Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Queen's Captive-Barbara Kyle

The Queen's Captive
Barbara Kyle
Kensington, Sep 1 2020, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758238559

The recent Wyatt rebellion was put down harshly by Queen Mary’s supporters. However, the monarch believes her younger half-sister Princess Elizabeth was the impetus for the revolt. Angry, Mary imprisons her sibling.

Learning in Antwerp what has happened to Elizabeth, Honor and Richard Thornleigh and their son Adam return to London to aid the beleaguered princess and to keep her from acting rash at a time indiscretion is the only means of surviving her older sister. . Honor takes a position as a laundress in Elizabeth’s household to help the young impetuous princess stay in control of herself. At the same time, her husband and her son work serendipitously but diligently to further the Protestant cause while Bloody Mary pushes the country deeper into a religious civil war. While Elizabeth and Adam are attracted to one another, Honor risks her life to save her family, her princess and her nation from disaster.

The thriller Thornleigh historical fiction saga (see The Queen’s Lady and The King’s Daughter) continues with Bloody Mary’s reaction to the failed Wyatt rebellion. In spite of the period having been done a zillion times (see the works of Carolyn Erickson and Alison Weir, for instance), Barbara Kyle keeps her account fresh and manages to throw a few terrific spins including the attraction between the Princess and Adam. Fast-paced yet loaded with descriptors that take the audience to mid sixteenth century England during the internal religious conflict, fans who cannot get enough Elizabethan will appreciate this strong tale of the future queen locked away by her step sister; the irony being she does likewise years later with another Mary.

Harriet Klausner

Blue Lightning-Ann Cleeves

Blue Lightning
Ann Cleeves
Minotaur, Sep 28 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312384357

Police Detective Jimmy Perez brings his English fiancée Fran Hunter to his home on Fair Isle to meet his parents and the other residents. A welcoming fete is thrown, but at a bird observatory, someone stabs a woman with a knife to her back and leaving feathers in her hair.

The deceased is a famous BBC ornithologist Angela, alleged guardian of the island’s bird sanctuary. Perez realizes the victim was universally disliked by those who knew her; even perhaps her husband Maurice. Suspects are numerous ranging from a myriad of lovers, her stepdaughter, her employee and the bird lovers’ crowd. Perez struggles on his own due to a hurricane cutting off the island from the mainland. At the same time just before the storm hit, there is an influx of bird watchers due to a rare avian finding. As Perez digs deeper and Fran tries to help her beloved though he pleads with her not to get involved, he fears a tie to his family.

The final Shetland Island police procedural (see Red Bones, Raven Black and White Nights) is a super whodunit. The story line focuses beyond just Jimmy’s investigation and relationship with his fiancée, as the murder haunts the small community although the victim is loathed by anyone who met her. Jimmy is great as he is cut off from professional help, but though he detests what he is finding, he resolutely stays the course. With a final twist that will stun fans, The Shetland Island saga is a terrific series and hopefully will have more colorful Fair Isle mysteries.

Harriet Klausner

Par for the Course-Jennifer Vido

Par for the Course
Jennifer Vido
Top Publications, Jun 2010, $14.00
12221 Merit Dr, Suite 950
Dallas, Texas 75251
ISBN: 9781929976720

In Woodlawn Ohio, when her older womanizing wealthy husband Charles is murdered, Piper O’Donnell is the prime suspect as Par for the Course the cops always look at the family. The townsfolk especially those snooty society ladies at the Woodlawn Golf & Country Club assume she killed her spouse for his money or perhaps another one of his affairs; or more likely both. For her part, she wished they remained in Manhattan.

Piper and Rusty O’Brien meet and are attracted to one another. They, accompanied by her sister and her friend, investigate the homicide before the cops replace Piper’s clubs with a murder rap. However, none of the quartet are prepared for a killer who plans to make a hole in one with their respective heads if they come close to his or her identity.

Lighthearted, this is an enjoyable nineteen holes of golf amateur sleuth. The story line is breezy as the quartet of tyro detectives follow the sexual escapes of the late Charles as they believe one of his women finally gave him the permanent hook. Fans who enjoy a facetious sports mystery will want to play the Woodlawn course alongside of Piper and friends.

Harriet Klausner

Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End: The Story of a Crime-Leif GW Persson

Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End: The Story of a Crime
Leif GW Persson
Pantheon, Sep 14 2010, $27.95
ISBN: 9780307377456

American John Krassner is in Stockholm writing a biography on his uncle, OSS agent Colonel John Buchanan just after WW II. Krassner has found evidence that ties Buchanan to a Swedish politician known as "Pilgrim", but he is unsure who that is though he has an idea.

Meanwhile the Swedish secret police have become concerned with threats to their Prime Minister Olaf Palme. They link the noise to the American Krassner, who almost immediately is under suspicion. He apparently commits suicide by jumping from a student dorm window. He almost kills an elderly pedestrian walking his Pomeranian, but Charlie the dog saves his owner’s life only to have the leaper’s shoe kill the dog. Soon afterward someone assassinates Palme, but the Swedish manhunt fails to find a killer or a valid group claiming the hit. However, police superintendent Lars Johansson finds a tie between the dead American, his uncle and the murdered PM.

Constructed around the unsolved cold case murder of PM Palme, Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End: The Story of a Crime is an interesting first act of a fictionalized account of the assassination. The story line has too much going on especially in the first sections of the novel making it difficult to follow. However, once Johansson takes control of the plot, the whodunit becomes more focused and enjoyable. Though Lars (so far at least) is no Falck or Wallender, fans of Camilla Lackberg and Henning Mankell will enjoy this opening police procedural that delves deep into the Swedish identity haunted by the homicide a quarter of a century ago.

Harriet Klausner

Me, Myself, and Why?-MaryJanice Davidson

Me, Myself, and Why?
MaryJanice Davidson
St. Martin’s, Sep 28 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312531171

In Minneapolis, the FBI Bureau of False Flags Ops (BOFFO) Agent Cadence Jones suffers from multiple personality disorder, which is an asset for the mission of this unit filled with psychotics and an occasional functional neurotic. She and her partner sociopath George Pinkham are assigned to ending the reign of terror of Threefer Killer, who murders people in groups of three leaving behind newspaper articles and nothing else.

The serial killer begins sending messages to Cadence and her two sisters Shiro and Adrienne. Depending on which MPD is working determines whether Cadence is concerned or not. However, anyone who is from the Twin Cities knows better than to mess with the Jones. More concerned to Cadence as she switches from one personality to another is she falls in love with her best friend’s visiting brother.

Clearly over the top of the Prospect Park Water Tower and Deming Heights Park combined, Me, Myself and Why? Is a zany dark humorous police procedural. Not for all of MaryJanice Davidson’s fans especially the paranormal shoe lovers, this tale lampoons how easily society conveniently catalogues people to make them fit inside a file drawer. The strong radically offbeat edgy cast make for a madcap Minnesota mystery, in which ironically MPD sufferer holds the plot together as readers will wonder whether to label her as the main character or characters.

Harriet Klausner

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe-Charles Yu

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
Charles Yu
Pantheon, Sep 7 2010, $25.00

In Minor Universe 31, time travel is a way of life as is paradoxes caused by someone tinkering with the past. Time technician Charles Yu fixes the stupid actions of those wanting change without comprehending the consequences. He councils these idiots, but does so calmly even when he tries to pacify his harried boss Phil.

Yu visits his mother, who is trapped in a life of one-hour in which she prepares dinner infinitely. He still seeks his father who invented the machines that enable time travel, but vanished while testing his gizmos. Accompanied by TAMMY the operating system with Yu’s personality (to include a lack of self-worth) and Ed the imaginary ontological canine, he continues his personal quest to meet and talk with his dad; having gained hope by a book he will one day author, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.

This is an intriguing time travel science fiction tale starring a stay out of trouble extremist (think of Columbus in most of the movie Zombieland) who as a bureaucrat quietly rectifies the mistakes of others while searching for his lost dad to have a father-son chat. The story line feels like a Moebius series of loops so is difficult to follow yet quite fun to do so. Although the climax is abrupt and seemingly out of character for the safety only lead protagonist, SF fans who enjoy something radically different will want to read Charles Yu’s escapades in time and space.

Harriet Klausner

Tome of the Undergates-Sam Sykes

Tome of the Undergates
Sam Sykes
PYR, Sep 1 2010, $17.00
ISBN 9781616142421

They are a band loathed and feared by everyone else. They take only jobs that no one else even considers as that is the only work they can get. These mercenaries are not a band of brothers (and sisters) in arms as they detest one another. Their leader by default is Lenk the swordsman whose prime job is to prevent Denaos the thug, Asper the priestess, Dreadaelon the wizard, Gariath the dragonman, and Kataria the shict from killing each other especially when they are on the job.

Their current assignment is to protect a Priest while searching for the stolen by an oceanic malevolence Tome of the Undergates as they sail on the Riptide. Cragsmen of the vessel Linkmaster attack their vessel, but the six defeat the pirates though thy are incredibly outnumbered. However that is a forerunner as soon the sextet will learn what their greed means as they are caught in the crosshairs of a war in which the hell beneath the sea wants to dominate the world.

This is an entertaining seafaring fantasy filled with plenty of adventures. The story line is loaded with action as the six fight adversaries including each other. The back stories of each are well written and interesting though their tales slow down the pace of the oceanic fantasy and in spite of their diversity reads somewhat interchangeable. Still fans will enjoy the opening Tome of the Undergates.

Harriet Klausner

Intrigues-Mercedes Lackey

Mercedes Lackey
Daw, Oct 5 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780756406394

Once Magpie was a slave for a sadistic mine owner, but the young teen became free when the Valdemar Companion Sentient Horse like magical being, who communicates telepathically, Chose him. Mags is ensconced in Haven training at the Herald Collegium to become a herald. Although the curriculum is hard, Mages believes he is paradise with a comfortable place to sleep and plenty of food to eat.

However, Mags does not feel a part of the group and prefers to sleep in a bedroom in the barn where his Companion is boarded. In the records, he learns the names of his parents who were foreigners. He comes under suspicion when those who foresee have a vision of the king with blood on him and the sense the person with him is a foreigner. His peers at school especially suspect Mags, but his true friends band together and make him feel as if he belongs. One day when he is in Haven, Mags sees the phony tradesman and his bodyguards who say they are from Seejay. After Mags and his buddies exposed their fake identities they pretended to leave. Mags sees the phony person again and knows they are dangerous to Hven. With his Companion injured and he being isolated, Mags must prevent the foreigner from performing the dastardly deed he plans on doing.

Once again Mercedes Lackey brings her fantasy Kingdom of Valdemar to life; a place where magic and Psi power are considered natural skills though most citizens lack either. This entry is a brilliant coming of age story in a realm with a distinguished culture especially a deep rooted belief structure and a thriving political system. Mags brings the energy and excitement to the entertaining plot as he learns he is the son of foreigners growing up as a stranger in a strange land who suddenly observes foreigners seemingly following him.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, August 30, 2010

Weight Of Stone-Laura Anne Gilman

Weight Of Stone
Laura Anne Gilman
Gallery, Oct 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9781439101452

In the Vin Lands, the powerful Sin Washers sect accuses Vineart wine mage apprentice and former slave Jerzy of heresy dealing with their ruling Commandment involving magic users and rulers. He knows their condemnation is an open invitation to kill him, so he flees. Joining him on the lam are former aristocratic Lady Mahault the warrior, Ao the trader, and Kainam the Prince of Atakus an island kingdom that has disappeared.

Jerzy and his friends continue their tracing of the taint of the vines. They begin to believe an incredulous conspiracy is behind the destruction. Following the clues by sea, Jerzy and company elude the Washers who demand he face trial and punishment and danger from under and on the water and on board their vessel.

The second Vineart War fantasy (see Flesh and Fire) continues the escapades of Jerzy in a fast-paced tale that also provides deeper focus and understanding of the complicated refreshing Gilman science of magic based on winemaking. Jerzy is a terrific protagonist though he and his three traveling companions seem to whine a lot over wine. Filled with tension throughout, readers will toast the quartet as they trek through the dangerous Vin Lands where the washers want to drink to their deaths.

Harriet Klausner

Lodestone: The Sea of Storms-Mark Whiteway

Lodestone: The Sea of Storms
Mark Whiteway
VBW Publishing, May 200, $14.95
ISBN: 9781602645462

On Kelanni, people are disposable with their solo mission to mine "Lodestone" for use by the planet’s great dictator. The Prophet who rules the orb is the grandmaster of using the lodestone resource that comes to Kelanni in meteor showers. His powerful extremely loyal Keltar Knights insure no one tries to rebel.

Lyall vehemently rejects the Prophet and the concept of slavery. He vows with his best friend Alondo to overthrow the violent despot. When he meets Shann, who wants the Prophet's reign of terror to end , he teaches her his knowledge of lodestone. The prophet learns of the growing unrest and he sends Keris the Keltar to brutally destroy the rebels using them as an example for others to obey. She has doubts about her vocation and her current mission. When a giant bird attacks her, a Chandara saves her life. Boxx the Chandara informs Keris of her leader’s evil plans so she joins Lyall and his insurgents.

Once author Mark Whiteway establishes the relativity laws of physics (and astrophysics) in his universe, the first Lodestone tale is a terrific science fiction thriller that in many ways reads like a fantasy. The world of Kelanni is what makes this a strong opening entry as readers will feel they are there along side of Keris as she begins to doubt what she believed all her life was gospel. Fans who enjoy something different yet exciting in their outer space novels will want to read Mr. Whiteway’s entertaining take on despots, rebels and negative matter.

Harriet Klausner

Grave Witch-Kalayna Price

Grve Witch
Kalayna Price
Roc, Oct 5 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451463807

Having met Death when she was five years old, Grave Witch Magic Eye Alex Craft makes a living by raising ghosts for living clients. The Nekros City police department consults with Alex on some recent homicide cases. However, she is stunned when one of the shades she brings back, that of a murder victim, attacks her. That has never happened before and she thought it was impossible.

Following a call from her frantic sister Casey, Alex probes the corpse of assassinated Governor Theodore Coleman, which made their father George Caine governor. Alex finds someone cast odd but dangerous spells. Homicide detective Falin Andrews makes it clear that he is unhappy with Alex intruding on the official investigation. When Alex learns from the ghost of Roy Pearson that the late governor’s body is actually his, the witch fears a powerful spellcaster is operating in the area.

This is a terrific private investigator urban fantasy with a noir feel to the story line; not so much by the heroine, but more so by the uneasy dysfunctional relationship between the normal, the paranormal, and the practitioners that bring the two uncomfortable groups together. Fast-paced from the moment Alex leaves an unhappy customer to answer her sibling’s call pleading with Alexis to help her, fans will be hooked and demand more Alex Craft cases.

Harriet Klausner

Bayou Moon-Ilona Andrews

Bayou Moon
Ilona Andrews
Ace, Sep 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441019458

The Adrianglian Secret Service asks William Sandine the Changeling to stop Spider from possessing a weapon of mass destruction that will lead to war. Loathing his long time enemy, William agrees to go to the Bayous of Louisiana to challenge Spider and his insidious ring of operatives.

When Spider abducts her parents, Cerise Mar becomes the clan chief. To save their property the Mire swamps of the Edge, Cerise visits the Broken. Returning to her home, Cerise and William meet. The outsider realizes she and her kin may be the tool to prevent Spider from achieving his nefarious scheme and perhaps ending his terrorism all together. However, William’s biggest problem is his attraction to his hostess; a foreign feeling to the Changeling who belongs nowhere and to no one.

This is a powerful swamp romantic fantasy starring a harassed heroine, a hermit hero, a vile villain and the mad Mar mob. The story line is fast-paced with a sort of Scottish historical Highlander feud feel to the Mire while the Spider weaves his web. However, the fun in this delightful tale is the return to Ilona Andrews’s Weird world of the Edge (see On the Edge) where malls and magic converge.

Harriet Klausner

Masques-Patricia Briggs

Patricia Briggs
Ace, Sep 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441019427

Aralorn the shapechanger has been a spy for Sianim for years as the money is great. She is assigned to penetrate the Kingdom of Reth where the powerful sorcerer Geoffrey ae'Magi has established a cruel dictatorship; her mission is to assess how potent the mage is and what he is scheming on beyond this beleaguered land. To Aralorn accompanied by Wolf, this is another easy task.

However, once inside she realizes how dangerous and powerful Geoffrey is. Aralorn quickly completes her mission and rushes back to Sianim to report. Only she now learns how far Geoffrey has ties as his insidious control reaches everywhere. With Wolf at her side, Aralorn the mercenary takes her first stand without a thought of money when she joins the resistance.

This is a revision of Patricia Briggs’ first fantasy from the early 1990s; the sequel never released before will soon follow. The rebellion against magical evil story line is entertaining even without Mercy although the cast comes across stereotypical of the sub-genre. Still fans will root for Aralorn as she goes from avarice give me the money realist to rebel with a cause idealist.

Harriet Klausner

Twelve-Jasper Kent

Jasper Kent
PYR, Sep 1 2010, $17.00
ISBN 9781616142414

In 1812, Napoleon's army marches closer and closer to Moscow. Nothing seems to slow down the inevitable. Four Russians are dispatched to obtain help from a dirty dozen mercenaries to hassle the French in order to slow down the encroachment; they agree.

However, two of the Russians Aleksei and Dimitry soon debate whether they made a deal with the devil when the twelve beasts attack civilians; drinking their blood. Aleksei feels these vampires must be destroyed as they harm the populace; Dimitry claims they are allies hurting the French as much as the peasants. As his friend insists the end of stopping Napoleon justifies the mean of deploying vampires even as the undead cause collateral damage without a second thought, Aleksei internally ponders how to rid Russia of the twelve when even his mistress wants to become one of them.

This is a fascinating historical vampire thriller as Jasper Kent places Napoleon’s devastating wintry march into Moscow within a horror setting. The vampires are a bloodthirsty lot who do not delineate when it comes to a French or Russian morsel when dining on humans; a lesser species on the food chain. Aleksei is an intriguing character whose conscience has him deeply disturbed with what they wrought. Although he can overdo his internal debate, readers will enjoy this terrific horror thriller as vampires turn the snow red.

Harriet Klausner

Sparks-Laura Bickle

Laura Bickle
Juno (Pocket), Aug 31 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439167687

In Detroit, city fire department arson investigator Anya Kalinczyk works more than just the blazes as she is also a Lantern. Her latter skill is to send spirits into nothingness. Used to 24/7 shifts, six months ago, with her salamander familiar Sparky having her back, she faced the vaunting challenge of Sirrush (see Embers) and has been slow to rebound mentally.

Recently, Anya feels she is returning to her lifestyle pre Sirrush. However, her two skills merge when she is assigned an investigation into what has been purported to be spontaneous human combustion at the home of elderly wealthy Jasper Bernard who was caught in the inferno but left not an iota of a trace of his remains. Her inquiry leads to Hope Solomon who insists she grants miracles to her donors. While Sparky hatches the next generation, Anya senses something not quite right about her or her charity backers as if evil has taken hold feeding on the souls of the desperate.

The terrific second Kalinczyk urban fantasy is a great saga that works mostly because of the portrait of Detroit as a city with many ruins, but trying to recreate a new image. The heroine is fabulous as she keeps her wits and sense of humor in the midst of infernos (some created by unnatural arsons) while battling psychopathic and avarice arsonists and supernatural malevolent essences; in this preying on impoverish forlorn seeking miracles.

Harriet Klausner

Killbox-Ann Aguirre

Ann Aguirre
Ace, Aug 31 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441019410

Sirantha Jax, March and their crew struggle with ending the death and destruction of jumpers in Grimspace. However as the peril from the man-eating Morgut expands, the Conglomerate has need of March. They want March to train an Armada whose missions will be to take the war to the deadly pirates and the Morgut.

Jax considers a perilous trek jumping through Grimspace without the use of beacons. Hesitating she wonders if her new nanotechnology will enable her to do the jump or kill her. However, while she vacillates, Jax also knows time is running out.

The fourth Jax science fiction (see Doubleblind, Wanderlust and Grimspace) continues the outer spaces escapes of the heroine and somewhat less March in the dark (sort of like leaping in grimspace without a beacon) bleak Aguirre universe. The story line is faster than the speed of light as Jax goes from one thrilling adventure to another though she is much more mature but still her philosophy remains shoot first or be killed; questions are irrelevant if you are dead. Fans of the saga will need to set aside time as Killbox is a terrific taut thriller, which sets up book five; newcomers can jump right in and appreciate this entry, but will relish it much more with the reading backlist.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Almost Heaven-Chris Fabry

Almost Heaven
Chris Fabry
Tyndale, Oct 1 2010, $13.99
ISBN 9781414319575

In Dogwood, West Virginia Billy Allman is considered a genius as well as an incredible mandolin player. However, as brilliant as he is with an IQ that would be in the troposphere, Billy lacks common sense when it comes to social interaction with people.

Still Billy who is very pious works diligently on making a successful radio station from his home using discarded spare parts as he lacks funding. Over the years he remains dedicated to his dream and diligent in his reverence of his Creator though he has been taken aback by the angry spiritual adversarial assaults on his soul and the ridicule by others that he wastes his gifts. Malachi the angel becomes a silent observer and soon an avid fan of Billy who has spent his lifetime choosing faith over materialism.

This is an interesting character study of a deeply religious person who chooses to honor God in his way through music though he faces all sorts of hardship and isolation with his endeavor and a belief that whatever he does ultimately turns into failure. Billy is a fascinating individual with a brilliance that the townsfolk feel should take him far, but he prefers scrounging for parts to create his radio station so that the West Virginia hills are alive with the sound of music dedicated to the Lord.

Harriet Klausner

Violence 101-Denis Wright

Violence 101
Denis Wright
Putnam, Oct 14 2010, $16.99
ISBN: 9780399254932

In New Zealand, fourteen year old Hamish Graham is brilliant but believes the easiest best solution to any problem is attack. He does so logically not out of impulse or temper and knows the consequences of being caught as well as right and wrong. His heroes are those who comprehend what violence can do; for instance Alexander the Great understood the basics of Violence 101 when he conquered the world as the Conqueror overwhelmed the opponents with force and guile while also making examples of these losers. Hamish uses Alexander’s philosophy as his own though he adapted it to modern times.

His latest violent act leads to Hamish being locked up at the Manukau New Horizons Boys’ Institute. The facility’s manager Helen Greenville directs Hamish to write a journal focusing on his life. He picks a fight with the inmates top dog Victor, earning respect for challenging the champ and for busting his opponent’s nose with a fork. Hamish's journal looks deep at his three idols Alexander the Great, New Zealand Captain Charles Upham and Maori warrior Te Rauparaha. He surprises himself when he begins to respect Terry the counselor and not shocking himself with his admiration of Toko the PE instructor who understands violence in sports. However, as he begins to comprehend his obsession, Hamish needs to be careful because others want to become the lead dog.

This is an amusing profound hyperbole that condemns society which encourages winning at all costs (steroids comes to mind) in sports, but also condemns those who take it beyond what is “acceptable”, which conveniently changes to defend an end justifying the mean. Told mostly through Hamish’s journals, readers will be spellbound by his belief in violence as this places H. Rap’s Brown’s commentary “Violence is as American (though in this case new Zealand) as cherry pie” with a nod to Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange.

Harriet Klausner

Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop-Edited by Otto Penzler

Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop
Edited by Otto Penzler
Vanguard, Oct 12 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9781593156176

This compilation of seventeen short stories that were given out as pamphlets to the customers of the legendary store date back to 1993 with one a year since. The only two stipulations are it takes place at Christmas and the bookstore must be involved at least in one scene. The contributors are a who’s who of the mystery-suspense genre with most lampooning the classics including those written by the author as Donald E. Westlake did in 1993 with Dortmunder learning to “Give Till It Hurts” and Mary Higgins Clark in 2009 with Alvirah in” What’s In A Name?”. Lawrence Block satirizes Nero Wolfe in the amusing 1997 “As Dark as Christmas Gets" or the 1995 jocular self-deprecating "I Saw Mommy Killing Santa Claus" by Ed McBain (is that his ninth plum of an pseudonym?). With No clinkers, fans who appreciate a strong mostly tongue in cheek anthology in which part of the fun is discovering the insider jokes will want to stop in Manhattan’s Tribecca neighborhood (in person or from the armchair) to visit Otto Penzler’s Mystery Bookshop as this is an entertaining collection.

Harriet Klausner

The Pericles Commission-Gary Corby

The Pericles Commission
Gary Corby
Minotaur, Oct 12 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312599027

In 461 BC in Athens, the man fell from the sky. At least that is how it initially looked to those near the Areopagus. In fact democratic reformist leader Ephialtes was shot with a myriad of arrows before his dive off the Rock of Areopagus. He landed dead at the feet of a sculptor’s son Nicolaos.

Ephialtes's political ally Pericles arrives just after the death. He is pleasantly surprised by the logical analysis Nicolaos applies to the assassination; as such Pericles hires the lad to investigate the murder. Knowing the ruling council meets at the Areopagus and the obvious motive is these members refuse to lose power as they would under Ephialtes’ reform, he looks for the killer(s) amidst the leading citizens of the city including his client.

This is an excellent Ancient Athenian mystery in which Gary Corby constructs his deep story line around real persona (including the victim) and events (including the victim’s murder). The early chapters set the tale of fifth century BC in Athens and once Ephialtes falls, the story line takes off at a resounding speed. Mindful of Jose Carlos Somoza’s The Athenian Murders, The Pericles Commission is a superb BCE historical.

Harriet Klausner

A Marked Man-Barbara Hamilton

A Marked Man
Barbara Hamilton
Berkley, Oct 5 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425237083

In 1774, two and half months have passed since the infamous (depending on your loyalties) Boston Tea Party. Teenager Lucy Fluckner asks Abigail Adams to help her friend twentyish bookseller Harry Knox, who is in trouble with the Commonwealth law. The Sons of Liberty printer was arrested for murdering the King’s Special Commissioner Sir Joseph Cottrell.

Abigail supports freedom from the crown and is proud of her husband John who is a major participant in the Sons of Liberty’s endeavors. As such she agrees to look into the homicide. Stunningly, Lucy’s chaperone Mrs. Sandhayes insists the victim was her charge’s fiancé; Lucy denies it as she loathed the philandering Tory and though she fails to say so Abigail knows she loves the accused. Abigail and John, who is a lawyer, investigate and quickly learns that a Negro female servant vanished from the home of their client’s parents and that the victim had many enemies on all three sides of the brewing revolt.

The key to the strong second Abigail Adams historical mystery (see The Ninth Daughter) is the sense that the reader is in Boston divided between Loyalists, Neutralists, and Rebels just prior to the Revolutionary War. The story line is fast-paced and the investigation super, but it is meeting the prime real persona and fictional characters representing the divided times in Boston in 1774 that makes A Marked Man a strong late eighteenth century thriller.

Harriet Klausner

I Shall Wear Midnight-Terry Pratchett

I Shall Wear Midnight
Terry Pratchett
Harper, Sep 28 2010, $16.99
ISBN: 9780061433047

Trained in witchcraft by experts like Nanny Ogg (unofficially in this case that is), Tiffany Aching has become the Witch of the Chalk. Being young and wanting fun with and without witchcraft, Tiffany understands her responsibility to perform the spells to help those in need although she gains no acclaim as she does her work diligently in secret. Adding to her discomfit is reactions of the normal are rarely what she expects them to be.

However while at a fair feeling like a fool tied to her broom; just like the little kids with balloons, Tiffany senses something is not right. Soon people begin to assault witches for no apparent reason beyond their normal fear of the witches. She and her miniscule belligerent intoxicated pals, the Wee Free Men, begin to search what is playing on the trepidations of people towards witches. Needing help, she journeys to Ankh Morpork to meet with Roland, the baron's heir and with a shopkeeper before returning to confront whatever evil is stalking the Chalk.

Targeting teens, the fourth Aching fantasy (see The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky and Wintersmith) is a terrific entry that will have readers fully engrossed in the exciting story line. Yet the tale also ponders deep philosophical issues of esteem, fitting in (or not) and it’s okay to be different and to a degree alone while making a strong case to speak up if you are domestic abuse victim. All that and more without decelerating and linked to the Discworld saga; fans of that great satirical series will also relish Tiffany’s coming of age final test escapades

Harriet Klausner

The Rebel Prince-Celine Kiernan

The Rebel Prince
Celine Kiernan
Orbit, Oct 18 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780316077071

Though young in years, the trio matured rapidly from a harrowing experiences while on their quest (see The Crowded Shadows and The Poison Throne). Now the cat whisperer Wynter Moorehawke, the illegitimate Prince Razi Kingsson and the musician Christopher Garron feel the worst is over as they finally believe they have found the hidden camp of the rebellious Prince Alberon who welcomes his half-brother and his traveling companions.

Wynter, Razi and Christopher try to persuade Alberon to make peace with his father for the good of the kingdom. Instead Alberon ignores the pleas of the teens as he has BHAG to ally with his country’s enemies in order to build a military that will enable him to take the throne. Those with Alberon in his encampment are an eerie lot as they proclaim being his supporters while encouraging death and destruction to anyone not allied with them.

The final tale in the Moorehawke Trilogy is fast-paced, loaded with action and blood, but clearly character driven. The three teens are stunned (as will be readers) as the Alberon they envisioned (over the first two books) is nothing like the real flesh as he has hardened his heart and turned rigid in regards to his enemies who are anyone not overtly friend. Although the ending seems rushed, fans of the saga will appreciate this terrific political military fantasy as the final tale like its predecessors is a wonderful entry to a strong series.

Harriet Klausner

Trio of Sorcery-Mercedes Lackey

Trio of Sorcery
Mercedes Lackey
Tor, Oct 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765328519

“Arcanum 101”. Diana Tregarde is just starting college, but also is a Guardian witch dedicated to keeping mortals safe from nasty supernaturals. She makes friends with four other students who reside in the same building she does. They saw her banish a dybbuk; but rather than fearing her, they offer to assist her in finding a kidnapped little girl. There only clues come from the fortune teller advising the distraught mother, but the Harvard freshman Guardian believes the woman practices the dark arts.

“Drums”. Nathan Begay, the new client of private investigators Jennifer Talldeer and David Spirited Horse, hires them to follow his girlfriend Caroline. She does not want to see him or any of her friends. Caroline seems lifeless as of her soul has been drained from her. Jenny observes Caroline dancing with a ghost; a raging evil spirit who died without honor or love and has chosen Caroline as his death bride.

“Ghost in the Machine”. Tom Bishop was intimately involved with the MMORPG (multi-player online game); he helped create another zone to the game. Dark Valley is very popular, but the programmed Wendigo is doing things outside the coding and Tom cannot stop him doing what it wants. The programmers hire Ellen McBridge to fix the flaw. She uses shaman magic to try to get the ghost out of the machine.

The returns of Diane Tregarde (early 1990s; see Children of the Night and Burning Water) and Jennifer Talldeer (mid 1990s; see Scared Ground) will elate fans of Mercedes Lackey. While this is Ellen McBridge’s first tale, she holds her own with the other two paranormal investigators. The three novellas are well written and entertaining while starring strong females with similar traits but different scenarios confronting the supernatural.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Russell Wiley is Out To Lunch-Richard Hine

Russell Wiley is Out To Lunch
Richard Hine
Amazon Encore, Oct 12 2010, $14.95
ISBN: 9781935597148

The Daily Business Chronicle Assistant Sales Director Russell Wiley wonders which will collapse first. He ponders whether the near bankrupt newspaper will file before his even more bankrupt marriage to Sam is filed. Making him unhappy at work is the new owner of the mega media company that includes the Daily Business Chronicle shopping cart magnate Larry Ghosh plans to shut down the failing paper.

Russell ponders how he will survive amidst the sharks who devour the unconfident for lunch. He knows the consultant needs scalps to prove his value and his attraction to a peer Erica who leaves him speechless (except below the waistline) whenever she is near. Worst of all is Cindy the survivor superstar at getting all the credit for success and Teflon for failure while doing nothing more than paint her nails. Deciding if need be to wear rubber underwear, Russell decides if he goes down it will be with a fight.

With a nod to the zany Office Space and the song Backstabber by the O’Jays, readers will enjoy Russell Wiley’s efforts to save his career; he has pretty much given up on his marriage. Filled with interoffice relationships, some of which feel forced, but most will remind the audience of a place where they have worked. Readers will root for Alan as he follows the advice of Playboy magazine that to hit a home run you need to swing the bat though that also could mean a strike out.

Harriet Klausner

Law of Attraction-Allison Leotta

Law of Attraction
Allison Leotta
Touchstone (Simon and Schuster), Oct 12 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9781439193846

In Washington D.C. idealistic rookie Anna Curtis has become an Assistant U.S. Attorney. She works domestic violence cases that have required her to remain distant and aloof from the brutality she sees on the faces of the victims. However, on Valentine’s day, Anna loses her detached objectivity when battered Laprea Johnson files a complaint against her boyfriend former con D’Marco Davis, who is defended by Curtis’ Harvard Law School classmate Nick Wagner.

In the courtroom, to Anna’s shock, Laprea, under oath, recants her previous testimony allowing her boyfriend who is also the father of her twin preschoolers to avoid jail. Not long after the case is dismissed, Laprea’s pregnant corpse is found amidst trash as if someone threw out the garbage. Assigned to work with chief homicide detective Jack Bailey, in a case against Davis; Anna is shocked that her boyfriend Wagner since the abuse trial, is representing the accused again. She must choose between her career and her personal life as both teeter; but remains unaware that her life is in peril if she gets to close to the truth.

This is a super legal thriller, which reads very fresh due to the star being a rookie playing in the big leagues. The story line is fast-paced from the first complaint until the final resolution with a nice late twist that diligent readers will see the clues. However, even though the men in her life (her lover the opposing lawyer, the homicide chief, and the accused) are fully developed, this is the tyro’s tale as she works the perilous halls of justice.

Harriet Klausner

Roman Games-Bruce Macbain

Roman Games
Bruce Macbain
Poisoned Pen, Oct 2010, $$24.95
ISBN: 9781590587751

In 96 AD in Rome, Senatorial Informer Sextus Verpa is found viciously stabbed to death in his home. The household slaves of the deceased are the only suspects; with no rights they will be executed for his murder once the Ludi Romani Games are over; as no one is killed by the state during the fifteen days of contests.

Meanwhile Emperor Domitian could not care less about slaughtering some slaves in an inferno, but wants to insure his enemies are not behind the stabbing murder. He orders Senator Gaius Plinius Caecillius Secundus, better known as Pliny the Younger, to investigate. Pliny enlists the help of starving author Martial in order to enter places he would have no cooperation. Soon the pair begins to unravel a convoluted conspiracy starting with a horoscope reading that predicts the death of the Emperor is near with tentacles reaching from Jewish and Christian sects, supporters of the Roman pantheon, and Egyptian cultists; but the most dangerous locale for the detecting duet is the palace where the brutal emperor wears no clothes.

Ancient Rome has been used as the backdrop for several mystery series by Steven Saylor, Robert Harris and John Robert Maddox for instance and more so Albert Bell whose lead is Pliny the Younger. However, Bruce Macbain keeps his saga fresh with a strong look at the decadence at the end of the first century in which an ethical hero struggles to keep his morality and his head. The story line is fast-paced as the two opposite ins status and outlook sleuths unite following clues that are religious and political dangerous as separation of state denotes separation of one’s head. This is an enjoyable whodunit due to the Roman background interwoven throughout the historical mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Stranglehold-Ed Gorman

Ed Gorman
Minotaur, Oct 12 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312532987

In Aldyne, Illinois Ben Weinberg, the campaign team chief to reelect incumbent Congresswoman Susan Cooper, knows his candidate’s bid for another term is in deep trouble. He turns to his colleague who got him the job in the first place, former army intel officer turned political consultant Dev Conrad to straighten out the sinking ship. Dev is concerned because they have worked together for eight years and Ben never asked for his assistance.

Besides the ineffective husband David with his alibis for his wife and rumors of sniffing cocaine, the biggest issue is the money bags, Susan’s stepmother Natalie Cooper, better known as the “Dragon Lady”. Adding to the problems is the philosophy of the opponent Steve Duffy’s consultants, Monica Davies and Greg Larson who believe the end justifies the mean regardless of who they harm in the process. Meanwhile in spite of low percentile of public interest concerned with Susan’s mysterious past, she tries to conceal her secrets which hurt her election chances. However, all hell breaks loose when someone murders Davies.

The whodunit is fun to follow, but what makes the second Dev Conrad political consulting thriller (see Sleeping Dogs) super is the dirty tricks played by so called ethical people. Ed Gorman nails the concept that adheres diligently to Leo Durocher’s philosophy of “win at all costs” as the innocent are disregarded as expendable pawns as much as the politicians. For instance Dev points out that the unemployed receiving assistance has paid into the system when they were employed, which is irrelevant when you’re making political points of lazy on the dole people. Stranglehold is a strong political thriller as Mr. Gorman makes a case that elections are contact sports with no rules except “win at all costs”.

Harriet Klausner

Velocity-Alan Jacobson

Alan Jacobson
Vanguard, Oct 5 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781593156213

In Napa Valley, undercover Police Detective Robby Hernandez vanishes as he was closing in on John Wayne “Crush Killer” Mayfield. Robby’s lover FBI profiler Karen Vail fears she may have unwittingly caused the disappearance.

Robby was part of a DEA team investigating drug kingpin Carlos Cortez and his cartel. Part of the operation involved close scrutiny of Cesar Guevara, the CFO of a wine bottling company. Evidence pointed to Guevara drug trafficking with the Crush Killer as his hit man. Knowing at a minimum she owes Robby and praying her beloved is alive, kick butt Karen targets Cortez, Cesar and Crush.

Alan Jacobson does a remarkable job to tell the direct prequel (see Crush) without slowing down this exhilarating Karen Vail police procedural (see 7th Victim). The story line is action-packed from the moment a guilt laden Vail believes what she wrought to her lover and never slows down yet the story line shows another side of the heroine; she has a heart. The intense profound look at drug trafficking enhances a powerful California thriller as Mr. Jacobson scores big time with this super detective tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Disappearance-Bentley Little

The Disappearance
Bentley Little
Signet, Sep 7 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451231031

Five UCLA students drive from California to Nevada to attend the tribal gathering Burning Man in the Black Forest Desert. After a couple of fun filled days, on the second night Gary feels drugged and is knocked out along with his four friends. When he looks for his companions he finds Reyn, Stacy and Brian, but his girlfriend Joan is missing. The police don’t take the disappearance seriously; the four students return to the college to work on a plan to find Joan.

They learn someone tampered with Joan’s files so it looks as if she never attended the school; her Facebook and My Space pages are gone. Teri Lin, the student who gave Joan’s family number, is killed by a man wearing hAmish like homespun clothing that. Gary is kidnapped by three men who wear the identical clothing as Teri’s killer wore. When he escapes he finds himself in New Mexico. He learns Joan is being held in the religious cult’s compound in Bitterwood, Texas where she grew up. Gary and his friends arrive to spring her but hundreds of worshipers of Father surround her. Joan knows she F Father will hunt her and her friends until they are dead.

This will leave chills inside the readers’ hearts as the audience will be spellbound with fear yet horrified with this powerful human horror thriller. Gary is a mature person who knows his love for Joan is not a youthful game but much more. Resolute though some would insist foolish, he risks his life for his beloved knowing the cult will try to kill him to prevent one of theirs leaving. Bentley Little will appear on bestseller lists as he mesmerizes his fans with the Disappearance.

Harriet Klausner

Nightshade-Andrea Cremer

Andrea Cremer
Philomel (Penguin), Oct 19 2010, $17.99
ISBN: 9780399254826

The Keepers have already ordained the joining of two Guardians from different werewolf packs Calla Tor leader of the Nightshade clan and Ren Laroche leader of the Bane clan once she graduates from the Mountain School. Everyone wonders who between these two alphas will be top dog.

While on patrol looking to insure their enemy the Searchers are not lingering nearby, Callie breaks a key law of the Guardians when she rescues a human boy from a bear attack that meant certain death. Callie and Shay break a second rule when they become friends. However, though forbidden, Callie abetted by her human friend Shay ignores another taboo when she investigates the secrets of the Keepers.

Much more complicated than the above, Nightshade is a fabulous young adult romantic mountain fantasy in which the triad of species (in addition to the humans) seems genuine as werewolves and others roam Colorado. In some ways a coming of age tale, but more a rebel with a cause, Calla is terrific as she holds the plot together while suddenly breaking the laws of the Keepers after her whole life dedicated to strict adherence. Attracted to the fully developed key two males in her life, fans will wonder how far she will go between her desire for Shay and Ren.

Harriet Klausner

Troubled Waters-Sharon Shinn

Troubled Waters
Sharon Shinn
Ace, Oct 5 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780441019236

While grieving the death of her father Navarr of the flame, Zoe Ardelay receives a surprising visit from the capital Chialto where she and her late father once fled to rusticate in safety. King Vernon sent Darien Serlast to bring back Zoe as the fifth bride of the monarch in order for a numerically balanced court. The Five Families fight through their respective queen to propel their offspring as the heir. Zoe met the ruler before her father fell out of favor and learns from Darien that his family possesses all that hers once did.

However, before entering the castle, Zoe slips away to the nearby river where she is stunned to realize she is the “Coru Prime” of another family Lalindar of the water. Ergo she is no longer the next bride of Vernon. Zoe explores her new power and investigates palace secrets while facing danger from envious enemies, many of whom remain shadowy unknown adversaries who reject an upstart new dynamo. She and Darien also are attracted to one another, but both know many will use their desire as a weapon to destroy both of them. Zoe’s biggest lesson at court is trust no one as everyone seems manipulative with a personal agenda to move up the ladder without regard for others.

Troubled Waters is a great opening political fantasy that is filled with a strong cast, wonderful refreshing laws of magic and court intrigue. From the moment Darien arrives for Zoe, the story line never takes a respite as this is a fast-paced thriller. Sharon Shinn affirms what her fans already knew from the Twelve Houses saga that the author is one of the best fantasists; with her new series loaded with action yet introducing the key characters and significantly the mathematics of magic.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, August 27, 2010

Pearl in the Sand-Tessa Afshar

Pearl in the Sand
Tessa Afshar
Moody, Sep 1 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780802458810

In Jericho, Canaan Rahab grows up as a contented girl until her family becomes destitute. Though ashamed and humiliated by his actions, her desperate father turns innocent fifteen year old Rahab into a prostitute in order to feed the family. Rahab vows to face her harlot duty with valor and select those who can use her services. She is very successful at her vocation with plenty of wealthy patrons. In fact she is so good, she buys an inn abut to the city walls as her place of business.

When Rahab rescues two Israelite spies, they thank her for saving their lives by informing her that the Israelite army will attack Jericho and that God has told them how to breach the wall. In gratitude, the operatives direct her to place a red ribbon above her family door so that she and her kin are saved from the onslaught. The assault leaves the entire city dead except for Rahab and her family who seek to join the conquerors. Judah military leader Salmone is irate the spies made a deal with a prostitute because he fears she and her family will bring trouble and idolatry worship. However, Rahab shows her love for the Israeli God and soon the warrior realizes he loves and wants her as his wife. She loves him, but fears he will always reject her as a pagan prostitute.

This is an entertaining biblical romantic work of biographical fiction starring two wonderful lead protagonists (from the Book of Joshua) whose cross-starred love seems doomed. Their relationship starts rocky and continues to remain troubled even though they fall in love and marry. The pace is leisurely, but fits nicely in the tone of the story line and its strong message that it is not your birth but your actions in regard to God that redeems the soul as further accentuated (though not in this novelization) by the Old Testament story of their more famous daughter-in-law.

Harriet Klausner

The Bite Before Christmas - Heidi Betts

The Bite Before Christmas
Heidi Betts
Kensington Brava, Sep 28 2010, $14.00
ISBN 9780758247612

“A Vampire in Her Stocking”. Matchmaker Angelina Ricci gives a special yuletide present to vampire in love Vivian Harrison when she changes dying Nick into an unenthusiastic Undead.

“All I Vant for Christmas”. His friend Angelina knows wealthy vampire Connor loves Christmas so she hires human party planner Jillian to decorate his mansion for the holidays.

“It’s a Wonderful Bite”. After eight decades of heavenly bliss, Angelina wants her Undead boyfriend Sergio to marry her so she goes all out to jump his bones at every opportunity especially after a dose of It’s A Wonderful Life.

These are three fun heated Beantown Yuletide vampire romances. Especially strong are the first two entries; whereas the last one is well written but the ghost of Jimmy Stewart has been used too much in movies and books.

Harriet Klausner

In Search of Mercy-Michael Ayoob

In Search of Mercy
Michael Ayoob
Minotaur, Oct 12 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780312644925

In high school in 1993 in Pittsburgh, Dexter Bolzjak was a legend on ice until he suffered a meltdown in the Pennsylvania state championship. Soon afterward, irate hockey goon fans abducted him and beat the crap out of him. Eight years since his rise, fall and assault has left Dexter a shell of what he was as he sorts produce at a warehouse while trying to keep his sanity, which he recognizes as a full time job.

Aging alcoholic Lou Kashon offers Dexter a deal to make some real money if he locates his lost love, former movie star, Mercy Carnahan, who has not been seen in public since 1958. The cash is too good to pass up so without asking too many questions Dexter begins a search for the recluse.

The key to this strong amateur sleuth is the past of Dexter and Mercy, as the audience sees how they got to where they are today. Fast-paced and vividly descriptive especially the violence (you will feel the hip checks), In Search of mercy is an aptly titled thriller that readers who appreciate something radically different will fully enjoy.

Harriet Klausner

Death Notice-Todd Ritter

Death Notice
Todd Ritter
Minotaur, Oct 12 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780312622800

Perry Hollow, Pennsylvania Police Chief Kat Campbell is stunned to find the corpse of George Winnick, a farmer, inside a coffin of sorts at the side of the road. She is further aghast to see the victim’s lips sewn together and his blood vessels containing formaldehyde.

Meanwhile, Perry Hollow Gazette obituary writer Henry Goll learns the time of death occurred after he received the faxed death notice. Henry realizes that one of his neighbors is a diabolical homicidal psychopath. When other murders occur, Pennsylvania State Police Officer Nick Donnelly, an expert on serial killers, arrives to assist the overwhelmed locals. However, even with his knowledge and skills, the killer seems always ahead of the cops.

Although at times a bit overdramatic with a stratospheric kill rate, Death Notice is an enjoyable police procedural. The story line is fast-paced and loaded with a horde of eccentric characters as the corpses keep coming. Kat is a fabulous lead who holds the serial killer thriller together with help from Nick and Henry. Readers will enjoy this entertaining regional mystery as a town that never faced a homicide suddenly is inundated.

Harriet Klausner

What Doesn't Kill You-Jan Grape

What Doesn't Kill You
Jan Grape
Five Star, Sep 15 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148880

In Bent Bell, Texas sixteen year old Cory Purvis tells her half-Native American boyfriend TyTy that their town is boring, they are stunned to find the corpse of nursing student Vickee Allen. Whoever killed her viciously used a knife on the victim.

Cory is stunned to find out TyTy and Vickie were dating. Even more distressing to Cory is that she realizes Sheriff Michael Sparrow believes TyTy is the prime suspect. Soon afterward, the coroner decides Vickee was raped and had many lovers including TyTy. Cory knows in her gut TyTy would not kill; so she investigates the homicide with the help of her Uncle Giff.

Sometimes you get what you wish for as soon as the teen heroine opens her mouth that nothing happens in Bent Bell they find the corpse. Cory is a courageous caring person who, though upset with TyTy and saddened with Vickee’s vicious death, investigates with youthful innocence. Although there are too many explanations in lieu of action, Vickee’s behavior in life exposed with her violent death leaves readers to ponder small town ethics inside an engaging amateur sleuth.

Harriet Klausner

Murder in Caleb's Landing-D-L Nelson

Murder in Caleb's Landing
D-L Nelson
Five Star, Sep 15 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148972

Thirtyish Annie Young may have been born in the States, but the contract technical writer has lived mostly in Europe with her Swiss based parents. She is a “Third-Culture Kid” not quite comfortable in Europe but totally uncomfortable in America. When her father inherits a home in Caleb's Landing, Massachusetts, the Young family leaves Geneva for New England.

In Massachusetts, Annie dad and his friends persuade her create a CD on the real founding of America. Her program is previewed at the local elementary school. Many townsfolk are irate due to her realistic portrayal of the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. In the basement of their new house, father and daughter find skeleton dressed in pre-Civil War rags and a diary written by a runaway slave; her mother’s business partner and Annie intervene to save a woman from her abusive spouse. Then there is Des.

This is a fascinating fast-paced mystery the takes off once the Yong family arrives in Massachusetts and never slow down until the finish. Annie’s problems with poorly adapting to a different society enhances the tale as her actions make her an eccentric and to some a pariah. Her diligent research provides a rounded realistic portrayal of the founding of America, but alienates many who prefer deity filters on the heritage of the country especially the state.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Insider-Reece Hirsch

The Insider
Reece Hirsch
Berkley, May 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425234624

In San Francisco, attorney Will Connelly arrives at work expecting to have made partnership at the firm Reynolds, Fincher & McComb LLP. However, instead of feeling euphoric, he watches in stunned shock and awe as tax attorney Ben Fisher falls from Will’s thirty-eighth floor office window. SFPD Detective Kovach questions Will as he was the only other person present in the office and lying on the ground outside next to Ben’s body is Will’s access card.

After the cops leave, the law firm’s managing partner “Teflon Don” Rubinoswki informs Will he has been voted partner. He also will take charge of the late Ben’s major project; a merger involving Jupiter Software company firm. That night Will stops at a neighborhood bar to quietly celebrate his promotion. There he meets Katya and leaves with her to go to her place. To impress her with his importance, he mentions the Jupiter Software merger. The next morning two Russians bust into her apartment; they beat up Will forcing him to give them information on the merger. He cannot turn to the police because he violated a legal ethics code involving attorney-client privilege and the insider trading rules of the SEC. Complicating his mess is when he learns his new client has a secret contract with the government involving encryption coding. The thugs sold the information to the Russian mob who demand Will obtains the Jupiter encryption code key so it can be sold on the black market.

This is a complicated action-packed thriller as Will finds out one thing leads to another as Federal, State, and local law enforcement want a piece of his butt, and the Russian Mafiya want his entire butt. From the moment Ben dives until the final fabsulous twist, fans will enjoy this fast-paced terrorism thriller as the beleaguered hero struggles with what next; feeling like Murphy as nothing goes right. This is a fabulous must read chilling thriller

Harriet Klausner

The Reversal-Michael Connelly

The Reversal
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown, Oct 5 2010, $27.99
ISBN 9780316069489

In 1986, Jason Jessup was convicted of killing twelve year old Melissa Landry. Recent testing of DNA evidence exonerates Jason who will receive a new trial.

Los Angeles Office of the District Attorney prosecutors are embarrassed as they head to the retrial. They ask defense attorney Mickey Haller for help; he agrees with the stipulation that he employs former LAPD cop Harry Bosch as his private investigator and his ex-wife prosecutor Maggie “McFierce” McPherson as the second chair. Bosch works the cold case trying to find witnesses from the 1986 homicide of the tweener. He especially wants to find the victim’s older sister whose testimony hung Jessup. At the same time, Haller finds working for the D.A. quite eye-opening as his every move is under scrutiny while he also distrusts Jessup’s sleazy defense attorney. However, perhaps the person all should watch is the one who hated the jurisprudence system before he spent a quarter of a century behind bars; now he obsessively loathes it and those who work it.

The second pairing of this obstinate duet (see The Brass Verdict) makes for a fabulous investigative legal thriller with Haller’s former wife on the team; he is thankful that having been married to her they can never meet in court as she is that tough and good. Part of the fun is watching Haller switching sides for this case as fans of the Lincoln Lawyer will see how different what a defense attorney can do vs. a prosecutor. With a strong investigation by Bosch and a powerful courtroom drama by Haller and McPherson, the audience will relish The reversal.

Harriet Klausner

Trail of Blood-Lisa Black

Trail of Blood
Lisa Black
Morrow, Sep 7 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061989339

In an abandoned warehouse in Cleveland, a mummified corpse is found. CPD assumes the victim was murdered by the city’s first known serial killer, the taunting Torso Killer during the Great depression. Although over seven decades have passed since this brutal psychopath dismembered people the case still haunts the department as it was never solved.

Soon after finding the remains from the 1930s, another recently murdered person is found using the same M.O. as the infamous Torso killer. CPD believes an apparent copycat killer paying homage committed the gruesome homicide. Forensic pathologist Theresa MacLean and cousin Frank Patrick look at both cases and assume lunatics committed the atrocities then and now.

The latest MacLean Cleveland police procedural (see Takeover and Evidence of Murder) is a terrific double murder mystery that effortlessly moves back and forth between the present day inquiry and Miller’s investigation of the Torso Killer. Both cases are fascinating although readers will know the respective killers before the cops do. With MacLean’s personal life still in the tank but perhaps looking up, Trail of Blood is an entertaining well rounded mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Harvest Moon-Mercedes Lackey, Michelle Sagara, Cameron Haley

Harvest Moon
Mercedes Lackey, Michelle Sagara, Cameron Haley
Luna, Oct 1 2010, $17.95
ISBN: 9780373803224

“A Tangled Web” by Mercedes Lackey. At. Mt Olympus, Thanatos kidnaps Brunnhilde in the opening ploy of a scheme to enable his master Hades to capture Persephone. Ever since he met her (see The Sleeping Beauty) Leopold is not one to sit idly by when Brunnhilde is in danger.

“Cast in Moonlight” by Michelle Sagara. In Elantra, teenage Kaylin Neya joins the hawks as she works her first case.

“Retribution” by Cameron Haley. Enforcer Domino Riley killed her rival for the position she now holds in accordance with Mob Rules, but an otherworldly hit man is coming after her also in accordance with Mob Rules.

These are three fine fantasies that fans of the respective authors especially will enjoy as Mercedes Lackey provides a Five Hundred Kingdom’s entry; Michelle Sagara contributes an Elantra saga; and Cameron Haley an Underworld tale.

Harriet Klausner

Poison Kissed-Erica Hayes

Poison Kissed
Erica Hayes
St. Martin’s, Sep 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312624705

Kick-butt Mina the blue-haired banshee with a deadly siren’s tune works as an enforcer for snakeshifting mob boss Joey DiLuca because she owes him for saving her life. Currently Joey and his gang are at war with a rival mob. Joey and Mina are attracted to one another, but each has a million reasons not to form a romantic entanglement between them.

Mina vowed a long time ago to avenge her mother’s murder, but has made no progress until now as to who the culprit is. She obtains evidence that shakes her to her bone marrow as what she learns implies Joey was somehow mixed up in her mother’s homicide.

The third entry in the Shadowfae Chronicles (see Shadowfae and Shadowglass) is an intriguing dark urban fantasy starring two paranormal beings who trust one another with their respective soul until now. The story line has too much going on with a myriad of subplots, but readers will appreciate the main theme wondering what Mina will do next. Alternate Melbourne has not looked darker or more entertaining than Erica Hayes exhilarating take on the Australian mobs.

Harriet Klausner

Bones Of Empire-William C. Dietz

Bones Of Empire
William C. Dietz
Ace, Oct 5 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441019229

The Uman Empire has conquered many worlds, but the species they watch most carefully and carefully is the shapeshifting Sagathies. Feral to a berserker level, these predators are caged on the planet Corin under the watchful eyes of Xeno police officers who have been reengineered physically to keep these beasts from changing shapes and running violently amuck.

All seems right until Xeno-cop Jak Cato arrives with others only to be attacked by professionals. His reputation tattered and with a thirst for avenging his mates driving him, Jak takes a needed R&R in the capital city of Imperialus. There he is stunned to observe the Uman Empire emperor through his reengineered eyes is a dead shapeshifter who he thought he killed.

The second part of the Uman Empire science fiction duology (see At Empire’s Edge) is an action-packed faster than the speed of light futuristic in space thriller. Filled with gore yet also loaded with ET politics and social order, fans who read the first entry will appreciate the race to the finish line as a disgraced beleaguered hero has few allies left after the mass slaughter of the cavalcade, but must save the empire from a diabolically brilliant loner or an incredible conspiracy that would include his people.

Harriet Klausner

The House On Durrow Street-Galen Beckett

The House On Durrow Street
Galen Beckett
Bantam, Sep 28 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9780553807592

Saving her country Altania and having married the mage Mr. Quent, the witch Ivy and her sisters have been welcomed back by the aristocracy (see The Magicians and Mrs. Quent). She and her siblings establish a residence in the mysterious house inherited from their late father on Darrow Street.

However, all is not quite idyllic in Ivy’s world as she feels pulled by two conflicting natures. First she is a witch married to a magician and that is hard to ignore. Then there is her place in high society. Though both have some inclusiveness, mostly they are exclusive. All those woes come across as nothing compared with learning the secrets of The House on Durrow Street before raging rogue magicians cause further havoc throughout the land.

This is a terrific dark fantasy in which magic feels genuine due mostly from the interesting eccentric support cast and the title abode. The heroine is a fabulous lead protagonist who readers will like and root for as she works the enigma of what she and her sisters inherited. Galen Beckett obviously had fun writing the second Mrs. Quent quirky fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Kill the Dead-Richard Kadrey

Kill the Dead
Richard Kadrey
Eos, Oct 5 2010, $22.99
ISBN: 9780061714313

Stark, known as Sandman Slim, is not a human. He is a Nephilim; the offspring of a fallen angel and a human mother. He has all the power of a Nephilim, but still was not strong enough to fight black magician Mason Faim, who dispatched him to hell for over a decade. When Lucifer releases Stark, he returns to hell on earth where he dispatches Mason back to Lucifer’s kingdom. While there the mage mason tries to take over Lucifer’s throne.

The devil comes to earth to watch a picture of him being made and wants Stark to serve as his bodyguard. He also takes jobs for the Golden Vigil, sometimes called “Pinkerton’s Angels, such as killing Eleanor the vampire, who wears a belt buckle that interests him for reasons he cannot figure out. Besides the Golden Vigil and Lucifer gigs, Stark works on fighting demons and a way to kill Mason. However, a new threat arises as zombies begin to walk the streets of Los Angeles killing all humans who cross their path. Stark has to figure out who is controlling the walking dead and get rid of him so the zombie menace will end..

Stark is a terrific antihero whose conversations with a horde of paranormal and normal (that is in a specie sense; not a mental sense) is humorously biting satire. He is a half-breed who is neither angel nor demon, but works for both sides as he has no place with either. The story line is fast-paced, filled with high octane testosterone action, but is owned by Stark who tells his latest misadventures in a noir style first person account. Urban fantasy readers will fully appreciate the goings on in the city of angels. This reviewer can’t wait for the next Sandman Slim novel.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

She's Gone Country-Jane Porter

She's Gone Country
Jane Porter
5 Spot, Aug 23 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780446509411

In New York City, as she nears forty, former model Shey Darcy believes she lives a terrific life with her photographer husband and their three teen sons. However, her idyll family ends when her spouse announce he loves someone else and leaves her and the kids for this man.

Shey takes her distraught adolescent children back to the Texas ranch she grew up on. Her controlling siblings welcome her and the boys though each want to protect their sister and their nephews. Soon after coming home, Shey finds work as a catalogue model. However, her mom demands the quartet scrub sinful Manhattan from their souls as she is a strict Southern Baptist who expects others to be as pious as she is. Her offspring struggle with adjusting to going country and the betrayal each perceives of their father; especially depressed is Bo. Finally, her first love former pro bull rider Dane Kelly wants back in her life.

Although She’s Gone Country lacks the emotional intricacy of the previous thirty-something tale (see Easy on the Eyes), this is an entertaining contemporary second chance at love tale. Shey is a wonderful lead with her can do attitude, which includes tying up in knots the former bull rider and ignoring her mother and siblings. Though much of the cast especially her family is stereotyped detracting from the potential interrelation poignant strife, fans will enjoy Shey’s coming home.

Harriet Klausner

The Viking Takes A Knight-Sandra Hill

The Viking Takes A Knight
Sandra Hill
Avon, Aug 31 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061673504

In 970 Northumbria Princess Ingrith Sigrundottir proudly runs a local orphanage Rainstead. However, when brutal Saxon Commander Leo Loncaster visits her orphanage demanding she turn over King Edgar’s illegitimate son Henry she disobeys the beast. Instead she flees with her children including Henry to Lord John Graves’s home Hawk’s Lair where she demands sanctuary for her, Ubbi her elderly guard, and thirty youngsters.

John is attracted to Ingrith, but knows she is off limits to him as the daughter of the king. Ingrith is attracted to her host but cannot get him away from his studies of honey. When Loncaster angrily burns down the orphanage, John sets off to get the king to intercede while directing the princess to remain safe inside his walls. Ingrith rejects his orders and instead follows him to her father’s court. In love, they argue before he leaves the court to return to his honeybees while Thorvold announces his daughter will marry soon. John decides he will be her husband, but must persuade his beloved he is her man for eternity.

This is a fun lighthearted Dark Ages romp in which Sandra Hill uses humor to make the case that the tenth century was an enlightened period with researchers along side berserkers as warriors. The story line is fast-paced while Ms. Hill provides fascinating ways to use honey that the experimenters amongst readers will want to test with their significant other. The lead couple is a terrific pairing as each is fully developed so the audience will understand the motives and flaws of both as the almost aptly titled The Viking Takes a Knight as her honey.

Harriet Klausner

The Detroit Electric Scheme-D. E. Johnson

The Detroit Electric Scheme
D. E. Johnson
Minotaur, Sep 14 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312644567

In 1910 Detroit, Will Anderson works for his father's electric car company. In the machining room, Will finds the corpse of John Cooper, who was crushed by a hydraulic press. Recognizing the deceased as the man engaged to his former lover Elizabeth, and panicking, a frightened Will flees the factory as the circumstantial evidence will hang him even without Detroit cops beating a confession from him.

Will informs Elizabeth that someone murdered John and he fears she could be next. He offers to keep her safe, but she refuses. As Will conducts an inquiry far from the spotlights, he finds cruel corruption as the cornerstone of the city; that is when he does not stop for a drink to dull the haze.

The Detroit Electric Scheme is a fabulous historical amateur sleuth that showcases the underbelly of the Motor City at a time of optimism when American companies made Michigan the capital of the fledgling auto industry. Real persona including some of the founding fathers add a sense of realism as does Will’s alcoholism which makes his investigation off kilter due the application of fuzzy logic. Although readers will feel some compassion for the lead with his plight that also is tempered by his self inflicting wounds as he is not a likable character. Still the audience will enjoy this fine early twentieth century mystery as where there’s a Will there’s a way.

Harriet Klausner

The Holy Thief-William Ryan

The Holy Thief
William Ryan
Minotaur, Aug 31 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312586454

In 1936, Moscow Militia's Criminal Investigation Division Captain Alexei Korolev leads the investigation into the brutal murder of a battered woman in a church. The body’s myriad of bruises indicates the victim was tortured as if the culprit sought information from the deceased.

NKVD Colonel Gregorin is fascinated with the homicide that he thinks has political ties. With Gregorin assisting him, Korolev identifies the dead female woman as an American nun, who allegedly helped smuggle valuables out of the Soviet Union. When a second murder similar to that of the Sister occurs, Korolev obtains aid from a diverse cautious crew of friends and associates, wannabe Russian Baker Street Irregulars and author Isaac Babel.

The key to this excellent 1930s Soviet police procedural is the Stalin internal terrorism cuts through all aspects of Moscow society; no one is immune, not even a homicide cop. That oppressive aura engulfs Korolev who wants to solve the murder case, but must not cross clearly drawn lines or someone else could be investigating his homicide. In some ways the deep look at people during the heart of Stalinism is graphic and the use of the strong investigation as a support tool to enhance how fearing Russians were makes this great thriller somewhat more a historical with a powerful whodunit investigation enabling readers to feel the stressful stench of the Stalin smog.

Harriet Klausner.

Touch-Me-Not-Cynthia Riggs

Cynthia Riggs
Minotaur, Aug 17 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312648718

In his office at Watts Electrical Supply in Oak Bluffs, electrician LeRoy Watts uses a taser on his former assistant Jerry Sparks when the latter had the gall to threaten to blackmail him. Jerry crumbled to the office floor dead. LeRoy knows his nine year old twin sons Zeke and Jared will be coming by once baseball practice ends, so he places the corpse in a closet with plans to dispose of the body later.

After the kids leave, LeRoy removes the stiff from his office closet and places the corpse in a book storage shed at the West Tisbury library. Also at the library are the "mathematical" knitters doing Moebius strips and more. Their current project is a coral reef quilt to raise awareness of global warming. Knitter Maron asks nonagenarian Deputy Sheriff Victoria Trumbull for help with an obscene serial phone caller; and boat splicer Emily Cameron wants to know what happened to her boyfriend Jerry. Victoria is back in the middle of a murder mystery.

The latest ninety-two years young Victoria Trumbull police procedural (see Death and Honesty) is a wonderful cozy that uses Martha’s Vineyard as an idyllic backdrop for mayhem and for family issues caused when the middle generation arrives to help her daughter cope with her elderly mother. At times the story line turns amusing for instance with LeRoy’s efforts to dispose of the body only to have his family and later three law enforcement officials (including the heroine) visit him with none aware of Jerry’s fate; mindful of Hitchcock’s comedic The Trouble With Harry. Cynthia Riggs is at the top of her game with this strong Trumbull entry.

Harriet Klausner

The Black Prism-Brent Weeks

The Black Prism
Brent Weeks
Orbit, Aug 25 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780316075558

He had been the Prism who controlled the magic of the Chromeria. However that seems like eternity as he lost the civil war to his brother Gavin, the current Prism. Everyday since Gavin incarcerated him in a dungeon beneath heir home. Jacen sees a world of dispiritingly gray; he lives hoping to regain the colors he lost to his sibling.

Gavin may be an intelligent High priest-Emperor who controls the Prism since he defeated his sibling by using guile, but he knows what happened to his brother could occur to him as Prisms have relatively short life cycle usage. Once his prism dies, he will die too. Gavin knows his prism has five years of life left; five years for him to accomplish five unattainable quests or his world will lose all color and consequently all life.

Gavin is stunned to learn he sired a son. Kip will have the power of the Prism, untrained. The lad could be the opponent in the next war of power. At the same the son learns who his dad and uncle are and begins to find out about the sibling splintering, but is unsure what he should do as increasingly he fears the world is going to implode if the colors run out.

The opening tale in the Black prism fantasy is an exhilarating thriller that uses the colors of a prism as the source of magic. The story line focuses on the three male leads while cleverly interweaving the Weeks’ “physics” of magic into the plot. Fast-paced and character driven, fans will enjoy the first act as the Prime Prism practitioner begins a quest knowing he must remain vigilant watching for his son and his insane brother; failure will mean death or worse a lunacy to parallel that of colorless Gavin who once tasted the power of the colors.

Harriet Klausner

Sin Undone-Larissa Ione

Sin Undone
Larissa Ione
Grand Central, Aug 24 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780446556811

Assassin’s Guild. Chief Seminus demon Sin unintentionally released a virus that is killing werewolves. The epidemic threatens to go pandemic and wipe out the species. Stunned, Sin wants to save the surviving werewolf population from extinction while others have a different deadly agenda for the shapeshifters.

Sin knows her life is in jeopardy as many including herself believe she deserves punishment for the plague she wrought. Her guild also has opportunistic ambitious assassins who plan to kill her so they can take over running the Guild. Connal “Con” Dearghul is directed to bring Sin in, dead or alive, but they are bound by blood. Con knows he must choose between bringing her head in on a platter that would make him a hero who obeyed orders; or assisting her, which would leave him as a hunted outlaw.

The fifth Demonica romantic fantasy (see Pleasure Unbound and Desire Unchained) is a terrific sinful saga as the wicked assassin is finally undone by love. The story line is fast-paced and loaded with action as Con must choose between his lady and his duty. This volatile mix makes for a great time for sub-genre readers especially fans of Larissa Ione.

Harriet Klausner

A Star Shall Fall-Marie Brennan

A Star Shall Fall
Marie Brennan
Tor, Aug 31 2010, $15.99
ISBN: 9780765325365

Almost a hundred years ago back in 1666, the Fae and all of London were threatened by the great Dragon Spirit of Fire. However, by 1682 the Fae successfully deported the lethal beast inside its home of what was soon to be named Halley’s Comet, but not before the Great Fire of 1666 destroyed much of the city above and beneath the ground (see Midnight Never Come).

In 1705 at Gresham College, predictions of Halley’s Comet retuning in 1758 stun the astronomers who though the Great Dragon Spirit of Fire from the sky was gone. In 1758, the Fae astronomers of Onyx Court inform their leader Lune that the lethal dragon is definitely returning as the comet along with its hitchhiker is coming back. Ailing Lune has issues within the Onyx Court as challenges to his rule have surfaced at a time of the pending crisis with many deniers insisting no way. As the great dragon nears earth, London residents (human and fae) are in peril. The only hope for salvation resides with the Stone Prince of the Onyx Court, novice Galen St. Clair, who has no experience whatsoever in dealing with such a catastrophe especially with political enemies from within making his learning curve steeper as time runs out.

This great historical fantasy sequel moves forward in time nine decades to an age where science and math is building off the works of Newton and others. Thus a sense of historical accuracy makes this unique enlightened London seen real as the myriad of vivid descriptions will hook the audience as much as the pending dragon of doom. Marie Brennan provides a fabulous saga that will have newcomers seek the previous visit of Halley’s Comet and fans looking forward to the next visit in seventy-five years.

Harriet Klausner

The Way of Kings-Brandon Sanderson

The Way of Kings
Brandon Sanderson
Tor, Aug 31 2010, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765326355

The storms of Roshar are legendary for their fierceness as natural selection has led to flora and fauna adapting to the intensity. Failure to do so means extinction. Humans understand the basic premise for survival of the fittest as they have built great cities only in places where shelter from the torrents can be found. Centuries ago the Knights Radiant laid down their arms having disestablished their units. Now four thousand five hundred plus years since they dispersed, they have become myths while their shardblade weapons and shardplate armor have become the most valuable commodity on Roshar.

Shallan the scholar has uncovered an inconvenient truth as she serves as an apprentice to the sister of the King. Unlike his aristocratic peers, visionary warrior Dalinar Kholin, the current king’s uncle looks to the past to forge an honorable just future. Finally acrimonious Kaladin went from aristocratic surgeon to slave to save the life of his brother, but it cost him his honor and caring of others.

The opening act of the Stormlight Machine an epic fantasy which a monster sized book in which Brandon Sanderson establishes his world in minute detail (some might say overly detailed) and the flaws of his three prime players. The story line contains several subplots with Shallan, Kholin and Kaladin serving as the main three in the intertwining saga. Especially intriguing, besides the encyclopedic fascinating depth of Roshar, is the gripping sagas of Kaladin and Shallan; while the arc of Kholin feels forced as if a fantasy element was needed to spice up the saga. Still this is a fascinating grand beginning to what looks like an epic worthy of the late Robert Jordan.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

In a Heartbeat-Rosalind Noonan

In a Heartbeat
Rosalind Noonan
Kensington, Sep 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758241672

At four in the morning, Kate McGann is awakened by a phone call from Cross College in Syracuse. Her nineteen year old college student Ben was assaulted in his dorm room at the university. He lies in a coma after a brutal beating by an unknown assailant using a baseball bat. Kate and her husband Eli rush to Ben’s side, but have to wait to see him while he undergoes emergency surgery.

Detective Greg Cord leads the investigation. He believes the victim knew the perpetrator. Most of Ben’s skull is removed so that the swelling does not cause any other traumas. Eli cannot cope staying at the hospital so he leaves for home. Greg focuses on students especially players on the baseball team in which Ben was a highly regarded talent. Kate remains vigilant at her son’s side. She and the lead detective are aware of one another as an attraction exists. There are two members of the team who hated Ben; for taking a starting spot in the lineup from one of them and forcing the other to change position. Just when he thinks he might have Ben’s attacker due to strong circumstantial evidence, Greg has to let him go because the kid has an airtight alibi. The other suspect claims he was nowhere near Ben during the night in question. Relooking his probe from a fresh perspective, Greg starts anew but fears if his hunch proves right Kate’s heart will break.

In a Heartbeat is an excellent blending of a poignant family drama and a stirring
investigative mystery that fans of a police investigation and of mainstream fiction will appreciate. The secondary sidebar subplot between Greg and Kate adds a light touch to what is a very dark tale. The key characters are fully developed to the point that readers will, In a Heartbeat, want Rosalind Noonan to write a sequel.

Harriet Klausner

My Lord Scandal-Emma Wildes

My Lord Scandal
Emma Wildes
Signet, Sep 7 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451231062

Unable to say no to his grandmother, Lord Alexander St. James searches for a missing family heirloom. To accomplish the mission he sneaks into Lady Amelia Patton’s bedroom as her family stole the heirloom from his.

Amelia’s father ordered her to go to London to find a husband. She is taken aback not so much by a man in her room, but by a member of the family, her family loathes. Alexander is as shocked not to see he was caught, but how much he wants Amelia though she is a member of the family his family loathes. As they fall in love with the feud hanging over their happiness, each receives threatening letters exposing the scandalous original source of the spat.

This first “Notorious Bachelors” historical romance is an enjoyable tale as a family feud threatens to keep the beloved enemies apart. Although not a new premise, sub-genre fans will enjoy the exciting story line from the moment Alexander and Amelia meet in her room; their respective reactions are priceless as both are more stunned by the attraction than by his sneaking into her room. With late suspense re the spat, My Lord Scandal is an entertaining nineteenth century romance.

Harriet Klausner

Wicked Surrender-Jade Lee

Wicked Surrender
Jade Lee
Berkley, Sep 7 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425236369

Daughter of an actress, Scheherazade “Scher” Martin manages the small Tavern Playhouse theater troupe. Her position and that of her mom means she will never fulfill her dream of a loving respectable marriage as no member of the Ton will ever wed her. Her best offer comes from Viscount Brandon Cates to be his mistress with he providing a terrific compensation if she agrees.

Scher considers his offer, but his too young cousin Kit proposes marriage. Scher knows if she says yes to Kit she fulfills her dream; if she says yes to Brandon she accepts love. To seal the deal Brandon kisses her leaving both stunned with their reaction. However, he possesses a dark past in which he believes his Scher is his only chance for redemption yet Brandon also believes he is not worthy of such a great Lady.

The powerful fully developed cast, especially the lead triangle, makes for a deep exhilarating Regency romance. Scher and her two suitors have dreams, but also possess flaws that rip at their souls and hence their aspirations. Jade Lee provides a deep character driven historical as readers wonder whether Scheherazade will choose love or her dream.

Harriet Klausner

Warrior Avenged-Addison Fox

Warrior Avenged
Addison Fox
Signet, Sep 7 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451231079

Nemesis started her life as a cursed nymph, but recently became a Goddess. However, in spite of her change in position, the neo deity seeks revenge against the God who cursed her unfairly:, Zeus and his pantheon on Mount Olympus. Part of her effort was a Faustian deal with a dark sorcerer, but that has backfired on her since she finally met her first target Kane, Scorpio of the Zodiac warriors.

Her deal, made three centuries ago, is to kill Kane by poisoning his soul. For three hundred years he annually fights the war of survival and every time he has vanquished the toxin even knowing he will repeat the process again and again for eternity or his death. However, this year Kane Montague, an MI6 sniper-assassin, is divided ever since he met a woman Ilsa the secret agent who has him focused on her and not his mission or his survivability.

The latest superb Zodiac Warriors urban romantic fantasy (see Warrior Ascended) is a terrific tale of love, betrayal, and (readers will hope) redemption and not more perfidy as Aquarius and Scorpio do not mix smoothly. Fox world is fully developed with the back-story of what happened millennia go intertwined within the exciting storyline. The support cast especially his concerned brothers in arms enhance understanding of the lead couple as the second saga in the Fifth Age of Man is another winner.

Harriet Klausner

Wicked Surrender

Immortal Sea-Virginia Kantra

Immortal Sea
Virginia Kantra
Berkley, Sep 7 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425237472

Three years has passed since her husband died, but only recently has Dr. Elizabeth Rodriguez feel she can move on with her life. Nearing forty, she and her two children Zack and Emily move to World’s End Island, Maine where she hopes to help her troubled son.

Sixteen years ago, Elizabeth and Morgan met in Copenhagen and shared a one night stand that resulted in the birth of Zack. Unaware he sired an offspring until he meets Liz again accompanied by her kids; Morgan wants to take his son with him to Sanctuary, home of the finfolk. However, to his chagrin he is attracted to Liz in spite of her being a human; a species he loathes. Worse he even likes her seven years old purebred daughter. Liz reciprocates his feelings until she realizes that Morgan is not human and has horrific plans to take away her Zack who she now knows is a half-breed. Like a lioness defending her cub, Liz challenges her son’s sire to allow the teen to choose where he prefers to reside.

The fourth Selkie-human "Children of the Sea" romance (see Sea Lord, Sea Witch and Sea Fever) is a fantastic romantic fantasy. The romantic story line is similar to the previous entries as the plot enables the reader to look deep into the hearts of the lead couple and believe in the existence of Selkie and half-breed Selkie. However, Virginia Kantra refreshes her saga through the beleaguered Zack who always felt different but now knows why; as his feelings are not teen angst or grief. Fans will appreciate this strong entry as Elizabeth bets her heart on the two males in her life.

Harriet Klausner

Atlantis Betrayed-Alyssa Day

Atlantis Betrayed
Alyssa Day
Berkley, Sep 7 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425238103

Christophe, a Warrior of Poseidon, is sworn to protect humanity, but he loathes his duty as he detests the perfidious humans. Still he does his mission well in spite of his personal animosities. His current assignment is to break into the Tower of London to steal Siren, a Jewel of Poseidon, implanted in the sword of William the Conqueror.

Christophe quickly discovers he is not the only one breaching the Tower’s security. The infamous Scarlet Ninja breaks and enter to steal the Siren too. Not one to allow a male to trump her plan, Scarlet Ninja AKA (in daylight) Lady Fiona Campbell the fairy tale illustrator plans to complete her latest Robinette Hood theft. However, as the pair competes for the gem, a lethal third person breaches the museum taking the sword before the stunned pair can react.

Starting with irreverent Christophe’s debate with a vampire while sitting on Big Ben over whether Ripper was a vamp too, the latest Atlantis saga is a great entry (see Atlantis Redeemed and Atlantis Unmasked) as a strong romance is enhanced by non-stop action and plenty of jocularity. The cast is powerful and not just the Warriors of Poseidon and their soulmates as London and Atlantis have never swung wilder. Alyssa Day scores big time with this terrific amusing yet action-packed tale.

Harriet Klausner

Veil Of Shadows-Shiloh Walker

Veil Of Shadows
Shiloh Walker
Berkley, Sep 7 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425236352

Captain Laisyn “Syn” Caar seeks warriors amongst the refugees fleeing the dreaded demon horde that has overrun the forests devastating the Roinan territory. Commander Kalen Brenner wants the refugees removed as they interfere with his strategy of fighting the demons.

One of the newcomers Xan is obviously different from all those who are fleeing Roinan. He is noticeably a seasoned fighter with an assortment of weapons and not much else; but why he is here at the encampment is unclear. While Captain Carr ignores her attraction to him and her recent loss of her magical skills, the Anquar Gate between the worlds remains shut, but trapped warlords, wanting to escape this primitive side back to their realm, plan to find a way to breach it regardless of the cost in lives.

A direct sequel to Through the Veil (suggest reading that just prior to Veil of Shadows), this is a super military fantasy as Caar (and fans) wonders whether the male she loves is the heroic champion her beleaguered race needs or the enemy who will leave her people extinct. Fast-paced and filled with action from the very first reaction by the heroine upon Xan’s arrival and never slowing down as she and her allies deal with insane demons, angry trapped warlords, bone weary refugees, and Xan the unknown.

Harriet Klausner

Atlantis Betrayed-Alyssa Day

Atlantis Betrayed
Alyssa Day
Berkley, Sep 7 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425238103

Christophe, a Warrior of Poseidon, is sworn to protect humanity, but he loathes his duty as he detests the perfidious humans. Still he does his mission well in spite of his personal animosities. His current assignment is to break into the Tower of London to steal Siren, a Jewel of Poseidon, implanted in the sword of William the Conqueror.

Christophe quickly discovers he is not the only one breaching the Tower’s security. The infamous Scarlet Ninja breaks and enter to steal the Siren too. Not one to allow a male to trump her plan, Scarlet Ninja AKA (in daylight) Lady Fiona Campbell the fairy tale illustrator plans to complete her latest Robinette Hood theft. However, as the pair competes for the gem, a lethal third person breaches the museum taking the sword before the stunned pair can react.

Starting with irreverent Christophe’s debate with a vampire while sitting on Big Ben over whether Ripper was a vamp too, the latest Atlantis saga is a great entry (see Atlantis Redeemed and Atlantis Unmasked) as a strong romance is enhanced by non-stop action and plenty of jocularity. The cast is powerful and not just the Warriors of Poseidon and their soulmates as London and Atlantis have never swung wilder. Alyssa Day scores big time with this terrific amusing yet action-packed tale.

Harriet Klausner

Veil Of Shadows-Shiloh Walker

Veil Of Shadows
Shiloh Walker
Berkley, Sep 7 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425236352

Captain Laisyn “Syn” Caar seeks warriors amongst the refugees fleeing the dreaded demon horde that has overrun the forests devastating the Roinan territory. Commander Kalen Brenner wants the refugees removed as they interfere with his strategy of fighting the demons.

One of the newcomers Xan is obviously different from all those who are fleeing Roinan. He is noticeably a seasoned fighter with an assortment of weapons and not much else; but why he is here at the encampment is unclear. While Captain Carr ignores her attraction to him and her recent loss of her magical skills, the Anquar Gate between the worlds remains shut, but trapped warlords, wanting to escape this primitive side back to their realm, plan to find a way to breach it regardless of the cost in lives.

A direct sequel to Through the Veil (suggest reading that just prior to Veil of Shadows), this is a super military fantasy as Caar (and fans) wonders whether the male she loves is the heroic champion her beleaguered race needs or the enemy who will leave her people extinct. Fast-paced and filled with action from the very first reaction by the heroine upon Xan’s arrival and never slowing down as she and her allies deal with insane demons, angry trapped warlords, bone weary refugees, and Xan the unknown.

Harriet Klausner