuing Raven so he can learn what she knows.

This is a fast-paced action-packed thriller from the strange opening scene in the Athens hospital and never slows down until the climax. However, readers need to set aside their plausibility meter as several spins like the hypnosis and sending a novice to prevent a major terrorist attack seem farfetched even with late denouements. Still fans of Daniel Keyes will enjoy this exciting tale mostly seen through the hypnotized mindset of an alleged MPD sufferer with voices on her head.

Harriet Klausner

Distant Thunder-Jimmy Root, Jr.

Distant Thunder
Jimmy Root, Jr.
Bedside Books, Aug 2009, $24.95
www.american-book.com
ISBN: 9781589825536

In Plattsville, Missouri Pastor Ty Dempsey grieves the death of his brother in Iraq through his sermons. However, the Deacons are concerned with his recent ramblings; as Ty insists he spoke with God who says Isaiah’s prophecy of the world ending is coming because Israel will react to Syria having nukes by destroying their neighbor. On top of that with Iran ready to retaliate, the prophecy of Ezekiel will come forth with destruction of much of the Middle East and Russia.

At the same time that Ty is shouting fire and brimstone end of days, Israeli Defense Forces Captain Moshe Eldan has family issues to contend with since his mother-in-law died. His wife Tasha grieves her loss by converting to Christianity and she insists Jesus has told her he wants Moshe to do likewise. When Moshe’s plane is shot down over Syria, he becomes a POW only to learn a horrible secret that could bring the end of days to Israel.

Dempsey and Eldan personalize this exciting thriller as the world turns anti-Semitic targeting the destruction of the Jewish state. They are the opposites as the Pastor needs the destruction of Israel if his belief of the End of Days has begun while the fighter pilot zealously defends Israel’s right to survive. Although a strong belief in salvation through Jesus is throughout the solid story line; ironically at the root of the first Lightning Chronicles is the fundamental belief that for the Ezekiel’s prophecy of 568 BC to occur, Israel must survive until the slaughter of the Jews led by the Anti Christ bringing together all the other nations against the country. Although the female characters never gel like the two lead males, fans will relish this profound look at religious zealousness by the prime descendents of Abraham as death to Israel is needed for the start of the End of Days.

Harriet Klausner

The Darkest Room-Johan Theorin

The Darkest Room
Johan Theorin
Delta (Random House), Sep 29 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780385342223

Stockholm schoolteacher Joakim Westin, wife Katrine and their two young children move to a family run down manor Eel Point on Oland Island in the Baltic. They repair the old manor until their idyllic life ends when Katrine inexplicably drowns near the twin lighthouses in shallow water that she should have been able to just sit up in.

Joakim has problems adjusting to the loss of his wife following the tragic death of his sister Ethel the year before; he insists to himself Katrine is still with them. While the police close their investigation officially determining a tragic accident occurred, rookie cop Tilda Davidsson has problems with the drowning death by accident ruling. She investigates on her own time, but she like Joakim will learn renovation of a musky old house will not remove permanent residents or secrets of those who once resided there.

This dark Swedish thriller grips the audience with its gothic descriptions that have readers anticipating more pending doom even after Katrine drowns as the history of Eel Point is one of tragedy. The audience will wonder whether something from beyond stalks Oland Island and Westin as there is a history for it. The current death is a sort of locked room scenario since there are no footprints are on the beach while readers also ponderi what lies inside the hidden DARK ROOM. As he did with ECHOES FROM THE DEAD (also set on Oland Island) John Theorin provides a super psychological suspense as Joakim fears he is losing it with his need for closure and he doesn’t want his children disturbed especially his daughter who insists she hears her mommy calling her.

Harriet Klausner

The Disappearance at Pere-Lachaise-Claude Izner

The Disappearance at Pere-Lachaise
Claude Izner
St. Martin's Press, Sep15 2009, $24.99
ISBN-13: 9780312383756

In 1890 Paris, heeding a spiritualist who advised her to see her late husband Armand at his gravesite in Pere-Lachaise cemetery, Odette de Valois tries to calm down his restless spirit. However, after following directions, Odette never returns home. Her concerned maid Denise De Louarn visits bookseller Victor Legris to ask for his help. He agrees to investigate what happened to the late geologist’s widow as he was once her lover.

Victor, who solved the case of the MURDER ON THE EIFFEL TOWER and his shop assistant Joseph Pignot begin to look at clippings of crime the latter has cut from papers. Victor learns that an elderly person carried away Odette’s body from the cemetery. Soon afterward Denise drowns in the Seine. Victor believes the death of the maid is tied to the vanishing of her employer. He and Joseph begin to find links between Armand’s work on the failed canal at the Isthmus of Panama, a valuable painting that should be worthless, and murder.

The whodunit is a device to bring late nineteenth century Paris to life in what is a super historical. Victor is like the period as he makes his inquiries he meets a world of foreign delights since Paris is the cultural capital of the world during that era. Fans who appreciate a deep look at a period through its fine arts but also wrapped inside a taut mystery will want to join Monsieur Izner on his fabulous guided tour of the Left Banke and other artsy sections of Paris circa 1890.

Harriet Klausner