Monday, February 28, 2011

Fly Me to Paradise-Catherine Andorka

Fly Me to Paradise
Catherine Andorka
Five Star, Apr 6 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594149535

In Illinois, neither she nor her husband Charles wanted children, but before he underwent a vasectomy, his wife Madeline Holt persuaded him to leave sperm at the Lynwood Fertility Clinic in case they change their minds. After he died, she decided to undergo insemination to raise a child of his. However, a mistake occurs and she learns she is carrying the offspring of Cromwell corporate pilot Kurt Williams.

Both are upset‚ but she makes it clear she will not abort the fetus nor give the child up once born. He surprises her as he agrees with her plans. However he has one exception; Though he suffers from Hodgkin ’s disease that he prays is in remission, he plans to be in their child’s life, as he vowed to never desert a kid of his like his dad did when he was six years old. As they spend time together, they fall in love. However, she keeps her distance as she feels his job is dangerous; besides which she fears heights; while he wonders why she never asked him why he donated sperm.

Fly Me To Paradise is an engaging contemporary romance in which a mistake serves as the matchmaker between a widow and a remission cancer victim. Readers will empathize with Madeline’s reluctance to get involved as love hurts especially since her late husband was cautions and still died in an accident; on the other hand Kurt serves more as a role model as he learns life is precious and potentially expendable. Although their hesitations becomes a bit repetitive, fans will enjoy this fun tale of two nice people falling in love, but each has doubts about their future except when it comes to the child she carries.

Harriet Klausner

As the Crow Flies-Maris Soule

As the Crow Flies
Maris Soule
Five Star, Apr 6 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594149528

Zenith, Michigan CPA P.J. Benson gives a talk at the town library warning people not to get sucked into scams; the mantra is that if it seems too good to be true it is because it is too good to be true. After completing her presentation, elderly Ida Delaney hands a battered briefcase owned by her nephew Donald to P.J. She reluctantly accepts it.

Ida fears her nephew is blackmailing people over what is inside the briefcase: lab reports, maps, and soil samples that make several people look guilty of criminal activity. Not long afterward, Donald arrives at P.J.'s home, demands the briefcase and attacks her before leaving with it. Her boyfriend Kalamazoo Sheriff's Department Detective Sergeant Wade Kingsley warns her to back off, but P.J. obstinately refuses as she investigates a case that turns to homicide.

The second Benson Michigan cozy (see The Crows) is an interesting whodunit as the heroine and Baraka the Rhodesian Ridgeback investigate the case. The story line is fast-paced, but I had an issue with how the heroine’s boyfriend the cop (and others) handle the violence against her as if she is at fault for the assaults by her neighbor Nora and Donald. Still, fans will enjoy the intrepid amateur sleuth as she ignores Wade (except to wonder why he seems to have dumped her without telling her) and the threats to her life to continue her inquiries.

Harriet Klausner

Gardens of Grief-Boston Teran

Gardens of Grief
Boston Teran
High Top Publications, Apr 2011, $22.00
ISBN: 9781567030563

In 1915, the American State Department sends Bureau of Investigation agent John Lourdes to Constantinople where the fighting has been fierce. Lourdes knows his assignment borders on suicide as the Ottoman Empire with their Central partners having defeated the British in the Dardanelles has begun an ethnic cleansing campaign to eradicate the Christian Armenians though the government insists they are at war with rebels rather than a planned genocide.

Lourdes mission is to bring out of the war zone, Father Malek who has become a symbol of the Armenian resistance as he gave up the plow to pick up the sword. At the same time the Ottoman Empire makes a concerted effort to catch the martyr and consequently the American whose Mexican roots enables him to somewhat blend in with the populace.

This is an incredible look at one of the first mass government sponsored genocides that rivals that of those that followed like the Nazis, the killing fields of Cambodia and the bloody red rivers of Rwanda, etc. With a nod to Solzhenitsyn’s exposing of Stalin, the exhilarating story line is action-packed with some scenes of horrific inhumanity; but throughout the cautionary message is to never forget hoping the world shines a spotlight on the next ethnic cleaning to prevent another round of The Creed of Violence.

Harriet Klausner

Bel-Air Dead-Stuart Woods

Bel-Air Dead
Stuart Woods
Putnam, Apr 26 2011, $25.95
ISBN 9780399157363

In Southern California, elderly actor Vance Calder dies. He leaves his much younger widow Arrington his stock in Centurion Studios in Bel-Air. Arrington asks her former lover Manhattan based attorney Stone Barrington to travel to Los Angeles to represent her legally, as she battles over who controls the studio. Dropping everything to assist the mother of his son, Barrington makes Strategic Moves starting with reorganizing Arrington's shares; buying more stock for her; and finally forging partnerships with other holders in order for his client to have the controlling interest.

Known for playing hardball Terry Prince, CEO of Prince Investments, wants the choice property where Centurion Studios resides as he knows there is much more to be made from development. When someone murders stockholder Jennifer Harris, Barrington assumes his opponent raised the stakes. With his sidekick Dino Bacchetti having his back, Stone obtains local help as he plays chess with an amoral opponent.

With a twist that includes Ed Eagle territory (see Santa Fe Edge and Santa Fe Dead.); fans will enjoy the Stone invasion of Hollywood as the East Coast hipster matches up against a West Coast shark. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Stone arrives in California until the climax as regardless of which coast the hero is in, he retains his usual unconcerned demeanor in the face of danger while also being a chick magnet.

Harriet Klausner

Wolfsangel-M.D. Lachlan

M.D. Lachlan
PYR, Mar 22 2011, $16.00
ISBN: 9781616143572

King Authun leads his men on a raid of a village; but before they arrive at their destination he warns them they will all die. None are afraid as warriors prefer death in combat. The monarch’s mission is to find the royal heir to his throne as prophesied by the Queen of the witches. In a Christian church, Authun finds twin male babies. He takes the pair with him leaving behind his loyal soldiers except one to die. In the North Sea his last comrade raises his sword in combat before diving to his death as no one except the witch, the king and his wife will know the heir’s origin.

Several years later, one of the infants Prince Vali the heir lives with a rival ruler. He loves Adisla and prefers working the land rather than fighting for land. When raiders attack, Vali uses strategy to defend the village successfully though they capture Adisla. Those he saved from certain death loath Vali for using unacceptable tactics as the warrior credo insists on fighting to the death. Cerebral Vali and his feral brother Feileg raised by the Witch Queen as a warrior wolf join on a quest to rescue Adisla though neither realizes they are related. The adventures of the twins are just beginning.

Using Norse mythology, M.D. Lachlan tells a strong quest fantasy that contains two distinct yet related story lines. The first described above is a sword and sorcery thriller while the other subplot involved the intrusion of the Gods on the lives of mortals. Fast-paced and loaded with plenty of action while establishing the Lachlan world order and setting up future escapades; readers will be hooked as the twins chase after raiders to rescue Adisla. Interestingly even with long stretches without either of the polar opposite twin stars, Wolfsangel enchants the audience.

Harriet Klausner

The Emperor of Nihon-Ja-John Flanagan

The Emperor of Nihon-Ja
John Flanagan
Philomel, Apr 19 2011, $17.99
ISBN: 9780399255007

In Toscana, the Aridi representatives led by Selethen negotiate a treaty with the Toscan Senate. The two nations have had wars in the past, but with wiser leaders each sees the benefit of trade and security even as they deploy different military strategies. At the same time that Will and Halt toss friendly insults at each other while watching the Toscan military perform under the leadership of General Sapristi, Alyss is part of the negotiating team.

Meanwhile their friend Horace fails to communicate with his comrades in arms as he has spent months in the Nihon-Ja Empire. However, something is not right as the popular Emperor Lord Shigeru is disposed of in a coup d’état. Knowing he should stay out of the internal squabble between those loyal to the Emperor and the Arisaka led Senji rebels, but he feels injustice has come to the eastern kingdom. Soon his worried Araluen friends (Selethen, Will, Alyss and Evanlyn) arrive in Nihon-Ja searching for him.

The latest Ranger’s Apprentice saga is a great thriller that grips the audience as all is quiet on the western front, but civil war has broken out in the east. The story line is loaded with action from the moment the story line shifts to Nihon-Ja and never slows down with heroes’ regretting they have only one life to give to their emperor. Fans will enjoy this powerful military thriller in the Flanagan realm as one person can clearly make a difference if he or she takes the risk.

Harriet Klausner

Enigmatic Pilot-Kris Saknussemm

Enigmatic Pilot
Kris Saknussemm
Del Rey, Mar 22 2011, $16.00
ISBN: 9780812974171

In 1844 in Zanesville, Ohio, clubfooted inventor Hephaestus Sitturd; his Seal islands Creole wife Rapture and their genius five years old son Lloyd receive an invitation to move to Texas. Hephaestus’s half-brother Micah claims they can make a fortune, but his message is enigmatic as he insists he cannot explain how on paper.

Although mystified by Micah’s odd note as war with Mexico seems imminent, the Sitturd family begins their odyssey across America. Lloyd a gifted inventor of oddities learns how to play poker from watching St, Ives a riverboat gambler with a mechanical hand containing a saber; they become partners. He works out the issue of humans flying and encounters robots masquerading as people after meeting the Professor and his two mute wives as ambassadors of Mars. It is Miss Viola who teaches him the ways of seduction as two ancient arcane societies continue their epochal war with one another over the future of humanity with each believing the brilliant Lloyd will be a tipping point. However it is teenage Hattie the escaped slave who teaches the lad how to love.

Starting in Zanesville but a couple of centuries earlier than Kris Saknussemm’s previous Zanesville dark futuristic thriller, preadolescent genius Lloyd holds the exhilarating but enigmatic tale together as he creates oddities and meets oddities. Lloyd learns from the masters while teaching his mentors as well. However, each time the audience feels comfortable, Kris Saknussemm throws a spitball that spins the moral code elsewhere. The author extrapolates the present values back to the nineteenth century arguing that the American dream is a nightmarish facade for most and a dream for few even as early as the Antebellum period.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Uncoupling-Meg Wolitzer

The Uncoupling
Meg Wolitzer
Riverhead, Apr 5 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594487880

At Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Stellar Plains, New Jersey, drama teacher Fran Heller chooses the Ancient Greek classic Lysistrata as the play her students will perform. However the anti-war comedy has a strange effect on the town’s females. Just like in Aristophanes’ drama, the adult women and teen girls refuse to have sex with their male counterparts. Though in the Greek drama it was to end the endless Peloponnesian War; none of the Jersey women know why,

No exceptions to the sexual abstinence rule surfaces. The guys are stunned as their seductive efforts fail miserably. The women wonder where the passion went while the men wonder where the women went. All are unhappy as a spell has been cast leading to the Uncoupling of couples breaking up.

This is an intriguing sort of adult fairy tale look at female sexuality in the age of social media when people are living much longer. The story line is character driven by the couples struggling with frustration over unfulfilled basic needs although the female side is much more complicated. Readers will enjoy the New Jersey Housewives and other females starring in Mg Wolitzer’s modern day rendition of Lysistrata.

Harriet Klausner

Dangerous Pleasures-Fiona Zedde

Dangerous Pleasures
Fiona Zedde
Kensington, Feb 1 2011, $15.00
ISBN 9780758217400

Her Yoga students and her lovers appreciate Mayson a lesbian. She enjoys her work as an instructor and relishes making love with various partners. Her best friend Renee a heterosexual struggles to move on beyond a divorce from her emotionally abusive husband. Her parents want her to date staid neighbor Grant who reflects his desire for her on his face (and other body parts), but she wants sex when she desires it with no strings. Mayson helps Renee arrange trysts with strangers until the latter finds the man who plays her like a violin virtuoso as she wants more from him.

Kendra meets Mayson and is instantly attracted to her. Mayson is somewhat curious about Kendra who openly displays her desire. Kendra pursues Mayson earnestly as she wants her. They begin a heated tryst that both enjoy. However, as Kendra sends her gifts and tries to take up her free time exclusively, Mayson realizes her lover demands more from her than she wants to give. While Mayson pushes back for some space, a hurt Kendra turns angry and jealous.

With a nod to the Douglas-Stone film Basic Instinct, aptly titled Dangerous Pleasures is a fabulous erotic relationship drama driven by the dysfunctional lead couple. How Kendra acts after feeling betrayed will stun readers but seems plausible. Though somewhat repetitive, Fiona Zedde provides an entreating contemporary cautionary tale warns the audience not to trifle with someone else’s heart.

Harriet Klausner

Fade to Blue-Bill Moody

Fade to Blue
Bill Moody
Poisoned Pen, Apr 5 2011, $24.95
ISBN 9781590588949

Though he is part of the San Francisco jazz scene, Evan Horne accepts a paying gig in Los Angeles. Actually in Malibu where he has been retained to train actor Ryan Stiles to appear on the silver screen as if he playing jazz piano.

However, the spoiled film star rages during a paparazzi attack and a photographer dies. Evan wants to go home as the money is not worth the effort of dealing with the pampered Ryan even in the plush beach home. However, Stiles’ manager offers him the chance to score the film if he continues to teach the actor to look as if he plays the piano. The police determine Stiles is innocent of the death, but while filming a second person dies and a blackmailer extorts money from the beleaguered star. Evan. assisted by his FBI girlfriend Andie Lawrence and LAPD Police Lieutenant Danny Cooper, investigates while serial killer Gillian Sims escapes from prison.

The latest Evan Horne mystery is an engaging tale that is fun to read, but lacks the intriguing jazz pedigree of Shades of Blue, Looking for Chet Baker and Bird Lives! The story line is fast-paced as Evan decides to do what he believes is the right thing though he detests his mercurial student. Although the serial killer subplot feels forced and unnecessary, fans will enjoy Bill Moody’s entertaining musical mystery.

Harriet Klausner

One Was a Soldier-Julia Spencer-Fleming

One Was a Soldier
Julia Spencer-Fleming
Minotaur, Apr 12 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312334895

In Miller’s Kill, New York clinical therapist Sarah Dowling runs a group session for returning veterans. Her current patients consists of orthopedist Dr. George “Trip” Stillman, Marine Lance Corporal Willem Ellis who lost his legs in theater, Guard helicopter pilot Major Clare Fergusson, Military Police Guard Sergeant Eric McCrea of infamous Camp Bucca, and Army Specialist Mary” Tally” McNabb. Being a small town, the quintet knows each other.

Over the next few months the group meets several times with each trying to conceal their fears of what has changed in family dynamics while they were deployed. However besides each one struggling to catch up with the different civilian scenarios from when they mobilized, corruption and suicide to cover what Clare believes is a murder add to the sense of feelings disengaged and non-anchored.

This direct sequel to In the Bleak Midwinter is a great military thriller that focuses on returning veterans with diverse issues struggling to return to civilian life after time in theater. The murder mystery seems standardized when compared to the plight of each vet and their family; that is until one understands the best that money can buy. Readers, except the military-industrial-Congressional complex thirsting for the next war, will appreciate this deep look at vets returning with different degrees of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a realization that life in the home-front kept breathing without them.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Wicked-Sharon Page

Blood Wicked
Sharon Page
Kensington Aphrodisia, Mar 1 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758250940

In 1820 Vivienne Dare knows only one way to obtain the money pay for the medicine her child needs to stay alive. The former courtesan uses her body to bring in needed revenue. She especially services affluent males.

When she is directed to sleep with Lord Heath Winthrop, she emphatically refuses. She fears the Lord of Blackmoor will demand more than just a night and she will want to obey his desires. Instead she is ignorant of what Heath wants from her; as the vampire plans to interrogate Vivienne using seduction to obtain answers from her as to what happened to his missing brother Raine. He thinks she may have been involved or her father who made him ten years ago.

Blood Wicked is a terrific erotic Regency paranormal romance starring two individuals with similar needs and ultimately desires. Whereas she willingly would sell her soul to save her child’s life, he understands how she feels from his human days as a father whose daughter died. Character driven, Sharon Page provides another suspenseful Blood Deep historical romantic urban fantasy (see Blood Red and Blood Rose).

Harriet Klausner

In the Arms of Stone Angels-Jordan Dane

In the Arms of Stone Angels
Jordan Dane
Harlequin Teen, Mar 22 2011,
ISBN: 9780373210299

In Shawano, Oklahoma when Brenna Nash was fourteen years old, she came upon her best friend Isaac (White Bird) Henry rocking over the corpse of Heather Madsen in his hands and mumbling insanely. She called 911. Fearing retaliation from the townsfolk for her daughter doing the responsible thing, Mom takes Brenna with her as she moves to North Carolina leaving behind their family.

Two years later, Brenna’s maternal grandmother dies. Mom accompanied by a reluctant Brenna returns home to fix up the house in order to sell it. Unable to ignore White Bird, Brenna learns he is in a catatonic state in an asylum. Although she believes her Brenna was involved in the Madsen murder, Mom proves right about the town; Sheriff Logan also thinks Brenna was involved in the homicide and teens vandalize their home. However, though warned to stay away from White Bird, Brenna somehow communicates with him when she touches him at the mental hospital. The horror she “sees’ is the hell he resides in filled with demons and worse. Her only recourse is to turn to Joe “Spirit Walker” Sunne who does not trust her.

In the Arms of Stone Angels is an engaging teen rural fantasy starring a strong cast who evolve as events happen, especially the young lead. Brenna at first is overwhelmingly filled with remorse for turning in her BFF, but knows she did the right thing though her emotional regret supersedes her defense mechanism logic. Although too many threads are left unanswered, readers will enjoy a stop at “A Town Without Pity” (Gene Pitney) as Native American mythos blends with a whodunit in Jordan Dane’s entertaining tale.

Harriet Klausner

WWW: Wonder-Robert J. Sawyer

WWW: Wonder
Robert J. Sawyer
Ace, Apr 5 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9780441019762

Webmind the essence that consciously evolved from the internet continues to prove its altruistic intentions of helping humanity on a variety of fronts like the cure for cancer. However, the American government pushed by the military-industrial complex wants Webmind destroyed under the guise of a major security threat to the United States.

Having failed once to eliminate the A.I., the president invokes executive power to approve the Pentagon’s leading A.I. expert Colonel Peyton Hume to apply any force necessary to eliminate the threat to the security of the country. Hume directs his team of underground hackers to overwhelm and rip away the awareness of being of Webmind. However, his secure unit begins to vanish one at a time while Webmind’s BFF teenage mathematical genius Caitlin Decter vows to save the life of her buddy who gave her the gift of sight.

The third and final thriller in the WWW saga is an engaging climax to an intriguing story line. Action-packed, it behooves fans to have read the previous two entries (Wake and Watch) as the tale ties up seemingly every thread (major and minor) so that at times it feels PowerPoint deep. Still well written, readers will enjoy Robert J. Sawyer’s deep look at the Web age of American power in which leaders believe they need threats like Big Brother is watching you even when none exists.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Yours, Mine & Ours-Jennifer Greene

Yours, Mine & Ours
Jennifer Greene
Harlequin Special Edition, Mar 22 2011, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373655908

In Chicago suburb Silver Hills, recently divorced lawyer Mike Conroy and his four year old son Teddy move into their new home along with Slugger the Basset Hound. Teddy goes over to the girlie girl next door neighbor to show her his worms when she screams at a decibel that would have won her American Idol. A female adult version races out of the same house the girlie girl came out of. Soon her dog and cat and his dog and cat are in a melee. Her daughter Molly has a temper tantrum and hits Teddy. First impressions between Mike and Amanda Scott is not what either expected.

Mike and Amanda are attracted to one another. Ironically they followed the same American family model: with first comes marriage; followed by the baby (and pets); next the divorce; and ended with single parent, child and pets move from Chicago to the burbs. They seem like opposites, but share the same issues as single parents and vow no activity with the opposite sex. As they fall in love with one another and the other’s child, they wonder if they can be a modern day mini Brady Bunch though each recognizes the kids’ needs come before their desires.

With a nod to the movie (1968 original and 2005 remake) Yours, Mine and Ours, and the Brady Bunch, readers will enjoy this warm family drama as seemingly opposites confronted with similar parenting issues fall in love. The cast is solid especially the lead couple and their respective kids and pets as Mike finds life as a burbarian grow on him; just like it did Amanda before him.

Harriet Klausner

An Eye for Glory: The Civil War Chronicles of a Citizen Soldier-Karl Bacon

An Eye for Glory: The Civil War Chronicles of a Citizen Soldier
Karl Bacon
Zondervan, Mar 1 2011, $16.99
ISBN: 9780310322023

Although he loathed leaving his beloved wife Jesse Ann and their children back in Connecticut, Michael Palmer heeds the call of President Lincoln and enlists in 1862. However, he quickly finds himself detesting the deaths of friends and the incompetent leadership of the political hacks in charge of the soldiers who sit in the rear sending people to their death without a thought. Still he vows to do his duty even as his anger at the killings of his comrades has him thirsty for the slaying of Confederate soldiers.

At Gettysburg, Michael keeps score of those he shoots until a dying enemy holds aloft his family bible. Michael is stunned as realizes he had demonized the foe, but like him they have families praying for their return. After he helps the soldier with his final dying breaths by reading scripture to him, Michael takes the bible with him. When the war ends, he tells his Jesse Ann what he did to Mr. Augustus Wyatt of North Carolina. She persuades him to find the soldier’s widow in order to return to her the bible and pray she forgives his shattered soul.

This is an excellent historical tale with an insightful look at the 14th Connecticut Infantry through the eyes of Michael, who became immune to the death of the enemy as he no longer saw them as God’s flock. He also loses his faith in the Lord with the deaths of his comrades. Bloody as the battlefields were and still are, the aftermath of combat in the survivors grips readers. Perhaps those who use the war card as a first option should peruse An Eye for Glory to comprehend first hand the true cost to God’s children.

Harriet Klausner

What Are Friends For?-Caroline Taylor

What Are Friends For?
Caroline Taylor
Five Star, Apr 6 2011, $25.95
ISBN 978159414956

In Annapolis, Maryland, Persephone Justinalia "P.J." Smythe works for her Uncle Alexander as a skip tracer at his loan business. When her best friend Alicia Todd Ritchie asks P.J. to participle in a documentary she is filming on the private investigative business, she agrees though she is not a hard boiled sleuth.

Wetlands Protectors Alliance Vivian Remington the amazon hires petit P.J. as a sleuth to uncover evidence that Florida state senator Marguerite Sutherland stole an ocelot fur coat. Vivian needs the endangered species coat to return it to the Fish and Wildlife Service who lent it to her. However, when Vivian dies from a heroin overdose that the cops believe was a murder, they suspect P.J. Struggling to prove her innocence by finding the killer and that the politician lifted the coat, P.J. also skirmishes with her ex-husband Bobby Crane; former college classmate Gareth Swenson, and lawyer Neal Patterson.

These entertaining hard-boiled-lit lampoons the detective genre as P.J. seems to step into more manure than a stable produces. Over the top of the head of her first client, fans will enjoy the somewhat formulaic whodunit while laughing throughout starting from the moment P.J. pretends to be a sleuth sizing down to her eye level Vivian.

Harriet Klausner

Grey Zone-Clea Simon

Grey Zone
Clea Simon
Severn House, Apr 1 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9780727869920

At Harvard, graduate student Dulcie Schwartz has completed all her classes except for her dissertation on the anonymous British author of a two-century old gothic novel. Besides wondering who the author was, Dulcie would like to know why the unknown author stopped writing.

However, she will soon be engulfed in a real world mystery. Signs seem everywhere asking whether anyone has seen a missing former student Carrie. Dulcie saw Carrie with a man before she knew people were looking for her. After sending an email to Carrie’s contact address, the woman seeking Carrie, Corkie asks Dulcie to contact her. Dulcie searches for Corkie, finds her but she runs into a building and to the stairs. Seconds later Dulcie learns Professor Fritz Herscloft just jumped out of a window to his death. Later she finds out he was murdered. Dulcie worries someone she knows might be the killer and that she may be in danger as she has a lot od so-cslled accidents. Making matters more complicated is that her beloved late feline Mr. Grey, whose spirit guided her, is contacting Dulcie less and less; while her impish kitten Esme is not assisting her at all. As she digs deeper, falling concrete injures Dulcie who now knows she is in danger.

The latest Dulcie Schwartz paranormal amateur sleuth (see Grey Matters and Shades of Grey) is a delightful cozy starring a young female who fears her late significant other Mr. Grey is moving on at a time she needs him though even she knows he is a crutch. Both cats are involved in trying to keep their human pet safe though it is not easy to do as the heroine has a tendency to stick her nose into dire situations. Readers will enjoy wintry Cambridge as Dulcie struggles with closure from the loss of her loved one, her dissertation, and her investigation.

Harriet Klausner

Cookie Dough or Die-Virginia Lowell

Cookie Dough or Die
Virginia Lowell
Berkley, Apr 5 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425240670

In the Baltimore suburb Chatterley Heights, Sheriff Delroy Jenkins visits The Gingerbread House co-owners and BFFs Olivia Greyson and Madeline Briggs in the middle of the night to inform the former that her friend Clarisse Chamberlain died from an apparent accidental overdose. Stunned by the pronouncement of Clarisse’s death as the woman was the influence who persuaded Olivia to open the cookie shop following her divorce from controlling Ryan the surgeon. However, the autopsy reveals alcohol in the victim’s stomach that seemed like it was guzzled in record time; out of the ordinary behavior by Clarisse, which leads Del to reconsider suicide or homicide rather than accident.

At the reading of the will, Clarisse leaves a stunned Olivia with money and her valuable antique cookie cutters. This grand gesture to her friend makes Olivia a person with a motive. At the same tome that Del reluctantly looks at Olivia as a person of interest, Clarisse’s sons Edward and Hugh suspect her. When Sam the letter carrier becomes deathly ill from The Gingerbread House cookies, Olivia becomes motivated to prove her innocence on all fronts.

Olivia and Maddie make an amusing amateur sleuth tandem as they bake a new recipe to uncover the identity of a killer who at a minimum tainted their reputation and at a maximum may send the two female cookie makers to join Clarisse at rest. The whodunit is well done as the killer is in plain sight yet just outside the reader’s peripheral vision. Fans of cozies will enjoy this Maryland small-town family affair.

Harriet Klausner

The Cat, The Lady and The Liar-Leann Sweeney

The Cat, The Lady and The Liar
Leann Sweeney
Obsidian, Apr 5 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451233028

In South Carolina, Mercy Animal Sanctuary shelter owner Shawn Cuddahee rescues a “wealthy” kitty wearing diamond studded collar wandering near the highway. He takes the cat Isis to his shelter after being unable to return her to her owner elderly affluent Ritaestelle Longworth. Shawn asks his friend Jillian Hart and her three cats (Chablis, Syrah and Merlot) to escort Isis home. Jillian agrees and she drives the fifteen miles from her home in Mercy to Longworth estate in Woodcrest; only to be met by the same greeting that Shawn received. She is run off the property without seeing the allegedly ailing Ritaestelle and taking Isis with her

Not long afterward, Ritaestelle arrives at Jillian’s house late at night insisting she is being drugged and needs help before someone kills her. That is followed by a corpse nearby with Chablis standing next to Ritaestelle, both bloodied. Jillian and her feline buddies investigate the “purr-fect crime.

This is a lighthearted fun cozy starring an engaging cast of characters (feline and human). Jillian and her three wise cats understand the missions of solving the case, helping an elderly woman and teaching the spoiled pompous aristocrat proper behavior. Feline frolic fans will enjoy the latest Cats In Trouble Mystery (see The Cat, The Professor and The Poison).

Harriet Klausner

Con and Conjure-Lisa Shearin

Con and Conjure
Lisa Shearin
Ace, Mar 29 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441020188

Raine Benares has always been the black sheep of her family as the seeker of the lost while her blood relatives are thieves; in fact her kin are the most infamous criminal clan in the seven kingdoms. However, Raine turns to her family for help after she and the Saghred soul-stealing stone bond; not to de-link them but to help her pull off a necessary con to end the stalking by elves and goblins who want the power of the rock.

The King of the Goblins Sathik Mal’Salin and the darkest mage Sarad Nukpana each plans to use the Saghred for personnel gain at the cost of the kingdoms. The elven leaders Taltek Balmorlan and Magus Carnades Silvanus send her former fiancé Rache Kai the elven assassin to hunt her down as her powerful enemies have no monetary problems. With her allies Mychael and Tam and her con artist family, Raine sets in motion a diabolical counter scheme.

The fifth Benares fantasy is a terrific tale that moves forward the overarching saga theme of the apocalypse soon seemingly a certainty. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action while the wise cracking heroine learns the depth of her power at the same time eluding a horde of foes who want to use her to use the stone. Series fans will enjoy the latest entry (see Bewitched and Betrayed and The Trouble With Demons) as Con and Conjure is a sly family affair stone included.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 25, 2011

Montecore-Jonas Hassin Khemeri

Jonas Hassin Khemeri
Knopf, Mar 8 2011, $26.95
ISBN: 9780307270955

Abbas left Tunisia to settle in Stockholm. Over eight years ago, he vanished. An email from Kadir of Tunisia to first time published novelist Jonas Khemiri offers an intriguing proposition. Kadir claims to have been Abbas’ best friend at a Tunisian orphanage while Jonas is Abbas’ adult son. The former wants to collaborate with a latter on Abbas’s biography.

Abbas came to Sweden without a krona to his name or an identity beyond orphan as he fell in love with a flight attendant. With money lent from Kadir, Abbas follows his beloved to Stockholm, where like a Cinderfella they marry and raise a family. However, the North African fails to adapt to life in Sweden and worse is unable to support his family as a photographer as xenophobic Swediot bigots vandalize his studio. Frustrated in his attempts to fit in while his son taunts him, he gave up and disappeared only to become world recognized as a superstar in New York.

This is an excellent look at modern Swedish society’s so called melting pot in which one prime ingredient is acceptable in the stew; though this could be just about anywhere with few true international cities. The story line is driven by Kadir and Jonas who share commentary on Abbas. However, what makes the novel superior is the Tunisian-Swedish dialect (incredibly translated into English by Rachel Willson-Broyles) as readers will believe Abbas is a real person whose journey from frightened child to world accolades starts in Tunisia, goes to Sweden and ends in New York.

Harriet Klausner

Spinning-Michael Baron

Michael Baron
The Story Plant, Apr 5 2011, $16.95
ISBN: 9781611880052

Twenty-nine years old Manhattan Mason, Brand and Partners executive Dylan Hunter seems to have everything. Women want him; his apartment is the best in New York; his work has made him the top gun and kept his plan to retire at forty viable. A friend of his Billie works at the same firm. She is the female Dylan, but because she is a woman society considers her a ruthless bitch who is ambitious and aggressive while applauding Dylan for the same tactics.

Dylan’s former girlfriend from his Chicago days a century ago, Diane has arrived accompanied by her three years old daughter Spring. She explains he is all she knows in the Big Apple as she plans to start anew. Diane asks if they can stay at his place for now; even he cannot understand why he said yes. Spring turns his life around as she draws on his perfectly painted walls, introduces him to the animals at the zoo and dines on a gourmet macaroni and tofu with cheese. When an accident occurs, Dylan continues to care for Spring by allowing some of the plates he spins in his previous hedonistic life to crash. He enjoys every minute with her; as does Billie, but knows the court will soon intervene.

This is an enjoyable extended family drama as Dylan and Billie learn what life is all about from a precocious (perhaps too precocious) little girl. The cast is solid especially the lead trio, but also those at the office, his best friend Jimbo and case worker Mrs. Eckleberg. Readers will enjoy this poignant tale as Michael Baron provides a deep message that to lead a fulfilling life, one must spin various plates including the care and nurturing of others.

Harriet Klausner

Breaking the Rules-Suzanne Brockmann

Breaking the Rules
Suzanne Brockmann
Ballantine, Mar 22 2011, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345521224

Navy SEALs Izzy Zanella and Danny Gilman have a long standing grudge. When the former met the latter’s sister Eden, he fell in love. She became pregnant with someone else’s child, but he stepped to the plate and married her. When she miscarried, she also gave up on a heartbroken Izzy. Danny blamed Izzy for his sibling’s unhappiness

Meanwhile Danny and Izzy work a mission in Afghanistan in which the former is wounded and the latter saves his life but almost dies doing so. After a hospital stint in Germany, they come home to learn Eden is trying to rescue her teenage younger brother Ben from their abusive stepfather Greg and his mother Ivette. They head to Vegas along with Danny’s on again and off again girlfriend Jennilyn LeMay to help Eden. When Ben rescues Neesha from a child prostitution ring, Eden and Izzy protect her as the mobsters come for their merchandise, but snatch Ben instead.

The latest Troubleshooters romantic suspense is a double dose of second chance at love inside of a family affair. The story line is action-packed in Nevada and Afghanistan, but it is the cast that makes this so much fun as the Gillman crew play first violin in a wonderful thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Shady Lady-Ann Aguirre

Shady Lady
Ann Aguirre
Roc, Apr 5 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451463258

Corine Solomon has the parapsychological skill of touching an object and learning its past. Following the Kilmer, Georgia visit home fiasco (See Hell Fire), Corine is euphoric to be back at her pawnshop in Mexico. She is about to touch the salt half of a salt and pepper shaker starring Eros and Psyche respectively. However, Kel Ferguson, who seemingly can’t be killed, enters her store and tells her not to touch Eros as it is hexed. Drug lord Montoya sent her the cursed object that would have killed her if Kel Ferguson had not intervened.

Corine knows that once again she owes her life to God’s Hand as this warrior, who believes if the Lord had given him the assignment he would have prevented the Holocaust, explains he is to protect her but must not interfere with free will. Corine wonders how much celestial debt she owes between Kel and Maury the demon who saved her soul. Kel explains Montoya is coming for her with everything in his arsenal, which includes warlocks and voodoo practitioners while she and the three males (Kel, Chance and Jesse) in her life must fight back to keep her loved ones safe.

The latest Solomon urban fantasy (See Blue Diablo) is a fabulous action-packed thriller that hooks grateful (except for the lack of sleep) sub-genre fans from the moment Kel rushes into Corine’s store and never slows down until the final confrontation with the Montoya mob of hit men and magical mobsters. Fast-paced, readers will fully enjoy Corine becoming mob enemy numero uno when all she wants is to go back to being a touchy feely proprietor.

Harriet Klausner

Magic on the Hunt-Devon Monk

Magic on the Hunt
Devon Monk
Roc, Apr 5 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451463913

Having done the impossible when they escaped death’s realm through the gate (see Magic at the Gate) lovers Allie Beckstrom and Zayvion Jones desperately need some R&R. However, being back in Portland does not denote safe recuperation. Instead Authority leader Sedra’s top assistant Dane Lanister arrives with weapons aimed to kill.

He threatens killing Jones and tearing Allie apart limb by limb until she informs him where Jingo Jingo took the kidnapped Sedra as he believes her father’s consciousness inside of Allie’s brain will know. At the same time, Dane threatens torture and death, magic practitioner Leander escaped from death’s realm, but needs a body to host his essence and believes he has found one in a prisoner locked in the Authority’s jail. No time for the weary as Beckstrom and Jones must find Sedra and prevent Leander from causing hell to come to Portland.

The sixth Magic urban fantasy is a superb tale that has the heroic duet running around trying to prevent two disasters from occurring. Without Sedra, the Authority Council will not just fall apart, but will fight for control. Leander poses a different but as dire a threat at a time when the Council is internally headless. Readers will enjoy trekking the streets of Portland with Beckstrom and Jones who believe they must have brought a bit of death back with them.

Harriet Klausner

Surrender the Dark-L.A. Banks

Surrender the Dark
L.A. Banks
Pocket, Mar 29 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781451607789

Besides being a chain smoker Celeste Jackson is a chain drinker and a constant abuse victim. However, in her mind, she believes she deserves punishment as she suffers from schizophrenia. Her mental illness culminates when her abusive boyfriend Brandon threatens to kill her and Celeste sees a demon residing inside him that he commands to leave; as the horned figure flees the human host, Brandon crumbles in death.

Fleeing for her life, Celeste does what she always does when she hallucinates; she stops at a bar for a drink or ten and a pack of Newports. Her thoughts are she has to get out of this place as Philly is not a safe haven for her. Azrael the Angel who left the Light to protect Celeste meets her at the bar. She thinks he is crazier than she is, which says a lot as he explains who she is and why opposing sides recognize she is critical in the war over humanity. She feels safe with him and he tries to obtain her trust. Celeste must serve as a rallying cry to gather her hybrid angelic-human peers the Remnant and other sensitive receptors to stop the evil dark from continuing their rule over humanity. However, Azrael’s attraction to his ward could cost him his wings and mankind their last chance for salvation; only Celeste’s addictions may prevent his obsession leaving him wingless forever.

This is a terrific urban fantasy with a throwback feel to when authors used the genre to spotlight social issues. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Celeste orders the demon out of Brandon and never slows down even while L.A. Banks looks deeply at what ails the country. Readers will appreciate the battle for humanity between angels and demons as a schizophrenic addict serves as the pivotal essence in a war for eternity.

Harriet Klausner

Deathless-Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne M. Valente
Tor, Mar 29 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780765326300

The city has changed names several times over the past century, but currently is called St. Petersburg as everything goes full circle. On Gorokhovaya Street, Marya Morevna was six years old when she saw the bird turn into Lieutenant Gratch of the Tsar’s Personal Guard who came to take away her older sister Olga with him. Three years later Lieutenant Zuyok of the White Guard also changed as he came for Tatiana. Finally when Marya was twelve Lieutenant Shulan of the Red Army arrived for the third daughter Anna. Watching the birds change to men come for her older sisters leaves Marya musing over the type of bird her mate will be.

Koschei the Deathless Tsar of Life arrives for his woman, Marya. However, she must prove herself worthy as Koschei’s mate. In that regard Baba Yaga tasks Marya with three impossible assignments; failure to compete all three proves she is not the mate of the Deathless Tsar of Life. Marya begins her Herculean tasks, Marya starts to lose her humanity until she meets the innocent Ivan “The Fool” Nikolayevich, who pulls her back to Mother Russia; leaving her confused with one foot in Koschei’s realm and one in the land of her ancestors.

This is a terrific complicated retelling of a Russian folktale that uses The Revolution era as a backdrop to the saga; in fact Marya becomes a Major-General in the Red Army. Fast-paced with a strong protagonist who keeps the engaging story line focused; readers will appreciate this intriguing look at Bolshevik Russia through a fantasy lens.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 24, 2011

You Don't Love This Man-Dan DeWeese

You Don't Love This Man
Dan DeWeese
Harper, Mar 1 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061992322

Bank manager Paul is the father of the bride as his daughter Miranda will marry his former best friend Grant. The morning of the wedding Catherine at the bank calls Paul informing him they were robbed and the cops had arrived. Catherine tells him to enjoy his day as everything is under control; he wonders why call him if that is so.

When he learns Miranda is missing, Paul thinks back over two decades ago when he was with his then three years old daughter trick or treating only to lose her temporarily. He is frustrated by his ex-wife Sandra who is unconcerned as well as her brother Bradshaw of the big vocabulary. Paul tries to find his daughter just like he tried the first time she vanished. Adding to his bewilderment is learning the robber was the same thief who robbed the bank over twenty years ago.

You Don’t Love This Man is a terrific character study of a person who believes his life was futile but looks back anyway. This leads to Paul reexamining who matters and why to him and him to them. With a nod to It’s A Wonderful Life (without Clarence), readers will empathize with the protagonist who begins to understand relationships 101; as he concludes that having someone’s number in his cellphone does not mean they will answer his call.

Harriet Klausner

State of the Union-Douglas Kennedy

State of the Union
Douglas Kennedy
Atria, Mar 15 2011, $16.00
ISBN: 9781451602098

In 1969, eighteen years old Hannah Latham has A Special Relationship with her parents; dysfunctional. Her father is a radical activist protesting anything; while her mother is an artist with mental issues. To them she is a major disappointment as she ignores the rebellion of her peers against authority. Instead Hannah wants out of the frantic family soap opera; so she marries medical student Dan Buchan; becomes pregnant; and moves to rural Maine. She becomes a librarian-housewife until her father’s radical friend Tobias Judson arrives in Maine.

In 2003, Hannah feels her world imploding. Her college age daughter Lizzie vanishes after mentally breaking when she learns an inconvenient truth. Hannah’s BFF is dying so she cannot turn to her for solace as she must provide comfort. Finally Toby reappears on national TV as her secret transgression from over three decades ago becomes known to all.

This is a profound character study as Hannah learns sometimes you get what you wish for only to regret you made the wrong wish. Although the issues seem relatively minor, the cast is solid especially the lead female who on any page seems over the edge of the emotional cliff. Through Hannah and her cohorts, Douglas Kennedy takes a close look at the hypocrisy of family values; pointing out that values can be negative and cherry-picking convenient; for instance the previous indiscretions of a born again are ignored by his or her peers regardless of what they might have been.

Harriet Klausner

All Different Kinds of Free-Jessica McCann

All Different Kinds of Free
Jessica McCann
Bell Bridge Books, Apr 1 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9781453877814

Mr. Edward Prigg of Mill Green, Maryland arrived in York County, Pennsylvania seeking Margaret Morgan a free woman of color. He gets Constable McCleary to assist him in bringing back to her owner Margaret Ashmore a runaway slave, Margaret Morgan; she insists otherwise and that they were neighbors for years. Mr. Prigg also claims Morgan’s children belong to Ashmore. However since she was born free, she has no papers of manumission. Judge Henderson states in accordance with Pennsylvania statue Personal Liberty Law, the bounty hunter must prove with documents the claim. Mr. Prigg kidnaps Margaret and her children with plans to sell them at auction while her husband Jerry was making a delivery in Trenton. This is the beginning of the Morgan family ordeal as Margaret does the unthinkable for a colored person as she fights for her freedom through the court system ending in a decision in 1842.

All Different Kinds of Free is a super timely historical biographical fiction told mostly in the first person by the heroine as she works diligently to regain her freedom all the way up to the Supreme Court in 1842. Margaret makes the story line work as she refuses to give up her quest for the wrongful stealing of her freedom so that she can return to her family. Mindful of the current fervor over documentation vs. profiling, readers will understand why Jessica McCann’s insightful look at the blood, sweat and tears of a family trying to regain what was taken from them won the 2009 Freedom in Fiction Prize.

Harriet Klausner

The Priest's Graveyard-Ted Dekker

The Priest's Graveyard
Ted Dekker
Center Street, Apr 19 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9781599953342

When Danny Hansen was fifteen years old, Serbians broke into his family home in Croatia; they killed his mother, and raped before killing his younger sisters. He knew this was a religious war between the Bosnian Orthodox Christians and the Catholic Croats with Muslims in the mix. After killing the murderers of his family, Danny joined a militia seeking justice, but found no solace from the nightmare of what happened to his loved ones.

When he immigrated to America, he became a priest, but though he abides by the law of love and compassion for fellow mankind, he loathes the influential hypocrites who use the laws of man and God to fuel their avarice and perversions. Danny is an avenging killer targeting pedophiles, murderers and cold blooded sinners. His latest target is vicious Jonathan Bourque; also wanting this vile man dead is Renee Gilmore, a former hooker and drug addict. Danny meets Renee and takes her into his confidence while plotting how to kill the beast; unaware that what they wish whether it comes true or not will come back to haunt them.

The Priest's Graveyard is a character driven tense thriller starring two people who have given up on societal justice as each has been victims with no recourse in society except kill the enemy; yet in spite of their homicidal tendencies Ted Dekker enables readers to feel compassion for the pair. This non-stop action tale never slows down even with twists and turns that have the audience wondering what next will happen as Mr. Dekker pulls the rug out from his fans by switching direction several times in this exciting thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Devious-Lisa Jackson

Lisa Jackson
Kensington, Mar 29 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9780758225658

On the verge of divorcing her husband Slade, Val Renard returns to New Orleans to open a B&B and to reason with her sister Camille that she does not have to hide as a nun. Val knows Camille wants Slade, but to join St. Marguerite’s Cathedral as a novice Sister seems overkill. However, Val is shocked when she finds her sibling brutally strangled.

Police Detectives Rick Bentz and Reuben Montoya lead the investigation though the latter should be recused from the case as he knows the victim and others at the Cathedral. The prime suspect is Father Frank O’Toole, who was having an affair with Sister Camille; Montoya knows him too. While the cops struggle with their case, another nun is murdered leading Bentz to fear the return of the allegedly dead Father John. Meanwhile Val begins her own inquiry while Slade arrives to persuade his wife not to divorce him while he joins her in her inquiry.

The freshness to the latest Bentz-Montoya New Orleans police procedural is the brisk amateur sleuth investigation by Val and Slade. Fast-paced from the moment Sister Camille’s opening terror and never slowing down until the final climatic confrontation and coda, fans will appreciate this suspense thriller as Lisa Jackson provides a taut Devious tale.

Harriet Klausner

Alien in the Family-Gini Koch

Alien in the Family
Gini Koch
Daw, Apr 5 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756406684

Kitty Katt the human and Jeff Martini the Alpha Centaurian are in love and planning their wedding in Vegas. However, the human learns her hunk exiled from the nearest star has through attrition over the decades (time is relative) become the heir to the empire. Kitty who had trepidations now has Olympus Mons doubts that her résumé as an exterminator qualifies her as a future queen especially when she must pass the royal worthiness examination.

Besides the Martini royal horde invading Sin City, outer space Amazon terrorists plan to introduce the couple and their guests to the big bang theory. The CIA and the Centaurian Division are outraged by the audacity of testing Kitty. However she has one thankful thing going: whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

The third zany kill Kitty Katt science fiction tale (see Alien Tango and Touched by an Alien) is an amusing over the top of the combined miles of Animas, Hatchet and Chiricahua Peaks romantic sci-fi thriller. The jocular exciting story line is faster than the speed of light as the heroine struggles to get married while the universe seems to voice their opposition. Readers will enjoy this bizarre totally out of control yet fully entertaining adventures of a woman just wanting to marry her hunk from outer space.

Harriet Klausner

My Soul To Steal-Rachel Vincent

My Soul To Steal
Rachel Vincent
Harlequin Teen, Jan 1 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9780373210275

While Nash suffers excoriating withdrawal pains from the Netherworld’s addicted Demon’s Breath his maybe girlfriend Kaylee feels betrayed by his actions (see My Soul To Keep). He knows she is not ready to talk while she misses him after two weeks of no Nash. However, Kaylee wants a serene spring term at school after the nightmarish previous semester that no sixteen years old girl, even a Banshee like her, should ever face.

However, their chance to reconcile their differences takes a tortuous spin towards hell when Nash’s former girlfriend Sabine the Mara transfers to their school. She has arrived with one goal: to win back her boyfriend and any means to achieve her end is acceptable. The Mara uses her skill to read fear and turn that trepidation into a nightmare. as subsistence. She turns up the fear factor to the point people especially her adversary Kaylee cannot sleep due to the nightmares that have their souls screaming for solace as increasingly their dreams are literally killing them.

The fourth Soul Screamers teenage urban fantasy (see My Soul To Save) is a fabulous complex relationship thriller as what Sabine wants Sabine gets. The fast-paced story line is driven by the relational triangulation as the female banshee struggles with her feelings made into something to fear by her vicious rival. My Soul To Steal is much more personal in nature than the powerful previous three tales.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Silver Eagle-Ben Kane

The Silver Eagle
Ben Kane
St. Martin’s Griffin, Mar 15 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312672843

In 53 BC the Parthian army defeated General Crassus and his invading Roman legion. Their leader dead, thousands of the invaders are captured and either killed or forced to join their triumphant enemy. Three friends form the losing side (Tarquinius the Etruscan haruspex, former slave Brennus the gladiator from Gaul and Romulus also a former slave turned warrior) are forced to join the winning enemy.

Parthian Commander Pacorus orders Tarquinius to read the future using animal entrails or whatever as his army prepares for battle. However, the trio has problems as the Parthian soldiers resent how close their still enemy Tarquinius seems to be with their commander. They help each other stay focused and alive as they plan their escape, which means trekking from the Asian state across thousands of kilometers through hostile savage territory in order to return to Rome.

At the same, Romulus's twin sister Fabiola joins the seemingly serene household of Brutus, but savagery leaves her struggling for her life with no protection. Her only hope is to travel to Gaul to find Brutus.

The sequel to The Forgotten Legion, The Silver Eagle is a great ancient historical thriller in which the only way the three BFFs make it back to Rome is having each other’s back; in spite of their diverse background the trio are a sort of Three Musketeers but in Roman times. The Fabiola subplot augments a powerful vivid (some chapters should have a warning label: don’t read on a full stomach) look at friendship as the forgotten legionnaires struggle to survive in a world filled with deadly peril.

Harriet Klausner

The Brothers of Baker Street-Michael Robertson

The Brothers of Baker Street
Michael Robertson
Minotaur, Mar 1 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312538132

In 1997 Reggie Heath has leased 221B Baker Street, but the “Balmy Barrister” as the tabloids call him knows the stipulation in the rental agreement includes answering letters to Holmes. His last activity in that endeavor due to his younger brother Nigel lead to Reggie losing his money, his girl (actress Laura Rankin who is hanging with Lord Buxton) and his self respect (see The Baker Street Letters). However, as Rafferty of the Committee reminds him he must answer the letters or be evicted. He calls Nigel in Los Angeles to tell him to respond to the letters which include one from an alleged Moriarty descendent he sends to his sibling.

Meanwhile solicitor Darla Rennie hires Reggie to represent Neil Walters, a London Black Cab driver, accused of murdering two Americans. Reggie works diligently on his client’s defense, but that places him in peril. He needs Nigel to come to the rescue, but his brother is across the pond and continent while all roads lead to and from Moriarty.

This is a diabolically brilliant thriller that Holmes and Watson would struggle to solve let alone the Heath brothers. Fast-paced and loaded with action, the Baker Street Irregulars and anyone who enjoys a terrific nefarious scheme will relish the escapades of The Brothers of Baker Street as once again Nigel seems headed to another spread in tabloid hell if he should live so long to read it.

Harriet Klausner

The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black-Eden Unger Bowditch

The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black
Eden Unger Bowditch
Bancroft Press, Mar 15 2011, $19.95
ISBN: 9781610880022

In 1903, the Mysterious Men in Black take five highly intelligent children, offspring of the world's leading scientists, to Sole Manner Farm in Dayton, Ohio. Their parents have been taken also to a separate locale. Twelve year old Jasper and his six year old sister Lucy come from London; nine year old African-American Wallace is taken in New York; twelve year old Noah arrives from Toronto; and thirteen year old Faye is from India. Their schoolteacher Miss Brett provides her five wards with nurturing, but admits she does not know why they were abducted.

At the farm each is frightened while also feeling abandoned by their parents though logically they tell one another their parents were abducted too, which in turn embellishes their fears. They share hypothesis as to who the Mysterious Men in Black are and why they guard them in an outdoor prison; as they protect them but from what as their jailers could have killed them if that was their mission. The five children also wonder and fear what happened to their parents.

With a nod to Patrick Mcgoohan’s 1960s TV show The Prisoner, readers of all ages, though middle school children are the targeted audience, will appreciate this suspense thriller. The children make the tale work as each has their own skills and flaws, which in conjunction with the others; make them real and their traumatic predicament seem plausible. Although the descriptors of the Mysterious Men in Black is the only dumbing down element as the young adult readers will get the first time, fans will feel they are in Ohio wondering what The Atomic Weight of Secrets is.

Harriet Klausner

An Empty Death-Laura Wilson

An Empty Death
Laura Wilson
Minotaur, Mar 15 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312538118

The fifth anniversary of the war is coming soon and the British are mentally exhausted by the seemingly endless combat. This includes bone weary Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Ted Stratton who could use a respite, but knows homicide does not end due to a war although the latter complicates his investigations. His wife Jenny is also burned out working at the recovery center where a woman claims her husband is not her husband but an imposter; Jenny and staff assumes the poor female’s brain has been shattered.

In the summer of 44, Dr. Reynolds is found dead at Fitzrovia's Middlesex Hospital from a head injury. Stratton leads the inquiry though he knows the death could easily have been caused by debris from a bomb. He learns the deceased seemed to service the nurses better than his patients as several of the latter apparently died from his negligence. When others also die, Stratton knows a serial killer is on the loose, but has no clue as to who or why. Meanwhile James Dacre gets away with masquerading as a physician at the hospital

The second Reynolds WWII police procedural (see The Innocent Spy) is an exhilarating thriller that brings to life London during the war. The story line is fast-paced, but it is the cast who struggle to live with some degree of normality as their endeavors bring armchair readers to 1944 England. Although the ending is over the top of Big Ben, fans of 1940s whodunits will appreciate the aptly titled An Empty Death.

Harriet Klausner

Come and Find Me-Hallie Ephron

Come and Find Me
Hallie Ephron
Morrow, Mar 22 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061857522

Two years ago altruistic idealistic hacker Daniel Banks died in a mountain climbing accident on Eiger. His widow Diana and their best friend Jake opened up a computer security firm. However, she has not been able to move on as she suffers panic attacks when attempting to navigate the real world. Instead Diana prefers limited contact via Otherworld a virtual website where her avatar is Nadia; her only consistent live in person human contact is her hypochondriac sister Ashley.

While visiting Diana, Ashley decides to attend an event in which her older sister was invited, but will not go. Ashley vanishes. Diana begins a quest to find her sibling via the virtual world and drugged to the max in the real mean streets as anxiety rips her stomach and panic attacks never cease.

Mindful of Sigourney Weaver’s character Helen Hudson in Copy Cat, Diana is an intriguing lead character as she suffers from agoraphobia but knows she must venture outside if she is to rescue her sister. Although the key element that she concludes is the cause of her condition is that she allowed her self to become Ms. Daniel so when he died her identity died too; however this fails to gel as this feels more like babble rather than a defense mechanism. Still readers will enjoy her tenuous efforts as she begins to believe Daniel was right that the government-industrial-financial complex controls cyberspace where the latest official shutdown is in Madison.

Harriet Klausner

Bit Player-Janet Dawson

Bit Player
Janet Dawson
Perseverance Press, Apr 4 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9781564744944

Oakland based private investigator Jeri Howard is in the Classic Hollywood Memorabilia shop Matinee to buy items from films her grandma was in as a bit player. The cashier overhears Jeri chatting with her friend Cassie about her relative and asks Jeri who her grandma was. She tells him her late relative was Jerusha Layne; he tells her the police questioned her grandmother about Robert Tarrant’s murder, implying Jerusa was romantically involved with the victim and was considered a serious suspect..

Jeri vows to dig into 1942 Hollywood when her grandma lived in a cottage with three female bit players. From letters her grandma saved, Jeri affirms Tarrant was killed with a fire set to conceal the murder. One of Jerusha’s roommates was Tarrant’s lover and was also killed. Chaz the owner of Matineee and his employee Henry Calhoun go to the home of Mrs Cook to buy the Joan Crawford collection. She declines their offers so they continue on to the home of Mike Strickland to attempt to purchase his Hitchcock collection. He also refuses. Not long afterward, both are dead. The murders in Hollywood decades ago and the two in the present somehow are linked, but for Jeri to find the connecting points mean traveling a labyrinth in which each corner is deadly.

The first Jeri Howard private investigator tale in years (see A Killing at the Track) is a totally terrific mystery that hooks the present to the “Golden Age of Hollywood. Jeri begins her inquiry by reading letters from various sources. She seeks interviews with those still alive as the original homicides are tundra cold after almost seven decades have passed; thus making the case that much more complex as the survivors have faulty memories (not even considering they would be octogenarians and nonagenarians) of what happened in 1942. Janet Dawson provides a wonderful whodunit as Jeri realistically works the investigation.

Harriet Klausner

Taste Me-Tamara Hogan

Taste Me
Tamara Hogan
Sourcebooks, Mar 1 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402246012

At the Subterranean Club for werewolves, a homicide occurred. Sabastiani Security Lukas Sabastiani the Incubus is very concerned as changes to the ruling Council is happening and homicides could derail the presenting of other species to the humans. Making it worse, the victim is Were Andi Woolf, daughter of the Council’s biggest opposition to coming out to humanity, Krispin Woolf. However, Andi still lives barely.

Meanwhile rock star Scarlett Fontaine the Siren is worn out from an extended tour with her band. However, the assault on Andi and other deadly attacks on the band and those associated with the band places her at risk; especially as the daughter of a Council member Claudette. Lukas is assigned to protect Scarlett, the female he knows owns his soul; she feels the same way about him. Neither realizes who the serpent is destroying their Eden.

This is an exciting and spellbinding second chance at paranormal love urban fantasy. Readers will believe that the other species exist as sirens, incubus, weres and oh! my! seem genuine. Although the set up of the Hogan universe starts a bit slow, sub-genre fans will enjoy clubbing with Scarlett and Sebastian while wondering who the psychopath is and the motives for the killings and the attempted murders.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sins of the House of Borgia-Sarah Bower

Sins of the House of Borgia
Sarah Bower
Sourcebooks, Mar 1 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9781402259630

In the year 5252 which the Christians call 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella give the Jews three months to leave. Many like the Sarfati family in Toledo decide to relocate to the city-states of Italy where the despotic rulers are tolerant towards Jews and wary of Ferdinand. The Sarfati father and his three sons move ahead to Rome where the patriarch helps finance Rodrigo Borgia efforts to become the next Pope. The females followed but the matriarch died before finishing the journey leaving her six years old daughter Esther travelling to Rome to join her father.

Almost a decade later Borgia as Pope Alexander VI returns the support he received from Sarfati by allowing Esther a chance to join his daughter Lucrezia’s retinue if she converts. Although Esther has doubts, her father convinces her to accept the terms. As Lucrezia marries Alfonso d'Este, Esther converts to Christianity and becomes a lady-in-waiting known as La Violante. Lucrezia thinks highly of La Violante and her cousin Angela Borgia becomes her friend; while Lucrezia's brother Cesare stirs her heart.

This is an engaging look at the Borgia family through the rosy colored eyes of an innocent individual who must adapt to a world of backstabbing deadly passion or die. Cesare owns the story line as he never allows his heart or soul get in the way of his machinations. Lucrezia pales next to her sibling; as she does not seem to measure up to her brother on the viciousness scale. Filled with betrayal, readers will enjoy the Book of Esther as La Violante tells how paradise was lost and regained when she learned to trust no one not even those she thought loved her.

Harriet Klausner

Galway Bay-Mary Pat Kelly

Galway Bay
Mary Pat Kelly
Grand Central, Feb 8 2011, $15.99
ISBN: 9780446697101

In 1839 in Ireland, Honora Keeley and Michael Kelly meet when he was swimming in Galway Bay just before she is to enter a convent. They fall in love and to the chagrin of her father, they marry. Though times are tough life is good for the couple as they survive like most Irish Catholics on pratties (potatoes).

However as the Protestant leadership cracks down economically on the Catholics, three bad crops in four years leave the young wondering whether it is time to leave to start over elsewhere. The Kelly couple moves to Chicago where his brother Patrick lives. There they begin a new life hoping to catch the vaunted American dream.

The scenes in Ireland are incredibly haunting as people are caught up in the avarice of others and want to change a bad situation; similar to the financial crisis now. The story line purposely simmers slowly so that fans of historical epics can taste what the key players are feeling over the years especially in Chicago. However, that also serves as a two edged sword as that leads to skipped decades and a horde of resilient expatriates. Still this nineteenth century saga provides readers with a deep look at the potato famine made worse by greed while celebrating five decades of Irish American life in Chicago.

Harriet Klausner

Dolci di Love-Sarah-Kate Lynch

Dolci di Love
Sarah-Kate Lynch
Plume, Mar 29 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780452296756

In New York, business executive Lily Turner is stunned when she finds a photograph of a beautiful woman and two children. She concludes her perfect husband Daniel has a second family tucked away in Tuscany while she is childless.

Determined to confront Daniel and fueled by alcohol, Lily uses the internet to ascertain that Daniel’s secret other life is in Montevedova, Tuscany. She flies to Italy to confront her bigamist spouse. In Tuscan, the elderly sisters Violetta and Luciana give her a room above the bakery while also involving their peers in the Secret League of Widowed Darners who knit broken hearts with Lily their new client unbeknownst to the American. They feel she is perfect for Widower Alessandro who needs a good woman to mend his hurting heart. While failing to find Daniel, she meets his six years old daughter and easily falls in love with the child as if she was her mother and finds herself relishing a longer stay in Tuscany.

This is a warm how to mend a broken heart (Bee-Gees) contemporary tale that stars a hurt New Yorker and a strong Tuscan ensemble cast; ironically Daniel is off page more than on as he and his wife encounter one another late into the story line. Although an urbanite turning into a “rustic” has been used often, (see Summer in Tuscany by Elizabeth Adler starring a New Yorker), fans will enjoy this charming novel as the smell of the bakery fills the pages.

Harriet Klausner

Live Wire-Harlan Coben

Live Wire
Harlan Coben
Dutton, Mar 22 2011, $27.95
ISBN: 9780525952060

Former tennis star Suzze Tervantino visits MB Reps to ask her agent Myron Bolitar for help. Eight months pregnant, Suzze is hysterical as her husband rock star husband Lex Ryder, also a client of Myron, has vanished. She shows Bolitar an entry on Facebook claiming the child she carries is not sired by Ryder. Although other inline innuendos make the same proclamation, Suzze T swears to Bolitar that Ryder he is the dad (thanks to Maury).

Bolivar has family issues so he feels for his client. With Windsor “Win” Horne Lockwood III at his side, he begins the search for Ryder at a time his father is dying and wants to see his estranged other son Brad. The inquiry into finding Brad leads Myron to his abandoned sister-in-law Kitty and his fifteen years old nephew Mickey whom he never met. Neither wants him in their lives.

.Live Wire is an exciting investigative thriller in which Bolitar works two family oriented cases. The insight into his past enhances what long time fans know of his first and second quarters of his life while the Suzze T inquiry forces the agent to look into her family’s darkest secrets. With Win causing havoc, a great late twist, and a powerful look at family, fans will see a different compassionate side to the wise cracking agent.

Harriet Klausner

Satori-Don Winslow

Don Winslow
Grand Central, Mar 7 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780446561921

The Americans have incarcerated twenty-something Nicholai Hel for over three years for assassinating his mentor. He is kept in solitary because his jailers fear his skills as an expert at the "naked kill" and his "proximity sense" of danger.

In 1951, the CIA offers him a deal. He kills the Soviet Union's Commissioner to China Yuri Voroshenin in exchange for his freedom and an opportunity to enact vengeance against those who brutally assaulted him while he was in prison. Though he realizes this is a suicide mission and does not to trust the Americans to enforce the contract, he accepts the terms. Able to speak several languages, Hel receives some training on how a French arms dealer would live, and meets and is attracted to Solange. In his guise as Michel Guibert, he assassinates the Soviet official in Beijing. Trying to escape Mao’s China leaves Hel betrayed, but he makes it to French occupied Vietnam, where war seems imminent.

With an obvious nod to Trevanian's classic Shibumi, Don Winslow tells of the salad days of Hel with some insight into his heritage, almost three decades before he comes out of retirement. The story line is fast-paced and loaded with action, deaths, action, sex, and Go theory. A sort of rookie gunslinger James Bond, fans will enjoy this historical thriller, but never quite catches the tongue in cheek underlying humor of the original.

Harriet Klausner

Sweet Revenge-Andrea Penrose

Sweet Revenge
Andrea Penrose
Obsidian, Apr 5 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451233035

In 1802 an earl, Richard Hadley, left for Jamaica with his daughter Arianna to avoid being exposed as a cheat. For years they hopped the islands as the self exiled earl became consumed by drink. In 1812 when he was murdered, his daughter assumed one of his unsavory business partners killed her dad. She vows vengeance and poses as a French male and obtains a position as a chef to Lady Spencer.

Her employer is close with men who are part of a Circle that her late father belonged to also. Arianna keeps an alert eye on these aristocrats as she believes one of them is the killer. However, before she gets very far with her investigation, the Prince Regent is poisoned after eating Arianna's dessert. She knows she is innocent, but most people want her hanged. Leading the official inquiry is the Earl of Saybrook who sees through her masquerade and considers exposing her as a fraud. Instead they join forces as he introduces her to the Ton as a distant relation. As they partner up top solve the assassination attempt, danger mounts as someone wants both dead especially her.

This Regency mystery is an exciting historical as the two investigations converge into one which leads Saybrook and Arianna to work together. An emotional bond occurs between them, but neither loses sight of the mission. There are actually more puzzlers to Sweet Revenge as there is a plenty of criminal activity making the inquiry much more complicated. Andrea Penrose has written a super early nineteenth century whodunit that fans will appreciate and will want a second helping.

Harriet Klausner

The Unremembered-Peter Orullian

The Unremembered
Peter Orullian
Tor, Apr 12 2011, $27.99
ISBN 9780765325716

In the Hollows, an Order of Sheason wizard and a beautiful elven Far order two orphans (Tahn, and his sister Wendra) and their friend (Sutter) to undergo a dangerous quest. Than is the key, but his sibling and his buddy are needed to protect his back if he to succeed on the dangerous impossible mission. None of the trio understands why they were chosen as they have no skills or experience and never been outside the Hallows. Although each doubts their worthiness they set forth on their mission.

They have hardly begun when a malevolent god sends his evil horde to kill them. Surprising themselves, Tahn, Wendra and Sutter survive assault after assault from the odious minion. At the same time an invasion adds to the chaos.

This is an entertaining coming of age quest fantasy starring a strong young trio. Although the story line is exciting, it comes across somewhat as standard sub-genre fare. However, what makes the plot brisk and fun is the changing relationships between the heroic threesome. Fans who relish an enjoyable epic adventure will want to join Tahn and his cohorts as they fight overwhelming evil in the first Vault of Heaven thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 21, 2011

Halfway to Hollywood: Diaries 1980-1988-Michael Palin

Halfway to Hollywood: Diaries 1980-1988
Michael Palin
Dunne, Mar 15 2011, $32.95
ISBN: 9780312682026

Michael Palin realized early in the 1980s that The Python decade (see Python Years: Diaries, 1969 1979) was for practical purposes over as each member was going in different directions with diverse projects. In 1983 they made their last film together (The Meaning of Life) and performed a few final performances as a zany team. However, those were final exclamation points as each Python moved on. Michael appeared in seven films during the decade without his crew including winning awards for his role in A Fish Called Wanda; though he worked with Python alumni Terry Gilliam’s on Time Bandits and Brazil. He wrote scripts and plays with the era beginning with the end of Python and ending with work on the documentary Around the World in 80 Days. Michael’s personal life with his family remains happy as he and his wife Helen raise their kids now becoming teens.

The second diary decade is an intelligent memoir that provides a profound look at the entertainment industry during the Reagan-Thatcher era and an equally powerful look at true family values through interrelationships between Mr. Palin, his spouse, their children and others. The author’s observations on the Reagan-Thatcher legacy then and now enhance a wonderful tome that at 680 pages is not for the casual tea sipping reader, but targets those who appreciate an insightful often jocular look at a decade through a Python lens. Fans of the group especially will want to peruse this fine memoir that takes no prisoners.

Harriet Klausner

The Knitting Diaries-Debbie Macomber, Susan Mallery, and Christina Skye

The Knitting Diaries
Debbie Macomber, Susan Mallery, and Christina Skye
Mira, Mar 29 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9780778329374

The Twenty-First Wish by Debbie Macomber. Ten years old Ellen and her adopted mom Anne Marie write down a wish list consisting of twenty items each. However, Ellen conceals one additional wish from her mom that she wants her biological dad Tim and her adopted mother to marry and stitch together a family with her.

Coming Unraveled by Susan Mallery. Although she had dreams of Broadway, Robyn returns to Texas to manage her grandma's knitting store. However, angry T. J. is very unwelcoming of her though they are attracted to one another.

Return to Summer Island by Christina Skye. The car accident left Caro with severe damage to her hand and arm. She goes to Summer Island, Oregon to heal, but is unprepared for the warm welcome by a knitting colony and the passion in an exchange of letters with Gage the marine serving in Afghanistan.

These three charming uplifting yarns combine the passion of the heart with that of knitting.

Harriet Klausner

The Nameless Dead-Paul Johnston

The Nameless Dead
Paul Johnston
Mira, Mar 22 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9780778329503

The Feds prevent crime writer Matt Wells and his pregnant girlfriend Detective Chief Superintended Karen Oaten from killing POTUS at the National Cathedral and the Attorney General at FBI Headquarters. The pair is in custody in Illinois where agents interrogate them and try to cleanse them of the Nazi brain washing programming that led to their assassination attempts.

The FBI decides to use Wells against the evil Heinz Rothmann who turned him into a killer with a one word trigger. His assignment is to kill this Neo-Nazi devotee of the Antichurch of Lucifer Triumphant. At the same time Wells begins his stalking of the SOB who took his mind away from him, his former lover Sara Robbins, sister of a serial executioner the White Devi stalks the writer. At the same time in Greenwich Village, someone brutally decapitates civil rights attorney Laurie Antoinette Simpson leaving her disemboweled corpse below a swastika; more homicides as grim follows. FBI Director Peter Sebastian wonders how his career could flush down the toilet a fast as it has with hell coming to America.

The latest Wells thriller (see The Soul Collector and Maps of Hell) is an action-packed tale that never slows down for a respite. Fast-paced, the story line contains too many subplots making it difficult to keep score as the body count grows; though they converge on the beleaguered hero. Matt is a fascinating protagonist who trusts no one; not even his pregnant girlfriend or himself as he cannot tell what thoughts and memories are his and what come from Rothmann. For Wells fans and readers who enjoy adrenaline, adrenaline and more adrenaline, they will want to join the adventures as the hero seems to be on everyone’s Death List.

Harriet Klausner

The Dog Sox-Russell Hill

The Dog Sox
Russell Hill
Pleasure Boat Studio, Mar 15 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9781929355747

California building contractor Ray Adams bought a baseball team, which he named the Knights Landing Dog Sox. He gave the team as a gift to his girlfriend attorney Ava Bell. Most of the players play for free while a few are compensated. The star is hurler Billy Collins who has an arm that most pitchers would kill to possesses.

He is winning games at an incredible rate when abruptly his fortune changes when his abusive drunken father locates Billy. As long as Bucky is kept away from Billy, the star can be a successful closer working the last three innings. Dutch the team manager believes Billy is his ticket to the big leagues as long as dearest dad can be dealt with. He has people he knows that can neutralize Bucky, but nothing seems to prevent the abuser from coming around. When Billy vanishes, Ava searches for him to try to persuade him to let go of his patriarchal hurts.

On the surface The Dog Sox is about a baseball team consisting of diverse people from all types of life. However, Billy the innocent is the prime focus on the entreating sports drama as he has the talent to bet one of the best, but only if he can mentally rid himself of the demons brought forth by his father. Dutch speaks in Yiddish idioms as he makes a team out of individuals. With a nod to the movie Pat and Mike starring Tracy-Hepburn, Russell Hill provides a strong look at what could be That Championship Season.

Harriet Klausner

Shadows of a Down East Summer-Lea Wait

Shadows of a Down East Summer
Lea Wait
Perseverance, Apr 4 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9781564744975

In Weymouth, Maine, Great Aunt Nettie introduces her nephew Will Brewer and his girlfriend antiques expert Maggie Summer to Carolyn Chase, daughter of the artist Helen Chase. Carolyn read a published article that Maggie, a professor of American Studies, wrote on Winslow Homer. They look at the extended family tree as Carolyn explains she would like Maggie’s help with research on a bio she is writing about her late mom.

The next day Caroline tells the Weymouth Historical Society members and guests Will and Maggie that her Aunt Susan, who just died, gave her a trunk of documents from the late nineteenth century that said their ancestor killed his wife for cheating on him before committing suicide. Before she can bury her aunt, someone murders Caroline. Maggie calls the police and Detective Strait answers the call. While he investigates the homicide, Maggie looks back to what happened in 1890 that she believes led to the present murder. She begins to look closely at the relationship between Homer and two women who posed for him; while knowing she could be next.

This entertaining Antique Print regional cozy (see Shadows on the Coast of Maine) looks deeply into the late nineteenth century art world in Maine. The cast is fully developed and the whodunit fun, but it is the glimpse into Winslow Homer and his era’s art that makes for a delightful amateur sleuth.

Harriet Klausner

Treason at Lisson Grove-Anne Perry

Treason at Lisson Grove
Anne Perry
Ballantine, Apr 19 2011, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345510587

In London, Special Branch officers Pitt and Gower chase after West who has information they need to thwart a treasonous plot with international involvement against the government. West dodges the two operatives until Wrexham slices his throat. Pitt and Gower chase after Wrexham while West bleeds to death.

As Pitt pursues Wrexham from Britain to across the Channel to St. Malo, France, his supervisor Victor Narraway is accused of embezzling government funds. A desperate Narraway asks Pitt’s wife, Charlotte, who has helped her husband on cases before (see Buckingham Palace Gardens), to assist him. Since his accuser relaxes in Dublin, Charlotte poses as Narraway’s sister who travels with him to Ireland to investigate the individual who has a highly regarded reputation. Neither Narraway nor either Pitt realizes someone diabolical is the connection in England, Ireland and the continent.

This is a great Victorian espionage thriller that once again effortlessly blends history inside an action-packed suspense. The story line is fast-paced yet contains a strong late nineteenth century feel to the plot. However, the tale belongs to the beleaguered trio who struggle to thwart a clever villain from insuring the sun sets on the British Empire.

Harriet Klausner

Thou Shalt Kill-Daniel Blake

Thou Shalt Kill
Daniel Blake
Gallery (Pocket), Apr 26 2011, $25.00
ISBN 9781439197486

The first homicide leaves noted brain surgeon Dr. Michael Redwine burned to a crisp. Pittsburgh Police Department homicide detectives Franco Patrese and Mark Beradino investigate the inferno murder by someone they assume is filled with rage against the renowned doctor. The next victim is Bishop Kohler in in the confessional at the Cathedral. Once again fire is the choice of the killer as the culprit pours gasoline on their living target and then ignites it.

More killings occur that seem unrelated yet Patrese believes the same psychopath is on an avenging vendetta. The predator appears to Arab-American Mustafa Bayoumi, a Pittsburgh University student majoring in chemistry. The media calls this predator the Human Torch who refers to the Bible especially the Ten Commandments as the higher law of the land. While the two cops look into compulsive religious disorders and medical malpractices, both remain blind to the fact that those who must die include Patrese for interfering with the Lord’s cleansing of the human soul.

This entertaining serial killer police procedural is an enjoyable whodunit due more to jaded Patrese who scorns humanity as worthless and has doubts a God would create such a soulless loser of a species. The villain comes out of serial killer handbook 101 with taunting biblical references even with a neat late twist. Still fans will enjoy this solid murder mystery as Patrese struggles with a case that affirms his belief in mankind not deserving life.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Threshold-Jeremy Robinson

Jeremy Robinson
Dunne, Mar 29 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312540302

Six months ago, Jack “King” Sigler received an urgent message from his late sister’s former fiancé George Pierce to meet him at the Siletz Reservation in Oregon. When he arrives, he finds the place in ruins with thousands dead. The one survivor of the attack thirteen year old Native American Fiona Lane has a note pinned to her shirt by Alexander Diotrephes, who the King believes is Hercules; he says he is going after the mass murderers. Sigler brings together the rest of the Chess Team (Queen, Rook, Bishop and Knight) to help him protect Fiona and to learn why the deadly assault happened and who is behind it.

In the present in family court, Sigler swears he will be a good parent to Fiona as the judge names him her foster father. However, as more people who speak dying ancient languages are systematically massacred, the Chess Team with President Duncan joining them must end the debacle, but struggle to learn who is behind the attacks. Instead, they face giant living granite statues, literally Neanderthals, genetic impossibilities, hydras and megaliths by someone who wants to checkmate the Chess team to prevent their intrusion. As they confront lethal enemies, none are aware of the danger from within as Fiona is kidnapped at Fort Bragg; fearing the Judge most of all, King and crew attempt a rescue.

As always the Chess Team is over the top of the stratosphere, but anyone who relishes an action urban fantasy thriller that combines science and mythology will want to join them for the exhilarating Pulse pumping ride. The story line is as always fast-paced so wear our seatbelts and set aside time as this heart thumper never slows down making it impossible to set aside as the Instinct of the audience is one sitting.

Harriet Klausner

Last to Fold-David Duffy

Last to Fold
David Duffy
Dunne, Mar 29 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312621902

Turbo Vlost grew up rather quickly in the Gulag. He escaped thanks to a surrogate father who brought him into the KGB as a field agent until the Soviet Union collapsed. However his past never left him as his horror memories ended his family life as his wife divorced him and their son remains estranged from him.

Turbo resides in New York City where he earns a modest living locating people and things for clients. His current customer affluent businessman, Rory Mulholland wants Vlost to find his missing adopted teenage daughter Eva. Although he thinks it odd that his client pays him in cash so there is no record in what Rory insists is a kidnapping, Vlost needs the money even if his former wife is married to Mulholland. However, the inquiry turns stranger and potentially deadly when Vlost obtains the business records of the Brooklyn Russian mob run by the biological son of his recently shot Soviet savior.

Vlost makes for a compelling crime caper as his past and present collide when Russia and the Hudson converge. The story line is at its best when the hero faces his adversaries although at times unnecessary explicatory diatribes about social conditions occur. Still Vlost is an intriguing refreshing lead character whose presence means the Russians are not coming as they are already here.

Harriet Klausner

So Much Pretty-Cara Hoffman

So Much Pretty
Cara Hoffman
Simon and Schuster, Mar 15 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9781451616750

In Haeden, New York, Wendy White was a cocktail waitress at a local bar and happy with having her first boyfriend. When she vanished, local law enforcement investigated but never solved her disappearance. The case remains cold while her family grieves their loss. Five months later Wendy’s corpse is found.

Cleveland reporter Stacy Flynn had been in Haeden looking into the impact of the prime employer a dairy on the environment and a high number of deaths. When Wendy’s body is found the journalist believes she has a bigger story. However, no one in the small town will talk to her except to insist an outsider is the killer.

Her parents moved with teenage Alice Piper from New York City to Haeden to provide a healthier lifestyle for their offspring. A genius with an upbeat confidence that the locals consider city swagger, she reads the Ohio reporter’s article in the Haeden Free Press on the stratospheric amounts of deadly violence against women. Unable to keep her head in the sands as the natives have done, Alice considers who the killing wolf amidst the sheep is. Even when another brutal crime occurs, the locals are severely shaken but still prefer to believe a stranger committed it.

This engaging crime thriller looks deeply at cause and effect as the horrific act begets an equally horrific reaction. Once the plot stops switching between 1997-98 and 2007-08-09 (a few chapters in) the story line settles takes off on an exciting dark psychological path. Alice and Stacy separately dig deep into the façade of a safe small-town, whose residents blame a mystical stranger for any acts of violence. Readers will appreciate Cara Hoffman’s profound look at a small western New York town through the eyes of two intrepid outsiders.

Harriet Klausner

To The Galactic Rim-Bertram Chandler

To The Galactic Rim
Bertram Chandler
Baen, Mar 1 2011, $12.00
ISBN: 978-1439134214

The Road to the Rim. Recently graduated Federation Junior Lieutenant John Grimes begins his career amidst the Rim Worlds. He plans to follow orders so he can advance. However, John learns the best laid plans of mice and Grimes often go astray when a beautiful damsel in distress is involved while he is directed to ignore the Waldegrenese Navy piracy.

To Prime the Pump. On El Dorado, men have become infertile though the reason is unknown. The women demand action, preferably of a sexual encounter. The Space Cruiser Ares arrives to provide humanitarian aid to this race that has gone from near immortality to near extinction. With Lieutenant Grimes and his horny naval mates on a mercy mission all is not lost.

The Hard Way Up. These seven short stories ("With Good Intentions", "The Subtracter", "The Tin Messiah", "The Sleeping Beauty", "The Wandering Buoy", "The Mountain Movers" and "What You Know") continue the maturing of John Grimes. The hero matures as he ignores orders from a distant bureaucrat who has no idea how to survive and complete the appropriate mission on the Galactic Rim.

The Broken Cycle. Grimes and police officer Una Freeman are lost in space. He is unconcerned as she is pretty; but she is frantic as she has a job to perform. Both are surprised to meet an essence claiming to be God and insisting the couple populate the Garden of Eden. Though he wants some R&R with Freeman, he is unprepared to battle serpents in a convoluted and complicated universe.

These are entertaining reprints of three novels and seven short stories from the 1960s and 1970s. Though aptly labeled as a Captain Horatio Hornblower sailing the Galactic Rim, Grimes is also a swashbuckling James Bond in space.

Harriet Klausner

Home Made Haunting-Rob Stennett

Home Made Haunting
Rob Stennett
Zondervan, Mar 24 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780310321927

After years of teaching high school English, Charlie Walker, with his wife Rachel’s consent, quits. They sell their house in Boulder and accompanied by their kids move into a run down rental in Castle Rock. Charlie plans to write a horror novel. His first few chapters come quickly, but the next few fail to gel.

He realizes that like a method actor, he needs to feel first hand his subject that he knows nothing about. An atheist when it comes to the paranormal, Charlie buys an Ouija board not expecting anything to occur. Thus he is shocked when it works as he writes the next few passages. When Charlie hits another wall, he turns to the board again. He soon sees writings on the mirror in his bathroom. When he shouts out asking if anyone else is here, Rachel is thrilled to be living in a haunted house and delves onto the supernatural more deeply. He tries to stop, but the Dark has come and taken over his family. With a guardian angel at his back and a demon at his soul, the war between heaven and hell has brought the latest combat to a run down rental in Castle Rock.

The engaging story line switches in tone from humorous to poignant to frightening as immortal combat has come to disbelieving Charlie who never forgave God for ignoring his prayers to save his mom. It is only when he realizes that evil has attacked his loved ones, like soldiers in a foxhole, he turns to the Lord asking for a saving miracle for those he cherishes above his own soul. Rod Stennett provides a powerful inspirational thriller as heaven and hell fight over battlefield Homo sapiens.

Harriet Klausner

Hide And Seek-Allie Harrison

Hide And Seek
Allie Harrison
ImaJinn, Feb 4 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9781933417493

Ten years old, Tess Fairmont tells her mama she needs to say goodbye to her beloved Grandmama who died suddenly. Tess reaches into the casket to hold Grandmama’s hand one last time, but sees something horrible: her Uncle John suffocating Grandmama with a pillow to obtain her money. Shaken, Tess witnessed first hand the violent crime.

Although her psychic skill feels more like a curse than a gift, over the next eighteen years Tess uses it to help solve homicide cases. Chicago PD Detective Jake Williams meets Tess at the morgue where she loathes touching the dead but loves knowing Dr. Michael Adams is there. Tess dreams of Michael kissing her and he muses over what she would see if she touched a live person falling in love with her. Tess touches the twenty-something tortured victim and sees five females in the room with Raymond whose face fails to come in clearly as the deceased never looked at him in her final moments. However, this time for Tess is different as she feels the actual pain. Turning to the pathologist for comfort while trying to cling to her façade of No Fear, Tess knows Raymond will continue to kill.

Hide And Seek is an enjoyable paranormal police procedural with a supporting romantic subplot. The key to this entertaining serial killer urban fantasy is that Tess’s psychic ability seems real as a critical element in to the deadly game of Hide And Seek. Michael is supportive and protective of her while he and Jake never call a body “it” as each knows someone probably cares for the late human being, but even if no one did the victim deserves respect. Allie Harrison writes a compassionate psychic mystery.

Harriet Klausner